The captain has been bored.
As is his habit when he is bored, the captain has done something to wreak considerable havoc and annoy more than a few crewmembers.
“Commander Spock, I’m not sure how to say this...”
“If you bear some form of news related to the captain, and if that news contains any information of ship damage, personnel damage, or brain damage, you will not suffer repercussions unless you in any way encouraged or participated in the captain’s latest misadventure.”
“Participated?! I would never participate in this crime against my robots! He’s stolen ‘em, sir! Every single one, my precious babies, and done somethin’ to ‘em. I can’t find ‘em, and Mr. Scott won’t tell me where they’ve got to neither. They’re both in on this—oooh, I can’t wait to get my hands on ‘em and wring their necks—”
Ensign Yates seemed to remember my presence. I raised an eyebrow.
At times, human eloquence astounds me.
“Please explain the particulars of this situation from the beginning, Ensign.”
“Right. Well, sir, it’s like this. I take care of the CleanX3000 series robots. I’ve taken good care of ‘em sir, when we were with the good Admiral Pike, and now with the young Captain Kirk. But this one don’t got no respect for robots.”
“I am not familiar with the series, Ensign. What function do these robots serve?”
“Well, like their name says, sir. They clean. Most important job on this ship, I’d say. Do you think that your latrine cleans itself? No sir—these little babies clean all of it up, all with top speed efficiency. Of course, they are comin’ out with the new 4000 series, but Starfleet’s resources the way they are, they’re on the fence whether they want to buy ‘em—“
“The point, Ensign.”
“Right, sir. Well, I was going on my rounds, getting ready to do some maintenance on Ruby and Carla—there were some belt problems on ole Ruby—and I open the closet, and they’re gone! All fifteen of my babies! I got ‘round to investigating, and Tom tells me that the captain and that oaf of a Scotsman’s got all of ‘em and modifyin’ ‘em, doin’ a pretty number! Alls I know is that they’re in the Rec Room up to somethin’, and—”
“That is sufficient information, Ensign Yates. Thank you for informing me of the situation. You may be ensured that I will attend to it.”
“But Commander Spock, if they—“
“I will attend to this, Ensign. For the time being please, return to your other duties. You are dismissed.”
“Permission to speak, sir?”
I sighed inwardly. What now.
“Granted. Be brief.”
“Can I come with you sir? I can’t stand the thought that anyone’s harming my little ones—“
“Since you seem to have taken an unusual interest in these machines, I will allow you to accompany me to the Recreation Room on the condition that afterwards, you complete a psychological test administered by Dr. McCoy.”
The man clearly has some obsessive tendencies. Why do humans anthropomorphize the most prosaic objects? There is nothing about a maintenance robot that remotely resembles a human infant or female. Ensign Yates seemed to understand the direction of my thoughts.
“Commander Spock, you can’t just think of ‘em like machines. They don’t work right if you don’t give ‘em a little love and—“
“Another condition—that you remain silent for the duration you are in my presence.”
Ensign Yates’ eyes widened. “Understood, sir.”
As we approached the Recreation Room, I heard the sound of metal masses colliding and human voices raised.
There are some days when I sincerely wonder why I chose to serve under James Tiberius Kirk. There are other days when I wonder why I have not yet transferred to another ship.
In the middle of the room was the captain, seated on one of the robots. Its programming had been modified, as had its appearance. Metal horns were soldered to one end, presumably the front, and a rope, meant to resemble a tail, tied to another. The captain was desperately trying to remain seated on the robot as it jerked erratically and made every effort to throw him off. There was a timer running, and the screen displayed a roster of names. Lt. Sulu was ranked as first with the time of 10.9 seconds.
Ensign Yates forgot my mandate of silence as he took in this scene.
“It’s an American rodeo!”
In another corner of the room, Engineer Scott and another group had partitioned an area where the remaining robots, also modified in form and programming, were by all appearances trying to completely annihilate each other. Robot parts were scattered in the arena. Lt. Chekov and Engineer Scott were furiously inputting sequences into their remote controls as the robots literally smashed into each other.
Ensign Yates would have dubbed it ‘Robot Gladiator.’
The captain had been thrown off the robotic bull. As he stood, he noticed my presence and gave an unabashed grin.
The captain’s eyes widened. He must have been operating under the mistaken impression that I cannot raise my voice.
