ONE.

It had been a long day. Thru’ the clouds of steam, smog and drizzle the smells of the plastics
factory mingled with those of the brewery, where kegs of foam overflowed with ritual neglect.
From his grey, brown room near the summit of the citadel Troley leaned against the broken, rotten
windowsill and peered through cracked, dusty, cobwebbed panes. Near the factory gates crowds of
men in flat caps and worn baggy trousers loitered, or made their way silently down the steps to the
roadway, empty lunchboxes in their hands, wage packets tucked neatly out of sight beneath their
caps.
“I don’t think it’s going to rain today,” Lacrimosa buzzed through the tatty squat with her hair
piled-up like Marie Antoinette. Through the stilted accordion music coming from the south side of
the flat they could hear the plod of horses’ hooves and the gentle murmurs of approval from the
Elders as they secretly insinuated themselves amongst the gentry. It had been a poor harvest and
their partridge-pudgy wives would have rolling pins and weighing-scales ready for them upon their
return home if there was not a slice of meat in the house.
“Why don’t we just leave this sick, decaying carcass of a city?” asked Troley. Lacrimosa just
sighed, plonking the pots of paint she had been carrying down and attacking the cobwebs in the
least-rotten areas of the woodwork.
“I have to meet Podrey tomorrow about the recording contract. I know for a fact he hasn’t paid the
rent on the studio for a month, then we’ll have nowhere to store our kit; they may well even take
possession of our equipment and the recordings themselves should he not pay-up.”
As the day waned and the evening turned to dusk they prepared to go out. Lacrimosa swapped her
nylon housecoat for a flamingo-pink flashers-overcoat, whilst Troley donned his fluffy mohair
jumper which he had purchased at a bazaar: the salesman had assured him it was from the Andes,
though Troley knew for certain they made them at a sweat-shop after hours in a neighbouring town
with child-labour.
Once they stepped out into the street their mood immediately changed into a mock-carnival
picturesque atmosphere. Grubby smiling faces pressed up against their thighs, rubbing for small
change, whilst the wealthy and burlesque fought verbal battles with the a-la-mode and the business-
sect; fat butchers put bets down on who would get clobbered, whilst the shoe-shine boys stood by
their boxes with an almost sombre disapproval. It was only 8:30 and the serious drinking had not
yet started. The police kept well clear until the heavy dealers had shifted most of the doctored,
twice-cut gear, so they could prove how efficient they were and increase their statistical arrest rate
by picking-off the dozy stragglers in their humble stupefaction. Then the big-shot businessmen
would make their move, laughing as they took-out undercover cops who were supposed to be
protecting the interests of the workers.
All this passed Troley by as he was thinking very hard about his meeting with Chini that evening,
and hoping Lacrimosa would not notice all the prostitutes who were trying to pick him up,
assuming he had money because he was unhandsome and with a chic looking female such as she,
who in turn pretended she was not looking at the backsides of the handsome waiters who stood by
the gaily illuminated street cafes, or who stood gawping at the street theatres and tumbrils
containing the condemned criminals which rolled past, looking for votes.

When they finally arrived at the second-hand furniture shop where they sorted-out the monthly
accounts and occasionally practised high-magic, Troley slid a wooden oblong counter into a
specially designed notch in the sturdy, routed door-step; there was a very gentle ’clunk’ as the door
swung inwards to reveal a mottled carpet and inlaid stucco décor. The ceiling was covered by a
carefully stencilled mural; someone’s idea of a joke.
The others were already present, and gathered around a curious scroll which lay pinned to the
table by four oversized cotton-pins of the sort normally used for babies’ nappies. The assorted junk
which usually occupied the table’s surface had been brutally thrust aside, and half-consumed cups
of brandy lay amongst a variegated silt of ashes and cigar-butts, along with mouse-droppings and
bacon-rind.
“We are here,” stated Chini whilst giggles and vomiting noises passed around,”…And the enemy
are here,” He strutted philanthropically around the map to the tutting-noises of the assembled.
“We’ll ‘ave ter put some more money in the meter,” cawed Grandma in her most philosophical
tone.
“Yes, and who remembered to bring the butter, jam and bread?” enquired Sorvast The Radical,
who had missed his elevenses and was ravenously hungry, despite having filched Ppp Igenit’s
pockets for the opium.
“Hi, sorry we’re late,” Lacrimosa stepped abruptly by the table and fished for a pencil in her
ample cartouche, “And by the way, you’ll never sustain a blockade along that road,” here she
tapped smartly on the worn, creased map, “because there’s a barrack there with armed troops. I
saw them moving in cases of hardware the day before yesterday, they’re fully armed and they’ll
pick your men off like ducks in a shooting gallery.”
“Bollocks, we’ll lure them out onto the street and once they’ve expended their ammunition we’ll
cut them off and mow them into the ground with the sten machine-guns. But you’re right, we’ll
have to move pretty sharp if we’re to make the drop before the cameras spot us. My main worry is
the main compound where they store the internees’ possessions. We’ll only have 37 seconds before
the automatics trig and we’ll be obliterated by the shrapnel from our own frag-grenades when they
fire the e.m.f. pulse.”
“What about the tunnel? And the snipers in the trees? Don’t you think they’ll spot us before then?”
put in Chini.
“Perhaps, but it’s our only escape-route, unless we hitch a ride with the army. We can’t risk using
that as an attack-path and since we’ve already de-mined our route through the no-man’s-land
between the two outer fences it would be idiocy to make an attempt.”
“Listen,” interjected Troley, ”I’ve got the bus with 19 canisters of diesel and two gallons of real-
ale in the ‘park over there,” he stuck his thumb over his shoulder to indicate the eastern section of
the city where the industrial estate was clustered behind the kiddie’s adventure playground, “why
not forget the entire incident and let’s skidaddle while we’re ahead.” He looked leeringly at Chini’s
staunch expression, which wavered and then coloured with embarassement when he remembered
the last season of underground guerrilla-fighting when the General who ran Xylondo City had
wiped-out half his reserves through an error involving a telephone number on a fag packet and
some re-chargeable batteries; Chini shaded his eyes under the glaring 60 watt bulb of the naked
illumination and shivered at the thought of government troops gaining access to his database again.
Chini’s jaw clenched, his neck strained and his facial muscles bulged, yet he kept his silence.
“I think what Chini is trying to say,” intoned Igenit with a fool’s patience, “is that we’ve been
planning this operation for some months now and we’ve all put so much effort into this… peace is
once again a viable alternative; once we’ve got access to the General’s mainframe we can put our
men in anywhere in the global theatre that we should so desire. We can then defuse the ring of
weapons-traders, close down the chemical manufacturers and turn the communications channels
into education and entertainment once again, instead of the brain-rotting propaganda they currently
emit.”
“How can you say we should abort?” cried Chini through clenched teeth, “With this mission under
our belts we’ll be the most powerful independent in the northern hemisphere! We can shut-down
the pollution factory permanently, and open the countryside up to the labourers again, so they
won’t have to work in the high-risk zone. Workers all over the world have put their faith in us.”
