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Climatic Calamity (part 13)

I’m not superstitious, but if a story isn’t working by episode thirteen,  I figure it never will. I leave you to judge whether this tale is the real deal or grot snot. Read on…

As though on cue, the Tong-Tong look-alike Catering Assistant stepped from the ship’s lower cupola…

“Good afternoon,” it said through its cheap and nasty forward speaker, “the Captain is wondering if we might be of assistance. Would you like to come aboard?”

“Oh please,” Erronious cried with relief, “Our gussets are still full of compacted snow!”

Chapter 5

Once aboard the Drunkard’s Vomit, both earplugs relaxed and began to luxuriate in the miserly nine degrees centigrade that the robots considered most efficient and comfortable for their complex artificial brains when going about their regular duties…

Whilst they travelled along a brightly lit gangway, Hellfire thought he should try to engage the Catering Assistant in conversation:

“Um…have you been a space farer for very long?” He inquired.

Although the robot replied, both Erronious and Hellfire thought they detected a hint of tetchiness in its demeanour:

“Straight out of the factory – into a bridge officer’s role – seventeen months past.”

“Oh, excellent.” Hellfire responded with false cheerfulness. “Well done. That’s really…um…swell. Is it nice? Do you like being a bridge officer?”

“I am a catering assistant!” The robot snapped.

Hellfire was confused. “I’m confused,” he said, “when you said you came straight from the factory as a bridge officer, I…”

“I am a catering assistant.” The robot interrupted rudely. “In the ship’s unused and totally superfluous Cafe Puke!”

Erronious felt instantaneous pity for the machine that had brought them in from the cold. “Café Puke, eh?” He said before Hellfire could put his foot in his mouth. “That’s quite an honour. Biggest chain of cafes in the Museum of Future Technology, they are. A lot of robots would give their third diode to work in ‘em. But they usually only allow silicon life forms to work in such important positions. It’s a bit…ah…racist, I know, but that’s the way it is. Say, after we’ve told the Captain about our plans, maybe you can serve us both a Café Disgusto!”

“Disgusto’s off.” The robot replied – too quickly for Erronious’ comfort.

“How about Defecated?” Hellfire offered.

“That’s off too.” The response came even quicker. “Now shut up: we’re nearly there!” 

And they were too!

“Sir,” the Catering Assistant introduced their guests, “From your right to left, this is Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams. They have important information for you. Now may I return to my duty station – I think I detected a small mould spore growing beneath the washing up sink.”

“You will remain.” The captain answered. To Erronious and Hellfire, it said: “This information: might it impact upon the current situation in which my vessel has been embargoed for having brought a dangerous infestation into the Museum of Future Technology?”

Both earplugs were amazed. “It certainly would.” Erronious replied with a small grin. “This is your lucky day: we’re gonna give you the chance to redeem yourself.”

Thereafter the two earplugs took turns to tell the tale of the ‘See-er’ – Celestino Candalabra – and what he had told them of the alien artefact that had let loose devastation upon the museum and its environs.

“Right.” The Captain said as they completed their tale. “I think I’ll call a couple of important earplugs: I need to run this past some real living beings.”

Fifteen minutes later, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug were listening to the same tale…

“Sounds great.” Magnuss said enthusiastically. “I’d like to come along for the ride, but I don’t like to steal other people’s thunder. In any case I’ve developed  bit of Housemaid’s Knee: I wouldn’t want to jeopardize the mission by being a fraction slow off the mark. But, ultimately it’s not up to either Hair-Trigger or me: you need to convince the Curators.”

So, another fifteen minutes later…

…Cushions Smethwyke, along with Pretty-Boy Plankton, Auntie Doris, Montagu, and Bubbly Salterton had it all explained to them. Naturally they gave the go ahead for the ship to launch upon its mission to find the antidote to the storm in the far away sub-atomically unstable region of space. But when Erronious handed the sodden napkin upon which Celestino had written the co-ordinates, no one could decipher the inky smears upon it.

“Oh-no,” Erronious cried with horror, “the compacted snow in my gusset has thawed and soaked my pocket. It’s unreadable. What are we gonna do?”

It’s electronic brain racing, the Captain of the Drunkard’s Vomit reacted like stoat with a red hot poker up it’s bottom…

“Catering Assistant,” it snapped, “you are familiar with the situation: take another robot of your choice and retrace the tracks of Mister Bosche and Mister McWilliams. Find this Celestino Candalabra and bring him here.”

“What?” the Catering Assistant’s inexpensive speaker grill almost overloaded into incoherence, “Dressed like this?” 

The Captain cyber-sighed. “Oh, very well. I hereby re-designate you as Fifth Officer…”

In a moment the Catering Assistant had transformed…

“I won’t fail you, Sir.” The Fifth Officer replied to his Captain’s questioning body language. “I’ll take along Shortarse.” It added. “It is of a smaller, less advanced robot type: I might need it for getting into apertures too small for my larger, more advanced body.”

“Good choice.” The Captain responded. “I have full cyber-faith in you. Be upon your way now.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, another trek across a snowy landscape. I do like my snowy landscapes you know. Come back for episode 14 to find out just how snowy that landscape is. And a few other things too, of course.

Earplug Adventures Greatest Hits: Distant Land

Because I possess an absolutely God-awful memory, I can’t remember what happens in my own books – including the Earplug Adventures. I was listening to the 2019 e-book, Distant Land, recently, utilising the excellent ReadAloud app, when I rediscovered a little  unexpected aside tale within the main story that made me giggle. Here it is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…the girls clambered out from the crevasse. Weevil ‘harrumphed’ loudly from the tail-gunner’s position; then complained: “When I joined the Geisha Adventure team, I never expected to use pitons, crampons, and other climbing paraphernalia. My dainty Geisha clogs are utterly ruined. And I had to pay for them, out of my wages, too! You know, I’ve a good mind to quit.”

“Oh, don’t do anything rash.” Maureen warned her colleague…

“Indeed, Weevil.” Yaki said through a hidden smile. “It’s an awfully long way back to the Museum of Future Technology. Wouldn’t you rather ride in my nice warm armoured personnel carrier?”

Weevil might have been feeling disenchanted with her choice of career; but she wasn’t stupid. “Did I say ‘Quit‘? Of course I was referring to smoking. Clogged lungs play merry havoc with assailing precipitous rock faces and the like.”

So, moments later…

…Yaki was guiding her vehicle home. But conditions had worsened during the course of her rescue mission…

…and the motor struggled with frozen coolant pipes. Worse still…

…the deepening snow had sucked some of the oxygen out of the air – further reducing the efficiency of the carrier’s power plant. In fact Yaki was getting decidedly flappy in the undergarments department, as…

…her vision slowly blurred in the terrible conditions. But she thankfully gave up a prayer to the Saint of All Earplugs as her vehicle stuttered to a halt only slightly short of her carport.

“Quick, everyone.” She shouted whilst dismounting. “Get indoors, before our knickers freeze to our buttocks like superglue!”

Naturally no one wasted a nanosecond…

…and within five minutes Yaki had returned to Valerie…

“Well, Val,” She said – in far better frame of mind since the safe return of her Geishas, “now we can enjoy the snow. Let’s get outside and winter boogie!”

So they did…

…and they both enjoyed themselves enormously.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Of course this free e-book remains available in PDF form, and can be accessed by clicking on the following (out-of-date) cover image.

PS If you clicked it, you probably noticed that the more recent up-date cover image is vastly improved and more informative. Of course I’d forgotten that I’d made the improvement, so spent several nanoseconds in puzzlement. Age is not good for the brain. It’s not particularly excellent for the private parts either, but we won’t get into that right now.

Surprise Visit (part 16)

It could be that Surprise Visit is a little lack luster; or maybe Summer isn’t the best time to post stuff on the Internet; but, it seems to me, that this tale isn’t going down too well with the majority of my readers. Or, to put it another way, it appears that they are being turned off in their droves. So it occurred to me that it would probably be a good idea if I released the full PDF e-book now, rather than at the serial’s end. I will ruminate upon this. Meanwhile, for those who are diligently following the story (thank you), here is Part Sixteen…

Of course, the news spread throughout the museum like a wildfire. Almost instantaneously the Earplug Brothers convened…

The eldest brother, Rudi, spoke first:

“Okay,” he said, “we’re on the case. If there aint no fleet to protect the museum, we’re gonna have to go find the miscreants before they come visiting us again. Yo? Can you dig it?”

“Sho’nuf, bro.” The second oldest, Valentine replied without hesitation.

“Count us in.” The twins, Chester and Miles added a nanosecond later.

“I have a reputation to protect.” Magnuss said with a smile. “And a darned good ship in the Tankerville Norris. I’m game.”

A short while later, four of the five brothers had prepared themselves for the ordeal ahead and now posed for publicity shots…

Naturally, Magnuss had gone straight to Nigel, who, having taken the longest tinkle of his life, had conjured up a half-assed plan. Like the news of earlier, Nigel’s plan also swept through the museum – not so much as a wildfire; but more like a pedestal fan with the speed dial set on number three. It was enough to blow in the direction of K’Plank the Space Wanderer, who chose the arboretum in which to break the news to Auntie Doris that he had volunteered.

“Ugh?” Doris responded – her usual smile having fallen away like dead leaves in autumn – “But you have no armament. What good can you do? You’ll just get yourself killed – and with no effect. K’Plank, be logical: let someone else do it.”

“I can flit around and draw enemy fire from the other ships.” K’Plank replied heroically. “And it’s not like I’m totally unarmed. I bought several boxes of stink bombs from a schoolboy on Deneb Four. I couldn’t find a buyer for them here, so they’re just surplus stock. The acidic stench might even incapacitate enemy sensors and play havoc with their sinuses. Anything is worth a try. I must do my bit to protect you and the place you call home. It’s what any decent space wanderer would do!”

Doris didn’t know it, of course, but three of her nephews had already launched aboard the museum’s scientific Flying Saucer…

When the time came for K’Plank to join them, she (and several watchers in the balconies of the Grand hall) was there to wave him bon voyage…

Only moments later, Valentine had the Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher streaking skyward…

As the Earplug Brothers climbed above the clouds, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger aboard the Tankerville Norris joined them…

Then, as one, the four museum vessels formed up behind the Buggeram Bay…

Even at the modest speed that the Scrotonite ship’s AI chose to carry them in the direction of the sea, just off the sewage outfall, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the view of an alien Spatial Relocation Ring to hove into view…

“Don’t tell me, Walker,” Nigel said as he eyed the impressively massive device that could clearly hover with apparent ease above the azure waters, “we have one of these on the drawing board.”

Walker was slow to respond. After several seconds and an elbow in the kidneys from Beatrix, he replied:

“You signed the financial authorisation last week. The designer’s argument for it was that a ship didn’t need to traverse space, hyperspace, wormholes, transit conduits, or any of that old guff, to get anywhere. We would just send one of these, then simply enter its facsimile on Scroton, and be – ah, here, for example – in the blink of an eye. Ships wouldn’t even need to make orbit. In fact you wouldn’t need space ships at all: just aircraft.”

“I thought it looked familiar.” Nigel all but mused to himself. To Walker he said:

“So we’ve been beaten to the punch yet again. Someone has very good spies on Scroton. But, tell me, who could possibly pass as a cable end – for certainly no cable end that ever drew breath on Scroton would work against their planet’s best interest. I’m completely mystified.”

Julian Prim coughed discretely. “Golden One,” he said, “if your ingenious plan is to succeed, we must invert the Buggeram Bay, and envelope our partner’s ships in cloaks that make them appear as we do.”

“Oh yes, that’s right.” Nigel replied. “It’s very important that the ring recognises us as bona fide alien vessels. If we can pass ourselves off as such, it will probably open and allow us egress from this planet, and ingress to the planet at the other end. Go for it!”

A moment later…

…five ships approached the mysterious Spatial Relocation Ring. Timing could have been better because Nigel’s bladder chose that moment to remind him that he shouldn’t have consumed three glasses of cream soda and a Bloody Mary before departure…

“Why have you two joined me?” He demanded of Walker and Bertram.

“Support, Sir.” Bertram replied. “Both spiritual and physical.”

“We don’t want you falling up the toilet, Sir.” Walker added.

After a difficult visit to the loo, finding their way back to the bridge was kid’s stuff. Once settled into his chair, Nigel noticed an incongruity:

“With the ship inverted, why is the screen the right way up? It boggles my eyes.”

“Something to do with the refresh rate of the HD screen, Sir.” Fermin answered Nigel. “It gets all wobbly if it’s turned upside down.”

“So it’s not my blood rushing to the top of my head?” Beatrix inquired.

“Could be, Ma’am.” Fermin replied. “I wouldn’t discount any possibility. Oh, no more time for idle chat: here we go!”

Initially, it appeared that Nigel’s plan was…uh…going to plan: but when the Buggeram Bay and the Tankerville Norris entered the event horizon simultaneously…

…the Spatial Relocation Ring responded in a most violent manner – snapping shut and barring the way for K’Plank and the Earplug Brothers. All three vessels wheeled away in near panic…

Aboard the Flying Saucer, Rudi could barely believe his eyes…

Chester and Miles looked away in fear that they had lost their youngest brother.

“It’s okay, guys,” Rudi called out. “The Tankerville Norris and the Buggeram Bay made it through!”

However it wasn’t all good news. Their sensors had detected a rocky island directly beneath the SRR.

“Look, bros, it even has a Café Puke outlet.” Rudi cried out in glee. “Let’s go drown our sorrows in a ghastly mug of brown muck!”

