TAXI

“THE SPACETIME TUN…NEL IS PROGRAMMED,” announced the Analytical Engine faintly in the distance. Zelda ran round. “AT THE FA…R END YOU WILL FIND AN INTER…DIMEN…SIONAL CHAM…BER AND BE…YOND THAT THE SEW…ER. TURN LE…FT AND FOLL…OW THE FLOW. THE DR…ONE CAR…RIER WILL BE… …”

There followed a zip zip sound from the box beneath the horn. Zelda rummaged around in her tea chest and emerged clutching a freshly inscribed foolscap sheet of paper. She rushed back to report and was met half way by the gang.

“What’s that in your hand,” asked Boz.

“It’s a chart,” replied Zelda, “with the carrier’s predicted course marked out on it.”

“Good,” said Augusta, “let’s crack on. Back down the pipe everyone.”

“Remaining with the machine I will be for now, retrieving further data,” announced Master Dorje, “Perhaps a visit to Shambhala in order would be.”

“Well, be careful,” replied the countess.

Linking arms in an attempt at a more orderly transportation than had so far been the norm, the rest of the group stepped forward.

“Whoah!”

“Watch out!”

“Cripes!”

They emerged, precipitously, into a Portaloo that had never been conceived as having to contain nine heroes at any one time. Conditions were cramped. Squeezed hard up against the side of the cabin Slasher struggled to work a hand free and reach the lock. He cracked the door open and cautiously peeked out. As he expected they were in an Atlantean branch tunnel. Set into the far wall, some yards away, was a steel watertight door. Stencilled red lettering proclaimed:

DANGER OF DEATH

NO CHILDREN

NO PETS

NO SMOKING

The tunnel was not however entirely deserted. Parked alongside the door was a bright yellow DeSoto Sky-View taxicab and nearby a lone Chat Souterrains stood with his back to the Portaloo, his attention taken up with eating a Big Mac takeaway.

“Wait here,” whispered Slasher as he stepped out and shut the door behind him onto muffled protests. “I’d give it ten minutes to clear if I was you,” he said, closing the gap between himself and le Chat at speed. “Is this cab taken?”

The startled Chat dropped his hamburger and spun round, reaching for his PPSh-41. “I’m not a taxi driver I’m a sentr…” But Slasher had pulled a blackjack from his trench coat pocket and the Chat’s world had gone black. The unconscious sentry’s body crumpled to the ground. Never one to pass up a gift horse, Slasher retrieved the discarded Soviet sub-machine gun.

“Come on everyone. Let’s get this door open before his mates turn up.”

“Nice car,” said Phoebles as he passed the DeSoto.

The hinges of the little used steel door were rusted, but by bracing their feet against the tunnel wall and pulling steadily Boz and Slasher managed to gain access.

“Quick, inside!”

‘Inside’ proved to be a room, a roughly ten-foot by ten-foot by ten-foot cube, almost entirely filled with junk.

“This is an Inter-dimensional Chamber?” asked Aunty Stella. No one was particularly impressed. Steel shelves, stacked with cartons and box-files and defunct technical gear, lined the walls; corroded pipes and perished rubber cables hung from the ceiling; stained, uninspiring grey paint pealed. The floor was littered with more boxes and unidentifiable pieces of equipment and light from a green glass sphere, that seemed to float independently above their heads, illuminated the scene. The air smelled musty and a thick layer of dust covered all about them.

Ahead was another door, identical to the first. To one side a fuse box, its contacts exposed, and on the other side a wall clock ticked away the seconds, backwards. This second door proved to be equally rusted up, but with the whole gang pushing, it finally gave way and dumped them into chest deep shit.

“Did anyone else feel a bit weird as we came through that last door?” asked Ferdy before the experience of being immersed in excrement drove the thought from his mind. Down stream, in the far distance they could make out a glimmer of light.

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Quantum Physics

The wall of rock was gone and there was a sudden rush of musty air that seemed to give out a relieved sigh. Dorje stepped back to retrieve his staff.

“Quick you must be. Open for long this portal will not remain.”

“Come on then,” said Boz, rushing through and panning his headlamp around. They found themselves within a passageway whose curving walls, of gleaming obsidian, were at least twenty feet apart and stretched in both directions way beyond the reach of their torch beams. This side branch on the edge of the World Tunnel System looked little utilised and, spacious as it appeared to our heroes, was mean by Atlantean standards.

“What now?” Ginsbergbear’s voice reverberated off the hard stone. “How will we ever find your bubble universe Mrs King? We’re a long way from Jersey.”

“With a little ingenuity the time/space tunnel induced to come to us will be,” replied Master Dorje. “Much there is about the Ancient Ones that even Les Chats Souterrains are unaware of. Now, a suitable venue we must find.”

He led the way and the company followed. Some meek, some inquisitive, all bemused, they trudged behind the diminutive Tibetan along the vaulted highway. The polished basalt road surface was slippery and strangely interactive. With each footfall it squeaked musically.

“Is that a light at the end of the tunnel?” said Ferdy.

“Philosophically or incandescently?” asked Boz. But they were all becoming aware of a lifting of the gloom. Soon they could see clearly. The tunnel opened out beneath a great shaft. Light streamed down from high above and so did water, like gentle drizzle, pooling on the floor.

