No preamble: just story. Look, I didn’t even bother putting ‘An Earplug Adventure’ in the title. So on with it!
After all seven Scrotonites had taken their turn at peering at the tiny picture upon Magnuss’ cell phone…
…six of them stood back and awaited their leader’s response. It wasn’t one of several they might have expected…
“I don’t like this coffee.” He said. “The sugar is refined. It’s very bad for me. I want pure cane sugar – freshly hacked and processed by hand, using a mortar and pestle. Barista’s go fetch it for me.”
Of course, by now, all three Barista’s had consulted the Internet on their cell phones: they knew exactly the degree of power Nigel might wield, and how important he was. Fearing he could have had them beheaded or excluded from social media, they begrudgingly complied with his somewhat unorthodox demand…
The small, mauve Barista – Moyst Towlet – led her colleagues from behind the counter. “Hey, this is great.” She said. “We’re getting paid to go outside in the sunshine. I can top up my tan. I used to work as a trainee manicurist and lipstick applicator in the arboretum’s artisan village: I know exactly where we can cut down some sugar cane. Let’s go!”
Once the staff had disappeared out of the door, Nigel whipped off his plume and tossed all the coffees into the sink, like the first-rate basketball player he might have been, had fate not decreed that he would lead a world out of ignorance and a dung-for-brains existence, into a technological and prosperous era, and said:
“A ruse, my friends. I had no wish for witnesses to what transpires hereafter. And I don’t like the coffee either. If anyone feels the need for refreshment, I’m sure Magnuss can oblige from his hip flask of ginger beer. Now to business.”
With that, Magnuss cast aside his Cossack hat and joined the others as they crowded around Nigel’s table…
Both Magnuss and Hair-Trigger smiled as The Golden One took control of the discussion:
“Those ships are of Scrotonic design.” He stated.
“Undoubtedly.” Walker Crabtrouser concurred.
Bertram Hisscod raised a hand. “They appeared to be flying inverted.” He said.
Fermin Gusset required clarity: “What, like upside down, you mean?”
“Exactly.” Julian replied for Bertram. “I knew there was something odd about that picture!”
“Why were they flying upside down?” Beatrix inquired, reasonably enough.
Faati thought she could supply the answer to that difficult question:
“They must have held the blueprints upside down when they photocopied the original design.”
“Of course.” Nigel bellowed as his fist slammed into the table top – threatening to shatter it’s futuristic melamine surface. “It must have paid merry hell for their engineers, when they tried to shoehorn in the interior of the ship. Imagine turning every deck through one hundred and eighty degrees – especially the waste pipes from the lavatories. If I had a hat on, I’d take it off to them!”
He paused for a moment. “Walker,” he said, “you looked shamefaced. What is it?”
Walker Crabtree’s inner embarrassment became visible. “I spoke falsehood, Sir.” He explained. “Earlier I told you that it was impossible for any species to develop and build a spaceship quicker than the engineers of Scroton. I was wrong. It was sheer racial hubris. The facts are undeniable. Other than their upside-downiness, those vessels on Magnuss’ cell phone are exact duplicates of the ship we arrived here in. I feel decidedly wrong-footed: I should have seen this coming.”
“Me too.” Bertram’s professional horror surfaced like a boiling mud geyser in an active sulphurous volcanic region, though less aromatic of course. “If anyone should have been on top of this horrendous security break, it should have been ‘yours truly’!”
“Self-recrimination will do us no good, gentlemen.” Nigel spoke loudly, but kindly. “We need intel. Magnuss, have the aliens made any demands of the museum’s curator elite?”
“Well…” Magnuss began.
Meanwhile the three Baristas had reached the region in the arboretum in which Moyst insisted sugar cane grew freely…
However, now they were there, her confidence waned alarmingly.
“Here we are.” Mary-Sue said cheerfully. “Did anyone bring something to cut it with?”
“I’ve got sharp teeth.” Jungle-Jake volunteered. “I can bite ‘em down.”
Moyst decided that it was time to ‘fess up’. “Er,” she began with less than total confidence, “I aint so sure this is sugar cane after all. I think it’s bamboo. My Uncle Chantra’s got something very like it at the bottom of his garden. They look very similar. We’ll have to look somewhere else.”
To her surprise, neither colleague appeared worried in the least by this information. “That’s alright, Moyst.” Jungle-Jake said. “It’ll give me the chance to live up to my name. You stay here; I’ll go sniff us out some sugar cane.”
With those words reverberating off the hollow bamboo canes that grew all around them, Jungle-Jake stepped from the walkway and descended into the foliage…
Immediately his sensitive nose began twitching – searching out the characteristic ‘spore’ of sugar cane. Unfortunately, Jungle-Jake had no idea what Sugar cane smelt like. “Oh bugger,” he said, “why couldn’t I have been raised in the West Indies – they’ve got lots of sugar cane there. Bananas too. I could have taken some banana extract back with me: that would have impressed that guy from Scroton. Not a lot of sugar cane in the Welsh valleys though. Hmmm, maybe I aint quite the right dude for the job I thought I was. Oh, darn it: why do I have to play the big ‘look at me, I can do anything’ wally? Whatta am I gonna tell the girls?”
Of course he had no answer to that. However, a split second into a huge raspberry-blow of self-loathing…
…he discovered that he could taste sweetness in the air.
“On the other hand,” he said to himself.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022
P S: It may not seem it, at this juncture in the story; but the sensitivity of Jungle-Jake’s taste buds will become very important later on. Stay tuned to find out why!
PPS: Did you notice the coffee cups in the Cafe Puke? Attention to detail or what!