Path: physics insights > misc > Felix Resilleserre > The Iemy Papers >


The following text was very kindly provided to us by Professor Johann Schnarchhund of Miskatonic University.  Johann assures us that this first person account, narrated by Isis Resillechat, is very much as it was received by his daughter, Taurina.  For additional information please see the Iemy Papers.

"Lie down, Isis!  Now!"  I almost never heard Mom yell, but she was yelling now.  In the background I heard the Captain's voice, yowling over the intercom, warning the crew.  "Yn ařfyřt ityřlut ... Yn ařfyřt ityřlut ... Ařt arvseaio enz"

I lay down, right there on the floor.  It was soft, padded, just like all the walls and floors here.  I could hear Dad still objecting.  "No, not yet, no gravity, need gravity!  Just a minute!"  His eyes were glued to the screen in front of him; text of some sort, in script I couldn't read, was scrolling rapidly across it.  I heard him muttering "Crummy documentation ... a mess ... can't find anything ... needs rewrite..."

But Mom's hands were already flying over the rows of clear, paw-sized keys in front of her.  She glanced at me, maybe to see if I was still standing up, then snapped, "Those F15's will be here before your gravity" and as she said the word "gravity", she brought her hand down on the only colored button on the board, and so brought the argument to a decisive end.  There was a crashing roar, the Captain screamed (an awful sound), and the world lurched violently -- I was glad I was horizontal.  I also heard a faint splashing noise, Dad said "Oops! Coffee!", and with a sudden fizzing crackle the lights went out.  Yet another keyboard had been done in by his morning cup.

The Captain, perched on the "command chair" six feet above the rest of us, was yowling again.  "Edy iřarr!  Edy iřarr!  Arhira ene!"

Mom replied, muttering through clenched teeth, "Right, need more, not lifting ... too many tons of sand on the roof ... let's see..." and she started pressing buttons again while Dad mopped coffee.  The panel in front of him was belching smoke at this point, which could be seen dimly in the glow of the screen in front of him.  Unlike the lights, the screens in front of Mom and Dad were still lit.  "All this technology, why no circuit breakers", I heard him mutter.

Something Mom did apparently made a difference.  The roar became deafening, everything started shaking, and it felt like someone was kicking the back of my head.  Mom's driving was always a little rough, but this was really terrible -- even worse than the bus ride across the desert.  I guessed we must be "lifting", at last.

The upper walls of the room were covered with what appeared to be screens, all of which were dark.  I had never seen them turned on.  Suddenly they all lit up, bright blue, with what appeared to be swirling sand visible in them -- they weren't screens, they were windows!  We were above ground!  I heard the Captain's happy yell of "Âtnsen an Felicia!"  ... and as tons of sand fell from the roof, our acceleration picked up, the pressure of the floor on my back became a horrible thing, and I guess I blacked out.

I guess I was out for a few minutes.  When I came to, the upper screens -- or windows -- had gone dark again.  The roaring was gone; apparently Mom had shut down the engines(?) again.  And ... I was floating in the middle of the room.  Obviously, we weren't on Earth's surface.  As I stared at the upper screens, I realized I could see a few bright stars; the rest must have been "drowned out" by the room lights, which had come back on.  I wondered vaguely whether we were in orbit, or falling, or what.  Nobody seemed upset, so I guessed we weren't falling -- I supposed we must have either escaped Earth entirely, or gone into orbit around it.

I felt awful.  My head hurt -- that takeoff had been terrible! -- and I felt really sick.  First time in zero gravity, and it wasn't fun.  I wished I was close enough to something so I could catch hold and stop drifting.  Mom and Dad hadn't moved from their seats.  Mom was looking at a screen which showed something that looked Earthly; maybe it was the view straight down.  Dad was still staring at text on his screen and mumbling to himself:  "Ouufořhag ... nothing.  Iřtifeatlu ... nothing.  Ouufořhafahne ... nothing... It's got to be here ... rotten design, nothing's indexed..."
The Captain was sitting calmly on the ceiling, licking himself.  He paused and gave me a contented blink when I looked his way.  Mom and Dad were strapped in; I don't know how the Captain was staying put.

