A Large Green and White Striped Fish                   

Peter Cane hadn't really wanted to join the space academy. 
Actually, what he had wanted to do was just pop round to the
chemist's, but Fate intervened.

Of course, the reason that Fate intervened was that Peter was
popping round the chemist's with a Colt 45 in his hand and a
lady's stocking jammed over his head.  He was just labouriously
explaining to the chemist, who did not speak a word of English,
that he should open the cash register and give Peter its contents
when Fate decided it was time to make his move.

Just as Peter was explaining the state of affairs, that this was
indeed a robbery and not a fancy dress party suddenly being held
in the chemist's store without his knowledge, for the fifth time, an
off duty police officer appeared with his police issue revolver
pointed at Peter's head.

The police officer explained to Peter that this was not, in fact, a
robbery, but an arrest for attempted robbery.  Peter turned
suddenly to aim his weapon at the police officer to indicate that the
it was indeed a robbery and was additionally a murder with special
circumstances.

The police officer, however, was having none of that and pulled
the trigger of his revolver, suggesting that the shooting of a
perpetrator of a robbery in self-defense might be in order.  Peter,
by way of ascent, dropped to the floor with a small amount more
lead in his brain, and distinctly less life, than he had before he had
set out for the chemist.

The police man's name was Rog Fate.

The reason that the man's name was Rog Fate is that Mr. Fate was
killed in the line of duty three weeks previous.  It is profoundly
unclear how Rog actually managed to foil the robbery when one
considered that he was not only deceased, but his body was
cremated a week and a half ago.

Needless to say, Peter Cane was most upset about the whole thing. 
The chemist was also upset about the mess that was made of his
store, but he wasn't upset in English, so no one knew what he was
raving about.  It was decided to concentrate on Peter Cane's
worries.

It was also decided, by whomever it is that decides this sort of
thing, and it is not entirely clear who exactly that is, but their
identity is hardly germane to the plot and so shall be put aside for
the moment, that Peter Cane should be given another chance, so
he was re-incarnated to let him have another go at it.

Of course the couple that turned out to be his parents this time did
not have the common decency to name him Peter Cane this time. 
The couple rationalized this rash decision, saying that their last
name was not actually Cane and was in fact Reynolds and that
Peter's a silly name for a girl.  This line of reasoning is generally
regarded as bunk, but since, as far as the couple was concerned
anyway, they were her parents and so they could name their child
whatever they damned well wanted, and they wanted to call their
daughter Samantha.  For this reason, and because it doesn't make
a bit of difference, the decision was allowed to stand.
                         *  *  *
Samantha Reynolds hadn't really wanted to join the space
academy.  Actually, what she had wanted to do was just pop round
to the chemist's, with one of her stockings on her head and a Colt
45 in her hand, but Fate intervened, again.

This time Fate didn't bother with anything so dramatic as it had
with Peter Cane, but seeing as Samantha lived in a little town
outside Ottawa, Ontario, where the nearest chemist required a
quick plane trip across an ocean, and a drug store just didn't seem
the same, Samantha decided to forget the whole business and just
get on with her life.

Just how this lead her to join up with the space corp is in fact a
complete mystery, even to Samantha, but considering the fact that
she was now standing on the academy lawn at her graduation
ceremonies, I think you'll agree that it's a bit late to quibble about
motivations at this point.

It is said that everyone rises to their own level of incompetence. 
The Canadian Agency for Space Exploration, commonly called
those CASE fools by the other more reputable space agencies, now
uses this method to evaluate recent graduates of the space
academy.  This is partly because those CASE fools have indeed
risen to their levels of incompetence, but also for another equally
silly reason which will be discussed later.

Samantha Reynolds, for her part, was given command of her own
ship immediately upon graduation.  Samantha was greatly
honoured by this turn of events, since it is policy not to discuss
promotion policy with cadets.  This is because it might become
difficult to judge whether the cadets are actually incompetent, or
just acting that way to get promoted.  This is also because it is
none of their damned business, anyway.

