Tag Archives: comedy

Earplug Adventures Portrait: Stand Up And Be Counted!

This post first appeared in a now defunct blog.

Having been put on trial at the Galactic Court of Justice for the ‘crimes’ of all earplugkind, Throgennis Frote gives voice to his anger. In fact he tears them off a strip. He’s a mouthy little git. From We Stand Accused. Fascinating factoid: the whole idea for We Stand Accused came from the discovery of this prismatic sunlight on Tooty’s sitting room carpet.

Silicon Life: Competition for the Cafe Puke!

Details of a catering merger have emerged that could threaten the continued success of the purveyors of the most vile coffee inside the Museum of Future Technology – Cafe Puke. Secret photographs taken in the undeveloped region of the arboretum strongly suggest that construction of a new cafe is well underway…

Although including a distinctive foyer, the building appears to follow the design of the majority of Cafe Puke outlets. But, as this photograph shows, the hoarding apparently makes mention of the rival cafe chain – Skanki Kaffe. However leaked pictures of the interior do not support this assertion. Workers were  tight lipped when quizzed about the new-build. Even Rupert Piles  and his huge 3D TV camera, despite trudging back a forth acoss the doorway all morning, could garner no information…

Nevertheless rumours continue to propagate, particularly when posters purporting that the endeavour is supported by the youngest of the the Earplug Brothers – twins Chester and Miles, and the famous Ice World scientist Uda Spritzer, appeared inside the half-completed future place of business…

Despite denials from Skanki Kaffe that the company has designs on supplanting Cafe Puke as the cafe of choice within the much vaunted and hallowed walls of the Museum of Future Technology, photographic evidence of a conversation between a representative of Skanki Kaffe, and Mister Pong – owner of several Exotic Food restaurants within the museum and the neighbouring conurbation of La Ciudad de Droxford cannot be ignored…

Further evidence came when the museum’s Avatar and the Angel with a Huge Nose were seen blessing the almost complete catering outlet in the middle of the night…

Apparently only the installation of a whooshy, gurgly coffee machine and a futuristic urinal is required to transform the building from a potential cafe into a proper emporium for the celebration of the humble coffee bean – complete with labels such as Cafe au Belch, Vomitino, and Desalinated – all well-known labels belonging to Skanki Kaffe. When interviewed through the side window of a Cafe Puke concession, general manager, Cool-Dude Plantagenate…

…was quoted as saying: “Couldn’t give a plugmutt’s arse. Bring it on Skanki: your Vomitino aint got nothing on our Crappachino: it’s almost potable!”

We await developments.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023


Revel in the Ribaldry 38

T’was March 2022 when the last Revel in the Ribaldry appeared in these hallowed cyber-pages. So I funk it was about time Number 38 poked its head above the parapet. No dilly-dallying; on with an extract from my favourite book of all time by whatever author you care to mention. Yes, it’s my…

Here follows an extract from Chapter Six – A Pocket of Empire. For the benefit of anyone who has never experienced this fabulous e-book, it is actually a collection of short stories that have been ingeniously linked together in one narrative by your host.

Colonel Goliath Van Spoon was Lieutenant LaMerde’s commanding officer. For a hamster he was remarkably large. Some had even described him as ‘hulking’. And also unlike those he led, Van Spoon was neither French nor hamster-sexual. He was Dutch, and he wore outrageously large clogs, and hung large photographs of polders, dykes, and naked females upon his office wall, just to emphasize the fact. And right now he was seated behind a cheap chipboard desk where he listened to his subordinate’s report.

“For sure. For sure.” Van Spoon would nod as each interesting piece of information was imparted.

“So you see, Sir,” LaMerde concluded, “The peasants are revolting.”

“For sure they’re revolting,” Van Spoon agreed, “They never wash as far as I can tell. I can smell the village from my billet – and that’s saying something, man: The latrine outflow pipe is situated just below it.”

LaMerde silently ground his incisors together. It was his opinion the Colonel was unfit for duty. His mind tended to wander into the esoteric at inopportune times; and his decision-making process was often interfered with by the consumption of alcoholic beverages that were supplied by the Hamster-British owners of the castle. As a result of this several patrols had been forced to fight their way back to the safety of the castle through besieging trinket-sellers; swarming insects; and the occasional gang of wandering prostitutes – only to be told to go back out again and knock properly.

Van Spoon appeared to make a decision. He said, “Let’s take this upstairs.”

LaMerde’s shoulders slumped.  ‘Upstairs’ meant a visit to Sir Cuthbert and Lady Agatha Strawberry-Nose.

“Should we really, Sir?” he tried to dissuade his commanding officer, “I mean – they’re hardly likely to give us sound advice, are they? After all it was the French Florid Legion who dispossessed them of their nice retirement home, turned it into a fortress, and forced them to live in the highest turret.”

It was a well-reasoned argument, but Van Spoon would have no truck with it. “For sure I’m thinking that you don’t trust our reticent hosts, LaMerde: Is that because they are Hamster-British?”

LaMerde discovered himself speechless: He simply couldn’t believe that the colonel was accusing him of being racist. In fact he had an entirely different reason for wanting to avoid Lady Agatha Strawberry-Nose, but he felt that he wasn’t at liberty to divulge that information.

Van Spoon took his subordinate’s silence as contrition. “For sure I was thinking that. Well, Lieutenant, I have a little treat for you. Follow me.”

With that he thrust his chair backwards, hopped over the desk like the Olympic hurdler that he’d been in his youth, and was out of the door before you could say “By the Saint of All Hamsters!”

With the fear that his career with the French Florid Legion was in jeopardy, LaMerde followed in haste.

A few minutes later Van Spoon and LaMerde had climbed the long spiral staircase to the living quarters of the elderly Hamster-British citizens – Sir Cuthbert and Lady Agatha Strawberry-Nose. Van Spoon rapped sharply upon the soft balsa wood door. It gave alarmingly beneath his meaty knuckles, which resulted in what appeared to be permanent, and rather unsightly indentations. He noticed this, and immediately stepped back. “For sure this soft wood gives alarmingly beneath my meaty knuckles.” He said – before lifting LaMerde from the ground and depositing him directly in front of the door.

It was not a moment too soon for Van Spoon: The door fairly whipped open as though it was attached to a powerful elastic cord with a nasty temper.

Lady Agatha’s face appeared in the door frame. She regarded the indentations left by the colonel’s knuckles. Then she looked at LaMerde who stood before her with a sickly smile upon his hamstery face. For a moment it appeared that she might explode in anger, but then she caught sight of LaMerde’s whiskers as they shook violently with trepidation inside his gargantuan hood.

“Serge!” The plump aristocratic female hamster pulled the lieutenant to her heaving bosom, and hugged him close, “Why you naughty male.” She admonished cheerfully, “You’ve been going under-cover with the natives again. One of these days they’ll catch you – and do all sorts of ghastly things to you. Oh I couldn’t bear it: I might never see your handsome face again!”

Van Spoon could see that his subordinate was uncomfortable. In fact he noticed that he wasn’t actually breathing anymore, and was turning a nasty shade of blue.

“Madam,” he said as he extricated the female’s fingers from around the slender frame of the junior ranking officer, “we are here to ask for your husband’s advice.”

Naturally Lady Agatha complied: To have refused would have been a terrible social faux pas. And so the two Legionaries were ushered into the presence of the castle’s true owner.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

This book – amazingly – remains on-sale. You can link to the better-known vendors via the Tooty’s E-Books Available to Buy Here page. It’s not expensive either – despite being the best book in the world. Oh, and it’s rude too.


Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Disappearing Act

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

From the fabulous 2022 story, Climatic Calamity

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


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 30)

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


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

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

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

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

He wasn’t wrong either…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, below on an average city street…

…Miles Earplug was deep in conversation with Mister Pong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubbles lowered her voice to a whisper;

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

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

Barclay decided to be bold…

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

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

“Not necessarily.” He replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that they were applauded out of the Star Chamber…

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

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

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

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

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it had too!

Now only a brown dwarf star remained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pronk then addressed the earplug couple:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the name of clarity Bubbles asked:

“The Star Chamber, you mean?”

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

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

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

And that’s exactly what they did…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh ye of little faith.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barclay tried to inject some levity:

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

Aboard the Goosewing Grey no one made such an attempt…

It was all professionalism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lousy TV picture though.” The Major replied.

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 24)

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

Chapter 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and went scooting across the void to their destination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A split second later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 21)

Familiar ground for Earpluggers coming up…

Chapter 10

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

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

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

“Two birds with one stone.” Barclay replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To cheer Bubbles up, Barclay said:

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

Two minutes later and fifteen floors lower…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“Follow me.”

So they did…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When do we leave?” Barclay asked urgently.

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 20)

Prepare yourselves for a bit of character relationship development…

As the Major flickered out, and their vessel cleared the troublesome atmosphere, Barclay had sufficient time and presence of mind to notice something anomalous…

“Hey, Bubs; is it me, or is Worstworld looking a whole lot more blue since we arrived?”

Initially Bubbles thought that the increased ‘blueness’ was a result of Barclay’s over-eager imagination; but when she had placed a large distance between the Prowler and the retreating planet…

…she reconsidered the validity of her assumption.

“Oh flipping heck,” she said, “I think you’re right. You know what this means, don’t you?”

“Yeah, sure.” Barclay replied. “Um…what?”

“That the scientists have been a tad conservative with their estimate that the star will blow in six months. I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t gamble on it lasting more than six days!

“Lummy,” Barclay, almost lost for words, replied. “We’d better a get a move on then. Floor it, Bubbles!”

So Bubbles did…

…right into hyper-space.

Naturally, following their almost panic-stricken departure from Worstworld, it became necessary to drop out of hyperspace and adjust their trajectory. Whilst doing so, the Prowler’s defensive sensors initiated a crimson alert…

“Uh-oh, what can this be?” Barclay uttered as his eyes scanned his read-outs for a clue.

Bubbles did likewise, but she also turned her attention to the forward screen. 

“Cancel crimson alert.” She said. “It’s only a hyperspace pirate mothership.” 

“Only a hyperspace pirate mothership?” Barclay exclaimed. “I can’t think of anything worse. Quick, Bubbles, do your course-change calculation, and let’s get the heck out of here!”

Bubbles wasn’t convinced that the mothership was a real threat: after all, hadn’t the hyperspace pirate End Caps had their arses kicked by earplugs time and time again? Surely they wouldn’t dare take on something as mean and moody-looking as the Prowler. However she felt compelled to adjust her opinion when the mothership launched three attack craft in her direction…

“Crimson alert,” she yelled as Barclay hit the Real Fast button that fired their vessel to supra-light speed…

“Okay, so what do we do now?” She inquired of her navigator and most important earplug in her personal universe. “Can we out-run them?”

“Aint got a sodding clue.” Barclay replied as his eyes turned from the special female in the seat beside him to peruse their defensive capability. “What?” He yelled with frustration, “No rearward facing atomic cannon? What wally at Punting-Modesty omitted that most important feature?”

“There’s the trash disposal hatch.” Bubbles suggested. “That faces backwards. I believe it also includes the contents of the cockpit lavatory sewage tank.”

“We might smear their windshields,” Barclay said with a mirthless chuckle, “but I don’t see it slowing them down any.”

Bubbles was about to sigh and say: “Well it was just a thought,” when she noticed something on her console screen.

“Hey,” she screamed with excitement, “when you said to Lieutenant R Swypes that he should use every weapon at his disposal to fight the inevitable doom, he took you literally. Those engineers left their equipment behind. With no other space available, they stowed it in the trash disposal.”

Barclay tried to make sense of what Bubbles was telling him. “I…I don’t see what you’re getting at.” He said.

“Like their redundant machine guns in the Major’s office,” Bubbles explained, “they included stuff for which they have no use – but we might. In this case it’s a whole bunch of sea mines. Barclay, they’re sitting in the trash disposal compartment – just waiting to be thrown out the back!”

Barclay didn’t bother responding verbally: he leaned over and kissed Bubbles, before hitting the trash disposal button on his console…

The pursuing hyper-space pirates either didn’t notice, or didn’t care: they just kept on coming…

Inside the Prowler, Bubbles and Barclay closed their eyes and prayed to the Saint of All Earplugs, the Supreme Being, former Father Superior at Lemon Stone monastery – Frank Tonsils, and Magnuss Earplug and his lovely former bounty-hunter wife, Hair-Trigger…

Their torture didn’t last long. Moments after releasing the mines, the first of the attack craft made a head-on collision with one. A chain reaction followed, which resulted in this…

…the utter destruction of the marauding flotilla, which left its constituent atoms spread across light-years of interstellar space.

Elation and relief filled the air of the Prowler’s cockpit…

“We did it!” Barclay yelled as he looked upwards, as though to a higher realm of existence.

“You kissed me!” Bubbles exclaimed.

“Yes I did, didn’t I?” Barclay replied. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind?” the incredulous female responded. “Of course I don’t mind. I will ‘mind’ of you don’t do it again though – repeatedly.”

So, as the Prowler re-entered hyper-space for the remainder of its journey…

…Barclay did what any self-respecting male earplug would do: he did his utmost to keep his favourite female earplug happy.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There; it had to happen. How could it not?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 19)

With other duties calling me away from both my camera and my laptop, I’m finding it  difficult to keep ahead of these posts. I hope I don’t run out of story before the final episode. The good thing is – because of it – I don ‘t get to watch much TV in the evening. Need the quieter hours to catch up on my Earplug Adventures. Speaking of which – here’s episode 19. Experience its uniqueness… 

Lance was as good as his word, and neither earplug needed to wait for long as they carelessly studied the functional military décor…

“Look, Barclay,” Bubbles said as she looked out through a smeared and sand-blasted window, “Fort Dunderhead is painted green. I would never have guessed. Isn’t it nice? I like the dappled effect. I wonder if they use a splatter gun, or the bristly end of a brush.”

However Barclay, disinterested in home improvements, was paying only scant attention to Bubbles’ words: he was too busy wondering where they kept the nearest lavatory.

“Pink.” He replied. “Pink lavatory paper. I really don’t mind: I’ll use anything.”

