Revel in the Ribaldry 2

As a second extract from the Hamster-Sapiens series is called for, the most logical source of material would seem to be the second book. This book, to be exact…

So, with minimal preamble, let’s get down…

“Oh Roosevelt,” Felicity squealed with delight as she pressed her paws and forehead against the inner wall of Tybrow Mooney’s lock-up garage in Hamster Heath, “I can see people and everything!”

Roosevelt was busy counting the gold coins that Mooney had thrown at them in his haste to flee. As a consequence he wasn’t really paying a great deal of attention. “Is that right?” he said without looking up.

“Yes,” Felicity replied, unaware of her exciting new friend’s distraction, “There’s a whole bunch of armed ruffians in a bedroom. They seem to be milling about somewhat. If I had to guess I’d say they were drunk. Oh, now a huge female hamster’s entered. I think she’s drunk too: She keeps showing her knickers to the males. Oh dear– now she’s waving an exposed titty at them. They all seem a little bashful: Perhaps she’s their auntie or something. Oh no, that can’t be right: They’re not all hamsters.”

Roosevelt’s ears had pricked up at the word ‘Titty’. He now gave his full attention to Felicity.  “Maybe she’s the boss.” he suggested.

“Could be.” Felicity agreed, “She’s shouting at them now, and cuffing them about the ears and cheek pouches too. “I wonder why she’s doing that? Oh I wish I could hear what she’s saying.”

 

“What do you mean?” The Law Master, Perfidity Gallowsmith, slurred her words and swayed so alarmingly that Quentin Blackheart was forced to overcome his revulsion at the physical touch of female fur, and grab her, “There’s no one here? I’ve drained a tankard of rough ale, and spat out a tasty pasty – just to find an empty room? Mooney – I thought you said that you’d been followed by Stix: Where are they then – you total tonge?”

Tybrow Mooney stood on the landing outside. He would have liked nothing more than to slip away from the scene, and hope that the Law Master forgot everything the following morning. But several lawmen blocked his egress down the stair.

“Well…” he began.

 

“I can see Mooney!” Felicity shouted excitedly.

“Does he have any more gold coins about his person?” Roosevelt inquired through avaricious lips.

“I can’t tell.” Felicity replied, “I can’t get an angle on him from here.”

So Roosevelt suggested that Felicity shift along the wall, and look again. Unfortunately there was a large pile of beans where Felicity needed to stand, so she quickly clambered up them, and stood there awkwardly as she tried to gain her balance.

“Here, let me help you,” Roosevelt held out a steadying paw.

Now what happened next could not have been foreseen – even by the combined brains of doctor Rambling Bramble, his charming assistant, Primrose Pickles, or even Hamsterdom’s youngest national hero, Horatio Horseblanket: Certainly everyone understood that Roosevelt enjoyed the talent of Psychic Catalyst, and that anyone possessing psychic powers would find their abilities enhanced in his presence: What no one knew was that these powers would be enhanced a hundredfold if physical contact was made. And, naturally, this is what occurred.

“Gosh,” Felicity screamed in a virtual rapture as once more she pressed her fluffy forehead against the rough brickwork, “I’ve got colour vision. And audio too!”

Then she said “Urk!” and stumbled forward – disappearing through the wall.

This in itself could have constituted a disaster; but unfortunately her flailing paw grasped Roosevelt’s snout in a vice-like death grip, and dragged it through the wall – with its owner in close attendance.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2012

Yes, this story is about psychic powers and a medieval society. And hamsters, of course.

Like the other Hamster-Sapiens e-books, this one is available almost everywhere. See the sidebar or ‘Pages’ beneath the header for the more popular retailers.

P.S The hamster on the cover is Joan Bugler – the ‘star’ of the book.

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 11)

“I am getting some anomalous readings from the larger world.” The Oracle announced.

“Let me look at them.” Flaxwell said urgently. Then having done so, he added: “The Porthole of Everywhere is said to give off a unique radiation frequency. I don’t know what that frequency is; but I’m getting a really weird one from the planet below. We can’t risk losing it now: we’re so close. We have to go down for a closer look….

“But the planet is clearly becoming unstable.” Gideon observed. “Tidal forces are tearing the tectonic plates apart. Hell will soon be unleashed down there. But you’re right, of course: we didn’t come all this way – just to be thwarted by the end of the world!”

So, as the two worlds came ever closer together…

…the Scroton Five dived into the atmosphere and levelled off just above the planet’s surface, where Flaxwell and Gideon witnessed a huge energy discharge…

“The two planet’s magnetospheres are interacting in a most destructive fashion.” The Oracle informed them.” The resulting concussive shock wave…

…might sweep clean around the planet – destroying everything in its path and leaving it a wasteland.”

“What, you mean like that.” Flaxwell inquired.

“Indeed I do.” The Oracle replied. “I would suggest you gain considerable altitude, before it’s too late.”

Flaxwell didn’t need further bidding. A moment later…

“Flipping heck, Flaxwell! ” Gideon exclaimed. “Everything is aflame. I pray that the Porthole of Everywhere isn’t included in the conflagration.”

“Yeah, me too.” Flaxwell grunted as he struggled to keep the bucking craft aloft and under his control. He then added: “Oh cripes – even the fires are on fire…

…I think the planet is breaking up. Gravity waves are causing merry hell with my instruments. I’m gonna go as fast as I can, then pull her up in a vertical climb. It’s the only way to get outta here!”

So he did…

“Wow, Flaxwell.” Gideon said admiringly. “You sure can fly fast and low. You should have been a fighter-bomber pilot. When will we begin to climb?”

At that moment the forward scanners detected an object straight ahead.

“Is it the Porthole of Everywhere?” Gideon asked excitedly. He found out a second later…

“Aargh.” He yelled incoherently. Then he added: “It’s a newly-formed volcano. Swerve, Flaxwell: swerve!”

So Flaxwell swerved…

But although he’d avoided a collision, the Scroton Five still had insufficient forward velocity to attempt a steep climb into space. Naturally – being a mere professor – Gideon rushed to the lavatory…

And it was this act that saved the ship and its occupants. As advertised, the lavatory removed Gideon’s waste products and converted them into energy for the ship’s engines. The resulting minuscule increase in speed was enough to allow Flaxwell to begin his climb…

“Unless something truly cataclysmic happens now,” Flaxwell called from the pilot’s seat, “I think we’re gonna make it.” And, for a moment, his optimism appeared to be well founded. “Look at the screen, Giddy.” He shouted.

Gideon rushed back to his seat – just in time to see the latest read-outs…

“It’s hot.” He bellowed above the screaming of tortured, super-heated air as it tore at the hull of the Scroton Five. “But it’s not blowing up!”

Then the northern hemisphere heaved, expanded, and became misshapen…

…and duly vomited the contents of the planet’s core into space…

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 10)

Gideon eyed the Great Balsac Nebula. “I never imagined I’d ever be this close to it.” He said breathlessly. “Who would?”

“Legend has it,” The Oracle piped up, “that it once belonged to the Supreme Being. But, apparently he thought it was too big, and swapped it in for a smaller version. Of course, that’s only legend – and you know what legends are like.”

“Well I hope we don’t have to go any nearer.” Gideon said – unable to tear his gaze from the unimaginably vast stellar birthplace. “It looks really scary. Very imposing and fulsome.”

“I thought you wanted to find the Porthole of Everywhere?” Flaxwell said.

A sinking feeling threatened to overwhelm Gideon. “Oh dear. It’s inside the nebula, isn’t it?” He said nervously.

Flaxwell nodded. “So legend has it. And I’ve just finished the calculations for a direct passage into it.”

Gideon forgot his fears for a moment. He was impressed. “So quickly?” He asked.

“Yes.” Flaxwell replied. “We simply dive straight in: we’ll figure out the rest when we’re on the inside.”

So, without further ado, the pilot hit the Go button again…

None aboard the stolen Scroton Five had ever experienced anything like the passage through the Great Balsac Nebula. Flaxwell had difficulty keeping the ship upon an even keel…

But then he remembered that in space there is no up or down. It really didn’t matter which way ‘up’ the ship was. Inside, with inertial damping and artificial gravity, it was all the same to its occupants. So he and Gideon went back to exploring the command room’s equipment…

“I don’t know why you liked this device so much, Flaxwell.” Gideon complained. “I think its ghastly. It makes my brain hurt.”

Flaxwell thought back to when he tried it on for size. It had only been for a brief moment. “Yeah, you could be right there.” He confessed. “I did feel a strange fizzing between the ears. What does it do, Oracle?”

Gideon was only too pleased to clamber out and listen to an explanation…

But the Oracle didn’t want to talk about it. It turned to face the coffee machine once more.

“What is it, Oracle?” Gideon asked gently. “Is there something wrong? Is it your mother, or something?”

“Or did you once ask it out,” Flaxwell suggested, “and it told you to get lost?”

“No.” The Oracle replied. “It goes far deeper than that. Right to the cyber heart.”

When the earplugs had endured a lengthening wait for further elucidation that was not forthcoming, Flaxwell said: “Well?”

“Okay, you twisted my arm.” The Oracle said with a cyber-sigh. “It’s a Psycho-Chef.”

Again the earplugs waited. Again Flaxwell spoke. This time he said: “And?”

