“What about me?” asked Vince French. “Are you going to interrogate me or not?” He sounded peevish, even to his own ears. But he put his heart and soul into singing and to have the whole audience, bar that rude detective girl, run out during a performance was unconscionable.
“We don’t really need to now,” said Tara. She softened slightly seeing his dejected face. “Great tune by the way. If you like, you can come and help us find Uncle Basil.” She edged towards the exit. “After you’ve paid the bill!” she shouted as she took off through the door.
“But I can’t stand bloody opera singing,” Tara whispered back, “It’ll drive me mad. When they said he had a melodious voice I was expecting something more modern than this ancient caterwauling.”
“Do you want to solve this case or not?”
“Oh alright then,” Tara said grudgingly. “But your thinking better be good!” She clapped loudly and whistled. “More! More!” she shouted, stamping her feet. The assorted middle aged ladies joined in the applause.
“Yeah, you had to listen to opera with him, poor thing, but he did tip well.”
“Well, he told me a lot about opera. I thought it was a waste of time knowing all that useless old stuff, but listen: this song what he’s singing now, he’s singing this on purpose. It’s a clue, you see, to Uncle Basil and why Vince wants to find him.”
“Go on,” whispered Tara.
“Wasn’t that obvious from the start?”
“Well yes, but we got very cleverly sidetracked with all these middle aged ladies and that wardrobe! This is where the mule comes in.”
“Shh! Keep your voice down! It’s not the same kind of mule as in the opera, these middle aged ladies are trafficking mules!”
“Oh well that would make sense, they’d be perfect. Nobody suspects middle aged ladies. But what are they trafficking, and why are they all here?”
“They’re here to keep us from finding out the truth with all these silly sidetracks and distractions. And we’ve stupidly let ourselves be led astray from the real case.”
“What’s the real case, then?”
“How do you know that for sure?” asked Tara.
“I don’t know for sure, but this is the theory. Once we have a theory, we can prove it. Now, about that wardrobe. We mustn’t let them take it away. No matter what story they come up with, that wardrobe stays where it is, in our office.”
“But why? It’s taking up space and it doesn’t go with the clean modern style. And people keep getting locked inside it, it’s a death trap.”
“That’s what they want you to think! That it’s just another ghastly old wardrobe! But it’s how they smuggle the stuff!”
“What stuff are they smuggling? Drugs? That doesn’t explain what it’s doing in our office, though.”
“Well, I had an interesting intuition about that. You know that modified carrot story they tried to palm us off with? Well I reckon it’s vaccines. They had to come up with a way to vaccinate the anti vaxxers, so they made this batch of vaccines hidden in hallucinogenic carrots. They’re touting the carrots as a new age spiritual vibration enhancing wake up drug, and the anti vaxxers will flock to it in droves.”
“Surely if they’re so worried about the ingredients in vaccines, they won’t just take any old illegal drug off the street?”
Tara smiled ruefully. “Yeah, I guess that was a silly thing to say. But now I’m confused. Whose side are we on? Surely the carrot vaccine is a good idea? Are we trying to stop them or what? And what is Vince up to? Falsifying a will?” Tara frowned, puzzled. “Whose side are we on?” she repeated.
“But what if the client is morally bankrupt? What if it goes against our guidelines?”
“Guidelines don’t come into it when you’re financially bankrupt!” Star snapped. “Hey, where has everyone gone?”
“They said they had to pick up a wardrobe,” said the waitress. “Shall I bring you the bill? They all left without paying, they said you were treating them.”
While April was noisily distracted, Star cleared her throat meaningfully and nudged Tara. “Something has occurred to me,” she whispered in Tara’s ear. “April doesn’t have a husband, never married. She was a professional nanny or something…oh now I remember! She worked at the ..,” but she was loudly interrupted by Rosamund asking what they were whispering about and hadn’t they been rude enough already for one day.
“VINCE FRENCH?” the others shouted in unison.
Star paused in the lobby. “I need some more persuading,” she said. “What if she dies in that wardrobe? What will we do with the body? Or, worse, what if she doesn’t die and sues us?”
