Tag Archives: fantasy

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 14)

Neat SFX coming up…

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

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

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

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

“I do.”

“Oh good.”

A heartbeat later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 7

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

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

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

Moments later this happened…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 12)

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

Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubbles confirmed his hypothesis with a, “Hmmm.”

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

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

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

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

“Up?” Barclay queried.

“Up.” Bubbles replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Try flooring the throttle.” Barclay suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 10)

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

Chapter 5

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

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

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

Being male, Barclay admitted nothing. He simply said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two days later she found out…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quite a lot of time later…

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

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

Chapter 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seconds later the Star Chamber emptied…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” Barclay inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, with an abrupt change of subject and demeanour…

…she said:

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 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!

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So they did…

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

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

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

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

…which didn’t enthrall Bubbles much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Too much information.” Barclay yelled.

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 3)

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

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

She told them of her quest and asked for advice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With frilly knickers.” The second added.

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

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

Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

…Bubbles paused to regard them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dick Jason threw in his two-penny worth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 1)

To be honest, I don’t have nearly enough pictures to properly start the latest tale of silicon life and rubbery silliness; but I figured that if I put Episode One out there for everyone to enjoy, it might promote some urgency within this ancient skull to facilitate the production of further shots for the story. That’s the theory anyway. So, here we go: the story of Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage…

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar

Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Chapter 1

In their decidedly finite wisdom and for as long as anyone could recall the curators of the Museum of Future Technology…

…had entrusted the great edifice’s defence against attack and invasion to the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company, based in the distant mountain top citadel of Lemon Stone…

It seemed that whatever type or design of weapon or vehicle the museum required, the egg-heads at Punting-Modesty could dream one up at the drop of a hat. To this end, the board of directors had established a facility, to which they gave the moniker, BINS – an acronym for Bright Ideas (and) Neat Suggestions…

BINS had proven successful. Devices created therein had protected the museum from external threat countless times. Well, three or four anyway. But, sadly, through the years much of the talent that worked there had filtered away into other roles or left the profession entirely. Now only two employees remained…

They were – from left to right – Barclay Scrimmage and his nominal supervisor, Bubbles Gloor – neither of whom had enjoyed a fresh idea since leaving university to join the munitions company. On this particular evening both were reacting to a demand from the board for a new vehicle with which they might tempt the curators of the museum to augment their fleet of ageing and battered Facepuncher XL5s – as seen here piloted by Valentine Earplug and taking heavy fire…

As a result they were working, unpaid, after hours.

“Anything?” the yellow-faced Bubbles Gloor inquired, more in desperation than hope.

Barclay Scrimmage came out of his trance in time to reply:

“If I can’t come up with anything during the regular eight-hour day, I don’t see how another fifty minutes is really going to help. It’s late; my stomach is grumbling. You know I can’t think when I’m hungry: the noises interrupt my brain functions.”

Bubbles sighed. After cogitating for several seconds, she responded with:

“Sorry, Barclay, but if that’s the case, I’m afraid that desperate measures are called for. We are going to have to put our thinking caps on.”

With that she pressed a button on the arm of her yellow supervisor’s chair.

Moments later, their intern assistant, Foo-Foo Baton entered carrying two large pieces of equipment, which he laid upon the floor before them…

Neither Bubbles nor Barclay were impressed by what they saw.

“Mister Baton,” Bubbles spoke sharply, “what the flipping heck are those? I asked for thinking caps; not head restraints. We’ll do ourselves a mischief wearing those!”

“Sorry,” Foo-Foo replied with a tremor in his youthful voice, “but these are the only ones that still work: all the modern, light-weight models were found to be harmful to their users. They caused paranoia and gastric wind. Whenever their users broke wind they thought everyone had heard them – even the silent and deadly farts. Eventually they were so frightened of blowing off that they took themselves away to caves in a nearby cliff where they hoped no one would secrete hidden microphones. We had to throw them all into the gorge.”

“The users: or the thinking caps?” Barclay inquired.

Fortunately this stupid question was ignored, and before long the two graduates had donned their respective thinking caps; seated themselves upon their chairs; and allowed Foo-Foo to dim the lighting…

Whilst Bubbles screwed up her eyes with effort, Barclay allowed his to defocus, his lids to sag, and prayed for divine intervention. This, he suspected was their last chance to prove themselves worthy of employment by the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company. By morning both he and Bubbles would probably be out of work. But as much as Bubbles laboured, and Barclay unceasingly sought inspiration from beyond the ken of earplugdom, they both came up empty…

“What a bloody waste of time.” Barclay grumbled as he stepped down from his chair. “Have these things actually got batteries in? They’re useless.”

Bubbles remained silent: she was too busy mentally writing out job applications for the Café Puke.

“Oh dear,” Foo-Foo lamented as he reached to take the thinking caps from the earplug’s heads, “this could spell doom for Punting- Modesty. With no new models to sell to the Museum of Future Technology, our line of credit will be refused and we’ll be bankrupt within a week!” 

Barclay was about to respond to this assertion, when he was interrupted by the entrance into the BINS office of a hitherto unknown runner…

“You two,” the runner snapped as he looked directly and unswervingly at the thinking-capped duo, “are wanted in the Star Chamber. Get up there pronto. No arsing about. Make it snappy. Vamos!”

For a moment a shudder of dread ran the length of both graduate’s spine. “The – the – the Star Chamber?” They squealed in perfect unison. “We have to go to the Star Chamber – like now?”

The runner sneered at them. “I think that’s what I said.” He replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Well there it is: did you like? Does it show promise? Now I guess I’d better sort out enough pictures (and text, of course) for the next installment of THE VEIL OF SHYTAR! Stay tuned.

 

First Glimpse of the Next Earplug Adventure

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

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

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

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

 

Climatic Calamity (part 28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Climatic Calamity (part 27)

It’s the beginning of the end in episode 27…sob, sob, sob…

Chapter 11

Several hours into the flight, the Drunkard’s Vomit Captain entered the bridge…

…whereupon it informed the current Captain that it would accept its kind offer of command.

“Now you do everything the Captain tells you to, okay?” The ship’s Captain spoke to its bridge officer. “I’m leaving you on the bridge as my representative. I only want to hear from you when the mission is complete, or if the temporary Captain issues a command that sounds suspiciously like Self-Destruct.”

“Got it Sir.” The subordinate replied. “It’s the boss: I’m good with that. Right on.” 

With that the ship’s Captain departed with its other bridge officers following. The Captain took this as its cue to bring on its own crew and former passengers…

“We’re very nearly there.” It informed the listeners, whose auditory devices – more commonly known as ‘ears’ – were tuned for maximum sensitivity. They didn’t want to miss a word. “Now we’ve been through our plan of action, once we arrived in Earth’s atmosphere: does anyone have any doubts or questions before we proceed into the Solar System?”

