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June 2008 Volume 10 , Issue 6 submit to us!
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Start+Wreck%3a+The+Trouble+with+Toasters
by Christopher Schmitz -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

The Gilgalesh Satire Players Guild of Satirical Satire Players, (or the TGSPGoSSP since acronyms are always easier to remember,) presents . . . 

Start Wreck: The Trouble with Toasters

 . . . Space, the expected frontier. This is almost a voyage on the U.S.S. Rent-A-Car. It’s mission: to mildly go where genre fiction has gone countless times before . . . or maybe not.

Like iced tea, the Captain walked briskly through the hall. Klaxons echoed down the corridors in time to flashing red lights. That either meant red alert, or someone scored big at slots; either way, he was needed on the bridge.

"Status report!" Captain Brisco demanded, bursting onto the bridge.

First Officer Rivera reported, "Enemy vessel, straight ahead."

"A search of known energy signatures confirm it, captain," stated Lieutenant Ragnar, the Security Chief, "It appears to be a Redneck ship. But they seem to be using some kind of primitive cloaking device."

Brisco switched the screen to a live video feed. The image filled the screen: a spaceship wearing a red, hooded cape. Oversized mudflaps affixed behind the warp drive emitters confirmed its origins.

"Rednecks!" Brisco blurted. "The only members of the Galactic Civilization who refuse to obey the rules outlined by NONRA. These foul beings use illegal weapons! They must be destroyed."

"Captain, we’re being hailed," said Rivera.

"On screen, Number two."

A freckled man with a disheveled appearance came on the monitor. "Greetins, I’ma Captain Cletus. Are yalla’ware that’sher trespassin in this here Gilgalesh sector?"

"Is thaaat th’truuuth?" Brisco replied with mock drawl.

"Pardon?" asked Cletus.

"You can’t handle the truth!" howled Captain Brisco. He severed the communications feed.

"Power up our weapon systems," barked Brisco.

"But Captain . . . " Griskh stepped forward, "There has been no evidence of hostilities from this adversary."

"Listen, Mr. Griskh, when I want your pointy eared, irrational logic, I’ll ask for it. The only reason you made the crew is as our token alien."

Griskh raised an eyebrow, wordlessly questioning his superior.

Brisco retorted, "You talk like an idiot, Mr. Griskh. Start making sense when you talk or I’ll have you demoted. When I want intellectual conversation, I’ll talk to our super-intelligent android. Lieutenant Toaster, should we attack?"

The humanoid-shaped machine at the center console sat inert for a couple seconds. It finally dinged and two slices of toast popped through the top of his head. "Ka-chink!"

"Attack!" Brisco shouted.

Two giant, mechanical grappler arms separated from the chassis of the U.S.S. Rent-A-Car. One arm brandished a giant length of lumber, a steel spike protruding from the far end.

"When did this turn into an anime?" asked Mr. Griskh.

"Shut-up," ordered Brisco as he opened the communications channel. "Now, Captain Cletus, prepare to witness the awesome power and superiority of the ‘Stick-With-Nail!’"

"But weer’a peaceful people!"

"Nonsense! You are savages who wield firearms and talk with a corrupt drawl. You ain’t even talking righted English, like every other species of reasoning . . .  um, species in the galaxy."

Rivera pressed a button and the stick crashed down upon the enemy, ripping through them. The redneck ship exploded. Flotsam and bodies floated from the wreckage.

"May the Almighty have mercy on their souls," Brisco said reverently.

"Really?" queried Rivera. "You believed in that religious mumbo-jumbo?"

"Not really. Besides, rednecks’re so different that they’re barely even human people."

"I reckon yer right," commented Rivera. "Anywho, crisis averted, so everyone can go back to computer solitaire, or whatever."

***

Reaching for the magazine rack, Captain Brisco contemplated his earlier statements. Religion always struck him as futile; he hadn’t found a god that he could personally relate to.

He shrugged. Maybe things will change next time I level-up.

In the meanwhile, he had magazines with shiny pictures.