"At least we know the engines still work, and the hull seems to hold air", observed Mom, breaking the silence.  "I hope you're right about the rest of the ship, Felix."

Dad didn't answer.  He was still absorbed in the screen in front of him.  I heard him say, "Zfat .. nothing.  Zpouoa ... nothing.  Ouufořtyfy ... nothing.  What did they call it?"  He tapped his front teeth and stared at nothing for a moment.  "Hmmm ... maybe 'pull' ... that would be 'iřlarar' ... no, nothing with that, either.  Wait, no, wrong form, it wouldn't be 'iřlarar' , it would be 'ahutu', or maybe 'ahut', or 'ahu' ... aha! Found it!"

"Really, dear?" asked Felicia.  "There's really artificial gravity?  I didn't think it was possible."

"So that's why you didn't want to give me another minute to find it!"  Dad laughed.  "But here it is, and I think ... yes...  just ... and ..."  He started pushing buttons.  "Here we go..." 

"No, wait!" yelled Mom, suddenly looking up from the screen in front of her and glancing at me.  "Everything's -- everybody's -- floating around -- don't turn it on!"  But it was too late.  Dad hit the last button just as Mom said "Don't!"

Abruptly, I wasn't floating, I was five feet above the deck, and falling.  Lucky indeed that the deck was padded!  It hurt when I hit but nothing broke ... nothing in me, anyway.  There were crashing noises from all around us, some close, some distant.  The Captain thumped down next to me, with a soft, high pitched grunt, landing on his feet, as always.  Across the room from us, Dad's coffee maker landed with considerably less grace; with a crash and a splash, coffee went in all directions.   I heard Dad say "Oops!" just as the lights went out again.

By the time we got launched, we'd all been awake for so long, I don't know why we didn't just fall over.  We hadn't expected to have much time after we got to the dig site before somebody came after us -- and we didn't.  As soon as Dad got the long range scanners up, he saw what looked like a platoon of helicopters leaving Khartoum, and shortly after that Mom saw what she thought were F15's heading toward us from someplace near Cairo.

No matter how tired everybody was, I think Mom and Dad expected a few more hands on deck for the takeoff than just the four of us!  But the entire rest of the crew had wandered off in search of warm places to snooze.  After that awful bus ride, even Nim-nim had just curled up and gone to sleep on the first soft spot she found -- and this ship has a lot of soft spots.

Once we were "spaced", and in an orbit that wasn't likely to hit anything (like, say, the Moon, or the Earth at perigee -- you know, when we come back around and we're at the low point in the orbit) Mom and Dad just went to sleep right where they were, still strapped into those fancy dentist's chairs they'd bolted to the deck on the bridge.  Did I tell you about those chairs?  They look really funny.  I don't know where Dad got them.  They look kind of worn, like they might be second hand, but they have lots of adjustments which Dad said would be good for getting at all the controls.  But the foot thing (you know, that thing you kick your feet on when the dentist sticks you with the novocaine) kind of sticks out and gets in the way, so they have to keep the chairs turned sideways in order to reach the controls.  And even with the chairs lowered all the way down, they're still too high for the control panels, which were placed about like you'd expect if the crew were all ten inches tall (which is about what they are, come to think of it).  So, Mom and Dad have to lean over and scrunch down to get at a lot of the buttons and see the bottoms of the screens.

I think Mom wants to get some different chairs, if we get a chance to do a little shopping back on Earth before we head for the Cat's Eye.

Anyway, they conked right where they were, and maybe the Captain did too (I didn't see where he went), but I didn't feel like sleeping on the floor, even if it was soft.  For one thing I was kind of bruised after that fall when the gravity came on.  I wanted something more like a bed.  So I stumbled off to look for a cabin or something.  I was more than half asleep, and really didn't know where I was going, but I figured I'd just wander around until something turned up.

My memories of that walk are all garbled.  I was really at least as much asleep as awake, and the ship's corridors got all tangled up with dreams.   I'm sure I didn't actually ride a huge white mouse through a long passage lined with glowing toadstools, nor encounter the King of the Cats seated on a throne in an inner chamber of the ship, nor pass through any of a dozen other bizarre nonexistent regions which were most of what I recalled of my search for a reasonable bed.

