A Proper Adventure — A “Curse of the Infernal Euphonia” Excerpt

Our Christmas spectacular, Honest Tommy: Curse of the Infernal Euphonia, will be winging its way to Amazon Kindle soon, and to get you into the festive spirit we present another exclusive excerpt from the upcoming story. Stuck in the doldrums while Captain Dashworth and the other cosmonauts of Britain yuk it up in London, Commander Gwen seeks adventure while avoiding Ensign Benson’s over-excited preparations for the big day, all to the smell of roasting wufflump.

The galley was sizzling as Gwen approached, and the air lingered with an annoyingly merry humming. As she opened the door, the sound skipped out and wrapped itself around her like a big and highly impractical scarf. Benson was hunched over the oven, decked out in a bright red apron with white trim, and a festive hat that looked like an old sock. Pots steamed all around him as the festive ensign danced between them, lathering plates in strange pastes and chopping unctuous-looking vegetables with happy abandon. Everything smelled of fat and spice, with a sweetness that was laced into every syllable of his tune, which sounded suspiciously like another of his many home-made carols.

            “Tum-te-tum, a little bunkin seasoning here—turn the wufflump just so, can’t have it getting burned!—oops, almost forgot the goppleberry sauce—”

            “Ensign,” Gwen barked, and the lad whipped around in a flash to salute his commanding officer, catapulting a glob of thick blue sauce from his ladle. “Why can I smell an overpowering aroma of sweltering meat?”

            “That’ll be the suckling braised brump, Commander,” he chirped, dashing to the cabinet to wipe up the sticky blue mess and fling it into a pot. “Good afternoon and merry Christmas Eve!”

            “Merry—yes, fine. Good afternoon. This looks like one of those horrific captain’s dinners where the brass stuffed themselves silly.” Gwen once peeked through the piping aboard her old freighter to observe one of the ludicrous get-togethers. Commander Brame had to excuse himself to the lavatory several times, and afterwards the dining table looked as if a giganticated gombaslug had exploded over it.

            Benson had gone starry-eyed again. “Oh, I’d have loved to have been to a Navy dinner,” he sighed.

            “Not when you have to scoop up all the wufflump grease slopping through the slats in the upper deck.” Visions of crusted residue congealing between the deck planks filled Gwen’s mind, and put her right off a plump bulb of groof sitting invitingly on Benson’s sideboard, as possibly the only appetising ingredient in his culinary disaster area.

            “That’s the best bit,” he said, with a voice tinier than his pride.

            It was at times like this Gwen wondered how Benson managed to survive the universe. He’d been plucked from obscurity on Vorgak 3 by Dashworth, and had insinuated himself aboard the Jolly Good like a worm who wouldn’t stop crawling over one’s begonias. Fortunately for him, the native Vorgak sporganisms had only briefly returned to their homeworld to get blown up by a freak series of coincidences, so the most the pitiful little man had to contend with was not spilling tea on his own uniform.

            “Come on, it’s almost Christmas,” she burst, about to chuck Benson on the arm before realising she’d probably snap it. “I want at least one proper adventure before the year’s out.”

            “I sucked all the solomite from the dorsal turbine yesterday,” the ensign reported. “That was pretty riveting.”

            A small lump of pity rose in Gwen’s throat, much like bile, and she remembered exactly how Benson managed to survive the universe: by cheerfully whistling loudly enough to drown out all of the unsettling noises. “We’ve been in the doldrums for ages. I can’t even get to the ship’s wheel for all the tinsel.”

            “I was feeling very festive, sir.”

            “Yes, well I’m sure burned sprouts remind you of home, but I want some fun. The rampaging berserkers can’t all have gone home for Christmas.” She peered out of the steamed-up porthole, spying the fuzzy haze of the Mucklebean nebula twinkling away. “There’s a celestial alignment due—that’ll shake up a Vendra Storm or two, surely?”

            She knew of course that the Rampaging Berserkers of Bloth were either dead or on the other side of the Vortex engaging in their favourite holiday pastime—synchronised group dancing with sticks and bells, which she wanted absolutely no part of. She also knew that Vendra Storms were among the rarest and most terrifying deadly wonders of the mostly empty universe, and she’d already met one this year. Still, she considered, what’s life without a little hope?

Honest Tommy: Curse of the Infernal Euphonia is written by Tom Hutchings with Tom Menary, and illustrated by Raine Szramski, and will be available for purchase on Amazon soon.

