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What's in the Box?

The following is the fifteenth installment of the tale which began with Takeoff, and continued with Shopping Trip Parts I. through IV  and The Test Flight.  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.

Previous Installment: A Walk in the Dark

Star Date 57.3

Hi again, Taurina!  Everyone's back on board, we've all had a chance to rest up, and Dad's thumb doesn't hurt so much since Auntie took out the staple Benga put through it.  Mom's head is feeling better, too, and Auntie says she should be fine, though she also said we should watch her, but as long as she's eating all of her food, sleeping no more than 15 or 20 hours a day, and seems alert and cheerful when she's awake, we shouldn't worry.  I think Mom may be the first human patient Auntie's ever treated for a concussion.

They learned just about everything from Vlad.  Dad told me Vlad's working for the energy department of the Russian government.  That's really lucky, since they're almost the only organization on Earth that could get us what we need.

But that also means they probably don't care that much about the gold bars we're supposed to pay for the shipment with -- what they really want is to catch our "gang", to find out who we are and what we're up to.  The fuel is just bait.

The "bait" is real, though.  Vlad is really planning to deliver it this time.  And just in case he might change his mind, Snidly told him that if the shipment doesn't arrive, he and Skritch will come for him -- and now they know where he lives.

The trouble is the "hook" in the "bait".  With Snizz reading his mind, Vlad couldn't hide the fact that they'll have some heavy military equipment at the rendezvous, and that they have no intention of letting us leave with the fuel.

We're still running on plain water for fuel.  So, we have no working weapons, no "fur", no invisibility -- and what's more, we have no gold bars.  The Captain decided to use the "Snidly plan":  Let them bring the fuel to the rendezvous, and just hijack it and fly away.  Without weapons, though, I don't understand how that could work, even if the Russians weren't also planning a double cross.

Star Date 57.7

On the Bridge

Dad and the Captain had been closeted for at least an hour, talking about the situation.  I don't know what they ere planning, but it seemed like it must be something at least some of us weren't going to like.  Otherwise, why all the secrecy?

The pickup was scheduled for the following afternoon and I, at least, still had no idea how we were going to get away with the load of fuel, from under the muzzles of the Russian artillery -- and without paying anything for it.  Dad had been very evasive whenever I'd asked him about it.  Mom seemed very nervous about the whole thing, and claimed to have no more idea than I did how we were going to pull this off.

Dad and the Captain finally rejoined us on the bridge, and the Captain immediately said to Mom, "To Arkham.  Then wait.  At midnight, land on Miskatonic athletic field."

"Midnight -- our time?"

"Local time."

"Why??"  Mom exclaimed in surprise.  She didn't usually question Captain Boots's orders (and neither did anyone else) but I guess this was just too weird.

"Pick up passenger."

No further explanation seemed to be forthcoming.  After a pause, Auntie (who had once again followed us onto the bridge) asked, "What did he say?  Pick up a what?"  She knows a lot of Iemy by now, but still has to ask for help sometimes.

"Passenger," Mom explained.

Auntie exclaimed, "So we're carrying passengers now!  Who wouldn't have thought?  I surely hope we're charging a reasonable fare -- maybe if we get enough business we'll be in a better position to pay cash when we tank up!"

"I don't think it's quite like that," Mom replied, in a thoughtful tone.

After Captain Boots had said nothing for a good while, Dad finally filled the knowledge gap.  "Pickup on Professor Poissonnoire."

"Professor Poissonnoire?" I repeated, in surprise.

"Why, Isis, what's wrong with ... um ... him?  Or her?" asked Auntie.

"Nothing!" I said, quickly.

"There can't be nothing wrong with her, or you wouldn't have had such a wrinkled nose and I shouldn't think you'd not be blushing now, would you?"

"OK, there's something, but it's just ... well..."

"Well, what?"

"Well, he smells funny.  Kind of icky."

"Not icky.  Smells good." piped up Nim-nim, who had been listening.  "Smells like fish."

"Fisssshhh?" repeated Snidly, behind me.  He'd been sleeping under one of the control panels.

