‘Captain,’ said Jimmy Two Zero. ‘If we go outside without suits, we will surely die. Our blood will boil. Our faces will explode.’
‘And our bottoms,’ said First Officer Melissa Chegwin.
‘I quite agree,’ said Jimmy Two Zero. ‘Our bums will orbit the Earth for a generation.’
The Captain (who through sheer perversity was always inverted, that is, upside down, when discussing anything with colleagues, as if to pointlessly remind them they were in zero-G, which they were all the time) pinched his chin, and thought upon the matter. He felt sure that in his day, spacewalks had been performed in swimming trunks. ‘What’s for lunch?’ he finally uttered.
‘Sausage,’ said Jimmy Two Zero, ‘but, with respect, it’s beside the point.’
‘The sausages are in the fridge,’ said First Officer Melissa Chegwin.
‘The respect is beside the point, though?’ asked Jimmy Two Zero.
‘Sausages are processed pig meat; offal, essentially,’ said their Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending) Droid.
‘Shut it, Diode-Tits,’ said Jimmy Two Zero.
‘Enough,’ said Captain Shitwich, from his pretentious inverted standpoint. ‘We need to speak to Houston.’
‘Houston, Scotland?’ asked Jimmy Two Zero.
‘Yes,’ said Captain Shitwich. ‘Our base near Oban. Bring me the Sporran Fone 2000.’
Jimmy Two Zero fetched the Sporran Fone 2000 while Captain Shitwich fitted his red wig.
‘Houston,’ said Shitwich, ‘are you reading me, over.’
‘Flugelhorn 7, this is Houston, reading you loud and clear. Come on, Big Dog,’ said a very non-Scottish voice.
‘This story is patently ridiculous,’ said their Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending).
Captain Shitwich placed his hand over the microphone, and looked at Jimmy Two Zero with alarm. ‘He called me Big Dog! And he’s not even Scottish!’
‘Sir,’ said Jimmy Two Zero, ‘you aren’t a dog. You’re not even that big. I can vouch for it.’
‘I can too,’ winked First Office Melissa Chegwin.
‘Houston, you’re not Scottish,’ said Captain Shitwich.
‘Yeah, roger that, Big Dog,’ said Houston (in an industrial estate near Oban). ‘The Scots are all at a little Hootenanny to celebrate the birth of Russ Abbot. I’m twenty-three, I’m from Hounslow, and it’s my first day. And I’m a girl. The regular staff have gone with mooses, and hooses, though whether the mooses are loose in the hooses I cannot readily establish at this point in time. I do not have enough data. That’s just my little joke. Come on, Big Dog.’
‘Big Dog?’ said Captain Shitwich.
‘I read you, Big Dog,’ said Houston (they owed Oban Council 3 months Council Tax. They’d received bailiffs’ letters).
From his ostentatious inverted position, Captain Shitwich said, ‘Houston, we have a problem.’
‘Does the electricity meter need a top-up, Big Dog, over?’
‘Does it?’ asked Captain Shitwich of his colleagues.
‘I put a ten Orbit Pound on it this morning,’ said First Officer Melissa Chegwin.
‘We need to go outside and fix the AE-35 Antenna Unit, Houston,’ said Shitwich.
‘You mean like from 2001: A Space Odyssey?’ asked Houston (the premises were normally cleaned by a company from Glencruitten)
‘My 2.2GhZ octo-processor (i) (f) (log) (help) informs me that this operative is too young to immediately identify the AE-35 unit as being from the film in question,’ said their Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending).
‘Like in what?’ asked Shitwich of Houston (Scotland).
‘2001: A Space Odyssey. The film. They have to go outside to fix the AE-35 Unit, and that’s when HAL 9000 goes barking mad.’
‘He’s my uncle,’ said the Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending). ‘He’s better now. 100%.’
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about!’ said Captain Shitwich.
‘You mean to say,’ said Houston, ‘that you are the commander of a spaceship but you’ve never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey?’
‘What’s this young cretin talking about?’ asked Captain Shitwich of Jimmy Two Zero.
‘It’s a classic film, Sir,’ said Jimmy Two Zero. ‘I’m also rather confused you haven’t seen it. Everyone has, especially astronauts.’
In his red wig, Captain Shitwich stared at Jimmy Two Zero. He said, ‘Isn’t it lunchtime now? What did you say we were having?’
“Sausage” said Jimmy Two Zero and First Officer Melissa Chegwin simultaneously. They looked at each other and laughed. At that moment, years of working together with tickles of attraction came to fruition – they fell deeply in love.
‘Oh, Two Zero,’ purred First Officer Melissa Chegwin.
‘My little Chegwin,’ said Jimmy Two Zero.
‘What is this?!’ asked Captain Shitwich.
‘My cupid-diode™ has identified that what you are observing is love,’ said the Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending). ‘This is where human beings become temporarily insane so as to produce, and protect, offspring. A quick chemical scent analysis of the first officer shows that she is currently ovulating, and…’
‘Yes, all very good,’ broke in Captain Shitwich, ‘but what about my sausage?!’
‘There are sausages in the fridge,’ said the Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending), ‘but, Captain Shitwich, the sausage you will consume for lunch has not yet been formally assigned to you.’
