Surprise Visit (part 25)

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

Epilogue

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

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

It mentioned it to the Supreme Being.

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

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

“Perfect.” He said with satisfaction.

He then proceeded to divest himself of his godly clothing…

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

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

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

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now click that image!

Surprise Visit (part 24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Perfect.” Beatrix replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Surprise Visit (part 23)

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

Chapter Eight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures Greatest Hits: Distant Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, moments later…

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally no one wasted a nanosecond…

…and within five minutes Yaki had returned to Valerie…

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

So they did…

…and they both enjoyed themselves enormously.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

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

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

Surprise Visit (part 22)

Part 22 contains a turn of events that (as a regular Earplugger) you might not have expected. Be warned…

Taking their seats, they sent a telepathic instruction to the ship’s AI, informing it that they were about to launch. Hair-Trigger then brought up a subject that Magnuss had happened to mention during the three minutes it took to recover from the fall and enter the Tankerville Norris.

“Those shape-shifting atoms,” she said, “Do you think –if we used the ship’s Bussard collectors, we could suck them all into the ship?”

Magnuss mused upon the subject. “Well,” he replied, “Bussard collectors are normally used to collect hydrogen atoms in open space and compress them into a medium that could be ejected from a vessel to produce propulsion. Ours are there as an emergency back-up – should our main drive fail. But, in essence, I don’t see why they couldn’t suck up shape-shifter atoms too. Why do you ask?”

“I’ll tell you on the way.” Hair-Trigger replied. Then, to the ship, she said, “Set course for Scroton. Launch immediately.”

A split second later, the ship that the Crutons never knew existed, swept from hiding…

…and blasted upwards into Weird Space…

Quickly establishing the route that the Buggeram Bay would have taken to Earth, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger calculated the position where their weaponry had blown the sausage roll apart. Swooping about the region with their hydrogen-collecting Bussard collectors open and sucking hard, they went about the task of collecting the particles that constituted the dangerous shape-shifter…

The Tankerville Norris then accompanied the resulting reconstituted ‘asteroid’ on a course that Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had chosen: a course that would take it to the brown planet, little known as Cruton…

At sub-light speed, it took so much time that Magnuss feared that the Crutons might have fixed their ships and set out for Earth and the Museum of Future Technology. However good fortune prevailed. So, as the asteroid hurtled downwards through the feeble atmosphere, the Tankerville Norris hit it with a low-yield energy blast that broke it apart – allowing the smaller pieces to tumble to the ground…

…where Crutons, unfamiliar with shape-shifting sausage rolls…

…were ill prepared to defend themselves against them. So much panic ensued that no one gave two hoots about a small honeymoon barge screeching across the domed conurbation and using its matter-transmitter to steal away the captive ruler of Scroton and his wife…

This tested Nigel’s wits vastly. Thinking quickly, he was about to thank his saviours, when suddenly the other members of his retinue appeared aboard the Tankerville Norris

Without preamble, Magnuss shouted to his new guests:

“Hold on to something: We’re getting the heck outta here!”

And they did – as quickly as possible…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Just Chapter Eight and the oblicatory Epilogue to follow now. Big sad sigh. Still, there’s no sense in getting maudling; enjoy it while it lasts.

 

I Like a Bit of Domination…

…just as long as it’s of the Yamaha kind.

Watching the 2022 German Motocross Grand Prix on TV, I was delighted when the three factory Yamaha riders finished 1-2-3. So delighted, in fact, that I snapped this picture of my Samsung Smart TV…

A few weeks later they did it again at the Grand prix of Finland. Better still, Yamaha mounted riders also finished fourth and fifth! Now why would anyone consider buying another brand? If you didn’t know already, I’ve been a fan since my first Yamaha in 1976!

Surprise Visit (part 21)

Having allowed a respectable amount of time to pass between episodes…welcome to Part 21 of…

Meanwhile, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were checking their handiwork in the penultimate saucer…

“Look at that deuterium, Mags.” Hair-Trigger laughed as she spoke, “it looks like aloe vera.”

Magnuss giggled too. “This ship may have the best star-drive in all creation,” he said, “but if it can’t get off the ground, it aint going nowhere. Right, let’s get on to the last one.”

Of course things are never as easy in practise as they are in theory. It was a real bugger to enter the final ship…

In fact Hair-Trigger was grateful that she didn’t wear a toupee when her head was almost sucked into oblivion.

