An Unorthodox Means of Alleviating a Sore Throat and Booming Head Ache

It’s the last day of the year. It’s early: still dark. Why do I feel like crap? Oh flip, I’ve got a cold. The hours pass: no improvement. I’ve taken the flu remedy in the medicine cabinet. And the vitamin C drink too. There must be an alternative to sitting around feeling miserable. Look beyond the laptop. Is the rain still lashing at the windows? Are the trees in the neighbour’s garden almost bent double? Answer to both: yep. Time to uncover this then…

There’s nothing quite like manhandling a 100+ BHP muscle bike down muddy lanes, washed out city streets, and through blinding motorway road spray. Nothing. Then take some  nice photos of windswept bridges and drowning fir trees…

…before fighting your way back home – only to find your pride and joy covered in road filth…

…and discovering that your waterproofs aren’t quite as waterproof as you would have liked…

But, dammit, you feel great: ready to face the rest of the day. Throw out those pain killers: pull on those bike boots.

Third Christmas as a Trio

Christmas 2022 was the third Winter holiday that my children spent without their mother, and I endured without the most precious thing in the world to me. For the first time since she became too ill to sit at the dining table, we three survivors ate together. In an effort to disguise the silence, I turned on the TV.  It helped, but we were glad when the meal ended, and all agreed to dispense with the usual Chistmas pudding: it could wait until later. It hasn’t been a bad Christmas: merely another empty one.

On a more positive note: I was prodded in the buttocks this morning by an invisible hand. Obviously someone thought that nine o’clock was rather late in the morning for me to still be in bed. I like days starting like that: I may appear to be alone sometimes, but I’m not really. I think of her every day: but some days she makes sure I don’t forget to. That’s okay with me. VERY okay.

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Disappearing Act

The heroic Catering Assistant apparently ceases to exist moments before the destruction of the Drunkard’s Vomit.

From the fabulous 2022 story, Climatic Calamity

…which (as everyone knows) is available as a free PDF by simply clicking on the cover art.


Twenty-Minute Chilli with Tooty the Chef

With only two people to cater for, Tooty the Chef couldn’t be arsed to make something grand or a meal that took long to cook: he has far more important things to do. So he settled on a chilli meal. After perusing the ingredients of a really hot sauce mix…

…he figured he could save a whole bunch of time by ignoring the vast array of spices and sauces in his magnificently stocked kitchen cupboards, and instead use the packet in his hand. So, whilst the boil-in-the-bag rice…er…boiled, Tooty the Chef thawed a bag of beef mince in the microwave, whilst dicing a pepper, an onion, a courgette, and a couple of tomatoes. Soon the onion, courgette and pepper were making hissing noises nicely in some olive oil…

This was quickly followed by the minced beef…

Like any chef worth his (or her – he once dated a female chef) salt, this he sizzled until the meat was browned – before adding the tomatoes. Just to prove that Tooty doesn’t cook in tiny pans and possesses one huge hand, here’s a picture of him stirring the goo…

See: big pan: regular hands: pointy nose: weary eyes: two coffee machines.

Then it was time to add the sauce mix with some water. But Tooty the Chef had another trick up his sleeve: the addition of a miniscule pinch of some unbelievably powerful spices from Italy…

At the twenty minute marker it was time to tip out the rice into individual bowls and pile on the chilli…

Perfecto! Naturally he sprinkled some grated cheese on top before presenting the finished article thus…

And to celebrate this great event, here’s a charming wallpaper for  your computer…

Download that if you dare!

A Matter of Form Over Function

On such a lovely sunny day, and with the icy roads thawing quickly, I thought the time was ripe to pull my Fantic Caballero from it’s hutch. And indeed it was; a fun journey ensued that lifted my spirits. But after the twenty-mile ride had concluded, I found my boots somewhat soiled…

Filthy disgusting footwear

…and the bike an absolute disaster…

Filthy disgusting motorcycle

This was due entirely to a front fender that had been designed for pleasing aesthetics: not warding off road crap…

Putrid but handsome mudguard

I spent the first fifteen minutes of the rest of my life hosing the bike down. So, it seems, from now on I’ll have to choose my riding conditons more carefully – like when the roads are entirely dry…

That’s more like it!

However does anyone really care when the machine looks as good as this? It’s referred to as an urban chic street scrambler: but I think it looks kind of groovy in a rural environment. Oh if only they could keep the roads clean!

Tooty’s plaything.

Complete ‘Veil of Shytar’ Absolutely Free!

Yes, it’s that time again. That time when I give away the latest e-book in PDF form for you to either read on-line or download for home consumption. And that e-book is (of course) The Veil of Shytar. So just click on the cover image and it’s all yours to enjoy and (possibly) pore over and discuss its intellectual merits and nice pictures. In fact, should you be a university student or similar, perhaps you could write thesis on the evolution and development of the Earplug Adventures from early stream-of-consciousness witterings to the literary genius you see today – or something along those lines. But I digress: if you know what’s good for you, click that cover now. Read something unique!

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 30)

So here we are – al final. We’ve made it through twelve chapters together. Another Earplug Adventure has been survived. All that remains is the epilogue. This is it: go for it!


As one might imagine, the voyage home along the hyper-space conduit was rapid and uneventful…

However, as the Prowler entered the atmosphere above Lemon Stone, the ship’s foul-weather sensors initiated an amber alert…

“Oh, I didn’t expect that.” Bubbles exclaimed. “After such an adventure I assumed it would all be plain sailing until we landed.”

“Nah,” Barclay replied as he cast a quick glance out of his side window, “it’s peeing down out there. Looks like a storm. Even worse than the one we can expect in the Star Chamber.”

He wasn’t wrong either…

High winds and sudden downdraughts tossed the small craft of space like a leaf as lightning lit up the sky all around.

Much to her surprise, the buffeting made Bubbles feel decidedly nauseous…

“Take the controls, will you darling.” She said before slipping off her safety belt and throwing up over the back of her pilot’s seat.

Barclay, unused to flying the craft in any conditions, quickly lost his way in the bad weather; reduced altitude; and soon found himself staring at the towers of Ciudad de Droxford…

“Oh, Sweetie,” he called, “Wipe the drool from your chin and take command, would you: we’re about to crash into a city.”

The threat of imminent death quickly rallied Bubbles’ mental and physical reserves. Throwing herself back into her seat, she re-took control…

“Honestly, Barclay,” she complained, “all you had to do is keep it flying straight and level!”

Barclay smiled at this. He knew that. He’d just lost control because he wanted Bubbles to think she was indispensible – which, of course she was.

“I know,” Bubbles then added as her stomach settled and her mood lightened, “Since we’re here, we might as well stop off for a coffee. Yes, that would be very nice: we can sit and watch the world go by…in the pouring rain.”

Meanwhile, below on an average city street…

…Miles Earplug was deep in conversation with Mister Pong.

“I don’t know why you were so fired up about opening a restaurant in Ciudad de Droxford.” He said in his best ‘annoyed’ voice. “When it isn’t being levelled by alien invaders, it rains like a monsoon! It doesn’t rain in the Museum of Future Technology: you can have an outdoor café there, and everyone is guaranteed to stay dry. You wouldn’t have to wear your stupid Evil Mister Pong hat either!”

