This section covers the return journey made by Undepoldus to England and what followed.
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Return to England
The Spacers League came up with a solution for the way Undepoldus would return to London. Two extra-heavy-lift sub-orbiters were attached in tandem and fitted with a series of boosters. They were fitted with parachutes and inflatable floats for a landing in the sea. Undepoldus was supplied with a long inflatable bag to crawl into that would support him in the sea as he was transferred to a special sinking barge.
He would then be carried up the Thames to Tilbury. He would have to use his own power to travel the rest of the way.
The sub-orbital vehicle was the heaviest craft to leave the earth's atmosphere. It had been put together in a hurry because a delay would have meant that a bigger vehicle would be needed. Two boosters failed just after lift off and a leak occurred where the two sections joined. The bag in which Undepoldus travelled served as a vacuum suit so Undepoldus was unaffected. During the flight Undepoldus suggested to the crew that he should be jettisoned a few seconds before the vehicle hit the sea. The vehicle would then be light enough to fly in the atmosphere and could be salvaged intact. The gravity compensators would enable it to land like a floater on land. Calculations were done to check if Undepoldus was right. He was. As the vehicle floated down with its parachutes over the North sea near the Thames Estuary, the hatch was opened for Undepoldus to crawl out backwards, still in his bag. As he moved towards the rear of the vehicle, his weight caused it to tilt backwards and he slid out earlier than was intended. He fell nearly sixty metres before he hit the water. The crew had plenty of time to use the gravity compensators to stop the vehicle's descent and jettison the parachutes.
The sinking barge was in position for the original sea landing location so it had to travel several kilometres to reach Undepoldus. It was a trying time for those who were following the rescue. The bag was still floating in the water but there was no sign of movement except for the effect of the swell. It took forty minutes for the barge to get into position. Then its ballast tanks were emptied and Undepoldus was lifted clear of the water. The bag was opened and a fan was arranged to blow air into the open mouth of the bag. It was a tense moment. For a while nothing happened. It seemed that Undepoldus had died of asphyxiation. Then a slight movement was detected. Undepoldus gradually started to emerge backwards out of the bag.
He was alive. It was hoped that he had lost none of his faculties through shortage of breathable gases for such a long time. When just over half of him had become visible he raised his front end enough so that the bag could be pulled off him. It was clear that he had been severely weakened by his experience.
George, Marita and Kerstin arrived at the barge in a floater
to see how Undepoldus was doing. George looked at his friend and
saw that none of his whiskers were moving. He called for floaters
to collect shingle from the beaches to provide Undepoldus with
something to eat. He knew that the stones would not be enough
to restore Undepoldus to his usual state but he hoped that they
would protect him from starvation. Soon piles of stones arrived.
With the aid of the barge crew, George, Marita and Kerstin positioned
the folded bag in front of Undepoldus and started to heap the
stones on it. Undepoldus put his brown patch against the stones
and they started to disappear. Then they were consumed more rapidly.
George thought of the days when men had to feed ships boilers
with coal, as he, Marita and Kerstin shovelled stones towards
Undepoldus as fast as they could manage. Undepoldus began to show
signs of recovery as the barge entered the estuary. George asked
the captain if Undepoldus could be put ashore on a shelving beach
from the barge so that he could get rocks for himself. The captain
checked the tides and suggested that Mucking Marsh might be a
good spot. The tide was rising so that the barge could be temporarily
beached. George hoped that Undepoldus would have enough strength
to crawl up the beach to where he could find some suitable rocks.
After consultation with the barge's owners it was agreed that the beaching should be attempted.
The problems facing Undepoldus had begun to attract the attention
of the news media and floaters arrived over the barge. George
contacted the reporters and told them what had happened. One of
the floaters hovered close to the barge and a reporter jumped
out carrying a portable vidcom unit.
She said to George. "I am Josanne Milford of United News Network. Mr. McFigg we know that Undepoldus is not well. Do you know what is wrong with him.?"
George said. "It could be one of two things or a combination of both. Undepoldus had to stay in a flotation bag for three quarters of an hour until he could be picked up by this barge. He was short of air so I think he was and is suffering from partial asphixiation. His normal rock usage has risen to more than 200 tonnes a day. He absorbs about a quarter of what he uses. He has not had enough to eat during the last twenty-four hours because he has attempted to keep his weight down for the flight here from San Francisco. He is behaving as if he is feeding automatically. He shows none of the signs that he usually shows when he is conscious."
Josanne asked. "What are you doing to help him?"
George answered. "As you see, he is being provided with pebbles as fast as possible but I know that he needs far more than we can give him. We hope that he will have enough strength to make it onto the beach at Mucking Marshes where he can get more rocks for himself."
