Tag Archives: earplugs

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 12)

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

Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubbles confirmed his hypothesis with a, “Hmmm.”

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

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

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

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

“Up?” Barclay queried.

“Up.” Bubbles replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 5)

Okay, part 4 didn’t set the world on fire: try part 5…

However progress wasn’t as quick as X2 Zero had anticipated: they encountered the huge amorphous blob named Susan coming down the UP ramp. She carried Chester Earplug in a ‘nest’ upon the top of her shape-shifting head…

“Oh,” Chester groaned from his lofty position, “sorry and all that. Susan doesn’t have a problem with left and right; but she does get a bit confused when confronted with up and down. Would you like my autograph? I’m free and easy with them. But I don’t sign underwear.”

“Nah, it’s alright.” Barclay replied. He then added – somewhat sarcastically, or so thought Bubbles: “Merely being in your presence is enough to make our day. This chance meeting with one of the museum’s heroes will forever be indelibly etched in our collective memory.”

“That’s fine,” Chester said through a fixed grin, “please excuse us as Susan makes herself all thin and squeezes past.”

So, moments later…

…they were free of the obstruction and rapidly closing upon their intended destination.

“Don’t stare or anything,” Barclay said as they trotted along – line astern, “but that’s Margret Greenhorn and the Greenhorn Girls to our left.”

“How exciting,” Bubbles whispered back. “They must be blocking out a new routine. I’d loved to have been a dancer: but I’ve got two left feet – even if one of them is on the right.”

“Café Puke, coming right up.” X2 Zero called. “Would you like me to lead you in?”

Barclay didn’t approve of a servomechanism doing only half a job. “Right on.” He said in what he hoped was the robot’s vernacular.

As the robot led its non-paying guests inside, it found the lighting somewhat subdued…

It couldn’t see anyone either. “Shop!” It bellowed through its high-quality user-interface loudspeaker. At this, the lighting burst into incandescent life…

…and some patrons found themselves made visible.

“Oh, that’s better,” one of them said to their friend seated opposite them, “now I can see the sugar knobs.”

Barclay chose this moment to dismiss X2 Zero – before turning his attention to the counter. However this area of the room remained a little dim, and of the Baristas there was no sign…

“Oh Barclay,” Bubbles complained, “I want a Croaky Cortado, but there’s no one to tell!”

The lighting chose that moment to change again. Suddenly the two visitors found themselves bathed in a red light. They also found Mary-Sue Wassack…

“Hi,” she said in an uncharacteristically cheerful manner, “Is that two Croaky Cortadoes?”

“Please.” Barclay, slightly surprised, replied. “Where did you spring from? Do you have a hidden trap door?”

“No-no,” Mary-Sue answered, “It’s the counter: it’s too high. The shop fitters who built the interior were old and used imperial measurements. The instructions were in metric. So now we have to come around the counter to serve people.”

Barclay accepted this. Then he asked a second question:

“What’s with the kooky lighting? It keeps changing.”

“Oh, that’s the shop fitters again.” Mary-Sue explained. “They didn’t have a normal electrical consumer unit for the lights; so they used one intended for a disco club instead. It plays merry hell with my pupils, I can tell you: I now have dilation problems.”

As if on cue, the brightness increased to maximum in the briefest time possible…

Suddenly Moyst Towlet and Jungle-Jake Johnson became visible behind the counter – not that anyone noticed: they were all too busy shouting, “Aargh!”

But as quickly as it came, the brightness dimmed to a reasonable level once more…

“Ah, that’s better.” Mary-Sue said with a grateful sigh. “Moyst: two Croaky Cortadoes. You two – take a seat: I’ll bring you your coffees.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Yes, I know the story barely moved on at all; but aren’t my Cafe Puke sets a delight!

All You Need For An Earplug Adventure…

…are…

…a computer, a camera, a note pad, a pen (obviously – what good is a note pad without a pen?), and (in my case) some glasses and a cup of cafe cortado. Oh yeah, and…

…sets, props, and lights. Not forgetting…

…locations and a photographer. And last, but certainly not least…

…a whole bunch of earplugs!

P.S Did you recognise the location I was shooting in that charming photo of my tanned self with a bamboo plant? It was…

…the scene from Surprise Visit in which the three Cafe Puke Baristas go in search of raw cane sugar for Nigel the Golden One of Scroton. If you spotted that, present yourself an Earpluggers Merit Award for Paying Close Attention. It looks something liked this…

Climatic Calamity (part 9)

Honestly, this really is the episode in which our two “Heroes” finally get their arses into gear. Read on…

Whilst the former burglars tried to get their head around the emerald-hued situation, the snow storm that lashed Ciudad de Droxford showed no indication that it would lessen any time soon…

In an apartment on one of the more sheltered housing blocks, Café Puke Baristas, Jungle-Jake Johnson and Mary-Sue Wassack peered out of an open window…

“Well?” Jungle-Jake demanded, “Do you think we can make it to work? Or do you figure we’d better call in sick?”

Mary-Sue shivered as she hopped down from the window sill. “If we try to reach the Museum in this storm, we’re gonna die. The Café Puke will have to go on without us. Let’s open a bottle of vino, maybe watch TV, and chew on that length of chorizo in the back of your fridge.” 

However, and despite the young Barista’s concerns for the well-being of their place of employment, the day-shift Baristas – those being Bert Wimbledon and Rosie Hodliner…

…had already made the decision to shut up shop. As they made for the door, Bert said:

“Race ya to the nearest Down ramp. We can slide all the way to the bottom like complete idiots and fall over in a tangle of arms and legs.”

Rosie was all for the idea. She really liked Bert, and the thought of getting tangled up with him made her forget the raging storm completely. “Yeah.” She replied enthusiastically. “Just let me lock up first.”

Meanwhile, deep beneath the shepherd’s hut, the cavern reduced in size once more – becoming a tunnel again…

“Are we still going down?” Hellfire inquired.

“I’d say so.” Erronious replied. “It’s definitely getting warmer.”

“Strange, don’t you think,” Hellfire said, following several seconds of thought, “that a shepherd should keep a secret subterranean tunnel beneath his hut?”

“More significantly,” Erronious added, “where was his shepherding paraphernalia? I saw no crook leaning against the rustic pantry table. There was no bed for a herding plugmutt to sleep in. And where did he hang his rough sack-like shepherd’s jerkin?”

“What are you suggesting, Erronious?” Hellfire queried nervously.

“That the shepherd was no shepherd at all.” The red-eyed earplug replied. “That he was, in fact, something else entirely!”

Hellfire might have asked, “What ‘something else entirely’, Erronious?”, but he didn’t get the chance: with the reduction in altitude, the light that illuminated the tunnel was changing to a warmer, reddish hue…

“Speak in whispers.” Erronious…um…whispered. ”There’s a brighter light up ahead.”

And there was too…

“I think we may have reached the end of the line.” He added.

Chapter 3

Bravely stepping into the light, Erronious and Hellfire were amazed to discover a modern facility, with mysterious devices set against white-washed walls; a door that presumably led to living quarters and a lavatory; a heated towel rail; and a strangely shaped snotty-coloured earplug, sitting in a high-tech chair that appeared to be regarding a glowing rock…

Shortly after Erronious and Hellfire had slipped silently into the room, the grey earplug deliberately cleared his throat. The snotty earplug was out of his chair like an Olympic flea…

“Take whatever you want,” he squeaked. “Please take care: I frighten easily: I only own two pairs of underpants, and one of them is in the wash.”

“Really?” Erronious responded as his eyes took in the room’s details. “So why are they not hanging upon the heated towel rail?”

