Meanwhile, in a settlement a few hundred metres from the MoonShip Waist of Space…
“Oh, goody. Let’s run around and have some fun, Merry. Come on, old girl; we’ll play tag… or hide and seek… or – ooh. Have you got some chalk? We could play hopscotch, there’s plenty of room.”
“Tarquin,” Merry said, her voice tinged with just a modicum of life-draining exasperation, “do you have any concept of what is happening, of where we are, of what these… these aliens are expecting of us?”
“Steady on, old thing,” Tarquin said quietly, through the side of his mouth, in a manner that suggested he didn’t want their captors to hear it, “less of the A-bomb. Not very PC, is it? Mustn’t alienate, oops, I mean annoy them. If we play along with them for a while, it may go better for us. Let them think we’re stupid—”
“Which, in your case at least, would be true.”
“Yah; okay; grant you that, but let them think it anyway.”
Trainee Drone Artivon Grumpblast turned to his father, Flatulon [turns out that’s his name; who knew?], and said, “I’ve opened the door, Dad; why aren’t they coming out?”
“I explained this to you when the wounded malfini [a predatory bird similar to a Haitian Buzzard] we looked after didn’t want to leave its cage. Lesser creatures quickly grow used to their enclosure and see it as a safe place. They forget what it’s like to be free after only a few days. Tip the cage so they fall out, then shut the door behind them.”
Arty did as his father had told him. He tipped the cage, which sent our hapless pair tumbling out onto the floor, which was made from a solid, concrete-like substance. Once out, he closed the cage door behind them.
“That was rather mean,” Tarquin shouted, “Jolly well hurt. No way to treat a chap, you know.”
“Never mind that,” Merry said, “let’s make a plan.”
“Oh, goody. That sounds like a jolly good wheeze. Don’t think I’ve ever made a plan before. What will we need? We have no tools, or wood, or anything.”
“How do we get out of here, Tarquin?”
“Ooh, ooh! Is this like twenty questions? Ahm. Okay, I give up; ask me another.”
“No, really. I love this game. Don’t stop just because I don’t know the answer to the first question; ask me another one.”
“Very well, Tarquin. What’s the next thing we need to do?”
“Don’t know. Ask me another.”
“How on Earth did I end up with you?”
“Ooh. I know that one. According to the Chief, we were sent here because we were the most extendable officers in the Regiment. That means we were the best in an unusual situation. Am I right? What do I win?”
“Oh, Tarquin. You poor, sweet, deluded pair of short planks. Can’t you see what’s happened?”
“Yah. We’ve been tipped out of our cage. Rather unceremoniously, if you ask me.”
“Think back, Tarquin.”
“Thinking back. No. Nothing.”
“Are you sure the Chief said ‘extendable’? Did he, perhaps, say ‘expendable’?”
“Yah. Okay. Not with you. What’s the difference?”
“Expendable means they can do without us.”
“Well, they’d need to, if they sent us here, which they did, so they do, and we must be.”
“What? Never mind. Tarquin?”
“What exactly did the Chief say to you?”
“He said… let me see… yah! He said, ‘I have never known an officer as extendable as you pair. You complete the Waist of Space. I’ll be sad to see the lack of you’. Wonder what he meant by that last part.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t ‘I have never known an officer as expendable as you pair. You are a complete waste of space. I’ll be glad to see the back of you’?”
“Yah. Okay. Ahm. Don’t know.”
“Heaven preserve us!” Merry breathed.
“They don’t deserve us.”
“That’s not what I said, Tarquin, and you know it!”
“What it sounded like.”
All the time this discussion was underway, Arty and Flatulon were waiting for the pair to move.
“Two things are certain, lad,” Flatulon said to his son in their own language, a language that sounded, to Merry at least, less like words and more like the output of a Jamaican steel band.
“What’s that, Dad?” Arty replied in a slightly higher key and, to Merry’s ear, a little in need of tuning.
“Firstly, it’s clear that they don’t need very much space.”
“Look at the way they are interacting, and try to tell me they’re not a pair. Mark my words, young Arty, it’ll not be long before they produce a litter. Let’s go, and leave them to it.”
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.