Welcome To

Martian Social Club

Ron

Mildly Obsessional Cuddly Cultsters
Martian Social Club bring their wildly ecclectic blend of psychedelic prog-funk to Earth from Mars with the express intention
of fomenting World peace

A band founded on the pretext that Mars will be inhabited by humans in the near future, and that they will need entertainment of some kind...disillusioned and bored with what Earth has to offer we are looking to the cosmos for succor.

There now follows a short history of how and why the very first social club on Mars was founded

Young Master Arblaster stood on the mezzanine of the huge foyer and with weary insouciance examined the framed photographs that adorned the wall before him. He was in the corporate headquarters of Arblaster Inc., a multi-million dollar egg pickling business based on Mars. Above him hung the vast starred firmament visible through a huge domed glass ceiling. Inter- planetary freighters could be seen circling in slow procession like pregnant metal vultures as they prepared to land and unload their cargo.

This was the frontier of a new booming extra-terrestrial enterprise zone, a teeming metropolis pullulating with industry of all kinds and populated by Earth's motley overspill. Movers, shakers, prospectors, chancers and settlers looking for new opportunities on this wind blasted outpost.

The young man continued examining the series of portraits. He was fresh from Earth having finished his studies at an elite public school and was now ready to be groomed to take over the family business. He was seventeen years old, stick thin and rather alarmingly bald for a lad of his age. It was as though he had segued into middle age straight from adolescence.

He pointed at one of the pictures and turned to the gaunt figure beside him, the company factotum, charged with the responsibility of acclimatising his young charge to the corporate milieu.

“My Grandfather” he uttered with a weak smile. The face that stared back out at him could have been a reflection. The same expansive forehead, receding chin and anaemic complexion, traits synonymous with the Arblaster gene pool were in evidence, the only difference being that the face in the portrait sported a hirsute upper lip, a grey flecked moustache that, on close inspection, housed the spittle infused detritus of a hastily eaten meal of pickled eggs. The young man's eyes moved to the next portrait, that of an equally unprepossessing woman standing behind a club room bar.

“And Grandmother”, he drawled, barely able to feign interest in his antecedents. His eyes widened when they fell on the next picture.

“What or who is that?” he exclaimed. He was looking at an image of a small but fierce looking red bird, hovering in mid-air in front of what looked like some kind of club house. It was clearly taken on the Martian surface many years ago, but he didn’t recognise the edifice and was certainly baffled as to why a picture of a small bird would be in the hallowed company of his grandparents, the founders of the largest pickling emporium in the solar system.

“I take it young master you are not familiar with the story of how your forbears managed to survive the rigours of this unforgiving planet all those years ago”

The young man shook his head, looking blankly back.

“Then I will tell you about the Day of the Finch”.

 

Private enterprise had taken root in the Martian soil. In anticipation of a huge influx of migrant workers from Earth , Mr. And Mrs.H.Arblaster had invested their life savings on a one way ticket to Mars with the aim of establishing a social club to get ahead of the competition. Stocked with a peculiar array of victuals and ales, they hoped to offer the miners and engineers a nightly refuge from the wind blasted horror of industrial mineral extraction on the unforgiving Martian surface.

They had made sure that their provisions offered a taste of old Earth to the incoming artisans:

Hundreds of jars of pickled eggs, and cans of jellied eels lined the walls whilst a huge tank of live Gudgeon enabled fresh coarse fish delicacies to be available at all times. With this sophisticated cuisine the Arblasters’ planned to satisfy the rapacious hunger of the Martian workforce.

However, financial and technical problems dogged the efforts of the mining corporations to dispatch a workforce to the Red Planet. Weeks, months, and eventually years passed by and the Arblasters' patiently waited, gradually denuding their stock of vinegar steeped eggs and aspic encased eels whilst tending to the needs of the Gudgeon. Nightly they stared blankly at the empty club stage, munching glumly on pickled provender, trying to imagine what things would be like when everybody arrived. At night, they would lie in their bunks lulled to sleep by the howling Martian wind, and dream of their Martian Social Club.

