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Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 7)

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar (part 1)

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

Earplug Adventures: The Veil of Shytar

Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neither Bubbles nor Barclay were impressed by what they saw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

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

 

Spend, Spend, Spend – Cripes Not Again!

Actually it’s not the Back-Lane Behemoth this time: it’s the little Cabo that’s having TLC lavished upon it. Unhappy with the total lack of luggage space, I searched the Internet for a rear carrier. It took hours to locate one in the UK, and it appeared to be the last one available. So, paying through the nose, I puchased it. I also bought a base plate for a top box from my local accessories store too. In total it came to £160 – for a bloody bike rack – but at least the postage was free – and I always enjoy a little drive out in my ‘classic’ Toyota (to collect the base plate) anyway. So, after discovering that some minor manufacturing changes had been made to the 2022 version of the  Fantic Caballero, which meant poking about through several boxes and buckets of nuts and bolts in my shed, I finally wrestled the flipping things into place…

I think it finishes off the slightly droopy back end nicely. Better still, it means that I can now simply unclip the topbox from the Yamaha, and slip it on the Fantic…

Now that’s extremely practical and a significant financial saving over a second top box. I may be a silly old Tooty; but I’m not entirely stupid. Next up, a small screen to stop the wind blast making my ageing shoulders complain. Watch this space.

Scissors, Needle, Thread.

In an earlier post, titled Fashion For Fogeys 2, I told the fascinating tale of how I dyed some trousers bright yellow. Gosh, what fun it was. But looking back upon it, I couldn’t help but notice that (since retirement, and the subsequent reduction in physical activity) I’ve lost some meat on my thighs and arse – as seen in this pleasantly demure Tooty the Chef shot…

Well the resulting loss of bio mass means that I look less than a million dollars in my yellow Marks and Spencers trousers. This is unacceptable; so I thought the time was ripe to engage the imagination and put them to an alternative use. Naturally it took next to no time to formulate a plan. Note the blue, padded motorcycling jeans I’m wearing in this shot of me aboard the Back-Lane Behemoth…

They’re bloody awful. They’re badly made; too long in the leg (even for me); and too short in the torso. They make no provision at all for the existence of testicles. At best they are uncomfortable. More often they make my bollocks ache and ruin the ride. As they stand, the blue jeans are surplus to requirements, and have been stuffed into the bottom of my bedside ‘biker’s’ trunk for some while. But, thought I, what if I could remove the padded areas and insert them into the vastly more photogenic (and more observable in traffic) yellow trousers?  No sooner had the question been raised, when I was quickly delving into my late wife’s sewing kit. Shortly the blue jeans had been reduced thus…

Thereafter – many – many – hours later, and with fingers and thumbs aching to hitherto unimaginable levels of agony, the interior of the blue jeans had been transferred to the yellow trousers – from the knees up to the buttock area…

In a moment of inspired brilliance, I decided to leave the complete arse area of the blue jeans in place, so that now my dainty botty is protected from an initial impact with the road by two layers of jeans material, two sets of pockets, and the abrasion-resistant material of the original blue jeans liner. And the knees and hips get the pockets that are designed to hold soft armour. I didn’t have any yellow thread, and I can’t sew a decent stitch to save my life: so my handiwork can’t stand close scrutiny…

…but who is going to notice as I go whipping past upon my mighty steed?  Moreover, I no longer need to wear reflective vests and the suchlike, because I already appear as dazzling as the morning sun…

What a groove!

Where is the Back-Lane Behemoth?

Understandably, when people learn that I have obtained this…

…they assume that I swapped in the Back-Lane Behemoth as part exchange for something lighter, more manageable, and better suited to the predominantly rural type of riding I do. I mean, why would a retired gent, such as I, require one motorcycle – let alone two? But they would assume wrong – on both counts. One: why wouldn’t a retired gent want two – utterly disparate, chalk and cheese – motorcycles? Two: Nah, look, there it is…

After all, why would I want to deny myself this?

The Reason…

…why progress on the next Earplug Adventure has stalled.

I must admit that (after getting off to a flying start on the follow-up to Climatic Calamity) recent work on the next, still-unnamed photo-story has been conspicuous by it’s near absence. Okay, a few shots of a hastily constructed set – the Star Chamber – sit quiescent upon my computer awaiting processing…

…but most of my time has been spent studying video after video – in many different languages – that all centre upon a single subject. I don’t mind admitting it, but I have become fixated. Everything else has taken a back seat. Then, on Monday  the 17th of October I drove from Portsmouth to Shoreham-by-Sea, where I visited a delightful waterfront motorcycle dealer, by the name of Spark Motorcycles, and conducted a test ride of their demonstration vehicle. Today, a week and a day later, they kindly delivered  a similar model in the back of a van. And here it is…

 

My first spanking, brand new, motorcycle since my Yamaha RD400 in 1979! Er, what is it, you ask? It’s a Fantic Caballero 500 Scrambler, that’s what it is. A cult machine in it’s homeland of Italy.  Now visit You Tube and punch in that name. You’ll see why I JUST HAD TO HAVE IT. There’s nothing else like it.

Photography: Esoteric Questions Answered

Everyday fans write in and ask esoteric questions of Tooty the Chef. On this occasion, Miss Boo-Boo Balonck, of Wiltshire Terrace, Twisted Wanger, Glamorgan inquired whether it would be best to photograph some apples she’d found at the side of the road, (which she had lain gently in her kitchen window to fester for several days) at nine o’clock in the morning, or at five past seven in the evening. Well, ever eager to assist Boo-Boo’s photographic efforts, Tooty the Chef conducted the necessary experiment. Here is the result…

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t help thinking that natural daylight is the clear winner here. Tooty suggests that Miss Balonck also consider mid-afternoon, when the sun will be in a completely different position. Half past two would be nice – as would the substitution of conference pears or some good, old-fashioned British plums in place of wind-blown apples.

Has ‘Helping the Hedgehog’ Helped?

Well if the following picture is to be believed, someone has clearly moved into the Hedgehog Over-Wintering House at the bottom of my garden. Look, they’ve planted a nice flower outside the porch…

But since no one responded to a polite knock, I thought it best to spy on them – by installing a night-vision camera, I’m sorry to say, t’was not a spiky critter that emerged into the darkness; but one of these…

Oh, well, at least the property isn’t laying vacant. Some smart little rodent has spotted the potential. There, I told you hedgehogs were dumb-asses!

 

First Glimpse of the Next Earplug Adventure

Early days yet. Very early days in fact. But work is underway with props. Look…

Yes, some land vehicles that have appeared in various Earplug Adventures through the years, have been pulled out of mothballs and given a coat of paint – along with some cheap soft orange earplugs who managed to get themselves all messy with transferred ink and other nasty stuff. Here’s what the finished articles look like…

Since I mentioned – in an earlier post – that the central characters would be visiting Worstworld again, following a long period (and loads of adventures) without setting on eyes on the place (if you don’t count that passing shot in Surprise Visit), I thought I should up-date the remnants of the 7th Cavalry – those that remained  behind after most of their officers and enlisted ‘men’ absconded aboard Ship Number 15 when it returned to the Museum of Future Technology in Worstworld Vol 2. Yes, they’ve gone all mechanized. Regarding the second character – to partner with Bubbles Gloor: meet Barclay Scrimmage…

He’s the orange one, by the way. If you’re wondering why Bubbles Gloor looks familiar, it’s because I’m re-using the Daphne De Mauritania figure from Mutant Island – not because I don’t have any more blank earplugs in stock, but because I like it, and I think ‘she’ will do very well. This is a test shot, by the way. It’s a bit too good to leave unsued, so this will definitely appear in the (so far unnamed) story as in interior of the new and improved Fort Dunderhead.  Watch this space.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Climatic Calamity (part 29)

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

Epilogue

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

Naturally Cushions Smethwyke performed the role of Medal-Pinner in Chief. With the Earplug Brothers watching, and Rupert Piles recording, she stepped forward and said very loudly:

“I hereby designate you all as Heroes of the Museum of Future Technology. With that honour comes a pitiful pension, a life-time pass into the museum, a diploma stating that you’re something special, and a cuddly toy – of which…ah…we seem to have run out of. Logistical problems, obviously.”

Of course she could have left it at that, but she then picked out Celestino in particular.

“Celestino Candalabra,” she said in a surprisingly strident voice that carried to the crowds in the corridors beyond the hall, “your talent, I believe has also been your burden. So heavy was it that you took yourself away to live alone in the mountains. Well the curators and I have searched through some of the less well known artefacts from the future, and we have discovered a special bra that when worn by such as person as yourself, renders them immune from the thoughts and…and…and…the ‘truths’ that accompany them. We are proud to offer this to you. Or, if you’re not overly enthused by the thought of wearing female’s underwear, we can tart up your secret cave, add air-con, and maybe install cable TV. Whatta ya think?”

“I think,” Celestino said quietly and hesitatingly, “that I need time to think about that. What I’d really like though, is to hear El Custardo and Los Natillas perform Ode to Joy. Could you do that for me?”

Well no sooner had he spoken those words, when El Custardo’s nasally voice filled the hall…

“Seńor,” he said, “it would be our honour. A one, two, three, four…”

With that everyone was treated to a mariachi version of Ode to Joy that (had the Grand Hall been built by shopping mall builders) almost brought the ceiling down.

Then it was outside to have fun in the snow before it all melted away…

A bemused pair of robots stood in the centre of the frolicking earplugs and wondered what the flipping heck was going on.

“Fifth Officer,” the Captain pleaded, “please explain to me what is happening.”

