The Death of Roger Wilco (Part 2 of 2)
Stranger still, the peaceful countryside scenery of the Holocabana had transformed along with the holorev. Dead trees, a rather smoggy horizon, and a decidedly putrid steam now dotted the landscape in place of the formerly picturesque locale.
"Temper, temper, Madame Ambassador," Vohaul continued. "Oh, and the rest of you may holster your weapons. Apparently, your feeble minds have yet to comprehend the fact that I appear before you as a mere holographic projection of my corporeal form. Firing upon me will accomplish little more than scuffing the walls of your precious Holocabana--and I'm sure you wouldn't want that. I have also taken the liberty of disabling the Holocabana's security systems. Feel free to return to your seat, Commander Kielbasa. I apologize for my neglect; I fully intended to bring along a toy mouse to keep you amused." Vohaul's unearthly voice dripped with disdain and arrogance. Kielbasa, normally a portrait of restraint, bared his teeth and quietly growled at Vohaul's holographic projection.
"How dare you show up under these circumstances, you genetically-jumbled bastard?" Beatrice continued, pointing a finger at Vohaul's holographic form.
"Such language from a diplomat! I'm very disappointed, Ambassador Wilco." Vohaul wagged a disapproving holographic finger in her direction. "As for my purposes in making this surprise appearance, I can assure you that I am here today for the very same reason as the rest of you. I wish to pay my final respects to Roger Wilco. Certainly, my absence would have been rather poor form."
"You arrogant son of a--" Beatrice interjected.
"Would you mind, Ambassador?" Vohaul interrupted. "Since you know why I am here today, I'm sure that you are all trying to come to grips with how I managed to crash your insignificant little gathering. Did you truly believe that Wilco had vanquished me during our most recent encounter? By now, those of you that have made my acquaintance should know that I always have a contingency plan. When I heard about Wilco's unfortunate accident, I employed an inverse subspace tachyon pulse to hack into the DeepShip's poorly-secured computer systems. From there, it was a mere matter of re-routing a few non-critical subroutines to ensure that I could join you here today. Quite simple, really. I decided to proceed with my somewhat dramatic entrance before I went mad as a result of listening to more of your asinine sobbing and ceaseless prattle."
"As I am sure at least a few of you are aware, I have crossed paths with the departed Janitor Wilco on numerous occasions throughout the years. In fact, our little rivalry goes back further than most of you will ever know." Following this cryptic statement, Vohaul chuckled ominously. The resulting echo caused a shiver to run through many in attendance. Meanwhile, Commander Kielbasa continued his attempts to override the Vohaul's control of the Holocabana to no avail.
"Although you might say that Wilco and I were never on the best of terms, I certainly came to know him rather well through the years. I first encounted the, ahem, sanitation engineer when he managed to stumble upon my carefully-laid plans to secure the Star Generator. Thanks to the incompetetence of those bumbling Sariens, Wilco managed to spoil my plans of revenge against the Xenonian scientific community that wronged me. In the process, he became the vaunted 'Hero of Xenon' and was awarded that ridiculous token, the Golden Mop. Meanwhile, I began plotting how I would exact vengeance upon the man that held me back from my destiny. A few years later, Wilco somehow escaped en route to my mines on Labion and thwarted my masterful plot to unleash a horde of bio-engineered insurance salesmen on the unexpecting galaxy. Once again, I was taken aback."
"Initially, I believed that Wilco was little more than a buffoon bolstered by an unprecedented streak of good fortune. But, no man could have possibly managed to be at the right place at the right time as consistently as Wilco, avoiding certain death on numerous occasions. The laws of probability always assert themselves sooner or later. As time marched on, I realized that he must have been far more than the stooge for which I had taken him."
"When he dethroned me as Supreme Emperor of the Universe, it was evident--oh, wait. I suppose that somber event has yet to transpire for all of you. I forget that most of you remain bound by temporal forces. Anyway, after he defeated me yet again, it became clear that Wilco was not the mental midget that I had always assumed he was. Certainly, it takes far more than dumb luck to overcome a genius of my caliber on multiple occasions. While Wilco may have presented a somewhat foolish front at first glance, he was apparently far more than that. Of course, an element of luck must have been involved in his adventures. Wilco was far from my equal."
"Yet, in some manner, I suppose you could say that I grew to respect Wilco in the way that one tends to regard his archenemy. Seeing him perish in this fashion is quite disheartening to me. Wilco deserved far better. He deserved to be vanquished by the greatest mind in the galaxy. Wilco deserved to meet his demise at my hands. I regret that I could not have brought about these circumstances myself. Instead, fate has cruelly robbed me of my chance for retribution. Perhaps one could argue that the laws of probability finally did take their toll on Wilco."
"So, while Wilco's intellect certainly paled in comparison to my own, he was a worthy nemesis. At some level, I am sure that I will miss his feeble attempts to foil my next plot. But, I digress. You will all find out about my next stratagem soon enough. Now, I shall take my leave of you. I suspect I will see you all again in the future--some of you far sooner than you expect." Once again, Vohaul let loose a sinister laugh. His image wavered as the chuckle echoed through the Holocabana, slowly transforming back into that of the holorev. Simultaneously, the scenery also reverted back to its original form.
