Wallpapers of the Tooty Kind

Having concluded my important task of the day (I can do only one per day: two taxes my memory too much), I sat myself in front of my laptop and began fiddling with some pictures I took whilst on a wander through a tranquil graveyard the day previous. This is what caught my attention…

A novel step over a flint wall – complete with hole for slipping a foot into, or allowing a small dog to pass. The scene itself makes a pleasant wallpaper. But I felt that the hole was the real star. So, on my first pass I created…

…a scene through a window on an ice planet. Hmmm, might use that in an Earplug Adventure. My second pass brought forth…

…the interior of a defensive position during battle. Hmmm, might use that one too. And on my third pass I created…

…the view from a cell in an alien prison. And it was this one that gave me an idea for another Age of Stone story. If, during the Age of Stone, all technology is based upon rocks and stuff, then  surely they would make their star ships from stone too!  Have to put my thinking cap on now. Could this be the forty-second Earplug Adventure e-book in the making? Bloody hope so: I don’t have any other ideas!

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 23)

Such were their taut nerves that seconds seemed to lengthen into minutes. But it was only a few heartbeats before the Wonky Supreme Being burst from his alien realm and into the Age of Stone exhibit…

“Hah.” He roared in assumed triumph. “You could have taken this laying down: but, no, you wanted a fight. Well I’m here to tell you – there isn’t going to be a fight, because you’re just five puny earplugs; and I’m something special. And worse still, for you stupid quintet of over-confident fools, I’m wearing this!”

The earplug Brothers weren’t familiar with Atomic Boiler Suits. “Is that good?” Magnuss inquired with a steady voice.

“Good?” The Wonky SB replied loudly and with a degree of disbelief. “It’s bloody marvellous. The fabric of this garment makes me utterly invincible. It was made by an artisan seamstress from a realm way…way…higher on the evolutionary scale than this vile place. And it can’t be breached by any form of energy weapon. And my pretentious hat is just the icing on the cake: it’s made of the same stuff.”

It was clear to the boys that they had a fight on their hands, even if Wonky SB thought they didn’t. They raised their psychic shield…

The Wonky SB repeated his opening “Hah!” before opening with a salvo of thunderbolts…

…which were easily repelled by the psychic shield…

So a slightly surprised Wonky SB let rip with multiple salvoes…

Again the psychic shield shrugged the massive energy from its non-existential flanks. But the backdraft of the assault swept around the stone-built edifice and assailed the boys with a terrible hurricane of displaced air – knocking the two brothers who stood at either end across the room and down an adjacent corridor. At this point the battle would have been lost; but Susan hadn’t been able to allow herself to leave the area. She simply had to stay and help her Chester. So it was she who rushed from the relative safety of an alcove and caught Miles in her massive maw…

…whilst lassoing Valentine with a part of her that she didn’t like to talk about – even to her doctor…

Within seconds they were back in place beside their brothers…

Although he stood in absolute silence, Magnuss spoke to the others with his mind: “That atomic boiler suit material may be impregnable, but did you hear what he said about its construction? It was made by a seamstress: that means that it’s stitched together. That’s its weakness: the threads that bind it together. Now if only we had some means of attacking those threads.”

“Laser beam eyes would be good.” Chester suggested. “Everywhere we looked, ravaging beams of energy would follow. We could simply burn the bindings away, and the garment would fall apart.”

“Great,” Rudi joined the mental conversation, “but we aint got no laser beam eyes. Or laser beam toes, for that matter. Anyone got a laser beam bum handy?”

“Put your faith in the Supreme Being.” Magnuss responded to this. “He told us we have the means to defeat the Wonky SB. If we need laser beam eyes for that – laser beam eyes we will have. Trust me.”

Meanwhile the Wonky SB had grown curious. Firstly he wondered quite how they had survived his attack. Secondly, he wondered why they were standing before him and doing absolutely nothing. To satisfy his curiosity, he bent forward for a better view…

“Ugh?” He queried.

He had just enough time to stand upright again before Magnuss said calmly: “Gentlemen; select your targets.”

A split second later orange beams of intense light leapt from the eyes of the Earplug Brothers…

And, just as Chester had foretold, wherever they chose to look, the laser beams followed a micro-second later. They simply couldn’t miss…

“Argh,” the Wonky SB cried out in horror as he reached for his falling headwear, “not my pretentious hat!”

But worse was to follow…

…as the beams burned away the stitching that held the atomic boiler suit together.

“Yikes, this is bad.” The Wonky SB bellowed with rage and despair. “The silly old bat forgot to use invincible cotton thread. The next time I see her I’ll give her a bloody good kick up the arse!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 22)

In response the Supreme Being lowered the party of earplugs into the soup of reality…

And with a look of complete self-satisfaction…

…he dismissed them – to the Age of Stone exhibit inside the Museum of Future Technology…

“Spectacular.” Susan spoke appreciatively. “So what are we doing back here? Is the SB going to help, or not?”

Of course the Earplug Brothers knew exactly why they had been returned to the Age of Stone. They also knew what was required of them. Chester took Susan aside…

Neither of them noticed that the rock formation looked exactly like a duck’s arse.

“Susan,” he said, “the showdown with Wonky is coming soon. This is a battle you can’t fight. And if you get hurt, I’m not sure that I’ll be much help to my brothers. So it’s very important that you go hide yourself away.”

For a moment Susan was overcome with emotion…

Chester hadn’t anticipated this reaction. “Oh, Sue, don’t go to pieces on me now.”

“But I’m part of the Age of Stone exhibit.” She mumbled from somewhere on the floor. “I can’t abandon it in its hour of need. And I can’t abandon you either. Oh Chester, you’re such a lovely little pinky-orange guy: I want to be by your side through thick and thin. I’d even watch TV poker, late at night with you – if you really insisted. And I’d get you an omelette too – if you were feeling peckish. And olives.”

Chester committed himself to an, “Um…” before Susan lunged at him and planted a huge kisser all over his face…

“Please let me join this fight.” She added from some other source that Chester couldn’t readily identify. “I beg of you.”

Lack of oxygen gave wings to Chester’s thought processes. “Your firewalls.” He managed. “Someone has to manage those that link this place with the museum proper. They’ll stop Wonky from carrying this fight into the defenceless museum. If you separate into your earplug forms, I believe there are just enough of you to carry out the task.”

Five minutes later, and following a plethora of kisses, Chester went to join his brothers…

“Come back safe and sound.” They called as one. “There’s more where that came from.”

Shortly the Earplug Brothers stood shoulder to shoulder…

“Okay,” Magnuss said, “if I’ve got this right, we already have the tools to defeat the Wonky SB. It’s just a matter of utilising them to their best effect.”

“Hmm,” an unconvinced Miles responded, “I would have felt better with some heavyweight backup though. That God of Leathery Balls looked like a mean hombre.”

Magnuss considered this for a nanosecond or two. He could understand Miles’ disappointment. But Miles hadn’t been inside the booth. He hadn’t had his head expanded. Magnuss felt certain that something other than information transference had occurred inside that booth. But right now he didn’t know what it was, so he kept quiet upon the subject. Instead he said: “Right, we need to get the Wonky SBs attention. Any suggestions?”

Well, for the next hour the heroic quintet marched around the exhibit shouting this such as: “Wonky is a wally.” And “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.” They even broke wind and made disparaging comments concerning his parentage. But to no avail. Night soon fell inside the Age of Stone, and their marching had reduced to a meandering wander…

…and their yells were interspersed with yawns. They were considering going for a coffee, when, suddenly an unnatural occurrence…um…occurred

A portal appeared to form in the solid castle wall. This, in itself, was not incontrovertible proof that the Wonky Supreme Being was about to appear: but the alteration in the exhibit’s ambient colouration certainly was…

“Oh, bum.” Magnuss whimpered. Then gathering his courage he snapped: “Shoulders straight, boys.” He then confused the twins (but impressed his elders) by using an ancient military term: “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”

He said no more because a form appeared inside the portal…

Then something of the extra strength that Magnuss so hoped he’d gained whilst inside the booth permeated through his siblings…

They didn’t know what to expect; but the Earplug Brothers were free of doubts: they were ready for battle.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 21)

Huge and scary was an excellent summation of the Supreme Being’s appearance. And he had a really annoying voice too…

“Oh my,” he wailed falsely – and mockingly, “so my eyes don’t deceive me: it really is the Earplug Brothers! And what’s this: a shape-shifter from their future? What gives?”

Susan grew so fearful that she reconstituted herself as an amorphous blob…

Magnuss explained (again) their mission to find a powerful ally to combat the Wonky SB. The proper Supreme Being grew disgruntled at this. He’d hoped for better news – though he had no idea how Magnuss could possibly have delivered it…

“What do you think, guys?” He called out to other God-like beings, the like of which Magnuss had never seen before.

“It’s their problem,” one really unpleasant bullet-shaped monstrosity…

…in a turtle-necked jumper grumbled, “let them sort it out: we’ve got a cosmos to run.”

Another god – this time the God of Leathery Balls – concurred with the first…

“They’re rubbery.” He announced. “They can bounce their way out of trouble.”

But others were not so dismissive. The Supreme Being listened to them attentively…

“No-no,” the God of Purple Noses argued, “What if they lose?”

The Double-Decker Cosmic Bush Baby agreed. “Wonky took you once, SB,” they reminded their boss, “what’s to stop him coming back and doing it again?”