The Fifth Officer was about to inform its Captain that it had no idea, when it’s thought processes were interrupted by the sound of a mighty engine directly above the area upon which they stood. The hatted robot looked upwards…

…in time to see another Submarine Space Freighter heading for the Space Port…

And it knew, with a certainty that was usually reserved for Celestino Candalabra that more followed in its wake…

Normal business was about to resume at the Museum of Future Technology!

The End

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, a deep sigh of satisfaction: another masterpiece complete. The magnum opus rolls on.

Helping The Hedgehog

When I was a young man. I would often dismount from my motorcycle to aid a hedgehog across the rural road down which I was returning home, before he or she got himself or herself flattened by nocturnal traffic. In those days Britain was awash with the little spiky critters. But, as the decades passed, car numbers increased, hedgehog territories reduced, and with predator numbers increasing, it meant that times were difficult for Erinaceus Europaeus. In fact, it was a full eight years after I moved back into the country, before I saw one – and then only the once. Then, during the drought of 2022, I heard my dogs going bananas in the back garden. Upon investigation I discovered a rather pissed-off ball of spikes blinking in the light of my torch. Naturally I chased the dogs off and gave it a slice of ham. My garden then became part of the hedgehog’s territory, and it returned every night from then on. A while later, whilst channel surfing, I chanced upon a small segment on a local news program concerning the less-than-common hedgehog. Because of their decreasing numbers, the ‘Expert’ was imploring people to help them by supplying water during dry times (doing that already, thank you) and building overwintering habitats for their resident animal. “Ah-ha,” cried I, “time to get the tool box out: it’s ‘project’ time!”

Two days later…

How could ‘my’ hedgehog not give this more than a passing glance?

Inside, beyond the porch, and behind the hay, there is a vestibule –  an inner wall to deflect the winter winds. Beyond that is the hibernation chamber, which comprises three layers of insulation – wood, corrugated plastic, and finally waterproof roofing felt – all kept from the wet or frozen ground by a metal frame, and topped with a plastic roof made from the floor of a dog cage. How can it resist? But if it does – coz they are kinda dumb-asses – I’m confident the mice, voles, or whatever will find a cozy home there.

Making the Earplug Adventures: Inspired by Toothpaste

When I bought a particularly expensive  tube of toothpaste, some while back, it was done – not for the quality of the contents – but for the inspirational shape of the tube. I could see, in an instant, as it resided silently upon the supermarket shelf, a new vessel for my collection of futuristic Earplug Adventure props. The result – once I’d added some miscellaneous vacuum cleaner parts that I found in the garden shed: painted with correction fluid; then reversed the negative, to make it appear dark – was the life-boat from Climatic Calamity…

Well, after that tale was complete, I didn’t really want to put the model aside: it had too much potential. So I stuck my thinking cap on my bonce and got a bit creative. In what form would the next Earplug Adventure manifest itself, I asked.  Who would the central characters be? Well there was a throw-away name mentioned in Climatic Calamity that was too good to miss. Ardent reader, Jayne noticed it. Bubbles Gloor. But who might Bubbles be? What was her reason to visit the Museum of Future Technology? Then it came to me: to steal the specs of the vessel that belonged to the strange triangular alien, Peggy. And why might Bubbles require those specs? Because she is an industrial spy who works for the Punting-Modesty Munitions Company of Lemon Stone – oft mentioned in the stories, and builders of military vehicles such as Valentine Earplug’s XL5 Facepuncher…

So I set to work adding a few more plastic bits from my parts bin; painting it vermilion and matt black; and making it look a whole bunch more ‘dangerous’…

…and The Prowler was born. I then created a couple of images that included it…

…like this flypast of Lemon Stone. And this shot of two prowlers in  high orbit above a brown planet…

But it wasn’t until I made this shot…

…that I had the idea for the next tale. Bubbles (and a so-far unnamed co-lead character) will fly the Prowler to a place that hasn’t been visited since Volume Two of Worstworld

That is a heck of a long time. It’ll be good to revisit the doomed planet. Will it still harbour life? Might the blue star that threatens it finally have done its evil work? Well we’ll see, won’t we? And it’s all thanks to a tube of toothpaste – the name of which eludes me. Funny how one thing leads to another.

Climatic Calamity (part 25)

In episode 25 you get even bigger bangs for your buck. And…ah-hem…a touch of nudity. Read on…

Far away, aboard the life-boat, the next explosion shone brightly upon the view screen…

Of course no one, with the exception of Peggy, wanted to witness the destruction of their ship and crewmate, so they looked away.

As the craft began to accelerate under its own power, the distant explosion grew in size and intensity…

“Uh-oh,” some unnamed crew member groaned as the explosion exceeded expectations by a thousand fold…

… “Something on the planetoid must have blown up too. Hold on to your hats!”

The next second that distant explosion became a very personal event. The blast wave threw the life-boat across parsecs of space, and stripped it clean of ablative armour…

But it survived – a testament to the skills of its builders.

Chapter 10

In the following days, Peggy taught the crew to maintain the vessel’s systems, whilst Celestino looked out upon an uncaring cosmos and revelled in the fact that nothing out there sold him the ‘truth’ about anything. Moreover, in maintaining his ignorance of internal affairs aboard ship, he was unaware that Erronious and Hellfire spent most of their time doing sod-all and mooching about the ship whilst picking their noses and scratching their bums…

Following necessary repairs, the battle-scarred life-boat finally got underway and quickly moved to supra-light speed…

However, just a few hours into their faster-than-light journey, a horrifying image appeared on-screen…

“By the Cyber-Saint of All Robots,” the Captain squawked, “It’s a huge hooded figure!”

The superbly-designed ship made an automatic avoidance manoeuvre…

“Oh-no,” Hellfire wailed, “we failed. It’s the Wonky Supreme Being. That’s it: we’re stuffed: he’s gonna be really miffed!”

But Celestino fretted not one bit. He already knew the true identity of the god-like being that appeared to thwart their passage. “No, Hellfire,” he said, “It’s…

…the real Supreme Being!”

“Hiya, Guys.” The Supreme Being’s massive voice rattled from the ships audio system, “Okay if I come aboard?”

Naturally the creator of Earplugdom didn’t wait for permission. A split second later he was amongst them – and he wasn’t alone…

“Ta-da,” he yelled. “I figured you’d miss this little guy; so I pulled it out of the explosion before it became part of it. Hey, what do you think about my miniaturisation? Look, I’m almost a tiny as you. Of course I’m not commensurately puny too: I’m still big-bad-me.”

Of course everyone was surprised and thrilled to have the Catering Assistant back with them. But the Captain openly questioned the Supreme Being’s motivation.

“I’ve had minor gods scouring all of space and time looking for my evil doppelganger.” S B replied. “Couldn’t get a sniff of him. Then everything went arse-about-face at the Museum of Future Technology, and I thought, ‘Ah-ha, could this be the work of Wonky?’, so I hung around and kept watch. You guys led me to him.”

Celestino laughed. “And it wasn’t the planetoid exploding or sub-atomically unstable space tearing itself into constituent quarks and bosons that threw us across space.” He cried. “It was something you did.”

S B looked at his (truly) non-existent fingernails. “Me?” He replied. “As if… Actually I took advantage of the moment. As Wonky fought to stop the explosion with his pseudo-god-like powers, I nipped in and shoved a hydrogen bomb down the back of his underpants. When he broke wind in surprise – blammo – no more false god.”

The Supreme Being then began his farewells, but Erronious interrupted him:

“Say, S B,” he said, “when I was trying to annoy your doppelganger, I told him that his buttocks weren’t as meaty as yours. Was I right?”

Hellfire was about to apologise upon Erronious’ behalf, but the Supreme Being forestalled him: “Wanna see my bum, huh?” He roared. “Well check this out.”

This earned him a round of applause and cries of ‘encore’. Moreover, his brazen act proved that the real S B had far meatier buttocks than his pretender. He had other things too, but no one felt sufficiently qualified to comment upon them.

“Well I must dash,” his voice boomed as he disappeared, “I have a galaxy to run.”

So, as S B disco danced at supra-light speed on-screen, Celestino, the former burglars, and Peggy welcomed the Catering Assistant aboard – whilst the Captain informed the Second Officer that it would soon be taking over duties in the Café Puke on the next voyage.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

There, wasn’t that nice! But things go awry pretty soon in the next episode, so you’d better be there to see it.

P.S I’m very grateful to the Captain and it’s glowing brain: otherwise I couldn’t have used the naked Supreme Being shot at all!

Earplug Adventure Wallpaper: A Clandestine Midnight Coffee Perhaps?

Discovering a carelessly unlocked branch of the Cafe Puke, whilst out and about enjoying a night stroll through the residential area of the Museum of Future Technology, Edith and Ferdinand Arcwelder question their morals when tempted by the possibility of a freebie mug of ghastly coffee.

Yes, in answer to the more eagle-eyed amongst you, that isn’t the original Cafe Puke set. It’s another one entirely – complete with disco glitter ball!

Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan

 

All You Need For An Earplug Adventure…

…are…

…a computer, a camera, a note pad, a pen (obviously – what good is a note pad without a pen?), and (in my case) some glasses and a cup of cafe cortado. Oh yeah, and…

…sets, props, and lights. Not forgetting…

…locations and a photographer. And last, but certainly not least…

…a whole bunch of earplugs!

P.S Did you recognise the location I was shooting in that charming photo of my tanned self with a bamboo plant? It was…

…the scene from Surprise Visit in which the three Cafe Puke Baristas go in search of raw cane sugar for Nigel the Golden One of Scroton. If you spotted that, present yourself an Earpluggers Merit Award for Paying Close Attention. It looks something liked this…

Nature Wallpaper: Weeks Into the Drought

The fields near where I live suffered during the Summer of 2022. They also made a pleasant, if slightly abnormal wallpaper…

Here’s how it might appear on your computer…

And just to show you the lengths I’m willing to go to in order to serve up these wonders of nature – regard what a loop of vicious bramble did to me as I went about my country business, snapping nice pictures to share with all…

My ankle was like that all the way around. I hate bastard brambles!

