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Happy Holidays, Vulgarweed!

Title: To Ineffability and Beyond
Pairing/Characters: Aziraphale/Crowley
Rating: Explicit [nsfw]
Word count: 22,900
Warnings: Smut, body horror, bestiality??
Summary: Far into the future, Aziraphale and Crowley get a new assignment: to accompany humanity into the deepest reaches of a distant galaxy.








Chapter 1

You would be surprised at humans’ ability to make any topic politically controversial.


Well, you might not, since you’re a human yourself. Or presumably you’re a human, since aliens don’t exist. But we’ll get to that later.


The point is, conservative factions on Earth managed to raise objections to the idea of interstellar travel at every step. First there was talk about how atheists wanted to use space travel to further their secular agenda. Then there were objections that aliens, if they existed, would be damned to Hell and it wasn’t worth finding them. Alternatively, some kind souls argued it was their duty to proselytize the aliens, if there were any. Those factions argued into stalemate. Then some on earth said that it would be dangerous and immoral to send humans into the depths of space for a variety of reasons, none of which could be articulated properly, of course, because they were ineffable. Comparisons with the tower of Babel abounded—humans had no business trying to reach the sky, and the deep space program was a work of human hubris like nothing before it. These arguments were countered by religious liberals who argued that they had a right or even a duty to explore all of God’s creation so it could be properly admired.


Aziraphale eyed the developments with nervousness. He’d received no orders from Up There about the topic, so he kept his head in the sand as much as possible. When he could not help getting involved, he generally tried to persuade humans to keep their feet on the ground. Not because he was taking the side of the religious protesters in the debate, but because he did not like the thought of Heaven sending him on a journey a million light-years away. He could see it off in the distance coming towards him, like a train on an inevitable track.


Exploring the galaxy. Where no man (etc.) had gone before. Giant leap for mankind, and all that. The talk about the bird on the spaceship travelling for eternity to the end of the universe came back to him. He didn’t like it at all. Space seemed uncomfortable and dismal and he probably wouldn’t be able to bring his books.


Well, that issue was resolved when new laws put into place restricted the use of paper. He holed himself up for a week in the throes of depression after it happened, because he knew his collection would be seized as contraband. They would give him digital copies, of course, but it wasn’t the same. He thought bitterly of the Library of Alexandria and how they had stolen the manuscripts of everyone coming in. It didn’t seem fair now that he was on the other side of things. The computer bank he received as compensation just didn’t have the same effect as being surrounded by books. But it did make him feel better that he could take his collection with him rather easily if he should have to move.


It seemed like an increasingly likely possibility when finally, after centuries of development, interstellar space travel became a reality.


They tested with a probe, of course. Humans always use a probe first for everything. But the government said that the test was in preparation for a manned mission to colonize a distant planet.


Humans watched the probe, did their calculations, and turned their telescopes to the stars to find a suitable candidate planet. Aziraphale drank more heavily than usual during this time, waiting, watching.


The probe was successful. An enormous deep-space vessel was commissioned. Aziraphale waited for the orders he just knew were coming. Then finally:


Your new mission is to relocate with the humans who will board the Aphelion vessel and continue your angelic duties in their new destination.


At this point in history, Crowley and Aziraphale had been living together for several hundred years, so Crowley saw the instructions as soon as the angel got them. He shook Aziraphale by the shoulders.


“We get to be space explorers!


“Yes,” said Aziraphale dismally.


“Where no man has gone before,” said Crowley, tripping in his excitement.


“Yes, of course, dear.”


“Hell is going to send me too, of course.”


“I’m sure they will.”


“We should start packing.”


“It’s going to take decades to build the vessel, my dear.”


Over the next few years, Crowley’s consumption of science-fiction media skyrocketed. He got out his telescope every night and looked at the sky from the porch of their little cottage to track the progress of the construction of the vessel. The thing was so enormous that it had to be constructed in orbit as there would be no way for it to escape Earth’s gravity. It was visible to the naked eye in the sky as it began to take shape.