Josanne said. "This is going out live. Is there any way that the people at Muckingford can help?"
George said. "I do not know what the beach is like at Mucking Marsh. Maybe the locals could guide the Captain to a good place for Undepoldus to land near where he can get some rocks to eat. The tide is rising so the captain thinks that he can beach this barge temporarily and refloat it as the tide rises. That will be easier if Undepoldus is not on board because the barge will be lighter. Undepoldus weighs around seven hundred and fifty tonnes now so he needs a lot of energy to move. There is no way that he can be easily lifted so I hope that some way can be found to make it easier for him to get off this barge onto the beach."
The captain called to George and said. "I have just heard from a dredger captain near Mucking Marshes. He can make a channel for us so that we can get closer to the beach. People are signalling to him from the shore to show him where he should go. It will take us an hour to get there. I hope that he has time to dig us a deep enough channel."
Floaters continued to arrive with piles of pebbles as Marita and Kerstin carried on with their shovelling. They had discarded their outer clothes and were wearing only their formfits to keep cool. Two of the barge crewmen were helping them but Marita and Kerstin were doing most of the work. Another floater arrived and four men in overalls jumped out onto the deck. They had shovels and began to use them. The floater lifted off to make space for another delivery of pebbles. The increased supply of rocky material was beginning to have an effect. George thought that he could see a few whiskers begin to vibrate here and there. As the barge made its slow progress towards Mucking Marshes, George saw that the shores on both sides of the estuary were lined with people watching the barge go by. Another floater arrived and unloaded six Spacers in formfits with shovels. George recognised Jane Wanneroo and Sil Agonistes among them. Jane told Marita and Kerstin to take a break while the others took over. The men in overalls took a quick look at the girls and resumed their shovelling. They saw that the girls were just as capable as themselves when it came to shovelling pebbles.
Josanne used her vidcom unit to show the scene. The two barge
crewmen were also taking a well-earned break while the ten shovellers
tried to keep up with the way Undepoldus made the pebbles disappear.
The bag seemed to be resistant to the acids that Undepoldus used to digest rocks but the slurry he produced was gradually spreading towards the shovellers. George wondered what could be done to wash the slurry away. He thought that if sea water was used, a lot of poisonous chlorine would be liberated. He asked a crewman for his suggestions. The crewman said it would be OK because the barge was now in nearly fresh water. He and one of his crewmates unrolled a hose and activated a pump. They used the water sparingly at first to check for chlorine but it was undetectable. They then increased the flow to wash the slurry into the bilges. George hoped that the acids would not corrode the hull too much.
Undepoldus was now looking a bit more lively. The supply of pebbles was beginning to match his need.
Marita and Kerstin joined George and Josanne
Marita said to Josanne. "Thanks to you we got help with the shovelling. It looks like we are winning now."
Josanne said. "I have heard about you two. One of you is Marita Andersson and the other is Kerstin Broberg. I can't tell which is which."
Marita said. "This is intentional. I am Marita and this is Kerstin. It is Kerstin's job to look like me."
Kerstin said. "They never told me that I would end up shovelling rocks when I volunteered to be your double. I will have backache for a week after this."
Josanne said. "I saw you two working and you were doing twice as well as the men. You must be very fit."
Kerstin said. "Marita and I know Undepoldus. He is our friend. We were working as hard as we could to save his life. He saved mine once so I owe him a lot."
Marita said. "Undepoldus is precious to us. I was responsible for him being here on Earth. I would do anything I could to help him."
George said. "If Undepoldus recovers, he will be even bigger than he is now. Then he will have to fend for himself for a lot of the time because we could not feed him quickly enough. Now I will go and talk to him. I hope that he will be able to hear me and understand what I tell him."
As Mucking Marsh came into sight Marita and Kerstin could see that the shores were thronged with people. The dredger looked as if it was on the shore itself as it continued to make inroads into the beach.
As the barge got closer, the dredger withdrew from the channel it had made. Hundreds of people were constructing a path of pebbles right up to the end of the channel. Further up the beach there were two earth movers piling up rocks at the end of the path. Kerstin and Marita were moved by the way so many people were trying to help Undepoldus to survive. George was still talking to Undepoldus as the barge ran aground in the channel. The dredger had done well. The bow of the barge's sinking deck was less that two metres from the start of the path. Undepoldus began to move very slowly. He stopped to get some water from the hose that was still washing away the last of the slurry. He then continued very slowly off the barge and onto the path of pebbles. The barge began to float again as Undepoldus gradually transferred his weight onto the beach. The captain kept the engine turning to stop the barge from drifting backwards. The barge moved forward a little, helping Undepoldus to make another metre of progress up the beach. When Undepoldus was completely off the barge, the captain kept station to allow George, Marita, Kerstin and Josanne to step onto the beach without getting their feet wet.
