Tag Archives: art

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-one)

But what Folie discovered next couldn’t have come at a better time…

“How fortuitous, Kyboshed.” Folie said with relief. “I was just beginning to feel the pangs of a distended bladder.”

“Oh, no, Sir.” Kyboshed replied. “There was nothing fortuitous about it. Sensors in the floor detected your awkward gait: an algorithm calculated your need for a toilet, and quickly moved one here from another location.”

“Clever.” Folie said as he used the device. “Do other parts of the ship move around like that?”

“Most of them.” Kyboshed answered. “It’s a redundancy thing: if parts of the ship are damaged, other parts can be moved into position to replace them. It’s probably why you have such difficulty finding your way around.”

“It also explains why there are so many airlocks and corridors. I thought I’d seen the same artwork on different walls. Obviously they aren’t prints: they really are the originals: they just move around with the walls. Pity they’re so vile. Now where’s the hand-dryer?

“There will be one along momentarily.” Kyboshed replied.

And there was…

…complete with its own corridor.

“Kyboshed,” Folie said, as a huge hot-air blower blasted him, “I’m not certain I like this moving around malarkey: I like things to stay where they’re put.”

Folie was still feeling vaguely uncomfortable when he re-joined Placebo on the bridge…

He told him of his recent experiences…

“I’ll tell you what you need, Folie, my little yellow earpluggy chum.” Placebo replied cheerfully. “You need a quick blast of hyper-speed.”

Folie tried to forget his concerns with the ships’ re-design. “You could be right there, Placebo, you huge white blob of polystyrene. Let’s do it.”

Moments later, after they had seated themselves…

“It’s very smooth, isn’t it?” Folie observed.

“Yaw compensators.” Placebo explained. “They’re new…

…I read all about it in the manual. Leaves a nice pink trail apparently.”

Yet even going really, really fast didn’t sway Folie from his misgivings. “Automatic Pilot,” he said suddenly, “take us out of hyper-speed.”

A heartbeat later…

“Let’s just hang here for a while.” He added.

Then he was out of his chair. “Placebo, I want to show you Deck One.”

Placebo was slightly disappointed because he’d just noticed some vast cosmic event unfolding before the main viewer’s lens. So he checked that the dash-cam was running, and followed his crew-mate…

“Yeah,” he said, “I can see why you like the finish. Very plush. Nice lighting too. I’ve always had a thing for turquoise.”

As Folie had expected, there was no sign of the toilet. He was about say something, when the Automatic Pilot’s voice rattled his teeth.

“A vast cosmic event has sent a purple asteroid in our direction.” It said…

…”Since you’re the boss, I thought you’d like to tell me what I should do about it.”

“Flee!” Folie yelped.

“Now.” Placebo added. “Any direction except straight at the asteroid.”

The ship’s inertial dampening field was so acutely tuned that neither occupant of the ship felt it lurch aside and accelerate away…

“Wow,” the Automatic Pilot exclaimed, “I was good before; but these cable end guys have made my lateral response protocols nothing short of fantastic. Guys, any other dramatic maneouvres you’d like me to make?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty)

So, as the Gravity Whelk exited the blue star’s realm…

…Folie decided that he would explore all the parts of the ship that he was yet to see. The obvious course of action was to enlist the help of the resident expert of the ships’ re-fit. But Kyboshed had a bent twingle-flange to adjust in the engine room’s klatterbox…

…that required attention instantaneously. He suggested that Folie meet him later – when the task had been completed and tested thoroughly. So Folie continued alone, whilst wondering what klatterboxes were used for…

Many times during his exploration he discovered interior airlocks that led into corridors, the existence of which he hadn’t even suspected…

And on every wall there was more of that damned Anton Twerp’s ghastly artwork. There were even rooms that just looked downright dangerous…

…which made him wonder why they were put there in the first place. A room with no oxygen: what possible use could that be put to? But it wasn’t really very long before he heard Kyboshed calling his name through yet another interior airlock…

“Hey,” he said as Folie entered, “how’d you like to visit the top deck?”

Folie was surprised by the offer: he’d assumed that the forward observation window was located on the top deck. He said as much to Kyboshed.

“No.” The robot replied, “Not any more. There was a stagnancy ballast-drift buffer tank above that deck; but the klatterbox has removed the need for such a large device. So the cable ends have created a nice new deck there. It’s really groovy, with lots of curves and soft textures.”

So, a couple of minutes later Kyboshed introduced Folie to the top deck – or Deck One, as he liked to call it…

“Ooh,” the ship’s co-owner said admiringly, “all soft pastel lighting and no obvious joins between floor, wall, and ceiling. Nice.”

But then he noted an apparent extension to the hull that wasn’t obvious from the outside. Intrigued he started down it…

But when he opened the door at the end; then walked through it, he was greeted with the undiluted sight of naked space – in this case a wondrous nebula…

Of course his rational mind told him that he was in no danger: if he really were in open space, his eyes would have burst instantly; his blood would have boiled; and his brain undoubtedly exploded. But despite the fact that none of these things occurred, he still felt queasy and ill-at-ease. “Is it okay of I come back inside now?” He called along the short tunnel…

Away from the view, Folie quickly settled down again; but not sufficiently to happily pass beneath a transparent roof without comment…

“Who’s the wise guy who thought a sunroof would be a good idea on a space ship?” He grumbled. “I’ll write him a letter: tell him he’s a total twonk.”

“Oh, that’s no window,” Kyboshed assured Folie: “That’s a sliding roof panel. Only the replacement force field is keeping the air, and us, inside the ship.

“What?” The astonished earplug yelled in disbelief…

…”Who has ever heard of a cabriolet space ship? It’s the most stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of!”

He was still complaining as they passed into a more secure-looking section of Deck One…

“You know,” he said, as they rounded yet another curve, “I’m almost scared to see what’s coming next. Are there any secret holes hidden behind holograms for me to fall through?

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Spoiled Illusions 4: Cardboard is My Chum

Are you one of those who, upon watching a DVD check out the extras, which often include a Making Of clip. I used to; but I don’t anymore: I don’t like to see the illusion spoiled. But just in case you are, here’s a little Earplug Adventures illusion spoiler.

If you’re an Earplug Adventures photographer, one of your best friends is the humble material known as cardboard. With a little imagination and a bit of jiggery-pokery, it can become anything you bloody well want it to. Take, for example this empty insulation pile reel…

Hmmm, lots of potential there. Now let me see; what can I turn THAT into? Well there’s this very nice dungeon/kitchen…

…which appeared in Return of the Prodigal Earplug. It looks like a dungeon – especially with those flaming torches (burning matches) set into the wall. But the story said it was a kitchen: so I guess it must have been a medieval themed kitchen. It appeared again in Return to the Museum of Future Technology as Wilton Carpetti and Vinkie Vinkleton’s test facility – only dressed more futuristically…

And again as Ballington Cork’s temple in Return of the Prodigal Earplug…

Oh look, it’s those flaming torches again. In fact these reels have appeared in so many stories that I’m spoiled for choice. But I’ll make the last example this one…

Yes, it even featured as the K T Woo’s engine room in Stepladder to the Stars. Very versatile, cardboard reels.

But cardboard comes in many guises. Like these strips – wot I cut…

These utilise that old perspective trick that was taught to us in school art lessons, all those millions of years ago. This is how this particular duo of strips looked in the story, Cometh the Earplug

Hair-Tigger wasn’t sure if the building was small and quite nearby, or huge, but a long way off. So she altered her focus, and…

…the latter proved to be the case. Silly, but I like it.

The following picture has been used over and over – almost every time that I need to show the city of Scroton Prime. It was a semi-perminant set at my old ‘studio’ despite the fact that I constructed it in the main warehouse of the factory where I worked. Everyone knew what it was, so left it alone – even the management. I was blessed to work there…

But I often re-dressed it – either physically – or later (when it was history, and all I had were some pictures of it), electronically for different stories.  Here’s how it appeared the first time, in Plunging Into Peril...

It was then re-used a hideous number of times, culminating in (at present) the most recent tale – Haunted Mars...

Will there ever come a time when this shot doesn’t appear ad infinitum? Hope not.

Those cardboard inserts you find in, say, vacuum cleaner or microwave oven boxes are a God-send as well…

If used as interiors, they make excellent caves – as seen here in Stepladder to the Stars, where Sheriff (later Captain) Sinclair Brooch makes an astonishing discovery…

And as exteriors, all you need do is cut a couple of openings…

… and they make perfect mud villages…

…as seen here in The Grand Tour. All in all, a jolly useful commodity for a creative genius, like wot I is.

Of course there are many other cardboard items which are extremely useful for a Earplug Adventure shooter: but I’ll leave them for another time.

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-eight)

Placebo had to agree with Kyboshed’s summation of the artistic merits of Anton Twerp’s work…

“Yeah,” he said, “it does make you want to chuck up.”

Folie was quite annoyed at his crewmate’s behaviour…

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about.” He complained. “It’s just a few pictures. Would you sooner have a boring sparkly gold wall and the majesty of the cosmos to look at?”

Placebo didn’t want to antagonize his chum. “Okay,” he replied, “the pictures stay. Hey, let’s see what Kyboshed isn’t looking at now.”

So they did – and found him – once again – at a window on space…

“Strictly speaking,” he said as his owners approached, “I could survive out there for quite a while. I mean, it’s not like I have to breathe. And I could convert cosmic energy to keep my systems powered. Of course I couldn’t move around, and eventually the hard radiation would penetrate my defences: but until then I think I’d quite enjoy being out there – touching the hand of God or something.”

“Don’t these ruminations exceed your programming?” Folie inquired in a tone that suggested that he wasn’t particularly pleased that a robot could have such free, unfettered, thought processes.

“I sat on a nail.” Kyboshed replied. “It was just after I’d received my initial programming. I was so surprised that I jumped up from my re-charge pad and my head collided with the Institute of Robotics Compete Guide to Programming book that someone had perched on a low shelf there some years previous. Well I had nothing better to do – other than extract the nail from between my buttock crawler plates – so I read it all, cover to cover. Having absorbed the information, when the opportunity arose, I reprogrammed myself with the entire knowledge of the Institute. I find it gives me a little latitude in the thinking process. Is that a problem?”

Folie hadn’t expected such a fulsome reply. “Well, no, I suppose not.”

“Will you still explode if someone tries to change your name?” Placebo asked.

“Oh yes,” Kyboshed replied, “that’s programming that I can’t access. It’s basic core stuff. In any case, if I were captured by Hyperspace Pirates, I’d want to explode. I’d volunteer. Horrible little things: they’re vile.”

Well, after that, there seemed to be nothing more to say, so the owners of the Gravity Whelk returned to the bridge…

“Blimey,” Folie said as they entered, “do the cable ends know what they’ve given us. Kyboshed must be a true one-off. Are we blessed? I hope so.”

Placebo decided that he liked the sight of hyperspace, so shortly after sitting down in their seats, this happened…

Kyboshed, denied a view through the side windows, joined them. But after a few minutes the Automatic Pilot interrupted their reverie:

“Hey,” it said in its bouncy, up-beat manner, “I just found an interesting star. It’s a big blue one. It’s also poking out a lot of gamma radiation. One day it’ll go nova.”

Placebo was vaguely interested. “Shouldn’t we keep our distance then?” He asked / suggested.

“It has a planet.” The Automatic Pilot replied. “An inhabited planet.”

Now Folie grew interested. “I sense an ‘and’ coming.” He said as he sat up straight in his chair.

“And…” the Automatic Pilot paused for effect, “it’s a planet known to the Museum of Future Technology.”

Well Placebo and Folie hadn’t studied at the museum and not learned a few things: they both knew the name of the lonely planet. “Take us back into regular space.” They yelled as one.

A moment later…

…the blue giant was off their port side. And a further hour had the Gravity Whelk in high orbit above a heavily irradiated planet…

Naturally Kyboshed rushed to a window. Folie was only a step behind him…

“Kyboshed,” he said, “welcome to the planet named Worstworld.”

If Kyboshed had possessed a head that could be canted to one side in an inquiring fashion, he would have used the facility. Instead he was forced to use words. Or a word: “Worstworld?”

“Go look it up.” Folie suggested. He then joined Placebo at a second window…

“Well there’s a sight I never expected to see.” He said.

“The fact that it’s still there is a relief.” Placebo replied.

“Did you turn on the dash-cam?” Folie, suddenly concerned, asked Placebo. “I want everyone to see this when we get back to Earth.”

“It’s never off.” Placebo replied. “I record everywhere we go and everything this ship does.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

 

The Art of Aesthetic Laundry

You may have noticed that I’m prone to banging on about aesthetic parking – for example HERE – and about colour co-ordination in general. Well I think I may have over-stepped the mark. Taken it to excess, even. Check out my Art of Aesthetic Laundry…

Well if you have to hang your hanky and socks out to dry, you might as well try to make them look nice – don’t you think?

