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Climatic Calamity (part 15)

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

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

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

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

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

“Even the Earplug Brothers.” Hellfire assured him.

Celestino thought about that. “Hmmm,” he said at length, “it would be quite a feather in my cap if I put one over the Earplug Brothers. I go shopping three days a year: I suppose I could do my future shopping in the museum’s arcade. It would be quite something to have other shoppers point and say ‘Oh there goes that hero of the museum: I wonder if he will sign his autograph on my knickers and grant me a kiss’. That might be fun. Okay, let’s do it. Let’s get it on!”

Well the Captain didn’t require a second bidding. It instructed Security to open the hangar roof hatch; then launched the Drunkard’s Vomit into the air with all possible haste…

In a matter of seconds, the huge bulbous craft had cleared, not only the museum, Ciudad de Droxford; Lemon Stone; and the pea-farming district; but had left the mountains behind and had cleared off across the vast plain beyond…

Then it was straight up. Soon the bridge crew could regard the majesty of the firmament upon their main viewer…

“I don’t know,” the Captain seemed to ruminate upon its theological position within the cosmos, “but it never seems to look the same twice out there. Or is it me?”

“It’s you, Sir.” The Second Officer replied. “You spend too much time in the company of earplugs, Sir.”

Soon the Earth-Moon system had fallen far astern of the Drunkard’s Vomit

At the same time, the Fifth Officer had re-assumed its catering duties…

Although cyber-disappointed, it had expected the unwelcome role-reversal – so it didn’t feel overly moribund. Moreover, it could now enter a genuine terrestrial adventure upon its cyber-CV. Who could guess in which direction its career might go with that in pink high-lighted ink? But it was genuinely surprised, and very pleased, when it discovered that its fellow officers had banded together to create a lovely stone plinth in its honour…

“I don’t know what to say.” The Catering Assistant said when it nearly fell over the gift in a side gangway. “Is it heavy? It looks heavy. Where am I going to keep it?”

Chapter 6

It wasn’t very long after the Catering Assistant’s wondrous discovery when the Drunkard’s Vomit entered a hyperspace conduit…

However it took a bit longer for the exit into sub-atomically unstable space to appear upon the main viewer…

“Jolly good.” The Captain said after such a long wait. “Take us out of hyperspace. Nice and smooth: we don’t want our passengers throwing up all over the place.”

Almost instantaneously the ship entered that strange region of the cosmos that looked even weirder than Weird Space…

…Where nothing conformed to the perceived expectations of galactic normalcy.   

“Can’t say I’m enamoured with this place.” The Captain continued. “Especially since it was here that we picked up our belligerent stowaway.”

“Boggles the eyes a bit too.” The Second Officer observed.

The robotic leader might have replied in the affirmative, but the image of space upon the viewer was replaced by an image of a grand city standing upon a hill, set against the darkness of night, and perhaps a distant Galaxy beyond…

“It’s a transmission, Sir.” The First Officer reported. “Sent by an unknown agency. There are co-ordinates attached to the transmission. I assume we’re supposed to follow them and go there.”

“I was never one to refuse an invitation, Number One.” The Captain replied. “Take us there with utmost alacrity.”

Shortly after the command was given, the Drunkard’s Vomit raced into an orbital course around a vast planetoid…

“That city on the screen, Sir,” the First Officer said in cyber-wonderment. “It can only be a totally sealed environment. This planetoid possesses no atmosphere whatsoever. Not even a miserable little one made up of inert gasses and the occasional interstellar fart.”

The Captain was about to express its own sense of wonderment, when the city-scene was replaced by that of a dark figure with small glowing eyes…

“Welcome,” it said, “I am Corbin Commijerk. I invite you to enter our fabulous Vacuum City. Just follow the guide beam we are transmitting.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I think Celestino’s expression tells you all you need to know about that welcome. If you’d like to know what he said to this, return for episode 16!

Climatic Calamity (part 11)

In episode 11 the journey to the ice-bound Museum of Future Technology continues…

A short while later, the armoured personnel carrier stopped for two more grateful passengers…

“Oh, wonderful,” one of them said at the welcome news, “our combined body heat should keep us all warm and toasty. It’ll be like playing Sardines!”

So, once his passengers were all aboard, Erronious instructed Hellfire to resume their journey…

But the closer to their destination they came, the worse the weather that followed…

“I can’t see a bloody thing out here.” Erronious complained to himself.

“And I can’t feel my bottom anymore.” He added. “Why am I out here anyway? Hellfire can see perfectly well through his windshield. I’m outta here.”

Moments later a cascade of snowflakes accompanied Erronious as he dropped through the hatch into the passenger compartment…

“Sorry to drop in on you folks,” he said, “but I was feeling slightly superfluous up there. It’s about the only thing I was feeling. Does anyone feel up to the task of massaging life back into my nether regions?”

“Hold tight,” Hellfire called through from the driver’s position…

… “we’re on the plain proper now: I’m taking us to top speed.”

With that, the vehicle leapt forward upon its hidden tracks…

A short while later it raced through the deserted streets of La Ciudad de Droxford’s retail area…

However, shortly after having blasted clear of the city outskirts, those in the passenger compartment were treated to a sharp braking manoeuvre…

Hellfire turned to face them…

“The museum.” He yelled. “It’s entirely frozen in. Look!”

So they did, and Hellfire’s observation was proven accurate…

“Find an open gate.” Erronious instructed him. “There’s one by Tower Twelve. They use it to deliver potatoes and other root vegetables. The hinges seized up years ago, and there was nothing in the maintenance budget to free them off. I always thought it was a perfect access point for rogues and vagabonds. It’ll be open for sure.”

Not unexpectedly, Erronious was proved right, and soon the armoured personnel carrier closed upon one of the Age of Stone exhibit’s entrances…

“Age of Stone.” Hellfire called. “Anyone want to get off here? There’s bound to be a heck of a lot of earplugs in there. Even without heating it should be pretty warm. And they’ve got a composting toilet too!”

The passengers couldn’t wait…

“Thanks for the lift.” They said as one. Then one of the flat-headed earplugs added: “I’ve always wanted to use a composting toilet. It must be so odd – not having a flush button to press.”

After their guests had disappeared into the Age of Stone, it became apparent to the dynamic duo that their vehicle was of no further use to them. They decided to take to their feet and find a way into the main structure of the museum…

…where they noticed a battle-hardened naturist taking a naked dip in the Age of Stone’s moat.

“Tough guy.” Erronious said appreciatively. “If he wasn’t so damned crazy, I’d ask him along.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S That is the second time in this story that I have mentioned Naturists in a slightly derogatory manner. I’d just like to point out to any Naturist who might be reading these tales, and feel offended by these vague slurs: I too like an all-over tan and publicly get my kit off at the beach at every opportunity: but only when it’s sunny and hot.

Climatic Calamity (part 9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are we still going down?” Hellfire inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there was too…

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

Chapter 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hellfire chose to introduce himself and his pea farming partner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To what end?” Erronious asked.

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

 

Climatic Calamity (part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which his colleague responded:

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

Chapter 2

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

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

The sudden appearance of falling snow alarmed many of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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.

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 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!

Earplug Adventures Greatest Hits: Distant Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, moments later…

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally no one wasted a nanosecond…

…and within five minutes Yaki had returned to Valerie…

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

So they did…

…and they both enjoyed themselves enormously.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

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

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

Surprise Visit (part 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?

Surprise Visit (part 19)

I often begin an episode with the words ‘No Preamble: just story’ or something similar. Well, if it wasn’t for this smidgen of preamble, that would be the case today. So, slightly less preamble: to the story!

Chapter Seven

Whilst the Buggeram Bay was fighting to the last, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger struggled to find their way from the cave in which they had hidden the Tankerville Norris. Their unplanned route took them through a labyrinth of tunnels…

“Is it me,” Magnuss said, “or is it getting lighter?”

It was indeed getting lighter. Hair-Trigger could now see the strange objects attached to the cave walls. The squelching sound they had been making ever since the daring duo had disembarked their ship had had her conjuring up all sorts of ghastly images.

“Must be an exit nearby.” She said hopefully.

Moments later, after rounding one more turn, revealed the domed conurbation…

Beyond it, an alien saucer lay at rest upon the bare soil.

“Ah-ha.” Magnuss said with a slight cheer in his tone. “That looks suspiciously like our nemesis. How would you like to make a house visit? We might surprise them.”

For once, Hair-Trigger was unable to follow her husband’s thought processes. “Well I’d rather call Scroton, if you don’t mind: It was Nigel’s last command.”

“We’d give our presence away to the enemy.” Magnuss replied as he pressed his communicator to his ear and listened intently. “It might even precipitate an action against the planet. So far this bunch of evil scum are under the misapprehension that the Buggeram Bay attacked alone. In all the bangs and flashes, no one seemed to notice our little honeymoon barge. And all the time it remains hidden and silent, they’ll go on thinking that way. That gives us a tactical advantage. I can just hear Nigel and Beatrix mumbling incoherently, by the way. I think they’ve been captured. So, as you see, no one suspects we’re here. No one is looking for us. If we keep to the shadows, we’ve got the run of the place.”

Hair-Trigger comprehended with exactitude what her husband had just told her, but she still couldn’t understand what he hoped to achieve. She said as much. In response, Magnuss gave a knowing wink and patted his back pocket. It didn’t help. So she gave him a pleasant smile and followed his lead…

Soon they had covered the distance between the cave mouth and the conurbation. Stealthily they snuck between the domes. As night slowly descended upon the scene, the two earplugs ascended the slope that led to the first of the alien vessels. Before long they found themselves at a laundry access point in the hull…

Quickly they disappeared from sight inside it. However, gaining access to other sections of the vessel proved problematic, and Hair-Trigger was breathing through her mouth when they clambered from the garbage chute…

Shortly though their persistence and tenacity proved its worth. Magnuss cheered silently…

“I still don’t understand.” Hair-Trigger complained in a whisper. “So we’ve found the deuterium replenishment centre: what of it?”

