“Hand me the lightning torch,” said Captain Milty as he peered into the dark hold of the abandoned ship.
“This one has a fresh charge,” said Miltin as he passed the stick-like object forward, one end glowing a bright blue-white.
“Do we have any idea what happened aboard this poor lady?” the captain paused to rub at a black stain that streaked across the large crate in front of him. “Salvage missions are all well and good, but I would just as soon trade up for a rescue, instead.”
Miltin dug around in the pocket dimension he carried about in lieu of one sewn into the clothing he did not wear. After half a moment he pulled out a complicated bit of machinery with a whirly bit on top making a low metallic mutter. He waved it slowly around the space. “No life signs down here or apparent damage to the ship. Everyone should keep eyes out for clues, hints, or scrawled messages, but we will probably have to wait for the ship’s log,” Miltin said, studying his machine with a slight frown and making thoughtful adjustments.
From behind the two small Mooses came the soft sound of a poof rubbing an antler. Monroe stood well back where he would not loom or crowd his two companions. He almost filled the hallway of the small ship, and had spent much of the voyage thus far in the background keeping out of people’s way. Monroe seldom left the valley and no one on board could quite figure out what he was doing as part of the crew on that voyage, especially Monroe. He preferred to farm on the northern slopes of the Valley. When he was not farming he could be found performing with Mufo in partnered magic stage shows, but when Moozie suggests you go somewhere, somewhere you go, especially if he appears in person, even if it makes no sense.
“So the ship is undamaged, but no one is on board?” the Captain asked the taller Moose while Miltin frowned and fiddled.
“Well, I do not know that I would say quite that,” Monroe said slowly, still rubbing. “We certainly have not seen anyone on board, but something makes the ship feel…almost crowded anyway. I keep wanting to say ‘Excuse me’ as I walk down perfectly empty companion ways.” Monroe grimaced and shook his head. He lifted both pooves to rub his antlers vigorously.”Whatever it is, it makes my antlers itch something furious. I do not know if the itch is getting worse or if it something down here in the hold is the cause and the itch is worse because I am getting closer.”
Captain Milty glanced at Miltin and then said, “Maybe you should go up on deck to see if that makes any difference.”
Monroe nodded to the captain, smiled wryly at Miltin and turned carefully in the relatively small space. When Monroe was gone, Captain Milty asked, “Did that tell you anything?”
“You know about the Slide Network and the Moose Pockets, right?” Miltin asked, rummaging around in the latter, neatly contained bit of other space that Miltin and many other Mooses carried their things in.
“That is your collection of water slides for travelling from place to place and the dimensional bubbles you make for those who do not wear clothes, correct?” Captain Milty said with a nod even as he stuffed his forepooves into the deep pockets of his gold buttoned long coat. The good captain understood the usefulness, convenience, and even fun to be had with Miltin’s creations, but he vastly preferred the freedom and joy to be had travelling in his ship, not to mention striding along the deck in his tri-cornered hat, long coat, and boots.
“I got the original idea for them watching Monroe’s magic acts. He has a natural feel for dimensional work. That is probably what is bothering him,” Miltin said, working on the machine in his hand with a long, thin tool of his own design.
“This scanner is utterly reliable in the ordinary sort of way and there is nothing wrong with it that I can find. Still, it is having trouble settling on the size and shape of this room, much less its contents. I imagine if it had antlers and pooves, it would be rubbing the one with the other, just like Monroe,” Miltin said with a half smile on his face. Then, both tool and machine slipped out of sight while Miltin shook his head.
“I wish I thought to bring some of the instruments I use to calibrate new slides I am constructing,” Miltin said, unconsciously lifting his left poof to caress an antler point.
Captain Milty glanced at Miltin’s raised limb, and the smaller Moose snatched it away guiltily. “I wonder if our great magician can use his gift to substitute for your gadgets,” the Captain mused.
“He probably can if he can adjust for, or if we can find a way to shield him from the irritation somehow. My little scanner was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown before I put it away. I do not imagine the sensation can be any more fun for Monroe.” Miltin looked around the dimly lit hold, looking for extra shadows, movement that should not be still, or other such things. Finding nothing he could lay a poof on, Miltin followed the Captain towards the main deck in search of Monroe.
They found the missing Moose standing in the center of the deck. He had his head held at an odd angle with his left antler stuck up against the main mast.
“What are you doing, Monroe?” asked Captain Milty as he studied the unusual pose.
“Uhm, I seem to have my antler stuck.” With those words, Monroe thrashed about moderately in an attempt to free his head. Both Miltin and Captain Milty could see how hard Monroe struggled, but, otherwise, it looked like he had just one antler resting against tall pole with nothing at all there to hold it.
“How did you end up in that position in the first place?” Captain Milty asked as both he and Miltin examined the misbehaving antler. With Monroe’s head bent down that way, the Captain could reach as he was, but Miltin had to climb part way up the mast to get a good view.
Both Miltin and the Captain got the impression that Monroe would have ducked his head away if he could have, but he answered promptly enough. “I was dodging out of the way of something that was not there. After it passed, or did not pass depending on how you look at it, some other, quite large, thing I could not see knocked into me and now I seem to be pinned, though as soon as I started to fall back, I could no longer feel the thing that hit me.”
Monroe closed his eyes and struggled a bit more. For a moment, both sailors saw him press his pooves against an invisible something and push. His antler made a slight movement towards freedom and then all four of Monroe’s pooves slipped through the empty air as one might expect them to do. His back pooves, no longer having anything to support him against let the poor Moose fall and hang by one antler until they found purchase upon the deck once again.
“Is sailing always like this?” Monroe asked. “There is something there. I know there is, but I can not quite reach it. Whatever it is slips away as soon as I touch it, and yet I am still stuck.” Monroe smacked at the invisible something.
The loud slap of contact surprised all three Mooses, but not half so much as the loud, warbling, trumpeting, clearly affronted noise that followed. Monroe fell abruptly to sit on the deck and rubbed his stinging palm on his red and white striped trousers.