“I agree with Troley,” said Lacrimosa, “No no,” she began as Sorvast threw his hands up in
despair and glowered ironically at her, “my relationship with Troley has nothing whatsoever to do
with the scenario. I am merely observing that although we stand a cat-in-hell’s chance against the
General, if we move-out and re-group we’ll have a much better crack in six month’s time when I’ve
heard we’re expecting some serious atmospherics which may shut-down the propaganda
manufacturers with no effort on our part whatsoever, doing half our work for us despite our
strategic disadvantage in numbers.”
Chini slowly took his hands out of his pockets where he had lifted the safety catch from his .22
automatic pistol.
“They’ve got needle-guns,” he spoke softly. Lacrimosa sighed. With a frown Chini brushed aside
Sorvast’s objections, who was about to fire-up again, and softly stated,
“Alright. I agree. Let’s leave them something to think about and withdraw. But I won’t forget the
‘lesson’ the General taught me about lines of energy. I think he might shortly be having an accident
involving a vat of soup, a green cat’s eye and a palm-tree.” He chuckled lightly, a peculiar tint in
his eye, rolling the map up whilst Lacrimosa lounged in a louche fashion and the boys checked
their ammunition. It was a Tuesday, and the next day was a bank-holiday. Tourists from the
suburbs would be roaming the streets, eyes blind to the extremes of poverty and wealth, whilst the
school-children would be shipped-out to their annual camps in the country. It would be an ideal
cover for the action they had in mind.
Chini pressed the button on his intercom, saying,
“Bring up the Chablis ‘77; oh, and initiate operation Ptarmigan.”

TWO.

The next day passed, then the one after, then the one after that. Finally the government’s agents
emerged from their underground cellars, cessholes and emplacements. Peeling their hard-hats off
for the first time in months and cringing as their over-grown toe-nails clanged against the insides of
their swollen boots, pissing into gutters as washer-women passed by contemptuously, scratching
the lice onto passing dogs, they looked around for something to either eat, destroy or pillage.
Instead of a hostile citizenry they unexpectedly found themselves ushered into the bordellos and
street cafes, where they were plied with drink, food and entertainment and given sympathetic looks
for being victimised by “them dirty rebels”. Kartzenof fervently peeled the exo-skeleton from a
passing cockroach and carved polygons into the tablecloth, even penetrating the M.D.F. beneath
the tabletop. The café owner, a balding man with a silver earring and a crooked nose looked on
with distain as he poured another glass of table red. Grockling, his second mate, was compiling
demographic data on his pocket computer.
“They’ve flown,” he commented, stubbing his cigarette out on the sole of his army-pattern boot
and rubbing the ash into his trouser leg.
However, in actual fact he was wrong. At this moment the guerrillas were trying to rig a cylinder
head-ring-compressor out of salvaged steel drinks-cans and jubilee clips. Since this had never
before been done in the history of mechanical engineering they were facing a steep learning curve
and losing valuable time; additionally it had been discovered that half the diesel-fuel was corrupted
and would have to be ditched when they were half-way across an already grossly contaminated
area of semi-arable scrub-cum-steppe. Already Igenit was loading up the rucksacks for the long
walk ahead of them.
“We can’t ditch the bus in the suburbs-we’ll be noted straight away,” panicked Troley.
“If we walk out in camo-gear they’ll pick us off at the first check-point,” agreed Sorvast.
“We can’t disguise ourselves as tourists or appropriate some other mode of locomotion can we?”
It was on this note that Lacrimosa’s hand slipped on the torque-wrench she was holding, which
was slippery with a thin film of butter she had been using in the vain hope of squeezing the
cylinders back into the engine-block, and Chini received a cut across the back of his hand. He
reared up cursing as blood began to trickle down his fingertips, and Lacrimosa, dizzy and nearly
stumbling, grabbed the nearby emergency medical box to dress the injury.
“Wash it first,” she commanded and steered Chini to the sink.
“I am sick and tired with communications technology which won’t work, hardware that is unrepairable
and with no spares, and subordinates who are more concerned with their munch-rations
than with overpowering a failing right-wing regime.
“The river,” Sorvast smartly recovered from his lurching stomach, “We can use the canal from the
recently abandoned paper-pulp mill and steer down to the estuary. I know where we can borrow
some transport.”
“Yes,” seconded Troley, “The diesel will run in the barges they keep. Perfect cover.”
After sunset they split-up and made their own individual way down to the dockyard where the
barges and canal boats tugged wearily at the lines which kept them along-side. It was not very
much longer until they were chugging happily along the water’s edge whilst bobbers in the channel
lazily swayed about in the swinge. No moon shone yet beneath a heavily clouded sky they emerged
from the ramshackle harbour-side into the sparsely wooded estuary. They had passed a long series
of defence bunkers and block-houses, all apparently disarmed until they saw a lone light, dimly
shuttered, revealing a planked jetty and humble woodland abode. There was complete silence
except for the lap-lap of the subtle swinge as they tied-up alongside and disembarked. Before a
very long time had elapsed they were swigging imported luxury vodka from wooden flasks hewn
out of untreated heartwood. It was in this atmosphere of gaiety and vitality, finally eschewing the
confines of their city-prison, that they encountered the homeliness of the woodman’s hut resting
contentedly beneath boughs of sycamore and holly.
“Ye’ll ‘ave more a’ that where ye’re going,” was all he ever said: a taciturn fellow at the best of
times. Many years later when they had occupied the freehold that they had laboured long and hard
to win back from the corrupt authorities, they looked back on that evening and the fate of the
woodman was always a curiosity-for they never saw him again.

The next few months were spent moving cross-country at a snail’s pace, breathing in the freshened
air after storms and lightening, scenting the accumulating scents of flowers and blooms as the
spring slowly crept on; wading through flooded gullies and digging the tractors out of the morass
when they became bogged-down; the anticipation of horror when they were forced to emerge onto
country roads and even highways at the beleaguered semi-living humans which occupied these
thoroughfares; trepidation as they crossed half-built bridges which the farmer had never designed
to be crossed by tractor; fear at the arrogance of the landowners who were not ‘in-the-know’ as
they crossed pasture illicitly, and relief when they saw the familiar lanterns guiding them between
the terrain of the warring factions who occupied and abused the earth.
Until it was finally well-nigh a six-month when they perceived the desired change, as battalion
after battalion abandoned the wounded and ever oft breached defensive positions as they reneged
against the fanaticism of their superior’s orders; then officers revolted and rebelled, burning
dispatch-files and refusing orders, transmitting orders and strategy reports directly to the “enemy”,
until on End-Of-Siege Day, when they found themselves in the heart of the homeland, outside the
gates of the renegade Prince who had engineered the war-like machinations and spear-shaking that
had triggered-off the automatic defence system and sent thousands to early-graves as exemplary
cannon-fodder at the barbarous tribute to long-dead ideals.
