Tag Archives: science fiction

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part five)

Soon both Mars Shuttles had disgorged their loads and set metaphorical sail for Earth – leaving behind them a milling mass of silicon life forms…

Frisby – quickly realising that the dull light of the Martian sky was permeating the museum’s shell with its depressing lustre – decided to switch on the artificial lighting. He selected the blue of Earth…

“Well it’s not like its going to raise the electricity bill.” He explained to Tangerine. “We have a nul-space generator. Power isn’t a problem.”

Soon guests were swarming all over the museum – despite the fact that it still held no exhibits, or seemed likely too in the short-term…

“Don’t you just love this lower gravity on Mars?” Sir Dodger inquired of an attractive female guest on one of the main walkways. “I do believe I feel thirty years younger – if you catch my drift.”

“Oh I do, Sir Dodger.” She replied. “When my elastic snapped just now, my pants refused to fall down. I was very grateful to be here, and not Saturn or one of those large planets.”

“Oh, absolutely.” Sir Dodger sympathised. “I’d hate to think what might have happened on one of those gas giants. I’ve heard their moons are very pleasant though.”

Several months earlier  the Museum of Future Technology had dispatched a team of engineers to assist the native Martians – or ‘Muffins’ as they preferred to be known – with their attempts to resurrect thier  civilisation. They were easily identified by their orange colouring. Although most were on assignment upon the plains, others remained inside the museum. Some of them were delighted to see an influx of new people…

But they were not always best pleased when the aforementioned ‘new people’ brought their bad habits along with them…

But at least the engineers weren’t expected to guide them when they became hopelessly lost in the vast edifice…

There were just so many levels…

…that guests quickly tired and had to be taken to the dispensary for a pick-me-up. But other engineers managed to find fault with certain guests who failed to read the signage properly…

“What?” They would cry in despair. “You did what in the Tinkle Point? Don’t you realise the problems you’ve caused? It’s gonna take a team of eight to unblock this properly.” And: “No, Tinkle Point does not mean Toilet: it’s Martian for urinal!”

But out upon the Martian plains, engineers who lived in temporary shelters began to grow nervous…

There was a decidedly nippy breeze blowing in from both poles…

…and one or two of the gangs wondered if they should think about packing their haversacks and head back to the museum.

But new arrivals were unaware of the subtle shifts in the climate. They were just so glad to be able to get outside and experience the real Mars. People like the Museum of Future Technology’s sewerage workers union representatives who were enjoying a hiking holiday paid for by their union member’s union dues…

And former M.O.F.T visitors, Las Chicas De La Playas…

…who were fans of El Custardo y Los Natillas, and who believed with all their hearts that it was possible to get a tan from the Martian sun.

And amongst the shuttles manifest a small mineral prospecting company had dispatched representatives to discover what mineral wealth Mars still possessed…

 

But, perhaps, the most striking passenger, and therefore museum customer, was a property developer who had fallen foul of the  authorities on his home world, so pulled up his roots; put on his hard hat; and now sought to make his fortune at the expense of the natives of a different world entirely…

He was an Ethernet Cable End, and his home world was none other than Scroton!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part four)

Naturally it took a while for the transfer buggy to deliver the customers to the reception point inside the museum. It gave Frisby just enough time to persuade Charles De Glop to join himself, Lillie, and Tangerine in welcoming them…

Already they had fixed their smiles, and it wasn’t long before they could hear the hissing and grinding of the airlock as it allowed ingress to the travellers…

…one of which almost tripped on the ageing red carpet that wouldn’t lay flat.

“They’re almost here.” Frisby said quietly to Lillie. “You can do it. Just move a little closer to the door.”

“Okay.” Lillie replied in a tiny voice that belied her real capabilities.

Frisby could never forget that his assistant had seen real space combat experience. She had done things that most earplugs couldn’t even dream of. He was also aware that she had her frailties – perhaps as a result of those experiences. “Have you remembered to put your space knickers on this morning?” He inquired.

But it was too late for Lillie to reply: the first of their quests had arrived…

“Hello everyone.” Lillie began her welcoming speech. “We’re ever so pleased that you’ve managed to cross the vacuum of interplanetary space without suffocating or anything like that.”

But no one was listening: they’d spotted Tangerine…

…and, as anyone who knows anything about the history of the Museum of Future Technology, futuristic robots are often looked upon as potential threats and considered very scary indeed!

“Don’t worry about Tangerine.” William of Porridge spoke to the huge cork standing beside him. “He’s one of the good guys. He’s been with Frisby Mumph since the Future Museum of Mars was sent back in time from the future. He has no  ulterior plans for domination or anything.”

Lillie picked up on this. “That’s right.” She almost squealed with delight. “Tangerine is just a big cuddly lovey-dovey!”

“Well said, Lillie.” Frisby whispered to her. “You have great improvisational skills. Have you ever considered un-scripted stand-up comedy? I think you’d be wonderful at it.”

Lillie was too embarrassed to reply; so it was a timely moment that M.O.F.T curator, Sir Dodger Muir, chose to introduce himself…

“My, what a charming greeting.” He said in his beautifully cultured thespian voice. “I’m Sir Dodger Muir, by the way. I’m here to see how things are getting along. You can call me Dodge.”

Lillie was too young, and originated upon a distant world, so she didn’t have a clue regarding the famous Sir Dodger: but his demeanour and the tonal qualities of his aged, but still powerful voice made her knees tremble. And even Charles De Glop seemed pleased to meet the former matinee idol and TV thriller star…

“Great….Dodge.” Frisby said with a stupid smile upon his face. “No doubt you have a master key to the museum; make yourself at home.

By now others were beginning to crowd the narrow entrance…

“Indeed I have.” Sir Dodger replied. “I also have a full set of new artificial knees, so I’m not slow and creaky like I once was. As a result I like to show off a bit. How would you like me to show your guests to their quarters? I’m sure William of Porridge wouldn’t mind.”

“Thank you…ah…Dodge.” William spoke from amongst the group. “That’ll give me more time to stow everyone’s luggage properly.”

“Jolly good.” Sir Dodger replied, then had a thought: “Oh there’s one more thing: I don’t know if you’re in the know; but a second shuttle took off just after us…

…It should be landing any time now.”

And so it came to be. Once more the welcoming committee took up their positions – this time facing the eastern entry point…

“You know, Mister Mumph,” Lillie said as she composed herself following Sir Dodger’s departure, “I’m rather enjoying this. It’s so much more rewarding than raising defensive electro-magnetic screens, making evasive manoeuvres, and firing proton torpedoes.”

Then it was on with the task at hand: the airlock had opened again…

But it wasn’t the sight of some uncertain and hesitant customers that that made the museum staff smile…

It was the arrival of Frisby’s favourite mariachi band…

…El Custardo y Los Natillas!

Now, for the first time, Frisby Mumph was glad to have paying guests. He just prayed that William of Porridge didn’t damage either their guitars or their trumpets. He adored ethnic Latino music!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part three)

Meanwhile, upon Mars, the brief cold Summer was coming to a close. As is usual for the planet, Autumn was certain to be skipped, and the world would soon be plunged into a long, stunningly ultra-arctic winter. But, for the moment, the temperature at the equator hovered at zero degrees…

Inside the communications room of the Future Museum of Mars, its sole curator – Frisby Mumph – received an anticipated call from the Museum of Future Technology…

…informing him that more paying guests were en route from Earth aboard a Mars Shuttle.

His assistant, former bridge crew member of the K T Woo – Lillie Whitewater – was quietly going about her work in the hydroponics bay, where she experimented with Earth plants and Martian chemicals…

As usual she was disappointed with developments.

“Oh bum.” She snarled daintily. “Nada. I knew Frisby was wrong when he said that I needed neither air nor water. Next time I’ll listen to my inner voice.”

Frisby’s other assistant – that being the robot named Tangerine…

…was making its ’rounds’ – searching for leaks, blockages, and other annoying structural abnormalities.

“Check.” It would say. “Check. Lovely.”

And in the subterranean storage facility, the giant cork – William of Porridge – was making sure that he had sufficient room for their in-coming guest’s luggage…

“Hmm,” he muttered to himself, “might have to open up Bays Eight and Nine. One can never be too careful. Don’t want to get pinched for space. Best to avoid a panic. Yes, I’ll open Bays Eight and Nine. Oh yes; and I’ll keep Bay Ten as an over-spill area.”

Shortly, the radio message completed, Frisby turned away from the panel…

“A second Mars Shuttle is due as well. Oh, that’s going to stretch us thin. Guess it’s all those thrill seekers – hoping to catch the beginning of our murderous Winter, and hoping they’ll have a tale or two to tell for their friends, work colleagues, loved ones, and anyone who will listen to them yammer on incessantly about how they almost got frost bite and how parts could have fallen off, but actually didn’t.  If I’m honest with myself, I’m not really cut out for this touristy stuff: I liked it when I was terraforming a dead world. It was a worthwhile job that I enjoyed. Now it’s all…oh I don’t know…different. In a way I’m quite grateful for these mini ice-ages: it keeps the riff-raff out.”

But he’d managed to pull on his smiley face by the time he encountered Tangerine…

“A second shuttle, Sir?” A surprised robot responded to the news. “Methinks the Museum of Future Technology is running short of funds: they wouldn’t normally pack in two vessels this late in the Martian year. Have you had words with Cushions Smethwyke upon the subject?”

“I have, Tange.” Frisby replied cheerfully. “I told her where to shove the third shuttle. I think she took my displeasure on-board.”

Lillie – ever the professional – had listened in on the inter-museum com-chat, so had already been apprised of the situation. She decided to go do something else. Origami sounded quite appealing…

And in the storage bay, William of Porridge had similar thoughts. But he was more realistic…

“Oh, I suppose I’ll have to play the role of of doorman again.” He said with a sigh. “How very tedious. Perhaps I’d better visit the lavatory first: as much as I detest our guests, I don’t want to offend them with violent gaseous outpourings.”

It was about this time that Frisby encountered Lillie upon her balcony…

“Good news, Lillie.” He said without preamble, “You’re promoted to the role of Welcome Plug. It’ll mean a raise of pay and the key to the executive toilet. Starting today – with the very next shuttle in!”

Lillie didn’t know what to say. She’d paid her way out of the Worstworld military because she didn’t like responsibility: now she was going to have to smile and say meaningful things to complete strangers.

“Crumbs.” She managed. “What an honour.”

Then it was on the Charles De Glop – the museum’s chef…

“Hey, Chuck, baby.” Frisby cried out as he entered the super-futuristic kitchen from the…ah…future…

…”you’re going to need a bigger ladle.”

Charles De Glop was a fastidious chef: he didn’t like non-gastronomes in his facility. He didn’t much like Frisby either. He hated the smell than often escaped from his superior’s ancient (and superfluous) pressure suit…

“Impossible!” He snapped. “I do not have the herbs I need. Lillie has failed to supply me any from her hydroponics bay. And I will not open a single can of baked beans.  It is beneath me. I would rather perish on an open plain!”

“I wouldn’t ask you to.” Frisby replied. “But whatever you do decide on, make up your mind: I can feel a ship landing upon the landing mound as we speak.”

And he was right too.  Mars Shuttle One had landed…

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

Revel in the Ridiculousness

Since the on-going series of posts, Revel in the Ribaldry, seems to please readers, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the early Junior Earplug Adventures as well. So, always one to act upon his thoughts with impetuosity, here is the first sample. Naturally the extract comes from the first tale – the almost-forgotten opener, The Museum of Future Technology, which was shot and written in 2014, and published (to silent fanfare) in 2016. And, like the Hamster-Sapiens excerpts, it’s chosen totally at random.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2016

The photography (and probably the writing) may have improved with later tales – I hope so; but they remain just as ridiculous. Hence the title of the post.

Revel in the Ribaldry 24

It’s  no good; when it comes to selecting which book supplies the next extract, I’ve completely lost the plot. But, rather than adopting my default position, which always results in me choosing The Psychic Historian, this time I’m going to plump for this slightly underrated e-book…

Okay – VERY underrated e-book. Maybe this extract, whatever it is (because its always random), will make people think again. Let’s hope so: I worked hard on this (all those years ago) and I really would like to sell a few copies.

“You miserable failure.” Wetpatch thought he heard someone say as he rematerialized beneath the emergency raffia mat.

“I’m no such thing.” He responded in his most indignant tone, which was very indignant indeed because he’d been studying Indignancy as part of the school curriculum, and had been practising upon the village green with his pal Algy Piecrust for weeks.

“Oh Wetpatch.” Amy squealed with delight as she whipped back the covering, and then quickly averted her eyes in case time travel did nasty things to people, “You’re back!”

Immediately everyone began fussing around the young hamster – asking all sorts of questions, and checking to see if he retained most of his more obvious body parts.

Naturally, after learning from Desmond that time travel can sometimes be disorientating, and can often lead people to hear things that weren’t actually said, and were usually the product of their sub-conscious, Wetpatch made his report.

Everyone was delighted, though slightly appalled by the news that both the crew and passengers were due for a pasting by the volcano’s shockwave, and that vomiting would be commonplace.

Desmond was particularly thrilled that Tutu would be safe, and was probably half way to Chunderland by now: But was slightly disconcerted when Wetpatch informed him that Tutu was a brilliant navigator, and that the lanky creature possessed a natural flair for the science, and could actually wipe his bottom with the bathroom light off.

So now, it seemed, it was just a matter of trying to survive the shockwave when it hit. And Wetpatch knew exactly where he intended to ride it out…

After securing Kevin to the wall with a pair of extremely large bolts and a length of braid from the lounge drapes, Wetpatch settled himself into a harness that swung lazily from a spring that was attached to the ceiling.

“It won’t matter how much the ship bucks about.” The youngster informed the education computer, “I’ll be cushioned from its effects by this. Of course I’ll probably empty my stomach all over the place, but I’ll remain fundamentally unharmed.”