Climatic Calamity (part 14)

Well part thirteen passed by without incident or mention, so I guess it must have been okay, if less than startlingly good. On with episode 14…

Shortly, the Fifth Officer and Shortarse stepped out of their vessel – to find that the ice-age had further breached the museum’s defences…

“It appears colder than the regulation nine degrees centigrade.” Shortarse observed.

“Don’t be a pedant.” The Fifth Officer replied. “Turn up your internal thermostat. It’s a long walk to where we’re going.”

Once outside the museum, both robots were bludgeoned by the weather from space…

Shortarse felt compelled to make a request:

“Permission to turn up my thermostat again, Sir?”

“Granted,” the former Catering Assistant replied, “I maxed mine out the moment after we stepped from the building.”

Several hours were to pass before the pair of intrepid robots reached the pea-farming region…

“This hillock appears to conform to Hellfire’s description of the area immediately above the shepherd’s hut.” The Fifth Officer said as it surveyed the area with its visual apparatus – often referred to as ‘eyes’.

“I’m fitted with Hut Detection Sensors, Sir,” Shortarse offered. “Shall I activate them?”

Two minutes later the crew members of the only Submarine Space Freighter in the vicinity were making good speed towards their target…

“Is the last one there a rotten egg, Sir?” Shortarse inquired.

“Oh, undoubtedly,” Shortarse’s superior replied. “A rank dinosaur egg.”

Shortly, (had anyone been around to watch) the two robots could be seen peering in the only door that led into the shepherd’s hut…

“Lot of snow in there, Sir.” Shortarse stated the obvious. “Can’t quite make out the entrance to any tunnel. Are we sure this is the right hut?”

“Yes.” The Fifth Officer snapped. “I don’t have an articulating midriff,” it added, “you’ll have to push me through.”

After a lot of mechanical heaving and straining, both robots could stand upright inside the snow-filled hovel…

From there it was a simple matter of finding the tunnel door; forcing aside the accumulated snow that had fallen through the broken sky lantern; negotiating the green and orangey tunnels; then waltzing, unannounced into the home of Celestino Candalabra…

When Celestino learned what the two hulking monsters required, he offered to draw them another map.

“I have some lavatory paper and a felt-tip pen.” He offered.

“No deal.” The Fifth Officer replied. “The captain said to fetch you to the Museum of Future Technology: and that is exactly what I am going to do. If you have any thermal undies, I suggest you put them on.”

It took Celestino a full fifteen minutes to dress – as best he could – for the conditions outside. He spent every one of those minutes trying to conjure up a cunning plan whereby he might escape the clutches of the alien robots. But ultimately it was to no avail…

In a carbon-copy recreation of the journey made by the former burglars, the trio discovered an abandoned armoured personnel carrier…

“Neither of us can fit into the driver’s seat.” The Fifth Officer informed Celestino. “You’ll have to drive.”

“But I can’t drive.” Celestino wailed his argument. “I’m a recluse, remember?”

“I can stand behind you.” Shortarse said to the sole earplug. “I can tell you what to do and when to do it.”

“It’s either that – or walk.” The Fifth Officer said less-than-kindly.

An hour later…

…only one object moved of its own volition beyond the outer walls of the Museum of Future Technology. And shortly after that the disgruntled recluse was introduced to the interior of the Drunkard’s Vomit

“I don’t know,” he said as he regarded the automatons as they went about their work, “maybe earplugs aren’t so bad. At least they don’t drag you from your home against your will; force you to drive an armoured vehicle through an ice-age; and then shove you into a huge spaceship!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah-ha, so the team appears to have assembled. Now it must be time to go and kick some bad guy’s arse. Return for episode 15 and discover where the aforementioned resides.

P.S Here’s the preliminary cover for the finished product…

Climatic Calamity (part 7)

There’s no let up for those unfortunate earplugs yet. Could this be the time when they finally get their arses well and truly kicked? To find out, read on…

The cold that had permeated into Mister Pong’s Exotic Food Restaurant was also playing havoc with the lake in the arboretum. In fact it had frozen it solid and made it all lumpy. Naturally the zombie population were thrilled. And because they had no circulatory system to keep them warm, some of them began a pleasant stroll across it…

Less happy with their ‘stroll’ were Erronious and Hellfire. Although experienced in the mountains, the unseasonal snow had thrown them off the track home…

“Erronious,” Hellfire almost whimpered, “not a lot worries me: but I really don’t want some bunch of adventurers, in the future, discovering my frozen corpse in a snow drift.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean, Hell.” Erronious replied with difficulty. “I’m not much into ignominious ends. I don’t want to die with my snow shoes on either. Come on, pal: use your innate talent for path finding. Find us our charming farmstead. Failing that, try and come up with a deserted shepherd’s hut. Anything – just get us out of this damned snow!”

Meanwhile, inside the museum, the weather had managed to find several weak points in the vast building’s aging armour. This resulted in a poor showing of customers for a local pop singer’s al fresco concert…

With his hot dog concession failing miserably, Mister Pong was relieved when Police Constable Salisbury Wilts managed to return safely from his Precipitous Ledge Walking lessons, and (quoting health and safety rules) duly closed the poorly attended concert down.

Others, though, were putting the inclement conditions to good use. They were racing sledges upon the frozen canal that supplied the cooling water for the museum’s Nul-Space power generator…

Naturally Rupert Piles and his huge 3D TV camera were on hand to record the event. But as conditions worsened, the lone-wolf reporter realised that there was a bigger story than some dopey sods risking their necks rushing up and down the canal: this outlandish weather could be a catastrophe in the making. So he got his saucer-pilot girlfriend out of bed; slapped a PRESS sticker on the side of her saucer, and had her fly around the museum, whilst he took pictures and gave a running commentary…

“Maybe this will be the time I finally get a journalistic award.” He said through a smile that he shared with his girlfriend – a sweet End Cap, by the name of Wendy Ledballoon, whose faith in Rupert was total and undying.

However, worsening conditions soon overwhelmed the flight capability of the small sight-seeing machine…

…and Wendy was forced to park it once again. But not before Rupert snatched some long distance shots of neighbouring Ciudad de Droxford, which appeared almost abandoned…

What his camera didn’t spot was the hundreds of desperate earplugs, who even now, at this late hour, were still swarming to the ‘castle’ in the Age of Stone…

K’Plank and Auntie Doris were performing their civil duties by standing beside one of the side entrances and shouting loudly:

“This way: this way. Sanctuary beckons. Come along now: come along now. Stop arsing about and get inside. What are you doing – slipping and sliding around like a total moron? Don’t fall over, you dozy bleeder. Get inside before I give you clip behind the ear – stupid!”

Upon the tower roof immediately above the curator and her beau, Mister Pong’s eldest daughters – Yu-Wah and Wah-Hey – counted the number of earplugs entering the ‘castle’, and were hurriedly calculating the amount of arroz de grano corto they would require to make a huge paella with which they might feed the growing horde.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Return for the next episode when Erronious and Hellfire make a remarkable discovery. A discovery so remarkable that they’ll still be remarking about it a century from now!

Climatic Calamity (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

I’ve been rather busy of late – producing shots for yet another Earplug Adventure, this time called Climatic Calamity. Many of the pictures for the early part of the story have been challenging. When you see them you’ll probably understand why. It’s certainly not like the early stories. Flipping heck they were basic – and  are still available to read by clicking right HERE. But before you let your curiosity take control, please read this first instalment…er…first…

Earplug Adventures: Climatic Calamity

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Erronious Bosche and Hellfire McWilliams were hardly the stuff that heroes are made of. Certainly, the day that the governor of Sloshed Antlers Penitentiary awarded them early release from a long prison term for habitual burgling…

… no one imagined that they would ever find themselves regular work and a propensity for honesty. Indeed, following that release, several years previous, they had gone straight to the nearest town and fell in with the local crime organisation…

Actually they did more than simply join it: they took control of it – until the concerted efforts of the law system forced them to abandon the city and move to the Museum of Future Technology. It was whilst inside that vast and wondrous emporium of technological artefacts from the future that they encountered the famous Earplug Brothers, and assisted the return from dimensional limbo, of the museum’s greatest hero, Magnuss Earplug…

Flushed with the resulting endorphins of a good deed well done, they settled into a more honest way of life. Eventually they became winners of a lottery that awarded them a ride upon the star ship K T Woo. It was during a difficult period aboard ship, when a vastly superior alien craft threatened to destroy the vessel, that the former thieves discovered a penchant for entertaining others. In a desperate effort to persuade the aliens that earplugs were simply too good to destroy, a desperate show was staged. Amongst the many acts that hoped to save the ship and everyone aboard, Erronius and Hellfire delighted the audience by repeatedly picking Captain Sinclair Brooche’s pockets in a most humorous way…

Grateful to have survived, and upon their return to Earth, the ex-burglars moved away from the Museum of Future Technology, to buy a parcel of land in the shadow of the mountain top citadel of Lemon Stone and become mountain pea farmers…

…where they enjoyed their own company, the fresh air, tilling the meagre soil, digging drainage trenches for the toilet, and frequenting the automated Café Puke outlet…

This is the story of how two recidivist burglars reacted to a terrible climatic disaster from outer space.

