by Troels Pleimert

Roger assumed a standing rigor mortis position, then allowed himself to tip over and slam his body into the soiled floor of the DeepShip 86's lounge, 8-Rear. And he remained there for the next thirty seconds, until Circuit Sydney the ship's non-organic medical officer approached Roger with a bucket of water and proceeded to pour its contents over Roger's face. Roger gurgled for a few moments, then rose to his feet, where he spent the next one and a half minute wobbling.

"I think I've had too much to drink," Roger garbled and was briefly attacked by a violent spasm, caused by an oncoming horde of hiccups.

The weapons officer, whom Roger for some reason couldn't remember the name of, approached him and tried to attract his attention. Roger's eyes were having a hard time focusing on the weapons officer's alien face.

"Roger," the weapons officer tried, desperately attempting to establish eye contact with Roger. Roger's eyes were darting all over the lounge. "Maybe you should go sleep it off, Roger."

Roger spun on his heels and appeared to be addressing a Mr Soylent food replicator. "You talkin' to me?"

The weapons officer sighed, shrugged and put his bottle of synthesized Keronian ale on a nearby table. The navigations officer, who had previously been engaged in a violent fight with a chair, came to assistance.

"What's this guy been drinking, anyway?" asked the weapons officer. He was currently busy trying to keep Roger from falling.

"Last I checked, he was on his fifth Keronian ale," the navigations officer replied.

"That, and that Maximillian Headbanger we pushed him into," the weapons officer added.

"I told you we shouldn't have put it in a pint mug!"

Roger's eyes were out of control. They were scanning the perimiter, desperately searching for an object to focus on, like a lemming who during mid-fall became aware that he didn't want to end his time yet. The world was spinning wildly off its axis, which was basically what Roger's gyroscopic systems were trying to compensate for. Which caused him to wobble stupidly. Right now, he was desperately trying to find out just what was restraining him. He didn't like being restrained. It made him uncomfortable. Especially since the room was bouncing around like a defect merry-go-round. His first assumption was that the food replicator had taken a life of its own and had launched an attack on him. That was the primary reason why the navigations officer and weapons officer let go of Roger when he threw himself towards the replicator, trying to defend himself. Roger managed to deliver a stunningly precise jab to the keypad and a thrust to the input screen before he became under the delusion that the food replicator was moving towards him, which caused him to leap at least a couple of feet backwards. The weapons officer, the navigations officer, the science officer and Roger all fell into a gigantic, disoriented and bruised heap on the floor.

"I think that's enough party for tonight," Commander Kielbasa interrupted. Everybody turned to see just where the voice had come from. After a few seconds, the source was ascertained. The 8-Rear screen had fizzled to life without anybody noticing, and was now displaying the familiar, furred, feline face of the ships commander.

"What's the time?" garbled the science officer.

Dorff, the ships nearsighted and relatively clueless security chief, who had been sipping a Garboil Low-Alcoholic substance by himself in the corner and had resisted the urge to become involved in what he'd wrongly assumed to be a big fight, turned to reply. "It's 5:30 am."

"Where's Sydney?" asked the navigations officer. He wasn't exactly sure who to address, seeing as how the three of them were lying in a giant pile which made it nearly impossible to discern who was who, so he settled for talking to the floor.

"Oh, he transported to Sickbay five minutes ago," Dorff replied.

"What about Janitor Wilco?" Kielbasa asked.

Everybody looked around, but Roger had seemingly vanished into thin air.

"Dunno," said the navigations officer.

"Dunno," said the weapons officer.

"Dunno," said the science officer.

"Who?" said Dorff.

"Oh well, he'll probably make it back tomorrow," Kielbasa stated and concluded with a yawn. The only yawn a man of feline origin a man-sized cat, if you will can produce. One that looks like the jaw is going to bend its way over the head. Nobody bothered to make any comments. They were all feeling somewhat tired. It'd been quite a bash. The entire crew of the DeepShip 86 had been celebrating the successful conclusion of a very tedious and slow-progressing medical emergency situation. Starbase 79 had run out of sprinkles. The replicators weren't responding to neither chocolate, vanilla or plain-colored ones. An emergency subspace transmission was sent from the station to the nearest patrolling ship, which turned out to be the DeepShip, with an urgent request for a large supply of sprinkles. The station had calculated that it would take them at least two weeks to finish repairs on the malfunctioning replicators, and horrors! the station would be without sprinkles for all that time. The DeepShip hurried to the rescue, and was able to supply the station with the required twenty-two tons of chocolate and vanilla sprinkles, and only thirteen replicators aboard ship had exploded from overload so far.

