Tag Archives: humour

Earplug Adventures Portrait: Stand Up And Be Counted!

This post first appeared in a now defunct blog.

Having been put on trial at the Galactic Court of Justice for the ‘crimes’ of all earplugkind, Throgennis Frote gives voice to his anger. In fact he tears them off a strip. He’s a mouthy little git. From We Stand Accused. Fascinating factoid: the whole idea for We Stand Accused came from the discovery of this prismatic sunlight on Tooty’s sitting room carpet.

Tooty the Chef Creates: Albondegas!

Okay, Tooty the Chef has done albondegas before, but that was in his bare-buttock’d days. These days you’re spared the spectacle: these days it’s all about the yum-yums. So, anyway, this is how it all began…

So what do we have here? Well there appears to be a jar of mixed spices, a small random tomato-based sauce mix, some toms, diced carrot and onions, chopped olives, and some minced pork  – from Sainsbury’s because their’s are only five percent fat, whereas Waitrose is eight percent fat, and more expensive too. No contest. Naturally some ingredients have been left out in this picture; that is becauseTooty the Chef is a wally and didn’t think to include them. 

What he did  next will not astound you. He tossed the raw stuff into a bowl and added two eggs, which he then blended…

 

Looking at the resulting mess he quickly realised that there was no way on this Earth that any balls created from it would hold together in the frying pan; so (he reasoned) the obvious answer to the problem was to add a binding agent. Something designed to thicken a sauce would surely hold the meat and vegetables together – wouldn’t it? He added cornflour…

Then rolling the balls in regular flour, it began to look as though his genius was proving itself…

…though the carrot and onion had clearly been insufficiently diced and, for a while, it was touch-and-go…

To counter this error, he made sure that the ‘bottom’ of each ball was nicely burnt before flipping them over – for the first and only time. Whilst the balls crackled nicely, tagliatelli was tossed into boiling water and stirred mightily…

It would be repeatedly stirred, every so often, until the very end. The dozy old ladle-weilder hates anything sticking to the bottom of his pans. It’s an anathema  to him. Or an enema.

Whatever, with the balls now sealed and no longer in danger of breaking up like an asteroid en route for Earth, Tooty elected to toss in the chopped toms and olives…

They quickly succumbed to the heat, and before long the sauce found itself sploshed handsomely into the mix…

Gently teasing the resultant goo between the balls, Tooty allowed this to simmer for an indeterminate amount of time. Then, when it looked as though the meal could not possibly be improved by leaving it over the heat for a moment longer, he removed it  and lay it gently upon a bed of pasta…

When I use the word ‘gently’, I mean that he didn’t drop it from a great height.  And just to prove that it really was Tooty the Chef who created this wondrous dollop of edibleness, here he is with his hat on…

He looks pleased, coz now he’s gonna eat it. Who wouldn’t? Well obviously people who despise pig-based cooking upon cultural or religious grounds, and vegans; both of  which Tooty aint. But otherwise…who?

 

 

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Approaching the Frontier

This post has appeared previously upon a defunct blog.

Ice-World border guards are caught…er…off-guard by the sudden arrival of Clancy Hardnut as he passengers aboard a hover sled – driven by Wendy Earwacks, who is a female member of the enemy’s blue-hued civilisation. They can barely believe their eyes: fraternisation between the races is unheard of. From Cold War. Fascinating factoid: when this story first appeared on the Internet in 2016, a reader was most amused by the ‘hover sled’. He recognised it as being a part from a cannibalized steam iron. He made no mention of the upturned Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee pods though.

Silicon Life: Competition for the Cafe Puke!

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. But, as this photograph shows, the hoarding apparently makes mention of the rival cafe chain – Skanki Kaffe. However leaked pictures of the interior do not support this assertion. Workers were  tight lipped when quizzed about the new-build. Even Rupert Piles  and his huge 3D TV camera, despite trudging back a forth acoss 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 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.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

 

Tooty the Chef Makes Tooty Goreng and an Inappropriate Pudding

Hola and welcome to La Cocina de Tooty…

On this occasion Tooty the Chef planned to make some Bami Goreng, but (as is his way) he didn’t get all the necessary ingredients. So, instead he went for an alternative – for which he  did have the ingredients. He chose to name it Tooty Goreng. And just to make the meal all the more fantastic, he decided that the sweet would involve puff pastry, pear, and apple. I mean…why not?

He set the ball rolling by digging out some chopped pears and apples that he’d plonked into the bottom drawer of his freezer during the preceding Autumn, and crammed them into the bottom of one of his roasting things. To this he added some cinnamon and sweetener…

The puff pastry was then rolled out and placed on top – making sure to bolster the edges…

Of course this pastry was pre-made in the Jus-Rol factory. You don’t imagine Tooty the Chef has  spare time to roll, then re-roll, and then roll again stuff he’d put together himself, do you? No-no-no, that’s too much like hard work and eats into his leisure time. He’d far sooner be doing this…

But, anyway, Now was the correct time to get the oven warmed up. So having done so Tooty laid out the ingredients for his Tooty Goreng…

They included pak choi, peppers, carrot, bacon medallions, brocolli, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketjap manis, and sambal oeleck. Naturally there would be more, but he hadn’t planned that far ahead when this photo was taken. He doesn’t “do”  planning.

