Tag Archives: photo-novels

Climatic Calamity (part 16)

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

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

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

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

“Sub-atomic unstableness?” Hellfire suggested.

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

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

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

“And smell.” The First Officer added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “What about your bum?”

“Can you see it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, as they proceeded into a snow cave…

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Climatic Calamity (part 15)

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

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

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

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

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

“Even the Earplug Brothers.” Hellfire assured him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Climatic Calamity (part 14)

Well part thirteen passed by without incident or mention, so I guess it must have been okay, if less than startlingly good. On with episode 14…

Shortly, the Fifth Officer and Shortarse stepped out of their vessel – to find that the ice-age had further breached the museum’s defences…

“It appears colder than the regulation nine degrees centigrade.” Shortarse observed.

“Don’t be a pedant.” The Fifth Officer replied. “Turn up your internal thermostat. It’s a long walk to where we’re going.”

Once outside the museum, both robots were bludgeoned by the weather from space…

Shortarse felt compelled to make a request:

“Permission to turn up my thermostat again, Sir?”

“Granted,” the former Catering Assistant replied, “I maxed mine out the moment after we stepped from the building.”

Several hours were to pass before the pair of intrepid robots reached the pea-farming region…

“This hillock appears to conform to Hellfire’s description of the area immediately above the shepherd’s hut.” The Fifth Officer said as it surveyed the area with its visual apparatus – often referred to as ‘eyes’.

“I’m fitted with Hut Detection Sensors, Sir,” Shortarse offered. “Shall I activate them?”

Two minutes later the crew members of the only Submarine Space Freighter in the vicinity were making good speed towards their target…

“Is the last one there a rotten egg, Sir?” Shortarse inquired.

“Oh, undoubtedly,” Shortarse’s superior replied. “A rank dinosaur egg.”

Shortly, (had anyone been around to watch) the two robots could be seen peering in the only door that led into the shepherd’s hut…

“Lot of snow in there, Sir.” Shortarse stated the obvious. “Can’t quite make out the entrance to any tunnel. Are we sure this is the right hut?”

“Yes.” The Fifth Officer snapped. “I don’t have an articulating midriff,” it added, “you’ll have to push me through.”

After a lot of mechanical heaving and straining, both robots could stand upright inside the snow-filled hovel…

From there it was a simple matter of finding the tunnel door; forcing aside the accumulated snow that had fallen through the broken sky lantern; negotiating the green and orangey tunnels; then waltzing, unannounced into the home of Celestino Candalabra…

When Celestino learned what the two hulking monsters required, he offered to draw them another map.

“I have some lavatory paper and a felt-tip pen.” He offered.

“No deal.” The Fifth Officer replied. “The captain said to fetch you to the Museum of Future Technology: and that is exactly what I am going to do. If you have any thermal undies, I suggest you put them on.”

It took Celestino a full fifteen minutes to dress – as best he could – for the conditions outside. He spent every one of those minutes trying to conjure up a cunning plan whereby he might escape the clutches of the alien robots. But ultimately it was to no avail…

In a carbon-copy recreation of the journey made by the former burglars, the trio discovered an abandoned armoured personnel carrier…

“Neither of us can fit into the driver’s seat.” The Fifth Officer informed Celestino. “You’ll have to drive.”

“But I can’t drive.” Celestino wailed his argument. “I’m a recluse, remember?”

“I can stand behind you.” Shortarse said to the sole earplug. “I can tell you what to do and when to do it.”

“It’s either that – or walk.” The Fifth Officer said less-than-kindly.

An hour later…

…only one object moved of its own volition beyond the outer walls of the Museum of Future Technology. And shortly after that the disgruntled recluse was introduced to the interior of the Drunkard’s Vomit

“I don’t know,” he said as he regarded the automatons as they went about their work, “maybe earplugs aren’t so bad. At least they don’t drag you from your home against your will; force you to drive an armoured vehicle through an ice-age; and then shove you into a huge spaceship!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so the team appears to have assembled. Now it must be time to go and kick some bad guy’s arse. Return for episode 15 and discover where the aforementioned resides.

P.S Here’s the preliminary cover for the finished product…

Climatic Calamity (part 13)

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

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

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

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

Chapter 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How about Defecated?” Hellfire offered.

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

And they were too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, another fifteen minutes later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a moment the Catering Assistant had transformed…

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Climatic Calamity (part 12)

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

Chapter 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A grim Erronious replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twenty seconds later, and inside an adjacent hangar…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s…it’s…” Erronious managed.

Hellfire spoke the words for him:

“It’s a Submarine Space Freighter!”

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

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

But, of course, it was no mirage…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Climatic Calamity (part 11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hellfire turned to face them…

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

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

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

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

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

The passengers couldn’t wait…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Climatic Calamity (part 10)

Anyone expecting a well thought out tale that reflects the likely problems that the world will need to deal with in the face of increasingly rapid global climate change must be very disappointed in this very silly tale. Well all I can say to that is…shit, this is an Earplug Adventure: when have I ever taken anything seriously. It’s all a giggle. On with episode ten…

Moments later, after a brief farewell, the would-be saviours of the museum were on their way…

“What are we doing, Erronious?” Hellfire whispered. “Have you taken leave of your senses? Have your pants slipped up the crack between your buttocks?”

“No.” Erronious hissed back through the side of his mouth. “Celestino has a greater gift than he imagines: that snotty-yellow earplug has allowed me to see what I really am. We’re gonna do this, Hell. No more pea farming for us: we’re gonna become bone afide heroes.”

A short while later, having successfully negotiated the red and green tunnels, Erronious and Hellfire found themselves, once more inside the tunnel directly behind the shepherd’s hut…

“There,” Erronious grumbled, “I told you those sky lanterns were rubbish. The top has obviously snapped off under the weight of snow, and now the weather is inside with us. We can’t get to the hut; we’ll have to go out via the broken lantern.”

As a result of this departure, the two chums, now slightly disorientated, stood somewhere above the hut…

“So which direction do we go?” Hellfire asked.

