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Книга Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Содержание - 10 Transport Capsule in Trouble – Attack No. 1

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'What on earth's going on?' said the President. 'Shuckworth! Are you there, Shuckworth? … Shanks! Showler! Mr Walter Wall! Where are you all! What's happening?'

The screams continued. They were so loud the President had to put his fingers in his ears. Every house in the world that had a television or radio receiver heard those awful screams. There were other noises, too. Loud grunts and snortings and crunching sounds. Then there was silence.

Frantically the President called the Space Hotel on the radio. Houston called the Space Hotel. The President called Houston. Houston called the President. Then both of them called the Space Hotel again. But answer came there none. Up there in space all was silent.

'Something nasty's happened,' said the President.

'It's those men from Mars,' said the Ex-Chief of the Army. 'I told you to let me blow them up.'

'Silence!' snapped the President. 'I've got to think.'

The loudspeaker began to crackle. 'Hello!' it said. 'Hello hello hello! Are you receiving me, Space Control in Houston?'

The President grabbed the mike on his desk. 'Leave this to me, Houston!' he shouted. 'President Gilligrass here receiving you loud and clear! Go ahead!'

'Astronaut Shuckworth here, Mr President, back aboard the Transport Capsule … thank heavens!'

'What happened, Shuckworth? Who's with you?'

'We're most of us here, Mr President, I'm glad to say. Shanks and Showler are with me, and a whole bunch of other folks. I guess we lost maybe a couple of dozen people altogether, pastry chefs, hall porters, that sort of thing. It sure was a scramble getting out of that place alive!'

'What do you mean you lost two dozen people?' shouted the President. 'How did you lose them?'

'Gobbled up!' replied Shuckworth. 'One gulp and that was it! I saw a big six-foot-tall assistant-manager being swallowed up just like you'd swallow a lump of ice-cream, Mr President! No chewing – nothing! Just down the hatch!'

'But who?' yelled the President. 'Who are you talking about? Who did the swallowing?'

'Hold it!' cried Shuckworth. 'Oh, my lord, here they all come now! They're coming after us! They're swarming out of the Space Hotel! They're coming out in swarms! You'll have to excuse me a moment, Mr President. No time to talk right now!'


Transport Capsule in Trouble – Attack No. 1

While Shuckworth, Shanks and Showler were being chased out of the Space Hotel by the Knids, Mr Wonka's Great Glass Elevator was orbiting the Earth at tremendous speed. Mr Wonka had all his booster-rockets firing and the Elevator was reaching speeds of thirty-four thousand miles an hour instead of the normal seventeen thousand. They were trying, you see, to get away from that huge angry Vermicious Knid with the purple behind. Mr Wonka wasn't afraid of it, but Grandma Josephine was petrified. Every time she looked at it, she let out a piercing scream and clapped her hands over her eyes. But of course thirty-four thousand miles an hour is dawdling to a Knid. Healthy young Knids think nothing of travelling a million miles between lunch and supper, and then another million before breakfast the next day. How else could they travel between the planet Vermes and other stars? Mr Wonka should have known this and saved his rocket-power, but he kept right on going and the giant Knid kept right on cruising effortlessly alongside, glaring into the Elevator with its wicked red eye. 'You people have bruised my backside,' the Knid seemed to be saying, 'and in the end I'm going to get you for that.'

They had been streaking around the Earth like this for about forty-five minutes when Charlie, who was floating comfortably beside Grandpa Joe near the ceiling, said suddenly, 'There's something ahead! Can you see it, Grandpa? Straight in front of us!'

'I can, Charlie, I can … Good heavens, it's the Space Hotel!' 'It can't be, Grandpa. We left it miles behind us long ago.'

' Ah-ha,' said Mr Wonka. 'We've been going so fast we've gone all the way around the Earth and caught up with it again! A splendid effort!'

'And there's the Transport Capsule! Can you see it, Grandpa? It's just behind the Space Hotel!'

'There's something else there, too, Charlie, if I'm not mistaken!'

'I know what those are!' screamed Grandma Josephine. 'They're Vermicious Knids! Turn back at once!'

'Reverse!' yelled Grandma Georgina. 'Go the other way!'

'Dear lady,' said Mr Wonka. 'This isn't a car on the motorway. When you are in orbit, you cannot stop and you cannot go backwards.'

'I don't care about that!' shouted Grandma Josephine. 'Put on the brakes! Stop! Back-pedal!

The Knids'll get us!'

'Now let's for heaven's sake stop this nonsense once and for all,' Mr Wonka said sternly. 'You know very well my Elevator is completely Knidproof. You have nothing to fear.'

They were closer now and they could see the Knids pouring out from the tail of the Space Hotel and swarming like wasps around the Transport Capsule.

'They're attacking it!' cried Charlie. 'They're after the Transport Capsule!'

It was a fearsome sight. The huge green egg-shaped Knids were grouping themselves into squadrons with about twenty Knids to a squadron. Then each squadron formed itself into a line abreast, with one yard between Knids. Then, one after another, the squadrons began attacking the Transport Capsule. They attacked in reverse with their pointed rear-ends in front and they came in at a fantastic speed.

WHAM! One squadron attacked, bounced off and wheeled away.

CRASH! Another squadron smashed against the side of the Transport Capsule.

'Get us out of here, you madman!' screamed Grandma Josephine. 'What are you waiting for?'

'They'll be coming after us next!' yelled Grandma Georgina. 'For heaven's sake, man, turn back!'

'I doubt very much if that capsule of theirs is Knidproof,' said Mr Wonka.

'Then we must help them!' cried Charlie. 'We've got to do something! There are a hundred and fifty people inside that thing!'

Down on the Earth, in the White House study, the President and his advisers were listening in horror to the voices of the astronauts over the radio.

'They're coming at us in droves!' Shuckworth was shouting. 'They're bashing us to bits!' 'But who?' yelled the President. 'You haven't even told us who's attacking you!'

'These dirty great greenish-brown brutes with red eyes!' shouted Shanks, butting in. 'They're shaped like enormous eggs and they're coming at us backwards!'

'Backwards?' cried the President. 'Why backwards?'

'Because their bottoms are even more pointy than their tops!' shouted Shuckworth. 'Look out! Here comes another lot!' BANG! 'We won't be able to stand this much longer, Mr President! The waitresses are screaming and the chambermaids are all hysterical and the bell-boys are being sick and the hall porters are saying their prayers so what shall we do, Mr President, sir, what on earth shall we do?'

'Fire your rockets, you idiot, and make a re-entry!' shouted the President. 'Come back to Earth immediately!'

'That's impossible!' cried Showler. 'They've busted our rockets! They've smashed them to smithereens!'

'We're cooked, Mr President!' shouted Shanks. 'We're done for! Because even if they don't succeed in destroying the capsule, we'll have to stay up here in orbit for the rest of our lives! We can't make a re-entry without rockets!'

The President was sweating and the sweat ran all the way down the back of his neck and inside his collar.

'Any moment now, Mr President,' Shanks went on, 'we're going to lose contact with you altogether! There's another lot coming at us from the left and they're aiming straight for our radio aerial! Here they come! I don't think we'll be able to …' The voice cut. The radio went dead.

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