A Roman God – One
May 14, 2010
Can’t say I’m particularly happy with this first chapter. It seems to attempt to be overly funny, and probably fails quite miserably at that anyway. Even so, enjoy.
Jacques woke up in the middle of a town. This was odd, because Jacques certainly did not remember going to sleep in the middle of a town. Come to think of it, he didn’t remember going to sleep in the first place. He lay there for several minutes gathering his wits about himself and had gathered almost three quarters of the amount required to stand up and look around, when he was rudely interrupted by a gentle poke in the back. Considering his options, he thought about saying something along the lines of “Greetings, stranger. Could you perhaps direct me to the nearest tourist information booth?” What eventually came out, however, was “Hrrrrgghhhmpfl.” The poking continued, until Jacques rolled over and confronted the poker himself, which turned out to be a tall, wide, gruff looking man, wearing a luminescent red jacket.
“Oi.” grunted Gruffjacket.
“Oi?” returned Jacques, having managed to jolt his speech centers into working.
“Youse in the way of me cleanings operation.”
“Aha, er, of course! My mistake. I’ll just be orf. Uh, off.” Jacques, firmly shoved two hands against the ground in an attempt to leave it, and manages to wobble uncertainly back onto his feet. Taking two, equally unsteady, steps to the side; he let the jacket-clad man continue picking up litter with an equally red spikey pole. For the first time since he woke up, Jacques noticed the environment, which was as he previously thought, definitely a town. The buildings were slightly odd, a bit too cubic, but Jacques guessed it was just some harmless art deco. It appeared to be night, and raising his head, he could clearly see the stars, even though they did look slightly distorted, as if a pane of glass had been placed miles above his head. “Bugger. This isn’t Oxford. This is absolutely nothing like Oxford.” He was right; the town was absolutely nothing like Oxford. Jacques, at a complete loss, spun briefly on his heel and picked a direction with a sharp point. “That way it is!” and so, he stalked off in roughly that direction. Before long though, he came to a complete stop. “That’s an elevator,” he spoke aloud, which helped gain him some odd looks from passers-by, who had never before seen such a brilliant display of obviousness. Jacques decided to enter said elevator, because just standing around staring at it wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He firmly depressed the button on the wall, and waited patiently for the doors to open. And waited. And waited. His waiting was rudely interrupted by a sharp tap on the shoulder, and he turned to see a man wearing a white uniform, with smart blue epaulettes adorned with something that looked quite like a semicircle.
“Excuse me.” he said. “I’m here to help.”
“Well, you did press the assistance button.”
“I did?” under close observation, the button Jacques had so firmly pressed did have a worn exclamation mark on it. “Oh. I suppose I did. I just wanted to get inside the elevator.”
“What a coincidence,” exclaimed the uniformed man. “So do I. Top floor, is where I’m headed. Want to take a look.” His voice faltered slightly very near the end of his sentence.
“Top floor? Take a look? Uh, me too.”
“Ah, excellent, we can share the elevator then. My name’s Lince, by the way. Yours?” Without waiting for a reply, the smartly dressed man rapped firmly on the elevator doors, and with a loud whoosh, a pause, and an ominous grinding, the doors parted.
“My name is, er, Jacques.” he replied, stepping quickly into the elevator, standing to one side, leaving a space which Lince quickly occupied. The doors closed with yet another ominous grind, and the elevator car gave a jolt, and then whirred. Continuously. “It’s a bit loud, isn’t it?” shouted Jacques over the din.
“A bit. I suppose the council hasn’t got around to fixing the leaks.”
Jacques started, and glanced briefly around the elevator. “What lea-?” he was cut short by another jolt, a thump, a familiar grinding, and the doors opening. Jacques’s mouth dropped, causing Lince to shrug.
“What? They’re only stars. Stars are everywhere. You know what’s really special? Customer support.”