“I’m going back. I can’t leave Rosamund to face the consequences of our drunken stupidity.” Star headed defiantly towards the stairs; the lift was out of order, again. “We would have to be on the eight bloody floor,” she muttered. “You do what you like,” she flung over her shoulder to Tara.
Tara sighed. “Wait up,” she shouted.
Star was relieved that Tara decided to follow. The building was scary at night – the few tenants who did lease office space, were, much like themselves, dodgy start-ups that couldn’t afford anything better. Missing bulbs meant the lighting in the stairwell was dim, and, on some floors, non-existent.
As they approached the door to their office, they paused to listen. “Can you hear something … ?” whispered Star.
“Is it … singing?”
“That’s never Rosamund singing. She’s got a voice like … well let’s just say you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.”
“I’m going in,” hissed Tara and flung open the door.
“Don’t come any closer!” cried a woman in a mink coat; she did make a peculiar sight, surrounded by empty pizza boxes and brandishing a broom. “And you, shut up!” she said reaching out to bang the wardrobe with her broom. There were muffled cries from within, and then silence.
“Was that you singing?” asked Star in her most polite voice.
“Yes, what’s it to you?”
“It was rather… lovely.”
The woman smirked. “I was rehearsing.”
“We are awfully sorry about locking you in the wardrobe. We thought you were a masked intruder.”
Loud banging emanated from the wardrobe followed by mostly unintelligible shouting but it went something like: “Bloody-let-me-out-or-I-will-friggin-kill-you-stupid-bloody-tarts!”
April nodded. “Go on then, little fool’s learnt her lesson. The cheek of her not letting me have pineapple on my pizza.”
“About bloody time,” sniffed Rosamund when the door was opened. She made a sorry sight, mascara streaked under her eyes and her red fingernails broken from where she had tried to force the door.
April crinkled her brow.”Well, as I may of mentioned on the phone, my husband, Albert — that’s your Uncle Albie,” she said to Rosamund, “is cheating on me. He denies it vehemently of course, but I found this note in his pocket.” She reached into her Louis Vuitton hand-bag and pulled out a sheet of paper. “That’s his handwriting and the paper is from the Royal Albert Hotel. He was there on a business trip last month.” Her face crumpled.
April sniffed. “It says, meet you at the usual place. Bring the money and the suitcase and I will make it worth your while.”
“Let me see that,” said Rosamund, snatching the note from April. She reached into the front of her tee-shirt and pulled out another crumpled note which had been stuffed into her bra. She smirked. “I found this in the wardrobe. I was keeping it secret to pay you back but … ” She brandished both notes triumphantly. “The handwriting is the same!”
“It says, If you find this note, please help me. All is not what it seems..”
“Wow, cool!” said Tara, her face lit up. This was more like it!
It wasn’t such a bad day, thought Olliver, and it might even be a good day. The birds are singing, we saw a boar and a few deers already. Animals are getting back and they don’t seem to fear the humans so much.
Rukshan was walking first and Fox was following him with a heavy backpack. Tak and Nesy were mostly playing around and marvelling at everything their path crossed. Olliver envied their innocence, the innocence he had lost not so long ago.
Except the animals and the two guards they had to hide from, the day had mostly been uneventful and Olliver’s mind was wandering off into the mountain where he could feel useful and strong. He felt strangely blissed and suddenly had the impulse to walk toward a patch of yellow flowers.
“STOP! Pay attention where you walk,” said Rukshan. “Come back to your left two feet and walk straight. I told you to follow my every steps.”
“Okay, uncle Ruk!” said Olliver a bit ashamed to have been caught not paying attention.
“I don’t understand,” said the Fae. “Glynis’s potion doesn’t seem to work for you. The aetherical tentacles around the traps don’t seem to detect us but only you, and you also seem susceptible to their power to attract you. It’s not the first time I had to warn you.”
