Be Careful What You Wish For
Harland Band stood at the helm of the Christa, imagining becoming a Stardog like his father.
"And he swerves this way and that way, narrowly missing the giant asteroids all around while the rest of his crew hide in the background."
"I don't see any asteroids, Harland."
"Oh hi THELMA, and you're right, it's clear sailing out there. I'm just daydreaming."
"Would not daydreaming require it to be day? It is always black in space."
"Okay enough I know, I think I'm going to go to sleep anyway, do some real dreaming now that you reminded me that it isn't day and all. Do you mind watching the helm?"
"Of course I do not mind."
Harland walked over to the jump-tube and tripped over a thick cluster of wires on the way. The Christa started to spin violently, sending the remainder of the sleeping crew sailing from their bunks.
"What was that?" Rosie asked aloud from the floor of her room.
"I don't know, Rosie, but I have a feeling it's Harland's fault," Catalina replied.
"You always think it's his fault."
"And I'm always right."
The disoriented crew met up at the Christa's bridge. Bova entered while stuffing the last of whatever it was he was eating into his mouth. "I almost choked you know," he said.
"What is this disturbance all about?" TJ Davenport asked with a sour look on her face. "10 Demerits to all of you for waking me up and an extra ten to the individual responsible for sending the ship into a tailspin."
"Mrs. Davenport I'm sure there's a logical explanation, isn't that right kids?" Commander Seth Goddard said.
They looked at Harland, still lying on the ground, wrapped in a cluster of sparking wires.
"Of course I have an explanation," Harland began. "You see it all started when I handed the bridge over to THELMA because she never sleeps, you know? And well then she started going a little on the fritz and I, uh, oh yeah, I went to turn and fix her. Then this uh this wire must have just jumped out at me and grabbed me by surprise."
"THELMA what really happened?" Davenport asked as Harland concluded his telling.
"Well Harland was daydreaming and I came in and told him that it technically wasn't day time..."
"Never mind, I'm too tired to deal with any of this tonight. Just get the ship back on course and we will deal with this in the morning," Goddard said.
"Commander, the ship is already back on course," Catalina said, looking to her side. "I know Suzee, I was getting to that part. Why do you always have to interrupt when I'm trying to explain something, you know I can handle these situations as well as..."
"Catalina, you were saying?"
"Oh yeah, sorry Commander. She could be so difficult sometimes. Well it looks like we managed to intercept a message during our spin, perhaps thanks to the electrical disturbance Harland caused when he overloaded the control system."
"Hey," Harland called out as he got to his feet. "That's what I was saying, after fixing THELMA I decided to try to check for messages."
"What did the message say?" Davenport asked in her usual worried tone.
"I'm not exactly sure, it may take a while to decipher it," Catalina answered. "THELMA you think you can do it."
"I would be happy too."
THELMA's head moved from side to side, her eyes went up and down and buzzing came from her circuits.
"The message has been deciphered and will appear onscreen momentarily."
The crew looked up at the view screen in anticipation as the fuzzy picture began to come into focus. What alien species it was on display couldn't be identified by any on board, even Suzee as Catalina reported.
"If there is anyone out there, my ship is trapped and I'm in need of repairs. If anyone can help me, these are my coordinates. I would gladly repay a helpful party by granting them a wish. I repeat, if anyone is receiving, these are my coordinates…"
"We've got to help him, her, it," Harland shouted. "Commander, did you hear that? It said it could grant wishes."
"Commander it is Interstellar Code to reply to any S.O.S. received between Saturn and Andromeda," Radu added.
"That it is Mister Radu."
"Then it's settled," Harland added. "We go on a rescue mission."
"Sure, and maybe it's really a genie in a bottle," Bova said, rolling his eyes.
"A what?" Catalina asked.
"It's a children's tale from back on earth where if you find a magic lamp and rub it, a genie residing within will appear to grant you three wishes in exchange for freeing him from the lamp."
"Is it a giant lamp?"
"No, it's normal," Harland replied with a shrug.
"Then is the genie tiny?"
"Nope," Goddard answered. "Full size."
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
"Yeah and your hair is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen," Harland fired back.
"Alright, enough you two. Let's input these coordinates and try to help this thing, whatever it may be."
"Commander, I've got the coordinates inputted but it looks like it will take us 8-hours to reach our destination," Bova announced.
