Earplugs Without Pictures 15

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 rumbustious tale…


© Paul Trevor Nolan 2017

Whilst Brother Hugo and Brother Austin took the time to reflect upon their impetuosity, far away in the Museum of Future Technology, the four young out-of-towners – Crudlove Twang, Fulham Peach, Fledgling McCormack, and Spodney Gridlock, had become friends, and now played on-line games together in Bazookas – one of the futuristic entertainment rooms. And it was probably because their juvenile minds were engaged in what was basically a mindless activity that they received the telepathic summons from the far away Buttox.

A half-hour later, with their wallets lightened considerably by the exorbitant price of a Transfer Conduit ticket, the foursome arrived in pea-farming country.

“Ooh,” Spodney said nervously, “I aint never been farther from home than the next town. Have we travelled a really long way?”

“It’s hard to tell with Transfer Conduits.” Fulham replied. “There’s no sense of distance or passage of time.”

“Where do we go now?” Fledgling asked Crudlove.

Crudlove looked around for inspiration. “Well,” she answered, “I suppose we’d better follow the instinct that brought us here. I feel an increase in altitude is required.”

Five minutes later they’d hired a hot air balloon, and now trusted their luck to the prevailing wind. Once airborne, Fledgling regretted Crudlove’s requirement for greater altitude, and he refused to look out of the window. So he never witnessed the sight of endless pea-farming country spread out beneath him. And he continued in this manner whilst feeling decidedly air-sick until the balloon ditched in the snow-covered mountains. Sadly they weren’t overly pleased with anything they found there. And when darkness fell they began to wonder why they’d followed their youthful impulses. But when morning arrived, they were greeted with a sight that gave them hope. The incessant winds had blown away much of the drifting snow – to reveal the surface features of the vast edifice that Buttox had found hidden beneath the ice.

AND…

A short while afterwards the group came across its first artificial structure, though they had no idea what a structure was, or that the word ‘artificial’ referred to something that wasn’t created by Mother Nature. The golden cable end then had them enter it, whereupon they were all encased inside an energy field that, when it had finished doing its pre-programmed work, it had brought them the concept of civilisation, an aversion to nudity, and toilets. In fact the latter was so successful that none of them wanted to be watched when they went for a pee. And others stood around feeling slightly embarrassed as someone farted accidentally when they sneezed.

But more was to follow. Much, much more. And that ‘much, much more‘ began with the invention of basic agriculture, which meant that they didn’t need to rely on nature to provide all of their requirements, and gave them the peace of mind of knowing that they would continue to eat through the winter months. And gaining a roof over their collective head – in the shape of cave-dwellings – would protect them from the weather and predators.

Although pleased as punch – at least initially – shortly their newly acquired intellect and creativity made them seek to improve their life style by building simple mud huts. But before the year was out, they’d developed two-storey wattle and daub constructions, which, when built en masse, quickly grew into a village, where cable ends could converse with each other in communal quadrangles, and could enjoy nice roof terraces with views of the distant hills, and rowdy neighbours with whom they could remonstrate and get into fist fights. And an inefficient sewage system that often overflowed and brought the risk of disease, damp carpets, and nasty pongs. But worse was to come when the village elders decided that the air was far too clean and rather ‘nippy‘ in the temperature gradient department and introduced the rudimentary log-burning stove with which the villagers could heat their homes and cook their meals. The resultant pollution forced the smarter inhabitants to create a suburban region on the outskirts of the only village upon the planet. They began with simple, single storey, stone-built edifices. But quickly added extensions to allow greater freedom, more bedrooms, and add value to the property. Eventually adding follies and luxurious towers from which they could look down upon the stupid villagers who stayed behind in their wattle and daub hovels.

Sadly, despite the gift of intellect and reason, the newly intelligent cable ends found it necessary to pray to the ‘gods’ and give thanks and to ask for more. And their prayers appeared to be answered, because soon their basic agriculture quickly expanded into a vast monoculture that stretched to the (very limited) horizon with linking tracks for easy access to the resultant crop. Then the golden cable end introduced the idea of cottage industry, which quickly escalated to the construction of a protective wall around the village to keep out any wandering Angling Land Lobster Squids, which, once winter finally arrived, meant that they beat their stupid heads against it in utter futility.

They also took the opportunity to invest time and energy in the development of the stair case and informative signage. And when, in the following spring, the cottage industry grew into a much larger affair, it meant that some cable ends could work the Night Shift, which gave them the necessary personal wealth to move into newly built concrete condominiums and to buy enough exterior emulsion to paint them a pleasant shade of yellow.

But still they prayed to their ‘gods’, because they couldn’t quite believe that (without the gods help) they were really smart enough to invent flush toilets, elasticated underpants, and construct a Nul-Space generator with which to power their growing civilisation.

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 Plunging Into Peril cover image (above) to bring up the full PDF file.

 

Wattpad Ditched

After weeks of relentless uploading, and half-way through this fairly wondrous tale…

…I said, “Tooty, you only have one reader: why are you bothering?”

