It had survived things that no mug should have had to endure.
It had been dropped off cliffs, plunged into radioactive water, used to hold questionable substances and once travelled several hundred kilometres after Pilot tied a helium balloon to it. It had been thrown at Snippy countless times. It had suffered the indignity of being sat on by Engie after the Captain left it lying on a chair.
It had never been washed in its life.
But in the end, all it took was one little nudge, and the mug the great, glorious mug was reduced to a few shards of broken ceramic and a spatter of sad-looking tea.
It happened like this:
They were seated around the kitchen table in their current place of residence. "Kitchen", of course, is taken very broadly here there was no ceiling, nor were there any kitchen appliances; it was, in fact, merely a ramshackle table in the middle of an empty room.
Today's lunch consisted of cold baked beans which was quite the delicacy considering that the usual fare was rats. Unfortunately there were no non-radioactive spoons within the area. If you have ever tried to eat baked beans without cutlery, you will know that it is a considerably messy task.
Captain, as usual not eating, was seated at the head of the table playing the "let's screw with Mr Snippy's head" game in other words, staring disconcertingly at Snippy while he ate.
Snippy glanced up, wiped his mouth, and raised his eyebrows.
"What?" he asked.
The Captain just continued to stare.
Snippy stared back at him for a moment, then decided to ignore him, turning back to his beans.
The Captain stared.
Pilot chose that moment to look up from his food and declare: "I just lost the game!"
It was then that events were set in motion. The Captain turned to look at Pilot and set his mug down near the edge of the table.
Snippy, in that same instant, had been about to demand that Captain stop staring at him. His head jerked up and his arm swept sideways, striking the mug and knocking it off the edge of the table.
Time seemed to slow as the mug hurtled towards the floor.
For such a dramatic happening, the sound of the mug smashing was oddly silent. A moment after it broke, Pilot snatched his legs up to avoid being cut by the sharp pieces, overturned his chair, and fell to the floor with a much louder crash.
The sound brought everyone back to attention.
Engie's eyebrows rose. He calmly shovelled more beans into his mouth and said, "Well. That sounded bad."
Captain flew up from his seat and dropped to his knees beside the mug. It had shattered into five large-ish pieces and a scattering of smaller ones. His straw lay forlornly beside the mess in a spreading puddle of tea.
Captain gently nudged one of the pieces with the tip of his finger. For the first time, he appeared to be stunned into silence.
Snippy rather awkwardly stood and reached down to help up Pilot. His hand was shoved away, however, as Pilot scrambled to his feet and jabbed a finger accusingly at Snippy's chest.
"You broke the Captain's mug!" he shrieked.
Snippy shrank back angrily. "I didn't!" he protested.
"Yes, you did! You threw it off the table, you jiggly slug!" Pilot crouched down next to Captain. "Golly gosh, it's broken beyond repair!"
"I did not throw it off the table!" Snippy argued. He folded his arms. Captain had looked up now he, Pilot, and Engie were staring at him accusingly.
"It was an accident," Snippy said weakly, then added, "I'm sorry, Captain. I didn't mean to."
"My mug," Captain said, appearing to have gotten his voice back. He picked up his straw and slowly stood, glancing from Snippy to the remains of the mug. "Mein mug! It is... it is broken!" His voice rose dramatically on the last word.
Engie, Snippy and Pilot watched in silence as the Captain strode into the centre of the room, where a weak ray of sunlight had struggled through the radioactive clouds and was shining down through the non-existent ceiling.
The Captain threw his head back and proceeded to launch into some sort of soliloquy.
"I cannot believe! But yet, I see before me-
The broken shards, the shattered remnants
My faithful companion for so long
Zee carrier of my beverage
Zee weapon against my foes!
Alas! How could such a thing happen?
By the clumsiness of my Sniper
I have lost my faithful friend
To the whims of gravity
Woe is me, for Snippy has killed my mug!" This last as he whirled around and fixed Snippy with the mother of all death glares.
Snippy tried very hard not to flinch. "I said I was sorry," he said finally. "I'll... get you a new one?"
"No!" Captain shook his head vigorously. "Nothing can replace zee mug!" And he turned on his heel and marched out of the room.
There was a moment of very awkward silence.
"Snippy... I can't believe you..." Pilot sounded close to tears. "Look what you have done!"
"For the last time, it was an accident!" Snippy snatched up his mask from the table and put it back on. He was already feeling horribly guilty.
"What are you going to do?" Engie asked, seemingly unfazed by the drama. He pointed at Snippy's unfinished beans. "Are you gonna eat those?"
"Maybe we can fix it?" Snippy tried to approach the mug but Pilot was suddenly right in his face, shoving him backwards.
"Stay away from it!" Pilot snarled like some sort of ferocious green-eyed guard dog. "You've done enough damage already, you shoe!"
"Well, fine!" Snippy threw his hands up in exasperation. "Try fix it on your own then! You'll probably make it even worse!"
"I don't think it can get any worse," Engie pointed out. He sighed. "It's just a mug. He'll get over it."
