They say that moving house is the most stressful experience that most people go through in their lives. But, when you’re moving to another planet, things can get considerably worse!
For Coby, his mother’s words “Don’t worry, I’ll even arrange for them to pack everything for us, you won’t even have to lift a finger!” have little meaning as he is left to cope with two less than efficient removal men. To make matters worse, he ends up far from his destination on a distant space station separated from his parents, where the family possessions have been impounded. The only way to recover them is to accept a proposition from a rather unscrupulous alien. If he agrees, then he could save everything and his parents need not find out. But if he does, then he could be arrested and spend the rest of his life in jail or even worse, be blasted to smithereens…
Download to your Kindle (eBook)
They say that moving house is the most stressful experience that most people go through in their lives. But, when you’re moving to another planet, things can get considerably worse…
“Be careful with that!” The vase wobbled slightly, as it rocked gently from side to side, teetering on the edge of the shelf.
“It’s been in our family for generations!” Coby’s mother exclaimed, as it revolved around on its slender base.
The removal men stood still as it swung out a little more, threatening to topple over and smash on the kitchen floor at any moment.
“Oooh!” There was a gasp of apprehension, as it finally rolled off the shelf.
Coby instinctively dived forward in an attempt to catch it, and there was a large intake of breath as they all watched, wondering whether he was going to make it in time. The vase almost seemed to be travelling in slow motion, as his hand stretched out to meet it. His mother could not bear to look, covering her eyes with the palms of her hands, waiting for the sound of breaking pottery.
“Phew!” Coby breathed out in a huge sigh of relief, as it dropped into the palm of his hand. He had been lucky, much to his mother’s relief! She was finding the whole experience very stressful, and left the room for a minute. Coby just wrapped it up in newspaper, placing it carefully into one of the packing cases. They were behind schedule, he knew that they would have a struggle getting away in time, and as he looked up, he could see the foreman coming through the doorway.
Two heads appeared from beneath the work surface, both responding in unison. “Yes!”
“I meant you, not him!” The foreman pointed to the one on the right, as they looked at each other, before replying together again. “Yes!”
The exasperated foremen came walking into the kitchen. “There’s been a mix up with the paperwork, and you’ll have to carry on without me for a while!”
They both nodded together before disappearing beneath the work surface again. The man shook his head. “You just can’t get the staff these days!”
Coby’s mother came back into the room. She was holding her head, as it had begun to pound. “I’m afraid that you’ll have to accompany me back to the depot!” her headache suddenly worsened, as she realised that with her husband already away collecting various visa and work permits, that she would have to leave Coby here on his own.
“Is it absolutely necessary? She asked.
“I’m afraid so!” The foreman replied, with more than a hint of resignation in his voice.
Coby’s mother spent the next few minutes explaining the situation, assuring him that she would be back in time to oversee everything later. Coby just looked at her before turning this head back towards the work surface. There was a clang of metal, as the pots and pans came clattering out of the cupboard. It was clear from the expression on his face that he did not relish the prospect either, but there was nothing that either of them could do about it!
She left with a forced smile hoping that it would not take too long, and wondering whether it was all going to be worth it in the end?
Everything had begun with an advert that she had seen on the way to work, which had been placed on the back of one of the daily papers. A man on the train had been reading the headlines, as she stared aimlessly across the commuter carriage.
Ever considered a career in Galactic Marketing?
She might not have read any further, if it had not been for the salary. They were offering nearly three times her current wage, with the possibility of further bonus payments.
She had spent the rest of the journey considering a move off world which had become increasingly popular over the last few months. Even her own boss had left, and she remembered how disappointed she had felt when they overlooked her for promotion yet again!
Coby’s mother worked for a small marketing agency, which concentrated on selling unknown brands to high street stores. They had been quite successful and the agency had gained quite a good reputation.
On the way out of the railway station she had bought a copy of the paper from the newsstand, and had sat reading it over her morning coffee.
Before she had realised what she had been doing, she had dialled the contact number, leaving her details on the answer phone. The application form duly arrived the next morning, she had filled it in there and then, posting it together with a copy of her C.V. Thinking that she would stand no chance, she had forgotten all about it, until the request for an interview arrived a week later.
The interview board had been quite impressed by the way she had answered all of their questions, not to mention her short business suit - although her good looks had not always counted in her favour.
There was already more than a hint of jealousy amongst her work colleagues, which had spilled over yet again when her new boss had received the request for a reference. Most of them had told her that she would stand no chance, unless she went as a showgirl!
