Nocturne By: Karen

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Disclaimer: Space Cases, the Christa, and all concepts, themes belong to CINAR and Nickelodeon which are the creations of Bill Mumy and Peter David. They are not mine. I am only borrowing them for entertainment reasons. Takes place somewhere near the beginning of the second season.

"Castle of Otranto is Hugh Walpole's. The English translation of the original Italian. The characters, story, concept belongs to whoever owns the rights, etc., now. I an only extrapolating. Some quotes from the novel as they 'read' their lines for the reenactment scenes. As before: indicates thoughts


"I told you this wouldn't work." Bova waited ten whole minutes since from the last gloomy prediction. He bent over and ran his fingers through the tangled jumble of wiring lying at his feet. Bringing the stuff back from the dig near the ship's crash site had been an ordeal. 'And when we did, that space pirate, Reaver, zeroed in on our signal. We got to talk to our parents, so that's something," he thought.

"Bova, you have to be more positive," Rose gently chided, interrupting his thoughts. She flexed her fingers in her yellow, heat insulated gloves. Her normally optimistic outlook had been soured by Bova's predictions. Rsie had been the first to agree to attempt to create an interactive adventure using the ship's computer. 'That's because it sounded like such a fun thing to do'. Suzee wistfully thought.

"Okay, I'm positive this won't work," Bova automatically replied.

"Bova, could you be any more negative?" Suzee turned her head and glared at the Uranusian boy, who simply shrugged it off.

"I don't see what your problem is," Harlan interrupted. "How long have we been at this anyway?"

"Fifteen minutes." Radu blew a lock of ash blond hair away from his eyes. I should be used to Harlan's low threshold of patience by now, he thought, concentrating on holding a power converter steady,

"I mean jury-rigging this place to create, uh, sim? What did you call it, Suzee?" Harlan fidgeted and tugged at the tight black curls he'd acquired since their meeting with the Hil people. Harlan lowered his end of a cable to the floor.

"Holographic virtual environment," Suzee replied in her best technical tones.

"Right, VR, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time," Harlan remarked.

"Radu, do you hear the Commander or Miss Davenport coming," Suzee asked, as it occurred to her that she hadn't gotten 'official' approval for her experiment.

Radu cocked his head slightly, blocking out the noise of his immediate surroundings. He focused his Andromedan hearing on the sounds coming from elsewhere in the ship.

After a moment, he reported: "The Commander is in the Command Post and Miss Davenport's working on our next lesson plan. It doesn't sound like they're planning on coming this way any time soon."

"Excellent," Suzee replied in satisfaction. "Now, if I can get this programming done. Thelma, hand me the magnetic key tool."

"Ah, magnetic keytool, here it is." Thelma echoed, puttering up beside Suzee and handing her the requested tool.

"Okay, computer, run program," Suzee ordered as she gave the holographic controls one last tweak for good measure. "No reason why this shouldn't work now. Like I need some snobby adult supervision to figure this out after all, I am an engineering genius. "Done," she announced aloud.

"Enter when ready," the computer's modulated voice said as the doors slid open to reveal the banquet hall straight out of some medieval castle.


The high windows were rounded at the top, the entry to hall itself was spanned by a giant stone arch that each of them, arms outspread to their full extension would not have been able to cover. The cherry-paneled wooden walls shone with a rosy glow from a fireplace in one corner of the room. Beneath their feet, the stone floor had been strewn with fresh cut rushes. High up on the walls, lit torches in carved pewter scones provided light.

'Kinda wish Catalina were here. I bet she would have loved this. But if she were, I wouldn't be. Bother parallel dimensions, anyway," Suzee thought.

"I sort of designed this simulation along the general lines of banquet halls from Old Earth's Middle Ages," Suzee said, aloud, by way of introduction. 'Back when we thought Catalina was talking to herself. Man, it was eerie, watching her talking to the walls, or into thin air, like that.'

Harlan gave an exaggerated shudder, remembering how much he had teased Catalina about her imaginary-er invisible" friend. "Remember?" he said aloud.

"Well, I do. Invisible or not, I recalled the illustrations of Medieval knights and castles that Miss Davenport brought up from the ship's storage areas," Suzee said.

