The Human-Joozian Cultural Exchange Program
Chapter Threewritten by Snackysmores - illustrated by Kennymcshamrock and Paramécie
At 0500 hours, the ceiling of the promenade simulated the shifting gradient of a sunrise. Without an atmosphere around them, there was no shifting in light and no color to the sky, just the darkness of space and glare of stars. Academy studies showed that simulated light-and-color shifts were beneficial to a human's psychological state, better to see a simulated sunrise than none at all.
Kyle thought it was an awfully early time to get up. Stan plied him out of bed by making breakfast from scratch, pancakes, to continue the theme of 'delicious discs from my childhood'. Stan took up Kyle's hand firmly and walked down the promenade with him, hurrying to make the scheduled mag-shuttle to the docking bay.
A voice thick with bile slithered into Kyle's ear as they stepped onto the shuttle.
Kyle turned to see the fat one that had been playing piano at the bar the night before. He'd clipped his brown hair short, and it wasn't a good look for his fat face, so he was wearing an officer's hat to cover it up, paired with the red uniform of a security officer. Brown eyes locked in disdainful staring. Of the few friends Stan had, he mentioned one had been abducted by aliens as a child. Given the hateful looks, Kyle guessed it was Cartman. It hadn't been the Joozians abducting people to probe them, but the 'Greys' observing Earth did so while under the employ of Fognl's producers, so he couldn't discount Cartman's distrust toward aliens.
Stan had mentioned Kenny as well. His loud orange flightsuit pulled a lot of attention. He had big blue eyes, soft features, and dirty blonde hair that looked like it had never met a comb. He had the reputation of being a truant and a pervert, but also the reputation of being an attentive and honest person.
"His name's Kyle," Stan corrected Cartman before introducing them in kind. "Kyle, this is Kenny and the Fatass. Fatass, Kenny- this is Kyle."
"Hi Kenny, hi Fatass." Kyle waved both of his right hands at them.
Cartman snapped, "don't call me a fatass, you slimy Joozian! I'll rip your balls off!"
Kenny asked, "do Joozians have balls?"
"No," Kyle corrected, "Joozians don't have external testes like humans, we have cloaca."
Kenny whistled and Cartman gagged.
Stan frowned, "you're supposed to be making Kyle feel welcome."
"This is how we talk to each other" Cartman argued, "that's making him welcome, isn't it?"
"Not if you're ripping on him for being a Joozian," Stan insisted.
"What else would I rip on him for?"
Stan had heard enough. "Don't rip on him for anything!"
"That's so weak," Cartman groaned.
"I don't mind banter," Kyle chimed in. Kyle wanted people to be more familiar with him, not too mired in etiquette. He could hardly say he was immersed in their culture if he wasn't exposed to some bad behavior."He calls me a slimy Joozian, I call him an ignorant fatass. Friends talk like this to each other so that when they really hear it from an enemy, it' hurts less."
"That's an interesting theory," Stan patronized a bit.
Cartman remained defensive. "Who said we're friends?"
"I'm dating your friend," Kyle pointed out, "so at the least I'm in your social circle. I don't think someone as abrasive as you should be picky about offers for friendship."
Cartman clenched up his fists, leaning forward in his seat on the shuttle bench. "I have lots of friends!"
Kyle folded his inferior set of arms."Name one besides Stan or Kenny."
"Oh, me!" a crewmate with a blonde mohawk and powder blue uniform raised his hand, having been sitting a bit off to the side, tinkering with his commlink to message his Canadian girlfriend. "Hello! I'm Eric's friend and my name is Butters, nice to meet you! Eric could use more friends, even when he acts like he wants to be alone."
"Shut up, Butters."
"This shuttle isn't very full..." Kyle noticed.
"We're fashionably late, as usual," Kenny winked.
"Are we going to be in trouble?"
"I'll get the worst of it," Stan mumbled. "Kyle is our guest, and she knows you two are hopeless, so she won't say anything to either of you."