Meanwhile Major Leftfoot-Badger had taken himself to the Officers’ Mess, where he partook of a huge alcoholic beverage…

“Here’s to our terrestrial allies.” He said whilst toasting to an empty room that looked out upon a sandy wasteland. “May the Saint of All Earplugs bless them and keep them free from harm. They really are lovely little guys. Well Barclay is: Bubbles is just plain drop-dead gorgeous.”

Shortly after this outburst of drunken eloquence, Lance Ottershoe led two mini-armoured personnel carriers, burdened down with engineers inside their surprisingly cavernous bellies, across the aforementioned sandy wasteland…

Driving them was none other than Bubbles and Barclay.

“Don’t drive too quickly, Lance.” Bubbles called over the gentle whine of the gas turbine engines, “Barclay possesses the driving skills of an iceberg.”

This was true, but as the distance from Fort Dunderhead increased…

…so Barclay’s confidence at the steering sticks did likewise.

“Hey, slow-coaches,” he yelled from the rear of the short column, “I’d like to get out of first gear, thank you.”

Moreover, as they began the descent into the subterranean cavern, the former university graduate had pretty much decided that a career change was imminent. When they finally returned to Earth he planned to quit his job and become a tank driver.

Shortly after making this ill-considered decision, the three vehicles made their final approach to the grounded Prowler

The repairs and upgrades required for the Prowler to fly properly in the dangerously energised atmosphere of Worstworld took many hours, buckets of sweat, and a multitude of components to replace those of Earth origin that had been well and truly fried on the way in. Moreover Barclay’s ardour with the idea of controlling powerful machines cooled and he thought twice about giving up his cosy job at Punting-Modesty. And any ideas he might have had concerning having a go at flying the Prowler simply evaporated. So, as they waved goodbye to Lance and the departing Cavalry-plugs…

…he handed the ignition key to Bubbles.

“There you go, Captain.” He said. “In you I place my trust.”

So, a couple of minutes later, the motor fired up…

As the fuelling cleared and the motor ran sweetly, the two occupants looked at each other…

“Ready, partner?” Bubbles asked.

“For anything.” Barclay replied. “The ship is yours: take it up.”

Moments later the Prowler was blasting upwards across the sandy wastelands…

Immediately Major Leftfoot-Badger appeared in their front viewer…

“Sorry to butt in on you folks,” he said, “but, just for the record, where are you actually going?”

“Somewhere far away.” Bubbles said cryptically.

“To the only place we can think of that might have what we need.” Barclay added.

“And if that doesn’t pan out,” Bubbles continued, “well we’ll just have to think of something else. Prowler, out.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I’m sure any of you seasoned Earpluggers will have guessed where Bubbles and Barclay are headed. If not, you won’t have long to wait.

P.S Anyone notice the continuity gaff in this episode. Check out the drunken Major, then compare him to the guy on the Prowler’s viewscreen. Oops, wrong cavalryplug.

P.P.S Reference the drunken Major shot again. Notice the wall chart behind the character? It comprises individual photos of the mechanised cavalry’s machines. I knew I wouldn’t get to use the pictures in the story – and I didn’t want to waste them entirely – so I placed them upon the Officer’s Mess wall. Details, details…

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 16)

In Episode 15 we saw (what might have been) the Veil of Shytar. But we can’t be certain – it might be just an insect curtain. Ooh, that rhymes. So, carry on with the tale; you never know where it is going to take you…

A day later the Prowler arrived at its originally intended destination…

“There you go.” Bubbles – now cheered up by the thought that their distant encounter with the space anomaly was just that: distant. “In all its blue-giant reflected glory: Worstworld.”

“I forgot to ask,” Barclay said as he peered at the unhealthy-looking planet below, “what was it about Worstworld that made you want to come here first, before any other world – known or unknown?”

“It’s unique.” Bubbles replied. “The surface is uninhabitable. Its star is irradiating the planet with deadly rays. The star itself is bound to go nova – and destroy this world completely. And the population now live underground. What’s not to like? And who knows, this time next week, it might not be here!”

“That’s all well and good,” Barclay argued, “but have you considered the possibility that the star might go nova while we’re here?”

“Mathematical improbability.” Bubbles replied as she slammed the Prowler into the planet’s atmosphere. But her confidence waned suddenly when she discovered that the star’s radiation played merry-hell with her controls…

“Aargh,” she cried out above the din of the air as it hammered upon the vessel’s hull, “we’re running out of altitude!”

“Quick, quick,” Barclay yelled, “head for one of those huge holes in the planetary crust: they might be really deep!”

Seconds after plunging into the nearest chasm, all sound and motion ceased…

“Ah, what just happened?” Barclay asked, though he expected no answer that would make any sense.

Bubbles chanced a glance through her side window. “I think we just landed.” She answered…

“More by luck than judgement.”

All Barclay could think of to say in reply was:

“Thank the Saint of All Earplugs for that.”

Chapter 8

Neither Bubbles nor Barclay were in a rush to disembark. Outside the ship looked too dark and foreboding for either of them. Eventually, though, they came to realise that no one had witnessed their descent from space, therefore no one knew they were there. So, being sensible university graduate types they finally stepped from the sanctuary of the Prowler and set foot upon the surface of the doomed planet known as Worstworld…

“It smells funny.” Barclay observed.

“And this sand is very gritty.” Bubbles complained. “If it gets inside our space boots, we’ll suffer horribly. But whatever, the Prowler is clearly allergic to something in this planet’s atmosphere, so we can’t hang around: let’s go find someone.”

However, as they began (what they assumed was) their ascent towards the surface through which they had plunged, Bubbles made an astonishing discovery…

“Barclay,” she squealed, “look, it’s a whole town!”

Barclay joined Bubbles, and together they stared in wonderment at a wide street that led to a small plaza…

“This must be one of the cities that the population moved into when the blue-giant star started going bonkers.” Barclay said at the vista.

“But where is everyone?” Bubbles said with a tremulous voice. “Do you think they might all be dead? Are we too late? Has the end of the world arrived before we get a chance to gawp in awe?”

“Dunno,” Barclay replied, “let’s get a close-up.”

So they did – by entering the town…

“Do you think this might be Busted Gut?” Bubbles more suggested than inquired.

Barclay did inquire: “Busted Gut?”

“The town of which Captain Sinclair Brooch – of the star ship K T Woo – was the sheriff, before becoming a captain, that is.” Bubbles explained.

“Wasn’t that a surface town?” Barclay argued. “Sheriff Brooch never lived underground. He went searching underground once I recall reading in his memoirs: but he never lived there. He’d left long before things got as bad as they are now. No, I reckon this was one of the first subterranean towns, but they had to move out when the radiation started leaking through. Look how blue the light is: it’s coming through all the holes in the crust.”

“And it’s very sandy too.” Bubbles noted. “I bet it blew in under the doors. I expect they were always sweeping it back out. That alone would have sent me deeper underground. I hate sand – especially when it gets into the gusset of my swimming costume.”

Clearly there was nothing worthwhile to learn in the ghost gown, so they continued their ascent…

…which was dull and arduous. However, when they finally reached level ground, they wished they’d never bothered. Hills and an undulating landscape stretched out before them…

…for such a vast distance that their hearts sank at the thought of traversing it.

“What a bummer.” Barclay said as his gaze surveyed the seemingly endless lands that reached for infinity. “Oh yeah, and the radiation is much worst out here: we’d better put on our silly hats: they’re not atom proof, but they’re probably better than nothing at all.”

So they did…

…and Barclay couldn’t help smiling at Bubbles: she looked daft, but kind of cute.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Significant shots in this episode are Number Two, which is the picture that inspired the story.  Number Three is the remains of an old grave that had succumbed to nature and had partially collapsed, creating  mini sink holes. And Number Eleven, which was originally a photo of a gentle wave destroying a child’s sandcastle on a Costa Blanca beach, Spain. Like I always say: inspiration can be found anywhere.

P.P.S I believe in using stock footage whenever possible; it saves a lot of time. The shots of the abandoned town originally appeared as the thriving mountain top kingdom of Ka-Ki-Pu, in Worstworld Vol 1 & 2.

You can find both of these volumes (utterly free and in PDF format) by clicking HERE.

They are early stories in the Earplug Adventure saga: don’t expect too much in the SFX department.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 15)

In this episode we discover that even intelligent earplugs can make very stupid decisions. Read on…

Within moments of this utterance, Bubbles had the Prowler turn through ninety degrees and head in the direction of…what…?

“I wonder what that is.” Barclay said as a multi-hued curtain-like apparition appeared in their forward viewer…

“Well,” Bubbles replied helpfully, “let’s think this through. It’s multi-hued – with lots of coloured strands: it seems to fluctuate between looking like a curtain or splayed out at angles that might be described as a sunburst shape.”

“And it’s hanging in space – far away from any planet or star – all by itself with nothing else around.” Barclay added. “What do you think?”

Bubbles didn’t reply immediately. She mused for several seconds before finally saying:

“I think we should get closer.”

“Agreed.” Barclay…ah…agreed. “But let’s not go too quick: we might startle it.”

As a result of this cautious approach it took flipping ages for the Prowler to finally adopt a position where the space anomaly filled the pilot’s view…

“That’s odd.” Bubbles said as she eyed her dials and tell-tales…

…”not only has it gone all sunbursty again; but I can’t get a distance reading on it. I don’t know how close we are. We could be kilometres away, or we could be within spitting distance of it. It seems to reflect my laser measuring light strangely so that I get either weird readings or none at all!”

“I’ll try all these advanced alien sensors we have fitted.” Barclay replied. “That should sort it out.”

But when he activated the technology created by a super-advanced alien culture that had disappeared into another Galaxy long ago, he got exactly nothing appearing in his read-outs.

“Bugger,” he said, “it’s seems to reject everything that tries to probe it. It’s like trying to see through a brick wall.”

“Or a lead-lined coffin.” Bubbles replied as she appeared to be musing again.

Barclay eyed his pilot. “So, what do we do – carry on with our journey and forget about this?”

“No, not just yet.” Bubbles answered his inquiry. “Let’s force the issue slightly. Set the atomic cannons to minimum yield. Let’s see if we can’t burn a tiny hole in…whatever it is.”

Barclay wasn’t entirely convinced of the wisdom of attacking a space anomaly with atomic cannons, but Bubbles was the boss and what she wanted she would get. “Minimum yield, aye.” He responded in an unprovoked bout of uncharacteristic professionalism.

“Fire!” Bubbles yelled as she shoved the throttles forward.

Instantly beams of irresistible energy leapt from the cannons like twin lances. But if those aboard the Prowler had hoped for any penetration of the apparition, they would be sorely disappointed. In fact they were more than disappointed: they were going to be grateful that their seats had built-in toilets – because the energy from their cannons was turned away by the mysterious collection of strands; concentrated; and redirected at the Prowler, which took the hit dead amidships…

The cockpit rang like a bell…

“What the heck?” Barclay managed.

Bubbles didn’t bother with either expletives or complaints: she was already in the act of spinning the ship about and hitting the gas pedal…

“Come on, Prowler, go-go-go!” She yelled.

Fortunately for the two young adventurers, their vessel had been fabulously well built, of the best possible materials, and bloody quick too. Within seconds it had freed its occupants of the need for fear…

…and had taken them so far away that they almost thought they’d either travelled through time, or into an alternative quantum reality.

Barclay gave Bubbles a look that said:

“That was dumb: don’t do it again.”

But his mouth said:

“Right then – shall we be on our way. I believe we were en route to a planet that orbits that blue-giant star?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Having turned 66 recently, you could be forgiven for thinking I really should have something better to do.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 14)

Neat SFX coming up…

Bubbles remained transfixed for several minutes before shaking herself and suggesting they return to the cockpit…

“Okay, Bubbles,” Barclay said with a gentle chuckle, “which one do we aim for?”

“I have one in mind.” Bubbles replied. “It’s a well-charted star; but not one often visited. Ever since I heard the tale of Adam Binsmell and Lilac Earthdamsel, and the mystical kingdom of Ka-Ki-Pu, I’ve always wanted to visit it. I’ve fed the co-ordinates into the astrogation computer; would you care to light the blue touch paper?”

“Do you mean the big button marked ‘Real Fast’?” Barclay asked, just in case he’d misunderstood his supervisor.

“I do.”

“Oh good.”

A heartbeat later…

…the Prowler had leapt to supra-light speed. However, a short while later, the spectacle seemed to dim for those watching. The novelty had worn off…

“This is a bit boring.” Bubbles finally confessed.

“Shall we access other departments of the ship?” Barclay suggested.

“What, you mean poke our noses into places and see what’s what?” Bubbles inquired.

“That’s’ exactly what I mean.” Barclay replied.

The ship’s builders had followed the blueprints of the alien life-boat in only the  vaguest manner. Much of it made no sense to them, so they adapted spaces inside the hull to the use of terrestrial earplugs. This meant that a coffee machine could not fail to be included in the design. Naturally the ship’s occupants could not fail to discover it…

“Oh by the Saint of All Earplugs,” Bubbles exclaimed, “this Iron Lungo tastes as terrible as the real thing in the Café Puke!”

“Wonderful,” Barclay replied – eager to try the machine for himself, “but don’t drink it too quickly: we haven’t found the toilet yet.”   

By coincidence, their next port of call was the Prowler’s equivalent of a lavatory. However this time they were to be disappointed…

“Honestly,” Bubbles complained, “you’d expect the designers to think up something better than peeing in a bag, then ejecting it into space through an airlock!”

“Lucky we’ve got the pilot chair toilets then, isn’t it?” Barclay reminded her. “Though it’s going to feel very odd – sitting at the controls with no cacks on. Do you think there might be a modesty blanket somewhere aboard?”

Chapter 7

Many hours were to pass before Bubbles and Barclay found it necessary to return to the cockpit and resume their positions. Barclay may not have been the most gifted navigator that ever traversed the invisible highways of interstellar space; but his training had been sufficiently thorough to enable him to understand read-outs and make a considered reaction to the information received…

“We’re coming up on a course change point.” He informed his pilot.

“Oh goodie,” Bubbles replied. “I’ve been waiting to do this. Initiating course realignment manoeuvre.”

Moments later this happened…

…and Bubbles felt sorry that no one was around to watch the spectacle. Then, once she was satisfied that the nearby blue giant star lay dead ahead, she hit the accelerator… 

However the Prowler was only five minutes into its new flight plan, when something in the starboard side window caught Barclay’s attention…

“Oi-oi, Bubs,” he said, “check out the view. That might warrant an investigation.”

