As the doors of the Otis Industries TurboGlide 7000 SpaceLift closed behind them, Tunney barked "Transport Bay."
The computer in the lift dutifully responded, "Destination confirmed. Transport Bay. This short ride has been brought to you by Nova Cola, the soft drink with the blast of flavor."
Tunney glanced briefly at Varis. "You're doing it again."
Varis frowned. "Doing what again?"
"Calling me Captain."
"But you just called yourself Captain, not two minutes ago."
"Yes, you did. You said 'I'm still the Captain of this ship,' or words to that effect."
"Damn. I try not to do that."
"But you are Captain of the ship."
"That's my position, not my rank. My rank is Commander. As commanding officer of the ship, I can be called Captain while I'm on the ship, but when I'm off the ship, I can only be called Commander."
"I know all that."
"Then why are we having this conversation?"
"Because the guy who wrote the last chapter introduced the term Captain, and it could lead to all kinds of confusion."
"Oh. Right you are, then."
The lift doors opened, and the group stepped out onto the transport deck. A group of small spacecraft of varying sizes awaited them.
"Oh," Varis said. "That kind of transport."
Tunney looked askance at her. "What did you expect, some kind of matter dematerialization device? That kind of technology is sketchy at the best of times."
"Still," Varis said, "We are..."
"We are what?" Tunny growled. "A parody of a ridiculously famous 1960's science fiction television program and its ensuing series of blockbuster movies? Yes, we are. But that doesn't mean we have to slavishly incorporate every little bit of technology they had. Does it?"
"Good. Now that we've got that settled," Tunney turned to Ensign Loomis, "let's get that pre-flight started. We'll take the Hummer."
"Aye, sir," Loomis responded, turning briskly and heading for the Hummer XV-50 Landing Craft.
"Let's go," Tunney said to Varis, "and don't call me Captain."
"You know your hostile manner is just overcompensation for the intense attraction you feel for me."
"Shut up, Varis. That's an order."
A few moments later, the three were comfortably settled in the plush leather seats of the Hummer.
"Where's that doctor?" Tunney barked, growing more irritated by the minute.
"Right here, Jon," came a voice from outside the craft.
Tunney looked up to see a grizzled, bearded figure step through the hatch.
"Ah, Francis. Nice of you to join us. Able to tear yourself away from your philosophizing for a few minutes, were you?"
The doctor muttered a few choice words under his breath.
"What was that?" Tunney asked.
"I said it was 'something of a glitch'."
"That computer thing."
"What computer thing?"
"Never mind. Let's get this show on the road, shall we?" The doctor stepped the rest of the way into the craft.
"Hello, Doctor Bacon," Varis said.
Bacon looked at Varis. Immediately, the blood drained from his face, and he crumpled to heap on the deck.
Varis looked at Tunney apologetically. "He's old," she said.
"I know," Tunney grumbled. "Now help me get him into a seat."
Twenty minutes later, the Hummer made its final approach to the Utopia Civil Spaceport, just outside the capital city.
"Varis," Tunney said. "What do the Utopians call the city, anyway?"
"Capital City," Varis replied.
Tunney rolled his eyes. "Imaginitive bunch, aren't they?"
The Hummer touched down on the runway and rolled to stop near the terminal building. Loomis opened the hatch, and the four officers stepped out of the craft.
"Greetings Commander Tunney," said a well-dressed, official-looking man who just happened to have an energy weapon pointed at them.
Tunney looked around. The man had four associates with him. All of them were brandishing weapons as well.
Tunney sighed. He knew he should have taken that week of vacation that was coming to him.