Chapter 1

For many years the Museum of Future Technology had managed perfectly well without the trade benefits of interstellar commerce, but since the discovery of the haulage (and cheap) capacity of Robotic Submarine Space Freighters, the cybernetic wonders had been plying the new trade routes to Earth on a regular basis…

…in their dozens. One ship, in particular, was well known by the inhabitants of the museum. It had been the vessel aboard which three teenaged girls – Bunty Bridgewater, Ginger Slack, and Daisy Woodnut…

…had been abducted (along with the entire crew of robots) by a bunch of conniving Incense Cones. Following their victory over the aforementioned bunch of conniving Incense Cones, the girls had returned the ship to its captain and crew. They had also named it…

The Drunkard’s Vomit had recently launched from a submarine ocean beneath the frozen surface of a gas giant’s moon in the Finklestein region of the Galaxy. It’s hold contained many differing items of all shapes and sizes, from multifarious worlds and strange civilisations: but only one of them was of any interest to anyone inside the Museum of Future Technology. It was a consignment of Gas Giant Moon Fish from the very moon from which the Drunkard’s Vomit had only recently lifted. Mister Pong was very keen to try them on the menu of the second branch of his Exotic Food Restaurant, located in the neighbouring city of Ciudad De Droxford, which had recently been rebuilt following the event best known as The Attack of the Crutons

Aboard the bulbous black vessel, a subordinate robot was reporting to its captain…

“Sir,” the huge green robot said in a boring monotone through a cheap plastic speaker grill, “Astrogation reports that if we wish to maintain our schedule, the Drunkard’s Vomit will need to enter a previously unexplored star system. Sensors report that the region appears sub-atomically unstable. We won’t know what to expect there. They say it might get very bumpy, or something entirely different. Something, so different, that it might be beyond our cybernetic powers of understanding. Thought you ought to know, Sir.”

After months and billions of kilometres of interstellar travel since the day that its ship was returned to it, the captain still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the vessel’s nomenclature. “Can the…urr…Drunkard’s Vomit take a battering?” It inquired. “It has been due for a refit ever since that nasty incident with the Incense Cones.”

“Unknown, Sir.” The subordinate bridge officer replied. “You’ll have to suck it and see.”

Schedules were very important to logical mechanical life-forms. The Captain made a snap decision. “Keep to the schedule.” It said affirmatively. “Proceed through this…um…wonky space.”

Two minutes later, the boundaries of the uncharted region of space had been breached for the first time…

“Nice colourisation.” A member of Astrogation opined. “Not that I’m an expert or anything. Nevertheless I feel vulnerable: the sooner we traverse this region, the happier I will be.”

The unnamed member of Astrogation had good reason for concern. Approximately half way through the traverse, an undetected anomaly approached the ship. Unseen it closed upon an open wim-wom valve cover and secreted itself into the shadows there…

The robot that had been given the task of replacing the robot named Tong-Tong as catering assistant in the totally unused Café Puke canteen had been standing at a porthole when the anomaly approached and docked with the Drunkard’s Vomit. Unfortunately it had seen nothing. It was too busy regarding its appearance, reflected in the porthole glass…

“I look just like Tong-Tong.” It complained. “Why couldn’t I have kept my old green look? I was one of the guys like that. And this stupid hat: it hides my glowing brain. If I was an irrational creature of flesh and bone, I would throw the bloody thing out of the window. Or maybe shove it down the only lavatory!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S Many years ago, my late wife badgered me to write a story with a title she had invented. It was Attack of the Crutons. Well, in Surprise Visit I finally got to write it – but I couldn’t use her title because it would have signposted where the story was going. There would be no mystery. But, if you look at the picture that features Mr Pong in his Ciudad de Droxford restaurant (in this extract) you’ll notice the title ‘The Attack of Crutons’ mentioned. Somewhat  belatedly I can finally say; mission accomplished.

Surprise Visit (part 22)

Part 22 contains a turn of events that (as a regular Earplugger) you might not have expected. Be warned…

Taking their seats, they sent a telepathic instruction to the ship’s AI, informing it that they were about to launch. Hair-Trigger then brought up a subject that Magnuss had happened to mention during the three minutes it took to recover from the fall and enter the Tankerville Norris.

“Those shape-shifting atoms,” she said, “Do you think –if we used the ship’s Bussard collectors, we could suck them all into the ship?”

Magnuss mused upon the subject. “Well,” he replied, “Bussard collectors are normally used to collect hydrogen atoms in open space and compress them into a medium that could be ejected from a vessel to produce propulsion. Ours are there as an emergency back-up – should our main drive fail. But, in essence, I don’t see why they couldn’t suck up shape-shifter atoms too. Why do you ask?”

“I’ll tell you on the way.” Hair-Trigger replied. Then, to the ship, she said, “Set course for Scroton. Launch immediately.”

A split second later, the ship that the Crutons never knew existed, swept from hiding…

…and blasted upwards into Weird Space…

Quickly establishing the route that the Buggeram Bay would have taken to Earth, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger calculated the position where their weaponry had blown the sausage roll apart. Swooping about the region with their hydrogen-collecting Bussard collectors open and sucking hard, they went about the task of collecting the particles that constituted the dangerous shape-shifter…

The Tankerville Norris then accompanied the resulting reconstituted ‘asteroid’ on a course that Magnuss and Hair-Trigger had chosen: a course that would take it to the brown planet, little known as Cruton…

At sub-light speed, it took so much time that Magnuss feared that the Crutons might have fixed their ships and set out for Earth and the Museum of Future Technology. However good fortune prevailed. So, as the asteroid hurtled downwards through the feeble atmosphere, the Tankerville Norris hit it with a low-yield energy blast that broke it apart – allowing the smaller pieces to tumble to the ground…

…where Crutons, unfamiliar with shape-shifting sausage rolls…

…were ill prepared to defend themselves against them. So much panic ensued that no one gave two hoots about a small honeymoon barge screeching across the domed conurbation and using its matter-transmitter to steal away the captive ruler of Scroton and his wife…

This tested Nigel’s wits vastly. Thinking quickly, he was about to thank his saviours, when suddenly the other members of his retinue appeared aboard the Tankerville Norris

Without preamble, Magnuss shouted to his new guests:

“Hold on to something: We’re getting the heck outta here!”

And they did – as quickly as possible…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Just Chapter Eight and the oblicatory Epilogue to follow now. Big sad sigh. Still, there’s no sense in getting maudling; enjoy it while it lasts.

 

Surprise Visit (part 20)

I’m surprised that the story has stretched this far. Twenty episodes and more to come – though not many, it must be said. It’s been fun for me. I hope you enjoyed it a bit too. But enough of that stuff: on with the show…

Meanwhile, and in blissful ignorance of what was happening behind his back, the blue cable end awaited the arrival of his captives…

As Nigel and Beatrix strode haughtily before him, he said:

“Nigel. Beatrix – formerly Gloria. I’d like to say it’s a pleasure to meet you both – but I’d be lying. I’d rather hoped that by the time my infiltration into your planetary government was complete, you’d both be dead, and I’d never have to clap eyes on you. But no, you had to precipitate my actions. You had to launch a foolhardy solo attack upon the heart of my empire. And just when I’m on the brink of taking the Museum of Future Technology and all it contains. You’re a twit. A nuisance. A silly old sod who should be watching parades of Sea Cadets and Nurses and stuff.”

As the blue cable end drew breath to continue his tirade, Nigel interrupted…

“Sir, you have me at a disadvantage.”

The blue cable end scoffed. “Too right I have, pal: you’re my prisoner!”

“He doesn’t mean that, you silly oaf.” Beatrix snapped.

“That’s right.” Nigel agreed with a nod. “You know me – obviously because I’m the leader of Scroton; but I don’t have the faintest idea who you are.”

“Neither of us has ever met you before.” Beatrix added. “You look different; if we’d met you, we’d remember it. You’re an ugly bleeder; you’re kind of dark where you should be light and light where you should be dark. You don’t look like any Scrotonite I’ve ever heard of.”

If the blue cable end could have smiled, it would have been of the grim kind…

“There is a good reason for that, you silly old bag.” He ground out between gnashing teeth. “I am not a Scrotonite. I am The Cobalt One – though I prefer to be addressed as DeRorr Smionc – if you don’t mind. Now say it after me – together: DeRorr Smionc. DeRorr Smionc.”

Of course the leader of Scroton failed utterly to be baited. Instead he said:

“If you are not a Scrotonite, then what are you?”

Smionc threw back his head so that his plume waved gracefully in the thin air of the brown planet. “I am a Cruton!” He roared.

This surprised the captives from Scroton…

…though they managed to hide it quite successfully.

“And where is Cruton?” Nigel inquired.

“You’re standing on it, dumbass.” The snarled reply came quickly.

“So why aren’t we aware of Cruton?” Beatrix demanded. “We’ve mapped every cubic centimetre of Weird Space – and there is definitely no planet called Cruton there!”

“Yet here you are.” Smionc said gently.

Nigel was a practical kind of cable end:

“What do you want?”

“What I want, Nige,” Smionc replied, “is to place Scroton where it belongs in the Galactic hierarchy: somewhere near the top. I don’t want Scroton to design and build wonderful tech for inferior species: I want them to run roughshod over them. I don’t want Scroton to sell stuff to anyone: I want them to take it – by force if necessary!”

For a moment Nigel was shocked into silence: but he recovered quickly:

“That is not the way of Scroton.” He said – almost by rote. “That is not the reason that we were gifted sentience and self-awareness. We are not warlike, ogres, or complete rotters. We like to do business instead.”

Smionc sighed at this. “Oh so high and noble.” He snarled. “Next you’ll be telling me that you’re not aware of the alien overseers that lurk beneath ground and watch your every move. Alien overseers who routinely report to the beings that gave you your precious sentience and self-awareness.”

Nigel looked to Beatrix. She looked back. Bafflement passed between them.

“Um,” he said to Smionc, his stentorian tone quenched to mere serf levels, “that would be a no.”

“Thought so.” Smionc said knowingly. “We caught ours years ago. Look, here’s a picture of some of them.”