The latter is the explanation given to any cadets who suddenly
become interested in promotion policy.  Those that take a more
gradual interest, are slowly made aware of the same facts.
                         *  *  *
Samantha had just arrived on her ship, the HMCS Subsidized, by
means of its matter transference device.  She didn't really
understand all the principles involved, but it seemed to work, so
she had no qualms about using it.  She had once been told that
matter, which comprises a large amount of her body, can be
converted into energy and then be directed in an encoded beam
through a relatively short distance to a receiver that is capable of
reconverting it to matter.  Samantha preferred to think of it as the
cameras stop rolling, she walks over to the location where the next
scene is being recorded and they pick it up there with the editors
smoothing it together and adding some special effects to make it
look neat.

Actually, Samantha would rather not even bother with that, but it
would be hard to explain a ship as big as the Subsidized landing
all the time and shuttle craft are just too slow, not to mention
expensive.

The first thing that Samantha had to do once she was on board was
to inspect the engineering section.  This is largely because if she
didn't make a habit of showing up down there a lot, the engineers
would start getting really lazy and then it would start looking like
a teenager's bedroom, except without all the posters and the
clothes on the floor.  Besides, they get paid the same whether they
get used in scenes, or not, so we might as well use them.
The engines are as much an enigma to Samantha as are the matter
transference devices.  From what she gathered, there are two
different types of propulsion, both of which are way faster than
she could imagine, but both are strongly based on the fact that
people in general, and engineers in particular, haven't a clue how
they really work.

The first engine is called the star drive.  This is not because the
drive in any way uses the energies from stars to achieve near
light-speed velocities, but just because its inventors thought it was
a really cool name.  In actual fact, this engine produces energy in
exactly the same way that a star does, but this was not clear to the
designers.

The other drive is even more of a mystery.  No one is quite sure
who invented it or where it came from at all.  This engine is called
the WARC drive.  WARC stands for We Are Really Cruisin'. 
The first ship to ever employ the WARC drive, the HMCS White
Elephant, was not, to the best of anyone's recollection, ever fitted
with it.  Its captain had one day ordered, "Let's Cruise.", instead
of using any of the other commands they could have used.  The
computer then asked them to supply a WARC factor, to which he
replied one, assuming this would be the slowest.  What he didn't
realize was that the WARC scale, as was discovered later, goes
from minus one to positive one, so he had just requested full
power.

The captain was astonished by the sudden velocity, not to mention
the neat special effects that accompanied the ship's entry into what
is now called WARC space.  This astonishment was nothing,
however, compared to the equally sudden realization that the ship
was headed directly at a sun at about one hundred thousand times
the speed of light.

"My God, I've hit a star.", was the last message received from the
White Elephant.

Since then, ship's captains have been a lot more careful about
using WARC drive, especially when their ships are aimed at stars.
It took several minutes to locate the chief engineer.  After
questioning a few of the other engineers that were hanging around,
she decided that either they were specifically sending her around
in circles because they were practicing to become bureaucrats, or
more likely, they just simply didn't have a clue who she was
talking about.  Eventually, she found him in his office, which
happened to be the exact place that everyone she asked suggested
he could be found, with a rather young female engineer sitting on
his lap.

Samantha decided to forego questioning this female engineer,
whose name just happened to be Peter Cane, but this is obviously
a coincidence, and decided to speak directly to the chief engineer,
whose name didn't have the least bit to do with Peter Cane, but
who in fact was called The Chief Engineer.

It was a common idea on Earth for a long time that people from
other planets would be strange bizarre looking things that were
unthinkably different than humans.  Because this assumed
difference was so unthinkable, the majority of aliens portrayed in
movies and on television looked like humans in silly gladiator
costumes, gorilla suits with diving helmets or at least with really
bad makeup jobs.

