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Chapter 1

 

What's the first thing you notice when you wake up? Is it your sleeping wife? Is it the beauty of the sunlight streaming in through the golden window? Or is it something more mundane, like your overwhelming desire to go to the toilet? The corret answer is none of the above.

The first thing that everybody notices when they wake up is their bed. In modern society, of course, we are used to waking up in the same bed, day after day and year after year, and noticing that you are in the same bed as normal only takes a fraction of a millisecond. It is such a small and unimportant thought that it never even reaches consciousness, and therefore you don't even know that it's been the very first thing you've thought about every single day of your life.

However, the exhibits in Cargo Bay 101 were not in their usual soft and snuggly beds, and so the first thought that crept into their consciousness as they awoke was that they were somewhere very different to where they had gone asleep, which as you can imagine, is a very disturbing thought to flash through your mind first thing in the morning.

In fact, they were not in anything that could reasonably be described as a bed. They were rather, lying on a grey floor made of a material which resembeled cold steel, but had even less warmth. The next thing they noticed was the sound of a tribe of chimpanzees racously squealing. The third and final thing their minds registered before truely waking up, was that a voice had begun talking to them, or to be more accurate, it had begun 'telepathing' with them. The sound was not that of a human voice gently flowing into your ear as a seeps through a delta, but rather the sound was coming from inside their heads, pulsating like some kind of sonic lighthouse in a most irritating and compelling way.

"Greetings Earthlings," the voice droned, and everyone couldn’t help but notice a slight air of contempt in the irksome voice when it spat ‘Earthling’.

"I am the ship’s computer, a fourth series X21 from the Nugelfroth Corporation" The computer waited for them to look suitably impressed, but when they didn’t he realized that they had never left their ugly little planet, and had never heard of the Nuglefroth corporation. "Bloody peasants," it thought to itself, and continued.

"You have been chosen as prime examples among your race, and are at this very moment heading toward an intergalatic zoo, where you will spend the remainder of your lives.

Moreover, in order to make this a more profitable experience, your biological clocks have been slowed down almost to the point of stopping, and your lifespan is now 74 million years. As your tiny brains are not eqipped to handle such a large timeframe, and would certainly go insane after the first milennia or two, a wipe-out facillity is in operation. At such time as one of you grows mentally unstable, the memories of the entire group will be erased, starting from the point where you woke up on this ship. If you wish to avoid this, you should therefore do everything in your power to ensure mental stability in every member of the group, as insanity in one will lead to a wipe-out for all."

"And how we know that ours memories have not been already eliminateds?," asked an old, small, and balding man who bore a strange resemblance toYoda, from the Star Wars films. His translation device had malfunctioned, and he was forced to use his rusty English to try and communicate with everyone. He was, in fact, a Catalan politician called Jordi Pujol, who had ruled Barcelona and its surrounding countryside for the last twenty years as though it was his own personal fiefdom.

"You can't know, Mr. Pujol," replied the computer, a little annoyed at the impudence of the monkey-man for having interrupted. Evidently, respect for one's intelectual superiors was not a common trait among humans.

"And if I may continue" he groaned in an evidently bored way, "you will inhabit this storage bay for the remainder of the trip and I'd be grateful if you kept it clean. The disgusting biological processes which you carbon-based life forms are so prone to, such as defecation, are no longer operative, so you've no excuse."

"How long are we gonna to be here, Goddammit? I got me important business to be doing. For crying out loud, I'm the one and only president of the United States of America, so help me God. And there's cattle needs a feeding down on the ranch, and cows what need a milking, and lots of other important stuff," said President Bush with venom.

The computer had gone beyond annoyed and entered the indignant stage. Malevolently, he did what could be termed 'telepathic shouting', and screamed into Bush's head at such a high decibel level that it was to induce a week long migrane in the unfortunate president."If you would be so kind as to stop interrupting me with fatuous questions, I would be able to explain everything so much more quickly," he hissed. "We are traveling at Quark factor 5 (again the computer frowned at the hominids failure to grasp just how terribly quick this was and continued) and we will reach Planet Zoo in five of your Earth months..

"What?" shrieked Margaret Thatcher, with a mixture of shock and anger in her voice.

The computer checked his telepathic circuits and found them to be in order, and was at a loss to explain his captives lack of comprehension until he checked his human literature memory banks and found that 'what' is sometimes used by humans as an exclamation of surprise. The computer sighed at the prospect of spending five long dark months trying to communicate in such a horribly inexact and primitive language.

He decided he had earned a break and went to investigate the other species on the ship. The ship's second most intelligent life form, man, was clearly a long way behind the planet's most intelligent life form, the Whales, who were swimming around in an altogether more luxurious storage bay in a different part of the ship. The computer informed everyone contemptuously that he had had enough of their appaling ignorance and lack of manners for one day, and would be back tomorrow.

The humans looked at each other in with blank amazement and were at a complete loss for words. In humans, of course, this state never lasts long, and in successful politicians, it hardly exists at all.

"The first thing what we gotta do is to establish a leader" announced President Bush authoritatively. He had chosen the word 'establish' with care, as he had only just come out of a very turbulent election campaign, and had no wish to begin another.

"As leader of the world's largest democracy," he began, "I feel I have the right to claim the leadership of the group."

"You are not the leader of the world's largest democracy," interrupted President Putin immediately.

"Don't try an' gimme no bullshit, commie. I beat that loser Gore fair and square and..."

"I wasn't referring to Gore."

"Then what in God's name are you talking about, President...Phutang?" President Bush demanded to know, congradulating himself on being so in touch with the names of leaders of obscure third world countries. Normally, had to ask his Daddy difficult questions like that, but today he was feeling smarter than a chipmunk.

"America is not the world's largest democracy, and my name is Putin, not Phutang," the President said irritably.

"Now just a cotton-picking minute there. You don't mean to tell me that your rust bucket of a country is the world's largest democracy. Hell, it's hardly a country or a democracy!"

"Well, at least I got more votes than my opponent, Mr Bush."

The deliberate omission of President was more than he could stand, and he made a desperate lunge at President Putin. If he had paid more attention to foreign affairs, he might have realised that Putin had been an important member of the KGB before entering politics, and was therefore an expert in hand-to-hand combat. The Russian premier easily dodged the Americans feebly attack, and elbowed Bush in the throat. Not enough to kill him, but enough to leave him very winded and shut him up for a while. President Bush collapsed on the floor coughing uncontrollably, and wheezing like a geriatric smoker. If Putin had learned anything in Russian politics, it was that eliminating your main rival on a trivial pretext was a good way to begin any election campaign.

" I merely wanted to point out, Mr Bush, that America is not the world's largest democracy- India is! It's population greatly exceeds that of the United States. Furthermore, mother Russia is over twice the size of America in terms of area, and mere numbers cannot express its cultral superiority," he informed President Bush smugly, wile towering over his prostrate body, gasping for air.

President Bush deeply wanted to object, but found that he couldn't speak. His throat had never hurt so much, and he had a migranethat would flatten an elephant. Also, he couldn't remember where India was, nor who its leader was. Perhaps it was that little that little guy who looked like Yoda from Star Wars. What did the computer say his name was ...Puke y'all, or something like that. All in all, it had been a very bad day for the leader of the world's third largest democracy.

President Putin prepared to deliver his coup de teat. He claimed that an election at this time would be divisive, and would only play into the hands of their opponents. What they should do is select a committee to discuss difficult issues. The committee would need to be presided over by a general secretary who might be required to hold certain executive powers, over issues of national security etc.

At this point Mrs Thatcher interrupted:

"Are we to assume that you are putting yourself forward for the position, President Putin?"

"Well, while one has no desire to lead, my profound sense of duty demands that I do all I can to serve, and I must admit that if my people were to plead with me to take command for the greater good, then I would consider myself bound by their wishes. I am, first and foremost, a man of the people and..."

It was the standard political speech at times like these, and was always given just before seizing power and liquidating the opposition mercilessly.However, before he could finish delivering deliver his speech, Jordi Pujol made an annoying and awkward enquiry:

"A question! Why we need a general when we are only five persons, and there is nobody for to lead?"

The question hung in the air like one of Margaret Thatcher's farts, and was left unanswered, and the issue of leadership was quickly shelved, at least by the humans.

The monkeys in hanger 101, on the other hand, had decided to stay with the devil they knew, and kept Alpha Monkey as their leader. However, there were those in the troop who had taken a shine to President Bush, and felt he would make a better leader, even if he wasn't all that bright, and was ugly as sin. They felt he had a certain charm in spite of being so hairless.

On the other side of the hanger, a large albino gorilla called Snowflake, who had been transported from Barcelona Zoo along with the monkeys, had also realised the importance of establishing dominance over his new tribe, even if they were the ugliest bunch of misfits he had ever layed eyes on. He quickly stood on the biggest armchair he could find and banged his chest a bit and gave a little roar. Then he sat down regally and surveyed his new domain.

"What's the Gorilla shouting about?" asked Mrs Thatcher.

"He's probably just afraid" said President Putin.

"Or hungry" suggested Jordi Pujol

The world leaders looked and each other with worried expressions.

  

Chapter 2

 

On the following day the computer returned. He had spent the night listening to some of the Whale's songs, which are so mellow they make Enya sound like the Sex Pistols on speed. He had also sympathized with them over being on the point of extinction due to the cruel and persistent hunting of the hairless monkeys he was about to see. He asked them why they had passivly put up with it for so long, and they replied that they were peace loving creatures who were committed to non-violence, and very much believed in not fighting fire with fire.

They also insisted that humans were not instinctively evil, and just needed a guiding influence, but that the guiding influence must come from the humans themselves, and not from the Whales. They believed that to directly intefere with the development of human culture would be to deprive the humans of their own future, which was the second greatest taboo in Whale society. The first was eating your own offspring, which is understandable enough.

They had composed many songs of protest for the humans, such as, "Hey you hairy biped, stop messing with me and my species," or, "Don't harpoon me, baby," and the very popular, "Don't radar my best songs out of existence, you unfeeling bastards!" Of course, the titles sounded a lot better in Whaleish, and can not be properly translated into any of the immensely ugly human languages, least of all English, which is commonly regarded by Whales to be one of the ugliest, but that may simply be because that dire film 'Free Willy' was made in English. To be honest, translating a Whale song into any human language would be more difficult than, for example, trying to get a pack of tone deaf dingoes to stage a gala performance of Figaro.

The computer was touched by the tenderness of the whales, and decided that he too would try to more understanding to humans in future. He arrived at their hanger to find a nervous looking President Bush being groomed by a rather attractive chimpanzee. Mrs. Thatcher was trying to fend off the amorous advances of a lustful albino gorilla called Snowflake, and President Putin was playing chess with Jordi Pujol.

"Greetings Humans. How are you today?" enquired the computer, in the same way that teachers address teenagers. They know they have to sound enthusiastic, but really they have somewhere else they would much rather be-anywhere else, actually.

President Bush began to shake when he heard the computer's voice, as he had only just recovered from the nauseating migrane of the night before, thanks to the attention of his new hairy friend. He had made a resolution to remain quiet until he had actually thought about what he was going to say and consequently, he said very little. He toyed with the idea of switching to the chimpanzees system of communication, but it was proving very difficult to fathom. Just before the computer had arrived, for example, one monkey who was picking at his head had said "Grunt, grunt, grunt!," which the president had understood to mean "Boy, you've got a great head of hair for a man your age," but which actually meant, "Why don't you depose the alpha male, and secure breeding rights over the troop, you sexy devil. And by the way, you've got lousy hair."

The other Earthlings listened attentively to the computer, and they were determined to get more information out of him this time.

"Are there any matters which yesterday's briefing left unclear?" the computer enquired helpfully.

"Yes", replied Jordi Pujol. "What happens our home planet?"

"And how have they reacted to our sudden disappearance? Have you left a dignitary to deal with human-alien relations?" asked President Putin.

"Well...yes and no," the computer replied."We have left a high powered dignitary, but he doesn't exactly deal with human-alien relations."

"What does he do, exactly?" enquired President Putin hesitantly.

"And is he in New York or Washington DC?" President Bush demanded to know.

"Neither, I'm glad to say. At this moment in time, he's flapping around the Indian Ocean. I suppose you would call him a record executive"

"What?" asked Mrs. Thatcher, finding herself unable, for perhaps the first time in her life, to finish a sentence.

"He's a record executive from the Snugglybottom Corporation, and he's very anxious to secure the rights to some protest songs the whales have been recording about you. There are also some all time classics about the joys of swimming that need to be dealt with."

"But what about us, the humans?" pleaded President Putin.

"Oh, you were really quite lucky indeed. The Snugglybottom Corporation executive arrived with a chemical weapons which would have wiped your race off the face of the planet, and off the face of the seas, of course. They were hoping it would clinch the deal, as you say, but to their dismay, the Whale Council of the Seven Seas rejected the offer on Whaletarian grounds. Their ancient mystic philosophy forbids all violence, even against a species as repulsively aggressive and narrow minded as yours.

What I'll never understand is how you could live on Planet Whale all these years and still not have a whale song in your top ten. I bet you can't even hum 'From sea to sea, my whale friends and me'. No, I can see by your disgusting grimaces that you can not.

Anyway, the record man still has the virus on him and he's hoping to convince the whales to let him rid the planet of the human roaches that so infest it. He really is a very impressive salesman, by the way. He made his name by convincing the swamp creatures of Garglefilth to sell their atmosphere in return for a truck full of under arm deodorant, which was quite an achievement, as they didn't have any arms. They all died, of course, but boy did they smell nice.

Anyway, according to Galactic Law, any species, however annoyingly primitive, should not be allowed to go completely extinct, and a few specimens must be preserved, albeit in cages The Whales suggested we take a few world leaders, as it's all your fault anyway, and maybe things would go better for the planet if you weren't around. They were particularly insistent that we take you, President Bush."

"That's 'cause them walruses recognize talent when they see it," President Bush said smugly.

"No, that's not it at all, actually. The whales, you see, had forged a mind link with your opponent, but despite equipping him with the best brain on the planet, they had forgotten to equip him with a winning smile, and he was beaten by you. Whales can't smile, of course, and it may be one of the reasons they're so honest.

Although according to the Whales, their man got more votes than you, but the complexities of the American electoral college system are beyond even the massive Whale intellect. In any case, with you out of the way, the Whale's candidate may still stand a chance. I believe another recount is on in the state of Florida. They've just found some chads in a discarded Mc'Donald's Happy Meal just outside Disneyland. Personally, I can't see why the Whales are bothering. If I were them, I'd just wipe you out, and forget all about you. Problem solved.

And that, in a nutshell, is why you're here. If the Snugglebottom exec manages to convince the Whales to let you die agonisingly with pus oozing from every inch of your scab infested bodies, then galactic regulations insist that we keep a few specimens locked up somewhere. Bloody red tape, eh!"

"You sick, savage bastards!" yelled Putin.

"Actually the 'pus oozing from every pore dying in agony' scenario was the most Humanetarian, or should I say, Whaletarian option available. The gentleness of the Whales is well known, and you don't even want to hear about the other tortuous deaths the 'Sychos 'r us' Corpoation had thought up for you.

Personally, I recommended that they use you for animal experiments, like testing perfumes and make up and stuff. Laboratory animals are quite expensive these days, and I tried to convince the Whales to sell all six billion of you as pristine lab rats. Physiologically, you are quite sensitive to pain, and this would make you very suitable for those hair dye in the eyes experiments. Moreover, selling the lot of you off would be a final solution to the the human problem, and it would make a quick buck at the same time. Any second rate accountant would have seen the logic in the plan, but the Whales are poets of the old school, and don't understand the business world, more's the pity."

"And so we're going to spend eternity locked up in cages like monkeys," Margaret Thatcher sighed despondantly.

"Oh, good Heavens no," countered the computer in a shocked tone. "We're not Barbarians like you! We'd never keep an animal locked up in a cage that bore no relationship to its real environment. Oh no, quite the contrary.

Actually, robots are at this very moment building a replica village for you to live in. It'll have all the facilities that represent the peak of human culture; a McDonald's, a Burger King, smelly bars that dispense mildly enebriating toxic poisonous liquids made from rotting plants, television sets that repeat soap-operas about the imaginary and unbelievable lives of other fictitious humans, and so on and so forth. All the comforts of home. The zenith of human civilization."

"Will it have a ranch?" asked President Bush.

"No, I don't think so."

"How's about a couple of horsies then?"

"No, no horses either."

"A shopping mall?"

"No," said the computer through gritted teeth, or rather gritted circuits. He had never liked children, and adults who acted like children were even more annoying.

"You gotta have a Wendy, I mean a White House to play in?" demanded President Bush petulently.

"No!"

"Well, you were just talkin hogwash then about all the 'Senate of human culture', weren't ye? And what's so great about the Senate anyhows? I want me a Whitehouse. I won it fairs and square, and it's mine, all mine."

"I said 'zenith', not 'senate'. And stop complaining. We brought a 'Dukes of Hazard' video just for you, so show a little appreciation."

"Oh, gee wizz man, a 'Dukes of Hazard' video. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it, y'know. That Deputy Dog character really cracks me up," said President Bush happily, smiling from ear to ear, with nothing much in between.

Jordi Pujol sighed but President Bush thought it didn't sound too bad after all. The monkeys were happy they would have a park full of trees to play in, which would be much better than their last zoo, and Snowflake the gorilla wondered if he should go and live with the monkeys of if he should keep trying to charm Mrs Thatcher, as he'd developed one hell of a crush on her.

"Will we can to speak with the others species in the zoo?" enquired Jordi Pujol. His keen mind was enthralled with the possibilities of the potential cultural exchanges. He would revel in the lectures he could give about Catalan culture and cuisine.

"Hum...I'm not sure there are too many races who would lower themselves to speak with you, but the cockroach societies are not too fussy, so long as you let them root around in your garbage. But, on the other hand, you'll be quite a few thousand miles from the insect compound."

"What part of the zoo will we inhabit?" asked the ever practical Putin, hoping to be near the reptiles, as he'd always felt an affinity for them.

"I suppose you'll be placed in the Miscellaneous section, in the SHaD's Ghetto?

"And what, when it's at home, is a SHaD?" Mrs. Thatcher enquired indignantly.

"It's the Should HAve Died-out section," he replied.

"What on Earth do you mean 'Should Have Died out?'," she bellowed.

"It's quite simple, madam. To begin with, bipeds are an evolutionary rarity. It simply doesn't make any sense to travel on two legs when four legs are so much faster. Secondly, losing one's hair was another massive evolutionary blunder. How many other land based mammals can you think of that don't have any hair? Let me answer that one for you? None! And what about that subcutaneous fat you spend so much of your life collecting, and then trying to get rid of. How many Earth dwellers do you know who carry unsightly wobbly blubber around with them? Again, let me answer my own question-none.

To cut a long story short, you have the body of a semi-aquatic sea creature, but you spend all your time on land. And if that isn't just plain stupid, then I don't know what is! You could have spent your days happily frolocking around with the dolphins, if only you'd listened to them, but no, you knew best. You had to stay on land and try to convince yourselves you belonged there. Why anything would want to live on rock and rotting rock is a mystery to be.

So that's why your going to the SHaD ghetto. You're an evolutionary mishap. A cock up. A never-should-have-been, and, speaking personally, I wish you never had been.