The crowds lined the path of pebbles as Undepoldus made his slow way up the beach to the rocks that had been provided for him. The crowd cheered when Undepoldus reached the pile of rocks successfully. George used Josanne's vidcom to express his thanks to the barge's and dredger's captains. They had done their best and the people from around Muckingford had done their best too. Soon they would know if they had done enough in time. George, Marita and Kerstin talked to Undepoldus to give him encouragement and support. Undepoldus did not reply and the number of whiskers vibrating was unchanged.
They could see that Undepoldus would live but they were worried about his faculties. Very little was known about his biology so the effects of asphixiation and partial starvation could not be predicted.
The men with earth movers brought more rocks to keep Undepoldus supplied. His continual consumption of rocks was virtually the only thing that showed that he was alive. George hoped that the alien creators who had designed Undepoldus had made some provision for any sort of privation that he might have to endure. George knew that Undepoldus had been programmed to protect himself in order to be able to continue to protect intelligent entities. He was part animal and part plant. His plant part was now becoming comparable to a giant sequoia. His animal part was like a long thin fish.
After two hours it was starting to get dark. Undepoldus was just lying there like a beached whale. George, Marita and Kerstin continued to patrol along his length, talking to him to let him know that they were there. The men with earth movers had switched on their lights and continued with their mercy mission without a break. Some of the children in the crowd came up to Undepoldus and touched his whiskers that were not moving. They tried to stroke him and found like others before them that his whiskers were stiff like the bristles on a yard brush. Some persisted with their stroking and found that the whiskers they had stroked were beginning to move on their own. They told the others to join in because they wanted to comfort Undepoldus and soon there were children stroking him as high as they could reach.
George saw what they were doing and the results they were getting so he started to do the same higher up. As Undepoldus was nearly three metres high over his whiskers, even George could not reach high enough to stroke him along the top of his body. Kerstin and Marita had put their clothes on again over their formfits because they were starting to feel the cold. They joined in the stroking from their higher vantage points and started whiskers moving on the top of Undepoldus. Other adults copied what was happening, not knowing what effect they were trying to produce. It was clear that they felt better for trying to do something to help Undepoldus. George noticed that the vibrations were now getting stronger all over Undepoldus. The stroking had helped in some way. Then very quietly George could hear Undepoldus speaking to one of the children, asking them to be a bit rougher with their stroking. Then George vaguely remembered something about the vibrations that he could not quite place. After a few minutes of vigorous stroking it came to him. The vibrations were a part of the way Undepoldus breathed. The stroking was helping. Marita and Kerstin had not seen what was happening on George's side of Undepoldus so they were continuing to stroke him gently. George called to them to put more effort into their work. He said. "The stroking is a form of artificial respiration. Stroke him firmly."
Some of the other people had taken to using gloves and pieces of wood to stroke Undepoldus. Marita and Kerstin were wearing formfit gloves so they could stroke him without hurting their hands.
Then George heard Undepoldus speak again. He said. "Thank you everyone. I am beginning to feel better. You can stop stroking me now because I can manage on my own. I am very grateful to all of you for trying to help me. I could not tell you that I could not breathe properly but your children started to help me in their own way. Now I can breathe better I am gradually regaining my strength. You are all very kind people. I do not know your names but I will remember your faces. I will know who you are when I meet you again. I never forget the people who have helped me. Thank you again."
The crowd cheered. There was a feeling of camaraderie among the hundreds of people who had never met each other before.
Undepoldus said. "I understand that I am on Mucking Marshes around forty kilometres from my house in London. I will have to travel my own way there but I would like advice about the best route. I am too heavy to go over most bridges so I need to find a place where I can get there easily."
Dozens of locals offered to show the way. As Undepoldus started to crawl off the beach there was another cheer. The earth mover drivers used their headlights to show the way to the nearest road. So began a slow procession towards East Tilbury. Some of the people left the procession to go back to their floaters but many stayed with Undepoldus.
Josanne had been providing reports on progress throughout the time it took to restore Undepoldus to something like his old self. Undepoldus then asked for permission to use her processor. Josanne did not know how Undepoldus communicated with her processor but it soon became clear that he had done so. Several floaters appeared and landed on the grass at the side of the road. Undepoldus stopped and said. "Now it is your turn to have a rest and some refreshments. There will be enough tea, coffee, soft drinks, sandwiches and cakes for all of you. Please tell the people in the floaters what you want and it will be given to you."