But I'm sure I did eventually find myself crawling along a very low passage, leading to noplace I knew.  I'm sure of it because I finally fell asleep in a room off that corridor, and I had to crawl back along it after I woke up again.

I haven't told you about the ship's layout, have I?  The corridors and cabins in this ship seem to have been designed by a lunatic; certainly they follow no logic I can see -- no human logic, anyway.  The bridge, as I may have mentioned, has a ceiling that's about 20 feet high.  Most of the small rooms (cabins?) which I've seen have ceilings that are five or six feet high, but a few are much higher or lower.  Dad says there are a couple rooms down toward the bottom of the ship which are big enough to hold an airliner; he doesn't know what they were used for.  The hallways are just as goofy.  Some are big enough to drive an 18 wheeler through, some are just big enough for me to stand up, some are so small I have to get on my hands and knees, and a few have ceilings so low that a squirrel wouldn't fit through them -- they seem to be sized for mice.  And none of them go straight.  It's as if whoever laid them out kept getting distracted and losing track of where they were going, so that the paths wandered all over the place (rather like the streets of Boston, which we visited last year).

So the last thing I can remember before I fell asleep was finding a doorway into someplace where I could stand up, someplace dark, with a very soft, warm floor, with some squishy things which felt like pillows lying around, and with some kind of table or shelf near the doorway.  I pulled some of the lumpier items out of the pockets of my overalls -- did I mention we were all wearing overalls?  They were kind of the "ship's uniform" while we loaded everything in from the trucks and got stuff stowed before takeoff.  Anyhow I fished some of the lumpiest junk out of my pockets and put it on the shelf/table/seat thing, so I wouldn't be covered with dents when I woke up, and just flopped right there.

I woke up in the dark.  I couldn't remember where I was, and I'd no idea how long I'd been sleeping.  I wasn't sure what had awakened me, either -- a sort of soft plop, I thought.  As I lay there, I heard it again -- a sound of something small falling, right next to me.  I didn't see what it was, at first.

I sat up, and realized it wasn't completely dark, after all.  The light was very dim, but I could see enough to realize I was lying next to a sort of table.  And there was something on the table -- something moving.  There was a faint scraping noise, and a louder plop, and my pocket computer bounced on the floor in front of me.  The shadowy thing on the table seemed to put its head over the edge as the computer hit the floor. Suddenly I remembered where I was, and realized what was going on.  One of the crew members was on the table in front me, knocking things off, one at a time, and watching them fall.

As I stuffed pens, pencils, computer, and assorted small items back into my pockets, I looked around the room, and gasped.  Part of my surprise was that I could breathe at all -- we appeared to be standing on the outer hull of the ship!  The floor was terraced; the level I was on extended another few feet.  That was followed by a drop of a foot or two to the next level, which was also a few feet wide.  Altogether there appeared to be three or four levels, the last one of which simply ended; beyond the edge, I could see nothing but star filled space.  The entire far wall and the ceiling showed no signs of being there.  The terraces were warm and soft, as I've already mentioned, and there were what appeared to be pillows scattered around randomly.  In the dim light, part starlight and partly a very faint glow from the wall through which I'd entered, I could see a dim form curled up on one of the pillows.  Apparently I was, at best, the third member of our group to find this room.

I turned to the creature on the table, and asked, "What is this place?  Do you know?"

The only answer I got was a sound sort of like "Rrrowr?" -- a 'meow' with rising inflection.  A general purpose question sound, which means pretty much the same thing in any language.  I realized I didn't know this crew member ... and have I told you about our crew?

We came from Arkham, on the Chaton Noire, with forty so-called "feral cats" -- all pure blooded People of Iem.  Dad calls them the Numenorian Cats, and says we should try to figure out which one is Aragorn.  He's just being silly, but certainly they're not like other alley cats.  I know all of them by sight, and they all know me, and they all understand English pretty well.  This cat apparently wasn't any of them.