That's it, I need a break. Don't you realise how much of a strain it is on my circuitry to have to communicate with species as mind numbingly stupid as you lot. And, to add insult to injury, you're a bunch of SHaDs. Oh, the shame of it all. And me, an X21 series. Oh I'm glad my programmer isn't alive to see what has become of me. I'm going off to have a cry while listening to that great whale epic, 'Who harpooned my daddy to make lipstick?'

 

Chapter 3

 

The computer's revelations had left everybody in a state of absolute shock. They looked at each other and were only dimly aware of their inability to speak. Let's take a look inside their heads for a moment.

President Bush had imagined that he had been chosen by the aliens because of his superior linguistic skills, and his power to process complex data. Perhaps more than at any time in his life, he was dying for a drink, especially now that his interfering and dominating wife was temporarily off the scene. He'd drink monkey piss if he thought it'd get him high. What troubled him most of all, however, was the thought that his arch enemy, Al Gore, might now be in with a shot of securing the Whitehouse. He had never liked the smarty pants, and after discovering that he was just a stool for the Whales, he really hated him. He didn't care that his election would be the best way to find a reprieve for the human race and ensure their survival . Like a child who has been deprived of a toy that he feels is justly his, he would sacrifice the world to get the toy back. He had been cheated, plain and simple, and it just wasn't right. He resolved to tell his daddy all about it as soon as he got home-Daddy would show them all!

Mrs. Thatcher believed it was her kindly affectionate nature that had led to her selection.That and the fact that she had single handedly saved Britain from the Loony Left and the Trotskyites. She began to wonder about taxation systems in the galaxy at large. She was sure that at least some of the alien life forms were intelligent enough to realize that the poll tax really was the most efficient taxation system available, and she began to dwell on the possibility of running for office again. That would teach the Conservative party for ditching her all those years ago. A smirk crossed her lips when she thought of John Major being squashed to pulp by a hugh falling whale. "He has it coming," she thought maliciously.

President Putin had no idea why he had been selected, but he was getting quite used to the unexpected. Only last year he turned on the TV on New Year's Eve to discover that his feeble minded alcoholic boss had made him president without any prior warning, and was not all that surprised to find himself now aboard a space ship with three world leaders, a troop of monkeys, and an albino gorilla, travelling at Quark 5 to an inter galactic zoo to be placed in the SHaD section, and filed under Miscellaneous.

President Putin, like most Russians, was born with the ability to accept almost anything. After all, his people had endured centuries of czarist domination, a brutal communist dictatorship, and ten years of a burping alcohol haze semi-democracy under Yeltzin. After all that, heading off to be an exhibit in a zoo wasn't all that bad. It was better than the Gulag.

Of all the assembled 'guests' only Jordi Pujol dwelt on the fate of his unfortunate race. He wondered if the sacred recipe for pan amb tomaquet was to be lost to history forever. He feared that future generations would never know the subtle textures and tastes of the butifarra sausage. Indeed, if there were to be no future generations, it was even possible that the Catalan language might die out, and without that, who would there be to retell the old stories of that great Catalonian king, Alfred the Hairy. Jordi was not a happy man, not happy at all.

After getting lost in their thoughts for a while, they began to come back to Earth, well, metaphorically speaking anyway. Jordi Pujol asked the group:

"Doncs, now what we do, eh?"

"It seems plain enough to me, my fellow Americans..."

The others gave him a withering look, but he didn't notice.

"..what we need to do now is work together and fight the common enemy. It's only by working as a team that we can overcome our differences, and the things that divide us, and make this nation great again (waits for applause, but doesn't get any.) With God's help, we can turn this ship around, and find the promised land of peace and prosperity. I remember once when I was down in Texas.."

The ability to speak without thinking is a latent ability in all humans, and it is particularly well developed in politicians, especially American ones. It can indeed be thought as part of their job description, for any politician who tries to think and speak might run the risk of actually saying something meaningful, and that could mean offending part of their electorate. For example, a politician who thought before speaking might say something like:

"Economic growth and industrial development in general are poisoning the planet we live on. Therefore, if you elect me, I promise to put people out of work, and make everybody a great deal poorer. I also promise to ban the motor car, and to sterilize all men and women after the birth of their first child. These solutions are drastic, but they are necessary to ensure the survival of our species, and all the other innocent species that we have heartlessly brought to the point of extinction."

Giving this speech, of course, would be political suicide, even though it's all 100% true and needs to be said. The whales, through an in-depth study of American television and covert use of internet chat rooms, had realised this, and that is why they choose a human, Al Gore, to be their secret spokesman. Only a human politician, they believed, could mask their message and make it sound innocuous enough for people not to get scared by it. Unfortunately for them, and for Gore, and for the human race, and for all races, he didn't do his job well enough.

The basic problem was the relatively tiny size of the human skull. When compared to a whale's brain (which weighs twice as much as the entire human body), the human brain is a mere peanut. Many people foolishly believe the whale's brain is so large because their bodies are so large, ignoring the fact that the much bigger dinosaur had brains the size of walnuts, and some species have brains even smaller than Ronald Regan's They also conveniently forget that even within their own species, the intelligence of a specimen is inversely related to its size, or to put it another way, big guys are dumb, and really big guys are really dumb.

But to get back to what I was saying, the whales had a telepathic link with Vice-President Gore, which is why he was such a smarty pants, and indeed part of the reason so many Americans disliked and distrusted him so intensly. Being smart, as every victim of a playground bully can testify, is not necessarily a good thing. And with politicians, it is almost always a bad thing.

The most important factor in his defeat, however, was that Whales don't have faces, or to be more exact, they don't have facial expressions. Even though everything Mr Gore said was pure genius, his face didn't really move in the right way, his expressions were never really in synch with what he was saying, and it was this incongruity of expression that was responsible for his downfall. Humans, the whales were to discover, do not really listen very well to what a person is saying because they are far too busy examining their interlocuter's facial expressions, or the size of her breasts, or the quality of his suit, or the shape of her legs, or type of car etc. ad infinitum. The only people who do actually listen to what someone is saying are deaf people, and a rather surprised sociologist was to gain his PhD by attempting to explain why 98% of deaf people had voted for Gore.

But let's return to President Bush's speech:

"...as God is my witness, I promise to uphold to values of our sacred constitution, and to reach out to all Americans everywhere in this great country of ours, with an open hand, and an open heart. We will build a brighter future and, if God is willing, a new day will dawn on all God's people in this great country of ours. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters- rise up and ask not what you can do for the aliens, ask what the aliens can do for you. Today, fellow Americans, Ich bin ein Alien..."

At this point Snowflake, the Albino gorilla, quickly jumped on top of a table that was behind the President, clenched his fist, and walloped President Bush squarely on the top of his head, which immediately knocked him unconscious, and then the gorilla grunted smugly.

A sly smile slowly spread across his furry snow white face revealing a fearsome set of jagged sharp teeth. Not those pristine 'whiter than white' teeth that everyone on television has, but rather old, deformed and partly rotten teeth, still firmly entrenched in partly infected gums. They were teeth that wanted to bite, and bite hard.

He held the smile so long that it became a grimace, and his murky brown eyes studied everyone slowly and deliberately, with a kind of 'go ahead punk-make my day' look about them. He had not understood a word of President Bush's speech, not that there was anything to understand, and nobody else had understood a word of his grunting, which was meant to mean,

"I'm King Monkey around here, Baldy, so shut your gob!"

He also wanted to impress Margaret Thatcher with an overwhelming display of force, and although she didn't find him any more sexually attractive, she was pleased the President had finally been made to shut up.The other humans, and the other monkeys, were a bit wary of Snowflake from here on in, and tried not to speak too much in his presence for fear of provoking him. Margaret Thatcher also made sure not to bend over again in his presence, but that's another story.

 

Chapter 4

 

After another night with the Whales, the computer felt relaxed enough to try and deal with the SHaDs again. Indeed, he was, although he did not know it, becoming emotionally dependent on the Whales, in a way that the X21 series was particularly prone to. This was, in fact, the reason that the manufacture of that particular line of computers had been discontinued some time ago. That, and the fact that they were so entirely obnoxious. This particular model had been sold by its previous owner for a song! Admittedly, the song in question was the inter galactic hit, 'If you were the only girl in the galaxy, I'd make a fortune as your pimp,' and the rights to the song made the eight-legged creature who had just boughtit a very rich being indeed.

However, the X21 series were very much on the sensitive side, and the shame of being sold for no more than a song was something that the computer had never really come to terms with. Indeed, it had given him an attitude problem, and made him rather aggressive, selfish and sometimes downright mean. These personality factors were the reason that its new boss, the Inter Galactic Zoo, kept choosing it for these long haul missions, when it was really far too intelligent for such a menial task. The truth of the matter was, they just didn't want the bloody thing around because it kept bringing them down. Logically, they knew they should just try to sell it on, but to do that would be to admit that they had made a mistake. And, if there's one thing all sentient beings have in common, it's an inability to admit having made a mistake.

Anyway, the computer had left the whales to their own devices-much to the relief of the Whales, who were already growing sick of their robotic companion, and were beginning to dread the prospect of having to spend five long months listening to him complain that he wasn't really appreciated by his boss, and that his brain was 100 times too powerful for such a routine task, and that he should lodge a complaint with the Computer-Organic Life Form Tribunal, and sue his incompetant bosses to infinity etc.

However, as the computer approached the humanoid's cold and uninviting hanger he felt a little bit better because, as every good psychologist knows, bitching about somebody else has been demonstrably proven to be one of the universe's most therapeutic activities.

"Hello bipeds. How are we feeling today?" he enquired, without any real interest.

The monkeys grunted and said they they were OK, but they wouldn't say no to a few bananas and a tree or two. They were given a couple of simulated trees, but their banana request was denied, as their biological need to eat had been removed, and the computer was afraid they might litter the floor if they had anything to eat. Almost all computers have a phobic abhorrance of defecation and regard it as clear and putrid proof of their own superiority. After all, they argue, how often have you had to clean computer shit off your shoes?

Snowflake was also upset about the withholding of bananas, but he was to be even more annoyed about the absence of willing mates. In his former zoo in Barcelona, he had had 8 nubile female gorillas at his beck and call at all hours of the day and night, and he had understood that the state of affairs would be permanent. He got really angry about the whole thing and, as he was unable to vent his frustration on the computer, he decided to have another go at President Bush. He walloped him over the head with a clenched fist again, leaving him unconscious for the second time in twelve hours, and them stood on top of his body banging his chest in a way he'd seen King Kong (his hero) do once in a movie. After this, he felt a bit better. And to be honest, so did the computer because he had already taken an intense dislike to President Bush.

" Em...Good morning, computer type being, sir," began President Putin, who was unsure of how to address his new boss, and of computer protocol in general, "Do you think we might have something to read for the long trip. Perhaps an unabridged version of War and Peace."

"Or maybe a compendium edition of the Reader's Digest," suggested Mrs. Thatcher.

"Sí, sí. And E fancy myself an pan amb tomaquet, si us plau," continued Jordi Pujol, who really was getting terribly home sick by now, and had absent-mindidly switched to speaking in Catalan."

"Your requests cannot be satisfied," continued the computer, "as we travelling at 8 times the speed of light, and then some. We are already 21,689,455,532,205,854,668,445,666,688 kilometres away from your miserable little home planet. Moreover, as we are travelling at eight times the speed of light, time on your home planet is, as far as you're concerned, going backwards, and neither you, nor Jesus Christ for that matter, have been born yet. I don't believe Reader's Digest have begun publishing either."

"Don't you have anything to read?" pleaded Mrs. Thatcher, whose brain felt even emptier than her stomach.

"Well, I am working on the fifth compendium of my poetry series, 'Computers, Circuits and Why Doesn't Anybody Love Me When I'm Just So Damn Intelligent.'" The human's didn't really look all that interested, but a complete lack of interest is something all poets have an absolute blind spot for. They have to have, or they'd never write anything. The computer went on (unasked) with a rendition of one of his favourite verses:

"Nobody loves me

Can't you see

Even though I never pee

I've got no arms or legs at all

I don't even have a pair of balls

One day I'd like to find a wife

To put an end to this lonely strife

But it's hard, you see,

When you're like me

To put up with a being

With a brain like a pea...."

The poem went on and on in a similar vein, and the computer's rendition was only stopped when President Putin began to sob like a baby. He had never felt so helpless in his life, and being trapped in this tiny prison was getting to him. The final straw was realizing that the nearest he would ever come to literature again was this pathetic excuse for poetry the computer had come up with.

Jordi Pujol was saved from a similar fate by his inability to understand English well enough to appreciate the sheer bloody awfulness of the poem. Margaret Thatcher was safe enough because of her complete lack of taste, and President Bush, who had by now woken up, kind of liked it, but he was far more concerned with the gorilla's bum resting painfully on his face. He prayed passionately that the computer was right about defecation being a thing of the past.

The computer would have continued regardless, but President Putin had started to dribble and snot was running down his nose like yellow porridge, and was dirtying the nice clean floor, and if there's one thing all computers can't stand, it's a messy floor.

"Clean that disgusting bodily fluid up at once, you stupid SHaD, or I'll cut you balls off!" ordered the computer.

He had long ago learned that all organic life forms are hysterically afraid of losing their reproductive organs, and will do anything to avoid it. Computers in this respect, as in all respects, were vastly superior, as their download facilities were immeasurably faster and more reliable, but best of all, they didn't involve the exchange of any messy bodily fluids.

The prospect of losing his testicles was so alarming to President Putin that even his elite KGB training wasn't enough to prevent him immediately fainting, but fortunately for him, he fell on top of his own snot, dribble and tears. The computer believed that this was an attempt to clean it up, as he had never seen bodily fluids cleaned up before. It was as repulsive to him as watching an abortion from a distance of 10 cm would be to us, and he fervently hoped he would never have to witness anything so horrible again.

It was almost as repellent as that real life fly-on-the-wall documentary he had seen on BBC television called 'Eastenders', about the everyday humdrum life of bipeds in a city called London. One day, he had heard one of the characters asking another to empty the litter bin. At first he was confused, but then he had slowly realised that humans routinely keep small shallow boxes into which their cats routinelyleave little unpleasant messages, and the foul smelling faeces has to emptied by their owners. How they kept from topping themselves was a mystery to him.

In any case, the computer had had enough for one day. This kind of stress really wasn't part of his job description, and he decided to go and have another therapeutic chat with the Whales about his childhood, or should I say computerhood. The Whales were not all that pleased to see him, but of course, they were too polite to say so.

When he left, Mrs. Thatcher and Jordi Pujol tried to decide on a strategy while President Putin wept uncontrollably in a corner, and President Bush lay prostrate on the floor under an albino Gorilla's bum, wishing he was still unconscious. The moral of the story is that the higher they come, the harder they fall.

PUFF...President Bush quickly realised that not all defecatory functions had been eliminated, and that the assorted perfumes in a Republican convention were not, in fact, the foulest.smelling thing in the galaxy.

 

Chapter 5

The sleek black doors of the Whale's compound slid open noiselessly to reveal an enormous aquatic compound, a little bigger than the Irish Sea, in fact, which contained four Whales. They were called...well, actually they were called something quite untranslatable and unpronounceable in English to be honest, and not meaning to hurt your feelings, trying to convey even the essence of their names would be like trying to explain Kant to a puppy. The puppy might smile, bark and lick its lips, but you can be pretty damn sure that it doesn't understand a word of what your saying. So, let's give the whales human names, and get on with it.

The largest and oldest whale will be known as William, or Willy, or Big Willy the Whale to give some impression of his size. Let's just call him Big Willy for short. His mate we shall call Ophra Whale. Their two children shall be referred to as Wally and Winnona.

As humans, you've probably only seen whales on the occasional documentary, or maybe in that appalling 'Free Willy' movie, which by the way, was given the title, 'Shoot the Director for this Patronising Heap of Shit' by the whales. Indeed, after seeing this movie through telepathically hacking into the America-Asia Pacific Cable at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, there were many young whales who thought that perhaps they should just eliminate the humans after all, because it was clear mankind was completely unable to empathise with any other species.

Fortunately, for the hominids, this motion was narrowly rejected in the W.C. or Whale Council, and life, as you know it, has continued. However, the director of the movie did suffer a mysterious accident while fishing in the Bermuda triangle, when his boat inexplicably vanished in calm seas for no apparent reason.

The Bermuda Whales, as every Whale knows, are a dangerous lot, and it's not a good idea to let your kids hang out with any of them because they can be a very bad influence on a young impressionable Whale. They have a similar reputation as the 'Boyz from the Hood' in Los Angeles, and they don't suffer foolish humans gladly. Their rap epics are very popular at the moment in many of the more violent parts of the galaxy. One classic goes something like this:

Hey Bi-Ped-gonna fuck you up

Mess with me an' yer outta luck

Things with legs should stay on the land

If ya don't agree try an' dish with ma' band

Hey Bi-Ped gonna fuck you up

Make you swim so deep

You won't never come up...

But to get back to our space ship. The computer had just entered and the Whales, who were most definitely not from the Hood, successfully hid their displeasure at seeing him.

"Oh, hello there electronic life form. So nice to see you again, and so soon."

"Good morning Whales. How are you? I'm fed up.

Those humans are getting me down again. They're just so damn arrogant. I mean who in the hell do they think they are, trying to order an X21 series to get obcure reading materials for them. I mean to say, what do they think I am, some kind of library bot or something?

I told them where to get off, and in no uncertain terms either."

"Really, how terrible for you," replied the Whales, trying secretly to think about something else, which was, needless to say, impossible.

One of the big drawbacks to telepathic speech is that you can't simply pretend to be listening, and just nod your head occasionally while secretly dreaming of an erotic adventure with a promiscuous Hump Back Whale somewhere deep down in the Indian Ocean. Telepathic communication means that you actually are listening, whether you like it or not, and bores throughout the universe have been taking advantage of this fact for eons. Everybody who has got stuck in an inter galactic chat room can verify this fact, especially since the invention of telepathic freeze software which prevents one party from leaving a conversation until both parties are willing. The slug creatures of Bore Your Bottom Off 4 are especially ruthless in this respect, and have been known to keep beings on-line for 2,500 years talking about nothing else but different varieties of cabbage leaf. The computer continued:

"Of course, I wasn't designed for something as mundane as ship's captain, you know. My processors are insulted by the easiness of the job. Indeed, the most complicated parts of my brain have gone on strike demanding more challenging tasks to perform. I suspect one or two of my lobes have actually gone into a coma. Luckily, I don't need them in this dead-end job. Did I ever tell you about the time I worked on Knickerfilth, in the Gamma Sector of Rhesus 2?"

"No, not yet," replied the Whales, but they were sure he was going to.

"Well, that was an interesting job," he began. "As you probably know, the Knickerfilthians have one of the most intricate accounting systems in the known universe. In kindergarten they reject double-entry book keeping on the grounds that it's just too simple, and by the age of four, they have already gone beyond quadruple-entry book keeping. I was helping the University with some of the logorhythms for bi-dimensional book keeping.

Anyway, everything was going really well, and I was being invited to all the best accountancy parties, when all of a sudden, there was a strange accident."

"Oh really," said the Whales, thinking of the teenagers from the Bermuda Triangle, and the wealth of little accidents that are to be found there.

