So here we are – al final. We’ve made it through twelve chapters together. Another Earplug Adventure has been survived. All that remains is the epilogue. This is it: go for it!
As one might imagine, the voyage home along the hyper-space conduit was rapid and uneventful…
However, as the Prowler entered the atmosphere above Lemon Stone, the ship’s foul-weather sensors initiated an amber alert…
“Oh, I didn’t expect that.” Bubbles exclaimed. “After such an adventure I assumed it would all be plain sailing until we landed.”
“Nah,” Barclay replied as he cast a quick glance out of his side window, “it’s peeing down out there. Looks like a storm. Even worse than the one we can expect in the Star Chamber.”
He wasn’t wrong either…
High winds and sudden downdraughts tossed the small craft of space like a leaf as lightning lit up the sky all around.
Much to her surprise, the buffeting made Bubbles feel decidedly nauseous…
“Take the controls, will you darling.” She said before slipping off her safety belt and throwing up over the back of her pilot’s seat.
Barclay, unused to flying the craft in any conditions, quickly lost his way in the bad weather; reduced altitude; and soon found himself staring at the towers of Ciudad de Droxford…
“Oh, Sweetie,” he called, “Wipe the drool from your chin and take command, would you: we’re about to crash into a city.”
The threat of imminent death quickly rallied Bubbles’ mental and physical reserves. Throwing herself back into her seat, she re-took control…
“Honestly, Barclay,” she complained, “all you had to do is keep it flying straight and level!”
Barclay smiled at this. He knew that. He’d just lost control because he wanted Bubbles to think she was indispensible – which, of course she was.
“I know,” Bubbles then added as her stomach settled and her mood lightened, “Since we’re here, we might as well stop off for a coffee. Yes, that would be very nice: we can sit and watch the world go by…in the pouring rain.”
Meanwhile, below on an average city street…
…Miles Earplug was deep in conversation with Mister Pong.
“I don’t know why you were so fired up about opening a restaurant in Ciudad de Droxford.” He said in his best ‘annoyed’ voice. “When it isn’t being levelled by alien invaders, it rains like a monsoon! It doesn’t rain in the Museum of Future Technology: you can have an outdoor café there, and everyone is guaranteed to stay dry. You wouldn’t have to wear your stupid Evil Mister Pong hat either!”
By coincidence, some twenty minutes later, another group of earplugs had decided that talk of cafes should be translated into action. Captain Cedric Mantequilla led the bridge crew of the Brian Talbot into the Avenida de Rueben Snook branch of the Café Puke…
…and failed utterly to notice the new galactic heroes enjoying the view through a large picture window…
“It’s lovely to be back in the city again, isn’t it Darling?” Bubbles inquired after sipping from her glass of crappachino, before placing it back on the table top.
“Too right, Sweetie.” Barclay replied, “After the aridness of Worstworld, this piddling rain and thunderstorm is almost welcome.”
“Talking of welcomes,” Bubbles said nervously, “I wonder what Sir Loftus is going to say tomorrow.”
“Doesn’t really matter.” Barclay mumbled. “We’re gonna lose our jobs whatever. But after our little escapade, we should get jobs at the Museum of Future Technology no problem: they’re crying out for heroic types like us.”
Bubbles lowered her voice to a whisper;
“At least that would mean we wouldn’t have to apply for jobs at the Café Puke. I enjoy their foul muck; but I wouldn’t want to serve it up.”
Bubbles and Barclay decided that it would probably be best if they waited until the next day before visiting the Star Chamber. So, shortly after dawn, they steadied their nerves and strode purposefully into the strangely-lit board room…
Barclay decided to be bold…
“Hi, everybody: I hope you slept well. We certainly did. It’s tiring work – saving entire worlds from utter devastation. I guess you’d like the Prowler back now – huh?”
The Chamber Pots were entirely wrong-footed by this approach. All they could do was either stare in stupefaction or look at each other for guidance. As was fitting for the Chairman of the Board, Sir Loftus Pupe recovered his wits quickest…
“Not necessarily.” He replied.
Bubbles leaned back in surprised. “No?” She queried.
“No.” Sir Loftus replied. “Until a few hours ago the situation would have looked very different. BINS would have most certainly been closed down and its senior staff laid off – permanently. The Punting-Modesty R and D department would have been poring over their prototype craft in an effort to see how much damage it had incurred. I personally would probably have been taking a blood pressure tablet. But none of this has come to be.”
“Ah…” Barclay politely raised a hand to interrupt, “but that’s good, isn’t it?”
“For all concerned.” Sir Loftus concurred. Then a smile spread across his normally austere visage. “It’s very good. Jolly good, even. Absolutely bloody smashing in fact. When your rescue of Worstworld appeared on the Galactic News Channel, the phone didn’t stop ringing. E-mails abounded. Our servers went down under the strain. Staff have been run ragged. Orders for the Prowler have been flooding in ever since. Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage: if you never do another thing wrong again in your lives, you won’t make a better mistake than stealing the prototype Prowler. Not only did it lead to the salvation of a world and the civilisation that lived upon it; but, more importantly, that single act has saved the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company from bankruptcy. Overnight we’ve gone from minnows to whales!”
“Tadpoles to great white sharks.” Jasmine Greentea interjected.
“Quite right, Jazzy.” Sir Loftus responded. Then, turning his attention to the youngsters once more, he said:
“As a result of this unqualified success, we’ve elected to refrain from punishing you in any way whatsoever. No punitive action will be taken. You will be charged with no crime. You will, however, be required to take ownership of the prototype Prowler. You will be required to return it to Punting-Modesty for its free first service. You will also need to insure it. Okay?”
Anyone with a feather at hand could have knocked over both Bubbles and Barclay with a single waft. “I…I…guess.” Barclay replied after looking into Bubbles’ laughing eyes. “We’ll…um…get it over to the workshop right away: it could use an oil change. And a rear-facing atomic cannon would be nice too.”
“Duly noted.” Sir Loftus replied. “Have fun.”
With that they were applauded out of the Star Chamber…
“Ready for another adventure, Bubs?” Barclay inquired.
“Any time, any place, anywhere – with you, Barkie.” Bubbles replied.
So, a few hours later, the Prowler’s oil change complete, and a new rear-facing atomic cannon slotted in beside the garbage hatch, the Museum of Future Technology was treated to a one-ship fly-past…
There was a galaxy waiting up there, beyond the sky: now they had the means, Bubbles and Barclay had every intention of experiencing as much of it as was earpluggishly possible!
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022
Ah-ha, the suggestion of a future sequel. Well why not – we all like Bubbles and Barclay, don’t we? But that will do for 2022: it was a very productive year in the Earplug Adventure department. Already I have a title for the next tale. I have no idea what will happen, but the title came to me when I accidentally misheard the lyrics to Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This‘. The next tale will be titled ‘Northern Mist‘. Ooh, that’s a challenge.