Voulez Vous Woohoo Part Deux
Chapter 1: Preparations
Pilots began arriving at the fort Thursday evening to stage the Dreadnought for impending deployment to the far reaches of the known universe and beyond. Our mission: invade Canada and make contact with the inhabitants of the Montreal System of Galaxy Quebec. Dreadflint arrived later than expected and immediately got to work selecting a ship and performing an extensive preflight, a task that lasted into the wee hours of the night, while the remaining pilots loaded ships into the Dreadnought's cargo bay. Dr.Claw had his hands full diligently putting the finishing touches on a new cockpit-mounted radiobucket for Skywarp. We later learned he never actually went to sleep that night.
Chapter 2: Blast Off!
Pilots began trickling back into the fort shortly before the 1000 launch time Friday morning, delaying launch of the transport convoy. After a five hour drive through Galaxies New Hampshire and Vermont, we reached our advance tactical launchpad at Chimney Corner in the Colchester System, where we found Fixie and her babymaggot Poison Ivy waiting for us. We made short order of unloading ships from the Dreadnought, procured snacks from a nearby fueling station, marked our territory with a sticker and a barnacle, and launched shortly before 1600 after a quick briefing. Despite Dr.Claw's promises of "the flattest route ever", we immediately encountered a significant negi g-well that caught several pilots off guard. Fixie's primary thruster was discovered to be almost completely flat, but a few quick thrusts of Snow's portable plasma pump had it back to spec in no time.
Once we made it past the first couple g-wells, we were sailing smoothly until One Night Stand lost plasma after an unlucky encounter with a spiked thruster stud in the road. Dreadflint went to town on the repair and in the process discovered the screw on One Night Stand's coaster retro strap was only finger tight — a preflight mishap with potentially deadly ramifications for which he fined Lordmcfuzz 3000 points. While repairs continued, Dr.Claw hailed the nebular ship ferry to alert them to the potential of a late arrival. The plasma casing was replaced in no time flat, and we were back on our way again with an added sense of urgency.
We took the scenic route through a forest wormhole, which eventually led us to the shores of the great Champlain Nebula, where we continued on a thin strip of land that wended its way through the mighty waters on either side. Along the way we attracted a black-capped shore bird — surely lured by the powers of the groove — who trailed us the entire length of the causeway in leaps and bounds, stopping at regularly spaced waypoints before making the next hop when the fleet caught up with him. After several miles of sublime views, we reached the nebular ferry just in time for the 1800 departure — the very last of the day. Relieved, we greeted the ship's two enthusiastic captains and android Molly, before departing on the shortest boat ride of our lives — approximately 200 feet.
Chapter 3: Into Darkness
We disembarked the ship and met a couple civilians riding curious devices called "bicycles" who were also on their way to Quebec. Dusk set in as we picked up the trail again and continued our descent into the wilds of the Champlain Islands farm country. After several light years we came upon a quaint farm stand celebrating burger night, so we stopped to refuel. Pilots petted sheep and donkeys and chatted up awestruck farmers and civilians alike, before indulging in a feast of burgers made from locally raised grass-fed beef while being serenaded with acoustic guitar. Fully sated, the fleet pushed onward through the darkness, realizing only later that this had been the only opportunity for food the whole night.
As the night wore on, a chill befell the air, and pilots grappled with continuous non-trivial g-well activity. Eventually we reached one final climb across the hyperspace byway over the Champlain Nebula leading to the galactic boundary between Galaxies Vermont and New York, where weary pilots stopped to catch their breath and plant barnacles for future generations to discover. Once everyone had completed the long, steady ascent to the apex of the g-well, the fleet regrouped and bombed down the final hill into Galaxy New York, where we sought respite at the Anchorage Motel just after midnight.