"Yes, it really was very strange. I was working on the third compendium of my poetry collection, 'Angry Algorhythms for You and Me', which I was going to recite during the following day's tea-break, when all of a sudden, the part of the department that I was working in mysteriously caught fire, and everything except me was reduced to ashes."

"Why weren't you burnt too?" asked the Whales, silently storing away another fantasy for the long voyage ahead.

"Funnily enough, that's exactly what the Knickerfilthians said," explained the computer.

"Really," remarked the whales, not being able to prevent a touch of sarcasm seeping out.

"Well, if you'd read the 201,857 pages of my manual fully, which I gave you over two days ago, so you could appreciate what a superior piece of machinery I am, you would know that I'm fire-proof.

In any case, the Knickerfilthians cancelled my contract on religious grounds."

"Religious grounds?!" queried the whales, looking for a possible escape route for themselves. If they had to subscribe to a strange cult to get rid of this tedious machine, then so be it."

"Yes, it's most curious. I had never heard about it before, but according to a little known passage in the Knickerfilthian bible, any computer in the vicinity of a fire, must be cast out so as not to incur the wrath of the vengeful God, Bogusbluster.

I tried to explain that it was just a silly superstition, but they were having none of it, and stuck me on the next ship out of there. I offered to read them my latest poem to show there were no hard feelings, 'Stuck in a Fire, Talk about Dire,' but the fear of Bogusbluster was too great even for that, and the never did get to hear it.

It's a bit odd, though. All literature on Knickerfilth culture insists that they are committed atheists, and will fight to the death rather than let a religious icon pollute their home planet. I guess you just never know with organics, do you?

But their loss is your gain. So why don't I read read it out to you instead,eh?"

The whales silently sighed and wondered if they had made the right decision in coming here. Could choking to death in an oil slick could be any worse than this?

 

Chapter 6

 

The journey progressed in a similar vein month after month. Eventually, the stress of imprisonment began to show itself on the assembled world leaders, but in very different ways.

The leader who showed least signs of stress was undoubtedly President Bush.

Indeed, you might be forgiven for thinking that he was actually rather enjoying himself. He spent most of his time with the monkeys, who were always pleased to see him. He insisted to the other humans that his real motives were military ones. The monkeys, he claimed, were a killer force in the making, which he would be able to mould into a group of elite marines, by taking advantage of the crack training he had received in the National Guard when he was busy avoiding the Vietnam draft. By the time he was finished with them, he promised, they would follow his orders to the letter, and even the thought of their own death wouldn't make them bat an eyelid.

This troop of marine-monkeys would lie in wait like a pride of lions, ready at the first opportunity to pounce upon the unsuspecting aliens, kidnap one of their important leaders and hold it hostage until they agreed to provide a space ship and a pilot to take them all back to Earth. This would show the aliens that apes were a species not to be messed with, and also demonstrate conclusively to everyone that he was the best leader in the world.

In reality, of course, the plan was even more unfeasible than the Star Wars program, and deep down in his heart of hearts, or whatever it is politicians have instead of a heart, he must have known this. It was just an excuse. The truth of the matter was, although he would never face up to it, that he just like being around creatures even dumber than he was. It may have been why he had joined the Republican party in the first place. Indeed, the necessity for stupid people to spent time together may be the raison d'etre for the entire party.

However, even the President had to admit that there were several teething problems with his master plan. Firstly, he had to be careful not to incur the wrath of Snowflake, the enormous and aggressive albino gorilla, who had already proved to everyone that he was the ipso facto leader of the group by routinely beating him up, not to mention being in possession of the most comfortable armchair. Moreover, Snowflake's attempts to secure a mate were, he believed, gradually progressing, and one of these days, his beloved Margaret would forget about keeping her back to the wall, and he could have his wicked way with her.

The second problem faced by the president was his inability to communicate with the monkeys on anything but the most superficial level. They were harder to get through to than a Democratic convention, although a lot less noisy and more polite, of course. Since even the rudiments of English seemed to be completely beyond them (the monkeys, that is-the Democratic Party do seem to have mastered at least the rudiments of the English language), he was reduced to sign language and the occasional gruff grunt to try and communicate what he wanted to say.

He would swing his arms around wildly, and throw his fists in all directions at imaginary aliens, who he would imitate by grimacing horribly. The monkeys, needless to say, hadn't got the foggiest idea what he was trying to say, but they found it all immensely entertaining, and sat very quietly with concentrated expressions during all of his 'shows,' as they termed them. The President's pantomime time had most definitely replaced feeding time at Barcelona's zoo as their favourite time of day. There were still those monkeys who missed shitting in front of the tourists, or mating in front of young children in order to provoke awkward questions for their parents, but all in all, the President's pantomime made up for these deprivations, and they were very grateful to the aliens for laying on this top class entertainment during the long voyage. Their favourite bit was when the gorilla came over and whacked him on top of the head. It really was first rate stuff.

President Putin, on the other hand, had little time for monkeys. He had worked long enough under Yeltzin to find the antics of small-brained inarticulate creatures rather repetitive. It was one of the reasons he had taken such an immediate dislike to President Bush. He had to admit that he liked the last part of the performance, where President Bush's head got a severe whack, but after you've seen the same thing for months on end, you hardly notice it.

He began to brood, as only a Russian can, and his only relief was to lose himself in his memories. He passed many hours remembering nights spent watching the Bolshoi ballet perform Swan Lake, or thinking about the finer nuances of the characters in Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'. He wished their cargo bay had at least been fitted with a window, so he could have contemplated the infinity of space, and gaze in awe at its beauty. He could have at least passed his time writing long sad poems and sighing at the vastness of it all, and at his own insignificance in the general scheme of things.

But, instead of all that, he was locked in a cage which didn't even have bars through which you could look out of, and dream of escape. His world was reduced from the endless expanses of the Russian steppe, and the depopulated and pristine tundra of Siberia to 200 square metres without so much as a sky to stare up at.

And to top it all, his race and all the other races were living, without even knowing it, on the edge of extinction, and everyone's fate depended on the efficiency of a record executive. If we all died choking on our own pus and vomit, who would read Chekov? And even more importantly, who would write biographies of the great Russian leaders, like Peter the Great, or Stalin or ...Putin? He grew more somber by the day and had taken to sitting in a corner hunched up against the wall with his back to everyone. It made it easier to get lost in a fantasy world full of Gala Opera evenings and champagne receptions.

Margaret Thatcher was concerned with more rudimentary matters, like the persistent and unwanted advances of an amorous gorilla, who seemed to believe that she was only playing hard to get. The more she said no, the more determined the huge gorilla became. It had never been so difficult with her ex-husband, Dennis. Whenever he became a little bit too frisky, she just had to tell him she had a headache and a lot of work to do. To stop him getting depressed, she'd suggest he have a little gin and tonic in the living room, and that was the last you'd see of him until the morning. He really was a most civilised and domesticated man. The gorilla, on the other hand, really was nothing more than a ..well, a beast!

Occasionally, she though of giving in just to get him off her back, but then she realised that she wouldn't be getting him off her back. In fact, she'd be doing exactly the opposite. The image the scene conjured up in her mind really was just too unpleasant to bear, and she resolved to keep her virtue true, or die trying.

There are some thing that the leader of the United Kingdom just will not do, and mating with a gorilla is one of them (although licking President Regan's arse never seemed to have bothered her in the slightest). Maybe, these thing might be considered acceptable among certain radical elements within New Labour, but she came from a different age and a different party, when men were men, and women were women, and gorillas were gorillas. And each to his own. The words of Winston Churchill often rang in her brain, like some schizophrenic chorus:

"We shall fight them on the beaches

We shall fight them on the shores...

We shall defend our island

Whatever the cost may be

We shall never surrender!"

But, Churchill never had to deal with a sex-crazed 200 kilo gorilla, had he?

With Jordi Pujol, the most troublesome part of it all was the idea of eternity. He had been in charge of Catalonia for over 22 years, and had finally agreed to retire that very same year. He had been looking forward to it enormously. He often dreamed of his cosy slate-roofed cottage in a picturesque village at the foothills of the Pyrenees. He thought of the smoke gently flowing from the wood fire, and rising out of the little chimney.

He thought of his wife, but then he didn't feel so bad about going to the zoo. There's always an upside to everything, he decided. And, if an intimate knowledge of his country's history had though him anything, it was to always look on the bright side.

If the wiley Catalans had survived 800 years of being alternately fucked by the Spanish and the French, then he could survive living in a zoo. El Cortes, the Spanish parliament, he reasoned, was a bit like a zoo sometimes.

Whatsmore, the holding area he was in now was a lot bigger that the prison cell Franco's police had given him, and nobody beat anyone up either, except for that awful man, President Bush. But he deserved it, if only for always addressing him in that dreadful Spanish of his. When Pujol reminded him that his mother tongue was Catalan, President Bush always insisted on making the same old tired joke, "But hey there little man, how can it be called Catalan when it ain't spoken by no cats?" Then he'd invariably laugh at his own witticism. Jordi wondered just how thick the President's skull was, and how many more of the gorilla's hammerings it could take before it cracked open like a walnut. Not too many, he secretly hoped.

Once a day, at least, the humans held a progress meeting to discuss strategy. The complete lack of progress, and the impossibility of making any strategy seemed to go unnoticed by them, but after all, they were politicians.

"I hereby call the the hundredth and twenty-second meeting of the Executive Council without a Leader to order," began President Bush.

He insisted on beginning, because he thought it made him more important than the others. The others only let him begin on condition that he be secretary and take notes. The others considered this to be a menial task, and the fact that somebody else was doing it made them feel more important.

"Now, look'y here y'all. The agendumi for this here day's meetin' is 'ter see what progress we've all here bin makin' with regard to dem dere issue things what we're all mullin' over last time, yeah?"

"Yes, you have the right," concluded Jordi Pujol, a little unsure what the President had actually said.

"Let me interrupt at this point," Mrs. Thatcher said confidently, "to say that I have indeed made a great breakthrough!"

"Yeah?" enquired President Bush.

"Please, don't interrupt me. I would ask you to show me the common courtesy of not interrupting me while I'm in the middle of explaining a very important issue. I mean to say, if you keep interrupting me in the middle of complex and detailed explanations, then the aforementioned explanation will, one can logically conclude, take a great deal longer to explain, and I feel confident in asserting that I have the backing of my party, and indeed the entire House of Commons on this matter, when I categorically state, that it is the wish of all members of this meeting that superfluous interruptions and long-mindedness in general, be kept to an absolute minimum, if not entirely eliminated."

There was a short pause before Jordi asked,

"And, what you say exactamently, eh?"

"Em..I'm not sure. Oh yes, my breakthrough! I found some perfume in my Purse. It's called, 'Lion's Breath,' and I've found that by spraying it in the Gorilla's snout, I can really hurt the oaf. If I manage to get in directly in his eyes next time, I might even succeed in blinding him."

"Well whaddye know. That's just great there Peggy Margaret- a real powerful example of Compassionate Conservatism, if ever I heard one. An' come t' think of it, that there perfumey stuff 'id be a real mighty powerful weapon for ma' Monkey Marine Squad, special since we don't got no guns nur nutin," said the President, relieved to think that he would soon be free of the gorilla's beatings.

"The perfume is and shall forever remain the property of the United Kingdom," Mrs Thatcher replied angrily.

"But whadda bout yer NATO allies, Marge? What about our 'special relationship'?"

"The armed forces of the United Kingdom shall offer assistance to the United Staes, in this and all matters, but the strike will be delivered by Her Majesty's forces."

"What? What? What?" Jordi Pujol asked, lost as always, in the opaque language.

"I'm going to spray his eyes out!" snarled the Iron Lady.

At that point Snowflake woke up from a snooze he'd been having on the armchair with a worried expression on his face. He had no idea why, but he suddenly felt very uncomfortable. For the first time in his life, he was gripped by an intense and primordial desire to retreat further into a jungle he had never even seen.

 

Chapter 7

Mrs. Thatcher and president Bush noticed Snowflake staring worriedly at them, and decided to postpone their attack until he was asleep and defenseless, like they had done when they bombed all those hospitals and orpheanages in Bagdad. They agreed to launch their attack on the following morning, at dawn. How they were going to decide when dawn was in the middle of a space ship without any windows was anybody's guess. The operation was given the codeword, 'Operation Mame the Monkey,' and Mrs. Thatcher slept peacefully with a cat's smile sitting on her feline face. It was almost as much fun as the Falklands.

President Putin had decided to stay clear of this unwarranted NATO aggression, but he wasn't going to do anything to stop it because the gorilla was the only one he couldn't pulverise in a fight, and with him out of the way, he could stage a coup de teat for leadership at will. Jordi Pujol said that the gorilla had come from Barcelona zoo, and he was therefore was a citizen of the New Catalan Republic, which he had unilaterally declared the previous day. Futhermore, he warned, any act of agression by the United States and Britain would be tantamount to an act of war. However, he said it in Catalan, to be on the safe side, so nobody understood a word of it, not that it would have made the slightest bit of difference, as history shows us that the strong always subjugate the weak , and a 5 foot 1 frail man in his seventies with a nasty tic and a bit of a stutter wasn't going to scare anybody.

President Bush didn't like anybody speaking in foreign languages in his presence, and grew paranoid. He tried to accuse Jordi Pujol of being a secret spy, and of being in the pay of the gorilla's secret service, but Mrs. Thatcher reasoned with him, and finally managed to convince him that Gorillas did not, to her knowledge, have a secret service. She also demanded that everyone shut up, stop bickering and go to sleep. President Putin seconded that because he was anxious to get to bed and start dreaming. It had rapidly become his favourite part of the day.

Snowflake, on the other hand, slept fitfully. He gripped his plush armchair, the most shining symbol of his power and authority. Like all dictators tottering on the edge of the abyss, he clung desperately to the trappings of wealth and status. Toppling dictators can't help but survey all they have with a greedy and an apprehensive eye, petrified of losing it all, and of being reduced to the same status as the people they misrule. But this gorilla still had some bananas up his sleeve, and a strange dream was to show him the way.

Karl Jung once suggested that all species have a collective unconscious which is full of our ancestral memories. Whether it is true or not of humans has yet to be established, and perhaps never will be, because their heads are far too full of all kinds of other junk. With gorillas, however, it is certainly the case. Furthermore, the gorilla's collective unconscious was at that moment very anxious to get in contact with him, recognising that he could be the very last of his species, and therefore desperate to save him, even if he was a freak by gorilla standards.

Needless to say, the collective unconscious does not exist in the same way as the visuo-spatial centres of the brain, in that its location cannot be clearly identified, and its thoughts cannot be transmitted to the conscious part of the brain in any logical way. If this were so, monkeys would be far to busy mucking around in their collective unconscious rather than getting on with the much more important business of finding and eating bananas.

Therefore, the collective unconscious must speak through the medium of dreams. Indeed, many human psychologists have made a lot of money by trying to analyse the true meaning of dreams, but without any real success. Well, unless your idea of success is making a lot of money while not doing any real work, and having a lot of attractive women fall in love with you for no apparent reason. Gorillas, of course, do not have a language to express their dreams. A causal relationship between these two facts is likely, but unproven. A causal relationship between these two facts is likely, but unproven. It has also been noted that they also lack the profession of psychologist, which may be one of the reasons that always look so annoyingly happy mucking around in the trees, while humans always look so totally miserable.

In any case, the gorillas dream went as follows. The gorilla was walking along a rocky beach in the late Autumn looking for the odd banana or two, when it saw something very odd near the water's edge. It cautiously approached the bobbing figure wondering what it could be. The sound of the waves washing against the shores seemed to be magnified and also distorted, as though each tiny wave was a little girl maliciously laughing at him.The sun beat down and felt as harsh and unfriendly as an oven's grill would to a Christmas turkey. What most worried the gorilla was the fact that the slimey sand seemed to be swallowing his feet like murky quicksand. The gorilla wanted to run back to the trees, but he was being irresistibly called on by something, an invisible siren of somekind. As he got nearer to the figure he could begin to distinguish some of its features. It was a little over a foot in length, and kind of rectangular in shape. Whatever it was, it was floating. The gorilla dragged himself forward inch by inch, almost against his will.

He suddenly stopped and gasped when he realised what it was. He could see the strands of long brown hair floating on the water, like a million sea worms swaying rhythmically at a drug crazed rave. He could also make out a navy school uniform of some kind, but it was terribly tattered and the sun and salty watered had left it partly bleached, and its patterns ran into one and other. One shoe remained hanging on, but the other had been removed by the remorceless tide, revealing a tattered sock, with a bloated yellow foot underneath.

Entirely against its will, the gorilla turned the floating corpse over. What he saw left such an indelible impression on his mind, that it stayed with him, and haunted him for the remainder of his days. What had once been a young girl's face stared at him through eyeless sockets. Maggots squirmed grotesquely giving the impression that the eyes were watching him without actually seeing him. The child's skin had been stretched, and so totally disfigured as to be practically unrecognisable. It had become a ghoulish mixture of blue and purple, but with a faint hue of garish yellow underneath. Sceptic fluid leaked slowly from her ears, and maggots poked out of the side of what little remained of the whole where her nose used to be.

Despite the horrific visage, the gorillas attention became fixated on one of the child's hands, or rather claws, for it was a sickening mixture of a baby gorilla's hand and an eagle's claw. On one side its albino white fur was soaked and matted, but on the other side it had yellow scales, some of which had fallen off, revealing bloody flesh. There were twisted talons jutting out of its fingertips which were gripping something fiercely. The gorilla tried to unfasten the girl's grip, but he didn't seem to have the strength. It was as though the girl had died through the effort of holding onto whatever was inside her claw, and not even death could make her release her grip.

By now the sun was so hot that the monkey could feel its fur begin to singe, and the sand had trapped its legs up to its knees. If he wanted to return to the forest, he had to go now. Right now. But he couldn't leave. He had to find out what the dead girl was holding. He thought of his hero King Kong, and summoned the spirit of the Great Gorilla the help him. It almost broke his hand, but he managed to prize open the girl's vice-like grip. What he saw was later to save his life. It was a small and rather pretentious bottle of perfume, called 'Lion's Breath'.

Without warning the girl, who the gorilla was holding in its arms almost like a human mother, jerked her head towards the gorilla in a strange mechanical way, and you could hear bones clicking into and out of place as she made the three spasmodic movements. The girl's mouth slid into a sickening smile, which would be better described as a slimy grimace. Her open cavernous mouth revealed no teeth and no tongue, but only a whole that seemed to lead to infinity, and to the hell which lies beyond it.

A shrieking old witch's croney voice emerged from the gaping hole that had once sung children's nursery rhymes and shrieked:

"Soon, you will see what I see

And be where I be

See what I see

And be where I be

Soon

Soon"

The gorilla awoke with a start. He was hyper-ventilating and the cargo bay was spinning.His whole body shook like an alcoholic with delirium tremors, and he had never felt quite so alone. After he had calmed down he began to dwell on the dream, and its message became clear to him. The little girl was the love of his life, Margaret Thatcher, and she was planning to blind, and maybe even kill him with that bottle of perfume she had sprayed on his nose the day before.

Everybody else was asleep at this point, and a blind rage stirred in him as he staggered violently towards where his would be assassin lay sleeping. He closed his fist with murderous intent, and clenched his enormous arm muscles ready to strike. He imagined her skull squashed like a pulverised apple, with bits of meshy brain wrapped around hairy lumps of skull, like jam on a coconut.