So I quit. That was a lot of effort for no gain – spiritual or otherwise. And some of the writing on Wattpad is utterly execrable. Makes the Earplug Adventures look like Shakespeare. Phew, glad to be free of that lot. Still, it was an experience to discover that all the awful things people say about Wattpad are true. Where next, I wonder? Any ideas, anyone?

Nature Wallpapers: Listen and Survive / Going Hungry

Whilst out and about in the Hampshire countryside, I chanced upon a common, everyday encounter between two disparate (but linked) species. It ended well for one of them, and gave me a couple of nice wallpaper shots….

I know I shouldn’t have, but I could help myself from giving the rabbit an edge.  I gave the fox a cheery wave.

Everyday Objects Make Excellent Science-Fiction Wallpapers

My ancient Sony Cybershot DSC-P10 dates from 2002. I don’t use it much, but I think it had a hard life in the hands of a construction site engineer before I liberated it. As a consequence it can misbehave slightly – like not switching on when I want to use it. On this occasion I thought it likely that the battery might not be carrying  enough charge to fire it up, so I plugged the camera into the charger and tried again. It worked. By chance the lens happened to be pointing in the direction of a half-full water bottle. So, to test that all was well, I snapped a few point-blank close-ups. When I saw the resulting pictures, the ‘artistic genius’ (weird sci-fi guy) within me saw the possibilities. So I tossed a new (and exciting) smoke alarm on to the bed and snapped some pictures of that. The result is…

What the two saucers are about to do to the domed city upon an airless planet, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they appear in a future Earplug Adventure!

A Strange Philosophical Juxtaposition

Whilst walking through a local churchyard recently, I chanced upon this scene…

How the dice got there, I have no idea. It has been pretty windy lately, so it might have blown in from an adjacent garden. But, whatever, the significance struck me immediately. Every day we roll the dice. Life, after all, is a gamble. Nothing is certain – except for one thing. Ultimately, in the end, when the big screen of existence reads ‘Game Over’, we’re all winners. For having lived at all; for having become the person we are; and for moving on to something better.

Earplugs Without Pictures 14

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…

 

Needless to say, the former convicts were delighted to arrive at the entrance of the Museum of Future Technology. But they were considerably less delighted when they were confronted by a force field across the door. By now there was a visible path that led along the outer wall of the museum. So naturally they followed it, though Backdaw was not enamoured with the task of following the Mountain Earplug, who had a tendency to produce strange chuffing sounds that proved to be aromatic in the extreme, and Boss-Eyed Bertha felt it necessary to pretend that she wasn’t there at all. After many perambulations and circumlocutions they discovered the interior window that looked out across much of the museum. It was at the very moment as they stepped forward for a better view that a security camera flashed in their eyes. At first they were startled. Then it dawned upon them that the sudden bright light had broken the conditioning placed upon them by Sloshed Antlers’ hypnotic expertise, and a sort of darkness descended upon their souls. Stopping Prince Bucky and the Sewage Workers Union representative – Marty Filledpants – on the main thoroughfare as they scurried between refugee camps and secret shelters, the Jaundice Family quickly absorbed all the pertinent facts concerning Mister Zinc’s take-over of the museum.

“This could be our only chance for a tilt at the big time.” Lockjaw said as he gave the Mountain Earplug a hefty boot in the backside and pushed him into a roadside rain channel. “Let’s go introduce ourselves.”

Although they had absolutely no idea how to reach Mister Zinc, good fortune smiled upon them, and soon they were able to follow Philip and Ingemar as they crept into Zinc’s secret lair…

A short while later the siblings were ushered into the presence of Zinc by Slavemaster One.

“How ya doing, your worship?” Lockjaw said brazenly. “We hear you got a whole bunch of androids working for you: how about you take on a few real live earplugs too? We’re real bad-ass muthas. There’s no depravity we won’t descend to. Heck, we only just broke out of the Sloshed Antlers penitentiary two days ago. Antisocial is our middle name. We’re the real deal. You’d better believe it!”

Zinc looked down at the family. Despite his better judgement he found himself admiring the gall of the little white earplug with mauve stripes. “Okay,” he said at length, “I’ve heard there are some pink monks somewhere in the museum. Apparently they’re great at making war machines. Find them for me.”

“We know the fellas.” Slackjaw piped up. “Leave it to us.”

So four happy brothers turned to leave. But Boss-Eyed Bertha was less certain: she really had a ‘thing‘ for Rodney Bunting, and vowed silently to bugger-up all of her brother’s attempts to capture him.

AND…

Valentine and Wah-Hey hadn’t been idle either. They’d trawled through the security files for information on Mister Zinc. Information that they hoped to use against him. Half way up an Up ramp they summoned the Avatar.

“Good news.” Valentine said – once the beautiful apparition had taken on solid form.

“Yes.” Wah-Hey added. “We’ve got something on old silver-dome. He suffers from a morbid fear of constipation. He uses enemas all the time. He must visit the loo at least seventeen times a day.”