When CASE had been established and they started encountering
beings from other planets, they were surprised, and more than a
little bit disappointed, to find out that the majority of aliens did
indeed look like humans in silly gladiator costumes, gorilla suits
with diving helmets or at least had really bad makeup jobs.
The Chief Engineer came from the planet Matra, which in the
local tongue simply means the Earth, and was therefore an alien
as far as Samantha was concerned.  The Chief Engineer has never
at any time expressed the opinion that he considered himself to be
an alien in any way.  However, Samantha had the facts on her side
because he did look like a human with a really bad makeup job.
"I was looking for the chief engineer.", said Samantha.

Peter Cane got up off the chief engineer's lap and left the office,
leaving the captain and the chief engineer alone to talk.  On her
way out, she said, "I'll leave you two alone to talk."  This way
extremely typical of the type of things you could have expected a
woman named Peter Cane to say at a moment like this.

The chief engineer pulled his pants back on, stood up and walked
over to the captain.  He shook her hand and then introduced
himself, "I'm the chief engineer, but you can call me The Chief
Engineer, if you'd like."

"Hi, I'm captain samantha reynolds, but you can call me Captain
Samantha Reynolds, if you'd like.", she returned.  She had no idea
what all this business about small and capital letters was all about,
but assumed it must have been a Matra custom.  She was, needless
to say, wrong.  "I've come to inspect the engines.", she continued.

"I've come to understand that there is little point in inspecting the
engines, since none of us know what they do.", replied The Chief
Engineer.

"So then how do we know that they are working?"

"Generally, I just ask the computer.  It seems to know more about
what's going on than I do.  Of course I don't like to listen to it
very often.  You see it has this irritating lisp."

"That doesn't matter.  Computer", asked Samantha, "What is the
status of the engines?"

"(Are (Working fine) (Systems drive both))", responded a flat
computer generated voice.

Samantha began to get a puzzled look and then asked, "What the
hell kind of language is that?"

"LISP.  I thought I told you that."

Samantha didn't understand, but didn't really care either.  "Well,
as long as you have some idea what's going on.  Tell me, though,
if you engineers don't know how the ship works, why do we need
so many of you?"

"Union regulations."
Samantha sighed and decided she'd had enough of talking to this
fool.  She turned on her heel and marched off, bashing her head
directly into a door.  For some strange reason she had expected it
to open at her approach.
                         *  *  *
It had never been fully explained why, at a time when most of the
nations of the Earth were getting together, putting aside
nationalistic ideas, and developing a worldwide space industry, the
Canadian government decided to establish CASE.  The most
logical person to ask about this would have been Sharon Milo,
Minister responsible for CASE.

The difficulty in getting this information, however, is that as far
as anyone can tell, it is Ministry policy not to reveal any details of
policy.  Because of this theoretical policy, it is also impossible to
determine if this is indeed policy, because no one from the
Ministry will answer the question, as a matter of policy, because
it is a matter of policy.  Of course they will not tell you that this
is because it is a matter of policy, for this same reason, but most
people agree that this is the case.  Others just figure that they are
a bunch of secretive bastards.

Since it is impossible to get any worthwhile information for the
Ministry responsible for CASE, the logical next choice to ask is
the Ministry of Official Secrets, who generally seem quite willing
to share any information they have.  The problem with this is that
everyone knows that they cannot keep a secret, so nobody tells
them anything.

Due to the general unavailability of information, it has never been
fully explained why CASE was founded as a nationalistic venture
just when the rest of the planet was preparing to enter the era of
the global space industry.
                         *  *  *
Samantha had just collided with her fifth consecutive door on the
way to the bridge when she tripped on something lying on the
floor.  As she picked herself up, she noticed the it wasn't a
something, but a someone that she tripped over.  Whoever it was
grumbled once at being disturbed and returned to his deep
slumber.  Samantha prodded him once and then realized, probably
because of the overwhelming smell of alcohol, that he man was
either stone drunk or had a very bizarre idea of what constitutes a
good cologne.

"Wake up.", she ordered the drunk, shoving him again.

The man grumbled some more before finally becoming lucid
enough to respond.  "What the hell do you want?", he slurred.
"Who are you and what are you doing sleeping in the corridors of
my ship?"