All the while though, and despite the difficulties of his primary task, Magnuss listened in on developments with Nigel and company…

“I’m very annoyed.” Beatrix informed her husband. “I don’t know who I’m more annoyed with: the Crutons or the wise and benevolent aliens who gifted us sentience and self-awareness. Honestly, to keep us in such ignorance: it’s vile. To think that there are funny little creatures that look like mushrooms hiding away beneath our feet and watching our every move. It’s… it’s… it’s dishonest, that’s what it is!”

“I rather think the Crutons are real felons here, dearest.” Nigel argued gently. “And they do have inferior DNA too.”

“Hmmm,” Beatrix remained noncommittal on the subject of the Crutons. Changing the subject, she conjectured on the likelihood of the constituent atoms of the giant shape-shifting sausage roll that attacked Ice Station Nobby coalescing in the vacuum of space – thereby reforming and adopting its asteroid-like appearance.

“I hadn’t given that much thought.” Nigel confessed. “Perhaps Faati should have used a ten percent yield and blown it to sub-atomic particles. If it did reform, it could still pose a threat to Scroton. Though not as serious a threat as these Crutons, obviously.”

In the next cell, Walker and Fermin were listening through the poorly insulated wall…

“You know, I’ve often wondered about alien intervention in our society’s development.” Walker confessed. “We certainly have enjoyed a lengthy run of good luck. Everything we do seems to turn to gold and all that sort of thing.”

“I’m not surprised one bit.” Fermin replied. “I once met a female desert dweller who had been partaking heavily of the rhubarb wine. She told me a tale about how she and two other female desert dwellers were chased, by our security forces, and stumbled upon an alien lair full of weird creatures. But she was drunk, so I didn’t give it much credence.”

“It wasn’t Edni Gilbatross, was it?” Walker inquired. “She told me much the same story. She’d been at the carrot cake. You know what carrot cake does to desert dwelling females. Loose tongues and utter nonsense. If we ever get out of here, we’ll have to look her up.”

“No worry there, Walker.” Fermin replied. “I’m building up a head of stomach acid: give me five to ten minutes, and I’ll burn a hole right through that prison window.”

“And if that fails?”

“I’ll fart and blow the door off its hinges.”

Meanwhile, with the deuterium in the last saucer spoiled…

…Magnuss and Hair-Trigger made a dash for freedom…

Unfortunately, Fermin Gusset wasn’t the only soldier on Cruton with an excellent work ethic. Despite having inferior DNA, this particular Cruton possessed hearing far in excess of his Scrotonite counterpart…

“Ugh – did I hear something? What was that?”

So, as the earplugs made their way back towards the sanctuary of their cave system, they found themselves forced to take evasive action when a patrol that included the Fermin-look-alike almost stumbled upon them…

Moreover, because their hearing had developed in the thinner air of Cruton, they were able to track Magnuss and Hair-Trigger without ever seeing or identifying them. In the end, in order to escape, the earplugs had to throw caution to the wind – and themselves off a cliff…

Naturally they landed without incident in a location that was remarkably close to the hidden Tankerville Norris. Therefore, three minutes later they wandered on to their personal bridge…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now prepare yourself for the next thrilling episode of Surprise Visit. See y’all.

Surprise Visit (part 20)

I’m surprised that the story has stretched this far. Twenty episodes and more to come – though not many, it must be said. It’s been fun for me. I hope you enjoyed it a bit too. But enough of that stuff: on with the show…

Meanwhile, and in blissful ignorance of what was happening behind his back, the blue cable end awaited the arrival of his captives…

As Nigel and Beatrix strode haughtily before him, he said:

“Nigel. Beatrix – formerly Gloria. I’d like to say it’s a pleasure to meet you both – but I’d be lying. I’d rather hoped that by the time my infiltration into your planetary government was complete, you’d both be dead, and I’d never have to clap eyes on you. But no, you had to precipitate my actions. You had to launch a foolhardy solo attack upon the heart of my empire. And just when I’m on the brink of taking the Museum of Future Technology and all it contains. You’re a twit. A nuisance. A silly old sod who should be watching parades of Sea Cadets and Nurses and stuff.”

As the blue cable end drew breath to continue his tirade, Nigel interrupted…

“Sir, you have me at a disadvantage.”

The blue cable end scoffed. “Too right I have, pal: you’re my prisoner!”

“He doesn’t mean that, you silly oaf.” Beatrix snapped.

“That’s right.” Nigel agreed with a nod. “You know me – obviously because I’m the leader of Scroton; but I don’t have the faintest idea who you are.”