 

Spoiled Illusions 3: Potential Noticed

Are you one of those who, upon watching a DVD check out the extras, which often include a Making Of clip. I used to; but I don’t anymore: I don’t like to see the illusion spoiled. But just in case you are, here’s a little Earplug Adventures illusion spoiler.

Sometimes Earplug Adventure props/sets appear to me in a flash of…um…let’s call it artistic inspiration. Take, for example, this sheet of melamine-coated chip board. Clearly someone has used it as a base for spraying something – and it was the over-spray that caught my attention…

“Yeah,” thought I, “I can do something with that.” So I took a picture of it. So much easier than storing the original. Well, almost five years later, I did. It appeared in A Tale of Three Museums…

…as emergency habitations for the survivors of the ruined world that featured in that tale. And there’s this too…

Sometimes, when things were quiet at work, I would use a rotary saw to slice thin sections from blocks of artistically interesting timber. Here are a couple of examples that, for some reason, I chose to photograph. I remember turning the top one into a desert scene; but I’ve never had reason to use it. The other has sat quiescent for two-or-so years – until I required a scene to depict a newly-formed rift in a landscape. Thank you, slice of wood, for supplying the surface torrent in Haunted Mars...

To put it into perspective, here it is with two characters inserted…

And then there was my daughter’s cast off light shade. That came straight out of the bin, and into my old (and still lamented) ‘studio’…

Does anyone recall what it was used for? Well, more recently, it was what the false Supreme Being turned into after it’s underpants had been blown off in The Grand Tour

And here he is, sans human appearance…

But previously it had appeared as a hot-air balloon. Here it is in Those Magnificent Earplugs

But I think it looked better in Return to the Museum of Future Technology

…complete with its Christmas bauble gondola.

For the final example, this time, regard this…

I wanted a port hole set for a story that took place aboard Ship Number 15. Remember that old bucket? Ship Number 15 was a miserable green – the only colour paint available to me at the time. So I did this to one of the office box files (don’t tell the boss. Oh, it’s okay: he retired a couple of years ago – and he probably knew anyway. He had eyes everywhere). But I digress. Here is that box file in action…

…where it played the role of the Scout Ship hangar in Worstworld. In the end the circular hole wasn’t used as a port hole, but instead played a very nice interior window…

…for Vanilla Redbush to look through, and a lovely shooting embrasure…

…which worked very well, I think…

Pity I destroyed Ship Number 15 during the Battle of The Museum of Future Technology in Liberation. How short-sighted of me.

Task Almost Complete

When I wrote my last Earplug Adventure – A Tale of Three Museums – it was against the clock. You may have read my post referring to it. If you haven’t, it’s a bit sad, but if you want to see it, click HERE. Time truly was of the essence. Well for Haunted Mars the pressure was reduced somewhat. But with Covid 19 still on the rampage (and me at a higher risk level than average), I really wanted to get it out there before I (potentially) succumbed. Well it’s done: all the episodes are complete, spell-checked and all that guff, and scheduled for release on this blog over the next few weeks. There are sixty-two episodes in all. And the megabyte-age is so vast that, once again, the story has needed excising in half – creating two volumes for the e-book version. Witness the preliminary e-covers…

 

For anyone who doesn’t want to wade through the serialised version, I intend to get the e-books out via LULU a.s.a.p. They won’t be expensive. Watch this space.

Spoiled Illusions: 2 Tooty the Shootist

Are you one of those who, upon watching a DVD check out the extras, which often include a Making Of clip. I used to; but I don’t anymore: I don’t like to see the illusion spoiled. But just in case you are, here’s a little Earplug Adventures illusion spoiler.

Here’s a shot of Tooty the Shootist in the early days of the Earplug Adventures…

I bet Kodak never figured on their basic little Easyshare M550 ever producing pictures  that would be forever immortilized, in pixel-form, in e-books such as Evil Empire. Here’s the shot from the same location, but using different characters…

I can’t remember if this is the ‘nice’ Charles and Wolfgang checking out the Nul-Space generator’s heat exchanger, or their evil twins: but, because I’ve been living in their silicon world for so many years and adventures, for me it’s strange to see the image of me creating the characters, who seem almost real now.

Here I am again, pointing out the discarded office sound attenuators…

…that became The Woven Expanse and The Wide Blue Yonder…

Here former zombies Vic and Bob, and female weight-lifters Mandy and Candy cross the Woven Expanse in the very early tale, Museum of Terror. And the Wide Blue Yonder immediately afterwards, where they find a door into the Arboretum…

This is my fridge at work. I had a lot of home comforts at my place of work…

At my most self-indulgent I had a coffee machine (which appeared in a  few shots, a record player (ditto), tape deck (ditto), radio (errr ditto), a TV, a DVD player, and a kettle. But the item that appeared more than the rest combined was the fridge. Here’s a couple of shots…

In this shot from Earplug Aftermath, two silver androids visit the lavatory (of course). And in the following shot from Haunted Mars we see it used for the very last time…

It’s odd, looking back on this shot, which I probably took in late 2019 or early 2020, none of these ‘actors’ had names or personalities then. Now I see them differently. I like the look of acceptance on the face of rocket scientist, Treacle Fagging – second from left. Sadly, when I quit my job, I left my fridge behind for the guy who would take over from me. And a lot of other props too. I wonder what he made from them. Nothing probably.

And finally, moving from shootist to shootee…

Wonderful acting, I think you’ll agree. This is how I appeared as the Museum fo Future Technology’s A.I (in Winning Numbers) making an important announcement – probably of doom. I was very good at that…

 

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-nine)

As Folie arrived upon the bridge, his eyes caught sight of the main viewer…

But since neither Placebo nor Kyboshed said anything, he assumed that only he could see Dark Space. “Okay,” he whispered, “if I’m going to drive, I’m gonna need to see through the windshield.”

What happened next surprised Folie, and he likened Dark Space’s reaction to a telepathic hug of apology – and possibly gratitude…

Then it was on with the task of pre-flight checks. Kyboshed tried to assist, but neither living being wanted anything to do with him: it was his poor judgement and incorrect advice that had caused, what could have been, a catastrophe for the ship …and all aboard…

“If it wasn’t for the sheer good fortune that the builders of this ship included a wibbly-wobbyphone in its design, we’d be going nowhere.” Placebo growled at their Chief Engineer.

“Learn a lesson from this, Kyboshed.” Folie advised, “Scroton isn’t the be-all and end-all of engineering prowess and knowledge. They’re good; but they lack experience. Don’t blindly follow every facet of their dogma. You could get us killed.”

Cyber-shamed, Kyboshed looked away and minutely examined the wall with his monocular vision. Then the hyper-drive was activated, and before long they were traversing eternity at quite a rate of knots…

Just not as fast as they’d been travelling previously.

One aspect of the sub-looney velocity was welcome: they could see things out of the windows again…

Folie crept up on Kyboshed. “Penny for your thoughts.” He said.

“Look at that star out there.” The Robot replied. “There it sits – all alone – floating in circles through space. I wonder if it has any worlds. And if it has worlds, I wonder if they have anyone on them that are looking up right now and…ah…wondering what’s out here.”

“That’s a lot of wondering…for a robot.” Folie said with a smile. “By the way…you’re forgiven. Come back to the bridge: you can take the driver’s seat for a while.”

Naturally Kyboshed was thrilled – in a robotic kind of way of course…

“Yeah?” He said excitedly.

“Yeah.” Folie replied. “Only don’t anywhere near the big ‘Go’ button again. From now on we only use that in emergencies.”

Shortly after being relieved, Placebo made straight for the nearest window and activated the pseudo-blind…

“Oh,” his disappointed crewmate said, “I was enjoying the view.”

“Sorry,” Placebo replied as he proceeded to the next window and repeated the act…

…”but that last incident has left me emotionally fragile. Right now I’d sooner forget that all there is between us and all that out there is a thin metallic hull and some fancy double-glazing. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to pretend that we’re in a nice cozy cellar somewhere beneath the Museum of Future Technology.”

Reminded of that great edifice, Folie took that moment to recall the day that they were handed the gift of a ride aboard the Chi-Z-Sox…

…and tried to imagine how his life might have been if he’d declined the offer. Those thoughts continued to revolve inside his head – even when he and Placebo relieved Kyboshed for his regular duty in the Chief Engineer’s seat…

“This is fun – isn’t it?” He asked Placebo.

Placebo must have been harbouring similar thoughts: “It is when it isn’t scary.” He replied. “And I do believe it might even be more fun than discovering the delights of the Museum of Future Technology.”

“Talking of which,” Folie said as he nodded agreement, “shouldn’t we report back to Earth: we could show them the Gravity Whelk. Maybe take Cushions Smethwyke for a ride.”

Placebo was all for it. “Hey,” he added, “knowing the recent history of the Museum of Future Technology, they’re probably in a bind again, and our timely arrival will tip the balance in their favour. Let’s go.”

So they did…

And unbeknownst to the Automatic Pilot, Placebo, or Kyboshed, Dark Space added a little pep to the hyper-drive…

And, as the improved and enhanced Gravity Whelk swept across the cosmos…

…the Automatic Pilot yelled: “Hey, Guys: how’d ya like this? Excellent or what!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Lest You Think The Earplug Adventures Are A Doddle To Create…

…it is five minutes to midnight,  and I have just completed the processing of the seven hundred and sixty-first photograph that I have chosen to be included in Haunted Mars. I didn’t take 761 photos for this story, of course: I can’t imagine how many there must have been before I began hitting the delete button: but it was a heck of a lot more than 761!  Many pictures have pictures within them – like this one…

…which has  wall art and a window added. So there’s three in one shot. Of course I had to create the scene visible through the window – being a star and outer space. And the wall art? Well I only use originals – mine.

What about this one…

…which is a composite of a garden solar light, shot through a pane of glass, with a real cloudy sky behind it; which was added to a shot of a sheet of burnt industrial accoustic insulation – before being stripped of its colour and made to appear like a rocket traversing a glacier Pretty good, eh? I’m rather pleased with this one.

I tell you, if I’d paid as much care and attention to work as I do to these bloody earplug stories, I’d have made it to Managing Director. 

But don’t let me make you think it isn’t fun: it is. Who couldn’t have fun cutting holes in milk bottle tops and turning them into sombreros for a mariachi band?

And converting the interior of a street light into a domed museum on Mars?

Or even contructing sets out of absolutely anything I can lay my hands on…

And just coming up with the beauty shots…

But the best fun comes when I draw them all togther and discover the story they tell me – before I write it for you.

Tooty.

Old, stupid, but still creative.

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-six)

Things felt even less right when Folie made the discovery that the Gravity Whelk had lost all motive power and was no longer moving. So, when the Automatic Pilot failed to respond to their plaintive cries, the youngsters quickly fled the bridge in search of Kyboshed…

“I don’t understand.” Placebo yelled in acute terror of the unknown. “Surely, at the speed we were travelling, momentum alone should be carrying us forward at hundreds of thousands of kilometres per second!”

Folie replied in the only way he knew. His teeth chattered uncontrollably, and he felt as bad as he looked. But then the deck shuddered and the familiar background sound of the main drive recommenced – which relieved the boys somewhat…

They were underway again…

…but at a reduced speed. So they rushed back to the bridge to ascertain some facts pertaining to what had just happened – via the Automatic Pilot…

“What do you mean,” the Automatic Pilot responded to their request for information, “we’ve been travelling along nicely at hyper-speed for hours. Nothing untoward is recorded in my internal log. Look at the screen: see for yourselves.”

“But…but…” Folie began. But then he remembered that it was useless to argue with a computer: they always knew best, even when they were completely wrong, badly programmed, ineptly-made, composed of second-rate components, and incredibly stupid. “Okay,” he said as he laid a hand upon Placebo’s arm to stay the inevitable cascade of words from the polystyrene blob’s massive maw, “have it your way. Placebo: come with me.”

Once out in one of the very colourful corridors…

…Folie said: “Don’t look now, but I think the ship has been taken over.”

Although Folie had said, “don’t look now”, Placebo couldn’t help glancing over his shoulder. “I don’t know about that,” he replied, “but the autopilot seems as confused as heck. We were travelling at looney speed, weren’t we? I mean, we’re not going mad, are we?”

Folie shook his head. “No, you’re right,” he replied, “We haven’t touched hyper-speed since we pressed the big ‘Go’ button. Either the autopilot really doesn’t remember anything…or it’s lying to us. Let’s go find Kyboshed.”

The mere mention of the Scrotonite robot’s name gave the duo hope and courage…

“Good idea.” Placebo said through a small smile. Look – even the lighting has improved: maybe things on are on the up.”

But when the interior airlock allowed them ingress to the next compartment…

…the lighting – and the floor – were anything but normal.

“Folie?” Placebo snapped.