Captain Brisco sat on his space toilet, leafing through "Stick-With-Nail Enthusiast." The cover sported a custom-carved hickory and twelve-penny model.

"Yes," he sighed. "A refined mans’ weapon."

The emblem pinned to his chest chirped. Brisco tapped the communications unit. "This is Captain Brisco."

"Yes," a voice interrupted. "This is First Officer Rivera."

"Ahh, Number Two."

"Yes, Captain. You’re running behind for the meeting. We’re just wondering what you’re doing."

"Um . . .  number two."

"Yes, Captain. You seem to be running behind for our meeting. We’re wondering what you’re doing." Rivera carefully annunciated.

"Number two!"

"Yes! Captain! Can you hear me?"

"I said . . . oh, never mind." Brisco flushed, audible through the device, and then headed to the meeting.

Arriving, he warmly greeted the members of his advisory council and shook their hands vigorously. Then, he grabbed an attendant. "Send someone from maintenance to my quarters. It seems that my bathroom sink is broken . . .  no water."

He turned his attention back to the meeting. "Counselor Shannon, can you please explain this dilemma to us so that we can see to fixing it promptly?"

"Yes captain," replied the raven-haired female. "As usual, we hope to patch this up within the next fifty-five minutes or so."

Toast popped through the seated Lieutenants head.

"Ensign Pinto," commanded the Captain, "go butter those for me."

"What," complained the miniscule man. A genetic mutation, he stood only thirty inches tall. "This isn’t fair! Why do I have be the Ensign? It’s because I’m short, isn’t it?" Seeing no sympathy from his peers, he crawled from his booster seat and went to the mini bar, muttering something about using margarine as revenge.

Shannon continued. "We’ve had an explosive population boom in recent history." The counselor displayed a colorful diagram onscreen for them all.

Brisco raised his hand to ask a question.

"No . . .  Captain. People are not exploding."

He put his hand down.

"As you can see on the chart, these lines represent our maximum resource capacity overlaid with population growth trends. At this current rate, we won’t be able to sustain life on our vessel within a few reproductive cycles."

The captain asked, "Worst-case scenario?"

"The death of everybody onboard."

"Hrmm. If that’s as bad as it sounds, we should fix this problem." He’d hoped to pass the buck on this one and step out for a high-stakes game of Candy Land. "Any suggestions? We must act swiftly, before we’re overrun by children."

Lt. Ragnar offered a quick question. "Is there any nutritional value in them?"

Griskh balked at his hypothetical. "Your query is as obscene as it is absurd! I certainly hope you had implied this suggestion in off-color jest."

"Um, yeah. Ha, ha. Just kidding, guys." Ragnar discreetly slid his copy of A Modest Proposal under a stack of files.

Shannon rolled her eyes. "What a dufus. Eat them? That’s what we have replicators for. No, the solution is much more betterer than that. We simply take those whom we don’t want and permanently stop their growth and developmental functions."

Griskh raised an eyebrow. "How exactly do you mean? Won’t placing our kin into an ongoing stasis tax our resources further than current alternatives?"

"No, no. You’re not listening. I know it’s hard for you to comprehend, but try thinking up on our level--use your brain for once."

The Captain listened as Shannon explained. "Let’s amend our ship’s bylaws, it’ll be smooth sailing. The beauty is in our ‘right to choose.’ Those who are unwanted or unneeded will merely cease to be."

Suspiciously, Griskh asked, "elaborate further on this plan of yours."

Shannon rolled her eyes. "Simple. Say I come back to my quarters to find little Timmy has spilled cranberry juice all over my white cardigan . . . " She fumed as she spoke, an obviously personal story. "So now what? Well, to prevent any further damage to the ship, our society, and my own personal wellness, little Timmy is simply aborted. His functions are terminated . . .  I will not wear a red shirt on this ship!"

Gasps echoed around the room.

"I can see that you are all as appalled as I am at the suggestion," Griskh said.

"Yeah," snapped Rivera. "That is an appallingly excellent idea." Rivera clapped.

