A Roman God – Four

May 17, 2010

The next two sites went reasonably well, and the crates were placed smoothly on their intended target. Jacques was watching the third crate settle into the hull, and once it had, turned around to face the shuttlecraft. “What do we do now, then?”

Lince shrugged. “We’re done. We’ll fly back into the bay, get to the bridge, and watch the fireworks. And hopefully not die.”

“Especially hopefully not die.” Kwog muttered.

The three started to trek back across the hull, towards the shuttlecraft’s open hatch. “One sec.” Jacques thought out loud. “How come we had to go plant the nukes? Couldn’t you have sent a robot or something?” To Jacques, that sounded a lot safer than doing it in person.

Lince shrugged again; as if he didn’t really care to answer. “Robots are unreliable. We send one out with a crate of nukes and it’ll probably deliver them inside the ship. And then go crazy, and start maiming things.”

“Your people haven’t solved robots yet?”

Lince definitely look annoyed. “Look, giving something intelligence is harder than it sounds, alright. I mean; look at you.”
“Yeah, well…” Jacques’s retort fell flat.

“Yeah, well, what?” Lince replied, raising an eyebrow.

“Never mind,” said Jacques, clambering into the shuttlecrafts hatch, and sitting down on one of the two thin benches. Kwog did the same, sitting opposite him, and Lince took the pilot seat. Without too much fuss, the craft pulled away from the hull, and started to arc back around to the bay.

Jacques resumed quizzing Lince. “Your people, who are they?”

Lince fumbled for a control lever, and managed to set the shuttle onto autopilot, before swivelling the control seat around and replying. “My people? You mean my race?

Jacques nodded silently.

Lince looked slightly sheepish. “No-one’s really sure anymore.”

Jacques blinked slowly, watching Lince from across the craft. “You don’t know which race you belong to?”

“Not a clue.” Lince shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter what we are.”

“I sup- Lince!” Jacques was pointing straight out the shuttle’s viewpoint, pointing at something that looked shockingly similar to an aerial, and probably served the same purpose, which happened to be right in the way of the craft. Lince swore, swivelled back around, and started hammering buttons and levers, twisting the ship just enough to narrowly miss the protrusion.

“And that’s why we don’t trust robots.” Lince muttered, taking full control of the bus.

Jacques sighed, and glanced at the scaly alien. “How come Lince said that there was only one space pirate?”

Kwog grumbled, and replied in a gravelly voice. “My kind likes to be lawful. We enforce rules,” the alien nodded towards Lince, “that’s how I came to know him. He used to be a bit of a gambler.” Kwog laughed, a sound that grated on Jacques’s ear drums. “He ended up gambling away fifty billion Yoorsian-”

“Credits?” offered Jacques helpfully.

Kwog scrunched up his face. “What’s a ‘credit’? He gambled away fifty billion Yoorsian yills. Of course, he couldn’t pay. So I got sent after him. I managed to catch him, but he showed me a very interesting loophole.”

“Which was?” Jacques asked.

“My species refuses to enforce law against itself. We all love lawfulness so much, that breaking the rules ourselves is simply not something we consider.” He laughed that gravelly laugh again. “That’s why I’m the only space pirate; they can’t come after me. I think they’re still after poor Lince here, though.”

Lince nodded slowly. “They are definitely still after me,” he mumbled.

Jacques frowned. “What makes you so sure?”

There was a dull thump, an odd hissing, and Jacques looked up to see the business end of a harpoon sticking through the roof. He leapt up from his seat, and stumbled over to the viewport of the ship. Where Lince was frozen, staring through the viewport, eyes wide.

“What makes me so sure,” continued Lince quietly, “is that they just stuck a harpoon through the roof.”

“Ah,” said Jacques and Kwog at the same time.

Two more thumps, and two more holes appeared in the roof – holes filled with harpoons. The ship on the other end of the harpoons didn’t look like much of a ship at all. It looked like a rectangle that had been overfed, and refused to exercise, resulting in an odd bulge around the middle. There was no discernible control centre that could be seen from the outside, but nevertheless, there was one, buried deep in the bulge. And inside it, this was taking place;

“More harpoons,” a rasping voice demanded.