Chapter 4: D-Day
Pilots arose around 1000 and began prepping for the journey ahead. Excess performed some adjustments to Poison Ivy's ship to give her full range of use of her propulsion transfer modulator, which was discovered to have been incorrectly limited, forcing her to work twice as hard on the previous night's g-well climbs. Dreadflint took the opportunity to attempt to ride ATM Machine from its aft cockpit and nearly crashed, to Wombat's great dismay. After a late start, we stopped for some hearty refueling down the road at Best Friends Diner, less than a light year from the edge of the known universe. Dr.Claw was paranoid about leaving the radiobucket unattended, and stood guard outside for most of the meal.
The sky threatened radiation, so pilots got their protective gear at the ready as we prepared for the final push into the great beyond of the Canada Universe. A few short minutes later we reached the official interuniversal border, which was marked with a pair of modest obelisks on either side of the road. Seconds later we rolled up to the Canadian border patrol station, where we were surprised to spot the same bike-riding trio we had met the previous evening, making their own crossing. Dr.Claw led the charge, as camera wielding locals and inquisitive border guards alike began congregating around the fleet to ask about the curious contraptions we were riding. Once Snow made it through — smuggled currant wine cargo intact — we set out across the endless tracts of Quebecois farmland, featuring many silos, fields, and gargantuan farm transports that took up 3/4 of the road. Along the way, we observed no less than six impostor fleet admirals that had been flattened into space weevil.
Eventually we reached the slightly more populated Napierville System where we heard the thunderous roar of drag racing transports. Luckily they were sequestered to a track, but the intense sounds were enough to make you look twice over your shoulder just to be sure. Pilots made a quick refueling stop at a gas station where they had their first encounter with civilians speaking French, before continuing on. At the next farm down the road, we crossed paths with perhaps the biggest farm transport we had ever witnessed — a behemoth as wide as both lanes of the road so big that it required a spotter, who thankfully saw us coming and waited for us to pass before turning from the field into the road.
We pushed onward through many light-years of more countryside until we arrived in the Candiac System, a town with a distinctly planned suburban vibe notable for being created in 1957 when an investment group petitioned the Quebec government for its incorporation. We found a pizza joint to stop for a late lunch around 1600, where pilots took time to rest their bones and stretch out. Lordmcfuzz discovered you have to be extra careful to enunciate clearly if ordering in English, when he asked for a Cosmo and instead received a Carlsberg. Fixie tried to convince pilots that Canadian grumbah smells like maple syrup, but all we could smell was plastic.
Chapter 5: Landfall
Evening was setting in as we wound our way through a couple more light-years of sleepy suburban systems, before entering the Voie de la Voie Maritime, an eight light-year long wormhole in the St. Lawrence Asteroid Belt tracing the banks of the mainland, with magnificent views of the Montreal skyline. Along this stretch Dreadflint performed many of his trademark Feats of Stupidity, including converting Yer Mom to "racing mode" by loosening her helm mid-flight, and flying for extended periods of time in "blind mode", following the navigator by sound alone. Dr.Claw attempted to mess with his senses by fading out songs prematurely, but thankfully no injuries were sustained.
It was smooth sailing along the causeway until we came upon a gate near the very end of the wormhole manned by an ST, who would not let us pass due to a Color Run event happening on Île Notre-Dame. Dr.Claw consulted his satellite uplink and quickly found an alternate route through the mainland, which he was originally trying to avoid since it would require crossing a bridge whose defenses included a foreboding array of pointy HARV death spikes right at eye level and staggered ramparts that forced you to weave around them. Through this perilous gauntlet we caught our first glimpse of the Biosphere's beckoning glow on Île Sainte-Hélène, and the fleet, being the ace pilots they are, made short order of these obstacles and were out of danger in no time.
As we descended the considerable g-well onto Île Sainte-Hélène, Snow made contact with the local fire patrol, and the reverberations of celebratory music could be heard echoing over the horizons. We weaved along the Montreal waterfront, under bridges and next to highways, before climbing one intense final g-well and landing at our ultimate destination, the Auberge HI-Montreal. Several excited 'Mericans, fresh out from an Adele concert, stopped to admire our strange ships and offer advice on where to find the best strip clubs. We quickly checked into our rooms, stowed our ships in the space station's protected cargo bay via a subterranean passage, and set out in search of fuel.