"Eight hours?" Harland repeated. "Commander is it alright if I go to bed for say 7 hours, fifty-nine minutes?"
"Yes Mr. Band and the same goes for the rest of you as well. Lets all get some sleep while the Christa's on autopilot."
They dispersed via jump-tubes back to their sleeping quarters without objection.
"Harland, if what that creature said is true, and we do get a wish for helping, are you going to wish to go back home," Radu asked from his bed next to Harland's.
"Of course I will and I imagine you'll do the same. Or don't Andromedans like to be home?"
"Of course I want to go back home!" Radu replied. "But sometimes I feel like this is my home."
"What was that?"
"Nothing. Goodnight Harland."
The crew woke quite excited, wolfed down their breakfast and ran to be the first to reach their station on the bridge. When they did arrive, pushing and shoving their way out of the jump-tubes, Commander Goddard and Ms. Davenport were already awaiting them on the bridge.
"Didn't you guys get any sleep?" Rosie asked.
"We don't need quite as many hours as growing kids like you do."
"Sure Commander," Harland added. "Don't try and tell us you aren't every bit as excited as we are."
"I'll have you know Mr. Band that Ms. Davenport and I always get up this early, you just never notice because you don't get up for three more hours."
"Do you really think this thing can grant wishes?" Davenport asked Goddard. "Perhaps we can finally go home."
"I wonder if we each get our own wish or if we only get one to share," Rosie said.
"Well gang, you know if we only get one we're going to wish that each of us gets home," Commander Goddard said.
"So then we would all end up getting our own wish that way too," Rosie exclaimed.
"Assuming we all want to go home," Radu muttered under his breath.
The Christa slowly approached the derelict vessel, stunting the smaller stranded ship in size. It was oddly shaped as well with a dull glowing hue of pink surrounding its smooth outer hull. Under Catalina's recommendation, they used their tractor beam to pull the vessel aboard.
A tall alien creature exited the craft; a being with a long smooth face, wide black eyes, a small mouth and a breathing apparatus fastened to either side of its head.
"Hi, welcome aboard the Christa, my name is Harland. I received your call for help and was happy to come to your aid."
"Thank you, Har-Land," the creature replied. "I am called Sihinimy of the Ort Cloud. My offer still stands I will grant anyone a wish if only they're able to repair my damaged vessel."
"Okay, that's fair enough. We'll get right on that, Si. You don't mind if I call you Si do you?"
"That would be fine, Har-Land. I am awfully hungry as well, do you suppose there are edibles on your craft that could nourish me while the repairs are completed?"
"Oh sure, sure. Let me take you to the kitchen while the others get to work on fixing that thing."
"My gratitude Har-Land."
"And just like you Har-Land, always running off when there's work to be done," Catalina added slyly.
"I'm not running off Cat, I'm entertaining our guest, making him feel at home, that's all."
Radu entered the ship and was searching for the problem with help from Bova and THELMA. Secretly he hoped to be the one to fix the ship so that the wish would belong to him. Catalina entered the craft shortly behind him and began conversing with Suzee about what could be causing the problem.
"After discussing the situation with Suzee, I have decided, okay we have decided that the drive engines are low on liquid crystal in the antimatter chamber. It looks like it will take all of our expertise to get this thing space-worthy."
"Well let's get to it then," Bova said. "I hope to have made my wish before bedtime tonight."
"Radu," Cat said, disregarding Bova's haste. "Think you could pick up that piece of metal and hold it against that crystal dome up there?"
"Sure, Cat but then what do you want me to do with it? I may be strong but I can't hold it together indefinitely."
"Rosie, could you use your heat to meld the two surfaces together?"
"Sure, great idea Cat."
"Now Bova we need to put some energy back into these electrical conduits, just make sure not to overload them."
"Like I don't know what I'm doing," Bova said as he aimed an electric bolt to the metal passageway between the ship's two main fuses.
"Now just a little sonic scream to liquefy some of that crystal supply and the vessel should fire right up."
As if on cue, everybody plugged their ears as Catalina took a deep breath and let out a steady sonic scream. As she had predicted, the machine fired and hovered in the cargo hold of the Christa.
Harland, Si, Davenport and Goddard walked in the room just in time to see it fire up.
