Saturday, 19 March 2011


The spaceship was called the Smilebreaker, and it seemed to George that it was an accurate description. No-one seemed happy: the captain snarled when he walked past George in the corridors, the First Mate was so miserable that George wondered if someone important to him died everyday he was aboard the ship, and the Executive Chef served up menus of desperation and futility every day. Finding himself sat yet again alone at a table in the refectory with a paper plate of Gloomy chicken in a black sauce of hopelessness in front of him, George decided that it was time to find out what the problem with the ship was.
He waited till he was back at his workbench in Engineering. He was currently tasked with refurbishing one of the two spare lasers that pointed at the solar sail when they were cruising. Across the workbench, surrounded by spanners, ratchets and odd-shaped pieces of blued-steel was his colleague, Joanna. Her lips were pressed firmly together, and her eyes looked vaguely watery.
"Joanna?" He didn't raise his voice very much, trying to suggest that she could ignore him if she were busy.
"What?" The words were snapped out, and she flung a spanner down; it chimed musically on the workbench.
"Ah, sorry. Do you know why the ship's called the Smilebreaker?"
"I'd guess they needed to call it something so you could ask stupid questions."
"...Is everything ok, Joanna?"
"Oh jeez, really? Are you really asking that?"
George looked at her, her lips were trembling now and she was clearly on the edge of tears.
"Well, yes," he said. "You don't seem ok."
"It's this stupid ship," she said. "Everyday it finds a way to hurt you; that's why it's called the Smilebreaker. This morning my last pair of tights were shredded beyond repair and the replicator had leaked coffee all over my favourite book in the night."
George automatically looked over the bench at Joanna legs.
"This is duct tape," she said, tapping her leg and raising a plastic sound. "So this evening the ship will hurt me all over again when I take this off, effectively waxing myself."
"Is it like this for everyone?"
"Yes. Surely you've noticed?"
George shrugged. "Not really," he said. "I knocked my elbow on the doorframe last week, that hurt a little. But it got better."
"You didn't wake up to find your favourite songs had been erased, or your clothes were torn in embarrassing places, or your bed had deliquesced in the night and your shower was broken?"
"No. Should I? It's been quite normal on the ship, except that everyone's miserable all the time."
Joanna's face morphed into a look of horror and she started backing away. "Oh dear sweet jeez," she said, her voice little more than a whisper. "It's you. You're the Lachrymator, aren't you?"
"What's a Lac--" George began, but Joanna's scream cut him off, and he stared after her as she ran away from the workbench and deep into the heart of the Engineering deck.

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