Shortly after that he squirted some olive oil into a wok and set the gas alight beneath it. Once warmed up he added the carrots, pak choi, and peppers…

A couple of minutes head start was required before the brocolli joined the other ingredients…

This he sizzled for several minutes. At one point he needed to add a dash of water when things began sticking to the non-stick surface of the wok. I think they call it burning. Shortly though some frozen chalots joined in and moistened the situation slightly…

Then it was the turn of the quick-cooking bacon, which he sizzled until the raw pinkiness had disappeared…

I think some spastic twitches must have occurred then because he tipped rather too much flavouring in…

Three dollops of sambal oeleck, when one would have been sufficient. The dark soy was okay, but he went loony with the oyster sauce and very nearly drowned the lot.

Once this was bubbling nicely, it was time to slide the apple/pear. puff pasty combo into the maxxed-out oven…

If all went to plan, it would be ready when the first course had been consumed. Naturally he was correct. In fact he barely had time to heat up the custard! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Shortly another forgotten ingredient was tugged from the bottom of the wine rack. Udon noodles. These were added to the concoction and stirred in…

What – you don’t keep udon noodles in your wine rack? I thought everyone did. I mean, it’s the obvious place to keep them…isn’t it? Again I digress. This was allowed to simmer for a short while, until the great chef decided that it was ‘done’…

…and he proudly displayed a bowl of the…er…stuff…to camera…

And the pudding? Check it out…

Pity the custard was lumpy.

 

Why Does A Guy Who Gives His Work Away Spend Real Money To Make It Better?

Answer: Because he’s stupid. Or Maybe because it’s a labour of love.

Although absolutely nothing has been done regarding the follow-up to The Veil of Shytar, Tooty hasn’t been entirely idle. He may have expended exactly no time whatsoever thinking about what path the next story might follow, but he has been reducing the size of his bank account by purchasing lighting equipment so that the non-existential sequel will be well-lit. Okay, it wasn’t a lot of money, but he had to earn it, which is more than his e-books will, coz he doesn’t sell them: he gives them away in PDF form. What a dope! But that’s by-the-by: let’s see what the dumbo’s been up to. Well firstly there’s this…

Look, nice, isn’t it?

At last Tooty can shoot without fear of the camera casting a bloody great shadow across the subjects. And regard…

…the same scene can be shot with differing shades and intensities…

Even a really warm glow…

What wonders might be performed with this light? But he was not content with a mere ring-light: he also bought a…

…head light, for close-up shooting in tight corners, where normally shadows are manifest. Of course the happy snapper couldn’t wait to shoot something fresh with his new ‘toys’, so he popped out to his local Sainsbury’s and snatched a yoghourt tray from the cooler shelf. I’m sure you’ll recognise it: it’s the one he uses to create the Cafe Puke outlets. And having done so, he created another…

Charming, don’t you think? Can you not imagine yourself standing beneath that blue light and soaking up the ambience? Here it is peopled…

And look at the bloody size of it: it’s massive!

“Why so big?” I hear you sub-vocalise.

Answer: So Tooty can get some depth of field in his micro-world shots. So characters can be emphasized better by placing the background out of focus…

It also allows him to remove some of the superstructure…

…which, in turn  facilitates the correct usage of the previously mentioned head-light…

All in all, money well spent – or so says he. Does it help create ideas for the next story? Er…no: but when he does think of something, it will look nice.

 

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.

 

An Unorthodox Means of Alleviating a Sore Throat and Booming Head Ache

It’s the last day of the year. It’s early: still dark. Why do I feel like crap? Oh flip, I’ve got a cold. The hours pass: no improvement. I’ve taken the flu remedy in the medicine cabinet. And the vitamin C drink too. There must be an alternative to sitting around feeling miserable. Look beyond the laptop. Is the rain still lashing at the windows? Are the trees in the neighbour’s garden almost bent double? Answer to both: yep. Time to uncover this then…

There’s nothing quite like manhandling a 100+ BHP muscle bike down muddy lanes, washed out city streets, and through blinding motorway road spray. Nothing. Then take some  nice photos of windswept bridges and drowning fir trees…

…before fighting your way back home – only to find your pride and joy covered in road filth…

…and discovering that your waterproofs aren’t quite as waterproof as you would have liked…

But, dammit, you feel great: ready to face the rest of the day. Throw out those pain killers: pull on those bike boots.

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.