When Bubbles saw the brilliant display to the vessel’s right, all thoughts of the blue giant were dismissed as irrelevant. “Flipping heck, Barclay,” she gushed, “this is far too interesting to miss. Turning to starboard: make sure your seat-loo is in the closed position.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Like the Cafe Puke machine shot? I enjoyed doing that one. And the course change manoeuvre. The side-on shot in the cockpit was a bit tricky. I hadn’t planned one. Then I spotted the interior of a paella spice tin – and there I saw a side window for Bubbles and Barclay to look out of. And to think – I almost didn’t buy those spices: I considered the price somewhat extravagant.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 13)

Part 12 was a tad brief, so I’m making up for that deficiency by including more than average in Part 13. Enjoy…

So, without further ado, they hit the ‘Go’ button…

And all of the Punting-Modesty employees who could be bothered to attend the unveiling of the Prowler watched agog as their handiwork screeched past the viewing area with a tail of dark smoke erupting from its exhaust pipe…

Within a couple of seconds the Prowler’s velocity had taken it clean away from the citadel…

Those with excellent vision noted that the slight fueling problem at lift-off had cleared itself, and now a white haze followed the ship wherever it went. And it went straight out over the mountains, the ridged hills of the mountain pea farming region…

…and above the crowded streets and towers of Ciudad de Droxford…

“Cripes, Bubbles,” A doubtful Barclay said to his favourite pilot, “do you really think Sir Loftus Pupe meant us to go this far? I had the distinct feeling that we were to take it up, fly it around a bit, and land again.”

The same thought had occurred to Bubbles. “Yes.” She replied. She then explained her solitary syllable: “When we take the ship back, they’ll hand it over to professional test pilots. We’re window dressing.”

Bubbles paused for a moment to make a course correction that would carry the Prowler over a popular holiday resort located in a fiord in which her mother, Millicent Gloor, lived with her boyfriend, Wagontrain McCallister…

Although the Prowler flew far too high for its occupants to discern individuals amongst the throng of earplugs who rushed from the ski and winter sports lodge, Bubbles was certain that Millicent was waving like a looney, and that the gruff, burly, moustachioed Wagontrain graced them with a careless glance.

From there Bubbles allowed the ship to climb gently to an altitude that gave Barclay a pleasant view of the cloud tops…

“This is nice.” He remarked cheerfully. “It’s like sitting on a really high balcony.  Gosh, this ship is so stable you’d think we were looking out of a window from a tower block in La Ciudad de Droxford – except much higher, of course. Or maybe on a foggy day. Well a foggy day at street level, but clear on the upper floors, that is. Shall I shut up now?”

“Please.” Bubbles replied gently.

“I think I’m getting over-excited.” Barclay said by way of excuse.

“Probably.” Bubbles agreed. “Now brace yourself: I’m about to give this bird some juice.”

Barclay was about to say: “But that doesn’t make sense. It’s not even mixing metaphors.” When this happened…

…and instead he yelled: “Gurrrrgh!”

For the young male earplug the war upon gravity seemed to last an eon: but only seconds had passed before the Prowler (not only escaped Earth’s atmosphere, but) put a vast distance between itself and its planet of origin…

“You okay?” Bubbles inquired.

“I think so.” Barclay answered slowly. “I think I might have left my bowels back there a bit. Um, can you give me a more precise warning next time? I got a bit confused. I’m still a bit confused. I feel like a quarterback who’s been levelled by the entire defensive line. Are we coasting? I don’t hear anything. Or have I gone deaf? It could be concussion.”

Bubbles cut Barclay off by saying:

“Would you care to test the atomic cannons?”

“Oh,” Barclay replied, “I don’t mind if I do.”

A split second later interstellar hydrogen atoms and star dust exploded energetically beneath the assault of the Prowler’s principal armament…

“Right, they appear to work correctly.” Bubbles responded to the vast firework show. “Shall we stretch our legs for a moment in the lounge? The windows give such a lovely view of the universe.”

So they did…

Barclay stood back a little, whilst Bubbles stared in wonderment at the view of eternity. He watched her face, bathed as it was by starlight, and smiled. He’d never really considered his good fortune to have found a job working with Bubbles Gloor. Now he did, and he counted his blessings.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, a pair of like-minded mavericks, eh? Let loose with an advanced space ship, hmmm? Who knows what good they might do?

P.S Did you like the ‘fiord’ shot? It’s actually a fallen tree, the bark of which had captured rain water to form a small pool. I take pictures of many things: I never know what I might do with them.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 12)

Part 12 follows Part 11. If you haven’t read that one yet – or previous episodes – please do so: it will make so much more sense.

Chapter 6

Well, after such a spectacular demonstration of Bubbles’ innate piloting skills, Pansy soon had both BINS operatives  seated in replicas of the pilot seats that had been designed for the (yet unnamed) Punting-Modesty / alien life-boat hybrid vessel that remained under secretive construction in a high-security hangar somewhere nearby…

“Right,” she yelled, “I’m gonna show you a video about flying the real thing. You copy the actions of the on-screen animated teacher, with these controls, and we’ll see how you get on. Okay?”

Bubbles smiled broadly in response to this. Barclay, on the other hand, felt several degrees less confident. “Is it okay if I do the pseudo-navigating?” He asked. “I’m really quite good at that. Well average anyway.”

So, as a new day dawned over the Museum of Future Technology…

…it would be merely a matter of time before that same dawn made itself apparent to those who lived at a higher altitude in Lemon Stone…

This coincided with the completion of Bubbles’ and Barclay’s flight education. By midday Pansy escorted them from the Punting-Modesty employee residence building…

…where a set of stairs led into the finished vessel…

“Whoo,” Barclay was heard to utter upon entering the hull of the vessel that Pansy had told them was named the Prowler, “satin black: very cool. Do we get to wear sunglasses when we fly this baby?”

He was even more impressed with the décor when he and Bubbles entered the Rest and Relaxation Lounge that lay directly behind the pilot’s cockpit – though he wasn’t quite so chuffed about the brightly coloured safety helmets they were obliged to wear…

“Ah, I get it.” He said as he regarded the view of outside, “these are the four windows we saw running along the top deck of the one-tenth scale model of the ship. Neat.”

Bubbles was equally impressed; but what really got her excited was the thought of clambering into the pilot’s seat – which is exactly what she did shortly after Barclay paused for breath…

It was at this moment that the significance of their previous actions that had led to this point in time and space struck them both.

“Oh crumbs, Barclay,” Bubbles said in a tiny voice. “Was simply keeping our jobs at Punting-Modesty really worth this?”

“What, like risking our lives test-flying an unproven space ship, you mean?” Barclay replied.

Bubbles confirmed his hypothesis with a, “Hmmm.”

“Well,” Barclay responded, “all I can say is: what else would we be doing? I mean – what could possibly top this in our otherwise rather dull existence?”

Bubbles looked at her colleague. “Do you really mean that?” She asked.

Barclay shrugged his shoulders. “Up until the moment I said the words,” he said, “probably not. But when I heard what my mouth was saying, I realised it was utterly true. What else would we be doing?”

“I don’t even want to think about it.” Bubbles replied as she ran her eyes across the read-outs in her pilot’s chair. “Barclay, we’ve been blessed. Let’s not let anyone spoil our chances: let’s do this thing. Let’s do this thing now. No dragging it out. No prevarication. Let’s take this ship where it belongs.”

“Up?” Barclay queried.

“Up.” Bubbles replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Another tea dust art shot was included here: did you spot it? Actually this brief episode included a heck of a lot of special photographic effects. Almost nothing you see is real. I’m rather pleased with myself on these. It’s usually the effects that take the most time to create. I’m sometimes tempted to go back to the early stories and shoot them again. But I don’t have enough years left to do that, so I think we’ll just leave them be.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 10)

Although I have returned to doing ‘other stuff’, this episode was already complete. Enjoy it at your leisure – safe in the knowledge that episode 11 exists too and will appear shortly.

Chapter 5

A short while after the daring duo’s foiled escape attempt – that being hours, not days – a number of engineering staff gathered in one of the hangars to watch Pansy Pottager introduce the barely-willing recruits to the idea of driving a hover chariot…

“You’ve driven one before, I presume?” She said.

It was not a presumption based upon logic. For whatever reason the tall red earplug had not asked herself why two young university graduates in their first jobs would have ever needed to drive a hover chariot. The University of Ciudad de Droxford had no requirement for a Search and Rescue team. The worst that could happen there was if someone twisted their knee playing badminton.

Being male, Barclay admitted nothing. He simply said:

“Here, give me the keys: I’ll give it a go. I’m like my dad: I was born to drive.”

But when his first action was to swing the nose of the chariot around so that it impacted with the hangar wall…

…Pansy snatched back the keys and handed them to Bubbles. Fortunately for everyone concerned, Bubbles truly was like Barclay’s dad. She found she had a natural talent for it…

…which pleased Pansy immeasurably. “Wonderful,” she called above the whine of the lifting jets, “you’ve passed the first manual dexterity test. Now go for a ride. Get the feel of controlling a huge machine like this.”

So she did. With Barclay as her navigator, Bubbles drove the vehicle down the mountain and on to the dusty plain…

“Just make sure you don’t mow down Don Quibonki,” Barclay said over Bubbles’ shoulder. “He lives around here, somewhere. I’m still hoping to get my deposit back on his Stone Tower B&B.”

In fact Bubbles enjoyed driving the chariot so much, they both took it out again the following night…

“I’m going to take this as an omen.” Barclay said as Bubbles drove through a steep-sided canyon. “If you’re as good a pilot as you are a chariot driver – well I think we needn’t worry too much about the vessel they’re making in the secret facility: you can ace any machine they throw at you.”

This was a vote of confidence for Bubbles. She’d had a similar thought; but to hear someone else voice it made her feel warm inside. “Thank you, Barclay.” she replied, “now I can’t wait to see what’s on offer next.”

Two days later she found out…

“It’s a Sky Scooter.” Pansy informed the duo. “You’ve probably seen video footage of one in action on Mars and Ice Station Nobby.”

Of course they hadn’t. “Sky Scooter.” Barclay said as he scrutinised the vehicle casually. “The name implies flight?”

“Indeed,” Pansy replied with a smile, “care to give it a go?”

“Don’t mind if I do.” The male earplug replied as he and Bubbles leapt aboard.

Moments later everyone  wished he deferred to Bubbles. The machine lurched around – threatening to fell the watching engineers like ten pins.

“I have the scooter, Barclay.” Bubbles said calmly as she grasped the duplicate controls.

Having done so, she eased them back and increased the thrust – virtually standing the scooter on its tail…

“I say, bravo.” The engineers called out in unison.

Moments later the sky scooter was headed for the hangar roof…

“Okay,” Barclay said, as the roof slid open at their approach, “why am I not surprised? I’ll point the way: you fly us there. But no aerobatics.”

Soon, having found a pair of silly hats in the panniers and placing them upon their heads, the scooter was putt-putting its way past the monastery…

Then Bubbles had the idea of livening up the monk’s evening…

…by ‘buzzing’ the unfortunate pink earplugs at zero feet.

“Eat my smoke.” Barclay called out to them.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 8)

And so to Part 8. This appears at a time when its creator has been very busy doing lots of ‘stuff’ that takes up an inordinate amount of his time. Production of The Veil of Shytar has dwindled quite alarmingly. Actually it’s stopped completely. Fortunately he had the wisdom and forsight to get a few episodes completed previously; so no one need poop their pants with trepidation that the tale will stagger to a halt. Enjoy…

What remained of the night was short. It wasn’t long before the artificial sun rose upon the arboretum once more…

“If that computer tells anyone about our data theft,” Barclay said with self-satisfaction, “they’ll never think of looking for the culprits here.”

“That’s right.” Bubbles replied. “I mean, who would be stupid enough to spend the night in the arboretum?”

“Yes,” Barclay said slowly, “it was bloody cold, wasn’t it? I had no idea that the artificial sun actually behaves like the real one. My bum nearly froze itself solid to that rock.”

“I was okay.” Bubbles replied. “I had my frilly knickers to keep me warm. It was the noises of all the wild animals that caused me the most concern.”

“Wild animals?” Barclay responded to this. “That wasn’t wild animals: that was my guts. I told you my tummy rumbles when I’m hungry. Oh how I curse that Café Puke manager for closing before we could purchase a cheese sandwich or two!”

“Well there’s no time like the present.” Bubbles said as she allowed her eyes to roam the huge arboretum at the museum’s centre. “We’d better get going – if only to find some breakfast.”

Quite a lot of time later…

…the exhausted data thieves dragged themselves up the final slope that led from the arboretum on to the Wide Blue Yonder and thence to the Woven Expanse.

“Not far to go now.” Bubbles said around a desiccated tongue and cracked lips. “Only about a million miles.”

Chapter 4

It was almost a week later that the barely-recovered duo found themselves approaching the Star Chamber for only the second time in their short lives…

“No need to show them your knickers, Bubbles,” Barclay spoke quietly, “this time we’ve got the upper hand. We have what they want. We’re home and dry.”

And, indeed this appeared to be the case. Although the Chamber Pots continued to act with a superior attitude, whilst remaining beneath intimidating ultra-violet lighting…

…the ambience of the place seemed subtly different. For a start Sir Loftus referred to them, not as Gloor and Scrimmage, but as Bubbles and Barclay.

After greeting them (almost warmly); then hearing their tale, he said:

“Jolly good: give me the bloody SD card then: the sooner it’s out of your knickers and in my back pocket, the happier I’ll be.”

A short while later, following the dismissal of Bubbles and Barclay, the Chamber Pots stood quietly and regarded a stale Café Puke croissant that Bubbles had pulled from her knickers and deposited in the centre of the Star Chamber…

“Smart girl, that Bubbles Gloor,” Sir Loftus said through a wide smile that perfectly matched his gleeful eyes, “who would have thought of finding something so important and virtually priceless inside a mouldy croissant down the back of an egg-heads drawers?”

“Not me.” Dick Jason replied. “And no bandit that I can think of either.”

“So our worries are over?” Jasmine Greentea inquired.

“Damned right.” Biggun Browne replied. “The bank manager wouldn’t dare call in our loan now. The Punting-Modesty Munitions Company is on the rise again!”

