2006: A collective cry sounds from our block of flats. Pluto has been reclassified, losing both its status as a planet and the opportunity to have its astrological symbol be an emoji.
Everyone is in Boot's living room. Nearly everyone is fixated on the TV news rather than their iPhones, and not just because the iPhone didn't exist yet. Landon, however, still attempts to check Facebook on his iPod Mini.
"I guess the astronomy community really has sold out to Big Textbook," Amy harrumphs. "They'll make millions in reprints."
"And what of the acronym thing? I'll have to completely re-learn it!" Landon agrees. "My Very Earthy... Mars... Juicy Socks... Uranium ... Nooo, I've already forgotten it, classic Big Textbook move!"
"We should build a spaceship," Amy continues, ignoring Landon, "and go dump a load of matter onto Pluto to bring it back up to planetary size. That'd show them."
"I love dumping matter, but count me out." Boot is seated on the sofa, and sips his time-period-appropriate soft drink. "And anyway, you'd have to invent a new form of propulsion first in order to move that much material."
And what did I, Trevor, say? I can't remember. It was a long time ago, okay?
"Don't you mean 'Eureka'?"
"No, I only had the one. Trevor, go get Boot and Landon. I need to phone Tina."
I don't know who Tina is—but don't worry, reader, I have a feeling we're about to find out!—but off I poddle to Boot's flat, where I also expect to find Landon annoying him. Boot is sitting on his sofa again, though surely he has moved between 2006 and now. Like in 2006, he and Landon are also watching TV.
"You know," Landon is saying, "I've found this sport a lot less exciting since finding out the ball isn't actually made of feet."
"Amy asked me to come get you both," I announce. "I think she's got something to show you."
"Did she find my dignity?" Landon asks earnestly.
"Face it Landon," Boot says. "Your dignity died out in the cold a long time ago."
"Or maybe it'll turn out to have been inside you all along," I suggest helpfully.
"Well, I should check in with Amy just in case," Landon replies, and heads on out to the door.
"You coming, Boot?" I ask.
"I'll come down when this half finishes. And when I've decided I can put up with Landon again."
I take a chance and decide to use the lift to get to Amy's workshop. Thankfully Landon resists the urge to press all of the intermediate floor buttons. He's got a lot better at that since the speaker that announces the numbers burned out.
The inside of Amy's basement smells of sweat and machine oil, not really what I would have chosen myself. Amy has placed a couple of medical screens, a dressing screen, and a wall divider near the entrance, and together than make up a screen. There are also some chairs or things that look like chairs.
Amy beckons to Landon and I to sit down. Seeing as how we are both already shorter than her, there seems to be no harm in doing so, and so we take a seat.
"He might be in his room, or he might have left his room by now. It's difficult to say."
"Okay. Well, I'm not going to wait. I'm too excited. My friends, I present to you..."
She plants her boot into the middle divider, which crashes to the floor, giving us a view into the rest of the workshop. There's all the kinds of things you'd expect to see in such a place: vices; racks of tools; a band saw; stacks of discarded drinks cans as high as the eye can see; a hammer. There's also a spaceship filling up the majority of the space. It looks like a giant metallic croissant.
"It looks like a giant metallic croissant," I note.
"It does!" Amy agrees. "I should stop designing things on an empty stomach."
"Does it taste like a croissant too?" Landon asks.
"Yes, but only the one I served you after taking that shipment of heavy metals," Boot replies. I'm not sure when he arrived, but he's seated on the furthest seat away from Landon and me.
"So what does your croissant do?" I ask. Amy looks excited, and opens her mouth to explain.
"It's a spaceship," Boot interrupts Amy. "Amy's clearly invented that new form of propulsion we talked about years ago, and also she's built a spaceship around it."
"Screw you, Boot!" Amy mutters, crestfallen. "How did you even remember that conversation?"
"I have a photographic memory."
"What powers it, though? I admit I didn't figure that out yet."
"It runs on my deep-seated irritation of you."
"Oh, so it can go pretty fast, then."
"I'm Tina!" a woman, who I assume is called Tina, says, jumping through the paper dressing screen. Disappointingly, it doesn't leave a Tina-shaped hole in the paper. It just looks torn.
"Hi Tina," Landon waves from his seat.
"That be Captain Tina to ye, ye scurvy dog!"
"No, Tina," Amy turns to her friend, shaking her head. "It's not a pirate ship. Please take off that tricorne."
Without the pirate hat, Tina commands a lot less authority, but it does show off her electric blue Mohawk better, which makes a respectable attempt at getting her closer to Amy's five foot ten. Her platform knee-high boots would have finished the job, but she and Amy seem to be in the middle of an arms race regarding that.