And the Forlorn Wraiths of Woople cried out: “They’re so cute: you gotta help ‘em, boss!”

The Supreme Being was nothing less than instantly decisive – especially after the All-Seeing Eye of Eternity spoke…

“I see nothing but trouble ahead if we send them away unaided. You know what you have to do, SB.”

With that the Supreme Being plunged his hand into the tiny bubble of reality within which his visitors existed…

…and lifted them through the surface tension that separates the Universe from the God’s Ultraverse…

“Magnuss,” he boomed, “I have a little idea. But first I need to check it out with you as a test mule, so to speak.”

In an instant Magnuss found himself standing beside a small red booth, which he eyed with suspicion…

“I invented it three seconds ago.” The Supreme Being half-explained. “Now step inside.”

Magnuss wasn’t about to argue. He also believed that whatever the booth did, it would probably hurt. He winced in anticipation…

And as his brained swelled to three times its normal size he noted that his assumption had been correct…

But just when he thought he could take no more, his consciousness was elsewhere…

…though he couldn’t quite place it. “What is this strange environment?” He asked.

He was firmly put in his place when the Supreme Being’s voice replied: “I ask the questions. Now tell, what is the most precious thing in all eternity? I don’t mean that in a generic sense: I mean to you personally. Perhaps I should have phrased the question better.”

But Magnuss had stopped listening: he knew exactly what the most precious thing in all eternity was to him…

“My future wife.” He answered. “Hair-Trigger Provost.”

“Good answer.” An approving Supreme Being spoke almost kindly. “What is the most exciting thing that you have ever done in her company?”

Magnuss had to spend some time contemplating the question. They had shared so many exciting adventures together. He even liked watching TV with her – just as long as it wasn’t day-time television or ‘reality’ shows. “I know,” he yelled mentally, “it was that time when we…

…flew out over the ocean on jet packs and discovered a secret island full of mutants.”

“Cool.” The Supreme Being responded…er…coolly. “Now the same question, but with your brothers as the subject, instead of Hair-Trigger.”

If the previous question had taxed Magnuss, this one was almost impossible to answer. Where did he start? But then the answer came to him, and knew from whence it came: his brothers – using their brotherly telepathic talent.

“The time we took on those red Sentinel Robots in the Battle of The Museum of Future Technology.”

“Uh-huh.” The non-committal response came. “Now how can I put this: what was your crowning glory regarding your last-ditch stand against overwhelming odds?”

Magnuss needed no help answering that. “Our psychic shield.” He replied…

But before he had time to add anything further, Magnuss was standing outside of the booth…

“Hey, I was enjoying that.” He complained. “Well – did you get what you wanted? Are you going to help?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Not for all the Tea in China

I’ve probably mentioned, one or twice in the past, that I don’t do heights. Four rungs up the ladder push the envelope of comfort for me. So, recently, when I looked out of my bedroom window at this  fellow…

…I asked myself is he A: fearless? B: brave? Or C: a fruitcake? Because…

…I wouldn’t do this for all the tea in China…

Would you?

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 20)

Any further conversation was thwarted when a final decline…

…preceded their entry into (what Rudi described as) an arboretum…

It was tough going, and Rudi was almost tempted to pull his Swiss Army machete from his utility belt…

“Hey, man,” Valentine said whilst pushing his way through thick fronds of vegetation, “did they let the gardener go or something?”

But, just as suddenly as the arboretum had begun, it ended and they found themselves standing on an area that was clearly unnatural. Equally suddenly, the group felt decidedly ill-at-ease…

“Where to now?” Susan inquired of no one in particular…

Then she enjoyed a moment of inspiration and duly dissolved into her multitude of parts – some of which soon discovered a building with a long, low window…

Exploring it further, Valentine and Susan’s primary sub-part discovered a steam vent…

…into which they peered minutely…

It was whilst they considered the unlikely usage of steam-powered energy in the Galactic Court that Susan’s tertiary sub-part spotted something huge and scary.

“Aargh,” she screamed, “it’s huge and scary!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 19)

Well upon the recently-formed volcanic island, ‘firm’ wasn’t a problem: but ‘flat’ proved to be an impossibility – as the crew soon found out on their first Extra Vehicular Excursion…

In fact it was so rocky and uneven that Susan was in danger of toppling over and crushing her friends…

So, ever eager to supplant Magnuss as the moist heroic of the Earplug Brothers, Chester volunteered to act as their scout, and try to find an alternative route of passage. But he hadn’t taken more than a few steps into the unknown, when he fell into a depression that seemed to open up beneath him.

But, being young and nimble, he landed on his feet, and was soon calling out to the others…

Strangely, or so it seemed to Chester, no one seemed capable of hearing his demands for help. He paused to consider the fact…

Susan, utilising the logic of a creature born into a future era, decided to send her secondary sub-unit in search of the earplug most precious to her…

She simply couldn’t understand how he could have disappeared so quickly and without trace. Meanwhile Chester continued to stand in the depression…

…and sing a solo version of Los Caballeros Stupido – ever hopeful that someone – including members of the Galactic Court of Justice – might be offended and come to silence him, thereby freeing him from the hole – but without any obvious success. It was then that he noticed a hitherto invisible exit to his left…

Passing through it, he immediately found himself upon a high ledge…

And when the passageway through which he’d only just waltzed, disappeared he knew two of two things. One: he was stuck on a ledge. Two: the Supreme Being was either testing him, or having a laugh at his expense. Either way, the young earplug was not impressed…

Especially when some non-existent pit-props gave way and the upper ledge shelf slipped downwards and threatened to crush him…

…which impressed him even less. By chance, Susan’s search took her to a similar ledge just a few measures above where Chester now stood holding up a cliff face…

“Oh Chester,” she wailed, “be strong and resilient. I like you far too much to see you squashed like a worm beneath the heel of a cruel and tyrannical monster.”

“Me too.” He grunted his reply…

In doing so he noticed a ledge immediately opposite his own. For a moment he couldn’t understand how he hadn’t become aware of it earlier. Then he considered his location and quickly concluded that anything could be brought into existence without a moment’s warning: this was, after all, the Supreme Being’s realm. So he quickly hopped across, and gave thanks to Mr and Mrs Stenchlinger for all of the lessons they gave him on Precipitous Ledge Walking…

Naturally – the test (or joke) complete – Chester was returned to the others…

…and Susan couldn’t help but tell Valentine just how pleased she was to have Chester back. Chester, now consumed in a sulk, marched on ahead. But as the ground levelled off, his bad mood passed, and he slipped back through the group to walk beside his huge green object of desire…

…leaving Miles to find the best path for them. Then, having dropped a short distance behind the others…

…Chester told Susan about the famous discos that were often held in celebration in the Museum of Future Technology. She was fascinated by his tales of the turntable bravado of their resident funk-master, Hambledon Bohannon. He even taught her a dance made popular in 1975, called The Bump.

“Oh, how delightful.” Susan responded. “I had no idea that anything of value came out of 1975. When we’ve defeated the Wonky SB, do you think we  might enjoy doing this to a funky rhythm at the celebratory disco?”

“Hambledon Bohannon’s a friend of mine.” Chester boasted. “And I know the Trumptations too. I’m sure we’ll ‘get down’ ‘til dawn.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Turning a Green Village Yellow

I’m fortunate enough to live in a village which sits within the boundaries of the Southdowns National Park. As you can probably imagine it’s a very green environment. But for 2021, the parish council – which in a more primitive era might have been termed ‘village elders’ – decided it needed ‘greening’ even more. To this effect they gave every household a packet of wild flower seeds and told them to plant them. Well it has been a great success. But the most obvious success has been the proliferation of sunflowers throughout the village and its environs. Here’s just a fraction of a field that one local farmer turned over to the production of myriad wild flowers…

And the churchyard put on quite show too…

I did my bit , of course. Here’s one I planted in a tub in the back garden…

I was very happy to join in. But then, for me, it get’s a little poignant. Here is one of mine that faces the street…

Isn’t it brilliant? But this seed didn’t arrive courtesy of the Parish Council. This grew from a packet of seeds handed to me at my wife’s funeral. It isn’t the largest sunflower in the village: but it is the best. But to pile poignancy upon poignancy, today – inspired by all these sunflowers that have appeared at every turn – I chose to wear a yellow t-shirt. Burrowing through my considerable collection of t-shirts I spotted a seldom-used Marks & Spencers example at the bottom of the lowest drawer. But as I eased it from beneath the stack I made a discovery. Unlike all of my other t-shirts, I didn’t wash, iron, and pack away this one. This one smelt strongly of the over exuberant use of fabric conditioner. This one was ironed properly and folded neatly side to side. In short, the last person to wash, iron, and pack away this t-shirt was my beloved wife. For a moment I was overcome. Then I put it on…

Not sure what I’m going to do when it needs to go in the wash. Already the creases have fallen out, and the smell of the fabric conditioner has faded away. And I can’t get them back. Another link with the past broken.

