Distant Land (Part 14)

The Brian Talbot, the brain child of Wet World’s most revered scientists – Hideous and Perfidity Gout – hung motionless in space, with the Great Horse Dung Nebula as its back-drop…

Inside, Captain Cedric Mantequilla addressed the entire crew via ship-wide intercom…

“Space Sailors.” He began powerfully. “What you are about to see is a recording that was made by an alien species. As such I would like to warn you that you can’t always believe what your eyes and ears are telling you. Aliens are a sneaky bunch of bleeders – and you might find yourself being hypnotized. So take care. Take nothing for granted. And if you feel that you’d like to look away, or perhaps visit the toilet; do so without an iota of shame.” He then retook his chair and said: “Okay; roll it.”

At first only a pleasant vista of interstellar space greeted the expectant gaze of the Brian Talbot’s crew. Naturally Folie and Placebo rushed forward for a better view.

“Forgive me if I’m wrong,” Placebo whispered to his chum, “but that doesn’t look like this region of space.”

Folie would have replied, but his thought processes were interrupted by the sudden appearance of two earplugs, both of which looked decidedly chilly…

“Welcome Space Travelers.” The foremost earplug said in a language everyone could understand. “My name is Beaufort Skale. This is my brother, Richter.”

By the time that Beaufort Skale had drawn breath for his next sentence, Folie and Placebo had sought refuge behind the captain’s chair…

“Freeze-frame!” Cedric yelled. And when the video paused, he added: “How the heck did that happen? How is it possible for an alien earplug, from half-way across the Galaxy, to speak Earplug English?” He then answered himself: “I’ll answer that myself: obviously we’ve all been hypnotized.”

Everyone looked at the stilled scene upon the main viewer…

“I don’t feel particularly hypnotized.” Grenville offered.

“Me neither.” His brother, Speltham, added.

“I’m definitely not feeling hypnotized.” Hubert Boils informed everyone. “It’s not in my DNA. I’m naturally immune.”

“Weren’t we all immunized before we left Wet World?” Hooper Hellstrom reminded the captain. “Just in case we encountered alien life-forms with huge mental powers?”

Cedric made a snap decision: “Run VT.” He said.

Moments later Beaufort Skale’s commentary continued: “We are scientists who live and work in a wonderful institution called the Museum of Future Technology”….

“Freeze-frame!” Cedric yelled again – only more shrilly…

“What the flipping heck is happening here?” He continued at extreme volume. “Is this some sort of convoluted joke – designed to make me look completely gaga? If so, it aint gonna work!”

Whilst the bridge crew looked over their collective shoulder, Folie took the time to peer into his captain’s eyes. “Yup.” He whispered to Placebo. “Definitely Space Paranoia.”

“Maybe.” Placebo replied. “But that doesn’t explain what we’re seeing on this video. That can’t be our museum: it’s thousands of light-years away. Or maybe we’re all completely gaga!”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

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Distant Land (Part 13)

It was while later. No one was quite sure how long because they had all been far too busy examining the alien artefact that Cedric had brought aboard to notice. Eventually though, the Brian Talbot’s captain heard the sound he most feared: the buzz of his Ready Room door bell…

“Shoot.” He yelped. Then, gathering his courage, he added: “Enter.”

To his surprise it wasn’t Bruce Burpsby who led in the delegation of scientists; but Folie and Placebo. He stood up from his comfy chair to greet them.

“We’ve discovered a message.” Folie informed him…

“Yes.” A smiling Placebo added. “It’s a video message. We’ve formatted the signal so that it’s compatible with our computer.”

“Golly, that’s quick thinking. What does it say?” Cedric squeaked. “I hope there wasn’t a computer virus embedded inside it. It could play havoc with the ship’s systems. Imagine Waste Management failing horribly: it doesn’t bear thinking about. Does it mention alien invasion, by any chance?”

The look in Cedric’s eyes told the youngsters all they needed to know: their captain was suffering from Space Paranoia. Placebo sought to placate Cedric. “No, not at all. It’s just a cheerful ‘hello’ to passing space travellers.”

Outside the Ready Room, the bridge crew stood and listened…

“That lad sure can lie with the best of ’em.” Hooper Hellstrom whispered to the doubtful-looking Hubert Boils. “They’ve not had nearly enough time to check out that video: there could poop slopping about in the bilges as we speak.”

Meanwhile, inside the Ready Room…

“Excellent.” Cedric responded after several second’s thought. “Let’s get to the bridge: I’d like to see it for myself…

So, as they headed for the Exit and Placebo spotted the cheerful faces of the waiting bridge crew…

…he wondered if it might not have been better if he’d told the truth, which was that he didn’t have the first idea what the message said.

“Who knows,” he said under his breath and sniffed the air tentatively, “this could be the precursor of our utter destruction.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 12)

As quick as a flash, the Brian Talbot glowed crimson beneath the Red Alert warning lights and energized defensive shields…

“Don’t panic, Captain.” Cedric Mantequilla heard Bruce Burpsby’s voice yell over the intercom. “It’s some sort of radio beacon. The flashing light is just a navigation aid. We believe that its completely harmless. It could be a call for help.”

