The journey along the path up to the take off strip did not take long. Kevin saw to that, he whisper-shouted insults all the way. In his mind it was encouragement, and nobody seemed to care.
At the top of the hill the group was met with a break in the trees, a Ford Transit, a pile of freshly cut undergrowth, two men, and a long strip of clear ground.
Tony and Paul stood at the edge of the clearing.
‘Well Kevin, that looks like a good crew, hope they’re all ready for this’
Tony scanned the group.
‘Jesus Billy, don’t tell me you’ve joined them too …ya do know what they’re up to?’
‘Yeah, when I heard ye two were involved I said I’d tag along, always wanted to get a good look at outer space’
‘Hope it’s worth it, it’s a risky thing to do’
Faf took a step backwards.
‘Risky?, hold on Kevin, ya didn’t say it’d be risky’
Sandra was the first to respond.
‘No he didn’t, and just because a stranger says it is doesn’t mean anything, for all we know they are shapeshifting enemies of humanity’
Tony laughed loudly, followed seconds later by Paul.
‘Don’t worry, we’re not shapeshifters’
‘That’s for me to decide’
‘You can decide what you like, but it’s not true, we work for NASA’
‘Yeah, that’s right, NASA’
Sandra looked unimpressed.
‘If that’s true then how come the pair of ye are down here and not in outer space? …or faking another moon landing?’
Martina grabbed Sandra by the elbow.
‘Just ignore them, we’re trying to save the world’
Sandra didn’t reply, and instead fixed an unblinking stare at the two crusties/ astronauts/ shapeshifters.
‘Right Kevin, we’re off, the best of luck to you and your friends’
Tony and Paul stepped around the group in the direction of the makeshift car park.
‘Wait lads …will ye just hang on to go through the settings?’
‘don’t think you have time Kevin, those aliens have had a head start on you …do you know anywhere nearby that does breakfast?’
‘Hold on, none of us have been to space before …well, maybee Sandra …but definitely not using a hyperdrive’
Martina, Pa, Billy and Sandra walked out into the clearing, hoping to get a look at the spaceship. Sandra kept a wary eye on the two strangers as she moved. Kevin stood in front of Tony and Paul, blocking their way.
‘Look, our work is done now’
‘Yeah, think of it like when we met ya earlier, when I got a cigarette paper off ya’
‘Good man Tony, that’s a great way of explaining space travel to the lad …so when you gave us the tobacco Kevin it was exactly like us fixing the driver side window’
‘And the lighter ya gave us is the superluminal hyperdrive …well, a superluminal hyperdrive would make one hell of a lighter, but ya get the idea’
‘What we’re saying is we’re not going to smoke it for you’
‘That’s the spirit Kevin, everybody has to start somewhere …you’ll pick it up in no time’
‘But, but, uh, how do I work the hyperdrive?’
‘We left instructions on the steering wheel, and besides ya have the CPU to help ya’
‘Yeah, Tony’s right, ya did well when ya picked that chip’
‘Huh, what do ye mean?’
‘That processor ya picked up …it’s well known that all those first generation Mega Drives were self aware, that’s why they got replaced …ya know now how it is with these things; if you need help, you should ask.’
Tony and Paul brushed past Kevin and continued on between the trees.
Kevin stared out towards the van parked at one end of the clearing. The rest of the crew had gathered beside it. Despite the darkness he could tell they were unimpressed.
He joined them, and Pa said what they were all thinking.
‘That’s the spaceship?’
‘My Ford transit?’
‘I thought it’d be something a bit better …how much diesel will we need to drive to space?’
‘None, the van is just housing for a superluminal drive’
‘Uh okay …and you’re sure it’s gonna work?’
Kevin walked importantly around the van, opening every door as he went. He paced to the middle of the clearing and stared briefly up at the sky. The rest of the group followed his eyes.
He then went back over to the rear doors of the van.
‘Right …Sandra, Faf, Billy in here, Pa, you and Martina are in the cab, I’m the pilot’
Sandra was first to climb in, followed by Faf.
‘Lads, I’m scared’
Billy was next.