“We can’t,” an equally rasping but slightly more apprehensive voice replied. “We have no more harpoon launchers.”

“I thought we had eight?” asked the first rasping voice.

“No. Three.”

“Well, don’t stand there talking to me about harpoons! Wind them in.”

The control centre was dark, and it was cluttered. It was very much spherical in shape, but with a flat plane across the centre of the sphere, that provided a floor. There were oddly shaped, triangular computer monitors hanging in mid-air above some equally oddly shaped, antiquated computer monitor generators. There was an open hatch right in the middle, which led down to a few bunks for the crew. The rest of the ship was made up of prison cells, excluding the bay for transferring prisoners.

The person, or rather alien, depending on which species you belong to, that corresponded to the first raspy voice looked a lot like Kwog. He had the yellow scaly skin, but he also had a rather more vicious looking face. Not the ‘I’m going to tear you apart so hard your grandparents feel it’ kind of vicious. More a cold, calculating, ‘you didn’t think of that, and now I’ve got you,” kind of vicious. This alien was named Gurl, and it was currently smashing its fist into the control panel for the lift.
“It’s broken! Again! What do I pay you lot for? To fix lifts! I have prisoners to attend to!”

The second raspy voice was shorter, and stouter, than Gurl. He didn’t look particularly bright, but he knew how to fix lifts. That’s why he was given a bridge position. This one’s name was Rirg. Rirg ambled the amble of the cheerfully idiotic, and stopped ambling when he got to Gurl. He flicked the control panel, and the lift doors opened. Rirg smiled, and was batted away by Gurl.
“Good underling. ” And then Gurl stepped into the lift, the doors closed, and he was gone.

Rirg sighed. A raspy, drawn out sigh. His head pounded again; an incessant thumping feeling behind his eyelids. Massaging his reptilian eyes with his hands, he sat down on a chair at one of the consoles, revelling in the quietness of the empty bridge.
The shuttlecraft was silent, even the hissing of the escaping atmosphere long since silenced, and the three, should they wish to, would have to continue to communicate over radio. Jacques broke the heavy, airless silence. “When they capture us, what’re they gonna do to us? Can’t we just activate the engines and fly away?”

Lince shook his head, and shrugged. “They’ll imprison me, and imprison you, and they’ll offer Kwog a job. And if we try to resist they shoot us.” Lince had evaded them for so long! But, as misfortunes tend to do, these intergalactic enforcers had turned up right at the most inconvenient time. There was a clunk, the shuttlecraft shook, and Lince stood up, ushering the others to their feet. A bright, blue line appeared around the hatch, following a neat rectangular pattern, and finally joined up with its tail and faded away. The three waited with baited breath; waiting for the inevitable. With a comical slowness, reminiscent of the fall of a leaf on a breezy autumn afternoon, the square of wall carved out by the blue light fell slowly away from the craft.


A Roman God – Three

May 15, 2010

Jacques already hated the spacesuit, and he’d only been in it for an hour. He took a deep breath, and looked towards Kwog, who was sitting opposite him on one of the thin benches that ran down the length of the craft. The ‘bus’ turned out to not look much like a bus at all. Instead, it resembled a flattened triangle, with a curved underbelly, and it had been perched precariously on three legs in some kind of bay when Jacques had first seen it. Lince, being the only qualified pilot out of the three, took the control seat, and without much struggling, had managed to get the ship off the pad and out the bay doors. The flight was taking ages, Jacques thought quietly to himself, and craned his neck to look out the ships only viewport, the one situated at the front end of the ship. The bus seemed to have turned, and instead of displaying stars, the port was now showing the entirety of the countryship. It looked, from the outside, like a gigantic egg. The top half of the egg was glass which shielded sprawling metropolises from the vacuum of space, and the underneath was an exact copy of the top half; an ovular metal shell which proceeded to look flatter and flatter as the small shuttlecraft approached it. Lince swivelled the control chair around, until he was facing into the inside of the ship.

