Long Shot Mulligan: Century 21C
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• Fly 100 light years.
Mission SummaryIt is 0800 hours in front of Fort Tyler. The daystar blesses us with gentle warming rays. Six pilots and one particularly ancient maggot are savouring the crisp fall air as our fearless mission leader Dr. Claw patiently and cheerfully explains our objectives. We will fly 100 light years. We will go to Plum Island for a scenic stroll along the beach, to feel the grains of sand between our toes like the infinite elementary particles littering our galaxy. Morale is high.
It is 1100 hours in front of Fort Tyler. Seven pilots are on the launchpad. We have already delayed launch by an hour. We have already fixed several mechanicals. Where is our fearless mission leader, Dr. Claw? Civitron is already lying down.
We are zipping through wormholes along which bloom an array of autumnal flora. Semi-wild tardises proliferate in these regions of space; we avail ourselves gladly. We pass Neptune near the Swamp Walk. “Where’s Uranus?” says Fleet Admiral Skunk. “Last time I didn’t see Uranus.”
Pilots murmur to each other in growing concern. Dead Bride volunteers for a reconnaissance sortie back in the bowels of the near-empty Fort. Not a sentient life form is stirring, but the walls echo with the furious sounds of whooshing water. A plaintive cry rises… “I’m not gonna make it….”
We consume sandwich molecules and waffle molecules at a refueling stop and rapidly prepare for re-launch. The next section of the route is bucolic and calm, though Skunk narrowly avoids mishap when attempting a change of armor mid-flight. Luckily Wombat watches closely and raises the alarm in time to avert disaster. We continue along pleasantly curving flight paths, passing farms and marshland and moving ever closer to the sea.
With our fearless leader left behind for his own solo mission riding the porcelain chopper, the remaining pilots take off and try to make up time, charging through wormholes and trying not to succumb to the siren lure of the many tardises littering our path. We stop for refueling in a desolate strip mall, where Skunk gives out stickers and Ziqqurat gives out even more stickers. Gritty boosts morale by passing out provisions made of fried mozzarella. Soon we are bumping along a primitive frontier wormhole. Our outlook is improving.
We burst triumphantly onto the coastal flight path, with Plum Island in sight on the horizon. The ocean breeze gently ruffles the dappled marsh grasses. We cross the hyperspace byway, the daystar still high in the sky. Dr. Claw is eager to alight at a particular port, where the waves make pleasant patterns against the jetty. We stop here and bask in our success. It’s early yet! We walk on the sand and dip our toes in the water. Finally, our festering overripe maggot Grog is knighted in a modest beachside ceremony.
We meander our way through increasingly hostile territory - the flight paths are getting wider and more turbulent and the passing transports more aggressive. We slog up a long g-well. Suddenly, Punchy has a realization - we’ve made a wrong turn. The fleet immediately comes to a halt. On any mission, such a fate can be hazardous, but on a century there is little margin for error. There is nothing for it, no shortcut, no relief - we have to turn back. “If only Dr. Claw were here,” thinks Dead Bride. “Only our fearless mission leader would have the mental fortitude to see us through to the other side of this tactical blunder.” We resolve to press ahead to the halfway point and re-evaluate. Wombat finds a wallet in the flight path, beginning his own small side-quest. Just as we begin to re-enter space, it begins to radiate.
Dazzled by our success under the golden rays of the daystar, we ponder our next move. After a brief stop at a liquor outpost and another at an A+ tardis with an ocean view, we continue on through the clippership wormhole, wending our way through harborside boardwalks and seaside battlements as passing civilians look on in amazement.
We alight in the parking lot of a spiritual outpost and discuss our options. As if on cue, a rainbow appears in the sky above us - a benevolent omen. We decide that, despite the extra light years and the dangers of rainblobs late in the mission, we will proceed to our original goal. We will dip our toes in the ocean, begad!
The daystar is finally fading, and we resolve to find a refueling stop before too late. We stop at an auspicious Spot where many fried molecules and beer molecules are procured and enjoyed. It’s early yet! Dr. Claw rewards himself with a well-earned lava cake.
It feels like we are closing in on our destination. The radiation is upon us once again, but we can smell the sea in the heavy air. Suddenly, SZZZ! Civitron says, “I think I have a mechanical…” Battered by wind and rain, we change his plasma casing by the side of the road. We suffer a blow when our first replacement casing fails and we are forced to start over. Finally, we are on our way. After a brief desperate moment when we consider abandoning Plum Island for the safety of Newburyport’s glowing lights, we press over the hyperspace byway, nearly driven to space madness. In the whipping wind and the lashings of rain, a twinkling appears on the horizon and grows to a roar. We wordlessly steer towards the beckoning flame. Warmth! Provisions!
We are able to roll our ships right into the hangar at this refueling station. We circle around the fire pit and regale our fellow travelers with stories of deep space. Our civilian onlookers are duly impressed with our bravery and recklessness. As we stuff our faces with food and cocktail molecules, Dead Bride is communicating with Dr. Claw via protocol droid, with our fearless mission leader rapidly doing route calculations. “He’s making us a new route!” says Dead Bride. “He’s cutting out as many light years as possible!” The fleet cheers.
Lies. There is only one way back.
Our appetites sated, we launch into darkness to complete the final leg of our journey, slingshotting mild g-wells in the deep edges of suburbia. We pass the 75 light year mark with fanfare and are intercepted by Pastry Queen not long afterwards. Presently, we enter a desolate and turbulent corner of space, punctuated by one long slog of a g-well. This hostile region begins to look familiar, even friendly, as we close in towards home.
With our route set, we push forward in darkness and head for home, 48 light years away. Deliberately, Dead Bride begins to increase fleet speed bit by bit, until we are soaring across the undulating g-wells and charging through the snippets of wormhole. Swamp Walk flashes by us and disappears in our wake. We slog up the bad g-well one more time. “I love fast SCUL!” says Ziqqurat. Our feverish pace seems to only increase pilot enthusiasm. Everyone is game. Morale is high. We bring the hammer down.
We alight on the launchpad just shy of midnight for a brief and triumphant closing ceremony. We did it! Medals of century for the seven brave pilots! Dr. Claw is pleased with our performance and overjoyed that so many comrades turned out for the occasion. And so, another exemplary century is tucked tidily into the annals of SCUL lore….
We check the radar - rainblobs are looming. Skunk opines, “it’s gonna hit us in about ten minutes…” Gritty’s feet are beginning to freeze. It is the darkest timeline. But we’re nearly there! We hold fast to our terrifying speed, stopping only briefly to re-animate our life support...a painful .5 LY from the finish…
To our astonishment, we return to the launchpad miraculously dry. It is unclear whether all pilots are aware we’ve flown 110 LY. We lack the strength to contemplate the magnitude of what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve overcome, how doggedly we pursued century glory in the face of nearly insurmountable obstacles... It was a bad day for everybody's butt, whether they flew the mission or not. Enough! We disperse. The story of this cursed, triumphant century must wait to be told another day, perhaps with a brighter outlook…
~15h26m completion time (~8:30 a.m. ~ 11:56 p.m.)