The Fae could see the etherical traps and especially the free flowing tentacles or the tension lines attached to trees, stones, wooden posts, anything that would cross a trail at different heights. With the potions they should be impervious to detection and affections by the traps. Olliver hadn’t thought that far. He had thought that by following them he could manage not to be caught. Right now, he feared more Rukshan’s piercing eyes than the traps. He looked at Fox involuntarily.
“It’s my fault,” said Fox looking a bit contrite. Sweat was pearling on his face. “It’s becoming too dangerous for Olli so I must confess something.” He put his heavy bag on the floor and opened it and a dwarf’s head peered timidly out.
“By the fat belly of the giants! What made you do such a stupid thing?”
“You didn’t think at all!” said the Fae. “The potions were not just for the fun of drinking something pungent and bitter with the taste and texture of yak wool.”
“Leave me out of this teleportation stuff!” said Gorrash.
“What an idea! But I already thought of that my little friend. You two are going to to back.”
“No we’re not! If you make us go back we’ll follow you from a distance.”
“Oh You, I’m sure it’s your idea,” started Rukshan.
“No, it’s mine,” said Olliver. “Uncle Fox had almost convinced Gorrash it was better to stay, but I couldn’t let him be stay behind after just being reborn. You said it once, we don’t leave our friends behind.”
“I’m sure it was under another set of circumstances,” countered the Fae.
“Anyway you see the traps, I can follow your instructions. And if there is any fever problem I can teleport Gorrash back to the cottage.”
“I do not totally agree with you but I see you have learned to make an argumentation.”
Fox felt the Fae relax. “Agreed, you come with us to the Great Lakes to meet the Graetaceans and you’ll follow what I tell you to do from now on. I’ll treat you as a responsible adult.”
“Yay! We’ll meet the Graetaceans!” said Nesy.
“Olli and Gorrash will stay with us,” said Tak jumping around his friends with such a broad smile. Rukshan thought he was growing too soft on them all, with the new generation growing he started to feel his own age.
“Crocuses in meadow, Flower, Flower”, was singing Eleri. Humming was more accurate, she didn’t recall much of the lyrics, but the tune was easy to follow. She was quite fond of that popular song and liked to sing it whenever she was going to town in her flower dress floating in the wind. She had thought it nice if Gorrash woke up with a festive atmosphere. It would certainly be a shock already that so much time had passed since he was last awake. She wondered if he would remember anything from his broken time. She hadn’t talked much with him before, especially about his day-slumber time.
“Chestnut in the woods”, she continued. Crack, crack made the dry twigs she walked on on purpose. It made her laugh and snort. She liked playing with her environment and made it participate in her own expression, it was like she had many voices and she could hear herself everywhere. She picked up a few chestnuts because she knew Fox was crazy about them. It was a blessing that the enchanted forest would still produce them out of season.
When she arrived in town, Eleri didn’t waste time. She wanted costumes and props for the party, so she went directly to the Jiborium’s Emporium where she was sure to find everything she needed, and more. There was a crowd blocking the entrance, but it didn’t deter her from her idea. She elbowed her way up to the door where a man in a wheelchair was complaining about having not enough room to go in. Still in a jolly mood, Eleri found it funny that the man who took so much space with his cumbersome vehicle was asking for more room.
“Move already”, she joined her voice to the man’s complaint and managed, Flove knows how to make the crowd part away enough so they could both enter the shop.
“Thanks, young lady”, said the grumpy man. “It’s a hassle sometimes you know to move in this town. People with good health they do not realise.”
“Oh! I know”, said Eleri. “My ankle just got better, but it was such a pain to move. I would have loved to have a chair like yours to move around, but alas I live in the forest most of the time and I’m not sure the chair would last long in there.”
“Oh! but it would! They have the cross-country model here, on the fourth floor. Powered by lightning battery.”
“Really?” said Eleri more to herself than for the man. Her mind was already elsewhere. “Thanks!” She kissed the grumpy man on the forehead and left, thinking of costumes and confetti. A cross-country wheelchair would be nice to bring back all of those. They might even need it for Gorrash if he needed recovery time.
