Friday, March 31, 2017

10.The Wabbit and the Critical Mass

The Lepus engines fired up with a judder. She sliced into the blue planet's orbit then out again. But instead of gaining velocity, she slowed dramatically. Space between blue and black planets was dense and silvery. It was like sailing through starry mud. Skratch's voice barked over the speakers. "Every vent is clogged, Commander. The engines are suffocating." The Wabbit switched on the Stealthicator and the Lepus half disappeared. The pirate flag did not and it seemed to wave a warning. The Wabbit shrugged and reversed the Stealthicator. The Lepus reappeared. All its lights came on. The foghorn blasted again and again. "Vents are clear," Commander," said Skratch. The starry mud seemed to drain away. Captain Jenny scrutinised the blue planet. The Wabbit took bearings and checked instruments. He shook his head. "Shouldn't the planet rotate?" Lapinette shook her head too. "It must be tidally locked." "I see no tide," said Jenny. "It's just an expression," replied Lapinette; "Think of it as gravity." The Wabbit smiled. "If it's locked, it might be a Twilight Planet with a habitable zone." They had a swift conference. "We'll send down the bio pods," said the Wabbit. "You know what happened last time," sighed Lapinette. "This time I took precautions," said the Wabbit. Lapinette raised an eyebrow. "I gave them a good talking to," said the Wabbit.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

9. The Wabbit and the Planet Mashup

"Shields up!" said the Wabbit. His radio crackled with Skratch's voice. "The shields are far from ready, Commander." Jenny rocked back and rolled slightly. "Raise them anyway." The Lepus vibrated. "Please let them work," breathed Lapinette. The white planet smashed into the black planet. A flash lit the sky. Every rivet in the Lepus shook. Then nothing. The white planet lay nudged against the black. "Wait," said Jenny. The black planet separated and swam into a low orbit. Then it headed straight for the Lepus. "Full astern," yelled Jenny. Skratch's voice rang out from the speakers. "She'll no move!" "Down shields!" shouted the Wabbit. The shields dropped and a triple blast hit the Lepus. Lapinette covered her ears with her paws and hung on. The Lepus curved behind the blue planet and stopped. All was still until the radio burst into life. "We only have auxiliary." said Skratch. The Lepus lurched and started to move. "It's no me," crackled Skratch. Lapinette gazed into space and made rough mental measurements. "It's the blue planet," she said; "It's moving." "We're being pulled, hang on," said Skratch. Mechanical clanking issued from the engine room. The Lepus shuddered to a halt. "How d'ya do it?" smiled the Wabbit. "I have a quantum anchor," purred Skratch. "Don't tell anyone," said Jenny.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

8. The Wabbit & the Dinosaur Dispute

Uproar brought the Wabbit to the cargo bay, swiftly followed by Lapinette and Skratch the Cat. Together they tried to smooth ruffled scales. The Wabbit was a bit hazy about dinosaurs so he gave his reluctant passengers names. "What's it all about Rexy?" "We want to go home," said Rexy. "Ships give us nausea," said Rap. Lapinette became sympathetic because she had no sea legs either. "It's OK in space, there's no up and down." Liz bellowed. "We don't like side to side." "Or forward and back," added Rap. The Wabbit had not the slightest notion how to deal with this. "What would you prefer?" he asked. "We like to roam!" roared the dinosaurs. Skratch shouted from the bulkhead door. "We've no got much roaming room." The Wabbit wore a thoughtful look that bode a variety of things, few of them practical. "When it's all over, we'll find you a new planet!" Lapinette winced. The dinosaurs mumbled among themselves. "Will it have a volcano?" asked Rex. "Yes," said the Wabbit quickly; "Gently warming the land around." "And lush pastures for grazing," said Rap. "Of course!" smiled the Wabbit. "And proper toilets," said Liz. "I'm fed up pooing in spiky grass." The Wabbit's smile lurched to the side and his paws flailed.  "I'll see what I can do. But I'm needed on the bridge. Any more questions will be answered by Lapinette." The Wabbit darted past Skratch and down to the bowels of the ship.