“We need transportation.” Erronious answered. “All the pea farmers would have moved to lower altitude: we’ll find their vehicles down there.”

Fifteen minutes later, and beneath a huge overhang of compacted snow, they discovered a tracked vehicle…

“The keys are in the ignition, Erronious.” Hellfire said from the driving seat. “And the power pack is half full.”

“No good.” Erronious replied. “We’re exposed to the weather on this. Let’s try further down.”

So they did; and they found a small tractor unit outside the pea processing plant: but it presented the same problem…

And it only had one seat. So they tried again…

“Ah, this is better,” Hellfire said with a frozen smile, “An armoured personnel carrier. I’ll drive: you take the command position.”

Once aboard, Erronious wasn’t entirely certain he liked the command position: protection from the wind was minimal. But since he couldn’t drive, he could hardly argue against Hellfire’s logic…

Very quickly they were upon their way…

In his youth, Hellfire had once been conscripted into a rag-tag mercenary army. Driving the armoured personnel carrier came as second nature to him. Through chattering teeth Erronious heard him call from the driver’s seat:

“Do you want me to fire the stubby forward cannon, Erronious? The heat from the barrel might warm you up a bit.”

“No!” Erronious shouted urgently. He then explained his reason: “We can’t see what we’re shooting at in this blizzard. In any case, we’ve started going downhill again.”

The decline to the plain that would take them to the Museum of Future Technology was long and arduous…

Further, once they had attained level ground, they discovered earplugs who had decided to attempt a walk to the assumed safety of either La Ciudad de Droxford, or the museum…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” Erronious boomed in the near silence of perpetual snowfall, “are you complete twonks?”

Twonks, or not, the three earplugs were hugely relieved when Hellfire said:

“Get on board. It’s a bit cramped; but it beats standing around out here.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

So, they’re on their way. What a huge task before them. They’re hardly the Earplug Brothers: do you think they have it in them to save the museum? Return for episode 11 to find out.

Climatic Calamity (part 9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are we still going down?” Hellfire inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there was too…

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

Chapter 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hellfire chose to introduce himself and his pea farming partner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To what end?” Erronious asked.

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

 

Climatic Calamity (part 8)

Could this be the episode in which the earplugs manage to turn the tide? Let’s find out, shall we? Read on…

Meanwhile, many kilometres distant, Erronious and Hellfire had finally found an abandoned shepherd’s hut, inside which they quickly took shelter…

“Do you have any of those oaty biscuit bars in your back pocket?” Hellfire inquired. “All this trudging about the mountain side has made me really hungry.”

“I do.” Erronious replied as he stood, warming ever so slightly now that he was out of the wind. “But you can’t have them. You know what you’re like after a meal: you’ll only want to visit the toilet.”

“What’s wrong with visiting the toilet?” Hellfire asked in a complaining tone.

The reply came instantaneously: “This hut doesn’t have one.”

But what it did have was a hexagonal tunnel that led into the hillside. Naturally the twosome investigated…

“Oh look, Erronious,” Hellfire cried out, “this tunnel has one of those roof-mounted sky lanterns that allow the daylight to be reflected down a polished shaft where it illuminates part of a building that would otherwise be cloaked in shadow.”

“Yeah, very nice.” Erronious grumbled as his gaze shifted in the direction of the sky lantern’s opening. “But what happens when a winter storm breaks it off? I’ll tell you: the weather will get in and render this place uninhabitable. I think they’re absolute rubbish: I hate ‘em with a passion. Now let’s see where this tunnel leads us – before it’s too late, and we get entombed in ice and snow.”

Meanwhile, at the Museum of Future Technology, the sky was becoming darker. Someone sent a flare up to see just how dark…

Someone in the Age of Stone exhibit had another idea. In an attempt to shield the side of the ‘castle’ that faced away from the prevailing winds, he, or she, had a team erect a huge glass barrier that had been hanging around the store for years, but had no obvious use. Now it did…

It gave limited, but sufficient protection for the more religious earplugs amongst the crowd to make their way out of the back door, where they could quickly trudge across a playing field to pray for salvation at the giant concrete toadstool icon…

Barry Dirtbox and his End Cap scullery maid, Fanny Hardcore were the first to arrive.

“Dear Giant Concrete Toadstool,” Barry said solemnly, “I’m really fed up with this snow. And Fanny, here, has got chilblains. Please make it go away.”

“And make me more attractive.” Fanny added. “If you’ve got the time, of course.”

“Yes.” Barry nodded vigorously. “But the snow gets priority, right?”

Elsewhere, inside the breached carapace of the Museum of Future Technology…

…the weather had transformed the Wide Blue Yonder into an ice sheet to rival any at the planet’s poles.

Whilst former female weightlifters, Mandy and Candy enjoyed their unplanned skating session immensely; Poncho Warmonger wore his usual miserable expression and wished he’d stayed at home with a good book and a hot water bottle.

As much fun as it was for some earplugs, other – more responsible earplugs – took upon themselves to mount tracked or hover vehicles and search for anyone in need of help…

They assumed, as almost everyone did, that the Nul-Space power generator had more than enough capacity to heat and light the museum through a protracted winter or mini ice-age. In essence they were correct. But what they hadn’t taken into account was the frozen canal that supplied the generator with coolant. Already engineers had been forced to reduce the amount of power asked of the wondrous device. Even as the hover chariots roamed the open areas of the museum in search of hapless earplugs who were too stupid to find shelter, engineers were dampening the energy transfer nodes all across the vast structure…

“Oh flip,” one engineer cried as the transfer node went to turquoise alert, “that means we’ll have to cut the power even more!”

This quickly became apparent to everyone with access to a window when the museum’s navigation and landing lights were extinguished…

…and the lights dimmed in the Café Puke outlets…

Not that either the Baristas or their clientele gave a hoot: they’d been adding extra brandy to every mug of café cortado for the last hour and a half and were well their way to inebriation and sliding beneath the melamine-topped café tables in a drunken haze.

