The Time-Dragglers’ Extravaganzas

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      “Whatever you proclaim as your identity here in the material realm is also your drag. You are not your religion. You are not your skin color. You are not your gender, your politics, your career, or your marital status. You are none of the superficial things that this world deems important. The real you is the energy force that created the entire universe!”

      RuPaul , Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style’

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        Out-of-body invisible to-anyone-but-spirits Geoffrey was looking amazed at the scene in front of him. He was back in the Chapelle near his body when he witnessed the fit, which translated to him in French like “merde, merde, merdasse, merdum, merdarum” and latin-like declination of the word.

        Some unspoken words of wisdom seemed to superimpose on the scene from many voices which roughly translated as “don’t say poop if you mean to say shit”.

        As an actor, this was easy, he just had to follow the script, but as himself, he often bit his tongue when he wanted to say to Lison that she was hamming up the play just for fear to hurt her feelings being the star of the play (or to avoid creating even bigger bickering amongst the troupe).
        When he’d wake up, he felt like encouraging Francette to be more daring on the stage and let her light shine bright. That should even the odds.


        Sadie briefly considered suggesting that her rampage of negativity was another brilliant idea for a team building exercise, but given the circumstances decided there really wasn’t time.


        “Fuckityfuckfuck!” said Sanso checking the messages on his trusty sabulmantium. Of course, Linda Paul had tried to persuade him to use one of her fancy e-zappers but Sanso had steadfastly refused. The sabulmantium was aesthetically so much more pleasing to him, and much easier to synch with the multitude of devices used in the different time periods he was sent to work in.

        “Ive got to do what!” he muttered, rolling his eyes. “I was looking forward to a bit of R&R in 2222. Well, I can’t guarantee the zebras but I will do the best I can.”


        “Can’t you use one of these neat rockets of designer? We’re in 2222 for fuck’s sake!”, asked a lean green-faced lady, with her cheeks decorated with cucumber slices, who was lying next to Sanso in the pneumatic rotating bed of the R&R B&B.
        “Can’t discuss business with you honey, sorry” he snapped, while looking for his pants and gilded codpiece in the mess of the room.

        “And I thought of us as partners in crime…” she shrugged. Nonplussed, and quite naked apart from the cucumber covered parts, she lit a swigarette and switched the holographic display on.

        “…when launching a rocket to orbit, a “dogleg” is a guided, powered turn during ascent phase that causes a rocket’s flight path to deviate from a “straight” path. A dogleg is necessary if the desired launch azimuth, to reach a desired orbital inclination, would take the ground track over land (or over a populated area, e.g. Russia usually does launch over land, but over unpopulated areas), or if the rocket is trying to reach an orbital plane that does not reach the latitude of the launch site. Doglegs are undesirable due to extra onboard fuel required, causing heavier load, and a reduction of vehicle performance.”

        Sanso turned his head towards the display and raised an eyebrow. “Hell if I understood what it means, but that certainly explains a few things”.


          Irina checked her э-заппер and grinned. Their team in the 21st century succeeded in canceling Linda Paul’s show. Their poor drags would be too busy to find their way back now, if they could manage the clogged tunnels.


            “Come on you lot, get in the balloon basket, quickly. It’s our only chance. If the winds are in our favour, we can make it to the time travel portal at the lighthouse in Galicia.” Sadie snapped. “And look sharp about it, no time to lose!”


            Sadie paused for a moment. She noticed with a little sadness how frequent her swearing and snapping had become. She felt as though she was reverting to an earlier version of herself, before all her happiness training, when she worked as a pet food tester. The company motto was “If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t expect your pet to!” Sadie had to test everything from doggy treats and chewy bones to disgusting wet globules of liver mixture. She shuddered, remembering the time she found the rat tail in the food she was trialling. Needless to say, her rampages of negativity were frequent back in those days.

            Get a grip, Sadie my girl. It doesn’t matter what time period you are in, the point of power is always NOW!

            Sadie did not realise she had spoken out loud, and was suddenly startled by a voice seeming to originate from behind the Virgin Mary.

            “Too fucking right!” shouted Sanso exuberantly. “No need for air balloons; your carriage awaits, milady! I’m afraid I couldn’t get the zebras at this short notice, but I think you will find the pacific singing frogs do the job quite satisfactorily. Of course,” he added proudly, “I did need to round up quite a few of them.”


