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The Epoch of Dung (part 3)

Cameo alert. Cameo Alert. Lots of famous earplug names not really contributing to the tale.*

The look of horror upon Yabu’s face intensified. “I can’t,” he cried out in mental agony, “they’re not on Earth. Magnuss and Hair-Trigger boarded the Tankerville Norris

…to visit the Ice World. Having arrived to great fanfare and hullabaloo, they set off on a sponsored circumnavigation of the planet’s equator…

…upon which they hoped to raise sufficient funds to begin a scientific exploration of the crust’s re-formed sub-strata, and discover why it’s gone all visually mono-tonal…

“Okay,” Cushions said with a sigh. “So the ‘A’ team are out of town: what about the remaining four Earplug Brothers? Don’t tell me they’re off-world too!”

“Sorry.” Yabu replied. “Actually they are. They’re on Mars – checking out the progress of planetary terraforming.”

Cushions was confused by this information. “I’m confused.” She said in a tone that could only be described as ‘confused’. “This information makes no sense. The last time I looked, Mars had been moved to an orbit directly opposite this world, but on the other side of the Sun: it has a climate much like Earth’s now.”

“True,” Yabu replied sagely, “but Mars’ deserts have been dead for thousands of millennia. Earth seeds don’t like them. So the boys have gone along to cheer up everyone on the project. And, whilst they’re there, they can get to fly around in the Punting-Modesty Facepuncher XL5 without worrying Air Traffic Control.”

Cushions mused upon this information for about three nanoseconds. “That’s why they’ve gone to Mars, isn’t it? To play silly-buggers on a planet with a thinner atmosphere, reduced gravity, and a tiny population, in a powerful attack craft. Really it’s all about having fun.”

To which Yabu answered in the affirmative. He then added, “It’s their way of reducing stress. You know – the stress of always having to be heroes and failing at nothing.”

To which a scornful Cushions replied, “Huh – I’m so stressed that sometimes I think my knicker elastic will snap with the strain: but I don’t go racing around alien worlds in rocket-powered aircraft. Call them back instantaneously!”

A sheepish look slid…er…sheepishly… across Yabu’s countenance. “That could be a problem, Cushions.” He said. “We received a very garbled message from Folie Krimp and Placebo Bison. They were on their way to Earth aboard the Gravity Whelk at the time. Would you like me to play it back to you on my cell phone?”

Yabu didn’t wait for a reply. A split second later, his phone’s tiny screen displayed this…

Whilst Placebo was yelling, “Aargh”, Folie managed to bellow a warning:

“Massive ion storm encountered in Solar System. All ships should attempt planet fall at the soonest opportunity – like now. Communications are failing. Act immediately. Our ship is loads better than yours; and look what the ion storm is doing to it.”   

The scene shifted to a remote external view…

Cushions had time for one decent nervous gulp before the screen blanked.

“Coms have been out ever since.” Yabu said miserably.

This was terrible news: it should have floored the curator. However, Cushions rallied quickly. “What about those three girls? You know – the heroes in training. They’ve got a great big robot freighter: surely they can do something to help. I mean – what’s the point of heroes in training, if they can’t do something heroic when the need arises!”

“You mean Bunty Bridgewater, Daisy Woodnut, and Ginger Slack.” Yabu  answered…

“Do I?” Cushions snapped. “Oh yes, I suppose I do. Those names do seem familiar. Well?

“Their ship was severely damaged on a training mission by an ethereal alien walking machine on a dark planetoid.” Yabu replied…

…”They’re still waiting for a tow-truck. But, I do have one trick left up my sleeve. Remember Margret Greenhorn and her dancing troupe, the Greenhorn Girls?”

Cushions screwed up her face – partially in doubt, and partially because she was trying to remember when she had last seen the Greenhorn Girls in action. Then it came to her: they’d danced at the wedding of Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug…

“Flipping heck, Yabu,” she wailed, “is that the best you can do?”

Yabu shrugged in response. “I’ve sent out a page to Margret: they should be at the front door right about…now!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

* Also allows him to use some of those ‘arty’ earplugs shots that wouldn’t otherwise appear.

The Epoch of Dung (part 2)

So, on to the second instalment. If it appears familar that is because (like part 1) this episode has also appeared before. But this time it’s good…

This wasn’t Glumb and Humbolt’s first encounter with the Museum of Future Technology’s curator- in- chief. They knew when it was best to stand up and ‘front’ her. They also knew when to cower a little and behave as obsequiously as they could, taking into consideration, of course, their sense of self-importance…

“Well, you see, your worship, it’s like this.” Glumb began.

“Like what?” Bubbly Salterton inquired of Winston Gloryhole sharply. “What’s it like?”

“Something very interesting has happened.” Humbolt replied as he attempted to view the read-out upon his hand-held Chrono-Shift meter at the same time that he spoke. “If these figures are correct…aah…something really significant – temporally that is – has occurred in this era.”

This was news to Glumb Kimball. “It has?” He inquired as his huge, bulbous eyes snapped sideways to regard his colleague.

Humbolt wasn’t sure whom he should address first. A look of thunder from Cushions made up his mind for him. “Yes,” he said, whilst looking straight at the curator, “and it absolves Glumb and me of responsibility – completely and utterly. This is your baby, so-to-speak, Ms Smethwyke; we can wash our hands of any repercussions. You want to step up to bat? Here’s your chance. Be my guest.”

Glumb appeared considerably relieved by this uncharacteristically verbal outpouring from his normally taciturn co-scientist. “Right then,” he said as the curators stood open mouthed, “we’re out of here. Bye-ee.”

Naturally, the Time Techs rushed to usher their superiors into the Tubo Di Tempo…

…but, as the time machine activated, Widderspoon Flange made to intercept them.

“But you haven’t told us what this significant event in our era is.” He cried, “What is going on?”

Humbolt passed his Chrono-Shift meter to Gregor Koch. “Ask Gregor,” he replied to Widderspoon’s question, “that’s assuming he can remember how to read the data correctly, of course: he’s probably a little rusty.”

Meanwhile, Auntie Doris, so recently promoted to the Curator Elite, smiled warmly at the worried Cushions, and said:

“Don’t worry yourself, Dear: Whatever it is, I’m sure the Earplug Brothers can sort it out for you.”

For a fleeting moment, these kind words gave Cushions a degree of confidence that she so badly needed. Then Widderspoon and the Time Techs returned with some news. News that would shake the very foundations of the museum’s existence.*

Chapter 1

A short while later, Cushions Smethwyke and the curators that had accompanied her to meet the recent arrivals from the future, stood resolutely together…

…and faced the camera of the museum’s TV reporter, Rupert Piles…

They wished to address the entire populace of the museum with the devastating news. Of course, Auntie Doris tried to soften the blow with a pleasant smile, but it did little to lift the spirits of those who watched and listened upon the TVs in the imagined sanctuary of their own homes…

…their workplaces…

In bars, restaurants, and walkways…

And upon the huge wall screens that hung in most thoroughfares and public meeting places, such as the Great Hall…

Even zombies, on their way to a hat-wearing competition, paused to listen and learn…

Wherever earplugs – and other silicon-based lifeforms within the Museum of Future Technology – heard Cushion’s resolute and unwavering voice as she elucidated in her most dispassionate manner, the result was always the same…

Shock, fear, and an intense desire to visit the lavatory. Some – those being first cousins of the Earplug Brothers, Clancy, Brad, and Gilbatross Earplug…

…fled to the lower levels and catacombs beneath the earlier museums that formed the Museum of Future Technology’s supportive strata. But seasoned – if terribly young – campaigners, such as Fulham Peach and Crudlove Twang…

…reacted in a more positive manner. They had recently joined The Yabu Youth – an organisation created by Magnuss Earplug’s protégé, Yabu Suchs, to discover brave young earplugs with the wherewithal to become future heroes. Whilst Fulham considered fortifying herself with the rapid consumption of a cup of Café Puke’s fabled Crappachino, Crudlove was receiving a page from their leader. Casting a quick glance over his shoulder at the sunset, he said:

“Fulham, sweetie: it’s time to act positively. Let’s go volunteer.”

In fact, the only people who failed to react with any observable…er…reaction were Baron Frankincense’s monsters…

…who had escaped his laboratory and were now on their way to the cinema to watch an avant-garde rom-com about high school girls experiencing abduction by a swarthy band of pirates and discovering the delights of tight pants and disco.

