Tag Archives: science fiction

Tea Dust Art: The Zanahoria Negro Above a Winter Forest

The forest of conifers is good old tea dust  shaken and stirred inside a white cardboard box. The Zanahoria Negro is a plastic carrot painted black. All good stuff, you understand. Only the best for my art…

The falling snow was added later. Who knows, maybe it will appear in an Earplug Adventure.

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Woken By An Ice-Age

Choreographer and troupe leader, Margret Greenhorn is woken early by her dancing girls – The Greenhorn Girls – only to discover that the alternative reality in which they live is about to enter a new ice-age. From Winning Numbers. Fascinating factoids: Tooty attempted to create a look that suggested COLD by photographing some ice outside in the yard where he worked (and created this scene five minutes later), then placed his ‘actors’ upon the A4 print-out from a laser printer. It didn’t work entirely; but he liked Margret’s dull-eyed look enormously, so it doesn’t really matter. In retrospect, he should have taken the scene outside in the real cold. Still, too late now. The Greenhorn Girls are loosely based on the famous Parisian dance troupe, The Bluebell Girls, created by Margret Kelly during the Nazi occupation of France. Tooty’s late wife was once a Bluebell Girl.  

More Effort Required, Mr. Nolan.

When I first mentioned ( in Is A Third ‘Silent’ Novel Possible?) that I intended to actually attempt to write a third ‘Silent’ book, with which I planned to complete a trilogy of these earlier tomes…

…it was with great hope that I still had the ability to write such a thing. A quick tidying-up of the original books convinced me that I did. So, without further ado, I spent the entire evening and beyond hammering at the keypad. The result was a meagre two pages of ho-hum. But I wasn’t downhearted; merely tired. The following day, thought I, I’d be ready to attack the would-be manuscript again. I was wrong. In local parlance, I just couldn’t be arsed to. And so it has remained. However, I will not be so easily defeated. Once more  shall I step into the literary breech. And just as a spur, here is a fragment of what I wrote last time. It has to be brief; there are too many spoilers otherwise. In fact those two pages of script are loaded with them. Welcome to a tiny smidgin of Silent Existence

Consequently Colonel Cosgrove and his United Nations personnel no longer required isolation suits outside of Crag Base. So it was upon a windy bluff, high in the hills above the abandoned service station that hid the subterranean base, that the stubble-haired American found Tasman and I. As he joined us he made a grand show of breathing in the cool natural air                                                                                              

   “Guys,” he said as he looked about himself appreciatively, “you have no idea how great that feels.”

   I smiled in response. He was correct: I didn’t. Tasman, however, knew exactly how he felt: he’d begun reading Cosgrove’s mind the moment he had first spotted the stocky individual struggling along the tussock-strewn hilltop path towards us. “Lots?” I suggested.

   As he lowered himself to sit beside us, he replied: “You could say that. It’d be an understatement though.”

   I was always pleased to be in the Colonel’s company. In fact I’d been known to address him as ‘Dad’, which he wasn’t afraid to admit he loved. However today was slightly different.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Now it’s time to knuckle down and write this bloody book!

Earplug Adventures Disaster Wallpaper: Estimated Point of Impact

Bad news for the silicon inhabitants of this particular city that  squats like a defecating toad upon the vast plain that leads to the distant Museum of Future Technology…

But do we care? Not a jot. And maybe the disaster will find it’s way into an earplug adventure!

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part thirteen)

So this is it – unlucky number 13. The thirteenth and final episode of the first earplug short story. It’s been quite nice, hasn’t it?

It was Fanny’s good fortune that she had been blessed with substantial hip padding – or ‘fat’ as it is more commonly known. Consequently she suffered no more than a bruised ego and a grazed knee. Muttering to herself she exited the maintenance tunnel and proceeded past two comatose earplugs and across the disused roller skate parking area…

“There she goes.” The fourth member of the security suite cried out. “What is that in her back pocket – a packet of gobstoppers?”

Of course, what the junior RoboSecGua couldn’t possibly have known was that Fanny’s pockets bulged with antidote packages, which, once she had gained access to the main thoroughfare, she proceeded to cast to the floor, where they burst spectacularly…

“Look at the smile on her face,” EvilRoboSecGua called out as it rushed for a close-up of the main viewer, “it can mean only one thing: she has a potion that counteracts the Northern Mist. I’m so excited I could slip my differential!”

“Quickly,” RoboSecGua snapped at the machine intelligence that operated the communications panel, “inform the maintenance operatives in the nul-space generator control room. Tell them to start the ventilation system and begin pumping whatever that gaseous material is around the museum.”

Shortly, the aforementioned maintenance operatives, cocooned as they were in their control room, did just that…

“Looking good.” Rikki said. “A few more packets of that magic dust, and were home and dry!”

