Fiction Fragment Friday

I really have no excuse for this story. I was trying to come up with a first line that would be hard to write a Science Fiction story to and well this is what popped out. From there the story just kind of grew.

                As I stared out the viewport at Beta Ceti in its final violent moments before going supernova, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly my first officer had eaten for lunch.  I am not so jaded by the things I’ve seen that the magnitude of watching a star die doesn’t leave me in awe.  It is an experience that cannot be described if you have not experienced it.  For most people it is a once in a lifetime experience, but I found myself one of the few people in the known galaxy on the verge of seeing it twice.  It is an experience that leaves you weak in the knees and struggling just to breathe.    

The same however can also be said of living through one of my first officer’s farts. 

                For the sake of her dignity, I was trying my hardest not to acknowledge the silent assault on my sense of smell. It was a testament to the professionalism of my bridge crew that they likewise did not give any audible indication they had noticed.  I could tell by their body language and facial reactions as it reached each of them in turn.  The crew was good, but if I didn’t find a way to distract them someone was going to break.

                “Mr. Henderson what are the current rate of neutrino emissions?”  I heard a snort at the back of the bridge and realized my choice of words was probably not the best. 

                “Neutrino emissions have reached 157 times the normal rate for Beta Ceti.”  He turned to me with the excitement on his face being palpable.  “It’s ready to blow any moment now and it’s gonna be a big one.” 

                I don’t know if his wording was intentional or an unpleasant coincidence, but it was a struggle to keep from laughing myself.  That was when I noticed a message on the display mounted to my chair’s right armrest.  It was from my navigator Gemma Yoshiba.  My curiosity was piqued since she was less than ten feet from me and could easily have said whatever was in the message.  That meant whatever it was she didn’t want the rest of the bridge to hear.  As captain it is my job to always think of and plan for the worst possible case scenarios so one of my bridge crew wanting me to know something without alerting the rest put me on edge.  I tapped to see just what she had sent me. 

                “As the star gasps its last breath, I can’t help but be jealous.  I’ve been holding mine for almost a minute.”  I cursed her in my head and bit the inside of my lip to keep from laughing.  In that moment I realized that the wording hadn’t been an accident, and my bridge crew were competing to make me laugh.  The miscreants probably had money on who could do it first.  I couldn’t give any of them the satisfaction.

I hit reply and typed in my response.  “If I don’t laugh, I win the pot.” 

A moment later her reply came in.  “If you win the pot, you should give it to Commander Alverez.  She seems to need one.”    

In the back of my head my conscience was telling me I should stop this now.  It would devastate Alverez if she knew she was the butt of a joke like that.  Of course, even thinking the word butt just about cost me the challenge.  The whole thing was unprofessional, and I was setting a horrible example.  I might very well have lost right then, but that was the moment Beta Ceti exploded. 

Even through the protective shielding meant to safeguard our eyesight the entire room filled with a brilliant light.  It felt like every surface was glowing under the intense brightness.  I had to turn away from the viewport and even that was not enough.  I hit the announcement button on my armrest and broadcast to the entire ship.  “All hands secure yourselves Beta Ceti has gone supernova.”  I had planned something more worthy of the spectacle, but it is difficult to time a speech to a mammoth act of nature.

The energy wave hit the ship’s outer shields making them visible to the naked eye.  Upon impact we began to accelerate away from the star riding the wave of energy.  The same gravitational balance system that provides us with artificial gravity onboard was the only thing that stood between us and being crushed by the g-forces that should have been acting on our bodies.  Even it could not keep the sudden movement from shaking the ship.  Specialist Yoshiba worked away at her console making the needed adjustments to keep us from going into a tumble.  The ship stayed facing forward with minimal strain on the hull, but it still felt like we were going to shake apart for a few moments.    

“Wallace tell me we’re capturing the readings we were sent here to get.”

My resident astrophysicist answered, “Yes sir.  I’m getting more data than I could have ever dreamed of.  It’s going to take months to analyze it all.”  The ship finally stopped shaking and stabilized as he spoke.

“Glad to hear it.”  In that otherwise completely quiet moment my first officer’s flatulence chose to make itself heard.  It was as if my words had set her up for it.  Instead of cracking a smile though I was overwhelmed by the stench.  It was rancid and my eyes watered a bit.  I didn’t want to embarrass her, but with this one being out loud I couldn’t help but look at her incredulously.    

“Sorry about that sir.  I had brussels sprouts for lunch.  Guess that just shook it out of me.”  She gave me a sheepish smile and a bit of a shrug.

“Remind me to ban brussels sprouts from the galley.”  I smiled confident that it was over.  I had completed my mission, won the bet, and Alverez didn’t appear too embarrassed.  That moment of overconfidence was my mistake.  I let my guard down for just a moment and Alverez took that moment to strike.    

She held out her index finger towards me and asked, “Pull my finger?”  Before I could even think I was laughing.  She jumped and pumped her fist in victory.  “Ha, I win.  Pay up losers.”  There was a groaning from the rest of the bridge crew.

“You were in on it?”

“In on it?  The whole thing was my idea.  A little friendly competition to build camaraderie among the crew and I got an excuse to make my grandma’s stewed brussels sprouts.  Win win in my book.”  She laughed as I looked around at the smiling faces on my bridge.  For better or worse this was my crew, and with that stench I was pretty sure this qualified as worse.