Climatic Calamity (part 16)

I know you’ve been champing at the bit for the next episode (or is that ‘Chomping on your bits’?), so here it is…

Farther back, Celestino turned from the screen and whispered to Erronious and Hellfire:

“It’s lying. I can sense it. There is no one by the name of Corbin Commijerk. It just made that up on the spur of the moment. In fact I doubt that is a real creature at all. Or a robot, for that matter. No, I suspect it’s an animation designed to comfort us in the hope that we will lower our guard.”

“But what choice do we have?” Erronious whispered back. “We need that antidote to climate change: everywhere else is just…” He floundered – unable to think of a descriptive term.

“Sub-atomic unstableness?” Hellfire suggested.

“Yes,” Erronious nodded gratefully, “sub-atomic unstableness. There’s nothing else out there. This must be the place that made the weather weapon. Corbin might be unreal; but this planetoid is the only tangible object for millions of miles around – even if Corbin is an animation.” 

Unbeknownst to the trio of earplugs, the Captain had been listening to their conversation via his anally-analogous microphone. As a close-up of the brightly lit Vacuum City appeared on-screen, the mauve robot turned and said… 

…“Your concerns are duly noted, gentlemen. We will proceed with utmost care. We must take nothing for granted. Question everything we see and hear.”

“And smell.” The First Officer added.

“Yes, and smell too.” The Captain agreed. “Gas smells, so we should prepare ourselves for that. But, as you say, Mister Bosche we are here upon a mission: and we must risk everything to accomplish it. The ship is about to enter the city. Be ready for anything.”

With a deft touch that only an automaton can really display, the Drunkard’s Vomit settled upon the deck – or floor – of (what everyone assumed was) a hangar…

An audio message then welcomed anyone who wished to leave the ship – inviting them to join Corbin in his office for a nice cup of tea and a slice of lemon drizzle cake. Naturally the robots, bereft of a stomach or taste buds, declined. This left the three earplugs to step into the strangely metallic-tasting air of Vacuum City…

“You go ahead.” Celestino said quietly. “I’ll hang back and keep an eye out for…um…things. Hopefully my talent will warn me against any dangers. And, you never know, it might also tell me if I stumble over the ice-age antidote in the process.”

It was a less-than-perfect plan; but in the absence of another, Erronious and Hellfire decided to go with it. “Yeah, okay.” Erronious said doubtfully. “Wish us luck.”

Meanwhile, uncountable millions of miles distant, upon Earth, or, to be more precise, the Museum of Future Technology…

…the widespread use of armoured personnel carriers assisted the museum staff, as they searched the environs for lost inhabitants and customers; then return them to the dubious safety of the vast edifice. These were supplemented by mountain rescue teams – each of which had one member with special goggles for seeing through whiteouts…

“I wish I had a pair of whiteout goggles.” The red mountain rescue earplug said to the green earplug. “All I can see is the back of your head.”

“What about my bum?” The green earplug inquired.

 “What about your bum?”

“Can you see it?”

The red earplug snorted his contempt. “No, of course I can’t.” He snapped. “You’re wearing your fluffy mountain rescue regulation thermal pants.”

“Oh good,” the green earplug responded, “My arse is so cold that, for a moment I thought I might have forgotten to put them on.”

In the relative warmth of the museum, Crudlove Twang and Spodney Gridlock – of the volunteer group known as the Yabu Youth – watched a TV wall screen that showed the proceeding rescue efforts…

Spodney was in the middle of a suggestion that they join it, when a blue earplug fell on her arse outside on the balcony.

“Nah, I don’t think so.” Crudlove replied as she eyed a small Café Puke poster beside the window. “It’s cold enough for me in here.”

Naturally Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had been amongst the first to volunteer. They, in particular, had gone to the beleaguered Ciudad de Droxford…

“Oh look, Magnuss,” Hair-Trigger squealed, “someone has managed to erect a sign that reads ‘help`. Let’s pray we’re not too late.”

However, as they proceeded into a snow cave…

…Magnuss discovered that it led to a huge sink hole that, in order to escape it, he was forced to use his emergency jet pack…

“Well it just goes to show,” Hair-Trigger said as they returned to the museum with other volunteers – including the black-helmeted Fascist convention attendees…

… “that even in these terrible times, there are earplugs who haven’t lost their sense of humour.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Strictly speaking the majority of this episode is ‘padding’. It doesn’t really move the story on; but it does allow me to remind readers of other characters that have appeared before – and thereby give the story arc some continuity. It also allows me to use pictures that I have slaved over – or just plain like – in a story – instead of having them languish, unseen, upon my computer. Did you enjoy them? If so, then it was worth their inclusion. If you didn’t…well yaboo sucks: this is my story, and I’ll use whatever bloody pictures I want!

 

Cyber-Soylent Green

I’m sure, when the I.T staff member responsible for placing these obsolete monitors out for collection by a recycling company did so…

…he or she didn’t notice the scene’s similarity to the 1970’s film, Soylent Green. In an over-populated world, the elderly were required to willfully submit themselves to euthanasia, eventually to be repurposed as biscuits or varying hues for the hungry masses. It was called Soylent, and the remains of Edward G Robinson’s character was designated Soylent Green, which didn’t please Charlton Heston one little bit! If you have a silly imagination like me, this is a rather sad photo. Look at them: they’re not complaining or trying to escape. They just wait there to be collected before being torn asunder and reduced to their constituent parts. Or is just me?

P.S This was taken a few years ago. Since then the entire building has been repurposed. Nothing in the picture has survived. It is now part of a housing estate. And that really is sad because it never needed to happen. Just a very bad decision made at board level caused it. It still rankles with me: I loved the place.

Climatic Calamity (part 15)

In Part 14 we saw Celestino Candalabra abducted by robots and brought to the Drunkard’s Vomit – and he wasn’t best pleased. Shall we see what happened next? The answer to that is yes, sno’nuf Tooty, go for it!

However, by the time he had been reintroduced to his fellow earplugs, then, for the first time to the ship’s Captain, he had simmered down somewhat…

“So a map won’t cut it, huh?” He said to the news that he would be going on the mission to save the museum.

“You might ‘see’ alternatives, should we encounter problems.” The Captain explained. “This mission cannot fail. Everyone depends upon us and what we do.”

Celestino was a little doubtful. “What – even the Earplug Brothers?”

“Even the Earplug Brothers.” Hellfire assured him.

Celestino thought about that. “Hmmm,” he said at length, “it would be quite a feather in my cap if I put one over the Earplug Brothers. I go shopping three days a year: I suppose I could do my future shopping in the museum’s arcade. It would be quite something to have other shoppers point and say ‘Oh there goes that hero of the museum: I wonder if he will sign his autograph on my knickers and grant me a kiss’. That might be fun. Okay, let’s do it. Let’s get it on!”

Well the Captain didn’t require a second bidding. It instructed Security to open the hangar roof hatch; then launched the Drunkard’s Vomit into the air with all possible haste…

In a matter of seconds, the huge bulbous craft had cleared, not only the museum, Ciudad de Droxford; Lemon Stone; and the pea-farming district; but had left the mountains behind and had cleared off across the vast plain beyond…

Then it was straight up. Soon the bridge crew could regard the majesty of the firmament upon their main viewer…

“I don’t know,” the Captain seemed to ruminate upon its theological position within the cosmos, “but it never seems to look the same twice out there. Or is it me?”

“It’s you, Sir.” The Second Officer replied. “You spend too much time in the company of earplugs, Sir.”

Soon the Earth-Moon system had fallen far astern of the Drunkard’s Vomit

At the same time, the Fifth Officer had re-assumed its catering duties…

Although cyber-disappointed, it had expected the unwelcome role-reversal – so it didn’t feel overly moribund. Moreover, it could now enter a genuine terrestrial adventure upon its cyber-CV. Who could guess in which direction its career might go with that in pink high-lighted ink? But it was genuinely surprised, and very pleased, when it discovered that its fellow officers had banded together to create a lovely stone plinth in its honour…

“I don’t know what to say.” The Catering Assistant said when it nearly fell over the gift in a side gangway. “Is it heavy? It looks heavy. Where am I going to keep it?”

Chapter 6

It wasn’t very long after the Catering Assistant’s wondrous discovery when the Drunkard’s Vomit entered a hyperspace conduit…

However it took a bit longer for the exit into sub-atomically unstable space to appear upon the main viewer…

“Jolly good.” The Captain said after such a long wait. “Take us out of hyperspace. Nice and smooth: we don’t want our passengers throwing up all over the place.”

Almost instantaneously the ship entered that strange region of the cosmos that looked even weirder than Weird Space…

…Where nothing conformed to the perceived expectations of galactic normalcy.   

“Can’t say I’m enamoured with this place.” The Captain continued. “Especially since it was here that we picked up our belligerent stowaway.”

“Boggles the eyes a bit too.” The Second Officer observed.

The robotic leader might have replied in the affirmative, but the image of space upon the viewer was replaced by an image of a grand city standing upon a hill, set against the darkness of night, and perhaps a distant Galaxy beyond…

“It’s a transmission, Sir.” The First Officer reported. “Sent by an unknown agency. There are co-ordinates attached to the transmission. I assume we’re supposed to follow them and go there.”

“I was never one to refuse an invitation, Number One.” The Captain replied. “Take us there with utmost alacrity.”

Shortly after the command was given, the Drunkard’s Vomit raced into an orbital course around a vast planetoid…

“That city on the screen, Sir,” the First Officer said in cyber-wonderment. “It can only be a totally sealed environment. This planetoid possesses no atmosphere whatsoever. Not even a miserable little one made up of inert gasses and the occasional interstellar fart.”

The Captain was about to express its own sense of wonderment, when the city-scene was replaced by that of a dark figure with small glowing eyes…

“Welcome,” it said, “I am Corbin Commijerk. I invite you to enter our fabulous Vacuum City. Just follow the guide beam we are transmitting.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I think Celestino’s expression tells you all you need to know about that welcome. If you’d like to know what he said to this, return for episode 16!

All You Need For An Earplug Adventure…

…are…

…a computer, a camera, a note pad, a pen (obviously – what good is a note pad without a pen?), and (in my case) some glasses and a cup of cafe cortado. Oh yeah, and…

…sets, props, and lights. Not forgetting…

…locations and a photographer. And last, but certainly not least…

…a whole bunch of earplugs!

P.S Did you recognise the location I was shooting in that charming photo of my tanned self with a bamboo plant? It was…

…the scene from Surprise Visit in which the three Cafe Puke Baristas go in search of raw cane sugar for Nigel the Golden One of Scroton. If you spotted that, present yourself an Earpluggers Merit Award for Paying Close Attention. It looks something liked this…

Nature Wallpaper: Weeks Into the Drought

The fields near where I live suffered during the Summer of 2022. They also made a pleasant, if slightly abnormal wallpaper…

Here’s how it might appear on your computer…

And just to show you the lengths I’m willing to go to in order to serve up these wonders of nature – regard what a loop of vicious bramble did to me as I went about my country business, snapping nice pictures to share with all…

My ankle was like that all the way around. I hate bastard brambles!

