Tag Archives: science fiction

Earplug Adventures Portrait: Stand Up And Be Counted!

This post first appeared in a now defunct blog.

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

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Approaching the Frontier

This post has appeared previously upon a defunct blog.

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

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Illicit Flight

This first appeared in a now defunct blog.

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

 

Earplug Adventures Wallpaper: Disappearing Act

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

From the fabulous 2022 story, Climatic Calamity

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

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 30)

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

Epilogue

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

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

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

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

He wasn’t wrong either…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, below on an average city street…

…Miles Earplug was deep in conversation with Mister Pong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubbles lowered her voice to a whisper;

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

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

Barclay decided to be bold…

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

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

“Not necessarily.” He replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that they were applauded out of the Star Chamber…

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

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

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

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

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the tension drained from his shoulders, Barclay said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 26)

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

Chapter 12

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

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

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

Barclay, unused to compliments replied:

“Well…you know…”

Bubbles did slightly better:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Shorter? Longer? About right?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 24)

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

Chapter 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and went scooting across the void to their destination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A split second later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 23)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Disappoint me?” A puzzled Barclay inquired.

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

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

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

The Goosewing Grey had let rip with the gravitonic multiplicitor…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was ignored.

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

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

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

“Sounds reasonable so far: continue.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 22)

Despite all those lovely SFX, Part 21 went down like a lead balloon. I’m rather hoping this one will do better. It’s also a bit SFX heavy, so I’m not hopeful. Obviously readers like the silly exchanges between characters more. I don’t blame them: those are more fun to write too! Anyway, read on…

Two hours later the Prowler and the Goosewing Grey departed Scroton…

Once free of Weird Space, the crew of the Goosewing Grey opened a hyperspace conduit…

…and, with the Prowler in hot pursuit, they plunged their vessel into it.

“Well that’s the tricky part sorted,” Barclay said as they watched the tail lights of the Goosewing Grey bob about in the unusually turbulent conduit. “Now all we need do is move the Veil of Shytar several billion kilometres – before the star explodes.” 

“Piece of cake.” Bubbles replied.

“Hardly a piece of cake.” Barclay scoffed. “More likely impossible.”

“No, a piece of cake.” Bubbles insisted. “I stole two slices of lemon drizzle from a buffet in the Hotel Guano. I knew we wouldn’t get a chance to eat. Fancy some?”

However, an hour or so into the flight Bubbles detected an anomaly…

“Do you feel buffeting?” She inquired of Barclay

Barclay had, but he assumed it was caused by Bubbles’ fidgeting as she tried to make her bottom comfortable upon the pilot’s chair / toilet. “Yes,” he replied, “are you saying it isn’t you?”

Bubbles first thought was, ‘How the heck could I cause the ship to shake? Even if I wiggled my bum from side to side and hopped up and down, I couldn’t create buffeting!’ Instead she moved on:

“Yes.” She answered Barclay’s question, “I am. Something outside is doing it.”

“But this is hyperspace.” Barclay argued. “There isn’t anything outside. Strictly speaking there isn’t anything at all. Hyperspace is the absence of space/time.”

“Okay,” Bubbles said, following a pause to think further, “something is making hyperspace shake – and that’s what’s buffeting the Prowler.

By now the buffeting had worsened. “I’m inclined to agree.” Barclay said as he checked for any signs of the hull rupturing or bolts undoing themselves. “And, look: the Goosewing Grey is having a hard time keeping an even keel!”

It was at that moment that the Scrotonic ship contacted them. Two Cable Ends appeared on the front viewer…

“This is Captain Bonzer Dragonsrectum.” Bonzer introduced himself. “Are you having difficulties?”

Bubbles confessed that they were and that she was beginning to feel decidedly ‘icky’.

“That’s what I thought,” Bonzer replied to this. “It appears that the hyperspace conduit is becoming unstable. If we don’t depart it before it collapses, we may never re-enter normal space. Thought you ought to know.”

“What’s causing it?” Barclay asked.

“It would take a massive upheaval in regular space to affect a conduit.” The green-eyed cable end beside Bonzer answered. “That’s why, as science officer aboard the Goosewing Grey, I’m loathe to drop back into normal space willy-nilly. I have no idea what we’ll find there.”

Bubbles checked the Prowler’s chronometer. “It won’t be long before we have to exit anyway.” She said. “We’re coming up on the location of the Veil of Shytar.”

“It’s just as well.” Bonzer replied. “I don’t think this conduit can hang together much longer. Prepare for emergence into normal space.”

A few seconds later the two ships burst from the conduit – just as it began to collapse…

“Yikes, that was close.” Barclay shouted over the noise of cheering cable ends that erupted from the communicator. “Now let’s see where we are.”

Well he didn’t have to look far…

…dead ahead the strange cosmic curtain hung like a…um…curtain against a backdrop of stars.

Aboard the Goosewing Grey, its commander and crew received their first sight of the Veil of Shytar…

“Hmmm,” the Science Officer reacted calmly, “I can see how it got its name: my sphincter is already puckering.”

“No time for fear and trepidation.” Bonzer responded to this minor confession. “You have the con: I’m going to check out the Gravitonic Multiplicitor…”

However, as he emerged from the bridge into the back room in which the Tankerville Norris had always housed its Gravitonic Multiplicitor…

…he remembered that the class of vessels had undergone a refit and that the wondrous device now lay hidden in the forward sensor array.

“Blast and bugger it.” He hissed. “If I go back in now, they’re all going to know that I forgot about the refit. I’m gonna look like a real prat. I know, I’ll just hang around out here for a while; then pretend that I’ve been down to the forward sensor array. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.”

A few minutes later, having quickly grown bored inside the near featureless room, Captain Bonzer Dragonsrectum returned to the bridge and sat himself down…

The Science Officer couldn’t resist passing comment. “That was quick.”

“I’m a fast worker.” Bonzer replied.

“But its two and a half minutes there and two and a half minutes back.” The argument proceeded. “You’ve only been three and a half minutes total.”

“I ran all the way there and all the way back. Like I said: I’m a fast worker.”

“Yet you’re not out of breath and you don’t perspire freely.”

“I keep myself lithe and super-fit. A dash to the sensor array and back is like a stroll in the park to someone like me.”

“Indeed? Then how is that you allowed yourself into the sensor array, yet I have the key to the hatch in my pocket?”

Bonzer spent several panic-stricken nanoseconds considering his response. “Rank hath its privileges.” He snapped. “Now shut up and scan the space anomaly: I wanna know how much bulk we gotta push.”

“Already done, Captain,” The Science Officer replied. “No data. The Veil of Shytar repels all scans – remember?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Well that episode included fabulous SFX with entertaining silly exchanges between characters: how could you not like that!

P.S As I expect you noticed, both interior and exterior shots of the Goosewing Grey were actually the bridge set and model of the Tankerville Norris. Continuity is very important: but not as important as saving me time and effort making new sets and models!

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 21)

Familiar ground for Earpluggers coming up…

Chapter 10

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

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

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

“Two birds with one stone.” Barclay replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To cheer Bubbles up, Barclay said:

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

Two minutes later and fifteen floors lower…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well?”

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

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

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

“Follow me.”

So they did…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When do we leave?” Barclay asked urgently.

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

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

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 20)

Prepare yourselves for a bit of character relationship development…

As the Major flickered out, and their vessel cleared the troublesome atmosphere, Barclay had sufficient time and presence of mind to notice something anomalous…

“Hey, Bubs; is it me, or is Worstworld looking a whole lot more blue since we arrived?”

Initially Bubbles thought that the increased ‘blueness’ was a result of Barclay’s over-eager imagination; but when she had placed a large distance between the Prowler and the retreating planet…

…she reconsidered the validity of her assumption.

“Oh flipping heck,” she said, “I think you’re right. You know what this means, don’t you?”

“Yeah, sure.” Barclay replied. “Um…what?”

“That the scientists have been a tad conservative with their estimate that the star will blow in six months. I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t gamble on it lasting more than six days!

“Lummy,” Barclay, almost lost for words, replied. “We’d better a get a move on then. Floor it, Bubbles!”

So Bubbles did…

…right into hyper-space.

Naturally, following their almost panic-stricken departure from Worstworld, it became necessary to drop out of hyperspace and adjust their trajectory. Whilst doing so, the Prowler’s defensive sensors initiated a crimson alert…

“Uh-oh, what can this be?” Barclay uttered as his eyes scanned his read-outs for a clue.

Bubbles did likewise, but she also turned her attention to the forward screen. 

“Cancel crimson alert.” She said. “It’s only a hyperspace pirate mothership.” 

“Only a hyperspace pirate mothership?” Barclay exclaimed. “I can’t think of anything worse. Quick, Bubbles, do your course-change calculation, and let’s get the heck out of here!”

Bubbles wasn’t convinced that the mothership was a real threat: after all, hadn’t the hyperspace pirate End Caps had their arses kicked by earplugs time and time again? Surely they wouldn’t dare take on something as mean and moody-looking as the Prowler. However she felt compelled to adjust her opinion when the mothership launched three attack craft in her direction…

“Crimson alert,” she yelled as Barclay hit the Real Fast button that fired their vessel to supra-light speed…

“Okay, so what do we do now?” She inquired of her navigator and most important earplug in her personal universe. “Can we out-run them?”

“Aint got a sodding clue.” Barclay replied as his eyes turned from the special female in the seat beside him to peruse their defensive capability. “What?” He yelled with frustration, “No rearward facing atomic cannon? What wally at Punting-Modesty omitted that most important feature?”

“There’s the trash disposal hatch.” Bubbles suggested. “That faces backwards. I believe it also includes the contents of the cockpit lavatory sewage tank.”

“We might smear their windshields,” Barclay said with a mirthless chuckle, “but I don’t see it slowing them down any.”

Bubbles was about to sigh and say: “Well it was just a thought,” when she noticed something on her console screen.

“Hey,” she screamed with excitement, “when you said to Lieutenant R Swypes that he should use every weapon at his disposal to fight the inevitable doom, he took you literally. Those engineers left their equipment behind. With no other space available, they stowed it in the trash disposal.”

Barclay tried to make sense of what Bubbles was telling him. “I…I don’t see what you’re getting at.” He said.

“Like their redundant machine guns in the Major’s office,” Bubbles explained, “they included stuff for which they have no use – but we might. In this case it’s a whole bunch of sea mines. Barclay, they’re sitting in the trash disposal compartment – just waiting to be thrown out the back!”

Barclay didn’t bother responding verbally: he leaned over and kissed Bubbles, before hitting the trash disposal button on his console…

The pursuing hyper-space pirates either didn’t notice, or didn’t care: they just kept on coming…

Inside the Prowler, Bubbles and Barclay closed their eyes and prayed to the Saint of All Earplugs, the Supreme Being, former Father Superior at Lemon Stone monastery – Frank Tonsils, and Magnuss Earplug and his lovely former bounty-hunter wife, Hair-Trigger…

Their torture didn’t last long. Moments after releasing the mines, the first of the attack craft made a head-on collision with one. A chain reaction followed, which resulted in this…

…the utter destruction of the marauding flotilla, which left its constituent atoms spread across light-years of interstellar space.

