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Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part forty-one)

But what Folie discovered next couldn’t have come at a better time…

“How fortuitous, Kyboshed.” Folie said with relief. “I was just beginning to feel the pangs of a distended bladder.”

“Oh, no, Sir.” Kyboshed replied. “There was nothing fortuitous about it. Sensors in the floor detected your awkward gait: an algorithm calculated your need for a toilet, and quickly moved one here from another location.”

“Clever.” Folie said as he used the device. “Do other parts of the ship move around like that?”

“Most of them.” Kyboshed answered. “It’s a redundancy thing: if parts of the ship are damaged, other parts can be moved into position to replace them. It’s probably why you have such difficulty finding your way around.”

“It also explains why there are so many airlocks and corridors. I thought I’d seen the same artwork on different walls. Obviously they aren’t prints: they really are the originals: they just move around with the walls. Pity they’re so vile. Now where’s the hand-dryer?

“There will be one along momentarily.” Kyboshed replied.

And there was…

…complete with its own corridor.

“Kyboshed,” Folie said, as a huge hot-air blower blasted him, “I’m not certain I like this moving around malarkey: I like things to stay where they’re put.”

Folie was still feeling vaguely uncomfortable when he re-joined Placebo on the bridge…

He told him of his recent experiences…

“I’ll tell you what you need, Folie, my little yellow earpluggy chum.” Placebo replied cheerfully. “You need a quick blast of hyper-speed.”

Folie tried to forget his concerns with the ships’ re-design. “You could be right there, Placebo, you huge white blob of polystyrene. Let’s do it.”

Moments later, after they had seated themselves…

“It’s very smooth, isn’t it?” Folie observed.

“Yaw compensators.” Placebo explained. “They’re new…

…I read all about it in the manual. Leaves a nice pink trail apparently.”

Yet even going really, really fast didn’t sway Folie from his misgivings. “Automatic Pilot,” he said suddenly, “take us out of hyper-speed.”

A heartbeat later…

“Let’s just hang here for a while.” He added.

Then he was out of his chair. “Placebo, I want to show you Deck One.”

Placebo was slightly disappointed because he’d just noticed some vast cosmic event unfolding before the main viewer’s lens. So he checked that the dash-cam was running, and followed his crew-mate…

“Yeah,” he said, “I can see why you like the finish. Very plush. Nice lighting too. I’ve always had a thing for turquoise.”

As Folie had expected, there was no sign of the toilet. He was about say something, when the Automatic Pilot’s voice rattled his teeth.

“A vast cosmic event has sent a purple asteroid in our direction.” It said…

…”Since you’re the boss, I thought you’d like to tell me what I should do about it.”

“Flee!” Folie yelped.

“Now.” Placebo added. “Any direction except straight at the asteroid.”

The ship’s inertial dampening field was so acutely tuned that neither occupant of the ship felt it lurch aside and accelerate away…

“Wow,” the Automatic Pilot exclaimed, “I was good before; but these cable end guys have made my lateral response protocols nothing short of fantastic. Guys, any other dramatic maneouvres you’d like me to make?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Revel in the Ribaldry 28

With so much Earplug Adventure stuff appearing here, I thought it would make a pleasant change to see some Hamster-Sapiens rudeness. To this end I have delved into this e-book…

…and pray that the resulting random excerpt pleases you beyond measure. And here it is…

It was cold, dark, and down right nasty beneath the surface of the River Turgid, as it ambled between Prannick’s twin towns of Near and Far Kinell with all the pace and alacrity of a bout of constipation. But Perfidity Gallowsmith had scant moments to consider such discomforts: Her immediate concern was the severe depletion that had taken place to the air reserve that she’d managed to accumulate in her hamstery cheek pouches moments before being knocked unconscious by a huge torpedo-shaped cavy-dropping, and falling into the river. Since then she’d been forced to ditch her famous chainmail knickers and leather breast-hammocks in order to remain above the mucky goo of the river bed, and now she was feeling distinctly naked both outwardly and inwardly

It was difficult for her to judge whether the onlookers upon the bank were still ‘on looking’, but she couldn’t take the risk of being discovered by them: In Prannick the vanquished leader was always put to death in a most public exhibition. She would rather drown than face that ignominy. Then, as she drifted with the river’s flow, the town’s sewage out fall pipe seemed to crawl past at a snail’s pace. It was dark and foreboding; but it might also supply a temporary sanctuary for her.

“With any luck,” she spoke to herself through lips that were clenched so tight that they might have been hermetically sealed, “there’ll be air at the top of the tunnel.

Striking out for the circle of black in an otherwise colourless environment Perfidity tried to gauge the time of day: She must be in and out of the tunnel before sixty-three minutes after thirteen o’clock, when the Town Ka-ka Release Officer emptied the slurry pit below the public toilet into the river: An ignominious departure into the hereafter was preferable to Death By Excrement. But as she approached the outfall she became aware of a subtle change in its appearance. It seemed to have become somehow blacker. A more intense black. A negative-light sort of black. She blew-off several times to dispel the intense feeling of fear that was threatening to steal her reason away. But despite these gaseous out-pouring, the darkness seemed to be drawing her to it. Then, as she began to struggle against the impossible pulling sensation that seemed to be acting upon each and every atom that made up her rather large, but surprisingly curvaceous body, the darkness seemed to leap forward to engulf her. She had just sufficient time to break-wind once more, and then scream incoherently.

Upon the bank Felicity and Roosevelt were walking paw-in-paw. They were chatting excitedly about the day’s battle, and their triumph. They also wanted to find a nice warm spot in which to perform some form of warm, cuddly, sex-act. Felicity noticed the bubbles as they burst from the surface of the water. The first few were rank and foul, and were immediately dismissed at ‘swamp water’: But the final few smelt far sweeter, and, much to their surprise contained a sound, which went, “Arrgh!”

“I’m sorry,” Roosevelt said apologetically, “is it alright with you if we pass on the vaguely-planned activity that would undoubtedly have culminated in non-reproductive sexual intercourse? Those mysterious bubbles have quite put me off.”

Felicity had to agree with her chum: Under these altered circumstances she didn’t even think that she could stretch to heavy-petting: It was a documented fact that drowning hamsters and their talking farts had a nasty habit of utterly deflating libidos.

“May The Wheel bless you, my son.” Brother Algy Tumbler would say to each an every injured lawman and militia-hamster that he treated, “And may the glorious light of The Rim shine upon your wretched bulges, and make it feel much better in the morning.”

The chubby hamster was pretty much sick and tired of this oft-repeated litany; but each time that he found the need to say the words he was simply amazed at the paucity of any real injuries, and marvelled at the Hamster Heathens’ ability to project their will by the simple administration of high-speed sods and custard pots to the vulnerable squelchy parts of their enemies. He also doubted that the forces of The Wheel would have been as magnanimous and kindly to their vanquished foes had the situation been reversed.

A short distance off Algy Timber was helping the Heathens as they reloaded the team buses. He couldn’t help but notice how incredibly similar he and Brother Algy Tumbler looked. He said as much to Joan.

“It’s like we’re twins.” He added, “I think I’ll engage him in conversation: P’raps we share the same interests. I wonder if he chews his own privates during periods of great angst?”

Joan put out a paw to stop him. “Best not, Mister Timber.” She said.

Algy wasn’t to be put-off. “But I want to.” He said with an almost petulant air, “He’s my inter-dimensional double.”

But he could take no more than a couple of steps before Rootley leapt from the roof-rack where he was strengthening the paw-holds, and grappled him to the floor. “No, Mister Timber,” the small hamster squeaked – his face contorted with dread, “Don’t go near him: There is a great danger. I can feel it.”

                                                                              

Algy pushed his assailant aside. “What do you mean?” he said as he dusted himself off, “Am I allergic to his smelling-salts, or something? Does he smell something awful?”

“I don’t know.” Rootley confessed, “I just know that it’s dangerous.”

“I think I can guess.” Joan said as she assisted her boss to tidy his dress, “It’s probably a space/time conundrum, or something. Two identical people from different dimensions probably can’t exist in the same place at the same time. I expect that they’re mutually exclusive. No doubt the result of contact between you would be utter devastation.”

“And you know this because?” Darkwood inquired as he appeared around the corner of the vehicle.

“The experiments at the Institute:” Joan replied, “They’ve intensified my brain power.” Then she added, “And I’ve been watching Rat Trek on TV too. The self-same thing happened to Mister Splatt in the episode No Coypu is an Island. It was very good. Two characters very nearly exploded; but Captain Perp managed to finagle a small piece of his anatomy between them, and stopped them from touching. It was very exciting. And more than a little moving too.”

“Indeed.” Darkwood nodded, “This small piece of his anatomy that you mentioned: It wasn’t his willy, was it? I rather think I’d have liked to have seen that!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

There, are you pleased beyond measure? I thought so.

Spoiled Illusions 4: Cardboard is My Chum

Are you one of those who, upon watching a DVD check out the extras, which often include a Making Of clip. I used to; but I don’t anymore: I don’t like to see the illusion spoiled. But just in case you are, here’s a little Earplug Adventures illusion spoiler.

If you’re an Earplug Adventures photographer, one of your best friends is the humble material known as cardboard. With a little imagination and a bit of jiggery-pokery, it can become anything you bloody well want it to. Take, for example this empty insulation pile reel…

Hmmm, lots of potential there. Now let me see; what can I turn THAT into? Well there’s this very nice dungeon/kitchen…

…which appeared in Return of the Prodigal Earplug. It looks like a dungeon – especially with those flaming torches (burning matches) set into the wall. But the story said it was a kitchen: so I guess it must have been a medieval themed kitchen. It appeared again in Return to the Museum of Future Technology as Wilton Carpetti and Vinkie Vinkleton’s test facility – only dressed more futuristically…

And again as Ballington Cork’s temple in Return of the Prodigal Earplug…

Oh look, it’s those flaming torches again. In fact these reels have appeared in so many stories that I’m spoiled for choice. But I’ll make the last example this one…

Yes, it even featured as the K T Woo’s engine room in Stepladder to the Stars. Very versatile, cardboard reels.

But cardboard comes in many guises. Like these strips – wot I cut…

These utilise that old perspective trick that was taught to us in school art lessons, all those millions of years ago. This is how this particular duo of strips looked in the story, Cometh the Earplug

Hair-Tigger wasn’t sure if the building was small and quite nearby, or huge, but a long way off. So she altered her focus, and…

…the latter proved to be the case. Silly, but I like it.

The following picture has been used over and over – almost every time that I need to show the city of Scroton Prime. It was a semi-perminant set at my old ‘studio’ despite the fact that I constructed it in the main warehouse of the factory where I worked. Everyone knew what it was, so left it alone – even the management. I was blessed to work there…

But I often re-dressed it – either physically – or later (when it was history, and all I had were some pictures of it), electronically for different stories.  Here’s how it appeared the first time, in Plunging Into Peril...

It was then re-used a hideous number of times, culminating in (at present) the most recent tale – Haunted Mars...

Will there ever come a time when this shot doesn’t appear ad infinitum? Hope not.

Those cardboard inserts you find in, say, vacuum cleaner or microwave oven boxes are a God-send as well…

If used as interiors, they make excellent caves – as seen here in Stepladder to the Stars, where Sheriff (later Captain) Sinclair Brooch makes an astonishing discovery…

And as exteriors, all you need do is cut a couple of openings…

… and they make perfect mud villages…

…as seen here in The Grand Tour. All in all, a jolly useful commodity for a creative genius, like wot I is.

Of course there are many other cardboard items which are extremely useful for a Earplug Adventure shooter: but I’ll leave them for another time.

 

 

The Art of Aesthetic Laundry

You may have noticed that I’m prone to banging on about aesthetic parking – for example HERE – and about colour co-ordination in general. Well I think I may have over-stepped the mark. Taken it to excess, even. Check out my Art of Aesthetic Laundry…

Well if you have to hang your hanky and socks out to dry, you might as well try to make them look nice – don’t you think?

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-six)

Five minutes later Nobby stood before Frisby…

“Regard the main screen, Mister Hollister.” Frisby said in a calm voice. Too calm for Nobby: his knees began to tremble. Frisby was continuing: “I expected something of a jolt. Perhaps a bit of a slump in the surface of the land immediately beyond the location of the impact. I rather hoped that the glacier would be deflected away from this area entirely. But now, it seems, you’ve freed millions of tons of locked-up water and spilled magma over a vast area. Are you aware of any good news you might dispense?”

During the five minutes since he’d been collected from the ice sheet via Sky Cycle, Nobby had been wracking his brains for just that. It was Clifton who had unwittingly provided an ‘out’ for the beleaguered engineer:

“It seems to me,” he’d said as the air rushed past their earholes aboard the Sky Cycle as it swooped in to land, “that the liberated water is acting as a lubricant for the glacier – which is now following the line of least resistance and slipping sideways on to the plain. It appears, Nobby, that despite this ecological disaster, you’ve saved the museum from utter destruction.”

