Rather Nice Wallpapers

It’s a shame that so few of my ‘wallpapers’ are downloaded by my readers: they really are quite nice. Look, this is how a couple of them appear on my laptop…

So, if this sort of thing floats your boat, so-to-speak, simply visit any of my ‘wallpaper’ posts; click on the picture; and download it.

Here’s the Gravity Whelk at full throttle picture (above). It’s titled ‘Hot Exhaust’…

Earplug News 24/7: Devastation!

Reports are coming in of an accidental conflagration during the preliminary round of the National Farting Contest. A concerned Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug are reported to have said: “Flipping heck – there’s no way they’re gonna hold the finals here: we’ll have to go somewhere else!”

 

An Empty Shampoo Bottle and a 20 Second Giff

Remember Triple Threat: Hell Unleashed? The awful 20 second giff that featured a trio of earplugs destroying something with a laser cannon? Here’s a shot from it…

Well I rather fancied writing an Earplug Adventure that featured them…

A story about a bunch of accident-prone idiots getting into deep shit trouble, then finding redemption by saving the day (of course). But I couldn’t think of a story line – until I finished an interestingly-shaped bottle of shampoo. After drying (what remains of) my hair, I took the top and the bottom off the bottle. I then delved into my many boxes of plastic bits and pieces, which included other shampoo bottle tops, catheter nozzles and a wind-up flashlight. Shortly I introduced the separate parts to a tube of superglue. The result – after adding a coat of black paint – was this…

 

Too matt to see clearly? Check this out…

It’s a submarine/space ship freighter. Yes, a space ship that can travel under the sea. What could three accident-prone idiots do with that if they stowed away, then managed to lose the crew, and had to take control themselves? Well the sky – and the depths – are the limit…

The story will be titled Triple Threat. The principal  character names are Bunty Bridgewater, Ginger Slack, and Daisy Woodnut. The ship/sub, at present, remains unnamed. But I’m confident something suitably ridiculous will pop into my mind when the need arises. Watch this space!

 

 

Fun? What’s That Then?

Recently I was out and about on the…

…Back-Lane Behemoth, when I chanced upon an amateur…

…motocross meeting. It contained an eclectic mix of machines and rider talent levels. The old bikes were loud and not very fast: whereas the newer machines were incredibly quiet, and fairly flew. The vast crowd…

…was…er…vaguely interested: and the riders so cold that some of them wore body warmers, complete with flapping hoods (see above). whilst others pulled their Dad’s old jumpers on over their race kit…

…and looked a bit daft. As you can see, the track was something less than demanding. I could have ridden it fairly quickly – even at my age, and despite the fact that I last rode off-road (at speed anyway) forty-one years ago. Actually I would have jumped at the chance: it certainly looked fun, even if no budding Toni Cairoli’s or Romain Febvre’s made their presence felt. All good, clean fun – and several hikers who passed by on a nearby trail were clearly amused by the (often inept) goings on. But, as I was leaving, this arrived…

…to carry a fallen rider off to hospital. Which just goes to show that anyone can get hurt doing what they most enjoy at any time and anywhere. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my sixty-five years, it’s that Human’s aren’t supposed to have fun: they always have to pay for it, one way or the other. So, instead of giving the Yamaha a huge blast down some country roads, I did the sensible ‘thing’, and went home to create a very nice Chicken Hoi Sin…

Boring, but reasonably safe. Well no one choked on it anyway. And, who knows, maybe it saved me from a nasty accident. I’m well into omens, me.

Galactic Newsletter: Stopped in Their Tracks

The First Fleet of Scroton was stopped dead in space recently by the appearence of a gigantic inflatable head. “Thou shall not pass into this realm.” the head informed them. Unaware that it was nothing more than a gas-filled bag with an aging cassette tape recorder attached, the First Fleet retired to Scroton Space immediately, and much hilarity ensued in Scroton Prime’s Universidad Principal…

Galactic Newsletter: Clouds Part Frighteningly

A shudder ran through the massed population of Scroton Prime’s Old Quarter as the clouds parted, to reveal a vast interstellar saucer of unknown design or origin.  But fears of annihilation were allayed when the occupants informed the mayor that they had only stopped by to ask the way to Earth…

 

Unsuited to the Task

I first bought a motorcycle so that I could go farther afield ( and more quickly) in my pursuit of nice photographs. My little Yamaha YBR125 was almost right, except that it took forever to get anywhere – especially against a headwind – and it hurt my bum with its thin saddle and limited suspension. But if ever there was a motorcycle unsuited to the task of carrying me along rural lanes and gravelly tracks, it’s the YBR’s replacement…

A back-lane behemoth. The Yamaha XJR1300 in its unnatural habitat. But flipping heck, isn’t it handsome! So who cares?

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 27)

So this is it. If you haven’t already downloaded the complete story (and consequently know what’s going to happen), this is the final extract. It’s been a long road to here, and you’ve all stayed the course impressively – except the ones who haven’t. You deserve an award. Well I suppose the fact that you can download this tale, in its entirety free-of-charge, is an award in itself. But enough of the waffle: let’s get to business!

“We both promised ourselves that if we ever met Bunk-Bunk Bunson we would kick ‘him’ right up the arse.” Magnuss informed her. “And, sorry, but we’re both earplugs of our word. Despite the fact that you are a ‘her’, not a ‘him’, you are still going to be punished. Hairy – you go first.”

Hair-Trigger had never kicked a female up the arse before – especially a clairvoyant heroine. So as Bunson grimaced and awaited the agony of well-aimed space sandals, all Hair-Trigger could bring herself to muster was a quick jab with the knee to a single buttock…

 

But Magnuss, who had grown up in a large family that had enjoyed a history of arse-kicking contests, made a far better attempt…

…and booted her along the corridor.

“Oh sorry,” he said as he went to Bunson’s aid…

…”the gravity of Tah-Di-Tah is only nine-tenths Earth normal. I just don’t know my own strength here.”

Bunson assumed that she would have a large black bruise in the morning; but she didn’t mind at all. She’d been kicked up the arse by earplugs who had risked everything to save Tah-Di-Tah. And she was a hero herself. Heroes should have bruises: they were a badge of honour. So it was a cheerful trio who walked together along the myriad corridors of the lost village…

As time passed they spoke of a million and one things. They were on the brink of suggesting their next course of action, which might have been a visit to the Tah-Di-Tah branch of Café Puke, when – for Magnuss and Hair-Trigger – the decision was taken out of their hands…

…and they found themselves back aboard the Tankerville Norris

Hair-Trigger, in particular, was very annoyed…

“Thank you very much indeed, Ship.” She bellowed. “We didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to Bunk-Bunk.”

“True,” the ship spoke for only the second time since they embarked upon their honeymoon, “but she is a clairvoyant: she knows what you wanted to say. And in doing so, it is done. Now fasten your safety belts…

…we, and the Chuck Winker, are about to launch. Nothing genteel, you understand: we’d like to impress the locals before we leave.”

Moments later…

…the two Scroton/Tah-Di-Tah hybrids blasted vertically into the sky. Not that Magnuss and Hair-Trigger noticed: it had been hours since their last visit to the toilet, and they were too busy running to the one behind Engineering…

“That’s another thing,” Hair-Trigger grumbled as she noticed the absence of the ‘new’ signage, “why did Bunk-Bunk have to put the toilet so far from the bridge? For a psychic genius, she sure was one dumb female.”

Epilogue

But Hair-Trigger’s mood couldn’t remain dark. She was smiling when they returned to the bridge…

“You know,” she said, “this is beginning to feel like home. We’ll have to bring your brothers along next time.”