"Yes.  Like mackerel, but a little different.

"He is from Innsmouth, after all," Dad added, sounding like he was explaining something.

"So that's all?  He smells ... fishy?"   Auntie asked.

"Well, and, well, his hair ... it's really, um..."

"A wig.  It's really a wig,"  Mom finished my sentence.  "He has a scalp condition, and doesn't have much hair."

"Any hair, actually," Dad corrected.  "Just scales."

"But why would anyone want to wear a wig that looks like seaweed?"  I asked.  Nobody had an answer.

"Why Uriah?"  Mom asked, after a pause.  "Why do we need a specialist in ancient religions to pick up a load of fuel?"

"He's bringing something which may help."

"I don't much like the sound of that,"  Mom muttered, but Dad didn't offer any further explanation.

Star Date 57.95

I Saw a Great Big Box...

That was certainly strange.

When Mom landed the Erfout Eetjney on the athletic field, I was surprised to see it was totally dark.  Someone had turned off the outside lights at the school -- but maybe they always do that, come to think of it; I've never been on the field so late at night before.

And then we waited.

And waited.

I was on the bridge, along with the rest of the crew.  Dad and the Captain had gone down to the hold and opened the big cargo door, the one with the ramp.  But they hadn't told the rest of us what they expected to bring up the ramp.

After we'd been sitting for at least half an hour, I saw something moving at the edge of the forest.  The monitor was set to show the infrared view and it wasn't very sharp, but it looked like a huge crate of some sort.

Whatever-it-was  moved out from under the trees, and the closer it got to the ship, the more it looked like a box being carried on a fork lift.

As it passed under the ship and up the ramp, the lights from inside the ship lit it.  For a moment, one screen which was showing the visible light view gave us a clear image of the box.  Auntie gasped.

"What was that mark on the side of the box?  Did you see it?" she asked, as the box entered the ship and moved out of our range of view.

"Um ... a hex sign?"

"I shouldn't think I'd much like to see what might not live in a bar which didn't have hex signs like that on the walls!"

"You mean did?"

"Yes, yes, or rather no, my nots got a bit knotted, but no, or I should say yes, that was no hex sign!"

"Then what was it?  A radiation symbol?  I thought those were supposed to be black and red."

"Yes, or rather, no."

"No what?"

"No, you're right.  It wasn't."

I have no idea how long this might have gone on, but Nim-nim, who is an incredible storehouse of arcane knowledge, chimed in, "Looked like biohazard."

Fishing for a Hint

Star Date 58.4

When we picked up Professor Poissonnoire and his apparently hazardous crate, it was the small hours of the morning, ship's time.  I don't now about anyone else, but I went to bed as soon as we took off.

And now, a few hours later, here I was in Aunt Eternuechat's cabin, sipping tea.  Snidly, who doesn't deal well with late nights of the sort we'd just had, was snoring softly on a pile of laundry heaped in a corner of the room.  The air reeked of fish.  The source of the fishy odor was laughing with a sound like someone blowing bubbled under water in a twenty gallon aquarium.

"But really, Uriah,"  Auntie was saying, "we just want some idea what's in the box.  After all, the biohazard sign doesn't exactly lead one to a feeling of utmost sanguiniety, now, does it?  And such a large box -- one might think one could poison the whole Russian army with such a large amount of whatever-it-is!"

Professor Poissonnoire laughed his bubbly laugh again.  "Oh, that silly sign!  The administration insists on it, but there's really no good reason for it.  Certainly there's nothing in it that anyone can catch -- it's more like the other way around!"  He laughed again.

"The other way around?" repeated Auntie.

"Oh, I'm just joking.  Baby's really no hazard to anybody.  Or not much of one, anyway."  He drank the last of the his tea.  "But I'm afraid I must swim off -- time to feed Baby.  She'll want time to nap a bit after, before we go to meet the Russians.  Thanks again for the tea!"

"Baby?"  I said to Auntie, after the professor left.

She shrugged.  "Your guess, Isis.  I can't imagine what sort of baby would need such a large crate."

