“Captain, I’m picking up a signal on a covert wavelength.”
“Hmm?” Captain Splot was roused from his daydream by his communications officer. “What’s that, Yoohoo?”
“Captain, I’m picking up a signal on a covert wavelength,” Lieutenant Yoohoo repeated patiently. She was accustomed to the Captain’s absentmindedness. He was always like this when they had gone without adventure for several parsecs.
“Unknown. Automated translators are working on it now.”
“Good. Let me know as soon as you know what it says.”
Splot returned to his musings. It had been the dullest mission to deliver grain DNA to a distant settlement where they were as yet unable to download and print off their own food. Now, homeward bound, boredom had set in. The captain was giving serious consideration to deviating from their course and popping over to the Wayward Sector just to annoy the Barclom. They would send out a few ships to intercept and Splot would have a feisty bit of target practice on his hands.
He hailed his trusty Chief Engineer. “How’s things, Mister Murk?”
Murk wiped his proboscis and held it out of the way of his com-link. “All shipshape, Cap’n. I’ll get us home in good time, never you fret.”
“Hmm,” said Splot and a twinkle came to his eye, “Mister Murk, how’s our fuel? Have we enough for a little diversion?”
“I don’t know, Cap’n. How little a diversion might it be?”
“Oh, just, you know, the Wayward Sector…”
“Wahey!” enthused Mister Murk. “I should say so, Cap’n.”
“Set a course for the nearest Barclom outpost, Mister Murk.”
Splot settled back in his chair and rubbed his hands in anticipation. They were asking for it, the Barclom. Just by existing. Just because they were there.
Lieutenant Yoohoo materialised at his elbow with the translation of the message; it was an invitation to a formal dinner from the Barclom high poobah. “It’s been transmitting for aeons, Captain. The Barclom have wanted peace all this time.”
Splot took the message and deleted it. If the Barclom hadn’t the sense to use open channels, they deserved what they’d got coming.
Formal dinner! Where was the fun in that?