Now she was only a matter of hours away from a new lifestyle, leaving them all in her wake.
Looking into the wing mirror of the foreman’s car, Coby’s mother tightened the little yellow band that was holding up her hair, pushing a few bleached blonde strands behind her ear. She noticed a small black mark on her cheek, which she rubbed off as he started the engine. Looking down she noticed a series of them running across her dungarees, and all over her bright yellow T-shirt. But that was the least of her worries, she was thinking about Coby, wondering whether he was going to be able cope without her.
Coby could see her out of the window, and watched as the foreman’s car pulled away.
“Please try and be more careful!” Coby turned to see the one and only trophy that his father had ever won come hurtling to the ground. His father was not very clever, or very handsome. He was in fact, quite stocky with a tuft of thick dark hair that always stood up on end. He always looked as though he had just stepped out of a cartoon, and he had this amazing ability to pull a variety of faces. This is what had attracted his mother to him, as he could always make her laugh. Coby’s father was a very easygoing man who was quite happy leaving his wife to her career, whilst he tended to the grounds at the local sports club. It was actually on one of the bowling greens where he had won his trophy.
Coby remembered the day it was presented to him, and how proud he had been. There had been a tournament organised by the bowling club, and his father had been drawn against a chap with a broken leg. It had been hilarious watching him hobbling about on crutches, with his father’s comic routines really entertaining the crowd. The sad thing was that he had still lost, and the trophy was actually a fair play award, presented for the way he had looked after the man, even helping him in the next round.
Coby smiled to himself, as a muffled grunt emanating from behind the kitchen units brought him back down to earth. He walked over with a deep feeling of trepidation. The trophy seemed to be undamaged; although after watching his mother disappear through the doorway, leaving him alone with Charlie’s he wondered how many other items would be so lucky?
Charlie and Charlie were both about average height, with mops of thick ginger hair. Apparently they were not related, but were referred to as the twins. They were literally a right pair of Charlie’s, and he remembered when they arrived first thing this morning, and backed the van up the drive. They had managed to get it wedged into a corner, and it had taken them a quarter of an hour to get it out!
Coby had been watching their performance from his bedroom window, but if he thought that this had been bad, then there was worse to come. Somehow one of them had managed to drop the van keys down the drain, which had been sitting innocently at the side of the road. Coby could not believe his eyes, as he watched them rummaging about in all the muck and rubbish. It took them a further quarter of an hour before they finally managed to get the van doors open!
Coby looked across at them, as they left for another break. “Don’t worry, I’ll even arrange for them to pack everything for us, you won’t even have to lift a finger!” His mother’s words had seemed reassuring at the time, but she never anticipated the removal company sending such a pair of idiots!
Galactic Removals – out of this world!
That was what was written on the side of the van. Coby could well believe it, as a cloud of cigarette smoke billowed out from behind the back door, as they worked their way through another packet. At least when the foreman was with them, they had put a bit more effort into it. But now, they just seemed to have ground to a halt.
Coby ventured upstairs to pack the last of his things; he just could not see how they could possibly get things done in time. But, if he could make sure his bedroom was clear, then at least that would be a something.
The removal van itself was nothing more than a container, which sat on the back of a lorry. The idea was that when it was eventually filled, it would be driven down to the terminal, where it would be loaded onto a cargo lugger with many others, which were then ready to be deposited in the hold of a large transport.
They were fortunate that his mother’s new employers were paying the relocation costs; otherwise, it would have been an expensive business. As it was, they were quite restricted in what they could take with them, and Coby had only been allocated a small space in the container. He had been forced to get rid of a lot of his things, and there was not much left to pack. In fact, more than half of the family possessions had either been sold off, or given away!
Coby took a box off the pile on the landing, bending it into shape, taping up one end. He was going to put in his favourite books, which had once filled his small bookcase. Coby enjoyed reading, and had been engrossed in this adventure story. It was about some pirates, and their quest for buried treasure. It was not his usual choice, but had been a birthday present, and he had felt duty bound to read it.
Leaving it to one side, he started packing the others, standing them all up on end as he began emptying the shelves quickly.
The box was soon full, so he taped up the other end, writing what was in it on the top, before carrying it through the doorway. He heard a crash, and some tittering from downstairs, and tried to block it out as he descended the staircase. These were going to be the longest few hours of his life, and the sudden shock of the last month had finally begun to sink in.
Many new opportunities were now presenting themselves, and his mother had taken advantage of one on a planet in the new Terran sector. His father had not been so fortunate, but he planned to have a good look around when they got settled into their new accommodation, which came with his mother’s job.