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 18)

 As instructed by the Supreme Being, the temporary crew of the Rhubarb Crumble ignored the celestial warning sign, and flew directly to the planet that they presumed housed The Galactic Court of Justice…

It appeared icy, but Magnuss knew that appearances could be deceiving. With the power of the Supreme Being at their disposal, those responsible for running the Galactic Court could make it look any darned way they wanted to. And whilst the crew went about their business, no one noticed the nosey God of Wayward Computer Monitors peek into the bridge…

But when the ship descended, and the planet’s surface became visible on the main viewer…

…everyone, including Magnuss, wondered if it was going to be possible to breathe on a barren planet that clearly possessed no atmosphere.

“Do we have any pressure suits aboard?” Magnuss asked no one in particular.

Miles had taken it upon himself to become the ship’s storekeeper. He checked the inventory on his monitor. “Nope.” He replied. “Apparently they’re yesterday’s technology: we don’t bother with them anymore.”

“How are we supposed to go outside the ship?” Rudi asked reasonably enough. “What if we’re holed by a meteor or something?”

Miles consulted his screen. “Ah, it fixes itself. I guess nobody figured the crew would leave the ship in an airless environment. They didn’t figure anyone would be so stupid.”

Valentine was about to say something like: “Far out, man: that aint no groove!” when external sensors detected an atmosphere developing. Not a thick one; but an envelope of gases sufficiently dense to allow a vapour trail to form behind the Rhubarb Crumble

This came as such a surprise to Susan (who had never dreamed such an unexpected event was possible) that she lost physical cohesion for a moment and two of her periferal bodies fell over and rolled around on the floor…

Suddenly doubts began to form in her shape-shifting brain. She took part of herself away to the darkened solitude of her ready room…

But when she noticed her slave monitor displaying something that looked suspiciously like open liquid-form water, hope swelled…

Particularly when mist became apparent, thereby suggesting the presence of moisture and warmth in the alien air. And this was more-or-less confirmed when the previously barren rock took on the hint of a green tinge.

Before long Rudi and Valentine found themselves in the Life Sciences laboratory…

…from where they could see an ocean forming beneath the ship. Even better was the fact that the read-outs now…uh…read a breathable atmosphere.

“Hey, man,” Valentine said appreciatively, “aint this supposed to be impossible? I sure dig it. Know what I mean? Totally cool – with a capital K. But these sticky-out pipes are still giving my knees a hard time.”

Much the same feelings (minus the painful knees)were being displayed in the Engineer’s rest room…

Douglas was probably the most thrilled of the trio. “A volcanic island,” he yelled as he led the others in a mad dash from the room. “Proof-positive, if any was needed, that this planet’s appearance is a result of a controlling intelligence. Let’s get up to the bridge and tell the Captain to land immediately!”

Well they did, and before long the Rhubarb Crumble swept down from a rapidly expanding sky…

“Okay,” Susan said, following a deep inhalation, “find somewhere flat and firm, and put this baby down.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Impetuosity isn’t reserved for the young.

For the past year I’ve done several things on impulse. My carelessness has reminded me that I was once young and did all the stupid things impetuous young men do – often with regret when they went painfully wrong. So, if I have any sense, you would think that I might have learned something as I’ve grown older. Namely that it’s usually safer if you think something through before acting. But, as I approach the second half of my sixth decade, impetuosity seems to be taking control again. Recently, whilst out walking in the English countryside I was smitten by a sudden thought. An inquiry really. I don’t know why, but I had to know the answer. So I acted on impluse; and now I know that my willy is impervious to the common stinging nettle, but my scrotum is not. It’s not important, and it won’t enhance my life; but it’s good to know. But that paled into insignificance at my latest bout of impetuosity. Bored with the limited performance of my (shabbily-built Chinese-produced) Yamaha YBR125…

…I began trawling through the dreadfully limited stock of my local motorcycle dealers. I was looking for something affordable in the 300-500cc range. Instead I bought this…

Flipping heck it’s a monster. It’s a 2002 Yamaha XJR1300. It has three more cylinders than my 125; ten times the cubic capacity; and, I reckon, weighs more than all my previous bikes put together. What was I thinking? And I’m afraid that it’s going to hurt a lot more than that patch of stinging nettles did. But it’s my dream-bike: with impetuosity in control, how could NOT buy it?

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 17)

Meanwhile, in another compartment entirely, Rudi and Valentine were checking out the ship…

“Yeah, sure the outside and the bridge look just like the Chi-Z-Sox,” Rudi said to his brother, “but these corridors are completely new.”

“Sho-nuf dig the hue, bro.” Valentine replied. “But I keep catching my knees on these sticky-out pipes. Hey, patella pain, man.”

At that particular moment, the warning light on the Fanangy-valve cover decided to glow green…

“Ah-hah.” Budgitte exclaimed triumphantly. “I’ll call the bridge: we can get under way once more.”

But in the moment between saying the words and engaging the intercom, the ship went to crimson alert…

For a brief moment neither Rudi nor Valentine, knew how to react. What could possibly cause a crimson alert in the depths of space? They were temporarily befuddled.

The situation on the bridge wasn’t much better…

“Did anyone notice that blue planet that we passed after emerging from Hyperspace?” Magnuss inquired.

He received a plethora of shaken heads.

“What of it, Magnuss?” All of Susan’s parts spoke as one.

“Well,” Magnuss started nervously, “I could be wrong; but I think our sensors have detected a beam of some sort emanating from it. Hence the somewhat vague warning on screen.”

“What can we do about it?” They all inquired.

Magnuss had to think about that. Eventually, following a series of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ he answered: “Well we could turn off our sensors, which the people on the planet might consider rude and inflammatory: or we could fly away really quickly before they decide to open fire.”

“I like both options.” The principal Susan in the Captain’s chair replied. “Let’s get the heck outta here!”

On the lower deck, Rudi and Valentine had much the same idea…

…and quickly raced back to their duty stations on the bridge. But before the vessel could initiate a starting procedure for the repaired star drive motor or even the manoeuvring jets, a sensor beam of unimaginable intensity leapt from the planet towards the Rhubarb Crumble…

A split second later crimson alert was cancelled by an exterior force. This was quickly followed by the appearance of a familiar face upon the main viewer…

“What?” A  surprised Supreme Being both exclaimed and demanded at the same time, which, of course, is the way of omnipotent beings. “The Earplug Brothers? What the flipping heck are you doing out here? Oh, don’t tell me: you’re on Museum business. Further, I’d wager you’re in some kind of kaka that you need help getting out of. Okay – not that I’m really interested, you must understand – but what’s your problem? I probably owe you a favour.”

Magnuss spoke the six words (or seven if you count a contraction as two words) that he was certain would gain the Supreme Being’s attention like no others: “The Wonky Supreme Being.” He said. “He’s back.”

Well, to say that this news shook the Supreme Being would be the understatement of the year. If he’d been an earplug, he would have pooped in his pants…

But, following several seconds of demented raging, SB calmed himself sufficiently to merely steam lazily…

“Okay,” he said, “While I calm myself into a more acceptable God-like state, please follow my trail to the Galactic Court. You’ll see a big sign telling you to go away. But ignore that: just drive up and park your puny vessel.”

So, feeling rather pleased with himself, Magnuss asked Susan to do just that. And a half-hour later, dead ahead of the Rhubarb Crumble, the planet of the Galactic Court suddenly appeared out of nowhere…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 16)

Everyone watched their displays and tell-tales as the ship picked up momentum…

Then tongues of hellish fire began spewing from the drive hole…

“Tongues of hellish fire spewing from the drive hole.” Magnuss announced. “Earth’s over there, look: want me to hit the star drive and do a really quick fly-past of our home world, and show off a bit? Rupert Piles would love it.”

It was an opportunity that no one wanted to miss; so moments later the bridge was illuminated by the light of the star-drive effect…

…and Susan felt slightly disappointed that they’d passed by Earth so quickly that she hadn’t seen it…

“Next stop,” Chester whispered, “the Galactic Court.”

But down in the Rhubarb Crumble’s engine room…

…the two engineers that the Future Museum of Mars’ curator – Frisby Mumph – could spare for the endeavour – those being the red-haired Lawrence Endocarp and the aging Douglas Dungipon – were coming under the close scrutiny of their yellow-eyed supervisor, Budgitte Wilgoss.

“What’s all this steam and smoke?” She demanded. “And look, there’s a flashing red light on the Fanangy-valve cover.”

“And don’t we know it!” Douglas Dungipon growled. “I said this ship needed trials before we took off.”

But Lawrence Endocarp said nothing: he wasn’t the type to waste time and energy with complaints and loathing. He was already on the case. Well actually he did say something. He said: “Budgitte, darling; would you call the bridge? Tell them to shut down the drive: I think we’ve got a warped plasma doo-dah ring.”

Soon the unwelcome news arrived upon the bridge…

“Bugger!” Susan exclaimed. “Return us to normal space.”

Of course her subordinates, which were actually parts of her, didn’t need a verbal command. In an instant the Rhubarb Crumble emerged from Hyperspace…

No one, it seemed, had noticed the blue planet that hung like a lustrous bauble in space nearby.

From the shadows of the darkened ready room, Rudi could be seen moving from his duty station…

…to stand resolutely beside his Captain…

“Hey, babe.” He said. “What’s happening?”

As Susan explained the situation to Rudi, Chester was struck with an idea that – when he elucidated it to Susan – made his twin cry out in mock despair…

“Hey, Susan,” he said eagerly, “while they’re fixing the motor, let’s go take a tour of the ship. Just me and this part of you.”

