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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 11)

Good news: the ‘other stuff’ I’ve been doing is complete. I’m physically knackered, and my bank account has taken a pummeling, but the result is more than satisfactory. My lovely Fantic now has a winter abode. But enough of that: on to more important matters – such as the next episode of The Veil of Shytar! What a terrible title, by the way. I chose it because it sounded dramatic and incredibly naff. In fact I gave it that title before the actual Veil of Shytar existed. I had to quickly think of something. Naturally success blossomed, thanks in no small part to a multi-coloured anti-insect  curtain that I put up at my back door during the warmer months. Strange, isn’t it, how inspiration comes. I’d like to think it was genius.

Again, two days were to pass before Bubbles and her navigator were invited back to the hangar. This time they were surprised to be confronted by the only surviving artefact from the fabled star ship – Ship Number Fifteen…

They now found themselves sitting in the actual scout ship, flown by Atcherly Speakin and Quentin Hearthrob that shot down a hyperspace pirate attack craft on its first patrol.

“I don’t recall the previous pilots wearing silly hats.” Barclay noted.

“Those aren’t silly hats.” A slightly mischievous Pansy replied. “They are safety helmets: aerodynamically designed to cut through the air with the greatest of ease, whilst protecting their wearers from insect impacts and other assorted nasties. You must wear them: Health and Safety insist.”

This time around Barclay stayed his eagerness. “The ship is yours.” He said to Bubbles.

However, on this occasion, both pilot and navigator would require lessons on a flight simulator…

 “Flipping heck, Bubbles,” Barclay complained. “I can’t even fly a simulator.”

“That’s okay,” she replied, “You’ve got me. You’ve always got me.”

Finally, following hours of intense concentration and uninterrupted practise, Bubbles and Barclay donned their silly hats / safety helmets; climbed aboard the dusty old flying machine; closed the canopy; and kick-started the reluctant engine into smoky life…

“Whoa,” Bubbles cried out as the engineers stood nearby and watched nervously, “I think we need to blow the cobwebs out of this thing.”

“Try flooring the throttle.” Barclay suggested.

Bubbles didn’t hesitate. Within seconds of the pedal having met the plush carpeting in the foot well, the fuel system cleared and an incandescent eruption…urr…erupted from the drive units…

“That’s got it.” Bubbles said as her eyes narrowed to take in the information offered by the dials and read-outs before her. “Thanks Barclay: I’m glad you’re along; I couldn’t do this without you.”

Barclay didn’t quite know how to respond to Bubbles’ gentle words. “Um, yeah,” He managed. “You wanna take it up?”

“Yes, thank you, I think I will.” Bubbles responded. “Hold tight Barclay: I’m going for a vertical climb out.”

Barclay had just enough time to check his seatbelt, before this happened…

“Oooh,” the short Punting-Modesty engineer said appreciatively, “panache aplenty.”

“Otherwise known as showing off.” Pansy replied. “But very impressive, I must admit.”

Further comments on Bubbles’ piloting skills were lost in the sonic boom caused by the scout ship roaring away across the rooftops of Lemon Stone…

Both Pilot and Navigator cried out with the obligatory, “Wheeee!”

Then it was out across the pea-farming region in the foothills – and the plain beyond…

…where pea farmers – returning home from their fields for a sandwich and a wee – waved good-naturedly.

Soon, though, Bubbles found this form of flying to be slightly dull. “It’s not much of a challenge, is it?” She said to Barclay when he queried her complaint.

“Um, you could try flying nearer the ground.” He said.

It was a good idea, but Bubbles rejected it. “We might flatten some crops as we whoosh by.” She explained. “Some of these pea farmers have subsistence levels of income. They run very close to the wind economically. I’d hate to reduce their chances farther by knocking down their pea canes.”

“Oh yes, of course.” Barclay replied. “That’s very thoughtful of you. I wish there was some way I could let those lucky subsistence pea farmers know how kind you are.”

Now it was the turn of Bubbles to be lost for a reply. So, to cover her awkwardness, she said:

“I know: let’s go shake a few boulders loose in the mountains!”