Friday, March 24, 2017

7. The Wabbit and the Short Jenny

The Wabbit and Skratch evacuated the dinosaurs and crammed them into the cargo bay. All except for one, whose name was Terry. He seemed more than happy to wing through space and pronounced it entertaining. Engines were at full capacity and for a while the Lepus made headway. But the force of the singularity tore at the flag and threatened to rip it from the mast. Jenny spoke to the engine room. "Can you give me more power, Skratch?" "Aye Captain," said Skratch, "but she'll no take it much longer." With a shudder the Lepus darted forward. "Shiver me rivets," said Jenny. She clung onto the wheel. "What next, Commander?" The Wabbit glanced from the bridge. "Hide behind the yellow planet, Try to snooker it." Terry seemed to know. He swung and with a deft movement winged to the far side of the yellow planet. The Lepus followed. The singularity carried straight on, bounced from an invisible force field and reappeared on the far side of the system. "Lost him," sighed the Wabbit. "Not for long," said Jenny. The Wabbit struck the bulkhead with a clenched paw. "Release the space plankton." A hazy cloud pumped from the funnels. The singularity seemed to inhale the vapour. Then it stopped dead and lay motionless. "Stop shot," quipped the Wabbit. Jenny swayed back and forward. "Now the white planet is closing on the black ..."
 [Short Jenny. In billiards, this constitutes an in-off shot into a middle pocket.]

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

6. The Wabbit and the Big Pull

"Yikes!" yelled the Wabbit. Skratch the Cat hissed long and hard. There was no more shelter, but the red dinosaur gripped them in a vice of iron as he bellowed at the sky. The Wabbit hung on to whatever he could. A rear foot pinned him to the ground, trampling his fur. He could barely breathe. Rocks warped and left the ground as the pull became irresistible. "It's a singularity," gasped the Wabbit. "Someone made this. Trust me," screeched Skratch. The singularity moved between the sun and the Green Planet. Suddenly it appeared to be aflame. "It's going away" roared the dinosaur. "It always does this." The Wabbit felt the pull diminish. He pulled his ear back into shape. Skratch tugged down his fur and adjusted his mask. "How long before the next time?" asked the Wabbit. He picked himself up and patted the red dinosaur with both paws. Skratch crept from below the giant claws and arched his back. Then he yawned. "The air seems peculiar." The dinosaur bellowed sadly. "We lose some atmosphere each time." The Wabbit froze. From deep in his unconscious came a moment of clarity.  "It's a harvester." His radio dropped from his fur and it crackled with Jenny's voice. "Commander?"  The Wabbit smiled into the radio. "Tip top." "I had to move the Lepus away." said Jenny. "Good idea. Otherwise you'd be compost," said the Wabbit.

Monday, March 20, 2017

5. The Wabbit and the Black Planet

The vehicles vanished and the sky grew dark. The Wabbit and Skratch found themselves pulled into a jagged cave. "I brought you to shelter," said a dinosaur. "Most kind," replied the Wabbit. He fished in his fur and brought out a meal voucher. "Here's a small token of my esteem." Skratch nudged the dinosaur. "I will triple the Wabbit's generous offer, out the goodness of my own heart." He waved three vouchers. The dinosaur threw back his head and roared suspiciously. "Who takes these?" Skratch meowed seductively. "Any participating restaurant in the Sombrero Galaxy." The dinosaur took the Wabbit's voucher and tucked it under his scales. Then he took Skratch's vouchers and did the same. A strong breeze tried to pull them off their paws. The dinosaur grabbed them both and sank his mighty claws into the rocks. "Hang on." The breeze turned into a wind that quickly became a gale. Things grew darker. Rocks flew past their heads. The Wabbit held tight, but he risked a glance back. The Black Planet hung on the horizon, sucking up everything that wasn't nailed down. "It'll go in a minute," roared the dinosaur. "Where to?" yelled the Wabbit. The dinosaur dug his claws deeper into the rock. "No one cares, as long as it's not here." Skratch reached across to grasp the Wabbit's fur. The wind pulled at his eyeballs. He scrunched his face into his mask and let out a muffled yell. "That's no planet ..."

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

4. The Wabbit and The Green Planet

It was a stiff climb and the Wabbit and Skratch were both puffed. The Green Planet was covered in shrublings that looked like a crop of some kind. "These look yummy," said Skratch; "Do you think they're safe to nibble?" But the Wabbit's ears stood straight upright, "I hear rumbling." "I thought that was your stomach," replied Skratch. Two exploration vehicles rumbled to the edge of the cliff. "Welcome," spoke a vehicle; "May we show you to the Interpretive Centre?" Skratch grinned, because the Wabbit's aversion to such centres was well known. "Anywhere around here you can get a bite to eat?" he purred. The Wabbit proffered a polite paw. The vehicle extended a sensor. "We don't get many visitors." The Wabbit nodded and asked, "When were the last?" "You're the first," said the vehicles and they chattered to each other in a noisy series of bleeps. "We were left here by a mission from SWEEPS-11. We've seen no-one since." Skratch and the Wabbit conferred. "What is your task?" said the Wabbit. "Flora and fauna protection," replied the vehicles. The Wabbit's smile was a question. "From what?" The two vehicles threw many shapes. "When the Black Planet orbits, we hide everything or the planet sucks them up." The Wabbit spoke urgently into his radio. "Lepus, can you detect the black planet?" The radio crackled with Jenny's voice. "The black planet broke orbit. It's moving our way."