Seconds later the Star Chamber emptied…

…it’s former occupants were already half-way to the laboratory in which they planned to transcribe the data on the stolen SD card and begin work on reverse engineering the resultant blueprints.

Meanwhile, far away in the Museum of Future Technology, Mary-Sue Wassack was in the act of cleaning up after a busy day in the Café Puke…

The dull lighting and the sight of a half-empty glass of Croaky Cortado brought forth the memory of her ill-judged assistance of Bubbles and Barclay.

“Oh dear,” she said to an empty café, “I wonder if I should have told someone about those out-of-towners.” She sighed, before adding, “Whatever, the museum’s still here and the world hasn’t blown up – so I suppose it’s all turned out for the best.”

Several weeks were allowed to pass before Bubbles and Barclay received a summons to attend the Punting-Modesty Research and Development Department…

Naturally Bubbles said, “Oh, wow, look at this Barclay. Look at all this tech. Which bit do you think we gave them?”

Barclay couldn’t even hazard a guess. “Yeah,” He said – rather stupidly, or so thought the disgruntled scientist who was using the nearby lab toilet.

A moment later, their laboratory guide, Pansy Pottager, introduced herself then displayed the Punting-Modesty equivalent of the alien life-boat’s power source…

“We haven’t ironed out all the wrinkles yet,” Pansy informed them, “but it sure glows a nice red.”

Then she took them to see the pilot’s seats, where the seat designer – Pete Thorpe – explained that the alien life-boat hadn’t come fitted with pilot positions, so he had needed to create them from scratch…

“Nice shade of blue.” Bubbles responded. “A bit like my hair.”

“Would you like to try them on for size?” Pete invited.

“Why?” Barclay inquired.

“Oh, no particular reason.” Pete replied. “It’s just that – aah – no one’s ever sat in them before. I’d like to see if they’re nice and comfy.”

With nothing better to do, the two BINS operatives complied with the request…

“Yes, very nice.” Bubbles congratulated the seat’s designer. “All the controls fall easily to hand. The seat is soft but supportive.”

“How long do you think you could stay in that seat, would you guess?” Pansy wanted to know.

Bubbles required clarification. “What, without getting up for a wee, you mean?”

“You wouldn’t need to get out for a wee.” Pete said proudly. “The seat has a built-in lavatory. Of course the pilot wouldn’t be able to wear any pants; but I don’t suppose that really matters.”

“How long?” Pansy pressed. “An hour? Two? A day? To Mars and back?”

Barclay was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Not with the seat, but with the direction Pansy’s questions were leading. Just to shut her up, he said:

“The last one. They are very nice indeed. And who needs underpants anyway – they only need washing!”

This seemed to satisfy Pansy, so she led them to a pair of white objects that seemed vaguely familiar…

“These are atomic cannons.” She informed her guests. “Have you ever fired atomic cannons?”

Bubbles and Barclay confessed that neither of them had ever fired atomic cannons.

“Not a problem.” Pansy responded. “It’s as easy as riding a bicycle.”

Then, with an abrupt change of subject and demeanour…

…she said:

“Hey, would you like to see a one-tenth scale mock-up of our version of the alien life-boat?”

Bubbles considered this. It would seem remiss of them not to take a look at the machine that had saved their professional lives. “I’d love to.” She said.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now if I was charging a fee for these episodes, part 8 would be very good value for money. Wasn’t it long! I wonder if size really does matter – resulting in this episode  hooking some new readers. That would be nice.  Hello new readers; was that enjoyable?


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 6)

Following on from Part 5, in which sod all really happened, Part 6 takes us forward – if only a little bit. Read on…

Naturally, by the time the coffees had stopped whooshing and gurgling, the illumination had dipped to eclipse levels…

Mary-Sue would have said, “Here ya go; get that down ya.” But she didn’t because her guests were deep in conversation and she didn’t want to break their train of thought. Then the lights dipped further…

Realising that if she tried to find her way back to the counter she might catch her shin on a sharp protuberance or fall over a ruck in the vinyl flooring, Mary-Sue elected to stay where she was – hidden in the shadows. Of course she didn’t mean to listen in on the conversation between Bubbles and Barclay, but she couldn’t help herself. In the few minutes she stood there she learned everything about their mission. She noted, in particular, their back-up plan of becoming Baristas.

“Flipping heck,” she said, sotto voce to herself, “I’m hanging on to this job by my fingernails: I don’t need no flipping competition.”

It was in this briefest of moments in history that Mary-Sue made her momentous decision:

“Excuse me.” She said from the darkness, “but I think I know of something that might interest you.”

She then proceeded to tell her customers of the arrival of an alien life-boat aboard the Submarine Space Freighter that – only a few weeks earlier – had been responsible for saving the museum and surrounding planetary surface from an artificially-induced ice-age.

“It’s real hot-poop, they tell me,” she finished. “All kinds of alien tech and stuff. I guess you’d probably find it in one of the secret UFO hangars. Here, I’ll draw a map for you, on this napkin.”

Well, for Bubbles and Barclay, it was like Happy Flids Day and the Annual Farting Contest had come together. Trying not to sound too enthusiastic, Bubbles said:

“Thank you, that’s very kind. I shall cherish this.”

Once the lights came back up, and Mary-Sue was able to make her way safely to the counter…

…she and the other Baristas watched as the out-of-towners quickly finished their coffees and got up to leave.

“Ooh,” she said to Jungle-Jake and Moyst…

…”I think I might have done something really silly. I’ve given them two earplugs some info what might be top secret. I could get shot for treason or something.”

“Best not tell anyone then, eh.” Jungle-Jake replied.

This was sound advice, but nevertheless she couldn’t stop herself from watching Bubbles and Barclay as they departed the Café Puke…

But then someone called for a slice of lardy cake and some chocolate covered raisins, and she forgot all about it.”

Chapter 3

Bubbles very quickly realised just how detailed and accurate Mary-Sue’s hastily scribbled map was when, in a matter of minutes, they discovered a corridor intended for the use of the maintenance department…

“Hey,” Barclay said enthusiastically as they turned into it, “I’m impressed.”

But a short while later, when they discovered the hangar bereft of UFOs, alien life-boats, or anything else for that matter…

…his good mood quickly waned:

“Perhaps I was a little premature.” Barclay moaned. “I’m not really very impressed at all.”

Of course Bubbles was disappointed too; but, being Barclay’s supervisor, it fell to her to rectify the situation. She thought quickly. Running an image of the museum’s exterior through her silicon brain…

…she recalled the existence of the Red Tower.

“Barclay,” she squealed, “I think I know where the curators would have hidden the alien life-boat!”

“You do?”  Her surprised subordinate replied. “Hey, no wonder they made you the boss. Where is it?”

Naturally Bubbles told him, and together they decided to wait until nightfall before making their incursion into the forbidden zone…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022.


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 4)

Two days without going near a motorcycle or shopping gives a creative genius a whole bunch of time to work upon his magnum opus. Hour upon hour – either in the shed looking for bits and pieces; in the attic studio shooting pictures of the aforementioned bits and pieces; sat at  computer manipulating the resulting photographs; and on a laptop adding greats words of mirth, means that 150 shots are in the can, and four chapters complete. So, without further ado, let’s get funky…

Come morning, Bubbles and Barclay were up with the lark and quickly traversing the distance that separated the city from the museum. Having caught the first train in, they now stood at one of the museum’s many entrances. Well Bubbles was; Barclay had raced in pell-mell and now stood inside and awaited his supervisor…

“Hey, look,” he called, “we’ve arrived before the Robot Ticket Collector has come on duty. We can get in for free.”

But, as early as they were, neither Barclay nor Bubbles were the first earplugs to enter the museum that day. Already Mary-Sue, Jungle-Jake, and their small mauve colleague – Moyst Towlet – were serving the first customers of the day in the Café Puke…

“Sorry,” Moyst addressed the bug-eyed apparition across the counter, “the Crappachino machine aint working today. We got an engineer coming in from town later. It’s off. How about you try defecated?”

Meanwhile, in another part of the vast emporium, Bubbles and Barclay now strode along one of the main thoroughfares. Although they had visited the museum once before, time (and the consumption of many glasses of rhubarb wine) had blurred Barclay’s recollection of both the event and the geography of the building… 

“I’m so confused.” He complained. “There’s just so much going on. It will take a while for me to acclimate to this environment.”

But, naturally, Bubbles wasn’t really listening: she was too busy enjoying re-living her youth. “I know,” she said in an abrupt change of subject, “let’s visit the Woven Expanse. We don’t have to walk far on it: just stand there and take in the ambiance.”

So they did…

And, like the two pink earplugs that joined them at the expanse’s edge, Barclay wondered what was so wonderful about looking across a vast, flat plain – at another vast flat plain named the Wide Blue Yonder.

“This sucks.” He groaned. “Let’s try somewhere else.”

So they did. They visited the Age of Stone exhibit…

…and watched as two drunken visitors fell into the moat. Then it was on to the Nul-Space Power Generator…

…which didn’t enthrall Bubbles much.

“I may be your supervisor in a technological manufacturing company,” she said very sternly to Barclay, “but I’m a girl. I like ‘girly’ things. Big machines just don’t float my boat. Can you dig it?”

So they tried a new exhibit named Star City, which was based upon a multi-species city that had been (or would be) built upon an asteroid in the neutral zone between galactic empires in the future…

A USB plug stood guard at the entrance. But it didn’t really enjoy the task: it hated confrontation.

However, and despite the interesting artifacts inside the Star City, both earplugs wished to move on quickly: they had a task to perform after all. So they stopped to ask a Robot Security Guard – or RoboSecGua as they were better known – for directions to the nearest cafeteria. Naturally the servo-mechanism took umbrage at their wasting of its cyber-time, and told them, very gruffly indeed, to find themselves a Robot Guide…

“All you have to do,” it growled through its huge olfactory array, “is whistle.”

So, once they’d departed the vicinity and found themselves a dark quiet area in which to giggle at the RoboSecGua’s reaction to their question, they did just as it had suggested. Moments later…

“Hiya, my name is X2 Zero.” The Robot Guide announced cheerfully as it rounded the corner. “If you so wish I will be your guide for the day. If you only need me for a few minutes…well that’s fine too. Everything is fine and dandy in the Museum of Future Technology. Where were you thinking of visiting next? Would you care for a list? Do you require a lavatory really fast? I know a short cut from here. Have you experienced an accident in your pants? I know a good laundry – and it’s just two minutes away.”

“Shut up.” Barclay snapped. “We want a coffee.”

“Café Puke is the official provider of coffee in the Museum of Future Technology.” X2 Zero responded. “But should you prefer a clandestine tipple, I can take you to several unofficial suppliers, none of which are more than twenty minutes away by foot.”

“Too much information.” Barclay yelled.

“Take us to the nearest Café Puke.” Bubbles said more gently.

If the robot guide could have grinned widely, it might have reached around to the back of its head. “Sho’nuf, pretty lady.” It replied. “Let’s get down!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, it would appear that the robot guide and I share the same speech patterns.


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 2)

Well I’ve cobbled together enough photos (and thought up a few words) for the next instalment: try to enjoy…

Two minutes later Bubbles and Barclay were crossing the courtyard that led to the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company offices…

Whilst Barclay appeared grim and certain of his fate, Bubbles remained hopeful that they weren’t about to receive their severance papers:

“Whatta we gonna do, Barclay?” She wailed. “What can we say to convince them to keep us on? Shall I show them my knickers or something? They’re very frilly. Do you think that would help?”

She was still trembling when they entered the sales office corridor. In fact she was feeling slightly nauseous…

As they passed posters that depicted the company’s most famous product…

…Bubbles paused to regard them.

“Just think,” she said gravely, “this could be the very last time we ever walk these hallowed corridors and gaze upon our forbear’s work of genius.”

“The XL5 is a pile of junk,” Barclay said with a dismissive grunt. “The only time it was used in anger was in the battle against those sentinel robots from the future: and it was totally rubbish. Couldn’t hit a sodding thing. The Earplug Brothers had to visit Mars in order to find a weapon that worked against their cybernetic foe.”

He then suggested that they “get this thing over and done with.” So, thirty seconds later one of the board members became aware of their approach towards the Star Chamber…

But by the time that the junior employees had stepped into view, he, or she, had resumed his, or her, position beneath the ultra-violet lighting, in which he, or she, thought that he, or she, looked most intimidating…

“Ooh-err,” Barclay managed after swallowing several times, “I’m feeling slightly intimidated, Bubbles: do you think you could do all the talking?”

Bubbles might have replied in either the positive or the negative, but Barclay never found out which. This was because the Chairman of the Board –  Sir Loftus Pupe – indicated that they both proceed into the room, which of course they did…

Under the artificial lighting it was difficult for the young earplugs to discern the true colouring of the Star Chamber personnel. Consequently it was impossible to read their expressions…

But both thought they recognised Sir Loftus sufficiently well to look in his direction. Unfortunately they were both wrong, which slightly amused the board members…

Looking up from a small square of paper, upon which someone had scribbled the names of Bubbles and Barclay, Sir Loftus turned his attention upon them and quickly slipped the note into a pocket, lest they think he lived in an ivory tower and didn’t know his own staff by either sight or name. His yellow eyes glowing in the blue air, Sir Loftus then addressed his ‘guests’…

“Oi, you two; look this way. I’m the boss – Sir Loftus Pupe. Here, here, you buffoons. I’m over here. Whose stupid idea was it to have ultra-violet lighting? I’m all but bloody invisible!”

To fellow Star Chamber members, Sopier Clandestino and Leon Solent, the situation appeared to be turning into a comedy sketch. But others, such as Dick Jason and Gilly Charlick, felt less comfortable: they had seen Sir Loftus in a rage previously in their careers: they didn’t care to witness the spectacle again…

Fortunately fellow Star Chamber members – known locally as Chamber Pots – Jasmine Greentea and Biggun Browne defused the situation by smiling slightly and putting Bubbles and Barclay at ease. Well Jasmine did: Biggun merely looked stern, but fair…

“If you can’t see Sir Loftus, darlings,” Jasmine said gently, “just look for a pair of disembodied yellow eyes.”

Grateful for this advice, both youngsters did as they were bid.

“Jolly good.” Sir Loftus said as Bubbles and Barclay finally located his position in the darkened room. “Now to business.”

