The Adventures of Jimmy Crikey - Part 2

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Chapter 1

Goodbyes

 

 

That Jimmy had enjoyed the past year in Roombelow was evident from the tears that tinged his sad farewells.  Friends had gathered to bid him goodbye and to wish him a safe journey home.  He took his leave of the portly Mr. McDonald, the Mayor and his wife, Amanda.  He warmly embraced Matilda the friendly witch.  He shook hands solemnly with diminutive Gemma.  The little lady had been an almost inseparable companion during Jimmy’s stay in Roombelow, in the underground world that he had found at the bottom of a hole, beneath the forest floor.  But Jimmy Crikey had decided to return to his own world, the planet Attalia. ​

Many years ago, when Jimmy was but a baby, he traveled to Earth with his parents.  They were ambassadors from Attalia searching the galaxies for signs of intelligent life.  They found planet earth and landed their starship in a clearing in a forest.  They were in the process of hiding their ship when they were surprised by an elderly lady with white hair gathered in a bun on top of a round bespectacled face, who just happened to be out for a walk.  The person they met introduced herself as Ethel.  Just Ethel.  ​She immediately invited them to her home, a cottage on the edge of the forest for tea and biscuits. 

 Ethel was so calm and at ease, it was as if she met aliens in the forest every day.  They explained that their mission was one of exploration and they did not wish to be discovered by the general population in case their very presence caused panic.  Their task was to gather information without being detected. ​Ethel promised to keep their secret and they became great friends in a very short space of time not least because Ethel was allowed to look after their unusual son while they carried out their work.  During the following weeks, they were almost daily visitors to Ethel’s small, warm cottage. ​However, despite coming from a very advanced civilisation they were not prepared for Earth’s coughs and colds. 

They knew nothing about Earth’s common illnesses and a few weeks later they caught an infection, probably influenza. As they had no resistance to the virus, they rapidly became very ill and a raging fever sapped their strength.  Ethel found them staggering through the forest with their baby in their arms.  She took them back to her cottage and tried to nurse them back to health but a few days later, they died, leaving their baby in her care.  From then on she looked after Jimmy as if he were her own son, and all was well until he started school.  Then the cruel jokes and jibes of the schoolchildren were aimed at the one boy who was different. ​Jimmy wasn’t just different, he was unique. 

There was no one else on Earth who looked like Jimmy.  He had a bright red mop of hair, big blue eyes, a small snub nose, pointed ears and … ee-nor-mous feet. ​Because of his strange appearance, he was made to feel very unhappy and miserable, so much so that he eventually decided to run away. ​Now running away is not normally a very sensible thing to do, but, just this once it seemed to work out well.  His discovery of the underground world and the town of Roombelow led to many adventures and Jimmy’s self-confidence grew day by day as the townsfolk took to their hearts this very unusual boy. ​Everyone was disappointed that Jimmy intended to leave and of course, Gemma wanted to join him on his journey to the stars.  Jimmy had a difficult time persuading her to stay with Mr. McDonald because he couldn’t be sure of how long he would be away, or even if he would ever return to Roombelow.

​The farewells over, Jimmy began the climb back up the hole that led to the forest floor.  Then, as often he had in the past few months, he made his way through the forest, along the lane and soon walked up the path to Aunt Ethel’s cottage. ​As usual, a warm welcome and a hug awaited him. Aunt Ethel always seemed to know when visitors were on their way to see her but this was to be only a short visit.  She threw a shawl around her shoulders to keep off the early morning chill and together, hand in hand, they walked back down the path, along the lane and into the forest. They followed the winding track past the circle of crooked oak trees and trekked deeper into the dark, wooded depths. 

As the track petered out they knew they were close to the concealed leafy dell.  Jimmy moved aside the low hanging foliage to reveal the hidden clearing.  The morning dew glistened on the long grass, and there in the centre, partially covered by branches, was the circular, shining hull of the starship. ​It took them a few minutes to clear away the branches which camouflaged the hull.  Aunt Ethel located and pressed the hidden switch and a short ramp silently swung down to the ground.  They climbed aboard and made their way directly to the control room.  Once there, Aunt Ethel pressed a few switches to activate the onboard computers which sprang to life with an enormous chattering and flashing of multicoloured lights. “There you are, Jimmy,” she said, standing back from the control panel.  “All systems are working. 

