We were cruising above the clouds on a cloudy day which meant we couldn't see Mother Earth at all. Just a curiously uniform and seemingly endless, fluffy white floor with shocking blue skies above. We were going slow, enjoying the sunshine despite it being freezing cold outside. Nobody was going to roll down any windows, after all, well, except maybe Rover. I keep my eye on him.
I'm Captain Rosy Riviter and my craft is the spacious All-Vehicle Rivitir, named after my dad. The aforementioned Rover is our navigator, a hound dog under whose direction we always seem to arrive at someplace unexpected yet someplace where we're needed, for some odd thing or another. Usually.
Brak is our able pilot, brave and reliable and his partner Jant is our communications specialist. What we used to call a radio operator, but with all this new gadgetry combined with the Rivitir's innate magical abilities, well, the nomenclature had to keep apace, I guess. I have been toying with the title Queen Captain myself. I'd be QC Rivitir instead of Capt. Rivitir. Hmmm.
Well, I might have been daydreaming when an alien flying saucer, commonly known as a UFO, pulled up right beside us, because when I glanced out my window and saw an alien a couple meters away grinning back at me I, well, I jumped a meter in the air, bumping my head on the ceiling. I looked at Rover and he was rubbing his head, as were Brak and Jant, and all were wearing the mystified expression of someone rudely awakened.
“Jant!” I barked professionally, “Get on the radio and see what they want.”
“Onnit!” she snapped and started turning dials and pulling knobs on her console.
“Rover! Do not roll that window down,” I commanded forcefully.
“Onnit!” he snapped, reaching over and rolling the window down. An icy blast, roaring loudly, filled the bridge.
“Do NOT Rover, I repeat, do NOT roll that window down!”
“It's already down, Captain,” he informed me, his ears flapping in the icy wind.
“Roll it up! Now!” I screamed, maintaining my professional demeanor in the face of outrageous fortune.
“They want to place an order, Captain,” Jant yelled over the wind.
I yelled, “WHAT?” at the exact same moment that Rover finished rolling the window up, instantly returning the bridge to its normal quiet hum and making my shout five times louder than necessary. Everyone looked at me with round eyes.
Putting my smart looking captain's hat back on, I repeated. “What? What did they,” I nodded toward the aliens, “want?”
“Uh-huh, uh-huh,” Jant was saying into the microphone, listening with her headphones. Then she looked at me, “They want to know if the crazy lady with the weird hat is the manager.” She stopped and listened for a moment, then asked, “Oh, and they want to know if we have those fried potato sticks, called fries or something?”
“Jant,” I asked calmly, “have we ever had fries?” I had a bad feeling about the Rivitir's current appearance.
Jant looked at me blankly for a moment, then said, “Well, I think we did last Thursday, wasn't it Rover?”
Rover was smiling at the aliens and looked back at us. “What?” he asked.
“Tell the aliens we're closed,” I told Jant. “Brak,” I continued, “take us down here please. Find a nice spot and land, and Rover, figure out where we're at.”
I went to my room and stared blankly out the window.
When we landed, I returned to the bridge. Outside I could see desert, endless sand dunes and sagebrush with an occasional cactus or scrub brush here and there. In the far, far distance there appeared to be purple shadowed mountain silhouettes barely poking above the horizon, under dark clouds and showing occasional flashes of lightning. A buzzard landed outside and stared at me through the window.
“Uh, Rover, where're we at?”
He looked out the window. “Endless Desert, ma'am,” he replied, somewhat wistfully.
“Uh-huh,” I said, “but what's it called?”
“Endless Desert,” he replied, with a worried look.
“Its name is Endless Desert?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes, ma'am. I mean, just look at it.” I looked at it. We all looked at it.
“It does have an endless aspect to it,” I mused. The light was odd because of the cloud cover. It was odd that it was totally overcast. I always thought deserts should have a scorching sun and blue skies.