"Well that's not fair, Stan. I'll take full responsibility for making you late."
"Uh, I don't think she'd like to hear about that either."
Personal Log of Captain Wendy Testaburger Year 14 (2030), Month 10, Day 25.
We are due to make the FTL jump at 0800 hours, bound to uncharted space in the vicinity of planet IX, system 732. Satellite surveillance in the area was lost due to some kind of electromagnetic interference, so we'll be dropping by to see what caused it, then we'll perform a survey of planet IX itself to fill in the blanks of the satellite's report. As for the Joozian exchange, I'll give him a tour pre-takeoff and write him into the survey team. The Docking Bay ID scanner just logged the usual suspects boarding late, with Kyle in tow. It is clear to my first mate that I feel protective of Stan, and I don't think that is unreasonable. I also feel protective of Kyle, albeit for a different reason. A night's fling does not a stable relationship make. Stan's stood on steadier ground than that and managed to stumble. Bebe is looking over my shoulder as I write this, as I often tell her not to be. Her suggestion for me to "chill" is duly noted, but ill-received. Relationships between crewmembers are complicated, and if Kyle wants to pursue his relationship with Stan, he'll have to jump through the same hoops as everyone else. If dating an officer of superior rank, they ought to be placed in a separate chain of command, or, in the case of Bebe and I, there are forms to be filed upon any relevant conflicts arising from rank. For example, if the 1st mate were to take a medal from the captain's sash and pin it to their own lapel when they thought I wasn't looking, normally she would need to be punished. As it stands, I'm just going to let her keep wearing it. My purple heart is as good as hers. If someone brings it to notice, she can fill out the form to explain why.
Breakfast was served in the mess hall at 0600 hours. There was decidedly less fanfare waiting for Kyle this time around, he'd been given an itinerary to meet with each specialized crew before take-off, so he'd be spared from another mosh pit of introductions. He was still the odd one out, with plenty of people to wave to, and more he hadn't met yet, but he was blending in marginally better with a uniform on. It looked like the color-coded teams typically sat together, but there were a few mixed groups like Stan's.
As Stan stood in the line for the replicator, Kyle asked, "Stan, are you eating a second breakfast?"
"I usually end up starving by lunch, so yeah I'll eat a bit extra."
"There are a lot of carbs and proteins there," Kyle read over the nutritional information displayed when Stan got to punch in his order.
"It's good, I'll work it out later. There's a shared gym space close to the living quarters and I go every day. Really everyone should, but that's up to them."
Kyle extended the conversation to Cartman, who was standing behind him in line. "Fatass, you don't work out with Stan?"
"Don't fucking call me that you J-" Cartman miraculously restrained himself, seething, "-J-jolly piece of shit! I work out with Stan all the time! I'm fucking ripped under all this padding. And you're one to talk. You've got four twiggy arms and a fat butt."
"Not as fat as yours," Kyle replied quickly. "I'm going to get second breakfast too."
Kenny joined in, "Stan always was an ass man."
Kyle tested out the recently-installed Joozian food cartridges on the mess hall's food replicator and returned with a sampler platter of breakfast goods for a little show and tell.
Stan reacted much as he had the night before, cringing and leaning away, wanting to stay in the cozy comfort of the foods he already knew.
"You don't want to try any?" Kyle asked Stan with a smile, lifting up the alien morsel on his fork- six legs, four pincers, and too many little eyes attached to a slippery-looking blue-green fish-thing. Stan covered his mouth with both hands and violently leaned away in his seat at the table as he picked up an oily odor off of it with a rank like kippered livers. Cartman had a similar reaction, vigorously shaking his head and pinching his nose.