Climatic Calamity (part 14)

Well part thirteen passed by without incident or mention, so I guess it must have been okay, if less than startlingly good. On with episode 14…

Shortly, the Fifth Officer and Shortarse stepped out of their vessel – to find that the ice-age had further breached the museum’s defences…

“It appears colder than the regulation nine degrees centigrade.” Shortarse observed.

“Don’t be a pedant.” The Fifth Officer replied. “Turn up your internal thermostat. It’s a long walk to where we’re going.”

Once outside the museum, both robots were bludgeoned by the weather from space…

Shortarse felt compelled to make a request:

“Permission to turn up my thermostat again, Sir?”

“Granted,” the former Catering Assistant replied, “I maxed mine out the moment after we stepped from the building.”

Several hours were to pass before the pair of intrepid robots reached the pea-farming region…

“This hillock appears to conform to Hellfire’s description of the area immediately above the shepherd’s hut.” The Fifth Officer said as it surveyed the area with its visual apparatus – often referred to as ‘eyes’.

“I’m fitted with Hut Detection Sensors, Sir,” Shortarse offered. “Shall I activate them?”

Two minutes later the crew members of the only Submarine Space Freighter in the vicinity were making good speed towards their target…

“Is the last one there a rotten egg, Sir?” Shortarse inquired.

“Oh, undoubtedly,” Shortarse’s superior replied. “A rank dinosaur egg.”

Shortly, (had anyone been around to watch) the two robots could be seen peering in the only door that led into the shepherd’s hut…

“Lot of snow in there, Sir.” Shortarse stated the obvious. “Can’t quite make out the entrance to any tunnel. Are we sure this is the right hut?”

“Yes.” The Fifth Officer snapped. “I don’t have an articulating midriff,” it added, “you’ll have to push me through.”

After a lot of mechanical heaving and straining, both robots could stand upright inside the snow-filled hovel…

From there it was a simple matter of finding the tunnel door; forcing aside the accumulated snow that had fallen through the broken sky lantern; negotiating the green and orangey tunnels; then waltzing, unannounced into the home of Celestino Candalabra…

When Celestino learned what the two hulking monsters required, he offered to draw them another map.

“I have some lavatory paper and a felt-tip pen.” He offered.

“No deal.” The Fifth Officer replied. “The captain said to fetch you to the Museum of Future Technology: and that is exactly what I am going to do. If you have any thermal undies, I suggest you put them on.”

It took Celestino a full fifteen minutes to dress – as best he could – for the conditions outside. He spent every one of those minutes trying to conjure up a cunning plan whereby he might escape the clutches of the alien robots. But ultimately it was to no avail…

In a carbon-copy recreation of the journey made by the former burglars, the trio discovered an abandoned armoured personnel carrier…

“Neither of us can fit into the driver’s seat.” The Fifth Officer informed Celestino. “You’ll have to drive.”

“But I can’t drive.” Celestino wailed his argument. “I’m a recluse, remember?”

“I can stand behind you.” Shortarse said to the sole earplug. “I can tell you what to do and when to do it.”

“It’s either that – or walk.” The Fifth Officer said less-than-kindly.

An hour later…

…only one object moved of its own volition beyond the outer walls of the Museum of Future Technology. And shortly after that the disgruntled recluse was introduced to the interior of the Drunkard’s Vomit

“I don’t know,” he said as he regarded the automatons as they went about their work, “maybe earplugs aren’t so bad. At least they don’t drag you from your home against your will; force you to drive an armoured vehicle through an ice-age; and then shove you into a huge spaceship!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so the team appears to have assembled. Now it must be time to go and kick some bad guy’s arse. Return for episode 15 and discover where the aforementioned resides.

P.S Here’s the preliminary cover for the finished product…

Climatic Calamity (part 13)

I’m not superstitious, but if a story isn’t working by episode thirteen,  I figure it never will. I leave you to judge whether this tale is the real deal or grot snot. Read on…

As though on cue, the Tong-Tong look-alike Catering Assistant stepped from the ship’s lower cupola…

“Good afternoon,” it said through its cheap and nasty forward speaker, “the Captain is wondering if we might be of assistance. Would you like to come aboard?”

“Oh please,” Erronious cried with relief, “Our gussets are still full of compacted snow!”

Chapter 5

Once aboard the Drunkard’s Vomit, both earplugs relaxed and began to luxuriate in the miserly nine degrees centigrade that the robots considered most efficient and comfortable for their complex artificial brains when going about their regular duties…

Whilst they travelled along a brightly lit gangway, Hellfire thought he should try to engage the Catering Assistant in conversation:

“Um…have you been a space farer for very long?” He inquired.

Although the robot replied, both Erronious and Hellfire thought they detected a hint of tetchiness in its demeanour:

“Straight out of the factory – into a bridge officer’s role – seventeen months past.”

“Oh, excellent.” Hellfire responded with false cheerfulness. “Well done. That’s really…um…swell. Is it nice? Do you like being a bridge officer?”

“I am a catering assistant!” The robot snapped.

Hellfire was confused. “I’m confused,” he said, “when you said you came straight from the factory as a bridge officer, I…”

“I am a catering assistant.” The robot interrupted rudely. “In the ship’s unused and totally superfluous Cafe Puke!”

Erronious felt instantaneous pity for the machine that had brought them in from the cold. “Café Puke, eh?” He said before Hellfire could put his foot in his mouth. “That’s quite an honour. Biggest chain of cafes in the Museum of Future Technology, they are. A lot of robots would give their third diode to work in ‘em. But they usually only allow silicon life forms to work in such important positions. It’s a bit…ah…racist, I know, but that’s the way it is. Say, after we’ve told the Captain about our plans, maybe you can serve us both a Café Disgusto!”

“Disgusto’s off.” The robot replied – too quickly for Erronious’ comfort.

“How about Defecated?” Hellfire offered.

“That’s off too.” The response came even quicker. “Now shut up: we’re nearly there!” 

And they were too!

“Sir,” the Catering Assistant introduced their guests, “From your right to left, this is Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams. They have important information for you. Now may I return to my duty station – I think I detected a small mould spore growing beneath the washing up sink.”

“You will remain.” The captain answered. To Erronious and Hellfire, it said: “This information: might it impact upon the current situation in which my vessel has been embargoed for having brought a dangerous infestation into the Museum of Future Technology?”

Both earplugs were amazed. “It certainly would.” Erronious replied with a small grin. “This is your lucky day: we’re gonna give you the chance to redeem yourself.”

Thereafter the two earplugs took turns to tell the tale of the ‘See-er’ – Celestino Candalabra – and what he had told them of the alien artefact that had let loose devastation upon the museum and its environs.

“Right.” The Captain said as they completed their tale. “I think I’ll call a couple of important earplugs: I need to run this past some real living beings.”

Fifteen minutes later, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug were listening to the same tale…

“Sounds great.” Magnuss said enthusiastically. “I’d like to come along for the ride, but I don’t like to steal other people’s thunder. In any case I’ve developed  bit of Housemaid’s Knee: I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the mission by being a fraction slow off the mark. But, ultimately it’s not up to either Hair-Trigger or me: you need to convince the Curators.”

So, another fifteen minutes later…

…Cushions Smethwyke, along with Pretty-Boy Plankton, Auntie Doris, Montagu, and Bubbly Salterton had it all explained to them. Naturally they gave the go ahead for the ship to launch upon its mission to find the antidote to the storm in the far away sub-atomically unstable region of space. But when Erronious handed the sodden napkin upon which Celestino had written the co-ordinates, no one could decipher the inky smears upon it.

“Oh-no,” Erronious cried with horror, “the compacted snow in my gusset has thawed and soaked my pocket. It’s unreadable. What are we gonna do?”

It’s electronic brain racing, the Captain of the Drunkard’s Vomit reacted like stoat with a red hot poker up it’s bottom…

“Catering Assistant,” it snapped, “you are familiar with the situation: take another robot of your choice and retrace the tracks of Mister Bosche and Mister McWilliams. Find this Celestino Candalabra and bring him here.”

“What?” the Catering Assistant’s inexpensive speaker grill almost overloaded into incoherence, “Dressed like this?” 

The Captain cyber-sighed. “Oh, very well. I hereby re-designate you as Fifth Officer…”

In a moment the Catering Assistant had transformed…

“I won’t fail you, Sir.” The Fifth Officer replied to his Captain’s questioning body language. “I’ll take along Shortarse.” It added. “It is of a smaller, less advanced robot type: I might need it for getting into apertures too small for my larger, more advanced body.”

“Good choice.” The Captain responded. “I have full cyber-faith in you. Be upon your way now.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, another trek across a snowy landscape. I do like my snowy landscapes you know. Come back for episode 14 to find out just how snowy that landscape is. And a few other things too, of course.

Climatic Calamity (part 12)

In Part 11, our heroes finally arrived at the Museum of Future Technology. Good for them. But now that they’re there, where are they gonna find a space ship? Read on…

Chapter 4

Stepping from the windy exterior into the frosty interior of the Museum of Future Technology’s foyer, both earplugs were surprised at the absence of either a Robot Ticket Collector or a Robot Guide. Hellfire tried whistling for the latter automaton, but without success.

“I don’t like just walking in without a ticket.” He complained. “It feels dishonest.”

But they did anyway and were astonished to find that the minus zero degrees continued into the museum proper…

In his desperate search for living beings such as himself, Hellfire had skipped ahead through the frozen tableau that was the museum. He turned back nervously in time to see Erronious pass through the door from an adjacent corridor.

“Oh, Erronious,” he wailed, “are we the only earplugs left alive? It’s horrible: where is everyone?”

Erronious showed no emotion. He simply grunted: “Keep searching: someone is bound to show up.”

And so this proved to be. Shortly after arriving in one of the main pedestrian arterial routes, both earplugs spotted a green female ahead of them. Hellfire called along the frosty corridor:

“Hello. Oo-oo. Excuse us. Can you tell us where to find the nearest Café Puke? We’re cold and gasping. And I think my friend, Erronious could use their toilet.”

Mavis Dorker was surprised to find others about. “Oh,” she called back. “Sorry, but all the Café Pukes have shut up shop. Their staff were sent home hours ago. Everyone is taking to their homes to keep warm. They’re huddling together like small hibernating omnivores. The only reason I’m out and about is because I’m claustrophobic: I don’t have the sort of friends who would like to huddle with me: and my frozen-over lavatory has proven highly resistant to my rubber mallet. I’m hoping to find a pneumatic drill in one of the maintenance lockers.”