“This ship is of a Scrotonic design.” Magnuss explained. “They have two engines: the star-drive or whatever you want to call the propulsion that carries the vessel across interstellar space: and one to get them off the ground and into orbit. We can’t nobble their star-drive; but we can put a monkey in the works of their lifting engine.” 

“We can?” Hair-Trigger said doubtfully.

“We can.” Magnuss replied with a smile. “Let’s get inside.”

Of course, there were no guards on the deuterium tanks. Why would there be? But nevertheless, Magnuss was feeling decidedly crestfallen when he saw the height of the deuterium tanks…

“Oh flip,” he swore viciously, “How are we gonna get up there?”

Hair-Trigger felt his pain. Her face fell. Also she didn’t have a clue regarding what Magnuss planned – even assuming they gained access to the tanks he so desired.

Magnuss became aware of his wife’s fear, doubts, and ignorance:

“Oh, sorry Hairy; I thought you’d figured it out. It’s the cane sugar that the Baristas fetched for Nigel’s coffee: it’s still in my back pocket – along with my Cossack hat. If we can introduce it to the tanks, the fuel will clog in the lines and the ship won’t fly.”

Enlightenment illuminated Hair-Trigger’s face with the glow of understanding. She said:

“Well obviously we’re looking in the wrong place. Cable Ends are the same size as us. Obviously the filler cap is going to be at cable end height. Let’s check that next compartment.”

So they did, and Hair-Trigger was proven correct…

“I guess we just flip up these lids.” She suggested.

Again she was proven correct…

…and just to make absolutely certain that this particular ship would fail horribly – not only did they sprinkle sugar in the filler hole, but Hair-Trigger hopped aboard and released the pressure in her bladder that had been building for hours.

“Neat.” Magnuss said proudly. “It’ll be my turn in the next ship: I’m dying for a wee.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

This is all well and good: but what’s happening to Nigel and Beatrix? Find out next time on Surprise Visit!

Surprise Visit (part 18)

The element of surprise greatly assisted our intrepid heroes in Part 17. Now check out what happens when that element is lost. Oooh…

Success, however, was short-lived. Within moments of the enemy regaining their wits, a defensive screen encapsulated the domed conurbation…

The situation worsened further. As Magnuss and Hair-Trigger appeared on the main viewer of the Buggeram Bay

…they received the news that the Scrotonic ship was receiving return fire, and that their screens were depleting quickly.

“We’re hopelessly out-gunned,” Nigel shouted above the din of his bridge exploding. “We’ll go down fighting: you find yourselves somewhere to run and hide. Most importantly, get a message to Scroton. Tell them everything you know!”

The two heroic earplugs could only watch in horror as smoke obscured the view…

“Will do.” Magnuss said quietly. Then he had a thought: “Leave your personal communication devices on ‘send’: that way we’ll be able to hear what’s going on. We might even find a way of helping you.”

“Will do – too.” Nigel responded. “I’ll just leave mine on: you don’t want all of us chattering on and confusing the heck out of you. May the Saint of All Earplugs fly with you.”

“And may the Saint of All Earplugs protect you.” Hair-Trigger added.

A moment later communications failed utterly. Aboard the Tankerville Norris, it was all the crew could do to sit in stunned silence…

Fortunately for them both, the ship’s AI didn’t do ‘stunned’: instead it took off in a headlong flight from the battle; disappeared behind some nearby mountains; and made straight for a welcoming cave mouth…

…in which to hide the entire ship.

The Buggeram Bay, meanwhile, had gone into a terminal dive…

The fight, it seemed, was over. However, the Scrotonic flagship’s multi-redundancies allowed the flaming wreck to make some sort of landing upon a rock shelf a short distance from the habitat domes…

As it went into its fiery death throes, Nigel and his retinue staggered from the wreck and made their uncertain way down the slope towards the waiting cable ends…

A blue individual, sporting an orange plume, watched dispassionately from a safe distance.

“Have the Golden One brought to me,” he hissed to the grey cable end beside him, “Him and his dippy wife.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Not looking too good right now, huh? But, never fear, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger remain free and unsuspected. Tune in again to find out how they best utilize that advantage. It might even be what you expected!

Surprise Visit (part 14)

Response to Part 13 was a tad muted. Perhaps Part 14 will be more to your liking. Here goes…

It was bright outside – whereas the interior enjoyed a cloak of shade. They didn’t know it, of course, but their guests had made a decision, and were preparing to leave…

It was only when their eyes adjusted to the gloom that the Baristas realised that they had arrived too late…

“Oh, my apologies.” Nigel said when he spotted his ungracious hosts…

…but we won’t be requiring the sugar now. Um, perhaps you can sprinkle it on some doughnuts or something. We need to be moving on. By-ee.”

However, as they left, Magnuss – never one to waste anything, especially when people had gone to such lengths to accomplish something so trivial – took the sachets and (along with his Cossack hat) poked them inside his back pocket. “Thank you.” He said. “I’ll be writing to your manager: you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.”

Moyst ran straight to the lavatory to wash the smell of plugmutt pee off her hands. But Jungle-Jake and Mary-Sue, both of whom were far less fastidious in their hygiene, merely watched their guests depart  –  to be replaced by alternative clientele – such as a vacationing Ice-Worlder, Uda Spritzer, and the morose Poncho Warmonger – eager to sample their vile wares…

“Huh,” Jungle-Jake grunted, “and they didn’t even leave a tip on the table. Cheapskates!”

Chapter Five

Far, far away, upon the planet Scroton, part-time government officials, Phruten Vedge, Ena Large, and Anders Dumbell were returning to the council chambers following a short break for mince pies and custard…

Phruten’s mind was on nothing in particular. His eyes wandered the anteroom without really seeing anything. Ena and Anders, conversely, had very important matters troubling them. Both had consumed far more mince pies than was recommended by the state-run organisation Be Kind to Your Guts, and were experiencing a sensation that suggested that their bowels would soon explode. Both tried crossing and uncrossing their eyes many times in an attempt to ward off the inevitable. They were still doing so, when a pair of Civil Service officers approached at speed…

Quickly regaining his awareness, Phruten turned to face them. Ena made a pretty good fist of looking interested too. But poor Anders spent the following moments trying to release the internal pressure by emitting copious amounts of gas and praying that it vented naturally through the open portal to his right. So he didn’t hear the Civil Service officers inform Phruten and Ena that a message had arrived from Earth.

“It’s The Golden One!” The grey cable end yelled. “He’s sent a message for you.”

“You have to act upon it.” The purple cable end yelled even louder – bordering on shrill. “This is not the time for conservatism. No more maintaining the status quo. You must act.”

“And act with alacrity, determination, and forthrightness.” The grey cable end continued. “Contrary to what Beatrix said in the council chambers before they went on vacation: make waves!”

“But what is it?” An increasingly nervous Phruten demanded. “What is it we must do?”

“Sign the authorisation.” The purple cable end half explained.

The grey cable end completed the explanation:

“To complete all of the new space ships by the end of the week, and begin constructing a further fifteen – to be completed in seven days. No expenses spared. Twenty-four hour operation. Overtime at double pay. These ships must be ready for battle within thirteen days, fully crewed, and on-site in Earth orbit with armament primed and ready for action.”

Anders heard this. For a moment it required all of his intellect to understand the significance of the instruction. Consequently, he had nothing in reserve, which meant that his iron control slipped and his bottom erupted so violently that everyone were sent scurrying from the anteroom by the subsequent gale of moist particles…

“Let’s go.” He shouted. “Let’s get this Executive Order signed!”

“Then,” he added in a mournful wail, “someone hand me the key to the Executive Toilet. Damn those mince pies!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, you see there – I’m on safer ground. Blowing off.

Surprise Visit (part 12)

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

Chapter Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Undoubtedly.” Walker Crabtrouser concurred.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well…” Magnuss began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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

 

Surprise Visit (part 11): An Earplug Adventure

Well, if you’re an Earplugger, the good news is – the story is complete. Done. Over. I didn’t need to shoot any further shots to do it either. It runs to eight chapters, so it’s not quite as short as I’d anticipated. But we don’t care about such things do we? Just as long as it’s fun. So now on with Part Eleven, with plenty more to come…

No one had noticed Rupert Piles on a coffee break – his camera resting quiescent beside him. His ears pricked up. Moments later those same ears heard the distinctive ‘tromp’ of Scrotonite hobnail boots outside…

“Do they have waitress service?” Beatrix inquired. “Or do we go straight to the counter?”

Beatrix found out soon enough…

The Baristas were very young, working to pay for their university tuition: they knew very little of worldly affairs. Of off-worldly affairs, only ignorance reigned. They had no idea who Nigel – the Golden One – was…

“Yeah, whatta ya want?” Mary-Sue asked impudently.

“What do you have?” He inquired.

“Ya didn’t see the sign outside the door?” The Barista spoke around a wad of bubble gum.

“The wind must have blown it down.”

Mary-Sue sighed loudly, before reciting the menu.

“That one.” Nigel interrupted the flow of noise. “The last one you said.”

