Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 04
Tabor sipped his coffee and wondered what the hell would happen next. He was mystified by what had transpired already, both the ship shutting down and Shenoy’s off-the-wall solution to the problem, but he was pretty sure the problems weren’t over.
“Maybe we’d better take off before it falls asleep again,” suggested Basil.
“It’s not going back to sleep,” said Shenoy.
“How do you know?” asked Tabor.
Shenoy smiled. “The sun’s out and it’s a beautiful day. Who would sleep on a day like this?”
“How about: the ship, until five minutes ago?”
“Ask it,” said Shenoy.
“Ask it what?” replied Tabor.
“How it feels.”
Tabor frowned. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Certainly not,” said Shenoy.
Andrea shot Tabor a The boss gets like this now and then look and shrugged.
“Ask it yourself, Rupert,” said Tabor. “It hardly knows me.”
“It hardly knows any of us,” answered Shenoy. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“You’re in charge. It should come from you.”
“If you insist,” said Shenoy. He raised his voice. “Ship, can you hear me?”
“Yes, Captain,” said the ship’s metallic voice.
“I’d prefer you called me Sir Rupert.”
“Certainly, Sir Rupert,” replied the ship.
“How do you feel on this fine day?” asked Shenoy.
“I feel great!” bellowed the ship with as much emotion as it had lacked with its previous replies.
“Good,” said Shenoy. “It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?”
“Indeed it is!” enthused the ship. “A day like this makes me want to sing.” And it immediately burst into song at an almost deafening volume: “Roll me over, in the clover, roll me over and do it again!”
“Enough!” yelled Tabor.
“Did I do it wrong?” asked the ship.
“You’re deafening me.”
“I apologize, Sir First Officer. How about a nice harp solo?”
“How about a little silence?” suggested Tabor.
A sound that was almost a sob echoed throughout the ship, and then all was quiet.
“Why do I think it’s not natural for a spaceship to sing bawdy ballads?” asked Tabor.
“It doesn’t really possess all that complex a central processing unit,” answered Shenoy. “You could hardly expect Beethoven, or even Vivaldi.”
Tabor stared at him for a long minute. “I don’t think I’m getting through to you at all,” he said at last. “Ships don’t break into song, and then stifle a sob when you ask them to shut up.”
“I know,” responded Shenoy. “That’s what makes it interesting.” He turned to Andrea and Basil. “Don’t you agree?”
“You were expecting this?” asked Basil, frowning.
“No, of course not,” said Shenoy. “But I was expecting something. After all, we’re not being asked to solve a normal problem, are we?”
“But a ship singing sexy songs doesn’t bother you?” persisted Tabor.
“Are you any the worse for wear?” replied Shenoy. “It has a nicer, manly voice, at least when it sings.”
“And do you have any suggestion at all as to why all the systems went dead when we tried to take off?”
“Certainly,” answered Shenoy.
“Well?” demanded Tabor.
“Someone or something didn’t want us to take off.”
“Is that your conclusion every time a ship or vehicle fails?” continued Tabor.
Shenoy considered his answer for a moment, then shrugged. “I really don’t know.” He paused. “I don’t suppose you’d like to play a nice game of chess?”
“No,” growled Tabor.
“I would,” said the ship’s voice.
“Oh, I couldn’t ask that of you,” said Shenoy. “You’ll be too busy transporting us to Cthulhu.”
“I can do both,” said the ship eagerly.
“At the same time?” asked Shenoy.
Shenoy shot Tabor a triumphant smile. “Then we shall play a game once we’re beyond the stratosphere and on our way to Cthulhu.”
“It’s a deal!” said the ship. “We will take off in sixteen minutes and twenty-three seconds.”
“Well, we’re in business,” said Shenoy happily.
“Somehow,” said Tabor.
“You gotta hand it to the boss,” said Basil. “Somehow, when you least expect it, he pulls an ace out of the deck.”
“You’ve been very quiet,” said Shenoy, turning to Andrea. “Is anything wrong?”
She offered him a puzzled frown. “I’m seeing something,” she said.
She nodded her head dizzily. “Something,” she repeated, and collapsed onto the deck.
Tabor knelt down next to her, checked her pulse and her breathing.
“She’s alive,” he announced. “But we’d better get her to a hospital.”
“I quite agree,” said Shenoy. “Ship, open the hatch. We have an emergency here.”
“Does this mean no chess?” it whined as a hatch opened and a ramp leading to the ground appeared.
“No,” said Shenoy. “It just means we’re postponing takeoff for an hour.”
“Check!” said the ship. “Right! Roger that!”
“Oh, shut up!” snapped Tabor as he lifted Andrea into his arms and began leaving the ship. “Rupert, you’d better call an ambulance. I can’t carry her all the way to the nearest hospital, wherever the hell that is.”
“Done,” announced the ship. “ETA is three minutes and seventeen seconds, always depending on traffic and sudden cloudbursts and snowstorms.”
“It hasn’t snowed here in six years,” muttered Basil, accompanying Tabor down the ramp.
They stood just beyond the nose of the ship, and the ambulance raced up at the predicted moment.
“What’s the matter with her?” asked one of the attendants.
“I don’t know,” answered Tabor. “She just collapsed.”
“Pulse is fine,” noted the attendant. “Any nausea?”
“Did she complain of pain?”
Tabor shook his head.
“I don’t think it’s a stroke,” said the attendant.
“Just fix whatever’s wrong,” said Basil. “You can bill –”
“It’s already been paid for,” came the answer. “Whoever contacted us was as efficient as anyone we’ve ever dealt with.”
He placed Andrea on a cot in the ambulance, jumped in beside her, and signaled the robotic driver to speed off. Tabor and Basil watched it until it was out of sight, then returned to the ship.
“The situation is over,” announced Shenoy. “You can take off any time.”
“Ship?” said Shenoy.
“Sorry,” replied the ship. “I was just boning up on my Indian defense. Takeoff in six minutes and ten seconds.”
Tabor glared at where he imagined the essence of the ship was. “Why not four minutes and twenty-two seconds?” he said.
“Why not indeed?” replied the ship. “I’ve just informed the control tower that we are taking off in four minutes and twenty-two seconds.” A pause. “Well, it was four minutes and twenty-two seconds. Now it’s four minutes and . . . ”
The ship began counting down the seconds, and finally took off.
“Cthulhu, here we come!” it announced happily.
“I seem to remember reading or hearing about a Cthulhu a long time ago,” said Tabor.
“There’s probably no connection,” said Shenoy.
“Probably?” repeated Tabor, frowning.
“That one was fictional.”
The ship sped through the atmosphere and stratosphere, then announced that it was headed directly toward Cthulhu and produced a chessboard and pieces on the table in front of Shenoy.
“Well, at last we’re on our way,” said Shenoy.
Tabor exchanged looks with Basil. Tabor’s said Something Very Weird is happening.
Basil’s said Goes with the territory — or if not the territory, as least with the Boss.
It was two days later, and they were within six hours of touching down on Cthulhu. Tabor sat in a chair, feet on a console, sandwich in one hand and a container of beer in the other. Shenoy was asleep in his cabin, but Basil was on the bridge, a few feet away, sipping some hot tea.
“So tell me about this place,” said Tabor.
“You mean Cthulhu?” asked Basil.
“That’s where we’re going, isn’t it?”
Basil shrugged. “Unless the Boss changes his mind.”
“That’s some mind he’s got there,” commented Tabor. “You get the feeling he can solve the mysteries of the universe, but has trouble dressing himself or remembering where he left his toothbrush.”