Kevin, despite being a machine, was less than enthralled at the thought of being puked over.

“Hey, dumb-ass hamster,” it spoke as eloquently as it could, “How’s about stuffing me in a cupboard or up the extractor fan? I can’t stand no thoughts of messy stuff getting in my innards. What you wanna have me ‘round for anyways?”

Actually Wetpatch had a very good reason for having Kevin around when the shockwave hit. Amongst its many talents, Kevin could double as a DVD player, and it just so happened that during the rapid descent into the deeps, several box sets of Rat Trek had fallen from the hold of the Disemboweller into the Bargebutt, and Wetpatch had collected them, cleaned all the filth and bodily wastes from them, and now intended to spend his time on a sci-fi fest to end all sci-fi fests: Hour upon endless hour of Rat Trek re-runs – with popcorn. He simply couldn’t wait

“It’ll take my mind off my recalcitrant balance mechanism.” He explained after Kevin demanded an explanation for the inclusion of audio-visual stimulation during a period of extreme physical and mental stress. “And if I position a mirror on the opposite wall – you can watch too!”

And so it came to pass. Almost exactly three hours, sixty-two minutes, and ninety seconds later, the S.S Bargebutt found itself in the grasp of an invisible monster. Joints creaked, bulkheads bristled, and transfer hoses wobbled horrendously as the vessel was dragged across a sizable portion of the globe by the racing volcanic shockwave. Up became down, left became right, and somewhere in the middle seemed like it might end up on the outside. All in all the mighty sub was tested far beyond its builder’s design expectations, and was not found wanting. Regrettably the same couldn’t quite be said of its crew however. As promised by the earlier form of Tutu – vomiting abounded, and a great gnashing of teeth could be heard throughout its endless corridors. Recriminations were commonplace, and many a rodent said things that they feared they might later regret.

In his cabin, Wetpatch was riding the storm quite well. Although he was bouncing around the room on the end of his spring like an expiring house fly, his brain remained active, and his stomach surprisingly calm.

Kevin was doing less well. The two bolts turned out to be made of inferior shit-metal, and the braid had been manufactured in a country where quantity was generally preferred over quality, and had duly snapped at the first serious tug. The education computer now lay in the corner with both its display unit and solitary ‘eye’ camera facing the ceiling. Its tracked wheels spun helplessly, and oil was leaking from places that Wetpatch never imagined Kevin possessed. But like the obedient automaton that it was, Kevin continued to play Rat Trek, Episode Seven of Season One, ‘With Winter Comes a Nose Warmer’. And Wetpatch was doing his best to watch it even though Kevin couldn’t help itself from rolling from side to side as the vessel bucked and weaved like a conquistador’s cavy.

It was just as (on screen) Mister Splatt had finished explaining some complicated science stuff to an uncomprehending Captain Perp that a thought suddenly intruded upon Wetpatch’s enjoyment of the action adventure television show.

“Hang on a minute.” The adolescent hamster cried out over the general cacophony made by a ship that was being pounded to within microns of tolerance, “That can’t be right!”

And he wasn’t talking about Mister Splatt’s pseudo-science either. But it was to be another hour before the storm had passed, and he could put his resulting inspirational theory to Professor Desmond…

“Fluff and bollocks!” The wild-furred scientist bellowed moments after listening with great intensity to Wetpatch’s worrying tale and his most recently posited theorem.

“Fluff and bollocks?” Inquired Sally as she strode into the control room, paw in paw with Mister Ho, and with Amy in tow. “It’s not like you to swear gratuitously.”

Desmond apologised and then explained exactly what it was that had brought out the beast in him.

“I don’t think that Tutu was really Tutu.” He began, which confused the heck out of all three listening hamsters.

“What Professor Squealch means is…” Wetpatch decided to explain upon Desmond’s behalf, “…due to some unexplained interference from either the high pressures experienced in the depths. Or possibly somebody using an illegal cell ‘phone. Or perhaps electromagnetic activity from deep within the planet’s crust – his time machine didn’t send me back to the right time and place.”

“But…” Sally began; but she quickly realised that she knew next to nothing about temporal translocation, and duly shut her gob.

“But…” Amy tried more successfully, “…if it wasn’t the proper Tutu, in the proper place, at the proper time: Who was he, where was he, and when?”

The question had been succinctly put, and Roman, who had been snoozing beneath a pile of laundry, openly applauded her before joining the group.

“We think,” Wetpatch continued, “that I was diverted through a sub-atomic maelstrom into an alternative dimension in which everything appeared to be exactly the same as this one. But we can’t be sure that it actually was the same – so now Professor Squealch is all worried about Tutu again. He thinks he might be dead!”

“Fluff and bollocks!” Ho verbally ejaculated. “Some real bad shit!”

Indeed it was ‘some real bad shit’. “If our conjecture transpires to be proven,” Desmond came close to wailing, “then we can’t even be certain that Wetpatch is the same Wetpatch that we sent through time. And he can’t be certain that we’re the same bunch of miserable rodents who sent him. Oh this is unbearable: I’ve never felt more out of my depth – even when compared to that time when I went potholing with Tutu and Horatio Horseblanket, and there was a cave-in, and the river began rising, and we had to grasp the tunnel roof with our incisors, and converse through our nostrils!”

For several moments the situation looked extremely grim. Then Wetpatch had an idea…

“Send me back again.” He suggested chirpily, “Only this time I’ll take a camera. We can check the resulting photos for anomalies after I get back.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

Well what a load of sci-fi cliches and quasi-scientific bollocks that was. But it was fun too, wasn’t it? Unbelievably this book is still for sale at most e-book retailers. They don’t give up, do they! And neither should you. Visit the sidebar or Tooty’s Books Available Here beneath the header, and buy it now. Like straight away. Immediately. This instant. You know it’ll be little money spent well. Bargain of the week.

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (episode two)

Meanwhile, in a place that was inconceivably distant from that beleaguered planet, the ageing space vessel, Gravity Whelk, illuminated by the nuclear fires of a nearby star, hung relatively motionless in deep space…

And aboard it, sitting at an observation window, Folie Krimp – co-owner of the vessel…

…recalled how that situation came to be. How he and his friend, Placebo Bison, were gifted the unwanted ship by the Captain of the Brian Talbot, for their sterling work in reuniting the people of Earth’s ruined identical twin planet with their ruler, Princess Cake of Potwell…

But that had been almost three weeks ago; and now Folie wasn’t quite so sure that he should have accepted the gift. At that moment Placebo joined him upon his seat…

He dared voice his concerns to his huge polystyrene pal.

“Yes, I know what you mean.” Placebo replied. “It’s like this ship isn’t really suited to us. It’s as if we’re merely temporary caretakers. Why, only last night, I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open…

…but when I went to lay upon the bed that you designated as mine, I was suddenly aware that it had never been designed for me; and that I was not its first occupant.”

“Oh.” A surprised Folie responded. “I always sleep like a log.”

“Hmmm,” Placebo said as he nodded, “I’d noticed that. I can hear your incessant snoring through the partition wall – or ‘bulkhead’ as it’s known aboard ship. But then you’re an earplug. Actually you’re a yellow earplug. The bed was designed specifically for a yellow earplug – namely Beaufort Skail, who happens to look remarkably like you. And, very sensibly, you tore down the posters too: that probably de-personalised the room for you. But for me that is a step too far. My room belongs to Richter Skail: and I can’t forget that…

   

So I spend my nights standing at the porthole, looking into the depths of infinity, until I’m so whacked out that I collapse on the deck and fall asleep.”

“Oh dear, Placebo.” Folie commiserated with his friend. “How absolutely sodding ghastly for you. But your bedroom isn’t the cause of my doubts regarding the suitability of this vessel. No; for me the perfunctory ‘bridge’ is what rattles my cage…

“I know exactly what you mean.” Placebo hurriedly agreed. “Even when we’re rushing through a dense, foggy atmosphere on some uncharted planet, it never feels like we’re really involved. That we’re just passengers. But that’s what comes with having an auto-pilot that flies the ship for us.”

This time it was Folie who ‘hummed’. He followed it with: “Well that might have suited the Skail Brothers: but it doesn’t suit me. Let’s go there now: I wanna show you something.”

It took several minutes for the two young would-be adventurers to shuffle along a couple of corridors and down two flights of stairs to the forward observation window – or ‘bridge’…

“What do you see?” Folie asked.

“Uh…space; stars; um…” Placebo answered

“And what don’t you see?” Folie inquired…

Placebo’s silence told Folie that his friend recognised a rhetorical question when he heard one. “Controls.” He said. “Read-outs, screens, buttons, levers, knobs, interfaces of any kind. That’s what you don’t see.”

“We have the verbal interface with the Automatic Pilot.” Placebo argued. “We say ‘go in that direction really fast’ and that’s what the ship does.”

“Is that piloting?” Folie asked.

Again Placebo didn’t answer. Well actually he did; but it came after a long period of deep thought. So deep that Folie feared that the sleep-deprived polystyrene blob might have slipped into a coma. “The ship is old.” He said finally. “It needs a re-fit. It needs to be adjusted to suit our collective psyche. And I’d like a bed that fitted my huge frame. And a couple more toilets of course. An ‘en suite‘ would be nice.”

This was just the response that Folie had been praying to the Saint of All Earplugs for…

Daring a sideways glance he asked: “And where do we get an entire ship re-fitted –  bearing in mind that we have no swollen coffers to raid?”

Placebo’s deep thought bore more fruit: “There is only one place that I’m aware of that might perform this great act of kindness for us. A place that is ruled by a brave and wise leader, who happens to like earplugs more than a bit.”

Folie tried to mask the excitement building inside him: “Does this brave and wise leader sometimes wear a huge plume on the top of his lustrous golden head?”

“He does.” Placebo replied as he turned around…

He then added: “Autopilot: start the engines and set us a direct course.”

“Sure thing.” The disembodied voice of the Autopilot boomed. “But where do I set a course for?”

“Scroton.” The friends said as one. “Maximum speed!”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Now The Real Work Begins

The opening episode of Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars used re-worked stock-shots. Today I began shooting originals and generic stock-shots with serious intent. It’s slow and sometimes frustrating. And, as you can see, a little cramped too…

It has been four months since my wife, Linzi died, and (as you can probably imagine) I haven’t really been in the mood (Tooty the Chef aside); but the bug is finally biting again. And, for the first time in my life, I don’t have to create the time to do it. If I feel like it, I just clamber up into that attic and get going. Here’s a shot from today’s work – as seen in the making-of shot (above). It features an (as yet un-named) engineering robot that has  been discovered by Folie just staring out at space from a view port set into the side of the Gravity Whelk…

As regards the Gravity Whelk: I can’t wait to start telling tales featuring that old tub again…

So hopefully you won’t need to wait too long for Episode Two!

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (episode 1)

SPOILER ALERT: This prologue contains information about earlier tales. If you haven’t read them, and don’t want to know what happened in one or two of them (in a very brief summarised form, that is) look away now!

Before the tale proper can begin, Dear Reader, you must first be reminded of just how the planet Mars became the Mars that the curator of The Future Museum of Mars – Frisby Mumph – so adores, and for which he would gladly give his life; his generous pension benefits; or tear off his famous old pressure suit and show everyone his bare buttocks.  It goes like this: Mars…

…is dark, cold, foreboding, and miles from anywhere. A world that was seemingly lifeless. So, in their infinite wisdom, those beings from the future who gave us the Museum of Future Technology…

…that fabulous emporium of technological wonders from the future that have been sent back through time for safe-keeping in the past – decided to build a smaller version on Mars  (just in case Earth blew up or something) and awaited the successful terraforming of the red planet, before they delivered any artefacts worth paying good money to see. So, for many years, the Future Museum of Mars…

…sat quiescent – awaiting the lifetime’s work of the aforementioned Frisby Mumph to come to fruition.  Frisby…

…enjoyed the company of his huge robot – Tangerine – and an idiot assistant, named Badgerlilly, whom he kept in permanent suspended animation. He also enjoyed going to the toilet. But most of all he enjoyed trundling about the barren landscape aboard his terraforming machine…

…with which he hoped to transform the planet from a dead, barren landscape, into a thriving eco-system. Although most of Mars remained utterly lifeless, some areas began to show promise. Tough, wiry mosses began to take hold…

Although Frisby was unaware of the fact, he had been under surveillance from the day he’d landed upon the red planet. He continued to remain blissfully unaware until Magnuss Earplug and his protégé, Yabu Suchs, discovered the ‘Muffins’ in a buried city beneath the rusty sandstone surface…

Eventually the native beings became allies of Frisby – reactivating their advanced scientific laboratories (that had lain inactive for millennia following the destruction of the Martian civilisation by a cataclysmic accident when the combined gasses, produced during a global farting contest, had been ignited by a cooker’s gas ring, the owner of which had forgotten to turn off whilst boiling an egg ) and setting to work on realising some of the brilliant ideas they’d been dreaming up before being forced into uncounted centuries of suspended animation…

One particular device came in jolly handy -at a time when the staff of the Museum of Future Technology were battling robots from the future for control of that vast edifice. The significance of the device was so…ah…significant that the Earplug Brothers were sent to Mars to see it for themselves…

Long story short – the device allowed earplugs to transit between quantum realities. But, more significantly for Frisby and the ‘Muffins’, it was discovered that it could also shift worlds between quantum realities. So they chose a better, more suitable Mars, and swapped their knackered old version for a nicer one from a different reality…

And for five minutes the future looked rosy. For the first time the light outside shone blue through the museum control room’s translucent walls…

But, unfortunately, they’d randomly selected a world that was in the midst of an ice-age; and soon Mars began to freeze over…

Soon the museum became entombed in ice…

And recent arrivals from Earth found themselves up kaka creek without a paddle…

Of course, the locals had never before seen snow, and (as they slipped and slid down the ancient citadel steps) they didn’t much like it…

Frisby and Tangerine were aghast and mortified. They wandered about in the snow drifts, looking for their lost customers. But without success…

More fortunately Captain Sinclair Brooch, of the Worstworld star ship K T Woo, arrived and released a volley of well-aimed proton torpedoes…

…which exploded beneath the ice…

…and melted it – creating a dramatic climate shift…

…that brought forth great horticultural wonders. The areas in which Frisby had been working so hard for so long, bloomed with native growths…

And following a period of incessant rainfall…

…the sole curator was delighted to discover that his hardy Earth plants were doing okay as well…

So, all in all, it was a happy ending. Or was it? Mars, unlike Earth, lies outside the ‘Goldilocks Zone’. The Sun is much farther away. Mars, despite its new look, was still a cold world: and, with every passing year since ‘The Miracle’, winters seemed to be getting longer and starting sooner. Oh flip!