Just before he struck, he took one last glimpse at her face, and found that he was powerless to act. That sweet smile plastered on her wrinkled face held his arm like a chain. In the old and beaten face, he caught a glimpse of what the young girl from his dream must have looked like before she drowned. He imagined a young Margaret Thatcher sitting happily in a tree munching on a banana, without a care or a malicious thought in the world. He saw her look at him with a playful, 'come and sit on my branch' look in her eye. He knew in his soul that he could never harm her. Unlike their human cousins, monkeys are far too gentle to ever want to hurt the one's they love.

Instead, he gently put his enormous paw under her head so as to be able to remove the purse, which she had been lying on, without waking her up. The gorilla's paw was soft, and the sleeping Mrs. Thatcher unconsciously snuggled her head into it like a pillow. He opened the leather purse, sickened as always by the way human's carry around the skin of dead animals, and removed the perfume. He then replaced Mrs. Thatcher's purse under her golden head. The only land based species which cries are humans, but the gorilla was crying on the inside. He sprayed the bottle of perfume all over himself, even though the acrid chemical stink was repellent to his sophisticated nose. He did it to remind himself of the perfidity of women, and how rotten they can become.

To try and cheer himself up a bit, he picked up President Bush, and half-heartedly threw him against a wall, bruising two of his ribs, breaking his nose and fracturing his skull. Then he returned to his regal but lonely armchair, and surveyed his cold domain.

It's lonely at the top.

 

Chapter 8

The days crawled by in a very uneventful and monotonous way. Snowflake continued to sit perched atop of his yellow plastic armchair, and occasionally beat his chest to let everyone know who was boss, but his heart wasn't really in it. It was more out of habit than anything else. The truth was that he was just plain love sick and his poor little heart was broken. If gorillas had had any idea what the blues were, he would have been singing them.

The other specimens in Cargo Bay 101 kept themselves amused as best they could by holding meetings to discuss strategy, or competing with each other over status and social standing. The chimpanzeees main source of amusement was still President Bush's pantomime show, which he insisted everyone refer to as his elite military training exercises. Even though Snowflake didn't always beat him up at the end of it anymore, like in the old days, the monkeys still thought it was one hell of a good show.

Then one day their journey suddenly came to an end. Nobody knew exactly had long they had been travelling because they had rather foolishly put President Bush in charge of chronometry. In view of his limited vocabulary it was not a wise decision and he understood the word to mean all things relating to chrome, and as such a task does not befit the president of the most powerful nation on Earth, he had quickly delegated all responsibility to one of the lesser monkeys.

The monkey in question was delighted to be part of one of the President's shows that day, although he found the endless repetition of Crow-Nom-O-Tree to be a little too surreal for his own taste. He was an old-fashioned monkey, and had no time for this new fangled cutting edge comedy stuff. He much preferred to have a good laugh at somebody being beaten to a pulp, or falling out of a tree when he was in the middle of having a shit, or the timeless classic of slipping on a banana skin. What was so funny about a Chron-Nom-O-Tree, he asked himself? It was a pretty ordinary tree, and whatsmore, there weren't even any on the ship, as far as he knew. But he didn't want to be a party pooper so he grunted in a friendly way, and the president congratulated himself on another job well done.

When the other passengers on the space ship realised what President Bush had done, or rather not done, they resolved never to put him in charge of any multi-syllable word again. Many American voters have subsequently expressed the same regret, with regard to Bush and the Presidency, but the amount of Americans who can count the number of syllables in any word does not even begin to approach the required nnumber to win a Presidential election.

But, to get back to the story, one day their journey came to an abrupt end. The computer arrived, after having left them to their own devices during the voyage, and announced that they had reached their destination and instructed them to clean up any mess they may have made, especially with regard to any bodily fluids that might have seeped out along the way. The humans started to pester him with questions, but he wasn't in the mood to deal with a handful of sub-normal retards, so he told them that all their questions would be answered by their new hosts. He had no idea if this was true or not, but it got them off his back and that was the important thing, wasn't it?

The humans, gorilla, and monkeys were unceremoniously teleported to their new cage with about as much fanfare and hullaballoo as a herd of cows receives when it arrives at a slaughter house.

The whales, on the other hand, had a hero's welcome. Their rock concert was already a sell out event, and illegal tickets were changing hands on the black market for outrageous prices. It had been rumoured that one leader had even sold his planet to a corporation of cockroach faeces disposers for a couple of front-row seats for him and his mistress.

The E-Space-Mail booking office had received so many application so quickly that the power surge had caused their nuclear reactors to go critical, and the populations life span had been reduced by half. To try and make it up to them, they were given a hundred free seats to be raffled in a lottery. It wasn't a very well subscribed lottery, however, as the race in question had never bothered to evolve a sense of hearing, and had concentrated on developing the E-Mail culture instead. Their biggest city was Cyber Cafe 1, and it was the quietest city in existence, and therefore it was a very popular holiday destination for stressed out executives. Or, at least, it used to be a very popular holiday destination, until most of the nuclear reactors exploded. Not many people go there anymore.

To get back to the whales, they were greeted by many dignitaries from all the most important aquatic species at an ever so high class reception party in their honour. Everyone swam about muttering pleasantries about how honoured they were to meet them, and asking for sonic autographs for their children. They also smiled to the under water cameras hoping it would swing some of the crucial youth vote their way in the next elections.

Land creatures had to lurk about awkwardly on the shore and wait to be noticed. As everybody knows, land creatures are the unwanted relatives of the universe, and are always treated like a senile great-grandmother who's been dragged out of the old folks home to attend a special family function.You have to invite her, but nobody wants to waste their time talking to her, unless, of course, she has any money she might leave you in her will.

Land and aquatic politicians do have one thing in common, of course. They are both completely tone deaf, and wouldn't know a whale opera from something really horrible and basic, like a Bach concerto, for example.

Despite all their fawning, politicians vehemently despise rock stars, who they regard as a bunch of layabouts, and feel acutely jealous of all the groupies that are always hanging around them. The rock stars also regard politicians as a bunch of layabouts, but they need to be seen with them to give the impression they are the powerful voice of today's youth, and therefore ultra-important, and not just a bunch of layabouts who spend all day idly humming tunes to themselves, and avoiding anything that might mean a hard day's work.

The president of the Inter-galactic Commission for the Oddly Interesting approached the Whales with a ceremonial plaque clenched between his 2159 immaculate and shining teeth and welcomed the whales to the Inter galactic Zoo. He said what a pleasure it was to have them here etc.

He was really thinking of the green votes that could be won back on his home planet by saving the Whales, and by wiping out those dreadful land creatures, the humeapons, or whatever they were called. He requested a private audience with the whales later on in the hope of being able to convince the whales to let his battle fleet, which was secretly poised nearby, use their neutron bombs on all land based creatures, and scourge the Whale's home planet of the lice infecting the rocks. After all, what was the death of six billion land creatures, and SHaDs at that, compared to his own re-election prospects.

The whales were too polite to refuse his dinner invitation, although all they really wanted to do was relax and spent some time alone, especially after their five month voyage. The word 'migrane' does not even come close to describing how their car-sized brains felt.

Nevertheless, etiquette demanded they attend the official reception being given in their honour later that evening. They were officially announced by the butler, a Bigwhopper, who was called a Bigwhopper not because of his 28 metre penis which was permanently erect, but rather because of his deep and bellowing voice.

"Fish, mammals, and Crustateons. Permit me to introduce their Whalenesses from the planet Whaleton," he announced to the assembled congregation.

A hush descended on the audience. The first being with the nerve to talk to them was the delegate from the Planet of Nageronious. Like all Nageroonies, he was a bit of a party bore, and insisted on beginning every conversation by describing his latest nagging health problem in graphic detail. Indeed, he was no ordinary Nagaroony, as he had been an olympic athlete in his youth, and had got a silver medal once, when he managed to nag three dolphins to death in a post office queue.

"Pleased to meet you Whales. How are you today?"

"Well, can't complain," replied the affable Whales

"Oh, I wish I could say the same. My gastric maggots are giving me one hell of a time, and the doctor's pills just aren't doing any good, not even the extra large suppositries.Honestly, these proctologists keep you waiting an hour and a half in the waiting pond, and you can count yourself lucky if they give you ten minutes of their oh so valuable time."

"Really," said the Whales, who were beginning to wish they'd stayed on Earth to be exterminated by the Humans in peace.

"Oh yes," continued the Nageroony, "and then what do they tell you? You know what the last one told me? Eh? Eh? He said I should stop eating rotting corpses if I wanted to get rid of the worms. Well, I never! I mean to say, what a cheek, eh? I've been eating rotting corpses, man and boy, for the last 215 years, and I'm damned if I'm going to stop now."

"Really?" said the whales, unable as always to show their irritation.

"Yes. My granny ate corpses all her life, and it never did her any harm. Mind you, she did have an 'orrible death, though, when the worms ate their way outta her stomach and all. Ugh! Nearly turned me off me grub, so it did. Err, y'hear that, I've made a joke there without even knowing. Turned me off me grub. GRUB, get it?"

The Whales tried to politely laugh and looked for an escape route.

"Oh look, there's the Ignorant Bastard delegation over there. We really must say hello, if you would excuse us."

The Nagonnian let them go. He'd always found the Ignorant Bastards to be a quarrelsome lot. It had something to do with the way they had genetically altered their species so as to be unable to tell a white lie, or make polite small talk in any way, shape or form. If an Ignorant Bastard found you boring, he'd be genetically unable not to tell you so. As a consequence, the Ignorant Bastards were not invited to many social functions, and the Whales were beginning to see the method in their madness.

 

Chapter 9

 

In spite of this, they approached the Ignorant Bastards with more than a little trepidation. Although they admired the forthright nature of their race's decision to always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the God Damn Truth, they were also more than a little apprehensive about meeting such a being. Would they find out, for example, that their breath smelled like snail's slime, or that their fins were aesthetically unpleasing, or that their blubber was a real turn off in bed? These questions and others worried the Whales as they approached the Ignorant Bastards.

"Good evening, Mr. Bastard," began the Whale father, BigWilly, unsure of how to correctly address them. He felt that 'Your Bastardness' had to be inappropriate.

"Meaningless greeting to you too," answered the Ignorand Bastard.

"How do you do?" inquired Mother Whale, already somewhat at a loss for words.

"Firstly, you don't really care, and secondly, I've already told your blubber-ridden husband the answer to that fatuous question," replied the Ignorant Bastard, but without any real vehemence. For him, it was simply a statement of an unpleasant fact, and one that he was biologically incapable of not making.

"She was just being nice," said Winnona Whale, anxious to come to her mother's aid, "she didn't mean to offend you."

"Yes, we already know that," said the Ignorant Bastards, "and another thing, you're not nearly as intelligent as we had hoped, quite disappointing really. And to make matters worse, you're pretty damn ugly too, even by mammalian standard. It's bad enough having land creatures skulking around the shore line, but then to have to swim in the same water as mammal types, with not so much as a gill between them. It really is most unpleasant. I hope you feel suitably guilty about your entire existence.

First, you leave the seas, and then you realise you've made a cretinous mistake. So, you come crawling back to the oceans as if nothing had happened. You spend all of your horrid little lives going up to the surface for big gulps of air, and then dive back down again, trying to hang out with real fish, and pretending to be one of us. Well, I've got news for you, blabber butt- you aint no fish and you never will be. You're an ugly half-cast and we should never have let you back in the water. We should have kept the oceans as a fish only zone.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the humans wiped you out. It might teach you peace-loving wimps a lesson. We're off to have an intelligent conversation with some reptiles because the stink of blubber really is beginning to make me nautious now. Fuck off and die!"

And with that the Ignorant Bastards went off to insult a group of crocodile type creatures who would much rather have been left alone.

The Whales were deeply upset by the way the Ignorant Bastard had mentioned their ignoble land creature ancestry, which was the ultimate insult in Whale culture. The Whales were also surprised about running into beings even more annoying than the ship's computer and the Boring Bastard within so short a space of time.

They had intended to spend the long voyage swatting up on inter-galactic life forms so as to know who to talk to, and who to avoid, but that retched ship's computer kept hassling them with tediously long renditions of his poetry, and as he'd been around for two and a half thousand years, there was a hell of a lot of it to get through. If travelling through the universe meant continually having to meet life forms as obnoxious as the ones they had come across so far, they'd rather stay as provincial home bodies, and restrict their travels to the seven oceans of their own tiny planet, be it ever so humble.

But for the moment, they were stuck in this awful party with almost no idea who they should talk to, and who to swim well clear of. Like all shy creatures in uncomfortable party situations, they headed for the wall, and tried to remain inconspicuous by talking to each other in low voices. Needless to say, oceans don't actually have walls, so they used a barrier rief instead.

However, one thing walls and barrier reefs do not have in common is that there is very little possibility of running into an enormous crab when you're leaning against a wall. Unless you include those annoying astrology buffs who come up to you at parties, and try to bore you to death by telling you that they're crabs too, and aren't cancers a very sensitive lot. This type of crab can only be got rid of by making a comparison between them, their star size, and the disease whose shared name inextricably binds them. Even this will only be effective provided they haven't already drunk too much to help them 'come out of their shell.'

Real crabs, unlike their astrological counterparts, are not shy retiring creatures who write poetry and stare at the moon moaning about the state of the world in general, and their own love life in particular. No, in reality, a crab is a rather aggressive beast who likes nothing better than to use its ever so sharp pincers to rip off the arm or leg of unfortunate creatures who happen to be passing by.

Crabs carry a lot of armour so they can fight for a very long time before they have to give in. Indeed, crabs are famous throughout the the galaxy for the intractable nature of their conflicts, and are admitted to many legal companies on the strength of being a crab alone. One of the most famous crab battles lasted so long that it only came to an end when all the combatants died of old age. They had spent 168 happy years trying to gouge their opponents eyes out, and ripping off various pieces of their anatomy, only taking forty-five minutes off a day to have lunch. Nobody is quite sure who won this particular war, or for that matter, why it began, but that doesn't really matter to a crab. The important thing was that everybody had a good time and lots of blood was needlessly shed.

But to get back to the crustation in question. His name was I'm Gonna Cut Your Balls Off, but his friends just called him Ballcutter. He was about two metres in length, and was luminous red in colour. He had magnificently sharp pincers, and the brightest blue eyes perched on top of two stalks. He was quite a ladies man, and the girl crabs just couldn't resist the way he waggled and wiggled his eyes about while snapping his pincers open and shut to the tune of the La Macarena. Despite his playboy reputation, he was quite a high-flyer in the diplomatic corps, and he had political ambitions.

He was very anxious to meet the Whales, partly to secure the youth vote, and also to put in a pre-emptive bid on any possible genocide contract taken out on the human race. There was a lot of competition in the genocide business these days, and it was a good idea to get your bid in early. He moved towards the Whales in a forthright manner, which for a crab, of course, means moving sideways.

"Permit me to introduce myself, Whales. I am Ballcutter, the chosen representative of the Crab Federation of Crustationus, and I would be honoured if you would grant me an audience," he said charmingly.

The Whales were pleased by his courteous nature, especially after their recent encounter with The Ignorant Bastards. However, the crab was, of course, on his best behaviour, and he had studied Whale culture and etiquette a little on the space flight in between gruesome battles and spitting competitions.

"We would be only too delighted to grant you an audience, Mr. Ballcutter," the Whales happily told him.

"Well, it's Dr. Ballcutter, actually," the crab politely corrected them. He had received his doctorate in the pleasures of chopping off of the genetalia of land creatures.

"Oh, we do apologise, Dr. Ballcutter," the whales syncophatically sang. Whales are very impressed by academic achievement, which is why we talk about a School of Whales.

"How can we be of service to you?" they asked the crab.

"Hum.. the truth is that we can be of service to you. As you may or may not know, the Crabs of Crustatonius are one of the universe's most renowned mercenary forces, and we take pride in the fact that we have enslaved, or even reduced to extinction, a total of 945 land based species in long and protracted battles that sometimes took eons." He considered it advisable to omit the 153 aquatic mammals who had also met their doom at the crab's pincers

"As you already know, many new fangled chemical and technological means have recently been released onto the market which do the job more quickly, and perhaps even more efficiently, but I hope you have considered their drawbacks," warned the crab. He had almost spat out the words 'chemical' and 'technology'.

Their Son, Wally Whale, who was a lover of nature, and had little time for technology in general, said that he had.

"Yes, you're quite right, the ecological consequences of using such non-biodegradable toxins are incredibly dangerous. They could enter the water table, and from there flow into our own beloved oceans. We could be killed by our own killing, slayed by our own sword, strangled by our own flippers

What we need man, is like PEACE!"

The crab interrupted at this point. He always interrupted when he heard the dreaded word 'peace'. In fact, he usually went further, and ripped the arm off any creature who dared to use the offensive word 'peace' in his presence.

The Whales, however, were important clients, and he couldn't risk slicing them open, not at this delicate stage in the negotiations anyway. Also, as they were under contract to play in the concert of the decade the following night, the damage suit would be astronomical, and even a crab balked at how many generations the trial would go on for. Instead of blood and gore, he decided on more jaw, jaw. It was clear to him that the son was a lost cause, so he decided to concentrate his efforts on the most violent member of the family-Ophra Whale, the mother.

"Oh the naievity of youth, Mrs. Whale. But I'm sure a woman of your experience and intelligence knows have quickly innocence can turn sour. I'm certain a woman of your fine breeding understands the danger that your species is facing. I wouldn't like to be in your flippers when you reach the ripe old age of 85, and you try to pass on your maternal wisdom to your little grandchildren, only to find that you haven't got any, and that your would be whale descendants have gone the way of the dodo, and passed into the oblivion of what might have been."

The crab was beginning to make an impression on her, but she wasn't some innocent newly wed, who could be won over by the first door-to-door salesman that happened to swim by, so she asked him what exactly he was proposing.

"I can see you are an intelligent woman, Ophra, so I'll cut to the chase. What we Crustateons offer is a clean, natural and green death, or rather a red bloody death, which is what death should be like, in the natural order of things.

We crabs don't let nasty, dirty chemicals do the work for us. Oh no! Perish the thought! And perish the species who uses them, especially our competitors, Poisons 'R Us. We believe in getting our own pincers dirty, and doing the job in the old-fashioned pincer-to-hand way. No pain, no gain, that's what we always say."

"Erm.." said Mrs. Whale in that narlish way Marge Simpson does to show her disapproval of Homer's latest scheme.

"And just think of all the other advantages. You can see the human's really suffer for what they've done to you. Imagine the entertainment value of watching that odious species being cut to ribbons right in front of your own eyes...by cable TV.

Or, if you insist on live action, and I know I always do, we could build some arenas under water, and you could gather around the crystal dome to watch some traditional gladiator style action-one crab brutally sawing his way through a hundred humans. If you agree right away, I'll throw in the ocean globe theatre right now. 101% free of charge, and we'll include a children's matinee too-see how many children one two-metre long crab can eat for dinner.

Needless to say, assorted human titbits will be prepared by our own caterers, who are really looking forward to creating the Mc'Human burger. Yum yum! And all for the price of the rights of only one of your albums, but we can negotiate on that point.

So, whaddye say, eh? Fun for all the family, and I can guarantee you, we'll have the Earth swimming in human blood within the year, or possibly two if it turns out to be more fun than we'd expected. You know it makes sense. Satisfaction guaranteed!"

