The Quadagh Mercenary dropped out of light speed. The kaleidoscopic, flashing, multi-coloured lights on the viewscreen faded slowly to reveal an ocean of black space and a thousand glittering, silver stars. Mari Reed turned to face the captains chair. "We have arrived in the Zaxxion galaxy, Sir."
Captain Bones stared at the viewscreen, "Are there any inhabited planets in this sector?", he asked.
"Uragi Prime is the closest.", replied the clone, "It will take us three days to reach it on impulse power."
Commander Silver programmed the co-ordinates into the ships computer.
"Pilot. Set course for Uragi Prime, impulse factor three.", ordered the blue man.
"Yes Captain.", acknowledged the sharp, metal voice of Exquimilian.
Captain Bones stood up, "I will be in my cabin, if you need me.", he looked towards his first officer, "Are you coming?"
Silver nodded and followed Captain Bones to the elevator doors.
"Teach, keep my seat warm.", smiled the blue man.
The metal doors of the bridge slid open and the captain and Silver stepped into the elevator, the doors closed behind them with a soft, squishing sound. The tall Minovan stood in front of the Captains chair and tugged at his thick black beard. the chair was far too small for his large, muscular frame. Ebony pushed her way past the bull-headed giant and sat down in the captains chair, Reed sat down on her lap and put an arm around her girlfriends neck, they embraced and the snake-headed woman licked Reeds' bald head with her long forked tongue. Teach shrugged his shoulders and turned towards the viewscreen, "I don't think your husband would approve.", he muttered under his breath.
Ebony sighed, "Jack isssn't my husssband. I am hiss ssslave.", she hissed.
The giant turned around, "That's exactly what my fourth wife said on our honeymoon, mind you, my other wives are usually the ones cracking the whip in my house.", he laughed.
"How many wives do you have?", asked Reed.
The bull-headed man laughed, "Fourteen....so far."
Ebony rolled up the sleeve of her right arm to reveal a small black tattoo, the letters "C.J.R.", were imprinted on her fore-arm, "I am Mister Rackmans property, he won me in a game of KraPokahh.", she explained.
"Why don't you leave him?", asked Reed, kissing Ebonys' black scaled cheek.
"It was my father who lost the game, I made a vow to him that I would honour his agreement.", hissed the snake-headed woman.
"Til death us do part, I suppose.", giggled the bald clone.
"Bleep, bleep, bleep.", a yellow light flashed on the communications console.
Ben Gunn flicked a switch and turned to face the captains chair, "I'm receiving an S.O.S. distress signal.", he purred, "its being sent on an Association frequency."
Reed stood up and buttoned her yellow, plasteen tunic, "Duty calls.", she sighed, she walked over to her console and sat down.
Ebony rubbed the back of her scaled neck and flicked a switch on the arm of the captains chair, "Captain Bones, please report to the bridge, we've picked up an Association distresss sssignal.", she hissed.
"Do you know where it's coming from?", asked the voice of Captain Bones.
Graccomali swam about in her aquarium, "The seventh moon of Uragi Prime.", she gurgled, "We should reach it in two hours."
"Acknowledged.", replied the captain, "I'll be on the bridge in half an hour."
Silver knelt on the captains bed, behind the naked blue-skinned man, he leant over the blue mans shoulder and whispered into his captains ear. "Better make that an hour.", he suggested.
The yellow and black Pirate ship hovered, like a wasp, in orbit above the luminous, green moon.
The metal doors of the elevator slid open with a soft, squishing sound and the captain and Commander Silver stepped onto the bridge, Billy Bones sat down in the captains chair.
"The ship is an Association craft, The Columbus. It is an Explorer class science vessel, it appears to have crash-landed on the Uragi moon and is badly damaged.", reported the bald-headed clone, standing at the science-station.
"Mister Gunn, hail the Association ship.", ordered Captain Bones.
The small, red furry Felitian boy pressed a button on the communications consule and the viewer crackled into life.