“Yeah, enough of your personal problems.” Erronious growled. “How do we get to the UFO hangar from here?”

As an assistant librarian, Mavis was delighted to be able to help the strange pair of earplugs. “Go through that arch behind you: turn left: go straight on for two kilometres – until you find the emergency stairwell: then go down three levels: pass through a yellow portal that leads to the Tunnel Temporale. You’ll find a small green door in the wall beside the tunnel. That will open directly on to the hangar.”

Hellfire managed a quick, “Ta, er, whatever your name is,” before Erronious dragged him through the aforementioned arch.

A hideous amount of time later, and exhausted by the trek, the two earplugs found themselves passing through the yellow portal mentioned in her instructions by Mavis. Hellfire was pleased to be there, especially when he noted the warmer air in which they now stood.

“Wow, Erronious,” he said, “it’s almost balmy here – in comparison anyway. But I wouldn’t want to take my trousers off; it isn’t that warm.”

A grim Erronious replied:

“Yeah, and I think I know why. And it aint good.”

He didn’t bother to explain until he and Hellfire stood inside the Tunnel Temporale…

“Um,” Hellfire said uncertainly, “is this thing supposed to be glowing? Didn’t they turn it off years ago, coz of all them time storms what nearly tore the museum apart?”

Erronious sighed several times before replying with, “I never thought I’d see the day when someone would reinsert the fuses of the Tunnel Temporale. Obviously desperate times require desperate acts. But I can kind’a see some logic in it. If they run the tunnel at minimum power; target a period in history when it was – or will be – really hot; then just let the heat from that time percolate down the tunnel, it should warm up the museum a little. Risky though: if some engineer felt tempted to up the power just the tiniest bit, those time storms could come sweeping back, and make this ice-age look like a comedy sketch.”

“Ooh,” Hellfire said nervously. “Perhaps we should have stayed with that snotty-yellow earplug: his den was nice and warm.”

Erronious looked at his friend sternly. “No.” he snapped. “We have a task to perform. Where’s this bloody green door?”

Shortly, Erronious and Hellfire found themselves standing in an empty UFO hangar…

For a moment the grey earplug’s shoulders slumped. “Nada.” He said in a disappointed tone. “We’re too late. Everyone must have flown the coop before the weather made it impossible. That’s it – we’re stuffed. Game over.”

But Hellfire had noticed another pedestrian door. “Wait a minute.” He said. “Aren’t they always getting extra-terrestrial delegations from far away worlds like Scroton and the Ice Planet? Where do they park their space ships?”

Twenty seconds later, and inside an adjacent hangar…

…Erronious’ dejection reached new depths. “Not here, obviously; it’s too jam-packed with so many flying saucers.” He said sarcastically.

Again Hellfire’s wandering gaze had spotted something to give him hope. “Look,” he said, “that sign says Hangar Two: maybe there’s a Hangar Three!”

Another twenty seconds later they discovered that there was indeed a third hangar…

…but it didn’t do anything to improve Erronious’ demeanour. Instead of acting dejectedly or petulantly, he decided to study the ornate emergency lighting in the ceiling above. “Hmmm, recessed.” He noted. “Not terribly efficient. Nice in a bathroom though.”

Hellfire wasn’t listening: he was too busy dragging Erronious through yet another door. Moreover, having passed through that door, both of their mouths fell open at a wondrous sight…

Erronious was momentarily stupefied. He could form no words. Hellfire did better:

“Wow, look at the bloody size of that! So big and bulbous!”

“It’s…it’s…” Erronious managed.

Hellfire spoke the words for him:

“It’s a Submarine Space Freighter!”

Erronious re-gathered his wits. “Look,” his words echoed off the hangar walls, “the dorsal navigation light is lit. This is a working vessel! Hey, I’m not hallucinating, am I? It is real, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, sure is” Hellfire cheered. “It must be that one we saw this morning in the Café Puke automat. And there was me moaning about it. How could I moan about a submarine space freighter? It’s lovely! Let’s get a closer look: after all this, I’d hate to think we’re sharing a hallucination and it’s just a mirage.”

But, of course, it was no mirage…

“What does it feel like to touch?” Erronious asked.

“Hard and kind’a rubbery.” Hellfire answered cheerfully. Then he had a slightly negative thought: “Ooh-ur,” he said, “what if it’s in for repairs? Let’s check out the back end – sometimes known as the stern in naval parlance. Make sure it’s got engines.”

So they did, and, to their untrained eyes, it all looked tickety-boo…

“Looks like a bit of space rust up there,” Erronious noted, “but otherwise no obvious damage. How do we get inside? We don’t have a robot: who’s gonna fly this thing?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Locked out and minus a pilot’s license. Could this be the end of Erronious’ and Hellfire’s great expectation? Return for episode 13: you might find out!

 

Tooty’s Tapas Cakes

Tooty the Chef has endured the presence of a Spanish ‘Bizcocho’ cake mix in his cupboard for several years. His late wife bought it in a branch of Mercadona  yonks ago, but failed to use it because her propane oven was guaranteed to burn the bottom of the resulting cake. Although, by the time he decided to throw caution to the wind and risk a horrible burning smell permeating the structure of his modern cottage, buried deep within (or actually at the very edge of) the South Downs National Park,  the mix was two years out-of-date, he bravely ‘went for it’. As expected the base was burnt and the cake failed to rise. No result. The second attempt, though, was a work of genius – naturally. Tooty mixed up the goo, added eggs and all that other stuff, then (instead of pouring it into a baking tin) he pulled eight tapas bowls from the kitchen cupboard and baked it in them…

They even popped out of the tapas bowls in one piece – and not even slightly burnt!

“Not too bad,” I hear you gasp in wonderment. But he wasn’t finished there. He then proceeded to coat the bases of four cakes with Membrillo…

He quickly followed with a heavy smearing of caramel fondant…

Then it was a simple matter of slapping the naked four cakes on top to form a kind of sponge thing…

Okay, they were a bit chewy, but they tasted nice, despite the fact that he didn’t have any sugar in the house – except a half-tub of soft brown sugar that was (at the least) five years out-of-date. So, all in all, when all things are considered, another triumph for Tooty the Chef!

 

Climatic Calamity (part 11)

In episode 11 the journey to the ice-bound Museum of Future Technology continues…

A short while later, the armoured personnel carrier stopped for two more grateful passengers…

“Oh, wonderful,” one of them said at the welcome news, “our combined body heat should keep us all warm and toasty. It’ll be like playing Sardines!”

So, once his passengers were all aboard, Erronious instructed Hellfire to resume their journey…

But the closer to their destination they came, the worse the weather that followed…

“I can’t see a bloody thing out here.” Erronious complained to himself.

“And I can’t feel my bottom anymore.” He added. “Why am I out here anyway? Hellfire can see perfectly well through his windshield. I’m outta here.”

Moments later a cascade of snowflakes accompanied Erronious as he dropped through the hatch into the passenger compartment…

“Sorry to drop in on you folks,” he said, “but I was feeling slightly superfluous up there. It’s about the only thing I was feeling. Does anyone feel up to the task of massaging life back into my nether regions?”

“Hold tight,” Hellfire called through from the driver’s position…

… “we’re on the plain proper now: I’m taking us to top speed.”

With that, the vehicle leapt forward upon its hidden tracks…

A short while later it raced through the deserted streets of La Ciudad de Droxford’s retail area…

However, shortly after having blasted clear of the city outskirts, those in the passenger compartment were treated to a sharp braking manoeuvre…

Hellfire turned to face them…

“The museum.” He yelled. “It’s entirely frozen in. Look!”

So they did, and Hellfire’s observation was proven accurate…

“Find an open gate.” Erronious instructed him. “There’s one by Tower Twelve. They use it to deliver potatoes and other root vegetables. The hinges seized up years ago, and there was nothing in the maintenance budget to free them off. I always thought it was a perfect access point for rogues and vagabonds. It’ll be open for sure.”

Not unexpectedly, Erronious was proved right, and soon the armoured personnel carrier closed upon one of the Age of Stone exhibit’s entrances…

“Age of Stone.” Hellfire called. “Anyone want to get off here? There’s bound to be a heck of a lot of earplugs in there. Even without heating it should be pretty warm. And they’ve got a composting toilet too!”

The passengers couldn’t wait…

“Thanks for the lift.” They said as one. Then one of the flat-headed earplugs added: “I’ve always wanted to use a composting toilet. It must be so odd – not having a flush button to press.”

After their guests had disappeared into the Age of Stone, it became apparent to the dynamic duo that their vehicle was of no further use to them. They decided to take to their feet and find a way into the main structure of the museum…

…where they noticed a battle-hardened naturist taking a naked dip in the Age of Stone’s moat.

“Tough guy.” Erronious said appreciatively. “If he wasn’t so damned crazy, I’d ask him along.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S That is the second time in this story that I have mentioned Naturists in a slightly derogatory manner. I’d just like to point out to any Naturist who might be reading these tales, and feel offended by these vague slurs: I too like an all-over tan and publicly get my kit off at the beach at every opportunity: but only when it’s sunny and hot.

Climatic Calamity (part 10)

Anyone expecting a well thought out tale that reflects the likely problems that the world will need to deal with in the face of increasingly rapid global climate change must be very disappointed in this very silly tale. Well all I can say to that is…shit, this is an Earplug Adventure: when have I ever taken anything seriously. It’s all a giggle. On with episode ten…

Moments later, after a brief farewell, the would-be saviours of the museum were on their way…

“What are we doing, Erronious?” Hellfire whispered. “Have you taken leave of your senses? Have your pants slipped up the crack between your buttocks?”

“No.” Erronious hissed back through the side of his mouth. “Celestino has a greater gift than he imagines: that snotty-yellow earplug has allowed me to see what I really am. We’re gonna do this, Hell. No more pea farming for us: we’re gonna become bone afide heroes.”

A short while later, having successfully negotiated the red and green tunnels, Erronious and Hellfire found themselves, once more inside the tunnel directly behind the shepherd’s hut…

“There,” Erronious grumbled, “I told you those sky lanterns were rubbish. The top has obviously snapped off under the weight of snow, and now the weather is inside with us. We can’t get to the hut; we’ll have to go out via the broken lantern.”

As a result of this departure, the two chums, now slightly disorientated, stood somewhere above the hut…

“So which direction do we go?” Hellfire asked.

“We need transportation.” Erronious answered. “All the pea farmers would have moved to lower altitude: we’ll find their vehicles down there.”

Fifteen minutes later, and beneath a huge overhang of compacted snow, they discovered a tracked vehicle…

“The keys are in the ignition, Erronious.” Hellfire said from the driving seat. “And the power pack is half full.”