The young female seemed surprised. “Caramelised Onion? You sure? No one ever buys caramelised onion coffee. Our regular stuff is crap; but caramelised onion is…well…”

“Um…yes…it’s my favourite.” Nigel – feeling every bit the country hick on his first trip to the big city – replied.

“Mine too.” Beatrix added. “I can’t get enough of it – though the last one on this counter menu looks interesting. What is it – decaffeinated?”

“Defecated.” Mary-Sue corrected the ruler of Scroton’s wife, “coz it tastes like…”

“Whatta ya want on your caramelised onion?” Jungle-Jake interrupted as his coffee machine gurgled and spat.

Beatrix looked to Nigel for guidance. She found none.

“Try sponge fingers.” Hair-Trigger suggested.

“Sponge fingers.” Beatrix replied to the male Barista’s question.  

“Take a seat.” He responded. “Someone’ll bring ya coffee to ya.”

Shortly, after everyone had ordered and found themselves a table to sit at…

…the coffees began arriving, though not necessarily to the correct customer. The sheer size of the table menus amazed Nigel…

“Is everyone myopic in the Museum of Future Technology?” He jested. “Wish I’d chosen the Iron Lungo now: sounds delicious.”

Closer to the door, Rupert Piles grabbed his opportunity to catch some footage of the Café Puke’s illustrious guest…

“Oi,” Jungle-Jake yelled. “No cameras: you know the rules. You might steal our secrets!”

Rupert’s professional activity and the reaction of the Barista gave Magnuss pause for thought. Perhaps it was unwise to begin an important discussion with a foreign head of state in such a public place, and with no many prying ears and eyes. Hair-Trigger caught his look and dutifully joined him when he took centre stage…

“May I have your attention?” He bellowed like a plugmutt giving birth.

“Shut your noise!” Hair-Trigger added like an ill-balanced lathe loaded with pig iron

Everyone present knew exactly who the great heroes of the museum were. Silence descended like night in the desert.

“Sorry everyone,” Magnuss said through a cherubic smile that was enough to melt the heart of any old grandmother, “but you’re all gonna have to down your coffee and sod off. These guys are from Scroton, and they’re gonna help us with those aliens who destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford. So we gotta have some peace and quiet. Understand? Baristas can stay: we need you to keep loading us up with caffeine.”

Hair-Trigger turned to Rupert. “Mister Piles: you need to record this for posterity. However I wonder if you might do it from outside? You have a personal aroma problem. You can shoot through the window.”

Shortly the slightly disgruntled customers made their way out of the café through the main entrance…

“Oh look,” one of them said, “the wind has blown the menu sign back upright again. What a wonderful place the Museum of Future Technology truly is.”

Once the café was their own, Nigel adorned himself with his plume of office, whilst Magnuss put on his famous Cossack hat…

“Right then,” Nigel said without preamble, “show me some pictures of these flying saucers. I don’t think I’m going to be overly surprised at what I see.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That Cafe Puke set was a labour of love. Unlike other cardboard creations, this one is not going in the recycle bin. Expect to see that ‘fifties diner’ decor in another Earplug Adventure!

Surprise Visit (part 9): An Earplug Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was pretty thorough.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Surprise Visit (part 8): An Earplug Adventure

When I wrote the introduction to part 8 of Surprise Visit, I was pleased to announce that photography had ended – with 229 shots completed for the photo-story. Well I was a tad premature. I should have realised that there was no way on Earth I was going to keep to my script. As the written tale progressed, I was getting little side-ideas. Scenes that improved the story. So, guess what: it was time to clamber back up into the attic studio and shoot some more. The total is now up to 238. Would anyone bet against it rising higher? Anyway, here’s the latest extract…

It led to the arboretum…

“Hah!” Nigel scoffed. “I’d always believed that the arboretum was vast and filled with all sorts of wonderful plants and trees from all the different ages of Earplugdom. But look at that: it’s a travesty.”

Naturally, their hearts sinking to new lows, Nigel and Beatrix turned away from the distressing scene…

In doing so, they failed to notice a yellow eye open in the flowerbed. And, when they were out of sight the same flower bed reared up to reveal itself as Susan – the amorphous blob from the Age of Stone exhibit…

“This is terrible.” She wailed. “Nigel, the Golden One, has lost his faith in earplugs and the Museum of Future Technology. I must warn Magnuss!”

Chapter Three

Meanwhile, the head of the military joined a disconsolate Nigel and Beatrix…

He too looked sad and beaten. When they spoke, it became clear that he had drawn the same conclusions. “Well they certainly pulled the wool over my eyes.” He grumbled. “I bet all this subterranean concrete is really modelling plaster painted with grey pre-school safety paint.”

Although Nigel believed what he believed, there was still a nagging doubt smouldering within his soul. He prayed for any sign that he was wrong about the earplugs. He got that sign…

“What was that? All three cable ends yelled in unison. “The flash of a matter transference device in operation?”

Seconds later there was no doubt…

Nigel, Beatrix, and Walker raced to greet their favourite earplugs.

“Hiya, guys.” Magnuss called as they approached at breakneck speed.

“Sorry about all this.” Hair-Trigger added as she shrugged and indicated their immediate surroundings. “But it was necessary.”

The married couple then proceeded to explain the situation to their unexpected guests…

“It’s been awful.” Magnuss said as he spat out imaginary bile.

“It still is.” Hair-Trigger added mournfully.

“It’s like this,” Magnuss continued, “a couple of days ago Hair-Trigger and I were followed through a hyperspace conduit by a huge alien ship, with a bunch of smaller ones riding shotgun…

We thought we’d shaken them off by diving through a multiphasic wormhole that the Tankerville Norris conjured up out of the local interstellar material. But we hadn’t. Oh-no. However, just to be sure about the museum’s continued safety, we raised the Chameleon Cannon…

…which, when activated, placed a bubble of nul-space around the museum. It effectively took us out of the normal space/time continuum and hid us from view.”

“It was as well we did.” Hair-Trigger said as she screwed up her nose.

“Why, Magnuss?” Nigel implored. “What’s afoot?”

“I’ll get to that.” Magnuss replied; then continued his tale: “We sent the RoboSecGuas to secure the perimeter. No one could enter, and no one could leave. We were in total lock-down…

Then things began to happen that went beyond our control. First, the lights went all funny…

Then they went out…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Don’t forget to return to hear more from Magnuss and Hair-Trigger about what happened previously. It’s a tale of true horror!

Surprise Visit (part 7): An Earplug Adventure

The thing with these Earplug Adventures is…the preliminary work  takes so long that when it comes to the actual writing of the story, it all seems to pass by in a flash. I don’t get to enjoy the pleasure of creating my little alternative reality for as long as I’d like. I’d compare it  with sex, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate: my long-term memory is failing me right now. These short stories are even worse of course –  or better, depending on your point of view. They don’t drag on like…for example A Tale of Three Museums, though, of course that is a silicon masterpiece that should never be denigrated. But back to the present: Part Seven already: I can hardly believe it. Oh well,  on  with it then…

Elsewhere, Fermin had joined Julian upon an approximation of the Wide Blue Yonder…

“What do you think, Fermin?” The political attaché inquired of the super soldier.

“The fabric is fine.” Fermin replied. “There’s just not enough of it. Over there, the futuristic concrete floor’s been painted blue.”

In a moment of inspiration, Nigel suggested that he and Beatrix visit the very top of the Red Tower, and go outside on to the roof.

“We can see the whole place from up there.” He said. “It’s the highest point. But we’ll need to be careful: it’s very high, and the oxygen levels are correspondingly low.”

But when they stepped out on to the roof…

“I dunno,” he said, “it doesn’t seem as high as it once was.”

“And I can breathe fine.” Beatrix added. “This is damned peculiar.”

On the way back down to ground level, they encountered a bemused Walker Crabtrouser…

“I tried looking out of the penthouse window.” He told them. “But the glass was too grimy to see through. Normally the glass would be sparkling and totally transparent. I’m all of a flutter.”

Meanwhile Julian had stepped on to a public stage. From a side room he heard Faati’s voice calling to him…

He expected to find her rummaging through props and costumes in a changing room of some such. What he found was the blue cable end standing on top of (what appeared to be) a nul-space power generator…

“What?” He bellowed in bafflement and frustration. “They keep a spare nul-space generator in a room behind the public performance stage? I think that highly unlikely.”

“Unless,” Faati said quietly, “it’s not a nul-space power generator at all – but actually a prop. A fake. A pretend power generator.”

Julian’s mouth fell open. “But, but, but,” he managed. “Why?”

Whilst bafflement reigned in the room behind the public performance stage, in (what Walker and Fermin assumed was) the not-so-secret UFO hangar…

…the two military operatives – or ‘Militarians’ as they were known upon Scroton – made a discovery that was almost as unexpected.

“Ugh?” Fermin ejected the pseudo-word from his powerful chest in an ascending tone that made it sound like a polysyllable. “Where’s all the flipping UFOs gone?”

Walker didn’t reply immediately: he was too busy looking for signs that there had ever been UFOs present. Scratches or gouges in the floor. Dents in the curved roof. Oil stains. Stray cigarette butts in dusty corners. He could find none.

“Dunno.” He said absentmindedly. “I’ll have to think about this.”

Fermin couldn’t stand to watch his superior officer’s face as it contorted grotesquely from the strain of putting all of their discoveries into some semblance of order in his mind. “I’ll be back in a minute: I think I hear Bertram’s puzzled tones emanating from an adjacent corridor.”

Though faulty in their operation, the soldier’s ears had, indeed heard the security chief’s voice…

“What is it, Bertram?” He cried in alarm when he found the yellow cable end hobbling along a narrow back-alley.

