Dangers of Darlings
by Jez Patterson
"The three Rs that are gained by your children attending school stand for Resting, Relief, and Rehabilitation," Percina's mother had told her. "And they refer to the parents, not their offspring."
Since she'd become pregnant, Captain Percina Saunders had noticed a distinct lack of reaction in her husband's demeanor. She was beginning to worry that the enhanced mental and physical attributes she'd paid to have inflicted on Martin might be responsible for his overly calm comportment, and this was why she'd accepted the job driving the space-bus for the school trip to the Ploppakew Planetarium.
If a ship full of screaming, over-excited children didn't shake Martin from his complacency, nothing would.
"They're at the age where most of them dream of being captains of the Fleet," Martin said as they sat on the bridge, the pupils' beleaguered teacher Mister Taylor down below, taking a headcount and probably wishing he was doing so with an axe rather than a biro.
"Unfortunately..." Percina said.
Percina had once been a captain of the Fleet, before her decision to marry her first mate had led to her dismissal. Most of the officers in the Fleet had been idiots, and all of the idiots had been officers. It was said that the only reason they were taught to stand tightly to attention was because it made their task of distinguishing arses from elbows less of an issue.
The ship abruptly lurched to a halt, throwing Martin out of his seat.
"One of the little monsters pulled the emergency brake," Mister Taylor told them.
More than one, Percina thought as, without a chair, they'd have needed to clamber on another's shoulders to get that high. This wasn't the first incident.
They'd had to endure sticky fingers on every button, lever, and dial in the ship. Things stuffed into every vent. And anything that was breakable broken, things that weren't merely dented, scratched, and stained into unusability.
"If you'd like to note it down, the school will compensate you for that too," Mister Taylor said forlornly, holding out an incident report that was now just a few bytes short of a total mauling for his school's reputation.
"Martin?" Percina said. Martin nodded, and began tapping out the details. "I'll be on the bridge."
"Hello, Miss Captain," the little boy Percina found waiting for her on the bridge said. He'd made himself a captain's hat out of a folded-up worksheet and was using two strips of banana peel as epaulets.
"Captains don't have sex," she told him, and was glad of his age-related innocence when she played back the line in her head.
"Sorry, Captain," he said. "Midshipman Dooley reporting for juicy!"