“No good.” Erronious replied. “We’re exposed to the weather on this. Let’s try further down.”

So they did; and they found a small tractor unit outside the pea processing plant: but it presented the same problem…

And it only had one seat. So they tried again…

“Ah, this is better,” Hellfire said with a frozen smile, “An armoured personnel carrier. I’ll drive: you take the command position.”

Once aboard, Erronious wasn’t entirely certain he liked the command position: protection from the wind was minimal. But since he couldn’t drive, he could hardly argue against Hellfire’s logic…

Very quickly they were upon their way…

In his youth, Hellfire had once been conscripted into a rag-tag mercenary army. Driving the armoured personnel carrier came as second nature to him. Through chattering teeth Erronious heard him call from the driver’s seat:

“Do you want me to fire the stubby forward cannon, Erronious? The heat from the barrel might warm you up a bit.”

“No!” Erronious shouted urgently. He then explained his reason: “We can’t see what we’re shooting at in this blizzard. In any case, we’ve started going downhill again.”

The decline to the plain that would take them to the Museum of Future Technology was long and arduous…

Further, once they had attained level ground, they discovered earplugs who had decided to attempt a walk to the assumed safety of either La Ciudad de Droxford, or the museum…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” Erronious boomed in the near silence of perpetual snowfall, “are you complete twonks?”

Twonks, or not, the three earplugs were hugely relieved when Hellfire said:

“Get on board. It’s a bit cramped; but it beats standing around out here.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, they’re on their way. What a huge task before them. They’re hardly the Earplug Brothers: do you think they have it in them to save the museum? Return for episode 11 to find out.

Climatic Calamity (part 9)

Honestly, this really is the episode in which our two “Heroes” finally get their arses into gear. Read on…

Whilst the former burglars tried to get their head around the emerald-hued situation, the snow storm that lashed Ciudad de Droxford showed no indication that it would lessen any time soon…

In an apartment on one of the more sheltered housing blocks, Café Puke Baristas, Jungle-Jake Johnson and Mary-Sue Wassack peered out of an open window…

“Well?” Jungle-Jake demanded, “Do you think we can make it to work? Or do you figure we’d better call in sick?”

Mary-Sue shivered as she hopped down from the window sill. “If we try to reach the Museum in this storm, we’re gonna die. The Café Puke will have to go on without us. Let’s open a bottle of vino, maybe watch TV, and chew on that length of chorizo in the back of your fridge.” 

However, and despite the young Barista’s concerns for the well-being of their place of employment, the day-shift Baristas – those being Bert Wimbledon and Rosie Hodliner…

…had already made the decision to shut up shop. As they made for the door, Bert said:

“Race ya to the nearest Down ramp. We can slide all the way to the bottom like complete idiots and fall over in a tangle of arms and legs.”

Rosie was all for the idea. She really liked Bert, and the thought of getting tangled up with him made her forget the raging storm completely. “Yeah.” She replied enthusiastically. “Just let me lock up first.”

Meanwhile, deep beneath the shepherd’s hut, the cavern reduced in size once more – becoming a tunnel again…

“Are we still going down?” Hellfire inquired.

“I’d say so.” Erronious replied. “It’s definitely getting warmer.”

“Strange, don’t you think,” Hellfire said, following several seconds of thought, “that a shepherd should keep a secret subterranean tunnel beneath his hut?”

“More significantly,” Erronious added, “where was his shepherding paraphernalia? I saw no crook leaning against the rustic pantry table. There was no bed for a herding plugmutt to sleep in. And where did he hang his rough sack-like shepherd’s jerkin?”

“What are you suggesting, Erronious?” Hellfire queried nervously.

“That the shepherd was no shepherd at all.” The red-eyed earplug replied. “That he was, in fact, something else entirely!”

Hellfire might have asked, “What ‘something else entirely’, Erronious?”, but he didn’t get the chance: with the reduction in altitude, the light that illuminated the tunnel was changing to a warmer, reddish hue…

“Speak in whispers.” Erronious…um…whispered. ”There’s a brighter light up ahead.”

And there was too…

“I think we may have reached the end of the line.” He added.

Chapter 3

Bravely stepping into the light, Erronious and Hellfire were amazed to discover a modern facility, with mysterious devices set against white-washed walls; a door that presumably led to living quarters and a lavatory; a heated towel rail; and a strangely shaped snotty-coloured earplug, sitting in a high-tech chair that appeared to be regarding a glowing rock…

Shortly after Erronious and Hellfire had slipped silently into the room, the grey earplug deliberately cleared his throat. The snotty earplug was out of his chair like an Olympic flea…

“Take whatever you want,” he squeaked. “Please take care: I frighten easily: I only own two pairs of underpants, and one of them is in the wash.”

“Really?” Erronious responded as his eyes took in the room’s details. “So why are they not hanging upon the heated towel rail?”

“They’re soaking in the sink – with some bicarbonate of soda. There’s a nasty oily stain on them from when I serviced my bicycle last week.”

This intrigued Hellfire. “You only change your underpants once a week?”

“I live alone.” The snotty earplug explained. “There’s no one to complain – which is the way I like it. I’m a recluse, after all. And my olfactory organ has malfunctioned since I was very young, when I was a stunt scooterist and rode head-first into a rock face during an extreme sporting event at a local nunnery.”

As the snotty earplug spoke the words, Erronious could see the self-confidence return to the stranger. “Too bad.” He said. “Oh, yeah, please excuse the intrusion, but we were facing oblivion in the face of the recalcitrant weather up top. We found your hut – and the door that led to the secret tunnel.”

“It’s not a secret tunnel.” The snotty earplug complained. “It’s just that nobody knows about it. If anyone had asked, I would gladly have shown them. But I’m a recluse: nobody comes calling on a recluse such as me.”

Hellfire chose to introduce himself and his pea farming partner.

The snotty earplug responded positively. “Celestino Candalabra.” He said whilst extending a hand of welcome.

“So what are you doing down here, beneath the mountainside?” Erronious inquired.

“I am a ‘See-er’” Celestino replied instantly. “Wherever I look, I see the truth. For example, I see that you are reformed criminals. You were once burglars: but now you till the meagre mountain soil.”

Celestino could see surprise upon the faces of his unexpected guests. “It is a blessing – or a curse – that I was born with. You see, I’m psychic. However, I do not see the future: it’s not that bloody useful – otherwise I could bet on the plugmutt races or the national lottery and make a fortune. But I do see the truth. I see the truth in every face I look at. Sometimes those truths are hard to accept – so I have locked myself away from society, and spared myself the pain.”

Erronious, although impressed with Celestino’s candour, allowed his former cunning to assert itself. Already he could see that he might use the see-er’s talent – though not to his personal advantage: but for an entirely altruistic reason. “Something disastrous happened at the Museum of Future Technology this morning.” He told him. “We appear to be in the grip of a sudden ice age. If we accompany you to the surface, so you can see it for yourself, could you tell us the truth regarding its origin? You see, we’ve already figured that the Earplug Brothers would have been incapacitated – what with them being so close to the epicentre of the disaster – and we’d rather like to have a go at fixing the situation. It’s what any reasonable citizen of earplugdom would do.”

Celestino looked at Erronious and Hellfire. In Hellfire’s expression he saw only surprise. Clearly the ugly sod had not been expecting his friend to speak the words he’d just spoken. In Erronious he saw that his words were the honest truth. “No need,” he said, “I’ve got this crystal ball, in the corner. It’s got three hundred and sixty degree vision – as well as straight up.”

Moments later, Erronious and Hellfire stood in amazement as a view of the Museum of Future Technology appeared in the air before them.

“This is the truth you seek.” Celestino said sternly. “This morning, shortly after daybreak, this happened…

A glowing object, of extra-terrestrial origin detached itself from a Submarine Space Freighter. It proceeded thence to the museum itself, where it gained energy and…how shall I describe it? It exploded into activity. An activity for which it had been specifically designed.”

“What was the activity for which it was specifically designed?” Hellfire inquired with surprising eloquence.  

Celestino turned a sober look upon the former burglars. “To cause mayhem, suffering, and disorganisation – by means of sudden and catastrophic climate change.” He said gravely.

“To what end?” Erronious asked.

Celestino’s eyes seemed to glaze over – as though he had gone into a sudden trance. A split second later he reanimated. “To weaken earplug resistance to their own conquest.” He answered. He then added: “All this terrible weather in the mountains and beyond is all collateral damage. The Museum of Future Technology is the intended target.”

Celestino then quickly scribbled a map upon a paper napkin that (in the absence of a handkerchief) he usually used to wipe his nose. Handing it to Erronious, he said: “Take this; find a space ship; go to these co-ordinates; find the antidote. It’s the museum’s only hope.”

Although Hellfire felt uncertain about this unexpected turn of events, Erronious smiled broadly. He had no conscious awareness of his envy of the Earplug Brothers; but he was certain – deep down inside – that it was the primary reason for his current thought processes.

Celestino saw this to be the truth, but he said nothing, except. “Right, now, go!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, the inevitable mission begins. Return for episode 10, and maybe learn some more.

 

 

Gallic Style Wallpapers

Interior automotive design of the early 1960s…

Almost art deco, don’t you think?

But then look at the exterior design…

Could that be anything but French in origin? I don’t think so. Check out the wraparound windshield. It’s a Simca Aronde by the way. Would I like one? Silly question. Now which testicle am I willing to sacrifice?

Climatic Calamity (part 8)

Could this be the episode in which the earplugs manage to turn the tide? Let’s find out, shall we? Read on…

Meanwhile, many kilometres distant, Erronious and Hellfire had finally found an abandoned shepherd’s hut, inside which they quickly took shelter…

“Do you have any of those oaty biscuit bars in your back pocket?” Hellfire inquired. “All this trudging about the mountain side has made me really hungry.”

“I do.” Erronious replied as he stood, warming ever so slightly now that he was out of the wind. “But you can’t have them. You know what you’re like after a meal: you’ll only want to visit the toilet.”

“What’s wrong with visiting the toilet?” Hellfire asked in a complaining tone.

The reply came instantaneously: “This hut doesn’t have one.”

But what it did have was a hexagonal tunnel that led into the hillside. Naturally the twosome investigated…

“Oh look, Erronious,” Hellfire cried out, “this tunnel has one of those roof-mounted sky lanterns that allow the daylight to be reflected down a polished shaft where it illuminates part of a building that would otherwise be cloaked in shadow.”

“Yeah, very nice.” Erronious grumbled as his gaze shifted in the direction of the sky lantern’s opening. “But what happens when a winter storm breaks it off? I’ll tell you: the weather will get in and render this place uninhabitable. I think they’re absolute rubbish: I hate ‘em with a passion. Now let’s see where this tunnel leads us – before it’s too late, and we get entombed in ice and snow.”