            “If you have any spare room in that basket, mademoiselle, can I come too?” asked Mirabelle, the oldest maid. “I feel like I’m stuck in the wrong time zone here, in this life of servitude. I am sure I was destined for much more interesting things than this.”
            “Well” said Sadie, “It would appear that there is plenty of room in this basket, because the dragglers are going with Sanso and the, er, singing frogs. Who else wants to go in the balloon?”
            “Would it be alright if Igor came?” asked Mirabelle, blushing.
            “You tart, Mirabelle, if Igor’s going then so am I! And Fanella.” Adeline piped up. “I am so done with all this religious stuff and praying to Mother Mary. Take me to the future!”
            “If Mirabelle’s taking Igor, then I want Boris to come too” said Fanella.
            Mirabelle and Adeline looked at Fanella in astonishment. “You kept that quiet, you tart!” the cried in unison.
            “I think Ivan should come too” added Adeline.
            Sadie raised an eyebrow. “Well then” she said. “ I hope one of you knows how to fly this balloon, because I’m going with Sanso. Bon Voyage!” And with that, she left them to it and rejoined the others.


              There was a lot of commotion that night.

              It all started a little bit before 6 PM, while the winter sun was very pale and slowly rolling behind the horizon. Jean-Pierre Duroy of the Royal Intendancy had the maids rounded up in matching uniforms to finish the cleaning of the Opera House, and ready to start to light the thousands of beeswax candles with almost military precision. This didn’t go without hiccup of course, but they did mostly well, and the Opera House was ready for the comedians before 5:55, leaving them with 5 spare minutes to catch their breath before the eighteen rings of the bell.

              Even a little bit before that, Nicole du Hausset who had spent the whole dreaded day in anguish about the Queen’s lost ferrets, while attending to Madame’s every whims, realized after scouring through the Palace and hearing through the grapevine of the maids’ ring of deals in stolen goods that she should slide a word to the Royal Intendant through some unofficial channels (she knew well Helper, who was a great influence on Cook, who then could talk discreetly to Annie Duroy, of the Royal Pastries and Cookies) so an investigation could be carried out without any particular mention of the ferrets. As she would realize later the morrow, not only would the ferrets be retrieved at the Opera House and the Royal Chapel, one for each location, except slightly lighter and cut open, an act that would be seen as a hidden message and possible attempt on the Good Queen’s life, and dealt with appropriately by a specially appointed Inquisitor —but also, and notwithstanding any longwindedness, that it would make little difference as the perpetrators would be nowhere to be found the next day, having vanished, it seemed, in the ensuing confusion (of which we will come to in a minute), stealing in the process the Royal Balloon and a few chouquettes from the Royal Cuisines.
              Her duties fulfilled, and being now on the other side of the fateful date of Jan. 5th, 1757, at 17:57 without any significant change to her reality or life, she deducted her mission as the safekeeper of the time-smuggled ferrets was by then accomplished, and she could focus on her more pressing duties.

              It was only 5:57 PM shy of a few more seconds, that Madame Pompadour, powdered like there was no tomorrow, would be helped by her two maids into her gorgeous John Pol Goatier designer dress, and her lambswool petticoats. She was dressed to kill, and that made her all the more suspicious in the minutes to come, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
              Madame de Pompadour’s schedule for the soirée was very precise. At 6 PM, she would greet her guests, and the King back from his afternoon at the Parliament at the entrance of the Palace, so they could all head to the Royal Opera, passing through the Chapel into the brightly candelight-lit half-built building where the show would take place.
              There was to be a toast first, from fine champagne delivered the morning in zebra carriage (one of the Queens’ daughters idea, which had pleased enough the King that he’d booked them for an evening ride into the Gardens). She was all set, and with great dignity and carefulness, arrived at the spot a mere seconds after her Grace to great the King.

              At the same time, Jean-Pierre Duroy, who had not seen them as he’d passed through the Chapel the first time (ungagged but still under sleeping curse and tucked in the corner of the stained glass windows depicting the martyrdom of Christ), and as he was getting anxious at the lack of punctuality of the comedians whom he’d thought sleeping in their trailer parked nearby, was notified that the trailer had been found empty by the bellboy he had sent to remind the comedians to be ready in 10.
              A man of great resources, always ready with plans B to Z (he wouldn’t boast, but the zebras being one of such past plan Z, second only to an unlikely belching toad plan, the details of which we won’t get into just now), the Royal Intendant was ready to put in motion said plans, but the comedians suddenly emerged from the Chapel slightly groggy but apparently ready to take over their duties —especially the two ladies, who were bickering with the two men about being the Controllers of the Ascension. Little did all of them know at this moment that the hot air balloon was being highjacked by a team of rogue maids in cahoots with the Russian Ballet props technicians who had arrived some days before the bulk of the Russian troupe trainees.
              The Russian ballet dancers were indeed still stuck in the heavy snows somewhere along their trip to Versailles, so the four comedians with their balloon and tricks were technically, already a Plan B.