The computers are programmed and ready to go.” ​There followed a brief moment of silence before Jimmy threw his arms around Aunt Ethel.  He couldn’t hide the sorrow of parting and, despite his brave efforts, a few sobs escaped into Aunt Ethel’s enfolding form. ​“Now then,” she said.  “Let’s not have any tears.  You’re going back to your own world.  Be happy.  We’ll always have our memories of each other, and no matter where you are my love goes with you.” ​“Thanks, Aunt Ethel,” said Jimmy, stifling the tears.  “Thank you for everything.” ​“That’s enough of that,” interrupted Aunt Ethel.  “You have a long journey ahead and you must set off quickly before the world wakes up.  I’ve shown you how to get started and the computer will give you all the help you need.” ​With a quick, final kiss she retired from the starship and stood at the edge of the clearing to watch.  Jimmy pressed the button to retract the ramp and prepared for lift-off.

 ​Strapped securely into the commander’s flight seat Jimmy stretched out to reach the controls.  His hand hovered momentarily over the red bar, and then, finally committed, his fingers reached out and depressed it.  The engines rapidly whirled into life.  The whining sound reached screaming pitch and then subsided to an almost imperceptible purr.  The ship rose so smoothly into the air that it was some seconds before Jimmy realised he had left the ground and Aunt Ethel far behind. ​Acceleration continued and the pressure pushed Jimmy firmly back into his seat.  Within a few seconds, he was traveling away from Earth at two thousand miles per hour.  The flight speed indicator registered Mach 3.0. ​Slowly the pressure eased and Jimmy was able to unbuckle the seat belt and walk over to the observation port. 

 He looked out at the ever-receding planet Earth.  Whether or not he would ever see it again was unknown and he drank in the beauty until the blue planet became a pinprick in the far distance. ​They passed the outer planets of the Solar System and the starship sped faster and deeper into space. ​Jimmy went back to the console to check the controls.  The speed indicator ramped up and up, faster and faster until the units changed to show the starship’s speed at 0.7 LV’s. One LV equaled the speed of light. He glanced again through the port and the Solar System was lost among the myriad of stars that form part of the Milky Way.

 ​Despite the tantalising longing to enjoy the scenery, Jimmy knew it was time to make further course corrections and he tore himself away and resumed his tasks at the control console.  He pressed a button requesting current flight status and the computer displayed the results.  Speed just under one LV, pressure good, atmosphere breathable, followed by the words: “Computer awaiting course co-ordinates before exceeding 1.0 LV”. ​The next few minutes were vital and Jimmy tried to recall Aunt Ethel’s instructions.  It was no use! Try as he might, he could not remember what to do next.  Then he remembered the computer. 

 It had automatically guided the ship so far, but there was another mode of operation.  He found the switch marked “Interactive Mode” and pressed it fully home. ​The computer immediately responded.  “Awaiting verbal instructions before negotiating the Gamma time warp.” ​Jimmy was struck dumb.  He didn’t know what to say.  The computer waited a moment and then began again.  “Awaiting verbal instructions before negotiating …” ​“You’ve said that once,” interrupted Jimmy. ​“Without instructions, I cannot function,” droned the computer. ​“But I don’t know what instructions you need,” said Jimmy in exasperation. ​“Any instructions you give will be evaluated before action is taken,” said the computer.  “Refer to me as XRU and I will respond to your voice and adjust the flight programme as necessary.” ​“XRU,” said Jimmy, “I don’t know what to say.  I only know I want to go to Attalia.” ​“That is all I need to know,” said XRU.  “My memory banks contain all the information needed.

  I will take over control, set course for Attalia and negotiate the Gamma warp.” ​“Yes please,” said Jimmy. ​“I will refer to you again when further instructions are required.” ​“Fine!” said Jimmy, much relieved that someone, or something,  knew what to do. With that exchange, XRU began to process Jimmy’s orders and took over control of starship XR.  He, or it, adjusted the speed to exactly one LV and carefully guided XR towards the Gamma warp at exactly the right angle of approach.  Jimmy did know it then but the slightest error would precipitate disaster.  They could end up millions of miles away in another time zone. 