“It reads the minds of hungry creatures.” The Oracle said reluctantly. “As an automaton – or ‘non-hungry creature’ – I can never use that wondrous device. Forever its charms will elude me, and all servo-mechanisms like me. It exemplifies the true and quintessential difference between biological intelligence and artificial intelligence.”

“So you can’t use it.” Flaxwell scoffed. “Big deal. I’d have thought you were better off being a ‘non-hungry creature’. I bet your stomach doesn’t grumble like mine!”

At those words a thought struck Gideon like a bubble-wrapped hammer blow: “Gosh, we haven’t eaten since we were in my hotel room.” He cried. “And that was only a pot of tea.”

“With some custard creams.” Flaxwell reminded him. “They came in fiddly little packets that were hard to open.”

“I don’t remember them.” Gideon replied caustically. “I was drunk at the time. Who knows; maybe you ate them all. I wouldn’t put it past you. But that’s by the by: water under the bridge and all that: I’m hungry: so are you. Let’s try the Psycho-Chef. Maybe we can think up a really tasty meal!”

It was an inspired idea, and Flaxwell volunteered to imagine some scrambled eggs on toast…

“The food will appear in a receptacle in the galley.” The Oracle explained. “But it’s not enough that you imagine the food: you have to imagine cooking it. If you can’t cook, you can’t eat. It’s as simple as that.”

Flaxwell wasn’t daunted by this information. “I know exactly how to make terrific scrambled eggs.” He said positively. “There; it’s done. Giddy; go fetch our lunch.”

Thirty seconds later…

“Sorry.” Gideon said as he returned from the galley. “Nada. Well actually there was something – but it looked like a plugmutt dropping. I put it in the recycler.”

Facing imminent starvation, and despite the accompanying cranial agony, Gideon tried his hand…

He was just about to imagine rolling out some flaky pastry, prior to creating some sausage rolls, when an alarm sounded, and the ship lurched…

It then burst into a pocket of normal space that had been hidden by the surrounding nebula…

“Look.” Gideon cried out from within the grasp of the Psycho-Chef. “Worlds. Two of them. And they’re on a collision course!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

Gone – But Not Forgotten

Every so often it becomes neccessary for me to remove lovingly crafted posts from this blog. I do so because I have a data limit of 3GB. As I approach this limit, WordPress suggest that I pay extra for more space: so something has to go. On this occaision it’s three beloved Earplug Adventures. To be precise it’s this three…

I’m sorry to see them go. But fear not, because they live on as E-Books, which are  available at most e-book retailers, including all the big boys. 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 9)

Whilst all this gnashing of teeth was taking place – far, far away, Flaxwell, Gideon, and the Oracle had grown bored with the spectacle of hyper-space, and were indulging themselves with a game of I Spy…

“I spy, with my little eye,” said Flaxwell, “something beginning with B.”

“B?” Gideon queried. “There’s nothing starting with B in this room.”

“I didn’t say it was in this room.” Flaxwell replied. “I just said that I could see it.”

“Blue.” The Oracle said in a dull, flat tone that strongly suggested that its cyber-heart wasn’t in the playing the game. “The blue of hyper-space.”

“Oh well done, Oracle. I would never have thought of that in a million yonks.” Gideon said chirpily. “Your turn.”

“I think I’ll pass.” the machine continued in the same tone.

“I’ll have another go, then.” Flaxwell volunteered. “I spy with my little eye – something beginning with H.”

“Hat!” Gideon blurted in triumph.

“Hat? Said the puzzled space pilot. “What hat?”

“My hat.” Gideon insisted. “My black top hat.”

“But I can’t see your black top hat.” Flaxwell argued. “You hung it up in the broom cupboard, which is three compartments aft of here.”

“Oh, yes.” Gideon said – feeling slightly sheepish. “So I did. So what starts with H?”

“Hyper-space.” The Oracle almost groaned the answer. “I see a pattern developing here. I suggest we quit while we’re ahead.”

Meanwhile, much closer to the planet Scroton…

…a Cable End listening station was…er...listening…to sub-space radio communications.

Inside, the security team that manned it…um...listened…intently to the radio chatter that permeated space…

The station’s Security Manager floated in. “My magnetic boots aren’t working properly.” He informed his team. “They won’t quite touch the floor.”

This surprised the one operative who stood opposite the door and who could see him without the need to turn around. “Really?” He said in a puzzled tone. “So how are you propelling yourself along?”

“Carefully controlled bursts of gas.” The Security Manager explained. “From my bottom. I had to cut a small hole in the back of my underpants to do it. Now; tell me; what is the current situation?”

The cable end with his back to the Security Manager replied: “The Government have despatched a battleship to destroy the stolen vessel.”

“Is it a big one?” The Security Manager asked.

“It is, Sir.” The operative replied. “It departed Scroton orbit five minutes ago.”

The Security Manager looked down at his feet, which hovered three millimetres above the floor, and said: “May the Saint of All Earplugs have mercy upon those rotten rubber souls.”

The ‘Rotten Rubber Souls’, alluded to by the Security Manager, had given up playing I Spy and had decided, instead, to try some more of the control room’s equipment…

“This is nice.” Flaxwell opined as he dropped into a receptacle. “What does it do?

“No time to explain.” The Oracle replied. “I’ll tell you all about it later. Strap yourselves in: we’re exiting hyper-space.”

Moments later the view before them blazed with wondrous energy…

“It looks like a fish.” Gideon observed. “That’s the tail in front of you, Flaxwell.”

“It’s not a fish, Gideon.” Flaxwell replied. “It’s an enormous dust cloud that is charged with cosmic energy.”

“I didn’t say it was a fish.” Gideon complained. “I just said that it looked like a fish. Like clouds on Earth do sometimes.”

At Flaxwell’s deft command to the helm, the Scroton Five came to a dead halt – relative to its immediate surroundings, of course. Nothing in space is ever completely static…

“We’ve arrived at our next calculation point.” Flaxwell informed his two partners in crime. “The Great Balsac Nebula!”

©  Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

Revel in the Ribaldry 1

When I published my early Hamster-Sapiens stories, they were always sub-titled Ribald Tales From a World Ruled by Hamsters. I don’t know why I dropped that description later, because it was (and remains) most apt. Interestingly (when I look back with the wisdom of hindsight) sales dipped from the moment I ceased to use it. So, here I am partially ressurrecting it in a number of extracts titled Revel in the Ribaldry. If they prove popular I may turn it into a glut. Afterall, the Hamster-Sapiens tales may be a few years old now; but that doesn’t make them any less…how shall I put it?…wonderful. How about fantastic? Okay, I’ll go with ‘entertaining’.

Since the original Horatio Horseblanket Chronicles books have been unavailable for several years, I’ll start proceedings with the book that is now considered Book One in the series, but which was written in the wake of the well-received aforementioned. It is this remarkable tome…

And here is the random extract…

If (just a few short weeks earlier) someone had suggested to Lionel that he would be leading the fight against an insane device that combined the organic remains of a squad of combat veteran hamsters, alien DNA, and several large (but essentially thick) robots, anyone who knew him would have scoffed: None more than Lionel himself: Lionel, after all, enjoyed making model armadillos, playing repetitive computer games, and watching inane daytime television. Indeed, until that rain-soaked day when his parents finally cried “enough”, and tossed him out of the family home, his idea of a good time was lying in bed with a sausage sandwich and a glass of aphid milk.

As things transpired, Lionel still hadn’t actually fashioned his ultimate plan to thwart the advancing menace that was The Overmind: But he’d formed the beginnings of an idea inside his fluffy little head that should, he hoped, free The Where House of its bio-electronic tyranny.

“So what shall we call this thing?” Lionel inquired as he held the artefact aloft for all to see. “It’s a bit dull to look at, isn’t it!” He added as he turned it over in his paws beneath a stuttering light in the lower latrine.

Indeed the artefact was a bit dull. In fact it was exceedingly dull. On a scale of visual languor it would have scored ten out of ten with consummate ease. So, as a consequence, not one single hamster present could summon up an idea for a suitable moniker.

All, that is, except Boney. “How about we call it ‘Arse Wipe’?” he half-suggested  – not thinking for one second that anyone would take him seriously.

Ten eyes – eight of them real: Two totally artificial, all swivelled to regard him. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw pity reflected in at least five of them.

“Well I mean,” He quickly realised that an explanation for his outrageous suggestion was required, “it’s gonna be about as useful as a bog roll in a hail storm when we confront The Overmind with it – aint it!”

Lionel continued to stare: ‘Could the ageing rodent be right?’ He thought to himself in that frozen moment, ‘Should this potential battle-winner be named ‘Arse Wipe’? If nothing else, it was original’.

“Oh, Boney,” Fanangy scolded, “How can you be so untrusting of Lionel’s abilities? Of course the Arse Wipe will be of more use than a bog roll in a hailstorm. Obviously Lionel’s plan is going to be ingenious: Success is certain. But Arse Wipe does have nice ring to it: I once had an Uncle named Arse Wipe – though of course he pronounced it Arssay Wippay. His wife was named Ringpiece. She had cruel parents. They were put to death for their crime – or so the legend goes.”

“So,” Colin felt duty-bound to step in and halt the pointless banter, “now that we’ve sorted that out – what are we going to do with it?”

Up until now Sergeant Tonks had remained quiet; and Major Hardcourt-Gymp appeared to be almost comatose with silence. But suddenly the Major’s aid spoke. She said, “Yeah – what are we going to do – like now? Emphasis on the now.”