That was no surprise, though, since we have a lot more than forty cats on board.  The word had gone out before we got to Africa that we were going to try to make the trip back.  Most cats don't seem to care or don't understand, but some do, and we were met by more cats in Tripoli who wanted to join us.  At every stop on the trek down to Sudan we picked up a few more cats, and when we got to the dig site we found a crowd waiting for us.  I lost count, but altogether there are at least a hundred cats on board.  All that I'd seen up close looked like People of Iem, with six toed feet, tabby stripes, and long tails.

The African cats obviously didn't all understand English, though, which was a problem, at least for me.  I tried some other languages, also without much luck:

"Cette piece, qu'est-ce que ce est?"

"Rrrowr?" ... French was no go; must not be an Algerian cat.

"Wissen Sie, was ist diesen Zimmer?"

"Rrrowr?" ... German, no go non plus.  No surprise, I suppose, there's not much German spoken in Africa.

"¿Qué es esta sala?"

"Rrrowr?" ... Not a cat from the Spanish main, I guess.

"Говорите ли вы русский?"

"Rrrowr?" ... No Russian.  Wouldn't have helped, anyway, that was the only Russian phrase I know:  'Do you speak Russian?'

At this point, the cat said, slowly, sounding kind of bored:  "Hihi iřtla Iemy iiřutyř ... iřřřřřřv?"

I sighed.  So that's where we were going.  In English, that's "Isis can speak Iemy ... riiiight?"

I suppose all the cats know who I am, even if I don't know most of them.  And I suppose they all know I can speak Iemy.  But I speak it badly, and slowly.  Dad's Romanized Iemy seems simple enough, but the real thing isn't quite the same as how it looks written down.  Trying to say it right makes my throat hurt, and I'm sure the cats think I sound really funny.  I wish I could tell when they're laughing -- I mean, laughing at me.

And it's kind of funny, they all call me "Hihi", never "Isis".  Not even Nim-nim will tell me why, but I think my English name, with those hissy "s" things in it, sounds too much like a kitty insult of some sort.

Anyway I tried asking it in Iemy.  "Aiofařeetu tiat, ti eet sofa?" -- this room, what is it?


Bother.  I must have snargled the grammar, or my accent's too thick, or I somehow said something rude ... I decided to back up and start over.  The proper way to start a conversation with a strange cat is to introduce yourself, and then compliment the cat, or so Dad says.  I tried that.

"Arn fiřtarar ar sofa?" --  'One calls you what?'

"Rrrowr  ořtu?"

I guess I got that wrong ... let me see... I think I used the wrong word for 'call'.  And maybe I'm supposed to say my name, even though this cat already knows who I am.  I tried it again:

"Arn ararfar ařt Hihi.  Arn ararfar ar sofa?" -- 'One calls me Hihi.  One calls you what?'


Progress!  I now knew I was talking to "Iehyarj" -- In English, that would be ... um ... Snidly.  How appropriate -- from what I'd heard so far, this cat sure seemed like a "Snidly" to me, tee-hee.

And now, I needed to say something nice.  I could barely see this animal in the dim light, and I thought she -- or rather he; Snidly sounds like a boy's name -- was kind of priggish.  None the less, I had to say something nice...

"Irlu ype eet eetvr ořtu" -- 'Your fur is very handsome'.

In the dim light, the faint gleam of Snidly's eyes vanished for a moment.  Was that a blink?  I hoped so; coming from a cat, that's a smile.  I decided to try to get back on topic, now that we were introduced.

"Aiofařeetu fyřzk, ti eet sofa?  Fey, ti ofi ařlu en -- onz?" -- 'This room here, what is it?  And it has no walls -- how?'

Snidly seemed to blink again, but said nothing -- and then suddenly bounded off the table and down across the terraced room, and leaped directly up from the last terrace into the void.  I gasped ... but Snidly didn't continue on out into space, as my mind's eye pictured it happening in the split second after he left the floor.  Instead, he froze, legs splayed out, in midair, apparently clinging to nothing.  I saw his head turn back at me, and I think he blinked again.  Laughing, this time?  I suspected so ... obviously, there was a wall there, one which I simply couldn't see.  I fished a flashlight out of one of the pockets of my overalls and pointed it at the "wall".  The beam showed nothing at all, not even dust clinging to the surface.  But whatever it was, it was solid enough for Snidly to dig his claws into it!