"Like that Dram guy, the one who thought he was a knight," Rosie added.

"Exactly," Suzee nodded.

"You okay, Suzee?" Radu asked, hearing her heart skip a beat.

"I'm fine," Suzee replied distantly.

"Pretty realistic, Suzee," Harlan remarked as he tugged at the white tights she'd insisted all the guys wear for "period authenticity". Back in the boys bunkroom he had given both Radu and Bova some good-natured ribbing about their skinny legs.

'Gotta admit this gold tunic is pretty rad. According to the script Suzee gave us, I'm supposed to play the part of the prince. Man, I could get used to this.. Harlan thought.

"Banquet hall? Okay, I can do this." Bova took one of the ornate high-backed chairs around the table. Just then Thelma puttered by carrying a loaded serving platter and placed it in the center of the mahogany table. Bova's interest in the adventure began to rise. "I don't know what this is supposed to be, poking the dish with a fork, and idly poking around the bed of leaves it was cooked in.

"It's roast boar, complete with an apple in its mouth," Harlan made a sweep of his arm, and walked towards one of the chairs. He pulled it out for Suzee, "Your chair, madam."

Rosie rolled her eyes and nudged Radu. "Get a load of Prince Charming."

Radu felt warmth rising in his ears, and it wasn't from his Mercurian friend's ability to generate heat. Despite his customary restraint he couldn't resist letting a small grin sneak out. "Maybe all that "period authenticity" is getting to him." He took Rosie's arm, leading her to another chair, and held it out for her. Then took the seat next to her.

A few seconds later Thelma returned with a dish piled high with water glasses and a bottle of champagne. She made a circuit of the table, and popped the cork on, succeeding in spraying Rosie with champagne, and filled all their glasses, then plunked down a platter of warm bread and dish of butter. Rosie just giggled and used a corner of the tablecloth to dab at the stain.

Harlan almost choked on a goblet of wine when he saw the lacy skirt around her midsection, figuring it was the program's version of a "French maid".

Thelma disappeared back to wherever she had come from.

"Hey, this ain't too bad." Bova stuck a fork into and took a cautionary bite of the main course. He closed his eyes and savored the flavor.

"Guys, get in character," Rosie dipped a piece of bread into her water glass, then reached for the butter dish and liberally smeared it on.

"Good idea," Harlan said, trying to wedge the apple out the boar's mouth when Suzee nudged him. "You're Manfred, Bova's Conrad, and I'm Isabella. You have lines. Don't you remember? I assigned each of you a character from an Old Earth novel. "

"Oh? Yeah right," Harlan began, dropping his fork onto his plate with a metallic ping, then rose to his feet.

"Should have rehearsed his lines, then he wouldn't need prompting," Bova said.

"If you get stumped just refer to your Compupad. But as far as acting goes, you're not very good at this," Suzee whispered.

"Uh, I'm not sure about this, but I don't think they would have things like Compupads in Old Earth's middle ages," Radu said.

"Oh, I think he's quite good at acting, at acting innocent," Rosie laughed.

"Okay, now what?" Radu asked, reaching for the bread and breaking it apart on his plate. He gripped the water glass, and took a sip, trying not to shatter the delicate glass.

"Shut up!" Cut me some slack here," Harlan griped as he picked up his Compupad.

"Ladies and Gentleman, I, Manfred, Protector of the Realm of Otranto, am honored to announce the betrothal of my son, Conrad, to Princess Isabella of Verona, on this day, the twelve hundredth and thirsty first year of our Lord," Harlan rattled off all in one breath.

Suzee batted her lashes. "I am honored that one so unworthy as myself would find favor in the eyes of the Lord of Otranto. Should it please mine sire, I would give fealty and marry your son," Suzee replied.

"Ugh," Bova groaned. He slumped a little lower in his chair and in the back of his mind, he knew that if Miss Davenport had seen him like that she would have corrected his posture on the spot, with demerits and all.

"Ah, food. I could eat and eat, and I would die a happy man," Bova sighed. Oops, I'm beginning to sound like Rosie, Bova thought sleepily.

