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Revel in the Ribaldry 39

It has been…ooh…an eon since I last posted an extract from one of my fabulous, semi-legendary Hamster Sapiens books. Well several months anyway. So I thunk it was about time for a morsel from this wondrous e-tome…

And here it is…

Most of the audience, that cold winter’s night on the outskirts of Hamster Heath, had attended any number of Danglydong Dell Diaries Days, and as a consequence were almost immune to surprise. But even so they thought that a terrible mistake had been made when a really boring fart appeared upon the dais, and duly proceeded to open his diary.

“I say,” the recently deposed mayor, Chester Bogbreath, shouted, “what’s someone from Belchers Pond doing here tonight? This is a Hamster Heath affair. I, for one, do not approve.”

Chester wasn’t alone in his opinion, and soon the audience began to look and sound somewhat ugly. Wendy Nuthatch knew that history was replete with examples of pleasant evenings that had descended into riots because of some minor infringement of the rules – and rule infringement definitely included a diarist from one of the town’s outlying hamlets, which was pushing the boundaries of good taste to new levels.

Wendy held up a paw to silence the growing dissent. “I see that some of you recognise our next reader.” She observed.

“Too right.” Huck Ballesteroid was the first to reply, “What’s an historian doing here? Historians aren’t no good for nothing, ‘cept ‘reinterpreting past events to fit the current political view point. Is that what’s he doing ‘ere tonight: Reinterpreting history to suit you and your odious left-wing cronies at the town hall?”

Wendy audibly gulped. This Ballesteroid fellow was more astute than she’d given him credit for.

“Of course not.” She replied indignantly. And for once she spoke the absolute truth: Adjusterming Boficals was present solely for the reason that it was he who would continue the tale of Joan Bugler’s second adventure in the land of Prannick – for the simple reason that he had actually been there at the time.

“Trust me on this one, will you?” She pleaded, “It took a lot to persuade Mister Boficals to attend: He has many important duties at this time of year – like planting out his winter pansies, and re-grouting his patio – so it is an honour to have him here. In any case – you want to find out what happened next don’t you?”

There was a general rumble of agreement from the audience as it re-seated itself upon the boles of the felled rhubarb trees that made up the majority of the seating in Danglydong Dell. And Wendy knew that she had saved the evening when the audience members wrapped themselves in the discarded rhubarb fronds in order to keep warm, and turned their eyes to the front once more.

Upon the dais Adjusterming Boficals waited a moment longer for everyone to make themselves comfortable. He then seated his monocle properly within his eye socket; cleared his throat; and began…

Tipplesday, the Forty-threeth of Plinth. The local historian, Adjusterming Boficals, had been walking his pet cavy, Gladstone, with his son, Lenny, upon the moor above Belchers Pond for most of the wind-swept morning. Ostensibly they were there in an attempt to reduce Gladstone’s rather corpulent stomach by means of exercise and the ingestion of extremely coarse heather. But Adjusterming had other – half-formed – ideas.

The former lecturer didn’t entirely believe in cavies: He thought that they were the product of some failed experiment from a past era – although he couldn’t prove it – and as such should be exterminated. But his wife liked Gladstone, and didn’t want him to die of something induced by fatty acids, and had duly despatched Adjusterming to the moor to ‘cure’ him. Lenny had come along because he realised that it would be the easiest thing in the world for his father to lead Gladstone off a cliff, or tempt him into a wild rabbit’s burrow, where he would be eaten, and the evidence lost.

As a result of this distrust, Adjusterming decided that he would spend the time searching for the remains of the legendary lost village of Bristly Bottom, and allow Lenny to hold Gladstone’s lead. This way he wouldn’t have to keep looking around the bulk of the cavy to see where he was going, or dive for cover every time that Gladstone either broke wind without warning, or unthinkingly ejected one of his famous ‘poo-poo projectiles’.

For many years previous the historian had been researching the even more famous lost town of Hamsterville, but had been beaten to his prize when Horatio Horseblanket stumbled upon it whilst out go-carting one day. So finding any fossil remains that might lead to the discovery of Bristly Bottom earned a high priority, and it was whilst his head was immersed deep inside a small tussock of weird-looking grass that something happened that startled him so much that he actually cried out in involuntary alarm.

Although the event had actually gone unnoticed by Adjusterming initially, Lenny had witnessed every slow-motion second of it. He’d just happened to be looking in the right direction at the right time to witness the appearance of a trans-dimensional transfer point. One moment an outcropping of rock stood forlorn and alone against the dull grey sky: The next it was inhabited by the very startled body of the vile Arthur Dung.

© 2013 Paul Trevor Nolan

This charming tale is available as an e-book via my page,

Tooty’s E-Books Available To Buy Here!


Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part twelve)

Before you indulge in Part Twelve, here’s a reminder of what the finished product will look like…

Now on with the show…

Following a quick bowl of cornflakes and an energy drink, Fanny set about mass-producing the antidote. Within the hour she was certain that she had made enough of the substance to pack it into small paper bags; tie them tightly closed; go out into the street, and hurl them – one by one – to the unyielding stone path upon which she strode…


Each bag burst with a silent flash – releasing the antidote into the air.

“Looking good, girl.” She whispered to herself. “Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

The ‘eating’ it soon transpired, was very good indeed. Wherever the sparkling motes of antidote drifted, the closest earplugs revived; looked about themselves; regained their sentience; and made exclamations of relief and joy…

“Whooo,” some would call out appreciatively, “pretty!”

Meanwhile, in the most northerly watchtower, Mister Zinc and Blue had utilized the silver earplug’s remarkable technical abilities to hack into the Museum of Future Technology’s CCTV system…

“So,” he said, “everyone in the museum have been rendered inert.”

“There are the maintenance crew.” Blue pointed out one glaring error in her boyfriend’s summation, “They’ve locked themselves away in their control room.”

“It matters not.” Zinc replied, “They number only three: I can use one of my innate talents to mesmerize them.”

“And if that doesn’t work,” Blue informed him, “I’ve bottled some of the Northern Mist: I can squirt it in their faces.”

Zinc appeared impressed. “Now you see why I chose you as my life partner.” He said. “Clearly my genius has rubbed off on you.”

Time was of the essence: Fanny was eager to get to the museum and administer her antidote. However, for a brief moment, exhaustion threatened to overwhelm her. She paused to lean against a door jamb…

With breath regained, she set off once more – only to be confronted by Dumper Collins…

Clearly he’d seen what she had been doing and recognised her physical condition for what it was:

“You’re done in, gal.” He said. “Knackered. You’ve done enough: let me carry them little bags of magic down to the museum for ya. I can chuck ‘em at the ground as well as anyone. I’ll stamp on ‘em if I have to. If you was an athlete, they’d be administering oxygen and slapping the cramp out of your thighs. You gotta let me carry the load for ya.”

It was a kind offer gratefully received but not accepted. Fanny recalled how far and quickly Dumper had fallen behind her when they had rushed to tell the authorities about the Northern Mist:

“Thank you, Dumper,” she replied, “but if we had to wait for you to find your way to the Museum of Future Technology, Mister Zinc would be settling into his throne room with a cup of tea and a slice of drizzle cake – probably served to him by Magnuss Earplug in shackles. So I reject your kind offer and offer you this advice: get yourself an exercise bicycle; you’re a couch potato in danger of an early demise through arterial clogging.”

Before Dumper could summon a counter-argument, she was gone.

The Town Cryer witnessed her departure, and so, from his high vantage point in the Town Cryer’s Cupola he shouted a narration of Fanny’s progress to those less well advantaged in the streets below…   

“She’s made it to the river.” He bellowed. “She appears to be about to chuck one of her antidote bags into the gently tumbling waters. Yes, there it goes…”

Aware that Mister Zinc intended to enter the Museum of Future Technology in silent triumph, Fanny realised that it was of utmost importance that she get there first with her antidote. But just to make sure, she cast another of her diminishing supply of bags into the stream that led to the coolant intakes of the museum’s nul-space power generator. As the concoction reacted violently with the cool mountain waters…

…she realised that no matter how quickly Mister Zinc transported his vile self to the museum, there was a good chance that by the time he arrived, the potion would evaporate out of the coolant tanks, become an aerosol and allow some of the defenders to revive.

“But I have to be certain,” she said as she drew in a deep lung full of pristine mountain air, “I have to get there and wake everybody up. It’s my only option.”

The first sign of Fanny’s imminent arrival was witnessed by the Council of Zombies upon their three-dee projector…

“Kevin,” the council leader, Raj commanded his undead chum, “put a call through to those Robot Security Guards. Tell them Fanny’s on the veldt outside the museum.”

“Can someone else do it?” Kevin complained, “I’ve been sitting here so long that my legs have stopped working. Whatever circulation I had down there, isn’t anymore.”

Fellow zombie and third member of the ruling triumvirate, Mary had just returned from a little light exercise in the cemetery. “I’m feeling as fresh as a daisy,” she said, “I’ll do it.”

Raj was surprised. “You are?” He enquired with a slightly disbelieving tone in his croak.

Mary considered the question. “I might be over-stating my health a smidgen.” She replied. “Perhaps it would be more accurate to compare my sprightliness with a week-old plugmutt turd. But I can still call the security suite: it’s really no trouble. Give me half an hour and I could probably shuffle ‘round there, if the coms aren’t working.” 

Fortunately the situation wasn’t that desperate. Mary called through successfully, and ten minutes later a junior RoboSecGua spotted Fanny upon the secondary view screen…

The senior RoboSecGua turned to EvilRoboSecGua and said:

“You’ve been about a bit – like across the gulfs of space to distant worlds in a stolen UFO:  did you ever learn to lip read?”

“I did, Boss.” EvilRoboSecGua replied. “Do you want me to translate what Fanny Gander is mouthing silently to our CCTV camera?”

Of course RoboSecGua replied in the affirmative, and then waited for the translation.

“I have become disorientated – bordering on hysterical.” EvilRoboSecGua spoke Fanny’s words for her. “I have also been holding my breath quite a lot too. I didn’t want to walk all the way from Lemon Stone in my personal deflector bubble; it’s too cumbersome. Sorry, but I appear to have forgotten the way in. Can someone allow me ingress?”

RoboSecGua addressed its junior operative. “Can we?” It inquired.

“The female earplug is standing upon a maintenance hatch.” The subordinate replied. “Should I open it?”

“Affirmative.” RoboSecGua answered. “Do it this instant.”

A split second later, Fanny found herself inside the Museum of Future Technology…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023


Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part eleven)

Without further ado, it’s on with the tale…

It was Fanny’s good fortune that the sleet only fell at higher elevations. By the time that she reached the access tunnel that led from the old quarter to the region of Lemon Stone that contained the artisan quarter, her personal deflector bubble had shed its fine mantle of moisture..

So it was with great relief, shortly after exiting the tunnel, that Fanny could shuck off her protection at the front door of her hovel and enter the sanctuary of her kitchen… 

However, despite a thorough rummage through the cupboard under the sink and a good old delve into the odds ‘n’ sods she kept in an old suitcase beneath the stairs, she could find nothing with which to create a potion that would counteract Zinc’s futuristic fog.

“Oh bum!” she yelled despairingly.

However Fanny was not the type to accept defeat so easily. Her mind wandered – or perhaps ‘raced’ – back to her most recent visit to the Museum of Future Technology – in particular the drop-in to the proto-Skanki Kaffe.

“Ooh,” she sighed as her thoughts began to coalesce into a plan. “Those baristas have access to all sorts of concoctions and coffee machines: surely I can put those to good use. Ah-ha, and there’s a branch of the Café Puke on the Rincon del Excremento – not more than ten minutes from here!”

Ten minutes later Fanny let herself into the darkened café…

She was grateful that Lemon Stoners were lazy sods and didn’t get up until after half-past ten in the morning: it meant that the mist had struck before the café had opened. There would be no inert earplugs littering the place with sightless stares that would inevitably break Fanny’s concentration upon her monumental task.

Flicking on the lights also activated the air-conditioning. Soon the wisps of poison that had penetrated the worn door seals were extracted and Fanny could set about finding the items she required…

However, having completed her search, she felt no confidence in her ability to conjure up the necessary antidote. There were still one or two ingredients that would make success more certain. Then, once again she recalled her thoughts concerning the rival cafes inside the Museum of Future Technology. More specifically she recalled the different ways in which the Café Puke and Skanki Kaffe remove the caffeine from their respective coffee granules. For the briefest of moments despair almost overwhelmed the artistic earplug. Would she really have to trudge all the way back down to the partially-completed Skanki Kaffe inside the museum – in the forlorn hope that the barista’s equipment and ingredients had been stocked in the storeroom prematurely? Surely not! However, as her eyes swung from the customer area to the front door, she noticed the day’s mail that had fallen from the letter box and had been casually kicked to one side. Amongst the confetti of communications lay several flyers and advertisements. One of them featured the Skanki Kaffe. This was the breakthrough that Fanny had been unconsciously praying for. The flyer included an address: Plaza de Aromas.