“Right then, we’ll be landing shortly. Everyone make sure your spacesuits are secure.” Lince commanded, drumming his fingers on the armrest of his seat.

“Lince, there’s something bugging me. Well, a few things bugging me.” Jacques said, fidgeting in his suit.

“What’s that, then?” Lince asked.

“For one thing, how come you lot speak English?”

Lince frowned, and tapped a finger against his temple. “We don’t. I’m speaking Yoorsian. So are you.”

Jacques nodded slowly. “Right… Are you sure?”

“Absolutely certain”

Jacques shrugged, not bothering to press the matter. “The second thing is; how did you get into this situation anyway?”

“Do you mean the whole crashing business?”

Jacques nodded.

“Well, our refuse tanks were getting full. So we swung in-system for a suitable planet to dump them on, and were en route to that blue planet to dump everything when the engines suddenly just shut down. We got pulled in by that gas giant’s gravity.”

“You were going to dump your rubbish on my home planet?!”

Lince looked blank. “Which one’s that then?”

“The blue one,” sighed Jacques, “third rock and so on.”

Lince’s face coloured briefly, and he stumbled for words for a few seconds. “N- I mean- The red one! That’s where we were aiming. ”
“Oh, Mars? That’s alright then.”

Lince smiled at Jacques, and started to reply, only to be cut short by a metallic thump. “That was the docking clamps. Can you two start shifting one of those crates towards the door?”

Kwog stood up, and roughly grabbed one of the crates, lifting it up to his chest, and then dropping it from waist height onto the deck near the door. “‘Eavy things. What’s in them?”

Lince shrugged. “Explosives.”

“Explosives!?” squeaked Jacques. “What kind of explosives?!”

Lince bent over to read the label on the side of the crate. “Nukes, it seems.”

Jacques turned positively white, and even Kwog took a few steps backwards.

“What are we doing with nukes?!” whispered Jacques, as if he was afraid speaking too loudly may set them off.

“Planting them on the side of the ship, of course. The engineers reckon that detonating the nukes along one side of the ship will give us a big enough push to dodge the gas giant.” Lince offered, calmly.

“And what if- Ugh. Nevermind. Let’s just do this before we blow ourselves to bits.” Jacques said, and took a hefty step towards the door control, hitting the button with his fist. The doors slid open, and he heard a large hiss, before everything slowly faded into silence. Oh wow, he thought, and turned to see Lince waving his arm about, and pointing to his wrist. Jacques stared uncomprehendingly at the dancing Lince, and would have remained that way had Kwog not grabbed hold of his arm, and tapped a button on the wrist of his suit. All of a sudden, his head filled with the sound of static. After it cleared, he could clearly hear Kwog speaking.

“Idi’t didn’t know how to use the radio.” The scaly alien rumbled, pushing one of the crates out the door, letting it float slowly clear of the hatchway. Lince took a step outside, and was immediately dragged down onto the ship’s hull, his boots silently coming into contact with the metal.

“Magnetic boots,” he explained over the suit radio, “give it a try.”

Jacques did so, and was too pulled down onto the hull. Carefully, he tried to lift a foot up, and with a bit of tugging, managed to rip it off the hull. Planting it just as forcefully back down, he succeeded in taking a few steps forward. Looking around, he noticed that both Kwog and Lince seemed to have no trouble manoeuvring, as if they’d been doing this sort of thing a lot. Come to think of it, they probably do, thought Jacques.

“Oi, ship-breaker man,” Jacques heard Kwog say over the radio, “catch it.” Jacques frowned. Catch what? He realized what all too late, and was promptly hit in the small of the back by the crate of nukes.

“Don’t throw nukes at me!” he protested, trying not to sound as terrified as he felt. Before he could reconsider, Jacques turned and gripped the silver, rounded crate.

“Not nukes,” corrected Lince, “just one. ”

“That’s not really reassuring,” gulped Jacques, “now what do I do with it?”

“Hit the red button, drop it.” Lince replied.

“Hit the red button and drop it? That’s a bit …anticlimactic.”

