Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 16)


Everyone watched their displays and tell-tales as the ship picked up momentum…

Then tongues of hellish fire began spewing from the drive hole…

“Tongues of hellish fire spewing from the drive hole.” Magnuss announced. “Earth’s over there, look: want me to hit the star drive and do a really quick fly-past of our home world, and show off a bit? Rupert Piles would love it.”

It was an opportunity that no one wanted to miss; so moments later the bridge was illuminated by the light of the star-drive effect…

…and Susan felt slightly disappointed that they’d passed by Earth so quickly that she hadn’t seen it…

“Next stop,” Chester whispered, “the Galactic Court.”

But down in the Rhubarb Crumble’s engine room…

…the two engineers that the Future Museum of Mars’ curator – Frisby Mumph – could spare for the endeavour – those being the red-haired Lawrence Endocarp and the aging Douglas Dungipon – were coming under the close scrutiny of their yellow-eyed supervisor, Budgitte Wilgoss.

“What’s all this steam and smoke?” She demanded. “And look, there’s a flashing red light on the Fanangy-valve cover.”

“And don’t we know it!” Douglas Dungipon growled. “I said this ship needed trials before we took off.”

But Lawrence Endocarp said nothing: he wasn’t the type to waste time and energy with complaints and loathing. He was already on the case. Well actually he did say something. He said: “Budgitte, darling; would you call the bridge? Tell them to shut down the drive: I think we’ve got a warped plasma doo-dah ring.”

Soon the unwelcome news arrived upon the bridge…

“Bugger!” Susan exclaimed. “Return us to normal space.”

Of course her subordinates, which were actually parts of her, didn’t need a verbal command. In an instant the Rhubarb Crumble emerged from Hyperspace…

No one, it seemed, had noticed the blue planet that hung like a lustrous bauble in space nearby.

From the shadows of the darkened ready room, Rudi could be seen moving from his duty station…

…to stand resolutely beside his Captain…

“Hey, babe.” He said. “What’s happening?”

As Susan explained the situation to Rudi, Chester was struck with an idea that – when he elucidated it to Susan – made his twin cry out in mock despair…

“Hey, Susan,” he said eagerly, “while they’re fixing the motor, let’s go take a tour of the ship. Just me and this part of you.”

Well with no counter-option, Susan soon found herself wandering half-lit corridors with Chester…

“I really like space.” Chester informed her. “It’s great. But it’s not as great as you.”

Susan wasn’t merely being polite either when she responded: “You’re hardly a huge bucket of excrement yourself.”

And so it continued. As they spoke of inconsequential things, such as weeds, Velcro underpants, and slipping awkwardly on bath house floors, the engineers were making headway with the main motor…

The warning light now shone amber.

“Looking better, guys.” Budgitte said. “There’s no rush: how about a coffee break?”

Meanwhile Susan had stopped off for a pee…

…where she (now temporarily reintegrated with her many parts) stared at the majesty of interplanetary space through the lavatory window. She was just in the act of pulling up her massive pseudo-knickers when a thought struck:

“Funny,” she said to herself, “but my keen hearing can’t detect the sounds of tinkering with wrenches and mallets that have been echoing along the multitude of conduits that pass through this portion of the ship. Better find out why.”

Of course, had Susan known that the engineering staff were talking a coffee break, she wouldn’t have bothered…

But when she stumbled upon their rest room, she was glad that she had. “Hey,” she bellowed at them as they sat and watched an episode from a DVD box set of Destination: The Stars

…”get your backsides down to the engine room: you can watch that later.”

Naturally, being Space Engineers, neither of the trio was concerned in the least at their lambasting: it came with the territory…

“Aye, Captain,” Douglas said chirpily, “we’ll leave it on freeze-frame. If we’re too long, it’ll switch itself off.”

Rather pleased with her talent for commanding, Susan raced to tell Chester all about it…

“I was so dominant.” She finished.

This concerned Chester slightly: he wasn’t particularly keen on being dominated: he felt that he was too much of a free spirit. But he didn’t say anything: he didn’t want to spoil the moment.

So, whilst Lawrence, Budgitte, and Douglas struggled to drag a Weevil Trunnion from the stores to the engine room…

…Susan sent most of her body back to the bridge and allowed her primary part to stare out at the wonder of the Cosmos with Chester beside her…

“Yes,” she said to some inanity about the artistry of The Saint of All Earplugs that had spewed liberally from the enthusiastic maw of her earplug friend, “it’s…uh…quite pleasing. I wonder if we’ll see a supernova. But that’s enough about aesthetics: I think it’s time to resume our bridge roles. ”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

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