Coby was thinking about his new home, wondering what it would be like as he carried the box outside, climbing up the ramp into the back of the container. He had done far more work himself, than the combined efforts of the twins, who were anything but efficient.
He glanced over his shoulder as they came out with a piece of furniture. They had it wedged unsafely between their large stomachs, which wobbled up and down as they walked. Coby put his box down in a corner of the container, moving to one side as the twins eased the dinning room table in through the opening. There was the unmistakeable sound of breaking glass as one of them caught a box marked fragile with a one of the legs.
Coby winced, hoping that whatever they had broken was not going to be too expensive to replace. The twins pretended not to have noticed, walking off insolently towards the house again.
Bending down, he dragged the box out from beneath the table, slipping the blade of his penknife along the tape breaking the seal. He always kept his penknife in his trouser pocket, and it had been invaluable over the last few days.
The cardboard sprang up to reveal some of the pictures that used to hang on the dinning room wall. The outer one had taken the full impact, and bits of glass lay shattered all around it. Coby carefully pulled it out, gingerly removing the biggest pieces of glass, placing them on a near by grey removal blanket. There were quite a lot of them, and it took a while to get them all out. When he finally finished, he picked up the blanket taking it back towards the house before emptying it into the large wooden box, which held all of the other breakages.
Returning to the van he picked up the picture, which was now hanging halfway out of its frame, the picture was in fact a treasure map drawn on parchment, which his father had picked up from a second hand shop a few years ago. Although he had only paid a few pounds for it at the time, he had convinced Coby that it was genuine. He had almost believed his father, until the corners of his mouth had started to curl up into a big smile. Ever since then it had been a bit of a family joke and had been hung just above the mantelpiece. The wooden frame was now twisted, and it was in need of some major repairs.
Coby looked at the map studying it as he had done ever since his father had brought it home. The thought of buried treasure made him smile, although the way things were going today anything seemed possible!
They also had a few nice watercolours, which had been painted by one of his cousins, which used to hang on the wall in the lounge.
Coby placed the picture back in the box, sealing it as best as he could before returning to the house.
Once inside he was met by one of the Charlie’s, who was holding a half open packet of chocolate biscuits,
“I found them in the cupboard!” He took another one out of the packet, taking a large bite out of it, dropping crumbs all over the carpet.
Coby just walked past him as he continued eating. He was heading back upstairs, where he remained for the next few hours. When he finally descended the staircase - after packing everything he could find, he was greeted by the sound of his mobile phone. It was chirping out a happy little tune, so he picked it up off the windowsill where he had left it earlier, “Hello!” It was his mother.
“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you!” Her voice sounded weak, as if her headache had worsened, “I’m stuck in traffic, and I don’t think that I will be able to make it back in time!”
“What about dad?”
There was a slight pause before she answered.
“More bad news I’m afraid!”
He just knew what was coming next, and frowned as his mother continued.
“There was a last minute hitch with the visa, and he’s just called me to say that he can’t make it back in time either!”
Coby looked at all of the boxes scattered around the floor.
“What are we going to do?”
His mother paused again.
“You’ll just have to travel down to the terminal with the removal men. You’re booked on the lugger, which is due to depart at five.”
He looked at his watch. It would take them over an hour just to get there, which did not give them much time here.
“I’m going to meet your father now, and we’ll be taking the shuttle. When you arrive on the transport, just make you way to the main passenger lounge, and we’ll be waiting there for you.” There was a nasty crackle as his mother entered an area of poor reception. The signal began to break up before the line went dead.
The race was now on to try and get everything loaded in time, he knew that somehow he was going to have to get both Charlie’s moving. He explained the situation to them, and after some further deliberations – and another cloud of smoke outside the kitchen door, they finally got to work.
The next few hours were a really hard slog, and somehow they managed to get everything stowed away in time. Coby was surprised at how hard the twins had worked, but that was nothing compared to himself. He had never worked so hard in all of his life, and by the end of the afternoon he was totally exhausted, with barely enough energy left to climb up into the cab.
Charlie started the engine, as Coby took one final look back towards his old home. It had been a nice house to live in, apart from the neighbours - who were conspicuous by their absence.
He smiled contentedly to himself, thankful that they were finally on their way, and settled down in the seat as they turned the corner. They were now heading towards the nearest motorway junction, and almost before the van had pulled out onto the main road, Coby had fallen into a deep sleep.