They had just enough time to sit themselves down before the ships made a spectacular fly-past…

…before hurtling up into space. Of course the stripped-down Chuck Winker took the lead as they battled the planet’s gravity well…

During their long conversation, Bunk-Bunk had brought Magnuss and Hair-Trigger up to date concerning the Seventh Cavalry’s role in the battle, so they put in a ship-to-ship call…

“Gentlemen…and lady.” Magnuss said as his image appeared upon the Chuck Winker’s bridge holo-screen, “you have my eternal gratitude. If you hadn’t slowed down that fleet, we would never have found the lost village – and Tah-Di-Tah would have been obliterated. When we get back to the museum, I’m going to have words with Major Leftfoot Badger. I’m going to suggest he make you all officers. He should be proud of you.”

The cavalry-plugs were a little lost for words.

Wetpatch found one or two: “Well thank you kindly, young fella. I guess, before you mosey on back to the museum, you’ll be taking that honeymoon of yours?”  

“We certainly shall.” Hair-Trigger replied…

…”Now you get yourselves safely back to Fort Balderdash: there’ll always be a place in the Museum of Future Technology for people like you. You tell Cushions Smethwyke I said that.”

With that they made their farewells; and, as instructed, the Chuck Winker blasted for Earth…

Suddenly the newlyweds felt rather alone…

“Well?” Hair-Trigger asked as she leaned towards Magnuss. ”Where to, Captain?”

“Pick a direction.” He replied. “Any direction – just as long as it’s not Earth. “We’re on our honeymoon: we’re going to do honey moony things!”

With that the Tankerville Norris rotated upon its axis to a random position…

…and Magnuss hit the ‘Go’ button…

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Don’t forget to return for the next thrilling Earplug Adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah – Complete and Completely Free!

As is my usual practice, the complete e-book becomes available to the general public prior to the posting of the final episode. Why I do it that way, I just don’t know. And, of course, since I no longer publish them on Lulu-com in EPUB form, they are not (strictly speaking) proper e-books. But PDF is a reasonable compromise, and I’ve not heard anyone complaining. So here it is. Just click on the cover image to unleash the file, which you can either read on-line or download for later consumption.

Earplug News 24/7: Shock For Beach Users

A rocky beach, popular with earplugs, received an unexpected gift this morning. A radio-active turd, rumoured to belong to the Supreme Being, fell from the sky. Within minutes crowds began to form, and lightweight walkways needed to be assembled quickly by local council workers. Those who ventured nearest are now complaining that they are rapidly mutating into raspberries and other carbon-based life-forms.

 

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 26)

I thought the story would stretch to 25 episodes. I thought wrong: welcome to episode 26…

Magnuss didn’t like the sound of that. In fact he didn’t like it so much that he stopped farting entirely. “Control?” He queried. “Control a black hole? Methinks you’ve lost your marbles, you mad green earplug.”

“I’m unfamiliar with the term.” His host replied. “But regard our would-be nemesis. They are targeted. The Guide Line points the way.”

Magnuss thought it best to reserve judgement on what he was seeing. As much as he didn’t like the idea of mere earplugs trying to control the most powerful force in the Galaxy, he liked the idea of merciless rampaging aliens even less. “Oh, excellent.” He said. But he didn’t really mean it.

Then he quickly reversed his opinion. Something was happening to the leading ship of the alien fleet. It was looking decidedly bloated. And the formation of ships behind it appeared to be twisting out of shape…

“The Second Line.” Fake Nellie whispered reverentially. “The Line of Force.”

Even Hair-Trigger’s nerve broke when the singularity seemed to fill their view…

“Please tell me you’ve done this before.” Magnuss pleaded.

“We completed three thousand simulations before the catastrophe when the resulting tsunami overwhelmed us.” Their host replied.

“Oh good.” He said with a tremulous voice. “I’m so relieved.” And he didn’t really mean that either. Especially when the black hole began rotating…

Both he and Hair-Trigger had just enough time to yell, “What the flip?” when, in a blink of an eye, the alien horde were sucked away at an impossible velocity…

…and all that remained was good, honest, regular outer space…

“Nature may abhor a vacuum,” Hair-Trigger said into the resulting silence – before cheering could be heard from along the corridor somewhere…

…”But I love it – especially when it’s not full of antagonistic space ships.”

Of course, the vast area immediately around the site of the Horns of Guff and its power receivers was now a wasteland…

…but the camera chose to ignore that: and, instead displayed the nearby city, in which the lights were coming back on…

“That was quite a show.” A relieved Magnuss said. “I hope you’ve put that singularity back to bed. By the way, you’ve never mentioned it; but what’s your name?”

“Haven’t I?” The pale green earplug responded. “How remiss of me.”

“Well?” Hair-Trigger snapped in her best demanding tone. “What is it?”

“I can’t remember.” The nameless one replied. “I dreamed so much in hibernation that I’ve become utterly confused. I feel that I am so many people. Reality and fantasy have fused. I know what I am, but I don’t know who I am. But, changing the subject to something that doesn’t trouble me in the least: I noticed that your space ship managed to land safely before the onslaught. I’m quite familiar with its configuration. In fact we have a very nice scale model of it in one of our workshops: would you like to see it?”

Some of Magnuss’ thoughts of earlier in the day returned. He too was a little confused; but he recalled thinking about time and space and all those other things that Madame Nellie had said, and the words displayed in Engineering. There might be an explanation for it all in the offing. “Yes.” He said. “We would – very much.” 

Two minutes later, having traversed almost uncountable corridors, several of which had breached and were open to the air, they entered the required workshop…

“But…but it’s the Tankerville Norris!” Hair-Trigger blurted. “How?”

To his host, Magnuss said: “Who designed this ship?”

The reply was instantaneous and filled with wonder and delight: “Why…why… it was me. I designed this ship. And…and…if I can just spot the identification plaque, I should be able to find my name on it.”

“No need.” Magnuss said as he reached out with a restraining hand. “I know who you are. Your name is Bunson.”

Bunson’s face lit up. But as they turned away from the scale model…

 …she became more serious, and said: “I am Bunson. How can you possibly know that?”

“Because,” Magnuss explained, “your disembodied sub-consciousness has been travelling around far beyond your buried village. You’ve insinuated your mind into the bodies of people – not only on this world, but others too. You have inhabited an earplug upon the planet Scroton – a world that didn’t even exist when you went into hibernation. You gifted the design of that ship to the Scrotonites, who in turn gave the finished article to my wife and I, and which led us to Tah-Di-Tah, where we encountered a clairvoyant by the name of Madame Nellie. Somehow your knowledge was transferred to these people – your likeness too. Presumably this was done by facial contortion exercises in front of the bathroom mirror. But, whatever, you led us to this place in its time of greatest need. I don’t know what talent allowed you to these things, but I’m glad you have it.”

“Yeah.” Hair-Trigger concurred. “And there’s something else too. You’re not called Bunson anymore – at least on Scroton. You’re Bunk-Bunk Bunson: and, like it or not, you’re a hero.”

“Welcome to the club.” Magnuss added. “Unfortunately there is a penalty for being Bunk-Bunk Bunson. Not everything about the Tankerville Norris is as perfect as you would have us believe. For instance, we can’t see out the front window.”

“Yeah.” Hair-Trigger growled. “And I can’t believe that you – as a female – designed the ladies toilet. It’s unspeakably bad.”

Bunson wasn’t prepared for condemnation. “Ooh,” she managed…

But worse news was to follow.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 25)

And so, to the building crescendo…

“Get us out of here.” Wetpatch instructed his fellow Staff Sergeant.

“There’s some nasty weather down there.” Eustace Lipps noted. “With the ship all shot up and stuff, water might get in and short out some important circuits.”