“They’re soaking in the sink – with some bicarbonate of soda. There’s a nasty oily stain on them from when I serviced my bicycle last week.”

This intrigued Hellfire. “You only change your underpants once a week?”

“I live alone.” The snotty earplug explained. “There’s no one to complain – which is the way I like it. I’m a recluse, after all. And my olfactory organ has malfunctioned since I was very young, when I was a stunt scooterist and rode head-first into a rock face during an extreme sporting event at a local nunnery.”

As the snotty earplug spoke the words, Erronious could see the self-confidence return to the stranger. “Too bad.” He said. “Oh, yeah, please excuse the intrusion, but we were facing oblivion in the face of the recalcitrant weather up top. We found your hut – and the door that led to the secret tunnel.”

“It’s not a secret tunnel.” The snotty earplug complained. “It’s just that nobody knows about it. If anyone had asked, I would gladly have shown them. But I’m a recluse: nobody comes calling on a recluse such as me.”

Hellfire chose to introduce himself and his pea farming partner.

The snotty earplug responded positively. “Celestino Candalabra.” He said whilst extending a hand of welcome.

“So what are you doing down here, beneath the mountainside?” Erronious inquired.

“I am a ‘See-er’” Celestino replied instantly. “Wherever I look, I see the truth. For example, I see that you are reformed criminals. You were once burglars: but now you till the meagre mountain soil.”

Celestino could see surprise upon the faces of his unexpected guests. “It is a blessing – or a curse – that I was born with. You see, I’m psychic. However, I do not see the future: it’s not that bloody useful – otherwise I could bet on the plugmutt races or the national lottery and make a fortune. But I do see the truth. I see the truth in every face I look at. Sometimes those truths are hard to accept – so I have locked myself away from society, and spared myself the pain.”

Erronious, although impressed with Celestino’s candour, allowed his former cunning to assert itself. Already he could see that he might use the see-er’s talent – though not to his personal advantage: but for an entirely altruistic reason. “Something disastrous happened at the Museum of Future Technology this morning.” He told him. “We appear to be in the grip of a sudden ice age. If we accompany you to the surface, so you can see it for yourself, could you tell us the truth regarding its origin? You see, we’ve already figured that the Earplug Brothers would have been incapacitated – what with them being so close to the epicentre of the disaster – and we’d rather like to have a go at fixing the situation. It’s what any reasonable citizen of earplugdom would do.”

Celestino looked at Erronious and Hellfire. In Hellfire’s expression he saw only surprise. Clearly the ugly sod had not been expecting his friend to speak the words he’d just spoken. In Erronious he saw that his words were the honest truth. “No need,” he said, “I’ve got this crystal ball, in the corner. It’s got three hundred and sixty degree vision – as well as straight up.”

Moments later, Erronious and Hellfire stood in amazement as a view of the Museum of Future Technology appeared in the air before them.

“This is the truth you seek.” Celestino said sternly. “This morning, shortly after daybreak, this happened…

A glowing object, of extra-terrestrial origin detached itself from a Submarine Space Freighter. It proceeded thence to the museum itself, where it gained energy and…how shall I describe it? It exploded into activity. An activity for which it had been specifically designed.”

“What was the activity for which it was specifically designed?” Hellfire inquired with surprising eloquence.  

Celestino turned a sober look upon the former burglars. “To cause mayhem, suffering, and disorganisation – by means of sudden and catastrophic climate change.” He said gravely.

“To what end?” Erronious asked.

Celestino’s eyes seemed to glaze over – as though he had gone into a sudden trance. A split second later he reanimated. “To weaken earplug resistance to their own conquest.” He answered. He then added: “All this terrible weather in the mountains and beyond is all collateral damage. The Museum of Future Technology is the intended target.”

Celestino then quickly scribbled a map upon a paper napkin that (in the absence of a handkerchief) he usually used to wipe his nose. Handing it to Erronious, he said: “Take this; find a space ship; go to these co-ordinates; find the antidote. It’s the museum’s only hope.”

Although Hellfire felt uncertain about this unexpected turn of events, Erronious smiled broadly. He had no conscious awareness of his envy of the Earplug Brothers; but he was certain – deep down inside – that it was the primary reason for his current thought processes.

Celestino saw this to be the truth, but he said nothing, except. “Right, now, go!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, the inevitable mission begins. Return for episode 10, and maybe learn some more.

 

 

Climatic Calamity (part 4)

You’ve waited patiently for long enough. Here it comes: the genesis of the climatic calamity in the title…

And it was too. In moments it had escaped the lab entirely, and had expanded into the corridor outside…

But even the futuristic walls of the corridor could not contain it. Seconds more and it had freed itself from the entire tower in which the lab was housed…

A ripple of fear ran through the populace of the museum. This, it appeared, seemed to feed the anomaly further. Its size grew at an incredible rate. Within a half-minute, this occurred…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” one visitor was heard to wail, “it’s engulfing the whole building. Quickly, someone tell me; where is the nearest toilet? One that has yet to become engulfed!”

Had anyone been able to answer his question, a further thirty seconds would have proven them to be liars: there were no toilets that were yet to be engulfed. The entire museum fell beneath its dazzling light. But that wasn’t all: soon the inhabitants and buildings of Ciudad de Droxford became illuminated by its alien glow…

And, as it fled across the plain that led towards the mountains, one of the regular Submarine Space Freighters almost fell victim to the expanding ball of light…

Moreover, across the mountains, in the pea-growing region, farmers became aware of a strange light in the sky. A light that appeared to be coming closer…

“Okay,” one disgruntled pea farmer complained, “what have those dozy sods at the Museum of Future Technology been up to now?”

To which his colleague responded:

“I don’t know, Fruity, darling, but I’m frightened: find me a hole and throw me down it.”

Chapter 2

During the few scant moments it took for Fruity to find a hole, the fleeing Submarine Space Freighter’s crew became aware of changing climatic conditions upon the mountain side above which their vessel flew…

They weren’t alone. Horst and Greta Stenchlinger had hired a rock face near Lemon Stone, and were busy teaching Advanced Precipitous Ledge Walking to a few wealthy and brave customers…

The sudden appearance of falling snow alarmed many of them.

“Honestly,” Candice Pustulina complained as she stood beside the helmeted Police Constable Salisbury Wilts and peered over the edge of their precipitous ledge, “as if regular ledges weren’t slippery enough, now the Stenchlingers include snow. I’ve a good mind to ask for my money back!” 

Because it was mid-summer in the mountains, the inhabitants of Lemon Stone were astonished to see freezing air billowing up the mountain side towards the village and citadel…

At the same time, the robot crew of the Submarine Space Freighter watched in cyber-horror as pea farmers fled their rapidly freezing farmland…

In their tiny mountain shack, married recluses, Steve and Dotty Chunder watched in dismay through their recently installed, double-glazed picture window as their rose garden succumbed to the weight of the sudden snowfall…

“Ooh, dear, Steve,” Dotty whimpered, “I so wish I’d listened to you, and, instead of this silly picture window, had an indoor lavatory installed.”

“You and me both.” Steve replied. “Now I’m glad I never threw out that old potty your mother gave us as a wedding present: we’re gonna need it!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

If you’re a long-term Earplugger, you’ll probably have noticed my propensity for creating snowscapes and wintry scenes. I have this thing about winter. In my opinion The Bourne Identity would have only been half as good if they’d set it during Summer. It does cause me vast grief with the photo processing department though. As you can probably imagine, I don’t get out in the snow to do much shooting: I live in southern England after all. White bed sheets and polystyrene are absolute necessities.