Humans had a pretty decent mastery over living and working in space by that point. They’d had a colony on Mars for a while; Crowley had gone up to see what it was all about, but he’d returned a few years later complaining that it had been incredibly boring since they weren’t terraforming Mars and were just living in a big bubble mining things. But he remarked on how efficient it was. Humans truly were fluent in the mechanics of working in space.


So the construction of the Aphelion vessel was rapid, efficient, and enthusiastic. And yet Crowley began to mutter to himself when he saw how it was coming along.


“What’s the matter, dear?” Aziraphale said, coming up behind him one evening with a mug of cocoa for each of them.


Crowley took his cup sourly. “I don’t like it.”


“What? The ship?”


“Yeah.”


“And why not?”


“It’s…” He struggled to put his feelings into words. “It’s….not cool!”


“Not cool? It’s an interstellar space ship! What could possibly make it un-cool?”


“Just look at it!”


Aziraphale turned, gazing up at the sky and sipping his cocoa. The vessel was faintly visible in orbit, mostly built, although parts of it still had a skeletal frame and nothing more. “What about it?”


“It looks like a bloody Hula-Hoop! Or a wagon wheel!”


“Crowley, the ship is circular so it can spin and generate artificial gravity with centrifugal force. What did you think it was going to look like?”


Crowley had been thinking of the thirty-fifth James Bond movie, which had taken place in space and had not been scientifically accurate. It wouldn’t do to admit that, of course, so he sipped his cocoa bitterly without answering.


His enthusiasm returned when their applications for becoming colonists arrived in the electronic mail. He opened them the second he laid eyes on them. The two of them snuggled together on the couch to fill them out.


The questions were pretty basic, although the two of them had a hard time answering them. Date and place of birth were difficult to decide on, and neither of them had ever been to the physician and didn’t know their blood type.


“Angel,” said Crowley. “Look at item 137.”


Aziraphale scrolled to the end of his application and saw that 137 was a simple statement in bold:


THE INTENTION OF THE APHELION MISSION IS A PERMANENT SETTLEMENT ON PLANET KEPLER-442B. THE APHELION VOYAGER IS EQUIPPED FOR A RETURN JOURNEY TO EARTH IN THE EVENT OF MISSION FAILURE, BUT THE LIKELIHOOD OF A RETURN JOURNEY TO EARTH IS VERY SMALL. BY SIGNING HERE, YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU ARE AWARE OF AND ACCEPT THIS LIKELIHOOD.


“What’s the matter?”


“If we get on board, we’re probably not going to come back to Earth. They don’t have any plans to come back.”


Aziraphale set the screen with his application down on the table. “Well, I had thought that was a given. They’re going out there to colonize. And it’s very far away.”


Crowley was looking at his application with an expression of sorrow.


“Had you not thought about that?’


He tapped a finger on the side of his screen. “It’s not worth staying here anymore since they stopped making cars,” he said, signing the line.


It was said with a forced joking tone. Aziraphale took his hand. “Crowley, it’s not the same as Armageddon. It’ll still be here. It’ll just be a bit further away.”


“Yeah,” said Crowley. “Yeah, you’re right.”


Aziraphale thought he was quashing down his feelings because it had already been decided that Aziraphale was going, and one of them staying and the other going was unthinkable. And maybe, just maybe the thought of being on a space ship and going off into the unknown where strange and exciting things awaited was enough to make up for it.


They were both called in for the second round of screening. They were given a physical examination, an ethics test, an aptitude test, a personality test. Crowley chatted excitedly about the questions, which were supposed to be confidential, as soon as they stepped out of the testing center.


Their results came back within a month: Crowley had been accepted for the third round of screening, while Aziraphale was given a letter of polite declination. Aziraphale glared at Crowley when the demon turned red and shook with suppressed laughter, and then the angel set about changing his corporation and applying again under a different name.


The second attempt was also rejected. Crowley fell into a giggling heap on the couch. Aziraphale huffed indignantly and asked Crowley to pull some strings in the computer system to let him in, the same way he had designed the sigil Odegra into the M25 all those centuries ago when humans still used highways.


“Oh, all right,” he said. “Anything for you, angel.”