Well, for the next five minutes the Chairman of the Board proceeded to list all of his junior employee’s inadequacies. He lambasted them for their incompetence and lack of scientific imagination. He let them know, in no uncertain terms that they were useless and of no value to Punting-Modesty. He informed them that he fully intended to release them from their contracts and personally kick them out of the building.

“Yeah,” he snarled, “I’m gonna boot you right up the arse!”

But just as Bubbles’ and Barclay’s knees thought they could knock no louder, and their dental fillings began loosening, a partial reprieve was presented by Biggun Browne:

“Ya get one more chance.” He said bluntly and with no hint of kindness. “One final shot at staying aboard. If you can conjure up one idea between you, right here and now, the Star Chamber are willing to listen. We are not without mercy for those who can think on their feet.”

Both youngsters grabbed this life-line like a plugmutt that has fallen from a cross-channel ferry clutches at rubber rings, discarded deck hatches, old mattresses and other marine flotsam. Desperation and hope gave wings to their minds. After a quick consultation Bubbles replied:

“Despite our best efforts,” she said with surprising forthrightness, “we can’t think of any weapon or vehicle that might interest the Museum of Future Technology. But maybe we can steal someone else’s idea. It’s a thought that Barclay and I had once, quite a while ago, in a Café Puke outlet during a visit to the museum.”

Noting that Bubbles had piqued the Chamber Pot’s interest, Barclay joined in. Together they explained their tentative plan to re-visit the museum and steal technology therein; return it to Punting-Modesty, where it could be reverse-engineered, reconfigured, and made useful as a device with defensive capabilities.

“Bit of a long-shot, don’t you think?” Sir Loftus said to this, whilst his eyes scanned the room in search of either doubt or confirmation of his own thoughts in the eyes of the other Chamber Pots.

Jasmine Greentea avoided her Chairman’s eyes. “I think it’s a lovely idea, darlings.” She said. “You get my vote.”

“Since when has the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company been a democracy?” Biggun Browne retorted.

“I’m just saying.” Jasmine replied slightly defensively.

“Well it’s the best idea I’ve heard lately.” Sopier Clandestino offered his help.

“What have we got to lose?” Gilly Charlick added.

Dick Jason threw in his two-penny worth:

“Nothing.” He roared, “Let’s give the kids a chance!”

“If we don’t have some business plan to offer the company’s bank manager,” Leon Solent spoke gravely, “he’s gonna pull the rug from right under us. We’ll all be out on our arse!”

Sir Loftus made a characteristically fast decision. “On your way.” He instructed his underlings. “But there’s nothing in petty cash: you’ll have to pay your way there. Now sod off to the Museum of Future Technology sharpish: bring us something back we can use. Be gone!”

So it was a surprised and, quite frankly, invigorated couple of young earplugs who made for the Star Chamber exit…

“Can you believe this?” Barclay whispered to his supervisor.

“Yes.” Bubbles replied. “And I’m not overly enamoured with the prospect. I have only fifteen Pluggentos in the bank, and three-fifty in my purse: if we’re going to pay our way to the Museum of Future Technology, you are going to have to cough up the dough.”

“Oh-no,” Barclay wailed at the news – rather more loudly than he’d planned – “I was saving up for a nice pea-shucking holiday on the dusty plain below Lemon Stone. I’d even booked a room at Don Quibonki’s stone tower Bed and Breakfast. Oh, I’m so disappointed!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That was a good episode – if you like the colour blue.


Climatic Calamity – in it’s entirety – COMPLETELY FREE!

You may have missed the odd episode of Climatic Calamity along the way; but that doesn’t matter anymore because the free PDF version has arrived for you to either download and read at your leisure (and perhaps share with your friends), or to read in situ right here. Try to comprehend the magnitude of this wondrous offer: it is almost unequaled in the history of literature and photography – exceptions being all the other Earplug Adventures. Imagine, all those photos: all those words: all that creative genius – absolutely FREE! Just click on the book cover image, and it’s all yours – to hug to your breast and covet like a…urr…covetable thing!

Earlier Earplug Adventure books are also available too. Visit the All Earplug Adventures in PDF Format Unexpurgated & FREE! page beneath the header, and click away to your heart’s content. There has to be one there you’ll enjoy.

Flipping heck – forty-six e-books in little over eight years: I’m a veritable mass production machine. And the quality just keeps on getting higher!

P.S I know there’s no such word as covetable – but you know what I mean. Covetable: something worth coveting.

Climatic Calamity (part 28)

And so to the penultimate episode. Yes, I know it hurts, but you must face facts: there is only one more episode to follow this one. Gird yourself: enjoy it while you can. Read on…

Inside the Museum of Future Technology, and despite the subdued lighting and snow covered skylights, inhabitants and visitors alike, swarmed into the Grand Hall in search of information and a back door out of the place. In fact so frenetic were their efforts that a ‘goon squad’ of RoboSecGuas had to intercede in affairs…

In El Ciudad de Droxford, shell-shocked shoppers emerged into the streets of the retail area, unable to believe that their enforced stay in unpopular department stores was finally at an end…

“I never want to go near the bed linen section again – as long as I live.” One particularly disgruntled husband was heard to say above the general hub-bub.”

“For me it was the fishing tackle section that most offended.” His wife countered. “Wherever I sat, I kept getting those damned fishing rods poked up my bum!”

With its mission completed, the freighter flew directly above the museum and performed a victory roll…

Those watching below waved and cheered. Further away, the Ice-Worlder rescue teams began entering outlying areas in search of survivors…

“Oh look,” one of them cried out, “it’s an out-of-town shopping mall. And look at the state of it. Shoddily built out of second rate materials, I’d wager. That would never do on our home world!”

In addition, those ‘more responsible’ earplugs amongst the population were using their hover chariots and sky scooters to search the plain for lost nuclear missile scientists…

Moreover, the farther the freighter flew, the faster the climatic change became apparent. Already some low mountain peaks were showing black against the brightening sky…

But once it was satisfied that the reversal of the ice-age was truly underway, the Captain turned away from the view screen…

…and said:

“Right: let’s get ourselves back to the Museum of Future Technology!”

So, within moments, those same crowds that waved and cheered as the freighter had passed overhead earlier now watched it descend and settle upon a landing tower…

“Now comes the bit that I haven’t been looking forward to.” The Captain said as the engines wound down into silence. “We have to meet our adoring public.”

No one was keen, but they knew it was an absolute necessity – none less than Hellfire, who quickly spotted a sign that pointed towards the sole lavatory…

“You go ahead,” he said. “I’ll catch up. There’s something I need to do first.”

“Lucky you.” Shortarse commented. “As a robot I have no such excuse for delaying in inevitable.”

“True,” Erronious said with a faint smile, “but you don’t have any underpants in which to have an accident either.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Return, for the final time, to witness the obligatory EPILOGUE!


Climatic Calamity (part 25)

In episode 25 you get even bigger bangs for your buck. And…ah-hem…a touch of nudity. Read on…

Far away, aboard the life-boat, the next explosion shone brightly upon the view screen…

Of course no one, with the exception of Peggy, wanted to witness the destruction of their ship and crewmate, so they looked away.

As the craft began to accelerate under its own power, the distant explosion grew in size and intensity…

“Uh-oh,” some unnamed crew member groaned as the explosion exceeded expectations by a thousand fold…

… “Something on the planetoid must have blown up too. Hold on to your hats!”

The next second that distant explosion became a very personal event. The blast wave threw the life-boat across parsecs of space, and stripped it clean of ablative armour…

But it survived – a testament to the skills of its builders.

Chapter 10

In the following days, Peggy taught the crew to maintain the vessel’s systems, whilst Celestino looked out upon an uncaring cosmos and revelled in the fact that nothing out there sold him the ‘truth’ about anything. Moreover, in maintaining his ignorance of internal affairs aboard ship, he was unaware that Erronious and Hellfire spent most of their time doing sod-all and mooching about the ship whilst picking their noses and scratching their bums…

Following necessary repairs, the battle-scarred life-boat finally got underway and quickly moved to supra-light speed…

However, just a few hours into their faster-than-light journey, a horrifying image appeared on-screen…

“By the Cyber-Saint of All Robots,” the Captain squawked, “It’s a huge hooded figure!”

The superbly-designed ship made an automatic avoidance manoeuvre…

“Oh-no,” Hellfire wailed, “we failed. It’s the Wonky Supreme Being. That’s it: we’re stuffed: he’s gonna be really miffed!”

But Celestino fretted not one bit. He already knew the true identity of the god-like being that appeared to thwart their passage. “No, Hellfire,” he said, “It’s…

…the real Supreme Being!”

“Hiya, Guys.” The Supreme Being’s massive voice rattled from the ships audio system, “Okay if I come aboard?”

Naturally the creator of Earplugdom didn’t wait for permission. A split second later he was amongst them – and he wasn’t alone…

“Ta-da,” he yelled. “I figured you’d miss this little guy; so I pulled it out of the explosion before it became part of it. Hey, what do you think about my miniaturisation? Look, I’m almost a tiny as you. Of course I’m not commensurately puny too: I’m still big-bad-me.”

Of course everyone was surprised and thrilled to have the Catering Assistant back with them. But the Captain openly questioned the Supreme Being’s motivation.

“I’ve had minor gods scouring all of space and time looking for my evil doppelganger.” S B replied. “Couldn’t get a sniff of him. Then everything went arse-about-face at the Museum of Future Technology, and I thought, ‘Ah-ha, could this be the work of Wonky?’, so I hung around and kept watch. You guys led me to him.”

Celestino laughed. “And it wasn’t the planetoid exploding or sub-atomically unstable space tearing itself into constituent quarks and bosons that threw us across space.” He cried. “It was something you did.”

S B looked at his (truly) non-existent fingernails. “Me?” He replied. “As if… Actually I took advantage of the moment. As Wonky fought to stop the explosion with his pseudo-god-like powers, I nipped in and shoved a hydrogen bomb down the back of his underpants. When he broke wind in surprise – blammo – no more false god.”

The Supreme Being then began his farewells, but Erronious interrupted him:

“Say, S B,” he said, “when I was trying to annoy your doppelganger, I told him that his buttocks weren’t as meaty as yours. Was I right?”

Hellfire was about to apologise upon Erronious’ behalf, but the Supreme Being forestalled him: “Wanna see my bum, huh?” He roared. “Well check this out.”

This earned him a round of applause and cries of ‘encore’. Moreover, his brazen act proved that the real S B had far meatier buttocks than his pretender. He had other things too, but no one felt sufficiently qualified to comment upon them.

“Well I must dash,” his voice boomed as he disappeared, “I have a galaxy to run.”

So, as S B disco danced at supra-light speed on-screen, Celestino, the former burglars, and Peggy welcomed the Catering Assistant aboard – whilst the Captain informed the Second Officer that it would soon be taking over duties in the Café Puke on the next voyage.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There, wasn’t that nice! But things go awry pretty soon in the next episode, so you’d better be there to see it.

P.S I’m very grateful to the Captain and it’s glowing brain: otherwise I couldn’t have used the naked Supreme Being shot at all!

Climatic Calamity (part 24)

Rarely does pathos rear its head in the Earplug Adventures; but episode 24 gives it a go. Read on…

The Captain had raced to the auto-destruct compartment: the return journey took more than three times as long to complete…

“Guests,” the Captain used an all-encompassing term for the four beings that stood before it, “I have the sad duty to inform you that the Catering Assistant won’t be accompanying us on our journey back to Earth.”

Celestino’s talent meant that the robot need not have uttered another word through its cheap plastic forward speaker: he already knew the truth. But Erronious, Hellfire, and Peggy required further information.

“Yeah?” Erronious spoke into the brief silence that followed the Captain’s opening gambit, “why’s that then?”

“Because,” the mauve robot replied, “the Catering Assistant will replace the auto-destruct trigger. It will blow up the ship manually.”

Naturally the reluctant pea farmers complained bitterly. They said lots of rude words. One of them was ‘bum’. And another one was ‘carp’, or a word that looks very similar when written down. But it was to no avail, and soon the black robot departed upon its final mission.

After Celestino had urged Erronious and Hellfire to follow the Catering Assistant with the words: “I think it has something it would like to discuss with you before committing suicide,” the Captain and First Officer looked at each other.

“There goes a brave robot.” The Captain said quietly.

“Not sure I could do it Sir.” The First Officer replied. “Not in my specifications, I’m sorry to say. Will you be mentioning it in despatches, Sir?”

“Oh absolutely.” The Captain replied in an instant. “If one existed, I’d demand that the Catering Assistant – stroke Fifth Officer – received a medal posthumously. But, rightly or wrongly, that is not the robotic way.”

A short while later the two earplugs joined the Catering Assistant as it prepared to insert a widget into a thingamabob…

They didn’t try to dissuade the black robot: but they did suggest that it express its feelings. So it did:

“You know that belief that earplugs have about a life after physical oblivion?”

“Silicon Valley?” Hellfire suggested.

“That’s the one.” The Catering Assistant replied. “That belief has the dead crossing a vast bridge from this life into the next.”

“That’s right.” Erronious said. “It’s supposed to be very beautiful.”

“Well,” the robot continued as though Erronious had not spoken, “there is a faction of robot-kind that has a similar belief. They believe that a huge, lumpy, yellow bridge separates here from there…

…and that we see the ghosts of lost ships on the way across it. Further, once we have completed the passage, we are taken into the embrace of cyber-heaven.”

“Are you one of those who believe?” Hellfire asked gently – almost hopefully…

The Catering Assistant’s ocular devices shifted to the ceiling. “I’d like to imagine it’s true.” It said. “But I have no proof: nothing tangible: any empirical data.”

“Bah,” Erronious scoffed. “You don’t need them: you just need faith. If you can imagine it – that makes it possible. Anything that’s possible is certainly probable. If you – and others like you – can imagine the huge, lumpy, yellow bridge; the ghosts of lost ships; and cyber-heaven, it’s probably because it’s real. Just believe in it enough, and you can make it happen. Bon voyage, Fifth Officer of the Drunkard’s Vomit: may you watch her sweep silently by as you cross the bridge.”