“I just hurt my knee.” Bertram wailed. “And the bit where the top of my leg meets my buttocks. As I stepped upon an iron grating in the floor, my foot went straight through it. Whilst extricating myself painfully from the hole, I discovered that the iron grating wasn’t metallic at all: it was three-dee printed plastic – made to look like iron. What the flip is going on, Fermin?”

The young soldier recognised this discovery as a major development. Without replying, he took to his heels in search of Walker. He found him at a fire escape door with Julian Prim…

Before he could say anything, he realised that they too had made yet another inexplicable find. The expression in their eyes told him everything he needed to know.

“This isn’t really a fire escape at all, is it?” He said. “When you opened it, you found a brick wall: right?”

“Not quite.” Julian replied. “There is no door. It’s just painted on. And whoever did it didn’t even bother painting on a push-bar!”

Whilst the ramifications of this filtered through the three cable end’s brains, Bertram had limped off into a seldom-used corridor. Cushions Smethwyke would have recognised it in a heartbeat: it was her secret access tunnel to the arboretum…

However, instead of a cheery welcome from the museum’s Artificial Intelligence, all Bertram could see on the multitudinous view screens was meaningless data and poorly discerned images of he knew not what. “Oh, I don’t like this.” He whimpered. “I don’t like it at all. I can hear squeaking noises coming from the rear of my underpants. Potentially most embarrassing. Thank goodness I’m all alone. ”

It was with great relief, five minutes later, that he made contact with Fermin, who himself, had only just met Faati…

“Look, it’s eight o’clock in the morning.” The blue cable end said – her tongue distended and lolling. “There’s a Café Puke outlet around the corner. Let’s get a drink before we collapse with dehydration.”

But, when they rounded the corner…

…they found the café entirely empty. Not a stick of furniture. No coffee machines or cup dispensers. No scuff marks on the walls where café users had pushed back their chairs to leave. No chewing gum on the skirting board. No baby snot. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Faati put a call through to Nigel on her walkie-talkie. When he received the news, he made straight for the penthouse Café Puke outlet…

He hadn’t expected to find much there, but upon entering the aforementioned establishment, best known for it’s vile coffee…

…the sheer emptiness of the beautifully decorated room stabbed him through the heart. Moreover, when Beatrix reported that there was no bucket under the sink, and that all the toilet tissue was gone, he couldn’t find the words to report back to his assistant.

“Doesn’t anything work here?” He complained. “Is this all the Museum of Future Technology is – a sham? Has it been trading upon falsehood and lies? Is that why everybody is gone – because they’ve been found out and face prosecution? Oh, I’m so crestfallen. Everything about earplugs that I’ve always believed – destroyed, torn apart, belittled. I feel such a fool.

So, it was the shadow of a world leader who, with his sad wife, descended to the ground floor…

“I wonder where this leads?” Beatrix said, only half-interested.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Beatrix may only be half-interested, but I hope you remain fully interested. Interested enough to visit again for Part 8!

PS The three-parter, mentioned in the intro,  is available to read or download in three separate PDF files right HERE.

Surprise Visit (part 6): An Earplug Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…puzzlement was their only companion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The situation for Faati Rueda was much the same…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Surprise Visit (part 5) An Earplug Adventure

This story is being written during the month of July. It’s Summer, here in the UK. There really should better things to do, rather than create scenes for a silly story about earplugs. Getting an all-over tan would be nice. In fact yesterday suffered the highest temperature in the UK since records began. Nevertheless I soldier on valiantly. Can’t keep those discerning readers waiting any longer than necessary for the latest development. Photo count now reads 212 by the way. Feels like the story is getting near the end already. Won’t require the usual 400+ shots this time. But it was always going to be a short story – at least by Earplug Adventures standards. Definitely a single volume. Talking of which; let’s get on with Chapter Two…

Chapter Two

The Buggeram Bay had swept through the Galaxy at supra-light speed for several days…

…before automatic systems slowed the vessel sufficiently for those aboard to see out of the windows…

“Oh, look at that, Nige.” Beatrix said in wonderment as the ship passed by a blue giant star. “Is that Sirius?”

“No, dear,” Nigel replied, “that’s the unstable blue giant that threatens the planet known as Worstworld. It’s chucking out all sorts of nasty radiation. The population has all gone underground. Eventually it will go nova. The bang will be so big, we might just spot in from Scroton – if we screw up our eyes and stare really hard. It’s also a sign that we’re approaching the region of space that contains Earth.”

This news delighted Beatrix. She really liked earplugs, but she had never visited Earth or the Museum of Future Technology. “Oh goodie.” She said. “Are we nearly there?”

A few hours later, everyone had returned to the rudimentary ‘bridge’…

“There’s something weird going on.” Julian informed Nigel, Beatrix, and Walker. “I know this is supposed to be a surprise visit, but we can’t just waltz in unannounced; there are air-traffic protocols to follow. Strange thing is…we can’t raise anyone. No one is answering our hails. Look at the main screen: the lights appear to be on, but no one seems to be home. Worse still, the museum isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Either that or our space map is wrong. But that can’t be so; the cartographer came from Scroton!”

“What did I say?” Nigel roared with frustration. “I bloody well knew something would go doolally on this trip. There’s always someone or something causing mayhem at the Museum of Future Technology. Can you get a remote visual on their interior CCTV system?”

As head of Security, Bertram Hisscod was already on the job. “Got it.” He said…

Julian turned to Nigel. “Sir, there’s no one there. They’ve all been abducted or something. Surely we can’t continue with the vacation. At the very best, there’ll be no one to replenish the lavatory paper!”

Nigel took a few moments to think. He elected to go for some out-of-the-box thinking. “I know,” he said finally, “we’ll fly off somewhere reasonably nearby and see if we can find someone to ask.”

By chance, the former fantasist, Don Quibonki and his amiable aide, Panta Lonez, were sitting across a campfire from one another upon the dusty plain that leads to the pea-growing region…

“Isn’t this fun?” Don said to Panta.

“It certainly is, Don.” Panta replied earnestly. “And the really good thing about camping out only a hundred metres from your front door is…we can go back indoors to use the toilet.”

“Oh, absolutely.” Don concurred. “I hate roughing it. Do you recall that time – before I regained my senses – when we rode Gargantua and Tepid up into the mountains and planned to conquer the mountain kingdom of Lemon Stone?”

Panta shivered at the thought. “All that snow.” He said. “And the cold: I was always desperate for a pee. Oh-no, no more roughing it for us: we like our beds too much for that.”

Don chuckled lightly at this. He was about to say something in response, when he was interrupted by the distinctive sound of a large space vessel landing nearby. So, leaping quickly upon their plugmutts, they raced for home. It was short journey, lasting perhaps fifteen seconds. Don chose to remain aboard Gargantua, whilst Panta crept up to the vessel and peered in a side window. To say he was surprised by what he saw was an understatement…

Nigel knew there was no way that the earplug could hear him through the transparent hull section, so he signalled that he would meet the bug-eyed being outside. Shortly…

…a conversation struck up between the creatures of two totally different worlds.

“No,” Don replied to the question ‘Do you know where everyone in the museum has gone?’ “Don’t have the foggiest notion. Haven’t been there since the debacle of my intense embarrassment there years ago. You should just let yourselves in. The door into the disco is usually left unlocked. If it helps any, you can always tell them that I said it was okay to let yourself in. My name’s Don Quibonki, by the way. You’ve probably heard of me: I was once a would-be conquistador. I wrote a book about it. I think you can still get it on the Internet.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, what a mystery. Where is everyone? Tune in for the next extract, and you might find out – possibly.

P.S Does anyone remember the tale of Don Quibonki and Panta Lonez? It was called Return to the Museum of Future Technology. Should you fancy a look-see, you can click HERE for the entire e-book in PDF, to either read now or download for later.

Surprise Visit (part 4): An Earplug Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Elucidate.” Nigel snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moments later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Surprise Visit (part 3) An Earplug Adventure

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

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

…Nigel made a decision and reanimated…

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

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

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

…that omission was forgotten utterly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

 

Surprise Visit (part 2) An Earplug Adventure

The photo-count for Surprise Visit is up to an almighty 138. Hardly enough for an Earplug Adventure: but a bloody good start. So, without further ado, let’s go there!

THE PROLOGUE CONTINUES…

A short while later, Walker Crabtrouser visited the catacombs beneath the council chambers and met with a soldier…

“Private Fermin Gusset reporting for duty, Sir.” the soldier snapped as he stood to attention before the military leader of Scroton. “Ah, what do you want me to do?”

“At ease, Gusset.” Walker replied. “Would you like me to call you Fermin?”

“Ah, not sure, Sir.” Fermin answered. “Depends on what happens next. I’ve never been alone with a superior officer in the catacombs before. Not quite sure what the protocol is.”

“Don’t concern yourself, Fermin.” Walker tried a smile. “Nothing underhand or dodgy; just want the right cable end for the job of protecting our fabulous leader on his vacation in the Museum of Future Technology. Now I believe that you can see in the dark jolly well; is that right?”

“It is, Sir.” Fermin responded instantaneously. “Inherited it from my mother, Sir. I can also punch people really hard. I’m a crack shot with a bow and arrow. I have boundless energy – physical, mental, and spiritual. I can think on my feet, so to speak. I can run and run and run without getting so tired that I have to sit down for an hour to recover. I can eat anything, up to and including coal. I can blow down doors without the need for explosives. I can go for days without having a poop. And I hate anyone who threatens this wondrous civilisation into which I was blessed to be born.”