“Neither of us has ever met you before.” Beatrix added. “You look different; if we’d met you, we’d remember it. You’re an ugly bleeder; you’re kind of dark where you should be light and light where you should be dark. You don’t look like any Scrotonite I’ve ever heard of.”

If the blue cable end could have smiled, it would have been of the grim kind…

“There is a good reason for that, you silly old bag.” He ground out between gnashing teeth. “I am not a Scrotonite. I am The Cobalt One – though I prefer to be addressed as DeRorr Smionc – if you don’t mind. Now say it after me – together: DeRorr Smionc. DeRorr Smionc.”

Of course the leader of Scroton failed utterly to be baited. Instead he said:

“If you are not a Scrotonite, then what are you?”

Smionc threw back his head so that his plume waved gracefully in the thin air of the brown planet. “I am a Cruton!” He roared.

This surprised the captives from Scroton…

…though they managed to hide it quite successfully.

“And where is Cruton?” Nigel inquired.

“You’re standing on it, dumbass.” The snarled reply came quickly.

“So why aren’t we aware of Cruton?” Beatrix demanded. “We’ve mapped every cubic centimetre of Weird Space – and there is definitely no planet called Cruton there!”

“Yet here you are.” Smionc said gently.

Nigel was a practical kind of cable end:

“What do you want?”

“What I want, Nige,” Smionc replied, “is to place Scroton where it belongs in the Galactic hierarchy: somewhere near the top. I don’t want Scroton to design and build wonderful tech for inferior species: I want them to run roughshod over them. I don’t want Scroton to sell stuff to anyone: I want them to take it – by force if necessary!”

For a moment Nigel was shocked into silence: but he recovered quickly:

“That is not the way of Scroton.” He said – almost by rote. “That is not the reason that we were gifted sentience and self-awareness. We are not warlike, ogres, or complete rotters. We like to do business instead.”

Smionc sighed at this. “Oh so high and noble.” He snarled. “Next you’ll be telling me that you’re not aware of the alien overseers that lurk beneath ground and watch your every move. Alien overseers who routinely report to the beings that gave you your precious sentience and self-awareness.”

Nigel looked to Beatrix. She looked back. Bafflement passed between them.

“Um,” he said to Smionc, his stentorian tone quenched to mere serf levels, “that would be a no.”

“Thought so.” Smionc said knowingly. “We caught ours years ago. Look, here’s a picture of some of them.”

He flicked a photograph across the brief divide. Nigel picked it up and looked at it…

“They were in the process of being rounded up within their subterranean lair.” DeRorr Smionc explained. “They didn’t put up any resistance – the spineless curs.”

“I recognise the majority of them as being a sub-species of polystyrene blob.” Nigel responded. “Very peaceful people. We do a lot of work for them. The other creature though…I’ve never seen the like.”

“Mushroom-Headed Earplug.” Smionc informed the leader of Scroton. “They didn’t take long to break. They spilled their guts quickly enough. Some of them were there, right at the beginning. They oversaw the selection of cable ends for enlightenment. The ones with the good DNA were left on Scroton to form the society you have today. The others were packed off to another planet and kept as a back-up team should the whole Scroton Experiment fail or your world become uninhabitable because of over- industrialisation. Guess who they were.”

“Oh, so it’s sour grapes, is it?” Beatrix snapped. “You’ve got lousy DNA, and hate us for having everything you haven’t. Well poo to you!”

“You’re right.” Smionc, his calm shattered by Beatrix’s insight, bellowed. “And there was sod-all we could do about it – what with Scroton being protected by the ancient aliens who vigilantly watch over the poxy place. But, when we get the futuristic stuff from the Museum of Future Technology, they won’t be able to wrap you up in cotton wool any more. Scroton will become an annex of Cruton. Together, whether you like it or not, we will rule the Galaxy!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now say after me…Derorr Smionc. Derorr Smionc, This is possibly the stupidest name I’ve ever invented. What better reason could there be for including it!

PS In one of the earlier tales, the Museum of Future Technology’s ill tempered gardener drowned in an outpouring of slurry, but was reanimated by intelligent bacteria that lived within the slurry. He became Mister Shit, but because I rewrote the early (rude) stories to be more family-friendly, his name was changed to Mister Plop. I’ve always liked that name. Still have the earplug. Must include him in another story.

PPS Some people prefer my ramblings to the actual story. Are you one of them?

