Previous Installment: The Shopping Trip, Part III
The following is the fifth installment of the tale which began with Takeoff
, and continued with Shopping Trip Part I. II, and III
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
Star Date 8.0
After all the excitement we had getting here, the trip to town seemed
pretty bland. In fact, I fell asleep almost as soon as I sat down
in the back set of Auntie's truck. No doubt the cushy overstuffed
upholstery contributed, too -- it felt like how I think featherbeds
must feel. Bulgy black naugahyde, the back seat looked more like a sofa
than a truck seat. In fact, the whole truck's kind of
unusual. It's a huge double cab pickup truck, with double back
wheels, painted bright orange, with the Vitechat family crest -- the
squabbling double headed eagle -- painted large, in black silhouette,
on the hood. It's got black flames painted on the front fenders,
and running back across the doors. It looked bigger than any
Chevy or Ford pickup I'd seen, so I looked for the model name before we
got in. The little plaque on the back said "Richter 9". I'd
never heard of that brand before (but then, I'm not exactly a car buff).
When I woke up, it was to the sound of Mom and Dad tossing stuff into
the back of the truck. I had slept through most of the shopping
Dense was still snoozing on my lap when I woke up. he got off and
curled up on the east to continue his cat nap as I got out of the
truck, where I was greeted by Auntie.
"Isis, you're awake! Come and see the sights!"
The "sights" mostly appeared to be a small lending library, a gas
station, a funeral parlor, a fishing and camping shop, and a general
store, where Mom and Dad had been doing their shopping.
While they transfered the contents of several shopping carts into the
truck, Auntie took my hand and towed me down the street to see the rest
fo the town. After the handful of stores, there were a few
houses, and the street ended at the shore of the Loch. There was
some very pretty scenery, but after flying low across northern Scotland
upside down, I felt like I'd seen enough scenery for a while, so we
headed back up the street to the truck. Mom and Dad were nowhere
to be seen -- I suppose they were in another shop. So, Auntie and
I went into the general store.
We'd barely crossed the threshold when the storekeeper called from
behind the counter, "'Ey, mum, ye cahn't bring a cat in 'ere!" I
looked around; who should be following Auntie, but Snidly, sticking to
her heels like misplaced bubble gum.
"Fiddlesticks and parsley!" she shouted at him. "He's not a cat,
he's one of the Nottingham aliens, and if you're not polite to him
he'll burn your hair off, which is no more than you deserve, trying to
keep poor innocent feline people out of your store -- not that I can
see what they'd want here anyway!"
"Now, Bertha, calm down, it's just health code, not my doing. Can't he wait for you outside?"
"Ephraim, I've told you 317 times -- 318, now -- don't
Bertha! And since when is it unhealthy to have a cat on the
premises? They catch mosquitoes, some of them anyway, and eat them,
too, sometimes, and that keeps down the West Nile virus, as you should
I'd realized by this time that Auntie and the shopkeeper knew each
other. I stopped paying attention to their argument and looked
around the shop, and then I got a surprise!
In a rack right next to the door, they had some books for sale -- and all
the Captain Rant books where there, including the two I don't have --
and the new one, too! Have you seen it, Taurina? "Celestial
Pirates -- Tyrone Rant and the Water Spout." I've heard his wife,
Raven, is in this one. Of course I got those three. I have
yet to get past the title pages on any of them, though.
Star Date 8.05
The trip back from town was bumpy but otherwise uneventful, even though
Snidly insisted on sitting on Auntie's lap. Auntie's running
commentary on the countryside was punctuated by occasional exclamations
of "Look out, Snidly!" and "Snidly, watch your head!" and "Get down,
Snidly, I can't see a doggone thing!" and "Get your tail out of my
Dense woke up part way through the trip and climbed onto my lap to look
out the window. I scratched him under his collar, and he started
purring. If found Dense puzzling. He was one of Snidly's
gang of stripy orange cats, and he'd looked like a tough "enforcer"
type when I first saw him sauntering down the hall before we left the
ship, but he didn't seem at all like that now. We were almost
back to the Chateau when I asked him about it (in Iemy, of course).