“Don’t care.” Wetpatch retorted. “Just get us somewhere we might be able to hide in a cave or something. Descend immediately, forthwith, and straight away.”

So, before long…

…the beaten and battered Chuck Winker descended into a miserable rain storm. Naturally they reduced the illumination again…

…after all they didn’t want anyone spotting an unshielded light source. But as the ship touched down, and the gentle whine of the drive motors subsided, the room brightened into incandescent brilliance…

Jo jumped in his seat and turned to Wetpatch for an explanation. But it was Jollie who supplied it: “We’re being sensor-scanned.” He announced…

…”by a very inquisitive streetlight.”

Little did the crew of the Chuck Winker suspect, but the scientific personnel of the formerly buried village had been waiting for their ship to land so that they could commence hostilities with the enemy in the only way they knew: the defensive system now known, and referred to, as The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah. Over the hill, just north of the silted fiord, the ground cracked open and fire and brimstone burst skyward…

Inside the scientific village main facility, which, during the delay, had been returned to full functionality by its woken staff members…

…Hair-Trigger and Magnuss watched, whilst their guide (and Madame Nellie look-alike) explained that they were watching the emergence of the power receivers for the main device that created The Lines. Well Hair-Trigger was: Magnuss couldn’t quite bring himself to. But as the receivers speared the darkened sky…

…he thought he might take a quick peek. But when he saw them – in all their glory…

…he actually cheered. They were magnificent. Despite all that he had seen in his short, but adventurous life, he was awed by them. Then, as he paused for breath, something else emerged into the air that it had not tasted for a thousand years…

“Er, what’s that?” He inquired as his fearful bottom released a visible cloud of obnoxious gas.

“The Horns of Guff.” The pseudo-Nellie replied. “Designed by our fabulous founder, Frank Guff.”

“What do the Horns of Guff actually do?” Hair-Trigger asked, “Besides looking really intimidating and incredibly arty, of course.”

“It’s one of the lines.” The explanation came quickly. “This is The Guide Line.”

This wasn’t quite the explanation Hair-Trigger sought. It was too vague. But she figured all would reveal itself in time. And she was momentarily distracted when the vanguard of the invasion fleet opened fire from orbit. She was also intrigued by the alien targeting system. She had heard of Point and Shoot; but she’d never seen it practiced on such a grand scale. It was simple – but effective.

But then her attention was drawn back to the Horns of Guff. Or rather what the Horns of Guff were causing to happen in the sky above them…

Was that the image of the alien fleet she could see – framed by (what could only be) a far more complex targeting system than the one now being perpetrated against Tah-Di-Tah?

Of course she had no idea that hundreds of light years distant, a Singularity (or Black Hole as it was more commonly known) was busy doing its best to disrupt space/time for billions of kilometres around it…

But her ignorance lasted only a few seconds longer, because the Pseudo-Nellie cried out: “There it is. A thousand years have passed since we last gazed upon its might. A singular singularity – and it’s ours to control…”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Life Wallpaper: Religious Icons: Visitations to the Concrete Toadstool

If you’re an earplug with a wonky knee, a weeping sore, the heebee-geebees, cracked nipples, or an annoyingly itchy foreskin, it’s believed that a visit to the Concrete Toadstool will alleviate the aforementioned conditions, and many more besides. Consequently evening pilgrimages are common sights during the warmer months. When its cold and wintry, earplugs just can’t be arsed to go outside, and will probably wait until spring.

Magnuss & Hair-Trigger Wallpaper: Honeymoon Snap 1: Exploring a Space Derelict

The best thing about having your own honeymoon barge is that you can stop whenever and wherever you want. In this case the silicon heroes have adorned themselves with  protective bubbles and gone exploring a wrecked space ship.

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 24)

It has been a lot of fun creating The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah, and I’m just sorry that it has to end. But end it must, and this is one of the final episodes. We’re nearly done here. Booooo. Anyway, enjoy the remnants…

Chapter 8

Whilst revelation piled upon revelation inside the excavated fiord, far away from Tah-Di-Tah the crew of the Chuck Winker had quickly recognised the fact that they had bitten off way more than they could chew. Every weapon they had was being brought to bear upon a foe so numerous that they were beyond counting…

And the Tankerville Norris had sustained so much damage that it was forced to flee back to Tah-Di-Tah. It fairly fell through the atmosphere – spilling drive plasma as it did so…

Further, although the cavalry were accounting for many of the shots aimed at them…

…some missed completely, and now rained deadly fire down upon the surface of Tah-Di-Tah…

One stray shot, in particular, almost caught the Tankerville Norris a potentially crushing blow as it raced across the surface at almost zero altitude…

To their credit, some of the local population responded well to the Tankerville Norris’ original request for military assistance. A farmer’s co-operative had banded together to pack as much phosphate-based fertilizer as they could into an old, dilapidated space-tug. When it was full, they lit a fuse and launched it at the incoming space fleet…

It was a bold initiative by a bunch of tractor-drivers; but ultimately it was doomed to failure. No sooner had it passed through the clouds, when a stray shot caught it amidships…

“Bugger,” one of the members of the farmer’s co-operative was heard to utter, “If I want my fields to deliver a decent crop, come harvest time, I’m gonna have to use excrement on ‘em. And there’s only me and the wife!”

The situation in space was little better. In fact it was awful. An alien energy beam knocked out the Chuck Winker’s main armament…

For those on the bridge, this was nothing less than calamitous. Wetpatch looked to Jo. “It has been an honour serving with you, Jo.” He said gravely.

A terrified Jo looked back. “What you mean, during our time in the cavalry in general; or this little escapade?”

“Both,” Wetpatch answered. “And now we’re sitting ducks – just waiting for the coup de grace.”

“We could always turn off the lights and adopt stealth mode and creep away unnoticed.” Scroda Hootner suggested.

It was an excellent suggestion: so they did…

…and the aliens were left shooting at shadows.

“Fine cavalry-plugs we are,” Wetpatch grumbled in the subdued lighting, “sitting around in the dark. And I never even got to shout ‘Charge!’”

“And I forgot to pack my bugle.” Miguel admitted, somewhat shamefaced.

“What, so now we just hang around and hope all the bad guys go away?” Jo complained. “There must be some way to get to the planet. Can we hoist a solar sail or something?”

“Well we could try something called The Dark Energy Drive.” Jollie Huggup said as he peered at his darkened read-outs. “I’ve got the start button here – I think.”

Moments later…  

…the Dark Energy Drive kicked in, and they departed the region of space behind a ‘smoke’ screen of exotic particles.

An hour later…

“Tah-Di-Tah coming up, Wetpatch.” Miguel Angel-Grinder announced. “No obvious planetary defences. Want us to go in on the night side?”

With the alien fleet just an hour behind them, Wetpatch considered this suggestion the wisest course of action…

“Sure,” he said, “but we’ll have to turn the lights up a bit: I don’t wanna press the wrong buttons and do something really stupid like disconnect the Infinite Reality Drive or eject the lavatory.”

But, having done so, they became aware of an important fact…

“It’s the sodding fleet!” Jo yelled with despair. “They must have given up shooting at nothing and followed us here!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Still Unwilling to Walk Away

In my post Never Quite Willing to Walk Away I reminded readers of the existence of my more serious works. Well the ones that sell from time to time – those being my ‘Silent‘ books. So I thought that the two that don’t sell should get an airing too. After all, if you don’t know what you’re missing, you won’t want to buy them, will you?  No, you won’t. So please be aware that this pair of books…

…remain on sale at most proper e-book sellers, like Amazon, B&N, Lulu, etc. And yes, Clive Thunderbolt is me. I use the name to distinguish the more violent (and slightly sexual) stuff from the family orientated (though still violent) Paul Trevor Nolan titled stuff. My son made up the name. It was supposed to show me that Tooty Nolan was a stupid name for an author – even if I am Tooty Nolan. He used Clive Thunderbolt as an example of another stupid name; and, to his dismay, I embraced it instantly – whilst missing the point entirely. Anyway, to the excerpts…

Captive Echo

“How the hell did you get here?”  Wycksford Chief Administrator, Alice Wilkins – echoed Katherine as she stood glaring across her desk at Wozniak.