Surprise Visit (part 22)

Part 22 contains a turn of events that (as a regular Earplugger) you might not have expected. Be warned…

Taking their seats, they sent a telepathic instruction to the ship’s AI, informing it that they were about to launch. Hair-Trigger then brought up a subject that Magnuss had happened to mention during the three minutes it took to recover from the fall and enter the Tankerville Norris.

“Those shape-shifting atoms,” she said, “Do you think –if we used the ship’s Bussard collectors, we could suck them all into the ship?”

Magnuss mused upon the subject. “Well,” he replied, “Bussard collectors are normally used to collect hydrogen atoms in open space and compress them into a medium that could be ejected from a vessel to produce propulsion. Ours are there as an emergency back-up – should our main drive fail. But, in essence, I don’t see why they couldn’t suck up shape-shifter atoms too. Why do you ask?”

“I’ll tell you on the way.” Hair-Trigger replied. Then, to the ship, she said, “Set course for Scroton. Launch immediately.”

A split second later, the ship that the Crutons never knew existed, swept from hiding…

…and blasted upwards into Weird Space…

Quickly establishing the route that the Buggeram Bay would have taken to Earth, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger calculated the position where their weaponry had blown the sausage roll apart. Swooping about the region with their hydrogen-collecting Bussard collectors open and sucking hard, they went about the task of collecting the particles that constituted the dangerous shape-shifter…

The Tankerville Norris then accompanied the resulting reconstituted ‘asteroid’ on a course that Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had chosen: a course that would take it to the brown planet, little known as Cruton…

At sub-light speed, it took so much time that Magnuss feared that the Crutons might have fixed their ships and set out for Earth and the Museum of Future Technology. However good fortune prevailed. So, as the asteroid hurtled downwards through the feeble atmosphere, the Tankerville Norris hit it with a low-yield energy blast that broke it apart – allowing the smaller pieces to tumble to the ground…

…where Crutons, unfamiliar with shape-shifting sausage rolls…

…were ill prepared to defend themselves against them. So much panic ensued that no one gave two hoots about a small honeymoon barge screeching across the domed conurbation and using its matter-transmitter to steal away the captive ruler of Scroton and his wife…

This tested Nigel’s wits vastly. Thinking quickly, he was about to thank his saviours, when suddenly the other members of his retinue appeared aboard the Tankerville Norris

Without preamble, Magnuss shouted to his new guests:

“Hold on to something: We’re getting the heck outta here!”

And they did – as quickly as possible…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Just Chapter Eight and the oblicatory Epilogue to follow now. Big sad sigh. Still, there’s no sense in getting maudling; enjoy it while it lasts.

 

The Set: The Scene 6

Here’s another brief compilation of pictures that begin with a photo of a set, followed by a scene that was shot there, as seen in an Earplug Adventure. Obviously only extremely keen Earpluggers are going to recognise a scene, merely by looking at the set; but I’m certain that it won’t be utter tedium for those who can’t. And, who knows, you might surprise yourself.

First up, I’ve included (what was probably) the first ‘set’ that wasn’t really a set at all, but which got my imagination firing like a single cylinder four-stroke motorcycle of approximately 125cc. In this case it was some broken sheets of plasterboard (rock wall) that were awaiting disposal…

Look at the jagged edge of the torn cardboard. Such an interesting effect. What might that become? Well, in the case of the story Martian Interlude Part 2, it appeared as the rocky, wind-blown sea shore visited by Benjamin Booger and Plopper O’Hooligan…

Look at the grey-green waves and white spume crash against the haze-obscured rocks. Tell me it doesn’t look that way: go on. You can’t, can you!

Anyway, next up…

Interestingly shaped, cardboard cut-outs. They appear, over and over, as doorways in otherwise featureless ‘walls’. It took me an age to find this particular example in my library; but dedication to my art paid off, and I found this scene…

…which appears to be the front door of the apartment in which the siblings, Gray-Vee and Cray-Zee live. Or at least they did in the alternative reality story Evil Empire. It appeared at least once more…

…as a random doorway in Cometh the Earplug.

Sadly the next set / prop was left behind when I was forced out of my fabulous ‘studio’ when the company that owned it decided that building houses was more profitable that retaining an ancient, crumbling 1960’s architectural icon – the short-term-thinking shits. Anyway, enough of my gripes: it’s a pile of rock salt and the reflective interior of a streetlight…

The stuff that dreams are made of. In this case my dreams showed me this…

I know you recognise this: it’s the Future Museum of Mars. This time appearing – rather rain-soaked – in Haunted Mars. But the real beauty of this set is – it has an interior too! Here is the same reflector from Martian Interlude Part 1

…and again in Liberation Part 2

Here I’ve thrown in a temporary set. It appeared in a single tale, but made a cameo appearance in Surprise Visit...

Anyone? It’s the secret subterranean lair of the alien workforce that watch over the fledgling civilisation of Scroton. Here it is in The Masters of Scroton

Okay, that was a tricky one. I wouldn’t expect anyone to get that right. But what about this pair of singed plastic insulation panels and a screwed-up sheet of blue plastic…

Surely some interesting topography there. I had trouble finding any shots that clearly showed these sets as you see them here. Eventually I discovered this scene where shell-shocked scientists stagger about their ruined world in Distant land

Destruction is on the cards again in this composite I made that is supposed to be a missile in flight above the ice sheet in Haunted Mars Part 2

But I stuck at my task, and finally found this defining shot. It comes from The Epoch of Dung

Look at that: you can even see the sheet of blue plastic through the burn hole. A lake, perhaps? There is no ‘perhaps’ about it. I’m a great believer in realism: that’s why I populate my stories with earplugs!

 

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 9): An Earplug Adventure

I think, for Part Nine, we’ll dispense with my usual rambling introduction, and get straight to the action. Actually, speaking of rambling: in this extract Magnuss and Hair-Trigger finally conclude their huge exposition. Now straight to the action-ish…

“Of course, we were trying to conceal ourselves, so we couldn’t tap into Nul-Space for energy. We needed to plug in the back-up battery packs…

…whilst our passive sensors tried to make sense of what was happening beyond the shield. Fortunately, Rupert Piles was able to film some stuff with his three-dee camera through a small window in the downstairs Gents toilet…

…so we had some inkling of what was going on outside.”

“Yes,” Hair-Trigger confirmed, “he was able to zoom-in on our neighbouring town – La Ciudad de Droxford. Their lights went out too!”

“Naturally visitors to the museum panicked.” Magnuss continued. “Several Baristas left their posts in the Café Puke outlets. The Zombie population all huddled together in the sub-strata upon which were built successive museums before the current one…

Of course, some fell to pieces and resorted to religion. Well the ones who believe in Ballington, the Cork God did…

“Meanwhile,” Hair-Trigger replaced her husband whilst he took a nip from his hip flask of ginger beer, “engineers in La Ciudad de Droxford couldn’t maintain control of their power generation plant. The colour just drained from their faces…

Something was affecting it from the outside. Some advanced technology with which none of us are familiar.”

“Yeah,” Magnuss retook the reins, “that’s when we found out who was causing all the grief. It was the alien ships that chased us through hyperspace. We hadn’t shaken them off at all: they were cloaked and hiding from our sensors!”

“But your vessel has sensors designed and built on Scroton!” Walker exclaimed in horror.

“I know, I know.” Magnuss wailed. “It’s impossible, but they had something that blinded the Scrotonic sensors completely. But enough of that for the moment. The aliens aboard then ordered everyone in the city to walk into the distant hills. It was a long and arduous task. Rupert Piles could see that some of them had really painful feet. Others – wonky knees and chilblains.”

