Grundos, Rocks, and Other Things
The orange Grundo of Spacerocked! looked at his missiles. Two rocks, that was fine, but instead of a third rock, like any self-respecting sling-shooter would need, he had... a book.
A book wasn’t going to go very far, but at least it was better than an empty Neocola can.
The Grundo sighed, and loaded it into his slingshot. Might as well get that out of the way first.
Books are passive creatures. They hate action.
Well, except maybe Annals of Insanity. That was a book that seemed like it bit occasionally. The Book of Pain looked a little lethal, too.
The tome was picked up, and immediately thought to himself, Goody, in a very sarcastic tone. He was not a book with a bright and cheerful outlook on life.
He was loaded into the orange Grundo’s slingshot, and suddenly found himself airborne. If he had had eyes, he would have closed them, very tightly.
As it was, he sailed through infinite blackness until he hit something hard, metal, and cold. Probably a pipe, stuck on the surface of Kreludor for a reason that nobody knows. Pipes don’t belong on moon surfaces! But they existed there anyway, instead of being used for the poor Sewage Surfer Wocky. He could use a few more pipes.
The book waited sullenly to be picked up. He knew by now not to expect his pages to be checked for rips and tears, his cover to be checked for dents. He was a very tattered book by now.
He was dumped, quite unceremoniously, into a box with other angry, torn books. Only one of them had ever hit the spaceship at the end of the stretch of moon land, littered with pipes that didn’t belong there. And even that book didn’t get any respect, except amongst his fellow books. They were, as a whole, deemed useless by outsiders.
The book that had just been dumped into the box thought they could all be quite of good use, if the Grundos actually read them. Then they’d be smarter, which they all needed, if he was being honest, and they’d be happier, too, since there would be a shortage of books to use for slinging across the moon, and that meant more rocks.
Come to think of it, he wasn’t sure why they used books. Rocks were of no scarcity on Kreludor, no sir. Same with Neocola cans – they were the prime choice of drink for the Grundos.
Who can fathom the minds of dim-witted Grundos?
He sighed. At least Lennies understand us, he thought quietly, even if there are no Lennies around.
He planned a happy trip to Altador in his mind.
The first rock, which had been named No. 3 by the Grundos, was loaded into the slingshot. Then he was flying, into the dark sky, and over the many obstacles for a good third of the way to the spaceship. Then he felt himself drop down, lower and lower, until he felt a Grundo boost him up.
There must have been a pipe ahead, or maybe a geyser.
No. 3 hated pipes more than the books. The pipes chipped away at him, leaving him smaller and smaller, and scratched at his surface. He still felt quite sore from his pipe-hitting episode the day before.
He enjoyed being boosted, though. It was almost exactly like being flung from the slingshot, except it was... a lot gentler. The slingshot gave him rock wedgies.
He was at peace with the world for another minute, enjoying the air blasting onto his surface, and then he promptly hit a levitating meteor. He didn’t blow up, so he surmised that he hit a green one. That was good all around. It kept him in the air a little longer, and it gave the orange Grundo some extra points.
Surely he was over half-way to the spaceship by now.
He wished he had a voice box so he could hum. He could hear, somehow, and he couldn’t see, like the other rocks, but he couldn’t talk either, unlike the other rocks.
He heard faint cheering in the distance. He must be almost there!
Then he promptly hit a pipe, the purple Grundo booster having arrived .0854 seconds too late.
The purple Grundo looked down the ground forlornly. Beloved No. 3 was smashed to bits.
Farewell, No. 3, he thought sadly. You were a good rock.
The purple Grundo arrived back at the starting point with the shards of No. 3 in his hands. The orange Grundo with the slingshot peered at the pieces curiously.
“That’s No. 3?” he asked.
The purple Grundo nodded sadly.
The orange Grundo sighed. If he had had a hat, he would have taken it off, as a simple gesture of departure to the rock.
“No. 3 was a fine rock,” the purple Grundo said, depositing the rock’s remains into a small box, which he locked. “A little soft, maybe, and sure, he hated the pipes, but don’t we all? He was still an excellent rock.”
The orange Grundo agreed. They sat down to take a break for a moment, toasting to No. 3 with some Neocola.
The rest of the rocks looked on in horror as No. 3 was brought up, smashed to smithereens.
No. 86, who was up next, gulped nervously. His mates cheered him on.
“You’re not as soft as No. 3 was,” No. 67 said. “You’ll be fine if you hit a few pipes!”
The rest of the rocks murmured in assent.
“And at least he had a happy life. He got plenty of air time, he was well-liked, and he was serene,” No. 67 went on.
“He had a hero’s end,” No. 8 said quietly.
“Ay, and we all want that. Best for him this way instead of being blown into the atmosphere by a geyser, never to be seen again.”
No. 86 did not feel comforted by this pep talk of sorts.
“I don’t want an end at all!” he cried. “I just want to get out of here. Live my life on the ground, maybe be chucked at Sloth a few times, but that’s it!”