Len, Katherine, and two armed guards – both of whom appeared considerably more professional than their opposite numbers in Brambledown – stood behind Wozniak, who was the only seated person there. The last time Wozniak had seen Alice Wilkins she had been handing him the keys to The Peaks.

“You’re the brain box around here, Alice.” He grumbled his annoyance.” All I know is that I went to bed in my version of The Peaks, and woke up in yours. I’m a mere passenger – and an unwilling one at that!”

“That’s it? How does that help us?” Alice clearly wanted more. She turned to Katherine, “Major – get him out of here: I’m a busy woman.”

‘Major?’ Wozniak thought in surprise.

Katherine must have read his mind. “Field commission.” She explained, “We’re on the brink of war with Droxfield. Please, Peter – there must be some significance to your being here. Think – is there anything that you might have missed?”

Though she tried to conceal it, Wozniak could hear the desperation in Katherine’s voice. He tried to cast his mind back to the previous evening.

“Well there was the phone problem. None of them worked.”

“You were isolated, then?” Alice leaned forward across her desk. “What about any other electronic equipment: was that affected in any way?”

“Is it significant?” Wozniak asked in turn.

“I don’t know.” Alice answered honestly. “Perhaps. I’m just collating information right now. Perhaps I can come up with a theory later. Well – was it?”

Wozniak shook his head “Nothing. Sorry. I didn’t watch television. I didn’t listen to radio. Yet, oddly, when I think about it, I did feel strangely isolated. And there was Len, of course.”

All eyes turned from Wozniak to Len Peters.

“His alternate in my reality spoke to me during the evening.” Wozniak tried to explain, “He said you were in trouble.”

“Len?” Alice enquired gently of the old man.

“I have these dreams. I dream about another Len Peters. Day dreams, I s’pose you’d call ‘em.” Len spoke clearly at first, but then stumbled. How could he explain the fact that for the entire duration of his life he had been in communication with his inter-dimensional twin from a world like this, but which was uniquely different?

But these people seem to know all about the other side,’ he thought, ‘Perhaps they’ll understand.’

It took a few more moments of introspection before he realized that they were all waiting for him to continue.

“He talks back. I know all about his world, and he knows all about mine.” He told them. “Between us we seem to understand more about our own worlds by seeing what happens in the other. I told the other Len about me killing Wozniak. I told him why I did it too.”

Wozniak got his question before the eager Alice could open her mouth:

“So why did you suggest that I could help? How did you learn about the events of last year? Surely it must have been totally hush-hush, need-to-know, sort of stuff on this side?”

Len was clearly hiding something. He shifted his feet like a nervous schoolboy, and his eyes avoided direct contact with anyone else’s.

Katherine cleared her throat.

“Ah, that would be me.” She announced.

“What’s this, Major?” Alice exclaimed. “Are we talking about a serious security breach here?”

Katherine gave her superior a look of apology.

“Len’s my uncle.” She explained. “I’ve always looked upon him as a sort of wise old owl. I tell him all my troubles: he helps me keep them in perspective. He helps me deal with things. When you told me about my mission last year – I went straight to Uncle Len. He gave me the courage to see it through. He’s not a security breach: he’s an absolute necessity and a guardian angel.”

“You didn’t tell me nothin’ ‘bout your rape.” The object of the women’s conversation complained sharply.

“I knew how you’d react.” Katherine replied without looking at her uncle. “I didn’t want you executed for murder.”

“Security breach or absolute necessity aside,” Alice interrupted, “what made you think this Peter Wozniak could do anything about our problems?”

Katherine placed a hand upon Wozniak’s shoulder. To Alice she said: “Because…oh I don’t know. It’s just that I felt he could help somehow. I know there’s no logic involved – but you’ve never experienced crossing over. You get feelings…Call it a sixth sense if you will. But it changes a person. Maybe it makes them more receptive to…Again, I don’t know. I can’t put it into words. But when I saw him in the road with Uncle Len, I wasn’t in the least surprised – even though I knew logically that he couldn’t possibly be there – here I mean.”

Alice sat down.

“Yet here he is.”

She decided to abandon any thoughts of recrimination.

“Despite all the contrary facts and theories we have concerning LDD, Mister Wozniak is here; and I’d bloody well like to know how he did it!”

Abruptly she stood again.

“But I don’t have the energy to ponder this problem right now. I don’t have the luxury of time on my side either. Droxfield aren’t going to get our data, despite what they think; and they are going to attack at some point in the near future, because I’m damned if we’re going to roll over and watch as the work of generations of Wycksford people is pulled apart – or worse. I’m needed elsewhere right now: Major – despite some aberrant behaviour committed by yourself and your uncle – your commission stands. Take care of things here in my absence. But do me this favour: just try to avoid crossing over into another space/time continuum whilst my back is turned.”

With that she collected a file of papers from a drawer, and left the room – her two guards scuttling out behind her.

The room seemed strangely empty to Wozniak now that only he, Len, and Katherine remained.

“Well I think that went well under the circumstances.” He said. “You’re still a Major, and Len and I aren’t locked up.”

Katherine dropped into the seat so recently vacated by Alice. It was still warm.

“If only she would allow someone else to oversee our defence.” She said. “She’s a good administrator: but she’s a better theorist. I don’t know why, but I’m certain that your transfer here is no coincidence. It must be vitally important. I just wish I knew why and how.”

“Look, my ego is big enough already.” Wozniak tried a smile as he spoke. “I don’t need to be told how remarkable I am: I know that already.”

Katherine smiled minutely. “It’s just that, contrary to what she just said to you, she does have the beginning of a theory. She told me about it a month ago. If she’s right – then the timing of Droxfield’s action couldn’t have been better timed. Or worse, perhaps – depending upon what happens next.”  She looked at Wozniak directly. “At the risk of exploding your ego into a state of megalomania – I truly believe that you can make a difference, Peter. Your timing isn’t necessarily the result of destiny – but it is serendipitous.” She stood again, and made for the door. “We’re not on war rations just yet: anyone hungry? I know I am. And maybe we can find an ice pack for those swollen bollocks of yours.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

Present Imperfect

Wozniak, Janice, and Tom hadn’t wanted to draw attention to themselves as they slipped unobtrusively from the A&E waiting room of Crampton General Hospital, but such was their urgency to leave that they began scurrying once they’d emerged into the central corridor. Half way along its length Janice began to complain about the pain that her injuries were now causing her, so Wozniak simply picked her up, and holding her in his arms before him, he broke into a run. They emerged into the air at a fair gallop, and several nurses arriving for work were forced to skip aside.

“Sorry.” Janice called over Wozniak’s departing shoulder.

“Keys.” Tom said as he allowed his brother to catch up.

Janice fished through her pockets. She tossed the car keys to the large man. She then watched as he accelerated ahead, dodging a slow-moving road-cleaning truck, and approached Wozniak’s parked car. She also saw him pull up short. His body language suggested surprise.

Once the cleaning truck had passed, Wozniak placed Janice upon her feet, and together they were able to join Tom. They were shocked to see Amanda standing upon the opposite side of the vehicle.