By coincidence, some twenty minutes later, another group of earplugs had decided that talk of cafes should be translated into action.  Captain Cedric Mantequilla led the bridge crew of the Brian Talbot into the Avenida de Rueben Snook branch of the Café Puke…

…and failed utterly to notice the new galactic heroes enjoying the view through a large picture window…

“It’s lovely to be back in the city again, isn’t it Darling?” Bubbles inquired after sipping from her glass of crappachino, before placing it back on the table top.

“Too right, Sweetie.” Barclay replied, “After the aridness of Worstworld, this piddling rain and thunderstorm is almost welcome.”

“Talking of welcomes,” Bubbles said nervously, “I wonder what Sir Loftus is going to say tomorrow.”

“Doesn’t really matter.” Barclay mumbled. “We’re gonna lose our jobs whatever. But after our little escapade, we should get jobs at the Museum of Future Technology no problem: they’re crying out for heroic types like us.”

Bubbles lowered her voice to a whisper;

“At least that would mean we wouldn’t have to apply for jobs at the Café Puke. I enjoy their foul muck; but I wouldn’t want to serve it up.”

Bubbles and Barclay decided that it would probably be best if they waited until the next day before visiting the Star Chamber. So, shortly after dawn, they steadied their nerves and strode purposefully into the strangely-lit board room…

Barclay decided to be bold…

“Hi, everybody: I hope you slept well. We certainly did. It’s tiring work – saving entire worlds from utter devastation. I guess you’d like the Prowler back now – huh?”

The Chamber Pots were entirely wrong-footed by this approach. All they could do was either stare in stupefaction or look at each other for guidance. As was fitting for the Chairman of the Board, Sir Loftus Pupe recovered his wits quickest…

“Not necessarily.” He replied.

Bubbles leaned back in surprised. “No?” She queried.

“No.” Sir Loftus replied. “Until a few hours ago the situation would have looked very different. BINS would have most certainly been closed down and its senior staff laid off – permanently. The Punting-Modesty R and D department would have been poring over their prototype craft in an effort to see how much damage it had incurred. I personally would probably have been taking a blood pressure tablet. But none of this has come to be.”

“Ah…” Barclay politely raised a hand to interrupt, “but that’s good, isn’t it?”

“For all concerned.” Sir Loftus concurred. Then a smile spread across his normally austere visage. “It’s very good. Jolly good, even. Absolutely bloody smashing in fact. When your rescue of Worstworld appeared on the Galactic News Channel, the phone didn’t stop ringing. E-mails abounded. Our servers went down under the strain. Staff have been run ragged. Orders for the Prowler have been flooding in ever since. Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage: if you never do another thing wrong again in your lives, you won’t make a better mistake than stealing the prototype Prowler. Not only did it lead to the salvation of a world and the civilisation that lived upon it; but, more importantly, that single act has saved the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company from bankruptcy. Overnight we’ve gone from minnows to whales!”

“Tadpoles to great white sharks.” Jasmine Greentea interjected.  

“Quite right, Jazzy.” Sir Loftus responded. Then, turning his attention to the youngsters once more, he said:

“As a result of this unqualified success, we’ve elected to refrain from punishing you in any way whatsoever. No punitive action will be taken. You will be charged with no crime. You will, however, be required to take ownership of the prototype Prowler. You will be required to return it to Punting-Modesty for its free first service. You will also need to insure it. Okay?”

Anyone with a feather at hand could have knocked over both Bubbles and Barclay with a single waft. “I…I…guess.” Barclay replied after looking into Bubbles’ laughing eyes. “We’ll…um…get it over to the workshop right away: it could use an oil change. And a rear-facing atomic cannon would be nice too.”

“Duly noted.” Sir Loftus replied. “Have fun.”

With that they were applauded out of the Star Chamber…

“Ready for another adventure, Bubs?” Barclay inquired.

“Any time, any place, anywhere – with you, Barkie.” Bubbles replied.

So, a few hours later, the Prowler’s oil change complete, and a new rear-facing atomic cannon slotted in beside the garbage hatch, the Museum of Future Technology was treated to a one-ship fly-past…

There was a galaxy waiting up there, beyond the sky: now they had the means, Bubbles and Barclay had every intention of experiencing as much of it as was earpluggishly possible!

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, the suggestion of a future sequel. Well why not – we all like Bubbles and Barclay, don’t we? But that will do for 2022: it was a very productive year in the Earplug Adventure department. Already I have a title for the next tale. I have no idea what will happen, but the title came to me when I accidentally  misheard the lyrics to Roxy  Music’s ‘More Than This‘. The next tale will be titled ‘Northern Mist‘. Ooh, that’s a challenge.


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 29)

If the Earplug Adventures were the NFL, this would be the last regular season game. Only the  Playoffs to come… 

Meanwhile high above them, the remnants of the Veil of Shytar appeared to be dissipating…

“Would you look at that!” Augustus Pronk exclaimed as his mauve companion looked across at him with an expressionless…er…expression

…“That would have been you – if we hadn’t dragged you away in an empty catering-sized tofu canister!”

“You have my gratitude, Augustus.” Mister Mauve replied. “But now that I exist outside of the artificial realm of the Veil of Shytar…what am I going to do?”

“I expect I’m officially decreed as deceased.” Pronk wagered. “The wife has probably re-married, and the kids have grown up. I still can’t stand the thought of living in a city again: so how about we live together in a cave somewhere? Failing that – a tent or beneath a tree or hedge – after they’ve grown some, of course. I look forward to seeing hedges: I’ve only ever read about them.” 

Mister Mauve might have replied to this kind offer of a life shared, but before he could, Bubbles yelled:

“Look: the veil: it’s faded away completely!”

And it had too!

Now only a brown dwarf star remained.

“Are you sure that’s bright enough to warm your planet?” Barclay asked Pronk doubtfully.

“Well if it isn’t,” Pronk replied, “we’d better get used to wearing snow shoes.”

“If that should happen,” Bubbles reminded Barclay, “the Goosewing Grey can always return with its gravitonic multiplicitor and move the planet formerly known as Worstworld to a closer orbit. I wonder what they’ll re-name it.”

“Don’t know: don’t care.” Pronk said to this. “What I am interested in is returning to my world: I’ve been gone a long time you know – and a male earplug can stand only so much gentle surf breaching upon sandy beaches.”

“You didn’t like it?” A surprised Mister Mauve asked.

“Not after Year Five.” Pronk replied. “If that cliff had been any higher, I swear I would have thrown myself from it. No, if I ever live beside water again, it will have to be very still – like a huge placid lake. Yes, that’d be nice.”

Pronk then addressed the earplug couple:

“Can you take me down there? I rather fancy to reconnoitre for somewhere to live. Maybe a cave. Maybe an old abandoned shack. Can we go?”

Well neither earplug at the controls could think of one good reason not to, so a few minutes later…

…the Prowler swept across the sandy desert upon which Fort Dunderhead stood. Already the Seventh Cavalry had begun their first patrol.

“I wonder what they expect to find.” Bubbles said.

