The Inside Story (Part 2)
by Troels Pleimert

Historical note: This short story takes place between Space Quest V and Space Quest VI, before Roger Wilco was stripped of his captains rank. This takes place after the end of Space Quest V, where Roger destroys the SCS Eureka and swoops off in the Star Confederacy's flagship, the SCS Goliath, when he's on his way home to StarCon.

As you may or may not recall from our last chapter, Roger Wilco and the crew of the SCS Goliath responded to a distress call from a top secret StarCon scientific installation in the Rutheminon galaxy. When arriving, they found it severely damaged and were unable to scan it for lifeforms, since the shields were fluctuating so wildly. They did, however, manage to project a transporter beam through the shield, but while sending Captain Wilco in to try and find the cause of the fluctuations, a giant explosion struck the ship, and Wilco ... well ... where did Wilco go?

"What's up?!" yelled Cliffy as he rushed through the door. Another blast hit the ship, as it skipped up and down in space. "Are we being fired upon?"

"No," shouted Droole. "And that's what I can't figure out! There's no traces of proton energy, phaser blasts, nothing! It's almost as if we're being hit by pure energy!"

"You may be more right than you think, lobster boy," said Flo. "I've been monitoring the blasts. Seems as if every time we're hit, there's a massive increase in energy! Almost a 200% boost! Then, it fades away."

"And that's what's causing the shakes?" asked Droole.

"Yeah! We're being shot at with pure energy, and it's punching through our shields!" said Flo.

Suddenly, Flo's station went bazurk and spat out sparks and fizzles, until it almost exploded. Flo managed to back off and avoid any injuries, but the station was rendered inoperable.

"What the frick is goin' on?!" yelled Droole.

WD40 appeared on the overhead screen. "I have been performing some calculations. It seems as if we have been contaminated with whatever is causing the decay of the science station."

"In a plain language, what does that mean?" asked Droole.

"If we look upon the station as an entity with a serious disease," said WD40. "We have travelled into the vicinity of the disease and have been contaminated. Thusly, we may very soon suffer the same fate as the station."

A short millisecond after WD40 finished her sentence, a bright light flash was visible through the viewscreen, followed by an enormous blast, that hit the Goliath, causing it to almost make a cool 180° turn in space. When the flash had faded away and the shaking stopped, the science station was not to be found anywhere.

"Where'd the station go?" asked Flo as she frantically scanned the entire sector. "It's not there! It blew up!"

"Let's hope that won't happen to us," said Droole.

"It will," said WD40. "It will."

"Thanks for the reassurance, WD," said Cliffy sarcastically.

"What should we do now?" asked Flo. "Captain, what should we—" Realising, that the captain was nowhere to be found, she put on a strange, almost desperate face. "Where's the captain gone?"

"He beamed out!" said Cliffy, and then realising the implications of that. "Oh my god ..."

"You mean, he ..." said Droole.

"Most likely," replied WD40.

"Oh no, what are we gonna do now?" said Flo.

"How do you know what they said, when you were beamed out into space?" asked commander Benzeen, obviously confused.

"Quiet and let me continue," said Roger.

"Hrmmph," mumbled Benzeen and sat back in his chair.

"Well," continued Roger.

A half hour later, the bridge was a terrible mess. The shields had dropped about 42%, Cliffy was down in engineering trying to compensate for the loss of energy, WD40 was monitoring the damage from the science station and Droole was up on the bridge, trying to reach anyone in the vicinity. The rest of the crew, including Flo, had taken the opportunity to flee the ship, while there was still power in the shuttle bay. Everybody figured, that the deaths of two would outweigh the deaths of almost 50 StarCon officers and crewmembers.

Droole was fiddling with the intercom, desperately trying to warn off anybody in the vicinity.

"Warning! All confederation ships in range, do not approach Rutheminon system. Repeat, do not approach the Rutheminon system! High danger!" Having recorded that message, he activated "continuous broadcast" and looped the message, so that everyone in the vicinity would recieve the message over and over again.

