by Brian K. Asbury
After directing G’nort to the nearest public toilet, Michael Fecktiffe hurried to his car, unlocked the boot, and took out his Beefeater paraphernalia. However, a dilemma immediately presented itself. He could hardly change out in the open. There was still nobody about on this grey, drizzly afternoon. Even the shops were closed for lunch at the moment. But there could be somebody watching from one of the nearby houses. Rejecting any idea of changing in the confined spaces of his rusting 1971 Austin 1100, he gathered up his costume and sceptre, locked the car back up, and hurried back to the Golden Hind.
Ignoring the familiar wrench in his stomach on boarding the ship, he made for the captain’s cabin, which led off the main deck. It was unlocked, but he instantly regretted it as a choice of changing room when he realized how low the ceiling was. “Might have known,” he muttered. “They were all short-arses in Drake’s day!”
He found himself bending almost double as he wrestled off his civilian clothes and struggled into the colourful Tudor-style costume of the Beefeater. In the process, he managed to clear a collection of carefully arranged charts from the table, upend all of the chairs, and nearly rupture himself. However, although he cursed profusely, it was tempered by his excitement at the thought of going into action as the Beefeater — and because someone actually wanted him to.
All right, so this G’nort creature seemed rather stupid, to say the least — but perhaps that was just his strange alien ways. After all, they surely wouldn’t let somebody join the Green Lantern Corps if he were really that dim, would they? And anyway, he was intelligent enough to want the Beefeater’s help. Definitely a plus point in his favour.
He could almost feel his blood racing with the thrill. He was wanted — on a real mission. This was his big chance to prove himself, at long last.
He emerged from the cabin several minutes later, to be confronted by G’nort staring at the door. “Hiya,” said the canine Green Lantern. “Did you win?”
“Win? What do you mean, win?”
“Well, I heard you making lotsa noise in there, so I figured you must be fighting some villain. I’d have pitched in myself, but you seemed t’ be enjoying yourself, so I thought, what the heck?” He brought up one of his legs behind his ear and began to scratch furiously. “So? Did you find him?”
“This Beefcake guy you said you knew how to contact.”
Beefeater did a double-take. “That’s Beefeater! And I don’t know what you mean, ‘find him.’ I am the Beefeater, and I’m here because that fine, upstanding pillar of the local community Michael Fecktiffe summoned me.”
“Who’s Michael Fecktiffe?”
“He’s the man you asked to summon me. You were talking to him a few minutes ago. He pointed you towards the public lavatories — well, once he’d figured out that when you said ‘bathroom’ you didn’t mean you wanted a bath, you meant you wanted to relieve yourself. I presume you learned English from those bloody Americans. It’s just the sort of daft, misleading euphemism they’d use!”
“I dunno who this Michael Fecktiffe is, but it was you who showed me where the bathroom was, Mr. Umimimime.”
Michael gulped. “No. You’re mistaken. I’m the Beefeater. Look. I don’t look anything like that other chap. I’ve got a mask on and everything!”
G’nort tapped his muzzle. “Ahhh, I get it. Secret identities, huh? Can’t fool the old nose, though. But don’t worry, Mr. Umimimime. Your secret is safe with me. Us super-heroes gotta stick together; that’s what my buddy Kilowog says.”
“Thanks for the directions, though. Nice bathroom you got here. Some great smells in there. Reminded me of G’newt.”
“My home planet.”
There was silence for a few moments. Michael was definitely having some second thoughts about this. G’nort came from a planet that smelled like a public toilet? The mind boggled.
G’nort kicked his heels around the deck. “So, Mr. Beefcake, what do you call this whoozit we’re standing on?”
“What? It’s a ship, of course. And that’s Beefeater!”
“A ship? You sure? It don’t look much like any ship I’ve ever seen.”
Michael bristled. “Of course it’s a ship! What did you expect it to look like? The Taj Mahal, perhaps? Or perhaps on your world ships are delicately carved into the shape of exotic orchids?”
“OK, OK, keep your mask on,” said G’nort. “Just making sure. It’s just what we need, then!”
“It is?” said Beefeater. A thought suddenly occurred to him. “Just what is this ‘important mission,’ anyway? You never did say.”
“Oh, we’ve gotta rescue a couple’a people being held prisoner by a major-league bad guy,” said G’nort, almost nonchalantly. “And this ship is just what we need to get there!”
And so saying, his power ring flared and formed a bubble around the Golden Hind, and the entire ship lifted into the air and streaked away.
As the ship soared skyward, the Beefeater shrieked and ran to the nearest mast, where he hung on for grim death. “You bloody maniac! What do you think you’re doing?”