He’s Rather Worse Than Santa Claus — A “Curse of the Infernal Euphonia” Exerpt

Our Christmas spectacular, Honest Tommy: Curse of the Infernal Euphonia, will be winging its way to Amazon Kindle soon, and to get you into the festive spirit we present an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming story. Here, Princess Victoria has encountered the infernal machine itself, which has impelled a case of sudden seasonal depression in the British royal family. With the Realm and Star Territories under threat, the Princess Royal takes care of her young cousins when she receives an unexpected Yuletide visitor, bearing more than just seasonal cheer….

“Come along. Let’s get you tucked up,” Princess Victoria said, fairly shepherding her three young cousins towards their bunk beds. “Don’t fret, the big nasty noise has gone away now.”

Millicibeth looked up at her with big, shining eyes. “But what if it won’t come out of my head?”

“Well then, you just hum a nice little tune and forget all about it.”

“Was it aliens, Cousin Vic?” This from Glupert, who liked to have the newspapers read to him.

“No, we can’t blame everything on aliens, sweet.”

The last and smallest of the three, Toby, had one slipper-clad foot on the bottom rung of his ladder when he paused, tapping his chin thoughtfully. Oh, boy. Here we go, Victoria thought. “Cousin Vic,” he said after careful deliberation, “is it true that Christmas is a cynical marketing scam by the megacorporations hoping to profit from the traditional values of a repressed population?”

Heaven knew what Toby liked to have read to him. “I think maybe you should stick to the Christmas annuals,” Victoria advised. “Like the one where Lil’ Boy Runch ate so much chocolate he was sickie all in his stocking.”

There was so much wrong here—and honestly Toby’s ever-piqued curiosity at least gave Victoria hope for the next generation. She usually enjoyed wrong, when the universe wasn’t turning properly and she endeavoured to find out why. Not for nothing had England’s darling spent years cultivating a great supply of equipment and allies she could call upon whenever trouble reared its head. Right now however, her Moon fortress felt very distant indeed, and it felt churlish to call her Ladies-in-Waiting simply to help her put three tired children to bed.

It was only then that Victoria realised the Euphonia might have had an effect on her after all.

And it was quite possibly catching.

“Why’s that strange man waving at you through the window, ‘incess Vic?”

She really thought the anxiety would have passed already, and turned to Glupert to point out that hallucinations were simply the brain’s way of reminding us to lie down and stop doing so much thinking for a few hours—but stopped in her tracks when she saw exactly who was standing outside her window.

“Oh,” she said.

“Is that Santa Claus?” Millicibeth asked hopefully.

“Not really, no.” The man on the other side of the frosted glass was definitely not a portly, rosy-cheeked old man who had come to symbolise everything festive about the time of year. He was certainly carrying a sack, though it was too small, and he was far too young and his beard too short to pass as Santa. His hair was wild and his smile radiated a playful energy that Victoria previously believed to be an airborne infection.

All these facts aside, he was also entirely without clothing, save for the purple and green tinsel he’d crudely knotted around his indignants.

“I’m afraid he’s rather worse than Santa,” Victoria added.

Honest Tommy: Curse of the Infernal Euphonia is written by Tom Hutchings with Tom Menary, and illustrated by Raine Szramski, and will be available for purchase on Amazon soon.

Behind the Lore, Part II

The Lore of Yore section is a collection of articles written about varied aspects of the Honest Tommy universe, from ships and groups to beliefs held, diseases contracted, and festivities celebrated across the Fifteen Galaxies. Behind the Lore looks at some of the inspirations and references that have gone into these articles.

Tinker’s Game

Released: 19th June, 2016

The first Lore of Yore entry to focus on a particular character, Tinker’s Game introduces the infamous board games magnate Annabell Tinker and her infuriating creation. The text of this entry comes almost wholesale from character notes written in 2015 by Tom Hutchings, who described Tinker as an “adventurer, ne’er do well, and author of controversial board games.” Indeed her board game proves so controversial it is banned on most civilised worlds of the Realm and Star Territories, although pirates continue to trade in it; this is set-up for backstory to be explored in Space Pirates of Neptune, an upcoming Honest Tommy adventure.

The precise details of what constitutes the punishment of “one finkle swathing” remain mercifully unknown.

The Cosmic Tea Trade

Released: 26th June, 2016

This entry delves into one of the primary background facets of the Honest Tommy omniverse; that of the tea trade that keeps the British Empire running. The opening line is based on one that has found its way onto mugs and teapots, and is derived from a quote from the most unlikely of sources, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels:

“The entire British Empire was built on cups of tea, and if you think I’m going to war without one, mate, you’re mistaken.”

The line also refers to another quotation about tea, from writer Mark Gatiss:

“Without tea, I am unreconstituted dust.”