But when Folie stepped forward to give his chum a comforting touch, he found himself somewhere else entirely…

“Ugh?” He groaned. “Where did this flat plain and those distant hills come from?”

Little did he suspect, but something similar had happened to Placebo…

Once over the initial surprise, the tubular packing piece tried to think logically: “That sun,” he said to himself, “is it rising or setting? Or does it matter? Of course it matters: if it’s rising I could get roasted by it: if it’s setting, I could freeze to death. Oh blast, I don’t like this at all.”

And, of course, neither of them could imagine that the same would happen to their Chief Engineer…

“Hey,” he cried as his mono-eye swept across the surrounding landscape, “my programming parameters never encompassed this scenario: I’m gonna have to come up with some original thought processes. Oooh!”

Moments later…

…Folie heard Kyboshed calling his name. As did Placebo…

“Come on, Guys, this is really scary,” Kyboshed’s voice echoed off the sandstone hills that surrounded them, “répondez vous s il vous plaît…

…I’ve got some high-tech lubricants inside my hydraulic system: you wouldn’t want me to discharge them uncontrollably through my hind vent, would you?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-five)

But that wasn’t the end of it. In the foyer, El Custardo had offered to perform an impromptu concert by himself and Los Natillas…

Unfortunately when a request was put through to William of Porridge for their instrument cases…

…he was delighted to report that all the guitar strings had frozen so quickly that they had ‘gone twang’. Worse still, he tittered to himself as he called back, the trumpet mouthpieces were of an inferior material and had duly shattered. He hated mariachi bands with a vengeance, ever since a group visited his school concert hall and interrupted his crab football game. So he could barely keep the joy from his voice when he summed up the situation with: “So there’ll be no bleeding racket keeping everyone awake tonight!”

Even more unfortunately – at least for Lillie – was the fact that Tangerine chose her to pass on the bad news to Frisby…

…who was so enraged that a large gaseous anomaly (that he’d been saving up in his intestine for an emergency) erupted like cannon fire and exploded spontaneously…

Fortunately Lillie’s lightning reactions saved her eyebrows from being singed, and all she suffered was some minor melting to the elastic in the back of her space knickers.

Even more fortunately, one of the museum visitors was a maintenance engineer in a really old-fashioned factory where everything was worn out and obsolete and the short-sighted management didn’t believe that investing in the future was at all logical. Consequently he was able to put his work-day skills to good use by repairing an ancient oil-fired furnace that had been left-over from an era when oil was plentiful on Mars, and nobody gave a monkies about the environment…

“There, ya go.” He shouted above the applause. “There’s a whacking great reserve of crude oil in a cavern beneath the museum too. It’s matured nicely and it’s very volatile; so it should keep the main hall warm. If we all stay here we might survive long enough for a rescue mission from Earth to arrive before it’s too late.”

In an adjoining room, Bo Smidgin found one of the museum engineers – Comely Wasselstoop – staring out of a viewport at the weather…

“I chose a bad time to visit Mars.” He said conversationally.

Comely didn’t bother turning around. “There isn’t a good time to visit Mars.” She replied in a flat voice that seemed to have admitted defeat. “The planet is haunted. Haunted by its past. The mistakes of those silly Muffins, eons ago, continue to punish the world, and will continue to for the foreseeable future – until someone can think up a fantastic way of putting things right. I don’t see that happening in my life time.”

The engineer’s reaction had surprised Bo. Leaving Comely to her acceptance of doom, he turned away from the window…

But as Comely moved off in the direction of the ‘Ladies’ loo she had no idea that her words had given Bo reason to pause and think…

“What am I doing here?” He asked himself. “How can the acquisition of wealth be an end in itself?  Surely my miserable life could be better spent than living off the misfortune of others. They thought I was a turd on Scroton: maybe I was. But now, for the first time, my eyes are open. This planet needs a miracle. Or another one, if I’m being pedantic. One that will actually work this time. I just have to figure out in what form that miracle will present itself. When it does, I plan to recognise it: and after I’ve recognised it, I’ll utilise it – for the benefit of the whole world – such as it is!”

And then he went out into the foul weather – just to make sure he really meant what he’d just said…

“Yes,” he concluded, after his knees began knocking together and his false teeth fell into his hands, “definitely. I just have to recognise the means to salvation. Then everything will be wonderful. I wonder what it’ll look like. And what colour will it be? I hope it’s yellow!”

Taking time dilation into account – at approximately the same moment that Bo Smidgin made his gummy statement – far across the Galaxy…

…the Gravity Whelk was rollicking along at a most ridiculous velocity. In fact Folie had been a little concerned at the pace, and wondered if they might be doing something adverse to the balance of space/time or some-such. He couldn’t help but worry that someone or something might take offense. He’d brought up the subject with the Automatic Pilot, but these speeds were so far beyond its programming and experience that it shook it’s non-existent shoulders and said: “Danged if I know.” But when Kyboshed had been presented with the same concerns, he said: “This ship has been upgraded on Scroton: do you really think we’d screw up something as important as that? No – keep that throttle open, Folie: let’s cover some ground.”

Then this happened…

“Oops,” said Placebo nervously, “this doesn’t feel quite right.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-four)

Whilst Folie and Placebo were twisting space/time into a virtual pretzel, Griselda Splint – her room now the temperature of a wine cooler – had decided to brave the cold outside…

Inside, at the communications panel, Frisby Mumph had concluded his emergency call to Cushions Smethwyke in the Museum of Future Technology…

It hadn’t gone well. His request for immediate evacuation was refused. Cushions had informed him that both Mars Shuttles were out of commission: apparently a cheap banjo bolt had failed in both ship’s Cafe Puke coffee dispensers, and the resulting leak had seeped into their main drive conduit coupling doo-dads, which meant they couldn’t fly until some parts arrived from somewhere very far away. When Frisby suggested she contact the K T Woo or the Chi-Z-Sox, it was met with incredulity. Didn’t he realise that both star ships were involved in an End Cap civil war – in which blue end caps were trying to overthrow the numerically superior, but essentially thick, orange end caps?

“I don’t get out much.” Frisby had replied. He then added: “And I suppose the Earplug Brothers are gallivanting around in an alternative dimension or something equally inaccessible?”

To which Cushions had said: “Yes: how did you guess?”

Meanwhile, outside in the bitter cold, Griselda’s husband, Tobias…

…concluded that he didn’t want either himself or his wife becoming a statistic, so elected to return inside.

“Come, Griselda; that’s enough excitement for today.” He said. “Probably enough for a lifetime too. You know how I hate getting chilblains on my buttocks.”

And, standing upon the threshold of the ice sheet, but still within the environs of the ancient citadel, Maverick had decided that throwing caution to the wind was an anathema to him. As much as he tried – and despite his brave words – he simply couldn’t bring himself to attempt a crossing of the frozen wasteland…

So he and Mulleon agreed to go in separate directions and look for somewhere nearby to shelter. But it had been a ruse upon Maverick’s part. What he really wanted was to be alone so that he could have a damned good piddle. So, now that Mulleon was out of sight, he did just that. And it was huge!

But it did leave him feeling guilty, so he wandered up and down again – in the vague hope of spotting somewhere out of the weather…

For several minutes his search proved fruitless; but then a gap appeared in the squall, and he thought he might have seen something…

And he was right: it was an emergency habitat…

He also noticed that Mulleon was half-way to it…

“Rufus,” Mulleon exclaimed as his plugmutt sidled up beside him, “what are you doing here? I thought you’d run off for good. Get hungry, did you?”

Rufus didn’t want to incriminate himself, so remained mute: but his body language said it all. The growl from his stomach merely underlined his unspoken words.

“Let’s see if those guys in that habitat have anything for you.” Mulleon suggested. “And me too. And a shower; a snug cot; and some light reading material beside the aforementioned snug cot.”

But as they came closer to the habitat, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Gerhardt Snitzenfrudel’s…

…shouted: “Room at the inn there is not being. Four pods there are, and four of us are in them.”

This information was supplemented by Jenson Prong: “So just sod off somewhere else. If you don’t, I’m going to come out there and hit you with my emergency rolling pin – right ’round the earhole.”

Mulleon realised that he wasn’t likely to be invited inside, so quickly turned and departed. But he paused when Tynan Ware’s voice called: “That’s a nice plugmutt. I’ve always wanted a plugmutt. Tell you what – I’ll take it off your hands, so’s then you won’t have to worry about feeding it and the expensive vets bills and all that. It can sleep at the end of my cosy cot. I’ll keep it warm with some scrunched-up light reading material.”

This was an offer that Mulleon couldn’t turn down. So he backtracked to the habitat; said his goodbyes to his pet…

…and got the heck out of there. By the time he returned to Maverick, the cork had spotted yet another possible safe haven…

“My,” a breathless Mulleon wheezed, “what are the chances of that?

…An incredibly rare prehistoric Shepherd’s cottage – complete with an oil-fired lantern glowing invitingly in the window!”

Meanwhile, out on the windswept plain, the Future Museum of Mars was now entirely iced-in…

It was panic-stations inside as the generator’s core glowed deep red…

In the control room, weary engineers, their eyes darkened by lack of sleep, feared the worse…

“It’s the cooling system.” The superior yellow engineer bellowed above the din of the warning siren. “The pipes are, like totally, frozen. We’ll have to shut it down before it explodes in an exaltation of fire and gore!”

Frisby Mumph received this information with a sagging heart…

He thought of poor William of Porridge in the luggage bays…

When the power failed, so would the force fields that kept the weather out of his work area. He quickly called Sir Dodger…

…who, equally quickly put a call out to William on the public address system.

“William, old chap,” he said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. No time to explain. Brace yourself.”

A split second later the force field collapsed, and the temperature dropped so quickly that everything turned to ice…

“Whoo,” William yelled, “am I glad I decided to put on my surplus Antarctic Expedition underwear this morning: both sets – despite the uncomfortable gussets: otherwise I’d be a walking icicle right now!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-three)

If Maverick and Mulleon thought they had a long journey ahead of them, they might have adjusted their perspective somewhat if they’d known the duration of the anticipated journey that Folie and Placebo faced. Even now preparations were being made. All hatches, metaphorical and actual, were being latched. Kyboshed was making final checks throughout the original corridors that the cable end engineers had deemed unnecessary to alter or beautify…

 

And, following the guidance of the Automatic Pilot, Placebo was doing the same…

Folie was supposed to be conducting a pre-flight check of the limited controls on the bridge; but he was nervous about entering the compartment alone. He stood at the door, watching his hesitant reflection in its mirrored surface…

“It’s like going shopping in a Spanish supermarket, without your Mum.” He told his reflection. “A bit intimidating. Oh dear, will I really remember which control does what? I’m not even a cadet: I was, after all, sent into space with absolutely no training whatsoever!”

But then Placebo arrived; pushed him right through the engineering section; and finally through the arched door that led to the bridge…

“There was no need for that.” Folie complained. “I was just about to go.”

He was still feeling rather cross when the two of them seated themselves before the main viewer…

“Systems check.” He snapped.

“Already done.” The Automatic Pilot’s voice boomed from the overhead speakers. “I couldn’t wait until the wheel of time ground to a halt.”

This made Folie feel foolish; so instead of being annoyed he decided to become nervous – as did his chum…

“Ooh-err,” Placebo said eloquently, “this is it.”

“Yup.” Folie replied. “The first time that we get to fly the ship.  The first time that we aren’t mere passengers. Are you ready?”

“Nope.”

“Nor me. Shall we proceed?”

“Yup.”

But before either of them could do anything, the ship went to Crimson Alert…

Placebo was out of his seat like a startled plugmutt at the turn of the year. “What is it?” He yelled above the sound of the klaxon.

A sickly-looking Folie quickly scrutinised his read-outs. “I don’t know!” He yelled back.

From one of the many corridors that Folie and Placebo had difficulty telling apart, Kyboshed contacted the bridge…

“It’s the Autopilot having its little joke. It thinks it’s teaching you a lesson.” He told the boys. “Now sit back down and press the ‘Go’ button.”

He then counted the seconds until this happened…

The result made Folie and Placebo feel very pleased with themselves…

“Cor – look at us go!” Folie exclaimed.

Placebo’s reaction was much the same: “Cripes – we’re nearly out of Weird Space already!”

But they quickly calmed themselves. They took several deep breaths before sitting back…

…to enjoy the view ahead…

But as the ship exited Weird Space, and the way ahead was unobscured by strange stellar formations and clouds of brightly-coloured cosmic…ah…cloud material…

…Folie did what Nigel – the Golden One – warned him against: He floored the throttle…

…which thrilled the two pilots more than anything they had ever experienced before in their short lives…

“Wheeee!” They cried as one. “Now we’re really motoring!”

And they bloody well were too!