Well with no counter-option, Susan soon found herself wandering half-lit corridors with Chester…

“I really like space.” Chester informed her. “It’s great. But it’s not as great as you.”

Susan wasn’t merely being polite either when she responded: “You’re hardly a huge bucket of excrement yourself.”

And so it continued. As they spoke of inconsequential things, such as weeds, Velcro underpants, and slipping awkwardly on bath house floors, the engineers were making headway with the main motor…

The warning light now shone amber.

“Looking better, guys.” Budgitte said. “There’s no rush: how about a coffee break?”

Meanwhile Susan had stopped off for a pee…

…where she (now temporarily reintegrated with her many parts) stared at the majesty of interplanetary space through the lavatory window. She was just in the act of pulling up her massive pseudo-knickers when a thought struck:

“Funny,” she said to herself, “but my keen hearing can’t detect the sounds of tinkering with wrenches and mallets that have been echoing along the multitude of conduits that pass through this portion of the ship. Better find out why.”

Of course, had Susan known that the engineering staff were talking a coffee break, she wouldn’t have bothered…

But when she stumbled upon their rest room, she was glad that she had. “Hey,” she bellowed at them as they sat and watched an episode from a DVD box set of Destination: The Stars

…”get your backsides down to the engine room: you can watch that later.”

Naturally, being Space Engineers, neither of the trio was concerned in the least at their lambasting: it came with the territory…

“Aye, Captain,” Douglas said chirpily, “we’ll leave it on freeze-frame. If we’re too long, it’ll switch itself off.”

Rather pleased with her talent for commanding, Susan raced to tell Chester all about it…

“I was so dominant.” She finished.

This concerned Chester slightly: he wasn’t particularly keen on being dominated: he felt that he was too much of a free spirit. But he didn’t say anything: he didn’t want to spoil the moment.

So, whilst Lawrence, Budgitte, and Douglas struggled to drag a Weevil Trunnion from the stores to the engine room…

…Susan sent most of her body back to the bridge and allowed her primary part to stare out at the wonder of the Cosmos with Chester beside her…

“Yes,” she said to some inanity about the artistry of The Saint of All Earplugs that had spewed liberally from the enthusiastic maw of her earplug friend, “it’s…uh…quite pleasing. I wonder if we’ll see a supernova. But that’s enough about aesthetics: I think it’s time to resume our bridge roles. ”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 15)

So Cushions took the only course of action open to her: “Right then; I’ll be off. Good luck. See ya.”

With that she went straight to the exit and turned back to take one final look at the Rhubarb Crumble’s first (and hopefully not last) crew.  One of Susan’s multi-bodies took the Captain’s chair, where she stumbled upon the dimmer switch for the bridge lighting…

The boys were amused, but Susan’s other parts were less so. Components of shape-shifters weren’t supposed to work autonomously; of their own volition; off their own bat; or any other descriptive phrase for individualism.

“Sorry,” she said, “my finger must have slipped. I’ve only had them for two minutes: I’m not used to the way they feel. But I’m sure it’ll come to me.”

Then she realised that she still hadn’t returned the illumination levels to earplug normal. “Oh, sorry again.” She said as she stabbed at the dimmer switch…

Cushions took this as her cue to leave. Five minutes later the flying saucer blasted from the surface of Mars…

Naturally the principal component of Susan replaced her secondary part in the Captain’s chair. In doing so she activated the ship’s main viewer, which displayed a misty picture of the ship yard…

“Look at that,” Chester said as he leaned towards the nominal Captain, “dawn already: we’d best follow Cushions’ lead and be on our way.”

Susan concurred; but moments before she announced lift-off, Cushions had boarded her portable Omnipresent Scanner and had used it to send them a farewell message…

“Boys,” she said gravely, “once again the Museum of Future Technology is indebted to you – even if I am indebted to the bank personally. I’m sure you’ll be entirely successful: but if you’re not, don’t worry about my credit rating – I’ll probably be dead or incarcerated in some dismal dungeon inside the Age of Stone – if and when you get back. By-ee.”

Susan had little patience for sore losers: a split second later the Rhubarb Crumble’s lifting motors fired…

And shortly after that everyone felt slightly odd as they entered the void beyond the planet’s feeble atmosphere…

Miles listened surreptitiously as Chester said to Susan: “Have you ever been in space before Susan?”

To which Susan replied: “Yes; once.”

“Were you space sick?” Chester inquired nervously.

Susan answered in the affirmative. “Several times…copiously.” She added. “I lost my job as an interplanetary translator as a result.”

This wasn’t exactly what Chester wanted to hear, so he ran around to the other side of the chair, which placed him opposite the exit…

“Perhaps you should adjourn to your ready room.” He suggested. “I think there’s a sink or vanity basin in there for you to vomit in.”

It was a sound, logical suggestion, but saying it was much easier than doing it. Her vast bulk almost filled the tiny cabin…

…and she knocked her com-panel off its plinth, which sent sparks flying.

“Drat.” She said – before doing this…

“Oh,” she said, “how strange: that electrical discharge has cured my queasy organ that’s analogous to the earplug’s tummy. In fact…

…I’m rather annoyed that I’ve been forced to flee my many duty stations. Right: I – or rather we – are coming back.”

Moments later…

“Captain on the bridge.” Rudi announced as he stepped down from his self-appointed position in the Captain’s chair.

“I’ll have to remember that trick – the next time I feel ghastly.” Susan said through a smile. “Can someone set me up an electrical socket in this chair? One I can stick my finger in.” She then gave her first command in space: “Okay, here we go: fire up the main drive.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplugs Without Pictures 13

Ever wondered what the Earplug Adventures would look like minus the photos? Might their absence highlight the shortcomings of the writing? Well let’s find out, shall we? Here’s a couple of brief extracts. In this case from this tremendous tale…

As usual there are two brief extracts presented. Both chosen by Mr Sheer Randomness.

“Ladies, Gentlemen, and P.C Wilts,” Runt spoke clearly above the building excitement that ran like a raspberry ripple through the assembled V.I.Ps, “may I present to you the Tubo Di Tempo. It’s a new, mini version of the Tunnel Temporal – designed by the brilliant Italian scientist, Piggies Du Pong.”

“If you don’t mind me saying,” the charming (if ancient) former movie star, Sir Dodger Muir interrupted, “Piggies Du Pong doesn’t sound overtly Italian. Rather, I’d wager the fellow hails from either Belgium or France.”

“In your era, perhaps.” Runt replied. “But in Piggies’ era he’s Italian; so shut it, okay?”

Sir Dodger was about to author a dazzlingly witty riposte, when his train of thought was interrupted by the activation of the Tubo Di Tempo and the arrival of two bug-eyed weirdos from another time zone. Instantly the newcomers addressed Cushions Smethwyke. With a curt bow the smaller-nosed of the couple introduced itself as Glumb Kimball and its huge-hootered associate as Hombolt Whale. “Greetings from the future.” It added. “What do you think of the Tubo Di Tempo?”

Cushions wasn’t sure how to respond: and P.C Wilts’ expression betrayed his instant dislike of the pretentious twerps from a clearly technologically superior era. “Er…very nice.” She managed. Then growing in confidence she added: “A lovely shade of blue. My favourite. Well my second favourite actually. I’m rather partial to a warm orange glow.”

“How wonderful.” Hombolt Whale squeaked through it’s huge, but obviously restricted, snozzle. “Because when it’s turned on at this end it glows orange. Regarde s’il vous plaît.”

Moments later the Tubo Di Tempo did just as Hombolt had promised.

“There.” Sir Dodger grumbled. “Told you it was French.”

But even as the ageing thespian was speaking, so too was Glumb Kimball: “Well we’ve left a copy of the owners’ manual with your Time Techs, so, if it’s alright with you, we’ll be on our way to our own era. It’s much nicer there, by the way. By-ee.”

With that the time-travelling duo stepped into the tiny maw of the machine and disappeared in an instant. Naturally Cushions rushed forward to deliver a blistering farewell insult, but she was too late and needed to be consoled by the former bounty hunter and part-time curator, Hunting Provost: “Don’t concern yourself, my delightful love interest.” He whispered into Cushions’ ear. “They were ugly sods with big bulgy eyes: the future’s welcome to them. And they’ve left us with something really valuable.”

“They have?” Cushions inquired as everyone crowded around to take a look at the wonder from the future..

“Of course.” Hunting spoke in a conspiratorial hush. “Now we can start charging visitors for trips into the Museum of Future Technology twice. Once in this era; and again when they go into the past. I bet, if we take a look at our bank accounts, we’ll find that we’ve already begun amassing a vast wealth before we’ve actually begun sending anyone through. All we need to do is actually set the metaphorical ball rolling. We need to find new-arrivals with no prior knowledge of our earlier time travelling problems.”

“Yeah.” Cushions replied as she let her gaze wander past Hunting. “People who aren’t scared of visiting the past and run the risk of getting stuck there. And I think I know the very people.”

AND

Naturally Mincey had one thought on her mind: a means of generating income. And she waited until the RoboSecGua had fallen far astern of them before bringing up the subject. It was a wise decision to distance herself from the security robot, because at that moment the star-struck RoboSecGua was in the act of encountering a stray plugmutt. “Hello, little fellow.” It said in its best friendly tone, which wasn’t very friendly at all because its voice box was a low-grade type and could only produce a nasty, tinny monotone. “What is your name and what are you doing out here on your own?”