Meanwhile, inside the mountainside, the tunnel down which Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams explored opened onto a subterranean cavern that glowed with an aerie, pea-like green light…

“Now this I didn’t expect.” Erronious said as they both stopped to take in the view. “I wonder how this got here. Some of the marks in the walls show the characteristic jagged edges of a pick axe or similar rock-hewing implement.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Okay, maybe that discovery didn’t quite live up to expectations; but it’s what they find there that will turn the aforementioned tide. You just wait and see – in episode 9!

Climatic Calamity (part 7)

There’s no let up for those unfortunate earplugs yet. Could this be the time when they finally get their arses well and truly kicked? To find out, read on…

The cold that had permeated into Mister Pong’s Exotic Food Restaurant was also playing havoc with the lake in the arboretum. In fact it had frozen it solid and made it all lumpy. Naturally the zombie population were thrilled. And because they had no circulatory system to keep them warm, some of them began a pleasant stroll across it…

Less happy with their ‘stroll’ were Erronious and Hellfire. Although experienced in the mountains, the unseasonal snow had thrown them off the track home…

“Erronious,” Hellfire almost whimpered, “not a lot worries me: but I really don’t want some bunch of adventurers, in the future, discovering my frozen corpse in a snow drift.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean, Hell.” Erronious replied with difficulty. “I’m not much into ignominious ends. I don’t want to die with my snow shoes on either. Come on, pal: use your innate talent for path finding. Find us our charming farmstead. Failing that, try and come up with a deserted shepherd’s hut. Anything – just get us out of this damned snow!”

Meanwhile, inside the museum, the weather had managed to find several weak points in the vast building’s aging armour. This resulted in a poor showing of customers for a local pop singer’s al fresco concert…

With his hot dog concession failing miserably, Mister Pong was relieved when Police Constable Salisbury Wilts managed to return safely from his Precipitous Ledge Walking lessons, and (quoting health and safety rules) duly closed the poorly attended concert down.

Others, though, were putting the inclement conditions to good use. They were racing sledges upon the frozen canal that supplied the cooling water for the museum’s Nul-Space power generator…

Naturally Rupert Piles and his huge 3D TV camera were on hand to record the event. But as conditions worsened, the lone-wolf reporter realised that there was a bigger story than some dopey sods risking their necks rushing up and down the canal: this outlandish weather could be a catastrophe in the making. So he got his saucer-pilot girlfriend out of bed; slapped a PRESS sticker on the side of her saucer, and had her fly around the museum, whilst he took pictures and gave a running commentary…

“Maybe this will be the time I finally get a journalistic award.” He said through a smile that he shared with his girlfriend – a sweet End Cap, by the name of Wendy Ledballoon, whose faith in Rupert was total and undying.

However, worsening conditions soon overwhelmed the flight capability of the small sight-seeing machine…

…and Wendy was forced to park it once again. But not before Rupert snatched some long distance shots of neighbouring Ciudad de Droxford, which appeared almost abandoned…

What his camera didn’t spot was the hundreds of desperate earplugs, who even now, at this late hour, were still swarming to the ‘castle’ in the Age of Stone…

K’Plank and Auntie Doris were performing their civil duties by standing beside one of the side entrances and shouting loudly:

“This way: this way. Sanctuary beckons. Come along now: come along now. Stop arsing about and get inside. What are you doing – slipping and sliding around like a total moron? Don’t fall over, you dozy bleeder. Get inside before I give you clip behind the ear – stupid!”

Upon the tower roof immediately above the curator and her beau, Mister Pong’s eldest daughters – Yu-Wah and Wah-Hey – counted the number of earplugs entering the ‘castle’, and were hurriedly calculating the amount of arroz de grano corto they would require to make a huge paella with which they might feed the growing horde.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Return for the next episode when Erronious and Hellfire make a remarkable discovery. A discovery so remarkable that they’ll still be remarking about it a century from now!

Climatic Calamity (part 6)

I promised worse was to come for our little silicon heroes: well here it is…

Others, who had already made it inside the thick stone walls couldn’t help but enjoy the feeling of superiority that safety afforded them…

“Gosh,” some would say, “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this level of smugness. We are so clever to be inside, out of the cold, whilst the dull-witted hammer upon doors and demand entry. I no longer need to keep up with the Joneses: I’m already leagues ahead!”

Who could argue with that summation? The weather outside the Museum was worsening by the minute…

Meanwhile, in the mountain pea-farming region, Erronious and Hellfire held an impromptu meeting with several other pea farmers, who looked to the reformed criminals for leadership…

“Right now, I’d suggest you all get to your homes and put on some thermal socks, woolly underpants, and a bobble hat.” Erronious told them.

Hellfire followed this up with:

“We’ll worry about our insurance policies later. Forget the bloody peas: right now it’s all about survival!”

Hellfire was absolutely right when he spoke of survival. Several Precipitous Ledge Walkers were of the naturist kind. They had no thermal socks, woolly underpants, or bobble hats. All they had were frozen assets…

In fact many earplugs were becoming increasingly at-risk…

So, in an act of altruism that would have astonished their earlier selves, Erronious and Hellfire spent the next half-hour finding lost souls and sending them to their friend’s houses or the nearest drunk tank…

“I think, Hellfire,” Erronious said through frozen lips and chattering teeth, “this might be a good time to find shelter for ourselves.”

As the snow continued to billow around the mighty flanks of the museum…

…something of the cold permeated into the interior…

“What’s this, Mister Pong,” Chester Earplug inquired of the restaurant owner, “you’re closing the museum’s only exotic food restaurant?”

“Can’t keep egg foo yung warm.” Mister Pong replied. “Pongs never serve cold egg foo yung.”

And, as the day darkened…

…even Rudi, Valentine, Miles, and Magnuss Earplug looked on and wondered what the heck was happening…

“Heck, man, what’s happening’? This sho’nuf aint funky.” Valentine complained.

“I can dig it, Bro,” Rudi answered for the others. “We’re action guys: we fix things. Aint no fixing this.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

If you don’t like the sight of earplugs suffering horribly from chilblains and runny noses, don’t return for episode 7. But if you don’t care two hoots what happens to them, come back tomorrow for the next exciting extract from Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity!

