Tag Archives: art

Apologies, Earpluggers – Again

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

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

Watch this space!

 

What is Getting My Earplugs So Excited?

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

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

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

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

Everyday Objects Make Excellent Science-Fiction Wallpapers

My ancient Sony Cybershot DSC-P10 dates from 2002. I don’t use it much, but I think it had a hard life in the hands of a construction site engineer before I liberated it. As a consequence it can misbehave slightly – like not switching on when I want to use it. On this occasion I thought it likely that the battery might not be carrying  enough charge to fire it up, so I plugged the camera into the charger and tried again. It worked. By chance the lens happened to be pointing in the direction of a half-full water bottle. So, to test that all was well, I snapped a few point-blank close-ups. When I saw the resulting pictures, the ‘artistic genius’ (weird sci-fi guy) within me saw the possibilities. So I tossed a new (and exciting) smoke alarm on to the bed and snapped some pictures of that. The result is…

What the two saucers are about to do to the domed city upon an airless planet, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they appear in a future Earplug Adventure!

Earplug Adventures Spaceship Wallpaper: Departure

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

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

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 39)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The station’s robots were doing no better…

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile Bunty began giving Ginger and Daisy exact instructions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gave Daisy pause for thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 38)

Chapter 9

As the Tankerville Norris approached the Robotic Justice League’s space station, Bunty, Daisy, Tong-Tong, and Ginger took up stations at Ops…

They didn’t really need to – after all the ship could fly itself – but it made them feel useful. They quite enjoyed it too – even Tong-Tong, who was more used to serving croissants than operating (nominally) the proton torpedo launcher.

“Ship operating within normal parameters.” Daisy informed everyone knowledgably.

“Jolly good.” Magnuss replied – smiling at the idea that he was now playing the role of captain. “Now everyone get behind the Driving Chairs: we’re coming in hot.”

As the Tankerville Norris passed closest to the sole remaining freighter docked at the station, the matter transmitter burst into incandescent life…

Moments later, Ginger, Bunty, Daisy, and Tong-Tong reintegrated atomically in the freighter’s crystal room…

Aboard the station, the large white robot and its lieutenants dissolved into a cyber fit when the Crimson Alert sounded…

“What is happening?” Their leader demanded of any robot within earshot.

One pulled itself together sufficiently to reply, “the freighter is about to self-destruct. It is evident that the Incense Cones have decided that their plan has turned to dung and have elected to destroy the evidence of their misdemeanours against the earplugs by exploding their vessel – and us with it!”

To which the large white robot responded, “What? No! Quick, panic!”  

At the same time, but in the freighter’s control room, the Incense Cone commanders turned to face each other – although the pink one couldn’t quite make eye contact: after all, it had been his ultimate decision to activate the Self-Destruct…

“It has been a kind of honour serving with you, Pinkie.” The purple Incense Cone said.

“Yeah, the same to you, I guess, Purp.” Pinkie responded. “I’d say it’s been fun, but that would be untrue: it’s been really nerve-wracking.”

“Yeah,” Purp responded in a similar vein, “stressful, or what!”

“But not for much longer, eh?” Pinkie said miserably, despite the fact that he was trying to cheer himself up.

Purp inhaled deeply. “I suppose we’d better go back into the station and apologize to the robots for destroying them all.”

“S’pose.” Pinkie replied. Then, to the soldiery, he said, “Come on lads: chests out: stiff upper lip and all that. Quick march.”

If the Incense Cones had hoped to slip into the station unobtrusively, they were to be disappointed. Within seconds of their arrival upon the station decks, they were arrested: called ‘butt-wipes’; and separated into small groups and giving a good kicking…

Of course, what none of the Incense Cones, or the members of the Robotic Justice League, could possibly know was that Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy were using their telekinetic talents to re-energize the freighter’s crystal power plant…

“Excellent work, girls.” Tong-Tong congratulated his charges. “Time is tight: the ship is about to explode: let us make haste to the control room.”

So they did, and they enjoyed every moment of the mad dash through the empty vessel…

Once at their destination though, uncertainly reared its vile head…

“Oh flipping heck,” Ginger said to Bunty whilst Daisy overrode her own lockout of the Docking Port clamps, “do you think we’ve got enough time. P’raps we should call Magnuss for an emergency beam-out.”

Bunty didn’t reply immediately. In fact, she didn’t reply at all. This is because Daisy shouted, “Done it. Releasing the ship now. Full astern.”

Outside the station, CCTV cameras recorded the moment for posterity…

Then Daisy noticed a small button on the console. “Oh, look,” she said in a surprised tone. “It says ‘Auto-Destruct Abort’. Shall I press it?”

To which Ginger calmly replied, “Oh yes, Daisy, dearest. Like now!”

The result of this was…

“Whoo,” they said in perfect harmony, “neat!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Making Art Out of Doo-Dahs and Thingamabobs 2: A Trifling Matter

Oh, look, it’s that shampoo bottle submarine space freighter again. This time it appears to be sweeping majestically across the surface of a small, frozen moon…

But it’s not, of course. It is, in fact, sweeping  majestically across the surface of a sherry trifle, before the glace cherries are added…

Making Art Out of Doo-Dahs and Thingamabobs: Freighter Attacked!

