The Cat and Her Ship

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 11 (v.1) - The Cat and her Ship - Chapter 11

Submitted: December 24, 2013

Reads: 46

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Submitted: December 24, 2013

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Mason woke with a start, not sure exactly what it was that had brought him out of a deep sleep.  Automatically, he looked over at his bunkside clock and saw that it was blinking the same time over and over: 12:01, 12:01, 12:01, and then changed to 12:02 and repeated it monotonously.  He sat up, startled that it worked at all.  Maybe the time had started again.

He groaned as he sat on the edge of the bunk and stretched his arms overhead and then to each side.  Then he picked up the clock and fiddled with the controls – not sure how to set the time since it had been a while.

Then, using the tiny little buttons on the back, he started to advance the hour.  He laughed out loud at his stupidity.  Just what time should he set if for?  nine, seventeen, eleventy-two?  Grunting, he set the clock back down and heaved himself to his feet.

Scratching his chest, he went into the head and splashed around in the tiny sink, wetting his face, and then applying shaving cream.  Nicking himself only once, he finished up with a splash of lotion – which burned when it hit the cut.

“Ow!”  He exclaimed, as he capped the bottle and stepped back into his cabin.  Now, he noticed, that something else had been added: a bit of light was showing through his porthole.  He bent and looked out.  Yup, it was definitely getting a bit brighter.  Time to find out what was going on.

Not particularly looking forward to the unappetizing appeal of square plastic tubs of pureed food, he nevertheless headed into the galley area where he found Ralph trying his best to fix something that at least looked like breakfast.

“How goes it, Cookie?”  Asked Mason.  “Got anything resembling coffee?”

“That I can give you, my friend.  Before we left port, we took on a whole case of ground coffee.  The pot is over there.  If you’ll just hit the start switch, it’ll perk for you.”

Mason reached across the counter and tapped the button.  After a moment, the machine began to gurgle and spit dark liquid into the waiting glass pot.  “Ah, the elixir of life,” he said, sniffing deeply at the odor coming from the stream.

“Do I smell coffee?”  Said Ernie as he sidled into the bench seat against the bulkhead and set his mug on the table.  “Tell me it isn’t something provided by them cats...”

“It isn’t,” said Ralph.  “I made it myself.”

By the time the whole pot had brewed, there were four other people standing around awaiting the ‘done’ light to come on.  When it did, Mason reached the handle of the pot first.

“We’ll do this scientifically.  First me, then the rest of you can fight over it.”

“That sounds fair – as long as I’m next,” grumbled Larry.  “My head is hurting something awful.”

“Hangover?  How can that be?”  Asked Vern.  “We ain’t had no booze in a while.”

“Dunno.  I just woke up with a headache.  Anyone notice the sky – or whatever that is out there – is getting lighter?”

“Yeah,” said Mason.  We need to get together and decide what time it is.”

“Huh?”  Said Cookie.  “What do you mean?”

“Well, my clock suddenly started working, but I don’t know what time to set it to.  Anyone else know the correct time?”

“It feels like about ... seven thirty right now.”  Groaned Vern.

“AM or FM?”

“Huh?”

“A joke, Vern.  Morning or evening – AM or PM?”

Larry took a huge gulp of coffee and made a wry face.  When he managed to swallow, he grumbled, “This coffee tastes like mud.”

“Well, no wonder, Larry – it was just ground this morning.  Heh, heh, heh,” laughed Cookie.

Larry gave him a single-digit reply.

Before they could carry on further, they were interrupted by the arrival of Captain (No Kidding) Bly who walked in and gave everyone a hard look.  “Is it just me, or have the clocks started working again.”

“They seem to be working now, Captain.  We were just trying to figure out what time we should agree on.”

“Ah, capital idea.  How about ... ummm ... seven forty three?”

“Why that time?”

“Why not?”  He shrugged.

So, it officially became 7:43 AM at that moment.  Everyone stood around looking like bomber pilots synchronizing their watches before a raid.  “Now!”  Intoned the Captain.  Click.  Click.  Click.  Everyone pushed the stem of their watches in.

As if in response, the ‘sky’ out the larger windows of the galley got noticeably brighter.

Following a rather abbreviated breakfast, fueled by three more pots of coffee, the crew adjourned to their lounge.  For fun, Ernie flipped the radio switch to ‘on’ and spun the dial across the FM and AM bands.  The only thing they heard was the hiss of white noise.  Grunting in disgust he flipped the switch back off.