“She wants to know how Connor’s getting on.” Tom informed them.

“Like you care!” Janice spat the words at Amanda.

“I do care.” Amanda said defensively. “I’d never wish harm on Connor.”

“That’s rich.” Janice scoffed. “You’re the one who put him in hospital!”

“I didn’t mean to.” Amanda looked chagrined. “Blame it on my adrenal gland: it’s designed to be over-active.”

Janice wasn’t giving up. “And your libido?”

“Ditto.” Amanda chanced a small smile, “Though I don’t believe anyone has ever come to harm because of that particular facet of my physiology. I’m guaranteed disease-free by the way. Totally immune, And I don’t carry.”

“That’s a relief.” Tom wiped his brow. “Not that I doubted you for a minute.”

“He’s in good hands, if that’s what you need to know.” Wozniak told her gently. “He’s in no danger.” He then added, “Where’s Jart?”

Amanda shrugged her shoulders. “He’s fast, but he’s not that fast.” She replied. “Once I had the car up to speed he gave up. I expect he’ll be making his way back to The Peaks by now.”

“What?” Janice exploded. “Dave and Judith are there. If he gets in…” Janice didn’t dare speak the words. “Oh my god – poor Judith!”

“And poor Dave too.” Tom added. “He’ll die trying to protect her!”

Amanda looked around the car park frantically. “You mean they didn’t come with you? When I saw your car go past like the hounds of hell were chasing it I assumed you were all aboard. That’s when I made my break for freedom. Oh fuck!”

Wozniak didn’t waste another second in discussion or recriminations. “Get in the car!” He shouted.

It had been a manic drive out of the town in the direction of Brambledown, and it had tested Wozniak’s driving skills to the limit. He’d prayed all the way that no police cars spotted him, and came in pursuit: He wasn’t about to stop for anyone. Tom had phoned ahead to warn Dave and Judith. Wozniak suggested that they lock themselves in the cellar, which they agreed to do. But now, as they drove into The Peaks, they could see the younger couple waiting for them at the door.

Hurrying from the car to the house, they were all beckoned inside. Once in the hallway, Dave shut the door and threw the heavy cast iron bolt across. Janice then proceeded into her natural habitat – the kitchen, whilst Tom joined Dave and Judith on guard duties.

“I promise – this time I’ll lead him away.” Amanda assured Wozniak as they entered the dining room. “If I’d known they were here I’d never have driven off.”

Wozniak turned and grasped Amanda’s shoulders. He could feel the incredible musculature beneath the skin. He felt certain that if she were to take on a fully-grown male chimpanzee in a fight, the chimp would be slaughtered in the opening seconds.

Amanda must have sensed his thoughts. “You think I’m tough: I’m breakfast for men like Jart. I could take on both Tom and you, and you’d both be dead before you’d even thought about where to land your first punch. Don’t be stupid: Don’t try to take him on.”

“We have a weapon.” Wozniak confided in her.

An eyebrow arched.

“He needs sunlight to reach his full potential, right?”

Amanda appeared to warm to the idea immediately. She nodded, and added, “Full potential, yes: But he’s still pretty awesome at half potential.”

“But he’s been using quite a bit of energy today, wouldn’t you say? What with all that chasing after you.”

Amanda shrugged her shoulders in ambivalence. “To a certain extent. But if he’s eaten…”

“What would happen if we were able to cut off his light source?”

Amanda paused to consider this before she replied. “He’d be running on internal power.”

“Like we do.” Wozniak said, a huge grin spreading across his face. “He would tire in a fight. Keep at him for long enough and he’d soon be knackered. One of us could get in the killing blow.”

Amanda dropped into a chair. Wozniak seated himself opposite her.

“Well there’s your problem.” She said as she stared sightlessly out of the window through one jet back eye, and the other appearing quite normal. “Keep at him long enough. How long is long enough. He’d have incapacitated or killed you all long before you reach that situation.”

Wozniak’s expression took on a look of cunning. “But what if we found ourselves some reinforcements? Lots of reinforcements?”

Amanda was intrigued. “Please – continue.”

Wozniak was about to speak when he found that his hands were empty. “Oh shit.” He said. “I’ve left my baseball bat in the car. Be back in a moment.”

He then stood, entered the hallway, and drew back the lock. “I’m just visiting the car.” He called through to Tom who was watching the garden.

He received a thumbs-up.

Wozniak had left the baseball bat between the front seats, so he automatically went to retrieve via the drivers’ side. He’d just dropped into his seat when the door slammed shut on him. He didn’t have time for a single expletive before the car was rocked violently, and turned entirely upon its side. Wozniak clung on to the steering wheel in an attempt to keep himself in position as the car continued to roll over. It then crashed down on to its roof, and Wozniak was toppled from his seat.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

 

 

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 23)

So, as the end nears, you must enjoy  every crumb and morsel of the tale. Pay close attention to the science-fiction cliches that I toss about with abandon: it might make some sense. Read on…

When that didn’t work he tried kicking the device with his space-sandal-shod feet. Moments later the pod popped open, which allowed the only animated earplugs in the room to drag the body from it…

“She doesn’t look very well.” Hair-Trigger opined.

Magnuss had to agree – especially when the female earplug’s tongue lolled…

“Oh, I was right the first time.” Hair-Trigger said matter-of-factly. “We are too late; but only just.”

But then, to confound her and make her appear a liar, the earplug rolled into an upright position and coughed several times…

“Jeepers,” she croaked, “What am I doing here? Where am I? Is there a lavatory nearby?”

Then, as her senses returned and memories flooded back into her consciousness, she dashed to the control panel and began operating it feverishly…

“You’re the rescue team,” she said over her shoulder, “I must awaken everyone else. We’ll need to build another facility in another fiord. Somewhere to the North perhaps. I like fiords. Some prefer deserts – but the air is just too dry for me: I can’t spit.”

Neither newlywed wanted to interrupt the earplug from another era: clearly she wasn’t totally compos mentis quite yet. It would take time for her to discover mental equilibrium, especially if it was really her detached consciousness that Magnuss had sensed earlier. He was about to say something like; “Poor female, she must be so confused: she probably doesn’t know her arse from her elbow”, when he noticed something unusual about her.

“Hairy,” he whispered, “doesn’t she look like Madame Nellie!”

Hair-Trigger shifted mental gears. “Yes.” She said. “But it makes no sense: she can’t be Madame Nellie. And even if they have some kind of vision projector that might have placed her image inside her tent and hovel, it doesn’t explain how the image could have given those two local earplugs one hundred Smackeroos. In any case – she was in suspended animation.”

“But her consciousness recognised us when we automatically activated the advanced tech when we entered the village.” Magnuss argued. “How else could our images have been transmitted on that huge wall screen?”

Whilst this perplexing conversation was taking place, the scientist from the past had successfully reanimated every occupant of the room’s hibernation pods. They now stood, looking slightly dazed, awaiting an instruction…

“Right then, team.” The pale green earplug bellowed, “I know you’re all feeling a bit worse for wear, but fear not; our rescuers have arrived. Look here they are.”

She then turned to Magnuss and Hair-Trigger. She said: “Perhaps you’d like to instruct them where to go? Oh, and maybe you could introduce yourselves to them. That would be a nice way to break the ice, so-to-speak. Excuse the pun – what with this being a suspended animation centre and everything.”

This was the opportunity Magnuss had been waiting for since he’d had a sudden and inspired idea. Or about fifteen seconds, give or take a second.

“Surely you should introduce us to your team.” He said. “Protocol and everything.”

Without questioning his ridiculous suggestion, the pale green earplug said: “Sure: Team – this is Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug: they…” She stopped abruptly. “How did I know that? How could I possibly have known that?”