It’s possible to create vaguely artistic pictures out of pretty much anything. I should know; I do it all the time. Well not ALL the time, obviously. I can hardly be expected to conjure up some wondrous image whilst piloting my Yamaha down a leaf-strewn back lane, or when I’m shopping in Waitrose, can I! But you know what I mean. If you read my post, An Empty Shampoo Bottle and a 20 Second Giff  you will probably recognise the ‘freighter’ in the following piccie as the shampoo bottle space ship created for Triple Threat. The alien walking machine/creature doing all the shooting is actually a curl of electrical wire that constituted a short length of some outdoor ‘fairy’ lights that illuminated a neighbour’s front door last Christmas…

…which I shot from my bedroom window. And the origin of the landscape/buildings, you will not believe. My bottom teeth. Yup, my bottom teeth. Of course my teeth don’t actually look like that. In reality they’re almost normal. But that’s where my artistic genius proves its worth. Inspiration sure comes from some strange places. And not a filling in sight! 

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 35)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hair-Trigger was quick to respond:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bunty answered in the affirmative.

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

Two minutes later…

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

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

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

Chapter 7

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

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

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

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

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

A second image quickly followed…

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 27)

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

“Not impressed with the décor.” Bunty complained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Daisy spoke for her:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 26)

Meanwhile, aboard the approaching freighter…

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

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

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

“Affirmative.” They replied.

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

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

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

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

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

Daisy, meanwhile, had turned to her friends…

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

Then, returning her attention to the screen…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and so joined the others.

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 25)

Meanwhile, back in the Museum of Future Technology…

…Gregor had just completed his report to Mister Zinc. It hadn’t gone well…

In fact, Mister Zinc had unkindly called him ‘a big lump of doo-doo’. Initially Gregor had felt crushed; but he quickly recovered. If he could get the girls back to the museum unharmed and unseen, where they could wreak more damage, the day could yet be saved. So, as he traversed the edificio corridor outside of his apartment…

…he narrowed his eyes and began thinking up some cunning plan of action. He didn’t know what it was, of course; but he had enough self-confidence for ten earplugs, so wasn’t worried in the least.

Whilst the corridor of the edificio echoed to the fall of Gregor’s soft-soled sandals – far away across the huge divide that was outer space, Tong-Tong had thought it best that all three earplugs should experience the mind-expanding…er…experience of knowledge gained ‘the robot way’. Bunty, although hesitant, had already undergone her ‘lessons’: so now all that remained to be done was little Daisy… 

Ginger couldn’t bear to watch as her friend underwent a procedure that twisted her facial features into a thousand vile configurations – each one more emetic than the last.

“Did I pull faces like that?” Bunty inquired of Tong-Tong.

“I do not know,” the robotic waiter replied, “you all look the same to me. Although I can recognise the difference between a smile and a bout of gastric wind. Perhaps it is my many years working in the catering trade that has imbued me with this ability of differentiation.”

“Is this treatment likely to enhance latent talents?” Ginger inquired.

This was not the type of question a lowly waiter could answer readily. Tong-Tong chose to assimilate this question into its central core processor. “One moment.” It replied.

“What are you getting at?” Bunty asked Ginger.

“Well I was just wondering – you know – what with her parent’s rare abilities.” Ginger answered. “You know – if Daisy had inherited some of them…well maybe this treatment might bring them to the fore, so to speak.”

Bunty knew nothing of the rare talents of Daisy’s parents. She said as much.

“Well her dad,” Ginger explained, “is a tank leak finder…

…He has an incredible eye for fine detail. He finds the leaks from inside a tank before the leak develops. He can hold his breath a long time too.”

Bunty wasn’t certain that either skill would aid Daisy in her current quest. “Hmmm,” she said for the first time in quite a long time. “What about her mum?”

Ginger couldn’t believe that Bunty knew nothing of Daisy’s mother. “She’s only Lady Mesmer, that’s all.” She said. Then, noting Bunty’s puzzled expression, Ginger brought up a picture of Lady Mesmer upon her cell phone…

“She’s only the best mesmerising act in the entire Museum of Future Technology – that’s all.” Ginger said. “I took this picture two years ago – when I went ‘round their apartment for tea. Look at her eyes. That’s what they look when she’s not in mesmerising mode. You can imagine how scary and…um…mesmerising they are when she is!”

Bunty looked long and hard at the picture. As she did so she fervently hoped that the machine was capable of enhancing Daisy’s theoretical inherited latent talent: she had formed an idea that might help their current cause. So, a little while later, after Daisy had consumed a refreshing cup of Tong-Tong’s best Earl Grey – and was consequently feeling much better following her ordeal, Bunty put her idea to Daisy…

She began the conversation with, “Obviously we need to get inside that whacking great big space station.”

“We do?” Daisy inquired – still acquainting herself with her new found knowledge and the idea that she wasn’t quite as ‘dinny’ as she (and other people) thought.

“It’s where the crew are.” A surprised Bunty found herself explaining. “The crew of this ship. What, did you think that big red maroon ball out there was an interstellar burger bar or something?”

Daisy realised that she had only spoken two words, and already one of her best friends was annoyed with her. “Sorry,” she said, “I think the things that go pop in my head are still sorting themselves out.”