"Baby whale?" I suggested.  "But why send a baby whale to meet the Russians?  And why would anyone think it was a biohazard?"

In which we learn that 'dar' may not mean 'eel'

We landed in the field half an hour before we were to meet the Russians.  With no weapons and no defenses, making a spectacular landing in front of the guns we expected them to bring seemed unwise; that's what Dad said.  The Captain didn't say anything, beyond telling Mom to take us down.  And then the Captain joined Dad and Professor Poissonnoire in the hold.  They still hadn't told the rest of us what they were planning, and Dad said they didn't want anyone else in the hold, "in case something slips".  So the rest of us in the bridge crew were watching the show on the monitors.  As usual, the screens in the main conference room had been set to show the same thing we were seeing, in case the other cats wanted to watch.

So far, there hadn't been much of a show.

We'd seen Professor Poissonnoire drive his forklift out of the hold, with its mysterious box still in place, and then we'd waited.

And waited.

We heard Professor Poissonnoire call, "Any news?"

And we heard Dad's voice say, "Nothing yet."

And then we waited some more.

And finally, we were rewarded with the bellowing sound of a truck climbing the hill to the rendezvous.  Shortly after, the cab of the truck appeared in a gap in the line of small trees which separated our field from the road.  The cab came through the cap onto the field, followed by the trailer -- no, make that the trailers.  It was a double-trailer truck, painted in the familiar cheery Dunkin' Donuts colors.  If this wasn't our fuel, then it was more donuts than I'd ever seen in one place before.

"Is it for real this time?" asked Auntie, who was with us on the bridge.

"I wish I knew," observed Mom.

"Me, too," added Nim-nim.  "But sensors won't work again until we've got better fuel.  So, just have to guess.  And hope.  Felix said Snizz said Vlad really intended to bring the fuel this time. We'll find out soon if he did."

As Nim-nim was talking, Dad had appeared on the screen, walking up behind Professor Poissonnoire's forklift.  And the driver of the truck had jumped out of the cab and was heading back down the hill at a dead run.  That didn't seem like a good sign.

A moment later, there was a crashing sound, and we saw Dad throw himself on the ground just as two Russian tanks plowed through the line of trees onto the field, their cannons apparently pointed directly at us.

"Come out, all of you, slowly, and walk away from the ... uh ... the ... the ship!" said an amplified but very nervous voice, in Russian.  "Don't ... uh ... don't try to ... uh ... take off, or we'll fire!"  the voice added.

Professor Poissonnoire must have done something, because we saw the side of the crate which faced the tanks drop off.  The now-open side faced away from us, so I couldn't see what was inside.  The tank crews certainly could, however, and they apparently didn't much like what they saw.  One of them had gone into reverse, and was backing rapidly toward the line of trees.  The other was swinging its main gun around to bear on the box.

A hollow, basso profundo voice said, "Shub!"  It seemed too deep to be coming from the monitors; it felt like it was coming right through the walls of the ship.

Mince, who had been lying on my lap, suddenly stood up.  Her fur was also standing up; her tail was totally bottle-brushed.

"What's 'shub' mean?" I asked.

"Don't know," was all Mince said.

I glanced around the bridge.  The other cats were all puffed up as well.  Even Snidly was on his feet, staring at the monitors.

"Yog!" said the voice, and something dark seemed to ooze from the sides of the crate.  And then the second tank fired, point blank, directly into the crate.  The forklift tipped back, briefly, and bounced a little; that was the only effect I could see.

But something didn't like it.

"Yog!" bellowed the voice, and I'm sure I felt the deck vibrate under me.  "Yob!  Yob!"

Something dark and blurry started to emerge from the crate.

"Yob-Sothoth!" bellowed the voice, and a dark ropy thing slithered out of the blurry mass and shot straight into the barrel of the tank's cannon.

The hatch of the tank popped open, and a Russian soldier scrambled out.  In quick succession, three more followed him, and all four of them headed off down the hill at a dead run.

