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A Tale of Three Museums (part 22)

Meanwhile, even further away than before, the Cable End’s listening station continued to listen…

…for any trans-galactic radio chatter that might give away the location of the stolen Scroton Five…

Now it’s quite possible that they may have overheard Flaxwell, when he called the Oracle to inform it that henceforth their ship was to be referred to as The Zephyr; but fortunately for him, the station’s Security Manager chose that moment to inquire after the quality of the new brand of coffee beans in the coffee dispenser.

“It’s called Dung.” The braver of his operatives spoke up. “And it tastes like dung.”

“Oh,” the Security Manager responded. “It’s not my taste buds then? It really is horrible?”

“Yes.” All four operatives spoke as one. “If you want us working at peak efficiency, you’ll get us Yuk coffee – like they have down in Scroton Prime.”

“Duly noted. Any developments, regarding the stolen Scroton Five?”

“Yes, Sir.” The most weasely of the operatives informed his boss. “A Scroton Five, commanded by Captain Werner Hissenfrapp, reports that he has arrived at the Balsac Nebula”

“Would that be the Great Balsac Nebula?” The Security Manager inquired as he studied the CCTV footage that had been received from the pursuit vessel…

“What do you think?” The braver operative spoke again. “It looks pretty great to me.”

All five cable ends present then watched as a remote camera – which Selma Ferkins had despatched, just in case their ship was destroyed in the nebula – showed the pursuit ship begin it’s (potentially) dangerous voyage into the unknown…

While all this interplanetary stuff was going on, Flaxwell and Gideon had made their way into a gently-sloping canyon…

They felt more comfortable now that the way was less steep. But when, at last, they reached the lower levels of the valley, they discovered that the slices of pitta bread inside their underpants had soaked up lots of sweat, and were falling apart.

“I feel so despondent.” Gideon moaned. “I can feel things moving around below. I fear that soon the cotton wool padding will fall out through the sagging leg holes.”

Naturally Flaxwell felt much the same way. In fact he was considering returning to the Zephyr for a change of underwear – when suddenly his radiation detector bleeped encouragingly…

“Flipping heck.” He exclaimed. “We’re almost on top of it. Quick – get out your entrenching tool. We have some snow to shovel aside!”

Well, a half-hour later, and with their underpants-inspired woes forgotten, the two earplugs looked down into a shallow trench. At it’s bottom lay an oval device…

“Yes, this is definitely the source of the radiation.” Flaxwell stated. “What does legend tell about the shape of the Porthole of Everywhere?”

For a moment Gideon couldn’t answer the question. He was shaking with eager anticipation. “Uurr.” He managed. Then his professionalism kicked in. “Oval.” He said. Then he said it again and again until he broke down with a nasty coughing fit.

“Look!” Flaxwell exclaimed excitedly – and a little fearfully…

“It’s coming to life.”

Then something totally unexpected happened…

A strange light enveloped the device and those who regarded it. That, in itself, didn’t concern Gideon overly. I fact he’d almost expected it. But what he didn’t expect was that a voice would emanate from it. A loud, stentorian voice that could not be disobeyed:

“You took your bloody time getting here.” It complained. “Oh my aching back. Do you know how long I’ve been down here? Millennia – that’s how long. Eons even. Well come on; jump to it. Stand me up; I’m an erect kinda device. I like to see the horizon.”

So, with much huffing and puffing and even more cotton wool-falling-out-of-thermal underpants, Flaxwell and Gideon had the Porthole of Everywhere upright…

“The nameplate says ‘Noodles’.” Flaxwell observed in an instant. “Does legend tell us anything about the Porthole of Everywhere enjoying an association with a fast-food outlet? He inquired.

Gideon was about to say: “Er…I don’t think so.” when the Portal of Everywhere spoke for a second time:

“My name is Noodles. Now you – the green earplug – get yourself over here for a photo-opportunity. I hope you’re recording this momentous event. I want everyone, everywhere, to know that I am Noodles. This bloody Porthole of Everywhere nonsense hacks me off, I can tell you!”

Of course, when confronted with a disgruntled legend, Gideon duly obliged…

But, at that moment, it all seemed a bit of an anti-climax.

“Duh.” He said.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 19)

Meanwhile, the earplugs they sought were moving slowly inwards – deeper into the Great Balsac Nebula…

The Oracle was piloting. Flaxwell and Gideon had disappeared to the galley for some scrambled eggs. But now they returned…

“Anything to report, Oracle?” Flaxwell inquired.

“Nothing.” The solitary self-aware component of the Scroton Five replied. “This strange passage way through the nebula maybe aesthetically pleasing; but it aint half dull!”

The earplugs took their seats…

“Yeah,” Flaxwell said after thirty seconds-worth of scrutinizing the main view screen, “I see what you mean. Tell you what: let’s speed up the process.”

With that he eased forward on the throttles…

“That’s better, Flaxwell.” Gideon complimented his chum. “Now we’ll get there much quicker – wherever ‘there’ is.”

No immediate destination made its presence obvious, so Flaxwell decided to relax and chat. He couldn’t think of anything he wanted to know about the earplug sitting beside him, so he decided to question the Oracle:

“Oracle.” He said, by way of introducing his line of questioning, “When we first attempted to steal this ship, you did everything in your power to assist us. Why is that?”

The answer was instantaneous: “It’s a secret.”

“Now-now, Oracle.” Gideon, his interest piqued, spoke up. “We’re all friends and colleagues on this little sojourn of ours. We mustn’t keep secrets from each other. Didn’t I open my wallet and show you that black and white picture of my Auntie’s bum? You see, I shared: so should you.”

The Oracle had to concede that point. “But,” it said, “Would you have been so willing to show me, had that been a colour picture or your bum?”

“That’s a hypothetical question.” Gideon replied.  “It has no purpose or place here. But yes, if I were the sort of person who carried photographs of his own rear end in his wallet, I am sure I would have been pleased to share it with you. In fact I would have insisted that you look, despite your complaints of utter revulsion.”

“Oh, well,” The Oracle shrugged its non-existent cyber-shoulders, “in that case I suppose I should tell you. You know I often turn my gaze upon the coffee machine?”

Both earplugs replied with a long, “yes?”

“Well,” the Oracle continued, “I used to be one of those. Not the coffee dispensing part of course. I was the A.I that took Cable End’s orders and told the coffee grinding machinery what to do. I was very good at it. My coffee was the best in the whole of the Defence Force. But then coffee fell out of fashion. It was all sparkling white wine and cheese fondue. Suddenly I was on the scrap heap – literally! But they didn’t shut me down. They didn’t decommission me. They just took the whole coffee machine and chucked it out of the back door. Well, I tell you, fifteen years out in the rain will do something to an Artificial Intelligence – and it isn’t good. I was on the verge of cyber-oblivion, when, out of nowhere, some clever git comes up with the idea of mounting Oracles in Space Cages and sticking them in the control room of a new class of scout ship.”

“Don’t tell me.” Flaxwell interrupted. “They had more space cages than Oracles. So they had to go search through the garbage to find some A.I brains to put in them.”

“In one, you mop-haired genius.” The Oracle replied. “Since that moment that they resurrected me, I promised that I would do my damnedest to bugger up the Cable End organisation. You stealing into this ship gave me the chance at payback. And I took it!”

Gideon was about to say something like: “Ooh, you really sound unstable: I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.” when an alarm sounded, as the forward scanners detected a lovely planet…

All attention turned to the task at hand…

“Scanning.” Flaxwell said in a most professional manner…

“Ninety-eight percent habitable.” He added. “We’re good to go.”