As if something had been waiting for just that cue, Radu was the first to hear a clatter coming from the tiered balconies lining the banquet hall.

For a moment he couldn't be certain, but it sounded a little like fabric rustling against metal, and the grinding of gears. As he concentrated he could have sworn something very heavy was moving that maybe shouldn't have been moving at all.

Radu was distracted when Harlan raised his voice to ask for the bread, and broke his concentration. Reaching for the dish, he saw Bova disappear from view. Wondering if maybe he'd dropped his fork or a napkin, or something, he saw something-black crash down smash the chair to smithereens and bury Bova beneath it.

Rosie screamed. Whatever it was, it had barely missed her. "Harlan, Suzee, help...." she managed to squeak out. Rosie's need to help others outweighed her fear. She jumped out of her chair, and crouched next to Bova. Radu glanced over towards the others, who were absently staring into space, "What's wrong with everybody," he muttered to himself, then went and knelt next to Rosie and Bova.


"Rosie, does he have a concussion? Why isn't he moving?" Radu asked. He didn't have Rosie's medical knowledge and didn't know much about Uranusian physiology, but a head wound wasn't good for most species. And it certainly couldn't be good for Bova.

"I'm not certain, but I know head wounds aren't good for Earthers. And concussions can't be good for Bova 'cause his antenna is on top of his head, and what with the bleeding," Rosie shook her head. "Radu, could you?"

Radu got a good grip on the suit and shoved it off to one side. He was about to get to his feet again, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. "Sirrah, how dare you lay hands on royal flesh," Harlan exclaimed, trying to loom over them.

"Harlan, stop acting! This is serious," Radu snapped.

"Mi Lord, I only now recall that I have seen that suit of armour before. Much like the one that adorned the likeness of Alfonso the Good, former prince of Otranto in the Church of St. Nicholas. Ay, 'tis he, 'tis he has stolen the helmet from Alfonso's tomb, and dashed out the brains of our young prince....' Suzee said. As the words came out of her mouth, she was not even consciously aware of having spoken them. The character she was portraying would never have stopped to consider how enormous the disproportion between the suit that must have weighed a ton, and what the odds were that it fall at that exact moment in that exact spot. Nor would it register how impossible it would be for someone to have climbed up the to the balcony, dislodged the heavy armor; and shoved it over the side to crash directly atop its intended victim.

"Uncouth peasant! In what manner dost thou address your betters! Bianca," turning to Rosie, "As head of domestics I entrust you with keeping a tighter rein on your underlings, This one is impertinent and seeks to rise above his proper station." Harlan continued. 'This is treason and it is you who hast slain my son!" Harlan shouted. "What do you call yourself?"

"Harlan, stop it!" Radu exclaimed in frustrated anger.

"Thelma!" Rosie cried.

"Yes, Bianca," Thelma replied, performing her usual trick of appearing out of nowhere when summoned.

"Why is everyone calling me that? Never mind, just get Bova to Medlab, maybe one of the Christa's healing tanks will help," Rosie sighed, as they both helped lift Bova and watched as Thelma carried him to Medlab.


Meanwhile, Harlan stopped yelling at Radu and went over to Suzee, and placed an arm around her shaking shoulders. Tears streaked her violet eyes. "Dry your tears, young lady - you have lost your bridegroom, yes, cruel fate. And I have lost the hopes of my race! But Conrad was not worthy of your beauty."

"How, My Lord? Sure you do not suspect me of not feeling the concern I ought? My duty and affection would have always...." Suzee began, as she collapsed back into her chair.

"Think no more of him, gentle Isabella," Harlan interrupted, "He is, was a sickly child, and heaven perhaps taken him away that I may not entrust the honours of my house on so frail a foundation, The line of Manfred calls for numerous supports. My foolish fondness for the boy blinded the eyes of my prudence. But it is better as it is,' Harlan as he knelt down next to her.

Determined to play her role to the hilt, Suzee gasped in astonishment. She started, and tore free of his sweaty grip, And Cat said I couldn't act

"Mi Lord, you mistook my mood, the tears I shed are in fact for grief at Conrad's untimely death. And mayhap this sudden public assertion is the pain of your own loss. And think not that I had no affection for your son, had he lived to wed. Do not doubt my tenderness, my heart would have accompanied his hand."

