All The Universe Has To Hold (Part II)

Previously on All The Universe Has To Hold… Part I

“It makes you wonder,” Samson answered.
“Wonder what?”
“Why something that big needs armour plating,” Samson said.

Connor scoffed into his helmet mic. “Oh come on. After everything we’ve seen do you really think you can wig me out with the thought of some big fish?”

“I would never try to ‘wig you out’ brother,” Samson said. “But as the good man said, there are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Even now, we have only scratched the topmost layer of the possible. I have no doubt that entities exist that would defy human comprehension. Horrors that may challenge our very sanity.”

“They’re just different kinds of animal, Sam,” Connor said, surveying the woodlouse whale. “I’m not going to lose my grip on reality just because I see a monster with more tentacles than average.”

Connor turned from the carcass and moved further in shore. As he approached the log cabins he could see that the lamps were flickering in the fog. This world had electricity, but oil lamps were the only illumination. Connor also saw the logs weren’t logs of wood. They had the exact same colour and texture as the carapace of the leviathan.

A tinny squawk filled the air, followed by a guttural noise like a dog eating. The translation algorithm spoke into Connor’s ear, “Our warmest felicitations, traveller. We look forward to finalising the specifics of our business, but before we can commence, would you mind stepping into the crate behind you?”

Connor rotated to face “the crate”. It was a rectangular, open-fronted box made of very thin material in flat woven strands of dark purple, like wicker made from seaweed. If the crate was intended as a prison, Connor was pretty sure he could wow these aliens with his incredible super strength.

“I implore you to forgive us for haranguing you so, our most esteemed visitor,” the tannoy spoke again, “but I am afraid we cannot begin the pleasant work of finding a mutually agreeable trade until you have interred yourself in the vessel provided.”

Connor walked a circuit around the box, and seeing no immediate booby traps looked up to the speaker and said, “Sure thing!”

He stepped back into crate.

There was a period of silence, marked only by swirling tendrils of green vapour along the paving cobbles of the harbour.

“Ahem,” the speaker came once again. “Close the door please.”

“Oh right, sure,” Connor said, reaching out and pulling the woven door to.

A loop of hemp on the outer edge of the door neatly went over a hook inside the crate, and the door was latched closed.

Through the gaps in the seaweed weave, shadows began to move. Dark shapes, interspersed with swaying beams of light, as if each were holding a lantern. Connor leaned closer to the gaps to get a better view, but the gaps were thin, and the glass of his helmet stopped him from getting too close.

“Our unending gratitude, of course, for your compliance in these matters,” came the voice from the tannoy, only this time the snuffling, snorting, sucking noise Connor’s phone was translating didn’t come from the speaker, but from one of the shadowy lantern holders.

“Hey,” Connor said. “You’re not Armitage are you? You sound…”

Connor hesitated. No, he wasn’t going to say “Our robotic super intelligence puts on a different funny voice to the one I heard on the radio when they’re translating you”.

“You sound different to the radio,” Connor finished.

The shadows stopped moving.
Connor had liked Armitage, the lighthouse keeper who was lucky enough to be the first to pick up the Fermi’s signal. At first they’d been sceptical, believing Connor was some southern continental spy or a practical joker from the cities, but they’d humoured Connor’s trade request, and eventually Connor had sealed the deal by transmitting a photo of himself.

At that point, another voice had taken over to finalise the arrangements. Connor’s suspicion was some government big wigs or men in black types had decided to put Armitage in their place. Still, the Fermi needed this trade, so he had gone ahead.

“Ahem. No,” the voice said, with a level of reticence. “Armitage would of course, without any room for doubt have been honoured beyond measure to be here, but sadly a pestilence has befallen them, and they are in need of a long period of recuperation before entertaining guests is even a question.”

“No problem, I get it,” Connor said. “What’s your name?”

“I am known as Wentworth. I shall be performing Armitage’s duties until such a time as they have the wherewithal to execute them themselves,” Wentworth said.

Connor nodded, and quietly wondered why the robotic super intelligence had chosen “names a Butler might have” as their theme for this planet. His thoughts were interrupted when the crate was lifted off the ground and he bounced from wall to wall as he was carried… somewhere. The footsteps of his carriers made a wet slapping noise against the ground.

To Be Continued…

In the mean time, the further adventures of the Fermi’s crew can be found at Scarlet Ferret and Amazon.