As a result of this idea, this event quickly followed…

“Ah, that’s much better.” She said as she completed her third barrel roll through a series of shallow canyons. “Much better.”

“Is it?” Barclay said as he fought to retain his breakfast. “I can’t say I’d noticed.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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 9)

Today I broke off from doing other ‘stuff’ because the rain became too torrential to continue. So guess what – I clambered into the attic studio and shot some more scenes. The Veil of Shytar is back on-track! Here’s something I prepared earlier…

So after passing through a pedestrian door from the laboratory into another place entirely…

…Bubbles and Barclay were presented with a representation of the fruits of their industrial espionage.

“Whadda ya think?” Pansy demanded.

Bubbles wasn’t sure how to respond. “Err, very dark and foreboding.” She managed.

“Great.” Pansy snarled. “And you, Mister Scrimmage?”

Barclay also struggled. “Before I can really form an opinion,” he replied, “I’d like to see the real thing  first.”

“Good answer.” Pansy said as her half-smile fell. “I think that can be arranged. In fact it’s an absolute certainty.”

As they turned to depart the ‘hangar’, Barclay felt certain that he and Bubbles were about to receive information that neither of them had expected or particularly wanted to hear…

Giving both a sidelong glance, Pansy dropped a bomb in their collective lap:

“The ship needs two pilots.” She said clearly and concisely. “Miss Gloor: Mister Scrimmage: You are to be those pilots.”

Neither earplug had seen any point in arguing with this revelation. As good Punting-Modesty employees they responded with good grace. In retrospect it had been inevitable. If the ship proved too dangerous, who better to die fighting the controls than the two people who had brought the plans to the company? It was all perfectly logical. So, while the construction of the full-size vessel got underway, its two pilots spent their time sitting around on solariums in the Lemon Stone sunshine, chatting, drinking coffee, and enjoying impromptu farting contests…

Moreover, because it would take time to create the prototype of a re-imagined (and altogether more defensively useful) alien life-boat, the cheerful two-some were despatched to faraway places – like these old ruins on what remained of Mutant Island – to enjoy themselves and learn a few things about surviving in a hostile environment without the support of civilisation…

As their transport lifted off and swept away into an azure sky, Bubbled squealed, “This is just sooo exciting!”

“Yeah,” an unusually up-beat Barclay replied. “And if you wet your knickers with excitement, no one will care.”

“That’s right.” Bubbles replied, “I can wash them in the pounding surf and leave them to dry in the sun on that old stone wall behind us.”

They also learnt the strange art of mountaineering…

…though the exertion did turn Bubbles’ face an unsightly red. And Barclay maintained a respectable distance to avoid seeing up his supervisor’s skirt. 

So, whilst life in the Museum of Future Technology’s many Café Puke outlets carried on as usual…

…and a huge UFO made a threatening appearance from the dark side of the Moon…

…that was shot down by Valentine Earplug, in his Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher, which then crashed, deafeningly in a lake near the coast of southern Greenland…

…and drew huge crowds of fisher-folk to watch the three hapless alien invaders shiver in the icy waters – winter arrived in the mountaintop citadel…

…so Bubbles and Barclay soon learned survival techniques that might save their lives, should they crash land upon an icebound world…

“Right about now,” Barclay groaned as he followed Bubbles’ leaden footsteps through the snow, “the idea of becoming a Barista is gaining traction – unlike my snow shoes.”

However worse was to come. Having recovered from their mountain trek, the former BINS operatives were subjected to hypno-scary stuff that was intended to find if they ‘had the right stuff’. Or, to put it another way: to ascertain whether they were psychologically and physically capable of controlling their vessel during periods of high stress and violent trauma…

Barclay couldn’t speak, so he tried to send a telepathic message to his supervisor and co-victim:

“Bubbles, have you still got that application form for Café Puke?”

Of course Bubbles sensed nothing from her partner, so she failed to respond. But she didn’t argue with him when, during a brief lull in the wintery weather, he suggested they try to escape by climbing over the chain link fence that surrounded the Punting- Modesty facility…

Unfortunately the fence was entirely illusory. When Barclay attempted to climb it, the image faded – to be replaced by an impregnable force field.

