The Rip
by Troels Pleimert

"Something is definitely not right here," Dorff said.

This was beginning to get on Roger's nerves, as it was the twenty-fourth time he'd said that.

"Of course something's not right! What d'you expect? We're falling through a tunnel to god-knows-where!" Roger snapped.

They'd been doing that for the last twenty minutes. At first, it had been exciting and eyenumbing. All the brilliant colors, flashing past them at an incredible velocity; the feeling of falling through an endless tunnel of light. After ten minutes, the excitement gradually began to fade. And now, twenty minutes after having been sucked through the dimensional rip, with Dorff as his only companion, Roger was beginning to get really sick of it.

Dorff, of all people. The ships near-sighted and relatively clueless security chief.

Roger began reflecting back on the events which had led up to this point in time.

A bleep at the ComPost signalled that a message was waiting. Roger made his way across the large quantities of mess on the floor, only stumbling three or four times in the process, and finally pressed the PLAY-button.

Dorff's face appeared on screen. Roger let out an undetectable sigh.

"Janitor Wilco?" Dorffs highpitched and goofy voice said. "Are you there, Janitor?"

"Speaking," Roger said. "Is there something wrong with the video relay? Can't you see me on the screen?"

"What screen?"

Roger sighed. "The screen in front of you. On the ComPost."

"Oh," Dorff replied stupidly. "Well, that one's completely static."

"What's wrong?"

"Seems like some kind of unknown power surge has tossed the engineering section of the DeepShip up and down sideways and all. We need someone to go down there and clean up the mess."

"Shouldn't you first get some technicians assigned to fix any damage... or maybe engineers?"

"They're on lunch break," Dorff replied.

"So, what you're saying is that I have to go down to Engineering and clean up a mess made by an unknown force," Roger said slowly.

"Yes, that's about it," said Dorff.

"Brilliant," Roger sighed. "Don't I get any help? I mean, Engineering's a large place!"

"Yeah, I'm coming down," Dorff replied, his voice being briefly overrun by white noise. "I'll meet you in Engineering Corridor 459 in twenty minutes with an engineer. Dorff out."

With a sigh, Roger acknowledged and cut transmission. He grabbed his cleaning gear and keyed in the coordinates for the pneumatic transporter.

Seconds later, he found himself in a long, narrow corridor, lit up by small lights set into the walls, with approximately two meters distance apart. A sign on the wall read "ENGINEERING CORRIDOR 460". Dammit.

At the end of the corridor, the passageway made a left turn and a right turn. The door to an engineering storage closet was directly in front of him, and it looked like somebody had welded the lock just for the fun of it. A sign down the corridor read "ENGINEERING CORRIDORS 450-460" and pointed in the left direction. Roger went down that way. He could hear voices coming from another sidepassage, one of which he assumed to be Dorff's.

It was another long and narrow passage, with several sidepassages to the left, but none to the right. Dorff's voice seemed to come from 30 meters, somewhere inside the giant maze of engineering passages.

"Dammit, I told you it was corridor four five NINE, not four five FIVE!" Dorff's squeaky voice yelled.

"Uh, sorry boss," a deep and moronic sounding voice replied.

Roger went down the passageway and managed to locate one with the sign "ENGINEERING CORRIDOR 459". He yelled into the air, hoping to attract Dorff's attention: "Dorff! Over here!"

"Huh? Whassat?" several voices called out.

"Dorff, 459 is over here!" Roger yelled.

Ten minutes later, from out of nowhere, Dorff came running from where Roger had first arrived.

"What the hell were you doing over there?" Roger asked, but got no response.

"This is it," Dorff panted. "Let's go."

Roger noticed his stupid-sounding companion was nowhere in sight. "What happened to the engineer?"

"He went to lunch," Dorff panted.


"Yeah. Don't ask me how, but somehow the StarCon Engineers managed to sneak in some fine print on the assignment contracts that read 'lunch break every ten minutes'. Nobody noticed until it was too late."

