Night had just fallen as Carl Wintergreen reached the Pyramid. A Greek demi-god, a robot truck, a water-witch were escorting a lady gunslinger off of the vast structure. A frumpy looking middle aged couple were standing a little higher up, and wearing silvery uniforms that, Carl thought, should probably have been fitted a little less tightly.
“Oh,” Carl said to the Water-Witch. “I was just about to report that my attempt to crack the Pyramid open failed because of a second time distortion. But it looks like you have everything in hand, so…”
“Yeah, about that,” said the Water-Witch, whose name was Fiona. “Yeah, Carl, I’m not going to lie to you. I didn’t really need you to do that. I just wanted you out of the way so…”
“So when you say you ‘don’t want to lie to me,’ you mean ‘any more’,” Carl grumbled.
“Yeah, well,” Fiona said. “For a guy who’s super paranoid, you’re really kind of gullible.”
“I see,” Carl said. “Hi, Norman. Bruce.”
“Hey,” the demigod said, raising his spear.
“How yer going?” the robot truck said.
Carl looked at the ground, and then back at the Pyramid. “So what are George and Mildred doing up there?”
“They’re going to use powerful Atlantean artifacts to take the Pyramid out into outer space,” Fiona said. “Alfred there has never really felt at home on Earth. For Delia, the eternal battle against Chaos is what drives her. And they’ve fallen in love and so they piloting a Pyramid across the Cosmos should be a pretty good Honeymoon.”
“Delia sells storage boxes and Alfred sells clocks,” Bruce said. “And after lifetime spent trying to constrain time and space, they’re going off to transcend both concepts.”
“Jesus, Bruce,” Norman said. “Don’t get philosophical.”
“You’re a Greek demigod,” Bruce boomed. “You’re supposed to be pro-philosophy.”
“And you shouldn’t be invoking Jesus’ name. I may be a ghost-robot-truck, but I’m also a Christian and…”
Carl blinked hard. “So it’s all sorted?” he said, quite loudly. “I didn’t have any part to play in saving the day?”
“Basically sorted,” Fiona said. “And no.”
“Wait, wait,” Carl said. “The Pyramid cult is still going.”
“Nope!” Delia shouted down. “I just phoned Donna to see what’s happening. She said she beat up Theopoulos and stole his magic amulet, so…”
“The Age of Machine?”
“Nalda agreed to put that on the back-burner.”
“Well, the Handy Pavilion!” Carl said. “It’s still closed.”
“I’ll field this one,” came a voice from behind Carl. He turned to see Ms Shan, the former Handy Pavilion manager.
“I spoke to the Gay Agenda,” Ms Shan said. “They’ve done a deal with the Pavilion corporate management, and the South Hertling branch is reopening.”
“Wait, the Gay Agenda is a real thing?” Carl said. “It’s not on my conspiracy board…”
“Deal with it, buttercup,” Ms Shan said. “The Pavilion is back in business, albeit somewhat more rainbow-y.”
“But who is going to staff it?” Carl said. He removed his straw hat to rub his eyes. “Most of the Pavilion staff were charged with riot, and then escaped prison. I’m not happy with any of these deus ex machinas, but you’ll need a huge one to…”
“Got it here, mate,” Norman said. He held up a scrap of paper bearing the words “IOU one deus ex machina, signed ZEUS.”
Bruch gently smacked Norman in the back of his helmet. “You didn’t think of cracking that one out while we were imprisoned in the Pyramid all those months, you tool?”
“Forgot I had it, didn’t I,” Norman said, rubbing his head. “It was only when the man in white here said it that I was reminded.”
Carl looked up, then down, then up again. He walked back and forth a bit, before looking up again and blinking. “But what about…”
“Look mate,” Alfred said, looking at a his pocket-watch, “I get that you’ve not happy about being left out of the denouement, but that’s on you, all right? Now we should get going before another war breaks out over the Pyramid. Ready, Delia?”
“Of course, my love,” Delia said. She took a brass tape-measure from her pocket. She and Alfred brought the Watch and Measure together — and then they and the Pyramid were gone. There was nothing to mark it’s former presence but a square depression in bare earth, perhaps ten centimeters deep.
Bruce dusted his massive metal hands. “Well, that’s that.”
“All sorted out nicely,” Donna said. “And with no dangling loose ends.”
Police were finally arriving at the South Hertling Super Centre but — perhaps by design — they had arrived far too late. The non-combatants had long since deserted the place, more recently followed by the battered survivors of the battle. So the police contented themselves with taking pictures and writing notes and making no move at all to clean anything up.
They checked some of the shops that stood open, but ignored the ones that were shut and locked. If they had opened the door of the Place O’ Pets, they would have seen a single staff member who had remained throughout the melee.
Captain Pete, the one-handed aquarium specialist stood by an enormous fishtank, which was wired to a bank of home-made machinery which glowed gently and hummed.
“I knew I just had to wait,” Captain Pete whispered. “The battle was bound to come — and with it a huge surge in time-energy. Enough to charge my equipment. Ha! Ha! Ha!” He laughed, as if each ‘ha’ was a separate word he a Shakespearean actor.
The Captain opened a box, containing a dozen rocks of various sizes, all wrapped in cotton wool. One by one, he dropped them in the tank.
“There, my beloved fossils!” he said. “Soon, you will live again!”
With that, he closed an enormous knife-switch on his machinery. Slow moving circles of blue energy pulsed towards the tank. Wom! Wom! Wom! Wom! The fossils in the bottom of the tank glowed, shifted, moved. Soon, they were all swimming in the fluorescing waters of the tank.
“Ah, my new friends!” the Captain exulted. “Welcome… to life”
THE END OF CLOCKS AND BOXES
The South Hertling Chronicles will return in