Part 4: Just a Hallway

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Edna tried not to try not to panic. This was the one thing she cared about that she could always do. She was terrible at not adventuring. She was horrendous at staying home and being boring. When she tried to cook she burned things, when she tried to clean she broke them (and sometimes the other way round).

But this - this always worked. Her watch always came back.

She told herself all this, intentionally. She said it with words in her mind, rather than let it wash through in the subconscious wave of thoughts that she’d never be able to articulate or hold. Something had to surf that wave though. Panic put on its board shorts and gave it a go.

“Where is the captain?” fell from her mouth. She was vaguely aware that she had interrupted Pythagoras, probably from saying she ought to lie down or rest or, or…

“He is where captains belong,” the turtoid was patient, if unhelpful. “And you should be where people who have recently survived explosions belong.” Okay, turtle bot.

Edna straightened up and ran for the door. In fact, it was more of an awkward, sort of fast-hobble, but I’ve never encountered a word for that. Let’s call it balumping. She balumped to the door just as Pythagoras was adding, “I could let you speak to him from here, if you’d like.” She pushed through the door without a word.

She could hear Pythagoras plodding slowly behind, calling something else to her, as she entered a long, straight hall. It was barely wider than the doorway, with all the same light, wood walls. Passages identical to the one she’d just balumped through lined either side. Some were open, some closed - various sounds slipped through a handful of them into the hall. At the other end was a long, open room with windows at the front. There, silhouetted against white and grey clouds, she saw the Lord-Constable Whatever keeping steady a giant - and surely unnecessary - ship’s wheel. If she could get there, she could turn them around.

Almost as soon as Edna balumped into the hall, a door on the left, near the end, opened. A searing noise hissed out from inside, with it came… Pythagoras? Only he was wearing a chef’s hat now. Just an identical turtoid then; there must have been an assembly line somewhere. Then it spoke.

“Miss Star, please, come back to your quarters,” it began, which was an odd thing for a different turtoid - in another room - to say. “There is too much turbulence, you—“ by then she’d closed about half the distance to this new tortoise and a door much closer on her right had opened. Out of it poked another identical turtoid - with an apron hanging from its neck - who picked up the sentence without a beat. “—might hurt yourself further.”

She stared at this most recent turtoid as she passed by. “Pythagoras?” she asked.

“Yes. I can explain if you come back to the room.”

She kept going. Edna had already received all the confirmation she felt she needed. Pythagoras was one intelligence existing across multiple robotic turtle bodies, capable of acting independently in each. What more needed explaining?

It was all new and exciting, which of course, she hated - under most circumstances. Perhaps it was the all-consuming desire to turn the ship around and get back to her watch, but she found no room left in her to be annoyed at this novel robot. Unsure what to say, she ignored him some more, pressing on down the hall.

She came to the third Pythagoras (who had been the second, in the chef’s hat). Some savory scent filled the hall, from what she saw was a kitchen behind him. Edna realized she was starving, but that would have to wait.

Chef Pythagoras stepped fully into the hall, blocking her path, pleading still that she stop and rest. She used his left foreleg (on her right) as a stepping stool, trying to climb over him and into the long room ahead. There the - apparently oblivious - captain helmed the ship, hopefully ready to turn it around. But just as she pulled herself onto Pythagoras’s shell - her body turned, her right foot scrambling onto the wall - the ship shook again.

She tumbled forward, rolling off the turtoid and into the kitchen. By luck she landed on her feet, but her pain called out through her, suggesting she take the turtoid’s advice and have a lie down. She screamed in the agony of it as she turned back to the door. It was fully blocked by Pythagoras who was staring at her, his mouth open for some reason.

From his perspective - all three of them - she had just run up his leg and the wall, leapt somersaulting from his shell into the kitchen, landed on her feet, and let out a scream of awesome might. Nothing in his programming demanded that he stare in open wonder at her, but nothing prohibited it either. He thought an agape mouth the most appropriate way to exhibit this behavior.

Her original way blocked, Edna turned back to the kitchen in front of her. It was a small, galley affair. Chicken cooked in a pan on the stove while something green boiled on another eye. A pot of mashed potatoes sat to the side, already done.

The only other door was straight ahead of her. Through a small, oculus window she saw it led outside. Well, she wasn’t going that way, then. She stopped, breathing heavily, unsure what to do next. Then, from where Pythagoras stood in the doorway behind, a speaker blared out with the trademarked loud stammering of her new acquaintance.

“Er, ah, attention passengers! This is your captain speaking!” Edna turned and saw Pythagoras standing with his neck erect, mouth now open even wider as the captain’s voice rang out from it. Strangely, she couldn’t hear it booming down the hall as she had before, despite being so much closer to him now. “We are approaching, er, I suspect, the Storm’s Heart Crossing. I recommend finding a seat if you haven’t one. This could get bumpy - I say, it could!”

The Storm’s Heart Crossing. That was why they were flying through clouds. That was why the turbulence was worsening. She’d assumed when His Fanciness had told her he was from another world he’d meant another planet or even a different galaxy. She wouldn’t have been surprised if, halfway through the adventure, he’d unbuttoned his skin and admitted he was actually a sentient colony of pure hope who merely pretended at humanity so her feeble, human mind could cope with his existence. She always found that so condescending.

But no, he was perfectly human; he was even from Earth - just not her Earth.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All