Well Fanny was perfectly capable of delivering those ‘packets of magic dust’, so before long customers of the nearest Café Puke…

…found themselves reviving; clambering to their feet; and wondering why their coffees were stone cold with a nasty skin on top.

Further, two trainee baristas in the neighbouring Skanki Kaffe fired up their Vomitino machine for the first time, and treated all the second-fix construction workers to an inaugural cup of vile brown muck and a stale croissant…

Of course once everyone was made aware of the situation, earplugs from every quarter of the museum raced to thank their saviour…

Equally of course, many were surprised by her identity. They had expected an Earplug Brother, or failing that Hair-Trigger. As the Angel with a Huge Nose went to show her gratitude by enfolding Fanny in her huge angelic wings, the intended recipient couldn’t help but recall her vision of the sun shining from the angel’s rear end. But her smile was quickly erased when, from the opposite direction, a swarm of zombies slithered…

“Fanny,” their spokes-zombie, former TV cricket commentator Brian Trouserflap, belched, “and you too, RoboSecGua: we’ve just detected Mister Zinc and that blue tart entering the museum. If you hurry, you’ll head them off at the pass. Or, in museum parlance, the Grand Hall.”

Meanwhile, the main door to the Grand Hall had opened upon well-oiled hinges to allow ingress to the would-be conqueror and first lady…

“It’s a little Spartan.” Blue observed. “And dark too.”

“I’ll take anything after a year or so in that damned watchtower.” Zinc replied bitterly. “Hmmm, I do believe this would make an excellent throne room. High ceilings: I like it. My stentorian tones would echo nicely off the walls in here. All the serfs and peasants could gather to hear my latest edicts. And all of their body heat and personal stench would be carried up to the extractor units above. I just wish I could see the whole room. Don’t tell me the electrics are on the blink.”

Blue had an idea. She shouted, “Lights!”

Instantly both interlopers were bathed in a bright, but warm light…

…which made them aware that they were surrounded by security forces.

Initially they said nothing, especially when they realised that Rupert Piles was transmitting their arrest ‘live’ on his huge Three-Dee TV camera. Of course they failed utterly to recognise Fanny as their nemesis, or even acknowledge her presence. Fanny didn’t mind, of course; anonymity had its advantages, especially when the ‘bad guy’ was prone to thoughts of revenge.

“Oh dear,” Blue finally said as the nearest RoboSecGua prepared to deploy it’s lasso ‘tongue’, “Do you have a Plan B, Zinkipoo?”

“No,” the artificially silvered earplug replied, “but if I did, it would be a lobotomy. I assure you it’s no fun being a failed megalomaniac.”

So, following a day of celebrations, and as the sun dipped behind the distant mountains, those inside the Museum of Future Technology could look out of their windows and watch Fanny’s antidote coruscate delightfully in the air above that fabulous edifice…

The End

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part twelve)

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

Now on with the show…

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The senior RoboSecGua turned to EvilRoboSecGua and said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023


Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part eleven)

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

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

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

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

“Oh bum!” she yelled despairingly.

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

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

Ten minutes later Fanny let herself into the darkened café…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Four

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

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

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

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

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part ten)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part eight)

 In this episode,  a seemingly insignificant scene appears that could easily be missed. It will become significant later in this briefer-than-usual story. See if you can spot it. 

As she went about the museum, Fanny couldn’t help but feel sad…

…Only hours previous the huge building had been a cauldron of silicon activity. How quickly the mighty edifice and its multifarious defences had been brought to its knees.

“I was going to come here shopping at the week-end too.” She said in a dejected tone. “By kite.”

The word ‘kite’ when she spoke it, reminded her of a similar word – ‘bite’. This in turn caused her to think of the museum’s best-known primitive silicon life-form, that being Nature Beast. “Heck,” she roared inside her tiny insulated world, “if anyone can fight off the Northern Mist, it’ll be Nature Beast: he resists technology like similar magnetic poles reject each other!” So, turning on her heel, she made straight for the control room of TWIT…

However, upon entering, all thoughts of Nature Beast’s heroic resistance to the mist were cast aside. His commanding officer, Major Flaccid seemed to be staring straight at her from inside a personal deflector bubble of his own…

But when she spoke to him, all she received in response was his usual intense stare. Then she realised that the bubble was full of mist.

“Oh, you silly sod,” she said to the still form before her, “you’re supposed to get inside the bubble before the mist gets you. You were too slow, you dull-witted oik!”

Then she spotted Nature Beast’s lower half. His upper half was hidden by the control room lavatory. Obviously he’d fallen into it – probably trying to escape into the sewer via the u-bend.

“There’s no helping the truly stupid.” She said with a sigh.

Thereafter she went straight to the security suite and presented the RoboSecGuas with the samples they required…

The tests were begun with alacrity. The results came thick and fast.