Valentine had spotted it too. Without hesitation he ‘zoomed’ down to take a better view…

“Yup,” he radioed the boys and K’Plank, “it’s sho’nuf open, and it’s happy hour!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That was a truly international extract – with ‘real’ backdrops coming from England, France, and Spain. I certainly get out and about shooting the Earplug Adventures!

Surprise Visit (part 13)

Are you enjoying Surprise Visit? If so, please leave a comment in the ‘comment’ box. It should go something like this: “Yo, Tooty, what a groove.” or “Hey, man – I can dig it!” Or something similar – such as “Divine, darling!” or “Absolute bloody genius.” Or, “I nearly wet my pants, it’s so good.” The choice is yours. Now on to the next extract…

Meanwhile, in the arboretum Café Puke franchise…

…the heroic earplug duo and their allies from Scroton were still in deep conversation. Outside – shooting in through a window in the back wall – Rupert Piles caught everything upon his mighty TV camera…

“This is good.” He said to himself. “I’ll be able to stretch this into a two-part docudrama. I might even win an award for it. Heaven knows I’m overdue one. Let’s hope no one gets the drop on me, like the aliens did on Nigel and his gang.”

Whilst important discussions were taking place in one Café Puke outlet; in another, which happened to be located at the edge of the nearby Wide Blue Yonder…

…a surprised pair of Baristas were…ugh…surprised to see Jungle-Jake lead Mary-Sue and Moyst into their workplace.

“Hey,” the taller of the two Baristas – both of whom were cleaning spilt coffee from a table near the back – cried, “what are you guys doing here? Has your café burned down, fallen foul of the Health and Safety Executive, or something?”

“Or have you been fired for rudeness and overt gum chewing?” The shorter earplug inquired.

Mary-Sue explained.

“I smelt some sugar cane.” Jungle-Jake added. “The pong led us here.”

“Oh yeah,” the first Barista said as comprehension dawned. “We had a load of sugar cane crystals in sachets: but no one bothers with the real thing, not when they can have nice white refined sugar. It was past its sell-by date. We’ve been burning it in an incinerator out the back.”

“If you wanna look around out there,” the second Barista said helpfully,” you might find a few sachets on the ground. We were having fun flicking  ’em at each other, and we couldn’t be bothered to pick them up. But, watch it, people take their plugmutts ‘round there to have a pee, so they might smell a bit iffy.”

Meanwhile the autofocus of Rupert’s camera found it difficult to see clearly through the futuristically pseudo-opaque glass in one of the café’s side windows…

More fortunately, the microphone experienced no difficulty picking up what the occupants of the café were saying to each other.

“Let me get this right.” Nigel was saying to Magnuss. “You never actually saw the aliens: they spoke through a vocoder-like apparatus, so you have no idea what they really sound like; they destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford as a demonstration of their power; they want your unconditional surrender; and they’ve given you two weeks to make your decision – and left you to think it over?”

Magnuss was happy with that summation. Then he thought of something else:

“Oh yes, they also left a huge ovoid ring. It’s hanging in the air, over the sea, just off the coast, near the sewage outlet. It’s heavily armed, has multiple layers of electro-magnetic defensive screening, and is the means by which the semi-fleet departed this region of space.”

Beatrix picked up on one of Magnuss’ terms: “Semi-fleet?” She inquired. “Might an alternative nomenclature for a small number of armed invasion ships be termed a ‘flotilla’?”

Magnuss thought about it for a second. “Yes, I guess it would.” He answered. “Yes, the ovoid ring was the means by which the flotilla departed this region of space.”   

Beatrix turned to her husband. “There, I told you so – when we blew up that shape-shifting sausage roll: there is a flotilla of our latest ship out there – and it’s kicking ass!”

Nigel didn’t need to be reminded. All his fears were taking on corporeal form. “Do we know where they went to?” He asked Magnuss. “You know, when they left via the ovoid ring?”

Magnuss fetched out his cell phone. He spoke as he did so. “We sent a drone in after the…flotilla. Before we lost contact with it, the drone sent this back.”  Quickly searching through its library of images with deft movements of his pinky-orange fingers, he produced this…

A collective gasp escaped the seven sets of Scrotonic lungs. “Weird Space!” The seven owners of the seven sets of lungs exclaimed in a hushed tone.

“Recognise the planet?” Magnuss inquired. “It’s brown all over, with no surface water.”

No one did: but Julian noticed something pertinent:

“It has an aura.” He said. “A glow, if you will. It could indicate a substantial cloaking facility. Large enough to hide the entire world, maybe. You said that their ships evaded your sensors? Perhaps this world is evading Scroton’s.”

Nigel’s fears doubled at these words. “You mean that there is a hidden planet in Weird Space that we don’t know about – that has a capacity to develop technology as well or better than we can? If I had any pants on, I’d probably be pooping in them as we speak”

Beatrix looked at Nigel. “You don’t have any pants on?” She inquired quietly.

“Forgot to pack any.” Nigel explained. “That’s why I chose the kilt. But enough of my wardrobe disaster: We need to act – and act decisively. “

Talking of acting decisively, in the Wide Blue Yonder Café Puke, Moyst, Jungle-Jack, and Mary-Sue had thanked the Baristas for their help, and were leaving the café – their pockets burgeoning with vaguely unpleasant-smelling sachets of unprocessed cane sugar…

So, the difficult facet of their task completed, now it was merely a matter of retracing their steps back to the arboretum; past the bamboo plantation…

…and finally to the café where Nigel, presumably, awaited his sugar…

“Pity we couldn’t find a mortar and pestle.” Jungle-Jake lamented quietly.

“That’s old tech.” Moyst snorted derisively behind him. “No one can expect a Barista to find ancient stuff in the Museum of Future Technology. I mean – it’s counter intuitive, aint it!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Right then, now it’s time for you to do your bit. Comment. Comment. Comment!

 

Surprise Visit (part 12)

No preamble: just story. Look, I didn’t even bother putting ‘An Earplug Adventure’ in the title. So on with it!

Chapter Four

After all seven Scrotonites had taken their turn at peering at the tiny picture upon Magnuss’ cell phone…

…six of them stood back and awaited their leader’s response. It wasn’t one of several they might have expected…

“I don’t like this coffee.” He said. “The sugar is refined. It’s very bad for me. I want pure cane sugar – freshly hacked and processed by hand, using a mortar and pestle. Barista’s go fetch it for me.”

Of course, by now, all three Barista’s had consulted the Internet on their cell phones: they knew exactly the degree of power Nigel might wield, and how important he was. Fearing he could have had them beheaded or excluded from social media, they begrudgingly complied with his somewhat unorthodox demand…

The small, mauve Barista – Moyst Towlet – led her colleagues from behind the counter. “Hey, this is great.” She said. “We’re getting paid to go outside in the sunshine. I can top up my tan. I used to work as a trainee manicurist and lipstick applicator in the arboretum’s artisan village: I know exactly where we can cut down some sugar cane. Let’s go!”

Once the staff had disappeared out of the door, Nigel whipped off his plume and tossed all the coffees into the sink, like the first-rate basketball player he might have been, had fate not decreed that he would lead a world out of ignorance and a dung-for-brains existence, into a technological and prosperous era, and said:

“A ruse, my friends. I had no wish for witnesses to what transpires hereafter. And I don’t like the coffee either. If anyone feels the need for refreshment, I’m sure Magnuss can oblige from his hip flask of ginger beer. Now to business.”

With that, Magnuss cast aside his Cossack hat and joined the others as they crowded around Nigel’s table…

Both Magnuss and Hair-Trigger smiled as The Golden One took control of the discussion:

“Those ships are of Scrotonic design.” He stated.

“Undoubtedly.” Walker Crabtrouser concurred.

Bertram Hisscod raised a hand. “They appeared to be flying inverted.” He said.

Fermin Gusset required clarity: “What, like upside down, you mean?”

“Exactly.” Julian replied for Bertram. “I knew there was something odd about that picture!”

“Why were they flying upside down?” Beatrix inquired, reasonably enough.

Faati thought she could supply the answer to that difficult question:

“They must have held the blueprints upside down when they photocopied the original design.”

“Of course.” Nigel bellowed as his fist slammed into the table top – threatening to shatter it’s futuristic melamine surface. “It must have paid merry hell for their engineers, when they tried to shoehorn in the interior of the ship. Imagine turning every deck through one hundred and eighty degrees – especially the waste pipes from the lavatories. If I had a hat on, I’d take it off to them!”

He paused for a moment. “Walker,” he said, “you looked shamefaced. What is it?”

Walker Crabtree’s inner embarrassment became visible. “I spoke falsehood, Sir.” He explained. “Earlier I told you that it was impossible for any species to develop and build a spaceship quicker than the engineers of Scroton. I was wrong. It was sheer racial hubris. The facts are undeniable. Other than their upside-downiness, those vessels on Magnuss’ cell phone are exact duplicates of the ship we arrived here in. I feel decidedly wrong-footed: I should have seen this coming.”

“Me too.” Bertram’s professional horror surfaced like a boiling mud geyser in an active sulphurous volcanic region, though less aromatic of course. “If anyone should have been on top of this horrendous security break, it should have been ‘yours truly’!”

“Self-recrimination will do us no good, gentlemen.” Nigel spoke loudly, but kindly. “We need intel. Magnuss, have the aliens made any demands of the museum’s curator elite?”

“Well…” Magnuss began.

Meanwhile the three Baristas had reached the region in the arboretum in which Moyst insisted sugar cane grew freely…

However, now they were there, her confidence waned alarmingly.

“Here we are.” Mary-Sue said cheerfully. “Did anyone bring something to cut it with?”

“I’ve got sharp teeth.” Jungle-Jake volunteered. “I can bite ‘em down.”

Moyst decided that it was time to ‘fess up’. “Er,” she began with less than total confidence, “I aint so sure this is sugar cane after all. I think it’s bamboo. My Uncle Chantra’s got something very like it at the bottom of his garden. They look very similar. We’ll have to look somewhere else.”

To her surprise, neither colleague appeared worried in the least by this information. “That’s alright, Moyst.” Jungle-Jake said. “It’ll give me the chance to live up to my name. You stay here; I’ll go sniff us out some sugar cane.”

With those words reverberating off the hollow bamboo canes that grew all around them, Jungle-Jake stepped from the walkway and descended into the foliage…

Immediately his sensitive nose began twitching – searching out the characteristic ‘spore’ of sugar cane. Unfortunately, Jungle-Jake had no idea what Sugar cane smelt like. “Oh bugger,” he said, “why couldn’t I have been raised in the West Indies – they’ve got lots of sugar cane there. Bananas too. I could have taken some banana extract back with me: that would have impressed that guy from Scroton. Not a lot of sugar cane in the Welsh valleys though. Hmmm, maybe I aint quite the right dude for the job I thought I was. Oh, darn it: why do I have to play the big ‘look at me, I can do anything’ wally? Whatta am I gonna tell the girls?”

Of course he had no answer to that. However, a split second into a huge raspberry-blow of self-loathing…

…he discovered that he could taste sweetness in the air.

“On the other hand,” he said to himself.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P S: It may not seem it, at this juncture in the story; but the sensitivity of Jungle-Jake’s taste buds will become very important later on. Stay tuned to find out why!

PPS: Did you notice the coffee cups in the Cafe Puke? Attention to detail or what!

 

Surprise Visit (part 10): An Earplug Adventure

Into double figures. These extracts just keep coming. At least they will do all the time you want to read them. Thank you for that, by the way. Without readers, what would be the point of writing these tales? Especially since I do so enjoy doing it. Keep up the good work. Tell your friends. Let’s spread the word. Enjoy Part Ten…

Five minutes later Magnuss and Hair-Trigger stood upon the truncated Wide Blue Yonder, pressed up against their visitors…

“Sorry about this,” Magnuss said, “but we don’t want the aliens to detect our use of the matter transmitter. We’re using just one to carry all nine of us. Squash up. Squash up!”

Moments later…

…multiple flashes lit up the fake surroundings. A split second later, multiple flashes did likewise in a subterranean bunker beneath the real Museum of Future Technology…

“Okay everybody,” Magnuss said after everyone had felt themselves from head to toe, “let’s go!”

And, boy, didn’t they go! Magnuss set a blistering pace…

So fast that he and Hair-Trigger were soon gasping for air…

…and poor little Faati – the Queen of the Pygmies – was in danger of being left behind. But what she lacked in outright speed, she more than made up for in stamina. So by the time the flagging forerunners had reached the sole exterior viewing window, she had caught up…

“You gotta run really fast to lose a pygmy.” One of the earplug engineers present on the shop floor below said. “I always bet on them in a marathon.”

“Me too.” Another replied. “I bought my apartment with the winnings.”

Naturally, Nigel was more than interested in the alien saucers. Already an idea was forming in his illustrious head. “Can we go somewhere quiet where you can show me images of these alien swine?” He asked, yet managed to make it a command.

“Sure.” Magnuss replied. “I was rather hoping you’d say that. Just follow the signs.”

“Are you sure you want to take them to a Café Puke?” An uncertain Hair-Trigger asked of her husband…

“Can you think of a better place?” He responded. “The coffee is crap, but the ambiance can’t be equalled – especially with their latest Fifties Diner décor.”

At that moment, a short distance away, in the arboretum Café Puke…

…three Baristas awaited their next customer. It had been a quiet start to the morning, and thus far clientele had only occupied a few tables…

“Oi, can we really afford to keep that air-con running?” The pink female, Mary-Sue Wassack, said to the others. “And I don’t mean that in a fiscal sense: the museum is running on battery power you know. Okay, they’re very futuristic batteries, but they don’t last forever. Then this job’ll get really hard and sweaty. I do don’t hard and sweating – not unless I’m down the disco with a can of lager in my hand.”

