Surprise Visit (part 15)


It’s hard to believe, I know, but we’re only three and a half chapters from the end of the tale. The good news is – the PDF version is complete and only awaits the completion of the on-line telling of this Earplug Adventure before becoming available for all to read or download, in its entirety, free of charge and utterly gratis. It will look exactly like this…

 

But enough of the future: on with the present…

Meanwhile, the proper leader of Scroton scurried along one of many thoroughfares that radiated, like a spider’s web, through the Museum of Future Technology. As he made good speed for a meeting with the chief curator, Cushions Smethwyke, his retinue followed in his wake…

“You need to be fit.” Walker observed as his eyes took in any number of side passageways and corridors. “It seems that to get anywhere, an inordinate amount of shoe leather must be worn down.”

“Walking is good for you.” Beatrix admonished the military leader of Scroton.

“One could get awfully lost.” The red-faced Julian Prim said between gasps.

“Not really.” Beatrix replied. “One need only ask the museum’s Artificial Intelligence for guidance. If it’s not too busy doing other stuff, it will tell you where you are; where you want to be; and how to get there. How else do you think Nigel knows where he’s going?”

Shortly, having rounded just a couple more junctions, Nigel presented himself and Beatrix to Cushions, who had Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks for company upon her ‘throne’…

“Oh, Golden One,” Cushions gushed obsequiously, “I’m so honoured that it takes every erg of my energy to maintain mental and physical equilibrium and not fall off this huge contraption!

“Hi,” Cheerful Charlie added with a wave over Cushions’ shoulder, “you’ve just missed jelly and cream, sorry. Would you like me to send out for you?”

The behaviour of the two trained, long-term professional curators nonplussed Nigel slightly. “Ah, not for the moment, thank you.” He replied to Cheerful Charlie. To Cushions he said: “Miss Smethwyke, we must discuss the most dreadful situation that currently threatens, not only the Museum of Future Technology and, by extension, my home world; but, ultimately many civilisations across the cosmos.”

It was Cushions’ turn to be taken aback. “Yeah?” She managed. “I thought it was just us who were up Kaka Creek without a paddle.”

“Then Magnuss hasn’t told you?” A mystified Beatrix interjected.

It was time for Cushions to come clean: “He might have.” She answered, “But after the first couple of sentences, I kinda went into panic-denial. What was it, specifically?”

“That the attacking ships are of Scrotonic design.” Nigel answered for his wife. “That they utilise the latest technology to which even I am not privy.”

Cushions’ mouth opened and shut several times before her brain caught up. “You mean,” she was finally able to annunciate, “that we’re being bullied by ethernet cable ends? I can’t believe it. It’s too much for my silicon mind to accept. Surely no cable end would destroy an entire city, just to prove how powerful they were – would they?” 

Nigel dismissed the notion with a careless gesture. “No.” He replied adamantly. “No cable end would ever do that. It runs contrary to all our beliefs. But we must consider the possibility that another race – as adept at manufacturing hi-tech equipment at speed and in volume as we of Scroton – has purloined our designs and now uses them for their own advantage.”

“Oh, good.” Cushions responded. “So what do you want us to do? All our ships are half-way across the Galaxy, doing all that exploration and diplomatic stuff. We can’t call upon them. In any case, if those ships are half as good as you say, our old bangers might get blown to pieces!”

“We ask only one thing of you.” Nigel replied. “By whatever means, you must not allow them to defeat you. You must not surrender. I have ordered a fleet of similar ships built. Ships that fly the right way up, I might add. The first elements will arrive here by the end of the week. The remainder are due at approximately the same time that the aliens return for your answer to their ultimatum.”

“Excellent.” Cheerful Charlie piped up. “We’ll make sure we have plenty of jelly and cream in.”

Nigel ignored the resident buffoon. To Cushions he said: “Is there anything you require in between times?”   

“Power.” Cushions replied. “Energy. Our batteries are depleting too quickly. We have a manually operated charger, but no one has sufficient leg strength or endurance to operate it.”

“Leave it to us.” Beatrix replied.

Five hours later…

“Can you see the power level read-out, Faati?” Fermin asked the Queen of the Pygmies.

“Yes.” Faati snapped back.

“How much longer do we have to keep doing this before the batteries are fully charged?” Fermin inquired.

“Long enough,” Faati answered, “to prove your boast to Walker that you can run and run and run without the need to sit down for an hour afterwards.”

Five hours later…

…the museum’s maintenance crew informed the exhausted cable ends that they could prise themselves off the charging machine and allow themselves to be carried to a hot soapy bath to recover.

However, a minute later, but half way across the Galaxy, Phruten Vedge was on the brink of entering a public lavatory, when Anders Dumbell unceremoniously accosted him…

“Phruten! Phruten!” He yelled and tugged at the biker gang leader’s shoulder epaulettes. “Something unthinkable has happened. Something that, under normal circumstances I would say was impossible on Scroton. But, look at the wall screen over there: the one showing the state-run rolling news channel.”

Phruten did as he was bid…

“Argh,” he yelled, “What am I looking at?”

“A fire-storm.” Anders wailed his reply. “It has destroyed the space ship factory. No one knows how it happened: but the Bingbonger, the Clutterbuck, the Plankton Regis, and another one that doesn’t have a name yet, have all been destroyed!”

“This is terrible.” Phruten yelled at a higher pitch than was normally acceptable for such a tough guy. “I’m so glad I’m standing directly outside a toilet right now!”

But just when both cable ends thought that the situation could not worsen farther, the screen switched to another view…

The voice of a reporter followed immediately. It said:

“Holy carp: did you see that? Two missiles have taken out the lemon curd factory! Oh-no, this is disastrous; they were using the surplus manufacturing capacity of the lemon curd factory to produce the extra vessels for The Golden One’s space fleet! Everything has gone up in smoke. This is the worst day in cable end history. Someone hand me a café Cortado – heavy on the brandy!”

However even this was not the final act of infamy. Another screen displayed the image of the space ship design studio in flames…

“Cripes, Anders,” Phruten spoke in a hushed tone, lest his voice break with sorrow and fear, “arson, obviously. Who is going to tell The Golden One?”

The answer flew daintily to Anders’ lips: “Ena.” He replied.

By the strangest of coincidences, Nigel received the news of his proto-fleet’s destruction at the same moment that he planned to enter the Buggeram Bay’s toilet…

“I’m not sure I can accept that.” He said quietly to Walker. “I don’t have an appropriate response.”

“Give it a few minutes to sink in, Sir.” Bertram Hisscod suggested. “Allow yourself the chance to absorb the information slowly.”

“Yes, thank you, Bertram.” Nigel said gratefully, as he turned to enter the toilet…

…”If I have a really long wee, it’ll give me time to compose myself. I just hope that in my moment of despair I don’t lose control and miss the urinal entirely.”

“Best make it a sit down job then, Sir.” Walker said as he made to follow his leader. “I’m sure Bertram will hustle you up a cup of tea.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

You have to feel sympathy for poor old Nigel: he has to contend with so much. Perhaps he should do as he suggested at the beginning of the adventure. That is quit and go live in a cave. 

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