Now, it was 5:30 in the morning. The last shipment of vanilla sprinkles had been delivered eight hours ago. The celebration began immediately afterwards. Now, seven and a half hour later, most crewmembers aboard the DeepShip had either retired to their quarters, with or without companionship, or had fallen asleep in some nook of the decks and corridors. So far, thirty-nine people had been transported to Sickbay for recuperation and stomach-pumping. Luckily, the Sickbay was on automatic control that day. Only the three bridge officers, Dorff, Circuit Sydney, and for some odd reason Janitor Second Class Roger Wilco remained to close the evening in 8-Rear.

Roger didn't think he'd been drinking an awful lot. And in truth, he hadn't. His low alcohol tolerance had let intoxication step into the game a bit too soon, and by the time Kielbasa had officially closed the party, Roger was basically out of control. And now, he was missing.

Actually, he wasn't exactly missing. He just didn't have a clue as to where he was located now.

His short term memory had apparently gone on a business trip to another dimension, as Roger suddenly found himself in a damp and cramped surrounding, with pipes and conduits running along the walls and ceilings, some of them ruptured and spilling their contents, with absolutely no idea where this place was or how the hell he'd gotten here in the first place. As always, when faced with a hopeless situation, Roger went to sleep and hoped everything would resolve itself.

"Sir, he's not at his quarters," the science officer stated.

The bridge crew was back to normal after having spent a good nights sleep, sleeping it off. Except for the navigations officer, who was sporting a large bag of ice on his head.

"He'll turn up eventually," Commander Kielbasa assured, showing no signs of worry. "Just give him a day or so. He's probably sleeping it off somewhere. Don't worry he'll be back."

"That's what I'm worrying about," the weapons officer added under his breath.

"Aww, dammit, not so loud," the navigations officer whined.

The Commander chose to disregard the weapons officer's comment and returned to his daily-life duties.

The bright light was shining into Roger's eyes. Even with his eyes closed, the light was blinding. He was afraid of opening them. He unwillingly gritted his teeth and tried to move away from the light. He discovered that he was being restrained on some kind of bench, or a large metal slab. Very restrained. In fact, he could hardly move his head.

The brilliant light seemed to dim, and Roger could sense someone moving in front of the light source. Roger wanted to ask who it was, but all he was capable of saying was: "Grmmbl." His brain-functions were still on down-time.

Somebody was moving the light away. He had a quick meeting with his eyes, and they came to the unanimous decision that it was safe to open his eyelids.

"Krrggnll," he grumbled and tried to regain eyesight. The light had been a tremendous strain on his pupills, and they were having a hard time adjusting themselves to normal light. It took him more than a few minutes to get a clear view of his surroundings. When he did, he wished they'd bring back the lamp.

His brain functions slowly kicked back into gear. His muscles were slowly starting to behave normally again. The effects of last nights intoxication seemed to have seeped out of his body during his rest, along with any recollection of the events of the party. The only thing reminding him of last nights events was the faint and distant memories of trying to persuade Sydney to partake in a drinking contest, and the dull headache that seemed to pound relentlessly in the back of his skull.

He heard a humming sound to his left. He tried to move his head in the direction to ascertain the source, but this proved impossible due to the restraints on his head. His body was locked in rigor mortis, unable to make the slightest move. Funny thing, though. He couldn't feel any restraints. There were no large metal bands covering his torso, no handcuffs tying him to the steel slab he was lying on, no helmet-like indentation in the slab that prevented his head from moving. It was like he was caught in a force field, covering his entire body, preventing any movement.

He wasn't exactly sure where he was located. Or how he'd gotten here, for that matter. The last things his foggy memory could cling on to were sketchy, to say the least. He remembered trying to sneak into his quarters without anyone noticing, the reason for which remained in the dark corners of his mind, unwilling to step out into the light. Okay, he's pressing the coordinates to his quarters on the ComPost he hits the wrong button, and is transported to an Engineering corridor. He walks around a bit, trying to find an exit, then gives up and goes to sleep. Next thing he knows he's on a steel slab.

