Earplugs without Pictures 7


Ever wondered what the Earplug Adventures would look like minus the photos? Might their absence highlight the shortcomings of the writing? Well let’s find out, shall we? Here’s a couple of brief extracts. In this case from this remarkable tale…

A week was to pass before the K T Woo made its next encounter. This time it was a robotic interplanetary space freighter of unknown origin. As they watched the vessel upon the main viewer, Sinclair asked Hakking: “What do you think of that piece of out-dated space junk?”

“It’s an ugly sod – and make no mistake.” Hakking replied. Then added, with a chuckle: “But not as ugly as I once was, of course.”

“Does anyone have the first idea about what it’s doing here and where it came from?” Sinclair asked his bridge crew.

“Sensors suggest that it’s full of ice, Sir.” Poxy Pilkington chirped up. “Millions and millions of ice cubes. The sort that you’d drop into a rum and cola, Sir. Or perhaps down the back of your girlfriend’s knickers when it’s a hot summer’s day and you’re a bit bored.”

“How strange.” Sinclair said as he stroked his chin intelligently. “Why would anyone go to the unbelievably vast cost of transporting ice cubes across interplanetary space?”

Elsewhere other members of the crew were asking the same question as they watched through the panoramic window as the vessel plodded along at sub-light speed…

And those who, because of their lowly rank, had been reduced to peering through skanky little port holes didn’t give a fig what it had aboard or where it was going: they just wanted to see it explode spectacularly. But even they were surprised when the freighter initiated a sudden course change.

“Hey,” Sinclair complained. “What gives, man?”

“I know.” Hakking suggested keenly. “Let’s follow it. It might lead us to something…er…really interesting.”

Sinclair then displayed surprising insight. “You mean Ship Number Fifteen?” He replied. “The Earth ship that left Worstworld without you aboard it?”

“I might do.” Hakking said defensively – suddenly aware that the captain understood his motivation and the true reason for his creation of the project that culminated in the construction of the K T Woo.

“Okay.” Sinclair said as the freighter accelerated away in a blinding cascade of ion drive power, “Let’s see where it leads us. Ahead full!”

The ice cube-carrying space freighter wasn’t particularly fast, and soon the crew grew bored with the uniformity of space. In fact many of them became depressed and began skipping their duties. Sometimes Captain Sinclair Brooch was astonished to find himself alone on the bridge.

“Holy heck,” his voice would echo around the empty room, “do I have to do everything myself?”

And even in the engine room the lights were kept dimmed so that no one could see how properly cheesed-off everyone was becoming. Then one day – no one was quite sure what day it was, because they’d pretty much given up the will to breathe – a bright light appeared dead ahead. Some jaded crew members became trepidatious. But in the engine room the resilient former end cap space pirates brought the compartment back to full illumination, because they had detected a world surrounded by huge rings of water vapour. Soon the freighter was racing across its sky – making an approach for some distant landing-place. After so long in space, the K T Woo’s bridge crew stood and stared at the view on the main screen.

Somewhat surprisingly Sinclair was the first to regain his wits: “Quickly.” He snapped at the helms-plug. “Follow that freighter!”

So minutes later the K T Woo plunged into the watery world’s atmosphere – levelling off at thirty-seven thousand feet, and Sinclair and the others gazed in wonderment. But then Serendipity Mollusc’s sensors detected an in-coming object.

“Tactical!” The Captain boomed above the flurry of terrified farts that erupted from so many nervous crew members. A split second later Serendipity placed this image upon the main viewer.

“Explain to me what I’m looking at.” Sinclair instructed Serendipity.

“Er, that’s us flying over the sea.” The subordinate replied. “We’re headed for a sandy coastline.”

“It appears to be huge island.” Hakking observed. “But where’s this in-coming object?”

As Serendipity adjusted the scope of her sensors she said: “Actually there are two objects approaching. Helms-plug: take evasive action!”

“I don’t like the look of this.” Nancy Brooch said from her chair beside her husband, as she watched two fighter jets, in an attempt to make an intercept of the alien craft, thrash their engines to within microns of self-destruction.

“It might be a welcoming committee.” Poxy Pilkington said hopefully. But she didn’t really believe what she was saying.

AND

Well, to say that Clancy was thrilled at the turn of events would be an understatement. He was cock-a-hoop. He’d never met such a wonderful being before. Neither had he saved anyone’s life either. And, most definitely, he’d never been so enthusiastically kissed before. “Gosh, Wendy,” he said, once he’d learned her name, “would you like to warm up in my snow buggy?”   

Wendy found the offer tempting. In fact she found it so tempting that she said: “Yes please!”