Lucinda could hear the neighbours dog whining through the thin walls between the apartments, but she liked the dog, and she liked her neighbour Maeve, so the noise was a comfort rather than a bother. Moments earlier a movement from the window had caught her eye: fleetingly it looked like some sort of dust devil or whirlwind of dry leaves. Perhaps that was what had upset Caspar.
She went out onto the kitchen balcony and looked across at Maeve’s identical balcony and called softly to the dog. He came sidling out looking guilty, with a lowered head and nervous tail wag. Lucinda noticed that her neighbours tomato plants were ripening nicely, while her own were still hard shiny green, thanks to the shade of the big oak tree. A blessing in some ways, keeping the hot afternoon sun off the kitchen, but not so good for the tomatoes. Not that it was particularly hot so far this summer: glancing down she noticed the guy from the apartment on the other side of Maeve was wearing a scarf as he sauntered out onto the sidewalk. Surely it’s not cold enough for a scarf, though, thought Lucinda. Still, perhaps he’s just wearing it because it matches his socks. A trifle vain, that one, but a nice enough fellow. Always a ready friendly smile, and Maeve said he was quiet enough, and never complained about her dog.
Lucinda had been passing by one day as Shawn-Paul had opened his door, and she couldn’t help but notice all his bookcases. He’d noticed her looking ~ she hadn’t been subtle about her interest and was trying to peer round him for a better look inside ~ and he’d invited her to come round any time to borrow a book, but that he was late for an appointment, and didn’t have time to invite her inside that day. Lucinda wondered why she’d never gone back, and thought perhaps she would. One day. One of those things that for some reason gets put off and delayed.
There was nothing Lucinda liked more than to find a new ~ or a newly found old ~ book, and to randomly open it. The synchronicities invariably delighted her, so she did know a thing or two about the benefits of timing ~ otherwise often known as procrastination. When she did decide to visit Shawn-Paul and look at his books, she knew the timing would be right.
“Don’t lean on me man, la la la la, synchronicity city…” she started singing an old Bowie song that popped into her head from nowhere, barely aware that she was changing the words from suffragette to synchronicity.
Meanwhile unbeknown to Lucinda, Shawn-Paul had just rounded the corner and bumped into the gardener, Stan, who was on his way to the apartments to mow the lawns. They exchanged pleasantries, and patted each others shoulders in the usual familiar friendly way as they parted. The two guys were not friends per se, they never socialized together, but always enjoyed a brief encounter outside with an easy pleasant greeting and a few words. Shawn-Paul always inquired about Stan’s family and so on, and Stan often complemented Shawn-Paul’s scarves.
Granola, temporarily rustling around in the big oak tree, noticed all of this and immediately recognized the connecting links, and peered eagerly at the three people in turn to see if they had noticed. They hadn’t. Not one of them recalled the time when they were all three suffragettes chained to the railings near an old oak tree.
The Doline was brimming with unseen life, glistening below the twinkling star-lighted sky overhead. Albino geckos were dancing on the walls of ancient stones, while the twirling bats were hunting near the flowing streams of pristine water. Cooing late birds were singing old stories, while the scurrying rodents shuffling the leaves coverage ventured outside, carefully out of the gaze of nocturnal birds of prey.
There was a traveler that day who had found the entrance long forgotten. The trees had parted to let her gain access. So it began.
Finnley woke with a start. She’d been dreaming that she was chatting and giggling with a group of girlfriends. At one point they all held hands and starting running through a field of flowers, singing at the tops of their high girlish voices.
Thank flove that was just a dream, she thought, breathing deeply to calm herself.
“Finnley! What are you doing curled up on the chaise-longue? Don’t tell me you are sleeping on the job? Good grief, what next!”
“You want me to get rid of the German?” she asked gruffly.
“The characters don’t like it, you know,” Liz said, realizing that nobody was listening. “The don’t like it at all, being abandoned during the festivities. Maybe they’d like to join in singing happy bollocks to christmas carols, or pull a cracker for a cheap hat and a dumb joke, or stuff themselves with dead poultry. Maybe they’d like half a chance to join in!”
“Scrooge,” muttered Finnley.
“I said nobody was listening, and what are you doing here anyway?”