"You're one of Snidly's 'tough guys'. But you don't seem like it."
"Not want to be 'tough guy'. Not tough."
"Why do you do it?"
"Do what Snidly says."
"Always do what Snidly says. Snidly mom."
But before Dense said anything more, Auntie swerved to the left, off
the road -- such as it was -- and onto a sort of halfhearted path
through the woods. The only good thing I could say about it is
that it wasn't rutted -- it didn't appear to be used often enough to
have developed ruts! But it certainly had more than its share of
rocks, chuckholes, and small logs. Since she barely slowed down
when she left the road, the bouncing soon stopped all conversation
beyond primitive grunts, yelps, and cries of "Hey! Watch the claws!",
the latter coming from me, as Dense reflexively held on as we hit some
of the bigger jounces.
Thankfully, this didn't last long. In short order, we left the
woods and found ourselves back in the clearing where the ship was
parked -- and at the sight of the ship, Auntie stopped so suddenly that
all three cats slid onto the floor (leaving a few gouges along
We piled out of the truck for a better look.
Something was terribly wrong. The ship was no longer upside down, as we had left it -- it was, rather, balanced on edge,
the upper rim of the saucer projecting far up into the sky! We'd
entered the clearing from the southeast, and the ship was at an angle
to us, about halfway between face-on and edge-on. We were looking
at the top side, and I could see the dome, but it was too far away to
see who, if anyone, was inside.
Dad was the first to speak. After we'd all been staring
slack-jawed for a couple of minutes, he said, "We've got to get on
I closed my mouth, which had been hanging open, as Mom asked, "How?"
"Don't know," was Dad's very direct response. "Have to go see."
"Go see?" cried Aunt Eternuechat. "You mean, go right up to the
thing?" she said, her voice getting higher. "What if it
tips over? We'd be like a bunch of ants under a dropped
brick! It'll make a big hole in the woods when it goes over, too
-- bust up the trees pretty well, I shouldn't think! Be too bad
for Herbert's leprechauns too, I shouldn't wonder!" She laughed,
then continued, "But really, Felix, do you really
want to go over to it?"
Auntie paused for breath, and Dad said, quickly, "Yes -- we're going over to it. It won't
tip over!" He paused. "I think."
"If we're going, let's go," said Mom, and climbed back into the
truck. Dad and I, who'd been standing on opposite sides of the
truck, got back into the back seat, where Dense was once again sleeping
in the middle. Snidly was sleeping in the middle of the front
seat, unperturbed by the peculiar position of the ship and oblivious to
the discussion. Staggers had vanished into the tall grass and was
nowhere to be seen.
As Auntie drove us across the clearing, we found ourselves skirting a huge round depression -- sort of a big dent
in the ground. It must have been where the dome had been while
the ship was lying upside down. I wondered what could possibly
have tipped it up on edge -- I couldn't imagine anything powerful
enough, except the ship's engines, and they had been on the wrong side
to have done that.
The closer we got, the less it looked like a ship, and the more it
looked like a wall rising straight up from the ground -- a wall made of
slightly stale vanilla ice cream. The bottom of the saucer's rim
had sunk deep into the soil. I stuck my head out of the truck's
window and looked up. I could see the dome of the bridge far
overhead. This whole side of the ship was in shadow, though, and
the setting sun didn't provide enough light for me to see anything in
the control room.
Auntie stopped the truck, and Dad opened his door. "Wait -- you're not getting out, are you?" she asked, quickly.
"Of course I am!" Dad stepped out of the truck.
"Wait -- what if it falls over?"
"If that thing falls on us, this truck isn't going to make much difference," Mom observed, dryly.
fall over," was Dad's firm reply. Then he added, "I think."
Since we didn't seem to be leaving again, I got out, too. I
looked up at the dome, far above -- and noticed something kind of pink
sticking out of the ship, part way up. "Is that the tube we came
out of? How will we get back?" I asked, pointing to it.
Dad looked up at the tube, which ended high over our heads, and yelled "Sniggles!
I was just thinking that was a strange word to use as an exclamation
when who should appear, but Sniggles herself! Her appearance was
silent, as always -- she just suddenly was
, sitting on the hood of the truck.