Nobby related these observations to Frisby, but omitted to mention the earplug responsible for them. The curator seemed content with this explanation, and duly dispatched Nobby to the cafeteria for a well-earned cup of cocoa and a slice of lemon drizzle cake. But less than an hour later, Frisby had pulled his terraforming machine from its garage; shoved the first member of staff he could find into the passenger seat below his; and driven it out on to the snow…

After just a few minutes into the journey he pulled up and allowed Charles de Glop out of the vehicle…

“Charles,” he said, “sorry to be an imposition: but can you confirm what my eyes are telling me. Are there really nasty, sooty geysers erupting from beneath the virgin snow?”

“Err, I think so.” Charles replied. “But this might be localised. Elsewhere the impact on the atmosphere may not be as bad as it appears right here.”

In response to this, Frisby drove to another location…

“And now, Charlie-boy?” Frisby growled menacingly.

“Best of three?” Charles suggested.

But Frisby’s mood hadn’t improved any when they arrived at a third location…

“I’ve spent years terraforming this planet.” Frisby roared above the hissing and rumbling of the volcanic geysers. “I’ve tried to make it habitable again. I’ve laboured long and hard and seen some miracles. And now that dolt of a tectonic engineer has ruined everything. Look at the sky: if this doesn’t stop soon, the air will become unbreathable. I’ll tell you this, Charles: from now on that Nobby Hollister is not being left anywhere near a calculator. As far as I’m concerned, he is being promoted to Chief Lavatory Bowl Washer. And don’t tell me that they are futuristic and self-cleaning: I’m pulling the fuses out!”

Charles sucked in some acrid air through his teeth and turned in the direction that Frisby was looking. The view wasn’t good…

“Perhaps we’d best be getting back to the museum.” He said. “I’m sure the company of the lovely Lillie will cheer you up.”

Frisby was astonished by the suggestion, but did it anyway: and Charles was proved correct…

…he did feel better with the former astronaut at his side – not that you’d know it to look at him. Together they visited one of the entrances…

“What do I do, Lillie?” He asked, his fury spent, and despondency his only friend.

“It might not help any, but maybe you should report to Cushions Smethwyke.” Lillie replied as she shivered in the icy air. “She has that Omnipresent Scanner thing that she spends her time sitting around on: maybe she’ll spot something that’ll help us. You never know…”

Frisby grabbed this like a drowning plugmutt refuses to let go of its owner and drags them under too. He almost ran to the com-panel…

The news shook Cushions so badly that she forgot to pretend that the video link was down and couldn’t be fixed for weeks – perhaps months. “Oh Frisby, my friend and colleague,” she yelled across the millions of kilometres that separated her from Frisby, “you just sit tight; do everything possible that you can think of to stay alive and well; and leave the rest to me. I’ll think of something.”

Then, shortly after signing-off, Cushions turned away from her com-panel with a look of horror on her face…

“How?” She wailed. “How am I going to back up that load of baloney? What can I possibly do to save the Future Museum of Mars and everyone in it?”

She then activated her inter-curator com-panel. “All curators to the Omnipresent Scanner.” She said calmly. “Priority One. We have a potential write-off on our hands.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Spoiled Illusions 3: Potential Noticed

Are you one of those who, upon watching a DVD check out the extras, which often include a Making Of clip. I used to; but I don’t anymore: I don’t like to see the illusion spoiled. But just in case you are, here’s a little Earplug Adventures illusion spoiler.

Sometimes Earplug Adventure props/sets appear to me in a flash of…um…let’s call it artistic inspiration. Take, for example, this sheet of melamine-coated chip board. Clearly someone has used it as a base for spraying something – and it was the over-spray that caught my attention…

“Yeah,” thought I, “I can do something with that.” So I took a picture of it. So much easier than storing the original. Well, almost five years later, I did. It appeared in A Tale of Three Museums…

…as emergency habitations for the survivors of the ruined world that featured in that tale. And there’s this too…

Sometimes, when things were quiet at work, I would use a rotary saw to slice thin sections from blocks of artistically interesting timber. Here are a couple of examples that, for some reason, I chose to photograph. I remember turning the top one into a desert scene; but I’ve never had reason to use it. The other has sat quiescent for two-or-so years – until I required a scene to depict a newly-formed rift in a landscape. Thank you, slice of wood, for supplying the surface torrent in Haunted Mars...

To put it into perspective, here it is with two characters inserted…

And then there was my daughter’s cast off light shade. That came straight out of the bin, and into my old (and still lamented) ‘studio’…

Does anyone recall what it was used for? Well, more recently, it was what the false Supreme Being turned into after it’s underpants had been blown off in The Grand Tour

And here he is, sans human appearance…

But previously it had appeared as a hot-air balloon. Here it is in Those Magnificent Earplugs

But I think it looked better in Return to the Museum of Future Technology

…complete with its Christmas bauble gondola.

For the final example, this time, regard this…

I wanted a port hole set for a story that took place aboard Ship Number 15. Remember that old bucket? Ship Number 15 was a miserable green – the only colour paint available to me at the time. So I did this to one of the office box files (don’t tell the boss. Oh, it’s okay: he retired a couple of years ago – and he probably knew anyway. He had eyes everywhere). But I digress. Here is that box file in action…

…where it played the role of the Scout Ship hangar in Worstworld. In the end the circular hole wasn’t used as a port hole, but instead played a very nice interior window…

…for Vanilla Redbush to look through, and a lovely shooting embrasure…

…which worked very well, I think…

Pity I destroyed Ship Number 15 during the Battle of The Museum of Future Technology in Liberation. How short-sighted of me.

Task Almost Complete

When I wrote my last Earplug Adventure – A Tale of Three Museums – it was against the clock. You may have read my post referring to it. If you haven’t, it’s a bit sad, but if you want to see it, click HERE. Time truly was of the essence. Well for Haunted Mars the pressure was reduced somewhat. But with Covid 19 still on the rampage (and me at a higher risk level than average), I really wanted to get it out there before I (potentially) succumbed. Well it’s done: all the episodes are complete, spell-checked and all that guff, and scheduled for release on this blog over the next few weeks. There are sixty-two episodes in all. And the megabyte-age is so vast that, once again, the story has needed excising in half – creating two volumes for the e-book version. Witness the preliminary e-covers…

 

For anyone who doesn’t want to wade through the serialised version, I intend to get the e-books out via LULU a.s.a.p. They won’t be expensive. Watch this space.

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-four)

Engineer, Clifton Wedge, who was still to recover fully from his night in a snow cave, couldn’t believe his sodding eyes: he rushed straight to the nearest maintenance door and threw it open…

“Oh, cripes,” he groaned as he surveyed the nearby ice-sheet from between the door jambs, “I know Mars is supposed to be the Red Planet: but this is ridiculous. That wally, Nobby Hollister, is going to need some help with this one.”

And out upon the ice-sheet, Gerhardt Snitzenfrudel…

…was all for accepting Budlea Budgin’s kind offer of a ride in their habitat back to the museum.

“Better be waking Jenson and Rufus, I am thinking, Tynan.”

“Yeah,” Tynan said angrily, “and those dippy pair in the shepherd’s hut too. None of us will survive out here for long otherwise. When I find out who is responsible for this…I’m gonna forget my Hippocratic Oath to do no harm and kick  ’em right up the arse.”

In the aforementioned shepherd’s hut…

…Maverick and Mulleon were enjoying the show.

“I wasn’t expecting this when I booked our flight to Mars.” Maverick stated. “But as pretty as it is, it’s going to play merry hell with my search for ancient evidence of a marine earplug population on this planet.”

“Oh, look, Maverick.” Mulleon interrupted the cork’s thoughts; “those people down there are waving to us. I think they might be evacuating. Perhaps we’d better go too.”

Maverick didn’t argue for a moment. “I hope they have room for our wicker baskets. Do you think I have time to pop into the outside loo before we go?”

Back at the Future Museum of Mars, Tangerine stole a quick look at the outside world…

“Yes, Mister Mumph,” it called back into the building, “the sky is still red – but it appears to be fading. And the museum remains frozen. Yes, there is a dreadful draft: I’ll shut the door immediately.”

The red light to which Tangerine alluded worried Frisby; so he had the nul-space generator restarted, but at the Minimum Power setting so that he could switch on some pleasant ambient lighting for his  worried customers, but without blowing the place to smithereens…

Naturally Frisby Mumph despatched the earplug responsible for the rocket attack on the sub-strata to determine the true situation at Ground Zero. So, as the lights shone dimly in the museum, Nobby was riding a Sky Cycle across the ice-sheet. With him aboard the wondrous flying machine, Clifton Wedge watched the land slip away behind them…

“Nice to see that the red glow has finally subsided, Nobby.” He observed. “It was getting on my nerves. Are we nearly there yet?”

As it transpired, the land had been savaged so badly by the exploding rocket that Nobby was forced to land some distance from his original site. From there the two engineers bravely entered the ancient magma vents and traversed them towards the impact area…

“Whoo,” Nobby said as he looked around, “we’re miles from where we should be, and already the rocks are getting hot. I think I’ve really churned up the tectonic plates: this disturbance should have been much more localised. I wish Treacle Fagging had better stressed his rocket’s destructive capability to me: I might have done more complicated calculations.”

“He did tell you that it could destroy an entire Hyperspace Pirate fleet.” Clifton reminded him.

“Such an esoteric term.” Nobby argued in turn. “How big is a Hyperspace Pirate fleet? How powerful are their defensive screens? The numbers are all so vague.”

Clifton was about to reply, when, suddenly, and with only a moment’s warning – in the form of a huge rumble that nearly had the engineers off their feet – a convulsion occurred and a massive explosion ripped the land apart…

Beneath that land, Nobby – the expert in tectonics – grew concerned…

“That didn’t feel quite right.” He said to Clifton. “And it seems a whole bunch hotter in here now too.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty-two)

Well, obviously, Nobby Hollister couldn’t wait to re-board the shuttle pod back to the museum; and just as quickly he rushed into the presence of his grim-faced boss. Before he could speak, Frisby said: “The news had better be good: I’ve just received word that the glacier is speeding up.”

Nobby cast a quick glance in the direction of the main viewer that displayed the inexorable advance of the ice sheet. “You could say that.” He replied – before outlining his plan to hit the tectonic weak point with the anti-pirate missile.

Frisby didn’t know whether to be impressed or depressed: it sounded risky. But what was the alternative? With a sigh he said: “Go ahead, Mister Hollister. Prepare the weapon; launch when ready.”

Nobby, probably for the first time in his life, knew elation. As he turned and made for the exit he released a huge, “Yes!”…

…that even made the museum’s worried curator smile.

A short while later, after preparations – such as they were – were made to ready the building for the inevitable shockwave, Frisby and Lillie stood in the cargo entrance…

…and watched people as they relieved their inner torment by going out on to the snow. People like Sir Dodger Muir…

…who normally considered ice excellent when combined with vodka martinis, but not much good for anything else. But looking around at the others, who included Las Chicas De la Playas…

…he did wonder why he’d never tried skiing. Then he noticed that there seemed to be a sort of mini-exodus into the cold outside air…

…and he became rueful:  If the rocket plan failed, this ‘outside’ could soon be replicated ‘inside’. Or, worse still, the inside could cease to exist at all!

But some were determined to enjoy the spectacle as they lay upon their backs and observed the firmament above…

“I wonder what colour the vapour trail will be?” The bearded, Louis van Doore said as he squinted at the sky.

The turquoise biological android lying beside him had more prosaic thoughts in mind: ‘Did I close my botty valve correctly when I rushed out here? I don’t want to leave any evidence of my tardiness in the snow. Perhaps I should just lay here a little longer than everyone else, and let them all go before I get up. Oh it’s no fun being a biological android: why can’t I simply get a recharge overnight like proper androids?”

But all such thoughts ceased when they heard the distant rumble of the rocket as it launched from its bay…

…and inside customers crowded any window they could find…

…to watch as it climbed into a leaden sky…

Others filled the main hall…

…to watch the public screen, which displayed the rocket’s tail flame as it gained sub-orbital altitude…

Then, at apogee, the launch motors shut down and the rocket’s flight upwards ceased. For a moment it levelled off…

…before acquiring a rough approximation of its target; tilting to the perpendicular, igniting its cruise motors; and beginning a headlong plunge towards the planet…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Spoiled Illusions: 2 Tooty the Shootist

Are you one of those who, upon watching a DVD check out the extras, which often include a Making Of clip. I used to; but I don’t anymore: I don’t like to see the illusion spoiled. But just in case you are, here’s a little Earplug Adventures illusion spoiler.

Here’s a shot of Tooty the Shootist in the early days of the Earplug Adventures…

I bet Kodak never figured on their basic little Easyshare M550 ever producing pictures  that would be forever immortilized, in pixel-form, in e-books such as Evil Empire. Here’s the shot from the same location, but using different characters…

I can’t remember if this is the ‘nice’ Charles and Wolfgang checking out the Nul-Space generator’s heat exchanger, or their evil twins: but, because I’ve been living in their silicon world for so many years and adventures, for me it’s strange to see the image of me creating the characters, who seem almost real now.