“You catch our drift?” Valentine inquired hopefully.

Avatar’s perpetual smile seemed to widen. “I catch your drift.” She answered.

Thirty seconds later a small white mound appeared in the special enclosure that belonged to the Iceworld immigrants.

“Cripes,” one of them yelled as a crowd began to form, “are we about to lose the final tiny portion of our false home world? Pray to the Saint of All Earplugs that I’m wrong.”

But when they saw who the strange mound actually was they relaxed, and more alien earplugs arrived to hear the Avatar’s words.

“I have word from Philip and Ingemar, the android zombies.” She told them…

“They have contacted me on one of Zinc’s own communication devices. We know where the bleeder is. More importantly, we know where he takes a dump.”

She then drew the listeners closer. “Find Marty Filledpants.” She instructed them. “He will lead you to a place where you can strike back against our oppressor with ultimate force.”

An opportunity to redeem themselves following their panic-stricken flight from one of Zinc’s Terraformer squadrons appealed to the Iceworlders on at least seventeen levels of appealingness. They rushed to the Central Office of the Sewage Workers Union, where the few surviving members were in conference. Shouting through the letter box they demanded that Marty help them. And before long…

“You see that effluent gushing from this outfall pipe?” Marty said.

The Iceworld representatives nodded.

“That contains Mister Zinc’s liquefied excrement.” Marty added. When the Iceworlders failed to react, he added: “If we block his toilet – he can’t use it.”

The Iceworlder’s comprehension was instantaneous; and after they’d stopped off at a cryogenics plant, they proceeded to visit a nondescript cast iron pipe that no one but Marty Filledpants would have given a second glance, upon which they laid several lumps of frozen carbon dioxide. They then called back to Marty, who had remained behind a safety rail: “Are you sure this is the pipe that leads from Zinc’s lair to the outfall pipe?” The Iceworlder’s spokesplug, Fergus Bambeeno, said.

“Absolutely certain.” Marty called back.

“That’s alright then. Soon the super-cold of this frozen carbon dioxide, which exists at a temperature of minus one hundred and nine point three degrees, or minus seventy-eight point five C will permeate the ironwork; freeze the water inside it; and create an unbreakable plug of cack and ice that will back up Zinc’s plop right back to its source – though obviously not all the way to his rectum. But very nearly.”

©  Paul Trevor Nolan 2016

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 Unity (Vol 2) 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 on the sidebar by clicking on the cover images.

 

Wallpaper 636: Half-Price Mountain Biking

Or circus performers on their day off…

Slippery downhills must be a bit of a bugger on these. But they take up so little room in the back of a car. Almost makes sense – until you look at the level of protection the riders are wearing. Falling off must be par for the course. And look at the padding in the back of their trousers: possibly unpleasant for arse holes too. I imagine the young lady’s back-pack is smaller because she doesn’t need to carry balms and ointments for swollen testicles.

Revel in the Ribaldry 37

Time, methinks, for an extract from a Hamster-Sapiens book. If I had my way, I would have chosen to display the wonders that are The Psychic Historian; but that could possibly demean other fine works of hamster fiction, such as this one…

So, purely at the whim of randomness – or randominity, as I prefer to call it – appease your literary gut with this extract…

A waiter arrived moments later to inquire after Stubby’s requirements. Stubby recognised him as the former assassin – Malingerer Stench – and duly ordered a raspberry soufflé, which he was certain would anger the gerbil by reminding him of how he came to be living in Prannick, and in such a frightfully lowly social position too.

Felicity’s inquiring tilt of the head persuaded Stubby to explain that Malingerer Stench had once held the position of chief be-header in Sandy Desert Land, but had been lured to Prannick by the love of a travelling raspberry sales-girl, who subsequently left him, which forced the former death-merchant into a new vocation – that being bar-staff. Stubby hoped that by ordering a raspberry soufflé he was insulting the gerbil twice: Most obviously by the raspberry connection, but also by requesting a dessert – the spelling of which is almost exactly the same as desert.

“Oh, Primrose – you can be so cruel.” Felicity gently scolded the false harvest mouse.

“Stubby, please.” Stubby scolded in return. “You should only call me Primrose when my breasts make their presence felt. At all other times I should be referred to as Stubby.”

“Felt?” Brenda yelped and stood upright at the same moment, “You’s aint suggestin’ that my girl’s gotta squeeze your tits, is ya? Joan was thinkin’ you might be one of them lesbians: Girls don’t go squeezin’ tits ya know: That’s boy’s jobs.”

Brenda suddenly became aware that the bar had fallen silent and that everyone was looking at her. She gave a sickly smile, and then added, by way of explanation, “I’s from outta town. We talks a real whole load’a shit where I come from. You’s best be ignorin’ me. Now drink ya fluffin’ beer, ya nosey bastards.”