Of course, no one did – well perhaps with the exception of Hellfire, whose technical expertise tended towards the operation of toasters and microwave ovens: but he kept his gob shut; he didn’t want to embarrass Erronious.

“Excellent,” the Captain summed up, “everything is fabulous.” Then, to his First Officer, he said: “Take the helm. Point us towards the Sun: we’ve received no replies to our hails: time could be of the essence: pour on the metaphorical coals.”

A couple of hours later, the Sun shone brightly behind a shimmering globe of ice…

As the ship closed upon its destination, everyone had reconvened upon the bridge in time to witness an image of the planet’s surface taken from orbit…

“I’m afraid that your worst fears have been proven correct.” The Captain spoke to the three terrestrial earplugs. “The entire surface of your planet is iced-in. I fear we may have arrived too late.”

However Celestino wasn’t so certain of the veracity of the robot’s assertion. As he studied the image of white-topped rocky outcrops, he had the distinct feeling that the situation below wasn’t quite as bad as the Captain painted it. In fact he knew it wasn’t. “No, Captain,” he said, “you underestimate earplugs. They’ve battened down the hatches and withdrawn the drawbridge, so-to-speak: but they’re not down and out. They haven’t surrendered to the inevitable. They’ve been following us on their sensors. The only reason they haven’t contacted us is because the weather is buggering up the radio reception. We’re not too late at all. In fact I sense some are actually enjoying this. They like sitting around candles in their duffle coats – telling tales, cracking jokes, and holding very limited farting contests. Moreover – the lack of an Internet has given them the opportunity to actually communicate with each other again – properly, as in face-to-face.”

“Oh, good.” The Captain replied. “That’s what I like to hear: never was a fan of social media. Well let’s get this job started, shall we? Time to spoil their fun.”

Shortly the submarine space freighter dipped into the atmosphere directly above the Museum of Future Technology. Then, maintaining an altitude that kept them high above the clouds that blanketed the view below, they ejected the Seeds of Change into the sky, where they burst in a small biological explosion of black spores…

Far below, and fifteen minutes later, three members of El Custardo Y Los Natillas were out searching the snow banks for their lost sombreros…

“Hey,” the Second Tenor erupted in surprise, “the snow has gone all sparkly!”

The Lead Trumpet tried to focus upon a snowflake directly in front of him. “Sí, usted es correcto.” He blurted with delight. “Es no frio, tambien!”

“We are blessed.” The Flamenco Guitarist spoke sagely. “Let us fall to our knees and thank the Saint of All Earplugs.”

To which the Second Tenor responded:

“You can do what you bloody like: I’m going inside again. I’m opening that bottle of vintage tequila that El Custardo keeps under his camp bed: it’s time to celebrate!”

Aboard the freighter, everyone watched as the sun broke through, and the sky became a dazzling blue…

“Ah, look at that.” Erronious said poetically, “it’s like a picture postcard.”

Far below, earplugs began emerging from either their submerged homes or snow caves…

Pea-farmers, George and Edie were particularly happy to see the brightening sky once more: they both suffered terribly from Seasonal Affected Disorder. Moreover, they were glad to see the backs of the pair of rowdy couples that they’d been forced to share their snow cave with…

…especially the green one with a sneaky smile and aromatic gut.

Standing high upon a mountain top, Lemon Stone was the first to benefit from the improved climatic conditions. People strove to free themselves of their frozen homes in their droves – using whatever means they could to stand in the open air once more…

Naturally Rupert Piles was there to record the occasion with his huge 3D TV camera.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Okay, that episode was a tad short, but I couldn’t help it. I just couldn’t finish the story too quickly: I’ve only just started new models and sets for the next tale!

P.S I’m rather pleased with that final shot; there’s a whole bunch of elements in it. But I do wonder why the pink earplug on the left has an arrow through it. I don’t remember doing that. Spooky!

 

Climatic Calamity (part 23)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thirty seconds later a squad of robots departed their vessel…

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

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

Moments later the squad of robots arrived…

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

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

Chapter 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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

 

Climatic Calamity (part 21)

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

Chapter 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moments later they encountered a crew member…

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

To which Erronious replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Erronious spoke quietly, so not to disturb the robots:

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

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

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

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

 

“All done?” Erronious inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Climatic Calamity (part 20)

With the horror of the author’s backside on display out of the way, let’s get on with episode 20…

Meanwhile, Celestino was having no such problems, despite following very closely to the red triangle’s rear…

…as they traversed a pleasant mauve corridor.

“Nice shade of purple.” Celestino remarked.

“Mauve.” The red triangle corrected him. “Purple is darker. It’s a common mistake to make. I must have done it six or seven times during my development.”

Celestino absorbed this. He then had a thought…

…”Say, I don’t know how to address you: do you have a name?”

“That would be a negative.” The tall red device replied as they progressed along the corridor like dissimilar twins.

“Would you like a name?” Celestino inquired. “I can make one up, you know. I’m very good at that.”

The response was instantaneous. Eagerly the red triangle said:

“How good – on a scale of one to ten?”

“Ten.” Celestino replied adamantly. “On a good day – eleven!”

“Go on then.” The machine urged. “Make me up a name. Make it memorable though.”

“Would you like one name – like…say…Burper?” Celestino inquired further. “Or would you prefer two – like I have, but obviously not Celestino Candalabra; that would only cause confusion.”

The red triangle was used to thinking on its metaphorical feet: “Give me an example of both: I’ll choose the best.”

“Okay,” Celestino said as he engaged the creative region of his silicon brain, “how about…Bubbles Gloor or Carson Spewk?”

The red triangle would have nodded in thought, but it possessed neither a head nor a neck. “Try a couple of single names.” It said.

Celestino was happy to. He chose Peggy and Losterum. Then, as a sudden after thought, he added, Bumwipe.

The soon-to-be recipient of a moniker said, “I think I’ll go with Peggy. With sufficient time, I think you could probably create a better name; but I’m satisfied with my choice. I assume I can change it later if I so desire?”

“Yeah, of course.” Celestino replied as they moved from the mauve corridor into a green one…

It was at that moment that the earplug spotted an object of great desire.

“That…that…that isn’t a toilet, by any chance, is it?” He asked excitedly.

“It certainly is, Peggy replied. “Want to use it? Jump in: I’ll keep watch.”

Moments later…

“When you said you’d keep watch,” Celestino said timidly, “I didn’t realise you meant to watch me. Could you avert your gaze for a moment?”

Peggy obliged by peering at an imperfection in the ceiling.

“I’ve never noticed that before.” It said.

Then it was time to use the alien flush. When he did so, Celestino was in for a surprise…

“Ooh,” he said, it’s emptied into a large room below. There seems to be some strange trees growing in it.”

“Ah,” Peggy responded,” that would be our destination. But there’s no need to clamber through the effluent hatch: I know a much cleaner route.”

Two minutes later…

…Celestino found himself looking up at some trees that he considered very odd indeed.