“I imagine they’re just going through the motions.” Barclay opined. “You know, waiting to be told what to do by the central government – when it gets itself organised. It could take a while. Of course if they find any of that star material that made its way past the veil…well they could be in the money.”

Such was the vessel’s speed that by the time Barclay finished his lecture, it had carried them miles away…

“Barclay,” Bubbles chirruped excitedly, “that looks like open water. I’ve never seen it before. It must have been forced up by those huge impacts.”

“Didn’t you want a lake-side residence, Augustus?” Barclay inquired of the sole native present.

“As long as it isn’t brackish.” Pronk replied. “Can’t stand the taste of salt.”

Fortunately Bubbles had scanned through the user manual for the Prowler, so she was able to use the sensors to determine the salt content of the water below. “Looking good,” she said finally, “Wanna land?”

Shortly the Prowler’s engines cooled as the foursome disembarked and stood upon the unusually natural-coloured soil of Worstworld…

“This’ll do nicely.” Pronk said as he looked about him. “Yep. I noticed a small town as we flew over: it reminded me of Busted Gut. I know a few guys there: they should put me up for a while until I can find my feet, so-to-speak. You coming, Mister Mauve?”

Mister Mauve sniffed the air. “So this is reality, is it?” he said appreciatively, “Methinks I’ll sample a little of it. Yes, I will accompany you Mister Pronk. We can regale the citizens of Busted Gut with tales of the Veil of Shytar. That should pay for our supper – and breakfast too – just as long as it’s toast and not tofu.”

So Bubbles and Barclay made their farewells and promised to keep in touch, then blasted skyward again…

“Well you had your little adventure on Worstworld.” Barclay said as the Prowler gained altitude…

…”do you think it’s time to go home and face the music?”

In the name of clarity Bubbles asked:

“The Star Chamber, you mean?”

“Sir Loftus Pupe and all the other Chamber Pots.” Barclay said carelessly. “After what we’ve seen and done, I hardly think they are going to worry us any.”

“You’re right, Barclay,” Bubbles replied as the Prowler regained the freedom of outer space…

…”We’ll just say goodbye to Bonzer and the Goosewing Grey, and then be on our way.”

And that’s exactly what they did…

“Bye, Captain Dragonsrectum,” Bubbles called over the radio, “have a nice trip back to Scroton.”

“Safe journey, brave earplugs.” Bonzer replied. “May good fortune fill your sails.”

“Metaphorically speaking.” The Science Officer added in the background.

And they were gone – both ships disappearing into entirely different hyper-space conduits to entirely different destinations.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Next up will be the epilogue. But until then, shots of particular note are: 5, which began life as a sheet of insulation material that I burnt with a heatshrink gun, then placed upon a sheet of translucent plastic through which I shone a light. 6 is two slices of wood that I cut from an interesting length of 4×2, sandwiching a sheet of completely different insulation material. I’ve had the shot ready for at least three years; finally it gets its day in the spotlight. And 9: for this shot I needed something roughly spherical and with an interesting surface to represent the night side of Worstworld. Tooty the Chef came to the rescue by supplying a pleasant buttock.  As everyone knows, furry bums create convincing cloud patterns.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 28)

So close to the end now. I always hate this part of the story. Still, we’re not there yet. Enjoy while you can. Proceed…

All the while, the Veil of Shytar stood unbending and resolute against the phenomenal onslaught of a dying star…

“I think it’s doing ever so well.” Bubbles opined. She then looked at Barclay when she realised how inadequate her choice of words had been…

“Well we’re still here.” He responded. “The cabin temperature hasn’t moved up a single notch.”

He then chose to eat those words when the fiery destructive power of the star began breaking through the veil…

“Would you like salt and pepper on those?” Bubbles said tartly.

Barclay chose not to reply, which was just as well because it might only have confused Mister Mauve and Augustus Pronk as they rushed into the cockpit for a better view of events outside the hull…

“It’s like a bloody sauna in the lounge.” Pronk explained.

“And if there was a lavatory bowl,” Mister Mauve added, “the water inside would be simmering nicely.”

Upon the planet, great bolts of stellar material began bombarding the sandy surface…

…tearing through the abandoned cities in their shallow sub-surface chasms…

Despite this, the creators of the Veil of Shytar had built their tool well. Though failing in hot-spots, most of it remained battered, bruised, but intact…

Moreover, as quickly as it had begun, the star’s powers diminished, and the veil could relax. It seemed to those watching that it appeared to flow languidly and coalesce in a most colourful and pleasing manner…

As the tension drained from his shoulders, Barclay said:

“Now that really is nice. And look; I can see the stars and darkness of space beyond it. Bubbles, it’s over. We’ve done it. Worstworld is saved!”

Inside Fort Dunderhead, the officers and troopers of the Seventh Cavalry rushed on to the parade ground to gaze in awe and wonder at a sky that held no ghastly blue pallor…

Naturally the Major led them in three rousing cheers for whatever had been responsible for freeing the planet of its blue tyranny.

“And look at us,” the pink-eyed female cavalry-plug announced, “don’t we look something in our fabulous olive green outfits!”

“That’s ‘uniforms’, darling.” R Swypes said out the side of his smile. “Not ‘outfits’. Outfits are for dancing girls: you’re a military type: maintain the correct parlance.”

Moreover, the Major felt compelled to dispel the doubts of Sergeant Ottershoe concerning their technical equipment. He leapt aboard the first vehicle he could find and sounded the hooter…

“Hurrah, it works,” he bellowed in tune with the discordant horn, “It’s a win-win situation!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Photos of note include the red veil shot, which is actually the sun shining through the rear light cluster of my Skoda Octavia. It was another one of those “Ooh that looks interesting, I think I’ll take a picture,” shots. The sub-surface city getting blasted was obtained in a relatively interesting manner. I had discovered that if I filmed movement against a dark background, but with a powerful light sourse pointing at the camera, then shot with (specifically) my Canon Ixus 180, and played on my laptop using VLC Player, I could get single-frame pixelation that created all sorts of amazing images. In this example, I then tarted up the resulting screen shot and coloured it red. All clever (or serendipidous) stuff.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 27)

So this is it: the episode when the star finally does its thing…

What they saw from thirty-thousand feet horrified them both. Energy discharges were sparking off the metallic content in several mountain peaks…

“Back up.” Barclay yelled. “This is no place for a high-tech device. Back up!”

Bubbles heeded his warning, and seconds later the Prowler re-joined the Goosewing Grey – just as the Veil of Shytar made rendezvous with Worstworld…

“It doesn’t look big enough to shield the entire planet.” Bubbles remarked.

Captain Drangonsrectum must have harboured similar doubts. Despite the static created by the malcontent star, his voice crackled over the radio:

“This thing does get bigger, I hope. Like this it’ll only be good enough to protect the Goosewing and the Prowler!

Barclay heard a muffled voice through the door that lead to the R&R lounge. It belonged to Augustus Pronk:

“Oh ye of little faith.”

“Of course it will expand, you nincompoops.” Mister Mauve added.

Down on the surface of the planet – or, to be more precise, in the sandy wastelands beside Fort Dunderhead, several cavalry-plugs had taken themselves outside for a good view of the celestial event that would determine whether they would live or die…

“Oh-ur,” one of them said to another, “I don’t half feel exposed out here.”

