Space Dan Does Some Sewing

 

“So,” said Robert. “I’d say that went pretty well, right, team?”

“It was great up until you addressed us as ‘team’,” said Aleya.

“Why?” said Robert. “We are a team. A Space Team. The first.”

“Why are we Space Team One?” asked Martin. “There’s not other Space Teams, is there, Space Dan?”

“…there may be some day,” said Space Dan, both defensively and wistfully.

Space Dan sat cross-legged on the floor of the Falstaff’s bar in his oversized pants and somewhat crass slightly-overpriced-restaurant t-shirt, the chest computer from his original yellow SPOOPU spacesuit cracked apart and sitting open on his knee. He tinkered with the circuitry inside it with a jeweller’s screwdriver, occasionally grimacing as tiny black screws pinged out across the floor.

As a particularly small and dark-coloured one shot in the direction of the heater vent, he took an annoyed swig from his whiskey bottle, which was filled with strawberry milk.

Everybody’s drinks were in whiskey bottles, for the bar had been remodelled by the people of Pequod’s Albatross in thanks, and also as a team bonding exercise.

It was a unique blend of the Millstone and the oni club; an easy dining atmosphere with an authentic wild-west theme, and a large silver ribbon microphone on a warmly-lit red-curtained stage.

“Well,” said Robert, “I liked the cabana bartop, but Duncan the signmaker did a pretty good job on this one, too.”

He placed his drink on the bartop, which it fell straight through, punching a circular hole of splinters in its wake.

There was even a large loom, donated by the Women’s Looming Auxiliary, who had been quite distraught upon hearing the awful tale of Space Dan’s lost sewing machine. Space Dan had never used a loom before, but being Space Dan, he had taken to claiming his expertise in looming with aplomb.[1]

“Yeah, this is a really nice loom,” said Space Dan, patting what he hoped was the side of it. “I’m sure it looms like a dream. Looom-muh.”

He took a great gulp from his strawberry milk.

“So, Mars The God,” said Aleya.

“Ess,” added Robert.

“No,” said Martin. “Yes.”

“No, I wasn’t agreeing,” said Robert. “She’s a goddess.”

“But if you don’t agree with it, why reiterate it?” asked Space Dan.

“Mercury said they were killing the gods,” said Aleya. “So I think the name’s the same for everybody.”

“Right,” said Robert. “Is Mars a suspect?”

“But she was so nice!” said Space Dan.

“Compared to Venus, virtually everyone is nice,” said Robert. “In any case, we can’t judge people on how nice they are.”

Everybody stared at him.

“…with regards to the god-murdering!” said Robert.

“Maybe the gods aren’t being murdered at all,” said VAL. “It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing any of the gods we’ve met would do.”

They all puzzled for a moment.

“All of them’ve tricked us some way,” said Aleya, pointing in the air with a toothpick. “Mars tricked us least, but that doesn’t mean she’s not playing a longer game.”

“Like some vast, unfurling, cosmic Monopoly,” said Robert.

“What about the Big Clock?” asked Martin.

“What?” said Aleya.

“You know, the Big Clock,” said Robert. “The one you and Haizea found under the Mars.”

“You’re seriously going to call it ‘the Big Clock’?” derided Aleya.

Safety Ninja looked uncertain about this as well, as it was a name that lacked poetry.

“It’s big, it’s a clock,” said Robert, as though the entire debate was self explanatory.

“Maybe it was put there to bring tourists in,” said Martin. “That’s what big things are for. Like the Big Pineapple, or the Big Kev.”

“It probably fell down from the clock tower,” said Space Dan. “Like Tannoy Clong, but before him.”

“We can’t assume clocks automatically come from clock towers,” said Robert.

“Yes,” said Martin, “that would be racist.”

“We do have reason to doubt Mercury’s trustfulness,” said Space Dan.

“Trustworthiness,” corrected VAL gently, then cooed, “And no, no.”

“Whatever he actually wants from us, we’d better work it out before another god gets iced,” said Aleya.

She held up her milkshake glass, which contained whiskey.

“Speaking of, more please.”

VAL, irked by the aspersions cast on such a handsome god, jammed her optic sensor at the ice machine button, but made sure to give Aleya the shredded, slightly melted cubes.

“Either way, it’s probably for the best we left the Crosswalk Crushers to guard it,” said Robert.