So whilst Wendy’s soggy knickers dried in front of the heater grille, Clancy took the opportunity to show-off and duly raced the snow buggy around at break-neck speed.

It was during a barely controlled downhill slide that Clancy had a wonderful idea…

“Hey,” he shouted above the din of icicles breaking free from Wendy’s duffle coat, “why don’t I take you to see our wonderful city below the ice?”

Initially Wendy was hesitant to accept: visiting foreign cities sans winter coat could be considered a social faux pas. But when Clancy informed her that no one wore duffle coats in the pale earplug city, she relented instantly, and began to enjoy the sensation of a stiff breeze blowing around her ear holes. Naturally Clancy hit the after-burners, and before long they were almost in sight of the frontier defences. But such was Clancy’s speed that he was upon the border guards before anyone was ready to mount a meaningful challenge or dive for cover…

“Out of the way!” Clancy shouted above the whine of his buggy’s turbine.

“Does that blue female have a duffle coat on?” One of the incredulous border guards shouted back.

Clancy didn’t have enough time to respond. Instead he leapt the buggy into the air, and shouted, “See for yourself.” as they soared above the defences and then roared away – leaving the guards deeply bemused, because they’d had no idea that blue earplug knee caps looked very much like pale earplug knee caps – only bluer, of course. Of a snorkel there was no sign. And they began to doubt the propaganda they’d been force-fed their entire lives. Not that Wendy cared one jot; because, by the time the guards had collected their thoughts and placed them into some kind of order, Clancy’s snow buggy had carried her all the way into the city.

“It’s lovely.” She gushed as she looked around. “So mysterious and cloaked in elegant shadows.”

But later she discovered even more impressive sights.

“What are these strange, yet remarkable, machines?” She asked her vertically-challenged host.

At first Clancy was confused by Wendy’s question. It hadn’t occurred to him that another civilisation might not have municipal jukeboxes. Once he’d gathered his wits, he told her. “They’re free.” He said. “Choose a song; press the button; and you can listen for as long as you want.”

“Gosh.” Wendy responded enthusiastically. “Can I choose one? After all I am a blue earplug, and it might not be allowed.”

“Go ahead.” Clancy said with a smile.

“Pick one for me.” Wendy said coyly. “Make it a love song. A really smoochy one.”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Clancy replied with a big grin spreading across his youthful face. “How about ‘Hot Soup’ by Heavy Breathin’ Bertha’?”

Moments later…

“Oh that’s lovely.” Wendy said as they slow danced together. “I think I’d like to live here for the rest of my life.”

Clancy hid his surprise well. “Come with me.” He said as the repetitive chorus faded into silence.

Moments later they were scurrying along one of the seductively lit corridors. Then, abruptly they burst into a busy thoroughfare. Then it was onwards for a meeting with the Personal Secretary of the Prime Minister and his assistant and his assistant’s buddy.

“Yeah?” The Personal Secretary grunted when Clancy introduced himself. “Whadda ya want?”

“This is my friend, Wendy.” Clancy replied. “She’s a blue earplug!”

“Tell us something we don’t know.” The Prime Minister’s Personal Secretary’s assistant said acidly.

Clancy chose to ignore the mealy-mouthed git. Instead he spoke directly to the Personal Secretary: “Wendy wants to come here and live with us pale earplugs.” He said. “She thinks our city is lovely.”

The Personal Secretary eyed Wendy up and down. “I’ve heard some weird stuff about blue earplugs.”  He said. “Apparently the females hold their heads up with a trellis-like assembly that bolts on to their shoulders, and are given it on their fifteenth birthday.”

“And both genders hide their chocolate chip cookies inside their Wellington boots!” The assistant’s buddy almost spat the words.

“Oh dear.” Clancy said as he turned to Wendy. “I’m ever so sorry, but if you want to live here you’re going to have to refute a whole slew of ridiculous preconceptions.”

“Yeah.” The Personal Secretary growled. “Good, innit?”

Well Wendy wasn’t the sort to take offence easily, and her sister’s duffle coat didn’t fit her anyway: so a short while later she and Clancy were being guided towards the Prime Ministerial chamber, via a frighteningly precipitous walkway.

The journey to the Prime Ministerial Chamber also involved walking down a long corridor, towards a concrete-hardened atom-proof bunker, where important decisions were often made.

For a brief moment the young lovers paused. Were they really ready for this?

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2016

Of course it’s much better with the pictures: after all you can see what’s going on! To read or download the book in its entirety – pictures and all – click on the Cold War cover image (above) to bring up the full PDF file.

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