Liberation! Vol Two – Too!

Hot on the metaphorical tail of the Liberation! Volume One re-write comes…

Yes, the 17th Child-Friendly Photo-Novel has been made near perfect and has been re-published for all to marvel at. What, before, was merely fabulous, is now…um…even better. Yes, buy the e-book at your favourite e-book seller at the first opportunity. Don’t wait until pay day: put yourself in debt straight away. You know it makes sense. Here’s a montage to make you salivate – metaphysically anyway…

Liberation Liberated From Mediocrity

Hot on the heels of…

…comes the fabulously wonderful re-write of this e-book…

…which lifts the product out of the realms of mediocrity, and catapaults it into the artistic stratosphere – which, in laymans terms, means that its a bit better than the original, and well worth a look. I like it anyway. Here’s a montage…

The Scroton Five!

Ah, the Scroton 5. No, this post isn’t about a 1960’s British pop band by that name, which, I feel confident, never existed: but about the long-winded gestation of this ‘new’ space craft in the Earplug Adventure universe…

Originally this craft, and this craft alone, was to be named Scroton Five: but then I accidentally created this space battle shot…

Suddenly there were three more of them – and not one of them was slated to appear in the next Earplug Adventure: A Tale of Three Museums. So the single craft became a ‘class’ of space vessel – one of which was slated to appear in the next story. And, most importantly, it was to be piloted by none other than these guys…

…Yes, Flaxwell Maltings and Dr Gideon Snoot – the ‘stars’ of the next story!

My problem, regarding shooting scenes that featured them adventuring in the Scroton 5, was simple and singular. My space ship only had an outside. There were no interiors. And now that I no longer have access to a bloody great factory and everything inside it, finding inspirational parts to build the interiors became impossible. My shed didn’t help – being full of tools, garden stuff, and nothing that was any good to a desperate author. So it was back to my attic studio, and a prayer to The Saint of All Earplugs…

I began searching through several containers of earplug-related ‘stuff’ – with no luck, until I realised that one of the containers itself could be my saviour…

I call it a Domti box, because it (and several others) came home with me when I returned to Britain from Spain several years past, and were purchased (at a very reasonable price) from a shop named, unsurprisingly, Domti. This was impetus I needed. Soon the creative juices began to flow. Picking up an ancient LCD portable DVD player, I brought the two items together in a  holy union…

“Hmmm,” I mused, “If I were to put some space scenes on a DVD…Yeah, then build a control room floor that would sit above the working part of the DVD player…”

Cue the lid of a black box file, a tube of glue, and a few random widgets that had been tossed, willy-nilly, into the Domti box…

“Yeah, I can work with that.” I continued to muse. “But what about the reverse angle shots?”

Well box files have a lid and a base. The lid made the control room floor: the base could easily become a back wall…

So, a few minutes later, with the cutting and glueing complete, what did I have? Well there was the main screen and control panel, of course…

…not to mention a pair of seats for the pilots. There is also a cage behind the seats for the obligatory Ship’s Oracle – another of my regular inclusions/plot devices. Naturally I included a space toilet too…

After all, what would an astronaut do without a loo on the bridge? And some other items, for which I’ll invent a use when neccessity strikes…

At the rear there’s a window-type frame that might, or might not, look into an engineering section (when I’ve built it, of course)…

And a door that leads to…somewhere…

All together it looks like this…

…and this…

And when I populate it with a random crew…

And we see what they see…

…you know I have a ship that can kick literary ass…

A Free E-Book Gets Free-er.

By that, I mean that this e-book…

…which was free-of-charge previously, remains free-of-charge, but has been enhanced, improved, and contains more photos and lines of script. In short, there is more that is free; therefore it is free-er. Currently available at Lulu.com – or you can wait a few days from this posting date for other suppliers to get their arses into gear – and then get it at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, etc – also gratis.

It’s quite a tale: you really should give it a look.

My Apologies, Earpluggers…

…but recent times have not been kind to your favourite author of silicone-based stories. It has proven difficult, in the extreme, to produce a ‘new’ Earplug Adventure. I have the story sketched out in my mind; but finding the time to shoot sufficient pictures is proving impossible. But I have managed to cobble together a montage of possible inclusions in A Tale of Three Museums, and I’d like to share them with you. Perhaps you’d care to comment on them. That would be nice. Give me a little pep-up and all that…

Not bad – right?

Tooty.

Sources of Everyday Earplug Inspiration 3: Venerable Swiss Sweetener Dispensers

In the original Everyday Earplug Inspiration, I mentioned a popular coffee sweetener dispenser. In this edition, another rears its familar head. It is, probably, the first artificial sweetener available in Europe, and has been in production for eons. It is, of course, this…

Now, if you read the first post, you might be wondering just how I managed to find similar inspiration from this tiddly little transparent box – with no apparent removable parts that could be utilised as Earplug modes of transport. But look closer. Imagine that blue plastic cover torn apart and cast into the nearest litter receptical. What would you be left with? I’ll tell you: it’s this…

I’m talking about the white bit, upon which all those other plastic parts have been glued. In this case Valentine and Rudi are discussing the merits of the Punting-Modesty Facepuncher XL5 Attack Craft. Here it is in action during the Battle of the Museum of Future Technology – in the story….er…actually I can’t remember which book that was. It might have been Liberation. Yes, that would make sense…

With no ancillary parts for a second Punting-Modesty, the next Hermesetas box yeilded a Taxi-sled, which carried a group of T.W.I.T recruits to the museum in The Time Tamperer

And soon the third will appear as a sports version of the sled in A Tale of Three Museums…

And who knows what other uses it might be put to. Can you think of anything? I’m all ears – metaphorically that is. 

A Tastier Taster and a Promising Promise

Do you remember these guys?

No? They appeared in an Earplug Wallpaper. Hair vs Hat, I think it was called. Well, they weren’t a one-off. They – Flaxwell Maltings and Dr Gideon Snoot – are going to (finally, at last) appear in an Earplug Adventure. And in a very important role too. In fact they are going to tell the tale of A Tale of Three Museums – using a very nice little scout ship that enjoys the moniker of the Scroton Five…

…to search for The Porthole of Everywhere…

…which will display The Museum of Future Technology…

…in two timelines and two distant spacial locations – making three museums in total. Gosh! Imagine! How will I ever manage to keep all of these disparate threads coherent within my aging (and not always rational) brain? With difficulty, that’s how.

Well hopefully I’ve whetted the appetites of any Earpluggers reading this. Also hopefully, I’ll get the time and opportunity to shoot the pictures and write the script required to produce the story. At the time of writing this, the vagaries of life are creating barriers to the completion of my literary and photographic plans: but, fear not, I shall persevere. You will see another Earplug Adventure. I just don’t know when.

Tooty.