"I'll eat it," Kenny shrugged and took the thing from Kyle, only to have the creature suddenly jerk to life, all legs kicking at once to the horror of unwary onlookers. Kenny stuffed the top-half of the thing into his mouth and bit down on the head. Its inferior pair of pincers snapped at air and the superior pair snapped at Kenny's cheeks. Kenny tugged the head off from the body in his teeth with such a violent motion that the thing's magenta-colored blood went gushing over his tray, with yellow guts unspooling out like wet noodles. Cartman fainted against Butters. Stan tasted a bit of vomit at the back of his throat, gagging. By the time Stan had finished heaving into a sickness bag and wiping his eyes, Kenny finished eating it. Stan thought about a third breakfast to replace the second, but he couldn't hack it at the moment.
Butters asked, "What did it taste like, Kenny?"
Kenny smacked and licked at his lips, clearing his palate with some water. He had to put a white bandage over his cheek where a pincer had managed to break the skin. He had a high tolerance for pain. "The snappy bits were not super pleasant, but the head reminded me of good eel, topped with eyes that taste like salmon roe- fresh as you can get it too. I'd eat another."
"It's a luxury item, you know. De-shelled Homardus Heptoculi from Gamma quadrant 21. I was surprised to find it programmed into the replicator. What would you trade me?" Kyle asked eagerly.
"You ever had a poptart? It's something of a luxury product too, you know."
Eric was just starting to come around, brushing away Butters from fanning his flushed face with a handkerchief. He mumbled in his sway upright, "poptarts are as trash as it gets, Kenny."
"Still a luxury to me."
Kyle was satisfied with the trade all the same. "I would love to try a poptart, it sounds fun to eat."
Kenny admitted, "It's not quite the same experience if you don't wait for it to pop up out of a toaster, but it's still pretty tasty."
Before Kyle had a chance to take a bite Cartman advised, "you should put some butter on it."
Kyle narrowed his eyes at Cartman with suspicion."That seems excessive."
"Trust me, put some butter on it."
Kyle received a little rectangular block of butter in gold-colored foil, turning it over in his fingers. "Didn't you just call poptarts trash?"
Cartman shrugged. "If you're going to go trash just go all the way."
"Words to live by," Kenny toasted, "thanks for the alien lobster-eel thing, Kyle."
Kyle spread butter over the warm poptart and took a bite, praising, "Mm! I mean, it's not as good as home-made pancakes, but it's very good in it's own way."
Cartman's face read nothing but betrayal, snapping toward Stan. "You made him pancakes?"
Stan promptly excused himself. "I'm going to help Kyle find the bridge so he can report to Wendy."
The portability of the poptart helped Kyle walk and eat, but he did get drips of butter on his fingers and a trail of crumbs behind him on the way to the turbolift.
As the lift quietly hissed in its vertical and horizontal propulsion toward the bridge, Kyle complained, "I have butter on my fingers."
"Lick it off?"
Kyle thought it titillating but promptly objected for the sake of hygiene."That would be gross."
Stan took up Kyle's hand and made purposeful eye contact. Responding to a permissive nod, he licked and suckled at the tips of Kyle's fingers. Kyle had to admit he enjoyed doing gross things with Stan. They were allowed but one brief, tantalizing kiss against the far wall of the turbolift before it came to a stop at its destination on the bridge. Six arms untangling at once between the two of them, separating just before the lift's doors did. Stan rode the lift back down to his station, and Kyle proceeded onto the Streisand's bridge.
The bridge is effectively the operation center of the ship. The forward bulkhead dominates half of the circular room with a concave viewing screen, currently overlaid with diagnostic pre-flight information. Control consoles dominated the other half of the room, with the captain's chair and flight console in the center, depressed into the floor. The design of it all looked very dated to Kyle.
"There you are," Wendy sighed with relief upon the Joozian's approach, gesturing to introduce him to a male crewman in a black uniform, with blonde hair in a feminine bob cut style. "Kyle, this is Pip Pirrup. He leads the Stewards and reports to Gregory. They handle general inventory and cleaning on the ship. Since you're a bit late, I don't know that we have time for their part of the tour before we make the scheduled jump."