***


Aziraphale was awoken by the sound of bare feet on the wood floor rapidly pattering towards him, and then a weight ramming into him.


Oof!” Aziraphale wheezed, opening his eyes to see that Crowley had jumped onto the bed and landed directly on the angel’s ribs.


“Wake up, angel!” Crowley said, bouncing on the mattress excitedly. “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Today’s the day! It’s today!”


“Yes, all right, all right,” said Aziraphale, untangling himself from the sheets. “Give me a moment.”


There was already a cup of tea waiting for him on the table. Crowley was busily moving things around in the kitchen.

“Crowley, what are you doing? The landlord is going to be coming later today to take care of the house.”

Crowley shook his hands out. “I don’t know. I’m just so excited.”


“Relax, dear. Just enjoy the morning, because things will be very different soon.”


They ate a leisurely breakfast, although Crowley’s leg was still vibrating under the table. Crowley grabbed the suitcases, and Aziraphale wheeled the cart that had his digital collection of books behind him.


“See, you can take your whole collection with you!” said Crowley. “Humans know what they’re doing.”


They stopped by the park to feed the ducks one last time, emptying a bag of birdseed onto the ground and watching them squabble over it. Aziraphale had to convince Crowley not to try and sneak a mallard onto the Aphelion.


They arrived at the airport and went straight to the gates reserved for interplanetary travel. Crowley had cheated to get them first class seats, so they got to sip champagne while they waited to board.


“So where are you two headed?” said a woman who sat down next to them, a kind soul who apparently had never gotten the memo that small talk with strangers was taboo.


“The Aphelion,” Crowley answered proudly.


“No way!” said the woman. “Lucky! I applied to go, but they turned me down.”


“Not that lucky,” said the man waiting on the other side of them. “They get to go into deep space and live on some barren rock and never come back. Probably go mad with cabin fever and kill each other, the lot of them. I’ll pass.”


Crowley glared at the man, but he was wearing his sunglasses so the intended effect was lost.


They were finally called on board. Interplanetary ships looked a lot like airplanes, except they pointed nose-up at the sky and you had to climb a ladder to get to your seat. Crowley and Aziraphale allowed their luggage to be wheeled away and strapped themselves in, suspended in their seats looking up.


“Aziraphale, have you ever been on an interplanetary trip?” said Crowley as the seats around them filled in.


“Afraid not,” said Aziraphale. “Prefer to keep my feet on the ground, I suppose.”


“Halfway through the flight, the whole cabin is at zero-G, and while you’re not technically supposed to unstrap yourself and move around, the stewards will usually let you if it looks like you know what you’re doing.”


“Charming.”


“You’re not going to give it a shot?”


“No.”


A man in a flight attendant’s outfit came through and made sure everyone had strapped themselves in, as though they were on an amusement park ride.


“Attention in the cabin,” said the voice of the pilot through the intercom. “Welcome aboard flight T654. Our destination today is Earth’s moon with a layover in the upper ionosphere. We have some special passengers on board today headed to the Aphelion.


Crowley enthusiastically waved his hands above his head. Aziraphale grabbed his arms and pulled them down.


“This is a reminder that the pull of gravity decreases the further we get from earth and then increases closer to the moon. Docking at the Aphelion will bring us up to approximately 1.1G’s, so if you’re remaining on the shuttle please stay in your seat for the duration of that connection.”


“How are we going to dock with the Aphelion?” said Aziraphale. “I thought it was spinning around at a zillion revolutions per hour?”


“That’s what generates the artificial gravity,” said Crowley from beside him, in an impeccable and nasally imitation of Aziraphale’s voice. The angel glared at him.


“Now, if you please, pay attention to the health and safety demonstration at the front of the shuttle, and we can take off.”


The in-flight video demonstrated where the emergency exits were (“Where on Earth would we be exiting to?” Aziraphale commented, to which Crowley replied, “No.”), the location of the emergency oxygen masks (“That wouldn’t be helpful if we were in the burning cold of space!” Aziraphale had said worriedly, and Crowley had shushed him.), and a plethora of other safety devices upon which Aziraphale offered his fussy commentary.