 

Twenty-Minute Chilli with Tooty the Chef

With only two people to cater for, Tooty the Chef couldn’t be arsed to make something grand or a meal that took long to cook: he has far more important things to do. So he settled on a chilli meal. After perusing the ingredients of a really hot sauce mix…

…he figured he could save a whole bunch of time by ignoring the vast array of spices and sauces in his magnificently stocked kitchen cupboards, and instead use the packet in his hand. So, whilst the boil-in-the-bag rice…er…boiled, Tooty the Chef thawed a bag of beef mince in the microwave, whilst dicing a pepper, an onion, a courgette, and a couple of tomatoes. Soon the onion, courgette and pepper were making hissing noises nicely in some olive oil…

This was quickly followed by the minced beef…

Like any chef worth his (or her – he once dated a female chef) salt, this he sizzled until the meat was browned – before adding the tomatoes. Just to prove that Tooty doesn’t cook in tiny pans and possesses one huge hand, here’s a picture of him stirring the goo…

See: big pan: regular hands: pointy nose: weary eyes: two coffee machines.

Then it was time to add the sauce mix with some water. But Tooty the Chef had another trick up his sleeve: the addition of a miniscule pinch of some unbelievably powerful spices from Italy…

At the twenty minute marker it was time to tip out the rice into individual bowls and pile on the chilli…

Perfecto! Naturally he sprinkled some grated cheese on top before presenting the finished article thus…

And to celebrate this great event, here’s a charming wallpaper for  your computer…

Download that if you dare!

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!

Epilogue

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 24)

Well that’s enough of whooshing about in space ships for the moment. This is where some proper sci-fi sticks its head around the corner and beckons to us. Respond accordingly: read on…

Chapter 11

Because the Veil of Shytar was oncoming, the distance between it and the Prowler closed quickly…

In fact Bubbles almost overshot her target and was forced to back-track slightly. Quickly matching velocity with the vast space anomaly, Bubbles unstrapped herself; pulled on some knickers; and proceeded from the cockpit into the lounge. Of course Barclay was in close attendance…

“The only way we are going to speak with that thing,” Bubbles said as she headed for the stairwell, “is by making physical contact. If we get up close and pseudo-personal, it won’t be able to ignore us.”

“Fine,” Barclay replied, “at least in theory. But what if it doesn’t want to talk? It could swat us like mosquitos. Moreover, have you considered the possibility that it can’t talk?”

“I have,” Bubbles snapped, “and I don’t like to think about it. If we can’t persuade it to protect Worstworld….then we’ve failed utterly. That is not an option.”

Once upon the lower deck, and despite her secret misgivings, Bubbles continued to march along resolutely…

“Getting across to the Veil shouldn’t be a problem,” She assured her partner. “Every Punting-Modesty vessel comes equipped with pressurised environmental bubbles for Extra-Vehicular Activities.”

“Oh goodie,” Barclay said only semi-sarcastically, “I’ve always wanted to do an EVA in the vacuum of space.”

Well, assuming that his statement was based upon a childhood ambition, Barclay got his wish. Sooner, rather than later, he and Bubbles vacated the Prowler

…and went scooting across the void to their destination.

Bubbles arrived first, though it was difficult for either of them to judge distance…

“I think I’m almost close enough to touch it.” She spoke upon her radio to Barclay. “No, wait a minute I think we’re passing through the strands into some other place that was hitherto hidden from us.”

Once beyond the strands, nothing they could see made sense to them.

“What the flipping heck is this thing?” Barclay said in his best complaining voice. “It doesn’t seem to have dimensions. There’s no up, down, width, height. I’m all bum-swizzled by it.”

However, moments after making the utterance, something tangible made its presence known…

“Bubs,” he cried out, “it’s an opening. A kind of hatch into somewhere else again!”

Well Bubbles couldn’t wait to investigate. Surely this was an invitation for them to proceed. “Stand aside,” she bellowed as she hit her thrusters, “coming through.”

A split second later…

…Barclay couldn’t help smiling as his chum raced ahead into another unknown situation. “That’s my girl.” He said proudly.

“Ooh, Barclay,” an unworried Bubbles called in a more ‘girly’ voice than was usual for her, “I think I’ve found something really interesting.”

“It’s not scary, then?” Barclay inquired hopefully.

“No, not at all.” Bubbles replied. “Ready yourself for touch down.”

Moments later both earplugs alighted upon, what appeared to be, a rough, natural surface. More significant though, was the crashed space ship that lay, half-buried in it…

“You know who this belongs to, don’t you?” Barclay said as he scrutenised the ruin from a safe distance. He answered his own question. “It’s that guy from Worstworld who first found the Veil of Shytar, and was lost when he came back to it.”

“Augustus Pronk.” Bubbles said. “His name was Augustus Pronk. I wonder if his body is still inside.”

“He might have survived.” Barclay suggested. “It’s not a long way down from that hole. The ship doesn’t look crumpled or anything. Let’s go see of we can find some evidense of him being here.”

Naturally both earplugs expected to find more of the same, So they were more than surprised that, having turned a corner, they found themselves in the open, upon a sandy beach with a blue sky above them…

“Now this I really didn’t expect.” Barclay said as he allowed his eyes to take in a view that clearly could not have been there.