Pointing to the four horizontal bars on the time display he asked if anyone knew how to set the clock on the controller.  Nobody spoke.  He opened his mouth to say something more, but just then two soft chimes sounded and a spot at the far end of the lounge went fuzzy and then materialized into Loopy standing there.

“Greetings, Earthlings!  I come in peace!”  He made a gargling noise which was his attempt at laughter.  “I’ve always wanted to say that!”

“Funny, Loopy,” said Mason.  “But only funny once.”

“Ah, I will keep that in mind.”  She said, moving to the couch and sitting down with her legs crossed.  “Actually, I am on a mission.  You may have noticed that your timekeeping devices have begun to work again.  In order to avert chaos, you should probably decide on a common time.”

“We already have,” said the captain.  He pulled his pocket watch out and glanced at it.  “The time is exactly ... eight-twelve; that is oh-eight-twelve vice twenty-twelve.  We had to assume that the outside getting lighter meant morning was in progress.  Were we correct?”

“Perfectly correct, Captain.”  Said loopy, fiddling with her controller she was never without.  “I have set it to your time.  Now, how about light and dark periods.  Would a twelve hour cycle be agreeable?”

The crew looked at each other and mostly shrugged.  “I see no reason why not,” said the captain.  “With maximum brightness at twelve-hundred and a minimum at twenty-four hundred?”

“Agreed.”

“Any chance of a moon showing?”  Asked Ernie quietly.  “I kinda miss seeing a moon?”

“I’ll show you a moon,” said Larry in a stage whisper.

“I suppose we could arrange that.”  Said Loopy, wanting to avert any more coarse humor.  “I’d have to talk to our Engineering and Science officers first.  It might not track across the sky though.”

“No problem, I just miss it.”

At that moment, Alana and Peeta walked into the lounge.  “I thought I’d find you all here.”  Said Alana.  “Oh, hi, Loopy.”  She said.

“Greetings, Ms. VonHassel.  Did you sleep well?”

“I did, indeed; until my stupid alarm clock went off.  Does anyone know what time it really is?”

“Oh eight seventeen.”  Chorused at least four voices.

“Oh?  It felt more like ten-ish to me.  But, no matter,” she added, pulling her watch off and adjusting it.  She turned to Ralph.  “Can we have something sent up to our cabin, Cookie?  At least something that looks like food?”

Loopy made a ‘blert’ sound.  “Sorry, Ms. VonHassel.  We expect that food will look more appetizing as we gain more experience in producing it.  The hardest part is getting it to ‘stick together’ and look like proper food.  Please be patient.”

“We can pretend we’re on a space flight and eating out of toothpaste tubes.”  Said Peeta brightly.

“Yuk.  I want steak!”  Said Ernie, sotto-voce.

Loopy hopped down to the floor, waved, and went to where she had appeared.  With a click of her wand, she faded from view.

“I don’t know if I will ever get used to that,” said Vern.  “It’s creepy.”

“I think it’s cool!”  Said Alana.  “I wish Loopy would stop calling ‘Mizz’ though.  It sounds so formal.”  She brightened up.  “Well, if you’ll send something up for us, Cookie, Peeta and I will return to our cabins.  Good morning, everyone.”

“Good morning,” everyone answered.

Later, up on the main deck, Mason and Vern were taking their morning walk.  As they passed by the silver gangplank, Mason stopped and faced it.  He took his arm bracelet out of his pocket, snapped it on, and lifted a foot towards the edge of the plank.  It stopped short and wouldn’t go any further.

“Eh?  What the hell?”  He tried his best to get his foot to stand on the metal.  “Something won’t let me stand on it.”

“Mebbe it’s a force field.”  He dropped his eyes at Mason’s scathing glance.  “Or ... something...”

Mason tried again, this time lifting himself up on both rails like mounting the parallel bars in gym class.  When he landed, he hung suspended between the metal bars – with no visible support at all.

“That’s a neat trick, Mason.  How’d you do that?”

“I think it’s some kind of repellent force field,” he said.

“Looks pretty repellent to me.”  Mused Vern.

“Maybe the Dwee’num have regular working hours and don’t want us underfoot all the time.”

“Maybe.  Let’s keep walking.”

Mason hopped down after turning in mid-air and ‘sliding down’ the field to the deck.  “Pretty cool.”