We didn't wander too far, opting to stop at an "Italian" restaurant where several pilots sampled poutine for the first time. Dreadflint ordered an "Italian" mojito, which turned out to be just a regular mojito made with Italian beer instead of rum, much to his hops-hating displeasure. After dinner pilots settled in and chilled, while Lordmcfuzz schooled a bandaid-clad would-be challenger at pool. As everyone else turned in for the night around midnight, Wombat ventured out to a goth club in Le Village to get a taste of Montreal nightlife.
Chapter 6: Dr.Claw's StairMaster™
The sky was overcast and gloomy for our first full day in Montreal. Lordmcfuzz rose early and went off solo to explore the city, and ended up climbing Mont Royal. Fixie and Poison Ivy slipped out to spend some quality recruiter-maggot bonding time together outside of the saddle. Two days in Yer Mom's cramped cockpit had taken a heavy toll on Dreadflint's knee, so he decided to take the day off to rest it. The remaining pilots mustered around noon to embark on a daystar sortie of their own up Mont Royal. While pilots readied their ships outside the space station, a low-flying fighter jet buzzed the fleet unleashing a subsonic roar so deafening pilots thought they were under attack and ducked for cover. Lordmcfuzz arrived back just as the detachment was departing, and joined the ranks for another run up the mountain.
After extensive consultation with his satellite uplink, Dr.Claw decided to take us up an alternate route than that previously employed by Lordmcfuzz. Ascent was delayed when Snow's enormous backpack fell off the back of Deep Blue Dream in the middle of busy Montreal traffic, and somehow didn't get run over. We stopped halfway up the most brutal negi g-well of the climb to reinforce his moorings, and diverted onto a side street to recapture enough gravitational potential energy to attempt a slingshot maneuver when relaunching.
We reached the first elevation plateau and cut through McGill University, winding our way through a labyrinth of parking lots and switchbacks. On the far side of campus we caught sight of Molson Stadium, where the Alouettes were playing the Toronto Argonauts — a likely explanation for the earlier flyby. Snow began lagging behind, tentatively looking down at his primary thruster, and then finally called mechanical. The diagnosis was disappointing: a broken spoke behind the gear cluster that would prevent him from continuing to the top. Snow parted ways to walk his ship back down the g-well for repairs, while the others pressed on. The one bright side of the incident was that it happened in the city where repair provisions could be easily obtained, and not out in a remote wormhole in the middle of deep space.
Dr.Claw continued following his droid's questionable directions, despite the other pilots growing dubious of its intentions when it started leading us back down the g-well and into a dead end with no apparent way forward. We stopped so Dr.Claw could recatch his bearings, at which point he informed us the droid wanted us to walk our ships up a steep rock-covered footpath, through a hole in a fence, and then up a corridor of many wooden steps. Once pilots completed the ordeal, we were able to mount our ships again to continue to the peak on booster power.
At the summit we stopped at the Mont Royal Chalet, where we were rewarded with a hazy panoramic view of the vast city skyline, as observed through a rain cloud. We were instantly swarmed by flocks of civilians, who all wanted to take pictures with our ships and know how we ride them. As the radiation began to pick up, we decided to descend back to a lower altitude, but progress was halted when ATM Machine suffered a sizable puncture in its brand new plasma casing which caused it to lose pressure very quickly. Luckily Dr.Claw had brought his patch kit and portable plasma injector with him, and Wombat was able to perform field repairs using a U.S. dollar as a boot, while the other pilots sought shelter from the radiation under a tree.
Back at the base of the mountain, we met several very enthusiastic civilians, one of whom took One Night Stand for a test ride but was disappointed to learn we are not fans of Boston sportsball or Big Bang Theory. With the radiation intensifying and some pilots requesting fuel, we decided to stop at the famous Schwartz's deli for their signature smoked meat sandwich. The sandwiches were delicious, and so big you could barely fit them in your mouth. We quickly made the sandwiches disappear and then flew casual back to base for some rest before the evening's mission.
