Distant Land (Part 13)

It was while later. No one was quite sure how long because they had all been far too busy examining the alien artefact that Cedric had brought aboard to notice. Eventually though, the Brian Talbot’s captain heard the sound he most feared: the buzz of his Ready Room door bell…

“Shoot.” He yelped. Then, gathering his courage, he added: “Enter.”

To his surprise it wasn’t Bruce Burpsby who led in the delegation of scientists; but Folie and Placebo. He stood up from his comfy chair to greet them.

“We’ve discovered a message.” Folie informed him…

“Yes.” A smiling Placebo added. “It’s a video message. We’ve formatted the signal so that it’s compatible with our computer.”

“Golly, that’s quick thinking. What does it say?” Cedric squeaked. “I hope there wasn’t a computer virus embedded inside it. It could play havoc with the ship’s systems. Imagine Waste Management failing horribly: it doesn’t bear thinking about. Does it mention alien invasion, by any chance?”

The look in Cedric’s eyes told the youngsters all they needed to know: their captain was suffering from Space Paranoia. Placebo sought to placate Cedric. “No, not at all. It’s just a cheerful ‘hello’ to passing space travellers.”

Outside the Ready Room, the bridge crew stood and listened…

“That lad sure can lie with the best of ’em.” Hooper Hellstrom whispered to the doubtful-looking Hubert Boils. “They’ve not had nearly enough time to check out that video: there could poop slopping about in the bilges as we speak.”

Meanwhile, inside the Ready Room…

“Excellent.” Cedric responded after several second’s thought. “Let’s get to the bridge: I’d like to see it for myself…

So, as they headed for the Exit and Placebo spotted the cheerful faces of the waiting bridge crew…

…he wondered if it might not have been better if he’d told the truth, which was that he didn’t have the first idea what the message said.

“Who knows,” he said under his breath and sniffed the air tentatively, “this could be the precursor of our utter destruction.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019


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