Obie almost regretted his decision about cleaning when he found out his first task was the head, but a gentle reminder from Moody (he simply stood and twitched his fingers in Obie's face) convinced Obie that there were worse things in life than clean ing toilets. An incidental by-product of the task that made Obie's life more pleasant was an improvement in the atmosphere of the ship (both breathing-wise and personnel-wise) with the sudden drastic reduction in free methane and reported cases of constipation.
Obie had thought he was using up his supply of garbage bags at a heavy rate when he was just cleaning up after himself, but with has new duties dunging out cabins, lockers, holds and any place else that Moody could point had Obie pushing bags out the disposhole at an alarming rate. He only hoped his supply lasted until freedom or twitch-twitch he did part.
An extra onus was placed on Obie when the crew found out he could cook when he made himself a small snack of crab newburg out of supplies he found in forgotten corners of a hold. Now he was cook as well as maid, but at least he was no longer having to survive on sandwiches and beer.
It was only a few days later as Obie was returning from the laundry room after washing linens and dumping another load of full bags that Moody stopped him in the corridor. From the way Moody was smiling Obie knew he was in trouble, or at least was g oing to have more work to do. He was right twice.
"Ah, Mac," Moody enthused. "Just the man I was looking for."
"I was afraid of that," Obie mumbled.
In an attempt to avoid screaming, Obie decided to get to the point. "Pray tell me, my putative lord and master, what new and wondrous exploitative endeavor hast thy diminutive and demented mentality devised for my further edification and ultimate de gradation?"
Moody devoted a moment to staring, then managed, "What?"
"What," Obie sighed, "do you want me to do now?"
"Oh. Well, we will soon be arriving at our hide-a-planet and we wish to celebrate. Prepare food."
Obie looked at Moody. "Prepare food?" Moody nodded. "What does that mean -- 'prepare food'?"
"How difficult can that be to understand? It's only two words - prepare food."
"The words," Obie said patiently, "I comprehend. It's the interpretation of them I'm having difficulty with."
"Yes. What do you mean by food?"
"That chewy stuff you shove in your face," Moody grated, "something I'm considering doing to you."
Quailing slightly, Obie backed up a step. "Please, sir," he cringed, "I merely want to know what kind of food, and what I'm supposed to use to make it."
"Something good," Moody glowered, then stomped off.
Obie started looking in the galley for "something good", then moved to each hold in turn. He found some canned potted fowl, but upon opening one he decided the name was correct but the spelling was wrong. Nonetheless, he wasn't going to have to eat it, just cook something with it. And it would certainly be better than another balogna soufflYi.
His culinary efforts were interrupted by the grounding siren, a grating ululation that had Obie sorry he had ever cleaned up the alarm system. He pushed a full garbage bag into the galley disposhole to avoid having to jettison it on the (he assumed) pristine world below and strapped himself to the nearest wall. A slight subaudible thud was followed by a thunderous silence, broken a moment later by Moody. "Secure all systems. Meet in the mess for a victory banquet." Obie felt that "victory" was a bit premature, but banquet meant now.
Quickly he returned to his pots and pans and scattered spices and condiments with mad abandon, not wishing to keep Moody awaiting his food. A bulkhead buckling "Now!" emanating from the mess next door convinced Obie that dinner was served. He gathered together various tureens and casseroles, dumped them on a tray and staggered the load through the hatch. Hoping that presentation would offset content, he placed the tray with a flourish before Moody's glower and whipped the cover off the main dish.
"What," Moody asked with subsonics, "is it?"
Obie, who had been asking himself that same question for some time, smiled. "An excellent question, sir."
"If so, it deserves an excellent answer."
"Indeed, sir. It does."
Moody scowled. "One more two syllable sentence from you and you'll discuss oral interpretation with Ms. Quincannon."
"Yes, sir, indeed, sir, whatever you say, sir. This, sir," Obie pointed at the tureen, "is Fowl Stew a la Prospero."
Moody looked at the dish. "How do you spell that?"
"Not that word. The first one."
"Good. Then as a special treat, you are invited to join us for dinner."
"Sir?" Obie squeaked.
"Sit. Eat. Enjoy."
"Sit." Obie sat. Moody scooped a large dollop of Fowl Stew a la Prospero and deposited it with a glurpy shplat on a plate and set it before Obie.
"Eat." Obie stared at the glutinous mass before him, then, deciding that ingestion was the better part of valor, loaded a fork with about two grams and poked it tentatively at his face.