One of the others – possibly the sole male Barista, Jungle-Jake Johnson –  might have argued that if they turned up the heat, what few customers they had would leave. However all three Barista’s attention was soon drawn to a face at the door…

“Ah-ha,” they heard Magnuss say cheerfully. “Stay right there. Don’t shut up shop, and don’t turn off the air-con: you’ve got V.I.Ps incoming.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

PS The cover to the free PDF e-book version is ready. It looks like this…

Judging from the cover image, that looks like a surprise visit we’d all like to avoid. Next time phone before you arrive: we can make sure we’re out!

A ‘It Features in My Book’ Wallpaper: Fictional Village of Brambledown

When I posted the first ‘It Features in My Book’ Wallpaper, I hadn’t planned to produce a sequel – of sorts; but nosing through my collection of digital photos, I found more that feature locations (from my recollections during childhood) that inspired scenes in this book…

Here is a shot that includes a part of the fictional village of Brambledown…

…which I thought made a nice wallpaper. But whilst I was bending myself to the task, I fiddled with a shot that features a location that is included in a specific scene from the book, which I present here as an extract. The locale has changed considerably since the sixties (the period from which I drew my imagery); but the general lie of the land remains pretty much as it was. The sunken lane highlighted here, featured in the first post.

An extract from Silent Apocalypse…

Since I was not present, the following part of this narrative must be second hand. It was related to me at a later date.

Night had fallen. Four teenaged girls, one of whom was Katherine Kingsbury – sister to Tom, and school friend of mine – huddled together in a thicket that grew upon the hillside that overlooked the village. They’d been abducted during the Wiltshire Rifles’ first foray into Brambledown. They rejoiced in the fact that they’d not been joined by others, but were greatly concerned about the villager’s welfare. As of yet they were unhurt and unsullied. None of them imagined the situation would remain that way forever. Katherine, bound at hand and foot, stared at the one young Rifleman left to guard them. What she hoped to accomplish she didn’t know, but if it made him feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable, then it was worth the effort. And she was pretty certain she was having some effect. Eventually he turned angrily toward her.

“Will you stop that?” He snapped.

“Will you set me free?” She returned his outburst.

He took a step toward her. “I’ll tell you what I will do…”

“Rifleman!” The voice of the Lance Corporal erupted from the surrounding shadows, “Remain at your post.”

The Rifleman threw Katherine a glance of menace, and resumed his watching of the village through the thicket. He spoke to the Lance Corporal, who had come to check the girl’s condition:

“Any chance of action tonight, Corp?”

The Lance Corporal glanced at the girl’s bonds before returning his attention to the Rifleman. “For you – or the unit in general?”

“Both.”

“No – and yes – in that order.”

The Rifleman’s whining voice betrayed his youth: “Oh, but Corp, I missed out last night too.”

The Lance Corporal was unmoved. “Tough. Shouldn’t be such a prat then, should you? Tell you what: next time we need a complete louse-up, we’ll call for you. Now shut up and keep your eyes peeled.”

“Thanks very much.” The Rifleman managed. “So we’re going in again tonight?”

The Lance Corporal was already departing. “If my plan’s gonna succeed, we have to. We have to keep ‘going in’ until there’s either no womenfolk left in the village, or we’re all dead. Whichever way it turns out, we are not leaving here empty handed. You got that?”

Katherine heard these words, and shuddered.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

As far as I know, this e-book remains available at several outlets, some of which are included on the sidebar via the book cover images, or on the Tooty’s E-Books Available To Buy Here page. And very nice it is too – if you enjoy genocide and disaster.

Wattpad Ditched

After weeks of relentless uploading, and half-way through this fairly wondrous tale…

…I said, “Tooty, you only have one reader: why are you bothering?”

So I quit. That was a lot of effort for no gain – spiritual or otherwise. And some of the writing on Wattpad is utterly execrable. Makes the Earplug Adventures look like Shakespeare. Phew, glad to be free of that lot. Still, it was an experience to discover that all the awful things people say about Wattpad are true. Where next, I wonder? Any ideas, anyone?

Revel in the Ribaldry 37

Time, methinks, for an extract from a Hamster-Sapiens book. If I had my way, I would have chosen to display the wonders that are The Psychic Historian; but that could possibly demean other fine works of hamster fiction, such as this one…

So, purely at the whim of randomness – or randominity, as I prefer to call it – appease your literary gut with this extract…

A waiter arrived moments later to inquire after Stubby’s requirements. Stubby recognised him as the former assassin – Malingerer Stench – and duly ordered a raspberry soufflé, which he was certain would anger the gerbil by reminding him of how he came to be living in Prannick, and in such a frightfully lowly social position too.

Felicity’s inquiring tilt of the head persuaded Stubby to explain that Malingerer Stench had once held the position of chief be-header in Sandy Desert Land, but had been lured to Prannick by the love of a travelling raspberry sales-girl, who subsequently left him, which forced the former death-merchant into a new vocation – that being bar-staff. Stubby hoped that by ordering a raspberry soufflé he was insulting the gerbil twice: Most obviously by the raspberry connection, but also by requesting a dessert – the spelling of which is almost exactly the same as desert.

“Oh, Primrose – you can be so cruel.” Felicity gently scolded the false harvest mouse.

“Stubby, please.” Stubby scolded in return. “You should only call me Primrose when my breasts make their presence felt. At all other times I should be referred to as Stubby.”

“Felt?” Brenda yelped and stood upright at the same moment, “You’s aint suggestin’ that my girl’s gotta squeeze your tits, is ya? Joan was thinkin’ you might be one of them lesbians: Girls don’t go squeezin’ tits ya know: That’s boy’s jobs.”

Brenda suddenly became aware that the bar had fallen silent and that everyone was looking at her. She gave a sickly smile, and then added, by way of explanation, “I’s from outta town. We talks a real whole load’a shit where I come from. You’s best be ignorin’ me. Now drink ya fluffin’ beer, ya nosey bastards.”

“Oh dear, Stubby,” Darkwood spoke above the startled exclamations of offended patrons, “I do believe that our proposed discussion of things most important will have to be put off for another time and another location.”

Indeed this was the case, and in three seconds flat the landlord had the six of them thrown out on their furry arses.

“An inauspicious beginning to our renewed endeavour together I fear.” Quentin opined whilst very obviously blaming Stubby entirely for their altered situation with looks that closely resembled daggers.

“You didn’t help either, mum – you big dopey twat!” Felicity sought to spread the blame.

“Never mind, never mind.” Stubby said in hushed tones as he quickly dusted everyone down. Then in a conspiratorial whisper he added, “I rather hoped that would happen actually. It was entirely deliberate, you know. I just wanted to make sure that none of you were being followed.”

Felicity responded with a whisper of her own. “Why would anyone be following us? Who knows that we’re here at all?”

“You’d be surprised.” Stubby replied, and then eased them all in the direction of a travelling fair as it clanked and clattered its way through the main street.

“I say, we’re all likely to be deafened by this frightful racket.” Darkwood complained as they walked beside an iron-wheeled wagon that was being drawn by a team of argumentative stag beetles.

“We may be deafened.” Stubby shouted above the din, “but so are those with inquiring ears.”

“Do you really think that we were being followed?” Felicity had to screech like a tortured lathe to make herself heard.

“The two miserable-looking curs in the corner by the window were giving you rapt attention.” Stubby bellowed like a loony, “And there was another standing beside the condom vendor’s sack taking notes.”

Darkwood was amazed. “But who might they be? Why would they expect us to be here? Might they be some kind of wizards? Oh my heart’s all of a flutter at the thought.”

“I don’t know.” Stubby roared, but already his voice was weakening, “Perhaps if you tell me all about your problem, and why you sent for me, then perhaps I can hazard a guess.”

So for the next five minutes they all took turns to shout informatively at Stubby as they strolled alongside the clanking wheels of the travelling fairground wagon – painfully apprising him of the situation.

When eventually the tale was told, Stubby guided them into a deserted laundry, where he was able to verbalise his opinion without the aid of a megaphone, and out of sight, just in case someone who might be following them could read lips.

“I’ve no doubt at all that Lucas Cleats fully intends to slay the inhabitants of the abbey. I don’t doubt his motivation or conviction either. What I do doubt is his free will. I remember Lucas when he was a cub. I watched him grow up. I think he has a great deal of latent psychic talent. The Lucas Cleats that I knew wanted to free Prannick of its pious overseers more than anything: But he would never stoop to murder.”

“You’s meaning some guy’s got control over this Cleats’ guy’s brain and stuff?” Brenda exclaimed in a brief moment of mental clarity.

Stubby wasn’t entirely familiar with Brenda’s speech patterns. “Ah, I think so.” He replied.

“And you believe that we are also pawns in some Machiavellian plot?” Quentin added.

Stubby was doubly impressed with Quentin Blackheart: Firstly for being able to say ‘Machiavellian’: Secondly for using a word that was utterly meaningless in both Hamster-Britain and Prannick.

“Indeed.” He replied, deciding that he would delay an investigation into the unexpected phenomenon until the current crisis was dealt with. “There are greater plans afoot than the mere extermination of a few monks. And it’s our task to identify and thwart it.”

“The best way that we can thwart such an affront to decency is by saving the monks.” Felicity snarled at some imagined monster.

So Stubby repeated his “Indeed”, and then led the way back into the street.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

Wasn’t that lovely? You can buy the e-book (very cheaply) by visiting the Tooty’s E-Books Available to Buy Here page. It is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of literary fabulousness.

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 39)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The station’s robots were doing no better…

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile Bunty began giving Ginger and Daisy exact instructions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gave Daisy pause for thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

A “It Features in My Book” Wallpaper: The Sunken Lane

When, long ago (2004 actually) I wrote the first draft of the book that was (after several re-writes through the years) to become my best-selling creation, namely this one…

…I based the locale of a very significant part of the story on the place of my birth and upbringing. I had no idea that, eight years later, I would return to live there again. In the book, the English village in question was named Brambledown, and this sunken lane (see above) was the means by which the central characters gained access to the village whilst remaining unseen by those besieging it. As you can see – even though the passage of years have worn the banks down somewhat,  and half the trees are missing – if you were unfamilar with the area, you might well fail to notice this tarmac  artery amongst the surviving trees and adjacent farmland. Well that’s what I thought, back in 2004. Here’s an extract from the aforementioned book that includes the sunken lane…

Lee indicated that we should keep low, and join him. As Kevin and I scrambled to his side we both noticed that a small thicket stood in the lee of the hill. A thin column of smoke curled into the air from it, but quickly flattened out and dissipated.

“Campfire.” Lee stated needlessly as we hid behind a thick bush and snatched brief looks over it. “But who are they?”

Kevin rummaged through his haversack, producing a respectable pair of binoculars. It showed great forethought. My admiration for this simple survivor increased.

“These help?” He smiled as he offered them to Lee.

Lee gave him a wink of thanks, and then put the glasses to his eyes.

After a few moments, “Just as I thought; it’s some kind’a paramilitary outfit. They know what they’re doing though: They’ve posted guards while the rest are havin’ a bit of grub.”

“Can we get past them?” I inquired.

From our vantage point we could see little of the village, but Lee scanned what he could. He sounded positive when he asked, “You said you knew this place?”

“I don’t suppose it’s changed much.” I heard a slightly defensive tone in my voice. ‘Am I making excuses for failure already?’

“There’s a sunken lane somewhere over to the left.” I said. “In the opposite direction to the thicket.”

The sunken lane to which I referred was just as I’d remembered it. It wasn’t until you almost fell into it that its existence became obvious. Beeches had grown about it – their massive roots forming high heavy banks and disappearing beneath the patchy, undulating tar macadam surface. To anyone who wasn’t local it was merely a line of broadleaf trees much like any other, and of no significance. To the inhabitants of Brambledown it was a defensible position.

I wasn’t surprised when a disembodied female hailed us:

“All right:” She spoke in a broad rural accent.

‘Clearly one of Katherine’s ‘serfs’

“You can stay right there, and don’t move a muscle.”

There was no mistaking the threat in her tone. We all stood as if rooted.

“Lose the firepower.” The next instruction followed.

With a clatter Lee dropped the shotgun.

“And the old pop-gun.” The voice, slightly amused, insisted.

Lee didn’t know in which direction to turn his attention.

“It don’t work.” He called, then held out the revolver, “No firin’ pin.”

“Only got your word for that.” The tone became sterner once more, “Drop it, or drop your trousers: I aint fussy.”

The revolver joined the shotgun in the leaf litter.

Moments later the voice gained form, and a sturdily-built girl – whom I judged to be about seventeen, and wearing filthy combat fatigues – stepped into view from behind a cleverly disguised hide. She was unarmed.

“Well!” Lee exclaimed as he bent to pick up the shotgun.

“Now-now!” A young male voice warned us from behind.

We spun to face a man of about nineteen years, who held a shotgun levelled at us. He hid the lower half of his a face behind a mask.

“Hello.” Kevin smiled at him, “My name’s Kevin: I live in Lutchins Farm. It’s me dad’s farm.”

The well-spoken voice warmed. “So you do. Hello Kevin; I’m afraid the hairdressers are closed right now. Who are your friends?”

Kevin introduced us. “This is Lee, and this is Flissery.”

“That’s Felicity.” I corrected him.

“Felicity, eh?” The young man looked me up and down. “Knew a girl of that name once, you know. Looked a little cleaner than you I seem to recall. Then I suppose the same could be said of all of us.”