Elation and relief filled the air of the Prowler’s cockpit…

“We did it!” Barclay yelled as he looked upwards, as though to a higher realm of existence.

“You kissed me!” Bubbles exclaimed.

“Yes I did, didn’t I?” Barclay replied. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind?” the incredulous female responded. “Of course I don’t mind. I will ‘mind’ of you don’t do it again though – repeatedly.”

So, as the Prowler re-entered hyper-space for the remainder of its journey…

…Barclay did what any self-respecting male earplug would do: he did his utmost to keep his favourite female earplug happy.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There; it had to happen. How could it not?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 19)

With other duties calling me away from both my camera and my laptop, I’m finding it  difficult to keep ahead of these posts. I hope I don’t run out of story before the final episode. The good thing is – because of it – I don ‘t get to watch much TV in the evening. Need the quieter hours to catch up on my Earplug Adventures. Speaking of which – here’s episode 19. Experience its uniqueness… 

Lance was as good as his word, and neither earplug needed to wait for long as they carelessly studied the functional military décor…

“Look, Barclay,” Bubbles said as she looked out through a smeared and sand-blasted window, “Fort Dunderhead is painted green. I would never have guessed. Isn’t it nice? I like the dappled effect. I wonder if they use a splatter gun, or the bristly end of a brush.”

However Barclay, disinterested in home improvements, was paying only scant attention to Bubbles’ words: he was too busy wondering where they kept the nearest lavatory.

“Pink.” He replied. “Pink lavatory paper. I really don’t mind: I’ll use anything.”

Meanwhile Major Leftfoot-Badger had taken himself to the Officers’ Mess, where he partook of a huge alcoholic beverage…

“Here’s to our terrestrial allies.” He said whilst toasting to an empty room that looked out upon a sandy wasteland. “May the Saint of All Earplugs bless them and keep them free from harm. They really are lovely little guys. Well Barclay is: Bubbles is just plain drop-dead gorgeous.”

Shortly after this outburst of drunken eloquence, Lance Ottershoe led two mini-armoured personnel carriers, burdened down with engineers inside their surprisingly cavernous bellies, across the aforementioned sandy wasteland…

Driving them was none other than Bubbles and Barclay.

“Don’t drive too quickly, Lance.” Bubbles called over the gentle whine of the gas turbine engines, “Barclay possesses the driving skills of an iceberg.”

This was true, but as the distance from Fort Dunderhead increased…

…so Barclay’s confidence at the steering sticks did likewise.

“Hey, slow-coaches,” he yelled from the rear of the short column, “I’d like to get out of first gear, thank you.”

Moreover, as they began the descent into the subterranean cavern, the former university graduate had pretty much decided that a career change was imminent. When they finally returned to Earth he planned to quit his job and become a tank driver.

Shortly after making this ill-considered decision, the three vehicles made their final approach to the grounded Prowler

The repairs and upgrades required for the Prowler to fly properly in the dangerously energised atmosphere of Worstworld took many hours, buckets of sweat, and a multitude of components to replace those of Earth origin that had been well and truly fried on the way in. Moreover Barclay’s ardour with the idea of controlling powerful machines cooled and he thought twice about giving up his cosy job at Punting-Modesty. And any ideas he might have had concerning having a go at flying the Prowler simply evaporated. So, as they waved goodbye to Lance and the departing Cavalry-plugs…

…he handed the ignition key to Bubbles.

“There you go, Captain.” He said. “In you I place my trust.”

So, a couple of minutes later, the motor fired up…

As the fuelling cleared and the motor ran sweetly, the two occupants looked at each other…

“Ready, partner?” Bubbles asked.

“For anything.” Barclay replied. “The ship is yours: take it up.”

Moments later the Prowler was blasting upwards across the sandy wastelands…

Immediately Major Leftfoot-Badger appeared in their front viewer…

“Sorry to butt in on you folks,” he said, “but, just for the record, where are you actually going?”

“Somewhere far away.” Bubbles said cryptically.

“To the only place we can think of that might have what we need.” Barclay added.

“And if that doesn’t pan out,” Bubbles continued, “well we’ll just have to think of something else. Prowler, out.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I’m sure any of you seasoned Earpluggers will have guessed where Bubbles and Barclay are headed. If not, you won’t have long to wait.

P.S Anyone notice the continuity gaff in this episode. Check out the drunken Major, then compare him to the guy on the Prowler’s viewscreen. Oops, wrong cavalryplug.

P.P.S Reference the drunken Major shot again. Notice the wall chart behind the character? It comprises individual photos of the mechanised cavalry’s machines. I knew I wouldn’t get to use the pictures in the story – and I didn’t want to waste them entirely – so I placed them upon the Officer’s Mess wall. Details, details…

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 9

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

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

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

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

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

…and looked at each other.

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

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

Recovering, she spoke her intended words:

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

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

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

Bubbles was thrilled by what she heard her subordinate say.

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

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

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

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

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

“Whadda ya want?” Swypes added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bubbles, caught slightly off-guard, responded thus:

“Ugh, yeah…whatever. Let’s get down!”

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…which was long in the extreme and circumbendibus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Less blue.” Barclay suggested.

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

Then Bubbles received her second surprise…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, right on.” He said unenthusiastically.

Moments later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lieutenant R Swypes then astonished the two visitors by adding:

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

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

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

Bubbles hardly dared ask the obvious question:

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 16)

In Episode 15 we saw (what might have been) the Veil of Shytar. But we can’t be certain – it might be just an insect curtain. Ooh, that rhymes. So, carry on with the tale; you never know where it is going to take you…

A day later the Prowler arrived at its originally intended destination…

“There you go.” Bubbles – now cheered up by the thought that their distant encounter with the space anomaly was just that: distant. “In all its blue-giant reflected glory: Worstworld.”

“I forgot to ask,” Barclay said as he peered at the unhealthy-looking planet below, “what was it about Worstworld that made you want to come here first, before any other world – known or unknown?”

“It’s unique.” Bubbles replied. “The surface is uninhabitable. Its star is irradiating the planet with deadly rays. The star itself is bound to go nova – and destroy this world completely. And the population now live underground. What’s not to like? And who knows, this time next week, it might not be here!”

“That’s all well and good,” Barclay argued, “but have you considered the possibility that the star might go nova while we’re here?”

“Mathematical improbability.” Bubbles replied as she slammed the Prowler into the planet’s atmosphere. But her confidence waned suddenly when she discovered that the star’s radiation played merry-hell with her controls…

“Aargh,” she cried out above the din of the air as it hammered upon the vessel’s hull, “we’re running out of altitude!”

“Quick, quick,” Barclay yelled, “head for one of those huge holes in the planetary crust: they might be really deep!”

Seconds after plunging into the nearest chasm, all sound and motion ceased…

“Ah, what just happened?” Barclay asked, though he expected no answer that would make any sense.

Bubbles chanced a glance through her side window. “I think we just landed.” She answered…

“More by luck than judgement.”

All Barclay could think of to say in reply was:

“Thank the Saint of All Earplugs for that.”

Chapter 8

Neither Bubbles nor Barclay were in a rush to disembark. Outside the ship looked too dark and foreboding for either of them. Eventually, though, they came to realise that no one had witnessed their descent from space, therefore no one knew they were there. So, being sensible university graduate types they finally stepped from the sanctuary of the Prowler and set foot upon the surface of the doomed planet known as Worstworld…

“It smells funny.” Barclay observed.

“And this sand is very gritty.” Bubbles complained. “If it gets inside our space boots, we’ll suffer horribly. But whatever, the Prowler is clearly allergic to something in this planet’s atmosphere, so we can’t hang around: let’s go find someone.”

However, as they began (what they assumed was) their ascent towards the surface through which they had plunged, Bubbles made an astonishing discovery…

“Barclay,” she squealed, “look, it’s a whole town!”

Barclay joined Bubbles, and together they stared in wonderment at a wide street that led to a small plaza…

“This must be one of the cities that the population moved into when the blue-giant star started going bonkers.” Barclay said at the vista.

“But where is everyone?” Bubbles said with a tremulous voice. “Do you think they might all be dead? Are we too late? Has the end of the world arrived before we get a chance to gawp in awe?”

“Dunno,” Barclay replied, “let’s get a close-up.”

So they did – by entering the town…

“Do you think this might be Busted Gut?” Bubbles more suggested than inquired.

Barclay did inquire: “Busted Gut?”

“The town of which Captain Sinclair Brooch – of the star ship K T Woo – was the sheriff, before becoming a captain, that is.” Bubbles explained.

“Wasn’t that a surface town?” Barclay argued. “Sheriff Brooch never lived underground. He went searching underground once I recall reading in his memoirs: but he never lived there. He’d left long before things got as bad as they are now. No, I reckon this was one of the first subterranean towns, but they had to move out when the radiation started leaking through. Look how blue the light is: it’s coming through all the holes in the crust.”

“And it’s very sandy too.” Bubbles noted. “I bet it blew in under the doors. I expect they were always sweeping it back out. That alone would have sent me deeper underground. I hate sand – especially when it gets into the gusset of my swimming costume.”

Clearly there was nothing worthwhile to learn in the ghost gown, so they continued their ascent…

…which was dull and arduous. However, when they finally reached level ground, they wished they’d never bothered. Hills and an undulating landscape stretched out before them…

…for such a vast distance that their hearts sank at the thought of traversing it.

“What a bummer.” Barclay said as his gaze surveyed the seemingly endless lands that reached for infinity. “Oh yeah, and the radiation is much worst out here: we’d better put on our silly hats: they’re not atom proof, but they’re probably better than nothing at all.”

So they did…

…and Barclay couldn’t help smiling at Bubbles: she looked daft, but kind of cute.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Significant shots in this episode are Number Two, which is the picture that inspired the story.  Number Three is the remains of an old grave that had succumbed to nature and had partially collapsed, creating  mini sink holes. And Number Eleven, which was originally a photo of a gentle wave destroying a child’s sandcastle on a Costa Blanca beach, Spain. Like I always say: inspiration can be found anywhere.

P.P.S I believe in using stock footage whenever possible; it saves a lot of time. The shots of the abandoned town originally appeared as the thriving mountain top kingdom of Ka-Ki-Pu, in Worstworld Vol 1 & 2.

You can find both of these volumes (utterly free and in PDF format) by clicking HERE.

They are early stories in the Earplug Adventure saga: don’t expect too much in the SFX department.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 15)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think we should get closer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cockpit rang like a bell…

“What the heck?” Barclay managed.

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

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

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

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

Barclay gave Bubbles a look that said:

“That was dumb: don’t do it again.”

But his mouth said:

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 14)

Neat SFX coming up…

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

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

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

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

“I do.”

“Oh good.”