Captain Bones stared at the dark-skinned face of the teenager on the viewscreen. The Nubian youth was dressed in the green uniform of an Association fleet cadet. "We picked up your distress signal.", explained the Captain, "What is the problem?"
The boy looked very frightened, "They're all gone, I'm the only one left.", the cadets uniform was several sizes too large for his nimble frame.
Leftenant Reed pressed a button on her console, "I'm only picking up one life sign, a Human."
"We crashed.", explained the young cadet.
"What happened to your crew-mates?", asked the captain.
The dark-skinned boy shrugged his shoulders, "They're dead."
Mari Reed looked puzzled, "If they are dead, then where are their bodies?"
The cadet frowned, "They just dissapeared."
Captain Bones flicked a switch on the arm of his chair, "Mister Lo, prepare a shuttle for immediate launch. And bring a couple of vap-guns with you, just in case we run into trouble"
"Yes, Sir.", acknowledged the gunner.
"Doctor Ami, please report to shuttle bay one."
"Yes Captain.", replied the four-armed medic.
"Mister Rackman and Mister Morgan, we have an Association ship to salvage.", ordered the captain.
"On my way.", replied the voice of Callico Jack.
Chief Engineer Morgan picked up a metal tool-box.
William Bones turned his head to face the giant bull-headed Minovan, standing behind the captains chair. "Teach, we're going to need your muscles for a little furniture removal."
"You won't send me back, will you?", asked the young Association cadet in the baggy green uniform.
Doctor Ami shook his head, "Not if you don't want to go."
The dark-skinned youth lay back down on the bed, "I'd rather stay here.", he sighed, "If you don't mind."
"You're a bit young to be so far out in space.", The doctor shook his head.
"How old do you think I am?", asked the Nubian boy.
"You are a Human, aren't you?" questioned The four-armed medic.
"Yes, I am.", replied the dark-skinned youth.
"Then I would guess that you are about thirteen years old."
"I am seventeen,", the cadet replied. "I was on-board the ship as an observer, as part of my Association training. Captain York was my commanding officer."
"What happened to him?", asked the doctor.
"The virus killed the whole crew, he was one of the first to become infected.", explained the young Association cadet.
"Our science officer was bitten by an Ago-plant.", explained the dark-skinned boy.
Bel Ami pressed a small, silver button on the lapel of his lab-coat.
"Captain, please report to the sick-bay, we have a medical emergency."
Mari Reed accompanied the blue-skinned man to the infirmiry.
"What do you know about this Ago-plant?", asked Captain Bones.
"It only grows on one planet, Ganeymede.", repied the bald-headed clone, "The seeds of the Ago plant are used on several planets as a youth serum.", she explained, "However, it does have a viscious temperment and a venomous bite, once it has infected a victim it's spores become air-born and spread like a virus."
"How contagious is this virus?", the blue man sat down on the bed.
Doctor Ami turned towards the large silver mirror on the wall of the sick-bay, he took off his toupee and scratched the tuft of soft pink stubble growing on the top of his head, "Very.", he sighed.
The captain scratched his bearded chin, "So why do you think the boy is still alive? Surely, if the virus infected the whole crew, then he should have been one of the first to die."
"Maybe it has something to do with his age, young people can be quite resiliant to infections.", sighed the four-armed medic.
"If the virus causes one to grow younger, then maybe it reacts to hormones.", suggested Reed.
The Nubian teenager raised his right hand, "Excuse me Sir, I think I can answer your question."
Captain Bones looked at the boy, "I'm listening."
"I was only transferred to The Columbus a week ago, the science officer was bitten by the Ago-plant before I arrived. The rest of the crew must have already been infected before I boarded the ship.", exlained the dark-skinned cadet.
"It might be prudent to quarantine everyone who has been in contact with the boy.", suggested the captain.
"The entire crew has probably been infected by now.", sighed the doctor.
"Then I suggest that you find a cure, quickly.", replied the blue-skinned man.
"I'm doing my best.", insisted the tubby four-armed medic, "I've only got two pairs of hands."
