Distant Land (part 34)

Shortly Princess Cake returned to the royal chambers…

…where she returned to her fretting…

…about all of her surviving subjects who were out in the cold of the resulting nuclear winter. She even felt a smidgen of pity for the four scientists that had caused the disaster, and who now helped the search teams in their quest to bring those survivors into the bosom of the museum…

“You gits.” One particular survivor shouted at them from the deck of passing hover truck. “You’re lucky this truck is moving: if it wasn’t, I’d leap from this deck and give you all a good kick up the arse!”

Knowledge of this made Princess Cake almost wistful…

“Why, I do wish I’d thought of that: I’d have loved to kick Whoops Brannigan up the arse.”

Meanwhile, the loud-mouthed (but essentially harmless) survivor’s twin brother arrived from the opposite direction aboard another hover truck…

But he was too traumatized to say anything. Instead he avoided eye contact completely.

“Whoo, lucky.” Frutilda whispered to Dido. “I was certain that one was going to kick us up the arse really hard.”

Despite her eagerness to conjure up a brilliant plan to save the population, Princess Cake seemed singularly incapable. This concerned her…

“Honestly.” She complained to herself. “What kind of nominal ruler are you? Surely it can’t be that difficult to save the world!”

Meanwhile, out in the cold, word got around…

“Really, I think its lamentable.” Whoops said to Dennis. “That female is getting ideas above her station. If anyone is going to think up a brilliant alternative to a slow dissolution into extinction, it should be us.”

And Dido said to Frutilda: “I don’t know so much: maybe a good kick up the arse would give us just the impetus we need to activate our genius genes. Tell you what: I’ll kick you first: then you kick me.”

Naturally Princess Cake had secret microphones everywhere; and when she heard this, she felt confident that, perhaps, the day might yet be saved…

“They’ll think of something.” She said with a relieved sigh. “I’m sure they will.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

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Distant Land (part 33)

Meanwhile the nominal ruler of the museum, Princess Cake of Potwell, had fretted her way to the lower skateboard park…

As she did so, above her current location, upon the surface…

…Frutilda was amused by Whoops’ self-destructive behaviour and mocked his frozen assets.

“Come on Whoops.” She finished. “Pull yourself together. Let’s find a way to put this situation at least half-way right. You and I together. This is no time for feeling guilty: let’s do the right thing.”

Below, Princess Cake’s thoughts followed a similar furrow…

“Those useless stupid butt-wipes.” She grumbled as she stepped into the glow of the emergency lighting. “I’m going to pull royal rank and make a few suggestions to that quartet of risk-taking, scum-bag scientists.”

She found a shivering Dido Warblington standing at the entrance, which now closely resembled an ice cave…

“What is the temperature outside, Warblington, you deviant slob?” She inquired.

Like Whoops, Dido was feeling great guilt concerning the civilization-ending balls-up that he and the others had perpetrated. “Dunno.” He replied morosely. “Why don’t you go check for yourself?”

Princess Cake, had there been any guards present, would have had Dido arrested for impertinence; but since they were alone, she decided to act upon the scientist’s suggestion…

“Flaming heck!” She exclaimed regally. “It aint half bloody chilly out here!”

A fall of ice crystals from one of the museum’s many towers then made up her mind for her, and she re-entered the skate board park…

“Right then, Warblington.” She growled majestically. “You’re gonna get those other three scum-suckers together and figure out how to save the survivors – on a permanent basis. Me, I’m gonna start acting like a proper queen. I’m gonna go for a walk and try to come up with some ideas of my own. So get your arse into gear!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 31)

And he was very nearly right, because the parched land soon gave way to scorched desert. But fortunately, for the gallant foursome, their route took them to an outlying public lavatory that, by a freak of geography, had been protected by the blast of the energy spill from the alternative universe…

“Hoorah.” Dido cried out in relief and joy. “I’m an expert on public lavatories. This model has a reserve water tank in the roof space: we can have a wee, wash our hands, and have a drink – almost simultaneously!”

“Excellent.” Whoops replied. “The mere presence of this ingenious working class bog proves that we’re on the right track. The Museum of Future Technology believed in spreading futuristic toilets far beyond its borders, you know – as part of a public service. This can only be one of those; I can feel it in my bowels.”

“Great.” Frutilda grunted. “But will the toilets flush?”

“Who cares?” Dennis answered. “I’m desperate: let’s go!”

So, two minutes later…

“That was disgusting.” Dennis complained. “The heat evaporated all the water. I had to wash my hands in sludge!”

But Frutilda was made of sterner stuff. “Come on boys.” She said as she departed the lavatory. “Get over it. The museum’s this way, by the way: I can almost smell its vaulted towers above the stench of that vile toilet.”

