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.
“There’s a guy to see you,” came a voice through the open door, probably belonging to Ron’s flatmate, Tony.
“Who is it?”
“I’m not your bloody social secretary. Some bloke in a white suit.”
Ron almost lost control of his bowels. Then he remembered, on this Earth the security people tended to wear dark clothes, unlike the white-clad dinowaffengestapo in his home timeline. He relaxed a little, then tensed again as the door was shoved open further, threatening to dislodge the missile, which was only supported at the tail by a sawhorse and at the nose by Ron’s bedframe.
The door closed, and Ron saw a pair of white-clad legs walk in. The owner of those legs sat on his bed.
“Ronald Devoir?” said the legs.
“Yes,” Ron said. “Here, just let me get…”
The missile teetered a little. Ron decided to stay put. If it fell, it would surely injure him quite badly, if not kill him.
“Ronald Devoir of Nazi Dinosaur Earth?”
“Yes,” Ronald said. He could hear the quaver in his own voice.
“And this is the rocket that Fanaka is looking for,” the voice said.
“Who are you?” Ronnie was beginning to wonder if this man was with the local security forces.
“My name is Karl,” the voice said. “I’ve been… My memory has… Look, that’s not important. What matters is, I need your rocket.”
Again, Ronnie tried to pull himself out from under the rocket. Again, it shifted alarmingly and he remained still.
“You can’t,” Ron said. “I have to destroy the Pyramid. If I don’t, perhaps I’ll never return home.”
Karl gave a bitter laugh. “There’s no going home. There never is. The world… the worlds we knew are gone. We can’t reassemble the pieces, all we can do is punish the guilty.”
“But the Pyramid –”
“Is a Pyramid. Sure, it’s the occult symbol of unfathomable cosmic power, but it’s also a big pile of limestone. Your rocket might dent it, but what does that matter?”
Ron considered another attempt to escape but found he couldn’t move. A deep depression fell over him. He’d known this about the Pyramid. Known it from the start. Destroying it would take the destructive power of an army, or at least the efforts of a hundred engineers. Buildings are destroyed by damaging their structure until they collapse into a heap. A pyramid is a heap. Nothing to be done there.
“So why do you want the missile?”
The legs crossed. “The Pyramid is beatable,” they said. “But on a higher level than us. It’s part of a universal conflict so huge that it passes right through ‘awesome’ and comes right back around to ‘stupid’. But there are other evils that can be faced. Evils that are more… shall we say… repto-fascist in nature.”
For a long moment, Ron said nothing. Finally, he said: “I think I’d like to come out now.”
“I think you’re ready for it.”
Ron slid out from under the missile, and finally saw the man with the white pants. He wore a complete white suit and a straw hat. His face and hands were sunburned, his lips were blistered, but he was otherwise neat, tidy and clean.
“You come from a world where evil reptiles are known to one and all,” Karl said.
“Not all dinosaurs are Nazis, you see, everyone things that. But the ones who are…”
“On this world the evil lizards are shapeshifters,” Karl said. “I never really believed that particular conspiracy theory. I mean, seriously? UFOs controlling MKULTRA is pretty straightforward when you get down to it, but come on. But then I saw someone change shape before my very eyes!
Ron frowned as he took a seat on the bed. “You saw a lizard change into a human?”
“Well, I saw a human change into another human. I assume he was a lizard at other times. Point is, it was the Pavilionites. I thought they were the good guys, but really they’re reptiloids.”
Again, Ron needed to think a while before answering. At length he said: “You haven’t got a clue have you?”
Karl frowned, but said nothing.
“Okay, let’s say that you’re right, and whatever it was that you saw was evidence of shapeshifting lizard men,” Ron said. “Let’s say. How is a rocket going to help you? If it’s a huge conspiracy, destroying one of their bases will do nothing. Hell, this missile would destroy whatever evidence there was in that base. It would be worse than doing nothing.”
In between his hat and the white collar of his shirt, Karl began to go an almost Barnaby Joycean shade of red.
“You know what? I’m starting to think that, whatever’s going on here, the solution isn’t a giant explosive missile,” Ron said. “You know what, I’ll just remove the warhead and return the rocket to Mildred with my apologies. Her husband is a prisoner of the Moon Men, you know. It was probably wrong of me to take her rocket.”
Karl removed his hat. For a while, he sat there deep in thought. His face, at first was expressionless. Gradually a look came over his impassive features, as if some deep and abiding understanding was forming somewhere in his troubled brain.
He pulled back sharply and brought his forehead down into Ronnie’s face.
Ron awoke with his nose blocked with dried blood and a splitting headache – and no rocket in his bedroom.