“It all seems so samey,” replied Finnley. “I got bored so I left.”
“Same every year,” agreed Liz. “it’s like writing the same chapter over and over and over again.”
Gibbon was peeling a red apple at the end of their impromptu lunch. He handed a thin slice to Fox who took it and chewed it carefully. It was sweet and juicy, prompting him to want more.
They had returned to Fox’s hut outside the city wall. It had not the comfort that plumbing and central heating could bring, but its four walls were enough to protect them from the chilly air outside and give them a sense of proximity. Humans like to be in human sized boxes, thought Fox. They lived in boxes they called houses; they went to work in other boxes they called bank, or smithery, or medical centre —even their outdoor markets were full of virtual boxes called booth or stand; then they had fun in another kind of boxes they called Inn, or Night Club, or brothel (depending on the persona).
“You’re thinking again,” said Gibbon without raising his eyes from his apple. He handed another slice to Fox who was impressed and annoyed by how his master could read him so easily. Maybe it was luck or real power. Gibbon never told about how he did all that he did. He only said: “I’m not sure that would help you quiet your thoughts.” And that was the end of the subject.
Fox took the slice and came back to his conscientious mastication. It was the rule, he had learned, with Gibbon. You don’t talk when you eat. You don’t think when you eat. You just eat, and breath when you are not swallowing. Fox felt like he was back into the Southern forest where Gibbon had found him, the lone survivor of a litter of five. His mother had been killed, and already four of his siblings were dead. Gibbon, who was already old at that time, took him in and taught him the wisdom of breathing innate among his kind. Fox then did as he was taught, focus his attention on his actions, and particularly on his breathing at all time. It helped him focus and calm down his heart.
After they finished the apple and cleaned the place a bit, Gibbon took a deep breath. Fox knew it was the time he would Talk.
“You’ve been looking for a reason,” said the old master in a breath. Fox was all ears, he almost began to feel them becoming pointy again. He moved his attention back to his breathing and peace filled in his heart again. It was mingled with the excitement of listening to his old master’s voice again, but Fox sticked to the peace and the excitement subsided naturally.
“I’m going to give you an assignment,” continued Gibbon in between his long breaths. His eyes were shiny and seemed to glow in the dim light of the hut. He wasn’t blinking. He never blinked when he Talked. “I see you’ve mastered the power of breathing. You need to learn the wisdom of the Heart now.”
Fox was ready. He had been for many years. Even when Fox left the Southern forest to find his destiny he was ready. He now realised he left because Gibbon would not teach him. And now, he came to teach me! Fox let the thought and the excitement subside again. His master would not Talk again until it was quiet.
“IIIIIIII’m not going to teach you,” said the master. “You are going to find your own master for this one.”
“But you are my master,” said Fox, not understanding why it was happening again. “You have the power of the Heart. You can teach me.”
“IIIIII’m not your master on this one, Fox. I taught you all I was supposed to teach you. No less, no more.”
“Where will I find my master then?”
“You will find him in time. But first your assignment,” said Gibbon. He paused to breath deeply, his eyes intense as the full Moon. “You’ll find a lost soul in the enchanted forest. Bring it back to its rightful owner. Then you shall find your master.”
Fox had opened his mouth to ask him how he could find a lost piece of soul, or what a piece of soul looked like, but Gibbon had already closed his eyes and entered in a deep meditation from where there were no outside interruption possible. He stood up and stretched his body. There was no need to wait aimlessly around, hoping Gibbon would come out of his meditation state soon. It could last days, even weeks.
While packing a few things he would need on the road, like food, a knife, some clothes, Fox pondered his options. Going in the enchanted forest looking randomly for something he didn’t even know about seemed to much like his old self. He needed some more information and he had an idea about who could give them to him. The witch from the market. She would know. And she lived in the enchanted forest.
Before closing the hut’s door, Fox looked at his master one last time. His body was very still, if you didn’t know him, you’d think he was not breathing. He had a serene smile on his face. Fox smiled and felt the love of his master and his master’s way fill his heart. He had given him a purpose, and for that Fox was grateful. He shut the door quietly and began to walk toward the enchanted forest. He heard ducks in the distance, it was as if they were singing. He laughed. It was mid afternoon. If he walked at a good pace, he would arrive at the old mansion before nightfall.
