Make your own free website on Tripod.com
 

Pumpkin

By Sam Seal

For Minze

{May/June 1983 - August 30th, 1998}

(Based on the characters of the series 'Space: Above and Beyond', created by Morgan and Wong.)

(Darkness.)

"What do you think of Achilles? No? Pity. How about . . . Beaucephalus - no, on second thoughts I'll hang onto that one - Ross said something once about getting me a horse. God knows where I'd put it, though. (Long sigh.) Then, have you considered . . . umm . . . Tora? Yes! Tora - Colonel McQueen and his cat, Tora! Sounds good. Ross will like it - it's the Japanese word for Tiger. And it's very distinguished, don't you think?

"Hey, Cat! (Prod.) Wake up and get with the Program here! It's going to be your Name, after all.

"Well, there's no need to be like that about it - that happens to hurt. Yes! A lot! So stop doing i - OUCH!!! Oh, for goodness sake . . .

(Even longer sigh.) "So I take it you don't like Tora either, then? Damn. I thought it sounded rather good, myself. Ah, well . . . Let's sleep on it.

"Okay then - you sleep on me, and I'll sleep on it. Right? Right . . . Good . . .

"Cat - you sound positively rusty."

*********

(Reveille.)

"Wakey, wake - Oh my God! Cat - curled up there, you look like a pumpkin!"

*********

(Breakfast . . . )

(sotto voce) "Colonel McQueen and his cat, Pumpkin. Terrific!"

*********

MEANWHILE . . .

(Hawkes) "Chigger - NO!"

(West) "C'mon boy! Come here!"

(Wang) "Nooo - don't go in there!"

(Vansen) "COME HERE!"

('Phousse) "Quick! Somebody grab him!"

(Hawkes) "Chiggy, don't shaaa - "

('Phousse) "Oh."

(Vansen) "Hell!"

(Ross) ". . . McQueen's goanna kill me . . . "

*********

LATER . . .

It had finally dawned on Cooper that the Pantyhose 'Custard Pie' joke might not have been such a good idea after all.

"HAWKES!!!"

Cooper cringed. He would have hidden too, but bravely decided that he'd better be on hand to protect his dog from the Colonel's notoriously unpleasant ideas of Pay-Back.

He had never been particularly bright.

Chigger had no such compunctions, however, and slunk damply beneath Cooper's bunk as Colonel McQueen flung the door almost off its hinges and erupted into the room. He looked more that a little annoyed.

"Good - there you are," the Colonel seethed, scanning to rest of the room in search of the Architect of Destruction. "And just where is He at the moment?"

Hawkes gulped. "He's . . . he's under my bunk, Sir."

McQueen paused in mid-smoulder. "Odd," he murmured, "I thought he'd be on the Bridge by now."

Hawkes looked baffled. "Sir? I'd never let my dog near the Bridge!"

"Your dog? What's Chigger got to do with it?" He relaxed a notch in the face of Hawkes' anxiety. "He was merely the Implement of Disaster, Cooper, not the Cause," he explained gently. Then he reverted to his previous grim demeanour. "No, I'm looking for the Commodore."

Lieutenant Hawkes also managed to relax a little as the realisation of Chigger's overall safety filtered through. "Uh, he's gone to his Quarters, Sir," he replied meekly. "He said he'd be expecting you."

McQueen frowned. "Well he might," he muttered darkly, turning to leave. "Oh, and Cooper - the next time the Commodore decides he wants to take your dog for a walk around the Hydroponics section - dissuade him. Tactfully! "

"Sir, yes, Sir! I'll try to remember, Sir!"

"Good." The Colonel smiled, unconvinced. "And I'll try to remember to close the door to my Quarters when I'm not there. Okay?" He sighed. "I really don't want to have to spend another two hours wiping dirty water droplets off my bookcase."

*********

LATER . . .

"Oh - WOW!" Hawkes exclaimed, burying his face in his hands for the tenth time in as many minutes. "Eurch! Somebody tell me when to look - uh? Oh - argh!"

While his face was firmly pressed against his pillow once more, Wang and West took the opportunity to purloin some more of Coopers' popcorn from out of his bucket.

"D'you think it's safe for him to look yet?" Nathan asked his friend through a mouthful of the Saratogas' finest junk-food snack, his eyes never leaving the vid-screen. He was sitting at one end of the trio, Paul at the other end and Cooper in the middle - it made for easier access to Coopers popcorn.