The women-folk, long bloated by fast, and the men-folk, grown wild on contaminated scavenging,
picked their way through the debris until they stood on either side of the high-velocity electromagnetic
frequency barrier, which if crossed triggered the automatic lasers which would slice a
man’s legs off in a micro-second.
It was, though, with a heavy heart on the part of the apparent victors that negotiations at last took
place; it was not by means of long-distance courier, nor by loud-hailer, nor by electronic or
electronically media that a compromise was finally reached.
It was understood that within the confines of the palace, impregnable fortress, the antidote to the
degenerative diseases which had blighted the planet for the past fifty years were contained, leaving
only the hardy country-dwellers in anything resembling health; the placebos handed to both army
and civilian adults had done more harm than good, leaving morphic resonance that would leave a
foul taste in the food of people for generations to come, and semi-automatic computer guided
weapons systems that could wipe out thousands through the slightest movement within the battle-
theatres all around the continents. Apart from our brave and worthy crew of war-resistors nothing
else larger than a field-mouse moved across land; their genetic-codes, stored within the computer
memory-banks were infinitely expendable to the battle-behemoth.
Finally, the crippled prince and his servants and family stood on one side of the electro-static
sheath, whilst the protestors in their cloaking device stood on the other. For long hours there was
complete silence as a stealthy wind played football with empty plastic wrappers. Then there was an
electronic ‘click from one of the gates and a sound-envelope protruded from the perimeter-wires.
“Good morning. State your business immediately.” Chini looked at Simov, who had been their
driver through the long pursuit of the country-tracks who looked back again at the flattened city-
scape surrounding this last bastion to demagoguery.
“We wish to discuss,” wrote Troley on a scrap of cardboard, “The means by which you will shutdown
the plague machine and release mankind from the doom of the hubris of the gods,”
There was a faint hum as the message was transmitted through the ultra-violet scan and finally
dropped into the ghoul-bitten hands of the Prince.
“You have infiltrated out Nation’s armies and corrupted out Generals. How do we know you have
not been sent by The Enemy to extinguish our blood-line?”
Lacrimosa looked pale with tension and stress as she surveyed the stick-thin Prince and his bloated
and hungry wife. Could there be any way of communicating to the people the damage they had
done with their battle-systems? The message was returned thus:
“All human individuals have taken to the sea to escape the poisoned land. Your kingdom no longer
exists, yet you continue to persecute all life-forms on the surface and in the air. Will you not
release the land from your curses and let the green flourish again?”
The envelope-shield bulged once again as an eerie orange-glow pulsated around the returned reply.
“We cannot and do not wish to lower our shields. We are impregnable and can continue in our
battle-bunker until our antecedents have immunity to your guerrilla tactics, then we will again
repopulate the planet within our dominion.
“However, if you wish us to release the antidote to the degenerative diseases we have released onto
the country to cleanse the soil of the blood of your type, you may perform a small service for us.
Please stand back from the fence.”

Hastily the crew tumbled onto the tractor as they reversed into the plaza where the statues and
idols from forgotten time were suspended in the ethylised air on anti-static plinths. Before them the
gates opened and a peculiar sort of light show began as muzzled hounds reared and pawed the air.
What emerged was undoubtedly some piece of the puzzle mankind was sent to the earth to solve; it
was half-question, half-command, half spoken formula, incantation and half-disguised incentive; a
psychology, and analysis and a guide; a sneering demagogic rush of meta-information; the brewed
concoction of some half-aware mind which saw reality vaguely through a haze of distortion about
the importance of its own self-contained message; and the threat of oblivion at disseverance of its message, and the promise of liberty at its completion.
Notwithstanding the arrogance of the message, at its final juncture was a communication which
strangely permeated the crew’s minds not through language, words, speech or sign but was instead
a peculiar, half-remembered taste upon their tongues: the taste of the spilt bottle of Arak from
Syria which they had never tasted, but had been brushed onto the floor in the debris with the
spreading of the map for the escape from the beleaguered citadel; from thence they were always
reminded that before they might achieve their aim of release for the land and of their consciences at
the plight of mankind, they must first obey the whim of the druid-king and his alchemist wife in
their quest, or forever be cursed to travel across the blighted soil of their once much-loved country.

THREE.

Wandering about the discarded city having abandoned their tractor, disconsolately kicking an
empty plastic bottle in front of him, Simov, their newly acquired driver, told them something of his
life.
“I was bought-up on a farm, where people are more in tune with the rhythm of the seasons; there’s
none of the restlessness and constant shifting of townspeople. Cities were easy prey for us really,
like sitting targets almost. We didn’t know, couldn’t imagine that the scientists were preparing for
an all-out war. We had our own resources: clean air, clean water and clear consciousnesses. When
I saw you lot coming along with that borrowed machine I thought, ‘Crickey! Here’s a bunch of
escapees from an asylum!’
“Yes,” commented Lacrimosa, “I suppose you also see us city-people as outsiders, kikes, wops
and daygos.”
She had not meant to sound as sarcastic as perhaps she sounded to the company. Chini just
shrugged, walking along with his hands in his pockets. The adventurous ‘risk-everything’ type, he
was little concerned with the petty squabbles in the group. He was even quite surprised at how
unconcerned he had been at the result of the entire episode. To him life was a series of logistical
problems: how to conserve amount of fuel ‘a’, the most efficient method of crossing terrain ‘b’, the
most effective use of weaponry for obtaining position ‘c’.
Conversely to Troley the journey had been a waste of time; and indeed, he was extremely upset
over the disruption of what to him had been a vital peace-keeping mission; miles of countryside
covered, moving from safe house to safe-house; the communication enterprise alone had taken
thousands of man-hours to accomplish, let alone research and the careful weighing-up of the
dangers of passing through militarised zones (since they had left their intelligence weaponry in the
store before embarking on the canal-journey, to avoid detection by government micro-circuitry
jamming devices.)
Once they had walked fifteen miles or so, they began to notice weird distortions in some of the
houses. It was as if some non-Euclidean geometry had taken-over the builders’ minds, or as if the
very molecules if which the material frame of each dwelling was constructed of had undergone a
warping-mutation by some little-understood energy or force. The troops were silent as they
shouldered their packs and tried not to notice. At least the pavements were still surfaced ordinarily,
so they were able to pass through this physical graffiti of the gods with little problem apart from
their own perplexed thoughts.
As they moved out through the silent, deserted streets they were able to give some thoughts as to
the many and varied experiences they had all been through over the past months.