"I wondered if you could manifest outside," Dad observed.
"Can -- near ship," replied Sniggles. I wondered something, too
-- if Sniggles was a projection, I wondered where the projectors were.
But then, "What happened?" Dad asked.
"Yes ... and what else?" Dad was looking up at the ship, which was manifestly not
Dad looked thoughtful. "Gone six hours, ship rotated ninety degrees... Wonder when the gimbals will free up..."
"And what will happen then?" exclaimed Auntie, who had been listening
closely. "Down comes the brick, and squash go the ants!
Felix, you must be crazy if you're going to just stand here speculating
about when this behemoth is going to fall over on all of us! This
makes Herbert and his leprechauns look like ... " She paused,
apparently groping for a good analogy. "... Like somebody who
makes sense!" she finished.
And with that, she jumped back into the truck, started it up and spun
it in a tight circle, dust and pebbles spraying from the spinning
wheels. Then she stopped and hollered out the open window, "I'm
heading back to the chateau. Any of you other ants want to come
along, or are you just going to stand there waiting for the brick?"
"We're going on board," Dad replied.
"Doesn't look like it to me!" said Auntie, and roared off up the hill
in a cloud of dust and small plants kicked up by the truck.
I was just thinking that Auntie was right -- I sure didn't see any way
of getting onto the ship -- when Dad called, in Iemy, "Sniggles!
We need to board! The tunnel's out of reach!" and pointed up to
where I could just make out the pink of the boarding tube.
At this, Sniggles vanished.
Moments later, before I could start worrying again, the faint pink glow
of the boarding tunnel suddenly stretched out and started waving
around, like a sort of elephant's trunk. It grew, and twisted,
and waved, until the end of it arrived at the ground, a few feet from
where I stood.
Sniggles reappeared at the bottom of the tube. "Follow me!" she
said, and jumped, lightly, up the tube. I was closest, and I
bounded over to the tube and jumped after her -- I didn't like the look
of the ship looming over us one bit! The sooner we were on board,
Mom followed, and Dad brought up the rear. I also saw a number of
cats coming up the tube behind them -- more than three, it seemed; I
supposed some of them must have been hanging around the ship, waiting
for a way to get back aboard. Why hadn't they already asked
Sniggles to have the tube brought down? I couldn't guess.
"Sniggles!" I called. She was about 10 feet above me in the
tube. "Why are you going up the tube? Can't you just appear in
"More fun this way!"
But then she vanished. Had the fun run out? I had no idea.
I looked around, outside the tube. I was rising slowly above the
countryside, which seemed tinted pink from the light of the tube.
On one side was the ship, darkly shadowed, and on the other side, the
forest was opening out around us. We were already well above the
trees. The clearing was below, walled in by the pine forest on
all sides, and down the hill to the south I could see the loch, still
sparkly with the last of the sunlight on its east end. Far off
across the loch, I glimpsed some of the buildings of Duntard among the
trees on the opposite shore. Beyond, above the town, the hills
cut across the southern sky. In the other direction, almost
hidden by the wall of the ship, I could see the chateau, high on the
hill, still lit by the sun.
Then, breaking in on my weightless musings, I felt a sort of shudder go
through me, and through everything else as well -- the landscape seemed
to ripple for a moment. Directly above me, Sniggles reappeared,
and announced, "Gimbals healed. Not stuck."
From twenty feet below me, I heard Dad's yell, "What? Oops!
Before I could start to wonder what the "Oops!" meant, I saw for myself: The landscape was moving -- it was tilting
Tilting upward. The distant horizon was flowing up into the sky,
and the edge of the clearing was rising toward us. There inside
the tube, I felt nothing -- we seemed to be motionless -- but I knew
what was happening: The ship was tipping over, falling back into
its earlier "turtle" posture. I watched the floor of the clearing
rushing up at us, and groaned -- this was like our plunge into the
North Atlantic, but worse: This time we weren't even in the ship
-- we were hanging unprotected in the air, about to be caught between
the ship and the ground!
"Oh, help!" I yelled.
"Felix, do something!" yelled Mom.
