Yeti Sea, Yeti Do

 

Space Dan stood on the burning deck, except it wasn’t burning so much as a bit hot.

“Why is it so stuffy in here?” Robert complained.

One of the crewmen looked offended.

“I like to think we have a casual, fun, productive work environment,” she said.

“No, I mean the heat,” said Robert. “It’s like sitting in the breath of a friendly but mildly mildewy-smelling grandfather.”

“It’s not easy generating the power for a sub like this,” said Gala. “The engines are nuclear.”

“What?!” said Space Dan.

“That’s right, nuclear,” said Gala. “They’re precisely in the exact centre of the ship.”

A crewmember in a beret marched in.[1]

“Captain Neptune, you have a call in the ready room,” he said.

“Robert, that man is wearing a pancake!” said Martin.

“Shut up, Martin,” said Robert.

“Oh, you’re right,” said Martin. “It’s more of a crêpe.”

The man glanced at him.

“Hat-pancake,” said Martin.

The sailor sighed, having recently been passed over for promotion, and turned sharply to the left. He marched out of the room, his buttocks wobbling with military precision.

“Please excuse me,” said Neptune. “Ms Gala, you have the bridge.”

He turned right and left the room.

“You know, it’s funny that it’s called a bridge,” said Martin, “because there’s no bridge in- oh, wait, that middle walkway bit is sort of a bridge. Never mind.”

“But she controls the whole ship until Neptune gets back, not just that bridge,” said Space Dan.

“Well, it’s like how part of a thing is called like it’s the whole of a thing,” said Martin. “Like saying ‘The Emperor of America passed a law’ when it was really his Imperial Diet.”

“That’s synecdoche,” said Robert.

“Oh, I had that as a kid,” said Aleya. “I was bedridden for weeks.”

“I did too!” said Space Dan.

“I was being sarcastic,” Aleya explained.

“…that’s not a symptom of synecdoche,” said Space Dan confusedly.

Safety Ninja handed Robert a piece of paper asking if everyone had been properly inoculated against it.

“I also had it,” said Martin, who was lying but wanted to be part of the conversation.

“It’s pronounced ‘sin-eck-do-ky,” Gala corrected them.

“I’ve only ever seen it written down!” huffed Robert, his cheeks suddenly burning.[2]

“…that is not a disease on Uranus,” said Space Dan.

Hoping to break the awkward silence, he leaned over a crewmember’s chair to look at their screen.

“What’re you doing?” he asked.

“I’m monitoring for starwhal pings,” the crewmember said.

She winked at him rogueishly.

“Eheh…wow, what a diligent and conscientious crew!” said Space Dan, hurriedly scurrying back to the safety of his friends. “May Golly watch over all of us, and keep us very devoted to our jobs, and make our tummies stop doing weird things!”

“Sorry,” said Martin. “I shouldn’t be feeding you so many croquembouches, Space Dan.”

“That’s pronounced ‘crok-wem-boo-ky’,” said Space Dan authoritatively.

Robert pointed ahead of them.

“What’s that for?” asked Robert.

“That is a window,” Gala said.

“No, I meant the thing on the left,” said Robert.

“That is also a window,” said Gala.

Robert marched over to the side of the window and pointed emphatically.

That,” he said.

“That is for controlling the windows,” Gala explained.

“What?!” said Aleya. “Why would you need to control the windows in a submarine? Do they go up and down?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Quooster. “If we put them up and down, we’d waste all the nice heat from the nuclear engines.”

“No,” said Robert, “the big hairy white thing that’s swimming right for us!”

Space Dan shrieked in terror, then shouted “Evasive maneuvers!” and tuck-rolled to the other end of the room, where he then hid behind a large crewmember named Peter The Large Crewmember.

“Space Dan, get back here,” said Robert.

“I’m taking evasive maneuvers!” Space Dan huffed. “And as the Level Seven Food Preparation Officer, and also the Captain, I strongly recommend that all of you do the same!”

“We wouldn’t fit behind Peter,” said Gala, “no matter how large he is.”

Peter felt slightly hurt by this statement, as he had been working very hard to eat more salads.

