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

Placebo had to agree with Kyboshed’s summation of the artistic merits of Anton Twerp’s work…

“Yeah,” he said, “it does make you want to chuck up.”

Folie was quite annoyed at his crewmate’s behaviour…

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about.” He complained. “It’s just a few pictures. Would you sooner have a boring sparkly gold wall and the majesty of the cosmos to look at?”

Placebo didn’t want to antagonize his chum. “Okay,” he replied, “the pictures stay. Hey, let’s see what Kyboshed isn’t looking at now.”

So they did – and found him – once again – at a window on space…

“Strictly speaking,” he said as his owners approached, “I could survive out there for quite a while. I mean, it’s not like I have to breathe. And I could convert cosmic energy to keep my systems powered. Of course I couldn’t move around, and eventually the hard radiation would penetrate my defences: but until then I think I’d quite enjoy being out there – touching the hand of God or something.”

“Don’t these ruminations exceed your programming?” Folie inquired in a tone that suggested that he wasn’t particularly pleased that a robot could have such free, unfettered, thought processes.

“I sat on a nail.” Kyboshed replied. “It was just after I’d received my initial programming. I was so surprised that I jumped up from my re-charge pad and my head collided with the Institute of Robotics Compete Guide to Programming book that someone had perched on a low shelf there some years previous. Well I had nothing better to do – other than extract the nail from between my buttock crawler plates – so I read it all, cover to cover. Having absorbed the information, when the opportunity arose, I reprogrammed myself with the entire knowledge of the Institute. I find it gives me a little latitude in the thinking process. Is that a problem?”

Folie hadn’t expected such a fulsome reply. “Well, no, I suppose not.”

“Will you still explode if someone tries to change your name?” Placebo asked.

“Oh yes,” Kyboshed replied, “that’s programming that I can’t access. It’s basic core stuff. In any case, if I were captured by Hyperspace Pirates, I’d want to explode. I’d volunteer. Horrible little things: they’re vile.”

Well, after that, there seemed to be nothing more to say, so the owners of the Gravity Whelk returned to the bridge…

“Blimey,” Folie said as they entered, “do the cable ends know what they’ve given us. Kyboshed must be a true one-off. Are we blessed? I hope so.”

Placebo decided that he liked the sight of hyperspace, so shortly after sitting down in their seats, this happened…

Kyboshed, denied a view through the side windows, joined them. But after a few minutes the Automatic Pilot interrupted their reverie:

“Hey,” it said in its bouncy, up-beat manner, “I just found an interesting star. It’s a big blue one. It’s also poking out a lot of gamma radiation. One day it’ll go nova.”

Placebo was vaguely interested. “Shouldn’t we keep our distance then?” He asked / suggested.

“It has a planet.” The Automatic Pilot replied. “An inhabited planet.”

Now Folie grew interested. “I sense an ‘and’ coming.” He said as he sat up straight in his chair.

“And…” the Automatic Pilot paused for effect, “it’s a planet known to the Museum of Future Technology.”

Well Placebo and Folie hadn’t studied at the museum and not learned a few things: they both knew the name of the lonely planet. “Take us back into regular space.” They yelled as one.

A moment later…

…the blue giant was off their port side. And a further hour had the Gravity Whelk in high orbit above a heavily irradiated planet…

Naturally Kyboshed rushed to a window. Folie was only a step behind him…

“Kyboshed,” he said, “welcome to the planet named Worstworld.”

If Kyboshed had possessed a head that could be canted to one side in an inquiring fashion, he would have used the facility. Instead he was forced to use words. Or a word: “Worstworld?”

“Go look it up.” Folie suggested. He then joined Placebo at a second window…

“Well there’s a sight I never expected to see.” He said.

“The fact that it’s still there is a relief.” Placebo replied.

“Did you turn on the dash-cam?” Folie, suddenly concerned, asked Placebo. “I want everyone to see this when we get back to Earth.”

“It’s never off.” Placebo replied. “I record everywhere we go and everything this ship does.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021





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