Walker was impressed, though he did wonder how Fermin was able to blow down doors without explosives. He assumed gastric gasses were involved in some way. “Then I was well informed.” He responded to the litany of skills. “Clearly you are the ideal candidate for the role of bodyguard to our glorious leader. Just one thing: you don’t get space sick, do you?”

“Never, Sir.” Fermin replied. “Cast iron gut. Which reminds me, Sir: I have acidic bile – strong enough to burn through pre-stressed concrete. If someone were to imprison the Golden One in a hardened bunker or suchlike, I could probably get him out with only third degree burns.”

Walker couldn’t help but show how impressed he was with the young soldier’s talents and enthusiasm. “Remarkable.” He said. “Just for that, you don’t have to address me as ‘Sir’ anymore: call me Walker. Or, if we’re in company, Field Marshall. ”  

He would have said more, but he thought he heard movement nearby…

“Did you hear that, Fermin?” He whispered.

“Sorry, Walker.” Fermin replied. “The batteries in my deaf-aids have gone flat: but I can lip read with the best of ‘em.”

“Oh well, no matter.” Walker concluded. “We’d best be on our way. Make yourself available at the drop of a hat. Okay?”

With those words reverberating off the ancient walls, they went their separate ways…

However, Walker hadn’t been mistaken when he thought he’d heard something moving in the catacombs nearby. Two mysterious figures loitered beneath the lighting panel next door, in Bay Ten…

“We must inform the chief,” the red cable end said to the pale grey cable end. “This is a most unfortunate happenstance. Perhaps our plans will require tweaking slightly. Who would have guessed that Nigel would choose now to visit the Museum of Future Technology?  What a complete git he is!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What’s this – spies in the bosom of Scroton? Surely it can’t be true! To see what happens next, tune in again next time.

Don’t Miss Out!

Just in case you didn’t know, but this fabulous e-book…

…is available in PDF form, absolutely free and gratis. Just click the image and the tale will present itself to you, to either read now, or download for when you’re in the mood for a gentle chuckle. You can even show it to your nearest and dearest! It’s quite short too – so you won’t get bored stupid.

The Epoch of Dung (part 24) An Earplug Adventure

THIS IS IT: THE FINAL EPISODE. IT’S A MUST-READ!

Of course, there had only ever been one Hair-Trigger. She had no need to seek out her twin. Instead, she fetched herself a ghastly cup of Café Puke’s finest…

…and wondered what might have happened if she and the boys hadn’t been off world when the temporal catastrophe struck. The vague feeling of dread didn’t last long though: the sound of the first space submarine freighter arriving from far away broke the tableau…

Epilogue

Inevitably, late evening gave way to full night, and before long twelve midnight struck. Hambledon Bohannon took the sound of a chiming bell as his cue. ‘Everybody Slip Your Disco Disk’ boomed out across the Grand Hall abruptly – shattering the growing murmur of congregating earplugs…

Within seconds of Hambledon’s driving rhythm making its presence felt, people began to move with the beat…

Of course, the song was so out-of-date that no one remembered how to Slip Their Disco Disk – so no one got hurt. As the song segued into another classic dance floor boogie…

…any remnants of conversation were despatched. This suited Nature Beast: his conversation was monosyllabic at best.

Rupert Piles did make the mistake of trying to interview Princess Agatha about her discovery of the functioning Tunnel Temporale…

…but when she gave up the unequal battle and instead joined in with the well-known chorus of ‘Gut Churning Music’, so too did Rupert, and contented himself with recording the party for posterity. This was fortunate because he was able to capture the image of Susan, the amorphous green blob from the Age of Stone exhibit (and Chester’s principal love-interest) making her entry into the hall…

She didn’t disappoint.

“Hey, will you look at that.” One of Los Natillas said to the other two, “wouldn’t our show look so much better if we hired her to dance to our Latin rhythm?”

They agreed, but doubted the financial aspect of the deal. “That’s one big stomach.” One of them observed.

“And how would we fit her on the tour bus?” said the other.

Soon Susan was performing what was rapidly becoming her signature dance…

That is – wriggling like an idiot in front of everybody whilst carrying all five Earplug Brothers upon her huge form.

“Ooh, Rudi,” Magnuss moaned, “please ask her to stop: I’m feeling motion sick already.”

“Hey, man,” Rudi joked in reply, “some great hero you make: throwing up on the dance floor!”

And so it continued – deep into the early hours of the next day. Then word got out that the Greenhorn Girls had decided that, instead of standing like wallflowers against the mighty flanks of the Grand Hall, they had agreed to give a kicking line exhibition…

The consensus was, “This I gotta see.”  So, without too much further ado everyone backed off and allowed Margret and her girls to step away from the wall…

From somewhere – no one asked where – Hambledon Bohannon produced a show number track. The rhythm was perfect – as was the lighting – and soon the girls were high kicking across the floor…

Then it was back to disco, and everybody was ‘getting down’…

…except the Angel with a Huge Nose, who was ‘getting up’ by unfurling her wings and flying above the dance floor. This, in turn exposed a facet of the museum’s Avatar that no one was aware of…

She had wings too! So, whilst the Museum of Future Technology bathed itself in the glow of disco lights, and Magnuss and Hair-Trigger donned their jet packs so that they could join Angel and Avatar as they flapped about clumsily above the towers…

…Margret Greenhorn slipped away from the Grand Hall – in search of someone who had long-since disappeared from the celebration. She found her in her beloved arboretum…

“You know, Margret,” Cushions said, as she allowed her gaze to wander across the vast expanse of the museum, “I’d give everything for this place. Without it I am nothing.”

“I know, Cushions.” Margret replied. “And I love you for it. We all do.”

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There, wasn’t that charming in every way! Better still, you can now read the whole thing on PDF – either on-line, or to download and read at your convenience. Just visit All Earplug Adventures in PDF Format Unexpurgated & Free!

P.S  I know that tale was a bit brief. Certainly shorter than normal. However, the up-side of this is… with this one out of the way, I can now plan the next Earplug Adventure.  Everyone say “Yeah!”

P.P.S Why not click on the e-book cover (below) and become instantly transported to the full PDF version of The Epoch of Dung!

The Epoch of Dung (part 23) An Earplug Adventure

Alone, standing atop her Omnipresent Scanner, Cushions gave silent thanks to the Gods for returning the Earplug Brothers and her other self, safe and intact…

Now, she realised, she would need to show great leadership. She would have to be the first person to reintegrate her two temporal selves. Worse still, she would have to perform the act in public. “Gotta set an example, Cushions.” She whispered to herself. “Otherwise we could have two of everyone wandering about the place, taking up space; getting into arguments about whose turn it is to wash their underwear; and eating me out of house and home.”

Obviously, her twin had drawn the same conclusion. Therefore, before anyone could even try to settle back into the museum, her two selves appeared on TV together…

Crowds began to form around the public television screens…

Throughout the Museum, tension grew as the two Cushions’ moved closer to one another. No one dared breathe whilst the two bodies appeared to coalesce…

However, no sooner had the brief flash of temporal energy subsided, and Cushions, alone, stood before them, then everybody gasped in desperately needed air and cheered with relief…

“Hey,” she shouted above the din, “that wasn’t so bad. Piece of cake. If I could, I would do it again. Now it’s your turn.”

Initially people were sceptical. The pink background against which Cushions had merged made some earplugs wonder if it might be the result of special effects. So, donning their metaphorical ‘hero’ hats again, the Greenhorn Girls stood before the camera of one of the Rupert Piles: took up their dancing positions…

…and high-kicked their way back into their single selves…

…which might have been a mistake, because, during their duality, they had each lived very different lives – with two sets of memories. One in which they had survived a tsunami and lived in the brief Epoch of Dung: the other where they played the role of heroes. This left them all very confused – and it showed in their faces and gait…

Also, for a while afterwards, they appeared to suffer residual after effects…

Nevertheless, an example had been made. Quickly others followed their lead…

Mandy and Candy (times two) chose the Main Thoroughfare to re-join…

The disused roller skate park proved popular with the two Ninja Perkins’, Auntie Doris’s, and K’Planks…

Rupert Piles even filmed himself becoming one again. “Pity,” one of them said to the other, “as a duo we could have covered twice as many stories.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Epoch of Dung (part 22) An Earplug Adventure

However, despite their near miss, fear continued to grip the hearts of the escaping earplugs. There was no guarantee that the time rift would not evaporate – with them still inside it…

It was in this most tense of moments that seven of the Tankerville Norris’ passengers chose to reveal their presence…

“Excuse us,” Margret Greenhorn said, following a discrete cough, “is it alright if we come to see who’s driving this bus?”

Well, of course, it was perfectly alright. In fact, the crew were delighted that such heroic dancers should deign to join them upon the bridge. This was especially true of Miles, who took an instant interest in Belle.

“Hello,” Miles whispered, “my name’s Miles.”

“Oh, hello: I’m Belle, by the way. I thought you might be Chester, but I’m glad you’re not: he’s spoken for. Oh, sorry, am I being a little forward?”

“You be as forward as you like.” Miles said through a smile that was broadening with every passing nanosecond. “I think Belle is a lovely name. Not sure about the Ching, but never mind.”

The conversation would have continued along these lines for as long as both protagonists drew breath, but Magnuss announced that they were free of the time rift, and invited them to watch it’s closure on the main screen.

“Okay, take up your duty stations – it doesn’t matter which one you choose – the ship flies itself – we’re headed for Earth. The real one, that is.”