A heartbeat later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 7

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

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

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

Moments later this happened…

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 13)

Part 12 was a tad brief, so I’m making up for that deficiency by including more than average in Part 13. Enjoy…

So, without further ado, they hit the ‘Go’ button…

And all of the Punting-Modesty employees who could be bothered to attend the unveiling of the Prowler watched agog as their handiwork screeched past the viewing area with a tail of dark smoke erupting from its exhaust pipe…

Within a couple of seconds the Prowler’s velocity had taken it clean away from the citadel…

Those with excellent vision noted that the slight fueling problem at lift-off had cleared itself, and now a white haze followed the ship wherever it went. And it went straight out over the mountains, the ridged hills of the mountain pea farming region…

…and above the crowded streets and towers of Ciudad de Droxford…

“Cripes, Bubbles,” A doubtful Barclay said to his favourite pilot, “do you really think Sir Loftus Pupe meant us to go this far? I had the distinct feeling that we were to take it up, fly it around a bit, and land again.”

The same thought had occurred to Bubbles. “Yes.” She replied. She then explained her solitary syllable: “When we take the ship back, they’ll hand it over to professional test pilots. We’re window dressing.”

Bubbles paused for a moment to make a course correction that would carry the Prowler over a popular holiday resort located in a fiord in which her mother, Millicent Gloor, lived with her boyfriend, Wagontrain McCallister…

Although the Prowler flew far too high for its occupants to discern individuals amongst the throng of earplugs who rushed from the ski and winter sports lodge, Bubbles was certain that Millicent was waving like a looney, and that the gruff, burly, moustachioed Wagontrain graced them with a careless glance.

From there Bubbles allowed the ship to climb gently to an altitude that gave Barclay a pleasant view of the cloud tops…

“This is nice.” He remarked cheerfully. “It’s like sitting on a really high balcony.  Gosh, this ship is so stable you’d think we were looking out of a window from a tower block in La Ciudad de Droxford – except much higher, of course. Or maybe on a foggy day. Well a foggy day at street level, but clear on the upper floors, that is. Shall I shut up now?”

“Please.” Bubbles replied gently.

“I think I’m getting over-excited.” Barclay said by way of excuse.

“Probably.” Bubbles agreed. “Now brace yourself: I’m about to give this bird some juice.”

Barclay was about to say: “But that doesn’t make sense. It’s not even mixing metaphors.” When this happened…

…and instead he yelled: “Gurrrrgh!”

For the young male earplug the war upon gravity seemed to last an eon: but only seconds had passed before the Prowler (not only escaped Earth’s atmosphere, but) put a vast distance between itself and its planet of origin…

“You okay?” Bubbles inquired.

“I think so.” Barclay answered slowly. “I think I might have left my bowels back there a bit. Um, can you give me a more precise warning next time? I got a bit confused. I’m still a bit confused. I feel like a quarterback who’s been levelled by the entire defensive line. Are we coasting? I don’t hear anything. Or have I gone deaf? It could be concussion.”

Bubbles cut Barclay off by saying:

“Would you care to test the atomic cannons?”

“Oh,” Barclay replied, “I don’t mind if I do.”

A split second later interstellar hydrogen atoms and star dust exploded energetically beneath the assault of the Prowler’s principal armament…

“Right, they appear to work correctly.” Bubbles responded to the vast firework show. “Shall we stretch our legs for a moment in the lounge? The windows give such a lovely view of the universe.”

So they did…

Barclay stood back a little, whilst Bubbles stared in wonderment at the view of eternity. He watched her face, bathed as it was by starlight, and smiled. He’d never really considered his good fortune to have found a job working with Bubbles Gloor. Now he did, and he counted his blessings.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, a pair of like-minded mavericks, eh? Let loose with an advanced space ship, hmmm? Who knows what good they might do?

P.S Did you like the ‘fiord’ shot? It’s actually a fallen tree, the bark of which had captured rain water to form a small pool. I take pictures of many things: I never know what I might do with them.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 12)

Part 12 follows Part 11. If you haven’t read that one yet – or previous episodes – please do so: it will make so much more sense.

Chapter 6

Well, after such a spectacular demonstration of Bubbles’ innate piloting skills, Pansy soon had both BINS operatives  seated in replicas of the pilot seats that had been designed for the (yet unnamed) Punting-Modesty / alien life-boat hybrid vessel that remained under secretive construction in a high-security hangar somewhere nearby…

“Right,” she yelled, “I’m gonna show you a video about flying the real thing. You copy the actions of the on-screen animated teacher, with these controls, and we’ll see how you get on. Okay?”

Bubbles smiled broadly in response to this. Barclay, on the other hand, felt several degrees less confident. “Is it okay if I do the pseudo-navigating?” He asked. “I’m really quite good at that. Well average anyway.”

So, as a new day dawned over the Museum of Future Technology…

…it would be merely a matter of time before that same dawn made itself apparent to those who lived at a higher altitude in Lemon Stone…

This coincided with the completion of Bubbles’ and Barclay’s flight education. By midday Pansy escorted them from the Punting-Modesty employee residence building…

…where a set of stairs led into the finished vessel…

“Whoo,” Barclay was heard to utter upon entering the hull of the vessel that Pansy had told them was named the Prowler, “satin black: very cool. Do we get to wear sunglasses when we fly this baby?”

He was even more impressed with the décor when he and Bubbles entered the Rest and Relaxation Lounge that lay directly behind the pilot’s cockpit – though he wasn’t quite so chuffed about the brightly coloured safety helmets they were obliged to wear…

“Ah, I get it.” He said as he regarded the view of outside, “these are the four windows we saw running along the top deck of the one-tenth scale model of the ship. Neat.”

Bubbles was equally impressed; but what really got her excited was the thought of clambering into the pilot’s seat – which is exactly what she did shortly after Barclay paused for breath…

It was at this moment that the significance of their previous actions that had led to this point in time and space struck them both.

“Oh crumbs, Barclay,” Bubbles said in a tiny voice. “Was simply keeping our jobs at Punting-Modesty really worth this?”

“What, like risking our lives test-flying an unproven space ship, you mean?” Barclay replied.

Bubbles confirmed his hypothesis with a, “Hmmm.”

“Well,” Barclay responded, “all I can say is: what else would we be doing? I mean – what could possibly top this in our otherwise rather dull existence?”

Bubbles looked at her colleague. “Do you really mean that?” She asked.

Barclay shrugged his shoulders. “Up until the moment I said the words,” he said, “probably not. But when I heard what my mouth was saying, I realised it was utterly true. What else would we be doing?”

“I don’t even want to think about it.” Bubbles replied as she ran her eyes across the read-outs in her pilot’s chair. “Barclay, we’ve been blessed. Let’s not let anyone spoil our chances: let’s do this thing. Let’s do this thing now. No dragging it out. No prevarication. Let’s take this ship where it belongs.”

“Up?” Barclay queried.

“Up.” Bubbles replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Another tea dust art shot was included here: did you spot it? Actually this brief episode included a heck of a lot of special photographic effects. Almost nothing you see is real. I’m rather pleased with myself on these. It’s usually the effects that take the most time to create. I’m sometimes tempted to go back to the early stories and shoot them again. But I don’t have enough years left to do that, so I think we’ll just leave them be.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 10)

Although I have returned to doing ‘other stuff’, this episode was already complete. Enjoy it at your leisure – safe in the knowledge that episode 11 exists too and will appear shortly.

Chapter 5

A short while after the daring duo’s foiled escape attempt – that being hours, not days – a number of engineering staff gathered in one of the hangars to watch Pansy Pottager introduce the barely-willing recruits to the idea of driving a hover chariot…

“You’ve driven one before, I presume?” She said.

It was not a presumption based upon logic. For whatever reason the tall red earplug had not asked herself why two young university graduates in their first jobs would have ever needed to drive a hover chariot. The University of Ciudad de Droxford had no requirement for a Search and Rescue team. The worst that could happen there was if someone twisted their knee playing badminton.

Being male, Barclay admitted nothing. He simply said:

“Here, give me the keys: I’ll give it a go. I’m like my dad: I was born to drive.”

But when his first action was to swing the nose of the chariot around so that it impacted with the hangar wall…

…Pansy snatched back the keys and handed them to Bubbles. Fortunately for everyone concerned, Bubbles truly was like Barclay’s dad. She found she had a natural talent for it…

…which pleased Pansy immeasurably. “Wonderful,” she called above the whine of the lifting jets, “you’ve passed the first manual dexterity test. Now go for a ride. Get the feel of controlling a huge machine like this.”

So she did. With Barclay as her navigator, Bubbles drove the vehicle down the mountain and on to the dusty plain…

“Just make sure you don’t mow down Don Quibonki,” Barclay said over Bubbles’ shoulder. “He lives around here, somewhere. I’m still hoping to get my deposit back on his Stone Tower B&B.”

In fact Bubbles enjoyed driving the chariot so much, they both took it out again the following night…

“I’m going to take this as an omen.” Barclay said as Bubbles drove through a steep-sided canyon. “If you’re as good a pilot as you are a chariot driver – well I think we needn’t worry too much about the vessel they’re making in the secret facility: you can ace any machine they throw at you.”

This was a vote of confidence for Bubbles. She’d had a similar thought; but to hear someone else voice it made her feel warm inside. “Thank you, Barclay.” she replied, “now I can’t wait to see what’s on offer next.”

Two days later she found out…

“It’s a Sky Scooter.” Pansy informed the duo. “You’ve probably seen video footage of one in action on Mars and Ice Station Nobby.”

Of course they hadn’t. “Sky Scooter.” Barclay said as he scrutinised the vehicle casually. “The name implies flight?”

“Indeed,” Pansy replied with a smile, “care to give it a go?”

“Don’t mind if I do.” The male earplug replied as he and Bubbles leapt aboard.

Moments later everyone  wished he deferred to Bubbles. The machine lurched around – threatening to fell the watching engineers like ten pins.

“I have the scooter, Barclay.” Bubbles said calmly as she grasped the duplicate controls.

Having done so, she eased them back and increased the thrust – virtually standing the scooter on its tail…

“I say, bravo.” The engineers called out in unison.

Moments later the sky scooter was headed for the hangar roof…

“Okay,” Barclay said, as the roof slid open at their approach, “why am I not surprised? I’ll point the way: you fly us there. But no aerobatics.”

Soon, having found a pair of silly hats in the panniers and placing them upon their heads, the scooter was putt-putting its way past the monastery…

Then Bubbles had the idea of livening up the monk’s evening…

…by ‘buzzing’ the unfortunate pink earplugs at zero feet.

“Eat my smoke.” Barclay called out to them.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 9)

Today I broke off from doing other ‘stuff’ because the rain became too torrential to continue. So guess what – I clambered into the attic studio and shot some more scenes. The Veil of Shytar is back on-track! Here’s something I prepared earlier…

So after passing through a pedestrian door from the laboratory into another place entirely…

…Bubbles and Barclay were presented with a representation of the fruits of their industrial espionage.

“Whadda ya think?” Pansy demanded.

Bubbles wasn’t sure how to respond. “Err, very dark and foreboding.” She managed.

“Great.” Pansy snarled. “And you, Mister Scrimmage?”

Barclay also struggled. “Before I can really form an opinion,” he replied, “I’d like to see the real thing  first.”

“Good answer.” Pansy said as her half-smile fell. “I think that can be arranged. In fact it’s an absolute certainty.”

