Tag Archives: photography

Earplug Adventures Portrait: Stand Up And Be Counted!

This post first appeared in a now defunct blog.

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

Tooty the Chef Creates: Albondegas!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Approaching the Frontier

This post has appeared previously upon a defunct blog.

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

Nature Wallpaper: Cruel Thorns; Hard Frost

Myriad Sparrows live within this hedgerow. How do they survive the barbs? Or is it a case of the thorns offering the tiny birds protection from predators? They certainly squawk a lot. But I guess I would too – if I had those things jabbing me up the arse every five minutes!

P.S Don’t you think those three bramble leaves look rather predatory?

Silicon Life: Competition for the Cafe Puke!

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

Although including a distinctive foyer, the building appears to follow the design of the majority of Cafe Puke outlets. But, as this photograph shows, the hoarding apparently makes mention of the rival cafe chain – Skanki Kaffe. However leaked pictures of the interior do not support this assertion. Workers were  tight lipped when quizzed about the new-build. Even Rupert Piles  and his huge 3D TV camera, despite trudging back a forth acoss the doorway all morning, could garner no information…

Nevertheless rumours continue to propagate, particularly when posters purporting that the endeavour is supported by the youngest of the the Earplug Brothers – twins Chester and Miles, and the famous Ice World scientist Uda Spritzer, appeared inside the half-completed future place of business…

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

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

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

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

We await developments.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

 

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Illicit Flight

This first appeared in a now defunct blog.

When Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage stole the prototype Prowler from the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company, Bubbles couldn’t help showing it off to her mother, Millicent, and her ski coach boyfriend Wagontrain McCallister in their ski lodge at the end of a frozen fiord. From The Veil of Shytar. Fascinating factoid: The fiord is actually a hollow in the trunk of a fallen tree that has filled with water. Yes, I know it doesn’t look like it, but it is. Just goes to show what a photographic genius the creator of the Earplug Adventures really is!

 

Tooty the Chef Makes Tooty Goreng and an Inappropriate Pudding

Hola and welcome to La Cocina de Tooty…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the pudding? Check it out…

Pity the custard was lumpy.

 

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

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

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

Look, nice, isn’t it?

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

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

Even a really warm glow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

It also allows him to remove some of the superstructure…

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

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

 

The Earplugs Come Home

The Earplug Adventures began life on this blog – right back in 2014. So I think it only right that (following their dismal showing in their own blog) they should return here: the home of earplug fiction. Henceforth all the stuff that appeared on the accursed failed blog will (as if like magic) reappear in these hallowed cyber-pages. Stuff like this…

Following uncounted millennia in suspended animation, a newly-formed ocean reanimates ancient aquatic earplugs upon Mars. Here Arthur and Millicent find their way to the surface for the first time. From Haunted Mars Volume Two. Fascinating factoid: The bubbly surface of the new ocean is actually semi-melted sound deadening material. The earplugs aren’t embedded in it; instead they have had their bottom halves excised – giving the impression that they are partially submerged. Well that’s the idea anyway. Did it work?

 

An Apple iPad and The Very Last Shot in This World

My late wife loved her iPad. She took it almost everywhere – even to places without an Internet connection. She perferred it to laptops, TV, or cameras. To her it was all three rolled up in one. She was always insisting that I get one: but I declined. It was a jack-of-all-trades: I wanted dedicated stuff that did what I wanted properly. So,  following her death, her iPad was stuffed in it’s case, zipped up, and put somewhere safe. Every so often though I would take it out to charge the battery: but since I had no use for it, it was always returned to the darkness. Then, one day I decided to take the photos she had taken on it so that they would be preserved on various alternative media scattered throughout the house. This was when I discovered that Apple products are arse holes. They come equiped with Bluetooth, but although they will ‘pair’ with non-apple products, they will not transfer data to or from them. Apple to Apple only. Then I discovered the HooToo…

…a wonderful little device with a USB on one end and a Lightning connector on the other. Perfect for storing iPad data, then transferring to a Windows laptop. But when I tried uploading from the iPad to the HooToo, I couldn’t do it. Too many years of using Windows wouldn’t let me figure the counter-intuitive programming of the Apple product. To me nothing was obvious. I wondered if it was anything to do with age. Was I too dopy and set in my ways to understand? So I dug out this…