"Oh, Captain, is there really no time?" Pip politely protested, "I've had the team rehearse a musical number you see, and-"
"-There certainly isn't time for that," Wendy dismissed before noticing an alert from the viewscreen. "Excuse me, I'll be right back. Your introduction will have to be complete by that time."
"Well, a spot of bad luck, wouldn't you say?" Pip sighed and tried to put on a stiff upper lip. "I hope I haven't built up any kind of grand expectations. If you see a crewmember in a black uniform, you'll know it's a steward keeping this ship ship-shape from the shadows!"
Kyle was directed to look at his PDA by Pip who continued introductions at a break-neck pace. "If you'll open your crew directory here I can show you some pictures." He flicked through them one after the other, allowing only brief glances that in theory should be registered by his brain, but would be promptly forgotten upon a proper meeting. "Here's Scott, Tripply, Filmore, Flora, Sarah, and Sally- they work the day shift. Here's Damien, Henrietta, Peter, Micheal, and Firkle. I work with them on the night shift." The difference between staff was indeed as stark as day and night. Everyone on night shift aside from Pip looked miserable. "As a rule of thumb, sort any personal rubbish into their proper disposals, but leave most anything else to us. If you hear this note," Pip blew harshly on a whistle retrieved from his pocket to simulate the actual alarm, "that means there's a gas leak. There are a few other tones you should listen for, it's how I got the idea for the song, you see. It really was a proper production that I had planned and hoped to show you-"
"-Alright, back to business," Wendy burst back into the scene after diffusing some issue, leading the alien away from Pip. "Kyle, as you can see, we are standing on the bridge. If I'm not up here making orders, Bebe is." She walked Kyle from the left side of the bridge's console stations to the right, introducing crewmembers in succession.
"Nicole is in charge of communications, routing all departmental issues, hailing incoming messages, and relaying with away-team during survey."
Kyle had met Nicole the night before at the bar. He felt a bit guilty not remembering her name right away, but at that time he had been not-so-subtly making his way toward Stan to ask him out. She had a friendly smile, brown skin, and coiled black hair loosely held in a band behind her head.
"Craig is our Navigator, working closely with the pilots and the engineers to ensure our FTL jump is as safe as possible." Wendy awkwardly presented each person and their station as its own exhibit for Kyle to look upon. Craig looked disinterestedly at Kyle with steely blue eyes, shaking his hand. He looked a little like Stan, but his face was more gaunt and his aura was less warm, his coarse, black hair better-kempt, and his lips a bit thinner.
Wendy swept an arm toward the center of the bridge, so Kyle stopped staring at Craig and followed along with Wendy. "We have two of our pilots on the bridge this morning. Token is the lead pilot for today, with Clyde acting as co-pilot. Kenny pilots the night shift and usually flies the shuttle for survey missions."
Kyle got a brief nod and a wave from Token and Clyde respectively, they were busy at their consoles. Token had dark brown skin, toned physique, and a hairstyle faded by the ears that built up to a flat plane on top. Clyde was a smudgy, pale, pudgy, and poorly-kempt brunette. His clumsy laughter at a smooth quip from Token showed them to be chummy with each other.
"Speaking of survey missions," Wendy segued, "I was wondering if you might want to join, if the opportunity presented itself."
"Certainly," Kyle consented.
"Wonderful." Wendy took her seat in the Captain's chair. "I'm going to pass you off to Bebe, who will be taking you through Security. We have your relevant files sorted with them and the medical team, but there is some additional screening, standard for any new crewmember."
Bebe pulled Kyle's attention from a turbolift just arriving at the bridge, waving for him to join her inside. On their way, Bebe slyly struck up a pointed conversation.
"So, you and Stan, huh? How is that going?"
"I think it's going good."
"That's so cool!" Bebe cheered, "I'd love to hear the details!"
Kyle had heard from Stan that Bebe was something of a gossip. "Oh, we just talked mostly."