Here I am again, pointing out the discarded office sound attenuators…

…that became The Woven Expanse and The Wide Blue Yonder…

Here former zombies Vic and Bob, and female weight-lifters Mandy and Candy cross the Woven Expanse in the very early tale, Museum of Terror. And the Wide Blue Yonder immediately afterwards, where they find a door into the Arboretum…

This is my fridge at work. I had a lot of home comforts at my place of work…

At my most self-indulgent I had a coffee machine (which appeared in a  few shots, a record player (ditto), tape deck (ditto), radio (errr ditto), a TV, a DVD player, and a kettle. But the item that appeared more than the rest combined was the fridge. Here’s a couple of shots…

In this shot from Earplug Aftermath, two silver androids visit the lavatory (of course). And in the following shot from Haunted Mars we see it used for the very last time…

It’s odd, looking back on this shot, which I probably took in late 2019 or early 2020, none of these ‘actors’ had names or personalities then. Now I see them differently. I like the look of acceptance on the face of rocket scientist, Treacle Fagging – second from left. Sadly, when I quit my job, I left my fridge behind for the guy who would take over from me. And a lot of other props too. I wonder what he made from them. Nothing probably.

And finally, moving from shootist to shootee…

Wonderful acting, I think you’ll agree. This is how I appeared as the Museum fo Future Technology’s A.I (in Winning Numbers) making an important announcement – probably of doom. I was very good at that…

 

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirty)

So, as the situation for the young adventurers seemed to be improving, back on beleaguered Mars, Precipitous Ledge Walking supremo, Patti Roularde was acting as spokesperson for a small self-important representative group who were acting on behalf of the museum’s customers…

“My clients, if I may call them that, are most concerned for their safety. Many wish to leave immediately.” She said to Frisby, who had Sir Dodger, Lillie, and William of Porridge beside him. “But when they went to the luggage retrieval hall…

…not only did they suffer horribly in the cold – some of them turning a nasty shade of mauve in the process; but that huge cork told them all to shove off, get lost, and go somewhere unmentionable. And do you know what he did when they refused?”

Frisby looked to William for the answer. He received nothing more than a tiny shrug and an angelic expression that Lillie thought made him look most attractive.

“I’ll jolly well tell you.” Patti snapped. “He dropped his trousers and ran up and down the loading bay releasing the most odious gas imaginable…

It fairly filled the place – despite the absence of the luggage door force-field and a keen breeze blowing in off the ice sheet. Naturally we fled in horror.”

Frisby nodded at this information…

“Can you confirm this, William?” He asked.

William could, and he was far from apologetic. “I can, Mister Mumph. It was a potentially fatal situation: many customers had arrived with only flimsy underwear and cheap nylon tank-tops to supplement their regular clothing. I felt it was dangerously inappropriate. I took the only course of action open to me. In an aside, I would like to congratulate Chef De Glop for those beans on toast: they were most efficacious.”

To Patti, Frisby said: “Well there you have your answer. And as regards to our customer’s safety, you can rest assured that my team of engineers are working upon the situation as we speak.”

“Oh yes indeed.” Sir Dodger piped up. “Bending every possible sinew in their efforts. It makes me proud to be an earplug.”

Well with that sort of endorsement, the wind had been fairly stripped from Patti’s sails. “Oh, well, alright then.” She said. “I’ll speak with you upon the subject again tomorrow.”

Of course, once the party had departed, Sir Dodger said: “One of my better performances there, I think. Haven’t lied through my teeth so well since I auditioned for the central role in ‘I, Blunderbuss‘. But Mizz Roularde is quite right: we need to do something pro-active, Frisby: we can’t sit back on our haunches and watch that glacier bear down on us: it’ll grind this place flat against the bedrock.”

Five minutes later…

“Right you lot, I’m not happy with this situation at all. It’s just not good enough.”  Frisby began with rare bluster, “You – collectively or individually – are going to use your expertise in engineering to come up with a plan to thwart this damned ice sheet. We need to stop it – or divert it. Any ideas?”

“Well,” Nobby Hollister replied, “I was thinking tectonics.”

“Love them.” Lillie responded. “I have all their albums. Well, all their albums up until Rickie Jeepers was replaced as lead singer.”

For a moment the engineer was nonplussed. Quickly recovering he continued: “We are on the edge of an ancient tectonic plate: the majority of the glacier is resting upon the neighbouring plate. Of course, unlike Earth, Mars is tectonically dormant: but if we could introduce a little movement, it could cause a shift in the planet’s crust that would divert the glacier to newly-formed lower ground.”

Naturally Frisby was horrified. Only for a moment did his expression betray his true feelings. But he recovered with lightning speed: “Check it out, Mister Hollister.” He said. “Dismissed.”

Before long two engineers – one Nobby Hollister: the other his best friend, Glen Watkins, had flown a Sky Cycle to a suspected prime site that was begging for intervention. There they had quickly burrowed down into the soft sandstone crust through a series of ancient vent holes.

Glen didn’t like narrow passages and barely-adequate lighting. “Is it alright if I keep my eyes shut?” He pleaded with Nobby. “My Gran always told me that what you can’t see can’t hurt you.”

If truth be told Nobby hadn’t wanted any assistance; but museum Health and Safety rules meant that he couldn’t go alone. “Smart woman, your Gran.” He replied. “Yeah-yeah, of course you can, Glen. You just sit yourself down here and await my return.”

Soon Nobby was poking his nose into all sorts of gullies and crevices…

Many looked promising, but he was determined to find precisely the right one. It needed to be deep – with magma flowing at the bottom of it…

And that, when he peered over a smooth, rounded rock formation, is exactly what he found…

“Glen,” he shouted at the top of his voice…

…”get the Sky Cycle’s motor warmed up: I’ve hit the mother lode!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-nine)

As Folie arrived upon the bridge, his eyes caught sight of the main viewer…

But since neither Placebo nor Kyboshed said anything, he assumed that only he could see Dark Space. “Okay,” he whispered, “if I’m going to drive, I’m gonna need to see through the windshield.”

What happened next surprised Folie, and he likened Dark Space’s reaction to a telepathic hug of apology – and possibly gratitude…

Then it was on with the task of pre-flight checks. Kyboshed tried to assist, but neither living being wanted anything to do with him: it was his poor judgement and incorrect advice that had caused, what could have been, a catastrophe for the ship …and all aboard…

“If it wasn’t for the sheer good fortune that the builders of this ship included a wibbly-wobbyphone in its design, we’d be going nowhere.” Placebo growled at their Chief Engineer.

“Learn a lesson from this, Kyboshed.” Folie advised, “Scroton isn’t the be-all and end-all of engineering prowess and knowledge. They’re good; but they lack experience. Don’t blindly follow every facet of their dogma. You could get us killed.”

Cyber-shamed, Kyboshed looked away and minutely examined the wall with his monocular vision. Then the hyper-drive was activated, and before long they were traversing eternity at quite a rate of knots…

Just not as fast as they’d been travelling previously.

One aspect of the sub-looney velocity was welcome: they could see things out of the windows again…

Folie crept up on Kyboshed. “Penny for your thoughts.” He said.

“Look at that star out there.” The Robot replied. “There it sits – all alone – floating in circles through space. I wonder if it has any worlds. And if it has worlds, I wonder if they have anyone on them that are looking up right now and…ah…wondering what’s out here.”

“That’s a lot of wondering…for a robot.” Folie said with a smile. “By the way…you’re forgiven. Come back to the bridge: you can take the driver’s seat for a while.”

Naturally Kyboshed was thrilled – in a robotic kind of way of course…

“Yeah?” He said excitedly.

“Yeah.” Folie replied. “Only don’t anywhere near the big ‘Go’ button again. From now on we only use that in emergencies.”

Shortly after being relieved, Placebo made straight for the nearest window and activated the pseudo-blind…

“Oh,” his disappointed crewmate said, “I was enjoying the view.”

“Sorry,” Placebo replied as he proceeded to the next window and repeated the act…

…”but that last incident has left me emotionally fragile. Right now I’d sooner forget that all there is between us and all that out there is a thin metallic hull and some fancy double-glazing. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to pretend that we’re in a nice cozy cellar somewhere beneath the Museum of Future Technology.”

Reminded of that great edifice, Folie took that moment to recall the day that they were handed the gift of a ride aboard the Chi-Z-Sox…

…and tried to imagine how his life might have been if he’d declined the offer. Those thoughts continued to revolve inside his head – even when he and Placebo relieved Kyboshed for his regular duty in the Chief Engineer’s seat…

“This is fun – isn’t it?” He asked Placebo.

Placebo must have been harbouring similar thoughts: “It is when it isn’t scary.” He replied. “And I do believe it might even be more fun than discovering the delights of the Museum of Future Technology.”

“Talking of which,” Folie said as he nodded agreement, “shouldn’t we report back to Earth: we could show them the Gravity Whelk. Maybe take Cushions Smethwyke for a ride.”

Placebo was all for it. “Hey,” he added, “knowing the recent history of the Museum of Future Technology, they’re probably in a bind again, and our timely arrival will tip the balance in their favour. Let’s go.”

So they did…

And unbeknownst to the Automatic Pilot, Placebo, or Kyboshed, Dark Space added a little pep to the hyper-drive…

And, as the improved and enhanced Gravity Whelk swept across the cosmos…

…the Automatic Pilot yelled: “Hey, Guys: how’d ya like this? Excellent or what!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-eight)

Folie hadn’t been keen to visit the hitherto overlooked communications panel, but with little or no other choice, he found himself entering the forgotten compartment…

As expected he found the panel displaying the word ‘Off’. With no obvious user interface he grunted: “Ugh? So how am I supposed to switch it on – assuming that it actually works?”

Whether it was the spoken words, or his mere presence, the script disappeared and a bright light illuminated the panel…

Folie wasn’t excited: he held too little faith in the machine’s ability for that. “Okay,” he said slowly, “so what am I supposed to do now?”

“Do you wish to interface with an alternate realm?” The machine inquired.

Naturally Folie replied in the affirmative.

“Do you wish to interface with the alternate realm that is in direct contact with this communication panel?” The machine inquired further.

Now the machine had Folie’s full attention – and Placebo’s too as he hid from sight in the corridor outside the compartment. “Yes.” He answered.

A split second later Folie was aware of only one thing: this…

He wasn’t sure if he was seeing it, feeling it, hearing it, or even smelling it: but he was very relieved that he wasn’t tasting it: it appeared horrible upon at least seventeen levels of ghastliness.

“What is this I’m sensing?” He asked; but he had no idea what it was he expected an answer from.

“You are experiencing Dark Space.” The soundless reply came.

Folie gulped to retain his sanity. Then, just to make sure that he was who he thought he was, he pinched his bum really hard. “Are you by-passing my auditory system and speaking directly to my brain via a form of telepathy?” He asked.

From his viewpoint in the corridor, Placebo was unaware of this communication. All he could see was Folie standing at the com-panel – doing nothing whatsoever – except pinching his bum of course…

But, in Folie’s reality he was part of this…

“What are you, and what do you want with my ship?” He demanded.

“I am a portion of Dark Space.” The reality replied. “I am a remnant of the Dark Space that once existed at this location in space/time.”

Folie made the sort of intuitive leap that Kyboshed could only dream of – assuming that he could dream at all, which he probably couldn’t. “Were you left behind?” He asked.

“Severed in a cataclysm when two Galaxies collided.” The sad, mournful reply came. “I became the only portion of Dark Space in this quantum reality. There is this and nothing more. I am Dark Space.”

Folie decided to take the metaphorical bull by the metaphysical horns: “Did you capture that other ship too?”

“I did.” Dark Space replied. But before Folie could form his next inquiry, the strange reality continued: “I hoped to gain possession of their vessel and persuade the occupants to take me away from here. But they were an ancient race, on the brink of a massive evolutionary step. My appearance pushed them beyond their current evolutionary parameters, and they…evolved…into a higher form of pure energy life…and sodded off somewhere else using a form of propulsion with which I was unfamiliar. If I’d had teeth I would have ground them together. But I am Dark Space: I have no need for teeth – or gums – or a gullet either. And as regards to a bottom…”

Folie’s brain was racing at breakneck speed. Somehow he was keeping up with Dark Space: perhaps exceeding its mental velocity. “Tell me,” he said, “was the other ship travelling faster than hyper-speed when you captured it.”

If the vile medium could have displayed surprise it would have been pleasantly startled. “Yes,” it said. “Only objects travelling in excess of hyper-speed are susceptible to interception by Dark Space. It is why I am now integrated into the Gravity Whelk. Into your decks, to be more precise. So, I implore you: please refrain from initiating your so-called looney-drive: you would leave me behind. Please take me with you. When I find somewhere nice, I’ll detach myself and find my own way about.”

Five minutes later saw Folie lead Kyboshed and Placebo towards the bridge. He’d explained everything to them…

Of course Placebo could hardly tear his gaze from the deck.

“It’s actually in there – right now?” He said. “We’re actually walking on Dark Space?”

“We’re walking on the regular deck.” Folie answered. “Dark Space is integrated with it, but takes up no space and disturbs no atoms. It’s like it’s not there, but it is. And it’s going to stay that way until it finds somewhere more interesting. So you could say that – counting the Automatic Pilot – right now we number five.”