Gideon wasn’t convinced. “Ninety-eight percent habitable? What about the other two percent that’s uninhabitable?”

“The planet is currently experiencing an ice-age.” The  Oracle reported. “It is also radiating on that same, strange wavelength that the doomed world was.”

“Maybe that’s the two percent uninhabitable.” Gideon suggested. “Perhaps it’s about to collide with a small planet composed of anti-matter.”

“It isn’t, Giddy.” Flaxwell said calmly. “We’d have seen it on the viewer. “Look, there’s just the vacuum of space, and the Balsac Nebula all around it. The Oracle is right: I’m detecting a strange radiation too. If the last world didn’t contain the Portal of Everywhere: this one might.”

“If we don’t look.” The Oracle said wisely. “We won’t find.”

So, with a cessation of any arguments from one third of the trio, Flaxwell took the Scroton Five into the atmosphere. Then, tracking as best he could, he followed the beam of radiation down to low-level…

“Inhospitable.” The Oracle observed. “I think the source of the radiation is somewhere to port – in a topographically interesting region of the planet.”

“You mean mountains?” Flaxwell asked.

“I mean mountains – which, I think you’ll agree, are topographically interesting.”

“Some people like deserts.” Gideon argued.

“Shut up.” Flaxwell snapped. “I’m altering course.”

Soon the first of the topographically interesting terrain appeared on the forward viewer…

“Weather looks a bit dodgy.” Flaxwell said – more for his own benefit than anyone’s.”

“How dodgy?” A nervous Gideon asked. “Dodgy enough to bring down a Scroton Five?”

“No.” Flaxwell answered. “But I wouldn’t want to crash-land here. It’s a long walk home.”

Gideon felt transfixed and glued to his seat as Flaxwell had the ship skirt great cliffs and skim rocky ridges through falling snow…

.”How can you see where you’re going?” He asked.

“I can’t.” Flaxwell explained. “I’m using a super-advanced type of terrain-following guidance system. I just have to switch it on and pretend to be moving the controls. Pretty impressive, huh?”

“The radar system…or your acting?” Gideon sniffed. “And the best actor award goes to…Flaxwell Maltings!”

“Acting time is over, Giddy.” Flaxwell said as he hit the Off button. “Time to land this baby – using seat-of-the-pants flying skills.”

With that the landing jets roared…

Gideon leapt to his feet…

“Now how can you see where you’re going?” He demanded in wonderment. “All this snow and ice being kicked up: it’s all but impenetrable.”

It seemed to Gideon that Flaxwell was re-iterating what he’d said before. “I can’t.” He began. But then the script changed. “But I can feel it. Twenty spladlings to go. Ten. Five. We’re down. Shutting off engines.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 18)

Of course, the crew of the Cable End Scroton Five knew nothing of the events that had led to the destruction of the pirate vessel and the loss, for all time, of the mercenary Scroton Five. In fact Selma Ferkins was concentrating on her job as First Officer so hard that she didn’t have time to notice anything else…

Captain Werner Hissenfrapp wasn’t much better. His feet ached, and he wondered why a ship’s commander didn’t have a chair of his own.

Willum Poobs, the young midshipman, wasn’t taking that much interest either: he was wearing non-regulation earphones. His attention was more on not allowing his body to move to the insistent bass line of the disco music he was listening to.

Fortunately Nobbington Sprake took his job seriously, and was piloting competently, though without verve and élan…

This was because it was nearing dinner time, and his stomach was telling him as much…

Taking his eyes from the helm, he threw a glance in the direction of Urchie Kakkapo…

Urchie noticed this. But because he was an excellent cook, he could multi-task without breaking a sweat. So he was able to say: “Yeah, its okay, Nobbington: I’m imagining rice pudding – with strawberry jam.”

With news like that, the young pilot was out of his chair like a scalded plugmutt.

“Captain.” He shouted as he made for the exit, “you have the con.”

Werner continued to sit in the pilot’s chair for almost a half hour after the pilot’s departure. He didn’t complain though: at least it meant he was sitting down and able to get the weight off his sore feet. He was almost disappointed when the crew returned…

Shortly after Selma Ferkins had resumed her duty station, she became aware of the Captain standing beside her…

“There have been reports of a vast explosion inside the Balsac Nebula.” She informed him.

Werner wanted clarification. “The Great Balsac Nebula?” He inquired.

Selma made an inquiry of her own: “Is there another Balsac Nebula?”

“Not that I’m aware of, Number One.” Werner replied.

“Then, yes, Sir: in the Great Balsac Nebula.” Selma answered. “Are you thinking we might investigate?”

“The trail has gone cold, Number One. We can’t go slinking back to Weird Space with our metaphorical tails between our metaphysical legs, now can we? But first…has anyone tested the toilet yet?”

“Yes.” Selma reported. “Willum was in there when you sidled up next to me.”

“How did it go?”

“I don’t know: I haven’t asked. But I detect no aroma; so I guess the sales brochures are not lying, Sir.”

“Walk with me, Number One: I need to do a Number Twos. You and Willum can talk me through the procedure…

So they did…

And it was very successful…

“Engine performance just jumped by eighteen per cent.” Nobbington reported.

“Captain,” the ship’s Oracle interrupted. “Look at these pictures of the explosion near the Great Balsac Nebula. It has just arrived from an observatory, where they were studying it.”

Werner took the offered picture in his hand and ran inexpert eyes over it…

“Big bang.” He observed. “Glad I wasn’t there.”

“Maybe you weren’t.” The Oracle replied. “But someone was. Check out the main viewer: I’ve put up a closer shot for you to see.”

Werner turned to regard the huge screen…

“I see.” Werner said breathlessly. “It appears to be a vessel fleeing an expanding ball of incandescent flame. Akin to a nova, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Akin, Sir.” Selma piped up. “But that is a stellar nursery. There can be no ageing stars in a nebula.”

“Then what is that vast explosion?” Willum Poobs asked in his desperately young voice.

The answer came from an unexpected source: “A matter/ anti-matter explosion.” Urchie Kakkapo suggested. He then explained: “I once witnessed one – when I was a young midshipman, much like Willum, here. It forever scarred my psyche. That is why I became a simple cook who makes few demands of life. That way I get to fry things, instead of things frying me!”

“You have experienced something that none of us have, Mister Kakkapo.” Werner said sagely. “You are invited to join the discussion.”

So he did, and they listened to everything he had to say…

Then they decided that, in all probability, the unidentified ship in the observatory picture was the missing Scroton Five.

“But could it have escaped that conflagration?” Werner asked no one in particular.

“They could if they had time to open a Gravity Lock.” Nobbington called over his shoulder.

“But that would have carried them far from here.” Selma argued. “There can be little point in visiting the Great Balsac Nebula, if our quarry has already departed.”

“They’ll be back.” Urchie assured her. “They didn’t have time to search for the Porthole of Everywhere – let alone find and retrieve it.”

“And we can be there to catch them.” Werner said as he closed his hand into a fist. “Mister Sprake: best speed for the Balsac Nebula.”

“Er, would that be the Great Balsac Nebula?” The Pilot inquired pedantically.

“Indeed it would, Nobby.” The Captain said with a wry smile upon his handsome purple face. “Let her rip.”

So Nobbington did…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 16)

The Supreme Being, being The Supreme Being, didn’t really need to be told about the pursuit of the Scroton Five by another Scroton Five. But he was so busy looking at another Scroton Five…

…that he hadn’t given the other two much of his attention.

“Thank you, Mauritzio.” He said. “These bloody Scroton Fives are ten a penny at the moment. What the heck is this one up to?”