“The air’s salty.” Bubbles informed him. I don’t know if that’s important.”

But before Barclay could reply, his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a male earplug shouting something indecipherable at them.

Bubbles made a reasonable assumption: “I think we’ve found Augustus Pronk.”

Moments later they joined the pinky-orange earplug at the foot of a low sandy  cliff…

“Earplugs,” Augustus Pronk stated loudly. “You’re real, bone fide earplugs – made from silicon too!”

“We are indeed, Mister Pronk.” Bubbles replied with a giggle. “And we’re pleased to meet you too. Could you tell us something of this strange environment we find ourselves in?”

“Sure,” the smiling face of the long-lost earplug from Worstworld replied, “I can tell you all about it on the way to my personal clifftop hotel – the Augustus Pronk.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Photos of note in this episode include 6&8, which were taken as I lay beneath a parasol – looking straight up at the dazzling sun. The brightness gave me the idea of overlaying the characters and downed ship in silhouette. 7 was a filthy canvas pergola with a tear in it. And 9&10 were shot on my local Spanish beach a few years ago following a storm that dragged some of the sand away – leaving what you see. I thought it had possibilities then. Now I’ve finally gotten around to using the pictures in the way I had envisioned them. Talk about forward planning! The ‘cliff’ stood almost 15 centimetres high; and the building in 9 was pre-existing, but I added another floor and arch to make it look more like a hotel.

 

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.

Task Complete: Hurrah!

Because I’ve pretty much matched the writing velocities of The Veil of Shytar with posts on this blog, I’m happy to say that there will be no shortfall in either the numeracy or fabulous literary and photographic quality in the final episodes that run up to the finale of this wondrous photo-novel and its inevitable epilogue. That’s coz its all done and dusted. All the I’s have been crossed and the T’s nicely dotted. Of course I shan’t release the finished PDF version here until the penultimate episode has ‘aired’; but at least you don’t need to worry yourself sick that the story will end abruptly, with no ending at all because I’ve either run of enthusiasm or fallen off a cliff – or both. As a visual taster, this is what the ‘cover’ looks like…

Nice, innit?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 21)

Familiar ground for Earpluggers coming up…

Chapter 10

Bubbles had programmed the ship’s navigation computer to emerge from hyperspace at a specific point. This it did with pinpoint accuracy…

The Prowler and its occupants now found themselves in the strange border area between regular space and Weird Space. Their close proximity to the oddly-coloured region of the Galaxy could mean only one thing…

“I’ve always wanted to visit Scroton,” Bubbles said as she studied the abnormal stars and cosmic dust of Weird Space. “I just never imagined I’d have a proper reason to, or the means of getting here.”

“Two birds with one stone.” Barclay replied.

Bubbles fluttered her eyelashes at this. “Three, if we count you.”

Barclay would have reacted to this compliment, but before he could say anything, the planet Scroton swam into view in his side window…

“Barclay,” Bubbles said urgently, “we’re getting a priority message from a way station. We’re to remain here until an escort vessel arrives from Scroton.”

“How very efficient.” Barclay responded. “Just as one would expect from the Scotonite Ethernet Cable Ends. I wonder how long they’ll be.”

Well, no sooner had the words left Barclay’s mouth, when a ship of the Tankerville Norris class duly arrived…

“Please follow us in.” A voice sounded from speakers and a sub-woofer set into the cockpit chairs. “Our sensors detect earplugs aboard. Your DNA suggests you originate upon the planet Earth. Your planet and ours are allies. Welcome to Scroton. A reservation has been made for you at the Hotel Guano. Please report there immediately upon landing at Scroton Prime.”

“Ah, roger that.” Bubbles replied semi-professionally.

“Wow,” an impressed Barclay breathed, “I wonder if they’ll roll out the red carpet too.”

Twenty-five minutes later the couple stood in their room at the Hotel Guano…

Whilst Barclay took in the view of Scroton Prime, Bubbles’ attention was upon the fabric of their room.

“It’s a little austere.” She said. “I suppose the furniture comes out of the walls or something. But they could have put some magazines in the magazine rack – which, I might add, is too high for me. Okay for a basketball player or a pole vaulter; but not for test pilots.”

To cheer Bubbles up, Barclay said:

“I noticed a coffee machine in the foyer: It isn’t café Puke, but it could be this planet’s equivalent. Fancy a brew?”

Two minutes later and fifteen floors lower…

“Café Blurgh,” Bubbles squealed with delight. “It sounds ghastly. I’ll try one of everything.”

From there, they decided that a brisk walk in the open air was called for…

“Will you look at that, Bubs,” Barclay said as they strolled across the central plaza of the industrial area, “it’s been less than three decades since this planet industrialized, and already their smoke stacks are museum pieces. Breathe in that air: not a particulate anywhere!”

Shortly, as evening fell, they moved into a quiet region of the city where few citizens roamed. It was there that they were accosted by three members of the military…

Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage: you have arrived here in an armed vessel that could be described as a warship.” The camouflaged officer addressed them. “I am Captain Bonzer Drangonsrectum: you will explain to me the reason for your visit to our fabulous world, and the need for atomic cannons.”

