A revised edition of this science fiction short story has been accepted by the  Northside Writers  in their 2006 Over Coffee. The first version curtailed to a science savory market while the new one is rewritten for a general fiction audience. The original is a plot driven sci-fi comedy. In the revised 2006 edition, I assume the reader has never been on a spaceship, and does not recall any science from school. I spent more time on point-of-view and characterization in the second one.




A strange ship silently moved through the stars. Inside the spaceship, a slender raccoon studied the monitor on the console in front of her. The nine planets sparkled as if they were merely little specks of light, orbiting a small yellow sun.

A figure appeared, dressed in a spacesuit. The ship slowed down to a stop just beyond the last planet. A figure dressed in a space suit, exited the ship through a hatch. He bounced, and floated between metal ladders attached to outside of the ship. As he approached an engine, he stopped to open a hatch cover. He pulled some tools from out of a utility belt strapped around his waist. Voda, a female raccoon monitored his vital signs from inside the ship.

"The sixth reactor has successfully been repaired," Frink announced. The large raccoon removed its helmet as a heavy door shut behind him.

Voda pushed a few buttons on a control panel. "Somehow, I expected more from the vanguard of technology" She turned, looking at Frink. "I'll wake Gammom, and tell him the repairs have been completed."

"Let him sleep," Frink growled. "Any interesting activity in this dump?"

"I'm monitoring a satellite orbiting the fifth planet."
telstar satellite
"What's it doing?" Frink peered over Voda's shoulder.

Voda shrugged. "Just taking pictures." She glanced at her equipment. "There's a cluster of satellites orbiting the third planet." Frink gazed at her monitor with a blank stare, as he scratched his fuzzy brown ear. "It's the little blue one," Voda said smiling.

"It's just another class W planet, with primitive technology." Frink walked over to another set of controls. He glanced at them briefly, and strode back to Voda's side. "What would you say if we take this opportunity to test the Gamma Warp II?"

"Frink. You know Gammom wants to be here the first time his life's dream is turned on." Voda followed Frink quickly, as he headed into the lab.

"We are in an isolated corner of the western spiral of the galaxy. Gammom's asleep. No one will ever find out."

"We have no business testing the intergalactic video game."

"Why should he get to have all the fun? You and I've spent some serious hours putting this intergalactic video game together."

"We're not authorized!" Voda crossed her arms and glared up at the ceiling.

"When we get the Alpha K M 3, do you really think Gammom's going to let us be part of the test crew?"

"He might."

"More than likely, he'll use volunteers from the Armonian Sector. Armonian volunteers are cheap. Every four out of five, commit suicide rather than risk over population."

"Armonian volunteers come with Armonian researchers," Voda sighed.

"My point exactly." Frink nodded. "The ones who don't die, always give me an inferiority complex."

"They're expensive."

"Gammom has the cash," Frink snarled. "Come on, Voda. This might be our only chance."

Voda eyed the equipment nervously. A three dimensional diamond, suspended in a two dimensional diamond, sat next to a large monitor. Multiple keyboards were mounted on the two consoles. The game monitor sat on a big black plastic box in front of her.

"Most of the program is complete," Frink argued.

"What if something goes wrong?" Voda shot him a cold stare. "Gammom had to remove a couple of circuits yesterday."

"He was running them at too high a voltage. I corrected the design yesterday," Frink answered.

"What about the transport circuit?" Voda asked.

"Don't worry so."

"I don't want to be responsible for turning some fun loving video game enthusiast into atomic dust." Voda glared at Frink.

"I overhauled the dematerialization unit just before we left hyperspace." Frink placed his arm around Voda's shoulder. "Nothing will go wrong. The default is in beginners mode."

"Is the technology compatible?" Voda asked softly.

The signal pattern looks similar. Frink examined a panel. "The signal patterns look similar."

"Have the game instructions been completely programmed?"

"They're in the "read me" file." Frink answered.

Voda walked over to a control panel. "We'll limit the access to only character. OK?"