"Thank you all so much for your help," the creature said in awe. "Somehow you managed to repair my craft, which has been stranded for 700 years now.
"700 years!" Harland repeated. "no wonder you were hungry."
"And now for my side of the deal, you will be granted one wish."
"You mean all of us get one? It's not like just one big wish that we have to share?"
"No, if only one of you had helped me, then only one of you would have been given a wish. As it stands, each of you contributed to my cause and each of you deserve to be rewarded. Each of you may enter my ship individually so I that I may grant you your wish in private."
"Huh," Harland said. "It doesn't have to be all private, I think we all want the same thing. But hey, I'm in."
And indeed Harland was the first to enter the ship as he knew exactly what he was going to wish for.
"Okay Si, sure I was going to wish to go home, but I figure somebody else will use their wish for that so I am going to go out on my own here and wish to become a Stardog, just like my father before me."
"And so your wish is my command, Har-Land. When you return home and graduate from the Star Academy, you have my oath that a Stardog you will become."
"When I return home? But why can't I be a Stardog now?"
"Because time is an allusion my friend. You asked to be one and I have granted this request."
"Man, this is bogus."
"Please send the next of your crew in that they may make their wishes."
Radu was the next to walk onto the ship.
"I thought about this very hard and I finally came up with what I really wanted. I wish to know my family. To experience the closeness with my family that the crew members have with theirs."
"Your wish is my command, young Andromedan. Simply continue being yourself and the change you seek will begin to manifest itself."
"But how long do I have to wait?"
"You have already been in waiting your entire life, my friend. These changes will occur much sooner than that."
Catalina entered as Radu, still scratching his scalp, emerged.
"I wish that my crew will finally be able to see Suzee. I'm so tired of everyone telling me she's imaginary!"
"Your wish is my command. I assure you, all will see Suzee very soon. They will no longer doubt your sanity, even if you aren't around to enjoy the victory."
"Your wish will be granted, of this you can be sure."
Bova entered the ship
"I wish I could be the hero even if only for just one day."
"Your wish is my command, the day approaches where your cool head will save the lives of your crew."
"When? What will I do? How will I know when it has arrived?"
"Your wish has been granted, young Uranusin."
"Figures, I'll probably be too old to even enjoy being the hero," Bova muttered with a roll of his eyes.
Rosie followed next.
"I wish I could just talk to my parents and tell them that I'm doing alright. They must surely be worried so."
"Your wish is my command, Mercurian. You will talk briefly with you parents in the near future and they will know that you are alive and well."
"In the near future? But I was kind of hoping to talk to them now."
"Your wish is granted just as you presented it. Take heart in knowing that I do not lie my child."
Goddard skeptically entered the small craft.
"I wish for the promotion that will allow me to fly out, a decorated officer, in space once more."
"Your wish is my command. From this moment forward you will continue to traverse the void of space a Commander."
"Oh yeah and I forgot about getting back home, I sure hope somebody else wished that. May I ask, did anybody else wish to get home yet?"
"The purpose of taking you one at a time was to protect the privacy of the wishes made. I am afraid I may not reveal the wishes of your crewmates."
Davenport was the last to enter the ship. Figuring that since the Christa was yet in the depths of space, no one before her must have made the all-important wish, she entered and made it immediately.
"I wish to make it safely home"
"Your wish is my command, madam. I assure you, you and the crew of the Christa will indeed make it safely home."
She exited the ship and immediately approached THELMA.
"Yes Ms. Davenport?"
"How close are we to earth?"
"Six years, thirty two days, twenty minutes and eleven seconds, ten, nine..."
"Wait a minute, we're no closer than we were before. My wish wasn't granted!"
"Oh, it was," Harland replied. "You must have wished we would get home safely and we will in six years thirty two days, nineteen minutes and fifty eight second."
"I thank you all for your help once again. May your lives be lived to the fullest."
Si slipped into its ship and parted through the Christa's energy shield in a sizzling crackle.
The crew sat around the table that evening each lost in thought about the wish they had made. "So has anyone gotten their wish yet?" Commander Goddard asked.
Amidst a table of nods and shrugs, Radu looked around the table and saw the individuals he truly cared for and realized that he had gotten his wish, his family was right in front of him all along.
"Yeah Commander Goddard," he said with a smile. "I got mine."