Meanwhile, at the Museum of Future Technology, the sky was becoming darker. Someone sent a flare up to see just how dark…

Someone in the Age of Stone exhibit had another idea. In an attempt to shield the side of the ‘castle’ that faced away from the prevailing winds, he, or she, had a team erect a huge glass barrier that had been hanging around the store for years, but had no obvious use. Now it did…

It gave limited, but sufficient protection for the more religious earplugs amongst the crowd to make their way out of the back door, where they could quickly trudge across a playing field to pray for salvation at the giant concrete toadstool icon…

Barry Dirtbox and his End Cap scullery maid, Fanny Hardcore were the first to arrive.

“Dear Giant Concrete Toadstool,” Barry said solemnly, “I’m really fed up with this snow. And Fanny, here, has got chilblains. Please make it go away.”

“And make me more attractive.” Fanny added. “If you’ve got the time, of course.”

“Yes.” Barry nodded vigorously. “But the snow gets priority, right?”

Elsewhere, inside the breached carapace of the Museum of Future Technology…

…the weather had transformed the Wide Blue Yonder into an ice sheet to rival any at the planet’s poles.

Whilst former female weightlifters, Mandy and Candy enjoyed their unplanned skating session immensely; Poncho Warmonger wore his usual miserable expression and wished he’d stayed at home with a good book and a hot water bottle.

As much fun as it was for some earplugs, other – more responsible earplugs – took upon themselves to mount tracked or hover vehicles and search for anyone in need of help…

They assumed, as almost everyone did, that the Nul-Space power generator had more than enough capacity to heat and light the museum through a protracted winter or mini ice-age. In essence they were correct. But what they hadn’t taken into account was the frozen canal that supplied the generator with coolant. Already engineers had been forced to reduce the amount of power asked of the wondrous device. Even as the hover chariots roamed the open areas of the museum in search of hapless earplugs who were too stupid to find shelter, engineers were dampening the energy transfer nodes all across the vast structure…

“Oh flip,” one engineer cried as the transfer node went to turquoise alert, “that means we’ll have to cut the power even more!”

This quickly became apparent to everyone with access to a window when the museum’s navigation and landing lights were extinguished…

…and the lights dimmed in the Café Puke outlets…

Not that either the Baristas or their clientele gave a hoot: they’d been adding extra brandy to every mug of café cortado for the last hour and a half and were well their way to inebriation and sliding beneath the melamine-topped café tables in a drunken haze.

Meanwhile, inside the mountainside, the tunnel down which Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams explored opened onto a subterranean cavern that glowed with an aerie, pea-like green light…

“Now this I didn’t expect.” Erronious said as they both stopped to take in the view. “I wonder how this got here. Some of the marks in the walls show the characteristic jagged edges of a pick axe or similar rock-hewing implement.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Okay, maybe that discovery didn’t quite live up to expectations; but it’s what they find there that will turn the aforementioned tide. You just wait and see – in episode 9!

Climatic Calamity (part 7)

There’s no let up for those unfortunate earplugs yet. Could this be the time when they finally get their arses well and truly kicked? To find out, read on…

The cold that had permeated into Mister Pong’s Exotic Food Restaurant was also playing havoc with the lake in the arboretum. In fact it had frozen it solid and made it all lumpy. Naturally the zombie population were thrilled. And because they had no circulatory system to keep them warm, some of them began a pleasant stroll across it…

Less happy with their ‘stroll’ were Erronious and Hellfire. Although experienced in the mountains, the unseasonal snow had thrown them off the track home…

“Erronious,” Hellfire almost whimpered, “not a lot worries me: but I really don’t want some bunch of adventurers, in the future, discovering my frozen corpse in a snow drift.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean, Hell.” Erronious replied with difficulty. “I’m not much into ignominious ends. I don’t want to die with my snow shoes on either. Come on, pal: use your innate talent for path finding. Find us our charming farmstead. Failing that, try and come up with a deserted shepherd’s hut. Anything – just get us out of this damned snow!”

Meanwhile, inside the museum, the weather had managed to find several weak points in the vast building’s aging armour. This resulted in a poor showing of customers for a local pop singer’s al fresco concert…

With his hot dog concession failing miserably, Mister Pong was relieved when Police Constable Salisbury Wilts managed to return safely from his Precipitous Ledge Walking lessons, and (quoting health and safety rules) duly closed the poorly attended concert down.

Others, though, were putting the inclement conditions to good use. They were racing sledges upon the frozen canal that supplied the cooling water for the museum’s Nul-Space power generator…

Naturally Rupert Piles and his huge 3D TV camera were on hand to record the event. But as conditions worsened, the lone-wolf reporter realised that there was a bigger story than some dopey sods risking their necks rushing up and down the canal: this outlandish weather could be a catastrophe in the making. So he got his saucer-pilot girlfriend out of bed; slapped a PRESS sticker on the side of her saucer, and had her fly around the museum, whilst he took pictures and gave a running commentary…

“Maybe this will be the time I finally get a journalistic award.” He said through a smile that he shared with his girlfriend – a sweet End Cap, by the name of Wendy Ledballoon, whose faith in Rupert was total and undying.

However, worsening conditions soon overwhelmed the flight capability of the small sight-seeing machine…

…and Wendy was forced to park it once again. But not before Rupert snatched some long distance shots of neighbouring Ciudad de Droxford, which appeared almost abandoned…

What his camera didn’t spot was the hundreds of desperate earplugs, who even now, at this late hour, were still swarming to the ‘castle’ in the Age of Stone…

K’Plank and Auntie Doris were performing their civil duties by standing beside one of the side entrances and shouting loudly:

“This way: this way. Sanctuary beckons. Come along now: come along now. Stop arsing about and get inside. What are you doing – slipping and sliding around like a total moron? Don’t fall over, you dozy bleeder. Get inside before I give you clip behind the ear – stupid!”

Upon the tower roof immediately above the curator and her beau, Mister Pong’s eldest daughters – Yu-Wah and Wah-Hey – counted the number of earplugs entering the ‘castle’, and were hurriedly calculating the amount of arroz de grano corto they would require to make a huge paella with which they might feed the growing horde.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Return for the next episode when Erronious and Hellfire make a remarkable discovery. A discovery so remarkable that they’ll still be remarking about it a century from now!

Climatic Calamity (part 6)

I promised worse was to come for our little silicon heroes: well here it is…

Others, who had already made it inside the thick stone walls couldn’t help but enjoy the feeling of superiority that safety afforded them…

“Gosh,” some would say, “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this level of smugness. We are so clever to be inside, out of the cold, whilst the dull-witted hammer upon doors and demand entry. I no longer need to keep up with the Joneses: I’m already leagues ahead!”

Who could argue with that summation? The weather outside the Museum was worsening by the minute…

Meanwhile, in the mountain pea-farming region, Erronious and Hellfire held an impromptu meeting with several other pea farmers, who looked to the reformed criminals for leadership…

“Right now, I’d suggest you all get to your homes and put on some thermal socks, woolly underpants, and a bobble hat.” Erronious told them.

Hellfire followed this up with:

“We’ll worry about our insurance policies later. Forget the bloody peas: right now it’s all about survival!”

Hellfire was absolutely right when he spoke of survival. Several Precipitous Ledge Walkers were of the naturist kind. They had no thermal socks, woolly underpants, or bobble hats. All they had were frozen assets…

In fact many earplugs were becoming increasingly at-risk…

So, in an act of altruism that would have astonished their earlier selves, Erronious and Hellfire spent the next half-hour finding lost souls and sending them to their friend’s houses or the nearest drunk tank…

“I think, Hellfire,” Erronious said through frozen lips and chattering teeth, “this might be a good time to find shelter for ourselves.”

As the snow continued to billow around the mighty flanks of the museum…

…something of the cold permeated into the interior…

“What’s this, Mister Pong,” Chester Earplug inquired of the restaurant owner, “you’re closing the museum’s only exotic food restaurant?”

“Can’t keep egg foo yung warm.” Mister Pong replied. “Pongs never serve cold egg foo yung.”

And, as the day darkened…

…even Rudi, Valentine, Miles, and Magnuss Earplug looked on and wondered what the heck was happening…

“Heck, man, what’s happening’? This sho’nuf aint funky.” Valentine complained.

“I can dig it, Bro,” Rudi answered for the others. “We’re action guys: we fix things. Aint no fixing this.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

If you don’t like the sight of earplugs suffering horribly from chilblains and runny noses, don’t return for episode 7. But if you don’t care two hoots what happens to them, come back tomorrow for the next exciting extract from Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity!

Climatic Calamity (part 5)

Well, in episode 4 the climatic calamity began. Now see how it worsens. Not a good time to be an earplug!

Talking of married couples: former Father Superior, Frank Tonsils joined his young wife – former nun, munitions worker, and owner of the defunct Time Shard Museum of Future Technology – Buttox Tonsils (nee Barkingwell), and her best friends – the former monks, Zak Bravado and Bolah Googly – as they stepped out of their farmhouse to survey the frozen ground…

“This is gonna cut into our profit margins.” They heard Frank mutter to himself. “And how am I gonna pull my wheelbarrow back up the mountain from the marshaling yards on the plain below?” He added. “The rope will be all slippery!”

Elsewhere earplugs of every hue, shape, and size were being inconvenienced by the apparent onset of sudden winter…

With insufficient armoured personnel carriers available, many were forced to walk to lower climes, where they prayed the chill air would be warmer. But if they had only known that the situation was no better at lower altitude…

…they might have saved themselves the effort, and, instead, dug themselves snow caves. In fact earplugs were flooding from all over towards the perceived sanctuary that Lemon Stone offered…

The four monks that manned the watchtower at the head of the gorge could only watch impotently as swarms of earplugs passed by…

“Flipping heck,” one of them bellowed, “all that revenue that we’re missing out on. Are you sure that door is frozen solid? We could be asking ten Pluggentos per pass to enter the citadel. Within hours we could be rich beyond the dreams of avarice!”

“Shut up,” one of his colleagues grumbled, “and put another log on the stove.”

Because of its close proximity to the museum, Ciudad de Droxford was almost invisible in the whiteout. The palms trees that grew all around the city had withered and were frozen solid in multiple layers of ream ice…

The streets, themselves, were liberally coated in a sheet of ice. Only the brave or foolhardy ventured on to them…

The situation was no better at the museum itself…

…though the fascists and mariachi bands continued to struggle through their twin conventions in the Age of Stone…

Meanwhile, the caretaker of the Age of Stone – Susan the amorphous blob from the future – looked up at the sky. Snow was unheard of in her era: she was fascinated. Those hammering upon the ‘castle’ door were less entranced: they just wanted to get inside…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Like I said: not a good time to be an earplug. And it gets worse!