"Mostly, huh?" Bebe teased. "I just want you to know I'm rooting for you! Really go for it and don't worry about a thing!"
"Sure, you should follow your heart!"
"Why are you rooting for me?"
"I like your style, the way you just went for it!"
"It's not my style," Kyle blurted defensively. "It was out of character for me to have approached him like I did. Even if it's going good now, I'm worried I pushed Stan into this."
"Stan's probably worried too," Bebe consoled, "you can talk it out, and do what feels right."
"No, oh my god, are you listening to me?" Bebe scoffed at herself. "I'll stop giving you unsolicited love advice."
"I might solicit it sometime." Gossip or not, he got the sense that she was wise when it came to love.
"Anyway," Bebe downplayed their tender moment, pointing manicured red nails like laser sights at her co-workers' stations as they entered her workspace. Surveillance console, lock-up, armory, scanners. The décor was saturated with dangerous-looking equipment and polished metals. "Here's Intel and Security. The name is pretty self-explanatory, right? Cartman is probably still in mess hall having a third breakfast, but this is Cristophe, Patty, Lizzy, Rayne, Jessica, and Petuski."
They had interrupted something of a meeting, where the members all drank coffee and fiddled with a stun baton or a ballistic ranged weapon, which Kyle was not used to seeing. The one named Christophe was polishing a shovel, further straining Kyle with perturbation. Why did he need a shovel? A tired 'hello' from these people was more than enough interaction for Kyle at the time being. He hoped that they did not all think about aliens the way Cartman did.
"Wendy probably wants me back up on the bridge soon." Bebe led Kyle away after he turned down an offering of coffee, back to the turbolift. "You can follow the colored stripes on the floor to find the hub of whatever department you're looking for, same color code as the uniforms, but I'll lead you to Engineering- it's kind of a mess down there. You decided that's where you want to work?"
"I don't want to be a distraction to Stan. Or vice versa."
Kyle scrolled through the crew directory for the members of the Engineering team. Names and faces duly noted, hopefully recalled later when needed. Kevin, Tweek, Annie, Baahir, David, Timmy, Jimmy, Ashley, Charlotte, Estella, Lisa, Terrence, Thomas, Yao, and Leslie.
"Engineering takes up the most room and resources-" Bebe explained, peeking over Kyle's shoulder. "The FTL drive, propulsion, life support, main computers- just check in with Leslie, then you can visit Counselor Marsh in Medical."
Kyle began to object, "I'm not-"
Bebe wouldn't hear it, dropping off Kyle in the heart of the Engineering Lab. "Right, you're not counting down the minutes until you see Stan again, I got you. You're very serious about your work. You'll get a medal for your dedication and chastity soon enough. Later, Kyle."
All of the slouching, crouching, and stooping engineers at their consoles paid Kyle little mind. Where was his station? What should he do now? He turned around in place, unsure, before something bumped into his right leg. He turned to see a fellow engineer in a wheelchair with a gummy, asymmetrical smile and receding orange hair.
The engineer's tightly-clutched fist released the chair's guidance control-stick and moved to tap on a large keypad, soon issuing a digitized voice from a speaker console. "Timmy!"
"My name is Kyle."
Some of the better socialized engineers moved to introduce themselves as Timmy broke the ice. A good thing too, because Kyle was having difficulty communicating. He asked the first person to approach after Timmy, a grinning brunette limberly propelling himself on forearm-crutches, "Why does he keep saying 'Timmy'?"
"His text-to-voice module has been acting up all morning. We're just so busy getting the ship ready to g-" the engineer stuttered over the next harsh syllable, punching at it a few times with try-again utterances before saying instead, "-so busy getting the ship ready to leave, that we haven't had the time to fix it. You probably figured by now his name is Timmy. My name is Jimmy. It's nice to meet you, Kyle."
Timmy interjected, "Timmy! 'Livin' a Lie', Timmy!"
