After another one of those odd elevator rides that involved no real sense of physical movement, there was a whooshing sound followed by loud shouts of profanity and an almost blinding number of blinky lights. No expense was spared on the windows in this thing. There is the enormity of space staring back at me again through another astonishing feat of domed window engineering. The source of the profanity is but a short stroll across the gangway as we seemingly walk out into the blackness of space. A rather excited gentleman seated inside a large, illuminated circular table is punching the air furiously as multi-faceted f-bombs rain from the sky in a torrent of graphic depictions that were both beautiful and frightening. There is a huge helmet on his head with bulging goggles and there appears to be some sort of device in each of his hands.
It’s not entirely clear who he is mad at, or what dragons have to do with it, but something has clearly gone wrong. There are an array of holographic readouts floating in the air around him. My stomach starts to churn as the weight of it all begins to spill in and I feel my friend vertigo trying to perform his trick again. Just keep standing up I tell myself and as I wait for the buzzing in my head to stop. Ensign Cole reached out to grab my elbow and steady me. I need to lay down sooner rather than later. All this activity is catching up with me.
As if on cue, the helmeted man swiveled around to look at us as the helmet floated off his head to reveal a scruffy middle-aged man with brown hair and a wild twinkle in his eyes. “Did you guys find any comfy socks on that ship? I’m almost out of socks,” he said while tilting his head to raise an eyebrow in my direction. “You must be the time traveler I’ve been hearing about. I traveled in time once, woke up outside a bar with a rat chewing the wart off my big toe. Anybody want a burrito?” He flicked his wrist and a long silver rod sprung out on which he impaled what seemed to be a perfectly rolled burrito which he began turning like a campfire marshmallow over a large red circle which had appeared on the surface of the glowing table.
“Jerry this our new crew member. I’d tell you his name but he can’t remember that or how he got here,” replied Cole who seemed to be carefully avoiding the sock question. “No thanks, we are still working off the waffle from earlier.”
“You guys have the best waffles down in the Biolab. Maybe I could make a waffle burrito or a burrito waffle. I’m not sure which way would be better but I think waffle burrito would be a safer place to start. Maybe a fried chicken waffle burrito. That would be good right? You could roll up fried chicken, bacon, and waffles and then dip the whole thing in praline sauce,” wondered Jerry as the silver rod in his hand suddenly collapsed leaving him with a handful of expertly toasted burrito which he began to chomp down while clearly still fantasizing about fried chicken waffle burritos.
“Jerry, where do the waffles come from?” I asked him.
“How the hell should I know? Probably the same place as fried chicken waffle burritos, deep fried candy bars, and cheesesteak chimichangas. Someplace magical. I would advise you to spend less time worrying about where they come from and more time worrying about how to they taste along with how to get them with blueberries….or pecans,” he said while producing another burrito which was again impaled on the collapsible rod and held over the futuristic burrito toaster.
“I’m curious to see where we are heading after the mysterious appearance of both a man and a cat. Do you have any idea what our next stop is going to be?” asked Cole who was completely unfazed by all of this.
“I was just getting ready to figure that out,” said Jerry who bent the silver rod at a 90-degree angle and then placed the handle into a hole which had now appeared on the lighted table. The burrito began turning itself over the toaster as he spread his hands out over the table. Illuminated symbols began swimming to the surface as he traced his hands over it. He stopped over two wavy parallel lines and pressed them like a button. One of the holographic readouts in front of him sprang to life and began to display a rapidly strobing two digit number.
“What is happening?” I asked Cole who was intently watching the numbers.
“It’s sort of like a dice roll. The space around the ship is divided into numbered sections and we head in the direction of the result.”
“Wait a minute……what….” I said while trying to form the words or even the right questions.
“So far, it’s been very effective at getting us to where we need to be, at the proper moment, when we have no idea where we are going or what we’re supposed to be doing consciously. It’s how we found you, or you found us, or whatever the hell happened,” said Cole who was still transfixed by the rapidly changing numbers.
“Do you realize how crazy that sounds?” I asked him as my blood began turning to popsicles. Every hair on my body is now standing on end as fear tightens its icy grip on my reeling mind. “The only reason I didn’t starve to death on an abandoned space freighter was a magic dice roll?” What was left of that waffle was now trying to find a way out of me as everything started spinning.
“Not any crazier than appearing out of thin air a few hundred years in the future with a magic cat. Judging by the look on your face, you better find a way to let go and ride the wave before it dashes you on the shore,” said Cole while grabbing me by the elbow again.
The numbers were slowing down now. Ticking along like a digital alarm that was about to wake me from this dream. I started to imagine a nurse and some orderlies were holding me down and jamming a sedative syringe into my neck because I wouldn’t eat the green jello again or had taken issue with the fried chicken waffle burritos on my lunch tray. Seems far more likely than what is happening right now. This is probably just the result of some newfangled electro-shock therapy. Deep down though, I know that’s not what this is….and that’s what makes it so terrifying. As if sensing my fear the numbers slowly come to rest on 22.
“22!” shouts Jerry as he quickly begins pressing more strange symbols on the table as holographic points of lights and lines begin appearing on the massive window above us plotting out what appears to be our route. It’s a staggering and surreal display of technology that at this point I can’t even begin to comprehend. The beauty of it is overwhelming as a strange mix of panic and excitement starts to rush through me. My reverie is interrupted by the ding of a bell next to me. Jerry reaches over to pluck the burrito off the silver rod, rolls it in tinfoil, and reaches over to hand it to me.
“You can eat that later. I think you are going to like that one,” he said to me with a wink and smile. “Setting a course for Kleptak 43!”