It was like reducing the Galaxy to the size of someone’s back garden. A small one, with a Quince tree in the middle of the lawn. Whoosh!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part nineteen)

If the situation on Mars was looking dire, aboard the distant Gravity Whelk it was considerably less so. Whilst a small number of cable end engineers tweaked and fettled their technological improvements to the ship, Folie took a stroll along one of the many aesthetically-improved corridors. There he encountered Kyboshed who was staring out of the porthole onto outer space…

“Hey, Kyboshed,” he said cheerfully, “what gives? Since when do cybernetic beings stare longingly through windows?”

He was joking, of course; but Kyboshed didn’t know that. An electronic sigh escaped his speaker grill. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited to see that.” He said – because he was a ‘he’: he’d decided so shortly after having been activated in the robotics plant. He could have been a ‘she’, or even a ‘neuter’: but the engineer who activated him was male; and the machine that later would be named Kyboshed wanted to emulate the being that he recognised as his creator.

“Space, you mean?” Folie, slightly surprised at the robot’s reaction, inquired. “It certainly can look wonderful out there – just as long as you disregard the hard radiation, the utter cold, and the fact that it all exists in a perfect lifeless vacuum.”

Kyboshed turned to face his owner, but his solitary ‘eye’ took in only his surroundings…

“This is not the first ship that I’ve worked on, you know?” He said. “I was there – freshly minted – when Scroton built its first space vessel. I didn’t fly in it, of course: but I was there when it went careening across the cosmos for the first time.”

As a born-again Magnuss Earplug disciple, Folie was well-versed in the story of the X1. He even had a poster of it nailed on his shed wall. It looked exactly like this…

The incident was documented in a science paper titled ‘The Masters of Scroton‘ that Magnuss had helped write for the University of Droxford. It told – in very dry, technical terms – how Magnuss and Nigel had piloted it to Earth…

And now, to his amazement, he’d discovered that the Gravity Whelk’s Chief Engineer had been part of that remarkable project. “Cor.” He said appreciatively, before adding: “and flip too. You worked on the X1? Now I feel complete confidence in both this ship and its top mechanic.” 

It seemed to Folie that Kyboshed was trying to avoid eye-contact…

“What is it, Kyboshed?” Folie asked gently.

Again a sigh wheezed quietly from the robot’s speaker grille. “But that’s all I’ve ever been.” He said with a timbre of utter sadness in his cyber-voice. “I’ve engineered so many ships subsequent to the X1: but this is the first ship that I’ve actually flown upon. I’ve never seen space before. I want to see it more. I want to see it whenever I want to. I don’t want to be locked away in engineering – with four grey walls that surround me, and a bunch of winking lights, and a toilet that I’ll never use!”

It was quite an emotional outburst, and Folie didn’t really know how to deal with it. “Um…” he began, but got no further.

Then Placebo arrived…

“No problem.” He said as Kyboshed returned his gaze to some distant point beyond the hull. “We own this ship now. We decide who works where. From now on you’re Bridge Crew: you only work in Engineering part-time. Okay?

Of course it was okay. Kyboshed was cyber-thrilled. In fact he was so thrilled that when the ship was returned to the dry dock for the last time, he took a stroll around the dock – just to look at the ship from the outside. Then, satisfied, he turned away and headed for the personnel transfer conduit…

He was bridge crew now: and he couldn’t have been prouder.

Neither could Nigel when he, Donny, and Tojo made their farewell to the young space explorers…

“Well I think we’ve done a bloody good job.” Nigel opined. “Your Gravity Whoop has done us proud.”

Gravity Whelk, Golden One.” Donny corrected his ruler. “Not Gravity Whoop. Gravity Whoop sounds stupid – like a fairground ride!”

“Well, whatever it’s called,” Nigel said as he gave his Vice Chancellor a look that no one could accurately read, “its mere presence in interstellar space is a great advertisement for Scroton’s technical prowess and manufacturing processes.”

“Here-here.” Tojo harrumphed most professionally. “Well said.”

Nigel ignored the aging politician: he always agreed with the boss, even when he didn’t understand a word that had been spoken. To Folie and Placebo he said: “Well good luck, lads. Don’t go wrecking that ship of yours. Take it easy on the bends, and don’t forget to run it in for a few million kilometres before you push the pedal to the metal, so-to-speak. Until we meet again…”

With that the audience was over and the boys were allowed back aboard their craft, which launched within seconds of their embarkation…

With no time to reach the Bridge, they elected to watch events from the former bridge, which had shed all pretentions and was now merely a nice window…

“Pity about the clouds.” Folie said. “It would have been nice to have waved goodbye to the city. We might never return you know.”

“Oh, I expect we will someday.” Placebo replied. “Kyboshed will want to see his folks once in a while. Well that engineer who built him anyway.”

Then the interplanetary drive cut in, and before long Scroton lie astern of them…

“Right then.” They said as one. “What do we do next?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part seventeen)

If problems were the order of the day upon Mars, so too were they on the bridge of the Gravity Whelk. Folie’s dilemma descended upon Placebo’s shoulders with the weight of the entire universe behind it. Suddenly he was in a dark and foreboding place…

So, whilst the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor looked on, he took the seat beside Folie to think about it…

And he continued to think about it whilst the ship drifted back towards Weird Space…

In fact he only stopped thinking about it when Folie dragged him into the relative privacy of the engineering department…

“I know.” He said suddenly. “I have the answer. We take our last two proton torpedoes with us. If we get into any sort of shooting match, we fire them. If they don’t work, we run away.”

“Brilliant.” A relieved Folie replied. “We need never load the neutron torps at all. We’ll just take them along to keep the cable ends happy. We can always fabricate some story about how we blew up an entire fleet of hyperspace pirate mother ships. If they want proof we’ll tread on the dash-cam and tell them it was damaged in the battle and doesn’t work. But we’ll only do that if we have to: I really like that dash-cam: my Gran bought it for my last birthday.”

They were about to return to the bridge, when the door opened unexpectedly. Even more unexpectedly, a robot rolled in…

“Who, or what, are you?” Folie demanded…

“I’m your Chief Engineer.” The robot replied. “In fact I’m your only engineer. I don’t have a name right now. There is a choice of three: whichever one you choose – that’s the name I’m stuck with. Do you want to hear the list?”

It took a moment for the two silicon life-forms to shift mental gears. No one had mentioned a robotic Chief Engineer. But now that Folie and Placebo had discovered that they possessed one, it seemed like a really good idea. Whilst they held a brief discussion, the robot quickly changed position; checked a few tell-tales on the engineering board; then turned to face its owners…

“What are the choices?” Folie asked.

“A1.” The robot answered. “A2. And Gursflanachingtost.”

“They’re all rubbish.” Folie complained. “We can think of something better than that.”

“That may be,” the robot replied, “but whatever name you dream up – once it’s applied, there’s no going back: it’ll be imprinted. If you try to change it, I’ll explode. It’s a safety feature, you understand – just in case I get stolen by pirates or something.” 

Suddenly that sense of responsibility that had so concerned Folie earlier reared its ugly head again. “Flaming heck –  what a conundrum. If we get it wrong we’ll be completely kyboshed.”

“I like it.” The robot said unexpectedly. “An excellent name.”

“What name?” A puzzled Placebo inquired.

“Isn’t that what that strange word you just said was?” The Robot answered. “Wasn’t that my first name?”

Folie thought back over his last words. “Conundrum?” He asked.

“No, or course not.” The robot replied. “I’ve heard the word conundrum at least a thousand times – though I might be exaggerating a little there. No – the other one. I can’t say it until you confirm it. Then it’s imprinted – never to be altered.”

“Kyboshed?” Placebo whined.

“That’s the one.” Kyboshed replied. “Nice choice. Thank you: you’ve made me feel proud – at least in a cyber-representative way.”

And so it was. Shortly after that the Automatic Pilot returned to Scroton, where Donny and Tojo disembarked; and the ship became the sole property of Folie and Placebo once again. Soon the Gravity Whelk returned to its natural environment, and entered orbit around Scroton. Aboard, Kyboshed instructed Folie on a few basics of engineering…

“As you can see, Folie,” Kyboshed said, “this air-conditioning plant’s winky lights aren’t working properly. They are dull and insipid.  How would you address and rectify the problem?”

Folie spent a few seconds regarding the mysterious device. “Well,” he began, “first I’d try this.”

With that he gave it a hefty kick in its lower extremities. To Kyboshed’s surprise the lights burst into life…

“Sometimes it not about logic and knowledge.” Folie said as he walked away. “Sometimes it’s just a feeling you get. You gotta go with your feelings, Kyboshed: remember that.”

A couple of hours later, whilst poring over the ships’ intricate instruction manual, Folie and Placebo received a call from Kyboshed: he had something to show them. So, bored with dry facts and numbers, they disported themselves to a storage hold…

“Look at this, guys.” An excited Kyboshed implored. “Aint it something? I found it in a packing case marked, SCRAP, but with the S missing.”

Both Folie and Placebo recognised it from The Skail Brother’s video. It was a flying machine that they never used because it was a fair-weather only craft. It wasn’t waterproof. They’d forgotten all about it; but now that it stood there before him, Folie couldn’t help but clamber aboard…

“Ooh,” he squeaked as he levered himself into the driver’s seat, “it’s a bit of a tight fit. But I could always lose some weight.”

“Great,” Placebo grumbled, “but you’d have to put me through a series of heavy steel rollers to get me into the passenger seat. No, it’ll never do.”

Folie could see that the machine was an affront to Placebo’s species. He didn’t want to upset his business and adventuring partner, so he said to Kyboshed: “Oh, give it to the cable ends, Kyboshed: I’m sure they’ll have some fun pulling it apart.” But he said it with a wink and with his fingers crossed and hoped that Kyboshed understood that he didn’t mean a word of what he’d just said.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fourteen)

Things might have been hotting up – or cooling down, depending on your point of view – on Mars: but upon the ridiculously distant Scroton, where the Gravity Whelk lie quiescent in its cradle once more…

…Folie and Placebo were summoned to the presence of the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor again…

“Well its done.” Donny Woolbadger informed them. “The Gravity Whelk is all ship-shape and Scroton fashion – to paraphrase an old Earth expression that Nigel gleaned from Magnuss Earplug.”

“We don’t know what to say.” Folie replied. “I mean this is beyond wonderful: we’re just speechless.”

“I’ll be happy if you don’t break wind with joy.” Tojo Winterborn said in much-practised Earplug, but with a thick, almost impenetrable Scrotonic accent. “Now be on your way: you have a ship to inspect.”

Well the youngsters didn’t need a second bidding. But when they came aboard it was with feelings of trepidation. Might the ship be adorned with candy pink carpets and feather boas? It didn’t bear thinking about…

“Nope.” Placebo said as he stepped into the first corridor from the transfer conduit. “Ah…looking kind of good – if you like sparkly gold walls and Lincoln green flooring.”

He was then startled by the sudden arrival of the Chancellors, whom, he assumed, must have entered via the opposite conduit.

“Yeek!” He managed.

“We were going to let you explore alone.” Donny explained. “Then Tojo had a thought: what if you didn’t read the instruction pamphlet properly? It could end catastrophically. So we came aboard to show you around.”

So the first command given in the re-fitted Gravity Whelk was to the Automatic Pilot. Five minutes later they were in deep space.

“Regard the nice oval portholes.” Donny said as they proceeded along the corridor. “Made for optimum vision and super strength. This ship won’t fall apart when you enter a gravitic maelstrom or collide with asteroids.”

Donny was very keen to display the toilet with a revolving door…

“Pink light on: go poop.” Tojo said in simple Earplug.

“Nice touch.” Placebo managed. “But what if the bulb blows? I wouldn’t want to walk in on Folie half way through.”

“Got a lock on door.” Tojo replied.

Then the duo were taken to the room that no one had a name for, but in which the ship’s log was located. There they were introduced to the engineers, designers, and whizz-kids that had overseen the re-fit…

“This seat is jolly comfortable.” Folie observed.

“And this golden globe is very…uh…golden. Was it golden before? I can’t remember.” Placebo added. Then, in an inspired intellectual moment he spotted something behind him reflected in the information matrix globe: “Hey – is that Cafe Blurgh in that machine? We both love Cafe Blurgh: it was all we could find whilst sight-seeing in Scroton Prime.”

Snarlsdon Bumbledope was surprised at this. “Really?” He said. “I’m really surprised: Cafe Yuk and Cafe Cacks out-sell Blurgh ten-to-one. You must have visited all the best cafes.”

Folie shrugged his shoulders. “Well, you know: some people are born with good taste. What else have you got to show us?”

As they passed another porthole, Placebo noticed a painting hanging upon the outer hull wall covering…

“That looks sort of familiar.” He whispered to Folie. “It’s bloody awful too. Whomever the artist is – I hate him or her.”

Whether Donny heard Placebo is debatable, but – perhaps by sheer chance – he brought up the subject of the wall art: “We had it sent over from the Royal Palace.” He said. “There are several scattered throughout the ship. They’re all Anton Twerp originals. They might be worth a fortune somewhere – we don’t know. They were a gift from the Museum of Future Technology’s most reviled artist – none other than Anton Twerp himself.”