Frink nodded as he pushed some switches. The diamond started to glow brightly. He pointed at one of the control panel monitors. "This signal here, is a carrier of one the third planet's satellites." Frink smiled as a second signal flashed across the oscilloscope. "Looks like we found a player. Let's check the game monitor." A young ape-like mammal materialized on a wet and isolated landscape, and stumbled backward. "See. I told you I fixed the dematerialization unit."

"What is this? Virtual reality?" The boy moved his fingers and his hand as if he expected them to be controlling a keyboard. When nothing happened, he felt the ground with his hands and stood up, surveying the rocky barren landscape that surrounded him. "This is more like the hollideck on Star Trek."

Frink backed away from his monitor. "Yuck! Can apes really evolve into intelligent life forms?"

Voda shrugged. "It must be the planet's predominate life form." She studied the alien carefully. He wore a navy blue shirt, denim blue pants, and white shoes on his feet. "He dresses as if he were a raccoon." The boy stood erect. "Look, he walks on two feet, just as we do."

"I have a whole list of monsters I've been wanting to try." Frink reached for a small remote and plugged it into a socket on the control panel.

ape princess "I'll program the non-player character into an ape princess." Voda punched away at the keyboard in front of her.

Through the monitor in front of the two raccoons, a bullet shaped metallic cylinder sat at an odd angle, in the middle of a large barren crater. Metallic debris surrounded the bottom of the ship. A hatch slowly opened near the top of the ship as the boy cautiously peered from his hiding place behind the rocks. A young blonde haired princess examined him tentatively, from a door leading into the spaceship.

"Hello," the boy yelled. The princess quickly ducked into the spaceship. "Wait! I just wanted to ask you something." The boy moved toward the ship.

"A princess?" Frink cocked his left ear. "Talk about dull."

"Every fantasy game has a princess," Voda said smugly.

Frink scrolled through his list of monsters. "I'll attack your female third planet companion with a dontra." A petradon flew into view, swooping in on the open hatch as he spoke.

petradon "Help! I'm too young to be some over grown chicken's dinner." The princess cried out, using Voda's voice.

"Your bird will tear the alien to pieces." Voda's tail bristled. "I'll arm the ape with a ray sword."

A ray sword suddenly appeared within the boy's reach.

"That's too simple." Frink shook his head.

The ray sword slid across the smooth boulder. The boy slipped down the rocks as he tried to grab it. The big bird veered away from the princess, heading straight for the boy.

"He's not going to have enough time," Voda groaned.

"He might," Frink answered.

The boy grabbed the sword moments before the talons of the reptile bird ripped him to shreds. As he swung the sword, bolts of fire shot out from the sword, ricocheting off the rocks and the spaceship.

"Did you program the ricochet effect?" Voda asked.

Frink shrugged. "Gammom must have."

In the alien's monitor; the first bolt burned a hole in the boy's sneaker. He dodged the bolts as some of them threatened to vaporize him. The bolts missed him. Frink and Voda oohed and ahhed as the boy vaporized the petradon.

The princess poked her head out of he craft. "Thank you." She pulled herself out of the ship and took Bob's hand. She kissed it lightly. "I am Princess Voda, and you are?"

"Bob Phillips. Where is this place?"

The princess looked at him mystified. The two raccoons continued to watch them in the game monitor. "Time to try the NPC manual mode." Voda said as she pressed a button.

Fink's brown eyes grew wide. "What's NPC manual mode?"

"It's a safe guard I added." Voda explained. The princess's and Voda's mouth moved simultaneously. "You warped into Gamma D playing field."

"How did I get here?" Bob asked.

"You warped here when you pressed D on your key board."

Frink's eyes sparkled with admiration. "Neat trick."

Voda grinned at him as she continued to talk directly to their guest. "Why didn't you read the "read me" file?"

"You only read a "read me" file when the program doesn't work." Bob shrugged.

