Friday, 3 January 2014

Chapter 16. Thank God it’s Ride-day

Michael and I walked back to the hotel by the northern route. As Dede had told us, there was little of interest there.

“I think,” said Michael, “that it would be good, now we are on Perinent, to go back to your – and our – week-cycle of seven days, in which Sunday is a special day. Do you agree?”

“I think that is a good idea,” I replied. “But why did we not use days of the week while on the ship? And what day is it now?”

“For one,” said Michael. “every culture, almost, has a week-cycle. But all differ in its start point and its length. And to try to impose a common week-cycle on Galactics who have different day-lengths would be stupid. So, the use of week-cycles is discouraged on Naudar’I ships. For two, when we arrived here, it was Thursday morning. Now, it is early evening on Friday.”

“Right,” I said. “Let us go with the notion that today is Friday, and that Sunday will be different.

“So,” I asked, “what will we do this coming Sunday? I thought we might use it to bring the rest of the Team to meet Harv’I and the Cherubim.” I laughed, for the name sounded like a very bad 1970s rock group.

“Gabriel and I,” said Michael “had thought about taking the Team for a trip to the mountains.”

“So, angels don’t keep the Sabbath day?” I inquired, with some acid in my tone.

Michael smiled. “A pilot’s work is never done! Seriously, Sunday is often our busiest day.”

I made a decision, then, “OK, we’ll go on your trip. The Team’s visit to Harv’I, and to see the Punishment Pit, can happen the following Sunday, or during the week if necessary.”

“Done,” said Michael.

* * *

When we were still a kilometre or so from the hotel, I saw the Seraphimobile beyond it. It was speeding silently from south to north – from right to left, as I saw it. It was already going faster than an Earthly plane on take-off. It was still accelerating, visibly bumping over the uneven ground, and showed no sign of lifting just yet.

I knew that Seraphimobiles could take off vertically, or any which way the pilot wanted. So this had to be for fun. I was gutted I had missed the ride. It was another half minute and more before I saw the ’mobile finally lift, then power into the sky.

* * *

We arrived at the west door, to find Cees and Ben with grins on their faces. “We have something to show you,” said Ben.

Michael and I followed them to the cooling room beneath the dining room. There were many bottles of Seraphim white wine there. But also, a large barrel of beer, clearly labelled as the product of one of Holland’s better small breweries.

I adopted a mock dramatic pose, and declaimed, “How comes this here?”

Ben and Michael laughed, but Cees said, “I Pulled it.” “And now,” said Ben, “I am cooling it.”

“But how did you pay for it?” I asked Cees. “I would not have my Team steal from any honest person or business.”

“As it happens,” said Cees, producing from his pocket a wallet, “I saw, in my wanderings round Amsterdam looking for things to Pull, a pick-pocket steal this wallet. So, I Pulled it out of the thief’s pocket. There are many euros in it. Tomorrow, when I have learned to Push small objects as well as Pull, I will Push enough money to the brewery to pay for the beer. Then, I will return the wallet, and the rest of its contents, to the rightful owner.”

“When will the beer be ready to drink?” I asked Ben.

“It won’t be fully cold until tomorrow,” he replied. “But I’m happy to serve some tonight anyway.”

I made the grimace I sometimes use to precede a bad pun, then said, “Cool.”

* * *

Now suddenly there was a commotion, as those who had been on the ride came in at the east door. They all looked happy, though several were not entirely steady on their feet.

“All aboard for the next ride,” said Gabriel, like a Cockney with a megaphone. Five of us boarded – Michael, myself, Cees, Ben, and Jenna who had been manning the kitchen while Ray was on the first ride. Tuglaydee came too – he and his skateboard needed two seats, and he wore a harness to hold him in them. And Lily, having already been on the first ride, somehow persuaded Gabriel to let her stay on for a second.

“You’ll enjoy this,” Lily said, sitting down beside me, pressing me gently back into my seat, and starting to massage my thigh. “Gabriel’s Fun-ride No. 1. The fastest, longest and most luxurious fun-ride in the Galaxy.”

“Sit back,” said Gabriel, and we all obeyed – involuntarily. Heads hit headrests with a thump. The ’mobile bumped along the ground faster and faster. The feeling of speed was so overwhelming, I had to close my eyes. Then, suddenly, I felt hurled upwards into an exhilarating ride in the sky.

The motion kept me pinned in my seat, alternately bouncing me up and down, and flinging me into high-speed turns or loops. Yet, whenever I began to feel a little queasy, the seat-sedative kicked in, and I felt calm, comfortable and a bit sleepy, and enjoyed the ride and Lily’s massage even more.

About twenty minutes later, we came in to a landing as smooth as the take-off had been bumpy. “We’ll be doing this again,” I said to Lily with a smile, as we came to a halt outside the hotel.

“Tomorrow,” said Lily in a matter-of-fact tone, “I will take the window seat. Then I can do your other thigh.”

* * *

As I left the ’mobile, I said to Gabriel, “Thank you, that was great. But now I need to meet with you and the Tuglay, to see where we are on Pushing and Pulling.”

Ten minutes later, we met in one of the many spare rooms in the hotel. “We have already two Pullers successful on their first attempts,” said Tuglaydum. “Cees and Elise. It is very unusual and pleasing to have two such quick students.”

“I saw the beer which Cees has Pulled,” I said. “I will drink some of it later.”

“Hoong and Galina,” said Tuglaydee, “have also Pulled small objects, though each of them took several tries before succeeding.”

“Everyone in the Team has tried to Pull,” said Gabriel, “except you – because you were absent – and Ray. Ray refused even to try. He said, ‘A chef’s job is in the kitchen.’”

“How many Pullers and Pushers do we actually need to train?” I asked. “I understand there are only a limited number of the necessary machines.”

“We have five machines,” said Gabriel.

“So, is it sensible to train more than five of us to Pull and Push?”

Tuglaydum said, “We need to know, first, who are the most talented. Then, we will decide who to train further.”

* * *

Dinner time came. Ray and Jenna had done another magnificent job. Tonight, the Tuglay were with us. They did not share our food; they had their own preparations. But they shared in the conversation – and in the wine, which they enjoyed poured around their roots.

As dinner ended, I got up to speak. “First,” I said, “we haven’t been using days of the week for a while, but it turns out that today is Friday. The day after tomorrow is Sunday. We will be wearing our special coloured robes that day. We won’t be doing our normal work, like learning Pulling and Pushing. And Michael and Gabriel have offered to take us this Sunday to the mountains.

“And second, I want to welcome the Tuglay in their own vein.

“We welcome you, dear Dum and Dee.
Though to us you each look like a tree,
We know you can teach
Us to lengthen our reach,
And to do what we need to be free.”

The Tuglay bowed, and the Team tittered. But not at my limerick. Have you ever seen a Christmas tree bow?

Ben stood up, and announced, pointing to the beer-barrel (which he and Cees had brought up from the cellar while I wasn’t looking), “We have beer tonight, lads and lasses. Providentially Pulled, all the way from happy Holland, by good Corporal Cees. Who wants some?

“And, while I’m up here,” said Ben, “a big thank you to Gabriel and Michael for the ride this evening.”

Sabrina, next to Ben, turned the tap on the barrel. Beer gushed out into Ben’s mug.

“Thank God it’s Ride-day,” Ben said, and drained the mug.

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