Honestly, this really is the episode in which our two “Heroes” finally get their arses into gear. Read on…
Whilst the former burglars tried to get their head around the emerald-hued situation, the snow storm that lashed Ciudad de Droxford showed no indication that it would lessen any time soon…
In an apartment on one of the more sheltered housing blocks, Café Puke Baristas, Jungle-Jake Johnson and Mary-Sue Wassack peered out of an open window…
“Well?” Jungle-Jake demanded, “Do you think we can make it to work? Or do you figure we’d better call in sick?”
Mary-Sue shivered as she hopped down from the window sill. “If we try to reach the Museum in this storm, we’re gonna die. The Café Puke will have to go on without us. Let’s open a bottle of vino, maybe watch TV, and chew on that length of chorizo in the back of your fridge.”
However, and despite the young Barista’s concerns for the well-being of their place of employment, the day-shift Baristas – those being Bert Wimbledon and Rosie Hodliner…
…had already made the decision to shut up shop. As they made for the door, Bert said:
“Race ya to the nearest Down ramp. We can slide all the way to the bottom like complete idiots and fall over in a tangle of arms and legs.”
Rosie was all for the idea. She really liked Bert, and the thought of getting tangled up with him made her forget the raging storm completely. “Yeah.” She replied enthusiastically. “Just let me lock up first.”
Meanwhile, deep beneath the shepherd’s hut, the cavern reduced in size once more – becoming a tunnel again…
“Are we still going down?” Hellfire inquired.
“I’d say so.” Erronious replied. “It’s definitely getting warmer.”
“Strange, don’t you think,” Hellfire said, following several seconds of thought, “that a shepherd should keep a secret subterranean tunnel beneath his hut?”
“More significantly,” Erronious added, “where was his shepherding paraphernalia? I saw no crook leaning against the rustic pantry table. There was no bed for a herding plugmutt to sleep in. And where did he hang his rough sack-like shepherd’s jerkin?”
“What are you suggesting, Erronious?” Hellfire queried nervously.
“That the shepherd was no shepherd at all.” The red-eyed earplug replied. “That he was, in fact, something else entirely!”
Hellfire might have asked, “What ‘something else entirely’, Erronious?”, but he didn’t get the chance: with the reduction in altitude, the light that illuminated the tunnel was changing to a warmer, reddish hue…
“Speak in whispers.” Erronious…um…whispered. ”There’s a brighter light up ahead.”
And there was too…
“I think we may have reached the end of the line.” He added.
Bravely stepping into the light, Erronious and Hellfire were amazed to discover a modern facility, with mysterious devices set against white-washed walls; a door that presumably led to living quarters and a lavatory; a heated towel rail; and a strangely shaped snotty-coloured earplug, sitting in a high-tech chair that appeared to be regarding a glowing rock…
Shortly after Erronious and Hellfire had slipped silently into the room, the grey earplug deliberately cleared his throat. The snotty earplug was out of his chair like an Olympic flea…
“Take whatever you want,” he squeaked. “Please take care: I frighten easily: I only own two pairs of underpants, and one of them is in the wash.”
“Really?” Erronious responded as his eyes took in the room’s details. “So why are they not hanging upon the heated towel rail?”
“They’re soaking in the sink – with some bicarbonate of soda. There’s a nasty oily stain on them from when I serviced my bicycle last week.”
This intrigued Hellfire. “You only change your underpants once a week?”
“I live alone.” The snotty earplug explained. “There’s no one to complain – which is the way I like it. I’m a recluse, after all. And my olfactory organ has malfunctioned since I was very young, when I was a stunt scooterist and rode head-first into a rock face during an extreme sporting event at a local nunnery.”
As the snotty earplug spoke the words, Erronious could see the self-confidence return to the stranger. “Too bad.” He said. “Oh, yeah, please excuse the intrusion, but we were facing oblivion in the face of the recalcitrant weather up top. We found your hut – and the door that led to the secret tunnel.”
“It’s not a secret tunnel.” The snotty earplug complained. “It’s just that nobody knows about it. If anyone had asked, I would gladly have shown them. But I’m a recluse: nobody comes calling on a recluse such as me.”
Hellfire chose to introduce himself and his pea farming partner.
The snotty earplug responded positively. “Celestino Candalabra.” He said whilst extending a hand of welcome.
“So what are you doing down here, beneath the mountainside?” Erronious inquired.
“I am a ‘See-er’” Celestino replied instantly. “Wherever I look, I see the truth. For example, I see that you are reformed criminals. You were once burglars: but now you till the meagre mountain soil.”
Celestino could see surprise upon the faces of his unexpected guests. “It is a blessing – or a curse – that I was born with. You see, I’m psychic. However, I do not see the future: it’s not that bloody useful – otherwise I could bet on the plugmutt races or the national lottery and make a fortune. But I do see the truth. I see the truth in every face I look at. Sometimes those truths are hard to accept – so I have locked myself away from society, and spared myself the pain.”
Erronious, although impressed with Celestino’s candour, allowed his former cunning to assert itself. Already he could see that he might use the see-er’s talent – though not to his personal advantage: but for an entirely altruistic reason. “Something disastrous happened at the Museum of Future Technology this morning.” He told him. “We appear to be in the grip of a sudden ice age. If we accompany you to the surface, so you can see it for yourself, could you tell us the truth regarding its origin? You see, we’ve already figured that the Earplug Brothers would have been incapacitated – what with them being so close to the epicentre of the disaster – and we’d rather like to have a go at fixing the situation. It’s what any reasonable citizen of earplugdom would do.”
Celestino looked at Erronious and Hellfire. In Hellfire’s expression he saw only surprise. Clearly the ugly sod had not been expecting his friend to speak the words he’d just spoken. In Erronious he saw that his words were the honest truth. “No need,” he said, “I’ve got this crystal ball, in the corner. It’s got three hundred and sixty degree vision – as well as straight up.”
Moments later, Erronious and Hellfire stood in amazement as a view of the Museum of Future Technology appeared in the air before them.
“This is the truth you seek.” Celestino said sternly. “This morning, shortly after daybreak, this happened…
A glowing object, of extra-terrestrial origin detached itself from a Submarine Space Freighter. It proceeded thence to the museum itself, where it gained energy and…how shall I describe it? It exploded into activity. An activity for which it had been specifically designed.”
“What was the activity for which it was specifically designed?” Hellfire inquired with surprising eloquence.
Celestino turned a sober look upon the former burglars. “To cause mayhem, suffering, and disorganisation – by means of sudden and catastrophic climate change.” He said gravely.
“To what end?” Erronious asked.
Celestino’s eyes seemed to glaze over – as though he had gone into a sudden trance. A split second later he reanimated. “To weaken earplug resistance to their own conquest.” He answered. He then added: “All this terrible weather in the mountains and beyond is all collateral damage. The Museum of Future Technology is the intended target.”
Celestino then quickly scribbled a map upon a paper napkin that (in the absence of a handkerchief) he usually used to wipe his nose. Handing it to Erronious, he said: “Take this; find a space ship; go to these co-ordinates; find the antidote. It’s the museum’s only hope.”
Although Hellfire felt uncertain about this unexpected turn of events, Erronious smiled broadly. He had no conscious awareness of his envy of the Earplug Brothers; but he was certain – deep down inside – that it was the primary reason for his current thought processes.
Celestino saw this to be the truth, but he said nothing, except. “Right, now, go!”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022
So, the inevitable mission begins. Return for episode 10, and maybe learn some more.