This section deals mainly with the Spacers' expanding knowledge of the worm's capabilities.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the next section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.
When George and Sil arrived at George's cabin they found that a new, larger fish tank had been provided for Undepoldus. Someone had made a series of steps from books next to the tank to enable Undepoldus to climb in unaided. Inside the tank, next to the rocks were two beer tankards. One held water and the other had beer in it that was rapidly going flat. Before he removed his jacket, George carefully lifted Undepoldus from his collar and placed him in the tank. He stood watching Undepoldus for a while to see that he was settled. By the time he was ready, he noticed that Sil had used the shower and drier and was sitting on the bed. When he emerged from the drier, Sil was already in bed. George hoped that Undepoldus would not be too nosy during the night.
When George awoke he saw that Undepoldus had found a new, more comfortable place to rest. Sil was still asleep with Undepoldus between her breasts. Undepoldus is a true Spacer, George thought to himself with a smile.
When he and Sil had prepared for the day ahead, George picked up Undepoldus and put him where he had rested the night before, on his formfit collar. Undepoldus did a circuit of the collar and stopped just where George had put him.
Sil and he went their separate ways. George wanted some breakfast and went to the dining room. He found Marita just finishing her breakfast. so he joined her.
"Good morning George. I trust that you and Sil had a good
"Very good. Undepoldus likes her too. And you?
"Average. The Commander did his best and Gurprit had put all my things in the cabin but he left one very important thing behind."
"What was that Marita?"
"My bed. I had to use a chair and some pillows to make the bed long enough. Even then it was not very comfortable."
"I guess that you also have a problem with sheets and duvets that are too small too. Have you mentioned your problem to the Commander?"
"No. Not specifically. He knows that I cannot manage with a standard bed. When I stayed here before he put two double beds together so that I could sleep on them crossways. It was alright but the beds tended to move apart, leaving a gap where I needed support most. That is why I had a bed specially made for me in the flat. It is three metres long and two metres wide. I will need it brought here or another one made if I am going to stay here for more than a day or two."
"I can see that the lack of a suitable bed is a problem in more ways than one."
"You are lucky George. If you accept a share you know that a standard bed will cause no problems unless it is someone like me. I'm just too big to fit in."
There was a tinge of sadness in Marita's voice. George felt pity for her. Marita must find it very difficult to arrange a share with a male Spacer. He resolved to have quiet talk with the Commander on Marita's behalf.
As George was ordering his breakfast he noticed that Undepoldus was making his way down his arm and onto the table. He waited until Undepoldus was safe on the linen tablecloth before he moved his arm. Undepoldus approached Marita's plate and investigated the residue of her breakfast. Evidently he did not like what he found because he moved backwards onto the tablecloth again. He went round Marita's plate until he was quite close to her. She put a hand on the table beside him to see if he would crawl onto it as he had done with George. She was disappointed. Undepoldus turned back towards George.Marita said. He doesn't seem to like me very much, does he?"
"Last night I thought that he was jealous of Sil but he seemed to like her company this morning."
George put his hand on the table to allow Undepoldus to return to his collar. Undepoldus accepted the invitation immediately.
"I must go now George, I must not be too late to deliver my lecture."
"See you later Marita. Have a good day."
As Marita left George noticed Boku get up and follow her. Boku was wearing jeans and a sweater. With her dreadlock wig she looked like a student. George wondered what it would be like to share with Boku. What would she do with her hands or, what would she do without her hands? Marita was being competently guarded.
Undepoldus investigated George's tea but paid no attention
to his food. As he was preparing to go back to his cabin he saw
the Commander approaching.
"Good morning George. I see that you still have our little friend with you. I trust that you both had a good night."
"Very good sir. Sir, I wish to make a request on behalf of Lieutenant Commander Andersson. Is it possible to arrange that her bed is brought to the club. It would seem that she is short of a share partner or two because she won't fit into a normal bed. She is unaware of this request sir."
"That is very thoughtful of you George. Mufti, please. I thought that she was happy in her flat but, now I think of it, it is one thing for a girl to go to a share partner but quite another to expect a share partner to go to her. Leave it to me George. I will have things arranged by this evening. Now I want to say what I came to see you about."
"What is that Ivan?"
"Admiral Anne-Marie van Wijk will be arriving shortly. She will be in mufti. She will require a comprehensive report on Undepoldus. She will want to know how we are caring for him and what precautions we have taken to ensure his safety. We will have to impress on her that we think Undepoldus will be as big as a whale in a few months time and that we will need specially designed accommodation for him. We will also need to be able to stage a press conference when we announce his existence to the general public. You can tell her that we think that a site in Regent's Park under the auspices of the Fauna Preservation Trust is the one we would prefer if this can be arranged. This is the second biggest Spacers Club on the planet and it is only a short distance from Regent's Park. We can offer a considerable amount of backup support from here if it is needed. No other club is so favourably situated. When the Admiral has been given all the facts, she will then make her recommendations to the Council."