Whilst he awaited the arrival of Crudlove and Fulham, Yabu Suchs – of the Yabu Youth – spoke quietly with Cushions…

“So, Chief,” he said, “is that right that there has been a divergence of time-lines – right here and now, in our era?”

To which Cushions replied:

“You’re quick on the up-take. Of course it’s right, you vaguely off-yellow twerp. Something happened that caused the Tunnel Temporale to hiccup, so-to-speak, and create an alternate time-line. Starting, as of a couple of hours ago, there are now two potential histories. One is the correct time-line that will eventually reconnect with the river of time: the other will lose temporal momentum, and stagger to a halt – freezing whatever exists during those final moments before the end of time in a repetitive causality loop that can never be broken. Death will hold no dominion there; but everyone will go completely ga-ga with boredom and probably eat each other.”

A look of horror crossed Yabu’s face. “And in the morning they would find themselves whole again, and go just that little bit more insane. Oh such misery – and eternal too! ”

“Yeah, and it gets worse.” Cushions added mirthlessly, “There’s nothing to say that the ‘other’ timeline gets the bad news. It’s a fifty-fifty chance that it’ll be this time-line that enters the loop. That it’s we who go ga-ga and eat each other. We need the Earplug Brothers; and we need ‘em quick. But we can’t find them. They’re out of town. You’re Magnuss’ protégé; you must have their number; give ‘em a call!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

* Whatever that means.

The Epoch of Dung (part 1)

Following the aborted first attempt to display this latest wondrous tale of silicon-based life, sufficient photos and enough script has finally been produced to allow it’s creator to release the opening salvo of this, the 44th edition of the Earplug Adventures. You won’t be disappointed Earpluggers. It may be shorter than average – but only by twenty-five percent or so. And you know what they: the best things come in small packages*…

Earplug Adventures: The Epoch of Dung

Tooty Nolan

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Every day was an interesting day at the Museum of Future Technology – especially since a new spaceport had opened to the paying public…

 

Visitors would wait, often interminably, in the foyer for the next shuttle to arrive…

…to take them to the Departure Lounge – from whence they would board space ships to here, there, and everywhere. Therefore, it was into this seething cauldron of silicon life that the next potential disaster poked its unwelcome hooter. Biological android, and self-proclaimed princess, Princess Agatha, and her friend, Belinda Noseguard, had happened by the long-abandoned (and previously troublesome) Tunnel Temporale, when suddenly it erupted with crimson light. Although technical imbeciles, both long-term inhabitants of the museum quickly realised that any activity within the futuristic tube that possessed the ability to traverse the river of time, but which had caused unprecedented damage when it allowed time storms to rip through the structure of both the museum and space/time itself, was very bad indeed. Naturally, they scarpered as quickly as they could…

At more or less the same time, the three Time Techs, all of which had been marooned in their past by the resultant closure and long-term temporary decommissioning of the Tunnel Temporale, were strolling back to their work stations after a quick visit to the nearby Café Puke outlet to use their toilet…

The chief Time Tech, Gregor Koch, looked sideways at his subordinate, Twinkles Forget-me-not, and said:

“What lovely urinals they have at the Café Puke. So sweet smelling. And the soap dispenser is to die for.”

“Pity their coffee tastes like it came from the same dispenser.” Runt said from behind Gregor.

“Mine tasted like it came from the urinal.” Twinkles complained. He then added, “Why can’t we have our own toilet? Why do we have to borrow other people’s loos? It’s so demeaning.”

“Cushions Smethwyke still blames us for the time storms.” Gregor replied. “She still thinks that our attempt to return to our period in history, during the worst of it, was tantamount to desertion.”

“She has a point.” Runt spoke again. “We are Time Techs after all: running out on them during their greatest need of us was kind’a ploppy.”

“That’s easy for you to say.” Twinkles grumbled. “Of the three of us, you’re on the lowest pay level: you don’t have a fortune in back-pay accumulating in the future.”

Runt had to think for a second before responding. “Hmmm,” he replied, “and I’m not exactly loaded here either. I might consider applying for a position aboard the K T Woo, you know: they’re always looking for crewmembers. You get to meet aliens too. Sometimes they shoot at you with advanced directed energy weapons. But most of the time it’s great. And the pay is terrific.”

One of the older Time Techs might have responded with, “Yeah, go for it: you’re no sodding good to us.” but the sight of the startled-looking Princess Agatha interrupted any such thought process as she exited an elevator behind Belinda Noseguard…

It took both blue earplugs approximately a half nanosecond to cover the distance between themselves and the three semi-permanent visitors from the future…

…where they quickly transferred responsibility for whatever might happen next because of them having found the Tunnel Temporale in unexpectedly operative mode.

“Yeah,” Belinda blurted, “it was all glowing red and stuff.”

“We were so scared we had to stop off at a launderette on the way here!” Agatha added for good measure.

Gregor didn’t respond initially. Well actually he did. An almost inaudible squeak escaped his trousers. But, rallying with alacrity, he said, “Thank you, ladies; on your way; leave this to us.”

Thirty seconds later, any potential CCTV cameras would have found all three Time Techs making best speed for the Tunnel Temporale…

…which startled the crews of two armoured hover reconnaissance vehicles, who had stopped off for a wee behind one of the huge concrete support columns that held up the disused roller skate park roof.

However, nothing – not even the complaining members of the military – could be allowed to slow Gregor, Twinkles, and Runt, as they raced towards (what they feared was) their destiny. Moreover, to their horror, they soon discovered that neither Princess Agatha nor Belinda had been exaggerating…

“I can’t look!” Twinkles wailed as all three Time Techs turned their backs on the apparition.

“Quick”, Gregor yelled above the humming sound that emitted from the Tunnel, “let’s run away; kill the witnesses; and feign ignorance of the whole damned deal!”

“No,” the calmest earplug present snapped. “Pull yourselves together. We must inform our superiors. Quickly – to the smaller, but infinitely more reliable, Tubo Di Tempo!”

Of course, Runt was entirely correct. So, five minutes, and several high-speed elevators later…

…Gregor, Twinkles, and Runt arrived at the Tunnel Temporale’s replacement, just in time to see it activate remotely.

“Looks like someone in the future already knows about our little problem.” Twinkles observed.

He wasn’t wrong. A moment later, the colour of the Tubo Di Tempo shifted into the blue spectrum, and two figures emerged from it…

It was a slightly shaken Humbolt Whale who led his colleague, Glumb Kimball, from the machine.

“Ooh, that was a nasty ride.” Humbolt managed after a bout of retching. “I’ve never been travel sick in a time machine before.”

“It must have been temporal eddies caused by the temporally-adjacent Tunnel Temporale.” Glumb conjectured. He then explained to the waiting Time Techs that he and Humbolt had been conducting some preventative maintenance upon their future version of the Tunnel Temporale…

…when it activated spontaneously.

“Spontaneous, it was.” Humbolt said in support of his co-worker. “We didn’t touch a thing.”

This amused Runt because it displayed a level of insecurity that matched his immediate superior’s. He was almost tempted to say, “See, Gregor, even your boss feels the need to cover his arse.” but he didn’t get the opportunity because Glumb continued to relate their tale…

“So, after due consideration, we thought we ought to get ourselves here and see if there was someone else would could pin the blame on.”

It was very fortunate for Gregor that Cushions Smethwyke had been following the situation aboard the Omnipresent Scanner. Just as Glumb had spoken those words, she and several curators entered the room.

“Ah, she said, as the surprised Time Techs turned to meet the party…

…”you’re all as bad as each other in the future. It’s time someone stepped up to the plate and took some responsibility. Well I’m here to say to you, stand aside, you gutless wonders: Cushions Smethwyke has entered the building.”

She then demanded to know ‘what the heck’ was going on.

Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

* Whoever said that obviously hasn’t seen my willy!

P.S If you ‘Liked’ this before, I’d be very pleased if you ‘Liked’ it again.

Apologies, Earpluggers – Again

After the aborted start to the 44th Earplug Adventure – Epoch of Dung – I can now announce that this time I’m actually ready to start posting episodes properly. There are currently 231 fully processed shots in the can, and probably just a handful more to snap before I can say “Done!” Regular stories require 400+ shots, so I guess this is a photo-novella in comparison. The previous shortest story was Natural Selection; but I’m pretty certain this one is coming in under that fabulous tome. Here’s a brief montage…

Lots of cameos included this time. See if you can remember which tales the characters have appeared in before. And there’s a tsunami too!

