Houston, We’ve Got A Problem (2001 Flushes)

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“Mulliver, the most important thing to remember about this mis—zzt—the whole she—pop—is—squawk. You got that? That’s it. Without you, folks are pretty much—fzzh. Keep that in mind. Brainthrust out.” Zzzk.
            “Sir!” Mully banged futilely on the monitor, as if the solar interference was nothing more than bad reception during a Bowl game.  “Sir, what…?” But it was no use. Outside the atmosphere, there wasn’t much you could do about wavejam.
            “Fuck it,” Mully muttered, tapping a Camel straight on the console and punching in the jerry-rigged dash lighter. As commander of the Globeshuttle IRON LUNG, he didn’t give a good goddamn about Co. directives. Just another charter where he was concerned, a slow and easy way to pay the bills. And in space, there were no bills. And no place to spend the dough. Anyway, let the dinks who’d converted his rec room into a floating speed lab worry about terrestrial needs. He’d relocated the wet bar to the front cabin, okay by him, but the Ping-Pong table was stored in a corridor adjacent to the airlock, where it rattled and rolled calamitously whenever the boosters fired, which seemed at times to occur at the shuttle’s own whim, a glitch Mully would find time to fix one of these days.
As long as he was at the helm, he decided to kick back with a Jack rocks and watch the Earth loom ever nearer in the forward viewscreen. No pressing need to pass on the Co. static to the dinks. They had their orders, what they didn’t know already they’d savvy soon enough upon their unceremonious deposit in the thick of the LA fray. This was it, the ultimate proving ground for the Pan-Utopian Gestapo. It tickled him to think of it, this bunch of pseudo-military slacker trainees being called in non sub rosa to quell an Earth-bound uprising after six muscle-atrophying months monitoring the stars for the barest hint of an unlikely intergalactic threat.
            His thought balloon was heedlessly punctured by a thundercrack, something striking, sizzling against the hull. The shuttle keeled sideways in space, shuddered, engines whining, righted itself and resumed course.  Reminiscent of old-school attack simulations, he thought. Of course, that was out of the question; more likely some stray NASA debris that the fritzed-out sensors didn’t pick up. Gulped the last of his Jack and prepared to run an external scan. Interrupted by sudden red-light buzz from the dashcom, he tapped a button, grunted a brusque monosyllable and received the stricken, quavering voice of the usually laconic Pinback down in maintenance.
            “Capt., we got a situation down here?”
            “Pinback, what are you doing on this frequency?”
            “This is definitely Priority Level 1, sir. Whatever just hit us pierced the sewage tanks.”
            “Oh, for Shephard’s sake. Just jettison the damn things.”
            “Too late for that, sir. It’s flooded engineering already.”
            A Global Armed Services inquest would later reveal that the cause of the minimized catastrophe was a Coca-Cola ad/sat, its scanners having apparently misread the Stars-n-Stripes decals on the shuttle hull as the similarly red-white-&-blue Pepsico logo entering its airspace, activating its weapons array, which fired a warning beam at the supposed intruder. As a result, Mulliver and the crew of the disemboweled IRON LUNG were left with no choice but to break contract and return immediately to the lunar surface, prematurely aborting the much-anticipated first employment of the Global Armed Service forces. Subsequently, all ships of US origin were compelled to drop their colors in deference to corporate stratagem.