Bubbles had expected some form of interview; she just hadn’t expected it to occur in the open with civilians out and about taking the air. “Well,” she began. Fifteen minutes later, her story told, she added:

“Well?”

“So you’ll be wanting to see Nigel – the Golden One, huh?” Bonzer suggested.

Barclay held out his hands before him. “Anyone who can give us what we desperately need that might save an entire world and everyone who lives on it.”

Bonzer dismissed his subordinates, and then made a call on his communication device. After stating his needs, he placed the device back in his pocket and said:

“Follow me.”

So they did…

Shortly they were ushered into the presence of the planetary leader, Nigel, and his wife, Beatrix…

“So, Nigel said following a pleasant greeting, “you need a Gravitonic Multiplicitor, eh?”

“You plan to move Worstworld to a safer orbit?” Beatrix inquired. “Like they did with Mars?

“Oh if only it were that simple.” Bubbles replied. “Yes, we do need to move something really large, but there’s nowhere safe for the planet. When the blue-giant star explodes, it will engulf everything in the system. It will then shrink back to become a brown dwarf star. Worstworld orbits close enough to benefit from the remnants of the blue-giant. Unfortunately it can’t survive the initial catastrophe.”

“That’s where the Veil of Shytar comes in.” Barclay interjected. “It has the power to repel energy. Our plan is to move the space anomaly to a position between Worstworld and the blue-giant.”

“If we’re right,” Bubbles took up the explanation again, “the Veil of Shytar will act like an impenetrable heat shield against the nova.”

“How certain are you that it will work?” Nigel asked.

“Oh,” Bubbles replied, “about fifty-fifty, I guess.”

“Those are Magnuss Earplug kind of odds.” Nigel said with a broad smile – well he would have, had he been able to smile. “You two and Mister and Missus Earplug are like peas in a pod. You will have your Gravitonic Multiplicitor – aboard one of my favourite ships – the Goosewing Grey.”

“Only it’s not grey anymore.” Beatrix added. “We had it painted blue – like the Tankerville Norris. It looks so much nicer.”

“When do we leave?” Barclay asked urgently.

Fate chose that moment to open the main door and reveal the building’s occupants to the lights of the media…

“Just as soon as we’ve informed the Galactic News Channel and everyone else with either a voice recorder or a camera, of your endeavour.” Nigel replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Hands up all of you who guessed they were going to Scroton. And they’re getting a Gravitonic Multiplicitor too!

Significant shots here include the industrialised area of Scroton Prime, which was shot originally for the very first Scroton story (in 2016), and has been used over and over ever since because the location (and materials) in which it was shot no longer exists. Ditto the quiet plaza shots, which feature an upturned plastic pallet, an empty cable reel, and a fire-proof asbestos wall.  Add some characters and they look like real places….don’t they?

P.S If anyone has ever read the classic 1960s comic tale The Trigan Empire, it is that imagery I tried to capture with the quiet plaza shots – including the distant ‘Atmosphere Craft’. Kind of modern Romanesque. See, I think about what I’m producing: it’s not just thrown together – even if sometimes it looks like it is.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 20)

Prepare yourselves for a bit of character relationship development…

As the Major flickered out, and their vessel cleared the troublesome atmosphere, Barclay had sufficient time and presence of mind to notice something anomalous…

“Hey, Bubs; is it me, or is Worstworld looking a whole lot more blue since we arrived?”

Initially Bubbles thought that the increased ‘blueness’ was a result of Barclay’s over-eager imagination; but when she had placed a large distance between the Prowler and the retreating planet…

…she reconsidered the validity of her assumption.

“Oh flipping heck,” she said, “I think you’re right. You know what this means, don’t you?”

“Yeah, sure.” Barclay replied. “Um…what?”

“That the scientists have been a tad conservative with their estimate that the star will blow in six months. I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t gamble on it lasting more than six days!

“Lummy,” Barclay, almost lost for words, replied. “We’d better a get a move on then. Floor it, Bubbles!”

So Bubbles did…

…right into hyper-space.

Naturally, following their almost panic-stricken departure from Worstworld, it became necessary to drop out of hyperspace and adjust their trajectory. Whilst doing so, the Prowler’s defensive sensors initiated a crimson alert…

“Uh-oh, what can this be?” Barclay uttered as his eyes scanned his read-outs for a clue.

Bubbles did likewise, but she also turned her attention to the forward screen. 

“Cancel crimson alert.” She said. “It’s only a hyperspace pirate mothership.” 

“Only a hyperspace pirate mothership?” Barclay exclaimed. “I can’t think of anything worse. Quick, Bubbles, do your course-change calculation, and let’s get the heck out of here!”