   

Sources of Everyday Earplug Inspiration 2: Lavatory Fresheners

I may have mentioned, once or twice, that my camera and I seem to hang around toilets rather a lot. A strange place to find inspiration, I’m sure  you’ll agree. And you’d be right. But that doesn’t change anything. On this particular occasion I’d like to draw your attention to a little toiletry object that, perhaps, most loo-users might over-look – quite literally, if you stand up to pee. I refer, of course, to this…

You know, the simple device that does this…

They come in or sorts of shapes and…er…well…shapes…

But, boy, are they useful! Look at these natty habitat modules for use in distant places and inclement conditions…

Or maybe military outposts…

Or scientific facilities…

On all sorts of worlds…

And there’s the out-spill too, of course. The sweet-smelling stuff that the dispenser…um…dispenses. The coloured chemicals that adhere to the bowl on the way down to the water. Play with a shot of that for long enough and one can create a lava explosion…

Or, thinking bigger, a solar flare…

“Yeah, great, Tooty.” I hear you complain. “You’re an artistic genius, okay? I get that. But what the heck does any of this have to do with Earplug inspiration? I don’t see any of these bog cleaners in the Earplug Adventures!”

And you’d be right. But not for much longer. Look…

And look again…

And again…

Believe me, when I say: “Toilet fresheners are the future!”

Distant Land (part 44)

Captain Cedric Mantequilla wasn’t an overtly emotional earplug; but something in the Skail Brother’s tale of an uprooted and decimated civilization broke through his not particularly stony reserve…

“How sad.” He said into the silence that reigned upon the bridge of the Brian Talbot…

“Agreed.” His crew responded in a fusillade of croaks as they avoided each other’s gaze by paying overly close attention to their work-station screens and read-outs.

Even Folie was feeling a little subdued…

“What are we going to do now?” He asked. “We can’t just fly away like nothing happened.”

“And it’s not enough to show this video to anyone who is willing to watch. “Placebo said quietly. “We have to do something more positive. Can star ships go back in time? Can we stop the disaster from ever happening? Maybe warn them, or something?”

Folie picked up on this: “Hey, maybe we could show them their own video: that’d make them think twice about tapping into alternate realities. And it must be awful having so many earplugs using so few toilets!”

Cedric remained mute and immobile throughout this. At the rear of the bridge, three crew-plugs chose to quietly conjecture…

“Cedric isn’t the bravest captain that ever was.” The pink earplug, known as Lawrence Bunion, stated. And before his colleagues could put their feet in their mouths by saying something derogatory about the captain, he did so himself: “Me – I’m all for trying something stupid like that kid suggested. But I reckon Mantequilla will cut and run. He’ll probably panic and order max speed in any direction other the one he morally needs to take.”

But he was alone with these negative thoughts. The others believed that, for once in his life, the Captain would overcome his natural propensity for panicky actions. This would be the time when he would exhibit the type of character that star ship captains, throughout the Galaxy, were famed for.

“I’ll bet you a week’s wages that he doesn’t.” The orange crew-plug, whose name was Brett Scuttles, whispered.

But before the deal could be ratified by a dry spit and the shaking of hands, Cedric stood and led Folie and Placebo to the front of the bridge…

“Sorry kids,” he said to them as everyone turned their attention to the main viewer, “but star ships can’t travel in time. Only space.”

For a brief moment Brett Scuttles  wished that he’d not suggested the bet: he couldn’t afford to lose that much money. But his concerns evaporated when Cedric added: “But it can find that frozen world that so closely resembles Earth. And maybe it’s crew can visit that world. And maybe…just maybe…that crew can figure out how to use their fancy equipment and bring that world back to life.”

Folie was confused. “I’m confused, Captain.” He said. He was also at a loss. “I’m at a loss too. What would be the point? There’s no one left to live on it.”

“Not now maybe.” Cedric replied through a grim smile. “But when we cross over into that alternate reality and fetch all the survivors back, there certainly will be.” He then added loudly, in his most commanding tone: “Helmsplug – set a precise course that follows the Gravity Whelk’s ion trail back to it’s planet of origin. We don’t have forever to get this job done: so get us their quickly…huh? Maximum thrust all the way. No holding back. Talking of which: I need to visit the lavatory – and damned quickly too. So let’s go-go-go!”

Moments later, the heading having been entered in to the navigation computer,  the Brian Talbot blasted into an uncertain future…

The End

Now watch out for the next thrilling tale – ‘A Tale of Three Museums‘.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019  

 

Distant Land (part 42)

And what a call it was. The recipient? Only Princess Cake of Potwell, that’s all! Well, her Equerry anyway…

“Whadda ya mean?” Beaufort roared at the poor individual through the Comm-Panel’s microphone. “Why isn’t she there? She should be packing.” Then moderating his tone, he added: “Oh, she’s a lazy sod who’s left it all to you: I see. Well where can I find her? It’s really important.”

The unseen Equerry gave the adventuring earplug the information he required, and soon Beaufort and his brother left Yaki to help herself to breakfast cereal, and were making good speed along  the corridor away from their delightful quarters…

“That Yaki’s a nice earplug, isn’t she Beaufort?” Richter said as they hurried along.

“Charm personified.” Beaufort agreed begrudgingly. “But don’t go getting any ideas, brother: she’s a Geisha Boss: she knows how to push male earplug’s buttons. And yours are just bursting to get pushed. Turn left just down here.”

Moments later they found themselves in the iced-up skateboard park in the lower levels…

Richter was disappointed and almost surrendered to the powers of fate; but Beaufort was no pushover: “Let’s think, Richter. Her Equerry said she was coming down to here to convince herself that they’d made the right decision to evacuate the museum. Where else would she go to cogitate and ruminate – besides the skateboard park? Think. Think!”

“Um.” Richter replied. “Well, when she was little, and her Dad was out on ceremonial visits to distant lands, she used to play in her favourite hide-away. It was an atom-proof bunker from the old days, when the museum was under threat of nuclear attack.”

“Brilliant.” Beaufort yelled so loudly that shards of ice began falling from the frosty ceiling. “Let’s go!”

It took a while, but eventually the brothers found their way to Princess Cake’s childhood sanctuary…

“What, the flipping heck,do you want?” Princess Cake demanded.

Clearly the museum’s figurehead and nominal ruler was annoyed at the intrusion into her solitude, so the Skails trod carefully as they told her of Yaki Hogwashi’s request. To which Cake replied: “So what do you want your ruler to do about it?”

“Two things.” Beaufort answered. “One: the Gravity Whelk was once the Royal Barge. Your father used it to make royal tours to nearby worlds. When we returned, the ignition keys were handed into your possession. Two: we’ve forgotten the way to where we parked the ship. We were kind of hoping you’d use the Royal Locator Beam to find it.”

Finally, or so Cake felt, the Princess had something useful to do. She could actually help. “Yeah, alright.” She replied. “I carry it in my bustle. Follow me. Or rather – follow my bustle.”

Five minutes later…

“It’s okay.” Cake said to calm the Skail’s fear of being swamped in snow, “the route I’m taking is through a dry, desert-like valley, where the snow can’t fall. Oh look – there it is.”

And it was – although the Princess hadn’t been entirely accurate: there were patches of snow that had collected in hollows everywhere…

“Flipping heck, this place is barren.” Beaufort complained. “Is it very far, Your Highness?”

