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
For a full list of characters and previous chapters go to the h2g2 Storytime
...Meanwhile Gonzaroolio had adapted incredibly well to guerrilla tactics in the dense greenery of the island. He felt he was born to this. 'I AM Alexander The Great.' He thought. 'I AM Genghis Kahn leader of the barbarian hordes. I AM Stormin' Norman Shwarzkopf and General Wellington and William
Wallace leading my troops into battle.'
This was decades of repression and custard pies being excised on the field of battle...
'LET'S GO KILL SOMEONE... '
he shouted behind him.
The assembled mass of British Stage and Screen Talent trailed in his wake.
'That IS a big boiler isn't it? Well if we have to hold out here for a while at least we know we will be warm... '
'And we have guns.'
said Jill energetically, eyeing the rifles hung on a rack on the far end of the room.
Well, 'end' isn't exactly right. It kind of curved round in a big circle with this pipe in the middle. Where the group had entered was a wide area set into the wall.
'Go and get the guns we'll pin them down as they come through the door.'
Jill did so and Arthur made sure that every one had a gun and that it was loaded.
Bob, meanwhile, wandered around to the side of the boiler and found
'A control panel... hey! Everyone look it's the on switch!'
he said pushing the big red button.
High above them the iris opened and some long dead circuitry winked into life...
On the surface of the island a war was raging between the armies of the generic black-clad guards and the, what shall loosely be termed, 'Good Guys' comprising Boutros, Gonzaroolio, The Clownz and the Assembled Stars of British Stage and Screen talent.
On opposing hillsides the two armies now faced each other
The dead of each side littered the spaces below them. Above them a storm was brewing out over the ocean , the skies were darkening and it was promising to rain. The wind had picked up and all that could be smelt was the smoke from the cooling rifles.
Gonzaroolio and Tim controlled the lines.
Boutros had gone to hunt-down The Red Leicester.
The Iris un-peeled like a flower and dust and wind drifted down dropping on the group making them cough and wheeze. The draught dislodged some old tarpaulin draped across the boiler's upper panels. It revealed a dirty, half-hidden word daubed in red-paint down the side.
WARHEAD # 9
'It's a bomb... '
'A very big bomb.'
'This isn't just a bunker'
'It's a silo.'
It was at this supreme moment of distraction that The Red Leicester opened the silo door and shot Arthur.
Boutros stormed into the empty space in front of the silo door. There were a couple of bodies strewn around. He gripped his pistol tightly in his hand. From down the steps he thought he heard a gunshot and shouting. Fixated on finding his agents he plunged down after The Red Leicester...
Meanwhile in the secret headquarters of 'New Camelot'
The Knights of King Arthur turned as a red light started flashing. Arthur Conan Doyle crossed over to read the display.
'I say, Miller, one of our chaps has just been shot.'
Miller sighed mournfully and started talking about death.
'What's that you say Doyle?'
said Ransome showing an interest.
'Which Arthur is it?'
'Hmmm - isn't Arthur Brown around there somewhere - with that stars of stage and screen group'
'With that Boutros woman.'
Doyle checked the display -
'It looks like Secret Agent Arthur Robinson- in the US Silo, you know the top secret one in the West Indies.'"
'No she went of her own accord.'
said Askley, and got instantly pelted with anything that anyone else could reach."
Meanwhile back in the silo...
The Red Leicester, having charged in and shot Arthur, had himself been surprised by a tumbling Boutros (whose high heels had been unable to cope with the treacherous steps)
Everyone looked in shocked horror as Boutros and The Red Leicester careered into the safety rail which gave way and they and it tumbled into the dark void beneath the rocket.
In the silence that followed the ticking of the bomb sounded ominously loud ...
Arthur suddenly coughed and in a gasping voice he croaked
'X old friend here is something I must tell you before I die...'
Agent X knelt on the ground, gently cradling Arthur's head in his lap. Arthur weakly coughed up a bit of blood.
'What is it?'
X asked softly.
Arthur paused for a minute to hack up some more blood.
'I... stole your peanut butter.'
X's voice dropped from a gentle caress to a flat surprise.
'In The Academy... when we were roommates, and one day you came back to find that your peanut butter missing. It... *cough*, HAK*!... was... me.'
After five minutes of hacking, Arthur was able to hear X's touching reply.
'It's okay, old friend. I forgive you.'
A tear dramatically rolled down his cheek.
A peaceful smile appeared on Arthur's face.
'Now... I can... die... at peace...'
His eyes closed.
Heddingly looked at Arthur.
'No he isn't.'
he said stepping forward with determination.
Meanwhile, down in the dank pit beneath the No.9 Warhead launching platform, Boutros and Leicester were stirring. Leicester was up first but his head swam dizzyingly. He could see Boutros slumped in a heap over in the corner.
Leicester tried to steady himself on the wall but misjudged this horribly and went tumbling head over heels and slumped against the rim of the pit. He tried again, forcing himself up onto all fours, then his haunches and finally with a concerted effort unsteadily raising himself to his full height.
Boutros was gone.
He looked around quickly, regretted doing so almost immediately. Took a deep breath then tried again but a little more slowly.