This seemed to galvanise Gymp. “Indeed: Well put, Sergeant. We must cease this prevarication, and act. Hand me the Arse Wipe: I shall activate it once more; and we shall be about our business, which of course is my reinstatement as a sentient hamster that is fit to once again lead the Tadgerstone Rifles.”

“But you don’t know what to do with it.” Lionel whined as he realised that the situation was slipping from his tenuous control. Then a steeliness came over him, and he pulled the artefact to his puny chest, adding, “No – leave it alone: It’s mine.”

“Yes, that’s right, you big bully.” Fanangy instantly sided with her beloved Lionel, and snarled at the military officer in such a way that he blanched beneath his military-regulation facial fur, and began to wonder if being sentient was all it was cracked up to be.

“Will you lot stop all this yakking!” Boney roared as best he could with his age-clogged lungs, “All the time we’re stood about doin’ nothin’ – that thing upstairs is takin’ over more an’ more of my business.”

And of course he was right – and Lionel knew it. “Right then.” He said in his most authoritative voice, “To the elevator!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2012

Naturally the e-book version remains available at most e-book retailers. See the sidebar or ‘Pages’ beneath the header for the most popular ones.

P.S The sub-title of the original copy had a sub-title of it’s own. It was ‘Where All the Parts Are Private’. Why on Earth did I drop that? Because I’m creative; and creative people are allowed to be morons.

A Tale of Three Museums (part 8)

For almost a full five minutes the Scroton Five hung in the weightlessness of space like some lustrous bauble on the Christmas tree of eternity…

…before Doctor Gideon Snoot realised his mistake, and returned to the control room…

Although not particularly interested in what his colleague was doing, he noted that Flaxwell was engrossed with some mathematical problems, which, he assumed were course calculations.

“I searched this ship from stem to stern.” He informed the furry-headed space pilot. “Couldn’t find a lavatory anywhere. You’ll have to put down on the first habitable planet: I’m desperate to go.”

Flaxwell couldn’t spare Gideon too much attention. “The Bog’s over in the corner – to your left.” He grunted.

A split second later…

“I hope those brochures were correct.” Gideon said from inside the advanced toilet.

“Brochures?” The Oracle inquired.

“Yes, the ones that stated that this ship comes with all the extras that include padded armrests and toilets that don’t smell.” Gideon answered.

“Have you noticed any padded armrests?” The Oracle asked.

“Um.” Gideon began as his eyes scanned the room. “Er…no.”

“Well there’s your answer then.” The Oracle said. “But if it softens the blow slightly – the toilet is self-cleaning.”

“Oh, that’s a relief.” Gideon said – slightly disappointed. “I didn’t  spot a drop of bleach or any rubber gloves in the broom cupboard.”

“No,” the Oracle interjected, “I didn’t mean that it cleans itself: it cleans yourself. No bog roll required. Wonderful, isn’t it?”

“Hmmm,” Gideon managed as the device began its ministrations, and his eyes bulged, “kind of. I’m adaptable, but I’m not sure I could get used to this.”

“You may have to.” Flaxwell grumbled. “If I don’t get these calculations right, we could be lost out here for eternity.”

Shortly, following that quiet outburst from his sole crewmate, Gideon sat himself in his chair and awaited proceedings. And it was while he awaited proceedings that he returned to real-time. That is, he wasn’t remembering events from the recent past anymore. Rather he was experiencing things for the first time. He was in the ‘now‘ of his life…

“Got it.” Flaxwell cheered triumphantly. “I had the decimal point in the wrong place. Right; strap in; we’re ready to go.”

“It’s not that I don’t trust your math,” the Oracle said, as it swivelled in its space cage to face the rear bulkhead, “but I don’t have fingers to hide my eyes behind: I’ll just look at the coffee machine and marvel at its complexity.”

The servo-mechanism had barely uttered its last word before Flaxwell hit the Go button…

“Whoo.” The space pilot yelled. “Look at this baby go!”

And, indeed, it did go: like the clappers…

Meanwhile, back on night-shrouded Scroton…

…the Security Manager had taken control of the search for the stolen ship…

“Report.” he snarled at his subordinates, as only a security manager can.

“We have several Scroton Fives patrolling Weird Space.” The charge hand informed him…

…”Just in case they try to double back to Scroton and try to put the ship back on its plinth, and slink off and disappear down some back alley.”

“One of our ships formed a Gravity Lock in the same location where the stolen vessel disappeared.” A night-shift subordinate informed him…

“It’s attempting to track them from inside the gravity well.”

“Yeah,” a third member of the security team belched verbally, “and another Scroton Five is patrolling all the nearby nebulas – to see if they are hiding in the dust clouds and birth places of stars.”

“Nebulae.” The Security Manager corrected him. “Not nebulas. Its an easy mistake to make. I used to make it all the time. But then I was promoted to Security Manager; so now I never mistakes. Never. Do you hear me? How often do I make mistakes?”

“Never!” The subordinates said, as one.

“Did you want me to mention that we’ve informed all the deep space exploration vessels to keep an eye out too?” The fourth member of the team inquired…

“Naturally.” The Security Manager answered. “I’d expect nothing less from my team. I’m gonna catch these devils. And when I do, they’re gonna wish they’d never got up in the morning; had their breakfast; and stolen a Scroton Five!”

“But they didn’t get up in the morning.” The braver of his subordinates reminded him. “They stole it in the dead of night.”

But the Security Manager wasn’t really listening: he was too busy imagining what terrible acts he would perpetrate against Flaxwell and Gideon when he caught them. “Yeah,” he growled, somewhat confusingly. “That too.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

Playing the Creator

If you’ve been reading the Earplug Adventures for long, you’ll probably know that I have a role in them – other being the creator, writer, photographer, set builder, and special effects guy, of course. I also play The Supreme Being. Here I am, look…

…being all mean and nasty. Sometimes, though, my character can behave quite nicely towards his creations…

And remember that time when I was abducted and replaced by a doppelganger?

That ended with me losing my underpants…

Its fun – being the creator.

But as much fun playing the Creator is, its not half as much fun as BEING the creator – thinking up the stories, finding and building all the props and sets, taking the photos, manipulating them via computer, and, of course, writing the script. That’s the real fun – and its something I spend ages of my free-time doing. But recently I’ve needed to speed up the process; so although the initial scribbly part remains…

…where I collect my thoughts and put them into some semblence of order – gone are the days of printing out pictures and ordering them into a story board…

Gosh that took a lot of printer ink, paper, cardboard, and plastic sleeves. Not to mention time and effort! Now its all hi-tech – with computers doing most of that kind of stuff…

And that’s just the kitchen. You should see what I have in the attic!

Anyway, when I believe that I have enough photos ‘in the can’ to begin a new episode of my silicon magnum opus, I open a Word/Libreoffice file in one computer, and import the first of the required photos to it…

In the other computer I open a photographic file and place the photos in the same order that they will appear in the story – numbered 01 to whatever…

These photos will have been imported from several files. Most obviously from the four files – titled Future, Past, Present, Distant – that contain photos that were taken specifically for this segment of the tale…

But many will be extracted from other ‘library’ files, which contain pictures that I’ve shot and manipulated, in the hope that, eventually, I will be in a position to use them. Currently there are in excess of three and half thousand of them waiting to be used…

These files contain photos that are generic to the Earplug Adventures. Some appear as ‘backdrops’ against which I shoot my characters. Others as stand alone shots that will be integrated into the story to set scenes or show exteriors or special effects. This picture displays the Space Scenes files. Other files used for A Tale of Three Museums include Special FX, Space Ships, Scroton 5 Shots, Museum Shots, Alien Worlds Buildings, Alien Worlds From Air, Alien Worlds from Space, Alien Worlds Surface, and several sub-files. So you see, I have an awful lot of photos to dredge through to find the perfect picture – or even a half-way decent one! But the act of collating the pictures makes it easier to see the story forming. I may have a basic idea regarding the story’s direction; but having all the photos in front of me shows me how I can tweak the story – and make it better. More importantly, how I can make it funnier. The characters actually come to me through their images. It must be a quite unique situation for an author, and I wonder if anyone else is doing this. Are you?

P.S I didn’t have to ‘fuzz out’ this picture of me hiding my willy: the camera lens fogged over and did it for me. There, I always thought I was Hot Stuff!

 

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 7)

For a moment, sitting and staring in bewilderment was all that Flaxwell and Gideon could do. Bewilderment turned to horror when the first Attack Scroton Five opened fire in earnest…

“Flipping heck.” Flaxwell yelled at the screen. “This baby is worth twelve billion Scrotelettes: what are you doing – trying to blow it up?”

“They cannot allow this vessel to fall into the hands of competitors.” The Oracle bellowed above the sound of the defensive screens battling the incoming fire. “Better to destroy it than have all their technological secrets discovered. And it’s not actually worth twelve billion: that’s just the retail price. The mark up is huge!”

“Fascinating.” The formerly quiescent Gideon spoke for the first time as the second ship swept in – its guns blazing…

…”But how does that explanation remedy our situation?”

“Well…” The Oracle replied, “One of those secrets is a patented escape mechanism.”

“Escape?” Flaxwell replied. “I didn’t do all this, just to bail out. I want to keep this ship. But I also want to live. Think of something else!”