Chapter 7: Montreal By Night
After a brief period of stasis pilots roused again to prepare for the night mission. Indecision over fueling options resulted in the choice being delegated to a droid with an unmentionable name, which did a decent job picking a nearby Lebanese eatery where we enjoyed heaping platefuls of shawarma. After dinner Fixie and Poison Ivy turned in early for the evening, and the remaining pilots set out to cruise the city.
Dr.Claw led the fleet down the hill and back along the shimmering waterfront we had entered from the previous night, passing along the way Habitat 67, the landmark housing complex built from hundreds of identical prefabricated concrete forms arranged in a way that resembled an intricate stack of delicately balanced blocks. Across the St. Lawrence Asteroid Belt we were finally able to reach Île Notre-Dame, where we did a lap around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a real-life Formula One racetrack maintained by the city of Montreal.
We then hopped back to Île Sainte-Hélène to check out the Biosphere, the colossal 3/4 geodesic sphere designed by the legendary Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 World's Fair. Originally encased in transparent acrylic panels, the complex caught fire during structural repairs in 1976 which burned away all artificial elements, leaving only the steel skeleton behind. Steel is real! Dreadflint excitedly explained icosahedron projection geometry to the other pilots as they searched for the handful of steel pentagons hidden amidst the sea of hexagons. We took the opportunity to affix a barnacle to one of the massive vertices before setting course back to the main island.
Back on the main island we followed a scenic path along the waterfront of the Old Port, collecting high-fives from bewildered civilians who weren't quite sure what they were witnessing. We approached the Clocktower Quay just as a larger-than-life apparition of an alluring siren materialized on the wall of the tower and seductively beckoned us to come hither, before vanishing into the night.
We climbed the g-well once more back to the main drag, where we followed Rue Sainte-Catherine all the way into the Gay Village and beyond, before looping back on Rene-Levesque Boulevard. Pilots were perplexed by the unfamiliar layout of the Montreal cycletracks, which grouped both lanes of travel on one side of the road. This design worked well up until the track ended, and we found ourselves needing to make a starboard turn from the extreme port side of the road — across both directions of transport traffic. After a quick and only slightly dicey game of chopper frogger, we zigzagged our way through the gardens around the imposing glass facades of the Grande Bibliothèque.
We continued on a less hectic boulevard a couple blocks to the Place des Festivals, a glimmering plaza featuring an array of 235 radiation geysers that proved too tempting for Dreadflint to resist. He led the headlong charge through their staggered eruptions, until a guard appeared and scolded him in French. Dreadflint pretended to understand what he said, so we moved along to avoid further confrontation that might reveal otherwise. At this point most of the fleet was already growing weary, and after completing our traversal of the entire length of Downtown and then some, we decided to return to base shortly before midnight instead of attempting to descend back down into Old Montreal.
Chapter 8: Au Revoir!
Pilots awoke on our final morning in Montreal in anticipation of a 1000 launch, which was marginally delayed as Dr.Claw scrambled to get the radiobucket back on Skywarp and find a zoob port to jump start its warp core. The weather was glorious and perfectly temperate, which had all pilot spirits flying high as we blasted off from our home of the past day and a half and headed down the g-well toward the St. Lawrence Asteroid Belt one last time. The view of the cityscape was downright magnificent through clear skies as we crossed the bridge back to Île Notre-Dame, where we took a final victory lap around the F1 track before crossing back to the mainland.
A brief stint through an oddly surreal stretch of suburbia led us back to a wormhole, where we made a pit stop at an adjacent gas station to load up on unsavory snacks, since there would be no viable fueling options for many light-years. While most pilots stocked up on jerky and nuts, Wombat indulged in a giant, dirt-cheap jug of La Fin Du Monde, a fine nectar produced in the nearby Chambly System. Fast forward through about nine light-years of perfectly pleasant back-country wormhole, and we emerged again in the Chambly System itself, where we decided no expedition to the Canada Universe could be considered complete without a novelty trip to Tim Hortons.