A hulking hairy beast, earlier identified as a mermaid,[3] swam past the front window of the Physeter, its taut thews rippling under shaggy white fur as it powered through the ocean. Its eyes were glazed over with second, transparent eyelids, much like a beaver’s, although in shape it was far closer to a bear with the limbs of a great ape. A shaggy, lion-like mane undulated from its neck; its sharp, yellowed gritted teethset into a lean face somewhere between an emaciated human and a cranky baboon.

“It’s a terrifying amphibious gorilla!” Space Dan whimpered.

“Oh,” said Martin. “So you have gorillas on Uranus as well. Do they get bananas?”

“No, they’re usually pretty understated,” Space Dan replied.

“That’s a sea-yeti,” said Gala. “They swim through the tunnels of the sea.”

“What a colourful metaphor,” said Robert.

“Like there,” said Quooster.

He pointed to a rocky outcrop with massive holes in it, which the sea-yeti swam towards.

“Are they smart like people, or not-smart like pillows?” asked Martin.

“They have their own wisdom,” Quooster said.

“That means they’re dumb as hognuts,” whispered Aleya to Robert.

“Perhaps not intelligent, but can you really call something dumb that has no capacity to think?” Robert whispered back. “You really need basic sapience to be classified as stupid.”

“I’d say you do,” Aleya said.

“I have basic sapience!” Robert snapped.

“So you are a hognut,” Aleya concluded.

“Well…your wooden leg needs varnishing!” Robert said.

“Does it, now?” asked Quooster. “Would ye like to go down to the prosthetic-limb servicing centre? You’re all invited, of course!”

“We don’t have prosthetic limbs,” said Space Dan.

“Oh, that’s alright, I’m sure you’ll need them sooner or later!” said Quooster merrily.

Safety Ninja watched the quiet majesty of the sea-yetis’ aquatic ballet, as more of them swam in and out of the deep sea vents, collecting strands of seaweed and shells that passed some internal quality test, like very hairy Martins.[4] He wondered if they were protected by any offshore drilling bans, and passed this question onto Space Dan via a note.

“I don’t know, Safety Ninja,” said Space Dan. “It’d be pretty hard fitting one of those into a sink, or even a bathtub. There’d be no space at all for the other fish! But I’m happy to say that there are no Undulating Wobble-Sharks on Neptune! Not because Undulating Wobble-Sharks aren’t valid and responsible life forms in their own way, but because not having them means they can’t go extinct, and also they make me nervous.”

Safety Ninja wanted to explain that this wasn’t what he meant in the slightest, but he couldn’t work out a way to say that in a haiku, so he just nodded thankfully.

“Robert,” said Martin, “can we have a submarine?”

“No,” said Robert.

“But hear me out!” said Martin. “You know how when you take a bath and you turn a cup upside-down, when you push it into the water it gets a bit of air on the inside of the cup, even though it’s empty?”

“I’m well aware of cup-in-bath physics, Martin,” said Robert.

“So couldn’t we get a big cup – I mean, a really really big cup – and then sit inside it, and turn it upside down, and we’d have a submarine?” Martin asked.

“You’d run out of air,” Gala explained.

“No we wouldn’t!” said Martin. “There’s air in water, because otherwise how would fish breathe?”

The crewmember who thought Space Dan was a cutie leant over her chair back, and called out to Gala.

“Ma’am, I’m picking up a few pings,” she said, indicating to the sonar sweep on her screen.

Space Dan looked around nervously in case a ping was some kind of Neptunian flirt-signal.

“We’re picking up a few whiffs of distant cinnamon,” she explained, as Gala peered over her shoulder.

Gala gave the air a crisp sniff.

“It’s faint,” she said sternly, “but it’s definitely cinnamony.”

“Are you sure it couldn’t be some errant apple strudel?” asked Robert sarcastically.

“Good point,” said Gala. “Ensign Priestmoney, do you have a visual?”

Ensign Priestmoney tapped his console twice, and a large periscope dropped down to him.

“What’s wrong with using the windows?” asked Space Dan.

“The periscope is higher-up,” said Priestmoney, “and can swivel, like the crows’ nests of old.”

He demonstrated this by turning around in his office chair, making it squeak as he peered through the viewfinder.

“I can see a huge, vaguely cetaceous shape looming in the distance,” said Priestmoney, “although that may be a completely different giant whale.”

“In for a whale, in for a pair of whales,” said Gala, quoting an old sailor’s proverb. “Full speed, Ensign Jensen!”