The lights in here were turned down, it seemed. Although he was only capable of staring up into the ceiling, and perhaps a few feet due south, but all he could see was infinite blackness. He wondered, though not too hard, why he was able to see his own body as though it was in a fully illuminated room. If he didn't know better, he'd say his body was glowing. Or maybe the force field was generating light around him.

Then something happened.

A large, green light shot from left to right, covering his entire body like a protective dome. His body and only his body was covered by an almost transparent green light, which then slowly began ascending from Roger's body and forming a dome around him. It seemed to cover the steel slab he was lying on, and nothing else. He was captured inside a green bubble of unknown origin and purpose.

Roger tried to protest loudly, but found himself unable to move his lips. In fact, as the green light began intensifying in brightness, his muscles began relaxing. Roger could barely hold his eyes open. The light was increasing in brightness. His eyes were closing. He wanted to stay awake, but the energy from his body was slowly draining away. He wanted to slap himself, but either the restraints were preventing him, or otherwise, the muscles in his hand weren't responding.

His muscles weren't responding

weren't responding




You aren't supposed to be awake yet.

Those words kept ringing in his mind. Echoing through the long, dark corridors of his brain. But he wasn't thinking them. He wasn't saying it to himself. Who was talking to him?

You aren't supposed to be awake yet.

A non-descript voice. Like the voice in your mind; the one that sounds out the sentence you're about to say. The one that reads aloud to you when you're writing. Your "inner person". The one that lives in your brain.

You aren't supposed to be awake yet.


What did it mean? Awake? He wasn't awake yet. All he could see was blackness. Infinite blackness. He couldn't see himself. He couldn't move. He couldn't stick his hand out in front of himself and assure himself that he was still alive. He wasn't himself anymore. He was floating. He couldn't feel. He wasn't a being, he was an entity.

You aren't supposed to be awake yet!

It was intensifying! The voice it was growing in strength.

You aren't supposed to be awake yet!!


You aren't supposed to be awake yet!!!


You aren't supposed to be awake yet!!!!

He was hit by something it was out of his eyesight first to the left, then to the right, then below him all he could see was a flash of light. And he could feel a sting of pain for a brief second.

His mind was talking to him. It was warning him. "Escape while you can!" What's that supposed to mean? Was he actually, for the first time in his life, listening to his inner reason? The one that tells you that, no, you're not supposed to lick electric eyes? The one that tells you that, no, you're notsupposed to climb trees with sticky substances? The one that always tells you what would be the correct approach, or the right approach, in this particular case? The one who is always ignored?

"Escape while you can!"

You're not supposed to be awake yet!




"You're TOO LATE!"





G O   B A C K   T O   S L E E P !


Then darkness

"Oh my freakin' head "

Roger emitted a series of strange garbling noises, then spent the next couple of minutes trying to open his eyes. They didn't seem like they wanted to at first. They were saying, "Damn, it feels like we've just been through hell and back; let's rest for a little while longer."

When Roger finally regained eyesight, he was staring up into a familiar, pale face.

"Sydney?" he asked.

He sat up. He'd was on a Sickbay recuperation bench. Although the surroundings didn't seem immediately familiar to him, Roger assured himself that it'd all eventually come back to him.

"Yes?" the android in front of him responded.

"Sydney what the hell is going on? Where am I?" Roger asked, in a dazed tone of voice. He paused for a minute. "No, scratch that question. What am I doing in Sickbay?" He then became aware of the relentless thumping in the back of his skull, as if a mine worker had taken a wrong turn somewhere and begun mining in his brain. "No, on second thought, scratch that question too. Can I get an aspirin?"

Sydney didn't reply, but instead turned around and walked away. He returned a few seconds later with a synthetically reproduced aspirin and a Styrofoamech cup of recycled water. Another man came up from behind him. Roger didn't recognize him. He was a medium-built man with a beard and a pair of brown eyes. His facial expression reminded Roger of a corporate CEO who is addressing his Board of Directors about a profit skydive.

"Welcome back, Mr. Wilco," the man said. Roger scanned his insignia. He was a Captain.

"Who are you?" Roger asked. He really didn't mean to sound ignorant. But the truth was, he had absolutely no idea what the correct answer to that question was, and he was really dying to find out.

"Oh, I'm sorry," the Captain replied, but his facial expression didn't change. He extended his hand and wanted Roger to shake it. "My name is Gordon Regilania. I'm the Captain of the SCS DeepShip 86."