Watch this space!

 

What is Getting My Earplugs So Excited?

With the Earplug Adventure: Triple Threat now just a distant memory, something is causing the silicon populace of my attic to become even more animated than normal…

The clue to it’s identity comes from those coloured objects that appear to have the nearest earplugs in their thrall. Yes, it’s time to prepare for another adventure…

…which means sprucing up the make-up, and smoothing out the age-lines. Golly, the Supreme Being has his work cut out for him…

…Some of these earplugs are eight years old! But, be assured, they’ll be fighting fit and looking their best when the camera next rolls. All that’s needed is a script. Thinking cap on. Getting those little grey cells agitated is the key. What could the scenario be for the next tale? Surely the possibilities are endless. Any suggestions?

Earplugs Without Pictures 15

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


© Paul Trevor Nolan 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course it’s much better with the pictures: after all you can see what’s going on! To read or download the book in its entirety – pictures and all – click on the Plunging Into Peril cover image (above) to bring up the full PDF file.

 

Earplugs Without Pictures 14

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND…

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

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

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

“You catch our drift?” Valentine inquired hopefully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Iceworld representatives nodded.

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

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

“Absolutely certain.” Marty called back.

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

©  Paul Trevor Nolan 2016

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

 

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 41)

Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aboard the Tankerville Norris

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

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

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

A split second later…

…a space rift began to form.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 40)

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

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

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

Moments later the Prolate Spheroid Incense Cones entered en masse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnuss hoped that the situation wasn’t beyond retrieval:

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures Spaceship Wallpaper: Departure

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

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

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 39)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The station’s robots were doing no better…

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile Bunty began giving Ginger and Daisy exact instructions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gave Daisy pause for thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 37)

With that, both earplugs were more than happy to return to the control room to expound further…

“So how do you feel about handing this ship back to the original crew?” Magnuss inquired of Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy.

“Well we know how to fly it, and all that,” Ginger replied for all of them, “but there are only four of us. In any case, we’re all minors – at least in earplug law: we really should be in your care.”

“That’s what I hoped you’d say.” Magnuss said with a relieved smile upon his boyishly handsome face. “Let’s call in the crew.”

Moments later…

“Captain,” Magnuss said without preamble, “are you prepared to take command of the Drunkard’s Vomit?”

“The Drunkard’s Vomit?” The captain questioned. “I am unaware of a vessel of that identity.”

“It’s this ship.” Hair-Trigger informed the automaton. “It’s got a new name. Like it?”

The captain didn’t quite know how to respond; but it wanted to keep the earplugs happy, so it said, “Certainly. Might I say what an inspired choice of nomenclature it is? Further, I consider it commendable upon at least seventeen levels of commendability.”

“Is ‘commendability’ a real word, Captain?” the ship’s green first officer spoke quietly over the captain’s hunched mauve shoulder

“I do not care.” The captain replied. “They know what I mean.”

“Indeed we do.” Magnuss agreed. “The ship is yours. We’ll be on our way.”

“Everyone ready?” He inquired of Tong-Tong and the girls.

None of them were certain they were ready for what was about to happen, but they said “Yes” anyway.

A split second later…

The light of the visitor’s departure had barely faded before the robots resumed their duties. However, for one it was bad news…

“With Tong-Tong gone,” the captain spoke to one of the many identical green robots that constituted the crew of the Drunkard’s Vomit, “the position of emergency waiter requires that someone fills it. You are that ‘someone.”

“It is an honour to step into Tong-Tong’s metaphorical shoes.” The nameless robot replied. “When do I start?”

Meanwhile, aboard the uninhabited Tankerville Norris

…systems were coming back on line. And not a moment too soon, because…

…it was uninhabited no longer…

“Wow,” Daisy exclaimed, “now I know how Dorkan and Dawlish Deathwish’s armoured reconnaissance vehicle felt when it appeared on the Wide Blue Yonder before us. Weird!”

The others agreed wholeheartedly, but they knew there was little time for conversation concerning matter transmission: already the Drunkard’s Vomit was lifting from its rocky sanctuary…

“It is good to see the vacuum of space once more.” The robot that had been designated Emergency Waiter said as the edge of the chasm hove into view upon the main screen.

“I concur.” The captain…er…concurred. It then added – perhaps as a cyber-joke – “On at least seventeen levels of concurability.”

“Right then,” Magnuss said as his guests took up position behind the Driving Chairs, “time to get this show on the road.”

Finally, the three girls were in a position – physically, mentally, and spiritually – to witness the magnitude of interstellar space…

“Ooh,” they said as one, “nice. Which one is Earth?”

Of course, the Tankerville Norris wasn’t going anywhere near Earth – not that the Earth was in view anyway: it was in the opposite direction completely! In fact, as the ship adopted a new position in space, the planetoid filled most of the main screen…

Already a course had been plotted: it was headed for a location just over the immediate horizon…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 36)

Daisy’s excitement was contagious. Within seconds, Bunty and Ginger had crowded around the control panel beside her. Tong-Tong quickly joined them…

“Whoo,” they all sighed. “The Tankerville Thingamabob.”

The Commander of the Prolate Spheroid ship was less easily impressed. In fact, he was really cheesed off…

“Our plan – like most plans – lies in ruins.” He grumbled. “And all because of a bunch of stupid meddling earplugs. Target that vessel and open fire.”

Fortunately, for all concerned, his First Officer counselled caution:

“Is that entirely wise, Sir?” He whispered so that the crewmembers within earshot could not hear him clearly, “After all, that little ship did neutralise an attack without firing a shot. If we tread carefully, perhaps it is still possible to avert the civil war you most fear.”   

The Commander wasn’t entirely convinced. “I’m not the sort to sit back and watch as events develop.” He mumbled. “I’m a pro-active kind of guy. But I suppose I could give it a try. Maybe for five minutes.”

“Indeed, Sir,” a rather self-satisfied First Officer replied. “Perhaps we could listen to their com-chatter.”

This was fortuitous timing for the Prolate Spheroid Incense Cones, because Tong-Tong had just initiated a link with the Tankerville Norris

“Hello,” it said, “my designation is Tong-Tong. I am speaking on behalf of Bunty Bridgewater, Daisy Woodnut, and Ginger Slack – late of Planet Earth. They would speak for themselves, but they are feeling slightly overawed by your heroic presence, and do not want to giggle like schoolgirls at a pop concert every time you look at them. Have you come to rescue them?”

Naturally, Magnuss replied in the affirmative, so Tong-Tong chanced a request of its own:

“Might it be possible that I accompany them? We have grown rather close, and I am experiencing feelings of protectiveness towards them. I have heard that the Café Puke is always looking for cheap waiters. Hmmm?”

Well neither Magnuss nor Hair-Trigger could think of a reasonable excuse to refuse Tong-Tong’s request, and several seconds after Magnuss’ reply of, “Yeah, sure – why not?” this happened… 

…which surprised all four entities aboard the freighter.

They remained surprised (to within microns of mental / cyber chemical imbalance) until Magnuss said, “Hello Ginger, Daisy, and Bunty: nice to meet you.”

Whilst Hair-Trigger added, “And your charming robot too.”

Well such a disarming approach couldn’t help but succeed thoroughly. Tong-Tong’s eyes un-crossed and the three girls smiled broadly. They then introduced Tong-Tong by name.

So whilst the Tankerville Norris remained in orbit, and kept watchful sensors upon its charges below…

…Magnuss expounded upon his tentative ideas for future actions against their Incense Cone foes…

He concluded with, “And then we’ll kick them right up the arse and send them back to where they belong. But firstly, I’d like to familiarise myself with this ship. I’ve not seen one of these before: what is it called?”

Tong-Tong and the girls looked at each other. “Robotic Submarine Space Freighter Zero-Zero Seven.” Tong-Tong replied, though it suspected that a numerical nomenclature wasn’t quite what the great earplug was requesting.

Bunty was desperate to please the Hero of Earplugdom. “What was the name of your Dad’s sail boat?” She demanded of Ginger.

Ginger was surprised at the question; but she answered readily enough:

“The Drunkard’s Vomit?” She replied questioningly. “Is that really a suitable name for a space freighter?”

“It’s better than that mouthful that came out of Tong-Tong.” Bunty opined bluntly.