Roger sighed. "So we're on our own?"

"Seems that way. Let's go."

They went down the corridor. It seemed to go on forever, making numerous twists and turns. After walking for about ten minutes, Roger noticed a green glow coming from the corner, dead ahead. "What's that?" Roger inquired, involuntarily whispering. "Dunno," Dorff replied and looked completely baffled. "I think we've found our unknown power source. Call the bridge."

Roger checked his pockets, although he perfectly well knew that he didn't have his communicator. "I don't have it," he said after a while.

Dorff searched his uniform and also came up empty. "Dammit."

"Well, what are we supposed to do, then?" asked Roger.

"Well, I see two possibilites. One: We go back up to the bridge and inform them of the unknown power source. Then they'll most likely send us back down here to patch it up. Two: We patch it up immediately and save ourselves half an hour of walking."

"Option two sounds definitely preferable," Roger stated and Dorff agreed.

"Right, let's do it. I have the engineering tools right here." Dorff held up the box of tools he'd been carrying since he met up with Roger. It seemed like it'd only been used for the last five years to carry laserspanners, pizza-cutters and sandwiches. A few extra tools had been put in there, seemingly just for the fun of it, since their function seemed to be beyond both Roger and Dorff's comprehension.

The two newly-appointed engineers rounded the corner and were now standing face to face with the mystery power source.

A large hole had been blasted in the inner hull of the ship, and had been blocked up with an odd, green, glowing misty-looking substance. It was moving slightly, like a fog, but seemed to be placed over the hole like a giant patch.

Roger couldn't shake the feeling that it was dormant; waiting to be unleashed.

The brilliant green light nearly blinded the two.

"What the hell is THIS?" Roger asked, fully expecting a reply, while covering his eyes of the light.

"I haven't the faintest clue. It seems to be blocking a blast to the inner hull. But from what I can see here, the outer hull seems completely undamaged. Strange."

"What's so strange about that?"

"Well, it means that whatever this thing is, it came from inside."

"So what's your point?"

"I'm not sure." Dorff went a few steps closer and examined the foggy mist. It was half-transparent, and it was possible to discern what was behind it, given that your eyes could take the strain.

"Temperature wise, I'd say this thing is blocking everything coming from the outer hull. I mean, the outer hull has a temperature of about 1.5 degrees Celcius, whereas the inner hull has a temperature of 38 degrees Celcius. We're currently in the inner hull, and the temperature in here is definitely not near freezing."

Roger gave Dorff a strange glance. He could've spoken Hebrew as far as he was concerned.

"Any idea what it is, then?" Roger tried once again.

"Absolutely none," Dorff replied, much to Roger's disappointment. "It's completely alien. I've never seen anything remotely like it."

Dorff paced to the other side. The hole was perhaps three meters in diameter, and the mist was doing a good job in covering the entire hole. Perhaps a little stretchy around the edges, but nevertheless doing a very good job.

"It's floating, yet it seems to be able to control it's own altitude. Fogs are usually non-massive, but this thing is able to block temperature increases or decreases."

Dorff spun on his heels, his back turned on the fog. He looked Roger straight in the eyes with a very enlightened expression on his face. Roger involuntarily backed away a few steps.

"This might be intelligent life!" Dorff proclaimed out loud.

"An intelligent fog?" Roger stated sarcastically. "Then answer me this. What is it doing here, then?"

"I have no idea! Maybe it's lost and trying to find its way home. Maybe it's trying to communicate us. Maybe it's trying to sell us life insurances; who cares? The point is, this could be our first contact with alien life since... since..."


"Oh, never bloody mind!"

Dorff was ecstatic. Roger had never seen him like this. He was in a frenzy. But then again, Dorff's one big wish had always been to be the first to contact an alien race. But the opportunity had always been left up to a higher position; such as Captain or First Officer. This was his big moment. And he was sharing it with a Second Class Janitor. Oh well, there's always a down side.