“Oh,” Folie nodded wisely, “that explains why it makes me want to vomit.”

Shortly after that the ship’s owners found themselves standing at a door that didn’t exist pre-refit…

“That’s nice.” Folie remarked. Then, in a puzzled tone, he added: “How come I can only see me reflected in the metallic surface of the door?”

“Special coating.” Donny explained. “It only shows one species at a time. It’s a special Scrotonic design for people who get so hopelessly inebriated that – when they wake up from their drunken stupor and wonder who and what they are – this door will reveal their true species to them. Not really a lot of point to it: but we thought it looked nice with the yellow door frame.”

“Where does it lead to?” Placebo inquired. “The door I mean.”

“Pertinent question, young polystyrene blob.” Donny replied cheerfully. “We’ll find out straight away.”

“This, if you haven’t recognised it already,” Donny said proudly, “is the heart of the Gravity Whelk. Welcome to Engineering.”

“Lots of winking lights.” Folie observed. “Do we need to know what they mean?”

“In manual.” Tojo showed off his new command of the earplug language.

“I see it comes with its own toilet.” Placebo noted.

“Could be very important in times of great danger.” Donny replied. “It’s no good trying to fix a damaged ship when your bladder is bursting: it ruins concentration. Mistakes are made. I’ve heard of entire ships exploding because the Chief Engineer needed a whizz, but couldn’t get back from the toilet in time to stop a matter/anti-matter interaction get out of control.”

“Pee-pee.” Tojo added. “Very important.”

“When you gotta go,” Placebo showed wisdom beyond his years, “you gotta go. Otherwise – blammo!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirteen)

With so much snow falling around the Future Museum of Mars…

…Frisby Mumph couldn’t resist responding to a call from the Muffins and their robotic servants, and soon found himself frolicking in the snow with them…

But he knew it was a just a brief reprieve from his responsibility for the well-being of the building and everyone inside it.

“This is fun, guys,” he chuckled, “but Tangerine and I must be on our way now. You all get back to your sunken city and wrap yourselves up nice and warm: I think this mini-ice-age is gonna be a doozey!”

Of course Frisby’s customers had no idea how bad conditions would become. This particular individual was lucky to make it through Buttcleft Pass before it became impassable…

Sensibly most remained close to safety. If things worsened noticeably, they could simply step inside through one of many emergency exits that had been left ajar for them…

Several groups of Ice World immigrants from a couple of years previous had paid the fare to Mars in the hope that the winter there would remind them of their home world… 

Unfortunately one of them had forgotten how fridged air accentuates the aroma of escaping bodily gasses…

…and how they become visible to the naked eye.

Charles De Glop had stopped enjoying himself, and went back to work. But when he tried to pick some rosemary and thyme for his latest gastronomic wonder, he found it submerged and frozen solid…

“I will not lower myself to use frozen food.” He said to himself. “It is beneath me. But I do have that half-sachet of drinking chocolate at the back of the cupboard: it’s only a couple of years out-of-date. Hmmm, perhaps this is the right time for Charles De Glop to become experimental once again.”

Outside the kitchen, on the concrete apron, a pair of cyclops earplugs made their way back from a pleasant stroll in the snow…

“I wish this stroll would never end.” The grey cyclops said through a small smile.

“I agree,” the larger of the two replied. “It has been so pleasant in your company. I say, as long as conditions don’t worsen, we should stay out here for as long as we can.”

But then the heavens opened…

“Bugger this,” he added, “let’s get inside now!”

The sudden change almost caught Doubry Furkins and Jenson Prong out too…

“I’d like to see any Company cameras that can spot us through this.” Jenson moaned at Doubry. “No more arguments: get inside now!”

“Oh flip,” Charles whined as he made for the kitchen door…

…”perhaps baked beans on toast isn’t such a bad idea after all!”

Fortunately, in the lee of the nearby hills…

…where the wind blew less strongly and the snow fell a little less intensely, Nobby Hollister had used his experience in lower gravity to escape the clutches of Patti Roularde…

Alone for the moment, he paused for breath and to take the opportunity to enjoy the sense of freedom…

…where he considered leaving Patti behind. Then, through a cleft in the rocks he could just spot the museum, as snow swirled around its futuristically curved flanks…

…and he was certain that it was the right course of action. But then he heard a familiar voice on the breeze…

“Oh there you are, Nobby.” Patti said as she sauntered by. “I thought you’d fallen off a cliff or something.”

But then she dropped the type of bombshell that no desperate engineer that has taken a job on Mars because his bank account is empty and his divorced wife has left him in debt wants to hear…

“I didn’t let on earlier,” she said, “but I am a very experienced Precipitous Ledge Walker. I have walked upon many of Earth’s most precipitous ledges. I learned my craft in the Atlas Mountains. I then moved on to the Alps, the Himalayas, and finally Antarctica. I wrote several books on the subject. I have my own TV channel that specialises in extreme sports. I am a very rich woman. I came to Mars to find a daring, handsome husband with nice buttocks and a kind heart. I thought that earplug was you. But when you used your low-gravity experience to leave me behind, I knew that you were not that earplug. Nobby – you’re matrimonial toast. See you later – not!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part nine)

A half-hour then passed in which Mulleon had taken a bite to eat; gone to the lavatory; changed his underwear; and managed to lose Rufus. Of course the first three acts had been necessary; the fourth less so, and he cursed himself for not keeping his big gob shut when he’d hatched his plan to use the plugmutt in such an underhand manner. So it was alone that Mulleon followed the blueprints of the museum that Maverick had paid a fortune for to a pair of dubious underworld characters called Wilton Carpetti and Vinki Vinkleton. Now he entered the lowest foundations of the futuristic abode…

A single light illuminated the way, and soon he spotted the hatch that led to the supposed caverns below…

…and, in a trice, was through it…

Looking around him, Mulleon wondered at the sheer volume of the cavern. He’d expected to find it damp and cramped. Instead it was dry and spacious.

“Huh, not bad.” He said begrudgingly. “Now I know why they use the term ‘cavernous’.”

He then set himself to address his immediate concern: which way to go?

Several storeys above Mulleon, William of Porridge congratulated himself on a job well done…

“Will you look at that!” He said to no one but himself. “All packed away in Bays Six and Seven: and you’d never know it to look at it. Pristine. Will, baby: you are the cork!”

But when he dropped from the platform, onto the delivery buggy track…

…he noticed the luggage service platform arriving unexpectedly. Even more surprising was the fact that it was carrying a passenger…

Of course William couldn’t possibly have known that Maverick had followed Mulleon into the bowels of the building – to make certain that the yellow earplug hadn’t reneged on their deal; pocketed the money; and ‘done a runner’. Now he’d made the mistake of being lazy. If he’d bothered to take the stairs, no one need ever know that he’d been anywhere but the public areas. Now that big lump of a luggage cork was calling out to him. Moments later he was joined upon the luggage service platform…

“Hi,” the new arrival said chirpily, “my name’s William of Porridge: what’s yours?”

Maverick had expected admonishment; not a warm welcome. He was caught off-guard by William’s approach: “Errrr.” He said. “Um…” Then he thought that honestly would be the best tactic. “Maverick.” He replied. “Maverick Fossil-Hunter.”

William nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah – thought so.” He said – which surprised Maverick even further. “You believe in ancient astronauts and all that guff. Yes, I saw your interview with Rupert Piles. You maintain that Mars was colonised by an early earplug civilisation that was aquatic in nature. You suggest that the Muffins are the result of an artificially altered genome that allowed later generations of those colonists to live on a planet that was rapidly drying up.”

“Oh cripes.” Maverick said sotto voce. Then more loudly he added: “Well, essentially, you’re right. I do. May I say – thank you for actually listening to my half of the interview. Most people agree with that camera-wielding oaf, Rupert Piles. His open guffawing at my statements almost ruined me, you know.”

“So now you’re here to prove him wrong, huh?” William urged.

“Oh yes indeed.” Maverick said as he turned his gaze away from his thoughts, and in the direction of William…

“I’m going to humble him. I’m going to make him eat every one of his words. I’m going to make him choke on his guffaws. I’m going to bestride the academic world like an earplugologist colossus. Everyone who ever said I was a kook and nutter is going to regret their foolish tongues ever spoke those words. I’m going to kick several scientists and academics right up the metaphysical arse. Then I’m going to kick them up the real arse too!”

Maverick hadn’t noticed, but his tenor had quickly shifted in an upwards direction towards falsetto. William had.

“Oh, right. Yeah, great.” He said as he took a backward step. “Be careful on this lift: it isn’t really for people. See ya.”

With that he was gone, and Maverick could continue on his way – his recently pent-up stress levels magically salved.

Below, and unobserved, Mulleon was continuing onwards; but his thoughts were of turning back. If he could just think up some sneaky excuse…

William of Porridge had, until encountering Maverick Fossil-Hunter, been relatively unconcerned with day-to-day problems of the Future Museum of Mars. But a mad cork on the premises made him nervous…

He could well remember the tales of Ballington Cork’s attempts to take control of the Museum of Future Technology. And he wasn’t too impressed with the disco cork king – Hambledon Bohannon – either…

He would need to speak to someone about it. And straight away!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part eight)

So, as everything seemed to be falling into place for the two young MOFT employees – out on a ‘jolly’ in their own personal space craft – back at the Future Museum of Mars the two mining company representatives – Doubry Furkins and Jenson Prong – felt a tad apprehensive upon the neighbouring plain…

“I know that I agreed that this time of year is probably the best time to visit Mars – what with tourist numbers down because of the approaching winter: “Doubry said through chattering teeth, “but, flipping heck, this ground is so darned cold.”

“You’re telling me.” Jenson retorted. “It must be locked-in frozen carbon dioxide. My rock-testing chisel is so cold I’m afraid to use it, just in case it shatters.”

At that moment, but further away, in an unnamed desert, Marty Friedpants was leading his fellow sewage union reps on their first hike…

“Come on, boys,” he called enthusiastically, “keep up.”

“That’s easy for you to say;” Tail-end Charlie – Tandoe Crimplehorn – gasped his reply, “but your oxygen suppository fits you better than mine: my bottom is feeling seriously oxygen-depleted.”

Marty, being an unusually fair-minded trade union earplug, was about to stop and offer to swap oxy-suppositories, when he was accosted by none other than the MOFT curator, Sir Dodger Muir…

“Dodge,” he said with surprise evident, “what the bloody hell are you doing all the way out here? I know you’ve got some new knees and all that: but you’re no spring plugmutt. You could keel over at any moment, and no one would be any the wiser.”

Sir Dodger was well aware of his advancing years, and was only present because he felt an absolute need to be there. But that didn’t stop him raising a characteristic eyebrow…

“Well here’s the thing, old chap.” He began. “It’s the new knees that have sent me out here. Not literally, you understand: they didn’t just waltz off with me an unwilling passenger. No; what I mean is…well all this metalwork inside me is reacting to the changing climatic conditions. If I read the sensations correctly – which, because I’m intelligent enough to have enjoyed a long successful acting career, and then became a curator at the planets’ most famous and most envied museum, I believe I am: we’re in for snow. Probably lots of it too. So, Marty, if I were you, I’d think about making plans for an early return to the museum. I’m off there now: you can follow in my footsteps, should you care to.”

Meanwhile, even further distant from the museum, the Scrotonite, whose name was Bo Smidgin, was conducting a reconnoitre of a suitable spot for his planned holiday-housing development…

And he too felt a chill wind blow up his metaphorical kilt that sent a shudder down his spine and gave him cause to wonder if he might have the talent of prescience.

“Hmmm,” he mused to himself in near silence, “if Venus wasn’t so damned hot, with an ammonia-rich atmosphere, I think, on balance, I might prefer to knock up some (fundamentally balsa wood and fabric) shacks there. Somehow this doesn’t feel right.”

But not everyone was out and about. Others chose (at least for the while) to remain inside the museum. Others like the huge cork, to whom William of Porridge had spoken in the reception area, whose name was Maverick Fossil-Hunter. Also a yellow earplug named Mulleon Cleets; and Mulleon’s pet plugmutt – Rufus…

As they stood beside a Cafe Puke coffee vending machine they discussed the matter that had brought them to Mars.

“It is clear,” Mulleon said, as he looked up at the cork that towered above him, “that the remnants of any oceans that Mars ever possessed would now be far below the surface.”

“I’m certain of it.” Maverick replied. “I would stake my reputation upon it. And here, beneath the Future Museum of Mars, marks the likely entry point to any access tunnels that might still exist.”

“Yeah- yeah, I get that.” Mulleon groaned. “But what makes you so sure that these tunnels lead to the ancient city of the Muffins?”

“Proximity, Mulleon,” Maverick answered. “They wouldn’t build their homes far from the water supply. Only really stupid people do that.”

