Author’s Note: For those who are unfamiliar with this incredible work of pure fact, you can find the foreword here and the first chapter here.
After witnessing the rocket filled with the 100 best Wizzits in Wizzit history blow up in a spectacular and ironically amusing fashion, the Ministry of Science and Practical jokes formed an inquiry into how such a thing could possibly have happened. What we humans do not understand is that such investigations are done incredibly efficiently on the Planet Whizbang, so efficiently, in fact, that they tend to skip all the long “sciencey” experiments and get straight to the blame. Within one minute of watching the instant replay of the rocket exploding, it was determined that the proper sacrifices to Slorkos, the Divine Sneezeguard of the Divine Buffet, were never made.
They knew this because everyone on the rocket died in a fire. The Ministry official in charge of making the report to the Wizzit Parliament and Ministry of Long Names That Make No Sense checked the appropriate failure box, “Atheism,” and sent it along via mail. He didn’t need to put a stamp on the form because the Wizzit Postal Service and Health Spa Authority didn’t require puny stamps to be placed on documents. This is another way in which the Wizzits are far superior to anything humans could ever hope to accomplish in the fields of sending papers to people and managing restorative spa facilities.
Within one Wizzit week (50 Earth days), the message traveled the fifteen blocks over to Parliament where it was read out loud in front of cameras and other recording devices. Lady Ghezoonhite, the Prime Minister of Parliament, read the missive in his usual somber voice. As politicians are wont to do on any planet, he also decided to commemorate the occasion with a short speech blaming atheists for everything that was wrong with society today, including the theft of his bike when he was but a tadpole. Clearly someone on board (most likely Snood, the Gufbal villain) didn’t venerate the gods enough. It was a good thing the rocket exploded. No one would have taken the Wizzits seriously if they sent dirty, scum-sucking atheists abroad.
By manner of decree, the right honorable Lady commanded that a thousand token atheists be found and scolded to atone for the sins of all of the Wizzit people. In the meantime, Lady Ghezoonhite also commanded that a different Ministry be given the charge of building the next rocket. Names of all the ministries were thrown into a very large hat, and the winner was drawn forth. The next builder of the rocket which would spare the Wizzit people from having to watch other species evolve painfully slowly would be the Ministry of Secret Handshakes and Water Polo. No finer choice could have been made.
The Ministry had a tremendous task ahead of it in the form of finding the best Wizzits around to go forth into the cosmos. Many Wizzits lamented that the best Wizzits ever to have lived were aboard the rocket when it exploded due to atheist intervention. How could inferior Wizzits succeed where their betters have failed?
On a side note, here is where Gus waxed philosophical about the different ministries, including a short rant on personal hygiene. He also informed me that ketchup is a terrible way to practice safe sex. I told him that ketchup was a “condiment” and not a “condom,” but he reminded me that he was superior in intellect to me. At any rate, eventually he got back to the story about the rocket.
After the talent show and victory brunch, the Ministry of Secret Handshakes and Water Polo Chief Minister Poxelgoot finally was able to convince the rest of the Wizzits that with the best Wizzits dead, the next people to be used were technically the best Wizzits available. His immaculate logic and superb intellect recognized, everyone commented on how he was right. This time things would be different, he assured them.
Not wanting to repeat the same mistake of the previous mission, the Ministry decided to trust to divine fortune in order to find their next crew. The first 100 Wizzits who shambled through the door would become the next crew of the spaceship Yurklegronk (a name which means “mighty spaceship which shall travel the heavens and bring back souvenirs of an interesting sort, but no fruitcakes!” in English). As the Divine Buffet worked tirelessly to provide, the Ministry members waited patiently with tentacles folded behind their backs.
Three days later the first crew person walked in. He was a Butpuk of the first order, Gentlewoman Toocheefeelee of House Toocheefeelee and heiress to the Slimee Creem estate. He claimed to be lost and was looking for his wife when the rest of the Ministry congratulated him on his good fortune. Since they seemed friendly enough, Toocheefeelee decided he’d become ship’s captain.
While they were waiting, the Ministry worked tirelessly on the new rocket. The smartest handshake engineers put their heads together and determined that they wouldn’t change the rocket design. After all, it was atheism that wrecked it. There was only one improvement they could make, and it really wasn’t that difficult after all.
It took another four days to round out the crew, but eventually everyone was ready and in their jumpsuits. The next day was set for the launch, and the whole mission was put on an automated timer to make sure everything went according to schedule. On the morning of the great day, the crew all lined up next to the rocket and waved goodbye with outstretched tentacles. Toocheefeelee approached the door and tried to open it. “Please confirm secret handshake,” said the security computer.
“I don’t have any hands,” replied Toocheefeelee. “Please open the hatch.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” said the computer. “If you don’t give me the secret handshake, then I can’t let you in. Rules are rules.”
Overhead, an alarm system blared, “LAUNCH IN TWO MINUTES. PLEASE CLEAR FROM THE LAUNCH PAD.”
Toochee scratched his chin, a sense of urgency creeping into his thoughts. “What is the secret handshake?” he asked.
“If I told you, then it wouldn’t be a secret,” said the computer. “Please confirm the secret handshake.”
“Um, does the secret handshake involve intricate finger use?” Toochee asked.
“Well, I think there are two steps that requi–wait one minute! You’re trying to trick me! How decidedly devious of you! And you call yourself a Wizzit!”
“I meant no harm,” Toochee protested.
The alarm system blared again, “LAUNCH IN ONE MINUTE. PLEASE CLEAR FROM THE LAUNCH PAD. IT WILL GET DANGEROUSLY HOT.”
“Perhaps if we might discuss this inside the rocket,” Toochee offered. One minute sounded like a dreadfully short time. He had 99 other Wizzits behind him looking quite impatient to be on with the whole affair.
“Sorry, if I make an exception for you, I have to make an exception for everyone,” the computer replied. “Can’t have a society without rules.”
“Well, you see the Ministry didn’t tell me about any secret handshake,” Toochee said. “All they said was I need to ride this rocket around the universe.”
“Of course they didn’t tell you,” said the computer. “It’s a secret. Really, what sort of computer do you take me for? I wasn’t programmed yesterday.”
“THIRTY SECONDS TO LAUNCH. THE TEMPERATURE OF THE FLAMES WILL REACH 3000 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT AND VAPORIZE YOU INTO TINY BITS.”
Toochee banged on the hatch. “Now see here!” he yelled, his temper getting the better of him. “I’ve got a rocket to ride, and you’re going to let me and the others on! Open the hatch right this minute!”
“No need to resort to violence,” the computer replied. “Calm yourself and give me the secret handshake. Otherwise, you aren’t going anywhere with me.”
“LISTEN UP YOU CHEEKY BASTARD,” Toochee screamed. “I DEMAND YOU OPEN THIS ROCKET RIGHT NOW!” To accentuate his point, he slammed his tentacles onto the cold steel. A pleasing clang echoed across the launch pad.
“TEN SECONDS TO LAUNCH. IF YOU’RE NOT A MILE AWAY OR INSIDE THE ROCKET, FEEL FREE TO BEND OVER AND KISS YOUR ASS GOODBYE.”
Upon hearing the announcement of his doom, Toochee turned around to face everyone else. “Does anyone know the secret handshake?” he asked. Everyone shrugged their shoulders, and they proceeded to bend over.
As the Wizzit nation watched in morbid fascination, the rocket launched into the sky. It exploded about a mile further along than the previous one did, so all in all it was hailed as a success.