By Keith Errington
2B-loop had been given a very important mission. His first proper mission! And it was off world! He was very excited and honoured to be given this task. His supervisor, 1A-doop, had said it was vital work! So vital, in fact, none of the other protoinvestigators could be spared to do it. Only he, 2B-loop the student, was suitable for the task.
He went over the mission in his head one more time: land, observe, collect material, record data, and leave. Although it was simple, 1A-doop had stressed that it was vitally important work and also that he might face some trivial difficulties on the way.
As 2B-loop headed towards his circular spacecraft, his chest (or equivalent) puffed with pride. He beeped and chirped to himself. His first mission!
He struggled a bit with the landing but managed to put the saucer shaped craft down in a small clearing in what his notes said was a forest. Now, what was the name of this place again? Oh yes, that’s right, this existence was known as Hopeless, Maine.
As 2B-loop stepped down from his craft, he made the weird but cute chirping noises his species made when they were happy. He looked around. The edge of the clearing was surrounded by dense vegetation. “No creatures visible,” he noted in his log.
He walked forward into the forest and immediately a nearby piece of vegetation reacted to his presence, lashing out and wrapping itself around his appendage. “Bloof,” he chirped out loud. This was an unarmed fact-finding mission, so without a weapon, 2B-loop resorted to hitting the vegetation with his note taking scanner device. It recoiled and then attacked again. How annoying, thought 2B-loop.
A more thorough thrashing with his device was delivered, and the vegetation backed off, folding in on itself as it did so. Well, that was irritating. Fortunately, the note-taking device was virtually indestructible, so he was able to note down, ‘Aggressive plant life.’ And then he moved more carefully, and quickly through the forest.
After a while, he cleared the edge of the forest and appeared to be on some sort of unnatural route. Hmm. He consulted his device. “Road” it told him. Ah, 2B-loop thought, perhaps I can now get to observe some of the creatures that inhabit this existence. Almost as soon as he had that thought, something came bounding up to him. 2B-loop aimed his note taking scanner at the leaping object.
The device started searching for matches within the data captured from other existences on this planet. No results. He fiddled with the settings. Ah, now he had something, “Dog – skeleton – remains – post living” Well, that’s all very well, thought 2B-loop, but this specimen is very much alive and jumping up at me!
Apparently, according to the data, the correct course of action was a “shoo.” He didn’t know what a shoo was, so he raised his cruethnot and waggled his dangbabbler. That seemed to do the trick as the “dog” ran away. It took 2B-loop a few moments to record some observations about the incident and then he resumed his walk.
He was being careful to keep to the side of the road so he could hide in the woods if anyone should appear, when, jang! A creature rushed headlong out of the woods to his left, catching him completely unawares. Oh no! thought 2B-loop, I’m only supposed to observe – interaction was clearly forbidden. I’ve already failed!
“Well, my you are a curious one” said the strange creature now standing in front of him, with 2B-loop’s notetaker translating. He tried scanning the entity, but it kept saying, ‘unknown, unknown.’
“I wonder where you are from?” Asked the creature, “Not of this world, I think.” There was a commotion in the trees to 2B-loop’s left, and the strange creature was distracted for a few seconds. 2B-loop took that moment to triumphantly engage his diffraction mode, which would make him invisible to all.
“You know I can still see you, right?” said the strange creature. “You’ll have to try harder than that to fool one such as I!” More noise from the trees, much closer this time. “No matter, I shall come and find you. And then we shall have some fun.” There was a strange expression on the creature’s face. Then it ran off, pursued by an angry mob of what the notetaker said categorically, were humans. There were shouts of “Come back Durosimi!” And “You’ve gone too far this time” and “she was my daughter, you demon!” They didn’t seem to notice 2B-loop at all.
2B-loop reflected on the event. Confusing, but it was pleasing that the encounter had ended with the creature suggesting fun. That sounded nice.
2B-loop moved on. This time he didn’t move in a straight line, he wandered around examining this flower, that grass, this shrub, that moving tentacle. It seemed in diffraction mode he was less bothered by aggressive vegetation, so he remained invisible for now. All the while he took copious notes. Pleased that he was recording so much data for his report. 1A-doop was going to be mightily impressed – he knew it. In time, he came across a small house. It seemed to be owned by a small, black, four-legged furry creature. Which was odd, because the proportions were all wrong. The house was way too big for such a small thing.
‘Cat,’ announced his scanner. Although he still had diffraction mode activated, the creature actually seemed to sense him somehow, and they stood regarding one another for quite a while. Then the creature just turned, rolled over and started licking itself in a very relaxed manner. Was that a welcome gesture? 2B-loop thought it must be and tried to emulate the move as closely as possible. The creature stopped and stared at him. Then just walked away. I must have done it wrong somehow, thought 2B-loop, picking himself up off the ground. Or maybe the walking away was part of it? And so, he too, walked away, in the opposite direction. This is so exciting! Out on an alien existence and interacting with the locals! Of course, the fact that he wasn’t really supposed to be interacting made it even more exciting!
Over the course of the next few days, 2B-loop had many encounters with the vegetation, creatures and inhabitants of Hopeless, Maine. Many were aggressive, dangerous even, but some were just interesting, or weird, or… curious. He had collected so much data. So many notes to present to 1A-doop. His scanner device had a finite storage capacity and 2B-loop noted that it was almost full. So, somewhat reluctantly, he headed back to his saucer ship for the trip home.
As he neared the spot where he left it, he realised that the clearing was no longer a clearing. A huge mound of spiky, writhing vegetation had taken over most of it. There was no sign of his ship… although the mound’s shape suggested the ship was at the heart of it. 2B-loop’s normally happy demeanour sank slightly. There was no way to get to his ship. He flopped down where he was. All the air seemed to go out of him as he contemplated his existence.
After a very long time, his tracker beeped at him. A pre-recorded, personal message from 1A-doop. “2B-loop, by now, you may have realised the particular issue with this existence, Hopeless, Maine. We have sent in two researchers in the past and neither came back. It appears to be a feature of the place. Any entity that ends up on the island cannot escape it. It was decided that we would try one more mission. And you were chosen 2B-loop. You had an extremely important quality. You were entirely expendable, especially as you had proven yourself to be entirely useless in every one of the investigators’ specialisms. Of course, should you manage to come back, you will be lauded a hero, the greatest proto-investigator of all time and offered leadership of all investigators and investigations.”
There was an unusual noise then on the recording. 2B-loop realised it must be 1A-doop laughing.
“Good luck 2B-loop. And from all of us here, goodbye. Your sacrifice will hardly be noticed.”
2B-loop deflated further and for a day or so didn’t move at all. Eventually, he moved.
–◊– –◊– –◊–
The Squid and Teapot was mostly frequented by regulars, attracted to its character, if not its food and beverages. It was a place to meet friends and talk about enemies. Of course, those who found themselves freshly shipwrecked would often head for the pub, assuming it was some kind of safe haven, a bastion against the dangers and extreme strangeness of the Island. Whether that be true or not, strangers would occasionally arrive in the bar. Almost always they would walk up to the bar, acknowledge the server, order a drink and then look around. And almost always, their first question would be, “What is that bright pink and yellow blob covering the back table and two chairs?” “That, oh, that’s just 2B-loop. He’s an alien. Now, will you be wanting any food?”