There seemed a hint of sorrow in his tone. His voice seemed familiar. I watched his eyes as he instructed his associate to collect our weapons. Then recognition struck:

“Thomas.” I blurted. “Thomas Kingsbury!”

Lee looked surprised. “You know this bloke?”

Thomas winked at me before pulling down his mask to reveal his face.

“I thought it was you, Fel. My – you’re a big girl now! I mean that in nicest possible way, you understand…”

For a brief moment it hurt to hear my abbreviated name so soon after losing Sarah; but then I recalled all of Katherine’s family knew me by that moniker. Somehow it brought with it a sense of ‘belonging’.

“And you appear to have increased your mass too.” I replied – running to him and being swept into the air by surprisingly powerful arms.

Dropping me again, he introduced me to his associate. “Fel, meet Fred.”

We made our greeting. Then I introduced Lee to them both. And Kevin shook every one’s hand, including my own.

Before long two more youngsters arrived to relieve Tom and Fred. This allowed the five of us make our way to the village. What we found in the village dismayed us. It was an armed camp under siege, though it was heartening to see many tethered or corralled young animals too. We learned that the adolescents and children of several nearby villages, farms, and outlying houses had collected together in mutual need and for the defence of the village. But from whom came such threat?

Fred, rather inaccurately, referred to them as ‘The Army’. Others called them ‘Bandits’ or ‘Killers’ – though as of yet no one had been actually killed.

Tom, alone, called them what they actually were:

“A bunch of frightened cadets, Fel: That’s what they are – led by an absolute lunatic.”

“What makes you say that?” I enquired.

We were sitting together upon an old, lichen-coated, stone sarcophagus beside the largest Ewe tree in the village churchyard. I enjoyed the physical closeness. As a twelve year-old I dreamed that one day I might marry Tom, who was always out of reach, being three years my senior: Now at Sixteen perhaps… The thought struck me like a thunderbolt: ‘He must be nineteen by now: Old enough to die!

He didn’t notice my involuntary gasp. Instead he indicated the village about us. “Notice something missing – other than adults of course?”

It took me several seconds to re-gather my wits. I covered by looking from right to left and back again.

“Or should I say some one?” He added.

I was speechless. I looked into his grime-smeared but boyishly handsome face.

“Katherine.” He spoke as though I had merely made an enquiring lift of an eyebrow, “Katherine’s not here.”

Inside my head this new data did not compute. What my expression must have been, I can only guess; but the strength seemed to slough from Tom’s shoulders.

“They’ve got her, Fel. They’ve taken my only sister – and three more girls from the village. And what’s more they intend to take the rest. That’s how I know they’re led by a loony.”

Neither of us had heard Lee’s approach. We both jumped when he said, “So what are you doing about it?”

With Tom potentially at death’s door, and Katherine kidnapped by armed delinquents, this situation seemed impossible. Shangri la was rapidly turning into my idea of hell.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

If this book looks interesting, check it out by visiting the sidebar on this post, or the Tooty’s E-books Available to Buy Here! page beneath the header.

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 37)

With that, both earplugs were more than happy to return to the control room to expound further…

“So how do you feel about handing this ship back to the original crew?” Magnuss inquired of Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy.

“Well we know how to fly it, and all that,” Ginger replied for all of them, “but there are only four of us. In any case, we’re all minors – at least in earplug law: we really should be in your care.”

“That’s what I hoped you’d say.” Magnuss said with a relieved smile upon his boyishly handsome face. “Let’s call in the crew.”

Moments later…

“Captain,” Magnuss said without preamble, “are you prepared to take command of the Drunkard’s Vomit?”

“The Drunkard’s Vomit?” The captain questioned. “I am unaware of a vessel of that identity.”

“It’s this ship.” Hair-Trigger informed the automaton. “It’s got a new name. Like it?”

The captain didn’t quite know how to respond; but it wanted to keep the earplugs happy, so it said, “Certainly. Might I say what an inspired choice of nomenclature it is? Further, I consider it commendable upon at least seventeen levels of commendability.”

“Is ‘commendability’ a real word, Captain?” the ship’s green first officer spoke quietly over the captain’s hunched mauve shoulder

“I do not care.” The captain replied. “They know what I mean.”

“Indeed we do.” Magnuss agreed. “The ship is yours. We’ll be on our way.”

“Everyone ready?” He inquired of Tong-Tong and the girls.

None of them were certain they were ready for what was about to happen, but they said “Yes” anyway.

A split second later…

The light of the visitor’s departure had barely faded before the robots resumed their duties. However, for one it was bad news…

“With Tong-Tong gone,” the captain spoke to one of the many identical green robots that constituted the crew of the Drunkard’s Vomit, “the position of emergency waiter requires that someone fills it. You are that ‘someone.”

“It is an honour to step into Tong-Tong’s metaphorical shoes.” The nameless robot replied. “When do I start?”

Meanwhile, aboard the uninhabited Tankerville Norris

…systems were coming back on line. And not a moment too soon, because…

…it was uninhabited no longer…

“Wow,” Daisy exclaimed, “now I know how Dorkan and Dawlish Deathwish’s armoured reconnaissance vehicle felt when it appeared on the Wide Blue Yonder before us. Weird!”

The others agreed wholeheartedly, but they knew there was little time for conversation concerning matter transmission: already the Drunkard’s Vomit was lifting from its rocky sanctuary…

“It is good to see the vacuum of space once more.” The robot that had been designated Emergency Waiter said as the edge of the chasm hove into view upon the main screen.

“I concur.” The captain…er…concurred. It then added – perhaps as a cyber-joke – “On at least seventeen levels of concurability.”

“Right then,” Magnuss said as his guests took up position behind the Driving Chairs, “time to get this show on the road.”

Finally, the three girls were in a position – physically, mentally, and spiritually – to witness the magnitude of interstellar space…

“Ooh,” they said as one, “nice. Which one is Earth?”

Of course, the Tankerville Norris wasn’t going anywhere near Earth – not that the Earth was in view anyway: it was in the opposite direction completely! In fact, as the ship adopted a new position in space, the planetoid filled most of the main screen…

Already a course had been plotted: it was headed for a location just over the immediate horizon…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

My Literary Gift Plans Lay in Tatters

I’d promised you all that, unlike the preceding Earplug Adventures, Triple Threat would be made available to you in EPUB form – all free and lovely. So much better than PDF thought I – though PDF isn’t actually bad. It just isn’t a ‘real’ e-book. But when I tried to upload the EPUB file to go with this cover…

…a warning notice made it very clear: EPUB files cannot be uploaded to WordPress. Generous authors cannot give away their works, obviously. Just when I was beginning to enjoy using the platform again too. Spoilsports! So, when the serialised version is finished, I’ll be uploading a PDF copy for everyone to download – just like the other Earplug Adventure books before it. Oh well – not the end of the world I suppose.

P.S Of course you could always upload the file to an on-line conversion program: it’s how I created the EPUB file to start with.

Saved by the Nook

Call me silly and impatient if you like, but for the last couple of years I haven’t bothered to cash the royalty checks from my publishers because (after the bank has taken their cut for translating U.S Dollars into GBPs) I didn’t feel the amount earned was worth the effort. But my last one surprised me, and I duly carried it along to a pleasant teller and put it into my bank account. It wasn’t a lot; but it paid for a few groceries. And for those groceries I have the users of the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader to thank. For years now, it has been Nook users that have made it worth my while to keep the books on sale. Without them, I wouldn’t have bothered. Of course potential readers could go straight to my publishers, Lulu Press to download my wondrous literary offerings in regular EPUB format – those being this little lot…

But, in recent times – like the last five years –  only the following B&N sites have been utilised…

Tooty Nolan: Hamster Sapiens books

Clive Thunderbolt: Causality Merchant books

Paul Trevor Nolan: ‘Silent’ books

And I’d like to thank every one of those Nook users. You keep my spirits up. Were you one of them?

Tooty

P.S You can find extracts from all of the above books beneath the site header.

P.P.S  The Psychic Historian: The best book ever created in the history of the written word!

Wattpad Update: Required Reading for All Earpluggers!

Recently I added the second volume of A Tale of Three Museums on Wattpad...

As anticipated, it hasn’t set the literary world aflame. There has been no clamouring for more information about this wondrous work. But it did make it to here on the rankings…

Is that good? I don’t know. Things improved slightly later…

Better still (I think, but I’m not sure) Volume One has gone to NUMBER ONE…

Unfortunately it’s in the Ridiculousness category. Still, Number One is number one, no matter which chart – although I expect some people regard it more as a huge pile of Number Twos. But that’s their problem, and we know better, don’t we?

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bunty answered in the affirmative.

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

Two minutes later…

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

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

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

Chapter 7

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

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

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

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

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

A second image quickly followed…

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Six Days into Wattpad

I didn’t expect much when I  began posting extracts from this photo-novel…

…on the reading and writing platform WATTPAD. But I’ve been slightly surprised by the ranking it received straight away. After just a couple of days the tale was ranked here…

and…

But here we are, on Day Six, and this is the current situation…

I don’t know if that’s good, but it sure looks encouraging.  If things don’t fall apart; my resolve evaporates; or I just get bored dishing out the tale in serial form without response from the readers, I’ll keep you posted.

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 22)

Obviously, the three girls had never attempted breathing vacuum, and couldn’t imagine a time when they would choose to; but they could imagine that it might be slightly less pleasant than chewing on a hand grenade. Therefore, within seconds of the captain’s final syllable impacting their tympanic membrane, they had raced back to their original hiding place…

Slamming the hatch shut behind them, they crept to the interior window…

…and watched in abject horror as…

…the ship’s crew allowed themselves to be led away into an existence of unwanted freedom.

“Hurry along. Hurry along.” The smaller of the two blue robotic lieutenants snapped, “this is a busy interstellar shipping lane: anyone might happen by without notice. We do not want your tardiness to force us into destroying them with our atomic cannons. We will, you know. We are like that. We really do not care about silicon life forms. In fact I think we might even enjoy blasting them across the void in a million tiny pieces.”

“Steady on, Lieutenant.” The large white robot adopted verbal stealth mode and addressed its subordinate. “If you possessed a mouth, you would be frothing at it.”

Then to the freighter’s crew it bellowed, “So get a bloody move on!”

Naturally, under such duress, the crew complied with utmost alacrity; and within a few minutes, the Robotic Justice League vessel moved off and blasted away…

…which left the bulbous black freighter hanging, inert, and all alone, in the depths of space…

Inside it – in one of the many corridors that criss-cross etcetera, etcetera… 

…Ginger Slack, Daisy Woodnut, and Bunty Bridgewater – the new and unwilling crew of the submarine space freighter – held an impromptu pow-wow.

Looking up at one of the high windows, Ginger said, “Our mums and dads must be worried sick. I thought if we were on our way back to Earth, that we wouldn’t be gone much longer. But now…well we might never get home!

“Don’t talk like that.” An annoyed Bunty spoke from farther along the corridor. “I know we’re just a bunch of dozy dingbats, but that’s not our fault. We never asked to be cossetted and all wrapped up in cotton wool whilst living in the Museum of Future Technology. But we were – and now we’ve got to pull ourselves together and start acting like we have a brain each.”

“But we have got a brain each.” Daisy said in a confused tone. “Mine’s in my head.”

“Daisy, shut up.” Bunty snapped. “You’ve been allowed to play at being thick for too long. Now, like us, you have to engage that brain inside your head. Coz if we don’t fix this situation, we’re gonna die out here – and our parents will never know. They’ll spend the rest of their lives wondering – and hoping. Do you understand?”

Neither Daisy nor Ginger had ever seen their chum so serious. They both nodded. Nevertheless, thereon Ginger took the lead:

“As things stand we can’t work this ship. I don’t even know the front from the back. We need help.”

The pink and the blue earplugs absorbed this. Bunty was the first to speak:

“We need to call out. Can we figure how the coms work?”

Ginger shrugged her shoulders. “We can try.”

Daisy held aloft a single digit. Having gained the attention of the others, she said:

“Tong-Tong might know how to work it.”

Ginger gave Daisy a smile that someone could have described as ‘motherly’. “The crew were all taken away, Daisy.” She said.

“Not Tong-Tong.” Daisy replied. “I watched really closely. Tong-Tong wasn’t taken anywhere. I didn’t see Tong-Tong at all.”

Ginger looked to Bunty. “Search pattern Alpha.” She said. “I don’t know what that means; but it sounds good. Follow me.”

Five minutes later…

…the trio of silicon adventurers exited the main corridor system and moved into the auxiliary system.

“It’s where I’d hide – if I was a robot.” Ginger explained.

Daisy thought it might be a good idea to call out Tong-Tong’s name. So they did, and before long…

…the ship’s waiter detected its new moniker amongst the echoes. It would have called back, but the rudimentary voice box that the cheapskate manufacturers had fitted was capable only of a gentle, unstressed, ‘Hello; is anyone there?”

Nevertheless, it was enough for Ginger’s sensitive hearing, and within seconds…

…the trio had become a quartet.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You betcha.” Magnuss replied.

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

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

…the girls had decided upon a Crappachino each.

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

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

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

“Hans Dudishes.” It replied.