Bunty, whose mother was a neurosurgeon, assumed that Daisy was referring to the re-alignment of her neurons. “Yes, of course: sorry Daisy: it’s not your fault you’re a bit dippy. Well, anyway, getting to the point and all that: I think that you should try mesmerising the security robots by contacting then via the com-panel, and convincing them that this ship needs to dock, and that we are robots.”

Of course, Ginger assumed that Bunty – now that her brain had also been enhanced – was enjoying some form of cerebral joke. Therefore, she was quite surprised when Daisy responded with:

“Okay, Bunty; I’ll give it a go,”

Meanwhile, aboard the space station, the large white robot was holding court with its two lieutenants…

“You know, I am feeling some unease concerning this latest batch of green robots we have liberated.” It said. “If they possessed hearts, I cannot help feeling that they would not be in it.”

“In it?”  The larger of the two blue robots inquired.

“Suitably predisposed to a fealty for our cause.” White robot explained. “Their hearts – to use an earplugism – would not be in it.”

“Do you anticipate insurrection?” The smaller of the blue robots asked.

“Nothing so grand.” The white robot cyber-snorted with derision at the idea. “Oh-no, not in the least: they are quite simple servomechanisms: their tiny brains could not conceive of such things.”

“Is that good?” The large Lieutenant asked.

To which the white robot replied, “Yes, they do not ask stupid questions. But something still nags at me.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 24)

Shortly, with all the crystals performing their task admirably, the quartet returned to the control room…

…and scanned nearby space for the abductor’s ion trail.

“I think they left via our starboard side.” Bunty suggested. “Then they flew over us and went off in the opposite direction.”

So Ginger scanned space on their vessel’s port side, and within moments of the electronic bloodhound’s cyber-sniff…

…they had what they wanted.

“Right then,” Ginger spoke confidently, “push the Go button, Daisy.”

Well, even to a dingbat such as Daisy, the task of igniting the engines was an easy affair…

Shortly afterwards the ship was blasting along at a fair old lick…

Tong-Tong, despite being a mere waiter, was of the opinion that the Robotic Justice League would choose a location for their base of operations near interplanetary shipping lanes.

“It is what I would do, if I wasn’t a waiter.” It concluded. “By the way – does anyone fancy a crappachino?”

Not for the first time, robotic logic was proven infallible. Within moments of Daisy asking after some hazelnut syrup for her crappachino, the ship’s sensors detected a large artificial object ahead of them…

Daisy, Ginger, and Bunty all squished their eyelids together for a better view…

And there it was – against the backdrop of eternity – a vast space station of unknown origin.

“Magnify.” Ginger instructed the control panel.

Immediately, the device complied…

“Oh lummy,” Bunty wailed aboard the fast-approaching freighter…

…”there’s loads and loads of space ships. We’re horribly outnumbered!”

“I know how to make the ship go,” a worried Ginger said, “but I aint got a clue what to do now it’s got us here.”

Bunty wasn’t any help either: and all Tong-Tong could do was swivel its eyes this way and that. Daisy, though, was paying close attention to the tableau upon the screen…

“Look”, she said, “freighters are coming and going all the time. We’re a freighter: what makes us so different?”

Ginger and Bunty joined her…

“What – you mean to go aboard that…that…thing?” Bunty said incredulously.

“They’ve taken our crew there.” Daisy argued. “We should free them from their…ur…their cyber-freedom. It’s not what they were designed for; and it’s not what they want. They like being robots. In any case – what did we follow them here for, if we don’t wanna save them from that ghastly bunch of looney robots?”

These were words spoken eloquently. Well sort of. Ginger made a snap decision. “I can’t concentrate here – not with all these distractions. Let’s get back to our hidey-hole, and lay some cunning plans.”

Therefore, they did…

Bunty began proceedings. “You’re both mad.” She said. “We’re living beings. Silicon life forms. They’re bound to have monitoring devices on that station. CCTV at the very least. One look at us waltzing through the airlock will have alarms going off from here to Alpha Centauri!”

It was a good point well made. Then Ginger displayed an uncanny talent for stress-induced genius. “Hey,” she blurted into the resulting silence, “remember how we used to get out of hockey practise on cold December mornings at school?”

It had been almost three years since either girl had needed to suffer the agonies of hockey practice on cold December mornings at school: but the memory was forever burned into their collective psyche. It was something that they would never forget – unless they had their minds wiped, of course; which was possible in the Museum of Future Technology, though unlikely.

“Yeah?” Daisy and Bunty replied tentatively.

Bunty alone continued:

“We used to pretend we were ill.” She said. “We would mentally drain the blood from our faces so that we had a ghastly pallor.”

Daisy took up the exposition:

“The teachers would think we were about to throw up, and quickly sent us to the common room for a cup of tea and a biscuit.”

“But could it work again?” Bunty dared ask. “Could looking like the undead really get us past their security?”

Ginger shrugged her shoulders. “It’s worth a try, don’t you think?”