“Oh well,” he said philosophically, “we would probably have fallen to our deaths anyway.”

© 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.

Better?

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 3)

The pace of production has quickened. It’s a now a case of ‘full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes’. Welcome to Part Three…

Before returning to her apartment, Bubbles left her colleague to lock up BINS; then took herself to the austere apartment of the Three Wise Earplugs of Lemon Stone…

She told them of her quest and asked for advice.

“You wanna loan?” One of them inquired. “We give good rates. Nothing exorbitant, you understand.”

“No-no, I just want to know…well I want to know if you think it’s possible.” Bubbles replied. “And maybe give me a few tips.”

Another Wise Earplug nodded at this. “Wear clean knickers.” She advised. “Make them frilly: you never know when you’re going to need to flash them.”

The third Wise Earplug eyed Bubbles. “You’re not the first Punting-Modesty employee to head for the Museum of Future Technology. Have you ever heard of Buttox Barkingwell?”

Of course Bubbles knew the tale of Buttox Barkingwell’s adventures since leaving Lemon Stone – and how she had discovered a Time Shard version of the museum, buried in the mountainside. “Yeah; what about it?”

“Well, you know,” the ancient, yet strangely timeless Wise Earplug replied, “good stuff can happen. You might get lucky.”

“That’s right.” The first Wise Earplug responded to this. “She’s married to that nice Frank Tonsils now. They’ve got a pea farm, I hear. You could do worse, Bubbles. And there’s always the Café Puke: they’re constantly looking for Baristas.”

“With frilly knickers.” The second added.

But Bubbles wasn’t listening. Actually she wasn’t there at all. Instead she was collecting Barclay…

“Come on Barclay- no time to waste going home to bed.” She said chirpily. “We’ve got a mission to complete. I don’t know where it’s going to take us; but if I do half as well as Buttox Barkingwell, I’ll be a happy girl.”

Chapter 2

The early morning light was just beginning to illuminate the snowy flanks of the mountain upon which Lemon Stone stood proudly…

But of Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage there was no sign within the citadel. That was because they had travelled through the night, and as  the light of a new day finally arrived upon the dusty plain, they could been seen approaching the vaguely legendary Transfer Conduit Station Seven…

…where both earplugs were more than a little disconcerted by the negative attitude of a local soothsayer.

“Watch it,” he shouted above the murmur of waiting earplugs, “nothing good can come from travelling all over the place at relativistic speeds. You’ll only get your brains scrambled and your colon disconcerted. And any plans you have to better your lives – put them aside: they’re a load of rubbish: you’re all doomed.”

Bubbles continued to feel unsettled as they made their way to the ticket office…

This quickly turned to nausea when the ticket clerk informed Barclay of the vast price for a direct transfer to the Museum of Future Technology.

“It would probably be cheaper to hitch a ride on a pea wagon to La Ciudad de Droxford; then ride a mag-lift train into the museum.” The clerk added helpfully. “It wouldn’t be very quick; but it would mean you could afford one night in a Ciudad de Droxford high-rise hotel. That’s not to be missed, so they tell me.”

Three days later witnessed the cheerful couple amble across a dangerous walkway that would carry them into the closest conurbation to their ultimate destination – La Ciudad de Droxford…

“Oh, this is more like it.” Barclay said with satisfaction. “I got sick to death of riding that pea wagon. I think I still have the odd pea shuck trapped between my buttocks.

“Yes,” Bubbles agreed, “my pink panties are now irreversibly stained pea green. I can’t wait to have a shower in one of those high-rise hotels.”

In time the walkway carried them into the centre of the city, where Barclay stood open-mouthed at the view, and Bubbles asked three prospective competitors in a hat-wearing competition for directions to the hospitality area…

Whilst Mister Stovepipe-Hat, K’Plank the Space Wanderer, and former running back, Dan Down ‘n’ Out kindly pointed the way, the conversation was being observed from an apartment window several storeys above the participants…

“Oh look, Jake,” Mary-Sue Wassack said to her flatmate, Jungle-Jake Johnson, “more out-of-towners. What’s the bet they end up making their way to the Museum of Future Technology?”

“Pretty high, I’d guess.” Jungle-Jake replied. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to use the bog.”