The ensign at the helm huffed.

“It’s pronounced Yensen!” said Jensen. “Jensen and Jonsen and Jenson are all different!”

Three separate crewmembers looked up briefly, before realising it was just someone having this conversation again.

“Robert,” whispered Martin out of the side of his mouth, “does Neptune have a TV?”

“I really doubt it, Martin,” said Robert. “I’m not sure TVs exist out here, and if they do, they probably only pick up white noise and antiques shows.”

“But I’ve already missed about forty-five episodes of Soren Kierkegaard and Friends!” said Martin, shifting from foot to foot, evidently getting bored of the naval saga unfolding around him. “And that’s not counting on Sundays, where they air new episodes that are artfully created in just such a way to be exactly the same as ones that were aired before!”

“Those are repeats, Martin,” said Robert.

“Don’t be silly,” said Martin. “If they were repeats, surely we’d remember them!”

He crossed his arms to reinforce the infallibility of his reasoning.

“I think baby-man is right,” said Aleya, smirking at Robert. “You two should definitely search the entire ship for a TV.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” said Martin. “Robert has to stay here to make sure Safety Ninja doesn’t get worried about him.”

Safety Ninja looked touched at this kind gesture of Robert’s, but also confused because he would also worry about Martin’s safety. (He worried about safety in general, but that surrounding Martin in particular.)

“I’ll go and ask Neptune,” said Martin. “He’d know for certain, because he’s the captain. Like how Space Dan knows things because he’s the captain of the Falstaff.”

Space Dan looked as surprised as everyone else at this.

Martin confidently turned right and walked out of the room, in search of the Physeter’s captain.

Heading down a corridor, he dragged his feet along in imitation of the crewmembers of the ship, who were all shuffling about their duties. However, while the crewmen had dusters on their soles, Martin’s shoes were filthy and tracked mud everywhere, so – as usual – he was inadvertently not being especially helpful. As a high-ranking guest of the captain, however, none of them dared to mention this directly to him; as a result, by the time Martin had explored a few berths, a line of crewmembers had collected behind him, shuffling dutifully along in his footsteps to shine away the sheer volume of muck.[5] This didn’t remind Martin eerily of the prison line back on Venus – not because he wasn’t there for that, but because it wasn’t the kind of thing he’d pay attention to.

Looking down, Martin spotted a gold line painted on the floor. It ran parallel to the skirting board,[6] down the length of the corridor, and off around the corner. If he had looked behind him, he would have also seen the words ‘Ready Room’ printed on the wall in matching gold print, accompanied by a small arrow pointing rightwards.

Instead, his eyes locked intently downwards, Martin shuffled off following the golden line; partly because he hoped that it would lead to a leprechaun, but also because he figured it was his civic duty to try and clean it off. Pressed up against the wall so he could scuff his shoes along it as hard as he could, Martin set off along the line, attracting puzzled looks and the occasional extra crewmember behind him as he went.

Reaching a closed door underneath which the line passed, Martin pushed on it insistently.

“It must be locked!” he concluded.

The crewmembers behind him didn’t tell him that it slid open, because they were mostly just happy that he had stopped moving, which gave them more time to clean up his muddy footprints.

As Martin tried to fit his fingers into the space under the door to try and scratch the gold paint off,[7] the crewmen behind him quickly shuffled away, so that they would have plausible deniability in case he started walking around again.

“Hmm,” said Martin. “This gold paint is very tough. I’ll need one of those scrapers that ladies in diners use to pick up burnt things that I eat when Robert’s not looking.”

This leading to what he thought was an excellent idea, Martin put his head on the floor and tried to poke his tongue under it, in a valiant attempt to lick the gold paint off.

But before he could savour the heady, mildly toxic flavour, Martin’s eagle eye caught sight of a very familiar glow.

“Catholic ray tubes!” he mouthed in hushed awe, quickly sitting up onto his knees, peering through the keyhole in case the episode where Soren Kierkegaard and Byron promised that they wouldn’t speak for a day was on.

This was particularly impressive given that the keyhole was for a card-key, but such was Martin’s love for the animated moving image.

Through the thin slit, Martin could just make out the image of a gold-armoured tubby man on a television.