G’nort seemed perfectly calm. “Hey, don’t worry about it, Mr. Beefheart. My ring-a-ding-ding’ll get your ship into orbit quicker than…” He paused, thinking. “…quicker than something very quick!”
“Into orbit? Are you mad? What do you think this is? A spaceship?”
G’nort stared at him in puzzlement.
“Bloody hell! You do, don’t you? You think this is a spaceship!”
“Hey,” said G’nort. “You just said it was, didn’t you?”
Beefeater released the mast and took a step toward the canine Green Lantern, only to change his mind as he realized that the deck was leaning at a rather perilous angle. “God!” he cried, grabbing the mast again. “At least keep this thing steady, will you?”
“Sorry, Mr. Beefbroth,” said G’nort, concentrating. The deck straightened. Beefeater released the mast again and took a tentative step forward. The deck stayed horizontal, much to his relief.
He strode over to G’nort. “Look, you fur-covered moron…”
“Gee, thanks!” said G’nort, grinning.
“…this is not, repeat, not a spaceship. When I said it was a ship, I meant a sailing ship! It’s got masts and sails and all the rest, for heaven’s sake!”
“A sailing ship?”
“Y… e… s,” said Beefeater slowly. “A… ship… that… sails… on… the… sea. Understand? It is not supposed to fly!”
“I did wonder why it was standing in all that water,” said G’nort, shrugging. “Oh, well, never mind, huh? My ringeroonie’ll keep us from the vacuum of space.”
Beefeater blanched. “Space?” He glanced around. The sky outside the green bubble surrounding the ship was becoming very dark. And the stars were suddenly visible. He looked over the rail to see the Earth receding from them. “Oh, my God! You’re taking us into outer space?”
“Yup!” said G’nort, power-ringing a squeaky ball into existence and flipping it into the air with his nose.
“Good grief, don’t get distracted, man!” cried an alarmed Beefeater. “I mean… dog… whatever you are…” He felt momentarily tempted to snatch the ball away and toss it over the side, but he had a sneaking feeling that G’nort would probably follow it, barking merrily. “Your… power ring… It can keep us safe, can’t it? I mean, there’s nothing on this ship that it can’t affect, is there?”
G’nort spat out the ball, which he had been chewing. “Hey, don’t worry, Mr. Beefbone. There’s odd bits of… of that awkward shade of grey, like that big stick of yours, but most of this ship is just dark wood. An’ whoever heard of a power ring-a-ding that couldn’t affect wood?” He laughed.
“Ha-ha…” said Beefeater nervously. He was rapidly reassessing his earlier theories about G’nort. This flea-bitten alien was clearly non compos mentis. He couldn’t be a genuine Green Lantern, surely? He must be some escaped lunatic who’s stolen a power ring.
But what could he do to stop him? Below the ship, planet Earth was a rapidly dwindling blue crescent. This maniac and his power ring was all that was keeping them from dying in the cold airlessness of space. If he made any attempt to overcome G’nort, the crazy mutt could lose concentration, and that would be the end for both of them.
As he was pondering this problem, a noise sounded from behind them. He turned to see a sorry-looking figure in drab brown overalls, a flat cap, and thick glasses emerge from the open hatch leading to the crew quarters.
“Mr. Fecktiffe, where are you?” said the apparition. He caught sight of the Beefeater and G’nort and did a double-take. “Oh! Who are you?”
Beefeater raised his eyes to the sky (or where, in normal circumstances, the sky would have been). “Oh, God — Privet! I’d completely forgotten about him!”
G’nort bounded forward, his tail wagging gleefully. “Hey, Mr. Beefburger, is this one of your super-friends? You didn’t tell me you’d brought a sidekick!”
“He isn’t… and it’s Beefeater! Bloody hell, how many more times? Beefeater! As in the Yeomen of the bloody Guard! How difficult can it be to remember?”
The canine crusader either didn’t hear or chose to ignore him, but instead stood back from Privet and waved his arms around. “Hiya, buddy. I’m G’nort. Who are you?”
Privet stared at G’nort, then looked at Beefeater. “I don’t understand this at all. Where’s Mr. Fecktiffe? Who are you two? Why are you both in fancy dress?” He returned his gaze to G’nort. “And why are you waving your arms around like that?”
The Beefeater shrugged. “You’ll have to excuse him. He’s from G’newt.”
“He’s an alien. Presumably that’s how they greet one another where he comes from. Just humour him and thank God he doesn’t want to sniff your bum instead.”
Privet looked puzzled but decided that discretion was the better part of valour. He started to wave his own arms.