"And dude," Amy glares at Tina, "that screen was a family heirloom!"
"Look. Amy," Tina waves her hand dismissively. "If you didn't want me jumping through a giant paper screen, you shouldn't have asked me to hide behind a giant paper screen."
"She makes a good point," Landon agrees.
"This guy gets it," Tina points to Landon. "You can be my first mate!"
"Aye aye, Captina," Landon says. Reader, I promise I didn't change Tina's name in this story in order to make that line up. Landon could have done something similar with any name. I've seen him do it.
"There's just one thing I don't understand," Boot says.
"What has any of this got to do with me?"
"Well, my ship needs five people to fly it," Amy explains. "A captain—"
"Oh!" Tina's hand shoots up into the air. "Me! Me!"
"I already said you could be captain," Amy frowns, then continues, counting the positions on her fingers. "A captain; a first mate, which I was thinking I—"
"Nope! That guy already got the job," Tina interjects. Landon looks distubingly happy about it.
"Whose ship is this?" Amy glares at Tina.
"Yeah, but who's going to fly it, kid? You?"
"Oh, don't think you can get out of this by quoting Star Wars," Amy retorts.
"Fine. That guy—"
"Landon. Landon Langdon." Landon gets up and holds out a hand to Tina. "At your service."
"—yes. Landon Landon Landon—"
"Langdon." It's fair to say, like Landon himself, Landon's parents, the Langdons, weren't particularly creative. Landon.
"—whatever. I guess you can be the First Mate's First Mate."
"The second mate, then," says Boot.
"Okay. Fine," Amy gives in. "But for our purposes that will be a joint position with the Steward."
Landon looks excited. "You mean—!"
"That's right!" Amy matches his demeanor. "You get to clean the toilets!"
"Yes!" Landon exclaims. "Nailed it!"
Amy continues. "Now, as the person most likely to make sure Boot stays alive, I'm putting Boot in charge of engineering."
"Okay," Boot remains unexcited and also seated. "But let's be honest, it's you who's going to be doing most of that work."
"Okay and Trevor is the cook and tea maker LET'S GO!" Amy runs towards the ship. Tina decides to race her.
I'm not very good at making tea, but it seems impolite to mention it at this point.
"You don't have to do the countdown, I built a computer to handle the launch."
"Too bad NINE," Tina continues.
Behind us we hear the engines rumbling. The cockpit begins to shake.
"Heh, cockpit," Landon chuckles.
"EIGHT. Amy, does that mean I can give voice commands?"
"SEVEN. Awesome! Main screen: turn on."
We don't have a main screen, just a wind screen, but the blast shield slides up, leaving the view in front of us unobstructed. I turn to Boot and Landon sitting to my left, together in the row behind Amy and Tina. This is exciting!
"How are you gentlemen!" I ask, attempting to get into the spirit of things. Boot glares at me. I have failed.
"Hey!" Landon shouts over the increasing noise of the engine. "Shouldn't there be, you know, not a building in front of us?"
He's right; out the windscreen is the ceiling of Amy's workshop.
"Wait," yells Boot. "Are you saying we—we're still in the basement of the flats?"
"Yes!" Amy calls back. "The Croissant doesn't fit through the door! How did you not know this?"
"TWO. I guess some things are just worth demolishing a small block of flats for," Tina shouts. "ONE LIFT OFF!"
I regain consciousness some time later; ahead of me the void of space looms; or at least the thousands of pin pricks of light within the void of space loom.
"What did I miss? I just remember a lot of screaming, then it went dark and silent."
"That's because in space, no one can hear you scream," Tina clarifies. She gestures to Landon at my side, who is alternating between flailing wildly and clasping his face in a silent rendition of Edvard Munch's The Scream. "See?"
"We made it to space, then?"
"Oh, yes. The Croissant has to survive high velocity space debris, so our home and sanctuaries stood no chance of surviving when we blasted off."
"Great," Boot starts unstrapping the unreasonable number of seat belts keeping him in his seat. "Well, I'm going to go watch TV."
"In space no one can watch TV," Tina declares.
"We forgot to pack the power cord," Amy apologises.
"Fine, I guess I'll just sit here and watch the infinite beauty of the cosmos instead, like a loser." Boot crosses his arms grumpily, then pouts in awe at the stars.
"Next stop: Pluto!" Tina exclaims, reaching out with both hands to push two large levers on the dashboard forward with a satisfying clunk. Nothing seems to happen—I'm not sure they were thruster controls—but the manoeuvre looks super stylish.
"Unless I get bored on the way," she adds.
The Croissant zooms off into the distance, soon becoming as small to the eye as the stars themselves. Well, not small to my eyes. I'm still on the ship. But you aren't. So off we go!