There wasn’t much to do in the pizza pod, despite its light speed and black-hole hopping. Normally, that would be okay for Clovenard, who once won an intergalactic staring contest championship by simply falling asleep with his eyes open.
But as this was his first time in this part of the universe, he found that the galactic rays were messing with his natural biorhythm. He tried different napping positions turning this way and that but after he nearly reset the autopilot with his foot, he resorted to just staring out of the window.
The Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour trains its employees to deliver their pizzas with smiles and flourish, and a tagline that goes “Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour pizzas put pizzazz in your pizzas every time!”, which, admittedly, can be somewhat of a linguistic challenge. Most Praxitans would have no problem memorising and repeating the line.
Clovenard – well, Clovenard wasn’t most Praxitans.
But he tried. A couple of light-years past Saturn and he began to mumble the restaurant’s tagline.
One time. Two times. Twenty times.
By the time he could see Earth’s tiny blue spec in the distance, Clovenard felt confident enough that he could handle the line just like any other employee. He smiled, giggled, and leaned back in satisfaction.
That’s when he saw it.
The tag line, writ large on the ceiling of the pod.
He’d been saying only half of it. With smiles and flourish, but only half of it.
Earth was coming up fast.
Clovenard panicked. It wasn’t like they wouldn’t accept the pizza if he didn’t say the line – that scientist on Earth would be happy to even get delivery out there.
And yet, Clovenard felt compelled to say the whole thing. To do something properly – for once in his life. As he gazed at Earth, he felt himself swell with a primordial sense of pride, of pioneering, of succeeding. Of transcending his shortcomings.
Studies on Praxitus have long associated stubbornness with stupidity.
Clovenard made what we’d call an executive decision: He took the pod off the autopilot, and slowed its approach to Earth to buy some time. Then he looked up at the looming tagline, took a deep breath, pursed his protolips, and focused all of his limited attention to memorising it.
Of course, when you take a pod – or anything, for that matter – off autopilot, you still need a pilot.
There is a theory on Earth, about how the dinosaurs went extinct. It says that a huge meteor hit the surface of Earth so hard that it caused a global catastrophe, changing the entire planet’s climate.
Well. That’s not entirely wrong.
Clovenard finally said the line, the whole line, and then he looked down from the ceiling.
Blue. So much blue. Growing really fast.
Clovenard screeched in horror and tried to re-engage the autopilot. The autopilot came on, saw what was going on, and just started laughing.
There isn’t an engineer on Praxitus who can explain that.
Clovenard tried to pull the throttles back and slow his descent to Earth, but the pod was already caught into the planet’s gravity.
Alarms went off, and the autopilot began singing an old sad song.
Clovenard was freaking out. He was hitting buttons, pulling levers, and switching lights on and off – mostly off, which quickly turned the pod into a free-falling fireball, careening towards what would be later called the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico.
Finally, Clovenard must have pressed the EJECT button, because next thing he knew he was looking down at his wiggling feet with the pod falling fast below the clouds.
The pizza floated next to him. Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour pride themselves on delivery sun or rain or apocalyptic, extinction-level events.
The pod vanished under the clouds, and Clovenard focused on trying to get a hold of the pizza. He would salvage what he could of –
That’s what he heard, and his anguished mind recalled some Engineering class where they explained how Praxitus used fusion to power –
Clovenard just stared at the world under his feet.
Surely a tiny pod like that wouldn’t –
It was a solid argument. Even Clovenard could understand it.
He grabbed the pizza, hit his jetpack, and flew towards the customer’s co-ordinates. Behind him followed shockwaves, flames, lights, thunders, and every other word a thesaurus will give you related to “Armageddon”.
Clovenard bit his protolips and kept scooting. He didn’t look back, but he could feel the warmth of the of world-changing explosion behind him.
He scooted faster, pushing the jetpack into the red. The warmth grew into heat, and heat into singeing and singeing into ouch, and ouch into AAAAAAAARGH.
Then he took a sudden left, and the river of fire passed him.
The scientist was standing on a rock, hugging a triceratops. The way he would tell the story later on, the whole world caught fire, the earth began to crack, volcanoes erupted, forests burned to a crisp, the air filled with acrid smoke, and suddenly, a young Praxitan, uniform black with soot, rose out of the ashes, the world ending behind him.
Clovenard walked over to the scientist, handed him a half-burned, squashed pizza box, looked him straight in the eyes, did an awkward little jig, smiled and flourished and cried out with pride: “Praxitan Popular Pizza Parlour pizzas put in pizzazz your time in every pizza!”
Also, the triceratops died.