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

Another Earplug Adventure Perhaps?

The last time I shot a new Earplug Adventure photo was probably early in 2020 – maybe late 2019. As chronicled on this blog on several occasions, the intervening period has seen difficult times for me. I haven’t really been in the mood for anything creative. But today is the three-month anniversary of my wife’s passing, and as I made breakfast this morning  I found my thoughts wandering to a what-happened-next scenario for two of the main characters in the last tale – A Tale of Three Museums – those being  Placebo Bison and Folie Krimp…

So I took a peek at my library of unused earplug shots that are currently available for the next story. Sorry to say the catalogue is woefully brief. But those that exist might just inspire me with some ideas. Here’s a few of them…

 

I can’t let those go to waste, can I? Time to put on my literary genius cap and charge up those camera batteries, methinks.

 

If One Was Great: Two Must Be Fabulous

Remember how much you enjoyed those serialised Earplug Adventures? Weren’t they…ah…great? Of course they were. But sometimes the episodes could be a bit short. Just as you were getting your metaphorical teeth into them, they were over. Well today is your lucky day, coz here’s two episodes of The Time Tamperer placed back to back – for extra length and emotional comfort. Episodes 12 & 13 to be exact. Read on…

But Gregor wasn’t finished. There was far more interesting news for him to impart. “Yeah, right on. What a groove.” He said. “And there’s far more interesting news for me to impart too.”

With that he called in Police Constable Salisbury Wilts as a witness and led the curators to an adjacent room, where he introduced them to…

…Runt and Twinkles, who, in turn, presented a new piece of hardware.

“Ladies, Gentlemen, and P.C Wilts,” Runt spoke clearly above the building excitement that ran like a raspberry ripple through the assembled V.I.Ps, “may I present to you the Tubo Di Tempo. It’s a new, mini version of the Tunnel Temporal – designed by the brilliant Italian scientist, Piggies Du Pong.”

“If you don’t mind me saying,” the charming (if ancient) former movie star, Sir Dodger Muir…

…interrupted, “Piggies Du Pong doesn’t sound overtly Italian. Rather, I’d wager the fellow hails from either Belgium or France.”

“In your era, perhaps.” Runt replied. “But in Piggies’ era he’s Italian; so shut it, okay?”

Sir Dodger was about to author a dazzlingly witty riposte, when his train of thought was interrupted by the activation of the Tubo Di Tempo and the arrival of two bug-eyed weirdos from another time zone…

Instantly the newcomers addressed Cushions Smethwyke. With a curt bow the smaller-nosed of the couple introduced itself as Glumb Kimball and it’s huge-hootered associate as Hombolt Whale. “Greetings from the future.” It added. “What do you think of the Tubo Di Tempo?”

Cushions wasn’t sure how to respond: and P.C Wilts’ expression betrayed his instant dislike of the pretentious twerps from a clearly technologically superior era.

“Er…very nice.” She managed. Then growing in confidence she added: “A lovely shade of blue. My favourite. Well my second favorite actually. I’m rather partial to a warm orange glow.”

“How wonderful.” Hombolt Whale squeaked through it’s huge, but obviously restricted, snozzle. “Because when it’s turned on at this end it glows orange. Regarde s’il vous plaît.”

Moments later the Tubo Di Tempo did just as Hombolt had promised.

“There.” Sir Dodger grumbled. “Told you it was French.”

But even as the ageing thespian was speaking, so too was Glumb Kimball: “Well we’ve left a copy of the owners’ manual with your Time Techs, so, if its alright with you, we’ll be on our way to our own era. It’s much nicer there, by the way. By-ee.”

With that the time-travelling duo stepped into the tiny maw of the machine and disappeared in an instant…

Naturally Cushions rushed forward to deliver a blistering farewell insult, but she was too late and needed to be consoled by the former bounty hunter and part-time curator, Hunting Provost: “Don’t concern yourself, my delightful love interest.” He whispered into Cushions’ ear. “They were ugly sods with big bulgey eyes: the future’s welcome to them. And they’ve left us with something really valuable.”

 

“They have?” Cushions inquired as everyone crowded around to take a look at the wonder from the future…

“Of course.” Hunting spoke in a conspiratorial hush. “Now we can start charging visitors for trips into the Museum of Future Technology twice. Once in this era; and again when they go into the past. I bet, if we take a look at our bank accounts, we’ll find that we’ve already begun amassing a vast wealth before we’ve actually begun sending anyone through. All we need to do is actually set the metaphorical ball rolling. We need to find new-arrivals with no prior knowledge of our earlier time travelling problems.”

“Yeah.” Cushions replied as she let her gaze wander past Hunting. “People who aren’t scared of visiting the past and run the risk of getting stuck there. And I think I know the very people.”

Naturally Cushions had the security forces round-up a number of the morning’s intake of visitors. Fellow curator, Winston Gloryhole appeared uncomfortable when he and Cushions were required to answer some searching questions…

“How do we know it’s safe?” The white female named Dina Havoc demanded.

“That’s right,” the vaguely brownish-purple Edie Chalice threw in her two penny-worth. “This is a new and un-tested technology.”

“Yeah.” The helmet-wearing Peter Crushing added as he gazed upon P.C Wilts shiny police helmet with avarice in his eyes. “Just coz it works in the future, it don’t mean it’ll work in this era.”

“We’re not stupid.” The yellow-headed Noodie Bumsho snapped angrily. “We know what you’re up to. We’re just a bunch of unpaid test dummies.”

Several times the turquoise android curator, Montagu, tried to interrupt the tide of accusations. But despite his best attempts, which consisted mostly of “Excuse me,” and “Oh for flip’s sake!”, the barrage continued:

“You ought to be taken out and shot.” the small mauve guest, Bungay Jumpur snarled from behind Edie Chalice. “We’ve spent our hard earned cash to come here today; and all you want to do is get us killed in an experimental time machine.”

“It’s not good enough.” The tall yellow earplug with blazing red eyes, named Randy Blueprint, bellowed as he stood beside the inactive Tubo Di Tempo. “We demand an immediate apology.”

“And our money back too.” The immeasurably sad-looking blue earplug named Porceen Pillock suggested in a manner that couldn’t be ignored. “With an ice cream cone from Cafe Puke thrown in for good measure.”

Cushions cast a quick glance at Hunting Provost. At first his grin appeared to be fixed, much like that of a cheerful manikin. But when Cushions looked a little closer she noticed that his lips moved almost imperceptibly: “Tell them that we’re sending them to an era when custard wasn’t outlawed and that the Cafe Puke of that time was named Cafe Blancmange.” They said.

Cushions could see their potential wealth draining away before her eyes. “Custard.” She shouted. “It’s really tasty in the past.Vanilla. Chocolate. Rum and raisin. Turron, Honeycomb. Cinnamon. You name it; they’ve got it. And it’s free too.”

Moments later…

“Have fun.” Twinkles Forgetmenot called as the visitors moved by him into the Tubo Di Tempo. “Yum yum!”

And after the last visitor had disappeared into the past; and the curators had gone for a celebratory run across the Woven Expanse, Gregor, Twinkles, and Runt…

…congratulated themselves on a job well done. But, as they turned away…

…their smiles felt a little forced. Although not one of them would admit it to the others, they all shared the same nagging doubt: what if they had tightened one bolt too loosely? What if one of them had stripped back a length of insulation by one millimetre too much? What if one of them had crossed-polarised the jim-jam waffle valve? What might the result be? It didn’t bear thinking about. So they didn’t.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2018

Of course the best way to view this story is by purchasing the e-book of the same name…

It’s available at almost all e-book sellers. One of them must be right for your device.

 

Revel in the Ribaldry 21

Due to some over-enthusiasm with the last episode, I’ve managed to get out of whack with these excerpts. So,this time I’m taking you back to the first volume – being this…

So, if you don’t mind, here is the excerpt…

Then Lionel took a sip of the steaming-hot tea. If it hadn’t been wet it would have set his bifurcated lips aflame.

“By the Great Angler’s Enormous Tit,” he bellowed, “that’s certainly cleared out both my sinuses and my cobwebbed mind!”

He then went on to explain that he’d been deep in thought. But before he could actually explain anything at all, Boney interrupted…

“It’s about the pretty lass, aint it, son?” he said – which surprised both Lionel and Boney because he was so rarely this insightful.

“Yes it is.” Lionel replied. “And it’s all to do with that day, long ago, when I arrived here.”

“Nose-surfing on an ocean of filth, I seem to recall.” Colin piped up during a break in the game for TV advertising and a desperately needed lavatory break for the players.

“That’s right.” Lionel turned to his android colleague, “And who was it that caused me to slip and fall into that vile ocean swell of slurry?”

Boney had no idea where Lionel was going with this train of thought, but he figured it best to humour the youngster, “A tractor driver, weren’t it?”

Lionel smiled. “And what happened to said tractor driver?” he inquired metaphorically.

Boney recognised the inquiry as being metaphorical because Lionel answered his own question before there was time to so much as suck a lower lip in contemplation, “He was taken to Chunderford General Hospital!”

This last point was obviously very important; but it was still early in the day, and not all of Boney’s neurons were facing the right way when they fired.

“Hmm,” he said, “nasty business. Nasty, nasty business.”

“Would that be his perforated scrotum that you’re talking about there?” inquired Colin.

“Indeed it would.” Lionel turned his attention back to Boney. “And whose teeth left those deep, painful, incisions?”

This final question stumped both flesh and blood, and non-flesh and blood hamsters alike.

Eventually Boney mumbled, “Well it was Fanangy, weren’t it? But ‘ow can that be? She was with us the ‘ole time. But she wouldn’t lie about somethin’ as important as biting down viciously on some poor unfortunate tractor driver’s ball-bag: That’s a pretty major to-do, that is. Grievous Bodily Harm at least. What d’ya reckon the answer to this conundrum is?”

“Time travel!” Lionel blurted the words more loudly than he intended to.

This was not received well by Boney: He was certain that it was a well-publicised fact that time-travel was impossible, and would remain so until the end of…er…time. The best argument against the existence of time-travel was the fact that no one had yet met someone from either the future, or the past: Ergo – time-travel was impossible. Boney said as much.

Now Lionel was quite adept at constructing illogical responses to random ephemera whilst playing his beloved computer games; and since he was rapidly becoming an expert on the television science-fiction show, Rat Trek, he thought that he could see a hole in this line of reasoning so vast that he could sail an ocean-going raft through it at top speed, with microns to spare.

“But what if they didn’t let on that they could travel in time? He said.

For a moment this fabulously reasoned argument stymied Boney. He was forced to fall back upon a stock answer to such difficult questions…

“It aint my place to think about such stuff,” He said, “Better minds than mine ‘ave got ‘emselves all tied up in a knot over simpler things than time-travel and suchlike.”

He may have got away with such a poor response just a few weeks earlier; but Lionel had gained much in mental stature, even if he hadn’t physically. So Boney was forced to retreat into his mental castle’s inner keep.

“Arse-holes,” he said as Lionel scoffed, “I’m going for a shit!”

This verbal bombshell exploded in Lionel’s lap like a packet of bursting Grainobisk Crappettes. He was stunned at his employer’s bluntness. In fact he was so stunned that he utterly failed to see either Boney make for the lavatory, or Colin quietly depart for destinations unknown. Eventually, after taking several heartbeats to recover his decorum, he elected to merely sit by himself for a while, cogitate, and sip his scalding tea until it stopped hurting.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2012

Obviously I don’t need to mention that this e-book is available on most platforms, including those mentioned on the sidebar and on Tooty’s Books Available Here beneath the header: you already know. Well if you didn’t, you do now.

 

If It Was Good Once, It’s Even Better Twice! 2

And just to prove it, here is a repeat excerpt from The Time Tamperer Episode 48 to be exact

Unbeknownst to either earplug hero, Mincey Muir now stood in the featureless courtyard that she could usually only see from her apartment window, and was deep in conversation with Heathrow…

“Heathrow, oh Heathrow,” she said dramatically, like the actor she was, “where, the flipping heck, am I gonna find poison? This is the Museum of Future Technology: not some wizard’s cellar or well-appointed apothecary.”

Those were a lot more words than the simple Plugmutt brain could process quickly. Heathrow looked at Mincey as she stared sightlessly into the limited distance. Unaware that it had been a rhetorical question, he then provided her with the answer: “Plugmutt pellets.” He said. “Tasteless, aroma-free, and easy to dilute in tomato sauce or something similar. Also toxic. Make bum bad – then explode in exaltation of dung  and flatulence.”

Mincey didn’t look at Heathrow directly: she preferred, instead, to think that those amazingly well-chosen words had been a gift from a higher being or a transcendental dimension of which she had hitherto been unaware. Eventually she said: “Do you have some?” And Heathrow fired something small and dark out of his bottom that careened across the courtyard and bounced off the wall with a dull thud. “Do now.” He replied. 

