Broken Up Into Bits In My Moat

 

The twisted remains of the Ahab were drowned with whisky, like a demented backwards version of christening a ship by smashing it with champagne. The huge wave of liquor churned through the ravine, the wave breaking apart and settling into sloshing eddies and currents, as it transformed the chasm into a large river the colour of a sunset.

“Agggh!” said Hibiya, blanching as he saw the flowing whisky ahead. “Leave me on the train! I ain’t gettin’ nowhere near that!”

“If you stay on the train, you’ll pass over it anyway,” said Haizea.

Hibiya shrieked wimpily and jumped into Safety Ninja’s arms, though he attempted to cover this by turning it into a cough and neatly adjusting Safety Ninja’s jacket.

A few oni from either gang who had been leaning out of the train’s windows up front stared at the flooded ravine in shock. Their heads disappeared back inside the train, and soon, audible yells of surprise and horror were emanating from the length of the train.

There was a metallic tapping noise, and Robert turned around to see Doctor Circuits tapping a large bonesaw against the roof of the train as he stared at them, livid.

“You broke my ship,” he said, “so now I must eviscerate you!”

“…don’t you mean ‘now I must break you’?” asked Haizea.

“…why would I say that?” asked Doctor Circuits.

“It’s more neat,” said Robert. “It feels like reasonable payback, while eviscerating us is just overkill.”

“I love overkilling!” said Doctor Circuits gleefully, lunging towards them.

He held down his shoulder-button and made a chainsaw noise as he brandished the bonesaw with great precision.

Robert and Haizea quickly hopped backwards, eager to put more space between them.

“I don’t wanna fight this guy!” said Hibiya.

“You don’t want to fight someone?” said Space Dan.

“He’s a crazy walkin’ fridge!” said Hibiya, nervously putting up his dukes out of reflex action. “He doesn’t fight fair!”

Doctor Circuits lunged forwards again, and raised the bonesaw above his head, preparing to strike at Robert’s arm.

There was a sudden beeping noise.

“…backing up?” said Robert, cautiously stepping out from under the sawblade.

“Warning: Depth perception update necessary,” said Doctor Circuits’ chest in a smooth woman’s voice.

“What? Shut up!” said Doctor Circuits, pushing his shoulder button indignantly. “I don’t care! Cancel!”

“Warning: Spanish language update necessary,” said Doctor Circuits’ chest.

“Cancel!”

“What a strange coincidence,” said Space Dan.

“Why?” said Robert. “Is there a country on Uranus called the Great Duchy of Spanland?”

“No, Spanish is an Earth language, Robert,” said Space Dan. “Martin mentioned it to me. You’re lucky he’s there, or you’d get really confused about everything!”

“Warning: Four hundred addenda for Hillman’s Basic Medicine, Third Edition update necessary,” said Doctor Circuits’ chest.

“Cancel!” said Doctor Circuits.

“Warning: Please clear space in memory to avoid slowdown,” said Doctor Circuits’ chest.

“Cancel!”

“Warning-”

“Cancel!”

“Warning-”

“Cancel!”

“Warning-”

Cancel!!

“System will now reboot for installation of service pack,” concluded the voice.

“No! Cancel! Cancel!

“Are you sure you want to cancel?” said Doctor Circuits’ chest.

Yes!” screamed Doctor Circuits.

“You have selected ‘Yes’,” said Doctor Circuits’ chest. “System will now reboot.”

“Oh, for the love of suturing!” snapped Doctor Circuits as his eyes dimmed and his head slumped.

Space Team One considered going over and poking Doctor Circuits, but all were slightly too worried about waking him up again.

“Your car pet had better show up,” said Haizea.

“My carpet? What?” asked Robert.

“Your car pet!” shouted Haizea. “Your pet that’s a car!”

“He’s not my pet, he’s my friend,” said Robert fondly. “And he’s never let me down.”

“But what about us?” said Space Dan nervously. “What if he lets us down? I don’t want to fall in a whisky river, because then I’d swallow a lot of it and be drunk and licentious, and drunken licentiousness is naughty in the eyes of Golly!”

“I think you would just die, Space Dan,” said Robert.

“I don’t want to die on a train crashing into a river full of whisky!” said Space Dan. “I want to die peacefully in my sleep when I’m very old and I’ve already been made Ultra-President of SPOOPU!”