"Fie on that!" Harlan shouted. 'You have missed a husband undeserving of your charms: they shall now be better disposed of. Instead of a sickly boy, you shall have a husband in the prime of his age...." Harlan trailed off. I feel weird, is this stuff really coming out of my mouth? he absently thought.

"Alas," Suzee replied. "My mind is too sadly engrossed by the recent catastrophe in your family to think of another marriage. If ever my father returns, and it shall be his pleasure, I shall obey. As I did when I consented to give my hand to your son. But until his return permit me to remain under your hospitable roof and employ the melancholy hours in assuaging grief," Suzee finished somewhat breathlessly.

"I desired you once before," Harlan shouted in anger. "I'll thank you not to name Hippolita, my wife. From this hour she must be as a stranger to us. Isabella, I cannot give my son, in lieu of that, I offer myself," Harlan announced. 'Man, what a jerk, Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.'

Suzee shrieked and tore away from his grasp. She bruised her shins on the table in her haste. She whirled around and fled for the exit. Harlan began to chase her, when the torchlight guttered and blinded him for a second. Taking advantage of the delay Suzee, still in the role of her character, fled through the archway.

"Uh, I don't think this is part of the program," Rosie whispered to Radu. 'That doesn't sound like the Harlan I know, and why is he staring at me like that? What's wrong with everybody?' Rosie was miserable. She found the feeling distinctly uncowelcome.

"I'm inclined to agree with you. We'd better go after her," Radu replied, as they both scrambled to their feet and went after Suzee's fleeing form. Taking one glance back, Radu saw Harlan clench a fist, and glare at them both. "Maybe it's just my imagination, but why isn't he helping us?"


Later

Having become separated from Radu, Rosie felt very strange, even though she knew it was just a computer program, and that she could order the Christa environmental controls to adjust the temperature at any time, she was freezing. Even her Mercurian ability to control heat wasn't keeping her warm. "Radu!" Rosie called in her high-pitched voice. It echoed down the ship/castle's corridors, sounding especially shrill to her. Having wandered through the halls, tramping up and down countless spiral staircases, she was frightened. And neither Radu nor Suzee had answered her calls. I've never been this cold, and I'm walking in circles," Rosie giggled, then flinched as the echoes bounded off the walls. "Get a grip, Rosie," she told herself aloud. "Radu! Harlan! Suzee! Thelma! Anyone" Rosie shouted. "Where is everybody? This isn't any fun anymore! Help..... I'm scared....."


Meanwhile, Radu systematically walked up and down the hallways, searching for the others. He was worried. It didn't seem like the program had been running all that long but he was pretty sure that Suzee hadn't mentioned anything about Bova ending up underneath a giant suit of armor. Shortly after supper ended, Harlan or the rather Harlan's character, announced an engagement to Suzee's character, Isabella. No sooner than he'd done so, Bova had disappeared beneath a giant suit of armor, and Harlan went ballistic. Fortunately for Bova, Rosie had Thelma take off to Medlab, so at least one member of the crew whereabouts were accounted for.

Harlan and Suzee had then had launched into some weird monologue, which caused Suzee to flee the room in a panic. At that point, Rosie and he had decided to go after Suzee, who simply had vanished, as if she really had been Catalina's imaginary, uh, invisible friend. "Okay, Radu, think, if you were Suzee, where would you be?"

Just then he heard Rosie yelling his name, interrupting his thoughts. Radu resisted the urge to clap his hands over his sensitive ears, so he could get a fix on her position.

"Rosie, if you can hear me, stand still for a minute. I...." Radu began. He made an 180 degree turn and knocked the small Mercurian girl off her feet as they collided.

"Radu! You have no idea how happy I am to see you! Oompf.."

"Are you all right?" Radu extended a hand to help her up.

"Yeah. Look out behind you! Aieee! A ghost!" Rosie shrieked.