I was about to ask Snidly for a little more information on this place -- if, indeed, he knew any more than I did about it, aside from the fact that it had climbable, if invisible, walls -- when the Captain's voice boomed out from all directions at once:

"Asat no yřutz yn ořtui ofarar irrtu ufiitařeear, umař pa-aosi-ehet-oley-net oun, ysuřtao ařhela!"

Say what?  The first part was "All of crew, do toward..." and then I got lost for the whole middle.  The last bit was "Twelve minutes!".  But do what in twelve minutes?  Lucky for me, the Captain repeated the announcement ... and then repeated it again.  I guess he figured most of the crew was asleep to start with, so the first time through was just to wake everybody up, the second was to get their attention, and the third time was to let them know what he wanted.

Anyhow on the second pass I realized that most of the messy thing in the middle was a number, and the third time through I managed to pick out the digits.  The whole thing seemed to be:

"All crew members, go to Hall of Assembly, Room 8,9001, twelve minutes!"

I groaned.  I had no idea where -- or what -- the Hall of Assembly was; I couldn't make head or tail of the room numbering system, which seemed to assign rooms to numbers in no particular sequence; at least half the rooms had no room numbers I could see; and I didn't know where I was.  And what's more, the room number he gave had two zeros in it, so even if I found the room and it had a room number beside the doorway I might not recognize it.

Have I told you about Iemy numbers?  Iemy numbers use place value, just like Arabic numbers, except that it's base 12.  Dad says it's because they have six digits on each of their front feet, while we use base 10 because we have 5 digits on each of our front feet, but I think he's really just guessing.  Anyhow they use base 12, but Iemy script only has 11 digit symbols.  They don't use a zero.  Instead they just leave a gap where a zero digit should go.  This isn't so bad, unless there are more than one zero in a row, and then the only way you can tell what the number is, is by the length of the gap.  The room numbers marked beside the doors seemed to have been drawn on by hand, and they were a bit sloppy, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to tell room 8,9001 from room 8901 or room 89,0001.  But maybe there wasn't any room 89,0001 (that would be a lot of rooms!) and maybe room 8901 had no room number (which seemed likely, since so few were marked) so maybe that wouldn't be a problem.

But, I still didn't know where I was.  By this time Snidly had climbed back down from the wall and was sauntering up the room toward me, and toward the door.  I asked him, "Ar yřenz yřv, ařt eet sotut?" -- 'You know?  We are where?'  I sure hoped he did.

True to form, he replied, "ituafe", 'obviously', and then added, "Ar eet fyřzk."  So, 'You are here'.  Thanks, Snidly, that's a big help ... not.  "Where are we" and "Where am I" are the same in Iemy, and he had answered the second, when I had obviously asked the first.  Useless!

I tried again.  "Ar yřenz yřv, ofarar irrtu ufiitařeear eet sotut?" -- 'Do you know, where is the assembly hall?'

Again, Snidly replied "Ituafe", and immediately sauntered out of the room.  I scurried after him (the doorway was low -- I had to scrunch through it) and hurried along the corridor after Snidly, on my hands and knees.

After what seemed like a long time crawling through a maze of low corridors, Snidly's gray striped form suddenly turned left into the wall and vanished.  I scrambled to catch up, and found he'd gone down a side tunnel barely higher than his head -- and I couldn't possibly follow him there.  Whether it was a shortcut, or just an attempt to lose me, I had no idea.  I yelled "Hey!" in plain old English. 

From some distance down the tunnel I heard, "Roooowřřřř?", followed by "Hihi irha ene?" -- 'Isis fits not?'   Now it was my turn to say "Ituafe!"

Somewhat to my surprise, Snidly didn't simply continue on down the narrow tunnel and leave me stranded.  He came back, and continued on along the "large" corridor in which I could, at least, crawl.  Shortly after that we turned into an even larger corridor, and I could stand up and walk.  A few minutes later Snidly turned through a large doorway, and as I followed him I found myself in what could only be the Hall of Assembly.