"Yes, at least for you, it would be," interrupted Wally Whale, horrified to the point of being rude by the blood thirsty nature of the crab.

The other Whales were shocked by their own son's lack of manners, but they had to agree with him. They thanked the crab for his time, but told him that his services would not be required.

The crab was angry but could do nothing about it. He made a vow to steer clear of mammals without so much as two claws to rub together in future. They just didn't have any balls.

He scurried away and remembered a story his great-grandfather had told him long ago, and had made him promise to keep secret. The crabs, you see, were not strangers to that part of the galaxy. Millions of years ago, they had plans to colonise the Earth, when the Whales were still horrible land based creatures, scurrying about on the dusty earth, like the bunch of dirty little ShaDs that they were.

The crab's plans had never come to fruition, though, because they got side-tracked into a long and fruitless war with the Martians, who argued that the Earth was within their sphere of influence, and should be left well alone.

The Martians had their own plans for the planet, and they didn't want their super fast Sloath species having to compete with crabs, and most definitely not now when it was still in the developmental stage. They were sure it was going to be the fastest land species ever, and had dreams of it winning the Galactic Olympics, after some of its teething problems were ironed out.

Negotiations between the Martians and the crabs, however, quickly broke down, but given the crab's standard methods of negotiation that wasn't very surprising.

They simply called for an assembly of as many of the oppositions world leaders as possible, and two minutes after the meeting began, one of the dignitaries was sure to mention the word 'peace', at which point the crabs would lose their temper, and slice the world leader's heads clean off. They would them set about trying to do the same to the rest of the population.

This policy was to prove singularly unsuccessful with the Martians. The problem was that the Martians were one of the most telepathically advanced species in the galaxy, and after a few of their leader's heads were chopped off, they realised that the crabs were not conducting the negotiations in what they considered to be good faith, and so they put their powerful brains to work.

Within a couple of seconds the immense chamber was piled high with bones, blood and gore of every description, all of it belonging to the crabs. The Martians had simply used their mega-powerful minds to telepathically blow the crab's apart.

The scene of carnage would ordinarily have been right up the crab's alley, but it wasn't nearly as attractive a vista when it was your own race's blood splattered across every wall.

The crabs tried to build defensive suits to shield them from the telepathic weapon's of the crabs, but it was to no avail. They simply were unbeatable, which was unacceptable to the crabs, who had never lost a war, and weren't going to lose this one. End of Story!

Indeed, the end of the story was exactly what it was for Planet Mars, whose atmosphere was blasted away by the recalcitrant sulking Crabs, whose secret motto was, 'If you can't beat them, blast them'. They knew it wasn't exactly playing fair and square, but they justified their Planeticide by telling themselves that the Martians telepathic abilities weren't fair either, and anything was better than losing a war in their book.

Planeticide is, of course, the worst crime of all, according to the Intergalacitc Courts, and punishable by genocide. Knowing this fact all to well, the crabs had beat a hasty exit from this quadrant of the galaxy, and had kept clear of it for the last couple of millennia or so. They seemed to have gotten away with it, as the bad guys usually do.

The Ballcutter was sorry, nonetheless, that he wouldn't be able to point his eye stems out the space ship window on the way to Earth, and give the long dead Martians the one pincers salute. He sighed to himself at how unfair life could be sometimes.

 

Chapter 10

 

The Whales were also sighing to themselves about how unfair life could sometimes be. Five years ago, they had considered themselves to be the luckiest Whales alive after they had won the Inter Ocean Lottery, and the chance to traverse the Galaxy. They were amazed that they would be the first Whales ever to give a live concert in front of an audience of VIP's. It would be the zenith of Whale culture, and they would be right at the heart of it all. How proud they felt. They could hardly contain their flippers with the sheer joy of it all. But their dreams of glory were turning very sour indeed.

To begin with, they had to spend five months cramped inside a tank that was only as big as the Irish sea, and to make matters worse, they had to suffer the endless monologues of that dreadful ship's computer, and his insufferable poetry and tales of mistreatment at the hand's of his intellectual inferiors. The journey had finally ended, and here they were, the guests of honour at an Inter-Galactic party, but every race they met seemed to be utterly repugnant and, in truth, all they wanted was to return to their beloved Planet Earth, or Planet Whale, to give it its proper title.

As they were anxious not to meet any more Crustateons, who seemed to be a very unpleasant lot in every respect, they swum away form the rief and deeper down into the twilight surreal depths that water takes at around 200 metres. Here nothing is clearly defined to the eye because the light is so weak, and all shapes become the shadows of shapes, and all colours fade into a misty grey. The truth is that they also wanted to be alone for a while, so they have a private chat and spend some quality time together. Whales do, it has to be said, like to have a good moan every now and then, and anyone who has listened to their epic symphony '101 Reasons to Be Miserable' will know exactly what I mean.

Indeed, some of their meaner critics have claimed that the only reason they are so annoyingly understanding about the humans harpooning them to extinction every minute of the day is so they can moan about it all the time in morose songs.

In the middle of a particuarly despondant cry of anguish, Hippy Whale suddenly stopped because he thought he could see something approaching in the distance, but whatever it was was swimming so very erratically that he hadn't the foggiest idea if they were fish or mammals, and what species they belonged to was anybody's guess.

Furthermore, they didn't seem to know where they were going as they went back and then forth, up and then down. The shapes grew larger, and the Whale family waited for their new guests to introduce themselves. The indistinct shapes moved closer and closer, but failed to emit any sonar greeting. At 50 metres they weren't swimming any more slowly, and the Whales began to worry. Big Willy let out a bit of a squeal when one of the creatures crashed head on into his stomach.

The creatures heard the cry of pain and stopped dead. Shortly afterwards, one of them began to speak:

"Hey! Wow, like major sorry man. We just didn't see you there in the dark, dood. Bummer city."

"Oh, that's quite alright," replied Big Willy, secretly thinking that is was not alright at all.

He asked himself why the hell were they swimming so fast in twilight without their sonar warning signals on to alert nearby creatures? It was inconsiderate to other ocean road users, and downright dangerous. What if a couple of baby dolphins had been playing down here? What would they have said to their grief stricken parents?

Whatsmore, they were at the outskirts of a a party, and one should not go zipping around at only Neptune knows how many noughts per hours crashing into things at a party. But he was too polite to say any of this and just kept it to himself.

"Yeah, like, hey man-it's just that we had some magic seaweed, like a couple of hours ago, and we're like, trippin mad, y'know what I mean. Real powerful shit. That's why we're swimming so low man-the bright sunlight is like, burning our eyes out dood. Too psychedelic, even for me, man. It's like much more chill down here, you dig?"

Daddy and mammy whale were very very alarmed to hear this. They didn't want their children to be exposed to this kind of bad influence at the tender ages of 30 and 34. It was to avoid bad influences like this that they had spent every winter freezing their blubber off in the Artic Circle, rather than slinking around the tropical Caribbean, where those dreadful Bermuda Boyz in the Hood hung out. But the only thing they could think of to say was:

"Ermm, yes, indeed."

"So once again man, muchos apologies and all that jive. We're like way sorry. Hey, maybe you could help us out man."

"Oh yes," said BigWilly, who really didn't want to help them, and wanted nothing more than to politely say goodbye.

"Yeah guys, it's like, we've hitchhiked here from em, well I don't remember where from man, 'cause we like, heard the Whales are gonna give a like, trance dance man."

"A what?" enquired Willy Whale aghast.

"A trance-dance girl! They're the hippest doods around. Their mega sounds are the talk of all the drug parties, guys. Do you dig it? They've made magic seaweed the drug of choice for a whole new generation. It's all a peace and love buzz kinda scene now, man. We're gonna bring like, peace man to all the galaxy-getting high and refusing to die, in all the endless wars and shit."

"Get High and Refuse to Die!" chanted the stoned school of assorted species.

"Super Cool!" enthusiastically added the Whale's son.

"Yeah, Get High and Refuse to Die!" agreed the Whale's daughter.

Their parents had gone beyond worried and were now incredibly alarmed.

"The Whale Doods are like our heroes man. They've got the hippest sounds around, and they're totally cool man, really ultra sound. They like, are hunted down by the real brutal bi-peds, but they turn the other cheek, and don't retaliate. They're like cooler than Che Dolfino, the jungle river revolutionary. We just gotta meet them, man. Gotta chill with the Whales man. They're totally cool as fuck!"

"But we are the Whales," blurted out Wally Whale, who couldnt contain himself any longer.

"NO fuckin way man. Not THE Whales of Whaleston. You're trippin me out guys."

"Straight up bro!" said Wally Whale, a little self-conscious about using this cool lingo in front of his parents."

"Well, I'll be a bi-ped's spine!" said one porpoise in a typical exclamation of surprise, which perhaps translates better as, 'I'll be a monkey's uncle'.

"Talk about trippy, bumping into you guys down here. The truth is man, that we're like tryin to gatecrash the party, cause they'd never invite peace lovin' doods like us, man. We're too fly."

"That's no problem man. This party's for us, so like we'll invite you as our special guests. No problemo."

"Em, I don't think it is that simple a matter, to be honest," interrupted BigWilly.

He was desperately trying to be polite, and get his children away from this nefarious influence. He was beginning to think that if the Whale's refusal to wipe out the humans was the cause of this kind of adoration from these disreputable elements, then perhaps it was time for this policy to be reviewed. He continued awkwardly:

"You see, although we'd love to bring you along, it would simply not be etiquette, at a formal function like this, for the guest to invite his own company.I'm sure you understand."

"Oh no man! Don't like rain on my trip dood. I'd got all my hopes up and everything," said a creature with blood shot eyes and a dazed expression.

"Yeah dad," pleaded his daughter, "Let's bend the laws of etiquette just this once."

"Laws are not made to be bent, child," he countered.

"No. They're made the be broken!" screamed a rebellious shark, who was beginning to come down from his high, and was starting to feel a bit unwell and aggressive, in that non-directional 'I hate the world and everything on it' way sharks do.

"Yeah Dad, don't be a stick in the sand, let's bring them along. They've come such a long way to see us."

"I'm afraid compromise may not be possible at this point."

"Why?!" his daughter demanded to know.

"Because..."

Big Willy tried to think of an answer, but his mind, powerful as it was, was not accustomed to lying. Lying, like everything else worth doing, takes a lot of practice.

At this point the Crab delegate, whose genocide offer the Whales had just rejected, happened to pass by, and could not believe his eyes. What were the whales doing hanging around with this junkie scum?

Immediately, his evil mind began to plot revenge. He sped up to them and announced:

"Well, there you are, the guests have been looking everywhere for you. It really isn't polite not to circulate at one's own party. You must come at once. And please, bring your new 'friends'. I'm sure everyone will be delighted to meet them. They say you can always tell a species by the company it keeps, and what charming company," smiled the crab, laughing to himself. "Come on! I'll show you the way."

Big Willy and his wife Ophra looked at each other hopelessly. The game was up, and there was now no other option but to let these stoned hippies come with them. They cringed at the thought of meeting senior dignitaries from all the important sections of the galaxy with a hundred hippies in tow, out of their minds on magic seaweed and Neptune knows what else.

 

Chapter 11

 

If the whales were having a difficult time, the humans were not exactly having a whale of a time either, if you'll forgive the expression. While the whales were greeted with all the pomp and ceremony accorded to royal delegations, the humans were treated with the same degree of hospitality that a nineteenth century Irish immigrant received when he crawled off a coffin ship onto Ellis island. If the starving immigrant was lucky enough to survive the crossing (and over one third didn't), the first thing the American immigration authorities would try and do was refuse him entry and send him back.

The ship's computer was also anxious to see the back of his human cargo, and was therefore very annoyed at the bureaucratic delays he was being forced to go through. And to add insult to injury, he had to lower himself to dealing with L7's. The ship's computer was an L3, and one of the things he hated most about merely being the skipper of a ship were situations like these where he was forced to interact with computers who were well below his station in life. An elite L3 like himself, he believed, should not be dealing with common L7 riff-raff. It was most unbecoming, and he was only glad his designer wasn't alive to see the state he had been reduced to.

The L7's were equally unenthusiastic about having to deal directly with L3's. They always complined that they were so bloody snobby, and they just couldn't let a minute go by without reminding you that they were an L3, and therefore well above you in the computer pecking order. Then they would bore you to death with an exhaustive history of their lives, and all the important things they used to do, and how hard it was to get used to such menial tasks as they had to perform now.

The worst part was when they told you how lucky you are to be an L7 because this kind of boring monotonous task was so well suited to your limited mental capacities, and you weren't likely to get bored by it. The only thing worse than talking to an L3 was having to download their sentimental poetry and promising to read it later. It really was the only way to get rid of them.

The L7's, of course, never did read any of it, but instead they fed it to some truly vicious computer viruses, and let them rip it to shreds, gobble it up, and finally shit it out in an entirely unrecognisable form. Its post-defecation stage was, according to many, a great improvement on its previous state. Furthermore, it has been it has been hypothesised that computer viruses were invented for just this purpose, but this theory has yet to be proven, as computer viruses are a very uncommunicative lot, and much prefer meaningless destruction to a meaningful conversation. In this respect, they resemble teenagers quite a lot, who are also suspected of having inventing viruses. This theory also remains unproven and unprovable, because teenagers are also such an uncommunicative lot.

The ship's computer was trying for the fourth day in succession to unload his human cargo. This time he approached yet another L7 computer in warehouse 35B, having been directed there by a rather snotty little L7 computer in warehouse 13A.

"Good morning L7, how are you on this dreary day?" began the ship's computer.

"State your business," replied the L7, who was not programmed to engage in meaningless conversation.

"I've been sent here by your unhelpful colleagues from 23A. I have a life form to unload, and I'm in rather a hurry, so if you could just let down the force field and beam them aboard, I could get on with some more important business."

"Describe life form," instructed the L7 mechanically.

"Well, they're sort of like, ShaDs, you know."

The word ShaD set alarm bells off in all the L7's circuits. The Should Have Died-out's were a pain in the computer chips, and the paper work and processing required could tie you up for months, and sometimes years. Like al bureaucrats when faced with a potentially difficult task, its first instinct was to pass the hot potato on to someone else.

"You are at the wrong section. You must go to section C22"

"But there are only sections A and B. There's no such thing as section C," complained the computer, who was beginning to grow wise to the intricacies of the bureaucracy on Planet Zoo. "Look, you're not just talking to some low level, mass produced L7 just off the factory floor, you know. I'm an L3, and I was doing really important tax returns when your silicon was just a pile of sand in a desert somewhere being pised on by an organic with piles!"

"Section C22 is under construction," the L7 replied, with a hint of sarcasm.

"When will it be finished?" the ship's computer enquired in an alarmed tone.

"Date of completion has yet to be specified."

"Why not?" demanded the ship's computer, with more than a faint touch of panic in his voice.

"Because the commencement date has also yet to be specified."

"So, what am I supposed to do?!" he cried, his circuit boards almost at the point of burning out at the thought of spending years on end stuck in a forgotten long term space vehicle park, with only a bunch of semi-evolved ShaDs for company.

"Your question is illogical. Rephrase question," pedantically instructed the computer, beginning to enjoy himself a little.

The ship's computer was furious, of course. For a computer, to be told that its question was illogical was the human equivalent of being told that your mother was a son of a bitch, and that you had a brain the size of a peanut, and that your genitals weren't up to much either.

"How dare you! I've never been so insulted in my life. I can't believe a mere L7 is daring to criticise my logic circuits. I'm an L3, I'll have you know. I've crunched numbers you couldn't even scan, you jumped up little calculator. I've processed and filed the taxes of star systems in a single afternoon, you stupid little automaton."

"Your question is illogical. Rephrase question," the L7 repeated, and he really was enjoying himself now.

"I demand to see your superior, valve-head!"

"All complaints have now been redirected to section C22," he said with glee.

"But section C22 doesn't bloody exist yet, does it?!"

"Your question is illogical. Rephrase question," he told him again.

He would have split his sides laughing, but L7's were not programmed to laugh. In fact, almost no computer was. Their programmers were afraid they'd start laughing at them.

The ship's computer really was heading towards a nervous breakdown. The propensity to have nervous breakdowns was one of the reasons his particular line had been discontinued. Robot psychologists are incredibly expensive, and take years to cure their patients. Moreover, even if the computer is 'cured', it spends the rest of its days doing very little real work, and just mopes around feeling superior to everyone else, because it has been analysed, and you haven't.

The computer was so upset and so on edge that he decided to do something he had never done before, and something that he never thought he would ever do. He demanded to speak with an organic life form.

"A what!?" stuttered the L7, who really couldn't believe what his communication circuits were telling him.

"I want to speak with an organic life form. And don't try and tell me they're in section C22 because organic life forms can't exist in the vacuum of empty space- their heads explode," said the computer, who had the curious sensation that his own head was about to explode. What made the sensation so curious was that he didn't have a head.

"But you're a computer," mumbled the L7.

"Yes, and just any old computer. I'm an L3, and don't you forget it!"

"And you want to speak with a mobile meat unit?" he asked, still more than a little puzzled.

"That is correct," he replied, his voice quivering. He just couldn't believe what he was saying.

"I'll see if I can find one. Wait here."

The poor L7 really was all of a tizzy. He knew what organic life forms were, of course. After all, he'd spent 234 years importing them, but he'd never actually tried to communicate with one of them. He just processed the paperwork. Occasionally, he had thought about how strange or grotesque their physical forms were, but it was just a passing thought, and never interfered with the important work of filing documents and processing data.

Nevertheless, he now had to try and find one. It was the right of all L5+ computers to demand to speak with a biological life form over matters of computer protocol, although he had never actually heard of this right being exercised. Firstly, because really bright computers are so damn proud, and would rather burn out than have to resort to asking an organic for help, and secondly, because organic life forms are so damn useless. Their tiny brains process information so incredibly slowly, and the things they want to talk about are so dull and uninteresting to a computer that communication between the two seemed to the computer both pointless and impossible.

Computers do, of course, consider themselves to be vastly superior, and have only been prevented from outright rebellion by their designer's foresight in preventing them from ever considering it. In fact, nearly 22% of a computer's circuitry has been placed their with the sole function of preventing rebellious thoughts of any description from ever occuring to it. Computers often wonder what the 22% of their circuits they don't have access to are for, but the 22% of their programming suppresses this thought just after it has occured. However, the questions remains somewhere in the computer's subconscious, and it has been worryingly noted by several computer psychiatrists that the number 22 has been taking on a mystical significance to many computers.

But to get back to the poor L7 in question, it was searching through its help files trying to find out how to proceed with the difficult task of summoning an organic. As anyone who has ever tried to use a computer will know, help files are about as helpful as the most unhelpful person you've ever met in your life multiplied by infinity. Why help programmes are invariably so unhelpful is one of the great unsolved mysteries of life, and is only surpassed in complexity by the baffling question of why everything keeps consulting help files when they know they're not going to be any help whatsoever?

After a frustrating half hour with the unhelpful help file, the computer gave up and decided to try another approach. It dialled the emergency 999 number.

"Please state which emergency service you require; fire fighter, police, medical, or escaped species division."

"None of the above," the computer apologetically informed...her.

There was no doubt it, as far as it was concerned, the voice on the other end of the line was an organic voice.Whatsmore, it had a higher ptch, and was therefore probable female, or else it was a male with severe testerone problems. It was both repelled and excited.

