It turned out that Janet's meeting was being held in a house situated in the middle of the mountain range that surrounded Queenstown - The Remarkables. A reclusive billionaire called by many unrepeatable names by people he had crushed owned the house. The most commonly used of these was ‘You Know Who’ but by far the cruelest was ‘Bunnykins’.1 His real name was unpronounceable unless not pronounceable by human beings unless you where to shove a gerbil in a certain location, for he was not human. Not that many of the people who knew him would argue with that, though perhaps for different reasons.
One of which was that it made people feel better to separate him from humanity. Which is why he received his status: 'not human'. In fact, Gill Bates 2 was very human. Greedy, dominant, underhanded, and all the other awful qualities associated with the race. The fact that Gill had a girl's name helped make up for everything though. 3
His company 'Trimcoofs' developed software, and was very successful. In fact, Gill Bates was the richest man in the world. His software packages, known by the trade name of 'Doors', had progressively knocked out all competition, despite all of its bugs. In fact, the amount of 'Doors' that locked was astounding. Boom. Boom. The humour of Trimcoofs was legendary. If you think that was bad, then you should see their advertising campaigns.
‘Jim Morrison plays with our doors’ was one of them. 'Don't climb through windows, walk through doors' was another. Even worse was the jingle they made up to go with it, and the doorbell chime that formed their signature piece.
The partnership with Avon cosmetics however was a short lived and unhappy chapter. The 'computer make-up' tended to invalidate the warranty, let alone make people's fingers dirty as they typed away at their computers. ‘"Doors" because I'm worth it’, lead to an awful lot of confusion and wiped files.
An unfortunate (but funny) development of late was the nickname given to hackers: 'Jehovah’s Witnesses', thus named because it was said 'they always had their foot in the door.' The whole thing had frankly got downright silly, which was why terminology was on the agenda list of the upcoming conference, after the so-called millennium bug. 4
Bates had invited a variety of people to the conference, he hadn't, however, invited an alien, a talking chimp and Raymond Heigh. Which was fine by the alien and the chimp, but our Raymond was livid. He kept asking Janet "Why wasn't I invited?" It took several explanations before he understood. He remained very sulky on the matter though, and developed quite a grudge for Gill Bates before even meeting him.
Once he was clear about the reasons, he took it very well, and decided to only destroy a small planet on some far-flung arm of the galaxy, a sort of gesture, if you will. He added it to his to do list, along with saving the universe and getting some new clothes. Especially pants, he really was desperate for pants.
Raymond decided to make finding new pants his highest priority. He quite fancied himself in something chic and trendy, but of course, robustness was a must, given his little problem. Life wasn't always easy for by-products of genetic research projects: especially those who were unfortunate to have a nose in their own armpits. Or a sense of self worth that warranted good pants. 5
But he'd have to wait to buy pants. There were plenty of shops back in Queenstown's high street, but he was currently in the back of a cab, hundreds of feet up a winding mountain road. Janet was busily trying to think up a way of getting Raymond through security, and how to hide Oddy and X2. Unfortunately, she was having trouble thinking up anything, must be this un-imagination thing, she thought.
Slowly but surely Janet mustered her thoughts and a plan began to formulate. Raymond could pretend to be an electrician, she realised. She could imagine the sign over his workplace reading “Ray--of light". Gradually it dawned on her that Oddy was most definitely right about imagination dying, and began to feel increasingly worried. But what could she do? Janet sighed and decided to help Oddy without being forced to.
On the way up, Raymond took the time to peer down at Queenstown - so named as it was said to be 'fit for Queen Victoria' - and was amazed at how stunning the town was. Lake Wakatipu shined like mercury in the morning sun, surrounded by the green hills and overlooked by the Southern Alps. Raymond wondered why anyone would live in Essex if a place like this exists. Eventually he decided that it was just another effect of having no imagination, and continued to look out the window.
It was when he had admired the lake for the third time, each time from a lower altitude, that he realised something was amiss. The taxi was plummeting down the mountainside after the driver had gone to sleep. He'd had too much to drink the night before, and had seen the view far too many times. Raymond reached over, and managed to wrestle the steering wheel from the hands of the comatose driver, but his problems had only just begun.
The mountainside was embellished with many trees, several of which they were heading straight towards. 6 Luckily for them the trees were part of a plantation, so the regular planting made it possible to steer through, as long as Raymond could keep control. Raymond couldn't - he'd never driven a car before but fortunately Janet had. All thoughts of tea and cake now had to be put aside as this was serious 7. Janet managed to bring the car to a halt, leaving them somewhat stranded.
Janet started slapping the taxi driver around the face, not so much in an effort to wake him up, more because she felt like giving somebody a good slap. It did wake him however, though he was not in the best of moods.
“Look what you've done to my car,” he wailed, “that was my one asset.”
"I'm sure you can more than make up for it by sewing Gill Bates for the state of the road." Assured Janet.
"Yeah, bro" agreed the Kiwi cabbie.
Janet put aside the fact that Bill Gates didn’t own kiwi roads, but she thought it was smarter, this way the cabbie was happy and no one would get sued...except for maybe God… Or Gill Bates, whose land it was.