As they turned to depart the ‘hangar’, Barclay felt certain that he and Bubbles were about to receive information that neither of them had expected or particularly wanted to hear…

Giving both a sidelong glance, Pansy dropped a bomb in their collective lap:

“The ship needs two pilots.” She said clearly and concisely. “Miss Gloor: Mister Scrimmage: You are to be those pilots.”

Neither earplug had seen any point in arguing with this revelation. As good Punting-Modesty employees they responded with good grace. In retrospect it had been inevitable. If the ship proved too dangerous, who better to die fighting the controls than the two people who had brought the plans to the company? It was all perfectly logical. So, while the construction of the full-size vessel got underway, its two pilots spent their time sitting around on solariums in the Lemon Stone sunshine, chatting, drinking coffee, and enjoying impromptu farting contests…

Moreover, because it would take time to create the prototype of a re-imagined (and altogether more defensively useful) alien life-boat, the cheerful two-some were despatched to faraway places – like these old ruins on what remained of Mutant Island – to enjoy themselves and learn a few things about surviving in a hostile environment without the support of civilisation…

As their transport lifted off and swept away into an azure sky, Bubbled squealed, “This is just sooo exciting!”

“Yeah,” an unusually up-beat Barclay replied. “And if you wet your knickers with excitement, no one will care.”

“That’s right.” Bubbles replied, “I can wash them in the pounding surf and leave them to dry in the sun on that old stone wall behind us.”

They also learnt the strange art of mountaineering…

…though the exertion did turn Bubbles’ face an unsightly red. And Barclay maintained a respectable distance to avoid seeing up his supervisor’s skirt. 

So, whilst life in the Museum of Future Technology’s many Café Puke outlets carried on as usual…

…and a huge UFO made a threatening appearance from the dark side of the Moon…

…that was shot down by Valentine Earplug, in his Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher, which then crashed, deafeningly in a lake near the coast of southern Greenland…

…and drew huge crowds of fisher-folk to watch the three hapless alien invaders shiver in the icy waters – winter arrived in the mountaintop citadel…

…so Bubbles and Barclay soon learned survival techniques that might save their lives, should they crash land upon an icebound world…

“Right about now,” Barclay groaned as he followed Bubbles’ leaden footsteps through the snow, “the idea of becoming a Barista is gaining traction – unlike my snow shoes.”

However worse was to come. Having recovered from their mountain trek, the former BINS operatives were subjected to hypno-scary stuff that was intended to find if they ‘had the right stuff’. Or, to put it another way: to ascertain whether they were psychologically and physically capable of controlling their vessel during periods of high stress and violent trauma…

Barclay couldn’t speak, so he tried to send a telepathic message to his supervisor and co-victim:

“Bubbles, have you still got that application form for Café Puke?”

Of course Bubbles sensed nothing from her partner, so she failed to respond. But she didn’t argue with him when, during a brief lull in the wintery weather, he suggested they try to escape by climbing over the chain link fence that surrounded the Punting- Modesty facility…

Unfortunately the fence was entirely illusory. When Barclay attempted to climb it, the image faded – to be replaced by an impregnable force field.

“Oh well,” he said philosophically, “we would probably have fallen to our deaths anyway.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

 

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 8)

And so to Part 8. This appears at a time when its creator has been very busy doing lots of ‘stuff’ that takes up an inordinate amount of his time. Production of The Veil of Shytar has dwindled quite alarmingly. Actually it’s stopped completely. Fortunately he had the wisdom and forsight to get a few episodes completed previously; so no one need poop their pants with trepidation that the tale will stagger to a halt. Enjoy…

What remained of the night was short. It wasn’t long before the artificial sun rose upon the arboretum once more…

“If that computer tells anyone about our data theft,” Barclay said with self-satisfaction, “they’ll never think of looking for the culprits here.”

“That’s right.” Bubbles replied. “I mean, who would be stupid enough to spend the night in the arboretum?”

“Yes,” Barclay said slowly, “it was bloody cold, wasn’t it? I had no idea that the artificial sun actually behaves like the real one. My bum nearly froze itself solid to that rock.”

“I was okay.” Bubbles replied. “I had my frilly knickers to keep me warm. It was the noises of all the wild animals that caused me the most concern.”

“Wild animals?” Barclay responded to this. “That wasn’t wild animals: that was my guts. I told you my tummy rumbles when I’m hungry. Oh how I curse that Café Puke manager for closing before we could purchase a cheese sandwich or two!”

“Well there’s no time like the present.” Bubbles said as she allowed her eyes to roam the huge arboretum at the museum’s centre. “We’d better get going – if only to find some breakfast.”

Quite a lot of time later…

…the exhausted data thieves dragged themselves up the final slope that led from the arboretum on to the Wide Blue Yonder and thence to the Woven Expanse.

“Not far to go now.” Bubbles said around a desiccated tongue and cracked lips. “Only about a million miles.”

Chapter 4

It was almost a week later that the barely-recovered duo found themselves approaching the Star Chamber for only the second time in their short lives…

“No need to show them your knickers, Bubbles,” Barclay spoke quietly, “this time we’ve got the upper hand. We have what they want. We’re home and dry.”

And, indeed this appeared to be the case. Although the Chamber Pots continued to act with a superior attitude, whilst remaining beneath intimidating ultra-violet lighting…

…the ambience of the place seemed subtly different. For a start Sir Loftus referred to them, not as Gloor and Scrimmage, but as Bubbles and Barclay.

After greeting them (almost warmly); then hearing their tale, he said:

“Jolly good: give me the bloody SD card then: the sooner it’s out of your knickers and in my back pocket, the happier I’ll be.”

A short while later, following the dismissal of Bubbles and Barclay, the Chamber Pots stood quietly and regarded a stale Café Puke croissant that Bubbles had pulled from her knickers and deposited in the centre of the Star Chamber…

“Smart girl, that Bubbles Gloor,” Sir Loftus said through a wide smile that perfectly matched his gleeful eyes, “who would have thought of finding something so important and virtually priceless inside a mouldy croissant down the back of an egg-heads drawers?”

“Not me.” Dick Jason replied. “And no bandit that I can think of either.”

“So our worries are over?” Jasmine Greentea inquired.

“Damned right.” Biggun Browne replied. “The bank manager wouldn’t dare call in our loan now. The Punting-Modesty Munitions Company is on the rise again!”

Seconds later the Star Chamber emptied…

…it’s former occupants were already half-way to the laboratory in which they planned to transcribe the data on the stolen SD card and begin work on reverse engineering the resultant blueprints.

Meanwhile, far away in the Museum of Future Technology, Mary-Sue Wassack was in the act of cleaning up after a busy day in the Café Puke…

The dull lighting and the sight of a half-empty glass of Croaky Cortado brought forth the memory of her ill-judged assistance of Bubbles and Barclay.

“Oh dear,” she said to an empty café, “I wonder if I should have told someone about those out-of-towners.” She sighed, before adding, “Whatever, the museum’s still here and the world hasn’t blown up – so I suppose it’s all turned out for the best.”

Several weeks were allowed to pass before Bubbles and Barclay received a summons to attend the Punting-Modesty Research and Development Department…

Naturally Bubbles said, “Oh, wow, look at this Barclay. Look at all this tech. Which bit do you think we gave them?”

Barclay couldn’t even hazard a guess. “Yeah,” He said – rather stupidly, or so thought the disgruntled scientist who was using the nearby lab toilet.

A moment later, their laboratory guide, Pansy Pottager, introduced herself then displayed the Punting-Modesty equivalent of the alien life-boat’s power source…

“We haven’t ironed out all the wrinkles yet,” Pansy informed them, “but it sure glows a nice red.”

Then she took them to see the pilot’s seats, where the seat designer – Pete Thorpe – explained that the alien life-boat hadn’t come fitted with pilot positions, so he had needed to create them from scratch…

“Nice shade of blue.” Bubbles responded. “A bit like my hair.”

“Would you like to try them on for size?” Pete invited.

“Why?” Barclay inquired.

“Oh, no particular reason.” Pete replied. “It’s just that – aah – no one’s ever sat in them before. I’d like to see if they’re nice and comfy.”

With nothing better to do, the two BINS operatives complied with the request…

“Yes, very nice.” Bubbles congratulated the seat’s designer. “All the controls fall easily to hand. The seat is soft but supportive.”

“How long do you think you could stay in that seat, would you guess?” Pansy wanted to know.

Bubbles required clarification. “What, without getting up for a wee, you mean?”

“You wouldn’t need to get out for a wee.” Pete said proudly. “The seat has a built-in lavatory. Of course the pilot wouldn’t be able to wear any pants; but I don’t suppose that really matters.”

“How long?” Pansy pressed. “An hour? Two? A day? To Mars and back?”

Barclay was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Not with the seat, but with the direction Pansy’s questions were leading. Just to shut her up, he said:

“The last one. They are very nice indeed. And who needs underpants anyway – they only need washing!”

This seemed to satisfy Pansy, so she led them to a pair of white objects that seemed vaguely familiar…

“These are atomic cannons.” She informed her guests. “Have you ever fired atomic cannons?”

Bubbles and Barclay confessed that neither of them had ever fired atomic cannons.

“Not a problem.” Pansy responded. “It’s as easy as riding a bicycle.”

Then, with an abrupt change of subject and demeanour…

…she said:

“Hey, would you like to see a one-tenth scale mock-up of our version of the alien life-boat?”

Bubbles considered this. It would seem remiss of them not to take a look at the machine that had saved their professional lives. “I’d love to.” She said.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now if I was charging a fee for these episodes, part 8 would be very good value for money. Wasn’t it long! I wonder if size really does matter – resulting in this episode  hooking some new readers. That would be nice.  Hello new readers; was that enjoyable?

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 7)

I told you Part 6 would be better – and I was right. You can trust Tooty. So check out Part 7…

Neither dared whisper, lest the Security Suite detect their presence. Instead they used semaphore. Unfortunately neither earplug was well versed in the signalling language. As a result tension levels between them were ascending at a worrying rate. So it was most fortuitous that their blind ramble along a multitude of corridors came to an end with the discovery of the Red Tower’s subterranean roller skate park…

…in which they had to hide from a patrolling RoboSecGua.

As Barclay peered around a futuristic concrete roof support, Bubbles whispered, “I can’t stand to look: tell me when it’s gone.”

Fortunately for their enterprise, the RoboSecGua failed to detect either their whispered exchange or their pea-like out-of-town aroma. So,  giving the robotic life-form a few minutes to place some distance between itself and the earplugs it didn’t know it was looking for, the aforementioned earplugs stole away to a service elevator and pressed the Up button – the result of which culminated with their arrival at the penthouse level…

 

“Ooh, blimey,” Bubbles said breathlessly as she took in the view from the highest point in the museum – nearly two kilometres high, “I don’t think I’ve ever been this high. Do you think we might suffer hypoxia?”

Of course Barclay wasn’t listening: he was too busy conducting a search. Eventually his search led the Punting-Modesty employees to a room, upon which the word ‘RECORDS’ had been stencilled inexpertly…

“Ah, this looks promising.” Barclay said as his eyes surveyed the room. “Records include blueprints, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Not if they’re disco records.” Bubbles argued. “I wonder if they have ‘Everybody Wear Your Disco Hump’ by Hambledon Bohannon?” 