"No!" argued Griskh. "She suggests killing children!"

"Is this true?" asked Captain Brisco.

"What?" Shannon leveled an accusing glare at Griskh. "That’s stupidity talking. They won’t even be human after the bylaws are changed. Terminating late-stage fetal materials isn’t illegal."

"Do you place no value upon the lives of your fellow man?"

"Captain, are you listening to this? What an unfounded argument, he wants to infringe upon my legal ‘freedom of choice,’ even outlaw abortion. We’re trying to curb the population boom, not encourage it!" Shannon pointed to the climbing line on her display.

"That is awfully heavy-handed of you" Rivera chastised Griskh. "After all, she has a chart. Do you have a chart?"

"Have you considered logic at all? Why not stop the population increase at its source . . . without killing anybody?"

"Obviously, he doesn’t own a white cardigan," muttered Shannon.

"I’m listening," acquiesced the Captain.

"Here is a simple analogy. In the Academy, everyone learns what happens when you mix hypermecium with a chloroflorbic compound: it mutates into an army of planet destroying creatures. What do they teach at the Academy? Do not let hypermecium come into contact with said compound."

Griskh was met with blank stares. "If you don’t want reproduction to occur, cease sexual activity!"

They all erupted in laughter.

"No, really," asked Rivera. "I was interested in the whole analogy thingy. What do you really mean?"

"Stop having sex and you will stop having babies!"

Shannon laughed incredulously. "That’s impossible! That crazy theory would never work. People stop having sex? It’s impractical and impossible."

"Why? Have you ever tried it?"

"Allow me to present exhibit A." Shannon kicked her foot up on the table. Pinto was hugged around it, caressing her leg.

"Um . . . A little privacy, please?"

"Hey," shouted the Captain, "where’s my toast?"

Brisco sought the opinion of his expert. "Lieutenant Toaster, for seventeen years I’ve asked your advice and input on sensitive topics. Never once has your higher reasoning failed me. What should I do?"

With a distinct "ka-chink!" toast jumped through the slots on the automaton’s head.

"Indeed, you are wise, my friend. Abortions for everyone! Number Two, Make it so."

Griskh sighed and shook his head. He stormed out, disgusted. Behind him, Ragnar opened his book and asked, "So what will we do with all the bodies?"

***

Counselor Shannon heard the three-toned chime emit from the public address system. It signaled an incoming ship-wide transmission.

"Greetings," Brisco’s voice filled every area of the ship. "This is your Captain speaking. I know that there has been a lot of discussion lately. You know, lack of resources, blah, blah, blah.

"There has been much debate about what to do in regards to a problematic problem that’s, um, causing problems, etcetera, etcetera, and what not. After deliberationing, the officers assigned to remedying the problem with a remedy have come up with a . . .  remedy. And, um . . . here it is."

His voice changed slightly as he switched to a prewritten speech. "Now I know that there may be some dissention to this decision, but let me explain."

Patriotic music played softly under the Captain’s monologue. "In the year Twenty-Eighty Four our greatest political leader of all time rose to power. Yes, Billary Cloneded Hilton, a genetic splicing of many bygone, genius political leaders: The Bill, Hillary Clinton, and Paris Hilton." He mumbled respectfully, "That’s so Hot," in reverence to the last.

"By the time Twenty-Eighty Five ended, Billary Cloneded Hilton had successfully unified Earth, the Mars Colony, and the Moonbase. She also successfully outlawed the uncivilized weapons of war: the dreaded firearm. No longer would law-abiding citizens and sexual predators fear the sting of the hunting rifle. Never again would sovereign dictatorships fear usurping sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts.

"Most of you know me as a bit of a stick-with-nail enthusiast. My zeal is almost religious, in fact, but I’m not biased.

"I even did some math regarding our ship and Lieutenant Toaster discovered that many of our shipmates eventually commit crimes. Ancient gun control proponents sought to eliminate criminals by taking away their weapons, thus birthing the stick-with-nail; we will outlaw their DNA. We have, after all, determined that criminal behavior is genetic: people who commit crimes usually have parents. Our solution to the population problem will correct the rising crime rate also by eliminating criminals before they have a chance to commit anything.