“Good point,” said Space Dan. “We’ve already got two God Powery Things on board, and if the Big Clock is one of those as well…”

“It probably wouldn’t fit in the Falstaff either,” said Aleya, slightly perplexed that the nomenclature ‘the Big Clock’ had actually caught on.

“Well, EVIL CAR needs his space to run around in!” said Robert, misty-eyed at the thought of his beloved vehicle, who was currently tearing the stuffing out of a mattress in the cargo hold.

VAL looked down at Aleya, who was casually spinning the Firesabre on the bartop.

“Are you sure you should be doing that?” she said.

“I’m sure,” said Aleya.

Safety Ninja wrinkled his nose.

“How does it work, though?” asked Martin, getting off his barstool and kneeling to look up at the Firesabre.

“No buttons or switches,” said Aleya, looking over it. “Catch.”

She threw it to Martin, who caught it under his chin then dropped it into his open hands.

“Maybe it’s magic?” he theorised.

Safety Ninja shrugged. He couldn’t sense any ninja-magic within the sword’s handle, but of course, ninja-magic was clearly not the only power in the universe. Besides, a sword made of fire was quite patently not at all useful for safety, unless one wished to personally incinerate a very long, thin mass of toxic waste.

“Let me try,” said Robert.

“Oh, that’s right!” said Martin. “You’ve got experience with handles, Robert.”

Nodding shortly, Robert took the Firesabre and held it aloft.

“I think,” he said, “maybe…you just have to have the right…will. You’ve got to summon the blade in just…the right…way…”

He put his feet apart in a power stance, and took deep, controlled breaths. Space Dan looked up from his looming as Robert himself loomed.

“…I call the fire!” cried Robert, flinging his arm aloft and striking a pose.

There was a long silence as an abject lack of anything happening permeated the room.

“Well, nope, didn’t work,” said Robert, tossing the Firesabre back to Aleya.

“You know what?” said Martin, “I think we should see Mercury again.”

“Good plan, Martin!” said VAL. “You’re a diligent and conscientious human!”

Space Dan glowered slightly in mild jealousy.

“How?” said Robert. “Smoke signals?”

“Well, we won’t actually be seeing him,” said Martin. “We’ll review the security tapes!”

Space Dan squirmed awkwardly in his seat.

“…uhhhhh…” he said. “Well, maybe Mercury isn’t reliable, and maybe he is, but what I think we can all learn from those ideas is that together, we’re all a lot smarter than being alone with the tapes would be, so why don’t we-”

He leapt up in anguish as he saw the others heading down the corridor to the mess hall, VAL preparing to load the relevant security tape into the machine.

“No!” cried Space Dan as he rounded the corner. “Not that one!”

The TV buzzed into static-filled life.

“And welcome back to Space Dan News!” said the Space Dan of the television. “Tonight’s top story, Space Dan’s friends are lovely!”

“Oh, that’s nice!” said Martin. “You made a tape for your friends back home!”

“….yyyyyyessssss,” said Space Dan.

“Fast-forward,” said Aleya.

“Yes, good idea, let’s not waste time with such frivolities!” said Space Dan hurriedly.

The Space Dan of the TV praised his friends for several rambling minutes, cut mercifully and squeakily short by being played back at six times the normal speed, until the screen resolved into the image of Mercury in the Falstaff’s medical bay, talking to Space Team One.

“Ooh, look, there we are!” said Martin. “Except we’re too small.”

Robert beamed, proud that Martin had worked out that the TV did not contain very small actors re-enacting what had happened.

“Robert, have we all really grown this much since then?” said Martin. “We should use the Amulet to go back and step on the Cromwell’s castle, and save ourselves a bunch of time!”

Robert supposed that this was progress of some sort.

“Ssh, Mercury is talking!” said VAL, craning her tube to get a good look.

On the screen, Mercury continued conversing with and explaining things to an admittedly, in retrospect, embarrassingly easily distracted Space Team One.

“It’s a bit strange that he just happens to look like a Uranian,” said Space Dan.

“…what are you talking about?” asked Aleya. “He’s human-looking.”

“Wh-…but…look, here!” said Space Dan.

He picked up a piece of paper and a pencil, and furiously scribbled for several seconds before showing it to everybody.

“…a circle with dots on it?” asked Robert.