“Do you really think this is necessary?” asked Neptune, who was sitting next to the screen.

“What have we just been talking about, Neptune?” asked the gold-armoured man, gently floating up and down.

He frowned at Neptune.

“Is your quest for the Starwhal a symbol of your emotionally distant children?”

“I have no children,” said Neptune.

“Because this Starwhal obsession has made you incapable!” said the gold-armoured man. “It clearly represents your need to control your inner psyche through paternalism. Hence the naked sailors.”

“There’s only one of those!” snapped Neptune. “Look, I’ll gladly come once this business has been cleared up, but I can’t leave my people to be driven into madness by the Starwhal. The beast must be slain.”

“Madness comes not from giant whales, but because the maddener dares not admit his own madness that maddened him,” said the gold-armoured man, in an unwitting burst of Juan Druskardianism.

“Shut up, Venus,” said Neptune.

Martin gasped.

“That god who keeps saying rude things about people has the same name as the god we met who kept saying rude things about us!” said Martin. “What a strange coincidence! What a world we live in.”

“Just remember that time is running out,” frowned Venus. “A lot of the others are here already, or on their way.”

“The situation does bear investigating,” admitted Neptune.

Martin’s eyes narrowed,[8] remembering Robert’s prediction that the Bear Claw was part of a massive, villainous Star-Bear, and he listened closer.

“It has been an age since we have all held such a concordance,” said Venus. “And for something of this magnitude…”

He stroked his chin.

“It will be so interesting to see how the others behave about it!”

“How is the Earth going with finding a new god?” asked Neptune, changing the subject.

“I have deduced that they have a moon deity called Mervin,” said Venus idly, “so I imagine he will take over the role eventually. Now will you heed the call, or won’t you?”

“Of course I’ll be there,” agreed Neptune. “As soon as the Starwhal is destroyed, I’ll recalibrate the Physeter for space travel and make haste.”

“The Council of the Gods waits for no man,” said Venus impressively, drawing his jowelly self up to his full height, “not even a god.”

Neptune began to speak.

“I also meant women!” huffed Venus, and he disappeared from the screen.

Neptune got up from his chair, groaning slightly as his back creaked. Martin quickly leapt back from the door, partially to avoid looking like he was eavesdropping, but mostly because the TV had switched off.

“Martin,” Neptune said as the door opened. “What’re you doing here, lad?”

“I was looking for a TV,” said Martin.

He looked past Neptune.

“Oh, there’s one!” he said happily.

“…do you want to watch it?” asked Neptune, after a brief pause. “I think there’s a video cassette of old sea shanties around here somewhere.”[9]

“No thankyou,” said Martin. “I just like knowing that there’s one close by.”

There was a sudden loud bellowing noise, like a bison that had been given a broken megaphone, and Martin covered his ears (his own, not the theoretical bison’s).

Neptune took a horn-shaped device[10] from the wall and held it to his ear.

“Sir! Starwhal sighted!” announced Gala.

“Aye!” said Neptune, and he put the horn back.

He turned, and cracked his broad knuckles.

“Come now, Martin,” Neptune said, clapping him on the shoulder. “The hunt is on!”

Martin pretended to be as excited as Neptune, but internally worried that The Hunt sounded like it was about searching in old buildings for ghosts, which would make Space Dan too scared to properly enjoy it.

 

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[1] Oddly enough, he was wearing only a beret. Nobody commented on his nakedness because they felt awkward about it.

[2] He was embarrassed, but also the nuclear engines had increased their output and he was standing under a vent.

[3] Which is to say, a manmaid.

[4] Not martens that live in taigas, though admittedly their tails can get pretty fluffy.

[5] It didn’t help that Martin was deliberately stomping his feet every few slides fowards, to make sure that he really got the tough stains out.

[6] Skirting boards are also sometimes referred to as ‘floor-cornices’, or floornices.

[7] Back on the bridge, Safety Ninja’s senses tingled slightly.

[8] Which, incidentally, allowed him to see better through the slot.

[9] Which unbeknownst to Martin greatly resembled early 90s electro-house music videos.

[10] Which, incidentally, did come from a Neptunian creature called an aqua-bison. However, aqua-bisons more closely approximated squids with the heads of labradors than regular terrestrial bisons, so the connection would not immediately have been obvious to anyone, let alone Martin.