“Not the occupants, Stupid.” The Oracle snapped. “The whole ship. The escape mechanism allows the ship and everything inside it to escape capture or destruction.”

“Do you know how to work it?” Gideon asked calmly.

The Oracle’s response was: “I already have.”

At that moment, beneath the lower hull of the Scroton Five, a ring of brilliant energy formed….

“It’s a Gravity Lock.” The Oracle explained. In an instant the Gravity Lock forms a connection with the nearest neutron star. It doesn’t matter how far away it is. Then the incredibly powerful gravity waves that all neutron stars possess, drags us from where we were, and makes us fall down the gravity well towards the neutron star…

…Neat, huh?”

Once again, it was all that the two earplugs could do to sit and watch whilst the galaxy rushed past the ship as it hurtled down the gravity well.

“Question.” Flaxwell squeaked. “If this gravity is so powerful – that it’s pulling us along at supra-light speeds: how do we stop? This thing doesn’t even have a parking brake.”

“Oh ye of little faith.” Gideon scoffed. “Obviously the Oracle will turn the Gravity Lock off. I think now would be a suitable moment.”

The Oracle almost sounded cheerful when it said: “Already done.”

A split second later, the Scroton Five emerged in another part of the galaxy…

…and a very annoyed Gideon Snoot jumped from his seat and waltzed off to the rear of the control room – from where he began blaming Flaxwell for everything that had gone wrong. He cursed him for getting a young, inexperienced professor drunk. He then called him every vile name he could think of…

In fact he was so annoyed with the space pilot that he even made some up on the spur of the moment…

“Bootle-twang?” A vaguely amused Flaxwell replied. “That’s fighting talk where I come from. So is fester-fuzz.”

Gideon calmed slightly at this. “Yes…well.” He hurrumphed like an earplug of great antiquity. “I’m going to the toilet. By the time I come back I expect everything to be tickety-boo and Bristol fashion – if you don’t mind ancient naval parlance.”

With that he turned around and disappeared through the only exit…

“But…but.” Flaxwell said as he staggered forward…

…”that leads to the galley and engine room. This is the toilet.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 6)

Flaxwell decided to ignore his sloshed friend, and instead, chose to address the Ship’s Oracle…

“Two questions.” He said. “First up – what do I call you?”

“Oracle.” The Oracle replied. “Anything else would be extraneous.”

“Fair enough.” Flaxwell said with a nod of agreement. “Second question: when do I get to choose where this baby goes?”

“I assume,” the Oracle replied, “that the term ‘baby’ relates directly to the ship in which you now reside?”

Flaxwell paused his response. ‘Funny,’ he thought to himself, ‘the Oracle using the word ‘reside’. Does it have an inkling as regards what just happened?‘ “Ah, yeah.” He said. “That’s right. So what’s the answer?”

“During your…shall we put it – your escape from the exhibition hall, I took the opportunity to reconfigure the helm to earplug parameters. As the sole occupants of this vessel, you now have command of all interfaces and systems. The ship is, effectively, yours.”

Flaxwell’s heart skipped several beats. He couldn’t have wished for more. “Okay.” he said slowly. “This part of space is going to be crawling with military vessels any moment now. What’s the best way of evading them and making it into deep space?”

The Oracle took a moment to respond. “You have command of this ship, but you lack knowledge and experience of its systems. Would you, once more, deign to allow me to make your escape for you.”

Flaxwell didn’t waste a second thinking. “Right on.” He yelled. “Do it!”

Moments later the Scroton Five blasted towards the interplanetary shipping lanes…

“Ah, I see.” Flaxwell said as he took his position in the pilot’s seat…

…”You’re going to hide us in the radar shadow of a larger ship. That freighter looks a likely candidate.”

“I concur.” The Oracle replied, as Gideon stared straight ahead, and wondered what the heck was going on.

Moments later the Scroton Five had matched velocity with the larger craft, and, effectively became invisible to the security forces of Scroton…

Eventually the freighter made off for some far away planet, which left Flaxwell and Gideon far from Scroton.

“Where are we?” Gideon inquired.

In answer, Flaxwell brought up an image on the view screen. He even labelled it…

Gideon made in instant and cannily accurate observation: “Oh, doesn’t Scroton look small.  I can’t believe we were both standing there. It seemed so big then.”

Flaxwell smiled at this. But his smile would have fallen away, if he’d known what the security officers on Scroton knew…

“The freighter has altered course for Borky.” One of them said. “Its radar signature has reduced. I conclude that the stolen ship has separated from it and is somewhere in that immediate region. I don’t want to look like a complete wally again: dispatch fighters immediately!”

Of course, the occupants of the ship the Cable Ends sought were blissfully unaware of events unfolding upon far Scroton. Flaxwell, always an earplug who could hold his liquor, decided to help Gideon back to sobriety. To this end he dragged him to the coffee machine, which was located aft of the Oracle, and doubled up as a stylish window into the engine room – or ‘Engineering’, as it was properly known. Gideon was still trying to make up his mind whether he wanted crappachino or cafe con lurgi, when the ship was shaken by an external force…

The blow was of sufficiently powerful to produce two definitive actions. It decided, remotely, upon Gideon’s behalf, that he would have neither types of coffee: and it returned the professor’s  sentience with a nasty bash to the knee cap.

“What was that? What am I doing here? Why does my knee hurt? Is this a coffee machine?” He demanded of a frightened Flaxwell.

Flaxwell didn’t know for sure, but he was experienced enough to recognise a warning shot from a superior enemy when he felt one. “Um.” He said. “I’m not sure; but it’s probably quite bad. Oracle – I think we need to get the heck out of here. Like now. Go!”

Just to prove Flaxwell’s words prophetic, an energy burst filled the space that the Scroton Five had occupied only a nano-second earlier…

“Cripes.” The servo-mechanism squeaked in a most un-oracle way. “Look out of the window!”

Of course there was no window in the control room, so Gideon and Flaxwell had to rely upon their imaginations to correct this fundamental design error. And their imaginations were surprisingly accurate. Because, out of a nearby nebula, and in attack formation, raced two Scroton Fives…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020   

Wallpaper 556: Juxtaposition: Opposites Attract

In this photo the owners have very kindly parked their vehicles in a most aesthetically pleasing manner. The green Mazda is parked as it always is – nose in beside a complimentary-green bush. The red Hyundai owner has wisely reversed the car in beside the Mazda. This, in itself is nothing remarkable. What is, is the fact that the colours are opposites, and should not appear pleasant to eye. Indeed, had it been a dull, grey day, this would have been a photographic faux pas. But the sun is shining, and both cars are clean. Together they look delightful.  

A Tale of Three Museums (part 5)

Meanwhile, inside the exhibition hall, the Scroton Five was rising from its plinth…

And, sitting in the currently redundant pilot’s seat, Flaxwell Maltings held his breath…

…whilst Gideon merely wondered what all the noise was about.

Then a second sound was added to the thunder of the lifting jets. The main drive spluttered into life…

Neither Flaxwell or Gideon could have known it, but Johnny Nosebleed had remained inside the building after the exhibition had closed for the night. Uncertain with his delivery of the Cable End-written script, he had been trying to improve the dialogue. It was at the point of the Scroton Five’s imminent departure that the actor had decided to hear what his improved script sounded like. Ignoring the roar of the space ship engines, he stepped upon his dais and spoke into the microphone…

“Hi, everybody, I’m Johnny Nosebleed. I’m a famous actor, and I’d like to tell all you fine prospective buyers about…”

At this point he realised that something was amiss. So, thinking quickly, he adjusted the script again. “By the Saint of All Earplugs.” He bellowed. “Someone’s stealing the Scroton Five!

He wasn’t alone in this knowledge. Well sort of. Flaxwell hadn’t known it, when he’d chosen to acquire the coveted vessel by means of stealth; but the Cable Ends had suspected that someone might want to tamper with their new class of ship, and perhaps steal its secrets. Already a team of security officers were detecting changes in the weight that pressed down upon a sensor that was set into the base of the plinth…

“First it got slightly heavier.” One of them said to the other four. “Then it got really light.”

“How light?” One of them inquired.

“Very.” Came the answer.

“Be more specific.” Another demanded.

“It gained a few kilos. Then it stopped weighing anything.” The first officer replied – before adding: “Strange, isn’t it?”

Whilst the officers discussed the anomalous readings, the Scroton Five was building up a steady head of metaphorical steam…

In fact, so steady was this head of metaphorical steam that soon the Scroton Five had almost reached the end of the access tunnel, and it was already breaking the sound barrier!

“Flipping heck.” The security team yelled as one. “The Scroton Five is launching. Red alert! Red alert! Or Crimson Alert, as we call it on Scroton!”

But it was too little too late. Already the stolen craft had reached the upper atmosphere…

With a yell of purest joy, and for the first time since losing his job as a space pilot, Flaxwell stared out of a view screen upon the darkness of space…

“Yeah.” He cried. “Whatta ya think of that, Giddy-baby? Now you’re really in space!”

“Pretty.” Gideon observed. Then, with a stifled yawn, he added: “I’m feeling a bit sleepy. Is there a cot somewhere?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

Chef Tooty’s Cooking Again

Hello, I’m Chef Tooty. Yes, that is a Waitrose Christmas apron. Its the only apron I have. Well actually I have several. Unfortunately they are all Waitrose Christmas aprons – so it doesn’t really matter which one I wear. You will see why an apron is so important, when you get to the end of this lesson.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know that I specialise in end-of-the-week-cooking that uses up old stuff. I cook for people who don’t really like cooking, but have to because, for whatever reason, the person in their life who has always  done the cooking, can’t (or won’t) anymore. My concoctions might not always sound that tasty on paper, but usually turn out extremely tasty on the dinner plate. 