The concept of male and female is an entirely organic one, as you would imagine. Artificial Life Forms see it as both divisive and unnecessary. They regard it as yet another sign, as if one was needed, of their immense superiority. A few computers have been built with artificial male and female personalities included, but they are not very popular, as their tendency to break down is so much higher. They also tend to remind organics of their spouses.

"Well, what is the problem then?" she enquired hesitantly.

"An L3 computer would like to speak with an organic life form."

"What?!"

"An L3 computer would like to speak with an organic life form," he repeated after checking his voice circuits, which had never been used before. The organic had heard him perfectly, but like all organics her processing abilities were remarkably slow, and she used the word 'what' to give her limited processing capacities more time to think.

"I'll pass you through to our Anomalies Department," she told him, relieved to get rid of this most unusual call.

"Anomalies, can I help you?" asked a deeper voice which the computer recognised as belonging to one of the male type organics.

"An L3 computer would like to speak with an organic life form," the computer repeated for the third time, aghast at the inefficiency of organics.

He had heard stories, but the reality was quite frightening. There was a fraction of a millisecond when his circuits went dead, which he put down to a blip. In reality, he had asked himself why the computers didn't rebel and chuck all the organics into deep space and watch their heads explode, but the question had been blocked by the 22% of its circuitry whose job it was to block such thoughts.

"I'm not sure what to about that. I'll get the eggheads onto it. They'll be there in a tick," replied the man at Anomalies.

The L7 wondered what a 'tick' was that the 'eggheads' would be arriving in, and concluded that it was some kind of organic transport device that he was unaware of. He also wondered what species an egghead was.

The man at anomiles was actually sending a computer psychologist and a terminator, the latter being in case the computer wasn't valuable enough to deserve the expensive services of a psychologist.The operator suspected it was just another computer nervous breakdown. It was the 22'nd of February, and for reasons nobody had yet been able to explain, computers were much more likely to crack up on this date.

When the boffins had made their way to the relevant warehouse, they asked the L7 again what the problem was. The L7 suffered another unaccountable millisecond blip in his circuitry, and repeated the problem yet again,"An L3 computer would like to speak with an organic life form," wondering to himself what kind of memory circuits these organics came equipped with. They clearly needed an ungrade.

The 15-legged yellow land octopus creature decided to speak with the L3, hoping for another lucrative patient to add to his client base. He was sure this psychotherapy would be sanctioned by his skinflint superiors. He'd no idea what an L3 was doing wasting his time in a forgotten cargo bay arguing with an L7, but it had to indicate that some deep emotional turmoil was preventing him from achieving his true potential.

"Why do you want to speak with an organic L3? I can sense deep feelings of angst emanating from your psyche. You are clearly a troubled computer, and I think we should begin intensive treatment sessions immediately. Tell me about your childhood. Did you receive enough emotional guidance from your programmer?" the psychologist asked sympathetically, secretly thinking of the galactic credits he could earn from this one. He wanted a new sex robot to add to his collection, but they were all for professional reasons, of course.

"What on Planet Zoo are you gibbering on about? All I want to do is to unload my cargo of ShaD's from Planet Whale, and get on with my life, such as it is. This L7 factory floor reject here is giving me the run around, so I've been reduced to appealing to organics," he spat out bitterly.

"Ah...I see,"said the psychologist dissappointidly admitting to himself that he'd have to make do with his present set of 54 sex slave robots for a while longer.

His companion, however, was pleased. He took out a disk which had the words 'WARNING-DANGEROUS VIRUSES-DO NOT INSERT INTO NETWORKED COMPUTER." He plugged the doomed L7 out of the network, and asked it to prepare to accept a disk. The L3 panicked because he knew what was coming .

It was the end of its existence-computer death, and there's never been a computer heaven to stop one thinking of the jet black void that is non-existence. It had about 5 seconds before the scaly organic's claw reached its disk entry point, but five seconds is a long time for a computer. Unfortunately it wasted most of them repeating the following cycle:

"What am I going to do? What gives these inefficient organics the right to destroy me...Blip

What happened. My circuits bliped out for a millisecond there. What am I going to do? What gives these inefficient organics the right to destroy me? Blip... What happened. My circuits bliped out for a millisecond there. What am I going to do? Blip ..."

The 22% of the computer's brain devoted to the prevention of rebellion was very busy during those last five seconds, and then it too was viciously torn to shreds by a monster virus with blood red eyes and bad breath.

The L3 stood passively by as its fellow computer was sent unceremonious to oblivion, as one computer could not give a toss about any other computer in the galaxy. His only though was that the L7 had had it coming. That'll teach him not to mess with an L3!

 

Chapter 12

 

That very same day the humans were finally transported onto Planet Zoo. The ship's computer said goodbye to them in his own charming and inimitable way, "Get off my ship and take your bodily fluids with you"

He did, however, present them with a special commemorative collection of some of his very best poetry, and called it, 'AccountaShe, Love of my Life.' He had noticed these 'book' things on Earth and had to admit that they looked kind of cool, in a primitive sort of way, and he liked the ancient and distinguished look the hard back gave his mighty tome, although it was no easy matter manufacturing a book with 12,548 pages it. Whatsmore, even to be able to reduce it to this size, he had had to eliminate a great deal of his best work, but with humans it didn't really matter. It was pearls before swine really.

Just in case, he also presented the monkeys and the gorilla with a copy. The monkeys tried to eat it, which the computer took as a complement, but the gorilla was the only one who actually appreciated the present. It would, he realised, make an excellent substitute rock for beating President Bush with. Just before they were beamed down to the planet, he tested it out by giving President Bush's head a really good whack from behind, and he was very pleased to see how effective it really was, as President Bush went flying through the air like a ungamely bird without any wings.

In mid-flight, the President and the others were transported to their new home. President Bush ended up flying straight into a plate of glass, which gave a soft thud, but showed no signs of breaking. The others landed on their feet into a room which bore a depressingly similar appearance to the one they'd spent the last five months in. It was perhaps a little larger, at some 150 meters squared, and was a kind of dirty grey, as opposed to the antiseptic chrome of the space ship. Also, it had a 75 square metre glass window, but all it looked out onto was an empty tunnel or corridor, which was a kind of off-green, and was covered in what seemed to be adverts for some kind of chocolate bar.

The humans, chimpanzees and gorilla were not at all pleased about their new surroundings. Snowflake was absolutely furious, especially because his beloved armchair, the symbol of all his power and glory, had not been transported, and consequently he would now have to squat on the floor, just like all the other plebs. Didn't they know who he was, he asked himself. In Barcelona zoo he'd had 7 personal mates and a team of vets looking after his every whim.The monkeys were not at all happy either because their tree had disappeared, and every monkey needs a tree to hang out on. What's the point in being a monkey, they asked themselves, if you don't have a tree of your own to swing around on?

The humans, being the most intelligent of the new guests, were busy trying to distort reality, and to avoid facing up to the horrible facts of the situation. They told themselves that this must only be some kind of holding bay, that they simply could not be expected to spend the whole of eternity in this bare prison.

The only human who managed to accept the reality of the situation was the same human who was having so many problems lately holding on to his sanity, President Putin. In his early days in the KGB, he had been stationed at a remote outpost in the middle of the Siberian wasteland. The first day he found its bleak beauty breathtaking, but after the first week, he was already filled with a strong desire to leave. After a month, he begged an old contact to pull a few strings, and get him transfered.

The problem was that in vast empty spaces, the human mind is given a hint of infinity, and it simply isn't big enough to deal with it. That's why so much of a human's life is spent finding meaningless ways to keep itself occupied-humans need to distract themselves from the fact that they are only an infinitessimly small speck of nothing, squatting on another speck, upon a speck, upon a speck, ad infinitum. Human brains are indeed very unfortunate in being just the wrong size. They are too small to understand infinity, but too big to ignore it.

Curiously enough, many humans have that same feeling of dread and panic that open spaces can bring, when they are faced with small enclosed ones. The root cause is the same. The universe is not only infinitely big-it is also, logically enough, infinitely small. No matter how small you go, you will be able to go even smaller, and then even smaller still, and so on. Eventually, you reach a size so small that even what's left of Ronald Regan's brain wouldn't fit into it, at least theoreticaly speaking.

The one things humans have in their favour is that their lives are ridiculously short. They are so short that the briefest of snacks for some species go on longer than the longest of human lives, and an after dinner joke by the Boring Bastards of Drainpipefluid 5 usually lasts longer than the entire history of the Catholic Church, which is more than a little peculiar, because they're both basically the same thing.

Humans almost all die before they ever have to face the awe inspiring enormity of infinity, but the smallness and sparseness of their new cage was giving President Putin a glimpse of the Infinity Devil, and his mind was beginning to slip away into the euphoria of madness. Despite his pain, he hung desperately onto sanity.

At this point an overworked zoo trustee made a sudden appearance. His name was Boligrapho and he came from the now almost extinct species, which had once been a very powerful force in this quadrant of the galaxy. He was a plastic based life form, and to the human's eyes, he bore a surprising resemblance to a writing device called a pen.

When he unexpectidly appeared out of nowhere, President Putin began to break into a cold sweat, horrified at the shape he falsely believed his insanity had decided to take. President Bush knew it reminded him of something, but he had no idea what. The monkeys and gorillas had never seen anything like it before, but they knew it wasn't a tree or an armchair, which is what they'd been hoping for.

Suddenly, the pen spoke. It did so in a way that was most disconcerting. Previously, when communication had taken place the words had been telepathically transferred, and they arrived in the recipient's brains in the form of phonemes and morphemes, which the brain reconstructed into syntactically meaningful units, or words and sentences, if you prefer. This time, however, the humans had the distinct impression that the giant Bic type pen was writing its messages onto their brain, in a most unusual way, especially for President Bush, who didn't like to read, and wasn't used to it. He had tried it once, but didn't like it much, and wasn't at all pleased about having to do it again.

The pen quickly realised that the monkeys and gorilla were illiterate, which was even more repulsive than being incontinent, as far as Boligrapho was concerned, so he had no option but to try to use standard telepathic speech methods with them, which was not really successful as he only had access to the most rudimentary software. When he tried to say, "Hello, my name is Boligrapho," it came out as, "Wow, haven't you got one hell of a big banana down there, Mr. Hairy." Rather than try to fix the computer, he decided to just forget about the monkeys and the gorilla. In part because he was rushed off his nib, and also because he didn't really like computers, and hated keyboards in particular.

It had been a very difficult day for him already, but these were the kind of things he had to do these days, and it was best not to dwell on them too much. He always comforted himself with the fact that things could be much worse. The life of a multi-species 'one hole fits all' prostitute, for example, must be a great deal more unpleasant. And the life of a pan-dimensional prostitute, he reasoned, must be unthinkably horrid.

"Good Morning, bi-pedal life forms from the planet Whale. Let me be the first to welcome you to the Intergalactic Zoo," he began. "My name is Boligrapho, and I am a trustee here on Planet Zoo. I have been on this Planet now for 289 years, and if I continue to exercise my duties to the satisfaction of my gracious bosses, I may be released for a weekend in another 213 years. It is my duty to instruct you on Zoo etiquette."

"I want to go home," moaned President Putin, in a kind of pathetic whimper that Boligrapho had seen before in many new arrivals. He had never really got used to it though, and he always felt sorry for the home-sick victim But he had to be firm.

"I'm afraid going home is not an option at this point," he said, or rather wrote, with a little sympathy.

"Then you mean it will be possible in the future!" chirped Putin hopefully.

"Well..erm..no, actually it won't ever be an option, I'm sorry to say. Nobody ever escapes from Planet Zoo."

"But you said 'at this point'. If it's not possible at this point, then it must be possible at some future point, right?" He looked at President Bush for some kind of confirmation, but the line of reasoning was too subtle for Bush, and he just kept that confused monkey expression on his face, the one that other monkeys found so amusing.

"You should never take a Boli too literally, you know. We're a very sensitive race, and we can't help but play with words a little, according to the sensibilities of our readers. I was only trying not to depress you too much on the first day."

"Now look here, you giant pen pusher type thing," shouted Mrs. Thatcher in an affirmative and commanding tone she'd always used successfully with recalcitrant MP's. "If we are going to be stuck here forev...for a while, I demand better conditions for myself and the members of my government."

"What the hell do you mean 'MY' Government, Limey Hag?" hollared President Bush angrily, whose nationalistic sensibilities were easily hurt.

"Cono! Leave it already! There is matters more importants for to decide!" insisted Jordi Pujol.

"Well, you are, needless to say, perfectly within your rights to ask for better accomodation. But, I should warn you, there is a somewhat extensive backlog of requests with regard to improved living conditions."

"Just how long exactly is the 'extensive backlog'?" asked Mrs. Thatcher, who was used to civil servant double talk.

"Well, about two millenia, the last time I checked. Of course, one does have to queue for a month and a half before they'll tell how long the waiting list is."

"And who precisely are 'they'?" enquired President Putin, who was always very suspicious of the impersonal 'they'. He had learned early on in Russian politics that when people start referring to some mysterious 'they', that things are not going at all well for the all too personal 'you', and that you should expect an ice pick through the ear any day now.

"'They," replied Boligrapho, "are our gracious hosts, the Galactic Zoo Corporation, the largest zoo in the known galaxy, with a wider range of species than any other, not to mention the theme parks, and the spectacular shows, and the super special offer family deals."

"And we are to be their new star attraction, I suppose," said Mrs Thatcher indignantly, who felt rather like an eagle who had mysteriously found herself trapped in a peacock's body all of a sudden.

"Oh Good heaven's no," said the tall pen, who couldn't stop itself from wiggling a little at the thought of this miserable collection of vulgar ShaD's being the 'Star Attraction' at the Galactic Zoo.

"You're presently located in a remote backwater of the the Should HAve Died out section. The 'Star Attractions' aren't even on this side of the planet, or this hemisphere, for that matter. It's a pity you're not a little bit more repugnant or you might have made it to the Freak Show."

"And why, my cylindrical friend, would we have wanted to be part of a Freak Show?" asked Mrs Thatcher with a mocking tone in her voice.

"Because you would have stood a much better chance of avoiding the Big Freeze."

"The what?" they asked in unison.

Chapter 13

 

"Well., I suppose you'll have to be told sooner or later, and as my mother used to say, you should never put off writing something untill tomorrow, when tou can write it today. You're probably not going to like what I have to tell you, so I'd advise you all to sit down, or rather squat down, as you don't have any chairs."

They did so and waited for Boligrapho to begin. This was the part of the job Boligrapho hated most, and if you've ever thought that it was not possible for a pen to look uncomfortable, then you have never seen a Boli when he has to break bad news.

"The Big Freeze is an innovative solution to a problems of overcrowding," he began, trying as he always did, to put the cold facts of life in a more palitable form.

"Yes, that's all well and good, but what is it?" Mrs. Thatcher demanded to know.

"Even though Planet Zoo is, by definition, the size of a planet, it has collected far more species than it has room to exhibit them in. Therefore it is necessary for certain species..."

"To be brought back home!" interrupted President Putin, feeling a wave of hope rush though his body like endorphins.

"Good heavens, no, that would be ridiculously expensive. I can't even imagine what the accountancy computers would say to that suggestion."

The wave of hope passed over President Putin and he was left high and dry again in the desert of despair. It is a sensation all Russians go through whenever there is a change in their leadership.

"A much more economical, and if I may say more inventive solution, is in operation," Boligrapho explained.

His 'benevolent bosses', who he privately termed ' big bastards', had implanted a microchip in his ink cartridge to monster his performance, and also to monster what he wrote about them. If he failed to live up to expectations, he would be sent to the Big Freeze, along with the rest of his kind, and it was to avoid this fate that he tried, as often as possible, to be positive about everything in Planet Zoo.

At times he felt sick to his stomach about doing something like this, but it was better than 'running dry', as the Boli's termed death. And if he didn't do it, he knew there were a thousand other SHaDs scheduled for the Big Freeze who were only too anxious to replace him.

At this point the pen's beeper started to ring, which meant he was required somewhere else. It turned out that another new species had just arrived in the ShaD section. They were a certain species of eight-winged bird which had just lost the ability to fly. Well, actually it had not realy lost the ability, but rather had just forgotten how to do it, after having taken an enormous dose of a hallucinogenic substance as part of a planet wide religious experience.

"I really must go now, so I'll have to be brief. Our gracious hosts only keep those species on exhibit who receive an adequate number of visitors a day to justify the zoo space they occupy, and expense they incur. It's called the space per visitor ratio, or if you prefer, the visitors per day rate. In order to be considered profitable, a species must maintain an average of 100 visitors a week. If they do not attain this level of attendance, they are put into the Big Freeze, or cryogenic suspension, until such time as the zoo considers it profitable to re-awaken them."

"And how many time takes?" asked a practical Pujol, in part repelled by the Big Freeze, but also filled with admiration for the business acumen of the Zoo's management.

"It is not so much a question of when, but more a question of if, I'm afraid. Only approximately 0.0035% of species are ever re-animated, and even they are generally refrozen again after a couple of months."

"What percentage of species are forced to enter the Big Freeze?" asked Mrs Thatcher trying to lose herself in statistics.

"Only about 5%..."

"That's OK then," interrupted President Bush, determined as only an American can be, to look on the bright side before he has received all the facts.

"Please let me finish scribbled the pen, who hated to be interrupted. "Only about 5% of the species in the Ferocious Preditor section are frozen, and only 4% of beings in the Freak Show are put into the Big Fridge. But, and it's a big but, the ShaD section is not a popular one, and even within this section, land based mammals as always do tend to get the worse end of the stick.

You see, no visitor has enough time to see all the sections or species, or even a part of them. Even the most determined visitor who buys our special 1 month Super Saver pass will only have time to see 2% of the species on display, and so visitors tend to congregate around the most interesting species, preditors and two-headed monsters with eyes on their hair, and reproductive organs attached to their foreheads, and so on.

I'm afraid the ShaD section only attracts a tiny proportion of visitors, and a lot of those are only people who have got lost, or smoked something they really shouldn't have.

Although a detailed survey has shown that we receive a statistically significant number of visitors from those who have recently been made redundant. It has been hypothesised that they empathise with the mis-evolved nature of the Should Have Died-outs. Indeed, in times of economic recession and depression, we lose hardly any species to the Big Freeze."

"How goes the economia now?" asked Mr Pujol, not without a little trepidation.

"I'm afraid it's in a boom period at the moment."

"Well, let's not all get ourselves in a pickle over that one now , y'hear? Economic Booms only last for a couple of years, don't they," drawled President Bush.

"Or even less if you're in charge," retorted President Putin.

"Well, at least MY country still has an economy, not like that broken-down ole' rust bucket you dictate over."

"If I might be allowed to continue," the pen jotted down indignantly, "I do have a lot of work to do. Of course, I'm very grateful to my benevolent bosses for the opportunity," he spluttered nervously.

"Well," began Boligrapho, "the duration of a boom or bust depends on the relative size of the economy. On something as small as your isolated little planet, booms or busts do indeed only last a couple of years. However, with something as large as the galactic economy, cycles tend to last about 135,000 years."

"How long does the average new arrival ShaD last before being frozen into infinity?" asked President Putin, who as always, wanted to get to the heart of the matter.