This dismal existence was punctuated only by the Arblasters’ developing relationship with the Gudgeon that stared up at them balefully from the depths of their tank. They had noticed one Gudgeon in particular was growing at an alarming rate and had begun to dominate the others. They speculated that the Martian environment was somehow influencing its development, and painfully aware that back on earth it was rare for a specimen to exceed 5 ounces they experienced a strange creeping dread when it reached three feet in length. It began to emerge from the water, leaning over the edge of the tank staring at them with an unsettling look of malevolent arrogance as if it were trying to bend them to its will. Their surprise was further compounded when one evening it began to talk, addressing the couple in stentorian tones, commanding them to worship it.

“I am the Gudgeon God”, it gurgled “Bow down before me and despair for I am the destroyer of riverbeds!”

Mr. Arblaster turned to his wife, took a bite out of a pickled egg, and spluttered.

“I never saw that coming luv”.... She looked at him and looked back at the Gudgeon towering over them from the shadows.

“I should never have fed it them jellied eels...” she squeaked queasily.

“Where have all the Finches gone when you need them?” drawled her husband listlessly.

Just then the Arblasters felt a sickening dull squelching thud reverberate through the floor as the outsize Gudgeon hauled itself out of its tank and began to writhe slowly towards them. They stood rooted to the spot in terror as it reared up, and with gaping maw, bore down upon the hapless Mrs.Arblaster consuming her in one lunging gulp. It then cynically flicked its head backwards presenting her spouse with the unsettling vista of wildly flailing legs and slipper clad feet framed by its rubbery embouchure as it endeavoured to consume her in the folds of its digestive tract. Her head and torso were being sucked deep into the peristaltic depths of its gut as Mr.Arblaster looked impotently on. Despite being an avid devotee of Anglers Weekly, he had never read any fishermans’ tale that could rival the sheer horror of the quivering tableau unfolding before him. He struggled to decode her muffled cries from its muculent interior as cold sweat beaded on his expansive forehead.“The feeder, the feeder” she yelled… “Activate the feeder”….

In a moment of epiphany Mr.Arblaster understood what he needed to do. He remembered in the early days of their Martian tenure insouciantly scanning the emergency procedure manual provided by the vendors as he stacked his shelves with jars of pickled eggs of varying vintages.

“The Finches, the Finches. Only the Finches can save us” he yelped, and careered up the staircase to the clubs’ viewing platform, where on many nights he and his wife would mournfully peer up to the firmament toward the winking blue eye they knew to be the earth and lamented their forsaken existence as Mars’ sole social club proprietors. Grabbing a large knife he slashed at a retaining rope at the corner of the structure. Almost immediately there was a whooshing sound as a huge cylindrical steel and wire lattice swung down from a pylon rooted on the Martian surface a few hundred yards away. This nut and seed stuffed framework measured at least two hundred feet from bow to stern. It was the largest bird feeder ever built and had been constructed with great pride by the remnants of the proud shipbuilders of Clydeside. As soon as the edifice slowly swung to a halt, Mr.Arblaster struck the red emergency button that bore, quite plainly, the embossed figure of a Finch in relief, wings akimbo, upon its surface. Immediately a great keening avian cry filled his ears as a huge rotating speaker transmitted deep into space the unmistakable lamenting chirrup of the Bullfinch.

Shaking with fear he turned and peered down the stairwell into the gloom. Mrs.Arblaster's feet, still clad in tartan carpet slippers, a Christmas gift from happier times on Earth, slipped finally from view into the Gudgeons’ triumphal and tumescent crop accompanied by an unearthly slurping and gurgling.

“Oh Mighty Cosmic Finches, I implore you to come to our aid in our hour of darkness” he whimpered.

The Feeder hung huge silent and impassive in the sanguine Martian atmosphere, and the mournful cry of the bullfinch filled the far reaches of the heavens…….

“Oh where oh where have all the Finches gone?” Tears filled his eyes as he waited helplessly for his saviours.

The whir of wings, the febrile flutter and frantic flapping, was rendered noiseless in the vacuum of space.

Cometh the day cometh the finch.

A swirling vortex flashing gold, red, yellow, pink, black and green quickly materialised from what was only seconds ago a vague and hazy grey cloud high in the Martian sky. Mr.Arblaster blinked slowly and disbelievingly. He rubbed his eyes, wet with tears, and through the anxious static buzzing in his ears he could hear the unearthly gurgling and growling of the outsize Gudgeons’ peristaltic efforts as it sucked his hapless spouse through its digestive tract.

