At the end of the previous story, the planet Earth was left stuck in the headlight of a Galacto-class Starhopper. This was not an ideal situation, by anyone’s standards. The planet had stopped spinning and so one side was being blasted with the light of a thousand suns, while the other side languished in the inky darkness of deep space. It was safe to say that no one was happy.
Many people were still alive, however. Against all probability, the atmosphere was hanging onto the planet like a leech. People huddled in their houses as the most horrendous and random weather erupted all over the globe. Torrential rains, followed by howling winds, snowstorms, hailstorms, and a whole Zeus-tantrum of lightning afflicted every country. And yet still, in America, mail carriers fought their way along their routes, grimly muttering under their breath, “Neither snow nor rain nor planetary destruction…”
On a much larger scale of existence, Groxhhelin the Prosaic and his cousin, Bob the Normally Unpronounceable were sneaking the Galacto-class Starhopper back into Groxhhelin’s father’s space hanger. Joyriding a vehicle that could use a solar system as a go-kart track was exhilarating unless you got caught. Then it was suicidal, and not in a quick, painless way either. Groxhhelin probably would not have even dared if he had known the sort of mood his father was in.
Groxhhelin’s father was called Blyz the Round and Furious and he was both of those attributes to an astonishing degree. At the moment when Groxhhelin and his cousin Bob were quietly locking the door to the space hanger, Blyz was screaming and storming around his laboratory like a jilted tornado. There was a glitch in his system—there had to be. He had looked through the Ultra-scope but the planet that he was studying was not there. The readout said it was the right place, but . . . no planet. Empty space greeted his gaze. Blyz the Round and Furious did not like setbacks. And just as he always did when he needed someone to vent at, he called his son.
Groxhhelin and Bob came into the lab a few minutes later. If Blyz had not been so preoccupied, he would have seen immediately that the two boys were trying to hide something.
“What’s up, Dad?” Groxhhelin asked.
“The planet I’m studying isn’t where it’s supposed to be,” Blyz said. “Now, juggle.” He tossed several beakers and a microscope to his son. Groxhhelin was an expert juggler and anytime Blyz felt sad or just brain-smashingly angry, he got Groxhhelin to juggle for him. It was his regular form of therapy.
“We hit some planets today,” Bob said. Groxhhelin kicked him, but it was too late. Blyz was glowering at them.
“What do you mean, you hit planets? Did you take the Starhopper out?”
“Yes,” Bob said before Groxhhelin could stop him.
“I told you never to touch that!” Blyz screamed. He started opening drawers, cupboards, and cages all around the room.
“Aw, come on, Dad. I don’t want to get sweaty,” Groxhhelin said, but it was too late. Blyz started tossing things at him: an office chair, a rabid weasel, a lit Bunsen burner, and a handful of sand, just for good measure.
“Now, where did you go in the Starhopper? Did you go near system 4302.2?”
Groxhhelin was sweaty and panting, trying to keep everything in the air and unharmed. “I . . . I don’t know really, but—okay, okay, we went there,” he added quickly as Blyz lit a welding torch and got ready to throw it towards him. “We hit a couple planets and had to use their sun as fuel to get back. Sorry.”
Up went the welding torch and a half dozen pieces of lab furniture. Blyz accidentally threw in a jar of Evapo-Rub as well. It hit the flame of the welding torch, melted and sprayed all over, causing the other objects Groxhhelin was juggling to be pulled out of existence in a sudden thunderclap. There was a sudden, awkward silence.
“It cracked the headlight,” Bob said from underneath the workbench where he was cowering. “It might still be in there.”
“It’d better be, for your sake,” Blyz said.
Several minutes later, the three of them were in the hover-cart, floating in front of the huge headlight of the Starhopper. There was a hole in the middle of the light and something dark inside.
“It’s so small,” Bob said. “I could use it as a soccer ball.”
“I’ve been studying this planet for twenty years,” Blyz said. “It has something amazing and utterly unique in the universe. We need to be extremely careful getting it out. Go get that bucket over there.”
“What is so special about this planet?” Bob asked. He got the bucket and held it for Blyz.
“These people eat a lot and have thousands of different kinds of food,” Blyz said. “Now, carefully.” He reached in and pulled out the planet Earth as gingerly as he could. His finger smashed Mount Everest down to a small hill and his other palm crushed the entire Amazon rainforest. He set the planet down into the bucket.
“But we have hundreds of different foods too,” Groxhhelin said.
“No, your mother just puts it in different colored bowls and tells you it’s different,” Blyz said. “In reality, we have three foods: regular gruel, extra calorie gruel, and gruel-light, for when we’re just feeling peckish. People on this little planet though . . . I’ve been studying them for years and barely know anything about their foods. We could learn so much from them. I’ll show you what I mean.”
They walked back to the lab and Blyz pulled a round flat thing out of a side compartment. “This is what is called pizza,” he said.
Bob took a bite of it. “It’s just gruel.”
“But it’s flat gruel,” Blyz said. “And round. Anyway, this is just my first attempt. We need to get this planet back into space before it dies.”
“We used up their sun,” Bob said, in case anyone had forgotten. He was absentmindedly dribbling the Earth back and forth with his feet. Blyz hit him on the head with a microscope.
Groxhhelin and Bob were given the task of putting the much-abused planet back into space, preferably in a place where the inhabitants would not all instantly freeze or burn to death. It was not that Blyz trusted them in the least, but more that he was deathly afraid of going out into space. So, after several hours of detailing every grotesque punishment he would inflict on them if they failed, he wished them luck and sent them out.
Blyz had selected a system that had a similar sized sun and room for another planet. Groxhhelin drove the Starhopper (with permission this time) out and carefully maneuvered Earth into place.
“It’s not spinning,” Bob said. “Should it be spinning?”
“Hold on, I’m still fine-tuning it.” Groxhhelin had his tongue out, a sure sign he was concentrating. He reached out with a robotic arm, grabbed a continental shelf and gave the planet a spin.
“Now it’s going too fast. Every day will be five seconds long,” Bob said.
Groxhhelin punched him for being annoying and they had a bit of a tussle for a while, but eventually they got it pretty well sorted out and headed for home, buzzing a few black holes on the way.
* * *
Miraculously, there were still some survivors on Earth and they did not freeze or burn up in their new location. It truly was a whole new world though. All the stars were different and astronomers got right to work making up new constellations and thinking up names for the nearby planets.
As well, since Groxhhelin never got it totally right, every day now had 35 hours in it, which was perfect for all the people who complained that there were never enough hours in the day. Earth’s productivity went through the roof, as did its party culture, which could now party for fifteen hours straight every night. The year turned out to be about 1000 days long now as well. This meant that the life expectancy was now about 30 of the new years, but it took three times longer to get there. People now started school at two, got married around ten and retired around twenty. Senior citizens could say they were still young, even as they hobbled around with walkers and talked about the good old days of a decade before. And so everyone (at least the survivors) were happy.
On a side note, Blyz never did figure out how to make any actual different foods, but he did write a cookbook called 1001 ways to Disguise Gruel. And so, he too was relatively less furious.