Chapter 7

It was night in the environs of the Museum of Future Technology…

Its inhabitants waited in their domiciles with bated breath. Very few were active in the vast building’s many corridors. Bilious Botner was an exception…

He had the idea that, because business was quiet, the Café Puke might sell him some croissants at half-price. Both he and a strange female with tall red hair were disappointed when the proprietor told them to, “Sod-off – I’m watching the TV news: the fleet’s due back: I don’t wanna miss this.”

Of course, in any society, one is always going to find dozy bleeders who don’t follow the news or give a toss about real-world problems. In the case of four science-fiction mad youngsters, they were far more interested in the final act of this week’s episode of Destination: The Stars…

Hambledon Bohannon, on the other hand, was planning for later. He had every confidence that the heroes of Earplugdom would return triumphant. He was also certain that they would like nothing more than to ‘get down’ to the disco beat. So already, he was warming up the turntables…

“Yeah,” he mumbled to himself as he ran an eye over his vast repertoire of Disco Hits, Ancient and Modern, “best start with one of my own grooves, I guess. Sho’nuf gotta be ‘Everybody Slip Your Disco Disk’. The popular dance routine that accompanies the record is a bit painful for oldsters and people with an underlying skeletal problem, but I figure it’s worth the risk. What’s more, Nurse Consuela is a practising chiropractor, so that’ll be just fine and dandy if someone collapses on the disco floor in agony, sho’nuf if it aint.”

The heroes for whom Hambledon planned his disco celebration were still far from home. At the controls of the Gravity Whelk, Placebo Bison had noticed a certain degree of sluggishness when adjusting course…

“Hey, Folie,” he said to the co-owner of the old, but wonderful vessel, “Get aft, will you? Check out the ship’s mass balance.”

Folie duly obliged. Initially all seemed well, but when he reached the moving corridor section, the sight of unrestrained passengers greeted his gaze…

“Oh curse these automatic moving corridors,” he wailed, “they really are of doubtful use. They’ve brought everybody together in one place. The ship is unbalanced: anything could happen. And who hung that stupid sign up in my bulkhead access tunnel?”

The situation was little better aboard the Chi-Z-Sox. Several passengers, including Mister Pong, had grown weary of their dreary cabin walls and ventured into parts of the ship from which they’d been barred – including the bridge…

The K T Woo crew were suffering similar hardship…

“Honestly,” the Engineering Crew Manager, a former End Cap Hyperspace Pirate who had been taken prisoner during the failed invasion of the museum several years previous, complained when his engine room was ‘invaded’ by rubberneckers, “I can barely hear myself think. What if the Captain calls and instructs me to make a sudden swerve to avoid an asteroid? I’ll tell you, shall I? I won’t make that swerve, and you’ll all die of vacuum inhalation when the hull breaches.”

The four pink former monks of Lemon Stone didn’t believe a word the End Cap said. Crew-plug, Gusi Ghandar stood at the back and smiled faintly. He knew it was nonsense too. “You can’t breathe vacuum,” he said quietly. “Vacuum is the absence of anything. Or am I being pedantic?”

There were no such problems aboard the much smaller Tankerville Norris

Everyone had chosen a role to play, so boredom never reared its ugly head.

“Ah-ha,” Magnuss called out to gain everyone’s attention, “looks like the good old Solar System’s dead ahead and coming up quickly.”

Inside the Museum of Future Technology, gigantic screens displayed the fleet, as it approached the planet…

“Hoorah,” Auntie Doris cried out to K’Plank the Space Wanderer, “the boys are nearly home. I can’t wait to give that Magnuss a big hug.”

If there had been a race to see who could land first, Folie and Placebo would have been the winners. As the Tankerville Norris made its final approach, Hair-Trigger noted the other ship settling upon a landing tower…

“Don’t care.” Magnuss responded. “I don’t like that tower anyway: the elevator doesn’t work properly. It goes up and down too quickly, and makes me feel sick.”

Meanwhile, down in the depths below the museum, the Earplug Brother’s cousins, Clancy, Brad, and Gilbatross, finally received the news that the world wasn’t ending. They cheered uproariously as they emerged into the light…

Well Clancy did: Brad was a bit annoyed that he’d let the family down by running and hiding when everyone else did what they could in the circumstances.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

The Epoch of Dung (part 21) An Earplug Adventure

Indeed she did. Already, those who were yet to be carried to the orbiting ships via matter transmission were boarding landing tenders…

 

Bert Frogget and young female earplug, who had only been visiting the museum on a half-day pass, paused to regard a vast plugmutt poo.

“I won’t miss those.” She said whilst recalling the number of doo-doos she had earned her three meals a day converting into building materials.

Bert said nothing, but he felt confident that, for the following couple of months, he would suffer terrible night terrors about them.

Only when a sensor sweep confirmed that the evacuation of everybody from the ruin of the Museum of Future Technology was complete did Magnuss host a video conference with the other ship captains…

The conversation could only be about one subject: making sure that ‘their’ museum survived the approaching reconnection with the normal time-line.

“Well we have the garbled suggestion from the Time Techs.” Placebo aboard the Gravity Whelk opened. “Have we figured what they’re trying to tell us?”

Sinclair Brooch spoke next: “Well them Greenhorn gals sure are pretty, but they aint tech-savvy. They only brought back half what them Time Techs told ‘em. My guys figure they mean to blow the hell outta this planet: they just can’t figure out how. My proton torpedoes sure aint up to the task.”

“I believe I have the answer,” the brainiest earplug included in the discussion spoke up. “My charming and intelligent wife and I have spent considerable mental energy in deep thought. We believe that the planet’s magnetic iron core is the answer to the problem. Put simply, we must tear it apart. The planet will surely follow.”

Magnuss, ever quick on the uptake, said, “You’re talking Gravitonic Multiplicitor time again, aren’t you?”

“I am indeed, young, heroic earplug.” Hydious Gout replied. “It will almost certainly destroy your apparatus, but Putridity has calculated that a sustained burst from both your vessel and the Gravity Whelk, should be enough to provide the magnetic imbalance necessary to disable the core and make it go all wobbly and explode outwards. Magma will abound, believe me.”

Magnuss had no way of knowing whether they had days in which to act, or mere seconds; so he chose the safest path and assumed the worst. Ending the conference, he and Hair-Trigger made straight for their Gravitonic Multiplicitor…

“It’ll be a shame to see it go up in smoke.” Magnuss said as he ran inexpert eyes over the potentially uber-destructive device. “Does it look in working order?”

Hair-Trigger probably knew even less about Gravitonic Multiplicitor maintenance than Magnuss. She shrugged. “It seems to have survived the opening of the time rift. It should work. Of course, while the time rift remains open, we won’t need it to open another, so I guess wrecking it won’t really matter.”

Unseen by either earplug, Magnuss’ brothers had slipped into the room…

Rudi reminded them that whatever happened to the ship and themselves, the destruction of the alternative Earth was their first priority.

“Hey,” he concluded, “even if this ship blows up, and the wormhole collapses – leaving everyone stranded in this time-line – we gotta save the Museum of Future Technology. It’s what we do, guys.

Chester, Miles, and Valentine nodded in agreement.

“Right on.” Valentine added for good measure.

“Okay,” Magnuss replied. “Adopt the position, whatever that means. Contact the Whelk: there’s no time to use that lovely clean toilet over there: let’s do this!”  

Moments later, after a sensor scan by the K T Woo found a weak spot in the planet’s magnetic field, the Tankerville Norris and Gravity Whelk moved to a location that placed them above the southern hemisphere. There was no spectacular countdown. As soon as both ships had aligned their Gravitonic Multiplicitor emitters, they let rip with one hundred percent energy release – or Number Eleven on the twist dial…  

The surface of the ruined world succumbed in an instant…

Minutes dragged by. Only the K T Woo’s sensors could detect the disturbances in the planet’s core…

Superheated flows of inner planetary material …um…flowed… freely around the equator and from pole to pole. It was just a matter of time before one of them broke through to the surface…

Great rends, vast enough to swallow the museum whole, opened across the globe, causing continent-wide rivers of magma to spread across the darkened landscape…

As the Gravitonic Multiplicitors strained to maintain their gravimetric toil, the surface of the land melted and bubbled like a really hot lasagne…

…spitting magma high into the air. Then the toughest bedrock cracked open…

…and everyone that dared watch could see that the end was near. But which would go first – the planet – or the time-line? They held their breath. Shortly an expanding ball of molten material consumed the atmosphere…

“Ooh, bugger.” Magnuss exclaimed. Into his radio, he screamed, “Woo and Sox – you’ve got the most passengers: get the heck outta here.”

Then, with their Gravitonic Multiplicitors reduced to expensive junk, the Gravity Whelk and Tankerville Norris broke for open space – headed for the time rift. And not a moment too soon either. As they accelerated towards freedom, the alternative Earth exploded like a mini-nova…

Placebo and Folie watched it on their rear camera…

“Pretty.” Folie observed. “And it’s made our screen go all wonky too. We’ll have to get that fixed.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S I’ve been hanging on to these pictures of planetary destruction for yonks. I knew I would need them eventually. I do like a dose of planetary destruction you know.

The Epoch of Dung (part 20) An Earplug Adventure

When the news reached the Museum of Future Technology’s Avatar, whom had taken overall control of the defence of the mighty edifice…

…concern was evident. Well some concern: it’s doubtful that Auntie Doris and Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks fully comprehended what they were hearing and seeing.

“But what if it’s this time-line that’s destroyed?” The fabulous artificial lifeform wailed. “There will be no survivors anywhere!”

Montagu was more practical. “Their time on that lifeless planet is numbered in months alone. Soon the plugmutts will starve and produce no effluent. Building material and fuel will quickly dwindle. The end will be slow, inexorable, and certain.”

