© Mark Lloyd
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This is the third story in the Angela and Robert Bubble Series.
As this is part of an illustrated series of stories, I will supply some information that appears in the illustration but may not be clear in the story.
The setting is an apartment on the moon at some time in the not too distant future. The feel is a little retro with some futuristic exceptions.
Angela Bubble is an 8 year-old girl with red hair, freckles and a big broad mischievous smile. She looks up to her brother, Robert, but he annoys her sometimes because he is always trying to be the boss.
Robert Bubble is a 12 year-old boy with brown hair and a semi-permanent serious expression. He loves his baby sister but wishes she would listen to him more. His parents are frequently away so he has to look out for little sis – especially with Greta the Babysitter around…
Ernest Bubble, explorer, is a 75 year-old man with mad grey spiky hair and a beaten-up brown hunting hat. He is brave to the point of recklessness and he isn’t a very good explorer. He has been compared to Harrison Ford by himself.
Greta the Babysitter is amply described in the text and too scary and downright mean to warrant any further exposure here.
The Flesh-Eating Diplomat from Outer Space.
A story for kids and adults aged 6-9.
“Shhh!” said Robert, pointing his finger at Angela, who was playing a very loud game of family with her dolls.
“He’s about to speak,” Robert continued, fixing his gaze on the telly where a green alien in a blue suit was shuffling pieces of paper before a series of large metal microphones.
The news commentator appeared at the corner of the screen and began to speak in hushed tones.
“For those who haven’t been following this story, yesterday a fleet of seven thousand gigantic silver spaceships parked in Earth’s atmosphere and this morning one of the ships landed here, in New Orange. A diplomat appeared from the ship and has asked to speak to the people of Earth. Well, it looks like Heston, diplomat from the planet Zarqon, is about to speak. Heston’s suit and red tie are very smart and his blue hair looks very smart too. His warts don’t look too smart and some might say his green skin is a little sick-making but this reporter thinks that this stranger from outer space could be bringing great news for the people of Earth and The Moon…”
Heston straightened his tie and fiddled with his glasses. He coughed.
“People of Earth! I come in peace!” he called confidently into the microphones, smiling and waving one hand in the air. Cheers rang out from the crowd of thousands that had come to witness and to gawp.
“It is great to finally EAT you!” he continued. The crowd fell silent. Another alien in a blue suit shuffled up beside Heston and whispered into his ear. Heston coughed again.
“It is great to finally MEET you!” and he smirked slightly as the cheers rang again from the crowd.
“I don’t like the look of him,” said Angela.
“Shhh!” replied Robert.
Just then, a man in his seventies with wild and spiky grey hair and a brown hat rushed up and grabbed one of the microphones.
Robert’s jaw dropped. Angela’s doll dropped.
“Granddad!” they both shouted.
Ernest Bubble, explorer, wrestled with Heston as the green diplomat tried to take back the microphone. All the while a subtitle scrolled across the bottom of the telly – “Breaking News! Ernest Bubble, explorer, embarrasses Earth by assaulting friendly diplomat.”
“Gnurf!” exclaimed Ernest as he yanked the microphone from Heston’s webbed hands. The green diplomat made another attempt to get it back but Ernest bopped him on the head with it and Heston was forced to retreat.
“Breaking News! Ernest Bubble, explorer, bops friendly diplomat with microphone. Earth Governments ashamed.”
Ernest opened his mouth to speak but Heston rushed him and grabbing Ernest’s underpants, he pulled hard until the elastic tore off in his hand. Ernest’s eyes crossed and his face went purple.
“Breaking news! Wedgie war declared by friendly diplomat!”
“Gnurf!” whined Ernest, before bopping Heston on the head with the microphone again.
“Great zonking zarnballs. Will you quit it with the bopping!” cried Heston as he held his poor sore green warty head where a red bump was rising.
“Don’t trust ‘em!” Ernest shouted into the microphone. “They aren’t here in peace. They are here to eat us all. You hearing me – EAT US ALL!”
A group of blue-suited Zarqon diplomats shuffled out of the ship, down the ramp and surrounded Ernest. He fought bravely but there were too many of them and within a few moments they dragged him into the ship, kicking and roaring.
“They’ve got Granddad!” cried Angela.
“We’ve got to do something,” said Robert.
Just then, Heston, still holding his sore head, began to speak again.
“Ok! Ok! This isn’t going to plan. Yes it’s true we are going to eat you all…mostly in soup and sandwiches. Don’t worry though; you will be part of a giant four year-long banquet to celebrate the victory of Zarqon over the Wibble Galaxy. So, in a way, it is a kind of honour.”