A while later, the two chefs, Wilson Bucket and Saxon Nibbles, were preparing a large paella for Piggies’ evening meal…

Naturally Duncan Propshaft – a being without culinary skills – was reduced to pacing back and forth outside the futuristic kitchen, fretting all the while about Piggie’s reaction to a meal of Iberian origin. He stopped fretting when Mincey arrived…

In fact he stopped fretting so quickly that his eyes almost burst from his head. “Cor,” he said appreciatively, “you’re nice; I’m Duncan; what’s your name?”

Somewhat taken aback by Duncan’s primitive chat-up line, Mincey introduced herself and told Duncan of her plan to poison Piggies Du Pong with a plugmutt pellet.

“Jeepers, Mincey,” Duncan responded enthusiastically, “why would you want to do that?”

“Because he’s mad as a tartan turnip.” Mincey replied. “And eventually he’s going to get us all destroyed in a cataclysm that will eradicate everything from the beginning, to the end, of time.”

“Whoo – heavy. Leave it with me, Mincey.” Duncan said. “I’ll take care of it. Then we can take in a movie or something.”

So, moments later…

…the relieved daughter of Sir Dodger Muir departed with Heathrow at her side.

“We make a good team, don’t you think?” She said. “Maybe your bringing me here wasn’t so bad after all: I could soon be running this show. You can be my First Officer.

Meanwhile Duncan did as he had been bid…

…and rapped on the futuristic glass. “Hey guys.” He shouted through the thick transparent material, “I’ve got one more ingredient for your paella. You’re gonna love it.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2018

What can I say? Well I can tell you that this pair of books is/are available at most e-book retailers. For example, Lulu (on the sidebar) or the big boys like Amazon etc in Tootys Books Available Here beneath the header.  Lots of other places too. Take your choice. This is what they look like…

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper 70: A Ghastly Communication.

In this scene from ‘The Time Tamperer volume 2‘, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger receive a video call from the future. Unfortunately it’s not good news from Cushions Smethwyke:  apparently time travel has become impossible, and they’re now stuck in their own past. “Oh shit,” or words to that affect, springs to mind.

Torn!

I have a terrible decision to make. Do I clamber into my loft ‘studio’ and add a few hundred shots to those you see on the left of picture; then write the sequel to ‘A Tale of Three Museums’?

Or do I lean to the right; attempt to decypher my unintelligible scrawl from about four or five years past; then write the sequel to ‘Present Imperfect‘? Both are worthy projects of a literary genius like wot I is. Or do I chuck a camera or two in the top-box of my Yamaha and go snapping photos of whatever takes my fancy? Oh decisions, decisions. I’m so torn! Of course I could do some housework and watch TV. But bollocks to that: where’s the creativity? Gotta keep this aging brain active. If you have an opinion, I’d like to hear it.

 

Casual Causality 2

Since I posted an excerpt from the first of my Causality Merchant science-fiction mysteries, I see no reason why I shouldn’t do the same thing with the second. Namely this piece of wonderfulness…

…which features the same central characters. It too remains available as an e-book (but no longer a paperback) at Lulu.com and most other outlets – see the sidebar Lulu logo and book covers, or the Tooty’s Books Available Here page beneath the header to access the better known ones. Right, enough of that mercenary stuff: on with the excerpt…

Wozniak greeted the Brownings in the hallway, and invited them to follow him to the study where they could make themselves comfortable.

They chatted for a while. Wozniak reminded them of how he came to know them, and they in turn related the tale of how they became friends of his brother.

“You know,” Connor said twenty minutes later, from behind a large glass of brandy, the contents of which he swirled admiringly, “we joked that you could be Tom’s double – that time when we watched you win on the coconut shy during the summer fete. Of course we had no idea that you were brothers at the time: We knew you only as Peter.”

“Well that’s fair enough.” Wozniak smiled. “I’m hardly on the electoral role, and I wasn’t sporting a beard at the time. You’d no reason to know my identity. I don’t exactly bandy it about. Of course if you’d spoken with Miss Witherspoon at the general store, you might have put two and two together. I’m known as ‘That Nice Mister Wozniak’ to her and her friends. I know – I should be embarrassed; but I’m not.”

Janice had paused in her preparations for dinner to meet Connor and Amanda, but once the preliminaries were completed she had made her excuses and returned to the

kitchen. Now she returned – shucking off an apron as she did so, and tossing it upon the telephone stand in the hallway before anyone noticed her arrival.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” She announced. “Luncheon is served.”

“Oh goodie.” Amanda was upon her feet first. “I’m absolutely starving.”

No one had turned up their noses at the sight of a hurriedly prepared Prawn Cocktail. It may have been old-fashioned, but under the circumstances – once Tom had explained them to the Brownings  – their guests were most complimentary.

Gwen, Dave, and Judith had joined them. Fortunately the dining room table was huge, and they were all able to fit around it with ease.

An hour later, with Judith’s help, Janice was in the process of removing the last of the empty plates to the kitchen counter when a clap of thunder made both women jump. Judith took a look out through the kitchen window.

“Strange.” She said. “It looks like a perfectly clear evening out there. There’s not a cloud to be seen.”

In the dining room a puzzled Wozniak had made the same observation.

Gwen remembered the dog.

“Oh Tom, I’d completely forgotten Wolfie. I left him in the orchard. You know how he hates thunder.”

Tom was dismissive. “He’s a big boy. He can’t run off. He’ll find his way back here if he’s desperate enough.”

Gwen was less certain. “Perhaps I should go fetch him.”

Abruptly the sky lit up for a brief moment – illuminating the interior of the dining room like a thousand flash bulbs going off simultaneously. A deafening clap of thunder followed a split second later.

Gwen’s keenness dissipated. “On the other hand…” She said nervously.

Again Wozniak scrutinized the empty sky. To confirm his observation he opened the French doors, and stepped out onto the patio. Turning through three hundred and sixty degrees he scanned the heavens.

“Not a cloud in the sky.” He said in a puzzled voice. “Tom, you’re more into meteorology than I am: Is it possible to have thunder and lightning without clouds?”

Tom was amused by this. “Since when have I shown the slightest interest in meteorology? I run a small chain of gay bars: I don’t forecast the weather. But in answer to your question – no I don’t think it can.”

Connor Browning spoke up. “I’m no expert, but surely cloud formation is an absolute prerequisite for electrical activity in the atmosphere.”

Janice and Judith chose that moment to enter from the hallway.

“This is a strange to-do.” Janice said. “What peculiar weather we’re having.”

“Unless it isn’t the weather at all.” Dave’s tone sounded ominous.

Judith shot him a warning look.

Wozniak too wasn’t ready to share their secrets with their guests, and quickly made light of the situation.

“Of course – it’s probably the RAF flying low, and trying out some new gizmo. Let’s not worry ourselves about it any more.”

“I’ll second that.” Tom clapped his hands together. “Right – who’s for coffee?”

Seven hands, including Tom’s own, responded by thrusting skywards.

“Excellent.” He smiled warmly, and made for the door. “Amanda – you can assist me.”

Amanda immediately fell into line with him.

“I am at your command, oh master.” She said cheekily.

Then, to the surprise of Janice, she ran a finger down his spine. And as they stepped from the room the same hand completed its journey by gently squeezing a well-toned buttock.

Janice looked to Wozniak. Her message was clear. I thought your brother was homosexual?

Wozniak merely shrugged his reply. You can never be sure of anything with Tom.

No one else seemed to have noticed, or if they had they were playing dumb.

“Oh I do worry about Wolfie.” Gwen fretted by the window. “He could come over all catatonic.”

“Tell you what,” Connor chirped up, “let’s go take a look shall we. If there’s another ungodly bang we can always come scurrying back inside.”

Gwen was most grateful for this support, and readily agreed to venture outside through the French windows.

“See you soon.” Connor waved cheerily to those who remained. “Send out a search party if we don’t return by dawn won’t you.”

Wozniak, Janice, Dave, and Judith all responded with a wave and a smile, but Wozniak felt a chill run down his spine, and his smile fell away.

The others noticed this.

“Causality Merchant alert, Peter?” Dave surmised.

“Maybe.” Wozniak’s expression grew grim. “Two claps of thunder – without a cloud in the sky? It doesn’t feel right.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

Ooh-err, what could this all mean? Sounds ominous. And what about Wolfie – the Rottwieller/Doberman cross? Where has he disappeared to? Could he be….dead? Killed in a most grisly manner? Or am I giving too much away? Buy the (inexpensive) e-book to find out!

Casual Causality 1

Since I posted excerpts from my pair of ‘Silent’ books recently, I thought, “Bugger it: I’ll give ’em a taste of my ‘Causality Merchant‘ books too!” So here I am, hoping you’ll spare a few seconds to peruse a snippet from this book…

Oh yes, if you didn’t know: I also write under the pen name of Clive Thunderbolt. Well I did: I might again too. It all depends on whether I can bother to get my arse into gear and write the third book that I started in 2016 or whenever it was. Unlike the ‘Silent’ books, this pair of e-books have third person narratives, which (in hindsight) might have been a mistake. I think it’s so much better if the character is telling the tale in his or her own words. But it’s too bloody late now: I wrote this (and it’s sequel) years ago. Here’s the excerpt…

Later that evening, in the drawing room, Wozniak and Marcus reclined together upon a large, sumptuous sofa. Soft music played; and because the evening had become a little chill, Wozniak had a small fire crackling in the hearth.

Marcus was sipping at her whiskey and soda. She stared into the dancing flames. Upon the nearby coffee table an almost empty whisky bottle perched. Wozniak, one arm around Marcus, lay against the arm of the sofa, with her head reclining upon his shoulder. In his hand he also held a glass of whiskey. But his was full, and had remained so for most of the evening. Though he appeared to Marcus to be at complete ease and at peace with the world, this was an entirely false impression – just as Wozniak had planned it. Where Marcus had drunk freely, Wozniak had been more circumspect. Where Marcus’ cognitive abilities were being impaired by ingestion of alcohol; Wozniak’s remained fully intact. He had quickly realized that if he was to discover anything about the activities at Carstairs Research & Development, it would require every advantage he could think of, and then some. She was smart and as sharp as a razor, and he wondered if alcohol could truly blunt it.

He broke the silence:

“Work must be really agreeing with you lately: that’s two days on the trot that you’ve come here full of the joys of spring. What gives?”

If he’d expected her to open up to such a gambit, he was to be sorely disappointed.

Marcus waved an admonishing finger at him, “Ah-ah-ah; remember the old war-time maxim: Walls have ears.”

Wozniak remained good-natured about the setback. It was still reasonably early: the situation wasn’t irredeemable.

“Hey,” he seemingly complained affably, “I’m not talking shop here: I’m just…well maybe I was just a little.”

“Of course you were.” Marcus slapped his free hand playfully.

Under normal circumstances Wozniak would have backed off at this point: but today he needed to press on. He had nothing to lose after all.

He took up the mantle again. “Hell, Kate, can you blame me? Look at me. I sit here all day dreaming up stories that just don’t come – whilst you go gallivanting about doing who-knows-what, and having a hell of a time doing it. I’m going stir-crazy, Kate: tell me something I don’t already know. Tell me something of your life. If I can’t experience it first-hand, at least let me enjoy you recounting it to me. Let me get involved in some way. Tell you what – I’m a pretty smart fellow: bounce some ideas off me.”

Marcus pulled herself upright. She placed her drink upon the coffee table.

“Peter Wozniak,” she began sternly, “anyone who knows anything about you – knows that you are a fantasy and S.F writer. Since I’m someone who knows something about something, I know exactly what you’re up to – and that’s looking for inspiration: and you don’t care where you find it.”

Wozniak couldn’t find argument with this summation. So he said, “Is that such a bad thing? It is my stock in trade, you know.”

“Yes it is.” Marcus responded adamantly. “Exactly. And what happens when the powers that run Carstairs Research and Development see one of your shows on TV? They’ll say, ‘Hello, hello, hello – now where did he get that idea from? I wonder who might have told him about that little project. Might it possibly have been that lovely Doctor Marcus?  We know he’s been slipping her a length or two. And he did ‘phone the office that time…’ Am I right?”

Wozniak adopted his most indignant pose. “No, you’re not: It’s not like that at all!”

Marcus laughed out loud at his hurt expression.

“Come on, Peter, please – let’s have a little honesty here: you’re like a Nineteen Seventies reporter from the Washington Post: what wouldn’t you give for a good story? I’m sure shagging the arse off me wouldn’t be deemed above and beyond the call of duty…”

Wozniak’s face showed amazement. But it wasn’t Marcus’ words that caused it: it was the inference.

“You mean there’s actually a story to be had?” He grinned and narrowed his eyes.

He then joined in with Marcus as her laughter increased. He wasn’t even put off when he received a playful slap around the face – with the line, “Peter Wozniak – you are incorrigible!”

She then punched him on the shoulder – spilling his whisky down the front of his trousers.

“Oh deary me!” She exclaimed through a fit of giggles, “I’ve gone and made your nice clothes all wet.” Her hands delved into his moistened groin, and started tugging at his zipper. “We’ll have to find a place in the washing machine for them. Now let’s see – how do we get them off?”

But her inebriation made her fingers fumble, and Wozniak was able to fend her off with ease. He took her hands in his:

“Oh no you don’t, Doctor Marcus.” He scolded. “Not until you tell me what’s made you so damned cheerful. Come on, you: spill the beans, or you’ll go home tonight a spinster.”

“You do realize that your ghastly threat constitutes emotional blackmail, I hope?” Marcus replied as she regarded the tall man through narrowed eyes. “I could have you shot, or something equally unpleasant.”

“Oh yes.” He grinned, “But when needs must, even the perfect gentleman must lower his standards.”

Marcus regained her whisky – all the better to ruminate over Wozniak’s words. After a few moments she winked.

“Well as long as it’s not only the aforementioned gentleman’s standards he’s lowering.” She whispered.