He gulped helplessly as a distant memory of their honeymoon formed from disparate electrical impulses in the pulpy interior of his cranium. An indistinct image sharpened into a vision of the newlyweds walking hand in hand through squally rain along the dog shit smeared promenade of a non-descript English seaside town and caused the sclerotic chambers of his heart to pulsate with saccharine nostalgia.

He remembered how they had laughed as a huge herring gull swooped from the skies and relieved Mrs.Arblaster of a pukka pie that they had been sharing on their romantic schlepp; and how this moment of surprised mirth had caused her to slip in a pile of rain slicked dog excrement and twist her ankle, and how this had confined her to her bed in a grubby boarding house for the rest of the week. Oh happy days! This period of convalescence had inadvertently lead to two major events in the otherwise unremarkable trajectory of their lives - firstly the conception of their only child, begat from a fumbling soup-breathed union beneath a fusty candlewick bedspread to a backdrop of rain lashed window panes and a violent concerto of muffled colonic extrusion, courtesy of an unspeakably constipated hotel guest in the WC adjacent to their room. (Their child, Wyndham, had grown up to be an accomplished exponent of the Tuba. The couple had often mused on the circumstances of his genesis and how this, conflated with the concept of nominative determinism, may have influenced his development and future vocation)

Secondly, they hatched a plan that had lead them to this point - that all their future endeavours would be focused toward the aim of leaving Earth and “setting up” on the Red Planet.

Mr.Arblaster had always felt inexplicably drawn to that sanguine world and as a child would spend endless lonely hours peering through an antique telescope up into the vaults of the firmament, fantasising about an extra-terrestrial future where he would be feted as a pioneer. This was in stark contrast to his up until then startlingly anodyne existence, the high points of which had included the limited kudos emanating from being runner up in an inter-school chess tournament achieved only as a result of a spectacularly virulent outbreak of an intestinal virus amongst the opposing team.

Mrs.Arblaster had been working as a barmaid in a downbeat hostelry before they met and between serving the cheerless clientele with ale and pickled eggs she would fantasise about making her mark in the hospitality world.

Their ambitions coalesced during that drizzle kissed week after tuning into a radio program speculating on the future mineral exploitation of the solar system whilst basking in post coital languor; wombed in the tenebrous oubliette of their honeymoon guest house.

This nascent ambition became fully formed with the news that manned flights to Mars had become a reality and that mining corporations were actively pursuing an extra-terrestrial agenda.

To this end they envisioned the blissful tenure of a Martian Social Club, a comfortable and entertaining taste of old Earth for the ever swelling work force they expected would arrive in droves.

In his wildest dreams, he had never anticipated the current turn of events: that they would be stranded on the Red Planet, millions of miles from home, his wife being steadily digested by a gigantic Gudgeon.

Mr. Arblaster was jolted from this reverie by the multi-hued sight of a flock of Goldfinches hovering before him, separated by the thick plate glass of the viewing gallery. They were joined by at least a hundred Bullfinches who began to peck furiously at the glass. Beyond them he made out the unmistakable plumage of the Greenfinch, a cloud of thousands attacking the giant birdfeeder, replenishing themselves after their cosmic peregrinations. Above them circling, seemingly directing operations, was an army of Chaffinches.

They had come. They had answered his prayer. It was the Day of the Finch.

How and why Britains’ Finches had become an intergalactic rescue force was the great Ornithological conundrum of the modern era. Seemingly overnight, gardens, woodland and hedgerow that had once teemed with Finch life was deserted.

The Nyger seed and sunflower heart business collapsed as twitchers worldwide scratched their heads and tried to make sense of this mysterious exodus.

This enigma was partially explained after what appeared to be a message formed from seeds was discovered arranged in an indecipherable script in Bill Oddies’ back garden. The world’s leading cryptographers had been drafted in to make sense of this granular epistle and after several weeks of Turing-like endeavour they cracked the code.

“Finch Lord tell us we have to go and fulfil destiny beyond this world”.

This gnomic epithet was the outcome of their efforts. Although it went someway to explain the fate of the Finches it left more questions tantalizingly unanswered than it addressed.

A fuller elucidation arrived a few weeks later courtesy of a static raddled interjection during the BBC six o'clock news programme when the fuzzy yet unmistakable form of a garishly red Cardinal Finch reared up before the mass of startled viewers.