Mulleon thought about that for about a nanosecond, before replying with: “But they are stupid: they destroyed their entire world by igniting a massive fart. A global fart, no less. I mean, what kind of intelligence does it take to ignite so much methane that it strips away most of the breathable atmosphere?”

Maverick ground his teeth together: this was an argument he’d heard many times before – mostly from his peers, tutors, and TV interviewers – especially that pesky Rupert Piles…

The answer came easily to his lips: “They were smarter in the olden times. They hadn’t invented daytime TV. If it hadn’t been for the development of social media, Mars would probably still have a vibrant society and a healthy planet. They wouldn’t have felt the need for a world-wide farting contest. So my idea is right.”

Although Mulleon agreed with Maverick, at least on a basic level, he didn’t much like the cork’s initial plan of action. Maverick was to go to the old citadel of the Muffins, whilst he found his way there via the subterranean tunnels and passageways beneath the museum.  He was about to offer an argument, just for the sake of it, when he had an idea of his own: he’d send Rufus in first: if he didn’t get eaten by anything, it was probably safe for him to proceed…

 

So he agreed financial terms, and Maverick departed…

…whilst he dragged Rufus in the opposite direction…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (episode 1)

SPOILER ALERT: This prologue contains information about earlier tales. If you haven’t read them, and don’t want to know what happened in one or two of them (in a very brief summarised form, that is) look away now!

Before the tale proper can begin, Dear Reader, you must first be reminded of just how the planet Mars became the Mars that the curator of The Future Museum of Mars – Frisby Mumph – so adores, and for which he would gladly give his life; his generous pension benefits; or tear off his famous old pressure suit and show everyone his bare buttocks.  It goes like this: Mars…

…is dark, cold, foreboding, and miles from anywhere. A world that was seemingly lifeless. So, in their infinite wisdom, those beings from the future who gave us the Museum of Future Technology…

…that fabulous emporium of technological wonders from the future that have been sent back through time for safe-keeping in the past – decided to build a smaller version on Mars  (just in case Earth blew up or something) and awaited the successful terraforming of the red planet, before they delivered any artefacts worth paying good money to see. So, for many years, the Future Museum of Mars…

…sat quiescent – awaiting the lifetime’s work of the aforementioned Frisby Mumph to come to fruition.  Frisby…

…enjoyed the company of his huge robot – Tangerine – and an idiot assistant, named Badgerlilly, whom he kept in permanent suspended animation. He also enjoyed going to the toilet. But most of all he enjoyed trundling about the barren landscape aboard his terraforming machine…

…with which he hoped to transform the planet from a dead, barren landscape, into a thriving eco-system. Although most of Mars remained utterly lifeless, some areas began to show promise. Tough, wiry mosses began to take hold…

Although Frisby was unaware of the fact, he had been under surveillance from the day he’d landed upon the red planet. He continued to remain blissfully unaware until Magnuss Earplug and his protégé, Yabu Suchs, discovered the ‘Muffins’ in a buried city beneath the rusty sandstone surface…

Eventually the native beings became allies of Frisby – reactivating their advanced scientific laboratories (that had lain inactive for millennia following the destruction of the Martian civilisation by a cataclysmic accident when the combined gasses, produced during a global farting contest, had been ignited by a cooker’s gas ring, the owner of which had forgotten to turn off whilst boiling an egg ) and setting to work on realising some of the brilliant ideas they’d been dreaming up before being forced into uncounted centuries of suspended animation…

One particular device came in jolly handy -at a time when the staff of the Museum of Future Technology were battling robots from the future for control of that vast edifice. The significance of the device was so…ah…significant that the Earplug Brothers were sent to Mars to see it for themselves…

Long story short – the device allowed earplugs to transit between quantum realities. But, more significantly for Frisby and the ‘Muffins’, it was discovered that it could also shift worlds between quantum realities. So they chose a better, more suitable Mars, and swapped their knackered old version for a nicer one from a different reality…

And for five minutes the future looked rosy. For the first time the light outside shone blue through the museum control room’s translucent walls…

But, unfortunately, they’d randomly selected a world that was in the midst of an ice-age; and soon Mars began to freeze over…

Soon the museum became entombed in ice…

And recent arrivals from Earth found themselves up kaka creek without a paddle…

Of course, the locals had never before seen snow, and (as they slipped and slid down the ancient citadel steps) they didn’t much like it…

Frisby and Tangerine were aghast and mortified. They wandered about in the snow drifts, looking for their lost customers. But without success…

More fortunately Captain Sinclair Brooch, of the Worstworld star ship K T Woo, arrived and released a volley of well-aimed proton torpedoes…

…which exploded beneath the ice…

…and melted it – creating a dramatic climate shift…

…that brought forth great horticultural wonders. The areas in which Frisby had been working so hard for so long, bloomed with native growths…

And following a period of incessant rainfall…

…the sole curator was delighted to discover that his hardy Earth plants were doing okay as well…

So, all in all, it was a happy ending. Or was it? Mars, unlike Earth, lies outside the ‘Goldilocks Zone’. The Sun is much farther away. Mars, despite its new look, was still a cold world: and, with every passing year since ‘The Miracle’, winters seemed to be getting longer and starting sooner. Oh flip!

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

The Grand Tour Has Toured Off

By that I mean that room for new stuff on this blog had to be found, so  the serialised version of Junior Earplug Adventures: The Grand Tour has been sacrified. Still, it’s not the end of the world. The lovely pair of e-books is very much available at most e-book retailers…

And the book version is better anyway – with improved grammar and fewer typos, so it’s probably a good thing.

Revel in the Ribaldry 15

Since this series of excerpts from my wondrously fabulous Hamster-Sapiens e-books appears to be fulfilling a desperate need deep within the bosom of so many, here’s another one. Of course, numerically at least (if not artistically) it must come from the majestic…

Yes, Danglydong Dell Diaries – not only a sequel to Fanfare for the Common Hamster, but to The Psychic Historian too. I mean, what else could you want from a book? And here is that random extract…

Wendy Nuthatch knew better than to return to the dais. Like Horatio before her, she had read the program. In fact she’d written it, so was well aware that to step upon the dais now would invite disaster. Instead she merely checked her watch, folded her arms against the increasingly chill winter breeze, and sat back to watch.

Into the same chill winter breeze stepped Joan Bugler. As was usual for the young, if plump, female – she appeared out of thin air. She then reached back into the invisible realm from which she had just arrived, and yanked through a prissy-looking fellow in bright red tights, a huge floppy hat, and a colourful, gold braided, jerkin. He carried with him a long dull-metal trumpet.

Once the brightly-bedecked apparition had recovered from the transition from one reality to another, he promptly put the trumpet to his mouth and blew a pleasant little ditty that had the first five rows tapping their toes in time with it. Those further back lacked natural rhythm, but appreciated the melody nevertheless.

The tune only lasted a few moments. Joan then stepped to the microphone.

“Did anyone recognise the tune?” She inquired.

Naturally no one did, but Horatio was excellent at putting two and two together, and correctly guessed that it was the recently rearranged, funked-up, version of Fanfare for the Common Hamster.

Joan pointed at Horatio and grinned. “I thought you’d figure it out. Can you guess what happens next?”

Horatio didn’t just want to guess; he wanted to be an active participant. Leaping from his seat, and dashing forward, he reached out to Joan’s paw, and said, “May I?”

Joan had once experienced non-reproductive sexual intercourse with Horatio. They now enjoyed a near-telepathic talent for understanding each other’s needs. “Of course.” She replied, and helped Horatio on to the dais.

To Horatio alone she said, “Reach into Prannick Horatio.”

Naturally Horatio didn’t need further prompts. He lunged with his free paw into the undetectable portal, grabbed hold of the first thing that he found there, and yanked as hard as he could. His paw returned clutching a spectacular plume that had been fashioned from the feathers of some exotic bird. The plume came attached to a huge brass helmet. And attached to the brass helmet was the heir to the throne of Sponx – Darkwood Dunce – and he didn’t look best pleased.

“I say!” He bellowed in a disturbingly effeminate voice that he quickly brought under control, and duly continued in a more testosterone-enriched tenor, “Have a care, cur; don’t you know who I am?”

It was a great show, and the people of Hamster Heath applauded loudly, which gave Horatio time to regain his seat.

Abruptly aware that he and Joan were not alone, Darkwood immediately doffed his helmet; made a sweeping gesture that might have been a bow; winked at Joan; and then called, “Greetings good people of Hamster Heath. I’m just so thrilled to be here. Really I am.”

“We’re thrilled that you’ve agreed to appear.” Nurse Growler, from the local surgery, called out in response. “It’s not every day that we get to meet the heir to a kingdom in our dinky little town.”

“Why thank you, fair maid.” Darkwood nodded in satisfaction. “It is not every day that I am so privileged to stand before an audience of such class and breeding.”

“Breeding?” Huck Ballesteroid’s startled tones filled the dell. “Is that big poofter suggesting that we start breeding? Well I’m all for it: I’ve always had an eye for Nurse Growler. She’s a right miserable-looking sod, but I bet she goes like a race-prepped go-kart.”

Nurse Growler might not have been the most friendly and caring of nurses, but she had always been extremely professional, and was never short of medical equipment should the need arise. She could usually lay a paw upon some important implement – night and day – becalmed or tempest – sober or totally rat-arsed. And so she did that night in Danglydong Dell. From somewhere (no one could honestly say that they witnessed its appearance) Nurse Growler produced a heavy cast iron enamelled bed pan.

Upon the dais Darkwood flinched. He’d never seen a bedpan before, and feared that it was some terrible advanced form of weaponry. And he was right. Nurse Growler stood up, pushed Doctor Growbag’s head between his knees so that she had room to swing, and proceeded to revolve upon the spot – building up speed with every turn – until she launched the bedpan with all the skill and fury of a rodentolympic hammer thrower. The bedpan then sliced through the air in a rising arc like a startled sparrow with a veterinarian’s thermometer up its jacksey.

In his bath chair Huck Ballesteroid had a terrible sense of foreboding. Ever since childhood he’d been certain that one day this moment would come. And now it had arrived – not on the battlefield as he’d hoped – but in Danglydong Dell; on a winter’s night; with everyone watching. He sighed in the face of dreadful inevitability and made his peace with his chosen deity.

The bedpan, when it arrived, came out of the dark night sky like a silent meteorite, or an avenging dirigible passenger’s frozen turd. It caught Huck directly between the eyes – knocking him senseless, and pitching him backwards into the lukewarm water of his bath chair.

For a moment utter silence reigned. Then Horatio (who had history with Huck) cheered like a hamster possessed, and within a heartbeat the entire dell had erupted with a cheerful chorus of hoorahs.

Darkwood didn’t know what to make of it. So he leant forward and spoke into the microphone, and said, “I say, do you want to hear my tale, or not?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

Fantasy? The writers of Game of Thrones should have read this book before they wrote that series. Imagine how much better it would have been – especially the ending! But that’s by-the-by: they didn’t, and the world’s a sorrier place for their omission. But you can still buy this tale of derring-do at most e-book retailers – some of which are mentioned on the sidebar or in Tooty’s Books Available Here beneath the header. Also check out the Lulu logo on the sidebar.

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 65)

Before long the planetary tractor beam had pulled the Zephyr down to the surface. In fact the space craft had arrived in the industrialised zone of Scroton Prime…

…and now hovered scant microns from the hard concrete-like ground. Naturally Noodles – the Portal of Everywhere – was less than impressed with the smoke and particulates in the air, and duly said as much…

“A civilisation that relies upon agriculture is a civilisation that is going nowhere.” The Oracle argued. “Everyone knows that.”

“That’s right.” Gideon said from his seat beside Flaxwell. “I’m an anthroplugologist: I know all about this sort of thing. It doesn’t matter what life-form it is – without technology, its inhabitants will remain firmly planted in their point of origin – never learning anything of what lies beyond their horizon – both actual and mental.”

“Without industrialisation,” Flaxwell added, “you’d still be face-up in that ditch in the Balsac Nebula.”

“That would be the Great Balsac Nebula.” Noodles reminded the redundant pilot. “But I take your point. It’s just a pity that it has to be so harmful to those using it and the environment. And you’re wrong about all life-forms, Gideon. If I get the chance I’ll show you a species that grow earthquake-proof sky-scrapers out of their own excrement. Quite remarkable.”

“Also quite a business opportunity for any air freshener manufacturers too.” The Oracle quipped.

“Hmm,” Noodles replied, “you’ve got me thinking there. I can show you the pictures and present the sounds of anywhere in any era: but the aroma of a scene is always absent. An oversight, by my creators perhaps?”

“Maybe you could hand out some of those cards that people can scratch, then sniff the artificial pong that relates to the current scene.” Flaxwell suggested. “For example, were you to display the tower blocks made from plop, the scratch card could smell of…”

But he got no further, because the Zephyr was being drawn through the city at a most amazing velocity…

   

“Some ride!” Gideon remarked. “I wonder where it’s taking us.”

