Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-five)


With magma bubbling excitedly behind him, Nobby edged towards the edge of a nearby precipice…

“Maybe we need to get the heck out of here.” He said.

But when his gaze fell upon the interior of the precipice…

…the word ‘maybe’ became superfluous…

“Aargh,” he bellowed intellectually, “run, Clifton: run!”

So they ran, but soon Clifton fell astern of his fellow engineer…

“Slow down, Nobby.” He gasped. “I had a dreadful night: I hardly slept a wink. And I had a huge bowl of porridge for breakfast.”

It could have been curtains for Clifton Wedge, but good fortune favoured them both, and soon they found themselves in more clement conditions…

“It’s still bloody hot,” Nobby observed, “but at least it’s bearable. And this steam is quite invigorating. You could pay a fortune for a sauna like this on Mars.”

But Clifton wasn’t really listening: he couldn’t help but notice that the thermal changes had brought back to life a form of subterranean eco-system.

“Hmmm.” He replied; but his thoughts were on the lapel camera that he habitually wore, and (he hoped) was capturing the scene.

Nobby, if nothing else, possessed an acute sense of direction, and the farther the travelled, the further from danger they found themselves…

“Please,” a weary Clifton begged, “please tell me that the exit is just around the next bend.”

Nobby would have replied with some meaningless platitude, but he didn’t need to: they were in a hollow, which was outside in the open air…

…and the warmth from the vents had thawed the snow…

“Ooh, that’s handy.” Nobby said in surprise. “With the Sky Cycle destroyed, walking in the snow would be problematical to say the least. I wonder if it’s like this all the way back to the museum.”

The answer to Nobby’s question arrived as they clambered from the hollow.  Ice and snow lay all about; and cutting through it all was a vast rend in the landscape, through which open water flowed in a torrent…

 

“Wow,” Clifton said as they investigated the new topographical feature…

…it looks as though you’ve opened a whole can of worms. This water must have been trapped in the form of ice for millennia. Your rocket has released sub-strata magma, which has thawed it all out. Mars may have oceans again – albeit shallow ones. Unfortunately the Future Museum of Mars sits uncomfortably close to the edge of a plain. How high those waters rise is questionable: the museum might become a seafront property; or it could be completely submerged and totally destroyed. Only time will tell.”

“Oh, thanks for that, Cliff.” Nobby replied. “I wish I’d brought someone else along.”

With nothing else to say or do, the engineers began their trek back to the museum…

Soon though Nobby realised that the ground they were walking on seemed to be moving. He mentioned this to Clifton…

“Great,” the cheesed-off orange earplug replied, “we must be on the ice sheet. Please tell me it’s taking us in the right direction.”

Of course what neither of them could possibly know was that Frisby was watching their progress upon a monitor…

He sighed. “Suppose I’d better send someone out to fetch them back – before they drift straight on by.” He said to himself.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

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