Frink and Voda stared at each other in amazement. Frink quickly pressed a series of keys on his keyboard.

"How do you expect to play the game if you don't know the rules?" Voda asked.

"You just exit the game, and go do something else when a game's too complicated," Bob explained.

A green liquid started to bubble up, from the bottom of the crater. The princess motioned for Bob to follow her into the spaceship. "You might not be able to return to your world unless someone reads the "read me" file," she explained.

"I'm stuck here?"

"Like myself, the only chance you have is dependent on you finding a portal," the princess explained.

Voda pressed a button, and glanced at Frink. "OK, the program is switched back to automatic mode." She looked at the monitor.

"Is that what you were doing when your ship crashed?" Bob asked the princess.

"Oh no." The princess blushed. "I was about to be wed to the Count Argon, when my ship was attacked by pirates." She pressed a button on a control panel. A panel cover slid open, uncovering a screen. "It's all in the ship's records."

Bob watched the princess through the monitor. She sat on a canopy bed, playing her flute. Her bedroom door slid open. A crew member motioned for her to come quickly. "That's Zalose. He told me that a pirate warship was closing on us quick."

While Bob viewed the princess's story, Voda and Frink walked away from their monitor arguing. Voda grabbed a fish out of the aquarium and gulped it down. fish from the fish bowl

"Low level life forms." Frink shook his head in disgust. "Something else must have designed those satellites."

"Since when do low level life forms operate computer terminals?" Voda sneered.

"The ape species could be a servant race like the Omegnora are," Frink retorted.

Voda smiled. "What? Just because he's an ape, you doubt his intelligence."

"Come off it, Voda. Apes build mud huts and raid the disposal systems," Frink growled.

"He did well against the petradon." Voda turned, heading back toward the game.

"We'll see," Frink said as he followed her. "Most creatures possess survival instincts. The scenario to test his problem solving skills is almost complete."

Frink and Voda looked at the game monitor. A squadron of spaceships attacked the lonely vessel above the planet. Fire outlined the ship's hull as it spiraled into the planet's atmosphere.

"Zalose and Miti sacrificed their lives for me," the princess explained to Bob. "What's left of the ship is in complete ruins. So, like you, I need to find the portal back home."

The craft slowly swayed from side to side, and started to spin. "Now what?" Bob said as he clutched onto a railing.

"We've talked for too long," The princess answered. "The tide's come in."

"What tide?" Bob stammered. "We were in a crater!"
The tide's come in.
"Look in the monitor." The princess lurched toward him as the ship jolted. Outside the ship, green goo filled the crater. They quickly drifted into the mouth of a wide river. Large trees grew on the banks.

"River's don't have tides," Bob complained.

Voda poked Frink in the ribs. "Ten points for the alien. He's got you on logic."

Frink winced from pain as he continued to watch the game monitor. The current of the river quickened. The ship bumped and spinned as it crashed into large rocks jutting up from under the water. Frink glared at Voda. "I'll bet you five nodums that the ape doesn't make it."

Voda grinned. "I'll bet you ten quantreens that he does."

Bob looked out the hatch. "A narrow section of the river is up ahead," he yelled down to the princess. "Do you have some rope?" The princess looked at him blankly. Bob pointed to his shoe laces. "How about some wire?"

The princess pulled a cover off a panel. Bob rubbed two ends of the wire against his sword. There was a flash as he made each cut. He secured one end of the wire to the ladder near the top of the hatch. As they passed through the narrow part in the river, Bob grabbed on to a branch.

Frink grinned. "He picked a dead one."

"Yeah, and you think rivers have tides." Voda answered.

The branch snapped. "Yeah, but there was a live one," Frink insisted. "He could have picked right next to it."

Bob gawked at the dead branch in his hand for a moment, and dropped it in the river.

"The edge of the falls is near!" The princess yelled.

The ship continued to bob and spin. Bob closed the hatch tightly. He struggled to keep hold of the ladder as the ship plummeted over the falls.