“Gather round,” said Dorje, “Not too close.”

He removed his orange felt hat and from inside it he took out a tin of mackerel in chip shop curry sauce. He opened it, rolling back the lid, and placed it carefully at his feet. Sitting cross-legged he produced a battered, leather bound copy of the I Ching and three worn bronze Chinese coins.

“What on earth is he doing?” Aunty Stella asked Augusta King.

“No idea. He’s never done anything like this before. Not with me.”

Dorje tossed the coins into the air where they hung longer than seemed right before tinkling to the ground. He read the Book of Changes, quietly to himself.

“What’s going to happen now,” Phoebles asked of no one in particular.

“Shush. Patient you must be. Quantum physics this is.”

Nothing happened.

Then the mackerel tin quivered. Without warning it jumped, or as Master Dorje explained later, all its atoms simultaneously jumped, sideways some six inches. There was a plop and it vanished. At the same moment a plank door with a heart shaped hole and a Suffolk latch appeared behind the old monk. It was painted sage green and bobbed slowly in mid air.

“Wow!”

“A dunny door?” Dark Flo was unimpressed.

“It’s the space/time tunnel,” said Lady Augusta, rushing forward. “Prepare to be amazed.” She flung the door open with a dramatic flourish and revealed a ceramic lavatory pan with a varnished mahogany seat. A black printed legend on the cistern tank proclaimed:

Thos Crapper & Co

Invictas

with Symphonic Flush

“Bugger!” she exclaimed, glaring at Master Dorje.

“I’d give it a minute or two,” he replied. “Yank the chain.”

They all heard the deluge of water, the gurgle as it swirled down the pan, and then the porcelain pinnacle of pissoirs folded through space. The familiar, to some, John Williams intro jingle burst forth, and they were staring into the mouth of the spiralling time tunnel.

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Get Him Red!

chat-warders-s“Get him, Red!”

Two Kittens of Chaos flew at the startled guard before he could react. Kitty went for the face and thrust a velvet paw into his gaping mouth, smothering a cry; Scarlet took out his legs. Kiki joined in, pummelling him mercilessly until Consuella and the Mother Superior dragged her off. Mrs King gathered their discarded bonds and soon had the Chat stripped to his vest, trussed and gagged, Master Dorje checked the corridor outside; it was deserted.

“Kitty, put on le Chat’s trench coat and pickelhaube,’ urged Dorje. Kitty was not an albino Sphynx, she was downy light grey with a white muzzle, but with her collar turned up and the oversized tin hat resting on her nose she might just pass casual inspection.

“I can’t see anything through these goggles,” she said, pushing them up above the peak of her helmet.

“Taking the prisoners for interrogation you are. The rest of you, putting your hands behind your backs, hanging your heads and shuffling you will. Round the bend a guardroom there is, maybe remembering I am. Once safely beyond, retracing our steps to the portal we shall.” Master Dorje nodded politely to their ex-warder, closed the cell door and locked him in. “Proceed.”

The guardroom door was ajar and they could see deux chats inside playing cards.

“Snap,” cried one and the other pushed his chair back in exasperation. They did not look towards the door. Our pals held their breath and once clear broke into a trot.

“Left here,” whispered Augusta, “and then up the stairs,”

*

Boz downed his cocoa. “I, for one, am knackered. It’s been one hell of a day. Let’s get some kip and then up and at ‘em at sparrows’ fart tomorrow.”

“What have you got in for breakfast?” Phoebles asked Zelda before they turned in.

Porridge and burnt toast. It transpiered that Zelda was not adept in the catering department. But Flo brewed up a decent cuppa and they all felt remarkably chipper after a good night’s sleep.

“Everyone back on the bus,” said Boz, “You’d better drive, le Brocq.”

“We’ll look in on my unit’s forward camp on the way. I can tell the boys what we’re up to and see if theyre able to rustle up some bacon and eggs.”

There was general approval.

*

“So where’s the door gone?”

The escapees were standing at the top of a blind staircase facing a blank wall.

“You’ve brought us the wrong way.” Accused Kiki.

“Not at all,” said Mother Superior, “This is the way we came in.”

“Yeh, like the door’s vanished or summat. You couldn’t just have got us all lost.”

“Save it,” snapped Augusta King, “I have a plan B. Head back down the stairs and look for a green door further along the passage.”

By the time she caught up the Kittens were milling around outside her workshop.

“It’s locked, miss.”

“No it’s not.” Augusta applied a boot to the door and it flew back. The second door, the floaty one, looked less likely to oblige. Mrs King opened the top drawer of a dusty roll-top desk and took out what looked like a TV remote. She pointed it and keyed in a long series of digits. There was a buzz, a click and the door cracked open.

“Everyone in. Master Dorje, can you close the door behind us? Make sure it’s latched”

“Twiddlewiddle, Da Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Diddly, Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Diddly, Deedoo… PomPom Piddley.” The ionised rings crackled as they whooshed down the spacetime tunnel.

“Wow. What the…?”

“Don’t ask. Just follow me,” urged Augusta as she launched herself into the pulsating, luminescing turquoise tube.

“Holy shiiii…”