Tag Archives: comedy

Revel in the Ribaldry 31

The time is due for another excerpt from one of my…er…fabulous...Hamster-Sapiens books. It has been a while since I last entertained you with a snippet from this book...

…so it seems logical to do that right now. And here it is – and chosen entirely at random by pure chance…

Horatio became aware that Beryl was tugging at his sleeve, but tried to ignore it. So Beryl was left with no alternative but to knock off his novelty fedora if she wanted to gain his attention. So she did, and it worked wonderfully.

“I’m not native.” She whispered, “Who is that pompous ass-hole from which distain drips from every pore?”

Acknowledging the indisputable truth that Beryl wasn’t going to remain quiet unless Horatio gave her the information she required, the trepidatious young hamster decided to acquiesce to her demands.

“His name is Henderson Dangerpimple.” He spoke as quickly as he thought Beryl’s brain could assimilate the information, “He is a professor of Pox and Pustules at Chunderford University. He was the owner of the seafront fondant shop in the same town. Unfortunately his shop was destroyed by a mini-tsunami caused by a huge propeller that fell into the sea from the airship Dragon Slayer.”

Beryl was confused. “And he blames you for it?

“I was one of the passengers.” Horatio shrugged his shoulders, but instantly regretted the act lest the subtle movement reveal his location to the ethereal sniper.

“But still,” Beryl persisted, “that seems a little unreasonable.”

“Well I stole his wife too.” Horatio added slightly shamefaced. “They’d only been married a few hours. They hadn’t even consummated the union. But it wasn’t my fault: I had a really snotty allergy: An allergy to life without Colleen Slapper it turned out. So I told her that I loved her, begged her to leave Henderson, and she did. Now he hates me. I guess I can understand his motivation.”

“Is that tale in your autobiography?” Beryl inquired. “If it isn’t it should be.”

“Yes.” Horatio turned to regard the female beside him, “Haven’t you read it properly?”

“Not everything.” It was Beryl’s turn to look shamefaced, “Only the rude bits when you talk about your massive scrotum and suchlike. I just like to browse when I read.”

Horatio nodded. Once again he found himself capable of understanding the motivation of someone else – and it made him feel good. The Horatio Horseblanket Chronicles did run to three volumes after all. And there was the illustrated version too of course: That even included the famous photograph of his personal area that appeared on the cover of The Bucktooth Times. “Yes.” He said, “So I imagine that you’ve read all about how the President of Europe had a Particularly Popular Peoples Party pamphlet inserted into my anus and then set alight?”

“Oh yes.” Beryl assured Horatio, “It’s one of my favourite bits. And the episode where the famous Hamster-French three-wheeled go-kart race, Norbert Disentangle bit you in the…”

But Horatio was no longer listening: Instead he was regarding the TV monitor as a

cascade of whooshes and fizzles gave way to an actual picture…

“Yeah.” An unknown pilot yelled as he struggled with the controls of a recalcitrant military dirigible, “He’s my first-born. I named him after the first thing that I saw when I entered the delivery room in the hospital. His name is Legsakimbo.”

Further conversation with an unseen comrade was interrupted as the airship bucked and yawed in the turbulent night air.

Below searchlights scanned the heavens – sweeping across the night sky like photonic brooms. Every so often anti-dirigible explosives would be sent hurtling into the air from gigantic catapults – to cause mayhem and consternation amongst the crews that flew high above enemy territory.

“Legsakimbo Dangerpimple?” the comrade struggled from somewhere aft in the gondola with a huge cup of tea and a slice of lemon drizzle cake for the pilot. “That sounds almost exotic – like something from Deepest Jungle Land or somewhere similar.”

“Totally accidental I assure you, old chap.” The pilot gratefully accepted the gift of delicious comestibles, and began stuffing his face.

The comrade checked his fob watch. “Hmmm.” He muttered, “I think I’ll check with Marius: We should be just about there by now.”

But he didn’t need to. Instead a voice crackled over the intercom…

“This is Marius Moonvictim, Skipper: Time that we said ‘bye-bye’.”

“Roger that.” The pilot responded into a huge brass microphone that hung above his pilot’s seat. He then clicked on a radio transceiver. “This is Pilot Officer Brandenberg Dangerpimple to base. We’re having some difficulty with our navigator. Request permission to break off the attack, over.”

“Your navigator?” A distant voice floated in and out of audible range, “What the fluff’s wrong with Moonvictim this time? Over.”

Dangerpimple didn’t hesitate to lie. “Bad case of the shits, I’m afraid, over.”

It took a few seconds for the distant voice to become audible again, but when it did, the owner sounded exasperated.

“Tell him to hold it in, and get on plotting your course. The target for this bombing raid was chosen by the Prince himself personally.”

“Too late, base.” Dangerpimple couldn’t help but smile wickedly as he spoke, “I’m afraid that he’s soiled the navigation equipment. When we get back it’ll need a complete overhaul. We’re virtually flying blind up here. I think we can just about make it to the emergency landing tower at Mollusk by dead-reckoning if we turn back now. If we try to continue – then I think that we’d probably get horrendously lost, and fly right off the edge of the world. Over”

He knew that this last line was a certain winner. He needed only wait a paw-full of seconds before a radio acknowledgement was received.

“Right’o, Marius.” He shouted, “Plot us a course for you-know-where.”

He heard a laugh in response. “Already plotted and on the board, Skipper.”

And Brandenberg Dangerpimple’s response to that was a sharp twist of the wheel to starboard, and the instruction to his nearby comrade, “Okay, Flight Sergeant Binge Tanning: You know the ropes: Prepare for borders.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part sixty-one)

Of course, the locals turned out in small numbers. They were used to catastrophe and ecological disaster, so tended to stay indoors. Despite Frisby Mumph’s best efforts, most of their population still remained in deep-freeze. Could this dusty world finally herald a new dawn for their civilisation?

Gargling Vastium thought that perhaps it might. “Nice.” He said to his colleagues. “When the dust settles, we’ll be able to get a decent tan at last.”

“Oh, absolutely,” the red-brained Nipper Sodbury replied. “And look at the previously ice-bound citadel steps…

…they’re running with fresh melt water.”

Klurk and Radvalve made their way out of the citadel too…

“I guess you’ll be crowned as Prime Minister again after this?” Radvalve mused. “Allowing Mister Mumph to save the world was a good political move.”

Klurk leant sideways conspiratorially. “Actually,” he replied, “I’m putting you up for the role. For me – with all this surface water and a moderate climate – I’m going to start making coracles for a living. Everyone is going to want one. Muffins always loved coracles: I think it’s the roughly-hewn, vaguely circular shape that does it for them.”

“That’s a point.” Radvalve responded. “Coracles. And what if you turned them upside down and glued a stick in the middle? You could make a nice sunshade. We haven’t got time to grow some forests: I know a Muffin with a whole bunch of prehistoric sticks that date back millennia: how do you fancy going into business with him?”

Of course William soon joined Lillie outside. She quickly divested herself of her tatty pressure suit…

They walked here and there, despite here and there looking awfully similar, talking of nothing in particular all the while. And as they did so, the dust began to settle. So as the day wore on they discovered that the museum lay upon a lovely golden beach, with views over the rapidly-thawing ice sheet…

“Would you believe it, William,” Lillie said with a sigh of inner contentment, “that I’m actually getting paid for strolling along the beach with my favourite guy. Oh, this is so fabulous. And Las Chicas are going to adore it!”

Meanwhile Folie and Kyboshed were busy retrieving the Gravitonic Multiplicitor…

“I think it was Donny who said that we’d never know when a Gravitonic Multiplicitor might come in handy,” Folie said as he completed the task of bolting it down to the deck once more. “How right he was. I’m so glad we didn’t have to return to Scroton for a new one.”

“And the toilet?” Kybosh suggested.

“Oh yes,” Folie agreed, “we’ll definitely need to recover that too: it’s such a long walk to the Fantadanta Room.”

Soon the short Martian day came to an end, and William and Lillie sat themselves down upon a huge slab of sandstone to watch the sunset…

“I expect the ice-sheet will freeze a little over-night.” William said. “But come the morrow, the Sun will thaw it just a little more of it.”

“And the day after that, a little more.” Lillie added to the joy of the moment.

Shortly they were joined upon their slab by others…

“I wonder, does anyone think that proto-sea will ever contain fish?” Chef, Charles De Glop asked no one in particular. “It would be good to add seafood to the menu.”

Then more arrived…

And one pretty young female, realising how charming the scene really was, turned around and beckoned everyone else out of the Future Museum of Mars.

It wasn’t until the new day dawned that the Gravity Whelk returned in triumph from its mission. It swooped along the new ‘sea front’ and passed above the museum…

“Can you put me down near the old citadel?” Bo asked the Automatic Pilot. “I don’t really go for all that hero hoo-hah. I’d like to walk back to the museum by myself. You know – a little solitude before the inevitable festivities.”

“Sure,” the Automatic Pilot replied, “anything  for the cable end who saved the planet Mars.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part sixty)

On board the Gravity Whelk, Kyboshed was describing events to Folie and Placebo…

“Now it’s got something substantial to grab,” he told them, “the Gravitonic beam can stop arsing about with the planet’s surface and start pulling Mars from its current orbit.”

“So, what – it’s now using Mars’ gravity against itself?” Folie offered.

“Pretty much.” Kyboshed agreed. “If it’s a tug-of-war, with the Gravitonic Multiplicitor as the rope, it should be a one-way street. Dark Space has a heck of a lot more gravititational power than a small, rocky planet. Excuse the mixed metaphor there: I don’t know what came over me.”

A similar conversation was taking place in the museum…

“Nice colour,” Jenson Prong observed. “I once had a bedspread that looked much like that. But my Mum accidentally boiled it with my soiled motocross jersey: it was never the same again”

Then, displayed in all the halls – most of them empty – a distant camera captured an important phase in the battle of gravity…

Dark Space held the Gravitonic Multiplicitor in an unbreakable embrace. Now it began to move backwards – or inwards – towards the sun…

…and the frozen Mars fled its eternal position in the Solar System as it unwillingly pursued its tormentor.

“Hurrah for Dark Space.” Frisby Mumph cried out with joy. “We’re on our way. Next stop – diametrically opposite Earth. We’re going to have a climate worth talking about. And we don’t care if it completely mucks up celestial mechanics: we can sort them out at a later date!”

And a short while later…

…a contented Folie found himself immersed in Dark Space.

“It is done.” The soundless voice spoke into his mind. “Mars has a new home. Now I shall be on my way. The cosmos is vast: but not so vast that it precludes the chance that we might meet again one day.”

“Bye, Dark Space.” Folie replied.

Then he was back on the bridge…

“Dark Space has gone.” He told the others. “We should too. Last one there is a rotten egg.”

Moments later…

“Yeah, okay,” the Automatic Pilot’s voice echoed around the empty bridge, “I’ll stay and monitor the situation and stop us falling into a planet or something. Don’t worry about me.”

And, indeed, the paltry crew didn’t worry about the Automatic Pilot: they were too busy in the Fantadanta Room, dispensing celebratory mugs of delicious Cafe Blurgh…

“I want a Crappachino.” Placebo complained.

“You’ll get whatever this machine chooses to dispense.” Folie replied as he punched the keypad. “Whatta ya want, Bo?”

Then it was the time that Folie had been longing for – at least since he discovered that the Engineering lavatory had been ejected into space…

“Ah,” he sighed, “a Colon Evacuation Device. All this and Heaven too.”

Below them, upon Mars, Frisby wasn’t quite so content: he’d just seen the remnants of his cherished (if stunted) terrestrial forest poking out of the ground like long-lost fence posts…

“Bloody fire storms,” he grumbled. “Now I’ll have to start all over again.”

And when he and Lillie took the opportunity to look out of the cargo door, they found a world almost overwhelmed with wind-blown dust…

“This is going to give the extractors a hard time.” Lillie opined. “Fortunately I got in a whole bunch of new filters only last month.”

“Well done, Lillie.” Frisby said with a Fatherly smile, “I always knew you were the right girl to be my assistant – even if you didn’t.”

Then a thought occurred…

“Oh cripes, Lillie,” he said, “with so much work to do, I’m going to have to bring that lunatic, Badgerlilly out of suspended animation.”

“That’s fine, Frisby.” Lillie replied, “With so many frightened customers in the museum, there’s bound to be piles of nice fresh manure for her plants.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty-eight)

Within moments the Automatic Pilot brought the ship closer so that the crew could check the Gravitonic Multiplicitor for crash damage…

When it received the information that all was well, it fired up the main drive and eased away…

…before showing off by circling back and performing a fly-past…

Then it left the device alone in the darkness of space…

…which was quickly replaced by the light of the manoeuvring thrusters that Bo had fitted…

Below, in the museum, engineers roved in packs – battening down hatches and turning off the gas, water and sewerage systems…

…whilst Frisby, Lillie, William of Porridge, Charles De Glop, and Tangerine stood idly by and awaited their fate.

High above, the Gravitonic Multiplicitor made its final thruster burn…

…before settling nicely into a high geo-synchronous orbit.

Uncertain what to do next, and not wanting to be alone with their thoughts and fears, many of the museum’s engineers joined their boss in one of the halls…

“Won’t be long now, boys and girls,” Frisby said in a grim voice. “We have plenty of cameras: we shouldn’t miss a thing.”

It was at this point that the Gravitonic Multiplicitor swivelled upon its axis…

…and selected a distant point upon the surface of Mars that was its intended target. Then came a pause, and it seemed that the stars themselves dimmed in recognition of the immensity of what was about to unfold…

Then, when everyone watching finally ran out of breath and gasped for air, this happened…

Quickly followed by this…

And those who weren’t already screaming, decided to. Especially when the gravitonic beam hit the planet…

Scur-runch!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty-seven)

Shortly after that the Gravity Whelk launched upon its historic mission…

As it passed from the atmosphere into the airlessness of space, Dark Space visited Folie…

“I am leaving you now, Folie.” It said. “Thanks for the ride – and for opening my intellectual eyes. I am not the same alternate realm I was when I snared this vessel. You have given my existence purpose. Or you have given purpose to my existence – depending on how you like your grammar. Now complete your mission: eject the Gravitonic Multiplicitor.”

By now the Gravity Whelk had come to a full stop far from the influence of Mars’ gravity…

“Decompressing Engineering and cutting artificial gravity.” Folie announced.

A split second later everyone heard an impact and the rending of metal. Instantly the ship went to Crimson Alert…

“What is it?” Folie yelped. “Is it hung up on something?”

But a quick look at the main viewer told him that the Gravitonic Multiplicitor was free from the ship’s restraint…

“Looking good.” Bo Smidgin said calmly. “Lots of metal fragments – all from the Gravity Whelk.

“Yeah, that’s what worries me.” Folie replied. “I’m going to take a look.”