“That’s Mercury!” said Space Dan. “You know, he has the really cool little goatee and the mohawk.”

“…no he…doesn’t?” said Robert, looking at the clean-shaven Mercury with his neat cornrows.[2]

“Maybe he looks different based on species,” said Aleya.

“Good point,” said Martin. “Agamemnon, what does he look like? What does he look like, Agamemnon? Who’s that there? Who’s that?”

Agamemnon did not respond, and seemed calmly disinterested in looking at the screen that Martin was pointing at.

“VAL, you’re a computer,” said Robert.

“I know,” said VAL.

“…anyway,” said Robert, “what do you think Mercury looks like?”

“Oh, he’s very handsome,” giggled VAL.

Suddenly, as the tape reached its halfway point, the screen faded to black.

“Oh no!” said Space Dan, clutching his head. “Maybe the power outlet’s fallen out, and I’ll have to move the whole TV by myself to plug it back in, and there’ll be dust everywhere!”

The screen returned, but not to Mercury and Space Team One. Instead, there was a white room with a woman in a black dress, her dark hair flowing in slow motion. Everything was monochrome save for her eyes.

“Ink is the essence of writing,” she said in voiceover, as she sensually fluttered a large typewriter ribbon in the unexplained breeze. “And writing is the secret of power.”

“Space Dan, click there to skip it!” said Martin, pointing at the corner of the screen.

Being that the computer only had a keyboard, Space Dan had no idea what Martin wanted him to do. Slowly, cautiously, he clicked his fingers at the large beige monitor, like an impatient backup dancer in West Side Story.

The woman on the screen draped herself over a pile of the ribbons.

Secret,” she said in voiceover. “The new ribbons from Mercury.”

The woman turned to face the screen and flexed her unexpectedly muscular arm, gripping a chest expander.

“Spectacular Q,” she said, suddenly vigorously using the chest expander as she whitewater-rafted down a barren wasteland filled with lightning. “With strawberries, oats, and power vitamins, it’s bulking food. You only get tough with a tough gut. ROARRRR!”

She screamed as she lifted a large barbell, then threw it at the screen, which shattered into a view of a new car, driving sleekly down a warmly-lit freeway at night. Inside was a soulful-looking middle-aged white man, dressed in a charmingly dishevelled snakeskin suit.

“Sometimes, you’ve gotta miss things to see ‘em,” he said, in a mild Southern drawl. “And I don’t mean missing home, or friends.”

The cinematography changed between shots of the lights passing over the impeccably clean windscreen, and the gentle turn of the tyres as the man smoothly changed gears.

“You’ve gotta miss what you were to get where you need to be,” said the man. “Find the things you couldn’t.”

He turned the wheel and gently parked the car in the middle of the freeway, and stared briefly out at the sultry moon above before opening the door and stepping out.

His fingers trailed over the side of the car before reaching for the plush leather edges of a couch, which he sat down in. He picked up a sleek-looking remote from the cushion next to him, and stretched his arm out to reveal a black widescreen TV in front of him, set up in the middle of the empty road in front of the couch.

In a relatable half-smile half-smirk, he pushed the remote’s power button, and the sharp image and strong colours of the TV came to life.

“Daedalus,” he said. “Miss the world.”

The logo of the television brand faded unobtrusively in underneath him.

The image cut abruptly to white noise, while there was a really discordant modem sound that went on for five seconds. Then the video loaded for a moment, and returned to the security footage of Mercury on the Falstaff.

“Space Dan,” said VAL, “did you make that?”

“I wish!” said Space Dan, who was envious of both the production values and the high quality of the woman’s chest expander.

“…all of those ads fit us,” said Robert.

“Makes sense,” said Aleya. “You’ve got the Rita Hayworth taproot fever.”

“No!” said Robert. “…well, yes, but it fits everyone else too. There was the working out stuff, which fits you, and the guy selling the TV was obviously for Martin, and…I’m guessing that weird noise at the end was for VAL?”

“Y-yes,” said VAL, whose optic sensor had turned the reddest shade of blue it could go.

“VAL, what hap-no, you know what, that’s better left unsaid,” said Robert. “The only people not targeted were Space Dan and Safety Ninja.”

“I was targeted!” said Space Dan, enthusiastically sounding very casual about it. “That lady had the chest expander when she was advertising for the cereal. It looks really good, right, Aleya?”