As the two earplugs made their farewells, the bridge crew had lifted the Drunkard’s Vomit so that it hung above the brightly-lit towers of Vacuum City…

Then, pushing the forward thrusters to the max, the submarine space freighter blasted free from the planetoid’s feeble gravitonic attraction…

Thereafter, having gained sufficient distance from the planetoid, the life-boat, containing the crew and passengers of the Drunkard’s Vomit, departed the main hold at high speed…

Then, as the submarine space freighter slid back towards the planetoid, the Catering Assistant hit the destruct button…

Green lights indicated that the device had activated. The ship was only seconds away from total destruction. But then something completely unexpected happened…

“Ugh?” the Catering Assistant managed before dissolution, “I feel myself being disassembled and taken…where…?”

However any potential thoughts were circumvented when the ship’s hull exploded spectacularly in several directions…

This exposed the engine core to cosmic radiation, to which it was sub-atomically allergic. The result was the Wonky Supreme Being suddenly becoming aware that the gig was up – permanently…

…and shouting, “Arrrrrse!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What just happened? Surely it can’t be true? Flipping heck! Return for the next episode, and find out…uh…what happened next.

Climatic Calamity (part 23)

If you’re reading this tale for the first time…where the heck have you been? Do you realize how much you’ve missed? Now go back to the beginning – there’s only 22 episodes before this one: you know you’ll like it. For those readers who are up-to-date – read on…

Meanwhile, a heck of a long way away, the Captain and three of its robotic bridge officers watched as Celestino Candalabra led the unexpectedly triangular Peggy through Vacuum City towards the Drunkard’s Vomit

“Strange alien en route Sir.” The Second Officer informed its commanding officer unnecessarily.

“I can see that.” The mauve robot replied coldly. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I do possess functioning ocular apparatus.”

“No Brownie Points for the Second Officer Sir?” The Third Officer both inquired and suggested in one brief sentence.

“Indeed.” The Captain replied. “Open a hatch and let them in.”

Moments later Celestino had arrived with Peggy in tow. He noted absentmindedly the arrival of the Catering Assistant: gave a brief account of Vacuum City’s history; explained that the creators of the weather weapon that had struck Earth had always been smart enough to build a countermeasure before releasing the weapon to any potential buyers; and presented the Captain with the contents of his back pocket…

Whilst the First, Second, and Third Officers re-ran a CCTV video of Erronious and Hellfire in their silly hats, the Captain scanned the five black objects.

“I don’t understand.” It said. “My sensors detect biological material. They appear to be nothing more than simple seeds.

“They are the Seeds of Change,” Peggy informed the robot whilst it’s single eye studied the antics of the two former criminals. “They reverse the situation into which they are introduced. An analogy might be…um…perhaps…Well I can’t think of one right now; but, rest assured they will work.”

“A broad spectrum antibiotic.” Celestino said cheerfully. “That’s the analogy Peggy sought. Only much more complicated, talented, and complex.”

“So what do we do with them?” The suddenly attentive Second Officer inquired.

“We fly them back to Earth.” Celestino explained. “Then, after we’ve entered the atmosphere, we fly over the original contamination point and seed the sky above it with these. Apparently they burst on contact with oxygen, and send their spores everywhere. These, in turn, act upon the original contaminant and reverse its DNA – making it reverse its effect upon the environment. It’s all very clever. If they hadn’t buggered off across the Galaxy yonks ago, I’d tip my metaphorical hat to the creators of this.”

“There we have a problem.” The Captain said gravely. “We can’t fly home in this ship: it’s been rigged to self-destruct. It’s the only way that we can guarantee that we destroy the planet’s worst-ever enemy – the Wonky False Supreme Being.”

In an instant Celestino was struck dumb with distraught emotions as he ‘saw’ the truth in the robot’s complete lack of expression. Peggy, on the other hand, didn’t give a toss:

“Hey,” it said, “no problem: we can use my ship. Strictly speaking it’s a life-boat. My creators left it for me, just in case I needed to escape Vacuum City. Well fancy that: I do. It’s pretty big. Too big for one. Wanna see it?”

Thirty seconds later a squad of robots departed their vessel…

But they were already fifteen seconds behind their Captain and its guests…

“Strange architecture,” the robot opined as it quickly scrutinised the life-boat’s ‘bridge’. It then added: “Nothing a lick of colourant wouldn’t put right anyway.”

Moments later the squad of robots arrived…

…along with Hellfire, Erronious, the Catering Assistant, and Shortarse.

“Looks bigger on the inside than it does on the outside.” Hellfire observed. “Of course it’s an optical illusion; but it’s very good. Does it come in a variety of shades? This one reminds me of a drunken weekend I once had in a seafront boarding house. The wallpaper was this colour, and so were the contents of my stomach.”

Chapter 9

Naturally plans were quickly hatched to transfer to the life boat everything of importance in the Drunkard’s Vomit. But as a crew member double-checked the auto-destruct mechanism, an alarm sounded and the ship went to magenta alert…

It wasted no more than a nanosecond before informing the bridge…

As the crew member made its report over the intercom, both the Captain and the First Officer were forced to tear their gaze from the main screen, which displayed the image of their preferred medium beyond the city walls, and think quickly.

“The auto-destruct has a glitch.” The Captain repeated the unfortunate news to his immediate subordinate. “What’s the protocol for such a failure?”

The First Officer searched its memory banks. “There isn’t one Sir. It’s never happened before. The system is fool-proof.”

“Curses,” the Captain…ah…cursed. “It must be that meddling Wonky Supreme Being. He’s obviously put a non-existential spanner in the works. What are we going to do? How do we blow up the ship?”

All the while that the superior officers threw ideas about, the Catering Assistant made its way to the auto-destruct cabinet…

“Oh yes,” it said to itself, “this will never work. A key component has ceased to exist: there is no trigger mechanism. Arse!”

Thereafter it contacted the Captain. Shortly the same Captain joined it at the auto-destruct cabinet…

“Were my auditory receivers playing silly-buggers with my brain?” the Captain cyber-blurted. “Do you really have the solution to our conundrum? And is it really as desperately personal as you suggested via the intercom?”

Calmly the Catering Assistant replied, “It is Sir – I’m sorry to say: but needs must, and all that. But first, I wonder if I might visit the bridge before I carry out my duty, Sir?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What’s this? Could cyber-heroics be the order of the day? Return for episode 24 to find out!

P.S Did anyone recognize the auto-destruct compartment? It’s one of the Gravity Whelk sets turned on its side. I never build a new set, if an old set will do. They did it on Star Trek: The Next Generation: why shouldn’t I?


Climatic Calamity (part 21)

For anyone joining the series here, this isn’t a serious piece about climate change. I don’t do ‘serious’. This is a fantasy set in an alternative reality wherein life is silicon-based. The central characters are…wait for it…EARPLUGS. Yeah! Read on…

Chapter 8

It took a while, but both Erronious and Hellfire finally gathered their wits and decorum…

Sadly they were less successful when attempting to remove the Wonky Supreme Being’s silly hats. In fact they still wore them when they eventually found the airlocks into the hangar area…

Whether it was the dry ship’s air, or perhaps the glue that held the hats to their craniums had a short half-life, no one will ever know; but once aboard the Drunkard’s Vomit again, the hats simply fell off. As a result both earplugs could make their way towards the bridge with a degree of pride in their appearance…

“We have to tell the Captain everything we know.” Hellfire said. “This is a disaster far worse than I’d imagined – and I certainly didn’t imagine meeting the false Supreme Being. He’s really got it in for earplugs.”

“Yeah,” Erronious agreed, “but we’ll leave out the bit about hanging upside down over Vacuum City and the silly hats, okay? Neither are important in the grand scheme of things.”

Hellfire was only too pleased to acquiesce to his partner’s suggestion. “Right on!” he said in a fair imitation of Valentine Earplug.

Moments later they encountered a crew member…

“You appear to have returned intact.” It said. Then scrutinizing them closely, it added, “and you appear to have a glue-like residue upon your heads. Have you been wearing silly hats?”

To which Erronious replied:

“None of your flipping business, Big Nose. Now take us to the captain: we’ve got some really urgent information.”

The robot, if nothing else, was of the rapid response kind. It took off like a supercharged zombie in search of living flesh. Erronious and Hellfire had to greatly accelerate their metabolisms in order to keep up…

So they felt a little light-headed when they arrived at the Robot Recharge Unit…

“The Captain will be done momentarily.” The Catering Assistant informed them. “Were you successful? You don’t look successful. You look…hassled.”

Erronious was about to reply in a defensive manner, when it became obvious that the recharge was complete…

“What?” The Captain said when the earplugs related their tale to it. “This is the worst kind of news that I’ve ever heard of. It stretches my mental capacity to the very boundaries of my design and construction. Are you certain that the False Supreme Being is responsible for the ice-age? I mean – you couldn’t have misunderstood him, or anything? Might he not be taking credit for someone else’s work?”

“You’re sounding desperate, Captain.” The Catering Assistant whispered loudly enough to make sure that everyone upon the deck could hear. “It’s time to face facts, whether you like them or not.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” the Captain said as it quickly recovered from both the surprisingly awful news and the rushed re-charge. Stepping from the machine it added, “I think we should plan for a worst case scenario.”

Hellfire was relieved that the Captain hadn’t inquired about the traces of adhesive upon their heads. He smiled faintly at the thought. Erronious had other thoughts though. He was wondering what a worst case scenario might involve – but he didn’t want to ask, just in case it was something really scary. So, instead of saying anything, he followed the Captain, the First Officer, and the Catering Assistant into a compartment that hitherto had been hidden from them…

“This looks terribly important, Erronious.” Hellfire said in a small voice that belied his confident criminal past, “what do you suppose it does?”

“Don’t know.” Erronious replied more confidently. “Let’s check out what the First Officer is doing.”

But, of course, the robot’s actions taught them exactly nothing. It didn’t answer their questions either. So they returned their attention to the others…


However it quickly became apparent that both robots were communing with the ship’s main computer. Verbal questions were out of the…uh…question.

Erronious spoke quietly, so not to disturb the robots:

“I wish Celestino was here. He knows tech stuff better than us. He might hazard a guess.”

“We’ll just have to wait until they’ve finished.” Hellfire whispered. “Where is Celestino anyway – wasn’t he supposed to be following us? You don’t suppose he’s lost, do you?”

“Unless he’s got the antidote in his back pocket,” Erronious said half-way indifferently, “I don’t care where he is or what he’s doing.”

Then, without a word from either servomechanism, the task appeared complete…


“All done?” Erronious inquired.

“Indeed it is, Mister Bosche.” The Captain replied. “I can now enact the Drunkard’s Vomit’s self-destruct sequence from anywhere aboard ship – or elsewhere using my cell phone.”

“A job well-done Sir.” The Catering Assistant congratulated its superior. “I assume my assistance was of value to you?”

“It was indeed.” The Captain replied. “Rest assured, should this mission be completed successfully, I will be looking for a new Catering Assistant.”

“Excuse me.” Erronious broke in on the robotic conversation. “Did I hear you correctly? Did you say something about the self-destruct – like in blowing us all to Silicon Valley?”

“Worst case scenario, Mister Bosche.” The Catering Assistant replied. “It would be reprehensible for any captain to ignore the possibility and act accordingly. If it proves necessary to blow this ship to…as you suggest humorously… Silicon Valley – that is what we will do.”   

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What’s this, the Drunkard’s Vomit going the same way as the USS Enterprise in Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock? Surely not – the bloody thing has only appeared in two stories. What a waste. Oh, but we haven’t reached that point yet, have we: maybe it can yet be saved. Return for later episodes – like the next one, for example – to find out if our beloved shampoo bottle-derived vessel will survive the tale.

Climatic Calamity (part 19)

In part 19 we discover who the culprit is. If you’re a long-term Earplugger, you’ll have probably guessed already. Well here’s confirmation of your conjecture…

Whilst Celestino’s quest was meeting with definite success, Erronious and Hellfire’s less so. A loud clearing of a vast throat caused them to look up from the corridor along which they were being led. Erronious wasn’t enthralled by what he saw. Hellfire was simply horrified…

“It’s…it’s…” He stammered.

“No it’s not.” Erronious said more calmly. “It just looks like him.”

“Huh,” the Wonky Fake Supreme Being looked down his considerable nose at the tiny, puny, almost insignificant earplugs below him, “how do you know I’m not the Supreme Being? I look exactly like him. I’m really powerful and frightfully handsome. You can’t possibly be that certain!”

Whilst Hellfire tried to bring his recalcitrant bowel under control, Erronious blew a loud ‘raspberry’…

“Because,” he said whilst trying to conjure up some more saliva for a second burst, “the proper Supreme Being wears glasses. And he has a meatier bum too.”

Wonky SB tittered at Erronious’ temerity…

“My,” he said, “I wonder if he knows his rear end is held in such esteem. When, eventually I defeat him, I’ll keep that little known fact to myself. Now step up here, little people, I’d like a word.”

With that he reached down and plucked the daring duo from the ground…

Having done so in one of the most uncomfortable manners possible, he said:

“I don’t know you two. Don’t tell me your names: I don’t want to know. I was rather betting that it would be the Earplug Brothers who wound up here in the hind end of space with me. Instead I get you two. I’m not overly pleased with this situation, because…”

At that point the Wonky Fake Supreme Being went ape…

“I bloody hate the Earplug Brothers!” He roared. “And that sodding green thing that one of the twins is involved with. And as regards to Magnuss’ wife…”

“Hair-Trigger.” Hellfire said helpfully.

“Is that her name?” Wonky calmed slightly to absorb this information. “Hair-Trigger? What a bloody silly name. I hate it. But I only hate it half as much as I hate Magnuss. I want him here. I want to see him suffer. You two…you two are just wasting my time. I can’t even be bothered with you. Sod off back to doing whatever you think you’re doing. What are you doing, anyway? Don’t answer that: I don’t want to know.”

All the while he had been waving Erronious and Hellfire above the tall towers of Vacuum City…

…which scared the heck out of them. But if that wasn’t sufficient to ruin their day, he then hung them between his outstretched fingers…

Naturally they had failed to hear a word he’d said following Hellfire’s two spoken words. So when he finally lowered them back to the ground…

…they weren’t entirely compos mentis…

And the Wonky SB had shoved some very silly hats on their heads too, which didn’t help the situation at all – though it did amuse the pseudo-God. But worse was to come. Silly hats were the least of the brave earplug’s worries. Their sensibilities were to be tested to the utmost. The Wonky Supreme Being dropped his pants and showed them his inferior arse!