He flicked a photograph across the brief divide. Nigel picked it up and looked at it…

“They were in the process of being rounded up within their subterranean lair.” DeRorr Smionc explained. “They didn’t put up any resistance – the spineless curs.”

“I recognise the majority of them as being a sub-species of polystyrene blob.” Nigel responded. “Very peaceful people. We do a lot of work for them. The other creature though…I’ve never seen the like.”

“Mushroom-Headed Earplug.” Smionc informed the leader of Scroton. “They didn’t take long to break. They spilled their guts quickly enough. Some of them were there, right at the beginning. They oversaw the selection of cable ends for enlightenment. The ones with the good DNA were left on Scroton to form the society you have today. The others were packed off to another planet and kept as a back-up team should the whole Scroton Experiment fail or your world become uninhabitable because of over- industrialisation. Guess who they were.”

“Oh, so it’s sour grapes, is it?” Beatrix snapped. “You’ve got lousy DNA, and hate us for having everything you haven’t. Well poo to you!”

“You’re right.” Smionc, his calm shattered by Beatrix’s insight, bellowed. “And there was sod-all we could do about it – what with Scroton being protected by the ancient aliens who vigilantly watch over the poxy place. But, when we get the futuristic stuff from the Museum of Future Technology, they won’t be able to wrap you up in cotton wool any more. Scroton will become an annex of Cruton. Together, whether you like it or not, we will rule the Galaxy!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Now say after me…Derorr Smionc. Derorr Smionc, This is possibly the stupidest name I’ve ever invented. What better reason could there be for including it!

PS In one of the earlier tales, the Museum of Future Technology’s ill tempered gardener drowned in an outpouring of slurry, but was reanimated by intelligent bacteria that lived within the slurry. He became Mister Shit, but because I rewrote the early (rude) stories to be more family-friendly, his name was changed to Mister Plop. I’ve always liked that name. Still have the earplug. Must include him in another story.

PPS Some people prefer my ramblings to the actual story. Are you one of them?

The Set: The Scene 6

Here’s another brief compilation of pictures that begin with a photo of a set, followed by a scene that was shot there, as seen in an Earplug Adventure. Obviously only extremely keen Earpluggers are going to recognise a scene, merely by looking at the set; but I’m certain that it won’t be utter tedium for those who can’t. And, who knows, you might surprise yourself.

First up, I’ve included (what was probably) the first ‘set’ that wasn’t really a set at all, but which got my imagination firing like a single cylinder four-stroke motorcycle of approximately 125cc. In this case it was some broken sheets of plasterboard (rock wall) that were awaiting disposal…

Look at the jagged edge of the torn cardboard. Such an interesting effect. What might that become? Well, in the case of the story Martian Interlude Part 2, it appeared as the rocky, wind-blown sea shore visited by Benjamin Booger and Plopper O’Hooligan…

Look at the grey-green waves and white spume crash against the haze-obscured rocks. Tell me it doesn’t look that way: go on. You can’t, can you!

Anyway, next up…

Interestingly shaped, cardboard cut-outs. They appear, over and over, as doorways in otherwise featureless ‘walls’. It took me an age to find this particular example in my library; but dedication to my art paid off, and I found this scene…

…which appears to be the front door of the apartment in which the siblings, Gray-Vee and Cray-Zee live. Or at least they did in the alternative reality story Evil Empire. It appeared at least once more…

…as a random doorway in Cometh the Earplug.

Sadly the next set / prop was left behind when I was forced out of my fabulous ‘studio’ when the company that owned it decided that building houses was more profitable that retaining an ancient, crumbling 1960’s architectural icon – the short-term-thinking shits. Anyway, enough of my gripes: it’s a pile of rock salt and the reflective interior of a streetlight…

The stuff that dreams are made of. In this case my dreams showed me this…

I know you recognise this: it’s the Future Museum of Mars. This time appearing – rather rain-soaked – in Haunted Mars. But the real beauty of this set is – it has an interior too! Here is the same reflector from Martian Interlude Part 1

…and again in Liberation Part 2

Here I’ve thrown in a temporary set. It appeared in a single tale, but made a cameo appearance in Surprise Visit...

Anyone? It’s the secret subterranean lair of the alien workforce that watch over the fledgling civilisation of Scroton. Here it is in The Masters of Scroton

Okay, that was a tricky one. I wouldn’t expect anyone to get that right. But what about this pair of singed plastic insulation panels and a screwed-up sheet of blue plastic…

Surely some interesting topography there. I had trouble finding any shots that clearly showed these sets as you see them here. Eventually I discovered this scene where shell-shocked scientists stagger about their ruined world in Distant land

Destruction is on the cards again in this composite I made that is supposed to be a missile in flight above the ice sheet in Haunted Mars Part 2

But I stuck at my task, and finally found this defining shot. It comes from The Epoch of Dung

Look at that: you can even see the sheet of blue plastic through the burn hole. A lake, perhaps? There is no ‘perhaps’ about it. I’m a great believer in realism: that’s why I populate my stories with earplugs!

 

The Set: The Scene 5

It has been a while since the last The Set: The Scene – mainly because I forgot all about the series in which I show you the set, then follow it with an Earplug Adventure scene that was shot there. Of course only long-term Earpluggers will have any chance of recalling the earlier tales (which, by today’s standards appear a tad primitive), but if I don’t use too many of them, I’m sure recent recruits will enjoy this too. So to the game…

We kick off with a pallet of double glazed units, which are separated by some natty cardboard…ah..separators

When I snapped this picture, it made a work colleague chuckle. He knew exactly why I’d taken it, but had no idea what I would make of it. I made the high-rise buildings of La Ciudad de Droxford (and others)…

…which appeared at the beginning of Triple Threat.

Before I had the technical ability to extract elements from my photos; then superimpose them on to existing backgrounds, I was forced to shoot my spaceships in front of a monitor screen…

It wasn’t ideal, and it was a bit hit and miss. But when it worked, it worked rather well, I think…

In this case the disabled Gravity Whelk explodes a proton torpedo in it’s main thruster to gain forward momentum, in Haunted Mars.

Ah, one of my better (and permanent) sets. An ancient portable DVD player in a plastic box. This enabled me to show scenes on the screen, without the need to superimpose, which meant faster shooting and multiple angle potential…

Of course the ‘deck’ of the set needed adding afterwards, which was a bit of an arse-wipe because the DVD remote wouldn’t operate the machine through the cardboard…

This meant that every time I took a shot, I needed to move the deck to press the play button – causing the ‘actors’ to often fall over. I only used this set in A Tale of Three Museums. Here’s how it turned out – as the bridge of three separate Scroton Five ships. Here’s the main character’s ship – the Zephyr…

I added another section for the reverse angle shots…

Here it appears as the mercenary’s ship…

…and finally as the Scrotonic interceptor ship that pursued the Zephyr throughout the tale…

Not exactly a much-loved set; but a very ubiquitous one. Right now it’s sitting in my attic ‘studio’, just waiting to be pulled out of mothballs and used again.

Photos and Earplug Adventures © Paul Trevor Nolan.

 

Surprise Visit (part 16)

It could be that Surprise Visit is a little lack luster; or maybe Summer isn’t the best time to post stuff on the Internet; but, it seems to me, that this tale isn’t going down too well with the majority of my readers. Or, to put it another way, it appears that they are being turned off in their droves. So it occurred to me that it would probably be a good idea if I released the full PDF e-book now, rather than at the serial’s end. I will ruminate upon this. Meanwhile, for those who are diligently following the story (thank you), here is Part Sixteen…

Of course, the news spread throughout the museum like a wildfire. Almost instantaneously the Earplug Brothers convened…

The eldest brother, Rudi, spoke first:

“Okay,” he said, “we’re on the case. If there aint no fleet to protect the museum, we’re gonna have to go find the miscreants before they come visiting us again. Yo? Can you dig it?”

“Sho’nuf, bro.” The second oldest, Valentine replied without hesitation.

“Count us in.” The twins, Chester and Miles added a nanosecond later.

“I have a reputation to protect.” Magnuss said with a smile. “And a darned good ship in the Tankerville Norris. I’m game.”

A short while later, four of the five brothers had prepared themselves for the ordeal ahead and now posed for publicity shots…

Naturally, Magnuss had gone straight to Nigel, who, having taken the longest tinkle of his life, had conjured up a half-assed plan. Like the news of earlier, Nigel’s plan also swept through the museum – not so much as a wildfire; but more like a pedestal fan with the speed dial set on number three. It was enough to blow in the direction of K’Plank the Space Wanderer, who chose the arboretum in which to break the news to Auntie Doris that he had volunteered.

“Ugh?” Doris responded – her usual smile having fallen away like dead leaves in autumn – “But you have no armament. What good can you do? You’ll just get yourself killed – and with no effect. K’Plank, be logical: let someone else do it.”

“I can flit around and draw enemy fire from the other ships.” K’Plank replied heroically. “And it’s not like I’m totally unarmed. I bought several boxes of stink bombs from a schoolboy on Deneb Four. I couldn’t find a buyer for them here, so they’re just surplus stock. The acidic stench might even incapacitate enemy sensors and play havoc with their sinuses. Anything is worth a try. I must do my bit to protect you and the place you call home. It’s what any decent space wanderer would do!”

Doris didn’t know it, of course, but three of her nephews had already launched aboard the museum’s scientific Flying Saucer…

When the time came for K’Plank to join them, she (and several watchers in the balconies of the Grand hall) was there to wave him bon voyage…

Only moments later, Valentine had the Punting-Modesty XL5 Facepuncher streaking skyward…

As the Earplug Brothers climbed above the clouds, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger aboard the Tankerville Norris joined them…

Then, as one, the four museum vessels formed up behind the Buggeram Bay…

Even at the modest speed that the Scrotonite ship’s AI chose to carry them in the direction of the sea, just off the sewage outfall, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the view of an alien Spatial Relocation Ring to hove into view…

“Don’t tell me, Walker,” Nigel said as he eyed the impressively massive device that could clearly hover with apparent ease above the azure waters, “we have one of these on the drawing board.”