But then, just as quickly as it had begun, the journey ended…

“You realise where we are, don’t you, Giddy?” Flaxwell cried out.

“Oh, the irony of it.” Gideon replied. “Oracle – do the Cable Ends understand irony?”

“Irony?” The Oracle responded in a puzzled tone. “Is that a less advanced form of steely?”

“I imagine – if that is possible for a Portal of Everywhere,” Noodles spoke, “that the owners of this craft are merely being practical. This vessel is a sales model: it belongs upon a pedestal where prospective buyers can study it. Oh look, as usual, I’m right.”

With those words still reverberating around the control room in a cacophony of echoes, the Zephyr settled upon its plinth…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 62)

But, just as the Cable Ends thought they were ready to re-enter hyper-space, something rather dramatic happened…

“Uh-oh.” Captain Hissenfrapp groaned. “Now we’re in the deepest kind of kaka.”

Of course, the young and inexperienced midshipman had no clue what he was looking at. Selma noticed the puzzled expression in his beady little eyes: “It’s a space-farers legend, Willum.” She said quietly. “They call it the Galactic Eye.”

“Uh-huh.” Willum replied as he assimilated this information. He then added: “So what is it looking at us for?”

“Looking’s fine.” Urchie half explained. “It’s when it blinks, you have to worry.”

Willum was about to ask what would occur should the Galactic Eye blink, when the eye blinked. And, in the blink of an eye, the ship and crew found themselves somewhere else completely…

“Oh for flip’s sake, Nobbington roared, “it’s sent us to the very edge of the galaxy!”

“It’ll take us years to fly back through hyper-space!” Selma wailed. “What are we gonna do?”

“No problem.” Urchie chirped up from where he stood beside the Oracle. “At the centre of every galaxy lies a singularity – or ‘black hole’, as it is more commonly known. All we need do is open a Gravity Lock on the centre of the galaxy, and the black hole will pull us back – at incredible velocity.”

Hissenfrapp looked at the cook with open admiration. “The next person who complains about this guy’s paella, or his special vegan sausage rolls, gets a punch on the nose from me – okay?” Then, to his pilot, he said: “Nobby – scan for a black hole and then open a Gravity Lock.”

“Getting something.” Nobbington informed the captain. “Putting it on screen.”

But it wasn’t a singularity that the sensor had detected; but a ghastly face that scared the heck out of everyone who saw it…

“Oracle,” Hissenfrapp yelled. “What the heck is that?”

The A.I didn’t even bother to turn around in its space cage. “It’s nothing, captain. It’s the God of All Things Arboreal – or ‘Wooden Face’ for short. It means that whomever is thwarting us, is running out of available gods. Find your singularity, Nobby: that thing can’t do anything except make us poop in in our space suits.”

Meanwhile, aboard the Zephyr, Noodles had noticed the view through the main viewer…

“Is that what space really looks like?” It said. “I had no idea it was so beautiful.”

Gideon was surprised by this reaction to the sight of open space. “But you can see everywhere.” He said. “Nothing is hidden from you. Not even the toilet!”

“Or underpants.” Flaxwell added.

“I can show everywhere.” The Portal of Everywhere explained. “But I can’t actually see it. Not first-hand, in the raw, as it were.”

“But you’re a window on all reality.” A puzzled Flaxwell said. “I don’t get it.”

Gideon didn’t hear Noodle’s reply: Flaxwell’s words had got him thinking. Five minutes later he, Flaxwell, and Noodles stood before a large viewing window in the rear of the ship…

“This is not a digital representation?” Noodles inquired.

“Nope, you dope.” Flaxwell answered it. “It’s a transparency. On the other side of it is nothing but vacuum, radiation, and the depths of interstellar space.”

Noodles was clearly moved because it went to an involuntary Rose Pink Alert…

“Nice, isn’t it!” Flaxwell said by way of understatement.

But when the Portal failed to respond, the earplugs switched off the light and left it to gaze upon creation – and finally to truly ‘see’.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 52)

Naturally Magnuss mentioned that Vincenzo would, one day, invent the Tubo Di Tempo…

“Whadda you know about my Tubo Di Tempo?” Vincenzo growled. “It’s a secret. I aint so much as done a drawing of it yet. I aint mentioned it to no one neither. It’s all in my head.”

“We know it’ll work.” Magnuss replied pleasantly.

“You know it’ll work nothing!” Vincenzo bellowed. “You’re just feeling me out for ideas.”

“It’s how we came here.” Hair-Trigger said – once she’d recovered from an intense desire to punch Vincenzo in the mouth. “Your Tubo Di Tempo will replace the big, bulky, and ultimately unreliable Tunnel Temporale.”

These last two words were the breakthrough that Hair-Trigger was hoping for…

“Really?” Vincenzo said in a voice that did nothing to disguise his enthusiasm and desperate hopes. “It’s better than the Tunnel Temporale? I always thought that thing was a piece of junk. So, tell me, when will I invent this time machine you travelled here in?”

“This afternoon.” Magnuss replied…

“Once we’ve given you a couple of pointers.” Hair-Trigger added.

“I don’t need no pointers.” A doubtful Vincenzo said rudely. “I got it all inside my head already.”

“And that’s where it’ll stay.” Magnuss snapped back at him. “For yonks and yonks. You’ll be middle-aged by the time you complete it.”

“Think of all those accolades you will have missed by not inventing it much earlier in your life.” Hair-Trigger whispered. “Not to mention all those royalties and residuals.”

“That you’ll get while you’re still young enough to enjoy them.” Magnuss slipped in.

“Show me.” Vincenzo said in response.

Moments later the three earplugs had moved to Vincenzo’s computer terminal…

…where Magnuss gave Vincenzo some figures that he’d learned from Valentine during their Psychic Bridge; who, in turn, had gleaned from the future version of the Tree of Knowledge.

“Hey, man,” the excited inventor exclaimed, “I would never have thought of that!”

“Actually you would have.” Hair-Trigger assured him. “But not any time soon.”

“Hey,” Vincenzo had a sudden thought, “what about my Plasmapretzel? Whadda ya gonna tell me about that little honey?”

Magnuss looked at Hair-Trigger. He really had no idea. Neither did Hair-Trigger. She said: “Never heard of it. Must have been a dud. What does it do?”

Vincenzo shrugged his shoulders. “Dunno.” He answered. “But it is kinda pretty – don’t ya think?”

Then it was back to work. Vincenzo wanted to see how Magnuss’ figures affected the results of his mental working-out…

Then he punched a few keys and fiddled with a knob or two…

….followed by a mental calculation that would have taxed a mathematician, and announced that everything was now clear to him and that…

…he couldn’t wait for the money to start rolling in.

So Magnuss and Hair-Trigger left him to his work…

“Do you think he’ll have it ready for this afternoon?” Hair-Trigger asked Magnuss doubtfully.

“Mid-day tomorrow, maybe.” Magnuss replied confidently. “We won’t have too much time cooling our heels. We’ll probably need that long to round everyone up anyway.”

Meanwhile, far away across the galaxy, and several years into the future, Folie and Placebo stood at a safe distance from the city-ship launch area…

“It’s awfully desolate out here.” Placebo observed.

“Hmm.” Folie half-replied – his attention concentrated upon the distant blast area. “Any minute now.” He whispered to himself.

But he was wrong: it was ‘any second now’. And before he had time to squeeze shut his eyes…

…BLAM…the launch motors fired!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

P.S Nice story – huh?

A Tale of Three Museums (part 51)

The theory that the missing customers might have been hiding in plain sight accidentally was proven quickly…

…when Munqui Bannister found Bunguy Jumpur, Randy Blueprint, Dina Havoc, and Porcine Pillock studying futuristic ballistic missiles…

“What?” They shrieked after being told the good news.

Well Bungay, Dina,  and Porcine did. Randy managed a more masculine, “I beg your pardon: did you say that Magnuss Earplug has a plan for our temporal retrieval? I’m astounded. I’m more astounded than I have ever been in my life. Even more astounded than when I learned that these Mark Six Missiles are so fast that they can hit the Moon before they’ve even been launched. Now that’s pretty astounding, don’t you think?”

“How does he propose to do it?” Dina inquired.

But when Munqui replied with, “I have no idea; who cares – it’s Magnuss Earplug: nothing can go wrong.”  Randy and Porcine showed their ignorance of Museum Heroes by allowing their mouths to fall open and doubtful utterances to escape them.

“Tranquilo mis amigos.” Munqui responded calmly. “You’re all in good hands. Now be ready for the word to move. When it comes, it could be sudden.”

Ever since the group conversation in the sunny park, the thought of the two zombies – Clux and Grimnax – nagged desperately at the short-arsed earplug with a stupid hat. He’d heard that they had both taken jobs at the Thomas Blueden Project…

…where, it was hoped that  (inside several futuristic domes ) grass, capable of re-invigorating the surface of Mars, was being grown…

As he made his way between the smaller of many domes, the thought of such a project certainly invigorated the mind of (and brought a sense of well-being to) Peter Crushing. Particularly so when he approached the foyer dome…

…which allowed him ingress to the inner sanctum of grass growing expertise. A short while later – after receiving some kind directions from several staff members, he entered the Engineering section of the project where seeds were genetically manipulated, and roots were grafted, and stuff like that…

“Hi, Peter,” one of two total strangers said to him – as though they had known him for weeks, “how’s it hanging, man?”

Peter was further dumbfounded when the other said: “We wondered when you guys would show up here. Isn’t this Thomas Blueden Project just fantabulous!”

“Probably.” Peter managed. “But changing the subject slightly; I’m looking for a pair of Zombies called Clux and Grimnax: could you tell me where they’re at?”

Both earplugs laughed at this. “Pete,” the darker individual said, “it’s us. We’ve given up our lives as voluntary zombies. This place has made us new again. I’m Clux.”

“And I’m Grimnax.” The lighter of the two earplugs added. “What did you want to see us about?”

At this point, the watching Gideon and Flaxwell were left to guess at Peter’s next words. But it was pretty obvious what they were…

Then it was on to another place, but in the same museum in the same era…

The earplug to whom the watching audience was now introduced was a young inventor by the name of Vincenzo Mussalheddi, who was fiddling avidly with a device that he called The Plasmapretzel. So he was less than accommodating when Magnuss and Hair-Trigger let themselves into his workshop…

“Who are you?” He asked belligerently. He quickly followed this opening gambit with, “Whatta ya want; a punch in the face?”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 50)

It was the latter action that brought Nobby to his senses.  Slightly embarrassed, the golden-eyed earplug explained his mental absence in a most eloquent manner:

“I couldn’t take it no more.” He said as he fought to stem the flow of sobs that followed the opening of his huge gob. “Dislocated in the time-stream like this: it’s like an enema to me.”

Hair-Trigger sought to correct his choice of word: “You mean an anathema.”

“No.” The reply came instantly. “I know what I said. Being away from my own era has had me living in the lavatory on an almost permanent basis. So I got some of that hypnotherapy. I got hypnotised into believing that I belong here. I even got a job at the power supply facility. But they let me go: I was just rubbish at it.”

“Ditto.” Magnuss mumbled as he looked at his own feet. Then, after bringing his chin up, he added, “But no need for any more of that hypno-crap, Nobby: you’re going home, pal.”

Nobby’s mood brightened to near incandescence. “I am? How?”

How doesn’t matter right now.” Hair-Trigger replied. “We have to get the gang reassembled. Do you know where they are?”

Freed from his hypnotic state by Magnuss’ saliva splatter, Nobby’s mind was as sharp as a hat pin:

“Well,” he said, “while I go rounding up the guys and gals, you two can see about getting the kids from TWIT out of their hibernation cells.”

Well no sooner had Magnuss made the request for the suspended animation sequence to end – when it was done. Of course the first that Pixie, Jeremy, Neville, and Chickweed knew of it was when a hooter blared loudly and an intensely bright beacon began flashing.

In fact, such was the mesmeric rhythm of the beacon that Pixie Taylor found herself incapable of dragging her gaze from it. And Neville Scroat thought that an atomic bomb was about to explode. But when, moments later, everything became quiescent…

…Jeremy and Chickweed started calling out for their jailer’s attention: Pixie became aware of the CCTV camera that followed her every move; and Neville took the time to think things through.

‘I wonder,‘ he thought quietly to himself, ‘whether this hibernation stuff was such a good idea. If this really is the future, and we’re back in our own time – then surely our real selves – those being the us that has yet to visit the Museum of Future Technology – are waiting here for us. That there will, in effect, be two of all of us. How will the law recognise us? We’ll be doppelgangers!”