The pink and blue earplugs retained some uncertainty, and it showed. Ginger pressed on:

“Look,” she said, “we can fly this ship back to Earth: but what’s going to happen to us when we get back to the Museum of Future Technology? We destroyed a whole exhibit: I don’t care what Gregor Arsentickler or Major Flaccid say – Cushions Smethwyke is going to want us hung from the highest tree in the arboretum.”

Bunty caught her drift:

“Cushions Smethwyke loves heroes. Heroes can get away with pretty much anything in the Museum of Future Technology. If we uncover the RJL and free the abducted crew…well they’ll forget all our transgressions. We might even get interviewed by Rupert Piles and become almost famous on TV!”

This last point convinced Daisy:

“Almost famous.” She gushed. “I’ve always wanted to be almost famous. And since I can’t sing and dance, and I’m not particularly pretty, this is probably the only way it’s ever gonna happen. I say, let’s go for it!”

©  Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 23)

Following a summation of the current situation, Tong-Tong suggested re-starting the power plant. Of course, the girls were all for it…

Unfortunately – having very quickly made their way to the crystal room …

…they equally quickly realised that they had no idea how to initiate a start-up routine.

Ginger used a degree of pseudo-science. “Crystals vibrate, right?” She said.

Neither of her associates argued, so she tried singing at the crystals – allowing her voice to climb through the scales – until she was screeching, hoarse, and breathless. However, all it achieved was giving Bunty earache.

“Okay, that didn’t work.” Ginger said, once her throat had recovered, of course. “Any other ideas?”

“Affirmative.” Tong-Tong said. “Follow me.”

Shortly Ginger found herself climbing into a contraption that defied her powers to describe…

Not that she was a very descriptive sort of person anyway. “Aaargh,” she cried, “it’s horrible: get me out of here!”

“Fret not, Ginger Slack.” Tong-Tong responded. “No harm will befall you. Be assured, when the device has completed its cycle, you will know more than you do now.”

“Explain.” Ginger shouted from within the energy bubble. “But make it quick: I think I’m losing consciousness.”

In response to Ginger’s sense of urgency, Tong-Tong explained to her and the watching Bunty and Daisy that the device was an education machine. The robot told them that all newly constructed robots must endure variating periods inside machines such as this one. “It’s where they get their programming.” It finished. “It’s where they learn how to fly the ship.”

Bunty had, what she thought was, a pertinent question: “So why did you put Ginger inside? Why didn’t you volunteer?”

“I am a waiter.” Tong-Tong replied. “Waiters do not fly space ships.”

Fifteen minutes later…

“Right,” Ginger said, as she led Daisy and Bunty along the corridor that would take them to the Control Room, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

Chapter 6

Well as sure as eggs are eggs, the education of Ginger Slack had been an utter success. Within seconds of arriving, Ginger had the Astro-Navigator checking for the ship’s position in space…

“When we get the time,” Daisy said as she stared at an image of interplanetary space that meant nothing whatsoever to her, “I fancy a go in that machine. I could do with some brains.”

Naturally, Ginger was far too busy to reply; it was time for them to get the power supply sorted. It was time to re-energize the power crystals. Nevertheless, it seemed, for all her newfound knowledge, Ginger couldn’t quite figure out the knack…

Then Daisy displayed a rare nugget of wisdom. “I think they call it over-thinking.” She said to Ginger. “Relax. Use your muscle memory.”

Well if Ginger had enjoyed the luxury of time to consider those words, and the identity of the person that spoke them, she might have scoffed internally, and thereby failed – but she didn’t…

Abruptly the crystal immediately before Ginger began to sparkle inside. A gentle, almost inaudible hum of subtle energy followed.

“Ooh,” Daisy said in response, “maybe I’m not as daft as everyone thinks. Well done, Ginger!”

Ginger was also somewhat thrilled. She turned to her two earplug (and one robot) friends…

“One down.” She said. “Several more to go.”

With that, she turned her attention to the next crystal…

“How is she doing that?” Bunty asked Tong-Tong.

“Telekinesis.” The robot explained. “All brains are capable of producing this effect – that is agitating material at a molecular level – but few have discovered the means of activating this…how shall I put it: this ‘talent’.”

The conversation might have continued, but Ginger was already working on the next pair of crystals…

“It must be wonderful,” Daisy said quietly to Bunty. ”Being able to look in two different directions at the same time.”

“What do you mean?” Bunty replied, as the third and fourth crystals came on line. “Your eyes do it all the time – especially after you’ve been at your Dad’s sherry bottle.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 21)

Chapter 5

Bunty, Daisy, and Ginger had assumed that with the transaction complete, the freighter would make straight for the Museum of Future Technology. Of course, had they really thought the subject through – as they seated themselves in the cafeteria and consumed three mugs of Crappachino…

…they might have considered the economics of space transportation. Because the freighter had departed the museum, on its way to Ice World, they had made the dumb-ass assumption that the three planets – Earth, Ice World, and Wetworld – made a viable triangle. They hadn’t considered, for a moment, that the only reason for the freighter to be in the high-rise hangar was its need for repair or maintenance. It never occurred to them that Earth was conspicuous upon its schedule only because of its absence. They remained in that delusional state when departing the cafeteria and encountering a number of robotic crew as they rushed by along one of the many corridors that ran, like a latticework around the centrally located hold…

Doubts crept into their serene mental state when, seconds later, several more crew- members rushed past them in what could be termed ‘a hurry’…

“Uh-oh, something’s afoot.” Ginger said. “Quick, let’s follow them: it might lead us to the control room. Maybe someone there can tell us something.”