“Well we’ve traced the chemical composition of the mist to a region in the mountains very close to Lemon Stone.” The senior RoboSecGua informed Fanny. “The combination of elements exactly matches that of a gas that will be developed in the not too distant future – the plans for which were sent back here from the future, for safe keeping. The self-same plans that were stolen from the museum, by a disaffected barista in the Café Puke organisation, not more than two weeks ago. The barista was arrested and threatened with a good kick up the arse; but he still refuses to give us the identity of the earplug to who he sold the aforementioned plans.”

“We’ve cobbled together a detector of sorts.” EvilRoboSecGua chimed in. “Your task – on your way home, I might add – is to use the detector to trace the origin of the erroneously-named ‘Northern Mist’. Once you’ve done that, just give us a call, and we’ll come running to capture the potential megalomaniac.”

Fanny was no security expert, but it sounded like a good plan to her. So, five minutes later, and with the detector in her pocket, and with a spring in her step, she set out once more…

Moreover, she was elated at the thought that she felt no desire to visit the adjacent lavatory too. But she tried to hide the fact by keeping a straight face in front of the RoboSecGua that saw her off.

During her brief passage through the museum towards her pedestrian exit of choice, Fanny dropped by the almost-complete Skanki Kaffe…

“How interesting.” She said to herself as she poked an inquisitive nose in through the foyer, “I’ve heard they use an entirely different way to make decaffeinated coffee. Their Desalinated is nothing like Café Puke’s Defecated: its pure coincidence that they just happen to taste alike. Oh, well nothing happening here: best be moving on.”

Thereafter she followed a route supplied by the RoboSecGuas that would cut at least an hour from her journey time…

It was a complicated route, and Fanny might have become lost at any juncture; but the members of the security suite were following her on CCTV, and called out to her via the public address system every time she took a wrong turn…

So, before too long Fanny found herself standing upon the verdant pastures that led from the museum to the foothills…

“Right,” she said resolutely, “the only way is up.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part seven)

Whilst Part Five made a remarkable recovery, Part Six appears to have foundered upon a literary and photographic reef. Oh dear. The obvious course of action is…er…obvious: post Part Seven!

Fanny was about to slink off towards the door when the first junior RoboSecGua spoke up:

“Oi-oi,” it said in a tone guaranteed to get everyone’s attention, “I’m receiving a plethora of garbled messages from all over the museum. Something really strange is occurring. It seems that earplugs are falling victim to something inexplicable. They are becoming inert and collapsing into a state of suspended animation!”

Fanny and the two senior RoboSecGuas turned immediately to the main view screen…

…which filled an entire wall and produced spectacular pictures in high definition…

EvilRoboSecGua found its voice first: “It appears that I owe you an apology, Miss…um…?”

“Gander.” Fanny replied as she gazed at the swirling fog outside. “Fanny Gander.”

The senior RoboSecGua finally spoke:

“Tell us what you know of the Northern Mist, Fanny. I have a ghastly cyber-feeling that the Museum of Future Technology faces the most grave danger in its entire history.”

Chapter Two

It seemed, to Fanny at least that fate had interceded upon the Museum of Future Technology’s behalf. Of all the people, she reasoned, who might have made their way to the only place inside the vast emporium of doo-dahs and widgets from eras more advanced than the current day, it was she: Fanny Gander; a creator of potions, one of which had given her the ability to shrug off the effects of the Northern Mist…

“It helped that I can hold my breath really well too!” She concluded as she divested herself of her thoughts and ruminations to the listening RoboSecGua squad inside the security suite.

“For sure – for sure.” The senior RoboSecGua replied. “However it is certain that your breath will not hold out indefinitely. If you are to go outside and investigate the origins of this cursed fog, you will require a personal deflector bubble. Oh look, my subordinate has just dug one out of the cupboard for you.” 

Naturally, being an earplug of a simpler culture with an upbringing that placed greater importance upon mosses rather than superconductors: insect juices above microchips, Fanny didn’t have the first idea what a personal deflector bubble was; but she had an uncanny feeling  she was about to find out.

“You wear it like a hat.” The RoboSecGua explained.

“A very large hat.” EvilRoboSecGua added. “An ill-fitting one at that. Try it on.”

Moments later…

“Hmmm, I see what you mean.” Fanny said cautiously. “What does it do?”

“It protects you from your immediate environment.” RoboSecGua replied. “It allows you to perambulate, whilst keeping nasty stuff from affecting you. For example, it filters the air, so you won’t need to hold your breath. You can interact with the outside world, by drawing objects inside with you by means of…well I don’t really need to tell you all the technological stuff: you’re a comparative savage with little understanding of advanced machinery. Suffice to say, it will allow you to go about the Museum of Future Technology; take samples of the gas, and maybe some blood samples from its victims; then return them here for analysis.”

Fanny wasn’t entirely sure she liked being called a ‘savage’, but she allowed herself to be ushered towards the door…

“Okay,” she said as her eyes blinked at the relative brilliance of the brighter exterior lights, “I’ll get your samples for you.”

