Alex Cavanaugh held his head. “Ow! Where am I?”
I said, “I can explain ….”
His eyes popped open. “It’s never good news when you hear those words.”
The ghost of Mark Twain chortled, “Alex, old boy, you just set back and enjoy the ride. Captain Clemens is at the wheel.”
The wheel in question was straight off a Mississippi riverboat. Sadly, we weren’t on the Mississippi. We were in the Shadowlands of outer space.
Alex started to spring out of his seat, but the safety harness stopped him. His eyes went wider as he took in his surroundings. We were on the command deck of a space ship. Or what Hollywood thought a space ship to look like in the 1930’s.
We were not alone.
Tied not too securely was Princess Ardala from the 80’s BUCK ROGERS show. She was muffling outrage through her gag. Ming the Merciless was out cold in the seat beside her.
A large teddy bear was busily half-doing the ropes on him. The teddy bear was dressed like Mr. Spock.
“A Hoka!,” gasped Alex. “An honest to Gordon R. Dickson Hoka!”
“Commander Spock,” squeaked the Hoka, whose race lived to imitate all that fascinated it.
Princess Ardala spat out her gag, “You dare?”
Mark Twain beamed, “Why, ain’t you the feisty hellcat? Don’t worry none about your daddy, Ming. I just needed his space boat here.”
“He is not my father, moron! I am having a tryst with Ming!”
Mark frowned, “I don’t see any pastries.”
“Tryst, imbecile! T-R-Y-S-T!! We are having an affair!”
Mark Twain’s cigar dropped from his mouth. “With that honey dew melon?”
Ardala was about to spew something forgettable when the Hoka inserted the gag back into her snarling mouth and waddled to his blinking console.
“What?,” sputtered Alex. “Where? How? Why?”
Mark Twain cackled with pleasure, spinning the wheel, sending the poor Hoka tumbling as I answered in reverse order.
“While we were guzzling Romulan Ale at Meilori’s, you mentioned you yearned to go into space in a real space ship.”
“This isn’t a real space ship! This is the movie set of Ming the Merciless’s space ship.”
Mark Twain twirled the wheel again, sending the Hoka tumbling across the deck in the opposite direction.
“This is as real as it gets, Alex! This is the Shadowlands where everything thought of by Man exists for deadly certain.”
I groaned, “Would you stop spinning that blasted wheel? My head is killing me.”
“Son, I’m trying to keep those Klingons from doing that to all of us.”
“Klingons!,” shrilled Alex, finally getting his harness undone.
He and I both looked, mouths ajar and eyes wide, at the view screen, showing the Klingon Bird of Prey preparing to blast us into tiny disbelieving bits.
The Hoka cocked its big head. “Most odd. Rudolph’s nose is glowing, and it is not even Christmas.”
Alex picked up the Hoka, shaking it while shrieking, “That is not a nose, you little Furball! That’s a plasma cannon!”
The teddy bear tilted its head. “Alex Cavanaugh, do I look in need of fluffing to you?”
Alex sputtered incoherently, dropping the Hoka.
The teddy bear muttered, "You were more fun drunk."
Alex started for Mark Twain when the view screen changed to show a confused Klingon who growled at us.
“Your vessel … it is being propelled by a wire on top?”
Alex stopped in mid-step. “What?”
Mark chortled, “You keep asking that question, son. That’s the way Hollywood got this danged thing to fly in the 30’s so that’s how it flies now.”
“No matter,” grunted the Klingon. “You are invading Klingon space. Prepare to die!”
Alex shrilled, “Twain, do something!”
Mark turned to the Hoka, “Commander Spock, you have a plan?”
“He’s a teddy bear!,” shrieked Alex. “What kind of plan could he have?”
“An excellent one,” smugly smiled the Hoka, flipping a few switches. “I have taken control of their vessel.”
Alex danced in place. “Great! You’re turning off that cannon, right?”
The teddy bear frowned. “That would be rude.”
Alex’s eyes looked as if they were preparing to leap out of their sockets. “Rude? RUDE!? ”
The teddy bear sighed, “Really Alex Cavanaugh, your emotions will be the death of you.”
“That cannon’s going to be the death of me, you fuzzball!”
“No,” smugly said the Hoka. “Klingon Poop is the most devastating stench in the known galaxy. Observe as I re-route their sewage system through their ventilating shafts.”
Streams of thick brown ooze flowed through the vents above the Klingon Captain. Gagging wetly, he grabbed his throat, sinking to his knees along with the rest of his crew.
“H-Have you no shame, no honor, human?”
Mark Twain smiled wide as he lit up a new cigar. “No. That’s how I win, Turtle Brow.”
He turned to the Hoka. “Mr. Spock, the Borg Sector, if you please. I always fancied that Borg Queen to be a sexy little thing.”
“Nooooooo!,’ Alex and I wailed.
Alex began clicking his heels. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home!”
***Buy your own copy of CASSAFIRE!http://www.amazon.com/CassaFire-Alex-J-Cavanaugh/dp/0982713940
***Want to read more of the Hoka (used copy for only a penny!)http://www.amazon.com/Earthmans-Burden-Poul-Anderson/dp/0380479931/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330143119&sr=1-1
***Oh, Erin Kane Spock (no relation to the Hoka!) just let me know that I have been shortlisted for the the finalists in the 4th campaign's first challenge. Neat, huh?