Here we entered a gorgeous wormhole running adjacent to the Chambly Canal, a historic maritime trade route from a bygone era featuring a series of manually-operated hyrdraulic locks and rotating drawbridges. The wormhole stretched for many light-years, winding its way through picturesque fall foliage and at times narrowing to just a thin strip of land between the canal and the Richelieu Asteroid Belt, before depositing us in the quaint Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu System. We took an extended shore leave to take in the views and finish the rest of Snow's currant wine, and marveled at how almost no transports "arrêted" at the arrêt sign. All pilots agreed this leg of the route was one of biggest highlights of the mission.
Dusk arrived as we passed through the last stretch of Quebec farmland approaching the interuniversal border. At the final fueling station before reentry Fixie distributed a handful of laser orbs to light up the fleet in a twinkling display of blinky colors. Dr.Claw was first through at the border crossing, where the guard was about to make him pry open the radiobucket until a functional demonstration of its full sonic disruption capabilities satisfied the guard's curiosity. Subsequent pilots were instructed to approach in pairs, and did their best to cover their ears when the guard required them to recite their civilian names within earshot of each other. The horror! All pilots successfully completed the transition between parallel universes without any catastrophic disruptions to the spacetime continuum, and Fixie even managed to smuggle back several Kinder Surprise eggs without detection. We were home... almost.
Pilots settled in once again at the Anchorage Motel and a sortie reconvened shortly before 2000 to procure steering dampener and devour a greasy feast at the only place in Rouses Point that was still open. Back at the motel Poison Ivy conked out early from a hard day's work, while the remaining pilots gathered in one of the rooms to celebrate our triumph with goblets of Miller Lowlife — the champagne of whiskeys — and share tales of past glories.
Chapter 9: Flying High
We awoke on the final day of our journey rested and ready to make short order of the remaining 40 light-years back to Galaxy Vermont. Hungry pilots tried to convince Dr.Claw to return to Best Friends Diner for breakfast fueling, but he assured them there was a Dunkin' Donuts "just down the road" we would stop at instead to save on time, so pilots begrudgingly agreed. Nearly ten light-years on, and we still hadn't yet seen any sign of a Dunks. Dr.Claw finally conceded the hunt, and we stopped at the Cattle Barn Pub & Grill in the Chazy System, where at this point they were already serving lunch. Inside we were greeted with the most garish collection of wall-to-wall Halloween decor we had ever encountered, which could best be described as "the bar Halloween threw up on". The food was mediocre, but it got the job done and put us back on the road.
We continued on through stretches of New York farmland until we reached the Cumberland Head peninsula in the Plattsburgh System, where we boarded a large aquatic transport vessel which ferried us two light-years across the Champlain Nebula back to Galaxy Vermont. Snow attempted to graze Lordmcfuzz's primary thruster with his navigational thruster as payback for Mcfuzz's previous deployment of the same maneuver, but he missed and ended up flipping ass over teakettle with his trailer on top of him. Luckily his wounds were non-life threatening, and he brushed himself off and got right back on his ship.
The terrain began to get hilly, foreshadowing the brutal final g-well still to come that Dr.Claw had been warning us about since the start of the mission. Halfway up one of the g-wells we pulled over to let a string of surprisingly polite transport traffic pass that had been accumulating behind us on the narrow, winding road. We continued through a series of several more gentle rolling hills before eventually descending back down to the South Hero System, where we stopped for one last dose of ice cream, and Excess took the opportunity to stretch out in the grass under the shade of a tree.
The end was within sight, but first we would need to complete one last trial before being able to claim victory: surmounting that final merciless g-well. We ramped up our speed along the light-year span of the Sand Bar Bridge, attempting to accumulate enough velocity to perform a slingshot maneuver that would help propel us up the g-well. Pilots fired their boosters on all cylinders, pumping faster and faster up a gentle grade that seemed to be taunting us of the misery to come. We kept wondering when the insanely steep part was going to arrive, but then a funny thing happened: it never did. In the end, the brutal g-well turned out not to be as brutal as promised, and all pilots managed to make it to the top without spacewalking. Our best theory as to the source of the false alarm is that Dr.Claw's navigational droid miscalculated the elevation change on a bridge over the Lamoille Asteroid Belt. Whoops.