“I consider these trees to look very odd indeed.” He informed his guide. “Why are we here?”

“The antidote.” Peggy replied.

Celestino considered the possibility that the alien device was joking. “I have to cut down a tree and drag it back to Earth?” He asked.

“No, you silly silicon sausage,” Peggy answered. “You collect the Seeds of Change from the seed pods. Right up you go – upon my equivalent of shoulders.”

Teetering on the brink of a nasty fall, Celestino released his grip upon Peggy and began feeling the seed pods.

“You’ll only need a handful.” Peggy informed him. “Choose only the most voluminous pods.”

So the earplug did…

…and, as success reared its beautiful visage, he began to smile.

“I’ve got five.” He called down. “Is that enough?”

“More than enough.” Peggy replied. “I wasn’t designed for this sort of activity: I’m experiencing structural failure.”

With that, they both fell to the floor…

…which left Peggy dazed, and Celestino bruised, but smiling.

“Yes.” He cheered quietly to himself.

Then, when Peggy had revived, they departed as conquerors…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Did you see any of that coming? I’d like to think that was an original idea. But there’s…what, six billions…of us? Someone must have thought of that at least once before. But did they combine the idea with earplugs?  Probably not. Does it matter? In the grand scheme of things, not one jot.

P.S Using that reverse angle shot through the lavatory waste: inspired…or disgusting? You vote.

Climatic Calamity (part 18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and tell you something about my origin.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Buggered up?” Celestino suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again the device transformed…

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

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

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

So, moments later…

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Climatic Calamity (part 16)

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

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

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

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

“Sub-atomic unstableness?” Hellfire suggested.

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

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

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

“And smell.” The First Officer added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “What about your bum?”

“Can you see it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, as they proceeded into a snow cave…

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Cyber-Soylent Green

I’m sure, when the I.T staff member responsible for placing these obsolete monitors out for collection by a recycling company did so…

…he or she didn’t notice the scene’s similarity to the 1970’s film, Soylent Green. In an over-populated world, the elderly were required to willfully submit themselves to euthanasia, eventually to be repurposed as biscuits or varying hues for the hungry masses. It was called Soylent, and the remains of Edward G Robinson’s character was designated Soylent Green, which didn’t please Charlton Heston one little bit! If you have a silly imagination like me, this is a rather sad photo. Look at them: they’re not complaining or trying to escape. They just wait there to be collected before being torn asunder and reduced to their constituent parts. Or is just me?

P.S This was taken a few years ago. Since then the entire building has been repurposed. Nothing in the picture has survived. It is now part of a housing estate. And that really is sad because it never needed to happen. Just a very bad decision made at board level caused it. It still rankles with me: I loved the place.

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 13)

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

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

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

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

Chapter 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How about Defecated?” Hellfire offered.

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

And they were too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, another fifteen minutes later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a moment the Catering Assistant had transformed…

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Climatic Calamity (part 12)

In Part 11, our heroes finally arrived at the Museum of Future Technology. Good for them. But now that they’re there, where are they gonna find a space ship? Read on…

Chapter 4

Stepping from the windy exterior into the frosty interior of the Museum of Future Technology’s foyer, both earplugs were surprised at the absence of either a Robot Ticket Collector or a Robot Guide. Hellfire tried whistling for the latter automaton, but without success.

“I don’t like just walking in without a ticket.” He complained. “It feels dishonest.”

But they did anyway and were astonished to find that the minus zero degrees continued into the museum proper…

In his desperate search for living beings such as himself, Hellfire had skipped ahead through the frozen tableau that was the museum. He turned back nervously in time to see Erronious pass through the door from an adjacent corridor.

“Oh, Erronious,” he wailed, “are we the only earplugs left alive? It’s horrible: where is everyone?”

Erronious showed no emotion. He simply grunted: “Keep searching: someone is bound to show up.”

And so this proved to be. Shortly after arriving in one of the main pedestrian arterial routes, both earplugs spotted a green female ahead of them. Hellfire called along the frosty corridor:

“Hello. Oo-oo. Excuse us. Can you tell us where to find the nearest Café Puke? We’re cold and gasping. And I think my friend, Erronious could use their toilet.”

Mavis Dorker was surprised to find others about. “Oh,” she called back. “Sorry, but all the Café Pukes have shut up shop. Their staff were sent home hours ago. Everyone is taking to their homes to keep warm. They’re huddling together like small hibernating omnivores. The only reason I’m out and about is because I’m claustrophobic: I don’t have the sort of friends who would like to huddle with me: and my frozen-over lavatory has proven highly resistant to my rubber mallet. I’m hoping to find a pneumatic drill in one of the maintenance lockers.”

“Yeah, enough of your personal problems.” Erronious growled. “How do we get to the UFO hangar from here?”

As an assistant librarian, Mavis was delighted to be able to help the strange pair of earplugs. “Go through that arch behind you: turn left: go straight on for two kilometres – until you find the emergency stairwell: then go down three levels: pass through a yellow portal that leads to the Tunnel Temporale. You’ll find a small green door in the wall beside the tunnel. That will open directly on to the hangar.”

Hellfire managed a quick, “Ta, er, whatever your name is,” before Erronious dragged him through the aforementioned arch.

A hideous amount of time later, and exhausted by the trek, the two earplugs found themselves passing through the yellow portal mentioned in her instructions by Mavis. Hellfire was pleased to be there, especially when he noted the warmer air in which they now stood.

“Wow, Erronious,” he said, “it’s almost balmy here – in comparison anyway. But I wouldn’t want to take my trousers off; it isn’t that warm.”

A grim Erronious replied:

“Yeah, and I think I know why. And it aint good.”

He didn’t bother to explain until he and Hellfire stood inside the Tunnel Temporale…

“Um,” Hellfire said uncertainly, “is this thing supposed to be glowing? Didn’t they turn it off years ago, coz of all them time storms what nearly tore the museum apart?”

Erronious sighed several times before replying with, “I never thought I’d see the day when someone would reinsert the fuses of the Tunnel Temporale. Obviously desperate times require desperate acts. But I can kind’a see some logic in it. If they run the tunnel at minimum power; target a period in history when it was – or will be – really hot; then just let the heat from that time percolate down the tunnel, it should warm up the museum a little. Risky though: if some engineer felt tempted to up the power just the tiniest bit, those time storms could come sweeping back, and make this ice-age look like a comedy sketch.”

“Ooh,” Hellfire said nervously. “Perhaps we should have stayed with that snotty-yellow earplug: his den was nice and warm.”

Erronious looked at his friend sternly. “No.” he snapped. “We have a task to perform. Where’s this bloody green door?”

Shortly, Erronious and Hellfire found themselves standing in an empty UFO hangar…

For a moment the grey earplug’s shoulders slumped. “Nada.” He said in a disappointed tone. “We’re too late. Everyone must have flown the coop before the weather made it impossible. That’s it – we’re stuffed. Game over.”

