Friday, 20 May 2011

Trevor and the Emperor

Yes, I know I promised you Trevor and the Time Thieves, but time, that horrible thief, has not allowed me to pull that together quite yet.
So, by way of compensation here is another Trevor Smethurst story - quite a short one, but quite fun too - and yes, the picture does mean something...!

Trevor and the Emperor

By Tony Kerr

A Super Maxwell Short Story


The Universe is big. Few people realise quite how big. They think of the Universe in terms of planets and solar systems and galaxies – but that is not the Universe, that is the “universe”, a small part of the vast and never ending expanse of everything. The real Universe is an everything in which there has not been one Big Bang, but billions, not a million galaxies, but trillions. The Universe is endless and eternal, has always been there, and always will be, long after our little universe has fizzled away to stardust.

In all of the Universe, in all of endless time, since the very beginning (though the Universe has always been, and never truly began) to the very end (though there is no end) there has never been and will never be a creature more intelligent than Trevor Smethurst.

Trevor looks like a small tyrannosaurus rex dressed in a knight’s armour – but he is in fact a type of alien called a Killian dressed in a knight’s armour. He is also a Good Man, a sort of teenage superhero, though if you had ever met him you would find it very difficult to think of him as a hero, super or otherwise.

Trevor is the Universe’s greatest mind. He is also an idiot; almost certainly the biggest idiot ever to have existed. Trevor invented a device called a Chunk, an astonishing wooden machine that could travel to any point in space and time, and then was stupid enough to annoy Mordred, King of Britain, and got an axe in his remarkable machine for his pains. He is currently hurtling through all of time and space (which is a sort of off-beige colour) with no way of stopping and no idea of where he is going.

Only one thing is absolutely certain, wherever this galactic idiot is heading, once he arrives there, he will cause a considerable amount of trouble.


Trevor landed with a wet splat, and was instantly covered in thick, glutinous mud. As Trevor was generally quite filthy anyway, this did not bother him particularly, but the heavy squall of rain that hit him moments later made him swear loudly. If there was one thing that Trevor really hated – apart from sprouts, rap music, and the planet Earth – it was being cold.

The first thing that struck Trevor was that he was in a particularly filthy, smelly valley. Mud was knee-deep in every direction, broken only by splintered and burnt tree stumps. The second thing that struck Trevor was the sudden and remarkably sensible idea that he should put on his spectacles. These were no ordinary spectacles, and the moment he put them on he transformed from a leathery reptile into a small, scruffy boy with a scrub of curly brown hair, a sullen expression and a turned up nose.

The third thing that hit him was a large cannonball that struck him in the chest and sent him flying across the field in a spray of mud.


‘Drag him out of the way.’

‘He is very heavy, captain.’

‘Then stand aside and let the wagon role over him.’

Trevor opened his eyes and sat up. Something heavy landed in his lap making him wince. He looked down at a large, muddy cannonball between his knees, at the puckered remains of the breast plate of his armour (it had been bent almost double by the force of the impact, thought Trevor himself, he discovered later, only had a small bruise on his chest) and then up at the startled, mud-splattered face of a boy wearing long tubular black hat on which was a brass badge depicting crossed cannons.

‘What you looking at, ugly?’ Trevor demanded, picking up the cannonball and throwing it blindly and with considerable force. There were sudden shouts as the ball flew away – followed by the snick-snick-snick sound of musket triggers being cocked.

‘Who do you fight for, you filthy little wretch?’ Trevor found himself looking up into fat red face and considerable moustache of a man shorter, better fed and a lot cleaner than all of the other heavily armed men surrounding him.

This was not an unfamiliar situation for Trevor – there were captains, admirals, and intergalactic commanders from throughout history whose face hair had bristled at Trevor shortly before they jabbed a sword point, pistol or sonic disruptor at his chest – and Trevor knew exactly how to answer this question.

‘That depends. Who’s winning?’ he asked politely.

Fortunately the cannonball that one of the soldiers launched at his head deafened him to the oxygen-blistering swear words that followed his enquiry.


Trevor opened his eyes and found himself looking down at a juddering mound of rutted mud. After several attempts he managed at last to get his feet under him and found himself staggering along after a wagon, his wrists clapped in very thick black manacles.

‘Hoy!’ Trevor bellowed. ‘Hoy! What’s going on!’

‘You must be silent, or you will be shot,’ whispered an anxious voice from his side. He looked around into the face of the boy he had seen earlier with the ugly black hat. He was a very small boy dressed in a uniform that had once consisted of white trousers, shirt and black tunic, but now was a uniform muddy colour. He carried a large drum on one hip.

‘What’s going on? Where are you taking me?’ Trevor demanded, he sniffed the boy. ‘Poo! And why don’t you get a wash?’

Again, this was not a wholly unfamiliar situation for Trevor, and as always when tied to a horse/locked up in an asylum/chained to the nose cone of an idling space ship Trevor’s first instinct was to demand ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ – of course, outside of several terrestrial and non-terrestrial police forces no one did know who Trevor Smethurst was – but in Trevor’s opinion they most certainly should have done.

