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Drop Out

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of the downloadable magazine.

Part 2

Given the situation, the Second Officer, Ilsa Freilander, a short, dusky woman with an oval face and large, rudder-like nose, chose to focus on the eleven days of Transit, and go from one disgruntled passenger to the next, feigning concern with the aplomb of a professional actress, and assuring all that a solution would soon present itself.

On the bridge, scarred First Officer Hertzog and Mr. LeBoucherre sat, using ships charts, sensor data, and the occasional system buoy to determine the Waffles’ exact location, and thus, the length of time required for a journey Insystem to Nordic Prime.

Looking up from a computer screen, the large chimp admitted, “I’m not much of one for navigating, Milo, but by my math…” he winced, “we look to be forty” and at this point he shrugged, “something days Outsystem.”

“I have forty one point one three, Brodie.” the First Officer said, though a little hesitantly.

Brodie wiped sweat from his forehead with a rag from a back pocket and chuckled. “You don’t sound so sure there either, bub.” The large chimpanzee said, smiling. He then picked a piece of fruit from a large bowl sitting between the Nav and Sensor boards while the First Officer flashed the estimated Insystem travel time to the Captain and all department heads.

The First Officer, Milo, watched as Brodie peeled the yellow fruit, a finger absently rubbing along the ugly 14 centimeter scar that ran horizontally just beneath his right cheekbone to just behind his notched ear.

Brodie LeBoucherre set his battered porkpie hat on the table before him before absently taking a bite of the banana he held in his left hand.

Hertzog watched for a few moments, smiling, before chuckling.

Tossing the peel into a small trashcan, and chewing the last bite of banana, Brodie made eye contact with the First Officer, who continued to chuckle.

“Something funny, First Officer Hertzog?” Brodie asked.

Hertzog tried to stifle his obvious amusement, but failed, and went from chuckling to outright laughing.

Brodie rose and took a step toward The Big Chair, where Hertzog was sitting; again asking Hertzog, though more informally, “Is there something funny going on, pal?”

By now Hertzog had started laughing so hard he slapped his knee several times, and tears ran from his eyes; his normally alabaster face with its pencil-thin, mustache a brilliant red.

“No no, Brodie. No!” the First Officer got out. “I’m sorry, Mr. LeBoucherre, but when I was a child, our Meemaw had a little monkey that she kept in a cage—oh, so big.” he continued, estimating the dimensions of the cage with hands held wide. “Oh, it was so cute in its diaper—and we would feed the furry little beast bananas!” the First Officer finished, wiping his eyes and, still chuckling, trying to take a deep breath.

“Monkey, huh?“ Brodie asked, nodding slightly in disbelief.

“I don’t get you, Hertzog. I could eat a dozen oranges at a sitting,” (something which Brodie had done on at least one occasion) “and nothing’s ever been said. But a banana... why that’s different, eh?”

With a last short step, Brodie was leaning close over Hertzog, looking down at him with very little humor in his eyes, though he was smiling now.

Being this close to one of the ‘geneered chimpanzees, it was much easier to remember them being at least several times stronger than the average human—or First Officer, for that matter, Hertzog contemplated.

“Now lay off, Hertzog. Ya got me,?” Brodie thumped him hard in the chest with a large index finger for emphasis. The First Officer for his part, remained cool as a cucumber, even while envisioning Brodie pretty easily folding him in half like one of the folding chairs in the Crew Lounge.

“I’ll be sure to check with Chef at this oversight, Mr. LeBoucherre. Bananas shall be removed from the menu. After all, we wouldn’t want one of our finest Officers succumbing to food allergies.”

“Food allergies? By the teeth of The Prophets, what do food allergies have to do with you being an ass, Milo? I’m fine with bananas. I love bananas! I’m not fine with you!”

Brodie had a very strong impulse to smash Hertzog in the face, but, as two weeks in the brig were bad enough under the best of circumstances, Brodie instead merely “Hrrrmphed” and sat back down at his station, putting his hat back on before eating an orange.

Hertzog followed suit. “Good Orange!” he volunteered, somewhat overenthusiastically.