"Drop everything and give me ten... Books! I need books!"
"Books? What are books?"
"You dolt! Books came before computers. They're memory storage units. Old ones."
"Aged one, you're chasing a will of the wisp. These creatures are preliterate. They wouldn't have books. Besides, didn't you have to hold those things in your fingers? These creatures are just glorified terrapin. I don't know any literate turtles."
The Sentient One slumped in his commander's chair. "I'm surrounded by fools," he sighed. His foot ached. The pain was overwhelming. He stripped of his mag-boots and let the negative grav field take the pressure off his bunion.
"Captain, you should see the medix about that foot." The science officer sounded solicitous, but he wasn't. He'd been kicked out of first level tana boxing for tearing the wings off a contestant from Oranc 5. It's against the rules to pull wings off insectoids. He was banned from boxing and sent to SNARK for retraining. The Sensitivity Nullification and Reform Kom guys set him straight. Of course, they erased his memories up to and including his high school years. He had no memory of being an amateur thespian. Still, he was wont to shout the names of play writes when stressed.
He was stressed now. "Well, William Shakespeare!
he bellowed into the com-link. "Find the Great Sentient One a book!"
Several metallic clicks and a moan were all he heard back over the com-link. He bit his fingernails.
"I think we'll have to muddle through without a book, captain."
"A book? Oh, yes, I need a book. And, damn it, I need something for my sore foot."
"My mother always swore by Epsom Salts in hot water. Cap'n you need to soak your foot!"
"Haven't got time. Besides, your mother wears Army Boots too. Say, do we have any? I might try that. Your mother's pretty spry for an old gal."
The transport shuddered. "My God and great hordes of promenading poodles!" the first mate shouted. "What in blazes was that?"
"Well, it wasn't Bat Segudno, was it." The Sentient One smirked at his artful use of a term that was banned on seventeen worlds.
The science officer winced at the phrase. Something hidden in a half-erased memory made him blush. They all noticed it, but they were too busy with their own tasks to comment on it, bright green though it was.
"Get me those books! We'll never survive without them!"
A moment of epiphany released a suppressed memory, and the science officer blushed a deeper shade of green. "The GalleyCat! She's got a book. I know she does. She keeps it under her mattress. I still have a bruise..."
He left the rest unsaid, blushed even more deeply and ran for the lift.
When it was all over he found himself self-satisfied and in full possession of his lost memories.
"Ah, roar of the greasepaint, smell of the crowd," he muttered.
Miss Snark mutters "Christopher Marley!"
Scoring to come