The Hall is round, and somewhat larger than the Bridge -- which, come to think of it, I've never told you much about, have I?   Like the Bridge, the Assembly Hall has what appear to be display screens around the upper part of the room, but they were all dark when we entered.  The screens are about six feet above the floor.  The walls tip in a bit, so the screens are angled so that someone on the floor could look up at them comfortably.  They are large -- each one must be five feet across.  I think there are around 20 of them, all the way around the room.  And, also like the bridge, next to each screen, between it and the next one, there's what looks to me like a TV camera, pointed down toward the center of the room.

There are half a dozen doorways into the room, scattered unevenly around the wall.  Like all the doorways on the ship, there are no closable doors; they're just openings into the corridors.

In the center of the floor there's a dais, with a broad cushion on the top, about five feet above the surrounding floor.  On the dais, I saw the orange, stripey form of Captain Boots, standing, with his orange eyes wide open, glaring his orange glare down at the rest of the room.  The floor in the rest of the room sloped down, from the edge of the room to the dais, and all around the room were scattered cushions.  Mom and Dad were there, sitting on cushions, and there looked like about eight or nine cats scattered here and there around the room.  And the air was filled with an intolerable yowling.

With at least half a dozen excited cats talking at once, and Mom and Dad trying to get their points across, and the Captain yelling down at everybody, all I could tell for sure was that there was an argument going on.  After a few minutes I decided they were arguing over who the "crew" really was.  Apparently some of the Arkham cats felt they were the "rightful crew", and the African cats were "just passengers".  As far as I could tell, the African cats were divided on this, some feeling they should have the "privilege" of being crew members, with others feeling they should have the "right" to be carried as passengers, with all actual work done by the "crew".

At some point Dad stopped saying anything, and just looked down at the computer in his lap.  He was typing something, and staring at the screen.  Suddenly he jumped up (not quite dropping the laptop as he got up), and hurried up the room to the wall.  I thought I saw him pushing some buttons set low in the wall,  and the Captain's voice suddenly boomed out over everything.  Dad had turned on a PA system!  That ended the argument, as the Captain's amplified angry yowl drowned out all other sounds.  I'm not sure what he said, since after the first few moments I had my hands over my ears.

When the Captain stopped talking, there was silence (except for the ringing in my ears).  Whatever he had said must have been pretty convincing, quite apart from its volume level.

After a short pause, during which Dad did something further to the buttons on the wall, he called across the room to the Captain, "I've cut the volume -- and you have all-ship now!"

Captain Boots started talking.  I could hear his voice from in front of me, and I could hear it coming through the open door behind me, echoing in the corridors.  I guessed that's what Dad meant by "all-ship" -- everybody on the ship could hear him.

The words of Captain Boots's speech and comments which follow are shown in English. Readers interested in seeing the Iemy of the portions which Isis recalled may find it here. -- Johann Schnarchhund
"In my hereditary position as Captain of this Vessel, as Direct Descendant of Boots Eelstopper, Captain of the First Expeditionary Force, and by the power vested in me by my aforementioned position and heritance, it behooves upon me to assert..." and at that point he switched into Old Iemy and he lost me, totally.  If a pipe organ could purr and talk at the same time, it would sound something like Old Iemy -- it's fun to listen to but really hard to understand!

While the Captain was talking (and talking, and talking...) I sat down on a cushion and looked around the room at the cats.  There were a bit more than half a dozen cats when Snidly and I arrived, and we were already pretty late -- it had taken a lot more than twelve minutes for us to get from the place where I slept to the Assembly Hall.  A few cats who were even later trickled in after us.  But still, now that everyone was settled down to listen to the Speech, I realized there were hardly more than a dozen cats in the room, out of a total complement of about a hundred.  Furthermore, as I looked at them, I realized that several of the "crew members" who appeared at first to be frozen in rapt attention to the Captain's words were, in fact, asleep.