Another flight attendant came by to check and make sure there weren’t any items loose in the cabin that would start floating around without gravity. Aziraphale thought they were rather making a big deal out of this, and people went to the moon all the time and why was this a whole big long process? They should just take off already.


The crew buckled themselves in, and the countdown finally started over the intercom.


10…9…8…


“Do they have to be so dramatic about it?” Aziraphale said.


7…6…5…


“Because I’m sure they don’t need to actually count down.”


4…3…


“It’s for the ambiance. Hey, angel.”


2…


Aziraphale looked over. Crowley was giving him a lecherous look.


1…


“I can’t wait to suck you off in zero-G.”


The woman behind Crowley had clearly heard what he had said and had a shocked look on her face. Aziraphale was thrown back flush against his seat before he could respond. The cabin rattled and shuddered. Aziraphale was glad there weren’t any windows, because he was sure they were going faster than he had ever gone before in his life.


We have liftoff.


They began to slow. The motion died down.


“Angel, relax,” said the voice beside him.


Aziraphale looked down and realized he was white-knuckling his armrest. He peeled his hand off and ran it through his hair. “That wasn’t so bad.”


Crowley suppressed a snort.


A ticker at the front of the cabin showed their altitude, skyrocketing before their eyes.


“Humans are amazing, aren’t they?” said Crowley. “Remember when they thought the moon was only a couple dozen miles away?”


“Yeah,” said Aziraphale.


They sat there in silence for a while, just holding hands, thinking of the planet zooming away beneath them.


“It seems a little odd to me that they’re only sending one angel and one demon with the Aphelion crew,” said Aziraphale. “The population is slated to be, what, several thousand isn’t it?”


“You know they don’t pay attention to those things, angel.”


“Mm, maybe they just wanted to get rid of us once and for all.”


“Ha! I wouldn’t put it past them.”


“Hmm, who should we send to be Hell’s representative on the barren ball of rock a trillion miles away? I know—that chap Crowley! He messed up the apocalypse, but surely he’s perfect for this job.”


Crowley sat in uncomfortable silence.


“Crowley? Did I say something wrong? I’m sorry, I was only joking.”


“They didn’t send me,” Crowley said.


What?


“They told me to keep my feet on the ground because they were sending another demon.”


Aziraphale grimaced. “Oh.”


Crowley flashed him a nervous smile. “Fuck ‘em, I say. What are they gonna do about it?”


“My dear, they might very well do something if we aren’t careful.”


“Whatever,” said Crowley, letting go of his hand to indignantly cross his arms. “And it’s not going to be a ‘barren ball of rock,’ Aziraphale. There’s going to be aliens on there.”


“…You can’t be serious.”


“Of course I’m serious! Aliens have to be real somewhere out there in the galaxy! It wouldn’t surprise me if they were on the very planet we’re going to!”


“Did you read the pre-voyage materials they sent us?”


Crowley didn’t answer.


“You didn’t read them.”


“It looked like homework. I don’t do homework.”


“Crowley, they already did a scan of the surface of Kepler-442b and it showed no signs of life at all. If there were a bustling alien civilization on it, I hardly think we’d be going to colonize it.”


“Wouldn’t surprise me with the way Europeans behaved in the 16th century,” Crowley muttered. “I’m telling you, there’s going to be aliens on there.”


“We have to terraform it first. There’s nothing alive on there. It’s empty.”


“Aliens. Mark my words.”


“They would have seen them.”


“They’re underground.”


Aziraphale patted his hand. “Whatever makes you feel better, dear.”


They began to feel lighter and lighter as the pull of gravity lessened. At one point Crowley looked over to see Aziraphale’s mass of curly hair had drifted upwards and ringed his head like a halo.


The intercom dinged. “We are now approaching the Aphelion for docking. If you’re getting off, please stay in your seats until the ‘Gravity’ sign at the front of the cabin turns green. Reminder that if you’re continuing on to the moon, stay in your seat.”


Aziraphale’s stomach dropped as gravity re-engaged, gradually forcing him back into his seat.