The article expands on some of the ideas introduced in Britain’s Space Empire, such as the notion of expansion itself as the British Empire uses boundary buoys to mark its char trails. The Braganza Trade Route refers to Catherine of Braganza, credited for popularising tea-drinking in Britain, and the Shennong Ribbon references the Chinese deity Shennong, said to have first discovered tea in Chinese legend. The Shennong system is later referred to in “Captain Thundergroin“, which finds Dashworth working as a Tea Ambassador for the Mother’s Brown Tea Conglomerate first mentioned here. The Roji Route refers to the Japanese term roji, for the garden utilised during a tea ceremony.

As in the previous Tinker’s Game, the Vulture Hawks are established here as set-up for Space Pirates of Neptune. The names of the Mother’s Brown tea blends appear in other works, particularly “Captain Thundergroin”, which also features one of its Prefects and reference to the rumours of underhanded dealings mentioned here. The Painswick Association, one of the Conglomerate’s competitors, references the birthplace of Thomas Twining of Twinings tea.

New Brighton

Released: 4th July, 2017

Another Lore of Yore entry based on notes written by Tom Hutchings, New Brighton introduces the Carnival and Lunar Sideshow of the same name, built over the site of the Moon landing. In this universe, the First Pioneers (first referenced in Britain’s Space Empire) got to the Moon centuries before Apollo 11, due to the achievement of space flight during Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Fort Lancaster, also known as New Lancaster Fort, comes directly from Hutchings’ writing, introduced in a story featuring the dastardly Moon-Men, with the working title Moon Men on the March, which is referenced here. The lunar mares, used as analogues for Earth donkey rides, are a gag referencing the lunar maria visible on the Moon’s surface.

Exactly what and who caused the Great Plasma Fire that destroyed the Old Brighton pier and resort, necessitating the creation of New Brighton, remains a mystery… for now.

Check back soon for further explorations and insights, and read back through previous Lore of Yore articles on our website.

Trouble with Black Holes — A “Calls to Adventure” Excerpt

Presenting a second excerpt from our upcoming short story anthology, Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure, set for release on Amazon Kindle on 3rd September, 2017. We join “Mucker” in the middle of a deadly adventure on board a Royal Navy freighter caught in the gravity wells of a black hole cluster, with only her pet octopoid for company as she desperately navigates the creaking accessways.

Don’t forget to read our first excerpt, “The Sensational Captain Dashworth“.

She attacks the foetid grime with jabs of her ladle, dislodging a solid chunk from the upper curve of the tube. It hits the deck with a splat just as the whole tunnel gives a lurch. Mucker splays her legs, steadying herself.

            The orange lights dip, then return to their normal misty glaze. Trouble.

            She sprints along the tube, forces the door open and jumps out into the filtration chamber. The dripping vat of water gathered by the transistors hangs overhead, but something is wrong: The unrefined droplets are slanting as they fall, hitting the deck several inches too far to the right.

            Parts of the chamber feel heavier. The exterior bulkhead is bowed slightly, as if Mucker were inside a giant lung that has just taken in a breath. Gravity, she thinks.

            She wheels open the pressure door and clanks up a flight of narrow metal stairs until she reaches the only bulkhead housing a blast window in her section. She passes this window every day of her duty; a thin porthole of glass, murky and pockmarked with crust and milky mildew. If this deck was of Humane height the window would stretch across Mucker’s chest, but as it is, the thick metal ceiling pipes forcing her to hunch, she comes up to the window at eye level.

            The view rarely changes: A slither of blackness with the occasional pinprick of a star. Today is different. Today, there is more to see through the three layers of Bodrington’s number seven shield glass.

            Amid the fathomless dark sit several whirlpools of mind-bending vibrancy, a coronal rainbow coalescing around them like vomit spiralling into a sink at a children’s party.

            The dormant voice in Mucker’s head knows what these whirlpools are and how they likely arrived here in such force and number. She’s read about Dark Child Extremals and Vendra Storms, but the universe doesn’t simply give virgin birth to these kind of monsters; more likely this was once the site of some pitched battle, and saw an illegal weapon backfire to spill its radiation into the nebula, maelstroms foaming up through the thin fabric of matter.

            It doesn’t matter; there are black holes outside, and the ship is coasting blindly towards them. Clearly Brame is trying to follow the flag’s footsteps, but the Men of War have great enough mass to skirt the edge of a black hole cluster so daringly. These sorts of through-lines are usually safe enough—Mucker knows this one has even become a minor char route in recent years, hosting trains of tea caravans through the Pausix Conglomeration towards the Demon Worlds of Kosz.

