© Matthew Lloyd Sprack, 1996. AKA Bluebottle
Comics, and science fiction comics, really came into being in the very start of the twentieth century, Georgian calender. This was a time when the people, and in particular it must be said, the teenage boys, were looking towards the future with an idea of the space travel that would soon be a reality for them. Although lacking in the technology, they had the theories and the will power to get into space.
These science fiction comics were mainly used as entertainment. For those living in a world affected by events such as The Great War, The Great Depression and the rise of the dictatorships, space travel seemed an ideal; people of different backgrounds and characters coming together jointly to blow naughty bug-eyed monsters to bits.
However, later during this century, technology progressed, and people found the comics limiting. They were just two dimensional drawings on pieces of paper, and could not hope to compete with the new television shows and multi-million films produced, although often the heroes had been invented by the comic books. Their sales numbers diminished, the number of followers dropped as the adventures foretold by the comic books were happening and becoming real. Comics were viewed as "things to give the kids to send them to sleep" and the teenagers started reading magazines with pull-out colour supplements on something called "fashion".
By the middle of the twentieth century, all the comics had given up. The imagination needed to generate a fantasy from a two-dimensional picture had died. The comic books had gone.
Chapter One; How It Happened
Max ran to the newsagents to do his paper-round. Not that he was late, Mr. Bairley always made sure he was never late, but because it was Wednesday. Every Wednesday the latest adventure from "3002 AD" came out, and he would buy the comic and read it. That was why he had taken the job. He didn't need the money; Mr Bairley fed him and all the other orphans at the hostel, but he had taken the job so that he could buy his comic book each week, and have some money for the car boot sale. The rest he gave to Mr. Bairly as he had no use for it. It was probably put in a bank, donated to charity, used to pay those nagging little bills or some such minor matter. Max didn't care. All he wanted was his comic.
It was strange; people didn't read comics anymore. In fact, the first one Max had read had been thrown away by a spray-can vandal, and just dropped on the pavement. Max had been curious as to what it was, picked it up, and read it.
He'd been hooked ever since.
Max's parents had died in a car crash, apperently, although Max could not remember, he was only three at the time. They had all been driving along in the car, and his father decided to drive into a pond. They tried to escape from the car as water entered, but were stuck because the childlock was on. Max was also in the car, but he knew how to bypass the childlock by climbing out of the sunroof, and had escaped. Max believed that if parents wanted children to stay in a car, they should fill it up with sweets and comic books. Max had learnt how to avoid the child lock before he could crawl, but what was the use explaining things to grown ups?
Max was the only one who bought "3002 AD" from "Bill's Newsagents". William Williamson, the owner of "Bill's" bought one copy, epecially for him. There were no other comics on the shelves in his shop, they were all filled with
these colour supplement fashion magazines.
Max did his paper round, picked up his all important copy of "3002 AD" and went back to the hostel. After he'd been orphaned, he had sort of been adopted by Mr Bairly who ran a hostel for orphaned children. The hostel had been an old bed and breakfast, but now it was a hostel. Some might say that with 20 teenagers living inside one building, it would be very hostile, but it wasn't. Max just read his comic, all the girls would giggle about what they'd read about a pop group with a stupid haircut in their magazine, and tell each other that the colour supplements had been getting shorter recently. The other boys in the hostel would just go out in the yard and play football if it was sunny, and
stay in and watch the match if it rained. When it snowed heavily, they would play cricket. First they would make the cricket stumps (a snowman) then they would get the bat (a snow covered garden gnome most likely) and bowl snowballs
at each other, regardless who was at the wicket and who was on which team. The girls never played cricket; they said it made their nail varnish run, and how would they read their colour supplements if their nail varnish stained the
Basically, the hostel was hectic. Max thought it should be called Bedlam. He had been to Bedlam, or at least the British Museum part of it. He liked the displays on space travel; he was good at space travel, or at least he knew all
about it. After reading "3002 AD" all his life, he should be.