Another bang on my bedroom door, my hands suspended over the keyboard. “Go away Prune!” I shouted, exasperated. “If you bang on my door again, I’ll come out and give you such a wallop, now bugger off, will you!”
“It’s me, Corrie” came Clove’s voice. Walked over to the door and unlocked it. A chat with my sister might help me with this project. Unlike Prune, who would be guaranteed to disrupt my train of thought.
Locking the door again I tell Clove what I’m writing about. We don’t go to school, me and Clove, we’re what they call “homeschooled” but what that actually means in our case is that we’re left to our own devices most of the time. Aunt Idle asks us (when she remembers) what we’ve been working on, and as long as we’ve been writing something or researching something, she’s happy.
So when I saw the group project about alternative timelines to avoid the disaster timeline, I had some ideas. Well, to be honest, I didn’t have any definite ideas until I saw the other suggestions. All Americans, and all of them talking about changing the timelines by changing the results of presidential elections!
“Not much chance of a different timeline there then!” remarked Clove astutely.
“Exactly!” I knew Clove would get it, she knows were I’m coming from, but then, everyone knows twins are like that.
“So this is what the plan is, right: “The goal of this exercise is to discuss amongst the group and choose significant past moments, and then As a Group, focus on creating alternate histories, thus sparking alternate timelines. We should vividly imagine moving forward from those probability forks and creating a more viable and desirable future.” Oh, and this bit here: “ our current timeline is convoluted to the point where many probabilities are leaning towards a disaster scenario simply to shake out of the current focus.” And then all these suggestions about different presidents, and then this: “My suggestion would be also to consider how we would like our current time frame to appear,” so I’m thinking…”
“I’m thinking” interrupted Clove, continuing my train of thought, “Of all those states and communities that got with the programme ten years ago, and took their kids out of school and built those Earthships so they didn’t need money for water and electricity..”
“And started cooperative worker owned businesses like they do in South America….”
“And they all started a guaranteed basic income years ago, so everyone was doing what they did best, especially the kids, cos they had such great ideas and weren’t stuck in boring schoolrooms…..”
“and there was no poverty, and nobody without a home…”
“Yeah, and they all stopped paying taxes so there was no money for the military, and then loads more people stopped paying taxes too…”
“Good one, Clove!”
“So nobody gave a fuck what president was elected anyway, because they were all sorting themselves out, and those states and communities were doing so well…”
“Because they’d already been doing it for years” I added.
“…that other states and communities started doing it too.”
“So that it snowballed, like dominoes, and there were more and more of these places..”
“And they had exchange students and stuff like that to learn from each other, and shared stuff online..”
“So when the disasters struck, it wasn’t half so bad because there were already a bunch of people managing perfectly well without dollars or oil, and they could help the people in the disaster. Makes more sense that electing another blimmin president, huh?”
That made me laugh, remembering her waving the stick around. “Her face was as purple as her cardigan.”
In unison, we both starting singing Start Wearing Purple and dancing around, acting the fool. I had a purple wig hanging on the back of my chair, so I put that on, and Clove grabbed a purple feather boa off the coat stand. No shortage of wigs in this town, though god only knows why. Just about every damn trunk in every empty house is full of wigs.
“Dear Kitty, you didn’t think I would miss your birthday for all the world.” Anna Purrna handed out with a sappy smile an awful cupcake topped with a green butter cream that looked like come out of a toothpaste tube days ago. “Happy birthday Terry.”
She sent an icy glare at the others who took it as a cue to singing “Happy Birthday” in falsetto voices.
“Good. Now, back to business, chop chop.”
As soon as she was out of sight, they all looked with commiseration at Terry. Maurana even ventured a whisper “That was humiliating.” Consuela whispered too “Told you, you shouldn’t have accepted the bitch’s friend invitation on Flushbuck. Had to be a trap… Although saying no, would have meant… well, yes too, but no… Well, you get my meaning.”