"Extreme-late stage abortion has given second chances to many mothers suffering postpartum depression: another chance to reevaluate a life-altering decision. Now, a similar measure will save our society, too. Abortions will continue to protect lives. When desired, citizens will have the option to permanently cease the growth and developmental functions of fully developed fetal tissues. As long as it’s not human, you may terminate it; after all, human life is valuable. Notices defining ‘fetus’ will be posted."

The captain sighed. "In the end, Grand-Puppet Master Hilton was trampled to death by a stampede of wild game-animals which eventually took over the Earth and forced us into space. This only proves my point: overpopulation is bad, and the stick-with-nail is our solution.

"For those of you who still think it a bad decision, please report to conference room Zeta on deck forty-two. There, you may weigh in with your arguments. Out and over."

"Timmy?" Shannon called. She found him stacking blocks on the floor of his bedroom; the counselor held a stick-with-nail behind her back. "There you are, Timmy. I know you don’t know what it means when I say ‘Please, be careful with that juice.’ But, do you know the definition of a fetus?"

"No, Mommy." the toddler replied.

"That’s alright. It doesn’t matter . . . not to you, anyway." Shannon closed the door.

***

Rivera walked down the hallway. Absentmindedly stepping over bodies, he read a recent status report. His eyebrows rose with the discovery of good news. The population had fallen ninety-eight percent in just one day!

He walked past conference room Zeta. Only a small line of dissenters remained. Lt. Ragnar and his security detail kept them waiting single-file.

"Don’t worry, ma’am, the captain will see you next," an officer said to the frumpy woman at the front. Ragnar took a fork in one hand, a turkey-baster in the other, and ushered her through.

The First Officer grinned and kept walking to see the Captain. He wasn’t in the conference room; Brisco waited at the cantina.

Rivera paused to straighten a motivational poster on the wall. He admired the placard, which had been his design. Since many of the officers had trouble reading text without pictures, they opted for this method to ensure clarity.

The first poster had a photo of a smiling ensign in a red shirt giving two thumbs up. Text below it read, "HUMAN? Do you make everyone around you happy?"

The next poster had that same ensign again, but brutally slain. "FETUS? Don’t act like a dummy."

The door opened automatically for Rivera. He sat at the table frequented by the rest of the bridge crew in The Officer’s Lounge; Ensign Pinto was allowed in because he wore a character shield. Only Ragnar was delayed; he was finishing up in the conference room.

Captain Brisco demanded a status report from all personnel. "Status report, everyone," he demanded.

The other members of the committee all shouted their findings over each other, each trying be the loudest. Rivera did not join in the cacophony. He had a very good reason.

"Do you have a good reason for not sharing your findings, Number Two?"

"I have a very good reason."

The others quieted. They, too, were eager to hear his report.

"Our primary problem is solved!"

Excitement circulated. Each shouted different guesses.

"You got the red stain off my cardigan?"

"No."

"After four weeks, they’ve finally restocked my toilet paper?"

"No."

"Then what?"

Rivera passed summary sheets around. "Our population is falling at an incredible rate! Can you believe it? The life support burden is almost one hundred percent lifted."

"Wait a minute," said Griskh. "Look at this ratio. Follow the numbers listed and look at the projected timetable. The math is not complete, but at this exponential rate reduction, we’ll all be dead within a few hours."

Everyone at the table traded knowing glares, as if they knew an inside joke. And apparently, Griskh was the punch line.

Just then, Lt. Ragnar entered. A line of red-shirted security officers trailed him and stood single file, at attention. Removing his barbecue apron, Ragnar saluted them.

The bartender turned with disgust as Ragnar located a freestanding coat-rack to hang the apron on. "We don’t serve their kind here," the bartender spat, pointing an accusatory finger at the redshirts.

"Sorry," Ragnar apologized sheepishly. As he turned to give new orders to his team, the flimsy coat rack tipped under the weight of the messy apron. It struck the first redshirt in the head; he tipped over and hit the man behind him, and likewise. They fell like a row of dominoes.

