To all the officers and crew of The Kreltonian Skull

Klumzel Greetings to one and all.

The festive season can be difficult for all those of us serving on active duty. We’re away from our loved ones, and we may feel we’re missing the traditional celebrations back on Andel. But here on The Skull, we have a few Klumzel traditions of our own, and this year, we hope to make the big day a memorable occasion. Indeed, we're lining up some events that will be even better than last year, and all being well, we expect the casualty rate to be lower.

The Klumzel Feast will be served in the newly refurbished cargo bay on level B three, and despite the rumors you may have heard in pod thirty-seven (and yes, I do know about the unofficial bar you have down there), there are no alien lifeforms stalking the corridors of B three, and the area has been completely stripped down and thoroughly sterilised. The place is now so clean that you could eat your dinner from the floor, and for some of you, that may well be the dining experience of choice, especially for all those who have enjoyed the traditional glass of mulled pizzle marrow sherry before the feast. Stimps tells me that this year’s batch of sherry is particularly potent, but he assures me that any loss of motor skills, vision, and/or body hair will only be temporary.

To avoid any confusion on the day, please note that the storage bays on level B three should be referred to by their official designations, and not by the light hearted alternatives that are circulating the lower decks, e.g. The Admiral Norph Memorial Suite or Meat Locker Alley, and if I find anyone altering the signs above the doors, the miscreants will be punished. While I have a reasonable tolerance for humor aboard ship, we have to draw the line somewhere, and over the last two weeks several crew members have gone missing on the lower levels because someone has been tampering with our health and safety signage. Yes, there are a lot of the new signs, and they may seem a little excessive, but they are mandatory, so the sign above the galley that reads May Contain Lethal Vegetables is there for a good reason, namely the presence of dried psychotic pumpkin cubes, so I don’t want to see that sign adorned with any more photos of the galley staff.

Moving on to the feast itself, we have decided to allocate seats according to a strict table plan this year, and Lieutenant Commander Zeb has been working hard on an algorithm that will allocate each crew member to a place, taking a number of factors into account including rank, dietary requirements, and individual pain thresholds. The crew of this ship is like one big family, so we’re expecting everyone to pitch into the inevitable fist fights with enthusiasm. Please note though, that in a longstanding tradition, the use of weapons is forbidden, at least until dessert is served.

After the feast, the traditional speeches and toasts will take place, and by common request we will be reviving the ancient Andelian custom of giving each speaker just forty-five seconds. Lieutenant Commander Dex has made sure that the speakers’ podium is in full working order, and when I checked on his progress this morning, I’ve never seem him so intent on a task as when he was oiling the hinges on that trapdoor.

I wish you all the best for Klumzel, and I look forward to raising a glass of black potato wine with you on the day.

There follows a few notes from your Chief Engineer, but I’ll sign off in the traditional way:

Happy Klumzel one and all!

Captain Stanch

The Kreltonian Skull


From: Lieutenant Commander Dex, Chief Engineer

Greetings!

As usual, we shall be kicking off the day with the immolation of a fine Klumzel tree. The tree has already been loaded into the torpedo bay, and I have taken personal charge of the tree’s preparation. There’s quite an art to getting a really good blaze on a Klumzel tree, and for those of you who like to see behind the scenes, here’s a few notes on how it’s done.

In the run up to Klumsel, everyone talks about incendiaries, but, and you can call me a traditionalist, I always focus first and foremost on the tree itself. And before you ask, should I soak my tree? I'm going to stop you right there. This isn't a discussion about whether it’s best to soak your precious tree in gasoline or aviation fuel, and here's the reason why. If you choose your tree carefully and treat it in the right way, you'll have a tree that will go up like a nuclear warhead as soon as you apply the first flame, even without soaking! I know some of you might find that hard to swallow (not unlike Cricklade’s famous Klumzel pudding which has given many an unwary diner a nasty nip on the tonsils) but hear me out.

Pick your tree carefully. Take your time. You need a tree with the correct proportions of trunk circumference, to number of branches, to height. I always refer to the ready reckoner in Old Mudgeon’s Almanac (373rd edition) and those figures have never let me down. Plus, I use a state of the art holographic imaging and analysis system to check everything is spot on. You may have to make do with tape measure, but don’t skimp on this step. The right branch structure will give you the optimum ratio of surface area to volume, and that makes all the difference.

Having harvested your tree, preferably with an industrial laser, bring it indoors straight away and store it somewhere very warm and really dry. If all the needles haven’t fallen off within the first thirty minutes, you’re doing it wrong. Of course, on The Skull our tree is much bigger than you’d have at home, but fortunately, we have a military grade dehumidifier. Normally, the machine is used to dry the sand for the showers, and it dries our tree to a crisp in a couple of hours. By the way, if you were taking a shower while I was doing this, you may have found the sand not quite dry enough. Sorry, but at this time of year, the tree comes first!

While your tree is drying, focus on the kindling. I like to use a blend of hard and soft wood that I pulverize and then recombine in a hydraulic press. The resultant ‘logs’ are then drilled and primed with a few chunks of solid rocket propellant before being lashed to the tree’s trunk. I take care with the spacing to make sure they don’t all go up at once. I wouldn’t use the propellant if we were back on Andel, but since we’re launching our tree into space, I find that the added oxygen from the propellant gets the blaze off to a good start and enables us to maintain a good flame pattern.

Obviously, before we launch the tree we’ll be attaching a few decorations, including polished spheres of devil moose antler, and a few glittery death limpet shells, but the tree wouldn’t be complete without the symbol of our own Andelian sun, the silver star, which I’ve had made from titanium in our own workshop. I always affix the star myself, and don’t worry, I’ll be using a triple strength adhesive as well as a length of cable. I know it’s only a superstition, but we really don’t want that star to come adrift before the flames are out. Five hundred years of bad luck! No, thank you 😉

Finally, when the tree is ready, I’ll launch it from the torpedo bay and the countdown will begin. I’m sure you’ll all join me in counting down, and when we get to minus two, I’ll target the tree with a guided missile fitted with a custom-built incendiary warhead. Special thanks go to Lieutenant Commander Zeb for all his help in trialing the incendiaries this year. With his assistance, I’ve made sure that the blaze will begin slowly and spread through the branches.

That’s all there is to it. But before I sign off, I must sound a note of warning.

I’m sure that some of you would dearly like to join in by having your own fires, but any unauthorized fires aboard the ship will result in severe punishment. I’m sure no one wants a repeat of last year’s explosion on deck five. I know the only damage was to the ship’s laundry, but many of use will never forget the discomfort we suffered when we had to wear undergarments taken from the emergency stores. So if you’re tempted to start your own Klumzel fire, remember those months of non-stop chafing and think again!

Here’s to a great Klumzel and a spectacular conflagration.

Best wishes,

Lieutenant Commander Dex

PS

If you haven't met Stanch, Dex, Zeb and the crew of The Skull, you'll want to read Dial G for Gravity

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