“Hmmm, me too.” His comrade replied. “But if we took off all our clothes, we might get a really good over-all tan.”

Of course, from their vantage point they had no opportunity to see the Veil – as if on cue – expand and manoeuvre into a position that placed it directly between the star and its sole inhabited planet…

Then the moment arrived. The blue-giant gave no warning. It didn’t convulse or wobble or anything like that. It just went BLAM…

Aboard the Prowler, Bubbles and Barclay’s retinas were saved when the forward viewer darkened to protect them…

“Barclay,” Bubbles screamed, “I can’t believe this is happening. Hold me. Crush me to your breast!”

Barclay tried to inject some levity:

“Sounds good.” He said. “I’d invite you into the R&R lounge, but Augustus and Mister Mauve are watching events through the side windows: I wouldn’t want to offend them.”

Aboard the Goosewing Grey no one made such an attempt…

It was all professionalism.

“We are recording this, right?” Captain Dragonsrectum inquired.

“We are, Sir,” the Science Officer answered. ”We are also transmitting a live-stream to Scroton and the Galactic News Channel. This should be going out all over known space and possibly beyond – you never know.”

Upon Scroton, Nigel and Beatrix were leading a charge across a quiet plaza in Scroton Prime…

“If we miss this, I’m going to spit venom.” Beatrix gasped through tortured lungs. “I mean, having all those huge Three-Dee screens mounted in public places will have been a complete waste of time and money – not to mention ruined expectations!”

But she need not have worried. They arrived just in time to see the time-delayed explosion in its full, glorious blueness…

“Ooh…pretty.” Someone said from the back. “I wish I had a bathroom that colour.”

“Take that man’s name,” Nigel responded to the inadequacy of the statement, “We need a new lavatory cleaner in the parliamentary building.”

Surprisingly, and despite their proximity to the disaster, Fort Dunderhead could also receive the Galactic News footage…

“You did set the video cassette recorder to capture this moment, I hope?” Major Left-Foot Badger said to his adjutant. 

“We’ve moved on a bit since the VCR,” Lieutenant R Swypes replied. “We have a digital PVR now. And yes it is recording this for posterity.”

“Well let’s hope we don’t get an electro-magnetic pulse from that explosion that fries digital stuff.” Sergeant Lance Ottershoe said as he stood beside the officers, “I’m not expecting any of the armoured personnel carriers to function properly after this. Give me good old-fashioned analogue electronics: they’re so much more dependable.”

“Lousy TV picture though.” The Major replied.

Far away, upon Earth and the Museum of Future Technology, night held dominion over day…

As a Submarine Space Freighter launched upon one of many voyages to other worlds, inside visitors and inhabitants of the museum were being treated to scenes of the exploding blue-giant…

And they didn’t like what they saw. In fact they refused to look.

Further, in one of the multifarious Café Puke outlets, a customer who had been imbibing café cortados for over an hour, passed out with shock…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Notable shots in this segment must include 1, which is the reverse negative of one of Tooty the Chef’s creations. 5, which, if you’ve ever read/suffered the original earplug story – 2014’s The Museum of Future Technology – you might recognise this as a slight re-work of the proton torpedo one of the Earplug Brothers hoped to see upon ,entering the building for the very first time. It’s an out-of-focus Christmas light, by the way. I had no SFX back then. And 12. It was only after I tried to shoehorn the giant wall screen into the picture that I realised that everyone would have their backs turned to it. So I went with the idea of their collective denial. Well its probably what they would have done anyway: most earplugs are not really the heroic types.


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 26)

As a continuance of the episode length experiment, I’ll keep this one brief as well. Continue to absorb the wondrous tale…

Chapter 12

Whilst Mister Mauve washed and dried the coffee glasses, Bubbles and Barclay learned a great deal about the Veil of Shytar. They learned, for example that it had been waiting millennia in silence and solitude for this event, but unfortunately had forgotten the fact when its attention shifted to the problem of keeping Augustus Pronk alive and well. As the strange, shadow-free being told them of the Veil’s mission to protect the planet, now known as Worstworld, from the blue-giant star’s pre-calculated and inevitable expansion, they came to realise that the Universe contained more wise ancient civilisations than they’d imagined. Those beneficent aliens that brought sentience and civilisation to Scroton were not unique. Altruism, it seemed, ran deep through this particular region of the Galaxy.

“So you always intended to protect Worstworld?” Bubbles said to Mister Mauve as Augustus Pronk presented himself to them in the old space suit he’d salvaged from the wreck of his space ship…

“Indeed this is so.” Mister Mauve replied as he failed utterly to appreciate the aesthetics of Pronk’s extra-vehicular apparel. “The Veil, and others like it, was designed specifically to defend planets from their own stars.  I have no idea how many fledgling civilisations the Veils have saved through the ages; but if it wasn’t for you two, Worstworld would not have been one of them.”

Barclay, unused to compliments replied:

“Well…you know…”

Bubbles did slightly better:

“Synchronicity.” She said. “It’s a funny old thing. If we hadn’t been sent to the Museum of Future Technology: if we hadn’t found the plans for the alien life-boat: if Punting-Modesty hadn’t built such a brilliant ship from those plans: if they hadn’t put us aboard to show it off to the public…”

“If we hadn’t then stolen it, and come to play silly-buggers on a doomed world…” Barclay interrupted.

“…None of this would have happened.” Pronk spoke from the table top. “And my petty concerns would have been responsible for destroying a whole world and everything that lives upon it. So, to salve my conscience, might I suggest we depart the Veil and let it do its job?”

“Yes, you must all leave immediately.” Mister Mauve said as they hurried along a corridor…

“Hey, what do you mean about ‘you all’?” Bubbles complained. “Surely it should be ‘we all’?”

“I can’t come.” Mister Mauve retorted. “I belong here.”

Augustus Pronk became an instant ally to Bubbles. “So what are you going to do here – without me to look after?” He said to Mister Mauve. “Without me you have no purpose.”

Mister Mauve didn’t reply. He didn’t lessen his pace either. “Hurry,” he said, “Bubbles’ estimate of six days before the star explodes is optimistic. It is going critical as we speak.”

Pronk was not to be put off. “Great,” he said, “so the Veil of Shytar – which I remind you I named first – races to the rescue. What becomes of it when the star explodes?” 

“Most probably it will be eroded by the fantastic energies thrown against it. Ultimately it will fail.” Mister Mauve informed them all, “Hopefully after the star has shrunk back to become a brown dwarf.”

“And you with it.” Pronk growled. “What would be the point of that? You punched me in the face once: if you don’t come with us, I’m gonna punch you right back.”

“And I’ll kick you right up the arse.” Barclay added. “You do have an arse, I suppose?”

Mister Mauve sighed. “Oh, very well.” He grumbled. “If you can find a means of transporting me to the Prowler, I’ll come along for the ride. But I don’t think you’ll be able to find that means, so it’s a moot point really.”

Five minutes later Augustus Pronk was pushing a large restaurant-specification tofu container before him as he approached the rend he’d cut in the fabric of the veil all those years previously…

Naturally Bubbles and Barclay followed in their…er…bubbles.