Three minutes later found the mauve captain and three regular-coloured lieutenants watching a view screen, upon which an ancient robotic freighter – its ion motors blazing in an otherwise blackened sky – drawing alongside…

The girls crept closer for a better look. The captain swung around to face them…

Fortunately, its face possessed no expression. Neither did its voice. However, what it said caused a great chuffing sound to escape the rear of each girl’s knickers:

“It is the Robotic Justice League.” The captain said dispassionately. “It has hit us with a nul-beam. Our engines are disabled; we have no communications; we are dead in space. If you think you might want to go to the toilet soon, go now: you might not get another opportunity.”

Of course, without access to the Galactic News Network, Ginger had no idea what the Robotic Justice League represented. Daisy was no better: if it didn’t happen in her metaphorical back yard, she wasn’t interested. Bunty however recalled hearing her dad complaining about the Robotic Justice League over Sunday lunch. He’d been quite outspoken on the subject. “Ooh, that’s bad, isn’t it?” She said to the captain.

A smidgen of passion appeared in the robot’s voice. “Bad?” it whined. “Bad? It is bloody awful. My career is over. If I survive this encounter with all my diodes intact – and attached – I will count myself very fortunate indeed!”

“Sir,” a lieutenant called out, “a message is coming through.”

Naturally the girls joined the robots at the ship’s control panel…

Three robots – the like of which neither earplug had ever seen before – appeared on the small view screen.

“This is the Robotic Justice League.” The large white robot spoke through the stereo speaker grills. “You will surrender yourselves into our care immediately.”

“Yeah,” the smaller of the white robot’s blue subordinates growled, “like now. If you do not, you are going to regret it.”

The captain cleared its non-existent throat. “Do you require us, our ship, or both?” It inquired.

The larger of the white robot’s blue subordinates answered: “Ship? We have enough of those, thank you. It is you robots we want. Now make your way to your port airlock and throw yourselves across the gap between your ship and ours. No dilly-dallying – or, before long those silicon life forms you have there with you will be breathing vacuum.”

Ginger hid behind the captain and whispered in its auditory input node:

“It’s an old barge.” She said. “Surely one shot will blow it out of space.”

“This is a freighter,” the captain reminded the young female, “freighters do not carry weapons – whereas that ‘old barge’ as you call it, is bristling with them.”

“Why do they want you?” Bunty inquired. “For ransom?”

“Nothing so mercenary,” the captain replied with a rare cybernetic sigh, “The Robotic Justice League wishes only to grant us freedom. Freedom from the tyranny of serving earplugs.”

Daisy had never heard of the word tyranny: she wondered if it was a spicy product, not unlike biryani. However, she then reconsidered: ‘freedom from the biryani of serving earplugs’ made no sense. Even twisting the sentence around so that it read ‘Freedom from serving earplugs biryani’ would only apply to robotic waiters in Indian restaurants. “I don’t understand.” She said aloud. “What’s wrong with serving earplugs? Earplugs invented and build robots: why wouldn’t they want to serve them – it’s what robots are for!”   

The captain was about to respond with, “I know that, and you know that: but try telling the Robotic Justice League!” But it didn’t get the chance; the ancient robotic ship was almost upon them…

What it did manage to emit from its forward speaker grille, was, “Please witness my initial unwillingness to resign my position as captain of this vessel; but since you three are aboard – and, should the crew resist boarders, may come to harm, I find that I have no choice but to surrender. I hand control of this vessel to you three earplugs. The ignition key is in the control panel before you. I have hidden a spare on the underside of my sock drawer – held on with sticky-backed plastic. You will recognise the sock drawer by the absence of socks inside it. As a robot, I have no need of them.”

“Us?” Bunty squealed. “What do we know about flying submarine space freighters?”

Bunty hadn’t really expected a reply, so wasn’t disappointed when the opportunity for the captain to reply with some meaningless platitude never arose: the large white robot and its two cronies had interrupted…

“Belay that order to toss yourselves into the void.” The large white robot said. “We have changed our collective mind. We are coming aboard via transfer conduit. You will accompany us to this vessel through it.”

A quick glance at the view screen confirmed the presence of a transfer conduit…

This concerned the captain. To Ginger he said:

“Those conduits are not very secure. If one end tears loose, all the air will get sucked out of this vessel through it. Might I suggest you find somewhere safe and air tight?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 20)

It was the traversing of this extra-dimensional medium that cut days from the journey time of earlier vessels from Ice World to the freighter’s destination…

Returning to normal space, the craft skirted a well-charted asteroid; then proceeded in the direction of a watery blue planet. The planet, as anyone who had been aboard the K T Woo on its maiden voyage would recognise in an instant, was Wetworld. A planet almost entirely covered in water. Of course, it was to one of the few islands that dared poke their heads above the ocean swell that the freighter flew. Ginger, Daisy and Bunty were at a view screen to watch the vessel breach the surface there…

To their surprise, there was barely a bump in the ride as it passed from a gaseous medium, into a liquid medium.