The other looked at her with blank stares, stopped in their mopping. They promptly resumed making washing noises to avoid drawing back the attention of the dwarf queen.
“Girls.” Maurana said “Got nothing to do with being black and all, but I got to tell you this. Ain’t gonna be this bitch that’ll bring back slavery upon us AND child labor to top it. Trust Maurana on that. We got to wake up and strike back. That horrid cupcake was a declaration of war. We need a plan.”
“Agreed.” the traumatized Terry spoke her first words since the last minutes. “I think we may have to call Sadie for help, she was always the one with those ezapper plans, no?”
“I had some trenches and attrition warfare in mind, more like, but this plan is good as any, no?” acquiesced Consuela. “Let me make that call, I kept her emergency number next to mum’s”.
Singing Marlborough s’en va-t-en guerre in the shower, Adeline reached for the bottle of hair conditioner, a special concoction to combat brittleness and to boost strength and durability, according to the label. After liberally covering her long dry hair with the product, she noticed that something wasn’t quite right when she came to drying it with the hair dryer.
“Oh no!” she exclaimed, dismayed. “I have accidentally used the resin from my 3D plastic printer.”
One look in the mirror and she burst into tears.
“I can’t teleport looking like this!”
Some update on the current plots and maps:
Our main protagonists seem to have yet to digest their past adventure…
In Marseille, 2121, contestants in a Drag Queen’s contest, they had their first mission through Time Sewer mysteriously sending them in Louis XV’s Versailles, and start a quest for mysterious ferrets with keys, helped in their travelling by their ex-judge turned chaperon Sadie, equipped with an all purpose e-zapper, and the batty Sanso always keen on providing the strangest travelling devices.
They find one of the keys in the stolen ferret left in the Chapel before they even really start on their quest. Not long after that, they are also robbed of their dance opportunity and show minutes before the attempt on the King’s life, due to the network cancelling their show (and decommissioning the Time Sewer). In a last ditch attempt from Linda Pol to provide the network with a valuable pilot material for the television show, she remembers references of a crystal (sent to her anonymously), and have the Queens propelled in year 2222, Big Island, Hawaii. On arrival, they chill and get sidetracked on a visit to a (you guessed it, mysterious) techromancer.
It all appears to be part of the plan to gain life-everlasting by transmuting gold of a (yes, mysterious) cranky old billionaire in kilts named Jonbert who is living in a time-travelling submarine with sentient robots, and who has manipulated events so that the Drag Queen show would place them in possession of a special set of keys that he could then retrieve from them.
Unsurprisingly, nothing works for him as planned.
Unknown to him, the Queens had only secured one of the keys, the other being unwittingly carried away by maids of Versailles during their balloon escape, with a parrot named Huhu. Manipulated by Irina, a… err… mysterious Russian socialite with a trusty robot Mr R at her side, the parrot steals the key, but faints of exhaustion during the escape in the ocean. The parrot is however rescued by on a ghost galleon and revived by its occupants, who are on their way to a particularly momentous whale gathering in 2222. Sidetracked by a navigation tile displacement, they are in the end successful in beating the odds and arrive too in Hawaii 2222.
Equipped in breathing wetsuits, the Queens are sent in the depths of the ocean, where their clumsy and noisy explorations are carefully followed by the octopi and other inhabitants of the underwater world.
They get sidetracked and temporarily separated when some go exploring underwater caves.
Whales are gathering, and activating the giant crystal, when everyone arrives at the scene. Somehow, Mr R on Irina’s orders manages to provide to an unsuspecting Sadie the second key, which has been expertly tempered with.
Sadie, realizing this is the missing key, activates it, and unleashes a chain of events leading to a earth-shattering revelations and a breathtaking video of a St Germain hologram doing karaoke with whales and other gyrating cetaceans drunk on red algae.
The network is saved, and they are safely sent back to Marseille, where they are welcomed back by Linda Pol. It earns them a contract, which turns out to be mostly for the decommissioned Time Sewer maintenance.