“Breaking News. Diplomat not as friendly as first assumed. Earth to be devoured in galactic feast! Ernest Bubble, explorer, kidnapped, presumed eaten.”
The news commentator reappeared in the corner of the screen and spoke again in hushed tones.
“So there we have it folks. Our green friends from the planet Zarqon plan to take us in their large silver ships off to a distant corner of the universe and turn us into tasty sandwiches and nourishing soups. Well, this is one reporter who can honestly say that she tastes awful and would be mostly gristle and would most probably make our new rulers quite unwell and windy…”
Heston spoke again. “These ships you see above all your cities are giant transporters. So can you all gather together and make your way peacefully into these ships and we can avoid any bother or fuss…and we also have giant laser cannons so don’t try any funny stuff. ”
“Granddad is going to be SOUP!” cried Angela, hopping about the telly room in a panic.
“We have to get to New Orange and rescue him.” said Robert. “He needs us.”
“I’ll ring Mum and Dad,” said Angela, picking up the telephone.
“No time,” replied Robert, putting on his flight suit. “They’re at a marketing convention in the Orion Galaxy. By the time they get back the Zarqons would be sipping Granddad soup.
“What’ll we do about Greta?” asked Angela, putting on her flight suit.
“I’ll take care of her, you get to the Space Jet,” replied Robert.
Robert quietly entered the kitchen where Greta, the babysitter, was enjoying the company of a cup of tea, some doughnuts and a romantic book.
“Greta,” asked Robert, “do you mind if me and Angela take the space jet and go and rescue Granddad from a giant banquet?”
“Wha?” roared Greta, shaking her plump fist. “Why you little terror… I’ll lock you in a dark room if you don’t stop it with your lies.”
And Greta slammed down her book. “Giant banquet, indeed! Just as soon as I have finished this box of doughnuts I think I will lock you in that dark room. That'll teach you.”
“Yeah. Pretty much thought that’s what you would say." Robert reached into his pocket and pulled out a small white can with the words ‘Freezer Geezer’ written in gold on the label.
He pointed the can, closed his eyes and popped the lid. A white light shot and KA-JING! Greta was frozen solid, her mouth open and a doughnut just inches away from her blue lips. From top to toes she was glazed in a frost.
“Cool,” said Robert, who had borrowed the can from his Granddad’s room.
“What did Greta say?” asked Angela as Robert belted himself into the Space Jet.
“She was cool about it,” replied Robert, grinning, “really cool.”
From the launch bay of the moon apartment, Robert and Angela could see the thousands of silver dots above Earth that they knew must be the Zarqon ships.
“Which one is Granddad on?” Robert asked himself quietly, scanning the Earth through the windows of the Space Jet.
“Well he’s on the one in New Orange…so let’s go there.” said Angela.
Robert pressed the red button on the control panel twice and then the orange one.
The rockets fired up.
“Angie, programme in New Orange into the Sat Nav and let’s go!”
Robert pushed the last two buttons and pulled the launch lever. The Space Jet rocketed out of the launch bay and shot earthwards.
“ARRIVING NEW ORANGE TWENTY SECONDS!” announced the Sat Nav.
Back in the kitchen of their moon apartment a plump frozen babysitter was beginning to thaw.
Yellow is worst
Till land is seen
Then purple text’
Robert repeated the rhyme in his head that his Granddad had taught him to explain the sequence of buttons for landing the Space Jet.
He pressed the red button and the yellow button flashed once. He pressed the blue button and it lit up. The Space Jet shot between two gigantic silver Zarqon ships, bumping slightly off one, sending sparks out into the air.
“Steady!” said Robert as the city of New Orange grew beneath them from a speck to a mass of skyscrapers, streets, parks and factories.
Robert’s finger hovered over the green button as he awaited the purple text that would appear on the screen in front of him.
The yellow button flashed again.
Then, finally, just as the Jet was about to crash into the ground the purple text appeared - ‘Thank you for not pressing yellow. Press green now.”
Robert pressed down hard on the green button and the ship came to a sudden, jarring halt. The bottom hatch opened and the rope ladder descended.
Robert peeked out of the hatch and saw hundreds of blue hover-vans floating towards the giant silver Zarqon ship. The floating blue vans, which zipped up streets and across parks, were loaded with people of all ages who, it appeared to Robert, must have been given funny gas because they were all smiling and cheering, even though they were going to their doom.
“What are we going to do?” asked Angela, munching on a bar of chocolate.
“You can put that away for a start!” snapped Robert and Angela pocketed the remaining chocolate, sticking out her tongue at Robert.
