This is a traditional opening in all really good stories: Once upon a time the researchers of H2G2 sat behind flickering monitors all across the Globe and began telling a story. A collaborative story, that was built upon the successive postings of different researchers. It was called H2G2 Storytime Some called us fools and mad. Others cried:
'Man was not supposed to meddle in such affairs as these!!'
They may have been right. But here for your delectation the result of that endeavour: committed to memory and then transcribed onto page by an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of keyboards and too much free time.
For a full list of characters go to the Cast List.
...a tall dark-haired man, called Bob and Jill, a not so tall blonde, were walking down the street discussing the events of the day. The sun was out and the light reflected of the tall glass buildings. Suddenly something made Bob look up, and to his amazement there was a huge policeman, snoring away in the middle of the road."Do something Bob" Jill urged nervously.(She was in a bit of a hurry as she'd left a bottle of peroxide in her flat and she urgently wanted to get back to her roots.)
Bob dutifully stepped forward and prodded the policeman with his walking stick.
The policeman wiggled, but stayed asleep, and continued snoring away loudly.
Bob was disturbed that he could not wake a policeman with a walking stick, so tried again, extremely hard this time. Now the massive copper woke up quickly.He grunted loudly and stared at Bob and Jill.
The policeman's voice echoed all around.
"I'm going to get you".At this, Bob and Jill could see the anger brewing in his eyes and ran as fast as they possibly. The policeman ran after the couple, and they hid behind a large dustbin in a nearby alley.
The policeman huffed and puffed his way past the entry to the alley and didn't even look down it. Bob and Jill waited for a while and then came out from behind the bins.It was then that Jill spotted something sticking out from under a stack of black plastic bags. She bent down and pulled it out.Suddenly she screamed! Bob turned and saw her holdingA half-used bottle of peroxide!Jill quickly did her roots and then Bob and Jill both decided to explore the alley some more. At the far end, secluded around a corner, was a door. Jill tried the handle and found to her shock that it was open. Together, they both peered into the gloom.Inside was a small blue fish"My god" screamed Jill, "who could do such a thing?"She picked up the creature and checked for a pulse.
"It's dead." Bob walked over and put his arm around Jill in a strictly comforting and non-sexual way."Come on lets get out of here." He said.
Jill looked up.
"We have to find the people who did this, they can't get away with it!" She said."
"Maybe there are some clues here or something?" Suggested Bob.
Cautiously, they began to look around...And standing behind them in the doorway was a young man in the familiar brown uniform of a UPS deliveryman. He was holding a package about the size of a shoebox.
Though the UPS man did not look particularly threatening, Bob and Jill clung to each other in terror and still in a fairly in a fairly non-sexual way - but you never know where these things could lead, right - heat of the moment and all that."I've got a parcel, -for a small blue fish called Beatrice." Said the UPS man."That must be her", said Jill, "Poor Beatrice."The UPS man offered up a clipboard.
"Look, I'm going to need someone to sign for this." He said.Bob stepped forward gingerly, signed and took the parcel.
As the UPS man made his way back along the alley to his van, Bob tore the tape from the box and opened it.
Inside, he found an audiocassette packed in polystyrene. There was nothing else in the box, no note, just the tape.Curiosity quelled any fears and they decided to listen to the tape in Jill's Personal Stereo. A strangely familiar voice began to crackle through the headphones Jill couldn't quite put her finger on who it was. She gave the headphones to Bob and asked him if he recognised it."Of course", said Bob, "I know that voice, it's Boutros Boutros-Ghali" He exclaimedJill gasped. "Not Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali: the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations between the 1 January 1992, and 1st January 1997? ""The very same" replied Bob grimly "At the time of his appointment by the General Assembly on 3 December 1991, Mr. Boutros-Ghali had been Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt since May of that year and had served as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from October 1977 until 1991 as well" Jill stood in silence for a few moments, stunned by all this strangely spurious, incidental detail.
"But why would an ex Secretary-General of the United Nations be sending a message to a dead fish?"As Bob opened his mouth to speak however 12 Nazi stormtroopers burst into the room brandishing large automatic weapons (in a menacing but equally non-sexual way) Jill dropped the fish in shock. The storm troopers parted slightly and a small, weasel-like man with glasses and a black raincoat - their officer presumably, thought Jill - strode forward."Herr Bob, ve ayv been ekspekteeng yoo."Jill couldn't quite grasp all of this and so feigned a quick cough as a displacement activity while she quickly tried to remember some German. She was determined either to impress this guy or seduce him but either way she wasn't going to let him get his hands on the tape.
"Es ist verboten...?" "De mutter beritet das mikatesen in der kuker!" She stammered but it was no good.