A Top Tip From Tooty the Chef: Cooking When Drought Starts to Bite

It’s a furnace outside. The garden has withered. The lawn is brown – especially where the dogs piss. The ceiling fan is spinning like a demented loony. You’re hot and very bothered. Even the water from the cold tap feels warm. And you have to prepare THIS for dinner…

Desperate times demand drastic action. Cue the answer from Tooty the Chef. When heat and flies make your kitchen seem like an absolute hell-hole – stay cool and strike back by exposing your own!

 

Surprise Visit (part 19)

I often begin an episode with the words ‘No Preamble: just story’ or something similar. Well, if it wasn’t for this smidgen of preamble, that would be the case today. So, slightly less preamble: to the story!

Chapter Seven

Whilst the Buggeram Bay was fighting to the last, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger struggled to find their way from the cave in which they had hidden the Tankerville Norris. Their unplanned route took them through a labyrinth of tunnels…

“Is it me,” Magnuss said, “or is it getting lighter?”

It was indeed getting lighter. Hair-Trigger could now see the strange objects attached to the cave walls. The squelching sound they had been making ever since the daring duo had disembarked their ship had had her conjuring up all sorts of ghastly images.

“Must be an exit nearby.” She said hopefully.

Moments later, after rounding one more turn, revealed the domed conurbation…

Beyond it, an alien saucer lay at rest upon the bare soil.

“Ah-ha.” Magnuss said with a slight cheer in his tone. “That looks suspiciously like our nemesis. How would you like to make a house visit? We might surprise them.”

For once, Hair-Trigger was unable to follow her husband’s thought processes. “Well I’d rather call Scroton, if you don’t mind: It was Nigel’s last command.”

“We’d give our presence away to the enemy.” Magnuss replied as he pressed his communicator to his ear and listened intently. “It might even precipitate an action against the planet. So far this bunch of evil scum are under the misapprehension that the Buggeram Bay attacked alone. In all the bangs and flashes, no one seemed to notice our little honeymoon barge. And all the time it remains hidden and silent, they’ll go on thinking that way. That gives us a tactical advantage. I can just hear Nigel and Beatrix mumbling incoherently, by the way. I think they’ve been captured. So, as you see, no one suspects we’re here. No one is looking for us. If we keep to the shadows, we’ve got the run of the place.”

Hair-Trigger comprehended with exactitude what her husband had just told her, but she still couldn’t understand what he hoped to achieve. She said as much. In response, Magnuss gave a knowing wink and patted his back pocket. It didn’t help. So she gave him a pleasant smile and followed his lead…

Soon they had covered the distance between the cave mouth and the conurbation. Stealthily they snuck between the domes. As night slowly descended upon the scene, the two earplugs ascended the slope that led to the first of the alien vessels. Before long they found themselves at a laundry access point in the hull…

Quickly they disappeared from sight inside it. However, gaining access to other sections of the vessel proved problematic, and Hair-Trigger was breathing through her mouth when they clambered from the garbage chute…

Shortly though their persistence and tenacity proved its worth. Magnuss cheered silently…

“I still don’t understand.” Hair-Trigger complained in a whisper. “So we’ve found the deuterium replenishment centre: what of it?”

“This ship is of a Scrotonic design.” Magnuss explained. “They have two engines: the star-drive or whatever you want to call the propulsion that carries the vessel across interstellar space: and one to get them off the ground and into orbit. We can’t nobble their star-drive; but we can put a monkey in the works of their lifting engine.” 

“We can?” Hair-Trigger said doubtfully.

“We can.” Magnuss replied with a smile. “Let’s get inside.”

Of course, there were no guards on the deuterium tanks. Why would there be? But nevertheless, Magnuss was feeling decidedly crestfallen when he saw the height of the deuterium tanks…

“Oh flip,” he swore viciously, “How are we gonna get up there?”

Hair-Trigger felt his pain. Her face fell. Also she didn’t have a clue regarding what Magnuss planned – even assuming they gained access to the tanks he so desired.

Magnuss became aware of his wife’s fear, doubts, and ignorance:

“Oh, sorry Hairy; I thought you’d figured it out. It’s the cane sugar that the Baristas fetched for Nigel’s coffee: it’s still in my back pocket – along with my Cossack hat. If we can introduce it to the tanks, the fuel will clog in the lines and the ship won’t fly.”

Enlightenment illuminated Hair-Trigger’s face with the glow of understanding. She said:

“Well obviously we’re looking in the wrong place. Cable Ends are the same size as us. Obviously the filler cap is going to be at cable end height. Let’s check that next compartment.”

So they did, and Hair-Trigger was proven correct…

“I guess we just flip up these lids.” She suggested.