“So,” said G’nort. “What powers do you have? Flight? X-ray vision? Martian breath? Matter-eating? Super-bouncing? Mastery over the ant?”
“Tell him something,” said the Beefeater, “or you’re likely to be standing there waving your arms until they drop off.”
“I don’t understand,” repeated Privet. “I don’t have any powers. I just repair bicycles for a living.”
G’nort suddenly stopped dead. The bubble surrounding the ship flickered alarmingly, but fortunately he renewed his concentration in time to prevent it dissipating altogether. “Saaayyy…” he said. “I thought I recognized you. I saw you on TV at Mr. Gardner’s place.”
“You did?” chorused Privet and the Beefeater together.
“Yeah! I’m a big fan of yours! I’ve always wanted to meet you, Bicycle Repair Man!” He grasped Privet’s hand and began to pump it.
“I don’t understand,” said Privet for the first time, looking pleadingly toward the Beefeater.
“Well, it’s really quite simple,” said Michael. “G’nort, here, is a Green Lantern, and he hails from an alien planet that smells like a toilet. At least, he claims to be a Green Lantern, for which we have only his word and the fact that he has a working power ring. Well, I suppose he could have got it from a particularly up-market Christmas cracker — right now I think I’d believe virtually anything. Anyway, he claims to be on some sort of mission to rescue somebody or other from a super-villain, for which he recruited me. I’m the Beefeater, by the way…”
“Are you? How do you do?”
“For some reason best known only to our barking friend — and I use the adjective barking not only in the context of his being large and furry with a cold nose, but also with reference to his being barking mad — he thinks that the Golden Hind is a spaceship, and he has shanghaied both it and us into outer space. That’s the big expanse of nothing out there with all the stars, by the way…”
Privet followed his gaze and went a distinctly whiter shade of pale.
“Oh — he also thinks you’re an old Monty Python character who, luckily for you, was noted for mending cycles. So you should fit right in there, then. Any questions?”
Privet looked several times at Beefeater, then at G’nort, back at Beefeater, and so on. He opened his mouth as if to say something, raised one finger… and then toppled over backward and would have fallen down the hatch again had G’nort not power-ringed a trampoline under him.
“Thought not,” said the Beefeater.
“So what do you reckon, guv?” said Sgt. Dennis Harris, surveying the empty berth where the Golden Hind had stood until the previous afternoon. “Was Mrs. Fecktiffe telling the truth? Is the Beefeater involved?”
Ken Hanson shrugged. “The only witness we have is that mad Portuguese waiter, Jesus, and the only reason he saw anything was because Lisa Fecktiffe had sent him here to…” He consulted his notebook. “…to ‘get that layabout of a husband of mine off his backside and bring him back to the hotel to actually get some work done for a change.’ But he does swear that he saw the Beefeater — and an alien creature of some sort — on the ship as it flew into the air ‘surrounded by a strange green glow,’ as another of the locals described it.”
Sandie Bremmer walked back toward them from where she had been scanning the water with her special equipment. “Whatever took the ship away, sir,” she said, “it doesn’t register on any of these instruments.” She shut the device off. “Anything more on those sightings of a green glow in the sky before the ship vanished?”
“Nothing concrete,” said Hanson. “Frankly, I’m baffled. If this is super-villain activity we’re looking at, it doesn’t makes sense. Why would they steal a replica of an antique warship? It’s hardly something they could sell. And even more incomprehensible, why would anyone kidnap the Beefeater, of all people?”
“Well, I know one thing,” said Harris. “If it was me, I’d want to return the bugger in a hurry. He’d drive any self-respecting kidnapper mental in no time flat!”
Sandie was deep in thought. “I wonder… that green glow all the witnesses describe… could we be looking at a Green Lantern being involved here? I’ve met a number of them, and carrying a sailing ship off is certainly well within their capabilities.”
“Yes, I know,” said Hanson. “But the question still remains: why? It makes even less sense that a Green Lantern would steal the thing!”
“I could get in touch with the G.L. Corps based in the USA through the Justice League channels,” suggested Sandie. “I’m sure they could tell me if any of their people are working on a case in this country.”
“All right, do that,” said Hanson. “And in the meantime…”
He was interrupted by a uniformed officer running up to him. “Sir, could you come to the radio, please? There’s an urgent message for you.”
The three of them followed the constable back to his patrol car, where Hanson listened intently to a radio message for several seconds. “OK, you two,” he said to Sandie and Harris. “Back to our car. There’s been a new development.”
“Where are we going, guv?” asked Harris as they sprinted back to the unmarked car they had arrived in.
“Just down the coast to Dartmouth,” Hanson replied. “You are not going to believe this.”