A most curious event happened to me today, though I’m having a hard time remembering the details as my brain feels like it’s been smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large, gold brick.

I had just taken ownership of my new Python, “The Face of Public Opinion” and was departing a station deep in Chung Li Rui space when I saw a curious fellow hitchhiking the hard way at the station entrance. I couldn’t make out much as he had his heads wrapped in a towel, but I thought there was plenty of space in this ship so I welcomed him aboard.

It was hard to get much out of him at first, and when I did it was in some strange dialect I couldn’t make out. He then lunged at me suddenly and, before I could react, had inserted something flappy and slimy into my right ear. Now I wasn’t going to stand for this and I was about to grab for the blaster-ray at my side when he immediately sat down and started talking again. Only this time in standard galactic!

“Hey man! That’s better; I just had to insert a fish into your ear.”

“You what?!”

“It’s translating for you.”

I was clearly in the presence of a madman. But I thought I’d best not excite him so I played along and I’ve had far worse than fish in my ears in the past. Anyway, he continued, still muffled by the towel around his heads.

“Thanks for picking me up, you’re quite a hoopy.”

“I’m a what?”

“A hoopy.  You know, a frood.  Someone it’s really good to sass.”

I had to reach for my drink at this point; I couldn’t approach any of this in my near-sober state. After a few gulps the strange hitcher reached across so I passed the bottle on to him.

“Eugh! What is this? Filthy elderflower stuff?! Don’t you have anything else?”

That’s no way to treat someone who’s being hospitable, but I thought best to remain polite.

“Yes, there are bars in cargo holds 1, 3 and 7, drinks cabinets in 2 and 6 and a small distillery in 5.”

“That’s more like it, reminds me of that one time with Ford…” He cut off as he wondered into the back of the ship. So far this had been more than I’d bargained for and I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. Also, where was Barnard’s Star?! My thoughts were interrupted by a shout from the back.

“Jinnan tonix or something stronger?”

At this point, I was in need of a very stiff drink.

“Definitely something stronger.”

After the sound of some… a lot of drinks mixing, the stranger returned holding a drink in each hand and easing himself back into his seat with, a third hand? How had I not noticed that before, I was clearly too sober by half. He had removed the towel and slung it around his right neck, his heads were having a muttered conversation with each other. They then stopped and smiled as he passed me a drink, which was smoking slightly alarmingly.

“I’ve had to add the last of my Janx spirits to these, so you’d better enjoy it.”

I swear he was making half of these words up, but he continued.

“I don’t suppose you have seen a rather lost looking, talking ape-descendant in a dressing gown?”

“What are you on about? No I certainly haven’t seen that.”

“You sure, you would know him if you saw him.  Tall, ugly, always talking about tea.”

“Have you been at my Scotch?!”

“No, no, it’s just critically and profitably important that I find him. Do you know where there is any tea?”

“None around here, but Submarine reported finding some when he ventured to the galactic centre.”

“Really? Well then, bottoms up.”

At this point he downed his, still faintly smoking, drink. Seeing that he didn’t immediately keel over, I did the same.

Now, I’ve drunk some strong drinks in my time, but nothing like that! The mysterious stranger carried on talking about roosters and fords; maybe he was some kind of farmer? I asked him his name, but I cannot remember if he answered and that’s about it. I have just come to, in my pilot’s chair; I think I’ll need to find a voluntary support organisation to help me with this hangover.

The hitchhiker has also vanished, looking at the ships logs; he took one of the escape pods several hours ago. I was starting to wonder whether any of that actually happened; so I went to pour myself a scotch to help me recover and found, lying on one of the bars, a towel that definitely wasn’t mine with “ZB” embroider in one of the corners…



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