“Aw,” said Crowley. “We didn’t get to float around at all.”


One of the flight attendants came by and escorted them from their seats. They were ushered to the same door at the back of the ship from which they had entered. When it whooshed open, they were greeted by a positively utilitarian bare metal room, the front of which led to a single extremely thick, locked porthole.


“This is the place, then?” said Aziraphale. His shoes tapped on the metal as he went in.


Two stewards came out with their baggage, plopped it down, then scurried back inside.


“Have a nice journey, boys,” said one as they disappeared back into the shuttle.


The door vacuumed shut and sealed. Crowley and Aziraphale picked up their luggage. The door on the other side of the room did not open. The shuttle remained where it was.


“Ah…” said Aziraphale. “Are we supposed to…do something?”


“You’re the one who read the pre-voyage materials,” said Crowley.


A red light began to flash on the door in front of them, accompanied by an alarm that sounded like a foghorn. The porthole at the far end popped open and swung outwards with a groan. The two of them scuttled across the threshold, dragging and wheeling baggage behind them. But they found themselves in a second room identical to the first, except this one had a small, squat window in the door at the far end of the room.


The door slammed shut behind them of its own accord.


“Uh….” said Crowley.


Aziraphale strode forwards and looked into the small window. “I can’t really see anything.”


Crowley huffed and sat down on one of his suitcases. He zipped the other one open and withdrew a potted plant. It was in one of those fancy electronic pots that held all the soil in and regulated water levels.


“Ah good, he survived the baggage compartment.”


“Crowley!” said Aziraphale. “They were very clear that you’re not supposed to bring your own plants or animals on board!”


“Aw, what are they going to do about it?” said Crowley. “Nick’s already here.”


“You’ve named it.”


“He was the best of the best of the best. This spider plant is ninety-five years old and has risen to every challenge I’ve thrown at him. I’ve decided to be nice to him now. He’s proven himself. We need something to liven up our cabin! I’m sure it will be dreadful without at least one plant.”


The same red light and foghorn sounded in the empty room, and the door with the window whooshed outwards.


“Come in, come in!” said a woman’s voice.


They dragged their things out the door into a metal hallway. It was an infinite hallway, connecting rows and rows and rows of metal doors as far as the eye could see, until the unnoticeable curve became visible in the distance and the hallway dipped up and out of sight behind the ceiling.


Crowley blinked at it, fighting vertigo.


A perky woman in a blue vest smiled at them. “Welcome aboard the Aphelion, space explorers!”


As soon as her eyes fell on the plant in Crowley’s hands, she gasped and lunged at him.


“What are you doing?” Crowley yelled as she tried to wrestle it off him.


“Flora not from the approved greenhouse is strictly prohibited onboard the Aphelion!”


“Get off him!”


“I need to confiscate this, sir.”


“He never did anything to you!”


She finally managed to wrench the plant out of his hands, and she immediately threw it back through the door through which they had come and punched a button on the wall. An alarm beeped and the door slammed shut.


“Hey!” Crowley pressed against the door and peeked out the window. The plant was on its side on the floor.


Another alarm sounded, and through the window Crowley could see the door at the far end of the antechamber open, revealing the black void of space dotted with stars and milky swirls of distant galaxies. The plant flew out in the blink of an eye.


“Nick!” said Crowley. “No! You murderer!”


He turned away from the window. The woman was breathing heavily, and she smoothed back her hair and put her smile back on. “Sir, we have a seed bank on board that contains upwards of 75% of the estimated plant species on Earth. If you’d like a potted plant, you can get one from the greenhouse free of charge.”


“He didn’t deserve that.”


“Sir, if outside flora brings disease on board it would be an ecological disaster. We’ve under strict quarantine.”


Crowley crossed his arms and glared at her sourly.


“Now, may I see your boarding passes, please?”


Aziraphale took his screen out of his pocket, pulled it open, and navigated the glassy surface to the information card they had given him. Crowley was still muttering to himself as he took his out and followed suit.


“Oh, you two are in the F wing. Excellent choice,” she said. “I’m partial to the third circle myself. Come on, I’ll show you to your room.”