‘We are joining our main force at Waterloo,’ said the boy. ‘My name is Felix, and I am a drummer in the Emperor’s Grande Armee. We are about to smash the English forces, and then—‘

‘Emperor?’ interrupted Trevor. ‘What emperor?’

Felix the drummer boy gave Trevor a perplexed look. ‘Emperor Napoleon, of course,’ he replied.

Trevor frowned. The name didn’t ring a bell, but then again he had very little interest in Earth history. He remembered that other bloke, the one with the funny moustache, had been really put out when Trevor hadn’t recognised him. What was his name? Adolf something or other.

‘I want to see this Napoleon bloke,’ Trevor said. ‘Right bleeding now.’

Felix laughed. ‘You can not possibly see the emperor,’ he replied. ‘Why would he see someone like you? Who are you to see Napoleon Bonaparte?’

In answer Trevor reached up and plucked his spectacles from the bridge of his nose. Felix fell flat on his back in the mud as the scruffy little boy transformed into a fierce tyrannosaurus rex.

‘I’m Trevor Smethurst,’ Trevor replied. ‘Now get me Napoleon or I’ll smash your face in!’


“His Imperial Majesty Napoleon the First, By the Grace of God and the Constitutions of the Republic, Emperor of the French.”

There was a long expectant silence while the rather chubby, squat man dressed in a uniform much like Felix the drummer boy’s (only with a lot more brass and gold ribbons, and with a much larger girth to contain his round stove-pot belly, and a much bigger hat to contain his small head) squinted at the short t-rex dressed rusty knee-length chainmail – all that remained of Trevor’s cannonball-battered armour.

‘I’m Trevor,’ Trevor said at last.

There were gasps of astonishment from the soldiers and generals. They were all, Trevor noticed, a lot taller than Felix, and himself, but the Emperor Napoleon was no taller than a fifteen year old boy with a flop of thinning black hair and a chubby face. He reminded Trevor of Barty Pugg, a boy at school he had never really liked.

‘What manner of creature are you?’ the Emperor demanded in a surprisingly deep voice.

‘That’s a bit bleeding rude, isn’t it?’ Trevor demanded. ‘What manner of blinking creature are you, shorty?’

Trevor ignored the by now familiar sounds of musket triggers being cocked and swords being drawn. He had spotted exactly what he had hoped for, and, a quick glance around the tent told him that there were no priests or wizards around the Emperor.

‘Kill this creature immediately, and this fool drummer boy,’ said Bonaparte stiffly. ‘I have no time for amusements while the Seventh Coalition—‘

‘Great Emperor Blownapart!’ Trevor interrupted, raising his arms dramatically and getting even more muskets pointed at him for his pains. ‘I come from the future with a message!’

‘The future?’ Bonaparte, who had turned away, turned back to Trevor once more, a curious expression on his face. ‘How far in the future?’

‘Er … Many, many centuries from now, great Emperor,’ Trevor replied awkwardly. In fact he had no idea what year in the future of this planet he came from, or any real idea of what year this was. On his own world, Vir, it had been the year 57,903, but he wasn’t sure how that corresponded to time here. They had TVs on the future Earth where he had gone to school, and spaceships. Looking around he doubted they had the space shuttle here, or, come to that, telly. ‘From your great, er, eternal empire in, er…’ He turned to Felix, whose face was white with terror, and whispered: ‘What blinking country is this? Belgium? Yes, from your eternal empire in Belgium! Right. I have returned with a dire warning for you, great Emperor Blownapart.’

Napoleon stepped forward, his small pale hands pushed aside the forest of guns that were aimed at Trevor and Felix. ‘What is this warning?’ he demanded.

‘Sit tight, don’t do nothing,’ Trevor replied. ‘I’ll let you know when it’s safe to attack.’

The Emperor stepped forward, and bent towards Trevor, ‘And what do you want in return for this guidance from the future, creature?’ he asked.

‘Only to guide you in building your eternal empire, great one,’ Trevor replied humbly. ‘Oh, and some manure.’

‘Some … manure?’

‘Yes. Manure. Horse’s poo, you know,’ and in answer to the Emperor’s perplexed expression Trevor rubbed his belly and licked his lips. ‘I get very hungry. Mmm – manure, yum-yum!’


Trevor had no intention of eating manure. In fact, he had no intention of eating anything in this backwards pig-hole, even if Emperor Bonaparte did have his own chefs. In Trevor’s opinion his greatest invention was his pocket wormhole, a small hole in time in space which fitted in the pocket of the Killian’s chain mail and sent chocolate directly to him from the famous Kissing Cow Chocolate Factory in the Bleak Republic without all of that messy and inconvenient business of paying for it. Trevor’s second greatest invention (in his opinion) was the Chunk, his time and space travel device, which was currently sliced neatly down the centre, but was easily repairable – he simply needed to plant it in the earth and wait for it to regrow, or, if he was in a real hurry, plant the remarkable wooden computer in some dung.