"It's nice to meet you, Timmy."
The trio turned their heads as the chief engineer approached and feigned clearing her throat to get their attention."Back to work, if you don't mind. We are on a strict schedule." Having scattered the gathering, she addressed the newcomer. "Hello again, Kyle."
"I have been told that you requested a posting on the Engineering team. As our only credited xenobiologist, is there a reason you did not join the Medical team instead?"
"Oh, I just...Figured I'd have more work to do." Kyle skirted.
"I see. I thought you might have done that to avoid a hearing regarding a co-worker relationship."
"I'm not avoiding anything," Kyle frowned, bothered by her aloof tone. "If there needs to be a hearing, that's fine."
"I think that would be for the best. Do request the form during your tour of the Medical wing. And don't tarry too long. There is work to do."
Kyle was glad to leave. He was torn between working under Stan, which would be distracting and potentially problematic if it didn't work out for the year, and working under Leslie, who he now found to be insufferable. On the turbolift ride from Engineering to Medical, Kyle recorded his thoughts to his personal log.
Personal Log of Kyle Broflovski, Day 1 of Exchange Program
Joozian-Human relations are...complicated. That's what my father always said, and sometimes I can't help but say it too. It's complicated. Earth was one of Fognl's many "Programmed Reality Broadcasts", where a diverse culture of animals and sentients were left on an isolated planet to develop under observation as a form of entertainment. The humans of Earth eventually discovered the "visitors" recording them, which led to the Earth program being canceled. The planet was set to be demolished and strip-mined for resources and merchandise. It all sounds so cruel, but humans were classified as lesser beings that were not legally afforded the same rights as more advanced civilizations. Because Earth was such a popular program, there was a public outcry to the cancellation. It was the first time I actually wanted to help my mom, to lobby for a cause together. My father was one of the lawyers representing the humans of Earth in a lawsuit against the network. We couldn't keep the program or the planet, but the races of Earth were given new protections and a settlement was made to pay for their relocation. The next step for humans is to join the Intergalactic community, to be recognized as equals. My family became the first Joozians to adopt a human as a family member, and I'll be one of the first "aliens" volunteering to work alongside a human survey crew. It is of the utmost importance that I ingratiate myself with the members of the Streisand and bring home a report showing positively that we can co-exist to our mutual benefit.
"We shouldn't be doing this during a consultation." Stan grunted with token resistance to Kyle straddling him in his office, recapturing the mood from their kiss in the turbolift in no time at all.
"I know, you're right. But where does the counselor go for a consultation?" Kyle had been getting bored of the screening questions and was having a bit of fun was all. However, Stan didn't have an answer to his teasing, underlying an actual issue. "Maybe you could talk to me, if there was something bothering you," Kyle suggested, wanting to get past whatever formality they have to.
"This is your scheduled consultation," Stan argued.
"Well, Dr. Marsh, I feel great. Nothing to report. How about you?"
Stan is a frequent victim of his own double-thinking. There's something inside of him that critiques him, demands of him certain things, to be a certain way. "I'm worried that our relationship is a conflict of interest for me counseling you."
"I trust you," Kyle assured. "Don't worry about asking me questions as a counselor, just ask as yourself."
"What is your romantic history?"
Kyle chuckled and unwound himself from Stan to find his own seat. He had wanted to ask that last night, so he was both ready and willing to answer now. "When I was 10, I kissed a girl a few times. Her brother assaulted me and she went on to kiss other people. More recently, I had a crush on a synthetic life-form with the appearance of a human female. We went on a date, but by the end of it I realized she was just leading me on. I've had physical interests and romantic crushes toward males and never acted on them."
"You approached me very openly," Stan said, as if this were a contradiction to his previous statement.
Kyle tried on a shrug for size, deeming it appropriate. "I told you why."
"Because you find me attractive?"
"Not just attractive," Kyle pointed out. "Like we shared the same atoms once."