“Hmmm,” Placebo replied – unconvinced. “Add another two and we’ll be magnificent.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-seven)

Folie replied with a yell of his own: “Don’t go anywhere, Kyboshed. Keep yelling: I’ll track your location using my perfectly attuned stereophonic ears.”

But as he broke into a run, he realised that it seemed to be raining and the walls appeared slimy…

…and that he was no longer standing upon the surface of a planet…

“Kyboshed,” he said as he looked at the strange shimmering, almost liquid, floor, “I’m biological: I can go mad. You’re not, so you can’t. Are you seeing a strange shimmering, almost liquid, floor?”

“I am.” The robot replied in a tone that didn’t attempt to hide its puzzlement. “It’s really wibbly-wobbly.”

Folie gulped. “Is that you playing fast and loose with the Earplug language; or is it a technical term?”

Kyboshed tried to look everywhere at the same time. “The latter.” He replied. “It’s a Scrotonite term for the inter-phasic medium between the mortal realm – that being the Universe with which we are familiar – and the realm of higher life-forms.”

“Oh,” Folie said – less than knowingly. Then a thought occurred: “What – like the Supreme Being and all those other God-like creatures that sometimes dicker with Earplugdom and have been known to put us on trial?”

Kyboshed was unfamiliar with the term Supreme Being, so he took a moment to consult his recently installed memory banks…

“No,” he answered, “it isn’t one of those weirdoes. They exist on the fringes of our reality – inaccessible and aloof: this wibbly-wobbly state is another thing altogether. These…beings…exist in another realm entirely. Not an alternate reality – but something beyond ours.”

Folie slid himself across a floor that looked slicker than it actually was…

“Is it accessible?” He inquired.

Again Kyboshed accessed his memory. “No.” He replied – before adding: “Well not using the technology of Scroton it isn’t.”

Folie had another thought…

“This is a Scroton-enhanced ship: but it’s not of Scroton. It was built by earplugs on the mirror-Earth. They were working on loads of tech that would save their world: maybe they have something that can connect…communicate…with the wibbly-wobbly realm.”

For the third time Kyboshed accessed his memory banks. “You know, you could be right there.” He said. “On deck Seven there’s a com-panel that doesn’t seem to do anything. Our engineers looked it over, but passed on it. They had so much other stuff to do they didn’t think it was important. Maybe that’s what it does. Maybe it’s a wibbly-wobblyphone!”

Folie would have replied with some intellectual quip, or merely scoffed; but a small electrical charge leapt from the liquid-like floor and zapped him right in the buttocks…

“Oooh,” he yelped, “that can’t be coincidence: you might be on to something.”

But before the conversation could proceed any further, a  bright light blazed through the floor…

“What does it mean?” Folie asked.

“You’re asking me?” Kyboshed replied. “I’m a servo-mechanism: I don’t make intuitive leaps. Well not big ones like this. Maybe it’s trying to tell you something that I’m not privy to. Pointing the way or something.”

As if on cue, the light expanded to reach out to Folie’s feet…

Startled, the young earplug threw his body against the opposite wall, but the opening in the liquid darkness merely shifted sides too. So Folie gathered his courage and looked into the light…

And what he saw could only have been the truth. They were aboard the Gravity Whelk. They had never left it. The planet was an illusion. The ship travelling at hyper-speed was also an illusion. When the darkness had fallen aboard the Gravity Whelk, it had stopped the vessel in an instant. And it was not alone…

“Crikey,” Folie said breathlessly, “we’re dead in space. And there’s another ship out there. It looks dead too.”

“Okay,” he spoke into the light, “I’ve seen enough: show’s over.”

In response the floor darkened again…

“It’s not looking good, Kyboshed.” Folie said as he looked up at the robot. “Do we have suspended animation equipment on board?”

Kyboshed might not have been skilled in the art of intuition, but he could see where Folie was coming from. “You reckon we’re here for keeps?” He inquired, despite the fact that he really didn’t want to hear the answer.

“That other ship was old.” Folie explained. “I mean seriously old. Old. Eons perhaps. I think our only hope is to go into suspended animation and hope that someone finds us and revives us.”

Folie then received the type of news that he least liked…

“Good plan.” Kyboshed congratulated him. “Very good in fact. If we had any suspended animation equipment aboard it might even have worked.”

This was like a body blow to the yellow earplug. “But…but.” He began. Then his shoulders slumped and he wandered away – only to find Placebo in a corridor that actually resembled a corridor. He’d heard everything…

“Do you have a Plan B?” He inquired.

Folie’s look was enough to deliver his answer. But then Placebo recalled a segment of the previous conversation…

“Hey,” he yelled, which started Folie, “what was it Kyboshed said about a dead com-panel on Deck Seven? A wibbly-wobblyphone?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Revel in the Ribaldry 27

Once upon a time I knew which book was supposed to supply the next excerpt, but somewhere between R.i.t.R 1 and now I’ve managed to become completely flummoxed. My default position is to jump straight to this book…

…partly because it’s the best book in the world, and partly because it’s the best book that has ever been written by anyone, anywhere, at any time. So today I’m going eschew my fall-back position and go for this book…

…which isn’t any of those things I said about The Psychic Historian, but is entertaining, and without the prior existence of which the best book in the world would not have been written. And here is the random excerpt. Hope it’s good…

Although the elevator was slow, the anti-mould snail had kept it pristine. Consequently both hamsters felt not the slightest discomfort as it ascended at a moribund crawl. And when, eventually, the door slid open on reasonably well-oiled sliders, Tonks had managed to shed much of the muck and filth of the lower floors, and was able to lead Colin on to the ground floor with a certain amount of pride.

The first thing she did was prick up her furry ears, and listen intently. Satisfied by the silence she then took her sidearm in her good paw, and made off for the Sentinel Robot bay. As she did so she couldn’t help but notice that the CCTV camera panned around to follow her progress.

“I didn’t know that your security system worked.” She said to Colin.

“It works fine.” He replied. “It’s just that Boney can’t be arsed to use it. He prefers the Sentinel Robots.”

Tonks asked the obvious next question. “So why is he using it now?”

Colin had no idea, so he decided to be creative. “Perhaps he’s trying to look down the front of your uniform.” He suggested. Then as supportive evidence for this theory he added, “Your breasts do jiggle pleasantly. Not that I’m an expert or anything. I never was much of a letch. Or a letch of any kind, come to think about it.”

But Tonks wasn’t listening: Another shudder was in the process of passing through the building, and the lights dimmed momentarily.

Meanwhile, in the Security Office, the monitors were being shaken dramatically. Not because of the apparent earthquake that was in the process of giving Fanangy’s epiglottis a hernia due to excessive nervous gulping: But because the cameras that fed them had gone out of focus.

“Damnation from the Great Angler Herself.” Boney cursed as he thumped the ageing cathode ray tubes with frustration, “I could’a sworn I caught a glimpse of a nipple just then!”

“Probably a shadow.” Lionel attempted to quell his employer’s enthusiasm for the sergeant’s mammary glands, “Army regulation vests would never allow loose titties in a potential combat situation. They could block the view of a rifle sight. ”

Boney was forced to accede to Lionel’s almost-pure logic. “Yeah, I s’pose you’re right.” He grumbled.

Then the screens settled, and a clear view of the corridor returned. But of Tonks and Colin there was no sign.

“Try the Sentinel Robot bay.” Fanangy croaked, “It’s the next door along.”

Naturally Fanangy’s suggestion was the correct course of action. This was because of two quite disparate reasons – at least in Lionel’s eyes. The first was that she was utterly gorgeous, and therefore incapable of being in error upon any subject, whether corporeal or esoteric: And secondly because Tonks and Colin now found themselves staring with bewilderment at a Sentinel Robot bay completely bereft of Sentinel Robots. Instead, at the cavernous room’s centre, a device that simply defied description seemed to crouch like a defecating toad.

“It looks like an oddly mottled huge steel box with flashing lights all around it.” Tonks exclaimed breathlessly.

“And a vast array of cables reaching from it, and disappearing into all four walls, the ceiling, and the floor, in a manner most redolent of things most creepy and crawly.”  Colin added.

“What do you think it is?” Tonks inquired.

“Beats the shit out of me.” Colin replied helpfully.

Tonks asked another question. “Was it there when we departed for the Artefact Room?”

This time Colin’s response was a little more forthcoming with information. “No.” He said.

“And imagine the remarkable engineering skills required to have constructed this stupendous device in such a short time.” Tonks said admiringly.

Any further utterances were silenced before they could be properly composed. Once more the building shook, and a loud hum of harnessed energy filled the air.

“Yikes.” Tonks managed before a loud booming voice spoke…

“Who dares speak in the presence of The Overmind?”

Colin was quick to respond. “Oh, that’d be us. Sorry. Didn’t mean to offend or anything. The name’s Colin by the way. I’m an android.” He then indicated Tonks, who appeared to have entered the trance-like fugue that hamsters in general, and startled females in particular, enter at times of extreme stress. “Oh, and this, apparently inanimate, life-form is Sergeant Tonks. I don’t know if she has a first name; but she’s a hamster. I don’t know the Latin for her species: hamstery-hamsteritious, or something, I expect.”

“Cease this infernal noise!” The voice of the Overmind boomed.

Despite owning the best pair of electronic ears on the planet, Colin couldn’t be sure precisely where the sound was emanating from. He suspected that it might be the large device in the centre of the room. “Sorry.” He said quietly.

“Bring me your mobility.” The Overmind demanded.

Colin’s aim was to please at every opportunity: But this demand required too much of him. “You what?” He enquired eloquently.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2012

P.S I wonder if I’ll ever write another Hamster-Sapiens book. Do I still have the ability? Oh, I don’t know; there are so many books I’d like to write, but I simply can’t be arsed.

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-five)

But that wasn’t the end of it. In the foyer, El Custardo had offered to perform an impromptu concert by himself and Los Natillas…

Unfortunately when a request was put through to William of Porridge for their instrument cases…

…he was delighted to report that all the guitar strings had frozen so quickly that they had ‘gone twang’. Worse still, he tittered to himself as he called back, the trumpet mouthpieces were of an inferior material and had duly shattered. He hated mariachi bands with a vengeance, ever since a group visited his school concert hall and interrupted his crab football game. So he could barely keep the joy from his voice when he summed up the situation with: “So there’ll be no bleeding racket keeping everyone awake tonight!”

Even more unfortunately – at least for Lillie – was the fact that Tangerine chose her to pass on the bad news to Frisby…

…who was so enraged that a large gaseous anomaly (that he’d been saving up in his intestine for an emergency) erupted like cannon fire and exploded spontaneously…

Fortunately Lillie’s lightning reactions saved her eyebrows from being singed, and all she suffered was some minor melting to the elastic in the back of her space knickers.

Even more fortunately, one of the museum visitors was a maintenance engineer in a really old-fashioned factory where everything was worn out and obsolete and the short-sighted management didn’t believe that investing in the future was at all logical. Consequently he was able to put his work-day skills to good use by repairing an ancient oil-fired furnace that had been left-over from an era when oil was plentiful on Mars, and nobody gave a monkies about the environment…

“There, ya go.” He shouted above the applause. “There’s a whacking great reserve of crude oil in a cavern beneath the museum too. It’s matured nicely and it’s very volatile; so it should keep the main hall warm. If we all stay here we might survive long enough for a rescue mission from Earth to arrive before it’s too late.”

In an adjoining room, Bo Smidgin found one of the museum engineers – Comely Wasselstoop – staring out of a viewport at the weather…

“I chose a bad time to visit Mars.” He said conversationally.

Comely didn’t bother turning around. “There isn’t a good time to visit Mars.” She replied in a flat voice that seemed to have admitted defeat. “The planet is haunted. Haunted by its past. The mistakes of those silly Muffins, eons ago, continue to punish the world, and will continue to for the foreseeable future – until someone can think up a fantastic way of putting things right. I don’t see that happening in my life time.”

The engineer’s reaction had surprised Bo. Leaving Comely to her acceptance of doom, he turned away from the window…

But as Comely moved off in the direction of the ‘Ladies’ loo she had no idea that her words had given Bo reason to pause and think…

“What am I doing here?” He asked himself. “How can the acquisition of wealth be an end in itself?  Surely my miserable life could be better spent than living off the misfortune of others. They thought I was a turd on Scroton: maybe I was. But now, for the first time, my eyes are open. This planet needs a miracle. Or another one, if I’m being pedantic. One that will actually work this time. I just have to figure out in what form that miracle will present itself. When it does, I plan to recognise it: and after I’ve recognised it, I’ll utilise it – for the benefit of the whole world – such as it is!”

And then he went out into the foul weather – just to make sure he really meant what he’d just said…

“Yes,” he concluded, after his knees began knocking together and his false teeth fell into his hands, “definitely. I just have to recognise the means to salvation. Then everything will be wonderful. I wonder what it’ll look like. And what colour will it be? I hope it’s yellow!”