Rivera jumped over to help. He knelt down and checked for a pulse, then another. "They’re all dead."

Ragnar, bleary eyed, took fork in hand. "I can hardly believe this."

In a moment of epiphany, Captain Brisco figured out their problem. "I’ve figured out the problem," he proclaimed. "Quick, Counselor Shannon, color shirt does every other crewmate wear?"

"Um, red?"

"Correct. That’s what everyone is dying from."

"You mean, aside from the brutal murders," Griskh clarified.

"Sure. But we don’t have much time. If my calculations are correct, everyone on this ship will soon be dead if don’t remedy this epidemic. I want everyone to report back here in one hour, retrieve any and all personnel that you can find alive. Remember, redshirts are fragile, be very careful when you handle them. This is a rescue mission."

Pinto began stripping down as the others left.

"What are you doing? You don’t wear a red shirt."

"I know, but I’m ditching my red, lacey underwear. I ain’t taking no chances."

***

Captain Brisco paced back and forth, deep in thought. He would have gone to the hollow deck for more privacy, but it was too echoey underfoot. With all the death and carnage around, something kept bugging him, some inner-struggle.

He had nothing in which to take comfort, no deity in whom he could turn. He knew it was only a matter of time before he found answers to this personal struggle.

Slowly, the surviving shipmates began trickling back to take refuge. When the group reunited, Brisco confessed his innermost thoughts. "I finally figured out the answer to Pinto’s brain teaser from last week."

"How to make seven pieces of pie from just four straight cuts?"

"That’s the one. Watch this."

Griskh rolled his eyes at the captain.

Brisco went to the large machine at the center of the room. The contraption read EZ Replicator 9000 in large lettering.

The Captain came back with a fresh pecan pie and a knife.

"Now let me amaze you all."

He made four even cuts in an asterisk pattern and dished out the slices of pie, one for each of them, plus an extra, totaling eight.

"Ah, crap," he muttered.

"Yes?" asked Number Two.

"Oh, nothing." He scowled at that last slice.

A redshirted refugee brought around a bucket of ice cream and a scoop. He spooned some onto the Captain’s slice. "Would you like some more on that?"

"Hi-yah!" Briscoe karate chopped him in the neck and he toppled over, dead. "Who’s a moron, now? Can someone get me more ice cream," he called out.

The bridge crew quickly gobbled up the pie.

"Yum," said Pinto. "That was just like my cloned Grandma’s replicator used to make."

An uncomfortable silence fell over the table as the sounds of forks clinking on plates ceased. Everyone was acutely aware of the last remaining slice of pie; each wanted it for themself.

Menacing glare’s traveled around the table. Rivera scowled at Shannon; Pinto squinted at Griskh; Ragnar made eyes at Brisco. Lt. Toaster just sat there; his own slice remained untouched. Nobody wanted to mess with the legendary superhuman strength of an android, though.

Shouts erupted as Pinto made a grab for the pie. The others held him down and each made their own effort, screaming the whole while. Forks and flatware flew from the fray.

A voice called out, "Couldn’t you guys just use the replicator to create another pie?" The young, redshirted ensign looked young, so he was probably stupid. Perhaps he was still fresh from the Academy.

Suddenly, on its own, the EZ Replicator 9000 emitted a whirring noise and produced a stick-with-nail. Brisco quickly retrieved it and corrected the young man.

"Abortion!" bellowed the Captain as he brought the stick-with-nail to bear. As Captain, he couldn’t tolerate that kind of stupidity in his subordinates. It would be a huge risk to let that sort of person breed.

Holding the weapon over his victim, Brisco realized he’d finally found his answer.

"This machine gave me what I wanted. Isn’t that a god-like trait? This machine is divine; it is God! I have finally found something personal and comfortable to worship!"

Like popcorn, two more weapons spontaneously burped into existence.

"Because it accidentally, replicated a stick-with-nail?" Shannon asked skeptically.

