[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 11
There had been several more stops and starts. June had shoved something into Joey’s mouth and he ate it, but he wasn’t quite certain what it had been. Tasted like chicken and steadied his head. The details were foggy, but his clothes were gone and he was wearing coveralls. He’d checked the new pockets and he still had his wallet and pocket knife. He was finally dry at least.
The kitchen, now that he could have a better look around, had two picnic-type tables with benches. All were attached to the floor and had multiple seat belts. Cupboards lined one wall and refrigerators the other. The refrigerators had clear doors so the contents, most of which looked to be terrestrial such as apples, slabs of meat, and cartons of liquid, could be seen. There were also things that looked like tree branches that moved slowly like a wooden octopus.
June, now that Joey could see her clearly, was beautiful. She had long, blonde hair that framed her round face. She had eyes of an emerald green that almost looked too deep-green to be real. In his current state he couldn’t keep his eyes on her face and they kept drifting down to her shapely body garbed in a tight-fitting, black outfit that was trimmed in hot pink.
“Keep your eyes up here, bud. You’re in no shape to go getting any ideas like that.”
“So what’s your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“I know you’re from Earth. I kind of figured that one out on my own. I mean are you from San Diego too?”
“Don’t worry, your one word vocabulary is normal. I went through it when I got here.”
“You’re in no condition to hear how I got here I can assure you of that, bud. I mean, I know exactly what you’re going through. The disorientation will pass and then you’ll really be in for a shock.”
“Look, this nearly monosyllabic conversation is getting really dull. I’m going to go back to work. You stay here with that belt on and don’t touch anything. Do you understand?”
Joey nodded. His brain was semi-functional and that was a blessing, but he still didn’t have full control over his body. His head dipped once again to June’s chest and she snorted in disgust and stomped out of the room.
At least now he’d have a chance to think. So he was aboard a spaceship. Somehow that just didn’t sink in. He doubted it ever would. How could that machine back in Elsa’s garage have transported him to a spaceship? There wasn’t technology like that. He must have passed out and this was all some strange dream. He’d flipped over his handlebars on his bike and she gave him some kind of drug. That had to be it! He was hallucinating. He was still on earth.
But why the strange lurching feelings? He had wet himself so perhaps that was just his body getting sick and trying to get the drugs out of his system. That had to be it. June was probably just Elsa trying to take care of him.
So why the strange questions? She wasn’t reacting like Elsa had. June was snippy and short with him, yet gentle at other times. She was a girl, that’s why. That’s what girls did, wasn’t it? Even ones in space? Well, she had asked if he was from San Diego so she must be too.
Joey tried to stand up but was restrained by the belt. He wanted to get up and get away. Even though he could focus on things there was nothing he wanted to focus on. There had to be a way out of here. A way to get back home. He didn’t want to be here.
Something oozed in through the doorway. It was iridescent green and flowed like a thick slime. God it’s coming right at me!
The slime made sucking noises as it moved across the floor and was nearing Joey’s foot. Joey was still trying to figure out how to undo the belt. Now would be a good time to be free. What was the other person’s name?
“Hey kid. Hope everything is going alright down there.”
“I’m coming down kid. Sit tight.”
“Keep your pants on. I’m coming.”
Joey held his feet straight out, but the slime, after not discovering the feet where they should have been, extended upwards. It was agonizingly slow and Joey didn’t have enough strength to hold his legs up for long.
“Joop-Nop. Leave him alone. He’s new on the ship.”
The man who’d said it was the face Joey had seen. The same brown hair and brown caterpillar moustache. He was wearing a cream-colored shirt under a black vest and black pants that matched his black boots. His voice was deep and commanding.
The green slime made a burping farting noise.
“I don’t care if you’re hungry and want to be human shaped. He’s a guest right now and you’re not going to eat him.”
It made a depressed gasping sound and oozed back out the door. Joey started breathing again.
“Sorry about that kid. How you doing?”
“Good. What was that?”
“I see you’re making a little more sense now. That was Joop-Nop.”
“What’s a Joop-Nop?” The encounter had done something to get Joey’s metabolism up and his mind was actually clearer. His brain no longer felt like that slime thing looked.
“Joop-Nop is its name. It’s a being that we found on the planet Escaonth a couple years ago. He’s a good addition to the crew. He can change into whatever he eats. Like the old saying goes, you are what you eat, but with Joop-Nop it’s more literal than that.”
“So it was going to eat me?”
“Oh he doesn’t eat much. Mostly harmless.”
Joey shook his head. Whatever that thing was it brought reality to bear.
“I want to look outside.”
“What for? It’s just a lot of black out there kid. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more into colors myself. Black is just so depressing.”
“I don’t care. I want to see outside.”
Looking outside was going to make this whole thing real. Maybe by looking outside he’d be able to come to grips with what had happened and try to figure a way out of it.
“Look, kid, my name’s Vic. Vic Gallegos.” Vic extended his hand. Joey shook it.
“I’m Joey. Provoski.”
“Well Joey, let’s get that belt off you.” Vic pressed his thumb to the buckle and it detached. “I’ll have to get your thumbprint so we can encode you into Tootsie’s systems.”
“Tootsie is the ship’s computer. She’s really nice, but she can be temperamental.”
“I heard that, Vic.” The voice came from an overhead speaker.
“You know I love you.”
“Be nice to her and she’ll be nice to you. Just keep that in mind, kid. Come on. Let’s get you that look outside and I’ll introduce you to the rest of the crew.”
“How many are there.”
“Heck, I don’t know. I lost count.”
Vic started to walk out of the kitchen.
“Vic, where are we?”
He stopped. “Kid, I’ll let you make up your mind about that.”
Joey, now no longer restrained by the seat belt, got up and wobbled for a moment. The floor didn’t feel entirely stable at first, but he got both feet on the ground, took a deep breath, and was able to follow Vic.
The floor was indeed a steel grating and made clanging noises as they walked, but the walls were something altogether different. They didn’t feel like steel, but didn’t have the appearance of fabric or drywall. Joey stopped and rubbed his hand over a section of wall.
“What is this?”
“Kid, that’s a special material used only in spaceships. It’s called dura-plasti. It’s a light-weight plastic material that can resist puncture. If you punch a hole in this stuff, say with some space debris or a blaster it’ll heal itself.”
“Blaster? Heal itself?”
“Kid, you’re not in California anymore. In fact, you’re not even close.”
Vic put his arm around Joey’s shoulder and it was then that Joey realized how tall Vic was. And thin. Despite being thin Vic was strong and he pulled Joey along.
“I’ve been out here for a while now and I’ve got to tell you, it’s unlike anything you’ll ever see or do back on Earth.”
“You are Victor?”
Vic laughed. “I haven’t heard that name for years. My mom was the only one to call me that.”
“Your mother Elsa?”
“Yeah, that’s her. I thought you may have known her. June knew her, but never talked to her. Her story is a trip. You’ll dig it, kid. But first, let’s take a gander outside.”
Vic stopped in front of a wall panel. “Last chance. It’s a lot of black out there.” He reached for a button.
Vic pressed the button and Joey’s life was never the same again.
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