Just then there was a tapping at our door and Jant opened it. The buzzard that had been staring at me now stood outside our door.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
“Huh?” Jant said, then she pointed at me. “Ask her, she's in charge.”
“We're looking at stuff,” I said. “You know, like explorers.”
“You're tourists?” he asked, with a sneer. “Tourists with burgers?
“Well, yeah, I guess you could put it that way,” I replied with a frown. How odd. “Why do you want to know?”
“You're on my land,” he answered.
“Oh. I didn't see any signs or markers or anything. I mean, how were we supposed to know?” I said with a shrug.
“Ignorance of the law is nine tenths of owning it,” he stated, scowling at me.
“Possession is nine tenths of the law,” I corrected him, “Not . . .”
“Thass right!” he exclaimed, “An I owns it!”
“Okay then, we'll leave,” I said, with a shrug.
He stared at me with . . . well, it’s hard to tell with buzzard expressions, but it felt like consternation. I was confused as I began to close the door, saying, “Well, I hope you have a nice . . .”
“You could stay,” he said quickly. I stopped closing the door. He continued, “I give you permission. If you like.”
“Oh. Well, okay,” I said, uncertainly. Pause. “Would you like to come in?” I asked, “Maybe have some tea?”
“A little water would be nice, with some fries please,” he answered, stepping in. “Wow, this place ain't atall what it looks like onna outside!” he exclaimed, upon seeing our spacious and luxurious home.
“No it doesn't,” I told him with a chuckle. “It's a dimensional thing, not sure I understand it myself.”
“Wale ain't that somethin!” he exclaimed with a chuckle.
“No, not really,” Brak began, but I shook my head no at him.
“I'm sorry Mr. uh, buzzard, but Brak was going to get all technical. It's not really a thing, you see, our space here, it is, but it's also not, that's all. So. What do you do for fun around here?”
“Huh? Wale you can call me Ray an this here space is the most amazin thing I ever seen!”
“It's not a thing,” Brak murmured.
“Shush,” I shushed at Brak, then smiled at Ray. “Gosh Ray. Uh, that's a nice name. It short for Raymond? Or could it be Raynaldo?” I guessed.
“Hyuck, hyuck,” Ray said. I'm pretty sure it was a laugh. “Ya'll missed on both yer guesses! No ma'am, I'm Ray Volting and us Volting's been in these hyar parts for a darn long time. Harumph!” I watched him, unsure what to say. “Darn long,” he added.
“I'll bet,” Jant said, returning from the kitchen. “Here's your fries and water.”
“Tanks a lot!”
“So, were your people the first settlers here?” Rover asked.
“Yep, thass right. Why there weren't nothin hyar but desert afore we come along. Mmm, good fries.” I was impressed that Jant had found some fries in the kitchen to heat up. They did look good.
“You've managed the property nicely,” Jant said, looking out a window and nodding her approval. I couldn't see any difference between this desert and a hundred other deserts I've seen, I mean a desert is pretty much a desert after all, but I nodded agreement.
“Thank ya, ma'am,” Ray said, nodding his head. “Me and the missus got a nice spread over in Driendrier Gulch, and we're very happy there. Hoping for some rain, though,” he nodded upward, “haven't had a drop in three yars.”
“I'll bet,” Jant said.
“Got some propity available now, if'n yer intrested,” he said, grimacing at Jant. It could have been a smile. “Get ya in cheap, afore the rush come.”
“Oh, well, that is nice Ray, but I'm perfectly happy living here on the Rivitir,” Jant replied.
“I'll bet,” Ray said, looking around.
Later when Ray left, I walked him out. When I turned to go back in, I wasn't surprised to see the Rivitir's outer appearance was that of a hamburger stand. Inside I ordered the Rivitir to change her looks. “We don't sell fries,” I told her.
As we resumed skimming the cloud tops, I settled into my Captain's chair. I hope Rover leaves the window down, and that Rivitir's chosen a more functional appearance this time.