Walker was slow to respond. After several seconds and an elbow in the kidneys from Beatrix, he replied:

“You signed the financial authorisation last week. The designer’s argument for it was that a ship didn’t need to traverse space, hyperspace, wormholes, transit conduits, or any of that old guff, to get anywhere. We would just send one of these, then simply enter its facsimile on Scroton, and be – ah, here, for example – in the blink of an eye. Ships wouldn’t even need to make orbit. In fact you wouldn’t need space ships at all: just aircraft.”

“I thought it looked familiar.” Nigel all but mused to himself. To Walker he said:

“So we’ve been beaten to the punch yet again. Someone has very good spies on Scroton. But, tell me, who could possibly pass as a cable end – for certainly no cable end that ever drew breath on Scroton would work against their planet’s best interest. I’m completely mystified.”

Julian Prim coughed discretely. “Golden One,” he said, “if your ingenious plan is to succeed, we must invert the Buggeram Bay, and envelope our partner’s ships in cloaks that make them appear as we do.”

“Oh yes, that’s right.” Nigel replied. “It’s very important that the ring recognises us as bona fide alien vessels. If we can pass ourselves off as such, it will probably open and allow us egress from this planet, and ingress to the planet at the other end. Go for it!”

A moment later…

…five ships approached the mysterious Spatial Relocation Ring. Timing could have been better because Nigel’s bladder chose that moment to remind him that he shouldn’t have consumed three glasses of cream soda and a Bloody Mary before departure…

“Why have you two joined me?” He demanded of Walker and Bertram.

“Support, Sir.” Bertram replied. “Both spiritual and physical.”

“We don’t want you falling up the toilet, Sir.” Walker added.

After a difficult visit to the loo, finding their way back to the bridge was kid’s stuff. Once settled into his chair, Nigel noticed an incongruity:

“With the ship inverted, why is the screen the right way up? It boggles my eyes.”

“Something to do with the refresh rate of the HD screen, Sir.” Fermin answered Nigel. “It gets all wobbly if it’s turned upside down.”

“So it’s not my blood rushing to the top of my head?” Beatrix inquired.

“Could be, Ma’am.” Fermin replied. “I wouldn’t discount any possibility. Oh, no more time for idle chat: here we go!”

Initially, it appeared that Nigel’s plan was…uh…going to plan: but when the Buggeram Bay and the Tankerville Norris entered the event horizon simultaneously…

…the Spatial Relocation Ring responded in a most violent manner – snapping shut and barring the way for K’Plank and the Earplug Brothers. All three vessels wheeled away in near panic…

Aboard the Flying Saucer, Rudi could barely believe his eyes…

Chester and Miles looked away in fear that they had lost their youngest brother.

“It’s okay, guys,” Rudi called out. “The Tankerville Norris and the Buggeram Bay made it through!”

However it wasn’t all good news. Their sensors had detected a rocky island directly beneath the SRR.

“Look, bros, it even has a Café Puke outlet.” Rudi cried out in glee. “Let’s go drown our sorrows in a ghastly mug of brown muck!”

Valentine had spotted it too. Without hesitation he ‘zoomed’ down to take a better view…

“Yup,” he radioed the boys and K’Plank, “it’s sho’nuf open, and it’s happy hour!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That was a truly international extract – with ‘real’ backdrops coming from England, France, and Spain. I certainly get out and about shooting the Earplug Adventures!

Surprise Visit (part 14)

Response to Part 13 was a tad muted. Perhaps Part 14 will be more to your liking. Here goes…

It was bright outside – whereas the interior enjoyed a cloak of shade. They didn’t know it, of course, but their guests had made a decision, and were preparing to leave…

It was only when their eyes adjusted to the gloom that the Baristas realised that they had arrived too late…

“Oh, my apologies.” Nigel said when he spotted his ungracious hosts…

…but we won’t be requiring the sugar now. Um, perhaps you can sprinkle it on some doughnuts or something. We need to be moving on. By-ee.”

However, as they left, Magnuss – never one to waste anything, especially when people had gone to such lengths to accomplish something so trivial – took the sachets and (along with his Cossack hat) poked them inside his back pocket. “Thank you.” He said. “I’ll be writing to your manager: you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.”

Moyst ran straight to the lavatory to wash the smell of plugmutt pee off her hands. But Jungle-Jake and Mary-Sue, both of whom were far less fastidious in their hygiene, merely watched their guests depart  –  to be replaced by alternative clientele – such as a vacationing Ice-Worlder, Uda Spritzer, and the morose Poncho Warmonger – eager to sample their vile wares…

“Huh,” Jungle-Jake grunted, “and they didn’t even leave a tip on the table. Cheapskates!”

Chapter Five

Far, far away, upon the planet Scroton, part-time government officials, Phruten Vedge, Ena Large, and Anders Dumbell were returning to the council chambers following a short break for mince pies and custard…

Phruten’s mind was on nothing in particular. His eyes wandered the anteroom without really seeing anything. Ena and Anders, conversely, had very important matters troubling them. Both had consumed far more mince pies than was recommended by the state-run organisation Be Kind to Your Guts, and were experiencing a sensation that suggested that their bowels would soon explode. Both tried crossing and uncrossing their eyes many times in an attempt to ward off the inevitable. They were still doing so, when a pair of Civil Service officers approached at speed…

Quickly regaining his awareness, Phruten turned to face them. Ena made a pretty good fist of looking interested too. But poor Anders spent the following moments trying to release the internal pressure by emitting copious amounts of gas and praying that it vented naturally through the open portal to his right. So he didn’t hear the Civil Service officers inform Phruten and Ena that a message had arrived from Earth.

“It’s The Golden One!” The grey cable end yelled. “He’s sent a message for you.”

“You have to act upon it.” The purple cable end yelled even louder – bordering on shrill. “This is not the time for conservatism. No more maintaining the status quo. You must act.”

“And act with alacrity, determination, and forthrightness.” The grey cable end continued. “Contrary to what Beatrix said in the council chambers before they went on vacation: make waves!”

“But what is it?” An increasingly nervous Phruten demanded. “What is it we must do?”

“Sign the authorisation.” The purple cable end half explained.

The grey cable end completed the explanation:

“To complete all of the new space ships by the end of the week, and begin constructing a further fifteen – to be completed in seven days. No expenses spared. Twenty-four hour operation. Overtime at double pay. These ships must be ready for battle within thirteen days, fully crewed, and on-site in Earth orbit with armament primed and ready for action.”

Anders heard this. For a moment it required all of his intellect to understand the significance of the instruction. Consequently, he had nothing in reserve, which meant that his iron control slipped and his bottom erupted so violently that everyone were sent scurrying from the anteroom by the subsequent gale of moist particles…

“Let’s go.” He shouted. “Let’s get this Executive Order signed!”

“Then,” he added in a mournful wail, “someone hand me the key to the Executive Toilet. Damn those mince pies!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Ah, you see there – I’m on safer ground. Blowing off.

Surprise Visit (part 11): An Earplug Adventure

Well, if you’re an Earplugger, the good news is – the story is complete. Done. Over. I didn’t need to shoot any further shots to do it either. It runs to eight chapters, so it’s not quite as short as I’d anticipated. But we don’t care about such things do we? Just as long as it’s fun. So now on with Part Eleven, with plenty more to come…

No one had noticed Rupert Piles on a coffee break – his camera resting quiescent beside him. His ears pricked up. Moments later those same ears heard the distinctive ‘tromp’ of Scrotonite hobnail boots outside…

“Do they have waitress service?” Beatrix inquired. “Or do we go straight to the counter?”

Beatrix found out soon enough…

The Baristas were very young, working to pay for their university tuition: they knew very little of worldly affairs. Of off-worldly affairs, only ignorance reigned. They had no idea who Nigel – the Golden One – was…

“Yeah, whatta ya want?” Mary-Sue asked impudently.

“What do you have?” He inquired.

“Ya didn’t see the sign outside the door?” The Barista spoke around a wad of bubble gum.

“The wind must have blown it down.”

Mary-Sue sighed loudly, before reciting the menu.

“That one.” Nigel interrupted the flow of noise. “The last one you said.”

The young female seemed surprised. “Caramelised Onion? You sure? No one ever buys caramelised onion coffee. Our regular stuff is crap; but caramelised onion is…well…”

“Um…yes…it’s my favourite.” Nigel – feeling every bit the country hick on his first trip to the big city – replied.

“Mine too.” Beatrix added. “I can’t get enough of it – though the last one on this counter menu looks interesting. What is it – decaffeinated?”

“Defecated.” Mary-Sue corrected the ruler of Scroton’s wife, “coz it tastes like…”

“Whatta ya want on your caramelised onion?” Jungle-Jake interrupted as his coffee machine gurgled and spat.

Beatrix looked to Nigel for guidance. She found none.

“Try sponge fingers.” Hair-Trigger suggested.

“Sponge fingers.” Beatrix replied to the male Barista’s question.  

“Take a seat.” He responded. “Someone’ll bring ya coffee to ya.”

Shortly, after everyone had ordered and found themselves a table to sit at…

…the coffees began arriving, though not necessarily to the correct customer. The sheer size of the table menus amazed Nigel…

“Is everyone myopic in the Museum of Future Technology?” He jested. “Wish I’d chosen the Iron Lungo now: sounds delicious.”

Closer to the door, Rupert Piles grabbed his opportunity to catch some footage of the Café Puke’s illustrious guest…

“Oi,” Jungle-Jake yelled. “No cameras: you know the rules. You might steal our secrets!”

