Read by Richard.
Lady Professor by Jana.
Proofed & audio edited by Jana.
Story by Bertie.
Now there are those of you who have been following all my tales of space travel for many years. And there may be some of you who are listening for the first time. For you newbies, let me explain about who I am.
My name is Astropup and I am, as my name suggests, a dog who is well travelled in space, and I might add, in time.
During my long career, I have seen many planets and many strange creatures. My companions on my travels are a parrot who will be the first to explain that he is a genius, and the brainiest bird in the cosmos.
And a human, called Marlow, who like the best humans is loyal and faithful to his canine companion - that being me.
So far, I have been telling the story of my life in what seems like the simplest and most straightforward of manners. I began at the beginning, when I was a wee pup, and then I told you about a surprising adventure that happened to me, and then I told you about the even more surprising adventure that happened to me after that, and then I continued to the next adventure, and so on and so forth. There are many more years worth of space tales left for me to tell you all in the right order.
But today I must tell my story differently. First I must fill you in about something that happened to me only recently. And then I must go backwards in time to explain how this strange occurrence came to pass.
Backwards? I hear you ask. What kind of story starts at the end and then goes back?
Well listen, and you shall find out.
Just last week, I was visiting the Cosmic Academy in Cornwall, which is a pretty place on Planet Earth. It’s in the toe of the island of Britain. I had been invited there by a man called Professor Perfect who told me that he was working on a project that might interest me.
Now when I received an invitation from a man called Perfect, I was suspicious. Perfect indeed. PURRRRRRRFECT -sounds suspiciously like a cat, does it not?
But then I looked him up and found the professor’s photo. I saw a human man with longish white hair and a pointy chin. Underneath the photo were lots of words. Reading letters is not my strong point, but my computer speaks out aloud to me. It said that the Professor was Director of the Department of Teletransportation at the Cosmic Academy of Cornwall. I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded legitimate, and besides, he was offering me tea and dog biscuits.
So I went down to Cornwall on a train ticket paid for by the Academy.
The Professor greeted me at the railway station. “Good day, you must be Astropup, how was your journey?”
“Great,” I replied. “I saw lots of fields, and cows and sheep through the window. It makes a change from travelling through the empty vastness of space where there’s not much to look at for years on end.”
Now the newby listeners might be asking how it is that I, a dog, can chit-chat with a professor who is a human. I shall explain that these days I have a little translator in my collar that transforms my woof into words.
The Professor drove me down to the Academy, which is in a very pleasant spot overlooking the sea. He took me to the cafe where cheeky seagulls fly right by the window. When I jumped up to bark at them I knocked my saucer of cold tea off the table, but the Professor told me not to worry and ordered another one for me.
A lady Professor came over to pat me, and said, “Hey Derek, I didn’t know you had a dog.”
“This isn’t my dog,” explained the Professor, “this is Astropup, the famous space explorer.”
“How exciting!” she exclaimed, “Astropup! How simply wonderful! I love your podcast, and I listen all the time. May I have the honour of your pawprint for my children? They absolutely adore you and will be green with envy when they hear that I’ve met you.”
I am always happy to place a muddy paw on a piece of paper or a white towel for one of my fans. If it makes them happy, why not?
Next we went walkies around the campus, across grassy quads, along corridors, in and out of rooms, and along the way we met some students. One of them, who was training to be an Astronaut, asked me what the best part of space travel was and I told her the truth: “Getting back home.”
Finally the Professor led me to his laboratory. It was a largish room in which a couple of technicians were sitting around playing with their phones. One of them looked up and said, “Hi Prof, nice dog you got there. Is he going to join our collection of lab animals?”
“Hey,” I said, “You’re not going to do one of those experiment thingies on me are you? Because I’ve had enough unpleasant surprises happen to me in my life, and I don’t need any more.”
As I spoke, I saw the technician's eyes open wide: like many humans, he was astonished to hear me talk through my translator device.
“No, no, no,” Professor Perfect reassured me. “I’ve invited you here as our guest because I want to show you something incredible.”
“O-kay,” I said, “I like incredible things, especially if you can eat them.”
The Professor invited me to jump up on a sofa in the corner of the lab, and while we sat, he told me some of his life story.
“When I was a child, I hated long car journeys,” he told me. “They were long, and boring, and I always felt sick.”
“Like space travel,” I told him, and he nodded, saying, “exactly. Space travel takes many many times longer than the longest car journey, and therefore is an even bigger problem that needs solving. So from a very early age, I was fascinated by the idea of teletransportation. I first saw it on a science fiction programme on TV. You walk into a transportation machine, and your body dematerializes into millions of atoms and rematerializes in an entirely different place. You arrive at where you want to go in a matter of seconds, not hours or days…”
“Or years,” I pointed out.
“Even years,” agreed the Professor. “And so I have dedicated my entire career to solving the problem of teletransportation. I have made many prototypes, but always there were, er glitches. Until recently that is. Now I can say that I have taken an idea from science fiction and made it into a reality. I have achieved the dream of my lifetime. And this is what I wanted to share with you.”
“Grrreat!”I said, “Nice story. Can we have lunch now?” I asked this because excitement makes me hungry. But the Professor seemed a bit flustered by my urgent request. “Not just yet, I mean, we just had elevensies. Let me show you the machine in action. I promise it will be worth your time.”