And then I noticed a faint sort of scuffling noise in back of me.  The room lights had been dimmed when the Captain started talking (Dad's doing, I guess), and my eyes were a little dazzled from the bright light which was still turned on the Captain, so I wasn't quite sure what I was seeing at first.  There was some sort of commotion taking place up right against the wall, just to one side of the door.  Lots of whirling gray fur; it almost looked like a fight of some sort ... but it wasn't, not if a fight requires more than one participant!  It was Snidly.  I thought at first he was having a fit of some sort, a seizure, and I was about to go try to help him, when I realized what was going on.

He was chasing his tail.

I sighed.  I guess this was the best we could expect.  Getting the entire crew together for a meeting -- getting them all to come to the same place at the same time, and getting them to concentrate on one thing for more than a few minutes -- was a lot like ... well ... like herding cats!

Only the Captain is different.  Other cats I've met are all pretty relaxed, but Captain Boots is intense.  He's the closest thing I've seen to a truly driven cat.  He is absolutely determined to get back to Arbr, if he possibly can, and bring as many of what he views as His People along as he can.  It even keeps him awake worrying, if you can believe it!  No 20 hours out of 24 spent sleeping for the Captain!  In fact I'm not sure I've ever seen him sleeping, at least not for more than a few minutes at a time.

The Captain's speech sounded like it was winding down.  With a last musical warble of trilled A's and U's, he reverted to modern Iemy, and I could understand what he was saying again.

The Iemy for the Captain's words may be found here -- JS
"All occupants of this ship are subject to the law of the duly appointed Captain, and so all are part of the Crew.  And I shall now appoint the Bridge Crew, who will have specific Duties and Tasks during the Flight, and will be Expected to be On The Bridge when not Otherwise Occupied.

"Chief Engineer shall be Felix Resilleserre, of Arkham.
"Chief Pilot shall be Felicia Vitechat, of Arkham.
"Chief Science Officer shall be Nim-nim, of Innsmouth.  (Nim-nim was from Innsmouth?  I had no idea!)
"Chief Protocol and Security Officer shall be Snidly, of Britain.
"Assistant and Alternate Bridge Crew will be named As Needed."

Since most of the Bridge Crew could be expected to be asleep at any given moment, I figured he'd have to name about 5 additional cats to each position, but if so, he was putting that off.  In any case, some of the positions sounded kind of strange to me.  I wasn't at all sure what a "science officer" did -- wasn't that Mr. Spock's position?  Just what was his job, anyway?  And I sure didn't know what a "Protocol and Security" officer was going to do, and I had a hard time picturing Snidly doing it, whatever it might be.

And, thinking of Snidly, I suddenly realized what I'd just heard -- Snidly is from Britain.  "But if Snidly's from Britain, then he must understand English!" I said, to nobody in particular, in an outraged tone.  I was looking at the Captain, but it was a voice from behind me who replied.

"Of cooaauřse" I heard someone say, in oddly accented but perfectly clear English.  I looked around -- It was Snidly who'd spoken!  As far as I knew, lots of the cats could understand English, but the only language any of them could speak was Iemy.  Even Nim-nim could speak very little English, slowly and with a thick accent.

"Snidly -- You speak English!" I said.

"Of cooaauřse.  Et fřaaunçais auuuwsi."

I wondered if being appointed "protocol officer" had anything to do with the fact that he could speak human languages.  But before I could ask him, I realized that the meeting wasn't over.  Mom was talking.  "You've left out a lot of positions. What about communications?  What about medicine?  If someone's hurt, who takes care of it?"

In Iemy again, the Captain replied, "I said, I'll name additional bridge crew later...   but maybe you are right about a medical person."  He paused.  "All who are interested in the position of medical officer please report to the dais in the Assembly Hall at once!"  I heard the echo of his words coming in through the door behind me.  He was using the intercom again; everyone on the ship must have heard him.

Snidly was washing a paw.  Most of the cats in the room seemed to be napping.  There was silence in hallway behind me; the ship might have been deserted for all the response the Captain got.  After a long pause, the Captain added, "Does anyone know what to do if a person is hurt?"

There was another silence, and then one of the cats snoozing closest to the dais lifted her head and said, sleepily,  "Yřsy irvhut ioni tiat" -- that's 'Could do this thing."

