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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 twenty)

William of Porridge had little do throughout the storm, so he busied himself by sweeping up stray grains of Martian sand, carelessly dropped Terrestrial lollipop sticks, and hybrid spider poop. As it abated, and the air cleared, he noticed the ice sheet beyond the luggage store entrance…

“Whoo,” he said whilst inhaling through his teeth, “nasty out there. Gotta say, I wish they’d fitted an old-fashioned up-and-over door down here: if the power ever fails, and the force field drops, that weather will blow straight through here like a wind tunnel.”

Meanwhile, up on the hillside, Brighton Briezie had just woken up from her brief hibernation. Her mouth felt like sandpaper, so she allowed her tongue to loll in the cold, moist air…

But she was late. Her immediate boss – Clifton Wedge – had already clambered from his snow-den. Conrad Kickstart followed his lead. He wasn’t impressed by what he found…

But, ever practical, Clifton knew exactly what to do…

“Oh do stop looking sorry for yourself, Conrad. You too, Brighton. Here’s a perfect opportunity for us to get some shut-eye, and get paid for it at the same time. Now back inside your snow caves: we’ll pretend we never woke up. Let them find us: not the other way ’round.”

Further out, upon the plain, Budlea Budgin and Crevice McNally had been forced to evacuate their habitat…

“Next time we’re holed up in a storm,” she growled, “I’m serving you white bread and water.  Brussels Sprouts were a very bad idea indeed. It could take hours to vent that stench. And it’s bloody cold out here!”

Of course, with no reports arriving from his outlying habitats, Frisby decided to go look for himself. Initially he quite enjoyed trudging through the snow…

He particularly liked the way that it ‘scrunched’ under foot. Charles was less enamoured: his chef’s hat didn’t cover his ears. But, after a while, Frisby grew angry at the lack of replies to his hails – both shouted and via radio…

“I’m furious.” He told Charles. “When this is over, I’m going to be having words with certain people.”

He then told  Charles to remain with Tangerine and await his return…

“Couldn’t we wait inside?” Charles suggested to the servomechanism.

“That would be a negative, Charles De Glop.” Tangerine replied. “You have your orders: now stand ready to assist when required.”

Being  the heroic, pioneering kind that all terraformers must inherently be, Frisby battled onwards grimly towards a habitat…

But, when he called out a welcome to the inhabitants, he received a surprise…

Upon returning to the presence of Tangerine…

…he was still in a state of shock, and the robot from the future had to increase power to its mobility output nodes to catch him…

“They told me to go away.” A bedazzled Frisby explained. “Only not in those exact words. In all my years I’ve never heard the like of it…”

“My sympathies.” Tangerine commiserated. “Earplugs from my era are equally rude. You should hear what they used to call me. Or maybe you shouldn’t: you have a fragile psyche. It comes from years of living like a hermit. You really should get out more.”

Frisby agreed – if reluctantly. Then he decided a return to the museum would be good…

And whilst Tangerine returned to its regular duties…

…Frisby put a call through to Cushions Smethwyke – to apprise her of the desperate situation. As he did so, outside the museum, one of his engineers – his eyes darkened with fatigue – continued to search for lost colleagues and stupid customers who thought that the worst had passed and were now exploring the altered environment…

He wasn’t sure; the view was obscured slightly; but he thought he saw…

…Doubry Furkins and Jenson Prong as they attempted to use a theodolite to measure something near the Muffin’s ancient citadel. And, slightly farther on his tired eyes might have spotted a pink earplug, by the name of Tynan Ware, struggling through snow drifts beside the helmeted Gerhardt Snitzenfrudel…

Then he rationalised that it was probably a mirage and duly went inside for a strawberry jam doughnut and a welcome cup of cocoa.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part eighteen)

Mulleon Cleets had lost count of the number of hours he had been wandering through endless tunnels beneath the ground upon which the Future Museum of Mars had been built…

He’d assumed, wrongly, that there would have been one or two tunnels that led from the Martian City to the subterranean sea. One there: One back. It made perfect sense. But that was not how it was, and he began to seriously doubt Maverick Fossil-Hunter’s assertion that a sunken sea had ever existed. He was also very tired and hungry: now all he wanted was a way out – of the catacombs, or whatever they were: and of his deal with the dopey cork. But then his tired eyes detected a distant light…

“About bloody time.” He snarled angrily. “I’m down to my last bottle of iced tea: and that tasty fig-based nibble bar is just a distant memory. If it wasn’t for the lingering stench, I would have forgotten it completely.”

But it still took him another fifteen minutes to dig his way to freedom…

“What a load of rubbish…” he was grumbling to himself as he emerged into…”What’s this?” He cried in alarm. “A huge snow drift? How the heck did that get there?”