And she was right too…

…because soon an artificial walkway replaced the desert. Relief quickly joined to joy when they realized that the museum pathway illumination system was still active…

“Oh goody.” Frutilda said, as the pedestrian guidance system glowed invitingly. “The museum has power. Hopefully the security system will recognize our passes.”

Dennis wasn’t quite so optimistic…

 

“What if someone bolted the door before going to bed last night?” He argued. “We’ll never get inside!”

But his pessimism was unwarranted: the designers of the building from the future had…er…designed it well, and built it even better. Soon Dennis stood at a peephole…

 

…and snatched his final glimpse of the barren, burning land that lay beyond the museum’s limits…

and felt unadulterated gratitude to his mother, who had insisted he give up his job at the sewage works, and go to university.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 30)

But those ungrateful, mealy-mouthed gits were mistaken. Because, out on the plain, Whoops’ portable force field finally dropped – exposing the scientists to the glaring light of the sun for the first time in three days. And they were gasping for a drink and the use of a toilet too…

Checking their location, they quickly set out in, what they hoped was, the direction of the museum…

As they proceeded, their eyes adjusted to the brilliant light. Step by laboured step, the world seemed to grow darker…

“Right.” Whoops said through cracked lips. “Let’s try to figure what happened, shall we?”

“The world ended?” Dennis suggested.

“Don’t be facetious.” Whoops snapped. “I know the world ended. Or at least this part of it. We need to understand why.”

“I would have thought that was obvious.” Frutilda spoke through a stiff breeze that chilled them all uncomfortably. “A huge burst of heat and energy erupted from the alternate dimension through the wormhole and seared our planet’s surface. Putting two and two together, I’d say that when we checked out the alternate reality, our probes missed something really important.”

“Based on what little evidence is available, what would you estimate that to be?” Whoops inquired.

Well Frutilda began to explain that she believed that the huge electrical energy content in the other world’s atmosphere had been created by an interaction between clouds formed from excessive evaporation caused by the heat of the planet’s primary star ending it’s life by expanding in size and boiling the planets that orbited it, when suddenly…

…Whoops sank through the crust. “Argh!” He cried. But no one…

…felt particularly inclined to risk falling through themselves.

“Sorry, Whoops.” Dido said. “You’ll have to stop being a big Nancy, and pull yourself out.”

Actually Whoops was in no hurry to extract himself from the hole, because it still held the residual warmth of the cataclysm. It also allowed him to go to wee without anyone noticing.

“Now all I need,” he sub-vocalized to himself, “is a nice cup of tea, and everything will be tickety-boo.” Then he pulled himself free, and duly set out upon firmer ground…

…which was quite nerve wracking because it vaguely resembled a low altitude form of Precipitous Ledge Walking, which had always been popular with the inhabitants of the museum who were zombies or those who enjoyed a lower intellect…

…but to scientists, and the smarter earplugs of the museum at least, was a complete anathema.

“Yuk.” Frutilda spat…

…”this is ghastly.”

But it soon became considerably more ghastly…

…as a fog bank rolled in.

“Stick out your tongue and lick the air.” Dido suggested. “This might be the last moisture that we ever encounter.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 28)

Shortly, though, they arrived at the second massive device…

“Aesthetically, I think this one has the edge over the first.” Dido opined without invitation…

“They’re supposed to be identical.” Frutilda informed her associate.

“They have to be identical.” Whoops, suddenly concerned, yelped. “If they’re not identical, they won’t work the same way. It could prove disastrous.”

Dennis, his earlier worries dissipated by recent familiarity with the Quantum Bridge, said: “Cool it, man: it’s the surroundings that are different. No need to go pooping in your pants.”

Frutilda wasn’t convinced. “Maybe.” She said. “But shouldn’t we do a metallurgical and radio-active analysis before proceeding? After all, if there is variance, it could have untold effects upon the project.”

“True.” Dido agreed, whilst Dennis eyed the contraption with suspicion.

“The Wim-wom valve might get wonky too.” The latter suggested.

As Chief Scientist it fell to Whoops Brannigan to make the final decision…

So, whilst the others discussed the Quantum Bridge, he cast an appraising eye over his work. As he did so, Dennis had a question: “So this system only works if all three bridges are active, right?”

“Of course not.” Whoops replied. “We always build in triple redundancy to our devices. If one fails, the other two take up the resultant slack. In the unlikely event of two failing, we still get our power from the other quantum dimension. It’s common sense. Okay, the scan tells me everything is fine: I’m happy with this: I’ve activated its timer: let’s go.”

But as they set off for the third and final Quantum Bridge, Dennis threw a wobbly…

“Wait a minute, for flip’s sake.” He yelled loudly, which shocked the others because he was usually such a placid fellow. “I know the world is desperate for energy and all that: but aren’t we being a little complacent here? I mean, I know we’ve checked out the other quantum reality and found that its atmosphere is massively charged with electricity that’s just gagging to be harnessed; and its uninhabited so no one will get hurt if we steal all the power; but why is it charged? What’s the mechanism that makes all that energy? Tell me that!”