The wheels of Aziraphale’s cart clattered on the metal grate beneath them as they moved forwards, down that logic-defying hallway. “Did you say the third circle?” said Crowley.


Aziraphale elbowed him and whispered, “I told you to read the pre-voyage materials.”


They filed into an elevator, which ended up going more sideways than up or down. Even given the fact that there were signs and arrows and maps spattering every inch of the walls, Aziraphale and Crowley immediately got lost.


The woman in the vest gestured to a door. “Here you are, suite 889b! If you need anything, my name is Maria and my contact information will be on the vidscreen in your room. Have a nice day!”


She moved off, disappearing into the wall a distance off. They both blinked, staring down the narrow hallway.


“This place gives me the creeps,” said Crowley. “It’s like a big metal labyrinth.”


“The pre-voyage materials had a blueprint, dear,” said Aziraphale, swiping his screen in the slot on the door. “It wasn’t supposed to be a surprise to anyone.”


The door swung open. Their room was small, with one decent-sized bed in the center and a pair of dressers and not much else. All the furniture was bolted to the floor, and the walls were bare except for a vidscreen that said:

YOUR VOYAGE ASSISTANT (VA) IS MARIA

CONTACT NUMBER 60.547.8


Crowley muttered under his breath and approached the vidscreen, tapping it and swiping, crossing out Maria’s name and writing plant murderer.


Aziraphale collapsed his screen into its smallest shape and stuck it into the wall to charge. “All right, Crowley, now that we’re here, I insist that you read the pre-voyage materials. They had some very important information that you’ve simply missed. You’re going to mess something up and get us in trouble because you won’t follow directions.”


Crowley gave him a dirty look and pulled his own screen out, sliding it open and tapping on it. “All right, then, Mr. Follow-the-Rules.”


Aziraphale set about putting his clothes into his dresser. Crowley threw himself on the bed, the materials from the Aphelion management open on his screen. “Ugh, Aziraphale this thing is like a thousand screens long! It’ll take forever to get through it all.”


“It only took me a few hours, and I was taking notes.”


“Whatever, nerd.” Crowley rolled over, holding the screen above his face, the light from the ceiling shining through the screen’s translucent, plasticky surface. The first screen had a picture of the great metal donut herself, accompanied by the words WELCOME ABOARD, SPACE EXPLORERS


He flipped. The second screen went on and on about the mission statement, to expand the human consciousness into the furthest reaches of the galaxy in the noblest way, etc. He scrolled past that to the details about the star that served as their destination, Kepler-442 (K type star, nestled in the constellation Lyra), and its planet that would be their new home, Kepler-442b (exoplanet). The days on Kepler-442b were three weeks long, and with an axial tilt that small, say goodbye to seasons.


“It says it’s going to take us 500 years to get there going at twice the speed of light!” said Crowley. “They expect us to stay on here for 500 years? Hey, angel, what’s this bit about cryosleep?”


Aziraphale’s face appeared above him, warped by the screen. “Crowley, if you would actually read it, you’d see that we’re going to live on the Aphelion for about a month as it leaves the solar system, and then once we’re stable at light speed everyone on board is going to go into cryosleep until we reach our destination. It’s the only way humans could actually live long enough to get to Kepler-442.”


Crowley collapsed his screen. “Hold on, angel. You’re telling me we’re going to sleep for 500 years?


“Yes.”


“I get to sleep—”


“Yes, dear.”


“—for 500 years. And not only is this expected—


“Yes, Crowley.”


“—but it’s mandatory?


Aziraphale stared at him for an additional second and then said, “Yes, Crowley.”


“Why didn’t you tell me?” said Crowley, sliding his screen back open. “This is fantastic!”


“Because I thought you had read it,” Aziraphale said testily. He dragged Crowley’s suitcase over and began to unpack the demon’s things when it became obvious it wouldn’t get done otherwise.


Crowley noted that the pods for cryosleep would come out of the floor of their cabin, but he failed to find where they would be appearing from.