Well it was easy after that, and soon Mister Mauve and Pronk regarded the tofu container in the Prowler’s R&R lounge…

Mister Mauve still had a smear of tofu on his head. “I never understood why you saved up all those food containers.” He said. “It wasn’t like they could be re-cycled or anything. Strictly speaking they’re not really real: the Veil constructed them by converting energy into matter. They weren’t worth the effort to convert them back.”

“Bet you’re glad I did though, huh?” Pronk replied cheerfully. “Now let’s go see if we can find a wash basin aboard this technological wonder.”

Meanwhile, the pilot and her pseudo-navigator had resumed the cockpit…

A planet proximity alarm drew their attention to the view of Worstworld through Barclay’s side window…

“Oh Barclay,” Bubbles whimpered, “it looks like a big blue billiard ball!”

“Yeah,” Barclay agreed, “try saying that after seven or eight rum and colas.”

“I don’t like the look of it.” Bubbles continued. “I don’t know if the Worstworld upgrades are up to the task of protecting this ship’s inner workings; but I gotta take a closer look. Hold tight: I’m dipping into the atmosphere.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Shorter? Longer? About right?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 25)

Rightly or wrongly, I figured that the sheer length of some of these extracts (rather than engaging readers) might be putting them off. Maybe they might stay with a thirty-second read, rather than spend a minute or so trying to make sense of my humour and writing style. So today’s episode shouldn’t have anyone looking at their wrist watch and sighing tetchily. Read on…

What the young earplugs heard as they walked between great mounds of edible detritus and empty food canisters in the basement of the Hotel Augustus Pronk, was the story of how Pronk had forced his way into the Veil by means of wire cutters; the subsequent accident that marooned him there; and the Veil’s willingness to create an environment in which he could live in relative comfort.

Bubbles was incredulous. “So the Veil made all this for you?” She said. “Whatever you need, it supplies?”

“Yup, pretty much.” Pronk replied. “I don’t stand there and ask for something: it’s not like that. I guess it reads my mind or something. It knows what I want, and does its best to give me that. It can’t give me a new spaceship or anything: but it can create a reality that suits me. I always wanted to live by the sea and walk beneath an open sky. Of course I couldn’t do either on Worstworld. That’s part of the reason why I ran out on the wife and kids to find a new world. I just wanted space and fresh air. But it has been a rather lonely existence. It’s nice to see you kids. Do you have a space ship to carry you home again?”

“We do.” Bubbles replied. “Do you have something to protect you from the vacuum of space? If so, we can take you home.”

By now they had passed from the basement of the hotel into a brief corridor…

“Kids,” Pronk said as they became aware of a strange mauve being standing in the corridor, “meet Mister Mauve. Please note that he casts no shadow. When I first encountered him I thought he was a hallucination. I mean – he casts no shadow: obviously he must be a product of my imagination. I treated him as such, until one day, when I accidentally spilt some hot coffee over him, he got really angry and punched me in the mouth. Since then I’ve treated him with a modicum of respect – though it’s hard to respect someone who punches you in the mouth. I got my own back though: I shoved his head down the toilet and pulled the flush cord. He follows me almost everywhere – except the toilet of course.”

“Did the Veil create him?” Barclay inquired.

“I don’t know.” Pronk answered, “He wouldn’t say.”

Pronk suddenly changed the subject:

“Hey, would you like a cup of coffee at Augie’s Bar?”

Both terrestrial earplugs were gasping for a coffee. “Please,” they said as one.

They didn’t have to wait long. The very next corner carried them into the bar. A bar that looked very familiar to them…

“Mister Pronk,” Bubbles squealed with a mixture of astonishment and delight, “you’ve got your very own Café Puke!”

Pronk seemed a little surprised at the view…

“I do, don’t I? When I got up this morning, this was Augie’s Bar. What the heck is the Café Puke?”

“Get us a glass of Crappachino,” Barclay said cheerfully, “and we’ll tell you all about it.”

Pronk wasn’t familiar with the barista’s equipment in a Café Puke outlet, but he managed to produce a Crappachino and an Iron Lungo…

“Oh, Mister Pronk,” Bubbles exclaimed, “how did you know I wanted an Iron Lungo?”

“I didn’t.” Pronk answered, “The Veil did. The Veil also knew you would feel more at home in a Café Puke. Ergo, we find ourselves in a Café Puke. But it’s still mauve – like Augie’s Bar.”

“And Mister Mauve.” Barclay noted.

“My favourite colour.” Pronk confirmed Barclay’s fledgling hypothesis.

“Then the Veil knows why we’re here?” Barclay continued.

“Odds-on, I’d say.” Pronk replied. “Why are you here?”

“To save Worstworld.” Mister Mauve spoke from the other end of the café.

Pronk turned an eye on the mauve apparition. “You gonna do it?”

Mister Mauve spent several seconds considering this. “Are we going to place ourselves at risk, to save a bunch of silicon life-forms who are too stupid to get up and leave?” He said.

“I think that’s what I said.” Pronk replied.

Mauve sighed audibly. “I suppose that’s why we’re here.” He said in a complaining tone that put Barclay’s to shame. “And that stupid star is about to go nova after all. Finish your coffees first though: I want to wash up the glasses before Armageddon.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Too short? Just right? Let me know.

For the Cafe Puke scene I saved time and energy by using a pre-existing set. A re-lighting, some furniture  moved around, and hey presto! Only the barista’s counter top is new.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 24)

Well that’s enough of whooshing about in space ships for the moment. This is where some proper sci-fi sticks its head around the corner and beckons to us. Respond accordingly: read on…

Chapter 11

Because the Veil of Shytar was oncoming, the distance between it and the Prowler closed quickly…

In fact Bubbles almost overshot her target and was forced to back-track slightly. Quickly matching velocity with the vast space anomaly, Bubbles unstrapped herself; pulled on some knickers; and proceeded from the cockpit into the lounge. Of course Barclay was in close attendance…

“The only way we are going to speak with that thing,” Bubbles said as she headed for the stairwell, “is by making physical contact. If we get up close and pseudo-personal, it won’t be able to ignore us.”

“Fine,” Barclay replied, “at least in theory. But what if it doesn’t want to talk? It could swat us like mosquitos. Moreover, have you considered the possibility that it can’t talk?”

“I have,” Bubbles snapped, “and I don’t like to think about it. If we can’t persuade it to protect Worstworld….then we’ve failed utterly. That is not an option.”

Once upon the lower deck, and despite her secret misgivings, Bubbles continued to march along resolutely…

“Getting across to the Veil shouldn’t be a problem,” She assured her partner. “Every Punting-Modesty vessel comes equipped with pressurised environmental bubbles for Extra-Vehicular Activities.”

“Oh goodie,” Barclay said only semi-sarcastically, “I’ve always wanted to do an EVA in the vacuum of space.”

Well, assuming that his statement was based upon a childhood ambition, Barclay got his wish. Sooner, rather than later, he and Bubbles vacated the Prowler

…and went scooting across the void to their destination.