“Well, if you put it that way,” the Avatar’s mood lightened at this, “I guess we shouldn’t go beating ourselves up about it. But, it would be nice to know the identity of the time-line that will cease to exist, don’t you think? Some way to make certain that it’s this one that survives.”

Well, as chance would have it, the Time Techs (in the hope of gaining the approval of Cushions Smethwyke, and therefore earning their very own lavatory) had been working on the subject. They now approached the foyer in which the Avatar had emerged from the structure of the building itself…

As they entered, Gregor spoke out…

“Good news, Avatar, acolytes, hangers-on, and brown-noses.” He said. “We may have the answer to the museum’s most telling problem.”

Joining the group…

…all three Time Techs took their turn explaining their theory that should – in theory – prevent the currently-existing Museum of Future Technology from experiencing non-existence…

“Wow, aint that something!” Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks…err…cheered, after they had finished, “We gotta let the guys over there know about this. This is real hotdog with chilli sauce!”

The Avatar couldn’t argue with Cheerful Charlie’s assessment of the situation. As a result, an info transmission by foghorn along the Tubo Di Tempo, reached the Greenhorn Girls, who heard it and quickly departed so that they might pass it on to those who might use it best…

“Can we remember all the facts?” A worried Margret asked the others. “It’s a long way back. We might forget something important.”

“Nah, don’t worry.” Wendy said as she strode beside her boss. “They’ll get the gist of it. That Hydious Gout guy has a brain the size of my bottom; he’ll work it out, even if we take just half of what he heard back to him.”

Belle didn’t mind either way;  she was enjoying the simple act of watching their shadows bobble attractively in the flickering, staccato light thrown  by the Tubo Di Tempo as it powered down.

Of course, once Hydious and everyone that matters heard this, a conference quickly convened…

“It’s a no-brainer – with apologies to the Professor, who is all brain.” Cushions bellowed. “I say let’s go for it. Let’s evacuate. And I don’t mean our bowels!”

Shortly, taking what meagre possessions they had managed to pull from the ruins of the museum, the populace of the mud village began to abandon their homes and handiwork…

Some did pause in their flight to regard the quality of the artisanship included in some of the better-made walls and floors…

“Hmmm, very nice.” Former Zombie, Vic, noted. “Someone used a plumb line here – that’s obvious.”

“Good trowel work.” The female biological android behind him observed. “And that solar-powered streetlight is still glowing, despite the leaden skies and dull overcast.”

The museum had always been a busy place, and the regular inhabitants numbered in their hundreds. Therefore, it took a considerable time for everyone to evacuate. Barry Dirtbox, in particular, was having extreme difficulty finding his way out of the village – trapped, as he was, upon his own balcony…

Hair-Trigger had found herself at something of a loose end, so she took herself into the mud village in search of stragglers. Instead, she found the Angel with a Huge Nose. Or perhaps it was the other way around…

“Hair-Trigger,” the previous love interest of Magnuss Earplug said to the current one, “I sense someone’s distress. I’m very busy doing angelic stuff: would you go into the oldest part of the village and seek out some lost soul that, I’m certain, is calling out for help – if not physically, then spiritually?”

Hair-Trigger didn’t need persuading. She was gone in an instant…

Cocking an attractive ear, she listened intently. Silence greeted her tympanic membrane. Moving on, she decided to switch tactics, and use her olfactory senses…

For a moment she felt overwhelmed by the multitude of pongs – both natural and…well only natural actually. There was nothing artificial to smell. Nevertheless, one stench alone stood apart and above all others. It was the smell of fear. The fear of enclosure. She knew it well. Claustrophobia. Someone was locked in and couldn’t get out. So rounding the very next corner, she discovered a public lavatory. Smashing the door in like the professional kick-boxer she had once been, Hair-Trigger uncovered a rather annoyed female End Cap…

“Thank flip for that.” The End Cap said. “Whoever fitted this bloody door didn’t allow for swelling in a moist atmosphere. If I find the builder responsible…well I won’t be responsible for my actions. Thank you, by the way. Ooh, you’re Hair-Trigger Earplug, nee Provost. Wow, what an honour: can I have your autograph?”

  “Not right now.” Hair-Trigger replied with a smile, “You have a space ship to catch.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

More appalling modelwork on display here; but it’s all part of the story’s charm – don’t you think?

The Epoch of Dung (part 18) An Earplug Adventure

Mars, meanwhile, witnessed the arrival of the Tankerville Norris in its sky…

As the former honeymoon barge swept across the terraformed wilderness, the Future Museum of Mars curator, Frisby Mumph stood beside his huge cork assistant, William of Porridge, and watched whilst the Earplug Brothers were plucked from the surface via matter transmitter…

He sighed. “Now what are we going to do with that hover scout vehicle they drove over there in?” He complained. “I suppose I’m going to have to walk all that distance, on my aging feet, to fetch it back to the museum.”

William nodded, but failed to volunteer himself for the task. Then he had a thought: “Hey, Frisby, they’ve left their space submarine freighter behind. That’s salvage now. We could have it. Perhaps Lillie and I might have a nice weekend away in it.”

Aboard the Tankerville Norris, the light of four transporting earplugs illuminated the rear of the bridge…

Although they still glowed with residual radiation and Martian detritus, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger didn’t hesitate to leap from their seats and welcome Chester, Miles, Valentine, and Rudi aboard…

“Hey, what a groove.” Valentine spoke calmly, as if being snatched from the surface of a planet and deposited aboard a star ship was an everyday occurrence, “I was just examining a Martian tuba for infestation by terrestrial bugs and stuff, when, zap, I was here with my little bro. What’s going down, man?”

Magnuss explained the situation. As eldest brother, Rudi formally volunteered the family for action. “We’re in. So what are we gonna do, Magnuss?” He asked.

“Not sure.” Magnuss replied. “But look outside: we’ve reached the Moon, and it looks like the Gravity Whelk is waiting for us…

Hair-Trigger had only just made contact with Folie and Placebo aboard the Gravity Whelk, when, simultaneously, the huge star ships, Chi-Z-Sox and K T Woo arrived from hyperspace…

“Ooh, the big boys have arrived.” Hair-Trigger said admiringly. “I figure the space / time continuum is about to get its ass kicked.”

Professor Hydious Gout dispensed with preamble. “Gentlemen and lady of the Tankerville Norris and Gravity Whelk,” he announced over the com-system, “prepare your Gravitonic Multiplicitors. Point them at the coordinates that my charming and intelligent wife is transmitting to you whilst I speak; turn them up to max; and let rip.”

Folie was only too happy to oblige. Their very recent refit included an upgraded Gravitonic Multiplicitor that didn’t need disassembly and placement in space, remote from the ship.

“We’re on it, Hyd.” He responded.

Hair-Trigger was a little more circumspect. “Aligning our Gravitonic Multiplicitor with your coordinates now.” She replied.

A moment later…

…space/time took a battering it wouldn’t forget – even if it lasted for eternity. The resultant rip in the fabric of reality became visible from any point in the Solar System. Well the bits of it that pointed in the right direction could anyway. These included the view screen of the Gravity Whelk

Placebo noted that the Tankerville Norris had pulled slightly ahead of the Gravity Whelk. “You seem keen to take point, Magnuss” he said into his radio, “why don’t you show us the way.”

This was an invitation that Hair-Trigger, Magnuss, or his courageous brothers couldn’t resist. In a moment to savour, all four of the spacecraft launched themselves at the opening in space/time…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, so the ‘A’ Team’s on the case, eh? Looking good for the doppelgangers, methinks. If anyone can thwart the efforts of entropy, it’ll be that bunch of silicon heroes.

The Epoch of Dung (part 13) An Earplug Adventure

Chapter 5

Cushions need not have worried that Margret would fail her. Already she had contacted the chief curator’s doppelganger in the ruined remains of the once-flooded, but now drained arboretum…

“Cushions,” she said, “you are not going to believe the idea I came up with. Several factors led me to it. To a degree, it was the Bozo Brothers burying of their sister and their belief in a higher power. It was also the non-corrupting cup of coffee beneath the spotlight. And, of course, Rupert Piles and his huge three-dee television camera. Combined, these seemingly disparate events and objects…ugh…combined…to inspire me, and draw a fabulous conclusion. In short, I have a plan. It may seem ridiculous, but I think it’s the only chance we have.”

“Ridiculous, you say?” Cushions responded guardedly. “Let me be the judge of that. What’s the plan?”

A half-hour later, the strange being, known as Gobby, was strolling through the mud village with some characters who one could be forgiven for considering odd companions to such a cerebral giant. They were the rough ‘n’ ready and almost monosyllabic Nature Beast: the former substrata-dwelling weirdo, Grey-Vee; and a junior officer with the United Stoats Seventh Cavalry, the name of whom no one could ever remember…

Like his companions, Gobby had been imbibing fermented fruit juice. Consequently, he had taken to singing very rude songs loudly in a pleasant, if slightly nasal falsetto. Nature Beast, Grey-Vee, and the unidentified junior officer were accompanying with harmonic doo-waps and shoobie-doobie-doos. However, all this ceased when Margret led most of her troupe out from a small store shed in which they had being walking through a few routines…

Immediately the unnamed officer’s regulation cavalry hat fell from his inebriated head. Grey-Vee’s Mohican stood on end; and Gobby thought he was seeing things.

“Ugh?” he grunted – the song dismissed and forgotten, “Astonishingly beautiful girls? Wha-wha-what’s happening, man?”