              By then, it was well into 5:59 PM, and the next minute would seem to stretch forever, but for the sake of a patient audience, we will not make it over 10.

              In the first half of this fatefulest minute, Casanova had arrived with Father Balbi, his travelling companion, followed by none other than St Germain, all dapper and heavily scented. A score of less important nobilities the names of which we won’t go through were also here.
              There were seconds enough in that first half minute, to rub cheeks and say plaisanteries and even utter a few rude witty comments with sweet tongues laced in vinegar, whatever that meant, and also enjoy the sparkling wine served at perfect chilly temperature.
              It was only as we entered the second half of this minute that the King arrived, padded in heavy and warm coats and looking exhausted.
              Seconds were spent in the same proceedings as above mentioned, if only in a slightly accelerated fashion, and slightly and almost unnoticeably higher pitched voices.

              That’s only when the mission bell’s sang Welcome to the Eighteenth’s Hour et ali (for naught), in loud and ringing dongs that the unthinkable happened, living all witnesses traumatized enough that nobody could think of anything to do before the third dong had elapsed.
              The King collapsed, a knife in his ribs. The perpetrator was caught by the guards before the end of the last dong.

              While the King was rushed to the RER (Royal Emergency Room), and attended to by Royal Leechers and Clyster Masters who felt it was wise to call the Royal Priest seeing that there was little blood to leech, back at the Chapel and Opera House, the maids and Jean-Pierre were in a rush to blow out the candles, as it was obvious their attention was required elsewhere, and that the show would be cancelled.
              Everyone would sigh in relief, but not before a few more hours of the drama, when they realized the King’s heavy padding had saved his life, and that the gapping wound everyone was dreading was no more than a pen’s prick. This would encourage Annie to admonish her children when they wouldn’t eat more of her delightful pastries.

              Meanwhile, using one of the last candles, the maids and their Russian lovers had lit the tub of lard of the hot air balloon, which rose slowly in the night sky, out of sight when most of the attention was directed towards the King’s fate hanging on a thread.

              The four actors where vaguely wondering if they were still dreaming when they saw the carriage of thousands of tinsy frogs croaking through a portal, with brightly coloured dressed lady-men inside, and driven by an unkempt man with a wild gaze and an air of sheer insanity.

              Of course, by then, they knew better than to discard it as a mere dream.


                2222 had been hailed the pinnacle of human development (that is, until 3333 was at reach), which prompted a whole Time Tourism business during this year.
                It required a lot of finicky logistics, as to ensure a stable sustaining of this particular year and avoid predatory behaviour which could potentially lead to the collapse of the future as it was known —a matter which in most cases wouldn’t be given two figs about, but which here, could have dramatic repercussions on the ITBC (International Time Bank Conundrum) itself.
                As a matter of fact, it wasn’t before 2255 that Elbert Twostains elaborated the first working version of his Unified Theory of Time Puddles, hence ushering humanity into a bright future, and past, and present, where and when nothing would ever be the same again.
                As such, there quickly was an embargo declared by the ITBC on any close relationship and ancestor, and connected people which could lead to a disruption of their juicy business.
                Apart from these minor restrictions which were for the good people’s own good, a lot was actually possible and allowed. Some maverick travellers used to vocally resent and disapprove of those restriction, but mostly because they thought the theory would have been discovered anyway, Elbert or not, and secretly because they enjoyed beating the drums of the restrictions (which restrictions tended to get quite restricted themselves past 2222).

                Jonbert Dirk had made a fortune as a Time Tourism moghul, or so the official story went. Truth be told, much of his fortune was amassed thanks to time smuggling and past treasures plundering and reselling on the black market of antiques. Let’s not be hasty to judge the old man though, It was a tricky business back then, to find the proper time to retrieve a given antique so that your precious item didn’t look like the cheap porcelain fresh out a sweatshop in Sina.