The Aphelion will be your home for the next 500 years, although you’ll only perceive it to be a few months. The living spaces are arranged in three circles. The outermost and largest circle, the first circle, holds wings A, B, and C and is subject to 1.1G’s. The second circle is slightly smaller and is maintained at exactly the same gravitational force as on Earth, and holds wings D and E. Guests in wing F in the third and innermost circle can expect to live in 0.9G for their stay. Each wing has its own greenhouse and set of amenities. Non-authorized personnel are not allowed to move further than the third circle; the force of gravity decreases with the radius of the ship, and the ship’s engines and robotics are maintained at temperatures below zero. Please note that the Aphelion is a perpetual motion machine; barring the event of catastrophic failure, the vessel always remains in motion and the outer circles should never experience zero-G. Please rest assured that the AI programs that will control the ship during cryosleep are programmed to put the safety of the human passengers as its paramount goal.


Since most of the processes on the Aphelion are automated, most of its citizens do not need to work full 6-hours days as on Earth; however, depending on your profession, you may be summoned to lend your expertise at various points throughout the journey.


Crowley had been growing bored, but he snapped back to reality as he read the part about being called to help with the ship. “Angel.”


“Hm?” said Aziraphale, not looking up from folding laundry.


“It says they might call us to help out depending on what our skillsets are.”


“Well, yes. I told them I was a shopkeeper, so I had assumed I won’t be doing much until we establish settlements on the planet.”


Crowley bit his lip.


“Crowley?”


“So…do you remember how you asked me to pull some strings to get you in?”


“Yes. Crowley…what did you do?”


“They wouldn’t take you because of the lame personnel profile you submitted! I had to make some changes to it to get you on board!”


“Crowley, what did you tell them my profession was?”


“I…may have…told them that you were a robotics engineer.”


“Crowley!” said Aziraphale. “I don’t know anything about robotics! What am I going to do if they call me to help with something?”


“Just lie!” said Crowley. “A few miracles, they’ll never know the difference!”


“I can’t lie! And I’m going to mess something up! Bugger, Crowley! What did you tell them your profession was?”


“Botanist.”


“Of course! The nice and easy one! If you get called in all you need to do is prance around in the garden for a while and—”


The vidscreen on the wall suddenly flashed to life, vibrating and showing the microphone icon that indicated a call. They both jumped with surprise, clutching each other.


They stared at the screen. The microphone vibrated.


“Ah…Hello?” said Crowley.


CROWLEY, said the voice from the screen.


“Bloody hell!” said Crowley, jumping again.


CROWLEY, WE NOTICED YOU DID NOT FOLLOW OUR INSTRUCTIONS TO STAY ON EARTH.


Crowley looked at the vidscreen fearfully.


COME BACK NOW, CROWLEY. WE HAVE PLANS FOR YOU DOWN HERE.


Crowley’s hands tightened on Aziraphale’s arm.


CROWLEY?


“No,” he said.


WHAT?


“No, I’m not coming back down. There, I said it!”


The microphone icon vibrated ominously.


“I’m a space explorer, on a mission to expand the human consciousness into the furthest reaches of the galaxy in the noblest way, etc., and I’m staying up here! What are you going to do about it? Are you going to come up and drag me back down?”


More vibrating, no speaking. A smile began to dawn on Crowley’s face.


“You can’t, can you?”


WHAT?


“You can’t get up here.”


DON’T BE RIDICULOUS. OF COURSE WE CAN.


“You can’t! Hah! You don’t know how!”


CROWLEY, WE HAVE DONE INFERNAL WORK ON MARS BEFORE.


“That was me. I’m the only demon who’s ever left Earth. Nobody else knows how to go about it, especially on such short notice.”


The icon vibrated in angry silence, and Crowley knew he had struck on the truth. He fell onto the bed laughing.


“I’m going to be sent a zillion miles away where you can’t reach me because nobody down there could figure out how to get on the shuttle fast enough.”


IT’S NOT THAT FUNNY, CROWLEY.


“Amazing. This is amazing. I know you can’t see me right now, but I’m giving you the finger.”


YOU DARE TALK TO US LIKE THIS?


“It’s two fingers now. All the way up.”