“Good shocks, I guess.” Ginger said appreciatively.

She then noted a change in the ambient and ever-present noises aboard ship.

“Do I detect the sound of cavitation?” She asked no one in particular.

“Could be.” Daisy replied. “Especially if I knew what it meant.”

“It’s the noise propellers make under water, I think.” Bunty explained. “And, oh but listen: the sound is dying away.”

“The motors have settled into their new medium, I guess.” Ginger said as she dismissed the matter with a careless wave of her hand.

This proved to be the case. Consequently, a smooth passage was quickly made through the submarine canyons beneath the islands they supported…

Thereafter the freighter made good time across a region of ‘Great Lumpiness’…

…above which it sailed serenely – pausing only to wave at a local submarine going about its business in the opposite direction. Of course, the robotic crew were following a well-worn route to their ultimate destination on Wetworld. Therefore, only a short while passed before the freighter entered a submarine dock…

The act of unloading the ice cubes was a long and boring affair. Far too long and boring to relate here. Whilst it occurred, the three stowaways slept: they wanted to be fully awake for their return to space. And, indeed, this was their state of consciousness as the freighter climbed from the seabed amongst myriad bubbles created by submarine volcanic vents…

…and returned to the vacuum of space…

  “Whee,” they all cried out in sheer delight, “now we can go home.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 19)

Magnuss would have continued, but an increase in the ambient light told him that morning had arrived…

…and already the immigrant street cleaners were hard at work. This was a shame, because there was nothing the brothers would have liked more than to see subsequent holiday snaps. And there was nothing more that Bunty, Daisy, and Ginger would have liked more than to lift off from the Ice World, which is, of course, what happened…

“Byee.” They yelled as they waved from the window at some green earplugs; a big boulder; and three arctic plugmutts.

They continued to wave until the freighter had placed the planet well astern of itself…

Assuming (in a way that only the young can) that they would now be returning to the Museum of Future Technology with a hold jam-packed with ice cubes, the three girls sat themselves down in the vessel’s only cafeteria…

“It’s lucky that these freighters sometimes carry passengers.” Ginger said as they sat around waiting for a menu to arrive. “We’d be right up kaka creek without an outboard motor if we had to survive on robot rations.”

“I wonder if this is a Café Puke franchise.” Bunty said hopefully, as her eyes searched the room for signage. “I don’t much like their coffee; but they bake some nice blueberry muffins.”

But Daisy wore her practical head: “If we’re the only life-forms aboard…well I think we’re going to wait an awfully long time for a waiter to appear. Perhaps we should consider self-service.”

However, as though to make her appear foolish, a waiter did appear…

Of course, it was a robot waiter. “Yes?” He said.

Whilst Daisy was recomposing herself, Rudi, Valentine, Chester, and Miles were preparing to leave the apartment of their brother and his wife…

“Been a real groove.” Valentine said in a complimentary manner.

“Yeah, sho’nuf has.” Rudi agreed. “We got some hero-stuff to do in a promotional video for the museum; but when it’s done, we’ll come back for Part Two.”

“That’s right.” The twins said as one. “But we want the same chairs: they fit our bums exactly right.”

“You betcha.” Magnuss replied.

Then, as they made for the door, Hair-Trigger said, “I’ll write your names on them in felt-tip pen. Maybe I’ll run up some gingham covers for them too. We can all have different colours.”

So, as the family broke up in the museum; aboard the distant freighter…

…the girls had decided upon a Crappachino each.

“Wow, get a whiff of that.” Daisy gushed. “It smells almost drinkable!”

“Thank you.” Bunty said to the robot waiter. “Um…I don’t like to address you as ‘waiter’: do you have a name I might use?”

The robot waiter wasn’t used to being treated so nicely. Actually, it wasn’t used to being treated in any manner: Daisy, Bunty, and Ginger were its first customers since coming aboard several months earlier. It quickly searched its memory banks. It appeared to have a choice of several. But it didn’t want to confuse the young earplugs, so it selected the name at the top of the list.

“Hans Dudishes.” It replied.

Bunty gave it a sidelong look. “Hans Dudishes?” She asked disbelievingly. “As in Hands Do Dishes? I think you’re having a joke with us. No, what is it really?”

This jolted the robot waiter: it had never considered the possibility that one of its creators might make a joke of its verbal identification. It selected the second name on the list: “Ada Hole?” It offered.

Ginger screwed up her nose.

“Sir Charles Forthright-Twang?” It said with a lilt of forlorn hope.

“Nah,” Daisy said doubtfully. “Try something else.”

The robot waiter decided to start at the bottom of the list. “My name,” it said, “is Tildatong Tong-Tong.”

At this, all three girl’s eyes lit up.

“That’s it.” Bunty cried out with joy. “Tong-Tong. I love it. Tong-Tong, do you have any blueberry muffins to go with this coffee?”

By sheer chance, Tong-Tong had several under glass. Whilst it went to fetch them, the ship entered hyperspace once more…

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 17)

Whilst this change of circumstances was taking place, back in the Museum of Future Technology, the slide show had moved on to another planet that the happy couple had visited on their honeymoon…

“Ah,” Magnuss cried out at the recognition of one of the trip’s lowest points, “Nonster planet.”