Once in the suburbs, with the prospect of open countryside ahead, their spirits picked up and they
began to look forward to the task they had been set to accomplish. They took stock of their
possessions. Five sets of serviceable camouflage-gear, five pairs of sturdy 20-hole lace-up all-
terrain Doc Martens, three sten sub-machine guns with seven spare rounds of 100 shells, a luger, a
.22 carbine, and five ubiquitous needle-guns with 70 rounds. Artillery consisted of one grenade-
launcher (laser-assisted guidance), three CS gas canisters, an e.m.f. pulse-interrupt detonator
which could be attached to the grenades, a radio-satellite link (powered-down since no satellites
were operating), water purification tablets for forty days, two flack-jackets and a bullet-proof vest,
and emergency rations for fifty days. This was to prove more than adequate since they were able to
tackle foodstuffs still sitting on the shelves of supermarkets they passed, since people had dashed
down to the shores and harbours to escape the burning soil. (This itself had only been a by product
of the deep-surface scan of the earth’s crust initiated by the military along with tectonic testing for
mineral resources, to root-out underground stores, silos and hideaways. The ruthlessly efficient
beta-and gamma-scanners had more or less sterilised most forms of life as they went along.)
However, the reason they did not have long to wait was revealed by a subtle thumping which they
felt through their boots and in their search for the key to disarm the fanatical crazy Prince’s lazershielded
palace, and once and for all destroy the insane battle-computer which had initiated the
expunging of all life-forms.
Yet, and as they crested a rise the source of the thumping became apparent; two gyro-copters
flanking a 300 foot long zeppelin were hovering over a small lake where the two occupants of a
tiny dwarfed rowing-boat helpless swayed and rocked, waving paddles in the air and cursing
impotently.
It was at this point that they recognised with horror the pirate-vessel of the indoubtable and
infamous Tlexl Moab. Throwing themselves down on the ground as cover they fervently prayed
this gammog would pass them by. The gyrocopters, alerted to their presence by a crest of milk spilt
on some hard ground by Sorvast, who had been guzzling as he walked, swooped over like a jet-
black kestrel to hover menacingly over their heads. Although they knew they could have no hope
once the gun-turret of the zeppelin swung in their direction, Chini had quickly loaded and armed
the grenade-launcher; the gyrocopter was just about within range, and although renowned for their
inaccuracy he knew he had a fair chance of hitting the target, even without the delicate guidance
system which lay redundant in his pack. To their communal relief however, a small single-rope
ladder trailed down from the ‘copter engine idling as the mono-prop spun lazily in the surface slipstream.
Abandoning their heavy rations, the company raced to be first: first into a warm zeppelin
cabin, probably with running water and perhaps a cooked meal or three. Clambering up the ladder
they noticed out of the corner of their eyes as they glanced round, the tail-weight of the ladder
which also served as an air-anchor preventing the ladder from swinging, that of the two figures in
the rowing boat, only one still remained on board. He sat looking tremulous in his tweedy apparel,
whilst the former swum clumsily but determinedly for the lake-side, “Dri-za-Bone” knee-length
waxed cotton waterproof billowing out in the water like Grizelda’s swan-song.
As the company swung themselves into the navigator’s cockpit it became apparent that three of
them would have to cling to the body of the plane’s rudely plastered canvas, until they could be
deposited into the zeppelin. The pilot in leather helmet and split-screen goggles stuck a leather-clad
arm with its protruding, sheep skin collar around and gave them the ‘thumbs-up’. The ladder was
hauled in and Yehar! They were air-born.
Absolutely petrified Chini, Sorvast and Lacrimosa clung to the thoughtfully provided luggage
straps and slowly froze as they gained altitude until they were level and on parallel course with the
zeppelin as it lumbered slowly in a north-westerly direction. As ice began to accrete on the meagre
plexiglass, the merciless pilot ploughed on until they reached a high plateau where huge mountains
glistened in the distance and a lone raven pawed the infinite sky. Below them and behind them lay
the terrain that would have taken them perhaps twenty days to cross. With their rations and
equipment they would have attained that plateau only to discover they had no ropes or climbing
equipment. However, as luck stood with them, they were now deposited on a scree-slope whence
the zeppelin hauled them skyward in two shifts in a purpose-built basket, held by a stout, sturdy
chain powered by mechanical lifting-motors.
Once on board they became aware that although polished and mean-looking on the outside, the
interior of the vessel was almost entirely loading-space. The meagre arsenal of weaponry, although
fully operational, greased, painted and polished, was not even armed. When the grinning captain
with his ugly looking crew descended a wrought-iron ladder to inspect their catch, Ttroley, Simov,
Lacrimosa, Chini and Sorvast were astonished when rough, gentle but firm hands swiftly disarmed
them from the rear before they were even aware that they were under attack. Then they found
themselves peering at the muzzles of their own instantly cocked-and-armed weaponry.
“You won’t be needing that,” snapped one mercenary, ripping the computer satellite lazerguidance
pod from its nest on the rear of Chini’s pack. A scar-faced man with a wicked gleam in
his remaining eye and a lizard-like fork in his tongue approached them with mock civility saying,
“May I take your luggage, gentlemen?”
“Yes!” cried the Pilot-cum-Captain of this renegade outfit, ”And may Bacchus blight your livers! I
must say gentlemen, my crew and I are much impressed with your progress over these last few
weeks we have been observing you. Just one question bothers me though-why did you not destroy
the evil citadel when the Prince brought his shields down? We saw you there with our powerful
observation equipment and you just stood there like dummies! And why, therefore, did the prince
not kill you all outright? Certainly if we had been within range we would have obliterated the entire
area with our frag-mines. However, I am sure you are cold and hungry and thirsty and damp after
your brief excursion with our gallant pilot: allow me to offer you my hospitality and the run of the
ship, for as long as it suits us to keep you here. Mr. Delray,” he clicked his fingers at the scar-
faced dwarf who waddled-off after their packs,” show our guests to their rooms! And tonight we
shall eat, drink and be merry.”
Our noble company were ushered-off with the sneers, nods and grins of the variegated crew. It
was not long after a brief attention to their toilet that they emerged smelling of bath-salts into the
chilly canvas-roofed dining-hall: as they ascended the steps they realised they stood beneath the
bulging canopy of the flatulent balloon-like zeppelin itself, and were in fact standing on the roof of
the gondola, before them the gleaming yellow of the steppes and sparse tundra to the north and
directly beneath them the grainy strata of the hardened magma, basalt and gneiss; and to the east,
the glistening spars of huge mountains whose wickedly sharp peaks seemed to grate at the
heaven’s gates themselves. At last, to the north their eyes delighted on the soft mellow-green of
vegetation, which had somehow escaped the psionic detonations which had ravaged all other
surface life-forms. It was a delight to their eyes, and as they seated themselves at the feast-table
amongst a motley assortment of probable rapists, murderers, arsonists and torturers, they thought
themselves highly fortunate to be in the presence of the gallant captain. He introduced himself, and
spoke thus before the assembled battle-host, a chill wind blowing his scant locks as he bulged in his
leather-and-armour britches and jacket.