He was staring back at her blankly. Then it dawned on her, the reason he did not understanding her was that he couldn't speak German either and had only been impersonating a German Gestapo Officer. This guy was just an actor!She stared back and then in one deftly fast movement lunged at the short man, knocking him to the floor. She grabbed his pistol and aimed at the henchmen.Just then all of the other stormtroopers pulled out their automatic weapons.Jill froze rigid. The fake Gestapo officer picked himself off the floor and began dusting his coat theatrically."Therr really is no point rezisting, Mz Jill."One of the guards took away Jill's gun."You fel rrright into our trap." laughed the mock Gestapo officer."You mean the..." said Bob"Indeed." said Gestapo Man,"Zee iclke blue fisch waz juzt a rrred Herrrring.""And the UPS Guy?" stammered Bob."Vot UPS Gi?" screamed the Gestapo man, looking distinctly worried.
"Qvickly! FIND HIM!"
The guards all went outside.He turned back to face Jill and Bob."You vill tel me eferytingt Uno." he said with low menace.Jill, who had used this time to gather her thoughts, grabbed the bottle of peroxide she'd carried in with her from outside. And threw it at the Gestapo man, who caught it. But then slipped on the dead fish and brained himself on the brass door handle."Quick, now we can escape." said Bob.
He took Jill by the arm and the pair fled along the alleyway leaving the Gestapo man supine on the floor.Back out on the street Jill turned to Bob and said
"What can we do now, where shall we go Bob?" she asked desperately."Pssst!" said a shadowy figure behind them.As one, they both turned around."My God!" said Bob "It's you"...For indeed it was Hugh Grant. (The floppy-haired star of films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill.) But he was obviously in no mood to be self-indulgent...
"Grab them lads!!" He cried pointing to the pseudo-nazis milling about on the roadside. "No-one gets away with impersonating a German officer without an equity card in my parish!"Without any warning the assembled stars of British Stage and scene descended on the bemused Germans.
Bob who was a black belt in origami quickly joined in the fray and soon the opposition folded.
Meanwhile in the middle of a desert somewhere in Arabia...One cacti turned to another cacti and said..."The batteries on my Walkman have run down. Have you got any?"
The other cactus looked quizzically at the first in a way that only a cactus can look and said"Certainly," it said, dipping into the pocket of its moleskin trousers (which seemed wholly inappropriate for the climate) rummaging around for a packet of batteries it always carried about itself for those awkward moments when its electric spine trimmer went flat.
" Here you go...What are you listening to?""Well," said the other cactus, inserting the batteries. "This morning I received an audio cassette message from Boutros Boutros-Ghali.""Oh, you mean the former UN Secretary General?"
"That's the one. We were at Cambridge together, you know? He sometimes calls me when he needs help in one of the world's trouble spots. "
He pressed play, "It must be important, he sent his best agent, dressed as a UPS man, to deliver it."This was the message played back through the headphones:
"Greetings! Arthur Robinson, currently working undercover as a cactus in the Sahara Desert. We require you to proceed immediately to Leamington Spa in the United Kingdom, where a master crook disguised as Hugh Grant is leading a bunch of impostors. They are up to something nefarious and we can't be having with that. Hop on the next plane out of there and get to work!""Blimey!" said the other cactus (in actuality a clever disguise that hid Arthur's partner Agent X) "Is this for real?"Robinson put his fingers in his mouth and let out a carefully pitched whistle. Two camels came trotting over a dune."Take us to our plane!" the moleskin-clad cactus ordered.
Meanwhile, in Leamington Spa...Hugh dusted off his hands as the last stormtroopers toppled over painfully. He flicked back his mildly annoying fringe, turned to Bob and said, "Hi, I'm Hugh," disarmingly, of course, offering his hand.
Someone she vaguely recognised as having been in Grange Hill in the eighties helped Jill to her feet.
Zammo produced a thermos flask and unscrewed the lid, "Tea?" he inquired.
"Just say no," whispered Bob into Jill's ear, brushing his lips against her ear lobe in a way that could hardly be considered non-sexual. "I don't trust these guys.
Jill did not hear him. She was transfixed by Hugh; hypnotised by the gentle bobbing of his fringe. She was drawn by his infectious charm, dazzled by his brilliant smile and jolly impressed by his enormous - "...prickly situation." said Arthur.
"Hmmm?" Mumbled Agent X startled from one reverie or another. "Wassat?""I said, this is quite a prickly situation. I mean does Leamington Spa have an airport?" asked Arthur pointedly.""Dunno." shrugged X, still inside the cactus suit."What disguise do you suggest, once we reach Leamington Spa?"His comrade in front replied: "Well, in that part of the world, the least conspicuous would be...
LATER THE NEXT DAY...A small two-prop charter plane booked in the name B.B. Ghali landed at Leamington Spa airport and two Royal Mail pillar boxes disembarked and made there way inconspicuously across the runway and into the airport."It's dark in here," said the first of the pillar-boxes."Yes, but at least we out away from that of that infernal heat." said Arthur Robinson. "Look out of your slot, see if there is a way out of here.""Yes, over there in the corner," said Agent X in the first pillar box, "there's a door."The two pillar-boxes shuffled over towards the door.