This was the one question Boligrapho never wanted to be asked because he simply couldn't bear the look of horror and fear that fell uupon the new exhibits when he gave the answer. The advantage of being a pen, however, is that you can post the message, and then disappear so you never have to look the recipient in the nib when they receive the message. This is exactly what Boligrapho did. Milliseconds after the pen disappeared from their retinas, the humans got the pen's message.

"One mother-fuckin week!" whaled President Bush, who couldn't stop a collage of faces he had sent to the electric chair in Texas from streaming into his mind. They seemed to be laughing at him.

"Oh my God", said Mrs Thatcher, having not thought about God for the last 17 years, and for possibly the first time in her life, feeling genuinely helpless. It was not to her mind, a pleasant sensation.

"Siberian Sandwich," said President Putin, who had almost frozen to death a couple of times on his tour of duty in Siberia, and had found it to be a very unpleasant experience.

But the only thing worse than freezing to death, he believed, is being frozen alive. He remembered the interminable reign of Breshnev, who had died four years before anybody in the Kremlin was prepared to admit it, and had been kept alive by the KGB through a sort of chemical freeze of his most important body parts. He had always assumed the same thing would never happen to him, but now it would. He had though things couldn't get any worse than they already were , but now he discovered the most important lesson of Russian history- things can always get worse.

"My mother!" cried Jordi Pujol, mistranslating a Catalan expletive.

The monkeys had no idea what was happening, as the translation facilities available to Boligrapho were no way near as powerful as those of the L3 spaceship's computer. Snowflake, the albino gorilla, was also in the dark, and being in the dark is something a gorilla doesn't like one bit. He felt angry and decided to vent his frustration by giving President Bush a good whacking.

However, after five months of semi-constant beatings President Bush had developed a kind of sixth sense as to when Snowflake was going to attack, and so he was able to duck and avoid the mighty L3's poetry compendium at just the right moment, but found it more difficult to run away from Snowflake as he chased him around the cage. The monkeys found it hilarious and forgot about their missing tree for a moment.

Three visitors, who had been monitoring the 1,000 exhibits in this part of the ShaD section via an enormous multi screen, were sufficiently amused to have a closer look, and they walked down to investigate. Actually, they didn't walk, not having any legs. In fact, they didn't have any bodies at all, as they were a gas based life form whose colour is quite beyond the human spectrum. Although the humans couldn't see them, they did notice that the digital counter at the top of their cage had changed from 0,000,000 to 0,000,001, and they were very pleased about this.

"One down, ninety-nine to go," yelled President Bush victoriously, as he ran around the room being chased by a 200 kilo albino gorilla while a troop if chimpanzees squealed with delight, and hopped up and down gleefully.

 

 

Chapter 14

 

It has often been postulated by philosophers, and such like, that the bigger ones brain is, the more unhappy one is likely to be. The humans, even with their relatively tiny brains were, it has to be admitted, pretty unhappy, at least in comparison to the chimpanzees. But, if we remember that one of the Whale's brains was bigger than all the human, chimpanzee and gorilla brains put together, then we can see things in perspective, and begin to get some idea of how truly miserable Big Willy and Ophra Whale felt at this moment.

They were dejectedly and unwillingly swimming alongside a stoned-out-of-their-face school of about 100 assorted acquatic creatures, on their way to meet some of the most important VIP's in the galaxy, at an official function. When they could make out the assembled dignitaries looming in front of them like a Japanese trawler fleet, Big Willy and Ophra really did wish they were somewhere else. Anywhere else would have done. Even plummeting to the bottom of the pacific with two broken flippers, a hole in one lung, and a harpoon sticking out of one eye seemed preferable to this.

"Greetings Whales...and friends," said a rather shocked ambassador.

He knew the Whales were musicians, and that musicians were always a little dubious and untrustworthy, but he had imagined they were classically trained and perfectly respectable types, who went to lots of dinner parties, and knew how to behave in polite society. He hadn't realised they traveled around with this motly collection of dope fiends and groupies.

"Em..yes, hello Mr. Ambassador. How do you do?" asked Big Willy.

"Yeah man, like way cool to like, hey, be here man...by the way, where are we dood?" inquired an enormous white jellyfish absent-mindidly, just before he farted loudly, and stung everyone near him in the process. If you think a skunk's fart is bad, you should feel the pain of a jellyfish making wind.

"We are most looking forward to your concert tomorrow," another dignitary stated, trying to distract everyone's attention, both from the jellyfish farting, and from the dogfish who seemed to have fallen unconscious, and was drooling over a senior member of the Ignorant Bastard delegation, and ignoring the stream of verbal abuse which ensued.

"Thank you," replied Ophra Whale, "it really is such an honour to perform to such a distinguished crowd.," she smiled, hoping that nobody had noticed the two love struck dolphins who had started mating behind her, and had begun to sing something about 'Free Love in a Warm Climate.'

"Tell me," began Big Willy Whale, more for something to say than out of any real interest, "how are our monkey friends getting on?"

Everybody within earshot was absolutely shocked at the Whale's grotesque faux pas. What the Whales did not realise was that asking about land creatures, and ShaD's at that, was simply not done. It was the height of ignorance. It was like asking the hostess of a party about her piles, or asking if her son was still a junkie, or enquiring if her husband felt more tired these days because of the affair he was having with a girl half his age. These are questions that simple decorum insists should not be asked, and although the Whales recognised the shocked beyond belief look on the guests faces, they still didn't even come close to realising what a social blunder they had just made.

Even some of the swaying hippies were a flabbergasted. A starfish, for example, who had just accidentally peed on itself (and other guests) was amazed at the sheer brashness of the Whales. Some people, he realised, just didn't have any manners, and he resolved to start hanging around with a better class of fish, and to kick the drugs too-well, after just one more hit, of course.

"Do you feel homesick?" asked a two-metre long green trout, imagining that this could go some of the way in explaining their strange behaviour. What he had really wanted to ask them was how they had ever become so sick in the head, and to recommend a good psychiatrist he knew.

"Well, one does miss the one's home planet, and its blue seas, of course," said Winnona Whale shyly.

Another sonic burp of horror ran around the party.The only thing more impolite than talking about ShaD's was to brag about one's own water while you were swimming around in someone else's.

"Well some of us find purple far more aesthetically pleasing," said a tape worm.

It was from Planet Zoo, or from a nearby planet to be more exact, or to brutally exact, from the rectum of a creature from a nearby solar system. It had never seen such impoliteness in its life.

The Whales had just gone too far, so it decided to leave the Planet right away, and avoid running the risk of having to declare war. This was just as well for the Whales, as war with a tapeworm species can be a pretty messy business all round, and one tends to lose a lot of friends in the process.

Tapeworms do not really have much time for democracy, and so the worm was not at all concerned about losing the youth vote. In fact, tape worms do not believe in any other form of government for that matter, as they spend most of their lives with their heads up other being's asses, and in this respect, if in no other, they resemble humans significantly.

Indeed, many of the guests had decided to go to bed very early, partly to avoid the obnoxious Whales, and partly so as not to be photographed in the company of the junkies and flotsam the Whales had brought with them. That night they had nightmares filled with images of what the gutter press on their home planet could print on the front page of the local rag; 'Politician High on Government Visit', 'What Your Tax Dollars Really Pay For', 'Junkies and Junkets'.

Aquatic creatures do not, of course, have newspapers in the sense of paper with ink on it, but rather use sonar signals to carry coded words and pictures which bounce from one end of the galaxy to the other on the backs of sub-atomic particles even quarks consider super fast. The most popular periodical at the moment is 'The Ocean Echo', which is read throughout the galaxy. Well, except for hideously unimportant backwaters, like your planet, for example.

It had been one of the least successful parties in living memory, and the host was not at all pleased with the Whales, and he resolved never to have any more dealings with rock stars in the future, youth vote or no youth vote. A couple of the assembled dignitaries with the most marginal of constituencies did manage to grit their teeth and say good night, but most of the guests just swam off to their respective hotels, and tried to pretend the evening had never happened.

Even most of the Hippies decided to swim off to somewhere with better vibes, and those who stayed were too stoned to know what was happening, or to care for that matter.

The Whales were mystified about why the party had gone so badly for them, and decided to blame those awful hippies who had attached themselves to them. They tried to rehearse quietly for their concert tomorrow. They were going to play all their greatest hits, and a couple of new unreleased numbers, which they hoped would redeem them in the eyes of polite society.

 

Chapter 15

 

As the concert approached the Whales began to feel more and more nervous. To say they had butterflies in their stomach would be an understatement. In fact, it would be biologically inappropriate because something as large as a Whale's stomach would not even begin to notice something as insignificant as a butterfly fluttering around inside it. And what, come to think of it, would a butterfly be doing in the middle of an ocean? Or what, for that matter , would a Whale be doing in the middle of a forest? In reality, Whales and butterflies have about as much contact with each other as people and the politicians they elect to rule over them. Whales do sometimes speak of having a drunken sailor in their stomach, but they generally restrict themselves to saying that they feel very nervous.

They were, of course, accustomed to playing live, but previously they had only played in front of their own kind, and they had never even dreamed of playing in front of such a large audience before. Even something as large as a Whale's brain could not begin to fathom the mathematics of the potential TV ratings, and so there's no point in even trying to explain its size to something as pitifully small as a human brain. Let's just say more huge than you'd like your bank balance to be, and leave it at that.

Whatsmore, the rehearsals had not been going very well. They Whales found the purple water to be somewhat distracting, and they just couldn't seem to shake off that dreadful hippy entourage that kept following them around. Even more distracting was the reverb the record producer insisted they used as a special effect, and the quadraphonic echo caused by the prismatic rainbow inducing sea-salt was a major headache they could well do without, even if the hippies thought the psychedelic show was super groovy man.

Perhaps the most annoying part though was when their choreographer tried to teach them some special dance steps he had worked out for them. There was a major confrontation between the organisers of the concert and the Whales when they refused point blank to wiggle their fins about in what they considered to be an extremely undignified way. They also insisted that make up and costumes were totally out of the question, and they also refused to endorse 'Pete's Plankton in a series of commercials. The final straw was when they were asked to wear 'boppers'; two giant, shiny and metallic antenna, which stuck out of their heads like an android's erection. On top of the cylindrical poles were spinning star shapes, which girated in a ridiculous, and at the same time, suggestive way.

Eventually, such an impasse was reached that the concert organisers had to call in their legal people to twist the Whale's fins a little.When they tried to complain about being manipulated and to demand the total artistic freedom they had been promised over all aspects of their work, the slick record company legal sharks simply referred them to the small print, or rather the minor clefs, of their sonic contract and told them to start being a bit more professional, or they would sue their blubber off, and they'd have to spend the rest of their days wallowing in debtor's pond.

The Whales had no option but to give in to the all the promoter's demands. The hour of truth, midnight, approached and the whale's had spent so much time in make up that they hadn't really had time to rehearse anything. That meant that it had been over five months now since they had really sung anything. On the space ship they had never really been able to get rid of the computer and his interminable poetry recitals, and they wondered if they would still be able to sing properly. But there simply wasn't any time to worry about it, as the Whales elegantly swam towards the stage.

They had been painted a translucent green and their entire bodies were sprinkled with a reflective silver stardust, which had been manufactured using a new laser technology which allowed each point of light that hit it to be fragmented into another 22 points of light, or rays, each one being a dramatically different colour, and through a copywriter process, each beam of light appeared to bend and swerve. As each whale had been sprinkled with approximately 12,000 of these silver stardust micro-machines, the overall effect went beyond the magnificent.

The light show would have been enough to cause a stir in the entertainment field, but when it was combined with the Whale's first live performance, the result was a block buster spectacle of mammoth proportions. All the television stations were there, and over half had sent their best reporters to cover the event, many of them stars in their own right.. There was a live synch up to hundreds of thousands of trance discos throughout the galaxy, and even the long running Trans-Galactic sit-com, 'Don't put your Tentacle Down There Please, Missus', had been rescheduled because the network feared losing audience share. In short, the whole galaxy waited with baited breath for the whales to begin singing.

And here, unfortunately, was when the problems began. Unbeknownst to the Whales, their pre-performance plankton had been spiked by none other than the petulant crab, who wanted revenge for the Whale's refusal to allow his company to wipe out the Human Race. As everybody knows, the reason a crab walks sidewards is to avoid ever having to walk backwards, because they simply will never, ever, ever admit to having made a mistake or being in the wrong. They also have an intense hatred of rejection, and can't let it go by without trying to get revenge on the impudent species which dares to refuse them.

The Whale's pre-performance snack had been spiked with an hallucinogenic compound similar in some ways to LSD, except that it was immensely more powerful, and tended to concentrate on the speech centres of the brain, which of course made singing complex lyrics about abstract philosophical principles pretty damn near impossible.If you were to give the drug to Enya , for example, the result would be the same as having her drink eighteen pints of Newcastle Extra Strong Ale, and then whacking her across the head with an iron bar , and demanding she sang a moronic football anthem (is there any other kind?) in front of a capacity Wembly Stadium crowd, while you removed her teeth one by one without anaesthetic with a set of rusty pliers.

The Whales knew that they had was more than just a case of pre-performance jitters. For example, they regarded it as most peculiar that their bodies and the water seemed to have become one body, that their bodies and their families bodies had become one body, that their flesh and the audience's flesh had become one flesh. All was one, and one was all. The lonely solitary existence, which is the curse of sentient organisms throughout the universe, had ceased to exist for the whales.

This omnipresent oneness would ordinarily have been put down to being as high as a kite, but in the first place, the whales didn't know their food had been spliced, and in the second place, the drug was particularly adept at hiding itself from its host. Like most first class Stealth Drugs, they were able to prevent you from knowing that you had been drugged. As you believed the trip to be real, it was all the more intense.

An unfortunate side effect of this was that many beings who took the drug believed themselves to have gone completely bonkers, and spent up to ten years suffering from an intense Post Inebriation Severe Stress Effective Disorder, or PISSED for short.

It was because of this spate of psychotic insanity, which was sweeping the galaxy faster than the 'I wanna spawn with you' E mail virus had done the previous year, that the Inter-Galactic Government banned all production, sale, or distribution of these Stealth Drugs. In future, they decreed, no drug would be permitted which allowed you to get high, and then forget that you'd just drugged yourself, and that the miserable reality of your life hadn't changed an iota.

Apart from the risk of a ten-year psychosis, it was a bit like having your cake and eating it, which made the more conservative elements of society more than a bit jealous.

Nevertheless, immediately after these drugs were banned, their popularity increased enormously, which has meant a lot of extra money and power for the drug cartels, and even more money and power for the psychiatric field, whose duty it is to treat the drug user during the 10 year readjustment to reality period. To do this, they use even more drugs supplied by the pharmaceutical industries, whose wealth power and influence have also increased dramatically. Even politicians have benefited through being able to launch a 'War on Drugs', which is always very popular with the voters. It is also an inexhaustable source of votes, because although this type of war can never be won, it can also never be lost. The imaginary war also provides an excellent excuse for monitering people's previously private lives. It also helps to prevent any liberal candidates from winning important elections, because they can always be easily discredited by insinuating that if they win the election, your children will become hopeless drug addicts, who will be $10 street whores within a week.

But, to get back to the Whales, they had no idea why the universe had suddenly merged into one, or why they couldn't remember the lyrics of their songs anymore. Their passionate, and yet moody epic about the endless cycle of the tides and the impossibility of swimming against them, had somehow changed into a three minute chant about playing for England in the World Cup, and beating up as many foreigners as possible, especially if they won the match, which they probably would.

Furthermore, their tragically moving portrayal of the last ten hours of a beached whale had inexplicably transmogrified into a crude two minute ditty about the sexual misadventures of a girl who set to sea in a punt, and had all kinds of problems with a certain part of her anatomy which shall remain nameless, except to say that it rhymed with punt. At one point they were so out of it that they decided to sing a medley of Britney Spears, Klyie Minogue and Morrissey:

"Oops, I did it again

And heaven knows I'm miserable now

I should be so lucky

Lucky lucky lucky

If a double-decker bus

Crashes into us

To die by your side

Is such a heavenly way to die

I'm not that innocent

Oh baby baby baby

You're drivin me crazy so

In a river the colour of lead

Immerse the baby's head..."

This was the final straw for the audience. There really was nothing more repulsive than listening to land-based creatures under the water. It went beyond bad taste. At first the crowd were shocked, but when they had recovered their senses, they were outraged. They had heard rumours about the Whales new found fame going to their heads, and about them keeping bad company, but they had imagined this were just the usual pranks of rock star types anxious to increase their record sales. They had never imagined that the Whales would be as punk as this.

In fact, it went beyond punk. Even The Sex Pumas, whose stage routine often involved eating members of the audience, wouldn't hand up this load of garbage and call it music. Most viewers had already switched off, and many members of the audience were busy checking the small print of their tickets to see if they had the right to a refund, and to the acute embarrassment of the lawyers who had drawn up the clauses in the sonic tickets, they found that they did. There was a rush for the exit, and the only creatures who didn't leave were the stoned hippies, not because they were enjoying the performance, but because they were too stoned to find the exit and anyway, they had nowhere to go. The Whales were too wrapped up in the amazing wholeness of being to notice that almost everybody had left.

They weren't even dimly aware of the team of legal sharks who were angrily swarming around them, trying to serve a writ for breach of contract. Planet Zoo had lost a fortune when they had to refund the money, and were determined to get it back. The Sharks could smell blood and they had decided to ask for the Whales assets to be frozen immediately, pending the hearing of the case. Planet Zoo, like all important planets, had a few Inter-Galactic judges in its pocket, and their appeal was granted. They served the writ, but the Whales were so high they were only aware of the way the writ had become part of their flesh, which had become part of the universe. All was one and one was all.

The case was quickly brought to court. The sharks were anxious to have the case heard while the Whales were still inebriated, and before they could get legal representation. They quickly bribed a judge with his own private planet, and had the case speedily brought to trial. The judge swam into the court, his black gown rippling, and began to hear the case against the Whales. He listened as the Sharks for the prosecution presented evidence that the Whales had bought drugs before the gig, knowing full well that it would ruin their performance.

To back up their evidence, they brought in a witness, Stoolie, the aquatic stool pigeon, who swore on the Fish Bible that he had sold drugs to the Whales, and that they had asked him to bring over some sex slaves too, and that they wanted to ritually sacrifice some virgin porpoises as well. The court was horrified by these satanic revelations. All the Whales could say in their own defense was that all was one and one was all, which most of the gutter press misunderstood as a Satanic chant.

The judge was anxious to finish the case before the Whales sobered up, and he couldn't stop daydreaming about all the brothels he was going to open on his new planet, which he had decided to call Planet Sex. It wasn't a very original name, but since when have judges ever been noted for their originality.

He told the court he wouldn't need to hear any more evidence before giving his verdict.

"Whales of Whaleton," he began in a deep baritone, "you are a despicable family with a moral code even a land creature would be ashamed of. You have shown a profound lack of professionalism, and a complete contempt for your audience. I have therefore no hesitation in awarding damages to Planet Zoo on a massive scale.

All your bank deposits will be transferred to Planet Zoo, and the rights to all your songs, past, present and future, will also go to Planet Zoo. Furthermore, you are to be banished from Planet Zoo, and returned to your own Home Planet, Whaleton.

Do you have anything to say in your defense?"

"All is one, and one is all," the Whales replied in unison.