“It’s just over that rise.” Cake answered, as she extracted the Gravity Whelk’s ignition keys from a secret pouch in her royal bustle. “You go that way: I’m going to find piece of high ground, from which to watch you depart”.

And she did – although it was only a very small piece of high ground that wasn’t very high at all…

“Good luck, boys.” She called. “Now be on your way. You have tale to tell. Go shout it at the Universe.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

Distant Land (part 41)

It would take time to organize the evacuation of the icebound Museum of Future Technology…

And because the protective electromagnetic screen’s vast energy consumption was…um…vast, it was decided to lower them and trust in the integrity of the building’s multi-layered outer walls to maintain a livable temperature inside – at least for a while. But, just to be certain that no one would freeze to death, whilst preparations were completed, it was recommended that non-essential personnel remain in their quarters and keep their wooley socks on. This included the Skail Brothers. So Yaki Hogwashi wasn’t surprised  when, the following day, Richter answered the door to her insistent knocking…

“Why, hello!” The yellow earplug said as his eyes alighted upon the attractive Geisha Boss. “Whatever you’re selling – I’ll have half a dozen.”

Beaufort, who was looking out of the window, called out: “Enough of the smarm, Richter: invite her in.”

So, moments later, Yaki had parked her posterior at the dining table and duly introduced herself…

“Nice quarters.” She added. “The decor is divine.”

“Thank you.” Richter replied. “I can take no credit for it, I’m afraid: I leave all the decorating to Beaufort.”

Beaufort decided to dispense with niceties: “Whadda ya want?” He all but snarled at the uninvited interloper, whom he didn’t know, nor really cared to. “I was darning a hole in my underpants!”

In response Yaki dropped her smile. “Okay.” She said. “I’ll get cut to the chase. I make a point of knowing who is doing what to whom inside the Museum of Future Technology. My geisha business relies on it. So I know that several months ago you were dispatched off-world to find an alternative energy supply. Our current situation strongly suggests that you failed.”

“Not for the want of trying.” Beaufort said in the sibling’s defense.

“I don’t doubt it.” Yaki replied. “But you returned in a fully-functioning ship that bears remarkably few scars.”

“What are you inferring?” Beaufort snapped. “Are you calling us cowards?”

Yaki was appalled at the suggestion…

“What?” She squealed. “No, of course not. Flipping heck. No – I was just pointing out that the Gravity Whelk remains space-worthy. That it can still fly!”

Richter chanced a half-smile.”What do you want us to do, Yaki?” He said quietly

To which Yaki replied: “Tell our story. Don’t let our disappearance go unnoticed. Let the Galaxy know that once we were here. And let them know what destroyed us. That conspicuous over-consumption has devastating consequences. Make sure that others don’t make the same mistake.”

It was a long sentence, and Yaki had been so earnest that she’d forgotten to breathe throughout it. So she slumped back in her seat and awaited the Skail’s response…

“Actually,” Beaufort said slowly, “the thought had occurred to us. But we didn’t know quite how to go about it. All the Comm-Stations are under several measures of ice and snow. We can’t dial out.”

“No, that’s right.” Richter spoke clearly and concisely. “But the Gravity Whelk isn’t!”

A split second later the three earplugs had leapt from their seats and were on their way to the Skail’s communication panel…

They had a call to make. And it wasn’t to order a gross of toilet tissues!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 40)

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

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

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

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

So, moments later…

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally no one wasted a nanosecond…

…and within five minutes Yaki had returned to Valerie…

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

So they did…

…and they both enjoyed themselves enormously.

Whilst the curvaceous beauties frolicked without shame, former space-plugs, Richter and Beaufort, were en route to their rented rooms…

“What do you think of Whoops Brannigan’s plan, Beau?” Richter asked his brother.

And Beaufort replied: “It’s the end of the world – and we’re running away. It doesn’t feel right at all. How will history judge us? How will anyone from the future know that we were ever here? It’s like becoming extinct – but without dying. Can’t say I’m keen at all: but what other choice do we have? I just hope they have toilets in the alternate quantum reality: I hate pooping in ditches!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 39)

Princess Cake told the brief tale of George Tweedy and his son, Aswara, who had tried tirelessly to reach the sanctuary of the Museum of Future Technology. But as tireless as the young Aswara was, George’s extra years did not work in his favour, and soon his tortured body fell to the snow-strewn ground…

“Oh, Father.” Aswara had cried. “You must be strong. Stand up and continue the struggle.”

“No.” George had replied. “I’m done for. Go on without me. I bequeath you my corregated bike shed manufacturing facility to you. Carry on the business in my name. Would you do that for me?”

Aswara was taken aback by his father’s capitulation to the elements…

But he also quite fancied being the boss of a factory – even if said factory was buried beneath several metres of snow and ice. “Oh.” He said. “Is it alright if I paint them yellow?They might show up better in the snow.”

“Orange.” George had replied. “Less aesthetically pleasing: but more vibrant. Of course it’s only a suggestion.”

“Which proves,” Princess Cake concluded – all too quickly, or so thought Richter, “that earplugs will always continue to uphold their conventions and do their duty, even when the situation seems dire and the problems insurmountable.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 38)

Of course, being power generation engineers, Beaufort and Richter knew their way around the back alleys and secret conduits of the maintenance department like the back of their hand. Despite this, Beaufort was a little surprised to find himself standing atop the Mud Village exhibit, which hailed from a future era in which everyone became fervently ecological and gave up concrete and bricks for several generations, until one particularly wet night when every house in the world dissolved back into slimy soil and people were forced to sleep under hedges, straw bales, and raffia mats…

What surprised him less was the sight of the barely visible electromagnetic defensive screen that had been erected to ward off the dramatic climatic change.

“That must take almost every erg of energy the museum can produce.” He exclaimed. “But how long can they keep it up? Eventually it’s bound to fail. Then it’s curtains for everyone. Oh lummy, Richter: we’re gonna die. And after all we’ve been through too. It isn’t fair!”

But Richter was less pessimistic: “Oh I don’t know: those scientists are a clever bunch of so-and-so’s: one of them is bound to think of something. Come on, let’s get inside the exhibit; then we can make our way into the museum proper.”

So with slightly gladdened hearts, the brothers proceeded…

It was a difficult descent down slippery steps that hadn’t benefited from dry-air dehumidifying since the crisis had begun…

But the brother’s ‘space legs’ served them well on the uneven treads; and soon they reached the bottom, where they knew of a fire exit…

…that would allow them entry into the main building…

“It’s certainly warmer in here.” Richter observed.

“Not for much longer.” Beaufort complained.

Nothing more was said until they approached the tunnel that took them within spitting distance of the royal palace. It was there that they heard a loud-speaker announcement, which informed them that their arrival had been detected and that they had been summoned to a meeting with the scientists and Princess Cake… 

“Ooh,” an impressed Richter said in a stage whisper, “they don’t miss much, do they!”