Within a mere five minutes the green female earplug stood inside the soon-to-open Skanki Kaffe…

Because the doors were new and had opened and shut a mere handful of times, the Northern Mist had made no encroachment into the establishment.

“Oh goodie,” Fanny said as she cast off her personal deflection bubble, “I can now operate without impediment and restraint. Where’s the storeroom?”  

Chapter Four

In the time-honoured way for heroic earplugs, the Skanki Kaffe had supplied the very ingredients Fanny needed most desperately. No sooner had her eyes alighted upon them, as they nestled cosily upon the storeroom shelf, when she snatched them up; dashed from the building; and raced to the artisan quarter…

Following the briefest of tinkles in her rudimentary downstairs loo, Fanny set to work at her bench with a mortar and pestle…

The work, though not particularly demanding in a physical sense, was long and mentally arduous. Trial and error was Fanny’s greatest ally. As the hours passed by inexorably, Fanny grew weary; but she would not break from her task. She would either discover the cure, or collapse trying. However, as daylight returned to the mountaintop citadel, the zillionth test in her crucible proved the value of the time and effort she had put into the task. The concoction sparked and flamed…

“Flipping heck,” she exclaimed with delight, “I’ve only gone and bloody done it!”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part ten)

Part Nine went down like a lead balloon, so let’s not waste any more time with that literary pile of junk and forget all about it by going straight to Part Ten, which, I should mention is much better…

Fanny continued to follow the route supplied by her RoboSecGua device for several minutes until she paused to regard the view and take stock. With the citadel behind her, the only building visible to her in the darkening air was the Northern Watchtower. So she screwed up her eyes and squinted at it. Was that smoke emerging from the viewing platform?

Or was it the fake Northern Mist? Her device suggested she get closer. So she endeavoured to do just that. However, as she picked her way carefully along a narrow path, she discovered a Precipitous Ledge Walker, who had been indulging in a morning bowl of muesli when she was overcome and rendered inert…

Fanny had forgotten how hungry she felt, having missed her tea. She was almost tempted to consume the rapidly coagulating cereal / milk amalgam; but quickly reasoned that it had spent several hours open to the effects of the mist, and would probably be heavily contaminated. She didn’t like sultanas either; so, despite her rumbling stomach, she passed on by.

A while later – Fanny couldn’t calculate how long precisely because of fatigue and boredom – the green-faced earplug arrived beside the watch tower…

She wasn’t sure, but it appeared to her that the quantity of smoke / mist that climbed into the surrounding air from the viewing platform seemed to be lessening. Then she spotted an alleyway that would lead her to the outpost’s living quarters. Naturally she followed it…

Aware that she might be detected, she crept slowly and silently to the nearest window. Taking a chance, she sucked in a huge lung full of air, and removed her personal deflector bubble. Having done so she pressed her face to the glass…

What she saw shouldn’t have surprised her: everyone knew that Mister Zinc and his biological android Blue had been banished to this lonely spot where they were tasked to keep watch for travellers on their way to Lemon Stone from the wild lands beyond the mountains. As a result she wasn’t even slightly surprised. However she was startled that they should have a table from the Café Puke as furniture. Even more so by the glasses of Bilge White that rested daintily upon the cheap melamine table top. But what caused most concern was the conversation that took place between the megalomaniac and his partner:

“Oh Zinkipoo,” Blue said as she eyed the coffee before her, “I’ve just prodded the goo upstairs: I think the last few grams of poison stuff have pretty much been exhausted.”

“That’s fine,” Mister Zinc replied in his emotionless tone, “I anticipate that it has succeeded in its task. By now everyone inside the Museum of Future Technology will have been neutralized: tomorrow, just after breakfast, we’ll wander down there and assume control. I’m really looking forward to kicking Cushions Smethwyke and her gang of curators out through the sewage outlet. And as regards to any Earplug Brothers still at home…well I wouldn’t want to be one of them when I’ve finished with them.”

“It was a lovely plan you had, Zinky.” Blue replied. “How did you ever find that disaffected barista who had stolen those plans from the future?”

“I was collecting used cigarette butts in the marketplace.” Zinc answered without a qualm or shame over his loss of status in earplug society, “I encountered a ‘new’ earplug in town whom I considered was acting furtively. I asked what he was doing in Lemon Stone. He told me he was looking for a buyer for something really illicit. I took an interest. He told me what he had. I also took an instant dislike to him; so rather than pay him with money I didn’t have, I punched him in the head and stole it from his satchel.”

“Inspired,” Blue gushed. “And to think; we had all the primary ingredients we required in that delivery to the Café Puke that mysteriously disappeared from their storeroom last week.”

Mr Zinc almost chuckled at this. “Indeed,” he said, “who would have imagined that Stasis Melons, suspended in Parma Violet Glycerine, set on an insulating layer of Pistachio Custard…

…and heated by a halogen bulb could wreak such havoc amongst our enemies?”

Outside Fanny almost stood aghast. Fortunately, in order to follow the conversation further she recovered her decorum and quickly dashed to the next window…

…where Mr Zinc now regarded his own cup of coffee.

“To think,” he said to Blue, as she joined him, “this time tomorrow I will rule the Museum of Future Technology. And when I do, the whole Galaxy is gonna find out!”

Fanny need not hear another word. She quickly stole away; replaced her personal deflector bubble upon her head; and made best speed down the alleyway…

Shortly, having consumed their Bilge Whites, Mr Zinc and Blue resumed their duties in the watchtower…

“Ah, drizzle,” Mr Zinc said with a sigh. “You can always tell its Summer time up here: gentle precipitation accompanied by low clouds and thunderstorms.”

But Blue wasn’t so sure: Zinc’s ‘drizzle’ looked rather more like sleet to her. “Hmmm.” She said in a non-committal tone.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part nine)

In Part Nine we watch as Fanny Gander goes forth upon her mission to save the Museum of Future Technology. Yet another name is about to be added to the pantheon of heroic earplugs. Well we hope so anyway…

However, when she calculated the sheer distance involved, that resolve waned slightly…

“Oh flipping heck.” She said, “I can’t even see the mountains. Oh, but wait a minute: it’s that bloody fake Northern Mist: it’s hiding them from view. Maybe it’s not so far after all.”

But all too quickly Fanny realised that the return journey to Lemon Stone would require that she walk up the mountain. Up being the significant word. Whereas she had walked down from Lemon Stone with relative ease, the reverse course would be quite the…er…reverse. And so it proved to be…

“At least I can breathe on the way back up.” She gasped. “All I need to take into account is the reduced oxygen levels at higher altitude.”

Soon any potential cameras that tried to follow her journey watched as she traversed a high ledge through a thickening fog. Had anyone watching been conscious they would have sucked in their breath, clutched their buttocks and whimpered:

“Oh Fanny – take care. One misstep…”

Night was having a bloody good go at falling when Fanny finally reached the plateau from where she could see the distant citadel standing proud before her…

“Fifteen minutes ought to do it.” She said confidently. “I’m so glad I found that small vial of my strength and endurance potion in my back pocket. These last few steps would have killed me otherwise. Moreover, all this exertion, and the resultant sweatiness has entirely dried up my bladder. It’s great; not taking clandestine tinkles beside the mountain path every five minutes.”

She didn’t know it, of course, but Fanny had another reason to be grateful that her bladder made no demands upon her modesty. She was being followed by the Council of Zombies in the Museum of Future Technology on a futuristic three-dee projector…

Zombies, not really being strictly ‘alive’ were naturally immune to the fake Northern Mist. They weren’t aware of the fact, so they had locked themselves off from the rest of the museum by sequestering the meeting room of the Sewage Workers Union, the doors of which came, of course hermetically sealed.

“Go for it, Fanny!” One of them would have yelled. But because he didn’t breathe, the best he could do was a torpid croak. “Kick ass.”

Chapter Three

Fanny’s estimate of fifteen minutes proved extremely accurate as finally she climbed the shallow ramp that led to the outer wall of the citadel…

As she looked along the length of the dark stone construction, she said:

“What dim-wit architect decided to build the gate almost a hundred metres from the access ramp? Am I ever gonna get where I need to be?”

Worse still, when she finally reached the gate, she found it too low to fit her overly-tall personal deflector bubble under…

So she felt compelled to travel farther to a freight entrance, inside which she discovered several fallen and non-responsive earplugs…

Her breath caught in her throat. “By the Saint of All Earplugs, in a pathetic attempt to negate the Northern Mist, these two desperate chefs were forced to breathe sewer gas – for all the good it did them. Stupid chefs; they would have been better off breathing oven gas!”

Farther inside the citadel, the situation appeared no better…

“Oh,” Fanny wailed, “I feel like I’m the last girl in the world. This is so depressing. Really, I’m not sure I’m suited to this sort of malarkey – not psychologically anyway. Physically I’m nice and fit and loaded with potions; but my ego and self-confidence could do with a boost.”

Then, as if on cue the detector that the RoboSecGuas had given her chimed pleasantly.

“Ooh,” she said – her mood brightening, “that sounds rather more interesting.” To the voice-controlled device, she said: “Give me a heading. Which way do I go?”

To which the hastily-designed gizmo replied: “proceed one hundred and fifteen metres in a westerly direction.”

Naturally the female artisan knew next to nothing about compass headings; so she tried a random direction. The device responded with:

“Please turn around and retrace your steps two and three-quarter metres; turn through sixty-seven degrees and proceed one hundred and fifteen metres in a westerly direction.”

Fanny was impressed. “Very intuitive.” She said admiringly. “Those security robots sure know their stuff.

By chance Fanny’s route took her past several competing artisan outlets…

“Emily Dumbleton,” she scoffed, “Emily Dumbass more like. She calls herself an artisan; huh. Specialisation: Brussels Sprouts. More like a fartisan to me!”

Any further denigration of her fellow artisans was cut short when Fanny entered a long tunnel she recognised would take her out of the citadel at its northern end…

“The only problem I have with the oldest quarter of Lemon Stone,” her voice echoed off the cold stone walls, “is that it’s a bit…um…up-and-downy.”

Very few of her friends and colleagues were aware that Fanny had a dislike for uneven surfaces. She particularly loathed stairs. And even more particularly stone staircases. So it was very unfortunate indeed that shortly after exiting the link tunnel she found herself going arse-over-head down them…

More fortunately she was protected, to a certain extent by her personal deflector bubble, although the final landing could have been better…

For a few moments Fanny and her device became separated. Whether it was the effects of the gas, or the knock on her noggin, she began to hallucinate. She could have sworn she saw Magnuss and Hair-Trigger Earplug performing a popular mariachi number in an alcove, whilst fabulously lit from above by a diffuse glow that shone brightly from the Angel with a Huge Nose’s angelic bottom…

“Magnuss,” she croaked, “I’m one of your greatest fans. Hair-Trigger; you’re an inspiration to all females who long to become bounty hunters.”

Then good sense regained control of her tongue:

“Oh, you silly artisan,” she said in her best chastising voice, “Magnuss and Hair-Trigger are piloting the Tankerville Norris upon some distant uncharted world, where, more than likely they’re coming under heavy fire from a superior alien attack craft…

With that she reattached her personal deflector bubble, and made off in a direction that took her away from Lemon Stone…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

If you would like to read a complete Earplug Adventure, please click here. https://hamsterbritain.wordpress.com/all-earplug-adventures-in-pdf-format-unexpurgated-free/

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Eject With Alacrity!

The ancient alien lifeboat flees the Drunkard’s Vomit with only seconds to spare before the auto-destruct sequence begins. From Climatic Calamity. Fascinating factoid: Apart from the fact that both vessels are made from products found in Tooty’s bathroom – yes that distant airless planetoid really is a chocolate covered digestive biscuit…from the Waitrose Essential range. Tooty doesn’t use just any old chocolate covered digestive you know!

Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part 4)

With exactly 150 photos processed for this first-ever earplug short-story, the photographic part of the job is complete. My mouse hand is feeling the strain, I can tell you. I’m not sure I’ll be able to operate my Yamaha’s throttle properly for the next couple of days. My eyes are kind of bleary too. And my bum is of the numb kind. Oh, how I suffer for my art. But that’s by-the-by: it comes with the territory: on with part 4 of Northern Mist!