And with that Wozniak was certain he had won the day.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

As with many of my books, this one was originally published several years previous to the copyright date, but was updated that year and re-published to coincide with the sequel. I can’t say that it’s nice: a lot of people get killed. But that Peter Wozniak is a good guy: you’ll like him. Naturally the e-book remains available (though I’ve discontinued the paperback) at Lulu.com and other outlets both major and minor.

More Time For Silence

Now you didn’t think I was going to post an excerpt from Silent Apocalypse without following it up with the same from Silent Resistance? Surely not? And you’d be right…

By the way, do you think that little girl who appears beneath the letter N in the word Resistance looks a tad dangerous? It was that look that made me choose this image as the cover. I even wrote a passage to include the scene. Any way – on with the excerpt…

As the Land Rover pulled alongside us, we could barely hear the driver’s cheerful hail above the din of its clattering diesel engine.

“Hello, you two.” He shouted from the side window of the two-seat cabin, “You’re from yon farm along the way, aint ya?”

I raised an eyebrow at this; I was somewhat surprised that the young man of (I estimated) eighteen or nineteen was aware of us. We’d chosen a well-hidden spot in a shallow valley that was all but invisible from the road.

He must have read my mind because he tapped the side of his nose, winked, and said, “Spent all me life ‘round these parts: pays to know who the competition are – ‘specially during times of plague and pestilence.”

“Yes, I imagine so.” I said as I extended a hand towards him. “Felicity Goldsmith.”

“Graham Perkins.” He replied – cutting the engine, and taking my fingers in his huge, calloused hands. “It’s nice to meet someone’s what’s civilised for a change.”

I was surprised at the coarseness of his hands. They felt like those of a man three times his age that had spent a lifetime tilling the land.

‘A farmer’s son. I think I can trust this man.’

Tasman then introduced himself as Brian Wilkins. I was glad that Tasman had slipped in a pair of his contact lenses; explaining his oblong pupils would have been problematical.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Graham spoke to both of us, “but I’ve been keeping a bit of an eye on your farm. I figured everybody’d be here when I found Soverton empty a few months back.”

I nodded; it was from the village of Soverton that we’d recruited the members of our co-operative.

“If you don’t mind me saying,” Graham was continuing, “you could use a bit of expertise down there.”

Although I bristled inside, I said nothing to the older boy. I merely looked at him with what I hoped was an inquiring expression.

“Them winter crops in the lower field.” He went on, “You need to sow ‘em further up the slope.”

Tasman threw me a glance. I could read nothing into it, and so wished that he could have used his telepathy upon me.

“Would you be interested in joining our co-operative?” He asked the young farmer.

Graham pretended to pause for thought.

“Well I wasn’t exactly planning on something quite so bold.” He replied eventually.

Tasman continued as though the other boy hadn’t spoken, “It’s just that Felicity and I have business elsewhere, and it’s…you know…”

It let his words trail off into nothingness.

Graham grinned. “And you’d like someone what knows what he’s doing to take over?” He said hopefully.

“Pretty much.” Tasman replied.

I was surprised at the sudden turn of events.

‘Hey, this isn’t part of the master plan!’

I was concerned that we were in the process of giving away the fruits of many week’s labour to a complete stranger.

‘But wait a moment, Fel: Tasman might be too polite to read your mind, but you can bet your last…whatever…that he’s read Graham’s. Now would be the perfect time for two-way silent communication between us.’

I tried ‘sending’ Tasman a thought, but I expected him to be too busy concentrating his attention upon Graham to even begin to ‘hear’ me.

“Is this boy the real deal?”

Tasman’s eyes flicked in my direction: I detected the minutest of nods.

Graham appeared to be prevaricating, though I was certain it was just an act.

“It’s not every day that a lad your age gets offered the manager’s job on a working farm, complete with live-in staff.” I pointed out to him.

Graham’s head tipped to one side slightly in agreement. He then added, “No, and it isn’t every day that world ends either.”

I wasn’t absolutely certain what he meant by that remark. Perhaps he had more work on his hands than he could deal with. Maybe running our farm as well as his own would be too much for him.

“Could you give me a tour?” He inquired.

Had he asked the question twenty-four hours earlier, Tasman would undoubtedly have agreed to his request: But today wasn’t yesterday. Although no one at the farm knew it yet, Tasman and I were Absent Without Leave. Or in Lee’s parlance, we’d ‘done a runner’. We couldn’t go back; it would require that we explain the reason for our departure, and then face all the arguments that would no doubt be intended to keep us there.

“Tell you what.” Tasman said, “You know where the turning to the farm is: If I write a quick note of introduction, you can find your own way there. Ask for Carl, and show it to him. He’ll gladly show you around. He knows the farm isn’t nearly as efficient as it should be, and could use some pointers. And if truth be known – we’re a little over-manned: Perhaps you could take a few kids back to your place?”

‘Brilliant!’

This must have been exactly what Graham had wanted to hear.

“I accept your kind offer.” He said whilst shaking Tasman’s hand.

He then produced a dog-eared note pad and an almost blunt pencil from a cubby-hole in the dashboard of his Land Rover.

I watched as Tasman used the wing of the vehicle as a writing desk.

Dear Carl,

This is Graham Perkins. He is a professional farmer. We have invited him to tour the farm with view to taking a managerial role there. If favourable he would like volunteers to help him at his farm too. It would definitely benefit both farms, and widen our co-operative. I can vouch for his authenticity.

Regarding Felicity and myself; please do not be alarmed by our absence. We both have very important tasks to perform elsewhere that are not connected with the co-operative. I think you can guess what they might be, but please keep the truth from the younger ones. Rest assured we both intend to return one day.

With love,

Tasman.

I then added my signature to it, and handed it to Graham, who ran a cursory eye over it.

“Tasman?” He enquired. “I thought you said your name…”

“A nick-name.” I blurted. “Everyone knows him as Tasman.”

Quickly changing the subject, I added, “You know the way: Down the lane a while; then down the dirt track on the left.”

Graham nodded as he folded the note into a tight wad, and placed it in the breast pocket of his waxed cotton body warmer.

“So where are you two off to know, then?” He asked.

“We’d…um…We’d rather not say.” I replied.

Graham tapped the side of his nose for a second time. Winking, he said, “Don’t want me letting the cat out of the bag to Carl and the kids’ eh? Well that’s fine by me: We all got agendas what need seeing to. Now I aint exactly overflowing with the stuff, but I’m willing to spare a little diesel if you’re a needing a lift somewhere.”

 

It had been a kind offer, but we politely declined, and made our farewells. We watched as the Land Rover trundled away along the lane towards our former sanctuary. I felt buoyed by the encounter. It gave me hope for the future success of the farm. I also took it as an omen for what we were about to do.

“He’s not even considering turning down our offer, you know.” Tasman said as at last the vehicle disappeared from view, “He may not have mentioned the fact, but he and Carl went to school together. There was two years difference between them, but they knew each other well.”

I smiled at Graham’s ineffectual subterfuge. I stopped when Tasman added, “What’s an omen?”

“Hey!” I complained, “I thought you said that you wouldn’t read my thoughts?”

Tasman laughed. “I didn’t: You were leaking all over the place. I had to fight to keep your thoughts out. And yes, despite the terrible hair-do, you really are quite pretty.”

With that he ran off along the lane. With mock indignation I went in pursuit.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

The problem with this story is that, very often, the random extract gives too much away. A spoiler, if you will. Fortunatley this is not one of those. I think it’s rather nice, and makes no hint of the blood-letting that is to follow. Oh, was that a spoiler in itself?

Anyway, this excellent tale of plucky youths fighting insurmountable odds is available at most e-book outlets. Check out the sidebar book covers or Tooty’s Books Available Here beneath the header

 

 

Time For Some Silence

Since I do a bit of writing – and I once wrote a couple of books, the titles of which both began with the word ‘Silent’, I expect you’ve figured out what comes next. Yes, it’s a snippet from the venerable (and vaguely YA) Silent Apocalypse…

  …which was my best book, until I wrote the sequel, Silent Resistance. Of course that doesn’t include The Psychic  Historian: but how could it? Nothing compares with The Psychic Historian! Anyway, that’s by-the-by: on with the excerpt. Naturally random chance did the selection…

That evening we’d resumed our places at the table. From our vantage point we watched the sun dip below the horizon. It was an elegant but desolate place now. Nothing much appeared different, especially in the failing light.

What was it that told the eye that things had been altered forever?’

Lee was watching me, although I wasn’t aware of it. He must have been thinking along the same lines.

“Vapour trails.” He said, and I knew he was right. “The day we see a vapour trail again is the day we wake up from this nightmare.”

Katherine had been paying attention too:

“Until then the sky is the province of the clouds alone.”

We said no more and watched darkness march across the land.

Kevin broke the silence:

“I don’t want to hear The Whispers, Flissery: Can I go to bed now?”

I told him that he could, but he insisted that I take him upstairs.

Donald warned me, “Be quick: They’re coming on soon.”

Having tucked Kevin in I was barely back in time to catch the first ethereal sounds. There were indeed voices, buried by other voices, submerged beneath static or something else we couldn’t identify.

Lee put words to my thoughts; “Ya know – it’s like we’re supposed to understand it, but someone won’t let us.”

“It’s almost musical.” I opined. “Though I agree with Donald – it is spooky.”

“Lousy rhythm section.” Katherine added.

“It’s always the same, far as I can tell.” Donald informed us.

“Like its set on an automatic loop, you mean?” Lee asked.

Donald remained noncommittal.

“We need to record this.” Lee said, looking about the room, “I don’t suppose..?”

Donald answered Lee’s incomplete question, “What would I want with a tape recorder: Keep a Captains’ Log?”

“Then we’d better find one.”  Lee urged. “Where’s the nearest town?”

“Not now, Lee.” I scolded him for his impetuosity. “It can wait until morning.”

“If it’s really that important.” Katherine added doubtfully. “I thought we were avoiding towns. Remember – gangs, violence, and disease?”

I tried to curb Lee’s enthusiasm. “Let’s not rush into anything: it’s not like we’re desperately short of time: we’ll probably find a village store somewhere…”

Lee recognized the good sense in this. He changed tack:

“Here, Don, mate – so what’s so special about this lake that we’re not looking for?”

Don gave him a long appraising look. “You’re really not looking for our island?”

“Cross my heart, and hope to fall in a bucket of pig muck.”

Donald wasn’t particularly forthcoming. He simply said, “It’s protected.”

“What – by razor wire? Dobermans? Machine guns?” Lee demanded.

“A snake pit?” Katherine chirped. Then she added, “Crocodiles?”

“Dunno.” was Donald’s even briefer reply. Then, “I haven’t actually seen it. I know where it is – roughly: But I haven’t been there. I don’t know what protects it. Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s a psychic bubble. Gaia. I dunno. I just know that all my family’s people have gone there, and they reckon they’re gonna be safe.”

I could see that Donald was becoming upset; but I thought the subject might be too important to drop. I eased the conversation in a slightly different direction:

“You said that you’ve lost contact with them…”

“Yeah, that’s right. It’s been a while.”

“And that concerns you…”

“Yes it does.” He took a deep breath and dared to utter the words to us that he might never have said to himself, “I don’t reckon they made it.”

‘Reality check’.

I took his hand. “Donald, I’m sorry, but I think you’re right. You would’ve heard…”

He nodded without speaking.

“Would you like to know – I mean for absolute certain?” I asked.

He shook his head.

Katherine stood and placed a hand upon each of his shoulders.

“I think you need to. You can’t go on in vain hope. It’ll drive you quite potty eventually, you know.”

Donald brushed Katherine’s hands aside, and blurted angrily:

 “You want me to take you to the island: I knew it all along!”

“No.” I assured him. “Not at all. We want to take you.”

Lee shrugged his shoulders at Donald’s enquiring look.

“There’s no such thing as grown-ups, these days, Don.” He said quietly. “Not anymore. Not even the Chosen Ones. Sorry.”

Donald nodded minutely. We left it at that. He’d come around.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

This book was actually written in 2004, when I was much younger and considerably more handsome and virile, with a good head of hair and firm buttocks. In fact it was whilst writing this book that they went all flabby. Clearly sitting around on your arse in front of a computer screen isn’t good for one’s backside. But it’s too late now. This is the tidied up version that I produced to accompany the release of Silent Resistance.

Naturally both books are available at most e-book stockists. See Tooty’s Books Available Here beneath the header – or click on the cover photos on the sidebar.

Revel in the Ribaldry 14

Fourteenth excerpt means it must be from the fourth book. In a world gone mad, it’s the only logical thing thing to do…

Yes, the book that everyone ignores. Well please don’t ignore this extract: it’s rather nice – in a vile sort of way. And here it is – entirely chosen by our best chum, random chance…

Tutu, meanwhile, had not been visited by the time-travelling Wetpatch. He was still under the illusion that he had until eternity to reach Hamster-Britain aboard Droop’s private submarine. In fact he was rather pleased at the prospect of a long ocean journey because he believed it would take that long for him to comprehend the rudiments of the euphonium. It wasn’t enough that he should learn to play the instrument: In order to become a virtuoso he must understand its inner workings, and merge his soul with it. Fortunately for the cross-eyed twit, the ship’s computer enjoyed the luxury of an artificial intelligence component. It was just this that saved Tutu from a dreadful demise…

“Hey, Honey.” The computer whispered in its seductive female voice, “I have some disturbing facts lined up for y’all.”

Tutu didn’t enjoy being in receipt of disturbing facts. In fact he hated them worse than penile thrush – especially when it interfered with a really unimportant task.

Looking up from the rear inspection panel of the euphonium, he snapped, “What is it? Can’t you see I’m busy!”

“I’m sorry, Sugar.” The A.I replied, “But I don’t have any conception of the word ‘busy’. I understand it’s meaning in the literal sense – that being how it’s described in the National Dictionary of Hamster-Britain: But its relationship to you, Honey, is lost to me.”

“The facts! The facts!” Tutu uncharacteristically lost his cool. “I have a flange weeble to adjust you know!