Naturally the brothers attended…

…and what they learned astonished them. Two things actually. One: Dennis Tawdry had run out of fresh underpants and had attended the meeting sans lingerie. Two: Princess Cake was delighted to announce that Whoops Brannigan’s team had calculated that, by using the same device with which they had accessed the alternate reality and caused global ruin, it was possible to send everyone into another – hopefully safer – dimension.

“Did you hear that, Richter.” Beaufort whispered as the others spent a few moments feeling self-satisfied and smug, “we can escape this living hell – soon to become a dying hell?”

Beaufort had; but he was more concerned that Dennis had nothing more than the material of his lab coat protecting them all from his hideous wind breaks. Then Princess Cake took a few moments to tell the boys a tale of bravery that she believed should be a source of inspiration for everyone. Two tales actually. One about a father and son: another about a beautiful female earplug who was the Mother Superior to a team of Adventure Geisha.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019 

 

Distant Land (part 37)

For a moment the brothers simply stood stock still and watched the storm rage beyond the transparent opening in the hull – known, technically at least, as a ‘window’…

“Okay.” Richter said with a shrug of his shoulders. “It’s not an experience I’d care to share either.” And he duly made tracks…

…towards the bulkhead door…

…which opened at his approach…

…and allowed ingress of only a tiny proportion of the bitter cold from outside…

It was several hours later that the brothers finally laid their plans for approaching the museum in relative safety. They decided to ride a low-altitude two-seater sky-cycle, which Richter was to pilot…

But when he read this message upon the dashboard…

…he was struck with the realization that any flight taken during a blizzard aboard the fair weather craft was doomed to failure. So (after cursing the sky-cycle’s designers) instead they…

…thought it best to test the strength of the frozen river, upon which the Gravity Whelk had landed.

“It’s a bit – you know – slushy, isn’t it?” Beaufort half-stated/ half-inquired.

Indeed it was. In fact they both wondered how the ship had remained upright on such structurally unsound footings. But then Beaufort slipped into the icy liquid accidentally and discovered that the river was actually very shallow…

“Hey,” Richter exclaimed. “That’s given me an idea.”

Three minutes later…

…the brothers were riding the ships’ life raft through the semi-frozen waters…

“Are you sure this river will take us to the Museum of Future Technology?” Beaufort asked from the forward passenger seat.

“Indubitably.” Richter replied. “It’s the source of the power generator’s coolant supply. I thought everyone knew that.”

Naturally Richter was entirely correct; and in a short while the flowing slush had carried the life raft to the outer walls of their destination, where they quickly disembarked before it transported them all the way to the distant frozen sea…

“Look.” Richter said with a triumphant squeal. “The emergency back door to the Maintenance Shed!”

And he was right…

“Quick.” Beaufort yelled, as he pushed past and dashed through the deepening snow towards the inviting entrance. “Without thermal underpants on, this weather is playing merry hell with my bladder!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 36)

Well, as luck would have it, someone had forgotten to switch off the museum’s Racing Plugmutt homing beacon. So, before very long, the Gravity Whelk’s atmospheric drive roared above the Museum of Future Technology in a blaze of fury…

“There it is.” Richter yelled in unadulterated joy. “Down there – below us. Call them up! Call them up!”

Beaufort was no less enthusiastic; so it was with dejection that he felt compelled to inform his brother of the radio silence that greeted his hail.

“Arse!” Richter yelled in disappointment. “I’m so disappointed I could cry. Try another pass: maybe someone will notice us out of their bathroom window.”

Beaufort had similar thoughts, and within seconds he’d instructed the Automatic Pilot to perform a U-turn…

“Best be careful.” The Automatic Pilot warned the siblings. “The Museum has automatic defences – against marauding aliens from outer space and suchlike. You don’t want to get us shot out of the sky, I hope.”

This was a situation that neither brother had considered. Now they did. “Take us somewhere else.” Richter yelped in an embarrassingly high pitched voice.

Beaufort took a second or two deliberating: “Somewhere nearby, but not too nearby.” He added.

So, moments later…

…the ship headed for the nearby hills, where…

…its sole occupants disembarked.

“Was our world ever this cold?” Richter asked as he stared at the snowy hills, beyond which their home lay quiescent and strangely foreboding.

“No.” Beaufort replied. “Not even during winter. Something happened while we were gallivanting about the Galaxy upon a fools’ errand. By the way – I wish I had some thermal underpants on.”

Richter felt much the same way. “Do we have any aboard ship?” He inquired.

Beaufort thought about the question…

“No.” He answered finally. “But if we visit a city, we might find some in a department store.”

Richter didn’t hesitate: “Let’s go!” He yelled.

But when the ship grounded once more – on the outskirts of the nearest city – Ciudad De Droxford – they discovered that it was…

…thoroughly snowed-in, ice-bound, and barely visible through the blizzard that greeted them.

“Arse again!” Richter growled as he and Beaufort looked out of the Viewing Room window…

Richter sighed. “I guess there’s no point in searching for survivors. Surely anyone with more than two brain cells would have made tracks to the Museum long ago.”

Beaufort also sighed. Then his gaze fell upon the Space Loo that glowed invitingly upon the other side of the Viewing Room. “Oh, that reminds me: I’m desperate for a pee. I hope you don’t mind, but I like to do it alone.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Early Work Gets a MASSIVE Makeover

For some while now the quality of my early Earplug Adventures – both script and photos – has concerned me. At the time (2014) I was dipping my metaphorical toe into the art and didn’t really know what to expect. I used a nasty cheap camera: I had a very limited supply of ‘actors’: my computer programs available to me were the basics that come with Windows 7: even my pens failed to write properly when I drew faces upon the the earplugs: and I didn’t have a story either. So I suppose its a surprise that I was able to produce The Museum of Future Technology at all. On top of that, for some reason, the photographic quality dipped further as I transferred the pictures from one file to another as they were integrated into the final manuscript. So I thought the time was right for a makeover. No re-shooting, obviously – that would take months: but a general clean up of the pictures – making facial characteristics clearer and adding a few special effects – and a re-jigging of some of the prose, was in order. Well its not yet complete, but here’s a sample of some of the pictures…

When its done I’ll pull the original version of the e-book, and replace it  with the new and improved version. You know, I might even label it as such. Good idea, yes? Will it be worth the effort?

Tooty

Distant Land (part 35)

Meanwhile, Folie, Placebo, and the others continued to stare in utter fascination at the bridge main viewer…

And what it showed at that particular moment was a spectacular head-on shot of the Gravity Whelk against a backdrop of stars…

Placebo was about to say something along the lines of: “Wow, how did they get that shot? Do they have a huge, invisible selfie stick or something?” when the view reversed…

“Ooh,” Folie managed, “a big star. Do you think that object in the top right quadrant is a planet?” But he shut up when the view altered again…

“That sure is a pretty ship.” Placebo opined in a  breathless rush. “And look how close it passed to that star. Look – it’s turning to port. It’s surely heading for…

…that planet. Oh, by the Saint of All Earplugs: it’s a frozen world!”