"There's no such thing as ghosts," Radu absently remarked, wondering what a ghost was. Did Harlan ever mention something about ghost stories? I wish I could remember what you're supposed to do if you encounter one

"Then what do you call that?" Rosie pointed a trembling finger to an object slightly over his left shoulder and a good ways over his head.

Radu looked in the direction she was pointing. At first he couldn't see anything, and Rosie clutched at his sleeve, her breathing ragged.

"Don't you see him? Ugh, he's wearing the same armor that fell on top of Bova."

Radu was about to say no because he had not heard any footsteps. Just then, a shadowy figure stationed itself at the top of the chevron-shaped arch. The shadows around the arch pulled themselves together. At first, it was shaped like an amorphous cloud. Sort of like oxygen escaping from a broken engine seal, Radu thought.

"It's like he's trying to pull himself together," Rosie remarked, as she narrowed her eyes a bit she could just make out the lineaments of a humanoid figure.

"I think I see him now," Radu whispered.

"What do you want?" Rosie demanded of the apparition.

"Greetings, friends. I am Alfonso. I must needs apologize if my spectral manifestation has unduly disturbed or frightened you. I have waited a long time for someone to come to mine assistance, or heed my message, " the ghost replied.

"You need help? What kind of message?" Rosie's innate need to help overcoming her fear of the ghost.

The ghost, when alive, was probably a quite solid presence, and even in this spectral manifestation had a certain solidity about him. He was covered head to foot in full plate armor. He had his visor raised, and his helmet tucked underneath one arm, which was surmounted by a plume of scarlet and black feathers. The pattern was repeated by a coat of arms on the wall behind him.

Rosie started when the ghost began chanting:

"Wherever a casque that suits this sword is found."

Radu heard and saw a blade clatter to the floor as the ghost pulled it from its sheath. Radu bent over to pick it up as the ghost continued chanting. It had a long narrow blade, a two-handed weapon with a basket-shaped hilt. Rosie identified the red gem in the hilt as a ruby.

"With perils is thy daughter compassed shroud,

Alfonso's blood alone can save the maid.

And quiet a long restless prince's shade."

Alfonso stopped chanting, and pointed a bony finger at Radu.

"He wants you to have the sword, Radu," Rosie gasped.

'Theodore," the ghost pointing a bony figure towards Radu. " Pay heed, for thou mayest save this unhappy line, for Manfred has usurped this land from the rightful heir to the throne."

"Oh, that is so sad," Rosie sighed.

"Thelma!" Radu said, confused.

"Yes, Radu," Thelma puttered up next to him, he absently noted she'd lost the lace skirt she'd had on earlier.

"How do you do that? Never mind. Do you know where the holographic controls are?

"Affirmative," Thelma replied.

" How do we get access to them?" Radu asked, ignoring the specter hovering patiently above him.

"Great idea!" Rosie added.

"However, due to some unknown glitch in the Christa's system, we may have some difficulty in reaching them," Thelma replied.

"What kind of difficulty?" Radu sighed.

"Due to the glitch, getting in will prove far more difficult than getting out."

"Figures," Radu said.

"If thou has finished consultation with yon automaton, mayhaps thou willst take up the blade that has awaited your hand and depose he who would trample this country into the ground," Alfonso said.

"I don't know exactly what that means, but don't you see, Radu! We've got to help him, and then we can shut off the control mechanism. Then everyone will go back to being themselves again," Rosie exclaimed.

"Okay, let's do it," Radu agreed.


In Engineering

"Thelma, you're going to have to tell us what needs to be done, "Radu said, as the three of them arrived in Engineering via the jumbtubes.

"Very well, to access the holographic controls, you must remove the lid to the power converter shaft," Thelma began.

Radu went over to inspect the lid, and curled his hands around its circumference, making sure he had a good grip. He tugged and tugged on it, till it came loose suddenly in his hands. It knocked him several paces back. He dropped the lid, which made a very loud clang on the metal floor. He flinched from the sound, and turned back to Thelma, awaiting further instructions.

"Now what?" Rosie prompted.

"Someone will have to descend into the shaft and defuse the controls that are running the program," Thelma replied.

"I'll go," Radu said.