However, as the RoboSecGuas crowded in the door to wave farewell…

…she did wonder why one of them couldn’t perform the task: they didn’t breathe; surely the Northern Mist could have no effect on them. But she’d already agreed to act upon their behalf (and never went back on her word), so quickly moved to the one location that she was certain she would find both gas and blood samples: the Café Puke…

Little did she know, but the filtration system in her personal deflector bubble had already begun taking air samples. It continued to do so as she entered the café…

Her first reaction was one of horror: after all she had never seen so many earplugs in a state of suspended animation. In fact the only other time she could recall anything similar was when she visited an ethical circus in which the use of animals had been banned. The audience had grown so bored that some of them had self-induced a state of suspended animation. But this was far worse; and it would require a great deal more than a quick kick in the shins to awaken the earplugs that littered the polka dot floor here. However, she quickly pulled herself together and began extracting blood samples…

“Sorry,” she would say to the somnolent victims, “I don’t have any sticky plasters, and I can’t press on the wound, coz my hands are inside my personal deflector bubble.”

However, and despite her lack of dexterity as a phlebotomist, Fanny was quickly finished and gladly upon her way from the virtual mausoleum…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

“foundered upon a literary and photographic reef.” Honestly, to use another maritime  term, I do write some utter ‘bilge’ sometimes. However, if it wasn’t for the ‘bilge’, it wouldn’t really be me, would it? Long-live bilge!

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part six)

Part Five didn’t exactly grab the general populace by the throat and shake them until they appreciated its brilliance, which is a shame because it was fabulous in every way. So let’s hope part six does somewhat better…

Because all public places must be wired into the alert apparatus, the Café Pukes also initiated a serious alert status…

…only, in their case it was known as Alerta Roco.

“What the heck?” One aggrieved customer grumbled, “I’ve just put three sweeteners in this drink. I’m not running off now; I’m gonna finish it.”

However he needn’t have worried. Alerta Roco always resulted in the same thing: the doors locked automatically, sealing everyone inside from any exterior threat…

But over in the yet-to-be-finished Skanki Kaffe emporium, horror reigned when everybody working on the fine details, like gurgly coffee dispensers, granite countertops and futuristic urinals, went completely wonky…

However, in comparison, they got off lightly. Margret Greenhorn and her famous Greenhorn Girls dancing troupe were overcome so quickly that they fell and accidentally showed their knickers to a museum Robot Guide…

Only Margret remained conscious long enough to gag in a most unladylike fashion.

Fortunately for Fanny Gander, who had made her way deeper into the museum, the mist had abated slightly. She could now draw breath and think intelligently. After a quick trip to the loo, she sought and found the Security Suite…

“Oh cripes,” she whispered unnecessarily, “this door is bound to have a combination lock. I don’t know what the number is.”

Meanwhile the Robot Guide was getting its own (metaphorical) knickers in a twist…

“Hey, guys,” it said in its customary cheerful manner, “what’s eatin’ ya? Talking of eating; you want me to show you the way to a nearby restaurant?”

Also meanwhile, the maintenance workers could only watch their screens in dismay as the great edifice emptied of customers…

“Where’d they go?” Rikki demanded. “Why is everything so inert?”

Rikki would have asked several more questions had he known that the seals on several Café Pukes had inexplicably failed, and now their occupants could also be considered inert…

Upon the walkway, the Robot Guide had similar cybernetic thoughts. It didn’t ‘do’ inert. So, as quickly as its caterpillar treads could carry it, the servomechanism raced off for help…

Fanny had no such concerns: she’d not seen nor heard a soul. Her particular problem was one of access to the Security Suite. Fortunately her younger brother had once been a professional ‘hacker’: so drawing upon the knowledge she gained from the few lessons he’d given her, she punched in 1234. In a second the door swung open…

…and she let herself in.

Once inside, darkness greeted Fanny’s eyes…

Naturally she fumbled for a light switch behind the door. She was rewarded by the sudden brightening of the surprisingly small room…

She was, however, somewhat disappointed to find it unoccupied.

“Hello?” She tried timidly. But when this elicited no response she increased her volume by seven hundred percent. “Oi, where the flipping heck are you? There’s a disaster in the making, don’t you know!

This had the desired effect. An interior door burst open, and three RoboSecGuas rolled in. Whilst the most junior Robot Security Guard drove straight to the com-panel, Fanny found herself addressed by the senior RoboSecGua, and its first officer, EvilRoboSecGua…

“I let myself in.” Fanny replied to the stereo question: “How the flip did you get in here?”

She answered the subsequent inquiry thus:

“I’m here with some important information. Your robot security guard on loan to Lemon Stone told me to come here and warn you. This fabulous establishment is being assailed by the legendary Northern Mist!”

“That’s silly, that is.” EvilRoboSecGua replied. “If it’s legendary, how can it exist here and now?