Frink extended his arm toward Voda. "Pay up; they didn't make it."

Voda crossed her arms. "You haven't won yet."

Bob, while gripping the rung with the cord tied on it, caught the princess with one arm as she crashed toward him in free-fall. They both plummeted to ship's floor.

"Pay up." Frink curled his fingers.

"You haven't won unless there are survivors," Voda answered.

They watched in silence as the ship surfaced into a murky green pool fed by the waterfalls. Voda reluctantly handed the gemstones over to Frink. Before she let go of them, the hatch started to open. Voda retracted her hand, and Frink reached into his pouch on the table.

"How do you quit and save in this game?" Bob asked the princess. The princess limped over to the console, and the "read me" file came up on the monitor. Bob stared at it intently. "What do they mean, to exit you have to press escape three times on your keyboard?" The print turned into gibberish.

Voda looked at Frink in alarm. "What's happening?"

Frink shrugged. "The equipment is experimental. It still has a few bugs." Part of the alien's console sizzled behind them.

Voda turned and frowned. "Something's wrong with the intergalactic translator."

The princess screamed as the spaceship's computer started to smoke.

Frink quickly pressed some buttons on his keyboard. "I'll program in a distraction to keep the ape occupied, while we figure out what is going wrong."

Something big, started to pound repeatedly on the ships hull.

Voda tapped Frink on the shoulder. "We have another problem."

"Now what?" Frink looked up at her.

"The alien entered under advance reality mode," Voda explained grimly.

Bob and the princess dove for cover. Large claws ripped apart pieces of the princess's spaceship.

Frink raced to the control panel. "What? How? Beginner Mode is the default."

Voda hurried to her control station. "I'd better let the alien know."

"Are you aware you are playing in advance reality mode?" The princess whispered to Bob.

Bob looked back at her, blankly. "What's an advanced reality mode?"

"The petradon, your sword, going over the falls, all could have killed you!"

Black trees silhouetted against an orange and red streaked sky. Long sharp claws meticulously tore apart the ship as the giant demon searched for the ship's occupants.
Voda gaped at their monitor in horror. "Frink! How could you? You programmed a shazore."

"A shazore? It can't be." Frink looked up at the monitor. His eyes widened. It was supposed to be a harmless muckmonster.'

"Can we send the alien home where he belongs?" Voda asked.
the shazore
Frink nodded. "If I reroute the transponder, so that it thinks it's getting an escape signal." Frink pulled some wires, and reconnected them into different jacks.

Voda pressed a button. "I'll give the princess a portal transmitter. I'm glad I thought to add the auto manual NPC feature."

Inside the spaceship, the princess pulled out a small box from a pouch tied to the belt of her skirt. "Game's over," she announced. "It's time to send you home."

"What?" Bob shook his head. "I thought we had to make it to the portal or have some one back home press escape three times."

"Rules changed," the princess answered.

"The rules changed?"

The princes nodded. "Sending an innocent alien to his grave is not my idea of fun."

"Who's an innocent alien?" Bob's eyes narrowed. "What are you?"

"I'm a non character player in a prototype intergalactic gaming adventure," the princess explained calmly.

"I'm in a computer game made by aliens?" Bob asked slowly. The princess nodded "So all that about Prince Argon -"

"Was just a background story," the princess finished his sentence.

"And everything I see and feel is real enough to kill me." Bob glanced nervously at the demon tearing apart the ship, and crouched lower in his hiding place.

Frink checked a reading on his transport control. "You should be set, Voda. Give it a try."

"Get ready," the princess announced. "You are going home."

Voda pressed some buttons, and looked up at the monitor. Bob was still there.

"Nothing's happening," Bob whispered. The shazore still threatened to rip both Bob and the princess apart.

"Something's wrong!" Voda gasped.

"It should have worked!" Frink's fist slammed the side of a cabinet.

"You said you fixed the transport circuit." Voda stared at Frink.

