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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