Wang grinned. "Definitely," he replied as he made his final raid on the bucket. "It's just getting to the best bit!"

"Hey, Coop! You can look now!" they chorused.

Cooper Hawkes looked up - just in time to witness Gigan and Megalon encircling Godzilla and Jet Jaguar The Giant Robot in a ring of fire!

"Oh nooo!"

*********

Commodore Ross knew he out-ranked McQueen by at least a couple of levels within their respective Military fields. (He'd tried to work it out once and concluded that he very roughly equated to a Brigadier. Two ranks higher than a Lieutenant-Colonel, but still not God - except on board the Saratoga, naturally.) He also knew that McQueen had not said or done anything to suggest that he was anything less than Boss Ross. Any word or action would have been utterly unnecessary anyway.

It was the way McQueen was looking at him that was making the Commodore feel so uncomfortable. Almost as if he should have considered putting a book down the back of his trousers before this 'Interview'. He was feeling exceedingly guilty, and with good cause.

Nevertheless, it was McQueen who looked beleaguered. "With respect, Commodore - the pools on the carpet, the marks on the walls, hell, even the marks on the ceiling - I can deal with those. But - just don't let him shake himself off all over my books, Sir! Not a forth time," he added a little desperately. "Please?"

Ross held up his hands in surrender. "All right, Ty, mea culpa - Guilty as charged. Next time I take that dog out and he decides to go swimming in the water-tank, I will personally see to it that he is fully dried off before I turn him loose in the Five-Eight's corridor again."

"And Sir - you'll try to keep him off my bunk? Bright orange fur is one thing, but - "

The Commodore smiled apologetically as he raised the appropriate hand. "Scouts Honour, Colonel!"

The idea of even a dry Labrador laying sprawled across his bunk was discouraging enough, but McQueen decided to quit while he was ahead. He just couldn't face tackling the whole 'burying the bone under the bonsai-tree' (rubber plant, weeping fig, ect.) scenario again. Not today - even though he knew it was going to be beef for dinner that night and the kitchens were 'light' of one large, juicy ham-bone after one of the Commodore's Routine Inspections. As it was, the Aftermath of yesterdays 'Chigger Plays with Little Pumpkin' episode had yet to be completely eradicated. . .

"Thank-you, Sir," he managed.

After another half-an-hour discussing the finer points of Military Strategy (this time with regard to lobster-fishing - one of Ross's favourite topics of conversation, but something the Colonel had about as much hands-on experience with as a mushroom), McQueen made his excuses and left. Heading back to his room, he wondered if he had any aspirin left -he was getting another one of those headaches.

The trip back to his Quarters was relatively uneventful, much to his relief. Just a minor Enemy Attack to quell, an AI Spy to dispatch and a couple of Newbie Lieutenants to terrorise.

Same old same-o . . .

At length he arrived back at his Quarters and managed to open the door, duck inside and shut the door again before Little Pumpkin managed to escape. Thanking God for Small Mercies, he went in search of some soluble aspirin.

Leaning to fill the tumbler at the sink in his quarters, one last, unpalettable little 'alarm bell' went off in the Colonel's sub-conscious.

(". . . Next time I take that dog out and he decides to go swimming . . .")

McQueen dry-swallowed the pills.

*********

Things had been going relatively well until Nathan had thoughtlessly pointed out to Wang that Megalon (or possibly it was Gigan - he'd lost track of the names a long time ago) was nothing more nor less that a fifty-foot high Flying Cockroach.

By the time Colonel McQueen arrived at the scene Wang's muffled screams could be heard heading off in the direction of Medical. West had followed Damphousse's example from a long time ago - and thus Hawkes was now minus another sock. Thus gagged, Wang had then been tied onto the stretcher by stretcher-bearers of long experience.

(The conversation had run along the lines of -

Stretcher-bearer #1 - "What was it this time, Sir? Woodlouse? Earwig? Somebody prove the Existence of God after all?"

West - "No. Just a fifty-foot high Flying Cockroach."

Stretcher-bearer #2 - "Ahh, well Sir - your Average fifty-foot high Flying Cockroach 'ull do it every time!")

