Children's Fiction

SHORT STORY: Finnegan the Astrodog by Michael Stevens

Finnegan the dog was thinking about the meaning of life, and of lamb chops.

Freeze-dried lamb chops, that is. Finnegan was an astrodog, you see. That’s like an astronaut. Except a dog. Living on a spaceship as a specially-chosen astrodog on a mission to Mars, you get used to freeze-dried stuff. Lamb chops were best. At least, Finnegan thought so.

Padding along a corridor, he sighed and tried to think other thoughts. Of having a nice scratch. Or of Commander Pete, his owner, who was the very best kind of human. But he kept returning to lamb chops. And when he did, he began to drool.

‘It must be that lamb chops are the meaning of it all,’ he thought. ‘Yes, that must be The Answer.’

Up ahead, he saw Logos the robot, wheeling around in the white, bright, space ship’s corridor, saying ‘hmm’.

‘Hello, Logos,’ said Finnegan. ‘I see you are thinking. Well guess what? You can stop, because I have the solution.’space dog

‘Oh really?’ said Logos hopefully as he stopped circling. ‘What is it?’

‘Lamb chops,’ said Finnegan. ‘It’s The Answer to Everything.’

‘I don’t think it’s the answer to this,’ said Logos.

Finnegan’s ears went down.

‘Really? What are you wondering about?’

‘Well,’ said Logos, scratching his metal head. ‘Do you see the flashing lights? And can you hear the Mother Computer?’

Finnegan cocked his ears. The Mother Computer was the space ship’s main computer, and her soft voice could always be heard throughout the ship.

Danger,’ she said. ‘Approaching meteors.

Finnegan wondered, as he often did, where the Mother Computer was. The voice must come from somewhere. Did she eat? And what were her opinions on freeze-dried lamb chops?

‘A vent has burst between the ship’s kitchen and the Control Room,’ said Logos. ‘And it’s letting out air and making the ship spin around dangerously.’

‘That is most interesting,’ said Finnegan, who didn’t understand any of this.

‘You see, Finnegan, I know I’m supposed to do something. I just can’t think what.’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Finnegan. ‘Commander Pete will know. He is a grown-up human of the very best kind.’

‘I hope you’re right,’ said Logos. ‘These humans, they just don’t make any sense to me. No sense at all, Finnegan.’

‘Do you know where he is?’

‘Yes,’ said his friend as they set off along the corridor, Logos’ little wheels buzzing on the grey carpet beside Finnegan. ‘I saw him earlier on in the Bio-Lab. He was just sitting there, looking at the scientist there with his mouth open. There was some spit dripping out. She wasn’t giving him a second glance, though.’

Finnegan wondered if the scientist might be a freeze-dried lamb chop, or at least the human version of one.

Danger,’ said the Mother Computer. ‘All lab doors auto-locked. Meteors approaching.

There was a bang and the lights went out. The entire space ship shook.

Then the lights went back on and Finnegan shook his scraggy head.

Continuing along the corridor, the friends talked about many things, such as lamb chops and having a good scratch. Finnegan asked if Logos liked the game Fetch.

Logos thought and said that he had never played Fetch, but would like to give it a try.

At the Bio-Lab, behind a window, Pete and a lady human were shouting and banging on the glass. Finnegan placed his paws on the window’s rubber lining.

The lady was giving Pete a second glance. And a third, and a fourth, with wide eyes as she banged. What was Logos going on about?

‘Open the door, boy!’ Finnegan could just hear Commander Pete.

Finnegan cocked his ears. Did Commander Pete want to play? He ran to his kennel and brought back his ball.

‘No Finnegan. The door! Open the Bio-Lab door.’

‘The lady is crying,’ said Logos. ‘Interesting. And why is Commander Pete talking about a door?’

Fix hole in ship’s kitchen to stop spinning,’ said the Mother Computer. ‘All lab doors on auto-lock. Ship off course.

‘I don’t know,’ said Finnegan sadly.

Then he had an idea.

‘There are some cupboard doors in the kitchen! Maybe Commander Pete wants me to fetch one.’

Logos shrugged in a robot sort of way, and they set off.  

*

In the kitchen, something felt odd.

‘Does something feel odd to you?’ said Finnegan.

‘Yes. There’s no gravity,’ said Logos, as a chair floated by.

Through the large viewing window they could see a meteor, large as a mountain, not far from the ship. And they were flying towards it.

‘Mother computer,’ said Logos. ‘Are we going towards that meteor?’

Vent open. Close immediately. Impact in three minutes,’ said the Mother Computer.

Indeed, near the ceiling was a vent. Its cover was broken and a whooshing noise came from it. Space was twinkling away, right outside.