He didn't particularily feel that he fitted in at the hostel. He couldn't care less about football, actively despised the colour supplement magazines for not being as good as comic strips, and always wanted to blast an evil Zarnifroption from the planet Balrubid with an anti-disestablishment techno-pting rifle. Either that or fix a resonance bufferdrive ultra-engine using a hyper-bypassial solar spanner. In other words, he wanted to be an astronaut and live the stories he read in "3002 AD".
The trouble was, he'd admitted to himself, there weren't many astronaut vacancies here in 1996. That could be related, he thought to himself, to the fact that the only place technology could get these astronauts was the local
moon, and once you were there, it was only a bit of old rock. According to "3002 AD", the planet Hordigular had seventeen moons the size of the Earth, and an odd million smaller. Hordigular was the planet at the centre of the
universe, and was in fact the largest planet in existance. The only problem was that it was so big that all the ordenance survey men in the universe couldn't accurately map it, and so they blew it up into lots of little worlds, which
they could map a lot easier.
Max didn't really know if he believed in that stuff, but to him "3002 AD" was a friend. Because of "3002 AD" he passed all his science exams with flying colours, and in fact he had already got a GCSE A* in science, although he was
only thirteen! And when he had a problem, it was to "3002 AD" that he turned, not to Mr. Bairly or any of the other orphans at the hostel. When he was being bullied, he turned to "3002 AD" issue 3094, the one where the planet of Tratoz was being threatened by the evil Pardzavv. The Tratozians had used Pardzavv's weaknesses against him, and that was how he managed to escape from the out-of-shape bullies; by running very, very fast.
He knew the comics were fiction, but he still wanted to live them. We all have dreams, dreams we know will never come true, and yet we dream them still. That's how it was for Max. He would dream about hyperconducto Plasmadispensers, and hope that one day he could go to the stars, if only but once.
Besides, comics weren't complete fiction. They had pull out schematical diagrams of the latest space-technology, illustrating just how much of the mighty US space organisation was made in Taiwan. Computer mother-boards,
concorde's nose cone, hovercraft, nuclear submarines, positronic directoboosters (Okay, he admitted that the diagram of the positronic directobooster was made up) all of these had important roles in today's world.
And there were competitions! He had once won first prize in a "Locate where the psionic motorygen cord would go on this resonance detecting probialscanner circuit board" competiton, but unfortunately he had not asked Mr. Bairly's
permission, and Mr. Bairly refused to let the prize of a sixteen-foot one billionth scale model of the Starship Enormous go in the living room, and so he had had to send it back.
All of this was a lot better than those magazines which were full of more fiction in the form of celibrity gossip and formulas to make you irresistable to tall dark handsome strangers. And the gossip was enough to put you off them
anyway. In the most recent edition, the front cover told the story of how the lead singer of a popgroup called "Francis Drake and the Golden Hind" had once went to a cafe in Southend and was served coffee because they had ran out of
tea. Was it really worth it?
If the most vital thing in the world, Max thought, is a cup of tea when there are wars, fighting and Frogslegs being eaten in France, then there must be something wrong with the world. In other words, he wanted to leave it. That was
one of the attractions of comics like "3002 AD", you could at any time, pick it up, and then you would be in a spaceship being attacked by Youtitcz Dreadnoughts with only a proton-tabulator navigational deflective beam to defend yourself with, and you could always return to real life for Christmas and Birthday. The only thing wrong with it, thought Max, was it wasn't real.
If Max was honest to himself, he would discover that he wanted it to be real. Life in a hostel with school and paper-round just wasn't him. He wanted adventure and excitment, and there wasn't really much of that on Earth. The
moon wasn't any better either.
Max had, though, admitted that he wanted to be an astronaut and get away from the Earth to the career's teacher. During his interview he was told that he was coming to a vital junction in his life and that the decisions he made now would stick with him like Klyion leeches from the Andromeda Galaxy (This isn't a direct quotation of the career officer's speech, it is Max's version) and then the officer asked what he wanted to do when he grew up.