“Why?” Lince looked concerned for a moment. “What were you expecting? Flashing lights and countdowns and keypads?”
Jacques shrugged. “Well, yeah.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, then.”

“No worries, I guess. Red button, right?” and without waiting for an answer, Jacques pressed it firmly, only to almost drop the crate as Kwog screeched at him over the suit radio.

“No, you fool! That sets it off!”

People say that it’s impossible to travel at the speed of light without inducing some mind numbing paradoxes. Needless to say, Jacques somehow managed it; he leapt as fast as possible away from the crate. He was several clumsy footsteps down the hull when he heard Kwog’s voice.

“Nah, just kiddin’.”

Jacques froze, and stood still rather foolishly, before making his way back towards the bus. Kwog pushed the crate down until it was around Jacques’s waist height, and then let go. The nuclear device automatically dragged itself down onto the deck, sticking firmly in place.

“That’s it, then. Only two more sites to go,” said Lince, “then we can get back inside.”

“Hooray. Two more chances at making myself look foolish,” whined Jacques.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” grumbled Kwog, “you always look foolish.”

A Roman God – Two

May 14, 2010

I far prefer this chapter/episode to the the first one.
Jacques covered his eyes with his hands, and patiently waited to die. He half expected to be sucked out into space, or have his breath ripped from his lungs. When this failed to happen within a reasonable timeframe, he parted his fingers, and took a peek through the gap. What he saw caused him mouth to fall open in surprise, as sticking through the glass was the front end of a black cylinder, tapered to a point. The rest of the cylinder was still outside the dome, and seemed content with staying there for the time being.


“Yes Jacques?”

“I’m not dead.”

“No, Jacques, I don’t suppose you are.”

“Why not?” he said, finally taking his hands away from his eyes.
“Because that ship fits the hole it created so well, no atmosphere is escaping.” Lince was staring forcefully at the cylinder, his eyes squinting with the effort, as if he was waiting for something. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before a small hatch opened on the tapered end of the cylinder.

“Oh, bollocks.” Lince swore.

A plump, short and scaly alien leapt out of the hatch, landing squarely on its two feet.

“Gimme your valuables and women.” It grunted, and to show that it was deadly serious, pulled out some kind of handgun.
“A space pirate?” Jacques said, incredulously.

“The Space Pirate.” corrected Lince, the scowl present on his face diminishing to a look of mild annoyance.

“There’s only one?” Jacques replied, sizing up the stocky alien. “He doesn’t look very pirate-y. No peg legs or eye patches or anything?”

The Space Pirate sighed, and slowly lowered his gun, as if his heart had suddenly gone out of it. “Curses!” he mumbled, and then slumped down onto the floor of the dome. “No-one ever sees the anger or the gun, or the demands! It’s always ‘No eye patches or terrible scars?’ or ‘A pirate with two working legs? He can’t be for real!’ The alien threw his hands up in despair.

“Terrible, terrible.” empathised Lince, before whispering an explanation to Jacques. “Poor guy, Kwog. His species can regenerate body parts extremely quickly, so he’ll never have need of an eye patch, or peg leg.”

“Can’t he just wear one anyway?” Jacques whispered back.

“He tried that once,” Lince continued, “it just isn’t the same.”

“He didn’t exactly pick a good time to board us, did he?” Jacques said. “Y’know, I expected my first alien encounter to be full of bright lights and probes. Instead I got imminent death and a terrible space pirate.”

Kwog watched the whispering session dolefully, before scrambling back to his feet. “Well, I best be going,” he grunted sadly, “maybe next time.” He started to slowly trudge back to the open hatch.

He was just about to climb into the hatch, when Jacques noticed a familiar object lying where the pirate had been sitting. “Hey!” Jacques called. “Ya forgot your gun.” With all the grace of a burly rugby player, he booted it towards Kwog, who watched in horror as Jacques’s foot hit the trigger that was conveniently located on the butt of the pistol. There was a blinding flash from the muzzle, a muffled groan as Kwog took a running leap away from his ship, and a loud creak as the front end of the space pirate’s ship exploded.