“Yeah,” the senior RoboSecGua took up the metaphorical reins. “Something that’s legendary is just that: of legend. It doesn’t actually exist in the modern era. Legends are all about old stuff set a long time ago. I thought everyone knew that.” 

The cool logic of the cybernetic devices gave Fanny reason to pause and question her rationality. Especially so when a fourth RoboSecGua entered the room;

…regarded a wall-mounted screen that displayed the mist; and said:

“Cor, that’s a right pea-souper out there. It fair gives me the collywobbles. That’ll keep people in their apartments for sure. I wonder what went wrong with the weather controller.”

“Um,” she finally replied to the senior RoboSecGua, “well it is behaving rather like the legendary Northern Mist. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that it actually is the Northern Mist. Come to think about it, I haven’t seen anyone rendered inert and sent into suspended animation with my own eyes. In fact I haven’t heard anyone scream that either. Oh dear, I do believe I’ve wasted a long and arduous journey here. Well if I haven’t broken any laws, perhaps I’d better be on my way: I haven’t had time for my tea yet.”

“You were sent on a fool’s errand.” EvilRoboSecGua replied. “It’s not your fault: you can be on your way without fear of receiving a nasty summons from the courts through your letter box. You do have letter boxes in Lemon Stone, I presume? I mean, you don’t live in caves or something? Thank you for your misguided and worthless assistance: now sod off.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Eject With Alacrity!

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

Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part five)

This being my first earplug short story, I’m delighted with the progress. It has taken, quite literally less than half the effort a regular book takes. I think I’ll do this more often. And look – it already has a cover!

But for now  I think it best I don’t get over excited: on with part five…

Farther inside the museum, Rudi Earplug received a text message whilst waiting to be served by the baristas of a local Café Puke…

“Flipping heck, everyone,” he roared – startling twins, Desmond and Anthony Hedgewarbler by doing so, “I’ve just got a text. Something really weirdsville is going on outside. We’d better hang on in here until I get more info. You dig?” 

Of course what Rudi could not possibly have known was that the mist had enveloped the entire building…

Naturally the museum’s electro-magnetic defensive shields had been raised as a precaution. However, and much to the dismay of the maintenance department members on duty, the mist appeared to have multi-phasic properties that allowed it to alter its temporal location at a sub-atomic level, which meant it could move, fractionally, in time. This, in turn meant that it could bypass the mono-chronological screens with ease. In desperation the operative tried to combat this rare talent with additional power to the shield emitters.

“That’s it.” A yellow female End Cap engineer screeched from a com-panel screen. “If that doesn’t work, nothing will stop this mysterious gas from gaining access to the entire museum – including the ladies toilet on level thirteen!”

“What’s so special about the ladies toilet on level thirteen?” The yellow earplug inquired in the hope that it would divert his attention from the fears and trepidation he was feeling at that moment.

“My mother is an illegal immigrant.” The desperate End Cap replied. “She lives there – in a secret compartment behind the cistern.”

The orange maintenance worker shared much the same emotions as his yellow partner: “That’s terrible.” He yelled, “Who does her shopping and laundry?”

Meanwhile, in yet another Café Puke outlet…

…staff and customers wondered why the lights had dimmed.

“Sorry,” the pink barista said to his yellow customer, “but energy levels had dropped below those required to operate the Crappachino machine. I can do you an Iron Lungo. I’ll even throw in a complimentary sausage roll.”

At the precise moment that the yellow earplug responded in the negative, Fanny Gander had gained a pedestrian door that would allow her ingress to the museum. But, as she looked downward disconsolately, she wondered if there was any real point to her efforts: despite her speed and endurance, the mist had overtaken her: it was already too late…

And she might have been right too. Already the Age of Stone exhibit was enshrouded…

Worst still, so was the boating lake, where Gobby and Panta Lonez were enjoying a brisk hike across the undeveloped ‘bad lands’…

Now if Gobby had managed to recognise the threat he might have been able to utilise his minimal time-travelling capability and taken himself and Panta backwards fifteen minutes in time – giving them the opportunity to seek the sanctuary of an air raid shelter. But he didn’t, so this happened…

Poor old Gobby and his new friend.

Meanwhile, all across the museum, customers and staff alike remained ignorant of the ever-encroaching menace. Café Pukes carried on as normal…

But, like Rudi Earplug minutes earlier, some customers were receiving confusing texts from friends and family. It made them look about themselves furtively…

“Do I mention this to anyone?” They would ask themselves. “Or do I lock myself in the lavatory and adopt the brace position?”

Some of them went so far as to put on false smiles and pretend that nothing was wrong…

…which, because they lacked any tangible facts, might have been the actual truth. What would been gained from worrying anyone unnecessarily?

But elsewhere, like on unprotected walkways, earplugs were succumbing quickly…

“Ooh-ur,” this particular individual was heard to say, “I don’t half feel wonky. It’s almost as though…”

But all too quickly the scent of fear permeated the plasterboard walls of the local hostelries. Customers became alarmed…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” they would wail in an unpleasant discord, “that scent: its fear. I don’t like it: make it go away!”

