I think you will find that a lot of people who don't know anything make up stuff, perhaps to compensate. You know, fill in the vast empty spaces where normal people put all the stuff they know. This following story may well be a classic example of this.
Captain Rivitir just told us there'd been signals of a mysterious type coming from the Juno Mission and that we were going to investigate. Our ship, the Dashem, was a class two Destroyer, recalled and modified to do secret spy work, then recalled and modified to just wander around and look at stuff. I liked our last incarnation the best and I think the rest of the crew did too, so this newest modification into investigators, which did morph nicely into a lot of our previous spy work gear I'll admit, still this investigating mission was not entirely welcome. In any case I am Steddy Gripp, the Chief Detective Investigator and Detective Sirius Whatly is my assistant. And we haven't gotten fat and lazy like they're saying on Mars. We just haven't had time to come in for physicals is all and now, well, we got investigating to do.
We set a course straight away to the Juno Mission which was, as we suspected, circling Jupiter. We knew there was a truck stop there, only for spaceships of course, (the old ways are strong in space. Many spacers wear cowboy hats and wide belt buckles, their belts loaded with weapons, their eyes narrow, their faces stern. Boots with spurs are also popular) so we headed for the Juno Mission dock.
Besides the docking bays and fuel pumps there was a restaurant, a motel, a casino, and several satellites of ill-repute at Juno Mission but no churches despite the name. All were transmitting their usual barrage of signals, things like radio, telephone, internet and so on, so that Juno Mission was surrounded by a cacophony of signals, like most outposts in space. Except now, at this spot, there were also mysterious unknown signals.
First thing we discovered was that the signals were made of smoke. Smoke signals were a method not employed in space before, that we knew of, and no one knew how to read them. Yes, these were mysterious, especially since there's no air in space for the smoke to float in or to even build a fire in. This whole thing was getting mysteriouser and mysteriouser. We landed at the mission to check it out firsthand, get gas and a bite to eat.
After we ate Captain Riviter and the crew returned to Dashem while D Whatly and I went to investigate. I asked Bob, the cook who was famous for his earth style hamburgers, well, I asked Bob did he know anything about any smoke signals?
“Smoke signals?” he answered, glancing nervously to the back. “Gosh no. I mean that's crazy right?” I suspected something and watched him carefully. D Whatly started poking around looking at the back room. “Well,” he muttered sullenly, “I guess Engine Horatio might have something going on out in the desert.”
“The desert?” I asked, realizing that things had just gotten more mysteriouser. “How is there desert in space?”
He looked warily surprised then, with a shrug, told us to follow as he strolled through the kitchen toward the back door, which was a screen door that opened revealing an endless expanse of dry brown wasteland. There were a few cacti and sagebrush growing but little else. The horizons seemed infinite. Bob stepped out and gazed out over the barren scene for a moment, searching, then he muttered, “Yep, there he is.” He pointed, “See 'im?”
I squinted in the direction he was pointing and finally I saw him. Barely visible, looked to be sitting. Then a puff of smoke rose above where he sat followed by three quick puffs then a pause.
“Again, I must ask, how is this possible? We're in space and the Juno Mission is just a supply station with very little room inside.”
“Well it's a secret for one. Like you shouldn't even be here,” he muttered, scowling, “But you're some sort of official or something so here we are. It's a dimensional thing, near as I can figure,” he answered with a shrug. As I turned back, I saw a highway running past the front with sleek, alien looking cars racing past.
“Where're they going?” I asked.
“Oh they're coming from the large coastal city. Or returning to it.” He gazed off in the distance. “Off thataway is our village with a modern casino and five star hotel if you're interested in staying a spell? Much nicer than the ones at Juno Mission Space Side.” I could see the distant structures now that I knew where to look. There appeared to be a silhouette that looked like a Ferris wheel.
“Not sure if we'll be staying,” I answered.
Bob nodded then added, “A few klicks the other side of our village is the Saturnalia gate to yet another dimension.” He paused, frowning. “Never been there though.” I turned back and looked at Engine Horatio and saw another puff of smoke rise up.
“What's he saying?” I asked, pointing to the smoke.
“Oh, that. Well, Engine Horatio runs an inter-dimensional advertising firm, Wejakkem Inc it's called. He's just sending our message out.”
“Your message?” I asked incredulously, looking closely at him. “And just what would your message be?”
“It's uh, oh you know, the usual.”
“What's it say?”
“Well if you can't read it, then it says, Eat Hamburgers at Juno Mission – Yumm.”
“It says Yumm?”
“Yeah, the whole thing's Eat Hamburgers . . .”
“Okay,” I interrupted, “we got that. It says Eat Hamburgers at Juno Mission – Yumm. Right?”
“Doesn't sound as good the way you say it,” Bob answered with a frown, “But yeah, that's the message. I'm famous for my earth style hamburgers, you know.” I could tell he was proud and let him continue. “We get our syntho-beef from Hoggsdale Ranch,” he pointed in the direction of the big coastal city, “with real synthetic longhorns and cowboys to herd 'em.” Then a bell rang. “Wupp! Gotta go, orders coming in.” He turned back to the screen door. “See how advertising pays off?” he asked with a smile before entering.
I looked at Whatly, “Well I guess we better go check this Engine Horatio guy out.” We began trudging across that barren desert. It was hot so we both removed our smart looking detective jackets and loosened our ties. After we'd walked a goodly way, I realized the distance was much greater than I'd imagined so I ordered a rest by a nearby rock overhang which offered some shade.