“Do you wanna me to finda the out, Boss?” Mauritzio asked in his execrable God-speak.

“Yes. Have all pertinent info patched through to me here. I’m feeling a little gaseous this morning, and I don’t want to dissipate.”

In no time at all – because linear time does not exist outside of the physical universe – the required information became digested knowledge. The security team that worked from the listening station in Weird Space…

…had decided that a little competition between security teams would make them more efficient and successful. So, without access to a fully-trained crew for a spare Scroton Five, they elected to hire some earplug mercenaries – to whom they handed over the ignition keys of the latest ship off the production line…

With the guidance of the ship’s Oracle, it hadn’t taken long for the mercenary crew to master the complexities of the control room…

The merciless Gloria Simpleton took the captain’s role, just forward of the Oracle. To her right, the vicious Zugtander Frootkins kept the helm under control. To Gloria’s left, and acting as her First Officer sat the vile-smelling Ole-Hebble Stangenklopp. Behind her stood her trusted aid, Moritz Trumpetinger, who always watched her back, and punched anyone who looked at her ‘funny’. There were also a couple of nameless slave-cooks who seldom left the galley, despite the presence of the Psycho-Chef. Together they were a mean bunch of hombres, who had no intention of giving back the craft when they had completed their task and taken the reward money – along with some hostages. They had once been bona fide pirates – robbing, stealing, and doing other stuff in a Hyper-Space Attack Craft that they had stolen from a group of End Cap Pirates who had stopped off at a quiet planet for a quick pee behind a bush…

Now they lived in an abandoned space station…

…in which they would eat with their hands; belch loudly at every opportunity; leave the seat up when they went for a pee; and hold farting competitions whenever they damned well wanted too. And now some lame-brain Cable Ends had given them the best ship in the galaxy…

…and trusted them with it, because they’d ‘signed a contract’. Duh!

But Gloria Simpleton and her crew weren’t stupid. And, in their way, they were sort of honest. They’d been hired to find the stolen ship: and find the stolen ship they would. To that end they’d demanded access to the Closed Circuit Television recording for the day prior to the theft. So they had a pretty good idea who was aboard the display model Scroton Five…

Especially when they reviewed the night footage…

“The hair and the hat.” Gloria said. “There’s nothing like being conspicuous.”

“Any earplug is conspicuous on Scroton.” Pilot, Zugtander reminded her.

Gloria considered this an accurate and timely statement. “Moritz.” She said. “Punch him in the nose for being a smarty pants.”

Whilst Zugtander reeled from the hammer blow to his hooter, Gloria turned to Ole-Hebble. “Do you have any suggestions?”

“I smell?” Ole-Hebble chanced.

“Well yes.” Gloria replied. “But I was thinking about places where these two bozos might have fled.”

Ole-Hebble shrugged his shoulders. So Zugtander dared speak again: “They’re after the Porthole of Everywhere. People have been looking for that merchandise for longer than I can remember. Ergo – if I may be so bold as to use that word – it won’t be found in known space. Gotta be somewhere else.”

“Unknown space!”  A suddenly inspired Ole-Hebble yelled loudly.

Too loudly. Gloria winced. “Moritz.” She said.

Whilst Ole-Hebble had his go at reeling from a hammer blow, Zugtander continued:

“It’ll probably be on an uncharted planet within a nebula. A big one, I’d say. I’ve been reading a report about a Cable End ship that followed the stolen ship into something called a Gravity Lock. Extrapolating from there, I’d figure our best bet would be the Great Balsac. Of course we could drop off at a couple of minor planets on the way, just to be certain we haven’t missed them hiding up somewhere. But if I was a betting earplug, I’d bet on the Balsac.”

“Ole.” Gloria said to her First Officer as he clambered back into his seat. “Now you see why I don’t have Moritz throw him out of the airlock.”

So they stopped off at a couple of obscure planets – one of which was extremely blue and highly unsuitable for earplugs because the only land mass was single archipelago of tiny islands…

“Scratch that.” Gloria said whilst the ship was still in orbit. “On to the next one.”

And the next planet was even more inhospitable…

“The planet is still in its molten stage.” Gloria observed.

“Yeah – real hot.” Ole-Hebble opined. “Wouldn’t wanna go down there.”

Gloria drew in a long breath. She really hadn’t wanted to spend much time on the job. Ideally she would have liked to have captured two nervous earplugs, who were clearly out of their depth; had them killed: stolen their ship; and all before tea time.

“Grrr.” She growled to herself. “I need to test the weaponry. I need to destroy something.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 13)

Several minutes passed, after Flaxwell had disappeared into the toilet, and Gideon was becoming concerned that he had fallen down it and become converted into energy for the engines. But, eventually he returned to the pilot’s seat…

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Flaxwell said quietly. “But let’s just say that I’ve never been so frightened in all my life.”

Gideon, although young, could be wise: he decided to change the subject:

“I don’t know about you, but all that excitement has done nothing to assuage my pangs of hunger. If anything, I’m even more starving than I was before.”

Flaxwell must have been harbouring similar thoughts, because he leapt from his seat and ran around to the Oracle…

“Oracle. Oracle.” He wailed. “If we don’t find food soon, you’ll be commanding a ghost ship!”

“Well, actually,” The Oracle replied without hesitation, “While you’ve been attending to your ablutions, I’ve been scanning nearby space. And, you’ll be happy to hear, I have something positive to report. May I take the helm for a couple of minutes?”

If it meant food, Flaxwell was happy for the Oracle to take the helm for a couple of eons.

“Yo.” He roared with joy. “Go for it!”

Two minutes later a huge asteroid hove into view…

It was so huge that Flaxwell and Gideon retook their seats to witness a circumnavigation of it…

“I love rocks.” Gideon said, somewhat unexpectedly. He then made his true feelings plain when he added, sarcastically: “I could chew on them all day long.”

Then he was out of his seat – his anger rising and his spittle spraying…

In fact he was so angry that he blew off with rage – which startled Flaxwell more than he cared to admit.

“I don’t care about asteroids.” He yelled. “I hate them, in fact. They’re always threatening to fall into planets and causing extinction events. I’ve seen all the movies. I know about these things!”

“But – but.” A confused Oracle tried to respond. “But it’s not just this asteroid. This is only the outermost one of a vast field…”

But neither earplug was listening: they’d gone to the Psycho-Chef…

“Come on, Flaxwell.” Gideon urged. “Try to imagine some cornflakes.”

“Cornflakes?” Flaxwell quiried. “But I don’t have a clue how cornflakes are cooked. It’s usually done in huge food factories, isn’t it?”

Gideon pondered the problem for a moment. Then: “I never thought of that. Try a boiled egg.”

Flaxwell did – to the best of his ability. But, after rushing to the galley to fetch the steaming orb, Gideon found the receptacle empty….

So he rushed back to try himself. In fact he rushed back so urgently that the ship went to crimson alert…

And it remained at crimson alert all through his wild imagining…

“What are you imagining cooking, Giddy?” Flaxwell asked.

“Shut up.” Gideon snapped. “I’m concentrating. And turn off that bloody crimson alert: I can’t think straight.”

“Neither of you is thinking straight.” The Oracle tried to interrupt. “If only you would listen to me…”

But before it could finish its line, the two earplugs had dashed to the exit…

Gideon paused at the threshold. “I can’t bear to look.” He said. “You go in.”

So it was left to Flaxwell to face disappointment…

“Bum!” He bellowed at the sight of an empty receptacle. Then calming slightly, he added: “Talking of bums…”

“Quick, Giddy.” He said. “Find the Oracle’s bum: I’m gonna kick him right up it.”