Stan didn't seem to be familiar with the phrase.
"It's an alien idiom. I mean I felt some kind of longing when I first saw you. What did you feel?"
"I felt like shit. I mean, before you approached me. When you did I could hardly believe it. That whole date I was trying to think of a way to let you down easy."
"Now I don't want to be apart from you. I wish I had always known you. It's not happening too fast, is it?"
"Some bonds are formed fast," Kyle reasoned, like two atoms trying to find a balance. For answering, now Kyle got to ask, "what is your romantic history?"
"The Captain was my first girlfriend. We've been on and off. She presented as male for a time, which made me question my orientation, but I didn't have anyone to figure that out with."
"Why didn't it work between you and Wendy?" Kyle didn't want to dwell on it, but he had to admit that Stan and Wendy would probably have a perfect child if they mated.
"I think that when we were kids, we both thought we were fated to be together. She stopped believing it, and after a while I stopped believing it too."
"That's uh, sad," Kyle mumbled. Based on what he knew about them he could see Stan not keeping up with Wendy's drive, but when she wasn't busy they must have got along together very well.
"Staying together when we knew it wouldn't work, that would have been sad." It sounded like a wound with a scar that would stick around.
"You stayed on her ship though."
"All of my friends are on this ship," Stan confirmed. "Wendy and I have things worked out, I think."
"I asked for her permission to ask you out," Kyle groaned with sudden realization, smacking a palm to his forehead.
"Speaking of awkward, we have to fill out some paperwork and possibly talk to a higher-up about the nature of our relationship." Stan pulled out the necessary forms to attach to his notes, only to have them snatched away by Kyle.
"I can handle that." Kyle skimmed through the papers and tapped Stan's pen against the clipboard. "Let's see. Names. Kyle Broflovski and Stan Marsh. Duration of relationship prior to form signage. Less than 24 hours. Comments. Stan, you felt hesitant because of your administrative position, but remained open to a relationship after a mutually enjoyed date that was sanctioned by the CO. "
"I should probably be writing that," Stan tugged at his collar, feeling a stuffy heat come over him.
"Kyle fell in love with Stan at first sight, and after the date consented to intimate relations, which were also mutually enjoyed. Stan's knowledge of xenobiology is lacking, but he is a studious and sensitive lover."
"Dude, you can't write that in an official document!"
Kyle smiled, his body lifting upward with mirth. Stan called him a dude. "Any comments you'd like to add?"
"Are you sure?"
"During relations, Kyle spent an inordinate amount of time stimulating the testes."
"Well, Stan could use a shave."
"I'm redacting all of this."
"That would just look suspicious, Stan. There are enough human-alien relation documents loaded with redaction as it is." He handed the papers back and checked the time. "I've got to get back to Engineering. I'm going to be working there, I think. That way you don't have to worry."
"See you. You'll probably want to introduce yourself to the rest of the medical staff next time instead of making a beeline for my office..."
"Oops." Kyle endured some awkwardness on his trip back to Engineering from Medical.
A disheveled engineer with a bird's nest of blonde hair and dark circles under his eyes practically throttled Kyle on arrival."There you are! Oh, thank god! You and your brother were supposed to be down here helping at least 30 minutes ago!"
"I don't know! Jesus christ, I don't have time to look for him! If I don't have the FTL drive synched with the coordinates before 0800 hours Wendy is going to kill me, and if I don't synch the FTL drive with the coordinates flawlessly, we're all going to die!"
"Wendy isn't going to kill you, let's take our time and figure it out."
Kyle helped the nervous wreck beside him crunch numbers, working around their archaic console under some quiet desperation until Ike casually announced himself from behind them.
"Hi Kyle, hi Tweek."
"Ike! What the fuck, man!?" Tweek shook and tugged at his own hair.
Kyle chastised, "Ike, you shouldn't show up to work late."
"That's true. Are we ready to make the jump? Wendy wants to know."