"I did." Frink double checked his readings on his oscilloscope. "I'm checking the transmission path." Frink peered at Voda. "My signal's there. There's no connection at the other side."

"Someone on the other end must have turned it off." Voda pushed the button for manual mode.

The shazore had torn most of the spaceship's hull to shreds. Bob could see the green pool that the ship was floating clearly.

"We--uh, are having technical difficulties," the princess explained.

"Great." Bob watched the shazore. The black giant figure looked almost human, until it moved closer to their hiding space. Its muscles rippled under its snake like flesh. It's teeth were long, curved, and sharp. The shazore scanned the wreckage. As it turned its head away from Bob and the princess, Bob shot a bolt of fire at it from his sword. "It had no affect," Bob groaned. The shazore whipped his head toward them.

"We have to get out of here," the princess said.

"All it did was piss him off," Bob complained.

"Think of something!" The princess's eye's grew wide. Bob nodded. He pulled out his firecrackers from his back pocket, and a lighter from his front pocket. He lit the wick.

Gammom walked into his research lab. "Can't you two be quiet?" He gawked at his smoking equipment. "What the-"

"We got an alien in the matrix," Frink answered before Gammom could finish his sentence.

"Something went wrong." Voda explained.

"What are you, crazy?" Gammom bellowed.

"The alien accidentally entered the advanced reality mode," Voda informed him.

"I pulled out the lower reality units yesterday," Gammom groaned.

"Is it fixed yet?" Frink asked. Gammon shook his head no.

"The alien is under attack by a shazore," Voda continued.

Gammom walked briskly over to the monitor. "How are the non character players holding out?"

As the wick fizzled, Bob hurled the package of firecrackers as far as he could. The shazore turned to investigate the sound of multiple crackling.

Voda answered Gammom slowly. "I only had time to create one non character player, and she's injured."

Bob nudged the princess's shoulder as he dove into the green liquid. The princess dove in after him.

Gammom turned, glaring at Frink and Voda. "Why'd you pit them against a shazore?"

"It wasn't supposed to be a shazore," Frink answered.

"He pressed the wrong button." Voda explained. Gammom glared at Frink.

"I selected a harmless muckmonster," Frink explained.

"Send him back!" Gammom ordered.

"We can't send him back," Voda answered.

Gammom pulled out the smoking board, and replaced it with another. "Why not?"

"His point of entrance is missing." Frink answered.

Gammom checked the oscilloscope. He rushed over to Frink, and shoved him out of the way. Gammon began to push buttons frantically on the keyboard. Frink watched over his shoulder as Voda checked on their guest's fate through the monitor.

Little fish populated the green pool. As Bob and the princess swam, the fish grew larger.

"What did you two think you were doing?" Gammom asked Frink and Voda.

The fish continued to increase in size.

"We just wanted to try it out," Frink answered.

As Bob and the princess continued to swim, the little fish had grown to twice their size.

"Gammom Warp II is for entertainment purposes," Gammom snapped. "It's not made to abduct innocent aliens."

Bob took a few more strokes as the fish closed in. It had grown three times as big as Bob and the princess.

"You're turning them into fish food!" Voda complained.
The fish opened it's mouth.
"Can you think of a better way to escape from a shazore?" Gammom said.

Bob tried to change directions in vain. The fish opened its mouth and swallowed Bob and the princess. As Bob gasped for air, the insides of the fish continued to grow.

"Great escape, Gammon," Voda said sarcastically.

Green goo dripped from both Bob's and the princess's clothes. "Yuck. I'm drenched." Bob wrung out the bottom of his shirt.

"I would have never thought of diving into the lake and hiding in a fish." The princess embraced him.

"Being swallowed by an oversized fish wasn't my idea," Bob answered. Bob and the princess slow drifted toward a long dark tunnel.

Frink stared over Voda's shoulder. "The alien and princess are being drawn into the fish's digestive system."

Voda turned and faced Gammom. "They'll be showered with acid and squashed."

"We're being sucked in." Bob floundered around awkwardly.