No sooner had that occurred, when someone in the Curator’s Suite hit the Vermillion Alert button…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

My apologies for all the meaningless techno-babble during the maintenance control room scene. As my son pointed out, “That’s very Star Trek: Voyager shit from the nineties.”

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

…she noted the unusual colour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023

Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part 2)

I must confess that (when I posted Part 1) I had no idea where the story was going. It is part of the reason that I’ve produced so few photos for the story. As usual I just trusted my imagination to come to the rescue. Well I guess that trust was warranted. Last night I awoke for a nocturnal tinkle – with the story complete in my dreamstate mind. All I had to do was remember it in the morning. Unusually that very thing occured. I now have the story in my conscious mind.  I even climbed into my attic studio and shot more pictures. The tale can continue. Welcome to Part 2…

Meanwhile, a strange sound momentarily wrenched Dumper Collins’ attention from his smelly gourde…

It seemed to him that it originated from an artisan’s workshop several doors along from his own…

Dumper was used to hearing the amber goo stirrer’s gyrations at the ladle; so when it fell silent suddenly, he grew concerned. So concerned that he closed the lid of his gourde and began to climb the ladder to his escape hatch…

He called out to his fellow artisan, but the frightened fellow raced by without acknowledging Dumper’s hail. Intrigued, Dumper dropped into the narrow alleyway…

“What’s come over Ferdie Crank?” He asked himself. “Has his amber goo gone critical and is about to explode? Or did he spot something unusual from his tiny workshop window?”

In order to answer these questions, Dumper dared enter the amber goo worker’s establishment. Darkness prevailed, so he felt his way to the shutter and opened the window…

But what he saw almost made him poop in his pants…

“Argh,” he bellowed, “it can’t be so. No-no-no: surely not. Surely it can’t be the legendary Northern Mist. If it ever existed, it would have been centuries past. No, you silly farting gourde maker; it can’t possibly be the Northern Mist: if it was, it would spell doom for each and every one of us!”

“I know,” he said as he raced to the exit in search of somebody with which to share the discovery…

…I’ll tell that Fanny Gander. She’s smarter than the average earplug: she’ll know what to do.”

During the moments it took for Dumper to successfully negotiate the exit the subject of his sudden interest had just wandered from her lavatory, into her kitchen…

“Honestly,” she muttered, “if I wasn’t a female, I’d swear I had an enlarged prostate gland: I’m always going for a wee – or so it seems.”

Any further thoughts upon the subject were interrupted by a hammering upon her front door. So, squeezing along the narrow corridor…

…Fanny was able to open the door to one of her neighbour artisans…

She was surprised. “Dumper Collins,” she complained loudly, “what the flipping heck are you doing battering down my door, you heavy-handed twerp?”

However surprise would turn to shock and horror when Dumper told her what he and Ferdie Crank had witnessed through the amber goo workshop window.

“Shoot!” she exclaimed, or a word that sounded rather similar to that. “This isn’t good. Come on, Dumper, we must raise the alarm!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023


Northern Mist: An Earplug Adventure (part 1)

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

Earplug Adventures: Northern Mist

Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023


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

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

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

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

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

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

…and the famous Ice World scientist Uda Spritzer…

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

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

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

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

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

We await developments.

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2023


Once More Unto The Breech

Which is another way of saying that the recent tidy-up of these two (old) books…

…has been completed and both are back on sale. Now I can get on  with creating the third book. I mean, everyone wants to write  trilogy, don’t they? These two can be accessed via the sidebar or the Tooty’s Ebooks Available to Buy Here page.

It’s very difficult to find extracts that don’t contain spoilers; but here’s a couple of attempts. Unfortunately they don’t contain any ‘action’ because those segments are guaranteed, not only to include spoilers, but they are (at times) so violent that I was (when I re-read them) slightly shocked at my earler self’s blood-thirstiness. So, no nasty stuff here…

Silent Apocalypse

A stray shaft of sunlight shining in my eye woke me from my troubled slumbers. Straw may look comfortable but it pokes you in places you didn’t know you had, and it can really make a body itch. Fortunately the others had neglected to mention rats the previous night, so, when upon numerous occasions, I awoke to scratching sounds, or the weight of some furry animal running across my back I was greatly alarmed. If I’d known what to expect in advance I’m pretty certain I’d have taken a tent with me – or just slept beneath the stars, and hoped that it didn’t rain.

Now, as brightness attempted to blind my bleary eyes, I knew that I hated living rough.

Nature? You can keep it!

Katherine, on the other hand, was full with the joys of spring. She already had a fire burning outside, and the smell of coffee perked me into a sitting position. I noticed the absence of Lee and Kevin immediately. As I wandered outside I enquired after them.

