There was no doubt that the USS Marble was under attack. Hondapp, the chief engineer and head janitor of this widely-known and little-respected starship, could easily see the fuzzy little green balls striking the outer hull of the ship through the twenty feet of plate glass armor. They were in trouble.
Outside, across hundreds of yards of nothingness, a large enemy ship continued to launch its corrosive, fuzzy little green balls at the Marble, which by now appeared to be encrusted in mold. The sickeningly purple captain of the enemy ship snickered as he foresaw the fall of another ship from the pansy "Federation of Nice Star Systems." He and his whole lymph-sucking race hated the Feds with a passion.
The USS Marble got its name from its design. Years ago, on a stupid little class-M planet known as Terra (probably short for Terrable), a great big load of marbles — small glass toys used to attack grade school children — was uncovered from the tomb of a tycoon named "Stinky." His treasure uncovered, the heads of the Nice Federation were stuck with the problem of what to do with fifty thousand pounds of little glass balls with ink-streaks running through them.
One engineer who was rumored to have been drinking and fooling around with a group of janitors — our own Hondapp — came up with an idea so incredibly moronic that it was put immediately into action. The plan called for a swall warship to be plated not in the usual layers of titanium-iron-carbon-chromium-praseodymium armor, but instead to be covered entirely in glass. An old warship that no one bothered to use and had been put out to pasture was instantly volunteered for Hondapp's "Project Meltdown," the marbles were melted down and the mold cast to create the most transparent starship in existence: the USS Marble.
These facts never surfaced in Hondapp's mind as he wondered how the zybisko they were going to get out of this one.
"How the zybisko are we going to get out of this one?" asked Handapp.
"Draged if I know," replied Captain Yu Qalled.
"Have you tried the expando-screen generators?" the engineer/janitor suggested.
"Yes, I have."
"Have you tried running them in reverse?"
"Yes, I have."
"Have you tried running them sideways?"
"I didn't think so. How about —"
"Naah, already tried that." Telepathy was a good tool to have in the captain business.
"Well, then have you tried every single button on your instrument panel?"
"I think so. Let me see." Yu Qalled gazed in both directions down forty feet of panels, dials, levers, knobs, and switches that came straight out of a 1940s scinece fiction movie. A big red button caught his eye.
"Ow!" he yelled. "A big red button just cought my eye, and I can't pry it loose! Rrrrrggg . . . grrrrmmphhh . . . ah, got it!
"Hmmm . . ." he continued, ". . . there's a label I don't remember seeing in the owner's manual: 'Stop the Flow of Time.' I wonder what it does . . ."
A blast of precognition seized Hondapp. He fought it, tried to push it out of his mind, mentally threw water on himself, decided to let the message in anyway because any attempts to stop it would be futile, and watched with disinterest. Three nanoseconds later, he grasped its meaning.
"NO!!" he shouted. "DON'T PUSH THAT BUTTON!!!"
"You mean this one?" the captain asked as he pushed That Button.
And suddenly, time stood still.
Not even anything on board the USS Marble.
The universe stood still. I mean really stood still! Absolute zero doesn't come close to what I'm hinting at here! Multiply that by the speed of a dead snail, then divide that by warp seventy, and you'll get a fair approximation to what I want you to grasp, but its still a long way off.
Then slowly, inexorably, the universe came into motion again to form a new beginning.
Fifteen billion years later, a group of ethereal thinkers finally figured out what in blazes the USS marble was, how it basically worked, and what some idiot must have done in the past. Inevitably, one of them wondered what the drage that big red button was for. . . .
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