Twas the Night Before Jump


Cosmic Mongoose
'Twas the night before Jump, when all through the ship,
Not a console was stirring, not even a blip;
The stasis pods were hung by the medic with care,
In hopes that New Terra soon would be there;

The crew were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of star maps danced in their heads;
And the pilot in her jumpsuit, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long jumpspace nap,

When out on the hull there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bunk to see what was the matter.
Away to the viewport I flew like a flash,
Deactivated the blast shields with a quick control dash.

The cosmic dust dancing in the light of twin suns,
Cast shadows and highlights, like whispers and hums
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature shuttle and eight tiny robo-deer!

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be a mech.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, Astro! now, Cosmo! now, Plasma and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Quasar, Albedo, and Blitzen!
To the top of the ship! to the top of the hull!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the dorsal airlock they flew
With the sleigh full of Gadgets, and the mech-driver too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each metal hoof.
As I grabbed my blaster, and was turning around,
Down the cargo hatch the mech came with a bound.

He was dressed in faux-fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with asteroid soot;
A bundle of tech he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a merchant just opening his pack.

His sensors—how they flickered! his casing, how sleek!
His panels were polished, his antenna unique!
His digital display was curved just so,
And the light on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like Rigelian jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old mech,
And I laughed when I saw him, “Hehe - what the heck?”;
A scan from his eye and a spin of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the cargo pods; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
Activating his gravbelt, up the cargo bay he rose;

He sprang to his shuttle, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a volley of missiles!
But I heard him transmit, ere he jumped out of sight—
"Happy Jump-space to all, and to all a good-night!”
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