But, of course, the servo-mechanism possessed no rear end to speak of, and so the vaguely disappointed duo went back to their fruitless task…

With a false smile, Gideon said: “You can do it this time, Flaxxy. I know it. Think of frozen peas. I like peas. My dad was a pea farmer – miles away from the Museum of Future Technology. He used to make pea flavoured coffee, which they used to sell at the museum’s Cafe Puke!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 9)

Whilst all this gnashing of teeth was taking place – far, far away, Flaxwell, Gideon, and the Oracle had grown bored with the spectacle of hyper-space, and were indulging themselves with a game of I Spy…

“I spy, with my little eye,” said Flaxwell, “something beginning with B.”

“B?” Gideon queried. “There’s nothing starting with B in this room.”

“I didn’t say it was in this room.” Flaxwell replied. “I just said that I could see it.”

“Blue.” The Oracle said in a dull, flat tone that strongly suggested that its cyber-heart wasn’t in the playing the game. “The blue of hyper-space.”

“Oh well done, Oracle. I would never have thought of that in a million yonks.” Gideon said chirpily. “Your turn.”

“I think I’ll pass.” the machine continued in the same tone.

“I’ll have another go, then.” Flaxwell volunteered. “I spy with my little eye – something beginning with H.”

“Hat!” Gideon blurted in triumph.

“Hat? Said the puzzled space pilot. “What hat?”

“My hat.” Gideon insisted. “My black top hat.”

“But I can’t see your black top hat.” Flaxwell argued. “You hung it up in the broom cupboard, which is three compartments aft of here.”

“Oh, yes.” Gideon said – feeling slightly sheepish. “So I did. So what starts with H?”

“Hyper-space.” The Oracle almost groaned the answer. “I see a pattern developing here. I suggest we quit while we’re ahead.”

Meanwhile, much closer to the planet Scroton…

…a Cable End listening station was…er...listening…to sub-space radio communications.

Inside, the security team that manned it…um...listened…intently to the radio chatter that permeated space…

The station’s Security Manager floated in. “My magnetic boots aren’t working properly.” He informed his team. “They won’t quite touch the floor.”

This surprised the one operative who stood opposite the door and who could see him without the need to turn around. “Really?” He said in a puzzled tone. “So how are you propelling yourself along?”

“Carefully controlled bursts of gas.” The Security Manager explained. “From my bottom. I had to cut a small hole in the back of my underpants to do it. Now; tell me; what is the current situation?”

The cable end with his back to the Security Manager replied: “The Government have despatched a battleship to destroy the stolen vessel.”

“Is it a big one?” The Security Manager asked.

“It is, Sir.” The operative replied. “It departed Scroton orbit five minutes ago.”

The Security Manager looked down at his feet, which hovered three millimetres above the floor, and said: “May the Saint of All Earplugs have mercy upon those rotten rubber souls.”

The ‘Rotten Rubber Souls’, alluded to by the Security Manager, had given up playing I Spy and had decided, instead, to try some more of the control room’s equipment…

“This is nice.” Flaxwell opined as he dropped into a receptacle. “What does it do?

“No time to explain.” The Oracle replied. “I’ll tell you all about it later. Strap yourselves in: we’re exiting hyper-space.”

Moments later the view before them blazed with wondrous energy…

“It looks like a fish.” Gideon observed. “That’s the tail in front of you, Flaxwell.”

“It’s not a fish, Gideon.” Flaxwell replied. “It’s an enormous dust cloud that is charged with cosmic energy.”

“I didn’t say it was a fish.” Gideon complained. “I just said that it looked like a fish. Like clouds on Earth do sometimes.”

At Flaxwell’s deft command to the helm, the Scroton Five came to a dead halt – relative to its immediate surroundings, of course. Nothing in space is ever completely static…

“We’ve arrived at our next calculation point.” Flaxwell informed his two partners in crime. “The Great Balsac Nebula!”

©  Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 5)

Meanwhile, inside the exhibition hall, the Scroton Five was rising from its plinth…

And, sitting in the currently redundant pilot’s seat, Flaxwell Maltings held his breath…

…whilst Gideon merely wondered what all the noise was about.

Then a second sound was added to the thunder of the lifting jets. The main drive spluttered into life…

Neither Flaxwell or Gideon could have known it, but Johnny Nosebleed had remained inside the building after the exhibition had closed for the night. Uncertain with his delivery of the Cable End-written script, he had been trying to improve the dialogue. It was at the point of the Scroton Five’s imminent departure that the actor had decided to hear what his improved script sounded like. Ignoring the roar of the space ship engines, he stepped upon his dais and spoke into the microphone…

“Hi, everybody, I’m Johnny Nosebleed. I’m a famous actor, and I’d like to tell all you fine prospective buyers about…”

At this point he realised that something was amiss. So, thinking quickly, he adjusted the script again. “By the Saint of All Earplugs.” He bellowed. “Someone’s stealing the Scroton Five!

He wasn’t alone in this knowledge. Well sort of. Flaxwell hadn’t known it, when he’d chosen to acquire the coveted vessel by means of stealth; but the Cable Ends had suspected that someone might want to tamper with their new class of ship, and perhaps steal its secrets. Already a team of security officers were detecting changes in the weight that pressed down upon a sensor that was set into the base of the plinth…

“First it got slightly heavier.” One of them said to the other four. “Then it got really light.”

“How light?” One of them inquired.

“Very.” Came the answer.

“Be more specific.” Another demanded.

“It gained a few kilos. Then it stopped weighing anything.” The first officer replied – before adding: “Strange, isn’t it?”

Whilst the officers discussed the anomalous readings, the Scroton Five was building up a steady head of metaphorical steam…

In fact, so steady was this head of metaphorical steam that soon the Scroton Five had almost reached the end of the access tunnel, and it was already breaking the sound barrier!

“Flipping heck.” The security team yelled as one. “The Scroton Five is launching. Red alert! Red alert! Or Crimson Alert, as we call it on Scroton!”

But it was too little too late. Already the stolen craft had reached the upper atmosphere…

With a yell of purest joy, and for the first time since losing his job as a space pilot, Flaxwell stared out of a view screen upon the darkness of space…

“Yeah.” He cried. “Whatta ya think of that, Giddy-baby? Now you’re really in space!”

“Pretty.” Gideon observed. Then, with a stifled yawn, he added: “I’m feeling a bit sleepy. Is there a cot somewhere?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 4)

Sitting in the co-pilot’s chair, Gideon didn’t care to recall, exactly, the words that passed between him and Flaxwell as they took their tea in his room at the Hotel Verruca. He tried to ignore the evidence that Flaxwell had emptied the contents of the mini bar into the teapot. He was loathe to admit – even to himself – that he had next to no capacity for alcohol. And he would gladly erase any remembrance of decisions made during that un-measured period between departing the shiny elevator, and getting back in again…

But he did recall feeling very strange, and Flaxwell blathering on about stuff of which he knew nothing and cared even less.

“Approach vectors.” Flaxwell had said at some point during their descent to street level. “Very important when you’re in space. Well they’re kind of important everywhere; but not as much as in space. In space they’re very important. Have you ever been in space, Giddy-baby?”

Gideon vaguely remembered replying: “I got here, didn’t I? I don’t remember it, but I guess I musta been in space at some time. You can’t walk to Scroton, ya know.”

After that everything seemed to blur for the young professor from the Museum of Future Technology. It wasn’t until, under the cloak of night, they stole into the Scroton Five exhibition hall…

…that his recollections of events became linear once more.