“Well here it is, Tutu, honey: You’d best be strapping your masculine rodent body into something real soft, and get this vessel out of here real quick, baby – coz the volcano at Perineum is going to explode, and y’all well within the blast radius.”

Tutu was well acquainted with blast radii: He’d been in too many of them during his years of servitude to Professor Desmond Squealch.

“Fluff!” He yelled, and jabbed frantically at the High Velocity Button that stood proud from the dashboard, with flashing L E Ds highlighting it in a most spectacular fashion. “Is this ship warp-capable?”

It was a foolish question, and Tutu knew it; but he hoped for the best anyway.

“Well, Honey,” the computer’s seductive voice said after several seconds of cyber-cogitation, “there is the experimental Z-Drive. Y’all could give that a try.”

Tutu had never heard of a Z-Drive. In fact he wondered if the computer wasn’t playing some ghastly trick upon him, and had made it up on the spur of the moment.

“Z-Drive?” He heard himself query. “Is that some sort of experimental propulsion system that Professor Squealch included in this vessel by accident?”

“Well, Tutu, sugar, you get five out of ten for logical deduction from scant data: But you aint entirely right.” The computer’s sultry tone hadn’t moderated despite the seriousness of the situation, and Tutu found it hard to concentrate: And his trousers kept flapping uncontrollably too. “It’s a means to tap into the underwater equivalent of hyperspace:” It continued. “It’s called Moister-Space – and if you want to live to an old age, you should open the hidden panel above your head; pull down the cord you find dangling in there; then hang on for dear life. The Z-Drive is experimental, unproven, barely out of the theoretical stage, and highly intoxicating.”

“That may be the case,” Tutu managed to reply coolly, “but will it get my furry rear end out of here?”

The computer’s response was equally chilly. “Yes, but I have no idea where we’ll find ourselves afterward. It could mean instantaneous loosening of the bowels.”

Tutu mulled this over for perhaps fifteen nanoseconds. Then a warning klaxon nearly made him burst from his seat like gerbil with a scalded rectum.

“Warning.” A defence mechanism overrode the hamster/computer companion interface. “Unimaginably vast shock-wave approaching. Batten down the hatches. Put away the best crockery. Collision imminent.”

Tutu didn’t waste a second more prevaricating. There really was no other decision that he could make. Circumstances minimized his options to one.

“Operate the Z-Drive now.” He yelled above the tumult, and yanked on the cord.

“Initiating primary use of the Z-Drive in ten seconds.” The computer became terribly professional now that it had been given a clear and concise instruction. “Ten, nine, eight…”

Such dire straits brought out the worst in Tutu, and instantly his fine veneer of civilisation was torn away by the abrasive nature of the situation. “I said now – you cybernetic asshole!” He roared in his most inelegant tone.

Naturally the computer did what any well-designed computer would do in such a situation. It hurried through the remaining digits in triple-quick time, and the Z-Drive was duly initiated.

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

Now does that strike you as the sort of book that people gleefully overlook? I can’t understand it. Anyway, whatever, it remains available at most e-book outlets. So, if you’ve chosen not to ignore this amazing literary piece, some of the better-known ones are mentioned on the Tooty’s Books Available Here page beneath the header.

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 66)

The Zephyr remained quiescent for another hour – cooling down and shedding any residual radiation. But shortly after fifteen o’clock a group of guards came for the thieves, and soon had them marching into a long, low-ceilinged room that lay in the heart of Scroton Prime – where they were surprised by a phalanx of Ethernet Cable Ends that stood silently at attention at either side of them…

Naturally the un-worldly-wise Gideon assumed the worst:

“Oh lummy, Flaxwell.” He groaned. “It’s a firing squad: and just to make sure they don’t miss, they’re going to shoot us from both sides!”

But Flaxwell wasn’t overly concerned: he’d already noticed the absence of weapons. He also noted that not one cable end looked grim and determined. Or if they did, it was because they weren’t used to standing to attention for any period of time beyond a couple of minutes, and their feet hurt like heck.

“Nah, Giddy.” He replied. “I don’t think so.”

This relieved Gideon somewhat, but a ripple through the right-hand rank made Flaxwell begin to question his optimism…

But a second ripple, through the left-hand rank, returned his sense of well-being. Clearly someone important was about to appear; and, as everyone knows, important people get less important people to do their dirty work for them…

And both earplugs confidence grew when a third earplug, who introduced herself and Wilma Lozenge – Ambassador from Earth, joined them in the spotlight…

“I’m here as a witness.” She said with a soothing tone of voice that Gideon, in particular, found most attractive.

“Goodie.” He said. “Wilma is such a lovely name.”

“Just not quite so sure about ‘Lozenge’.” Flaxwell joked.

But neither earplug was prepared for what happened next…

Walker Crabtrouser, the Chief of the Scrotonic Armed Forces, kissed them on both cheeks and said: “It is an honour – brave earplugs.”

Surprise then turned to astonishment, when the founding father of Scroton – The Golden One – or Nigel, as he preferred to be known – approached them…

As Nigel stopped before them, Gideon and Flaxwell gulped as one…

“I once knew Magnuss Earplug.” Nigel said to them. “I believe that we were friends. Well I let him use my lavatory several times, so I guess you could say we were friends. He was a great ally to Scroton – at a time when our fledgling world most needed one. Together we flew in Scoton’s first space vessel. It was quite a ride – I can tell you. And you’ve had quite a ride yourselves – so they tell me.”

Nigel paused – hopeful of some response. But Gideon and Flaxwell were too enthralled to think sensibly. “Ooh – right.” They said. “Yeah.”

The bright spotlight then dimmed…

“Doctor Gideon Snoot and Space Pilot Flaxwell Maltings,” the ancient cable end spoke with surprising volume, “you are exonerated from any blame regarding the ‘theft’ of the Scroton Five, henceforth to be known as ‘The Zephyr’, and the abduction of the vessel’s A.I – also known as The Oracle. Furthermore, you are both to be applauded for returning the aforementioned vessel – complete with special guest – that being The Portal of Everywhere.”

“Noodles.” Gideon interrupted.

“Noodles?” The Golden One questioned.

“Noodles?” Wilma Lozenge and Walker Crabtrouser queried as one.

“Poodles?” The twin phalanx of soldiery mumbled.

“No – Noodles.” Gideon corrected them.

“It’s all in the ship’s log.” Flaxwell offered. “I entered it when we were in hyper-space – just after escaping the pursuing Scroton Five.”

“Oh,” Nigel nodded his head in understanding. “Noodles it is then. I really must get someone to read that log. Quite an oversight on our part.”

Nigel then added:

“Now, if you would care to walk with me, I have someone who would like to have a little word in your ear.”

So they did…

…and before long they found themselves confronted by Captain Hissenfrapp…

…who introduced himself and his crew to the two earplugs.

“You two led me a merry dance.” He said. “By rights your atoms should be spread across the cosmos; but when my crew and I discovered that you had allies from an entirely higher plain of existence, we realised that resistance was futile, and so made directly for home.”

“Only to get straight into a fight.” Urchie Kakkapo chipped in.

This seemed to embolden the others.

“One we were quickly losing.” Nobbington Sprake added.

“Until you arrived with all blasters…ah…blasting.” Selma Ferkins said as she shivered with goose bumps at the recollection.

“Yeah,” the young midshipman, Willum Poobs said eloquently, “you blew the crap out of them. Their sort won’t bother Scroton again – I can tell you!”

“Oh, thanks very much.” Gideon replied. “It was a lucky shot. Well, when I say ‘lucky’: I was aiming. It’s not like I closed my eyes and hoped for the best or anything.

“No, I’m sure you weren’t.” Nigel said with a chuckle. “But neither of you needed to risk your lives in a fight that wasn’t yours. But you did: so if it’s alright with you, I’d like you to walk ahead of me…

…towards the exhibition hall.”

With twin fixed smiles the daring duo did just that.

“Why are we going to the exhibition hall, ah…Golden One?” Flaxwell asked.

“Because,” Nigel replied slowly, “you are going to be reunited with your ship and it’s crew.”

Our ship?” Gideon said incredulously. “You’re giving us the Zephyr?”

Both earplugs were so surprised that they began to dawdle. In fact they slowed so much that Nigel had to give them a gentle kick up the arse…

“Oh, I’m so happy,” Gideon yelled as the phalanx applauded their departure, “I could vomit!”

“Me too.” Flaxwell yelled back. “Only without the vomiting bit of course. Imagine the sort of places we’ll be able to go.”

“I am.” Gideon replied. “I am.”

And he was too!

The End

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

The three e-books that comprise this trilogy are dedicated to my late wife, Linzi, who (for years) not only put up with me shooting the pictures and writing Earplug Adventure manuscripts; but actively participated – finding props and earplugs for me.

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 65)

Before long the planetary tractor beam had pulled the Zephyr down to the surface. In fact the space craft had arrived in the industrialised zone of Scroton Prime…

…and now hovered scant microns from the hard concrete-like ground. Naturally Noodles – the Portal of Everywhere – was less than impressed with the smoke and particulates in the air, and duly said as much…

“A civilisation that relies upon agriculture is a civilisation that is going nowhere.” The Oracle argued. “Everyone knows that.”

“That’s right.” Gideon said from his seat beside Flaxwell. “I’m an anthroplugologist: I know all about this sort of thing. It doesn’t matter what life-form it is – without technology, its inhabitants will remain firmly planted in their point of origin – never learning anything of what lies beyond their horizon – both actual and mental.”

“Without industrialisation,” Flaxwell added, “you’d still be face-up in that ditch in the Balsac Nebula.”

“That would be the Great Balsac Nebula.” Noodles reminded the redundant pilot. “But I take your point. It’s just a pity that it has to be so harmful to those using it and the environment. And you’re wrong about all life-forms, Gideon. If I get the chance I’ll show you a species that grow earthquake-proof sky-scrapers out of their own excrement. Quite remarkable.”

“Also quite a business opportunity for any air freshener manufacturers too.” The Oracle quipped.

“Hmm,” Noodles replied, “you’ve got me thinking there. I can show you the pictures and present the sounds of anywhere in any era: but the aroma of a scene is always absent. An oversight, by my creators perhaps?”

“Maybe you could hand out some of those cards that people can scratch, then sniff the artificial pong that relates to the current scene.” Flaxwell suggested. “For example, were you to display the tower blocks made from plop, the scratch card could smell of…”

But he got no further, because the Zephyr was being drawn through the city at a most amazing velocity…

   

“Some ride!” Gideon remarked. “I wonder where it’s taking us.”

But then, just as quickly as it had begun, the journey ended…

“You realise where we are, don’t you, Giddy?” Flaxwell cried out.

“Oh, the irony of it.” Gideon replied. “Oracle – do the Cable Ends understand irony?”

“Irony?” The Oracle responded in a puzzled tone. “Is that a less advanced form of steely?”

“I imagine – if that is possible for a Portal of Everywhere,” Noodles spoke, “that the owners of this craft are merely being practical. This vessel is a sales model: it belongs upon a pedestal where prospective buyers can study it. Oh look, as usual, I’m right.”

With those words still reverberating around the control room in a cacophony of echoes, the Zephyr settled upon its plinth…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

The Tale Wags Again

Were you to visit my publishers – Lulu.com – you would discover that this e-book…

…is now available to buy, at a very reasonable price. And were you to purchase said literary and photographic wonder, you would be pleased beyond measure.

P.S Other distributors – like Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, etc to follow shortly

A Tale of Three Museums (part 64)

But, to the dismay of everyone except those creatures that manned the attacking craft, a second hostile vessel opened fire upon Hissenfrapp’s Scroton Five…

Aboard the Zephyr, no one liked this turn of events…

“Jeepers,” Gideon exclaimed in his old-fashioned professorial way, “the good guys are going to lose this. Where are all the other Scroton Fives? Surely there should be loads of them!”

“Out looking for you, one presumes.” Noodles boomed from the rear of the control room. “Even, as we speak, the Ethernet Cable Ends are sending out a distress call to all available ships. It’s very well scripted, I should tell you. And the cable end that’s doing all the talking has just the right amount of desperation in its voice to illicit a positive response from anyone who hears it.”

“Oh good.” Flaxwell replied. “I’m pleased to hear it – though not literally, obviously. Please don’t play it to us: I feel bad enough already.”

But Noodles, with the wisdom of great age and knowledge, ignored Flaxwell’s instruction, and duly repeated the distress call.

“Thanks a bunch, Noodles.” Flaxwell said as he disconnected the Oracle from the helm. “You know how to press my buttons. Gideon; man the forward blaster: we’re going in.”

Moments later, the Zephyr accelerated towards the battle…

Naturally, as they approached the rear quarter of a hostile vessel, Noodles went straight to Rose Pink Alert…

In the Listening Station the Manager watched with rapt attention…

“I don’t know who is aboard that Scroton Five,” he said, “but they’ve turned up at the right moment. With the hostile vessel’s defensive screens facing our ships, it has left its rear quarter totally unprotected. One lucky shot should be enough. Let’s pray to whatever it is we believe in that they make that shot the luckiest they’ve ever fired.”

Well Gideon knew squat about forward blasters of any kind: he was a museum professor after all. But the Zephyr was awfully close to the enemy, and if he squinted along the sighting mechanism with his good eye, he felt he might possibly…

…squeeze off a shot that would result in…

…the utter obliteration of the enemy ship.

“Whoo,” Flaxwell yelled as debris battered their own defensive screen, “you did it, Giddy. You’re a real warrior, you are!”

“Indeed.” The Oracle concurred. “That should put us firmly in the good books of the Scroton authorities.”

Not that Gideon heard any of this, of course: he was too amazed to hear anything except the pounding of his heart. But he did recover sufficiently to hear a message of gratitude from the robotic freighter captain…

“Ta, pal.” It said. “Good shooting. The other ship’s sodded off, so you don’t have to blow that one up too. By the way: welcome to Scroton. Prepare to be engaged by the planetary tractor beam.”