                By 2233, he was a multi bullionaire (billionaire in gold bars, as gold was needed to time-travel, it was an even more precious commodity than before), and had outlets with his brand all over the places and times.
                Like the rich men of the past who had themselves built splendid yachts big as cities, he was of more modest and practical tastes, but not insensitive to the display of power this offered. So he had himself built a spacious submarine richly decorated and equipped with the last generation of TTEs (Time Travelling Engine). Over time, he’d found the use of a submarine much easier to conceal during his time travels, and like a Captain Nemo of the future, enjoyed the luxury of whale watching and underwater symphonies while sipping his caipirinha in the pool of his submarine.

                Few people knew how to contact him, so it was with some surprise that he’d received the request for genetically enhanced pacific frogs. Belligerent frogs were all the fad in last century, but this century had a soft spot for the smaller, and more resilient pacific singing frogs.
                A man of his immense resources was definitely the way to go if you needed such rare and exotic species delivered to you in short notice.
                He was in a good mood today, so he signaled the order to the central computer.
                As the batch was dispatched, he smiled wryly, thinking he had waited for the inquirer to be indebted to him for quite some time. Shrinking old was a mean business, and he had not amassed enough gold to jump past 3333, where life everlasting was discovered. He was certain this curious and elusive fellow would be in position to help.


                  Linda Paul, undressed and without make-up, was reading a book in his favourite rainbow couch. The book could be any of the ones in the bookshelves, actually he had picked it up randomly. His mind was musing about the last events and the last message he received on his e-zapper.

                  That someone was working against him and his teams was clear. It had always been like that since he first tried his mama shoes, dresses and make-up. He remembered the preparation of his first lip-sync when he was nine, for an x-mas eve. Grand ma ‘Paul almost had a fit; that’s when he realized how powerful his influence over people was. So a case of show cancelation and clogged sewer was by no mean worrying.

                  But the message was another piece of muffin. Linda Paul took his zapper on the crystal coffee table and checked the last entry. “Make preparation for next mission. Transfer elephant and soprano to sixth quadrant 4×2. Don’t forget the frogs, we’ll need them. Send queens asap.”

                  In his experience, asap usually meant tomorrow. The poor girls wouldn’t have the time to rest and recover from the sewer, which was still clogged by the way, and the frogs were useful with their slimy skin to go past it more easily. Which meant we wouldn’t have the time or the resources to unclog the sewer until the next mission. They’ll have to move in the time drag school as soon as possible.

                  Linda texted his professional shopper team, they’ll need new dresses, fake nails, make-up, and wigs tonight. She’ll organize a little soiree to introduce the team formally to the time (fish)network.

                  And with a blurry zoom effect, she looked at the bottle of blue glowing pills on the coffee table. She’ll need them sooner than she expected.


                    The next morning, Linda Paul consulted her mailbox. Seventy three messages. She had a nervous laugh. ‘Incredible’, she thought as she sifted through the mails. More and more incompetence, that was all there was in the mails. The maintenance team had been unable to unclog the time sewers. They were writing mails after mails to show that they were working. Linda Paul felt an urge to answer back ‘Stop writing mail and work!’ But instead she remembered the Love and Shine training she went with Sadie last month. “Breath in, deeply, blink three times slowly, and exhale”, she said inwardly. Already she felt better.

                    They didn’t have much time, which was a bit of a paradox considering that they had a time sewer at their disposal, but the more it stayed clogged, the more difficult it would be to find the precise way out.

                    She put on her blue and silver work suit. It really fitted her. Doubled with artificial mouse fur, very warm and good for qi circulation. She had silvery stripes added to make it more queen-like. She chose her platform boots carefully, she didn’t want to get too muddy nor stay stuck in the time muck.

                    The time sewer central hub was not at the bar. This was merely one of the numerous available entry points. It was hidden in the calanques near Aubagne. She had to drive her Subaru SUV to go there. Which was not an easy task with platform boots. When she arrived on site, she realized the work team was not there. She squinted her eyes. That was suspicious. Who was sending the mails if nobody was doing anything ?

                    She went to the hub and almost puked before she could get close enough to see what was inside. The smell was terrible, all the scum of the ages seemed to have disgorged here. She found a gas mask, which fit perfectly once she had gotten rid of her Darco Barbane meringue wig. She saw her face in the side mirror of a truck. She looked a bit like Bobba Fet. She pushed away the irritation to have to go to such length with her pride to have the work done.