            But the Tea Ambassadors aren’t stupid enough to risk such a close vector.

            Brame is.

            Mucker runs.

            She dashes along the corridor, crow-legged under the low ceiling, and tumbles through the hatchway into the crew quarters. She skids up to the corner, barging shoulder-first into the wall and propels herself along the accessway to her cabin.

            The room is tiny, dominated by a thin bunk. Squat is suckered to her little window, squelching against the glass. Mucker cups her yolk-sac body and tries to prise her from the grimy pane. “Time to go,” she hisses, and Squat burbles wet gibberish.

            Mucker catches a flash of light from outside, and nestles up to the porthole, pressing her face beside Squat’s. Something caught the light out there. The flagship is still to port, and the closest metallic objects are the boundary buoys fathoms away. Something close.

            She tickles the underside of the octopoid’s body and Squat comes away from the window with a pop. Tucking the little critter under her arm, Mucker runs from her cabin.

      The accessway is dark. The lights have failed—surely a result of the reality-bending black holes. Which means there’s worse to come.

Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure is written by Tom Hutchings and Tom Menary, and will be available for Amazon Kindle from 3rd September, 2017.

The Sensational Captain Dashworth — A “Calls to Adventure” Excerpt

Presenting an excerpt from our upcoming short story anthology, Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure, set for release on Amazon Kindle on 3rd September, 2017. Here, Dashworth is trying his luck in a publisher’s office, attempting to shill his new book, Captain Thundergroin, while on his rounds for the Tea Conglomerate.

Dashworth watched him warily, and the moment Prisc disappeared down the stairwell the lad whirled to Plinkington, beaming. “Quick, I’ve only got two minutes, but I’m perhaps the most sensational person you’re ever likely to meet.”

            Plinkington blinked at him. “This is the same poorly-written tripe that mysteriously appeared in my pigeon-hole last month.”

            “Oh, you read it?”

            “I’m a publisher, sonny. It took me all of five minutes while I was on the privy.”

            “I hear geniuses do all their best work squatting on the lav,” Dashworth said. “What do you think? It’s got a sexy new cover.”

            It always surprised Dashworth how few people seemed to understand reality when it was staring them in the mug. “The monstrous new cover is irrelevant. It’s sensationalist drivel. The plebs want intrigue, black magic, back-alley murder and pestilence.” Plinkington gave the slim volume a flick, sending it spinning across the table. “In short, they want to be told that somebody out there in the Fifteen Galaxies has it worse than them.”

            Dashworth planted a hand on the cover, stopping it dead and only smearing a little of Captain Thundergroin’s blinding countenance. “Tosh,” he opined. “They want somebody amazing to turn up and remind them that life is fun and it’s good to be British. Even if you’re living in poverty without a ha’penny for a decent ermine cape.” He dreamed about that sometimes, laying in the dark of his room at the tea offices: A hero, striding forth from a doorway blazing with light, drawing a rapier with his cape and hair billowing. It was classic space-adventurer stuff, but none of the books Dashworth had seen in the Cheapside stalls and barrows could quite match the vision circling his head. The only trouble was that he could never seem to picture the hero’s face these days; only a fuzzy blur where his devil-may-care smile should go. It seemed so much clearer when he was a boy.

            “There’s no such person,” Plinkington sniffed. “And such flagrant showboating won’t get anyone anywhere. Besides, the only reason we stock penny dreadfuls is because they come with the patronage of the Crown. The Royal Family can sell anything these days, especially with present sympathy for Her Majesty’s condition.”

            Dashworth felt about as far from royalty as Quilton from a good scrub and a discreet walk-in clinic. He didn’t know why it all sounded so complicated. “If your so-called readers are still stuck in the Dark Ages, there’s only one hope for them. The new Penny Amazings my writer has conjured up will blow the malaise clean out of their morose little arseholes.”

            If Plinkington had any opinion on the excellent name Dashworth had chosen for his stories, she didn’t divulge it. Instead, she asked: “Your writer?”

            “Quilton, that’s right.”

            “Do you mean to say you didn’t even write this tat? Then what on Earth are you good for?”

            Dashworth had been surprised before; now he was stunned. His mouth didn’t seem capable of shutting, and his brain was off somewhere having a jolly time on a tire swing. “But,” he said, mustering every ounce of wit and repartee he could find, “it’s me.”

            “Well. Whoever you are,” Plinkington said, picking up the Penny Amazing and weighing it in her hand, “your two minutes are up.”