"Okay," Roger tried to get to grips with the situation. "We have a visit from an intelligent green fog. What should we do about it?"

Dorff didn't answer. He was standing directly in front of the fog.

He couldn't believe it. He'd been serving on the DeepShip 86 for more than six years now, and finally, the moment he'd been waiting for was at hand. He was involved in a first contact situation like none he'd ever imagined.

Without thinking, he reached out his hand and touched the fog. A powerful force slammed into the part of his arm that was inside the fog and a strange tingling sensation spread throughout it.

His arm only spent two seconds inside. He forcefully pulled it back.

"Dorff!" Roger yelled, momentarily and involuntarily disconnecting all mental facilities. In truth, he didn't give a smeg what happened to Dorff.

"What the hell happened?" Roger asked.

"I just... stuck my hand inside." Dorff didn't look at Roger. He was too busy examining his hand from every possible angle.

Roger approached the green mist. His mental facilities were still off-line as he attempted to walk through the mist, but ended up passing inside it and vanishing.

Dorff looked around. Suddenly, he was standing all alone in this giant maze of engineering passageways. And now — now, of all times — he realized he didn't have the faintest idea on how to get back.

The only solution Dorff could think of was to go in after him. Although he didn't much care for the idea. Passing through the green mist, all he saw was a brilliant flash of light — and then, the sensation of falling down a shaft. Brilliant flashes of light and color were passing by him. Directly below him, he could make out the familiar, grey/purple form of a Janitor Second Class uniform.

And now, they were floating next to each other, as they'd been doing for the past half hour.

"Something is definitely not right here," said Dorff.

Roger's face turned red. "Look, would you shut—"


"Okay, what the hell was that?" Roger asked, without expecting any reply. He threw his head violently around the room, searching for any answers.


"What is that?" Dorff asked.


From directly below them, where the tunnel faded into the darkness, they could just barely make out a few white lightflashes that seemed to appear as each loud noise was audible. Whatever was causing it was anybody's guess.

"Look down there!" Roger said and pointed towards the end of the tunnel.

Dorff looked like somebody'd just ordered him to recite pi with at least 25 decimals. "What am I looking at?"

Another loud SLAM, and the two tunnel occupants were thrown around. The tunnel was taking damage.

Directly below them, some sort of white flash was coming into vision. It still looked like it was several kilometers down the shaft, but it was getting closer and closer by the second.

It looked like a large, electrical spark, which occasionally spat out discharges. With each discharge, a loud SLAM was audible, and the really large ones caused the entire tunnel to shiver.

"What's that down there?" Dorff asked.

"Is it just me or are we repeating ourselves?" Roger stated under his breath.

Before they could perform any acts of resistance, they gradually increased in speed as they approached the giant spark until they passed through the white flashes.

And then, nothing.

Dorff grunted in a series of peculiar manners and rose painfully to his feet.

Roger awoke. His head felt like somebody was chopping meat on his brain.

"Where are we?" Roger grunted. His eyes hadn't yet dialed into focus, and he was desperately trying to get to a standing position. He got to his knees, then tumbled painfully down on the floor, face down. He could hear the ill-sounding creaks from the bones in his nose, but was unable to do anything about it at the moment.

"I don't believe it." Dorff paced up and down and glanced at his surroundings.

It was pitch dark, yet some of the surroundings seemed familiar. Roger got to a standing position at last. He made a quick turn right, expecting Dorff to stand directly in front of him. Instead, he hammered his head and the upper part of his torso into a large block of metal and promptly fell to the floor once again.

He glanced up at the attacker.

As his eyes dialed into focus, he could make out the familiar designation sign on its top.


"What the hell are we doing in 8-Rear?!" he yelled as he rose to his feet and took a glance at his surroundings.

They'd landed in 8-Rear, the ships lounge. Apparently sometime after closing time. All the lights were turned off, and the only sound detectable was the hum from the ships engines and the sound from the food replicator's exhaust pipes.