"Captain?" Roger asked himself and ignored the extended hand, which soon retracted itself to its rightful owner. He turned to Sydney. "What ?" He wanted to say more, but couldn't.

"It is a long story, Rog," Sydney replied. "I will supply you with all the details when you have fully recuperated."

Roger looked around at his surroundings. This didn't look like the Sickbay aboard the DeepShip 86. It was a lot smaller. The walls were in blue. The back wall had four or five recuperation benches lined up on it. The back wall was completely straight, but the wall in front of him was arched, with three large portholes windows looking out into space; the largest one being the centerpiece, and two slightly smaller ones lining up on the side. The ComPost leading out of the room was indented into the wall to his left. He was lying on one of the middle benches.

Confusion gripped him like a baseball player catching a pigeon in his mitt instead of the ball.

"Where is this place, Sydney?"

Captain Regilania replied. "This is the DeepShip's thawteck area."

Sydney explained. "The thawteck area is the description for the room in which we literally thaw crewpersons who have been cryogenically frozen. You were one of the first to be cryogenically frozen, Roger, and you have also become the first to be successfully thawed."

Roger didn't even bother to complain about their use of him as a guinea pig. "But why was I cryogenically frozen?" he asked, holding his forehead as if he had a headache. But it wasn't a headache which was a plague to his mind. All these unanswered questions were making his brain hurt.

"You were in a how shall we say? accident," the Captain replied. "A most unusual accident."

Once again, Sydney stepped in to explain. "Normally, we would've been able to successfully restore you to room temperature in a matter of minutes, if you had been frozen by normal means. However, the nitrogenic substance which was used to freeze you to the state of cryo-suspension had been exposed to an unknown form of mutation. You were not merely frozen, but you were placed in time-resistant suspended animation. Effectively placed inside a force field that could withstand time as well as keep your body alive."

"What are you saying?" Roger asked. His brain was dangerously limping behind.

"Normally when freezing a human body into the state of cryo-suspended animation, the body does not physically age," the Captain explained. "However, about twenty or so years ago, it was discovered that the human cells were somehow aging; although not physically, but in a way that impaired performance once the subject was thawed and brought back into circulation. In a weird, obscure way, one might say that the body was frozen, but not the cells of which the body is constructed of. Since this was uncovered, Confederation scientists around the known Universe have attempted to devise a way to effectively disable the human bodycells during cryogenical suspension without destroying them completely. Up until now, we thought it was an impossible dream." The Captain was performing some odd hand movements to accompany his explanation, which briefly caused Roger to believe that the Captain was a spastic.

"The ice in which you were frozen was different, to say the least," Sydney took over. "It was not a normal nitrogenic substance. It had an entirely different mass and molecular level "

"Please, no more of this Star Trek crap," Roger interrupted, gently feeling his forehead. "It's giving me a headache."

"All right," concluded the Captain. "We'll continue this discussion when you're more up to it. For now, you should get some rest. Transport to Sickbay as soon as you're ready. We'll need to run a few more tests, then you can return to your quarters."

Captain Regiliana and Sydney approached the ComPost on the wall. They both keyed in the coordinates to the Bridge area. Although Roger found this slightly peculiar, he didn't have the strength nor the willpower to ponder about it now. All he cared about was getting some rest. Even though Sydney and Captain Regiliana had both claimed that he'd been out for several years, for some reason he was feeling really beat. He needed a good nights sleep. Roger stood up and, after waiting for the wobbling effects to subside, went over to the ComPost and keyed in the coordinates for Sickbay. Within seconds, he was standing on the yellow pad, looking around at the new location as he'd never seen it before.

Sickbay had changed dramatically. Instead of the four or five MediBunks on the left wall, a collection of empty cages and containment devices on the right wall, and a large console full of meaningless and incomprehensible medical stuff in the center, the Sickbay seemed to have expanded a great deal. It'd doubled in size, for one thing. The entire left wall still housed an array of MediBunks, but it sure didn't look like the MediBunks he remembered from the old DeepShip 86. He couldn't quite put his finger on the difference. He recognized the large console which had once stood in the middle of Sickbay, put up against the right wall, where it had seemingly been left unused. The center of the room featured several recuperation benches, where injured or ill crew members could come and get quick treatment which didn't require the precision of the MediBunks. Two straight lines of these recuperation benches stretched from one end of the room to the other. Three full-size body scanners had been placed along the right wall, apparently making the existing DNA-scanner on the old console obsolete. The containment pods and empty cages had apparently been moved elsewhere, or they'd been completely disposed of. And staff member count had seemingly increased. Previously, the Sickbay only required two attendants on duty there were at least five here, all tending to the machinery and the odd one or two patients they had.