Max replied that he wanted to be an astronaut, and the careers officer replied
that he was being foolish and childlike, and then called out "Next!" Well, Max
was only five at the time. And the boy who lived along the road had a really
foolish idea; he said he wanted to be a train driver, and was given a lollipop
as a reward! (Nobody knew that the government was going to privatise the
Basically, Max was bored. He was bored of life, bored of reality, and the only
excitment in his life was a comic book.
It was a shame that the comic books were false; he'd be a very good space
captain. He knew all the comics off by heart, he knew all the bad guys'
weaknesses, e.g. Octopus Brain's fear of lumpy custard, and could predict the
plot before the first scene. He also could speak technical. It was easy. All
you had to do was think of an object (e.g carpet), think of what it did
(protects a floor and looks good), and then think of a technical word, an
element or a Greek god, put them all together and you have a complex futuristic
device. In this way, the forementioned carpet became a multichrone
deckprotector. It was as simple as that.
Actually, there was another thing in the world that Max liked and looked
forward to; the local car boot sale. Curiously enough, this too was on
Wednesday, but in the evening. Max looked forward to Wednesday for the comic,
but the car boot sale was good as sometimes other, older copies of "3002 AD"
turned up at a cheap price. Max had even bought a broadcastial ultra-radial
transciever (okay, it was a personal stereo, but broadcastial ultra-radial
transciever sounded more impressive) there for fifty pence!
That evening, Max walked towards the carpark where the car boot sale was held.
He knew what he wanted; a caeseum analog-passage predictor (a new clock). It
was the last part of the time machine he was building (it was being built to
stop him from going completely mad) and he would soon test it out.
Luckily for Max, clocks were fairly common devices in that decade. Max,
however, was looking for a modern looking one to go with his time machine's
look. A sundial was gothic, a Roman numeral analog was too Victorian, (he
wasn't after the H.G. Wells' style time machine) and an ordinary analog would
most likely be quartz, which was not quite science fictionish. He wouldn't mind
one of those nucleur clocks, but they were quite rare, as only about two had
been made at that time and were quite expensive, but Max was after a digital
The second-hand T-shirt guy had just the clock; it was digital, but it had a
VHS video attached to it, which made it expensive. Max tried to negotiate with the T-shirt man, telling him he didn't want the video
and was only interested in the clock part, but the T-shirt man stedfastedly
refused to budge. Max offered to open the video up and take the clock part out
of the video, so that someone wanting a video could get it, but the man
Max eventually had to try another stall, the odds and ends for 25p stall, where
they were selling a digital watch for 26p. Max bought it, had a look on all the
other stalls for second hand copies of "3002 AD" and, as there were none, he
The hostel was just as he had left it. The sign above the door, which bore the
hostel motto (Mr Bairly thought it made the place seem posher) still had its
paint cracking. The motto was "Our Children, Our Future" which Mr. Bairly
thought was a very good one, as it definately explained why there should be
hostel things. Max thought it was quite good, as it was quite science-
fictionish. Mr. Bairly had originally wanted it to be in Latin, but he didn't
know what the Latin for "Our Children, Our Future" was. The only bit of Latin
Max knew was "MMMII Anno Domini" which, when translated into English, meant
Max unlocked the oak door with his own Yale key, opened it, then went inside.
He shouted out a quick "Hello" but the boys were outside playing football and
didn't hear him, and the girls were playing "Spin the colour supplement", a
curious game which involves drawing a little arrow on the cover of a fashion
magazine, sitting round in a circle around the forementioned magazine, and
spinning the magazine. When the magazine stopped spinning, whoever the arrow
pointed to would be allowed to keep the magazine's colour supplement, until she
swapped it for another colour supplement.
Mr. Bairly was in the kitchen, burning dinner. Max went straight up to his
room, pausing only to take his coat off and shut the front door. He entered his
room, and immediately grabbed the soldering iron. Max took the digital watch he
had bought, wrenched the back cover off and levered the battery out. Max then
poked about a bit at the various bits and bobs in the watch, and then plugged
the soldering iron on. Max was an expert at soldering. This time he was going
to solder the caeseum analog-passage predictor (digital watch) to a copper-
flowing electrontransporter (wire) that was attached to his anno-dependable
linearpassage wrencher (time machine).
