Damn the Torpedoes
Ashley strolled down the hall, humming to herself. It was one of those rare days when Earth wasn't being attacked, the universe wasn't threatened with complete annihilation, and life on the Megaship was relatively peaceful. Those days were few and far between lately, and she intended to enjoy this one for as long as it lasted.
At least, she intended to until she was brought up short by the sight of a figure huddled in the makeshift windowseat at the far end of deck five. It was a spot usually occupied--when it was occupied at all--by Kerone, who claimed she missed her wide window on the Dark Fortress. But though their far-off expressions were similar, the dark-haired girl who sat by the window today was definitely not Kerone.
"What are you doing here?" Ashley asked warily. This particular person rarely showed up unless something interesting was about to happen. And unfortunately, her definition of "interesting" often meant explosions, arguments, and general chaos in an existence that was already less than peaceful.
"I'm trying to remember who said 'Damn the torpedoes'," Starhawk replied, not moving.
Ashley blinked. "Why?"
Starhawk shrugged. "It seems like a useful thing to know."
Ashley narrowed her eyes. "You wouldn't happen to be plotting while you're trying to remember this invaluable piece of information, would you?"
Starhawk finally looked over at her. "Does it look like I'm plotting?"
"How would I know?" Ashley demanded. "It looks like you're staring out the window at nothing, to me."
"Ding ding ding!" Starhawk returned her gaze to the window.
"So you didn't come because something terrible is about to happen?" Ashley wasn't going to put aside her suspicion that easily. "Dark Spectre isn't about to come back from the dead? The Psycho Rangers aren't going to appear?" Something occurred to her. "Carlos' cat isn't going to die, is he?"
Starhawk looked offended. "I can't believe you think I would hurt a cat! Goof and I are old friends!"
"I'm glad you're so worried about the rest of us," Ashley said indignantly.
Starhawk raised an eyebrow. "I'm sorry; I thought you were a Power Ranger. When you find a way to give your morpher to Goof, I'll worry about you instead of him."
"Is that?" A new voice, sounding suspiciously like Zhane's, came from around the curve in the corridor. "Could it be?" He strode into view, pretending to be startled to find the two of them there. "Why, yes it is! Starhawk, the barefoot voice of gloom and doom!"
"No doom this time," Starhawk assured him.
"Ah, just gloom. Great." He threw himself down on the windowseat beside her, giving the stars a single, careless glance. "Andros has been positively cheery lately, Kerone has stopped wondering about the meaning of life, most of the time, and even Saryn's been less moody than usual. Should have known you'd show up to balance things out."
"Not enough brooding around here lately," Starhawk agreed, unperturbed. "I'm just trying to set a good example."
"Starhawk?" Cassie appeared, looking a little surprised. "You are here. How did she know?"
"Who?" Ashley demanded.
Cassie held up a piece of paper. "Cetaci sent Starhawk a message."
"On paper?" Starhawk regarded it quizzically. "She does know that she lives in a world that makes e-mail look it comes from the Stone Age, doesn't she?"
"You're slipping, Starhawk," Zhane said, sounding amused. "That wasn't funny."
"I'm not trying to be funny," Starhawk replied. "I'm trying to remember who said 'Damn the torpedoes.'"
"John Mansfield," Ashley told her.
Starhawk frowned. "No, I don't think so. He wrote the underwear poem."
Cassie rolled her eyes. "Just read the message, Starhawk."
Starhawk took the piece of paper, but she didn't look at it. Instead, she stared at Cassie for a moment. "You're not pregnant," she observed at last.
Ashley choked. "What?"
Cassie gave her an odd look. "Why would I be?"
"Something Adri said," Starhawk muttered. "Never mind."
"That's what you said about the wolffriends," Zhane reminded her. "And look how that turned out."
"That was Rachel Lynn," Starhawk answered absently, unfolding the note Cassie had given her.
"She blames it on you."
"She blames it on Adri," Starhawk corrected. "Adri said the word. Rachel Lynn wrote the coyote in the first place."
"But then you started that thing with me and Andros in Extraspace," Zhane said. "This isn't Elfquest. We have a hard enough time trying to live normal lives without you starting more rumors about us."
"It's an alternate dimension," Starhawk told him, not looking up. "Listen to this: 'I know what you're thinking. I was never that young.' Does anyone know whether Cetaci's been tested for mental instability?"
New words appeared across the bottom of the paper, and Cassie's eyes widened. "Woah. That's cool."
Starhawk looked at her suspiciously. "Have you been talking to Jeremy Ray?"
Cassie grinned. "I was just remembering a demon storyline he used once. So what does it say?"
"It says, 'I heard that.'" Starhawk frowned at the paper. "Good," she told it. "You're *still* that young, Cetaci."
The writing on the paper changed again, and Ashley leaned closer in an effort to see. So are you, Starhawk, the note now read.
"Damn straight," Starhawk agreed.
You are not, the paper replied.
Starhawk rolled her eyes. "I set myself up for that one, I suppose. I can't believe I'm having a conversation with a piece of paper," she added, glaring at it.
Maybe you should consider being tested for mental instability.
"Very funny. Hey... 'Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead', Cetaci." She cocked her head at the paper in her hand. "Who said that?"
Starhawk sighed. "Never mind. I'm never going to find out, am I?"
"'I must go down to the sea again'," Zhane quoted suddenly. There was a distracted look in his eye that said he was talking to Andros. "'To the lonely sea and sky'--"
"'For I left my socks and underwear, and by now they must be dry,'" Starhawk interrupted. "I'm sure that's the only thing John Mansfield is famous for."
Ashley gave her a doubtful look. "You were at a concert last weekend, weren't you."
"Three," Starhawk agreed. "Why?"
Ashley rolled her eyes. "'And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by.' There's nothing about underwear in that poem."
"There should be," Starhawk informed her. "Oh, Cassie, I meant to ask you something."
"Remember the rules," Cassie said quickly. "Thou shalt not--"
"Unless thou art Cassie, right, I remember," Starhawk said. "Adri never should have given you a copy of those rules. But that's not what I was going to ask."
"I don't know who said 'Damn the torpedoes', either," Cassie warned.
Starhawk waved it away. "No worries; it was David Farragut."
Ashley looked skeptical. "Don't tell me you remembered that."
"No, Travler just looked over my shoulder. She's full of completely useless trivia like that. For instance, did you know that 13,000 years from now Vega will be Earth's North Star?"
There was a pause. Finally, Cassie asked, "What was the question?"
Starhawk seemed unfazed that news of Polaris' demise prompted no response. "Right. It occurred to me that, given the temporal inconsistency of certain recent stories, there might be a very simple solution to a recurring problem." She cocked her head a Cassie. "Have you considered employing a stork?"