“Oh dear, Stubby,” Darkwood spoke above the startled exclamations of offended patrons, “I do believe that our proposed discussion of things most important will have to be put off for another time and another location.”

Indeed this was the case, and in three seconds flat the landlord had the six of them thrown out on their furry arses.

“An inauspicious beginning to our renewed endeavour together I fear.” Quentin opined whilst very obviously blaming Stubby entirely for their altered situation with looks that closely resembled daggers.

“You didn’t help either, mum – you big dopey twat!” Felicity sought to spread the blame.

“Never mind, never mind.” Stubby said in hushed tones as he quickly dusted everyone down. Then in a conspiratorial whisper he added, “I rather hoped that would happen actually. It was entirely deliberate, you know. I just wanted to make sure that none of you were being followed.”

Felicity responded with a whisper of her own. “Why would anyone be following us? Who knows that we’re here at all?”

“You’d be surprised.” Stubby replied, and then eased them all in the direction of a travelling fair as it clanked and clattered its way through the main street.

“I say, we’re all likely to be deafened by this frightful racket.” Darkwood complained as they walked beside an iron-wheeled wagon that was being drawn by a team of argumentative stag beetles.

“We may be deafened.” Stubby shouted above the din, “but so are those with inquiring ears.”

“Do you really think that we were being followed?” Felicity had to screech like a tortured lathe to make herself heard.

“The two miserable-looking curs in the corner by the window were giving you rapt attention.” Stubby bellowed like a loony, “And there was another standing beside the condom vendor’s sack taking notes.”

Darkwood was amazed. “But who might they be? Why would they expect us to be here? Might they be some kind of wizards? Oh my heart’s all of a flutter at the thought.”

“I don’t know.” Stubby roared, but already his voice was weakening, “Perhaps if you tell me all about your problem, and why you sent for me, then perhaps I can hazard a guess.”

So for the next five minutes they all took turns to shout informatively at Stubby as they strolled alongside the clanking wheels of the travelling fairground wagon – painfully apprising him of the situation.

When eventually the tale was told, Stubby guided them into a deserted laundry, where he was able to verbalise his opinion without the aid of a megaphone, and out of sight, just in case someone who might be following them could read lips.

“I’ve no doubt at all that Lucas Cleats fully intends to slay the inhabitants of the abbey. I don’t doubt his motivation or conviction either. What I do doubt is his free will. I remember Lucas when he was a cub. I watched him grow up. I think he has a great deal of latent psychic talent. The Lucas Cleats that I knew wanted to free Prannick of its pious overseers more than anything: But he would never stoop to murder.”

“You’s meaning some guy’s got control over this Cleats’ guy’s brain and stuff?” Brenda exclaimed in a brief moment of mental clarity.

Stubby wasn’t entirely familiar with Brenda’s speech patterns. “Ah, I think so.” He replied.

“And you believe that we are also pawns in some Machiavellian plot?” Quentin added.

Stubby was doubly impressed with Quentin Blackheart: Firstly for being able to say ‘Machiavellian’: Secondly for using a word that was utterly meaningless in both Hamster-Britain and Prannick.

“Indeed.” He replied, deciding that he would delay an investigation into the unexpected phenomenon until the current crisis was dealt with. “There are greater plans afoot than the mere extermination of a few monks. And it’s our task to identify and thwart it.”

“The best way that we can thwart such an affront to decency is by saving the monks.” Felicity snarled at some imagined monster.

So Stubby repeated his “Indeed”, and then led the way back into the street.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

Wasn’t that lovely? You can buy the e-book (very cheaply) by visiting the Tooty’s E-Books Available to Buy Here page. It is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of literary fabulousness.

Pongs and Songs and a Virtual Time-Traveller

I recall the celebrant at my wife’s funeral asking me if there was a ‘special’ song that we had shared. I surprised her by saying no and adding that our musical tastes were quite dissimilar. I was glad of the situation because (thought I) it would mean that I could continue to listen to the music I liked without being forced to think of her, and (naturally) becoming upset. What I had failed to consider is the fact that human  memories are often triggered by sounds – particularly music. There have been many cases, since her passing, when I have needed to switch off a song, or take myself away somewhere to be alone until I can recover my emotional equilibrium. But yesterday (13.03.2022) I was caught unawares by my car radio. Flicking impatiently through a multitude of channels, I paused as the opening bars of Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be‘ filled the passenger compartment. In an instant I’d travelled back to 2019; aboard an Easyjet Airbus to Spain; my MP3 player earphones buried in my ears – listening to the same song; my wife beside me as she played upon her beloved Apple iPad. It came like a bodyblow. I had to pull over in traffic – unbidden tears welling. In the space of a few seconds it seemed that all the effort I had put into trying to recover from my loss had been for nothing. But, of course, I got over it. I pulled myself together, and resumed my journey to collect our daughter from her day care centre. But I continued in silence. Music is a cruel time machine. It lays in ambush. Then today, some thirty hours later, I decided to ride my freshly-repaired motorcycle in the dark. Once I’d accustomed myself to the remarkable quality of the ride produced by new tyres and clutch, and travelling along an unlit and nondescript country road, the cold air made my nose run, and I sniffed involuntarily. As quickly as the music of the previous day had taken me back in time, so too did the aromas of the English countryside at night. I was momentarily confused. I didn’t know where I was. Then, for the briefest of moments, I thought I was a twenty-something version of myself, riding my bike to visit my new girlfriend’s house. Then, as I recognised the true situation – that I was sixty-five, and that it wasn’t March 1981 – far from being upset, I felt something akin to gratitude. Gratitude for the almost four decades that were to follow on from that year. For a life worth living. Sometimes  time travel can be a happy affair after all. Certainly, from my experience, pongs beat songs every time. 