The front carriages suddenly gave a considerable lurch, and Space Team One all shook. Oni were pushing and shoving their way down the inside of the train, in a mad exodus towards the rearmost carriage.

On the carriage that Martin had destroyed the end of, Armonk helped Gotanda climb up out of the crowd onto a stack of crates, where he bellowed instructions at the other oni.

“Hurry up! We can all keep fighting once we’re off the train! Everybody push each other very hard in a calm and orderly fashion!”

Gotanda didn’t need to tell the assorted oni twice, but they were all falling victim to their species’ cultural hangup. The fear of an enormous amount of running water – or, in this case, running whisky – was so strong that the oni more or less had to get away from it as quickly as they could. Normally, this meant running away from the water in as straight a path as possible: the problem was that in this case, the straight line was going through the back door of the train, and every single oni had to fit at once.

“I don’t wanna die!” screamed a Pie Bar oni, flailing his arms. “I don’t wanna diiiiieee! And I don’t wanna go over that runny slooshy stuff even moooooore!”

“Why isn’t this working?!” shouted a Zoot-Suit oni, angrily tearing at the piece of paper he’d stolen from the Writer’s house, which proudly declared: ‘Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet’.

He tore it from his neck and stomped on it, vengeful for its betrayal.

“Why doesn’t the driver just stop the train?” asked Haizea.

“ABANDON THE TRAIN! ALL IS LOST! WE WERE FULL OF HUBRIS, AND NOW WE ARE PUNISHED!” shouted the driver as he ran through the carriage beneath them.

“Hey Irvington,” Hibiya called to him through a skylight.

SAVE YOURSELF, HIBIYA!”

Irvington pushed four other oni out of his way, hurling his cap out of a window in shame.

It was caught by the wind and tumbled over the train roof, where Space Dan jumped up and caught it, beaming like a long-single bridesmaid who had just caught a bouquet while looking very intently at a handsome member of the catering staff.

 

“This one goes out to my homies,” said Martin dramatically, staring down at the river of whisky he had created.

“Well done, Martin,” said Mars.

Martin looked up at Mars’ svelte frame, still draped in a red dress. The townspeople, tired from their silo-pushing efforts, stood around and took their hats off in Mars’ presence. Heyurr Stone licked his hand and pushed his hair down, then rubbed a spot of grime off the arm of his rocking chair.

“Oh!” said Martin. “I’ve been getting it wrong all this time! They must call Mars the red planet because you wear red and your hair is red!”

He then added, fearful of causing offence:

“Not that you’re a planet. You’d be very hard to mistake for a planet, unless it was a really small planet that was shaped like a lady!”

“Thankyou, Martin,” said Mars.

They watched as the Surface Express pushed closer and closer towards the rickety bridge, the millipede squealing with merriment. Oni were leaping from the back of the train, many at a time, and rolling along the tracks to safety with only minimal bruising. They then quickly recovered and began fighting again, for maximal bruising.

“The oni seemed so happy when they were building that bridge,” said Mars, a touch wistfully.

“But they’d be ruining Pequod’s Albert Moss and all the other towns,” said Martin.

“I know,” said Mars. “But the people of Mars are mine, whether they’re on or under it.”

“I guess it’s like the oni running around in the desert,” said Martin. “They didn’t mean to project themselves into upside-down magic ghosts, so all the people they hurt were on accident. They had no idea that they were doing extra things while they were doing the things they were supposed to be doing.”

“Hmm,” said Mars.

“I guess people don’t always think about how what they do affects others,” said Martin.

Mars looked out over the cliff at the raging whisky below, and up to the approaching train.

“I guess,” she nodded.

 

“We gotta get off the train!” shrieked Hibiya, half in terror at the rapidly-approaching river of whiskey, and half in anguish that he was missing out on some good fighting behind them.

“I’m with Hibiya,” said Space Dan. “I’ve had enough running around on top of roofs like a ceiling-weasel!”

“Where’s EVIL CAR, Robert?” asked Haizea, sounding rather insistent.

“He’ll be here!” snapped Robert.

“Before or after we go over the bridge?” asked Haizea.

