While Bradley lay moaning on the floor of the mini transport, Nate grappled with Tim for the steering mechanism, a squiggly bar that changed shape, and Jack tried to make sense of the readings on a navigation ‘display’ based on smell, sound, and vibration that had to be worn like a hood. It was made for a Mub, a species with heads like cucumbers, so the upper half flopped to the side, and Jack continuously complained that it crushed his skull and left him in darkness.
A pole split the pilot’s deck, and several triangular pipes that looped like drain traps served as anchor points for Mubs’ twisty appendages. A large front window revealed a landscape of green towers on purple ground under a lemon-yellow sky.
They’d just left the official welcoming ceremony and headed for the intergalactic travel office. Or the ‘BAWK galactical BAWK BAWK transport BAWK’ as rendered by the translator.
Nate shook his head at Bradley. “I told you not to eat those sluckerdizzips.”
“Be careful of the signposts the hood shows you.” Bradley held his stomach and grimaced.
“What signposts?” asked Jack.
Bradley coughed and rasped. “They zing and then smell like algae.”
Jack’s agitated tone grew with each word. “And how’s that supposed to help? Right now it smells like cheesy cabbage.”
“You’re merging into a flight lane,” said Bradley.
“This is completely disorienting.” Jack held his head and grunted.
“You have to develop an instinct for their meaning,” said Bradley. “You know, like the Kalahari bushmen hunting man-eating grubs.”
“There’s no such thing as man-eating grubs,” said Tim.
“Tell that to poor…” Bradley clicked his tongue between repetitions of ‘hon-hon’ for the name.
“It’s a little late for developing an instinct, Jackass.” Tim shoved Nate off the squiggly control. “We’re already en route.”
Jack shook his finger toward Tim and poked Nate in the nostril. “Back off and pay attention, Tim.”
“Get bent,” said Tim.
“Watch it!” said Nate.
“What was that?” asked Jack.
“You don’t want to know,” said Tim.
“Look ahead,” said Nate.
They came fast and hard into a group of transports that suddenly spread out to avoid them. Tim wrestled with the bar and nearly bumped several of them as he plowed through the middle. Another group appeared ahead.
“You’re going too fast.” Nate went to grab the bar, but Tim slapped him away.
“I got it.” Tim wrung the bar on one side and it slowed down. The transports behind them whooshed by.
“Too slow,” yelled Nate.
“Stop yelling,” said Jack. “I’ve got a headache.” He wagged his head as if looking for something. “I don’t like the smell of this, guys. I think we’re in a fast lane or something. It smells… uh… sharp, like ammonia and banana.”
“Don’t clog up the fast lane,” said Bradley. “They won’t like that.”
Another set of transports zoomed past, most of them clacking so loud it buffeted their vessel. “They’re signaling their displeasure,” said Bradley.
“What’s the Mub equivalent of a middle finger?” asked Tim.
“Shut up and get us out of this flight path,” said Nate. He grabbed the bar and moved them off.
Tim elbowed him in the ribs. “Get—”
“Aaaaagh!” Jack tore at the hood. “This smell is horrible. Like raw sewage, rotten cabbage, and toe jam. Get it off me.”
“Warp lane,” yelled Bradley. “Get out! Get out!”
Tim and Nate both grabbed the bar and twisted it in random directions. The transport turned sharply and tumbled, heading for the surface. Nate grabbed one of the anchor points, and his body whipped back and forth with each turn. Bradley held onto the center bar, sliding back and forth. Tim hung from the steering bar, flailing, twisting, and kicking Nate in the ass. Jack tumbled along the wall like a teddy bear in a clothes dryer, yanking at the hood to get it off.
“Straighten us out, Tim,” said Nate.
“That’s what I’m trying to do, moron.”
Nate grabbed Tim’s foot as it flopped his way and steadied him. Tim hooked his elbow over the bar and worked it. The transport lurched a few times and steadied. He brought it to the purple surface with a thump.
The hood squeaked and popped off Jack’s head. “My head’s going to explode.”
“How much farther to go?” asked Nate.
“Dunno. Should be most of the way there, I’d think,” said Tim.
Bradley pointed out the window at a bump in the ground with windows. “Sluckerdizzip stand.”
“Shit. Are you sure?” said Tim.
“Can’t forget,” moaned Bradley.
“We didn’t travel a hundred yards,” said Tim.
“I’m driving.” Nate grabbed the bar.
“No you’re not.” Tim head-butted him.
Nate tackled him and brought him to the ground. The transport rocked and bounced as they pummeled each other.
“Bradley.” Jack threw the hood at him. “No more sluckerdizzips.”