October 31st - somewhere in the universe
The fact that Colonel Everett Young was knocked off his feet when Destiny dropped out of FTL should've indicted that he'd had enough already.
Instead he picked himself up off the deck, sat down on his bed, poured himself another drink of Destiny's only alcoholic option, drained it in a single swallow and leaned back with a sigh. It had been one Hell of a long day already and now he'd been informed he had a new problem from an old source. Rush.
As if stranding them all in a decrepit ship on the other side of the universe and being crabby ALL THE DAMN TIME wasn't enough …now he'd started hoarding things.
"I just don't get that guy at all. I kind of thought maybe we were coming to an understanding of a sort between us, but this is just about the last straw!" Young rubbed his stubbly chin, vaguely considering shaving, but decided it just wasn't worth the bother tonight.
Mr. Brody had filed a formal complaint against Rush, saying he had been taking things from all over the ship and hiding them somewhere. Brody didn't seem to know where all these things were, but he had compiled a pretty sizable list of items that had gone missing on Rush's watch. Brody had further complained that when he confronted Dr. Rush about the missing items, Rush hadn't even tried to deny that he'd taken them and instead had tried to offer Brody a deal to get back the copper tubing from his still.
Brody hadn't listed what Rush asked him for in exchange for the tubing, but whatever it was it sure made him even grumpier than usual.
While Young certainly didn't feel like tackling another Rush problem today, he also couldn't let Mr. Brody's still lay fallow for much longer. His own supply wouldn't last out the day.
So reluctantly Young pulled on his boots and girded his loins for yet another unpleasant Rush encounter.
"Well that was… frustrating"
Rush hadn't bothered to deny a word of Brody's complaints and the maddening man simply refused to say why he'd taken the items, instead he just smirked and called him 'Dearie' for some reason best known to Scottish psychiatrists (none of whom were on board to explain it to him).
His day got even weirder when Eli stopped him in the corridor shortly after he'd left Rush, thrust an ipad containing 'evidence' under his nose and declared that everyone on Destiny was cursed.
It was at this moment that Young knew: This was going to be a long day.
"Camille, can you explain to me why Eli thinks we're all cursed and why Rush is stealing parts from systems all over the ship, even parts we apparently need to keep breathing in and out?"
"Oh who cares what that pair are doing" Camille said, dismissing Young with a wave of her hand. "I'm far too busy with my own problems to be bothered with yours."
Young sighed, the more problems the merrier at this point, "Okay Camille, how can I help?"
"If you really want to help me, you'll tell me where that ebon haired, snow skinned, blood-red lipped bitch has disappeared too."
"She thinks she can hide from me, but I knew who she was the minute I saw her across the mess hall and the very next time I see her, I'm going to kill her."
"Kill her?! Kill who? What on Earth is happening on this ship?"
"Chloe of course!" she growled, "I won't let her get away from me this time. This time Daniel and I will be avenged."
"And who in Hell is Daniel?"
"My late fiancé of course. Pay attention fool."
"Wait, don't you mean Sharon and since when…"
"Of course Sharon, that's what I said! If you don't learn to listen better I shall cut those useless ears from your head and feed them to my dragon!"
Lacking a useful rebuttal, Young put his hands over his ears and ran.
Lieutenant Scott stopped him mid-stride as he sprinted down the corridor planning to crawl back in bed so that he could wake up from this maddening nightmare.
But it seemed Scott had a little problem of his own.
"It's just so weird," he confided, not even bothering ask Young why he'd been running through the ship, "I mean yesterday everything was fine and today, Chloe just all of a sudden started acting oddly."
Young sighed, just what he needed in his day, more weirdness. "In what way is she acting odd?" he asked.
"Well for one thing she is just too cheerful and for another she called me Charming twice this morning…"
"This isn't sounding like much of a problem lieutenant."
"That's not the problem Sir, that's just, well kind of strange, the real problem is that she has started singing every word she says."
"Yes! As in, we're walking along having a normal conversation one minute and the next she's singing the conversation, humming while I try to talk to her and she'll throw in a cheerful 'there's always tomorrow for dreams to come true' warble into the conversation no matter what we were just talking about!"
"Well I agree that that certainly qualifies as odd" he agreed, "But I'm a little lost on what you want me to do about it."