'Curse you! Where are you hiding now?'
screamed Leicester at rather shifty looking patch of rust on the interior walls.
'I'm right here.'
said Boutros stepping out into a dusty shaft of light from above. He appeared to be holding a gun.
'What are you going to do?'"
'I swore I was going to finish this.'
'Then shoot. I'm not afraid.'
Leicester said closing his eyes.
Boutros did nothing.
He waited... he dared trying to open an eye.
Boutros was still there but the gun... yes, the gun. Now he came to study the instrument of his death a little closer, it did assume a rather... shoe-like quality. In the half-light, the way he had held it threateningly by the heel had looked real enough.
'It's a shoe.'
he said out loud, surprising himself.
said Boutros and ran back off into the shadows.
Enlivened, Leicester stepped forward. The shadows hid all. He couldn't track Boutros by sight so he tried a different tack.
'I already took out one of your precious agents upstairs.'
Leicester lunged... and missed.
There was a syncopated scraping sound, as of someone dragging one shod foot across the floor whilst simultaneously trying to hop on the other foot to put the other shoe back on.
'You won't catch me like that, Leicester.'
'It doesn't matter.'
'We are alone down here you can't evade me forever. And there's still the gun. Whoever gets to the gun last dies first.'
Meanwhile, on the gantry high above...
X helped Arthur up a little unsteadily.
'How do you feel Arthur, old chap?'
'I... I don't know. I must have passed out. I feel... well - fine, I guess.'
'It's a good job we had a doctor on hand. Heddingly patched you up a treat.'
said Jill wiping the dried lines of tears away from underneath her eyes.
'But I thought you were a neurosurgeon?'
Questioned Arthur, his voice edged with concern.
'Look, don't question it. You're alive, so lets just leave it at that.'
said X, before punching Arthur squarely on the jaw.
'And that's for the peanut butter.'
"HANDS IN THE AIR. ALL OF YOU. NOW!!!'
Barked a voice from behind the group.
In the darkness, Boutros and Leicester stalked each other.
'You have been an irritation to me for long enough, Ghali.'
Boutros hid in the darkness listening to Leicester moving around. His shoes dangled in one hand as he shuffled in stockinged feet. It really didn't look like one of them was going to climb back out of this hole. Maybe that would be for the best.'Well, it has been a few years now hasn't it?' he thought to himself.
They'd been adversaries throughout the cold war but, afterwards, Leicester, the former KGB spymaster, had used the stash of secrets he had accumulated over his lifetime to start blackmailing the most powerful figures in the world. Leicester had become a key figure in the Russian Mafia. His greed and the horror of his crimes had escalated. Boutros had dedicated his life to foiling Leicester's schemes. There was a clatter in the darkness. Leicester bent to pick up the object by his feet. His voice came back brighter and mocking.
'I've killed you once before. Practise makes perfect and maybe this time you'll stay dead!'
Boutros reeled at the memory:
Boutros had met his nemesis atop the hydroelectric dam in Leamington Spa. Leicester was threatening to open the gates and flood the slumbering town below. A cataclysmic battle had followed, both men were battered and broken before finally, Leicester's plan was foiled. Boutros had saved the town single-handedly but then the Red Leicester had pulled from the hidden recesses of his coat a revolver and shot Boutros - dumping his lifeless body in to the water and escaping by hovercraft before the authorities had come. Boutros had sunk down to the icy depths of the reservoir and there would have perished had not Guy, his devoted apprentice, dived into the lake to rescue him.
Guy had carried his body back to the surface and back to their secret headquarters. His extremities frozen and his life-signs all but an irregular blip on a monitor, desperate - the Agencies medical specialists employed secretive experimental techniques to further freeze the head whilst allowing the rest of Boutros's body to die.
He had awoken weeks later as a cryogenically frozen head in a jar.
How often had Boutros secretly wished he had been allowed to die that day? And now this indignity of living with the body of an old South American woman instead of his own. Of course, back then, Guy had not been ready to take over the agency, just as Boutros had not been able to let it go. but now Guy was ready, whether he thought so or not.
Above, on a rickety gantry, the Generic Guards had finally pinned down Boutros's agents. They had their hands in the air. From below a deafening gunshot echoed out of the exhaust well.
Jill called down
but there was no reply.
said one of the Generic Guards, (one who had an equity card obviously.) He shoved the muzzle of his weapon at her in a non-sexual way. She pretended to faint.
The others fussed and made a made a commotion confusing the guards. Guy sprang sideways and launched himself over the handrail. He plunged down into the gloom, illuminated by sparks as bullets bounced off the metalwork around him.
Guy landed awkwardly on the floor of the silo pit next to a fallen Boutros. He reached over and touched him on the shoulder. Boutros slowly opened his eyes and stared at him, his eyes were watery and vacant.
'Guy... not again... '
he let out a deep breath and closed his eyes and lay still. Beneath him a slowly spreading stain was mixing with the rust.
Leicester stepped out of the shadows on the other side of the room; he held the gun before him with a deadly determination.
'And thus the mantle of leadership is conferred... '
he said and pulled the trigger.
