Second Star to the Right? Newly unabridged

Maeryn Lamonte Copyright ©️ 2024
I doubt this’ll count as it’s about a thousand words short, but just for the fun...

“Mr Smee! What in blue blazes do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m steering the ship, captain, like you said.”

“Then why, pray, are we going in the wrong direction?”

“No sir. I beg to differ sir. Not the wrong direction at all. You said, ‘Second star to the right and straight on till morning, sir.”

“So do tell me, you imbecile, why it is that we’re steering for the third star to the right?”

“No sir. Not the third star to to to the right sir. Over there sir, you’ll you’ll see the first star, and and and...”
“And also the second star Mr Smee.”

“No sir. I beg to differ sir. There’s just the one star er, with your permission sir.”

“Smee, you blundering buffoon, you’re using the wrong telescope! You’re not able to resolve the Airy disk.”

“B-b-b-begging year pardon captain, but I ain’t got no 'airy disk. I’ve been clean shaven all my life, man and boy, so I ‘ave.”

“No, no, no, no, no. Numskull! Airy disk! Didn’t you learn anything at that astronomy course I sent you on?”

“I learnt you was a Capricorn, sir. You old goat. Ha ha ha. Sorry sir, just a joke. No sir, not funny sir, not at all, sir.”

“Astronomy, Smee. The study of the stars, not that made up nonsense.”

“B-b-b-begging your indulgence sir, but aren’t we just made up nonsense, sir?”

“That’s beside the point. Just because we’re fictional doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to be something better.

“An Airy disk, Mr Smee, is what you observed when you look at a single star through a telescope.”

“Yes sir, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you sir. And when I observe that star over there...”

“You have been doing so using a telescope with too small an objective lens, and an eyepiece with too small an aperture”

“I don’t understand, sir.”

“No, evidently you do not. Much as it may well be a waste of my time, let me try to correct the matter.

“Neither telescope nor naked eye make ideal instruments for the observation of stars. When you look at a star, not only do you see the bright point in the middle, which is the star itself, but you also see a series of faint concentric rings. This is due to a process that takes place in a lens which we refer to as diffraction. I do not expect you to understand what this is, just accept it.”

“Are you saying those rings around the stars are...”

“An optical illusion, yes. They are not real. Just something you see because that’s the way light behaves in a lens.”

“Well fancy that! I always Thought they was angels hiding behind the stars.”

“No Mr Smee, they are not angels hiding behind the stars. Angels, unlike yourself, are possessed of more than a miniscule degree of intelligence. They would be aware, Mr Smee, that their halos remained visible when they ducked behind heavenly bodies, and they would realise this negated the effectiveness of their attempting to evade observation. Being thus cognisant, they would realise the futility of the action and would not attempt it in the first place. Do I make myself clear, Mr Smee?”

“Er...”

“THEY ARE NOT ANGELS, MR SMEE! What you are observing when you see this effect is an Airy disk, merely the appearance of any self respecting dot of light in the cosmos.”

“So, what does that all mean, captain, sir?”

“It means, Mr Smee, that the radius of an Airy disk, defined by the distance from the centre of the bright spot to the first area of deepest darkness, meaning the centre of the dark area between the central spot and the first halo ...”

“There you are, sir. I knew it was angels.”

“A halo, Mr Smee, is a circle of light. Admittedly famously possessed by angels, but also present in a great many other radiant objects – such as stars. Now listen and try to understand.

“The radius of an Airy disk may be calculated as one point two two multiplied by the wavelength of the light you are observing, further multiplied by the focal length of the optical apparatus and then divided by the diameter of the eyepiece against which you choose to place your mark one eyeball. This means that the smaller the eyepiece, the larger the Airy disk becomes. Also, the less light reaches the back of your eye, so the harder it becomes to see anything. You do not want either of these things. Are you following, Mr Smee?”

“Er, y-y-y-y-no sir. Why would you want to make this Airy Fairy disk thing bigger?”

“Airy disk, Mr Smee. Not Airy fairy, and you do not want to make it bigger. A small Airy fairy... Damn your eyes but you have me doing it now. That reminds me though. Where is that fairy? Twinklebelle?”

“Yes sir, captain my captain.”

A short and slender crewman appears in a burst of sibilance and a swirl of chiffon.

“Oh God. It’s not the same. I miss Pan and his little friend. You don’t have to dress like that, Twinkle, not if you don’t want to.”

“Oh, but I do sir. I do so love the way this outfit makes me feel. It doesn’t make me look fat, sir, does it?”

“No, Twinklebelle, your outfit does not make you look the least bit fat.”

“Oh thank you sir. You do say the sweetest things. Would you like me to come by your cabin later for a little, you know...”