It was five days later before the effects of the Ago-virus became obvious, most of the crew were already two or three inches shorter than they had been when they went to bed last night, and they were growing younger with every passing hour. The only crew-member who seemed to be unaffected by the virus was Ben Gunn. "Roll up your sleeve.", ordered the young, pink-haired man in the white lab-coat, "I need a sample of your blood.". The doctor opened the top drawer of his medical cabinet and took out a large, plasteen syringe, the small, red, furry Felitian boy looked very frightened.
Graccomali swam about in her aquarium, ten days had passed since the Ago-virus had infected the Quadagh Mercenary, she was now half her normal size and her scales had turned a muddy orange colour. The Mermaid swam in circles around the fish tank, splashing her tail, she looked very confused and bewildered by her situation.
Mari Reed crouched on a metal chair in her cabin, clutching her knees to her chin and sucking her thumb. She was now a ten year old girl and her grey tunic hung down to her ankles. A long black snake slithered across the floor and coiled itself around a leg of the chair, Ebony hissed at the frightened, bald-headed child.
Teach was asleep in the captains chair, his face was that of a young calf and he was clean-shaven. He had taken off his heavy metal body-armour and his brown woolen tunic hung down to his knees, he snored loudly.
Exquimilian, the ships cyborg pilot, had to be disconnected from his cock-pit and was now attached to a portable life-support machine in the infirmiry, he had lost several inches in height and could no longer perform his duties. Morgan had diverted all ships functions to the bridge and The Quadagh Mercenary now floated, motionless, in space.
A young dark-skinned Human child clasped tightly to the left leg of a four-armed youth with pink hair, "I wanna go wee wee.", he cried. There was a soft, hissing sound and a puddle of yellow urine leaked onto the metal floor of the sick-bay, "Sorry.", he sighed, staring at the puddle of water at his feet.
Captain Bones had also lost his beard and looked considerably younger than he had done yesterday, the sleeves of his jacket were rolled up above his fingers and his black jeans were cut down to size, he was several inches shorter than his usual height and looked about fourteen years of age. A small, silver haired Venusian boy sat next to the blue-skinned youth, holding tightly to his hand, "I'm scared.", he whispered softly. The boy was wrapped in a silver-foil blanket and sucked on a green lollipop.
A ball of soft red fur shook from side to side in one corner of the infirmiry. Captain Bones yawned, "I'm bored, how much longer?"
The pink-haired boy shrugged his shoulders, he picked up a test-tube full of red liquid and stared at it for a few minutes, before loading a syringe and injecting himself with the serum, it had no effect. "Keep trying, Pinky.", smiled the blue-skinned youth.
A fortnight soon passed. A young black haired kid with a cheeky grin sat on the edge of the glass aquarium, splashing his feet about in the water. A small blob of opaque, yellow jelly floated on the surface of the fish tank, Jack prodded the blob with a plastic stick and giggled.
A small naked pig-faced child ran down the corridor, squeeling at the top of his voice, he was being chased by a five year old Oriental boy wearing an oversized black shirt and holding a vap-gun, "I want a bacon sandwich.", shouted Lo.
Reed was now an embryo, floating in a jar of luminous green liquid on a shelf in the infirmiry, a large shiny black egg was placed next to the jar. A small brown-skinned Human baby lay screaming in an incubator at the foot of the sick-bed, wrapped in a green jacket, and in the bed slept a young blue child, cradling a silver-haired infant in his arms. A baby with no limbs was attached by wires to a life-support machine bleeping in one corner of the sick-bay. A small pink-haired boy, with four arms, stared at the red ball of fur, rolling about in the corner of the room. He nudged it with his foot and laughed. Bel Ami picked up the fur-ball and stroked it for a few minutes, before drog it onto his foot and kicking the ball across the Infirmiry. "GOAL!", shouted the doctor.
The ball of soft red fur uncoiled and a Felitian boy stood up. Ben Gunn rubbed his bruised back-side, he walked over to the pink-haired youth and punched him in the stomach. Bel Ami burst into tears and ran to hide under the bed. The red, furry, cat-like child picked up a syringe from the doctors desk and bit his bottom lip.