Roger approached one of the attendants. He didn't recognize him, although Roger hadn't really counted on it either. "I'm Roger Wilco "

"From the ThawTeck area, right?" The attendant smiled. "We've got a MediBunk lined up for ya over in the corner. Just go and have a lie-down."

Roger complied and found the new MediBunks pretty darn comfortable. Plenty of space, soft mattres. After his first treatment, which lasted ten, maybe twenty minutes Roger gave up counting after the MediBunk treatment computer automatically injected general anesthetic he felt much better. He got up from the bunk and was told by a blonde, female attendant that he could go back to his quarters and get some rest now.

He found that to be impossible. Once he'd transported back to his quarters, he couldn't sleep anymore. The MediBunk sure did its job. At first, he'd found it strange that his quarters were now located amongst the crew quarters instead of in a converted cargo hold, but he figured it was just another case of the improvements of the future. At least all his stuff was still here. The ATM card from the Galaxy Galleria, the PocketPal Portable Terminal, his ClapMaster, and most importantly, his Golden Mop award.

He decided to ring the Bridge and see if there was anything he could do. It didn't strike Roger as unnormal behavior at first. Usually, he'd do anything to get out of working. The Captain informed him that, although Roger didn't have an official position at StarCon any longer, he could, technically speaking, be offered a position as Head Janitor for the DeepShip, with full salary, albeit temporarily. The Captain hurried to add that the DeepShip was currently headed to nearby StarBase 11, where Roger would be dropped off and assigned to another ship. At first, Roger didn't much like the news, but the re-mention of the "Head Janitor" and "full salary" bit quickly changed his mind. And when the Captain sent him a copy of the crew roster at StarBase 11, which included the listing "Wankmeister, Beatrice Ambassador, G6 Quadrant", Roger went into a state of joyful ecstacy.

After a quick stop at the supply holds, acquiring a nuclear vaccum cleaner which curiously reminded him a lot of his own, right down to the stickers on the base reading I love Uranus and Scott me up, Beamie, he transported to 8-Rear and began his cleaning duties.

Although he couldn't put his finger on it, 8-Rear had also changed in some way. After a while, he started to realize. The replicators were actually dispensing food, not highly toxic substances of unknown origin and pH-value. The people in here were happy and content, chatting with each other without being loud and noisy. They were enjoying their food and cleaning up after themselves. They weren't spilling their drinks, or dropping their foods onto the floor. The wall screen was displaying the Monday Night Bunion-Ball finals with adequate sound, instead of being stuck on the Intergalactic Country & Western Channel with the sound control smashed.

Things were working!

He thought back to his time in Sickbay. The operation had went smoothly enough. The attendant had been there in an instant, she had a pleasant smile, she was friendly, caring, and beautiful. That just didn't fit this ship! This ship was a hulkingly large glob of crap floating in space, shaped like a jockstrap! It was not supposed to run smoothly!

And why did they use general anesthetic, knocking him out completely? What was the big operation, they wanted to perform? Something was terribly wrong here. He was being subjected to something he wasn't supposed to know about.

He felt a chill run down his spine, and as he glanced around 8-Rear for the second time, the happiness and content chatter of the patrons suddenly seemed ominous and menacing. They laughed, they grinned, they ate, they talked, they smiled they couldn't possibly be real!

Roger disconnected the nuclear vacuum cleaner and transported to the store room. One again, the attendant was friendly and reliable. He accepted the vacuum cleaner with a smile. Wait about the vacuum cleaner itself! It wasn't a storage vacuum cleaner it was his vacuum cleaner! He peeked into the storeroom. It was the only type of vacuum cleaner avaliable.

No this couldn't be.

When Roger transported to his quarters, a message on the ComPost was waiting. It was Sickbay, telling him to report down there for further examinations and treatment. Kindly, caringly, friendly. That wasn't anything like Sickbay !

Roger briefly considered that it might've been the new StarCon policy for the future he was located in the future, wasn't he?

Maybe StarCon had finally grown up. Maybe they'd become more caring and respective to their employees.

All that was soon about to change.

When he beamed down to the Sickbay, the blonde attendant approached him and kindly said: "Just lie down on the MediBunk over there and we'll get started, Mr. Wilco."

