Things might have been hotting up – or cooling down, depending on your point of view – on Mars: but upon the ridiculously distant Scroton, where the Gravity Whelk lie quiescent in its cradle once more…
…Folie and Placebo were summoned to the presence of the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor again…
“Well its done.” Donny Woolbadger informed them. “The Gravity Whelk is all ship-shape and Scroton fashion – to paraphrase an old Earth expression that Nigel gleaned from Magnuss Earplug.”
“We don’t know what to say.” Folie replied. “I mean this is beyond wonderful: we’re just speechless.”
“I’ll be happy if you don’t break wind with joy.” Tojo Winterborn said in much-practised Earplug, but with a thick, almost impenetrable Scrotonic accent. “Now be on your way: you have a ship to inspect.”
Well the youngsters didn’t need a second bidding. But when they came aboard it was with feelings of trepidation. Might the ship be adorned with candy pink carpets and feather boas? It didn’t bear thinking about…
“Nope.” Placebo said as he stepped into the first corridor from the transfer conduit. “Ah…looking kind of good – if you like sparkly gold walls and Lincoln green flooring.”
He was then startled by the sudden arrival of the Chancellors, whom, he assumed, must have entered via the opposite conduit.
“Yeek!” He managed.
“We were going to let you explore alone.” Donny explained. “Then Tojo had a thought: what if you didn’t read the instruction pamphlet properly? It could end catastrophically. So we came aboard to show you around.”
So the first command given in the re-fitted Gravity Whelk was to the Automatic Pilot. Five minutes later they were in deep space.
“Regard the nice oval portholes.” Donny said as they proceeded along the corridor. “Made for optimum vision and super strength. This ship won’t fall apart when you enter a gravitic maelstrom or collide with asteroids.”
Donny was very keen to display the toilet with a revolving door…
“Pink light on: go poop.” Tojo said in simple Earplug.
“Nice touch.” Placebo managed. “But what if the bulb blows? I wouldn’t want to walk in on Folie half way through.”
“Got a lock on door.” Tojo replied.
Then the duo were taken to the room that no one had a name for, but in which the ship’s log was located. There they were introduced to the engineers, designers, and whizz-kids that had overseen the re-fit…
“This seat is jolly comfortable.” Folie observed.
“And this golden globe is very…uh…golden. Was it golden before? I can’t remember.” Placebo added. Then, in an inspired intellectual moment he spotted something behind him reflected in the information matrix globe: “Hey – is that Cafe Blurgh in that machine? We both love Cafe Blurgh: it was all we could find whilst sight-seeing in Scroton Prime.”
Snarlsdon Bumbledope was surprised at this. “Really?” He said. “I’m really surprised: Cafe Yuk and Cafe Cacks out-sell Blurgh ten-to-one. You must have visited all the best cafes.”
Folie shrugged his shoulders. “Well, you know: some people are born with good taste. What else have you got to show us?”
As they passed another porthole, Placebo noticed a painting hanging upon the outer hull wall covering…
“That looks sort of familiar.” He whispered to Folie. “It’s bloody awful too. Whomever the artist is – I hate him or her.”
Whether Donny heard Placebo is debatable, but – perhaps by sheer chance – he brought up the subject of the wall art: “We had it sent over from the Royal Palace.” He said. “There are several scattered throughout the ship. They’re all Anton Twerp originals. They might be worth a fortune somewhere – we don’t know. They were a gift from the Museum of Future Technology’s most reviled artist – none other than Anton Twerp himself.”
“Oh,” Folie nodded wisely, “that explains why it makes me want to vomit.”
Shortly after that the ship’s owners found themselves standing at a door that didn’t exist pre-refit…
“That’s nice.” Folie remarked. Then, in a puzzled tone, he added: “How come I can only see me reflected in the metallic surface of the door?”
“Special coating.” Donny explained. “It only shows one species at a time. It’s a special Scrotonic design for people who get so hopelessly inebriated that – when they wake up from their drunken stupor and wonder who and what they are – this door will reveal their true species to them. Not really a lot of point to it: but we thought it looked nice with the yellow door frame.”
“Where does it lead to?” Placebo inquired. “The door I mean.”
“Pertinent question, young polystyrene blob.” Donny replied cheerfully. “We’ll find out straight away.”
“This, if you haven’t recognised it already,” Donny said proudly, “is the heart of the Gravity Whelk. Welcome to Engineering.”
“Lots of winking lights.” Folie observed. “Do we need to know what they mean?”
“In manual.” Tojo showed off his new command of the earplug language.
“I see it comes with its own toilet.” Placebo noted.
“Could be very important in times of great danger.” Donny replied. “It’s no good trying to fix a damaged ship when your bladder is bursting: it ruins concentration. Mistakes are made. I’ve heard of entire ships exploding because the Chief Engineer needed a whizz, but couldn’t get back from the toilet in time to stop a matter/anti-matter interaction get out of control.”
“Pee-pee.” Tojo added. “Very important.”
“When you gotta go,” Placebo showed wisdom beyond his years, “you gotta go. Otherwise – blammo!”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021