“I think us not going over the bridge is the problem,” said Space Dan, peering forwards at the rapidly approaching wooden structure.

Safety Ninja nodded gravely as he reeled from the abject lack of engineering know-how or common sense in the oni bridge. He knew, as if by instinct, that none of its constructors had been wearing hard hats.

“Space Dan, you said there was a pump-cart at the back of the train, right?” said Haizea. “Maybe we can run to the last carriage and get away on that before the train goes into the river.”

Space Dan shook his head.

“There are way too many carriages,” he said.[1]

Safety Ninja cocked his ear, then gestured to the others for silence.

Robert raised an eyebrow, but listened carefully, trying to filter out the sounds of the train clacking madly along the tracks and the audible creaking of the bridge ahead. Underneath it all, in the distance, he could hear a distant rumbling and charging.

“Not more whisky mascots?” he frowned.

Hibiya tapped Robert rather hard on the shoulder and pointed ahead of them.

On the other side of the ravine, a large cloud of dust was billowing into the air, as if a small dust storm was charging across the desert towards the oncoming train. As it got closer and closer to the ravine, the dust lessened slightly, and Space Team One were able to make out the forms of hundreds of small, reddish animals, their four hooves skidding along the ground, neighing and shaking back-spikes as they went.

“Wow,” said Space Dan.

Haizea gave the kind of weary sigh that Robert knew all too well, and yet Martin wasn’t there.

“What?” said Robert.

“Those are horses,” said Haizea. “I don’t know what they’re like on your world, but here, they’re a nuisance.”

“How?” asked Space Dan.

“They steal blue and green things,” said Haizea.

“To build nests?” asked Robert.

“No, they just put them somewhere else,” Haizea said. “And every time you try and ride them, they get overexcited and flatulent.”

“That explains the trilobites,” said Robert.

“Wait, look!” said Space Dan. “There’s something else!”

Robert followed the point of Space Dan’s finger, to a bright red, rectangular shape that made a low growling noise.

“Everyone, get ready to leave,” Robert said, beaming.

“I’ve been ready to leave for a while!” said Hibiya nervously, already leaning away from the river.

“GRR”

The hundreds of fat, spiky horses skidded to a halt at the edge of the ravine, knocking pebbles and dust down into the river of whisky far below, as EVIL CAR triumphantly burst out of the dust cloud, and then took a sharp nosedive down into the ravine.

“…oh,” said Hibiya. “Whoops!”

“It’ll be okay,” said Robert.

“It’d better be okay quickly!” said Haizea, as the train tore past a sign reading ‘Caution: Bridge Ahead, Please Hello Yes I Am The Writer’, knocking it over.

Hibiya caught the sign before it flew off into the wind and clutched it for comfort.

There was a distant boom from down in the canyon.

With a roaring “GRR”, EVIL CAR flew up into the air, circling around the bridge, which was already starting to shake pieces of itself loose from the train’s approaching vibrations.[2]

“Here, boy!” shouted Robert, waving his arms around. “On the train!”

“Maybe you shouldn’t-”

Haizea never finished explaining what Robert shouldn’t say, because EVIL CAR landed on top of the front carriage roof, which buckled somewhat under the strain. The windows crunched downwards, and mushrooms tumbled out with reckless abandon.

“Inside!” said Robert. “Mind the gullwing, Haizea!”

Not knowing what a gullwing was, Haizea was yanked back from the door she was attempting to open, thanks to the quick thinking of Safety Ninja. Sitting down inside EVIL CAR and closing the passenger door down, Haizea held onto the door handle.

“Buckle up,” said Robert.

“…what?” asked Haizea.

“Oh!” said Space Dan, in the back. “EVIL CAR and a lot of other vehicles like the Falstaff have things in the seats called seat-buckles, because-”

Space Dan was cut off by Robert flooring it off of the train, but it didn’t matter because Safety Ninja had already reached between the seats and fastened Haizea’s seatbelt for her.

EVIL CAR bounced over the ruined carriage roof and shot off over the desert, Robert pressing the ‘rocket boost’ button as it smoothly soared along beside the out-of-control locomotive.

“Let’s get Aleya and Martin,” said Robert, turning in mid-air and flying back over the train.