Moments later the young earplug poked his head into what remained of Engineering…

“Well it’s re-pressurised okay.” He called back into the bridge.

Then he looked up…

What he saw made him wander farther into the compartment; lean back; and make a serious survey of the damage…

“Oh, Guys,” he called again, “you know that soft-top roof we have on Deck One? Well now we’ve got one here too!

And please tell me no one was using the toilet when we decompressed.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty-six)

It was snowing again, some while later outside the Future Museum of Mars…

…when Frisby, accompanied by his right-hand-girl, Lillie, stood at a cargo door and watched the weather. But neither of them noticed the inclement conditions. They were there, trying to clear their minds before they had to announce the great plan of planetary salvation to the museum’s visitors. Frisby decided to play it straight…

“Right, you lot,” he said to the small knot of customers who had bothered to respond to his summons on the public address system, “I’ve got some scary news for you all. I want you to listen carefully.”

The word ‘scary’ brought forth an influx of eager visitors…

“Yeah,” he continued once the resulting hubbub had lessened, “really scary.”

This time the word impinged upon the consciousness of three members of Las Chicas De La Playa as they went in search of a nail varnish machine…

With no nail varnish machine within sight, they turned their attention to the growing crowd…

“In fact,” Frisby added for emphasis, “it would probably be a good idea to carry at least one change of underwear wherever you go.”

“And some moist toilet tissue.” Lillie added helpfully.

Well this had everyone hooked. Silence reigned like never before…

Then Frisby told them of the plan. “It’s gonna get rough.” He concluded without hesitation. “I don’t know how rough: but moving an entire planet closer to the Sun doesn’t come without massive disturbance.”

“There’s bound to be a lot of wind.” Sir Dodger informed them. “And not all of it outside the museum.”

“And tectonic movement.” Lillie added.

“Not all of it outside the museum too, I’d wager.” William of Porridge whispered in her ear.

“Dinner’s off.” Charles De Glop announced. Then by way of explanation he added: “I can’t work whilst all my utensils are being cast around the kitchen like disturbed spirits.”

“In summation, the only positive thing I can say,” Frisby finished, “is that there shouldn’t be any plague and pestilence.”

“Unless, of course, the tectonic movements disturb some long-buried virus below ground that rises up and wipes us out.” William added. “But I feel that’s unlikely.”

So the crowd broke up in sombre mood. But Lillie was anything but. She dragged William along to a Ladies Outfitters…

“Right then, William.” She said, “I’m going to go inside this futuristic changing room: I want you to look the other way.”

William did as he was bid…

…but he felt terribly tempted to take a peek. So, to calm himself he wandered to and fro…

…and wondered why it took so long for one female to try on one garment. Then, as his patience neared breaking point, he heard his name whispered. Turning around he was smacked in the face by astonishment…

“Lillie,” he yelled, “you’ve ditched your tatty old pressure suit!”

Lillie was as thrilled as William. “Yes,” she squealed with feminine delight, “I’m wearing regular ‘girly’ stuff. What do you think?”

“Think?” William responded. “I can barely think at all. I am overcome by your loveliness. By the Saint of All Earplugs: I was proud to have you on my arm before: now…

…I’m going to parade you around the museum for all to see!”

“And this outfit is thermal too.” An excited Lillie replied as they made their way to the exit. “We can outside, and I won’t freeze to death.”

So they did…

…and William suspected that Mars had never seen such beauty walk its surface.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty-four)

Naturally Bo shouted: “Abort! Abort! Get us the heck back to Mars!”

Equally naturally Placebo had already reacted to the potentially disastrous situation by turbo-boosting all the way to the doomed planet in a blind panic, and soon the Gravity Whelk was descending gracefully through a surprisingly azure sky upon Autopilot…

“Well that didn’t work.” Folie complained as he wiped sweat from his brow, “I suppose we’ll have to think of something else. It was such a good idea too: what a shame we can’t make it happen.”

Placebo might have replied with some inanity designed to calm his friend’s tattered nerves; but Folie never heard it, because…

…he found himself ensnared within Dark Space.

“Lucky it wasn’t me piloting.” He complained. “Snatching me away like that…well we could have piled into the Martian surface and become a flaming ruin.”

Dark Space decided to ignore the earplug’s outburst: “That experiment was foolhardy.” It said. “Had I not been there to use my vast gravimetric energy to save the Gravity Whelk impacting on the Sun, it would have been a complete failure – as well as a disaster for you, Placebo, and everyone else.”

Folie was placated in an instant. “That was you?” He said gratefully. “I thought it was just blind chance – or maybe the legendary Saint of All Earplugs.”

Again Dark Space ignored Folie: “But it did give me an idea. I am aware of your attempts to save the planet below from ecological disaster – again. The Scrotonite’s plan for using the Gravitonic Multiplicitor is ingenious – but flawed. Without something that has greater gravity than Mars for it to anchor itself to, the planet cannot be moved.”

A slight pause developed. Folie filled it with: “And?”

“I can be that greater gravity source.” Dark Space finally volunteered.

Folie, being surprisingly quick-witted when in the company of Dark Space, thought he could see a flaw in the alternate realm’s logic: “But you have no mass.” He pointed out. “You’re integrated into the deck, yet you disturb no atoms and add no weight to the ship. In fact, instead of slowing it down, you make it go faster.”

“Exactly.” Dark Space said with a hint of triumph in its telepathic voice. “I make it go faster by adding my great gravitonic energy to the thrusters. Of course it will mean that I will have used up most of my energy reserves; but, hey, someone’s gotta stop roving some time: and this Solar System of yours looks kind’a nice: A pleasant blue habitable world full of interesting intelligences: two – if I strut my funky stuff sho’nuf.”

Folie didn’t require any further convincing…

“Placebo,” he yelled, “don’t land: get this ship back into space!”

Placebo, slightly annoyed at the loud shouting in his ears, trusted his friend’s judgement implicitly and hit the launch motors. Seconds later the ship was clawing its way spaceward…

In the Fantadanta Room, Frisby and Bo were caught off-guard…

Bo expressed some little-known Scrotonite expletives, and Frisby asked: “Hey, what gives?”

Folie quickly explained.

“We’ll be right there.” Bo replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty-three)

Naturally Frisby – himself no slouch when it came to engineering – and Kyboshed bent themselves to the task of assisting the being from Scroton. It continued that way for an unmeasured amount of time…

Eventually Bo was forced to call a temporary halt whilst he stopped for a lavatory break…

“Would you look at that!” He exclaimed on the way to the toilet with a revolving door and a pink light above it. “We’re in space, and I didn’t even feel us launch.”

Frisby was a mud-plugger: he didn’t like the limitless openness of outer space. “Yeah,” he grumbled. “Great innit?”

But he was even less impressed when he discovered an original Anton Twerp hanging on the wall. In fact he was so less impressed that he walked on by without making mention of it…

But Bo felt differently. “I like this.” He gushed. “I really, really like it.” Then he had a thought: “Kyboshed; do you think Folie and Placebo would mind terribly if I purloined this? It would look wonderful in my toilet.”

But soon it was back to work…,

Bo felt the need to survey the situation from every observation point available to him. Even really high ones with no safety rails or parachutes…

And it helped too! “Hmmm,” he hummed. He then expanded on his thought processes: “The Gravitonic Multiplicitor should be pointed at Mars and activated. With any luck it should latch on to the planet in exactly the same manner that the tractor beam did in the Galactic Lens – all those years ago for Beaufort and Richter Skail.”

Frisby foresaw a problem. “But all that will accomplish is the ship being pulled down towards Mars’ surface quicker than its engines can keep it up here.”

Bo hadn’t thought of that. “I hadn’t thought of that.” He confessed. “It’s what comes of taking a cable end out of his natural environment and turning him into a property developer with no imagination or soul. Okay, let’s think about this. What do we need to make this work?”

“Something heavier than the ship and Mars for the Gravitonic Multiplicitor to pull against.” Kyboshed suggested.

Bo threw a glance out through a high window in the Fantadanta Room. “Yeah,” he said, “we’ve got one of those.”

Two minutes later the Gravity Whelk was passing behind the Sun, directly opposite the orbit of Mars…

“We’re in position.” They heard Folie’s voice over the ship-wide intercom…

“Excellent,” Bo said without looking up from the Information Matrix Globe, “now point the Gravitonic Multiplicitor at where I’ve calculated Mars should be, and give it a half-second blast.”

A half-second (and the time it took for Placebo to line up the Gravitonic Multiplicitor; select the timer; and to press the button) later…

“Why has the light outside gone all funny?” Bo demanded.

On the bridge Folie and Placebo were almost speechless…

After several seconds of uncontrolled shaking, Folie managed: “Because we’re ever so slightly nearer the Sun than we were a half-second ago…

…A whole lot nearer!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty-two)

Fifty-eight minutes later, Folie, Placebo, and Kyboshed entered the engineering section of the Gravity Whelk

“While we’re waiting for our guests,” Folie said to Kyboshed, “you check out all these winky lights: Placebo and I will warm up the pilot’s seats.”

Of course the robot was more than happy to comply with Folie’s instruction, but time was not on his side. A minute and a half later he received a call that informed him that Frisby and Bo were standing in the cold outside the airlock. Naturally he wasted no time allowing them ingress…

“Welcome aboard the Gravity Whelk.” He said to his guests. “I don’t suppose for a moment that either of you want to arse about with unnecessary preliminaries: I expect you’d like to get stuck in with your inspection. What would you like to see first?”

Folie had been listening in the corridor outside Engineering. From there he rushed back into the bridge…

“They’re on board.” He said to Placebo. “Start the engines: let’s get this boat where it belongs.”

Moments later the ship launched…

…quickly levelling off and streaking across the ice-sheet…

…towards the precisely calculated geographic point from where it would climb up the gravity well of Mars, and thence into orbit.

Bo had suggested to Frisby that they first conduct a search for technical information in the ship’s records. So Kyboshed took them to the room with no title…

“I noticed the lack of a nomenclature plaque upon the door.” Frisby said – most eloquently, or so thought Bo. “What do you call this compartment?”

“We don’t call it anything.” Kyboshed replied accurately.

Frisby was puzzled: “But it must have a name?”

Kyboshed was perfectly nonchalant when he answered: “Probably, but we have no idea what it is. If Folie wants a coffee, he merely informs Placebo that he is going to fetch a delicious mug of Cafe Blurgh: he has never mentioned where he gets it from.”

“You could call it the Coffee Room.” Frisby suggested. “After all, one day it might be important that this room is labelled. Like people, rooms should always be labelled.”

“Very well.” Kyboshed replied. “I now designate this room as the Fantadanta Room.”

This caught the attention of Bo Smidgin: “Professor Eduardo Fantadanta, the brilliant roboticist?” He inquired.

“Indeed.” Kyboshed replied. “I name this room after the cable end that gave me sentience. I’ll inform the others later – when I take them each a delicious mug of Cafe Blurgh.”

But Bo had already lost interest: all his attention was upon the golden Information Matrix Globe. “Ah, this is what we’re after. If the engineers on Scroton were believers in the old maxims of Scroton, they should have taken information from this globe; then replaced it with more information from the records in Scroton Prime. This could be a treasure trove of technical info. Where’s the ‘On’ button?”

Frisby had no idea, so he went to help himself to a delicious mug of Cafe Blurgh. This coincided with the ship breaking free of Mars’ puny gravity…

…and slipping into a low orbit…

“Doesn’t Mars look strange?” Folie said. “Mostly ice, but with bits of land poking through it.”

“Pretty.” Placebo agreed. “But, if we’re not successful, it’s ultimately doomed.”

Meanwhile Bo had decided to consult the ship’s log…

“That’s interesting.” He said as the information flashed by his ocular organs. “Apparently this ship once pulled itself out of a Galactic Lens by means of attaching the ship to a distant planet via tractor beam. It’s been high-lighted by some observant engineer on Scroton. It could be significant. All Cable Ends are born engineers; but I railed against the tyranny of familial expectations and became a property developer. But my instincts remain intact: and those instincts are telling me that I’m on to something here.  Let’s see if there is any follow-up info on the subject.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty-one)

Bo Smidgin’s next encounter came during his passage of a recently re-painted vermillion section of the museum. But, due to indifference to anything beyond his immediate goal, he failed utterly to spot husband-seeking Patti Roularde making eyes at him…

“Oh, well,” Patti said with a sigh as Bo passed her by without so much as a grunt of acknowledgement, “his nostrils were too close together anyway.”

Then, as he stepped into a large auditorium, Bo’s gaze alighted upon Kyboshed…

“By The Golden One’s Big Blue Plume,” he exclaimed sotto voce, “that robot is Scrotonic. This must be the sign I’ve been waiting for. But what shall I do? There’s no point in acting in haste. I know: I’ll follow them; listen to what they have to tell Frisby Mumph; then make a decision. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Brilliant plan, Bo.”

Well Bo didn’t have to tail the new-comers for very long: the meeting room was just off the auditorium…

“So,” Sir Dodger opened, “you chaps have come here to save us, eh? Thought up some wizard means yet, have you?”

Of course Folie had to admit the complete opposite. But when it appeared that Frisby was about to hyperventilate at the news, Placebo made the inspired choice of inviting Frisby aboard the Gravity Whelk. “Perhaps,” he said in conclusion, “you can turn your improvisational skills loose on our vessel. We may have the means to save everyone: but it could be you who recognises it.”

These words were exactly what Bo had most wanted to hear…

He was now certain that the moment of the miracle, which would  save Mars, was beginning its gestation period. So, as Frisby and the others discussed the invitation, unseen by any of them, Bo slipped away …

He now had to pick his time and his words perfectly: and right now he had no idea what either of them looked like. So he returned to the chill of the futuristic toilet…

…to mull things over in his mind, and to complete his task of earlier.

“Now where do they keep the toilet tissue?” He complained.

But he didn’t have very long to do his mulling – or anything else for that matter. Already he could hear the voices of the Gravity Whelk crew passing by outside. So, as quickly and as subtly as he could, he followed them…

It was the sight of Kybosh that gave Bo’s thoughts the wings they most required. Taking a short-cut to where he calculated Kybosh and the others were heading, he raced ahead of them, and cut them off as they departed a section that had a nice door with a window in it that displayed the view outside…

His sudden arrival caught Placebo unawares. “Ugh?” He grunted. “You’re an Ethernet Cable End: what are you doing here? Did you stow away aboard our ship?”

This ridiculous accusation was just the sort of opening Bo would have prayed for, had he thought of anything so preposterous. “No,” he replied, “but I’d very much like to be included amongst those you have invited aboard your ship.”

“Is that right?” Folie said, with a slightly belligerent air. “Why would that be?”

“Your robot is of Scrotonic design and construction.” Bo replied in a voice that disguised his nervousness and fear of failure. “I am a property developer on Scroton – visiting Mars on business. Now if my theory is correct, since you have a robot amongst your crew, it is logical that your ship has undergone a re-fit, or had improvements made upon Scroton that require a Scrotonic engineer’s skills to maintain or operate.”