Then it became clear to those watching that the pause in commentary had been inserted so that they could enjoy the aesthetics of space craft in their natural environment. So, once more, the tale was taken up…

“Flipping heck.” Beaufort cried out at the planetary apparition, as the Gravity Whelk made a fly-past. “What the flip has happened on our home world? It’s gone all icy!”  

“Dunno.” Richter replied grumpily. “But we didn’t come half way across eternity to turn away now: We’re going in.”

So they did…

And before very long they were plummeting through the atmosphere towards the frozen surface…

Above which they skimmed at intolerably low altitude…

“Beaufort.” Richter called above the noise of keening air as it tore at the blunt prow and bulbous flanks of the large vessel. “See if you can locate the Museum of Future Technology. If that’s gone, the world is done for!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

Distant Land (part 32)

For a short period, after their return to the Museum, Whoops, Dido, Dennis, and Frutilda tried to live normal lives in a changed world…

But deep down inside each of them suffered…

…as they tried to ignore the curator’s attempts to save the survivors of the disaster that they had caused. Although they were aware that search teams traveled far and wide to aid desperate earplugs…

…they chose, as best they could, to enjoy life within the huge edifice…

And while they looked out upon a world that had slipped into nuclear winter, the curators dispatched rescue craft…

…into the mountains…

…where members of isolated communities were invited to return to the safety of the museum…

“Nice vessel.” Some would say. “Where are the passenger seats?”

To which the welcoming crewplugs would reply: “Sorry: standing room only. We need to pack you in like small silver marine creatures in tomato sauce.”

On one occasion, Frutilda and Whoops fell into a sullen conversation…

“You never know.” Frutilda said optimistically, “the Gravity Whelk...

…might yet return with the answer to our world’s ills.”

But Whoops was far less hopeful: “I think I want to go outside and suffer a little for my hubris and egotistical stupidity. You’ve been a bit of a turd too, Frutilda: care to join me?”

Naturally Frutilda, concerned for Whoops’ state of mind, duly slipped through a side window with her boss…

But even she was surprised by what Whoops did next, which was to jump into a deep drift and sink up to his bum in freezing snow…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

Distant Land (part 31)

And he was very nearly right, because the parched land soon gave way to scorched desert. But fortunately, for the gallant foursome, their route took them to an outlying public lavatory that, by a freak of geography, had been protected by the blast of the energy spill from the alternative universe…

“Hoorah.” Dido cried out in relief and joy. “I’m an expert on public lavatories. This model has a reserve water tank in the roof space: we can have a wee, wash our hands, and have a drink – almost simultaneously!”

“Excellent.” Whoops replied. “The mere presence of this ingenious working class bog proves that we’re on the right track. The Museum of Future Technology believed in spreading futuristic toilets far beyond its borders, you know – as part of a public service. This can only be one of those; I can feel it in my bowels.”

“Great.” Frutilda grunted. “But will the toilets flush?”

“Who cares?” Dennis answered. “I’m desperate: let’s go!”

So, two minutes later…

“That was disgusting.” Dennis complained. “The heat evaporated all the water. I had to wash my hands in sludge!”

But Frutilda was made of sterner stuff. “Come on boys.” She said as she departed the lavatory. “Get over it. The museum’s this way, by the way: I can almost smell its vaulted towers above the stench of that vile toilet.”

And she was right too…

…because soon an artificial walkway replaced the desert. Relief quickly joined to joy when they realized that the museum pathway illumination system was still active…

“Oh goody.” Frutilda said, as the pedestrian guidance system glowed invitingly. “The museum has power. Hopefully the security system will recognize our passes.”

Dennis wasn’t quite so optimistic…

 

“What if someone bolted the door before going to bed last night?” He argued. “We’ll never get inside!”

But his pessimism was unwarranted: the designers of the building from the future had…er…designed it well, and built it even better. Soon Dennis stood at a peephole…

 

…and snatched his final glimpse of the barren, burning land that lay beyond the museum’s limits…

and felt unadulterated gratitude to his mother, who had insisted he give up his job at the sewage works, and go to university.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Cardboard Dreams Become Reality (part 1)

Okay, maybe that title does overstate the usefulness of cardboard slightly, but as the creator of the Earplug Adventures I can tell you, I wouldn’t be able to visualize half of what you see in these dippy tales without it. Wonderful stuff; and free too!

If you’ve been following the stories for a while, you might recognize this circular item. It, and many very like it have appeared over and over. Check out these examples…

Looks like the engine room of the early version of the K T Woo to me. And what about this?

A scientific lab, obviously. It makes for a charming religious establishment too…

Just look at those burning torches. Attention to detail – or what!

Cardboard tubes and rings can come in handy too…

This is the ‘before’ shot of Scroton Prime – capital city of the Cable End’s home world, Scroton. Note the use of plain cardboard sheeting as a background and as sharply-angled ‘buildings in the foreground. This is how that locale appeared on the cover The Masters of Scroton

And in a segment of the story…

Cardboard blocks are groovy too. Especially those items perched on the top of this pile of tubes…

With the help of a length of insulation material, a canvas backdrop, some bits of sticky-backed paper, a sheet of plastic laid on top, and a nice example of perspective…

..something starts to take shape. Here’s a ‘before’ shot of Don Quibonki and his side-kick Panta Lonez in situ…

But to see the resulting pictures from the story, you’ll have to come back for Part Two of Cardboard Dreams Become Reality!

What a rotten git I am.

 

Distant Land (part 30)

But those ungrateful, mealy-mouthed gits were mistaken. Because, out on the plain, Whoops’ portable force field finally dropped – exposing the scientists to the glaring light of the sun for the first time in three days. And they were gasping for a drink and the use of a toilet too…

Checking their location, they quickly set out in, what they hoped was, the direction of the museum…

As they proceeded, their eyes adjusted to the brilliant light. Step by laboured step, the world seemed to grow darker…

“Right.” Whoops said through cracked lips. “Let’s try to figure what happened, shall we?”

“The world ended?” Dennis suggested.

“Don’t be facetious.” Whoops snapped. “I know the world ended. Or at least this part of it. We need to understand why.”

“I would have thought that was obvious.” Frutilda spoke through a stiff breeze that chilled them all uncomfortably. “A huge burst of heat and energy erupted from the alternate dimension through the wormhole and seared our planet’s surface. Putting two and two together, I’d say that when we checked out the alternate reality, our probes missed something really important.”

“Based on what little evidence is available, what would you estimate that to be?” Whoops inquired.

Well Frutilda began to explain that she believed that the huge electrical energy content in the other world’s atmosphere had been created by an interaction between clouds formed from excessive evaporation caused by the heat of the planet’s primary star ending it’s life by expanding in size and boiling the planets that orbited it, when suddenly…

…Whoops sank through the crust. “Argh!” He cried. But no one…

…felt particularly inclined to risk falling through themselves.

“Sorry, Whoops.” Dido said. “You’ll have to stop being a big Nancy, and pull yourself out.”