“What’s a diplomat anyway?” asked Angela, sucking the melted chocolate off her fingers.
“He’s a sort of…well…he has to talk nicely to other people…that’s his job. He pretends like there isn’t a war and that everyone is friends.”
“So he’s a liar?” Angela said pointedly.
“Well yes…but a friendly liar,” Robert replied. Just then, Robert’s eyes opened wide as an idea was born.
“I have a plan, Angie - well half a plan. Here’s what we’ll do…”
And Robert told Angela the plan.
Robert rapped loudly on the door of the large silver Zarqon ship. There was no answer. He rapped again. Still no answer.
Angela pressed the button on the intercom and smiled cheekily at Robert.
“Yes. An intercom…I…err… didn’t see that.”
A small hatch opened in the door and a green head poked out.
“Yes? Diplomat Heston’s Ship, how may we help you?” said the green man in a squeaky voice.
“I’m Diplomat Robbo from The Moon. I would like to speak to Diplomat Heston.”
“Errm…you’re a bit small for a diplomat aren’t you?” replied the green man eying Robert and Angela suspiciously. “And who is that small creature beside you?”
“This is Queen Angela of the Moon.” Robert replied curtly, “and it is not very diplomatic of you of you to refer to her as a creature!”
“And as for the smart remark about our size…why there will be an intergalactic fuss made of this, I assure you.”
“Yes. Not very dipsomatic at all!” barked Queen Angela, folding her arms and putting on her best angry face.
“What is your name?” demanded Robert.
“Err...Plumpkak.” the green head replied, slightly confused by what might or might not be going on.
“Your Majesty,” said Robert, bowing before Angela, “please forgive this servant, Plumpkak. I’m sure Diplomat Heston, your dear friend, will see to it that he is put to death immediately.”
“I want it sooner than that!” Angela demanded, and she attempted to make her face appear even angrier.
“Much apologies, your most serene Majesty!” squeaked the green head in the hatch. “I’m opening the door now.”
With that, the door opened and Plumpkak bowed furiously as he waved in the Queen and the Diplomat. After closing the door he ushered them forwards.
“Heston is in his kitchen,” he squeaked, as he bowed again and scuttled in front of them. He made their path clear by pushing anyone who might cross it out of the way.
“Clear off! This is the Queen of the Moon and Dipsomat…Diplomat Robbo. Get out of the way!”
At the end of the corridor, which was, it seemed to Angela, far too windy, was a large door marked ‘Heston’s Kitchen – Keep out!’
Plumpkak coughed politely into his hand and knocked quietly on the door. There was no answer. He knocked again. The door opened just a smidge and two eyes peeped out.
“Plumpkak?” Heston blurted angrily. “What have I told you about interrupting me when I am working. I am a genius..Gah! You don’t understand perfection.”
“But Diplomat Heston, I have a very important group from The Moon – Queen Angela and Dipsomat…Diplomat Robbo. I thought this would be important enough to disturb your great work.” Plumpkak said, bowing furiously.
“That must really hurt your back after a while…all that bowing,” said Heston, distractedly.
“Oh you don’t know the pain…” groaned Plumpkak, still bowing furiously.
“Anyway – Queen who? Dipsomat…diplomat who?” barked Heston, eyeing up Robert and Angela.
“Why Diplomat Heston, don’t you remember?” said Angela, extending her hand out to be kissed, as is the way of Queens.
The hand hung there for a few seconds and Heston, still peeping out of a chink in the door, first eyed Robert, then Plumpkak and then the hand. He swung open the door, took off his chef hat and strode purposefully towards Angela. He bowed slightly, took her hand and kissed it – he was a Diplomat after all and that was his job.
“Why of course I remember, Queen Angela,” Heston said smarmily, still lightly holding Angela’s hand and guiding her into the Kitchen. “Wasn’t it at the Ambassador’s reception on Gurgle-Plinktish that we first met? Or was it at the wedding of Princess Uglibat and Prince Tikdunce on the blue moon of Squatt?”
“Err,” replied Angela nervously, “I think we met at both. I don’t know – there are so many parties these days. Difficult to keep track.”
“I know. I know,” repeated Heston, putting on his Chefs hat again.
“Well, what can I do for you today?” asked Heston, picking up a bowl and a spoon and gently folding and mixing the gloopy red mess inside.
Robert tugged at Angela’s sleeve.
Angela started to answer Heston – “I understand that - ” but she was interrupted by Robert tugging at her sleeve again.
“How rude!” said Heston, gesturing his spoon in Robert’s direction. “What Diplomatic University did this one go to?”
“I know. I know. We simply can’t get good Diplomats these days!” Angela chirped nervously.