                    It was much better with the mask, she realized. So it was a small price to pay to the drag-style. When she arrived to the hub, it looked worse than she had imagined. The edge of the sewer hub was covered in white moss, which seemed to be pulsating slowly. She thanked her Love and Shine training once again, it helped her keep her smile on as she went on. What she saw next alarmed her. A few people were lying there, unconscious. Yet, some of them were wearing masks. Not a good idea to go further.

                    She’d always been proud of her quick wit. It had helped her a lot when guys were mocking her wigs at school. Now she needed it for another kind of life threatening situation. She looked around, trucks, barracks, more people on the floor, a ginger cat licking its balls… she laughed nervously. Strange that the cat didn’t seem affected. She noted that somewhere in her mind, she might need it later. Then she saw exactly what she needed. The dildo truck. She never remembered the real name, but it sure looked like a giant dildo in the front of a truck. She didn’t know what was its real use of course, but years of gauging the size of men’s attributes allowed her to see that it fitted perfectly the sewer hub.

                    “Hard on, ladies”, she thought as she climbed in the front seat, saying a silent prayer to all the Queens of all ages. She started the truck and began to move. She had the weirdest impression to understand what it mean to think with your dick. She stopped the truck, facing the sewer hole with her dildo. She noticed a small red button on the dashboard, it had a tag on it which read “lubricant”. She pushed it several times and nothing happened. Go to hell, she thought.
                    Then the queen revved up the truck. “Love and Shine, biiiitches”, she said as a mantra, and let it all go.

                    The mind has a tendency to forget unpleasant things. All she could remember was that she had to get in and out several times. And that nasty suction noise. But in the end, she could clean wash the white moss with the water jet incorporated in the truck. She turned the sewer back on and threw the gas mask in the hole to check it. As good as new, and the smell was gone too. Her incredible memory allowed her to register that the cat as well was gone.


                      Pseu was monitoring the progress of the hot air balloon and its motley crew. The prevailing winds were from the west, which would have blown the balloon towards Siberia, quite the opposite direction to their intended destination of the lighthouse on the Galician coast. Despite protocol which decreed that weather manipulation whilst time travelling should be strictly avoided, Pseu had no option but to reverse the wind direction. Thankfully she had excelled at her weather training in the City, and was adept enough to limit the wind direction change to a narrow swathe of air currents immediately affecting the balloon. (Superstitious peasants working in the fields below upon noticing the strange craft flying rapidly against the wind crossed themselves and scurried away from the shadow of the balloon, fearing eternal damnation.)
                      The occupants of the balloon were meanwhile appreciating the scenery from an entirely new perspective, oblivious to Pseu’s assistance and merely enjoying the ride and trusting that they would reach their intended destination.


                      Although Basque whaling had been in decline for some years (which is not to say that whalebone basques had declined in popularity), the Santa Rosa whaling galleon had been patrolling the waters of the Bay of Biscay for almost 600 years, a ghost ship, navigated by the ghost of the last whale killed by her crew. Her name was Belen, although nobody knew that was her name. At the moment of her death she had had a premonition, a knowing of a far distant future when whales began the extraordinary pursuit of compiling lists of all their other lives. One in particular, Maria del Mar, a fin whale in the Gibraltar waters of the early part of the 21st century, had connected with her. Maria del Mar had a special interest in time travel, and urged Belen to occupy the ghost ship and keep it afloat as a practice portal for whale teleporting.


                        The ghost galleon Santa Rosa had been sailing the eight seas for many a long century, dust, wind borne particles and bird droppings, richly fertile and full of seeds, accumulating on the decks. Dried beans and grains in the crews provisions had sprouted and grown, and reseeded, and migrating birds had rested their wings many a time and replenished the fine growing compost on the galleons surfaces, depositing varieties of seeds from many a far land. The Santa Rosa was more of a floating garden than a decaying hulk, and the roots of the fruit trees wound elegantly around the skeletons of the long dead Basques in the hold (a sort of Basque bone corset for supporting whale ships flora). Birds had been the only visitors aboard the galleon, and the energy of Rose was strong, nurturing and supporting the prolific vegetation.


