The Engine RoomBy I'm NearMadZen
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"Avon! Get the engines going!"
Avon looked up at the wall-mounted comm. unit in disgust. He put down his laser probe, got up from his knees and slapped on the comm unit. "I can only do three things at once, Blake, and you're already over your quota."
"We'll be all over the quadrant if you don't get the engines on line."
Avon's lips pursed. The engine room was Gan's territory. It was assumed to be a rough, dirty job as the big man was always tired and filthy when he came out. Avon had just gotten this really neat silver leather bat-wing tunic just like his favorite comic-book superhero,'The Avenging Accountant' always wore, and he hadn't even got to impress any girls with it yet. Well, Cally and Jenna, but they didn't count, as they were presently playing strip-Bingo with Vila, and they were more interested in getting clothes off than in how nice they looked on. So he really, really didn't want to get all messed up.
"No, I can't!" Blake snapped. "Just do it, Avon."
"*I* got your computer control back on-line, fixed the auto-repair circuits, *and* the auto-navigation. What's wrong with you? Bad hair day?"
"NO!" Blake shouted, and there was scuffle audible over the comm.
"Blake! Blake!" Avon was about to tear out of the sub-control room when Blake's voice came back again, sounding somewhat out-of-breath.
"Cally discovered... that Gan's... ouch... problem is... more....wait a bloody minute, you can't do *THAT*... his problem is mostly.... a... ooooh.....lack of sex... oh, GAN...." and Blake's voice dropped a couple of octaves, which put it in the *Liberator's* sub-basement.
"Right," Avon said briskly. "I'll just nip on down to the engine room and sort out that little problem."
"Hurry, Avon..." Blake gasped.
"Oh, yes, of course," Avon said insincerely. Just to be on the safe side, he did check throught his handy-dandy pocket flight deck monitor that there wasn't anything more dangerous in the vicinity than the rubber asteroid belt (garter belt, actually) and the orange swirly thing that looked like a rotating black hole, but was really the result of Vila eating jelly doughnuts on watch next to Zen's input screen. No hurry, really. It might be interesting to see what the engine room looked like, and of course, he should check it out *thoroughly* before attempted repair.
When he got there, he was slightly disappointed. On the back of a piece of cardboard (which originally was part of the packaging for a single set of the 'Silver Alpha' line of bedding) in Gan's large, bold handwriting, was a sign that said, "ENGINE ROOM. BUGGER OFF AVON."
What disappointed him was that underneath Gan's message the sign read, in Vila's scrawl, "He did. Wasn't much good, though."
"Last time I share my teddy with *him*," Avon said as he ripped the sign down, and went through the door it guarded. There was a long, bare corridor, which looked suspiciously like all the other long, bare corridors in *Liberator*. (Avon thought that Zen switched them around when no one was looking, just to make the ship seem bigger.) The corridor ended in another door, with another recycled cardboard sign courtesy of Gan. It said, "WELL GO ON THEN NOSY."
Avon gritted his teeth and went through the door. The first thing he noticed was the smell. Organic. But nothing he was familiar with. The next thing was the light, which was much brighter than in the rest of the ship. The third thing he noticed was that the corridor went in a circle, and he couldn't see a door in either direction. The fourth thing he noticed was that the ceiling wasn't. That is to say, that when he looked up, all he saw was green. By squinting he could make out a curve to the green and a sheen as of plex-glass or transparent aluminum, if you could get it in designer lemon-lime.
"Well, at least it's big," Avon said, out loud, so he could listen to the echoes. He always enjoyed hearing himself talk. After he finished a stirring rendition of 'Serving Under Servalan', he looked around scientifically for the engine. The large painted arrows on the deck seemed a reasonable starting place. Just far enough around to be hidden from the entrance, a door came into view.
Cardboard sign. Gan's handwriting. The number 1. Avon flipped it up by the sticky-tape hinge at the top and looked at both sides of the sign. Apart from learning that his sheets had 120 threads per inch, he was no wiser.
Avon went in. "Hydroponics?" Dozens of man-size tubes filled with water nourished the roots of shrubby-looking plants. Avon stripped a few leaves off one, and blinked at the odor. Pleasant, minty, but not anything he'd care to make into a salad. He turned to leave, and noticed a blinking red light, just above a green button. Gan's sign here said, 'Press green button when red light on to prime engine.'
Avon shrugged and pressed it. The light turned green, and large shears appeared out of the wall and began clipping the plants, while a wheeled cart kept pace, catching the clippings.