Wilco hesitated. The attendant motioned for him to lie down. "Mr. Wilco, if you would please approach the MediBunk " "Exactly what operation are you performing?" Wilco asked.

The attendant grinned. "What do you mean?"

"I thought I just thawed, and then everything was all right I mean, why go through all this operation stuff?"

"Please, Mr. Wilco," she said, once again motioning towards the MediBunk. Her patience was about up, Wilco could tell, but she still managed to maintain that friendly smile and caring attitude.

"I just want to know what you're going to do to me," Wilco half-grinned.

The attendants eyes widened. "Mr. Wilco, you have to comply."

"I have to what?"

The smile faded. "Complience is mandatory!"

"Excuse me?"

The friendly look on the attendants face vanished. "You must obey!"

"Okay, that's it," Wilco said. "I'm out of here."

He approached the ComPost, keyed in the coordinates to his quarters and was soon sucked up into the tube, leaving the attendant standing with a terrified look on her face.

"It wasn't my fault! He wouldn't comply!" she excused herself. None of the other attendants in the room seemed to care that she was talking to thin air. "I couldn't stop him!" She raised her hand and looked at it with a petrified facial expression. "No! It wasn't my fault!" It was slowly vanishing. Her hand disappeared. Then followed her arm. The other arm. "NO!" Her legs. Her torso.

"NOOOO " And then, " OOOOOOOOOO " her head " OOOOOOOOOOO!!!" disappeared.

Nobody in Sickbay seemed to notice.

When Roger materialized in his quarters, something wasn't right. The first thing he noticed was, that Beatrice Wankmeister was lying on his bed, dressed in an attire that completely let fantasy out of the game. Roger was baffled.

"Hi, Roger," she said in a sexy voice.

"Wha wha " Roger stuttered.

"Come here," she continued, and patted the shimmery sheets next to her.

Roger sat down. Soon, Bea was all over him. "What what are you doing here?" he managed to say between kisses.

"What do you mean?" she grinned without stopping.

"Why are you " Roger couldn't finish the sentence. Seconds later, he managed to escape Bea's passionate grip and he rose to a standing position. "Why are you here?"

"I'm here to take your mind off the pressure."

"But, you're supposed to be on Starbase 11 aren't you?"

"Yes, but they sent me here to " She stopped.

"Who sent you?"

Bea stuttered a bit. "Nobody sent me. Forget it. Come here "

"No." Roger began pacing around in the room.

"Come on, Roger. There's nobody here except you and me. We can have a good time, and when we're done, you won't have a care in the world," she said with her luring voice.

Roger stopped and looked straight at her.

"You're not real," he stated softly. The horrible truth had finally dawned on him. "None of this is real. You're not real. The ship is not real."

"What do you mean?" she asked, and attempted an amused grin, but failed miserably.

"Who sent you here?" he asked.

She tried to laugh as if Roger was crazy, but failed. "I "

"You said, they sent you here. Who are they?"

"Roger please you're acting like a lunatic."

"I'm acting like a lunatic?! Everything's gone skew! The ship's running magnificently, 8-Rear is clean and tidy, everybody's happy and friendly and caring and "

"What's wrong with that?"

"It's just not real!" Roger yelled. "None of it can possibly be for real! Ever since I became assigned to the DeepShip, it's been one endless torment after another. This ship is a disgustingly large sack of Orat droppings. It's just not possible for this ship to be kind and thoughtful. The whole purpose of this ship and its crew is to crack everybody's spirit and torture them until they crack under sheer pressure."

Bea's eyes stirred.

"No " Bea stuttered, desperately. But she wasn't talking to Roger. She was looking up in the ceiling.

"Yes!" Roger half-yelled, mistakingly thinking that Bea was speaking to him.

"No please! Don't!" Bea begged, her voice trembling.

"What are you talking about?" Roger asked stupidly.

"NOOO!!!" Bea screamed desperately as she vanished into thin air, limb by limb.

Roger was left completely alone in his quarters.

He decided, something had to be done. He would have to resort to drastic measures.

"Take it easy, Wilco. You're having a hard time adapting, but it'll all fall into place soon."

Captain Regiliana was trying to talk Roger into submitting the photonic discharger, he had currently trained on the Captain's forehead, to the new security chief. A few moments ago, Roger had appeared on the Bridge and quietly asked what the hell was going on. After the Captain had questioned Roger's sanity, Roger had pulled out a Mark 5 Photonic Discharger and waved everybody into the corner of the Bridge. The Captain had been trying to talk Roger into putting down the discharger for the past five minutes.