But when he emerged into the light fully…

…he realised that the drift was wind-blown, because the nearby plain had been scoured.

“Ooh,” he said – his anger dissipating like a fart in a colander, “what have I missed?”

Of course poor Maverick was beside himself with worry as he paced to and fro outside the wall of the snowed-in citadel…

Had he sent Mulleon to his death in some tragic pot-holing accident? Did the heroic little earplug have an emergency pack of toilet tissue if he got caught short and couldn’t locate an ancient Martian lavatory in time? He was wracked with unanswerable questions and self-loathing.

Nearby, just outside, Mulleon heard the plaintive calling of his name…

 

“Oh, there he is – the big dope.” Mulleon said. “I suppose I’d better put him out of his misery.

So, having traced the source of Maverick’s voice…

…Mulleon tore a verbal strip off its owner…

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re safe.” Maverick gushed – his sense of relief and bonhomie increasing tenfold with every passing second. “When we get back to Earth with the the proof of my theories, I’ll share half the profits of my first book on the subject with you. How does that sound?”

That sounded just great to Mulleon. He even smiled. But, unfortunately, he’d found no proof whatsoever. And until he’d had a huge meal, a bath, and a change of underwear, he had no intention of seeking that proof. Maverick’s offer would have to wait.

He said as much to Maverick.

“Of course,” the huge cork replied, “with this winter storm, all bets are off right now. But when the sun comes out again, we’ll give it another go.”

Looking around him, Mulleon doubted very much that the sun would come out again – ever. “Whatever.” He said.

Whilst Maverick had been seeking out Mulleon, the Ice World immigrants had used their Ice World Sky Scooters to find stragglers in the snow field. Now they were returning to the museum with them in the passenger seats…

Inside the museum complete nobodies studied the landscape for signs of other survivors through regular windows…

…whilst museum staff – such as Frisby, Tangerine, Lillie, and Charles – did the same by watching drone pictures on their big screen…

“That looks like a glacier.” A worried Frisby said as he squinted at the scene. “How far out is the drone that’s relaying this?”

Lillie consulted a pad. “About a half-hour.” She replied. “But if that’s right – that glacier must be on the move. That can’t be right.”

“Damn these mini-ice-ages.” Frisby groaned. “They’re so unpredictable. I’m going to eyeball it from the roof.”

So, a couple of minutes later…

“Oh cripes,” he stuttered in the bitter cold, “it is a glacier – and it’s headed this way!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Revel in the Ribaldry 1

When I published my early Hamster-Sapiens stories, they were always sub-titled Ribald Tales From a World Ruled by Hamsters. I don’t know why I dropped that description later, because it was (and remains) most apt. Interestingly (when I look back with the wisdom of hindsight) sales dipped from the moment I ceased to use it. So, here I am partially ressurrecting it in a number of extracts titled Revel in the Ribaldry. If they prove popular I may turn it into a glut. Afterall, the Hamster-Sapiens tales may be a few years old now; but that doesn’t make them any less…how shall I put it?…wonderful. How about fantastic? Okay, I’ll go with ‘entertaining’.

Since the original Horatio Horseblanket Chronicles books have been unavailable for several years, I’ll start proceedings with the book that is now considered Book One in the series, but which was written in the wake of the well-received aforementioned. It is this remarkable tome…

And here is the random extract…

If (just a few short weeks earlier) someone had suggested to Lionel that he would be leading the fight against an insane device that combined the organic remains of a squad of combat veteran hamsters, alien DNA, and several large (but essentially thick) robots, anyone who knew him would have scoffed: None more than Lionel himself: Lionel, after all, enjoyed making model armadillos, playing repetitive computer games, and watching inane daytime television. Indeed, until that rain-soaked day when his parents finally cried “enough”, and tossed him out of the family home, his idea of a good time was lying in bed with a sausage sandwich and a glass of aphid milk.

As things transpired, Lionel still hadn’t actually fashioned his ultimate plan to thwart the advancing menace that was The Overmind: But he’d formed the beginnings of an idea inside his fluffy little head that should, he hoped, free The Where House of its bio-electronic tyranny.

“So what shall we call this thing?” Lionel inquired as he held the artefact aloft for all to see. “It’s a bit dull to look at, isn’t it!” He added as he turned it over in his paws beneath a stuttering light in the lower latrine.

Indeed the artefact was a bit dull. In fact it was exceedingly dull. On a scale of visual languor it would have scored ten out of ten with consummate ease. So, as a consequence, not one single hamster present could summon up an idea for a suitable moniker.

All, that is, except Boney. “How about we call it ‘Arse Wipe’?” he half-suggested  – not thinking for one second that anyone would take him seriously.

Ten eyes – eight of them real: Two totally artificial, all swivelled to regard him. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw pity reflected in at least five of them.