"Sniggles, do something!" yelled Dad.
The ground rushed toward us. I could feel a breeze as we fell;
the air was passing through the tenuous walls of the tube. I
supposed the trees and rocks would pass through the tube just as easily
-- not a nice thought!
And then, just as a pile of rocks in the clearing was about to meet
hull of the ship, with me sandwiched in between, two things happened at
once. Sniggles reappeared, and the faint pink glow of the tube
walls turned to an intense, glossy magenta. I could still see the
onrushing rocks through the walls of the tube but I could see my
reflection, as well, distorted and stretched by the curve of the wall
-- and an instant later I could see the rocks shattering as they struck
the wall of the tube. Then darkness -- we were underground! --
then the light of the sky -- the ship had bounced! I could see a
trench gouged in the ground where the now very solid tube had been
forced into the earth. All in an eerie silence; I could hear
nothing through the walls of the tube. And there was still
no sensation of motion.
The ship was still bouncing, and I was still reeling, in a figurative
sense, when Sniggles, followed by me, then Mom, and Dad, and Staggers
and Dense, and a few more cats I didn't know, emerged into the corridor
we'd left earlier that day.
Emerged, I should add, in a heap. Sniggles vanished just before I
landed on her. I'm not quite so talented, so a moment later I
found myself at the bottom of a pile, with Mom, Dad, and some number of
cats piled on top. I heard Dad yelling as some cat started to slip
off the top of the heap, and dug in... Lucky for me, the
gravity's weak where the tube touches down, and like most of the ship,
the floor is kind of soft there, or I'd've been squashed for sure.
As I got to my feet -- after Mom, Dad, and several cats had gotten off
me -- I heard the Captain's annoyed meow. He was standing a few
feet up the corridor, looking at us all. "Where's Snidly?" he
I looked around -- we all looked around. No Snidly. And no
something else, too, I realized. My Captain Rant books were still
back in the truck -- and -- what's worse ... "Dad, Mom, what
about the groceries?"
There was one of those stunned silences you read about in novels, and
then, after a a good fraction of a minute had gone by, Dad said,
"Back to the clearing, then," added Mom.
" the Captain demanded again, sounding more annoyed.
"With our groceries, I suppose," was Dad's response.
Star Date 8.10
So there we were, back in the clearing, under the again-inverted
ship. The same place we'd been eight hours earlier -- only we
were a lot tireder, and it was a lot darker, as the sun had
disappeared behind the hills to the west.
We started off through the gathering gloom at a trot. Dad
immediately tripped on something -- maybe a root -- and went sprawling
into a bush of some sort. "Ouch!" he yelled.
"Felix -- are you hurt?" Mom cried, digging her flashlight out of a pocket in her overalls as she dashed over to him.
"Just lost a little skin" was his reply.
In the beams of our lights, it appeared he'd lost more than that.
His brown slacks and brown plaid shirt were both snagged on thorns, and
were certainly going to need some stitching up. I hoped Dad
wasn't going to need stitching up as well!
As we untangled him from the thorny branches, I asked, "Is this a gorse bush?"
As Dad freed his right arm and stood up, he muttered, "Dunno." As
he pulled his left sleeve loose (which action was accompanied by a
ripping sound) he added "I've never been sure what a gorse bush was --
if this is one, I see why Pooh didn't much like them."
After Mom finished taping up Dad with band-aids and bacitracin from
another pocket in her overalls, we once again started off, this time at
a walking pace.
We were just emerging from the shadow of the
saucer into the slightly brighter gloom of the dusk when we heard the
roar of an engine. Shortly after, a pair of headlights appeared,
bouncing as some vehicle ran over logs and rocks in the forest.
As it entered the clearing, even in the dusk I could see that it was
orange -- large and orange. It was Auntie, coming back!
What a relief -- the prospective walk to the chateau had been seeming
longer and longer to me.