Honest Tommy: Calls to Adventure is written by Tom Hutchings and Tom Menary, and will be available for Amazon Kindle from 3rd September, 2017.

Behind the Lore

The Lore of Yore section is a collection of articles written about varied aspects of the Honest Tommy universe, from ships and groups to beliefs held, diseases contracted, and festivities celebrated across the Fifteen Galaxies. Behind the Lore looks at some of the inspirations and references that have gone into these articles.

Britain’s Space Empire

Released: 25th April, 2016

The first Lore of Yore article released, although not the first written, Britain’s Space Empire introduces the British Empire which the heroes of Honest Tommy fight for. The text alludes to how the great empire began, suggesting the Cosmic Age flourished with the Renaissance, which in the real world would place it anywhere between the 14th to 17th centuries. The young Florentine artist is, of course, Leonardo da Vinci, who was indeed known as the Universal Genius, and designed an Aerial Screw which is considered an early prototype of the helicopter. In the Omniverse, this artist created the Cosmic Screw which became the blueprint for rocket ships used by the First Pioneers. His Codex on the Flight of Spacecraft is a play on da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds.

Copernicus, of course, formulated the model of our universe which placed the Sun at the centre of our planet’s orbit; by his time in the Honest Tommy cosmos, this has long been proven, hence the suggestion that his revolutionary ideas aren’t so impressive to veteran cosmonauts.

The First French Cosmic Republic is based on the French First Republic, and is also known as the République Cosmique in later material. Antagonism between Britain and France plays a part in the plot of British Space Power. Britain’s cosmic territory is comprised of its Realm (comprising the Fifteen Galaxies of explored space) and Star Territories, which are regions containing star systems and planets. The article marks the first mention of the boundary buoy, which was an early concept developed for Killer Robots of Vorgak 3.

The last paragraph, referring to England’s “morning drumbeat”, uses phrases taken from a speech by the American politician Daniel Webster about the high days of the British Empire. Finally, Vorgak 3 is a planet that will become highly important in Killer Robots of Vorgak 3.

The Ship at the End of the Dock

Released: 8th May, 2016

The second article to be released, although written prior to Britain’s Space Empire, The Ship at the End of the Dock was intended to be an in-universe account of a dilapidated and supposedly haunted rocket ship in London. This established the loose template for Lore of Yore articles, generally assumed to be written by an individual with knowledge of cosmic events, reciting their (occasionally British-biased) accounts to an outsider.

The ship is actually the Jolly Good, Captain Dashworth’s vessel of adventure constructed by Professor Runcible (who is indirectly referred to as “some mad professor”, and did indeed create the ship in something resembling a “drunken fit”). Indeed, the last paragraph refers to individuals needing to be “mad, desperate, or deluded” to board the vessel; these appellations could fit Runcible, Gwen, and Dashworth quite well.

The Royal Space Docks are intended to occupy the area of the current Royal Group of Docks in east London, although they don’t appear to house quite as many rocket ships of the Royal Fleet; this group plays a part in Killer Robots of Vorgak 3.

The Diamond Mines of Saturn

Released: 18th May, 2016

While the previous two Lore of Yore articles borrow material developed for Killer Robots of Vorgak 3, The Diamond Mines of Saturn explores backstory created for a graphic novel script. Entitled Rampage of the Hell-Beast of Saturn, this comic chronicles an adventure undertaken by Dashworth and his crew to the famed Diamond Mines, closed down due to the reported presence of a hellish monster in the mining tunnels. The story was itself inspired by early notes for a Wild West-style story set on a mining colony on one of Jupiter’s moons.

Dashworth mentions the Wonders of the Cosmos in the script, suggesting he’s on track to see his hundredth wonder in time for Bonfire Night. The mining network, comprising the entirety of Saturn‘s planetary ring, was constructed during the Industrial Revolution, presumably somewhere between 1760 and 1840. Its managing organisation, the Saturn Mining Company, is a loose reference to the Jupiter Mining Corporation from Red Dwarf.

The Colombo Gap is an area of Saturn’s C Ring, while the Bessel Gap is a structure within the Cassini Division, a region between the A and B Rings. In the article, Cassini Division is the name of one of the Company’s mining teams. Overseer Spick and the hellish monster both originate in the comic story.

Check back soon for further explorations and insights, and read back through previous Lore of Yore articles on our website.

Welcome to the Universe

This is the Honest Tommy journal, in which we will explore aspects of the production ranging from concepts and writing to recording and lore. For more information on the Honest Tommy project, please follow the links below:

Keep an ear out for Honest Tommy: The Radio Adventures coming to a cosmos near you soon!