Meanwhile Fanny raced through the stone corridors upon her self-imposed mission…

As she did so she gave thanks for her decision to test her potions upon herself. She was certain that no one else in Lemon Stone had the strength and endurance required to battle the effects of the mist whilst running like a looney.

Soon she found herself thundering from the citadel through one of several pedestrian gates…

Within moments she had placed a considerable distance between herself and the vast edifice…

However, as she paused to slake her terrible thirst in a mountainside stream…

…she noted the unusual colour.

“Oh flipping heck,” she wailed, “not only can I not drink from this contaminated stream, but these are the headwaters of the river that carries the coolant for the Museum of Future Technology’s Nul-Space power generator. Oh bugger!”

This new situation reminded Fanny of the wisdom she’d displayed when testing her potions upon herself. Now, more than any time before, she would need the strength and endurance her potions would afford her.

“Right then,” she said, “I’d better a get a bloody move on.”

With that she ran all the way down the seemingly endless flight of steps from Lemon Stone; across the valley below it; and up the other side. Moreover she needed to contend with the mist pursuing her all the way…

…which she did with aplomb, if not a little bitterness:

“Sodding mist,” she growled through mandibles pressed hard against each other and acting as a rudimentary air filter. “Thank the Saint of All Earplugs that the cold temperatures have made my nostrils get all bunged up with coagulated snot. But enough of my physical difficulties: onwards to the Museum of Future Technology!”

Meanwhile, deep within the unsuspecting museum, Rupert Piles busied himself filming two members of Las Chicas De La Playas as they demonstrated one of Anton Twerp’s latest works of art…

“Muy linda,” Carmen said to Belen who stood upon the opposite side of the painting, “but what is it supposed to be?”

“No lo se,” Belen replied, “a colon perhaps? Some liver maybe? No mi gusta!”

Of course the girls and the TV reporter weren’t the only earplugs out and about. In fact the corridors and places of interest were absolutely thronging…

However, as the inhabitants and visitors continued upon their merry way in blissful ignorance, poor little Fanny Gander struggled onwards through a thickening fog of Northern Mist…

By now the situation had worsened to the point where she must squeeze her eyes shut and, using her remaining senses – those being hearing, touch, and smell, guess her direction of travel.

In her semi-delirium she imagined herself seated in a Café Puke outlet beside her best friend, Bubbles Gloor…

But despite her low red blood count, she retained enough intelligence to realise that Bubbles was far away with her boyfriend, aboard the Prowler as they investigated an oceanic world many light years distant from Earth…

“Huh,” she grunted – almost dislodging a lump of bogey in the process, “can’t expect any help from her then.”

Meanwhile, the very thing that Fanny had most feared happened. The dissolved mist in the coolant river evaporated out as the water met the warmer air of the museum interior. The first earplugs to notice it were passengers waiting at the mag-lift train station nearest the intake valves…

“Ugh,” the blue-hootered Belinda Noseguard uttered a moment before she recognised the danger, “what a horrible smell. I’m absolutely dis…”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part 1)

With so many subjects clamouring for Tooty’s attention, the great author/ photographer has been pressed for time regarding the Earplug Adventures. So pressed, in fact that he has managed to create a mere seventy-seven finished scenes for the next wondrous project – that being Northern Mist. However, despite this paucity of material, he thought it best that he share it with you. So, although there’s bugger-all story to date, please try to enjoy the opening barrage of literary and photographic glory. Ladies and Gentlemen…Northern Mist.

Earplug Adventures: Northern Mist

Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023


It was another pleasant evening as the sun set upon the Museum of Future Technology…

A time for inhabitants of that revered emporium of technology from the…urr…future to open their evening news sheets and read an article concerning something dear to their hearts, if not their taste buds.

Details of a catering merger have emerged that could threaten the continued success of the purveyors of the most vile coffee inside the Museum of Future Technology – Cafe Puke. Secret photographs taken in the undeveloped region of the arboretum strongly suggest that construction of a new cafe is well underway…

Although including a distinctive foyer, the building appears to follow the design of the majority of Cafe Puke outlets. However, as this photograph clearly shows, the hoarding apparently makes mention of the rival cafe chain – Skanki Kaffe…

Despite the fact that leaked pictures of the interior do not support this assertion, workers on-site were tight lipped when quizzed about the new-build. Even Rupert Piles and his huge 3D TV camera, (despite trudging back and forth across the doorway all morning) could garner no information…

Nevertheless rumours continue to propagate, particularly when posters purporting that the endeavour is supported by the youngest of the Earplug Brothers – twins Chester and Miles…

…and the famous Ice World scientist Uda Spritzer…

…appeared inside the half-completed future place of business…

Despite denials from Skanki Kaffe that the company has designs on supplanting Cafe Puke as the cafe of choice within the much vaunted and hallowed walls of the Museum of Future Technology, photographic evidence of a conversation between a representative of Skanki Kaffe, and Mister Pong – owner of several Exotic Food restaurants within the museum and the neighbouring conurbation of La Ciudad de Droxford cannot be ignored…

Further evidence came when the museum’s Avatar and the Angel with a Huge Nose were seen blessing the almost complete catering outlet in the middle of the night…

Apparently only the installation of a whooshy, gurgly coffee machine and a futuristic urinal is required to transform the building from a potential cafe into a proper emporium for the celebration of the humble coffee bean – complete with labels such as Cafe au Belch, Vomitino, and Desalinated – all well-known labels belonging to Skanki Kaffe. When interviewed through the side window of a Cafe Puke concession, general manager, Cool-Dude Plantagenate…

…was quoted as saying: “Couldn’t give a plugmutt’s arse. Bring it on Skanki: your Vomitino aint got nothing on our Crappachino: it’s almost potable!”

We await developments.

Chapter One

As sunset turned to night, high within the distant snow-capped mountains, electric  lights began to flicker into incandescence. The mountaintop citadel of Lemon Stone was pushing back the darkness…

Inside his artisan’s workshop, Dumper Collins was busy developing his latest farting gourde. With his back to the sturdy wattle and daub wall, he pleaded with the gourde to display the ability to produce hitherto unimaginable amounts of noxious gases from its centrally located pseudo-bottom…

At the same time, a pair of Lemon Stone police officers became aware of Fanny Gander, as she exited the public lavatory in the Artisan’s quarter, on her way home for tea…

“Nice bum.” One of them said to the other.

“Best keep that to yourself,” the second officer whispered in reply, “Fanny absolutely hates any sexist talk. If she finds out you’ve been ogling her rear end, she’s likely to yank your helmet from your head and shove it up yours!”

“Oh,” the first officer responded nervously, “she’s that strong, is she?”

“She creates potions.” The reply came quietly. “They include potions for strength and endurance. She always tries them on herself before she places them on sale in the market square. So, yes she really is that strong.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023


Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: A Monster Farts

This post first appeared in another (ghastly, vile, and hugely unpopular) blog.

Lost and alone in the bitter cold, mountain pea farmer, Frank Tonsils believes that he might be hallucinating. After all, one doesn’t expect to meet a flatulent multi-legged monster on a snowy mountainside. From Natural Selection. Fascinating factoid: The ‘monster’ was created by adding a home-made stick-on eye to a piece of torn nylon weave that had originally protected a 2-tonne pack of processed timber whilst in transit. Obviously the ‘fart’ was added later.

Revel in the Ribaldry 38

T’was March 2022 when the last Revel in the Ribaldry appeared in these hallowed cyber-pages. So I funk it was about time Number 38 poked its head above the parapet. No dilly-dallying; on with an extract from my favourite book of all time by whatever author you care to mention. Yes, it’s my…

Here follows an extract from Chapter Six – A Pocket of Empire. For the benefit of anyone who has never experienced this fabulous e-book, it is actually a collection of short stories that have been ingeniously linked together in one narrative by your host.

Colonel Goliath Van Spoon was Lieutenant LaMerde’s commanding officer. For a hamster he was remarkably large. Some had even described him as ‘hulking’. And also unlike those he led, Van Spoon was neither French nor hamster-sexual. He was Dutch, and he wore outrageously large clogs, and hung large photographs of polders, dykes, and naked females upon his office wall, just to emphasize the fact. And right now he was seated behind a cheap chipboard desk where he listened to his subordinate’s report.

“For sure. For sure.” Van Spoon would nod as each interesting piece of information was imparted.

“So you see, Sir,” LaMerde concluded, “The peasants are revolting.”

“For sure they’re revolting,” Van Spoon agreed, “They never wash as far as I can tell. I can smell the village from my billet – and that’s saying something, man: The latrine outflow pipe is situated just below it.”

LaMerde silently ground his incisors together. It was his opinion the Colonel was unfit for duty. His mind tended to wander into the esoteric at inopportune times; and his decision-making process was often interfered with by the consumption of alcoholic beverages that were supplied by the Hamster-British owners of the castle. As a result of this several patrols had been forced to fight their way back to the safety of the castle through besieging trinket-sellers; swarming insects; and the occasional gang of wandering prostitutes – only to be told to go back out again and knock properly.

Van Spoon appeared to make a decision. He said, “Let’s take this upstairs.”

LaMerde’s shoulders slumped.  ‘Upstairs’ meant a visit to Sir Cuthbert and Lady Agatha Strawberry-Nose.

“Should we really, Sir?” he tried to dissuade his commanding officer, “I mean – they’re hardly likely to give us sound advice, are they? After all it was the French Florid Legion who dispossessed them of their nice retirement home, turned it into a fortress, and forced them to live in the highest turret.”

It was a well-reasoned argument, but Van Spoon would have no truck with it. “For sure I’m thinking that you don’t trust our reticent hosts, LaMerde: Is that because they are Hamster-British?”

LaMerde discovered himself speechless: He simply couldn’t believe that the colonel was accusing him of being racist. In fact he had an entirely different reason for wanting to avoid Lady Agatha Strawberry-Nose, but he felt that he wasn’t at liberty to divulge that information.

Van Spoon took his subordinate’s silence as contrition. “For sure I was thinking that. Well, Lieutenant, I have a little treat for you. Follow me.”

With that he thrust his chair backwards, hopped over the desk like the Olympic hurdler that he’d been in his youth, and was out of the door before you could say “By the Saint of All Hamsters!”

With the fear that his career with the French Florid Legion was in jeopardy, LaMerde followed in haste.

A few minutes later Van Spoon and LaMerde had climbed the long spiral staircase to the living quarters of the elderly Hamster-British citizens – Sir Cuthbert and Lady Agatha Strawberry-Nose. Van Spoon rapped sharply upon the soft balsa wood door. It gave alarmingly beneath his meaty knuckles, which resulted in what appeared to be permanent, and rather unsightly indentations. He noticed this, and immediately stepped back. “For sure this soft wood gives alarmingly beneath my meaty knuckles.” He said – before lifting LaMerde from the ground and depositing him directly in front of the door.

It was not a moment too soon for Van Spoon: The door fairly whipped open as though it was attached to a powerful elastic cord with a nasty temper.

Lady Agatha’s face appeared in the door frame. She regarded the indentations left by the colonel’s knuckles. Then she looked at LaMerde who stood before her with a sickly smile upon his hamstery face. For a moment it appeared that she might explode in anger, but then she caught sight of LaMerde’s whiskers as they shook violently with trepidation inside his gargantuan hood.

“Serge!” The plump aristocratic female hamster pulled the lieutenant to her heaving bosom, and hugged him close, “Why you naughty male.” She admonished cheerfully, “You’ve been going under-cover with the natives again. One of these days they’ll catch you – and do all sorts of ghastly things to you. Oh I couldn’t bear it: I might never see your handsome face again!”

Van Spoon could see that his subordinate was uncomfortable. In fact he noticed that he wasn’t actually breathing anymore, and was turning a nasty shade of blue.

“Madam,” he said as he extricated the female’s fingers from around the slender frame of the junior ranking officer, “we are here to ask for your husband’s advice.”

Naturally Lady Agatha complied: To have refused would have been a terrible social faux pas. And so the two Legionaries were ushered into the presence of the castle’s true owner.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

This book – amazingly – remains on-sale. You can link to the better-known vendors via the Tooty’s E-Books Available to Buy Here page. It’s not expensive either – despite being the best book in the world. Oh, and it’s rude too.


Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Disappearing Act

The heroic Catering Assistant apparently ceases to exist moments before the destruction of the Drunkard’s Vomit.