"Devon Cole.", he replied, staggering to his feet and leaning
heavily on the wall, "I'm your first officer.  As for sleeping in the
corridor, I don't have anywhere else to sleep."

"What are you talking about, don't you have any quarters?",
Samantha asked in disbelief as they began walking towards the
bridge.

"Small design flaw in this type of ship, Captain.  The only
shipyard they could afford to build them in was barely big enough
to build a ship this size, let alone any bigger, and once they'd
finished installing the engines, bridge, computers, gymnasium,
weapon systems, dining rooms and pubs, not to mention the ... oh
I guess I shouldn't mention that ... they didn't have any more
room for sleeping quarters, except for yours, of course, and for
the chefs."

"That's stupid.  Hey, how come I didn't know about this?"

"Because it was on the final exam."

Samantha inclined her head, considering this, and inquired, "You
mean they have exams at the academy?"

"Yep, but most of the people who take them get the unimportant
jobs, like transporter operator, security officer or ship's counselor. 
The people whose opinions you'll soon learn to ignore at all
costs."

Devon and Samantha strode onto the bridge.  Devon, still feeling
the effect of a four year drunk on that started the first day of his
admission to the academy and has yet to truly end, became
afflicted with vertigo and nearly fell off, but Samantha caught him
and dragged him over to a chair.  It never occurred to her to have
him sit on it.  This might have been due to he fact that it was
currently occupied with a young, dark-haired woman just slightly
older than Samantha, in a nightgown, who was snoring quite
loudly.

Devon, who was now leaning on the chair, woke the young
woman and then introduced her, "Captain, this is ship's counselor
Helen O'Troy.  Counselor, this is Captain Reynolds and you're
sleeping in her chair."

"How do you do Captain?", O'Troy asked, shaking the Captain's
hand.  She then reached down under the chair and pulled out a
sleeping bag.  Rising to her feet, she offered the chair to her
Captain and found a corner to get comfy in.

As Samantha looked around the bridge, it became apparent that not
only did they skimp on living quarters when they built this ship,
but they weren't much for furniture, either.  The bridge had just
the one chair which was for the Captain.  The only other thing
taking up floor space, besides a variety of sleeping crewpersons,
was a rather odd looking assembly that looked like a large wheel
with a set of pedals and what looked like a gear shift.  What was
particularly odd was the fact that whole assembly seemed to be
facing so that whomever was in control of the device would have
to look behind them to see the viewscreen.

"Well, I guess we can get started.", commented Samantha, "Say,
who drives this thing, anyway?"

"Oh, the computer, usually.  In fact the designers just put in wheel
for show mostly.", answered Devon, "It's also used when the
computer is being a nuisance, or on civic and statutory holidays,
which it gets off.  I find it makes a good hat rack.", he added,
striping off his jean jacket and draping it across one of the spokes
of the wheel.

"Computer", began Samantha, sitting down in her chair, "Let's
cruise to the Anu, system, avoiding collisions with any and all
stars or other objects.", she ordered.  One of the things they made
clear to all cadets was that the computers wouldn't bother avoiding
objects of their own accord and must always be ordered to avoid
them.  In fact, the computers have a tendency to go out of their
way collide with things if you don't make it perfectly clear that
you want to make it to your destination in one piece.

"(Insert (Key the drive) (In (Ignition the)))", responded the
computer.

Samantha patted herself down in search of the keys, and partly
because it was a pleasurable sensation, eventually concluding that
she was not in possession of them.  "Okay, who's got my keys?",
she queried?"

"(Aware I (Am not) (Of (Identity the (Of (Possessor the (Of (Keys
your)))))))"

"I wasn't talking to you, imbecile computer!", she shouted and
then repeated her question.  Without warning, a man dressed in a
poorly fitting undershirt and faded blue jeans weighted down by a
large tool belt strode across the bridge from just out of camera
range, handed the keys to Samantha and return to wherever it was
he had come from.  When he was gone, Samantha turned to
Devon and asked, "Who the hell was that?"