They found the Scroton Five still upon its pedestal…

And for a moment, whilst Flaxwell dashed off for a wee, Gideon almost experienced the emotional attachment that his would-be pilot felt for the wondrous machine.

His thoughts were interrupted when Flaxwell stage-whispered: “Hey, stop gawking at that thing, and get over here.”

‘Here’ meant the electronic information device…

“Oh, it’s you – the imperialistas.” It said as they touched the screen to activate it.

“Hi.” Flaxwell said with a pleasant smile upon his face, “my previously impoverished colleague has inherited a vast fortune from his Uncle…er…Zapper, and now wishes to purchase a Scroton Five.”

“Bully for him.” The machine replied. “Why are you telling me this? You’re supposed to ask me questions. Would you like to know how to buy one?. Are you interested in a payment plan? Would you like me to tell you how the on-board lavatory reduces your waste products and converts them to energy to make the engine more efficient?”

Flaxwell sought to stem the flow of electronic words. “Not right now.” He shouted. “We’d like to know the whereabouts of the elevator key.”

“Yeah.” Gideon mumbled. “We wanna see inside the ship. We wanna see how comfy the seats are. And…and…stuff like that.”

Ten seconds later…

“Imagine that.” A self-satisfied Flaxwell said, as the elevator climbed upwards inside the plinth. “Hanging on a nail behind the toilet door.”

Then, a further ten seconds later…

“Wow, would you look at that!” Flaxwell exclaimed. “It’s so much roomier than I expected.”

“Hmmm,” Gideon replied. “The seats look nice and supportive too. I’ve got a slightly wonky back, so being supportive is very important.”

But when Flaxwell dropped into the pilot’s seat, he was less impressed…

In fact, for a moment or two, it made him see double.

“No.” He felt compelled to grind out between gnashing teeth. “Supportive does not describe these seats. Rock hard would be more accurate. Those ethernet cable ends must have iron backsides.”

Then he discovered that ethernet cable ends also designed ship’s controls that baffled earplugs – even experienced space pilot earplugs. Luckily he recalled that the vessel came equipped with a Ship’s Oracle…

“What is your question?” The Oracle inquired as Flaxwell approached it.

“We’re going to buy this ship.” Flaxwell replied. “But first we want to take it on a test flight. How do I take off?”

“In the interests of safety, I propose that I should pilot the Scroton Five from this exhibition hall – through Scroton’s atmosphere – to a place in orbit, whereupon you may experiment with the controls, and thereby learn what does what in the relative safety of space.”

Flaxwell grinned at this. He couldn’t have asked for more. I accept your proposal. Strut your funky stuff sho’nuf!”

Flaxwell was given five seconds in which to strap himself into the rock-hard pilot’s seat. Then this happened…

The engine began to glow, and lifting jets on the vessel’s underside started hissing and squirting.

Outside, the night watchman thought that he heard something…

But, being one of the simpler grey cable ends, his brain was unable to accept that the promotional Scroton Five would have come equipped with full flight capability:

“Nah,” he said. “It must have been the wind. Or that curry I had earlier.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

P.S I’ve been sitting on that night watchman photo for years – at least metaphorically. It has never appeared in an Earplug Adventure. There were times when I was tempted to delete it. But no, I couldn’t do it. And I’m glad I didn’t because I couldn’t have repeated it. Good old farty night watchman!

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 3)

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view – the waiting line for the electronic information device consisted of air molecules and a few dust motes. Consequently it took but a moment for Gideon to ask the magic question…

And the nano-moment that it took for Gideon and Flaxwell to absorb the answer was even briefer. “How much is twelve billion Scrotelettes in real money?” Gideon then asked the machine.

“Please rephrase the question, you earplug nincompoop.” The device replied tetchily. “Scrotelettes is real money, you quasi-imperialist swine!”

Whilst this interchange of cultures was taking place, Flaxwell was doing a rapid calculation in his head. “That’d be about a billion and a half bucks.” He said.

“A billion  and a half bucks?” Gideon yelped. “I’ve never heard of such a huge figure. Why, for a billion and half bucks, the Museum of Future Technology could keep a squadron of defence fighters aloft for a decade. They would only have to land in order to use the toilet!”

“It aint so much – not for a piece of kit like this.” A concerned Flaxwell argued – trying hard not to let the feeling of panic that threatened to overwhelm him show too much. “It is a Scroton Five after all. You always pay top Dollar for a class act. You’d probably never have to buy another one. You could pass it down to your children – and their children too. And it’s bound to appreciate in value. Really you should consider a billion and a half a real bargain. I know I do.”

Gideon didn’t reply straight away. Instead he walked away from the machine…

Then he did speak: “That’s easy for you to say.” He moaned. “You’re just the hired pilot. I have to justify the expense with my bosses. If I told them that it cost twelve thousand Scrotelettes, they just might swallow it: but twelve billion? It’ll give Cushions Smethwyke a coronary!”

Flaxwell could see his dream evaporating. He knew there was nothing he could say to pursuade Gideon. Only the Scroton Five, itself, could help him now. So he said nothing, and simply stared straight ahead until they returned to the display, which chose that moment to inform the audience of some fabulous extras that were available at no extra cost…

Gideon could see that his would-be employee was disappointed. “I’m sorry, Flaxwell.” He said. “Maybe we’ll find a used Scroton Four in Exchange My Spacecraft On-Line.”

To this Flaxwell allowed his lips to form a near-perfect circle, through which he released a long and mournful, “Noooo!”

Following this outburst, a group of ushers…er…ushered the earplugs out into the street…

Flaxwell was still in shock, so Gideon spoke of inconsequential things – like rugby shorts, corn flakes, and altered equilibrium and interrupted lymphatic systems caused by living on the Moon for too long.

All that Flaxwell could muster was: “Yeah-yeah, well it would – wouldn’t it.”

Shortly after that, en route to the Hotel Verruca, they passed by a Ethernet Cable End industrial unit, from which smoke had ceased billowing…

In an effort to shake Flaxwell from his semi-catatonic state, Gideon elucidated an observation that he had just made: “Oh look, it’s going-home time in Scroton Prime. Would you care to share a pot of tea in my hotel?”

Well, Flaxwell had nothing else to do. His life’s greatest wish had just imploded beneath the weight of Gideon’s extreme fiscal limitations. “Well if I can’t have the best space ship in the galaxy,” he mumbled, “I suppose a cup of tea isn’t the worst booby prize there ever was.”

So, a short while later, the two earplugs were riding a huge shiny elevator to Gideon’s room, where, as they passed several floors, Flaxwell tried to cheer himself up by shouting very rude words indeed…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

Liberation! Vol Two – Too!

Hot on the metaphorical tail of the Liberation! Volume One re-write comes…

Yes, the 17th Child-Friendly Photo-Novel has been made near perfect and has been re-published for all to marvel at. What, before, was merely fabulous, is now…um…even better. Yes, buy the e-book at your favourite e-book seller at the first opportunity. Don’t wait until pay day: put yourself in debt straight away. You know it makes sense. Here’s a montage to make you salivate – metaphysically anyway…

Liberation Liberated From Mediocrity

Hot on the heels of…

…comes the fabulously wonderful re-write of this e-book…

…which lifts the product out of the realms of mediocrity, and catapaults it into the artistic stratosphere – which, in laymans terms, means that its a bit better than the original, and well worth a look. I like it anyway. Here’s a montage…

A Free E-Book Gets Free-er.

By that, I mean that this e-book…

…which was free-of-charge previously, remains free-of-charge, but has been enhanced, improved, and contains more photos and lines of script. In short, there is more that is free; therefore it is free-er. Currently available at Lulu.com – or you can wait a few days from this posting date for other suppliers to get their arses into gear – and then get it at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc – also gratis.