Aleya mildly stared at him, which made Space Dan feel deeply intimidated. He looked away and very intently studied the screen, occasionally pointing at things in the footage and nodding importantly about them to himself.

Safety Ninja didn’t get an advertisement because as a ninja he eschewed commercialism, but Martin’s ad had a little note at the bottom saying that all the driving was done by a professional driver on a closed circuit, which made him happy.

“Wait!” said Space Dan timelinessly. “Pause there!”

The video paused on Mercury with one hand behind his back.

“Enhance!” said Space Dan.

Everybody shuffled forward so they could see the screen more closely.

“Now, play at half speed,” said Space Dan courteously, “please.”

As Space Dan[3] knocked over an I.V. stand, Mercury subtly began to move, quickly taking a small object out of his pocket and placing it on the medbay floor. It rapidly sprouted stout mechanical legs and scuttled away.

“Mercury bugged us!” said Martin, slamming a fist into Robert’s palm. “Space Dan, we’d better check the bug beds to make sure they’re not listening too!”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” said VAL.

“He put a listening device around us and now he’s targeting us with ads,” said Aleya. “What the gac more conclusions do we need?”

VAL let out a small harrumph and looked to someone else to back her up.

“Well, it’s not so much jumping to conclusions as sitting down on the spot on top of them,” said Robert uneasily.

Safety Ninja wrote:

 

We must search the ship

For the Nielsen Box spider

Then, perhaps, a nap?

 

“Well, let’s start with the infirmary,” said Robert, studying the frozen image on the screen intently.

“Hmm,” agreed Space Dan, who carefully leaned over Robert’s shoulder and viciously wrenched part of the computer out of the computer station.

He started unscrewing the back of the piece, his opened chest-computer balanced in the crook of his arm.

 

“So,” Robert said to Space Dan, as both overturned throw-pillows and looked under computer panels. “Mercury looks different to you?”

“Don’t be silly!” said Space Dan. “He looks different to you.”

“Right,” said Robert.

He crouched to look under a table as Space Dan looked at the ceiling with a keen eye.

“How’d you see Mars?” asked Robert, his voice lowering into the sotto cadence reserved for ‘guy talk’.

Space Dan looked confused.

“Well, you know,” Robert went on, “everyone sees Mercury as a cool guy, it’s just what’s cool is different for different cultures. So…Mars…”

He gestured with his hands and looked expectantly at Space Dan.

“Uhhhhhhhh,” said Space Dan. “Ummmm…well…I, actually…have to go over here for a bit!”

He gestured to the only door that lead out of the room and backed into it, holding his hands up and moving quietly, as if Robert was a large wild animal.

Having escaped this slightly awkward situation, Space Dan nervously shuffled into the corridor Martin was searching, uncertain of what to say. He was curious about what Robert had said, but he had no idea how to actually talk about it; and, there was always the omnipresence of VAL’s optic units, which might overhear something that would result in a long and embarrassing discussion with official SPOOPU diagrams and warnings to be diligent and conscientious.

“Martin,” said Space Dan, “have you ever wondered what love is?”

“Oh!” said Martin, looking up from behind the portrait of Belligerence Suzy, where he was checking for the box. “Well, I’m flattered but not interested, Space Dan.”

“…right,” said Space Dan.

Martin let the painting swing back to its original position, where it sat perfectly flush against the wall as always.

“Well,” he said, “I know that when a mummy baby and a daddy baby love each other very much, they find another baby on a doorstep, and then it grows up too big so its head knocks the roof off the wendy-house when it stands up too carelessly.”

He scratched his head.

“That’s just in my experience, anyway.”

“I suppose there’s a certain universality to that,” said Space Dan, who wasn’t really sure about it.

“Robert was friends with this lady named Evette once,” said Martin, “but she didn’t like it when our house’s chip packet layer got above our knees, so I don’t think that was love.”

Space Dan nodded sagely.

“Maybe being in love isn’t just about suddenly finding someone who likes the same stuff,” Space Dan pondered after a moment, “I mean, we like the same stuff. Maybe it’s something that you just sort of realise after it’s happened.”

“Well, I’m glad you’ve dealt with it so quickly, Space Dan!” said Martin cheerfully, patting him on the back.

As Martin left, Space Dan looked up at Belligerence Suzy.