“The Drunkard’s Vomit.” Daisy finally answered Magnuss’ question.

“Good choice,” Magnuss said as he nodded approvingly. “Now my wife and I will take a little stroll around – you know just so we know which end is the pointy end, and which end makes all the noise.”

And that is what they did…

…though neither of them were quite sure about the décor.

“It would be fine in a disco,” Hair-Trigger complained as she sought visual solace by peering out of a porthole at the surrounding topography…

…“but right now it’s giving me a migraine.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 35)

Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were in the Gravitonic Multiplicitor room at the time…

By either coincidence or fate, Cushions chose that moment to contact them:

“Don’t proceed a metre closer to the space station.” She hurriedly squealed. “The Prolate Spheroids forbid it. I’ve just received an important communique from their new ambassador – Lord Gusty Chorizo: apparently, something very important is taking place, and you’re not to interfere. He was a bit vague about what was going on. In fact, he didn’t say anything that actually meant anything. I think they’re stonewalling me. Obfuscating too.”

“Did he say anything about our missing girls?” Hair-Trigger inquired.

“Two words.” Cushions replied. “Collateral damage.”

For a moment, Magnuss couldn’t get his head around what Cushions was telling him. When he finally put it all together, he said:

“Hey, that’s not right, Cushions. The RJL have been abducting robots, three museum citizens are missing, and earplugkind is under threat. This is not the time to sit around on our bottoms and watch events unfold. It could be the last thing we ever watch.”

“That’s right.” Hair-Trigger backed her husband to the hilt. “We’ve got the entire final season of Destination: The Stars on DVD box set: I am not going to watch civilisation fall before I’ve watched every single episode first – twice. I say that the ambassador can shove his communique right up his hooter: the Tankerville Norris steps aside or backs off for no one!”    

“Are you sure?” Cushions replied doubtfully. “They have dispatched a huge ship to rendezvous with you: perhaps you should wait a while for that to arrive.”

“What – and find ourselves abducted like all those poor unfortunate robots?” Magnuss bellowed in reply. “No chance. I don’t trust anyone I haven’t met and personally vetted. We’re going to see what’s going on – for ourselves!”

Of course, Magnuss had no idea that the Prolate Spheroid ship had departed its point of origin long before Cushions had made contact with their civilisation. Therefore, he also had no way of knowing that it was considerably closer to his location than he imagined…

In fact the first that either Magnuss or Hair-Trigger knew of its proximity, was when its commanding officer hailed them…

“Earth ship,” the being spoke precisely and (Magnuss thought) intimidatingly, “heave to and prepare to be boarded.”

Neither Magnuss nor Hair-Trigger was required to check their rear view mirror: the Tankerville Norris had already informed them that the biggest ship that it had ever encountered was attempting to climb up their tail pipe. Nevertheless, they did look at their forward screen with a sense of foreboding when the Prolate Spheroid Commander tried to push his image through three dimensions and enter the bridge…

“This is a Incense Cone affair,” the image spat the words, and Magnuss almost felt compelled to wipe illusory spittle from his face, “you will take no further part in it.”

Hair-Trigger was quick to respond:

“You tell us what’s going on between you and those conical Incense Cones on the station, and we’ll think about it.”

“That is a state secret.” The Prolate Spheroid replied instantly. “Strictly need-to-know. So bugger off, or you’ll get your arses kicked.”

This riled Magnuss more than a little. “And our three citizens?” He snapped. “What is to become of them?”

The Prolate Spheroid didn’t answer immediately. He took a moment to consult with someone off-screen. When he returned he gave the earplugs some information that, had he considered it longer, he should not have:

“Reports place their vessel on a planetoid close to the space station.” He said. “It is currently hidden from our sensors. Its presence – or rather the presence of the earplugs aboard it – have precipitated an action for which we were not yet ready and are ill prepared. Had they not made contact with you, we would have been content to sit and watch as the Conicals and the Robotic Justice League perpetrated their action against you. But, alas now we must act. Congratulations, whatever your name is: your stupid youngsters have initiated a civil war!”

These last two words jolted Magnuss more than a million others could have. He reacted more by instinct than intellect…

As the Tankerville Norris accelerated away from the Prolate Spheroid craft at a phenomenal speed, Magnuss took a moment to explain to his spouse…

“All the time we were speaking, the ship was scanning theirs. It’s big and slow. It must have been here all along – just a short distance off. Maybe it was cloaked, I don’t know. Like old face-ache said, they’ve been watching the situation for a while. Moreover, they seemed perfectly happy to see the Conicals bring down earplugkind. I’m guessing they planned to step in after it was all over and take control. But, whichever way you paint it – neither Incense Cone group could honestly be termed ‘the good guys’.”

“And there’re the three girls.” Hair-Trigger added. “They’re not supposed to be here. They’re supposed to be at home at college in the Museum of Future Technology, which is crying out for hair stylists. They could be hair stylists. Perhaps really good ones, with lots of flair and a pleasant demeanour. Magnuss, we have to save them!”

Because of the Tankerville Norris’s huge speed advantage, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger arrived at the planetoid waaaaay before the pilots of the gargantuan freighter could begin to click it down a gear and wind on the throttle…

“There’s a freighter over there.” Magnuss informed Hair-Trigger. “I wonder what it’s doing?”

Hair-Trigger didn’t get a chance to reply; instead the Tankerville Norris spoke silently into both earplug brains:

“It is on a Search and Destroy mission.” It said. “I have tapped into its central command computer. It is unmanned. It is also on a direct course for the planetoid.”

“Not good,” Magnuss grunted. “That means it won’t listen to reason and intends to kick ass. Pointless trying to argue with a computer: guess we’ll have to hit it with a proton torpedo.”

“We could try switching it off and on again.” The slightly less belligerent earplug aboard suggested. “It might re-set the command sequencer. We could then suggest that it shut down and await an update.”

“That’s brilliant, Hairy.” Magnuss gushed. “Now I know why I married you. We don’t have to destroy anything. Can you do it, Ship?”

“Already on it.” The Tankerville Norris replied audibly. “Search and Destroy mission aborted. Enemy vessel powering down. Honestly, these robotic freighters are so gullible: I cannot believe that was so easy.”

Fireworks may have been thin on the ground, but that didn’t stop Daisy spotting the approaching former honeymoon barge…

“It’s the Tankerville Thingamabob.” She squealed with excitement. “Gregor must have got our e-mail. He’s sent Magnuss Earplug to save us!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 34)

The ship wasn’t lying or exaggerating either…

“Apparently,” Magnuss said – because he too was receiving telepathic information from the ship, “it’s a quicker way to get where we need to be. Faster than a hyperspace conduit.  And less busy too.”

“Also a lot more scary.” Hair-Tigger complained.

However, shortly after having gained the inner sanctum of the space rift…

…she revised her initial impression:

“Pretty.” She said. “Though it wouldn’t do to look at it for too long.”

Of course, all the while, Cushions had been slaving away upon the Omnipresent Scanner…

“I’ve made diplomatic contact with the Prolate Spheroids.” She informed Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks and a recent inductee to the curator elite, Eric the Armpit. “They are gonna get back to me on the subject. I get the distinct impression though that they know more than they’re letting on.”

Meanwhile, upon the upper section of the Robotic Justice League’s space station…

…a heavily armed, but horrendously dated freighter was lifting off. Its mission to seek and destroy the absent space submarine freighter…

During those moments of lift-off, the self-same space submarine freighter had discovered an opening in the planetoid’s rocky carapace. Daisy immediately instructed the vessel to dive into it…

Within moments, the bulky craft had found a refuge…

“No one will think of looking down here.” Ginger predicted confidently…

“Yeah,” Bunty agreed, “we could stay down here for a million years – and no one would ever know!”

“I fancy a cheesy biscuit.” Daisy informed them both. “Which way to the Passenger Galley?”

It was just about this time, but an awfully long way away, when the Tankerville Norris chose to exit the space rift…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Wattpad: The Greatest Fear

Well here we are, three weeks into my life of posting excerpts from the Earplug Adventures on Wattpad, and already I’m having doubts.

Checking out opinions concerning the platform on the Internet, some absolutely adore it, whilst others abhore it with a passion. For me, at this point, all I’m feeling is indifference, because that is what my tales are being met with. What few readers they attract remain utterly mute. I’m lining up  this pair of books…

…to follow the three volumes of A Tale of Three Museums. But if they garner a following to equal my initial efforts, I think I’ll be waving bye-bye to Wattpad. Shame; I was really hopeful.

