Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 31)


Chapter 8

Back on Earth. Or, to be more precise, at the head of the valley that led to the mountain kingdom of Lemon Stone…

…Mister Zinc trudged miserably back to the watchtower after a visit to the large, well equipped, but monstrously cold outside lavatory. It was snowing again, and Zinc was beginning to think that it might be better to pee out of the watchtower window, rather than run the gauntlet of slippery pathways and shrivelling chill. Nevertheless, it was a vaguely chirpier megalomaniac that turned from the washbasin to address his biological android girlfriend, Blue…

“It’s very cold out there, Blue.” He informed her. “So cold that I was forced to wear my monastic turban. That doesn’t come easy, I can tell you: it reminds me of the time when I was Father Superior at the monastery, and told people what to do. Whereas now…”

He left the sentence dangling there, but Blue wasn’t really listening: the clandestine communicator’s bleeping sound had distracted her.

“You’ve got a call, Darling.” She said over her shoulder.

“I’ll take it in the ice box jokingly referred to as the ‘sitting room’.” Zinc responded.

Moments later, and far away inside his apartment in the Museum of Future Technology, Gregor Arsentickler watched as the image of Mister Zinc resolved upon his fake photo frame…

Calming himself, so that he might invest Zinc with a coherent history of recent events that climaxed with the e-mail from deepest space, Gregor took a surreptitious deep breath. He then proceeded to relate all the pertinent facts to his lord and master.

Zinc appeared to absorb this information, but, in truth, his mind had been idle for too long. His role as Watch Keeper had reduced his mental capacity dramatically. He was, effectively, a dullard. He simply couldn’t form a picture in his mind that made sense to him. He recognised the term ‘robot’: but all the other stuff eluded him. Releasing a sigh, he said:

“Yeah? So what do you want me to do about it?”

Gregor was aghast. Was he being cast adrift – betrayed by the one person he admired and trusted? Did Zinc not care that Earplugdom faced a secretive foe that was hell-bent on invasion? Could Zinc not comprehend that his own plans for dominion over the curators of the museum would come to nothing if the Incense Cone’s plan reached fruition? Was he unconcerned for the wellbeing of his sole acolyte? He said as much to Zinc.

Zinc snorted in response. “Look,” he said after taking a breath that revealed his exasperation, “it’s my job to rule. I don’t need to figure out the tricky stuff; that’s for little people like you. Civil Servants I guess you’d call them. So don’t bother me again with all this space invasion tripe: call me when you’ve sorted it all out and I can come back to the museum in triumph.”

“Yeah.” Blue added, as she reached for the ‘off’ switch, “so sod off and stop worrying my darling Zincipoo: he’s a very busy earplug.”

It was as if Gregor’s still-beating heart had been torn from his chest. All that had meaning in his life was reduced to ashes in an instant. In that moment in time, he saw his folly.

“What a fool I’ve been.” He snarled. “How could I have not seen through a guy who paints himself android silver? I’ve been dazzled by his charm and spectacular appearance. And when I pause to think about it…did he ever succeed in any of his ridiculous endeavours? Well there was that incident where he tried to bring the technological level of an Eleventh Century Irish peat bog to equal the present day: that was kinda’ neat. But even that failed ultimately. “

Gregor then did what any disillusioned young male earplug would do: he cut his ties with his immediate past in a most spectacular manner. In short, he pulled the photo frame from the wall and threw it to the floor. He followed this violent act by kicking the clandestine communicator into a smoking ruin.

“That’s better.” He said as he stomped off…

…and departed his apartment – without bothering to close the door behind him…

…whilst growling to himself:

“Time to grow up, Gregor – you golden-eyed wally. Time to man-up and do the right thing.”

In the watchtower, Zinc and Blue had resumed their duties…

“Hmmm,” Zinc said as he regarded the incessant snowfall, “maybe I was a little harsh on that young earplug – whatever his name was. Perhaps I should have patted him on the head or something equally condescending. But to more important matters: do you see anything moving out there, Blue?”

Blue had, but she was loath to mention a Mountain Plugmutt urinating up the door of the outside lavatory.

“Nothing that matters.” She replied.

So, whilst the would-be ruler shivered in his isolation, Gregor went straight to a public com-panel and punched in a well-known number…

In the apartment to which that well-known number was connected, its occupants were in the process of leaving…

As Magnuss headed for the front door, Hair-Trigger paused when she thought she could hear the ‘phone ringing. “Oh…” she began.

Magnuss had heard it also: “Forget that, Hairy,” He said. “There’s a pair of coffee cups at the Café Puke with our names on them.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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