”You are the village psychic.” A yellow individual with bulging white eyes spoke from the opposite end of the room. “When we go into suspended animation, our brains don’t cease to function entirely. Some of us dream and live lives that are unreal but seem real – to us. It’s only a theory that I’ve just thought up, but it might be possible that instead of dreaming, you could have been leading a vicarious life. That is, you may have used the mind and body of someone else to experience a true reality. If anyone could, it would be you. It would explain the seemingly inexplicable situation you now find yourself in.”

“That’s what I was thinking too.” Magnuss spoke before anyone else did and thereby confuse him. “By the way, may I call you Nellie? That’s the name you’ve been going by during your vicarious life as a fortune teller in the local bazaar.”

A dumbfounded ‘Nellie’ nodded her permission. She then watched and listened as Magnuss and Hair-Trigger told them everything that they knew, which included the fact that centuries had passed; the planet was now named Tah-Di-Tah; and that an alien invasion fleet was mere hours away…

“So,” Hair-Trigger said in conclusion, “if you can get your ‘Lines’ kick-started, and make them do whatever it is they do to rid us of the threat of subjugation or extermination, we – and everyone on Tah-Di-Tah – would be very grateful.”

“You got it.” They replied in unison, and raced from the room.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Never Quite Willing to Walk Away

I may have mentioned this before – in fact I’m sure I have – but sales of my e-books have, for several years, been located somewhere south of Shitville. Of course the fact that I don’t really promote them hasn’t helped. But I’m used to this situation, and kind’a content with it. No taxes – other than the few cents I pay the U.S Government. It is a very rare occasion that I bother logging on to Lulu.com to find out how my published magnum opuses are faring, because, well, it’s not worth the bother and time it takes. Well today, in a moment of madness I did; and the situation remains grim. But there have been some sales. Namely of these…

And all were purchased by users of the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader. So, like the times previous to this, I thank all you Nookers who have taken the time to read the above tomes, and hope you enjoyed them. They were written so long ago that it feels like someone else wrote them. How could such decent yarns have emerged from my fevered imagination? But, because I’m never quite willing to walk away from my literary efforts, and because there are people who like my ‘better’ stuff, I thought it might be a good idea to display a couple of extracts here, right now. To strike while the iron is (if not hot – then) slightly luke-warm. And here they are – chosen entirely at random…

Silent Apocalypse

We reached the flint-built Methodist Hall without incident. It was, as we expected, thoroughly locked. From her childhood Candice knew of a roof light through which she and her friends would gain access ‘just for fun’. Wayne had been one of those friends. She shinnied up a drainpipe. Then, upon all-fours, she climbed a steep slate roof; disappearing over a low façade. Moments later she reappeared; gave us a thumbs-up; and then beckoned us to join her.

As I struggled up the drainpipe behind Lee I considered the chosen victims of the virus: What if it had attacked the young, leaving only octogenarians? How long would they have survived?  It began a train of thought in my head:

Why were we spared? Who would design such a weapon? Either it should kill your enemy, or not: Why be so selective?’

My thoughts were interrupted: Lee, whose hand was held out to help me up the last metre or so, whispered, “Shush, we think there’s someone inside.”

When I joined them on the opposite side of the façade, I too heard the muted sound of synthesized music emanating through the glass of the roof light before us.

“I wonder what he uses for electricity.” Lee echoed my own thoughts.

“I said he’s a nerd: Not an imbecile.” Candice whispered as she set about opening the roof light. “He always finds a way of getting what he wants.”

I swung from the roof light edge. Candice and Lee were already on the floor below me. It wasn’t far to drop, but I must be careful: My landing must be as silent as possible. In the event I didn’t need to: Lee found a chair onto which I could lower myself. From there we crept about the building like thieves. Eventually we found ourselves outside of a door, through which a rather repetitive form of music could be plainly heard emanating.

Candice stepped back and threw herself at the door, which succumbed to the first blow, and she went tumbling into a room full to the rafters with music sheets and   electronic equipment. But of Wayne there was no sign. Candice screamed in anger. Then we both saw what she’d seen already: multiple TV monitors showing views of both inside and outside the building. They included views of our route of ingress.

“He saw us coming, and he’s done a runner.” She growled.

I checked the monitors. Several doors were on view. None of them were open, and appeared to be locked.

“Maybe not.” I said.

Five minutes later we found Wayne hiding in a broom cupboard. He positively quaked at the sight of his former girlfriend.

“Scratch what I said about him earlier.” She said to us. “He’s a nerd, and an imbecile.”

To Wayne she sneered, “You’re bright enough to set up surveillance, but too stupid to plan your escape? What did I see in a no-brain like you?”

Wayne slowly emerged from the cupboard. He was less than cordial. “What do you want?”

He still had eyes only for Candice: As far as he was concerned Lee and I were mere peripherals. It was almost as though we didn’t exist.

“Your expertise.” She replied. “Electronics. Sonics. Computer wrestling. I don’t know exactly. You know – your line of work.”

“Are you gonna use it against Nige Hawley? If so, you can forget it: I don’t care what you threaten me with – I’m not going up against Nige Hawley.” Wayne appeared adamant.

“Who is Nige Hawley?” I enquired.

“You been living under a stone?” He looked at me for the first time.

“No, we’ve been fighting to survive, thank you.” I took an instant dislike to Wayne Fairgrove, “And don’t answer a question with a question.”

“He only runs the town, that’s all” Wayne almost spat out the words, “The only reason he hasn’t grabbed me yet is ‘cause I’ve hidden myself away too well for him to find me.”

“I’ve got news for you, lover-boy: The only reason he hasn’t found you is because he has no use for you yet.” Candice pushed him in the direction of his electronics room. “Guess who suggested this place to us.”

On the way to his room we explained how Steve had guided us to the former church. Wayne must have realized that his hidey-hole was now compromised because by the time we arrived at our destination his skin had paled and he’d turned into a nervous wreck.

“Pull yourself together.” Candice snapped at him, taking a cassette tape from her pocket. “We want you to find out what this is all about. Stick it on your computer: poke it through some filters, or whatever it is you do.”

After Wayne accepted the tape from Candice’s outstretched hand, Lee spoke: “What are you doing for power?”

Wayne slipped into his nerd role instantly. Once in possession of the tape, he set about his task with relish. He immediately began transferring the data from tape onto computer disc. He replied whilst working, “Got a genny down in the basement. Run the exhaust up the stink pipe. No one’s noticed it yet.”

Lee was suitably impressed.

To our collective amazement, it took a mere half-hour to find the buried information on the tape. He transferred it back onto the tape so that we could play it back without the need for power or extensive equipment. Lee and I were grateful for his help, and even Candice softened her approach slightly…

“So,” she asked him, “what are you going to do now your lair’s been flagged up?

“Don’t know. I haven’t thought ahead that far.” He replied.

“Well you’d better think fast, mate,” Lee told him, “When we let your mate loose, chances are he’ll pay you a visit.”

“Steve wouldn’t do that.” Wayne argued. “He’s an old mate.”

“Yeah, but that was before you helped us.” Lee argued in turn.

“But he wouldn’t have to know.” Wayne was looking desperate, “You could tell him that I wasn’t here.”

Candice stepped in. “We could, and maybe we will: but we can’t make him believe us. Do you really want to take the chance that Nige Hawley won’t come calling himself? We found the broom cupboard easily enough; I hardly think he’s likely to miss it.”

I took, what I considered, the kinder approach: “Perhaps you should come with us. Until you can find another permanent home at least…”

“Yeah, good idea.” Lee agreed, and injected a little urgency; “We tied that Steve bloke up; but there’s no knowing if his mates aint found him by now. We’d better get a move on.”

