They had been stranded on a grim planet for three weeks. The ECD was taking its time; the strain was starting to tell; the language of the restoration was not the only sign. Outside, the skies were a fatuous shade of lavender and the ground was covered in vegetation that resembled nothing so much as raw sewage—the only difference was that it smelled worse.
The only person who had wandered far from the ship had been the hunchback, Blaze. He’d taken Pete since Pete seemed to thrive on the local vegetation and a curious bond seemed to have sprung up between these two unlikely creatures. (And the even more curious thing was that Pete’s milk was considerably improved by the change in diet, or at least Blaze claimed as much. Nobody else drank the yak milk even though there was enough to share.) One day they found a shaft in the ground with road going down into it, spiraling along the edge.
“Well,” Blaze said. He was in the habit of talking familiarly to Pete even though Pete could not answer. “I don’t mind going a little way down to see what’s there.” They had already come a little farther than he felt was safe. Should the pager start beeping, he would be hard put to return before the ship winked away. He hesitated, but they had been on the planet so long that he doubted the ship would chose to take off now.
Blaze and Pete descended into the shaft. There they found there was intelligent life on the planet, and that the inhabitants of the planet resembled hard boiled eggs. The hard boiled eggs had managed, through a series of elaborate hand gestures and some interpretive dancing, to extend an invitation to Blaze and Pete to come into one of their caves for tea when Blaze’s pager started beeping. He had to get back to the ship!
No time for apologies and farewells either, especially none involving elaborate hand gestures and interpretive dancing!
“Bye guys!” and “Come on Pete!” Was all Blaze had time for. He dashed back up the ramp out of the shaft with Pete hoofing it behind him. Unfortunately, not only was this abrupt departure a deep insult in the culture of the hard boiled eggs, there was nothing more insulting to them than the beeping of a pager. In their culture, one declared war by setting a pager on the desk of the leader of one’s enemies and then making it go off and walking away.
The hard boiled eggs of Alcantarillicon—as their planet was called—were not without technological sophistication, especially when it came to weapons grade yo-yos. Their martial mastery of these seemingly innocuous devices was absolute. The dedication of their massed ranks of armies was fantical. There were very few right handed hard boiled eggs who could not “walk the dog” with their left hand as easily as they could with their right. Those who could not master the art of the samurai yo-yo by the age of twenty were eliminated or encouraged to become wall-paper designers or manufacture tea doilies.
When the mortal insult to their species was inadvertently conveyed by Blaze, the drums began to sound in the depths of the shaft, sending the message reverberating through the ground. Back at the space ship, the lilrabbi was the first person to sense something was wrong. When the beeper had gone off, everybody had become excited and now they were making sure everything was stowed away, even Unk. But the lilrabbi lived a life of preparation and was all ready to go. He was standing at the bottom of the ramp and looking out over the raw sewage landscape. He felt the vibrations shaking the ground under the edge of the ramp.
The vibrations of the drums of the hard boiled eggs stirred something deep inside the lilrabbi. His eyesight became suddenly keener; his extremities tingled; he held his rolled up comic book with deadly purpose; he sniffed the wind . . . and regretted it instantly.
When he recovered he looked out and saw Blaze and Pete lumbering toward the ship. And then behind them, rising over the ground like a motorcycle gang out of the heat haze came the hard boiled eggs. Soon their awful cries of war reached the lilrabbi’s ears and he decided the best thing would be to turn his ears off.
The warning lights on the ship began to blink: a row of red lights flashing all around the ramp, indicating it would soon be shutting for departure. Blaze and Pete were drawing near. But so were the hard boiled eggs.
Ten yards from the ship the first hard boiled eggs cast their deadly yo-yos at Blaze and Pete, missing them narrowly. The lilrabbi saw this last with horror. He felt the ramp under him begin to vibrate. And then everything became slow, like on a movie.
“No!” Screamed the lilrabbi, and his face moved slowly, wrenched with frantic intensity as he pronounced each syllable—which was odd since there was only one syllable to pronounce.
He leapt in slow motion, with majestically large strides and gargantuan gestures, flourishing the rolled comic book he had brought with him against the hard boiled eggs. In two strides he had reached Blaze and Pete. He flourished the comic book at the hard boiled eggs. A yo-yo caught the comic book and sliced it nearly in half. The lilrabbi still held half of it high; the other half fluttered into the air, opening, and out of the pages came a black feather.
Blaze and Pete had gained the ship and Blaze whirled to see about the lilrabbi. He saw something strange. There was the lilrabbi in an attitude of defiance, clutching half of a rolled up comic book in his hand. And before him was the army of the hard boiled eggs, stopped in their tracks, watching the black feather drift gently to the ground between them. It was a mighty moment, a significant moment, but Blaze was not the sort of chap to make much of such moments. He reached out and grabbed the lilrabbi by the collar and pulled him onto the closing ramp. And they were away.
On the planet Alcantarillicon the hard boiled eggs stood motionless looking at the feather lying on the ground before them. It was to signal a revolution. Although they could sense something of great significance had just happened, they had no idea what it was.