So Trevor had retired to a private tent where he had met Bonaparte and his advisors and had told them mostly accurate stories about the future (Trevor was a creature of little imagination) slightly embellished to hint at the idea that the Emperor was still in charge and was an immortal ruler of the universe. These ridiculous stories seemed to satisfy the Emperor that Trevor was telling the truth, and every day he had a steaming pile of fresh horse manure dumped in the middle of Trevor tent, and every day Trevor would carefully bury the Chunk in the middle of the manure. Every day the cannon fire got louder and closer, and every day the Emperor and his advisers got a little more nervous.

On the first day the large “V” that King Morded’s axe had cleaved into the top of the Chunk had disappeared; on the second day a tiny, blinking red light appeared at the top of the Chunk, and on the third day Trevor awoke to find a large angry Prussian with an even larger angrier moustache slicing a sword down on his head.


Trevor let out a wail of horror as the sword sliced down – Trevor was almost indestructible, but “almost” indestructible did not cover a very large, very sharp sword strike on his unprotected head. There was a loud ‘bong!’ as Felix shoved his drum in the path of the Prussian’s sword.

‘What the blink’s going on?’ Trevor exclaimed. He kicked at the man with the big moustache with his large reptilian feet and gave a grunt of satisfaction as he watched the unfortunate Prussian soldier fly vertically into the air and through the roof of the tent, leaving a surprised-looking hole behind him.

‘All is lost!’ cried Felix, throwing aside his drum which bonged pathetically on his hip, now more the shape of the number eight than a nice round drum shape. ‘The Prussians and English have surrounded us, Wellington is at our door and the cannonballs are flying!’

As if to illustrate this the hole the flying Prussian had left through was joined by a dozen others as the air filled with flying cannonball.

‘What sort of mood is old Boney in?’ Trevor asked, from where they lay on the floor chin deep in horse manure as cannonball shredded the tent to tissue above their heads.

‘Demon!’ came a high-pitched scream, and Trevor ducked again as a musket ball skimmed the air millimetres above his head. Trevor looked up as Napoleon threw aside his rifle, grabbed another from a soldier and aimed it between Trevor’s eyes. ‘Die you traitorous devil!’ the Emperor screeched.

Trevor stuck out his tongue and let out a rattling raspberry. ‘You first, shorty!’ he replied, and he pressed the small red button on top of the Chunk.

The small red button was a new innovation by Trevor. Pressing it sent him to an entirely random point in time and space instantaneously, and overrode the programming of the Chunk, which often argued with Trevor and had occasionally thwarted him in his favourite occupation of running as far away from the chaos he had caused as fast as Killianly possible.

Several things happened at once. The Emperor fired his gun, and, despite his short stature, chubby face and slight squint Napoleon Bonaparte was an excellent shot, and most certainly would have blown Trevor’s considerable brains out. Felix, seeing Trevor was about to die (and Felix has seen more than enough death at his young age) threw himself into the path of the gun. The musket ball hit Felix’s poor drum, splitting in neatly in two, the bullet ricocheted, flew into the air, and shot the angry Prussian in the right cheek of his bottom where he lay semi-conscious on the roof of Trevor’s tent. The Prussian, Gebhard von Blucher, was 63 years old, and decided at that moment that now would be a very good time to retire. Felix stumbled backward, tripped over Trevor’s considerable head, and landed on top of him.

Space folded.

One moment Felix was looking up a tent so torn by cannon fire that it looked as if it had been attacked by giant moths, the next the universe turned beige, and the very next moment water closed over Felix’s head.


‘Alez-oop!’ exclaimed Trevor, dragged Felix to the surface by his drum belt. ‘Don’t they teach you how to swim in Belgium?’

Felix did not have the breath or wits to correct Trevor. He and the Killian were in the middle of a dark and storm-tossed sea. Black clouds boiled above their heads and in front of them the ocean rose gigantically, so it seemed to Felix he was fifty or sixty feet in the air at the crest of each wave, and then plunged into black troughs of water as all around them the mountainous sea reared like a great dragon.

‘We are doomed!’ Felix cried.

‘Doomed? You dopey chimp! Look over there!’

Felix followed Trevor’s pointed talon. A great ship rose over the mountainous waves. It was a huge black galleon, its sails straining against the wild winds.

‘Hurray!’ cried Trevor. ‘Saved again!’

And, as Felix allowed himself a moment of hope a single stroke of blinding lightning flashed across the sky, lighting the sea as brightly as daylight.

Lighting the skull and crossed bones flag that snapped viciously in the wind.


Monday, 16 May 2011

3 is the magic number

Maxwell is nearing the end of his adventures on The Isle of The Dead - though of course you won't be able to read about them for a while. But we are revving up for that Christmas 2011 print spot - and John Gallagher has delivered the first of his concept sketches for the cover of IoD. Why is Maxwell trapped on a rooftop, where is that rooftop, and what is that strange thing rising into the night behind him...?
Like I'm going to tell you! Tony