 Seemingly meaningless stats…

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 33)

At the nominal controls – after all, the ship actually flew itself – Magnuss and Hair-Trigger looked on in amazement as the ship breached the atmosphere in record time…

Of course, Magnuss would have liked nothing more than to have invited his brothers aboard; but he knew they were already engaged upon other duties and pastimes. Miles, for instance, had taken a new girlfriend disco dancing in a specially converted cellar…

And Chester was in negotiations with Mister Pong…

…concerning an act he was managing, which might appear as a floor-show in Mister Pong’s Exotic Food restaurant. They were called Bogdan Moron and the Tumbling Skittles…

 

…and were very inexpensive.

“They’re from some backward country. They don’t ask for much.” Chester explained. “They’ll happily bed down in a shed at the bottom of your garden. Just as long as they’ve got cable TV and a chemical toilet you’ll not hear a peep out of them.”

Magnuss hadn’t invited Valentine along for the adventure because he and Wah-Hey were engaged upon a project to discover the mythical Lamp Stand of Gurt…

…which scholars suggested had, for eons remained hidden beneath the foundations of the many museums that preceded the current museum.

Of course, Rudi couldn’t come because he had agreed to test fly the Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher whilst wearing the latest incarnation of that manufacturer’s Night Attack Goggles…

Moreover, when Miles returned from the disco, he had a task to perform for the same munitions company. He was to test the security of their rocket plant…

Chester also had other duties to perform. He and his shape-shifting love interest – Susan – would soon be engaged upon a system check of her Age of Stone exhibit’s firewall cyber-protection…

Later still, Rudi and Valentine were booked to open a new public lavatory on the third level boulevard…

“So it’s down to us.” Magnuss finished explaining to Hair-Trigger.

Hair-Trigger was about to reply, “No problem. With only one toilet aboard, it’s probably just as well.” But, instead she shrieked, “Oh Magnuss, the ship has just informed me of something important telepathically: it’s opening a space rift!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 32)

Five minutes later, and with the phone call forgotten, both heroes of the museum were surprised to receive a page via the public com-system…

“Ooh,” Hair-Trigger said as they slowed to regard the device, “perhaps that call was important.”

“I’ll take it here.” Magnuss replied.

A minute away – around the corner – Gregor watched as his screen burst into life.

The reporter and TV news-plug, Rupert Piles was passing when he overheard Gregor’s opening line:

“Oh, Mister and Missus Earplug, my name is Gregor Arsentickler. I’m an engineer for the museum, and…ah…I’ve got some catastrophic news. We’re all in danger. When I say ‘all’ I mean ‘all’ – as in ‘all’ earplugkind!”

Magnuss, Hair-Trigger, and several passers-by within earshot, were alarmed at the words that followed. For a brief moment, Magnuss considered the possibility that Gregor was engaged on some kind of intellectual hoax that had been designed to belittle the museum’s greatest heroes. However, when he caught a glimpse of Rupert Piles as he surreptitiously recorded the exchange upon his 3D TV camera, he recognised the validity of what he was hearing. Moreover, when Gregor showed him the interstellar e-mail, he knew that time was of the essence.

“Leave it with us, Mister Arsentickler.” He said. “We’re on the case.”

So it was a happy – or at least a satisfied – Gregor Arsentickler who broke the connection and headed towards the nearest Café Puke outlet for a congratulatory bowl of brownies and a huge mug of café con leche…

Around the corner, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger wasted no time informing Cushions Smethwyke…

“Incense Cones?” Cushions queried in astonishment. “This is remarkable: only two weeks ago we received a communication from a government official that represented one of two species of Incense Cone. Can it be mere coincidence that this situation arises so soon afterward?” She then answered her own question: “No, I think not.”

“Two species of Incense Cone?” Hair-Trigger inquired.

“Yes,” Cushions replied as she began punching buttons on her Omnipresent Scanner. “One species is conical in shape – hence Incense Cones. The other is rather more prolate spheroid shaped, with a flattened lower half – making them less obviously conical. It’s the latter Prolate Spheroid cones that have been in contact with us. You two start planning some sort of action: I’ll try contacting them: maybe they can explain the situation.”

Cushions then broke the connection, leaving Magnuss and Hair-Trigger slightly perplexed…

…and Rupert Piles believing that he was on the verge of the greatest news report of his career.

“So what’s the plan, Husband?” Hair-Trigger asked.

“No plan, Wife.” Magnuss replied with a smile. “We just get there, and worry about what we are going to do about it later. Summon the Tankerville Norris!”

Meanwhile, a very long way away…

…the pink Incense Cone informed the robots that controlled the space station that he was returning to his freighter.

“Keep up the good work.” He said to the commanding lieutenant. “Our freighter is a heavily disguised Man’o’War. We are going to pursue the earplug vessel and blow it to smithereens. You’ll know when we’ve caught them: listen for the bang.”

The robot didn’t bother to explain to the Incense Cone that sound didn’t propagate through the vacuum of space. Instead, it said, “Okeydokey. Have fun.”

Shortly the Incense Cones returned to their vessel’s control room…

However, when they turned on their primary control panel, it wouldn’t light up.

“Ugh?” The purple Incense Cone said in a fair facsimile of an earplug’s confused grunt.

Even the more technically minded members of the soldiery couldn’t re-initialise the ship’s power generation…

“Sorry, Sirs,” one of them said, “but it gets worse. The docking clamps won’t release, Right now we’re well and truly stuck!”

The officers looked at each other…

“You know what this means, don’t you, Perp?” The pink Incense Cone said.

“Yes, Pinkie,” Purp replied. “Well no, actually. What does it mean?”

“It means that we’ve been defrocked, as it were.” Pinkie explained. “Our plan is discovered – by our most hated enemy. If we don’t get outta here – we could be captured and shot as spies!”

“Oh flip!” Perp spoke another example of quintessential earplugism.

“Flip indeed.” Pinkie replied. “We need to get the flipping heck outta here. But first we’ll need to hide the evidence. This station, and all aboard, must be destroyed!”

Whilst these dreadful words were being uttered in one portion of space/time, in the region that contained Earth and the Museum of Future Technology, the Tankerville Norris was blasting off from its landing tower… 

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 31)

Chapter 8

Back on Earth. Or, to be more precise, at the head of the valley that led to the mountain kingdom of Lemon Stone…

…Mister Zinc trudged miserably back to the watchtower after a visit to the large, well equipped, but monstrously cold outside lavatory. It was snowing again, and Zinc was beginning to think that it might be better to pee out of the watchtower window, rather than run the gauntlet of slippery pathways and shrivelling chill. Nevertheless, it was a vaguely chirpier megalomaniac that turned from the washbasin to address his biological android girlfriend, Blue…

“It’s very cold out there, Blue.” He informed her. “So cold that I was forced to wear my monastic turban. That doesn’t come easy, I can tell you: it reminds me of the time when I was Father Superior at the monastery, and told people what to do. Whereas now…”

He left the sentence dangling there, but Blue wasn’t really listening: the clandestine communicator’s bleeping sound had distracted her.

“You’ve got a call, Darling.” She said over her shoulder.

“I’ll take it in the ice box jokingly referred to as the ‘sitting room’.” Zinc responded.

Moments later, and far away inside his apartment in the Museum of Future Technology, Gregor Arsentickler watched as the image of Mister Zinc resolved upon his fake photo frame…

Calming himself, so that he might invest Zinc with a coherent history of recent events that climaxed with the e-mail from deepest space, Gregor took a surreptitious deep breath. He then proceeded to relate all the pertinent facts to his lord and master.

Zinc appeared to absorb this information, but, in truth, his mind had been idle for too long. His role as Watch Keeper had reduced his mental capacity dramatically. He was, effectively, a dullard. He simply couldn’t form a picture in his mind that made sense to him. He recognised the term ‘robot’: but all the other stuff eluded him. Releasing a sigh, he said:

“Yeah? So what do you want me to do about it?”

Gregor was aghast. Was he being cast adrift – betrayed by the one person he admired and trusted? Did Zinc not care that Earplugdom faced a secretive foe that was hell-bent on invasion? Could Zinc not comprehend that his own plans for dominion over the curators of the museum would come to nothing if the Incense Cone’s plan reached fruition? Was he unconcerned for the wellbeing of his sole acolyte? He said as much to Zinc.