It hadn't previously occurred to Roger to check his watch, and to tell the truth his brain wasn't entirely functioning yet, but almost out of reflex, he checked his wrist watch.

Half past two in the morning.

"Dorff," he called muffled. "It's 2:30 in the morning."

Dorff was out of his mind. He was standing with his arms planted firmly in the side of his torso, staring at one of the chairs.

Suddenly, without warning, he set in violent motion. His left leg threw itself up into the air, while his head made a cool 30 degrees spin in Roger's direction. Dorff was running; a thing he wasn't used to doing a lot of. The weird motions were the result of skipping quite heavily in the exercising department and doing the exact opposite in ordering extra-fatty doughnuts from the food replicator.

He ran to the ComPost and hit the transport button for the bridge.

"Come along!" he yelled to Roger.

Moments later, both of them were standing on the bridge of the DeepShip 86.

"What are we doing up here?" Roger inquired.

Dorff didn't answer. He skipped up into Commander Kielbasa's command center/scratching post and began punching in different keys on the keypad in front of him.

"What are you doing?" Roger tried.

"I thought so!" Dorff exclamated loudly and he ceased pounding the keypad.


"What we experienced down in Engineering was not an intelligent lifeform. It was a simple displacency-rip; a natural occurance which frequently takes place when a starship or other spaceborne vehicle enters through a fifth degree stellar fog."

"What does all that mean? What's a fifth degree stellar fog?"

"A stellar fog is several tightly compressed light particles — a cloud of them, floating around in space. A fifth degree stellar fog is several tightly compressed light particles that have been exposed to Zelta-rays, which effectively makes them invisible to the naked eye, as opposed to normal stellar fogs. They also have the ability to penetrate any hard matter, such as the hull of the DeepShip. In their original form they cause no harm and just gently drift along, undetected. However, if they suddenly enter an area with a drastic change in temperature, they can — on rare occasions — form a very powerful explosive, which is no doubt what happened down in engineering."

Dorff turned to Roger.

"Yeah, that's it!" he yelled. "We somehow managed to actually pass through a fifth degree stellar fog without noticing. When it came in contact with the 35 degrees Celcius in Engineering, as opposed to the 1.5 degrees Celcius of the outer hull, it created the explosion. Consequently, when fifth degree stellar particles explode, they become 50-50 solid matter, which explains our green misty friend in the Engineering corridors."



"You're not making sense."

"Yes, it makes perfect sense, though perhaps not to someone whose best friend in the whole wide universe is his sponge mop," Dorff continued.

"Actually, I do kinda like my squeegee..."

"That's not the point. We're standing in the middle of a scientific breakthrough. Fifth stellar fogs are incredibly rare, and we just passed through one of them. Do you realize, that by the time we report this, thousands upon thousands of saliva-dripping StarCon researchers, archaeologists and scientists will be throwing themselves at this discovery. We'll be famous!" he concluded. "Pardon me for being stupid, but didn't you just say that down in Engineering?" Roger grinned.

"I don't care what you say. This is not going to spoil my evening," Dorff said. Roger's mind made a quick flashback of the previous events. His night had already been ruined.

"Okay, smartie. Then what's all the business with the flashy tunnel?" Roger asked.

"That's one of the great mysteries of the Universe. It's been hypothesized..." Roger sighed. Not another tech-babble explanation. "...that when a stellar fog is created, thusly by the explosion of a star, that the individual timecells of the stellar particles are frozen due to the chilling temperatures of outer space. With fifth degree stellar fogs, who're so tightly compressed, it's very possible that they not only have time frozen inside them, but that they're capable of transporting others into other periods in time!"

"That still doesn't explain the flashy tunnel."

"Who knows how old the star which created the particles was? It could've been from the Dawn of Time itself! We could just have been the first two sentient beings of our time to witness the Dawn of Time!"

"So, basically, it's a time machine in space."

Dorff sighed.

"No, it isn't, it's nothing like it. This particular stellar fog will, for instance, only transport us to that period in time. And only once of that."