 It was not unknown for starships to get so hopelessly lost that they were never seen or heard of again. ​But there was no need to worry with XRU in control.  It happened so quietly and quickly that Jimmy was not even aware that they had safely negotiated the Gamma warp until they were speeding at several times the speed of light towards Attalia. ​As XRU was now in command Jimmy felt it was safe enough to leave the control room to explore the starship further. 

 He walked full circle around the ship along a brightly lit, smooth walled corridor past rows and rows of hatches and doors.  Those that he tried to open would neither push, pull nor slide.  Disappointed he gave up the tour and returned to the control room.  His mind turned to food.  He was feeling quite peckish after all the excitement but there no sign of food or drink anywhere.  He remembered the computer.  “XRU, where will I find something to eat?” He asked. XRU responded in his staccato machine voice.  “Make your way to your quarters, cabin A1, and then tell me what you want.” ​“But all the doors are locked,” Jimmy said. ​“Negative!” said XRU.  “They are not locked. You can open them with a voice command.  Your vocal pattern is now registered on the central control computer and as the commander of XR you have unlimited access.” ​“That’s unbelievable!” ​Jimmy set off immediately to find cabin A1. 

 When he reached the door he said, “Open!” and, controlled by the unseen hand of XRU, the door slid open with a swish of air.  He stepped through the open doorway into the cabin and behind him came the sound of a second swish as the door slid closed behind him. ​Inside, soft lighting radiated from the cream coloured floor and ceiling.  The main cabin was circular, about ten metres across.  Several low divans were arranged around the edge of the cabin and a solid, green veined, marble table stood in the centre, surrounded by four upright chairs with padded seats and arms.  Multicoloured ornamental mobiles hung by invisible threads from the ceiling and slowly rotated in a nonexistent breeze. 

Alcoves in the walls housed statuesque figures clothed in flowing robes. ​Jimmy’s first concern, however, was for food.  “What did XRU tell me to do?” he thought aloud, and from nowhere, in particular, XRU replied.  “If the Commander will tell me what he needs I will attend to his requirements.” ​“Well, er, really,” hesitated Jimmy.  “Just something to eat and drink.” ​The marble table pulsed with a blue light and even as Jimmy watched, there appeared in the centre, out of nowhere, a glass of clear liquid and a solitary green, marble-sized pea. ​He reached first for the glass and lifted it to his mouth. 

 The glass was cold to the touch and gingerly he took a sip.  Surprise! Surprise! It was as if all the fruits of the world had been condensed into the clear liquid, which Jimmy soon drank off, completely satisfying his thirst. ​His attention turned to the pea.  “What is this, XRU?” ​“It’s a protein pill,” XRU explained.  “To save on space and weight the ship carries only concentrated food.  There are sufficient vitamins and proteins in that one pill to last throughout a whole day.  Oh! If you require a further drink just place the empty glass in the centre of the table and it will be refilled.” ​Jimmy turned his attention to the “pea” pill and popped it into his mouth. 

 It was covered in a layer of a hard sugary substance which quickly disappeared as he rolled the pill around in his mouth.  Under the sugary layer was the green stuff and this tasted just like pea soup, which Jimmy just loved.  As further layers dissolved away in his mouth he could imagine eating first a slice of fish fillet and then a succulent pork chop covered in gravy and finally, a roly-poly jam pudding.  In the space of a few short moments, he felt as though he had scoffed a four-course dinner. ​Then the effects of the long day began to catch up on him and he could not stifle the yawn.  Through an open arch, he saw the sleeping quarters and he went directly through intending to have a little nap.  He took off his red Attalian boots, lay down and drew up the solitary silver sheet.  His head touched the pillow and the room lights dimmed.

  The silver sheet warmed up and he closed his eyes.  Before a count of two, he was sound asleep, comfortable, warm, secure, while XRU guided XR through the darkness of deep space carrying Jimmy towards his home planet of Attalia.

 

Author Wallace E Briggs
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