With a Hollywood American drawl its robust bill enunciated this improbable message.

“Humans…we have left your planet, and not because of the build-up of pesticides in the food chain, corporate monoculture, global warming, pandemic disease or such like-although none of that has helped….We, that is Finchdom, have, as the result of a divine revelation realised our true purpose in this universe. No longer will you see us crowding around your seed filled feeders, Teasels and crab apple trees - our presence in your gardens, woodlands and forests will become a memory. We have realised a higher calling and intend from this point onwards, and forgive me for rambling, or Brambling for that matter, to fight injustice and oppression throughout the endless expanse of this sleepless void…and as such its goodbye, sayonara, ciao and as we would say in High Finch…” at this point it threw its head back and let forth a great trilling, burbling refrain, a hauntingly beautiful farewell to Earth. The image crackled and faded from the screen to reveal the surprised and tearful visage of Fiona Bruce and an almost deafening silence.

Over the next few days people began to notice a distinct absence of Finch life from their gardens.

Bird feeders, once patronised by Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch hung limp and lifeless. Woodlands that rang with the plaintive call of the Brambling, Linnet and Redpoll were now eerily silent. The question that hung on everyone’s lips was “Where have all the Finches gone?”

Back on Mars, Mr.Arblaster stared disbelievingly at the unfolding scene. Thousands of Finches crowded around and pecked furiously at the plate glass interface of the viewing station. A particularly large and aggressive Bullfinch was hammering relentlessly. He looked fearfully into its shining black beady eyes and glimpsed the lurking vestigial shadow of its primordial reptilian ancestry, unbending and remorseless in its fixed purpose.

Just then a great splintering crack appeared in the glass from which a great lattice like a spider’s web spread outwards in a split second. He leapt backwards as the window collapsed inwards and instinctively grabbed breathing apparatus from the wall and slipped it deftly over his head. He was engulfed by shards of glass and the febrile flutter of a thousand wings as the Finch army burst into the gallery with the whirling force of a tornado and brushed him aside as they funnelled down the stairs into the gloomy interior of the club.

Mr.Arblaster turned and bounded down the steps in pursuit. At the foot, panting, he squinted out across the dimly lit velour landscape of the club room toward the stage and was immediately greeted by the outlandish spectacle of a swarming finch maelstrom mercilessly strafing the lumbering fresh water leviathan under the weak floodlighting. It was like a hellish distortion, a disjointed and profane dance. He had envisioned a variety of acts who he hoped one day would entertain the teeming club but the tableau that presented itself before him now was not what he had had in mind. On a talent scouting expedition back on Earth he had been very impressed with a knowingly obese Abba tribute act called “Flabba” who had gone down a storm at “Fast Eddies” with their aggressively pneumatic interpretation of Waterloo. But that was another life. He slipped uneasily out of his momentary trance to behold this unearthly combat, Finch pitted against fish in a struggle to the death. The Gudgeon God began to totter queasily under the pulsing blitzkrieg that furiously tore and pecked at its scaly flesh. The Finch army swept relentlessly around and over the outsize fish like a swarm of locusts until it blindly careered backwards into its tank. At that point, with a violent coughing spasm it disgorged the mucous varnished carcass of Mrs.Arblaster onto the floor where it skidded to a halt in a pool of slimy water at the feet of her spouse.

The stunned Gudgeon slipped insensibly back into its tank and the finch cloud dispersed. From a frenzied flutter of wings the room fell silent as they settled on every available perch. A reverential hush descended. Mr.Arblaster, slack jawed in shock, threw off his mask and gulped the air. The emergency atmosphere repair system had kicked in.

He turned and followed the collective gaze of the finch army to witness the hovering descent of a vermilion vision, a startlingly blood red bird with a twitching crest and cruel looking beak. From his boyhood days a memory materialised of a tedious Easter vacation with his family crammed into a caravan in North Wales. Great sheets of rain crackled against the flimsy structure for the entire duration of the holiday confining them within, his only release from this grim incarceration, other than interminable games of cribbage with his Uncle Trevor and his lugubrious mumbling recollections of his days as a tool setter for a local light engineering firm, were the pages of a book on North American birds he had half heartedly borrowed from the school library before the recess. He was particularly taken with and transported from this dank purgatory by a striking full colour plate of the Cardinal Finch - the likeness of which now commanded his field of vision.

