The photo count is creeping up. 194 now. How many shots will it take to complete this tale? Who cares? Just enjoy it!
Below, in the central plaza, early-risers watched nervously as the ship climbed into the dark sky. One even put a word in for its occupants with his chosen deity…
Before long, the prayed-for occupants of the Buggeram Bay found themselves given a birds-eye view of Scroton Prime…
“Oh, isn’t the view splendid!” Beatrix yelled. “I’ve never seen the city lights from above before. And, oh look, we’re banking to starboard, but you’d never know it: I can’t feel a thing. I’m totally nausea-free.”
“Pitch and yaw compensators, dearest.” Nigel explained. “They iron out all the bumps.”
Shortly after that, Beatrix discovered that the ship also compensated for acceleration. Before she knew it, they had left the planet far behind…
…and the visual glory that was Weird Space greeted her gaze…
Everyone was still in the throes of ecstasy when the long-range sensor detected an object dead ahead…
“What is it?” Nigel demanded. “Is it an asteroid? I’ve heard all about them: they cause extinction events.”
“I…I…don’t think so.” Julian Prim said hesitantly. “It appears to be vaguely sausage roll shaped.”
“I’m running it through the Strange Space Objects Recognition Computer.” Security Chief, Bertram Hisscod informed his leader. “But I think I know what it is.”
“Elucidate.” Nigel snapped.
Bertram began his explanation with a question: “Do you recall what happened on the Earplug’s Ice Planet, a few years ago?”
Nigel was no expert, but he could remember that a cold war had existed for generations upon that world, and that it had ended when the crust broke up and both sides united in a bid for racial survival. “Not specifically.” He replied.
“Well, as the planetary crust reformed, they set up a research station at one of the poles. An alien ship crashed there – releasing a horrid shape-shifting creature that could take on the appearance of anyone and anything.”
“That sounds scary.” Beatrix said into the nanosecond Bertram took to grab a breath. “I think I would have pooped my pants. What happened?”
“They electrocuted it. In an attempt to flee, the monster changed itself into thousands of sausage rolls, and rolled away to many different locations across the ice sheet.” Bertram replied. “Some sausage rolls must have stowed away aboard robotic ice freighters, and escaped back into space. I believe that this is the daddy of all shape-shifters. This is what remains of the monster that terrorised Ice Station Nobby!”
This alarmed Nigel badly. He felt shaken to the core. “And…and…and now,” he stuttered, “it has found its way to Weird Space. Next stop: Scroton!”
“Destroy it!” Beatrix screamed shrilly. “Ram it amidships and set off our self-destruct charges if you have to; but destroy it!”
“Nah, that’s okay,” the blue, diminutive, Faati Rueda – Queen of the Pigmies, responded. “We have some defensive capability: you want me to use it? I’ll try it on five percent energy yield and see how it goes.”
…a searing blast of incandescent fury transformed the alien shape-shifter into widely dispersed constituent atoms.
With the exception of Nigel, everyone aboard cheered uproariously. However, all the display of firepower did for the leader of Scroton was cause him more concern…
“This is not a warship, is it?” He asked no one in particular.
Walker felt unease embrace him like a soggy duvet. “Er, no, Sir. It’s a personal luxury transport vessel – but with big guns. The cosmos is a dangerous place: it’s very important that we can kick ass from time to time.”
“But that is not what Scroton is all about.” Nigel argued. “Scrotonites don’t swagger about the Galaxy, kicking ass. We build tech stuff and sell it to worlds all over the place. Now I’m even more concerned with the fact that other eyes have seen the basic pre-production plans of this vessel. Suppose their photocopier didn’t jam: somewhere, someone else could build one of these. Maybe they already have.”
Beatrix screamed at the thought. She then added a metaphorical question: “How long has it been since the plans were lost in the back of the copier?” Of course, she answered it itself: “Too long perhaps. Maybe there is a flotilla of these killer-ships out there somewhere.”
“Oh-no,” Nigel wailed in perfect harmony with his wife, “maybe not a flotilla at all – but an entire fleet!”
Walker Crabtrouser shook his head in negation. “No one,” he said, “no species – is capable of developing and constructing ships faster than we of Scroton. We are the acknowledged masters of R and D. Believe me when I say – there cannot possibly be any ships of this design anywhere in the entire Galaxy. This is the sole complete example.”
“Oh, do you really think so?” Beatrix, suddenly calmed, inquired.
“I do.” Walker said as he nodded solemnly and affirmatively.
“Jolly good.” Nigel managed a smile. “That means we can continue with our holiday. Julian – carry on: destination Earth.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022
Golly, would you believe it – that’s Chapter One complete. Now prepare yourselves for the opening salvo from Chapter Two, next time!