“What!” she said in a loud whisper as Robert tugged on her sleeve again.
Robert pointed discreetly at a large door with a large window and the words ‘Giganta-Microwave 3000’ written on it.
Angela had a double-take. She couldn’t believe what she saw. Inside the gigantic microwave was Granddad, wearing just his brown hat, red boxer shorts and a pair of grey socks, held up by a garter.
Her jaw dropped.
Seeing her surprise, Heston put away his bowl and said “So what do you think?”
“What do I think?” blurted Angela. Granddad had rubbed away the fogging on the glass and he was now waving enthusiastically at Robert and Angela, pointing to Heston and making punching movements.
“Yes…The Giganta 3000. What a beauty. “
Robert tugged at Angela’s sleeve and whispered in her ear. “You distract him…I’ll free Granddad.”
As a reward he got a smack on the head with a sloppy spoon from Heston, who remarked – “Will you stop tugging at the Queen. You’ll give Diplomats a bad name.”
“Yes,” said Angela, smacking him on the face, “stop tugging at me!”
With a half smile, half apology she whispered “Sorry, have to keep in character.”
Then Angela turned to Heston and, putting her arm in his, asked - “What is that wonderful sauce you are working on?” Heston brightened up immediately, forgetting his anger at the rude Diplomat Robbo.
“Well! Let me show you. Can you keep a secret?”
“Yes” replied Angela, glancing over her shoulder to see what Robert was doing.
Robert was pulling as hard and as silently as he could on the handle of the microwave and his face was going purple from all the effort. But the door was not opening.
“Well I am making a sauce for the banquet to celebrate our victory over the Wibble Galaxy.”
“Really – you must tell me everything that’s it in it!” she asked, hoping to keep him occupied. She sneaked a quick peek at Robert who was now trying to prise open the microwave with a large metal spatula.
“Well!” beamed Heston, only delighted to talk about his mastery of ingredients, “I have taken whispers from the ghosts of Bandala, sautéed them in a mixture of fat from the Puss plant and puss from the Fat plant. To this I then add a Berrywongle’s jim-jombles which I have marinated in water drawn from the only know puddle on the desert planet of Zandpayper….not boring you, am I?”
“O dear no. Please continue.” And Angela looked at Robert who was now pulling again at the microwave door handle, his face more purple than ever. Granddad was smiling at him and encouraging him with two thumbs up.
“Excellent,” continued Heston, taking the bowl in his hands again. “I put all of this into a bowl and leave it in a room with pictures of galaxies on the wall and I leave it there for three weeks or until it has a sense of itself and then…then comes the absolute magic.”
“Oh do tell!” chimed Angela, peering around to see that Robert was both pulling at the handle and trying to prise open the door with a spatula at the same time.
Heston began to mix the ingredients slowly with the spoon.
“I…I…I tickle it!” pronounced Heston proudly.
“Huh?” said Angela
“I know. Marvellous isn’t it!” said Heston, almost singing. “No other chef is tickling their food. I’ll be celebrated in all the major food magazines. I may even get my own TV show. You see, tickling releases the sauce’s sense of humour. No more boring Diplomat Heston for me…It’ll be Celebrity Chef Heston from now on.”
“Here,” he said, extending out the spoon with red splodges of the sauce dripping off the end, “taste it…”
He looked nervously at her as she equally nervously took a lick of sauce off the spoon.
“That’s tomato sauce!” she exclaimed.
“No, no, no! I’m naming it Heston’s Humorous Hummus," he replied, more than a little confused.
“I mean that tastes just like tomato sauce – you know ketchup…red sauce? You put it on chips?”
“Chips?” he said sullenly, crestfallen. “You mean you’ve tasted something like this before?” He placed the bowl on the counter and smacked his own forehead with his green hand.
“Of course!” replied Angela.
“You mean I’ve wasted three years of my life making this…this…catsup and you tell me that it isn’t new! Boo hooo!” wailed Heston before walking over to the microwave, brushing Robert aside and programming it to cook Granddad for five minutes. He pressed a button; there was a ‘bip’ noise; a light came on and Granddad began to slowly spin around inside the microwave.
“Only a snack will comfort me now,” said Heston wearily, taking off his hat and apron.
“Here – try this,” said Angela, offering him the end of her bar of chocolate.
Heston took it, smelt it and then popped it whole into his mouth.
Inside the microwave, Granddad was hopping about on the hot rotating plate and his hat was smoking slightly. Robert moved to press another button to switch off the microwave but Heston, in one swift movement grabbed him by his suit and held him up in the air.