“Oh, by the Saint of All Earplugs!” Hellfire wailed in horror. But he couldn’t think of anything meaningful to add.

Erronious merely breathed through his mouth and prayed that the insensitive monster didn’t break wind.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There, I bet you saw that one coming! And if you didn’t – well what a pleasant surprise.

P.S Had to be careful with the arse shot. The first two attempts showed rather more than this blog allows.

P.P.S It’s somewhat disturbing to note how the Wonky SB appears to have aged so much since their first encounter!

Climatic Calamity (part 18)

In episode 18 we meet a new character. A very important character. A strange one too. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble spotting it. Hint: it’s not an earplug. In fact I don’t know what it is.

Good fortune smiled upon Celestino that day / night / or whatever it was on the lonely planetoid. The device read his mind and delivered the instructions to him in a language he could understand. “Hola, buenas dias,” it began, and then carried on until the end, when it said, “Fin. Auf wiedersehen.” The result of this education was his immediate relocation to another room, in which he discovered a large spiky ball that perfectly matched the item about which the previous machine had spoken. He pressed the ‘Go’ button, then stepped back to wait in concerned anticipation…

Would the machine actually work? Were its components still intact? Had it lain unused for so long that it couldn’t be bothered to reactivate? All these questions, and more – like ‘Where’s the toilet?’- ran through his fevered mind.

Still following the abusive signage, Erronious and Hellfire wondered how close Celestino was staying to them…

But, of course, they had no idea that he wasn’t interested in the least about where they were, and that, now ten seconds into his wait, Celestino watched as the colour at the spiky ball machine’s base altered…

“Um…hi,” he said as he moved closer to the green apparition…

…”I’m told that you are a device that was built by an ancient and highly technological civilisation.”

It was a statement made to sound like a question. The spiky ball recognised it as such. “Yes,” it replied in a fair facsimile of an earplug’s voice, but slightly more pleasant with a slight echo, “that’s right. Who are you, and what do you want?”

This reply surprised Celestino. He found himself warming to the machine. “Very abrupt.” He said back. “I like it. My name is Celestino Candalabra: what I want is the antidote to a terrible climatic change that had been brought to the world upon which I live by something from this planetoid. It was a bright light that attached itself to a spaceship, which landed upon my world, whereupon it detached itself; gained energy from an unknown source; and then activated – bringing forth an instantaneous ice-age for many kilometres in every direction. By now, I fear, the storm may have engulfed the surface of the entire planet.”

“Wow,” the machine responded, “that was a mouthful: with a vocabulary and verbal dexterity like that you should become a rapper – that is a ‘rap artist’. Do they have ‘rap artists’ on your world? Hey, maybe you should take a sit down and catch your breath.”

“No, it’s okay.” Celestino replied. “I live alone in a mountainside cave: I talk to myself a lot. I’m well used to it. Well – do you have what I need?”

“Not upon my person, you should understand.” The machine said to this. “But check this out.”

With that it transformed into a different configuration that almost stunned Celestino into a coma…

“Neat, huh?” The blue dome said. “Now watch as I turn a nice shade of peach…

…and tell you something about my origin.”

Celestino’s smile was wan: he’d already figured he was in for a long lecture, and he wasn’t sure his knees were up to standing around immobile for too long. “Great.” He replied.

“A long time ago,” the peach dome began, the “Schmerglies lived on a lovely world that was lit by two suns that perpetually tore matter from one another and so warmed the planetary system…

“Crumbs,” Celestino said as he watched the image of the twin-stars as they appeared in the air before him – much as he had displayed images of the weather attack to Erronious and Hellfire in his cave, “spectacular. But surely it couldn’t have been a never ending cycle of give and take between the two suns. There must have been some leakage of matter and energy.”

“Nah,” the peach dome replied, “it was spot-on perfect – until the Schmerglies figured they could tap into it, and solve all their power-generation problems in one fell swoop. Needless to say, as they drew energy away from the cyclical nature of the exchange…

…it got…and I use a technical term here with which you might not be familiar; it got buggered up. The Schmerglies’ tech guys couldn’t control it. It got…ah…”

“Buggered up?” Celestino suggested.

“Yeah,” the peach dome said appreciatively, “and, as a result, the entire system became sub-atomically unstable. Some tech stopped working. And being sub-atomically unstable, there was a better than evens chance that something would de-stabilize it so badly that it would simply explode…

…So they sodded off somewhere else in the galaxy, and left this planetoid behind to warn-off anyone considering the exploitation of the remaining energy resources.”

“Fine.” Celestino said to this. “But why did they leave all this tech here. Why a climate-wrecking device, for example? Wasn’t that just a tad irresponsible?”

The peach dome agreed wholeheartedly. “Too right it was, chum.” It said. “And I would have argued against it. But they figured, since they’d gone to the trouble and expense of inventing it, and that it was too dangerous to take with them, they thought they’d leave it all behind as a kind of memorial to, or celebration of, their greatness.”

“Big headed sods, then?” Celestino sniffed his disdain.

“Ooh, yeah.” The alien device agreed. “Pompous gits too. I’m almost embarrassed to be a product of their ridiculous society. One good thing about them, though: whenever they created something nasty, they always made a countermeasure. That antidote you wanted…?

Again the device transformed…

“This is the mobile me.” The red, one-eyed, backward-sloping triangle said by way of introduction. “Now we walk.”

“Walk?” A horrified Celestino wailed. “Haven’t I walked far enough? And I stood around for ages while you showed me that slide show!”

In reply to this, the red triangle said, “You want the antidote, don’t you?”

So, moments later…

…the residual glow of the second transformation subsided, and the earplug realised he had no alternative.

“Oui.” He said, though he had no idea why he’d used French.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S What is that thing? I found it in my ‘parts’ bin. Anyone recognize it?

Climatic Calamity (part 16)

I know you’ve been champing at the bit for the next episode (or is that ‘Chomping on your bits’?), so here it is…

Farther back, Celestino turned from the screen and whispered to Erronious and Hellfire:

“It’s lying. I can sense it. There is no one by the name of Corbin Commijerk. It just made that up on the spur of the moment. In fact I doubt that is a real creature at all. Or a robot, for that matter. No, I suspect it’s an animation designed to comfort us in the hope that we will lower our guard.”

“But what choice do we have?” Erronious whispered back. “We need that antidote to climate change: everywhere else is just…” He floundered – unable to think of a descriptive term.

“Sub-atomic unstableness?” Hellfire suggested.

“Yes,” Erronious nodded gratefully, “sub-atomic unstableness. There’s nothing else out there. This must be the place that made the weather weapon. Corbin might be unreal; but this planetoid is the only tangible object for millions of miles around – even if Corbin is an animation.” 

Unbeknownst to the trio of earplugs, the Captain had been listening to their conversation via his anally-analogous microphone. As a close-up of the brightly lit Vacuum City appeared on-screen, the mauve robot turned and said… 

…“Your concerns are duly noted, gentlemen. We will proceed with utmost care. We must take nothing for granted. Question everything we see and hear.”

“And smell.” The First Officer added.

“Yes, and smell too.” The Captain agreed. “Gas smells, so we should prepare ourselves for that. But, as you say, Mister Bosche we are here upon a mission: and we must risk everything to accomplish it. The ship is about to enter the city. Be ready for anything.”

With a deft touch that only an automaton can really display, the Drunkard’s Vomit settled upon the deck – or floor – of (what everyone assumed was) a hangar…

An audio message then welcomed anyone who wished to leave the ship – inviting them to join Corbin in his office for a nice cup of tea and a slice of lemon drizzle cake. Naturally the robots, bereft of a stomach or taste buds, declined. This left the three earplugs to step into the strangely metallic-tasting air of Vacuum City…

“You go ahead.” Celestino said quietly. “I’ll hang back and keep an eye out for…um…things. Hopefully my talent will warn me against any dangers. And, you never know, it might also tell me if I stumble over the ice-age antidote in the process.”

It was a less-than-perfect plan; but in the absence of another, Erronious and Hellfire decided to go with it. “Yeah, okay.” Erronious said doubtfully. “Wish us luck.”

Meanwhile, uncountable millions of miles distant, upon Earth, or, to be more precise, the Museum of Future Technology…

…the widespread use of armoured personnel carriers assisted the museum staff, as they searched the environs for lost inhabitants and customers; then return them to the dubious safety of the vast edifice. These were supplemented by mountain rescue teams – each of which had one member with special goggles for seeing through whiteouts…

“I wish I had a pair of whiteout goggles.” The red mountain rescue earplug said to the green earplug. “All I can see is the back of your head.”

“What about my bum?” The green earplug inquired.

 “What about your bum?”

“Can you see it?”

The red earplug snorted his contempt. “No, of course I can’t.” He snapped. “You’re wearing your fluffy mountain rescue regulation thermal pants.”

“Oh good,” the green earplug responded, “My arse is so cold that, for a moment I thought I might have forgotten to put them on.”

In the relative warmth of the museum, Crudlove Twang and Spodney Gridlock – of the volunteer group known as the Yabu Youth – watched a TV wall screen that showed the proceeding rescue efforts…

Spodney was in the middle of a suggestion that they join it, when a blue earplug fell on her arse outside on the balcony.

“Nah, I don’t think so.” Crudlove replied as she eyed a small Café Puke poster beside the window. “It’s cold enough for me in here.”

Naturally Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had been amongst the first to volunteer. They, in particular, had gone to the beleaguered Ciudad de Droxford…

“Oh look, Magnuss,” Hair-Trigger squealed, “someone has managed to erect a sign that reads ‘help`. Let’s pray we’re not too late.”

However, as they proceeded into a snow cave…

…Magnuss discovered that it led to a huge sink hole that, in order to escape it, he was forced to use his emergency jet pack…

“Well it just goes to show,” Hair-Trigger said as they returned to the museum with other volunteers – including the black-helmeted Fascist convention attendees…

… “that even in these terrible times, there are earplugs who haven’t lost their sense of humour.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Strictly speaking the majority of this episode is ‘padding’. It doesn’t really move the story on; but it does allow me to remind readers of other characters that have appeared before – and thereby give the story arc some continuity. It also allows me to use pictures that I have slaved over – or just plain like – in a story – instead of having them languish, unseen, upon my computer. Did you enjoy them? If so, then it was worth their inclusion. If you didn’t…well yaboo sucks: this is my story, and I’ll use whatever bloody pictures I want!


Climatic Calamity (part 15)

In Part 14 we saw Celestino Candalabra abducted by robots and brought to the Drunkard’s Vomit – and he wasn’t best pleased. Shall we see what happened next? The answer to that is yes, sno’nuf Tooty, go for it!

However, by the time he had been reintroduced to his fellow earplugs, then, for the first time to the ship’s Captain, he had simmered down somewhat…

“So a map won’t cut it, huh?” He said to the news that he would be going on the mission to save the museum.

“You might ‘see’ alternatives, should we encounter problems.” The Captain explained. “This mission cannot fail. Everyone depends upon us and what we do.”

Celestino was a little doubtful. “What – even the Earplug Brothers?”

“Even the Earplug Brothers.” Hellfire assured him.

Celestino thought about that. “Hmmm,” he said at length, “it would be quite a feather in my cap if I put one over the Earplug Brothers. I go shopping three days a year: I suppose I could do my future shopping in the museum’s arcade. It would be quite something to have other shoppers point and say ‘Oh there goes that hero of the museum: I wonder if he will sign his autograph on my knickers and grant me a kiss’. That might be fun. Okay, let’s do it. Let’s get it on!”

Well the Captain didn’t require a second bidding. It instructed Security to open the hangar roof hatch; then launched the Drunkard’s Vomit into the air with all possible haste…

In a matter of seconds, the huge bulbous craft had cleared, not only the museum, Ciudad de Droxford; Lemon Stone; and the pea-farming district; but had left the mountains behind and had cleared off across the vast plain beyond…

Then it was straight up. Soon the bridge crew could regard the majesty of the firmament upon their main viewer…

“I don’t know,” the Captain seemed to ruminate upon its theological position within the cosmos, “but it never seems to look the same twice out there. Or is it me?”

“It’s you, Sir.” The Second Officer replied. “You spend too much time in the company of earplugs, Sir.”

Soon the Earth-Moon system had fallen far astern of the Drunkard’s Vomit

At the same time, the Fifth Officer had re-assumed its catering duties…

Although cyber-disappointed, it had expected the unwelcome role-reversal – so it didn’t feel overly moribund. Moreover, it could now enter a genuine terrestrial adventure upon its cyber-CV. Who could guess in which direction its career might go with that in pink high-lighted ink? But it was genuinely surprised, and very pleased, when it discovered that its fellow officers had banded together to create a lovely stone plinth in its honour…

“I don’t know what to say.” The Catering Assistant said when it nearly fell over the gift in a side gangway. “Is it heavy? It looks heavy. Where am I going to keep it?”

Chapter 6

It wasn’t very long after the Catering Assistant’s wondrous discovery when the Drunkard’s Vomit entered a hyperspace conduit…

However it took a bit longer for the exit into sub-atomically unstable space to appear upon the main viewer…

“Jolly good.” The Captain said after such a long wait. “Take us out of hyperspace. Nice and smooth: we don’t want our passengers throwing up all over the place.”

Almost instantaneously the ship entered that strange region of the cosmos that looked even weirder than Weird Space…

…Where nothing conformed to the perceived expectations of galactic normalcy.   

“Can’t say I’m enamoured with this place.” The Captain continued. “Especially since it was here that we picked up our belligerent stowaway.”

“Boggles the eyes a bit too.” The Second Officer observed.

The robotic leader might have replied in the affirmative, but the image of space upon the viewer was replaced by an image of a grand city standing upon a hill, set against the darkness of night, and perhaps a distant Galaxy beyond…

“It’s a transmission, Sir.” The First Officer reported. “Sent by an unknown agency. There are co-ordinates attached to the transmission. I assume we’re supposed to follow them and go there.”

“I was never one to refuse an invitation, Number One.” The Captain replied. “Take us there with utmost alacrity.”