…which helped not one jot. Fortunately, being a genius, I realised that the Internet could help me. There I would find a guide, I was certain. I didn’t. But I did find a user manual for the HooToo on-line – with screen grabs of the device in action on  an IPad. Unfortunately those handy screen grabs differed to the picture I was looking at on ‘my’ iPad screen. There were fewer icons, and two of them were different. But with a dash of luck and some brilliant insightfulness, I eventually managed to transfer the photos from the iPad on to the HooToo and thence to my laptop. Success! But In doing so I discovered another, previously unseen  photo file. It contained only four pictures – all taken from a position that placed the photographer in a hospital bed. Obviously that photographer was my wife. Initially I smiled. But before I explain, this is the third shot of the four…

The preceding shots were almost identical, except they were not level. The first leaned by several degrees. The second less so. With the third shot she nailed it. What I found amusing was my reading of her thoughts when taking the pictures. She wasn’t a fussy photographer: as long as the shot looked nice, she was happy with it. But she knew that I would disapprove of a picture that wasn’t straight. I hate horizons that aren’t level. So, despite her increasing disablement, she plugged on until she got this shot. The amusment faded when I then considered her motivation for taking the pictures. Clearly they were to be a record of her stay in (yet another) hospital room – to look back on later in life. When she took this picture, she still thought she would beat the cancer – or at least wrestle it to a draw and live with it. But when I looked at the final shot…

…that included her hospital socks and puffy, emaciated legs, no smile was possible. I was looking at the very last picture she would ever take.  She didn’t know that at the time, of course, which only made it sadder. But, fortunately for me, she has previously contacted me (through a medium obviously) to tell me a little of her existence beyond this life, so I needn’t feel sad for her: just sorry for me. The pictures are now backed-up on several hard drives. They’re special.

Goodbye ‘Standing in Clover’

I suspected as much, when I first began my countryside photo-blog, that it wouldn’t last long. What has surprised me though, is the reason for it’s demise. Okay, it didn’t attract many views, which is probably quite a good excuse for calling it a day: but it wasn’t that which made me quit. It was the difficulty in choosing which pictures to include on the blog. There was only so much room in the memory – one gigabyte – and just so many pictures to select from. Simply put, I have too many photos in my library: whichever one I choose, I then think I could have chosen a better one. It’s maddening. I wasn’t enjoying it. And then when the ‘faves’ stopped…well it was all the excuse I needed. The blog is toast.  Perhaps if there were two of me it might have been easier…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twenty-Minute Chilli with Tooty the Chef

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

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

This was quickly followed by the minced beef…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download that if you dare!

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it had too!

Now only a brown dwarf star remained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pronk then addressed the earplug couple:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the name of clarity Bubbles asked:

“The Star Chamber, you mean?”

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

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

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

And that’s exactly what they did…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Task Complete: Hurrah!

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

Nice, innit?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 21)

Familiar ground for Earpluggers coming up…

Chapter 10

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

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

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

“Two birds with one stone.” Barclay replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To cheer Bubbles up, Barclay said:

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

Two minutes later and fifteen floors lower…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well?”

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

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

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

“Follow me.”

So they did…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When do we leave?” Barclay asked urgently.

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 9

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

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

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

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

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

…and looked at each other.

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

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

Recovering, she spoke her intended words:

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

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

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

Bubbles was thrilled by what she heard her subordinate say.

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

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

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

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

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

“Whadda ya want?” Swypes added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubbles, caught slightly off-guard, responded thus:

“Ugh, yeah…whatever. Let’s get down!”

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…which was long in the extreme and circumbendibus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Less blue.” Barclay suggested.

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

Then Bubbles received her second surprise…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, right on.” He said unenthusiastically.

Moments later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lieutenant R Swypes then astonished the two visitors by adding:

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

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

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

Bubbles hardly dared ask the obvious question:

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 15)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think we should get closer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cockpit rang like a bell…

“What the heck?” Barclay managed.

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

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

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

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

Barclay gave Bubbles a look that said:

“That was dumb: don’t do it again.”

But his mouth said:

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 14)

Neat SFX coming up…

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

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

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

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

“I do.”

“Oh good.”

A heartbeat later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 7

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

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

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

Moments later this happened…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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