"I… I just thought you should know, you know, with all this alien business, I thought maybe this was just another symptom…"
"I doubt that, in fact I'm beginning to think that the only plausible explanation for this is either #1- I am dreaming all of this, in which case it doesn't much matter what I do or #2 We're ALL experiencing some kind of mass delusion or mass food poisoning or #3 and this is the one I'm really rooting for at this point, this is all one giant prank the crew pulled together to mess with the old man… come on Scott, come clean, put my mind at rest and I promise you I will act as clueless as ever the next time someone runs up to me to say so and so is behaving strangely."
"Well, I guess" Scott started, "if it's the first one, then in that case I'm not real and you're just talking to yourself."
"Wouldn't be the first time, but go on…"
"If it's the second then I'd suggest we'd all better go visit the infirmary and have TJ run every test she can think of on each and every one of us and as for the last one," Scott paused and placed his hand on his heart, "I swear to you, that I have absolutely no knowledge about any kind of prank being pulled on you or anyone else."
"Ok" Young said feeling both relieved and disappointed, "I believe you. That brings the list of possibilities down to either mass delusion or a single deluded individual, i.e. ME."
"Since there isn't any way for me to know for sure whether I'm awake or not, I suggest we run with the mass delusion hunch and get TJ to start rounding people up for testing."
"Sounds like a plan."
Lieutenant Johansson, sole medical officer on the ship wouldn't stop sweeping no matter what they said. Colonel Young and Lieutenant Scott had been trying for the last ten minutes to get her to stop, but she kept insisting the infirmary floor was covered in ash.
"I think we may have found a small hitch in my plan" Young stated, too tired by now to be surprised by anything.
"So what do we do now?" Scott asked.
Young scratched his head, "Well" he said, "Maybe we should try Rush again, he seemed more like himself than just about anybody else I've met today, other than you of course Lieutenant".
"Well, thank you" Scott said, "but could you please tell me why you keep calling me 'lieutenant'?"
Young wondered if banging his head against the wall would help.
Fortunately other than the fact that he no longer seemed to know who he really was, Scott seemed pretty much normal, which was a plus since he came in very handy breaking up a fight between Greer and seven civilians.
Between the two of them, he and Scott managed to pull Greer off of Brody, who seemed to have received the worst of the fight and get him to answer a few questions. It seems Greer was claiming self-defense.
"I wasn't attacking them! They attacked me" he said.
"Really? You're telling me a bunch of nerds attacked you."
"What did you just call us?" Brody growled, advancing on Young in a way that made Greer's claim the he was actually the innocent party seem more plausible.
"Don't (ACHOO!) be so (ACHOO) hostile to the (ACHOO) humans. They saved our (ACHOO) our lives you know" Volker said a sneeze punctuating nearly every other word.
"Yeah, maybe so" Brody said, "but how can I be sure they're not working for her?"
He clearly wasn't talking about Park, who was currently fast asleep in the nearest doorway. "Her who?" Young asked.
"The Queen of course!" Brody shouted, "You look like just the kind of scum she'd hire."
"The Queen?" Scott exclaimed, "Are you then the dwarves my lady has lately taken refuge with?"
"What was that now human?" Brody asked, "Try and remember that we are dwarves and we don't understand your fancy royal words".
"Then I shall keep my speech in the common tongue," Scott said, "Please tell me, where I might find my lady."
"On who this 'lady' of yours is."
"She is commonly known as Snow White among the people 'er populace" Scott replied.
Now Young really had heard it all, "Did you just say, 'Snow White'?!" he asked Scott. What the Hell was going on here anyway?
"Yes I know Snow White" Brody said, his tone suddenly weighed down with sadness, "Or rather I knew her."
Scott gasped, "No!"
Young chuckled, "Let me guess… she been taking apples from strangers lately?"
"Hey! This is no laughing matter human!" Brody snarled.
"No" Young sighed, "I guess it isn't."
They'd laid her out on a table in the mess hall with flowers from the garden twined in her hair.
"Did she do this?" Scott cried.
"If you mean, did The Queen kill her… yeah", Brody said, "We're pretty sure it was her. I mean who else would ever want to harm Snow White?"
"You have to give her true love's kiss!" Eli called, as he ran into the room, towing a protesting Lt. Johansson behind him, broom and all.
"Who are you and what do you know about all this, boy?" Scott asked, grabbing Eli's red shirt and hauling him forward to meet him eye to eye.