"I will tell her everything I know Ivan. I have not met her before. How will I know her in mufti?
"I have brought a holo of her for you to look at. Please return it when she has left. She 38 and very good looking for her age. She will probably ask for a share. Please oblige her if you can. I mention this because I don't want you to end up like Gurprit did last week. He had accepted a double share and his partner turned up unexpectedly. He managed, but his partner deputised for him the following day."
"I will do my best." said George.
Admiral van Wijk arrived wearing a curly redhead wig and a grey trouser suit topped with a straw hat. She looked as though she had just been fitted out at one of London's fashionable stores. George was given a signal by the Commander that she was the person he was expecting. He stood up as she entered the lounge to attract her attention discreetly. "Hello George." she said as if she had only been away a short while.
"Good day Anne-Marie, I trust that you had a good journey." he replied, hoping to strike the correct level of informality.
"It was uneventful. The moveway goes so fast, one doesn't see much of the scenery. The Brits are fairly efficient at that sort of thing. I was even asked if I wanted to have Dutch signs when I got my ticket. I told the robot that I would be just as happy with the British ones."
George recognised the standard small talk for what it was and decided to ask her for a starting point.
"Anne-Marie, What have you heard about the Undepoldus mission.?"
"Not a lot George, I understand that all we got back were some rocks."
"If that is all you have heard, I would like to introduce you to my friend Undepoldus. He is rather small and not very talkative"
The admiral looked at him in a slightly baffled sort of way. She could see nobody near him and half expected George to take her somewhere.
George continued. "He likes to make himself inconspicuous. He is the fur collar that I am apparently wearing."
Anne-Marie looked hard at George's collar, almost disbelieving that it was a creature and not a cylinder of fur.
"Are you sure that wearing an alien creature around you neck is an appropriate way to care for it?"
"He seems to prefer my collar to any other location at the moment." He then thought of the place that Undepoldus had chosen when he woke up. I can't be sure but I have the impression that he perceives things sideways. I don't know how because he has not got any eyes. However, he has acted in a way that makes us think that he can recognise people."
Anne-Marie took off her hat and wig together so that she could peer at Undpoldus closely. George noted that the red hair wig was appropriate to her freckled face. George knew that she would not be able to discern anything from her present position. The brown patch was not visible. Undepoldus was unmoved by the way she looked at him. George felt no sign of movement around his collar. Eventually Anne-Marie asked "How do you know that it is still alive?"
George said. "I am sure that he would fall off if he were dead. I will try to tempt him into showing himself to you." George picked up the drinks menu from the table in front of him and dialled a glass of water. He then took a collection of stones out of his pocket and put them on the table. Then, noting the bowl of savoury nibbles on the table, he emptied them out and put the stones in the bowl. When the robowaiter arrived, it attempted to pick up the bowl. George said to it. "Please leave the bowl where it is." George took the glass of water from the robot and placed it next to the bowl. As he was doing so, Undepoldus began to move as if on cue. George rested his hand on the table to allow Undepoldus to make his way to the offerings he had provided.
Anne-Marie watched in wonderment as Undepoldus made his stately way down George's arm and onto the table. He investigated the glass and the bowl and the crawled into the bowl. George and Anne-Marie were equally interested in what he was doing. Undepoldus began to sample one of the stones and generated a noticeable amount of slurry. The stone fizzed and spluttered as Undepoldus spread his digestive acids over it. George sat back in his chair, leaving Undepoldus to demonstrate his feeding method to Anne-Marie.
"You see, he is quite alive and the acids he produces are extremely noxious." Anne-Marie moved her head away as she caught the smell of the acids and slurry.
"Does it only eat stones?" she asked.
"Well, he normally has large rocks that he tunnels into, but I could only bring a few pebbles with me to give him a snack in case he felt peckish."
Anne-Marie noticed that the collection of stones had become noticeably smaller. "How much does he consume in a day?" she asked.
"We have not yet got around to measuring how much he eats. We have only had him here since last night. All we know is that he seems to be able to dispose of his own volume within a few hours. He usually absorbs the moisture in the slurry he produces and leaves a sort of dried mud. Some of the material he consumes is converted into gas. Hhe does not have an alimentary canal as we know it. We have not been able to see any orifices. His brown patch is something like the everted stomach of a starfish."
Anne-Marie said briskly. "To business. Now I have seen the creature and some of its peculiar ways, what do you want the Spacers League to do for it."
"I think that he will need very special accommodation. His growth rate is such that he will be between 25 and 50 metres long within a few months. The ideal site from my point of view is a only a few kilometres from here in Regents Park.. I suggest that the Spacers League should discuss the idea with the British Fauna Preservation Trust and offer to pay for the new building."
"That is a tall order, coming from a Lieutenant. Have Rear Admiral Chebychev and Commander Sincayvitch been consulted about this suggestion?"
"Commander Sincayvitch suggested the idea to the Rear Admiral. We were in mufti, you understand. It was Rear Admiral Chebychev who suggested that you should be contacted and informed about the worm and its significance."
