At the top of the escalator the group emerged into a spacious concourse. Half-moon skylights, pierced through the sea-green ceiling high above, cast shafts of daylight into the scene below, the polished Carrera floor shone like water, the walls glowed with warm beige marble cladding. A mahogany cased clock dominated the far end of the hall and dwarfed figures scurried purposefully wherever the Yorkshiremen looked. Just ahead a sulky line of king penguins shuffled past, heads down and shoulders hunched. Intermittently each in turn would squawk a mumbled complaint. Nearby stood a group of self absorbed men in tall orange hats, with faces of wrinkled, walnut leather; their saffron robes all but hidden by too large, wrap around yak-skin coats, secured at the waist by string.
“Lizard men?” enquired Harold Entwhistle of his host.
“None of us will ever meet the Merovingian Lizard Kings, my friend. That is not their way. These men of the Himalayas are envoys.
“Let me show you to your quarters, and on the way I will point out the officers’ mess. I will meet you back there in… Shall we say one hour?”
The officers’ mess was done out with a great deal of chrome and had the feel of an outsized American diner. Harold, Easter and Albert were sat at a cramped Formica table and by the time they were joined by Kapitänleutnant Felix Graf von Luckner had given a food order to a well-rounded fraulein in a short blue gingham dress and dinky, matching forage cap. Albert removed his tea cosy, stuffed it in a pocket and ran his fingers through his greasy hair. The waitress appeared with three All Day Breakfasts.
“Good, you have ordered. I will have an Americano, two shots of expresso, not too much water… and a small piece of your excellent schwarzwälder kirschtorte, if I may, my dear.”
Easter scowled at his surroundings, “All seems very clean – for a secret Nazi UFO base. Where’s the Storm Troopers.”
“There were never many Nazis here; our original expedition was, after all, a scientific survey. Those first comers were not intending to become colonists. There were not many women on the original expedition either but somehow, three generations later, we are still here. Our ancestors established a small base on this spot, claimed the land for the Greater Germany, began surveying the area and then made a discovery that changed everything. You had better come with me and I will show you… The secret you have come to uncover… The reason you can never leave.”
“Never… What?” Albert shot to his feet, banging his knees on the table, which was, fortunately, securely bolted to the floor.
Easter joined in with, “Now look here, captain…”
“Please. Just come with me. We can discuss your future circumstances later.”
The Yorkshire trio were still protesting vehemently as they crossed the concourse to one of a number of departure gates. Four of the mysterious, saffron clad orientals formed up silently behind them. A discoloured sign in a Gebrochene Schrift black letter typeface indicated AG Gate23 and below it an attendant, inspecting von Luckner’s pass, nodded them through. They entered a tube-like chamber lined with benches and settled down together whilst the mute envoys sat nearby, yet pointedly apart from the sailors. The doors slid shut with a whoosh, there was a sharp Plop, a hiss and a sensation of rapid acceleration.
“We are travelling in a pneumatic tube subway. First proposed, I believe, by your excellent Herr Brunel, though it has taken German vorsprung durch technik to make it work.”
“Not Isambard, for once, George Medhurst, a Kentishman,” muttered Bert Fleck, “but I bet he half inched the idea off a Yorkshireman.”
The travellers were contemplating the engineer’s observation as their transport stopped with an uncomfortable suddenness and the doors slid open. Otto stood back to let the Himalayan envoy disembark first, then he and the trawlermen followed along a gently downward sloping ice tunnel. At its end the oldest and shortest emissary, with the tallest hat, approached a small glowing tablet, placed his right palm upon it and a door swung open. The four monk-like beings entered first, followed reluctantly by Easter and Albert Fleck. Harold and the Kapitänleutnant brought up the rear. They found themselves inside a bare reception area. The curved outer walls were comprised of an alloy that Harold could not identify. There was no corrosion or decay, though there were signs of wear and an impression of great age. The inner bulkheads and floors were transparent and, disconcertingly, they could see down through several floors beneath their feet. In the room below were parked two foo fighters under plastic sheeting.
“Schoonfryder,” whispered von Luckner, “but there are many different types of what you would call UFO in neighbouring bays.”
“Great,” said Albert, who was pressed against the only wall that looked solid and was very deliberately not looking down.
The diminutive monk turned to address the company, “Discovering this the great grandfather of young Felix was. Lying here undisturbed for many millennia it had been. Under the ice. A secret it was, and must remain. The Andromeda Machine. Within a UFO mother ship you are.”