From the fabulous 2022 story, Climatic Calamity

…which (as everyone knows) is available as a free PDF by simply clicking on the cover art.


Complete ‘Veil of Shytar’ Absolutely Free!

Yes, it’s that time again. That time when I give away the latest e-book in PDF form for you to either read on-line or download for home consumption. And that e-book is (of course) The Veil of Shytar. So just click on the cover image and it’s all yours to enjoy and (possibly) pore over and discuss its intellectual merits and nice pictures. In fact, should you be a university student or similar, perhaps you could write thesis on the evolution and development of the Earplug Adventures from early stream-of-consciousness witterings to the literary genius you see today – or something along those lines. But I digress: if you know what’s good for you, click that cover now. Read something unique!

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 30)

So here we are – al final. We’ve made it through twelve chapters together. Another Earplug Adventure has been survived. All that remains is the epilogue. This is it: go for it!


As one might imagine, the voyage home along the hyper-space conduit was rapid and uneventful…

However, as the Prowler entered the atmosphere above Lemon Stone, the ship’s foul-weather sensors initiated an amber alert…

“Oh, I didn’t expect that.” Bubbles exclaimed. “After such an adventure I assumed it would all be plain sailing until we landed.”

“Nah,” Barclay replied as he cast a quick glance out of his side window, “it’s peeing down out there. Looks like a storm. Even worse than the one we can expect in the Star Chamber.”

He wasn’t wrong either…

High winds and sudden downdraughts tossed the small craft of space like a leaf as lightning lit up the sky all around.

Much to her surprise, the buffeting made Bubbles feel decidedly nauseous…

“Take the controls, will you darling.” She said before slipping off her safety belt and throwing up over the back of her pilot’s seat.

Barclay, unused to flying the craft in any conditions, quickly lost his way in the bad weather; reduced altitude; and soon found himself staring at the towers of Ciudad de Droxford…

“Oh, Sweetie,” he called, “Wipe the drool from your chin and take command, would you: we’re about to crash into a city.”

The threat of imminent death quickly rallied Bubbles’ mental and physical reserves. Throwing herself back into her seat, she re-took control…

“Honestly, Barclay,” she complained, “all you had to do is keep it flying straight and level!”

Barclay smiled at this. He knew that. He’d just lost control because he wanted Bubbles to think she was indispensible – which, of course she was.

“I know,” Bubbles then added as her stomach settled and her mood lightened, “Since we’re here, we might as well stop off for a coffee. Yes, that would be very nice: we can sit and watch the world go by…in the pouring rain.”

Meanwhile, below on an average city street…

…Miles Earplug was deep in conversation with Mister Pong.

“I don’t know why you were so fired up about opening a restaurant in Ciudad de Droxford.” He said in his best ‘annoyed’ voice. “When it isn’t being levelled by alien invaders, it rains like a monsoon! It doesn’t rain in the Museum of Future Technology: you can have an outdoor café there, and everyone is guaranteed to stay dry. You wouldn’t have to wear your stupid Evil Mister Pong hat either!”

By coincidence, some twenty minutes later, another group of earplugs had decided that talk of cafes should be translated into action.  Captain Cedric Mantequilla led the bridge crew of the Brian Talbot into the Avenida de Rueben Snook branch of the Café Puke…

…and failed utterly to notice the new galactic heroes enjoying the view through a large picture window…

“It’s lovely to be back in the city again, isn’t it Darling?” Bubbles inquired after sipping from her glass of crappachino, before placing it back on the table top.

“Too right, Sweetie.” Barclay replied, “After the aridness of Worstworld, this piddling rain and thunderstorm is almost welcome.”

“Talking of welcomes,” Bubbles said nervously, “I wonder what Sir Loftus is going to say tomorrow.”

“Doesn’t really matter.” Barclay mumbled. “We’re gonna lose our jobs whatever. But after our little escapade, we should get jobs at the Museum of Future Technology no problem: they’re crying out for heroic types like us.”

Bubbles lowered her voice to a whisper;

“At least that would mean we wouldn’t have to apply for jobs at the Café Puke. I enjoy their foul muck; but I wouldn’t want to serve it up.”

Bubbles and Barclay decided that it would probably be best if they waited until the next day before visiting the Star Chamber. So, shortly after dawn, they steadied their nerves and strode purposefully into the strangely-lit board room…

Barclay decided to be bold…

“Hi, everybody: I hope you slept well. We certainly did. It’s tiring work – saving entire worlds from utter devastation. I guess you’d like the Prowler back now – huh?”

The Chamber Pots were entirely wrong-footed by this approach. All they could do was either stare in stupefaction or look at each other for guidance. As was fitting for the Chairman of the Board, Sir Loftus Pupe recovered his wits quickest…

“Not necessarily.” He replied.

Bubbles leaned back in surprised. “No?” She queried.

“No.” Sir Loftus replied. “Until a few hours ago the situation would have looked very different. BINS would have most certainly been closed down and its senior staff laid off – permanently. The Punting-Modesty R and D department would have been poring over their prototype craft in an effort to see how much damage it had incurred. I personally would probably have been taking a blood pressure tablet. But none of this has come to be.”

“Ah…” Barclay politely raised a hand to interrupt, “but that’s good, isn’t it?”

“For all concerned.” Sir Loftus concurred. Then a smile spread across his normally austere visage. “It’s very good. Jolly good, even. Absolutely bloody smashing in fact. When your rescue of Worstworld appeared on the Galactic News Channel, the phone didn’t stop ringing. E-mails abounded. Our servers went down under the strain. Staff have been run ragged. Orders for the Prowler have been flooding in ever since. Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage: if you never do another thing wrong again in your lives, you won’t make a better mistake than stealing the prototype Prowler. Not only did it lead to the salvation of a world and the civilisation that lived upon it; but, more importantly, that single act has saved the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company from bankruptcy. Overnight we’ve gone from minnows to whales!”

“Tadpoles to great white sharks.” Jasmine Greentea interjected.  

“Quite right, Jazzy.” Sir Loftus responded. Then, turning his attention to the youngsters once more, he said:

“As a result of this unqualified success, we’ve elected to refrain from punishing you in any way whatsoever. No punitive action will be taken. You will be charged with no crime. You will, however, be required to take ownership of the prototype Prowler. You will be required to return it to Punting-Modesty for its free first service. You will also need to insure it. Okay?”

Anyone with a feather at hand could have knocked over both Bubbles and Barclay with a single waft. “I…I…guess.” Barclay replied after looking into Bubbles’ laughing eyes. “We’ll…um…get it over to the workshop right away: it could use an oil change. And a rear-facing atomic cannon would be nice too.”

“Duly noted.” Sir Loftus replied. “Have fun.”

With that they were applauded out of the Star Chamber…

“Ready for another adventure, Bubs?” Barclay inquired.

“Any time, any place, anywhere – with you, Barkie.” Bubbles replied.

So, a few hours later, the Prowler’s oil change complete, and a new rear-facing atomic cannon slotted in beside the garbage hatch, the Museum of Future Technology was treated to a one-ship fly-past…

There was a galaxy waiting up there, beyond the sky: now they had the means, Bubbles and Barclay had every intention of experiencing as much of it as was earpluggishly possible!

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, the suggestion of a future sequel. Well why not – we all like Bubbles and Barclay, don’t we? But that will do for 2022: it was a very productive year in the Earplug Adventure department. Already I have a title for the next tale. I have no idea what will happen, but the title came to me when I accidentally  misheard the lyrics to Roxy  Music’s ‘More Than This‘. The next tale will be titled ‘Northern Mist‘. Ooh, that’s a challenge.


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 29)

If the Earplug Adventures were the NFL, this would be the last regular season game. Only the  Playoffs to come… 

Meanwhile high above them, the remnants of the Veil of Shytar appeared to be dissipating…

“Would you look at that!” Augustus Pronk exclaimed as his mauve companion looked across at him with an expressionless…er…expression

…“That would have been you – if we hadn’t dragged you away in an empty catering-sized tofu canister!”

“You have my gratitude, Augustus.” Mister Mauve replied. “But now that I exist outside of the artificial realm of the Veil of Shytar…what am I going to do?”

“I expect I’m officially decreed as deceased.” Pronk wagered. “The wife has probably re-married, and the kids have grown up. I still can’t stand the thought of living in a city again: so how about we live together in a cave somewhere? Failing that – a tent or beneath a tree or hedge – after they’ve grown some, of course. I look forward to seeing hedges: I’ve only ever read about them.” 

Mister Mauve might have replied to this kind offer of a life shared, but before he could, Bubbles yelled:

“Look: the veil: it’s faded away completely!”

And it had too!

Now only a brown dwarf star remained.

“Are you sure that’s bright enough to warm your planet?” Barclay asked Pronk doubtfully.

“Well if it isn’t,” Pronk replied, “we’d better get used to wearing snow shoes.”

“If that should happen,” Bubbles reminded Barclay, “the Goosewing Grey can always return with its gravitonic multiplicitor and move the planet formerly known as Worstworld to a closer orbit. I wonder what they’ll re-name it.”

“Don’t know: don’t care.” Pronk said to this. “What I am interested in is returning to my world: I’ve been gone a long time you know – and a male earplug can stand only so much gentle surf breaching upon sandy beaches.”

“You didn’t like it?” A surprised Mister Mauve asked.

“Not after Year Five.” Pronk replied. “If that cliff had been any higher, I swear I would have thrown myself from it. No, if I ever live beside water again, it will have to be very still – like a huge placid lake. Yes, that’d be nice.”

Pronk then addressed the earplug couple:

“Can you take me down there? I rather fancy to reconnoitre for somewhere to live. Maybe a cave. Maybe an old abandoned shack. Can we go?”

Well neither earplug at the controls could think of one good reason not to, so a few minutes later…

…the Prowler swept across the sandy desert upon which Fort Dunderhead stood. Already the Seventh Cavalry had begun their first patrol.

“I wonder what they expect to find.” Bubbles said.

“I imagine they’re just going through the motions.” Barclay opined. “You know, waiting to be told what to do by the central government – when it gets itself organised. It could take a while. Of course if they find any of that star material that made its way past the veil…well they could be in the money.”

Such was the vessel’s speed that by the time Barclay finished his lecture, it had carried them miles away…

“Barclay,” Bubbles chirruped excitedly, “that looks like open water. I’ve never seen it before. It must have been forced up by those huge impacts.”

“Didn’t you want a lake-side residence, Augustus?” Barclay inquired of the sole native present.

“As long as it isn’t brackish.” Pronk replied. “Can’t stand the taste of salt.”

Fortunately Bubbles had scanned through the user manual for the Prowler, so she was able to use the sensors to determine the salt content of the water below. “Looking good,” she said finally, “Wanna land?”

Shortly the Prowler’s engines cooled as the foursome disembarked and stood upon the unusually natural-coloured soil of Worstworld…

“This’ll do nicely.” Pronk said as he looked about him. “Yep. I noticed a small town as we flew over: it reminded me of Busted Gut. I know a few guys there: they should put me up for a while until I can find my feet, so-to-speak. You coming, Mister Mauve?”

Mister Mauve sniffed the air. “So this is reality, is it?” he said appreciatively, “Methinks I’ll sample a little of it. Yes, I will accompany you Mister Pronk. We can regale the citizens of Busted Gut with tales of the Veil of Shytar. That should pay for our supper – and breakfast too – just as long as it’s toast and not tofu.”

So Bubbles and Barclay made their farewells and promised to keep in touch, then blasted skyward again…

“Well you had your little adventure on Worstworld.” Barclay said as the Prowler gained altitude…

…”do you think it’s time to go home and face the music?”

In the name of clarity Bubbles asked:

“The Star Chamber, you mean?”

“Sir Loftus Pupe and all the other Chamber Pots.” Barclay said carelessly. “After what we’ve seen and done, I hardly think they are going to worry us any.”

“You’re right, Barclay,” Bubbles replied as the Prowler regained the freedom of outer space…

…”We’ll just say goodbye to Bonzer and the Goosewing Grey, and then be on our way.”

And that’s exactly what they did…

“Bye, Captain Dragonsrectum,” Bubbles called over the radio, “have a nice trip back to Scroton.”

“Safe journey, brave earplugs.” Bonzer replied. “May good fortune fill your sails.”

“Metaphorically speaking.” The Science Officer added in the background.

