Книга Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Содержание - 3 The Link-Up
'I'll take charge of this,' said the deep rasping voice. 'Are you there, Shanks?'
'Of course I'm here,' said Shanks. 'But how dare you butt in. Keep your big nose out of this. Who are you anyway?'
'This is the President of the United States,' said the voice.
'And this is the Wizard of Oz,' said Shanks. 'Who are you kidding?'
'Cut the piffle, Shanks,' snapped the President. 'This is a national emergency!'
'Good grief!' said Shanks, turning to Shuckworth and Showler. 'It really is the President. It's President Gilligrass himself … Well, hello there, Mr President, sir. How are you today?'
'How many people are there in that glass capsule?' rasped the President.
'Eight,' said Shanks. 'All floating.'
'We're outside the pull of gravity up here, Mr President. Everything floats. We'd be floating ourselves if we weren't strapped down. Didn't you know that?'
'Of course I knew it,' said the President. 'What else can you tell me about that glass capsule?'
'There's a bed in it,' said Shanks. 'A big double bed and that's floating too.'
'A bed!' barked the President. 'Whoever heard of a bed in a spacecraft!'
'I swear it's a bed,' said Shanks.
'You must be loopy, Shanks,' declared the President. 'You're dotty as a doughnut! Let me talk to Showler!'
'Showler here, Mr President,' said Showler, taking the mike from Shanks. 'It is a great honour to talk to you, Mr President, sir.'
'Oh, shut up!' said the President. 'Just tell me what you see.'
'It's a bed all right, Mr President. I can see it through my telescope. It's got sheets and blankets and a mattress …'
'That's not a bed, you drivelling thickwit!' yelled the President. 'Can't you understand it's a trick! It's a bomb. It's a bomb disguised as a bed! They're going to blow up our magnificent Space Hotel!'
'Who's they, Mr President, sir?' said Showler.
'Don't talk so much and let me think,' said the President.
There were a few moments of silence. Showler waited tensely. So did Shanks and Shuckworth. So did the managers and assistant managers and desk-clerks and waitresses and bell-boys and chambermaids and pastry chefs and hall porters. And down in the huge Control Room at Houston, one hundred controllers sat motionless in front of their dials and monitors, waiting to see what orders the President would give next to the astronauts.
'I've just thought of something,' said the President. 'Don't you have a television camera up there on the front of your spacecraft, Showler?'
'Sure do, Mr President.'
'Then switch it on, you nit, and let all of us down here get a look at this object!'
'I never thought of that,' said Showler. 'No wonder you're the President. Here goes …' He reached out and switched on the TV camera in the nose of the spacecraft, and at that moment, five hundred million people all over the world who had been listening in on their radios rushed to their television sets.
On their screens they saw exactly what Shuckworth and Shanks and Showler were seeing – a weird glass box in splendid orbit around the earth, and inside the box, seen not too clearly but seen none the less, were seven grown-ups and one small boy and a big double bed, all floating. Three of the grown-ups were barelegged and wearing nightshirts. And far off in the distance, beyond the glass box, the TV watchers could see the enormous, glistening, silvery shape of Space Hotel 'U.S.A.'
But it was the sinister glass box itself that everyone was staring at, and the cargo of sinister creatures inside it – eight astronauts so tough and strong they didn't even bother to wear space-suits. Who were these people and where did they come from? And what in heaven's name was that big evil-looking thing disguised as a double bed? The President had said it was a bomb and he was probably right. But what were they going to do with it? All across America and Canada and Russia and Japan and India and China and Africa and England and France and Germany and everywhere else in the world a kind of panic began to take hold of the television watchers.
'Keep well clear of them, Showler!' ordered the President over the radio link. 'Sure will, Mr President!' Showler answered. 'I sure will!'
Inside the Great Glass Elevator there was also a good deal of excitement. Charlie and Mr
Wonka and all the others could see clearly the huge silvery shape of Space Hotel 'U.S.A.'
about a mile ahead of them. And behind them was the smaller (but still pretty enormous)
Transport Capsule. The Great Glass Elevator (not looking at all great now beside these two
monsters) was in the middle. And of course everybody, even Grandma Josephine, knew
very well what was going on. They even knew that the three astronauts in charge of the
Transport Capsule were called Shuckworth, Shanks and Showler. The whole world knew
about these things. Newspapers and television had been shouting about almost nothing else
for the past six months. Operation Space Hotel was the event of the century.
'What a load of luck!' cried Mr Wonka. 'We've landed ourselves slap in the middle of the biggest space operation of all time!'
'We've landed ourselves in the middle of a nasty mess,' said Grandma Josephine. 'Turn back at once!'
'No, Grandma,' said Charlie. 'We've got to watch it now. We must see the Transport Capsule linking up with the Space Hotel.'
Mr Wonka floated right up close to Charlie. 'Let's beat them to it, Charlie,' he whispered. 'Let's get there first and go aboard the Space Hotel ourselves!'
Charlie gaped. Then he gulped. Then he said softly, 'It's impossible. You've got to have all sorts of special gadgets to link up with another spacecraft, Mr Wonka.'
'My Elevator could link up with a crocodile if it had to,' said Mr Wonka. 'Just leave it to me, my boy!'
'Grandpa Joe!' cried Charlie. 'Did you hear that? We're going to link up with the Space Hotel and go on board!'
'Yippeeeeee!' shouted Grandpa Joe. 'What a brilliant thought, sir! What a staggering idea!'
He grabbed Mr Wonka's hand and started shaking it like a thermometer.
'Be quiet, you balmy old bat!' said Grandma Josephine. 'We're in a hot enough stew already. I want to go home.'
'Me, too!' said Grandma Georgina.
'What if they come after us?' said Mr Bucket, speaking for the first time.
'What if they capture us?' said Mrs Bucket.
'What if they shoot us?' said Grandma Georgina.
'What if my beard were made of green spinach?' cried Mr Wonka. 'Bunkum and tummyrot! You'll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that. Would Columbus have discovered America if he'd said "What if I sink on the way over? What if I meet pirates? What if I never come back?" He wouldn't even have started. We want no what-iffers around here, right, Charlie? Off we go, then. But wait … this is a very tricky manoeuvre and I'm going to need help. There are three lots of buttons we have to press all in different parts of the Elevator. I shall take those two over there, the white and the black.' Mr Wonka made a funny blowing noise with his mouth and glided effortlessly, like a huge bird, across the Elevator to the white and black buttons, and there he hovered. 'Grandpa Joe, sir, kindly station yourself beside that silver button there … yes, that's the one … And you, Charlie, go up and stay floating beside that little golden button near the ceiling. I must tell you that each of these buttons fires booster rockets from different places outside the Elevator. That's how we change direction. Grandpa Joe's rockets turn us to starboard, to the right. Charlie's turn us to port, to the left. Mine make us go higher or lower or faster or slower. All ready?'
'No! Wait!' cried Charlie, who was floating exactly midway between the floor and the ceiling. 'How do I get up? I can't get up to the ceiling!' He was thrashing his arms and legs violently, like a drowning swimmer, but getting nowhere.