Monday, March 13, 2017

3. The Wabbit and the Snooker Planets

Captain Jenny signalled the engine room and the Lepus stood still. The Wabbit felt the faint hum of auxiliary engines to be reassuring - although his heart was pounding. "There they are," he murmured; "Just where the map said." The Lepus swung in a distant orbit round an angry sun. Lapinette touched his shoulder. "They remind me of something." "Pool," said Jenny. The Wabbit shook his head. "Snooker." Jenny and Lapinette had a confab. "What colour has the most points?" "Black, seven" shrugged the Wabbit; "Black, pink, blue, brown, green, yellow, red." "How would you play this one?" asked Lapinette. "We need a break off," answered the Wabbit; "to get everything rolling." Jenny whirled the ship's wheel, which was only for effect. "Send out your Cailleach to stir them up, Commander." The Wabbit wasted no time and a giant Cailleach appeared close to the planets. A loud complaint issued immediately from the engine room. "Ye canna have holographics for long, Commander. It's braw but it's hard on fuel." "Look. Something happened," said Lapinette, She pointed to the Green Planet. "Magnify on screen!" shouted the Wabbit. The Green Planet repeatedly became bigger, then smaller. It seemed like it was breathing. "Looks like our kind of planet," said Lapinette; "but how much is it worth?" "Three," sighed the Wabbit.
[Background: NASA/JPL-Caltech  under Creative Commons Licence]

Friday, March 10, 2017

2. The Wabbit and the Ship Trials

Lapinette waited with baited breath. The Wabbit was nonchalant and lifted his walkie talkie to his ear. The radio crackled with Captain Jenny's voice. "Stage one complete. All systems optimal." The Lepus hung over the moonlit bay, throwing waves of energy to the surface. Jenny's voice sounded cheerful. "Compliments, Commander." The Wabbit grinned. Light from his 28 teeth flashed choppy reflections across the harbour. He spoke into the radio. "Up works. Now try down." The Lepus sank until her hull grazed the water. "Up again and try port and starboard thrusts." The Lepus pirouetted like a Mariinsky ballerina in Swan Lake. "Ooooh," murmured Lapinette; "your work is done!"  "Not quite," smiled the Wabbit. His mouth pressed aginst the radio. "Now loop the loop." The radio crackled with pirate expletives. "It's the red button at the base of the helm," said the Wabbit. "Aye Commander," said Jenny. The Lepus vanished. Lapinette counted the seconds and crossed her paws. Lightning flashed. The Lepus appeared upside down in the far sky and just as quickly vanished. Lapinette counted again. With hardly a splash, the Lepus settled in the harbour. Lapinette's sigh of relief lasted for ever. The Wabbit lifted his radio. "Jenny, report." Jenny's voice was a croak. "OK Commander, just a bit of upchuck." "We'll live," said the Wabbit.
[Upchuck: Vomit (US slang )]
[Photo credit: Background scene - Camilla Galli da Bino]

Thursday, March 09, 2017

1. The Wabbit and the 7 Planet Trip

It was quiet on the Big Bridge. At half a kilometre long and seventy metres high, the bridge was perfect. No-one could hear them talk about the next mission. Far below, a high speed train broke the silence as it squeaked across junctions and into Porta Nuova station. Lapinette danced a little jig to the rhythm. "Sail me to the stars," she sang. "Far past Jupiter and Mars," sang the Wabbit. "In other words, hold my paw," sang Wabsworth. "In other words, baby kiss me," warbled Lapinette. They all laughed, until a distant cry wailed along the footpath. "Me first," shouted Skratch the Cat. The Wabbit grinned ear to ear. "Now that we're here, it's time to plan the ... ." A goods train rumbled by and drowned him out. "The new planets are forty light years away," said Lapinette; "So I'll bring my fur drier and stuff." The Wabbit made a mental note regarding cargo space. "Let's give these seven planets names," said Skratch with a wag of his tail. "Maybe after we've been there?" suggested Wabsworth. "Oh that's no fun," said Lapinette. "Go on Wabsworth. You start!" Wabsworth smiled because had already thought of names. "Maia and Eleckra," he said; "Asterië, Merope, Taygeta, Halcyone and Celæno." "They're taken," said Lapinette. "Anyway, I thought one could be Lapinette." "You're more of a star than a planet," winked the Wabbit.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Wabbit at the Adventure Caffè