“We would have given them some soothing cream.” Hair-Trigger piped up, “but we couldn’t give away our position.”

“So the alien sensors couldn’t detect you through your Chameleon Cannon Cloak?” Beatrix inquired.

“We’ll come to that.” Magnuss replied. “Anyway the earplugs took longer than the aliens liked for them to leave, so, when they reached the foothills, the stragglers were fired upon to speed them up…

When the last of them had finally clambered from the plain, the leading alien saucer fired the first shot at Ciudad de Droxford…

…which took all the tiles off the roof of a popular nunnery. It was the first of many. Shots, that is: not nunnery roofs. The aliens had a rare old time. You could tell they were having fun…

As morning arrived, so the saucers departed, leaving the city a flaming ruin…

“Oh, that’s so sad,” Beatrix commiserated. “But why did they destroy such a lovely city? And why so close to the Museum of Future Technology?”

“We’ll come to that too.” Magnuss replied. “Anyway, inside the Chameleon Cannon Cloak…

…all we could do was to wait until the fires had burned themselves out. Then we went to see the result of the attack…

It was pretty thorough.”

“I suppose you couldn’t help defend the city with your defence fighters?” Nigel said the words that could have sounded recriminating had anyone else spoken them. “But, then I imagine they only work using your broadcast power system, which, of course relies upon Nul-Space energy. Ah, I see…such a quandary.”

“There was something else too.” Magnuss explained. “Long ago the curator elite proposed that we build a duplicate museum. One that could be activated when the real museum came under threat, and draw any unwanted attention from would-be invaders and the like. Unfortunately, the museum’s coffers have always been paltry. Work has been slow and haphazard – relying on donations and volunteers…

But, we have been getting there, though it does mean a few corners had to be cut…

An awful lot of plaster and chicken wire was used. And, of course, we had to build it to scale – only one-third the real size.”

It was at that moment that the truth finally dawned upon the listening trio of Scrotonites. “This isn’t the Museum of Future Technology!” Nigel boomed joyously.

“It’s just a putrid facsimile!” Walker exclaimed with happiness.

“You’re not a bunch of scheming little gits after all!” Beatrix screamed, with relief evident in every decibel.

“When do we get to see the real museum?” Nigel inquired.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Surprise Visit (part 6): An Earplug Adventure

Well the good news for me is…I don’t need to shoot and process any more pictures for this story. They are done and dusted – all 229 of them. There, I told you it was going to be a short story, didn’t I! Well shorter, anyway. So, without further ado, welcome to part six…

It was a kind offer readily accepted. So, shortly after flying back to the Museum, Nigel stood nervously outside the disco entrance, whilst Private Fermin Gusset checked out the foyer for, trip wires, snipers, mines and suchlike…

“Looking good, not a soul in sight, Sir,” Fermin said upon his return. “The disco leads into a corridor that allows ingress to the rest of the museum. We can go straight in.”

Just to play safe, Walker Crabtrouser had Nigel remain outside with Fermin and Faati, whilst he, Julian, and Bertram made a preliminary reconnoitre ahead. “After all,” he explained to the complaining leader of Scroton, “Fermin may be the best; but he isn’t infallible.”

Beatrix, despite complaints from both her husband and Walker, joined them…

“Nice shade of pink,” she observed. “Very feminine. I think I like this place already.”

Walker cast his gaze this way and that, but found no evidence of hidden automatic machine gun ports in any of the walls. “Hmmm,” he hummed in a considered manner, “not sure I’m entirely happy with their security systems. This would be a perfect killing zone; but all walls appear to have been constructed from a near perfect plaster board  and emulsion paint from the future.”

His initial concerns satisfied, Walker then allowed Nigel into the building. Naturally he adorned himself with his blue plume of office. But as the group investigated the first main corridor beyond the disco foyer…

…puzzlement was their only companion.

“There’s absolutely no one anywhere.” Beatrix called through from a side corridor.

“Same here.” Bertram Hisscod shouted from somewhere aft of Nigel.

But Nigel wasn’t listening: he’d noticed that a pot of black paint had been dropped upon the floor. Although the pot itself was absent, the paint it contained had not been cleaned away. Moreover, when he sniffed at it, he could detect molecules of an oil-based residue. Clearly the paint was still in the act of drying. He felt sure that it was important, but he couldn’t figure out why. He made a mental note of it, and carried on… 

Walker looked back as Nigel approached him. “Notice anything odd?” He inquired of his leader.

“It’s very rough and ready.” Nigel replied as he inspected the huge timber ceiling supports. “Do you suppose it might be a new exhibit that hasn’t been finished yet?”

Walker hummed, as he often did when deep in thought. “Well something hasn’t been finished.” He said finally. “What it is, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess.”

The puzzling situation didn’t improve when they entered the Zona Azul residential area…

“Hey,” Julian Prim shouted from across the square, “there aint no furniture in these apartments. The light switches work though.”

When Nigel suggested they visit the Woven Expanse, he expected a wide, open area of brown fabric that stretched into apparent infinity. What he found was…

…a football field-sized area, followed by mound after mound of dirt that continued until it came up against a Wide Blue Yonder that was much closer than it should have been.

Walker’s voice cracked slightly when he whispered to Nigel:

“Time Storms, do you think? It would explain much of what we see here.”

Nigel didn’t want to consider the possibility that everyone in the museum had been lost so tragically. “The last time I was here,” he whispered back, “the Tunnel Temporale was disconnected from the power grid. And they’ve a PO9 2LY energy dampener in action as a failsafe. Think of something else.”

So Walker did. He thought about trying the Omnipresent Scanner…

But no one could find the ON switch, so they marked that up as another bad idea. So Walker suggested that they break up into multiple search parties. Naturally Beatrix joined her husband. But all too soon they discovered a corridor that was partially blocked by building materials…

“Let’s try another direction,” Beatrix suggested.

In response to this, Nigel whipped off his plume and shoved it in his back pocket. Then, together they turned off into a narrow curved linking corridor…

“Look at the walls, dearest.” Beatrix said as she eyed a rough, unfinished, surface.”

“Very rustic, darling.” Nigel replied. “The floor is modern though. Very smooth and almost compliant.”

Julian and Bertram were finding no such anomalies. The thoroughfare down which they strolled appeared perfectly normal…

“Maybe this section is older and better established.” Julian suggested.

The situation for Faati Rueda was much the same…

“Nice suffuse lighting.” She said to herself. “A lavatory, which works – thank the Saint of All Cable Ends: but no one to use or appreciate it.”

Nigel and Beatrix felt more comfortable, having found an established thoroughfare of their own…

Once again, it was the lack of a population that made them most uncomfortable.

“I can’t even smell any lingering aromas.” Beatrix observed. “Not a trace of a fart anywhere.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Figured it out yet? Well whether you have or have not, come back again for the next enthralling extract from Surprise Visit.

Surprise Visit (part 4): An Earplug Adventure

The photo count is creeping up. 194 now. How many shots will it take to complete this tale? Who cares? Just enjoy it!

Below, in the central plaza, early-risers watched nervously as the ship climbed into the dark sky. One even put a word in for its occupants with his chosen deity…

Before long, the prayed-for occupants of the Buggeram Bay found themselves given a birds-eye view of Scroton Prime…

“Oh, isn’t the view splendid!” Beatrix yelled. “I’ve never seen the city lights from above before. And, oh look, we’re banking to starboard, but you’d never know it: I can’t feel a thing. I’m totally nausea-free.”