All activity in the room suddenly ceased, except two remaining robots that continued to collide into each other at regular intervals.
“Okay, I know how this looks—“
“Captain, if you do not wish for me to report this flagrant misuse of equipment to Starfleet, I suggest that you remain silent.”
Engineer Scott and Lt. Chekov were making an attempt to leave the room.
“Remain where you are, gentlemen. I assure you that your effort to escape is futile, as I can identify all 53 crewmembers gathered in this room. If you should desire an individual reprimand, then leave. I will find you at a later time. However, as humans seem to value group experiences, it may be wiser to remain.”
“Spock, it’s not really fair to grill all of them. It was me and Scotty’s idea, so you should just—“
“I have no doubts as to who devised this scheme. Such plans, however, cannot be accomplished without the assistance of others. You might be uniquely responsible for this new low in human stupidity, but they are responsible for taking part in it and facilitating it. And before you launch into a redundant defense of your fully realized chaos, let me ask of you one question.
“Do you know what purpose these robots serve on this ship?”
The captain shrugged. “Does it matter? They were just heaps of junk when we found them, collecting dust in some maintenance closet.”
Engineer Scott looked distinctly apprehensive.
“Interesting. It seems, captain, that Mr. Scott has taken you for a fool. He knows the purpose of these ‘heaps of junk,’ as you referred to them. Mr. Scott, would you care to enlighten the captain?”
“Well, uhm, you see... I think it’s better if you tell him, Mr. Spock.”
“What? What’s the big deal? Scotty, you told me that they weren’t anything important!”
“I might’ve told yeh a tiny little white lie. Jest a small one.”
“Indeed. Captain, these robots, which you have demolished in a spectacular fashion, are responsible for the cleanliness of the ship. Starfleet introduced them nine years ago to when crewmembers complained that they were forced to clean their own toilets and maintain their own quarters when technology had long been available to attend to such tasks. As a result of your ingenuity, the Enterprise has once again found itself in an unusual and unenviable situation.
“Ensign Yates, the engineer assigned to repair these robots, was on his way to replace some belts in two defective machines. Afterwards, the robots were to complete their weekly cleaning routine on the general crew decks. Since you have relieved the robots of their commission, the crew quarters will remain in whatever state of filth or squalor they are currently in, and that state will not improve until we reach Starbase 11.
“It is not guaranteed, however, that Starbase 11 will have cleaning units. Ensign Yates informed me that Starfleet undecided as to whether to buy the new CleanX4000 series. In either case, it is guaranteed that the parts for repairs of the CleanX3000 robots will be difficult to obtain, and the Enterprise will have to explain the sudden destruction of fifteen formerly serviceable robots. Specifically, I will have to explain this to Starfleet.”
The captain had an epiphany.
“You’re going to blackmail us?!”
“It is not blackmail, captain. I am simply presenting a choice, and the group will collectively decide which choice is best. Each individual in this room has demonstrated that they have not mastered the concept that the instruments aboard this ships serve a specific and important purpose. Your ship, captain, is not a toy. I have made several attempts to get this point across to you, but they have failed. Thus, I am left with no choice.
“Your options are as follows. I will write to Starfleet a full report, including all 53 names and ranks, of the activities that transpired. I will make my recommendations as to disciplinary actions, up to and including formal court martial. Starfleet will then take appropriate measures.
“Alternatively, I will create a temporary Maintenance Department, headed by Ensign Yates. You will be assigned to a cleaning rotation, and officers are not exempt. You will fulfill these duties during your ample recreation hours and report for duty as always. You will remain on rotation until we obtain new robots or when these robots are repaired. Ensign Yates will evaluate your performance and direct all crew complaints to me.
“You may deliberate amongst yourselves for fifteen minutes, and the captain will inform me of your decision.”
“Hey, when did you take over—?”
“When you abdicated all responsibility. That is the duty of the First Officer, captain.”
“We could just mutiny against you, you know.”
“On the contrary, captain, when the remainder of the crew ascertains the reason why their quarters stench of their own excrement, mutiny will be the least of your problems. Though Terran swine exhibit both intelligence and the ability to live in refuse, it seems humans do not share in either capability.”
The captain winced. He quickly recovered from my comment and thought of some new superfluous statement.
“Actually, I have a better question. When did you learn to blackmail people?”
I took a step towards the captain, leaned slightly, and spoke into his ear.
“I have a very high learning curve.”