As the truck approached, we heard Auntie shouting out the window of the
truck, "Felix, you were wrong! We heard the crash clear up at the
hilltop when your saucer fell over -- heard it twice, in fact, 'cause
it echoed off the hills over across the Loch! More that twice, in
fact, 'cause it re-echoed and re-echoed before it died away, and every
echo was shouting, 'Felix got this one wrong, wrong, wrong, and he's
been squashed like a bug!' I can't tell you how glad I am to see
you all still totally unsquashed and walking around! I am so
relieved I could just laugh!" And she laughed, a delighted, long,
laugh, and I heard her laughter echoing from the distant hills before
it died away.
As Auntie rolled to a stop, she added, "Do you know you also left all
your groceries with me in the truck? Or is that what you were
coming to get, I suppose? Well climb in, all of you, and I'll
drive the lot of you, and the provender, and your cat, back to your
tipped over spaceship. That is, if you still want to go back!"
As Mom, Dad, and I sank into the soft back seat, I realized Snidly was
sitting in the front passenger seat. I guess that's who Auntie
meant when she said "your cat."
Star Date 8.12
Getting the supplies on board through the tube had taken a good while,
but was kind of fun. Mom and I stood in the corridor on the ship,
and stuff came drifting "down" the tube to us, tossed from the truck by
Dad and Auntie. We caught everything as it arrived and sticked it
there in the corridor -- actually stowing
it all someplace was a chore I was trying not to think about.
Once the last cases of paper towels, peanut butter, corn flakes, and
other assorted necessities had been neatly stacked, Dad came drifting
down the tube, followed, to my great surprise, by Auntie.
Before I could ask why Auntie was here, the Captain appeared in the corridor, and asked us all, "Did you find Snidly?"
"What?" was Auntie's immediate response -- of course, she didn't understand Iemy!
While Mom was telling Auntie what the Captain had asked, Dad was saying
we had, indeed, found Snidly, but we seemed to have lost him again
during the unloading of the truck.
But at that moment, Snidly himself appeared from behind a pile of cases
labeled "Madam Boston's Own Home Made Style Baked Beans", and said,
"And I've found us a vet
" asked the Captain, sounding annoyed. Snidly had used the English word, 'vet'.
." This didn't help, as the Captain apparently didn't know the word.
"Auntie, did you now Snidly says you're coming along with us?" I asked,
in some consternation, as Dad explained to the Captain that a "vet" is
a doctor who treats members of some other species.
" asked Auntie, looking surprised.
" asked Mom, sounding appalled.
have a 'vet'!" said the Captain. "Benga treats
humans so she's a vet." Once again, I found myself hoping I
wasn't going to get sick on this trip.
"And she smells nice," added Snidly, in Iemy. (Nobody translated this for Auntie.)
"So what?" was the Captain's reply.
"And she's bringing a useful truck."
"Auntie, Snidly says you're bringing your truck, too."
"I am?" Auntie looked even more surprised.
So did Dad. "She is? You are?" he said. "I don't know how useful it will be if we can't get gasoline for it."
Auntie looked offended. "Aftershock's got sidesaddle tanks and
they're full, so she'll go another thousand miles before you need to
worry about that" she said, a little defensively, I thought. And
then she added, "And besides, she doesn't need gasoline, anyway."
"Oh?" from Dad. "It's a diesel? So it can't use regular gasoline?"
Auntie laughed. "Hah, gotcha
, Felix! She's not a
diesel and she sure can burn gasoline!" She laughed again.
"Aftershock was a special gift from Herbert - which, I should add, he
paid for with my money. She's a triple hybrid -- and she'll run
on just about anything."
diesel?" Dad asked.
Auntie laughed again. "Anything! Gas, or diesel fuel, or alcohol,
or hydrogen, or kerosene, or soybean oil, or even just
electricity. She's supposed to run on coal, too, but we've never
tried it. Right now she's tanked up on a load of surplus jet fuel
we got from Duntrops Airport when they put in new tanks."
Star Date 8.90
Getting the supplies out of the corridor and stowed someplace sort of reasonable, finding some kind of
cabin for Aunt Eternuechat, cleaning up the mess that still remained in our
rooms since the crash in the ocean – I helped with some of that,
but finally just rolled up in some blankets and conked out in a
corner of my room. It seemed like forever since I'd slept. (That
nap in the truck didn't count!)