Well today’s meal was to have been a long drawn out affair. I really intended to to the job to the best of my abilities. But an unexpected phone call meant that the time available to prepare and cook was reduced by thirty percent. So it was time to cut corners. It was also time for me to forget to take any pictures, despite the fact that four cameras lay upon the kitchen table. So, the first part of this lesson is of the literary kind. I will use words instead of pictures. I will mention, at this point, that I’m not afraid to use ready-made stuff in my creations. For this meal – should you decide to attempt your own version, you will need these…

…or something vaguely similar. Yes, its good old Dolphin Nose again. But because I didn’t bother weighing out the veggies, I quickly discovered that I would need a little extra sauce. The cupboard contained this…

So, adding a little Moroccan salt, I figured the result would be much the same. You see how professional I am?

First up, the roasting time needed to be cut from an hour and a half to half an hour, so some rapid boiling was required. I sliced some aging potatoes, carrots and parsnips – about a centimetre thick – and boiled them stupid. Using the steam from the boiling process, I steamed some cabbage that had seen better days. When they were done I hurled them into my regular roasting thing; then laid some thickly-sliced bacon on top. Cue first cooking picture…

 

Oh yeah, I forgot. In order to save time I microwaved the bacon for a minute before laying it on. Then came the tedious bit. I boiled the milk and Dolphin Nose mix…

Simmered it for something approaching eternity; then poured it over the bacon…

…which is when I discovered my shortfall in the sauce department and quickly boiled some water and mixed up some white sauce. That done, it was time to chuck the roasting thing into a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees and wait twenty minutes. The result came out of the oven looking like this…

Quite nice, I think. And like this on the plate…

“Ah,” I hear you say, “that looks quite edible: but what makes it so special that Tooty felt compelled to share it with us on the Internet?”

Well I’ll tell you. Its a sunny July day. Boiling and roasting makes my tiny kitchen grow awfully warm. I don’t do warm. I like cool. So, brave reader, what makes this meal so special…is the fact that I cooked it without a safety net!

And that is why an apron is so important.

The Most Numerous Things in the English Countryside

I consider myself lucky to live in the English countryside. Its not exactly spectacular, and it certainly doesn’t make the heart race. But when I lived in the city or abroad, I ached for it.

Now I get out and about with a plethora of cameras just about as much as circumstances allow. And it was on a recent excursion from my home village that it struck me that there are three most numerous things in the countryside. Clearly of all the things that one might see in the English countryside – at least where I live (in southern Hampshire) – are trees. There are bloody millions of the things. Being an agricultural region, there are also a vast number of fields. They’re not all big; but there a sodding lot of ’em. When I’m strutting my funky camera stuff, I would really like to wander through the woodland, and perhaps skirt along the edges of fields. Maybe a stroll along the banks of the small streams and rivers that pass through the two aforementioned areas would be nice too. Perhaps I’d spot a King Fisher or an Otter. Hmmm. That would be very nice. Were I to do so, I’m sure I could capture lots and lots of other charming images too. But sadly (for the most part) this option is denied me. This is because of the third most numerous things in the English countryside. These bastards…

They’re every-fucking-where! You can’t walk more than a couple of hundred metres before you’re thwarted by signs, gates, and barbed wire fences. It drives me crackers. Which brings me to the Least Numerous Thing in the English countryside. Land owners. There’s fuck-all of them. You could count them on your fingers. In some areas you could count them on your dick. One individual might own huge tracts of land and everything on them – including entire villages in which no one can own their own home. In their defence, somebody suggested that if people (perhaps a family from the town, trying to escape the hurley-burley of life for a couple of hours) were to (for example) visit a river, beside which they might picnic and perhaps allow their children and dogs to play in the water, said river bank might soon be eroded and the area bespoiled. That, in effect, by denying anyone access, the landowner is protecting the environment for future generations. Well his/her future generations, that is.

“Well, yeah-yeah.” I mused for a moment, when confronted with this  arguement. But then I paused to think about it – and duly said: “So why’d they allow whole herds of cows to wander in and out of the rivers – breaking down the banks, tearing out the foliage, and shitting and pissing everywhere?”  

It was a good, and accurate summation of the situation. Then, today, I found an even better example of careless land/river ownership. I may not be allowed to wander along the non-husbanded, stinging nettle and bramble-infested river bank: but some toss-pot is welcome to drive a truck right through the river (complete with re-introduced and endangered Water Vole homes) to dump the spoil, from some home or building renovation, upon the undergrowth – suffocating everything beneath it,  and scarring the river bank for years to come…

Hmmm indeed. They’re all arse holes: take my word for it. If they’d let me, I’d kick them in the bollocks.

Thank you for reading my rant.

Tooty

A Tale of Three Museums (part 4)

Sitting in the co-pilot’s chair, Gideon didn’t care to recall, exactly, the words that passed between him and Flaxwell as they took their tea in his room at the Hotel Verruca. He tried to ignore the evidence that Flaxwell had emptied the contents of the mini bar into the teapot. He was loathe to admit – even to himself – that he had next to no capacity for alcohol. And he would gladly erase any remembrance of decisions made during that un-measured period between departing the shiny elevator, and getting back in again…

But he did recall feeling very strange, and Flaxwell blathering on about stuff of which he knew nothing and cared even less.

“Approach vectors.” Flaxwell had said at some point during their descent to street level. “Very important when you’re in space. Well they’re kind of important everywhere; but not as much as in space. In space they’re very important. Have you ever been in space, Giddy-baby?”

Gideon vaguely remembered replying: “I got here, didn’t I? I don’t remember it, but I guess I musta been in space at some time. You can’t walk to Scroton, ya know.”

After that everything seemed to blur for the young professor from the Museum of Future Technology. It wasn’t until, under the cloak of night, they stole into the Scroton Five exhibition hall…

…that his recollections of events became linear once more.

They found the Scroton Five still upon its pedestal…

And for a moment, whilst Flaxwell dashed off for a wee, Gideon almost experienced the emotional attachment that his would-be pilot felt for the wondrous machine.

His thoughts were interrupted when Flaxwell stage-whispered: “Hey, stop gawking at that thing, and get over here.”

‘Here’ meant the electronic information device…

“Oh, it’s you – the imperialistas.” It said as they touched the screen to activate it.

“Hi.” Flaxwell said with a pleasant smile upon his face, “my previously impoverished colleague has inherited a vast fortune from his Uncle…er…Zapper, and now wishes to purchase a Scroton Five.”

“Bully for him.” The machine replied. “Why are you telling me this? You’re supposed to ask me questions. Would you like to know how to buy one?. Are you interested in a payment plan? Would you like me to tell you how the on-board lavatory reduces your waste products and converts them to energy to make the engine more efficient?”

Flaxwell sought to stem the flow of electronic words. “Not right now.” He shouted. “We’d like to know the whereabouts of the elevator key.”

“Yeah.” Gideon mumbled. “We wanna see inside the ship. We wanna see how comfy the seats are. And…and…stuff like that.”

Ten seconds later…

“Imagine that.” A self-satisfied Flaxwell said, as the elevator climbed upwards inside the plinth. “Hanging on a nail behind the toilet door.”

Then, a further ten seconds later…

“Wow, would you look at that!” Flaxwell exclaimed. “It’s so much roomier than I expected.”

“Hmmm,” Gideon replied. “The seats look nice and supportive too. I’ve got a slightly wonky back, so being supportive is very important.”

But when Flaxwell dropped into the pilot’s seat, he was less impressed…

In fact, for a moment or two, it made him see double.

“No.” He felt compelled to grind out between gnashing teeth. “Supportive does not describe these seats. Rock hard would be more accurate. Those ethernet cable ends must have iron backsides.”

Then he discovered that ethernet cable ends also designed ship’s controls that baffled earplugs – even experienced space pilot earplugs. Luckily he recalled that the vessel came equipped with a Ship’s Oracle…

“What is your question?” The Oracle inquired as Flaxwell approached it.

“We’re going to buy this ship.” Flaxwell replied. “But first we want to take it on a test flight. How do I take off?”

“In the interests of safety, I propose that I should pilot the Scroton Five from this exhibition hall – through Scroton’s atmosphere – to a place in orbit, whereupon you may experiment with the controls, and thereby learn what does what in the relative safety of space.”

Flaxwell grinned at this. He couldn’t have asked for more. I accept your proposal. Strut your funky stuff sho’nuf!”

Flaxwell was given five seconds in which to strap himself into the rock-hard pilot’s seat. Then this happened…

The engine began to glow, and lifting jets on the vessel’s underside started hissing and squirting.

Outside, the night watchman thought that he heard something…

But, being one of the simpler grey cable ends, his brain was unable to accept that the promotional Scroton Five would have come equipped with full flight capability:

“Nah,” he said. “It must have been the wind. Or that curry I had earlier.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

P.S I’ve been sitting on that night watchman photo for years – at least metaphorically. It has never appeared in an Earplug Adventure. There were times when I was tempted to delete it. But no, I couldn’t do it. And I’m glad I didn’t because I couldn’t have repeated it. Good old farty night watchman!