Tooty the Chef: Remember Him?

Does this ugly mug look familiar?

The apron seems to have gone Absent With Out Leave, and the hat looks decidedly kitchen drawer-worn; but, yes, it’s Tooty the Chef. And look, he’s set the counter top with some ingredients…

Hmmm, let’s see what he’s prepared for his latest fabulous gastronomic concoction. Well inspiration came when his local Waitrose offered a pair of leeks at a reduced price – due to their age and less-than-pristine condition. Instantly his fertile mind slipped into high gear and he began to imagine what could be done with half a jar of macaroni; the dregs inside a bag of grated cheese; and some bacon medallions that had been sitting at the bottom of the fridge for three weeks. Well it was obvious really: macaroni/leek/bacon cheese! So whilst he boiled the macaroni and steamed the leeks…

…he lay the bacon (and some sliced peppers) on some olive oil in his famous Roasting Thing…

…and waited. When, eventually, the macaroni was sufficiently softened, and the leeks appeared most-way cooked, he stirred them together with some cheese sauce. Then it was simply a matter of pouring the goo on top of the bacon/peppers combo; then scattering the grated cheese on top of the lot…

…and shoving it in the maxxed-out oven (of course), This was followed by some sodding about for twenty-five minutes, until the meal was cooked good and proper…

Yep, despite all his frailties, the culinary cretin is back…

And this time he’s keeping his buttocks to himself!

Triple Threat – Now Available As a Free PDF E-Book!

Although I originally wanted to produce the complete version in EPUB form, WordPress’s inability (or unwillingness, I don’t know) to accept an upload in this format, means that I’ve been forced to back-track to the usual PDF version. It’s not terrific, but it’s not the end of the world either. Please click on the cover photo to access the file, which you can either read in situ, or download for later visual consumption. It will certainly save you lots of time rummaging through all my posts to find the complete story.

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 41)

Epilogue

Robots being robots – that is enjoying a state that is beyond the weakness known as prevarication – the robotic freighters that had been despatched with all the captive robots aboard, received an immediate recall…

Once more aboard the Tankerville Norris, Magnuss, Hair-Trigger, Tong-Tong, and the girls prepared for the flight back to Earth…

“Well, did you enjoy yourselves?” Magnuss called over his shoulder.

The girls weren’t quite sure how they should respond to such a question.

“Sort of.” Daisy said. “It certainly wasn’t what we were expecting when Gregor Arsentickler invited us to the Wide Blue Yonder that night.”

If there had been a rear view mirror on Magnuss’ console, he would have peered into it. “Gregor Arsentickler?” He inquired.

“Oh, I find him so charming and irresistible.” Ginger confessed.

“Yes,” Magnuss said coolly, “he certainly didn’t set off any of my alarms either. Tell me about how you ended up in the repair hangar in the Red Tower and inside the Drunkard’s Vomit.”

Fifteen minutes later, and their tale complete, the girls looked at Magnuss expectantly. However, instead of making any reference to the golden-eyed earplug, Magnuss pointed to the main view screen.

“Look what I found drifting in space. A fully functional submarine space freighter…”

“Hmmm,” Hair-Trigger added. “With no Incense Cones aboard, it looks like it’s waiting for a crew to take it back to Earth.”

Well, neither Ginger, Bunty, or Daisy would ever lay claim to being geniuses – or even genii – but they recognised an ill-disguised offer when they heard one…

Rushing forward they all cried out, “We’ll take it!”

“As long as I come along for the ride too.” Tong-Tong added.

Magnuss needed to utter no command. Hair-Trigger’s index finger went nowhere near a control surface or button. The ship knew what they wanted… 

“Right,” Magnuss said, once the ‘new’ crew had rematerialized and gathered their wits. “We’ll be taking the short-cut home – and a certain Gregor Arsentickler: you’ll have to traverse hyperspace. But I’m confident you’ve got that angle covered.”

For a few moments, the Tankerville Norris took up station beside the freighter…

“What are you going to name this ship?” Magnuss joked. “The Boozer’s Chuck-up?”

“The Inebriated Puke?” Hair-Trigger suggested with a smirk.

By their facial expressions, it was clear to the daring duo that the girls were undecided…

“We’ll think about it – on the way home.” Ginger said.