Plugmutts, in general, possess a limited vocabulary and this one was no exception: “Heathrow.” It replied. “Heathrow out here – look for you.”

This reply surprised the RoboSecGua; plugmutts seldom sought out officers of the law. “I am surprised by your reply.” It said. “Plugmutts seldom seek out devices such as I. Why?”

“Beige female earplug.” Heathrow answered. “She bad news. She Sir Dodger’s estranged daughter. She no like famous movie stars. She jealous as heck. She want something. No trust her.”

This worried the RoboSecGua more than it cared to admit. “Flipping heck!” It exclaimed. “I hate to think what she might be doing to the wondrous Sir Dodger – as we speak!”

Well what Mincey was doing was not enjoying a guided tour, which included the amazing spectacles that were so powerful that they could see all the way around the world and up the viewers trouser leg.

“By the Saint of All Earplugs.” Mincey squealed. “I had no idea my buttocks were so dimpled!”

But she felt more secure in her emotional state when they took a stroll towards the Future Alps Exhibit. So it was then that she chose to drop her verbal bombshell: “Dad.” She began, “You know that you’re a museum curator and all that? Well, I was wondering…what with you being really old and stuff…might it be possible that you retire, or die or something, and give the job to me? I’ve got plans for this place; and I think that I’d do a much better job than that toothy git, Cushions Smethwyke. What do you think, Dad? Good idea or what?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2018

Of course it’s much better with the pictures: after all you can see what’s going on! To read or download the book in its entirety – pictures and all – click on the The Time Tamperer vol 1 cover image (above) to bring up the full PDF file. By the way, in addition, and also – you can access all the Earplug Adventure files (including Vol 2 of this exciting tome) on the sidebar by clicking the cover images.

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 14)

Meanwhile Magnuss had reconvened with Hair-Trigger – who was less than enamoured with the idea of her beloved racing off across the Galaxy in search of divine intervention…

She said as much; to which Magnuss replied: “Oh do shut up, you miserable tart: I’ll only be gone five minutes. Knowing the Supreme Being like I do, I expect he’ll click his fingers and have us all back here before we’ve even left!”

Hair-Trigger, being a wise and resourceful former bounty hunter, could see the logic in Magnuss’ assertion that she remain behind in the Museum of Future Technology to defend it should any Hyperspace Pirates, or the like, choose to launch an attempt to invade during the absence of  the Earplug Brothers.

“Well Valentine did teach me the rudiments of flying the Punting-Modesty Facepuncher XL5 in an attack posture.” She said. “So I suppose I would be more use here than lost somewhere in deepest outer space. But I’m coming to the launch bay: you’ll not deny me my farewell wave.”

And so it was…

And even better, the Launch Control room had a whacking great big telescope through which she could watch the flying saucer leave the boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere…

“Tread carefully, Magnuss,” she whispered into the telescope, which fogged the view somewhat, “it’s a big unfriendly place out there.”

A short while later…

  …the saucer made an early evening landing upon the rejuvenated Mars. From the landing point, everyone aboard walked directly to the space ship construction facility…

…which was such a hive of activity that no one noticed as Cushions led Doris and her nephews to an observation window above the manufacturing shop floor…

“Wow,” Chester cried appreciatively, “does Frisby Mumph run this place too?”

But no one was listening: they were too busy staring down at the work in progress…

Everywhere earplugs scurried about – doing this, that, and the other. Welding robots sparked alarmingly as the three ships currently in production, slowly took shape…

“Outta sight!” Valentine remarked.

Rudi was right behind him with: “Groovy, baby!”

“Do they have names yet?” Miles asked.

“The zero-zero-one bay contains the drive unit of the Indefatigable.” Cushions replied. “They start off with the drive units; then build the rest of the ship on top of them. The zero-zero-two bay contains the drive unit and outer hull of the Saint Petersprong. The ship in bay zero-zero-three is almost complete. Obviously that is the ship that you’ll be using. I just hope it works: no one’s actually tried it yet. They’ve not even wired up the starter motor or tested the lavatories yet.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Magnuss said with the confidence of the young and Saint-like. “What’s its name?”

Cushions sighed before replying. Eventually she said: “Its name was chosen by popular ballot – so don’t blame me. Instead lambast that bunch of peasants in the Future Museum of Mars: they chose it.”   

“Yes, sure; I will. I promise.” Magnuss replied. “But what is it?”

Through gritted teeth Cushions answered: “The Rhubarb Crumble.”

“I love rhubarb crumble.” Chester said as he pushed in for a better view…

“Yeah, me too.” His twin volunteered.

“Real tasty, man.” Valentine added. “Gets my vote.”

“Excellent choice, Cushions.” Rudi said through a rare smile. “If we need to introduce ourselves to any aliens, we won’t sound even slightly intimidating.”

With that they turned about…

“So now you’ll want to see the inside, I suppose?”  Cushions grumbled.

Moments later, having collected Susan who had been deemed too big and ugly to climb the stair to the observation window…

…the Earplug Brothers made their way to the manufacturing shop floor and the Rhubarb Crumble itself…

Miles noted the lack of proper illumination.

“The ship is powered down,” Cushions explained, “whilst they fix all the bugs and do the topping out, so-to-speak. Oh – and there’s no crew either: so it’ll be interesting to see how you five earplugs – none of whom know diddally squat about star ships – figure you’re going to fly it to the Galactic Court.”

Magnuss refused to be flummoxed by this setback. “Well I’m sure Frisby Mumph can afford us a few engineers – if only to maintain the main drive.”

“And I can act as crew too.” A vast voice echoed through from the Captain’s ready room…

… “After all,” Susan said as she entered the bridge in her many separated forms…

… “I’m from the future. All this tech is old stuff to me. I could work it with all my eyes closed and numerous hands behind several backs. Look – I’ve already figured out how to turn on the light.”

No one could argue with the indisputable truth – even Cushions, who ground her impressive teeth together in rage. To her it was now clear that the space flight would take place, despite her vague attempts to thwart it. How she was going to pay for it, she knew not. She sighed again. “Oh, I suppose there’s always my credit card.” She said sotto voce. “It’s not quite maxed out.” Then, in an attempt to lighten her mood she allowed herself to look at the bigger picture: “And, of course, if they’re right about the Wonky SB, it might actually save the Museum of Future Technology – again. The Government will have to reimburse me from their alien invasion contingency coffers.”

“Yeah,” Susan (in her red-eyed form) – who had better-than-average hearing – yelled. “Money well spent!”

Whilst her green-eyed form smiled pleasantly at the recollection of the big sloppy kiss she’d enjoyed with Chester.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 13)

Well Susan’s words – not to mention her dimensions and acting ability – altered the whole complexion of the argument…

Cushions smiled falsely through her great wall of white gnashers. “Oh, it’s like that, is it?” Then to Barcode Betty she said: “Where are the K T Woo, the Chi-Z-Sox and the Brian Talbot currently located?”

“Bloody miles away.” The mottled curator answered. “All on deep-space assignment. Neither of them can get back here for weeks – even at maximum velocity.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that.” Cushions mumbled in response to the bad news.

“What about the ship-building yards on the recently refurbished Mars?” Winston Gloryhole offered…

Cushions sucked on her considerable teeth. “But the new ships aren’t finished yet.” She complained. “And the Mars shuttle is down for its annual safety inspection. We can’t ride roughshod over the Health and Safety Commission you know.”

Magnuss could tell that Cushions was holding on to her metaphorical purse strings as though her life depended upon them remaining tightly closed. “We can use our flying saucer.” He offered.

With an obvious sigh and a great slumping of shoulders, Cushions finally succumbed to the inevitable. “Okay,” she said in a whisper, “I surrender: we’ll go to Mars. Give me a half-hour to get my affairs in order.”

Susan decided to spend the next half-hour productively, so she re-entered the Age of Stone to check on her firewalls. Chester volunteered to accompany her. Having quickly concluded that all was well, on the way back to the museum Susan decided to give Chester the same ride that she’d given Magnuss…

“What do you think, Chester?” She inquired. “Is it fun? Oh, by the way, my olfactory nerve bundles are located up there: you won’t break wind, I hope?”

Chester was far too in awe of Susan to insult her with a surreptitious fart, so it was a happy green blob that returned them both to the museum, and resumed her huge earplug-like appearance…

She couldn’t help but notice that Chester’s expression showed concern – and perhaps a little sorrow. “What ails thee, Chester?” She asked in a kindly voice.

Chester was reticent to reply, but after a couple of kicks in the shin he decided to answer: “I…I…really like you, Susan. But…but I’m feeling really sad we can never really be anything more than heroic friends. You’re so big, and I’m so small. Why – even if you were to agree to a big sloppy kiss behind the bike shed – I couldn’t even reach your chin. And worse still – you could only kiss the top of my head. I’m so depressed – I really am!”

Susan responded well to this emotional stimulus…

“Oh for flip’s sake,” she yelled, “haven’t you forgotten that I’m a shape-shifter? I can become whatever I can imagine. Look at this.”

“Er, lovely.” Chester replied, “But hardly a turn-on.”

“I’m not finished,” Susan said tetchily. “Regarde.”

“Aah, oh, you have two pin-prick eyes. Is that good?”

“Keep watching.” Susan answered.