Again she was proven correct…

…and just to make absolutely certain that this particular ship would fail horribly – not only did they sprinkle sugar in the filler hole, but Hair-Trigger hopped aboard and released the pressure in her bladder that had been building for hours.

“Neat.” Magnuss said proudly. “It’ll be my turn in the next ship: I’m dying for a wee.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

This is all well and good: but what’s happening to Nigel and Beatrix? Find out next time on Surprise Visit!

The Set: The Scene 6

Here’s another brief compilation of pictures that begin with a photo of a set, followed by a scene that was shot there, as seen in an Earplug Adventure. Obviously only extremely keen Earpluggers are going to recognise a scene, merely by looking at the set; but I’m certain that it won’t be utter tedium for those who can’t. And, who knows, you might surprise yourself.

First up, I’ve included (what was probably) the first ‘set’ that wasn’t really a set at all, but which got my imagination firing like a single cylinder four-stroke motorcycle of approximately 125cc. In this case it was some broken sheets of plasterboard (rock wall) that were awaiting disposal…

Look at the jagged edge of the torn cardboard. Such an interesting effect. What might that become? Well, in the case of the story Martian Interlude Part 2, it appeared as the rocky, wind-blown sea shore visited by Benjamin Booger and Plopper O’Hooligan…

Look at the grey-green waves and white spume crash against the haze-obscured rocks. Tell me it doesn’t look that way: go on. You can’t, can you!

Anyway, next up…

Interestingly shaped, cardboard cut-outs. They appear, over and over, as doorways in otherwise featureless ‘walls’. It took me an age to find this particular example in my library; but dedication to my art paid off, and I found this scene…

…which appears to be the front door of the apartment in which the siblings, Gray-Vee and Cray-Zee live. Or at least they did in the alternative reality story Evil Empire. It appeared at least once more…

…as a random doorway in Cometh the Earplug.

Sadly the next set / prop was left behind when I was forced out of my fabulous ‘studio’ when the company that owned it decided that building houses was more profitable that retaining an ancient, crumbling 1960’s architectural icon – the short-term-thinking shits. Anyway, enough of my gripes: it’s a pile of rock salt and the reflective interior of a streetlight…

The stuff that dreams are made of. In this case my dreams showed me this…

I know you recognise this: it’s the Future Museum of Mars. This time appearing – rather rain-soaked – in Haunted Mars. But the real beauty of this set is – it has an interior too! Here is the same reflector from Martian Interlude Part 1

…and again in Liberation Part 2

Here I’ve thrown in a temporary set. It appeared in a single tale, but made a cameo appearance in Surprise Visit...

Anyone? It’s the secret subterranean lair of the alien workforce that watch over the fledgling civilisation of Scroton. Here it is in The Masters of Scroton

Okay, that was a tricky one. I wouldn’t expect anyone to get that right. But what about this pair of singed plastic insulation panels and a screwed-up sheet of blue plastic…

Surely some interesting topography there. I had trouble finding any shots that clearly showed these sets as you see them here. Eventually I discovered this scene where shell-shocked scientists stagger about their ruined world in Distant land

Destruction is on the cards again in this composite I made that is supposed to be a missile in flight above the ice sheet in Haunted Mars Part 2

But I stuck at my task, and finally found this defining shot. It comes from The Epoch of Dung

Look at that: you can even see the sheet of blue plastic through the burn hole. A lake, perhaps? There is no ‘perhaps’ about it. I’m a great believer in realism: that’s why I populate my stories with earplugs!

 

Surprise Visit (part 18)

The element of surprise greatly assisted our intrepid heroes in Part 17. Now check out what happens when that element is lost. Oooh…

Success, however, was short-lived. Within moments of the enemy regaining their wits, a defensive screen encapsulated the domed conurbation…

The situation worsened further. As Magnuss and Hair-Trigger appeared on the main viewer of the Buggeram Bay

…they received the news that the Scrotonic ship was receiving return fire, and that their screens were depleting quickly.

“We’re hopelessly out-gunned,” Nigel shouted above the din of his bridge exploding. “We’ll go down fighting: you find yourselves somewhere to run and hide. Most importantly, get a message to Scroton. Tell them everything you know!”

The two heroic earplugs could only watch in horror as smoke obscured the view…

“Will do.” Magnuss said quietly. Then he had a thought: “Leave your personal communication devices on ‘send’: that way we’ll be able to hear what’s going on. We might even find a way of helping you.”

