Familiar ground for Earpluggers coming up…
Bubbles had programmed the ship’s navigation computer to emerge from hyperspace at a specific point. This it did with pinpoint accuracy…
The Prowler and its occupants now found themselves in the strange border area between regular space and Weird Space. Their close proximity to the oddly-coloured region of the Galaxy could mean only one thing…
“I’ve always wanted to visit Scroton,” Bubbles said as she studied the abnormal stars and cosmic dust of Weird Space. “I just never imagined I’d have a proper reason to, or the means of getting here.”
“Two birds with one stone.” Barclay replied.
Bubbles fluttered her eyelashes at this. “Three, if we count you.”
Barclay would have reacted to this compliment, but before he could say anything, the planet Scroton swam into view in his side window…
“Barclay,” Bubbles said urgently, “we’re getting a priority message from a way station. We’re to remain here until an escort vessel arrives from Scroton.”
“How very efficient.” Barclay responded. “Just as one would expect from the Scotonite Ethernet Cable Ends. I wonder how long they’ll be.”
Well, no sooner had the words left Barclay’s mouth, when a ship of the Tankerville Norris class duly arrived…
“Please follow us in.” A voice sounded from speakers and a sub-woofer set into the cockpit chairs. “Our sensors detect earplugs aboard. Your DNA suggests you originate upon the planet Earth. Your planet and ours are allies. Welcome to Scroton. A reservation has been made for you at the Hotel Guano. Please report there immediately upon landing at Scroton Prime.”
“Ah, roger that.” Bubbles replied semi-professionally.
“Wow,” an impressed Barclay breathed, “I wonder if they’ll roll out the red carpet too.”
Twenty-five minutes later the couple stood in their room at the Hotel Guano…
Whilst Barclay took in the view of Scroton Prime, Bubbles’ attention was upon the fabric of their room.
“It’s a little austere.” She said. “I suppose the furniture comes out of the walls or something. But they could have put some magazines in the magazine rack – which, I might add, is too high for me. Okay for a basketball player or a pole vaulter; but not for test pilots.”
To cheer Bubbles up, Barclay said:
“I noticed a coffee machine in the foyer: It isn’t café Puke, but it could be this planet’s equivalent. Fancy a brew?”
Two minutes later and fifteen floors lower…
“Café Blurgh,” Bubbles squealed with delight. “It sounds ghastly. I’ll try one of everything.”
From there, they decided that a brisk walk in the open air was called for…
“Will you look at that, Bubs,” Barclay said as they strolled across the central plaza of the industrial area, “it’s been less than three decades since this planet industrialized, and already their smoke stacks are museum pieces. Breathe in that air: not a particulate anywhere!”
Shortly, as evening fell, they moved into a quiet region of the city where few citizens roamed. It was there that they were accosted by three members of the military…
Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage: you have arrived here in an armed vessel that could be described as a warship.” The camouflaged officer addressed them. “I am Captain Bonzer Drangonsrectum: you will explain to me the reason for your visit to our fabulous world, and the need for atomic cannons.”
Bubbles had expected some form of interview; she just hadn’t expected it to occur in the open with civilians out and about taking the air. “Well,” she began. Fifteen minutes later, her story told, she added:
“So you’ll be wanting to see Nigel – the Golden One, huh?” Bonzer suggested.
Barclay held out his hands before him. “Anyone who can give us what we desperately need that might save an entire world and everyone who lives on it.”
Bonzer dismissed his subordinates, and then made a call on his communication device. After stating his needs, he placed the device back in his pocket and said:
So they did…
Shortly they were ushered into the presence of the planetary leader, Nigel, and his wife, Beatrix…
“So, Nigel said following a pleasant greeting, “you need a Gravitonic Multiplicitor, eh?”
“You plan to move Worstworld to a safer orbit?” Beatrix inquired. “Like they did with Mars?
“Oh if only it were that simple.” Bubbles replied. “Yes, we do need to move something really large, but there’s nowhere safe for the planet. When the blue-giant star explodes, it will engulf everything in the system. It will then shrink back to become a brown dwarf star. Worstworld orbits close enough to benefit from the remnants of the blue-giant. Unfortunately it can’t survive the initial catastrophe.”
“That’s where the Veil of Shytar comes in.” Barclay interjected. “It has the power to repel energy. Our plan is to move the space anomaly to a position between Worstworld and the blue-giant.”
“If we’re right,” Bubbles took up the explanation again, “the Veil of Shytar will act like an impenetrable heat shield against the nova.”
“How certain are you that it will work?” Nigel asked.
“Oh,” Bubbles replied, “about fifty-fifty, I guess.”
“Those are Magnuss Earplug kind of odds.” Nigel said with a broad smile – well he would have, had he been able to smile. “You two and Mister and Missus Earplug are like peas in a pod. You will have your Gravitonic Multiplicitor – aboard one of my favourite ships – the Goosewing Grey.”
“Only it’s not grey anymore.” Beatrix added. “We had it painted blue – like the Tankerville Norris. It looks so much nicer.”
“When do we leave?” Barclay asked urgently.
Fate chose that moment to open the main door and reveal the building’s occupants to the lights of the media…
“Just as soon as we’ve informed the Galactic News Channel and everyone else with either a voice recorder or a camera, of your endeavour.” Nigel replied.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022
Hands up all of you who guessed they were going to Scroton. And they’re getting a Gravitonic Multiplicitor too!
Significant shots here include the industrialised area of Scroton Prime, which was shot originally for the very first Scroton story (in 2016), and has been used over and over ever since because the location (and materials) in which it was shot no longer exists. Ditto the quiet plaza shots, which feature an upturned plastic pallet, an empty cable reel, and a fire-proof asbestos wall. Add some characters and they look like real places….don’t they?
P.S If anyone has ever read the classic 1960s comic tale The Trigan Empire, it is that imagery I tried to capture with the quiet plaza shots – including the distant ‘Atmosphere Craft’. Kind of modern Romanesque. See, I think about what I’m producing: it’s not just thrown together – even if sometimes it looks like it is.