We hadn't seen Sniggles since we ran out of real fuel, but now what was unmistakably her voice sounded over the intercom.

"Yn etořta onary he yřufira yřk onořtu dar![1]"

And then, almost a wail,

"Yřufira yřk onořtu su eet irharar ařha dar![2]"

The dark blur had by this time emerged from the box, and was moving with a sort of rippling motion toward the now unoccupied tank, accompanied by a sort of chant, "Shub shub shub yog yob shub..."

"What is that thing?  It just looks like a blur on the monitors.  It's got the cats all in a lather.  What is it, Felix!?"  Mom was yelling into the intercom.

"Oh ... the blur,"  Dad's voice came back.  He was standing up again, and looking over his shoulder back at us.  "Sorry -- shoggoths don't show up very well on camera."  Dad sounded sheepish.

"You brought a shoggoth on board??"

"Uh huh.  Sure scared off the Russians."  Dad laughed, in a hopeful sort of way.

The dark blur had reached the tank, and Professor Poissonnoire jumped out of the forklift cab and started running toward it.  He was yelling, "No, Baby, don't eat that -- you'll be sick!  Don't!"

There was, however, a rather awful crunching noise, and the tank disappeared.  Apparently, Baby doesn't mind very well.

From there, the blur moved on to the cab of the tractor trailer.

"No, Baby, no!  Not that!" cried the Professor.

There was another awful crunch and half the cab was gone, along with the front wheels.

"What if Baby eats our fuel? I asked no one in particular.

But Professor Poissonnoire was yelling again, this time in a very different tone of voice.  "By the Goat I command you to stop!"

The blur gave a sort of a jerk, and backed off from the truck.

"Look, Baby!  Much better food down there!" added Professor Poissonnoire in his normal tone, pointing in the direction the Russian soldiers had gone.

The blur started down the hill, then stopped and seemed to shudder.  For several minutes it didn't move, and then there was a horrible sound, like 10,000 cats coughing up hairballs at the same time, and the mangled remains of the tank and the truck cab reappeared on the field.  A sad, low moan filled the air.

"There, there, Baby, you'll be fine, just ate too much junk food too fast."  Professor Poissonnoire was standing next to the blur, patting it.  "Let's go down to the river, find you some nice clean fish."  The moaning faded away, and was replaced by a low rumble of the sort you might hear from a contented cat -- at least, if the cat were the size of a tractor trailer.  The two of them started slowly down the hill.

"Goodbye, Felix!  Good luck!  See you in Arkham in six months, if you're around!"  Professor Poissonnoire called over his shoulder.

Deus Ex Machina Redux

So there we were, and there was the fuel -- or so we hoped.  But between us and the fuel was several hundred feet of rocks, grass, bushes, and small trees, and the tractor of the truck had been reduced to scrap iron.  Getting the fuel on board was going to be tedious.

We watched Dad and the Captain pick their way over the field to the donut truck.  "Should we go help?" I asked.

"Not until Dad tells us to follow him,"  Mom replied.  "He wants to be sure it's really a load of fuel.  And he said the hydride may be touchy to handle."

So we watched, and time went by.  They got the back doors on the first trailer open, and I heard a yell of triumph.  So, I guessed that it really was a load of fuel.

From there, they moved to the second trailer, and -- eventually -- got those doors open, too.  And there was another happy yell.  Things were looking good.

And then Dad and the Captain emerged from the back of the second trailer.  Dad was carrying a sort of block, covered with plastic, with a handle on top.  It looked like it might hold a couple of gallons, or a half a bushel, or whatever you call it when you've got a thing of that much dry powder.  Whatever it was, if he was going to unload the truck by carrying those over to the ship one at a time, we would still be here when Uriah arrived back in Arkham.

Nim-nim got up, announced to everyone present, "Stay here.  Felix need help," and trotted off down a corridor.

"I certainly shouldn't think that didn't make for too much sense!  Should we follow along?" asked Auntie.

"No, I don't think so," was Mom's reply.  "Felix may need Nim-nim's help to get the new fuel loaded, but the rest of us might just be in the way for now.  There's an awful lot of fuel to get off those trailers and a few minutes more or less before we start carrying it off won't make much difference."