Folie was impressed: but he didn’t want to show it. “Yeah?” He replied – his tone not moderating by so much as a single degree, “what about it?”

Bo urged them to continue walking…

“I am of Scroton.” He said. “You have equipment of Scroton. I have an imagination – your robot does not. You may have the means to save Mars aboard your ship – but you just don’t recognise it.”

“That’s what Placebo said to Frisby Mumph.” Folie, unaware that Bo had listened to their conversation in the meeting room, replied.

“What do they say?” Bo said with a chuckle that was genuine. “Great minds think alike? Well, do I have permission to come aboard, Sir?”

Something in the cable end’s manner intrigued Folie. He certainly spoke sense. “Yeah,” he said with a slight smile, “you do. You can join Frisby Mumph in about an hour from now.”

So it was a happy Bo Smidgin who continued along the walkway with the crew of the Gravity Whelk...

…which stunned the Splints, who were walking in the opposite direction.

“Did you see that, Griselda?” Tobias said through a glazed expression. “Hob-nobbing with extra-terrestrials now!”

“Does he have no shame?” Griselda replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifty)

They had a choice of two directions in which to move. They chose this way…

“It’s a fifty-fifty chance that this will take us to the door before the other direction.” Folie calculated.

“Unless it’s dead opposite here.” Kyboshed argued. “But then, if that is the case, I don’t suppose it would make any difference which direction we go in.”

Placebo didn’t care which direction they walked: he was just happy to be there. But his carefree attitude evaporated when Folie discovered the open cargo door and they all found themselves staring down a seemingly endless corridor…

“I thought you told them to leave a light on.” He said to Folie. “You know I don’t like the dark.”

But then a large quantity of snow slipped off the roof and pushed the trio into the icy corridor…

“Okay,” Folie said as he emerged from the sudden snowdrift, “I guess that’s given us the impetus we need: let’s go.”

Shortly after that they passed an interior observation window that happened to be manned by three members of the Sewage Workers Union…

“Will you look at that:” Marty Friedpants yelled, “Space Plugs! Well a Space Plug, a big white thing, and an alien robot anyway.”

“I’ll go tell someone.” Steven LaStool offered. “There should be a welcome committee waiting for them: it’s only proper.”

But, because of the emergency, and because almost everyone was in the main hall as a result, the only person Steven could find was Lillie Whitewater, who just managed to arrive a second or two after Folie, Placebo, and Kyboshed had let themselves in, and now stood at the top of the ramp…

Poor Lillie had no time to gather her wits. “Oh,” she began nervously. She quickly followed this with: “Um, yeah, right. You’re the guys from…ah…out there, right?”

Folie wasn’t much better: he’d recognised Lillie in an instant and was feeling rather overwhelmed by someone who had flown in her world’s very first star ship. He also thought she was rather pretty. “Ah…yeah…I guess so.” He managed.

This may have continued ad nauseum, but Lillie fought to regain the confidence that William had so recently instilled in her. She thought back to the day, in the Worstworld Academy, when she received her Flying Wings….

She had stood proudly at the front beside Gusi Ghandar. She recalled that the Johnsons – Huget and Betty had been there too – along with Ada Muffin, Lilac Earthdamsel (nee Binsmell), and a whole bunch of others who became stalwarts of the K T Woo’s crew.

“My name is Lillie Whitewater.” She announced to the new arrivals…

…”If you’d care to follow me, I’ll take you to see the curator – Frisby Mumph.” She then marched off, feeling very pleased with herself.

Only minutes earlier, Bo Smidgin had excused himself from company in the relative warmth of the main hall, and had slipped away to use the chill futuristic toilet…

It was here that he heard Steven LaStool’s loud exhortation that Lillie should go greet the occupants of the space ship that had recently landed nearby. Having travelled to the Solar System, aboard a small freighter from Scroton, he was intrigued by the idea that another vessel was within spitting distance. So he quickly pulled up his trousers and raced into an adjacent corridor – almost startling Tobias and Griselda Splint witless…

“Did you see that mindless oaf?” Tobias whispered to Griselda. “He almost startled me witless.”

“Indeed I did, Tobias.” Griselda replied, only far more loudly than her husband’s hushed tone, “I wonder what a creature so vile needs to rush around like that for. I’m going to complain to someone in authority: that blue helmet is an affront to anyone with an iota of fashion consciousness.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-eight)

Little did Placebo know it, but in his panic, he had pushed the ship’s ‘nose’ into a downward direction. In space ‘up’ and ‘down’ are meaningless: but above the surface of a world, they most definitely are not…

Naturally Folie reacted in the time-honoured fashion: he yelled: “Aargh!”

But Placebo, being slightly less excitable, merely closed his eyes and hoped it would all go away…

Fortunately the ship’s original builders had included a self-levelling mechanism, which…um…levelled the ship out at a safe altitude…

Placebo must have sensed this because he opened one eye. Folie didn’t need to sense anything: he’d watched it all with eyes wide open…

“Whew,” he prefixed a mental letter of thanks to the Saint of All Earplugs.

At their current speed the ship and passengers soon departed the coastline and set out across the glacier…

…where they hoped to spot the Future Museum of Mars, which, of course they did…

“Down there!” Down there!” Folie yelled. “Quick: turn us around.”

Placebo was still feeling a little under the weather from the shock of near-death, but he managed to bank right and put the ship on an approximate return course…

As his confidence returned, he said: “Should be coming up on it very soon. It’s just…”

But he said no more, because at that very moment another squall blew in off of the mountains and blinded the ship all over again…

Actually he did say more, but it was very rude and can’t be repeated here.

Folie noticed that the ship had gone to Violet Alert. “What does Violet Alert mean?” He asked no one in particular.

No one in particular was too frightened to respond as the ship once more went nose-heavy…

Then the Automatic Pilot regathered its cyber-wits and announced that…

…the ship was too low for the self-levelling mechanism to work.

“Pull up, Placebo.” Folie suggested through gritted teeth.

“Can’t,” Placebo replied, “one of my eyelids is stuck to the other.”

The Automatic Pilot then behaved professionally by cutting power to the drive, deploying the air-brakes, hitting the retro-boosters, igniting the landing jets, and shouting “Violet Alert: prepare for impact!”

The next moment the Gravity Whelk slumped into a snow drift like a sack of roasting potatoes dropped into a stagnant bog…

“We’re down.” The Automatic Pilot announced. “Not bad, all things considered.”

Although the ship hadn’t landed cleanly, it had managed to park itself only a short distance from the museum…

Of course, Frisby Mumph, watching on his monitor, was beside himself with rage…

But by the time he’d met with Sir Dodger it was clear that the occupants of the ship had survived, and he’d managed to calm himself sufficiently to lie through his teeth…

“Perfect landing.” He told the ageing thespian. “Well that’s some of our troubles sorted. I’m sure they’ll be over momentarily.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-seven)

So Folie did as he was bid, which didn’t put a smile on the Curator’s face exactly; but he did appear to de-stress slightly…

“I look forward to your arrival.” Frisby closed. “Mars out.”

He then strode across the room to where Sir Dodger Muir stood and awaited news…

“Spread the word, Dodge.” He said with a smile. “There’s a ship on the way. If we can evacuate the females, offspring, and old sods like you…well at least that’ll be something.”

Meanwhile, farther out in the Solar System…

“Right, then,” Folie said as they watched the Sun’s inexorable approach…

…”we’d better start checking out how much space we have on board.”

So, shortly…

…following a brief tour in which they discovered they had precious little cargo space, the trio began their march back to the bridge.

“I suppose we could put people up in the corridors.” Placebo suggested. “They do that a lot in hospitals where I come from.”

“Not really.” Folie replied. “The corridors keep moving, remember? We’ll have evacuees colliding with each other – even when they’re sitting perfectly still. And their lavatory needs will be a logistical nightmare: the toilet won’t know where to go first.”

“And the wash basin and hand drier.” Kyboshed added. “Paper towels too: very short supply. There was only ever supposed to be you two on board.”

The conversation continued in this vein whilst the ship rocketed past the Sun…

…and curved around in a vast parabola.

By now the owners and crew of the Gravity Whelk had reached the engineering section…

“Look, here’s a toilet.” Folie said. “I don’t mind sharing it with a load of people I’ve never met.”

“And there’s this huge piece of machinery.” Placebo observed. “That takes up a lot of space. If we get rid of it, maybe we could construct bunk beds in here.”

“But that’s the Gravitonic Multiplicitor.” Kyboshed said with a distinct note of disapproval in his cyber-tone. “You never know when a Gravitonic Multiplicitor might come in useful.”

Placebo was unconvinced, but let it pass. The ever-practical Folie was…ah…practical: “It’s too big for the door.” He said. “We couldn’t get it out if we wanted to.”

Further expenditure of mental energy upon the subject was interrupted by the Automatic Pilot’s voice echoing from the bridge:

“Mars dead ahead.” It said. “Anyone wanna see?”

Of course they all did, and it was only a short while later that the Gravity Whelk began its descent into Mars’ insubstantial atmosphere…

Naturally Placebo had demanded that he be allowed Helm Control…

…which he concentrated so intently upon that his tongue poked out of his massive gob.

“How am I doing, Folie?” He found time to ask.

Actually Folie felt surprisingly confident in his chum’s piloting skills – rudimentary as they were. “Put the ship into a spiralling descent so that we encompass most of the planet.” He said. “I’d like to see the day and night sides. What with all the glaciers and the magma, it could look pretty spectacular.”

So Placebo did exactly what Folie requested, and before long they were staring down at vast areas of volcanic activity…

“Ooh,” Kyboshed said, as he peered into his personal screen, “it hasn’t settled down yet then?”

But, as the kilometres fled behind them, and they returned to the day side of Mars, they flew into a vicious squall…

“Yikes,” Placebo yelled above the buffeting, “I can’t see where we’re going!”

“Neither can I!” The Automatic Pilot boomed. “My sensors are calibrated for uninterrupted visual acuity – like what you get in space. We’re blind. Hopelessly, desperately blind!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Revel in the Ribaldry 29

For this excerpt I return you to the best book in the world ever. This one…

Now you might think me rather bold to call this book the best in the world ever: but I have my reasons. It is – it’s as simple as that. And just to prove it, here’s that excerpt I mentioned…

Upon the huge screen weird shapes and sparkling fizzle-things were giving way to a wobbly image of a female gerbil as she huddled for warmth beneath a blanket made of purest animal pelt.

Beryl and Fanangy screamed as one. But whilst Fanangy bounced dementedly about in horror in the wings, Beryl found sufficient voice to yell, “By the Saint of All Hamsters – this is about cannibalism. That foul gerbil has eaten its mate. Quickly choose someone else.”

Now under other circumstances Boney might have felt inclined to accede to the mayor’s wife’s demand: But these weren’t other circumstances. In fact Chester Bogbreath had just slashed Boney’s benefits and passed a law than banned him from posting some scratched and fuzzy footage of mysterious alien sex-acts upon the internet – for which people had been willing to pay quite reasonable sums with their credit cards. So naturally Beryl would have to suffer for her husband’s misdemeanours.

“No – you carry on, lad.” He instructed the hesitant historian.

As the picture resolved so did the sound quality. It quickly became apparent that the gerbil’s teeth were knocking together in such a manner as to suggest some terrible chill passing through her body. Her knees appeared to be knocking together as well – so clearly she was frightened too. But it was only when they caught sight of her massively protruding nipples did they realize that the image dated from the Ice Age, and that the gerbil was a cave-rodent.

“Not gonna get much conversation tonight then.” The voice of Farmer Jacksey grumbled from the rear of the auditorium. “Just grunts and bellows. Nice tits though.” He added thoughtfully.

Boney was in total agreement with Farmer Jacksey, and was about to instruct Colin to remove his rather rude special tool from the special receptacle in the TV, when the gerbil spoke…

“Fluff me – it’s fluffin’ cold. I could use a fluffin’ good fluffin’ to warm me up. And that gerbil-eating weasel-bastard outside can go fluff his own arse!”

Of course no one actually heard the words – but each of them had studied the sub-titles as they appeared.

“Outrageous.” Chester Bogbreath bellowed with indignation. “The female is an absolute yob. Look at her language. If this is the sort of antecedent from which Brenda Bugler has evolved – well I say ‘send her back to where she came from: We don’t want her sort in Hamster Heath!”

A general murmur of discord passed through the ranks of mostly-hamsters, and several bums shifted uneasily upon their seats.

“Fluff and bollocks.” Boney roared his best, “Give the poor lass a fluffin’ chance will ya: We aint seen the whole story yet – ya big-mouthed shit!” Then more calmly he added, “Excuse my Hamster-French: No insult intended.”

So whilst Beryl eased her husband down from an apocalyptic fit of rage, everyone else returned their attention to the show.

Another gerbil had entered the cave. Although a fire  illuminated them both, very few physical details could be ascertained. But it was clear that the new-comer had lost some fur from his tail.

“Nearly got my bollocks that time, Mavis.” The male gerbil said as he indicated the outside world beyond the cave entrance. “I managed to stick a spear up the weasel’s anus – so I don’t think we’ll have too much trouble from her for a while.”

“Oh, Steve, you’re such a hero.” Mavis gushed, “Come – let me bathe your wounds. Then after that we can have heaps of uncontrollable sex. What do you say?”

Only then did Steve finally act in a way that more modern hamsters might perceive as cave-rodentish. He said, “Ugh – me want sex first: Then Mavis fix tail.”

Then he made a wild leap across the fire, and both gerbils rolled end over end until they fetched up against the rear of the cave.

“Ugh!” Mavis responded in turn.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

See what I mean? This e-book is available at the locations mentioned beneath the header and on the sidebar, which includes the publishers, Lulu. You have my permission to purchase the best book in the world ever. Become the target of unfettered envy.

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-six)

Meanwhile, still far from the Solar System, the Gravity Whelk had reduced its velocity slightly to that of regular Hyper-speed…

Placebo was taking his task at the helm very seriously, which amused Folie…

“It’s okay to relax a little,” he said to his polystyrene chum, “a nervous twitch won’t sent us helter-skelter across the Galaxy like a Catherine Wheel on steroids. Autopilot wouldn’t let that happen.”

“Who said I wouldn’t?” The Automatic Pilot’s voice boomed from the overhead speakers. “I might be bored witless. Piloting is what I do: I don’t like metaphorically sitting around on my non-existential hands watching someone else do my job for me: it is my raison d’être

“Take no notice of that.” Folie said to Placebo. To the Automatic Pilot he said: “Why have we slowed slightly, Autopilot?”

“Dark Space has removed its influence upon the ship.” The reply came. “I’m not in communication with it, so don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s the relative close proximity of a star: I don’t know, I’m just guessing.”