"Key grip, I'd guess."

Samantha considered pressing for more information on this matter,
but decided she'd probably rather not know, not to mention the
fact that she may not even comprehend the answer, and so she
simply put the key into the ignition and started up the engines. 
The computer made simulated grinding and whirring sounds as the
engines started up and would have probably continued making
thrumming sounds if the Captain didn't tell it to cut it out.
As soon as the computer had shut up, Samantha could hear the
thrumming sound that the engines really made when they were in
operation and thought that maybe she'd rather listen to the
computer, but instead she pressed a few buttons on the arm of her
chair and the scene of the moving starfield that used to be on the
viewscreen was replaced by static.  Samantha hit the controls a
couple of times and eventually was able to tune in the Canadian
National Video Station.  She turned up the volume and the bridge
crew, and any of the other people who had been trying to sleep
there, had an impromptu party.
                         *  *  *
The design of the HMCS Subsidized is an interesting one,
especially in that it is the design of all CASE ships since the very
first one, the HMCS Compromise, was built.  This is largely due
to the fact that none of those CASE fools have even the slightest
clue as to how they work.  They simply copy the exact same blue
print, over and over again.  Originally, they weren't even certain
whether each ship should be given their own names, because they
thought the ship may not have worked if something different was
painted on the side.  It was ultimately decided that the exterior
paint, furniture and current occupants had very little to do with
performance of the vessels and so they could safely be named
uniquely.

The Anu system, one the other hand, is almost completely
uninteresting.  It consists of seven barren planets around a
particularly boring sun.  Twenty two dreary moons are scattered
between the planets.  There is absolutely no population in the Anu
system and certainly no reason for visiting it.
                         *  *  *
On CASE starships, the most popular crew members are the
Captains and the chefs.  The Captains are popular for the obvious
reasons that they are the most powerful people on the ship, they
are the centre of attention and because they are played by popular,
attractive and charismatic actors.  They, and the chefs, are
particularly popular, however, because they are the only members
of the crew to have quarters.  The rest of the crew spend their
time trying to attract the attention of the Captain and the chefs just
so that they can get a place to sleep.
                         *  *  *
Samantha awoke with a headache that felt like a combination of
what a snare drum belonging to a  heavy metal band must feel like
just after a concert and what she guessed it would feel like to have
spent the night in the reactor chamber of the star drive.  Samantha
also heard a strange buzzing sound in her head.  She concluded
she was still hung over from the party last night.

Shutting off the alarm that was buzzing next to her, she got up and
opened the door.  After emerging from the reactor chamber of the
star drive, she set off for the bridge.  Slamming her head against
the door to the engine room, an action which had never appeared
on the galactic list of top ten hang over cures, she noticed someone
lying slumped in the corner.

Samantha walked over and gave the person, who had an
appearance distinctly reminiscent of a heavy metal drummer, and
gave her a rather vicious kick to the head.  She gestured to one of
the engineers, who for some strange reason was actually hanging
around the engine room, which was a bit of a surprise for
Samantha, to come over.  The engineer didn't respond.  Samantha
concluded that this may be in part that they were not actually
looking in the direction of their captain and so might have had
some difficulty interpreting the gesture, so she decided to grab one
of the drummer's sticks.

As soon as the stick struck the engineer a glancing blow in the
head, Samantha was able to get the not entirely too surprisingly
enraged engineer's attention.  "Hey, you, Not Entirely Too
Surprisingly Enraged Engineer Whose Attention I Have Just
Gotten By Glancing This Drummer's Stick Off Of Your Head,
come over here.  I want you to escort this woman off the ship."
The aforementioned long-named engineer took the captain by the
arm and began leading her from the engineering section.  "Not
me, you long-named imbecile, the bloody drummer."