And so we waited.  We'd been doing a lot of that lately, or so it seemed to me.

And then a half track drove out from the gap in the trees, followed by two more.  Apparently, the tank crews had called for help.

"Felix, close the door!" Mom shouted into the intercom.

"Busy!" was the only reply we got.

The half tracks had stopped some distance away, and had begun burping out groups of soldiers, who were fanning out in a ring around the Erfout Eetjney.

Nim-nim's voice came over the intercom.  "No -- wait -- not yet --"  I guessed he was talking to Dad.  I was just thinking that he must have joined Dad and the Captain in the hold, when we heard Dad's voice again.


The screens all went dark and the lights went out.  The intercom, however, still seemed to be working.

"Come out, all of you, with your hands in the air!" we heard an amplified Russian voice say.  "If you're not out here in 20 seconds we're coming in!"

Mom muttered something under her breath, and I heard the clicks as she pressed some buttons, by feel, in the dark.  She spoke into the intercom, and we could hear the echos from across the field.  She must have turned on outside speakers.

"The first person to set foot in this ship will be disintegrated!"

There was a babble of voices from outside.

"That should hold them off for a few minutes!"  observed Auntie, loudly.  Unfortunately, the intercom picked up her words and projected them across the field.  The babble of voices from outside stopped.

Dad's voice came from the intercom.  "There!"

And our screens came back on.  Weirdly, the lights stayed off, and the only view of the outside we had was infrared.  It was a lot better than nothing, though.

The vague forms on the screens were closer than they had been, and they were still advancing, slowly.

"Time's up -- we're coming in!" we heard from the field.  There were a few things I couldn't make out, then a yell, "They're bluffing -- go!"

Dad's voice came to us, apparently speaking to Nim-nim:  "Try it now."

As the first Russian soldiers vanished from our view, going up the ramp into the ship, there was a loud "Snap!" like the sound of a huge spark.  The screens went dark for an instant, and then everything including the lights came on -- all screens lit, showing normal views.

The Russians were filing into the ship.  Uh, oh!  "Looks like we need help.  Time for a deus ex machina!" said Auntie, sotto voce.

A voice spoke across the bridge.

"Secondary computer is."

"Primary computer is."

And at that moment, Sniggles appeared.  In fact, six copies of Sniggles appeared.  One of them started pushing buttons.  A second asked, "Do you need help?"

A third observed, "You need help!"

And the voice of the ship spoke again:  "Tertiary computer is."  Five of the six Sniggles vanished.

From the intercom, we heard Dad say, "Oh, Sniggles.  Hello!"

And there was a strange voice, in Russian:  "Raise your hands!  Come this way!"

The Sniggles who was still on the bridge pressed the blue 'activate' button, but as far as I could see, nothing happened.

"Move!" said the Russian voice on the intercom.  "Now!"

And then there was a sort of loud growl, followed by a yell and the sound of a gun firing.  Then there were more growls, more yells, and something like a roar.  The yells got fainter, as if the yellers were running away.  "Wow ... it worked," we heard Dad say.

On the screen, we could see Russian soldiers leaving the ship at a run.  As the last of them fled, something large and tawny seemed to be chasing him -- it looked a lot like a cat, but it was about the size of a Bengal tiger.  Whatever it was, it vanished a moment later.

"Raising fur," said Sniggles.

A moment later, the soldiers started moving away even faster, as though something was pushing them away from the ship.  They "washed up" in a heap, at the edge of the field, along with the half tracks which had been shoved along as well.  Only the wrecked tractor trailer remained anywhere near the ship.

"Now let's get that fuel," I heard Nim-nim say.  On the screen, we saw a pink glow appear and reach out to the truck.  The two trailers began to fall, slowly and smoothly, toward the open door of the hold.

Continued in Episode 16:  Goodbye

[1]  Never put <translation unclear> in a hovercraft

[2]  My hovercraft was full of <translation unclear>


Page created on 14 May 2017