Fortunately for Dido’s and Frutilda’s ears, Whoops told Dennis to ‘shut his big fat gob’ or he’d be ‘fired’. So Dennis, aware that government scientists were usually second-rate and probably couldn’t get a job in the private sector, did as he was instructed. “Okay.” He said meekly.

But it wasn’t very much longer, after they’d gained the wasteland once more, that a brilliant blue light lit up the sky behind them…

 

This event surprised the scientists. But surprise turned to amazement when Whoops’ portable force field generator activated…

…and the ground shook so badly that not one member of the quartet could see properly. Then, as the apparent earthquake calmed…

…Whoops said: “What the heck is going on out there? What’s keeping the force field raised? Ooh, I can almost feel the heat coming through.”

Blinded behind the impregnable energy shield, the scientists were unaware that a fissure in the Quantum Veil had opened and the sky now blossomed red and angry…

And a split second later the atmosphere erupted in flame…

`© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 27)

Well, the Video Tape Operator was as good as his title suggested, and before an impatient Cedric could snap testily at his ineptitude, the video message resumed…

So, as the Gravity Whelk drifted across the ocean of eternity, the Skail Brothers received the update from home they so sorely needed…

And the tale it told horrified them. Two years had passed upon their home world. Two years without news from their expedition had led them down dangerous avenues of thought. In a world almost bereft of energy, and facing ecological and financial ruination, desperation made the scientific elite consider working upon technologies they didn’t fully understand…

“Run this by me just one more time, will you.” A somewhat befuddled Dennis Tawdry complained. “This machine does what exactly?”

“It forms a quantum bridge between our reality and another.” Dido Warblington explained.

“Yes.” Whoops Brannigan took up the subject with rare gusto. “It’s absolutely marvellous. If all goes to plan – which it will – we’ll set up this chain of quantum bridges; they in turn will link with each other on the other side of the quantum veil, and we should be able to draw matter and energy through the resulting wormholes.”

Dennis nodded at this. “That’s what I thought it did.” He said. “But it worries me: how do we know what’s on the other side of the…what did you call it?”

“The Quantum Veil.” Frutilda Spelt answered. “It’s a lovely name: I wish I’d thought of it. You’re very creative, Whoops: have you ever considered becoming a poet?”

Naturally, being a scientist…

…Whoops scoffed at the notion. “Will someone switch this thing on: our world is crying out for fuel and energy: we need to be on our way to the next site.”

Well, naturally someone – in this case the doubtful Dennis Tawdry – did as he was asked, and soon they found themselves struggling across some recently formed wasteland…

“If I’d known that doing scientific work involved so much strenuous work,” Dido complained, “I’d have become a cashier at my local supermarket instead!” 

“No you wouldn’t.” Frutilda replied. “I was one. Believe me; you really don’t know the meaning of strenuous work.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Polystyrene: A Fiction Author’s Best Friend

Now I expect you’re thinking, “How the heck can polystyrene possibly aid a tapper of keypads? I mean, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it?” Well if the author’s name is Wilbur Smith, Arthur C Clark, Catherine Cookson, or the like, then your doubts would have substance. But when that author is me, it’s a whole different ball game. After all, aren’t I the creator of…

…the Earplug Adventures? Yes, I am; and I’m telling you that the whole affair would have been a whole lot more difficult to produce without the aid of this…

Polystyrene. It may be deeply non-ecological, but look what I did with this particular lump of packaging…

That’s right, it became a monastery…

On the top of a mountain no less…

Other bits invited the application of paint…

The result on this particular occasion looked slightly like…

The wonderous product can produce convincing buildings such as this…

 

And this…

Day or night…

It’s especially wonderful for distant buildings…

Or unusually decorative interiors…

It also makes fabulous corridors, down which earplugs can either meander or rush…

It’s not bad for creating distant hills either…

Guess what scene this created…

Yes, it’s the Museum of Future Technology’s busy Transfer Conduit Terminal…

But (if you’re a regular reader) you will have probably noticed that polystyrene’s most prolific usage…

…comes in the creation of Star Ship bridges…

How often have I used these circular (ceiling fan) packaging pieces to tell daring tales of all sorts of earplugs…

…as they dash about the Galaxy, doing stuff…

…and often almost shitting themselves…

Lots of times; that’s how many.

So there you have it. If you’re anything like me, your greatest literary aid is the garbage that other people throw away. And why not? It’s called recycling. Very eco- friendly.

©Paul Trevor Nolan

Next time I’ll bring you examples of another great chum of mine: discarded cardboard. A marvelous material. I’d be stuffed without it.