“Pitch and yaw compensators, dearest.” Nigel explained. “They iron out all the bumps.”

Shortly after that, Beatrix discovered that the ship also compensated for acceleration. Before she knew it, they had left the planet far behind…

…and the visual glory that was Weird Space greeted her gaze…

 Everyone was still in the throes of ecstasy when the long-range sensor detected an object dead ahead…

“What is it?” Nigel demanded. “Is it an asteroid? I’ve heard all about them: they cause extinction events.”

“I…I…don’t think so.” Julian Prim said hesitantly. “It appears to be vaguely sausage roll shaped.”

“I’m running it through the Strange Space Objects Recognition Computer.” Security Chief, Bertram Hisscod informed his leader. “But I think I know what it is.”

“Elucidate.” Nigel snapped.

Bertram began his explanation with a question: “Do you recall what happened on the Earplug’s Ice Planet, a few years ago?”

Nigel was no expert, but he could remember that a cold war had existed for generations upon that world, and that it had ended when the crust broke up and both sides united in a bid for racial survival.  “Not specifically.” He replied.

“Well, as the planetary crust reformed, they set up a research station at one of the poles. An alien ship crashed there – releasing a horrid shape-shifting creature that could take on the appearance of anyone and anything.”

“That sounds scary.” Beatrix said into the nanosecond Bertram took to grab a breath. “I think I would have pooped my pants. What happened?”

“They electrocuted it. In an attempt to flee, the monster changed itself into thousands of sausage rolls, and rolled away to many different locations across the ice sheet.” Bertram replied. “Some sausage rolls must have stowed away aboard robotic ice freighters, and escaped back into space. I believe that this is the daddy of all shape-shifters. This is what remains of the monster that terrorised Ice Station Nobby!”

This alarmed Nigel badly. He felt shaken to the core. “And…and…and now,” he stuttered, “it has found its way to Weird Space. Next stop: Scroton!”

“Destroy it!” Beatrix screamed shrilly. “Ram it amidships and set off our self-destruct charges if you have to; but destroy it!”

“Nah, that’s okay,” the blue, diminutive, Faati Rueda – Queen of the Pigmies, responded. “We have some defensive capability: you want me to use it? I’ll try it on five percent energy yield and see how it goes.”

Moments later…

…a searing blast of incandescent fury transformed the alien shape-shifter into widely dispersed constituent atoms.

With the exception of Nigel, everyone aboard cheered uproariously. However, all the display of firepower did for the leader of Scroton was cause him more concern…

“This is not a warship, is it?” He asked no one in particular.

Walker felt unease embrace him like a soggy duvet. “Er, no, Sir. It’s a personal luxury transport vessel – but with big guns. The cosmos is a dangerous place: it’s very important that we can kick ass from time to time.”

“But that is not what Scroton is all about.” Nigel argued. “Scrotonites don’t swagger about the Galaxy, kicking ass. We build tech stuff and sell it to worlds all over the place. Now I’m even more concerned with the fact that other eyes have seen the basic pre-production plans of this vessel. Suppose their photocopier didn’t jam: somewhere, someone else could build one of these. Maybe they already have.”

Beatrix screamed at the thought. She then added a metaphorical question: “How long has it been since the plans were lost in the back of the copier?” Of course, she answered it itself: “Too long perhaps. Maybe there is a flotilla of these killer-ships out there somewhere.”

“Oh-no,” Nigel wailed in perfect harmony with his wife, “maybe not a flotilla at all – but an entire fleet!”    

Walker Crabtrouser shook his head in negation. “No one,” he said, “no species – is capable of developing and constructing ships faster than we of Scroton. We are the acknowledged masters of R and D. Believe me when I say – there cannot possibly be any ships of this design anywhere in the entire Galaxy. This is the sole complete example.”

“Oh, do you really think so?” Beatrix, suddenly calmed, inquired.

“I do.” Walker said as he nodded solemnly and affirmatively.

“Jolly good.” Nigel managed a smile. “That means we can continue with our holiday. Julian – carry on: destination Earth.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Golly, would you believe it – that’s Chapter One complete. Now prepare yourselves for the opening salvo from Chapter Two, next time!

Surprise Visit (part 3) An Earplug Adventure

Photo count for Surprise Visit has risen to 186. You would not believe the hours I put in to get up to that number. Stiff neck and aching mouse-hand, I can tell you! Moreover, those are the completed, processed, usable shots, which can include up to ten elements in each to complete. Just guessing, but I figure it probably took at least 300 to make those 186. But enough of my creative laptop heroism and aching body parts: on with the show. The prologue is finally over, by the way. If there is such thing as an average prologue, mine is longer. I have a long one, and I”m hanging it out here for everyone to see!

Chapter One

Several hours passed before Nigel showed sufficient confidence in his new government to depart with his retinue for the space ship landing zone…

Having passed through the Departure Lounge, Beatrix lay a restraining hand upon her husband’s arm…

“Are you sure this is wise, Nige baby?” She whispered, fully aware that their bodyguard wouldn’t hear a word she said. “It’s just that when I went for my last-minute, pre-flight wee-wee, I felt a nagging doubt in my waters. Something might go horribly wrong.”

Nigel had always listened to his wife’s well-considered council. “Here, on Scroton?” He asked in a slightly more resonant whisper. “Or the vacation?”

Beatrix sighed. “Not here.” She replied. “I’m absolutely certain that Ena, Anders, and that Phruten guy are perfect for the job – after all, it was your hat their names came out of. No: it’s something about your choice of destination. Of course, if its fate that we go there, who am I to argue? But I thought I should mention it.”

So, as the others made their way towards the boarding gate…

…Nigel made a decision and reanimated…

He said; “Fear not, beautiful wife of mine: we will be on our guard against anything and everything. And, most importantly, we have Fermin Gusset at our side: what could go wrong?”

With that, they strolled out into the strange early-early morning light…

…of Scroton, whereupon Beatrix began complaining about the lack of air-conditioned transfer conduit to the space ship’s airlock. Fortunately for some unnamed underling, once they had seated themselves in the super-comfy flight chairs beside Walker Crabtrouser…

…that omission was forgotten utterly.

“Nice,” she said. “My botty has never felt so cossetted.”

“This is a new class of ship, isn’t it Walker?” Nigel inquired.

“First in the line.” Walker informed his leader. “There are four others in various stages of construction. This is the Buggeram Bay. It was named after the company that sponsored the development of the design – the Buggeram Bay Oily Fish Company. Buggeram Bay is on the southern continent, quite close to the pole, I believe.”

“That’s a little worrying, Walker.” Nigel said without turning to face the military leader. “Surely all space craft development must go through government channels?”

“Ah,” Walker responded slowly, “yes, that would be the case, normally. But the designer’s blueprints were lost in the back of the office copy machine and got all chewed up. No one wanted to take responsibility, so they just conveniently forgot all about it. The designer took his design elsewhere. Who knows who else has seen the design: but we have control of the manufacturing now, so no harm done.”

“Did they get a new photocopier?” Beatrix inquired.

“Not sure, Ma’am.” Walker replied. “Didn’t bother asking.”

Nigel’s disquiet remained. “So this is the only ship that actually flies?” He asked in a slightly nervous tone.

“Oh, assuredly.” Walker responded effortlessly. “The Plankton Regis is weeks away from completion: the Bingbonger is little more than a metallic skeleton: and the Clutterbuck is barely off the drawing board. If you have any reservations about this ship, Sir, we can always dig out the old Goosewing Grey: It still goes like the clappers, and, when you get used to it, the grey décor really isn’t as dull and depressing as you remember it.”

