Chapter 24: Later
Ziggy’s idea turned out to be the single most successful thing ever to pass through the brains of ZVTMII (as the company formerly trading under Ziggy Veggie TM, Inventors Incorporated soon became known, acronyms apparently being more fashionable these days). At the first pitch, based on the name alone, Veggie - to TM’s enduring astonishment, although nothing could quite shock him where Ziggy was concerned - somehow managed to secure enough of an investment to kickstart Ziggy’s venture:
’Muscles and Mussels’.
They bought an old gym, refurbished it, stuck in a seafood bar, moved into the flat above (much larger than their old one) and Bob was their uncle, which was to say that for once, the oft-tested pairing of TM and Veggie was actually making a steady income. Life seemed to have improved, although TM never thought either of them was quite the same as they had been before Ziggy had abruptly entered, and just as abruptly exited, their lives.
‘I think we’re nearly ready to go, y’know,’ Veggie said one day, nearly three years after M&M’s grand opening. They were sitting at the bar, taking turns slurping the cheapest seafood they had in stock (it wouldn’t do for the owners to eat the stuff that paid the bills, that needed to be saved for people who would actually pay for it). From their vantage point, they could see their gym. It wasn’t exactly crowded, but it was doing well enough for them.
‘Go?’ TM asked, wondering whether Veggie was asking permission to use the toilet.
‘The spaceship,’ Veggie clarified. ‘Y’know. Go. To space.’
‘Oh,’ said TM. ‘That.’
‘I just… sort of thought it would never actually happen, you know?’ TM scratched his chin, sighing.
They’d diverted as much of their funds as they could justify into hiring a warehouse just outside the city, in which something vaguely resembling a rocket was in the process of being assembled. Marty had borrowed some of his mother’s books on the subject of rocket science, which none of them could understand; between the three of them, plus Dominika’s god-tier DIY skills and Derrida’s unhelpful interjections about how they were doing it wrong, they stuck a load of components together into something that at least looked a bit like a spaceship. As far as Veggie was concerned, the fact that it looked like what it was supposed to be meant that it was definitely going to work. TM was less convinced, but had never been able to shake the feeling that Ziggy’s very existence meant that maybe physics and all that other science stuff wasn’t quite as rigid as it had seemed. Maybe there was some unknown law that meant that being pretty cool was actually sufficient to make a thing function well. It wouldn’t be the strangest thing.
‘I think I know what you mean,’ Veggie mused. ‘We sort of started doing it because we felt like we had to, but we didn’t really think about finishing.’
TM nodded. ’We just wanted to be doing something to get Ziggy back. I don’t think we thought about how it would actually work. Just that… the effort would pay off eventually, some day we wouldn’t have to think about yet.’
‘Well, now I feel like we’ve let her down,’ Veggie said. His hand went to his chest, where TM knew he had kept the little fragment of space rock on a chain.
‘It’s just… funny how things seem like such good ideas until you have to do them,’ TM said.
’We managed to do Muscles and Mussels, no? That was hard work.’ Veggie gestured at the building around them: concrete proof that they had, in fact, achieved something.
TM had to agree, but something continued to bother him. ‘Do you feel like we’ve… forgotten her?’
‘Not a chance.’
’I mean, I know we both remember her, but… I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve remembered her in as active of a way as we should probably have done.’
Veggie gave TM a searching look, undermined only slightly by the shrimp sticking half out of his mouth. He sucked it in, chewed and swallowed, coughed a few times, then resumed the deep stare. ‘This is about Aster,’ he said.
TM blinked. ‘What?’
‘Are you really asking me that?’
‘Just… this is about her for you. I think.’
‘Well, thank you for that insight.’
Veggie’s phone vibrated on the counter; he swiped it up and held it to his ear. ’Moshi moshi.’
TM had another prawn.
‘We’ll be over,’ Veggie said, and hung up. ‘That was Marty,’ he told TM. ‘He says the rocket isn’t finished as such, but he’s done everything he knows how to do in order to make it as rocket-like as possible, so we may as well give it a go.’