“Gentlemen, assembled entities of light and earth-elementals, I give you the following proposal:
that we go forward and seek a solution to the blight which has depopulated the land-surface: that
we may let the animals live free and without fear or restraint; and that we may bring to heel the
forces of destruction which have acted in so obtuse and threatening a manner to the free peoples of
this world. That is all, no more and no less, and I ask for your support and commitment; once we
have achieved our goal, that we may look back and all say we had a fair crack at the enemy; and
that we pool all knowledge and resources so that we may achieve our goal with elegance and
efficiency. A toast, gentlemen and ladies: to the Free Earth!”
A chorus of assent rose up amongst those present, and the onlookers who sat, stood or sprawled
about the main feast table.
The earth turned on its axis and as the power of the sunlight gently waned it became apparent to
all that they were indeed fortunate to be anchored at approximately 1,500 feet and about to embark
upon the next stage of what was probably the most dangerous and ill-advised mission ever put
before a company of warriors. They would face the brutal quantum physics of the barbarous demigods
who inhabited the area immediately surrounding the sun-beyond the spectral vista of
humankind in the realm in between the astral and ethereal: the ante-rooms of the damned and the
blessed where human souls were traded like counters in games indecipherable to even the most
fortunate and intelligent human’s apperception. For it was only here in the realms of metaconsciousness
that they would be able to track-down the lunar-frequency of the battle-computer
which held the races of earth in its deadly, vice-like grip; only here that they could re-install the
manual over-ride and repossess the gestalt consciousness of humanity from the impaled
impoverished messages of aggression and death; only here that they could release the demi-urges
and benevolent sprites which had been ejected through the filter-mechanisms of the psionic seismic
gamma/beta scan-ships. Yet the captain looked glumly into his wine goblet, later on that evening
when the crew and captives were either asleep or in drunken stupor; for he feared for mankind, and
for the animals, lest, once repossessed of his Manichean promethean spirit he should again wreak
havoc it had taken generations of toil and work to recover from.
“Still, there’s always the bullet,” he murmured, and laughing fingered the trigger of his needle-gun
as he wandered off to his slumber.
The party awoke the next morning to find Mess. Delray and Snipe, the disarmourer, had cleaned-
up the prolific debris of the previous night’s work whilst the autopilot had steered the ship into
what looked improbably like a jungle climatic-zone with its own localised biosphere deep within
the cavernous heart of the mountain plateau. Below them spread dense canopy through which they
could just about see the leaping antics of ape-like creatures moving with unlikely velocity amongst
the sparring spanning branches, twigs and lianas of a vivacious self-sustaining perma-terrain.
Waterfalls splashed glorious down onto craggy rocks and boulders where heron and ibis stood
together along shaggy banks. Through telescopes and binoculars they could also see what looked
like swarms of insects or tiny bird-life forms moving in peculiarly geometric or symmetrical
patterns. It was through this steamy lazy obscurity that they descended, leaving Snipe at the helm,
and clambered out of their gondola/funicular array into a blur of colours; and a pulsing, vibrant
sensorium of sound and the exotic chatter of arthropods and intelligent mammal-life.
A number of species of animal stepped forward to make the offering of a communication. The
captain himself accepted the honour and was duly led to a cave where he lay down on a man sized
imprint carved into the surface of a ten-foot long crystal of quartz. As he lay down in trance his
cellular memory became fused with the life-energy of the peculiar forest jungle in its lonely cloud-
topped canopy, completely cut-off from the rest of the planet and other life-forms. At once he felt a
jolt of surging energy and realised that this tiny kingdom was the result of a coincidence of forces
which far exceeded his ability to comprehend. As his consciousness remained in subtle homeostasis
and his lungs ever-so-softly and gently drew in the lovely clean air, his cellular dream body was
drawn deeper and deeper into the cosmic awareness of the life-’id’ of this place, and his astral body
fed astoundingly not upon the sun of earth’s solar system but instead upon a star in a far-away
galaxy in Andromeda-it was here that they would discover the secret to reveal the key to disarm
the war-computer.
“Tune in, turn on, drop out,” he thought bizarrely to himself. In the link with the “Genii-loci” his
mind and it’s thinking seemed to him to be bubbles of lapis-lazuli floating up through a silent sea
of crystalline sharpness: it was here that the Voice spoke through him, using his lips to express
what at first seemed to be mild distaste and displeasure at having to use such an inadequate
medium as speech-thought to express itself.
“Who are you and why do you disturb the calm bountiful munificence of my age-old sacred
temple?” it asked him.
“I am Captian Xenothes of the airship Blinkrattle. We come in peace-take us to your parking-
meter.”
“Here on Donganwana we do not incur penalties for staying in one place for a time or two. This is
because in the universe there is an equal and opposite perfect-balance between things which stay in
one place and things which don’t. However, if it is wisdom you require you may state your aims,
goals and objectives for our scrutiny.”
“My crew and I seek neither wisdom nor sanctity, oh spirit of the origin of all life-forms. We are
seeking direction on how to obtain the key to the control-room where the battle-computer plots the
demise of all living creatures.”
“I do not recognise such a force of chaos and destruction in this universe. I know of one whom you
may consult, he lives on the fringe of Dongonwanaland and my beings do not accompany him in
his thoughts. We call him “The Gorchan”, but he is also known in humankind’s history as
Frederick Neitszche, Alisdair Crowley, Imhotep, Gog and Magog and many other names. You may
approach him but be warned: he wields a mighty stave with which it is said he can dislodge the
very planets from their orbits.”
“I am forewarned, oh merciful one. Does it please your etherealness to instruct and guide us to this
domain?”
“You may follow the circle of power-stones which may lead you to the obelisk he worships. Yet I
want you: do not step on the power-stones, lest a million volts should splatter your entrails amongst
the rocky shark-pools where daemons will chew on them.”
With a powdery whisp of smoke the Deva withdrew from the Captain’s meta-stasis.
When he awoke he could see the first power-stone glistening in the ruby light as the sun gently
slipped below the horizon.
Returning to the clearing where the gondola sat, he was not surprised to find the crew of the
airship playing ’78s on a clockwork gramaphone they had retrieved from the ship’s coffers, and to
find the assemblage of forest-dwellers, attention rapt to the drawling tones of some post-
Gladstonian vaudeville swinger.
“Come on, shore leave’s over,” he grunted and signalled Snipe to begin raising the gondola again.
The moiety piled in leaving Xenothenes, Lacrimosa and Bule (ships 3rd mate).
“So what’s to be done?” asked Lacrimosa.