"No! It wasn't just a mug! It was the Captain's mug!" Pilot cleared a space on the table and began to reverently gather the pieces, even down to the smallest shard. He tilted his head and stared down at them, seemingly unsure what to do next.
"If you'll just let me look at them," Snippy said, sitting back down. Pilot scowled at him but allowed him to reach forward and attempt to fit the bigger pieces together.
Seemingly gaining interest, Engie leaned forward, pushed Snippy's hand away and had a go himself. "It's a bit like a jigsaw puzzle," he mused. He managed to assemble the larger fragments into something vaguely resembling the shape of a mug.
"We need glue," Snippy said, standing up. He glanced around, but there was none in sight. "I guess I'll go find some then."
"Mm hm..." Engie replied absentmindedly, now occupied in his task of reassembling the smaller pieces.
Pilot pulled his mask back on and followed Snippy to the door.
"You're coming too, are you?" Snippy asked.
Pilot nodded. "Yes! I must make sure you don't cause any more chaos."
Snippy refrained himself from snorting. Me? Be the one to cause chaos? That'd be a first.
They exited the derelict building. Snippy looked around and caught sight of Captain, standing some distance away with his back to them. He bit his lip, guilt welling up again. It had been an honest accident.
Pilot, following his gaze, let out a soft sigh. "Poor Captain," he said sadly. "I still can't believe the divine mug is broken..."
"You guys super-glued me to that flying chair once. Where'd you get the glue from?" Snippy asked, changing the subject before Pilot could go off at him again.
Pilot turned and looked at him. "Captain produced it from his awesomeness."
"No, seriously, where did you get it from?"
"I just told you!" Pilot replied angrily. "You are just a heathen who refuses to believe in Captain's godlike majesty."
Snippy sighed and began to trudge off through the wasteland. Pilot bounced along next to him.
"Where are we going?" Pilot asked.
"Our old base," Snippy replied, referring to the building they had been staying in at the time of the flying chair debacle. Hopefully the superglue would have been left there.
It was a long walk across rather perilous terrain. Several times they had to stop when they spied hostile wastelanders or mutated monsters on the horizon. Every now and then Pilot would begin to ramble nonsense aloud, mostly about how awesome the Captain was or how everyone in the world was a shoe. Apparently Snippy was a really dirty sneaker, while Captain was a shining combat boot... or something.
By the time they arrived at the base Snippy was exhausted, had a headache, and was fighting the urge to stuff his own shoe into Pilot's mouth.
"If there is no glue in here, I will scream," he muttered darkly.
"My Kittyhawk!" Pilot cried, swooping into the building and snatching up a soft-toy from the ground. "I knew I'd left you somewhere!" He paused, as though listening to the toy respond. "It's okay," he answered, "I forgive you for inviting the cancer-monster to tea."
Snippy left him to his one-sided conversation and began to search. After a few moments Pilot joined him, though he didn't help so much as provide a running commentary.
"Mr Kittyhawk says that you are a boob for breaking the mug," Pilot announced.
Snippy threw aside a pile of rubbish, spied a tube and for a moment thought he had found the glue. Unfortunately it was a tube of toothpaste.
"Mr Kittyhawk says you should keep that. You need to brush your teeth."
"Tell Mr Kittyhawk that he should really shut up before I ram this toothpaste up his-" Snippy broke off, took a deep breath, and got himself back under control. Pilot was staring at him, head tilted to the side slightly.
"...beak," Pilot said finally.
"Ram this toothpaste up his beak. Anything else would be obscene," Pilot said coldly, glaring at Snippy as though daring him to disagree. He then placed Kittyhawk aside and finally began to help search.
In the end it was Pilot who found the glue, which Snippy felt rather put out about. He had hoped that he would be the one to find it, in a way remedying the fact that he had been the one to break the cup (albeit by accident).
"There's not much left," Pilot observed, squinting at the small tube critically.
"It'll do. Let's get back."
They returned just as the sun set to find Engie sitting alone at the table. There was no sign of Captain... and there was no sign of the mug.
Pilot rounded on the Engineer, his whole body trembling. "What have you done with it?" he demanded.
Engie raised his head calmly. "Me? Nothing. The Captain took it."
"Why?" Snippy asked, setting the glue down with a sigh. Things just couldn't go simply, could they?
Engie shrugged. "He put the pieces into a box and said he was going to bury them. The funeral's tomorrow morning. Then apparently Snippy will go on trial for murder."
"Why didn't you tell him we were going to fix it?" Snippy snapped, trying not to think about what punishment Captain might cook up for him.
"I tried to. He didn't seem to be listening. His loss."
Snippy closed his eyes briefly. "Okay. We have to get it back. Where did he take it?"
Engie shrugged again.
"Gee, that's helpful," Snippy spat. "Come on, Pilot, let's go find him. Maybe you can convince him that we're trying to fix the mug."
Pilot perked up. "You think he'll listen to me?" he asked hopefully.