“Stop. Quiet. Don’t say anything. Yes but... Let’s be discrete, shall we.”

“You know me sir. I’ll be anything you want me to be.”

“Yes. Herumph. Yes, well right now I’d like you to be the er, the crewma... er person who brings me my selection of telescopes.”

“Well alright, but that’s no fun.”

“Work now, fun later. Ahem! Now observe, Mr Smee, when we have two stars very close together, the interference patterns begin to merge and it becomes impossible to see that there are in fact two stars in your field of view. It has in fact been postulated that in order to resolve two nearby stars, you need to ensure that their angular separation is such that the centre of the Airy disk for one star is no closer than the first minimum in the Airy disk of the other. This angle may be calculated in radians using the formula, one point two two multiplied by the wavelength of the light you are observing, further multiplied by the diameter of your aperture, which is to say the big round bit at the front of the telescope. Since visible light is somewhat fixed at about half a micrometre in wavelength, the only means of increasing this angle is to increase the size of the aperture.”

“So what you’re saying is...”

“Use a big telescope with a big lens at the front and a reasonably big eyepiece. The larger eyepiece will make sure your Airy disks are small, which means the stars you observe will be tiny pinpricks of light, and the larger lens at the front will ensure you have a good enough resolution that...”

“I’ve got a really good resolution this year. I resolve never to mention the crocodile in your presence, Captain... Oh bum.”

“Never mind, Smee. Look through this telescope.”

“What, at that star? The first star to the right?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“There are two stars! How did that happen? Did one give birth to the other? Is that how stars are born?”

“No Smee, both stars were always there, its just that they were so close together you couldn’t tell them apart.”

“You mean one was hiding behind the other?”

“Well no... Oh alright, if it helps.”

“But if one star’s hiding behind the other...”

“Yes, Mr Smee?”

“Well, where do the angels go?”

“Forget the damned angels, Mr Smee!”

“They’re called demons, sir.”

“What!?”

“Damned angels is what we calls demons sir.”

“I don’t care!! What I do care about is that you now see that there are two stars over there and not one?”

“Yes captain.”

“Are you satisfied that what hitherto appeared to be a single celestial object, is in fact two?

“Sir?”

“What looks like one star is in fact two?”

“Yes sir.”

“And so, you are prepared now to accept that the second star to the right is in fact over there, very close to the first star to the right?”

“I suppose so. Thank you, Captain. I understand a lot better now.”

“Do you indeed? Perhaps you would care to explain to me what you have learned?”

“Well sir, you should always use a big telescope, otherwise you won’t know that the first star on the right is actually the second one too. Also Mr Rayleigh’s got a hairy disk, but he’s resolved to separate it by putting the big blob in the gap in the middle.”

“Close enough. Carry on Mr Smee. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my cabin nursing a headache. Or maybe I’ll leave the nursing to someone else. Where’s Twinklebelle gone?”

“Right you are, Captain. So, second star to the right, which is the same as the first one because Sir Walter Rayleigh’s writing at his hairy desk, blowing smoke rings round the stars, making it harder to count 'em.

“I honestly don’t know how he makes it so complicated. This astronomology is easy, especially when you’re properly Libra-cated. Now where’s the booze. Time to get well and truly Pisces.

“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
Get that grog down in your tum.
Keep on going till you’re feeling numb.
Then get to the gunwales ‘cos here she come
And
Huey and Ralph sing up she rises
Heave and barf ‘cos up she rises
Thunder and chunder and up she rises
Early in the morning."

“Oh, Twinkle, I don’t want to be Captain anymore. I’m so tired of trying to teach these nincompoops. I’ve tried yelling at them, I’ve tried calling them names, nothing seems to work.”

“Well that’s alright captain, I have a spare fairy outfit. We could be fairies together if you like.”

“That’s very thoughtful, Twinkle, but I don’t think so. I’m too old to be a fairy.”

“Oh no, sir! You’re never too old to be a fairy. Some of the nicest fairies I know are older than you.”

“No, I mean... I mean I couldn’t pull off a short skirt the way you do. My legs aren’t what they used to be.”

“Then may I make another suggestion, Captain?”

“By all means.”

“Well sir, when Pan left Neverland with Peter, Michael and Wendy along with a lot of the lost boys, you must know there were some who chose to stay behind.”

“Of course I know. I offered them a place on the crew. You’re one of them, aren’t you? I mean you were one of them.”

“Yes sir. It’s very kind of you to put it like that way, sir. The thing is, we all miss Wendy, and we was wondering...”

“Were.”

“Were wondering. I mean, Wendy knew this would happen, so she sent us this. It’s the nightdress she wore while she was with us, and she says that Tinkerbell put a new sort of fairy dust on it. You know she’s a tinker fairy and invents things? Well, she calls this Hubblegubble bugs or something like that.