“Good idea.” Magnuss replied. “It should take you a good day and half travel time. Plenty of time to come up with a fantastic name. Signing off.”

The image of the entire Tankerville Norris replaced the view of its bridge and crew.

“Yeah,” Ginger replied – uncertain if Magnuss and Hair-Trigger could still hear her. “See ya.” 

“How about we name this ship ‘Big Black Bulbous Thing’?” Tong-Tong suggested. “It is accurate and descriptive and has artistic – nay poetic – merit.” 

“No it doesn’t, Tong-Tong.” Daisy said as her eyes scanned the bridge – as though really seeing for the first time. “You leave that clever, creative stuff to young earplugs like us.”

Aboard the Tankerville Norris

…Hair-Trigger looked straight ahead; but her attention centred upon her husband.

“You don’t really think they’re going to take that ship straight to Earth, do you Mags?”

“I’d be somewhat disappointed if they did, Hairy.” Magnuss replied through a half smile. “The Museum of Future Technology needs a new generation of heroes to protect it. We…my brothers, and us…aren’t going to be able to keep this up forever. Heroes are hard to find. I think we should consider Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy as heroes-in-training, don’t you? They’re some kind of Triple Threat. Once towards the museum: now for the museum. Let ‘em have their fun. When they’re ready, they’ll come back. We shouldn’t have to wait long. Light it up, Ship.”

A split second later…

…a space rift began to form.

“Adios.” Magnuss said – and the ship was gone…

Ginger turned away from the view screen to face her friends. “Now I was thinking,” she said, a hint conspiratorially, “that the fastest way home isn’t always the best way home.”

“I was thinking exactly the same thing.” Bunty said in response.

Daisy’s gaze was upon a faraway place. “Hmmm,” she hummed. “What I really fancy is a sausage roll. I wonder if we can find some of those snowballs near Ice Station Nobby.”

Ginger felt her stomach grumble. When had they last eaten? “Excellent idea, Daisy.” She said with glee. “Set a course for the Ice World.”

Tong-Tong’s eyes looked toward the ceiling. “I will fetch you some blueberry muffins from the galley while you do it.” It said. “Coffee with that?”

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 40)

However, five minutes later – after the station robots had been re-programmed, and the official surrender of the Incense Cones was to be accepted – Pinkie had other ideas… 

“Hah,” he said above the din caused by someone knocking repeatedly upon the bulkhead door, “since you re-flashed the robot’s ECUs, they have no memory of our deal with them. And not only that – it erased all the CCTV footage too. You have no evidence against us. None whatsoever. And, further – your three underlings sabotaged our vessel and have left it adrift in space. You could be facing a substantial damage claim. What do you say to that?”

In response, Magnuss said, “Come in, come in, whoever you are.”

Moments later the Prolate Spheroid Incense Cones entered en masse

They’d heard everything through the non-insulated interior door.

“Hah, yourselves.” The Prolate commander yelled. “We have enough evidence against you to put you in jail for a million years. And that’s what we’re gonna do – you ugly conical excuses for Incense Cones!”

Magnuss smiled when he added, “And I’ve recorded every word you’ve said on my cell phone. Where you come from you don’t have cell phones, do you? They’re sneaky little bits of kit. Particularly good at snagging loud-mouths like you.”

He then instructed Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy to take their captives to the Incarceration Pods – the robot equivalent of jail…

…whilst he engaged the Prolate Spheroids in face-to-face conversation…

 He was to be disappointed with the result of their joint operation:

“If you think this makes us allies, you’re very mistaken, Earplug.” The Commander spat. “We may hate the Conicals with a passion – but we loath you silicone life forms a heck of a lot more. You’re spreading out into the Galaxy too fast for us. We don’t like it. You and your ugly robots are getting everywhere. So, be warned: we don’t totally condemn what the Conicals did – just the way they went about it. You keep pushing – we’ll push back. Take that back to your leaders. Did you get that on your cell phone too? Tell them to put it in their pipe and smoke it!”  

Perhaps if Magnuss had encountered such ‘specism’ a couple of years earlier, he might have retorted with an outburst such as, “Up your bum – you bulbous blob of carbon!” But he was older now – and the recipient of the wisdom of experience.

“Let me walk you to your ship.” He offered.

Meanwhile, the captive’s ignorance of Incarceration Pods had forced the girls into a display of their operation…

“But,” Daisy said as the lids clicked shut upon them, “it’s very important that you do what that sign over there tells you to: these seats have a very rough texture: they’ll play merry hell with your bruised botties. Er… could you let us out again now, please?”

By the time that the girls had made their escape from the pods, the Prolate Spheroids were within spitting distance of their docking port…

Magnuss hoped that the situation wasn’t beyond retrieval:

“Despite your heartfelt words back there,” he said, “I’d like to hold out an olive branch to all Incense Cones. I’m sure the Museum of Future Technology would love to do business with you. It could be mutually beneficial.”