“No twin-deck turntables or glitter balls.” Barclay replied. “We’re in luck. Now start looking for anything that looks kind of alien life-boaty.”

So they did. They even tried switching on an old-fashioned data retrieval device…

But it did nothing more than clank somewhere deep inside, before disconnecting itself from the power supply.

“There must be some dusty old shelves, full of stuff from all over and from the future.” Barclay said to this. “Keep looking.”

But not only were the dusty shelves free of dust: they were empty too…

“This coffee machine doesn’t work either.” Bubbles complained. “I bet it hasn’t been serviced in years. I think it’s in hibernation mode.”

Once again Barclay was in no mood to listen to Bubbles’ wittering, so missed her next words, which were, “Oh look, Barclay; a super futuristic computer!”

But when she screamed, “the front is coming down,” he allowed his lazy eye to swivel in her direction…

In an instant the ramifications of Bubbles’ outburst became clear to the orange earplug. A mere nanosecond elapsed before he joined her at the fabulous device…

The front had indeed come down – to reveal a solitary green button.

“It must be the ‘On’ button,” Bubbles reasoned. “I’m gonna press it.”

Moments after this rash act Bubbles assertion was proven to be correct. The super futuristic computer had activated…

“State the name of the blueprint you require.” It said in a sharp, strident monotone.

Neither earplug could believe their luck. “Alien life-boat.” They said as one.

“Retrieving.” The computer responded. “Complete. Please take the relevant SD card from the slot. Do you have a further request?”

“Ah, no – thank you.” Bubbles said as she slipped the SD card that protruded from the device and buried it deep within a secret, well-hidden pocket in her frilly knickers. “You can switch off now, thank you. Bye.”

A while later, having escaped from the Red Tower without being detected, Barclay led Bubbles, whose face had turned red with the exertion of their flight from the records room, towards the nearest Café Puke for a celebratory cup of crappachino and a cheese sandwich… 

But when they noted that the branch manager was in the act of locking up for the night, they elected to take themselves far away from the scene of the crime and await the morning.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 6)

Following on from Part 5, in which sod all really happened, Part 6 takes us forward – if only a little bit. Read on…

Naturally, by the time the coffees had stopped whooshing and gurgling, the illumination had dipped to eclipse levels…

Mary-Sue would have said, “Here ya go; get that down ya.” But she didn’t because her guests were deep in conversation and she didn’t want to break their train of thought. Then the lights dipped further…

Realising that if she tried to find her way back to the counter she might catch her shin on a sharp protuberance or fall over a ruck in the vinyl flooring, Mary-Sue elected to stay where she was – hidden in the shadows. Of course she didn’t mean to listen in on the conversation between Bubbles and Barclay, but she couldn’t help herself. In the few minutes she stood there she learned everything about their mission. She noted, in particular, their back-up plan of becoming Baristas.

“Flipping heck,” she said, sotto voce to herself, “I’m hanging on to this job by my fingernails: I don’t need no flipping competition.”

It was in this briefest of moments in history that Mary-Sue made her momentous decision:

“Excuse me.” She said from the darkness, “but I think I know of something that might interest you.”

She then proceeded to tell her customers of the arrival of an alien life-boat aboard the Submarine Space Freighter that – only a few weeks earlier – had been responsible for saving the museum and surrounding planetary surface from an artificially-induced ice-age.

“It’s real hot-poop, they tell me,” she finished. “All kinds of alien tech and stuff. I guess you’d probably find it in one of the secret UFO hangars. Here, I’ll draw a map for you, on this napkin.”

Well, for Bubbles and Barclay, it was like Happy Flids Day and the Annual Farting Contest had come together. Trying not to sound too enthusiastic, Bubbles said:

“Thank you, that’s very kind. I shall cherish this.”

Once the lights came back up, and Mary-Sue was able to make her way safely to the counter…

…she and the other Baristas watched as the out-of-towners quickly finished their coffees and got up to leave.

“Ooh,” she said to Jungle-Jake and Moyst…

…”I think I might have done something really silly. I’ve given them two earplugs some info what might be top secret. I could get shot for treason or something.”

“Best not tell anyone then, eh.” Jungle-Jake replied.

This was sound advice, but nevertheless she couldn’t stop herself from watching Bubbles and Barclay as they departed the Café Puke…

But then someone called for a slice of lardy cake and some chocolate covered raisins, and she forgot all about it.”

Chapter 3

Bubbles very quickly realised just how detailed and accurate Mary-Sue’s hastily scribbled map was when, in a matter of minutes, they discovered a corridor intended for the use of the maintenance department…

“Hey,” Barclay said enthusiastically as they turned into it, “I’m impressed.”

But a short while later, when they discovered the hangar bereft of UFOs, alien life-boats, or anything else for that matter…

…his good mood quickly waned:

“Perhaps I was a little premature.” Barclay moaned. “I’m not really very impressed at all.”

Of course Bubbles was disappointed too; but, being Barclay’s supervisor, it fell to her to rectify the situation. She thought quickly. Running an image of the museum’s exterior through her silicon brain…

…she recalled the existence of the Red Tower.

“Barclay,” she squealed, “I think I know where the curators would have hidden the alien life-boat!”

“You do?”  Her surprised subordinate replied. “Hey, no wonder they made you the boss. Where is it?”

Naturally Bubbles told him, and together they decided to wait until nightfall before making their incursion into the forbidden zone…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022.

Better?

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 4)

Two days without going near a motorcycle or shopping gives a creative genius a whole bunch of time to work upon his magnum opus. Hour upon hour – either in the shed looking for bits and pieces; in the attic studio shooting pictures of the aforementioned bits and pieces; sat at  computer manipulating the resulting photographs; and on a laptop adding greats words of mirth, means that 150 shots are in the can, and four chapters complete. So, without further ado, let’s get funky…

Come morning, Bubbles and Barclay were up with the lark and quickly traversing the distance that separated the city from the museum. Having caught the first train in, they now stood at one of the museum’s many entrances. Well Bubbles was; Barclay had raced in pell-mell and now stood inside and awaited his supervisor…

“Hey, look,” he called, “we’ve arrived before the Robot Ticket Collector has come on duty. We can get in for free.”

But, as early as they were, neither Barclay nor Bubbles were the first earplugs to enter the museum that day. Already Mary-Sue, Jungle-Jake, and their small mauve colleague – Moyst Towlet – were serving the first customers of the day in the Café Puke…

“Sorry,” Moyst addressed the bug-eyed apparition across the counter, “the Crappachino machine aint working today. We got an engineer coming in from town later. It’s off. How about you try defecated?”

Meanwhile, in another part of the vast emporium, Bubbles and Barclay now strode along one of the main thoroughfares. Although they had visited the museum once before, time (and the consumption of many glasses of rhubarb wine) had blurred Barclay’s recollection of both the event and the geography of the building… 

“I’m so confused.” He complained. “There’s just so much going on. It will take a while for me to acclimate to this environment.”

But, naturally, Bubbles wasn’t really listening: she was too busy enjoying re-living her youth. “I know,” she said in an abrupt change of subject, “let’s visit the Woven Expanse. We don’t have to walk far on it: just stand there and take in the ambiance.”

So they did…

And, like the two pink earplugs that joined them at the expanse’s edge, Barclay wondered what was so wonderful about looking across a vast, flat plain – at another vast flat plain named the Wide Blue Yonder.

“This sucks.” He groaned. “Let’s try somewhere else.”

So they did. They visited the Age of Stone exhibit…

…and watched as two drunken visitors fell into the moat. Then it was on to the Nul-Space Power Generator…

…which didn’t enthrall Bubbles much.

“I may be your supervisor in a technological manufacturing company,” she said very sternly to Barclay, “but I’m a girl. I like ‘girly’ things. Big machines just don’t float my boat. Can you dig it?”

So they tried a new exhibit named Star City, which was based upon a multi-species city that had been (or would be) built upon an asteroid in the neutral zone between galactic empires in the future…

A USB plug stood guard at the entrance. But it didn’t really enjoy the task: it hated confrontation.

However, and despite the interesting artifacts inside the Star City, both earplugs wished to move on quickly: they had a task to perform after all. So they stopped to ask a Robot Security Guard – or RoboSecGua as they were better known – for directions to the nearest cafeteria. Naturally the servo-mechanism took umbrage at their wasting of its cyber-time, and told them, very gruffly indeed, to find themselves a Robot Guide…

“All you have to do,” it growled through its huge olfactory array, “is whistle.”

So, once they’d departed the vicinity and found themselves a dark quiet area in which to giggle at the RoboSecGua’s reaction to their question, they did just as it had suggested. Moments later…

“Hiya, my name is X2 Zero.” The Robot Guide announced cheerfully as it rounded the corner. “If you so wish I will be your guide for the day. If you only need me for a few minutes…well that’s fine too. Everything is fine and dandy in the Museum of Future Technology. Where were you thinking of visiting next? Would you care for a list? Do you require a lavatory really fast? I know a short cut from here. Have you experienced an accident in your pants? I know a good laundry – and it’s just two minutes away.”

“Shut up.” Barclay snapped. “We want a coffee.”

“Café Puke is the official provider of coffee in the Museum of Future Technology.” X2 Zero responded. “But should you prefer a clandestine tipple, I can take you to several unofficial suppliers, none of which are more than twenty minutes away by foot.”

“Too much information.” Barclay yelled.

“Take us to the nearest Café Puke.” Bubbles said more gently.

If the robot guide could have grinned widely, it might have reached around to the back of its head. “Sho’nuf, pretty lady.” It replied. “Let’s get down!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, it would appear that the robot guide and I share the same speech patterns.

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 3)

The pace of production has quickened. It’s a now a case of ‘full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes’. Welcome to Part Three…

Before returning to her apartment, Bubbles left her colleague to lock up BINS; then took herself to the austere apartment of the Three Wise Earplugs of Lemon Stone…

She told them of her quest and asked for advice.

“You wanna loan?” One of them inquired. “We give good rates. Nothing exorbitant, you understand.”

“No-no, I just want to know…well I want to know if you think it’s possible.” Bubbles replied. “And maybe give me a few tips.”

Another Wise Earplug nodded at this. “Wear clean knickers.” She advised. “Make them frilly: you never know when you’re going to need to flash them.”

The third Wise Earplug eyed Bubbles. “You’re not the first Punting-Modesty employee to head for the Museum of Future Technology. Have you ever heard of Buttox Barkingwell?”

Of course Bubbles knew the tale of Buttox Barkingwell’s adventures since leaving Lemon Stone – and how she had discovered a Time Shard version of the museum, buried in the mountainside. “Yeah; what about it?”

“Well, you know,” the ancient, yet strangely timeless Wise Earplug replied, “good stuff can happen. You might get lucky.”

“That’s right.” The first Wise Earplug responded to this. “She’s married to that nice Frank Tonsils now. They’ve got a pea farm, I hear. You could do worse, Bubbles. And there’s always the Café Puke: they’re constantly looking for Baristas.”