“We’re going for another hike, whilst the others check out our getaway route. Here,” he proffered
two prudently loaded rucksacks to his friends,” We’ll require these. We may be away some days,”
he bawled up at Snipe who peered over the edge of the loading bay,” Oh,” he added dangling a key
on a silver thread, ”I’ve confiscated the key to the drinks cupboard by-the-way,”

Howls and curses of laughter were heard from the resounding hollows of the air-deck. In the half-
light of the bio-spheres’ perma-canopy they strode from bog to glen, from crag to scree-slope, from
arid plains to frozen peaks. Within a day and a half they were within scrying-distance of the
Hermit’s abode. Before their electronic instrumentation failed (and this was confirmed
independently by the crew in the observation radome aboard The Blinkrattle,) they were
encroaching upon a most peculiar zone of geomorphic activity: apparently the underlying strata,
besides being some 1.5 billion years old, (’Almost as old as our sun,’ thought Bule,) was
permeated by what Snipe referred to as the “cheese-hole” effect; Chini had taken over at this
juncture to explain further that this referred to a geometrical/structural/architectural phenomenon
know as the “spatial-cube-root” principle. It was based on the axiom that an area of space can
contain “wormholes” which defy description by conventional mathematics: they are “greater than
an area but less than a volume”. This paradox did not help to explain why their communication and
radio, monitoring and sampling equipment became blanked out by a blanket of white-noise which
gradually diminished into complete silent stillness.
“If I wasn’t sure we were on earth,” observed Xenothon,” At this point I would describe our
progress as ’moon sprung’”, for indeed all other vegetation and, as far as they knew, all other life-
forms had diminished and dissipated bar strangely springy turf they pranced over (for it was well-
nigh impossible to walk normally), of all the grey-green-russet colours, with dashes of ochre and
electric-blue and violet rivulets trickling in dismal streams amongst the super-sprung turf-“like
having high density rubber pogo-sticks under each foot,” as Lacrimosa retrospectively noted.
Then to their astonishment three pillars of gleaming blue light shone before them, emitting bolts of
tiny blue sparks which radiated from their slowly rotating centre: these luckily fell short about their
ankles, and yet still their spines tingled as the elementals drifted purposefully towards them,
drifting and spin-shifting amongst the glistening ochre. A high whine filled their ears ’till they could
not hear one another but had instead to read their lips.
“Weapons up?” enquired Lacrimosa to Xenothenes, fingering the safety-catch on her electron
magnetic field de-energiser weapon. Xenothenes motioned for them to sink down to sit on their
haunches which they did, whilst focussing the remaining spare watts of their energy-packs via the
defunct communications channel into his microwave receiver. He then applied the static-wave
inverter and induced a cone of energy which drained power from the elementals into the ships
emergency distress channels (the beacon didn’t activate because of cloud cover beneath the airship,
some miles away, as the ship’s crew doodled and fiddled in complete ignorance of these events.)
The Elementals, reduced to their humanoid manifestations, stepped cautiously into view. They
abandoned their disguise and stood as three Nubian warriors, glistening with war-paint, eyes aglow
from Xenophenes’ disruptor field: their bodies were tattooed from head to foot with molecular
imprints of their clansmen who had died on this, a huge battle plain cum graveyard, of the tribes
who had fallen to the rise of Atlantean technology in the Neut-Wars of the pale northern races.
Their toe-nails and finger-nails still glittered with the aftermath of thousands of rads from the
plutonium, neutron and caesium-poison machines the Caucasians had used as weapons against
them. Their speech was like the clattering of narwhale horn upon dolphin’s spine. The speech of
the Nubians resonated through their entire bodies from their feet to the cranium; their bones ached
with the sounds of it, a rickety crumbling, clinking, rattle-bone-shaking vibration, which their
sensory organs screamed for mercy at, stammer of clicks and clunks, they heard:
“We are Hajeantay. You trespass on our domain. Give us reason not to slay you as enemies.”
It was Lacrimosa who spoke, quietly and softly as the jaws of those others flapped uselessly as
they bit chunks out of their tongues in frustrated annoyance:
“It is true that at one point our people fought together. And it is true we slayed and enslaved your
people, made slaves and chattel of your women and children, mocked and abused your language
and your appearance. Yet today we come here seeking the knowledge of one greater than you-we
seek the Hermit, who knows the path of the planets, the routes of the asteroids, who interrogates
the very dust-particles of the cosmic surf. Let us pass in peace. If you seek to fight us, we will drain your energy fields down to the base-level..”
The angry flashing lights buzzed away in the Nubian’s heads; they flickered this way and that as if
unsure as to how to use optic muscles; then there was an angry dangerous growl as if admitting
defeat, a mighty thunderclap as the entity sublimed, ripping through the ether and turning
Xenothenes’ tiny transceiver into fragments of metal filings. There was a pause, then a mighty
scream as the reverse field inducer switched to overload and the partial-vacuum around the entity
was restored to atmospheric pressure: another mighty blow of concussion and… stillness resumed.
Ears ringing from the sore beating they had received, stars floating before their saucer-like
eyeballs, they stumbled after Xenothon who smiled with grim determination behind the Polaroid
sunglasses of his flight-helmet. Shortly they found themselves before the grotto to St. Alpheus,
otherwise known as “the Hermit”.
He stood naked, a medium sized phallus upright between his legs; he pawed at the air making a cat-like whining noise; he shuffled backwards stepping on a bowl of gruesome scraps: crushed
insects, hearts of molluscs, jelly-fish like tendrils of ectoplasm from spirits he had slain. His body
was meagre, tamed, flesh and tendons almost translucent with age; his feet were like rudely
yanked-up roots, toes like tubers, grotesque gonads leering with exotic humour; grey hair hung in
tufts from his armpits, his ears clung to his skull like two sections of avocado, whilst his tongue
lolled out of his mouth and wavered snake-like over his nose, then dripping down to his chin almost
touched his larynx.
Amazed at his wondrous splendour, Bule sat down to meet him on a three-legged stone seat, whilst
the Hermit dashed around his cave, howling and breaking crockery. When he was exhausted he lay
down at Bule’s feet and searched through Bule’s pockets until he found tobacco, iron-rations and
chocolate, which he ate all at once and gulped down in one mouthful. He was so thin it was
possible to see the food-lump descend his oesophagus, down his larynx and into his stomach,
grossly distorted; he had not even paused to chew it.
These preliminaries over with, he spoke with a lisp to the taken-aback crew:
“I know of that which you seek. The secret I thought was long forgotten you have remembered for
me. It is locked in the heart of that distant mountain-” he pointed to a distant glistening ridge of
perma-frost ice, “you may obtain it only with the blessing of Lord Ganesha, who guards the sacred
portal into the mountain’s maw. However, be cautious, for he has the energy of a vast sun
imprisoned in his pet lion, whose teeth are sharper than a unicorn’s horn. I give you these herbs
and this tambourine to protect you,” He flung some nick-nacks at Lacrimosa’s feet. “Fare ye well!
Journey hard!” he screamed and vanished back into his cave.
Xenothon snatched the sacred integuments from Lacrimosa’s grasp as she stooped to pick them
up, he ran after the old man, wishing to return to him these generous gifts; however, he had
vanished, and not desiring to offend his crude magic, put them into his thigh-pocket. Feeling very
pleased with himself, and with a fully-charged energy-pack (although his communications were still
corrupted his tasers would now function, if necessary he could burn through metres of solid rock
with the battery charge.)