Bubbles arrived first, though it was difficult for either of them to judge distance…

“I think I’m almost close enough to touch it.” She spoke upon her radio to Barclay. “No, wait a minute I think we’re passing through the strands into some other place that was hitherto hidden from us.”

Once beyond the strands, nothing they could see made sense to them.

“What the flipping heck is this thing?” Barclay said in his best complaining voice. “It doesn’t seem to have dimensions. There’s no up, down, width, height. I’m all bum-swizzled by it.”

However, moments after making the utterance, something tangible made its presence known…

“Bubs,” he cried out, “it’s an opening. A kind of hatch into somewhere else again!”

Well Bubbles couldn’t wait to investigate. Surely this was an invitation for them to proceed. “Stand aside,” she bellowed as she hit her thrusters, “coming through.”

A split second later…

…Barclay couldn’t help smiling as his chum raced ahead into another unknown situation. “That’s my girl.” He said proudly.

“Ooh, Barclay,” an unworried Bubbles called in a more ‘girly’ voice than was usual for her, “I think I’ve found something really interesting.”

“It’s not scary, then?” Barclay inquired hopefully.

“No, not at all.” Bubbles replied. “Ready yourself for touch down.”

Moments later both earplugs alighted upon, what appeared to be, a rough, natural surface. More significant though, was the crashed space ship that lay, half-buried in it…

“You know who this belongs to, don’t you?” Barclay said as he scrutenised the ruin from a safe distance. He answered his own question. “It’s that guy from Worstworld who first found the Veil of Shytar, and was lost when he came back to it.”

“Augustus Pronk.” Bubbles said. “His name was Augustus Pronk. I wonder if his body is still inside.”

“He might have survived.” Barclay suggested. “It’s not a long way down from that hole. The ship doesn’t look crumpled or anything. Let’s go see of we can find some evidense of him being here.”

Naturally both earplugs expected to find more of the same, So they were more than surprised that, having turned a corner, they found themselves in the open, upon a sandy beach with a blue sky above them…

“Now this I really didn’t expect.” Barclay said as he allowed his eyes to take in a view that clearly could not have been there.

“The air’s salty.” Bubbles informed him. I don’t know if that’s important.”

But before Barclay could reply, his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a male earplug shouting something indecipherable at them.

Bubbles made a reasonable assumption: “I think we’ve found Augustus Pronk.”

Moments later they joined the pinky-orange earplug at the foot of a low sandy  cliff…

“Earplugs,” Augustus Pronk stated loudly. “You’re real, bone fide earplugs – made from silicon too!”

“We are indeed, Mister Pronk.” Bubbles replied with a giggle. “And we’re pleased to meet you too. Could you tell us something of this strange environment we find ourselves in?”

“Sure,” the smiling face of the long-lost earplug from Worstworld replied, “I can tell you all about it on the way to my personal clifftop hotel – the Augustus Pronk.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Photos of note in this episode include 6&8, which were taken as I lay beneath a parasol – looking straight up at the dazzling sun. The brightness gave me the idea of overlaying the characters and downed ship in silhouette. 7 was a filthy canvas pergola with a tear in it. And 9&10 were shot on my local Spanish beach a few years ago following a storm that dragged some of the sand away – leaving what you see. I thought it had possibilities then. Now I’ve finally gotten around to using the pictures in the way I had envisioned them. Talk about forward planning! The ‘cliff’ stood almost 15 centimetres high; and the building in 9 was pre-existing, but I added another floor and arch to make it look more like a hotel.


Thank Heavens For Stats

Whilst browsing my Flickr account I noted that the latest picture that I’d posted on it had fallen from 15 ‘Faves’ to 13. This isn’t unique. I’ve often wondered why people bother to re-visit a picture, only to (effectively) tell the photographer “I don’t really like your picture after all.” So I thought, “Well the photos aren’t that popular anyway, why do I bother?” – and duly deleted the account. Now it doesn’t matter if people change their mind, coz the pictures are gone. What a relief. This action then took my mind to this blog. It seemed to me that viewing figures have been dropping lately, particularly since The Veil of Shytar reared it’s handsome visage. So, (sometimes) being a logical creature, I considered deleting it also. But just to make sure I wasn’t being a tad premature, I checked out the Seven Day stats. Guess  what: comments were down, but…

Although figures are far from promising, what is though is the percentage rise in all three remaining categories. Enough to keep the Veil of Shytar running. So prepare yourself for the next episode.




Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 23)

So, this is it: the bit when they make contact with (in stentorian tones) The Veil of Shytar!

Meanwhile, aboard the Prowler which was standing off at a supposed safe distance…

…Barclay was wondering what the flipping heck was going on…

“Bubs, please tell me they are going to operate the Gravitonic Multiplicitor soon: I can’t stand the suspense.”

“I expect they have lots of calculations and stuff.” Bubbles replied. “They can’t be expected to swing into town and start firing from the hip straight away: they need to check things out first. But, gosh, I wish they’d get a bloody move on. Every second could be critical. I’ve worked out why the hyperspace conduit collapsed, by the way. It was Worstworld’s star: its convulsing and sending out powerful gravity waves that are impacting on nearby hyperspace.”

“Wow, impressive.” Barclay responded. “How do you know that?”

“The Goosewing Grey’s Science Officer sent me a text while Bonzer was pretending to visit the gravitonic multiplicitor.” Bubbles confessed. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

“Disappoint me?” A puzzled Barclay inquired.

“For a moment you thought I figured all that stuff out by myself.” Bubbles explained. “I could see how impressed you were.”

“I was.” Barclay replied. “And I still am. You are one seriously impressive female, Bubbles. It’s one of many attributes that make me proud that we’re here together – you and I.”

Bubbles would have responded to this, but just as she pursed her lips in consideration, something happened at the Veil of Shytar…

The Goosewing Grey had let rip with the gravitonic multiplicitor…

Any second now, Bubbles and Barclay expected to watch as the vast space anomaly began its long fall towards the blue-giant star. But, to their horror, as the gravitonic multiplicitor paused to recharge, the veil went mysteriously dark.

Aboard the ship of Scroton, a bridge crew member made a suggestion…

“Ah, might I suggest we go to Vermillion Alert and grab hold of something that’s bolted down? I have a disturbing feeling in my bowels about this.”

Bonzer didn’t require a seconder. He spun the ship about and hit the emergency boost button…

But quicker still the Veil of Shytar expanded exponentially – dwarfing the Goosewing Grey – and glowing brightly. The next second saw all of the gravitonic multiplicitor’s energy gathered up and flung back towards its point of origin…

The Scrotonic energy then grasped the Goosewing Grey and sent it spinning across thousands of miles of empty space…

Inside pandemonium reigned. With their spatial orientation in tatters, no one could begin to guess which way was up and whose nose poked in whose ear…

They simply hung on to their duty stations like interstellar limpets.

However, as the energy dissipated, the Goosewing Grey finally stopped shaking and simply tumbled gently, end over end, towards Worstworld’s distant primary star…

Naturally the Prowler went in pursuit: the ship of Scroton would need stabilising and brought to a halt.