Climatic Calamity (part 3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Climatic Calamity (part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone agreed. Then the reason became clear…

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Climatic Calamity (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

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

Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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

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

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

Surprise Visit (part 25)

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

Epilogue

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

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

It mentioned it to the Supreme Being.

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

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

“Perfect.” He said with satisfaction.

He then proceeded to divest himself of his godly clothing…

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

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

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

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now click that image!

Surprise Visit (part 24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Perfect.” Beatrix replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Surprise Visit (part 23)

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

Chapter Eight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures Greatest Hits: Distant Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, moments later…

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally no one wasted a nanosecond…

…and within five minutes Yaki had returned to Valerie…

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

So they did…

…and they both enjoyed themselves enormously.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

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

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

Surprise Visit (part 22)

Part 22 contains a turn of events that (as a regular Earplugger) you might not have expected. Be warned…

Taking their seats, they sent a telepathic instruction to the ship’s AI, informing it that they were about to launch. Hair-Trigger then brought up a subject that Magnuss had happened to mention during the three minutes it took to recover from the fall and enter the Tankerville Norris.

“Those shape-shifting atoms,” she said, “Do you think –if we used the ship’s Bussard collectors, we could suck them all into the ship?”

Magnuss mused upon the subject. “Well,” he replied, “Bussard collectors are normally used to collect hydrogen atoms in open space and compress them into a medium that could be ejected from a vessel to produce propulsion. Ours are there as an emergency back-up – should our main drive fail. But, in essence, I don’t see why they couldn’t suck up shape-shifter atoms too. Why do you ask?”

“I’ll tell you on the way.” Hair-Trigger replied. Then, to the ship, she said, “Set course for Scroton. Launch immediately.”

A split second later, the ship that the Crutons never knew existed, swept from hiding…

…and blasted upwards into Weird Space…

Quickly establishing the route that the Buggeram Bay would have taken to Earth, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger calculated the position where their weaponry had blown the sausage roll apart. Swooping about the region with their hydrogen-collecting Bussard collectors open and sucking hard, they went about the task of collecting the particles that constituted the dangerous shape-shifter…

The Tankerville Norris then accompanied the resulting reconstituted ‘asteroid’ on a course that Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had chosen: a course that would take it to the brown planet, little known as Cruton…

At sub-light speed, it took so much time that Magnuss feared that the Crutons might have fixed their ships and set out for Earth and the Museum of Future Technology. However good fortune prevailed. So, as the asteroid hurtled downwards through the feeble atmosphere, the Tankerville Norris hit it with a low-yield energy blast that broke it apart – allowing the smaller pieces to tumble to the ground…

…where Crutons, unfamiliar with shape-shifting sausage rolls…

…were ill prepared to defend themselves against them. So much panic ensued that no one gave two hoots about a small honeymoon barge screeching across the domed conurbation and using its matter-transmitter to steal away the captive ruler of Scroton and his wife…

This tested Nigel’s wits vastly. Thinking quickly, he was about to thank his saviours, when suddenly the other members of his retinue appeared aboard the Tankerville Norris

Without preamble, Magnuss shouted to his new guests:

“Hold on to something: We’re getting the heck outta here!”

And they did – as quickly as possible…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Just Chapter Eight and the oblicatory Epilogue to follow now. Big sad sigh. Still, there’s no sense in getting maudling; enjoy it while it lasts.

 

Surprise Visit (part 21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And if that fails?”

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

Meanwhile, with the deuterium in the last saucer spoiled…

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Surprise Visit (part 20)

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

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

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

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

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

“Sir, you have me at a disadvantage.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This surprised the captives from Scroton…

…though they managed to hide it quite successfully.

“And where is Cruton?” Nigel inquired.

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

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

“Yet here you are.” Smionc said gently.

Nigel was a practical kind of cable end:

“What do you want?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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

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

Surprise Visit (part 19)

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

Chapter Seven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We can?” Hair-Trigger said doubtfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again she was proven correct…

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

The Set: The Scene 6

Here’s another brief compilation of pictures that begin with a photo of a set, followed by a scene that was shot there, as seen in an Earplug Adventure. Obviously only extremely keen Earpluggers are going to recognise a scene, merely by looking at the set; but I’m certain that it won’t be utter tedium for those who can’t. And, who knows, you might surprise yourself.

First up, I’ve included (what was probably) the first ‘set’ that wasn’t really a set at all, but which got my imagination firing like a single cylinder four-stroke motorcycle of approximately 125cc. In this case it was some broken sheets of plasterboard (rock wall) that were awaiting disposal…

Look at the jagged edge of the torn cardboard. Such an interesting effect. What might that become? Well, in the case of the story Martian Interlude Part 2, it appeared as the rocky, wind-blown sea shore visited by Benjamin Booger and Plopper O’Hooligan…

Look at the grey-green waves and white spume crash against the haze-obscured rocks. Tell me it doesn’t look that way: go on. You can’t, can you!

Anyway, next up…

Interestingly shaped, cardboard cut-outs. They appear, over and over, as doorways in otherwise featureless ‘walls’. It took me an age to find this particular example in my library; but dedication to my art paid off, and I found this scene…

…which appears to be the front door of the apartment in which the siblings, Gray-Vee and Cray-Zee live. Or at least they did in the alternative reality story Evil Empire. It appeared at least once more…

…as a random doorway in Cometh the Earplug.

Sadly the next set / prop was left behind when I was forced out of my fabulous ‘studio’ when the company that owned it decided that building houses was more profitable that retaining an ancient, crumbling 1960’s architectural icon – the short-term-thinking shits. Anyway, enough of my gripes: it’s a pile of rock salt and the reflective interior of a streetlight…

The stuff that dreams are made of. In this case my dreams showed me this…

I know you recognise this: it’s the Future Museum of Mars. This time appearing – rather rain-soaked – in Haunted Mars. But the real beauty of this set is – it has an interior too! Here is the same reflector from Martian Interlude Part 1

…and again in Liberation Part 2

Here I’ve thrown in a temporary set. It appeared in a single tale, but made a cameo appearance in Surprise Visit...