“I think not.” Beatrix responded upon her husband’s behalf. “When Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug were given the choice of the Goosewing Grey or the Tankerville Norris, they chose the latter unequivocally. We’ll stick with this ship: I like the seats.”

Beatrix was further impressed by the ultra-high definition main screen…

“Oh look, Nige,” she gushed, “it’s the lemon curd factory. I remember opening that. We hadn’t long been married: it was one of my first civic duties. Lovely toilets, I remember.”

Nigel didn’t much care for lemon curd. “Who’s flying this ship?” He enquired of the cable ends that appeared to be manning the controls beneath the main view screen.

“Ah, that would be no one, Sir.” Julian Prim replied. “The ship flies itself. We’re here to manually override the A I in the event that it goes bananas and tries to fly the ship into the Sun or something equally catastrophic.”

This news placated Nigel’s concerns slightly. “Oh, that’s alright then.” He said. “Okay, take us up. Let’s go.”

Moments later the Buggeram Bay lifted on invisible columns of energy…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Right then, that’s the slow bit out of the way. Now it’s time for action and mystery – on the vacation from Hell!

 

 

The Epoch of Dung (part 7) An Earplug Adventure

It was a fabulous tale, told expertly; but Margret felt that she hadn’t crossed the temporal void to hear fabulous tales told expertly: as far as she was concerned, the Greenhorn Girls were here to save the Museum of Future Technology. In order to accomplish this task, she felt it best that her troupe collect and collate as much ‘first hand’ information that they could. To this end, she sent them off to see, with their own eyes, what the situation was in this alternative time-line. She, of course, remained with her host…

She was about to say, “it’s a bit smelly in here: let’s adjourn to the outdoors.” When, to her surprise, Ninja spoke almost the same words – except she suggested they find another location, without mentioning outside…

“I want to show how much events have affected the communal psyche.” She said. “People react differently to unexpectedly stressful situations, like being separated from almost everything they’ve ever known. Look over there.”

Margret acquiesced to Ninja’s bidding…

“I don’t understand.” The puzzled choreographer muttered. “Why is that cup of coffee sitting below that spotlight?”

“It was placed there almost a week ago.” Ninja answered. “We’re still digging all sorts of ‘tech’ out of the mud: most of it is smashed beyond repair or use; but sometimes we find items that still function. On that particular day, the earplug who found the working spotlight had a cup of coffee handed to him when a colleague discovered a functioning Café Puke dispensing machine. In a moment of quasi-religious euphoria, the earplug placed his coffee upon the floor here, and lit it with the spotlight. It’s like I said, that was almost a week ago. The coffee is yet to spoil: and it’s still warm too. It defies the laws of physics.”

Margret pondered this for a moment. Eventually she responded with the words: “No corruption, huh? The effect of temporal dislocation, do you think: or divine intervention?”

“Beats the heck outta me, Miss Greenhorn.” Ninja replied. “I wonder how your girls are doing on their reconnoitring.”

Chapter 3

Well, actually, the girls were not doing very well at all upon their mission. They absolutely hated the hurriedly constructed mud caves…

“Horrible,” Belle complained bitterly. “And I’ve lost my false eyelashes too.”

A floor below the dancing girls, two female earplugs stood in the doorway of their mud cave. “Well,” one of them said to the other, “if that’s all she has to worry about – good for her. But wait until her bra strap chafes her shoulders beyond endurance, and she can’t find any soothing balm, coz there isn’t any: then she can start complaining.”

“Nice carpet,” the other replied. “Dried moss – or lichens?”

On a higher level, a recently married couple were just moving into their cave…

“Oh, by the Saint of All Earplugs,” the husband bellowed as he overheard the earplugs below, “they have carpets. Why haven’t we got carpets?”

“Who needs carpets,” his wife whispered for fear of antagonising the neighbours, “when we have a charming safety rail made from re-purposed bean sticks?”

Higher still, Wendy Rucksack and Poki Kitchener overheard the marital exchange…

“Honestly,” Wendy said to Poki, “somethings never change – even when the world seems to have ended. Keeping up with the Joneses never dies.”

However, any such thoughts of one-upmanship between neighbours evaporated for Wendy, when Horst and Greta Stenchlinger found her nervously eyeing a narrow structure that bridged a gap between floors…

“Oh, flipping heck, Mrs Stenchlinger – you cannot be serious!”

“If one is wanting to use the toilet, young female,” Horst said from behind her, “one is not having very much choice: over there the toilet is being.”

Yet higher still, the former female weightlifters, Mandy and Candy watched Wendy’s first tentative steps upon the ‘bridge’…

“For a dancing girl,” Mandy said from behind a roughly hewn sheet of welded steel mesh, “she sure is showing some pluck.”

“Dancing girls are known for showing things.” Candy replied. “Pluck isn’t usually one of them. An ocean of thigh, yes; but pluck? Less so.”

Mandy might have said something in response, but their upstairs neighbour in the penthouse hovel called down to them…

“Hey, ladies,” he shouted, “I like your clock. If it’s a classic wind-up version, would you care to swap it for a TV with no remote control and a plug-less power cord?”

The subject of their classic timepiece gave the weightlifters a warm glow of self-satisfaction and well-being: it being the only object they owned that had survived the destruction of their apartment.

“No, it’s alright.” Candy called back. “It doesn’t have a key anyway.”

“Naughty,” whispered Mandy, “telling fibs. I know you keep it on a length of string down the back of your knickers.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What is Getting My Earplugs So Excited?

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

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

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

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

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 39)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The station’s robots were doing no better…

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile Bunty began giving Ginger and Daisy exact instructions…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gave Daisy pause for thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 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

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 36)

Daisy’s excitement was contagious. Within seconds, Bunty and Ginger had crowded around the control panel beside her. Tong-Tong quickly joined them…

“Whoo,” they all sighed. “The Tankerville Thingamabob.”

The Commander of the Prolate Spheroid ship was less easily impressed. In fact, he was really cheesed off…

“Our plan – like most plans – lies in ruins.” He grumbled. “And all because of a bunch of stupid meddling earplugs. Target that vessel and open fire.”

Fortunately, for all concerned, his First Officer counselled caution:

“Is that entirely wise, Sir?” He whispered so that the crewmembers within earshot could not hear him clearly, “After all, that little ship did neutralise an attack without firing a shot. If we tread carefully, perhaps it is still possible to avert the civil war you most fear.”   

The Commander wasn’t entirely convinced. “I’m not the sort to sit back and watch as events develop.” He mumbled. “I’m a pro-active kind of guy. But I suppose I could give it a try. Maybe for five minutes.”

“Indeed, Sir,” a rather self-satisfied First Officer replied. “Perhaps we could listen to their com-chatter.”

This was fortuitous timing for the Prolate Spheroid Incense Cones, because Tong-Tong had just initiated a link with the Tankerville Norris

“Hello,” it said, “my designation is Tong-Tong. I am speaking on behalf of Bunty Bridgewater, Daisy Woodnut, and Ginger Slack – late of Planet Earth. They would speak for themselves, but they are feeling slightly overawed by your heroic presence, and do not want to giggle like schoolgirls at a pop concert every time you look at them. Have you come to rescue them?”

Naturally, Magnuss replied in the affirmative, so Tong-Tong chanced a request of its own:

“Might it be possible that I accompany them? We have grown rather close, and I am experiencing feelings of protectiveness towards them. I have heard that the Café Puke is always looking for cheap waiters. Hmmm?”