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 3)

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view – the waiting line for the electronic information device consisted of air molecules and a few dust motes. Consequently it took but a moment for Gideon to ask the magic question…

And the nano-moment that it took for Gideon and Flaxwell to absorb the answer was even briefer. “How much is twelve billion Scrotelettes in real money?” Gideon then asked the machine.

“Please rephrase the question, you earplug nincompoop.” The device replied tetchily. “Scrotelettes is real money, you quasi-imperialist swine!”

Whilst this interchange of cultures was taking place, Flaxwell was doing a rapid calculation in his head. “That’d be about a billion and a half bucks.” He said.

“A billion  and a half bucks?” Gideon yelped. “I’ve never heard of such a huge figure. Why, for a billion and half bucks, the Museum of Future Technology could keep a squadron of defence fighters aloft for a decade. They would only have to land in order to use the toilet!”

“It aint so much – not for a piece of kit like this.” A concerned Flaxwell argued – trying hard not to let the feeling of panic that threatened to overwhelm him show too much. “It is a Scroton Five after all. You always pay top Dollar for a class act. You’d probably never have to buy another one. You could pass it down to your children – and their children too. And it’s bound to appreciate in value. Really you should consider a billion and a half a real bargain. I know I do.”

Gideon didn’t reply straight away. Instead he walked away from the machine…

Then he did speak: “That’s easy for you to say.” He moaned. “You’re just the hired pilot. I have to justify the expense with my bosses. If I told them that it cost twelve thousand Scrotelettes, they just might swallow it: but twelve billion? It’ll give Cushions Smethwyke a coronary!”

Flaxwell could see his dream evaporating. He knew there was nothing he could say to pursuade Gideon. Only the Scroton Five, itself, could help him now. So he said nothing, and simply stared straight ahead until they returned to the display, which chose that moment to inform the audience of some fabulous extras that were available at no extra cost…

Gideon could see that his would-be employee was disappointed. “I’m sorry, Flaxwell.” He said. “Maybe we’ll find a used Scroton Four in Exchange My Spacecraft On-Line.”

To this Flaxwell allowed his lips to form a near-perfect circle, through which he released a long and mournful, “Noooo!”

Following this outburst, a group of ushers…er…ushered the earplugs out into the street…

Flaxwell was still in shock, so Gideon spoke of inconsequential things – like rugby shorts, corn flakes, and altered equilibrium and interrupted lymphatic systems caused by living on the Moon for too long.

All that Flaxwell could muster was: “Yeah-yeah, well it would – wouldn’t it.”

Shortly after that, en route to the Hotel Verruca, they passed by a Ethernet Cable End industrial unit, from which smoke had ceased billowing…

In an effort to shake Flaxwell from his semi-catatonic state, Gideon elucidated an observation that he had just made: “Oh look, it’s going-home time in Scroton Prime. Would you care to share a pot of tea in my hotel?”

Well, Flaxwell had nothing else to do. His life’s greatest wish had just imploded beneath the weight of Gideon’s extreme fiscal limitations. “Well if I can’t have the best space ship in the galaxy,” he mumbled, “I suppose a cup of tea isn’t the worst booby prize there ever was.”

So, a short while later, the two earplugs were riding a huge shiny elevator to Gideon’s room, where, as they passed several floors, Flaxwell tried to cheer himself up by shouting very rude words indeed…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 2)

Following a pleasant night in the most comfortable bed in all creation, Doctor Gideon Snoot took the receptionist’s advice. Shortly after the ascension of Scroton’s primary sun, he made his way past the sewage works and entered the ticket office of the Scroton Five Exhibition Centre…

…where he purchased a ticket.

“So, how did you manage to charm Blobbins into recommending this promotional show?” The Ticket Office Operator inquired.

Gideon hadn’t been aware of the receptionist’s name previously, but now that he did – and for reasons he couldn’t readily identify – he felt it incumbent upon him to give the impression that he wasn’t the new kid in school that he might have looked. “Blobbins?” He answered. “We go way back. I knew him when he…er…did stuff other than welcoming visitors to the Hotel Verruca. Yeah, I’ve known him for…um…yonks!”

“Don’t tell me,” the female ethernet cable end said with an expression on her strange face that Gideon couldn’t read, “you knew him when he was working Vice. What he do: bust you for peddling Mangroves? Or was it Wilful Infestation?”

Suddenly Gideon wished he could back-track to the moment before he’d opened his stupid mouth. Why had he tried to impress the girl? ‘How could I be so stupid?” He asked himself silently. ‘Look at me: a professor of the Museum of Future Technology caught in an unnecessary lie. And its not like her fancy her or  anything either!’

“Well?” The Ticket Office Operator snapped. “Which was it?”

Fortunately for Gideon, a fellow earplug chose that moment to appear from the street…

“Hey dude,” the wild-haired individual exclaimed, “are you a sight for sore eyes. I haven’t seen a living earplug for almost three months. The name’s Flaxwell Maltings, by the way. Originally of Earth. Might we be neighbours?”

“Doctor Gideon Snoot.” Gideon introduced himself. “Yes, I’m from Earth too. Nice to meet you. Very nice in fact.”

For some reason that eluded him, and whilst Flaxwell bought his own ticket, Gideon proceeded to tell this perfect stranger of his mission to the stars.

“Sounds like fun – sort of.” Flaxwell replied. “So you’re looking for a ship, huh?”

Gideon wasn’t really sure why he was there, so he nodded and said: “Uh-huh. I guess.”

“Walk with me, Doctor Gideon Snoot.” Flaxwell said with a smile. “This could be your lucky day.”

“Why is that?” Gideon replied as they turned away from the kiosk – their tickets safely tucked inside their shoes.

“Because,” Flaxwell answered, “if it’s a ship you’re needing; it’s also a pilot you’re needing. Ships don’t fly themselves, you know. And I happen to be the best darned pilot in known space. Well the best darned pilot that’s currently unemployed in known space, that is!”

Gideon discovered that he had to agree with his new-found friend. This could be the next step on his quest for the Porthole of Everywhere. “Yes,” he said, “I think you might be right there, Flaxwell Maltings: indeed this might be my lucky day.”

Once outside, and standing upon a fabulous woollen sidewalk that must have cost a fortune…

…Flaxwell said: “See you at the entrance of the exhibition tonight: seven oclock sharp, or as close as you can get to it. Okay?”

“Fine.” Gideon replied. “But what do I do in the meantime?”

“This is Scroton Prime.” Flaxwell said with a chuckle. “There are always millions of things to do in the biggest city in Weird Space. You could go watch some bum wrestling, where guys try to suffocate each other with their buttocks. That could be a lot of fun – though it aint pretty. Or you could go back to your room and read a book. That’d be fine too. But don’t get too engrossed: you gotta be there tonight.”

So, having parted company with Flaxwell, Gideon did as he’d been told. But the images of bum wrestling are too disturbing for a photographic representation here. Then, in an effort to get the aforementioned ghastly images he’d seen from his mind, he read a book – cover to cover. And, at seven o’clock sharp, he walked into the exhibition centre with his ex-pat chum…

And when he saw an actual Scroton Five upon a massive plinth, he very nearly said a rude word. Naturally Flaxwell did. Several in fact…

“And look at the plinth.” Flaxwell added. “It’s made of glass – with a built-in elevator!”

Gideon couldn’t help a little pedantry: “It’s not so much a plinth: more a pedestal.” He said. “But I agree; it is impressive. Rather like the Scroton Five itself.”

They said no more because they heard a microphone go live on the sound system.

“Is this thing on?” They heard a disembodied voice that sounded rather familiar to both of them say. “Yeah. Okay – let’s go.”

Suddenly a spotlight burst into incandescence, and picked out the owner of the rather familiar voice…

“Hi everybody: I’m Johnny Nosebleed. I’m a famous actor, and I’d like to personally invite all of you here today to ogle Scroton’s latest technological marvel…

…The do anything; go anywhere; kick-ass Scroton Five Scout Ship!”

Applause rang out as the craft began rotating upon it’s plinth/pedestal…

Gideon noticed that Flaxwell appeared to be having trouble breathing. “Are you alright?” He enquired.

“Gotta have one.” Flaxwell explained. “Got to have a Scroton Five. Please tell me you’re gonna buy one. Tell me. I love that ship. I gotta get my hands on the controls of this baby. My life won’t be complete if I dont!”