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

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

Ginger screwed up her nose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 18)

However, as the sound of the XL5s diminished above the Museum of Future Technology, upon the Ice-World the endless ice sheet shook to the arrival of the submarine space freighter…

Far below the surface of the ice, in the Ice-Worlder’s great city, their leader, Marnus Pongfinger was waiting impatiently for the radio announcer to stop talking inanities or about himself: stop playing jingles and trailers for up-coming radio shows later in the day; and guide the freighter in for a shipment collection…

Ginger couldn’t decide which concerned her more: the radio announcer’s self-obsession, or the horrendously low temperatures outside…

“Oh I can’t stand it.” She wailed. “That voice: that cold. It’s all too much for a young museum girl!”

Bunty couldn’t believe it. “But Ginger,” she said, “that’s Ice Station Nobby out there. It’s wonderful. I don’t understand how the thrill of seeing such a fabulous and famous artefact of earplug engineering hasn’t overcome your dislike of DJs and chilly weather. Don’t you recall what makes Ice Station Nobby so famous?”

Of course Ginger didn’t: her parents couldn’t afford the Trans-Galactic TV Network’s monthly subscription price. “No,” she said as she opened one eye, “what’s so famous about Ice Station Nobby?”

So Bunty told her: “One day, I don’t know when exactly, a great big alien saucer crashed in the ice near Ice Station Nobby. Despite conditions of the extremely inclement kind, the station commander sent out teams to investigate…

What they found astonished them: a great big alien creature frozen solid in a block of ice. But, when it thawed out it went on a rampage. Everyone in Ice Station Nobby were in mortal danger because the creature could take on the form of any living thing, so finding it proved almost impossible. Then someone had the brilliant idea of electrifying the floor – and zapped it good and proper. In its attempts to flee, it turned itself into thousands of sausage rolls and tried rolling away in a thousand different directions. But the station commander turned out his sleigh plugmutts, whose sensitive noses found them all and gobbled them up in a trice.”

“Wow,” Ginger said appreciatively as she turned to regard the exterior window, “that sounded really scary. Did any sausage rolls escape the plugmutts?”

“Of course.” Bunty replied. “But all that rolling through the snow meant that they collected a huge amount of snow on them. They turned into huge snowballs that got larger and larger until they couldn’t roll anymore.”

“Yeah,” Daisy said as she too recalled the news reports, “they were easy to find. I’ve heard they’ve still got some of them in their deep freeze. I expect they use them as training treats for young new plugmutts.”

Ginger found herself so intrigued by the tale of the shape-shifting sausage roll monster that she failed to notice the disappearance of Bunty. It was only when she and Daisy heard a tap on the window, they both realised that Bunty had taken herself outside into the vicious climate…

“Look,” they watched her mouth through the incredibly insulated glass, “I’ve found one. Fancy a sausage roll for tea?”

Of course, the sight of their friend alone on the ice gave the others the impetus necessary to get themselves out of the ship for the first time since hiding away there…

 

However, despite their determined efforts, they simply couldn’t bring themselves to stay in a nearby ice cave for more than a few minutes.

“I propose we go back inside.” Bunty said. “Do I have a second?”

Actually, their timing couldn’t have been better, because the huge avalanches of ice cubes that were being delivered into the hold of the freighter were almost complete…

The ship now had a cargo that required delivery.

By coincidence, the holiday snap show in Magnuss and Hair-Trigger’s apartment had reached another nadir point in their honeymoon adventure when they had been incarcerated in some backwater town jail by an over jealous sheriff…

…and instructed to break coal into small lumps that would fit into his private stove. Fortunately, the night shift consisted of one yokel who fell easy prey to Hair Trigger’s charms and was rendered unconscious by one of her famous sloppy kisses. Stealing the keys from his belt, they fled into the wilderness, where Hair-Trigger took this picture of Magnuss…

A passing motorcyclist stopped to help. He had chosen wisely to fit a sidecar to his bike only that morning, so before long the honeymooners were back at the spaceport and safely tucked up in the Tankerville Norris

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 17)

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

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

“Nonster planet?” Miles queried.

“Surely you mean Monster Planet?” Chester suggested.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lovely.” Miles opined.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 12)

However, when they let themselves in, they discovered that the maintenance hatch had allowed them ingress to something other than the outer hull, but the vessel’s habitable interior…

Ginger made a quick discovery…

“Oops,” she said, “we’ve left the door open. Anyone passing can see us. I’ll just close it.”

Perhaps if Bunty and Daisy hadn’t been so busy whispering excitedly, they might have cried out to their friend. They might have said, “No, Ginger; it only opens from the outside!” But they didn’t: and two seconds later…

“Oops again,” Ginger said apologetically, “guess we’ll need another exit.”

Not that Daisy cared: she was inside her beloved space submarine freighter.

Whilst this was occurring, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were giving a commentary on a series of pictures that featured them holidaying on an archipelago of strange spire-like islands in a tropical sea…

“Whoever took the picture,” Chester complained, “chopped off your feet. What a rubbish photographer. Next!”

Aboard the space submarine, the dull black livery soon gave way to a far more aesthetically pleasing sequinned effect…

But only Daisy appreciated it: the others were far too busy either looking where they were going or watching out for the ship’s owners.

“Wallpaper’s nice.” Daisy said as they hugged the wall in an attempt to be as unobtrusive as possible.  “But I think I’d tire of it pretty quickly. I certainly wouldn’t like my bedroom wall decorated thus.”

However, after passing through a bulkhead hatch, they found further compartments that appeared exactly the same…

“Should have packed a pair of sunglasses,” Daisy quipped.

At exactly the same moment that Bunty thought she heard some voices inside the ship, and made the decision to hide, the Earplug Brothers were enjoying a video of Magnuss and Hair-Trigger battling a tropical surf aboard a speedboat…

“Bet that set your motion sickness off, Mags.” Chester said with a chuckle.

Magnuss didn’t like to admit it, but (for most of the time – with Hair-Trigger at the wheel) he’d been too scared to feel sick…

“A bit.” He replied as his stomach made a first class job of reminding him of the incessant plunging into the troughs between waves that he’d endured.

Meanwhile, Daisy, Bunty, and Ginger had found a door that into a section of the vessel that appeared to be unused…

“An auxiliary something-or-other, I expect.” Ginger said knowledgeably. “We should be safe in here.”

“Let’s see if there’s a window or something we can look out of.” Bunty suggested. “I think it’s important that we know what’s going on – otherwise we won’t know when to leave.”

“Ooh, yeah,” Daisy agreed, “I wouldn’t want to get locked in: that would be scary. I have dreams of being locked in, you know. One night I woke up to find that I really had been locked in. I was in the trunk of my dad’s car. I don’t know how I got there. I’ve been having regression therapy in the hope of finding out.”

But any furtherance of the conversation was cut short when they found the interior window they sought…

  

Daisy drew herself close to Ginger. “Golly,” she whispered, “robots. I wasn’t expecting them.”

“Well this is a robot freighter.” Bunty whispered from behind her.

“True,” Daisy replied. “But I always thought that robot freighters were robotic…ur…freighters: not freighters crewed by robots. There’s a subtle difference.”

“Well now you know.” Ginger said. A second thought occurred: “If this ship is crewed by robots…they won’t have a toilet aboard. That could be catastrophic for biological life forms like us!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 11)

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

“Good choice.” Said Rudi.

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

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

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

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

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

“Wha, wha, wha?” Daisy stuttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Revel in the Ribaldry 36

It’s very easy for a literary genius (like wot I is) to forget that there are stories written (by the aforementioned literary genius) at a time earlier than the present. In other words, literary genii are apt to forget their old stuff: old stuff that might actually be quite good: fabulous even! So, once in a while, that earlier stuff should be dusted down and exhibited. And so this has come to be. Welcome to an extract from a wondrous e-book. An e-book so wondrous that it defies description, pigeon-holing, and a predetermined genre. This wondrous e-book…

The best book ever written. A monument to the imagination of mankind. Or me. An e-book that is available at the best e-book stockists – like the ones mentioned on the sidebar and beneath the header. So here is the extract. Chosen at random, naturally…

When, at last, Izzy and Freda returned to the bar of The Handsome Dong, everyone except Eli Epididymis had returned to their leaden-hearted homes to sleep away the misery of the dark, cold night that stretched out before them like some infinitely long river of demon-filled sludge.

“Well,” Freda explained to an annoyed Eli as she adjusted both her mussed head fur and displaced gusset, “non-reproductive sex wasn’t what I was actually talking about when I burst in – but Izzy seemed so keen I just thought I ought to go along. It also gave me the chance to try out some of those ideas that I put in my sex-aid books.”

“Well they worked just fine.” Izzy was still smiling from ear to ear, and probably around the back of his head too.

“You two didn’t ‘appen to discuss the campaign to save ‘Amster Britain between bouts, I s’pose?” Eli grumbled.

Smiling for the first time since she could remember, Freda sat herself beside Eli in the snug, and knocked back the remains of his half-price rhubarb fizz. “Well actually it was Izzy’s idea of The Campaign for Stale Air that made me acquiesce to his sexual demands.” She told the surprised hamster, “I thought that they were brilliant. I’m fully behind it.”

Eli remained confused. “But didn’t you lead the campaign to clean up the air, and thereby ruin ‘Amster Britain?” he whined.

Freda’s smile fell away. “I did indeed. I used my persuasive literary style to influence a succession of useless governments until I got my way. But now I regret those acts of thoughtless environmentalism, and wish to undo the damage – if it’s not already too late.”

Eli thought about this for a moment. He sighed, thoughtlessly adjusted his testicles, and said, “Sorry about that minge-bit.”

He then explained that it was he who had written the inflammatory letter. He finished with, “…and I don’t want you to die horribly. In fact I want you to live a full and happy life – but in a Hamster Britain that we can all be proud of. Not this airy-fairy version where electricity is considered to be the spawn of  the otter’s rectum: But one where we can switch on a light, or blow-dry our fur, and have a good suck on a lung-full of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, without interference and finger-waggin’ from an over-protective legislature.”

It was possibly the longest sentence that Eli had ever uttered, and despite feeling slightly light-headed, he was certain that in the coming weeks he would be making many more – throughout the land – in parliament if necessary – and much, much, longer too.

“I wonder if it’s still possible to buy bottled oxygen?” he added, “Or did you ‘ave that banned too?”

Naturally without the aid of newspapers and television – getting the message out to the people of Hamster-Britain was going to be problematic. And there were far too many hamsters living throughout the multifarious isles to write to personally. That left only one course of action open to them…

As the mayor of Teetering-on-the-Brink, Clifton Wassack had not enjoyed a happy tenure. He had overseen urban decay of legendary proportions. True the streets of tiny terraced homes had always been miserable: But at least their occupants had enjoyed the benefits of having go-karts parked in the road outside them. Now all he could see from his council office window was a moribund populace poking around in corners looking for something to do. So when he was suddenly confronted by the sight of the famous writer/environmentalist Freda Bludgeon, and two dodgy-looking sidekicks, who then presented their Campaign for Stale Air manifesto to him, he thought that all his birthdays had arrived at once. This was his chance to become a national politician, and forever be associated with the salvation of Hamster-Britain.

“Of course.” He boomed in his most stentorian voice, “Of course you may use my offices and all my staff to further your cause. Just make sure that my name is mentioned in everything that you do. Might I suggest that we gather a crowd of like-minded folk – storm the redundant television station – and start broadcasting again. I think that it would be an excellent way to start – don’t you? We can print some pamphlets too: I think there’s still a small supply of blank paper in the stationery office. So all that remains for me to say is – let’s get this show on the road!”

Well naturally they did all these things. And Freda personally wrote to all the most influential organizations in the land, and pleaded for their help.

Well equally naturally they rallied round like never before. Soon the National Breast Fondling Club had posters pinned to telegraph poles the length and breadth of Hamster-Britain. And other organizations soon followed suit.

In the capital the weak socialist government quickly recognized the ugly mood of the country, and capitulated. Former business hamsters dug out the keys to their factories and their farms – took on their old staff – fired up the boilers – uncovered their secret caches of fuel – and went back into production.

Within weeks Clifton Wassack was appointed to the role of Prime Minister, Eli and Izzy were proclaimed the saviours of Hamster-Britain, and Freda Bludgeon was annointed in oils and became venerated as a saint.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

In the light of modern climate change fears, this story couldn’t be more inappropriate and politically incorrrect.  Go now: purchase the book: thumb your nose at fate!

 

 

Tooty the Prophet?

I was walking about the countryside recently, as I often do, when my eye chanced to fall upon a small object in the act of being blown across a field by a powerful north-easterly wind. When it came to rest – snagged on a small bramble – I paused to consider it, and take it’s picture…

It seemed so apt in the Time of Covid.  Then I recalled a scene from one of my better works…

…in which the two central characters find an empty potato crisp packet  doing the exact same thing. And, for a moment, I considered the possibilty that the book, written so long ago (first draft 2004), might be horribly prescient. The book, if you haven’t read it or any of the extracts featured in this blog from time to time (i.e the sample chapter beneath header picture), tells the story of an Earth upon which all adult life has been extinguished by a viral pandemic.  In that moment I suddenly felt very vulnerable: after all, how many science-fiction ideas have become everyday occurences. Maybe climate change isn’t our worst enemy after all: maybe it’s writers like me – tempting fate with our silly stories.   