Anyone? It’s the secret subterranean lair of the alien workforce that watch over the fledgling civilisation of Scroton. Here it is in The Masters of Scroton

Okay, that was a tricky one. I wouldn’t expect anyone to get that right. But what about this pair of singed plastic insulation panels and a screwed-up sheet of blue plastic…

Surely some interesting topography there. I had trouble finding any shots that clearly showed these sets as you see them here. Eventually I discovered this scene where shell-shocked scientists stagger about their ruined world in Distant land

Destruction is on the cards again in this composite I made that is supposed to be a missile in flight above the ice sheet in Haunted Mars Part 2

But I stuck at my task, and finally found this defining shot. It comes from The Epoch of Dung

Look at that: you can even see the sheet of blue plastic through the burn hole. A lake, perhaps? There is no ‘perhaps’ about it. I’m a great believer in realism: that’s why I populate my stories with earplugs!

 

Surprise Visit (part 18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…in which to hide the entire ship.

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

The Set: The Scene 5

It has been a while since the last The Set: The Scene – mainly because I forgot all about the series in which I show you the set, then follow it with an Earplug Adventure scene that was shot there. Of course only long-term Earpluggers will have any chance of recalling the earlier tales (which, by today’s standards appear a tad primitive), but if I don’t use too many of them, I’m sure recent recruits will enjoy this too. So to the game…

We kick off with a pallet of double glazed units, which are separated by some natty cardboard…ah..separators

When I snapped this picture, it made a work colleague chuckle. He knew exactly why I’d taken it, but had no idea what I would make of it. I made the high-rise buildings of La Ciudad de Droxford (and others)…

…which appeared at the beginning of Triple Threat.

Before I had the technical ability to extract elements from my photos; then superimpose them on to existing backgrounds, I was forced to shoot my spaceships in front of a monitor screen…

It wasn’t ideal, and it was a bit hit and miss. But when it worked, it worked rather well, I think…

In this case the disabled Gravity Whelk explodes a proton torpedo in it’s main thruster to gain forward momentum, in Haunted Mars.

Ah, one of my better (and permanent) sets. An ancient portable DVD player in a plastic box. This enabled me to show scenes on the screen, without the need to superimpose, which meant faster shooting and multiple angle potential…

Of course the ‘deck’ of the set needed adding afterwards, which was a bit of an arse-wipe because the DVD remote wouldn’t operate the machine through the cardboard…

This meant that every time I took a shot, I needed to move the deck to press the play button – causing the ‘actors’ to often fall over. I only used this set in A Tale of Three Museums. Here’s how it turned out – as the bridge of three separate Scroton Five ships. Here’s the main character’s ship – the Zephyr…

I added another section for the reverse angle shots…

Here it appears as the mercenary’s ship…

…and finally as the Scrotonic interceptor ship that pursued the Zephyr throughout the tale…

Not exactly a much-loved set; but a very ubiquitous one. Right now it’s sitting in my attic ‘studio’, just waiting to be pulled out of mothballs and used again.

Photos and Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan.

 

Surprise Visit (part 17)

Here we go – headed towards the final showdown. Hold on to your buttocks!

Chapter Six

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the SRR conduit…

…the Tankerville Norris and Buggeram Bay had emerged into a dark brown atmosphere. Magnuss wanted nothing more than to call up Nigel and say, “Look familiar? It’s the brown world in Weird Space!” However he thought it best to maintain radio silence. Then, to his annoyance, interference rendered the main viewer useless…

“Oh, flipping heck, Hairy.” He growled, “Just when we really need to see where we’re going too!”

The ship’s computer couldn’t help either. Both earplugs received telepathic messages simultaneously: “Help, I’m blind. Someone tell me where to go!”

The situation wasn’t any better aboard the ship of Scroton…

“Can someone override that interference?” Nigel half inquired – half demanded.

“Working on it.” Faati – Queen of the Pygmies – replied.

“Further,” Nigel continued, “once having replaced all that ziggy-zaggy line stuff, might it be possible to use our AI’s telepathic talents to tell the Tankerville Norris’s AI how to fix the picture?”

“Hey,” Faati responded with a chuckle in her voice, “We’ve got two ships built on Scroton here: anything is possible!”

Satisfied with the response to his suggestions, Nigel thought of one more:

“Right – let’s get the right way up again. These magnetic boots are playing merry hell with my delicate ankles.”

Below, upon the surface, an Ethernet Cable End didn’t even look up as the Buggeram Bay passed above a series of habitat domes…

Whether it was the act of reverting to standard flight mode, or just chance timing, the screen reactivated – just as they passed the outer edge of the domed conurbation…

Seven mouths fell open. Only one worked sufficiently well to form coherent words. It belonged to Nigel:

“Ethernet cable ends? How the flip? What the heck? Duh? Someone pinch me, I’m having some sort of hallucinatory attack!”

Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were almost as shocked, though on a far less visceral level…

“Oh,” Magnuss whimpered, “the guys over there aren’t going to like this. This must mean that there is a secret faction of Scroton that’s opposed to the current social and political situation – and possibly Nigel himself.”

Hair-Trigger however had made an observation that might have been missed by anyone else. “I’m not so sure about that, Mags.” She said as her eyes widened, then squinted intensely. “Look at those cable ends closely: there’s something odd about them.”

“Do they have their bums on back-to-front?” Magnuss asked as he peered semi-myopically.

“No-no,” Hair-Trigger replied, “Nothing so obvious. When we get the chance, I’d like to take a closer look.”

Magnuss might have suggested a different physical abnormality in the ground-based ethernet cable end; but his attention was snatched away by the sight of a dark saucer making a landing approach…

“Look, Hairy – it’s one of those ships that destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford!”

“Let’s enact some revenge, eh?” Hair-Trigger replied.

Magnuss was all for it. He would have called Nigel to suggest that very thing, but before he was able to depress the ‘send’ button, the Golden One’s voice boomed over the intercom:

“Attack! Attack! Blow the evil swine to kingdom come!”

