A general panic arose on the bridge.
“Turn that,” bluuurguh, “thing off,” bluuurguh, “NOW,” the captain managed. He dearly wanted the cheese that he had been promised in one piece.
Frip was trying to clean the vomit out of his eyes.
“Captain, there’s no off switch,” he blurted through tears, “how in the worlds am I supposed to fix that?!”
If the captain had not been so preoccupied with empting his stomach, he might have had Frip ejected.
“Figure it,” bluuurguh, “out!”
“We can’t turn the ship now that the laser’s been fired up and locked on target,” Kik shouted, “and the manual override is on the fritz!”
While they were sorting out the problem with the laser on the bridge, people were in serious danger of dying in the galley down below.
Whenever the captain had cheese brought on board, he had a standing order that a team of four trustworthy crew members, the Cheese Team, should inspect and secure the cheese room beforehand. Not knowing that the cheese had spoiled and the smell had reached lethal proportions, the team had charged into the galley and passed out before they could even reach the cold storage.
Gurn was oblivious to his crew members’ impending doom. His hammock swayed gently; his mouth gaped heavy with snores that could fell a smallish Jarkop, or at least a medium Rinfin. Then he turned in his sleep, as he was wont to do, and fell out of his hammock and onto the galley floor, as he was also wont to do at least a dozen times per nap.
Gurn pushed himself up, grumbling. He stopped grumbling when he saw the pale faces of the Cheese Team lying on the floor in front of him. He shook one of them awake.
“What’s this,” Gurn demanded, “and why are you all on the floor?”
“Get us out,” she managed to whisper.
Gurn couldn’t smell what was wrong for the life of him, but carried each crew member out anyway. They sat in the hallway, gasping and vomiting while Gurn watched them, looking disgusted.
“I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” he protested, dodging projectile vomit and icy glares.
“What,” Luplop, the captain of the Cheese Team managed, wiping her chin, “in the name of all the worlds have you done to the cheese?”
Gurn looked offended.
“Me? I didn’t do anything. I don’t understand what you’re fromping on about.”
“The cheese is ruined! Unless you have a hundred rotting Rinfin carcasses in there, the cheese is destroyed. I would think even a Goberarian could smell that stench.”
Gurn gulped a tremendous gulp. Captain Tentorp would have him ejected for ruining his beloved cheese.
“What are we going to do,” Gurn whined. It was a most unbecoming whine, but Goberarians are not becoming creatures.
Luplop shook her head. She knew even though Gurn was responsible, Captain Tentorp would have them all ejected.
“We could try eating it,” Bob piped up. Bob was not brilliant.
“Yeah, and how would that work,” Roth growled, “it nearly killed us by the smell alone.”
“We should eject the cheese,” Gede said, “and send it to some Earth town. The captain will think the humans managed to steal his precious cheese and blow them to the worlds to come.”
Roth, Luplop, and Gurn nodded in dubious agreement.It was not the best plan, but it would have to do. Bob pouted and began drawing pictures in the vomit on the floor with his finger.
“It’s settled. Everyone, go clean yourselves up and get in full protective gear. Meet back here in fifteen minutes. Gurn,” here Luplop turned to glare at the Goberarian. “Gurn, start loading the cheese into sacks.”
Gurn acted as if he was intending to do just that all along, when really he was thinking of taking another nap.”
“And if I catch you napping,” she warned, “I will eject you myself.”
Gurn slunk off to do as he was told.
Back on the bridge, the captain had stopped vomiting. He sat in his chair, trying his best to berate Frip and the other members of the crew, but his voice had been reduced to a whisper. He raised his first-right hand in a fist and shook it at the crew in general.
“If nobody can turn off the laser,” he whisper-screamed, “everyone will be ejected. I don’t care if I have to run this ship myself!”
He sank back into his chair with a groan.
Something pinged and popped. The laser was ready to fire. A few of the crew members began crying, and some tried to run, slipping and falling in the vomit that covered most of the bridge.
Alarms began to sound.
Then someone cried, “Captain, look!”
From behind the Earth, the remaining Medilarian pirate ship limped into view. The pirates had been trying to work out where to land with their fried equipment, and thus were unaware of the Splinter’s proximity until it was too late.
The laser fired directly into the unsuspecting pirate ship with such force as to reduce it to oblivion. The crew on the bridge of the Splinter gaped. Tentorp began to cry. His precious cheese, saved.
Then he sat bolt upright in his chair. The cheese! Where would he put it all? His cheese room was quite full. But that cheese was trash compared to this earth’s cheese. He’d heard wild tales as a young sprout of the wonderful things humans call “cows” and “goats” and “sheep” that produced delicious milk the humans turned into heavenly cheese.
Cheese with exotic names like “Camembert” and “Asiago” and “mild cheddar.”
The captain motioned for a fetcher and croaked his instructions, dispatching him to the galley.
After all that, everything went smoothly. The Cheese Team ejected the spoiled cheese in an escape pod and Bob along with it.
Accidentally, of course.
The fetcher arrived at the galley just as the team was finished deodorizing, delivering the captain’s instructions to dump the cheese and prep the room. No one ever suspected a thing.
The government delivered the cheese as promised. The rest of the humans were unaware they had almost been obliterated, or indeed that anything out of the ordinary had happened.
The Admiral was quite pleased with the alternative solar system, although she never let Tentorp know it. The planet she chose was riddled with soothing sulfuric springs and much less expensive to decorate. She was able to buy a whole flock of purdles with the extra money. They eventually ate her.
Frip lost 37% of his vision in one eye and took to wearing an eye patch because he thought it made him look rather distinguished. It did.
Bob and the escape pod containing the rotten cheese melted after entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The cheese did not. It boiled and frothed, writhing like a living thing, then burst into tiny pellets raining all over the town of Oakville, Washington. The citizens of the town fell violently ill, but no one actually died. They blamed it on the government, the government blamed it on nature, and several articles were written on the subject by self-proclaimed experts. It remains a mystery to this day.
And the captain. Tentorp Amadeus Olid was finally happy. He eventually retired and lived on Earth’s Moon.
It is, after all, made of cheese.