"You mean, we were the one and only people of our time ever to witness the Dawn of Time."

"Yes. After entrance has occurred, the stellar particles become scattered from each other and the time rip, as you might call it, can not function properly. It's like the dust in the sunlight in front of your window in the morning; if you wave your hand around in it, it scatters and has to find a new pattern."

Roger tried to grasp what Dorff was saying. Window? In the morning? What's wrong with this guy?

"Okay, so let me get this straight," Roger interrupted. He'd just about had enough of all this techno-babble. "We just travelled through time to the Dawn of it, which was a one-shot idea since now the rip has closed."

"Precisely. That's also the explanation for the giant sparky-looking thingy we saw at the end of the tunnel. As we were causing more interference, the particles were becoming more and more apart, and eventually it dissolved itself."

Five silent minutes past. Roger was just glaring at Dorff like he'd just spoken Portugese.

"So..." Roger finally broke the silence. "...what do we do about it now?"

"We report it to the StarCon scientific community," Dorff replied, plain and simple.

"But what good will it do to them, if the rip no longer exists? If the stellar fog has burnt out?"

"The Zelta rays it was exposed to is also an extremely rare substance. In fact, Zelta rays can be used in countless other fashions, including being synthesized to anti-hydrogen. With stuff like that, it would be possible to successfully revive any living being that has been cryogenically frozen."

"Just one question."


"Did you get all this information from the ships computer?"

"I used the Force," Dorff replied sarcastically and jumped down from the command center/scratching post. "C'mon, let's get some sleep. We'll tell them about our lucky find tomorrow."

Within minutes, Roger found himself standing in his quarters, trying desperately to figure out what had just happened.

The ComPost beeped for a minute, which indicated that a person was transporting in. A few seconds later, Dorff appeared on the pad.

He was late. He'd been having trouble sleeping last night. In fact, he'd only had two hours of sleep. When his alarm clock went off, it took him a full half hour to regain his eyesight.

The bridge was brimming with activity. The officers around the various consoles were doing their work, which seemed to generally involve pressing a lot of buttons.

Commander Kielbasa was sitting in his command center/scratching post and going through a record on his computer console.

"Ah, Security Chief Dorff," said Commander Kielbasa.

"Good morning, Sir," said Dorff. He couldn't wait to give Kielbasa the news!

"Some amazing news, Security Chief," Kielbasa continued. "We just discovered something quite extraordinary floating in our general vicinity."

It wasn't nessecary to hear the rest of his sentence, Dorff reckoned. He knew what he was going to say.

They'd found his fifth degree stellar fog.

They'd found it and were going to take credit for it.

They'd get famous, maybe get a promotion, and he'd be stuck on this lousy ship as nearsighted and relatively clueless Security Chief.

"I know," Dorff sighed.

"Oh, you do?" Kielbasa beamed. "It's quite amazing, don't you think?"

"Yeah. All the pretty colors too." Dorff closed his eyes. He could see the tunnel of flashing colors fly past him.

"Yes, who would've thought they'd actually put a Monolith Burger out here?" Kielbasa continued.

Dorff awoke.

"What?" he yelled.

"We warped out of the system an hour ago and arrived at the Allowe-system. Then we noticed we were out of supplies. And look what just pops up right in front of us."

Dorff glared out of the viewscreen. A Monolith Burger-frenchise, with the large yellow M situated atop a large flagpole, was visible.

"But... what about the stellar fog?" Dorff staggered.

"What stellar fog?"

Dorff didn't bother to answer. "Warp back to the previous system!"

The navigations officer came to life. "Are you nuts?"

"We haven't finished replenishing our supplies," the commander added.

"Sir! There's a fifth degree stellar fog in the other system!" Dorff snapped.

"So?" the weapons officer stated, showing absolutely no signs of real interest.

"Dorff, there was no stellar fog in the previous system," Kielbasa explained.