So Chester did…

…and what he saw quite surprised him…

“Golly,” he said, “That’s a pretty earplug shape you have there.”

But he said no more as the pretty earplug shape grew prettier by the second – before detaching itself from the rest of the body entirely…

Chester looked around the apparition’s shoulder and remarked: “Pity your sister’s are so plain.”

He then took a backward step as the pretty earplug shape advanced upon him…

“Oh, but look, Chester,” the part of Susan replied, “look where my lips are now: just the right place for a big sloppy kiss. And there’s no one else around, so we don’t even need a bike shed to go behind!”

A lump formed in Chester’s throat. He didn’t know what to say. So Susan jokily responded thus…

“Or would you prefer to kiss a cabbage?” She offered.

But, of course she couldn’t be so cruel, and in next to no time…

…she had reverted to her multi-earplug form. “And if you don’t happen to like green,” she said through a smile so wicked that it gave Chester the goosebumps, “I can become any colour or hue you wish. Okay, Chester – pucker up; you’re in for the snog of your life!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Was that final spoken line couched in a degree of metaphor? I leave it for you to decide.

What Really Happens in English Graveyards at Night

In the light of day, and the average English graveyard appears tranquil and silent, gravestones sit quiescent and still..

But at night, when no one is around to see or hear…

…earplugs hold very important meetings in their grand halls. I wonder what they discuss?

 

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 11)

The boys, meanwhile, had decided to look outside…

“It’s still winter.” Miles reported to Rudi, who stood in the doorway, but showed no inclination to step outside. “It’s still snowing too. And the sky remains a ghastly mauve.”

“Guess we’ll just have to wait for things to happen.” Rudi replied.

So wait they did. But as time passed they began to wonder if Susan’s attack on the Wonky SB’s hack had failed. So, with heavy hearts they went in search of an exit…

The freight elevator sounded encouraging – if they could find it, of course. And it was whilst he was engaged on a systematic search for the aforementioned that Rudi wandered into a pleasant stone quadrangle…

But he hadn’t taken more than a few steps, when suddenly the fake snow ceased and the pseudo-sun began to shine…

Of course it could have been coincidence, but somehow Rudi thought not. “Groovy, baby.” He said.

And elsewhere, where the day/night timer had obviously gone awry, Magnuss was feeling much the same way…

And was the mauve in the sky dissipating? Magnuss thought it was. Rudi did too. So, without hesitation he raced below ground – to the spot where he’d encountered the lava cave – to find it filled with a wonderful cool watery mist…

There he gave thanks to The Saint of All Earplugs: clearly Susan’s multi-vector attack on Wonky SB’s virus had worked. But just to prove it, he raced to the surface to see the clearing skies for himself. But such was his haste that his mouth ran dry and his tongue became desiccated and swollen…

He managed to force some words around it. “Some ghastly coffee,” he mumbled, “I gotta have some ghastly coffee: I’ve been running around like a moron for hours: I’m so dehydrated!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 12)

Rudi may have been desperate for a drink, but that didn’t stop him rounding his brothers up and returning to the exit in their company…

“Yeah,” he said, amongst many other things, “when I found that cavern full of cascading waters and a delightful mist, it was all I could do to stop myself flinging my poor tortured body off the cliff and into its cool embrace.”

Magnuss cast a look back over his shoulder and smiled. “Since when did Rudi speak so poetically?” He said to himself. “Tortured body and cool embrace? I’ve never heard the like.”

Fortunately for all concerned the Café Puke chain of vile coffee emporiums had branches across the Museum of Future Technology, and only five minutes of fast walking elapsed before the Earplug Brothers stumbled into one of their automated outlets…

Naturally Rudi raced to the vending machine first – quickly followed by the equally desperate Magnuss. This left Chester, Miles, and Valentine to chat about their brief encounter with the powers of the Wonky Supreme Being.

Miles said: “We were so lucky that we had Susan to save the day; otherwise I don’t know what horrors might have befallen us.”

To which Valentine responded: “Yeah – far out, man.”

And Chester yelled: “Susan! The lovely, if rather physically challenging Susan! She must be as desperate for a coffee as us: we must race back and fetch her. I’ll go.”

But, ultimately he didn’t need to: Susan – being an empath from the future; and Chester being in possession of telepathic talents – she could follow the muddied thoughts and trail of sweat that had fallen from Rudi’s mind and brow – and so now joined the brothers…

“There’s only one flavour available, I’m afraid.” Chester said apologetically on behalf of the inept Café Puke management. “It’s Americano Intenso. It’s black, so it comes without milk. But, if you’re desperate, you can add sugar.”

“I’m trying to watch my weight.” Susan replied. “I’m also a borderline Type Two diabetic: does the device hold sweetener tablets perchance?”

Chester was appalled: “Type Two Diabetes? In the future? Why, the standard of medicine is lower than the actual Stone-Age!”

“Well,” Susan said with a sigh, “it’s like this: like everything else, all of our tablets are made from stone. Have you ever tried taking small pebbles with your meals? It’s possible, but they don’t do much good. And passing them can be quite uncomfortable too – even for a shape-shifter like me. So I don’t bother, but I keep an eye on my diet to compensate.”

The conversation continued in much the same vein as both parties exchanged information about themselves and their physical abnormalities. But soon, having departed the Café Puke, en route to a meeting with the curators, Susan made an astonishing discovery…

 

“Look, boys,” she squealed with girlish delight, “Since imbibing that vile coffee, I can turn myself into a giant earplug!”

Whilst Chester (in particular), Miles, Rudi, and Valentine were delighted, Magnuss saw this discovery as a potential advantage to them when they finally met Cushions Smethwyke – because although the Wonky Supreme Being’s attempts to infiltrate the Museum of Future Technology had been thwarted, his mere presence remained a threat to it and everybody within it. Although he hadn’t discussed it with his brothers, it was clear to Magnuss that they would need to take the fight to the enemy. And for that they would require a star ship. Something that didn’t grow on trees, and was very expensive to run.

“Excellent.” He said as the others made congratulatory remarks of their own. “Well done Susan. Now let’s get you tanked up on some more Americano Intenso.”

Shortly…

“Thank you, Magnuss,” a slightly uncomfortable Susan said to Magnuss, “but I think fifteen cups of ghastly coffee are enough for now. And I hope there’s a toilet with larger-than-average cubicles on the way to our meeting this Cushions Smethwyke female: I feel my legs crossing as we speak.”

Again shortly, and after Magnuss had explained his behaviour to everyone, the Earplug Brothers were seen to march resolutely to their rendezvous with the chief curator…

“We’ll keep Susan in reserve.” Magnuss said.

“In case Cushions tries to keep a firm grip on her purse strings.” Rudi added.

And, just for good measure, Valentine added: “Yeah, sho’nuf. Right on!”

Well, as luck would have it, Cushions had begun to wonder where the heck everyone had got to, so she took her entourage with her to meet the boys on one of the Museum’s many thoroughfares…

 Her ‘entourage’ included Auntie Doris, Barcode Betty, and Winston Gloryhole. Naturally Rupert Piles followed with his powerful 3D TV camera, which was already running when the Earplug Brothers arrived…

“Hi, boys.” The ever-cheerful Auntie Doris greeted them with one of her smiles. “You’re all intact, I hope. Call ‘round at the apartment I share with K’plank the Space Wanderer later: I’ve made a delicious lemon drizzle cake.”

Naturally the brothers thanked their Aunt for the kind invitation; then turned their attention to Cushions – as did Rupert Piles and his TV camera…

Magnuss took the lead and told her of their adventure in The Age of Stone. He finished with: “So, as you can see for yourself, unless we rid ourselves of the Wonky Supreme Being’s existential threat, the museum is resting upon shaky ground.”

Rupert moved in for a close-up.

“Yeah?” Cushions replied. “Whatta ya want me to do about it? You’re the heroes ‘round here: you figure it out.”

“We sho’nuf have, funky mama,” Valentine responded to the curator’s vaguely antagonistic manner, “and it aint gonna be cheap.”

Both Barcode Betty and Winston Gloryhole showed subtle alarm at this information. “What do you mean?” They asked in unison.

“We must visit the planet of the Galactic Court.” Magnuss answered. “We need the powers of the God-like beings who reside there to fight our potential nemesis.”

“That’s the Wonky Supreme Being.” Chester interjected helpfully.

“So we need a star ship.” Miles added.

Naturally, being the chief curator of a near-bankrupt museum, Cushions immediately pooh-poohed the notion. “Honestly,” she replied, “the ideas you boys get. I’m sure you’ve blown this completely out of all proportions. Didn’t that big green blob see him off?”

“Yes, she did.” Susan’s voice filled the thoroughfare like a fanfare of badly played tubas with misaligned baffle plates…

…“and I’m telling you that it’s only a matter of time before he, or it, breaks through the firewalls I’ve erected around the Age of Stone. Then, when he, or it, gets inside it’s…

…goodbye Cushions Smethwyke and everything you hold dear!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 10)

“Right.” Susan responded instantly. “Got it.”

Then this happened…

…and Magnuss was pleased as punch. He loved it when a plan came together. And Chester liked the idea of being enveloped by Susan…

…by something other than her mouth or her bum.

“The way I see it,” she said as she looked down upon her silicon guests, “we have a problem so serious that the only means of combating the pseudo-God’s virus is by taking it from multi-vectors. The current situation is that as we fix one hole in our system, other viral incursions open another.”