Before either Folie of Placebo could respond to this information  the ship slowed further…

“Ooh,” they said in perfect unison and with a delightful harmonic quality that didn’t go unnoticed by the Automatic Pilot, “now we’re merely going very fast: what gives?”

“Now that is a question I can answer.” The Automatic Pilot replied. “We’re coming towards the end of our journey. Or, to put it another way, we’re almost there: the Solar System.”

“Fantastic,” Folie squealed, “we haven’t been here for…oh…yonks and yonks. It’s so good to see familiar space. Ah, where is it, by the way? Can you point to it?”

As if in reply the main viewer altered its perspective, which, in lay-man’s terms meant that it ‘zoomed-in’…

“Oh yeah,” Placebo said uncertainly as his eyes searched the screen for something recognisable, “I’d know it anywhere. Um…which one is Mars?”

“You’ll have to wait a while to see that.” The Automatic Pilot answered. “It’s one of the inner rocky planets. It’s very small and dark. In fact it’s puny and dull. I don’t know why anyone would want to live there at all. They could build space habitats: you never get ice-ages in space habitats. Planets are overrated – especially those with molten cores: the insides are always trying to replace the outsides.”

Folie ignored every word he’d just heard. “Are we in communication range?” He asked.

The response to this was a number of clicks and whirrs from the transceiver array interface box at Folie’s side. “You’re on.” The Automatic Pilot added.

Far away, across the Solar System, Folie and Placebo became visible in one of the com-domes…

“Hello.” Folie called. “Um…is there anyone there?”

When Frisby Mumph’s pager informed him of an incoming message, he raced to the dome…

“This is the Future Museum of Mars.” He announced breathlessly. “Curator, Frisby Mumph speaking. What can I do for you?”

“Well,” Folie replied, “it’s not so much what you can do for us: it’s more what we can do for you.”

He then explained who he and Placebo were; how they had obtained the Gravity Whelk; and offered their help in whatever capacity Frisby required.

“But we are still a long way off.” He added. “We’re at sub-light speed right now. But it shouldn’t be long before we arrive at Mars.”

“Is your ship large enough to evacuate the museum and the inhabitants of the Muffins’ ancient citadel?” Frisby inquired hopefully.

Placebo and Folie responded to this with fixed half-smiles…

“I’m…ah…ugh…not sure.” Folie answered. “Let me get back to you on that.”

“By the Saint of All Earplugs!” Placebo exclaimed, once the screen had blanked. “The K T Woo, BrianTalbot, and the Chi-Z-Sox combined would have trouble doing that. Does this Mumph guy have the faintest idea how small space ships are?”

“He’s a mud-plugging terraformer.” Folie replied. “Of course he doesn’t. What are we gonna tell him?

Placebo thought for a moment. “Tell him,” he said slowly, as his thoughts coalesced, “that we’re on our way: that we’ll discuss our ship’s physical capacity with him when we get there. Also tell him to leave a light on.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-five)

William spent a further twenty-five minutes in his quarters, trying to think of someone from whom he could obtain advice on the female heart. He came up empty. But shortly after gaining the chill main corridor, through the windows of which the cold of the ice-age seeped, he passed Tangerine. Tangerine, being a robot from the future, possessed advanced programming…

“William of Porridge,” it said, “your concerns for Lillie Whitewater are making you less productive. I must urge you to conclude the matter with alacrity. Might I suggest you make a video call to the Museum of Future Technology: ask for The Lillie Whitewater Fan Club.”

William stumbled away in astonishment. Lillie had a fan club? Did she know? Was she aware that she had impacted on someone’s life so significantly that they began a fan club? How many members did this fan club have on their books? More than one? He certainly hoped so. So, wasting no time whatsoever, he made straight for the Com-panel. Five minutes later he dragged Lillie away from her bottle of bleach and told her to watch the main viewer…

“Lillie,” he said, “you may think you’re an insignificant blob of organic matter: but look what your exploits have created.”

Four young female earplugs stood before a camera upon distant Earth – and looked awkward…

“Are we on?” The female on the right asked someone off-camera. She received an affirmative thumbs-up.

So, as one, the Lillie Whitewater Fan Club stared across the millions of kilometres that separated them from their hero…and dried up.

Lillie felt compelled to break the silence. “Hello, girls,” She said in a kindly voice that William thought was almost matronly, “those are nice pressure suits: did you model them on mine?”

“Oh yes.” They squealed in delight as one.

Then the verbal floodgates opened and they couldn’t stop. It continued in that manner right up until the point when the Sun interposed itself between the planets and the link was lost.

“Well that was unexpected.” Lillie said as she walked away from the screen that still displayed a freeze-frame image of her fan club…

“They actually saved up their pocket money to buy real replica pressure suits – then altered them to look like mine. I…I…I don’t know what to say. I had no idea that anyone knew that I existed.”

“Well there you go.” William replied. “Your fan club and me. Who knows how many others adore you – if only secretly.”

Lillie stopped short, which caught William out: he had to turn back to her…

“Is that what you do, William?” She asked.

William wasn’t quite sure what Lillie meant. His lack of reply must shown her this.

“Adore me, I mean.” Lillie added – rather boldly, she thought.

William hadn’t prepared for this moment: it was so unexpected. “Ah, I guess I do.” He answered.

Casting aside her repressed personality, Lillie rushed forward to fall into William’s arms. “Well in that case…” she managed…

The resultant kiss was so intoxicating that they were both instantly transported into…

…Wonderland – a place from which they wished never to return. But, of course they did, and before long they were rushing headlong up the ramp…

…towards the Cafe Puke, which they hoped still had enough power to warm-up a ghastly cup of coffee.

“Oh, William,” Lillie sighed, “perhaps we could share a whacking great big mug of crappachino.”

“Yes,” William cried out with joy, “with two straws. And maybe a wafer biscuit too!”

Outside, in the snow, one of the engineers, who were still looking for missing customers, heard the youngster’s squeals of happiness through an emergency pedestrian door that had been left ajar…

“Oi-oi,” he said, “sounds’ like wedding bells are in the offing.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-three)

Meanwhile, aboard the subjectively infinitely distant Gravity Whelk

…which had come to a dead stop, it was time for a pow-wow on the bridge…

“It’s as simple as this,” Folie opened the discussion. “Do we use the looney-drive, or stick with hyper-drive?”

“I have no input on the subject of velocity.” Kyboshed replied. “After all, since the fiasco with Dark Space, my name has been Mud. I was programmed on Scroton: my judgement is suspect.”

Folie was about to ask the same question of Placebo…

…when his mouth stopped working: he had seen something on the main viewer that, he was certain, remained invisible to the others…

“Excuse me,” he said, “but Dark Space has summoned me.”

“I’ll come with you.” Placebo volunteered. “To hold your metaphorical hand.”

Two seconds later…

“Hey,” Kyboshed shouted after his disappearing crewmates, “wait for me!”

And two seconds after that…

“Excuse me for being rude!” The Automatic Pilot boomed as Kyboshed departed through Engineering at maximum velocity. “I’ll mind the shop, shall I?”

Folie wasn’t entirely certain how far he’d managed to travel along the corridor before Dark Space took control…

Prior to any meaningful communication between himself and the realm of Space/Time, Folie demanded to know the whereabouts of his friend.

“Placebo is unharmed.” Dark Space’s voice by-passed Folie’s auditory system and spoke directly to his consciousness. “He might be a little confused though.”

Folie was displeased, but was loath to display his impotence by showing it. “Okay, Dark Space, you’ve got my attention: what do you want?”

“It is not what I want.” The genderless, disembodied voice replied. “It is what I don’t want. I don’t want you to go to looney-speed.”

“If you’ve been listening in on our conversation, you’ll know that time is of the essence. If the Gravity Whelk can save just one life, it’ll be worth the risk of travelling at unsafe speeds.”

“But I can’t travel at looney-speed.” Dark Space said with regret evident in its timbre. “If the Gravity Whelk activates the looney-speed drive, I’ll be left behind – alone again in the depths between stars.”

Folie hadn’t considered this possibility. “Oh, cripes.” He said…

…”what a quandary. How about this: we drop you off here: strut our funky stuff on Mars; then come back and pick you up.”

“This isn’t a sidewalk.” Dark Space replied. “There’s no kerb for me to wait on. You can’t consult a map or sat-nav to find this location. It has no GPS co-ordinates.  And there’s Galactic Drift to consider. I won’t be here when you get back – if you get back. Folie, you can’t leave me behind!”

Folie had never felt so torn. “Release me for a few seconds – to think about it. I’m aware that you could stop this ship from going anywhere if you so wish – so the fact that you’re asking, rather than telling, is a significant development. Give me five minutes.”

In the blink of an eye, Folie found himself standing in a corridor…

He looked out at the cosmos through a panoramic window. How would he like to be left behind? But he wasn’t a realm of space/time: he was just an earplug. He was also a young, inexperienced earplug who was so far out of his depth that he might as well be treading water above the Mid-Atlantic Trench. So he wandered along the corridor, trying desperately to come to the correct decision. Eventually he found himself standing before the reflective door of Engineering…

He saw who, and what he was, looking back at him. He also remembered what he’d told Kyboshed when he’d surprised the robot by kicking the recalcitrant air-conditioning unit into life. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to think too much: sometimes it can be best to just go with how you feel…

“Dark Space.” He said. “You’re not a passenger anymore: from now on, you’re crew.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-one)

But what Folie discovered next couldn’t have come at a better time…

“How fortuitous, Kyboshed.” Folie said with relief. “I was just beginning to feel the pangs of a distended bladder.”

“Oh, no, Sir.” Kyboshed replied. “There was nothing fortuitous about it. Sensors in the floor detected your awkward gait: an algorithm calculated your need for a toilet, and quickly moved one here from another location.”

“Clever.” Folie said as he used the device. “Do other parts of the ship move around like that?”

“Most of them.” Kyboshed answered. “It’s a redundancy thing: if parts of the ship are damaged, other parts can be moved into position to replace them. It’s probably why you have such difficulty finding your way around.”

“It also explains why there are so many airlocks and corridors. I thought I’d seen the same artwork on different walls. Obviously they aren’t prints: they really are the originals: they just move around with the walls. Pity they’re so vile. Now where’s the hand-dryer?

“There will be one along momentarily.” Kyboshed replied.

And there was…

…complete with its own corridor.

“Kyboshed,” Folie said, as a huge hot-air blower blasted him, “I’m not certain I like this moving around malarkey: I like things to stay where they’re put.”

Folie was still feeling vaguely uncomfortable when he re-joined Placebo on the bridge…

He told him of his recent experiences…

“I’ll tell you what you need, Folie, my little yellow earpluggy chum.” Placebo replied cheerfully. “You need a quick blast of hyper-speed.”

Folie tried to forget his concerns with the ships’ re-design. “You could be right there, Placebo, you huge white blob of polystyrene. Let’s do it.”

Moments later, after they had seated themselves…

“It’s very smooth, isn’t it?” Folie observed.

“Yaw compensators.” Placebo explained. “They’re new…

…I read all about it in the manual. Leaves a nice pink trail apparently.”

Yet even going really, really fast didn’t sway Folie from his misgivings. “Automatic Pilot,” he said suddenly, “take us out of hyper-speed.”

A heartbeat later…

“Let’s just hang here for a while.” He added.

Then he was out of his chair. “Placebo, I want to show you Deck One.”

Placebo was slightly disappointed because he’d just noticed some vast cosmic event unfolding before the main viewer’s lens. So he checked that the dash-cam was running, and followed his crew-mate…

“Yeah,” he said, “I can see why you like the finish. Very plush. Nice lighting too. I’ve always had a thing for turquoise.”

As Folie had expected, there was no sign of the toilet. He was about say something, when the Automatic Pilot’s voice rattled his teeth.

“A vast cosmic event has sent a purple asteroid in our direction.” It said…

…”Since you’re the boss, I thought you’d like to tell me what I should do about it.”

“Flee!” Folie yelped.

“Now.” Placebo added. “Any direction except straight at the asteroid.”

The ship’s inertial dampening field was so acutely tuned that neither occupant of the ship felt it lurch aside and accelerate away…

“Wow,” the Automatic Pilot exclaimed, “I was good before; but these cable end guys have made my lateral response protocols nothing short of fantastic. Guys, any other dramatic maneouvres you’d like me to make?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty)

So, as the Gravity Whelk exited the blue star’s realm…

…Folie decided that he would explore all the parts of the ship that he was yet to see. The obvious course of action was to enlist the help of the resident expert of the ships’ re-fit. But Kyboshed had a bent twingle-flange to adjust in the engine room’s klatterbox…

…that required attention instantaneously. He suggested that Folie meet him later – when the task had been completed and tested thoroughly. So Folie continued alone, whilst wondering what klatterboxes were used for…

Many times during his exploration he discovered interior airlocks that led into corridors, the existence of which he hadn’t even suspected…

And on every wall there was more of that damned Anton Twerp’s ghastly artwork. There were even rooms that just looked downright dangerous…

…which made him wonder why they were put there in the first place. A room with no oxygen: what possible use could that be put to? But it wasn’t really very long before he heard Kyboshed calling his name through yet another interior airlock…

“Hey,” he said as Folie entered, “how’d you like to visit the top deck?”

Folie was surprised by the offer: he’d assumed that the forward observation window was located on the top deck. He said as much to Kyboshed.

“No.” The robot replied, “Not any more. There was a stagnancy ballast-drift buffer tank above that deck; but the klatterbox has removed the need for such a large device. So the cable ends have created a nice new deck there. It’s really groovy, with lots of curves and soft textures.”

So, a couple of minutes later Kyboshed introduced Folie to the top deck – or Deck One, as he liked to call it…

“Ooh,” the ship’s co-owner said admiringly, “all soft pastel lighting and no obvious joins between floor, wall, and ceiling. Nice.”

But then he noted an apparent extension to the hull that wasn’t obvious from the outside. Intrigued he started down it…

But when he opened the door at the end; then walked through it, he was greeted with the undiluted sight of naked space – in this case a wondrous nebula…

Of course his rational mind told him that he was in no danger: if he really were in open space, his eyes would have burst instantly; his blood would have boiled; and his brain undoubtedly exploded. But despite the fact that none of these things occurred, he still felt queasy and ill-at-ease. “Is it okay of I come back inside now?” He called along the short tunnel…

Away from the view, Folie quickly settled down again; but not sufficiently to happily pass beneath a transparent roof without comment…

“Who’s the wise guy who thought a sunroof would be a good idea on a space ship?” He grumbled. “I’ll write him a letter: tell him he’s a total twonk.”

“Oh, that’s no window,” Kyboshed assured Folie: “That’s a sliding roof panel. Only the replacement force field is keeping the air, and us, inside the ship.

“What?” The astonished earplug yelled in disbelief…

…”Who has ever heard of a cabriolet space ship? It’s the most stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of!”