WD40's face appeared on a small viewscreen on Droole's control panel. "Weapons officer Droole. Energy loss now totalling 44% and increasing. We are down to 2/4 of power. Weapons systems, navigations systems and engines inoperable. Heavily damaged systems include holodecks, recreational area, cabins on decks 22-24, the head and the arcade hall."

"Dammit!" yelled Droole and hit his own knee, not wanting to cause anymore damage to the console.

"What is the problem, Weapons Officer Droole?" asked WD40.

"And I almost beat TNP's high score at Stooge Fighter III! Now I'll never get the chance to whack his butt!" Droole said, looking ready to break down and cry.

"That is the current status. WD40 out," said WD40.

"Thanks, WD," said Droole, as WD40 disppeared off the screen.

"Cliffy, how are we doin'?" said Droole after having hailed Cliffy over the intercom.

"Well, it's tricky," replied the chief engineer. "Almost all of the systems down here have been severely damaged, so it's hard to actually get in there and see, what might be causing the problem. So far, I've found absolutely no traces of that anything should be wrong."

"Cliffy, the entire engineering section is dead, and you're saying there's nothing wrong?" said Droole mistrustfully.

"Almost dead. But I'm serious. Everything should be okey-dokey down here. Cliffy out," Cliffy finished and cut communication.

Suddenly, the small viewscreen on Droole's control console crackled with static energy. "What the—"

Droole didn't have time to say anymore, when he noticed some familiar shapes in the static snow. It was like a face, desperately trying to break free. As my face appeared on the monitor ...

"Your face appeared on the monitor? Come on, get real. You don't expect me to believe that, do you?" commander Benzeen interrupted. This was getting too weird, he thought.

"Will you stop interrupting me!?" Wilco said, desperately trying to restrain himself from yelling, and consequently giving his face the color of a radish. "I'm getting reeeeal fed up with you constant interrupting me! It's sickening! So stop it!!!"

"Okay, okay, keep your face on," said commander Benzeen. He had never seen Wilco this agitated. Either he was in a very bad mood, or this whole thing was starting to bother him. Then the possibility of a combination of both entered his mind, and he settled for that.

"Right, you done?" asked Wilco, immediately answering the question. "Good. Now let's get on with it. As I was saying ..."

My face on the monitor was desperately trying to break free from the static. Yes, I was actually inside the computer system, as a string of light particles, flying around in there among the circuit boards, being able to control all electrical systems on the ship.

Droole was startled at first, but then he recognized the familiar form. "Captain Wilco?"

"Yeah!" I said, my voice coming out of the speakers around the bridge, and from the internal speaker built into Droole's console.

"What the hell's going on?" said Droole.

"I think, I know what's causing the random shutdowns of the electrical systems," I said, hoping that would answer Droole's question.

"How'd you get in there?" inquired Droole, still startled.

"It's just a wild guess, but I think it's the transporter malfunctioning gag over again. How the hell I managed to get converted to a string of light particles and being transferred into the main computer system, and more importantly, how I was able to make the monitor twiddle with static, don't ask me. When you're a light particle in an enormous main computer, it's just something you do. Like looking at things, tasting things – you can't really tell people, how to do it, you just do it. For me it's a completely natural thing to be able to make all the systems on the ship turn on and off. Unfortunately, like with learning how to ride bicycles, you never really master it from the first time you try it. That's what's going on!" I said.

"So you mean, you're a light particle in the Goliath's main computer, and you don't know how to navigate, and that's whats causing the random shutdowns?" said Droole, trying to get hold of the situation.

"Yeah," I said.

"So basically, you're fiddling around with stuff, you know absolutely nothing about?" said Droole, more calm.

"Uh, well, yeah," I said. This was getting embarrasing.

"So you're actually the cause of our death, because you're in there trying to have fun, right?" he said. I could see him getting more angry.

"Well, no, uhm," I said. "It's nothing like that! I don't have complete control over what I'm doing! It's hard to explain, but it's like telepathy. I tell a system what to do and it does – by thought! I know it sounds weird, but that's basically how I do it. And, well ..."