The rocks were in horror. A defector!
No. 86 was, from that point on, shunned by his fellow rocks.
Please let me hit a red meteor, please let me hit a red meteor, please let me hit a red meteor... No. 86 pleaded silently as he was picked up. Being blown to bits was better than being shunned by his former friends and being chucked at giant spaceships.
Or maybe he could land on a geyser. He didn’t know where he might go, but if he was never seen here again that would just fine by him.
Maybe he could hit Sloth’s head on his way down, if there was a way down.
He doubted very much if a pipe would shatter him. As No. 67 had pointed out, he wasn’t as soft as No. 3.
He felt himself get pushed into the slingshot. He was stretched back... and then was sent flying.
He cleared his mind of all thought and simply focused on nothing. It was harder than it seemed, but he did it eventually, cruising through the air without paying attention to anything.
No. 86 felt like taking a nap. Impossible to do in mid-air, of course, but he tried nevertheless. He was a very persistent moon rock.
He gave up after a few minutes, once he felt himself falling. He hit a lava pit and bounced up, went a little further, and bounced on the ground a few times before the Grundo booster came up to save the day.
No. 86 hit the spaceship at the end of the stretch, thanks to a series of well-placed levitating meteors. Unfortunately, none of them were red.
The Grundos at the start point cheered loudly. He was rather less elated.
A Grundo eventually made its way over to No. 86 and picked him up. Then came the tedious journey back, which took considerably longer than it did to get to the fallen spaceship.
Which did not, sadly, fall on the rock. That would have been a real hero’s end.
No. 86 felt himself get tossed up and down as the Grundo jogged. This is not going to end well...
He felt nauseous. Well, as nauseous as a rock can feel. He was also feeling annoyed.
He was dumped into the box with the rest of the rocks. His past friends shunned him still, bouncing and rolling away from him. He sighed.
Now would be a good time for a nap.
No. 86 was up first for the next group of Grundos.
In four seconds, he was flying in the air, above the rocky ground, the stupid pipes, and the levitating meteors. He was airborne for quite a long while before he descended, bounced on the ground a few times, and shot up again.
But it wasn’t by a Grundo; No. 86 had been pushed up by booster Grundos too many times to notice when it was some other force that was heightening him.
It wasn’t a meteor, either. There was no explosion.
It was a good thing he wasn’t afraid of heights, he thought absently. The trip up and up and up seemed never-ending.
He started. He had come across a geyser that had been expelling air! Certainly, that was the only explanation. His mood increased, and he shimmied happily.
Of course, that joy was quickly daunted by the fact that he had no idea when, if ever, he was going to come down at last, and if he did, where he’d land.
Thankfully, though, No. 86 was a patient rock, and fear did not visit him for very long.
If he’d had thumbs, he would have twiddled them.
A white Grundo on the other side of Kreludor looked up at the starry night sky. It was one of the few pleasures reserved for him, he thought. It made him think that maybe, just maybe, peace would reside all over the world someday.
...who was he kidding?
He sighed and trudged back into the shack a few yards away from him. There was a certain omnipresent villain sitting in it, seeming quite at home in the dark, cold shed.
“Mawain, please fetch me a can of grapefruit Neocola,” the villain said, his voice surprisingly smooth, and not rough like a villain’s voice ought to be.
“Yes, master,” Mawain said hurriedly, and ran out of the shack.
The all-mighty master drinks grapefruit Neocola? It was an interesting choice, certainly. Grapefruit Neocola was known to make the Grundos sick.
Maybe because this certain omnipresent villain drinks it, he thought sourly.
He sat on the hard ground, wondering where the blazes he was going to find his master’s beverage. He looked up again, at the starry sky, and saw something very ordinary: a falling rock.
He estimated it would land somewhere within five feet of him, so he shuffled out of the way.
The villain in question made a rare venture out of the shack, and stopped right where Mawain had been sitting a minute ago. The rock fell faster now, thanks to gravity.
“Mawain, where is my Neocola? I asked for it five minutes ago!”
“I’m getting on it, now. Sorry,” Mawain said, looking still at the rock.
No. 86 fell.
And fell, and fell, and fell.
And landed on something that most certainly was not the ground. It was much too soft for that. It wasn’t quite plush, though, so he figured he’d landed on a living being.
He heard a chuckle, which escalated into a maniacal laugh.
“Quiet!” a voice commanded. “I’ll do the maniacal cackling here, do you understand?”
“Yes, Dr. Sloth. Would you like me to remove the offending rock from your face?”
He’d landed on Sloth’s face! The one single life goal... done.
“Of course. Throw it in the toilet when you’re done.”
“But it’ll clog the pipes!”
“Do you think I care, Mawain?” Dr. Sloth said.
The other voice fell silent, and hands carefully picked up No. 86.
He prepared to be dunked in water.
Mawain didn’t flush the rock, though. He kept it in his pocket, as a lucky charm (something for which No. 86 was eternally appreciative for).
After all, something that hit Sloth in the face was pretty extraordinary.