Well neither Magnuss nor Hair-Trigger could think of a reasonable excuse to refuse Tong-Tong’s request, and several seconds after Magnuss’ reply of, “Yeah, sure – why not?” this happened… 

…which surprised all four entities aboard the freighter.

They remained surprised (to within microns of mental / cyber chemical imbalance) until Magnuss said, “Hello Ginger, Daisy, and Bunty: nice to meet you.”

Whilst Hair-Trigger added, “And your charming robot too.”

Well such a disarming approach couldn’t help but succeed thoroughly. Tong-Tong’s eyes un-crossed and the three girls smiled broadly. They then introduced Tong-Tong by name.

So whilst the Tankerville Norris remained in orbit, and kept watchful sensors upon its charges below…

…Magnuss expounded upon his tentative ideas for future actions against their Incense Cone foes…

He concluded with, “And then we’ll kick them right up the arse and send them back to where they belong. But firstly, I’d like to familiarise myself with this ship. I’ve not seen one of these before: what is it called?”

Tong-Tong and the girls looked at each other. “Robotic Submarine Space Freighter Zero-Zero Seven.” Tong-Tong replied, though it suspected that a numerical nomenclature wasn’t quite what the great earplug was requesting.

Bunty was desperate to please the Hero of Earplugdom. “What was the name of your Dad’s sail boat?” She demanded of Ginger.

Ginger was surprised at the question; but she answered readily enough:

“The Drunkard’s Vomit?” She replied questioningly. “Is that really a suitable name for a space freighter?”

“It’s better than that mouthful that came out of Tong-Tong.” Bunty opined bluntly.

“The Drunkard’s Vomit.” Daisy finally answered Magnuss’ question.

“Good choice,” Magnuss said as he nodded approvingly. “Now my wife and I will take a little stroll around – you know just so we know which end is the pointy end, and which end makes all the noise.”

And that is what they did…

…though neither of them were quite sure about the décor.

“It would be fine in a disco,” Hair-Trigger complained as she sought visual solace by peering out of a porthole at the surrounding topography…

…“but right now it’s giving me a migraine.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 35)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hair-Trigger was quick to respond:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 34)

The ship wasn’t lying or exaggerating either…

“Apparently,” Magnuss said – because he too was receiving telepathic information from the ship, “it’s a quicker way to get where we need to be. Faster than a hyperspace conduit.  And less busy too.”

“Also a lot more scary.” Hair-Tigger complained.

However, shortly after having gained the inner sanctum of the space rift…

…she revised her initial impression:

“Pretty.” She said. “Though it wouldn’t do to look at it for too long.”

Of course, all the while, Cushions had been slaving away upon the Omnipresent Scanner…

“I’ve made diplomatic contact with the Prolate Spheroids.” She informed Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks and a recent inductee to the curator elite, Eric the Armpit. “They are gonna get back to me on the subject. I get the distinct impression though that they know more than they’re letting on.”

Meanwhile, upon the upper section of the Robotic Justice League’s space station…

…a heavily armed, but horrendously dated freighter was lifting off. Its mission to seek and destroy the absent space submarine freighter…

During those moments of lift-off, the self-same space submarine freighter had discovered an opening in the planetoid’s rocky carapace. Daisy immediately instructed the vessel to dive into it…

Within moments, the bulky craft had found a refuge…

“No one will think of looking down here.” Ginger predicted confidently…

“Yeah,” Bunty agreed, “we could stay down here for a million years – and no one would ever know!”

“I fancy a cheesy biscuit.” Daisy informed them both. “Which way to the Passenger Galley?”

It was just about this time, but an awfully long way away, when the Tankerville Norris chose to exit the space rift…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 30)

Safely inside their own craft, and unseen by any robots or Incense Cones…

…they cheerfully raced to the control room, where Tong-Tong contacted the pair of former crew robots that operated the communications suite…

“Collect your captain and crew.” It instructed the listening robots. “Bring yourselves to the ship, which is docked at Portal Fifty-Two. If intercepted attempt subterfuge. You have the permission of the three earplugs behind me to cheat and lie your way here. Do not tell any Incense Cone or robot of your intended destination. If cyber-tortured, you must explode in an exultation of pyrotechnic gore. Is that understood?”

“Affirmative.” Both robots replied in unison.

Tong-Tong then relinquished the control panel to the three aforementioned earplugs…

…who sought a nearby heavenly body behind which to hide the freighter.

“Got one.” Daisy cried out in delight. “Far enough away so we won’t be spotted; but close enough to keep tabs on what’s going on at the station.”

Ginger was just plotting a course for the planetoid, when the doorbell chimed.

“You take over, Tong-Tong,” she said, “We’ve got guests to welcome.”

Thirty seconds later…

…a breathless, but smiling trio welcomed the original crew aboard.

“Sorry, Captain,” Ginger said to the solitary mauve robot, “but until this action is complete we will continue to command this vessel. How do you feel about that? We wouldn’t want to step on your metaphorical toes and all that.”

“I am not fully cognizant with all the facts pertaining to the current situation.” The captain replied. “You have freed us. For that, we are cyber-thankful. You may continue to act at your discretion. I do not require that you relinquish command. Carry on.”

It then led the crew in three rousing cheers for Ginger, Bunty, and Daisy.

Several minutes were to pass whilst the robots settled themselves into their regular schedules whilst aboard ship. Then, having received a ‘green light’ from every section of the vessel, Ginger backed the freighter away from the docking portal and set out towards open space…

“This is strange,” Ginger said as the distant stars shone starkly through their viewing panel…

…”but only a short while ago we were just three bored, rather silly young females, who were too stupid to realise that our lives were going nowhere, and were wasting our time doing…ur…stuff that did no one any good – least of all ourselves.”

“And now look at you.” Tong-Tong responded unexpectedly. “Combatting a secret robot organization and attempting to thwart invasion by an alien species.  Ya done good, girls.”

Aboard the space station, all hell was unleashed. Well maybe not hell exactly: but the station went to ultra-crimson alert anyway – better known as Massive Alert…

“By the Cyber-Saint of All Robots,” the large white robot exclaimed mono-tonally, “fire upon that vessel. Quickly now: no arsing about!”

But it was too late. Far too late. Already the fleeing freighter had dived behind a drifting asteroid – en route to the distant planetoid, and sanctuary…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Again, I Know it’s Hard to Believe, But…

…some people actually think that all Tooty does is write the stupid scripts for the Earplug Adventures. However this couldn’t be less true. He really gets stuck into his multiple tasks, and isn’t afraid to get his knuckles skinned. Look, here he is helping the Stage Five rigging team construct the bridge of the Tankerville Norris

Tooty Nolan: “No, this mic is still in view, and I’m cloaked in gloom. Get a super-duper-trouper on me, but make sure no shadows are cast by my hitherto unnoticed paunch.”

Bruce Brown: “Is that Tooty’s cup of coffee on the side? It’s getting cold; I’d better drink it for him.”

Benjamin Booger: Do you like these models I’ve contructed for the props department, Margret? One is a rocket; the other is a submarine space freighter for Triple Threat.”

Margret Greenhorn: “I don’t care Benny: you look absolutely scrumptious in a hat; let’s find a quiet corner in which we might canoodle.”

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 29)

Meanwhile, at Docking Portal 50 where the Incense Cones had parked their submarine space freighter…

…the purple Incense Cones was having difficulty remembering the combination for the lock. However, having tried his three favourite combinations, success followed (when an underling suggested 1234), and within moments, the entire crew were disgorging into the corridor…

“Do you think this is such a good idea?” The underling said to the purple Incense Cone…

“What do you mean?” The purple Incense Cone responded with a worried look upon his almost featureless face.