“What? Over all that sloshing stuff?!” asked Hibiya, grabbing his horns and swiveling his head wildly. “You put me down on the right side’a the ravine, Bob! I’ll keep everyone here off your backs while you ice Tannoy Clong.”

“Right,” said Robert, pushing the ‘open sunroof’ button.

Hibiya unclicked his seatbelt.

“You’re all swell guys and a dame,” he said. “An’ I’m buyin’ you all an inkstone once you get back!”

“Thanks, Hibiya,” said Space Dan. “I respect your culture’s values and systems, and while things may be done differently on Uranus than on Mars, we have many various and all equally great cultures, even though some of those cultures do weird things like eat ink and throw rocks at people to avoid awkward situations.”

Hibiya nodded and clapped Space Dan on the shoulder, and the latter didn’t even mind much that it knocked one of his shoulder pauldrons slightly askew. Hibiya clambered up over the front seats and jumped out of the sunroof, tucking in his legs and rolling to a stop on the sandy desert below them. Robert quickly closed the sunroof, so he and the other occupants of EVIL CAR wouldn’t get sunburnt, then sped down to collect Aleya.

 

The train was now devoid of occupants – save for Doctor Circuits, who had still not awakened. The millipede gave enthusiastic screeches as it crashed through multiple signs, stating: ‘Bridge Ahead – Go Slowly’ and ‘I Am Very Clever’. The train smashed through the final warning sign, and there was a loud clunk as its wheels connected with the first tracks on the swaying, haphazard bridge.

Doctor Circuits’ chest gave a small and clear ‘Ding!’, and the robot shook his head as he woke up again.

“Anyway,” he said, “time for me to…”

He looked around, puzzled as to why Space Team One weren’t there anymore.

“…hello?” he said, holding down his shoulder button in confused annoyance. “I’m meant to be killing you now?”

There was nothing, safe for the clanking of the train as it shook on the tracks, and an eerie sound of waves below.

Doctor Circuits looked over the edge of the carriage roof, and saw the splintering wood starting to give way as it flew past underneath him.

“Oh s**t,” he said, as one of the updates that he’d installed was a profanity filter.

He clamped down his shoulder-button to let out a long, computerised scream, like an early nineties modem that was straining to correctly download far too many jpegs, as the weight of the train’s front carriage broke through the top layer of boards entirely, and the entire bottom fell out.[3]

The wooden supports at the base of the bridge cracked and broke into fibrous shards as the entire structure swayed off to one side and began to fall. The rails twisted out from under the rocketing train, and the entire locomotive smashed into the collapsing mess of substandard lumber as it crunched downwards. The carriages flipped and cracked like an enormous mushroom-ferrying whip, reducing any sections of the falling bridge that happened to meet it to explosions of splinters.

As it tumbled apart, the whole structure twisted and crashed into the whisky, large swells of the liquid rolling out from where the shoddy central wooden pillars and frames collided. The engine carriage flew clear of the shroud of sawdust and splinters, almost vertical, and slammed into the whisky, bringing the jumble of half-destroyed carriages down with it.

The remains of the bridge dashed themselves against the waves, mixing with the comparatively small remains of the Ahab like a violent and gregarious giant’s party cocktail.

The dust slowly settled, the occasional wooden board fluttering down, and the waves slowly rolled themselves out. By the edge of the whisky river, the millipede swam to and fro blissfully, still wearing the train engine yokes that had broken off on it.

Space Team One, having collected Aleya from the ejected cockpit, circled around and watched the destruction from EVIL CAR.

“Do we have to crash every vehicle we get into?” said Robert exasperatedly.

“You crash vehicles you’re not in as well,” noted Aleya.

“I’m sorry your bike got stripped for parts by an army of leather-clad tardigrades!” said Robert. “The point is, I’m glad you’re not dead.”

“Me too,” said Aleya. “Now, let’s kick some Clong.”

Robert wheeled EVIL CAR around to pick up the waving figure of Martin, who continued to wave even after he’d gotten inside the car.

Then they sped on towards Pequod’s Albatross, where Tannoy Clong was waiting.

 

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[1] The others agreed, given the fact that the train was going far too fast for them to make it in time, but Space Dan actually meant that he wasn’t willing to run that far again.

[2] And also from the wind.

[3] Not unlike the bottom of the dial-up modem industry once the nineties ended.