The experience of being hurled across space by the energy of their own gravitonic multiplicitor wasn’t one that any of the crew of the Goosewing Grey expected or particularly enjoyed. In fact one of them failed to enjoy it so much that he or she left an aromatic item in the forward section of the bridge…

“Someone obviously isn’t suited to a life in space.” The Science Officer observed. “But I think we should place that subject on the back burner for the moment: the Prowler has matched velocity with us and is attempting to slow our uncontrolled rotation with a tractor beam.”

“Timely, S.O,” Bonzer commented, “Because, unless my eyes deceive me, the Veil of Shytar appears to be moving in our direction.”

“Oh yes, I do believe you’re right.” The Science Officer said as he looked up at the holographic viewer, “that can’t be good.”

“It could be an optical illusion.” A crewman suggested.

He was ignored.

“I’m going to make a suggestion, S.O,” Bonzer said gravely, “that might sound incredibly ridiculous. I pre-warn you because I don’t want the crew to think I’m going bonkers and take steps to have me removed from command.”

“Not sure I’m going to like it much myself, Captain.” The Science Officer replied. “Nevertheless I feel duty bound to hear it. Shoot.”

“We should instruct the Prowler to desist with their effort to regain the Goosewing Grey’s stability: we should do that for ourselves – probably by synchronised running from side to side and jumping up and down until the craft has settled into some form of equilibrium.”

“Sounds reasonable so far: continue.”

“Then the Prowler should move to intercept the space anomaly and attempt dialogue with it.”

For a moment the Science Officer stared straight ahead. He didn’t as much as blink.

“S.O,” a concerned Bonzer Dragonsrectum said sharply, “do you ail?”

The Science Officer reanimated. “Sorry, Sir,” he said, “I come from a long line of science officers. It’s a family trait to go into a fugue when thinking deeply. I concur with your suggestion. We can only pray that the brightly-coloured curtain thing possesses sentience. If it’s coming to kick us up the metaphysical arse, there’s not a sodding thing we can do about it.”

Moments later Bubbles and Barclay received a communication from the Goosewing Grey. It was brief and concise…

“I think that spinning is addling their brains.” Barclay opined.

“Could be,” Bubbles replied, “but Captain Dragonsrectum out-ranks us. If he tells us to do something, we really should. How do you talk to a space curtain?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Well that’s that out of the way: now on to the interesting stuff in part 24!

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 22)

Despite all those lovely SFX, Part 21 went down like a lead balloon. I’m rather hoping this one will do better. It’s also a bit SFX heavy, so I’m not hopeful. Obviously readers like the silly exchanges between characters more. I don’t blame them: those are more fun to write too! Anyway, read on…

Two hours later the Prowler and the Goosewing Grey departed Scroton…

Once free of Weird Space, the crew of the Goosewing Grey opened a hyperspace conduit…

…and, with the Prowler in hot pursuit, they plunged their vessel into it.

“Well that’s the tricky part sorted,” Barclay said as they watched the tail lights of the Goosewing Grey bob about in the unusually turbulent conduit. “Now all we need do is move the Veil of Shytar several billion kilometres – before the star explodes.” 

“Piece of cake.” Bubbles replied.

“Hardly a piece of cake.” Barclay scoffed. “More likely impossible.”

“No, a piece of cake.” Bubbles insisted. “I stole two slices of lemon drizzle from a buffet in the Hotel Guano. I knew we wouldn’t get a chance to eat. Fancy some?”

However, an hour or so into the flight Bubbles detected an anomaly…

“Do you feel buffeting?” She inquired of Barclay

Barclay had, but he assumed it was caused by Bubbles’ fidgeting as she tried to make her bottom comfortable upon the pilot’s chair / toilet. “Yes,” he replied, “are you saying it isn’t you?”

Bubbles first thought was, ‘How the heck could I cause the ship to shake? Even if I wiggled my bum from side to side and hopped up and down, I couldn’t create buffeting!’ Instead she moved on:

“Yes.” She answered Barclay’s question, “I am. Something outside is doing it.”

“But this is hyperspace.” Barclay argued. “There isn’t anything outside. Strictly speaking there isn’t anything at all. Hyperspace is the absence of space/time.”

“Okay,” Bubbles said, following a pause to think further, “something is making hyperspace shake – and that’s what’s buffeting the Prowler.

By now the buffeting had worsened. “I’m inclined to agree.” Barclay said as he checked for any signs of the hull rupturing or bolts undoing themselves. “And, look: the Goosewing Grey is having a hard time keeping an even keel!”

It was at that moment that the Scrotonic ship contacted them. Two Cable Ends appeared on the front viewer…

“This is Captain Bonzer Dragonsrectum.” Bonzer introduced himself. “Are you having difficulties?”

Bubbles confessed that they were and that she was beginning to feel decidedly ‘icky’.

“That’s what I thought,” Bonzer replied to this. “It appears that the hyperspace conduit is becoming unstable. If we don’t depart it before it collapses, we may never re-enter normal space. Thought you ought to know.”

“What’s causing it?” Barclay asked.

“It would take a massive upheaval in regular space to affect a conduit.” The green-eyed cable end beside Bonzer answered. “That’s why, as science officer aboard the Goosewing Grey, I’m loathe to drop back into normal space willy-nilly. I have no idea what we’ll find there.”

Bubbles checked the Prowler’s chronometer. “It won’t be long before we have to exit anyway.” She said. “We’re coming up on the location of the Veil of Shytar.”

“It’s just as well.” Bonzer replied. “I don’t think this conduit can hang together much longer. Prepare for emergence into normal space.”

A few seconds later the two ships burst from the conduit – just as it began to collapse…

“Yikes, that was close.” Barclay shouted over the noise of cheering cable ends that erupted from the communicator. “Now let’s see where we are.”

Well he didn’t have to look far…

…dead ahead the strange cosmic curtain hung like a…um…curtain against a backdrop of stars.

Aboard the Goosewing Grey, its commander and crew received their first sight of the Veil of Shytar…

“Hmmm,” the Science Officer reacted calmly, “I can see how it got its name: my sphincter is already puckering.”

“No time for fear and trepidation.” Bonzer responded to this minor confession. “You have the con: I’m going to check out the Gravitonic Multiplicitor…”

However, as he emerged from the bridge into the back room in which the Tankerville Norris had always housed its Gravitonic Multiplicitor…

…he remembered that the class of vessels had undergone a refit and that the wondrous device now lay hidden in the forward sensor array.

“Blast and bugger it.” He hissed. “If I go back in now, they’re all going to know that I forgot about the refit. I’m gonna look like a real prat. I know, I’ll just hang around out here for a while; then pretend that I’ve been down to the forward sensor array. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.”

A few minutes later, having quickly grown bored inside the near featureless room, Captain Bonzer Dragonsrectum returned to the bridge and sat himself down…

The Science Officer couldn’t resist passing comment. “That was quick.”

“I’m a fast worker.” Bonzer replied.

“But its two and a half minutes there and two and a half minutes back.” The argument proceeded. “You’ve only been three and a half minutes total.”

“I ran all the way there and all the way back. Like I said: I’m a fast worker.”

“Yet you’re not out of breath and you don’t perspire freely.”

“I keep myself lithe and super-fit. A dash to the sensor array and back is like a stroll in the park to someone like me.”

