Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 35)


Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were in the Gravitonic Multiplicitor room at the time…

By either coincidence or fate, Cushions chose that moment to contact them:

“Don’t proceed a metre closer to the space station.” She hurriedly squealed. “The Prolate Spheroids forbid it. I’ve just received an important communique from their new ambassador – Lord Gusty Chorizo: apparently, something very important is taking place, and you’re not to interfere. He was a bit vague about what was going on. In fact, he didn’t say anything that actually meant anything. I think they’re stonewalling me. Obfuscating too.”

“Did he say anything about our missing girls?” Hair-Trigger inquired.

“Two words.” Cushions replied. “Collateral damage.”

For a moment, Magnuss couldn’t get his head around what Cushions was telling him. When he finally put it all together, he said:

“Hey, that’s not right, Cushions. The RJL have been abducting robots, three museum citizens are missing, and earplugkind is under threat. This is not the time to sit around on our bottoms and watch events unfold. It could be the last thing we ever watch.”

“That’s right.” Hair-Trigger backed her husband to the hilt. “We’ve got the entire final season of Destination: The Stars on DVD box set: I am not going to watch civilisation fall before I’ve watched every single episode first – twice. I say that the ambassador can shove his communique right up his hooter: the Tankerville Norris steps aside or backs off for no one!”    

“Are you sure?” Cushions replied doubtfully. “They have dispatched a huge ship to rendezvous with you: perhaps you should wait a while for that to arrive.”

“What – and find ourselves abducted like all those poor unfortunate robots?” Magnuss bellowed in reply. “No chance. I don’t trust anyone I haven’t met and personally vetted. We’re going to see what’s going on – for ourselves!”

Of course, Magnuss had no idea that the Prolate Spheroid ship had departed its point of origin long before Cushions had made contact with their civilisation. Therefore, he also had no way of knowing that it was considerably closer to his location than he imagined…

In fact the first that either Magnuss or Hair-Trigger knew of its proximity, was when its commanding officer hailed them…

“Earth ship,” the being spoke precisely and (Magnuss thought) intimidatingly, “heave to and prepare to be boarded.”

Neither Magnuss nor Hair-Trigger was required to check their rear view mirror: the Tankerville Norris had already informed them that the biggest ship that it had ever encountered was attempting to climb up their tail pipe. Nevertheless, they did look at their forward screen with a sense of foreboding when the Prolate Spheroid Commander tried to push his image through three dimensions and enter the bridge…

“This is a Incense Cone affair,” the image spat the words, and Magnuss almost felt compelled to wipe illusory spittle from his face, “you will take no further part in it.”

Hair-Trigger was quick to respond:

“You tell us what’s going on between you and those conical Incense Cones on the station, and we’ll think about it.”

“That is a state secret.” The Prolate Spheroid replied instantly. “Strictly need-to-know. So bugger off, or you’ll get your arses kicked.”

This riled Magnuss more than a little. “And our three citizens?” He snapped. “What is to become of them?”

The Prolate Spheroid didn’t answer immediately. He took a moment to consult with someone off-screen. When he returned he gave the earplugs some information that, had he considered it longer, he should not have:

“Reports place their vessel on a planetoid close to the space station.” He said. “It is currently hidden from our sensors. Its presence – or rather the presence of the earplugs aboard it – have precipitated an action for which we were not yet ready and are ill prepared. Had they not made contact with you, we would have been content to sit and watch as the Conicals and the Robotic Justice League perpetrated their action against you. But, alas now we must act. Congratulations, whatever your name is: your stupid youngsters have initiated a civil war!”

These last two words jolted Magnuss more than a million others could have. He reacted more by instinct than intellect…

As the Tankerville Norris accelerated away from the Prolate Spheroid craft at a phenomenal speed, Magnuss took a moment to explain to his spouse…

“All the time we were speaking, the ship was scanning theirs. It’s big and slow. It must have been here all along – just a short distance off. Maybe it was cloaked, I don’t know. Like old face-ache said, they’ve been watching the situation for a while. Moreover, they seemed perfectly happy to see the Conicals bring down earplugkind. I’m guessing they planned to step in after it was all over and take control. But, whichever way you paint it – neither Incense Cone group could honestly be termed ‘the good guys’.”

“And there’re the three girls.” Hair-Trigger added. “They’re not supposed to be here. They’re supposed to be at home at college in the Museum of Future Technology, which is crying out for hair stylists. They could be hair stylists. Perhaps really good ones, with lots of flair and a pleasant demeanour. Magnuss, we have to save them!”

Because of the Tankerville Norris’s huge speed advantage, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger arrived at the planetoid waaaaay before the pilots of the gargantuan freighter could begin to click it down a gear and wind on the throttle…

“There’s a freighter over there.” Magnuss informed Hair-Trigger. “I wonder what it’s doing?”

Hair-Trigger didn’t get a chance to reply; instead the Tankerville Norris spoke silently into both earplug brains:

“It is on a Search and Destroy mission.” It said. “I have tapped into its central command computer. It is unmanned. It is also on a direct course for the planetoid.”

“Not good,” Magnuss grunted. “That means it won’t listen to reason and intends to kick ass. Pointless trying to argue with a computer: guess we’ll have to hit it with a proton torpedo.”

“We could try switching it off and on again.” The slightly less belligerent earplug aboard suggested. “It might re-set the command sequencer. We could then suggest that it shut down and await an update.”

“That’s brilliant, Hairy.” Magnuss gushed. “Now I know why I married you. We don’t have to destroy anything. Can you do it, Ship?”

“Already on it.” The Tankerville Norris replied audibly. “Search and Destroy mission aborted. Enemy vessel powering down. Honestly, these robotic freighters are so gullible: I cannot believe that was so easy.”

Fireworks may have been thin on the ground, but that didn’t stop Daisy spotting the approaching former honeymoon barge…

“It’s the Tankerville Thingamabob.” She squealed with excitement. “Gregor must have got our e-mail. He’s sent Magnuss Earplug to save us!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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