"Not until you tell me what's going on," Roger stated firmly, keeping a firm grasp on the discharger.

"Please, if you just give me the discharger," the Captain tried.

"No!" Roger answered assertively.

There was a painfully long silence. Nobody moved a muscle. Roger was thinking furiously.

"If this isn't reality," he said slowly, "then I'm not real either. Then this is some sort of projection."

"Mr. Wilco," the Captain tried again, but quickly gave up after having the discharger waved dangerously close to his left eyeball.

"I'm lying somewhere on the real DS86 with a VR-helmet on, or something like that." He glared straight into the eyes of the Captain. "How do I get out?"

The Captain's nervous and diplomatic face turned deadly serious as he returned Roger's glare. "There isn't a way out."

"You're lying," Roger accused, although he wasn't completely sure himself.

The Captain didn't answer. Roger took that as a yes. He was relieved.

"If this is all a simulation," Roger suggested, "if this isn't real, then I'd be unable to sustain any damage. Am I right?"

The Captain remained silent. That's two points to the home team. Roger retracted the discharger from the Captain's eyeball, who promptly fell to the floor with a monumental sigh. Roger glared intensely at the discharger. The bridge guards remained where they were. The Captain stumbled to his feet.

"So if this is all a simulation," Roger said slowly, not taking his eyes off the weapon in his hand. He didn't say anymore. He slowly raised it, turned it around, pointed it at his own chest and pulled the trigger.

The image of unreality shattered before him, like glass shards fall to the ground after your eight-year-old son tosses a baseball through the kitchen window, and in the process, manage to knock his mother to the ground. Roger was standing alone in a large void of blackness. There was nothing to see anywhere, only the blackness he was completely alone.

The first thing Roger did was to convulse stupidly. He stared at his stomach, but it was still in one piece. He looked at the discharger in his hand, which he had obtained from the weapons department aboard the fake DeepShip. It slowly vanished into thin air.

Roger looked around. Nothing.

"Is this their idea of fun?" Roger said aloud to himself. Then, he snapped. "Do you think this is FUNNY?!"

"No," a voice replied. Roger couldn't determine where it was coming from, but the shock of an unexpected reply startled him to such a degree, that he promptly flew a few stemps backwards and remained in freeze-frame from there. It was a deep, male voice, which bellowed evenly across the black space.

Roger finally accumulated the guts to speak. "Who who're you?" "We have been examining your species for a period of time," the voice replied. "We have come to the conclusion that your species is unsuitable to our needs. We have no other choice than sentencing you to immediate termination."

Roger wasn't exactly sure what all this was about, but he had a nagging feeling that it was taking a turn for the worse.

Suddenly, things twirled around him, his hand dissolved, then followed his right leg, left arm, left leg His body was dismantling itself. He tried screaming "What the hell is going on?!", but his mouth was twenty meters away from him, trying to connect itself with his left index finger. He looked behind him and witnessed his left leg with his right hand attached to the end, kicking his left earlobe.

He looked to the left of him and saw his other eye floating right beside him. This proved to be a bit of a mistake. A blinding white flash hit him as a result. It was basically the same effect as if you point a camcorder to the television it is hooked up to, only amplified at least 20,000 times.

Ten seconds later, Roger's vision returned to normal. He looked around. He was still in one piece. His hand was back where it should be. His eyes were firmly placed in their sockets. Better still, his Xyrex wristwatch was still working. The time was 0400 am.

He looked around. He was standing in a familiar, converted cargo hold. It was a mess. Piles of dirty laundry were everywhere. Personal artifacts, albeit useless, were clogging the table. The bed was unmade. The cockroaches were swamping the malfunctioning replicator, as usual.

He was back.

And boy, did he need a rest.

Somewhere, in an infinite, empty void of blackness, a deep voice echoed softly across the space. The tone of voice was soft and calm, but sounded like a groan. It said four simple words, then dead silence. The words were:

"Oh shit. Wrong button."

This story is ©; 1997 Troels Pleimert.

Send me your comments to troels-pleimert@get2net.dk

None of this story may be reproduced, copied, or sold without the written permission of myself and crediting the author.

All Space Quest references are ©; Sierra On-Line. All rights reserved

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