Ignoring the doo-wap trio, Margret addressed Gobby directly. “Gobby,” she said, “I need you desperately.”

This surprised Gobby, and he attempted to straighten a tie that he wasn’t wearing. “Oh, really…ah…jolly good and all that.”

Whilst Margret quickly reassessed her opening gambit; and Poki found herself finding the junior officer rather fetching – as he reattached his hat to the top of his head; and Delia discovered that Nature Beast made her wish she was somewhere else, Grey-Vee was already backing away in search of a boulder or something she could hide behind to have a wee.

“Let me start again.” Margret said. “I have a plan to save the Museum of Future Technology: everyone inside it: and everyone in this alternative time-line too. But I’m going to need your talent for manipulating time.”

Gobby’s inebriation evaporated instantly. “Sod off, you lot.” He said to his singing chums – who acquiesced to his instruction without argument…

He then turned his attention to the girls. “Shoot.” He said.

“We’re going to put on a show.” Margret explained. “A dancing show, with taped music. I’ve got a tape machine in my handbag, with the music from our last show still in it. All we need is some form of sound enhancement. Something to make it louder. But that’s not a problem right now: I’m sure we’ll find something amongst the detritus that can double up as a sound box.”

“A show?” Gobby replied doubtfully. “How very charming. Very entertaining too, I’m sure. But how is this going to help us and the Museum of Future Technology?”

“Yes.” Nokaks squealed with ill-disguised enthusiasm. “We’re going to get someone’s attention. Someone who will sit up and notice us.”

“That’s right,” Ragi joined in, “someone with clout.”

“Someone,” Poki added, “who likes earplugs – probably a lot.”

Gobby understood in an instant. “The Gods.” He yelled. “You are going to try and get the attention of the Gods. Oh, Ladies, that is inspired. What do you want me to do: repeat performances every fifteen minutes?”

“Exactly.” Margret smiled sweetly. “And Rupert Piles’ camera has a Nul-Space generator built-in; so he can transmit in real time to the entire listening universe.”

A short while later Margret found Cushions in the arboretum where someone had found a few slabs of concrete beneath the mud. She couldn’t help but notice that a couple of flowers had bloomed too. Cushions took this as an omen…

“It’s a go.” Margret said as they strolled across the sodden surface.

“Did you have anywhere in mind for the performance?” Cushions inquired.

“There’s a small plaza in the village centre.” Margret answered. “It’s reasonably flat, and the surrounding buildings will amplify my tape player wonderfully. I hope to have the girls ready for a matinee performance. We brought a limited number of costumes with us, but I don’t think people will notice: most of them aren’t looking at the costumes anyway.”

Cushions wasn’t one waste time or prevaricate: only ten minutes had passed before she, Yabu, Ninja, and the Greenhorn Girls entered the village centre plaza and began advertising the forthcoming event by word of mouth…

Ninja’s voice, in particular, was…ugh…particularly strident:

“Come on, you lot,” she bellowed like a Docker on steroids, which, of course her father was, and had trained his daughter well. “Put aside all those wobbly clay pots you’re trying to shape into wine goblets.” She continued. “Cast off the yokes upon your shoulders that support erns of recently squeezed plugmutt milk. And stop trying to stick pointy bits of flint on the ends of sticks – they’ll never make good arrows anyway. In any case, what are you going to shoot them at? Do yourself a favour: come out to see a show. See the beautiful dancing girls, with their powerful thighs and skimpy costumes.”

The others too called out, with voices that quickly grew hoarse. However, slowly faces began to appear outside their hovels…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What else did you expect a bunch of dancing girls to do? An earplug should always play to its strength.

The Epoch of Dung (part 12) An Earplug Adventure

Shortly Angel was only too pleased to report recent events to Cushions Smethwyke…

“This can’t be coincidence,” Yabu said as he and Cushions were appraised of the situation.

“It can’t?” Cushions questioned the leader of Yabu Youth.

“Well yes, obviously it can; but it’s very unlikely.” Yabu replied. “Funny, don’t you think that just when something goes seriously awry with the Tunnel Temporale, we find a bunch of enemy Incense Cones hiding in the bowels of the museum?”

“When you put it that way, I guess you’re right.” Cushions acknowledged the logic of Yabu’s reasoning. “But how are we gonna find out: they don’t speak our language – and they think like weird aliens!”

“Leave that to me.” Angel said. “Let me remind you that when the museum was attacked by End Caps from Hyperspace, I used my power of illusion upon them. It even worked upon their Attack Robots. I have a plan for this bunch of evil subversives. They are going to tell us everything they know.”

Five minutes later Angel had joined the captives in the museum’s jail. Five minutes and one second later, all six captives had forgotten they’d ever been in a fight, and were safely ensconced inside their hidey-hole. Moreover, their leader – Emperor Conrad Moose – appeared to…uh…appear on their com-panel…

“Right then,” Emperor Conrad Moose’s voice seemed to roar from the tinny speaker grille, “I’ve been very, very busy running my enormous empire, and I’ve kind of, sort of, forgotten why I sent you to the Museum of Future Technology. So I want you to bring me up to speed with my plan and what you’ve been doing whilst I’ve been very, very busy. Oh, and by the way, I’ve decided to learn Earplug really well, so use that language. Use our own language, and I’m gonna get really angry with you. Understand? Right: go.”

The Incense Cone Infiltration and Temporal Dislocation Squad – as they liked to call themselves – were slightly taken aback by this: their emperor usually despised anything related to earplugs, except news of their failures and disasters. To demand they use the cursed language of their enemies confused them: but they rallied quickly…

“Um, where would you like us to start?” The pink Incense Cone inquired.

Major Flaccid, who was providing the voice of Conrad Moose, decided to take a chance: it would be inadvisable to rouse his captive’s suspicions by knowing nothing whatsoever about their mission. “Well obviously I remember the earplug’s horrible Tunnel Temporale is involved: but I can’t quite recall exactly what you’re supposed to do with it. Like I said, I’m a very, very busy emperor.”

This seemed to settle the Incense Cones. It was the turn of the pink Incense Cone to preface his opening line with the word ‘well’. “Well,” he said as he tried to ignore a nagging and implausible ache in his groin, “we travelled the requisite amount of distance in time to this era, where we set off a chain reaction in the Temporal Cascade Equaliser. Coming from a period in which the technology is more advanced than it is in this era, it was easy-peasy to kick-start the troublesome Tunnel Temporale with a remote hyperspace signal. The first the locals knew of it was when the Tunnel burst into life. But then something unexpected happened, and we don’t really know why.”

“We suspect,” the blue Incense Cone, volunteered, “that the activation of the Tunnel Temporale initiated an instantaneous time storm. Rather than destroy the current Museum of Future Technology, as planned, which would then instigate a massive incursion into this portion of space/time, by our gallant assault troops from the future, and the annihilation of any surviving earplug resistance, something else happened.”

Major Flaccid – a keen ‘amateur dramatics’ actor in his spare time – decided to ‘go large’. “What?” He roared. “What?”

Angel inserted a suitable visual representation of Conrad Moose…

This resulted in the exposing of Incense Cone physical characteristics that earplugs were unaware of…

…those being enormous gobs; startled expressions; and nasty odours that erupted from their hindquarters.

 The pale Incense Cone with yellow lips was the first to overcome its shock and horror. “It’s not all bad.” The creature said hurriedly. “We seem to have created a divergent time-line.”

“Explain to me how this is ‘not all bad’.” The Moose/Flaccid apparition demanded.

“When the alternate time-line reintegrates with the flow of time,” The Green-Eyed individual at the end of the line interjected – and therefore hoped to gain some ‘Brownie’ points – “disaster will be invoked. One of the time-lines will be destroyed. We are currently in the process of constructing some advanced devices, of my design, that will guarantee that it’s this time-line that fails to survive re-integration. We’ll poke them down the Tubo Di Tempo as we leave, just before temporal re-integration commences.”

Flaccid gulped at this news. Fortunately, his ‘subjects’ put this down to a case of ‘wind’. “Yeah-yeah,” he mumbled as he tried to collect his wits, “But won’t the accursed earplugs spot the devices and remove them?”

“No probs.” The pale blue Incense Cone – sensing that it was in danger of being a mere spectator in the Emperor’s eyes – said quasi-confidently. “We’re wrapping them in Bags of Invisibility.”

Again, Flaccid found himself caught unawares. This time, however, an involuntary and enormous fart enveloped his entire body, which was serendipitous because it gave his brain the energy it required to think quickly and with precision. “Oh, good. What do they look like? Do the earplug’s Cones of Invisibility interact with them – rendering their contents visible?”

“They look like unused plastic roasting bags.” The grey Incense Cone, who was beginning to feel like a bystander, answered. “Inflated ones, of course, with the little plastic ties pulled tight. We’ve calculated the likelihood of an earplug-built Cone of Invisibility making contact with our Bags of Invisibility, and therefore rendering it visible, as less than one in a million. Don’t worry, Emperor Moose, the earplugs won’t know what hit ‘em. In fact, they won’t even know they’ve been hit. They won’t exist.”

The pink Incense Cone didn’t want to appear to have lost control of the conversation: “Yeah, that’s right.” He said. “We don’t know what the alternate version of the museum is gonna be like exactly; but it aint gonna be pretty. We can clear them out in no time at all – excuse the pun.”

Naturally, Angel took this startling information to Cushions and Yabu…

Cushions quickly shifted mental gears. “Okay,” she said, “I’m not quite sure what we can do with this info, but at least we’ve got the perpetrators under lock and key. Let’s hope Margret Greenhorn and her leggy dancing girls are on the case in the other time-line.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022