The one known as ‘Spark Plug’ resembled a fantasy-genre dwarf, dressed as an Earth-based electrician……with a pet barn owl. Woollen cap, fingerless gloves, a cigarette pushed behind one ear, and five o’clock shadow on a jaw that jutted teeth. He didn’t look the hero. He looked like the hero’s lighting guy.
Amateur lighting guy.
He provided a tour of their ship; some outer space digs akin to a university student flat that had sprouted thrusters. My TARDIS may well be untidy at times, but the level of theirs was almost artistic. No corner was spared from piles of junk that couldn’t be any more unrelated; violins mixed with broken canoes interspersed with hi-tech weaponry components and maps of Bulgaria. We walked past a bookcase of DVDs that had a bottle of ketchup on it; a pair of slippers in a toaster; shampoo on the ceiling; tracks in the dust and wrapper after discarded wrapper of hi-tar cigarettes.
Spark Plug hiccoughed a plume of foul-smelling smoke, sniffed a few sinuses out of hibernation, and pointed a clawed finger down one of the hallways.
SP: “Tha’s dorm rooms, down there. You don’t touch anythink, you’ll keep your fingers. Don’t go in Angel Demon’s room, neither, real protective.”
My imagination ran amok at the kind of artefacts hoarded by someone named Angel Demon. I could guess which one she was…apologies, they were. Their voice was decidedly female, but they were not – made immediately obvious by their clothesless, genderless body, crimson coloured skin on full display. Their lack of attire was, if anything, understandable. It’s probably hard to find clothes that comfortably fit four pairs of wings…
“What do you call yourselves, anyway?”
Spark Plug returned an impassive, upwards glare.
“Oh, come on. Which dramatic noun did you choose to affix yourselves?”
Silence, from the dwarf and its barn owl.
“Come on! Your team name? The Avengers? The Revengers? The Justice League? The A Team, Guardians of the Galaxy, Stormwatch, Elementals, Time Squad, Watchmen, Eternity, the Bastards – stop me if I guess it? I’ve got more. A lot more. At least fifty more.”
SP: “We ain’t got no team name?”
I scowled, at a steep diagonal. “Well you’ve got that wrong for a start. How can you get all those gorgeous slo-mo shots if no-one even knows who you are? I mean, there’s a city in turmoil, its desperate leader abandons all self-respect, and says ‘There’s nothing else we can do. We’d better call…?” I held out my hopeful hands.
I deflated. “Duck me*. That role you’ve got going in your PR department? I’ll take it, and have a team name ready within three working days.”
Just what this universe needs, another rag-tag band of lovable misfits. Each of them all so individual, there’s no way they could all overcome their differences and be friends, but lo and behold…
“So,” I said, changing trains of thought, “which of you has the tragic backstory. Excuse me, the most tragic?”
?: Prob’ly Unnamed Owl.
It was like I’d walked into a wall. Spark Plug, and his ironic owl, looked round to the halt of footsteps.
“That is a name, surely?”
Two impassive expressions; one had a beak.
“We’ll work on that, too.”
We carried on, walking in a mutual silence, until we neared a doorway with steam curling out of it. Inside was the messiest kitchen I’d ever encountered – there weren’t actually any work-tops, just cluttered heaps of unwashed items, and a buffet of food poisoning. Ethereal stood at a blackened stove, doing her best to lift a saucepan. It worked when she was more on our side of reality, but when she wasn’t…
“E is our cook,” Spark Plug stated, lumbering along past the door. “Takes ‘er a while ter make anythink, but she tends ter know ezzactly what yer in the mood fer.”
She phased back, into starker relief this time. In the brighter overhead lights, I noticed that Ethereal wore a ball-gown the colour of amethyst. Whatever decision had shattered her, it had been somewhere fancy.
SP “Keep up!”
* Statistics relating to Earth-based text messages speak for themselves. The most common phrase of frustration is ‘duck me’. Expressions of surprise or distaste include ‘what the duck’, or, ‘you’ve got to be shutting me’. If the typist is really annoyed, the appearance of ‘what a cent’ may appear.