The instruction was explicit: neither Magnuss nor Hair-Trigger wasted a second responding…

Blam – both ship’s primary weapons hit the alien vessel with all their might. Defensive shields collapsed like cling film in a pizza oven. The ship’s main core erupted in flame and released energy…

Before the occupants knew what had happened, they were hurtling through the air in their own personal escape bubbles…

…their ship reduced to a roiling maelstrom of flame and smoke. Moreover it was the exact duplicate of the window, through which Nigel had spotted Don Quibonki and Panta Lonez (when they had first touched down upon the soil of Earth) that the Tankerville Norris passed over in a victory roll…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so we have alien ass-kicking. But it couldn’t be that easy, surely? Tune in again next time to find out!

Surprise Visit (part 16)

It could be that Surprise Visit is a little lack luster; or maybe Summer isn’t the best time to post stuff on the Internet; but, it seems to me, that this tale isn’t going down too well with the majority of my readers. Or, to put it another way, it appears that they are being turned off in their droves. So it occurred to me that it would probably be a good idea if I released the full PDF e-book now, rather than at the serial’s end. I will ruminate upon this. Meanwhile, for those who are diligently following the story (thank you), here is Part Sixteen…

Of course, the news spread throughout the museum like a wildfire. Almost instantaneously the Earplug Brothers convened…

The eldest brother, Rudi, spoke first:

“Okay,” he said, “we’re on the case. If there aint no fleet to protect the museum, we’re gonna have to go find the miscreants before they come visiting us again. Yo? Can you dig it?”

“Sho’nuf, bro.” The second oldest, Valentine replied without hesitation.

“Count us in.” The twins, Chester and Miles added a nanosecond later.

“I have a reputation to protect.” Magnuss said with a smile. “And a darned good ship in the Tankerville Norris. I’m game.”

A short while later, four of the five brothers had prepared themselves for the ordeal ahead and now posed for publicity shots…

Naturally, Magnuss had gone straight to Nigel, who, having taken the longest tinkle of his life, had conjured up a half-assed plan. Like the news of earlier, Nigel’s plan also swept through the museum – not so much as a wildfire; but more like a pedestal fan with the speed dial set on number three. It was enough to blow in the direction of K’Plank the Space Wanderer, who chose the arboretum in which to break the news to Auntie Doris that he had volunteered.

“Ugh?” Doris responded – her usual smile having fallen away like dead leaves in autumn – “But you have no armament. What good can you do? You’ll just get yourself killed – and with no effect. K’Plank, be logical: let someone else do it.”

“I can flit around and draw enemy fire from the other ships.” K’Plank replied heroically. “And it’s not like I’m totally unarmed. I bought several boxes of stink bombs from a schoolboy on Deneb Four. I couldn’t find a buyer for them here, so they’re just surplus stock. The acidic stench might even incapacitate enemy sensors and play havoc with their sinuses. Anything is worth a try. I must do my bit to protect you and the place you call home. It’s what any decent space wanderer would do!”

Doris didn’t know it, of course, but three of her nephews had already launched aboard the museum’s scientific Flying Saucer…

When the time came for K’Plank to join them, she (and several watchers in the balconies of the Grand hall) was there to wave him bon voyage…

Only moments later, Valentine had the Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher streaking skyward…

As the Earplug Brothers climbed above the clouds, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger aboard the Tankerville Norris joined them…

Then, as one, the four museum vessels formed up behind the Buggeram Bay…

Even at the modest speed that the Scrotonite ship’s AI chose to carry them in the direction of the sea, just off the sewage outfall, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the view of an alien Spatial Relocation Ring to hove into view…

“Don’t tell me, Walker,” Nigel said as he eyed the impressively massive device that could clearly hover with apparent ease above the azure waters, “we have one of these on the drawing board.”

Walker was slow to respond. After several seconds and an elbow in the kidneys from Beatrix, he replied:

“You signed the financial authorisation last week. The designer’s argument for it was that a ship didn’t need to traverse space, hyperspace, wormholes, transit conduits, or any of that old guff, to get anywhere. We would just send one of these, then simply enter its facsimile on Scroton, and be – ah, here, for example – in the blink of an eye. Ships wouldn’t even need to make orbit. In fact you wouldn’t need space ships at all: just aircraft.”

“I thought it looked familiar.” Nigel all but mused to himself. To Walker he said:

“So we’ve been beaten to the punch yet again. Someone has very good spies on Scroton. But, tell me, who could possibly pass as a cable end – for certainly no cable end that ever drew breath on Scroton would work against their planet’s best interest. I’m completely mystified.”

Julian Prim coughed discretely. “Golden One,” he said, “if your ingenious plan is to succeed, we must invert the Buggeram Bay, and envelope our partner’s ships in cloaks that make them appear as we do.”

“Oh yes, that’s right.” Nigel replied. “It’s very important that the ring recognises us as bona fide alien vessels. If we can pass ourselves off as such, it will probably open and allow us egress from this planet, and ingress to the planet at the other end. Go for it!”

A moment later…

…five ships approached the mysterious Spatial Relocation Ring. Timing could have been better because Nigel’s bladder chose that moment to remind him that he shouldn’t have consumed three glasses of cream soda and a Bloody Mary before departure…

“Why have you two joined me?” He demanded of Walker and Bertram.

“Support, Sir.” Bertram replied. “Both spiritual and physical.”

“We don’t want you falling up the toilet, Sir.” Walker added.

After a difficult visit to the loo, finding their way back to the bridge was kid’s stuff. Once settled into his chair, Nigel noticed an incongruity:

“With the ship inverted, why is the screen the right way up? It boggles my eyes.”

“Something to do with the refresh rate of the HD screen, Sir.” Fermin answered Nigel. “It gets all wobbly if it’s turned upside down.”

“So it’s not my blood rushing to the top of my head?” Beatrix inquired.

“Could be, Ma’am.” Fermin replied. “I wouldn’t discount any possibility. Oh, no more time for idle chat: here we go!”