And they were gone – both ships disappearing into entirely different hyper-space conduits to entirely different destinations.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Next up will be the epilogue. But until then, shots of particular note are: 5, which began life as a sheet of insulation material that I burnt with a heatshrink gun, then placed upon a sheet of translucent plastic through which I shone a light. 6 is two slices of wood that I cut from an interesting length of 4×2, sandwiching a sheet of completely different insulation material. I’ve had the shot ready for at least three years; finally it gets its day in the spotlight. And 9: for this shot I needed something roughly spherical and with an interesting surface to represent the night side of Worstworld. Tooty the Chef came to the rescue by supplying a pleasant buttock.  As everyone knows, furry bums create convincing cloud patterns.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 28)

So close to the end now. I always hate this part of the story. Still, we’re not there yet. Enjoy while you can. Proceed…

All the while, the Veil of Shytar stood unbending and resolute against the phenomenal onslaught of a dying star…

“I think it’s doing ever so well.” Bubbles opined. She then looked at Barclay when she realised how inadequate her choice of words had been…

“Well we’re still here.” He responded. “The cabin temperature hasn’t moved up a single notch.”

He then chose to eat those words when the fiery destructive power of the star began breaking through the veil…

“Would you like salt and pepper on those?” Bubbles said tartly.

Barclay chose not to reply, which was just as well because it might only have confused Mister Mauve and Augustus Pronk as they rushed into the cockpit for a better view of events outside the hull…

“It’s like a bloody sauna in the lounge.” Pronk explained.

“And if there was a lavatory bowl,” Mister Mauve added, “the water inside would be simmering nicely.”

Upon the planet, great bolts of stellar material began bombarding the sandy surface…

…tearing through the abandoned cities in their shallow sub-surface chasms…

Despite this, the creators of the Veil of Shytar had built their tool well. Though failing in hot-spots, most of it remained battered, bruised, but intact…

Moreover, as quickly as it had begun, the star’s powers diminished, and the veil could relax. It seemed to those watching that it appeared to flow languidly and coalesce in a most colourful and pleasing manner…

As the tension drained from his shoulders, Barclay said:

“Now that really is nice. And look; I can see the stars and darkness of space beyond it. Bubbles, it’s over. We’ve done it. Worstworld is saved!”

Inside Fort Dunderhead, the officers and troopers of the Seventh Cavalry rushed on to the parade ground to gaze in awe and wonder at a sky that held no ghastly blue pallor…

Naturally the Major led them in three rousing cheers for whatever had been responsible for freeing the planet of its blue tyranny.

“And look at us,” the pink-eyed female cavalry-plug announced, “don’t we look something in our fabulous olive green outfits!”

“That’s ‘uniforms’, darling.” R Swypes said out the side of his smile. “Not ‘outfits’. Outfits are for dancing girls: you’re a military type: maintain the correct parlance.”

Moreover, the Major felt compelled to dispel the doubts of Sergeant Ottershoe concerning their technical equipment. He leapt aboard the first vehicle he could find and sounded the hooter…

“Hurrah, it works,” he bellowed in tune with the discordant horn, “It’s a win-win situation!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Photos of note include the red veil shot, which is actually the sun shining through the rear light cluster of my Skoda Octavia. It was another one of those “Ooh that looks interesting, I think I’ll take a picture,” shots. The sub-surface city getting blasted was obtained in a relatively interesting manner. I had discovered that if I filmed movement against a dark background, but with a powerful light sourse pointing at the camera, then shot with (specifically) my Canon Ixus 180, and played on my laptop using VLC Player, I could get single-frame pixelation that created all sorts of amazing images. In this example, I then tarted up the resulting screen shot and coloured it red. All clever (or serendipidous) stuff.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 27)

So this is it: the episode when the star finally does its thing…

What they saw from thirty-thousand feet horrified them both. Energy discharges were sparking off the metallic content in several mountain peaks…

“Back up.” Barclay yelled. “This is no place for a high-tech device. Back up!”

Bubbles heeded his warning, and seconds later the Prowler re-joined the Goosewing Grey – just as the Veil of Shytar made rendezvous with Worstworld…

“It doesn’t look big enough to shield the entire planet.” Bubbles remarked.

Captain Drangonsrectum must have harboured similar doubts. Despite the static created by the malcontent star, his voice crackled over the radio:

“This thing does get bigger, I hope. Like this it’ll only be good enough to protect the Goosewing and the Prowler!

Barclay heard a muffled voice through the door that lead to the R&R lounge. It belonged to Augustus Pronk:

“Oh ye of little faith.”

“Of course it will expand, you nincompoops.” Mister Mauve added.

Down on the surface of the planet – or, to be more precise, in the sandy wastelands beside Fort Dunderhead, several cavalry-plugs had taken themselves outside for a good view of the celestial event that would determine whether they would live or die…

“Oh-ur,” one of them said to another, “I don’t half feel exposed out here.”

“Hmmm, me too.” His comrade replied. “But if we took off all our clothes, we might get a really good over-all tan.”

Of course, from their vantage point they had no opportunity to see the Veil – as if on cue – expand and manoeuvre into a position that placed it directly between the star and its sole inhabited planet…

Then the moment arrived. The blue-giant gave no warning. It didn’t convulse or wobble or anything like that. It just went BLAM…

Aboard the Prowler, Bubbles and Barclay’s retinas were saved when the forward viewer darkened to protect them…

“Barclay,” Bubbles screamed, “I can’t believe this is happening. Hold me. Crush me to your breast!”

Barclay tried to inject some levity:

“Sounds good.” He said. “I’d invite you into the R&R lounge, but Augustus and Mister Mauve are watching events through the side windows: I wouldn’t want to offend them.”

Aboard the Goosewing Grey no one made such an attempt…

It was all professionalism.

“We are recording this, right?” Captain Dragonsrectum inquired.

“We are, Sir,” the Science Officer answered. ”We are also transmitting a live-stream to Scroton and the Galactic News Channel. This should be going out all over known space and possibly beyond – you never know.”

Upon Scroton, Nigel and Beatrix were leading a charge across a quiet plaza in Scroton Prime…

“If we miss this, I’m going to spit venom.” Beatrix gasped through tortured lungs. “I mean, having all those huge Three-Dee screens mounted in public places will have been a complete waste of time and money – not to mention ruined expectations!”

But she need not have worried. They arrived just in time to see the time-delayed explosion in its full, glorious blueness…

“Ooh…pretty.” Someone said from the back. “I wish I had a bathroom that colour.”

“Take that man’s name,” Nigel responded to the inadequacy of the statement, “We need a new lavatory cleaner in the parliamentary building.”

Surprisingly, and despite their proximity to the disaster, Fort Dunderhead could also receive the Galactic News footage…

“You did set the video cassette recorder to capture this moment, I hope?” Major Left-Foot Badger said to his adjutant. 

“We’ve moved on a bit since the VCR,” Lieutenant R Swypes replied. “We have a digital PVR now. And yes it is recording this for posterity.”

“Well let’s hope we don’t get an electro-magnetic pulse from that explosion that fries digital stuff.” Sergeant Lance Ottershoe said as he stood beside the officers, “I’m not expecting any of the armoured personnel carriers to function properly after this. Give me good old-fashioned analogue electronics: they’re so much more dependable.”

“Lousy TV picture though.” The Major replied.

Far away, upon Earth and the Museum of Future Technology, night held dominion over day…

As a Submarine Space Freighter launched upon one of many voyages to other worlds, inside visitors and inhabitants of the museum were being treated to scenes of the exploding blue-giant…

And they didn’t like what they saw. In fact they refused to look.

Further, in one of the multifarious Café Puke outlets, a customer who had been imbibing café cortados for over an hour, passed out with shock…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Notable shots in this segment must include 1, which is the reverse negative of one of Tooty the Chef’s creations. 5, which, if you’ve ever read/suffered the original earplug story – 2014’s The Museum of Future Technology – you might recognise this as a slight re-work of the proton torpedo one of the Earplug Brothers hoped to see upon ,entering the building for the very first time. It’s an out-of-focus Christmas light, by the way. I had no SFX back then. And 12. It was only after I tried to shoehorn the giant wall screen into the picture that I realised that everyone would have their backs turned to it. So I went with the idea of their collective denial. Well its probably what they would have done anyway: most earplugs are not really the heroic types.


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 26)

As a continuance of the episode length experiment, I’ll keep this one brief as well. Continue to absorb the wondrous tale…

Chapter 12

Whilst Mister Mauve washed and dried the coffee glasses, Bubbles and Barclay learned a great deal about the Veil of Shytar. They learned, for example that it had been waiting millennia in silence and solitude for this event, but unfortunately had forgotten the fact when its attention shifted to the problem of keeping Augustus Pronk alive and well. As the strange, shadow-free being told them of the Veil’s mission to protect the planet, now known as Worstworld, from the blue-giant star’s pre-calculated and inevitable expansion, they came to realise that the Universe contained more wise ancient civilisations than they’d imagined. Those beneficent aliens that brought sentience and civilisation to Scroton were not unique. Altruism, it seemed, ran deep through this particular region of the Galaxy.

“So you always intended to protect Worstworld?” Bubbles said to Mister Mauve as Augustus Pronk presented himself to them in the old space suit he’d salvaged from the wreck of his space ship…

“Indeed this is so.” Mister Mauve replied as he failed utterly to appreciate the aesthetics of Pronk’s extra-vehicular apparel. “The Veil, and others like it, was designed specifically to defend planets from their own stars.  I have no idea how many fledgling civilisations the Veils have saved through the ages; but if it wasn’t for you two, Worstworld would not have been one of them.”

Barclay, unused to compliments replied:

“Well…you know…”

Bubbles did slightly better:

“Synchronicity.” She said. “It’s a funny old thing. If we hadn’t been sent to the Museum of Future Technology: if we hadn’t found the plans for the alien life-boat: if Punting-Modesty hadn’t built such a brilliant ship from those plans: if they hadn’t put us aboard to show it off to the public…”

“If we hadn’t then stolen it, and come to play silly-buggers on a doomed world…” Barclay interrupted.

“…None of this would have happened.” Pronk spoke from the table top. “And my petty concerns would have been responsible for destroying a whole world and everything that lives upon it. So, to salve my conscience, might I suggest we depart the Veil and let it do its job?”

“Yes, you must all leave immediately.” Mister Mauve said as they hurried along a corridor…

“Hey, what do you mean about ‘you all’?” Bubbles complained. “Surely it should be ‘we all’?”

“I can’t come.” Mister Mauve retorted. “I belong here.”

Augustus Pronk became an instant ally to Bubbles. “So what are you going to do here – without me to look after?” He said to Mister Mauve. “Without me you have no purpose.”

Mister Mauve didn’t reply. He didn’t lessen his pace either. “Hurry,” he said, “Bubbles’ estimate of six days before the star explodes is optimistic. It is going critical as we speak.”

Pronk was not to be put off. “Great,” he said, “so the Veil of Shytar – which I remind you I named first – races to the rescue. What becomes of it when the star explodes?” 

“Most probably it will be eroded by the fantastic energies thrown against it. Ultimately it will fail.” Mister Mauve informed them all, “Hopefully after the star has shrunk back to become a brown dwarf.”

“And you with it.” Pronk growled. “What would be the point of that? You punched me in the face once: if you don’t come with us, I’m gonna punch you right back.”

“And I’ll kick you right up the arse.” Barclay added. “You do have an arse, I suppose?”

Mister Mauve sighed. “Oh, very well.” He grumbled. “If you can find a means of transporting me to the Prowler, I’ll come along for the ride. But I don’t think you’ll be able to find that means, so it’s a moot point really.”

Five minutes later Augustus Pronk was pushing a large restaurant-specification tofu container before him as he approached the rend he’d cut in the fabric of the veil all those years previously…

Naturally Bubbles and Barclay followed in their…er…bubbles.

Well it was easy after that, and soon Mister Mauve and Pronk regarded the tofu container in the Prowler’s R&R lounge…

Mister Mauve still had a smear of tofu on his head. “I never understood why you saved up all those food containers.” He said. “It wasn’t like they could be re-cycled or anything. Strictly speaking they’re not really real: the Veil constructed them by converting energy into matter. They weren’t worth the effort to convert them back.”

“Bet you’re glad I did though, huh?” Pronk replied cheerfully. “Now let’s go see if we can find a wash basin aboard this technological wonder.”

Meanwhile, the pilot and her pseudo-navigator had resumed the cockpit…

A planet proximity alarm drew their attention to the view of Worstworld through Barclay’s side window…

“Oh Barclay,” Bubbles whimpered, “it looks like a big blue billiard ball!”

“Yeah,” Barclay agreed, “try saying that after seven or eight rum and colas.”

