Meanwhile, aboard the MoonShip Waist of Space…
“Are you sure this is safe?” Tarquin asked.
“Of course not, Tarq,” Merry replied, “I’d take my helmet off if I were.”
“Don’t we have an instrument to test the air quality, so we can know whether was can breathe it?”
“Yah, sure we do.”
“Oh goody! Where is it?”
“It’s here. I call it Commander Tarquin Stuart-Lane,” Merry said, laughing heartily at her own extreme wit.
“Well, I think you’re being beastly,” Tarquin complained.
“Just doing my job, Tarq; just doing my job.”
“How is using me like a pit canary doing your job?”
“Simple. You are in charge of constructing the habitat thingy; I am in charge of everything else.”
“You sure about that, Merry?”
“Yah. Positive. Now take your helmet off.”
Tarquin gingerly released the holding bolts that maintained the airtight seal between helmet and suit. As he turned the helmet, he heard, and felt, a hiss of escaping air as the pressures equalised. With all the care and delicacy of a bomb disposal operative disarming a live device, he lifted the helmet off his head and oh-so-slowly took a few shallow breaths.
“Well?” Merry asked.
Tarquin took a deep breath and exclaimed, “Seems fine.”
Merry removed her helmet, and looked at Tarquin, her eyes betraying her true feelings for Tarquin; feelings of deep, total and unconditional…
What’s that? You didn’t know she had feelings for him? Why not let me finish, okay?
feelings of deep, total and unconditional indifference.
“Tarq,” she drawled, coquettishly.
“What is it, Merry,” Tarquin responded, his tone of voice revealing that he actually did have feelings for Merry, albeit in an upper class, stiff-upper-lip, Hooray-Henry kind of way.
“Did you notice anything about the alien, when he took his suit off?”
“Apart from his extreme height, his unbelievable thinness, his large, round, bald head and total lack of colour, and his unnatural-looking facial features; no. Not really.”
“He didn’t strike you as being rather like a matchstick man or something from a game of hangman?”
“Oh golly, Merry. I see what you did there. Very funny; very clever.”
“What? What did I do?”
“Dear, sweet, innocent, gorgeous, sexy—”
“Sorry. Got carried away.”
“You will be, carrying on like that. What point were you trying to make, if indeed you had one?”
“Oh yah; sure. Had one. No doubt about that. Om. Let me think…”
“Tarquin Stuart-Lane, you really are—”
“Remembered. Yah. You said ‘strike me’, then ‘like a matchstick man’. Hahahahahahaha. Brilliant.”
So involved were the pair in their intellectual banter, that neither noticed the door open and a smaller figure enter. This one was similar in appearance to the first, but only about half its height, and instead of a stick-like torso, its mid-section was distended, like an over-inflated balloon.
“I say, Tarq,” Merry asked, merrily, “do you suppose they have matchstick cats and dogs, too?”
“They wouldn’t need us as pets if they did,” replied Tarquin the Obtuse.
The smaller figure approached and, from its first “Hello” they knew it to be Arty (who did, in fact, have something of a flatulence problem).
“Hi, Arty,” Merry said, as cheerfully as she could, “could you let us out, please? We don’t like being in a cage.”
“Yah. Bit of a bummer,” Tarquin added helpfully.
“Not yet,” Arty replied, “I have asked the elders to make a nice run for you, but you’ll just have to accept the status quo until it’s finished.”
Matchstick cats and dogs? Status Quo? What is this – a 1970s revival? Somebody should start a petition to have this stopped!
I wrote part one of this tale in response to Kreative Kue 39, issued on this site earlier. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.