                        Mirabelle, did you have to bring that damn parrot? I can’t stand the endless squalking!” complained Adeline. “There is no respite, nowhere to go in this balloon to escape the endless nonsense talk of that bird.”
                        Boris, always so resourceful, made her a pair of beeswax earplugs from one of the candles in the provisions basket that he had the foresight to bring.
                        “My parrot has a name, you rude tart Adeline, her name is HuHu.” replied the wisest maid, adding prophetically, “You will be glad of her in due course, you can be sure of that.”


                        “Are we nearly there yet?” asked Fanella, who was easily bored. The balloon had been drifting steadily westwards for almost two days. It had been decidedly chilly at that altitude, but the occupants had kept themselves warm with lashings of champagne and cognac and hard boiled eggs (much to HuHu’s disgust), thanks to Boris’s basket of provisions, but they had drained the last drops several hours ago.
                        “We will have to land soon to replenish our supplies” said the practical Boris. “We have a long way to go yet, and we will soon be flying over the sea.”
                        Perfect! thought Pseu, I will have an opportunity to acquire a bleu and white Quimper tile for my collection for the Folly in the City.
                        “But it’s almost dark, Boris, can we land this thing in the dark?” asked Adeline.
                        “It will be a perfect time to land, under the cloak of darkness. We don’t want to be attacked by superstitious peasants brandishing pitchforks.”
                        “Oh splendid, will we be doing a spot of raping and pillaging?” asked Igor, cheering up at the thought.
                        Mirabelle glared at him. “Pillaging, yes. Just the supplies that we need, and then back to the balloon!”


                          The medical team was easily identifiable with their tomato suits. Since the smell was gone, and certainly the toxic gas which was responsible for the loss of consciousness of the work teams, people were gradually regaining consciousness. Nobody had been harmed, which was quite a relief, it would be easier that way as there was no need to contact the families. Still all those involved would have to submit to regular check-ups in the following weeks.

                          Linda Paul was overseeing the operation. The silver stripes of her suit were sparkling in the sunset. She had put on her Darco Barbane meringue wig as soon as she had gotten rid of Boba Fett’s mask, positioned at the right place to have a silver lining appear around her sculptural silhouette. Much better, she thought as the cleaning team was gone.

                          Still, something was bothering him, they spent millions on supposedly hight tech solutions and backups to make the time sewer secure and have a robust way to time travel; they had haute-couture exosuits and gas masks to be able to intervene in dire situations, but all it really required was an old sucker truck —who could come up with such a design ? — to unclog the sewer in less than five minutes. The next board meeting would be stormy. She would request a thorough investigation. First the Russians, then the network cancellation and now this clogging. Something was not straight, and not in the good way.


                            After almost 33 years on the road doing their their show, Geoffroy and the Théâtre du Soleil had had their share of success.

                            Of course, with an average age of the troupe being close to 66 years old on the eve of July 1789, they were not all young and restless, nor as high on hallucinogenic mushrooms like every other day.
                            Admittedly, their fate took a turn for the better after that show cancellation at Versailles the day of the attempt on the King’s life. They were stolen a balloon and a tub of lard, but what they gained in exchange was beyond wondrous. Sparks of inspiration had brought the team closer, and even the occasional quarrel between Lison and Francette was a blessing. Now, there was already a new King in Versailles, not better by far, and the wig fashion had improved only so lightly, but it gave good fodder for sarcasm and witty plays.

                            It wasn’t so much that their play-writing abilities had improved dramatically, to the contrary, but their common hallucination in the Royal Chapelle that day had unleashed their creative power. Their new plays had become famous overnight all over the Europe, liked by peasants who were enjoying its simplicity and nonsensical timing and plots, or even snotty critics all alike, who were somehow discerning artful and intricate royal satire that maybe they’d just invented to sound clever.

                            Tonight they would play a revival of their universally acclaimed chef d’œuvre, “The whales and the frogs”. With buffoonish wigs and corsets, and their share of heavy compulsory make-up. For some, the frogs were a symbol of the poor people carrying the heavy queens and kings of old, with crazy old Time as a driver, flanked with Janus the two-headed Janitor. Well, that sounded quite erudite and a tad pompous, and frankly for them, they didn’t care what symbol it was, so long as it brought the final money they needed for their retirement plan in sunny Mediterranean where they would take a boat and sail to the new world.


                            The tunnel-sliding in the jelly cart was actually much smoother than the zebra ride prior. “Bless those frogs, aren’t their croaking some delightful melody of the spheres to our ears?” Sanso in his wetsuit was oblivious to the slime around, grinning as widely as a puppy with an old boot to tear to pieces.