"Quick. Grab on to a tooth." The princess caught Bob's arm as she steadied herself on the fish's tooth. Bob reached out, and wrapped his arms around one of the teeth. The teeth increased in size as Bob and the princess clung to them.

Gammom stared at Voda blankly. "Voda, how did you just do what you just did?"

Voda winced as she watched the game monitor.

"The teeth are getting bigger. I can't hold on any longer!" Bob yelled.

"She's using her auto manual feature," Frink explained.

"Try to hold on," the princess encouraged.

"I can't!" Bob lost his grip. His feet floated behind him in as the fish swallowed them.

"Her what?" Gammom glanced at Frink, then turned toward Voda. "Voda, I told you not to waste your time on that."

The princess screamed as she lost her grip too. The sides of the tunnel were porous and irregularly shaped. Red droplets covered the purple walls. The walls slowly close in on Bob and the princess.

"You said I could spend my free time anyway I pleased," Voda snapped at Gammom.

"Leave her alone," Frink stepped between Gammom and Voda. "Her side project works."

As the walls loomed nearer, Bob and the princess continued to shrink.

"Avoid the giant droplets," the princess warned. "They are a type of acid." The wall now looked like a huge landscape of red lakes, scarlet cliffs, orange ravines and blue mountains.

"Frink, how would you like it if I dematerialized you into the Gamma Warp unit?" Gammom snarled.

"Stop it, Gammom." Voda glared at him. "Frink did everything in his power to assist the alien." Her gaze returned to the monitor. Bob and the princess swam into a large ravine. Small irregular shaped forms floated by.

a large bubble A large bubble drifted behind Bob and the princess. As they turned into a large gully the bubble engulfed them.

"Something's sucking us in!" Bob screamed.

"We are being absorbed by the evaporating water," the princess explained.

"Switch your character over to auto mode," Gammom ordered. "I want that auto manual mode disconnected now."

Voda switched to auto mode as Bob and the princess floated out of the fish.

bizarre landscape Bob and the princess peered out at the bizarre landscape as they rode in the water droplet. A series of round blobs connected to two smaller round blobs surrounded them.

The princess pulled out her flute from a pouch that hung from her belt tied around her waist. They continued to shrink as the princess played her flute. Two little round balls sped along the outlines of each of the blobs.
some of the bizarre landscape
Silver peanut shaped bubbles passed by quickly. One slowed to a stop. A green haired orange faced guy poked his out of the bubble. "Need a lift?" he asked. The name's Orre."

Bob extended his hand. "I'm Bob Phillips." He poked his head inside the peanut shaped bubble.

Inside, Orre sat on soft maroon cushioned seats. He punched a red button, on the sophisticated control panel.

"Cool car." Bob said.

"What's a car?" Orre raised his thick orange eyebrow.

"People use it to get from one place to another." Bob stared back at him.

"This is an ion." Orre shrugged. "Free electrons use it to get from point A to point B."

"We need to get to the portal," the princess explained. "Can you take us there?"

Orre pressed a green button. "Hop on in."

Bob and the princess climbed into the ion. Orre pressed another button on his control panel. The princess stretched out her legs and pulled out her flute.

Frink and Voda busily checked circuit boards and control settings.

"I shrunk them down to the molecular level." Gammom explained. He scanned through the programming code at the monitor.

"Then the alien is all right?" Frink asked.

A free electron picked him up. "A free electron picked them up, while out cruising in his ion," Gammom assured him.

Voda looked up from her work. "We'll lose him in the circuitry."

"Not a chance," Frink replied.

"He's in the elementary science section of the Gamma Warp." Gammom explained.

"He'll be safe there." Gammom glared at Frink. "Frink, your code for muckmonster is linked to the shazore file." Frink walked over and checked Gammom's monitor. He shook his head looking disgusted.

Voda looked at the game monitor. Millions of peanut shaped bubbles spun along the tubular highway. The sound of a flute filled the raccoon's ship as the scene dissolved into one of the bubbles.

