Sometimes a line just begs to have a story written about it, and this one was from a previous story. I hope I’ve done it some justice.
Penguins Don’t Need Frying Pans
“I worry about your penguin obsession Dave.”
“I worry about your personal hygiene, but you don’t hear me going on about.”
Sadly I was only half joking, Sebastian really did have a bit of a problem. I idly wondered if there was an elegant solution to the problem, and realised there was: a girl. As I didn’t have one to hand I parked that to one side and went back to trying to remember what state I’d left my experiments in.
For a while there was silence as we walked back to the lab. Beaker was out today, so Julian and I had snuck out for lunch, and a pint or two. During lunch I tried explaining to him my theory about penguins. It hadn’t gone down well. To be honest it never really did.
“Look, sorry. I’m sure you’re right about tool-use being over-rated.”
“I’m sorry too. Though you might want to consider a hair cut…”
I smiled to take the sting out, and it seemed to mollify him.
“So, why do you think penguins will survive longer than we will?”
Was he just humouring me? Perhaps not, I’d try anyway, after all we had a little way yet to walk, and I was still buzzing from the pints of Portly Porpoise. The local brewery had bowed to the fashion of foolish names.
“It’s simple. Humans have become over-dependent on technology. When The Fall comes, we’ll be screwed. The penguins however, well, as long as there are fish, they’ll be fine.”
This was the bit where I usually lost people.
“Yes, The Fall. You know, when civilisation collapses. Plague, a comet, massive earthquakes or alien invasion.”
“Ah yes. The Fall.”
I was used to the knowing smiles. They always thought I was joking.
“Think of it this way. What is required for our society to continue to function normally? Large amounts of power. If that gets impacted in any way, bad things will happen.”
“I see what you mean.”
I’d lost him. Our conversation lapsed and we arrived back at the labs and parted company amicably.
That night I was heading home and as usual took the sky bullet. I mused that this was the heavy tech I was concerned about. Here I was, in a small capsule made from little more than cellulose, being blown along an invisible path by a targeted blast of air. The path was created using some form of projected electric field, and was in effect an airtight tunnel, and the push would send me hurtling along towards my destination.
I’d refused to use them for their first few years. I’d been afraid of what might happen if they went wrong. I now used them all the time; they cut my commute substantially.
The capsule trembled, and then started to fall. It seemed like it was no longer following a pipe.
The power had failed.
As the ground hurtled towards me I thought to myself that penguins wouldn’t have got themselves into this mess.
The capsule trembled, and then I was rocked sideways gently. The backup system had kicked in and a new tube formed around me, carrying me safely home again. As I sailed through the air once more, I reflected on the fact that penguins can’t fly.