“The what?” Flaxwell began.

Then the planetary tractor beam latched on to the Zephyr; killed its engines; and began drawing it towards the planet…

“Oh well,” The Oracle said quietly. “It was fun while it lasted.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 62)

But, just as the Cable Ends thought they were ready to re-enter hyper-space, something rather dramatic happened…

“Uh-oh.” Captain Hissenfrapp groaned. “Now we’re in the deepest kind of kaka.”

Of course, the young and inexperienced midshipman had no clue what he was looking at. Selma noticed the puzzled expression in his beady little eyes: “It’s a space-farers legend, Willum.” She said quietly. “They call it the Galactic Eye.”

“Uh-huh.” Willum replied as he assimilated this information. He then added: “So what is it looking at us for?”

“Looking’s fine.” Urchie half explained. “It’s when it blinks, you have to worry.”

Willum was about to ask what would occur should the Galactic Eye blink, when the eye blinked. And, in the blink of an eye, the ship and crew found themselves somewhere else completely…

“Oh for flip’s sake, Nobbington roared, “it’s sent us to the very edge of the galaxy!”

“It’ll take us years to fly back through hyper-space!” Selma wailed. “What are we gonna do?”

“No problem.” Urchie chirped up from where he stood beside the Oracle. “At the centre of every galaxy lies a singularity – or ‘black hole’, as it is more commonly known. All we need do is open a Gravity Lock on the centre of the galaxy, and the black hole will pull us back – at incredible velocity.”

Hissenfrapp looked at the cook with open admiration. “The next person who complains about this guy’s paella, or his special vegan sausage rolls, gets a punch on the nose from me – okay?” Then, to his pilot, he said: “Nobby – scan for a black hole and then open a Gravity Lock.”

“Getting something.” Nobbington informed the captain. “Putting it on screen.”

But it wasn’t a singularity that the sensor had detected; but a ghastly face that scared the heck out of everyone who saw it…

“Oracle,” Hissenfrapp yelled. “What the heck is that?”

The A.I didn’t even bother to turn around in its space cage. “It’s nothing, captain. It’s the God of All Things Arboreal – or ‘Wooden Face’ for short. It means that whomever is thwarting us, is running out of available gods. Find your singularity, Nobby: that thing can’t do anything except make us poop in in our space suits.”

Meanwhile, aboard the Zephyr, Noodles had noticed the view through the main viewer…

“Is that what space really looks like?” It said. “I had no idea it was so beautiful.”

Gideon was surprised by this reaction to the sight of open space. “But you can see everywhere.” He said. “Nothing is hidden from you. Not even the toilet!”

“Or underpants.” Flaxwell added.

“I can show everywhere.” The Portal of Everywhere explained. “But I can’t actually see it. Not first-hand, in the raw, as it were.”

“But you’re a window on all reality.” A puzzled Flaxwell said. “I don’t get it.”

Gideon didn’t hear Noodle’s reply: Flaxwell’s words had got him thinking. Five minutes later he, Flaxwell, and Noodles stood before a large viewing window in the rear of the ship…

“This is not a digital representation?” Noodles inquired.

“Nope, you dope.” Flaxwell answered it. “It’s a transparency. On the other side of it is nothing but vacuum, radiation, and the depths of interstellar space.”

Noodles was clearly moved because it went to an involuntary Rose Pink Alert…

“Nice, isn’t it!” Flaxwell said by way of understatement.

But when the Portal failed to respond, the earplugs switched off the light and left it to gaze upon creation – and finally to truly ‘see’.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

 

 

 

The First Tale is Wagging!

By that I mean  that the first of three volumes of A Tale of Three Museums has been published in e-book form at Lulu.com. Yee-hah!

It looks an awful lot like this…

Volumes 2 & 3 will appear before the final serialized version excerpt appears. Are the e-book versions better than the on-line versions? Of course they are!

P.S Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other versions will follow shortly.

P.P.S The world may be a shit hole right now; but I’m doing my best to make it better.

A Tale of Three Museums (part 61)

Inside the pursuing Scroton Five, Urchie Kakkapo was out of the Psycho-Chef like a cat that’s fallen into the lavatory bowl…

“Flip me sideways, Captain: how’d you know they’d appear here?”

Hissenfrapp didn’t move his gaze from the main screen as he replied:

“It’s what makes ship’s captains, Urchie: gut instinct and some damned good long-range sensors.”

“Something them, over there, don’t have.” Selma Ferkins added.

“Strictly speaking,” Nobbington interjected, “they do have the long-range sensors: they just don’t have the wit to use them.”

“Yeah.” Willum Poobs added his two Scrotelettes-worth. “They just look straight ahead and figure we’re just a bunch of dim-bats that they’ve left in their stupid wake.”

The Oracle didn’t really want to join in: it had once controlled an iced tea dispenser beside the coffee machine that had housed the Zephyr’s Oracle, and it felt sympathy for its former colleague. But, even then, it couldn’t help itself saying: “You’re just sore you couldn’t score a single hit.”

But no one was listening: the scent of blood was in their collective nostrils: and they were about to fall upon their quarry.

Fortunately the Zephyr’s Oracle wasn’t looking out of the front window. It had run a routine sensor sweep and noted the appearance of the wormhole. In an instant the A.I had assumed control of the ship and sent it into hyper-space. Naturally Flaxwell was out of his seat quicker than you can say misanthropic discombobulations. Gideon was only a step behind him…

“Hey, what gives, Oracle?” Flaxwell shouted as the Zephyr accelerated far beyond the speed of light. “You don’t like my driving?”

“No time to explain,” Oracle cyber-gasped, “re-routing energy transfer conduits. We need every erg of power available – and we need it now!”

Of course Hissenfrapp had the Scroton Five in quick pursuit…

And like those they pursued, he and his crew were now guilty of looking straight ahead and ignoring internal sensors – which, in one particular case, showed that the engine’s power core was running slightly hotter was normal…

But as the Zephyr continued to accelerate, so did its pursuer – which meant that the glitch in the cooling system exacerbated the problem with the temperature control anomaly…

Too late Nobbington Sprake spotted the tell-tale on his helm control. A split second later…

…his ship had dropped out of hyper-space. And little did anyone suspect – or a sensor detect – the true cause of their problem…

“Oh I do so enjoy being the God of Stalled Motors.” The God of Stalled Motors said gleefully – before disappearing into the realm that is the domicile of the Supreme Being.

Although unaware of the source of their problem, the crew went straight to work on a fix. Within minutes they had concluded that by dipping into a dead planet’s atmosphere they could collect enough cool gas to reduce the engine’s temperature to within designated parameters.

“Got one – dead ahead.” Nobbington said cheerfully.

Of course the procedure wasn’t without its dangers, so they chose to go to Crimson Alert, which made them feel safer and considerably more confident of success…

And successful they were. Within minutes of completing their task and climbing from the dead world’s gravity well, they were ready to re-start the engine…

“I’ve extrapolated their course.” Selma informed her captain. “I know a short cut. We can head them off at the metaphorical pass.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 60)

Then it was a simple matter of rocketing into space and placing the planet between the Zephyr and the hunting Scroton Five…

It was only then that the two earplugs could relax a little.

“Wow,” Gideon managed, “that was some ride!”

As the tension slowly oozed from him, Flaxwell gave a nervous giggle. “You’re not wrong, Giddy.” He said. “Any chance of something to eat? It feels like we were down there for an eternity!”

“I was down there for an eternity!” The Portal of Everywhere boomed loudly. “And look at me now: a back-seat passenger in a silly little scout ship. Surely a device such as I – of such pre-eminence – should, at least, have been carried back to, so-called, civilisation in an armada of ships-of-the-line?”

The Oracle swivelled in its space cage to face the Portal…

“Oh don’t bleat on.” It snapped. “You’re lucky to be here at all. Now keep quiet and sit back and enjoy the ride.”

But the Portal wasn’t really listening. It wasn’t in the habit of paying any attention to former coffee dispensing machines. “Where’s my name tag?” It complained. “Without my name tag I have no proof that my name is Noodles. Everywhere I go, from now on, I’ll be the Portal of Everywhere. It’s just so pretentious. I want to be called Noodles!”

“It’s okay, Noodles,” Flaxwell called from the pilot’s chair, “we all know you’re Noodles. We’ll put it in the ship’s log: that’ll make it official. You can show it to Immigration – when we find somewhere to go that is.”

“Oh yes, that’s a point.” Gideon spoke in a hushed tone. “Where are we going to go? We stole this ship, after all.”

“Right now?” Flaxwell replied. “I’d settle for anywhere outside the Balsac Nebula.”

“That’s the Great Balsac Nebula.” Noodles corrected the pilot. “If your ship’s log is to be believed, all the facts must be correct, above reproach, and beyond question.”

“Quite so.” Flaxwell said as he took the Zephyr into the strange slipstream that should, he hoped, carry them to open space…

There followed a period of silence in the control room. Gideon would have liked to conjure up a quick meal, but he didn’t want to interrupt the peace and quiet that smothered the scene like a bewildering duvet…

“Perhaps a new name plate could be made for me at our final destination.” Noodles suggested.

The Oracle was used to being the most complex artificial intelligence aboard. The sheer size and antiquity of the Portal of Everywhere gave it an inferiority complex. So it countered this feeling of inadequacy by replying to Noodles’ suggestion with one of its own: “Yeah – and perhaps we could throw you out the airlock too.”

It wasn’t original, but it surprised and amused Gideon…

But then he began to have misgivings. Just where would they go now? He could hardly return, in triumph, to the Museum of Future Technology aboard a stolen vessel and a horde of angry Ethernet Cable End ambassadors calling for his arrest.

“Oh dear.” He said to himself. “What a to-do.”

But then he cheered up a little when the Zephyr finally cleared the boundaries on the Great Balsac Nebula…

Noodles released a sigh. “Home.” It said. “It’s been my home for thousands of years. I wonder if I will ever see it again.”

“You’re the Portal of Everywhere, Noodles.” Gideon reminded the device. “You can see anywhere you bloody well want to!”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right.” Noodles replied. “Perhaps, on occasion, I could put aside a moment or two and revisit that little, un-named planet – which has upon it a name tag that is currently laying face-down in the snow, and reads ‘Noodles’.”

To which the Oracle responded with: “Oh shut up about your lousy name tag, you great big…lavatory seat!”

It was approximately half an hour later approximately because no one had bothered to check the time – whilst the Zephyr made headway in the generally accepted direction of Explored Space that a wormhole opened upon its rear port quarter…

…from which a Scroton Five emerged.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 59)

Meanwhile Gideon and Flaxwell were still trying to avoid going all gooey-eyed – when the Portal of Everywhere suddenly decided to initiate a Rose Pink Alert, which startled the two earplugs…

“What the flipping heck is Rose Pink Alert?” Flaxwell asked and complained at the same time.

“Time you two weren’t here.” Noodles replied, both loudly and cryptically.

Gideon was about to inquire further, when, in the distance, incandescent flares descended upon the snow-covered valley floor…

Despite the considerable distance from where they now stood, and the unforgiving terrain all about, both earplugs elected to run in the direction of the grounded Zephyr. But they hadn’t taken more than a half-dozen steps, when energy bolts struck the surface around them…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” Flaxwell shouted above the din of multiple detonations, “this is exactly as Noodles foretold it!”

Naturally Gideon replied with, “Aaargh!”

Meanwhile, aboard the quiescent Zephyr…

…the ship’s Oracle was experiencing a Rose Pink Alert of its own – only it called it Crimson Alert…

It was doing it’s best to look in every direction at the same time.

“Cripes,” it yelled to an empty control room, “do my sensors deceive me? Are the guys under attack from another Scroton Five? How did I not detect its approach? But enough of these useless questions: this is no time for wasteful self-reproach: it’s time for action: and no one does ‘action’ better than me!”

At that particular moment, Gideon and Flaxwell had just arrived back at their original location…

“Noodles,” Gideon cried out in desperation, as random fire rained down from upon high, “you’re an ancient device of fabulous complexity: surely you must have some defensive capability!”

“Why would I?” The Portal of Everywhere replied. “Would you expect an encyclopaedia to protect itself from some heathen who chose to use it as a door stop, furniture levelling device, or a murder weapon? Of course you wouldn’t. So, no, I don’t have any defensive capability.”

“But these random shots from upon high,” Flaxwell wailed. “One of ’em is bound to get us eventually!”

“I am sorry, Flaxwell Maltings.” The stentorian voice boomed above the sound of blaster hits, “but….”

But it never finished its line; because – just in the nick of time – a matter transmitter beam latched onto the trio…

…and delivered them to the control room of the Zephyr…

Naturally all three would have thanked the Oracle more profusely than they would have thought themselves capable: but the Oracle was too busy to consider listening to overt outpourings of gratitude…

It was switching the ship’s ‘chin’ landing light to red and starting the main motor…

But it knew that its efforts would be to no avail. It was a matter of time before a deadly hit caught them amidships and detonated their energy core. In fact, if the Oracle had taken a moment to consider the situation, it would have been surprised that the Zephyr was yet to come under direct fire. Of course, what it could not possibly know was that the ship was in receipt of some divine assistance…

“Come on, you bunch of twerps,” the Supreme Being grumbled to himself as he looked down from his vantage point atop the mountain, “I don’t normally do this sort of thing. This is rather atypical of my behaviour. But I owe earplugs a debt of gratitude, so I thought I should intervene.  But I can’t keep throwing off Willum Poobs aim for eternity; he might grow suspicious. And we can’t have that: it’s against the rules!”

“I can’t understand it, Captain.” Willum moaned as Nobbington brought the Scroton Five around for another strafing run, “Every time I press the firing button, the gun shifts its aim. It’s inexplicable!”

“And really annoying too.” Hissenfrapp growled.