And now, here I was, back on the
bridge, wondering if we were finally going to take off. The ship was
right side up again (yay!) and Auntie's truck was supposedly on board
somewhere – I'd slept through all that. But the only one on the
Bridge besides me was the Captain, who was sitting on his perch and
switching his tail. He was making me nervous.
“Where's Felix?” he asked,
“Asleep,” I answered.
“Asleep.” Mom and Dad had been on
the go continuously for so long, they must have been beyond
exhaustion. When I peeked into their room it looked like they'd
finally just fallen asleep in their clothes. I could see Dad still
had his shoes on. Either Mom or Dad had been snoring.
The Captain switched his tail a few
“Asleep.” Mince and Dense had been
totally snoozed out on the cushions in my room before I came up to
The Captain made a sort of growling
“Asleep.” I'd seen Nim-nim in my
parents' room when I looked in – sound asleep.
“I don't know.” I had a strong
suspicion as to what Snidly was doing, but I hadn't actually seen
him, sleeping or otherwise, on my way to the Bridge.
Captain Boots hissed, and said, “Get
Snidly could have been sleeping just
about anywhere on the ship. Rather than run around looking in
random rooms, I flicked on the intercom. "Snidly, to the
bridge. Snidly, to the bridge!"
The Captain apparently didn't think much of my
announcement. "Put me on!" he said. I switched the intercom
to his perch.
"Snidly, wake up
, and get to the bridge -- now!
" he yowled. The echoes of his last word rolled around the corridors.
That got quick results! No more than a minute later, I heard the
pattering gallop of a cat in a hurry, and who should come charging
through the doorway ... but Skritch!
"What's wrong? What's the emergency?" she rasped.
"Don't know." Skritch sat down in front of the doorway and
started washing her face. Apparently, Snidly being AWOL didn't
qualify as an "emergency" in Skritch's book.
There were more pattering noises, and Mince appeared beside Skritch, as
Nim-nim galloped in through another doorway. "What's happened?"
"Where's Snidly? Is he still sleeping?"
I seriously doubted that. After the Captain's broadcast I'm sure
every cat on the ship was wide awake. In any case, neither Mince
nor Nim-nim bothered to answer. Snidly's whereabouts seemed to
hold even less interest for them than for Skritch.
Mince had wandered off across the bridge and was settling down for a
nap under one of the control panels when the pounding of heavy feet
sounded from the corridor behind Skritch.
"What's wrong?" yelled Dad, as he barreled in through the
doorway. A glimpse showed he was still in yesterday's clothes,
plaid shirt half untucked, pants looking like he'd slept in them, hair
as uncombed as ever, whiskers unshaved, and his pint coffee mug in his
hand ... and a glimpse was all I got as he barreled directly into
Skritch, who was washing one of her back feet.
"Rowtch!" squawked Skritch.
"Oops!" yelled Dad.
"Nooooooo!" cried the Captain, as Dad went sprawling full length on the
floor and his coffee mug took off on its own, merrily spraying coffee
in all directions. About half of it landed on the Captain, and
most of the rest splashed down on the controls near where I was sitting.
The all too familiar sound of arcing circuitry came from the controls,
and the last thing I saw was a cloud of smoke rising from the
panel. The lights went out, the dome went totally opaque, and the
sounds of the ventilator system died away. In the silent darkness
which followed, I could hear the faint sound of the Captain licking
"Phaaauugh!" he suddenly exclaimed. "This stuff tastes awful!
"Left over -- couple days. Not so good today," I heard Dad
muttering from the floor. Then he added, "Good thing floor's
padded. No harm done."
The Captain made an outraged noise at Dad's last comment.
"Felix!" he suddenly yelled. "No more coffee on the bridge!
Never! I mean it!"
And then we waited -- waited for the lights come back, the controls to
recover, or somebody to show up with a flashlight. I certainly
wasn't about to try pushing buttons randomly in total darkness.
We didn't have long to wait. A faint light appeared in the
corridor Dad had come up, and soon resolved into a tiny keychain
"Lights out all over ship" came Snidly's voice, from somewhere near the flashlight. "Awkward."