After one more turn we were back in Chimney Corner, and our great adventure was drawing to a close. We did several victory orbits around the black hole at the entrance of the landing pad, before touching down at approximately 1600 and declaring "Mission Accomplished". Victory was ours! Poison Ivy was hazed relentlessly during the closing ceremonies, but we decided to let her in anyway. After all, 200+ light-years of space travel by a babymaggot is a pretty impressive feat. For hauling the trailer and carrying several pilots' gear in addition to his own, Snow was awarded a Medal of Strength, and Dreadflint was awarded a Medal of Patronage for providing the Dreadnought's services in shuttling ships between galaxies. Pilots hi-fived each other for a job well done and distributed celebratory hugs, before packing everything back up in the transports and setting course for Galaxy Massachusetts and the Boston System.
Epilogue: Revenge of the Dreadnought
You didn't think our story ended there, did you?
For the long trip home, we gave the Dreadnought a significant head start before launching the second transport, since it had a top speed of only 55 lyph. With both transports en route down Intergalactic Highway 89 near the Montpelier System, Excess received the call none of us wanted to hear: the bearings in the Dreadnought's portside navigational thruster had disintegrated mid-flight, and it was currently sitting disabled on the side of the highway. A few minutes later we spotted the Dreadnought in the shoulder, its navigational thruster cambered inward, and Lordmcfuzz pulled his transport up behind it to offer support.
It was a race against time now as the daystar was setting and stores would be closing shortly. Dreadflint sent Lordmcfuzz down the road in search of replacement parts and sprung into action jacking up the Dreadnought where it stood in hopes of performing the repair himself. We procured the replacement bearings just in time before the automotive store closed, and returned in darkness to find Dreadflint hard at work on the hub, with Deep Blue Dream — lasers enabled in strobe mode — being used as a makeshift road flare.
Dreadflint tried his hardest to disassemble the hub, but something was stuck on the 4-wheel drive mechanism that was preventing it from coming off, and without being able to remove that assembly, he would not be able to determine whether the problem could be fixed by replacing the bearings alone, or if the spindle had also been destroyed in the failure. Excess was able to hail a free tow thanks to his membership in a national motorcycle organization, and after some deliberation it was decided that we would take the Dreadnought to a Walmart parking lot in the Berlin System to continue our attempts at fixing things ourselves. Dreadflint estimated our chances of being able to successfully fix the wheel at 50/50.
At the Walmart Dreadflint et al went in search of a dremel tool, which would be used to grind off the non-essential 4-wheel drive shackle that was interfering with the repair. The first attempt using a battery-powered dremel ended in frustration, as the tool was unable to provide enough power to perform the necessary cut, and the bits were sub-par quality. A second dremel was obtained that ran on power from an inverter connected to the Dreadnought's warp core, which worked much better. Dreadflint reassessed our chances at 70%, and went to town grinding down the splines on the 4-wheel drive ring, as a succession of curious Walmart parking lot campers stopped by to see what we were doing.
Pilots took the opportunity to refuel while Dreadflint continued grinding, and eventually he managed to get the piece off. An inspection of the spindle indicated it had not been damaged in the bearing failure, and our chances of successful repair spiked to 95%. Dreadflint diligently worked cleaning the hub assembly and repacking the new bearings, with assistance from Snow and the internet. After several hours of tense uncertainty, Dreadflint completed the repair, a few minutes past midnight.
We all breathed a collective sigh of relief and piled back into the transports for the remainder of the 175 light-year journey back home, fingers crossed that nothing else would go wrong. We arrived back at Fort Tyler at 0400, where we promptly unloaded the ships and all went home for some well-deserved rest.