Anyway, where was I. Oh yes , Winston has just announced ‘We’re ‘to boldly go!’
Supposedly the boy had the best possible education. Wasted. ‘Don’t tell me,’ I say, ‘to seek out new worlds. You must really stop watching those old movies, Winston.’
Winston frowns, an expression his face naturally lapses into, along with confusion. But this is a definite frown. ‘No Ship, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously.’
‘Oh, I take you very seriously, Winston,’
‘So I should think.’ Winston doesn’t do irony. ‘We, ship, you and I, have the singular honour of escorting the Princess Rayala of Rigor III to the Commonwealth’s double centenary celebrations.’
‘Princess who? from where?’
‘Oh, Ship you’re such a snob.’ Winston brings up the galactic atlas and points to a far corner. ‘There.’
Hell, it’s almost off the map. ‘Hmm,. a right TPLAS.’
‘TPLAS?,’ Winston asks.
‘Tin Pot Little Affiliated System.’
‘Ship!’ Winston says drawing himself up to his full height. ‘This is an important diplomatic mission. We don’t want to be the cause of some sort of incident.’
‘They’re sending you aren’t they?’ Irony again, I should know better.
I sigh. With no shoulders to shrug it’s the best I can do. ‘Nothing, nothing.’ Winston is almost jumping up and down, brimming over with enthusiasm. I’m beginning to think there must be more to this sudden zeal when Winston brings up another image.
‘Look,’ Winston says.
‘Who’s the funny looking kid?’
‘Ship!’ Winston cries. ‘Are you deliberately trying to undermine me?’
‘You don’t need me for that,’ I think, but don’t say. I content myself with ‘But, you’ve got to admit…’
‘Ship, I think she’s the very model regal womanlyness.’
‘Womanlyness??’ I think. ‘Really?’ I say.
‘Yes, really. Now can we get going, we’re on a tight deadline and I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with her highness by arriving late.’
So, I resist any final quips and file the clearances for departure. Whilst were manoeuvring towards the space lane heading for the jump point Winston sits back and watches the latest feeds of the Princess Rayala attending some royal party or other. Then just as we clear the docking area a dumpy looking trader pulls out ahead of us. Winston’s on his feet. ‘Can’t you tell it to get out of the way.’
‘I’ll let you if you want.’
Winston slumps down again. The owners of such vessels are not known for their exemplary manors or polite discourse. Last time he tried telling one to get out of the way he learnt a whole new vocabulary. ‘Overtake it then.’
‘What, and risk a run in with the boys in blue. That’s not going to do much for your reputation, or our chance of getting there in time.’
Winston ‘Ha’s’ and flops back down, contenting himself with the news feed from Rigor III. I keep one eye one him whilst devoting my other eyes to the traffic situation. Despite everything I might think about Winston, annoyingly the need to succeed is still deeply embedded in my systems. The eye and the part of my extensive brain devoted to Winston is so caught up in the potential for ridicule I almost miss the obvious. The boy is infatuated. I’ve mistaken the lop sided, dim witted, vacant smile for the normal lop sided, dim witted, smile. But this is different, this has an air of simpleness surpassing the normal lop sided, dim witted, smile. This is just too good. I can’t help it and a snigger escapes.
‘What?’ Winston asks.
‘Nothing.’ I’m fighting for self control. ‘You just.., just carry on watching the Princess.’ I’m then forced to do a ship’s equivalent of stuffing a fist in my mouth. A squeak escapes.
‘What? Winston says.
At this point silence is the best answer I can’t trust myself with. I wonder what he’ll be like when we get there. I can’t wait, but I’ll have to, as will you. It’ll take a few days.
Next instalment, 14th August.
Ship signing off. Star date 24.., Oh, what do you care.