Climatic Calamity (part 4)

You’ve waited patiently for long enough. Here it comes: the genesis of the climatic calamity in the title…

And it was too. In moments it had escaped the lab entirely, and had expanded into the corridor outside…

But even the futuristic walls of the corridor could not contain it. Seconds more and it had freed itself from the entire tower in which the lab was housed…

A ripple of fear ran through the populace of the museum. This, it appeared, seemed to feed the anomaly further. Its size grew at an incredible rate. Within a half-minute, this occurred…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” one visitor was heard to wail, “it’s engulfing the whole building. Quickly, someone tell me; where is the nearest toilet? One that has yet to become engulfed!”

Had anyone been able to answer his question, a further thirty seconds would have proven them to be liars: there were no toilets that were yet to be engulfed. The entire museum fell beneath its dazzling light. But that wasn’t all: soon the inhabitants and buildings of Ciudad de Droxford became illuminated by its alien glow…

And, as it fled across the plain that led towards the mountains, one of the regular Submarine Space Freighters almost fell victim to the expanding ball of light…

Moreover, across the mountains, in the pea-growing region, farmers became aware of a strange light in the sky. A light that appeared to be coming closer…

“Okay,” one disgruntled pea farmer complained, “what have those dozy sods at the Museum of Future Technology been up to now?”

To which his colleague responded:

“I don’t know, Fruity, darling, but I’m frightened: find me a hole and throw me down it.”

Chapter 2

During the few scant moments it took for Fruity to find a hole, the fleeing Submarine Space Freighter’s crew became aware of changing climatic conditions upon the mountain side above which their vessel flew…

They weren’t alone. Horst and Greta Stenchlinger had hired a rock face near Lemon Stone, and were busy teaching Advanced Precipitous Ledge Walking to a few wealthy and brave customers…

The sudden appearance of falling snow alarmed many of them.

“Honestly,” Candice Pustulina complained as she stood beside the helmeted Police Constable Salisbury Wilts and peered over the edge of their precipitous ledge, “as if regular ledges weren’t slippery enough, now the Stenchlingers include snow. I’ve a good mind to ask for my money back!” 

Because it was mid-summer in the mountains, the inhabitants of Lemon Stone were astonished to see freezing air billowing up the mountain side towards the village and citadel…

At the same time, the robot crew of the Submarine Space Freighter watched in cyber-horror as pea farmers fled their rapidly freezing farmland…

In their tiny mountain shack, married recluses, Steve and Dotty Chunder watched in dismay through their recently installed, double-glazed picture window as their rose garden succumbed to the weight of the sudden snowfall…

“Ooh, dear, Steve,” Dotty whimpered, “I so wish I’d listened to you, and, instead of this silly picture window, had an indoor lavatory installed.”

“You and me both.” Steve replied. “Now I’m glad I never threw out that old potty your mother gave us as a wedding present: we’re gonna need it!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

If you’re a long-term Earplugger, you’ll probably have noticed my propensity for creating snowscapes and wintry scenes. I have this thing about winter. In my opinion The Bourne Identity would have only been half as good if they’d set it during Summer. It does cause me vast grief with the photo processing department though. As you can probably imagine, I don’t get out in the snow to do much shooting: I live in southern England after all. White bed sheets and polystyrene are absolute necessities.

Climatic Calamity (part 3)

At last you witness the origin of the climatic calamity of the title. Introducing the scene (and lots of silly asides) is all well and good, but I’d hate to keep readers waiting too long for something to happen…

Whilst the two former inmates of Sloshed Antlers Penitentiary returned to their physical toil, way, way, over the mountains, the early morning smog of Ciudad de Droxford was climbing upwards from the streets, where (everyone hoped) the breeze would blow it away…

By the time that the Drunkard’s Vomit roared overhead, indeed, this was the case…

Moreover, the day looked set for sunshine and blue skies. It seemed that everyone would have the opportunity to be happy.

The same could be said for the adjacent Museum of Future Technology. Already earplugs were finding their way to the various Cafe Puke outlets scattered across the vast emporium…

“Don’t try the ‘defecated’.” One departing customer said to another that had just arrived. “It’s not a misspelling of ‘decaffeinated’.”

At the same time, but in the Age of Stone exhibit, which was a recreation of a period in future history when all technology was (or will be) based upon a single material – that being stone…

…two groups were each holding their annual conventions. One was the National League of Mariachi Bands: the other The Fascist Black Helmet Brigade.

The fascists held the high ground – or the walls; whilst the guitar strumming (and horn blowing) mariachi-ists remained in the main courtyard. Unfortunately a number of ‘Black Hatters’ had ‘invaded’ the courtyard, and it looked as though they might have the durability of their helmets tested by a smack around the back of the head with a six-stringed acoustic guitar. But if either faction had known what was about to happen above the space freighter landing zone, all enmity would have evaporated, and they would have pulled together and united like only earplugs can.

Just as the Drunkard’s Vomit made its final approach to a landing tower, the strange spacial anomaly that had attached itself to the vessel, chose that moment to detach itself…

In another section of the single largest exhibit – that being the Age of Stone – one of the frolicking, sun-loving, music-appreciating visitors spotted it tumbling across the sky above them. His response was to surprise everyone by running across the plaza whilst screaming:

“Doom! Doom! Look to the sky: we’re all toast!

For a moment it appeared that good fortune smiled upon the Museum of Future Technology, and no one would need to make an insurance claim against injury or soiled underwear. The shining object fell upon an area of wasteland that represented the Age of Stone just after time was called upon it and anarchy reigned…

“Ooh, pretty.” One particularly stupid yellow earplug was heard to utter.

By chance, two of the museum’s maintenance crew were taking the air during a tea break. Whilst Wolfgang raced forward to urge people away from the potentially hazardous object, Rikki ran for help.

A short while later two scientists arrived and took it away to their laboratory for tests. But to their collective surprise, and before they could begin to scrutinize it, the anomaly suddenly encased the more junior scientist…

Luckily for the young earplug, his more experienced senior suggested that he expel intestinal gas through his rectum at high speed, thereby ejecting himself from the object’s embrace, much like an aircraft’s ejector seat. This was entirely successful, but an unexpected by-product of introducing a terrestrial fart into an extra-terrestrial anomaly, was a sudden heightening of mysterious tensions. The object flew into the air above and increased its apparent surface area by two hundred percent. It then chased the scientists from their lab…

“Run! Run!” The senior scientist screamed like a schoolgirl: it’s getting bigger with every passing nanosecond!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed some shots in the extract that may have seen the light of day before – as Earplug Adventure Wallpapers. Can you identify them?

Climatic Calamity (part 2)

As you may have noticed in Part 1, climatic calamities appear rather thin on the ground. That is because I don’t write stories that could be adapted for TV movies on the SyFy channel. I’m more (I like to believe) Spielbergian. Let the tension (what there is of it) build. So if no climatic calamities appear in part 2, do not be disheartened. But when they do…pow!

Despite the catering assistant’s woes, the ship was soon clear of the region and had entered a hyperspace conduit…

A day and a half later its blunt prow turned to face Earth’s Sun…

Immediately members of the crew that had hitherto remained dormant, all rushed to take their places for the interplanetary stage of the flight…

“Out of the way, Tong-Tong look-alike.” One of them grated at the catering assistant through its nasty cheap speaker. “We have important stuff to do.”

Astrogation then had the ship turn through a precise number of degrees; lined it up with a blue planet some ninety-three million miles distant; and told the helms-robot to hit the ‘Go’ button…

At that precise moment, far away on that blue planet, two staff members of the Wide Blue Yonder branch of the Café Puke arrived for the early shift…

“I’m in the mood for a little excitement. I wonder what today will bring.” One Barista said to the other.

“A severance cheque,” the Branch Manager growled from the shadows, “that’s if you don’t get your uniforms on pretty damned quick, and have that coffee grinder warmed up in the next two minutes!”

The second Barista ignored his boss. “Just another day at the office.” He replied. “Nothing ever happens at the Café Puke.”

A short while later, the Drunkard’s Vomit approached Earth. It passed worryingly close to Magnuss Earplug as he tested a new combined space jet pack and helmet for the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company…

“Hmmm,” he thought to himself, “better take a note: maybe this thing should have a radio beacon on it. I wouldn’t want to bump into something solid at twenty thousand miles an hour.”

But by the time Magnuss had thought through the problem of a location for his theoretical radio beacon, the Drunkard’s Vomit had begun its long, low, and very slow approach path towards the Museum of Future Technology. In fact it now meandered across the pea-growing area in the foothills of the mountains…

“Ah, the green hills of Earth,” The Captain said semi-poetically. “Does anyone remember the last time we were here?”

It was a stupid question: everyone aboard was a robot: they forgot nothing: they recalled everything.

“Yes,” one of them ventured. “But, I don’t know: those hills look somewhat greener this time around.”

Everyone agreed. Then the reason became clear…

“Peas, peas, and more peas.” The Captain observed. “Bumper harvest, I would wager. But the trouble with crops is…you never know what’s around the metaphorical corner. One particularly blustery day, some rampaging soccer fans, or a vicious pestilence, and it could all be destroyed. I prefer to be plugged into the mains.”

Inside the automated Café Puke, Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams were in the process of departing, having consumed the last two cups of coffee in the place, when they heard the Drunkard’s Vomit pass by the shack’s solitary window…  

“Ooh, it’s one of them Submarine Space Ships.” Hellfire said above the noise of the whooshing atmospheric drive units. “They make me nervous. If one were to empty it’s latrines whilst in flight, it could decimate whole hectares of semi-arable land and ruin a whole bunch of farmer’s income.”

Erronious was less concerned. “It’s a robot freighter: it can’t harm us in any way. Robots don’t poop.”

“They sometimes carry passengers.” Hellfire argued. “They poop all the time.”

“That’s still not a problem.” Erronious explained. “There’s a rule. All passengers must carry their poop off with them…in a bag. So, assuage your fears, my long-term chum: robot freighters must be considered beneficent and friends to all earplug kind. Now let’s get back to work.”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Okay, as suspected, no calamities there, either. But just you wait…

 

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Self Destruct!

Submarine Space Freighters are usually very reliable vessels: but sometimes their crews must take desperate measures to win the day.

I’m not saying that this shot will appear in an Earplug Adventure: but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Q: Did this single picture take hours to produce?

A: Too bloody right it did. Thank goodness I’m retired, and have the time to waste. Or is it waste? Is art ever wasteful?