“Will do – too.” Nigel responded. “I’ll just leave mine on: you don’t want all of us chattering on and confusing the heck out of you. May the Saint of All Earplugs fly with you.”

“And may the Saint of All Earplugs protect you.” Hair-Trigger added.

A moment later communications failed utterly. Aboard the Tankerville Norris, it was all the crew could do to sit in stunned silence…

Fortunately for them both, the ship’s AI didn’t do ‘stunned’: instead it took off in a headlong flight from the battle; disappeared behind some nearby mountains; and made straight for a welcoming cave mouth…

…in which to hide the entire ship.

The Buggeram Bay, meanwhile, had gone into a terminal dive…

The fight, it seemed, was over. However, the Scrotonic flagship’s multi-redundancies allowed the flaming wreck to make some sort of landing upon a rock shelf a short distance from the habitat domes…

As it went into its fiery death throes, Nigel and his retinue staggered from the wreck and made their uncertain way down the slope towards the waiting cable ends…

A blue individual, sporting an orange plume, watched dispassionately from a safe distance.

“Have the Golden One brought to me,” he hissed to the grey cable end beside him, “Him and his dippy wife.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Not looking too good right now, huh? But, never fear, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger remain free and unsuspected. Tune in again to find out how they best utilize that advantage. It might even be what you expected!

The Set: The Scene 5

It has been a while since the last The Set: The Scene – mainly because I forgot all about the series in which I show you the set, then follow it with an Earplug Adventure scene that was shot there. Of course only long-term Earpluggers will have any chance of recalling the earlier tales (which, by today’s standards appear a tad primitive), but if I don’t use too many of them, I’m sure recent recruits will enjoy this too. So to the game…

We kick off with a pallet of double glazed units, which are separated by some natty cardboard…ah..separators

When I snapped this picture, it made a work colleague chuckle. He knew exactly why I’d taken it, but had no idea what I would make of it. I made the high-rise buildings of La Ciudad de Droxford (and others)…

…which appeared at the beginning of Triple Threat.

Before I had the technical ability to extract elements from my photos; then superimpose them on to existing backgrounds, I was forced to shoot my spaceships in front of a monitor screen…

It wasn’t ideal, and it was a bit hit and miss. But when it worked, it worked rather well, I think…

In this case the disabled Gravity Whelk explodes a proton torpedo in it’s main thruster to gain forward momentum, in Haunted Mars.

Ah, one of my better (and permanent) sets. An ancient portable DVD player in a plastic box. This enabled me to show scenes on the screen, without the need to superimpose, which meant faster shooting and multiple angle potential…

Of course the ‘deck’ of the set needed adding afterwards, which was a bit of an arse-wipe because the DVD remote wouldn’t operate the machine through the cardboard…

This meant that every time I took a shot, I needed to move the deck to press the play button – causing the ‘actors’ to often fall over. I only used this set in A Tale of Three Museums. Here’s how it turned out – as the bridge of three separate Scroton Five ships. Here’s the main character’s ship – the Zephyr…

I added another section for the reverse angle shots…

Here it appears as the mercenary’s ship…

…and finally as the Scrotonic interceptor ship that pursued the Zephyr throughout the tale…

Not exactly a much-loved set; but a very ubiquitous one. Right now it’s sitting in my attic ‘studio’, just waiting to be pulled out of mothballs and used again.

Photos and Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan.

 

Surprise Visit (part 17)

Here we go – headed towards the final showdown. Hold on to your buttocks!

Chapter Six

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the SRR conduit…

…the Tankerville Norris and Buggeram Bay had emerged into a dark brown atmosphere. Magnuss wanted nothing more than to call up Nigel and say, “Look familiar? It’s the brown world in Weird Space!” However he thought it best to maintain radio silence. Then, to his annoyance, interference rendered the main viewer useless…

“Oh, flipping heck, Hairy.” He growled, “Just when we really need to see where we’re going too!”

The ship’s computer couldn’t help either. Both earplugs received telepathic messages simultaneously: “Help, I’m blind. Someone tell me where to go!”

The situation wasn’t any better aboard the ship of Scroton…

“Can someone override that interference?” Nigel half inquired – half demanded.

“Working on it.” Faati – Queen of the Pygmies – replied.

“Further,” Nigel continued, “once having replaced all that ziggy-zaggy line stuff, might it be possible to use our AI’s telepathic talents to tell the Tankerville Norris’s AI how to fix the picture?”

“Hey,” Faati responded with a chuckle in her voice, “We’ve got two ships built on Scroton here: anything is possible!”