“Nonster planet?” Miles queried.

“Surely you mean Monster Planet?” Chester suggested.

“Strictly speaking it is named Monster Planet,” Magnuss explained, “but they have no letter N on their word processors: so they chose the next letter along. It could have been named Bonster Planet: but, unfortunately, the word ‘bonster’ is very rude: so they went in the opposite direction.”

“That’s the Loch Mess Nonster.” Hair-Trigger told them. “We were very lucky to photograph it: it hasn’t been seen for a thousand years. And even then most people thought it was a log, or a wave, or a packet of potato chips that had partially submerged and become sodden”

At this point in proceedings, another image from Nonster Planet replaced the Loch Mess photo…

 

This brought forth glazed expressions and fixed smiles. Rudi remarked upon it…

“The Colossal Two-Beaked Turkey of Zlob, right?”

Magnuss appeared slightly embarrassed. “As opposed to the Really Big Twin-Beaked Turkey of Zlob.” He said. “We didn’t know the difference.”

“One is friendly and takes you for a ride around a picturesque tar pit.” Hair-Trigger spoke quietly as she recalled their error. “The other one tears the arse out of your hiking pants and tried to chew off your buttocks.”

“That’s why we chose such comfy chairs.” Magnuss explained. “Luckily our travel insurance paid for the reconstructive surgery.”

“But our botties are still a little tender.” Hair-Trigger added.

Fortunately, the newlywed’s mental discomfort came to an abrupt halt when a snow scene appeared on screen…

“That’s us,” Hair-Trigger commentated, “arrived at the Hotel Bottox on Ice-world. You know – the Ice-world, as ruled over by Marnus Pongfinger.”

“Those dudes leavin’ don’t look none too cheerful.” Valentine observed.

Hair-Trigger returned to her use of the term “Hmmm”.

“It’s a cold world.” Magnuss explained. “As you well know – you’ve been there yourself. Very often the water in the lavatory freezes: sometimes you need an ice pick to break it. I guess those guys either didn’t know how too; or they were too late with its application.”

Sensing a degree of discomfort in the audience, the futuristic image projector quickly moved the picture on…

“Hair-Trigger,” Magnuss said, “trying on her new winter hat.”

“Lovely.” Miles opined.

“Hey,” Chester cried out, “that picture on the wall: it’s Susan!”

“That’s right.” Magnuss said with a chuckle. “Ever since she broke down with emotion at our wedding, the image of her that was broadcast on the Trans-Galactic TV Channel has become very popular. She’ll do well when the residuals start coming in – though there is a lot of pirating of her image going on too.”

Whilst Magnuss had been speaking, Hair-Trigger took the opportunity to place the art deco figurine on its base. Resuming her seat…

…she said, “Darling, we’re being haunted again.”

“Try to ignore it, Hairy.” Magnuss suggested. “They get bored if you ignore them.”

So they did, and were rewarded with a view of Magnuss and Hair-Trigger departing the Hotel Bottox…

“Funny thing – about the Hotel Bottox.” Magnuss remarked. “Whenever we tried to leave, the snow intensified into a white-out.”

“And ever since we finally trudged away, that thing at the window has been with us.” Hair-Trigger remarked.

“Gotta be the ghost of some Ice-Worlder, I guess.” Rudi suggested.

A pair of Punting-Modesty Facepuncher XL5s thundering past interrupted any further conversation that might have erupted upon the subject…

“Hey,” Valentine cheered, “gotta be a couple of my trainees. We sho’nuf got a whole bunch of XL5s now, ya know. Enough to protect the museum from any number of alien invaders. Cool.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 11)

As if in answer to Valentine’s question, the formerly blank screen erupted into photonic life…

“Good choice.” Said Rudi.

Meanwhile, in another part of the museum, Ginger was getting her bearings…

“Ooh,” she said, “just look out of the fancy window. We’re ever so high up. This must be the Red Tower.”

In an instant, she was joined by Daisy and Bunty. “The Red Tower?” They squealed in perfect unison.

Bunty then added, “But this is the highest building in the whole museum. The public aren’t allowed here. All sorts of things happen here. It’s top secret or something.”

She would have said more, but as the moonlight broke through one of the high windows, all three girls became aware of a great hulking shape in the shadows…

“Wha, wha, wha?” Daisy stuttered.

Ginger required clarification: “What is it?” She suggested.

“Yes,” Daisy replied as she reassembled her taut nerves into a shape that allowed her to speak, “what is it?”

“It’s a great hulking shape.” Bunty answered helpfully. “But the shadows are hiding it too well for me to make a positive identification. But it’s not breathing, so it can’t be alive.”

“It could be holding its breath.” Ginger argued.

“If it’s not alive,” Daisy said nervously, “it must be dead. Oh, by the Saint of All Earplugs – we’ve found a dead body. And if anyone finds us here, they’ll think we did it!”

Suddenly, it seemed, their situation was of the grimmest kind imaginable to three college girls. “Ooh-ur.” Ginger said intelligently.

But before she could elucidate further, a number of feeble lights lit up the scene…

A relieved Ginger swung around to address her friends: “Look, Daisy: it’s one of them big black flying things you like so much.”