"Awkward -- I'll say it's awkward!" came Auntie's voice. She was
the flashlight bearer, it appeared. "What kind of flying saucer
is this, anyway?" she went on. "It flies upside down, it lands on
its edge, the lights don't work, and -- pew! -- it stinks of burnt
Aha! This is all Felix's fault, isn't it? Felix are you
in here? Oof!"
That last exclamation came as Auntie stumbled over Dad, who was still
on the floor where he'd fallen. "Oops!" he said, once more, as
Auntie went down, heavily, onto the floor next to him. Her
flashlight bounced away across the bridge.
Luckily, it didn't go out, and it landed close to me. I picked it
up, and by its light I typed the sequence to turn the lights back
on. To my vast relief, that worked, and the bridge, in all its
disarray, reappeared. Dad was sitting on the floor, Auntie was
lying on the floor next to him, Skritch was sitting off to one side of
the doorway under the relative safety of the overhang of a control
panel, Mince was snoozing under another panel, and Nim-nim was fiddling
with the controls on yet another panel, no doubt trying to get the
ventilators back on line.
"Where's Snidly?" asked the Captain.
Snidly, the cause of all this, had vanished again.
After paging him twice more, he finally sauntered in through a doorway
off to my right. He looked around, commented that the lights were
working again, and started to settle down on a cushion for a nap.
By this time, Auntie had left again in search of Mom, and Dad had left
in search of fresh coffee and a change of clothes.
"Snidly! Stay awake!
" Snidly made a complaining noise, but sat up and looked at the Captain.
"Is everyone back on board?"
"How should I
"It's your job! You're the security officer! So, is everyone secure and on board?"
"No." Snidly lay down again.
"What do you mean, no?
How many are we missing?"
"Negative six," Snidly replied, sleepily.
The Captain made a sort of growling noise. "Explain!
Snidly snorted. "Six more came back than went out. So, have
six more than we started with. So, negative six missing."
The Captain glared at Snidly, who was being about as annoying as I've
ever seen him. I suppose he was sleepy -- whatever, something
sure was making him grumpy!
"Has everyone who went out come back?" the Captain finally demanded, after a long pause.
Snidly had closed his eyes and wrapped his tail around himself.
"Just...." he trailed off, in a very sleepy tone, and then, as he
snuggled his face into the end of his tail, he made a sort of noise
that sounded to me like "sssnizzzzz...." and fell asleep.
Auntie had come in during this exchange, along with Mom. Auntie
sat down on a cushion and watched, while Mom started going over the
controls. I guess she was preparing for takeoff. But that
was interrupted, along with Mince's nap and whatever Nim-nim was doing,
when the Captain screamed, "Snidly wake up!
We can't leave Sniz behind! Go find her!
Snidly sat up and glared at the Captain. "Sniz won't stay behind. Ituafe!"
At that moment there was a faint squeak
from the doorway on my
left. "I'm here," said a soft voice. I saw a small gray cat
with black feet stepping slowly onto the bridge. One of her ears
seemed to be pointing a little sideways, and her coat had a very faint
blotched tabby pattern in darker gray.
As she walked toward the Captain's perch, she looked around the bridge. She looked at me -- stared
at me, in fact -- and I noticed her tail was partly puffed up.
Had it been like that a moment before, when she came in? I'm not
She stared at Mom for a moment, just as she'd stared at me.
And then she looked at Aunt Eternuechat, for about a half a
second. Her fur went up all over, she made a faint squeaking
noise, and she was gone, a gray streak disappearing down the corridor.
"What'd I do?" asked Auntie, looking chagrined.
"Auntie OK," Snidly said, in English. "Sniz just scared by
vets." He sauntered off the bridge in the direction Sniz had
Auntie stared after Snidly, looking mystified. Then she looked
down at herself -- she was dressed in green slacks with an orange
silky-looking blouse with black flowers on it, orange hair loose around
her shoulders, and some kind of slipper things on her feet with brass
double-headed eagles on the buckles. "How'd she know I'm a vet?"
she asked nobody in particular. Snidly had left, and nobody else
seemed to have an answer.
Continued in The Test Flight
Page created on 2 Jan 2011