Although it was a cool November evening, everyone enjoyed the
Undepoldus took the opportunity to speak to the earth mover drivers.
He said. "I wish to thank you and the owners of your machines for your help. I will arrange that you can keep the machines that you have been driving for yourselves and I will order new machines for your employers to replace those you have been using. I will also arrange that you will have a free supply of fuel and free maintenance for your machines for as long as you want to use them. You and your machines helped to save my life. I hope that my offer of payment for your services is adequate."
The two drivers were practically moved to tears. They had looked
for no compensation. They just wanted to help.
One of them said. "To see you alive and well again would have been payment enough for both of us. We love your beautiful music and we hope that you will be able to provide some more. If we have helped to make that possible, we will treasure the memory of today for the rest of our lives."
"Thank you for your compliments. You and your families will be treated as my guests at any of the concerts that I organise in the future."
Then Undepoldus addressed the rest of the crowd. He said. "What I have just said to these two kind gentlemen applies to you all. You will be welcome as my guests at any of my future concerts."
There were cheers and many expressions of thanks from the crowd.
Josanne said to George. "I have seen and heard him perform
but I did not appreciate that he was such a kind person. Although
he is like a 100 metre wall of white fur, I sense that he is almost
human inside. As I think there was a song that said it. "Not
much to look at but delightful to know." I am delighted that
I have had the chance to be here."
George thought that Josanne had misquoted the song. He thought that Undepoldus was lovely to look at anyway.
The used receptacles and empty packets were collected and returned
to the floaters that had brought them. Then the procession continued
for a while then Undepoldus said. "Those of you who wish
to go home now will always be in my memory. Thank you again for
what you have done. I look forward to the time when we can meet
again. Now I can manage almost by myself. Some more floaters will
arrive soon to take you home. I have called for a floater to guide
me along a suitable route towards London. It will take between
six and eight hours for me to get there.
Josanne, your help today has been inestimable. Your story and images have been shown all around the world. Now it is time for you to take a break. Others will now cover my trip to London. Please come and see me in Undepoldus House in a few days time. I would like you to provide some additional commentary for the images you have obtained today.
George, Marita and Kerstin, my friends. Please go back to the Spacers Club now. I know that you have had a very long day and need rest and sleep. Mere thanks are a poor return for the care you have bestowed on me today. You, more than any others, have made it possible for me to be in the position that I am now. You know me well enough to know how much I appreciate what you have done for me in the past and today. Now go, before I get fed up with talking to you!"
Lan Fang was waiting for them to get into a floater from the Spacers Club.
Guided by the floater's floodlight, Undepoldus started to make
his way across the open ground towards a disused road. He maintained
contact with the floater crew through the floater's processor.
His route took him on a tortuous path. He had to avoid bridges
that could not take his weight and he could not cross inter city
moveways or local strips. Sometimes he had to get under moveways
by following small streams or farm tracks. In two places he tunnelled
under local strips. The maps available to the floater's processor
did not show all the possible moveway crossing points available
to Undepoldus. At times Undepoldus could travel quickly along
the disused tracks of old rail lines but every part of his journey
that was convenient in this way was countered by the need to make
detours to find a moveway underpass.
As Undepoldus approached Rainham he was told that the freight transporter moveway could carry him back to Regent's Park from a moveway factory at Dagenham. There was a link to the main freight moveway network that could handle his weight on a series of container platforms. Undepoldus was assured that the freight moveway could carry more than 1000 tonnes over a 100 metre length of moveway track so his weight of 800 tonnes would not be a problem. He was warned about the open structure of the container platforms. Each platform was made up of a series of 30 centimetre wide beams with 40 centimetre gaps in between. At some interchanges these container platforms interleaved with others to enable direct transfers from one moveway track to another. Undepoldus was told to be prepared to have his weight transferred from one moveway to another as the track he was on dropped below the other track. He was warned to try to keep his whiskers clear of the gaps that could close where the two tracks merged for a few hundred metres.
The moveway route was circuitous because there was no provision for Undepoldus to change levels at crossing point interchanges. Nevertheless he was able to travel at 80kph for most of the time. The moveway loop that normally carried his rocks could be stopped when he reached the unloading platform without affecting the rest of the network. Undepoldus protested that he did not want special help from the moveway service. He was informed that he was only special in one respect. Heavy items had to be carried by the freight moveway at night so it was easy to arrange for Undepoldus to be carried. He was special because he could move himself. There was no need for the heavy lifting equipment that would normally be required for a load of his size and weight.
The next section covers the commentary Josanne Milford provided for Undepoldus.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the following section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.