Taking time dilation into account – at approximately the same moment that Bo Smidgin made his gummy statement – far across the Galaxy…

…the Gravity Whelk was rollicking along at a most ridiculous velocity. In fact Folie had been a little concerned at the pace, and wondered if they might be doing something adverse to the balance of space/time or some-such. He couldn’t help but worry that someone or something might take offense. He’d brought up the subject with the Automatic Pilot, but these speeds were so far beyond its programming and experience that it shook it’s non-existent shoulders and said: “Danged if I know.” But when Kyboshed had been presented with the same concerns, he said: “This ship has been upgraded on Scroton: do you really think we’d screw up something as important as that? No – keep that throttle open, Folie: let’s cover some ground.”

Then this happened…

“Oops,” said Placebo nervously, “this doesn’t feel quite right.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty-three)

If Maverick and Mulleon thought they had a long journey ahead of them, they might have adjusted their perspective somewhat if they’d known the duration of the anticipated journey that Folie and Placebo faced. Even now preparations were being made. All hatches, metaphorical and actual, were being latched. Kyboshed was making final checks throughout the original corridors that the cable end engineers had deemed unnecessary to alter or beautify…

 

And, following the guidance of the Automatic Pilot, Placebo was doing the same…

Folie was supposed to be conducting a pre-flight check of the limited controls on the bridge; but he was nervous about entering the compartment alone. He stood at the door, watching his hesitant reflection in its mirrored surface…

“It’s like going shopping in a Spanish supermarket, without your Mum.” He told his reflection. “A bit intimidating. Oh dear, will I really remember which control does what? I’m not even a cadet: I was, after all, sent into space with absolutely no training whatsoever!”

But then Placebo arrived; pushed him right through the engineering section; and finally through the arched door that led to the bridge…

“There was no need for that.” Folie complained. “I was just about to go.”

He was still feeling rather cross when the two of them seated themselves before the main viewer…

“Systems check.” He snapped.

“Already done.” The Automatic Pilot’s voice boomed from the overhead speakers. “I couldn’t wait until the wheel of time ground to a halt.”

This made Folie feel foolish; so instead of being annoyed he decided to become nervous – as did his chum…

“Ooh-err,” Placebo said eloquently, “this is it.”

“Yup.” Folie replied. “The first time that we get to fly the ship.  The first time that we aren’t mere passengers. Are you ready?”

“Nope.”

“Nor me. Shall we proceed?”

“Yup.”

But before either of them could do anything, the ship went to Crimson Alert…

Placebo was out of his seat like a startled plugmutt at the turn of the year. “What is it?” He yelled above the sound of the klaxon.

A sickly-looking Folie quickly scrutinised his read-outs. “I don’t know!” He yelled back.

From one of the many corridors that Folie and Placebo had difficulty telling apart, Kyboshed contacted the bridge…

“It’s the Autopilot having its little joke. It thinks it’s teaching you a lesson.” He told the boys. “Now sit back down and press the ‘Go’ button.”

He then counted the seconds until this happened…

The result made Folie and Placebo feel very pleased with themselves…

“Cor – look at us go!” Folie exclaimed.

Placebo’s reaction was much the same: “Cripes – we’re nearly out of Weird Space already!”

But they quickly calmed themselves. They took several deep breaths before sitting back…

…to enjoy the view ahead…

But as the ship exited Weird Space, and the way ahead was unobscured by strange stellar formations and clouds of brightly-coloured cosmic…ah…cloud material…

…Folie did what Nigel – the Golden One – warned him against: He floored the throttle…

…which thrilled the two pilots more than anything they had ever experienced before in their short lives…

“Wheeee!” They cried as one. “Now we’re really motoring!”

And they bloody well were too!

It was like reducing the Galaxy to the size of someone’s back garden. A small one, with a Quince tree in the middle of the lawn. Whoosh!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part twenty)

William of Porridge had little do throughout the storm, so he busied himself by sweeping up stray grains of Martian sand, carelessly dropped Terrestrial lollipop sticks, and hybrid spider poop. As it abated, and the air cleared, he noticed the ice sheet beyond the luggage store entrance…

“Whoo,” he said whilst inhaling through his teeth, “nasty out there. Gotta say, I wish they’d fitted an old-fashioned up-and-over door down here: if the power ever fails, and the force field drops, that weather will blow straight through here like a wind tunnel.”

Meanwhile, up on the hillside, Brighton Briezie had just woken up from her brief hibernation. Her mouth felt like sandpaper, so she allowed her tongue to loll in the cold, moist air…

But she was late. Her immediate boss – Clifton Wedge – had already clambered from his snow-den. Conrad Kickstart followed his lead. He wasn’t impressed by what he found…

But, ever practical, Clifton knew exactly what to do…

“Oh do stop looking sorry for yourself, Conrad. You too, Brighton. Here’s a perfect opportunity for us to get some shut-eye, and get paid for it at the same time. Now back inside your snow caves: we’ll pretend we never woke up. Let them find us: not the other way ’round.”

Further out, upon the plain, Budlea Budgin and Crevice McNally had been forced to evacuate their habitat…

“Next time we’re holed up in a storm,” she growled, “I’m serving you white bread and water.  Brussels Sprouts were a very bad idea indeed. It could take hours to vent that stench. And it’s bloody cold out here!”

Of course, with no reports arriving from his outlying habitats, Frisby decided to go look for himself. Initially he quite enjoyed trudging through the snow…

He particularly liked the way that it ‘scrunched’ under foot. Charles was less enamoured: his chef’s hat didn’t cover his ears. But, after a while, Frisby grew angry at the lack of replies to his hails – both shouted and via radio…

“I’m furious.” He told Charles. “When this is over, I’m going to be having words with certain people.”

He then told  Charles to remain with Tangerine and await his return…

“Couldn’t we wait inside?” Charles suggested to the servomechanism.

“That would be a negative, Charles De Glop.” Tangerine replied. “You have your orders: now stand ready to assist when required.”

Being  the heroic, pioneering kind that all terraformers must inherently be, Frisby battled onwards grimly towards a habitat…

But, when he called out a welcome to the inhabitants, he received a surprise…

Upon returning to the presence of Tangerine…

…he was still in a state of shock, and the robot from the future had to increase power to its mobility output nodes to catch him…

“They told me to go away.” A bedazzled Frisby explained. “Only not in those exact words. In all my years I’ve never heard the like of it…”

“My sympathies.” Tangerine commiserated. “Earplugs from my era are equally rude. You should hear what they used to call me. Or maybe you shouldn’t: you have a fragile psyche. It comes from years of living like a hermit. You really should get out more.”

Frisby agreed – if reluctantly. Then he decided a return to the museum would be good…

And whilst Tangerine returned to its regular duties…

…Frisby put a call through to Cushions Smethwyke – to apprise her of the desperate situation. As he did so, outside the museum, one of his engineers – his eyes darkened with fatigue – continued to search for lost colleagues and stupid customers who thought that the worst had passed and were now exploring the altered environment…

He wasn’t sure; the view was obscured slightly; but he thought he saw…

…Doubry Furkins and Jenson Prong as they attempted to use a theodolite to measure something near the Muffin’s ancient citadel. And, slightly farther on his tired eyes might have spotted a pink earplug, by the name of Tynan Ware, struggling through snow drifts beside the helmeted Gerhardt Snitzenfrudel…

Then he rationalised that it was probably a mirage and duly went inside for a strawberry jam doughnut and a welcome cup of cocoa.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part seventeen)

If problems were the order of the day upon Mars, so too were they on the bridge of the Gravity Whelk. Folie’s dilemma descended upon Placebo’s shoulders with the weight of the entire universe behind it. Suddenly he was in a dark and foreboding place…

So, whilst the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor looked on, he took the seat beside Folie to think about it…

And he continued to think about it whilst the ship drifted back towards Weird Space…

In fact he only stopped thinking about it when Folie dragged him into the relative privacy of the engineering department…

“I know.” He said suddenly. “I have the answer. We take our last two proton torpedoes with us. If we get into any sort of shooting match, we fire them. If they don’t work, we run away.”

“Brilliant.” A relieved Folie replied. “We need never load the neutron torps at all. We’ll just take them along to keep the cable ends happy. We can always fabricate some story about how we blew up an entire fleet of hyperspace pirate mother ships. If they want proof we’ll tread on the dash-cam and tell them it was damaged in the battle and doesn’t work. But we’ll only do that if we have to: I really like that dash-cam: my Gran bought it for my last birthday.”

They were about to return to the bridge, when the door opened unexpectedly. Even more unexpectedly, a robot rolled in…

“Who, or what, are you?” Folie demanded…

“I’m your Chief Engineer.” The robot replied. “In fact I’m your only engineer. I don’t have a name right now. There is a choice of three: whichever one you choose – that’s the name I’m stuck with. Do you want to hear the list?”

It took a moment for the two silicon life-forms to shift mental gears. No one had mentioned a robotic Chief Engineer. But now that Folie and Placebo had discovered that they possessed one, it seemed like a really good idea. Whilst they held a brief discussion, the robot quickly changed position; checked a few tell-tales on the engineering board; then turned to face its owners…

“What are the choices?” Folie asked.

“A1.” The robot answered. “A2. And Gursflanachingtost.”

“They’re all rubbish.” Folie complained. “We can think of something better than that.”

“That may be,” the robot replied, “but whatever name you dream up – once it’s applied, there’s no going back: it’ll be imprinted. If you try to change it, I’ll explode. It’s a safety feature, you understand – just in case I get stolen by pirates or something.” 

Suddenly that sense of responsibility that had so concerned Folie earlier reared its ugly head again. “Flaming heck –  what a conundrum. If we get it wrong we’ll be completely kyboshed.”

“I like it.” The robot said unexpectedly. “An excellent name.”

“What name?” A puzzled Placebo inquired.

“Isn’t that what that strange word you just said was?” The Robot answered. “Wasn’t that my first name?”

Folie thought back over his last words. “Conundrum?” He asked.

“No, or course not.” The robot replied. “I’ve heard the word conundrum at least a thousand times – though I might be exaggerating a little there. No – the other one. I can’t say it until you confirm it. Then it’s imprinted – never to be altered.”

“Kyboshed?” Placebo whined.

“That’s the one.” Kyboshed replied. “Nice choice. Thank you: you’ve made me feel proud – at least in a cyber-representative way.”

And so it was. Shortly after that the Automatic Pilot returned to Scroton, where Donny and Tojo disembarked; and the ship became the sole property of Folie and Placebo once again. Soon the Gravity Whelk returned to its natural environment, and entered orbit around Scroton. Aboard, Kyboshed instructed Folie on a few basics of engineering…

“As you can see, Folie,” Kyboshed said, “this air-conditioning plant’s winky lights aren’t working properly. They are dull and insipid.  How would you address and rectify the problem?”

Folie spent a few seconds regarding the mysterious device. “Well,” he began, “first I’d try this.”

With that he gave it a hefty kick in its lower extremities. To Kyboshed’s surprise the lights burst into life…

“Sometimes it not about logic and knowledge.” Folie said as he walked away. “Sometimes it’s just a feeling you get. You gotta go with your feelings, Kyboshed: remember that.”

A couple of hours later, whilst poring over the ships’ intricate instruction manual, Folie and Placebo received a call from Kyboshed: he had something to show them. So, bored with dry facts and numbers, they disported themselves to a storage hold…

“Look at this, guys.” An excited Kyboshed implored. “Aint it something? I found it in a packing case marked, SCRAP, but with the S missing.”

Both Folie and Placebo recognised it from The Skail Brother’s video. It was a flying machine that they never used because it was a fair-weather only craft. It wasn’t waterproof. They’d forgotten all about it; but now that it stood there before him, Folie couldn’t help but clamber aboard…

“Ooh,” he squeaked as he levered himself into the driver’s seat, “it’s a bit of a tight fit. But I could always lose some weight.”

“Great,” Placebo grumbled, “but you’d have to put me through a series of heavy steel rollers to get me into the passenger seat. No, it’ll never do.”

Folie could see that the machine was an affront to Placebo’s species. He didn’t want to upset his business and adventuring partner, so he said to Kyboshed: “Oh, give it to the cable ends, Kyboshed: I’m sure they’ll have some fun pulling it apart.” But he said it with a wink and with his fingers crossed and hoped that Kyboshed understood that he didn’t mean a word of what he’d just said.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

 

Horror on an Earplug Adventure Shoot!

Yes, frightful news has just been released from the makers of The Earplug Adventures. Apparently star of A tale of Three Museums, actor Folie Krimp, had just completed a scene in which he kick-started a snow skimmer aboard the Gravity Whelk

…when, inexplicably, the show’s creator and principal writer, Tooty Nolan, dropped a laptop on his head. Sources inform us that the little yellow earplug was crushed utterly, and that no amount of tugging and pulling would make him “puff up again”. Tooty tried rolling him between his slender, artistic hands, and even attempted to blow him up again with his divine breath. But to no avail. Fortunately his alter-ego – The Supreme Being was on hand, who, in desperation, placed Mister Krimp in  a 900watt microwave oven for five seconds. Good news is that a complete recovery is expected, but shooting for the day has been cancelled because Mister Krimp had a nasty headache and is really pissed off…

Mister Nolan is reported to have said: “Folie sure was mad at me: I’m just hoping he doesn’t come into the studio tomorrow and kick me in the bollocks!”