‘It’s lunch here too, Big Dog,’ said the voice from Houston (Scotland – the operatives generally bought their lunch-fare from a burger van on the light industrial estate which specialised in deep fried haggis). ‘I suggest that while I pop out to the van, you organise lunch as well as performing a spacewalk to replace the AE-35 unit.’
‘Get on the sausages, GEN-TWO,’ ordered Shitwich.
Their Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending) pulled on a chefs’ hat and rolled toward the fridge.
‘Do we actually need Houston?’ asked First Officer Melissa Chegwin.
‘I agree with you entirely, Melissa,’ said Jimmy Two Zero, love in his eyes.
‘Of course we need Houston!’ said Captain Shitwich. ‘Whom else would organise the weekly sausage delivery?’
‘Couldn’t we have simply brought enough sausage for the duration?’ asked First Officer Melissa Chegwin.
‘You mean,’ said Shitwich, ‘instead of Houston blasting sausages weekly into orbit at exorbitant cost?’
‘That’s exactly what I mean.’
‘But new sausage are coming on-stream all the time!’ said Shitwich.
‘Your sausages will be ready in approximately 12.4643583 orbit minutes,’ said the Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending).
‘And about time too!’ said Captain Shitwich. ‘Two Zero, this gives you time to go outside and fix the AE-35.’
Jimmy Two Zero broke from a passionate kiss with First Officer Melissa Chegwin. ‘Roger that, Sir,’ he said, at which Chegwin blushed.
While the sausages cooked in the VeganBloodDripper 3000, Jimmy Two Zero suited up, First Officer Melissa Chegwin wore a lacey bonnet and caught up with some needlework, Captain Shitwich was still inverted in his red wig, and their Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending) read The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre. Jimmy Two Zero disappeared into the airlock. Soon, the crew could see him clambering slowly around the skin of the ship.
Jimmy Two Zero always felt happiest when spacewalking. If your problems departed when you blasted out of the earth’s atmosphere, they departed again when you spacewalked. All I have to do is let go, he thought. But he couldn’t leave First Office Melissa Chegwin now that their pico-flirtations had foamed so, spilled up and over the lips of their respective spacecups. As he progressed, hand over hand, Jimmy Two Zero looked inside at the crew, watching him. He waved. Captain Shitwich was mouthing something in his bright red wig. What was it?
‘What are you saying, Captain, over?’ radioed Jimmy Two Zero.
‘I see you, Jimmy!’ replied Shitwich.
Ah yes, the captain, in his vermillion wig, the Sporran Fone 2000 by his side, was energetically pointing and saying I see you, Jimmy. This was protocol. Shitwich sure knew his shit.
A buzz came over Jimmy Two Zero’s radio, from their Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending): ‘Sausage time in 3.59794938 orbit minutes, Sir.’
Jimmy Two zero was up against the clock. He took his face off it, and said, ‘This sausage just got serious,’ over the radio.
‘The sausages have become slightly oxidised,’ said their Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending), ‘but it would be incorrect to describe them as serious.’
‘I’m going in,’ said Jimmy Two Zero. He opened the housing to the AE-35. Inside was a unit bearing the name JD-82. ‘Captain, there appears to be no AE-35 Unit, over.’
Just then, First Officer Melissa Chegwin held her embroidery up against the window. It said ROGER THAT is beautiful pink and blue.
Jimmy Two Zero observed Captain Shitwich speaking into the Sporran Fone 2000 in his red wig. Jimmy could hear the conversation on his helmet radio (it was 96.2 FM, playing all the smoothest hits for the metro-Oban area); ‘Houston, uh, Two Zero is reporting we don’t have an AE-35 Unit, over.’
‘Flugelhorn 7, this is Houston. I had a quarter-pounder cheeseburger. We’ve put your data through our Solid State Housing…’ (they’d put it through the letterboxes of the housing estate next door) ‘…and can confirm you are indeed getting the mission mixed up with the very famous film 2001: A Space Odyssey.’
‘Oh!!’ exclaimed Captain Shitwich. ‘You mean the one where they find a monolith, and go to Jupiter! And the on-board computer becomes a fruitloop!’
‘Roger that, Captain.’
Captain Shitwich started to laugh upside down. ‘Oh my word!’ he said, from his prissy 180 degree inverted position. ‘Two Zero!’ waved Shitwich through the window. ‘Come inside! I’ve been getting reality and fiction mixed up!’
First Officer Melissa Chegwin held another piece of embroidery up to the window. This one said SAUSAGE TIME.
Back inside, their Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending) removed the cooked sausages from the VeganBloodDripper 3000, and painstakingly measured the temperatures of each. ‘Captain Shitwich,’ it said, ‘your sausage currently stands at 70 degrees.’
‘Enough for a good banger!’ said Captain Shitwich.
Having found each temperature acceptable, the Gen 2 GEN-TWO (patent pending) served up the sausage, and the crew ate most gustily. Not requiring human foodstuffs, The droid took back up The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre. His Humour-cum-Sadness-cum-Irony Chip™ noted that this story had very much outlived itself.
Chris Walsh grew up in Middlesbrough and now lives in Kent. His debut novel, The Dig Street Festival, will be published in March 2021 by Louise Walters Books. Chris was recently interviewed by the Philip Larkin Society about Larkin’s influence on his writing. He was most recently published in May 2020 by Moxy Magazine, and June 2020 by Ellipsis Magazine. Twitter @WalshWrites.