She then waited for a response. She didn’t get one. Well actually she did: Rudi said: “You wah? Sorry, it’s all a bit beyond us.”

And Chester added: “We don’t do technical stuff: we’re all derring-do and heavily into impetuous risk-taking.”

“Ah,” Susan said to this, “then I guess I can’t rely on you guys to act as my peripherals. Right: Plan B.”

With that, this happened…

…which made the brothers huddle together in alarm.

“Flipping heck, Sue,” Miles yelped, “you might have given us some warning!”

Susan didn’t apologise for her action: she merely pointed out that although she was a multi-faceted shape-shifter, she couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. This gave Magnuss an idea: “Susan, earlier, before you re-integrated, you were spread right across the Age of Stone. Effectively you were everywhere at the same time. Although you were in hibernation mode, all those disparate parts continued to work as one. You may not remember it, but you were able to contact us all, wherever we were.”

Susan turned all of her eyes upon the middle Earplug Brother. Using the talents bequeathed to her by the technology from the future, she peered into his memories. “Ooh, those guys from Scroton look kind’a groovy.” She said in a wistful tone. “Hmm, maybe…”

Then, in the blink of an eye, she disassembled – to become something that simply astonished the on-lookers…

A platoon of Ethernet Cable End Military Operatives…

But then Susan, speaking through a multitude of Scrotonic voice boxes, said: “Trouble is we’re going to need to block access to out-going and in-coming connections with the power supply and controlling A.I – namely the Museum of Future Technology. I’m all about the Age of Stone: I don’t know squat about the M.O.F.T!”

For a moment all seemed lost, but then Valentine enjoyed a brief moment of revelation. He recalled a time when he witnessed a group of young T.W.I.T recruits asking one of the museum’s Robot Guides for assistance…

He even recalled the female’s name: it was Pixie Taylor.

“No probs, guys.” He said. “I’ll just send for a Robot Guide. They’re always on the case – just waitin’ to be summoned. Know what I mean?” Then, not wanting to waste time or ask for approval, he yelled: “Robot Guide!”

Two minutes later…

“Oh, I’m sorry I took so long,” the Robot Guide explained, “but I couldn’t locate the front door. Fortunately there was a freight elevator that someone had left unlocked – so here I am. Tah-dah! What would you like to see first?”

Susan explained her requirements…

“No problems,” the Robot Guide responded, “my memory banks were up-dated only half an hour ago: I’m fully cognizant with all the locations you mentioned. Do we want to go there as a group, or individually?”

Naturally Susan chose the latter…

Each component then stated its required destination.

“This is gonna be fun.” The Robot Guide gushed. “I aint never done nothing like this before. Jeepers, I’m just so excited. I can tell you are too – even if you all look the same and behave like passionless aliens from a distant world. Let’s go!”

With that the Robot Guide led the horde of fake Ethernet Cable Ends towards the nearest exit…

And, having passed through it, instructed several to peel off from the formation and follow different routes…

Then it was on to the next door…

…which continued, almost ad infinitum, until each facet of Susan was where they needed to be.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Photography: Setting Up a Picture Without the Slightest Effort

Other than my Earplug Adventure scenes, I don’t set up pictures: I just snap what I see. Well most of the time anyway. There are occasional exceptions, of course.  For example: do you think that Tooty might possibly have parked his blue car behind these bright yellow Calafornia Poppies – just for the juxtapositioning of their delightfully contrasting hues?

You do? Then you would be correct. Sometimes you gotta help art along.

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 9)

Like Magnuss before him, Rudi discovered a region of the exhibit that appeared to be coated with a mysterious green substance that felt slightly spongey…

He too wondered if it might be connected with Susan in some way. And the more he thought about it, the more convinced he became. Hadn’t Magnuss mentioned that she came with the exhibit from the future? That she was part of it? If she was a user’s manual and guide book, then maybe she was something more than that. She feared, and had been incapacitated by, the apparition: maybe it saw her as a threat that needed to be neutralized. It was all becoming clear to the laser-sharp mind of the eldest Earplug Brother. In fact he experienced something of an epiphany…

“Right on, bro.” He yelled. “Of course!”

Moments later, as he attempted to contact his siblings via telepathy, he felt his brain swell to unimaginable dimensions…

Somehow he felt compelled to pass on this revelation to them; but his excitement was getting in the way…

But after several seconds of unendurable mental torture and the momentary loss of his sunglasses, his powerful psyche forced the message through…

Magnuss felt its impact, but wary of the Wonky Supreme Being’s potential presence, he quelled any outward appearance of excitement…

Valentine, previously unaware of events surrounding Magnuss, was less circumspect: he raced to his brother’s side like a complete looney on steroids…

“Hey, Val, that was quick.” Rudi called out through the turmoil of the hellish environment, “Over here, Bro.”

And because Magnuss had been studying the green material upon which Rudi walked only recently, he wasn’t close behind…

So, as a trio, they climbed from the bowels of the exhibit…

…where they encountered more Susan-stuff.

“Gotta be a sign.” Rudi said as they huffed and puffed their way upwards towards the surface.

Magnuss agreed wholeheartedly: he was certain that – although immobilised – Susan was trying to make contact with the brothers. He figured that if she was the physical personification of a defeated anti-virus, she was still her free will to resist the Wonky SB’s infection, with what remained of her abilities.

“Good old Susan.” He said too quietly for Rudi and Valentine to hear. “I liked her from the start. After all,” he added in an attempt to disguise his inner hypocrisy, “she could have shoved me up her rear end but she didn’t.”

The twins had also received Rudi’s momentous message; and they too had discovered the remains of Susan beneath their feet. But any progress they might have made in joining the others was thwarted by a translucent barrier that sprang up around them…

Chester couldn’t believe their misfortune, and duly squeezed his eyes shut in despair. But Miles continued to think coherently: “If we carry this computer hacking analogy further,” he said as he eyed the barrier, “then this could be some kind of firewall – that’s been placed here to keep us out – or in, depending on your point of view.”

A different kind of barrier seemed to be holding the others back. A heavy mist had descended upon the scene…

Fortunately the polarizing effect in Valentine’s sunglasses allowed him to see through it. “This way, guys.” He called.

Shortly after that Magnuss, Rudi, and Valentine all received a mental call from Miles that told them of the twin’s predicament…

“Pick up the pace, Magnuss.” Rudi snapped. “I think Wonky’s on to us.”

So he did…

…and as the mist melted away they found themselves staring at Miles and Chester through the firewall…

“Hello,” the twins greeted them cheerfully, “any idea how to break through this firewall?”

Initially all five earplugs were bereft of ideas. Then Magnuss noticed that the green floor extended beneath the firewall like and unbroken carpet of green. Or even a green carpet. “Susan.” He said suddenly. “If she’s the Age of Stone’s anti-virus: we have to re-activate her.”

“How do you re-activate a huge green blob that looks like a carpet?” Rudi asked reasonably.

Magnuss’ mind was working feverishly. “Let’s think about this.” He said. “She’s down but she’d not out. She’s…she’s…” His brain paused for breath.

But Chester picked up his line of thought: “She’s in hibernation mode!”

Valentine, who might have been the Earplug Brother least likely to ‘think outside the box’, cried: “Hey we gotta wake the foxy mama up!”

“Yes, that’s it.” A relieved Magnuss gushed boyishly. “We have to wake her up. Right, on a count of three…”

Three seconds later, Magnuss, Rudi, and Valentine yelled at the top of their voices…

“Wake up Susan!”

And behind the translucent barrier, Miles and Chester added…

… “Susan – wake up!”

A split second later they wondered if it had been the correct course of action…

…as a brilliant light almost blinded them and spilled a cascade of white sparkly bits upon them. They had just sufficient time to go “Urk” when the floor convulsed…

…and had them staggering around like inebriated Monk Fish. But as the movement calmed, inside the barrier…

…an eye appeared in the floor, which disconcerted the occupants of the firewall trap somewhat. Then, in the time it took for Miles’ bile to rise in his throat, the firewall dissipated…

…and the brothers were reunited.

“Yeah – good old Susan.” They yelled as her eyes roved around the room, presumably trying to form some sense of her location in the world…

“Over here, Sue.” Miles invited.

A moment later…

“Ooh, flipping heck,” Susan spoke from the floor, “what’s happened to me? I’m all a bit of a dither. I’ve got half-memories, but none of them are making much sense right now. Elucidate please.”

So Magnuss told her what they knew or had conjectured.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 8)

“Hah!” the apparition sneered. “So what do we have here? Could this be the mighty Magnuss Earplug? Saint, bloody, Magnuss? He who can do no wrong? He who, when I almost defeated the Supreme Being in a battle of wits and thunderbolts, dispossessed me of my underpants?”

Magnuss was essentially a very honest earplug; but today he figured honesty was not going to save the day…

“No,” he replied, “my name is Trevor Humphries. I deliver pizzas for a shop in the High Street. To the University de Ciudad de Droxford mostly; but I do a bit of residential too. I’m saving up for a new moped.”

It was a good lie told convincingly. For a moment it almost had the Wonky Supreme Being fooled. “What toppings?” It asked.