Its’ beak began to move and words spilled out, imparting a hallucinogenic wooziness to the already delirious ambience in the finch-filled clubroom.

“I am the Finch Lord, and I am a jealous Lord. You will worship no other but me...”

Mr.Arblaster was overcome by the sheer will bending force of its presence and sank to his knees. The finch throng trilled and whistled in ecstatic supplication, hanging on their deity’s every syllable.

“We have overcome the piscine evil and dispatched the freakish fish filth to the watery world where it belongs. But this is just one battle in the never ending war against the poison that is Gudgeonkind. We will never rest in our ceaseless toil to rid the cosmos of this scaly vermin!”

The finch apostles warbled with a fanatical fervour and flapped their wings excitedly.

“Come my disciples, let us fly...Fly finches fly...let us root out evil wherever it abides”.

And with that utterance the Finch Lord turned and sped back up the stairs followed by the feathered cohort.

The room fell silent again. Mr. Arblaster looked down at the pathetic figure of his spouse recumbent at his feet and to his relief detected the glimmer of a weak smile through the distorting mucal envelope that covered her entire body.

“Oh praise the Finch” he gurgled as his wife began to stir. He began frantically rubbing the slimy residue from her face and she spluttered back into consciousness. He quickly gazed down at the skulking form of the Gudgeon peering sheepishly up from the shadowy depths of its tank.

“Yes...you may well sulk lad.” He admonished the sullen creature as Mrs.Arblaster sat up blinking stupidly while she rubbed her eyes.

“We spoiled you, like you were our own child and this is how you repay us” he continued.

“Well, I have to say I’m disappointed in you.” He was beginning to labour the point and he swore the outsize fish rolled its eyes with bored defiance as it turned and swam to the other side of its tank.

“Come on love, let’s get you cleaned up. Get a pickled egg inside you. You’ll feel much better then.”

He put his arm around her, helped her to her feet and led her to the bar, where he reached up and from the shelf pulled down a large jar with a hand written label.

“1984 vintage these are love” he announced comfortingly and unscrewed the lid. The acrid reek of forty year old vinegar filled their nostrils as he plucked an egg from the jar and waved it enticingly under her nose.

“Go on love. Take a bite of that. I’ve been saving these for a special occasion”.

Harp strings of saliva appeared as she feebly parted her lips and she prepared to take a bite of the pickled provender.

Barely had she bitten into the ovoid delicacy when she felt a tremor, a dull but mighty reverberation that seemed to be welling up from deep below. The interior of the club began to shake, almost imperceptibly at first until the floor began to buckle and chairs and tables drifted across the ruptured parquetry. Jars spilled from shelves and smashed, dozens of pickled eggs released from their glass internment bounced across the floor as gallons of vinegar flooded out. The Arblaster’s sat terrified and wide eyed in the epicentre of this unfolding maelstrom in a desperate embrace. It seemed like the end of all things, the terrible denouement of their naive dream, and a perverse payback for misplaced ambition as the floor began to burst asunder and sulphurous vapour belched forth from the fissures. They glanced across at the fish tank. The recalcitrant Gudgeon was in a highly exited state darting to and fro with a wild look in its eye as it ripped up vegetation and banged its head against the glass repeatedly. With an alarming burst of energy it lurched out of the water to slump across the lip of the aquarium where it fixed its demented gaze on the cowering couple and began to articulate in a strange disembodied voice.

“You have disturbed our eternal slumber, interloper and consort of Finches. We are Gudgeonkind, the original inhabitants of this forsaken planet, forced into perpetual hibernation beneath the surface after our rivers and seas vanished millennia ago. Now you have woken us and we will reclaim dominion over this waterless world…”

It threw its head back and emitted a strangled peal of diabolic laughter that clattered through the vaporous clubroom. Just then, from the crevices the unmistakable forms of gigantic Gudgeon appeared rising from the sulphurous mists, at least a score of the beasts emerged and assumed a military style formation.

Mr.Arblaster stole a glance through the clubhouse window and to his dismay saw the same scenario taking place outside on the planet’s surface as far as the eye could see. Thousands of Gudgeon foot soldiers burst out from the soil and began to march toward the club house.

In a gesture of desperation the couple scooped up armfuls of pickled eggs from the floor and hurled them impotently at the imperious fish battalion, but they just bounced harmlessly off them ricocheting around the room in a vinegary plume.