 

Still Unwilling to Walk Away

In my post Never Quite Willing to Walk Away I reminded readers of the existence of my more serious works. Well the ones that sell from time to time – those being my ‘Silent‘ books. So I thought that the two that don’t sell should get an airing too. After all, if you don’t know what you’re missing, you won’t want to buy them, will you?  No, you won’t. So please be aware that this pair of books…

…remain on sale at most proper e-book sellers, like Amazon, B&N, Lulu, etc. And yes, Clive Thunderbolt is me. I use the name to distinguish the more violent (and slightly sexual) stuff from the family orientated (though still violent) Paul Trevor Nolan titled stuff. My son made up the name. It was supposed to show me that Tooty Nolan was a stupid name for an author – even if I am Tooty Nolan. He used Clive Thunderbolt as an example of another stupid name; and, to his dismay, I embraced it instantly – whilst missing the point entirely. Anyway, to the excerpts…

Captive Echo

“How the hell did you get here?”  Wycksford Chief Administrator, Alice Wilkins – echoed Katherine as she stood glaring across her desk at Wozniak.

Len, Katherine, and two armed guards – both of whom appeared considerably more professional than their opposite numbers in Brambledown – stood behind Wozniak, who was the only seated person there. The last time Wozniak had seen Alice Wilkins she had been handing him the keys to The Peaks.

“You’re the brain box around here, Alice.” He grumbled his annoyance.” All I know is that I went to bed in my version of The Peaks, and woke up in yours. I’m a mere passenger – and an unwilling one at that!”

“That’s it? How does that help us?” Alice clearly wanted more. She turned to Katherine, “Major – get him out of here: I’m a busy woman.”

‘Major?’ Wozniak thought in surprise.

Katherine must have read his mind. “Field commission.” She explained, “We’re on the brink of war with Droxfield. Please, Peter – there must be some significance to your being here. Think – is there anything that you might have missed?”

Though she tried to conceal it, Wozniak could hear the desperation in Katherine’s voice. He tried to cast his mind back to the previous evening.

“Well there was the phone problem. None of them worked.”

“You were isolated, then?” Alice leaned forward across her desk. “What about any other electronic equipment: was that affected in any way?”

“Is it significant?” Wozniak asked in turn.

“I don’t know.” Alice answered honestly. “Perhaps. I’m just collating information right now. Perhaps I can come up with a theory later. Well – was it?”

Wozniak shook his head “Nothing. Sorry. I didn’t watch television. I didn’t listen to radio. Yet, oddly, when I think about it, I did feel strangely isolated. And there was Len, of course.”

All eyes turned from Wozniak to Len Peters.

“His alternate in my reality spoke to me during the evening.” Wozniak tried to explain, “He said you were in trouble.”

“Len?” Alice enquired gently of the old man.

“I have these dreams. I dream about another Len Peters. Day dreams, I s’pose you’d call ‘em.” Len spoke clearly at first, but then stumbled. How could he explain the fact that for the entire duration of his life he had been in communication with his inter-dimensional twin from a world like this, but which was uniquely different?

But these people seem to know all about the other side,’ he thought, ‘Perhaps they’ll understand.’

It took a few more moments of introspection before he realized that they were all waiting for him to continue.

“He talks back. I know all about his world, and he knows all about mine.” He told them. “Between us we seem to understand more about our own worlds by seeing what happens in the other. I told the other Len about me killing Wozniak. I told him why I did it too.”

Wozniak got his question before the eager Alice could open her mouth:

“So why did you suggest that I could help? How did you learn about the events of last year? Surely it must have been totally hush-hush, need-to-know, sort of stuff on this side?”

Len was clearly hiding something. He shifted his feet like a nervous schoolboy, and his eyes avoided direct contact with anyone else’s.

Katherine cleared her throat.

“Ah, that would be me.” She announced.

“What’s this, Major?” Alice exclaimed. “Are we talking about a serious security breach here?”

Katherine gave her superior a look of apology.

“Len’s my uncle.” She explained. “I’ve always looked upon him as a sort of wise old owl. I tell him all my troubles: he helps me keep them in perspective. He helps me deal with things. When you told me about my mission last year – I went straight to Uncle Len. He gave me the courage to see it through. He’s not a security breach: he’s an absolute necessity and a guardian angel.”

“You didn’t tell me nothin’ ‘bout your rape.” The object of the women’s conversation complained sharply.

“I knew how you’d react.” Katherine replied without looking at her uncle. “I didn’t want you executed for murder.”

“Security breach or absolute necessity aside,” Alice interrupted, “what made you think this Peter Wozniak could do anything about our problems?”

Katherine placed a hand upon Wozniak’s shoulder. To Alice she said: “Because…oh I don’t know. It’s just that I felt he could help somehow. I know there’s no logic involved – but you’ve never experienced crossing over. You get feelings…Call it a sixth sense if you will. But it changes a person. Maybe it makes them more receptive to…Again, I don’t know. I can’t put it into words. But when I saw him in the road with Uncle Len, I wasn’t in the least surprised – even though I knew logically that he couldn’t possibly be there – here I mean.”

Alice sat down.

“Yet here he is.”

She decided to abandon any thoughts of recrimination.

“Despite all the contrary facts and theories we have concerning LDD, Mister Wozniak is here; and I’d bloody well like to know how he did it!”

Abruptly she stood again.

“But I don’t have the energy to ponder this problem right now. I don’t have the luxury of time on my side either. Droxfield aren’t going to get our data, despite what they think; and they are going to attack at some point in the near future, because I’m damned if we’re going to roll over and watch as the work of generations of Wycksford people is pulled apart – or worse. I’m needed elsewhere right now: Major – despite some aberrant behaviour committed by yourself and your uncle – your commission stands. Take care of things here in my absence. But do me this favour: just try to avoid crossing over into another space/time continuum whilst my back is turned.”

With that she collected a file of papers from a drawer, and left the room – her two guards scuttling out behind her.

The room seemed strangely empty to Wozniak now that only he, Len, and Katherine remained.

“Well I think that went well under the circumstances.” He said. “You’re still a Major, and Len and I aren’t locked up.”

Katherine dropped into the seat so recently vacated by Alice. It was still warm.

“If only she would allow someone else to oversee our defence.” She said. “She’s a good administrator: but she’s a better theorist. I don’t know why, but I’m certain that your transfer here is no coincidence. It must be vitally important. I just wish I knew why and how.”

“Look, my ego is big enough already.” Wozniak tried a smile as he spoke. “I don’t need to be told how remarkable I am: I know that already.”

Katherine smiled minutely. “It’s just that, contrary to what she just said to you, she does have the beginning of a theory. She told me about it a month ago. If she’s right – then the timing of Droxfield’s action couldn’t have been better timed. Or worse, perhaps – depending upon what happens next.”  She looked at Wozniak directly. “At the risk of exploding your ego into a state of megalomania – I truly believe that you can make a difference, Peter. Your timing isn’t necessarily the result of destiny – but it is serendipitous.” She stood again, and made for the door. “We’re not on war rations just yet: anyone hungry? I know I am. And maybe we can find an ice pack for those swollen bollocks of yours.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

Present Imperfect

Wozniak, Janice, and Tom hadn’t wanted to draw attention to themselves as they slipped unobtrusively from the A&E waiting room of Crampton General Hospital, but such was their urgency to leave that they began scurrying once they’d emerged into the central corridor. Half way along its length Janice began to complain about the pain that her injuries were now causing her, so Wozniak simply picked her up, and holding her in his arms before him, he broke into a run. They emerged into the air at a fair gallop, and several nurses arriving for work were forced to skip aside.

“Sorry.” Janice called over Wozniak’s departing shoulder.

“Keys.” Tom said as he allowed his brother to catch up.

Janice fished through her pockets. She tossed the car keys to the large man. She then watched as he accelerated ahead, dodging a slow-moving road-cleaning truck, and approached Wozniak’s parked car. She also saw him pull up short. His body language suggested surprise.

Once the cleaning truck had passed, Wozniak placed Janice upon her feet, and together they were able to join Tom. They were shocked to see Amanda standing upon the opposite side of the vehicle.

“She wants to know how Connor’s getting on.” Tom informed them.

“Like you care!” Janice spat the words at Amanda.

“I do care.” Amanda said defensively. “I’d never wish harm on Connor.”

“That’s rich.” Janice scoffed. “You’re the one who put him in hospital!”

“I didn’t mean to.” Amanda looked chagrined. “Blame it on my adrenal gland: it’s designed to be over-active.”

Janice wasn’t giving up. “And your libido?”

“Ditto.” Amanda chanced a small smile, “Though I don’t believe anyone has ever come to harm because of that particular facet of my physiology. I’m guaranteed disease-free by the way. Totally immune, And I don’t carry.”

“That’s a relief.” Tom wiped his brow. “Not that I doubted you for a minute.”

“He’s in good hands, if that’s what you need to know.” Wozniak told her gently. “He’s in no danger.” He then added, “Where’s Jart?”

Amanda shrugged her shoulders. “He’s fast, but he’s not that fast.” She replied. “Once I had the car up to speed he gave up. I expect he’ll be making his way back to The Peaks by now.”

“What?” Janice exploded. “Dave and Judith are there. If he gets in…” Janice didn’t dare speak the words. “Oh my god – poor Judith!”

“And poor Dave too.” Tom added. “He’ll die trying to protect her!”

Amanda looked around the car park frantically. “You mean they didn’t come with you? When I saw your car go past like the hounds of hell were chasing it I assumed you were all aboard. That’s when I made my break for freedom. Oh fuck!”

Wozniak didn’t waste another second in discussion or recriminations. “Get in the car!” He shouted.

It had been a manic drive out of the town in the direction of Brambledown, and it had tested Wozniak’s driving skills to the limit. He’d prayed all the way that no police cars spotted him, and came in pursuit: He wasn’t about to stop for anyone. Tom had phoned ahead to warn Dave and Judith. Wozniak suggested that they lock themselves in the cellar, which they agreed to do. But now, as they drove into The Peaks, they could see the younger couple waiting for them at the door.

Hurrying from the car to the house, they were all beckoned inside. Once in the hallway, Dave shut the door and threw the heavy cast iron bolt across. Janice then proceeded into her natural habitat – the kitchen, whilst Tom joined Dave and Judith on guard duties.

“I promise – this time I’ll lead him away.” Amanda assured Wozniak as they entered the dining room. “If I’d known they were here I’d never have driven off.”

Wozniak turned and grasped Amanda’s shoulders. He could feel the incredible musculature beneath the skin. He felt certain that if she were to take on a fully-grown male chimpanzee in a fight, the chimp would be slaughtered in the opening seconds.

Amanda must have sensed his thoughts. “You think I’m tough: I’m breakfast for men like Jart. I could take on both Tom and you, and you’d both be dead before you’d even thought about where to land your first punch. Don’t be stupid: Don’t try to take him on.”

“We have a weapon.” Wozniak confided in her.

An eyebrow arched.

“He needs sunlight to reach his full potential, right?”

Amanda appeared to warm to the idea immediately. She nodded, and added, “Full potential, yes: But he’s still pretty awesome at half potential.”

“But he’s been using quite a bit of energy today, wouldn’t you say? What with all that chasing after you.”

Amanda shrugged her shoulders in ambivalence. “To a certain extent. But if he’s eaten…”

“What would happen if we were able to cut off his light source?”

Amanda paused to consider this before she replied. “He’d be running on internal power.”

“Like we do.” Wozniak said, a huge grin spreading across his face. “He would tire in a fight. Keep at him for long enough and he’d soon be knackered. One of us could get in the killing blow.”

Amanda dropped into a chair. Wozniak seated himself opposite her.

“Well there’s your problem.” She said as she stared sightlessly out of the window through one jet back eye, and the other appearing quite normal. “Keep at him long enough. How long is long enough. He’d have incapacitated or killed you all long before you reach that situation.”

Wozniak’s expression took on a look of cunning. “But what if we found ourselves some reinforcements? Lots of reinforcements?”

Amanda was intrigued. “Please – continue.”

Wozniak was about to speak when he found that his hands were empty. “Oh shit.” He said. “I’ve left my baseball bat in the car. Be back in a moment.”

He then stood, entered the hallway, and drew back the lock. “I’m just visiting the car.” He called through to Tom who was watching the garden.

He received a thumbs-up.

Wozniak had left the baseball bat between the front seats, so he automatically went to retrieve via the drivers’ side. He’d just dropped into his seat when the door slammed shut on him. He didn’t have time for a single expletive before the car was rocked violently, and turned entirely upon its side. Wozniak clung on to the steering wheel in an attempt to keep himself in position as the car continued to roll over. It then crashed down on to its roof, and Wozniak was toppled from his seat.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

 

 

Never Quite Willing to Walk Away

I may have mentioned this before – in fact I’m sure I have – but sales of my e-books have, for several years, been located somewhere south of Shitville. Of course the fact that I don’t really promote them hasn’t helped. But I’m used to this situation, and kind’a content with it. No taxes – other than the few cents I pay the U.S Government. It is a very rare occasion that I bother logging on to Lulu.com to find out how my published magnum opuses are faring, because, well, it’s not worth the bother and time it takes. Well today, in a moment of madness I did; and the situation remains grim. But there have been some sales. Namely of these…

And all were purchased by users of the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader. So, like the times previous to this, I thank all you Nookers who have taken the time to read the above tomes, and hope you enjoyed them. They were written so long ago that it feels like someone else wrote them. How could such decent yarns have emerged from my fevered imagination? But, because I’m never quite willing to walk away from my literary efforts, and because there are people who like my ‘better’ stuff, I thought it might be a good idea to display a couple of extracts here, right now. To strike while the iron is (if not hot – then) slightly luke-warm. And here they are – chosen entirely at random…

Silent Apocalypse

We reached the flint-built Methodist Hall without incident. It was, as we expected, thoroughly locked. From her childhood Candice knew of a roof light through which she and her friends would gain access ‘just for fun’. Wayne had been one of those friends. She shinnied up a drainpipe. Then, upon all-fours, she climbed a steep slate roof; disappearing over a low façade. Moments later she reappeared; gave us a thumbs-up; and then beckoned us to join her.