“I’m sure you didn’t worry about all that, Chairman Suzy,” Space Dan sighed.

Suzy gave a stern frown in response.

 

“Welp, here’s your trouble,” said Aleya, poking at EVIL CAR’s hood with her peg-leg.

EVIL CAR revved in angry response as it shook its front around. Over its grinding and GRRing, the echoing sounds of ticking and scuttling emanated from its hood.

“EVIL CAR,” said Robert, “did you eat that mechanical spider?”

EVIL CAR reluctantly GRRd in the affirmative.

“EVIL CAR,” said Robert, “drop it.”

“GRR”

“Drop it!”

“GRR” it replied more resistantly.

“Let’s give it castor oil!” said Space Dan.

“Why?” said Aleya. “It’s a car.”

“…it might lubricate his engine?” said Space Dan.

Robert crouched and held out his hand for EVIL CAR to sniff.

“Gently,” he said, fondly stroking EVIL CAR’s front grill.

The car GRRd, and everyone else leaned forward with tension.

“Easy now,” he said, rubbing his hands under EVIL CAR’s bumper.

The automobile squirmed its front end around as Robert ticked the sides of its jaws.

“Drop it,” repeated Robert sternly, “drop!”

EVIL CAR unwillingly parted its jagged metal teeth, and Robert pulled the slightly chewed  box free. The mechanical spider waved its spindly legs helplessly as Robert stared it in the lack-of-eyes. A close inspection of its top revealed the words ‘Cybernetic Monitoring and Enhancement Equipment Is A Girl’s Best Friend’.

“We don’t eat spying devices!” he scolded EVIL CAR.

“Well, that’s fixed,” said Space Dan, dusting his hands.

“How is it fixed?” asked Aleya. “Mercury was snooping on us!”

“No he wasn’t,” said VAL, “he was just worried and wanted to check up on us.”

“No, I meant my spacesuit,” said Space Dan, holding up the garment to show everybody.

The SPOOPU suit had been painstakingly hand-sewn back to a close approximation of its original form, although Space Dan had done some of the repairs with a basting stitch, as he found lockstitching difficult without his sewing machine. He carefully made sure he was holding that side of the suit away from his audience, and tried to angle it so they all admired the chest computer mostly.

“Why is the tape slot from the VCR in your chest-computer?” asked VAL.

“Uh, whoops,” said Space Dan, glancing down at it, “um, I mean, that’s meant to be like- maybe I’ll just go and put this on now.”

He hurried off, trying to pull on the spacesuit as he hopped, but he didn’t want to take his pants off in front of everybody.

“Let’s throw this in the furnace,” said Robert.

“Yeah,” said Aleya, “or…”

She knocked the Nielson box out of his hands and stomped hard on it with her wooden leg. Its casing crunched and broke, pieces of broken circuit board scattering across the floor.

Safety Ninja grimaced, as they had not wrapped it in a cloth first.

 

“Why are we going to Jupiter, anyway?” asked Martin, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of the cockpit, and bouncing Ricey gently on his knee.

“Getting to Jupiter and planting the Goldlily is still my SPOOPU mission,” said Space Dan, checking over a makeshift control lever that had been jerry-rigged out of a spatula. “And this technical diagram informs me it’s the next planet along anyway, so we might as well do it next.”

He tapped a poster of the solar system that VAL had taped up to the cockpit wall, both to point it out to Martin and to check that it was calibrated right.

“But didn’t you leave the Goldilocks to Bunk Beddin?” asked Martin.

“It’s pronounced Bug Beddin, remember?” said Space Dan.

“Oh, that’s right!” said Martin.

“Besides, the Goldlily was only part of my mission,” said Space Dan. “VAL and I are going to Jupiter to discover new findings, to find new discoveries, and to plant the Uranian flag on its surface!”

He proudly saluted the Uranian flag which was hanging from the top of the cockpit. Due to long-standing conflicts and arguments, the flag had been one of compromise. It was originally meant to feature several hundred fish in a tessellated pattern, but some felt that that was making light of the severe threat of the Undulating Wobble-Shark. As a result, and with an aim to represent all of Uranity, the flag was literally every country’s flag joined together.

Space Dan waved his head around a bit, so as not to direct his salute to any single specific country by accident.