The Wabbit unfolded a colourful chart. "I made a rough copy of the star map." Silence fell in the Adventure Caffè. "I coloured it in," explained the Wabbit; "It's all the rage." Lapinette pointed to the chart. "What's that red area?" "That is our target area," replied the Wabbit. "The new planets are there - all M Class but their sun is well dodgy." Skratch the Cat gestured impatiently. "Look, if we don't understand our last adventure, we'll have no clue about the next." Wabsworth rapped the table. "All right, I'll explain. Our journey took on the attributes of a road movie." Skratch purred quietly. "But the road movie is an arrested gaze and should not be taken literally." Lapinette chimed in. "Yes, our Wablantis journey was an accretion of elements that never implied continuity." Wabsworth smiled an infuriating smile that he'd learned from Skratch. "So meaning emerges as narrative construction fades into forgottenness." "That's Heidegger," observed Lapinette. The Wabbit suddenly tapped the chart and spoke strictly. "Phenomenology won't get us to these planets, but I know what will." He paused for effect. "The Lepus will scoop up fuel particles from space, just like a whale in the sea." Lapinette shook her head. "We won't have enough thrust." The Wabbit disagreed. "I invented a quantum turbo." "What does it feel like?" asked Lapinette. "Like being inside a barrel, rolling down a hill," grinned the Wabbit.

Friday, March 03, 2017

18. The Wabbit and the Arrival Home

The Lepus sailed into Trieste harbour on a calm evening. To the Wabbit it felt like they'd never left but Nessie broke suddenly through the mirror surface of calm water. "Debriefing at 19.00 hours," said the Wabbit. "Aye aye," said Nessie. "I'll just swim awa' doon to the Grand Canal." "Please be discrete," murmured the Wabbit.  Nessie vanished with a giant splash and a monster laugh. "Commander?" said Jenny. The Wabbit nodded. "What about the spy?" continued Jenny. The Wabbit smiled broadly. "He's still with us." Jenny looked unhappy and growled. "We'll make him dance the hempen jig!" The Wabbit shook his head. "Let's keep him where we can see him." They both paused and watched the water slip by.  "And the new map?" said Jenny. "It's a star chart," said the Wabbit. "Then you won't be needing me." said Jenny sadly. The Wabbit put his paws behind his back and swayed a little like Jenny. "The Lepus engines get a retro fit. You'll be the first pirate ferry to sail space." Jenny's face lit up. "I suppose the sailing principles are the same." Now the Wabbit's face beamed. "I had an idea for tachyon propulsion and it seems just the job." "Have you tried it?" asked Jenny. "Yes," said the Wabbit, "I used a rubber duck in the bath"  "And it works?" asked Jenny. "The bath disappeared," said the Wabbit.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

17. The Wabbit and the Big Broadside.

The Wabbit looked over the rail. Wablantis was shrouded in a mist that hung over the sea like wet washing. The Wabbit signalled to the bridge. "Bring her round Jenny and steady as she goes."  The Lepus swung. So did the cannon. "Lock," said the Wabbit. "On my mark. Fire!" He lifted a paw. The coast shook.  "Again," said the Wabbit. The frackers' installation crumbled. "One more," breathed the Wabbit. The Lepus spat fire. The Wabbit watched a dull flame bathe the buildings as they collapsed to rubble. Now the installation was a flat one. The sea heaved. A plesiosaur broke through the waves and grew larger until its head and neck towered above the deck. Nessie boomed in a mighty voice. "Ye'll be needin' a pilot." Then he turned and headed slowly out to sea. The Wabbit signalled the bridge. "Follow that monster." The radio crackled with telegraph signals. "Slow ahead." The bow of the Lepus ploughed quietly through the mist, taking Nessie's route though the reefs. Suddenly they were beyond the mist and in open sea. "This way" boomed Nessie. The Wabbit's ears made a hollow noise. He could vaguely hear the cannon although gunfire had long stopped - and he felt a little dizzy. His radio crackled. "The bar is open," said Jenny. "I thought it never closed," cheered the Wabbit.