"Hey," Young said, putting his hand on Scott's shoulder "Let him go. He's right; all you have to do is kiss Chl… 'erm 'Snow' and everything will be just fine."
Brody turned to TJ, "What do you think Doc? Are the humans right, will true love's kiss cure her?"
"Uh, it makes as much sense as the talking mice who are back in my infirmary sewing me a ball gown" TJ replied.
"Well," Young clapped his hands, "worth a try anyway. Scott… ok ok, Charming, you're up."
Lt. Scott looked around nervously like he'd suddenly gone shy.
"Just go for it son," Young encouraged him, "It's not like it's your first kiss or anything. Just lay one on her."
With more than half the crew now assembled in the mess hall watching, Lt. Scott leaned over Chloe Armstrong and gave her the most tender, loving kiss Young had witnessed in ages. Seriously it brought a tear to his eye. The problem was, 'Snow White' didn't wake up.
Eli looked even more disappointed than Scott, he shrugged, "Maybe it's not true love after all"
"How dare you question my love for Snow!" Scott growled launching himself at an astonished Eli.
Greer easily pulled Scott off of Eli and dragged him out of reach of the boy.
Young was perplexed; this fairy tale didn't seem to be going exactly according to the book.
"Ok, let's think this thing through logically" he said, hardly believing he was using the word logic today, "If true love's kiss is what should wake up Snow White, then …perhaps someone else should kiss her."
"Oh yeah?" Brody challenged, "and who would you suggest? You maybe."
Young shrugged, "Maybe everybody should kiss her. You know until we find the right one."
"Everybody?" Brody repeated.
"Everybody" Young restated.
"EVERYBODY?!" Scott wailed.
"Everybody" Young repeated, "I'll even start…" What the Hell, this probably a dream anyway.
Scott put his head on Greer's shoulder and wept as one by one every man in the room stepped up to kiss his princess.
Young shrugged and motioned to TJ, "Women too" he ordered, "Might as well cover all our bases."
At least Scott had stopped crying and appeared to be cheering himself up rather nicely by talking to Lt. James, who Young had learned thought she was Little Red Riding Hood.
"Is there anybody left on this ship that hasn't tried Destiny's version of a kissing booth?" Young demanded.
"Just the one that I know of," Eli answered him, "Well two if you count the queen, but I really don't think she would be willing."
"Who are you..." Young asked, realizing as he said it exactly who Eli must mean.
Once again it appeared an encounter with Rush was his to cherish.
Young was so angry he could've easily punched the smaller man as he danced, giggled and yes, sang his way around the room, clearly enjoying ignoring him.
"Look for the thousandth time," Young repeated, "would you please just come down to the mess hall and kiss Snow White. It won't take you ten seconds and…"
"Why certainly. I'd be glad to" Rush said, abruptly stopping his one man song and dance show and clapping his hands in glee at some joke Colonel Young clearly hadn't gotten yet.
"Well why the Hell didn't you answer me the first thousand times I asked?!" Young fumed.
"Because you didn't say the magic word" Rush sang, grinning from ear to ear in a way that Young found extremely disconcerting.
"Magic word? What word…"
"PLEASE!" Rush cried, bouncing up and down on his toes.
Fed up, Young grabbed the infuriating man by the arm and led him, skipping, down the corridors towards the mess hall.
Mere seconds after Rush danced his way to Chloe's side and kis… actually it looked more like a licking or something from where Young stood, not only was Chloe awake, but she seemed to be back to her old self.
"Colonel Young?" she asked, "What the Hell in going on here …and more importantly, did Rush just…"
"Yes he did and I have no idea what's going on, personally I've decided to just go with the flow until a solution presents itself."
Chloe looked from Young's cadaverous hangover face to Rush's tilted wide-eyed grin, not sure which man was freaking her out more at the moment, until Rush showed signs of leaning in for seconds at which point she quickly slithered off the table and clung to Col. Young's, hiding behind him like a child, that is until she caught sight of Lt. Scott over in the corner getting cozy with Lt. James...
Young flinched in sympathy as Scoot dropped onto the deck. That would certainly be a bruise come morning, if there ever was a morning, but at least Chloe seemed to have gotten over her initial shock at waking up with Rush's tongue in her mouth.