“But Jupiter is a gas giant,” said Martin, “it has no solid surface to plant a flag on.”

Space Dan quickly glanced at the poster to fact-check this claim.

“Well, we’re going to hold the Uranian flag on the surface and then let go of it so it really claims Jupiter,” he hurriedly explained. “Besides, I’ve been training to get there for so long. I feel like part of my destiny is on Jupiter, you know?”

Martin, who did not really know, nodded anyway because Space Dan was his friend.

Space Dan pulled down VAL’s nearest optic unit and spoke into it.

“Everyone ready?” asked Space Dan.

“…well, I am,” said VAL. “Did you want me to put you over the intercom, Space Dan?”

“Yes please,” said Space Dan.

There was a sudden loud feedback noise.

“Ahem,” said Space Dan. “Is everyone ready?”

He waited patiently for a confirmation, only to realise that nobody else could respond on the intercom.

“It’s only interplanetary travel,” said Martin, “we’re all kind of used to it by now.”

“Yes!” said Space Dan. “We are all seasoned space-travellers,[4] striding boldly through the cosmos, searching for the ultimate truth that the stars keep nestled within their fiery bosoms.”

There was the distant sound of Aleya laughing at this, which Space Dan ignored, though he did put his hand over the intercom.

“Mister Martin, load the tiramisu!” he said.

“Loading tiramisu!” said Martin.

He pushed a spatula that was attached to a long, snaking wire that went out of the cockpit and down the corridor, then pulled it back. He repeated this action a few times, which knocked over a bottle that shifted gears that opened a door which knocked over three balls which turned on a light which made a fork twirl, eventually landing on the button of the umbrella in the engine room. This made the umbrella open and push the wheelbarrow’s handles upward, tipping its contents.

They felt the ship shudder as the tiramisu packets fell into the engine, and the stars became a blur.

“Hyperspace is wonderful!” said Space Dan.

“…are we in hyperspace, though?” asked Martin.

“Why wouldn’t we be?”

“Well, either we’re just going very fast in normal space,” said Martin, “or we’ve gone to some other kind of space where light speed is faster.”

“Oh!” said Space Dan, fascinated. “Uh…I mean, yes, of course, obviously. Why, my physics instructor at the Space Academy was often saying that…light is a…um…it’s a thing that’s very important for space!”

He reached over to wipe a bit of dirt off the viewscreen.

“Uh, how are you doing, Ricey?” he asked.

Ricey beamed back in response. Space Dan frowned slightly as Agamemnon the popcorn fly waddled down Martin’s arm and snuggled up to Ricey, napping contentedly.

There was a sudden lurch, and the Falstaff markedly slowed down.

“What happened?” asked Space Dan. “Did something hit us?”

“Maybe the tiramisu ran out,” said Martin. “It is a lot longer from Mars to Jupiter than it is from Venus to Mars.”

He pulled out a sheet of paper, and started scribbling some haphazard numbers on the back.

“Where are we?” asked Space Dan.

“Well,” said Martin, “if that star there is Alpha Opiuchi, and that star is Lambda Serpentis…then we are…somewhere in the solar system.”

The mess hall door opened behind them, and Robert ran over to the cockpit. He snatched the page out of Martin’s hand, and smoothed it out against his knee.

“That was the climax of Chapter Six-Hundred and Twenty-Nine!” he cried. “I was looking for that! And why are we stopped?”

“We’re just working that out,” said Martin.

He looked hopefully at the paper in Robert’s hands.

Grumbling, Robert reluctantly gave it back, deciding that he’d just have to remember how exactly General Rorkis was going to get out of his star-duel with the pirates of Kolaximbeen.[5]

“Periscope functionality, please, VAL,” said Space Dan.

VAL’s optic sensor disappeared from her optic unit, replaced by a dark screen revealing the stars. A small camera popped out of the top of the Falstaff, and Space Dan swivelled it by the side-antennas to see what was going on outside.[6]

“Argh!” Space Dan cried.

“What?” asked Robert.

“Asteroid sighted, port bow!” said Space Dan.

“Space Dan, that asteroid is to the front of the ship,” said VAL.

“Exactly!” said Space Dan. “We can’t go through an asteroid belt, we’ll be smashed to pieces!”

“Actually, Space Dan, asteroids are very far apart from one another in real life,” said Martin. “We’ll be just fine!”