Zinc snorted in response. “Look,” he said after taking a breath that revealed his exasperation, “it’s my job to rule. I don’t need to figure out the tricky stuff; that’s for little people like you. Civil Servants I guess you’d call them. So don’t bother me again with all this space invasion tripe: call me when you’ve sorted it all out and I can come back to the museum in triumph.”

“Yeah.” Blue added, as she reached for the ‘off’ switch, “so sod off and stop worrying my darling Zincipoo: he’s a very busy earplug.”

It was as if Gregor’s still-beating heart had been torn from his chest. All that had meaning in his life was reduced to ashes in an instant. In that moment in time, he saw his folly.

“What a fool I’ve been.” He snarled. “How could I have not seen through a guy who paints himself android silver? I’ve been dazzled by his charm and spectacular appearance. And when I pause to think about it…did he ever succeed in any of his ridiculous endeavours? Well there was that incident where he tried to bring the technological level of an Eleventh Century Irish peat bog to equal the present day: that was kinda’ neat. But even that failed ultimately. “

Gregor then did what any disillusioned young male earplug would do: he cut his ties with his immediate past in a most spectacular manner. In short, he pulled the photo frame from the wall and threw it to the floor. He followed this violent act by kicking the clandestine communicator into a smoking ruin.

“That’s better.” He said as he stomped off…

…and departed his apartment – without bothering to close the door behind him…

…whilst growling to himself:

“Time to grow up, Gregor – you golden-eyed wally. Time to man-up and do the right thing.”

In the watchtower, Zinc and Blue had resumed their duties…

“Hmmm,” Zinc said as he regarded the incessant snowfall, “maybe I was a little harsh on that young earplug – whatever his name was. Perhaps I should have patted him on the head or something equally condescending. But to more important matters: do you see anything moving out there, Blue?”

Blue had, but she was loath to mention a Mountain Plugmutt urinating up the door of the outside lavatory.

“Nothing that matters.” She replied.

So, whilst the would-be ruler shivered in his isolation, Gregor went straight to a public com-panel and punched in a well-known number…

In the apartment to which that well-known number was connected, its occupants were in the process of leaving…

As Magnuss headed for the front door, Hair-Trigger paused when she thought she could hear the ‘phone ringing. “Oh…” she began.

Magnuss had heard it also: “Forget that, Hairy,” He said. “There’s a pair of coffee cups at the Café Puke with our names on them.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 30)

Safely inside their own craft, and unseen by any robots or Incense Cones…

…they cheerfully raced to the control room, where Tong-Tong contacted the pair of former crew robots that operated the communications suite…

“Collect your captain and crew.” It instructed the listening robots. “Bring yourselves to the ship, which is docked at Portal Fifty-Two. If intercepted attempt subterfuge. You have the permission of the three earplugs behind me to cheat and lie your way here. Do not tell any Incense Cone or robot of your intended destination. If cyber-tortured, you must explode in an exultation of pyrotechnic gore. Is that understood?”

“Affirmative.” Both robots replied in unison.

Tong-Tong then relinquished the control panel to the three aforementioned earplugs…

…who sought a nearby heavenly body behind which to hide the freighter.

“Got one.” Daisy cried out in delight. “Far enough away so we won’t be spotted; but close enough to keep tabs on what’s going on at the station.”

Ginger was just plotting a course for the planetoid, when the doorbell chimed.

“You take over, Tong-Tong,” she said, “We’ve got guests to welcome.”

Thirty seconds later…

…a breathless, but smiling trio welcomed the original crew aboard.

“Sorry, Captain,” Ginger said to the solitary mauve robot, “but until this action is complete we will continue to command this vessel. How do you feel about that? We wouldn’t want to step on your metaphorical toes and all that.”

“I am not fully cognizant with all the facts pertaining to the current situation.” The captain replied. “You have freed us. For that, we are cyber-thankful. You may continue to act at your discretion. I do not require that you relinquish command. Carry on.”

It then led the crew in three rousing cheers for Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy.

Several minutes were to pass whilst the robots settled themselves into their regular schedules whilst aboard ship. Then, having received a ‘green light’ from every section of the vessel, Ginger backed the freighter away from the docking portal and set out towards open space…

“This is strange,” Ginger said as the distant stars shone starkly through their viewing panel…

…”but only a short while ago we were just three bored, rather silly young females, who were too stupid to realise that our lives were going nowhere, and were wasting our time doing…ur…stuff that did no one any good – least of all ourselves.”

“And now look at you.” Tong-Tong responded unexpectedly. “Combatting a secret robot organization and attempting to thwart invasion by an alien species.  Ya done good, girls.”

Aboard the space station, all hell was unleashed. Well maybe not hell exactly: but the station went to ultra-crimson alert anyway – better known as Massive Alert…

“By the Cyber-Saint of All Robots,” the large white robot exclaimed mono-tonally, “fire upon that vessel. Quickly now: no arsing about!”

But it was too late. Far too late. Already the fleeing freighter had dived behind a drifting asteroid – en route to the distant planetoid, and sanctuary…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Yet Again, I Know it’s Hard to Believe, But…

…some people still think that Tooty writes the idiotic Earplug Adventures, but only does that ‘gopher’ stuff because he’s too much of a skinflint to pay someone else too. They also believe he prefers to spend most of his time with his feet up – a cup of coffee in hand –  and going to the toilet. Well nothing could be further from the truth. Of course he enjoys relaxing – when he gets the chance. And sure a trip to the lavatory is pure bliss for him. But he has far more important tasks to perform on Stages Five and Seven – the homes of the Earplug Adventures. Take a look at this behind-the-scenes shot during the recording of The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah

Yes, he directs too. Regardez vous the rapport between him and his two stars, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger. It is a wonder to behold!

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 29)

Meanwhile, at Docking Portal 50 where the Incense Cones had parked their submarine space freighter…

…the purple Incense Cones was having difficulty remembering the combination for the lock. However, having tried his three favourite combinations, success followed (when an underling suggested 1234), and within moments, the entire crew were disgorging into the corridor…

“Do you think this is such a good idea?” The underling said to the purple Incense Cone…

“What do you mean?” The purple Incense Cone responded with a worried look upon his almost featureless face.

“Leaving the ship unguarded.” The underling replied. “Anyone could get in and steal our sandwiches.”

The purple Incense Cone scoffed at this. “With this combination lock? Impossible. Even I couldn’t remember it. Alay your fears, soldier: our ship is perfectly safe with no one aboard.”

Although nervous initially, the three girl’s adolescent sense of humour soon took control and they were able to emerge from the hoarding into an empty corridor with smiles upon their youthful faces…

“Hey,” Bunty whispered, “this is fun.”

Whilst they had been rushing from the com-panel, Ginger and Tong-Tong had been able to conjure up a tentative plan to combat the Incense Cones. Whilst behind the hoarding Ginger related its simplicity to Bunty and Daisy. Because of this passing of information, Daisy was entirely cognizant with the plan. She was also the type of earplug who would regularly use the number 1234 as an easy-to-remember password on her laptop…

Therefore, the combination lock of Docking Portal 50 was overcome at the first attempt. Also, since all robotic freighters use the same design (though not always the same décor), Daisy was able to lead the others straight to the control room…

 

…where, to their combined hearts content they changed passwords and control protocols. A short while after arriving, they were on their way again…

….confident in the knowledge that the ship was going nowhere in a hurry. Then it was on to the crystal room…

…where Tong-Tong awaited them.  As the girls set to the task of utilising their recently acquired telekinetic talents to deactivate the ship’s power crystals, Bunty took the time to inquire after their robotic chum:

“So how’d you manage to evade capture, Tongy baby?” She managed to emit through lips pressed tight with concentration.

“The simple of expedient of not being an earplug.” Tong-Tong replied. ”In a space station of robots, I am just another of their kind. The search parties did not give me a second glance. If truth be known, the vile creatures did not give me a first glance either. I feel cybernetically slighted.”

Bunty would have responded to this final and unexpected statement, but she had turned her deactivating talents to another crystal.

A short while later, as the crystal’s sparkle subsided and main power to the freighter ceased to flow Tong-Tong led the girls from the ship…

…and moved along two portals to Docking Portal 52…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I Know it’s Hard to Believe, But…

…apparently some people think that the Earplugs don’t really exist. When he heard, poor Tooty was appalled. So he allowed this ‘on-set’ photo off-set, so to speak.  Here he discusses continuity with the Continuity girl, Mavis Lunn…

Tooty: “So it’s Ginger with the cell phone? Shoot, I thought it was Bunty.”