(In a bid to satisfy the more sceptical readers amongst our audience there shall be at this point introduced a short monograph to explain why the large crowds of people flowing through the busy terminal completely failed to notice the gradual, if unsteady, progression of two red pillar-boxes across the floor of the airport lobby.
Your narrator can exclusively reveal that this was down to a powerful and highly unlikely "Somebody Else's Problem" Field being generated by the two post boxes.
Quite how these fields are generated has never been adequately explained by anyone but idle speculation after the fact holds that it may have had something to do with a large Improbability field that was also detected. Residual traces of which can also be employed to explain how Leamington Spa acquired an airport on the first place. The question of where the improbability field came from is unimportant and we advise you to disregard it immediately.Suffice to say that almost nobody paid either of our intrepid pair of agents any attention whatsoever.)
They had reached the door."Can you turn the handle?" asked Agent X."How can I do that?" said Arthur Robinson, a little testily."Reach out through your post slot", hissed Agent X...."Oh Dear." Said Arthur suddenly."Now what is the matter?" Asked Agent X quickly."I think my arm is stuck!" whispered Arthur, panicking."Give it a wiggle," suggested X, trying to be helpful.The small band of Customs officials, who had been watching the whole affair with something that bordered on incredulity, stirred amongst themselves.
Despite the hitherto discussed Somebody Else's Problem Field, the ever-watchful guardians of Her Maj's portals were trained to deal with this sort of thing and as such were not dissuaded from interfering by the subtleties as something as ethereal as an S.E.P.
The group dispatched the two burliest guards from the bunch to go and investigate.
It was just as Arthur and Agent X had succeeded in picking the lock on the Women's toilet, that they marched over and arrested the pair of them. While they waited for the Transport police to turn up, the customs officials put the two pillar-boxes into one of the storage lockers and then went back to their game of cribbage."So..." said Arthur Robinson wistfully."Yes?" said Agent X."How do you suppose we get out of this one?" murmured Arthur. "There is...one possibility...Well, we could always try..."After a short while they walked out of the airport and hailed a cab."U got pockets in those post boxes?" the cabby asked."Yes." They said in unison."Well jump in then, where you going to?"They told him.
What a nice cabby... they thought as they drove off.
Elsewhere in the world Bob and Jill had just recovered, along with various members of Britain's acting fraternity, from a monster game of Twister and now they were all slumped around the large bandstand in a Leamington Spa public park.
Large amounts of alcohol were being imbibed but it wasn't clear what the party was for and Bob was sure he could recognise some of the Nazi stormtroopers, from the morning, joining in also.
He sat alone beneath a tree nursing a beer dejectedly. Occasionally he glowered across at where Jill was leaning intimately against Hugh Grant and giggling flirtatiously. Bob tried in vain to repress the pain welling up from the pit of rejection within him by reading an article in a discarded storage-locker manufacturers' journal about how all HM Customs storage lockers now are designed to have door handles in the inside because of the possibility of individuals becoming trapped in them. But this did little to quench his sadness.
It was then that he noticed the weasel-like officer from earlier in the day, yes, he was sure it was he, and chatting happily with the actors. Bob watched as the officer went to collect beers for himself and Martin Clunes.Suddenly there was a terrific scream..."You haven't got any money??" Screamed the taxi driver, "But, but you said you had money!!""No, we said we had pockets," replied Arthur stoically, "We never mentioned money."The Driver was clearly agitated and was just climbing out of the front of the cab when Agent X ran around and bashed the driver over the head with a parcel someone had posted through his slot."Was that really necessary?" asked Arthur disapprovingly."But he might have ruined the plan!" whined Agent X "And Agent XXX says she'll be 'extra nice' if I hold a plan together for once""And What Plan is this then?""You know," said X reclining against the side of the taxi "The one that goes...Moments later they were both interrupted by another terrified scream...Martin Clunes! What was he doing here, thought Bob? He broke out into a sweat, began to start dabbing a beads of sweat congregating around his temples; his mind was racing, his heart was pounding.
This actually had nothing to do with the nearby presence of Mr Clunes but that in a bid to take his mind of a Jill and Hugh he taken to running on a treadmill that some of the stormtroopers had knicked from a local leisure centre.Suddenly there was a terrified scream!Hugh Grant leapt from Jill's side and started leaping about and running around the park shouting and screaming. Bob wondered: What could Hugh have seen that had shaken him so? What dark phobia had welled up from the shadows of his past that could send him into such furious apoplexy?
While Bob paused to consider these different thoughts he momentarily forgot to keep his legs moving in a characteristic running motion. This was bad because being on a treadmill he was flung off backward and knocked briefly unconscious.When he came to a few moments later Hugh was still hoping about and for the first time Bob noticed that he was now waving a small, blue fish at Jill."Where did you get this? Did a UPS man bring it?" he yelled.
To be continued...
For a full list of characters and previous chapters go to the h2g2 Storytime