They plan to turn it into a bar, in a re-enactment of their minute of fame, with fat pole-dancers as whales, and St-Germain impersonators singing contests.
Not much is heard from Sadie, who had managed to get a raise and less working hours, or of Linda Pol, last seen in Maui island, Hawaii, 2121.
The corridors seemed unusually long and Adeline ran quickly to apprehend Igor, ostensibly to retrieve the shell as Mirabelle had ordered, but perhaps she could also plead his forgiveness for slapping his handsome face? He will surely be angry with me! thought Adeline, so she gathered courage as she ran by singing a well know song from her childhood.
Au clair de la lune, Mon ami Pierrot. Prête-moi ta plume. Pour écrire un mot. Ma chandelle est morte, Je n’ai plus de feu. Ouvre-moi ta porte. Pour l’amour de Dieu.
As she rounded the corner she bumped into Fanella.
“Tsk, tsk, Adeline. Where are you running to in such a hurry and making such an awful racket?”
“He gave me this beautiful shell but a moment ago. Poor Igor, he seemed most distressed. I suppose we have that bossy tart, Mirabelle, to thank for that. Heaven knows I have no time for the brutish fellow, yet even I could not help but feel some modicum of pity for him. But look, dear Adeline, how beautiful is this shell! Let us put our ears to it and see if it will speak tenderly to us. Perhaps it will give us messages of home,” she added softly.
With years of intense Happiness training, and being herself a certified Happiness Coach™ in Rainbow Unified Bliss®, Sadie knew when to notice she was stuck and, even better, what to do about it.
Techniques varied: some focusing on breathing, others on following impulse and all that, but most of them had in common that rabid thoughts had to be put to sleep, and the focus had to be kept on the immediate now.
The beauty of the Hawaii island was easy on the eyes, although she could still find objections lurking in the corner of her mind that the beaches were scarce on this island, with many shores a blistering hot pan of molten lava rocks ceaselessly beaten by the waves.
Then the sound of her companions came rousing some disturbance in her Rainbow thoughts, as she found out was mostly an annoyance with herself and her hair, the neat bowl cut starting to look a bit rugged on the edges.
Again, the rabid thoughts were back. She had to go deeper, cling to a joyful experience, that pure moment of satisfaction. But the flow and inpouring of love stopped again like a sea anemone retracting at the light touch of a clown fish.
She restrained the thought of loudly using the F word, and as well refrained herself from the desire to delete everything.
She noticed a few tadpoles which weren’t here before, slithering in a little pool of water next to the spot where she was. She’d almost forgotten about the singing frogs. That such little creature could do so marvelous feats of logistics rekindled her spirits.
What if she could just harness a little bit of her own energy. She started to list the things she was good at, besides haircuts.
“I’m fucking good at limitations, and following other’s expectations” was what she came up with after some minutes listing some things without much conviction.
“Bugger Linda Paul, and those ninc…” There it is she noticed again the thought.
That’s what it’s about…
You have to be nice and be quiet, Sadeline, the voice of her mean Breton grand-mother was saying. To which her equally loathable aunts would chime in religious rubbish of being nice and saintly and all.
You have to be nice and be quiet, Sadeline, or go out of my way and die alone.
She’d tried to exorcise the old goat, to rid of her, to appease her, to connect to the better version of herself that she is now since her transition. Well, nothing worked. She couldn’t find the angle. The old woman was still to her core a haunting and menacing presence with her mean irate insensitive lack of professed love.
Maybe they’d developed better techniques in 2222, she suddenly thought. Of course…
And then, Linda Paul wouldn’t have to know.
“Girls?” she said in a sweet imperative voice (and slightly raucous, for the air was dry) “what do you think about having ourselves pay a visit to the local techromancer, I’ve seen the signs everywhere on the way to the beach. It’ll be a fun stop on our mission”.
The three divas moaned under the sun, not specially enthusiastic at the effort, but then, Cedric, still himself haunted by the Russian’s vision managed to convince the others that some romance or exorcism or both, would do them great.
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.
“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.
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.”
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