Rosie put a hand on his shoulder. "No, Radu, that shaft isn't very big. I'm the only one who will fit in there. I'm the one who should go."

Radu saw the determination in her eyes, even though her heart was beating so loud and her breathing was ragged. He glanced at the shaft then at Rosie. How can I let her down? Besides, she can defuse the controls with a heat blast. "Okay, it makes sense. You're the one who should go," he said aloud.

"Just call down the instructions, Thelma, so I can make the repairs." Rosie jumped down the shaft and landed lightly at the bottom next to the holographic controls.

"Rosie, a concentrated heat blast directly into the O-ring near the green button on the console will render the hologram program off-line. Be sure not to damage any of the Christa's other computer systems," Thelma instructed.

"Can you do that?" Radu asked anxiously.

Rosie flexed her fingers in her yellow gloves, "Sure, no problem. Heat control is a natural talent for Mercurians."

Rosie loosed a concentrated heat blast directly into the O-ring and looked up awaiting further instructions from Thelma.

"Now, Rosie, adjust the environmental systems to point one three, three on the inversion scale, then make an adjustment on the system by pressing the red, green, blue, and yellow buttons in sequence, and repeating it once in the same order, and a third time in reverse," Thelma added.

"Like this?" Rosie asked, following Thelma's instructions.

"Exactly," Thelma replied.

"What goes on here?" Harlan's voice asked, Suzee treading on his heels, her hair covering her face, her eyes red from crying.

"You did it, Rosie!" Radu shouted, he leaned over the rim of the shaft, and reached down, and lifted Rosie bodily up to the main floor level. He nearly dropped her when he heard footsteps at the door.

"Guys, great news! We've solved the glitch in the Christa's computer, so now you can all stop acting weird!" Rosie exclaimed, recovering her balance and then went to stand beside to Radu and Thelma.

"Unfaithful servant, Bianca, thou wouldst side with traitors to the realm. I know not what you have done, but it will avail you nothing. I have learned thy name, cur, Theodore, and 'tis seeming that some do think that thou have some claim on my throne. Well, it takes more than mere words to make good that claim."

Harlan pulled off one of his gloves, then strode towards Radu and used to slap his cheeks twice with it.

"Thelma, this was supposed to work, make everyone go back to being themselves" Radu hissed in an undertone. "Why isn't it working?" Radu demanded, ignoring the slap.

"Unknown at this time. Perhaps I have made a calculation error. Checking," Thelma replied.

"Sirrah, I challenge you to a duel. Are you too much of a coward to accept?" Harlan demanded.

Rosie ran over to the side of the shaft where Radu had dropped the sword given to him by the ghost of Alfonso, "Here, I think he's serious about this. If so, you're going to need this."

"I don't want to fight him. That's Harlan. He's my friend. What if I hurt him?" Radu replied, reflexively taking the sword from her.

"Hah, I told you, My lady, he is a coward," Harlan laughed. "En guard." Harlan held out his sword, level with the floor.

"Do you know how to use that?" Rosie asked.

"I've seen holotapes of it. I think I can muddle my way through this. En guard," Radu replied, facing Harlan.

Harlan lunged forward without altering tone, caught Radu's parry on his own hilt with a clatter, and skewed the return blow aside.

"The barest whisper across my chest," Harlan whispered.

Harlan pressed forward, his two-handed grip enabling to keep good control as he swung the sword in wide arcs. Radu leaped backward, and saw an opening, Harlan had a tendency to lean to far forward on the follow through and when he did he had his feet crossed beneath him. Radu tried a whistling arc with his own blade, which helped angle the cut past Harlan's guard. The sword given to him by the ghost of Alfonso flashed, and the red gleam from ruby in the hilt, reflected the dim interior light of the engineering room.

Harlan grinned fiercely and began circling, forcing Radu to counter. Harlan feinted, then lunged, the blow landing with the chill ring of metal against metal. Radu countered, trying not to use his full strength, not wanting to harm him.

Having to fight his friend like this, Radu forgot to watch where he was going, and nearly stumbled over the open shaft leading to the holographic controls. Harlan saw that as his opening and landed a glancing blow on Radu's shoulder.