“Well I mean,” He quickly realised that an explanation for his outrageous suggestion was required, “it’s gonna be about as useful as a bog roll in a hail storm when we confront The Overmind with it – aint it!”

Lionel continued to stare: ‘Could the ageing rodent be right?’ He thought to himself in that frozen moment, ‘Should this potential battle-winner be named ‘Arse Wipe’? If nothing else, it was original’.

“Oh, Boney,” Fanangy scolded, “How can you be so untrusting of Lionel’s abilities? Of course the Arse Wipe will be of more use than a bog roll in a hailstorm. Obviously Lionel’s plan is going to be ingenious: Success is certain. But Arse Wipe does have nice ring to it: I once had an Uncle named Arse Wipe – though of course he pronounced it Arssay Wippay. His wife was named Ringpiece. She had cruel parents. They were put to death for their crime – or so the legend goes.”

“So,” Colin felt duty-bound to step in and halt the pointless banter, “now that we’ve sorted that out – what are we going to do with it?”

Up until now Sergeant Tonks had remained quiet; and Major Hardcourt-Gymp appeared to be almost comatose with silence. But suddenly the Major’s aid spoke. She said, “Yeah – what are we going to do – like now? Emphasis on the now.”

This seemed to galvanise Gymp. “Indeed: Well put, Sergeant. We must cease this prevarication, and act. Hand me the Arse Wipe: I shall activate it once more; and we shall be about our business, which of course is my reinstatement as a sentient hamster that is fit to once again lead the Tadgerstone Rifles.”

“But you don’t know what to do with it.” Lionel whined as he realised that the situation was slipping from his tenuous control. Then a steeliness came over him, and he pulled the artefact to his puny chest, adding, “No – leave it alone: It’s mine.”

“Yes, that’s right, you big bully.” Fanangy instantly sided with her beloved Lionel, and snarled at the military officer in such a way that he blanched beneath his military-regulation facial fur, and began to wonder if being sentient was all it was cracked up to be.

“Will you lot stop all this yakking!” Boney roared as best he could with his age-clogged lungs, “All the time we’re stood about doin’ nothin’ – that thing upstairs is takin’ over more an’ more of my business.”

And of course he was right – and Lionel knew it. “Right then.” He said in his most authoritative voice, “To the elevator!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2012

Naturally the e-book version remains available at most e-book retailers. See the sidebar or ‘Pages’ beneath the header for the most popular ones.

P.S The sub-title of the original copy had a sub-title of it’s own. It was ‘Where All the Parts Are Private’. Why on Earth did I drop that? Because I’m creative; and creative people are allowed to be morons.

A Fanfare, Please, for ‘Fanfare for the Common Hamster’

Way back in the mists of time – that being 2007 – a certain Tooty Nolan wrote a divine magnum opus about a fat female hamster with the talent to pass through walls into alternative realities. Here is a brief extract…

Naturally Rootley, being small and nimble, soon found himself chosen to edge into the obsidian stench of the sewer outlet. As he did so he called out Joan’s name. He tried calling in various tones – from a surprisingly resonant bass, to a shrill soprano that hurt the awaiting Margarita’s ears and made Brother Alfonso’s nose bleed. But in response – save for the constant dripping of foetid water from the curved brick ceiling – all that Rootley’s sensitive ears could detect was silence. So, reaching out with both paws before him, Rootley plunged forward with the abandon normally associated with gay gerbils – and was immediately lost in echoes.

It was so cold inside Freezer Three that Joan’s brain had almost ceased to function. Fortunately she had found the wisdom to clamber inside a large empty cardboard box, thrust her paws between her thighs, and then insert her tail into her rectum before becoming semi-comatose. But even in this state her will to live supplied her ears with sufficient energy to listen for clues to salvation. First one pricked up, quickly followed by the other as Rootley’s muffled voice could be heard calling her name.

‘Hmmm’, she thought, ‘that resonant bass is quite pleasant: But I’m not sure about the soprano: It could shatter ice.’

Then her brain reactivated properly. This was no time for hibernation: Help was on its way.

Rootley was overjoyed to hear Joan calling his name. “This way, Joan,” he called, “Follow my voice.”

He then continued to utter similar inanities until suddenly Joan’s paw materialised from the wall before him. He didn’t see it of course; but in the heat of the moment he’d quite neglected to theorise the potentiality of irregularities within the topography of the different worlds. So naturally it was Rootley’s testicles that Joan’s flaying paw encountered first, and which solicited a yelp of such intensity that it startled her so badly that she lost her grip upon the icy floor inside Freezer Three, and tumbled back into the medieval land of Prannick – and the relative warmth of stale piss.

© Paul Trevor Nolan

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