But Hellfire had noticed another pedestrian door. “Wait a minute.” He said. “Aren’t they always getting extra-terrestrial delegations from far away worlds like Scroton and the Ice Planet? Where do they park their space ships?”

Twenty seconds later, and inside an adjacent hangar…

…Erronious’ dejection reached new depths. “Not here, obviously; it’s too jam-packed with so many flying saucers.” He said sarcastically.

Again Hellfire’s wandering gaze had spotted something to give him hope. “Look,” he said, “that sign says Hangar Two: maybe there’s a Hangar Three!”

Another twenty seconds later they discovered that there was indeed a third hangar…

…but it didn’t do anything to improve Erronious’ demeanour. Instead of acting dejectedly or petulantly, he decided to study the ornate emergency lighting in the ceiling above. “Hmmm, recessed.” He noted. “Not terribly efficient. Nice in a bathroom though.”

Hellfire wasn’t listening: he was too busy dragging Erronious through yet another door. Moreover, having passed through that door, both of their mouths fell open at a wondrous sight…

Erronious was momentarily stupefied. He could form no words. Hellfire did better:

“Wow, look at the bloody size of that! So big and bulbous!”

“It’s…it’s…” Erronious managed.

Hellfire spoke the words for him:

“It’s a Submarine Space Freighter!”

Erronious re-gathered his wits. “Look,” his words echoed off the hangar walls, “the dorsal navigation light is lit. This is a working vessel! Hey, I’m not hallucinating, am I? It is real, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, sure is” Hellfire cheered. “It must be that one we saw this morning in the Café Puke automat. And there was me moaning about it. How could I moan about a submarine space freighter? It’s lovely! Let’s get a closer look: after all this, I’d hate to think we’re sharing a hallucination and it’s just a mirage.”

But, of course, it was no mirage…

“What does it feel like to touch?” Erronious asked.

“Hard and kind’a rubbery.” Hellfire answered cheerfully. Then he had a slightly negative thought: “Ooh-ur,” he said, “what if it’s in for repairs? Let’s check out the back end – sometimes known as the stern in naval parlance. Make sure it’s got engines.”

So they did, and, to their untrained eyes, it all looked tickety-boo…

“Looks like a bit of space rust up there,” Erronious noted, “but otherwise no obvious damage. How do we get inside? We don’t have a robot: who’s gonna fly this thing?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Locked out and minus a pilot’s license. Could this be the end of Erronious’ and Hellfire’s great expectation? Return for episode 13: you might find out!

 

Climatic Calamity (part 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.

Climatic Calamity (part 3)

At last you witness the origin of the climatic calamity of the title. Introducing the scene (and lots of silly asides) is all well and good, but I’d hate to keep readers waiting too long for something to happen…

Whilst the two former inmates of Sloshed Antlers Penitentiary returned to their physical toil, way, way, over the mountains, the early morning smog of Ciudad de Droxford was climbing upwards from the streets, where (everyone hoped) the breeze would blow it away…

By the time that the Drunkard’s Vomit roared overhead, indeed, this was the case…

Moreover, the day looked set for sunshine and blue skies. It seemed that everyone would have the opportunity to be happy.

The same could be said for the adjacent Museum of Future Technology. Already earplugs were finding their way to the various Cafe Puke outlets scattered across the vast emporium…

“Don’t try the ‘defecated’.” One departing customer said to another that had just arrived. “It’s not a misspelling of ‘decaffeinated’.”

At the same time, but in the Age of Stone exhibit, which was a recreation of a period in future history when all technology was (or will be) based upon a single material – that being stone…

…two groups were each holding their annual conventions. One was the National League of Mariachi Bands: the other The Fascist Black Helmet Brigade.

The fascists held the high ground – or the walls; whilst the guitar strumming (and horn blowing) mariachi-ists remained in the main courtyard. Unfortunately a number of ‘Black Hatters’ had ‘invaded’ the courtyard, and it looked as though they might have the durability of their helmets tested by a smack around the back of the head with a six-stringed acoustic guitar. But if either faction had known what was about to happen above the space freighter landing zone, all enmity would have evaporated, and they would have pulled together and united like only earplugs can.

Just as the Drunkard’s Vomit made its final approach to a landing tower, the strange spacial anomaly that had attached itself to the vessel, chose that moment to detach itself…

In another section of the single largest exhibit – that being the Age of Stone – one of the frolicking, sun-loving, music-appreciating visitors spotted it tumbling across the sky above them. His response was to surprise everyone by running across the plaza whilst screaming:

“Doom! Doom! Look to the sky: we’re all toast!

For a moment it appeared that good fortune smiled upon the Museum of Future Technology, and no one would need to make an insurance claim against injury or soiled underwear. The shining object fell upon an area of wasteland that represented the Age of Stone just after time was called upon it and anarchy reigned…

“Ooh, pretty.” One particularly stupid yellow earplug was heard to utter.

By chance, two of the museum’s maintenance crew were taking the air during a tea break. Whilst Wolfgang raced forward to urge people away from the potentially hazardous object, Rikki ran for help.

A short while later two scientists arrived and took it away to their laboratory for tests. But to their collective surprise, and before they could begin to scrutinize it, the anomaly suddenly encased the more junior scientist…

Luckily for the young earplug, his more experienced senior suggested that he expel intestinal gas through his rectum at high speed, thereby ejecting himself from the object’s embrace, much like an aircraft’s ejector seat. This was entirely successful, but an unexpected by-product of introducing a terrestrial fart into an extra-terrestrial anomaly, was a sudden heightening of mysterious tensions. The object flew into the air above and increased its apparent surface area by two hundred percent. It then chased the scientists from their lab…

“Run! Run!” The senior scientist screamed like a schoolgirl: it’s getting bigger with every passing nanosecond!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed some shots in the extract that may have seen the light of day before – as Earplug Adventure Wallpapers. Can you identify them?

Climatic Calamity (part 2)

As you may have noticed in Part 1, climatic calamities appear rather thin on the ground. That is because I don’t write stories that could be adapted for TV movies on the SyFy channel. I’m more (I like to believe) Spielbergian. Let the tension (what there is of it) build. So if no climatic calamities appear in part 2, do not be disheartened. But when they do…pow!

Despite the catering assistant’s woes, the ship was soon clear of the region and had entered a hyperspace conduit…

A day and a half later its blunt prow turned to face Earth’s Sun…

Immediately members of the crew that had hitherto remained dormant, all rushed to take their places for the interplanetary stage of the flight…

“Out of the way, Tong-Tong look-alike.” One of them grated at the catering assistant through its nasty cheap speaker. “We have important stuff to do.”

Astrogation then had the ship turn through a precise number of degrees; lined it up with a blue planet some ninety-three million miles distant; and told the helms-robot to hit the ‘Go’ button…

At that precise moment, far away on that blue planet, two staff members of the Wide Blue Yonder branch of the Café Puke arrived for the early shift…

“I’m in the mood for a little excitement. I wonder what today will bring.” One Barista said to the other.