Kwog could only stare in shock his craft slid slowly backwards out of the hole it had created in the first place, the prow once smooth and black, now melted to slag. As the ship separated from the glass, an ominous hissing sound filled the dome, and the lighting dimmed slowly to a panic inducing red. Lince took a deep breath, and started to run towards the relative safety of the elevator, and without thinking twice, so did Kwog and Jacques.

“You destroyed my ship!” Kwog screamed, once dome was far above them. “I stole that ship!” His scaly face was contorted with rage, and all of it was directed at Jacques, who could only shrug in return.

“You put the trigger on the most kickable end. That’s asking for trouble.”

“I’ll- I’ll-” Kwog struggled for words to accurately describe Jacques’s downfall, and was interrupted just as he was thinking up some really good ones, by the grinding of elevator doors opening. The three were left to gaze out onto the town Jacques had first woken up on. Lince started to say something pacifying, but was stopped by an intrusive buzzing, which he quickly silenced by holding two fingertips up to his ear.

“Yes?” Lince demanded, speaking into his palm. “I see- Right now? I’m with some people at the moment- I suppose they are.”
Jacques and Kwog, argument forgotten, watch Lince speak curtly into his hand.

“Want them to help?” Lince said. “Right, okay. Be there soon.” He clenched his hand into a fist, which seemed to cut the call, and gave Jacques a sympathetic smile. “I have a phone in my palm.”

“Amazing,” grumbled Kwog, “now, what did you agree to let us do?” Lince looked shifty for a second.

“Don’t worry; it isn’t really that important. But, the Captain wants to see me, and I’m not leaving you two alone out here. So, I guess you’re coming with me,” he explained. “Now, how do you want to travel? It’s a two hour train journey to the control tower, or a three hour Instaporter jump.”

Jacques frowned. “The Instaporter takes longer than the train?”

“Sure, but you don’t notice that three hours have gone by.”

“Instaporter it is!” Kwog grunted.

“Good choice, my scaly friend.” Lince replied. “There should be an Instaporter booth near here…”
Before long, the trio had found an unassuming grey booth, which, with a bit of shoving and squeezing, they all managed to fit into.
“You sure this won’t combine our DNA or anything?” Jacques asked Lince.

“Of course not. Safe as sledging, this thing.”

“Hold on,” muttered Jacques, “sledging isn’t safe at all!” But his words were lost as Lince hit a button, and the world dissolved into grey. Jacques turned on his heel, wondering where everything had gone, when he noticed a familiar thing lying on the ground. Lying there, right at Jacques’s feet, was a box. A box that had nine different coloured squares on each face. Jacques frowned, and picked up the rubiks cube. “Huh.” He muttered, and gave one side a twist, trying to line one coloured square up with another. “If I turn that one there…” He turned another side, horizontally this time. Before long, he’d forgotten about the grey, and was happily trying to solve the puzzle. When the grey and the rubiks cube suddenly vanished, he found himself standing in a booth similar to the one in the town. Jacques blinked in surprise. “You were right Lince; I didn’t notice the time passing.”

Lince nodded. “They’re fantastic things, Instaporters.” He then opened the booth door, and stepped out, followed by Kwog. Jacques shrugged, and took a large step out, neatly shutting the door behind him. Kwog, Jacques, and Lince were standing in the middle of a bustling office, filled with people and computers and shouts. Before long, a man dressed in a tie and suit combination walked purposely through the chaos, and cleared his throat. Lince gave the man a salute, standing rigidly to attention. “You wanted to see me, Captain?”

The suit-clad Captain nodded, and his gaze wandered over to Jacques and Kwog. “They’ll do, I suppose. Good work in managing to find someone to help you so quickly. You’ll be taking one of the bus’s, the 587, if I recall, but as you’re doing EVA work you better bring some spacesuits along,” the Captain thoughtfully nodded. “Come to think of it, Bus 587 is a bit leaky anyway, so spacesuits are sort of a prerequisite.”

Kwog impaled Lince with a forceful stare. “Spacesuits?”

Lince rubbed the back of his neck apologetically. “I’m afraid so.”

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.”

“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?”

“Around here.”

“Not helping.”

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.