Earlier parts are here, or soon will be.
XV - The Asteroid: T-4
“Jodrell Bank confirms that the asteroid will definitely miss the Earth,” Sir Patrick said the next day, “and it’s also accelerating. You’ll need to leave in about ten hours; that will give you the best position and speed. But no more than that, if you take it past twelve hours you may not have enough fuel left to get you back safely. Try to lighten ship as much as you can.”
“We could leave Jeremy,” said Richard, draining a bowl of green soupy gunk.
“It’s going to be a bit crowded in the Bug,” said James. “There’s five of us and the dog.”
The Stig shook his head and held up four fingers.
“Four of us? Who do we leave behind?”
The Stig pointed to his own chest, then raised his hands to his white helmet and removed it, revealing a pink head with big ears and a long wiffly nose.
“Stiggy,” said Jeremy, “You’re an alien?”
The Stig nodded and whistled.
“A girl alien?” asked James, noticing a sparkly red ribbon tied around a small tuft of hair on the top of its head.
The Stig nodded and whistled again.
“Actually, that explains an awful lot,” said Richard.
“Definitely,” said Jeremy. “Okay, don’t like long farewells. Are you sure you want to stay here?”
The Stig nodded, whistled, and waved, then started to climb down one of the tunnels into the asteroid.
“Right then,” said Jeremy. “Let’s finish work on the Bug and push off then.”
XVI – On the Asteroid: T-3
The Earth filled a large portion of the sky, and seemed to be swelling visibly, as Jeremy said “All right, I admit it, it’s impossible. I can’t fit in the driver’s seat.”
“Not and close the canopy,” said James. “You’re definitely too tall. Besides, I’m the only pilot here, and Wallace has the most three-wheeler experience. You two will just have to ride in the back with the supplies. And don’t start whining again, you agreed the dimensions when we started cannibalising the caravan. You’ll be okay if you keep your knees bent.”
“Deep vein thrombosis here we come,” said Jeremy, trying to wedge into the compartment they’d added.
Richard passed him some lumpy sacks, and said “Don’t be a wimp; it’s only going to take about fifteen hours. Use these as padding. And leave some for me!”
“They smell awful, what’s in them?”
“Some sort of seeds, I think they use them to make that soup you like. Think of them as bean-bag chairs.” He climbed in, adding “Pull your bloody elbows in.”
“I am pulling them in.”
“Language!” said Wallace, getting into the driver’s seat.
“Okay,” said James, climbing in, “are you sure Gromit knows what to do?”
“Are you ready, lad?” shouted Wallace. Standing beside the car, Gromit nodded and held up a box of matches.
“Right! Handbrake on?”
“Check,” said James.
“Fuel on?” Wallace flipped a switch. Liquid began to flow from the remnants of the caravan, now reduced to its chassis and the tanks.
Behind the Bug, Gromit struck a match, lit a fuse, and hastily ran back and jumped onto James’s lap.
“Check!” said James, looking in the mirror and seeing that the fuse was burning.
Wallace and James pulled the canopy down, twisted levers to lock it down, and waited nervously.
“When the engine starts,” said Jeremy, “better let it build up to full power before you release the handbrake, that way…”
With a loud roar the engine started.
“Sixty percent power…” said James. “seventy… eighty…” There was a squeal of rubber as the Bug slewed around slightly, then the brakes failed completely and the Bug hurtled across the surface of the asteroid, narrowly missing the lip of a crater, bounced twice, and left the surface, headed roughly in the direction of the Earth. Ten seconds later the towing cable snapped taut and the remains of the caravan followed it into space.
XVII – 500 miles out: T-2
Coasting through space with the engines shut down to minimum power, the occupants of the Bug were getting very bored.
“I spy with my little eye,” said Jeremy, “something beginning with ‘E’”
“Earth!” said Wallace, Richard, and James.
“Edam?” asked Wallace.
“No, and we haven’t got any left anyway.”
“No cheese, Gromit!”
“Europe?” said James.
“Blast!” said Jeremy. “Whose turn is it next?”
Before anyone could answer an alarm clock began to ring. James pressed the button to stop it, squinted at the check list, and said “That’s the warning to jettison the caravan.”
“You never studied. It’s the big red and yellow stripy lever your feet are resting on. Pull out the pin, then push the lever clockwise.”
Jeremy leaned forward and tried to reach it, floated into the air, banged his head on one of the reinforcing beams for the fourth or fifth time, and swore loudly.
“I’ll get it,” said Richard. He squirmed to a better position, pulled the pin, and jerked on the lever with all his strength. It refused to move.
“Let me take a look,” said James, unclipping his seat belt and trying to turn round. Gromit woke with a start and scrambled out of the way.
James tilted the seat back until he could see the lever, and said “Okay, I know what the problem is. You need to pull it up towards you before you try to turn it clockwise.”
“I can’t reach it with you in the way,” said Richard.
“Neither can I,” said Jeremy.
“Okay,” said James. “I’ll try.” He pushed the seat back more, braced himself against the canopy, and tugged and twisted as hard as he could. There was a loud ‘snap’ as a guillotine blade cut through the hoses, while the coupling pin was pulled to release the cable. The Bug lurched forward; caught by surprise, James flew backwards, and his head bashed the windscreen. There was a noise like a snapping twig, and a small crack appeared in the windscreen, slowly spreading upwards and downwards.
“Oh dear!” said Wallace.
“Bugger!” said James. “Chaps… any of that Juicy Fruit left? Or some gaffer tape?”
Forgotten, the remains of the caravan slowly disappeared into the distance.
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