He was still complaining as they passed into a more secure-looking section of Deck One…

“You know,” he said, as they rounded yet another curve, “I’m almost scared to see what’s coming next. Are there any secret holes hidden behind holograms for me to fall through?

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Tooty the Chef in ‘Root Canal: Toots Banal’

After several days of the abject misery that comes with having unrelenting toothache, Tooty the Chef went for a quick bit of root canal work. Finally, after so many missed lunches and dinners, he could let his culinary imagination loose. Only, when the time arrived, he seemed strangely lacking in that department. Late week meals are usually a special time when he uses up the remnants in the fridge, and his imagination is allowed to soar into the gastronomic stratosphere: but this time around the fridge was replete with perfectly usuable stuff that wasn’t out of date. So, rather reluctantly, he chose these very sensible items…

So what do we have? L to R = sliced pork, courgettes, breadcrumbs, eggs, ras el hanout, dessicated cheese sauce, cheddar cheese, olive oil, and cauliflower.

Naturally time was of the essence, so it was out with the microwave cooking thing…

…into which he placed the chopped-up cauliflower, and placed into the microwave oven for nine minutes…

Then Tooty the Chef laid into the courgettes, slicing them into thick slices with gay abandon…

Quickly followed by the breaking of eggs into a bowl and the addition of a generous sprinkling of ras el hanout, followed by a quick whisk of the ghastly mess that ensued…

But, of course, he didn’t choose sufficient eggs. He never does. Fortunately he had another in the fridge…

Then it was dip-the-courgettes-in-the-eggs time…

And again with the slices of pork…

At this point the microwave went ‘beep’, so the good chef tipped the super-heated cauliflower into a roasting thing…

Tooty absolutely hates making sauces from packets; but being a really good egg who always does the right thing, he went straight ahead without complaint…

By the way, here’s a simple cookery tip to save time and retain your sanity. When you’ve poured the sauce over whatever it is you pour sauce over, don’t use a spoon to retrieve the dregs: use a spatula. Cuts down on time and energy and waste…

Of course, as you’ve probably discovered yourself, cheese sauce by itself is utter shit: you must add grated cheese to it. Now normally Tooty would have gone straight to the nearest packet of pre-grated cheddar from either Sainsburys or Waitrose: but he only had a bag of Cheddar and Mozzarella, which, as you also have probably discovered, is like super-powerful spiders web when cooked. So there was no other course of action open to him: he had to open the fridge, select a lump of cheddar…

…and GRATE IT HIMSELF! Aargh! Then he sprinkled it on the steaming cauliflower….

So, having prepared one element of his wondrous meal for the oven, he returned to the pork/egg amalgam, which he coated with the breadcrumbs…

Likewise the courgettes, which he placed into an olive oil lined roasting thing…

Of course, assuming that pork and courgettes cooked at the same rate – but having no evidence to support this belief – he placed the pork into the roasting thing beside the courgettes…

And being a waste-not-want-not kind’a guy, he poured on the egg dregs…

The oven, which had been maxxed-out for a good fifteen minutes, then welcomed into its bosom the two roasting things…

This gave Tooty the Chef time to sit down for a while – forty minutes actually – to jeer whatever annoyed him on TV, which is most things…

After that it was a  simple matter of retrieving the perfectly roasted cauliflower…

…selecting some Pimms Number One to accompany his regulation sugar-free Sprite…

…grabbing the pork/courgette mix and slapping it on to the pre-heated plates…

…then adding some coleslaw…

…before sitting down to discover that he is the jammiest chef in Britain. Somehow it worked out  fab yet again!

 

Revel in the Ribaldry 28

With so much Earplug Adventure stuff appearing here, I thought it would make a pleasant change to see some Hamster-Sapiens rudeness. To this end I have delved into this e-book…

…and pray that the resulting random excerpt pleases you beyond measure. And here it is…

It was cold, dark, and down right nasty beneath the surface of the River Turgid, as it ambled between Prannick’s twin towns of Near and Far Kinell with all the pace and alacrity of a bout of constipation. But Perfidity Gallowsmith had scant moments to consider such discomforts: Her immediate concern was the severe depletion that had taken place to the air reserve that she’d managed to accumulate in her hamstery cheek pouches moments before being knocked unconscious by a huge torpedo-shaped cavy-dropping, and falling into the river. Since then she’d been forced to ditch her famous chainmail knickers and leather breast-hammocks in order to remain above the mucky goo of the river bed, and now she was feeling distinctly naked both outwardly and inwardly

It was difficult for her to judge whether the onlookers upon the bank were still ‘on looking’, but she couldn’t take the risk of being discovered by them: In Prannick the vanquished leader was always put to death in a most public exhibition. She would rather drown than face that ignominy. Then, as she drifted with the river’s flow, the town’s sewage out fall pipe seemed to crawl past at a snail’s pace. It was dark and foreboding; but it might also supply a temporary sanctuary for her.

“With any luck,” she spoke to herself through lips that were clenched so tight that they might have been hermetically sealed, “there’ll be air at the top of the tunnel.

Striking out for the circle of black in an otherwise colourless environment Perfidity tried to gauge the time of day: She must be in and out of the tunnel before sixty-three minutes after thirteen o’clock, when the Town Ka-ka Release Officer emptied the slurry pit below the public toilet into the river: An ignominious departure into the hereafter was preferable to Death By Excrement. But as she approached the outfall she became aware of a subtle change in its appearance. It seemed to have become somehow blacker. A more intense black. A negative-light sort of black. She blew-off several times to dispel the intense feeling of fear that was threatening to steal her reason away. But despite these gaseous out-pouring, the darkness seemed to be drawing her to it. Then, as she began to struggle against the impossible pulling sensation that seemed to be acting upon each and every atom that made up her rather large, but surprisingly curvaceous body, the darkness seemed to leap forward to engulf her. She had just sufficient time to break-wind once more, and then scream incoherently.

Upon the bank Felicity and Roosevelt were walking paw-in-paw. They were chatting excitedly about the day’s battle, and their triumph. They also wanted to find a nice warm spot in which to perform some form of warm, cuddly, sex-act. Felicity noticed the bubbles as they burst from the surface of the water. The first few were rank and foul, and were immediately dismissed at ‘swamp water’: But the final few smelt far sweeter, and, much to their surprise contained a sound, which went, “Arrgh!”

“I’m sorry,” Roosevelt said apologetically, “is it alright with you if we pass on the vaguely-planned activity that would undoubtedly have culminated in non-reproductive sexual intercourse? Those mysterious bubbles have quite put me off.”

Felicity had to agree with her chum: Under these altered circumstances she didn’t even think that she could stretch to heavy-petting: It was a documented fact that drowning hamsters and their talking farts had a nasty habit of utterly deflating libidos.

“May The Wheel bless you, my son.” Brother Algy Tumbler would say to each an every injured lawman and militia-hamster that he treated, “And may the glorious light of The Rim shine upon your wretched bulges, and make it feel much better in the morning.”

The chubby hamster was pretty much sick and tired of this oft-repeated litany; but each time that he found the need to say the words he was simply amazed at the paucity of any real injuries, and marvelled at the Hamster Heathens’ ability to project their will by the simple administration of high-speed sods and custard pots to the vulnerable squelchy parts of their enemies. He also doubted that the forces of The Wheel would have been as magnanimous and kindly to their vanquished foes had the situation been reversed.

A short distance off Algy Timber was helping the Heathens as they reloaded the team buses. He couldn’t help but notice how incredibly similar he and Brother Algy Tumbler looked. He said as much to Joan.

“It’s like we’re twins.” He added, “I think I’ll engage him in conversation: P’raps we share the same interests. I wonder if he chews his own privates during periods of great angst?”

Joan put out a paw to stop him. “Best not, Mister Timber.” She said.

Algy wasn’t to be put-off. “But I want to.” He said with an almost petulant air, “He’s my inter-dimensional double.”

But he could take no more than a couple of steps before Rootley leapt from the roof-rack where he was strengthening the paw-holds, and grappled him to the floor. “No, Mister Timber,” the small hamster squeaked – his face contorted with dread, “Don’t go near him: There is a great danger. I can feel it.”

                                                                              

Algy pushed his assailant aside. “What do you mean?” he said as he dusted himself off, “Am I allergic to his smelling-salts, or something? Does he smell something awful?”

“I don’t know.” Rootley confessed, “I just know that it’s dangerous.”

“I think I can guess.” Joan said as she assisted her boss to tidy his dress, “It’s probably a space/time conundrum, or something. Two identical people from different dimensions probably can’t exist in the same place at the same time. I expect that they’re mutually exclusive. No doubt the result of contact between you would be utter devastation.”

“And you know this because?” Darkwood inquired as he appeared around the corner of the vehicle.

“The experiments at the Institute:” Joan replied, “They’ve intensified my brain power.” Then she added, “And I’ve been watching Rat Trek on TV too. The self-same thing happened to Mister Splatt in the episode No Coypu is an Island. It was very good. Two characters very nearly exploded; but Captain Perp managed to finagle a small piece of his anatomy between them, and stopped them from touching. It was very exciting. And more than a little moving too.”

“Indeed.” Darkwood nodded, “This small piece of his anatomy that you mentioned: It wasn’t his willy, was it? I rather think I’d have liked to have seen that!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

There, are you pleased beyond measure? I thought so.

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-nine)

But shortly, when they happened upon Kyboshed, he had lowered the blinds on all the windows.

When questioned he cyber-wailed, “I can’t stand it. The Autopilot told me all about Worstworld. The thought of all those people – and whatever else there is down there – all doomed. I won’t look. You know that old adage: ‘what you can’t see can’t hurt you’? Well in my case that’s correct: if I can’t see the misery on the planet below, my psyche is left undamaged. I can just pretend that it’s not happening at all.”

The silicon life-forms smiled at this: clearly the Auto-Pilot had told only half the story…

So it fell to Folie to tell the tale of the Museum of Future Technology’s first successful star ship – Ship Number Fifteen – which (following a battle with Hyperspace Pirates) became lost in the depths of space with an unreliable anti-neutrino drive and a bunch of really bored passengers. So Captain Horatio Noseblower had the vessel put down upon the world that would be later named Worstworld…

Very quickly they discovered that the blue light of the parent star gave off too much gamma radiation…

…and that the indigenous people appeared to be at a technological level analogous to the Wild West…

But later, after lots of adventures for its crew and passengers, Ship Number Fifteen blasted back into space…

…unwittingly taking with them the entire United Stoats Seventh Cavalry and their plugmutts…

…and leaving behind (accidentally) a museum curator in the shape of Hakking Chestikoff…

….who, after meeting with a local dignitary, Busti Misenthrop, discovered an entire civilisation beneath ground, where it sheltered from the radiation and hoped to ride out the storm when the star eventually went nova…

At Hakking’s suggestion (and using blueprints of the foundered Ship Number Fourteen, which had crashed on the planet years previous), the hidden civilisation quickly designed and built a star ship of their own…

…which they named after their favourite rap artist – K T Woo. Then it was a matter of finding a crew and a captain – a role taken by the Sheriff of Busted Gut, Sinclair Brooch…

“And after it launched,” Folie finished…

…the ship became legendary. Why, even now, as I tell their story, the crew of the K T Woo are putting down a civil war amongst the End Caps. So, really, there’s no need to feel sorry for those people down there. Since the K T Woo, they’ve built a whole fleet of ships. When the star looks like it’s going terminally wonky – they’ll simply up and leave.”

“So you don’t really need that blind lowered at all.” Placebo added.

And when he raised the blind once more, Kyboshed was pleased to note that the ship had already departed the doomed system…

“Oh,” he said, “that’s alright then. Guess I’d better get back to doing a bit of Chief Engineering, and lubricate my blanch nodules or something.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

P.S The events mentioned in this episode occured in Worstworld vols 1&2.

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-eight)

Placebo had to agree with Kyboshed’s summation of the artistic merits of Anton Twerp’s work…

“Yeah,” he said, “it does make you want to chuck up.”

Folie was quite annoyed at his crewmate’s behaviour…

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about.” He complained. “It’s just a few pictures. Would you sooner have a boring sparkly gold wall and the majesty of the cosmos to look at?”

Placebo didn’t want to antagonize his chum. “Okay,” he replied, “the pictures stay. Hey, let’s see what Kyboshed isn’t looking at now.”

So they did – and found him – once again – at a window on space…

“Strictly speaking,” he said as his owners approached, “I could survive out there for quite a while. I mean, it’s not like I have to breathe. And I could convert cosmic energy to keep my systems powered. Of course I couldn’t move around, and eventually the hard radiation would penetrate my defences: but until then I think I’d quite enjoy being out there – touching the hand of God or something.”

“Don’t these ruminations exceed your programming?” Folie inquired in a tone that suggested that he wasn’t particularly pleased that a robot could have such free, unfettered, thought processes.

“I sat on a nail.” Kyboshed replied. “It was just after I’d received my initial programming. I was so surprised that I jumped up from my re-charge pad and my head collided with the Institute of Robotics Compete Guide to Programming book that someone had perched on a low shelf there some years previous. Well I had nothing better to do – other than extract the nail from between my buttock crawler plates – so I read it all, cover to cover. Having absorbed the information, when the opportunity arose, I reprogrammed myself with the entire knowledge of the Institute. I find it gives me a little latitude in the thinking process. Is that a problem?”

Folie hadn’t expected such a fulsome reply. “Well, no, I suppose not.”

“Will you still explode if someone tries to change your name?” Placebo asked.

“Oh yes,” Kyboshed replied, “that’s programming that I can’t access. It’s basic core stuff. In any case, if I were captured by Hyperspace Pirates, I’d want to explode. I’d volunteer. Horrible little things: they’re vile.”

Well, after that, there seemed to be nothing more to say, so the owners of the Gravity Whelk returned to the bridge…

“Blimey,” Folie said as they entered, “do the cable ends know what they’ve given us. Kyboshed must be a true one-off. Are we blessed? I hope so.”

Placebo decided that he liked the sight of hyperspace, so shortly after sitting down in their seats, this happened…

Kyboshed, denied a view through the side windows, joined them. But after a few minutes the Automatic Pilot interrupted their reverie:

“Hey,” it said in its bouncy, up-beat manner, “I just found an interesting star. It’s a big blue one. It’s also poking out a lot of gamma radiation. One day it’ll go nova.”

Placebo was vaguely interested. “Shouldn’t we keep our distance then?” He asked / suggested.

“It has a planet.” The Automatic Pilot replied. “An inhabited planet.”

Now Folie grew interested. “I sense an ‘and’ coming.” He said as he sat up straight in his chair.

“And…” the Automatic Pilot paused for effect, “it’s a planet known to the Museum of Future Technology.”

Well Placebo and Folie hadn’t studied at the museum and not learned a few things: they both knew the name of the lonely planet. “Take us back into regular space.” They yelled as one.