Bubbles wasn’t convinced that the mothership was a real threat: after all, hadn’t the hyperspace pirate End Caps had their arses kicked by earplugs time and time again? Surely they wouldn’t dare take on something as mean and moody-looking as the Prowler. However she felt compelled to adjust her opinion when the mothership launched three attack craft in her direction…

“Crimson alert,” she yelled as Barclay hit the Real Fast button that fired their vessel to supra-light speed…

“Okay, so what do we do now?” She inquired of her navigator and most important earplug in her personal universe. “Can we out-run them?”

“Aint got a sodding clue.” Barclay replied as his eyes turned from the special female in the seat beside him to peruse their defensive capability. “What?” He yelled with frustration, “No rearward facing atomic cannon? What wally at Punting-Modesty omitted that most important feature?”

“There’s the trash disposal hatch.” Bubbles suggested. “That faces backwards. I believe it also includes the contents of the cockpit lavatory sewage tank.”

“We might smear their windshields,” Barclay said with a mirthless chuckle, “but I don’t see it slowing them down any.”

Bubbles was about to sigh and say: “Well it was just a thought,” when she noticed something on her console screen.

“Hey,” she screamed with excitement, “when you said to Lieutenant R Swypes that he should use every weapon at his disposal to fight the inevitable doom, he took you literally. Those engineers left their equipment behind. With no other space available, they stowed it in the trash disposal.”

Barclay tried to make sense of what Bubbles was telling him. “I…I don’t see what you’re getting at.” He said.

“Like their redundant machine guns in the Major’s office,” Bubbles explained, “they included stuff for which they have no use – but we might. In this case it’s a whole bunch of sea mines. Barclay, they’re sitting in the trash disposal compartment – just waiting to be thrown out the back!”

Barclay didn’t bother responding verbally: he leaned over and kissed Bubbles, before hitting the trash disposal button on his console…

The pursuing hyper-space pirates either didn’t notice, or didn’t care: they just kept on coming…

Inside the Prowler, Bubbles and Barclay closed their eyes and prayed to the Saint of All Earplugs, the Supreme Being, former Father Superior at Lemon Stone monastery – Frank Tonsils, and Magnuss Earplug and his lovely former bounty-hunter wife, Hair-Trigger…

Their torture didn’t last long. Moments after releasing the mines, the first of the attack craft made a head-on collision with one. A chain reaction followed, which resulted in this…

…the utter destruction of the marauding flotilla, which left its constituent atoms spread across light-years of interstellar space.

Elation and relief filled the air of the Prowler’s cockpit…

“We did it!” Barclay yelled as he looked upwards, as though to a higher realm of existence.

“You kissed me!” Bubbles exclaimed.

“Yes I did, didn’t I?” Barclay replied. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind?” the incredulous female responded. “Of course I don’t mind. I will ‘mind’ of you don’t do it again though – repeatedly.”

So, as the Prowler re-entered hyper-space for the remainder of its journey…

…Barclay did what any self-respecting male earplug would do: he did his utmost to keep his favourite female earplug happy.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There; it had to happen. How could it not?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 19)

With other duties calling me away from both my camera and my laptop, I’m finding it  difficult to keep ahead of these posts. I hope I don’t run out of story before the final episode. The good thing is – because of it – I don ‘t get to watch much TV in the evening. Need the quieter hours to catch up on my Earplug Adventures. Speaking of which – here’s episode 19. Experience its uniqueness… 

Lance was as good as his word, and neither earplug needed to wait for long as they carelessly studied the functional military décor…

“Look, Barclay,” Bubbles said as she looked out through a smeared and sand-blasted window, “Fort Dunderhead is painted green. I would never have guessed. Isn’t it nice? I like the dappled effect. I wonder if they use a splatter gun, or the bristly end of a brush.”

However Barclay, disinterested in home improvements, was paying only scant attention to Bubbles’ words: he was too busy wondering where they kept the nearest lavatory.

“Pink.” He replied. “Pink lavatory paper. I really don’t mind: I’ll use anything.”

Meanwhile Major Leftfoot-Badger had taken himself to the Officers’ Mess, where he partook of a huge alcoholic beverage…

“Here’s to our terrestrial allies.” He said whilst toasting to an empty room that looked out upon a sandy wasteland. “May the Saint of All Earplugs bless them and keep them free from harm. They really are lovely little guys. Well Barclay is: Bubbles is just plain drop-dead gorgeous.”

Shortly after this outburst of drunken eloquence, Lance Ottershoe led two mini-armoured personnel carriers, burdened down with engineers inside their surprisingly cavernous bellies, across the aforementioned sandy wasteland…

Driving them was none other than Bubbles and Barclay.

“Don’t drive too quickly, Lance.” Bubbles called over the gentle whine of the gas turbine engines, “Barclay possesses the driving skills of an iceberg.”

This was true, but as the distance from Fort Dunderhead increased…

…so Barclay’s confidence at the steering sticks did likewise.

“Hey, slow-coaches,” he yelled from the rear of the short column, “I’d like to get out of first gear, thank you.”

Moreover, as they began the descent into the subterranean cavern, the former university graduate had pretty much decided that a career change was imminent. When they finally returned to Earth he planned to quit his job and become a tank driver.