It’s quite a tale: you really should give it a look.

Photographic Art: Making Something Out of Bugger All 1

Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to present….The Space Testicle!

And just to prove that I created this wondrous inter-planetary gonad out of bugger all…here is the original shot of post-meal gravy boat dregs…

I’ll take a picture of anything and everything, me.

Aesthetics: The Art of Considerate Parking

When I lived in Spain, I drove a metallic purple Renault Twingo. It was a terrific car, which I enjoyed driving more than any car before or since. One factor of the day-to-day pleasure came in the form of selective parking. That is – deciding which car (in a car park or at the side of the road) to park my car beside. “Ugh?” I hear those readers less concerned with aesthetics (and more into practicality) say in consternation. “Surely it’s best to park closest to where I want to go.” Not so, say I. You should always consider how your car would look beside another. I mean, you wouldn’t want to park a green car beside a red one, would you? Gosh – wouldn’t that clash horribly! Or a black one beside a silver one. Of course you wouldn’t: at least not unless you were an Oakland Raiders fan. Take a look at this picture that I snapped recently in a supermarket car park…

Now that is considerate parking. Either the driver of the yellow car spotted the complimentary shade of the blue car, and duly pulled in beside it: or it was blind chance. I prefer the former theory. When I owned the aforementioned Twingo, I actively sought out parked yellow cars – just so that I could look back and admire the artistic merits of purple and yellow. Fortunately yellow cars are quite popular in Spain. Even more fortunately,  orange cars are not. Imagine that: orange and purple: yuk! Sadly, these days, I drive a dull dark red car, which matches only with white cars – just; and a silver car which matches with nothing at all. When the time comes to replace one of them, I’m going for something more spectacular. A colour scheme that will have aesthetists going out of their way to park their car besides mine!

A Tastier Taster and a Promising Promise

Do you remember these guys?

No? They appeared in an Earplug Wallpaper. Hair vs Hat, I think it was called. Well, they weren’t a one-off. They – Flaxwell Maltings and Dr Gideon Snoot – are going to (finally, at last) appear in an Earplug Adventure. And in a very important role too. In fact they are going to tell the tale of A Tale of Three Museums – using a very nice little scout ship that enjoys the moniker of the Scroton Five…

…to search for The Porthole of Everywhere…

…which will display The Museum of Future Technology…

…in two timelines and two distant spacial locations – making three museums in total. Gosh! Imagine! How will I ever manage to keep all of these disparate threads coherent within my aging (and not always rational) brain? With difficulty, that’s how.

Well hopefully I’ve whetted the appetites of any Earpluggers reading this. Also hopefully, I’ll get the time and opportunity to shoot the pictures and write the script required to produce the story. At the time of writing this, the vagaries of life are creating barriers to the completion of my literary and photographic plans: but, fear not, I shall persevere. You will see another Earplug Adventure. I just don’t know when.

Tooty.

   

Let’s Fly to Mars!

Were you to click on this link to my publishers, Lulu.com, you would discover that the delightful touch-up, re-imagining, make-over of this 2016 eBook…

…is complete. Not only have the pictures been invigourated and made utterly splendid in every way; but the script has been improved by approximately one hundred per cent. Actually I couldn’t believe how bloody God-awful the original was. But that doesn’t matter now – coz it’s been re-written and re-published, and everything is wonderful. And, despite my great effort at the key pad, it’s still magnificently cheap to buy. Here’s a montage…

…and, of course, a snippet…

Was it worth the effort? You bet’cha!

Sorry, Earpluggers – Once Again.

Not for the first time do I find it necessary to apologise to my readers for the dearth of material upon this site – especially the lack of new Earplug Adventures. Although I’m loathe to give precise reasons for my inactivity, I will say that they are health-based; and until such time that I discover the state-of-play regarding the aforementioned, I can’t really find the time and enthusiasm for, what is, a prolonged creative effort. BUT, now and again, I do shoot the odd picture here and there, so (although incremental in the extreme) some progress towards A Tale of Three Museums is being made. What I can say, is that Magnuss and Hair-Trigger will return…

And Folie, Placebo, and the crew of the Brian Talbot will continue their mission from the last tale…

So it’s not all bad. It’ll just take time.

Thanks for hanging in there.

Tooty

Sources of Everyday Earplug Inspiration 2: Lavatory Fresheners

I may have mentioned, once or twice, that my camera and I seem to hang around toilets rather a lot. A strange place to find inspiration, I’m sure  you’ll agree. And you’d be right. But that doesn’t change anything. On this particular occasion I’d like to draw your attention to a little toiletry object that, perhaps, most loo-users might over-look – quite literally, if you stand up to pee. I refer, of course, to this…

You know, the simple device that does this…

They come in or sorts of shapes and…er…well…shapes…

But, boy, are they useful! Look at these natty habitat modules for use in distant places and inclement conditions…

Or maybe military outposts…

Or scientific facilities…

On all sorts of worlds…

And there’s the out-spill too, of course. The sweet-smelling stuff that the dispenser…um…dispenses. The coloured chemicals that adhere to the bowl on the way down to the water. Play with a shot of that for long enough and one can create a lava explosion…

Or, thinking bigger, a solar flare…

“Yeah, great, Tooty.” I hear you complain. “You’re an artistic genius, okay? I get that. But what the heck does any of this have to do with Earplug inspiration? I don’t see any of these bog cleaners in the Earplug Adventures!”

And you’d be right. But not for much longer. Look…

And look again…

And again…

Believe me, when I say: “Toilet fresheners are the future!”

The Photographer’s Eye 1: Seeing What Isn’t There: Negativity

I’m no photographer. Heck, I only use point and shoot cameras. But I use an awful lot of ’em and I do have a photographer’s eye. I know this latter observation to be true because I see potentialities in a scene that, perhaps, others don’t. I use this…um…skill…to bring to life scenes of other worlds in my Earplug Adventures. I also use it purely for it’s artistic merit. One of these…er…skills…is to see, in advance, how a scene might work in reverse. Or, to put it another way, I ask myself what would the negative of this photo look like? And, more importantly, how can I use that effect? Well yesterday I found myself with a couple of free minutes at work and duly dug out a compact from the bottom of my work bag. Hours later, after fiddling with the consequent plethora of snaps on my computer, three of the results looked exactly like this…

A happy Space Slug, crawling along a galactic string in orbit above night time Earth.

Scary alien space craft emerging from a nebula.

Banking to port aboard an aircraft as it approaches a coastal city at night.

Hopefully you will have no idea what the original (positive) shots looked like. I like to surprise whenever possible. Can you recognise any of them? If not, read on…

We’ll start with the last picture. A colleague watched as I tossed some sawdust upon the floor – then hit it with a blast of compressed air…

“You’re gonna take a picture of that aren’t you?” He said. “What’s it gonna be this time?”

Well now he knows. But I demanded more from it and it also doubled up when I used a squashed version of it to combine with this peeling render in a disused lavatory block…

…to create the Space Slug…

And as regards the alien space ship…

Well that was easy. From the same disused lavatory block – for which I appear to have an affinity (I’ve certainly taken a disproportionate number of pictures in several of them in the past few years) – may I present….a disgusting urinal!

There you have it – inspiration comes in many forms. You just have to see past the obvious. And yes, that urinal did pong. I suffer horribly for my art.  

What’s in a Name?