Actually Whoops was in no hurry to extract himself from the hole, because it still held the residual warmth of the cataclysm. It also allowed him to go to wee without anyone noticing.

“Now all I need,” he sub-vocalized to himself, “is a nice cup of tea, and everything will be tickety-boo.” Then he pulled himself free, and duly set out upon firmer ground…

…which was quite nerve wracking because it vaguely resembled a low altitude form of Precipitous Ledge Walking, which had always been popular with the inhabitants of the museum who were zombies or those who enjoyed a lower intellect…

…but to scientists, and the smarter earplugs of the museum at least, was a complete anathema.

“Yuk.” Frutilda spat…

…”this is ghastly.”

But it soon became considerably more ghastly…

…as a fog bank rolled in.

“Stick out your tongue and lick the air.” Dido suggested. “This might be the last moisture that we ever encounter.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Distant Land (part 29)

Within moments a fire storm swept across the planet’s surface…

Then, to the horror of those watching inside the Museum of Future Technology…

…the ground was torn asunder by planet-wide volcanic action…

Lava bombs were hurled in every direction. They seemed to target solitary buildings with volcanic glee…

…whilst the fire storm engulfed others…

Then a great wind circled the globe like an avenging…er…avenging thing that disliked earplugs with a passion…

…cooling the surface as it did so. This continued for yonks, until almost everything had been either destroyed, severely damaged, or wiped from existence. All except a few lucky conurbations or suchlike, like the Museum of Future Technology, which enjoyed the protection of a vast deflector shield that had kept it safe from harm…

“Cor,” people inside would say, as they crowded to watch catastrophe unfold upon huge TV screens…

…”nasty. Aren’t we lucky to be inside? I’d hate to think what happened to those scientists, who, probably, caused this disaster with their stupid technology. Hopefully they were fried.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

 

Distant Land (part 26)

Five minutes later the Cyber-Oracle was surprised to see, not only the Captain, but also the ship’s compliment of senior officers. “Hey, guys.” It responded to their encirclement. “How ya doing?”

Cedric Mantequilla’s response surprised the Cyber-Oracle rather less: “We are in need of your wisdom and guidance.” He said succinctly, if sparingly – on detail at least.

“That’s what I’m here for.” The fountain of all knowledge replied. “That’s why every star ship has a Cyber-Oracle aboard. For just this sort of occasion, when silicon life-form’s brains simply aren’t up to making big decisions, or for plumbing tips, or sometimes need the latest cricket score.”

But when Kragan Welliboot blurted out the details of Cedric’s request, the Artificial Intelligence found that, in order to respond positively and accurately, it required to activate a whole gamut of memory banks…

It decided to play for time. “Hmmm, that’s a tough one.” It said. “Now, if our glorious leaders had installed some kind of rule or regulation that might guide space-farers, such as yourselves, the question would probably never need be asked.” Then it fell silent.

“And?” Hooper Helstrom inquired.

He was quickly followed by Cams Layne: “So what’s the answer?”

The Cyber-Oracle regarded his inquisitors…

“Captain Mantequilla.” It said. “How long have we been working together?”

Cedric responded in the only way he knew: “Ugh?” He grunted. Then, recovering, he added: “Zero time. Since the Brian Talbot’s shake down trials and the beginning of this mission, I have never ventured into your presence.”

“Precisely.” The Cyber-Oracle replied. “You and I know nothing about each other, yet you are prepared to place the safety of this ship and it’s crew in my metaphysical hands.”

Captain Mantequilla hadn’t gained the position of Ship’s Captain by being overtly thick. Unlike his subordinates he appeared to understand in a second. “Ah, I see. This is a question, not of logic, or even ethics: it is a question about being a living, breathing life-form. They, those Skail brothers, are earplugs: we are earplugs. The question should not even arise.”

The Cyber-Oracle, had it been able, would have looked proudly at Cedric. But it didn’t get the chance, because Grenville Hill said: “So I guess you’re superfluous, right?”

“No,” Cedric answered upon the machine’s behalf, “it’s wisdom has already been imparted. Let’s go.”

So, at their Captain’s command, the bridge crew of the Brian Talbot about-faced…

…and departed. But it was quite a while later, when Cedric and Grenville were alone in an otherwise deserted corridor…

…when Grenville was surprised by his commanding officer:

“I was just showing off, back there, Grenville. I don’t follow sub-text overly well: what did the Cyber-Oracle actually say?”

“It said, Cedric,” Grenville snapped, “exactly what you appeared to think it said. Act upon it, or I’ll tell the others what a nincompoop you really are.”

So, five minutes later… 

“Er, run V.T?” Captain Cedric Mantequilla suggested.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Polystyrene: A Fiction Author’s Best Friend

Now I expect you’re thinking, “How the heck can polystyrene possibly aid a tapper of keypads? I mean, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it?” Well if the author’s name is Wilbur Smith, Arthur C Clark, Catherine Cookson, or the like, then your doubts would have substance. But when that author is me, it’s a whole different ball game. After all, aren’t I the creator of…

…the Earplug Adventures? Yes, I am; and I’m telling you that the whole affair would have been a whole lot more difficult to produce without the aid of this…

Polystyrene. It may be deeply non-ecological, but look what I did with this particular lump of packaging…

That’s right, it became a monastery…

On the top of a mountain no less…

Other bits invited the application of paint…

The result on this particular occasion looked slightly like…

The wonderous product can produce convincing buildings such as this…

 

And this…

Day or night…

It’s especially wonderful for distant buildings…

Or unusually decorative interiors…

It also makes fabulous corridors, down which earplugs can either meander or rush…

It’s not bad for creating distant hills either…

Guess what scene this created…

Yes, it’s the Museum of Future Technology’s busy Transfer Conduit Terminal…

But (if you’re a regular reader) you will have probably noticed that polystyrene’s most prolific usage…

…comes in the creation of Star Ship bridges…

How often have I used these circular (ceiling fan) packaging pieces to tell daring tales of all sorts of earplugs…

…as they dash about the Galaxy, doing stuff…

…and often almost shitting themselves…

Lots of times; that’s how many.

So there you have it. If you’re anything like me, your greatest literary aid is the garbage that other people throw away. And why not? It’s called recycling. Very eco- friendly.

©Paul Trevor Nolan

Next time I’ll bring you examples of another great chum of mine: discarded cardboard. A marvelous material. I’d be stuffed without it.

Distant Land (part 25)

But, most remarkable of all, the greater the distance that the ship travelled away from the Galactic Lens, the more the earplugs resembled their true selves…

Or, to put it another way: Richter and Beaufort turned yellow again – which pleased Richter no end; but left Beaufort…

…most annoyed: he didn’t much like the colour yellow and he’d enjoyed being purple. And as his mood darkened so did the shade of his skin. “Bum.” He complained bitterly, “You can contact the Museum: I’m off to the galley in search of some space biscuits: I feel the need to comfort-eat.”