Shortly after making this ill-considered decision, the three vehicles made their final approach to the grounded Prowler

The repairs and upgrades required for the Prowler to fly properly in the dangerously energised atmosphere of Worstworld took many hours, buckets of sweat, and a multitude of components to replace those of Earth origin that had been well and truly fried on the way in. Moreover Barclay’s ardour with the idea of controlling powerful machines cooled and he thought twice about giving up his cosy job at Punting-Modesty. And any ideas he might have had concerning having a go at flying the Prowler simply evaporated. So, as they waved goodbye to Lance and the departing Cavalry-plugs…

…he handed the ignition key to Bubbles.

“There you go, Captain.” He said. “In you I place my trust.”

So, a couple of minutes later, the motor fired up…

As the fuelling cleared and the motor ran sweetly, the two occupants looked at each other…

“Ready, partner?” Bubbles asked.

“For anything.” Barclay replied. “The ship is yours: take it up.”

Moments later the Prowler was blasting upwards across the sandy wastelands…

Immediately Major Leftfoot-Badger appeared in their front viewer…

“Sorry to butt in on you folks,” he said, “but, just for the record, where are you actually going?”

“Somewhere far away.” Bubbles said cryptically.

“To the only place we can think of that might have what we need.” Barclay added.

“And if that doesn’t pan out,” Bubbles continued, “well we’ll just have to think of something else. Prowler, out.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I’m sure any of you seasoned Earpluggers will have guessed where Bubbles and Barclay are headed. If not, you won’t have long to wait.

P.S Anyone notice the continuity gaff in this episode. Check out the drunken Major, then compare him to the guy on the Prowler’s viewscreen. Oops, wrong cavalryplug.

P.P.S Reference the drunken Major shot again. Notice the wall chart behind the character? It comprises individual photos of the mechanised cavalry’s machines. I knew I wouldn’t get to use the pictures in the story – and I didn’t want to waste them entirely – so I placed them upon the Officer’s Mess wall. Details, details…

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 18)

Lots of talky stuff in this episode. Heck, on a couple of occasions, they even get serious. Moreover –  no one visits the lavatory! Read on…

The conversation continued in much the same vein for a few minutes until it became clear to everyone that it had run its course. So as the two officers returned to their office, Lance took Bubbles and Barclay inside the building. In doing so they passed beside Silo Seven…

“What do you keep in these silos?” Bubbles inquired. “Nuclear missiles?”

“Grain.” The short-arsed soldier answered. He then expanded upon his reply, “Silos one through six are empty. We’ve not been able to get a decent harvest in years. Seven will be fully depleted by the end of the week.”

“Oh, Lance,” Bubbles wailed, “that’s terrible. Well at least I think it is. How many silos do you have?”

“Seven.” Lance replied. “The Catering Corps are looking into ways of roasting scorpions and cockroaches, and boiling sandworms; so we shouldn’t starve.”

“Talking of starving,” Barclay interrupted, “I haven’t eaten since breakfast-time yesterday – on Earth: how about some chow and a cup of coffee?”

Chapter 9

Bubbles had felt guilty about eating from the cavalry’s meagre supply; but having done so she felt much better physically. She even managed a smile as she stood beside Barclay and did her best to regard the view across the radiation-swept plain upon which Fort Dunderhead had been built…

Her smile was infectious, and as she came close to Barclay, he couldn’t help smiling himself.

“It’s been a funny old sort of day.” He said over his shoulder.

“Not the one I’d imagined.” Bubbles confessed. “And not better either.”

Then, as the exterior lights blazed and turned the dusk beyond the perimeter into night, both terrestrial earplugs turned their gaze away from the window…

…and looked at each other.

“Until we get the Prowler ship-shape,” Barclay said, “their problem is our problem.”

Bubbles opened her mouth to reply, but a sudden power-outage plunged the interior into semi-darkness…

Recovering, she spoke her intended words:

“If we could leave tonight, I wouldn’t. We have a super-advanced alien-based machine at our disposal, built by the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company: surely there’s something we can do.”

Barclay allowed his eyes to range along the compartment in which they stood:

“They have an advanced technological civilisation,” he replied, “and all they can do is either hide or flee. If someone can fix up the Prowler, I think that’s what we should do.” Then, following a pause of perhaps a heartbeat or two, he added: “Alternatively we could use it to good effect. I’ve been thinking about that strange curtain-like thing in space. Something tells me that it’s there for a reason. Or if it isn’t – well maybe we can give it a reason. Let’s go talk to the boss: maybe he knows something about it.”

Bubbles was thrilled by what she heard her subordinate say.

“Oh, Barclay,” she screamed as she cuddled up to him, “what a wonderful idea. Let’s go – right now.”