Satisfied with the response to his suggestions, Nigel thought of one more:

“Right – let’s get the right way up again. These magnetic boots are playing merry hell with my delicate ankles.”

Below, upon the surface, an Ethernet Cable End didn’t even look up as the Buggeram Bay passed above a series of habitat domes…

Whether it was the act of reverting to standard flight mode, or just chance timing, the screen reactivated – just as they passed the outer edge of the domed conurbation…

Seven mouths fell open. Only one worked sufficiently well to form coherent words. It belonged to Nigel:

“Ethernet cable ends? How the flip? What the heck? Duh? Someone pinch me, I’m having some sort of hallucinatory attack!”

Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were almost as shocked, though on a far less visceral level…

“Oh,” Magnuss whimpered, “the guys over there aren’t going to like this. This must mean that there is a secret faction of Scroton that’s opposed to the current social and political situation – and possibly Nigel himself.”

Hair-Trigger however had made an observation that might have been missed by anyone else. “I’m not so sure about that, Mags.” She said as her eyes widened, then squinted intensely. “Look at those cable ends closely: there’s something odd about them.”

“Do they have their bums on back-to-front?” Magnuss asked as he peered semi-myopically.

“No-no,” Hair-Trigger replied, “Nothing so obvious. When we get the chance, I’d like to take a closer look.”

Magnuss might have suggested a different physical abnormality in the ground-based ethernet cable end; but his attention was snatched away by the sight of a dark saucer making a landing approach…

“Look, Hairy – it’s one of those ships that destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford!”

“Let’s enact some revenge, eh?” Hair-Trigger replied.

Magnuss was all for it. He would have called Nigel to suggest that very thing, but before he was able to depress the ‘send’ button, the Golden One’s voice boomed over the intercom:

“Attack! Attack! Blow the evil swine to kingdom come!”

The instruction was explicit: neither Magnuss nor Hair-Trigger wasted a second responding…

Blam – both ship’s primary weapons hit the alien vessel with all their might. Defensive shields collapsed like cling film in a pizza oven. The ship’s main core erupted in flame and released energy…

Before the occupants knew what had happened, they were hurtling through the air in their own personal escape bubbles…

…their ship reduced to a roiling maelstrom of flame and smoke. Moreover it was the exact duplicate of the window, through which Nigel had spotted Don Quibonki and Panta Lonez (when they had first touched down upon the soil of Earth) that the Tankerville Norris passed over in a victory roll…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so we have alien ass-kicking. But it couldn’t be that easy, surely? Tune in again next time to find out!

Surprise Visit (part 16)

It could be that Surprise Visit is a little lack luster; or maybe Summer isn’t the best time to post stuff on the Internet; but, it seems to me, that this tale isn’t going down too well with the majority of my readers. Or, to put it another way, it appears that they are being turned off in their droves. So it occurred to me that it would probably be a good idea if I released the full PDF e-book now, rather than at the serial’s end. I will ruminate upon this. Meanwhile, for those who are diligently following the story (thank you), here is Part Sixteen…

Of course, the news spread throughout the museum like a wildfire. Almost instantaneously the Earplug Brothers convened…

The eldest brother, Rudi, spoke first:

“Okay,” he said, “we’re on the case. If there aint no fleet to protect the museum, we’re gonna have to go find the miscreants before they come visiting us again. Yo? Can you dig it?”

“Sho’nuf, bro.” The second oldest, Valentine replied without hesitation.

“Count us in.” The twins, Chester and Miles added a nanosecond later.

“I have a reputation to protect.” Magnuss said with a smile. “And a darned good ship in the Tankerville Norris. I’m game.”

A short while later, four of the five brothers had prepared themselves for the ordeal ahead and now posed for publicity shots…

Naturally, Magnuss had gone straight to Nigel, who, having taken the longest tinkle of his life, had conjured up a half-assed plan. Like the news of earlier, Nigel’s plan also swept through the museum – not so much as a wildfire; but more like a pedestal fan with the speed dial set on number three. It was enough to blow in the direction of K’Plank the Space Wanderer, who chose the arboretum in which to break the news to Auntie Doris that he had volunteered.

“Ugh?” Doris responded – her usual smile having fallen away like dead leaves in autumn – “But you have no armament. What good can you do? You’ll just get yourself killed – and with no effect. K’Plank, be logical: let someone else do it.”