Eli seemed to have more of his marbles in the jar than most of the crew tonight, so with Scott temporarily incapacitated, Young left him in charge and went to look for Rush, who seemed to have scampered off somewhere during the fracas.
"Shouldn't you be back in the mess hall with your 'one true love' right about now?" he'd asked once he'd finally tracked Rush back to his lair of misappropriated items.
"Oh that" Rush replied, "I should think you of all people would have more important questions for me and besides I know something you don't know" he sang.
"Enlighten me then," Young said through gritted teeth, "please" he belatedly remembered to add.
Rush smiled wantonly, "That little show of twu love conquering any curse… FAKED."
"The 'how' is simple" Rush said, "After all, who do you think gave the queen the poison she used on Snow White?"
"I don't know, the Wizard of Oz maybe."
"ME! You stupefying fool."
"No need to shout" Young scolded, "So how did you do it?"
"A simple little magic spell, diffused into a potion I sold to the queen to rid her of her pest problem, it was designed, by me, to induce a deep sleep that would resemble death and fool the queen, but since the girl's death was not to my benefit, I made sure to craft an antidote, which I then applied to my lips and waited for you to come and find me" he finished proudly, taking a bow and looking for all the world like he expected applause.
"Fine, you've told me how, now tell me why, why the big act, what the Hell is going on Rush?"
"Can't you guess?"
"We are all CURSED!" he cried with impressive dramatic flair.
"Well that certainly wasn't on my list of possible explanations" Young deadpanned, "I figured Eli made that up. So how do we break this 'curse'?"
"Why with true love's kiss of course" Rush replied.
"But I thought you said you faked that?"
"Oh that I did" he replied, "But this curse is another matter altogether and it needs the real thing."
"Fine, whatever, you clearly are the expert in these matters and I bow to your expertise" Young said.
"…But you didn't bow" Rush pointed out.
"Figure of speech" Young rejoined, "Look, I'll bow and scrape all you like, Hell I'll even kiss your ass, just tell me who needs to kiss who to break this wacky curse."
Rush tittered, "That's for me to know and you to find out…Dearie" he sang.
Young knew that hitting Rush wasn't likely to help matters, but it was getting awfully tempting, "Look what do you want from me?" he asked, "I'll give you anything you want, just get my ship and my crew back to normal, please."
"You want a deal?"
The Rush creature smiled.
"I can tell you exactly how to break your little curse, Dearie" he began, "But it'll cost you."
"I already said I'd gladly give you anything…"
"Good" Rush said, "Because what I want is …a child."
Young wasn't sure he was hearing this right, "a child?" he repeated, "Are you kidding me Rush? What could you possibly want with a child? And considering where we are, how do you expect me to find one for you?"
"Well the latter is easy Colonel" he replied, "You can procure a child for me the same way anyone else would go about getting a child, just go out there and make one."
"Make one! Are you kidding me? You expect me to go out there and purposely try and reproduce, wait at least nine months in this insane asylum and then I'm just supposed to hand the baby over to you? There is just no way…"
"Well you had better find a way Colonel!" Rush fumed, "Because it you don't, then I won't help you. Are we clear?"
"Crystal" Young replied, "But as I said, it would take some time for any such plan to um… come together."
"I can help speed things along Colonel" Rush promised eagerly, "With my magic it is possible for me to ensure that any encounter you may venture upon will end in conception and I can even ensure a healthy childbirth… provided of course that I have your word that the child will be mine the moment that it is weaned."
"You know you never answered my first question Rush", Young ventured, "why the Hell do you want a child in the first place?"
"I want a child for the same reason anyone else might want one" Rush stated defiantly, "… I want someone who will love me. Truly."
"Look if love is all you want" Young said, "Then there is a while ship full of confused women out there, most of whom seem to think they are some kind of princess and I'm sure a man with your talents should be able to persuade one of them…"
"No!" Rush scoffed, "That is not love and in any case, no love, no true love can be bought with magic."
Now Young understood, "And a child…"
"…would love me unconditionally. No matter what anyone else thought or said of me, my child, would love his father. That is true love."
"So you think that nobody likes you?" Young asked.
"You know it's true!" Rush cried.
"Well, Rush, I won't deny that you're hardly the most popular guy on the ship and I certainly wouldn't expect any surprise parties in your honor if I was you, but you say nobody likes you… what about me? Am I a nobody?"