“A severance cheque,” the Branch Manager growled from the shadows, “that’s if you don’t get your uniforms on pretty damned quick, and have that coffee grinder warmed up in the next two minutes!”

The second Barista ignored his boss. “Just another day at the office.” He replied. “Nothing ever happens at the Café Puke.”

A short while later, the Drunkard’s Vomit approached Earth. It passed worryingly close to Magnuss Earplug as he tested a new combined space jet pack and helmet for the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company…

“Hmmm,” he thought to himself, “better take a note: maybe this thing should have a radio beacon on it. I wouldn’t want to bump into something solid at twenty thousand miles an hour.”

But by the time Magnuss had thought through the problem of a location for his theoretical radio beacon, the Drunkard’s Vomit had begun its long, low, and very slow approach path towards the Museum of Future Technology. In fact it now meandered across the pea-growing area in the foothills of the mountains…

“Ah, the green hills of Earth,” The Captain said semi-poetically. “Does anyone remember the last time we were here?”

It was a stupid question: everyone aboard was a robot: they forgot nothing: they recalled everything.

“Yes,” one of them ventured. “But, I don’t know: those hills look somewhat greener this time around.”

Everyone agreed. Then the reason became clear…

“Peas, peas, and more peas.” The Captain observed. “Bumper harvest, I would wager. But the trouble with crops is…you never know what’s around the metaphorical corner. One particularly blustery day, some rampaging soccer fans, or a vicious pestilence, and it could all be destroyed. I prefer to be plugged into the mains.”

Inside the automated Café Puke, Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams were in the process of departing, having consumed the last two cups of coffee in the place, when they heard the Drunkard’s Vomit pass by the shack’s solitary window…  

“Ooh, it’s one of them Submarine Space Ships.” Hellfire said above the noise of the whooshing atmospheric drive units. “They make me nervous. If one were to empty it’s latrines whilst in flight, it could decimate whole hectares of semi-arable land and ruin a whole bunch of farmer’s income.”

Erronious was less concerned. “It’s a robot freighter: it can’t harm us in any way. Robots don’t poop.”

“They sometimes carry passengers.” Hellfire argued. “They poop all the time.”

“That’s still not a problem.” Erronious explained. “There’s a rule. All passengers must carry their poop off with them…in a bag. So, assuage your fears, my long-term chum: robot freighters must be considered beneficent and friends to all earplug kind. Now let’s get back to work.”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Okay, as suspected, no calamities there, either. But just you wait…

 

Climatic Calamity (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

I’ve been rather busy of late – producing shots for yet another Earplug Adventure, this time called Climatic Calamity. Many of the pictures for the early part of the story have been challenging. When you see them you’ll probably understand why. It’s certainly not like the early stories. Flipping heck they were basic – and  are still available to read by clicking right HERE. But before you let your curiosity take control, please read this first instalment…er…first…

Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams were hardly the stuff that heroes are made of. Certainly, the day that the governor of Sloshed Antlers Penitentiary awarded them early release from a long prison term for habitual burgling…

… no one imagined that they would ever find themselves regular work and a propensity for honesty. Indeed, following that release, several years previous, they had gone straight to the nearest town and fell in with the local crime organisation…

Actually they did more than simply join it: they took control of it – until the concerted efforts of the law system forced them to abandon the city and move to the Museum of Future Technology. It was whilst inside that vast and wondrous emporium of technological artefacts from the future that they encountered the famous Earplug Brothers, and assisted the return from dimensional limbo, of the museum’s greatest hero, Magnuss Earplug…

Flushed with the resulting endorphins of a good deed well done, they settled into a more honest way of life. Eventually they became winners of a lottery that awarded them a ride upon the star ship K T Woo. It was during a difficult period aboard ship, when a vastly superior alien craft threatened to destroy the vessel, that the former thieves discovered a penchant for entertaining others. In a desperate effort to persuade the aliens that earplugs were simply too good to destroy, a desperate show was staged. Amongst the many acts that hoped to save the ship and everyone aboard, Erronius and Hellfire delighted the audience by repeatedly picking Captain Sinclair Brooche’s pockets in a most humorous way…

Grateful to have survived, and upon their return to Earth, the ex-burglars moved away from the Museum of Future Technology, to buy a parcel of land in the shadow of the mountain top citadel of Lemon Stone and become mountain pea farmers…

…where they enjoyed their own company, the fresh air, tilling the meagre soil, digging drainage trenches for the toilet, and frequenting the automated Café Puke outlet…

This is the story of how two recidivist burglars reacted to a terrible climatic disaster from outer space.

Chapter 1

For many years the Museum of Future Technology had managed perfectly well without the trade benefits of interstellar commerce, but since the discovery of the haulage (and cheap) capacity of Robotic Submarine Space Freighters, the cybernetic wonders had been plying the new trade routes to Earth on a regular basis…

…in their dozens. One ship, in particular, was well known by the inhabitants of the museum. It had been the vessel aboard which three teenaged girls – Bunty Bridgewater, Ginger Slack, and Daisy Woodnut…

…had been abducted (along with the entire crew of robots) by a bunch of conniving Incense Cones. Following their victory over the aforementioned bunch of conniving Incense Cones, the girls had returned the ship to its captain and crew. They had also named it…

The Drunkard’s Vomit had recently launched from a submarine ocean beneath the frozen surface of a gas giant’s moon in the Finklestein region of the Galaxy. It’s hold contained many differing items of all shapes and sizes, from multifarious worlds and strange civilisations: but only one of them was of any interest to anyone inside the Museum of Future Technology. It was a consignment of Gas Giant Moon Fish from the very moon from which the Drunkard’s Vomit had only recently lifted. Mister Pong was very keen to try them on the menu of the second branch of his Exotic Food Restaurant, located in the neighbouring city of Ciudad De Droxford, which had recently been rebuilt following the event best known as The Attack of the Crutons

Aboard the bulbous black vessel, a subordinate robot was reporting to its captain…

“Sir,” the huge green robot said in a boring monotone through a cheap plastic speaker grill, “Astrogation reports that if we wish to maintain our schedule, the Drunkard’s Vomit will need to enter a previously unexplored star system. Sensors report that the region appears sub-atomically unstable. We won’t know what to expect there. They say it might get very bumpy, or something entirely different. Something, so different, that it might be beyond our cybernetic powers of understanding. Thought you ought to know, Sir.”

After months and billions of kilometres of interstellar travel since the day that its ship was returned to it, the captain still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the vessel’s nomenclature. “Can the…urr…Drunkard’s Vomit take a battering?” It inquired. “It has been due for a refit ever since that nasty incident with the Incense Cones.”

“Unknown, Sir.” The subordinate bridge officer replied. “You’ll have to suck it and see.”