Revel in the Ribaldry 26

Since I began posting these extracts from the Hamster-Sapiens series of e-books, I’ve been really pleased with everyone’s reactions to them. To date only one extract needed to be deleted – due to lack of interest – and I thank every one of you who clicks the Like button whenever you read one. For this excerpt I’ve delved into the abyss that is this book…

Hopefully you’ll like it as much as the others.

Upon this command the monks fell back to a position behind the drunken mob. No sooner had they done so – when the gate gave way abruptly, and with a loud splintering sound it crashed to the ground. Instantly the army of rogue Stix bandits came pouring through the gap – to be met with a sight that they couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams: Monks of The Wheel – drunken and debauched – and showing them their personal protuberances! And what frightful willies they were too – every one of them. Or rather they weren’t: In fact they were outstandingly average. But with Primrose’s hypnotic powers at their fullest, every member there appeared to match Brother Alfonso’s in sheer frightfulness to the nth degree.

“Argh.” The first wave of bandits cried, “Frightful willies everywhere: Back, damn you! Back!”

But heedless the second wave pushed them onwards, and they were almost within striking distance with their knives and cudgels before they too succumbed to the apparent sight.

“No – The Rim preserve me.” They would cry out in despair, “My mind is in turmoil!” And then they too would turn aside, and try to beat a hasty retreat.

But no one had considered Lucas Cleats himself. Something had obviously changed in Lucas Cleats since he’d come to the attention of Stubby Collet as a young, up-coming, Stix member, because not only did he recognise the monk’s private parts for what they really were; he also recognised Primrose as the alter-ego of Stubby Collet.

Raising his mailed fist he marched resolutely towards Primrose. “This is your evil work!” He growled menacingly.

“Ah-ha!” Brother Alfonso yelled as he leapt into the space between Cleats and Primrose, and raising the hem of his habit to chest height, “Their danglies may not be real – but mine is. Retreat immediately before I club you to death with my mighty truncheon.”

Under certain circumstances this ploy might have worked. Indeed Brother Alfonso had once tried such a gambit before. The result that time was a sharp slap with a chain mail glove, followed by excruciating pain, and his instantaneous surrender: This time didn’t go any better.

“El Diablo.” Brother Alfonso cried in abrupt and unexpected agony, “Mi Guillermo burns like the fires of The Hub itself. No mi gusta chain mail gloves!”

Cleats then pushed the stumbling giant aside, and withdrew his blade from it’s scabbard. “Let’s be done with these illusions, Stubby.” He spoke calmly to Primrose. “Out of respect I’ll make it quick for you.”

In one fluid motion both Darkwood and Quentin bravely stepped to intercept him, but were cast aside by invisible mental bolts that sent them sprawling.

Joan, Felicity, and Algy Timber all tried flinging empty custard pots in his direction, but Cleats avoided them all with ease, and barely broke the pace of his advance.

But then lady luck stepped in as Joan cried out, “Oh if only we could introduce some custard to his gullet, we would be saved!”

And outside the gate, still recovering from being used as a battering ram, lay Cleats’ enormous bull cavy.

“Custard?” The enormous cavy said – his ears pricking up. “Did someone mention custard? I absolutely adore custard. Let me at it. Let no rodent stand in my way!”

He then leapt to his feet, and charged through the broken portal. He took a brief moment to ignore all the wayward private parts and fleeing bandits, and then locked his gaze upon the last remaining pot of custard, which as luck would have it, stood upon a trestle table beside the shapely form of Primrose Pickles.

“That mother-fluffer is mine.” He bellowed loudly whilst charging blindly – oblivious to the fact that his master stood between himself and the tantalising custard.

Well what happened next was horrifying beyond belief. Even the drunken monks paused in their synchronised posing to gasp in awe, and the others openly cringed. Lucas Cleats had been caught from behind by the massive lowered head of his mount, and was flung bodily high into the air, where he landed with an “Oof” upon the steep slate-tiled roof of the gatehouse. He then quickly slithered downward in a terrifying cascade of dislodged tiles and startled grimaces. He would have inevitably fallen to a grisly death upon the shattered remains of the wooden gate below, but somehow his scrotum managed to become ensnared in the gutter, and he was left dangling above the precipice by his private parts.

“Oh I wish I’d brought my digital camera.” Algy Timber spoke into the resulting silence, “I could really liven up my personal web site with pictures of that.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

Now you can see why I call this Revel in the Ribaldry. Fun- what? Of course the e-book is still available – after all these years – at most stockists, some of which are mentioned beneath the header and on the sidebar.

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part sixteen)

If Folie thought that he and Placebo had problems, they paled into insignificance when compared to those of Frisby Mumph. Some of his customers were actually sinking in the deepening snow…

Fortunately this particular female was saved by Precipitous Ledge Walker extraordinaire, Patti Roularde, as she returned from giving Nobby the heave-ho in the nearby hills. And Marty Friedpants and the sewage workers union reps were guided to safety when Sir Dodger used his artificial knees to carry him into the wilderness on a one-plug rescue mission…

“Over here, lads.” He called above the incessant wind. “Follow me. If you lose sight of me in the snow, listen out for my distinctive actors’ timbre.  It’ll sound like this: to me – to me.”

Even the immigrant Ice Worlders were experiencing difficulty…

“Flaming heck,” they would bellow, “this Martian snow sure gets under your eyelids. I’m producing copious tears and its making it hard to see.”

“That’s nothing.” Others would reply. “Since moving to Earth all my old underpants have worn out: these Earth pants let snow in at the side. It’s compacting in the gusset in the most uncomfortable manner possible!”

Out on the plains, the orange engineers had run a sweep for potentially lost customers in their immediate area. Now it was time to head back to the relative safety of their temporary habitats…

 

“Isn’t it annoying,” Budlea Budgin said to her colleague, Crevice McNally, “how no matter how close our habitats look, they always seem to end up being much farther away?”

Crevice had to agree. They’d been walking for five minutes; the snow storm was getting ever nearer; and still the habitat was out of reach…

But he kept up Budlea’s spirit by saying: “Yeah, but we’re nearly there now. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and we’ll be there in next to no time. The return journey always takes less time than the journey out. It’s a well-known fact.”

Although their situation was far from pleasant, it was a darned sight better than the conditions that surrounded the Future Museum of Mars…

It was now a virtual white-out situation. Anyone that remained outside would probably stay that way now. The only means of finding their way to the building was by feel – or perhaps psychic ability. But, in the absence of the Earplug Brothers, that seemed an unlikely scenario.

Griselda Splint took one look out of her room’s tiny window and shuddered…

“Crikey,” she said to herself, “anyone left out there had better find themselves one of the many caves that litter this rocky area.”

Which, by something other than coincidence, two engineers – Mudd Galorski and Dudooz Hamilton – were doing at that very moment…

“Thank the Saint of All Earplugs for that.” Dudooz cried out as the cave came into view. 

“And thank the Saint of All Earplugs for recommending triple-layered thermal underpants in the company employee’s guidebook.” Mudd replied.

And when, finally (following a titanic struggle against the wind) they entered the cave, they were doubly grateful for their thermal underpants, because the bitter cold was being blown straight into their sanctuary…

“Curses,” Dudooz growled, “now we’ll have to use our spare pairs to plug the entrance!”

“Duh,” a disappointed Mudd complained, “I was planning on wearing my spare on my head!”

Fortunately for one customer, who had also stumbled upon the cave…

…they took a few moments to consider which pair to use: those they already wore; or their spares.

Other engineers, who had yet to find cover, rallied together in the face of the storm…

 

“Okay, lads,” their chief, Clifton Wedge bellowed as best he could in the unfavourable conditions, “it’s Survival Protocol Two.”

“Is that the protocol where we all snuggle up together and take turns being on the outside?” Clifton’s Leading Hand, Conrad Kickstart yelled back.”

“No,” Brighton Briezie, further down the slope replied on her boss’s behalf, “that’s Survival Protocol One. Two is when we dig little snow shelters in the hillside; reduce our breathing to almost nothing; and effectively go into semi-hibernation.”

So, as the storm swept across the plain and enveloped the temporary habitats…

…it began to bury the museum…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part fifteen)

“Is that a power generation device?” Folie said as he indicated the heavy-looking equipment that stood in the second alcove beside the toilet.

“No, no,” Donny replied, “that all happens behind shielding and stuff. That is a Gravitonic Multiplicitor.”

For a moment silence reigned. Then Tojo spoke: “Want know what is?”

“Please.” Both youngsters replied.

Donny rubbed his hands together – at least mentally: as far as he was concerned, this was the best bit of the tour.  He said: “The idea came from something in the ship’s log. Its previous owners – Beaufort and Richter Skail – were trapped by the gravity of a Galactic Lens.”

Folie and Placebo cast their minds back to the video they had discovered in the depths of space. It mentioned the Galactic Lens…

“Got it.” They said together.

“And do you recall how the ship escaped the Galactic Lens?” Donny inquired.

Both Folie and Placebo screwed up their faces in thought; and it wasn’t a disfiguring effort in vain: “Yeah.” Placebo blurted. “They used the ship’s tractor beam to latch on to a distant planet, and pulled themselves up it.”

“It took months to escape.” Folie added. “And when they got back home they were too late: their eco-system had been destroyed.”

“A very sad tale.” Donny said as his face went all gum and despondent. But then it lightened once more: “Well our engineers have improved on the tractor beam: we’ve made the Gravitonic Multiplicitor.”

The boys had to think about that for a minute. In doing so they absentmindedly turned in the direction  of a second door…

“So it’s really a super-massive tractor beam.” Placebo concluded.

“To do with what you want.” Donny said with a smile. “And, right now, you might have no idea what that will be: but one day, in the future, you’ll be very glad you have a Gravitonic Multiplicitor. And when you finally get to use it – tell us how it went: we’d love to know. Now  I see you’ve noticed that other door. Shall we?”

With that he invited them to join him…

“You gonna like it.” Tojo stated adamantly. “A lot.”

But Tojo’s verbal utterance was the understatement of the year…

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” Folie yelped as they entered the second compartment, “I’ve died and gone to Silicon Valley!

“It’s…it’s…it’s,” Placebo stammered…

…”a proper bridge!”

With that the two Earthlings ran around the compartment excitedly – jabbering so quickly to one another that Donny, despite his perfect command of Earplug, couldn’t follow.

“Slow down.” He cried. “Slow down. Those buttons on the control panels actually do something. Don’t go pressing them willy-nilly: you might empty the lavatory, fire a neutron torpedo, or something!”

Neither Placebo nor Folie were really listening – either to each other or Donny Woolbadger. But eventually, when exhaustion – both mental and physical – set in, they slowed to a halt.

“Neutron torpedo?” Folie inquired…

Donny explained that, following an intense reverse engineering of the Gravity Whelk’s remaining two proton torpedoes, Scroton engineers  thought they could go one better. Why base your weaponry upon feeble little protons, they considered, when you could introduce the much butcher and generally heftier neutrons? The result, neutron torpedoes: altogether a much more potent form of defence.

“No one kick sand in eyes now.” Tojo remarked.

But this information worried Folie…

“Oh, Placebo, what are we going to do? With great power comes great responsibility. Are we up to controlling something as devastating as a neutron torpedo? Or a whole bay of them in the bowels of the ship – just waiting to be unleashed! Will it drive us to the edge of madness? Do we have the necessary credentials in the wisdom department? I have my doubts.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part thirteen)

With so much snow falling around the Future Museum of Mars…

…Frisby Mumph couldn’t resist responding to a call from the Muffins and their robotic servants, and soon found himself frolicking in the snow with them…

But he knew it was a just a brief reprieve from his responsibility for the well-being of the building and everyone inside it.

“This is fun, guys,” he chuckled, “but Tangerine and I must be on our way now. You all get back to your sunken city and wrap yourselves up nice and warm: I think this mini-ice-age is gonna be a doozey!”

Of course Frisby’s customers had no idea how bad conditions would become. This particular individual was lucky to make it through Buttcleft Pass before it became impassable…

Sensibly most remained close to safety. If things worsened noticeably, they could simply step inside through one of many emergency exits that had been left ajar for them…

Several groups of Ice World immigrants from a couple of years previous had paid the fare to Mars in the hope that the winter there would remind them of their home world… 

Unfortunately one of them had forgotten how fridged air accentuates the aroma of escaping bodily gasses…

…and how they become visible to the naked eye.

Charles De Glop had stopped enjoying himself, and went back to work. But when he tried to pick some rosemary and thyme for his latest gastronomic wonder, he found it submerged and frozen solid…

“I will not lower myself to use frozen food.” He said to himself. “It is beneath me. But I do have that half-sachet of drinking chocolate at the back of the cupboard: it’s only a couple of years out-of-date. Hmmm, perhaps this is the right time for Charles De Glop to become experimental once again.”