“Oh, phew,” sighed Space Dan, looking relieved.

A gravitational sensor started beeping on the Falstaff’s control panel, and there was a strange, low keening noise as the ship was momentarily pulled forward and pushed back simultaneously. The lazily scattered asteroids in front of them, which had been drifting slowly, accelerated faster and faster towards each other. The asteroid belt abruptly zoomed back together like a giant spherical jigsaw puzzle, forming a Mars-sized sphere directly in their path.

Huh,” said Martin.

“Is that a planet?!” screamed Space Dan, as an alarm started blaring.

“Yes,” said Martin, “but there shouldn’t be a planet here…”

“What’s it called?” asked Space Dan.

“I don’t know,” said Martin.

“Oh, now you don’t know what all the planets are!” said Space Dan huffily.

“I think we should call it Planet Space Dan’s Planet,” said Martin.

“…w-…why?” asked Space Dan.

“Well, you discovered it,” said Martin.

Space Dan’s lip wobbled like an undulating shark.

“…no,” he said. “We’re going to call it Planet Space Dan and Martin’s Planet.”

“It looks more like a moon to me,” said VAL.

“How can it be a moon, VAL?!” said Space Dan. “It’s not orbiting anything, other than the sun!”

“It’s too small to be a planet,” she said defensively.

“Why do you have to tear down every planet that we’ve discovered?!” wailed Space Dan.

“What’s happening?” said Aleya as she entered the cockpit.

“We’re going to crash into Planet Space Dan and Martin’s Planet!” said Martin, flipping switches to make himself feel like he was doing something useful.

“There’s only one thing to do,” said Robert, gripping the back of Space Dan’s chair. “Emergency t-jump.”

“…t-jump?” said Aleya, looking baffled.

“Tiramisu-jump, it’s obvious!”

“Hmm,” said Martin, flipping the paper over and scribbling on General Rorkis’ narrowly-snatched victory, “if we need to get from here to Jupiter…carry the one…and if our negative mass would have to be…”

Martin whispered to himself in concentration as the planet grew closer and closer.

“Why does this keep happening to us!?” screeched VAL from her wall-mount.

“You need to put in 56 grams exactly, into the aft starboard engine!” Martin instructed Space Dan.

“Oh,” said Space Dan. “Whoops, I already pulled the spatula.”

Four vacuum packed bags of tiramisu fell indiscriminately into the engines.

The air in the Falstaff became tingly and smelled vaguely of Kahlua as the stars streamed past. The occupants of the cockpit were pushed hard backwards, the co-pilot’s chair emitting more sawdust as Martin was pressed into it. Agamemnon seemed grateful for the plush protection of Ricey behind him; though he did not voice this, being mostly a piece of popcorn.

Safety Ninja, who was in the laundry trying to construct a mandala out of detergent powder, made a mental note to visit a shrine in thanks as the carefully-placed granules flew everywhere.

“Thankyou Golly!” said Space Dan, as the warping effect slowed down. “May you ever guide us from naughtiness and provide us with sweets as appropriate on occasion.”

The Falstaff returned to normal speed, and Space Team One stared out the viewscreen at the bright blue planet before them.

“My Golly,” Space Dan said. “…it’s…”

There was a long pause.

“…Neptune, Space Dan,” said Robert.

“Nedtune!” said Space Dan.

“That’s Neptune, you moron,” said Aleya.

“That’s what I said,” said Space Dan, adjusting his lack of collar. “You probably just heard me wrong over the sound of…space.”

 

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[1] Which he insisted was a part of a loom.

[2] Robert did not observe Mercury via Mercury’s hair: obviously, he used his eyeballs; though whether he used his own or Mercury’s is left to an exercise in common sense for the reader.

[3] The one in the security footage.

[4] Martin in particular, having spilled chicken seasoning on himself when he had accidentally locked himself in the Falstaff’s pantry. Space Dan had explained to him through the door how the doorknob worked, and Martin had escaped unharmed, if slightly tastier.

[5] Robert had forgotten where he’d gotten the name from, but figured he’d probably invented it.

[6] There was, of course, a large viewscreen that he could have looked at, but the Falstaff had been fitted with the periscope at the request of the Uranian Submarine Fancier’s Auxiliary. In a unique event in the creation of the Falstaff, they had not asked for any money for doing so.