“Wait!” said Heston sternly as he moved the melting chocolate around his mouth. “What is this delicious food? It tastes like there is a party in my mouth and only the best-dressed are invited. Yummmmmm.”
“That’s chocolate,” said Angela, winking at Robert.
“Where can I get more of this choc-o-lat? I need it. I need it. I need it.” moaned Heston with pleasure.
“You can’t.” replied Angela curtly.
“What?Why?” blurted Heston, alarmed.
“Because you are cooking the only man alive who knows how to make it. You are cooking the great chef…err…Ernesto Chocolato.”
“Oh my! Oh my, my!” screamed Heston as he dropped Robert and slammed on one of the microwave buttons – the light went out, the plate stopped rotating and the door popped open. Out wobbled Granddad, quite tanned, with wisps of smoke coming from his hat and little spark-like flames on the hairs of his legs.
“Oh my! I am sooo sorry,” said Heston, making an effort to put out the mini-hair fires on Granddad’s legs with his apron.
Granddad shook his head to get the last bit of dizziness out and then put up his fists in a challenge to Heston.
“I’ll fight you. I’ll fight every last one of you!” he bellowed before swinging wildly and punching nothing but fresh air.
“Ernesto Chocolato!” snapped Angela winking at Granddad. “As Queen of the Moon I command you to put down your dukes – right now!”
“Whassatnow?” said Granddad, disarming his fists for a moment.
“I was just explaining to Chef Heston here (wink, wink) how you, Ernesto Chocolato are the inventor of chocolate and how you probably shouldn’t be cooked.”
Granddad stared blankly at Angela. Lost.
“Whassatnow?” he repeated.
Robert pulled Granddad aside for a moment, saying first to Heston – “A diplomatic matter, you understand. Let me talk in private to Grand…eh…Ernesto.”
Robert whispered rapidly into Granddad’s ear and at the end of the exchange Granddad tipped his nose with his finger and said “Gotcha Robbo!”
Ernest Bubble-Chocolato, explorer and chocolatier, then punched Heston square in the face, knocking him to the floor.
Robert grabbed his arm and whispered furiously into Granddad’s ear again. At the end of this exchange Granddad tipped his nose with his finger and said “No punching…gotcha Robbo.”
Robert helped Heston up and brushed down his blue suit.
“Very sorry, Diplomat, I mean Chef Heston. The punch to the face is an ancient greeting of wise chefs on our planet. It is meant as a compliment.”
“Well thank you berry buch,” said Heston, holding his nose and bowing to Granddad at the same time.
“Now,” said Granddad firmly, “I will need you to free my workers from your ships as I will need them to pick the…err… chocolate berries and the secret chocolate grubs and insects that I need to make more chocolate.”
“Yes, “ said Robert, “and you will, as a favour of the Queen receive seven bars of chocolate, which are each as expensive as the rarest diamonds to us, to bring to your grand banquet…you might even say that you made them yourself…”
“Yes…yes…I could say I made them myself. Hmmm…” said Heston, pacing the floor slowly, thinking about how he could use the chocolate to make himself incredibly rich and famous. “And could I have some of that Tomato Sauce too?”
“We could probably spare you two bottles at most,” said Angela sternly, like a Queen might say.
“Two whole bottles!” yippeed Heston. “I’ll be the belle of the ball. They’ll all want me to come to their parties now! Celebrity Chef Heston – the choc-o-lat and tomato sauce master”
“But promise me one thing.” said Robert seriously, “Promise me that you will never mix the two. Chocolate and Tomato Sauce, when mixed, will open up Heaven and Hell and destroy the Universe!”
Heston replied solemnly, with a tear in his eye, “I promise.”
Heston spun on his heels and began the work of returning Earth’s inhabitants to their homes with a definite spring in his step.
On the way to the command room he passed Plumpkak in the corridor and punched him solidly in the face. When Plumpkak complained he muttered – ‘It was a compliment, Plumpkak…gah…you wouldn’t understand.”
And so it came to pass that the inhabitants of Earth, who were still high on funny gas, were returned to their homes where after one or two weeks the effects of the funny gas wore off and there were a lot of people who then realised that they had, in fact, been returned to someone else’s home. After much kerfuffle and commotion, the population righted itself and Earth went back to normal; not knowing that it had been saved by two children, an explorer, some chocolate and a bottle or two of red sauce.
As for Granddad, Robert and Angela: well they returned to the moon where Granddad unfroze Greta and convinced her with a box of doughnuts to say nothing to Mr. and Mrs Bubble.
Ernest Bubble, explorer, then went to his lab and disappeared into his time machine…
But that is another story.