Epoch of Dung (part 22) An Earplug Adventure


However, despite their near miss, fear continued to grip the hearts of the escaping earplugs. There was no guarantee that the time rift would not evaporate – with them still inside it…

It was in this most tense of moments that seven of the Tankerville Norris’ passengers chose to reveal their presence…

“Excuse us,” Margret Greenhorn said, following a discrete cough, “is it alright if we come to see who’s driving this bus?”

Well, of course, it was perfectly alright. In fact, the crew were delighted that such heroic dancers should deign to join them upon the bridge. This was especially true of Miles, who took an instant interest in Belle.

“Hello,” Miles whispered, “my name’s Miles.”

“Oh, hello: I’m Belle, by the way. I thought you might be Chester, but I’m glad you’re not: he’s spoken for. Oh, sorry, am I being a little forward?”

“You be as forward as you like.” Miles said through a smile that was broadening with every passing nanosecond. “I think Belle is a lovely name. Not sure about the Ching, but never mind.”

The conversation would have continued along these lines for as long as both protagonists drew breath, but Magnuss announced that they were free of the time rift, and invited them to watch it’s closure on the main screen.

“Okay, take up your duty stations – it doesn’t matter which one you choose – the ship flies itself – we’re headed for Earth. The real one, that is.”

Chapter 7

It was night in the environs of the Museum of Future Technology…

Its inhabitants waited in their domiciles with bated breath. Very few were active in the vast building’s many corridors. Bilious Botner was an exception…

He had the idea that, because business was quiet, the Café Puke might sell him some croissants at half-price. Both he and a strange female with tall red hair were disappointed when the proprietor told them to, “Sod-off – I’m watching the TV news: the fleet’s due back: I don’t wanna miss this.”

Of course, in any society, one is always going to find dozy bleeders who don’t follow the news or give a toss about real-world problems. In the case of four science-fiction mad youngsters, they were far more interested in the final act of this week’s episode of Destination: The Stars…

Hambledon Bohannon, on the other hand, was planning for later. He had every confidence that the heroes of Earplugdom would return triumphant. He was also certain that they would like nothing more than to ‘get down’ to the disco beat. So already, he was warming up the turntables…

“Yeah,” he mumbled to himself as he ran an eye over his vast repertoire of Disco Hits, Ancient and Modern, “best start with one of my own grooves, I guess. Sho’nuf gotta be ‘Everybody Slip Your Disco Disk’. The popular dance routine that accompanies the record is a bit painful for oldsters and people with an underlying skeletal problem, but I figure it’s worth the risk. What’s more, Nurse Consuela is a practising chiropractor, so that’ll be just fine and dandy if someone collapses on the disco floor in agony, sho’nuf if it aint.”

The heroes for whom Hambledon planned his disco celebration were still far from home. At the controls of the Gravity Whelk, Placebo Bison had noticed a certain degree of sluggishness when adjusting course…

“Hey, Folie,” he said to the co-owner of the old, but wonderful vessel, “Get aft, will you? Check out the ship’s mass balance.”

Folie duly obliged. Initially all seemed well, but when he reached the moving corridor section, the sight of unrestrained passengers greeted his gaze…

“Oh curse these automatic moving corridors,” he wailed, “they really are of doubtful use. They’ve brought everybody together in one place. The ship is unbalanced: anything could happen. And who hung that stupid sign up in my bulkhead access tunnel?”

The situation was little better aboard the Chi-Z-Sox. Several passengers, including Mister Pong, had grown weary of their dreary cabin walls and ventured into parts of the ship from which they’d been barred – including the bridge…

The K T Woo crew were suffering similar hardship…

“Honestly,” the Engineering Crew Manager, a former End Cap Hyperspace Pirate who had been taken prisoner during the failed invasion of the museum several years previous, complained when his engine room was ‘invaded’ by rubberneckers, “I can barely hear myself think. What if the Captain calls and instructs me to make a sudden swerve to avoid an asteroid? I’ll tell you, shall I? I won’t make that swerve, and you’ll all die of vacuum inhalation when the hull breaches.”

The four pink former monks of Lemon Stone didn’t believe a word the End Cap said. Crew-plug, Gusi Ghandar stood at the back and smiled faintly. He knew it was nonsense too. “You can’t breathe vacuum,” he said quietly. “Vacuum is the absence of anything. Or am I being pedantic?”

There were no such problems aboard the much smaller Tankerville Norris

Everyone had chosen a role to play, so boredom never reared its ugly head.

“Ah-ha,” Magnuss called out to gain everyone’s attention, “looks like the good old Solar System’s dead ahead and coming up quickly.”

Inside the Museum of Future Technology, gigantic screens displayed the fleet, as it approached the planet…

“Hoorah,” Auntie Doris cried out to K’Plank the Space Wanderer, “the boys are nearly home. I can’t wait to give that Magnuss a big hug.”

If there had been a race to see who could land first, Folie and Placebo would have been the winners. As the Tankerville Norris made its final approach, Hair-Trigger noted the other ship settling upon a landing tower…

“Don’t care.” Magnuss responded. “I don’t like that tower anyway: the elevator doesn’t work properly. It goes up and down too quickly, and makes me feel sick.”

Meanwhile, down in the depths below the museum, the Earplug Brother’s cousins, Clancy, Brad, and Gilbatross, finally received the news that the world wasn’t ending. They cheered uproariously as they emerged into the light…

Well Clancy did: Brad was a bit annoyed that he’d let the family down by running and hiding when everyone else did what they could in the circumstances.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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