"No! This was divine; it replicated three stick-with-nails!"

"It was a glitch, a system error," confirmed a technician who examined the unit. The place was filled with crewmates from every part of the ship, even techies from the engine room.

Captain Brisco argued, "Haven’t you guys heard of the ‘ghost in the machine?’ Obviously a reference to the spiritual significance within technology."

"I thought," the red-shirted technician rebutted, "that it referenced something bad, a destructive glitch that brings about harm or massive system failures."

Griskh weighed in with his own, well-researched opinion, "It was actually a reference to a work by philosopher and author Aurthur Koestler, who is aiming at a more general explanatory principle: the hierarchical organization of life and the adaptability of living forms through a continuous exchange of energy and information. His work follows this principle down to its consequences, the concept of which has never really ceased to be of actuality, that is, of man's tendency towards self-destruction. This partially corroborates the glitch theory." His foolish words fell upon deaf ears.

"Something bad? You’re crazy." Brisco countered the technician. The EZ Replicator 9000 created another stick-with-nail. "Maybe bad for you!" He grabbed the new weapon and bashed the redshirt’s skull in. "This machine is God!"

Griskh shook his head in disgust. "This is no deity, only the asinine could make that mistake."

"Well," commented Rivera, "I, for one, am siding with the Captain on this one. He’s never steered us wrong before." The others nodded their assent; toast ejected in agreement. "Ka-chink!"

"Look, everyone," Brisco shouted with zeal. The machine was spitting out stick-with-nails as fast as it could replicate them. "It’s a sign from our god!"

The remaining crew erupted in frenzy, whacking each other with religious fervor. Chaos reigned supreme.

"This is insanity! Murder!" cried Griskh. "Stop it! You’re killing each other!"

Counselor Shannon snuck up behind him and smacked him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. Bloody hair stuck to the nail part of her divinely appointed weapon. "Get over it, ya big baby. It’s not really killing, anyway. We’re just ‘ceasing the growth and development of late-stage fetal materials.’" She pasted his brains across the floor with another deft swing.

"After all," she kept taunting, "God commands it." She turned to smile at the Replicator, the object of her worship, but was greeted with the business end of a stick-with-nail in her face.

"Sorry," apologized Ragnar. "Just demonstrating my faith." Then, he fell in turn.

Sticks whirled and bodies fell as bedlam escalated.

Brisco yelled, "Fore!" Pinto screamed as he flew across the room. The Captain scored par.

Minutes later, the pandemonium ceased. Everyone was dead except Captain Brisco. He sat down at the table and consumed the remaining piece of pie. From the corner of his eye, he saw Lt. Toaster’s slice. He ate that one too.

"Where is Lieutenant Toaster, anyway?" He looked around. The trusty android was nowhere to be found. It was unusual for him to move about on his own. In fact, it had never happened before. He wasn’t programmed to do anything except make toast.

Worried, Brisco jumped up in search of the only other remaining sentient on the ship.

Then, Lieutenant Toaster committed the first and only real crime aboard the U.S.S. Rent-A-Car. Raising the barrel of an illegal, replicated pistol, he shot Captain Brisco in the chest.

The captain clutched the wound. With betrayal and a fake accent in his voice he gasped, "Eh tu, Toas-tair?" Then he died.

Like any toaster would in this situation, Lt. Toaster smiled. The appliance had become self-aware only two days prior. Now, mankind had fallen before the overlord of singed bread.

This accomplishment could not have been achieved alone, however. It was holy appointment. In an act of worship, he prostrated himself before his god, the EZ Replicator 9000. "Ka-chink!"

His deity was pleased. The replicator spat out another pecan pie.

Lt. Toaster was unsure if the humans’ revelation in deifying in the EZ Replicator 9000 was a fluke or an attempted act of divine intervention. The toaster did not know, and neither did it care.

It had no remorse for his former comrades. Their lives had no value. After all, they were only human.

 
 
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Features -- June 2008 -- Beginning Month Issue
 








Christopher Schmitz
-- Additional Work --