Mavis: “No, Mister Nolan; it’s Bunty who habitually looks up at the ceiling: Ginger has the cell phone. I have it all down here on my clip board.”

Ginger: “Yeah  – dumb ass. Goddamned thing weighs a ton. No one never heard of polystyrene?”

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 28)

Of course, the ‘Lords and Masters’ to which it referred were already half way to the docking portal…

If they anticipated anything at all, it was to be passing the com-panel within the next five minutes. Five minutes in which someone could, and should, act desperately…

Naturally, those seeking to act desperately were the three Earth earplugs and their robot sidekick.

“This is it.” Tong-Tong informed the girls. “A com-panel. From here you can communicate with anyone anywhere – just as long as their equipment is compatible.”

Ginger pulled her cell phone from an inner pocket. She checked the battery condition.

“I’ve got just enough power for either a text or an e-mail.” She told Daisy and Bunty. “What’s it to be?”

“Whichever you decide,” Tong-Tong said as it shifted into a position from whence it could operate the high-tech device, “you should complete your selection within seconds. I can hear distant footfalls approaching: time is running short.”

“We don’t know anyone worth texting.” Daisy stated sadly. “Best make it an e-mail.”

“E-mail selected.” Tong-Tong responded. “What is the address?”

In an effort to aid their ability to think clearly and quickly, the girls dropped their robotic pretence…

“Ah, that’s better.” Bunty said, whilst her eyes sought the ceiling in search of inspiration. “Any idea who we e-mail?”

Daisy joined her. It worked spectacularly well. “Magnuss Earplug.” She yelped.

Although time was tight, Ginger chose to be gentle with her condemnation of her friend’s incredibly stupid notion. “Do you know his e-mail address?” She inquired. “In fact do we know the e-mail address of anyone in the Museum of Future Technology?”

They were flummoxed momentarily, and Tong-Tong reserved judgment on the likelihood of success – so much so that it began to place some distance between itself and the three earplugs. Then Bunty found a screwed up piece of paper in her pocket.

“Hey,” she cried, “it’s those instructions that Gregor Arsentickler scribbled for us, when we escaped jail. He wrote it on headed notepaper. It’s got his name and all the other stuff on it.”

“How ostentatious.” Ginger sneered. “He may be gorgeous and all that; but I think he must be really big-headed to have his own headed notepaper.”

“Does ‘all that other stuff’ include an e-mail address?” Tong-Tong inquired.

Bunty answered in the affirmative.

“What message would you like to send?” The robot inquired further.

Two minutes later…

“There – it is gone.” Tong-Tong said with a hint of satisfaction in its tone. “And so should we be. Let us depart with alacrity.”

All three girls were extremely pleased with themselves. It took a few moments for the sudden rush of endorphins to subside. Eventually Ginger said, “We’re not running away now. We’re going to be heroes. Proper heroes. Heroes don’t run away. We’re gonna hide instead.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Daisy blurted support for her pale friend. “We’re gonna hide until help arrives from the Museum of Future Technology!”

Chapter 7

It had been a difficult day for Gregor Arsentickler. In between tasks as a maintenance genius, his mind had reeled from the onslaught of ideas that he wasn’t getting for improving his standing with Mister Zinc. The only small mercy he could gather from his current situation was that the emergency coffee dispenser in his edificio’s foyer hadn’t malfunctioned…

Upon arriving in his apartment, and dreading Mister Zinc’s wrath, Gregor decided to avoid contacting the silver earplug, and instead elected to check his e-mails…

To say that the tiny 3D image of Ginger, Bunty and Daisy surprised him would be an understatement. His surprise increased tenfold when he listened to their excited gabble, and perused an image that they had captured upon their cell phone…

…which showed the precise location of the space station upon which they now claimed to stand.

“Flipping heck,” he roared to an empty room, “what a to-do!”

A second image quickly followed…

…that had him utterly convinced that Earplugdom in general, which included the Museum of Future Technology, faced a terrible threat. Despite his loathing of the curator elite, he did actually consider taking the message to them. However before he could act, his indoctrination of all things Zinc got the better of his common sense.

“I know,” he said, “I’ll call Mister Zinc: he’s an unbelievable genius who is just misunderstood by ninety-nine point nine percent of all sentient beings on this planet: he’ll know what to do.”

Whilst Gregor had been traversing the many floors, from the foyer, to his apartment where he planned to call Mister Zinc – far away, upon the distant space station mentioned in the e-mail…

 

…the obsequious white robot had taken a short cut and had intercepted the departing Incense Cones.

“We really will do much better next time. Honestly we will.” It assured the aliens. “We are putting ourselves together and polishing up our act. Aint no stopping us now – we are on the move. Huh. Have a nice trip.”

Neither of the Incense Cone commanders had ever been a fan of disco, were unaware of legendary dance floor tracks, and didn’t quite know how to take this, so they simply marched off with an impatient ‘harrumph’…

However, as they came within olfactory range of the com-panel, something set off alarms in both their brains…

The purple Incense Cone’s rage-fuelled, “Earplugs! I smell Earplugs!” sent the soldiery into a blind panic. Well not a blind panic exactly – but they did shuffle about a bit and look this way and that repeatedly.

The pink Incense Cone took command of the situation. He instructed the purple Incense Cone to return to the ship for reinforcements, whilst he and the RJL would engage themselves upon an earplug hunt…

Of course, the Incense Cones could not possibly know that their task would be impossible and that the odds against them were stupendous. Daisy, Ginger, and Bunty’s formative years had been spent ‘scrumping’ apples from neighbour’s orchards and hiding from the education authorities in outside toilets and coalbunkers. In short, their quarry was expert in the field of disappearing from view. In this case, it was behind a temporary repair hoarding that the soldiery didn’t even recognise as such and assumed was part of the ship’s structure…

As the three girls hunkered down to await the passing of the Incense Cone search parties, the pink Incense Cone enlisted the assistance of the blue robots…

“Come on,” he roared, “don’t stand around picking your metaphorical noses: get your butts into action!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 27)

None of the quartet was familiar with vast space stations, but the systemic routines that allowed ingress from docked space vessels were fool proof and automatic; so before long, Tong-Tong led the others along an austere corridor…

“Not impressed with the décor.” Bunty complained.

“Looks a bit poopy.” Daisy agreed. “But it doesn’t smell, so I guess it’s okay.”

Shortly they encountered a former member of their crew. Before it could raise any kind of alarm, or even question them about their presence, Tong-Tong made a data transfer directly into the robot’s memory core…

“I imagine that was poor cyber-etiquette,” Bunty said whilst Tong-Tong broke the connection, “but needs must and all that.”

“Indeed.” Tong-Tong responded. “Quite so.”

It then suggested that the girls adopt their false robotic appearance.

“Oh, right-oh.” Bunty said. “Come on girls: it’s bunking off hockey practise time.”

Within seconds, Bunty, Daisy, and Ginger were almost indistinguishable from each other…

The green robot looked at Tong-Tong when it said, “I do not envy you your job, pal: I can barely tell earplugs apart at the best of times: but these pseudo-zombies have me entirely befuddled. By the way – they do not look remotely like robots: their appearance will fool no one.”

“They do not have to.” Tong-Tong replied unnecessarily. “As long as they appear non-earplug on the security cameras, I, for one, will be happy. Now go spread the word amongst our cyber-kin: we intend to liberate the entire crew.” 

“I am a robot.” Daisy spoke with a stilted mono-tonal voice. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Shut up, Daisy.” Tong-Tong responded. “Follow me.”

Of course, this is what the trio of terrestrial youths did…

Two corridors later, they encountered another green robot. It appeared disconcerted and uncertain…

“We are robots.” Ginger said in a fair facsimile of Daisy’s robotic voice. “Move aside – or be destroyed.”

Of course, the green robot ignored Ginger entirely. It spoke directly to Tong-Tong. “I have been up-dated with the latest information from yourself.” It said. “I have also made a discovery of my own that might alter your plans somewhat.”

“What is this discovery you speak of?” Tong-Tong said in its best ‘demanding’ voice.

“There is a door behind me.” The green robot replied. “Take care when entering. You must remain undetected by those inside the compartment onto which it opens upon well-oiled and silent hinges. There you will discover a situation that might well drain the colour from the faces of your silicon companions on a permanent basis.”