Avon shook his head and went out to continue following the arrows. Number 2 room was full of clear tanks of fish and other sealife. Salmon. Tuna. Shrimp. LOBSTER! Avon stood there, fascinated by the articulation of their armor, and thinking how neat it would be if they could still be running around once they were boiled to a bright red, instead of the dull brown color they were when they were alive. He made a mental note for his next trip down to the automated wardrobe room. Then he found button #2 and pressed it, since the sign said, 'To fuel engine, press 2'. Nets came out of the wall and scooped up fish, depositing them into what looked like cooking pots, and then the pots receded into a hidden panel.
"Gan, once you return to your right mind, such as it is, I think I'll beat you senseless." Avon turned on his (high) heels and went on to find room 3. Somewhere among these rooms and buttons there must be *one* that did something useful.
Room 3. Avon was attacked in room three. Dozens of small furry missles, emitting varied screeches, wails and howls, appeared out of niches, cubbyholes, boxes, bags, cartons, and soft, overstuffed chairs. Avon yelled and tried to escape, but several of the larger things had gotten underfoot and he fell. They covered him, their little feet equipped with sharp claws that scratched his new silver tunic. "NO!" he shouted, fear of dishabille giving him strength to push the things off and get to his feet. Once there he backed up against a wall and slid along it, searching for the exit before the little monsters could attack again. His hands came across a button, and he pushed it before he realized what it was. Panels opened in the far walls, and trays filled with small round bowls appeared. The animals immediately abandoned him and went to the bowls, which smelled quite strongly of cooked fish.
Avon turned to see Button #3 and the accompanying sign. 'Fuel. Engine Room Central'.
That was it? This room was much larger than the others. It probably filled most of the globe-shape Avon had deduced from the curvature of the outer corridors. There was a mechanical-looking object in the center of the room. Avon went to it, noticing that the floor was curved here,too, to match the ceiling, far above. When he reached the center, he ran into a clear wall dividing the room. A panel set in the wall had a blinking red sign. It said, 'Press button until engine at capacity.' A red LED flashed '20' '20' '20' beside a green button.
"Well, Blake says all I do is push buttons," Avon grumbled. He pushed it, and a small rectangle opened at the base of the clear wall. On the other side of the wall a shower of green particles fell from the ceiling. Avon bent down to try to see exactly what was going on in the supposed drive chamber, particularly curious to know if that bright green stuff was radioactive, or likely to do anything else to cut short his larcenous career, and was bowled over once again by an avalanche of fur. He lay on his back, as that seemed safest, and stared as the creatures darted through the hole into the chamber beyond. '19' '18' '17' '16' the numbers counted down until it reached zero, then the door shut- almost clipping the whiskers of a late-arriving animal that batted at the shut door, hissed and turned to bite Avon in the ankles.
The animals inside the door rolled in the green particles, and the deck moved under them. Now that it was moving Avon could see there was a clear central spindle supporting the inner area. The inner *wheel*, Avon realized. As the animals moved, their weight started the wheel rolling. A hologram projection sprang into existance at the far end of the chamber from the animals. Sound and image both, and very realistic. Small mammals, small avians, awkwardly swimming fish, all darted about at the far end of the chamber. The real animals immediately left the green particles and began attempting to catch the holograms. Once they were all running in the same direction, the familiar sound of *Liberator's* engines began, getting louder and louder as the wheel spun faster and faster.
Avon was sitting up now, dizzily watching the wheel revolve.
Blake's voice came from somewhere not too far away,"Good job, Avon! And good timing too. Orac says there might be some Federation activity in this area. Avon? Avon?"
Avon glanced around until he found the comm. unit. Somehow, he didn't feel the urge to run over there and report to Blake.
Blake yelled, "Pursuit ships! Avon, emergency power. I need it now!"
Dazed, but automatically responding to Blake's command, Avon got up and stumbled over to the only flashing light left. It was blue, for a change, and said, "GO LIKE HELL," next to a white button.
He hit the button. He was looking at the wheel at the time, so he noticed the hologram in front of the animals as it disappeared, then reformed behind them. A harsh, repetitive sound came from the hologram, which now looked like a much larger, longer-nosed, and clumsier version of the animals. All the real animals screamed incredibly high-pitched protests, bushed their fur out and turned into furry blurs of speed.
"Avon, you're a bloody genius!" Blake shouted. "Whatever you did, you've got the engine purring like a kitten!"
Avon lay back down on the floor again and curled up, whimpering. Several of the leftover 'engine parts' came over to him, and began licking his face. They smelled like fish. Avon's silver tunic would never be the same again and neither would he.
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