“I don’t like the look of it.” Bubbles continued. “I don’t know if the Worstworld upgrades are up to the task of protecting this ship’s inner workings; but I gotta take a closer look. Hold tight: I’m dipping into the atmosphere.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Shorter? Longer? About right?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 23)

So, this is it: the bit when they make contact with (in stentorian tones) The Veil of Shytar!

Meanwhile, aboard the Prowler which was standing off at a supposed safe distance…

…Barclay was wondering what the flipping heck was going on…

“Bubs, please tell me they are going to operate the Gravitonic Multiplicitor soon: I can’t stand the suspense.”

“I expect they have lots of calculations and stuff.” Bubbles replied. “They can’t be expected to swing into town and start firing from the hip straight away: they need to check things out first. But, gosh, I wish they’d get a bloody move on. Every second could be critical. I’ve worked out why the hyperspace conduit collapsed, by the way. It was Worstworld’s star: its convulsing and sending out powerful gravity waves that are impacting on nearby hyperspace.”

“Wow, impressive.” Barclay responded. “How do you know that?”

“The Goosewing Grey’s Science Officer sent me a text while Bonzer was pretending to visit the gravitonic multiplicitor.” Bubbles confessed. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

“Disappoint me?” A puzzled Barclay inquired.

“For a moment you thought I figured all that stuff out by myself.” Bubbles explained. “I could see how impressed you were.”

“I was.” Barclay replied. “And I still am. You are one seriously impressive female, Bubbles. It’s one of many attributes that make me proud that we’re here together – you and I.”

Bubbles would have responded to this, but just as she pursed her lips in consideration, something happened at the Veil of Shytar…

The Goosewing Grey had let rip with the gravitonic multiplicitor…

Any second now, Bubbles and Barclay expected to watch as the vast space anomaly began its long fall towards the blue-giant star. But, to their horror, as the gravitonic multiplicitor paused to recharge, the veil went mysteriously dark.

Aboard the ship of Scroton, a bridge crew member made a suggestion…

“Ah, might I suggest we go to Vermillion Alert and grab hold of something that’s bolted down? I have a disturbing feeling in my bowels about this.”

Bonzer didn’t require a seconder. He spun the ship about and hit the emergency boost button…

But quicker still the Veil of Shytar expanded exponentially – dwarfing the Goosewing Grey – and glowing brightly. The next second saw all of the gravitonic multiplicitor’s energy gathered up and flung back towards its point of origin…

The Scrotonic energy then grasped the Goosewing Grey and sent it spinning across thousands of miles of empty space…

Inside pandemonium reigned. With their spatial orientation in tatters, no one could begin to guess which way was up and whose nose poked in whose ear…

They simply hung on to their duty stations like interstellar limpets.

However, as the energy dissipated, the Goosewing Grey finally stopped shaking and simply tumbled gently, end over end, towards Worstworld’s distant primary star…

Naturally the Prowler went in pursuit: the ship of Scroton would need stabilising and brought to a halt.

The experience of being hurled across space by the energy of their own gravitonic multiplicitor wasn’t one that any of the crew of the Goosewing Grey expected or particularly enjoyed. In fact one of them failed to enjoy it so much that he or she left an aromatic item in the forward section of the bridge…

“Someone obviously isn’t suited to a life in space.” The Science Officer observed. “But I think we should place that subject on the back burner for the moment: the Prowler has matched velocity with us and is attempting to slow our uncontrolled rotation with a tractor beam.”

“Timely, S.O,” Bonzer commented, “Because, unless my eyes deceive me, the Veil of Shytar appears to be moving in our direction.”

“Oh yes, I do believe you’re right.” The Science Officer said as he looked up at the holographic viewer, “that can’t be good.”

“It could be an optical illusion.” A crewman suggested.

He was ignored.

“I’m going to make a suggestion, S.O,” Bonzer said gravely, “that might sound incredibly ridiculous. I pre-warn you because I don’t want the crew to think I’m going bonkers and take steps to have me removed from command.”

“Not sure I’m going to like it much myself, Captain.” The Science Officer replied. “Nevertheless I feel duty bound to hear it. Shoot.”

“We should instruct the Prowler to desist with their effort to regain the Goosewing Grey’s stability: we should do that for ourselves – probably by synchronised running from side to side and jumping up and down until the craft has settled into some form of equilibrium.”

“Sounds reasonable so far: continue.”

“Then the Prowler should move to intercept the space anomaly and attempt dialogue with it.”

For a moment the Science Officer stared straight ahead. He didn’t as much as blink.

“S.O,” a concerned Bonzer Dragonsrectum said sharply, “do you ail?”

The Science Officer reanimated. “Sorry, Sir,” he said, “I come from a long line of science officers. It’s a family trait to go into a fugue when thinking deeply. I concur with your suggestion. We can only pray that the brightly-coloured curtain thing possesses sentience. If it’s coming to kick us up the metaphysical arse, there’s not a sodding thing we can do about it.”

Moments later Bubbles and Barclay received a communication from the Goosewing Grey. It was brief and concise…

“I think that spinning is addling their brains.” Barclay opined.

“Could be,” Bubbles replied, “but Captain Dragonsrectum out-ranks us. If he tells us to do something, we really should. How do you talk to a space curtain?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Well that’s that out of the way: now on to the interesting stuff in part 24!

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 22)

Despite all those lovely SFX, Part 21 went down like a lead balloon. I’m rather hoping this one will do better. It’s also a bit SFX heavy, so I’m not hopeful. Obviously readers like the silly exchanges between characters more. I don’t blame them: those are more fun to write too! Anyway, read on…

Two hours later the Prowler and the Goosewing Grey departed Scroton…

Once free of Weird Space, the crew of the Goosewing Grey opened a hyperspace conduit…

…and, with the Prowler in hot pursuit, they plunged their vessel into it.

“Well that’s the tricky part sorted,” Barclay said as they watched the tail lights of the Goosewing Grey bob about in the unusually turbulent conduit. “Now all we need do is move the Veil of Shytar several billion kilometres – before the star explodes.” 

“Piece of cake.” Bubbles replied.

“Hardly a piece of cake.” Barclay scoffed. “More likely impossible.”

“No, a piece of cake.” Bubbles insisted. “I stole two slices of lemon drizzle from a buffet in the Hotel Guano. I knew we wouldn’t get a chance to eat. Fancy some?”

However, an hour or so into the flight Bubbles detected an anomaly…

“Do you feel buffeting?” She inquired of Barclay

Barclay had, but he assumed it was caused by Bubbles’ fidgeting as she tried to make her bottom comfortable upon the pilot’s chair / toilet. “Yes,” he replied, “are you saying it isn’t you?”

Bubbles first thought was, ‘How the heck could I cause the ship to shake? Even if I wiggled my bum from side to side and hopped up and down, I couldn’t create buffeting!’ Instead she moved on:

“Yes.” She answered Barclay’s question, “I am. Something outside is doing it.”

“But this is hyperspace.” Barclay argued. “There isn’t anything outside. Strictly speaking there isn’t anything at all. Hyperspace is the absence of space/time.”

“Okay,” Bubbles said, following a pause to think further, “something is making hyperspace shake – and that’s what’s buffeting the Prowler.

By now the buffeting had worsened. “I’m inclined to agree.” Barclay said as he checked for any signs of the hull rupturing or bolts undoing themselves. “And, look: the Goosewing Grey is having a hard time keeping an even keel!”

It was at that moment that the Scrotonic ship contacted them. Two Cable Ends appeared on the front viewer…

“This is Captain Bonzer Dragonsrectum.” Bonzer introduced himself. “Are you having difficulties?”

Bubbles confessed that they were and that she was beginning to feel decidedly ‘icky’.

“That’s what I thought,” Bonzer replied to this. “It appears that the hyperspace conduit is becoming unstable. If we don’t depart it before it collapses, we may never re-enter normal space. Thought you ought to know.”

“What’s causing it?” Barclay asked.

“It would take a massive upheaval in regular space to affect a conduit.” The green-eyed cable end beside Bonzer answered. “That’s why, as science officer aboard the Goosewing Grey, I’m loathe to drop back into normal space willy-nilly. I have no idea what we’ll find there.”

Bubbles checked the Prowler’s chronometer. “It won’t be long before we have to exit anyway.” She said. “We’re coming up on the location of the Veil of Shytar.”

“It’s just as well.” Bonzer replied. “I don’t think this conduit can hang together much longer. Prepare for emergence into normal space.”

A few seconds later the two ships burst from the conduit – just as it began to collapse…

“Yikes, that was close.” Barclay shouted over the noise of cheering cable ends that erupted from the communicator. “Now let’s see where we are.”

Well he didn’t have to look far…

…dead ahead the strange cosmic curtain hung like a…um…curtain against a backdrop of stars.

Aboard the Goosewing Grey, its commander and crew received their first sight of the Veil of Shytar…

“Hmmm,” the Science Officer reacted calmly, “I can see how it got its name: my sphincter is already puckering.”

“No time for fear and trepidation.” Bonzer responded to this minor confession. “You have the con: I’m going to check out the Gravitonic Multiplicitor…”

However, as he emerged from the bridge into the back room in which the Tankerville Norris had always housed its Gravitonic Multiplicitor…

…he remembered that the class of vessels had undergone a refit and that the wondrous device now lay hidden in the forward sensor array.

“Blast and bugger it.” He hissed. “If I go back in now, they’re all going to know that I forgot about the refit. I’m gonna look like a real prat. I know, I’ll just hang around out here for a while; then pretend that I’ve been down to the forward sensor array. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.”

A few minutes later, having quickly grown bored inside the near featureless room, Captain Bonzer Dragonsrectum returned to the bridge and sat himself down…

The Science Officer couldn’t resist passing comment. “That was quick.”

“I’m a fast worker.” Bonzer replied.

“But its two and a half minutes there and two and a half minutes back.” The argument proceeded. “You’ve only been three and a half minutes total.”

“I ran all the way there and all the way back. Like I said: I’m a fast worker.”

“Yet you’re not out of breath and you don’t perspire freely.”

“I keep myself lithe and super-fit. A dash to the sensor array and back is like a stroll in the park to someone like me.”

“Indeed? Then how is that you allowed yourself into the sensor array, yet I have the key to the hatch in my pocket?”

Bonzer spent several panic-stricken nanoseconds considering his response. “Rank hath its privileges.” He snapped. “Now shut up and scan the space anomaly: I wanna know how much bulk we gotta push.”

“Already done, Captain,” The Science Officer replied. “No data. The Veil of Shytar repels all scans – remember?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Well that episode included fabulous SFX with entertaining silly exchanges between characters: how could you not like that!

P.S As I expect you noticed, both interior and exterior shots of the Goosewing Grey were actually the bridge set and model of the Tankerville Norris. Continuity is very important: but not as important as saving me time and effort making new sets and models!

Isn’t It a Bloody Nuisance…

…that when the time comes for me to upload the free e-book version of The Veil of Shytar to this blog, WordPress won’t allow it in EPUB form? PDF does the job – just about: but look how it might appear as nature intended…

It’s just not the same, is it? Of course you could try downloading the PDF and then use an on-line app to convert it into EPUB: but I wouldn’t guarantee the result. It’s a bummer, so it is.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 17)

So Bubbles and Barclay have found their way to Worstworld. They’ve managed to crash the Prowler. What could possibly happen next? Read on…

Soon they lost all track of time. Minutes felt like hours. Hours seemed to last a lifetime. But eventually they sighted a large building which was pretty much in the middle of nowhere…

Barclay made an important observation: “It looks inhabited.”

“Do you think it might be a penitentiary?” Bubbles suggested. “That looks like a gun emplacement in the tall frontal façade.”

“I don’t really care.” Barclay replied. “Just as long as they have running water and somewhere comfy to sit.”

“And a lavatory, of course.” Bubbles added.

Barclay agreed wholeheartedly. “Absolutely a lavatory. If there’s no toilet there, I’m walking straight out again. I don’t care what they say or how insulted they feel. I’m hitting the road. First of all, though, we have to get there. Can you spot an obvious route?”

Fortunately Bubbles could, and before long they were marching resolutely along a well-worn path…

…which was long in the extreme and circumbendibus…

Like very long, but only slightly circumbendibus. However every road must have a beginning and an end, and as they approached the end of this particular road, both earplugs stepped off of the way to bathe in a roadside pond…

…the waters of which Barclay immediately broke wind into. This was fortuitous because in addition to washing off their accumulated filth, Bubbles was also highly entertained. 

“Oh I do like a good fart. And look,” she said as pockets of methane burst delicately above the pond’s surface, “my namesakes.”

