Ship Commander's Blog, SpacePacket Designation 404153684028647:
My crew and I are near ready to take this damn ship apart piece by piece and eat it. Not only are the engines slow to boot up, but the computer system keeps trying to connect to the servers at EarthFleetHQ to download untold numbers of updates. It's bad enough that it took nearly five solar days to download ServicePack 3; Now there are all manner of smaller update modules that, we're told, are essential. Honestly, how important is it that we have version 7.12B of LunatrixMediaPlayer? And can we find an easier time/date designation? This SpacePacket business is giving me a headache. I know they're trying to account for relativistic factors and stellar drift, but honestly, fifteen frickin' digits?
Commander Tunney pressed "End" on the LiquiMatrix Control Display, sat back in his LumbaContour Form-Fitting Adjustable Bridge Chair, and let out a huge sigh.
"Ensign Loomis," he said, trying not to sound either as tired or as frustrated as he really was, "what is our situation?"
Ensign Loomis looked up from her Timex AstroNova 3D Navigation and Astrometrics Console. "We've established geosynchronous orbit, sir," she said. "We're positioned directly above the capital city of the Federated States of Utopia."
Utopia. Tunney suppressed a chuckle. Every time anyone, anywhere, tried to establish a completely egalitarian, free, utopian society, it invariably ended in chaos, war, and destruction. The only person who had ever successfully created Utopia was Todd Rundgren. And even that hadn't lasted more than a few years. Some good tunes, though.
"Thank you, Ensign." Tunney turned to face his communications officer. "Lieutenant Bell, open a channel to the Utopian PolitBuro."
"Aye, sir." Bell turned to his Nokia CommTrex TD-870 Communications Console and began stabbing at things with his fingers.
A moment later the MagnaTronix HD-3600 Plasma Bridge Viewing Screen came to life, displaying a colorful logo.
"Establishing your connection to the Utopian PolitBuro" came a disembodied voice. "This connection is brought to you by AquaVil, the water-based pain medicine that will have you back in the swim of things in no time."
"They obviously feel our pain, sir."
Tunney turned to his right to see Lieutenant Commander Varis, his first officer, standing at his shoulder. Tunney immediately averted his eyes. Varis was looking particularly lovely today, and she was hard to ignore at the least glamorous of times. Even at his most lucid and creative, Tunney could never figure out what sense there was in assigning a Curvacean to a ship full of humans.
"Indeed," Tunney muttered, trying not to dwell on the sight of her. "A most appropriate ad."
The image on the screen changed to show a young woman sitting at a desk. "Utopian Federation PolitBuro," she said, her tone nasal and grating. "How may I direct your call?"
"This is Commander Jonathan Tunney of the EarthFleet ship Atlas. I would like to speak to the ProConsul."
"I'm sorry, sir, the ProConsul is on a diplomatic tour this week. I can connect you to the ViceConsul."
Tunney turned his head slightly towards Varis. "I thought we were expected."
"As did I, Commander." Varis replied. Tunney balled his fists and closed his eyes. Even her voice was intoxicating, as soft and smooth as liquid silk (which, under other circumstances, would be capitalized and trademarked as a brand of soy beverage).
"Very well," Tunney said to the woman on the screen. "Put me through to the ViceConsul."
"One moment please."
The woman's image faded and was replaced by a picture of a pair of SoleExpress Cantilever XS Running Shoes.
"Your call is important to us," intoned a recorded voice. "Please stay on the line, and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received."
"Damn bureaucrats," Tunney muttered.
After what seemed an eternity (made worse by the slide show of lipstick, meal-replacement bar, digital camera, and breakfast cereal ads), the screen finally switched to another office view. This time the occupant of the office was male, grey-haired, and none too happy.
"Yes, what is it?" he snapped.
"Have I reached the ViceConsul?" Tunney asked.
"Yes, yes. What do you want?"
Tunney took a deep breath. "ViceConsul, this is Commander Tunney of the EarthFleet ship Atlas. I'm a bit confused, you see, because I was told our visit was expected. I was to meet with the ProConsul."
"The ProConsul has been called away, and I don't have time for visitors. Sorry."
"You're going to have to do a bit better than that, ViceConsul."
The ViceConsul took a deep breath. "Look, I haven't got time to explain the situation to you. If you know what's good for you, you'll get your asses out of this sector and go back where you came from. We're on the verge of civil war down here!"