Clocks and Boxes — Part 27: Occupants

Welcome back! Sorry for the delay. When last we left off, Donna was instigating the rescue of the Handy Pavilion staff currently in prison, in order to raise a force to fight the resurgent DIY Barn. The issues of what's up with the Brownie, the weird cult in the kebab shop, and the missing Ms Shan are still up in the air. And surely that subplot about the cartoon cats will start to make sense at some point? Meanwhile, Alfred, Delia and Fanaka have all been arrested and Delia tried to deal with the situation by combining the power of the Watch and the Measure. We open on Fanaka dealing with some of the consequences of that action.

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Fanaka stood on the roof of the police car and scanned in every direction, and in every direction he saw nothing. Nothing. Not a white void, nor a grey void, nor even a black void. Nothing at all. It hurt his eyes to look at it, and the fact that he could see at all without any ambient light hurt his brain.

"Well," he said in his own language, "there's a thing."

He took a coin from his pocket and held it at arm's length. Unclasping his hand, the coin floated in mid-air.

"Except it isn't air," Fanaka sighed.

Shaking his head, he stepped off the roof of the car and dropped – not to the ground, perhaps, but to empty space on the same level as the bottom of the car's tires.

"Now that's just stupid," Fanaka said, climbing back into the back of the vehicle.

In the front of the car sat the extremely dazed looking police sergeant who had earlier arrested Fanaka. Fanaka frowned at the man. He was no racist, but he still found it difficult to get used to white people in police uniform. It was… Look, it just took some getting used to, is all.

"Well, we're Outside," Fanaka said.

"Outside…?" the sergeant asked.

"Outside everywhere."

Where were Alfred and Delia? They had been in the car two when it had been thrown outside of reality. Delia had been holding the Watch and the Measure, and Alfred had been holding Delia. They'd been at ground-zero once whatever had happened had happened. Now they were nowhere to be seen – and they had the Watch and Measure with them, leaving Fanaka and the cop with no means of escape.

"We are Outside time and space," Fanaka said. "And yet we have duration and dimension. We are beyond all sources of energy, and yet we have light and gravity. We have transcended the world of matter, and yet we have air. Like I say: stupid."

For a long time, there was silence. "Could we radio for help?" the sergeant said.

Fanaka frowned. "Don't be…"

"Stupid?"

"…Okay. Maybe it's worth a try."

The sergeant activated the police radio. "This is Sgt McKenzie-Plod. I'm experiencing a Code Infinity. I am located… uh..."

"Outside of space and time," Fanaka repeated.

"Outside of space and time. Request assistance. Over."

There was no reply from the radio. Fanaka was disappointed by this, and then surprised at his disappointment. He ha

"Well that killed a minute" said the cop.

Fanaka pursed his lips. "Yes, I suppose it did."

Fanaka sat back in his seat and began twiddling his thumbs. Sgt McKenzie-Plod retrieved a carton of chocolate milk and a straw from the glovebox. He drank quietly for a few minutes until he was slurping air. After that, he drank noisily. Eventually he grew bored of this and tossed the carton out the window. There it hung in space, turning slowly.

"So how do we get out of here?" he said ten minutes later. "Because I don't know about you, but I need a pee."

"This is Outside," he said. "This place is the conceptual, Platonic definition of 'Outside'. There's no logical way to get outside of Outside."

The cop sighed. "I should have listened to my school Careers Officer," he said. "She thought I should be a dental hygienist. I said 'but my hands are too big.' Show's what I know, I guess. I mean, you never hear of dental hygenicists getting stuck outside of time and space."

"Does this happen a lot to policemen, then?"

"Hm. Fair point."

"You're taking it very well, I must say," Fanaka said.

"Yeah. I'm high as a kite right now. It helps a lot."

Both men startled as the radio crackled into life.

"Turn it up! Turn it up!" Fanaka yelled.

"Breaker breaker, this is Big Eyes Blit, burnin' rubber across Null Dimension Theta. What's your twenty, over."

"What language is that?" the sergeant said.

"English… of a sort," Fanaka said, stroking his chin. "It is 1970s trucker talk. Fortunately, my girlfriend has a surprisingly large collection of trucking movies, and I've learned the lingo."

"Fortunately?"

"Okay, well, now it's fortunate," Fanaka said, grinding his teeth. "Possibly it wasn't the first half-dozen times I had to watch Smokey and the Bandit II, but life can take some very strange turns, I suppose. Put the mic to the grille. Ready? Ahem: That's a ten-two, good buddy. This is the Steampunk Kid, and I'm sitting with a smokey bear in a can of ham and our twenty is… uh… a place that is a non-place beyond all comprehension. Over."

"That's a big ten-four," the radio crackled. "I've got a brick-barn by the dolphin cage, blaring upside from Gorgo. Reckon the magic roundabout should be all embossed by formica time."

"Uh… I understood that right up to 'ten-four.'"

A violent wash of light overwhelmed Fanaka's vision. When his eyes cleared, he saw that the blinding light was coming from above the police car. Opening the door, he looked up to see an enormous glowing saucer-shaped spaceship above his head. It was as beautiful as it was terrifying, like a vast neon bauble pierced here and there by delicate spires and apparatus of no Earthly purpose. From inside the craft came a series of high-pitched electronic musical notes.

"La Cucaracha," the sergeant said.

In a shower of incandescent sparkles, a figure materialised next to the car. It was humanoid in shape; tall and slender save for a small pot belly. It had enormous eyes, completely black in colour. It was a silvery white in colour, except for its left arm which was pinkish red. It was completely hairless save for a set of luxurious auburn sideburns. It wore nothing but a grubby foam cap, embroidered with a joke that was deeply disrespectful towards several genders.

"Howdy," it said. "You folks in need of a tow?"

With that, it spat a wad of chewed tobacco into the air, where it glistened unpleasantly as it floated.

Next -- Part 28: Accompli

Previously: Interlude -- Underground

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