Within the space of ten minutes the Arblasters’ had lurched from relief to sheer terror as their world teetered on the brink of disintegration.

It was Armagudgeon.

They clutched each other in terror and recalled the train of events that had led them to Mars in the first place: the aftermath of a failed bid to buy an ironmongery business, a burgeoning ambition to enter the entertainment industry, a health scare involving a distended prostate gland, a chance lottery win and a casually read magazine article on the future potential of mineral extraction, and the first commercial flight to Mars all conspired to bring them to this forsaken desolation. Now their fragile dream looked to be shipwrecked on the reef of an extra-terrestrial Gudgeon uprising. They were in the eye of a hurricane - phalanges of outsize Gudgeon strode through billowing clouds of infernal gas as pickled eggs overheated and exploded and the ground continued to shake violently and fracture around them.

So this was how the Arblasters’ enterprise was to end as they stared directly into the malignant eye of their Gudgeon foe. Only weeks ago the couple had doted on the creature that now reared up before them. Now they could smell its breath, the fetid stench of the riverbed, and in the black depths of its lidless eyes lurked an inhuman malevolence born of eons of brooding loneliness that had been transmitted from its Martian counterparts and now utterly possessed their erstwhile companion. Over its shoulder they could see a rear-guard of similarly motivated leviathans advancing, accompanied by a ghastly slapping and slurping as they drew closer. Mrs.Arblaster squealed, recalling her earlier ordeal, encased in the putrid interior of its digestive tract. The great Gudgeon drew back on its haunches and prepared for its coup de grace.

Mr.Arblaster cupped his hands together and blew in sheer desperation as an attempt to mimic the plaintive call of the Chaffinch. A pickled egg exploded and momentarily distracted the brute. He frantically wheezed through the fleshy aperture he had created in a last ditch attempt to try to summon the Finch legion that had disappeared into space only minutes before. Just as he was about to give up and submit to this grisly fate he blew one more time and to his amazement produced an unmistakably Finchian warble. He redoubled his efforts, buoyed by this success, and managed to falteringly emulate the descending trill and flourish characteristic of a male Chaffinch. A contemptuous sneer appeared on the Gudgeon's rubbery lips as it prepared to engulf the ill-starred club proprietor in its reeking cavernous maw.

The whir of wings, that familiar febrile flutter, a fragrant zephyr born of passerine palpitation and the room was all at once choked with a swirling sonorous bird cloud. Mr.Arblaster threw his head back and stretched out his arms in delirious welcome to his avian saviours as the mighty Gudgeon fell to a furious beaked onslaught and was swallowed up by the feathered horde. The beast writhed and contorted and squirmed, its great tail slapping the floor as it fought to no avail to rid itself of its attackers. It flung back its great head and let out an unearthly howl, both shriek and quavering bellow - the desolate throbbing ache of a millennia of loneliness and brooding resentment. It chilled the blood, and for a second time seemed to stand still. Then all fell silent. With the demise of their figurehead, the Gudgeon militia wilted as they fell under attack from the Finch legions out on the planet’s surface.

The Arblasters stood up and surveyed the carnage around them. The floor was strewn with shattered furniture, pickled eggs and ruptured parquetry. The Finches had withdrawn and assumed flying formations in the sky. Just the Finch Lord remained, perched on a pristine jar of eggs on the edge of the bar. It cocked its head and stared at them with its beady eyes.

“Mars is now yours” it warbled imperiously. “The ancient vendetta between Finch and Gudgeon is now settled. The cosmos is free of the piscine pestilence. The spell is now broken.” It raised its scarlet wing tip and traced a circle in the air. The prostrate Gudgeon stirred and before their eyes dwindled to its former earthly proportions. As it wriggled on the floor, Mrs.Arblaster ran over and with one deft movement scooped it up and dropped it back into its tank where it quickly disappeared into the depths and peered out shamefacedly from a clump of pondweed.

When she turned around the Cardinal Finch had gone.

The couple embraced.

“Well we’ve got a bit of tidying up to do love. Them Gudgeon have made a right mess of our lovely club” groaned Mr. Arblaster.

He pointed over at a broken jar and several partially crushed eggs.

“Those were my treasured Royal Wedding vintage…irreplaceable...” he mumbled disconsolately.

