The Little Lost Corkers - By Rosy

   The AV Rivitir has traveled through many environs and dimensions, even to outer space, but the traveling I like best is the easy meandering down the Great Yudonke River on the alternate earth, Yudonke. The part we're on now is a lake so big it ought to be called an ocean, except it’s got one input on one end and one output on the other, both being the Great Yudonke River so that technically it is a river. But the locals have agreed that it is more than a river and are okay with calling it a lake. Never an ocean because everyone knows that Yudonke has no oceans. Common knowledge. But lake, well, okay.

   Lake Bigwata is what it’s called and it's huge, taking three weeks to cross. Way out in the middle are a string of islands called the Little Lost Corkers, which are not little or lost or cork. They are islands though. The largest is East Cork, then Fobble, which is where the capital Wataspot is located. We are headed to Wataspot because we've heard wonderful things about it, but I don't recall what all. Good things. Rover says they grow coconuts and pineapples there, on large estates. Bananas too. So that's good. Rover is our navigator so he'd know about this stuff. Brak is our pilot and Jant is our communications specialist. I'm Captain Rosy and these are the voyages of the All Vehicle Rivitir. 

   Captain's Log. Yudonke date: right now, this year. The vast ocean, er, lake is calm today, blue skies and some fluffy white clouds overhead. The Rivitir has reconfigured herself into a luxury yacht with sails which we are currently employing. We're two days out of Pert Harber, a lovely town on the banks of the Great Yudonke where it enters Lake Bigwata. It is a major port because of its location and the fact that it has a large, calm harbor. Excellent restaurants and dockside saloons make Pert Harber a must stop location when floating the Great Yudonke River.

   We did and had a lovely stopover in Pert Harber. While Jant and I visited museums and parks, Brak and Rover got into fights in the saloons. They loved it, or at least claimed to. Their modus operandi was to belly up to the bar and order double shots of Grog Bomb, a local drink with high levels of toxicity, and gulp them down. Then they'd sit and glare at everyone who were also sitting and glaring at everyone. The glare was so bright that many wore dark glasses with UV filters.

   Nursing their second drink Rover would suddenly run over and bite someone in the foot. Completely unexpected, except for Brak who was sort of used to it. The person getting bit was usually too intoxicated and dazed to get what was happening at first, except they could feel the pain. That came through pretty quickly, albeit numbed and they could see the dog doing it. Then Rover would return to his seat and resume sipping the grog. The bitee would stagger to his feet and limp over to confront Rover, with fisticuffs soon to follow. Brak eagerly joined in as did all the other patrons because that was the nature of Grog Bomb. All the saloons had padded walls and bolted down tables. Saloon fighting in Pert Harber is famous throughout the entire length of the Great Yudonke, which is billions of kilometers long. Jant and I didn't get it, but Rover and Brak jumped right in, returning both nights covered with bruises and scratches, laughing, woohooing and high-fiving each other until they collapsed. They did this twice before having enough of it and we set sail shortly after.

   Brak set Clarabelle, our automatic pilot, a course and left her to it while we all lounged on the spacious deck, enjoying the salt air and sipping iced teas that Ellim, our 11:11BS service bot, would bring us. It is a beautiful day for sailing, balmy conditions as we are near the equator, and there's a joyful, good to be alive feeling in the air. I know there have been terrible storms in these waters and we keep a watchful eye but in fact, this moment is perfect.     

   Rover tells us we are still five days from the islands but with our idyllic situation we were unconcerned. I wanted to do some reading and I grabbed a book from the top of my stack, Brak was watching videos or working on his tan with his sister Jant on the deck with me. I was under an umbrella, of course, having no desire to become tanned. Rover was roaming about doing this or that or stretched out on a deck chair, unconcerned with tanning or burning, just enjoying the heat of the sun.

   The next morning as dawn's golden rays caressed us, we awoke to another fine day in paradise. I was napping lightly after breakfast when Rover came to wake me.

   "Captain!" he yelled from a meter away. "Captain, wake up! You needa see this," now speaking loudly in my face. I was groggy and at first, I thought I was dreaming. Now he was shaking me, "Captain! Wake up!"

