Carol Kane and Billy Crystal as Valerie and Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride.” OK, so not exactly a scene from THIS story, but it upholds the spirit well!

Moose and Galen sat atop their horses at the edge of The Woods. The first streaks of sunrise were just barely beginning to crest the horizon.

Moose peered through his scope, cobbled together from his space suit. It was still too dark to see The Castle, but any minute now…

“There! Do you see it?” Galen pointed to the sky, his arm making an arc as if tracing the path of something in flight. Moose followed where he was pointing. It was definitely a shuttlecraft of some kind. And it had to be of sufficiently advanced design, as it had neither wings nor propeller.

“That’ll do…” Moose said, turning his scope on the shuttle’s destination. Finally, after eight straight days of trying, The Castle finally had a high tech appearance, as opposed to the fanciful and magical looks it had taken on over the past week. One day, it had even looked like it was made of gingerbread and candy, as if taunting the moon man.

They rode onwards, Homer always slightly in the lead, making their way towards The Castle. That early in the morning, traffic was light but already a steady stream of people rode or walked in and out, going about their business. Moose hoped they blended in well enough to go unnoticed; the mission they had in mind required a certain degree of stealth.

Once inside, they looked up and around, trying to figure out where the shuttles were entering the structure. None happened to appear at just that moment, and people were starting to give them funny looks, wondering what the two men were looking at.

“Well, Homer, where do you think the shuttle bay is?” asked Galen.

Moose swore the horse made an inquisitive snort. “The big flying machines.” Galen explained.

Homer snorted again as if to say “Oh. Those.” and walked calmly off down a wide corridor. Moose was relieved to see they weren’t the only ones with horses, although it did seem to be the exception, not the rule. They turned several corners, and found themselves in what seemed to be a lift bay.

“Going Up” said a mechanical voice, and one set of doors opened on their right. Homer waltzed right into the lift, followed by Manny. Galen and Moose looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and followed.

Moose looked at the buttons. At least they were in a script he knew. Galen shook his head in confusion. “OK Homer, what floor?” Moose asked.

The horse snorted in disgust.

“How about the top?” Moose asked, his finger hovering over the highest button.

Homer snorted “Uh Uh!” emphatically.

Moose called out numbers in descending order until the horse seemed happy. He pushed the button and felt the subtle shift that told him they were  upwardly mobile.

The doors opened and Moose stifled a nostalgic sigh. Bright metal and plastics gleamed everywhere. Machinery hummed, and there were even a few robots scurrying about their business. One tiny bot rolled up to them and bleepled a question. Unfortunately, Moose had no idea what that particular set of beeps and whistles meant. He tried not to trip over it as they stepped out of the lift.

Both horses backed out slowly, then Manny decided he had to do what all horses do. The tiny robot whirled in panicked circles for a moment, then sat itself down close to the mess, blinking a red warning light. Galen and Moose began to lead the horses away, but were interrupted as a small contingent of tiny bots swept in to clean up the mess. Moose continued glancing behind them as Galen scouted ahead, but no one seemed to mind them being there. There were even a few other animals being loaded into or off of various shuttlecraft, although they were all caged.

Homer stopped, forcing the rest of the party to halt as well. Moose nervously looked back to the cleaning crew, which was now following them, as if in anticipation of another mess. Homer looked right, then left, and then headed off to the right.

“Are you sure he knows where he’s going?” Moose asked under his breath.

“No. But he’s never steered me wrong before. Let’s see where he’s taking us.”

Moose eyed the larger ships in the landing area, wondering just how much he could get away with. If he was going to be stuck in The Place, and it seemed he was, then he was going to be stuck with as much technology as he could carry. Spending the rest of his life teaching the antiquarians how to improve upon aqueducts and gas lamps seemed daunting. He knew he wasn’t the only high-tech inhabitant of The Place.

A set of tools was sitting innocently on a crate, and Moose picked it up. He instantly felt guilty, as theft was not something he would normally commit, but circumstances were… difficult. And time was limited.

He handed the tool case to Galen, and managed to snag a few other useful items as they walked through the bay. Homer paused a few times, looking around him, but always resumed his march, destination unknown.

Moose had just about decided to risk stealing one of the larger ships when Homer suddenly broke into a trot, snorting happily. On the other side of the large ship was a shuttle, big enough to fit a dozen people in the cab, and a dozen horses in the cargo bay. In fact, it seemed designed for that, with narrow stalls that had feeding troughs and water bowls. Homer entered one and Manny another. Both started munching on whatever was in the troughs.

“Moose…” Galen was pointing at the roof of the shuttle. “Do you understand this?”

Moose stepped around to the other side where he could put some distance between himself and the shuttle. They were close to one of the large openings to the bay, and natural light streamed in.

On top of the shuttle was a ridiculously huge red bow.

And on the side of the shuttle was a name…


What Would Have Been

What Would Have Been is a short story (or novella… who knows?) that I am publishing one chapter at a time… as I write it. It’s a fun exercise for me, and hopefully a bit of entertaining reading for you!
This story is dedicated to the Janes. The real ones and the fictional, the ones who survived, and the ones who didn’t. For all of you.
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