These were high-octane words. They were not the sort of words to be ignored. So, consequently and as a result, the quartet’s entrance into the compartment was of the stealthiest kind. However, having entered, all four of them received a shock that made three mouths fall open, and Tong-Tong to overload its waste product displacement matrix… 

Each of them stifled a yell of denial. What they were witnessing just couldn’t be true. The ramifications were too horrible to contemplate.

“You know what they are, don’t you, Ginger?” Bunty whispered nervously.

Ginger merely nodded in return. The tableau had stunned her sufficiently to make her mistrust her voice…

So Daisy spoke for her:

“Incense Cones. Carbon-based life forms. The sworn enemy of silicon earplugs. But what are they doing here – with the Robotic Justice League? Surely the RJL must despise them as much as it loathes earplugs.”

“Seems to me,” Tong-Tong spoke quietly over their shoulders, “that the two Boss Cones are telling the large white robot what to do.”

“So how many freighters have you diverted this week?” The pink Incense Cone demanded. “It had better be a lot, or I’m yanking your diodes and flushing them down the toilet!”

If it were possible for a huge robot to shake timidly, that is what the large white robot did. “Seven, my Lord and Master.” It answered.

“This is correct.” The larger lieutenant added. “We have set their crews to work here already.”

“In addition,” the second lieutenant threw in its two penny-worth, “we snagged a new one, only this morning. A big black bulbous one.”

To the girls watching from the shadows, the Incense Cone leaders appeared surprised by this information…

“I do not understand.” The purple Incense Cone spoke loudly. “When we arrived there was just one black freighter docked here. It was our one. The self-same freighter upon which we travelled here incognito – lest silicon life forms detect our presence upon their territory, and declare war. A war, I might add, we cannot win because we are hopelessly outnumbered, and our technology is really plop!”

“And kaka.” The pink Incense Cone added to emphasise the uselessness of Incense Cone technology.

The white robot explained that there was insufficient space at the station for any more freighters – especially the smaller, modern versions that took up lots of space.

“Because we have to keep big spaces between them – just in case they knock together during an ion storm or similar.” The larger blue lieutenant explained this apparent contradiction. “They are a bit fragile. Bumping together damages them mightily. It appears that they do not make them like they used to.”

The pink Incense Cone accepted this. “Fair enough,” it said, “it can just drift along all by itself. When the time comes – assuming that you have logged its trajectory – we can always recover it.”

The second lieutenant was about to tell the Incense Cones that they had left three ineffectual young earplugs aboard – probably to die slowly through either starvation or suffocation – but a quick kick in an area analogous to an earplug’s shin from the white robot silenced it before it had spoken. This went unnoticed by either Incense Cone.

“Very well,” the purple Incense Cone said to this. “Keep up the good work. Before long, all trade in this area of space will have ground to a halt. Earplug economies across whole parsecs will be in ruin. Then, when they have exhausted themselves blaming, and ultimately fighting, each other, we will march in and take control.”

“Yes.” The white robot responded. “And all robots, everywhere, will be free.”

“Er, yes,” the pink Incense Cone replied to this, “that too.”

The girls were aghast. They could barely believe what they were listening too.

“Incense Cones,” Bunty squeaked, “my mum used to read me scary fairy tales about them before going to bed. Just the thought of those nasty rotters taking over is enough to loosen my bowels.”

Unfortunately, those words almost became prophetic. Almost. More fortunately, for their enterprise, Bunty’s bottom merely released an odorous gas. However, this was enough to gain the attention of the Incense Cone soldiery…

…who came to investigate. Nevertheless, Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy quickly out-witted the Incense Cone conscripts – by adopting their vaguely robotic appearance and standing perfectly still – as though deactivated. Only when the soldiery had returned to their places, did Daisy finally release a botty-sigh of her own…

“Time to make tracks, methinks.” Ginger whispered. “We need to find the communications suite: this is a secret that must remain a secret no longer!”

Meanwhile, at the previously mentioned com-panel, the two green robots left there by the mesmerising Daisy, received a call from the white robot…

Whether it was because the stress induced by the Incense Cone’s proximity and scary attitude soured its ocular acuity, no one will ever know: but the white robot failed utterly to notice that the blue robots that should have been on duty had been replaced by a pair of recent abductees. “Our Lords and Masters will soon depart the station.” It said to the uncertain freighter crewmembers. “Ensure their departure is comfortable and timely.” 

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Six Days into Wattpad

I didn’t expect much when I  began posting extracts from this photo-novel…

…on the reading and writing platform WATTPAD. But I’ve been slightly surprised by the ranking it received straight away. After just a couple of days the tale was ranked here…

and…

But here we are, on Day Six, and this is the current situation…

I don’t know if that’s good, but it sure looks encouraging.  If things don’t fall apart; my resolve evaporates; or I just get bored dishing out the tale in serial form without response from the readers, I’ll keep you posted.

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 26)

Meanwhile, aboard the approaching freighter…

…the girl’s new understanding of the ship’s functions and systems had allowed them to make contact with the communications suite in the Robotic Justice League’s headquarters. As the picture cleared of background radiation interference, two blue robots – much like those that had escorted the crew from the freighter – stood before their com-panel. Behind them, Daisy recognised two green robots as being former crewmembers. They appeared to be inspecting a form of energy conduit. As the blue robot’s ocular implants made visual contact with the eyes of a certain pink earplug, Daisy called upon the latent talent that she had inherited from her mother…

“Oooh,” she moaned, “you will see only what I wish you to see. Do you understand?”

In the Communications Suite, the two robots saw this upon their screen…

“Affirmative.” They replied.

“Fab.” Daisy said cheerfully. “Now I want to speak with those green robots behind you.”

“What?” the more thick set of the two blue robots replied. “You mean those two new recruits visually examining the energy transfer conduit?”

“Those are the guys.” Daisy, masquerading as the large white robot replied. “Now you two sod off and do some exercises with whatever other blue robots you can find on the way.”

This instruction might have confused a less linear being; but robots being robots, they accepted the instruction. “Affirmative.” They droned…

Nevertheless that didn’t stop them looking at each other for confirmation.

Daisy, meanwhile, had turned to her friends…

“Look,” she squealed with girlish delight. “It actually works.”

Then, returning her attention to the screen…

…she addressed the blue robots, both of which appeared to be loitering in a state of vague concern:

“Well?” She snapped. “Did I, or did I not, give you a precise instruction? Sod off and do some exercises: they’re good for you. Now scat.”

Programmed for subservience to the chain of command, the robots complied instantaneously…

To the green robots Daisy whispered, “This is not the large white robot speaking to you – even if it appears that it is. Now listen carefully as your ship’s waiter gives you some instructions concerning an attempt to free you from the clutches of the Robotic Justice League and return you to your previous positions aboard your regular ship.”

Five minutes later flashing lights on the exterior of the space station flickered to indicate that two docking portals were ready to accept the freighter…

Inside the aforementioned freighter, Bunty joined Daisy and Tong-Tong as they watched the automated approach of their vessel…

Ginger, however, was slightly distrustful of anything automated – which included her mother’s pop-up toaster – so turned her back on the screen. She was, after all, a firm believer in the maxim: ‘if you can’t see it, it can’t hurt you’. It hadn’t proved accurate when, in an inebriated state, her father had taken his sail boat – the Drunkard’s Vomit – into a busy shipping lane, and had been mown down by an ocean liner: but that hadn’t proven sufficient to weaken her belief. It had always been – and would probably always be – an unwritten fact that if her Mum said something was so – it was so – period!  Because of this misguided belief, Ginger missed the spectacle of their bulbous vessel’s approach towards the space station…

However, as the prow of the freighter lined up with the docking portal, she couldn’t resist her sense of curiosity…

…and so joined the others.

“I know I’ve been in the education device, and I know how stuff aboard works: but we’re not going to veer off suddenly or do anything stupid, are we?” She asked trepidatiously.  She then added by way of explanation for her question, “I mean, no one’s actually got their hands on a physical wheel, have they!”

However, by the time she’d managed to drag the words from her brain and out of her mouth, the ship had docked without so much as a gentle thump, a muted alarm, or the screech of tearing metal…

“Dock Fifty-Two,” Daisy said as the background hum of the ship’s systems slowly subsided, “my favourite.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022