Meanwhile, aboard the Brian Talbot, the watching crew jumped in alarm…

…as the Red Alert sounded…

“Sorry.” Folie whispered to Cedric. “But my bladder is absolutely bursting. I simply had to press the Red Alert button on your Captain’s chair. I wonder; would you kindly call an intermission? I need to go pee-pee.”

The interruption gave Captain Mantequilla a moment in which to consider the entire situation. “Intermission.” He snapped curtly. “Stop the video.” Then he added: “Senior officers to the Thinking Compartment.”

So, whilst the new arrivals raced away to unburden themselves, Cedric Mantequilla, Hooper Helstrom, Grenville Hill, and Kragan Welliboot, assembled in a compartment adjacent to the bridge that had been designed purely for the expounding the verbal results of clear and logical thought…

“Well?” Cedric inquired without preamble. “Whadda ya think?”

Hooper Helstrom replied with a question of his own: “What do we think of what?” He asked.

“This whole thing.” Cedric answered unhelpfully – or so thought Kragan Welliboot – before comprehension dawned:

“What – you mean the video message? Oh, it’s the real deal alright: no one could fake those special effects.”

“I concur, Captain.” Grenville Hill said in his most professional voice. “What we are seeing is definitely an accurate account of two alien earplug’s adventure. Clearly there is another Museum of Future Technology out there somewhere; and that it’s in deep, deep doo-doos is without doubt.”

“That’s what I thought too.” The captain spoke as he ruminated upon the subject. “But that brings up a question of ethics.”

“Ethics?” A puzzled Kragan responded.

“Indeed, ethics.” Cedric said as he looked up from his navel gazing. “Do we have the right, the wit, and the wisdom, to go poking our noses into the affairs of an alien world that has developed in an incredibly similar way to planet Earth, but which appears to be on the brink of ecological ruin?”

“Do we have the right to ignore their plight?” Hooper responded vehemently. “Are they not earplugs? Are they not our brothers?”

Cedric thought long upon his officer’s outburst. “Tell you what.” He said at last. “Let’s go look for a second opinion. Follow me.”

So, a few moments later…

…the entire bridge crew descended into the veritable bowels of the Brian Talbot.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

Distant Land (part 24)

Richter could feel them too. “I wish those jackhammers would stop.” He wailed. “I keep fumbling with the tumblers!”

Worse still, Beaufort thought he could see dust on the near horizon…

So he intervened…

“No, you complete Plugmutt.” He growled. “Mother was born on the Forty-Second of Plinth!”

This was all the information the more svelte brother required to complete the difficult task of opening the door. So moments later…

…he watched as Beaufort, in a near panic, pushed through the widening aperture. Then, in the blink of an eye, they were both inside – with the door slammed closed behind them with a resounding ‘clunk’…

Then, and only then, could Beaufort finally relax and release the ultimate fart with which he was certain he would win the contest with his brother…

It was ghastly and left a nasty black smear upon both the floor and the walls.

“Autopilot.” Richter said with a sigh. “Get us the hell out of here. Maximum speed. No need to batten down the hatches or seal the lavatory seat. Just go.”

Minutes later…

…the Gravity Whelk was, once more, in its natural element: the stark vacuum of interplanetary space.

On the rudimentary bridge, the brothers discussed their recent adventure…

“Do you think there really was a secret energy source on the Plain of Shadows?” Beaufort asked.

“Nah.” Richter dismissed the notion. “That Knobby was a con-artist. He wasn’t the king of anything. That was an End Cap world. He was probably their court jester.”

They continued ruminating upon the subject for several minutes before they noticed that the ship was getting nowhere…

“It’s this damned Galactic Lens.” Beaufort complained. “It’s holding us in place by its mighty gravitational whatsit.”

Richter looked out of an emergency evacuation hatch window…

He spotted a lone star in the vastness of space. A thought occurred: “Beaufort.” He said. “It’s no good blasting away for ever and a day: we need to winch ourselves free of the Galactic Lens’ power. Turn the ship through ninety degrees.”

Beaufort would have argued, but he couldn’t think of anything significant to say. So he said: “Right on, Bro!”

“That star, dead ahead.” Richter said as he re-joined his brother. “If it has a rocky planet circling it we could latch on to it with our tractor beam and pull the ship free.”

Well, to call Richter’s idea inspirational, verging upon genius was an understatement; but Beaufort called it that anyway. Then he aimed the device, which usually grappled objects like asteroids and derelict space vessels out of the Gravity Whelk’s path, at the target star. He then waggled it about infinitesimally, until it connected with a medium-sized planet.

“Got one.” He informed Richter. Then he switched it on.

No one could honestly say that the forward tractor beam light grew more intensely pink as the ship began its long, but inexorable climb from the Galactic Lens’ influence, but both earplugs certainly felt it did… 

The escape was so slow, and took so long, that there were times when the siblings forgot where they were, what they were doing, or why they were aboard an otherwise empty star ship. But eventually, after three months subjective time (but two years objective time beyond the Galactic Lens), the invisible elastic band that had held the Gravity Whelk against its will, snapped. And in an instant the ship leaped free…

“Whee!” It’s occupants cried in joy. “Yippie! Now let’s try to contact the Museum of Future Technology. We need an update.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Sources of Everyday Earplug Inspiration 1: Canderel Sweetener Dispensers

As I nonchalantly dropped a quartet of sweeteners into my cafe au lait, I took a moment to consider the dispenser in my hand. “Hmmm,” thought I, “that’s an interesting shape: maybe I can use some of that in my stories.”

So, once it had become exhausted of little white tablets, I wrenched the thing apart and considered the constituent parts. And guess what: I was right. I was hoping to find something ear-pluggish that was analogous to either the dog or the horse. I was also in search of a personal transport vehicle for my characters. In the Canderel dispenser I found both. Witness the emergence of the Plugmutt…

They have proved so useful that I’ve used them over and over again – in all sorts of colours…

And, of course, they’re great for riding upon…

Which, by chance, were the dispensing mechanisms too…

Of course the ‘buggies’ don’t have the character of the Plugmutts, but they are excellent for moving my characters from one location to another…

But other sweetener dispensers haven’t been ignored: not in the Earplug Adventure world. Some of them have made quite pleasant boats…

And others, wheel-less wheel barrows…

Is there no end to their usefulness? Sweetener dispensers: where would the Earplug Adventures be without them?

 

Distant Land (part 22)

Sadly the direct hit had completely blown the robotic vessel’s mind. But, by remotely hacking into it’s computer, Richter and Beaufort learned of the vessel’s last encounter, and so set off in search of a metallic world. Naturally it was just around the metaphorical corner – cosmically at least – and soon the Gravity Whelk swept across it’s magnificently bejewelled surface…

But when they tried another pass…

…and nothing happened, Beaufort decided that he didn’t want to stay somewhere he wasn’t welcome.

“Right then.” He said as he left Richter standing at the window. “On to the next item on that invisible space ship’s list.”

Moments later they were upon their way again – blasting into open space…

But Beaufort had taken only a single step when…

…the autopilot announced: “Guys: we’ve entered some kinda’ Galactic Lens.”

And it was right!