“And they’d love you to come visit the museum some time too. Some life-time passes could be arranged.” Hair-Trigger added. “There’s always a welcoming cup of vile coffee at the Café Puke.”

“Think about it.” Magnuss said as he and Hair-Trigger turned and strode away…

Neither of them dared look back – it could be perceived as a sign of weakness: but they couldn’t help but hear the whispered discussion that followed their departure.

“Fingers crossed.” He said to Hair-Trigger.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures Spaceship Wallpaper: Departure

I like creating spaceship wallpapers – usually out of everyday objects and civilisation’s flotsam. Sometimes it takes a while before I write a story that might include the resulting picture. Or maybe I’ll never write one at all. Whatever, the picture’s quite nice in itself. And you can always imagine a story for yourself.

Here, Folie Krimp and Placebo Bison (remember them?) pilot the Gravity Whelk as it departs a vast space station at the edge of a distant nebula.

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 39)

Magnuss and Hair-Trigger must have detected the altered circumstances because a split second later…

…all four of them were whisked away, and deposited…

…in a station corridor – from where they proceeded, at a rush upon the second phase of their mission…

At the same time, the Tankerville Norris transmitted Magnuss and Hair-Trigger to another location aboard the space station…

However, after rematerializing correctly, neither Hero of Earplugdom could figure where to go next…

“What?” Magnuss complained. “I was expecting some signage or something. Slap my face for not thinking about bringing a schematic or floor plan.”

“Me too.” Hair-Trigger tried to console her husband. “I’m as impetuous as you. Let’s choose a direction at random: that usually works.”

The station’s robots were doing no better…

“What shall we do? What shall we do?” They asked each other as the exterior blast shutters opened and closed repeatedly. “Crimson Alert has been cancelled. Crimson Alert has been cancelled. I am all of a dither, and make no mistake!”

It was clear – and had been to Magnuss since before their mission began – that the Incense Cones had interfered with the misguided robots of the Robotic Justice League; and that the only cure for their disruptive re-programming was a re-flash of their ECUs. To this end, he had the Tankerville Norris detect the required control interface and transmit the girls and Tong-Tong to a nearby location. Now that they had found it, Bunty volunteered to sit herself in the adjacent Education Chair so that she might learn how to achieve a satisfactory result…

“Ooh-ur.” She uttered as the information began to flood into her young and fertile brain. “This sure does feel weird. I must be brainier than I thought. Ooh, yes, I think I know how to do this.”

Unfortunately Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were not doing half as well…

“Flipping heck, Hairy,” Magnuss yelled with frustration, “all these corridors look exactly the same!”

Meanwhile Bunty began giving Ginger and Daisy exact instructions…

“Shift the flange-pollop into neutral, whilst integrating the fifth series scroatwarbler with a ninth-dan donglywang, Ginger. After that Daisy needs to cause a neural cascade effect by slapping the cringeworthy valve with a bantam socket extender.”

Whilst the tan and the pink earplugs followed these instructions to the letter, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger thought they could hear a commotion in the next compartment…

“Doesn’t sound like Incense Cones.” Hair-Trigger opined.

“Not unless they’ve taken up clog dancing.” Magnuss replied. “It sounds a bit heavy metal: I think we’ll give that compartment a miss.”

This was a wise decision, because the station robots were getting themselves all wound up into a state of complete neural meltdown… 

As a group, the robots were within mere moments of self-destructing themselves. However, before any of those mere moments could pass, Daisy pushed the ECU Refresh button. The resulting burst of energy startled all three girls…

As the burst of energy swept through the station upon a tidal wave of incandescent fury…

…every cybernetic system aboard was nullified. Factory Default Settings were the rule of the day.

“I think that went rather well.” Bunty said as she stepped down from the Education Chair.

“Looking good.” Ginger replied. “So all the robots will have re-set to their original settings, huh?”

“That’s right.” Bunty said as she dusted herself down. “They’ll all be thoughtless and malleable. We can tell them to do whatever we like, and they’ll do it.”

“Excellent.” Tong-Tong interjected. “I have always wanted to tell big robots what to do. This is my opportunity.”

This gave Daisy pause for thought:

“If we’ve just re-flashed the robots ECUs, which are supposed to switch them into some sort of thickie, non-intellectual mode,” she said in a puzzled tone, “why is Tong-Tong unaffected? Why is it still the Tong-Tong we know and love?”

If a robot could look shame-faced, that is how Tong-Tong appeared as it replied:

“Ah, that would be the result of a little re-working I performed upon myself.”

Three expectant faces urged the robot to continue. Tong-Tong complied:

“You see, during the execution of my tasks in the cafeteria, I discovered that the interference from the microwave cooker was giving me a cyber-headache. To alleviate the pain – for want of a better word – I wrapped my brain in tin foil. Remarkable stuff – tin foil. Obviously, it protected me from the ECU re-flash. Good, is it not?” 