Bule, however, had undergone some weird kind of transformation.
“I saw the light,” he gasped hoarsely.
“Come on Bule, don’t be an ass,” advised Xenothon-with a catch.
“No, I must stay with the Hermit-he has opened my eyes for me, I must…” he began shaking
violently. Lacrimosa knocked him over the head with the butt of her rifle, and he slumped to the
ground. When they had relieved him of his weaponry, and bound his hands behind his back, “He’s
out of harm’s reach,” they declared and off they trogged towards the distant glistening peaks.
“He was a fine navigator,” complained Xenothon, “but I suppose he’ll be happier with the
Shaman.” Lacrimosa, flirting outrageously with Xenothon, now they were alone together, stealthily
filched the weed and drum from Xenothon’s pocket.
“Ger off,” he giggled, ”That tickles!” She lay off, pretending not to notice the lustful look he gave
her.
“Come on,” she teased, “Mission to save the world-remember?”
So they began the treacherous ascent that would lead them to the Mountain-Star-At-The-Heart-Of-The-
Galaxy as the Shaman had referred to it, there hopefully to obtain the diadem that would
illuminate humankind’s knowledge of love, peace and trust in one-another, and allow the lost
wayfarers of the infinite paths of the oceans to return to Father-Earth once more.
Meanwhile onboard the Crickle-Shank Blink-Rattle, the restless crew, having played all the ‘78s
they had within their grasp, were exhausting the chef’s repertoire of bawdy songs and dirty stories.
Discipline had broken down as each attended to his or her requirements as and when was
convenient. In the games-room the snooker and pool tables were in pretty constant use, and a
marathon series of ‘Elevator’ with ‘charades’ as penalties had commenced. Forfeits included
sleeping in a hammock suspended from beneath the gondola’s cockpit, or even ‘hullhaulings’,
ascents of the zeppelin’s body, to absail down the opposing flank, to swing pendulum-like onto the
canopy of the feast-deck. These and other such feats were the daily bread of the stymied aviators,
whilst the more civil-minded bantered quietly about glory-days and dog fights in the gyro-copters
hanger, or performed routine maintenance of the zeppelin-itself’s engines.
“No news is good news,” said the radio-operator as the broad spectrum static associated with
solar-eclipse suffused all channels. “Still, this rig’s seen busier days,” he sighed morosely.
Many miles away in the continuing stultification of the battered city, the crown prince still held the
citadel, whilst all around the ripped backsides of the city emanated the curious glow of distilled
light, an emanation from the earth’s core-a more subtle and enlightened vision, than that of the
prince would have noticed more life than was usual in the leaves and flowers of the ill-maintained,
unwatered houseplants. However, since the house only ran on the death-light of cybernetics, the
Prince obsessed with his meagre body, the princess obsessed with her gross air-filled tummy and
her stultified offspring in cryogenic meta-stasis, fed off the slow drip-feed of the energy-shell, a
manufactured grid of neural stimuli mirroring their life-patterns and vital life signs they had
possessed before the war sucked their human essence into its grotesque and unnecessary existence.
Their souls, far off in outer-space, communicated with their bodies down the fragile-skein of their
astral projections. It was this which Xenothon and Lacrimosa would sever in order to grasp the
keys to return earth from the precarious balance on the edge of oblivion.
In the vermilion tower in the old city, Kartzenof and Grocklig stumbled across a stone floor
covered with empty bottles of wine. Twice a day a serving man would bring them fresh supplies of
meat and bread, whilst the two slowly ground away at their vitality. However, weapons had to be
polished, ammunition checked. There was something in the wind, Karzenof could smell it. It was
not just the fast approaching summer: he knew his troops were out there somewhere, and that some
were bound to return to base despite the demise of ‘command-central’. Communication had to be
kept open, at any moment fresh orders might be received to arm-up and begin the siege once more.
The more truculent citizens shouted abusive words as they passed by, yet Kartzenof did not
respond. He knew that if the Prince should resume hostilities, he would be able to take his time
with those sort of lawbreakers, and slowly torture them to death. And then, when his battle-lust
was alive and kicking again… his imagination gibed in pleasure at the thought of the fecund
blossoming of incendiaries, the satisfying ‘plop’ of concussion grenades, the thrust of the rapier
and the beauty of the radioactive fallout mushroom cloud. In his mind strategies and policies,
manoeuvres and population-cleansing, figures and statistics, strike and counter-strike, subterfuge,
ambush and storm-tactics slowly paced their way in catalogues of war-making, a constant stream
of methods, ways and means of killing people, causing suffering, bloodshed, pain and destruction.
This, more than meat, bread and wine was keeping his attention focussed, while Grocklig fagged
away at his fatigues, sharpening, grinding, polishing, preparing. For Karzenof was known
intimately to the battle-computer, it knew his character traits and fuelled his sadistic venom with
unerring potency and consistency. Calculations made, the station progressed steadily through
combat probabilities and mortality percentages. Yet it slept on, at the back of Kartzenofs
subconscious, thankfully inert.
In the zeppelin, the deputy commander Snipe was discussing vehemently with the members of the
ship’s crew on the most favourable course of action. It was weeks since the disappearance of
Lacrimosa, Bule and Xenothon: the mission, in retrospect, seemed hopelessly vague and ill-defined.
There was, certainly, some probability that the gallant Captain and his companions persisted;
however, more than likely they would perish. Moreover, an immense accumulation of charged
stratospheric energy was about to combine and mesh with an all-enveloping cloud front: if they left
the region within four days they might outrun it, otherwise they would be forced to abandon the
vessel. The supplies of gasoline and generator back-ups for heat and lighting would only hold out
for another fortnight at any rate; if they embarked now, they could outrun the storm at its present
velocity vector. In the end a compromise was reached; a bargain was struck with the creatures of
the black wood, who assisted in the construction of a short length of suitable runway for the
gyrocopter, which was deposited ready for flight in the case of the fortuitous return of the
expedition; in addition, fuel supplies were deposited in order to allow them to take-off and land to
refuel and return to the lake where the two parties had joined forces; plus rations and water
(plentiful and portable in the forests) was also donated in suitable containers.
Hence it was a matter of days in which pre-flight checks were made and the airship trod softly,
motors thrumming, through the cover of a small pre-arranged smoke -screen tended by the forest
creatures. Their destination: the zombie citadel, and a last-ditch kamikaze effort to smash down the
electro-static forcefield surrounding the weapon’s-control vaults of the war-computer. Suicidal
tactics, perhaps, yet all crew members had been offered the opportunity to stay with the peace-
loving forest dwellers should they so desire: it was a forlorn farewell to that micro-climate nestling
hidden amongst the sparse naked hills. Across the steppes, tundra and plain the shadow of the
mammoth air-ship sped; running before the storm, engines in overdrive working at maximum
efficiency; the gunners brought the vacuum-weapons out of standby, and Xenophon’s yet untested
top-secret device, a vaporiser weapon which generated a field effect similar to the tidal
phenomenon of black-holes on outer space: yet this would be a last resort, as it could only be used
in extra-special circumstances when there was a complete homeostasis between planetary
gravitational fields; additionally, the slightest fluctuations in the emission of the sun’s spectral
signature (such as sun-spots, solar flares et al.) could trigger feedback which could cause the
generators to explode, showering the surface with ionised particles. This was the scale of risk
embarked upon, for the benevolent liberation of humankind from the grasp of the voracious war-
machine. And it could only be used once for 1/20th of a micro-second because of the kick-back
from the momentus pressure-wave; furthermore it would drain the batteries completely, leaving the
steerage and elevation controls on full manual, and all the guidance systems powered down.