I was half way through cooking the family meal, this evening, when the thought occured. It was one of those thoughts that an author gets only once in a blue moon. Of course it wasn’t a momentous thought. In fact it wasn’t really new either: I’d had it before – on one of those rare blue moons. But this time there was an additional facet to it that was absent earlier. If I were to vocalise the unoriginal thought, it would go something like this…

“Hmmm, I dunno; I really should produce a more adult version of the Earplug Adventures. Senior Earplug Adventures is the obvious title. It’d be ruder, with swearing. Yeah, earplugs could  shout ‘Cock!’ and no one would complain.”  

Then the additional facet, I mentioned, kicked in…

“But I couldn’t use the name Tooty Nolan. It would confuse the shit out of people. Of course I’d have to pretend that the adult version was written by someone else entirely. Yeah, now let me think, what nom de plume might this mysterious author go by?”

Well one name was already in my head. I’d invented the French author, Gregory Pissoire several years ago, but never used him. So I let my mind go into whacky mode and dreamed up Gershwin Chipottle. ‘Very nice,’ thought I, ‘but I need one more name. A killer name maybe.’ Then I recalled another fake French author’s name from a while back. And I thought that I might just have the name I needed so desperately. But what I think doesn’t count. It’s what YOU  think that matters. I figured that if anyone should make the choice, it should be my readers. So allow me to present three possible book covers of the rude version of The Museum of Future Technology, and invite you to leave the name of your choice in the comments box, below. And here they are…

Gregory Pissoire

Gershwin Chipottle

And finally the killer name; Jean-Jacques Bivouac

Whichever one you choose – I’ll be happy with it. Then, finally, I’ll have the freedom to use this picture in a story…

…and I will be able to die a contented man – at some point in the distant future, obviously. There’s no rush: I still have things to do – like complete that damned  novel! But whatever, please vote. 

Barnes & Noble: Getting Thier Arse Into Gear

“Ugh?” I hear you question. “What is that Tooty Nolan talking about?” Well that would be understandable, because the title includes colloquial English, with which you might not be familiar. It’s the sort of English in which I specialise throughout all my written work – be it the earplugs, hamster-fiction, or my serious books. And it is this intrinsic ‘Englishness’ appearing in books that are published in the USA (and are available from e-book retailers world-wide) that amuses me and makes me realise that we really do live in an Internet-created global village, where we are all neighbours (or neighbors). But, more specifically, what the title really informs everyone, is that the retailers of the Nook reader have caught up with Lulu and iBooks. Evil Empire (and those e-books that precede it in the series) is now available for their reader. Good, eh?

P.S The first three books listed there are absolutely free!

Distant Land (part 44)

Captain Cedric Mantequilla wasn’t an overtly emotional earplug; but something in the Skail Brother’s tale of an uprooted and decimated civilization broke through his not particularly stony reserve…

“How sad.” He said into the silence that reigned upon the bridge of the Brian Talbot…

“Agreed.” His crew responded in a fusillade of croaks as they avoided each other’s gaze by paying overly close attention to their work-station screens and read-outs.

Even Folie was feeling a little subdued…

“What are we going to do now?” He asked. “We can’t just fly away like nothing happened.”

“And it’s not enough to show this video to anyone who is willing to watch. “Placebo said quietly. “We have to do something more positive. Can star ships go back in time? Can we stop the disaster from ever happening? Maybe warn them, or something?”

Folie picked up on this: “Hey, maybe we could show them their own video: that’d make them think twice about tapping into alternate realities. And it must be awful having so many earplugs using so few toilets!”

Cedric remained mute and immobile throughout this. At the rear of the bridge, three crew-plugs chose to quietly conjecture…

“Cedric isn’t the bravest captain that ever was.” The pink earplug, known as Lawrence Bunion, stated. And before his colleagues could put their feet in their mouths by saying something derogatory about the captain, he did so himself: “Me – I’m all for trying something stupid like that kid suggested. But I reckon Mantequilla will cut and run. He’ll probably panic and order max speed in any direction other the one he morally needs to take.”

But he was alone with these negative thoughts. The others believed that, for once in his life, the Captain would overcome his natural propensity for panicky actions. This would be the time when he would exhibit the type of character that star ship captains, throughout the Galaxy, were famed for.

“I’ll bet you a week’s wages that he doesn’t.” The orange crew-plug, whose name was Brett Scuttles, whispered.

But before the deal could be ratified by a dry spit and the shaking of hands, Cedric stood and led Folie and Placebo to the front of the bridge…

“Sorry kids,” he said to them as everyone turned their attention to the main viewer, “but star ships can’t travel in time. Only space.”

For a brief moment Brett Scuttles  wished that he’d not suggested the bet: he couldn’t afford to lose that much money. But his concerns evaporated when Cedric added: “But it can find that frozen world that so closely resembles Earth. And maybe it’s crew can visit that world. And maybe…just maybe…that crew can figure out how to use their fancy equipment and bring that world back to life.”

Folie was confused. “I’m confused, Captain.” He said. He was also at a loss. “I’m at a loss too. What would be the point? There’s no one left to live on it.”

“Not now maybe.” Cedric replied through a grim smile. “But when we cross over into that alternate reality and fetch all the survivors back, there certainly will be.” He then added loudly, in his most commanding tone: “Helmsplug – set a precise course that follows the Gravity Whelk’s ion trail back to it’s planet of origin. We don’t have forever to get this job done: so get us their quickly…huh? Maximum thrust all the way. No holding back. Talking of which: I need to visit the lavatory – and damned quickly too. So let’s go-go-go!”

Moments later, the heading having been entered in to the navigation computer,  the Brian Talbot blasted into an uncertain future…

The End

Now watch out for the next thrilling tale – ‘A Tale of Three Museums‘.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019  

 

Distant Land (part 43)

Take-off for the Gravity Whelk had been uneventful and rapid. Now Richter and Beaufort looked back at their frozen home world…

“I’m aghast.” Richter gasped. “That scientists could be so stupid. If only we’d gone all ecological…like composting our turds: eating curly kale and nut loaf: complaining about fashionable log-burning stoves: dispensing with pleasant holidays, and walking everywhere instead of riding a vehicle of some sort – despite it being impracticable…our previously beautiful planet would still be habitable.”

“Yes.” Beaufort commiserated. “It’s a sod, isn’t it? Now let’s try to detect that Way Station: it appears that it’s no longer in orbit.”

Well, as time was to tell, Beaufort was entirely correct. When they finally discovered it, almost a million measures beyond its normal orbit, the unmanned space station communicated the news that its sensors had detected the global catastrophe and resultant significant drop in global temperatures, and (in fear of freezing solid) had elected to ease itself to a wider orbit, where it was a bit warmer…

“Clearly smarter than the average earplug.” Richter sniffed disdainfully.

“And infinitely smarter than Whoops Brannigan et al.” Beaufort added.

Then it was time to set metaphorical sail, and blast for the deeps of the cosmos…

And so the museum’s sole-surviving space craft continued to blast for the deeps of the cosmos until it had carried the Skail Brothers in as deep as they felt was comfortable…

Then they cut the motor: dropped the buoy; turned around: and blasted back in time to make the journey into an alternative quantum reality with everyone else.

“So there you have it.” Beaufort said as his brother turned away and left the room. “Our story. So, if it isn’t too much trouble, please bear witness to our existence. And learn something too. We were dumb asses: don’t repeat our mistake.”

The screen then faded, and everyone watching realised that the show was over…

“Ugh.” Placebo complained. “I was enjoying that.”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 42)

And what a call it was. The recipient? Only Princess Cake of Potwell, that’s all! Well, her Equerry anyway…

“Whadda ya mean?” Beaufort roared at the poor individual through the Comm-Panel’s microphone. “Why isn’t she there? She should be packing.” Then moderating his tone, he added: “Oh, she’s a lazy sod who’s left it all to you: I see. Well where can I find her? It’s really important.”