Having surveyed the aftermath of Wang's Unexpected Popcorn Explosion, a hang-dog West was promptly dispatched to the Domestic Appliances Division to fetch the vacuum cleaner.

"Colonel?" Hawkes muttered hesitantly to his C.O. as the pair of them slowly (Hawkes was hopping, after all) made their way down to see if the unfortunate Lieutenant showed any signs of recovery yet (and could Cooper have his sock back now, please? His foot was getting cold).

"Hmm?"

"What . . . "

"Hmm?"

Hawkes looked anxiously around. Sure that no-one else could over-hear, he asked urgently "Sir - what should we do if we're ever attacked by a Giant Cockroach, Sir? Is there, like, some kinda Official Plan or what?"

McQueen pulled up sharply.

"WHAT?"

Hawkes fidgeted nervously. "I mean like - it doesn't hafta be a Giant Cockroach, I guess - could be a . . . Dusty-Looking Giant Rubber Bird with that parrot disease, or . . . a Giant Spider, or a Giant Short Fat Gliding Monster With A Spike On Its Head, or - "

"Cooper - " McQueen interrupted with faint alarm, "Have you been at the coffee again?"

"Huh? Oh - no, Sir! Well, only that de-caff stuff, like you said." He jerked a finger back over his shoulder in the general direction of the cinema. "It's just . . . I . . . They said . . . "

McQueen thought - and the thought was 'This is getting weird - even for Hawkes.' Still, he supposed he'd better get to the bottom of it, and if it waited until later Hawkes might clam-up altogether . . . So, finding a handy bit of wall to lean against and folding his arms, he adopted his best 'I'll be here for as long as it takes' pose and asked mildly - "What's this all about, Cooper?"

Not finding anywhere else to sit, Cooper sat on the floor and explained . . .

After a while listening to Coopers hesitant explanations, McQueen found himself

a) trying not to laugh out loud (and thus risk damaging his 'Mr. Cool' image); and

b) facing a Major Ethical Dilemma.

Knowing that The Truth was going to prove way too difficult to explain (i.e. Cooper, it's just a Movie!), he realised that he was going to have to break one of his Unbreakable Rules and 'fib' a little.

Looking down at Hawkes' earnest but worried face he replied "Cooper - you don't have to worry. If the Saratoga is ever attacked by Giant Space Monsters of any kind, the Commodore will simply order the ships external speakers to be switched on, pick up his guitar, and then sing at them."

Hawkes considered this answer for a while, and (failing to remember that Sound needs an atmosphere to travel through) finally decided that it Made Sense.

"Vicious - but effective!" he grinned.

*********

When Colonel McQueen returned to his Quarters roughly twenty minutes later, he found Little Pumpkin curled in a ball, fast asleep on his bed. Moving furtively, for he had no wish to disturb his small companion, the Colonel placed something small and alluring next to the kitten.

Its name was Mister Squeaky.

Next to that he placed something bright and twinkley. On the floor next to his bed he set down a cheery red Scratching Post. It matched the Feeding Dish. And the Litter Tray.

And the Igloo Cat-bed.

He decided to leave off fitting the cat-flap until Little Pumpkin was awake.

*********

McQueen was deeply involved with a review of the latest Hammerhead modifications when he heard The Voice for the first time.

"Dose tings is nevva gonna get of da ground, ye know," it said, in a lilting Connemara brogue.

"Hmmm?" McQueen regarded the kitten that was perched on the end of his desk, busily savaging Mister Squeaky, but looking otherwise Innocent. "Did you say something?" he asked suspiciously.

Little Pumpkin glanced up and looked McQueen in the eyes. "Oi most certainly did not!."

McQueen released his breath, releived. "Good."

"Wot Oi said wus, dose tings is nevva gonna get of da ground. What is ye, soft in de 'ead or somt'in'?" Little Pumpkin paused in mid-savage to place a paw lightly onto the picture. "Look! Dese fing's is all wrong."

(This is not happening . . . This is NOT happening . . .)

(But, just in case it IS - ) "They is - ah - are? Howcome?"

"Well, da wings is all wrong for a starter. Oi mean, where's da hinges, Col?"

"Hinges?"

"Sure! Ye gotta have da hinges, or da wings won't flap. How can ye 'spect all dem wings ta do da flappin' wid'out da hinges?"