As they penetrated into the range of mountains Lacrimosa and Xenothon discovered an
increasingly bizarre spectacle; it was an optical illusion combined with a peculiarity of perspective.
The paths they were following seemed to have been formed by some kind of animal, yet there was
no evidence that such a beast had passed across this domain. Feeling they were very far north the
hazy pulp of the coruscating colours lining the sky impressed on them that this was no ordinary
mountain range. A sea of purple flowers carpeted the terrain, and had replaced the lunar-like
mottling-effect of the variegated fauna. As they gained altitude they began to wonder exactly what
it was they had set out to achieve. Here in the high terrain the rivers were full of trout and salmon,
the arctic turn and the lumbering polar bear lived alongside the voracious marmot and the
predatory kitty-hawk. There was building material a-plenty in the densely forested plains, plateaus
and summits. Thoughts of warfare and strategy seemed like strange dreams from a different plain
of being. As day turned into night and the hours rolled on, guarding each other against wandering
evil as each slept in turn next to a hearty fire, it seemed almost a pity to end their sojourn by the
destroying of the evil sorcerer’s lair in order to obtain the keys to free men from fear, darkness and
death.
The healthy air and foison of natural resources had turned Xenothes piercing frowning habitually
distrustful expression into a broad smiling contented ease. Lines of stress and worry seemed to
drop away from him, almost as if the ageing process were reversing. Lacrimosa’s violet eyes, once
burning with the fevered gaze of a dedicated revolutionary, now meandered in mellowness at the
gigantesque topography. Sorrow seemed further away and more distant than the collapse of the
solar system. It was in this mode of being that they encountered the signs of occupation by an
intelligence other then their own.
As they rounded a corner, where a narrow track passed through a narrow crevice in a rocky pass,
where the track was rimed with ice and they were on their guard lest they should lose balance, a
grey pillar of sandstone and limestone, in appearance as if carved out of base-level rock, yet
mysteriously engraved with hieroglyphs from some bygone race; hieroglyphs which spoke stories
of peculiar races beyond the knowledge of latter-day people; these sigils spoke of enormous wars
which had even transformed the fabric of the planet into a substance other than it was originally
formed or intended; as they looked upon the runes their vision was transformed, channelled through
the vision of beings whose senses operated differently from humankind’s. These creatures were
part-animal, part plant, part stellar-energy. The language these creatures used actually transformed
the very substance of reality; as such it was a genuinely universal language since it transcended the
artificial constraining boundaries of planetary existence, and was extent throughout the galaxy.
However, this all-permeating language had become mutated by a disease amongst the earth’s
erstwhile occupants into a means first, of controlling their fellow creatures and other living beings
and bending them to their will, and ultimately became no longer a means of communication but
instead a weapons-system for the harming of life-energy.
As they stood in rapt attention it began to snow. Luminous jelly-like beings floated lazily through
the ether, entangling their limbs around Lacrimosa and Xenothon’s face and head. They felt hot jets
of liquid squirt syringe-like into their brains, and a red mist descended onto their sensorium. When
they awoke they found themselves manacled to two throne-like pedestals. The jellyfish still clung to
their faces, and all was complete darkness. Then, from amongst the darkness a clamour and uproar
began, at first a tumultuous noise like the gathering of some mighty throng interspersed with
roaring, gabbling, hissing, fuzzy static interspersed with maniacal chanting of automated systems:
arpeggios in unknown keys, repeated codes of incomprehensible messages; a sound so intense and
deep that it made the stillness and deadness of their other senses all the more poignant for the loss
of them. It was in this sound-image of chaos that one particular sound began to merge with and
swallow all the others. This sound was like the squawking of a tortured parrot played over and
over and at a frequency ten to one hundred times its normal frequency. Since they had no means
available to them to break free, the manacles of the chair held them bound and the sounds
progressed in their shrill abandon, they were amazed to discover that their very own
consciousnesses had been swallowed up and absorbed by it. Once this had happened two things
resulted: they regained their normal range of tonal apperception; and through this restored
apperception they could hear an expanded spectrum of phenomena. By the mere application of
will-power they could trammel their senses to any point within the galaxy; and at this point they
could select any available phenomena and identify intuitively the activity or process described by
this noise. Thus they could sense the underground rumbling of techtonic plates; they could hear
each and every individual organ in a nearby ptarmigan as it went about its characteristic species
life; they could sense the vortices of energy in the swirling, bubbling depth of the ocean. Then they
“saw” the entire planet through the medium of its vibration. Instantly and simultaneously a number
of different things happened at the same time:

In the city the zeppelin tumbled from the sky in glorious swansong, all weapons blazing and the
field-deactivators of the citadel blazed up in reply, tearing chunks out of the spatio-temporal
vortex; in the first city the General fed orders and battle-statistics into his newly proven offence
data; and Lacrimosa and Xenothon both screamed “STOP!” inside their caged minds. A bolt of
green ether blazed and arced across the numinous sectors of space and swallowed-up the
mountains with a single burst of yellow light; the zeppelin, blown through a gaping, plummeted
into the command turret and the resulting cacophony of fusion and fission-reactors gouged a crater
a number of miles across and as deep as a shallow lake: however, at the moment debris began to
flume out and flare across the abused cloud, the light of the green ether imploded across space,
and, with the efficacy of a grappling hook retrieving a soggy hemp sack from an ocean sucked and
pulled on an enclosed bubble back across space, through time, into the Andromeda constellation,
where a red giant on the verge of collapse was transformed by the burst of energy into a pulsar,
and then into a quasar, and within the space of time of four milliseconds, into a black hole.

In his control bunker, The General was astonished to find the lights on his console grow dim and
flicker-out.

The earth now had a limited life-span; the new black-hole was close enough to affect earth’s
physics, and would drag the solar-system into its power; yet earth was now free of the scourge of
the battle computer, whose crystalline brain had been unravelled into a pathway through the stars
for humankind; they might now cross the probability barriers into infinite being.

In the sanctuary of the mountain temple, Lacrimosa and Xenothon began building their log-cabin,
where their people could at long last lay their bones down in tranquillity.

THE END.
All Rights Reserved Copyright © The Author
Christopher Julian Hudson (2000)