A moment later…

…the blue giant was off their port side. And a further hour had the Gravity Whelk in high orbit above a heavily irradiated planet…

Naturally Kyboshed rushed to a window. Folie was only a step behind him…

“Kyboshed,” he said, “welcome to the planet named Worstworld.”

If Kyboshed had possessed a head that could be canted to one side in an inquiring fashion, he would have used the facility. Instead he was forced to use words. Or a word: “Worstworld?”

“Go look it up.” Folie suggested. He then joined Placebo at a second window…

“Well there’s a sight I never expected to see.” He said.

“The fact that it’s still there is a relief.” Placebo replied.

“Did you turn on the dash-cam?” Folie, suddenly concerned, asked Placebo. “I want everyone to see this when we get back to Earth.”

“It’s never off.” Placebo replied. “I record everywhere we go and everything this ship does.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-seven)

Whilst horror rippled through the Museum of Future Technology like an impending belch; and consternation abounded within the Future Museum of Mars in a manner most ungratifying, a bloody long way away the Gravity Whelk was rattling across the Galaxy at a fair old lick; but nothing like as quickly as it had before the encounter with Dark Space…

Neither Folie nor Kyboshed were in a hurry to get anywhere – even Earth – so they sat at the nominal controls; allowed the Automatic Pilot to make all the decisions; and enjoyed the view of the sheer vastness of space…

Had he not been an automaton, it is likely that Kyboshed would have become philosophical or even emotional at the sight. In fact he was considering giving it a go, but…

…Placebo chose that moment to return from the lavatory in Engineering.

“Well that’s better out than in.” He said, upon entering the bridge. “But I think Engineering might be out-of-bounds for half an hour.”

Moments later he’d demoted Kyboshed to the Chief Engineer’s seat on the second row…

Unfortunately Folie’s throat felt like the Gobi desert, and he’d already made up his mind to get a cup of Cafe Blurgh when Placebo returned. “Is there anything you can do about Engineering?” He inquired of Kyboshed.

Kyboshed’s controls were set into the back of Placebo’s seat. “Exposing Engineering to the vacuum of space.” He reported.

“That should do the trick.” Placebo mumbled.

“Re-pressurising.” Kyboshed added. “All good. Nice and habitable again.”

Folie felt a little uncomfortable about what he’d just heard. “Kyboshed,” he said, “I’m feeling a little uncomfortable with what I’ve just heard. What would have happened to me, say, if I was in the loo, but you didn’t know it? Would I have been whisked off into space and thereby suffered a horrible fate?”

Placebo grew concerned himself. “Yeah,” he roared, “what If I’d leaned back heavily in my seat, and maybe a bolt had come loose, and I’d fallen over backwards and pressed the Vent Engineering button as I crashed to the deck? It doesn’t bear thinking about. I’d sooner keep the stench: disable it immediately.”

Kyboshed was still feeling vaguely chagrined, a half-minute later, as he followed Folie into the corridor…

“Don’t worry about it.” Folie said. “But look the other way now…

…I’ve hung an Anton Twerp original on the wall just here. I thought it might brighten the place up.”

Although he’d been instructed to look elsewhere, the vileness of Anton Twerp’s work forced him to turn his gaze upon it. “We have a golden door set into a bright yellow door frame – and you thought the place needed brightening up?” He grumbled.

For the next hour the ship continued to blast at speeds below the threshold where relativity comes into play… 

All the while Folie and Placebo did this and that and generally wasted their time: so eventually they decided to visit parts of the ship that still remained a mystery to them. As they did so they couldn’t believe how many corridors the cable ends had managed to squeeze into such a relatively small vessel. In one of them they discovered Kyboshed not looking at some wall art…

“Hey, Kyboshed,” Folie said as he approached, “what ails thee?”

“This art,” the robot replied, “is so emetic that it’s overloading my neural net. I think my head is going to explode!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-six)

Five minutes later Nobby stood before Frisby…

“Regard the main screen, Mister Hollister.” Frisby said in a calm voice. Too calm for Nobby: his knees began to tremble. Frisby was continuing: “I expected something of a jolt. Perhaps a bit of a slump in the surface of the land immediately beyond the location of the impact. I rather hoped that the glacier would be deflected away from this area entirely. But now, it seems, you’ve freed millions of tons of locked-up water and spilled magma over a vast area. Are you aware of any good news you might dispense?”

During the five minutes since he’d been collected from the ice sheet via Sky Cycle, Nobby had been wracking his brains for just that. It was Clifton who had unwittingly provided an ‘out’ for the beleaguered engineer:

“It seems to me,” he’d said as the air rushed past their earholes aboard the Sky Cycle as it swooped in to land, “that the liberated water is acting as a lubricant for the glacier – which is now following the line of least resistance and slipping sideways on to the plain. It appears, Nobby, that despite this ecological disaster, you’ve saved the museum from utter destruction.”

Nobby related these observations to Frisby, but omitted to mention the earplug responsible for them. The curator seemed content with this explanation, and duly dispatched Nobby to the cafeteria for a well-earned cup of cocoa and a slice of lemon drizzle cake. But less than an hour later, Frisby had pulled his terraforming machine from its garage; shoved the first member of staff he could find into the passenger seat below his; and driven it out on to the snow…

After just a few minutes into the journey he pulled up and allowed Charles de Glop out of the vehicle…

“Charles,” he said, “sorry to be an imposition: but can you confirm what my eyes are telling me. Are there really nasty, sooty geysers erupting from beneath the virgin snow?”

“Err, I think so.” Charles replied. “But this might be localised. Elsewhere the impact on the atmosphere may not be as bad as it appears right here.”

In response to this, Frisby drove to another location…

“And now, Charlie-boy?” Frisby growled menacingly.

“Best of three?” Charles suggested.

But Frisby’s mood hadn’t improved any when they arrived at a third location…

“I’ve spent years terraforming this planet.” Frisby roared above the hissing and rumbling of the volcanic geysers. “I’ve tried to make it habitable again. I’ve laboured long and hard and seen some miracles. And now that dolt of a tectonic engineer has ruined everything. Look at the sky: if this doesn’t stop soon, the air will become unbreathable. I’ll tell you this, Charles: from now on that Nobby Hollister is not being left anywhere near a calculator. As far as I’m concerned, he is being promoted to Chief Lavatory Bowl Washer. And don’t tell me that they are futuristic and self-cleaning: I’m pulling the fuses out!”

Charles sucked in some acrid air through his teeth and turned in the direction that Frisby was looking. The view wasn’t good…

“Perhaps we’d best be getting back to the museum.” He said. “I’m sure the company of the lovely Lillie will cheer you up.”

Frisby was astonished by the suggestion, but did it anyway: and Charles was proved correct…

…he did feel better with the former astronaut at his side – not that you’d know it to look at him. Together they visited one of the entrances…

“What do I do, Lillie?” He asked, his fury spent, and despondency his only friend.

“It might not help any, but maybe you should report to Cushions Smethwyke.” Lillie replied as she shivered in the icy air. “She has that Omnipresent Scanner thing that she spends her time sitting around on: maybe she’ll spot something that’ll help us. You never know…”

Frisby grabbed this like a drowning plugmutt refuses to let go of its owner and drags them under too. He almost ran to the com-panel…

The news shook Cushions so badly that she forgot to pretend that the video link was down and couldn’t be fixed for weeks – perhaps months. “Oh Frisby, my friend and colleague,” she yelled across the millions of kilometres that separated her from Frisby, “you just sit tight; do everything possible that you can think of to stay alive and well; and leave the rest to me. I’ll think of something.”

Then, shortly after signing-off, Cushions turned away from her com-panel with a look of horror on her face…

“How?” She wailed. “How am I going to back up that load of baloney? What can I possibly do to save the Future Museum of Mars and everyone in it?”

She then activated her inter-curator com-panel. “All curators to the Omnipresent Scanner.” She said calmly. “Priority One. We have a potential write-off on our hands.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-five)

With magma bubbling excitedly behind him, Nobby edged towards the edge of a nearby precipice…

“Maybe we need to get the heck out of here.” He said.

But when his gaze fell upon the interior of the precipice…

…the word ‘maybe’ became superfluous…

“Aargh,” he bellowed intellectually, “run, Clifton: run!”

So they ran, but soon Clifton fell astern of his fellow engineer…

“Slow down, Nobby.” He gasped. “I had a dreadful night: I hardly slept a wink. And I had a huge bowl of porridge for breakfast.”

It could have been curtains for Clifton Wedge, but good fortune favoured them both, and soon they found themselves in more clement conditions…

“It’s still bloody hot,” Nobby observed, “but at least it’s bearable. And this steam is quite invigorating. You could pay a fortune for a sauna like this on Mars.”

But Clifton wasn’t really listening: he couldn’t help but notice that the thermal changes had brought back to life a form of subterranean eco-system.

“Hmmm.” He replied; but his thoughts were on the lapel camera that he habitually wore, and (he hoped) was capturing the scene.

Nobby, if nothing else, possessed an acute sense of direction, and the farther the travelled, the further from danger they found themselves…

“Please,” a weary Clifton begged, “please tell me that the exit is just around the next bend.”

Nobby would have replied with some meaningless platitude, but he didn’t need to: they were in a hollow, which was outside in the open air…

…and the warmth from the vents had thawed the snow…

“Ooh, that’s handy.” Nobby said in surprise. “With the Sky Cycle destroyed, walking in the snow would be problematical to say the least. I wonder if it’s like this all the way back to the museum.”

The answer to Nobby’s question arrived as they clambered from the hollow.  Ice and snow lay all about; and cutting through it all was a vast rend in the landscape, through which open water flowed in a torrent…

 

“Wow,” Clifton said as they investigated the new topographical feature…

…it looks as though you’ve opened a whole can of worms. This water must have been trapped in the form of ice for millennia. Your rocket has released sub-strata magma, which has thawed it all out. Mars may have oceans again – albeit shallow ones. Unfortunately the Future Museum of Mars sits uncomfortably close to the edge of a plain. How high those waters rise is questionable: the museum might become a seafront property; or it could be completely submerged and totally destroyed. Only time will tell.”

“Oh, thanks for that, Cliff.” Nobby replied. “I wish I’d brought someone else along.”

With nothing else to say or do, the engineers began their trek back to the museum…

Soon though Nobby realised that the ground they were walking on seemed to be moving. He mentioned this to Clifton…

“Great,” the cheesed-off orange earplug replied, “we must be on the ice sheet. Please tell me it’s taking us in the right direction.”

Of course what neither of them could possibly know was that Frisby was watching their progress upon a monitor…

He sighed. “Suppose I’d better send someone out to fetch them back – before they drift straight on by.” He said to himself.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-four)

Engineer, Clifton Wedge, who was still to recover fully from his night in a snow cave, couldn’t believe his sodding eyes: he rushed straight to the nearest maintenance door and threw it open…

“Oh, cripes,” he groaned as he surveyed the nearby ice-sheet from between the door jambs, “I know Mars is supposed to be the Red Planet: but this is ridiculous. That wally, Nobby Hollister, is going to need some help with this one.”

And out upon the ice-sheet, Gerhardt Snitzenfrudel…

…was all for accepting Budlea Budgin’s kind offer of a ride in their habitat back to the museum.

“Better be waking Jenson and Rufus, I am thinking, Tynan.”

“Yeah,” Tynan said angrily, “and those dippy pair in the shepherd’s hut too. None of us will survive out here for long otherwise. When I find out who is responsible for this…I’m gonna forget my Hippocratic Oath to do no harm and kick  ’em right up the arse.”

In the aforementioned shepherd’s hut…

…Maverick and Mulleon were enjoying the show.

“I wasn’t expecting this when I booked our flight to Mars.” Maverick stated. “But as pretty as it is, it’s going to play merry hell with my search for ancient evidence of a marine earplug population on this planet.”

“Oh, look, Maverick.” Mulleon interrupted the cork’s thoughts; “those people down there are waving to us. I think they might be evacuating. Perhaps we’d better go too.”

Maverick didn’t argue for a moment. “I hope they have room for our wicker baskets. Do you think I have time to pop into the outside loo before we go?”

Back at the Future Museum of Mars, Tangerine stole a quick look at the outside world…

“Yes, Mister Mumph,” it called back into the building, “the sky is still red – but it appears to be fading. And the museum remains frozen. Yes, there is a dreadful draft: I’ll shut the door immediately.”

The red light to which Tangerine alluded worried Frisby; so he had the nul-space generator restarted, but at the Minimum Power setting so that he could switch on some pleasant ambient lighting for his  worried customers, but without blowing the place to smithereens…

Naturally Frisby Mumph despatched the earplug responsible for the rocket attack on the sub-strata to determine the true situation at Ground Zero. So, as the lights shone dimly in the museum, Nobby was riding a Sky Cycle across the ice-sheet. With him aboard the wondrous flying machine, Clifton Wedge watched the land slip away behind them…

“Nice to see that the red glow has finally subsided, Nobby.” He observed. “It was getting on my nerves. Are we nearly there yet?”

As it transpired, the land had been savaged so badly by the exploding rocket that Nobby was forced to land some distance from his original site. From there the two engineers bravely entered the ancient magma vents and traversed them towards the impact area…

“Whoo,” Nobby said as he looked around, “we’re miles from where we should be, and already the rocks are getting hot. I think I’ve really churned up the tectonic plates: this disturbance should have been much more localised. I wish Treacle Fagging had better stressed his rocket’s destructive capability to me: I might have done more complicated calculations.”

“He did tell you that it could destroy an entire Hyperspace Pirate fleet.” Clifton reminded him.

“Such an esoteric term.” Nobby argued in turn. “How big is a Hyperspace Pirate fleet? How powerful are their defensive screens? The numbers are all so vague.”

Clifton was about to reply, when, suddenly, and with only a moment’s warning – in the form of a huge rumble that nearly had the engineers off their feet – a convulsion occurred and a massive explosion ripped the land apart…

Beneath that land, Nobby – the expert in tectonics – grew concerned…

“That didn’t feel quite right.” He said to Clifton. “And it seems a whole bunch hotter in here now too.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-two)

Well, obviously, Nobby Hollister couldn’t wait to re-board the shuttle pod back to the museum; and just as quickly he rushed into the presence of his grim-faced boss. Before he could speak, Frisby said: “The news had better be good: I’ve just received word that the glacier is speeding up.”

Nobby cast a quick glance in the direction of the main viewer that displayed the inexorable advance of the ice sheet. “You could say that.” He replied – before outlining his plan to hit the tectonic weak point with the anti-pirate missile.

Frisby didn’t know whether to be impressed or depressed: it sounded risky. But what was the alternative? With a sigh he said: “Go ahead, Mister Hollister. Prepare the weapon; launch when ready.”

Nobby, probably for the first time in his life, knew elation. As he turned and made for the exit he released a huge, “Yes!”…

…that even made the museum’s worried curator smile.