The engineer apologized by offering to let the captain embrace a
certain glutial region of his anatomy, an offer which the captain
politely declined by kicking the engineer viciously in the scrotum. 
Noting that the engineer had suddenly fallen pray to some illness
that caused him to groan, fall to the floor and clutch at his stomach
to avoid ejecting its contents onto that self-same floor, she
suggested that he might wish to take a trip to the sick bay.  The
engineer showed appreciation of that suggestion by extending the
middle finger of his hand and raising his hand to show the back of
that finger.

As Samantha was escorting the bloody drummer, the blood in
question pouring from a rather severe gash that was opened when
Samantha had kicked her in the head, from the ship, she returned
the appreciation shown by the engineer by deliberately stepping on
his hand as she walked by.
                         *  *  *
In a mixed culture environment like the one on the Subsidized, you
can expect that a number of the different culture specific gestures
and phrases may be slightly at odds with each other.  The previous
scene indicates how a certain misinterpretation of these gestures
and phrases can lead to complications.  For an example, on the
planet where the drummer comes from, it is considered polite to
use a starship captain as a snare drum.  On the captains planet
(i.e.: Earth), however, this gesture has another name.  On her
planet, this is called assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
This miscommunication lead directly to the drummer receiving a
kick in the head and being beamed into deep space and indirectly
to the long-named engineer requiring a cast to repair a broken arm
and to a transporter operator joining the metal drummer in deep
space.  The transporter operator's demise being the result of
another cultural difference.  On their planet, which happens also
to be Earth, the correct response to, "Beam this drummer into
deep space.", is, "No, I can't do that Captain."

From this example you can see how dangerous it can be to place
people from vastly different cultures together in an enclosed
environment.  You can also see the danger inherent in placing a
possibly psychopathic, certainly short-tempered and often
belligerent captain in an enclosed environment with anyone.
                         *  *  *
Captain Reynolds marched onto the bridge, still in a foul humour
from that earlier business.  When she got there, she had to kick
the counselor out of her chair again.

"So what's this all about?", she asked Devon, who was standing
at the other end of the bridge with a bottle of Rye in his hand,
currently chatting up one of the chefs.

With Devon's attention diverted towards his captain, the chef was
able to slip away from him unnoticed, and then leave the bridge
with the casting director who had walked in from out of frame. 

"The computer has diverted from the course you'd set, Captain. 
We're now in orbit of Something Or Other."

"What is it, exactly?"

"I've no idea."

"Computer, why'd you change course?"

"(Was (Change the course) (In (Script the)))", replied the computer
in its usual incomprehensible manner.

"Okay then, what is this Something Or Other?"

"(Is it (Planetoid an artificial (Of (Origin unknown))))"

"Well, that's interesting, I guess.  So what are we supposed to do
here?"

"(And (Beam down) (Check it out))"

"Shut up, you stupid computer!", Samantha yelled at the source of
the disembodied voice.  She turned to her first officer and said,
"Devon, I was asking you."

Devon shrugged his shoulders and suggested, "You could beam
down and check it out."

"Thank you Mr. Intellect.  Right then, smart alec, you beam down
and check it out.", the captain ordered.  She began to stand up
from her chair and almost tripped over counselor O'Troy who was
curled up at her feet.  "And take this thing with you.", she added,
reaching down and pulling the counselor to her feet by grabbing
her hair.
                         *  *  *
Counselor O'Troy was just pulling her sweater over her head as
she and Devon entered the transporter room.  Already waiting for
them was a large creature that looked somewhat like a man in a
gorilla costume and a diving helmet.  Operating the transporter
controls was the new operator, who Devon entirely failed to
recognize as Peter Cane formerly of engineering.

All four of them assembled quite orderly on the transporter pads. 
Devon was about to give the order to beam them down when he
noticed that the director was gesturing wildly at them.  He soon
realized that it might have been difficult for Peter to operate the
controls from where she stood, and suggested a return to the
console.  On her way past him, Peter made a less than ladylike
noise.  This was her saying, "Thank you.", in her deep bass voice.
The remaining officers on the pads stood at attention and Devon
said, "Energize."  They stood there a few moments more, fairly
still.

"Cut!", shouted the director.
                         *  *  *