Outside the kitchen, on the concrete apron, a pair of cyclops earplugs made their way back from a pleasant stroll in the snow…

“I wish this stroll would never end.” The grey cyclops said through a small smile.

“I agree,” the larger of the two replied. “It has been so pleasant in your company. I say, as long as conditions don’t worsen, we should stay out here for as long as we can.”

But then the heavens opened…

“Bugger this,” he added, “let’s get inside now!”

The sudden change almost caught Doubry Furkins and Jenson Prong out too…

“I’d like to see any Company cameras that can spot us through this.” Jenson moaned at Doubry. “No more arguments: get inside now!”

“Oh flip,” Charles whined as he made for the kitchen door…

…”perhaps baked beans on toast isn’t such a bad idea after all!”

Fortunately, in the lee of the nearby hills…

…where the wind blew less strongly and the snow fell a little less intensely, Nobby Hollister had used his experience in lower gravity to escape the clutches of Patti Roularde…

Alone for the moment, he paused for breath and to take the opportunity to enjoy the sense of freedom…

…where he considered leaving Patti behind. Then, through a cleft in the rocks he could just spot the museum, as snow swirled around its futuristically curved flanks…

…and he was certain that it was the right course of action. But then he heard a familiar voice on the breeze…

“Oh there you are, Nobby.” Patti said as she sauntered by. “I thought you’d fallen off a cliff or something.”

But then she dropped the type of bombshell that no desperate engineer that has taken a job on Mars because his bank account is empty and his divorced wife has left him in debt wants to hear…

“I didn’t let on earlier,” she said, “but I am a very experienced Precipitous Ledge Walker. I have walked upon many of Earth’s most precipitous ledges. I learned my craft in the Atlas Mountains. I then moved on to the Alps, the Himalayas, and finally Antarctica. I wrote several books on the subject. I have my own TV channel that specialises in extreme sports. I am a very rich woman. I came to Mars to find a daring, handsome husband with nice buttocks and a kind heart. I thought that earplug was you. But when you used your low-gravity experience to leave me behind, I knew that you were not that earplug. Nobby – you’re matrimonial toast. See you later – not!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Revel in the Ribaldry 25

More ribald tales from the Hamster-Sapiens now. Well an excerpt anyway. And this one comes from none other than this e-book…

As is my way, Mr Complete Random once more selected the excerpt. Let’s hope the non-existent devil has chosen well…

Joan, Darkwood, Rootley, and the gargantuan Brother Alfonso Dos Fresas had emerged from the sewer outlet that overhung Weasels Pit’s Lake Effluence like some evil giant urethra. They’d closely resembled an army of frozen zombies. Only when they gained the sanctuary of Rootley’s disgusting hovel atop the hill that over looked the putridly medieval village, and were embraced by the considerable bulk of Margarita Hummingbird, did they finally thaw sufficiently to converse in words of more than one syllable.

Finally, as evening drew on, they settled about the smoky fire and discussed a possible constitution for Prannick – once the power of The Wheel had been overthrown, of course.

“So tell me, Joan,” Darkwood spoke between draughts of a foul ale that they’d purchased from an inebriated chipmunk whom they encountered on the road that led towards Knackered Dobbin, and who was selling hot baked beans and treacle tarts to passers-by, “since you know Sponx is ruled by an absolute monarchy, and Prannick is a religious mono-culture, how well do you imagine that your land’s concept of democracy would fare in this obviously more culturally-primitive dimension?”

Joan’s reply was short and sweet. It was also a question.  “Capitalism, or Socialism?”

Darkwood pondered this subject for a moment. He then asked the obvious question, “Is there any real difference?”

Now if anyone had asked Joan this question just a paw-full of days previous, then it’s likely that she would have responded with, “You what? Socialism? Duh…” But the new Joan now used parts of her brain that hadn’t been dulled by an upbringing in the company of a moronic gerbil, and the ever-present aroma of custard. Just as Darkwood had done moments earlier, Joan too pondered the subject. When she spoke is was with precision and clarity…

“In ideology and theory – a difference so vast that it could lead to war:” She informed him, “But in practice – they are barely discernible. They’re both highly proficient in the art of corruption, but only one of them is capable of running a country long-term without bankrupting it or causing civil unrest. Well that’s if Hamster Britain’s government is anything to judge by. The same goes for dictatorships and police states: In the end you can’t tell one from the other. Except for cornflakes, of course: There’s always a greater choice of cornflakes and cereal-based products in states where free speech is the norm. Otherwise they’re much the same. Even the pornography looks remarkably similar. So I’ve been told: I’ve never actually indulged…”

She turned away to cover the brightening of skin beneath her youthful hamstery fur.

“Not doing well, are we Darkwood?” Rootley returned from prodding the smouldering fire, “In any case – aren’t we being a tad premature? We have the fluffin’ Wheel to overthrow first.”

“And I have a trabajo to find, if you recall.” Brother Alfonso spoke from inside a hammock that he’d fashioned from a huge sheet of muslin that was usually used for containing the village pudding, but had been washed and left outside to dry overnight by the village pudding maker, and which had been subsequently stolen by Brother Alfonso as he sauntered past en route from Lake Effluence to Rootley’s hovel, “As a monk my professional days are over.”

It was late at the Institute of Hugely Important Studies, and Flotti Pañuelo had only just put on her hat and coat, and departed the establishment on her ex-Horatio Horseblanket race-prepped motocross foldaway scooter that she’d won in the last year’s Hamster Heath Annual Winter Farting Contest, when Fabian Strangefellow’s rare and expensive go-kart rolled onto the grounds with its pedals feathered for complete silence.

The machine didn’t stop; it just merely slowed sufficiently to allow a black-clad Roosevelt Teabiscuit the opportunity to leap from the passenger seat, roll spectacularly across the pavement, then spring, like an over-eager flea, up onto the flat roof of the foyer, shinny up a drainpipe, then dive through an open window upon the fourth floor.

Elsewhere upon the fourth floor, the three members of The Royal Institute for Psychic Rodent Research were once more putting Felicity Bugler through her paces. And once more she was failing like a talentless tart.

“You know, I’m at a total loss: She was fine earlier.” Doctor Rambling Bramble spoke in his most frustrated tone of voice as he stood behind impervious plate glass beside his assistant, Primrose Pickles. “If I had my way I’d have her put out of her misery. Lethal injection ought to do it.”

Primrose was feeling more charitable. “Perhaps if I gave her really good spanking…” She suggested.

Bramble’s whiskers twanged like an ill-tuned banjo. “Do you really think so?” He said, suddenly breathless, “Can I watch?”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2013

I don’t need to tell you that this book is available at most e-book stockists: you already know.

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part ten)

Whilst all this Marsy stuff was happening, far, far away upon Scroton, Vice Chancellor Donny Woolbadger and Chancellor Tojo Winterborn summoned Folie and Placebo to Government House…

“Boys,” Tojo opened in Scrotonic, “we’re not entirely sure what it is you want: would you care to pop back aboard your ratty old bucket of junk and scribble notes on the wall in felt-tip pen? It would be ever so helpful.”

Naturally Donny translated his instruction verbatim, before departing for areas unknown. Equally naturally Folie and Placebo were thrilled that they were, effectively, being given a blank cheque…

“Whoo-hoo,” Folie cried as they returned to the shipyard, “this is gonna be fun!”

And equally, equally naturally, they had to enter their ship during the night, when the roof had been closed and all the workers had gone home…

But, as a result of the lateness of the hour, and after a long day, both Earthlings were a little tired. Placebo found that he couldn’t concentrate and kept thinking he heard strange noises echoing, ‘spookily’, down the multifarious corridors…

And Folie wandered around feeling foolish because he couldn’t figure out how to remove the pen lid…

Luckily the Automatic Pilot was still active and suggested that they tell the cable ends to check out the ship’s log. So, the next morning, Folie and Placebo did just that…

They were a little surprised to be admonished for their tardiness and were told that they were lucky that the ship came equipped with such an excellent Automatic Pilot.

“So does that mean that Autopilot stays?” Placebo inquired after Chancellor Winterborn had finally run out of breath.

“Oh, undoubtedly.” Donny Woolbadger concluded the meeting. “Without it you two would be dead within hours. Immediately after lift-off, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Well actually he did have one more thing to say. He said: “Now sod off to Scroton Prime for some sight-seeing; and leave the ship to our engineers, designers, and delightfully talented whizz-kids.”

A short while after that a team of cable ends entered the ship and were now accessing the ship’s log, which told the vessel’s tale from its original launch – to the moment it set down in the dry dock…

“Jeepers,” orange engineer, Bertie Bumbledope cried out as the information passed before his eyes, “this log is a treasure trove of celestial and technological data. This is gonna bring our tech forward in a quantum leap.”

“I’m just glad that I live in an era when this happened.” The green engineer, Humper Humpington gushed as he studied the information matrix globe. “I’ll be able to write in my memoirs.”

“And look at this.” A grey-hued designer named Borgoise Johanson marvelled at the door mat, which rang a bell every time someone entered the room. “The red chevrons: they’re so exquisite. And they light up too!”

“This information matrix globe is so soft and comfy.” A paler grey designer, named Woolston Skipyard remarked. “I wonder if it was designed that way, or just a happy accident.”

“That’s nothing,” a brown engineer who enjoyed the moniker Deuce Wayne, spoke from inside the colon evacuation unit, “I feel several kilos lighter already – and I’ve only just switched this thing on!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Tooty’s Techno-Mashup 2: And Tooty Shall Have Music Wherever He Goes!

Now Tooty’s never been at the forefront of technological change: he’s one of those who believe in the maxim “If it aint broke don’t fix it”. But once something new has been proven beneficial to him, he will embrace it like a long-lost legionnaire embraces a desert fort’s water butt. That is – he goes for it wholeheartedly. But, despite his adoption of technological advancement, he doesn’t abandon the old tech willy-nilly. No: it goes into his attic – collecting dust, cob-webs, spider shit, and (if he’s unlucky) moisture. And it is because of this reticence of his that recently, whilst searching his attic (for something entirely unrelated) he discovered a plastic box containing a bunch of these…

They are, of course, compact cassette audio tapes – still in their original cellophane wrappers and, consequently immaculate.

“Now what would Tooty want with those old slabs of plastic crap?” I hear you muse, “Why, they’re even older than video tapes – and they went out with the Ark!”

Well I’ll tell you. Tooty normally drives a very pleasant modern 21st century car, featuring a turbo-charged, three cylinder petrol engine that is frugal, reasonably clean, bloody quick, and sounds really nice when he floors the accelerator in any of the six gears available to him. But in his garden he keeps one of these…

Yes, it’s an old car. It goes (rather well), is taxed and insured, and can be driven any time he wants. He doesn’t need it: it’s a drain on resources: and it takes up room that could be better used. But he likes it. He likes the slow, lazy steering: the even slower, even lazier automatic gearbox; and the smooth quiet four-cylinder engine that originated in Japan and couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding. It also comes equipped with one of these…

For those of you born on or near the time of the millennium, that is an FM/AM radio with compact cassette player. Once big news. Groovy even. Something that (if Tooty wants to listen to music of his choice, and not some noise selected by a ‘right-on’ self-important ‘presenter’ who wouldn’t know good music if it chewed on his/her privates) requires compact cassettes. Cue the recent discoveries.

“Ah,” I hear your finger raised questioningly, “but how does he get his preferred digitised music from his laptop/MP3 player onto the cassette?”

Well it wasn’t just the cassettes he found up there on the top floor: he also found this…

Yes, it’s an ancient twin-deck ‘boom box’ – designed and fabricated decades before the very idea of DAB radio. But here’s the thing: Panasonic inadvertently future-proofed this delightfully analogue device. They saw that people might want to record from their Compact Discs, (Hah – remember them?) which of course they did because their cars weren’t fitted with CD players (also which his modern car isn’t either: it’s all multi-media and Bluetooth stuff). But what they couldn’t have imagined is that their ‘CD In Line’ sockets could carry the yet to be developed digital information that comes from the Internet.

“Great,” you could be excused for uttering in a doubtful tone, “but how does Tooty get the aforementioned digital information to the boom box?”

Every single electrical item that Tooty has bought over the years came equipped with connecting cables. He didn’t throw them away either. So, after a half-hour’s rummage he surfaced with this…

One end into his laptop’s headphone socket: the other two into the stereo CD In Line sockets on the boom box…

Then it’s simply a matter of pressing RECORD on the Panasonic, and PLAY on the Toshiba laptop. Of course he has to listen to every song: but if you’re doing the ironing, or knocking up dinner, where’s the pain in that? And now he can listen to modern songs in his old car, without having to listen to a load of over-exuberant drivel. Did I hear the word ‘genius’ mentioned?