"Enjoy." Obie's answering smile seemed less than sincere as he felt his throat close to protect his stomach. His tongue, thereby trapped in the same room with the Fowl Stew ran gibbering about his mouth in an attempt to escape, pounding vainly behind Obie's clenched teeth.
"How is it?" Moody inquired.
Obie's response was less than clear what with his clenched teeth and a tongue doing calisthenics, but he did manage to gurgle out something that Moody took as an affirmative. He glopped out a portion for each member of the crew and passed the plates along, then began shoveling. His eyes widened as the taste penetrated and his eyes swiveled at Obie who immediately felt an overwhelming desire to join his garbage bags in deep space. Moody's adam's apple did several push ups as he swallowed a few times, then when he mouth was, in his opinion, adequately clear for speech, he spoke. "Great!" A chorus of similar expressions spewed from the rest of the crew.
"Why haven't you made this before?" Moody asked around another shovelful.
"I thought I'd save it for an occasion," Obie answered, wiping his chin.
"Well, you've certainly picked the right occasion -- our victory over the Federation, which will soon no longer exist." Moody leaned close to Obie and wrapped his arm around his shoulders. "You know, Mac, I like you. You're great to have around, jus' great. You'll ma' some woman a grea' whiff some..." Moody ran down like the drool on his chin and slumped into his plate. Obie glanced quickly at the rest of the crew but they were in much the same condition as their captain -- out cold.
Not knowing how long the pure alcohol and soporifics he had laced the dinner with would keep everyone out, Obie ran down the corridors to the comm room. He then ran back to the mess, screaming obscenities, to get the key. By the time he returned to the comm room his run was only slightly slower than a walk, but he hoped sufficient. Barely waiting for the hatch to slide aside he stumbled to the radio and punched up a broadband broadcast for help, preferably in the form of a Federation cruiser with a full complement of marines.
Switching to receive he was surprised to hear a reply. "This is a Federation cruiser, we have a full complement of marines, and we'll be there in approximately fifteen minutes. Now kindly shut up."
Obie sat back with a sense of accomplishment closely mingled with a sense of confusion. He had managed to carry out his mission (he hoped), but how had they got there that fast? Oh, well, he mused, at least I can now get back to my office and my ro utine. No more space spy for him.
"Well, Mr. McElhaney, you have succeeded, have you not?"
"Indeed, sir. I am amazed -- that is, pleased to report that I have."
Governor Quincy-Morefforde's corpulent face pursed itself like a deflating balloon as he savored a particularly fine swig of lemonade. "Yes, you have." He glanced at Obie. "How?"
"Yes. How did you manage it?"
Obie proceeded to describe his adventures on the Star Ranger, interrupted only by an occasional question or belch. "What happened after the cruiser landed?" the governor asked.
"Well, sir, they came storming in after I opened the airlock and quickly and efficiently took Captain Moody and his crew in hand."
"And the professor and his daughter?"
"The professor was more than happy to accompany the squad of marines that surrounded him, and a sergeant even larger than Amanda and with a reminiscent twitch bundled her off in a cargo net."
The governor nodded his head like a boulder falling off a cliff and held out his hand. "Well, Mr. McElhaney, congratulations on a job well done, and welcome to the ranks."
"Certainly. After your adventures you surely do not wish to return to that hole you were in. You are hereby promoted into the Federation Special Services."
Eyes widening in horror, Obie stammered, "But, sir--"
"No, no," the governor continued magnanimously. "No need to thank me. I believe there is a commander outside who has your first assignment." He shook Obie's hand warmly and clapped him on the shoulder. "Good luck."
Suddenly in the hall, Obie looked rather wild-eyed at a Navy commander who was clearly waiting for him. "You McElhaney?" the commander asked.
For a brief moment Obie considered denying it, but the look in the commander's eye made the moment even briefer. "Yes."
"This is for you," the commander said, holding out an envelop.
"What is it?"
"For your assignment."
Momentary violence burned in the commander's eyes, but he controlled it. "Yes. It's time for you to get to work."
"Yes." The commander handed Obie a pink slip. "Here. This is for you, too."
"What is it?"
"Remember all that garbage you jettisoned from the Star Ranger?"
"Well, that's how we found you so quickly. An admiral's barge ran into a pile of your garbage. Made a real mess. He insisted that we find out who the slob was who was messing up the space ways. We tracked your bags all the way to Moody's hideout. "
"So that's how you did it." Obie looked at the piece of paper. "But what's this?"
"That? It's a ticket for littering. What else?"
Go to A Dirty Little War, Obie's second adventure
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