But all good things must come to an end, and soon they found themselves standing at the front door of a famous (and completely refurbished and modernised) Fort Dunderhead…

Soon much shouting and kicking of the front door elicited a positive response. A cavalry-plug who introduced himself as Sergeant Lance Ottershoe invited them in and cheerfully conversed as they proceeded across the parade ground…

“I studied Worstworld as an emergency back-up subject at university.” Bubbles informed Lance. “I recall Fort Dunderhead being somewhat smaller and primitive in the text books. This is an entirely different edifice.”

“Yes, nice, isn’t it?” Lance replied. “I often wonder what it would look like beneath a normal yellow sun.”

“Less blue.” Barclay suggested.

“Hard to tell,” Lance responded, with a hint of sadness in his voice – or so thought Bubbles, “all paint looks pretty much the same colour these days. The only difference is the degree of shading.”

Then Bubbles received her second surprise…

“What in the name of the Saint of All Earplugs is that?” She screeched in disbelief.

“That’s my armoured reconnaissance vehicle.” Lance answered her shrill question. “It’s called Recon One. Do you like it? I think it might be yellow and green, but I’m not sure.”

“But you’re a cavalry-plug.” Barclay exclaimed. “Surely you ride around the arid wastes on Plugmutts?”

Lance shook his head whilst smiling mirthlessly. “Not anymore.” He replied. “Those that didn’t hide away aboard Ship Number Fifteen, when most of the Seventh Cavalry absconded to Earth, got old and lazy and went to live with some plugmutt re-homing charity in the nearest subterranean city.”

Bubbles felt a little disappointed at this news: she like Plugmutts and had hoped to cadge a ride on one. “What, so now you all have to share Recon One?”   

“Oh no,” Lance said proudly, “with the world doomed, military budget restraints were removed. The Seventh Cavalry is now entirely mechanized. We have a vast fleet of armoured vehicles at our command. We’ve also dispensed with the shiny blue uniforms and stupid hats: we now wear drab olive green and go cranially naked. Hey, wanna ride Recon One?”

It was a stupid question: of course Bubbles wanted to ride on an armoured vehicle, though Barclay was less keen. In fact he hated the idea, but he didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of Bubbles.

“Yeah, right on.” He said unenthusiastically.

Moments later…

“This is nice.” Bubbles observed. “Very smooth. Is it running a gas turbine engine?”

“Affirmative.” Lance…ah…affirmed. “Methane power. We all contribute to the fuel reserves with our bottoms. It beats bottled gas, or a potentially explosive tank of propane beneath the parade ground. Hey, wanna meet the guys?”

This question was less stupid. Although Bubbles was quite keen to meet a whole bunch of burly Cavalry-plugs, Barclay would sooner have visited the canteen for a cup of something wet and warm. But again he kept his council…

“Line up. Line up.” Sergeant Lance Ottershoe bellowed as he and his guests dismounted from Recon One. “Stand ready for an inspection.”

Cavalry-plugs from all over quickly recognised an attractive young female when they saw one, and rapidly complied with their sergeant’s instruction. In fact several of them had a hard time keeping their gaze from lingering upon Bubbles’ slightly curvaceous hindquarters…

“Lovely,” Bubbles said as she and Barclay made an amateur job of inspecting the troops, “very smart and tidy. Pleasant smelling too. Do I detect cologne?”

After that Bubbles spent several minutes chatting with the attentive troopers – when she learned that everyone could remain outside without atom-proof helmets because the fort possessed an electro-magnetic shield that protected everything beneath it from the hard radiation that scoured the surface for the majority of the day; but before long they were interrupted by the arrival of the fort’s commanding officer – Major Leftfoot-Badger and his adjutant, Lieutenant R Swypes…

“If you’re wondering why Lieutenant Swypes and I are wearing silly old cavalry-plug hats,” the Major said after introducing himself and his adjutant, it’s because we, as officers, believe in the old ways. Not for us these new-fangled drab olive green uniforms and naked bonces: we like to maintain tradition. They’re also atom-proof, so we don’t need to spend lots of time indoors or down in those ghastly cities with all that riff-raff…”

Lieutenant R Swypes then astonished the two visitors by adding:

“But we wouldn’t go down there now anyway – even if we didn’t have atom-proof hats…

…because Worstworld’s most eminent scientists have recently informed us that our Sun has reached a critical phase. It’s going to go ‘pop’ sooner than later.”

“Indeed,” Major Leftfoot-Badger confirmed these words, “they give us six months. Of course we’re getting as many people off-world as we can: but with only the K T Woo and the new ship – the Crash-Bong Blitz available to us, it’s a slow process…”

Bubbles hardly dared ask the obvious question:

“But what happens if the star goes nova before you get everybody off-world?”

“Oh that’s simple.” The Major replied. “Like the planet, they cease to exist.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Significant shots in this episode are two and three, which are re-works of originals from Worstworld Vols 1&2. The road featured therein was traversed by Hakking Chestikof aboard the very first hover chariot to appear in an Earplug Adventure. Picture 4 features the tree bark pool that appeared earlier in this tale as a snowy fiord. Most efficent, if I do say so myself.


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 16)

In Episode 15 we saw (what might have been) the Veil of Shytar. But we can’t be certain – it might be just an insect curtain. Ooh, that rhymes. So, carry on with the tale; you never know where it is going to take you…

A day later the Prowler arrived at its originally intended destination…

“There you go.” Bubbles – now cheered up by the thought that their distant encounter with the space anomaly was just that: distant. “In all its blue-giant reflected glory: Worstworld.”

“I forgot to ask,” Barclay said as he peered at the unhealthy-looking planet below, “what was it about Worstworld that made you want to come here first, before any other world – known or unknown?”

“It’s unique.” Bubbles replied. “The surface is uninhabitable. Its star is irradiating the planet with deadly rays. The star itself is bound to go nova – and destroy this world completely. And the population now live underground. What’s not to like? And who knows, this time next week, it might not be here!”

“That’s all well and good,” Barclay argued, “but have you considered the possibility that the star might go nova while we’re here?”

“Mathematical improbability.” Bubbles replied as she slammed the Prowler into the planet’s atmosphere. But her confidence waned suddenly when she discovered that the star’s radiation played merry-hell with her controls…

“Aargh,” she cried out above the din of the air as it hammered upon the vessel’s hull, “we’re running out of altitude!”

“Quick, quick,” Barclay yelled, “head for one of those huge holes in the planetary crust: they might be really deep!”

Seconds after plunging into the nearest chasm, all sound and motion ceased…

“Ah, what just happened?” Barclay asked, though he expected no answer that would make any sense.

Bubbles chanced a glance through her side window. “I think we just landed.” She answered…

“More by luck than judgement.”

All Barclay could think of to say in reply was:

“Thank the Saint of All Earplugs for that.”

Chapter 8

Neither Bubbles nor Barclay were in a rush to disembark. Outside the ship looked too dark and foreboding for either of them. Eventually, though, they came to realise that no one had witnessed their descent from space, therefore no one knew they were there. So, being sensible university graduate types they finally stepped from the sanctuary of the Prowler and set foot upon the surface of the doomed planet known as Worstworld…

“It smells funny.” Barclay observed.

“And this sand is very gritty.” Bubbles complained. “If it gets inside our space boots, we’ll suffer horribly. But whatever, the Prowler is clearly allergic to something in this planet’s atmosphere, so we can’t hang around: let’s go find someone.”

However, as they began (what they assumed was) their ascent towards the surface through which they had plunged, Bubbles made an astonishing discovery…

“Barclay,” she squealed, “look, it’s a whole town!”

Barclay joined Bubbles, and together they stared in wonderment at a wide street that led to a small plaza…

“This must be one of the cities that the population moved into when the blue-giant star started going bonkers.” Barclay said at the vista.

“But where is everyone?” Bubbles said with a tremulous voice. “Do you think they might all be dead? Are we too late? Has the end of the world arrived before we get a chance to gawp in awe?”

“Dunno,” Barclay replied, “let’s get a close-up.”

So they did – by entering the town…

“Do you think this might be Busted Gut?” Bubbles more suggested than inquired.

Barclay did inquire: “Busted Gut?”

“The town of which Captain Sinclair Brooch – of the star ship K T Woo – was the sheriff, before becoming a captain, that is.” Bubbles explained.

“Wasn’t that a surface town?” Barclay argued. “Sheriff Brooch never lived underground. He went searching underground once I recall reading in his memoirs: but he never lived there. He’d left long before things got as bad as they are now. No, I reckon this was one of the first subterranean towns, but they had to move out when the radiation started leaking through. Look how blue the light is: it’s coming through all the holes in the crust.”

“And it’s very sandy too.” Bubbles noted. “I bet it blew in under the doors. I expect they were always sweeping it back out. That alone would have sent me deeper underground. I hate sand – especially when it gets into the gusset of my swimming costume.”

Clearly there was nothing worthwhile to learn in the ghost gown, so they continued their ascent…

…which was dull and arduous. However, when they finally reached level ground, they wished they’d never bothered. Hills and an undulating landscape stretched out before them…

…for such a vast distance that their hearts sank at the thought of traversing it.

“What a bummer.” Barclay said as his gaze surveyed the seemingly endless lands that reached for infinity. “Oh yeah, and the radiation is much worst out here: we’d better put on our silly hats: they’re not atom proof, but they’re probably better than nothing at all.”

So they did…

…and Barclay couldn’t help smiling at Bubbles: she looked daft, but kind of cute.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Significant shots in this episode are Number Two, which is the picture that inspired the story.  Number Three is the remains of an old grave that had succumbed to nature and had partially collapsed, creating  mini sink holes. And Number Eleven, which was originally a photo of a gentle wave destroying a child’s sandcastle on a Costa Blanca beach, Spain. Like I always say: inspiration can be found anywhere.

P.P.S I believe in using stock footage whenever possible; it saves a lot of time. The shots of the abandoned town originally appeared as the thriving mountain top kingdom of Ka-Ki-Pu, in Worstworld Vol 1 & 2.

You can find both of these volumes (utterly free and in PDF format) by clicking HERE.

They are early stories in the Earplug Adventure saga: don’t expect too much in the SFX department.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 15)

In this episode we discover that even intelligent earplugs can make very stupid decisions. Read on…

Within moments of this utterance, Bubbles had the Prowler turn through ninety degrees and head in the direction of…what…?

“I wonder what that is.” Barclay said as a multi-hued curtain-like apparition appeared in their forward viewer…

“Well,” Bubbles replied helpfully, “let’s think this through. It’s multi-hued – with lots of coloured strands: it seems to fluctuate between looking like a curtain or splayed out at angles that might be described as a sunburst shape.”

“And it’s hanging in space – far away from any planet or star – all by itself with nothing else around.” Barclay added. “What do you think?”

Bubbles didn’t reply immediately. She mused for several seconds before finally saying:

“I think we should get closer.”

“Agreed.” Barclay…ah…agreed. “But let’s not go too quick: we might startle it.”

As a result of this cautious approach it took flipping ages for the Prowler to finally adopt a position where the space anomaly filled the pilot’s view…

“That’s odd.” Bubbles said as she eyed her dials and tell-tales…

…”not only has it gone all sunbursty again; but I can’t get a distance reading on it. I don’t know how close we are. We could be kilometres away, or we could be within spitting distance of it. It seems to reflect my laser measuring light strangely so that I get either weird readings or none at all!”

“I’ll try all these advanced alien sensors we have fitted.” Barclay replied. “That should sort it out.”

But when he activated the technology created by a super-advanced alien culture that had disappeared into another Galaxy long ago, he got exactly nothing appearing in his read-outs.

“Bugger,” he said, “it’s seems to reject everything that tries to probe it. It’s like trying to see through a brick wall.”

“Or a lead-lined coffin.” Bubbles replied as she appeared to be musing again.

Barclay eyed his pilot. “So, what do we do – carry on with our journey and forget about this?”

“No, not just yet.” Bubbles answered his inquiry. “Let’s force the issue slightly. Set the atomic cannons to minimum yield. Let’s see if we can’t burn a tiny hole in…whatever it is.”

Barclay wasn’t entirely convinced of the wisdom of attacking a space anomaly with atomic cannons, but Bubbles was the boss and what she wanted she would get. “Minimum yield, aye.” He responded in an unprovoked bout of uncharacteristic professionalism.

“Fire!” Bubbles yelled as she shoved the throttles forward.