"You …you like me?" Rush said, astonished, "But I am a monster, a beast! That is what everyone says…"
"Not to me you aren't" Young said firmly, "To me you are a strange, incredibly brilliant, incredibly frustrating …friend."
"Do you twuly mean it?" Rush asked, bouncing giddily from foot to foot.
"Yeah. Yeah I do." Young said, suddenly realizing that he actually did.
Tears appeared in Rush's eyes and he ran into Young's arms with a tiny sob.
Young pressed Rush's head against his shoulder and ran a hand through his always messy mane and as the clock struck midnight he gently kissed him on the forehead…
Suddenly Young felt himself being shoved roughly away by a pissed off Rush.
"What the bloody Hell is going on here Colonel?!" Rush shouted, looking confused and mad as Hell.
"I was just, I mean we were just…" Young stammered.
"Were you …hugging me just now Colonel?" Rush asked.
"Um, yeah. I kind of was" Young replied, "Though it was really more your idea at the time."
"I think you had better explain this to me…"
Young gratefully told him everything.
"So everyone was different?" Rush asked, "They …we all thought we were fairy tale characters?"
"Apart from me, yes."
"So Lt. Scott thought he was Prince Charming and that Miss Armstrong was…"
"Was Snow White, yes."
"And Camille was the evil Queen?"
"And Lt. Johansson thought she was Cinderella?"
"That's what I gathered, yes."
"And Mr. Brody?"
"Well he was pretty grumpy the whole time, so no real changes there. But he did seem pretty protective of Snow White."
"And I was some kind of wizard?"
"That was the impression I got, though Eli told me your name was some weird long thing like 'Spindleshanks' or something. I don't think I've ever read that one."
"So you're telling me we were all …possessed or something?"
"I really have no idea" Young said, "All I know is things went crazy around here for a few hours and then inexplicably" he snapped his fingers, "just like that, everybody was back to normal except that they didn't seem to remember much about their day in fairy land."
Rush looked around the room at the piles of things he's built up over the day.
"What are you going to do with it all?" Young asked.
"I don't even know what most of it is or does, "Rush replied, "I have some vague memory of building things and mixing things and that they were important to me in some way, but I can't remember why."
"Well maybe it will come to you if you think about it hard enough."
"Actually Colonel, I think I would prefer NEVER to think or speak about this day, these things or anything else that happened in this room today, ever again. Agreed?"
"Agreed, but we might have a problem there."
"What do you mean?" Rush asked suspiciously.
"It seems Eli had a couple of kenos going the whole time. He caught the mass kiss off in the mess hall, from several angles, as well as several of your clappy sing-a-long giggle fits and if you notice, I'm pretty sure that's one of his kenos over there by the thing-a-ma-bob on your bed."
Rush blanched, "Colonel, we have to get our hands on those kenos and delete their memory banks before Eli has a chance to download it all for his 'documentary'!"
"What's the matter Rush? Ashamed of a little hug?" Young teased.
"Just help me round up those kenos alright!"
They'd finally managed to catch all the kenos and Rush was pretty sure he'd destroyed all the files that were on them, though many people had clearly seen the whole thing live. At least Eli didn't have the actual footage to go with his fuzzy memories.
Young was just happy to have his crew back to normal (whatever that was).
Scott and Chloe were back together and all seemed to be forgiven, though Chloe had been heard complaining about her lips feeling chapped.
As far as what really happened that Halloween, nobody in the crew had been able to figure it out and they'd all collectively agreed to keep this one quiet as far as Homeworld Command was concerned.
It wasn't until months later when Young had another series of surreal events hit his life that he suspected that Destiny herself was somehow to blame for the fairy tale incident.
Was Destiny even capable of mass delusion on this scale? After all it wasn't a dream, the keno footage was real enough and so was the mess in Rush's quarters. And why was Colonel Young the only person in the crew who not only hadn't undergone a personality change that day, but who also retained a clear memory of the day, something no one else could claim, not even Rush.
Maybe some mysteries were best left alone.
As for Rush, he was back to his usual cantankerous self and had utterly refused all of Young's well-meaning hug overtures.
"We'll see what he says when I tell him about the keno I hid in the shuttle" Young mused, as he pondered all the wicked fun a blackmailer could have with a cornered Scotsman.