Gideon noted a claim that the Scroton Five had Trans-Galactic capability. “Well it would get the job done.” He conceded. “It comes complete with its own Ship’s Oracle too; so I wouldn’t have to pay for a crew either. Let’s go see how much it costs.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 1)

In the far reaches of space, a vast distance from any of the regular shipping routes, a Scroton Five hung motionless – relative to that region of the galaxy of course – after all, nothing is really still: everything is on the move, one way or another, even when it doesn’t feel like it is…

Seated in the pilot’s chair, Flaxwell Maltings busied himself making calculations for a course change. Behind him, within its space-cage, the Ship’s Oracle resided in silence – awaiting requests for guidance from the only earplugs aboard. Opposite Flaxwell, on the other side of the helm control, his passenger, Doctor Gideon Snoot, had his mind on other things…

In fact Gideon was having second thoughts about his decision to board the vessel…

Whilst Maxwell mumbled to himself and punched furiously at his pocket calculator, Gideon allowed his mind to drift back to the beginning of this foolhardy adventure. He had taken passage aboard a space liner…

…that had carried him from Earth, via several stops at various planets, some of which he’d never heard of – such as Borky, Fladder-Fladder, and Belch – to a region of the galaxy that was known as Weird Space – and the unusual planet of Scroton…

A planet that was, for millennia, inhabited by a simple people who didn’t have the first idea who they were, what they were doing, or how to use a toilet. Not that there were any toilets on Scroton, of course: the Ethernet Cable Ends that lived there were yet to invent them – or anything else for that matter. But then a powerful and wise alien people gave them the gift of sentience; and within a couple of years, Scroton had been named and industrialised…

And now, generations later, Doctor Gideon Snoot was setting foot there. Naturally he and his fellow passengers were thrilled as they stepped out of the ship’s tender…

“Hello, Doctor Snoot.” One of the welcoming Ethernet Cable Ends said to him as he stepped upon the slightly worn red carpet. “I’m here to take you to your hotel.”

“That’s okay.” Gideon had replied. “I have a tourist guide book. I know the way there. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll walk.”

So Gideon’s first impression of Scroton came through the soles of his comfy shoes. The second came a short while later…

…when he stared up at the hotel that his benefactors, back on Earth, had booked for him. 

“By the Saint of All Earplugs!” He exclaimed. “Look at the bloody size of that!”

In fact the hotel was so tall that, in order to bring the top into view, Gideon had to lean back so far that his hat fell off…

He was mightily impressed. But when he approached the main entrance, he found it closed to him…

Suddenly the thought of being forced to spend the night in a shop doorway filled him with dread. He’d done it before – several times – but he’d promised himself that it would never happen to him again. Indeed it was this determination that had given him the mental strength to gain him his doctorate in Anthroplugism, despite his school grades being somewhere south of garbage.

“Oi, you bleeders,” he yelled, “open this sodding door!”

Well, as luck would have it, the door was designed to respond to verbal commands. By chance Gideon’s well-chosen phrase matched perfectly the opening command sequence for the door to Reception…

“Neat.” He said, as he started down the long corridor.

A short while later he arrived at the welcome desk…

“Good evening.” The Receptionist said from behind the imposing desk that separated him from the hotel’s clientele. “Welcome to the Hotel Verruca.”

“Thank you.” Gideon replied. “It’s…er…awfully big – isn’t it? And that corridor has absolutely knackered me. I’m a desk-jockey these days, you know. I don’t get out and about often. This is my first trip outside the Museum of Future Technology in seven years, you know. That’s Earth years, of course. That’d be about fifteen Scroton Years.”

Although it wasn’t immediately obvious by his expression, the Receptionist was stunned by this information…

Even the Bell-Boy looked across at the newcomer.

“You, you, you’re an Antroplugologist from the M.O.F.M?” The Receptionist stuttered. “Kudos to you, man. What a groove! What are you doing here in Scroton Prime? Digging up some ancient earplug artefacts or something?”

Gideon smiled at the Receptionist’s ignorance. “No-no, there have never been earplugs living on Scroton.” He explained. “No, I’m conducting an intellectual quest. I’m tracking down the whereabouts of the mythical Porthole of Everywhere.”

Unfortunately the receptionist had an Attention Deficit problem, so duly lost interest. “You don’t say.” He said. “Room Fifteen-Oh-One. Nootles, here, will show you the way.”

So, without further ado, Gideon was on his way to his room…

But just as he was about to make his way to the elevator, the Receptionist had one more thing to say…

“Oh, yeah, Doctor Snoot. The Porthole of Everywhere aint on Scroton. Everyone knows that. You’re gonna need a scout ship that’s capable of supra-light speeds and can get you where you wanna go real quick, and out of trouble when it comes knocking at your door in the shape of Hyperspace Pirates or whatever. There’s an unveiling of a new ship tomorrow, down the road, just past the sewage works. It could be the perfect ship for your needs. Small, efficient, funky. My cousin works in the ticket office. Tell her I sent you: you’ll get in half-price.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

P.S I really thought I’d never get to write that. Boy, am I glad to be back.

 

Finally, a New Earplug Adventure?

I began formulating ideas for ‘A Tale of Three Museums’ long before I completed my last Earplug Adventure – ‘Distant Land’. That was 2019, when I had no idea what dreadful things lay ahead of me, and the subsequent impossibility of creating the 35th episode of my vast silicon magnum opus. But, although my situation has failed to improve, I have managed to put together enough photos to begin to tell the tale. It is a story that takes place in four locations. The first is the basic timeline of the Museum of Future Technology – well known to regular readers. The second occurs in the the same past that Magnuss, Hair-Trigger, and several museum visitors disappeared into in ‘The Time Tamperer’. The third follows Folie and Placebo as they continue the story from ‘Distant Land’. And finally the future, through which the main characters – Dr Gideon Snoot and Flaxwell Maltings – use a device to study the past – and in doing so draw all these tales together. Had my life not changed so suddenly, it would have been a challenge. As it is, I think this might be a bridge too far for me. But, being an ‘International Author’ and ‘Literary Genius’ – not to mention ‘Wonder Chef’ and ‘Photographic Phenomenon’, I think I should give it a try. So watch this space. Here’s a few taster shots…

What a Strange Writer I Am!

I was right in the middle of a re-write of Return to the Museum of Future Technology…

…when I came upon a conversation betwixt these two characters…

…which went:

“Hello. Um…my mum wears huge underpants.” The blue earplug said with a smile. “You’re terribly pretty and all that: I’m not very experienced with relationships and life in general: are you a boy or a girl?”

“Thank you for noticing me amongst all this technological majesty. My mother also tends towards voluminous cacks.” The turquoise earplug replied. “You are most attractive, by the way. In answer to your enquiry – I’m a girl: what gender are you?”

“I’m a boy.” The blue earplug answered. “Though my voice remains unfeasibly high-pitched for my age, and sometimes surprises earplugs who do not know me.”

“This is good news.” The turquoise girl earplug said as her smile broadened. “It means that we are compatible.”

“Good news indeed.” The blue earplug observed. “It means that we can engage upon a relationship. How would you care to embark upon an adventure with me in the Museum of Future Technology? Rumour has it, it can be fun.”

“One that we will look back on with affection when we are in our dotage, and our youth is but a distant memory, and our lives will have taken us in very different directions, you mean?” The turquoise girl earplug inquired.

“Yes – we will look back longingly at our adventure,” the boy earplug said as he nodded sadly, “and wonder how things might have been if things didn’t work out the way they did – if you know what I mean.”

And the girl earplug said, “Yes – I believe it will be character-building.”

…and I thought: “What a strange writer I am. Might it be that I am unique?”

It might explain why the stories are not very popular, don’t you think?

No Need to Apologize

When Covid 19 made its less-than-merry way into our global consciousness, I thought it best that I stop promoting this pair of rather entertaining books…

The reason: both tales are set in the wake of a global pandemic. It didn’t feel right to keep promoting them. So I didn’t. But a fellow scribe has told me, in no uncertain terms, that I should make no apologies for the books, and continue to promote them. It is advice that I’ve chosen to take. So, if you don’t mind, here is a brief extract from the original and its sequel…

Silent Apocalypse:

Only Donald wanted to know about the ‘nuts ‘n’ bolts’ of the operation; but that would also have to come later. It was quite possible that in time Cosgrove may have laid all the facts out for him to peruse; but he had information to impart to all of us, that although it wasn’t vital we know, would make it much easier to accept what would later happen to us. He explained that the ‘Intake Centres’ were the first point of contact between the organization that employed him – and the survivors of the virus. He apologized for the apparent elitism within their system of selection, but, because of the physical restraints upon them – time, space, logistics, etceteras – that it was incumbent upon them to select only those who proved themselves most capable. In short – only those who could discover, and then decipher, ‘The Whispers’, and act accordingly.

The organization that he worked for turned out to be a special branch of the United Nations. This information took me back to pre-virus days, and my father bitterly complaining about the inability of the U.N to deal with trouble spots anywhere in the world, whilst trying to solve all of its ills everywhere. At best he accused them of dithering. At other times he called them toothless dogs, or spineless jellyfish – which always amused me. Jellyfish really are spineless.

Cosgrove must have had a similar disposition toward that vast organization, because he added, “But we are a special branch of the U.N: We actually do what we say we’ll do. I think that makes us pretty unique.”

Katherine had replied, “Oh joy unconstrained: Civilization has fallen, and mankind is all but extinct: But we’re still being pushed around by governmental organizations. You truly are unique: There are no others like you. For that, at least, we should thank the plague. You know, I’m not sure that I didn’t prefer a roving existence.”

I was quite shocked. How could Katherine be so rude to a man who was so clearly our benefactor? I think Cosgrove was surprised too. He went to reply, but Katherine forestalled him; or thought she had.

“And don’t show me the door. Don’t say ‘well if that’s what you want…’ We all know that now we’ve seen your little operation, none of us will ever see the sunlight again. We might talk to someone: Let something slip over tea and biscuits: You might be discovered.”