"Yes there was! I saw it! I actually went through it! You know — with that Welcox fellow... that... second class janitor!" "You mean Janitor Second Class Roger Wilco?" the commander assured himself.

Roger had just returned to his quarters to eat his lunch and take a little R&R before returning to work when he noticed the bleep on his ComPost. It was a message from Commander Kielbasa, ordering him to report to the bridge a.s.a.p.

Though not with an overflow of anticipation, Roger began punching in the coordinates for transport to the bridge. Moments later, he was standing before the Commander.

"Janitor, do you know anything about a fifth degree stellar fog in the system we just left?" the commander inquired. Roger felt like he was being grilled. He didn't much care for the idea.

"What's that?" he replied.

Dorff began developing a nervous breakdown. He made several peculiar gestures towards Roger, but Roger didn't take much notice.

"Security Officer Dorff reports that you and him went through a fifth degree stellar fog just yesterday, and I was hoping you could confirm this," said Kielbasa.

"What's a stellar fog?" Roger replied.

"You moron!" Dorff interrupted. "Can't you remember a thing?! We went through that big tunnel of light, then crashed into the sparky thingy, then materialized in the lounge, then we went up to the bridge and I looked up in the Commander's computer and we found out that it was—"

"You gained access to my computer?" the Commander interrupted with a raised voice. Dorff realized his mistake. The Commander's computer was not really for subordinates to use. It contained personal logs and so forth, which was a personal matter.

"Well, I—" Dorff began to stagger again.

"I don't remember any of that," Roger stated and shrugged.

Kielbasa gave Dorff a glare that spoke volumes. "I think that's settles it, Dorff," he said with a firm and authorative tone of voice.

"But ... but ..." Dorff tried.

"I think you've been working too hard lately, Dorff ..." Kielbasa said and added under his breath: "... though I can't imagine on what." He raised his voice again. "Maybe you should take a couple of hours off."

Dorff began to realize. He'd just been dreaming the whole thing. He knew this was too good to be true. He sighed, saluted sloppily then approached the ComPost.

"You may go too, Janitor," Kielbasa said.

"Thank you, sir," Roger said and saluted, for the first time in six months.

He approached the ComPost and keyed in the coordinates for his room.

When he materialized amongst the mess, he pressed the Communications button. He silently began to chuckle to himself.

He was going to be rich...

A week later, while Roger was taking his fourteenth break of the day in 8-Rear, chowing down on a bowl of synthesized pop corn and simulated sodapop, the screen on the wall crackled and the familiar face of Commander Kielbasa appeared. Two minutes later, it disappeared again. Between those two minutes, Roger's mood had gone from "happy" to "ecstatic".

The DeepShip was putting in for shore leave.

He skipped down to the transporter room and was transported into the hotel lobby of the planet Saracen V.

Out of the corner of his eye, Roger saw an object which he had to take a closer look at. Something he'd been waiting for for the past month. Something he'd been looking very much forward to.

The latest issue of "Janitor's Toolbelt". It was sitting in the nearby hotel kiosk, just asking to be read.

The front cover stated a large article, describing something about a fifth degree stellar fog. With almost rabid-like anticipation, Roger flipped to the appropriate page. He could feel his jaw slam into the floor and the blood slowly drain from his previously-excited face. His "happy-o-meter" dropped below measurable.

"NEW DISCOVERY OF FIFTH DEGREE STELLAR FOG TO REVOLUTIONIZE INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL," the headline boasted. That itself wasn't all bad. The article that followed was:

"The recent discovery of a fifth degree stellar fog in the Carbasadinian system by StarCon commander Kielbasa, commander of the exploration vessel DeepShip 86, has caused major attention in the StarCon scientific installations around the galaxy. Commander Kielbasa tells it this way …"

Roger put the magazine down and glared into the air without looking at anything in particular.

He then proceeded to thoroughly mutilate the magazine.

This story is ©; 1996 Troels Pleimert.

Send me your comments to

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

fan fiction welcome
short story archive - novel archive - help - contacts - broomcloset