Captain Boots immediately announced, "Chief Medical Officer shall be Benga, of Egypt".  As he said that, I thought about what it meant to have a bored Egyptian cat as your doctor.  I sincerely hoped that I was not going to get sick on this trip!

But the meeting still wasn't over.  Dad was saying something now.  He'd been absorbed in his laptop for most of the meeting.  I think he'd somehow tied it to the ship's computer.

"What you may not realize is this wasn't just an exploration ship.  It has some pretty strange weapons, if I've read this right.  Somebody should take on figuring out what they do and how to use them."

Captain Boots was staring at Dad as he said this.  He seemed to take this more seriously than the question of whether we needed a ship's doctor or not.  He blinked once at Dad, and said, "Yes ... we need gunnery officer."

A cat I couldn't see, close to the wall on the opposite side of the room, meowed, in Iemy, "Gunnery officer does what?"  I suddenly realized all the cats in the room were awake, and looking intently at the Captain.

"Gunnery officer ... operate weapons, defend ship, chase enemies."

"What sort of enemies?" came a question from the same cat.  This conversation was being heard everywhere on the ship; I could hear the echoes coming in from the doorway behind me.

"Whatever we encounter.  Persons, animals, aliens, mice, ..."  At the word "mice" there was a sort of yell, which seemed to be echoed throughout the ship:  "Ařřřřřrt!"  In English, that would be 'Meeeeee!'.  A rumbling followed, like the sound of hundreds of little feet galloping along the corridors, and cats started pouring into the room through all the doors, repeating the cry, "Ařt!  Ařt iřtla irvhut!" -- 'Me!  I can do it!'

But the cat who had asked about gunnery, a huge calico, had climbed right up on the dais with Captain Boots, and was talking to him.  I guess the Captain liked what he had to say, for he announced, loudly,

"Gunnery Officer shall be Skritch of Algiers.  There will be no further discussion of this now".

There was a sort of disappointed "Mewwww" sound from the crowd of cats, some of whom immediately sauntered back out the doors they'd come in by.  The rest settled down on cushions, hoping, I suppose, that something else interesting might happen.  But actually what happened next was pretty boring:  Dad had apparently decided it was time to talk about supplies, schedules, where we were heading from here, and what needed to be done before we took the Big Jump.  Even with Dad's usual concise -- or cryptic -- delivery, this was likely to be pretty tedious.

"We need to make some stops, we need to test the ship's systems, we need to test the engines, the warp engines.  We've got cat food, we've got almost no human food, and need vitamins, ones that won't keep in the food, C for humans, taurine for cats, need new pilot chairs, obviously need to make a stop, maybe more.  Maybe need different or more fuel and ev--"

But at this point there was an interruption ... from me.  Something had been bothering me, a little bit, and it was bothering me more as time went by.  I finally realized what it was, and realized I'd better ask the Chief Engineer about it, and soon, because something certainly seemed to be wrong -- very wrong.  And just as Dad doesn't worry about protocol when he has something to say, he also doesn't care if somebody else just butts in, if they have something worth saying.  "Wait" isn't in his lexicon.  So, no point in waiting for a convenient pause; I just broke into the middle of his discussion of supplies, right in the middle of his speculation about fuel, and called out,

"Dad -- What's that smell?"

He stopped talking in mid-syllable, and just looked at me.  At least half the cats in the room looked at me, too.  Everybody was sniffing ... and it didn't look like any of them liked what they smelled.  Dad was looking all around the room, and up at the ceiling.  He muttered something that sounded to me like "Life support -- something in life support" and suddenly jumped up and ran up to one of the doors.  There was a gray streak across the room, and Snidly followed him out.  I wondered why -- was Snidly taking his role as "security officer" so seriously already?  As Dad disappeared into the corridor, I heard him call over his shoulder, "Isis -- Felicia -- follow me!"

And that was pretty much the end of the meeting.

And that also ended the first episode.

We have since received an additional communiqué from Johann, which we have titled The Shopping Trip, Part 1.


Page created on 1/28/10.   Minor updates, 2/21/10