So, whilst electrical technicians elsewhere struggled to turn the lights back on, Bubbles wrapped an arm around Barclay’s, and together they strode off in search of the Commanding Officer’s quarters…  

Although Fort Dunderhead could be described as ‘big’, it didn’t take long for the determined earplugs to find Major Leftfoot-Badger’s office.  At first, though, they thought the room was empty. Only the presence of a pair of old-style cavalry hats informed them that anyone was home…

Of course, what neither Punting-Modesty employee could have known was that the Major wore contact lenses, and he and Lieutenant R Swypes were hidden from view as they searched the carpet beneath the Major’s desk for an errant lens. When they became aware that they were not alone, they quickly regained their feet and threw themselves into their chairs in time to greet their visitors…

“Ah, the terrestrials.” Leftfoot-Badger called out, despite the fact that he couldn’t actually see who stood before him. “I can smell the vacuum of space upon you.”

“Whadda ya want?” Swypes added.

As Barclay told the Worstworlders about their encounter in space, both cavalry-plugs donned their hats and came around the desk…

“Lieutenant Swypes,” the Major said as Barclay finished his description, “this is more your area of expertise: how about you strut your funky stuff.”

Swypes turned his attention to the visitors. “I believe you speak of the Veil of Shytar.” He said. “So named by a solo adventurer, by the name of Augustus Pronk, who flew his tiny one-earplug vessel from our world, in search of another upon which he could live in splendid isolation from his overbearing wife and soul-crushing off-spring. He was seated upon his tiny vessel’s sole lavatory, when the veil swam into view and startled him mightily. He decided to name the apparition after the lavatory seat upon which he sat. But, being a prudish society we altered his original nomenclature for the space anomaly to Shytar. The difference in pronunciation is slight, but it makes all the difference when discussed during a dinner party, governmental general assembly, waiting in line at a check-out, or whatever.”

“Fascinating,” Barclay interrupted rudely, “but what the flipping heck is it?”

“We have no idea.” Swypes replied as he sniffed disdainfully. “Since Augustus Pronk embarked upon a second journey to rendezvous with it – and never returned – no one has dared go near it.”

“Oh,” Bubbles said in surprise, “so you have no idea that it rejects sensor scans and cannon fire?”

“Er, no.” Swypes replied. “Um…what of it?”

“I’ll tell you what,” Bubbles snapped, “instead of cowering in the shadows and accepting defeat, the people of Worstworld should be trying anything and everything to make sure this planet survives the coming holocaust. The Veil of Shytar can deflect energy. How much energy? Could it stand against a nova? Shouldn’t someone be looking into the idea?”

The Major felt it his duty to take control of the conversation:

“Perhaps it is, young female,” he said in a not altogether stuffy or pompous manner, “but until this moment, no one has ever thought of it.”

Stepping from his desk he stood and spoke directly to Bubbles…

“We no longer have the capability to make this study.” He said. “Time is not on our side.”

Meanwhile Lieutenant Swypes was regarding a container of redundant machine guns. Barclay noticed this.  “You should use whatever weapons you can on such an implacable foe.” He said.

“Major,” Swypes addressed his superior, “might I suggest we do everything in our limited power to assist these wonderful earplugs in their efforts to utilise the Veil of Shytar against the coming nova?”

“What do you mean, Lieutenant?” Leftfoot-Badger responded hopefully.

“That we send a team of engineers to get their vessel fixed and fit to fly.” Swypes replied. “Bubbles and Barclay are our only weapons against the inevitable. We must send the willing conscripts into battle!”

These were rousing words spoken well in a surprisingly stentorian tone.

“Jeepers, R.” The major exploded, “you’re absolutely right. Enough of wasting our lives away sodding about in armoured vehicles: let’s give ‘em a fighting chance. Are you up for it, Bubbles?”

Bubbles, caught slightly off-guard, responded thus:

“Ugh, yeah…whatever. Let’s get down!”

The Major was thrilled by this reaction, so, only moments later, Lance Ottershoe arrived to escort their visitors from the office…

“You two hang around outside in the corridor.” He said as they headed for the door. “I’ll go rustle up some engineers and armoured personnel carriers.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

In the early Earplug Adventure stories all the photos were taken at random. Then, when I figured I had enough shots, I would arrange them so that they told a story of sorts. It was a bit Stream of Consciousness, but trammelled by the pictures available to me. Later I reversed the process – thinking up the story and shooting appropriate photos. But the picture in this episode that features the box of machine guns  in the Major’s office returned me to my roots. I had no plan to use the gun’s presence the story; but their mere existance gave Barclay the opportunity to make the Lieutenant reconsider his position. A significant and timely result of this appears later in the story – you’ll know it when you see it. If I hadn’t included that box (as window dressing) in the scene when I shot it in my attic ‘studio’, the tale might have taken another path entirely. Stream of Consciousness continues to have a place in my stories. I think it’s a good way to write – at least for me, who can’t abide rules and restrictions: it allows an alternative narrative to exist.  

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 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 8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quite a lot of time later…

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

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

Chapter 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seconds later the Star Chamber emptied…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” Barclay inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, with an abrupt change of subject and demeanour…

…she said:

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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