Climatic Calamity (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

I’ve been rather busy of late – producing shots for yet another Earplug Adventure, this time called Climatic Calamity. Many of the pictures for the early part of the story have been challenging. When you see them you’ll probably understand why. It’s certainly not like the early stories. Flipping heck they were basic – and  are still available to read by clicking right HERE. But before you let your curiosity take control, please read this first instalment…er…first…

Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams were hardly the stuff that heroes are made of. Certainly, the day that the governor of Sloshed Antlers Penitentiary awarded them early release from a long prison term for habitual burgling…

… no one imagined that they would ever find themselves regular work and a propensity for honesty. Indeed, following that release, several years previous, they had gone straight to the nearest town and fell in with the local crime organisation…

Actually they did more than simply join it: they took control of it – until the concerted efforts of the law system forced them to abandon the city and move to the Museum of Future Technology. It was whilst inside that vast and wondrous emporium of technological artefacts from the future that they encountered the famous Earplug Brothers, and assisted the return from dimensional limbo, of the museum’s greatest hero, Magnuss Earplug…

Flushed with the resulting endorphins of a good deed well done, they settled into a more honest way of life. Eventually they became winners of a lottery that awarded them a ride upon the star ship K T Woo. It was during a difficult period aboard ship, when a vastly superior alien craft threatened to destroy the vessel, that the former thieves discovered a penchant for entertaining others. In a desperate effort to persuade the aliens that earplugs were simply too good to destroy, a desperate show was staged. Amongst the many acts that hoped to save the ship and everyone aboard, Erronius and Hellfire delighted the audience by repeatedly picking Captain Sinclair Brooche’s pockets in a most humorous way…

Grateful to have survived, and upon their return to Earth, the ex-burglars moved away from the Museum of Future Technology, to buy a parcel of land in the shadow of the mountain top citadel of Lemon Stone and become mountain pea farmers…

…where they enjoyed their own company, the fresh air, tilling the meagre soil, digging drainage trenches for the toilet, and frequenting the automated Café Puke outlet…

This is the story of how two recidivist burglars reacted to a terrible climatic disaster from outer space.

Chapter 1

For many years the Museum of Future Technology had managed perfectly well without the trade benefits of interstellar commerce, but since the discovery of the haulage (and cheap) capacity of Robotic Submarine Space Freighters, the cybernetic wonders had been plying the new trade routes to Earth on a regular basis…

…in their dozens. One ship, in particular, was well known by the inhabitants of the museum. It had been the vessel aboard which three teenaged girls – Bunty Bridgewater, Ginger Slack, and Daisy Woodnut…

…had been abducted (along with the entire crew of robots) by a bunch of conniving Incense Cones. Following their victory over the aforementioned bunch of conniving Incense Cones, the girls had returned the ship to its captain and crew. They had also named it…

The Drunkard’s Vomit had recently launched from a submarine ocean beneath the frozen surface of a gas giant’s moon in the Finklestein region of the Galaxy. It’s hold contained many differing items of all shapes and sizes, from multifarious worlds and strange civilisations: but only one of them was of any interest to anyone inside the Museum of Future Technology. It was a consignment of Gas Giant Moon Fish from the very moon from which the Drunkard’s Vomit had only recently lifted. Mister Pong was very keen to try them on the menu of the second branch of his Exotic Food Restaurant, located in the neighbouring city of Ciudad De Droxford, which had recently been rebuilt following the event best known as The Attack of the Crutons

Aboard the bulbous black vessel, a subordinate robot was reporting to its captain…

“Sir,” the huge green robot said in a boring monotone through a cheap plastic speaker grill, “Astrogation reports that if we wish to maintain our schedule, the Drunkard’s Vomit will need to enter a previously unexplored star system. Sensors report that the region appears sub-atomically unstable. We won’t know what to expect there. They say it might get very bumpy, or something entirely different. Something, so different, that it might be beyond our cybernetic powers of understanding. Thought you ought to know, Sir.”

After months and billions of kilometres of interstellar travel since the day that its ship was returned to it, the captain still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the vessel’s nomenclature. “Can the…urr…Drunkard’s Vomit take a battering?” It inquired. “It has been due for a refit ever since that nasty incident with the Incense Cones.”

“Unknown, Sir.” The subordinate bridge officer replied. “You’ll have to suck it and see.”

Schedules were very important to logical mechanical life-forms. The Captain made a snap decision. “Keep to the schedule.” It said affirmatively. “Proceed through this…um…wonky space.”

Two minutes later, the boundaries of the uncharted region of space had been breached for the first time…

“Nice colourisation.” A member of Astrogation opined. “Not that I’m an expert or anything. Nevertheless I feel vulnerable: the sooner we traverse this region, the happier I will be.”

The unnamed member of Astrogation had good reason for concern. Approximately half way through the traverse, an undetected anomaly approached the ship. Unseen it closed upon an open wim-wom valve cover and secreted itself into the shadows there…

The robot that had been given the task of replacing the robot named Tong-Tong as catering assistant in the totally unused Café Puke canteen had been standing at a porthole when the anomaly approached and docked with the Drunkard’s Vomit. Unfortunately it had seen nothing. It was too busy regarding its appearance, reflected in the porthole glass…

“I look just like Tong-Tong.” It complained. “Why couldn’t I have kept my old green look? I was one of the guys like that. And this stupid hat: it hides my glowing brain. If I was an irrational creature of flesh and bone, I would throw the bloody thing out of the window. Or maybe shove it down the only lavatory!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Many years ago, my late wife badgered me to write a story with a title she had invented. It was Attack of the Crutons. Well, in Surprise Visit I finally got to write it – but I couldn’t use her title because it would have signposted where the story was going. There would be no mystery. But, if you look at the picture that features Mr Pong in his Ciudad de Droxford restaurant (in this extract) you’ll notice the title ‘The Attack of Crutons’ mentioned. Somewhat  belatedly I can finally say; mission accomplished.

Tooty the Chef Turns Up Trumps!

Tooty the Chef fancies himself as a tad internationalist. He particularly enjoys knocking up meals that might (possibly) have originated in the kitchen of a Spanish gastronomic emporium. In keeping with his enthusiasm for most things Iberian, he purchased himself some reasonably priced Andalucian cheese…

“Perfecto!” He said as he judged the weight of the two wedges in his dainty hand. But he was considerably less enamoured with the situation when, having opened the fridge door in search of some membrillo to accompany the cheese, he found it conspicuous by it’s absence…

But upon visiting his local Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and (begrudgingly) Sainsbury, he further discovered that none of them now sell the quince-based paste he so desired.

“Arse!” he bellowed like a rutting stag; and so set to work searching the Internet…

Initially he thought he had met with success; but the prices – and the high postage costs – made him pause to consider giving up and making do with strawberry jam. Fortunately he persisted, and eventually chanced upon a pack that appeared better value than those seen previously. Including postage, the membrillo cost £15. He pressed the ‘buy’ button. Twenty-four hours-or-so later…

…a surprisingly large package arrived at his door. And when he opened it, he discovered that he had bought genuine Spanish membrillo in a light-weight wooden box with a sliding lid – a la expensive vino…

Moreover, having eased the block of goo from the box, he was delighted to discover that he had purchased a 1.5Kg catering pack…

…that would likely last him until the wheel of time ground to a halt. £15 well spent, methinks. So, with a glut of his favourite nibbles to hand, he spent the evening gorging himself on an exaultation of yum…

So, if you happen to be passing by the ‘original’ Cafe Puke, drop in for a bite; there’ll be plenty to go around.

 

Earplug Adventure Alternative Perspective Wallpaper: Mr Pong’s Exotic Food Restaurant

When the Crutons attacked La Ciudad De Droxford in Surprise Visit, not everyone had evacuated the doomed city. Customers of the recently opened Exotic Food Restaurant were enjoying their duck a la orange too much. Mr Pong was forced to place his air raid warden’s helmet upon his head before barring exit from his restaurant…

“Should have gone sooner.” He added. “Too late now – you bunch’a greedy bastards.” He then issued some reassuring words:  “Anyway, you safer in Mister Pong’s,” he bellowed above the sound of disintegrating buildings all around, “Got defensive electromagnetic screen generator under stairs in foyer. And kitchen is atom bomb resistant.” 

Surprise Visit (part 25)

So here we are – at the end of this wondrous tale. The epilogue – which might be brief, but at least it allows space to advertise the fact that the PDF version of the whole e-book is now available to either read in situ, or download to read later with people who share your advanced and cultured sense of humour. Just click on the book cover image, and you will be transported to literary and photographic nirvana. But before you do, there’s the matter of the final extract from Surprise Visit. And here it is…

Epilogue

Far away, in the realm of the Galactic Gods, the Supreme Being was eyeing up somewhere to take a vacation himself…

But he couldn’t find somewhere that quite suited him. Fortunately the God of Sour Onions had just received a report of an extinction event in Weird Space…

It mentioned it to the Supreme Being.

“That sounds like just the right place.” He replied cheerfully.

A split second after making up his mind, he materialised upon the dead world…

“Perfect.” He said with satisfaction.

He then proceeded to divest himself of his godly clothing…

…pulled up a beach chair; unpacked his favourite towel; and sat down to enjoy the feeble rays of the brown dwarf sun that bathed the brown planet in its ghastly orange glow…

He didn’t mind the few shape-shifting sausage rolls that insisted upon rolling around the empty domed conurbation. In fact he had two of them become street lights, so that he could read his book more easily. And the other he turned into a nice pink flower.

“Lovely.” He said with satisfaction. “A bit of colour really brightens up the place.”

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now click that image!

Surprise Visit (part 24)

This is the penultimate episode of this briefer-than-normal Earplug Adventure. Can you believe it, but I’ve actually written a story that only runs to 25 parts? I must be getting old or something. 

Intrigued, Nigel and Beatrix followed their bodyguard. The others fell into step behind them. With the exception of Fermin, all the cable ends remained ignorant of what awaited their attention. But, soon enough, they discovered its identity…

“Oh, my,” Nigel cheered as they entered the Café Puke outlet. “Just what I needed. I’m gagging for a mug of ghastly coffee right now.”

However, as they entered, they discovered the interior illumination subdued…

Then, as the lights came up, they spotted Magnuss and Hair-Trigger waiting for them at the counter…

“Honoured guests,” Magnuss shouted above the applause of the café’s clientele, “may I introduce your Baristas for the night – Rudi, Chester, Miles, and Valentine: the Earplug Brothers!”

“Whatta ya have?” Miles asked whilst pretending to chew on a huge wad of bubble gum. “Special tonight is caramelised onion.”

“Perfect.” Beatrix replied.

“With raw cane sugar, naturally.” Nigel added.

It was an in-joke with which everybody present was familiar…

A loud clearing of three throats had the cable ends turning through one hundred and eighty degrees – to be greeted with the sight of the three original Baristas – Mary-Sue Wassack, Jungle-Jake Johnson, and Moyst Towlet…

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Moyst called out, “your tables await you.”