“My, who’s a sleepy head, then?” Katherine chided. She then answered my question, “They’ve gone hunting.”

“Lee went hunting with our only assault rifle?” I was surprised that Lee would willingly waste such irreplaceable ammunition.

“No, silly.” Katherine replied – offering me a cup of black, watery coffee.

“With Kevin.” She added, “The lad’s very good with snares.”

I admired Kevin: he was worth two of any other boy of his age. “He’s a little diamond.” I said as I sat myself  beside Katherine.

The coffee was awful, but it was wet and warm, and at that moment it was enough. I gazed out upon the silent countryside, and let my brain slip into neutral.

Some unmeasured time later the boys returned with four dead rabbits. They were young. Perhaps born only a week or two after the virus had struck. It seemed such a crime for us to take life when it was so rare and precious. I must have said as much…

“Wanna eat, don’t you?” Lee was slightly miffed. He and Kevin had worked hard to make their catch. I apologized for my foolishness.

“Next time,” Kevin spoke eagerly to Lee, “I can show ya fish tickling.”

“Are there any?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Came Kevin’s positive response, “loads of ‘em. I seen ‘em in the river this morning.”

“Make mine trout.” Katherine put on her cut-glass accent, “Just like my men – I prefer them slightly soused.”

An hour later, with a rabbit each tied to our haversacks, we made our way along a dusty dirt track. It was a fine day, and in our childish ways we had shrugged off our troubles for the duration. This came to an abrupt end when a bullet kicked up the ground beside us. We all dived into a track side ditch. Struggling within the confined space we managed to struggle onto our fronts so that our haversacks might offer some protection. I saw Lee’s rabbit torn apart by an impact. With fear clearly evident in his eyes he looked back to me.

Have we walked straight into another war zone?

Katherine’s voice calmed us:  “You know I almost get the feeling we’re not wanted around here!”

She then shouted at the top of her lungs, “I say, you out there: stop that shooting nonsense this instant: we’re just passing through, for Heaven’s sake!”

Kevin giggled.

A young male voice called from somewhere unseen: “Where ya headed?”

I cringed as Katherine cheekily replied, “What’s it to you? That’s none of your business.”

I detected uncertainty in the boys tone when next he spoke:  “Ya not heading for the island are ya?”

We all exchanged looks.

“Island?” Lee enquired. “What island? There’s naff-all islands ‘round here.”

“The boy’s mad, obviously.” Katherine observed.

“P’raps it’s a secret island.” Kevin offered.

“It’d have to be top secret:” Lee spoke with a sarcastic tone in his voice, “We’re in the middle of the country! Remember Britain? Big island with water all ‘round it?”

Katherine decided it was time to reply, “No thanks: we don’t like islands. We like villages and farms and things like that.”

Kevin added, “We think islands are poop!”

We had to wait a few seconds while the mystery shooter digested this. After what seemed like a very uncomfortable century he spoke again, “If I promise not to shoot, will you stand up?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

Silent Resistence

As I consulted the AA roadmap in the rear seat of the bus I was very grateful for its all-inclusiveness. It showed minor roads that only locals would know about, which I hoped would take us to our destination without the need to travel upon trunk roads.

We’d pulled into a muddy lay-by upon a country ‘B’ road to find our route, but since it was raining outside I’d decided to spread the map over the largest flat surface available.

Karen could see that I was having difficulty reading the map, so she clambered to the rear of the bus, and parked herself opposite me. Following a cursory glance at the map she said. “Wrong page.”

I’d been running a fingertip over the surface of the map – following the coastline. I paused. “How do you know?” I asked.

“You told us that Winston Crag was rocky.” She explained. “The coastline you’re looking at there is low-lying, graduating to limestone, and finally sandstone. You’ll find no rocky prominences there: It’s all been worn down by the sea.” She then flipped the map over and pointed to a completely different part of the coastline.

As she’d been speaking her eyes had been studying the map. “There.” She said as she laid a finger upon the map. “Winston Crag. You’re right, it isn’t too far away.”

I thanked Karen, who promptly forgot me and called Kylie to join her. Together they selected the best route.

‘Suits me; I never wanted to be known as ‘Pathfinder Goldsmith’ anyway.’

After drawing in their route with a pencil Kylie chose to include me in their conversation. “So what will we find when we get there?” She inquired.

With no guarantee that we would reach our destination unmolested I thought it best that only I should know the answer to that question. If my friends knew nothing they couldn’t be expected to tell anyone whether it be under interrogation; hypnotism; or any technique for extracting information.

“The less they know,” I’d said earlier to Tasman, “the less can be forced out of them if we’re captured.”

“Fine,” he’d replied, “but suppose something horrible happens to you en route: they won’t know what to look for when they arrive.”

“In which case it won’t matter.” I countered. “The gig will be up. Our silent resistance ends with our death, capture, or incapacitation.”

