The moon was full that night, so Seamus the gnome didn't need artificial moonlight in order to remain active. He sat on a sat on the edge of a planter, just by Harry's House of Ethanol Based Beverages, his little ceramic legs dangling over the edge.
"Sure and so it be Ms Shan you were looking for?" he said. "Sure and I heard she was missing. Mind youse, there's a lot of that going around. Delia from Storage Universe is nowhere to be seen, and Alfred and Fanaka from the clock shop have…"
"I'm not interested in them," Karl said. The fellow had pulled himself together since Seamus had last seen him. He wore a clean white suit and a new straw hat, though he still seemed sunburned and emaciated. "Only Ms Shan."
Seamus sighed. "Why? What crazy conspiracy thing do you think she was involved in? Oh, I've been keeping me ear to the ground, Karl Wintergreen. I know ye've been running round with ideas even more tomfool than usual, bedad. Well, take it from me, Ms Shan has an advantage that a lot of you big folk lack, and that's that she's exactly as she seems. She's a bossy Indian lesbian who I wouldn't cross on a dare, and that's that. So you just leave her be." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Interlude: Searching"
If Karl had learned nothing else during his time as a homeless fugitive, he had learned how to hide. After he slipped away from the police, he had ducked around the corner of the Pyramid and found the street beyond littered with an abundance of hiding place. There were cars, small trees and thick shrubs. On the Pyramid side, there was the remains of the lost Mega Centre's retaining wall. On the other was a motley selection of suburban fences.
Karl ignored all of these possibilities and slipped into a storm-water drain.
It was surprisingly easy. Months of living on garbage had slimmed him down so much that he didn't even need to remove his jacket. And with so many easily accessed and non-stupid hiding places, the cops were unlikely to pursue him here.
Even so, for a while he simply lay still -- waiting, observing. It was only when he was certain that the police were not coming that he took a battered flashlight from the pocket of his ragged jacket and began to look around. ...continue reading "Interlude — Underground"
Alfred had never run so fast in his life.
Well, that wasn't quite true. He'd been a respectable enough middle distance runner in high school, oh so long ago. But he certainly hadn't run so fast recently. When had been the last time he'd run more than a few steps at a time. A school carnival, probably? Decades ago. Back in the days when he found it hard to find time for his daughters. Before they reached the age when they found it hard to make time for him.
But this particular piece of self-pity was far in the back of his mind. Most of his misery was reserved for bodily discomfort as he pushed his chubby, aging body well past its limits to keep up with the others – Christian jogging with all the careless energy of youth; Gwen short and stout and yet hammering along like nobody's business. And Delia…
It was almost a relief when Delia stumbled. In helping her, Alfred could slow to a stop without feeling bad about it. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 25: Mayhem"
The trick, Ron had thought, was to find a place too small for his purposes. That was very important. Once the people of this world had discovered that he was in the process of building a missile, they would inevitably search for him in all the places where such work might easily been done. The abandoned factory on Blackwood St or that new building at the Harrison company that hadn't been opened yet.
But Ron had fooled them all. By doing the work on his missile in the share-house room he slept in, he could work in peace. Granted, it made sleeping a little difficult, and his housemates often complained about the smell of C-4 and aviation fuel, but work was proceeding, albeit awkwardly.
Ron was lying on the floor, one leg twisted around a guidance fin, and reattaching a panel with a ratchet spanner when the door opened. It only opened halfway when it hit the side of the missile with a clang. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Interlude: Rocket"
"Okay," Christian said, glancing around the now closed music shop. "Let me see if I have everything right. You've been invited to a meeting of a sinister secret society."
"Correct," Alfred said.
"And you believe that you should go and spy on this meeting and report back to Delia and Ms Shan who, as I'm sure we all know, are leaders of the resistance against the evil pyramid?"
"Good, good. You know, in context, that almost makes sense," Christian said. "But the next part is, you're too shy and nervous to be a good spy, so you want me to disguise myself as you using a high-tech hologram created by a supercomputer. That's the bit I'm having trouble with." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 16: Light"
Down the road from the South Hertling Supercentre was a little packet of parkland called South Hertling Reserve. It contained a concrete picnic table, a tiny swing set, and old Scout hut. It also contained the water feature called Hertling Creek, though it was really more of an open stormwater drain than a creek. A footbridge stretched over it, leading to South Hertling railway station.
It was raining gently that night, so Karl prepared to sleep under the footbridge, on a dryish patch of ground. From where he lay, he couldn't see the massive shape of the Pyramid, but it was never far from his mind, its great eye burning into his mind. It just was like that movie where there was a terrible burning eye – what was it called?
Oh, yeah. The Fantastic Four. The Eye was like the sinister gaze of Johnny Storm himself.
"I fear, Karl, that you have gone quite mad," said a cat. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Interlude: Cats"
Alfred's usual lunch was a roast beef sandwich with horseradish. Most of his life, he'd eaten that on white bread with the crusts cut off, but his doctor had all but twisted his arm over his diet and so now he ate it on multigrain with crusts and alfalfa sprouts.
Today, though, today he was doing a thing that he rarely did, and that was eat out. He did this perhaps once a year and never happily. The great comfort of a regular lunch is never having to decide what to eat, but he had left his sandwich at home in the fridge, so it was eat out or go hungry. And eating out meant making a decision.
Alfred leaned on the counter of his shop and chewed his lip. There was a food court in the South Hertling Mall, but that was far enough away that he felt justified in ruling it out. And both of the food outlets at the Mega Centre had been destroyed at the coming of the Pyramid. That left just two choices, Carol's or the kebab shop. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 4: Food"
Karl Wintergreen used an old fashioned pre-digital camera and developed the negatives himself in a little darkroom he'd set up in the back of his stationary shop. Partly this was because he preferred the warm tones that you only get with film photography but, yeah, mostly it was so that the Illuminati couldn't hack his pictures.
"The only way to keep your information safe is keep it offline," he'd written on his blog, in at least a dozen posts.
To ensure the safety of his images, Karl's camera was a 1970s model, completely free of electronic components. The lack of a flash made night time photography problematic, but right then his subjects were beautifully illuminated by the rays of the rising sun, which suffused a golden glow over the field of carnage before him. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 66: War Correspondent"
Marlon was the first to be called. He was alone at home. He should have been in bed, he knew, but the empty bed was cold and uninviting. He sat on the couch watching old war movies. He'd bought a bottle each of rum and Coke to drink while he watched, but he'd grown bored of drinking before finishing the first glass.
His heart leapt when he heard his phone ring, then fell when he saw the caller ID. Not a friend or a lover calling to chat. It was Ms Shan. He answered, knowing what the message would be.
"The battle's on," Ms Shan said. "Tomorrow. Dawn." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 59: The Call"