"They don't need to flap, Pumpkin - these are fixed winged planes."

"Don't need ta flap? Dat's mad! Whoever heared of a flyin' ting wot didn't hafta do wiv da flappin' ? Daft - dat's what dat is. Here's yer Man here, tryin' ta tell a Cat dat da flyin' tings don't hafta do wiv da flappin'. Daft ye are fer tinkin' it, plane an' simple - if ye'll pardon da pun."

(I've been working too hard . . . )

"Sure ye have - but dat still don't mean dem tings is gonna get offa da deck."

"You heard that? You heard me think that, just then?"

"Sure Oi did, at dat! Oi's a Side-Kick, ye know. All Cats is. Didn't ye know dat, Col? Well now ye does. Mary muddah o' Jaysus - giv' me strength!"

"Well then - taking into account my fundimental ignorance - why do you keep calling me 'Col.'?"

Little Pumpkin sniffed. "Oh, Janey! Is it not what's writ on de front o' ye very door there, plain as da day? Col TC McQueen. Oi does know me letters, Col, as well as Oi knows me numbers."

McQueen put down his pen. "So, let me get this straight - I am sharing a room with an Educated Kitten."

"Would ye prefer a Uneddicated one?"

"No."

"Well den!"

"An Educated Psychic Kitten?"

"Dat's about da size of it, yes."

"An Educated Psychic Irish Kitten."

"You figured dat last bit out fer yeself? Why, sure an' all - t'was da red hair gived me away."

There was no answer to that, the Colonel decided. Instead he considered the advent of his tiny companion more deeply. Choosing his next words very carefully, he asked -

"Who sent you?"

Pumpkin bristled. "Sent me? Sent me! Nobiddy sent me, Col. I comeded 'ere all by meself." Then his tiny face fell. "Sure, an' it's a powerful long way from me dear mammy back in Galway Oi am, an' all." A little tearfully, he broke into song . . .

"O da roooose o' Traleeeeee!

It beeelongs fer te meeee!

'Cause Oi ooonce had a p - Well, Oi sprayeded it, anyway. An' now it's moine," he finished, brightening up.

"I didn't think Tralee was anywhere near Galway!" McQueen protested.

The kitten sniffed again. "'Tis when yer, like, a g-zillion Light Years from Home!" he answered tartly. "An' a bally long walk dat wus, an' all! - T'ough not as far as a g-zillion Light Years," he added truthfully.

(Oh, God . . . )

"Dat's wot Oi tought, too, when Oi got 'ere," Pumpkin confided. "Turned out it wusn't, t'ough. Turned out it wus sum sort o' airyplane wot bringed me here. An' now Oi comes ta tink of it - dat plane wusn't dat big on da flappin', oither. So maybe, maybe there's som'ting ta what ye wus sayin', after all."

McQueen decided he was simply Delusional by this time. Even so, he opted to play along. It passed the time, if nothing else.

"So, if nobody sent you, why are you here?"

"Is it me yer askin'?" Little Pumpkin scratched his left ear with a back leg as he pondered the question. "Well now - Oi'll hafta tink about dat one." He plonked himself down in the middle of the Hammerhead schematic and made started chewing noisily on the ill-starred Mister Squeaky. "Ye don't mind if Oi chews, do ye? It helps me wiv da tinkin'."

"Be my guest," McQueen replied dryly. He wasn't sure what sort of Metaphysical Revelation he was experiencing here - or even if that was the right term - but he was sure that, by the time it was over, he might have learn something of Great Importance. Assuming this wasn't a nightmare - unlikely, nobody was dead yet - or some fever-induced hallucination bought on by battle wounds - ditto - or the result of too much chocolate just before bedtime - ditto ditto, but still the most likely Candidate.

Little Pumpkin suddenly stopped his chewing (and squeaking) and sat up with a start.

"Oi's got it!" he cried triumphantly. "Oi tought an' tought an' chewed an' chewed - da chewin' helps me wid da tinkin', did Oi mention dat? - and Oi tink Oi tought it out."

"Go on," McQueen prompted, all agog.

Little Pumpkin drew himself up to his full height (about seven inches), adopted a Noble Pose and announced momentously -

"Oi'm 'ere te assist ye wiv da fightin' of da Giant Earwiggy-Tings!"

**********************

THE END

Copyright SamSeal

November 1997