YOU’LL RECALL WE WERE SENDING ANOTHER AGENT, THOUGH.


Crowley’s smile faded.


WE HAVE PULLED A CHAOS DEMONESS STRAIGHT FROM THE PITS IN THE NINTH CIRCLE. HER POWER IS SO TERRIFYING THAT SHE HAS BEEN LOCKED AWAY FOR MILLENIA. WE HAVE RELEASED HER ESPECIALLY FOR THIS MISSION.


Crowley began to shake with peals of laughter.


CROWLEY??? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND??


“You sent a demoness who hasn’t set foot on Earth in thousands of years. And who wouldn’t know jack shite about talking to humans, let alone operating technology. To be your sole representative. On a space ship?


The icon vibrated. IN RETROSPECT, IT DOES NOT SEEM TO HAVE BEEN THE IDEAL CHOICE.


“Bloody hell!”


BUT WE HAVE REPORTS THAT SHE HAS ALREADY MANAGED TO BOOK A TICKET.


“Oh, has she? How long did that take her?”


THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT. SHE’S BETTER THAN YOU IN EVERY WAY, CROWLEY. REMEMBER THAT. GOODBYE.


The screen clicked off.


“Oof,” Crowley said, rolling over and throwing a hand over his face. “Hey, angel, how much time did you say we had before we go into cryosleep?”


“A month from when all the passengers have boarded.”


Crowley heaved a sigh. “I suppose we need to resolve this situation with the other demon onboard before we go under, then.”


“Why?”


“Put it this way. We’ll be asleep, and we wouldn’t know if someone was, say, ejecting our pods out the airlock.”


“Point taken.” Aziraphale turned back to the laundry. “We can get started on that after you finish reading the materials.”



To Be Continued...

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
vulgarweed
Dec. 7th, 2016 07:41 am (UTC)
OH MY GODS AND OTHER UNSPEAKABLES!!!

Secret writer, this is so far beyond my wildest dreams. I can't comment in all the detail I want just yet (I WILL) but I know giftfic writers always want to know what their recipient thought ASAP so just for now I want you to know this is everything I wanted and more. You rock. THANK YOU.
secret_kracken
Dec. 8th, 2016 02:24 am (UTC)
Hehehe I am so glad that you liked it! I am waving my secret tentacles in delight! For a while I was afraid it was going to be too long! Thank you for your kind words!
sous_le_saule
Dec. 7th, 2016 08:30 am (UTC)
Oooh it's so funny (but I guess things are going to be a little more complicated). I laughed all the way through this !
maniacalmole
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:56 am (UTC)
This is amazing and I can't wait to read the rest!
hsavinien
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:24 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm excited!
vulgarweed
Dec. 10th, 2016 02:47 am (UTC)
OK, proper in-depth squee like I promised!

First off huge, huge kudos for writing such a long and complex story so quickly. You must have been intensely inspired, and it shows. I love your worldbuilding, with so much vivid detail.

Well, that issue was resolved when new laws put into place restricted the use of paper. He holed himself up for a week in the throes of depression after it happened, because he knew his collection would be seized as contraband. They would give him digital copies, of course, but it wasn’t the same. He thought bitterly of the Library of Alexandria and how they had stolen the manuscripts of everyone coming in. It didn’t seem fair now that he was on the other side of things. The computer bank he received as compensation just didn’t have the same effect as being surrounded by books. But it did make him feel better that he could take his collection with him rather easily if he should have to move.


OH NO. Aziraphale refused to get a Kindle, didn't he? (The name alone would bring back bad memories!)

I love the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley in this so much - you don't TELL us how married they are, you SHOW us, and it's glorious: their banter, their cuddling together while filling out the applications, the horror at the idea of going anywhere without the other for any length of time, the way they are aware of each other's....shortcomings, and the little things they do to help each other fit in as best they can. OH MY HEART.

Awww, and Crowley being so stoked about not only getting to sleep for 500 years, but having to.

POOR NICK, though. That was cruel! What a tragic ending to such a long life. I would be pissed too in Crowley's place.

Just the right amount of pathos so we know that the stakes are real.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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