“I still think them cats are spooky.”  Grumbled Vern.

* * *

That afternoon, Alana, Peeta, Bernard, and Jerry were sitting in lounge chairs on the after deck.  Peeta was engrossed in some sort of glossy magazine while her mother read a book and sipped a drink.  Bernard and Jerry were at it again over a chess board, slapping down the timer button with gusto as they each made their moves.

There was enough light available that both women were wearing dark glasses, which seemed to suit them just fine.  Alana was the more conservative of the two women, dressed in a silky pantsuit and sandals.  Peeta, however, was more adventurous and had donned a loud yellow and orange bikini, topped with a straw hat.

Alana looked up sharply at the rather loud clang coming from the void over the railing.  In the distance, she could see the far end of the gangway and on it, looking like a tiny replica of himself, stood her husband with his hands on his hips craning his neck upwards at them.

“Peeta!  You father has arrived!”  Alana said loudly, rising to her feet and heading for the yacht side end of the plank with Peeta running a close second.  Neither Bernard or Jerry looked up but both appeared peeved at the interruption.

“That really looks weird,” exclaimed Peeta as her father grew in stature walking towards them.

“Your father always has been a little strange, dear, but that’s no reason to say something like that.”

“I meant, mother, that him getting taller as he approached looked weird,” Peeta said with an exasperated air.”

“Oh.”

Ernie, who had been rummaging up forward in the storage locker, entered the crew’s lounge.  “The boss is back!  He’s coming aboard right now.”

“How, in a bright ball of blue fire?”  Snickered Ralph.

“No, Cookie, he’s just walking up the gangplank like he’s come back from a bit of shore leave.”

“I wonder what he’s been talking to the cats about all this time.”  Mused Mason.

“Probably that fool invention of his.  That’s what got them stirred up in the first place.”  Grumbled Ernie.

“Well, maybe we’d better go give a listen to what he has to say.”  Mason opined while rising and tossing his paperback book with the lurid cover to the chair.

They trooped out of the lounge and headed up a deck to the formal living room to find almost everyone else on board already there.  VonHassel was standing at the head of the long teak dining table resting his fingers on the slick surface.

“Ah, now that everyone’s here, I suppose you’d like to hear where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.”

“Yes, dear, do go on.  We’ve been waiting on tenterhooks.”  Murmured Alana.

“Tenter-whats?”  Said Ralph, sotto-voce.

“Shush,” said Mason.

VonHassel continued:  “Once I materialized in their conference chamber they immediately apologized for my rather remarkable departure.  For that, I am terribly sorry, Alana.  They placed the blame on an over-zealous control technician who energized before warning anyone.

“Then they offered me something to drink which turned out to be simple water, thank goodness.  And then we talked.  They asked me questions and I responded as best as I could.  I felt that there was no reason to dissemble, so I told the truth.  It was definitely my invention that attracted their attention; specifically my last test using that new set of batteries and the altered controller.

“When I began describing the device, I fear that I get into technicalities that proved to be difficult to convey to the ... um ... cats.  It was rather humorous to see me doing my best to act out procedures in much the same vein as charades.

“Before I knew it, quite a bit of time had passed.  I was informed that several of the crew had appeared on board their ship and were given passkeys that would allow access to shipboard compartments.  May I see one of them, please?”  He asked.

Mason reached into his pocket and handed his bracelet to VonHassel.  “Here you go, sir.  There’s not much to them, though.”

VonHassel flexed the band, twisting it back and forth and then touched the two end together.  They clicked and made a circle.  “How extraordinary!”

Showing VonHassel how to unclasp the passkey, Mason took it back and sat down again.

“To be sure, we have quite a few questions to be answered, but I can tell you that the Dwee’num have a number of them also.  I proposed, and they appeared to accept, that we be allowed some limited access to their ship under supervision just to satisfy ourselves.  How about that?”  He looked smug.

Captain (No Kidding) Bly stood and cleared his throat.  “According to our three intrepid explorers, who were unauthorized at the time, we are to be allowed this freedom.  I suggest that we all get a good meal,” he made a face, “or as best a meal as we can create, and then go over the shrinky-thing into their ship.”  He refused to call it a gangway.

“Great idea, Captain.”  Said VonHassel.  He turned to Ralph.  “Cookie?  Do you think you can find us some lunch?”

“I’ll try, sir.  Just don’t blame the cook...”

“Good man!”

 


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