Initially, it appeared that Nigel’s plan was…uh…going to plan: but when the Buggeram Bay and the Tankerville Norris entered the event horizon simultaneously…

…the Spatial Relocation Ring responded in a most violent manner – snapping shut and barring the way for K’Plank and the Earplug Brothers. All three vessels wheeled away in near panic…

Aboard the Flying Saucer, Rudi could barely believe his eyes…

Chester and Miles looked away in fear that they had lost their youngest brother.

“It’s okay, guys,” Rudi called out. “The Tankerville Norris and the Buggeram Bay made it through!”

However it wasn’t all good news. Their sensors had detected a rocky island directly beneath the SRR.

“Look, bros, it even has a Café Puke outlet.” Rudi cried out in glee. “Let’s go drown our sorrows in a ghastly mug of brown muck!”

Valentine had spotted it too. Without hesitation he ‘zoomed’ down to take a better view…

“Yup,” he radioed the boys and K’Plank, “it’s sho’nuf open, and it’s happy hour!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That was a truly international extract – with ‘real’ backdrops coming from England, France, and Spain. I certainly get out and about shooting the Earplug Adventures!

Surprise Visit (part 15)

It’s hard to believe, I know, but we’re only three and a half chapters from the end of the tale. The good news is – the PDF version is complete and only awaits the completion of the on-line telling of this Earplug Adventure before becoming available for all to read or download, in its entirety, free of charge and utterly gratis. It will look exactly like this…

 

But enough of the future: on with the present…

Meanwhile, the proper leader of Scroton scurried along one of many thoroughfares that radiated, like a spider’s web, through the Museum of Future Technology. As he made good speed for a meeting with the chief curator, Cushions Smethwyke, his retinue followed in his wake…

“You need to be fit.” Walker observed as his eyes took in any number of side passageways and corridors. “It seems that to get anywhere, an inordinate amount of shoe leather must be worn down.”

“Walking is good for you.” Beatrix admonished the military leader of Scroton.

“One could get awfully lost.” The red-faced Julian Prim said between gasps.

“Not really.” Beatrix replied. “One need only ask the museum’s Artificial Intelligence for guidance. If it’s not too busy doing other stuff, it will tell you where you are; where you want to be; and how to get there. How else do you think Nigel knows where he’s going?”

Shortly, having rounded just a couple more junctions, Nigel presented himself and Beatrix to Cushions, who had Cheerful Charlie Chopsticks for company upon her ‘throne’…

“Oh, Golden One,” Cushions gushed obsequiously, “I’m so honoured that it takes every erg of my energy to maintain mental and physical equilibrium and not fall off this huge contraption!

“Hi,” Cheerful Charlie added with a wave over Cushions’ shoulder, “you’ve just missed jelly and cream, sorry. Would you like me to send out for you?”

The behaviour of the two trained, long-term professional curators nonplussed Nigel slightly. “Ah, not for the moment, thank you.” He replied to Cheerful Charlie. To Cushions he said: “Miss Smethwyke, we must discuss the most dreadful situation that currently threatens, not only the Museum of Future Technology and, by extension, my home world; but, ultimately many civilisations across the cosmos.”

It was Cushions’ turn to be taken aback. “Yeah?” She managed. “I thought it was just us who were up Kaka Creek without a paddle.”

“Then Magnuss hasn’t told you?” A mystified Beatrix interjected.

It was time for Cushions to come clean: “He might have.” She answered, “But after the first couple of sentences, I kinda went into panic-denial. What was it, specifically?”

“That the attacking ships are of Scrotonic design.” Nigel answered for his wife. “That they utilise the latest technology to which even I am not privy.”

Cushions’ mouth opened and shut several times before her brain caught up. “You mean,” she was finally able to annunciate, “that we’re being bullied by ethernet cable ends? I can’t believe it. It’s too much for my silicon mind to accept. Surely no cable end would destroy an entire city, just to prove how powerful they were – would they?” 

Nigel dismissed the notion with a careless gesture. “No.” He replied adamantly. “No cable end would ever do that. It runs contrary to all our beliefs. But we must consider the possibility that another race – as adept at manufacturing hi-tech equipment at speed and in volume as we of Scroton – has purloined our designs and now uses them for their own advantage.”

“Oh, good.” Cushions responded. “So what do you want us to do? All our ships are half-way across the Galaxy, doing all that exploration and diplomatic stuff. We can’t call upon them. In any case, if those ships are half as good as you say, our old bangers might get blown to pieces!”

“We ask only one thing of you.” Nigel replied. “By whatever means, you must not allow them to defeat you. You must not surrender. I have ordered a fleet of similar ships built. Ships that fly the right way up, I might add. The first elements will arrive here by the end of the week. The remainder are due at approximately the same time that the aliens return for your answer to their ultimatum.”

“Excellent.” Cheerful Charlie piped up. “We’ll make sure we have plenty of jelly and cream in.”

Nigel ignored the resident buffoon. To Cushions he said: “Is there anything you require in between times?”   

“Power.” Cushions replied. “Energy. Our batteries are depleting too quickly. We have a manually operated charger, but no one has sufficient leg strength or endurance to operate it.”

“Leave it to us.” Beatrix replied.

Five hours later…

“Can you see the power level read-out, Faati?” Fermin asked the Queen of the Pygmies.

“Yes.” Faati snapped back.

“How much longer do we have to keep doing this before the batteries are fully charged?” Fermin inquired.

“Long enough,” Faati answered, “to prove your boast to Walker that you can run and run and run without the need to sit down for an hour afterwards.”

Five hours later…

…the museum’s maintenance crew informed the exhausted cable ends that they could prise themselves off the charging machine and allow themselves to be carried to a hot soapy bath to recover.

However, a minute later, but half way across the Galaxy, Phruten Vedge was on the brink of entering a public lavatory, when Anders Dumbell unceremoniously accosted him…

“Phruten! Phruten!” He yelled and tugged at the biker gang leader’s shoulder epaulettes. “Something unthinkable has happened. Something that, under normal circumstances I would say was impossible on Scroton. But, look at the wall screen over there: the one showing the state-run rolling news channel.”