                            Bless that jelly cart… Sadie was thinking instead, beeswax in her ears, thankful for the heart of silence and peace inside. Save for the chitchat of the others, she could temporarily forget about the ezapper (slide safety measures prohibiting the use of ecletical devices during such travels), and retreat in the sweet serenity of her inner peace.

                            That was,… until the image of Linda Paul abruptly came into her inner eye, almost having her buggering it off with wild manic gestures and in a string of loud swearwords — an emotion which she immediately managed to turn into nothingness, but sadly not the image.
                            It was a memory of what she’d told her before they left.

                            It’s high fucking time, honey pie… she’d told her. High fucking time you find yourself a fucking amazing Drag Queen name, sweetie bee. Look, she’d said, drawing closer with an air of grand voodoo priestress, this ain’t no fucking small talk, this is important.
                            I can come up with ten thousands of names in a minute for you, but you got to choose for yourself.
                            Sadie had almost rolled her eyes, but just mentioned as lovingly as she could. “Am I not a bit too… female for that?” To which Linda had burst into laughter hysterically, then continued with even more compunction. “Ain’t nothing to do with gender, sweetie, I thought you knew that much.”
                            “Besides, offering yourself your Drag Queen name is an act of love and empowerment. You should try it when you’re ready. And then, you’ll accomplish miracles.”

                            Not that Linda Paul was known for euphemisms or understatements, but Sadie found she might give it some thought.
                            If only to get rid of that annoying affected voice in her face.


                            Irina buzzed for her robot, Mr R. All the elite class had robots. Most nowadays were barely distinguishable from humans. However, Irina fancied herself to be someone who did things a bit differently. The design of Mr R was fashioned on the robots from classic twentieth century literature: his “head” a glass bubble sensor unit with moving antennae, his trunk-section a rotating cylinder with controls on the front, extending bellow arms that ended with mechanical claws and bellow legs with tread tractor units. He was able to move with deceptive speed and agility. Personality-wise Mr R was programmed to be the epitome of deference and tact.

                            “Did you have a pleasant time with Mr Sanso?” inquired Mr R politely. “I believe you have a spot of cucumber on your face. Allow me to remove that for you.” He did this with a deftness belying his dangerous looking extremities. “And how else can I serve you this morning?”

                            “Thank you, Mr R. Mr Sanso proved to be inscrutable as always. Please provide scanning assistance. Target 2121 Time travel mission 2222.”

                            “Delighted to oblige, Ma’am!”

                            Irina scanned the brains of the time travellers. The 3 drag queens were hypnotically sensitive and should be easy enough to manipulate. The girl, Sadie, was more problematic. Her motivation was happiness and her purity of intention meant that she would be difficult to manipulate successfully. Sanso, she knew already, was a law unto himself.

                            Irina felt a stab of fear as she thought of the 22nd of February 2222. (Fear was an unusual emotion for Irina—in fact all strong emotion was unusual—and it took her a moment to identify it.) All the 2’s in alignment. If the time travellers were successful in retrieving the crystal and decoding the information before that date, what would that fateful morning look like? Would Irina herself even exist? Doubtful.

                            Life was pretty good for Irina. In 2222 the Elite were free to pursue their goals—without the confines of the ethical and economic considerations of the old days. They were not confined to human bodies either; they could be robotic, animal or some other more exotic design or mythological creature. It really just depended on how the mood took them. Irina, with the expert assistance of Mr R, was planning in meticulous detail a mermaid-like body, complete with gills and a tail, so that she could travel to an underwater location for her next vacation.

                            It wasn’t like that for everybody though. And this “progress” had not come about without a huge impact on the environment. There were large pockets of people scattered throughout the world who had eschewed the new technology, instead choosing the way of Love.

                            “Looooooooove!” Irina rolled her eyes and Mr R chuckled politely on cue.

                            If Irina had her way they would dispose of the time travellers the moment they arrived. Or better yet, send a team back to 2121 and dispose of them there. Management had forbidden this route, not for any ethical reasons—there were few moral guidelines nowadays—but out of caution. The vote had been close. Apparently there were some documents from the early channellers foretelling disastrous consequences if the time travellers were unable to return to their century. Management had decreed instead that the time travellers must be diverted from their goal.

                            The crystal itself was closely guarded by the whales until the so called Chosen Ones arrived with the key.

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