"Your sick brain can't cope with it," Droole interrupted. I felt I had to punish him, but I was afraid of what damage I might do. Thankfully, he changed the subject. "So what are you gonna do?"

"Stay in this system, so that I don't cause anymore trouble," I said.

"Good. I'll call Cliffy and tell him, I've found out what's wrong," he said.

"Wrong?!" I tried to yell, but Droole had already put me on hold. I wanted to check through the cameras, like I had done earlier, but I was afraid what damage I might do if I left this system.

Moments later, the darkness disappeared, and I could see Droole again.

"Cliffy's on his way up," Droole said. In the background, I could hear a door opening and footsteps. Droole turned around to face the door and said: "Cliff, come take a look at this."

Cliffy's face popped into view. "Hi, cap'n," he said, obviously unsure on what to say.

"Enough chit-chat, really," I said. "It's getting pretty weird in here. I'd like to get out as soon as possible. Any ideas?"

In stead of answering my question, Cliffy turned to talk to Droole.

"Droole, the engine core is approaching critical condition. It's going to explode if we don't do something quick," said Cliffy.

"Wait, wait, wait, wait, explode?" I said, getting frantic. "What about me? Are you just going to leave me in here to rot?"

"As much as I'd like to, we can't just leave him in there," said Droole to Cliffy. "Any keen ideas?"

"Got it!" Cliffy said to Droole, obviously having thought of something. "Come with me down to the transporter room!"

"W-w-wait, what about me?" I said, but the two were already gone.

A few minutes later, I could sense a message being sent to the station, where I was. I managed to pick it up and play it back. Don't ask me how I did it. I just pulled it out of the "stream" and made it play back.

"You're not making sense," said commander Benzeen.

"I know, I know, but it's really hard to explain!" said Roger, trying to justify.

"But you're not trying," continued Benzeen.

"I am trying, so stow it!" said Roger. "Now where was I? Oh ..."

"We've got a real situation here, cap'n," said Cliffy's voice. Apparently, they had used the transporter communication system to hail the console systems, and thereby reaching me. "We're pretty sure, we can turn you back with the transporter. That's no problem. Just invert the phasefielding pulseray for the—"

"Cut the technical crap, just get it done, Cliffy!" I said through the comm link.

"Okay," said Cliffy. "The problem is, after we've turned you back, there's no way for us to escape, since the shuttlebay systems are off-line during your little joyride through our computer terminals. You're gonna have to get back there and switch them back on."

"But Cliffy, I can't do that!" I said. "In order for them to work, I have to be there at all times – the systems themselves are broken. They need something to hold them together, and frankly, I'm the only thing in this system that can do that!"

"I'm not sure what you're saying, chief, but it doesn't sound good!" said Cliffy. "So basically, you can't come with us?"

"Not if we're gonna follow your crazy scheme," I quickly retorted.

"I think I've got a solution," said Droole in the distance. I could see him moving closer. "Why don't we set the transporter to remote control? There's one pod remaining in the shuttlebay! The pods have remote control capability – the second, the systems are on-line, we'll transport you into the pod and we'll be off!"

"That sounds pretty far out, Droole," I said.

"Yeah," said Cliffy. "Way out there. So ... shall we do it?"

"If I must then I must," I said. "Wilco out."

I started making my way down the circuits towards the shuttlebay systems, when I noticed something out the corner. I figured, I'd better get as far away from that as possible!

The same second, a message reached Droole and Cliffy in the transporter room.

"Guys," I said. "We've got a bit of a problem."

"What?" inquired Droole.

"Well, remember when I told you, that I hadn't quite mastered this system? That I didn't really have control over what I was doing yet?"

"Uh, yeah?" said Droole.

"So what's your point, cap'n?" asked Cliffy.

"Well, I'm here at a kind of intersection, and well ... the shuttlebay systems are directly ahead of me ..."

"So? Go for it!" said Droole.

"You don't understand," I said. "The life support systems are in the way!"

Proceed to Part Three!

This story is ©; 1996 Troels Pleimert.

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