Then, after rushing to the perfunctory bridge, Beaufort and Richter were confronted with the impossible: they had entered a region of space in which earplug pigmentation completely…

…reversed itself.

“Ooh,” Beaufort said – not for the first time, “pretty: I’ve always wanted to be purple. Now my wish has come true. Do you think we’ve died and gone to heaven, Richter?”

Richter had other concerns. “Hmmm.” He failed to reply to his brother. “If we’ve reversed our colour, maybe there’s a chance that the engines might reverse something unexpected too. Autopilot: cut the motors.”

Instantly the drive unit ceased operating, and the Gravity Whelk drifted across the Galactic Lens like so much space flotsam…

It was then that the brothers noted a planet dead ahead.

“That looks promising.” Beaufort observed. “Let’s go there.”

A while later – because they didn’t dare use the Star Drive – the Gravity Whelk bathed in the glow of the mysterious world…

Almost immediately they received a hail from the planet’s surface.

“Hiya.” A cheerful voice boomed. “Why don’t ya come on down: maybe we can do business.”

So, three minutes later…

“Hi.” Their host said politely and pleasantly. “If I lived on any other world, I’d be a big red knob. But here, as you can see, I’m a big aqua blue knob. You can call me Knobby. What do you think of my world? I’m the King, by the way. Nice, huh? “

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 21)

Of course Beaufort had not the slightest inkling that a space-dwelling life-form had been ignored by he and his brother. Consequently he hadn’t a clue that they’d missed a perfect opportunity to learn the secrets of Nul-Space energy production from a creature that did it as naturally as earplugs breath air; drink water; cough, when they do both at the same time: and secretly break wind in supermarkets. So he busied himself reading the electronic users guide…

…before making the adjustments necessary to the star drive unit’s fuel supply…

…and listening carefully to the retuned motor as the Gravity Whelk blasted across the Milky Way…

…in a most photogenic manner.

A short while later, Richter decided to test the ship’s defensive capabilities by firing off a salvo of proton torpedoes…

Richter couldn’t have known it, of course, but directly in the line of fire an invisible vessel flew furtively. But with it’s cloak disabled by a direct hit, it became visible briefly…

Richter wasn’t particularly impressed with this turn of events, especially when it disappeared once more…

“Evasive!” He yelled at the autopilot, which did as it was bid with the greatest of alacrity…

And when the Gravity Whelk came under fire, it returned said fire without commands from either earplug aboard…

“Oh cripes!” Beaufort squealed. “We’re going to be blown to smithereens, almost before our great sojourn has begun!”

“Fire all weapons.” Richter commanded. “Really fast and lots of times.”

The autopilot duly obliged…

…and made a lucky hit. Moments later the Gravity Whelk came alongside the mysterious vessel…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 20)

Unfortunately space travel can prove very tedious at times, and soon the siblings felt compelled to overcome the boredom of infinite darkness and distant sparkly lights by taking to their beds. But, following a fitful sleep, soon the alarm clock woke Richter. For a moment the former power engineer was confused by his surroundings, so he lay still and allowed his eyes to wander around the cabin…

Slowly his memory returned, and he eased himself from his futuristic bed…

He quickly recognized his horrendously dry tongue as the result of a combination of space sickness and open-mouthed dreams of scary, mindless zombies…

He chose to shake off the recollection by staring out of his porthole…

Now fully recovered, he decided to go wake his brother…

When Richter entered he found that Beaufort remained deeply ensconced within the Land of Nod…

Before checking out the view, he first regarded the pleasant poster that the cabin’s previous user had pinned to the wall…

Shortly after determining that Beaufort’s porthole was no bigger or better than his own…

…he shouted very loudly indeed. This had the desired effect…

“Ah, brother.” Beaufort said cheerfully, as he hopped from his equally futuristic bed. “Before we have breakfast, I’d like to take a minute to check out the main drive…

…It sounds a little off.”

Richter didn’t like the sound of this. “How about we do it now.” He suggested.

So soon they were on their way to Engineering…

Despite the sense of vague urgency, they couldn’t help but stop by the passenger view port…

“Pretty.” Beaufort opined.

“Yeah.” Richter agreed. “But it’s a bit ‘samey’ don’t you think?”

Beaufort didn’t argue; and soon they moved on, which disappointed a passing vacuum-breather…

…who was really cheesed-off: he hadn’t interacted with any sentient beings since his seven-hundredth birthday.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

Distant Land (part 19)

Meanwhile, Beaufort and Richter (as brothers are wont) had experienced a joint moment of clarity and inspiration. So they took the shortest route possible…

…towards their immediate destination. But as they walked the corridor outside the Royal Meeting Room, doubt began to creep in…

In fact Beaufort was beginning to feel decidedly yucky. And Richter didn’t feel much better. In fact they might have chickened out all together, but a royal summons made them pull themselves together…

Well, when they elucidated their idea, Dido Warblington turned away in derision: Frutilda Spelt looked at the brothers as though they’d just grown a joint second head: Denis Tawdry stared straight ahead, as though in denial of such brilliance of mind: Princess Cake of Potwell looked from one scientist to the other, in search of guidance and an opinion: and Whoops Brannigan used his casting vote to rubber stamp their proposal. So, a few seconds later…

…the Skails felt very pleased with themselves.

“Gosh, that was easy.” Beaufort said cheerfully.

But as they entered a link-way to their new destination…

…something occurred to Richter. “You know, Beaufort.” He said. “I think the only reason they agreed to our plan was because…”

“They were desperate?” Beaufort interrupted.

“Well, yes.” Richter conceded. “But more importantly, what with the whole power generation thing running out of global juice, you and I are surplus to requirements. In short; we’re expendable. If we fail, it will have cost them nothing.”

Then, as they entered their final destination…

…he added: “All they stand to lose is an old, defunct, scientific space vessel. By the way, would you care to push the ‘go‘ button, Beaufort?”

“Thank you, Richter.” Beaufort replied, with a tremulous voice. “I think I would. “

Moments later…

…the Museum of Future Technology’s interstellar science vessel – the Gravity Whelk – lifted from the mottled lawn just outside the Ministry of Science. Then, after aligning the vessel with a predestined course, the automatic pilot hit the forward thruster. The sudden acceleration caught Beaufort by surprise and his yell of alarm confused the autopilot so much that it immediately flipped the ship into a vertical position…

…which had its sole occupants staring at an early demise…

“Pull up!” Richter yelled.

“Yeah.” Beaufort’s scream supported his sibling’s suggestion. “Pull up, for flip’s sake!”

If nothing else, the autopilot was fleet of thought. A split second later the Gravity Whelk made an abrupt about-turn…

And before long it plunged from the planet’s atmosphere and slipped into orbit…

“Hooray.” The brothers cheered. “Now all we must do is make a radio report to the Orbital Way Station…

…and we’re on our way…

Next stop: the stars. Someone out there, in the vastness of the Galaxy, is bound to have discovered, or invented, a non-polluting, infinitely renewable, source of power. And we’re gonna find them!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019