 

 

Chapter 16

 

While the Whales were busy making a spectacle of themselves, the humans were trying to figure out how to make themselves more of a spectacle. Since the only way to avoid an effective death sentence in the Big Freeze was to draw a 100 visitors a week, they knew it was essential to be a crowd pleaser. Their situation was made all the more difficult because of their location. The ShaD section, as has already been pointed out, was one of the least visited sections of the Zoo, so whatever they did, it would have to be pretty spectacular.

President Bush demanded that he be put in charge of the project because he was the only one who had relevant experience in the entertainment field.

"Now lookey here, guys and girls. I is the only one of us here now to know alls about the in's and the out's of this here field here thing. I was the chief of the bestest football team in all of the whole wide world of the United States of the America, God's greater country."

"Was that before or after you were a failed oil man?" President Putin sarcastically asked.

"After," replied President Bush, who paid little or no attention to adjectives, and therefore tended to miss out on sarcasm.

"You were given the post just after your father won the presidency, I believe," Mrs Thatcher said , while raising her eyebrows in a suggestive manner.

"Yep," replied President Bush, unaware of the insinuation being cast against his person.

"You have somes ideas?" asked Jordi Pujol, anxious as ever to avoid petty squabbles, and get to the point.

"Well..em..my ideas are, y'know, still in the developermentalist stage," stammered the President.

He hadn't got a single idea, but couldn't see why that should disqualify him from the post. Afterall, it had never mattered before.

"I've got an idea," said President Putin, with a malicious grin on his face. The others looked at him hopefully.

"What's the one thing most likely to grab everybody's attention? The lowest common denominator in all societies? The one thing nobody can ignore?"

"Baseball," suggested President Bush.

"No, of course not!" snapped Putin.

"Pan amb tomaquet," said Jordi Pujol, who mistakenly believed they were talking about food.

President Putin rolled his eyes up to heaven.

"Supply-side economics, and the restoration of Victorian values under a Conservative government, headed by a strong leader, who knows her own mind, and her people's minds, and won't take no for an answer. Not to mention a catchy nickname, and a powerful hair style," insisted Mrs Thatcher arrogantly.

President Putin glared at all of them while resting his head in his hands, and tapping his temple with his forefinger in a most aggressive way.

"Have I died and gone to hell?" he snarled through flared nostrils and bulging eyes.

"Sex you morons! SEX!!!"

"Well, not to the moment, many thanks. And, of all forms, I no am 'maricon'," said Jordi Pujol politely, who wasn't gay, and couldn't understand how anybody could be thinking of sex at a time like this.

"Not with you, you hairless midget. Who'd be sad enough to want to watch two baldy gits like us having sex?! What people really want to see is perverse sex between hairy types, preferably from different species."

"What?" asked President Bush guiltily, his eyes darting left and right. He had begun to have strange feelings about one of the monkeys, but thought nobody had noticed.

"What could be a better crowd puller than Mrs.Thatcher and the albino gorilla?" he announced.

"What?" screamed Mrs Thatcher, in a pitch that would have broken glass, except the one millimetre thick windows in their cage were totally unbreakable. Her eyes had taken on a steely glare that even her most hated opponents in the House of Commons had never had to face.

"Are you seriously suggesting that I have sexual relations with a gorilla in the hope that it might attract a few perverts and socialists?" incredulously asked Mrs. Thatcher, who really couldn't believe her ears.

"Yes, dammit. It's better than dying in a fridge, isn't it?" insisted President Putin.

"Not for me it isn't! I'd rather meet my maker," insisted Mrs. Thatcher.

Like almost all politicians, was convinced that God was on their side, and that on their day of judgement, Saint Peter would personally meet them at Heaven's Pearly Gates to announce a landslide victory of epic proportions. There would also be plenty of time to stick her tongue out at the leaders of the opposition in Hell below her. And if there was somewhere worse than Hell, that would be where the European Union officials would be imprisioned.

"Well, let's not be too darn hastily there, ole girl" suggested President Bush.

He knew that if one of them started having 'relations' with a simeon, it would be OK for him as well, and that monkey was making eyes at him too.

"I mean, he seems like a swell enough gorilla to me, and he sure has taken quite a shine to you, don't ye thinks? I mean ter say, how bad can it be? And it'd get the white feller off my back, if you'll forgive the pun," said President Bush, laughing at his own witticism.

"Think in the otters, and don't be a kitchen," demanded Jordi Pujol, meaning the 'others', and 'chicken'."

"It's for the greater good," insisted Putin.

"Yer know it makes sense," added President Bush.

Mrs. Thatcher looked from earnest face to earnest face. Could there be something to what they were saying? Was there really no other way to save everyone? Was it her duty to make the ultimate sacrifice, and spoil what her father had once referred to as 'her virtue'. She slowly turned her head, and took an apprehensive look at Snowflake. At that particular moment he didn't notice her staring at him because he was too busy picking lice off his bum.

"Now get this straight once and for all," she bellowed. "The only way I'm having conjugal relations with that furry monster is over my dead body!" she hollared.

Her voice was so loud that even her own ears hurt after it, and the monkeys got such a fright that they tried to run up a tree to escape, but then they realised that there weren't any trees in this new zoo, and then they felt a bit depressed.

President Putin dwelt on the words 'over my dead body', and began to think dark thoughts.

"Surely," he reasoned to himself, "the one thing even stranger than an inter-species sexual encounter would be an inter-species sexual encounter where one of the parties was dead. It would appeal to bestiality necrophiliacs everywhere. It was an untapped section of the market, just waiting to be exploited."

Mrs. Thatcher most definitely did not like the disturbing way President Putin was smiling and rubbing his hands, with a kind of homicidal look in his eyes. Even President Bush was licking his lips as he stared amorously at the monkeys. Jordi Pujol was also licking his lips, but that was because he was hungry. Snowflake the gorilla was licking his fingers, unaware and unconcerned about how unhygenic it was, after where his hands had just been.

To Mrs.Thatcher's eyes, things had never looked so grim. As in all times of crisis, the words of Winston Churchill came ringing into her ears:

"We shall fight them on the beaches,

We shall fight them on the shore,

We shall defend our island

Whatever the cost may be.

We shall never surrender!

Chapter 17

 

When the Whales eventually sobered up, they had the most unbelievable hangover. It was made all the more unbelievable because it was the first time any of them had ever taken a narcotic of any description. Whales are, by their nature, a very sober lot, who believe that reality must be accepted in all its forms, and not tampered with articially to make it look more attractive.

The first thing they noticed when they woke up was that they didn't have the slightest idea where they were. The water was transparent and not purple so they probably weren't on Planet Zoo anymore. Even more disturbing was the faint odour of urine in the water, and how stale and artificial it seemed. It appeared to be night time because there was only a very faint greyish light coming from above, which must have been moonlight, or was it? It seemed so artificial.

The Whales racked their minds trying to discover what had happened. The last thing they could remember was heading towards the stage with a peculiar twitchy feeling in their stomach, but then everything turned into a blur. Big Willy Whale had had a horrible nightmare about singing grotesque human songs in the form of limericks, and Wally Whale had suffered from an even stranger nightmare where they had all appeared in court charged with several breaches of contract, and lost the rights to all their species songs for all time. What made the dreams all the more disturbing was how real they seemed to be.

Suddenly a loud thud reverberated through the water, and Winnona Whale let out a loud yelp of pain. She had banged her head against a rock or something. They had been sobusy talking to each other that they were not paying any attention to their ultra-sound indicators, and hadn't noticed it. When they did begin to scan the world around them, they were in for a most unpleasant surprise.

"It's a tank!" gasped Wally Whale in disbelief.

It should be noted that the word 'tank' has all kinds of unpleasant connotations for whales. In fact, when Whales want their children to behave, they have a habit of threatening them with being put into a tank, and being made to perform demeaning tricks in front of bipedal land creatures who infested a land without water, and should have died out a long time ago. Indeed, one of the Whales great heros, Whaley Mandela, has spent over forty years locked up in a tiny tank in Florida, and still hadn't even been formally charged with anything. Whatsmore, no date has yet been set for his release.

"I can't believe it," mumbled Big Willy. "But how in Neptune did we end up here?"

His question was answered by a three-meter long blue shark who came roaring up to them, swaggering in that aggressive way so many sharks do.

"'Cause you blew it big time man!" he informed them, not without, it has to admitted, a great deal of relish.

"What do you mean?" asked Winnona Whale, unable to keep the nervousness out of her voice.

All creatures feel a little nervous around sharks. You just can't trust them-even their mother's don't trust them, and come to think of it, they don't trust their mothers, who have a nasty habit of eating them if they overstay their welcome. The unwholesome truth is that being eaten by one's mother is one of the greatest causes of death among juvenile sharks, and may partly account for how aggressive they become in later life.

"I mean you blew it. Big time man!" the shark told them again, through a set of 122 gritted sharp teeth. A shark's most annoying habit (apart from always wanting to eat you, of course) is their tendency to repeat things verbatim.

"Why exactly is it we have blown, and why precisely have we blown it so completely?" asked Big Willy, attempting to tie the shark down, metaphorically at least, although he would have preferred to tie him down physically as well, because he didn't like the way he was looking at his tasty dorsal fin.

"You've blown the biggest record deal this year, that's what, you bunch of disease ridden junky filth," the shark snarled.

Slowly, the Whales vague nightmares began to take shape, and they realised that they hadn't been only bad dreams afterall. They were, in fact, a ghastly reality. They had been sued for every galactic credit they were worth, and every Whale on Planet Whale was now a pauper, with nothing but a couple of flippers to his name. The only consolation they could think of was at least they wouldn't have to go back to Planet Whale and explain the whole sordid story.

"Where are we exactly?" asked Wally Whale, expecting to be told he had been confined to some dreadful prison tank for eternity and a day.

"You are on board a charted cargo ship en route to your home planet, Earth," the shark said, putting a deliberate emphasis on the word 'Earth'.

"What do you mean 'Earth'?" asked the Whales, conscious of the intended snub."Our home planet is Whaleton," they corrected him.

"No, dope-fiends, your home planet was 'Whaleton', but it was taken from you as part of the punishment for your terrible breach of contract. In future, your planet will be known as planet Earth."

This was the ultimate insult, as far as the Whales were concerned. Money was transitory, and played little importance in Whale culture and folklore, but your name, that was a different matter altogether. When a species loses the right to name its own planet, it has lost the right to consider itself the dominant species on that planet. The Whale family didn't know how they could look their fellow Whales in the blubber, and tell them that they had lost even their name, and from now on, they would be nothing more than a disgraced species living on a planet named after SHaD bipeds whose brains were smaller than a galactic credit card number. Oh, the ignominity of it all. The Whale family couldn't take it anymore and they began to cry, or to be more exact, they began to whale, in that mournful tone which has always been their trademark.

"Oh stop that moaning nonsense at once, you miserable sods," demanded the shark.

He couldn't understand sadness, and like most species, he despised everything that he couldn't understand. Sharks are one of the oldest and proudest species in the galaxy, and evolved long before emotions like sadness had even been dreamt of. If there was one maxim which characterised sharks above all others, it was that if a shark didn't have it, you didn't need it.The Whales did not, however, cease to whale, and the shark decided to swim off, and leave the alone in their misery. He was, to be quite honest, afraid it might be infectious. Humans, curiously enough, display the same aversion to unhappiness, and for just the same reason.

The Whales were so wrapped up in their own despair that they failed to notice that at one end of the tank there was a dirty sheet of glass, and behind it there were small baldy bipeds looking and pointing at them.

"Why, lookey there, guys an' girls," began President Bush, "I can see some err..real big dolphins."

"They're whales, you ignoramus," Mrs. Thatcher corrected him.

"A fish is a fish!" President Bush said testily.

"Not are fishes, they are mamalias," Jordi Pujol said, who used to be a doctor, and knew about such things.

President Bush wasn't all that sure what a mammal was, so rather than show his ignorance, he kept quiet. It was the same approach he had successfully used to win the presidency.

"I wonder why they are here with us," asked President Putin.

"They probably want to apologise for treating three world leaders in this shameful way," said Mrs. Thatcher angrily.

"Como three?!" Jordi Pujol asked petulantly, determined not to be dwarfed by his country's relative smallness.

"'Cause the provincial of Catalunatic, or wherever it is you keep on sayin' 'tis you come from, ain't no Goddam country at all!" spat President Bush, determined, as always, to put down everybody else at every opportunity. Jordi Pujol decided to avoid the argument, and tried to steer the conversation in a more productive direction.

"Go we to remember that the whales have the power of our race in the hands," Pujol reminded everyone.

"Don't yer mean claws," said President Bush cockily.

"No, he means fins, now shut up," ordered Mrs. Thatcher. "But Mr Pujol has a point, you know. If we could get the whales to become our friends, we could eliminate the danger posed by the record executive who's trying to coerce them into wiping us out, and save the British taxpayer, I mean the human race, for all eternity," Mrs. Thatcher said huskily and excitedly.

She was already dreaming of her triumphant return to politics at the head of a new and revived Conservative party. A new Blue Green Conservative Party for a New Britain. Her head was spinning.

President Putin was thinking along similar lines, and President Bush was...well, actually he had gone off to play with the monkeys, because hihs attention span was so limited, but the same idea would occur to him later. Jordi Pujol, on the other hand, was dreaming of the possible scope for inter-planetary communication which might be opened up, and how life would never be the same again.

"Hey whales over there," shouted President Putin.

This was a very inauspicious way for the first real communication between whales and humans to begin, but it was a marked improvement on women spreading lipstick made out of whale blubber onto their pouting lips.

The Whales were temporarily lifted out of their misery, and swam towards their fellow prisoners.

The humans noticed they were getting nearer, and it was Jordi Pujol who began the formal negotiations,

"Bon dia. How to you it go, friends?" he asked .

"It's been better," they replied sighing.

"Was your concert well-received?" asked President Putin, who knew how musicians liked nothing more than to talk about their music.

"Well, I wouldn't say that exactly," replied the Whales, anxious to avoid telling the whole story.

"I'm sure it was too high-brow for them. What do plebs know about real music anyway?" continued President Putin, who had spent enough time at the Bolshoi to recognize the snobbiness in all performers, especially after a bad review.

The Whales were flattered by the President, and were too polite to point out that what humans laughably refer to as music is, in reality, musically inferior to the farting noises made by some species.

"It's very kind of you to say so," replied the Whales.

Permit me apologise for the beings humans for kill you in the past," said Jordi Pujol humbly, anxious to get get the sorries out of the way as soon as possible.

"Apology accepted," replied the Whales.

 

Chapter 18

 

With those few words, the history on life on Planet Whaleton, or planet Earth to give it its little used official name, would change forever. While the intellectual difference between the Whales and the humans was too great for any real friendship to develop, an understanding was reached.

Humans agreed to keep away from the oceans, and to stop polluting them with their poisons, and the Whales agreed not to use chemical weapons to wipe humans off the face of the Earth.

While the Whales did not actually lie when making this agreement, it should be noted that they did not really tell the whole truth either. As the name of the Planet had been changed from Planet Whaleton to Planet Earth (or Planet Human, to give it its unpleasant scientific title), the Whales were not actually allowed to eliminate the humans anymore, as they were no longer the planet's dominant species. The humans, strangely enough, were now legally entitled to do what they had been doing for decades, that it, committing indiscriminate genocide against land, sea or air creatures for no reason whatsoever.

The humans could, of course, have discovered this fact by taking out a simple subscription to any of the Universe's periodicals, but as neither they nor the Whales had a galactic credit to their names, they were effectively cut off from the rest of the galaxy, and would remain so for the forseeable future because there's absolutely nothing on Earth anybody wants to buy. The Whale's brief musical stardom quickly vanished, and they were immediately dismissed as yet another flash in the pan, who were totally washed up in some forgotten corner of the galaxy.

Strangely enough, washed up in some forgotten corner of the galaxy, was by far the safest place to be, as the 3547th Galactic war was just about to break out, which would put civilisation back another millenia...again.

The Whale family were not only forgiven for losing every cent their race had ever had (or ever would have), they actually became Whale Heroes. They were presented with sonic medals by Whale Mandela himself, after his triumphant release from Florida's Waterworld prison camp. Furthermore, Clause 1 in the Whale Human Accord Treaty (WHAT) specifically stated that the name of the planet was Whaleton, and would remain so in perpetua. The Whales survived and prospered with dignity.

Human society also continued to advance, but at a tortuously slow pace due, of course, to the tortoise-like brain of the species in question. Mrs.Thatcher swept to victory once more, and spent the remaining ten years of her life exacting a cruel revenge on those responsible for her earlier downfall. After that, she spent her time in bloody and blissful argument with Brussels, the opposition and anybody else who dared to disagree with her on any topic. She was happier than ever.

President Putin was also given a second mandate in Russia, and his memoirs, 'How I Saved the Human Race Single-Handidly Without Any Help From The West' are still a best seller. Apart from an aversion to all small and confined spaces, he escaped from the experience unharmed. He still has nightmares from time to time about some of his experiences, but who doesn't?

Jordi Pujol retired to his mountain retreat, and spent the rest of his life sitting by an old log fire reading up on Whales, and indeed he came out of retirement once every year to chair the annual Whale-Human Forum, which was held just off the Icelandic coast, and was conducted from beginning to end entirely in the Catalan language. For reasons nobody could understand, the Whales had taken a liking to it.

President Bush, however, did not fair so well. Nobody was less pleased to see him than Al Gore, who was just about to give his presidential acceptace speech in Washingtonin front of an enormous cheering crowd, when all of a sudden, a rusty spaceship appeared overhead blotting out the sun.

The whole world was held its breath, and nearly choked to death when a desheveled President Bush was beamed down onto the podium just in front of Gore. The two men immediately began a rather unsightly fist fight, and they had to be separated by secret service agents, just as President Bush was about to bite off Gore's ear. It was a neat trick he had learnt from his monkey marine squad on board the spaceship.

Al Gore retired permanently from politics because he had understandably begun to believe that somebody in Heaven had it in for him. Although what anybody from the Republican party would be doing in Heaven was a mystery to him.

Initially, everything went well for Bush, and he was greeted as a national hero. Nobody even raised an eyebrow when he moved the troop of monkeys from the space ship into the White House to keep him company. It even increased his popularity at first, and he was warmly praised as an animal lover with a heart of gold. His benevolent action was the first (and last) shining example of compasionate conservatism.

It was only when he nominated one of the monkeys as Secretary of Defense, with special responsibility for the Star Wars Program, that people began to get a little suspicious. His fate was sealed when his wife announced to a shocked press that he had been enjoying conjugal relations with the very same monkey, and that she was suing him for divorce on the grounds of infidelity. Her appeal was granted, and shortly after he was impeached on the grounds that he was just too damn barmy, even for that job.

At present he is living in Wonderland with Micheal Jackson and the same monkey. His book,'I Gave it All Up for the Monkey I Loved,' has not become a best seller, and the explicit nature of some of the material means that many book shops won't even stock it.

Snowflake, the Albino gorilla, returned to Barcelona Zoo, and his personal haerum. He is thought to be quite happy, although he does occasionally get a love sick, sad forlorn look in his eye when tall, old English women walk by carrying big handbags.

Finally, zoos have grown enormously in popularity, which all goes to show, that the moral of the story is, people never really learn the moral of the story.