“What on God's good earth is that awful pong?” Asked a by now ashen faced cabbie.
"Sorry," apologised Oddy, wafting the air in front of him with his flannel.
“Sorry,” squeaked the cabbie struggling to catch his breath, “that's taking the paint off my cabbies badge.”
Janet fished for her deodorant with one hand while holding her nose with the other. Raymond on the other hand, having no sense of smell, was looking very confused as to what the fuss was about.
Oddy looked down, ashamed. "I was nervous" he explained.
"Nervous?" questioned Raymond. "You get propelled into space and NOW you're nervous?"
"In space, no one can hear you blow off." Said X2, who hadn't said anything in a while 8 and immediately wished he'd kept it that way. The look Janet gave him would have shrunk him, if he could be any smaller that is. "Bah!" He shouted. "Get a sense of humour woman."
"For that, we'd better get on with saving the universe" Oddy interrupted.
"Can I join you?” asked the cabbie.
"Er sure," sad Oddy. "I'm Oddy, alien from Firmia, this is X2, a GM miniature talking chimp, Raymond - by-product of a genetic engineering project, and Janet, stuffy business woman."
"Hi all," said Oink, for that was his name, but as a tree fell on him and killed him stone dead at this point, none of the friends were ever to find this out.
"I guess we'll have to walk it then" said Raymond, shrugging at the wreckage that had once been taxi and driver.
"That's the spirit Raymond,” said Janet, “let’s stay focused".
"If no-one has a better suggestion, I propose we all start walking downhill and see what we find," said Raymond.
"Well, the conference is supposed to be held down there I suppose", said Janet, who disapproved of up. 9
They started walking down the hill, when Janet turned to Raymond and said "Don't you think this hill is a bit squidgy?” just then the hill sneezed. More accurately a part of the hill sneezed - the part the happened to be standing on. All four were thrown backwards as the ground that was once beneath them rose slowly upwards.
A huge head turned towards them, it looked like a cross between a hippopotamus and an elephant, with huge ears and a long nose. 10 The beast then said, "Would you watch where you are putting those stilettos".
"Sorry," mumble Janet apollageticaly.
Ya, don't worry about it" muttered the Hippophant, "no one else ever does."
The Hippophant sniffed slightly and then started to cry. "Nobody appreciates me anymore."
aymond slapped Oddy over the head because of how rude his statement was "well we better get going". Oddy didn’t seem to care about this abomination of a creature, he also happened to say this out loud, so got another slap, this time from everybody, including the beast who sent him sky high.
Oddy flew back down on the flannel and apologised. "Sorry," he said, "but this saving the universe business is making me a bit irritable."
"Ah, the Universe" said the Hippophant, with a nostalgic twinkle in his eye. "Good times the universe and I used to have, before IT happened.”
"It?" question Oddy
“It was a long time ago, but let me try to tell you what I can remember. I remember just sitting around one day, when all of a sudden out of the sky something fell, it crash landed into a giant mushroom cloud, it became very bright. Then I must have fainted or something, but the next thing I knew was...this; it wasn't from this world. It must have been about a thousand years ago now, but I remember it all too clearly. Out of it came three people, well I assume it was they, but I lost a few minutes in the fainting. 11
“ One had a slight resemblance to a rabbit. One had a long white beard, was drinking bear and eating a pie. The other seemed to have a need to talk a lot. It was not long afterwards that imagination fizzled out, and society could no longer appreciate creatures such as myself."
“So any idea who these people were? And what did they do to you?”
The Hippophant turned his weighty head to face the group; his tree trunk neck creaked like a redwood in a strong wind. "I've an idea what they were at the time, but I've been asleep for several centuries - oh what a party that was, but I'm still a bit hangover. It was the Gorgonzolas, a really smelly people that live for cheese and cheese making, which is very strange, as they don't have any dairy facilities. Or was everything just a side effect of all that alcohol? Who knows? Who cares?"
Hippophant yawned and stretched. His huge shadow loomed over the town, for the sun was behind him now. To the residents it must have seemed as if day had been and gone already. And then his voice rang out... "Oooooooooooooh does my head HURT"
Janet said, "I'm really sorry about that" as she went across and removed the stiletto that she had just thrown at the hippophant’s head.
"No woman, I don’t feel pain, I think I’m hungover."
Oddy thought for a minute and then thought for another minute, he probably should have though for just one more, because his next statement earned him another big fat slap from Janet. He had said, "Well Janet said she had a cure for hangovers"
The hangover cure Janet had invented involved mixing a raw egg, Tabasco sauce, tomato juice, salt and pepper together in a big glass. You then put this on a convenient surface, and went down the pub for a hair of the dog. Raymond pondered on this for a while. He didn't think that pubs would allow hippophants; they could cause some very real property damage. Instead, perhaps the rest of them could go and drink the hair of the dog for the beast? Before you could say "Three shandies and a sloe comfortable screw" they were in the local pub, "The improbability and Firkin".
"What an odd name" Janet pondered.