A short while later, after preparations – such as they were – were made to ready the building for the inevitable shockwave, Frisby and Lillie stood in the cargo entrance…

…and watched people as they relieved their inner torment by going out on to the snow. People like Sir Dodger Muir…

…who normally considered ice excellent when combined with vodka martinis, but not much good for anything else. But looking around at the others, who included Las Chicas De la Playas…

…he did wonder why he’d never tried skiing. Then he noticed that there seemed to be a sort of mini-exodus into the cold outside air…

…and he became rueful:  If the rocket plan failed, this ‘outside’ could soon be replicated ‘inside’. Or, worse still, the inside could cease to exist at all!

But some were determined to enjoy the spectacle as they lay upon their backs and observed the firmament above…

“I wonder what colour the vapour trail will be?” The bearded, Louis van Doore said as he squinted at the sky.

The turquoise biological android lying beside him had more prosaic thoughts in mind: ‘Did I close my botty valve correctly when I rushed out here? I don’t want to leave any evidence of my tardiness in the snow. Perhaps I should just lay here a little longer than everyone else, and let them all go before I get up. Oh it’s no fun being a biological android: why can’t I simply get a recharge overnight like proper androids?”

But all such thoughts ceased when they heard the distant rumble of the rocket as it launched from its bay…

…and inside customers crowded any window they could find…

…to watch as it climbed into a leaden sky…

Others filled the main hall…

…to watch the public screen, which displayed the rocket’s tail flame as it gained sub-orbital altitude…

Then, at apogee, the launch motors shut down and the rocket’s flight upwards ceased. For a moment it levelled off…

…before acquiring a rough approximation of its target; tilting to the perpendicular, igniting its cruise motors; and beginning a headlong plunge towards the planet…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-one)

It took a while for Nobby and Glen to fly back to The Future Museum of Mars: and an additional five minutes for Glen to tuck into a less-than-delicious Crappachino from the Cafe Puke machine in the foyer, and for Nobby to take the underground transfer conduit to the Mars Rocket Development Centre, which was constructed just over the horizon from the museum. There he met with the Chief Development Engineer, Treacle Fagging…

“You’ve been developing this rocket of yours for almost seven Earth months,” Nobby stated scathingly, “isn’t it about time you tested the bloody thing?”

Treacle looked away shame-faced. What Nobby was saying was essentially correct: but the truth of the matter was, he had no confidence in the device. “Yeah, I s’pose so.” He mumbled.

But by the time they’d entered the main bay where the rocket was being developed, the familiar surroundings brought with them a degree of self-confidence. A huge degree of self-confidence. This was ‘his’ project: he wasn’t going to let a tectonic plate freak bad-mouth him in his own backyard…

“We’ve been developing this rocket,” he explained – whether Nobby wanted an explanation or not – “from the interceptor rocket that failed miserably when Ship Number Fifteen made its maiden flight to Mars and was attacked by Hyperspace Pirates…

That one, had it hit the intended target, would have disabled their entire fleet in one telling blow.”

Nobby recalled reading several reports upon the incident. The designers of that rocket had all lost their jobs and now worked as Baristas in the Museum of Future Technology. He also recalled why it had missed. It was too slow and didn’t turn well. The pirates had no difficulty evading it.

“But we’ve addressed those problems.” Treacle boasted. “Our improved rocket goes faster and can hit a barn door from fifteen kilometres away.”

Nobby paused for a moment. Only fifteen kilometres? It was almost ten-times that distance between the Rocket Development Centre and the tectonic plate that he hoped to split asunder. He said as much.

“No problem.” Treacle replied. “We can stick a camera on the front and steer it to it’s target – just as long as the target isn’t moving. The manoeuvrability problem hasn’t been licked just yet. But the bang is so big, it more than makes up for poor accuracy. Here we are now: this is the actual rocket you intend to use.”

Treacle was obviously very proud of his work: but Nobby felt decidedly underwhelmed. “It’s a bit small, isn’t it?” He said.

Treacle smiled at this. “This is just the tip of the nose cone.” He told Nobby. “It’s also where I’ll mount my little camera. Would you like to see more of it?”

Nobby very much wanted to. In fact he insisted. So, after Treacle had waved to some unseen operative…

…Nobby’s face lit up. “That’s more like it.” He said. “More please.”

But he wasn’t too impressed when the lifting mechanism jammed. And neither was Treacle as he stepped forward involuntarily and winced…

As a result of this indecisive movement, the tectonic engineer began to believe that it was a ruse, and that the rocket was only half the size that Treacle Fagging suggested. But before he could insult the rocket engineer with a derogatory remark, the vast missile was on the move once again…

Naturally Nobby was impressed with both the length and shininess of the rocket’s fuselage; but the grinding sounds of the lifting mechanism still worried Treacle. Clearly it was an issue that needed to be addressed – and soon…

But following some more ‘graunching’ sounds, the nose cone finally protruded through to the next level of the launch bay…

…and Nobby was awestruck…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” he exclaimed in jubilation, “we have the means to our salvation. That’s a really big rocket. I like it!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty)

So, as the situation for the young adventurers seemed to be improving, back on beleaguered Mars, Precipitous Ledge Walking supremo, Patti Roularde was acting as spokesperson for a small self-important representative group who were acting on behalf of the museum’s customers…

“My clients, if I may call them that, are most concerned for their safety. Many wish to leave immediately.” She said to Frisby, who had Sir Dodger, Lillie, and William of Porridge beside him. “But when they went to the luggage retrieval hall…

…not only did they suffer horribly in the cold – some of them turning a nasty shade of mauve in the process; but that huge cork told them all to shove off, get lost, and go somewhere unmentionable. And do you know what he did when they refused?”

Frisby looked to William for the answer. He received nothing more than a tiny shrug and an angelic expression that Lillie thought made him look most attractive.

“I’ll jolly well tell you.” Patti snapped. “He dropped his trousers and ran up and down the loading bay releasing the most odious gas imaginable…

It fairly filled the place – despite the absence of the luggage door force-field and a keen breeze blowing in off the ice sheet. Naturally we fled in horror.”

Frisby nodded at this information…

“Can you confirm this, William?” He asked.

William could, and he was far from apologetic. “I can, Mister Mumph. It was a potentially fatal situation: many customers had arrived with only flimsy underwear and cheap nylon tank-tops to supplement their regular clothing. I felt it was dangerously inappropriate. I took the only course of action open to me. In an aside, I would like to congratulate Chef De Glop for those beans on toast: they were most efficacious.”

To Patti, Frisby said: “Well there you have your answer. And as regards to our customer’s safety, you can rest assured that my team of engineers are working upon the situation as we speak.”

“Oh yes indeed.” Sir Dodger piped up. “Bending every possible sinew in their efforts. It makes me proud to be an earplug.”

Well with that sort of endorsement, the wind had been fairly stripped from Patti’s sails. “Oh, well, alright then.” She said. “I’ll speak with you upon the subject again tomorrow.”

Of course, once the party had departed, Sir Dodger said: “One of my better performances there, I think. Haven’t lied through my teeth so well since I auditioned for the central role in ‘I, Blunderbuss‘. But Mizz Roularde is quite right: we need to do something pro-active, Frisby: we can’t sit back on our haunches and watch that glacier bear down on us: it’ll grind this place flat against the bedrock.”

Five minutes later…

“Right you lot, I’m not happy with this situation at all. It’s just not good enough.”  Frisby began with rare bluster, “You – collectively or individually – are going to use your expertise in engineering to come up with a plan to thwart this damned ice sheet. We need to stop it – or divert it. Any ideas?”

“Well,” Nobby Hollister replied, “I was thinking tectonics.”

“Love them.” Lillie responded. “I have all their albums. Well, all their albums up until Rickie Jeepers was replaced as lead singer.”

For a moment the engineer was nonplussed. Quickly recovering he continued: “We are on the edge of an ancient tectonic plate: the majority of the glacier is resting upon the neighbouring plate. Of course, unlike Earth, Mars is tectonically dormant: but if we could introduce a little movement, it could cause a shift in the planet’s crust that would divert the glacier to newly-formed lower ground.”

Naturally Frisby was horrified. Only for a moment did his expression betray his true feelings. But he recovered with lightning speed: “Check it out, Mister Hollister.” He said. “Dismissed.”

Before long two engineers – one Nobby Hollister: the other his best friend, Glen Watkins, had flown a Sky Cycle to a suspected prime site that was begging for intervention. There they had quickly burrowed down into the soft sandstone crust through a series of ancient vent holes.

Glen didn’t like narrow passages and barely-adequate lighting. “Is it alright if I keep my eyes shut?” He pleaded with Nobby. “My Gran always told me that what you can’t see can’t hurt you.”

If truth be told Nobby hadn’t wanted any assistance; but museum Health and Safety rules meant that he couldn’t go alone. “Smart woman, your Gran.” He replied. “Yeah-yeah, of course you can, Glen. You just sit yourself down here and await my return.”

Soon Nobby was poking his nose into all sorts of gullies and crevices…

Many looked promising, but he was determined to find precisely the right one. It needed to be deep – with magma flowing at the bottom of it…

And that, when he peered over a smooth, rounded rock formation, is exactly what he found…

“Glen,” he shouted at the top of his voice…

…”get the Sky Cycle’s motor warmed up: I’ve hit the mother lode!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-nine)

As Folie arrived upon the bridge, his eyes caught sight of the main viewer…

But since neither Placebo nor Kyboshed said anything, he assumed that only he could see Dark Space. “Okay,” he whispered, “if I’m going to drive, I’m gonna need to see through the windshield.”

What happened next surprised Folie, and he likened Dark Space’s reaction to a telepathic hug of apology – and possibly gratitude…

Then it was on with the task of pre-flight checks. Kyboshed tried to assist, but neither living being wanted anything to do with him: it was his poor judgement and incorrect advice that had caused, what could have been, a catastrophe for the ship …and all aboard…

“If it wasn’t for the sheer good fortune that the builders of this ship included a wibbly-wobbyphone in its design, we’d be going nowhere.” Placebo growled at their Chief Engineer.

“Learn a lesson from this, Kyboshed.” Folie advised, “Scroton isn’t the be-all and end-all of engineering prowess and knowledge. They’re good; but they lack experience. Don’t blindly follow every facet of their dogma. You could get us killed.”

Cyber-shamed, Kyboshed looked away and minutely examined the wall with his monocular vision. Then the hyper-drive was activated, and before long they were traversing eternity at quite a rate of knots…

Just not as fast as they’d been travelling previously.

One aspect of the sub-looney velocity was welcome: they could see things out of the windows again…

Folie crept up on Kyboshed. “Penny for your thoughts.” He said.

“Look at that star out there.” The Robot replied. “There it sits – all alone – floating in circles through space. I wonder if it has any worlds. And if it has worlds, I wonder if they have anyone on them that are looking up right now and…ah…wondering what’s out here.”

“That’s a lot of wondering…for a robot.” Folie said with a smile. “By the way…you’re forgiven. Come back to the bridge: you can take the driver’s seat for a while.”

Naturally Kyboshed was thrilled – in a robotic kind of way of course…

“Yeah?” He said excitedly.

“Yeah.” Folie replied. “Only don’t anywhere near the big ‘Go’ button again. From now on we only use that in emergencies.”

Shortly after being relieved, Placebo made straight for the nearest window and activated the pseudo-blind…

“Oh,” his disappointed crewmate said, “I was enjoying the view.”

“Sorry,” Placebo replied as he proceeded to the next window and repeated the act…

…”but that last incident has left me emotionally fragile. Right now I’d sooner forget that all there is between us and all that out there is a thin metallic hull and some fancy double-glazing. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to pretend that we’re in a nice cozy cellar somewhere beneath the Museum of Future Technology.”

Reminded of that great edifice, Folie took that moment to recall the day that they were handed the gift of a ride aboard the Chi-Z-Sox…

…and tried to imagine how his life might have been if he’d declined the offer. Those thoughts continued to revolve inside his head – even when he and Placebo relieved Kyboshed for his regular duty in the Chief Engineer’s seat…

“This is fun – isn’t it?” He asked Placebo.

Placebo must have been harbouring similar thoughts: “It is when it isn’t scary.” He replied. “And I do believe it might even be more fun than discovering the delights of the Museum of Future Technology.”

“Talking of which,” Folie said as he nodded agreement, “shouldn’t we report back to Earth: we could show them the Gravity Whelk. Maybe take Cushions Smethwyke for a ride.”

Placebo was all for it. “Hey,” he added, “knowing the recent history of the Museum of Future Technology, they’re probably in a bind again, and our timely arrival will tip the balance in their favour. Let’s go.”

So they did…

And unbeknownst to the Automatic Pilot, Placebo, or Kyboshed, Dark Space added a little pep to the hyper-drive…

And, as the improved and enhanced Gravity Whelk swept across the cosmos…

…the Automatic Pilot yelled: “Hey, Guys: how’d ya like this? Excellent or what!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-eight)

Folie hadn’t been keen to visit the hitherto overlooked communications panel, but with little or no other choice, he found himself entering the forgotten compartment…

As expected he found the panel displaying the word ‘Off’. With no obvious user interface he grunted: “Ugh? So how am I supposed to switch it on – assuming that it actually works?”

Whether it was the spoken words, or his mere presence, the script disappeared and a bright light illuminated the panel…

Folie wasn’t excited: he held too little faith in the machine’s ability for that. “Okay,” he said slowly, “so what am I supposed to do now?”

“Do you wish to interface with an alternate realm?” The machine inquired.

Naturally Folie replied in the affirmative.

“Do you wish to interface with the alternate realm that is in direct contact with this communication panel?” The machine inquired further.

Now the machine had Folie’s full attention – and Placebo’s too as he hid from sight in the corridor outside the compartment. “Yes.” He answered.

A split second later Folie was aware of only one thing: this…

He wasn’t sure if he was seeing it, feeling it, hearing it, or even smelling it: but he was very relieved that he wasn’t tasting it: it appeared horrible upon at least seventeen levels of ghastliness.

“What is this I’m sensing?” He asked; but he had no idea what it was he expected an answer from.

“You are experiencing Dark Space.” The soundless reply came.

Folie gulped to retain his sanity. Then, just to make sure that he was who he thought he was, he pinched his bum really hard. “Are you by-passing my auditory system and speaking directly to my brain via a form of telepathy?” He asked.

From his viewpoint in the corridor, Placebo was unaware of this communication. All he could see was Folie standing at the com-panel – doing nothing whatsoever – except pinching his bum of course…

But, in Folie’s reality he was part of this…

“What are you, and what do you want with my ship?” He demanded.

“I am a portion of Dark Space.” The reality replied. “I am a remnant of the Dark Space that once existed at this location in space/time.”

Folie made the sort of intuitive leap that Kyboshed could only dream of – assuming that he could dream at all, which he probably couldn’t. “Were you left behind?” He asked.

