Previous Installment: First
Star Date 35.80
Meanwhile, in the hold
The following is the thirteenth installment
of the tale which began with Takeoff
and continued with Shopping Trip
Parts I. through IV
and The Test Flight
and several additional rambling pages. All prior
installments should be read before this page, as that may help
to render the following events marginally less obscure.
This installment was also very kindly provided to us by
Professor Johann Schnarchhund of Miskatonic University.
Johann again 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
"Oops ... oof!
Luckily, the ceiling wasn't very high in the engine room, so when
the gravity turned on again, Dad didn't have far to fall before he
hit the (newly nominated) floor.
"Let's get turned over, and tank up."
"Maybe turn some lights on? And get the ventilation
working? What about balloons?"
"Later, later, later -- don't know how long one bucket, bad water,
Star Date 35.84
On the bridge, some time later
Life support was somewhat functional, and Mom, me,
the Captain, Skritch, and Mince were back on the Bridge.
Snidly was still on cleanup duty, along with Aunty and Nargle.
Have I mentioned Nargle? She's a black and tan striped
tabby, and she's our new head of damage control. When Snidly
woke up from his nap under a shelf while we were cleaning up life
support, he saw the situation I've already described, which is
that the catnip was being picked up very efficiently (and mostly
eaten) but just about nothing else of much value was being done,
save by the humans...
... and by Nargle, who was actually skooshing dirt back into the
trays, and attempting to get the plants back into the dirt, rather
than just eating the leaves and chasing her tail.
And so Snidly named her Damage Control Officer on the spot (and
then went back to sleep). And he explained it to the Captain
later, who didn't care anyway since it had something to do with
Security and that was Snidly's job.
Anyway, I was finally back on the Bridge. I was feeling
totally sleepy and still had a headache -- I should have been in
bed. But the Captain wanted all hands on deck, so here I
We'd been upright now for at least half an hour, and Dad and
Nim-nim were about done filling the "tank" with the salty water of
the Aral Sea. They were still in the hold, keeping an eye on
the situation there. We had the intercom on, so we could
hear what was going on there.
"Felix, what's going on? Are you done?"
It was Nim-nim who replied to the Captain. "Done filling
tank; door shut."
"Wait!" came Dad's voice. "Still checking -- main computer
There was a pause. "Won't start."
"Not sure ... not sure what else we're missing..."
"Find out later. Let's go!
Felicia, take us
Mom did stuff, the familiar rumble of the engines started up, and
the screens showed the Aral Sea falling away below us.
"We're up. Now what?"
"Orbit. Then find more fuel. Felix
Conference room, 12 minutes."
But it didn't happen. We hadn't been up more than five
minutes when the intercom brought us a sudden squawk from Nim-nim,
accompanied by a yell from Dad. Simultaneously, all the
screens blanked out, and then lit again with an image of a barfing
A moment later, the lights flickered briefly, the sound of the
engines died away, and my stomach lurched as the gravity cut
out. Mince, who apparently hadn't been holding on, gave a
yell as she floated up from where she'd been sitting next to me.
I suppose I should have been panicking at that point -- after all,
we were at least a mile in the air, and free-falling -- but there
hadn't been time. I glanced around the Bridge. I was
strapped in, and Mom had thought fast and was holding onto the
control panel in front of her. Mince and Skritch were loose,
and floating through the middle of the bridge. The Captain
was still on his perch, holding on somehow.
He was yelling, "We need engines! Felix, do something!"
The intercom was still working, but the only sounds we were
hearing from Dad and Nim-nim were incoherent yells, punctuated by
occasional shouts of "Here it comes! Get it!" and "Look
At one point I heard Dad yell, "I've got it! Open the
hatch!" followed by a yell from Nim-nim, "No, not open hatch!"
But a moment later we heard, "Oops -- ouch
-- got away!"
from Dad followed by another squawk from Nim-nim.
And then it was over. Skritch and Mince thumped down onto
the deck as the gravity came back, the screens went back to what
they'd been showing before the "station break", and the rumble of
the engines started up again.
"Felix, what happened?" from the Captain.
But the only reply we heard was "Ouch ouch ouch darn stings
"Felix, what's wrong? Are you hurt? Felix!" Mom was
yelling as she started to run for the door. But then
Nim-nim's voice cut across the Bridge, sounding as calm as ever.
"Felix fine. Just got a little brine in eyes." Then we
heard him saying to Dad, "Told you before, works better to wipe
eyes with something dry."
"Ouch ouch ouch not have anything dry ouch..."
"No. Thanks. Ouch..."
"Felix! Nim-nim! What happened?
" the Captain
But all we got for a reply was, "Hey! Watch it!
Ouch! OW!!" from Dad, and "Hold still!"
Nim-nim. Then a brief silence, followed by,
"Hey, that helped. Much better," from Dad.
