Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 17)


My, the story is moving apace now – don’t you think? Here’s the next instalment…

Because adrenalin can make a person do things with ease that would often be impossible under normal circumstances, it seemed that no time passed between Magnuss and Hair-Trigger receiving a summons to the bridge, and them actually being there…

And because of the telepathic link they didn’t need to be told that they were looking at a fleet of spacecraft that lay so distant in space that the vague image was the result of it being at the extreme range of the sensors. They also understood that, at its current speed and trajectory, the fleet would arrive off Tah-Di-Tah in less than a single planetary revolution.

“Bum.” Magnuss cursed like a dock-worker on steroids. “Knickers too. What an inconvenient time to turn up. Obviously they’re not on their way here for a huge joint vacation or to party-party-party until dawn: that looks distinctly like an invasion fleet.”

“The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah.” Hair-Trigger said breathlessly. “What was it that Madame Nellie said about them?”

Magnuss quickly retrieved the spy pen from his breast pocket. Selecting the correct time index he soon had the devilishly clever device repeating the clairvoyant’s words: “I’m a fortune teller: not the Fountain of Knowledge. I don’t know what they are; but you are going to find them. And – apparently – the continued existence of Tah-Di-Tah depends upon it. That’s it – on your way: now it’s all down to you.”

Magnuss turned his gaze to the holo-screen again, and said: “Bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?”

“We’ve got twenty-two hours – give-or-take,” Hair-Trigger said sternly. “We don’t have time to explain all this to the authorities: we need to act: and we need to act now. Let’s go dig up that techno-village!”

But Magnuss held aloft a hand. “Wait.” He said. “We must do all we can to slow that fleet down. Rudi told us that we had a full complement of proton Torpedoes.”

“Just a turn of phrase, I’m sure.” Hair-Trigger snapped in her urgency to be about their task. “Just his way of saying we were ready to launch. Like saying the larder is stocked, or the toilet roll holders are full.”

Magnuss shook his head. “I don’t think so. My oldest brother wouldn’t tell me something that wasn’t true.”

Then, with only his mind, he instructed the quiescent ship…

…to target the distant fleet and fire a volley of torpedoes. Much to Hair-Trigger’s surprise, this was the result…

“Well you could knock me down with a lupher, I had no idea. But, Magnuss, those torpedoes have a limited range: the fleet is far too distant: they’ll never get there.”

“They don’t have to.” Magnuss replied as he fired the second, and final, volley…

…They’ll run out of fuel, and drift onwards under their own momentum. The fleet will sail straight into them. Effectively they’re a moving mine field between Tah-Di-Tah and those ships. But, at best, it will only slow them down.”

Hair-Trigger watched as the balls of incandescent light disappeared against the vast backdrop of outer space. “What we need is reinforcements.” She said grimly and without hope. “Someone to come to the rescue. Oh, if only the cavalry could come charging over the hill right now: I’d give them all a big sloppy kiss!”

Chapter 6

Ironically, or coincidentally, whichever takes your fancy – back on Earth (a mere twenty-four hours earlier)– or, to be slightly more precise – back in the Museum of Future Technology (twenty-four hours earlier)…

…the troopers of the United Stoats Seventh Cavalry had been parading about in their stockade…

At exactly the same time that Staff Sergeant Jo Frayzer shouted: “Slope arms – huh!”, Cushions Smethwyke had just turned away from the video-com panel upon which she had recently communicated with the commanding officer of the Seventh Cavalry – Major Leftfoot Badger…

As a result of this communication, Jo Frayzer and fellow staff sergeant –Wetpatch Wilton – had been summoned…

This was unusual for the time of day, and Jo was slightly fearful.

“The troopers have been using rather a lot of toilet tissue lately.” He said to his colleague. “You don’t suppose it has come to the attention of the clerical staff – do you?”

Wetpatch wasn’t a soldier who enjoyed conjecture. “I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. Now dig your regulation headgear out of your back pocket and plonk it on your head.”

This was timely advice, because just around the corner stood the Officer’s…ah…office…

…which belonged to the former exhibit – but which was now home of the Seventh Cavalry. Without too much hesitation the staff sergeants approached the door…

They would have knocked politely, but the Major’s adjutant – Klisters Barnacle-Balls – was peering through the letter box, and saw them coming. So, with one deft flick of his wrist, Klisters had whipped the up-and-over door open in a most exaggerated and spectacular manner…

“You’re late.” He growled. “The Major is waiting for his afternoon tea – and he can’t have it until he’s dealt with you two. So get in there now!”

This did little to settle Jo’s nerves. So it was with a modicum of knee-knocking that the staff sergeants entered their commanding officer’s presence…

Major Leftfoot Badger was out of his chair like a limpet with an overactive adrenal gland. Tossing his hat upon his head with practiced ease…

…he said: “Gentlemen: regard the com-panel screen. It is about to replay a message that I have recently received from our superiors – the museum’s Curator Corp.”

“It came as a nasty surprise, I don’t mind telling you. Something of a jolt, actually. When you’ve seen it, I think you’ll know what I require from you.”

He said no more because moments later the screen began to glow. Then the curators appeared – all pushed up together so that they could appear on-screen. Cushions Smethwyke and Hunting Provost stood foremost…

“Okay, Badger.” Cushions growled without preamble. “We all know that the Seventh Cavalry really belong on Worstworld and are only here under sufferance from us. You don’t have a real task in the museum. Okay, you fought one engagement against those red robot invaders from the future: but other than that you’ve been a constant strain on our meagre coffers. So it’s about time you earned your keep. We’re pooping our pants in fear of what might have happened to those lovely couple – Magnuss and Hair-Trigger – and we’re not enjoying it. Our Omnipresent Scanner can’t find them anywhere – not even their dismembered bones and connective tissues. We want….no…we demand that you find out where they are and what they’re doing. If you don’t, I’m gonna recall the Chi-Z-Sox and have you all back in the irradiated desert of that doomed planet before the week is up. I don’t care how you do it – but get it done.”

This was enough to have both staff sergeants quaking in their marching boots; but when Hunting Provost stopped looking sad, and stared straight into the camera…

…they knew real fear.

“If you fail,” he ground out between gnashing incisors, “I will hunt you down and feed your remains to the plankton. That’s cold water plankton, by the way. Somewhere off the coast of Antarctica.”

The Major didn’t need to say anything: Jo and Wetpatch spoke in unison when they said (with a sigh of resignation): “We’re on it, Sir. You can count on us.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

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