Chapter Six. Welcome to Nerdle.
Sogwa looked out from the Crystal Cuddle Ship, and saw in the black of the sky a beautiful cloud. It shone by its own light, in every color of the rainbow. She said, “How pretty!”
The Nerdlings said, “That’s the Smoff Nebula. It’s what’s left of Smoff, our former sun. We were born and we evolved under its light. Smoff was big and blue and brilliant, but doomed to go boom. We learned its fate almost too late; a measly million years were left until its core’s collapse to a supernova blast.”
Sogwa said, “Weren’t you scared?”
“Not at all!” said the Nerdlings, and then said, “Well, yes we were, a little, until we figured out what to do. We launched big tug ships into space; and we lowered cables from the tug ships down to Nerdle; and we fastened the cables good and tight; and the tug ships tugged and tugged and tugged; and after only ten thousand years of tugging our world flew away from Smoff and hurtled into the dark between the stars.”
Sogwa said, “Didn’t it get cold, in the dark between the stars?”
“It got so cold that Nerdle’s oceans froze over and the air snowed out of the sky. We huddled underground, and whiled away the millennia by reading comic books and playing video games. It took nine hundred thousand years of towing to pull Nerdle to a safe distance. Finally we reached this star, the red dwarf star Fanac, and we docked here and warmed up. Our air blew back into the sky and our oceans melted and we went out to do some gardening. Our old sun Smoff exploded a hundred thousand years after we got here; there are its dusty remains. Sometimes we miss the old sun, but you’re right, it does make a pretty nebula. Fanac is small and red and dim, but it will shine a thousand times longer than Smoff ever did.”
Sogwa looked away from the beautiful rainbow cloud that used to be Nerdle’s old sun. She looked in the opposite direction, and saw a Thing so strange and hideous that she yowled with fright. “What is that eldritch horror?” she cried.
The Nerdlings said, “Oh, that’s just our shoggoth.”
Sogwa said, “What’s a shoggoth?”
“It’s a mind-bending soul-sucking energy vampire from another dimension. This one strayed into this universe through a rift in space; then he menaced our world.”
“Weren’t you scared?”
“Not at all!” said the Nerdlings, and then said, “Well, yes we were, a little, until we figured out what to do. We built a laser cage and baited it with a music CD full of improv jazz. When the shoggoth snuck in to suck all the soul out of the CD, we turned the lasers on.”
Sogwa said, “That’s how you trapped him, but why is he loose now?”
“Don’t worry, he’s quite tame. Watch this.” The Nerdlings shouted by radio, “Here Kthooly! Here boy! Fetch the flying saucer! Yes! Now sit! Good boy! Roll over! That’s right! Play dead! Goooood shoggoth! Have a treat!” They tossed the shoggoth a pellet of plutonium, which the monster snapped up.
The Nerdlings said, “We reward Kthooly with treats when he is nice, and punish him with lightning when he is naughty. We feed him radium, thorium, and CDs full of reggae, gospel choir, and the blues. Once a century we empty his litterbox and walk him seven orbits backwards around Fanac. We scrub his scales, polish his fangs, and sharpen his stinger. We constantly check him for parasites, and we keep him vaccinated against glitches and the hex.”
Sogwa said, “That sounds like a lot of work.”
The Nerdlings said, “It’s a big responsibility to keep a pet.”
Just then the super-ship passed an immense wreck. Sogwa said, “What’s that?”
The Nerdlings said, “That is the wreckage of a planet-smashing Death Moon from the Evil Empire. The imperial overlords parked their Death Moon in orbit around Nerdle, and they said, ‘Pay us taxes or be destroyed!’ ”
Sogwa said, “Weren’t you scared?”
“Not at all!” said the Nerdlings, and then said, “Well, yes we were, a little, until we figured out what to do. We sicced our shoggoth on them.”
Sogwa inspected the Death Moon’s wreckage. “It looks kinda chewed up.”
The Nerdlings said, “After Kthooly was done with the Death Moon, we radioed the Evil Empire. We said that Fanac is small, red, dim, and ours. They haven’t bothered us since.”
And Sogwa asked herself, “What Scary Menace could possibly frighten these Nerdlings, who fear neither black hole nor supernova nor shoggoth nor imperial death moon?”
Finally they reached Nerdle. They parked the Crystal Cuddle Ship in orbit, and the crew of the super-ship called by radio down to the planet, “We are the Nerdlings, on board the Crystal Cuddle Ship, on a mission to rescue Nerdle.”
The Nerdlings on the planet radioed back, “We are the Nerdlings, on board planet Nerdle, requesting rescue from the Scary Menace.”
The Nerdlings on the ship said, “We bear the Sogwa, the hero, inventor and teacher who will free us forever from the fear of the Scary Menace.”
Sogwa squirmed a bit. She thought; all this praise is fun, but really I’m just an ordinary supercat. The Nerdlings on the planet below overheard her thought and radioed, “She’s modest, too. May we have your ship so we can flee this planet?”
“Yes, and may we have your planet so we can get off this ship?”
“Yes, and may we run away right away?”
“No. Wait until the Sogwa defeats the Scary Menace, then you can flee the Scary Menace by taking the Sogwa to Earth. Drop her off there, pick her up there, and get back when you left.”
“So this is a time loop.”
“We knew you’d say that.”
“Then let us say no more.”
So the Crystal Cuddle Ship landed, and opened its front and back doors. All the Nerdlings on the ship ran out the back door onto the planet; and all the Nerdlings on the planet ran in the front door into the ship; and they did this in the blink of an eye because they are faster than a speeding bullet.
And Sogwa strolled out, marvelling at the ways of the Nerdlings.