Good, it was – and whilst the quartet congratulated themselves on a job well done, the effected robots began to fall into line behind the designated lead robot – that being the large white robot…

“Re-programming required.” It spoke loudly as the blast doors finally decided to remain open. “Follow this unit to the designated location.”

Had anyone the time to peer out through the aforementioned blast doors, they would have noted that this coincided with the arrival and docking of the huge Prolate Spheroid Incense Cone freighter…

What they wouldn’t have noted, however, was that Magnuss and Hair-Trigger never found the destination they sought. It – or they – found them…

“Okay, you win – imperialist earplug monsters. We’ve been told to surrender to you – and we’ve got the bruises to prove it. You should see my arse.” Pinkie sighed as he addressed the happy couple, “Do your worst. We are prepared to be exterminated. We die bravely. By the way – where are your side arms?”

For the first time in almost fifteen minutes, Purp realised that he might actually survive his first encounter with earplugs. “If you’re not going to shoot us,” he said, “you couldn’t give me a couple of paracetamols, could you? My buttocks hurt like glory!” 

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 38)

Chapter 9

As the Tankerville Norris approached the Robotic Justice League’s space station, Bunty, Daisy, Tong-Tong, and Ginger took up stations at Ops…

They didn’t really need to – after all the ship could fly itself – but it made them feel useful. They quite enjoyed it too – even Tong-Tong, who was more used to serving croissants than operating (nominally) the proton torpedo launcher.

“Ship operating within normal parameters.” Daisy informed everyone knowledgably.

“Jolly good.” Magnuss replied – smiling at the idea that he was now playing the role of captain. “Now everyone get behind the Driving Chairs: we’re coming in hot.”

As the Tankerville Norris passed closest to the sole remaining freighter docked at the station, the matter transmitter burst into incandescent life…

Moments later, Ginger, Bunty, Daisy, and Tong-Tong reintegrated atomically in the freighter’s crystal room…

Aboard the station, the large white robot and its lieutenants dissolved into a cyber fit when the Crimson Alert sounded…

“What is happening?” Their leader demanded of any robot within earshot.

One pulled itself together sufficiently to reply, “the freighter is about to self-destruct. It is evident that the Incense Cones have decided that their plan has turned to dung and have elected to destroy the evidence of their misdemeanours against the earplugs by exploding their vessel – and us with it!”

To which the large white robot responded, “What? No! Quick, panic!”  

At the same time, but in the freighter’s control room, the Incense Cone commanders turned to face each other – although the pink one couldn’t quite make eye contact: after all, it had been his ultimate decision to activate the Self-Destruct…

“It has been a kind of honour serving with you, Pinkie.” The purple Incense Cone said.

“Yeah, the same to you, I guess, Purp.” Pinkie responded. “I’d say it’s been fun, but that would be untrue: it’s been really nerve-wracking.”

“Yeah,” Purp responded in a similar vein, “stressful, or what!”

“But not for much longer, eh?” Pinkie said miserably, despite the fact that he was trying to cheer himself up.

Purp inhaled deeply. “I suppose we’d better go back into the station and apologize to the robots for destroying them all.”

“S’pose.” Pinkie replied. Then, to the soldiery, he said, “Come on lads: chests out: stiff upper lip and all that. Quick march.”

If the Incense Cones had hoped to slip into the station unobtrusively, they were to be disappointed. Within seconds of their arrival upon the station decks, they were arrested: called ‘butt-wipes’; and separated into small groups and giving a good kicking…

Of course, what none of the Incense Cones, or the members of the Robotic Justice League, could possibly know was that Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy were using their telekinetic talents to re-energize the freighter’s crystal power plant…

“Excellent work, girls.” Tong-Tong congratulated his charges. “Time is tight: the ship is about to explode: let us make haste to the control room.”

So they did, and they enjoyed every moment of the mad dash through the empty vessel…

Once at their destination though, uncertainly reared its vile head…

“Oh flipping heck,” Ginger said to Bunty whilst Daisy overrode her own lockout of the Docking Port clamps, “do you think we’ve got enough time. P’raps we should call Magnuss for an emergency beam-out.”

Bunty didn’t reply immediately. In fact, she didn’t reply at all. This is because Daisy shouted, “Done it. Releasing the ship now. Full astern.”

Outside the station, CCTV cameras recorded the moment for posterity…

Then Daisy noticed a small button on the console. “Oh, look,” she said in a surprised tone. “It says ‘Auto-Destruct Abort’. Shall I press it?”

To which Ginger calmly replied, “Oh yes, Daisy, dearest. Like now!”

The result of this was…

“Whoo,” they said in perfect harmony, “neat!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Equine Wallpaper: The Horse That Talks With Trees

It was doing precisley this when I arrived; whilst I watched it for a couple of minutes; during the time it took to get out my camera and shoot this picture; and when I was leaving. Very single-minded critter, obviously. But if you take a look at the Flickr version of this, and zoom in, you’ll notice an eye looking sidelong at me. It knew I was there: it just didn’t care. Guess it likes the strong silent types.