As I struggled up the drainpipe behind Lee I considered the chosen victims of the virus: What if it had attacked the young, leaving only octogenarians? How long would they have survived?  It began a train of thought in my head:

Why were we spared? Who would design such a weapon? Either it should kill your enemy, or not: Why be so selective?’

My thoughts were interrupted: Lee, whose hand was held out to help me up the last metre or so, whispered, “Shush, we think there’s someone inside.”

When I joined them on the opposite side of the façade, I too heard the muted sound of synthesized music emanating through the glass of the roof light before us.

“I wonder what he uses for electricity.” Lee echoed my own thoughts.

“I said he’s a nerd: Not an imbecile.” Candice whispered as she set about opening the roof light. “He always finds a way of getting what he wants.”

I swung from the roof light edge. Candice and Lee were already on the floor below me. It wasn’t far to drop, but I must be careful: My landing must be as silent as possible. In the event I didn’t need to: Lee found a chair onto which I could lower myself. From there we crept about the building like thieves. Eventually we found ourselves outside of a door, through which a rather repetitive form of music could be plainly heard emanating.

Candice stepped back and threw herself at the door, which succumbed to the first blow, and she went tumbling into a room full to the rafters with music sheets and   electronic equipment. But of Wayne there was no sign. Candice screamed in anger. Then we both saw what she’d seen already: multiple TV monitors showing views of both inside and outside the building. They included views of our route of ingress.

“He saw us coming, and he’s done a runner.” She growled.

I checked the monitors. Several doors were on view. None of them were open, and appeared to be locked.

“Maybe not.” I said.

Five minutes later we found Wayne hiding in a broom cupboard. He positively quaked at the sight of his former girlfriend.

“Scratch what I said about him earlier.” She said to us. “He’s a nerd, and an imbecile.”

To Wayne she sneered, “You’re bright enough to set up surveillance, but too stupid to plan your escape? What did I see in a no-brain like you?”

Wayne slowly emerged from the cupboard. He was less than cordial. “What do you want?”

He still had eyes only for Candice: As far as he was concerned Lee and I were mere peripherals. It was almost as though we didn’t exist.

“Your expertise.” She replied. “Electronics. Sonics. Computer wrestling. I don’t know exactly. You know – your line of work.”

“Are you gonna use it against Nige Hawley? If so, you can forget it: I don’t care what you threaten me with – I’m not going up against Nige Hawley.” Wayne appeared adamant.

“Who is Nige Hawley?” I enquired.

“You been living under a stone?” He looked at me for the first time.

“No, we’ve been fighting to survive, thank you.” I took an instant dislike to Wayne Fairgrove, “And don’t answer a question with a question.”

“He only runs the town, that’s all” Wayne almost spat out the words, “The only reason he hasn’t grabbed me yet is ‘cause I’ve hidden myself away too well for him to find me.”

“I’ve got news for you, lover-boy: The only reason he hasn’t found you is because he has no use for you yet.” Candice pushed him in the direction of his electronics room. “Guess who suggested this place to us.”

On the way to his room we explained how Steve had guided us to the former church. Wayne must have realized that his hidey-hole was now compromised because by the time we arrived at our destination his skin had paled and he’d turned into a nervous wreck.

“Pull yourself together.” Candice snapped at him, taking a cassette tape from her pocket. “We want you to find out what this is all about. Stick it on your computer: poke it through some filters, or whatever it is you do.”

After Wayne accepted the tape from Candice’s outstretched hand, Lee spoke: “What are you doing for power?”

Wayne slipped into his nerd role instantly. Once in possession of the tape, he set about his task with relish. He immediately began transferring the data from tape onto computer disc. He replied whilst working, “Got a genny down in the basement. Run the exhaust up the stink pipe. No one’s noticed it yet.”

Lee was suitably impressed.

To our collective amazement, it took a mere half-hour to find the buried information on the tape. He transferred it back onto the tape so that we could play it back without the need for power or extensive equipment. Lee and I were grateful for his help, and even Candice softened her approach slightly…

“So,” she asked him, “what are you going to do now your lair’s been flagged up?

“Don’t know. I haven’t thought ahead that far.” He replied.

“Well you’d better think fast, mate,” Lee told him, “When we let your mate loose, chances are he’ll pay you a visit.”

“Steve wouldn’t do that.” Wayne argued. “He’s an old mate.”

“Yeah, but that was before you helped us.” Lee argued in turn.

“But he wouldn’t have to know.” Wayne was looking desperate, “You could tell him that I wasn’t here.”

Candice stepped in. “We could, and maybe we will: but we can’t make him believe us. Do you really want to take the chance that Nige Hawley won’t come calling himself? We found the broom cupboard easily enough; I hardly think he’s likely to miss it.”

I took, what I considered, the kinder approach: “Perhaps you should come with us. Until you can find another permanent home at least…”

“Yeah, good idea.” Lee agreed, and injected a little urgency; “We tied that Steve bloke up; but there’s no knowing if his mates aint found him by now. We’d better get a move on.”

“But my stuff:” Wayne complained. “It isn’t exactly portable.”

Candice took him by the collar. “No – but you are. Come on.” Then she dragged him from the room.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

Silent Resistance

Five minutes later Tasman and I sat in front of the monitor that showed the images that the camcorder had most recently recorded. Unsurprisingly the opening scene reflected the room in which we now sat. In the blink of an eye it was replaced by the wooden panelled interior of what looked to me like a fine English country house. In many ways it reminded me of my lost home.

Tasman must have picked up on a surge in my emotions because he slipped a hand into mine and squeezed gently. But those emotions were swept aside by what we saw next. From left of camera a tall, broad-shouldered man sporting a greying beard walked into view. He spotted the camera and made straight for it – stopping short and giving us a smile so fabulous that it must have warmed the heart of many a woman in its time.

“Janice.” He called to someone out of view, “We have a visitor.”

A heavy oak door opened from another room and a tall, willowy woman entered what I took to be a drawing room. She followed the man’s gaze. “Oh,” she said, “that wasn’t there earlier.”

“No.” The man replied. “I just watched it arrive. It just appeared out of nowhere. There was the faintest pop of displaced air. What do you reckon – dimensional relocation or time travel?”

Janice placed a finger upon her lower lip and pouted in thought.

“Peter.” She said almost admonishingly, “Do you really have to ask? Was it accompanied by a clap of thunder?”

Peter thought about it. “Not that I recall.” He replied with a slight grin that strongly suggested that he was thoroughly enjoying the situation.

“Then you have your answer.” Janice said as she apparently dismissed the mystery and made for the door, “It’s obviously from another quantum reality.”

After watching the door close behind Janice, Peter looked directly into the camera lens. He then used a colourful expletive and told us what we could do with our ‘LDD’ machine, that had we done as he instructed we would have required medical aid. A large hand then reached out and switched the camera off.

Tasman turned to me. “Wow.” He said. “People: ordinary people: in an ordinary house; who are apparently familiar with inter-dimensional travel. Did you notice that he was so matter-of-fact about it too?”

I didn’t think that the man named Peter was too enamoured with inter-dimensional travel. I said as much to Tasman.

“An Earth with more advanced technology perhaps?” Tasman surmised.

“Did you notice that they referred to time-travel as though it was commonplace too.” I said. “I wonder what LDD means.”

“Linear Dimensional Displacement, I expect.” Tasman answered. “I almost gave our machine that moniker, but Shane changed my mind for me; she said it sounded like an insecticide.”

“Perhaps we should place that reality off-limits too.” I suggested.

“I agree.” Tasman replied as he ran a pencil through the dimensional coordinates, “I’m not sure I want them knowing where we are.”   

 It’s a shame though.” I said slightly wistfully, “It was lovely seeing human adults again. I would love to have spoken to them. They may have been annoying at times, but I miss having adults around – telling us what to do and when to do it. That couple looked so comfortable together too. I wonder who they were.”

Tasman could have only imagined my feelings at that moment. Even if he’d read my mind I don’t think he could really have understood.

“Peter and Janice.” He said as he gave me a kiss upon the forehead. “Later we’ll propose a toast to them over dinner. Want to try some more?”

Naturally I agreed, and the second attempt to access an alternate Brambledown took the camera to an old country dwelling. This one was perhaps a little less ostentatious, but the decor suggested that the owner had both good taste and the money to go with it – even if most of the flat surfaces were laden down a little too heavily with what Kylie would have termed ‘expensive knick-knacks’. Clocks, glass, and porcelain antiques abounded. The loud ‘tick-tock’ of a huge grandfather clock filled the room. Between beats of the clockwork mechanism I thought I heard the sounds of doors closing in other parts of the edifice. It was late in the day, and the lowering sun blazed amber through two tall west facing windows. Footsteps could be heard approaching, and for some ridiculous reason I felt myself becoming nervous – as though we were about to be caught stealing about someone else’s home. I jumped when a door opened abruptly and a teen-aged girl in a pair of rather grown-up slacks, a cardigan, and a pair of flat slip-on shoes walked past the camera without noticing it, and descended a flight of stairs into a basement.

Tasman turned to see me in a state of confusion.

“That girl.” I shouted as I pointed towards the monitor. “I know her. She’s dead!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

It’s strange that I chose that particular extract at random, because it links these two books with the central characters of these two books…

…and was little more than a throw away scene. But, I remember, I was so enjoying writing Silent Resistance, that I couldn’t help but include a smidgin of important elements from books that were also a joy to create. Hubris? No, I just love my characters too much.

 

 

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 22)

The end is close, I can feel it in my bowels. Still, enjoy it while it lasts…

Meanwhile, in the remnants of the buried village, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had discovered a strange room that seemed to defy the laws of physics…

“Not only the laws of physics,” Hair-Trigger grumbled, “but the laws of aesthetics too.”

“It could be the result of a radiation leak.” Magnuss suggested nervously. Then, to cheer himself up, he added: “Alternatively it could be a piece of equipment that has turned on automatically when it detected our presence, but because it has been sitting idle for centuries, needs re-calibrating.”

This was a much more palatable idea, but Hair-Trigger didn’t really care one way or the other: the sight of it just made her nauseous. So it was with great relief that they crossed it in good order and quick time, and exited through a handy doorway…

“Ah, this is more like it.” Magnuss said as Hair-Trigger gave the previous room a quick backward glance of contempt. “This looks more earpluggish.”

But, as the blue corridor opened on to (what Magnuss presumed was) a large thoroughfare…

…he felt a little less certain of his last statement. And Hair-Trigger absolutely hated it. But as they found themselves falling into a strolling motion, the similarity to a busy city street occurred to them…

“This is kind’a nice.” Magnuss said as he smiled for the first time in yonks. “In its hey-day, this must have been a very popular place. You can imagine all the crowds at night – out on the town and going to shows and restaurants and things like that.”

Hair-Trigger wasn’t convinced. “This was a scientific community – full of egg-heads and people with larger-than-average brains – thinking up really advanced stuff and then making it work.”

Magnuss wasn’t going to argue: maybe they were both right. But then he thought that they both might be wrong too, because…

…they found themselves standing in front of a huge video wall that featured them – as seen in Madame Nellie’s tent. There was no audio, but both earplugs could recall their earlier words.

“Magnuss,” Hair-Trigger said with a voice that sounded uncharacteristically small and uncertain, “how is this possible?”

Magnuss had to think about that. To think most efficiently he imagined himself standing in the bright glow of a spotlight…

But as he allowed his mind to wander into realms of fantasy he ‘felt’ the touch of a mind. It was suffuse and indistinct – but, he was certain, very real. He also knew that this mind linked the present Tah-Di-Tah with the world it was pre-Tah-Di-Tah. That the mind existed in both eras – or, he corrected himself, had existed in both eras. It was a bit confusing, and when he returned to the moment, he couldn’t put his thoughts into words. So he decided to ‘follow his nose’. And his ‘nose’ led him into a dark red corridor…

…which Hair-Trigger found infinitely more pleasing aesthetically; but had Magnuss feeling pangs of trepidation. Where was he leading them? What was he leading them into? But whatever it was, he felt certain that this was the correct route. And when they turned the corner into another corridor…

…he couldn’t help but notice that the redness had lessened. Could it be that they were approaching the end of their search?  And when they reached the end of that corridor they came to a brief ante-room…

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Magnuss asked his new wife.

This was not the sort of question that Magnuss would have asked Hair-Trigger previously. Perhaps it was the fact that she was now his spouse that made him feel the need to be more protective. Hair-Trigger, in her wisdom, recognised this:

“Oh you silly husband,” she said pleasantly, “of course I do. It’s what I do – remember?”

So, without further ado, they entered a room that, at first, they thought was a laboratory. But when they looked more closely…

“Oh-no,” Hair-Trigger wailed in horror and defeat, “it’s a mausoleum. We’re too late. A thousand years too late!”

But Magnuss thought not…

“Hang on, Hairy.” He said. “This isn’t a place of the dead: it’s a hibernation centre. When they realised that the village was going to be submerged, everyone chose to go into suspended animation – hopeful that they would be retrieved before too long.”

Hair-Trigger was relieved by this: she hated decay in every form – especially earplug form. But as Magnuss went to investigate a panel that he thought looked promising, Hair-Trigger thought that the hibernation pod beside which she stood smelt ‘funny’…

“I think this one’s dead,” she said carelessly. ”It honks something terrible!”

But whilst Magnuss failed to reply, Hair-Trigger was shocked when a face appeared upon the pod’s occupant…

“Magnuss,” she yelled shrilly, “strike what I just said: we’ve got a breather.”