   "Huh?" I said, completely disoriented.

   "Captain, you gotta come see this!" 

   I looked around and it all came back to me. I stood, shakily, and followed Rover to where the others were on the rail looking into the distance at a very dark mass of clouds moving our way. Ellim was already packing the tables and chairs away. You could see lightning flashes below the clouds in what was, even from here, discernible as heavy rain. I was shocked at how quickly it was moving.

   "Brak!" I yelled, although it was calm and sunny here. The sudden drop in barometric pressure had us all giddy. "Brak, we needa get the sails down and the mast folded and secured pronto. Rover, help him with that would ya? Jant, how's the radar look?"

   "It's a big one Captain, and it's coming fast," she yelled from inside. I watched the storm with concern even though we'd always be safe no matter what being in an All-Vehicle like the Rivitir.

   "The mast is secure Captain," Brak reported.

   "Good job!" I answered. "Put Clarabelle to keeping us pointed into the waves and let's get inside to enjoy this storm!"

   "Aye-aye Captain," he replied, ducking inside with Rover right behind. Taking a quick glance at the approaching storm, now ominous and looming, I followed. Already it was windy and the Rivitir rocked back and forth. We all sat in the front by the big window and belted ourselves in. Ellim, who was nearly impossible to topple, brought us drinks in sippy cups that fit snugly in special holders attached to our chairs. He also brought popcorn and other light snacks as we sat transfixed, watching the approaching storm. As Jant said, it was a big one and we were soon engulfed by it. Waves three times higher than the Rivitir's length came at us from several different directions, but Clarabelle, using her radar and other advanced features, easily rode us through. The storm was a genuine thrill, lasting three whole days, with near constant lightning, howling winds and a torrential, unrelenting downpour that thrilled us, each and every one, even while we slept. It also put us millions of kilometers off course.   

   Rover looked at me curiously. "We're in uncharted water," he reported.

   "Huh?" I answered. "What do you mean, uncharted?"

   "Our current coordinates are not on the map, Captain. It just says, uncharted. Apparently, no one's ever been here before."

   "Wait, how is that possible?"

   "Everyone keeps to the primary lanes, from the Great Yudonke straight across to the Little Lost Corkers then straight on to the Great Yudonke again and on you go. Usually."

   "No one's ever gotten blown off course before?" I asked, amazed at what I was hearing.

   "Never this far, Ma'am," Rover said, scowling at the map.

   "This is unexplored water?" I was having trouble with the concept. 

   "Yes, Ma'am, looks like it. But if we keep going west, we should come to the lake shore and we can follow that down and back to the Yudonke."

   "Okay then, let's do it," I commanded, using my Captain voice. Everyone jumped to comply.

   We were soon sailing westward, again in beautiful weather. After four days we came to an island. I could tell even before we landed it wasn't a Corker. A ne'er-do-well named Gilligan greeted us and took us to his Captain, called Skipper. There was a movie star, a millionaire and his wife, a professor, and a fair maiden on the island, all waiting to be rescued. They were shipwrecked or something. The whole thing sounded pretty implausible to me and I could see the others nodding and saying uh-huh, but I perked up when they said they'd been on a three hour tour. This cheered me up because that meant that the mainland wasn't too far away. We left the next morning after wishing them the best of luck. We offered to carry them to the mainland but they declined, saying their contract wasn't up yet, whatever that means.

   "I'll tell you what that means," the millionaire spoke up. "It means cash! Cold hard cash, people. Moolah and lots of it!"

   "It's a franchise, you see," the professor explained. "As long as we stay here, we're raking in the big bucks."

   I didn't understand any of it so I nodded, saying uh-huh like the others were doing.

   When we got to the mainland, we stopped at a lakeside village for supper. We like to eat out once in a while and it was nice. We were surprised to see the Skipper and Gilligan on the TV. Imagine getting paid to hang out on an island. We all shook our heads. Two days later we were back on the Great Yudonke, making a southwesterly course. We felt bad about missing the Little Lost Corkers, especially after all the great things we'd heard about them. Maybe we'll cruise upriver coming back and we can try them again.       

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