The unseen Equerry gave the adventuring earplug the information he required, and soon Beaufort and his brother left Yaki to help herself to breakfast cereal, and were making good speed along  the corridor away from their delightful quarters…

“That Yaki’s a nice earplug, isn’t she Beaufort?” Richter said as they hurried along.

“Charm personified.” Beaufort agreed begrudgingly. “But don’t go getting any ideas, brother: she’s a Geisha Boss: she knows how to push male earplug’s buttons. And yours are just bursting to get pushed. Turn left just down here.”

Moments later they found themselves in the iced-up skateboard park in the lower levels…

Richter was disappointed and almost surrendered to the powers of fate; but Beaufort was no pushover: “Let’s think, Richter. Her Equerry said she was coming down to here to convince herself that they’d made the right decision to evacuate the museum. Where else would she go to cogitate and ruminate – besides the skateboard park? Think. Think!”

“Um.” Richter replied. “Well, when she was little, and her Dad was out on ceremonial visits to distant lands, she used to play in her favourite hide-away. It was an atom-proof bunker from the old days, when the museum was under threat of nuclear attack.”

“Brilliant.” Beaufort yelled so loudly that shards of ice began falling from the frosty ceiling. “Let’s go!”

It took a while, but eventually the brothers found their way to Princess Cake’s childhood sanctuary…

“What, the flipping heck,do you want?” Princess Cake demanded.

Clearly the museum’s figurehead and nominal ruler was annoyed at the intrusion into her solitude, so the Skails trod carefully as they told her of Yaki Hogwashi’s request. To which Cake replied: “So what do you want your ruler to do about it?”

“Two things.” Beaufort answered. “One: the Gravity Whelk was once the Royal Barge. Your father used it to make royal tours to nearby worlds. When we returned, the ignition keys were handed into your possession. Two: we’ve forgotten the way to where we parked the ship. We were kind of hoping you’d use the Royal Locator Beam to find it.”

Finally, or so Cake felt, the Princess had something useful to do. She could actually help. “Yeah, alright.” She replied. “I carry it in my bustle. Follow me. Or rather – follow my bustle.”

Five minutes later…

“It’s okay.” Cake said to calm the Skail’s fear of being swamped in snow, “the route I’m taking is through a dry, desert-like valley, where the snow can’t fall. Oh look – there it is.”

And it was – although the Princess hadn’t been entirely accurate: there were patches of snow that had collected in hollows everywhere…

“Flipping heck, this place is barren.” Beaufort complained. “Is it very far, Your Highness?”

“It’s just over that rise.” Cake answered, as she extracted the Gravity Whelk’s ignition keys from a secret pouch in her royal bustle. “You go that way: I’m going to find piece of high ground, from which to watch you depart”.

And she did – although it was only a very small piece of high ground that wasn’t very high at all…

“Good luck, boys.” She called. “Now be on your way. You have tale to tell. Go shout it at the Universe.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

Hard Work Worked Harder Still

Okay, I’m on a roll. Yes, I’ve re-worked the third book in the Junior Earplug Adventures series. This e-book…

…is now available in it’s new & improved form (both visual and literary) at Lulu and iBooks. Like those that came before it, it’s wonderful in every single way imaginable. Here’s a montage, lovingly assembled by the author himself…

Hard Work Worked Harder

Following the minor success of retouching The Museum of Future Technology, I’ve been at it again, with the second book in the series – namely this one…

Naturally I’ve re-published it, with all the pictures made-over and looking lovely. Here’s a sample…

The story picks up EXACTLY where the first ended, so there’s no need of a reprise. Of course it’s charming and of the highest literary quality imaginable. Check out Lulu (on the sidebar or beneath the header) to see it in all it’s glory.

Distant Land (part 39)

Princess Cake told the brief tale of George Tweedy and his son, Aswara, who had tried tirelessly to reach the sanctuary of the Museum of Future Technology. But as tireless as the young Aswara was, George’s extra years did not work in his favour, and soon his tortured body fell to the snow-strewn ground…

“Oh, Father.” Aswara had cried. “You must be strong. Stand up and continue the struggle.”

“No.” George had replied. “I’m done for. Go on without me. I bequeath you my corregated bike shed manufacturing facility to you. Carry on the business in my name. Would you do that for me?”

Aswara was taken aback by his father’s capitulation to the elements…

But he also quite fancied being the boss of a factory – even if said factory was buried beneath several metres of snow and ice. “Oh.” He said. “Is it alright if I paint them yellow?They might show up better in the snow.”

“Orange.” George had replied. “Less aesthetically pleasing: but more vibrant. Of course it’s only a suggestion.”

“Which proves,” Princess Cake concluded – all too quickly, or so thought Richter, “that earplugs will always continue to uphold their conventions and do their duty, even when the situation seems dire and the problems insurmountable.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 38)

Of course, being power generation engineers, Beaufort and Richter knew their way around the back alleys and secret conduits of the maintenance department like the back of their hand. Despite this, Beaufort was a little surprised to find himself standing atop the Mud Village exhibit, which hailed from a future era in which everyone became fervently ecological and gave up concrete and bricks for several generations, until one particularly wet night when every house in the world dissolved back into slimy soil and people were forced to sleep under hedges, straw bales, and raffia mats…

What surprised him less was the sight of the barely visible electromagnetic defensive screen that had been erected to ward off the dramatic climatic change.

“That must take almost every erg of energy the museum can produce.” He exclaimed. “But how long can they keep it up? Eventually it’s bound to fail. Then it’s curtains for everyone. Oh lummy, Richter: we’re gonna die. And after all we’ve been through too. It isn’t fair!”

But Richter was less pessimistic: “Oh I don’t know: those scientists are a clever bunch of so-and-so’s: one of them is bound to think of something. Come on, let’s get inside the exhibit; then we can make our way into the museum proper.”

So with slightly gladdened hearts, the brothers proceeded…

It was a difficult descent down slippery steps that hadn’t benefited from dry-air dehumidifying since the crisis had begun…

But the brother’s ‘space legs’ served them well on the uneven treads; and soon they reached the bottom, where they knew of a fire exit…

…that would allow them entry into the main building…

“It’s certainly warmer in here.” Richter observed.

“Not for much longer.” Beaufort complained.

Nothing more was said until they approached the tunnel that took them within spitting distance of the royal palace. It was there that they heard a loud-speaker announcement, which informed them that their arrival had been detected and that they had been summoned to a meeting with the scientists and Princess Cake… 

“Ooh,” an impressed Richter said in a stage whisper, “they don’t miss much, do they!”

Naturally the brothers attended…

…and what they learned astonished them. Two things actually. One: Dennis Tawdry had run out of fresh underpants and had attended the meeting sans lingerie. Two: Princess Cake was delighted to announce that Whoops Brannigan’s team had calculated that, by using the same device with which they had accessed the alternate reality and caused global ruin, it was possible to send everyone into another – hopefully safer – dimension.

“Did you hear that, Richter.” Beaufort whispered as the others spent a few moments feeling self-satisfied and smug, “we can escape this living hell – soon to become a dying hell?”

Beaufort had; but he was more concerned that Dennis had nothing more than the material of his lab coat protecting them all from his hideous wind breaks. Then Princess Cake took a few moments to tell the boys a tale of bravery that she believed should be a source of inspiration for everyone. Two tales actually. One about a father and son: another about a beautiful female earplug who was the Mother Superior to a team of Adventure Geisha.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019