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Over Think The Plumbing
by Phil Temples

“God, I hate this job,” declared Sam. He and his partner, Jimmy were both wedged headfirst inside of a tiny maintenance shaft.

Sam was older than Jimmy by a dozen years. He was beginning to sport grey hair along his temples. Sam’s pudgy frame revealed both a lack of physical exercise, and an excessive sweet tooth at mealtimes. In contrast, the younger Jimmy was lean and trim. Not a day went by that Jimmy failed to visit the ship’s gym.

The maintenance shaft was hot and uncomfortable. There were also annoyingly loud noises that alternated between clanking sounds and a shrill whistling note. The latter seemed to be resonating within the small confines of the tunnel.

They could readily smell each other’s body odor.

“You stink, Jimmy. When did you shower last?” asked Sam.

“Bite me,” said Jimmy.

“Shut up and gimme the five-eighths centimeter ratchet,” Sammy shouted over the noise.

"The more complex the plumbing..."

Jimmy muttered the words under his breath to no one in particular.

“What are you babbling about?” asked Sam.

“Oh, nothing--a line from an old sci-fi movie, I think it was ‘Star Trek.’ The chief engineer, Scotty, says, ‘the more they over think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.’”

The apparatus they were working kept making its terrible racket. To an untrained ear, it sounded as though the thing were some prehistoric, wounded animal.

“Shoot it! Put it out of its misery!” Sam joked.

Jimmy grinned. He continued on with his ‘Star Trek’ line of thought.

“Lot’s of morality in those shows. Hey, remember the one where there are two guys--one is white on the left side, and black on the right--and his nemesis is black on the left, and white on the right. Anyway, they’re sworn enemies and they’re tryin’ to kack one another on the Enterprise. But Kirk hasn’t the foggiest idea why.”

“Yeah, I think I remember it,” Sam scratched his balls for a moment, and then he made a minor adjustment with the ratchet wrench.

“That fix it?” Jimmy asked.

“No, I don’t think so. Look at this conduction gauge.” Sam flicked his finger a couple of times against a tiny test gauge that they had inserted into the flow. It registered less than one-quarter scale.

“They made space travel seem so exciting,” Jimmy continued. ‘Exploring strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go...’

“...And all that happy horse shit.” Sam finished Jimmy’s thought.

“Well, I’ll take the good old-fashioned classics any day,” said Sam. “’Klaatu barada nikto’. The Day The Earth Stood Still. You know? Michael Rennie. Now there was a science fiction movie.”

“Damn, we were supposed to be out of here hours ago. ‘The Man’ ain’t gonna be too happy. Better call upstairs and see what she wants to do.”

“Hold on,” said Sam. “We might just be able to save the day yet. Did you check that cross-induction valve? Maybe it’s sticking.”

“That’s a long-shot,” replied Jimmy. “But what the hell, I ain’t got nuthin’ better to recommend.”

“We’re lucky this piece a’ shit holds together, let alone goes anywhere.”

“Hey,” replied, Jimmy. “Anytime you want out, you know where the door is.”

“Funny. Real funny,” Sam replied.

Jimmy and Sam took the panel off. Sam gingerly probed the device in question with a small screwdriver. When nothing happened, he poked it a little harder.


The noise emanated from the valve. Miraculously, the clanking sounds and high-pitched whistling ceased. They looked at each other in amazement.

“Fuckin’-A, Jimmy,” Sam yelled. “Am I a genus, or what?”

“You’re goddamn lucky, that’s what you are, Jimmy,” he replied while giving him a ‘high five’.

“Work One, this is Con--Over.” They both heard the voice simultaneously in their headsets.

Jimmy touched a small button on his vest and said, “Con, this is Work One. Go ahead.”

“What's the hold up?” asked an impatient, authoritative voice.

“Sir, we fixed the problem. It was a sticky cross-induction valve at panel Echo-Five-Three-Bravo.”

The female voice responded. “Roger that, Work One. Log it, later. Get your asses back upstairs, pronto-- Break! --All stations, prepare for immediate jump.”

The dominating voice ceased. Jimmy shrugged at Sam. He quickly secured the panel. Sam whacked it with his shoulder to ensure it was secure. Then they both grabbed their tool kits and departed the maintenance bay.

When everyone was strapped in, the Captain gave the thumbs-up to the Navigator. She pushed two buttons on her control panel. Everyone on board felt a moment of nausea and blurred vision, as the fabric of space folded in on itself. An instant later, they were fifty-two light-years further into their journey. The next jump would involve five hours of careful calculations and crosschecks.

The Captain breathed a sigh of relief. She turned her attention back to the crossword puzzle.

“Hey, what’s a six letter word for predetermination?”