“With frilly knickers.” The second added.

But Bubbles wasn’t listening. Actually she wasn’t there at all. Instead she was collecting Barclay…

“Come on Barclay- no time to waste going home to bed.” She said chirpily. “We’ve got a mission to complete. I don’t know where it’s going to take us; but if I do half as well as Buttox Barkingwell, I’ll be a happy girl.”

Chapter 2

The early morning light was just beginning to illuminate the snowy flanks of the mountain upon which Lemon Stone stood proudly…

But of Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage there was no sign within the citadel. That was because they had travelled through the night, and as  the light of a new day finally arrived upon the dusty plain, they could been seen approaching the vaguely legendary Transfer Conduit Station Seven…

…where both earplugs were more than a little disconcerted by the negative attitude of a local soothsayer.

“Watch it,” he shouted above the murmur of waiting earplugs, “nothing good can come from travelling all over the place at relativistic speeds. You’ll only get your brains scrambled and your colon disconcerted. And any plans you have to better your lives – put them aside: they’re a load of rubbish: you’re all doomed.”

Bubbles continued to feel unsettled as they made their way to the ticket office…

This quickly turned to nausea when the ticket clerk informed Barclay of the vast price for a direct transfer to the Museum of Future Technology.

“It would probably be cheaper to hitch a ride on a pea wagon to La Ciudad de Droxford; then ride a mag-lift train into the museum.” The clerk added helpfully. “It wouldn’t be very quick; but it would mean you could afford one night in a Ciudad de Droxford high-rise hotel. That’s not to be missed, so they tell me.”

Three days later witnessed the cheerful couple amble across a dangerous walkway that would carry them into the closest conurbation to their ultimate destination – La Ciudad de Droxford…

“Oh, this is more like it.” Barclay said with satisfaction. “I got sick to death of riding that pea wagon. I think I still have the odd pea shuck trapped between my buttocks.

“Yes,” Bubbles agreed, “my pink panties are now irreversibly stained pea green. I can’t wait to have a shower in one of those high-rise hotels.”

In time the walkway carried them into the centre of the city, where Barclay stood open-mouthed at the view, and Bubbles asked three prospective competitors in a hat-wearing competition for directions to the hospitality area…

Whilst Mister Stovepipe-Hat, K’Plank the Space Wanderer, and former running back, Dan Down ‘n’ Out kindly pointed the way, the conversation was being observed from an apartment window several storeys above the participants…

“Oh look, Jake,” Mary-Sue Wassack said to her flatmate, Jungle-Jake Johnson, “more out-of-towners. What’s the bet they end up making their way to the Museum of Future Technology?”

“Pretty high, I’d guess.” Jungle-Jake replied. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to use the bog.”

So it was a solitary Mary-Sue who tore herself away from the view…

…whilst wondering who the ‘new folks’ were, and conjectured upon the likelihood of them utilizing the Café Puke outlet at which she and Jungle-Jake worked.

“Evens, I’d say.” She said to an empty room – before adding, “I wonder if we’ll ever earn enough to furnish this room: it looks a little Spartan. A carpet would be nice too.”

Shortly after Mary-Sue’s and Jungle-Jake’s departure to their place of work, Bubbles led Barclay into the foyer of one of the cities fabled high-rise hotels…

Whilst Barclay was instantly stunned by the minimalist décor, Bubbles fell in love with the view of the cityscape as seen through a huge picture window.

“Gosh,” she said, “I feel so parochial. It’s hard to believe that we both studied at the University of La Ciudad de Droxford. I think we’ve been living on that damned mountain top for too long.”

But Barclay wasn’t really listening: he was lip reading the earplug that had just exited the communal lavatory. “Flipping heck,” he exclaimed, “they’ve got moist toilet tissue!”

A few hours later – having settled into their room – both would-be spies sat themselves down to study a travelogue of their intended destination…

“Oh look,” Bubbles squealed, “it’s the residential area. Just regard that wondrous architecture and careless abandonment of regimented structure. If this plan of ours doesn’t pan out, we could always get ourselves a job as Baristas. In fact one of the Wise Earplugs of Lemon Stone strongly intimated we should.”

“Hmmm,” Barclay replied, “I suppose – as a last resort…”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Did anyone notice the shot that featured my fabled tea dust art? Tea dust art: excellent for creating mountaintop monasteries.

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 2)

Well I’ve cobbled together enough photos (and thought up a few words) for the next instalment: try to enjoy…

Two minutes later Bubbles and Barclay were crossing the courtyard that led to the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company offices…

Whilst Barclay appeared grim and certain of his fate, Bubbles remained hopeful that they weren’t about to receive their severance papers:

“Whatta we gonna do, Barclay?” She wailed. “What can we say to convince them to keep us on? Shall I show them my knickers or something? They’re very frilly. Do you think that would help?”

She was still trembling when they entered the sales office corridor. In fact she was feeling slightly nauseous…

As they passed posters that depicted the company’s most famous product…

…Bubbles paused to regard them.

“Just think,” she said gravely, “this could be the very last time we ever walk these hallowed corridors and gaze upon our forbear’s work of genius.”

“The XL5 is a pile of junk,” Barclay said with a dismissive grunt. “The only time it was used in anger was in the battle against those sentinel robots from the future: and it was totally rubbish. Couldn’t hit a sodding thing. The Earplug Brothers had to visit Mars in order to find a weapon that worked against their cybernetic foe.”

He then suggested that they “get this thing over and done with.” So, thirty seconds later one of the board members became aware of their approach towards the Star Chamber…

But by the time that the junior employees had stepped into view, he, or she, had resumed his, or her, position beneath the ultra-violet lighting, in which he, or she, thought that he, or she, looked most intimidating…

“Ooh-err,” Barclay managed after swallowing several times, “I’m feeling slightly intimidated, Bubbles: do you think you could do all the talking?”

Bubbles might have replied in either the positive or the negative, but Barclay never found out which. This was because the Chairman of the Board –  Sir Loftus Pupe – indicated that they both proceed into the room, which of course they did…

Under the artificial lighting it was difficult for the young earplugs to discern the true colouring of the Star Chamber personnel. Consequently it was impossible to read their expressions…

But both thought they recognised Sir Loftus sufficiently well to look in his direction. Unfortunately they were both wrong, which slightly amused the board members…

Looking up from a small square of paper, upon which someone had scribbled the names of Bubbles and Barclay, Sir Loftus turned his attention upon them and quickly slipped the note into a pocket, lest they think he lived in an ivory tower and didn’t know his own staff by either sight or name. His yellow eyes glowing in the blue air, Sir Loftus then addressed his ‘guests’…

“Oi, you two; look this way. I’m the boss – Sir Loftus Pupe. Here, here, you buffoons. I’m over here. Whose stupid idea was it to have ultra-violet lighting? I’m all but bloody invisible!”

To fellow Star Chamber members, Sopier Clandestino and Leon Solent, the situation appeared to be turning into a comedy sketch. But others, such as Dick Jason and Gilly Charlick, felt less comfortable: they had seen Sir Loftus in a rage previously in their careers: they didn’t care to witness the spectacle again…

Fortunately fellow Star Chamber members – known locally as Chamber Pots – Jasmine Greentea and Biggun Browne defused the situation by smiling slightly and putting Bubbles and Barclay at ease. Well Jasmine did: Biggun merely looked stern, but fair…

“If you can’t see Sir Loftus, darlings,” Jasmine said gently, “just look for a pair of disembodied yellow eyes.”

Grateful for this advice, both youngsters did as they were bid.

“Jolly good.” Sir Loftus said as Bubbles and Barclay finally located his position in the darkened room. “Now to business.”

Well, for the next five minutes the Chairman of the Board proceeded to list all of his junior employee’s inadequacies. He lambasted them for their incompetence and lack of scientific imagination. He let them know, in no uncertain terms that they were useless and of no value to Punting-Modesty. He informed them that he fully intended to release them from their contracts and personally kick them out of the building.

“Yeah,” he snarled, “I’m gonna boot you right up the arse!”

But just as Bubbles’ and Barclay’s knees thought they could knock no louder, and their dental fillings began loosening, a partial reprieve was presented by Biggun Browne:

“Ya get one more chance.” He said bluntly and with no hint of kindness. “One final shot at staying aboard. If you can conjure up one idea between you, right here and now, the Star Chamber are willing to listen. We are not without mercy for those who can think on their feet.”

Both youngsters grabbed this life-line like a plugmutt that has fallen from a cross-channel ferry clutches at rubber rings, discarded deck hatches, old mattresses and other marine flotsam. Desperation and hope gave wings to their minds. After a quick consultation Bubbles replied:

“Despite our best efforts,” she said with surprising forthrightness, “we can’t think of any weapon or vehicle that might interest the Museum of Future Technology. But maybe we can steal someone else’s idea. It’s a thought that Barclay and I had once, quite a while ago, in a Café Puke outlet during a visit to the museum.”

Noting that Bubbles had piqued the Chamber Pot’s interest, Barclay joined in. Together they explained their tentative plan to re-visit the museum and steal technology therein; return it to Punting-Modesty, where it could be reverse-engineered, reconfigured, and made useful as a device with defensive capabilities.

“Bit of a long-shot, don’t you think?” Sir Loftus said to this, whilst his eyes scanned the room in search of either doubt or confirmation of his own thoughts in the eyes of the other Chamber Pots.

Jasmine Greentea avoided her Chairman’s eyes. “I think it’s a lovely idea, darlings.” She said. “You get my vote.”

“Since when has the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company been a democracy?” Biggun Browne retorted.

“I’m just saying.” Jasmine replied slightly defensively.

“Well it’s the best idea I’ve heard lately.” Sopier Clandestino offered his help.

“What have we got to lose?” Gilly Charlick added.

Dick Jason threw in his two-penny worth:

“Nothing.” He roared, “Let’s give the kids a chance!”

“If we don’t have some business plan to offer the company’s bank manager,” Leon Solent spoke gravely, “he’s gonna pull the rug from right under us. We’ll all be out on our arse!”

Sir Loftus made a characteristically fast decision. “On your way.” He instructed his underlings. “But there’s nothing in petty cash: you’ll have to pay your way there. Now sod off to the Museum of Future Technology sharpish: bring us something back we can use. Be gone!”

So it was a surprised and, quite frankly, invigorated couple of young earplugs who made for the Star Chamber exit…

“Can you believe this?” Barclay whispered to his supervisor.

“Yes.” Bubbles replied. “And I’m not overly enamoured with the prospect. I have only fifteen Pluggentos in the bank, and three-fifty in my purse: if we’re going to pay our way to the Museum of Future Technology, you are going to have to cough up the dough.”

“Oh-no,” Barclay wailed at the news – rather more loudly than he’d planned – “I was saving up for a nice pea-shucking holiday on the dusty plain below Lemon Stone. I’d even booked a room at Don Quibonki’s stone tower Bed and Breakfast. Oh, I’m so disappointed!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That was a good episode – if you like the colour blue.