‘Ya fucking should be scared mate, you’re going into space in a homemade rocket …are there any tunes in this thing Kevin?, we can’t go without sounds, yeah’
Kevin reached into the passenger seat well, pulled out a stereo, and handed it to Billy.
‘Just this walkman, it belongs to Martina’
‘What’s in it’
‘I dunno, last train to Lhasa I think’
‘Is there nothing else?’
‘No, that’s it …now keep your feet in lads, and whatever ye do, don’t touch this door till I open it’
Kevin got no reply. Billy already had the stereo on. Faf was listening to Sandra, who was now loudly explaining time travel.
Martina and Pa climbed into the cab, and Kevin joined them. There was a note stuck to the wheel. Martina pointed to it.
‘What’s that about?’
‘The lads left instructions for the hyperdrive’.
‘It can’t be too hard to work if that’s all the notes there is, what’s it say?’
‘Turn key to start’
‘Yes, that’s it’
Kevin glanced down at the Mega Drive, which had been wired into the van’s electric system. A red light showed it was running. The cab was silent except for Sandra’s muffled voice escaping from the back. Kevin turned and knocked on the partition.
‘is everyone ready back there?’
‘What?’, came the muffled reply.
‘I said, are ye ready back there?’
‘Uh, can ye drop me off at the main road …I’ll hitch the rest of the way’
Kevin ignored the request and bent forward. He peered up at the sky, and then at Martina and Pa.
‘Well lads, this is it’
They both nodded
‘Kev’, said Martina quietly, ‘if this doesn’t work out, I just want you to know …I suppose all humans would want you to know …well, like, ya did your best …so fair play’
Kevin found himself instinctively checking the wing mirrors, and turned the ignition.
He turned the ignition again.
Nothing happened again.
He turned the ignition for a third time.
The van was instantly transported to the middle of a giant steel room.
The floor was the size of a football pitch. The walls were white, and over thirty feet tall. Everything was illuminated. On one side was an enormous window. Beyond it was Earth. Thousands of light streaks flickered across the surface of the planet. These were followed by flashes, which bloomed and then disappeared. It was a thriving orb of chaos, set in stark contrast to the vast silence beyond.
‘Fuck …Paul and Tony know their stuff’.
‘What’s this place Kev?’
‘It must be a hanger for the alien fighters’
Two of the walls opened into giant corridors leading away from the room. It was silent. Apart from a handful of box shaped robots quietly scuttling back and forth across the floor of the room, it was also empty.
‘Where is everyone?’
‘Off fighting humans I suppose, they probably just leave robots to run the place’
One of the small box shaped robots approached the van carrying a length of hose. Pa and Martina ducked behind the dashboard, but Kevin didn’t move. The robot paused as it got near, turned, and scuttled away. Pa watched it go.
‘It’s as if we don’t exist’
‘Well, we don’t …at least as far as that thing is concerned, robots don’t know anything outside what’s been programmed into them …which is bound to be just a load of alien stuff …I’m pretty sure the form of a Ford Transit is not in their code’
Pa smiled, and moved to open the passenger door.
‘Great, come on so lads, let’s do this quickly’
Kevin’s arm shot across the van and grabbed the lock.
‘what the fuck are you doing, how do you know the air is breathable …for all we know extraterrestrials breath cyanide, keep that closed’
‘Uh, okay Kev, but what are we gonna do now then?’
Pa had no sooner finished asking the question when a face appeared at the window. It was Billy the Rant, who was gesturing at the headphones on his ears and giving the thumbs up sign. Kevin rolled the newly installed window down. He needn’t have bothered, Billy was roaring at the top of his voice
‘Is this your CD Martina?, fucking great tunes for the night that’s in it, they go perfect with the visuals’
Billy pointed to the view of Earth and it’s starry backdrop, and grinned.
‘Jesus Billy, ya put the heart sideways on me’
‘Me too, take it easy and stop shouting will ya Billy, we’re supposed to be on a mission’.
‘Can’t hear ya mate, the music’s too loud’.
Billy turned and wandered off into one of the corridors leading from the room.
Kevin stepped out of the van and signalled for the others to follow.
‘Right so, I suppose that proves the air is breathable …all we need to do now is save the human race’.