“Indeed? Then how is that you allowed yourself into the sensor array, yet I have the key to the hatch in my pocket?”

Bonzer spent several panic-stricken nanoseconds considering his response. “Rank hath its privileges.” He snapped. “Now shut up and scan the space anomaly: I wanna know how much bulk we gotta push.”

“Already done, Captain,” The Science Officer replied. “No data. The Veil of Shytar repels all scans – remember?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Well that episode included fabulous SFX with entertaining silly exchanges between characters: how could you not like that!

P.S As I expect you noticed, both interior and exterior shots of the Goosewing Grey were actually the bridge set and model of the Tankerville Norris. Continuity is very important: but not as important as saving me time and effort making new sets and models!

Isn’t It a Bloody Nuisance…

…that when the time comes for me to upload the free e-book version of The Veil of Shytar to this blog, WordPress won’t allow it in EPUB form? PDF does the job – just about: but look how it might appear as nature intended…

It’s just not the same, is it? Of course you could try downloading the PDF and then use an on-line app to convert it into EPUB: but I wouldn’t guarantee the result. It’s a bummer, so it is.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 21)

Familiar ground for Earpluggers coming up…

Chapter 10

Bubbles had programmed the ship’s navigation computer to emerge from hyperspace at a specific point. This it did with pinpoint accuracy…

The Prowler and its occupants now found themselves in the strange border area between regular space and Weird Space. Their close proximity to the oddly-coloured region of the Galaxy could mean only one thing…

“I’ve always wanted to visit Scroton,” Bubbles said as she studied the abnormal stars and cosmic dust of Weird Space. “I just never imagined I’d have a proper reason to, or the means of getting here.”

“Two birds with one stone.” Barclay replied.

Bubbles fluttered her eyelashes at this. “Three, if we count you.”

Barclay would have reacted to this compliment, but before he could say anything, the planet Scroton swam into view in his side window…

“Barclay,” Bubbles said urgently, “we’re getting a priority message from a way station. We’re to remain here until an escort vessel arrives from Scroton.”

“How very efficient.” Barclay responded. “Just as one would expect from the Scotonite Ethernet Cable Ends. I wonder how long they’ll be.”

Well, no sooner had the words left Barclay’s mouth, when a ship of the Tankerville Norris class duly arrived…

“Please follow us in.” A voice sounded from speakers and a sub-woofer set into the cockpit chairs. “Our sensors detect earplugs aboard. Your DNA suggests you originate upon the planet Earth. Your planet and ours are allies. Welcome to Scroton. A reservation has been made for you at the Hotel Guano. Please report there immediately upon landing at Scroton Prime.”

“Ah, roger that.” Bubbles replied semi-professionally.

“Wow,” an impressed Barclay breathed, “I wonder if they’ll roll out the red carpet too.”

Twenty-five minutes later the couple stood in their room at the Hotel Guano…

Whilst Barclay took in the view of Scroton Prime, Bubbles’ attention was upon the fabric of their room.

“It’s a little austere.” She said. “I suppose the furniture comes out of the walls or something. But they could have put some magazines in the magazine rack – which, I might add, is too high for me. Okay for a basketball player or a pole vaulter; but not for test pilots.”

To cheer Bubbles up, Barclay said:

“I noticed a coffee machine in the foyer: It isn’t café Puke, but it could be this planet’s equivalent. Fancy a brew?”

Two minutes later and fifteen floors lower…

“Café Blurgh,” Bubbles squealed with delight. “It sounds ghastly. I’ll try one of everything.”

From there, they decided that a brisk walk in the open air was called for…

“Will you look at that, Bubs,” Barclay said as they strolled across the central plaza of the industrial area, “it’s been less than three decades since this planet industrialized, and already their smoke stacks are museum pieces. Breathe in that air: not a particulate anywhere!”

Shortly, as evening fell, they moved into a quiet region of the city where few citizens roamed. It was there that they were accosted by three members of the military…

Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage: you have arrived here in an armed vessel that could be described as a warship.” The camouflaged officer addressed them. “I am Captain Bonzer Drangonsrectum: you will explain to me the reason for your visit to our fabulous world, and the need for atomic cannons.”

Bubbles had expected some form of interview; she just hadn’t expected it to occur in the open with civilians out and about taking the air. “Well,” she began. Fifteen minutes later, her story told, she added:


“So you’ll be wanting to see Nigel – the Golden One, huh?” Bonzer suggested.

Barclay held out his hands before him. “Anyone who can give us what we desperately need that might save an entire world and everyone who lives on it.”

Bonzer dismissed his subordinates, and then made a call on his communication device. After stating his needs, he placed the device back in his pocket and said:

“Follow me.”

So they did…

Shortly they were ushered into the presence of the planetary leader, Nigel, and his wife, Beatrix…

“So, Nigel said following a pleasant greeting, “you need a Gravitonic Multiplicitor, eh?”

“You plan to move Worstworld to a safer orbit?” Beatrix inquired. “Like they did with Mars?

“Oh if only it were that simple.” Bubbles replied. “Yes, we do need to move something really large, but there’s nowhere safe for the planet. When the blue-giant star explodes, it will engulf everything in the system. It will then shrink back to become a brown dwarf star. Worstworld orbits close enough to benefit from the remnants of the blue-giant. Unfortunately it can’t survive the initial catastrophe.”

“That’s where the Veil of Shytar comes in.” Barclay interjected. “It has the power to repel energy. Our plan is to move the space anomaly to a position between Worstworld and the blue-giant.”

“If we’re right,” Bubbles took up the explanation again, “the Veil of Shytar will act like an impenetrable heat shield against the nova.”

“How certain are you that it will work?” Nigel asked.

“Oh,” Bubbles replied, “about fifty-fifty, I guess.”

“Those are Magnuss Earplug kind of odds.” Nigel said with a broad smile – well he would have, had he been able to smile. “You two and Mister and Missus Earplug are like peas in a pod. You will have your Gravitonic Multiplicitor – aboard one of my favourite ships – the Goosewing Grey.”

“Only it’s not grey anymore.” Beatrix added. “We had it painted blue – like the Tankerville Norris. It looks so much nicer.”

“When do we leave?” Barclay asked urgently.

Fate chose that moment to open the main door and reveal the building’s occupants to the lights of the media…

“Just as soon as we’ve informed the Galactic News Channel and everyone else with either a voice recorder or a camera, of your endeavour.” Nigel replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Hands up all of you who guessed they were going to Scroton. And they’re getting a Gravitonic Multiplicitor too!

Significant shots here include the industrialised area of Scroton Prime, which was shot originally for the very first Scroton story (in 2016), and has been used over and over ever since because the location (and materials) in which it was shot no longer exists. Ditto the quiet plaza shots, which feature an upturned plastic pallet, an empty cable reel, and a fire-proof asbestos wall.  Add some characters and they look like real places….don’t they?

P.S If anyone has ever read the classic 1960s comic tale The Trigan Empire, it is that imagery I tried to capture with the quiet plaza shots – including the distant ‘Atmosphere Craft’. Kind of modern Romanesque. See, I think about what I’m producing: it’s not just thrown together – even if sometimes it looks like it is.