Tag Archives: space stories

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 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 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