#6 Too Much Humandrama…
Captain Jones

First watch:
Fine weather dawning for story-collecting.  I’ve got a restless crew though – in that dangerous mid-voyage doldrums brought on by over-excitement and homesickness. The Land of Laughter left them in a silly mood, and they were further wound up by the frustration of being lost in Outer Space (I’m beginning to have my doubts about the skills of the Navigation Officer, though he came with the best references – from James T Kirk, Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain and Dora the Explorer herself).
Satnav Steve tends to blame Twist for misdirection, but when I confronted her, she bristled and denied all knowledge. I thought our action adventures would allow everyone to let off steam, and to some extent they did, but at the same time they added exhaustion to the mix. My crew are, by and large, a skilled and valiant bunch, but even the most stoical can be pushed too far. I think they need settling down.

It’s calm sailing, and Lookout Kate reports distant land. Humandrama, I’m sure. She can see home fires burning. There are families I plan to visit: the Marches (those four girls and their Marmee are always welcoming), the Mortmains (a little eccentric, but that means they are likely to accept my motley crew), and the Cassons (good fun but also unconventional, and the hospitality can be a bit haphazard if their mother has been busy painting in her shed – but then Cook Conomos can rustle up a feast out of the most unpromising ingredients). I have a soft spot for Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, and we can get to them up the railway line.  I’d like to gather up that moment on the platform when Bobbie’s father returned, for the Story Museum’s collection. It’s a gem, to add to our treasures. Though all that steam will require a bit of ingenious protective packaging from In-the-Know Joe.

I am working on the principle that a bit of weeping can be good for a crew.  Releases tension.  And besides bucketsful of tears can be useful for swabbing the deck.  Because we’re after some moments that could have pretty soggy consequences. The happy endings as much as the sad ones. Family reunions (Hetty Feather and her mum, Harry looking into the Mirror of Erised), substitute parents stepping into the breach (Miss Honey, Charles in ‘Rooftoppers’ defending Sophie against the woman from social services, Mister Tom rescuing William), and, well, let’s face it, a bit of romantic soppiness (Will and Lyra’s bench, and quite a few star-crossed lovers). Generally I expect stiff upper lips from my crew, but this may be the time to bawl rather than bale.

Last watch:
Well that didn’t work out quite as I expected.  Yes, there were tears, and also some very jolly family gatherings.  But the crew wandered into a school building and Satnav Steve found himself involved in a fracas with Greg Heffley and a lot of kids yelling “Cheese Touch!”. Cook Conomos too was drawn by a smell of cake into a class full of children and witnessed Miss Trunchbull hitting a chocolate-covered boy called Bruce Bogtrotter over the head with a plate.

And Lookout Kate stayed up late with a bunch of boarders for a midnight feast. Meanwhile In-the-Know Joe, who had been perfecting his time machine, was all over history, and emerged quite shaken by everything he had observed. So instead of coming back aboard rested, they were all even more overwrought, not to mention short of sleep and on a sugar high.

With such a fractious crew, I think we could be heading for trouble. This evening they answered back to orders, as if they are all taking their cue from Twist. And there are mutterings about the strictness of my regime, when everyone knows a safe ship needs a firm hand. They explored a lot of stories today about standing up to bullies. I fear it could be giving them ideas.

I am not sure I shall sleep easy in my bunk.

 

#5 Swash Bungling
Satnav Steven

Ahoy there, story-seekers! It’s Satnav Steven here, ship’s navigator onboard the Prattleship-Class Narrative Ark, The Ever After.

UGH… what a crazy mission it’s been so far. We’d spent the past few hours… or days… or weeks… drifting through the deepest depths of outer space. It’s hard to tell how long it had been with all this silence and blackness, but one thing was certain … the crew were all getting really, really, really, REALLY BORED!!

We ventured out here to seek Great A’tuin the lunar turtle that carries the Discworld on its back with the help of four giant elephants. It was the most INCREDIBLE thing I’ve ever seen. I nearly cried with excitement!

Sadly, before long Great A’tuin swam off though the crushing gulf of space, leaving us adrift and with very little hope of figuring out where we were.

Captain Jones turned to me for answers of course, but I didn’t have the slightest clue how to get back to wonderful world of the Story Universe. I accidentally dropped my compass in Cook Conomos’s soup yesterday lunchtime, and now it only pointed north-west no matter which direction I faced.

I was contemplating being honest and admitting to my fellow crew members that I’ve got the worst sense of direction this side of the Milky Way, when a huge stroke of luck rocketed past.

Suddenly, from out of the darkness, Lookout Kate spotted a glowing spaceship. It streaked alongside us with a hoard of brightly coloured aliens peering through its windows. In-The-Know Joe radioed across to them, but couldn’t make any sense of their strange language except that they LOVED underpants.

The creatures certainly looked like they knew where they were going, so I made a snap decision. I followed their course past undiscovered planets and galaxies of stars until… DRUM ROLL PLEASE… the massive and terrifically beautiful Story Universe was looming before us again. Phew!

The spaceship was heading for a cluster of islands at the eastern edge of the Appendy Seas. After a long struggle with squillions of the ship’s maps, I realised they were the Islands of Action. BRILLIANT! I didn’t need any further self-encouragement, so I programmed The Ever After to follow the aliens to this exciting new destination. After all, I’d always wanted to visit the Canyon of Adventure for as long as I can remember.

Before we knew it, The Ever After was cruising past the most incredible sights. I joined my crew members on the observation deck to enjoy the view… and what a view it was.

Captain Jones guided us past the haunted crags of Marooners’ Rock, where Captain Hook and the pirates of The Jolly Roger left their victims to be swallowed by the sea.

On the cliffs above the mouth of the great Canyon of Adventure, Lookout Kate pointed out the wreckage of a jet-plane with a gang of feral schoolboys dancing nearby it, and great prehistoric beasts lumbering about the edges of a vast, deep jungle. We were entering a lost world, that’s for sure.

‘Let’s take a closer look,’ Captain Jones said, and steered the ship carefully into the canyon. There were steep cliffs on either side of us and the narrow strip of sea beneath us looked deep and dangerous. ‘Keep a sharp eye.’

For a moment everything seemed quiet, until… COMPLETE CHAOS BROKE OUT!! King Louis and his army of monkeys appeared in the trees that overhung the gorge and started pelting us with rotten fruit.

A Viking boy, riding a toothless dragon shot past us. He was being chased by a swarm of terrifying, fire-breathing monsters. Indiana Jones narrowly missed the prose nest as he swung across the canyon on a vine to escape the path of an enormous stone ball that rolled down the rock-face, and a great white whale breached from the murky depths and sent a wave crashing across our hull. It was Moby Dick, and a very clear sign that it was time to get out of here.

‘Activate the narrative thrust!’ Captain Jones shouted, as King Kong smashed through a giant gate made from whole tree trunks and tried to grab us, swatting his mighty arms this way and that.

WHOOOOOOOOOSH!

We were off…

We whizzed through gullies and under toppled columns of stone. We swooped to avoid shrieking cannonballs from a castle of knights that towered above us, and dodged poison darts being fired by a tribe of cannibals in a ruined temple on the rocks below us.

Finally, just when it looked like we were done for, The Ever After shot out of the other end of the Canyon of Adventure and made a steady climb into the cool evening air. Everything felt suddenly quiet and peaceful.

Before us we could see the quadruple, sprawling masses of the cities of Thriller, Crime, War, and Spies.

‘What next, Captain Jones?’ asked In-The-Know Joe.

The Captain looked at us with a glint in her eye and slight smile. ‘Those cities won’t explore themselves,’ she said… and on we went.

Ever After…