“We’ve wiped off all the coffee stains and biscuit crumbs.” Jungle-Jake added…

“Yeah,” Mary-Sue said around a real wad of bubble gum when she spotted Rupert Piles’ camera pointing in her direction, “but we didn’t bother to check if anyone has picked their nose and left a bogey on the underside. So better watch out for that: they got germs.”

“That’s okay,” Walker responded as everyone selected their seats, “we’ve got Fermin Gusset with us: he eats germs for breakfast.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now, dear Earplugger, prepare yourself for the final episode – featuring an unexpected epilogue that probably transcends art, genius, and possibly decency! Definitely not to be missed.

Surprise Visit (part 23)

The end is nigh, or so they say. The end of this tale, anyway. But not right now: this is merely part 23, which is only almost the end…

Chapter Eight

Two days after fleeing Cruton, Nigel was still complaining to Magnuss that he and his retinue should have returned to Scroton. But as much as he wittered on about the subject, so Magnuss ignored him.

“You needed a vacation before this little escapade,” Went Magnuss’ argument, “you certainly need one after it!”

The aforementioned retinue agreed with this, none more so than Beatrix. So the Tankerville Norris remained on course for the Solar System…

The Museum of Future Technology was safe; there was no rush; rather than use hyperspace conduits, they traveled at supra-light speeds through regular space. Of course they did contact Cushions Smethwyke to tell her that the museum could drop the Chameleon Cannon Cloak and come out of hiding – for which the huge-toothed yellow earplug was very grateful. Also, whilst they had time on their hands, Walker Crabtrouser, Bertram Hisscod, and Fermin Gusset had discussed the problem of the Cruton spies in Scroton’s midst. Whilst doing so, Walker recalled his clandestine meeting in the catacombs with Fermin…

He mentioned the moment when he feared he and Fermin were not alone. This information forced Bertram into a confession:

“Um,” he began, “you know Scroton is supposed to be a free society in which no citizen need ever worry that the state is spying on him or her?”

Both Militarians replied with a long, questioning, “yes?”

“Well,” Bertram continued awkwardly, “by and large that is true: but some years ago our younger selves were having some problems with small animal infestations that were spoiling our stored custard powder, which was kept in the catacombs. Well, to cut a long story short, we put up closed circuit television cameras all over the city that were linked to a central recording suite at the Security HQ. They…aah…are still in operation. We spot quite a few naughty goings-on with them. It’s all a bit … you know… hush-hush. Strictly speaking it shouldn’t be happening. I don’t think Nigel knows anything about it.”

Perhaps Walker and Fermin had enjoyed one too many café cortados that morning: both were a little slow to figure out the significance of what the Security Chief was telling them. Bertram recognised this in their slack-jawed response to his confession:

“There will be a visual and auditory recording of your conversation in the catacombs.” He said. “More importantly, if there was anyone else present – listening in, like Cruton spies might – they’ll also be identified.”

Walker didn’t waste a second: like a trained gymnast he was half-way to the door before Fermin and Bertram could get out of the way.

“I’m calling Scroton.” He said. “Those spy cameras are a god-send. That recording is gold dust. Bertram, you are genius. With your evidence, we’ll have those rotters identified and rounded up in a jiffy. Just don’t tell Nigel about it: he’ll be very cross.”

A day later, the Tankerville Norris reached Earth. Its landing flight path took it over the smog-enshrouded former habitation of Le Ciudad de Droxford…   

 

The sight of it set Beatrix’s creative juices flowing. After flying slowly over kilometre after kilometre of a bland, formless sameness, she said to Hair-Trigger:

“Your rather natty trick of sucking up the constituent atoms of the shape-shifter with the Bussard collectors has got me thinking: since the Cruton weapons that tore the city apart were the same as the Scroton weapon that disassembled the giant sausage roll, might it be possible to use the same trick to repair La Ciudad de Droxford?”

Magnuss and Nigel, who were busy making a toasted banana sandwich, looked up.

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” Magnuss boomed in a most masculine manner that shook some dust from a high lintel that previously no one could reach, “Beatrix that is brilliant. If the atoms haven’t blown too far, we’ll be able to suck them up again in next to no time!”

“You mean,” Nigel said almost disbelievingly, “that Beatrix might have found a way of giving back the city inhabitants their homes and livelihoods? Why, it’s almost a miracle? Beatrix, I loved you before: now I prostrate myself before you: the true brains of the planet Scroton!”

Shortly after that, the ship arrived at Tower Six in the smoggy space-port of the Museum of Future Technology…

“I’ll get straight on to Cushions with the idea.” Magnuss said as the ship grounded. “Looks like half the city’s atoms are hanging in air above the museum. This could be a quicker job than I first imagined.”

This was good news for the party from Scroton. It enabled them to go about their vacation with hearts swelling with relief and pride. Soon they were taking in all the sights and poking their collective nose into technologies from many eras that were yet to exist. Such was their enjoyment of the trip, not one of them noticed gangs of museum workers going about their business.  Work gangs using their futuristic equipment to clean the air, the interior and the exterior of the museum, and the surrounding countryside for many kilometres distant; then compress the minute detritus into large plastic bags; and finally transport it to the site upon which the Ciudad de Droxford had existed originally. So they were pleasantly surprised, as the end of the vacation came near, to receive an invitation to visit the, still incomplete rejuvenation of La Ciudad de Droxford. The first sight to greet them, that night, was the downtown city business centre, with all its tower blocks…

From there their air taxi followed the central highway through the main retail zone…

…where it alighted – to allow them to see, close-up, one of the almost-completed residential areas…

“See, Beatrix,” Nigel said as the married couple stood in the centre of an empty plaza, “without your presence, none of this would have been possible. This is a lasting legacy to you. I hope they name a barrio or something after you.”

Beatrix didn’t quite know what to say. Fortunately Fermin arrived at a dead run from a side street. “Golden One,” he yelled from the corner of an apartment block, “you gotta see this. Hurry.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Only a smidgen more to come, then you’ll be able to access and read / download the complete tale. Won’t that be nice!

Earplug Adventures Greatest Hits: Distant Land

Because I possess an absolutely God-awful memory, I can’t remember what happens in my own books – including the Earplug Adventures. I was listening to the 2019 e-book, Distant Land, recently, utilising the excellent ReadAloud app, when I rediscovered a little  unexpected aside tale within the main story that made me giggle. Here it is…

She then went on to tell the tale of Yaki Hogwashi, a Geisha Adventure Team Leader, who (along with her latest recruit, Valerie Perkins) were standing at Geisha HQ’s window when the trans-dimensional disaster had struck…

Valerie was overwhelmed for a moment; but Yaki reacted with admirable alacrity…

“Flipping heck, Val.” She said. “How long has it been snowing now? Five – six hours? Perhaps we should go outside and check out the temperature.”

“Oh, Geisha Boss Yaki,” Valerie squealed, “my little wooden geisha shoes are totally unsuited to these inclement conditions. In short: my toes are becoming solid and are threatening to become frostbitten and gangrenous. Please let’s go back inside.”

Valerie’s timing couldn’t have been more…er…timely: it made Yaki consider something that hadn’t occurred to her, but should have…

“Flip me over backwards!” She exclaimed. “The sudden climatic change has addled my mind. I completely forgot the Adventure Geisha Team. They’re up in the mountains, serving green tea to some male business earplugs and dispensing other niceties and looking demure and pleasant. I suppose I’d better see if I can find them. They won’t last long in this weather – even with their kimono’s internal heaters turned up to ‘max’.”

So, without thought for her own safety, she raced to the garage and leapt aboard her armoured personnel carrier…

…which, without hesitation, she gunned out into the snow storm and raced away at breakneck speed…

“Hold on, girls.” She yelled against the incessant wind. “Yaki Hogwashi’s on her way.”

Fortunately the mountains stood a short distance from the museum, and soon she closed upon her destination…

Slowing to a halt, she dropped from the vehicle and began wading through the snow drifts…

“Weevil.” She cried. “Consumpta. Maureen. Where are you?”

She then paused to listen for plaintiff calls for help. Moments later she spotted her ‘girls’, lower, beneath her, in a crevasse…

“Oh, Geisha Boss,” One of them, who might have been Consumpta, cried hysterically…

…we’re down here. Our clients escaped via helicopter; but we were considered worthless scum and not worth saving. Fortunately their craft was caught in a waterspout and they were dashed against a mountain, where the helicopter’s fuel tanks ruptured and the resultant explosion destroyed it entirely. Heck, are we glad to see you!”

Yaki cared nothing for the absent clients: they’d payed in advance, so she’d lost nothing. But her team were another thing. “Hang on in there.” She bellowed.” I’m coming for you!”

And so the struggle towards salvation began. Many times they stumbled and fell back; but eventually…

…the girls clambered out from the crevasse. Weevil ‘harrumphed’ loudly from the tail-gunner’s position; then complained: “When I joined the Geisha Adventure team, I never expected to use pitons, crampons, and other climbing paraphernalia. My dainty Geisha clogs are utterly ruined. And I had to pay for them, out of my wages, too! You know, I’ve a good mind to quit.”

“Oh, don’t do anything rash.” Maureen warned her colleague…

“Indeed, Weevil.” Yaki said through a hidden smile. “It’s an awfully long way back to the Museum of Future Technology. Wouldn’t you rather ride in my nice warm armoured personnel carrier?”

Weevil might have been feeling disenchanted with her choice of career; but she wasn’t stupid. “Did I say ‘Quit‘? Of course I was referring to smoking. Clogged lungs play merry havoc with assailing precipitous rock faces and the like.”

So, moments later…

…Yaki was guiding her vehicle home. But conditions had worsened during the course of her rescue mission…

…and the motor struggled with frozen coolant pipes. Worse still…

…the deepening snow had sucked some of the oxygen out of the air – further reducing the efficiency of the carrier’s power plant. In fact Yaki was getting decidedly flappy in the undergarments department, as…

…her vision slowly blurred in the terrible conditions. But she thankfully gave up a prayer to the Saint of All Earplugs as her vehicle stuttered to a halt only slightly short of her carport.

“Quick, everyone.” She shouted whilst dismounting. “Get indoors, before our knickers freeze to our buttocks like superglue!”

Naturally no one wasted a nanosecond…

…and within five minutes Yaki had returned to Valerie…

“Well, Val,” She said – in far better frame of mind since the safe return of her Geishas, “now we can enjoy the snow. Let’s get outside and winter boogie!”

So they did…

…and they both enjoyed themselves enormously.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Of course this free e-book remains available in PDF form, and can be accessed by clicking on the following (out-of-date) cover image.

PS If you clicked it, you probably noticed that the more recent up-date cover image is vastly improved and more informative. Of course I’d forgotten that I’d made the improvement, so spent several nanoseconds in puzzlement. Age is not good for the brain. It’s not particularly excellent for the private parts either, but we won’t get into that right now.

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