Shortly after the command was given, the Drunkard’s Vomit raced into an orbital course around a vast planetoid…

“That city on the screen, Sir,” the First Officer said in cyber-wonderment. “It can only be a totally sealed environment. This planetoid possesses no atmosphere whatsoever. Not even a miserable little one made up of inert gasses and the occasional interstellar fart.”

The Captain was about to express its own sense of wonderment, when the city-scene was replaced by that of a dark figure with small glowing eyes…

“Welcome,” it said, “I am Corbin Commijerk. I invite you to enter our fabulous Vacuum City. Just follow the guide beam we are transmitting.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I think Celestino’s expression tells you all you need to know about that welcome. If you’d like to know what he said to this, return for episode 16!

All You Need For An Earplug Adventure…


…a computer, a camera, a note pad, a pen (obviously – what good is a note pad without a pen?), and (in my case) some glasses and a cup of cafe cortado. Oh yeah, and…

…sets, props, and lights. Not forgetting…

…locations and a photographer. And last, but certainly not least…

…a whole bunch of earplugs!

P.S Did you recognise the location I was shooting in that charming photo of my tanned self with a bamboo plant? It was…

…the scene from Surprise Visit in which the three Cafe Puke Baristas go in search of raw cane sugar for Nigel the Golden One of Scroton. If you spotted that, present yourself an Earpluggers Merit Award for Paying Close Attention. It looks something liked this…

Climatic Calamity (part 14)

Well part thirteen passed by without incident or mention, so I guess it must have been okay, if less than startlingly good. On with episode 14…

Shortly, the Fifth Officer and Shortarse stepped out of their vessel – to find that the ice-age had further breached the museum’s defences…

“It appears colder than the regulation nine degrees centigrade.” Shortarse observed.

“Don’t be a pedant.” The Fifth Officer replied. “Turn up your internal thermostat. It’s a long walk to where we’re going.”

Once outside the museum, both robots were bludgeoned by the weather from space…

Shortarse felt compelled to make a request:

“Permission to turn up my thermostat again, Sir?”

“Granted,” the former Catering Assistant replied, “I maxed mine out the moment after we stepped from the building.”

Several hours were to pass before the pair of intrepid robots reached the pea-farming region…

“This hillock appears to conform to Hellfire’s description of the area immediately above the shepherd’s hut.” The Fifth Officer said as it surveyed the area with its visual apparatus – often referred to as ‘eyes’.

“I’m fitted with Hut Detection Sensors, Sir,” Shortarse offered. “Shall I activate them?”

Two minutes later the crew members of the only Submarine Space Freighter in the vicinity were making good speed towards their target…

“Is the last one there a rotten egg, Sir?” Shortarse inquired.

“Oh, undoubtedly,” Shortarse’s superior replied. “A rank dinosaur egg.”

Shortly, (had anyone been around to watch) the two robots could be seen peering in the only door that led into the shepherd’s hut…

“Lot of snow in there, Sir.” Shortarse stated the obvious. “Can’t quite make out the entrance to any tunnel. Are we sure this is the right hut?”

“Yes.” The Fifth Officer snapped. “I don’t have an articulating midriff,” it added, “you’ll have to push me through.”

After a lot of mechanical heaving and straining, both robots could stand upright inside the snow-filled hovel…

From there it was a simple matter of finding the tunnel door; forcing aside the accumulated snow that had fallen through the broken sky lantern; negotiating the green and orangey tunnels; then waltzing, unannounced into the home of Celestino Candalabra…

When Celestino learned what the two hulking monsters required, he offered to draw them another map.

“I have some lavatory paper and a felt-tip pen.” He offered.

“No deal.” The Fifth Officer replied. “The captain said to fetch you to the Museum of Future Technology: and that is exactly what I am going to do. If you have any thermal undies, I suggest you put them on.”

It took Celestino a full fifteen minutes to dress – as best he could – for the conditions outside. He spent every one of those minutes trying to conjure up a cunning plan whereby he might escape the clutches of the alien robots. But ultimately it was to no avail…

In a carbon-copy recreation of the journey made by the former burglars, the trio discovered an abandoned armoured personnel carrier…

“Neither of us can fit into the driver’s seat.” The Fifth Officer informed Celestino. “You’ll have to drive.”

“But I can’t drive.” Celestino wailed his argument. “I’m a recluse, remember?”

“I can stand behind you.” Shortarse said to the sole earplug. “I can tell you what to do and when to do it.”

“It’s either that – or walk.” The Fifth Officer said less-than-kindly.

An hour later…

…only one object moved of its own volition beyond the outer walls of the Museum of Future Technology. And shortly after that the disgruntled recluse was introduced to the interior of the Drunkard’s Vomit

“I don’t know,” he said as he regarded the automatons as they went about their work, “maybe earplugs aren’t so bad. At least they don’t drag you from your home against your will; force you to drive an armoured vehicle through an ice-age; and then shove you into a huge spaceship!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so the team appears to have assembled. Now it must be time to go and kick some bad guy’s arse. Return for episode 15 and discover where the aforementioned resides.

P.S Here’s the preliminary cover for the finished product…

Climatic Calamity (part 12)

In Part 11, our heroes finally arrived at the Museum of Future Technology. Good for them. But now that they’re there, where are they gonna find a space ship? Read on…

Chapter 4

Stepping from the windy exterior into the frosty interior of the Museum of Future Technology’s foyer, both earplugs were surprised at the absence of either a Robot Ticket Collector or a Robot Guide. Hellfire tried whistling for the latter automaton, but without success.

“I don’t like just walking in without a ticket.” He complained. “It feels dishonest.”

But they did anyway and were astonished to find that the minus zero degrees continued into the museum proper…

In his desperate search for living beings such as himself, Hellfire had skipped ahead through the frozen tableau that was the museum. He turned back nervously in time to see Erronious pass through the door from an adjacent corridor.

“Oh, Erronious,” he wailed, “are we the only earplugs left alive? It’s horrible: where is everyone?”

Erronious showed no emotion. He simply grunted: “Keep searching: someone is bound to show up.”

And so this proved to be. Shortly after arriving in one of the main pedestrian arterial routes, both earplugs spotted a green female ahead of them. Hellfire called along the frosty corridor:

“Hello. Oo-oo. Excuse us. Can you tell us where to find the nearest Café Puke? We’re cold and gasping. And I think my friend, Erronious could use their toilet.”

Mavis Dorker was surprised to find others about. “Oh,” she called back. “Sorry, but all the Café Pukes have shut up shop. Their staff were sent home hours ago. Everyone is taking to their homes to keep warm. They’re huddling together like small hibernating omnivores. The only reason I’m out and about is because I’m claustrophobic: I don’t have the sort of friends who would like to huddle with me: and my frozen-over lavatory has proven highly resistant to my rubber mallet. I’m hoping to find a pneumatic drill in one of the maintenance lockers.”

“Yeah, enough of your personal problems.” Erronious growled. “How do we get to the UFO hangar from here?”

As an assistant librarian, Mavis was delighted to be able to help the strange pair of earplugs. “Go through that arch behind you: turn left: go straight on for two kilometres – until you find the emergency stairwell: then go down three levels: pass through a yellow portal that leads to the Tunnel Temporale. You’ll find a small green door in the wall beside the tunnel. That will open directly on to the hangar.”

Hellfire managed a quick, “Ta, er, whatever your name is,” before Erronious dragged him through the aforementioned arch.

A hideous amount of time later, and exhausted by the trek, the two earplugs found themselves passing through the yellow portal mentioned in her instructions by Mavis. Hellfire was pleased to be there, especially when he noted the warmer air in which they now stood.

“Wow, Erronious,” he said, “it’s almost balmy here – in comparison anyway. But I wouldn’t want to take my trousers off; it isn’t that warm.”

A grim Erronious replied:

“Yeah, and I think I know why. And it aint good.”

He didn’t bother to explain until he and Hellfire stood inside the Tunnel Temporale…

“Um,” Hellfire said uncertainly, “is this thing supposed to be glowing? Didn’t they turn it off years ago, coz of all them time storms what nearly tore the museum apart?”

Erronious sighed several times before replying with, “I never thought I’d see the day when someone would reinsert the fuses of the Tunnel Temporale. Obviously desperate times require desperate acts. But I can kind’a see some logic in it. If they run the tunnel at minimum power; target a period in history when it was – or will be – really hot; then just let the heat from that time percolate down the tunnel, it should warm up the museum a little. Risky though: if some engineer felt tempted to up the power just the tiniest bit, those time storms could come sweeping back, and make this ice-age look like a comedy sketch.”

“Ooh,” Hellfire said nervously. “Perhaps we should have stayed with that snotty-yellow earplug: his den was nice and warm.”

Erronious looked at his friend sternly. “No.” he snapped. “We have a task to perform. Where’s this bloody green door?”

Shortly, Erronious and Hellfire found themselves standing in an empty UFO hangar…

For a moment the grey earplug’s shoulders slumped. “Nada.” He said in a disappointed tone. “We’re too late. Everyone must have flown the coop before the weather made it impossible. That’s it – we’re stuffed. Game over.”

But Hellfire had noticed another pedestrian door. “Wait a minute.” He said. “Aren’t they always getting extra-terrestrial delegations from far away worlds like Scroton and the Ice Planet? Where do they park their space ships?”

Twenty seconds later, and inside an adjacent hangar…

…Erronious’ dejection reached new depths. “Not here, obviously; it’s too jam-packed with so many flying saucers.” He said sarcastically.

Again Hellfire’s wandering gaze had spotted something to give him hope. “Look,” he said, “that sign says Hangar Two: maybe there’s a Hangar Three!”

Another twenty seconds later they discovered that there was indeed a third hangar…

…but it didn’t do anything to improve Erronious’ demeanour. Instead of acting dejectedly or petulantly, he decided to study the ornate emergency lighting in the ceiling above. “Hmmm, recessed.” He noted. “Not terribly efficient. Nice in a bathroom though.”

Hellfire wasn’t listening: he was too busy dragging Erronious through yet another door. Moreover, having passed through that door, both of their mouths fell open at a wondrous sight…

Erronious was momentarily stupefied. He could form no words. Hellfire did better:

“Wow, look at the bloody size of that! So big and bulbous!”

“It’s…it’s…” Erronious managed.

Hellfire spoke the words for him:

“It’s a Submarine Space Freighter!”

Erronious re-gathered his wits. “Look,” his words echoed off the hangar walls, “the dorsal navigation light is lit. This is a working vessel! Hey, I’m not hallucinating, am I? It is real, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, sure is” Hellfire cheered. “It must be that one we saw this morning in the Café Puke automat. And there was me moaning about it. How could I moan about a submarine space freighter? It’s lovely! Let’s get a closer look: after all this, I’d hate to think we’re sharing a hallucination and it’s just a mirage.”

But, of course, it was no mirage…

“What does it feel like to touch?” Erronious asked.

“Hard and kind’a rubbery.” Hellfire answered cheerfully. Then he had a slightly negative thought: “Ooh-ur,” he said, “what if it’s in for repairs? Let’s check out the back end – sometimes known as the stern in naval parlance. Make sure it’s got engines.”

So they did, and, to their untrained eyes, it all looked tickety-boo…

“Looks like a bit of space rust up there,” Erronious noted, “but otherwise no obvious damage. How do we get inside? We don’t have a robot: who’s gonna fly this thing?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Locked out and minus a pilot’s license. Could this be the end of Erronious’ and Hellfire’s great expectation? Return for episode 13: you might find out!


Climatic Calamity (part 11)

In episode 11 the journey to the ice-bound Museum of Future Technology continues…

A short while later, the armoured personnel carrier stopped for two more grateful passengers…

“Oh, wonderful,” one of them said at the welcome news, “our combined body heat should keep us all warm and toasty. It’ll be like playing Sardines!”

So, once his passengers were all aboard, Erronious instructed Hellfire to resume their journey…

But the closer to their destination they came, the worse the weather that followed…

“I can’t see a bloody thing out here.” Erronious complained to himself.

“And I can’t feel my bottom anymore.” He added. “Why am I out here anyway? Hellfire can see perfectly well through his windshield. I’m outta here.”

Moments later a cascade of snowflakes accompanied Erronious as he dropped through the hatch into the passenger compartment…

“Sorry to drop in on you folks,” he said, “but I was feeling slightly superfluous up there. It’s about the only thing I was feeling. Does anyone feel up to the task of massaging life back into my nether regions?”

“Hold tight,” Hellfire called through from the driver’s position…

… “we’re on the plain proper now: I’m taking us to top speed.”

With that, the vehicle leapt forward upon its hidden tracks…

A short while later it raced through the deserted streets of La Ciudad de Droxford’s retail area…

However, shortly after having blasted clear of the city outskirts, those in the passenger compartment were treated to a sharp braking manoeuvre…

Hellfire turned to face them…

“The museum.” He yelled. “It’s entirely frozen in. Look!”

So they did, and Hellfire’s observation was proven accurate…

“Find an open gate.” Erronious instructed him. “There’s one by Tower Twelve. They use it to deliver potatoes and other root vegetables. The hinges seized up years ago, and there was nothing in the maintenance budget to free them off. I always thought it was a perfect access point for rogues and vagabonds. It’ll be open for sure.”

Not unexpectedly, Erronious was proved right, and soon the armoured personnel carrier closed upon one of the Age of Stone exhibit’s entrances…

“Age of Stone.” Hellfire called. “Anyone want to get off here? There’s bound to be a heck of a lot of earplugs in there. Even without heating it should be pretty warm. And they’ve got a composting toilet too!”

The passengers couldn’t wait…

“Thanks for the lift.” They said as one. Then one of the flat-headed earplugs added: “I’ve always wanted to use a composting toilet. It must be so odd – not having a flush button to press.”

After their guests had disappeared into the Age of Stone, it became apparent to the dynamic duo that their vehicle was of no further use to them. They decided to take to their feet and find a way into the main structure of the museum…

…where they noticed a battle-hardened naturist taking a naked dip in the Age of Stone’s moat.

“Tough guy.” Erronious said appreciatively. “If he wasn’t so damned crazy, I’d ask him along.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S That is the second time in this story that I have mentioned Naturists in a slightly derogatory manner. I’d just like to point out to any Naturist who might be reading these tales, and feel offended by these vague slurs: I too like an all-over tan and publicly get my kit off at the beach at every opportunity: but only when it’s sunny and hot.