I pondered our next move as we rested, then sent Whatly back for water. I wasn't surprised when I tried to radio Captain Rivitir and couldn't get through but I was surprised when my radio crackled back on and a rather terse voice announced, “Listen, you are not licensed for inter-dimensional communications so why're you even trying? Please apply for permits at Village, number One Center and don't even think of trying again until you do.” Snap, and the signal was gone.
When Whatly returned we drank up then continued on toward Engine Horatio. I told him we'd lost communications with the ship and made a mental note to tell headquarters about those permits. I had a hunch we'd need 'em in the future.
It was dusk when we finally arrived at Engine Horatio. There was an Acme Smoke Message Machine churning out puffs of smoke in front of a log cabin with a thatched roof. Suddenly it was full dark and I watched, fascinated as the smoke balls rose up higher and higher until they were in the upper atmosphere and beyond, illuminated by the setting sun. Turning I saw lights inside the cabin so I knocked on the door. It was opened by a young girl with horns. She smiled brightly at us.
“Hello. I'm CDI Gripp and this is D Whatly of the earth ship Dashem, authorized by the Royal Earth Bosses, Department of Looking-At-Stuff. We're from the Space Coppers Division, so we're allowed to ask questions.” I wasn't sure if that was true or not as we showed our badges. She continued smiling brightly at us. “So, uh is anyone home?” I asked.
“”No,” she answered before slamming the door. Fortunately D Whatly's foot, that he'd cleverly snuck past the jamb, stopped it. He yelped in pain, the door being shut with great force and when the little girl saw the door still open and us looking in, she turned and ran. Whatly, barely limping, ran in hot pursuit. I saw her smile slyly back at him as she ran. I was suspicious so I stopped and examined the room carefully. It was clear we, well I now, was in the conning tower of an ancient submarine, perhaps from a big war somewhere. I knew I was being conned but I looked through the periscope, nonetheless. Sure enough, there I was under an endless ocean gazing at the amazing fishes and plants, seaweeds I'd say, and feeling the sway of the sub as the currents carried us away.
I yelled, “Up periscope!” Then I looked again. This time I could see the sea was just going on forever no matter how much I swiveled around. Every direction was endless sea. You don't expect this on a space patrol even if you are expecting the unexpected like they say to do. Now I yelled “Surface!” hoping the sub would do like I asked. I was quite pleased when it surfaced. I stepped out onto the dripping deck and searched the horizon, circling 360 degrees and seeing nothing. No place should be this empty I thought as I climbed back down into the sub. I supposed I ought to go find Whatly so I headed down the submarine's hallway in the direction I remembered him going last. I hope.
Suddenly there was a gut-wrenching crunch and the floor tilted. I fell against the wall and was alarmed to see water come splashing in. I rushed back to the conning tower and climbing out again was astonished to see the sub had crashed into a reef. There was a large tree-covered island beyond and I gasped in amazement. How could I have missed that? Then I saw two vaguely familiar figures on the beach waving at me but I couldn't make out who they were for sure. Slowly a big sucking noise was tilting the deck back and turning I was shocked to see the sub sinking beneath the waves. I immediately jumped ship and swam quickly, madly to shore where sturdy arms pulled me up. I was surprised to see it was D Whatly and the little horned girl as I stumbled ashore.
“I'm so glad you made it ma'am,” Whatly said, smiling and helping me along. I looked at the little horned girl walking beside us. “Yes Ma'am,” Whatly responded, seeing my look. “This here's Rotilda Wilda, the entry wizard for this passage.”
“I see,” I said, but I didn't, not really. “Nice to meet you, Rotilda,” I offered.
“Nice to meet you ma'am,” she responded. “Now if you are truly desirous of getting through this passage then you must do exactly what I say.”
Looking ahead I could see a luxury hotel, partly hidden by palm trees and flowering shrubs and we appeared to be heading toward it.
“This passage?” I asked. I was, in fact, quite confused.
“Yes ma'am. You and Whatly are stuck in a Non-Denominational Trans-Dimensional Shift Organizer. Frankly it's not going well, not going well at all in fact so I have brought you to a sanctuary where you can rest before I direct you back to your proper time and location.”
“What?” I uttered foolishly.
“You're in the wrong place and I'm to put you right,” she finished, leading us into the hotel lobby where several young men rushed up to help us. Soon I was tucked in and quickly fell asleep. I was more tired than I thought.
When I woke up D Whatly was sitting beside me and Rotilda Wilda was standing by the window watching us.
“What's going on?” I whispered to Whatly.
“Ah, there you are ma'am,” he answered, looking pointedly at Rotilda.
I looked at Rotilda. “Get up,” was all she said, so I got up, and finding myself clothed, I put on my smart looking detective jacket. Then Whatly, similarly attired, and I followed Rotilda out of the room and out of the hotel where a taxi awaited us on the front lawn. “Get in,” Rotilda ordered. She conferred briefly with the driver as we got in and as soon as our door closed, we were off. The taxi turned out to be a spaceship and soon we were back at the Dashem where we reported to Captain Rivitir, after she paid our fare.
“Our case is solved,” I began proudly. “The mysterious signals are smoke signals that advertise for this restaurant.” I pointed at the Juno Mission. “They say 'Eat Hamburgers at Juno Mission – Yumm'”
“It says yumm at the end?” Captain Rivitir asked with a sour look.
“Yes ma'am,” I answered. “And the signals, created by Engine Horatio, CEO of Wejakkem Inc enter space from another dimension, causing them to endure much longer than anyone would imagine.” She scowled. “Oh, and we need to look into getting some inter-dimensional communication permits. I have a hunch they'll be useful in the future.”
She nodded. “Good work detectives. I'll pass this on to headquarters with your recommendations. Now we can get back to looking at stuff like we should be doing.”
And how to avoid physicals, Whatly and I both added to ourselves of course.