Catch up on earlier episodes at this link
Meanwhile, on board the MoonShip Waist of Space…
Twas the night before Christmas and all the radio chatter (it seems the strange aliens that repaired the radio and other electronics on the Waist of Space had managed to tune one of the receivers to BBC Radio 2) was about that rare but special event, the Christmas full moon.
“Gosh, Merry,” Tarquin said, “should we go out and see it?”
“Tarquin. Just how stupid are you?” Merry asked him; rhetorically, because she had a pretty good handle on the answer.
“Yah. Not sure on that, old thing.”
“That was a rhetorical question, dumbo.”
“Yah, but what is a rhetorical question, when you come down to it? I mean, when all’s said and done, and the fat lady has abused her vocal chords. What’s it actually mean, really.”
“Shut up, Tarquin. There’s a radio message coming in.”
“Smashing. Might be Ken Bruce. I applied to be on Popmaster.”
“It’s not Ken Bruce, it’s from Rip van Winkel’s ship.”
“What, the Cilla Black?”
“Not the Cilla Black, stupid; the Surprise.”
“Same difference. What’s he saying?”
“If you shut up and listen, you’ll hear.”
“This is Captain van Winpell calling from the shuttle Sir Prijs. Over.”
“And?” Merry asked.
“And. Over,” he reminded them.
“Used to have a friend lived there,” Tarquin piped up.
“Andover. Over,” Tarquin replied. “That sounds silly. Andover over. Shouldn’t it be over and over? Over?”
“What is your message? Over,” Merry asked.
“The John Deere engineer has arrived, but there’s a bit of a hitch. Seems he misheard our Chief Engineer’s request. He asked for an end part for the valmadium exchange unit, but the John Deere chap; he’s from America, you know, somewhere in the deep south; wasn’t familiar with our chap’s Tyneside accent and brought an end port, which is no good at all. Over.”
“I hope you have a plan,” Merry said, dutifully adding, “over.”
“Seems the John Deere shuttle has a working tractor beam, so we’ll use it to haul you up and dock you with the Sir Prijs. Stand by for acquisition. Over.”
“MS Waist of Space standing by. Over.”
Merry switched off the microphone, as she didn’t want their would-be captors to overhear what she was about to say to Tarquin, and this could well be the last chance she’d have.
“Listen carefully, Tarquin,” she said, “here’s what we’ll do.” She explained to him, in minute detail, the plan she had hatched to ensure they didn’t see out their careers in military jail.
“I say, Merry, that’s a splendid wheeze,” Tarquin said when she had finished, “but won’t it be a bit, erm, dangerous?”
“Only for you.”
“Yah. Right. With you. That’s okay then, what?”
They heard, and felt, the tractor beam capture them; then their craft started, slowly at first but then more rapidly, to lift off the lunar surface and gain altitude. After an agonising few minutes, they could see the unmistakable outline of a Royal Space Regiment enforcement shuttle silhouetted against the full Earth. Their craft slowly approached the shuttle and made contact with its docking ring with a clang that seemed to shake their very being. As shockingly sudden as the clang, was the bright light that flooded their craft as their rear escape hatch opened. Two heavily armed troopers entered their living space, secured the pair with hypercuffs and escorted them to the shuttles brig. Once safely behind bars, Captain van Winpell came through and wished them a merry Christmas.
“You know what Christmas is for us, don’t you?” Merry asked the captain.
“Over,” Tarquin responded emphatically.
“Very drole, Commanders,” the captain said, as he walked away, laughing.
One of the shuttle’s junior officers came to them with a couple of tablets.
“Use these,” she said, “to record, in detail, everything that happened to you, everything you did, everything you said, everything you thought, from the moment of your blast-off from Earth until now. It may help at your court-martial.”
“How?” Merry asked, “We are being court-martialled for insubordination to old Reggie, aren’t we?”
“Reggie – Rear Admiral Alasdair Faquharson to you.”
“Yes you are, but your detailed account may point to intolerable stress levels that led you to the uncharacteristic outburst for which you are charged.”
“Are you on our side?” Tarquin asked.
“I am Lt Joan Weinberg, appointed by the Regiment to defend you.”
“Do you believe in God, Lt Weinberg?” Merry asked.
“What does that have to do with your defence?”
“Nothing. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to ask someone, and you seemed like a suitable person to ask. Do you?”
“I believe there is something bigger than me at work in the universe.”
“That’s not saying much,” Tarquin said, “I’m bigger than you.”
“Can we talk about your trial? Do you realise how much trouble you are in?”
“Just for putting Reggie’s nose out of joint?” Tarquin asked.
“Absolutely,” Merry agreed, “if we hadn’t got him riled up, there would have been no rescue mission, and we would have been left to die on the moon.”
“Yah,” Tarquin said, “and you would never have learned about the Borborygmi.”
“What on Earth are they?”
“On Earth. Anyway,” Merry added, “you’ll have to read our report to find out; the report that wouldn’t have existed had you not come to arrest us, which you wouldn’t have done had we not upset old Reggie. So it could be argued that our insubordination led directly to the availability of information about the first ever contact between humans and another species.”
“Yah. What she said,” Tarquin said, helpfully adding, “over.”
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.