So it was a solitary Mary-Sue who tore herself away from the view…

…whilst wondering who the ‘new folks’ were, and conjectured upon the likelihood of them utilizing the Café Puke outlet at which she and Jungle-Jake worked.

“Evens, I’d say.” She said to an empty room – before adding, “I wonder if we’ll ever earn enough to furnish this room: it looks a little Spartan. A carpet would be nice too.”

Shortly after Mary-Sue’s and Jungle-Jake’s departure to their place of work, Bubbles led Barclay into the foyer of one of the cities fabled high-rise hotels…

Whilst Barclay was instantly stunned by the minimalist décor, Bubbles fell in love with the view of the cityscape as seen through a huge picture window.

“Gosh,” she said, “I feel so parochial. It’s hard to believe that we both studied at the University of La Ciudad de Droxford. I think we’ve been living on that damned mountain top for too long.”

But Barclay wasn’t really listening: he was lip reading the earplug that had just exited the communal lavatory. “Flipping heck,” he exclaimed, “they’ve got moist toilet tissue!”

A few hours later – having settled into their room – both would-be spies sat themselves down to study a travelogue of their intended destination…

“Oh look,” Bubbles squealed, “it’s the residential area. Just regard that wondrous architecture and careless abandonment of regimented structure. If this plan of ours doesn’t pan out, we could always get ourselves a job as Baristas. In fact one of the Wise Earplugs of Lemon Stone strongly intimated we should.”

“Hmmm,” Barclay replied, “I suppose – as a last resort…”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Did anyone notice the shot that featured my fabled tea dust art? Tea dust art: excellent for creating mountaintop monasteries.

Tooty the Chef’s Pork and Apple Half-Pie

If, like Tooty the Chef you are unfortunate enough to have propane as your principal heating medium when cooking, and suffer the subsequent burning of the underside of your pie, do what the great gastronome does when making his: only make the top half.

On this occaision Tooty elected to make a pork and apple pie. Naturally he doesn’t have the first idea how other people make pork and apple pies: like the culinery maverick he is, he just does it HIS way. So he mixed some minced pork with an annihialated onion and a couple of tomatoes of dubious age in a bowl, to which he added a very generous sprinkling of oregano, parsely, thyme, and another of those vaguely green leafy spices that he can’t remember the name of.  Then, squashing it flat in a see-through cooking thing, he laid slices of apple on top – like so…

On top of this he laid a sheet of short crust pastry – making sure to bolster the edges – to hold in would-be escapee juices. Then he sprinkled it with a splodge of milk – swirling it about to give a reasonably even covering…

It aint prettty, but who cares – this isn’t the Savoy. Thirty-five minutes later, the proud chef displays his work for all to see…

But, because of his excitement, the picture appeared slightly blurred – so a close-up was called for…

Unfortunately the  dingbat photographer placed the pie in his own shadow. And, oh bum – some of those darned juices escaped, after all of Tooty’s efforts to restrain it! But never mind; I’m sure it must have happened to Egon Ronay at least twice.

Then it was a simple matter of chucking it on a plate with some boiled cabbage and steamed snap peas with baby corn on the cob and gravy, et voila…

Next time he’s considering a drizzle of teriyaki sauce on top of the apple, But, yes, it was very edible – verging on lustrous.

 

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.

 

Where is the Back-Lane Behemoth?

Understandably, when people learn that I have obtained this…

…they assume that I swapped in the Back-Lane Behemoth as part exchange for something lighter, more manageable, and better suited to the predominantly rural type of riding I do. I mean, why would a retired gent, such as I, require one motorcycle – let alone two? But they would assume wrong – on both counts. One: why wouldn’t a retired gent want two – utterly disparate, chalk and cheese – motorcycles? Two: Nah, look, there it is…

After all, why would I want to deny myself this?