“Yeah,” Urchie noted from his place in the Psycho-Chef, “it almost makes you want to believe in a higher power. But, of course, that is patently ridiculous. By the way – sandwiches anybody? Cheese and ham perhaps?”

But then everyone became aware of the Zephyr making a dash for freedom…

“For goodness sake.” Selma screamed. “You clearly can’t concentrate, Willum: I told you to go to the toilet while we were still in orbit!”

Aboard the Zephyr, Flaxwell was using all of his piloting skills to hide from the Scroton Five by flying through narrow valleys…

“Over there – to the left.” The eagle-eyed Gideon yelled. “A narrow valley that runs at ninety degrees to this current one. It should carry us away from Ground Zero.”

And much to everyone’s surprise, it did…

…as the rain of fire now fell in a neighbouring vally.

“Keep us low, Flaxwell.” Gideon advised the pilot as though he was a battle-hardened guerrilla fighter;  a life-long smuggler; or a daring apple scrumper. “They’ll find us otherwise.”

So, as best he could, Flaxwell had the Zephyr hug the mountain range’s rugged terrain…

He then switched into yet another valley, which opened onto undulating countryside…

…where he opened the throttles and blasted for freedom.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

A Tale of Three Museums (part 58)

“The amazing thing about the Gravity Whelk,” Cedric continued, “is that it was designed specifically for the Skail Brothers to fly it. Two guys who knew nothing about flying spaceships.”

As he and Placebo gravitated towards the main viewer, Folie felt that the Captain was holding back an “and”: so he said it for him:

“And?”

 “And there were two of them.” Kragan Welliboot said.

“And there are two of you.” Hubert Boils joined in.

With the sort of chuckle that is usually reserved for wise captains and know-alls, Cedric said: “Have a nice ride, boys.”

A split second later…

…Folie and Placebo were gone: aboard the distant Gravity Whelk. Then, after giving them time to assimilate their changed circumstances, Captain Mantequilla performed a perfect flypast…

Or rather he had Hooper Hellstrom perform a perfect flypast – which left the ageing alien vessel and its two occupants alone to bask in the light of that distant sun…

“Oh, Folie,” Placebo sighed, as he and his earplug friend stood at one of the myriad windows of the Gravity Whelk, “how many times have I dreamt of this moment?”

Folie smiled. “I don’t know, Placebo.” He replied. “Lots?”

“Lots.” Placebo confirmed Folie’s hypothesis. “Lots and lots and lots.”

Folie nodded as they watched the Brian Talbot slowly increase its velocity – as though inviting them to follow. “Well we can’t sit around here all day,” he said, “basking in the glow of this distant sun: we’d better get our arses into gear.”

Placebo pulled himself together. “Quite so, Sir Folie. Automatic Pilot: follow that spaceship!”

And the Automatic Pilot – being an excellent automatic pilot – did just that…

Upon the unnamed world, deep within the Great Balsac Nebula, Gideon and Flaxwell fought to stem the tears of happiness…

“Oh, wasn’t that a great ending, Flaxwell?” Gideon croaked.

“Sure was, Giddy.” Flaxwell agreed wholeheartedly. “Everyone got back to their proper era: Princess Cake and the alien earplugs escaped in their city-ship; and Folie and Placebo finally got to touch the stars. If I wasn’t a hardened space pilot, I’d get all choked up.”

The conversation continued in much this vein for a while: but had they known it, it would soon be rudely interrupted; because, entering orbit, the pursuing Scroton Five’s crew had them very much in their cross hairs…

“Shall I get breakfast, Captain?” Urchie Kakkapo inquired. “Cornflakes, perhaps?”

“Ah…not just yet.” Captain Werner Hissenfrapp replied. “We have a little task to perform first.”

“Orbit attained.” Pilot, Nobbington Sprake announced. “Nice and smooth and in stealth mode.”

“Picking up an ion trail that leads to the mountainous region in the northern hemisphere.” First Officer, Selma Ferkins reported. “Signature strongly suggests Scroton Five origins.”

“Shall I arm the forward blasters?” Midshipman, Willum Poobs inquired. “I’ve never done that before.”

“I think that would be appropriate.” Hissenfrapp replied with a grim smile. “You may proceed.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 56)

Magnuss was pleased with the news. “Good.” He said. “Well done.”

With that he stepped up to give a rousing speech…

But when he opened his mouth to speak, he realised that he had very little to say. He did manage to utter:

“Let’s all thank Vincenzo for the loan of his time machine. It’s…ah…very nice of him.”

And following three cheers for the engineer, Magnuss concluded proceeding with:

“Hair-Trigger and I will try it first. If nothing explodes, you kids from TWIT should follow. Then everyone else, okay? No pushing and shoving.”

“Does anyone want to use the toilet before we go?” Hair-Trigger asked. Then, after receiving nothing more than a wave of shaken heads, she added: “Right – here we go.”

And so they did…

Not that Nobby noticed: he was too busy trying to remember the moment. A moment he wished he could live over and over again.

And after the last earplug had passed through the circular opening of the Tubo Di Tempo – it’s inventor stepped in front of it and thought of all the money it would make him..,.

Vincenzo sighed. “Ah,” he said to the room in which history had been made, “the fame will be rather nice too. I wonder if middle-aged females will get so excited that they throw their knickers at me.”  

He then flicked the ‘Off’ switch; dimmed the lights; and sauntered off for his well-earned supper of macaroni cheese…

It came to no surprise to those who viewed this scene that the time and location shifted abruptly…

…where the Earplug Brothers; some Time Techs; and a representative of the United Stoats Seventh Calvary stood at attention and awaited the arrival of the lost travellers.

They didn’t have to wait long. Some shuffling of feet and excited voices announced the arrival of Magnuss and Hair-Trigger…

…who were so pleased to be back that they didn’t know where to look or what to say. Needless to say, the boys made up for their reticence…

…and much back slapping ensued. Whilst this took place, everyone else poured from the machine…

Naturally Rupert Piles was there to record the moment for posterity – although (he didn’t know it at the time) that posterity wouldn’t be as long as he would have expected – due in no small part to a future proton torpedo hit in the archives…

Of course Magnuss was too busy greeting his brothers to notice that the kids from TWIT had been relegated to the rear…

He was also too busy to see or hear Major Flaccid as he met them with the news that they would be charged with being Absent With Out Leave, and that their pay would be docked for the period of their absence. Sadly he was also too busy to see and hear Pixie tell Flaccid what he could do with his charges…

…as she and the boys quit their jobs.

“…And I don’t mean up your nose!” She finished.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

P.S The Seventh Cavalry appear in this extract by accident. Without my glasses on, I mistook one of their troopers for a Time Tech figure. Excuse: They’re the same shade of Toyota blue.

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 55)

Placebo had absolutely no doubt that a greater, controlling force was at work. A deity or higher form of life, if you please.

“Yeah.” He said. “I do.”

But before Folie could enquire further, they heard a door creak open, which made them turn towards the source of the sound…

Strangely they felt no fear at an intrusion inside a building that only they inhabited. After what they had just seen, they were keen to share it with someone. Nevertheless they were relieved when the door finally opened fully – to reveal…

…Captain Mantequilla and the bridge crew of the Brian Talbot.

“Boys,” Cedric called as they rushed to meet their missing crew members, “we’ve been scanning the place for hours. We feared you were lost in the alternative dimension forever.”

Bringing up the rear was the engineer – Lawrence Bunion…

“Good news.” He shouted above the hub-bub of welcomes. “We got the old Gravity Whelk with us. And it goes too.”

This was very welcome news indeed for Folie and Placebo. They had been utterly enthralled by Beaufort and Richter’s adventure aboard the Gravity Whelk: so to think that it now hung in orbit above them seemed almost surreal. They said as much to Captain Mantequilla.

“The guys fixed it up real good.” He replied eloquently. “No leaks: lots of air. Don’t see a reason why you two can’t go aboard before we head out for pastures new.”

“Time to go, Captain.” Kragan Welliboot informed his commanding officer. “Power here is just about to run out.”

With information like that, the crew of the Brian Talbot beat a hasty retreat towards the exit. And not a moment too soon, because even as they set off, the lights dimmed…

Meanwhile, far away and several years in the past, it was evening time – when most visitors to the Museum of Future Technology had gone home, and its inhabitants were having their main meal of the day – the time-lost earplugs gathered in Vincenzo’s workshop…

“Well it’s great to see everyone here.” Magnuss said as they gathered around the entrance of the prototype Tubo Di Tempo. “We are all here, I suppose?” He added.

“The Chefs from Ciudad De Droxford chose to remain behind.” The mauve Bungay Jumpur informed him. “They’ve got much better jobs in this era.”

This statement was confirmed by Edie Chalice. “That’s right.” She said. “They’re baristas at Cafe Puke.”

“Clux and Grimnax are here.” Peter Crushing said proudly.

Magnuss was surprised: he hadn’t noticed any zombies amongst their number. So Clux and Grimnax felt compelled to repeat what they’d told Peter in the Thomas Blueden Project. The only addition they made was, when Clux said: “Only we’re not called Clux and Grimnax anymore: now we prefer to the addressed as Giles and Julian.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020

 

A Tale of Three Museums (part 54)

Few people were aware. Scratch that: No one was aware that Peter Crushing held a secret desire. So, equally, no one was aware that – during afternoon tea – whilst the museum’s red corridor was deserted – the ridiculously-hatted earplug crept furtively down it…

…until he had attained a position that placed him equidistant from each end – where he began to orate a self-penned libretto. This, in itself, would have caused no harm – even to those who heard it: but, sadly, his oration quickly morphed into a pseudo-melody, which could be termed – at a stretch – as opera singing. Or singing opera…

Unfortunately for Peter, the curator’s secret passage to the arboretum passed behind the stylish wall covering against which the dozy earplug chose to stand whilst delivering his lyrics…

“Cripes,” Cushions yelled – now having recovered from the state of indignation caused by Montagu’s unforgivable ogling of earlier, “that’s coming from the red corridor. It’s ghastly. Get on your radio, you android: and get someone to shut that noise off.”

Well, as luck would have it, the young recruits of TWIT were passing quite nearby when they heard Montagu’s request for help…

“Hmm,” Chickweed Gubbin said as Montagu’s voice faded from the public address speakers, “what do you think? We’re quite nearby.”

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about.” Jeremy Farton replied. “I think the guy has a great voice. It is a guy, isn’t it? Or did someone tread on a Plugmutt?”

Pixie Taylor – ever eager for something to do – said: “I’ll go. I’ll catch up with you guys at the Cafe Puke.”

So, thirty seconds later, Cushions’ wish came true…

“Flipping heck, Mister Crushing,” she yelled at the top of her voice, “I was hoping for a cup of coffee; but that noise has just curdled all the milk!”

Peter had always been aware that his voice lacked a certain something that other singers did, which is why he wasn’t overly hurt by Pixie’s outburst…

“But what about the lyrics?” He asked. “What did you think of them?”

To which Pixie replied: “They were tender and gorgeous. So full of adoration and selfless love. I would love someone to sing those words to me.”

“Oh.” Peter replied. “That’s good – because I wrote them for you.”

Pixie smiled sweetly. “For me?” She said coyly.

“Ever since I first clapped eyes on you,” Peter confessed, “I was smitten instantaneously. So I rushed off to the nearest lavatory and wrote these heart-felt words on a length of toilet tissue.”

“Oh, that’s lovely.” Pixie gushed. “I hope it wasn’t a used tissue. Forget what I said about the curdled milk: it was a complete lie. Let’s go get ourselves a huge coffee. What do you think?”

“I think – yeah.” Peter said enthusiastically. “A really big one – we can share – with chocolate dust on top and two plastic straws!”

Meanwhile, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger were responding to a summons by Vincenzo…

Well, when they arrived, Hair-Trigger was stunned:

“What?” She squealed with almost-disbelief. “You have a fully-functional time machine finished already? You mean it’s not just those four gently-glowing lights that actually work?”

“Darned right.” Vincenzo replied. “You wanna try it?”

“No, no, no.” Magnuss yelped in semi-panic. “Time travel is all to hell at the moment. For now this is a one-shot deal. We use it once; then you shut it down – until such time that the Time Techs in the future have figured out what’s wrong with the River of Time. Well done, Enzo: you’re a real genius.”

With that he and Hair-Trigger made their farewells…

“You call me when you need my Tubo Di Tempo.” Vincenzo said as they departed, “I might be having my dinner, or maybe wooing some pretty girl, huh?”

Much further ‘meanwhile’ – upon that cold, ruined world that contained the parallel development version of the Museum of Future Technology…

…Folie and Placebo were making their way along the main thoroughfare…

They should have been glad to be back in their own quantum reality; but the chill air confirmed their theory that the borrowed power from the Brian Talbot was almost depleted…

“Placebo,” Folie said as he scurried alongside the huge polystyrene blob, “I’ve tried several toilets since we’ve got back, but none of them work properly. The U bends are all frozen solid.”

“Really?” Placebo replied. “And you’re telling me this because…?”

“I really wanna go.” Folie answered. “I wanted to go in the other reality – there wasn’t much left after the city-ship took off. You did a thesis on public lavatories in college: where do you think a usable loo might be?”

Placebo thought for a moment – before replying with:

“Heat rises. Let’s try one of the mezzanines. I know – the one on which the Angel with a Huge Nose dumped the young Magnuss.”

It was a solid theory – so shortly…

“Can you do that slightly more quietly?” Placebo complained. “I hate grunting noises: they’re so uncivilised.”

This intrusion into Folie’s personal practises urged him to hurry up. Moments later he emerged to find Placebo staring across the concourse below with something akin to awe…

“Don’t you think this is so remarkable?” The larger of the two youngsters said. “I mean that two buildings, on such distant and disparate worlds, would be so utterly identical?”

“Yeah, I s’pose so.” Folie replied. “Do you think it infers divine design?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2020