“HOUSTON, we have a problem.” Commander Milly Walters’ voice now had a cut-glass edge. Her blue astronaut’s overalls did nothing to conceal her truly spectacular figure, but her crew knew her as one tough cookie. And knew they were in deep trouble. The shuttle vibrated in the thickening atmosphere of re-entry.
“Tell them we’ve lost half our tiles!” yelled Lieutenant Briggs, her Number Two, his face white. She smiled across at him, her slim fingers a blur at the controls.
“You can tell them … soon as I get this thing on the ground.”
The chipped windscreen cleared for an instant, revealing Earth.
“My God! We’re coming in upside down!” shouted a crew member, yanking his belt harness tighter.
“Quiet,” Briggs snapped. “If anyone can handle this thing it’s our Commander. Hell wouldn’t scare The Maestro.” Commander Walter’s voice was now its usual calm drawl: “Houston, we have very limited control here. I’m going to have to land her inverted.”
There was a pause, crackling with tension. “Copy that, Commander. Land the shuttle, ah, inverted. No problem. We’re not breathing down here, but bring her in. Spraying foam on the runway now—”
“Watch it!” said her husband. “You’re getting foam all over the counter-top.”
“Oops, sorry,” said Milly Walters. She focussed on the man, glowering at her over his horn-rims, over his newspaper.
“There’s a problem with this new machine,’ she said, “the steam comes out before the coffee does.”
“You were spraying foam all over the place. You know I can’t stand it when it’s all coffee, if I wanted it black I’d ask for it black.”
Milly Walters deftly filled his cup with her right hand while mopping the counter with her left, the roar of the space shuttle fading into the blue outer space of her mind. Mr Walters accepted his coffee, glanced up and spoke.“You’re getting scatty again. Does your famous Doctor Whatsit really know what she’s doing? Shouldn’t she have you on medication? –And I keep seeing you fiddling with those weird potions of yours. If you spent as much time on me as you do on those, those weeds…It can’t be good for you, this Mad Scientist business.”