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Episode Two, Science Fiction - "The Trekkers"

In our previous episode, intrepid software sales reps Beau and Trixie secured business with an important new client. He handed them a file containing the contract and warned them that unless it was carefully guarded, they would lose the business. Bickering as they walked, the reps bumped into a man on the sidewalk, and files fell everywhere. When the man was gone, they realized their client's file was, too, and they ran after him...

Space troopers Beau and Trixie careened down the walkway, dodging bystanders and wayward aliens.

"Why weren't you watching where you were going?" Trixie lamented over her shoulder as she ran. "You hit that guy like a phaser blast! I don't know how we're going to find him now!"

"You were carrying the shuttle schematics," Beau countered, panting as he sidestepped an alien mother carrying three of her children in her six arms. He crossed the street, ignoring the honks of hovercraft drivers, and caught up to Trixie. "It's the biggest secret Sol Squadron has ever entrusted to us. You'll be lucky if all they do is demote you!"

"Me? What about you?" Trixie led them down an alley and through to a row of shiny shuttles along a docking pad.

They slowed and looked both ways. "I don't see him..." Beau said.

Trixie hesitated. "Well, you remember what he looked like, right?"

"Sure. It's hard to forget a face with that many eyeballs."

"Then let's get to the Venture and contact Captain Creek. He can put out a notice for all troopers on this base to be on the lookout."

Beau sighed. "My career is over. What a loss. I could have been a commander."

Trixie started running again, and he followed. They tore past the vehicles, yelling, "Watch out!" and "Official Sol Squadron business!" and "Troopers coming through!"

Trixie ran up the ramp to the Venture and then stopped and waited as Beau awkwardly patted his pockets. "Don't tell me you lost your keys!"

Beau produced them, made a face at her, and opened the hatch. They entered their prized transport.

"You contact Creek while I start up the engines," Trixie ordered, closing the hatch. "Maybe we'll see the guy if we fly out over the streets."

But as the Venture rose from the docking pad, Beau pointed at the viewscreen and shouted, "Look!"

Another shuttle, just in front of and slightly above them, was maneuvering to break away into space. They saw a faceful of eyeballs staring at them through the viewshield before the vehicle turned away.

"Following," Trixie reported, working the controls. "You try to contact him. He must not realize he has the schematics."

Beau tried to activate the communication system but was only met with a blank screen. "Something's wrong," he said.

Trixie followed the other shuttle through the atmosphere and out into deep space. Nine seconds later, the autopilot device activated, and she turned her attention to the blackened panel in front of Beau. "Did you enter the right access code?"

"Of course I did." Beau keyed in the code again while Trixie watched, and the screen began to flicker with static. "Hey, that didn't happen before!"

Trixie frowned. "Is it working?"

A face formed on the screen, and they gasped at the familiar eyes.

"Look at the background," Beau said, tapping the screen. "He recorded this right here on the Venture!"

"Greetings, Sol Squadron stooges," the alien cackled. "By the time you see this message, I will have your secret shuttle schematics, and you'll be helpless to stop me! Then I'll sell them to the highest bidder, and all of Sol Squadron's enemies will know the secrets of your new shuttles! Ah, hahahahaha!"

Beau and Trixie were chilled at first by his laughter. But as it went on and on, they began to get a little bored, and finally Beau checked the chronometer and Trixie started drumming her fingers on the control panel.

When he had stopped laughing, the alien continued, "You don't know my name, but you may refer to me as 'the Baron.' Note that I didn't say you could directly address me as 'the Baron,' though, because you're never actually going to have a chance to talk to me. Not only have I jammed your communications system beyond all repair, but I have sabotaged your shuttle so that it will crash into the next planet you approach!"

Trixie bolted to the controls and frantically hit buttons. "It's true! I can't get the controls back!"

"So now I must say goodbye. Perhaps the next generation of troopers that Sol Squadron sends out will be a bit more of a challenge for me... but I doubt it!" The maniacal laughter started again, but now that the Baron had finished his speech, Beau and Trixie ignored it and focused on the controls.

"Well, it's a good thing megalomaniacs are so verbose," Beau commented. "At least this way we know his plan, since he couldn't help telling us."

"Won't do us any good if we're dead," Trixie snapped. "We're approaching a planet, and I can't control our trajectory!"

Beau examined the planet through the viewport. "That's the planet Rayahsat," he reported. "Sol Squadron catalogued it in a report last year. It's habitable, but no one lives there now."

They stared at one another as Rayahsat loomed on the viewscreen.

"All we can hope for," Trixie said as the Venture began to shake, "is that the ship's stabilizer system will hold us together and slow us down enough so that we survive the crash landing. Better cling onto something. It's going to be quite a ride!"

They held on tight as their view filled with clouds, and then they broke through to a view of land far below. Beau felt the ship rocking as the distant image became a grassy field. He gulped and closed his eyes.

The impact shook the ship and sent it flying at an angle, tearing a muddy track in the land. But when it was over, the two troopers were still sitting in their control seats, gazing at the blinking and sputtering panels around them.

Trixie got up first and opened the hatch just as the last of the Venture's power failed. Beau followed slowly, grateful that all of his limbs were still intact.

They exited the wrecked shuttle and stared around the barren landscape, wondering what to do next.

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