Nature Wallpaper: Remnant of Summer

The drought of 2022 in the UK effected the natural world in several ways – all of them negatively. But when a cold snap followed it’s watery ending, and subsequent seasonal temperatures soared shortly afterwards, the natural world was thrown out of kilter. For some plants, it appeared that summer had returned. For others the period called winter was skipped, and they went straight to Spring again. All very colourful for those who took the time to look. Who knows what will become of the Primroses etc when winter finally arrives – not to mention dumb-ass hedgehogs. It probably won’t go well for them. Here ‘s a shot of high-summer Clover in Autumn, which was lovely to see amongst all the dry brown hedgerow foliage and fresh green shoots emerging from the desiccated grasses at the field’s edge…

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Photography: Esoteric Questions Answered

Everyday fans write in and ask esoteric questions of Tooty the Chef. On this occasion, Miss Boo-Boo Balonck, of Wiltshire Terrace, Twisted Wanger, Glamorgan inquired whether it would be best to photograph some apples she’d found at the side of the road, (which she had lain gently in her kitchen window to fester for several days) at nine o’clock in the morning, or at five past seven in the evening. Well, ever eager to assist Boo-Boo’s photographic efforts, Tooty the Chef conducted the necessary experiment. Here is the result…

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t help thinking that natural daylight is the clear winner here. Tooty suggests that Miss Balonck also consider mid-afternoon, when the sun will be in a completely different position. Half past two would be nice – as would the substitution of conference pears or some good, old-fashioned British plums in place of wind-blown apples.

Has ‘Helping the Hedgehog’ Helped?

Well if the following picture is to be believed, someone has clearly moved into the Hedgehog Over-Wintering House at the bottom of my garden. Look, they’ve planted a nice flower outside the porch…

But since no one responded to a polite knock, I thought it best to spy on them – by installing a night-vision camera, I’m sorry to say, t’was not a spiky critter that emerged into the darkness; but one of these…

Oh, well, at least the property isn’t laying vacant. Some smart little rodent has spotted the potential. There, I told you hedgehogs were dumb-asses!

 

First Glimpse of the Next Earplug Adventure

Early days yet. Very early days in fact. But work is underway with props. Look…

Yes, some land vehicles that have appeared in various Earplug Adventures through the years, have been pulled out of mothballs and given a coat of paint – along with some cheap soft orange earplugs who managed to get themselves all messy with transferred ink and other nasty stuff. Here’s what the finished articles look like…

Since I mentioned – in an earlier post – that the central characters would be visiting Worstworld again, following a long period (and loads of adventures) without setting on eyes on the place (if you don’t count that passing shot in Surprise Visit), I thought I should up-date the remnants of the 7th Cavalry – those that remained  behind after most of their officers and enlisted ‘men’ absconded aboard Ship Number 15 when it returned to the Museum of Future Technology in Worstworld Vol 2. Yes, they’ve gone all mechanized. Regarding the second character – to partner with Bubbles Gloor: meet Barclay Scrimmage…

He’s the orange one, by the way. If you’re wondering why Bubbles Gloor looks familiar, it’s because I’m re-using the Daphne De Mauritania figure from Mutant Island – not because I don’t have any more blank earplugs in stock, but because I like it, and I think ‘she’ will do very well. This is a test shot, by the way. It’s a bit too good to leave unsued, so this will definitely appear in the (so far unnamed) story as in interior of the new and improved Fort Dunderhead.  Watch this space.

 

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 29)

A story of 29 parts: how uneven. Still, not the end of the world, is it? Now feast your eyes upon the EPILOGUE…

Epilogue

After a brief meeting with the museum’s curators, it was straight to the Grand Hall for an impromptu award ceremony…

Naturally Cushions Smethwyke performed the role of Medal-Pinner in Chief. With the Earplug Brothers watching, and Rupert Piles recording, she stepped forward and said very loudly:

“I hereby designate you all as Heroes of the Museum of Future Technology. With that honour comes a pitiful pension, a life-time pass into the museum, a diploma stating that you’re something special, and a cuddly toy – of which…ah…we seem to have run out of. Logistical problems, obviously.”

Of course she could have left it at that, but she then picked out Celestino in particular.