"--duce Ambassador Beatrice Wilco," said the holorev when he reappeared, picking up in mid-sentence where Vohaul had interrupted him.
Ambassador Beatrice Wankmeister-Wilco stood up from her seat in the front row of the congregation, still visibly shaken by both Vohaul's surprise appearance and the general circumstances Roger's funeral as a whole. She made her way up to the podium, stepped behind it, and quietly cleared her throat. Anyone who closely studied Beatrice's face would have noticed faint traces of tears--a rare finding when it came to the usually tough-as-nails ambassador.
"First," Bea began, her voice lacking some of its usual authoritative tone. "I'd like to thank all of you for coming from around the galaxy to be here today. Roger would have truly been touched to hear everything that has been said, and I know that he feels... felt just as strongly about each of you. Also, I would like to apologize for that interruption a few moments ago. I should have known better than to believe that today would proceed without at least a little drama. Roger always had a knack for attracting trouble."
Bea glanced around the room, obviously searching for the rights words--another rariety in the ambassador's case. "I'm really not sure what to say. There's nothing in life that can really prepare a person for moments like this. If this were a tense diplomatic negotiation between two warring races, I'm sure that all the right words would just roll off my tongue. As it stands, though, I'm at a bit of a loss."
"I suppose that I could start with how Roger and I first met. It was back during his days at StarCon Academy, just before the whole Sludge Bandits scandal took place. I immediately recognized Roger from his involvement in the so-called Sarien Encounter several years prior. To be honest, I was a little shocked to see that Roger--a man that I already thought of as something of a hero--was training as a StarCon cadet. Still, as cliched as it might sound, I really did feel a strange spark the first time our eyes met. I just never expected that our paths would cross again so soon."
"Later, after Roger rescued me from Quirk's goons and saved me from the effects of their mutagenic sludge, we had a real chance to get to know each other much better. As the damaged SCS Goliath made its way back to StarCon headquarters under impulse power over the course of the next two weeks, we were together almost constantly--staying up to all hours of the night just talking. It didn't take me long to realize what an honest, caring man Roger was. One time, I remember asking him what actually led him to Thrakus to rescue me in the first place. I'll never forget his one-word answer: 'Destiny.' Before long, our feelings for one another turned to romance and, eventually, love."
"When Roger asked me to marry him a few years later, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I'd never seen myself as the kind of woman that would want a family, but being with Roger just seemed so right. I didn't even have to think twice before giving him my answer. After all, it was like we were just supposed to be together. Roger was... and is the love of my life"
As Beatrice spoke, she looked off into the distance and seemed to reminisce about her husband. "Roger and I were in the middle of making our plans for the future when... when the accident took place. We were both planning to leave StarCon after our current tours of duty ended. The two of us were going to find a place on Xenon, settle down, start a family together. Roger even had plans to apply for a teaching position at the Academy for the Custodial Arts; it was always one of his dreams to be a teacher." Tears were visibly welling-up in Beatrice's eyes as she continued. "We even have... we have a child on the way. It breaks my heart to know that Roger will never have a chance to meet his own son or daughter. It's just not... it's not fair!"
The tears that had previously been confined to Bea's eyes began to stream down her face, and she started to sob quietly. After a few seconds, however, she pulled herself back together, wiped the tears away, and regained a bit of composure. With a shaky voice, Bea concluded, "Thank you again for being here... Roger cared for each and every one of you so much, and it means the world to me that you were able to make it."
Beatrice looked over to the CasketCapsule 3000TM set to the right of the podium. "Goodbye, Roger. I'll always love you."
Beatrice then stepped out from behind the podium and returned to her seat. Once she sat down, the holo-rev reappeared at the front of the holocabana. "Thank you, Ambassador Wilco," said the holo-rev. "Now, if nobody else wishes to speak, I shall turn the podium over to Commander Kielbasa."
The felinoid Commander Kielbasa arose from his seat and tugged on his tunic a bit to straighten it. Although Kielbasa was still somewhat shaken by Sludge Vohaul's surprise holographic visit a few minutes earlier, he always carried himself in a regal manner that commanded respect and projected his authority aboard the DS86. He made his way to the podium, prepared to perform one of the most difficult aspects of a commanding officer's duties. Although he had lost a number of crewmen during his long career, it never became any easier to perform these ceremonies. Still, as commander of the DS86, it was his duty--and his duties as an officer of StarCon were something that Kielbasa took very seriously.
Kielbasa cleared his throat and addressed in his rich baritone the group that had gathered to say their final farewells to Roger Wilco. "To begin, I would like to echo the sentiments of Ambassador Wankmeister and thank you all for attending today. I do regret, however, that you could not have come aboard my ship under more pleasant circumstances."
"It was just a few short years ago that I remember hearing about Janitor Wilco for the first time following the infamous Sludge Bandits affair. After seeing the charges that StarCon planned to bring against Mr. Wilco, it was obvious that he was going to be demoted from the rank of captain."