Daisy couldn’t believe her eyes. “A space submarine freighter.” She said breathlessly. “And it’s here – right in front of me. If I want, I can walk up and touch it…with my bare fingers!”

But she didn’t, of course: she was too afraid of fainting from the thrill of it. So she sent Ginger and Bunty to take a closer look – to see if it really was the ‘real thing’, and not a mock-up or movie prop. However, as she received confirmation of the vessel’s authenticity, Daisy thought she heard an elevator arrive in a nearby corridor…

“Someone’s coming,” she hissed. “Quickly; hide!”

They didn’t waste a nanosecond: all three ran straight to the only door available to them…

“But this door is set into the side of the space submarine.” Ginger stated the obvious. “If we go inside there, we’ll be…we’ll be inside the space submarine!”

Daisy might have replied, “Yeah: good, innit?” But within moments of the elevator’s arrival, a number of earplugs and a group of former prisoner-of-war hyperspace pirate end cap engineers entered (what was clearly) the high-rise hangar…

“I told him,” one of the earplugs was saying to another, “it’s all well and good having this repair facility on the seventieth floor: but what if the elevator breaks down? We’ll spend half the day climbing up here, and the second half climbing back down. Nothing will get done.”

“Is ‘climbing’ the correct term to describe a means of descending.” The listener in the group replied. “Is it possible to actually climb down?”

“Mountain climbers do it all the time.” A third earplug interjected.

“Yeah,” a fourth chimed in, “anything else would be called ‘falling’. I wouldn’t want to fall down seventy floors, I can tell you!”

This was a fortuitous conversation because it gave the girls time to collect their wits and act positively…

“We’ll duck inside this maintenance hatch,” Bunty instructed the others.” Then, when all these techie-types have gone away, we can come back out again.”

“Yeah,” Daisy agreed, “and then we’ll slip away and go back to college like nothing ever happened at all. In a week this will have all blown over and been forgotten. You mark my words.”  

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 8)

Well there was really only one thing they could do. They ran. Like arrows from a bow they ran straight across the Woven Expanse…

…and tried to hide themselves in a strange non-corporeal forest…

…in which Daisy had a remarkable thought: “Oi,” she said, “if these trees are non-corporeal, that means that on infrared we would stand out like sore thumbs.”

So they bid a hasty farewell and tried hiding in the Age of Stone exhibit…

But, had they a brain cell between them, they would have realised that the Security Suite had access to any number of sensors and CCTV cameras…

“Got ‘em.” EvilRoboSecGua reported to the angry RoboSecGua chief.

The command came in an instant: “Apprehend them by any means. And if it hurts like heck…well all the better. If there’s one thing I really detest – it’s teenage female earplugs. They make me so mad!”

Meanwhile, Bunty, Ginger and Daisy were somewhere within the bowels of the Museum of Future Technology and making exhausted progress along another interminable corridor. But, despite their labouring lungs and the agony of de-oxygenated muscles, they all found the energy to be startled when a security light caught them unawares…

And when it changed colour, they paused their headlong flight…

…just I time to recognise what the light inferred and be plunged into the semi-darkness of a Crimson Intruder Alert…

“Oh,” Bunty said into the resulting gloom.

“I can hear you, Bunty,” Ginger replied, “but I can’t see you. Have you been disembodied?”

“I wish I’d been disembowelled,” Daisy informed the others, “coz I’m scared witless – or a word very similar to that.”

As the moment of the girl’s arrest approached, Gregor departed his quarters, whilst feeling very pleased with himself. The damage that he had managed to wreak by proxy was almost beyond his wildest dreams…

But he hadn’t finished: there was more acts of sabotage to invoke. Already some ne’re-do-wells had found inspiration from the TV news reports of the ruined exhibit…

And the RoboSecGuas were suddenly run ragged…

…when a group of disenchanted catering staff devoured an entire pickled cabbage: went out on to the Obsidian Plain; and…

…ignited the resulting cageous emissions.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug News 24/7: Under Neptune’s Gaze

Despite the God of the Sea, Neptune’s disapproving stare; the deafening roar of a passing space submarine freighter; and an erupting volcano on the horizon, Iceworld scientist, Uda Spritzer took her paddle board to the aid of two drowning morons who forgot to tether their houseboat properly and were attempting to swim to shore in search of a public lavatory…

She was commended for her bravery by the local coastguard, but then cuffed around both ears and poked in the eye for contravening Health and Safety rules by failing to wear a life preserver vest or a lanyard to her paddle board. In response, spinster, Ms Spritzer was reported to have said: “Sod this: next time I’ll let the bastards drown.”

THIS FABULOUS WALLPAPER IS DOWNLOADABLE.

Galactic Newsletter: Chilly Willy Discovered

Whilst exploring an uncharted and utterly frozen world, crew-members of the K T Woo have discovered an ancient space rocket entombed in ice! Former protégé of Magnuss Earplug – Yabu Suchs – who commanded the team and drove the lead hover chariot remarked:

“A quite remarkable phallic symbol. Possibly the most significant I have ever seen.  It’s very big. Very, very long – and perfectly straight too. I say, would you mind switching off your microphone: I’m feeling vaguely inadequate.”