Magnuss was doubly shocked by this. Not only had he failed to anticipate that one of the pods might be faulty and allow it’s occupant to rouse from permanent slumber: but, within his mind he could also feel the tendrils of the ethereal intelligence strengthen…

Putting two and two together he surmised that the rousing earplug and the mental awareness were one and the same. So he reinvigorated his attempts to understand the control panel that he believed operated the hibernation pods.

“We’ve got to get that earplug out of there before he or she dies.” He cried.

He then added: “Stupid machine – work!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 19)

So now we return to the main thrust of the story…

Chapter 7

Meanwhile, just above the atmosphere of Tah-Di-Tah…

…the Tankerville Norris was positioning itself above the site of the former fiord. Inside Magnuss and Hair-Trigger watched as the beautiful planet revolved beneath them…

“Oh, it’s so lovely.” Hair-Trigger warbled in open admiration. “Look at it, Maggie: isn’t that worth saving?”

“Indeed it is.” Magnuss agreed. “So let’s get down to Engineering and try to figure out how we’re going to use the Gravitonic Multiplicitor.”

A short while later…

“I don’t understand.” Magnuss said in puzzlement at the lack of bolts holding the device to the deck. “How are we supposed to un-do bolts that aren’t there?”

In response, the ship spoke directly through Hair-Trigger…

“This isn’t the Gravity Whelk, you know. This is an up-dated version of the Gravitonic Multiplicitor. It stays in situ. So you just select your co-ordinates, and get the heck out of here until the job is done.”

So it was a very relieved married couple that set about the task of choosing exactly where to point the miraculous device. But when Hair-Trigger returned from visiting the toilet, she was less than impressed with Magnuss when she found him watching an episode of Destination: The Stars

“Don’t fret, darling.” Magnuss said nonchalantly, “it’s all done. Let’s retire to the bridge.”

So, as the ship adopted a stare-down position…

…they did just that…

…whilst the ship targeted a location that lay between the land and the sea. Then, without any further communication the Gravitonic Multiplicitor fired its ravaging energies through the main deflector dish…

Quickly the adjacent atmosphere erupted with light and energised dust particles…

…and the beam of energy tore into the centuries of silt, crud, and other soil-like stuff that defied description…

…where it blew it high into the air, which caused all sorts of weather-related anomalies that created (amongst other phenomena) vast electrical storms. And it was into one of these that the Tankerville Norris plunged as it raced to see the results of the Gravitonic Multiplicitor’s labours…

And, just as Magnuss was beginning to feel the early on-set of motion sickness, something wonderful appeared on the main holo-viewer…

The village was revealed in all of its strange violet glory…

“Fantastic.” Magnuss cried out with glee. But then thought he saw an insurmountable problem: “Well there it is: but what are we supposed to do with it? How do we get down there?”

The ship responded in the only way it knew…

“Urk!” Magnuss managed before atomic dissolution. And he repeated himself when…

…he and Hair-Trigger re-assembled elsewhere.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 18)

Welcome to another (not terribly) exciting episode…

Shortly, having crossed Fort Balderdash to the Non-Commissioned Officer’s mess…

…Jo and Wetpatch let themselves in, where they had to first push aside an unserviceable all-terrain attack vehicle so that they could access the sole com-panel allowed by the cavalry’s restricted budget…

“There is only one guy in the universe that can get us out of this kaka.” Wetpatch had said as they departed Major Leftfoot Badger’s office. “So we’d better pray that he’s still in the museum.”

A minute later the panel lit up to reveal Nigel – the Golden One; his unnamed personal assistant; and Walker Crabtrouser – Chief of the Scrotonic Armed Forces, about to board their spaceship home…

“Wait!” Wetpatch yelled in near-panic. “Golden One, we have great need of your help!”

Naturally, being a reasonable guy and all-round good egg, Nigel paused his entry into the ship’s airlock. “Cavalryplugs.” He said as he recognised the staff sergeant’s uniforms. “I will always make time for the military. How can I help you?”

Quickly Wetpatch explained the situation – to which Nigel held up a hand in an attempt to stay the sergeant’s tongue further. “The Omnipresent Scanner problem can be explained thus.” He said. “The Tankerville Norris is equipped with a latest-generation Gravitic Multi-Thingamy-Whatsit, which makes it impervious to multi-phasic scans over vast distances. But as regards to actually finding them…well I’m not sure how I can offer assistance.”

“We wondered if you might lend us a ship.” Jo blurted. “We could go look for them. Space is big – but not so big that a concerted effort wouldn’t be completely unsuccessful – probably – maybe – if we looked really hard.”

“Oh dear.” Nigel said as he turned to Walker Crabtrouser for help. “I do believe we disassembled the ships that Magnuss rejected. And, unfortunately, the assembly instructions were used by a junior rating who couldn’t find the lavatory paper cupboard, and used them to…ah…well I leave it to your imagination.”

Wetpatch and Jo were crestfallen. Now all they could do was hope that the information about the Gravitonic Multiplicitor’s effect on the Omnipresent Scanner would be enough to placate Cushions and Hunting. But Walker Crabtrouser had an idea…

“Golden One,” He said slowly – as his thoughts coalesced and allowed him to speak, “I think I might have a partial answer to their prayers.”

Then, in Scrotonic, he explained. He finished with: “Well – Whatta ya think?”

“Inform the Captain that there will be a delay in our departure.” Nigel said to his Personal Assistant. Then, to Wetpatch and Jo…

…he said: “Gentlemen, it appears that I was a tad premature. There was a fourth vessel assembled from flat-pack; but no one thought that Magnuss would be attracted by a stripped-down, black-ops, stealth ship. It’s in our hold, with just a few bungee cords holding it down. I’ve got some scissors to snip them – if you’re interested of course.”

Two hours later an almost-invisible craft climbed silently into the night sky…

It scented the vacuum of space for the spore of its sister-ship – the Tankerville Norris. And having detected its ion trail, set out in pursuit…

And (nominally) at the controls…

…sat Wetpatch Wilton and Jo Frayzer.

“Ooh-er,” Jo said appreciatively, “this ship sure can motor, can’t it, Wetpatch?”

To which Wetpatch replied…

…”Flipping heck, yeah.”

Then, to the other four cavalry-plugs who had volunteered to act as crew, he added: “Any ideas what we call this baby?”

Naturally, being of long-standing in the military of Worstworld, they weren’t used to giving their imaginations free reign. They all came up empty. So it was left to Jo to make a suggestion…

“Um,” he began, “how about we let the ship choose its name? It’s probably got a better idea than any of us. What about it, Ship?”

And, like the other ships that had been created from the designs taken from Bunk-Bunk Benson, the ship spoke its name in utter silence. But the crew now knew that they were aboard the Chuck Winker, which surprised them because Chuck Winker was a terrestrial actor who starred in Magnuss Earplug’s favourite science-fiction show, Destination: The Stars.

“Whilst I’ve been here on Earth”, the ship then explained, “I’ve been watching re-runs on cable TV. They’re really very good. I like Chuck Winker: I think he has real on-screen presence. I’ve downloaded all the episodes. When I get back to Scroton, I intend to re-transmit them world-wide. I know what you’re thinking – but we have no copyright laws on Scroton, so it’ll be fine.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Earplug Adventures: The Lines of Tah-Di-Tah (part 16)

Thank you for staying with this tale for so long. I know it sometimes seems interminable, but the end – or the ‘finale’, as I prefer to call it – is in sight (sort of).

By the time the Tankerville Norris had returned to the city, the rain had blown away. It was late, but the sun still shone from a beautiful blue sky…

But when the intrepid earplugs visited Madame Nellie’s tent…

…they found it empty – with the exception of a sign that had been left by its former occupant…

“That’s very convenient.” Hair-Trigger hissed angrily. “Too much of a coincidence, if you ask me.”

This gave Magnuss an idea. After checking that Madame Nellie hadn’t changed her name to Madame Flub to avoid taxes, they revisited the Bazaar, where they sought out the two earplugs that had sent them to Madame Nellie’s tent the night previous…

“Nah,” the darker of the two reprobates replied to their questioning, “we don’t have the first idea where she is.”

“She just paid us to send potential customers to her.” The pale earplug added.

“How many other customers did you send her?” Magnuss inquired.

They looked at each other. The dark earplug then said: “Actually only two. You two. After you’d gone, she gave us each a hundred Smackeroos and told us that our services were no longer required.”

“Easiest hundred Smackeroos I ever made.” The pale earplug said as he fingered his hidden wallet appreciatively.

At first Magnuss and Hair-Trigger felt helpless. They simply didn’t know what to do next. So they wandered to the Old Quarter, where they hoped to spot Nellie amongst the inhabitants…

It was a long-shot, and failed miserably. Then Magnuss remembered the spy camera that he habitually wore in his breast pocket. It looked like a normal pen, but it recorded movies with monaural sound.

“I was wearing it in her house.” He said whilst grasping at metaphysical straws. “Maybe if we show it to people, they might recognise either her face or her house.”

So they did…

But no one had even heard of Madame Nellie. “Maybe you both dreamed it.” A blue End Cap suggested. “Is it possible to share a dream?”

Soon failure piled upon failure…

…and as dusk approached and the shadows fell long between buildings, all four of their combined feet hurt like heck.

“Let’s get back to the ship.” Hair-Trigger said as they wandered down yet another Tah-Di-Tah back street. “We’ll go and look at that ancient village we found in the history banks.”

Shortly the Tankerville Norris was approaching a beautifully sun-lit hill…

Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were becoming excited because just beyond it should lay the ancient village. But when the ship swooped into (what should have been) the fiord, the deflated earplugs aboard discovered that…

…it was completely silted up, and that a very nice road bridge now crossed almost a hundred metres above where the village had once stood.

“Curses.” They yelled as one. “Thwarted again!”

So it was with a feeling of despair that they had the Tankerville Norris return to its natural environment…

If vacuum could conduct vibrations, anyone outside the ship would have heard Magnuss’ angry bellowing – along with the tinkling sound of a teaspoon as it whirred around and around, with a degree of violence only matched by a category five tornado, inside a mug of coffee.

“I don’t want any coffee, Hairy.” His voice would have been heard to roar. “It keeps me up.”

Hair-Trigger’s voice was considerably quieter, and might not have been detectable by the imaginary person with his or her (or it’s) ear pressed to the hull: “It’s decaffeinated.” She said.

This seemed to calm Magnuss. Making a cup of coffee and handing it to your angry husband was such an ordinary, day-to-day thing to do. It released his stress. “Oh, thank you. How many lumps of sugar did you put in it?”

“None.” Hair-Trigger replied. “We’ve only got sweeteners on board.”

Magnuss, unlike many earplugs of his generation, was perfectly happy with fake sugar, so he gladly accepted the coffee. Whilst Hair-Trigger finished up at the coffee work station, he returned to his library interface.  And it was as he stared at the con fusing, often seemingly contradictory information before him that he began to see a correlation. Turning to Hair-Trigger…

…he said: “Hairy; we need to get down to Engineering pronto.”

By now they had grown familiar with the route; so it only took half the usual time to reach the bowels of the ship…

“I’m not very good with tech stuff.” He said as Hair-Trigger followed him into the compartment. “Turn it on, will you?”

Moments later Hair-Trigger’s dainty fingers danced across the controls, and the hologram generator burst into life…

“It’s all about time.” Magnuss explained – which pleased Hair-Trigger because, of all her favourite science-fiction movies, she liked those that featured time-travel the most. “We’ve been looking at this the wrong way ‘round.”

This also pleased Hair-Trigger because she thought they’d been looking at the problem from the right angle: to find that her famous husband now turned the situation on its head meant that she need not fret anymore. “Good.” She said. “Whatta ya mean?”

“Nigel – the Golden One – told us that Bunk- Bunk Bunsen had travelled back through time. That the design of the Tankerville Norris, Scroterton Pancake, and the Sir Goosewing Grey were more advanced than anything we have today because it came from the future. What if he only assumed that they came from the future? Or that Bunk-Bunk Bunsen told him that because it was easier for him to accept?”

Not for the first time during their many convoluted conversations did Hair-Trigger make the mental leap expected of her by Magnuss. “What did you find in the library computer?” She demanded.

“The village in the fiord.” Magnuss replied with building excitement. “We assumed that it was a primitive fishing village, which might or might not have had a football team. It wasn’t. It was a technocrat’s enclave. All the brainiest earplugs of the planet went there to study and to experiment with futuristic ideas and technology that they developed there. That was a thousand years ago. It was destroyed in a cataclysm of unknown origin. Then a tsunami swept in and covered the ruins in sea bottom and silt.”

By now Hair-Trigger was shaking with anticipation. “I know what you’re going to say.” She squealed. “The reason that the computer can’t correlate the Lines of Tah-Di-Tah with anything today is because this world wasn’t called Tah-Di-Tah a thousand years ago.” 

“On the nose, my super-intelligent, sweet wife.” Magnuss bellowed. “It was called something else completely – which I don’t know and don’t care. The secret of the Lines of Tah-Di-Tah lay a hundred metres below that road bridge.”

“And we have to dig it up!” Hair-Trigger yelled shrilly. “But how?”

At that point the ship passed on some silent information to the couple. They turned to regard the Gravitonic Multiplicitor…

“If it can move worlds,” Magnuss said whilst the machine hummed in near silence, “a nice road bridge and a few hundred thousand tons of sea floor should be no problem at all.”

But just as they set about figuring how to utilise the Gravitonic Multiplicitor, the ship went to Crimson Alert…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021