Orre's orange eyebrow shot up. "Me? Just pursuing that positive charge." He grinned. "You know what I mean?"

The princess stopped playing her flute. "We're slowing down. What's the holdup?" The bubbles lined up in a traffic jam. Orre slammed on his horn, and quickly turned into the nearest intersection.

"Road narrows up ahead," Orre explained quickly. "Only so many ions can fit in a given space at any one moment. It's what we call resistance." As the road turned, Orre slammed on the brakes. "Hold on tight. We'll never make it through that."

Ahead of them a wall of balls slowly spun in place. Each sphere appeared suspended in mid air, and evenly spaced apart.

"What is that?" Bob asked.

"A cubic crystal lattice," Orre explained. "All those spinning round balls are electrons. An electrostatic force-field is holding them in place."

Sounds of a multiple fender bender filled the air, as Bob, the princess and Orre lurched forward. The line of ions behind them came to a halt. Bob and Orre stepped out of the ion. The peanut shaped bubble looked flat on the back end for a moment then it returned into its original shape.

"We need to get to the portal," the princess said.

Orre shook his head. "We won't get through that."

Sulking the princess returned to playing her flute. The round balls vibrated and spun faster as the princess played.

the princess playing her flute Bob pointed to the balls. "Hey, the balls are moving apart a little. Orre, could we get through if the balls were far enough apart?"

Orre nodded slowly. "As their speed increases the distance between each ball will grow. If your lady keeps playing like that, we'll have a change of state in no time."

The balls spun rapidly to sound of the princess's flute. "Faster, faster," urged the princess. "Come on you electrons, you're doing well."

Bob nudged Orre's green shoulder. "She's doing it. The electrons are spreading apart."

Orre nodded. "If we go fast enough, we have a good chance to make it to the other side."

"What happens if we don't make it?" Bob asked.

"The electric force field will stop us cold," Orre explained.

The princess stopped playing her flute. "I must make it to the portal to return home."

Voda glanced at the game monitor. "Gammom, they are inside a capacitor."

Frink peered over her shoulder, then checked a digital readout on the control panel. "The temperature of the dielectric increasing. It's going to melt."

Voda stared at Gammom. "My non player character is acting as if she were a voltage surge."

"If they do that, the capacitor is going to blow. Voda, how fast can you reinstall your auto manual mode?"

Voda turned to face him, and grinned. "In about five minutes."

Bob, the princess, and Orre pressed against their seats in the ion as it accelerated. The princess continued to play a rollickly tune on her flute. A group of ions followed behind them.

Voda glanced up at Gammom, as she attached a final wire. "Auto manual mode is reconnected." She hurried to the panel, in front of the game monitor. "Switching now." She peered through the game monitor as she pressed the auto manual switch. The princess put down her flute. Voda and the princess's mouth moved simultaneously.

"Stop!" the princess yelled. "You'll kill everybody!"

"Wasn't this your idea?" Bob's wrinkled his forehead.

"Yes," the princess answered. "But I was wrong."

"Orre, can't you stop this thing?" Bob asked.

"At this velocity? We'll be killed. The best thing I can do is to try to accelerate." Orre pushed a lever.

The princess held out the portal transmitter toward Bob. "Quick, try to teleport." The fleet of ions flew between the spinning balls.

Bob frantically pressed the button on the portal transmission box. He covered his face with his arm to shield his eyes. A sudden flash of light and many screams of terror surrounded him.

"We have a connection!" Frink announced. "The alien has exited!"

"Alive?" Voda asked.

"Alive," Frink confirmed. Voda applauded.

Gammom looked at his fried board in disgust. "Are there any other aliens in the matrix?"
"We programmed the Gamma Warp to only allow one," Frink explained.

"Check it," Gammom snapped.

Voda peered at a monitor. "No other alien life forms are present."

"Disconnect it," Gammom ordered. "I don't want to see another alien in that machine until we reach Armonia."

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