“Celestino Candalabra,” she said in a surprisingly strident voice that carried to the crowds in the corridors beyond the hall, “your talent, I believe has also been your burden. So heavy was it that you took yourself away to live alone in the mountains. Well the curators and I have searched through some of the less well known artefacts from the future, and we have discovered a special bra that when worn by such as person as yourself, renders them immune from the thoughts and…and…and…the ‘truths’ that accompany them. We are proud to offer this to you. Or, if you’re not overly enthused by the thought of wearing female’s underwear, we can tart up your secret cave, add air-con, and maybe install cable TV. Whatta ya think?”

“I think,” Celestino said quietly and hesitatingly, “that I need time to think about that. What I’d really like though, is to hear El Custardo and Los Natillas perform Ode to Joy. Could you do that for me?”

Well no sooner had he spoken those words, when El Custardo’s nasally voice filled the hall…

“Seńor,” he said, “it would be our honour. A one, two, three, four…”

With that everyone was treated to a mariachi version of Ode to Joy that (had the Grand Hall been built by shopping mall builders) almost brought the ceiling down.

Then it was outside to have fun in the snow before it all melted away…

A bemused pair of robots stood in the centre of the frolicking earplugs and wondered what the flipping heck was going on.

“Fifth Officer,” the Captain pleaded, “please explain to me what is happening.”

The Fifth Officer was about to inform its Captain that it had no idea, when it’s thought processes were interrupted by the sound of a mighty engine directly above the area upon which they stood. The hatted robot looked upwards…

…in time to see another Submarine Space Freighter heading for the Space Port…

And it knew, with a certainty that was usually reserved for Celestino Candalabra that more followed in its wake…

Normal business was about to resume at the Museum of Future Technology!

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, a deep sigh of satisfaction: another masterpiece complete. The magnum opus rolls on.

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!

 

Making the Earplug Adventures: Inspired by Toothpaste

When I bought a particularly expensive  tube of toothpaste, some while back, it was done – not for the quality of the contents – but for the inspirational shape of the tube. I could see, in an instant, as it resided silently upon the supermarket shelf, a new vessel for my collection of futuristic Earplug Adventure props. The result – once I’d added some miscellaneous vacuum cleaner parts that I found in the garden shed: painted with correction fluid; then reversed the negative, to make it appear dark – was the life-boat from Climatic Calamity…

Well, after that tale was complete, I didn’t really want to put the model aside: it had too much potential. So I stuck my thinking cap on my bonce and got a bit creative. In what form would the next Earplug Adventure manifest itself, I asked.  Who would the central characters be? Well there was a throw-away name mentioned in Climatic Calamity that was too good to miss. Ardent reader, Jayne noticed it. Bubbles Gloor. But who might Bubbles be? What was her reason to visit the Museum of Future Technology? Then it came to me: to steal the specs of the vessel that belonged to the strange triangular alien, Peggy. And why might Bubbles require those specs? Because she is an industrial spy who works for the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company of Lemon Stone – oft mentioned in the stories, and builders of military vehicles such as Valentine Earplug’s XL5 Facepuncher…

So I set to work adding a few more plastic bits from my parts bin; painting it vermilion and matt black; and making it look a whole bunch more ‘dangerous’…

…and The Prowler was born. I then created a couple of images that included it…

…like this flypast of Lemon Stone. And this shot of two prowlers in  high orbit above a brown planet…

But it wasn’t until I made this shot…

…that I had the idea for the next tale. Bubbles (and a so-far unnamed co-lead character) will fly the Prowler to a place that hasn’t been visited since Volume Two of Worstworld

That is a heck of a long time. It’ll be good to revisit the doomed planet. Will it still harbour life? Might the blue star that threatens it finally have done its evil work? Well we’ll see, won’t we? And it’s all thanks to a tube of toothpaste – the name of which eludes me. Funny how one thing leads to another.

Earplug Adventure Wallpaper: A Clandestine Midnight Coffee Perhaps?

Discovering a carelessly unlocked branch of the Cafe Puke, whilst out and about enjoying a night stroll through the residential area of the Museum of Future Technology, Edith and Ferdinand Arcwelder question their morals when tempted by the possibility of a freebie mug of ghastly coffee.

Yes, in answer to the more eagle-eyed amongst you, that isn’t the original Cafe Puke set. It’s another one entirely – complete with disco glitter ball!

Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan

 

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?