When the iron reached maximum thermo-capacity (got hot enough to work) Max
melted some solder and then soldered the wire to the clock. This was the final
part of his achievement! He had built his time machine!
Max then tried to put the watch cover back on the watch, then remembered he had
soldered a wire in the way, so chucked the watch cover out the window.
Unfortunately, the window was closed and the cover bounced back, hitting Max on
the left earlobe of his ear. Max somehow managed to keep his temper, and was
not knocked unconscious by this possibly fatal feat. Max then put the watch in
the right place in his time machine, where he could see it when he was in the
Command Cockpit. The whole of the time machine consisted of a shopping trolley,
an old television, and older radio, a calculator, a solar panel off a baby's
talking bear, an alarm clock, a circuit board from an old Pacman handgame, a
torch, an electric fan, the watch, a video's remote control and a three amp
fuse. All of these had been connected together by an ingenious array of wires,
batteries, components from circuit boards, paperclips and pieces of string. It
didn't look very aestheticly pleasing, but Max was proud of it non-the-less; it
was his time machine, and it was finished.
As Max stepped back to admire his creation, his nostrels screamed danger;
something was burning! The soldering iron was still on, yet Max saw it wasn't
that. Just the same, he switched it off. He hadn't connected the AA battery to
the time machine yet, so it couldn't have been that either. Perhaps he had
accidently soldered the watch to the rest of the time machine wrongly, and it
was catching fire!
Max was getting frantic now. He didn't want to lose the caeseum analog-passage
predictor (watch), but he had to save his time machine. As Max was about to get
really desperate and use his pocket fire extinguisher, a water-pistol, to
extinguish any possible flames coming from the offending caeseum analog-passage
predictor, he heard Mr. Bairly call out "Dinner's ready!"
It had been a false alarm. Mr. Bairly had just burnt the salad again. Max
should have expected that. Mr. Bairly did all the chores in the house now as no
replacement for the cleaner/cook had been found yet. The last cleaner/cook was
very friendly, and she could cook and clean better than anyone in the world.
She left, though, after all her colour supplements had been stolen. She said
she wouldn't stand for that sort of behaviour, and quit. No one knew whether it
was the girls, who were colour supplement mad, the boys, who liked the colour
supplements because they sometimes had football players in, or Mr. Bairly, who
was very suspicious in being friendly, hard working and idealistic. Mr. Bairly
also had high moral standards, which of course made him the prime suspect. It's
always the quiet ones, you know.
So, now Mr. Bairly himself did the cooking, the cleaning and everything else,
just he didn't do them well. Max ate his salad, at least, he thought it was a
salad, though under all that charcoal it was hard to tell, and then returned to
his room as quickly as he possibly could. There was ice cream for pudding, Mr.
Bairly had said, and Max did not want to see scorched icecream again after the
last time. It had been a barbecue, and Mr. Bairly somehow had barbecued the ice
cream. Accidently, he claimed...
As he entered the room, the time machine was still there, and in one piece. Max
decided that he would now try out his time machine, and so put everything he
thought he might need in the shopping trolley. He gathered his fishing
equipment, his personal stereo, some sandwiches which he had made in case of
emergency (eg, if Mr. Bairly had tried to make a roast) a torch, a toothbrush,
a camera, a watch, a comb, a torch, a pen and notebook, today's crossword, a
clean pair of socks, his teddy bear and all of his "3002 AD" comics.
This more or less filed the shopping trolley up, but Max was not upset. He
climbed in the trolley slowly, avoiding all the wires, time machine components
and neccesaries, then he was ready.
Very gently he connected the AA battery up to the time machine, then, very
slowly (considering he had a time machine, he had all the time in the world) he
reached out for the toggle switch that activated the darn thing, and very
slowly and very deliberately, he switched it.
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