"Felix! What happened!?
" from the Captain, yet
"Nim-nim licked eyes, got the salt out. Feels much better."
"No, what happened before
But Dad and Nim-nim had gone back to yelling at each other about
the hatch and the gravity, and didn't answer for a couple of
minutes. Finally there was a brief silence from below decks,
followed by Dad's voice.
"I think we're all set."
"Set with what?
"Found out what spraying means."
"So what's it mean? What happened?"
"Later. Need a lake, need to get down, a fresh water lake, now
"Felicia, do it!" The captain was never one to worry about
the past. If they were all set below decks, then that was
For the next few minutes, we were all occupied looking for
lakes. I found something that looked good, a largish spot of
water with what looked like a stream leading down from it, which
made me think it would be fresh. It was in the hills a few
hundred miles west of the Sea.
Mom had just started us on our way, when the power cut off again.
"Felix! What's wrong? You said we were all set!"
"Are all set. No problem."
"Flying like a rock -- seems like a problem to me," I heard Mom
murmur, as the Captain was yelling,
"So what about the engines? Felix, do something!
"Engines are fine. Just wait a moment..."
"Coming down awfully fast," Mom murmured, looking at her
screen. The screens, along with the lights and the intercom,
were still working.
And then the engines came back, as though there had never been a
problem. But I was suddenly feeling squished into the floor
-- the gravity seemed to have failed.
"Gravity shut off," came Nim-nim's voiced. "Use less power,
not spray so often."
And in fact we made it to the lake with just one more scarey
"blackout". And as we flew the last leg, Nim-nim explained a
little more of what was going on. The Aral Sea water has too
much salt in it, and when the ship burns it, there's sludgy brine
left over. From time to time, the leftover sludge builds up
enough to plug things up, and then the system goes into
reverse. The engine shuts down, and the sludge is sprayed
back out of the hose they'd used to fill the tank.
Star Date 42.30
A Somewhat Frivolous Interlude in which we Make the
Acquaintance of Captain Rant
It's been a week since our last crisis, and I'm finally feeling
rested. We've cleaned up the balloons, life support is
healthy again (and the ship smells reasonable again), I've sorted
out the mess in my room, and I've actually had time to start Captain Rant and the Water
. I can't believe it's still not for sale in
Massachusetts! If we find ourselves back in Scotland I'll
pick up a copy for you, Taurina -- but then, I don't know when
we'll be back in Arkham, so I don't know how I'd get it to you.
Raven Rant certainly is in this one, just like I'd heard, and she
is so cool! I told Aunt Eternuechat a little about the
story, and she wanted to see for herself, so I handed her the
"It's just totally great, Auntie!" I had told her. "If
I could write like that, I would call myself a writer!
Auntie sat down on a cushion and read the first few pages, and
then handed the book back to me. "Isis, dear, to be
completely honest, if I wrote like that, I'm afraid I would call
myself a hack
." Sometimes she really surprises me.
Anyway, since you still can't get a copy to see for yourself, here
are the first few paragraphs -- it's at least a little foretaste
until the rest of the book makes it to you!
In order to spare any timorous readers among the audience the
experience of what may be the worst prose ever typed on this
keyboard, we have moved the content in question out into a
Prologue to The
Don't say we didn't warn you.
Star Date 49.50
In Which we May Have Found a Gas Station
We were meeting on the bridge. Dad finally had a new deal
arranged -- or so he thought -- and the Captain wanted everybody
in the bridge crew to comment on it.
At this point the "commenting" had been going on for a good half
hour and we were no closer to finishing than we'd been to start
with. There were two problems.
The first was that we were still running on plain water.
That was good enough to run the engines, but the main computer was
being "iffy"; Sniggles could only manifest briefly and was
hardly any help with anything. What was worse, the "fur" and
the weapons weren't working at all, and wouldn't until we got some
decent fuel to run the ship on.
This wouldn't have mattered so much, except for the second
problem, which was that Dad suspected a double cross.
Actually, besides Dad, Mom, Mince, Nim-nim, Skritch, the Captain,
and Aunt Eternuechat (who wasn't even supposed to be there, since
she's not part of the bridge crew) all expected a double cross as
well, or so they all said. Snidly may have, too, but he
hadn't said anything about it; I think he was asleep.
Somebody had suggested stealing the fuel -- for about the third
time today -- and Dad had just finished explaining yet again that
the problem was that even after a week of negotiating he wasn't
totally sure there was going to be any actual fuel to steal, when
Auntie broke into what was looking like a rerun of the same points
for about the sixth time to ask, "Felix, have you ever met this
Or, rather, she tried to break in. The Captain was saying
something at the same time, and nobody but me seemed to hear
her. So she started again, louder,
Have you ever met Vlad?"
This finally woke Snidly, who was lying on her lap.