“But my stuff:” Wayne complained. “It isn’t exactly portable.”

Candice took him by the collar. “No – but you are. Come on.” Then she dragged him from the room.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

Silent Resistance

Five minutes later Tasman and I sat in front of the monitor that showed the images that the camcorder had most recently recorded. Unsurprisingly the opening scene reflected the room in which we now sat. In the blink of an eye it was replaced by the wooden panelled interior of what looked to me like a fine English country house. In many ways it reminded me of my lost home.

Tasman must have picked up on a surge in my emotions because he slipped a hand into mine and squeezed gently. But those emotions were swept aside by what we saw next. From left of camera a tall, broad-shouldered man sporting a greying beard walked into view. He spotted the camera and made straight for it – stopping short and giving us a smile so fabulous that it must have warmed the heart of many a woman in its time.

“Janice.” He called to someone out of view, “We have a visitor.”

A heavy oak door opened from another room and a tall, willowy woman entered what I took to be a drawing room. She followed the man’s gaze. “Oh,” she said, “that wasn’t there earlier.”

“No.” The man replied. “I just watched it arrive. It just appeared out of nowhere. There was the faintest pop of displaced air. What do you reckon – dimensional relocation or time travel?”

Janice placed a finger upon her lower lip and pouted in thought.

“Peter.” She said almost admonishingly, “Do you really have to ask? Was it accompanied by a clap of thunder?”

Peter thought about it. “Not that I recall.” He replied with a slight grin that strongly suggested that he was thoroughly enjoying the situation.

“Then you have your answer.” Janice said as she apparently dismissed the mystery and made for the door, “It’s obviously from another quantum reality.”

After watching the door close behind Janice, Peter looked directly into the camera lens. He then used a colourful expletive and told us what we could do with our ‘LDD’ machine, that had we done as he instructed we would have required medical aid. A large hand then reached out and switched the camera off.

Tasman turned to me. “Wow.” He said. “People: ordinary people: in an ordinary house; who are apparently familiar with inter-dimensional travel. Did you notice that he was so matter-of-fact about it too?”

I didn’t think that the man named Peter was too enamoured with inter-dimensional travel. I said as much to Tasman.

“An Earth with more advanced technology perhaps?” Tasman surmised.

“Did you notice that they referred to time-travel as though it was commonplace too.” I said. “I wonder what LDD means.”

“Linear Dimensional Displacement, I expect.” Tasman answered. “I almost gave our machine that moniker, but Shane changed my mind for me; she said it sounded like an insecticide.”

“Perhaps we should place that reality off-limits too.” I suggested.

“I agree.” Tasman replied as he ran a pencil through the dimensional coordinates, “I’m not sure I want them knowing where we are.”   

 It’s a shame though.” I said slightly wistfully, “It was lovely seeing human adults again. I would love to have spoken to them. They may have been annoying at times, but I miss having adults around – telling us what to do and when to do it. That couple looked so comfortable together too. I wonder who they were.”

Tasman could have only imagined my feelings at that moment. Even if he’d read my mind I don’t think he could really have understood.

“Peter and Janice.” He said as he gave me a kiss upon the forehead. “Later we’ll propose a toast to them over dinner. Want to try some more?”

Naturally I agreed, and the second attempt to access an alternate Brambledown took the camera to an old country dwelling. This one was perhaps a little less ostentatious, but the decor suggested that the owner had both good taste and the money to go with it – even if most of the flat surfaces were laden down a little too heavily with what Kylie would have termed ‘expensive knick-knacks’. Clocks, glass, and porcelain antiques abounded. The loud ‘tick-tock’ of a huge grandfather clock filled the room. Between beats of the clockwork mechanism I thought I heard the sounds of doors closing in other parts of the edifice. It was late in the day, and the lowering sun blazed amber through two tall west facing windows. Footsteps could be heard approaching, and for some ridiculous reason I felt myself becoming nervous – as though we were about to be caught stealing about someone else’s home. I jumped when a door opened abruptly and a teen-aged girl in a pair of rather grown-up slacks, a cardigan, and a pair of flat slip-on shoes walked past the camera without noticing it, and descended a flight of stairs into a basement.

Tasman turned to see me in a state of confusion.

“That girl.” I shouted as I pointed towards the monitor. “I know her. She’s dead!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

It’s strange that I chose that particular extract at random, because it links these two books with the central characters of these two books…

…and was little more than a throw away scene. But, I remember, I was so enjoying writing Silent Resistance, that I couldn’t help but include a smidgin of important elements from books that were also a joy to create. Hubris? No, I just love my characters too much.

 

 

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 22)

The end is close, I can feel it in my bowels. Still, enjoy it while it lasts…

Meanwhile, in the remnants of the buried village, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had discovered a strange room that seemed to defy the laws of physics…

“Not only the laws of physics,” Hair-Trigger grumbled, “but the laws of aesthetics too.”

“It could be the result of a radiation leak.” Magnuss suggested nervously. Then, to cheer himself up, he added: “Alternatively it could be a piece of equipment that has turned on automatically when it detected our presence, but because it has been sitting idle for centuries, needs re-calibrating.”

This was a much more palatable idea, but Hair-Trigger didn’t really care one way or the other: the sight of it just made her nauseous. So it was with great relief that they crossed it in good order and quick time, and exited through a handy doorway…

“Ah, this is more like it.” Magnuss said as Hair-Trigger gave the previous room a quick backward glance of contempt. “This looks more earpluggish.”

But, as the blue corridor opened on to (what Magnuss presumed was) a large thoroughfare…

…he felt a little less certain of his last statement. And Hair-Trigger absolutely hated it. But as they found themselves falling into a strolling motion, the similarity to a busy city street occurred to them…

“This is kind’a nice.” Magnuss said as he smiled for the first time in yonks. “In its hey-day, this must have been a very popular place. You can imagine all the crowds at night – out on the town and going to shows and restaurants and things like that.”

Hair-Trigger wasn’t convinced. “This was a scientific community – full of egg-heads and people with larger-than-average brains – thinking up really advanced stuff and then making it work.”

Magnuss wasn’t going to argue: maybe they were both right. But then he thought that they both might be wrong too, because…

…they found themselves standing in front of a huge video wall that featured them – as seen in Madame Nellie’s tent. There was no audio, but both earplugs could recall their earlier words.

“Magnuss,” Hair-Trigger said with a voice that sounded uncharacteristically small and uncertain, “how is this possible?”

Magnuss had to think about that. To think most efficiently he imagined himself standing in the bright glow of a spotlight…

But as he allowed his mind to wander into realms of fantasy he ‘felt’ the touch of a mind. It was suffuse and indistinct – but, he was certain, very real. He also knew that this mind linked the present Tah-Di-Tah with the world it was pre-Tah-Di-Tah. That the mind existed in both eras – or, he corrected himself, had existed in both eras. It was a bit confusing, and when he returned to the moment, he couldn’t put his thoughts into words. So he decided to ‘follow his nose’. And his ‘nose’ led him into a dark red corridor…

…which Hair-Trigger found infinitely more pleasing aesthetically; but had Magnuss feeling pangs of trepidation. Where was he leading them? What was he leading them into? But whatever it was, he felt certain that this was the correct route. And when they turned the corner into another corridor…

…he couldn’t help but notice that the redness had lessened. Could it be that they were approaching the end of their search?  And when they reached the end of that corridor they came to a brief ante-room…

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Magnuss asked his new wife.