Snippy nodded, humouring him. "Yeah."
"Okay!" Pilot leaped for the door.
It wasn't difficult to find the Captain. He was seated around the back of the building, sprawled majestically in an overstuffed armchair with a garish floral print. His head was tilted back, eyes gazing up at the sky, and he remained motionless as they approached.
Snippy crept closer, unsure if the Captain was asleep or not. He'd never seen him sleeping before, and with the mask on there was no way to tell.
"Captain?" he asked cautiously. There was no response. Inching closer, he waved a hand in front of Captain's face.
Still no response.
"I'll wake him!" Pilot chirped, and Snippy furiously shushed him.
"Don't!" he hissed. Captain's hands were wrapped around a cardboard box, presumably containing the remnants of the mug. Gritting his teeth, Snippy slowly reached out and took hold of the box.
"The turnip is not appropriate to place inside the pillow dispenser," Captain murmured woozily, then began to snore.
Thank God. He's asleep. Snippy got a firmer grip on the box and began to slowly slide it out of Captain's grasp. Pilot breathed heavily over his shoulder.
Suddenly the Captain's hand shot up and latched onto Snippy's wrist. The sniper nearly jumped out of his skin, biting back a scream.
"But where has the codfish gone?" Captain sighed drowsily.
"He's still sleeping," Pilot whispered.
Heart hammering, Snippy slowly prised Captain's fingers off his arm, picked up the box and took a slow step backwards. Captain shifted, his head dropping down to his chest, but didn't wake.
"Mission accomplished!" Pilot uttered, and led the way back inside.
"How'd you get it back?" Engie asked as they re-entered the kitchen. He had lit a small fire, as by now night had fallen and it was quite dark.
Snippy pulled his mask off and wiped his brow. "He was asleep," he replied, putting the box on the table. "We'd better fix it before he wakes up and finds it gone."
Engie nodded and they silently emptied the pieces out onto the table and got to work.
The Captain opened his eyes. The grey morning sky stretched out in front of him. Another glorious, cloudy day in the wasteland.
He stretched with a yawn, thinking back to the strange and wonderful dreams he had had.
Then he froze.
Something was wrong. Something was different.
My mug! It all came rushing back. Leaping to his feet, he looked around the box had vanished! No! The aliens took it! But no, I have vanquished the aliens... someone else has nicked it.
He strode purposefully into the building, intending to interrogate the minions to see how they could have let someone pinch the mug from under their very noses.
He drew to a halt.
Engie was sprawled over his chair, head tilted back and snoring gently. Snippy had slumped over the kitchen table, head resting on his arms, fast asleep. Pilot was draped over him, sleep-muttering under his breath.
And the mug...
The mug was in the centre of the table, restored to its former glory.
Reaching forward, Captain picked it up. He turned it over in his hands. Yes, they had done a fine job even the smallest pieces were in place, fixed together with glue. Not a chip out of place. A thin web of cracks covered the ceramic where it had been broken, rough under his touch, but otherwise, the mug was whole again.
A slow smile spread over the Captain's face.
Snippy choked on his own spit and started to cough, a rather unpleasant way to wake up. He tried to sit up, but something warm and heavy was slumped on him Pilot, he realised groggily as he struggled upright and rubbed his eyes.
The first thing he registered was that the mug had vanished again.
Oh, for the love of-
Jumping to his feet, he looked around. Engie and Pilot were still asleep. Who the hell could have taken it...
The door was open. He could see Captain standing outside. His back was turned, but there was steam rising around his head.
Steam meant tea.
Captain didn't look up when Snippy came up next to him, looking down at the mug he held in his hands. He had been worried that they hadn't got all the pieces, but tea wasn't leaking out, so the mug seemed to be intact.
"...we fixed it," Snippy said hesitantly.
Captain nodded sagely and sucked on his straw. "Indeed you did."
There was a moment of silence. Snippy followed the Captain's gaze, but he appeared to just be staring out at the wasteland.
"...I didn't mean to break it," Snippy blurted out. "It was an honest accident-"
Captain raised a hand and he fell silent.
"Ah, Snippy," Captain said fondly. "Snippety Snip Snipster. You distress yourself over the smallest things."
Snippy stared at him.
"The mug has survived its ordeal," Captain continued. "It bears the scars of battle! It wears these sexy cracks proudly as a sign of what it has endured! One day, when it meets a nice lady-mug, it will be able to say with dignity: look what I have been through. 'twill cause her to swoon."
Snippy resisted the urge to face palm.
"But your merciful Captain grants you forgiveness," Captain announced. He patted Snippy on the shoulder. "You may cease your worrying. You will not be on trial for murder after all."
"Of course, your boobery cannot go without punishment. But we will deal with that later." Captain turned back to the building. "Come, let us return inside. We will celebrate the mug's recovery with some cold baked beans!"
Oh, joy of joys, Snippy thought, but he couldn't help but be glad that all seemed to be back to normal.
Two weeks later, Engie threw himself down on the couch.
There was an ominous crack.