“Leaving the ship unguarded.” The underling replied. “Anyone could get in and steal our sandwiches.”

The purple Incense Cone scoffed at this. “With this combination lock? Impossible. Even I couldn’t remember it. Alay your fears, soldier: our ship is perfectly safe with no one aboard.”

Although nervous initially, the three girl’s adolescent sense of humour soon took control and they were able to emerge from the hoarding into an empty corridor with smiles upon their youthful faces…

“Hey,” Bunty whispered, “this is fun.”

Whilst they had been rushing from the com-panel, Ginger and Tong-Tong had been able to conjure up a tentative plan to combat the Incense Cones. Whilst behind the hoarding Ginger related its simplicity to Bunty and Daisy. Because of this passing of information, Daisy was entirely cognizant with the plan. She was also the type of earplug who would regularly use the number 1234 as an easy-to-remember password on her laptop…

Therefore, the combination lock of Docking Portal 50 was overcome at the first attempt. Also, since all robotic freighters use the same design (though not always the same décor), Daisy was able to lead the others straight to the control room…

 

…where, to their combined hearts content they changed passwords and control protocols. A short while after arriving, they were on their way again…

….confident in the knowledge that the ship was going nowhere in a hurry. Then it was on to the crystal room…

…where Tong-Tong awaited them.  As the girls set to the task of utilising their recently acquired telekinetic talents to deactivate the ship’s power crystals, Bunty took the time to inquire after their robotic chum:

“So how’d you manage to evade capture, Tongy baby?” She managed to emit through lips pressed tight with concentration.

“The simple of expedient of not being an earplug.” Tong-Tong replied. ”In a space station of robots, I am just another of their kind. The search parties did not give me a second glance. If truth be known, the vile creatures did not give me a first glance either. I feel cybernetically slighted.”

Bunty would have responded to this final and unexpected statement, but she had turned her deactivating talents to another crystal.

A short while later, as the crystal’s sparkle subsided and main power to the freighter ceased to flow Tong-Tong led the girls from the ship…

…and moved along two portals to Docking Portal 52…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I Know it’s Hard to Believe, But…

…apparently some people think that the Earplugs don’t really exist. When he heard, poor Tooty was appalled. So he allowed this ‘on-set’ photo off-set, so to speak.  Here he discusses continuity with the Continuity girl, Mavis Lunn…

Tooty: “So it’s Ginger with the cell phone? Shoot, I thought it was Bunty.”

Mavis: “No, Mister Nolan; it’s Bunty who habitually looks up at the ceiling: Ginger has the cell phone. I have it all down here on my clip board.”

Ginger: “Yeah  – dumb ass. Goddamned thing weighs a ton. No one never heard of polystyrene?”

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 26)

Meanwhile, aboard the approaching freighter…

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

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

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

“Affirmative.” They replied.

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

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

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

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

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

Daisy, meanwhile, had turned to her friends…

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

Then, returning her attention to the screen…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and so joined the others.

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 24)

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

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

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

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

…they had what they wanted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Magnify.” Ginger instructed the control panel.

Immediately, the device complied…

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

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

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

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

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

Ginger and Bunty joined her…

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

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

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

Therefore, they did…

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

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

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

“Yeah?” Daisy and Bunty replied tentatively.

Bunty alone continued:

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

Daisy took up the exposition:

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

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

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

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

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

Bunty caught her drift:

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

This last point convinced Daisy:

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

©  Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 20)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and returned to the vacuum of space…

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Behind the Scenes of Triple Threat

Whilst lighting engineers, Locust Trollop, Bloater McCallister, and Gerard Anus light Stage Five, the four central characters of Triple Threat – Bunty Bridgewater, Daisy Woodnut, Tong-Tong actor Pants Dimly, and Ginger Slack visit the Tankerville Norris Bridge set…

“It’s so big.” Bunty squealed with delight as the set was revealed to her for the first time. “I really like big ones. I think, secretly, everyone does.”

Daisy was more surprised by Stage Five’s actual existence: “There was I – thinking it was all green screen work these days. It’ll be so much easier to act on a proper set. It’ll bring out the thespian in me.”

Ginger was more pragmatic: “I noticed a toilet as we came in. That’s good. Every set should have a toilet. Preferably a Ladies  and a Gents.”

“Talking of toilets – and I don’t care which – unisex is fine,” Pants Dimly was heard to groan from inside the robot suit, “I’m really dieing for a poop: can someone unlatch my escape  hatch for me? I’ve dropped the key, and it’s dark in here!”

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 11)

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

“Good choice.” Said Rudi.

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

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

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

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

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

“Wha, wha, wha?” Daisy stuttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: Triple Threat (part 10)

Chapter 3

Meanwhile, in the habitation area of the Museum of Future Technology, Rudi Earplug and three of his brothers – those being Valentine and the twins, Miles and Chester, were approaching the apartment of Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug…

“Remind me again, will ya, bro,” Valentine said to the eldest brother, “what are we here for? It aint a taco-eating contest, is it? Sure dig those tacos. Hotter the better. Hotter ‘n’ hell!”

“No, man,” Rudi replied, “sho’nuf aint no tacos tonight. We’re gonna see the newlywed’s honeymoon snaps.”

“Could be cool,” Chester said as he pressed the doorbell button…

…“maybe we’ll see pictures of Hair-Trigger on the beach.”

“Oh, Chester,” Miles chided him, “you mustn’t think of your new sister-in-law in such lewd terms. Remember: less visceral: more cerebral.”

However, when Hair-Trigger answered the door…

…even Miles found it difficult to suppress a “phwoar!”

“Hello, boys.” She said in welcome, “Step right in to our humble abode.”

Once inside, and with the front door closed behind them…

…she said, “Sorry we couldn’t attend your pool party this afternoon, but Security has deemed us both a biological threat source. Apparently, we’ve visited places on our honeymoon that are on the naughty list. I’m afraid you’ll all have to be decontaminated. We’ve got it set up just outside the TV room.”

They arrived at the door just as Magnuss was exiting it…

“Hi, guys.” He said. “I thought it best we all decontaminate together. Are you ready?”

“Do we keep our clothes on?” Chester inquired as he smiled appreciatively at Hair-Trigger.

“Yes, of course.” The disappointing reply came from Hair-Trigger, who knew full well what was going on in Chester’s head. “This is high-tech decontamination: you won’t even know it’s happening.”

Then this happened…

“Oh yeah,” Chester said as a searing light tried to burn its way into his brain via his retinas. “When does it begin?”

Naturally, Hair-Trigger failed to reply. Chester was being facetious after all. Instead, she and her new husband led the brothers into the Infotainment Room, where six chairs had been placed before a screen and futuristic image projector…

Miles couldn’t wait to try one on for size. “They look nice and comfy.” He said.

But he was less impressed by the emergency toilet in the corner of the room…

“Oh don’t be so old-fashioned and prudish, Miles,” Magnuss complained. “Open-plan living is all the rage, you know. But if you don’t like it, there’s another one at the end of the hall. It even has a door with a lock on it.”

Placated by this news, Miles then joined the others upon their chairs. He watched as a bright tell-tale light flashed upon the futuristic image projector. Clearly, the show was about to begin…

“Hey, Magnuss, bro,” Valentine asked from the opposite end of the line…

…”fancy views ya got from your apartment window. A real groove. So whatta ya call this holiday snap show?”

Paul Trevor Nolan 2022