So now I found myself unwilling to share my secrets with my friends and allies. “Sorry.” I said weakly.

Both girls shrugged their shoulders. “I’m sure it’ll make the surprise all the more exciting.” Karen said as she passed the map to Kylie, before adding, “Okay, Driver – drive on.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014



Don’t Buy My eBooks…Yet!

When I wrote this 2014 novel…

…it was as a sequel to this e-book of 2004…

Having completed the sequel, it came to my attention that the older book was somewhat wanting in several areas. Not the story: merely the way it was told. As a consequence of this it was re-written immediately after the completion of it’s sequel, and looked all the better for it. Well…when I mentioned to you all, in a recent post that I was planning  a third book, I thought I should re-establish a link with my earlier writing style, the story, and the characters of both books. Guess what: I found them somewhat wanting again. Oh flip! So, if anyone harboured any ideas about purchasing either book – don’t. At least not yet. Yup, I’m re-writing them again! Well not so much re-writing; but seriously tidying them up. Already Silent Resistance is looking pukka: Silent Apocalypse will follow shortly. But, golly, what tales they are: well worth a couple of bucks! I shall endeavour to keep you posted on their progress. When they’re finished (again), I’ll give you the nod. Then you can purchase as many copies as your heart desires. Make it lots.

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: A Monster Farts

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

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

Is A Third ‘Silent’ Novel Possible?

The original version of this book…

…was written by yours truly in 2004. It took a decade before I was ready to write the sequel…

Unfortunately the sequel’s ending was so convoluted that I found it impossible to get around the difficulties that I’d engineered into the plot. A third tale seemed unlikely. Then, nine years on, I came up with a scenario that might lead to an opening in the canopy of my imagination. I might – just MIGHT – find  myself in a position to concoct another bamboozling story featuring the teen-aged protagonists from the first two books. Gosh, I hope so: they are a joy to write. If my aging brain can fire on all thrusters, I plan to put aside the next Earplug Adventure, and begin the completion of the trilogy with Silent Existence. Wish me luck: the last time I tried writing a third part of a trilogy was the aborted follow-up to Present Imperfect in 2016…

I now include a tiny morsel from the second book. It has to be tiny because almost every potential extract gives too much away about (not only this book, but also) the original story.

“You’re different.” Tasman said to me immediately following our welcome back by the others.

“No I’m not.” I insisted as I watched our arsenal being taken away.

“From each other I mean.” He explained. “The two of you. You and Felicity. If I was in a darkened room with you both, I’d know one from the other.”

“In what way are we different?” I inquired with truthful interest.

“She‘s more…vulnerable.” He answered. “It’s why I urged her to seek out the alternative version of me. She needs his help.”

“Obviously.” I said as I began collecting up all the used harnesses. “I need you; ergo she needs her…” I almost said ‘Tasman’, but I quickly realised that Dexter and Shane were within earshot as they battled with a recalcitrant trolley upon which they were attempting to carry six bombs at once. “…Brian.” I finished.

“Two Brian’s, eh?” Kylie’s head appeared around the door frame. She winked. “I wonder if he’s such a whizz with the alien technology too.”

As remarks go, Kylie’s couldn’t have been more innocuous; but her words struck the same chords in both Tasman and I. We looked at each other; back to Kylie as she entered the room to collect another explosive device; then back at each other again.

“We’ve been so dumb.” I said to him.

“Speak for yourselves.” Kylie said as she passed us.

“I’m not arguing.” Tasman replied to me.

Kylie held aloft a bomb.

“No one’s dumb.” She said. “Not unless they drop one of these on their foot.”

I ignored her.

“We’ve not seen the woods for the trees.” I said.

“The obvious has eluded us all this time.” Tasman said by way of agreement.

“Sorry.” Kylie said as she laid the explosive device down again. “What’s this obvious thing that neither you have missed?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

P.S These books (plus Captive Echo) remain available as e-books. Check out HERE to have a look.

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.

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.

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!


Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Disappearing Act

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

From the fabulous 2022 story, Climatic Calamity

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


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 30)

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


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

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

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

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

He wasn’t wrong either…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, below on an average city street…

…Miles Earplug was deep in conversation with Mister Pong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubbles lowered her voice to a whisper;

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

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

Barclay decided to be bold…

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

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

“Not necessarily.” He replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that they were applauded out of the Star Chamber…

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

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

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

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

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the tension drained from his shoulders, Barclay said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 26)

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

Chapter 12

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

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

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

Barclay, unused to compliments replied:

“Well…you know…”

Bubbles did slightly better:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Shorter? Longer? About right?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 24)

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

Chapter 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and went scooting across the void to their destination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A split second later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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


Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 23)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Disappoint me?” A puzzled Barclay inquired.

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

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

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

The Goosewing Grey had let rip with the gravitonic multiplicitor…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was ignored.

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

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

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

“Sounds reasonable so far: continue.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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