‘Hmm,’ said Logos. ‘I do see the open vent. Hmmm.’

But Finnegan wasn’t listening.

A cupboard had burst open, and floating from it, glistening silver, were several packets of freeze-dried lamb chops. Globules of drool floated from Finnegan’s lips, and he began to paddle his legs in thin air.

But no matter how hard he paddled, he couldn’t move. He was floating!pork chop.JPG

‘Must …get …to …lamb chops,’ he said as his legs flailed about in zero gravity. Some things floated by. A kettle. A frying pan. A fire extinguisher. But Finnegan still couldn’t move.

The lamb chops teased him. There they were, inches from his nose. He could see them. He could smell them. But he couldn’t reach them, even when he extended his tongue out as far as it would go.

‘This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,’ he howled bitterly, and he meant it.

Impact in one minute,’ said the Mother Computer. ‘RED ALERT.

‘Poor Finnegan. I can help you,’ said Logos.

‘You can?’

‘Yes. Do you see that fire extinguisher? Grab hold of it.’

‘You are a true friend, said Finnegan as he straddled the extinguisher with all four legs, facing Logos. ‘Now what?’

’Well,’ said Logos, ‘I happen to know all about rocket propulsion. I am a spaceship robot, after all. A fire extinguisher is actually quite like a little rocket. I can make it move, I think.’

‘With me on it?’

‘With you on it.’

‘And I will reach the lamb chops?’

‘Yes. I just need to set off the extinguisher. If I shoot my laser at the button…’

The little robot zapped a laser at the fire extinguisher’s release button just under Finnegan’s chin. Finnegan certainly did start moving. Very quickly.

‘Aaaagh!’ said Finnegan as he flew backwards around the room. ‘What’s happening?’

Gas shot out the front of the fire extinguisher. Finnegan bounced off the cupboards, off the ceiling, off the window.

‘Hold tight, my friend,’ said Logos.

‘It’s …not …working,’ said Finnegan as he shot to the kitchen counter, then doubled back towards the microwave.

‘Hmmm,’ said Logos. ‘Well it’s true you’re not getting to the freeze-dried lamb chops. But you are moving. You can’t deny that.’’

‘Yes. And I’m …feeling …funny. Not so …hungry …anymore,’ said Finnegan as the fire extinguisher bonked him off the floor, and then shot him up to the ceiling.

‘Well that’s good, I suppose,’ said Logos.

Impact in ten seconds. Close vent to stabilise ship,’ said the Mother Computer.

The fire-extinguisher-Finnegan rocket shot to one corner of the room, and then doubled back and started flying directly to the opposite corner. Exactly where the open vent was.

‘Heeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllp,’ said Finnegan as he flew backwards towards the vent.

‘Oh, you’re heading straight for the vent Finne…’ said Logos.

Five seconds. Four. Three. Two. One.

SQUELCH

Vent has been closed. Ship no longer approaching meteor field. Please place ship back on course,’ said the Mother Computer.

The whooshing sound had stopped. Finnegan was wedged, bum first, into the vent.

Logos slapped his metal hand to his head.

‘I know what I’m supposed to do!’ he said.

‘What?’ said Finnegan, whose bum was feeling a bit cold stuck out in space.

‘Open the lab doors! So Commander Pete can steer the ship back on course,’ said Logos.

*

With the ship no longer in danger, Commander Pete had gotten the ship back heading towards Mars, away from the meteors.

He was video-chatting to Mission Control on Earth.

‘Great work, Pete,’ said the General on screen. ‘When we saw you spinning towards that meteor …well, you’re lucky to be alive.’

‘It’s all down to Finnegan,’ said Commander Pete, ruffling his dog’s ear. ‘He sealed the vent, somehow, with his butt! He’s quite the hero.’

‘And where were you when this happened?’ said the General. ‘Not down in the lab trying to ask out that scientist again I hope? Ha ha.’

‘Um…’ said Commander Pete.

Finnegan felt proud as the communication ended.

‘Well, buddy. Extra freeze-dried lamb chops for you this evening, I think,’ said Commander Pete, ruffling Finnegan’s ear.

Finnegan thought:

‘Wow; Commander Pete really is the best human ever.’

End

Mike_stevens_photo

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens grew up in the wilds of County Mayo with a real-life, non-astronaut dog called Finnegan who had one brown eye and one blue eye. Also a songwriter, in adulthood he (Michael, not Finnegan) co-founded Popical Island, Ireland’s most beloved music collective and DIY record label. He finds writing stories to be just as much fun as writing songs, with the added benefit that it doesn’t involve carrying huge amplifiers and trying to hear oneself over the drummer. Michael lives in Dublin with his lovely wife and noisy musical family of four.

You can connect with Michael on Twitter here.

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