“Bloody Gudgeon”. He paced over to the tank and kicked the stand. The once mighty fish cowered behind a rock.

“Well there’s no point crying over spilled eggs”

Mrs.Arblaster grabbed a broom and started clearing up whilst her husband busied himself with an electric screwdriver securing the displaced shelving units and placing the intact pickled egg jars back in order.

After a couple of hours they had the place restored to its former hackneyed glory. The oak tables gleamed and the velour upholstery looked magnificently outmoded under the caustic glare of the striplighting. No-one would have imagined that only a short time before an epic pitched battle between armies of colossal Gudgeon and sentient Finches had taken place.

“Place is as good as new. Pity there’s only us here to enjoy it”.

Mrs.Arblaster adroitly sliced the lid off a tin of jellied eels and emptied the contents into a bowl.

“You know what, next supply ship that comes here…let’s go back to Earth. I don’t care how much it costs. This Gudgeon caper’s really put the lid on it for me. Besides’ I’ve got a great idea for a new business venture”, declared Mr.Arblaster, chewing thoughtfully on an eel chunk.

“Egg pickling’s where it's at these days” he continued as a rivulet of jellied spittle ran down his chin and formed a tiny pool on the newly polished table top.

“God knows we’ve eaten enough of them over the years” rejoined his wife.

“If we could work on a pickling process that somehow stopped you getting egg-bound then we may be onto something” he added.

As the couple mulled over the pros and cons of this entrepreneurial proposition they gradually became aware of a throbbing low frequency hum that began to seep into the walls and throughout the entire club. The floor began to tremble and jars vibrated and rattled on their shelves. The hum turned to a roar and everything in the room shook.

The couple looked at each other with an expression of both terror and weary resignation.

“Oh, bloody ‘ell. What now?” growled Mr.Arblaster as he bounded up the stairs to the viewing gallery. His expression of consternation gave way to the most sublime relief. Hovering in the Martian atmosphere a few hundred feet above the club was the immense and unmistakable bulk of a galactic space freighter.

“They’ve come, they’re here!” he yelped and punched the air. Their years of enforced solitude had come to an end. At last, the necessary legal and technical issues that had dogged corporate efforts to begin exploiting Mars’ resources had been overcome and the first ship had arrived carrying hundreds of mining engineers and labourers.

The club buzzed with activity. The Arblasters were run off their feet as the tills rang with the heady music of commerce. The pickled eggs were flying off the shelves and stocks of jellied eels were comfortingly low. Mr.Arblaster grinned as he thumbed through his booking diary and pencilled in “Flabba” for the Christmas party. He glanced across at the fish tank. The Gudgeon shot an embarrassed look back and darted behind a plastic galleon. He left his wife serving a foaming draught to a hoary looking miner and ambled up the stairs to the mezzanine and gazed contentedly out at the Martian surface. It was littered with slag heaps and pithead gear as far as the eye could see. Mars’ innards were been torn out and processed at an alarming rate. As he mused on the price of progress a small red shape emerged from the sky and floated before him on the other side of the window. The form of the Finch Lord sharpened into relief. Mr.Arblaster grinned wildly and waved stupidly at the avian deity. It stretched out its wing tip which assumed the distinct form of an upward pointing thumb. It winked knowingly and then shot off into space with alarming speed and disappeared from view.

“Oh thank you, thank you Finch Lord” he cried and saluted the receding silhouette as it melted into the atmospheric haze. He knew he owed this sudden upward turn in fortune to this Passerine princeling and he sighed to himself.

This reverie was rudely and abruptly punctured by the unmistakable flabby sonic belch of a wind instrument wafting up the stairs from the clubroom. Bewilderment gave way to wide eyed delight as he recognised the plangent timbre of the Tuba.

“Wyndham, Wyndham, my son” he yelped, and shot down the stairs into the arms of his wife. They stood back in shocked pride as, bathed in the glow of light reflected off the highly polished surface of the Tuba and his near hairless cranium, their balding scion commanded the stage and pumped his way through a medley of brass band favourites to the bemusement of the audience. He had slipped in unannounced as a passenger on the last incoming flight from Earth to surprise his parents and as the last flatulent quavers of “the Floral Dance” evaporated he flung down the instrument and strode imperiously from the stage into their cloying embrace.

Leon

Jak

Al