Jacques was still in a state of shock. Above his head, in front of him, behind him, a dome of glass stretched out in all directions. And behind the glass, (or technically outside the glass, it really depends which way you’re looking) stars. Thousands of millions of stars, a massive star field stretching in every direction. Jacques froze. His eyes staring at one point only. Inside his head, millions of neurons firing, synapses transmitting, tiny electrical sparks all working perfectly in sync in order to provide the absolute best response he could to this shocking turn up. “That’s Jupiter!”
Lince nodded sadly. “It is. Hey- don’t act all surprised. You already knew, anyway.”
“Knew? Knew?! I’m looking at Jupiter! Earth’s moved really close to Jupiter, and someone’s built gigantic domes on top of really big elevator shafts just to look at it!”
The uniformed Lince frowned. “Earth? Look, if you didn’t know, you must be new around here.”
Jacques echoed Lince’s frown. “New around where?”
Lince waved his arms in that universal gesture for indicating big things, and replied earnestly. “Here. In Yoors.”
“Yoors being …this dome?”
Lince’s eyebrows were practically touching the floor. Only practically, though. Were they actually touching the floor, Lince would either have to be lying on his face, or failing that, at the center of some obtuse medical injury. “Yoors is a country. It’s country in space, actually, population four hundred and twenty million. Atmosphere kept inside the ship by an elaborate network of force fields. And a huge countrywide superglass dome, but that’s really beside the point. I’m the second lieutenant, do you want a salute?”
Jacques considered re-acquainting his chin with the floor. (Not that his chin could actually- You get the idea.) However, he decided that would be fairly unproductive, and resorted to questions instead. “Country. Ship. Really? Well, this isn’t Earth! Or even Oxford! You abducted me!”
“Earth? Again with this ‘Earth’.”
“Yeah, Earth. Y’know, green and blue planet.”
Lince looked blank.
“3rd rock from the sun?”
“Oh! Really? Earth? What a terrible name for a planet. I suppose you’re going to give me some yarn about desperately wanting to get home and back to your family and such. Well, getting home will have to wait.”
“Wait? Why wait? You people have a spaceship! Just engage your warp drive, or hyperdrive, whatever you call it, and get me home.”
“Well. We can’t. We’re crashing.”
“Crashing? But space is huge! Big! What is there to possibly crash into that you don’t want to crash into?”
Lince stuck a finger out, pointing across the dome, which was, by the way, nicely fitted with some comfortable furniture. “That gas giant.”
“Jupiter? We’re crashing into bloody Jupiter? But- You people built ships made of countries! Just fly through it or something. It’s gas.”
The 2nd Lieutenant stared at Jacques, and spoke very carefully, using a tone one might use when explaining quantum mechanics to a small child. “This is ship. That is planet. Gas under pressure goes solid, like rock. So, even if the enormous pressure and gravity of that absolutely huge planet doesn’t crush us into a tiny ball, which it will, that tiny ball will then hit a relatively solid wall of ‘gases.”
“Well, damn. Can’t you just turn off the engines and let us slow down?”
Lince continued to stare incredulously at Jacques. “Space doesn’t work that way, idiot. The engines are broken; we can’t just turn around and slow down.”
“So an entire country is just going to be crushed.” Jacques replied, crestfallen at the rebuke of an idea that had sounded so good in his head.
“Exactly. We need a miracle.”
Jacques jumped, and happily clapped his hands together. “That’s it! We’re saved!”
Lince, now getting rather good at blank stares, gave Jacques a blank stare.
“In films and such, once one person utters something along the lines of that, a miracle is never far behind! Like when you say ‘Nothing could possibly get worse’, and then everything gets worse.”
Lince sighed again. “You could fail an IQ test.” Jacques shrugged in return.
“Nothing could possibly get any worse.”
Lince ignored that fateful sentence, staring out across the dome, prompting Jacques to turn around, following Lince’s stare. “Ah.”
And then the glass exploded.