Cosgrove gave her outburst several seconds of thought. He first stroked his lightly-stubbled jaw and then rubbed the back of his neck. Turning his attention back to her he said, “You know – you’re right – about everything. I hadn’t looked at that way before: I’ve been so wrapped up with this place since its inception that perhaps I’ve failed to really notice some of the more draconian measures we’ve been forced to adopt. You are so right. But if you perceive us in the negative…if your perception of us is of a top-heavy bureaucracy full of control freaks, then you are absolutely wrong. We’re not here to control the remnants of mankind: We’re here to, firstly save it; then reorganize it; then set it to the task of retaking our planet.”

Clearly Katherine wasn’t convinced by his words; though I was ready to don the blue beret that very moment:

“You make it sound like a war.”

Cosgrove’s passion cooled. “I was coming to that; but you’ve pre-empted me.”

“Oh – no,” Lee’s voice had taken on the tone of the totally dispirited.

We all looked at him. “What’s that?” Donald asked.

Lee shifted in his seat, “Don’t you see? We are at war: The virus wasn’t no accident, or a terrorist strike gone wonky: It was…what do you call it when someone means to do something in advance?”

“Premeditated?” I suggested.

“It was a premeditated attack.” He continued, “Someone tried to wipe us out. Everything on the whole flamin’ planet!”

Katherine looked at him as if he’d lost his mind, “You’re joking, right? Who would do that? That’s ridiculous. I mean – who would have anything to gain from it?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

Silent Resistance:

I hadn’t been counting the seconds, but I assumed that Tasman would have reached the shattered fire escape door by now. I could only guess how torn he must be now: If he fired upon the dogs our presence would be proven. At best the Espeeg would come out shooting – with weapons that would reload an infinite number of times if necessary: At worst they would call for help or fly away to fetch it.

‘Don’t you just love a worst case scenario!’

My fraught nerves were then pushed beyond their design parameters when our captive began squirming violently – apparently able to slip out of his bonds with ridiculous ease. Worst still he opened his visor and started shouting.

I turned my gun upon him. “Shut up!” I screamed.

But of course he didn’t. I suppose, in his way, he was really rather heroic. In a moment of unforgivable anger I put a single sliver through his open face plate. He stopped shouting, and crashed forward onto what remained of his face.

“Next time do as I say!” I yelled at his still form, “You stupid – stupid – boy!”

Then as good sense reasserted itself I turned my attention to the flying machine and the dogs. The machine remained quiescent, but two of the dogs had begun an investigation of the noise, and were approaching the door. Despite my rising panic I maintained enough self-control to remember that I had a very finite number of slivers in the butt of my hand gun. It took me two seconds to have the MP7 off of my shoulder; into my hands; and ready for action. It took another to step into view. But I never pulled the trigger because from high upon the hillside five eight point nine five millimetre bullets were streaking downwards at supersonic speed. The first two careened wildly off the imperfect concrete surface; the second two entered the body of the leading animal at neck and abdomen; the last crashed into the following dog’s brain through the eye socket. Both stumbled – momentarily unaware that they were already dead – then flopped to the ground.

The courage of the remaining four dogs was undeniable because as one they ran at the door – their intentions perfectly clear. Again Jason opened up from the hillside, but this time the animals were more widely spaced and moving faster. Only one bullet struck home, and that did no more than slow down the powerful beast. It was up to me and Tasman now. The game was up: the battle lost: we’d go down fighting.

The Heckler and Koch MP7 hadn’t been designed as an assault rifle; it was intended for use as a personal defence weapon. And in that I role I doubt it has ever been surpassed. When finally I used it as its designers had intended it didn’t let me down. Its accuracy and rate of fire – not to mention its large calibre munitions – astonished me. The slightest hint of a tug upon the trigger – and a dog went down. Shift, aim, tug, fire: shift, aim, tug, fire. Three dogs were taken out of the fight in as many seconds. But three seconds is a long time in a fight – especially when your targets are fast-moving and headed in your direction. The fourth was almost upon me; I had no time to aim, and nowhere to run. So in desperation I slipped the gun down to my hip and pulled hard upon the trigger. For a brief moment I was blinded by the air in front of me as it seemed to erupt with flame, lead, and white-hot tracer rounds. Taking an involuntary step backwards I realised that less than a second had elapsed and my magazine was empty; but the last dog standing wasn’t anymore. It thrashed about upon the concrete at my feet – blood spurting from wounds to both shoulders – its jaws snapping at me as if hell bent upon revenge.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

If you’re thinking: “He wrote both books in one year? Jeez, they must be crap!” please don’t. I wrote the first one in 2004. I then re-wrote it in 2014 after completing the sequel earlier in the same year, which, hopefully, brought it up to that book’s standard. Anyway, they’re both very readable – if violent at times. I’ve discontinued the paperbacks, but the e-books remain on sale at most e-book retailers. Take your pick. The most popular ones are accessed via the ‘Tooty’s Books Available Here’ page beneath the header of this blog.

 

Cooking Cockups: Even Chef Tooty Isn’t Beyond Reproach

Well here I am again – dressed to kill, thrill, and, more importantly, cook…

…except for the sandals, of course. Hot fluids on naked toes probably means a visit to Accident & Emergency. Today’s recipe could probably be titled Tooty’s Cauliflower Cockup, because, unusually, it didn’t go quite to plan – not that I really plan a meal: I just assemble thoughts, then act upon them. So, first up, slap some olive oil in the bottom of a roasting thing, and start layering some sliced bacon, from which you have already removed the excess fat. I mean, who likes fat? Yuk. It tastes nasty and it isn’t good for you…

Lots of bacon. In this case I was using it up, coz it had been laying about in the fridge for too long…

For fans of greenery, chuck in a handfull of frozen peas – preferably those loose ones that have fallen out of the bag and collected in the bottom of the freezer tray…

Now chop up a cauliflower and toss it into a microwavable bowl. Add a cup of water; cover with clingfilm, and microwave on full power for 8 mins…

Oh, I forgot. Cover the bacon with something to keep the dirty bastard flies off….

In my case I used some notes that I was making concerning my next Earplug Adventure. But you can use something slightly less creative. When the eight minutes are up, remove the ferociously hot cauliflower from the microwave oven…

As you have probably noted, a vacuum sucks the clingfilm down to encase the food in a plasticky embrace. This is not good – as I was to discover. What I should have done was tip the contents into a strainer and leave to drain. But those pesky flies I alluded to earlier continued to pester me, so the clingfilm stayed put. Mistake! Then it was time to dig out the Dolphin Nose…

I call it Dolphin Nose because I was thrown out of French class at school for being utterly, amazingly useless at French. In fact my teacher hit me with a gym shoe for being so utterly, amazingly useless at French. Now, if you can find this wondrous substance ready-made in a jar, do so. Here comes Tooty’s second cockup. Mix the powder with milk and bring to the boil…

Milk expands when it boils, so choose a large saucepan. If you don’t, it’ll mean a panic-stricken transfer of hot fluids from one pan to another…

What did I say about those sandals? Anyway, add the cauliflower to the bacon and peas…

…and pour over the Dolphin Nose…

…and chuck in  a hot oven for forty minutes…

Then pour yourself a drink comprising 40% California white wine and 60% 7Up…

Drink whilst watching a re-run of Judge Judy – or something like it that doesn’t require your rapt attention. After 30 mins check that the mess isn’t burning – and sprinkle with grated cheese. In my case, the cauliflower had absorbed the water from the microwaving and wasn’t so much roasting: more it was boiling. So I had to use a chopping board to hold in the food whilst I poured out the excess water. Very unprofessional. Anyway, when time is up it should look something like this…

Mine was way too salty, because of the boiling action, which drew salt out of the bacon and infused it into the cauliflower – big time. But I’m sure yours will be as delectable as mine should have been – which is very.

Age is Just a Number – Right?

Under normal circumstances, I’d like to answer “Yes” to that assertion/question. Surely we’re all as young as we feel; and if, on any given day, we’re feeling kinda young…then young we are. But, when truth be spoken, when I look at all those tablets that I take to maintain my eyesight, keep my feet on the end of my legs, and stop me degenerating into a basket case, I wonder. Then, when trying to push-start a stranger’s car, I fall to the ground and gash myself on the tarmac road surface; and when I slump onto the sofa following some strenuous pottering about with some seedlings in the garden; and when I stop regarding my poor old todger without rose-tinted glasses on, I begin to wonder. If I’m honest with myself, I am not the man I used to be. But then, recently, I discovered this book in a bottom drawer…

It is a collection of short stories, written in the 1960’s, by a brilliant science-fiction author, who was later to write the classic sci-fi novel ‘Ringworld‘. I bought it in the late 70’s aged 23. At the time I devoured it’s fabulous stories and snappy prose. I became an overnight Larry Niven fan, and read everything of his I could get my hands on. So, recently, forty years after reading it for the first time, I picked it up and began to read. Guess what: suddenly the decades fell away. I was 23 again – and I came to realise what age being a number really means. Our bodies may fail us miserably, but our souls don’t change. We may acquire knowledge, and probably forget a lot too; but the basic us; the indefinable something that makes us all individuals, remains unchanged – unspoiled. Thank you Larry Niven (even if your later books were all lazily-written with characters who spoke in the same voice, and whom you never bothered  to introduce before (or after) they spoke, so that your reader wondered who was saying what to whom, and in the end couldn’t give a shit – I’m thinking ‘Integral Trees’ here) you made me feel young again – which is what I’ve been all along, but just didn’t realise. Who needs a perfect cock anyway? Now which motorcycle shall I go buy myself? Gotta be a Yamaha, obviously.