“I can flit around and draw enemy fire from the other ships.” K’Plank replied heroically. “And it’s not like I’m totally unarmed. I bought several boxes of stink bombs from a schoolboy on Deneb Four. I couldn’t find a buyer for them here, so they’re just surplus stock. The acidic stench might even incapacitate enemy sensors and play havoc with their sinuses. Anything is worth a try. I must do my bit to protect you and the place you call home. It’s what any decent space wanderer would do!”

Doris didn’t know it, of course, but three of her nephews had already launched aboard the museum’s scientific Flying Saucer…

When the time came for K’Plank to join them, she (and several watchers in the balconies of the Grand hall) was there to wave him bon voyage…

Only moments later, Valentine had the Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher streaking skyward…

As the Earplug Brothers climbed above the clouds, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger aboard the Tankerville Norris joined them…

Then, as one, the four museum vessels formed up behind the Buggeram Bay…

Even at the modest speed that the Scrotonite ship’s AI chose to carry them in the direction of the sea, just off the sewage outfall, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the view of an alien Spatial Relocation Ring to hove into view…

“Don’t tell me, Walker,” Nigel said as he eyed the impressively massive device that could clearly hover with apparent ease above the azure waters, “we have one of these on the drawing board.”

Walker was slow to respond. After several seconds and an elbow in the kidneys from Beatrix, he replied:

“You signed the financial authorisation last week. The designer’s argument for it was that a ship didn’t need to traverse space, hyperspace, wormholes, transit conduits, or any of that old guff, to get anywhere. We would just send one of these, then simply enter its facsimile on Scroton, and be – ah, here, for example – in the blink of an eye. Ships wouldn’t even need to make orbit. In fact you wouldn’t need space ships at all: just aircraft.”

“I thought it looked familiar.” Nigel all but mused to himself. To Walker he said:

“So we’ve been beaten to the punch yet again. Someone has very good spies on Scroton. But, tell me, who could possibly pass as a cable end – for certainly no cable end that ever drew breath on Scroton would work against their planet’s best interest. I’m completely mystified.”

Julian Prim coughed discretely. “Golden One,” he said, “if your ingenious plan is to succeed, we must invert the Buggeram Bay, and envelope our partner’s ships in cloaks that make them appear as we do.”

“Oh yes, that’s right.” Nigel replied. “It’s very important that the ring recognises us as bona fide alien vessels. If we can pass ourselves off as such, it will probably open and allow us egress from this planet, and ingress to the planet at the other end. Go for it!”

A moment later…

…five ships approached the mysterious Spatial Relocation Ring. Timing could have been better because Nigel’s bladder chose that moment to remind him that he shouldn’t have consumed three glasses of cream soda and a Bloody Mary before departure…

“Why have you two joined me?” He demanded of Walker and Bertram.

“Support, Sir.” Bertram replied. “Both spiritual and physical.”

“We don’t want you falling up the toilet, Sir.” Walker added.

After a difficult visit to the loo, finding their way back to the bridge was kid’s stuff. Once settled into his chair, Nigel noticed an incongruity:

“With the ship inverted, why is the screen the right way up? It boggles my eyes.”

“Something to do with the refresh rate of the HD screen, Sir.” Fermin answered Nigel. “It gets all wobbly if it’s turned upside down.”

“So it’s not my blood rushing to the top of my head?” Beatrix inquired.

“Could be, Ma’am.” Fermin replied. “I wouldn’t discount any possibility. Oh, no more time for idle chat: here we go!”

Initially, it appeared that Nigel’s plan was…uh…going to plan: but when the Buggeram Bay and the Tankerville Norris entered the event horizon simultaneously…

…the Spatial Relocation Ring responded in a most violent manner – snapping shut and barring the way for K’Plank and the Earplug Brothers. All three vessels wheeled away in near panic…

Aboard the Flying Saucer, Rudi could barely believe his eyes…

Chester and Miles looked away in fear that they had lost their youngest brother.

“It’s okay, guys,” Rudi called out. “The Tankerville Norris and the Buggeram Bay made it through!”

However it wasn’t all good news. Their sensors had detected a rocky island directly beneath the SRR.

“Look, bros, it even has a Café Puke outlet.” Rudi cried out in glee. “Let’s go drown our sorrows in a ghastly mug of brown muck!”

Valentine had spotted it too. Without hesitation he ‘zoomed’ down to take a better view…

“Yup,” he radioed the boys and K’Plank, “it’s sho’nuf open, and it’s happy hour!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That was a truly international extract – with ‘real’ backdrops coming from England, France, and Spain. I certainly get out and about shooting the Earplug Adventures!