Schedules were very important to logical mechanical life-forms. The Captain made a snap decision. “Keep to the schedule.” It said affirmatively. “Proceed through this…um…wonky space.”

Two minutes later, the boundaries of the uncharted region of space had been breached for the first time…

“Nice colourisation.” A member of Astrogation opined. “Not that I’m an expert or anything. Nevertheless I feel vulnerable: the sooner we traverse this region, the happier I will be.”

The unnamed member of Astrogation had good reason for concern. Approximately half way through the traverse, an undetected anomaly approached the ship. Unseen it closed upon an open wim-wom valve cover and secreted itself into the shadows there…

The robot that had been given the task of replacing the robot named Tong-Tong as catering assistant in the totally unused Café Puke canteen had been standing at a porthole when the anomaly approached and docked with the Drunkard’s Vomit. Unfortunately it had seen nothing. It was too busy regarding its appearance, reflected in the porthole glass…

“I look just like Tong-Tong.” It complained. “Why couldn’t I have kept my old green look? I was one of the guys like that. And this stupid hat: it hides my glowing brain. If I was an irrational creature of flesh and bone, I would throw the bloody thing out of the window. Or maybe shove it down the only lavatory!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Many years ago, my late wife badgered me to write a story with a title she had invented. It was Attack of the Crutons. Well, in Surprise Visit I finally got to write it – but I couldn’t use her title because it would have signposted where the story was going. There would be no mystery. But, if you look at the picture that features Mr Pong in his Ciudad de Droxford restaurant (in this extract) you’ll notice the title ‘The Attack of Crutons’ mentioned. Somewhat  belatedly I can finally say; mission accomplished.

Earplug Adventure Alternative Perspective Wallpaper: Mr Pong’s Exotic Food Restaurant

When the Crutons attacked La Ciudad De Droxford in Surprise Visit, not everyone had evacuated the doomed city. Customers of the recently opened Exotic Food Restaurant were enjoying their duck a la orange too much. Mr Pong was forced to place his air raid warden’s helmet upon his head before barring exit from his restaurant…

“Should have gone sooner.” He added. “Too late now – you bunch’a greedy bastards.” He then issued some reassuring words:  “Anyway, you safer in Mister Pong’s,” he bellowed above the sound of disintegrating buildings all around, “Got defensive electromagnetic screen generator under stairs in foyer. And kitchen is atom bomb resistant.” 

Surprise Visit (part 25)

So here we are – at the end of this wondrous tale. The epilogue – which might be brief, but at least it allows space to advertise the fact that the PDF version of the whole e-book is now available to either read in situ, or download to read later with people who share your advanced and cultured sense of humour. Just click on the book cover image, and you will be transported to literary and photographic nirvana. But before you do, there’s the matter of the final extract from Surprise Visit. And here it is…

Epilogue

Far away, in the realm of the Galactic Gods, the Supreme Being was eyeing up somewhere to take a vacation himself…

But he couldn’t find somewhere that quite suited him. Fortunately the God of Sour Onions had just received a report of an extinction event in Weird Space…

It mentioned it to the Supreme Being.

“That sounds like just the right place.” He replied cheerfully.

A split second after making up his mind, he materialised upon the dead world…

“Perfect.” He said with satisfaction.

He then proceeded to divest himself of his godly clothing…

…pulled up a beach chair; unpacked his favourite towel; and sat down to enjoy the feeble rays of the brown dwarf sun that bathed the brown planet in its ghastly orange glow…

He didn’t mind the few shape-shifting sausage rolls that insisted upon rolling around the empty domed conurbation. In fact he had two of them become street lights, so that he could read his book more easily. And the other he turned into a nice pink flower.

“Lovely.” He said with satisfaction. “A bit of colour really brightens up the place.”

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now click that image!

Surprise Visit (part 24)

This is the penultimate episode of this briefer-than-normal Earplug Adventure. Can you believe it, but I’ve actually written a story that only runs to 25 parts? I must be getting old or something. 

Intrigued, Nigel and Beatrix followed their bodyguard. The others fell into step behind them. With the exception of Fermin, all the cable ends remained ignorant of what awaited their attention. But, soon enough, they discovered its identity…

“Oh, my,” Nigel cheered as they entered the Café Puke outlet. “Just what I needed. I’m gagging for a mug of ghastly coffee right now.”

However, as they entered, they discovered the interior illumination subdued…

Then, as the lights came up, they spotted Magnuss and Hair-Trigger waiting for them at the counter…

“Honoured guests,” Magnuss shouted above the applause of the café’s clientele, “may I introduce your Baristas for the night – Rudi, Chester, Miles, and Valentine: the Earplug Brothers!”

“Whatta ya have?” Miles asked whilst pretending to chew on a huge wad of bubble gum. “Special tonight is caramelised onion.”

“Perfect.” Beatrix replied.

“With raw cane sugar, naturally.” Nigel added.

It was an in-joke with which everybody present was familiar…

A loud clearing of three throats had the cable ends turning through one hundred and eighty degrees – to be greeted with the sight of the three original Baristas – Mary-Sue Wassack, Jungle-Jake Johnson, and Moyst Towlet…

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Moyst called out, “your tables await you.”

“We’ve wiped off all the coffee stains and biscuit crumbs.” Jungle-Jake added…

“Yeah,” Mary-Sue said around a real wad of bubble gum when she spotted Rupert Piles’ camera pointing in her direction, “but we didn’t bother to check if anyone has picked their nose and left a bogey on the underside. So better watch out for that: they got germs.”

“That’s okay,” Walker responded as everyone selected their seats, “we’ve got Fermin Gusset with us: he eats germs for breakfast.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now, dear Earplugger, prepare yourself for the final episode – featuring an unexpected epilogue that probably transcends art, genius, and possibly decency! Definitely not to be missed.

Surprise Visit (part 23)

The end is nigh, or so they say. The end of this tale, anyway. But not right now: this is merely part 23, which is only almost the end…

Chapter Eight

Two days after fleeing Cruton, Nigel was still complaining to Magnuss that he and his retinue should have returned to Scroton. But as much as he wittered on about the subject, so Magnuss ignored him.

“You needed a vacation before this little escapade,” Went Magnuss’ argument, “you certainly need one after it!”

The aforementioned retinue agreed with this, none more so than Beatrix. So the Tankerville Norris remained on course for the Solar System…

The Museum of Future Technology was safe; there was no rush; rather than use hyperspace conduits, they traveled at supra-light speeds through regular space. Of course they did contact Cushions Smethwyke to tell her that the museum could drop the Chameleon Cannon Cloak and come out of hiding – for which the huge-toothed yellow earplug was very grateful. Also, whilst they had time on their hands, Walker Crabtrouser, Bertram Hisscod, and Fermin Gusset had discussed the problem of the Cruton spies in Scroton’s midst. Whilst doing so, Walker recalled his clandestine meeting in the catacombs with Fermin…

He mentioned the moment when he feared he and Fermin were not alone. This information forced Bertram into a confession:

“Um,” he began, “you know Scroton is supposed to be a free society in which no citizen need ever worry that the state is spying on him or her?”