"We'll be ready"
"Are you sure?" Tweek bit his lip. "The computer has only run the simulation eight hundred times! Eleven-hundred is the optimum number of simulations to bin all outliers from the packet exchange through projected quantum tunnel plots!
"You're really overstating the risk here, that's a total loss of less than one percent..."
"Zero-point-five-nine percent! Try losing 0.59 percent of your body, tell me if I'm overstating the risk!"
"We all lose negligible amounts like that overtime." Kyle scooted aside for Ike to put fresh eyes on their numbers, trying to calm Tweek. "The loss isn't centralized, the most that will happen is a little paint getting atomized off the hull. Do you always try to get synch numbers this high?"
"Yes! Wendy's not going to accept anything lower!"
"That's...Really impressive, but you're stressing yourself out too much. Ike, I need to get word to Wendy."
Ike pulled himself from the numbers and sent word to Nicole. "Kyle's synced the FTL drive, tell Wendy we're ready to go."
Despite the OK, Wendy messaged directly via Ike's commlink, "Kyle, how does it look?"
"Targeted jump coordinates locked in."
"Alright. Make sure your alerts are on, I may call you to the bridge later."
"...She's okay with these synch percentages?" Tweek strained his eyes, darting from number set to number set.
"Really anything above 97.6% should be fine," Kyle waved off.
"It's not different for Joozians and humans?" Tweek asked.
"Oh, I don't know," Kyle mumbled before Tweek's alarm led him to append, "I mean, it's fine! Really!"
"Coffee." Tweek staggered away from his console. "I'm going to get coffee."
"Does he need more?" Kyle eyed the empty glass caraffe on Tweek's desk.
"He just says that when he needs to get away." Ike pilfered a donut from Tweek's desk. "But he does drink too much coffee. I'm heading up to the bridge to watch the jump. Do you want to come?"
"I'm just going to try getting settled, thanks Ike." Kyle leaned back in his seat, thinking of setting up his desk and texting Stan. Getting his office supplies and personal desk effects from one of the stewards, Kyle made some progress making himself feel more at home before he was interrupted by a scrape and a stutter behind him.
"Hi there, Kyle. Not too busy to talk?"
"What's on your mind, Jimmy?"
"Well, Leslie suggested that I think of something to ask you, to facilitate a cultural exchange. I thought I'd ask if you could tell me a joke."
It's not easy to recall a joke on the spot, but Jimmy waited patiently as long as Kyle needed to come up with one. "My father sounds really strange when he sneezes. Do you know what he sounds like?"
"What does he sound like?" Jimmy asked.
"Wow, that is really funny, Kyle." Jimmy gave a toohy grin but did not laugh. Kyle thought that was fair enough. "I feel very enlightened. Some jokes are truly universal."
Kyle wanted to get back to arranging succulents on his desk. "Nice talking to you, Jimmy."
Leslie's voice carried over speakers in the engineering lab. "We're making the FTL jump shortly. For your safety, please find a seat and remain as still as possible. You'll know the jump is completed when the lights come back on."
Everyone on board braced themselves at their stations with the lights out. It was a disquieting feeling to travel faster than light. A feeling of time and space dilating and contracting at once, jumping from the crest of one rolling wave of gravity to another. Figments of light popping into your view in darkness accompanied by roaring static was common during, but at times could intensify into visual and auditory hallucinations as the mind suffocated for stimuli in a moment split between ending and beginning. This heightened perception of cosmic illusion, known as Persistent Ganzfeld Syndrome, resulted in hallucinations persisting after a finished jump. It effected 1 out of 100 even at high synch percentages. Once the lights were back on, a post-jump roll call had to be taken to account for anyone that needed treatment. In most cases, those afflicted are able to sleep it off and not recall their visions, but after such an experience, many develop anxiety over consequent jumps.
During post-jump roll call, Tweek Tweak and Kyle Broflovski were found unresponsive and moved to the infirmary.