This was not the sort of question that Magnuss would have asked Hair-Trigger previously. Perhaps it was the fact that she was now his spouse that made him feel the need to be more protective. Hair-Trigger, in her wisdom, recognised this:

“Oh you silly husband,” she said pleasantly, “of course I do. It’s what I do – remember?”

So, without further ado, they entered a room that, at first, they thought was a laboratory. But when they looked more closely…

“Oh-no,” Hair-Trigger wailed in horror and defeat, “it’s a mausoleum. We’re too late. A thousand years too late!”

But Magnuss thought not…

“Hang on, Hairy.” He said. “This isn’t a place of the dead: it’s a hibernation centre. When they realised that the village was going to be submerged, everyone chose to go into suspended animation – hopeful that they would be retrieved before too long.”

Hair-Trigger was relieved by this: she hated decay in every form – especially earplug form. But as Magnuss went to investigate a panel that he thought looked promising, Hair-Trigger thought that the hibernation pod beside which she stood smelt ‘funny’…

“I think this one’s dead,” she said carelessly. ”It honks something terrible!”

But whilst Magnuss failed to reply, Hair-Trigger was shocked when a face appeared upon the pod’s occupant…

“Magnuss,” she yelled shrilly, “strike what I just said: we’ve got a breather.”

Magnuss was doubly shocked by this. Not only had he failed to anticipate that one of the pods might be faulty and allow it’s occupant to rouse from permanent slumber: but, within his mind he could also feel the tendrils of the ethereal intelligence strengthen…

Putting two and two together he surmised that the rousing earplug and the mental awareness were one and the same. So he reinvigorated his attempts to understand the control panel that he believed operated the hibernation pods.

“We’ve got to get that earplug out of there before he or she dies.” He cried.

He then added: “Stupid machine – work!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

PPP: Proton Product Placement

When Magnuss and Hair-Trigger want to explore the surface of cold, sub-zero, and thoroughly uninviting alien worlds, they inevitably choose a used Proton 1.5 Iswara in which to do it…

Only two-wheel-drive, but it’ll take you anywhere. Mine did. Brilliant in the snow. Conversely it was a very popular choice for taxi drivers in it’s  more tropical homeland, Malaysia. Pity Proton went broke – the Jumbuck was the prettiest pick-up ever built. I liked my 1.5 – even if the family hated it and didn’t like to be seen in it. After receiving more than it’s fair share of vandalism, the already vile styling looked even worse;  and when we moved into a more affluent area, the family were unamimous: the Proton had to go! Obviously Magnuss and Hair-Trigger bought it from the scrap dealer and carted it off across the Galaxy.

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 21)

It’s shoot-’em-up time in an Earplug Adventure. Continue…

Blast, whoosh, fizz, brruuum, or whatever noise Gravitonic Multiplicitors make in the silence of outer space. Unfortunately for the attacking fleet’s outriders, they quickly discovered that the powerful gravitonic waves tore their ship apart and exposed their atomic motors. So this particular ship did what any decent atomic-powered vessel that has been rent asunder would do…

It exploded in fine fashion. But others on the leading edge of the armada were quick to react. Within seconds the Tankerville Norris came under attack…

When the engineers of Scroton had built the Tankerville Norris, it had not been intended as a ship-of-war: it was a honeymoon barge for heaven sake! Consequently any defensive screening was of the Meteorite-Deflecting kind. Directed energy beams were a tad beyond its design parameters. But the Scrotonites – being typical Scrotonites – had over-engineered just about everything aboard (with the exception of the forward viewing window), so the ship took the first blow really quite well. Well it didn’t blow up or anything extravagant. In fact it turned on a veritable dime and let rip with the Gravitonic Multiplicitor in the direction of its assailant…

The result wasn’t unexpected. With gravity waves so intense and powerful, even a near miss was good enough…

But the Tankerville Norris was only one ship against a horde. Long before the emitter could re-charge, the aliens had targeted the dangerous vessel…

Ordinarily a glancing blow could have been shrugged off, and tiny repair robots despatched to plug the myriad holes with their inflating buttocks: but a sustained barrage…

…was another thing entirely. There simply were not enough robots with big enough buttocks to do the job. If the Tankerville Norris had been the kind of ship that talks to itself during periods of high stress, it might have said: “Ooh-er, I must agree with what Hair-Trigger said about the cavalry: I do so hope they come charging over the hill – soon – like now. Help!”

Well, it seemed that reality wasn’t quite as different to the Tankerville Norris’ fantasy as one might imagine. Not far away – on a Galactic scale, that is – the Chuck Winker was making very good time indeed…

Progress was of the rapid kind. Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat beside Staff Sergeant Wetpatch Wilton, Staff Sergeant Jo Frayzer…

…said: “Remind me again: how is it that we know we’re on the right course?”

To which Wetpatch looked across to cavalry-plug Jollie Huggup at the round black device that no one had bothered naming, and said: “Well, Jollie?”

Jollie was too busy studying his readouts to turn around to face his superiors; so he shouted instead: “We followed the Tankerville Norris’ ion trail until it stopped at a recently disintegrated planet: then we extrapolated a likely course for a pair of newlyweds. Tah-Di-Tah seemed most likely – especially since Nigel has an account with the tallest hotel there. Then, more recently, the telepathic talents of the Chuck Winker detected Scroton-derived anxiety waves from somewhere between our intended destination and…ah…us…here…now.”

“Yeah,” Cavalry-plug, Miguel Angel-Grinder, on the opposite piece of futuristic equipment, concurred. “We’re nearly on top of it. We should be there momentarily. Preparing to exit hyperspace – at your command, Wetpatch.”

Naturally Wetpatch, being a well-trained cavalry-plug, responded professionally. “Saddle up,” he bellowed, “and let’s head out!”

A split second later the Chuck Winker re-entered regular space/time. Its speed was such that it all but tore surrounding space into overstressed fragments. The Galaxy itself seemed to convulse…  

“Flipping heck,” Miguel Angel-Grinder erupted as he hid behind the pilot’s chairs, “will ya look at that!”

“I am.” Wetpatch replied. “But what am I looking at?”

Fortunately for everyone, Miguel had been replaced at the rectangular screen thing by Cavalry-plug Scroda Hootner. She said: “Whacking great big explosion, Sir. Looks like a ship exploded. Very likely the result of a stupid accident or a space battle.”

“I’d prefer the former.” Jo responded.

“More likely the latter.” Jollie Huggup replied. “The Chuck Winker continues to receive Scroton-derived anxiety waves; it’s not the Tankerville Norris in a million pieces out there. But it is in deep kaka. We must assume that it is under attack and is defending itself – spectacularly – as any Scrotonite ship would.”

Wetpatch ruminated for a nanosecond. “If we’re not going too fast and are likely to over-shoot, I think we should join this battle.”

Fortunately for the Staff Sergeant’s plan, the Chuck Winker – although still producing a relativistic-bow wave…

…was in a position to assist the Tankerville Norris.

“Right then,” Wetpatch said as he cleared his throat and another alien vessel exploded in the distance, “I suppose we’d better go to Red Alert.”

Cavalry-plug, Eustace Lipps, looked up from where he was fiddling with the massive air-con unit, and said: “I think they call it Crimson Alert aboard ship. Or am I being overly pedantic?”

“Crimson Alert it is then.” Wetpatch yelled…

…”and if anyone can find something that resembles a powerful weapon – fire it!”

Jo spotted a small, insignificant button on his pilot’s desk. He pushed it experimentally…

“Well done, Jo.” Wetpatch cheered as the closest alien ship ceased to exist. “Can anyone better that?”

Inspired by Jo’s lead, Eustace slammed the ball of his hand against a similarly minute toggle on the air-con control…

The cavalry had indeed come charging over the hill.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021