Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Jennifer surveyed the interior of the sleek two-person starcruiser. “Nice ship, Larry. What did you say you paid for it?”

“One point five on Giarcslist. That’s 50% under market.”

“Wow,” she replied as she added an emphasizing whistle. “What’s the catch?”

“There’s no catch. I’m just an excellent negotiator.”

Larry could feel her laser eyes of doubt boring through his mendacious grin. “Oh, okay,” he relented. “It’s an Arcturian ship. Strictly voice command.”

“But it accepts standard galactic too, right?”

“Well, not at the moment. But when we get it back to Sol, I can get a translator module installed.”

“We’re more than seven thousand light years from home,” Jennifer pointer out. “Are you planning to hire an Arcturian pilot? Because if you are, you can let me off right now. Those reptiles smell awful.”

“Relax, sweetheart,” Larry replied as he pulled an object from his flightsuit’s vest pocket. “It came with a ‘Larousse Arcturian-English Pocket Dictionary’.”

“What’s that? Is that a book? Are you kidding me? A paper book? That’s it; I’m taking a cab home. You tell that salesman to redock this instant.”

“Really, Jennifer, you need to take a sed. Besides, he’s already docked with another customer. Look, just sit down in the co-pilot’s seat. I’ll just warm up with a few simple commands. How hard can it be? That’s my girl. Now, just buckle up, and enjoy the view.”

Jennifer reluctantly engaged her harness, but folded her arms in a stern ‘I’ll do it, but I won’t like it’ posture.

“Look at that,” said Larry pointing out beyond the cockpit’s panoramic forward port. “The Messier 4 Globular Cluster. Four hundred thousand stars. Beautiful, isn’t it. A quick tour, and then straight home. You’ll see; it’ll be fun.” Larry quickly leafed through the dictionary and found the warp commands. The book had seen better days, he conceded, but he couldn’t let Jennifer see him struggling. He slid his index finger down the badly stained page searching for the correct phrase. “Ah, here it is,” he guessed, “warp one. Okay, here we go.”

Swallowing hard, he gave the three word command, “Whöle. Êeesh. Ick¢.” The tiny ship lurched forward at maximum warp, straight ahead into the globular cluster. Larry, who had been standing, was thrown aftward, into the canted bulkhead. Cursing himself for forgetting to activate the inertial dampeners, he clawed himself forward into the pilot’s seat. Jennifer was screaming hysterically. Stars streaked past them like a meteor storm on steroids. In the distance, Larry spotted a stationary dot of light that was getting brighter by the second. Realizing that he only had seconds to avert the collision, he ripped into the dictionary looking for the ‘All Stop” command. Finding it quicker that he could have dreamed, he frantically yelled, “Kähs-Oope¢.”

Larry slammed head first into the viewport, as the ship came to an abrupt stop a mere one hundred thousand kilometers in front of a boiling red giant. “Dammit,” he moaned as he checked his forehead tentatively for blood. Then, turning his attention toward Jennifer, he asked, “Are you alright, Honey?”

In shock, Jennifer stared at the behemoth orb hovering directly in front of the ship. Solar prominences large enough to engulf several dozen Jupiters, danced around the periphery in ultra slow motion. In awe, she exclaimed “Holy shit,” and the tiny ship lurched forward at maximum warp.


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