The gruff voice of Cliffy, the SCS Eureka's former engineer, interjected. "Those charges were a load of malarkey, and--"
Kielbasa cleared his throat and shot a glance at the engineer that stopped him in mid-sentence. "We're not here today to debate the specifics of the charges brought against Mr. Wilco, Engineer Crawford. Thank you. As I was saying, the charges brought by StarCon, whether valid or not, made Wilco's odds of continuing his career as a captain virtually nil. Furthermore, a fiasco like the whole Sludge Bandits affair meant that his chances for any other commission at all in StarCon--even as a Janitor Second Class--were decidedly slim. That's why I originally requested Mr. Wilco for service aboard the DS86 following his demotion. I've always believed in second chances and, as far as I was concerned, Mr. Wilco deserved a second chance as much as anyone."
"Taking a chance on Mr. Wilco proved worthwhile. Like all of my crew aboard the DS86, Janitor Wilco always gave 110 percent to make sure that we were successful in our missions. As I've always said to the crew, there's no individual aboard a starship that's more important than any other. The chief tactical officer and the chief cook must both perform their respective roles to the best of their abilities in order for the crew to succeed. While Mr. Wilco's rank may not have indicated it, he was an important part of the community aboard this ship."
"Although I did not get the chance to know Wilco in a personal sense as closely as many of you, I am confident that he always gave his all in serving StarCon. And, from what I've heard here today, he clearly gave just as much in his personal relationships, as well. I am sure that Mr. Wilco will be missed."
"Earlier today, I received a communiqué from StarCon Headquarters. I would like to read from it now. It begins: 'It came to our attention earlier today that Janitor Second Class Roger Wilco lost his life in an accident while serving aboard the DeepShip 86. We feel that Mr. Wilco has served as a valuable member of the Star Confederacy Fleet for the past several years. Upon reviewing the records surrounding his demotion from captain following the destruction of the SCS Eureka, we have decided to reevaluate this decision. A number of political factors entered into the verdict, and we feel that the admirals who demoted Mr. Wilco to Janitor Second Class did so in an unfair and unwarranted manner. Therefore, effective immediately, StarCon Command confers the honorary posthumous rank of Star Confederacy Captain to Mr. Roger Wilco.'"
Commander Kielbasa turned to the CasketCapsule and gave it a quick salute. As he did so, a smattering of applause began in the section of the congregation where the former crew of the SCS Eureka was seated. Soon, the applause spread to the entire group, many of whom had tears streaming down their faces.
"To Captain Wilco!" called the Eureka's former tactical officer, Droole.
"To Captain Wilco!" echoed the group.
"Well said," stated Commander Kielbasa. "Now, if there is nothing else, it is time to draw this ceremony to a close." Kielbasa pressed a button on the podium, and the CasketCapsule began to lower into the "ground" of the holocabana.
"Godspeed, Captain Wilco," said Kielbasa, obviously moved by the gravity of the scene. "May your adventures not come to an end, but rather may they be just beginning."
The CasketCapsule continued to lower until it was no longer visible to the occupants of the holocabana. Then, a holographic image of the exterior of the DeepShip 86 appeared at the front of the congregation. Momentarily, the capsule launched out into the void of space from the ship's primary torpedo tube, leaving a streak of light behind it. With that, Captain Roger Wilco once again returned to the stars that he had loved so much.
Deep in the cold void of space, a small capsule marked with the Star Confederacy's triangular seal glided silently through a nebula. A few brief hours ago, the capsule had been aboard the DeepShip 86, but it was quickly putting distance between itself and the starship as it drifted aimlessly through the cosmos.
Lying inside the capsule was the body of Roger Wilco, space adventurer and all-around nice guy. While it was not particularly unusual for a capsule of this design to carry the body of a recently-deceased StarCon officer, it was somewhat odd for said body to suddenly begin to regain consciousness.
Inside the capsule, Roger's eyes fluttered open. The last thing that he remembered was being aboard one of the DS86's shuttles, returning from a mission, when a strange radiation pulse struck the shuttle, knocking most of its systems off-line (not to mention most of Roger's systems). After that, everything was a blank.
"Where am I? What is this?" Roger asked to nobody in particular. With what little bit of space he had to maneuver his body, he began to bang on the wall of the capsule with his hand.
"Okay, okay...joke's over! Let me out of here, Sydney."
No response. "Sydney? Uh...anybody? Geez...whatever I'm in, it seems to be pretty airtight. I wonder how much oxygen is left in here."
Fortunately, Roger did not have to wait long to have that question answered, as he promptly lost consciousness again. Just moments later, however, Roger dematerialized in a transporter effect, leaving the capsule empty. Immediately thereafter, a phaser beam lanced through space and disintegrated the capsule, leaving no trace behind. Meanwhile, the ship that had fired the phaser leaped to hyperdrive, vacating the premises with its new cargo in tow.
This story is ©; 2001 Decaffeinated Jedi.
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