Nearby, Rosie was on her knees next to Thelma, fists clenched at her side, "Hurry, hurry, Thelma, fix the glitch, please, I hate to see them like this!"

Radu's slender sword and Harlan's heavy one spun in and out in an intricate dance of silver light, ringing their own accompaniment. Harlan feinted again, and knocked Radu's sword from his hands. Radu staggered and glanced around. He saw the lid to the shaft and picked it up.

"Guess who won?" Harlan grinned.

"Nobody, Harlan. Sorry, but I have to do this." With that, Radu rolled the lid like a bowling ball towards Harlan, knocking his weapon from his hand, and Harlan off his feet. The lid crashed into the wall.

"Hey, buddy, what are you doing over there?" Harlan said cheerfully.

"I told you so," Suzee added.

"You told me what?" Harlan asked, confused.

"I have repaired the glitch, normal functioning of the ship, and established parameters for the crew should reset themselves momentarily," Thelma announced.

Everyone just glanced at everyone else after Thelma made her announcement.

"I shall reiterate if my previous statement was unclear...." she trailed off.


"Hey, guys. What's going on?" Bova yawned, ignoring that he nearly landed on top of Goddard as they all but arrived simultaneously out of the jumptubes.

"Bova, you're all right!" Rosie exclaimed, as she ran over to hug him.

"That's a matter of opinion. My head feels like it's about to explode, and could someone please explain why the Commander had to wake me up in one of the Christa's healing chambers? I was having such a unpleasant dream too," Bova said.

Goddard glared at Bova, who wisely went silent. "What the hell is going on here? I was in Command Post, running a routine diagnostic, when I started getting these sporadic power spikes all over the ship. Someone had better have a good explanation for this," he demanded.

"Commander, a unauthorized reprogramming of the ship's holographic controls caused the 'ship' to download alien personality parameters into various members of the crew, causing to believe themselves to be the characters they were portraying. If the controls had not be defused and rest, eventually their own identities would have been erased," Thelma replied.

"If you have to place the blame somewhere, Commander, blame me. I just wanted to experiment with virtual reality, and using the Christa's holographic controls seemed like the ideal means of doing so," Suzee explained. "How was I to know that it would cause everyone to start acting like morons," she added, tossing her head.

"Morons? Who you calling a moron?" Harlan demanded.

"Stop it!" Goddard hissed in exasperation.

"Commander, might I add, that Rosie, Radu, and I were able to make the necessary repairs. No harm done, although perhaps it would be best to have Rosie give Bova a through medscan to ascertain he has no internal injuries," Thelma added.

"We shut off the controls, Commander! Rosie exclaimed, "That means everyone has gone back to being themselves."

"Why weren't we affected like the others?" Rosie wondered.

"Oh, that's because the glitch interrupted the holographic controls, as well as the environmental controls. A chemical with hallucinatory properties leaked into the water supply," Thelma explained.

"But we drank the same stuff as the rest of them," Radu muttered.

"Perhaps the chemical has a harder time interacting with Andromedan and Mercurian physiology," Thelma guessed.

"Actually, Thelma," Goddard mused. "Now that you mention it, it might be a good idea, if everyone had a full medical physical. They're probably way overdue anyway. No arguments," he added, as there was a group groan. Turning to face Suzee, he added, "As for you, young lady, your headstrong initiative caused this problem, and if you'd pay attention to proper ship protocol, you're supposed to come to me, or Miss Davenport, before going ahead with your little experiments."

"But, Commander..." Suzee gasped.

"No ands, if, or buts, I don't want to hear it. That goes for everyone. And Rosie and Radu, good job. Thelma, I'll want to check with you later, for a system wide diagnostic. In the meantime, it's late. I want you all to get some sleep."

"Yes, Sir," everyone replied.

"It's getting late. I'll see everyone at Command Post at 0800 hours. Don't be late." Goddard ordered.

"Affirmative. ComPost at 0800," Harlan saluted.

"Command Post, not ComPost. Space-age smartalecks," Goddard said, leaning up against the nearest wall and watched everyone leave for their bunkrooms.

The End