Tooty’s Been Thinking

Look at the following picture…

There goes Tooty, out in the frosty morning air, with two of his bridge cameras nestling together in his camera bag. See the lengths he goes to to bring you lovely pictures of stuff. Then, having digested that, look at this…

Well bugger me there he goes again – braving terrible winter conditions with his pockets crammed with waterproof compact cameras. What a guy. Which brought him to thinking about this blog. As much as readers swoon over his fabulous scripts and wondrous tales of derring do – not to mention Tooty the Chef of course; he couldn’t help but notice that it’s this sort of thing…

…that float reader’s boats as much as this sort of thing…

…or, dare I say it, this sort of thing…

So, he thought, how would it be for you – the reader of this blog – if he were to start a second blog that featured only the results of his photo-snapping exploits out in the real world? Stuff like this…

Sounds okay? Want him to do it? If so, he’ll take your positive comments and clicks on the Like button as approval, and looks forward to delving through his ENORMOUS back-catalogue. It’s about the only thing of his that is enormous*, except perhaps his over-inflated opinion of his talents. Comment and click at your leisure.

*Actually there is his prostate gland; but he doesn’t liked to boast; just dribble.

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part nine)

A half-hour then passed in which Mulleon had taken a bite to eat; gone to the lavatory; changed his underwear; and managed to lose Rufus. Of course the first three acts had been necessary; the fourth less so, and he cursed himself for not keeping his big gob shut when he’d hatched his plan to use the plugmutt in such an underhand manner. So it was alone that Mulleon followed the blueprints of the museum that Maverick had paid a fortune for to a pair of dubious underworld characters called Wilton Carpetti and Vinki Vinkleton. Now he entered the lowest foundations of the futuristic abode…

A single light illuminated the way, and soon he spotted the hatch that led to the supposed caverns below…

…and, in a trice, was through it…

Looking around him, Mulleon wondered at the sheer volume of the cavern. He’d expected to find it damp and cramped. Instead it was dry and spacious.

“Huh, not bad.” He said begrudgingly. “Now I know why they use the term ‘cavernous’.”

He then set himself to address his immediate concern: which way to go?

Several storeys above Mulleon, William of Porridge congratulated himself on a job well done…

“Will you look at that!” He said to no one but himself. “All packed away in Bays Six and Seven: and you’d never know it to look at it. Pristine. Will, baby: you are the cork!”

But when he dropped from the platform, onto the delivery buggy track…

…he noticed the luggage service platform arriving unexpectedly. Even more surprising was the fact that it was carrying a passenger…

Of course William couldn’t possibly have known that Maverick had followed Mulleon into the bowels of the building – to make certain that the yellow earplug hadn’t reneged on their deal; pocketed the money; and ‘done a runner’. Now he’d made the mistake of being lazy. If he’d bothered to take the stairs, no one need ever know that he’d been anywhere but the public areas. Now that big lump of a luggage cork was calling out to him. Moments later he was joined upon the luggage service platform…

“Hi,” the new arrival said chirpily, “my name’s William of Porridge: what’s yours?”

Maverick had expected admonishment; not a warm welcome. He was caught off-guard by William’s approach: “Errrr.” He said. “Um…” Then he thought that honestly would be the best tactic. “Maverick.” He replied. “Maverick Fossil-Hunter.”

William nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah – thought so.” He said – which surprised Maverick even further. “You believe in ancient astronauts and all that guff. Yes, I saw your interview with Rupert Piles. You maintain that Mars was colonised by an early earplug civilisation that was aquatic in nature. You suggest that the Muffins are the result of an artificially altered genome that allowed later generations of those colonists to live on a planet that was rapidly drying up.”

“Oh cripes.” Maverick said sotto voce. Then more loudly he added: “Well, essentially, you’re right. I do. May I say – thank you for actually listening to my half of the interview. Most people agree with that camera-wielding oaf, Rupert Piles. His open guffawing at my statements almost ruined me, you know.”

“So now you’re here to prove him wrong, huh?” William urged.

“Oh yes indeed.” Maverick said as he turned his gaze away from his thoughts, and in the direction of William…

“I’m going to humble him. I’m going to make him eat every one of his words. I’m going to make him choke on his guffaws. I’m going to bestride the academic world like an earplugologist colossus. Everyone who ever said I was a kook and nutter is going to regret their foolish tongues ever spoke those words. I’m going to kick several scientists and academics right up the metaphysical arse. Then I’m going to kick them up the real arse too!”

Maverick hadn’t noticed, but his tenor had quickly shifted in an upwards direction towards falsetto. William had.

“Oh, right. Yeah, great.” He said as he took a backward step. “Be careful on this lift: it isn’t really for people. See ya.”

With that he was gone, and Maverick could continue on his way – his recently pent-up stress levels magically salved.

Below, and unobserved, Mulleon was continuing onwards; but his thoughts were of turning back. If he could just think up some sneaky excuse…

William of Porridge had, until encountering Maverick Fossil-Hunter, been relatively unconcerned with day-to-day problems of the Future Museum of Mars. But a mad cork on the premises made him nervous…

He could well remember the tales of Ballington Cork’s attempts to take control of the Museum of Future Technology. And he wasn’t too impressed with the disco cork king – Hambledon Bohannon – either…

He would need to speak to someone about it. And straight away!

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part seven)

Well it was just as the Automatic Pilot had suggested: there was no need to fire off their remaining pair of proton torpedoes: Scroton’s gravity was sufficiently powerful to pull the ship towards it.

Although the nova had ruined the star drive, the Gravity Whelk’s uncomplicated atmospheric-flight pulse drive had been unaffected by the solar convulsion: so, after obtaining permission to enter Scroton’s atmosphere, the boys took their positions in the forward window and watched the air rush past…

“I like air.” Folie informed his best friend. “I like the way it makes lots of noise as it rubs on the ship’s hull. And buffeting too: it really makes me feel euphoric. I think it’s a visceral thing.”

“I like it because it’s breathable.” Placebo replied. “Even at this altitude it’s a lot better than outer space.”

But it wasn’t long before the ship was rushing across the landscape towards its final destination…

Of course the boys had been so busy talking inanities that neither of them noticed that permission to land had been granted. Fortunately for them the Automatic Pilot was more professional. So soon the Gravity Whelk had nestled into a dry dock that overlooked  the city of Scroton Prime, and before you could say ‘Magnuss Earplug: what a guy‘ personnel transfer conduits had attached themselves to the airlocks on the lower hull…

“Straighten your ties, boys.” The Automatic Pilot bellowed, “we’re down.”

Then the summons came. Five minutes later Folie and Placebo stood at the ceremonial gate to the city.

“Hello, brave young earplugs.” A brown cable end said in a pleasant baritone. “I’m Vice Chancellor Donny Woolbadger. This is Chancellor Tojo Winterborn: he doesn’t speak any earplug language I’m afraid: so I’m here to interpret. Your Automatic Pilot informs us that you need a re-fit.”

“A rather extensive one, I believe?” Tojo Winterborn added – though, of course neither Folie nor Placebo were aware of that.

But Placebo – being a non-earplug – had learned to read body language very well. “Yes.” He guessed correctly and replied directly to the chancellor. “A bloody great big one – with all the bells and whistles you can muster.”

When Donny had translated this, the chancellor appeared very impressed. “Now I can see why our great and glorious leader is so enamoured with these Earth beings: they’re a clever bunch of bleeders. I’m not so sure about the little yellow one though. Looks a bit thick to me. But he’s cute, so we’ll let my reservations pass on this occasion. Tell them to follow us.”

“Walk this way.” Donny invited the new-comers. “From this relatively low vantage point you can see your tatty old ship in dry dock.”

He was right too. And just to impress the two space-farers further, sparkling cutting torches could already been seen in action…

“Oh, good.” Folie said appreciatively. “The first thing to go is that useless sodding excuse for a bridge.”

But Folie and Placebo were soon to be impressed even further, because, at that moment, Nigel – The Golden One – proceeded through ranks of his security forces…

…for a meeting with his visitors from far away across the void of interstellar space. He elected to meet them in the industrial zone immediately adjacent to the dry dock…

“Do either of you know Magnuss Earplug?” He inquired once introductions had been made. “I’m a big fan.”

Folie would have liked nothing more than to have answered in the affirmative; but sadly he’d never met the Museum of Future Technology’s greatest hero. “Sorry, but no.” He said. “But I do have a framed pair of his underpants – under glass and hermetically sealed.”

“Yes, and we have met Cushions Smethwyke.” Placebo blurted.

Nigel appeared a little confused. “Cushions…urr…Smethwyke?”

“She’s the boss of the MOFT.” Folie explained. “I guess you could say she’s Magnuss’ boss.”

Had Nigel possessed an eyebrow he would have raised it.

“My,” he said, “she must be quite a gal. Magnuss Earplug’s boss, eh? Perhaps I should take the time for a royal visit. Thank you, lads: you’ve given me food for thought. Well I’ll leave you in the Chancellor’s capable hands. Whatever you need…ah…it’s yours. I’ll see you again when the job’s complete. Bye-ee.”

©Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part six)

Meanwhile, so far across the gulfs of space that numbers become incomprehensible, the Gravity Whelk was well into its long journey to Scroton…

Although the ancient vessel was travelling at full speed, Folie and Placebo found that they had lots of time on their hands. And since the Automatic Pilot…um…piloted the ship, they chose to watch the view through the front window of the nominal ‘bridge’. And it was whilst they were positioned thus, that a distant star exploded…

“Cripes,” Folie yelped, “I hope that was farther away than it looked!”

Placebo would have responded, but his thoughts were interrupted by the Automatic Pilot: “Immediate course change required. Initiating.”

“Obviously it wasn’t farther away than it looked.” Placebo said finally. “I guess exploding stars are pretty dangerous to old tubs like this one.”

“They’re also extremely rare.” Folie said confidently. “Cams Layne, aboard the Brian Talbot, told me that his crew had flown for loads of light years and had never seen a single one. Same goes for the crews of the Chi-Z-Sox and the K T Woo.”

“That’s comforting to know.” A relieved Placebo replied. “I hope we got it on the dash cam: I’d like to play it back for Mister Layne, when we see him next.”

Folie then suggested that they might witness the star’s final throws from one of the side windows; so they quickly made their way to an observation point…

“Nice.” Folie opined after five minutes of scouring all visible space with his sharp eye sight. “But hardly spectacular.”

“Yeah.” Placebo sighed. “I guess the show’s over. Fancy some spaghetti on toast?”

Naturally Folie would have said: “Sho’nuf, big fella: lead me to the galley.” But his reply was quenched when, without warning, another star exploded…

“I’ll take a rain check on that right now.” He said as he buckled on his seat belt. “That is definitely much closer than the first one.”

The Automatic Pilot had just enough time to plot an evasive manoeuvre, when the ship was struck by an energy wave cast out by the nova…

“Aargh!” It managed as electrical conduits sparked and fizzled. “Flipping heck – we’ve lost the main star drive. You two: get aft. We have to know how badly hurt we are before I can try a re-start.”

Under normal circumstances, the young owners of the Gravity Whelk would have welcomed something useful to do: but these weren’t normal circumstances.

“Ooh, blimey,” Placebo said as he studied a set of really important read-outs, “this panel is completely dead.”

Folie wasn’t doing any better in his section of the ship…

“Ditto.” He reported. “I’m on emergency lighting down here too.”

But as they checked other compartments, the situation seemed slightly improved…

“Ah, there’s a  bit of luck,” Placebo noted. “The outer hatch on the toilet tissue store hasn’t opened to space.”

Folie too had good news…

“And the pumpkin farm is fine as well.” He said. Then, after a moment’s consideration: “Hey; how about we microwave a pie?”

But then the ship began to yaw and the artificial gravity became unreliable – alternating between Earth standard and Luna standard. This fluctuation made Placebo feel quite nauseous…

“Flipping heck, Autopilot,” he mumbled between bouts of gagging, “can’t you get us underway somehow? Isn’t thrust a good alternative to fluctuating artificial gravity?”

“Very good, Placebo,” the Automatic Pilot’s stentorian voice echoed down the (now silent) corridors, “you appear to have studied basic space faring stuff. Unfortunately the only way your wish can come true is if I release a proton torpedo into the rear expansion chamber of the main drive, and ignite it.”

“It’s either that,” Placebo groaned testily, “or I throw up all over your shiny bulkheads.”

“Initiating proton torpedo release.” The Automatic Pilot said with a trace of panic in its cyber voice. “And igniting it.”

A split second later…

…the ship began to move.

“Another one.” Folie shouted above the noise of a ship trying to shove its blunt-end through its pointy-end.

Given an explicit command, the Autopilot did as it was bid – and continued in that way for several days until the Gravity Whelk blew itself all the way to Weird Space…

“Are we nearly there yet?” Placebo inquired from the galley.

“Kind’a.” Folie replied. “But space is awfully big.”

But, just of a handful of days later, the Gravity Whelk nosed into semi-familiar territory…

“Well whadda ya know?” The Automatic Pilot spoke over the general address system.” We’ve only gone and done it. And with only a couple of proton torpedoes remaining on the inventory. It’s all downhill from here. Guys; welcome to Scroton.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part five)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were just so many levels…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021

 

Junior Earplug Adventures: Haunted Mars (part four)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By now others were beginning to crowd the narrow entrance…

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

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

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

…It should be landing any time now.”

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

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

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

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

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

…El Custardo y Los Natillas!

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2021