Aware that the four youngsters had been released from their voluntary temporal incarceration, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger made straight for the site. Naturally, to avoid confusion, and to prove that he was who he claimed to be, Magnuss wore his famous Cossack hat…

But he needn’t have bothered: by the time they met, the foursome were totally cognizant with the facts…

Well, not entirely cognizant.

“What are we doing here?” Chickweed Gubbins said in his best complaining voice. “Every second that we live in the past, we’re endangering the time-line. One simple act – such as breaking wind in a crowded elevator – could have un-thought of repercussions. Who knows – maybe we’ll never be born at all!”

It was an interesting hypothesis, and Magnuss would have enjoyed a further discussion about it; but he had better, more productive things to do…

“You’re all going home.” He said – which elevated everyone’s mood. “I have the situation in hand. So just stay out of trouble until you get the call. If you see any of your fellow customers from the future, tell them.”

The young TWIT recruits’ response couldn’t have been better if Magnuss had slipped them a five Pluggento note. They saluted smartly and said: “Yes, Sir!”

Shortly, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger returned to the park, where they hoped to meet the remainder of their fellows. But they were immediately concerned when a RoboSecGua arrived with only half their number…

“Ooer,” Magnuss wailed, “I was rather hoping for a full compliment.”

The approaching group didn’t look any happier…

…so the daring duo put on their best ‘confident’ faces…

“Hi-ya.” Hair-Trigger said cheerfully, “we certainly have a lovely day for a meeting in such a gorgeous park.”

This confused their visitors.

“But the weather is artificial.” Rosie Stinkpipe pointed out. “It’s always wonderful weather here.”

Nobby De Arenquez felt compelled to defend Hair-Trigger’s statement. “Not so.” He said. “What about that time when we had a mini ice-age? It wasn’t nice here then.”

Magnuss could see the conversation getting out of control…

…so he interrupted:

“Shut up.” He said rudely, which had the desired effect. “Now I distinctly remember coming to this era to save a lot more than just you lot and the kids from TWIT. Where is everyone else?”

The RoboSecGua replied…

“Sir.” It began politely. “We have security teams searching every nook and cranny of the museum. If they are hiding away, we will find them.”

Jemina Jobsworth thought she could see a flaw in the servo-mechanism’s logic…

“But what if they aren’t hiding?” She said. “What if they’re just going about their business – sight-seeing or something?”

“Yeah.” Peter Crushing ably supported her argument. “What about Clix and Grimnax too? They’re both voluntary zombies: your sensors won’t recognise them as living beings. They don’t breathe!

It was true. The others then threw in their two-pennies-worth…

But it was Edie Chalice who made the most pertinent point:

“I was as drunk as a lord when I visited the museum. I can’t remember squat. What if I wasn’t alone in my inebriation? What if some of us simply don’t know  we’re living in the past?”

“Or worse still,” Magnuss added…

…”that they’ve taken to the bottle since, and simply don’t care? Oh, by the Saint of All Earplugs: we have to act with utmost alacrity. Find those missing visitors: and find them fast!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 48)

Following a mad dash down a spiral staircase, Folie, Placebo and Princess Cake arrived upon Concourse One in time to…

…be greeted by the scientific elite and the Skail Brothers.

Naturally, in the unbounded joy of reunion with their ruler, the other-worlders completely forgot the two terrestrials…

But as they welcomed her back into the fold, Dennis Tawdry couldn’t help but notice something out of place:

“Oh-no, tell me it isn’t true.” He wailed quietly. “Is that the royal arse I see on display?”

Dido Warblington hushed him surreptitiously – before adding, in a whisper: “Pretend you saw nothing. If anyone asks, you know nothing about those rather fetching dimples.”

Then, having done her duty, Cake turned to her saviours…

By way of thanks, she said: “Is there anything I can give you as reward for your brave, heroic action?”

“Well,” Folie said – having considered his response for half a heartbeat, “you could always pause to tie your shoe as you walk away.”

“Cheeky.” Cake said with a smile. “I think that might be a step too far. But, if it helps your future careers any, I can make a royal decree. I hereby award you my world’s greatest honour and I dub thee Sir Folie Krimp and Sir Placebo Bison.”

“Thanks very much.” They replied in unison. “We like you too.”

And so, Princess Cake re-joined with her subjects, and moved gracefully away…

…to be replaced with Richter and Beaufort.

“We did as you said.” Richter said eagerly.

“You did?” Folie responded to the earplug who so closely resembled himself – except for the larger eyes, of course. “What was that?”

“To look down the back of the filing cabinet in the engineering office.” Beaufort replied upon his brother’s behalf.

“Yes.” Richter took up the mantle once more. “We discovered the manuscript for an owners-manual. It had everything we needed to complete our work on the city-ship.”

“Apparently,” Beaufort butted in, “the starter motor has a sticky solenoid. But a kettle of boiling water and a thump with a length of timber soon sorted that out. We’re ready to leave – just as soon as you get to a safe distance – which is half way across the desert outside.”

“Oh – right then.” Placebo replied. “We’d better be on our way then. And you too, I guess.”

With that they bid their final farewells, and the brothers made haste after the royal party…

Folie and Placebo watched them go…

“Great guys, don’t you think, Sir Folie?” Placebo opined.

“Great guys, Sir Placebo.” Folie agreed. “The best. Now we’d better get a move on: this place will be blown to smithereens by their take off blast.  Where’s the door to the outside world?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 46)

Almost a full half-hour passed before Noodles could continue; but when it did, the scene had shifted once more. Now Gideon and Flaxwell were able to see Cushions taking the long short-cut to the arboretum with Montagu…

“Thank you so much, Montagu.” Cushions squealed. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. If I were to collapse from heat stroke half-way there, I might not be found for months.”

“If you hate the journey to the arboretum so much,” the biological android replied, “why don’t you use the maintenance tunnels? They’ll get you there in next to no time.”

“What?” Cushions shrieked. “And soil my hands? I’m a curator: not a spot-welder!”

“Why are we going there anyway?” Montagu asked. “It can’t be because you adore this polka dot floor covering.”

To which Cushions replied: “The Earplug Brothers told me to.”

Meanwhile, two of the aforementioned brothers – Rudi and Valentine – were en route via the regular means – across the Woven Expanse…

“Hey, Val,” Rudi said, “What do ya make of these new undulations in the Woven Expanse?

“Aesthetically pleasing, man.” Valentine replied. “And the ‘down’ bits are great. It’s the stretches of ‘up’ that concern me.”

“And the colour?”

“Preferred the brown. This is just a temporary ‘test’ surface, I hope?”

“So they say.” Rudi answered. Then he paused…

“Oh heck.” he sighed, “now we gotta cross the Wide Blue Yonder”

Valentine tried to find some crumbs of comfort: “At least it’s still blue.” he said.

Of course, all bad things must end, and a while later they found themselves in the company of the twins, Chester and Miles, who – being younger – had raced off ahead of them. With them were Cushions; Montagu; and Cushions’ Plugmutts – Harry and Ray…

Rudi didn’t waste any time; he got straight to the point.

“Okay, Cushions,” he said, once brief pleasantries had been exchanged, “I’ll not waste any time: I wanna get straight to the point: which one of these trees is the Tree of Knowledge?”

As Chief Curator, Cushions didn’t want to appear unknowledgeable about her own museum. Picking a vague direction at random, she said: “That one…over there. The big one.”

As the boys departed, Montagu couldn’t come to terms with what he’d heard:

“But, Cushions,” he said in a whisper, “what will happen when they discover that it’s not the Tree of Knowledge?”

“It will be the Tree of Knowledge.” Cushions replied. “Heroic types like the Earplug Brothers habitually get lucky. It’s how they survive all their adventures. It’s what makes them so indispensable. You see; whatever tree they choose will be the Tree of Knowledge.”

Chester and Miles shared their missing brother’s distaste for heights, so remained behind – leaving the task of climbing the tree to their elders…

“It doesn’t smell of plugmutt pee-pee.” Valentine observed. “It’s a good start. You first. Let’s do it. Huh – let’s get down!”

Rudi smiled at this. “No, Val,” he said, “Huh -let’s get up!”

So, a short while later…

…they had managed to make some vertical progress. Well Rudi had; Valentines sandals kept slipping on the tree trunk, which left him earthbound. But quickly casting them aside solved the problem, and soon he had closed upon his older brother…

“Hey, you’re a fast mover.” Rudi chided him for his athletic carelessness. “If you had fallen you could’a bounced all the way back to the museum, man.”

But Valentine wasn’t listening. Just for once in his life, he wanted to beat Rudi at something. Clearly climbing trees barefoot was that ‘something’…

So it was Valentine – and not Rudi – that was first to hear the inaudible voice of the Tree of Knowledge inside his brain.

Meanwhile – their mission accomplished – Cushions and Montagu were making their way to Mister Pong’s Exotic Food Restaurant…

“You’re having boiled rice again.” Cushions informed her colleague.

“And you’re staying off the vodka martinis.” Montagu retorted.

It was about this time when Rudi and Valentine regained the security of the ground…

“Wow!” Rudi exclaimed. “Did you get that?”

“I sho’nuf did, Rudi.” Valentine replied. “It was far-out, man.”

Upon the hidden world, Gideon and Flaxwell watched in dismay as the screen clouded over…

“What?” Gideon complained. “What did they hear? What’s ‘far-out, man’?”

But Flaxwell wasn’t concerned: he knew that The Portal of Everywhere had more story to tell. He could wait.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

Smart Phone Wallpaper Test: When Bathroom Walls Close In

I found a blog in which the owner gave away wallpapers for smart phones. I thought: “Neat”, so duly downloaded one to test its properties – those being 26mp resolution, and sized at 473 x 1024 pixels. I then duplicated those dimensions with an Earplug Adventure picture. As a Mark One, it kind of worked, but will need tweaking. But just as a test – should you own a smart phone of course – could you download the following picture, to see if it fits and is of acceptable quality? That would be very useful. If it works, I’ll do some more – hopefully better. 

Leave your comments and results in the comments box below. Thank you.

A Tale of Three Museums (part 39)

Meanwhile, a disconsolate Cushions Smethwyke was taking a shower in her futuristic cubicle…

Although she was in no mood to enjoy it – because of her earlier failure aboard the Omnipresent Scanner – she wasn’t  hating the experience entirely either. What she did hate, though, was fellow curator, Montagu, strolling into her private bathroom and tapping on the futuristic glass dome…

And she was absolutely livid, when, instead of stepping on the control that squirted a jet of soapy water all over her bum, she accidentally set the dome rising…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” she screamed at Montagu, “don’t just stand there looking at me in the nude:  avert your eyes whilst the dome descends once more!”

“But I’m an android.” Montagu argued. “Your nakedness makes no impression upon me.”

“That may be,” Cushions snarled as her free foot fumbled for the ‘lower the dome‘ control, “but you’re a biological android; so that argument holds no water – much like this futuristic shower. Now sod off.”

Moments later, the dome descended once more, and Cushions began to wonder why Montagu had interrupted her ablutions:

“What did you want anyway?” She shouted above the hiss of the shower.

“I cannot recall.” Montagu replied. “The sight of your boobies has made me completely forget.”

Cushions’ resultant scream of indignation shook the entire bathroom…

…and Montagu thought it wise to beat a hasty retreat…

Meanwhile, high in the Museum’s Red Tower…

…the deepening light of dusk illuminated the four remaining Earplug Brothers who had assembled before Gobby upon a huge, wide veranda…

“I expect Chester has already told you…” He began.

“Miles.” Miles interrupted. “You expect Miles has already told you.”

“Oh yes, sorry.” Gobby apologised in a perfunctory manner. “You’re so alike. One of you should grow a moustache or something. Anyway, the thing is, I have some startlingly fantastic news for you. You know that I have a talent for manipulating time?”

“Get on with it.” Miles interrupted again. “We haven’t got all night.”

“I am. I am.” Gobby complained – then actually did ‘get on with it‘:

“Something has contacted me through time itself.” He told them. “A force. A power. I don’t know what to call it; but it contacted me regarding your brother. It has a suggestion that only you four have the talent to act upon. Five, if you count Magnuss – and I think we can.”

In an instant, all four brothers understood the implications of what Gobby was saying. Their smiles broadened…

“Ah-ha.” Gobby cried out. “I think I need say no more.”

“Right on, man.” Valentine replied. “We dig what you’re saying. We sho’nuf understand the implications. You’re talking familiar telepathy, right?”

“I am indeed.” Gobby said in triumph. “You’ve used it to defend the museum against robots from the future, and pirates from hyperspace – just to mention two. I can see no reason why you can’t use it to help yourselves.”

Rudi was a little harder to convince. “But telepathy – through time?” He said. “I didn’t know it was possible. None of us guys know how to do it.”

“No,” Gobby said as he dropped his volume by several degrees, “but you know something that can. And, long ago, that something taught Magnuss how to fly a jet pack.”

Abruptly the boys knew exactly what they had to do, and from whom they needed to ask permission.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2020