Instantly beams of irresistible energy leapt from the cannons like twin lances. But if those aboard the Prowler had hoped for any penetration of the apparition, they would be sorely disappointed. In fact they were more than disappointed: they were going to be grateful that their seats had built-in toilets – because the energy from their cannons was turned away by the mysterious collection of strands; concentrated; and redirected at the Prowler, which took the hit dead amidships…

The cockpit rang like a bell…

“What the heck?” Barclay managed.

Bubbles didn’t bother with either expletives or complaints: she was already in the act of spinning the ship about and hitting the gas pedal…

“Come on, Prowler, go-go-go!” She yelled.

Fortunately for the two young adventurers, their vessel had been fabulously well built, of the best possible materials, and bloody quick too. Within seconds it had freed its occupants of the need for fear…

…and had taken them so far away that they almost thought they’d either travelled through time, or into an alternative quantum reality.

Barclay gave Bubbles a look that said:

“That was dumb: don’t do it again.”

But his mouth said:

“Right then – shall we be on our way. I believe we were en route to a planet that orbits that blue-giant star?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Having turned 66 recently, you could be forgiven for thinking I really should have something better to do.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 14)

Neat SFX coming up…

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

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

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

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

“I do.”

“Oh good.”

A heartbeat later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 7

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

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

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

Moments later this happened…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 13)

Part 12 was a tad brief, so I’m making up for that deficiency by including more than average in Part 13. Enjoy…

So, without further ado, they hit the ‘Go’ button…

And all of the Punting-Modesty employees who could be bothered to attend the unveiling of the Prowler watched agog as their handiwork screeched past the viewing area with a tail of dark smoke erupting from its exhaust pipe…

Within a couple of seconds the Prowler’s velocity had taken it clean away from the citadel…

Those with excellent vision noted that the slight fueling problem at lift-off had cleared itself, and now a white haze followed the ship wherever it went. And it went straight out over the mountains, the ridged hills of the mountain pea farming region…

…and above the crowded streets and towers of Ciudad de Droxford…

“Cripes, Bubbles,” A doubtful Barclay said to his favourite pilot, “do you really think Sir Loftus Pupe meant us to go this far? I had the distinct feeling that we were to take it up, fly it around a bit, and land again.”

The same thought had occurred to Bubbles. “Yes.” She replied. She then explained her solitary syllable: “When we take the ship back, they’ll hand it over to professional test pilots. We’re window dressing.”

Bubbles paused for a moment to make a course correction that would carry the Prowler over a popular holiday resort located in a fiord in which her mother, Millicent Gloor, lived with her boyfriend, Wagontrain McCallister…

Although the Prowler flew far too high for its occupants to discern individuals amongst the throng of earplugs who rushed from the ski and winter sports lodge, Bubbles was certain that Millicent was waving like a looney, and that the gruff, burly, moustachioed Wagontrain graced them with a careless glance.

From there Bubbles allowed the ship to climb gently to an altitude that gave Barclay a pleasant view of the cloud tops…

“This is nice.” He remarked cheerfully. “It’s like sitting on a really high balcony.  Gosh, this ship is so stable you’d think we were looking out of a window from a tower block in La Ciudad de Droxford – except much higher, of course. Or maybe on a foggy day. Well a foggy day at street level, but clear on the upper floors, that is. Shall I shut up now?”

“Please.” Bubbles replied gently.

“I think I’m getting over-excited.” Barclay said by way of excuse.

“Probably.” Bubbles agreed. “Now brace yourself: I’m about to give this bird some juice.”

Barclay was about to say: “But that doesn’t make sense. It’s not even mixing metaphors.” When this happened…

…and instead he yelled: “Gurrrrgh!”

For the young male earplug the war upon gravity seemed to last an eon: but only seconds had passed before the Prowler (not only escaped Earth’s atmosphere, but) put a vast distance between itself and its planet of origin…

“You okay?” Bubbles inquired.

“I think so.” Barclay answered slowly. “I think I might have left my bowels back there a bit. Um, can you give me a more precise warning next time? I got a bit confused. I’m still a bit confused. I feel like a quarterback who’s been levelled by the entire defensive line. Are we coasting? I don’t hear anything. Or have I gone deaf? It could be concussion.”

Bubbles cut Barclay off by saying:

“Would you care to test the atomic cannons?”

“Oh,” Barclay replied, “I don’t mind if I do.”

A split second later interstellar hydrogen atoms and star dust exploded energetically beneath the assault of the Prowler’s principal armament…

“Right, they appear to work correctly.” Bubbles responded to the vast firework show. “Shall we stretch our legs for a moment in the lounge? The windows give such a lovely view of the universe.”

So they did…

Barclay stood back a little, whilst Bubbles stared in wonderment at the view of eternity. He watched her face, bathed as it was by starlight, and smiled. He’d never really considered his good fortune to have found a job working with Bubbles Gloor. Now he did, and he counted his blessings.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, a pair of like-minded mavericks, eh? Let loose with an advanced space ship, hmmm? Who knows what good they might do?

P.S Did you like the ‘fiord’ shot? It’s actually a fallen tree, the bark of which had captured rain water to form a small pool. I take pictures of many things: I never know what I might do with them.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 12)

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

Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubbles confirmed his hypothesis with a, “Hmmm.”

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

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

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

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

“Up?” Barclay queried.

“Up.” Bubbles replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Try flooring the throttle.” Barclay suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 10)

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

Chapter 5

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

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

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

Being male, Barclay admitted nothing. He simply said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two days later she found out…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 9)

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

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

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

“Whadda ya think?” Pansy demanded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They also learnt the strange art of mountaineering…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022



Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 7)

I told you Part 6 would be better – and I was right. You can trust Tooty. So check out Part 7…

Neither dared whisper, lest the Security Suite detect their presence. Instead they used semaphore. Unfortunately neither earplug was well versed in the signalling language. As a result tension levels between them were ascending at a worrying rate. So it was most fortuitous that their blind ramble along a multitude of corridors came to an end with the discovery of the Red Tower’s subterranean roller skate park…

…in which they had to hide from a patrolling RoboSecGua.

As Barclay peered around a futuristic concrete roof support, Bubbles whispered, “I can’t stand to look: tell me when it’s gone.”

Fortunately for their enterprise, the RoboSecGua failed to detect either their whispered exchange or their pea-like out-of-town aroma. So,  giving the robotic life-form a few minutes to place some distance between itself and the earplugs it didn’t know it was looking for, the aforementioned earplugs stole away to a service elevator and pressed the Up button – the result of which culminated with their arrival at the penthouse level…


“Ooh, blimey,” Bubbles said breathlessly as she took in the view from the highest point in the museum – nearly two kilometres high, “I don’t think I’ve ever been this high. Do you think we might suffer hypoxia?”

Of course Barclay wasn’t listening: he was too busy conducting a search. Eventually his search led the Punting-Modesty employees to a room, upon which the word ‘RECORDS’ had been stencilled inexpertly…

“Ah, this looks promising.” Barclay said as his eyes surveyed the room. “Records include blueprints, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Not if they’re disco records.” Bubbles argued. “I wonder if they have ‘Everybody Wear Your Disco Hump’ by Hambledon Bohannon?” 

“No twin-deck turntables or glitter balls.” Barclay replied. “We’re in luck. Now start looking for anything that looks kind of alien life-boaty.”

So they did. They even tried switching on an old-fashioned data retrieval device…

But it did nothing more than clank somewhere deep inside, before disconnecting itself from the power supply.

“There must be some dusty old shelves, full of stuff from all over and from the future.” Barclay said to this. “Keep looking.”

But not only were the dusty shelves free of dust: they were empty too…

“This coffee machine doesn’t work either.” Bubbles complained. “I bet it hasn’t been serviced in years. I think it’s in hibernation mode.”

Once again Barclay was in no mood to listen to Bubbles’ wittering, so missed her next words, which were, “Oh look, Barclay; a super futuristic computer!”

But when she screamed, “the front is coming down,” he allowed his lazy eye to swivel in her direction…

In an instant the ramifications of Bubbles’ outburst became clear to the orange earplug. A mere nanosecond elapsed before he joined her at the fabulous device…

The front had indeed come down – to reveal a solitary green button.

“It must be the ‘On’ button,” Bubbles reasoned. “I’m gonna press it.”

Moments after this rash act Bubbles assertion was proven to be correct. The super futuristic computer had activated…

“State the name of the blueprint you require.” It said in a sharp, strident monotone.

Neither earplug could believe their luck. “Alien life-boat.” They said as one.

“Retrieving.” The computer responded. “Complete. Please take the relevant SD card from the slot. Do you have a further request?”

“Ah, no – thank you.” Bubbles said as she slipped the SD card that protruded from the device and buried it deep within a secret, well-hidden pocket in her frilly knickers. “You can switch off now, thank you. Bye.”

A while later, having escaped from the Red Tower without being detected, Barclay led Bubbles, whose face had turned red with the exertion of their flight from the records room, towards the nearest Café Puke for a celebratory cup of crappachino and a cheese sandwich… 

But when they noted that the branch manager was in the act of locking up for the night, they elected to take themselves far away from the scene of the crime and await the morning.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 6)

Following on from Part 5, in which sod all really happened, Part 6 takes us forward – if only a little bit. Read on…

Naturally, by the time the coffees had stopped whooshing and gurgling, the illumination had dipped to eclipse levels…

Mary-Sue would have said, “Here ya go; get that down ya.” But she didn’t because her guests were deep in conversation and she didn’t want to break their train of thought. Then the lights dipped further…

Realising that if she tried to find her way back to the counter she might catch her shin on a sharp protuberance or fall over a ruck in the vinyl flooring, Mary-Sue elected to stay where she was – hidden in the shadows. Of course she didn’t mean to listen in on the conversation between Bubbles and Barclay, but she couldn’t help herself. In the few minutes she stood there she learned everything about their mission. She noted, in particular, their back-up plan of becoming Baristas.

“Flipping heck,” she said, sotto voce to herself, “I’m hanging on to this job by my fingernails: I don’t need no flipping competition.”

It was in this briefest of moments in history that Mary-Sue made her momentous decision:

“Excuse me.” She said from the darkness, “but I think I know of something that might interest you.”

She then proceeded to tell her customers of the arrival of an alien life-boat aboard the Submarine Space Freighter that – only a few weeks earlier – had been responsible for saving the museum and surrounding planetary surface from an artificially-induced ice-age.

“It’s real hot-poop, they tell me,” she finished. “All kinds of alien tech and stuff. I guess you’d probably find it in one of the secret UFO hangars. Here, I’ll draw a map for you, on this napkin.”

Well, for Bubbles and Barclay, it was like Happy Flids Day and the Annual Farting Contest had come together. Trying not to sound too enthusiastic, Bubbles said:

“Thank you, that’s very kind. I shall cherish this.”

Once the lights came back up, and Mary-Sue was able to make her way safely to the counter…

…she and the other Baristas watched as the out-of-towners quickly finished their coffees and got up to leave.

“Ooh,” she said to Jungle-Jake and Moyst…

…”I think I might have done something really silly. I’ve given them two earplugs some info what might be top secret. I could get shot for treason or something.”

“Best not tell anyone then, eh.” Jungle-Jake replied.

This was sound advice, but nevertheless she couldn’t stop herself from watching Bubbles and Barclay as they departed the Café Puke…

But then someone called for a slice of lardy cake and some chocolate covered raisins, and she forgot all about it.”

Chapter 3

Bubbles very quickly realised just how detailed and accurate Mary-Sue’s hastily scribbled map was when, in a matter of minutes, they discovered a corridor intended for the use of the maintenance department…

“Hey,” Barclay said enthusiastically as they turned into it, “I’m impressed.”

But a short while later, when they discovered the hangar bereft of UFOs, alien life-boats, or anything else for that matter…

…his good mood quickly waned:

“Perhaps I was a little premature.” Barclay moaned. “I’m not really very impressed at all.”

Of course Bubbles was disappointed too; but, being Barclay’s supervisor, it fell to her to rectify the situation. She thought quickly. Running an image of the museum’s exterior through her silicon brain…

…she recalled the existence of the Red Tower.

“Barclay,” she squealed, “I think I know where the curators would have hidden the alien life-boat!”

“You do?”  Her surprised subordinate replied. “Hey, no wonder they made you the boss. Where is it?”

Naturally Bubbles told him, and together they decided to wait until nightfall before making their incursion into the forbidden zone…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022.


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So they did…

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

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

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

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

…which didn’t enthrall Bubbles much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Too much information.” Barclay yelled.

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 3)

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

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

She told them of her quest and asked for advice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With frilly knickers.” The second added.

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

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

Chapter 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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