Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

It had been four days since the ship’s doctor had quarantined the galley and shut down the deck’s gravity plates, and Captain Carson was becoming concerned. Not about the unwanted patient that was hold up there, but about his ship, its crew, and his now unachievable delivery schedule. Determined to regain control of his ship, the captain floated into the ad hock sickbay to confront his chief medical officer. “Mary, how much longer is this going to take? I have a schedule to maintain. I can’t afford to spend a week drifting around interstellar space because of that damn stowaway.” He pointed to the large gelatinous lifeform strapped down to a stainless steel food preparation station in the center of the room.

“Who let you in here?” snapped Dr. Breckinridge. “And put a mask on.” The medical staff suddenly began to scramble around the patient. Clearly, the captain realized, something significant was happening. Just then, a pinkish fog erupted form the undulating red blob. The captain instinctively began to gag as the vile smelling fog entered his throat. “As you can see, Captain,” protested the doctor, “we’re pretty busy right now. Please wait outside. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”

A half hour later, the doctor and her staff drifted into the main corridor where the captain was not-so-patiently waiting. As the last medical technician exited the galley, he shut the hatch, and began entering codes into an adjacent control panel.

“Well Doctor, I’m through mincing words. Now that it’s over, when can I jettison your patients out the air lock?”

“Not so fast, Cliff. We have to gradually reduce the temperature in the galley to minus 270K, so the vapors can condense in the correct sequence. Then the liquid will need to accrete, polymerize, and crosslink. After that, we need to pull a vacuum…”

“I don’t want the details, Doctor. I want a day, and a time!”

“Fine, if you insist. The day after tomorrow, around 1400. But really, Cliff, what is your problem? Don’t you care about the sanctity of life?”

“Not when it comes to Etheronians. But unfortunately, I can’t do whatever I want. Regulations force me to shut down my reactors and provide assistance, which I have, by the way. I just don’t understand why the world needs to come to a stop just because an Etheronian hitches a ride on a starship. By the way, did you figure out how that damn thing got onto my ship in the first place?”

The doctor smiled. “Ship’s captains have been asking themselves that question for centuries. No one seems to know. It just happens. You should be savoring the moment? The rest of the crew isn’t spittin’ comets, like you.”

“Well, maybe the crew likes eating Q-rations. I don’t.” The captain pirouetted and pulled himself toward the turbolift. A few minutes later, the captain walked onto the bridge. It was comforting, he realized, to feel the pull of artificial gravity again. He strided to the command chair and sat down. That’s when he noticed that the entire bridge crew was staring at him.

“Well?” asked Lieutenant Faunce at Opps.

“They will be gone in two days, Lieutenant. Then things can get back to normal.”

Lieutenant Faunce put her hands on her hips and scowled through murderous, squinting eyes. “You know, sir, that’s not what I wanted to know.”

“Oh, very well, Lieutenant, it’s a girl.”

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