Cedric, feeling decidedly foolish, cancelled the Red Alert; then called Grenville Hill to his side…

“Next time I over-react,” he whispered, “would you be so kind as to smack me in the mouth before I get us into serious trouble?” He then instructed the Helmsplug – Grenville’s brother, Speltham Hill – to manoeuvre the ship sufficiently so as to adopt a less confrontational posture…

“Okay, Bruce.” He finally addressed the Chief Astro-Navigator. “What’s the plan of action?”

The passage of a mere five minutes saw Folie, Grenville, Bruce, and the Astro-Navigators surrounding a dais in the Loading Bay…

“Let me get this right.” Placebo’s voice echoed around the Loading Bay as he joined them. “Instead of dragging that alien device in here with grappling hooks; you’re going to de-materialize it; then re-materialize it on this dais?”

He paused his inquiry when a strange glow began to…um…glow in the centre of the dais.

“Ooh.” He added. “Is this entirely safe? Um, how many times have you actually done this before?”

But no one felt any desire to answer him. This was because a sudden burst of brilliant blue light drew all of their attention…

And a moment later…

…everyone present were tossed to the floor by the violent displacement of air caused by the arrival of their mysterious target.

“Wow, would you look at that!” Placebo exclaimed as more personnel rushed forward to get a look-see. “It actually worked!”

“It sure did.” Grenville replied. “So let’s get to work: we need to find out what this gizmo does.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

Distant Land (part 11)

Left to their own devices, Folie and Placebo struggled to find the ‘On’ switch. In fact they failed miserably to find the ‘On’ switch for fully fifteen minutes. Folie quickly realised that he had to ‘bite the bullet’ and go ask Grenville for help. But just as he roused the red-eyed crewplug…

…Placebo’s knee caught on an unnoticed protrusion, bringing the Radio Anomalyser to life. More significantly it took a mere nanosecond for the remarkable machine to detect a radio anomaly.

“Deep-Space Distress Call, I think.” He announced. “Coming from somewhere off the port bow.”

Still groggy from his period of somnolence, Grenville staggered to his feet. “Ugh, right; let’s get down to Astro-Navigation.” He grunted, as the exit door rolled open…

But when they arrived at their destination, the threesome discovered it empty of life…

“Darn it.” Grenville cursed softly. “It’s tea-break. We’ll have to wait.”

Fortunately for all concerned, the wait was brief. Soon a bunch of orange Astro-navigators appeared from their tiny canteen with en suite lavatory…

“We need you to trace a mysterious radio distress beacon.” Grenville answered their friendly inquiry.

“How soon?” The Chief Astro-navigator, Bruce Burpsby asked. “It’s just that Cedric has us running options on several destinations right now – and we’re a little short in the personnel department.”

“Straight away.” Placebo answered. “I think Captain Mantequilla would really like to see this.”

“Yeah.” Folie said,  rather belligerently – or so thought Placebo. “He told us to look out for stuff like this.”

” It’s A1 priority.” Grenville lied.

“Somewhere off the port bow.” Placebo added helpfully.

“A1 you say.” Bruce said as he ruminated. “Let’s take a look out of the window.”

So they did…

“Hmmm.” Bruce…er…hummed. “Can’t say I’ve ever seen one of those before.”

But Bruce and Company weren’t the only spectators of the radio anomaly…

“Weird stuff off the port bow, Captain.” Bridge Officer Cams Layne reported.

At that same instant, but several decks below…

“It’s winking at us.” Bruce yelled with unnecessary loudness. “Something like this will have Cedric pooping in his pants – at least metaphorically!”

Also at the exact same moment…

“It’s an alien Death Machine!” Captain Mantequilla bellowed in sudden alarm. “It must be! Red alert. Raise defensive screens. Arm all weapons. Now!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 10)

A while later the newest recruits were allowed to visit their quarters, where they decided to rest and recover from their frosty exertions. Turning away from the window…

…they retired to bed; and so missed the Brian Talbot’s meeting with a comet…

Unaware that comets possess only a micro-gravity field, the inexperienced crew attempted to land upon it…

But, of course, the thrust of the ship’s landing engines only pushed the comet aside. Naturally tempers were lost and some well-aimed proton torpedoes were fired at the comet…

Equally naturally, the insubstantial nature of the spacial anomaly allowed the incandescent balls of energy to pass straight through it unharmed, which really cheesed-off the Captain. So before long…

…everyone got fed up and duly departed.

The ship was well on its way when Folie and Placebo were roused from their slumbers and assigned a task in the Science Lab. Crewplug, Grenville Hill, introduced them to their equipment…

“This is a Radio Anomalyser.” He informed them. “It finds stray radio waves that are anomalous; then it highlights them. Your task – to use a metaphor – is to filter the grain from the chaff. Find something interesting – and Captain Mantequilla promises we’ll investigate it.”

“Sounds good.” Folie replied. “What are you going to do?”

“Me?” Grenville replied. “I’m gonna sit my butt down on that comfy chair over there and catch some shut-eye.”

No one felt compelled to argue, so, whilst Placebo and Folie got to grips with the unfamiliar equipment, he did just that…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019