“She said to give it to the new Wendy when we found her. I was wondering sir, well you know, if you’d like to try being our new Wendy.”

“I’d never fit in that, Twinkle. Wendy was quite small compared to me. Compared to pretty much any of us, come to think of it.”

“But that’s the magic of this thing, sir. Literally. It doesn’t care who you were, it only helps to make you who you want to be, and I do hope you’ll want to be our Wendy – our Captain Darling.”

“Well I don’t know. I mean what would I have to do, Twinkle?”

“Well sir, firstly we’d have to do away with your hair. It’s a shame, because you have such lovely dark curls, but a Wendy has to have light brown hair. It’s not very interesting, but I’m sure you understand.”

“Oh, I don’t mind that Twinkle. It’s only a wig after all. Surely you knew that.”

“I suspected, sir,” the sibilance ran to excess, “but I never knew for sure. Then we’ll have to shave off your moustache.”

“Oh, not my moustache, Twink. Not my lovely moustache.”

“It is a lovely moustache, Captain, but surely you can see how silly a Wendy with a moustache would be.”

“But it’s my moustache.”

“Yes sir, but sometimes you have to give up something you love to gain something even more precious. I know you’ll just love being a Wendy.”

“Oh dear. Well, what else? What happens then?”

“Well, after that, sir, you step behind the screen, put on the nightdress and become our Wendy.”

“Become an utter fool you mean. Can you imagine how silly I’ll look squeezed into this thing. Like a string of overstuffed sausages.”

“Oh not at all sir. The magic will take care of everything, you’ll see. To be honest, I’m quite jealous. I’d love to be a Wendy.”

“So why don’t you put it on then?”

“Oh no, sir, I couldn’t. It takes a very special person to become a Wendy. I couldn’t possibly.

“You though, you have all the qualities. I wouldn’t have suggested it otherwise.”

“Oh, alright then. I can’t possibly carry on the way things are."

“Oh, one more thing, Captain. You should remove your hook too.”

“But it’s my hook. It’s what makes me me.”

“Well, hopefully you’ll be someone else very soon.”

“You do know I’m going to be very upset if this ends up being for nothing.”

“Yes, sir. Just step behind the privacy screen and step out of your clothes. I can help you if you like.”

“I can manage just fine, thank you.”

“Alright then. When you’re ready.”

“I’m ready. Give it here. Let’s get this over with...

“Oh my. Oh, I say. Oh, that’s different.”

“Captain? Are you alright? You sound a little...”

“Ooh, that’s nice. Well I very never did. I didn’t expect this. I feel all soft and... Oh my, I have two of these now. I suppose that means... Oooh, that is quite... Oooh.”

“Captain?”

“Hello Twinklebelle. I never asked if you liked that name, did I? Would you prefer a different one?”

“Oh, Captain, don’t you look pretty?”

“Do I? I suppose I must. I certainly feel pretty. This was such a lovely idea of yours, Twinklebelle – if you’re absolutely sure you don’t mind the name.”

“No, Captain Wendy, I do like the name. You gave it to me after all, and I much prefer it to Curly.”

“Is that what Pan called you? I suppose you do have curly hair, but it’s not very imaginative. Oh, look Twink, I have my hand back. And it is such a lovely hand. Thank you so much for suggesting this. I think I shall be famously happy now.”

“What should we do now, sir... Ma’am... Miss?”

“I think I like Miss. Let’s go up on deck and tell everyone, shall we?”

“Well, you are the captain, Captain. You can do whatever you like.”

“I can, can't I? How splendid.

“Hello, everyone, I’m Captain Wendy Moira Angela Darling the second, and I’m going to be taking command of this ship, as long as that’s alright with everyone?

“Mr Smee, is that rum I smell on you? Have you been drinking?”

“YupImaybhavehadaniportwo, hic.”

“Well that’s certainly won’t do. You've been sailing us in circles. Would anyone else like to have a go at steering the boat? Yes, alright Twinklebelle, I don’t see why not. No, now let’s not be like that. Everyone will have a go, but you must learn to take turns.”

“Second star to the right, Captain Darling?”

“No, not this time. Why don’t we head for that nebula over there. That’s the thing that looks like a big pink cloud, or don’t you think it looks like a whole lot of candy floss? I do hope it is. Wouldn't that be marvellous if we could eat as much of it as we wanted? Or maybe not that much. I wouldn't want any of you to have tummy ache.

When we get there, we’ll put down the anchor and perhaps I could tell everyone a story, would you all like that?

“Oh, I can see this is going to be splendid. You are all such fine, handsome men and boys, I do believe I’m going to enjoy being your Captain.”



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