 

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 1)

To be honest, I don’t have nearly enough pictures to properly start the latest tale of silicon life and rubbery silliness; but I figured that if I put Episode One out there for everyone to enjoy, it might promote some urgency within this ancient skull to facilitate the production of further shots for the story. That’s the theory anyway. So, here we go: the story of Bubbles Gloor and Barclay Scrimmage…

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar

Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Chapter 1

In their decidedly finite wisdom and for as long as anyone could recall the curators of the Museum of Future Technology…

…had entrusted the great edifice’s defence against attack and invasion to the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company, based in the distant mountain top citadel of Lemon Stone…

It seemed that whatever type or design of weapon or vehicle the museum required, the egg-heads at Punting-Modesty could dream one up at the drop of a hat. To this end, the board of directors had established a facility, to which they gave the moniker, BINS – an acronym for Bright Ideas (and) Neat Suggestions…

BINS had proven successful. Devices created therein had protected the museum from external threat countless times. Well, three or four anyway. But, sadly, through the years much of the talent that worked there had filtered away into other roles or left the profession entirely. Now only two employees remained…

They were – from left to right – Barclay Scrimmage and his nominal supervisor, Bubbles Gloor – neither of whom had enjoyed a fresh idea since leaving university to join the munitions company. On this particular evening both were reacting to a demand from the board for a new vehicle with which they might tempt the curators of the museum to augment their fleet of ageing and battered Facepuncher XL5s – as seen here piloted by Valentine Earplug and taking heavy fire…

As a result they were working, unpaid, after hours.

“Anything?” the yellow-faced Bubbles Gloor inquired, more in desperation than hope.

Barclay Scrimmage came out of his trance in time to reply:

“If I can’t come up with anything during the regular eight-hour day, I don’t see how another fifty minutes is really going to help. It’s late; my stomach is grumbling. You know I can’t think when I’m hungry: the noises interrupt my brain functions.”

Bubbles sighed. After cogitating for several seconds, she responded with:

“Sorry, Barclay, but if that’s the case, I’m afraid that desperate measures are called for. We are going to have to put our thinking caps on.”

With that she pressed a button on the arm of her yellow supervisor’s chair.

Moments later, their intern assistant, Foo-Foo Baton entered carrying two large pieces of equipment, which he laid upon the floor before them…

Neither Bubbles nor Barclay were impressed by what they saw.

“Mister Baton,” Bubbles spoke sharply, “what the flipping heck are those? I asked for thinking caps; not head restraints. We’ll do ourselves a mischief wearing those!”

“Sorry,” Foo-Foo replied with a tremor in his youthful voice, “but these are the only ones that still work: all the modern, light-weight models were found to be harmful to their users. They caused paranoia and gastric wind. Whenever their users broke wind they thought everyone had heard them – even the silent and deadly farts. Eventually they were so frightened of blowing off that they took themselves away to caves in a nearby cliff where they hoped no one would secrete hidden microphones. We had to throw them all into the gorge.”

“The users: or the thinking caps?” Barclay inquired.

Fortunately this stupid question was ignored, and before long the two graduates had donned their respective thinking caps; seated themselves upon their chairs; and allowed Foo-Foo to dim the lighting…

Whilst Bubbles screwed up her eyes with effort, Barclay allowed his to defocus, his lids to sag, and prayed for divine intervention. This, he suspected was their last chance to prove themselves worthy of employment by the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company. By morning both he and Bubbles would probably be out of work. But as much as Bubbles laboured, and Barclay unceasingly sought inspiration from beyond the ken of earplugdom, they both came up empty…

“What a bloody waste of time.” Barclay grumbled as he stepped down from his chair. “Have these things actually got batteries in? They’re useless.”

Bubbles remained silent: she was too busy mentally writing out job applications for the Café Puke.

“Oh dear,” Foo-Foo lamented as he reached to take the thinking caps from the earplug’s heads, “this could spell doom for Punting- Modesty. With no new models to sell to the Museum of Future Technology, our line of credit will be refused and we’ll be bankrupt within a week!” 

Barclay was about to respond to this assertion, when he was interrupted by the entrance into the BINS office of a hitherto unknown runner…

“You two,” the runner snapped as he looked directly and unswervingly at the thinking-capped duo, “are wanted in the Star Chamber. Get up there pronto. No arsing about. Make it snappy. Vamos!”

For a moment a shudder of dread ran the length of both graduate’s spine. “The – the – the Star Chamber?” They squealed in perfect unison. “We have to go to the Star Chamber – like now?”

The runner sneered at them. “I think that’s what I said.” He replied.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Well there it is: did you like? Does it show promise? Now I guess I’d better sort out enough pictures (and text, of course) for the next installment of THE VEIL OF SHYTAR! Stay tuned.

 

Climatic Calamity – in it’s entirety – COMPLETELY FREE!

You may have missed the odd episode of Climatic Calamity along the way; but that doesn’t matter anymore because the free PDF version has arrived for you to either download and read at your leisure (and perhaps share with your friends), or to read in situ right here. Try to comprehend the magnitude of this wondrous offer: it is almost unequaled in the history of literature and photography – exceptions being all the other Earplug Adventures. Imagine, all those photos: all those words: all that creative genius – absolutely FREE! Just click on the book cover image, and it’s all yours – to hug to your breast and covet like a…urr…covetable thing!

Earlier Earplug Adventure books are also available too. Visit the All Earplug Adventures in PDF Format Unexpurgated & FREE! page beneath the header, and click away to your heart’s content. There has to be one there you’ll enjoy.

Flipping heck – forty-six e-books in little over eight years: I’m a veritable mass production machine. And the quality just keeps on getting higher!

P.S I know there’s no such word as covetable – but you know what I mean. Covetable: something worth coveting.

Climatic Calamity (part 29)

A story of 29 parts: how uneven. Still, not the end of the world, is it? Now feast your eyes upon the EPILOGUE…

Epilogue

After a brief meeting with the museum’s curators, it was straight to the Grand Hall for an impromptu award ceremony…

Naturally Cushions Smethwyke performed the role of Medal-Pinner in Chief. With the Earplug Brothers watching, and Rupert Piles recording, she stepped forward and said very loudly:

“I hereby designate you all as Heroes of the Museum of Future Technology. With that honour comes a pitiful pension, a life-time pass into the museum, a diploma stating that you’re something special, and a cuddly toy – of which…ah…we seem to have run out of. Logistical problems, obviously.”

Of course she could have left it at that, but she then picked out Celestino in particular.

“Celestino Candalabra,” she said in a surprisingly strident voice that carried to the crowds in the corridors beyond the hall, “your talent, I believe has also been your burden. So heavy was it that you took yourself away to live alone in the mountains. Well the curators and I have searched through some of the less well known artefacts from the future, and we have discovered a special bra that when worn by such as person as yourself, renders them immune from the thoughts and…and…and…the ‘truths’ that accompany them. We are proud to offer this to you. Or, if you’re not overly enthused by the thought of wearing female’s underwear, we can tart up your secret cave, add air-con, and maybe install cable TV. Whatta ya think?”

“I think,” Celestino said quietly and hesitatingly, “that I need time to think about that. What I’d really like though, is to hear El Custardo and Los Natillas perform Ode to Joy. Could you do that for me?”

Well no sooner had he spoken those words, when El Custardo’s nasally voice filled the hall…

“Seńor,” he said, “it would be our honour. A one, two, three, four…”

With that everyone was treated to a mariachi version of Ode to Joy that (had the Grand Hall been built by shopping mall builders) almost brought the ceiling down.

Then it was outside to have fun in the snow before it all melted away…

A bemused pair of robots stood in the centre of the frolicking earplugs and wondered what the flipping heck was going on.

“Fifth Officer,” the Captain pleaded, “please explain to me what is happening.”

The Fifth Officer was about to inform its Captain that it had no idea, when it’s thought processes were interrupted by the sound of a mighty engine directly above the area upon which they stood. The hatted robot looked upwards…

…in time to see another Submarine Space Freighter heading for the Space Port…

And it knew, with a certainty that was usually reserved for Celestino Candalabra that more followed in its wake…

Normal business was about to resume at the Museum of Future Technology!

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, a deep sigh of satisfaction: another masterpiece complete. The magnum opus rolls on.

Climatic Calamity (part 28)

And so to the penultimate episode. Yes, I know it hurts, but you must face facts: there is only one more episode to follow this one. Gird yourself: enjoy it while you can. Read on…

Inside the Museum of Future Technology, and despite the subdued lighting and snow covered skylights, inhabitants and visitors alike, swarmed into the Grand Hall in search of information and a back door out of the place. In fact so frenetic were their efforts that a ‘goon squad’ of RoboSecGuas had to intercede in affairs…

In El Ciudad de Droxford, shell-shocked shoppers emerged into the streets of the retail area, unable to believe that their enforced stay in unpopular department stores was finally at an end…

“I never want to go near the bed linen section again – as long as I live.” One particularly disgruntled husband was heard to say above the general hub-bub.”

“For me it was the fishing tackle section that most offended.” His wife countered. “Wherever I sat, I kept getting those damned fishing rods poked up my bum!”

With its mission completed, the freighter flew directly above the museum and performed a victory roll…

Those watching below waved and cheered. Further away, the Ice-Worlder rescue teams began entering outlying areas in search of survivors…

“Oh look,” one of them cried out, “it’s an out-of-town shopping mall. And look at the state of it. Shoddily built out of second rate materials, I’d wager. That would never do on our home world!”

In addition, those ‘more responsible’ earplugs amongst the population were using their hover chariots and sky scooters to search the plain for lost nuclear missile scientists…

Moreover, the farther the freighter flew, the faster the climatic change became apparent. Already some low mountain peaks were showing black against the brightening sky…

But once it was satisfied that the reversal of the ice-age was truly underway, the Captain turned away from the view screen…

…and said:

“Right: let’s get ourselves back to the Museum of Future Technology!”

So, within moments, those same crowds that waved and cheered as the freighter had passed overhead earlier now watched it descend and settle upon a landing tower…

“Now comes the bit that I haven’t been looking forward to.” The Captain said as the engines wound down into silence. “We have to meet our adoring public.”

No one was keen, but they knew it was an absolute necessity – none less than Hellfire, who quickly spotted a sign that pointed towards the sole lavatory…

“You go ahead,” he said. “I’ll catch up. There’s something I need to do first.”

“Lucky you.” Shortarse commented. “As a robot I have no such excuse for delaying in inevitable.”

“True,” Erronious said with a faint smile, “but you don’t have any underpants in which to have an accident either.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Return, for the final time, to witness the obligatory EPILOGUE!

 

Climatic Calamity (part 27)

It’s the beginning of the end in episode 27…sob, sob, sob…

Chapter 11

Several hours into the flight, the Drunkard’s Vomit Captain entered the bridge…

…whereupon it informed the current Captain that it would accept its kind offer of command.

“Now you do everything the Captain tells you to, okay?” The ship’s Captain spoke to its bridge officer. “I’m leaving you on the bridge as my representative. I only want to hear from you when the mission is complete, or if the temporary Captain issues a command that sounds suspiciously like Self-Destruct.”

“Got it Sir.” The subordinate replied. “It’s the boss: I’m good with that. Right on.” 