“Severed in a cataclysm when two Galaxies collided.” The sad, mournful reply came. “I became the only portion of Dark Space in this quantum reality. There is this and nothing more. I am Dark Space.”

Folie decided to take the metaphorical bull by the metaphysical horns: “Did you capture that other ship too?”

“I did.” Dark Space replied. But before Folie could form his next inquiry, the strange reality continued: “I hoped to gain possession of their vessel and persuade the occupants to take me away from here. But they were an ancient race, on the brink of a massive evolutionary step. My appearance pushed them beyond their current evolutionary parameters, and they…evolved…into a higher form of pure energy life…and sodded off somewhere else using a form of propulsion with which I was unfamiliar. If I’d had teeth I would have ground them together. But I am Dark Space: I have no need for teeth – or gums – or a gullet either. And as regards to a bottom…”

Folie’s brain was racing at breakneck speed. Somehow he was keeping up with Dark Space: perhaps exceeding its mental velocity. “Tell me,” he said, “was the other ship travelling faster than hyper-speed when you captured it.”

If the vile medium could have displayed surprise it would have been pleasantly startled. “Yes,” it said. “Only objects travelling in excess of hyper-speed are susceptible to interception by Dark Space. It is why I am now integrated into the Gravity Whelk. Into your decks, to be more precise. So, I implore you: please refrain from initiating your so-called looney-drive: you would leave me behind. Please take me with you. When I find somewhere nice, I’ll detach myself and find my own way about.”

Five minutes later saw Folie lead Kyboshed and Placebo towards the bridge. He’d explained everything to them…

Of course Placebo could hardly tear his gaze from the deck.

“It’s actually in there – right now?” He said. “We’re actually walking on Dark Space?”

“We’re walking on the regular deck.” Folie answered. “Dark Space is integrated with it, but takes up no space and disturbs no atoms. It’s like it’s not there, but it is. And it’s going to stay that way until it finds somewhere more interesting. So you could say that – counting the Automatic Pilot – right now we number five.”

“Hmmm,” Placebo replied – unconvinced. “Add another two and we’ll be magnificent.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-seven)

Folie replied with a yell of his own: “Don’t go anywhere, Kyboshed. Keep yelling: I’ll track your location using my perfectly attuned stereophonic ears.”

But as he broke into a run, he realised that it seemed to be raining and the walls appeared slimy…

…and that he was no longer standing upon the surface of a planet…

“Kyboshed,” he said as he looked at the strange shimmering, almost liquid, floor, “I’m biological: I can go mad. You’re not, so you can’t. Are you seeing a strange shimmering, almost liquid, floor?”

“I am.” The robot replied in a tone that didn’t attempt to hide its puzzlement. “It’s really wibbly-wobbly.”

Folie gulped. “Is that you playing fast and loose with the Earplug language; or is it a technical term?”

Kyboshed tried to look everywhere at the same time. “The latter.” He replied. “It’s a Scrotonite term for the inter-phasic medium between the mortal realm – that being the Universe with which we are familiar – and the realm of higher life-forms.”

“Oh,” Folie said – less than knowingly. Then a thought occurred: “What – like the Supreme Being and all those other God-like creatures that sometimes dicker with Earplugdom and have been known to put us on trial?”

Kyboshed was unfamiliar with the term Supreme Being, so he took a moment to consult his recently installed memory banks…

“No,” he answered, “it isn’t one of those weirdoes. They exist on the fringes of our reality – inaccessible and aloof: this wibbly-wobbly state is another thing altogether. These…beings…exist in another realm entirely. Not an alternate reality – but something beyond ours.”

Folie slid himself across a floor that looked slicker than it actually was…

“Is it accessible?” He inquired.

Again Kyboshed accessed his memory. “No.” He replied – before adding: “Well not using the technology of Scroton it isn’t.”

Folie had another thought…

“This is a Scroton-enhanced ship: but it’s not of Scroton. It was built by earplugs on the mirror-Earth. They were working on loads of tech that would save their world: maybe they have something that can connect…communicate…with the wibbly-wobbly realm.”

For the third time Kyboshed accessed his memory banks. “You know, you could be right there.” He said. “On deck Seven there’s a com-panel that doesn’t seem to do anything. Our engineers looked it over, but passed on it. They had so much other stuff to do they didn’t think it was important. Maybe that’s what it does. Maybe it’s a wibbly-wobblyphone!”

Folie would have replied with some intellectual quip, or merely scoffed; but a small electrical charge leapt from the liquid-like floor and zapped him right in the buttocks…

“Oooh,” he yelped, “that can’t be coincidence: you might be on to something.”

But before the conversation could proceed any further, a  bright light blazed through the floor…

“What does it mean?” Folie asked.

“You’re asking me?” Kyboshed replied. “I’m a servo-mechanism: I don’t make intuitive leaps. Well not big ones like this. Maybe it’s trying to tell you something that I’m not privy to. Pointing the way or something.”

As if on cue, the light expanded to reach out to Folie’s feet…

Startled, the young earplug threw his body against the opposite wall, but the opening in the liquid darkness merely shifted sides too. So Folie gathered his courage and looked into the light…

And what he saw could only have been the truth. They were aboard the Gravity Whelk. They had never left it. The planet was an illusion. The ship travelling at hyper-speed was also an illusion. When the darkness had fallen aboard the Gravity Whelk, it had stopped the vessel in an instant. And it was not alone…

“Crikey,” Folie said breathlessly, “we’re dead in space. And there’s another ship out there. It looks dead too.”

“Okay,” he spoke into the light, “I’ve seen enough: show’s over.”

In response the floor darkened again…

“It’s not looking good, Kyboshed.” Folie said as he looked up at the robot. “Do we have suspended animation equipment on board?”

Kyboshed might not have been skilled in the art of intuition, but he could see where Folie was coming from. “You reckon we’re here for keeps?” He inquired, despite the fact that he really didn’t want to hear the answer.

“That other ship was old.” Folie explained. “I mean seriously old. Old. Eons perhaps. I think our only hope is to go into suspended animation and hope that someone finds us and revives us.”

Folie then received the type of news that he least liked…

“Good plan.” Kyboshed congratulated him. “Very good in fact. If we had any suspended animation equipment aboard it might even have worked.”

This was like a body blow to the yellow earplug. “But…but.” He began. Then his shoulders slumped and he wandered away – only to find Placebo in a corridor that actually resembled a corridor. He’d heard everything…

“Do you have a Plan B?” He inquired.

Folie’s look was enough to deliver his answer. But then Placebo recalled a segment of the previous conversation…

“Hey,” he yelled, which started Folie, “what was it Kyboshed said about a dead com-panel on Deck Seven? A wibbly-wobblyphone?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-six)

Things felt even less right when Folie made the discovery that the Gravity Whelk had lost all motive power and was no longer moving. So, when the Automatic Pilot failed to respond to their plaintive cries, the youngsters quickly fled the bridge in search of Kyboshed…

“I don’t understand.” Placebo yelled in acute terror of the unknown. “Surely, at the speed we were travelling, momentum alone should be carrying us forward at hundreds of thousands of kilometres per second!”

Folie replied in the only way he knew. His teeth chattered uncontrollably, and he felt as bad as he looked. But then the deck shuddered and the familiar background sound of the main drive recommenced – which relieved the boys somewhat…

They were underway again…

…but at a reduced speed. So they rushed back to the bridge to ascertain some facts pertaining to what had just happened – via the Automatic Pilot…

“What do you mean,” the Automatic Pilot responded to their request for information, “we’ve been travelling along nicely at hyper-speed for hours. Nothing untoward is recorded in my internal log. Look at the screen: see for yourselves.”

“But…but…” Folie began. But then he remembered that it was useless to argue with a computer: they always knew best, even when they were completely wrong, badly programmed, ineptly-made, composed of second-rate components, and incredibly stupid. “Okay,” he said as he laid a hand upon Placebo’s arm to stay the inevitable cascade of words from the polystyrene blob’s massive maw, “have it your way. Placebo: come with me.”

Once out in one of the very colourful corridors…

…Folie said: “Don’t look now, but I think the ship has been taken over.”

Although Folie had said, “don’t look now”, Placebo couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder. “I don’t know about that,” he replied, “but the autopilot seems as confused as heck. We were travelling at looney speed, weren’t we? I mean, we’re not going mad, are we?”

Folie shook his head. “No, you’re right,” he replied, “We haven’t touched hyper-speed since we pressed the big ‘Go’ button. Either the autopilot really doesn’t remember anything…or it’s lying to us. Let’s go find Kyboshed.”

The mere mention of the Scrotonite robot’s name gave the duo hope and courage…

“Good idea.” Placebo said through a small smile. Look – even the lighting has improved: maybe things on are on the up.”

But when the interior airlock allowed them ingress to the next compartment…

…the lighting – and the floor – were anything but normal.

“Folie?” Placebo snapped.

But when Folie stepped forward to give his chum a comforting touch, he found himself somewhere else entirely…

“Ugh?” He groaned. “Where did this flat plain and those distant hills come from?”

Little did he suspect, but something similar had happened to Placebo…

Once over the initial surprise, the tubular packing piece tried to think logically: “That sun,” he said to himself, “is it rising or setting? Or does it matter? Of course it matters: if it’s rising I could get roasted by it: if it’s setting, I could freeze to death. Oh blast, I don’t like this at all.”

And, of course, neither of them could imagine that the same would happen to their Chief Engineer…

“Hey,” he cried as his mono-eye swept across the surrounding landscape, “my programming parameters never encompassed this scenario: I’m gonna have to come up with some original thought processes. Oooh!”

Moments later…

…Folie heard Kyboshed calling his name. As did Placebo…

“Come on, Guys, this is really scary,” Kyboshed’s voice echoed off the sandstone hills that surrounded them, “répondez vous s il vous plaît…

…I’ve got some high-tech lubricants inside my hydraulic system: you wouldn’t want me to discharge them uncontrollably through my hind vent, would you?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Revel in the Ribaldry 27

Once upon a time I knew which book was supposed to supply the next excerpt, but somewhere between R.i.t.R 1 and now I’ve managed to become completely flummoxed. My default position is to jump straight to this book…

…partly because it’s the best book in the world, and partly because it’s the best book that has ever been written by anyone, anywhere, at any time. So today I’m going eschew my fall-back position and go for this book…

…which isn’t any of those things I said about The Psychic Historian, but is entertaining, and without the prior existence of which the best book in the world would not have been written. And here is the random excerpt. Hope it’s good…

Although the elevator was slow, the anti-mould snail had kept it pristine. Consequently both hamsters felt not the slightest discomfort as it ascended at a moribund crawl. And when, eventually, the door slid open on reasonably well-oiled sliders, Tonks had managed to shed much of the muck and filth of the lower floors, and was able to lead Colin on to the ground floor with a certain amount of pride.

The first thing she did was prick up her furry ears, and listen intently. Satisfied by the silence she then took her sidearm in her good paw, and made off for the Sentinel Robot bay. As she did so she couldn’t help but notice that the CCTV camera panned around to follow her progress.

“I didn’t know that your security system worked.” She said to Colin.

“It works fine.” He replied. “It’s just that Boney can’t be arsed to use it. He prefers the Sentinel Robots.”

Tonks asked the obvious next question. “So why is he using it now?”

Colin had no idea, so he decided to be creative. “Perhaps he’s trying to look down the front of your uniform.” He suggested. Then as supportive evidence for this theory he added, “Your breasts do jiggle pleasantly. Not that I’m an expert or anything. I never was much of a letch. Or a letch of any kind, come to think about it.”

But Tonks wasn’t listening: Another shudder was in the process of passing through the building, and the lights dimmed momentarily.

Meanwhile, in the Security Office, the monitors were being shaken dramatically. Not because of the apparent earthquake that was in the process of giving Fanangy’s epiglottis a hernia due to excessive nervous gulping: But because the cameras that fed them had gone out of focus.

“Damnation from the Great Angler Herself.” Boney cursed as he thumped the ageing cathode ray tubes with frustration, “I could’a sworn I caught a glimpse of a nipple just then!”

“Probably a shadow.” Lionel attempted to quell his employer’s enthusiasm for the sergeant’s mammary glands, “Army regulation vests would never allow loose titties in a potential combat situation. They could block the view of a rifle sight. ”

Boney was forced to accede to Lionel’s almost-pure logic. “Yeah, I s’pose you’re right.” He grumbled.

Then the screens settled, and a clear view of the corridor returned. But of Tonks and Colin there was no sign.

“Try the Sentinel Robot bay.” Fanangy croaked, “It’s the next door along.”

Naturally Fanangy’s suggestion was the correct course of action. This was because of two quite disparate reasons – at least in Lionel’s eyes. The first was that she was utterly gorgeous, and therefore incapable of being in error upon any subject, whether corporeal or esoteric: And secondly because Tonks and Colin now found themselves staring with bewilderment at a Sentinel Robot bay completely bereft of Sentinel Robots. Instead, at the cavernous room’s centre, a device that simply defied description seemed to crouch like a defecating toad.

“It looks like an oddly mottled huge steel box with flashing lights all around it.” Tonks exclaimed breathlessly.

“And a vast array of cables reaching from it, and disappearing into all four walls, the ceiling, and the floor, in a manner most redolent of things most creepy and crawly.”  Colin added.

“What do you think it is?” Tonks inquired.

“Beats the shit out of me.” Colin replied helpfully.

Tonks asked another question. “Was it there when we departed for the Artefact Room?”

This time Colin’s response was a little more forthcoming with information. “No.” He said.

“And imagine the remarkable engineering skills required to have constructed this stupendous device in such a short time.” Tonks said admiringly.

Any further utterances were silenced before they could be properly composed. Once more the building shook, and a loud hum of harnessed energy filled the air.

“Yikes.” Tonks managed before a loud booming voice spoke…

“Who dares speak in the presence of The Overmind?”

Colin was quick to respond. “Oh, that’d be us. Sorry. Didn’t mean to offend or anything. The name’s Colin by the way. I’m an android.” He then indicated Tonks, who appeared to have entered the trance-like fugue that hamsters in general, and startled females in particular, enter at times of extreme stress. “Oh, and this, apparently inanimate, life-form is Sergeant Tonks. I don’t know if she has a first name; but she’s a hamster. I don’t know the Latin for her species: hamstery-hamsteritious, or something, I expect.”

“Cease this infernal noise!” The voice of the Overmind boomed.

Despite owning the best pair of electronic ears on the planet, Colin couldn’t be sure precisely where the sound was emanating from. He suspected that it might be the large device in the centre of the room. “Sorry.” He said quietly.

“Bring me your mobility.” The Overmind demanded.

Colin’s aim was to please at every opportunity: But this demand required too much of him. “You what?” He enquired eloquently.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2012

P.S I wonder if I’ll ever write another Hamster-Sapiens book. Do I still have the ability? Oh, I don’t know; there are so many books I’d like to write, but I simply can’t be arsed.