"What?" replied Dad, looking confused. "Vlad who?"
"Vladimir, the guy with the connections. Vlad the terrorist,
Vlad whom you've been talking to on the cell phone for the last
two weeks, Vlad the guy who's going to disappear twenty tons of
international contraband from under the noses of the
KGB. You know, that
Vlad. Have you met
"Well I shouldn't think you couldn't sensibly expect to guess how
much truth he's not telling if he's nothing more than a
disembodied voice coming out of a cell phone, could you?"
"What?" asked the Captain, whose English wasn't up to following
"Auntie says should meet Vlad in person," explained Snidly, from
Auntie's lap. He was finally awake. "She's
right. Ituafe," he added.
"Then do it!" replied the Captain. "How soon can he meet
"Uh --" Dad began.
And so the meeting adjourned temporarily, while Dad negotiated a
meeting with Vlad. Unless you happened to understand
Russian, which I mostly don't, the negotiations were pretty
uninteresting. What's more, for the first twenty minutes or
so all "negotiating" was apparently being done with various
operators, secretaries, and menu systems. The fourth time
Dad found himself on hold, and the stultifying sound of Russian
elevator music once again filled the bridge, Auntie slid Snidly
off her lap onto a cushion and left. I would gladly have
followed her (I hope I'm never stuck in an elevator in Russia!)
but I was handling the phone connections for Dad. Mince, who
was supposed to be doing the job, had followed Snidly's example
and gone to sleep.
An hour later, it was finally done. Dad would be meeting
Vlad the following evening, alone, at an outdoor cafe in the town
Dad didn't look any too happy about it. He was pacing as he
talked. "I suppose we'll land in a field, somewhere outside
town, and I'll drive to the meeting in Aftershock..."
"Good. And you'll take Snidly."
"Not just a mouse hunt!" the Captain pointed out. "Snidly!
Wake up! Who else will go?"
Snidly lifted his head off the cushion and glared at the
Captain. Then he said, slowly, "Skritch ... and Staggers ...
"Four cats!" exclaimed Dad. "All I'm doing is talking to
him! Don't need help with that!"
"Five," said Snidly. "And you do need need help with
that. Not just talking. Also coming back after.
May need a lot of help with that."
Dad looked puzzled. "Five? What five?"
It was the Captain who answered. "Five, counting Snizz."
"Ituafe," added Snidly.
"Snizz?" said Dad. "Ituafe??" He looked as bewildered
as I felt. Snizz is small, unprepossessing, and very timid
-- she'd have been the last cat I'd pick for this mission.
Yet the Captain and Snidly seemed to think she was such an obvious
choice that they hadn't even needed to mention her name.
"Ituafe. You need to make Vlad tell the truth." The
Captain stopped; that seemed to be all he had to say about Snizz's
part in the mission.
Dad had started pacing again. He was walking around and the
Captain's perch, muttering. The Captain was sitting on his
perch, watching Dad. Every couple seconds, as Dad walked
around the perch, the Captain got up, turned to face him, and sat
down again. He finally yelled, "Felix, stop!
Dad stopped and looked at the Captain. "I still don't see
how to be sure the deal's for real."
"Not a problem -- you'll have Snizz with you."
"How will Snizz help?"
"Snizz will know if Vlad tells the truth."
"How?" Dad started pacing again.
"Snidly, get Snizz."
"I'm here," said a soft, high voice from the doorway to my left.
"Snizz," said the Captain, in a much softer voice than I'd ever
heard him use before. "Explain to Felix. Show
Snizz looked at Dad -- timidly, I thought. Her tail was half
puffed up; she looked scared. She watched Dad pace around
the Captain's perch twice more. And then, for no reason I
could see, Dad's mouth flopped open. He turned to stare
straight at Snizz, tripped over his own feet, and fell headlong on
the deck, yelling "That's impossible!" as he went down. He
landed directly on the cushion where Snidly had been
napping. Snidly scrambled out of the way as Dad fell, and
sat down to watch from a safe spot under a control panel.
Mom and I jumped up and ran to Dad. I was yelling, "Dad,
what happened? Are you OK?" Mom was saying something
too, probably pretty similar.
And then, as I bent over him, I heard a voice -- or not really a
voice -- someone was speaking but I couldn't make out any
words. Somehow, though, I could understand the meaning, even
without the words, and even without really hearing the voice,
which didn't seem to be coming through my ears.
"I'm sorry," the wordless voice in my head was saying. "I
didn't mean to scare him. I hope he isn't hurt."
"I'm OK," said Dad as he got back to his feet. "Just a
little ... surprised." He looked a lot
Without words or sound, it had unmistakably been Snizz.
Continued in Episode 14: A
Walk in the Dark (in which we try yet
again to get re-launched)
Page created on 26 April 2017 from illegible scribblings
discovered in a mouldering notebook