"I see. What is your part in this scenario?"
"I have been delegated with Lieutenant Commander Andersson to care for and protect the worm. In the discussion with its discoverer, Peter Whitfield, the group of us thought that the worm should be given the name of the mission that brought it to Earth - Undepoldus."
"I wish to recapitulate. "You say that the worm will grow very large, as large as a blue whale, and will need special accommodation. You recommend that the accommodation is built in Regents Park here in London. Is there any particular reason why Regents Park is more suitable than another site in the USA.?"
"This club is the second largest on Earth. It can provide Spacers who have no other duties to assist in the care and protection of the worm at very short notice. Regents Park has the facilities to handle the public who will want to come and see the worm. We have so far managed to keep the existence of Undepoldus a secret as far as the general public are concerned. We will not be able to maintain secrecy for more than a few weeks - if that long. As soon as the public becomes aware that a creature from another planet is here on Earth, millions of people will want to see it. There will also be some who will want to destroy it. It has harmed no-one and I think that it should be cared for with whatever resources are required. The Spacers League could provide those resources with ease and I think that it would create favourable publicity for us all."
Anne-Marie had been listening intently to what George had said but her gaze was fixed on Undepoldus.
She said. "George, I think that you have a good case. You have put your arguments well and your little companion has done everything necessary to convince me that it needs a special home to live in. You may not have noticed but it has made a large hole in the bottom of the bowl while we have been talking. I have the feeling that the cost of a new bowl and a new table could be claimed as justifiable expenses as well." She finished with a smile.
The stones had all gone. There was a mess of slurry in the bowl that Undepoldus was gradually drying out. As he did so, it was clear that he was avoiding the depression where his acids had eaten their way through the bottom of the bowl. George had begun to think that Undepoldus was averse to eating anything of organic origin.
"Thank you Anne-Marie. Is there anything else that you would like to know?"
"No. I have heard and seen enough to make a report to the Council. Only a few people have been this close to an alien creature and none have had a private showing of it performing its natural functions as I have had. My job tends to keep me away from situations that junior Spacers have to deal with. I receive a lot of reports and seldom get to see anything a first hand. Today was an exception. Please convey my compliments and thanks to Rear Admiral Chebychev for asking me to come here. You will receive my commendation."
"Thank you Anne-Marie. I am honoured."
"Now to turn to more personal matters." she continued. "I took the precaution of checking the numbers of male and female Spacers who are staying in the Club at the moment. I discovered that you are one of seven male Spacers here whose partner is not here with you. I also found that there are thirty-five female Spacers here too. It is clear that your diary is very full of share requests. I think it would be an imposition to ask for a share on this occasion but I will ask you later when I am sure that the pressure on your companionship is less onerous. I always tell my staff that lust must be tempered with reason. Male Spacers must never feel that our need for their bodies is more important than their duties as Spacers. However, male companionship is very important to all Spacers."
"Thank you for your consideration Anne-Marie. I know that a certain Spacer would appreciate my company this evening. She has been and is very lonely. She is a celebrity on several counts and has her own special problems too. Although she is fearless in many ways, she has so far been too timid to ask me directly for a share. As Lt. Cdr. Tai isn't here, I am free to choose my share partners, but I am sure that she would approve. When we parted last time she said. 'Be a good boy, George. You have been very good for me and I am sure that you will be good for a lot of lonely Spacers in England. I won't be able to have you for a while but I know that there is only one way that you can stay fit and ready for me when we are together again. You know what they say - practice makes perfect.' She expects me to get a lot of practice and experience while I am here, but I don't think that she imagined that we would be outnumbered seven to one."
"London is a very popular place for us girls. Before I leave I will talk to Commander Sincayvitch about the imbalance. I will try to arrange that you won't be so busy next time I come here".
Undepoldus had finished his drying up and had taken a drink from the glass when the Admiral was about to leave. He went over to her side of the table and investigated her hat and wig. She thought that he might cause some damage so she put her hand out to protect them. Undepoldus just climbed onto her hand and began to crawl up her arm.
George said. "Stay still Anne-Marie. He won't hurt you. Let him get to know you."
Anne-Marie tried to relax as Undepoldus made his way up to her shoulder. He had to traverse the front of her jacket to get to her other shoulder because she had no collar that would give him support. He then turned and gently put his brown patch against her neck. Anne-Marie found the feeling uncomfortable. Undepoldus transferred his attention to the side of her face. He wasn't hurting her at all but she didn't like what he was doing. It was clear that she wanted to stop him but dare not in front of George. She showed signs of emotional turmoil. Perspiration began to run down her face in rivulets and the George noticed in horror that her freckles were disappearing. Her eyes closed. She was trying hard to ignore the effect that Undepoldus was creating. George took out the holo to compare the image with the woman in front of him. She looked similar to the holo but she was not Admiral van Wijk.
The next section deals with the efforts made to locate Admiral van Wijk.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the following section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.