Rupert’s professional activity and the reaction of the Barista gave Magnuss pause for thought. Perhaps it was unwise to begin an important discussion with a foreign head of state in such a public place, and with no many prying ears and eyes. Hair-Trigger caught his look and dutifully joined him when he took centre stage…

“May I have your attention?” He bellowed like a plugmutt giving birth.

“Shut your noise!” Hair-Trigger added like an ill-balanced lathe loaded with pig iron

Everyone present knew exactly who the great heroes of the museum were. Silence descended like night in the desert.

“Sorry everyone,” Magnuss said through a cherubic smile that was enough to melt the heart of any old grandmother, “but you’re all gonna have to down your coffee and sod off. These guys are from Scroton, and they’re gonna help us with those aliens who destroyed La Ciudad de Droxford. So we gotta have some peace and quiet. Understand? Baristas can stay: we need you to keep loading us up with caffeine.”

Hair-Trigger turned to Rupert. “Mister Piles: you need to record this for posterity. However I wonder if you might do it from outside? You have a personal aroma problem. You can shoot through the window.”

Shortly the slightly disgruntled customers made their way out of the café through the main entrance…

“Oh look,” one of them said, “the wind has blown the menu sign back upright again. What a wonderful place the Museum of Future Technology truly is.”

Once the café was their own, Nigel adorned himself with his plume of office, whilst Magnuss put on his famous Cossack hat…

“Right then,” Nigel said without preamble, “show me some pictures of these flying saucers. I don’t think I’m going to be overly surprised at what I see.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

That Cafe Puke set was a labour of love. Unlike other cardboard creations, this one is not going in the recycle bin. Expect to see that ‘fifties diner’ decor in another Earplug Adventure!

Spend Spend Spend – What Some More – Again?

It’s been a while since I lasted reported upon my Back Lane Behemoth…

Of late there seemed to be a indefinable ‘something’ wrong with it. It just didn’t feel quite so smooth and effortless as normal. Something mysterious amiss. Cue Andy – of Earle Brothers Motorcycles (of Warnford, Hampshire) to knock at my door and ask to see the bike. Well it didn’t take long for him to diagnose a knackered final transmission and book the Yamaha in for repairs. That, in itself, would be expensive enough, but sadly your favourite literary and gastronomic genius made the fiscal situation considerably worse when the time came to transfer funds from his account to that of Earle Brothers. My machine was waiting to be returned to me – looking all refreshed and wonderful…

…when suddenly, as I was in the middle of an on-line bank transfer, Windows decided to update. This meant that the system slowed to a crawl – eventually stopping all together mid-transfer. Now my Toshiba laptop – the one I create my Earplug Adventures on – has been known to drive me to distraction before: but this time it over-stepped the mark. It was late in the day: the bike was loaded in the van: the shop was on the phone- wanting to know where the payment was: and my poxy laptop had decided to go on vacation. I couldn’t even use another computer because I was already logged on. Something had to change. I saw only one recourse open to me. I needed to do to this computer what I’ve done to every other computer I’ve owned. It was time for the Toshiba to die! In a split second it was dashed to the floor. As you can probably imagine, laptops and concrete floors are not a match made in heaven….

But at least it logged me off the Internet banking site, and I was able to complete the transaction in the nick of time on another computer. As a result of my impetuosity, it became necessary for me to spend a further £450 (on top of the bike repair) on a new laptop…

But at least I managed to get a fifty pound discount on the new HP, so it wasn’t all bad. But that’s a total of three quarters of a grand up in smoke. It’s expensive – having a temper like mine. I wonder how long this laptop will last.

Surprise Visit (part 7): An Earplug Adventure

The thing with these Earplug Adventures is…the preliminary work  takes so long that when it comes to the actual writing of the story, it all seems to pass by in a flash. I don’t get to enjoy the pleasure of creating my little alternative reality for as long as I’d like. I’d compare it  with sex, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate: my long-term memory is failing me right now. These short stories are even worse of course –  or better, depending on your point of view. They don’t drag on like…for example A Tale of Three Museums, though, of course that is a silicon masterpiece that should never be denigrated. But back to the present: Part Seven already: I can hardly believe it. Oh well,  on  with it then…

Elsewhere, Fermin had joined Julian upon an approximation of the Wide Blue Yonder…

“What do you think, Fermin?” The political attaché inquired of the super soldier.

“The fabric is fine.” Fermin replied. “There’s just not enough of it. Over there, the futuristic concrete floor’s been painted blue.”

In a moment of inspiration, Nigel suggested that he and Beatrix visit the very top of the Red Tower, and go outside on to the roof.

“We can see the whole place from up there.” He said. “It’s the highest point. But we’ll need to be careful: it’s very high, and the oxygen levels are correspondingly low.”

But when they stepped out on to the roof…

“I dunno,” he said, “it doesn’t seem as high as it once was.”

“And I can breathe fine.” Beatrix added. “This is damned peculiar.”

On the way back down to ground level, they encountered a bemused Walker Crabtrouser…

“I tried looking out of the penthouse window.” He told them. “But the glass was too grimy to see through. Normally the glass would be sparkling and totally transparent. I’m all of a flutter.”

Meanwhile Julian had stepped on to a public stage. From a side room he heard Faati’s voice calling to him…

He expected to find her rummaging through props and costumes in a changing room of some such. What he found was the blue cable end standing on top of (what appeared to be) a nul-space power generator…

“What?” He bellowed in bafflement and frustration. “They keep a spare nul-space generator in a room behind the public performance stage? I think that highly unlikely.”

“Unless,” Faati said quietly, “it’s not a nul-space power generator at all – but actually a prop. A fake. A pretend power generator.”

Julian’s mouth fell open. “But, but, but,” he managed. “Why?”

Whilst bafflement reigned in the room behind the public performance stage, in (what Walker and Fermin assumed was) the not-so-secret UFO hangar…

…the two military operatives – or ‘Militarians’ as they were known upon Scroton – made a discovery that was almost as unexpected.

“Ugh?” Fermin ejected the pseudo-word from his powerful chest in an ascending tone that made it sound like a polysyllable. “Where’s all the flipping UFOs gone?”

Walker didn’t reply immediately: he was too busy looking for signs that there had ever been UFOs present. Scratches or gouges in the floor. Dents in the curved roof. Oil stains. Stray cigarette butts in dusty corners. He could find none.

“Dunno.” He said absentmindedly. “I’ll have to think about this.”

Fermin couldn’t stand to watch his superior officer’s face as it contorted grotesquely from the strain of putting all of their discoveries into some semblance of order in his mind. “I’ll be back in a minute: I think I hear Bertram’s puzzled tones emanating from an adjacent corridor.”

Though faulty in their operation, the soldier’s ears had, indeed heard the security chief’s voice…

“What is it, Bertram?” He cried in alarm when he found the yellow cable end hobbling along a narrow back-alley.

“I just hurt my knee.” Bertram wailed. “And the bit where the top of my leg meets my buttocks. As I stepped upon an iron grating in the floor, my foot went straight through it. Whilst extricating myself painfully from the hole, I discovered that the iron grating wasn’t metallic at all: it was three-dee printed plastic – made to look like iron. What the flip is going on, Fermin?”

The young soldier recognised this discovery as a major development. Without replying, he took to his heels in search of Walker. He found him at a fire escape door with Julian Prim…

Before he could say anything, he realised that they too had made yet another inexplicable find. The expression in their eyes told him everything he needed to know.

“This isn’t really a fire escape at all, is it?” He said. “When you opened it, you found a brick wall: right?”

“Not quite.” Julian replied. “There is no door. It’s just painted on. And whoever did it didn’t even bother painting on a push-bar!”

Whilst the ramifications of this filtered through the three cable end’s brains, Bertram had limped off into a seldom-used corridor. Cushions Smethwyke would have recognised it in a heartbeat: it was her secret access tunnel to the arboretum…

However, instead of a cheery welcome from the museum’s Artificial Intelligence, all Bertram could see on the multitudinous view screens was meaningless data and poorly discerned images of he knew not what. “Oh, I don’t like this.” He whimpered. “I don’t like it at all. I can hear squeaking noises coming from the rear of my underpants. Potentially most embarrassing. Thank goodness I’m all alone. ”

It was with great relief, five minutes later, that he made contact with Fermin, who himself, had only just met Faati…

“Look, it’s eight o’clock in the morning.” The blue cable end said – her tongue distended and lolling. “There’s a Café Puke outlet around the corner. Let’s get a drink before we collapse with dehydration.”

But, when they rounded the corner…

…they found the café entirely empty. Not a stick of furniture. No coffee machines or cup dispensers. No scuff marks on the walls where café users had pushed back their chairs to leave. No chewing gum on the skirting board. No baby snot. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Faati put a call through to Nigel on her walkie-talkie. When he received the news, he made straight for the penthouse Café Puke outlet…

He hadn’t expected to find much there, but upon entering the aforementioned establishment, best known for it’s vile coffee…

…the sheer emptiness of the beautifully decorated room stabbed him through the heart. Moreover, when Beatrix reported that there was no bucket under the sink, and that all the toilet tissue was gone, he couldn’t find the words to report back to his assistant.

“Doesn’t anything work here?” He complained. “Is this all the Museum of Future Technology is – a sham? Has it been trading upon falsehood and lies? Is that why everybody is gone – because they’ve been found out and face prosecution? Oh, I’m so crestfallen. Everything about earplugs that I’ve always believed – destroyed, torn apart, belittled. I feel such a fool.

So, it was the shadow of a world leader who, with his sad wife, descended to the ground floor…

“I wonder where this leads?” Beatrix said, only half-interested.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Beatrix may only be half-interested, but I hope you remain fully interested. Interested enough to visit again for Part 8!