Phruten did as he was bid…

“Argh,” he yelled, “What am I looking at?”

“A fire-storm.” Anders wailed his reply. “It has destroyed the space ship factory. No one knows how it happened: but the Bingbonger, the Clutterbuck, the Plankton Regis, and another one that doesn’t have a name yet, have all been destroyed!”

“This is terrible.” Phruten yelled at a higher pitch than was normally acceptable for such a tough guy. “I’m so glad I’m standing directly outside a toilet right now!”

But just when both cable ends thought that the situation could not worsen farther, the screen switched to another view…

The voice of a reporter followed immediately. It said:

“Holy carp: did you see that? Two missiles have taken out the lemon curd factory! Oh-no, this is disastrous; they were using the surplus manufacturing capacity of the lemon curd factory to produce the extra vessels for The Golden One’s space fleet! Everything has gone up in smoke. This is the worst day in cable end history. Someone hand me a café Cortado – heavy on the brandy!”

However even this was not the final act of infamy. Another screen displayed the image of the space ship design studio in flames…

“Cripes, Anders,” Phruten spoke in a hushed tone, lest his voice break with sorrow and fear, “arson, obviously. Who is going to tell The Golden One?”

The answer flew daintily to Anders’ lips: “Ena.” He replied.

By the strangest of coincidences, Nigel received the news of his proto-fleet’s destruction at the same moment that he planned to enter the Buggeram Bay’s toilet…

“I’m not sure I can accept that.” He said quietly to Walker. “I don’t have an appropriate response.”

“Give it a few minutes to sink in, Sir.” Bertram Hisscod suggested. “Allow yourself the chance to absorb the information slowly.”

“Yes, thank you, Bertram.” Nigel said gratefully, as he turned to enter the toilet…

…”If I have a really long wee, it’ll give me time to compose myself. I just hope that in my moment of despair I don’t lose control and miss the urinal entirely.”

“Best make it a sit down job then, Sir.” Walker said as he made to follow his leader. “I’m sure Bertram will hustle you up a cup of tea.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

You have to feel sympathy for poor old Nigel: he has to contend with so much. Perhaps he should do as he suggested at the beginning of the adventure. That is quit and go live in a cave. 

Surprise Visit (part 14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The grey cable end completed the explanation:

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Surprise Visit (part 12)

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

Chapter Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Undoubtedly.” Walker Crabtrouser concurred.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well…” Magnuss began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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

 

Surprise Visit (part 11): An Earplug Adventure

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

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

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

Beatrix found out soon enough…

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

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

“What do you have?” He inquired.

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

“The wind must have blown it down.”

Mary-Sue sighed loudly, before reciting the menu.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beatrix looked to Nigel for guidance. She found none.

“Try sponge fingers.” Hair-Trigger suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Surprise Visit (part 10): An Earplug Adventure

Into double figures. These extracts just keep coming. At least they will do all the time you want to read them. Thank you for that, by the way. Without readers, what would be the point of writing these tales? Especially since I do so enjoy doing it. Keep up the good work. Tell your friends. Let’s spread the word. Enjoy Part Ten…

Five minutes later Magnuss and Hair-Trigger stood upon the truncated Wide Blue Yonder, pressed up against their visitors…

“Sorry about this,” Magnuss said, “but we don’t want the aliens to detect our use of the matter transmitter. We’re using just one to carry all nine of us. Squash up. Squash up!”

Moments later…

…multiple flashes lit up the fake surroundings. A split second later, multiple flashes did likewise in a subterranean bunker beneath the real Museum of Future Technology…

“Okay everybody,” Magnuss said after everyone had felt themselves from head to toe, “let’s go!”

And, boy, didn’t they go! Magnuss set a blistering pace…

So fast that he and Hair-Trigger were soon gasping for air…

…and poor little Faati – the Queen of the Pygmies – was in danger of being left behind. But what she lacked in outright speed, she more than made up for in stamina. So by the time the flagging forerunners had reached the sole exterior viewing window, she had caught up…

“You gotta run really fast to lose a pygmy.” One of the earplug engineers present on the shop floor below said. “I always bet on them in a marathon.”

“Me too.” Another replied. “I bought my apartment with the winnings.”

Naturally, Nigel was more than interested in the alien saucers. Already an idea was forming in his illustrious head. “Can we go somewhere quiet where you can show me images of these alien swine?” He asked, yet managed to make it a command.

“Sure.” Magnuss replied. “I was rather hoping you’d say that. Just follow the signs.”

“Are you sure you want to take them to a Café Puke?” An uncertain Hair-Trigger asked of her husband…

“Can you think of a better place?” He responded. “The coffee is crap, but the ambiance can’t be equalled – especially with their latest Fifties Diner décor.”

At that moment, a short distance away, in the arboretum Café Puke…

…three Baristas awaited their next customer. It had been a quiet start to the morning, and thus far clientele had only occupied a few tables…

“Oi, can we really afford to keep that air-con running?” The pink female, Mary-Sue Wassack, said to the others. “And I don’t mean that in a fiscal sense: the museum is running on battery power you know. Okay, they’re very futuristic batteries, but they don’t last forever. Then this job’ll get really hard and sweaty. I do don’t hard and sweating – not unless I’m down the disco with a can of lager in my hand.”

One of the others – possibly the sole male Barista, Jungle-Jake Johnson –  might have argued that if they turned up the heat, what few customers they had would leave. However all three Barista’s attention was soon drawn to a face at the door…

“Ah-ha,” they heard Magnuss say cheerfully. “Stay right there. Don’t shut up shop, and don’t turn off the air-con: you’ve got V.I.Ps incoming.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

PS The cover to the free PDF e-book version is ready. It looks like this…

Judging from the cover image, that looks like a surprise visit we’d all like to avoid. Next time phone before you arrive: we can make sure we’re out!

Surprise Visit (part 9): An Earplug Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was pretty thorough.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Surprise Visit (part 8): An Earplug Adventure

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

It led to the arboretum…

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

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

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

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

Chapter Three

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

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

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

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

Seconds later there was no doubt…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then they went out…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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