With that the ship’s Captain departed with its other bridge officers following. The Captain took this as its cue to bring on its own crew and former passengers…

“We’re very nearly there.” It informed the listeners, whose auditory devices – more commonly known as ‘ears’ – were tuned for maximum sensitivity. They didn’t want to miss a word. “Now we’ve been through our plan of action, once we arrived in Earth’s atmosphere: does anyone have any doubts or questions before we proceed into the Solar System?”

Of course, no one did – well perhaps with the exception of Hellfire, whose technical expertise tended towards the operation of toasters and microwave ovens: but he kept his gob shut; he didn’t want to embarrass Erronious.

“Excellent,” the Captain summed up, “everything is fabulous.” Then, to his First Officer, he said: “Take the helm. Point us towards the Sun: we’ve received no replies to our hails: time could be of the essence: pour on the metaphorical coals.”

A couple of hours later, the Sun shone brightly behind a shimmering globe of ice…

As the ship closed upon its destination, everyone had reconvened upon the bridge in time to witness an image of the planet’s surface taken from orbit…

“I’m afraid that your worst fears have been proven correct.” The Captain spoke to the three terrestrial earplugs. “The entire surface of your planet is iced-in. I fear we may have arrived too late.”

However Celestino wasn’t so certain of the veracity of the robot’s assertion. As he studied the image of white-topped rocky outcrops, he had the distinct feeling that the situation below wasn’t quite as bad as the Captain painted it. In fact he knew it wasn’t. “No, Captain,” he said, “you underestimate earplugs. They’ve battened down the hatches and withdrawn the drawbridge, so-to-speak: but they’re not down and out. They haven’t surrendered to the inevitable. They’ve been following us on their sensors. The only reason they haven’t contacted us is because the weather is buggering up the radio reception. We’re not too late at all. In fact I sense some are actually enjoying this. They like sitting around candles in their duffle coats – telling tales, cracking jokes, and holding very limited farting contests. Moreover – the lack of an Internet has given them the opportunity to actually communicate with each other again – properly, as in face-to-face.”

“Oh, good.” The Captain replied. “That’s what I like to hear: never was a fan of social media. Well let’s get this job started, shall we? Time to spoil their fun.”

Shortly the submarine space freighter dipped into the atmosphere directly above the Museum of Future Technology. Then, maintaining an altitude that kept them high above the clouds that blanketed the view below, they ejected the Seeds of Change into the sky, where they burst in a small biological explosion of black spores…

Far below, and fifteen minutes later, three members of El Custardo Y Los Natillas were out searching the snow banks for their lost sombreros…

“Hey,” the Second Tenor erupted in surprise, “the snow has gone all sparkly!”

The Lead Trumpet tried to focus upon a snowflake directly in front of him. “Sí, usted es correcto.” He blurted with delight. “Es no frio, tambien!”

“We are blessed.” The Flamenco Guitarist spoke sagely. “Let us fall to our knees and thank the Saint of All Earplugs.”

To which the Second Tenor responded:

“You can do what you bloody like: I’m going inside again. I’m opening that bottle of vintage tequila that El Custardo keeps under his camp bed: it’s time to celebrate!”

Aboard the freighter, everyone watched as the sun broke through, and the sky became a dazzling blue…

“Ah, look at that.” Erronious said poetically, “it’s like a picture postcard.”

Far below, earplugs began emerging from either their submerged homes or snow caves…

Pea-farmers, George and Edie were particularly happy to see the brightening sky once more: they both suffered terribly from Seasonal Affected Disorder. Moreover, they were glad to see the backs of the pair of rowdy couples that they’d been forced to share their snow cave with…

…especially the green one with a sneaky smile and aromatic gut.

Standing high upon a mountain top, Lemon Stone was the first to benefit from the improved climatic conditions. People strove to free themselves of their frozen homes in their droves – using whatever means they could to stand in the open air once more…

Naturally Rupert Piles was there to record the occasion with his huge 3D TV camera.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Okay, that episode was a tad short, but I couldn’t help it. I just couldn’t finish the story too quickly: I’ve only just started new models and sets for the next tale!

P.S I’m rather pleased with that final shot; there’s a whole bunch of elements in it. But I do wonder why the pink earplug on the left has an arrow through it. I don’t remember doing that. Spooky!

 

Climatic Calamity (part 26)

In episode 25 we saw the Supreme Being sans lingerie: what might happen in part 26? Stay tuned to find out…

However, just a few short hours later, a horrible discovery was…um…discovered

When the ablative armour had been stripped from the life-boat’s hull, it had taken several fuel cells and their sensors with it. Suddenly the ship was out of fuel, and now continued forward upon momentum alone. Once again the brave souls of the Drunkard’s Vomit faced oblivion. The Catering Assistant thought the moment opportune to invite Peggy and the Terrestrials for a ghastly coffee at the ship’s Café Puke…

“I had no idea you transferred your coffee shop over to the life-boat.” Erronious said with a chuckle. “Talk about a complete lack of priorities.”

“An accident, I assure you.” The Catering Assistant replied. “Now, if I recall correctly, you once asked me for a Café Disgusto. And you, Hellfire suggested a Defecated. Well today might not be your lucky day, but you are going to get the coffee of your choice.”

Under the circumstances it would be quite reasonable for everyone present to find no humour in the situation; but after what everyone had been through, a slow death in the depths of space didn’t worry them one jot. Celestino also chose a Café Disgusto; and Peggy asked for some virgin olive oil for a squeaky pressure switch that had been nagging it since they’d departed Vacuum City.

In fact they returned to the Café Puke every day for the next week…

During that time they managed to sample every single vile coffee on the menu. However, on the eighth day, Celestino was doing his ‘star-gazing’ when three ships suddenly dropped out of hyperspace beside them. For a moment he was too surprised to allow his talent to show him the ‘truth’. He’d already convinced himself that they were about to be boarded by hyper-space pirates…

He uttered a plaintive “Aargh” before fainting on the floor.

Of course, if he’d looked closely, he would have recognised the three ships as robotic submarine space freighters. The closest came alongside…

The crew didn’t need a second bidding, and soon they had the life-boat nosing up to the freighter’s main hold…

The Captain then took its First Officer and presented them to the rescue ship’s captain…

“My gratitude to you.” The Captain said. “My crew and passengers are what remain of the Drunkard’s Vomit. We are engaged upon a mission of vast importance for the Museum of Future Technology. We have the means with us to cure the world-wide malady that threatens Earth. We must proceed there immediately.”

“Captain,” the rescue ship’s Captain replied, “My ship is yours.”

So, after the difficult integration of two almost identical crews…

…the Submarine Space Freighter disengaged from the convoy; and blasted for Earth…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

I hate to say this, but it looks awfully like the end approaches. Isn’t it sad that the tale must reach a conclusion? I don’t know about you, but it makes me sick!

Climatic Calamity (part 25)

In episode 25 you get even bigger bangs for your buck. And…ah-hem…a touch of nudity. Read on…

Far away, aboard the life-boat, the next explosion shone brightly upon the view screen…

Of course no one, with the exception of Peggy, wanted to witness the destruction of their ship and crewmate, so they looked away.

As the craft began to accelerate under its own power, the distant explosion grew in size and intensity…

“Uh-oh,” some unnamed crew member groaned as the explosion exceeded expectations by a thousand fold…

… “Something on the planetoid must have blown up too. Hold on to your hats!”

The next second that distant explosion became a very personal event. The blast wave threw the life-boat across parsecs of space, and stripped it clean of ablative armour…

But it survived – a testament to the skills of its builders.

Chapter 10

In the following days, Peggy taught the crew to maintain the vessel’s systems, whilst Celestino looked out upon an uncaring cosmos and revelled in the fact that nothing out there sold him the ‘truth’ about anything. Moreover, in maintaining his ignorance of internal affairs aboard ship, he was unaware that Erronious and Hellfire spent most of their time doing sod-all and mooching about the ship whilst picking their noses and scratching their bums…

Following necessary repairs, the battle-scarred life-boat finally got underway and quickly moved to supra-light speed…

However, just a few hours into their faster-than-light journey, a horrifying image appeared on-screen…

“By the Cyber-Saint of All Robots,” the Captain squawked, “It’s a huge hooded figure!”

The superbly-designed ship made an automatic avoidance manoeuvre…

“Oh-no,” Hellfire wailed, “we failed. It’s the Wonky Supreme Being. That’s it: we’re stuffed: he’s gonna be really miffed!”

But Celestino fretted not one bit. He already knew the true identity of the god-like being that appeared to thwart their passage. “No, Hellfire,” he said, “It’s…

…the real Supreme Being!”

“Hiya, Guys.” The Supreme Being’s massive voice rattled from the ships audio system, “Okay if I come aboard?”

Naturally the creator of Earplugdom didn’t wait for permission. A split second later he was amongst them – and he wasn’t alone…

“Ta-da,” he yelled. “I figured you’d miss this little guy; so I pulled it out of the explosion before it became part of it. Hey, what do you think about my miniaturisation? Look, I’m almost a tiny as you. Of course I’m not commensurately puny too: I’m still big-bad-me.”

Of course everyone was surprised and thrilled to have the Catering Assistant back with them. But the Captain openly questioned the Supreme Being’s motivation.

“I’ve had minor gods scouring all of space and time looking for my evil doppelganger.” S B replied. “Couldn’t get a sniff of him. Then everything went arse-about-face at the Museum of Future Technology, and I thought, ‘Ah-ha, could this be the work of Wonky?’, so I hung around and kept watch. You guys led me to him.”

Celestino laughed. “And it wasn’t the planetoid exploding or sub-atomically unstable space tearing itself into constituent quarks and bosons that threw us across space.” He cried. “It was something you did.”

S B looked at his (truly) non-existent fingernails. “Me?” He replied. “As if… Actually I took advantage of the moment. As Wonky fought to stop the explosion with his pseudo-god-like powers, I nipped in and shoved a hydrogen bomb down the back of his underpants. When he broke wind in surprise – blammo – no more false god.”

The Supreme Being then began his farewells, but Erronious interrupted him:

“Say, S B,” he said, “when I was trying to annoy your doppelganger, I told him that his buttocks weren’t as meaty as yours. Was I right?”

Hellfire was about to apologise upon Erronious’ behalf, but the Supreme Being forestalled him: “Wanna see my bum, huh?” He roared. “Well check this out.”

This earned him a round of applause and cries of ‘encore’. Moreover, his brazen act proved that the real S B had far meatier buttocks than his pretender. He had other things too, but no one felt sufficiently qualified to comment upon them.

“Well I must dash,” his voice boomed as he disappeared, “I have a galaxy to run.”

So, as S B disco danced at supra-light speed on-screen, Celestino, the former burglars, and Peggy welcomed the Catering Assistant aboard – whilst the Captain informed the Second Officer that it would soon be taking over duties in the Café Puke on the next voyage.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There, wasn’t that nice! But things go awry pretty soon in the next episode, so you’d better be there to see it.

P.S I’m very grateful to the Captain and it’s glowing brain: otherwise I couldn’t have used the naked Supreme Being shot at all!