PS The three-parter, mentioned in the intro,  is available to read or download in three separate PDF files right HERE.

Surprise Visit (part 2) An Earplug Adventure

The photo-count for Surprise Visit is up to an almighty 138. Hardly enough for an Earplug Adventure: but a bloody good start. So, without further ado, let’s go there!

THE PROLOGUE CONTINUES…

A short while later, Walker Crabtrouser visited the catacombs beneath the council chambers and met with a soldier…

“Private Fermin Gusset reporting for duty, Sir.” the soldier snapped as he stood to attention before the military leader of Scroton. “Ah, what do you want me to do?”

“At ease, Gusset.” Walker replied. “Would you like me to call you Fermin?”

“Ah, not sure, Sir.” Fermin answered. “Depends on what happens next. I’ve never been alone with a superior officer in the catacombs before. Not quite sure what the protocol is.”

“Don’t concern yourself, Fermin.” Walker tried a smile. “Nothing underhand or dodgy; just want the right cable end for the job of protecting our fabulous leader on his vacation in the Museum of Future Technology. Now I believe that you can see in the dark jolly well; is that right?”

“It is, Sir.” Fermin responded instantaneously. “Inherited it from my mother, Sir. I can also punch people really hard. I’m a crack shot with a bow and arrow. I have boundless energy – physical, mental, and spiritual. I can think on my feet, so to speak. I can run and run and run without getting so tired that I have to sit down for an hour to recover. I can eat anything, up to and including coal. I can blow down doors without the need for explosives. I can go for days without having a poop. And I hate anyone who threatens this wondrous civilisation into which I was blessed to be born.”

Walker was impressed, though he did wonder how Fermin was able to blow down doors without explosives. He assumed gastric gasses were involved in some way. “Then I was well informed.” He responded to the litany of skills. “Clearly you are the ideal candidate for the role of bodyguard to our glorious leader. Just one thing: you don’t get space sick, do you?”

“Never, Sir.” Fermin replied. “Cast iron gut. Which reminds me, Sir: I have acidic bile – strong enough to burn through pre-stressed concrete. If someone were to imprison the Golden One in a hardened bunker or suchlike, I could probably get him out with only third degree burns.”

Walker couldn’t help but show how impressed he was with the young soldier’s talents and enthusiasm. “Remarkable.” He said. “Just for that, you don’t have to address me as ‘Sir’ anymore: call me Walker. Or, if we’re in company, Field Marshall. ”  

He would have said more, but he thought he heard movement nearby…

“Did you hear that, Fermin?” He whispered.

“Sorry, Walker.” Fermin replied. “The batteries in my deaf-aids have gone flat: but I can lip read with the best of ‘em.”

“Oh well, no matter.” Walker concluded. “We’d best be on our way. Make yourself available at the drop of a hat. Okay?”

With those words reverberating off the ancient walls, they went their separate ways…

However, Walker hadn’t been mistaken when he thought he’d heard something moving in the catacombs nearby. Two mysterious figures loitered beneath the lighting panel next door, in Bay Ten…

“We must inform the chief,” the red cable end said to the pale grey cable end. “This is a most unfortunate happenstance. Perhaps our plans will require tweaking slightly. Who would have guessed that Nigel would choose now to visit the Museum of Future Technology?  What a complete git he is!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

What’s this – spies in the bosom of Scroton? Surely it can’t be true! To see what happens next, tune in again next time.

Surprise Visit (part 1): An Earplug Adventure

Despite the unfortunate fact that I have so far taken only one hundred and eleven photos for the next Earplug Adventure, I simply can’t hold back the flood gates of creavity any longer. My urge to entertain must be sated. It is imperative I share the opening of the latest tale with you. Ladies, Gentlemen, Things: lend me your eyes and intellect. Welcome to the first instalment of Surprise Visit…

Earplug Adventures: Surprise Visit

By Tooty Nolan

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Prologue

Far from Earth and the Museum of Future Technology, lies a region of the Galaxy known as Weird Space…

It’s not that it possesses strange properties, malfunctioning laws of physics, or that the rules of cause and effect are skewed: it just looks weird, with both the stars and the ethereal bits and pieces between them, having unusual colouration. It’s a bit…you know…splodgy. Deep within this realm, the planet Scroton orbits its primary star…

As almost everyone is aware, the planet Scroton is ruled by a wise and trustworthy Ethernet Cable End by the name of The Golden One – or Nigel, as he prefers to be known…

Having held this position since his species was gifted intelligence and self-awareness by an ancient, beneficent alien race, Nigel was well on his way to becoming extraordinarily bored with the humdrum, day-to-day life in the prosaically named capital city of Scroton Prime…

In fact, he felt sure that should he be compelled to cross the Central Plaza to his office beside his blue assistant, Faati Rueda – Queen of the Pygmies, one more time, he would scream. Worse still, if he had to endure the quasi-military early-morning parade ever again in what remained of his corporeal lifetime…

…he wouldn’t hesitate to hand in his resignation and go live in a cave. He said as much to his Security Minister, Bertram Hisscod.

“Perhaps The Golden One should take a break from state affairs.” The yellow cable end suggested. “A few days in the desert, perhaps. Get away from all the excitement and stuff.”

Nigel had no love for the desert. He preferred desserts. He liked moist environments that didn’t make the skin on his heels crack open. Sadly, his wife, Beatrix – formerly known as Gloria – held a deep-seated aversion to wet places because they reminded her of a birth defect that had required surgery. Even now, all these years later, she could still feel the non-existent webs between her toes.

“I know,” he bellowed above the Drill Sergeant, as he instructed a group of Sea Cadets, “I’ll make an unexpected call on my old earplug chum, Magnuss Earplug, and his adorable wife, Hair-Trigger.”

Naturally, Nigel couldn’t just call his private space yacht and bugger off into the void: leadership required temporary transference. As is the way of Scrotonic government, Beatrix summoned the leading counsellors of Scroton to the committee chamber…

“Hear this, hear this, hear this,” she announced. “The Golden One wishes to announce something of great import. Lend him your ears.”

At this point Nigel entered the room…

“Guys,” he said informally, “After careful consideration, it’s been decided that Beatrix and I need a break from overseeing this fabulous planet of ours. To this end I’ve elected to go visit my pal, Magnuss Earplug. It’s a long way away, and there’s bound to be some kind of shenanigans taking place when I get there, so I’m taking a retinue with me. Nothing ostentatious, you understand: just me, the wife, Military Leader – Walker Crabtrouser, my assistant – Faati Rueda, my political attaché – Julian Prim, Head of Security – Bertram Hisscod, and a random soldier whom will be selected at…er…random. Any questions?”

It would be considered rude to question the Golden One, so every cable end present remained mute, their expressions betraying nothing of the emotional turmoil that most of them must have been feeling at that moment. This silence prompted Beatrix to take centre stage once more…

“Right then,” she said loudly, as per the rules, “now to install an interim leadership. Obviously we can’t put any old Tom, Dick, or Harry in charge of a technologically advanced society such as ours; so we’ve placed some names in a hat, and picked three of them. I call upon Ena Large, Anders Dumbell, and Phruten Vedge to make themselves known and to present themselves here within the hour.”

To the three ‘lucky’ recipients of the honour of ruling Scroton in Nigel’s absence, Ena, Anders, and Phruten, the clarion call could not have been more unexpected. Ena, a slurry-stirrer by trade, led the way towards the council chambers. She had no idea what to expect when she got there. Just behind her, Anders felt exactly the same way. He wondered what a pedicurist knew of planetary leadership; but he knew better than to question the Golden One’s choices: he was yet to choose poorly. In their wake came Phruten Vedge. Phruten, as a biker gang leader, knew exactly why he had been chosen to act as a stand-in for Nigel: the Golden One had once seen him ‘pop a wheelie’ along the promenade at a popular beach resort, and was very impressed. Nigel had particularly liked Phruten’s loud, after-market exhaust pipe too. Moreover, if he hadn’t twisted his knee recently whilst riding motocross, he would be well ahead of Ena and Anders in the race to arrive at the council chambers first…

Shortly, after having arrived to negligible fanfare, all three newcomers accepted an invitation to mount the dais…

…where they were sworn in and told that if they screwed up and did anything that upset the status quo, they would all be taken out to the swamp, and summarily fed to the slimy things that lived therein.

“So no stupid ideas, savvy?” Beatrix concluded the affair with a growl. “Don’t make waves.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Please feel free to leave charming comments concerning my creative genius: you know you want to.

Making Art Out of Doo-Dahs and Thingamabobs: The Cafe Puke

The Cafe Puke has been mentioned many times during the saga that is the Earplug Adventures. Sometimes, during a tale, we might catch a glimpse of the interior of that most reviled emporium of the coffee bean, but never have we really been INSIDE an average Cafe Puke franchised outlet. Well that situation has been put to rights; and it all happened because I didn’t take enough shopping bags to Sainsburys. I shall explain. Quickly realising that I wouldn’t be able to pack all my goods into the solitary bag that nestled daintily in the bottom of my trolley, I took the display box in which the yoghurts I wanted  lay. The cashier didn’t mind, so a half-hour later this sat upon the kitchen table, which doubles as my writing desk…

Immediately I saw the possibilties. Ideas began fermenting in my aging brain. Quite a while later, and following lots of trips to the attic and shed, this was the result…

Want to look inside? Go ahead…

Look, it even has an air conditioning unit! Obviously that is why – when word got around the earplug world – it became populated very quickly..

Why, isn’t that Nigel, the King of Scroton, ordering for his wife Beatrix, Magnuss, and Hair-Trigger? Hob-nobbing or what? It can’t be the coffee that draws them in: it must be the decor!

And the late opening hours…