Both Militarians replied with a long, questioning, “yes?”

“Well,” Bertram continued awkwardly, “by and large that is true: but some years ago our younger selves were having some problems with small animal infestations that were spoiling our stored custard powder, which was kept in the catacombs. Well, to cut a long story short, we put up closed circuit television cameras all over the city that were linked to a central recording suite at the Security HQ. They…aah…are still in operation. We spot quite a few naughty goings-on with them. It’s all a bit … you know… hush-hush. Strictly speaking it shouldn’t be happening. I don’t think Nigel knows anything about it.”

Perhaps Walker and Fermin had enjoyed one too many café cortados that morning: both were a little slow to figure out the significance of what the Security Chief was telling them. Bertram recognised this in their slack-jawed response to his confession:

“There will be a visual and auditory recording of your conversation in the catacombs.” He said. “More importantly, if there was anyone else present – listening in, like Cruton spies might – they’ll also be identified.”

Walker didn’t waste a second: like a trained gymnast he was half-way to the door before Fermin and Bertram could get out of the way.

“I’m calling Scroton.” He said. “Those spy cameras are a god-send. That recording is gold dust. Bertram, you are genius. With your evidence, we’ll have those rotters identified and rounded up in a jiffy. Just don’t tell Nigel about it: he’ll be very cross.”

A day later, the Tankerville Norris reached Earth. Its landing flight path took it over the smog-enshrouded former habitation of Le Ciudad de Droxford…   

 

The sight of it set Beatrix’s creative juices flowing. After flying slowly over kilometre after kilometre of a bland, formless sameness, she said to Hair-Trigger:

“Your rather natty trick of sucking up the constituent atoms of the shape-shifter with the Bussard collectors has got me thinking: since the Cruton weapons that tore the city apart were the same as the Scroton weapon that disassembled the giant sausage roll, might it be possible to use the same trick to repair La Ciudad de Droxford?”

Magnuss and Nigel, who were busy making a toasted banana sandwich, looked up.

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” Magnuss boomed in a most masculine manner that shook some dust from a high lintel that previously no one could reach, “Beatrix that is brilliant. If the atoms haven’t blown too far, we’ll be able to suck them up again in next to no time!”

“You mean,” Nigel said almost disbelievingly, “that Beatrix might have found a way of giving back the city inhabitants their homes and livelihoods? Why, it’s almost a miracle? Beatrix, I loved you before: now I prostrate myself before you: the true brains of the planet Scroton!”

Shortly after that, the ship arrived at Tower Six in the smoggy space-port of the Museum of Future Technology…

“I’ll get straight on to Cushions with the idea.” Magnuss said as the ship grounded. “Looks like half the city’s atoms are hanging in air above the museum. This could be a quicker job than I first imagined.”

This was good news for the party from Scroton. It enabled them to go about their vacation with hearts swelling with relief and pride. Soon they were taking in all the sights and poking their collective nose into technologies from many eras that were yet to exist. Such was their enjoyment of the trip, not one of them noticed gangs of museum workers going about their business.  Work gangs using their futuristic equipment to clean the air, the interior and the exterior of the museum, and the surrounding countryside for many kilometres distant; then compress the minute detritus into large plastic bags; and finally transport it to the site upon which the Ciudad de Droxford had existed originally. So they were pleasantly surprised, as the end of the vacation came near, to receive an invitation to visit the, still incomplete rejuvenation of La Ciudad de Droxford. The first sight to greet them, that night, was the downtown city business centre, with all its tower blocks…

From there their air taxi followed the central highway through the main retail zone…

…where it alighted – to allow them to see, close-up, one of the almost-completed residential areas…

“See, Beatrix,” Nigel said as the married couple stood in the centre of an empty plaza, “without your presence, none of this would have been possible. This is a lasting legacy to you. I hope they name a barrio or something after you.”

Beatrix didn’t quite know what to say. Fortunately Fermin arrived at a dead run from a side street. “Golden One,” he yelled from the corner of an apartment block, “you gotta see this. Hurry.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Only a smidgen more to come, then you’ll be able to access and read / download the complete tale. Won’t that be nice!

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.

 

Surprise Visit (part 21)

Having allowed a respectable amount of time to pass between episodes…welcome to Part 21 of…

Meanwhile, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were checking their handiwork in the penultimate saucer…

“Look at that deuterium, Mags.” Hair-Trigger laughed as she spoke, “it looks like aloe vera.”

Magnuss giggled too. “This ship may have the best star-drive in all creation,” he said, “but if it can’t get off the ground, it aint going nowhere. Right, let’s get on to the last one.”

Of course things are never as easy in practise as they are in theory. It was a real bugger to enter the final ship…

In fact Hair-Trigger was grateful that she didn’t wear a toupee when her head was almost sucked into oblivion.

All the while though, and despite the difficulties of his primary task, Magnuss listened in on developments with Nigel and company…

“I’m very annoyed.” Beatrix informed her husband. “I don’t know who I’m more annoyed with: the Crutons or the wise and benevolent aliens who gifted us sentience and self-awareness. Honestly, to keep us in such ignorance: it’s vile. To think that there are funny little creatures that look like mushrooms hiding away beneath our feet and watching our every move. It’s… it’s… it’s dishonest, that’s what it is!”

“I rather think the Crutons are real felons here, dearest.” Nigel argued gently. “And they do have inferior DNA too.”

“Hmmm,” Beatrix remained noncommittal on the subject of the Crutons. Changing the subject, she conjectured on the likelihood of the constituent atoms of the giant shape-shifting sausage roll that attacked Ice Station Nobby coalescing in the vacuum of space – thereby reforming and adopting its asteroid-like appearance.

“I hadn’t given that much thought.” Nigel confessed. “Perhaps Faati should have used a ten percent yield and blown it to sub-atomic particles. If it did reform, it could still pose a threat to Scroton. Though not as serious a threat as these Crutons, obviously.”

In the next cell, Walker and Fermin were listening through the poorly insulated wall…

“You know, I’ve often wondered about alien intervention in our society’s development.” Walker confessed. “We certainly have enjoyed a lengthy run of good luck. Everything we do seems to turn to gold and all that sort of thing.”

“I’m not surprised one bit.” Fermin replied. “I once met a female desert dweller who had been partaking heavily of the rhubarb wine. She told me a tale about how she and two other female desert dwellers were chased, by our security forces, and stumbled upon an alien lair full of weird creatures. But she was drunk, so I didn’t give it much credence.”

“It wasn’t Edni Gilbatross, was it?” Walker inquired. “She told me much the same story. She’d been at the carrot cake. You know what carrot cake does to desert dwelling females. Loose tongues and utter nonsense. If we ever get out of here, we’ll have to look her up.”