“Well alright then,” I said. We walked over to the end of the room where there was a kind of glass box that was big enough for a human to step into. I sniffed it. It smelt clean.
“Is this where you take your shower in the morning?” I asked, because I’ve seen shower cubicles that looked rather like it.
“No, no,” said the Professor, “It’s a teletransportation pod.” And then turning to one of the technicians he called out, “Hey Ruslan, can you bring one of the lab mice over here please?”
Ruslan the technician went over to some shelves. On one of them was a cage, and I noticed for the first time that it contained mice. He opened the top of the cage, and reached down with both hands to scoop up one of the inmates. When he released him into the teletransportation pod I could see that he was a white mouse with a gray patch over one eye and a little pink twitchy nose.
“I think the little chap is frightened,” I said, as I pressed my nose against the glass.
“Don’t worry,” said the Professor, “he’ll be fine.”
Professor Perfect was holding an e-tablet in his hand. He tapped the screen and a light came on in the cubical. Then he tapped at his screen a few more times and the mouse turned into a million little stars which held his shape for a few seconds before gradually fading into nothing.
“GRRRRRRWOOF WOOF!” I said. “Something spooky just happened to that mouse!!”
“It’s ok, Astropup, we’ll soon bring him back,” said Professor.
“Where did it go?” I asked.
“Well now,” he said with a smile. “That’s a good question. Let’s see shall we?”
We walked over to the end of the lab where there was a second cubical. I pressed my nose against the glass. “It’s empty - no mouse here,” I said.
But as I spoke the cubicle filled up with starry twinkles which gradually formed themselves into a mouse shape. Soon he was scampering around the edge of the glass looking for a hole to escape through.
“Woof!” I said. “He’s back!”
“Do you think that was incredible?” asked the Professor.
“Would you like to see something even more incredible?” he asked. “Something that will change your life forever?”
“Hmmm, perhaps not,” I said.
“Go on - it will be fascinating. And I promise there’s no danger to you whatsoever.”
“Well, alright, so long as I don’t have to step into that transportation pod of yours because I don’t want to be turned into millions of twinkly little stars, not for anyone.”
“That’s not what you said last time,” he said under his breath.
The remark struck me as peculiar. What did he mean by the last time? But I let it go because people often say things that don’t make a lot of sense to me. My main concern was that under no circumstance were they going to put me in that pod.
Ruslan opened the cubicle and caught the little lab mouse by his tail. Poor thing. I remembered how, when I was a little pup, the humans had chosen me to be an experimental dog and had blasted me into outer space without asking my permission or even my opinion for that matter. And so my sympathies were with that mouse.
“Now stand back and watch what happens next Astropup!” declared the Professor, “Because I guarantee this is going to amaze you. I’m going to introduce you to somebody truly fascinating. ”
He was tapping away on his e-tablet as he spoke, and moments later, more of those stars started to twinkle inside the glass transportation pod.
The constellation of stars gathered themselves into a doggy shape, medium size, with four legs, a tale, and silly ears. At first the starry dog was faint and transparent, and then he began to take on colour. Gradually there were fewer and fewer stars and more and more curly black hairs. Soon a complete dog was wagging his tail somewhat anxiously inside the pod. “Woof!” he said, then he let out a whimper, as well he might. Then, when he caught sight of me, he jumped up on his hind legs and scratched his claws against the glass.
“Woof!” I said “My name’s Astropup. Who are you?”
“Woof” said the other dog, “My name’s Astropup. Who are you?”
“Hey! Are you copying me?” I asked.
“If I may interject,” said the Professor. “Astropup, don’t you recognise the young dog that’s just appeared before your eyes?”
“No, I’ve never seen him in my life before,” I said.
The Professor laughed: “You really don’t know who he is, do you?” he said before turning to the lab technician: “Rusland, open the pod please and introduce these two space travellers properly.”
Rusland did as he was asked, and opened the door to the pod. The dog jumped out and immediately greeted me with the time honoured code we dogs follow wherever you go in the universe. He sniffed me round the back.
“Hmm,” said the young dog, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Where did you just come from?”
“Now let me think,” he said. “Ah yes, I was in a spaceship, orbiting planet Earth, and that man standing over there, Professor Perfect, had just come on board as a space tourist. We were offering trips in space to make some extra dog biscuits on the side.”
“Well, well, well,” I said. “Back in the day I was in a similar line of business. Welcome to planet Earth. My name is Astropup.”
“Woof! Cool name!” he said, “and quite a coincidence because my name’s Astropup too.”
“Mmmm. You even look a bit like me,” I said, “though some years younger.”
Because unfortunately, I have put a little weight on my tummy and have a few silver hairs these days.
The Professor stepped forward. “Didn’t I say this would be worth waiting for?” he asked as he patted me on the head. “Astropup, meet your younger self,” and then he patted the other dog on the head and said, “And Astropup, meet your future self.”
At this, a moment I might call, maximum confusion, both us Astropups simultaneously began to howl!
And that was Part One of Astropup and the Teletransporter. I’ll be back soon with Part two of this most intriguing story.