Sadly Magnuss had never eaten a pizza in his life: he preferred stir-fry or boiled cabbage. “Um,” he began – and knew, in an instant, that his subterfuge had failed. “Yeah, all right – I’m Magnuss: Whatta ya want?”

“You have a picture of my naked bum, do you not?” The Wonky SB replied.

To say that Magnuss was stunned by the alien’s knowledge would be an understatement. He was flabbergasted. His gast had never been so flabbered. Instantly his mind went back to the day when the falsetto lead vocalist of the Trumptations – that being Cory Turpentine – had opened the rickety door of the apartment that he was hoping to rent out to Magnuss and Hair-Trigger…

…and had invited them inside to view it…

He and Hair-Trigger had been taken with the apartment, and moved in within hours. But there had been a nasty stain on the bathroom ceiling, so (recalling the image of the Wonky SB’s buttocks in precise detail) Magnuss had asked the museum’s most reviled artist – Anton Twerp – to alter the unsightly stain and make it closely resemble a big farty arse in the clouds…

“Hmm,” Magnuss confessed, “sort of.”

“And much hilarity ensued, when you showed it to all your friends – correct?” The Wonky SB snarled.

“Well there was a bit of tittering.” Magnuss agreed reluctantly.

“More than a little.” Wonky SB growled. “You even had the temerity to invite that camera-wielding buffoon Rupert Piles around. My arse made the six o’clock news. And you and your stupid brothers are going to pay for that insult and inner mortification!”

Magnuss didn’t want details, but Wonky SB gave them to him anyway:

“Your quirky quintet is doomed to wander these castles for eternity!” He roared…

 “Eternity. Or until the day you die. Whichever takes the longest!”

This was not good news for Magnuss. But then the image of pox and pustules didn’t make him feel too popular with his host either…

“Gotta get back to the guys.” He whispered sotto voce. “Together we’re a thousand times stronger than little old me alone.”

But, as he fled, he almost fell into the lava pool…

“Yikes,” he yelled, “that was too close for comfort. Sod this – I’ve had a gut-full: where’s the way out?

Shortly he started to relax slightly…

…The lava pool was now behind him; and if he carried on in an upward direction, he would find the surface once more. It was merely a matter of time.

At that moment Chester and Miles were marvelling at the changing faces of their environment…

“Wish I had a camera.” Miles said. “We could film it and use it to make a science-fiction short film.”

Chester wasn’t convinced. “Yeah, but who would we get to star in it?”

Miles paused for a moment, before replying with:  “I was thinking Marvin Fishlegs or Okaw Blymie. Maybe both.” Then he realised that he was talking rubbish and decided to shut his mouth.

A short distance off, Magnuss re-emerged into something that looked vaguely like a night sky…

Initially he felt relieved, and drank in the cool night air. But, as the scenery changed…

…he began to have serious doubts that, even combined, his brothers and he were a match for a being that could abduct and imprison the real Supreme Being.

“Oh dear.” He said. “This time I really think we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. Thank the Saint of All Earplugs that my dear, sweet, former bounty-hunter girlfriend, Hair-Trigger Provost isn’t trapped here with me.” He then promised himself that if he were to prevail in the coming struggle, he would ask Hair-Trigger to be his wife. It was a plan that would give him strength. A reason to win beyond the mere need for survival.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Age of Stone (part 7)

Like Rudi, Chester wasn’t having much fun either. He kept walking through doors…

…only to find himself somewhere else completely…

And he was getting fed up with the mauve ambiance too.

As he made his way through some more modern-looking sections in the maintenance section of the exhibit, Rudi felt much the same way…

Whereas Valentine had decided to stop ‘fighting the power, man’, and began to enjoy the adventure as best he could…

Even Miles had to agree that the architecture was quite imposing and not a little attractive and pleasing to the eye. But Chester just wanted to go home.

Rudi, of course, continued to explore…

He had convinced himself that if he looked long and hard enough he would find his way out. And on the occasions that he discovered modern signage…

…his spirits soared at the sight of near-normality. But when he discovered a high cliff that looked down upon a deep lake…

…doubt made its presence felt.

“Ooh-ur,” he said quietly, “I don’t like the look of that. That is not cool, man.”

And big holes with detritus at the bottom didn’t do his psyche much good either…

“There’s something screwy going on.” He said to no one but himself. “Someone is taking Rudi Earplug for a fool. Well sod you: I’m not playing your game.”

With that thought in mind he marched resolutely to the entrance of a worryingly dark cave…

Without a moment’s hesitation, he plunged inside…

“I’m not gonna let this shake me up.” He told himself. Then he thought back to what Yu-Wah and Wah-Hey had said last. “Though a toilet might be nice.” He said. “Yeah, definitely a toilet: with tissue and a hand basin. That’d be very nice.”

But when he emerged into a vast cavern, filled with lava, he thought he’d lost his mind…

He couldn’t help smiling at the situation: it was far beyond anything he’d experienced before. He just hoped that one day he might have grandchildren to tell about this weirdo day.

By either chance or design, Magnuss now discovered that he had travelled to a similar area. Certainly the light thrown by the magma easily illuminated the cavern through which he walked nervously…

Then, as he deliberately moved in another direction entirely, he chanced upon a mottled green-coloured floor, and he wondered if it might be the shape-shifting Susan – dissolute and spread all over the place. He would have conjectured further, but a strange light caught his attention…

But as he turned to regard it, it changed – into a ghastly apparition…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Aventures: The Age of Stone (part 6)

At that precise moment, outside in the Museum proper…

…maintenance engineer Gladys Shakeshaft discovered that the lighting in her maintenance tunnel was flickering alarmingly…

Also, at that precise moment in time, Rikki was in the act of departing the maintenance control room to visit the loo, leaving his colleagues – Charles and Wolfgang – to deal with a sudden surge in power demand…

“Funny,” Charles mumbled, “there’s green lights across the board, yet the Nul-space generator has suddenly jumped to maximum output. What gives?”

Back in the Age of Stone exhibit…

…the boys didn’t know or care two hoots about power demands: they were just running for their lives. For a moment they actually thought they had outrun the effect caused by the apparition that closely resembled the Supreme Being, but which clearly wasn’t because his hair was in a right mess – when suddenly they were enveloped by a bunch of sparkles…

Valentine was about to pass comment on its artistic merits, when equally suddenly…

…they found themselves in a strangely-coloured cave.

“Are we still in the Age of Stone?” Chester inquired.

To which Rudi responded thus: “Is this rock all about us – or marshmallow?”

“Ur, rock?” Chester sort of answered.

“Then we’re still in the Age of Stone.” Rudi concluded. “Even if it looks like the Stone Age.”

Of course neither of them was able to see the pair of malignant eyes that watched them…

…which was just as well because the cave itself was enough to give Chester and Miles the wibbly-wobblies…

In fact it gave them the wibbly-wobblies so badly that they became detached from the group and eventually found their way to the surface alone…

…which pleased the heck out of Miles (because he was mildly claustrophobic); but worried Chester, who didn’t like the weirdly-coloured sky. But using their innate talent for finding their way out of trouble, they quickly made their way back to the ‘castle’…

…where logic dictated the others would gravitate to as well.

One of the others – namely Magnuss – had also discovered an exit from the subterranean caves…

Like Miles, Magnuss too suffered a degree of claustrophobia – as well as air-sickness; so he was equally happy to be above ground again. But only too quickly he also noted the strange light that illuminated the Age of Stone…

Worse still, he discovered a public toilet had been locked…

Absolutely desperate for a pee, he tried breaking into a boiler room, where, he reasoned they were bound to have a bucket or two laying around…

But the lock easily resisted his desperate attempts to snap it off. Then luck smiled upon the heroic figure in urinary distress: Chester and Miles rounded the corner…

“Quick,” Chester called as Magnuss contemplated suicide to relieve his inner turmoil, “the stone-tech phone booth is just over there. Look…”

Moments later…

…Chester and Miles kept watch while Magnuss relieved himself into a small drain at the rear of the alcove.

“You’re sure there’re no CCTV cameras in here?” He asked nervously. “I mean, I don’t think I’d recognise one if I saw it: we don’t have stone cameras in our era.”

Rudi, meanwhile had resurfaced and gone straight to the top of a high tower…

From there he scanned the vicinity with his eyes in search of an exit from the exhibit. Within moments he’d spotted an old dilapidated maintenance tunnel. Thundering back to ground level, he raced into it…

…and as he traversed the short but difficult tunnel, he spotted an area of the exhibit that had not fallen beneath the strangely-hued influence. Better still, it was a region of the exhibit that enjoyed a Summer time climate…

 

In an instant he was certain that this was the way home. If he could escape, he could switch off the power to the exhibit and return with a search party to free his brothers.

“Yeah, right on.” He cheered as he rushed forward. But he was to be sorely disappointed, when…

…a portcullis slammed down in front of him.

“Ugh,” he grunted intelligently, “but that wasn’t there before. What the flip is going down here, man?”

But the only reply he received was a disembodied cackle of manic laughter.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Scary Pollinator Alert!

If anyone can tell me what this huge, bumble-bee-sized, fly is, I’d be grateful. It doesn’t appear in my British Wildlife book and I can’t find it on line…

Did it come off a ship from the nearby port? It doesn’t look native. It also appears to be earning it’s keep by pollinating enthusiastically. Hungry perhaps? Whatever, it shits me up, and I don’t care if I never see one again: but I have know what it is.