“No worry there, Walker.” Fermin replied. “I’m building up a head of stomach acid: give me five to ten minutes, and I’ll burn a hole right through that prison window.”

“And if that fails?”

“I’ll fart and blow the door off its hinges.”

Meanwhile, with the deuterium in the last saucer spoiled…

…Magnuss and Hair-Trigger made a dash for freedom…

Unfortunately, Fermin Gusset wasn’t the only soldier on Cruton with an excellent work ethic. Despite having inferior DNA, this particular Cruton possessed hearing far in excess of his Scrotonite counterpart…

“Ugh – did I hear something? What was that?”

So, as the earplugs made their way back towards the sanctuary of their cave system, they found themselves forced to take evasive action when a patrol that included the Fermin-look-alike almost stumbled upon them…

Moreover, because their hearing had developed in the thinner air of Cruton, they were able to track Magnuss and Hair-Trigger without ever seeing or identifying them. In the end, in order to escape, the earplugs had to throw caution to the wind – and themselves off a cliff…

Naturally they landed without incident in a location that was remarkably close to the hidden Tankerville Norris. Therefore, three minutes later they wandered on to their personal bridge…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now prepare yourself for the next thrilling episode of Surprise Visit. See y’all.

Surprise Visit (part 20)

I’m surprised that the story has stretched this far. Twenty episodes and more to come – though not many, it must be said. It’s been fun for me. I hope you enjoyed it a bit too. But enough of that stuff: on with the show…

Meanwhile, and in blissful ignorance of what was happening behind his back, the blue cable end awaited the arrival of his captives…

As Nigel and Beatrix strode haughtily before him, he said:

“Nigel. Beatrix – formerly Gloria. I’d like to say it’s a pleasure to meet you both – but I’d be lying. I’d rather hoped that by the time my infiltration into your planetary government was complete, you’d both be dead, and I’d never have to clap eyes on you. But no, you had to precipitate my actions. You had to launch a foolhardy solo attack upon the heart of my empire. And just when I’m on the brink of taking the Museum of Future Technology and all it contains. You’re a twit. A nuisance. A silly old sod who should be watching parades of Sea Cadets and Nurses and stuff.”

As the blue cable end drew breath to continue his tirade, Nigel interrupted…

“Sir, you have me at a disadvantage.”

The blue cable end scoffed. “Too right I have, pal: you’re my prisoner!”

“He doesn’t mean that, you silly oaf.” Beatrix snapped.

“That’s right.” Nigel agreed with a nod. “You know me – obviously because I’m the leader of Scroton; but I don’t have the faintest idea who you are.”

“Neither of us has ever met you before.” Beatrix added. “You look different; if we’d met you, we’d remember it. You’re an ugly bleeder; you’re kind of dark where you should be light and light where you should be dark. You don’t look like any Scrotonite I’ve ever heard of.”

If the blue cable end could have smiled, it would have been of the grim kind…

“There is a good reason for that, you silly old bag.” He ground out between gnashing teeth. “I am not a Scrotonite. I am The Cobalt One – though I prefer to be addressed as DeRorr Smionc – if you don’t mind. Now say it after me – together: DeRorr Smionc. DeRorr Smionc.”

Of course the leader of Scroton failed utterly to be baited. Instead he said:

“If you are not a Scrotonite, then what are you?”

Smionc threw back his head so that his plume waved gracefully in the thin air of the brown planet. “I am a Cruton!” He roared.

This surprised the captives from Scroton…

…though they managed to hide it quite successfully.

“And where is Cruton?” Nigel inquired.

“You’re standing on it, dumbass.” The snarled reply came quickly.

“So why aren’t we aware of Cruton?” Beatrix demanded. “We’ve mapped every cubic centimetre of Weird Space – and there is definitely no planet called Cruton there!”

“Yet here you are.” Smionc said gently.

Nigel was a practical kind of cable end:

“What do you want?”

“What I want, Nige,” Smionc replied, “is to place Scroton where it belongs in the Galactic hierarchy: somewhere near the top. I don’t want Scroton to design and build wonderful tech for inferior species: I want them to run roughshod over them. I don’t want Scroton to sell stuff to anyone: I want them to take it – by force if necessary!”

For a moment Nigel was shocked into silence: but he recovered quickly:

“That is not the way of Scroton.” He said – almost by rote. “That is not the reason that we were gifted sentience and self-awareness. We are not warlike, ogres, or complete rotters. We like to do business instead.”

Smionc sighed at this. “Oh so high and noble.” He snarled. “Next you’ll be telling me that you’re not aware of the alien overseers that lurk beneath ground and watch your every move. Alien overseers who routinely report to the beings that gave you your precious sentience and self-awareness.”

Nigel looked to Beatrix. She looked back. Bafflement passed between them.

“Um,” he said to Smionc, his stentorian tone quenched to mere serf levels, “that would be a no.”

“Thought so.” Smionc said knowingly. “We caught ours years ago. Look, here’s a picture of some of them.”

He flicked a photograph across the brief divide. Nigel picked it up and looked at it…

“They were in the process of being rounded up within their subterranean lair.” DeRorr Smionc explained. “They didn’t put up any resistance – the spineless curs.”

“I recognise the majority of them as being a sub-species of polystyrene blob.” Nigel responded. “Very peaceful people. We do a lot of work for them. The other creature though…I’ve never seen the like.”

“Mushroom-Headed Earplug.” Smionc informed the leader of Scroton. “They didn’t take long to break. They spilled their guts quickly enough. Some of them were there, right at the beginning. They oversaw the selection of cable ends for enlightenment. The ones with the good DNA were left on Scroton to form the society you have today. The others were packed off to another planet and kept as a back-up team should the whole Scroton Experiment fail or your world become uninhabitable because of over- industrialisation. Guess who they were.”

“Oh, so it’s sour grapes, is it?” Beatrix snapped. “You’ve got lousy DNA, and hate us for having everything you haven’t. Well poo to you!”

“You’re right.” Smionc, his calm shattered by Beatrix’s insight, bellowed. “And there was sod-all we could do about it – what with Scroton being protected by the ancient aliens who vigilantly watch over the poxy place. But, when we get the futuristic stuff from the Museum of Future Technology, they won’t be able to wrap you up in cotton wool any more. Scroton will become an annex of Cruton. Together, whether you like it or not, we will rule the Galaxy!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now say after me…Derorr Smionc. Derorr Smionc, This is possibly the stupidest name I’ve ever invented. What better reason could there be for including it!

PS In one of the earlier tales, the Museum of Future Technology’s ill tempered gardener drowned in an outpouring of slurry, but was reanimated by intelligent bacteria that lived within the slurry. He became Mister Shit, but because I rewrote the early (rude) stories to be more family-friendly, his name was changed to Mister Plop. I’ve always liked that name. Still have the earplug. Must include him in another story.

PPS Some people prefer my ramblings to the actual story. Are you one of them?