In the second it took for Leicester to realise the gun hadn't fired, Guy was already off his feet and over Boutros, he knocked the gun from Leicester's hand and sent it skittering off into the dark again. The pair collided against the wall.
Leicester was used to fighting. You didn't get to were he was without leaning to be able to throw a few punches, viscously beat your opponent into a bloodied pulp, pistol-whip them to the floor, knee-cap them and then send in The Boys finish them off with crow bars and then burn down their houses. Typically this was a quiet day at the office.
But as hard as he fought back he couldn't block the ferocity of Guy's attacks. Spurred on by pain and a burning lust for vengeance Guy beat the Red Leicester again and again with punches to the head and body, scratching huge gashes above his brows and driving him ever backwards.
A huge swing caught Leicester on the chin and sent blood and some teeth flying, he responded by grabbing Guy throwing him into the wall of the pit and planting one of his huge boots squarely into his ribs.
Guy grunted and launched himself off the wall at Leicester, knocking him over.
Guy clasped his hands around Leicester neck and squeezed.
Leicester flailed wildly as his breath was crushed from his lungs; his gloved hand touched the barrel of the gun, lying just inches away from his outstretched hand. He could feel his strength ebbing away in his muscles. He made a desperate lung, reaching out with his fingertips.
This time his hand closed around the length of the gun he pulled it towards him and with his vision swimming pushed the barrel into Guy's stomach and fired.
Through a sheet of blinding white pain Guy sagged but continued to press on the gangster's throat until at last the dark numb fog closed in and he drifted off into the black...
Arthur, X, Jill, Bob and Heddingly had their hands in the air. The guards were arguing about what to do. They really ought to have gone down to see if their boss was all right, but several of them were unwilling to commit to rescuing him bearing in mind that the bunker would be blowing up fairly soon.
X whispered to Arthur
'We really don't have time for this'
he said, gesturing up at the warhead which was still ticking behind them.
A digital display had winked on a few minutes earlier on the side of the bomb and was counting down, presumably to detonation. It read a little under 8 minutes in ominous orange digits.
Arthur stuffed his fist into his lapel pocket and tugged the cuff-button from the jacket. He pulled the pin out and tossed it onto the floor amongst the guards feet. Believing him to have a grenade in his suit hey looked down and stopped arguing and then each of them dove for the door. Once they were outside it the Agents finally managed to push the heavy security door closed again. Arthur picked up his button and dropped it into a pocket, making a mental note to get Mrs. Robinson to sew it back on for him later.
'Does that sort of thing always work?'
asked Heddingly incredulous.
'You'd be surprised.'
said X knowingly.
Arthur turned and said
'Bob, you get some weapons together -X you see what you can do with the bomb.'
He motioned to the others to follow him down the ladder into the exhaust well below the warhead.
In the gloom down there they could hear the guards above who, having realised they'd been duped, were doing something to the door. Then came the roar of an Oxy-acetylene torch. Jill produced a tiny Mag-light. In its sparse, bright light they found the three bodies, a large pool of blood surrounding them. Heddingly dove in, checking for signs of life. Boutros's eyes reacted to the torchlight.
said Heddingly, checking the strength of the pulse in the line of stitching in Boutros's neck that he had sewn himself only weeks before.
'Arthur's here, old thing.'
said Heddingly gently, Arthur was stooped over Boutros's face. Heddingly was busily examining the bullet-holes in Imelda Marcos's chest.
'Looks like this body's had it.'
'Back to being a head for old Boutros then, I guess.'
Then came rasping words from Boutros's own lips
'No... Forget me, take... Guy. I've had enough.'
who then let out a long sigh and lay still. Heddingly and Arthur looked at one another.
said Heddingly, his hand still monitoring the pulse in Boutros's neck. Arthur took a deep breath and clenched his teeth.
'I think Guy is alive.'
came Jill's voice suddenly out of the darkness.
The other two shuffled over. Heddingly looked him over. Guy had a huge hole in his chest and his clothes were all torn and bloody.
'We've got to get him out now.'
Jill checked Leicester's body, and though he appeared to be dead she pulled the gun from his hand and shoved it into her own waistband.
Heddingly was already advancing back up the ladder with Guy's inert, bloody body over one shoulder. Arthur followed with the torch in his teeth.
At the top, X was atop a stepladder with his head in a hatch in the side of the warhead.
'It's booby-trapped. If I touch anything in here it could go up.'
he said as the others emerged from below. The counter read 3 minutes 17 seconds.
Arthur stopped. 3 Minutes. He had time...
He descended down the ladder quickly went over to Boutros inert body.
Choking back some hidden emotion from the others, alone in the dark pit Arthur whispered hoarsely
'I will miss you... always. Goodbye.'
He touched Boutros on the forehead.
He stood up and ran for the ladder. As he climbed out he turned to Leicester and said
'And you? You can burn...'
At the top of the shaft the others were waiting.
'What took you so long?'
'The guards are almost through.'
He indicated the thin yellow line of melted metal that traced itself around the outline of the silo door.
With a crash the hinges gave way and the slab fell forward.
came the cry from without.
said Bob .
'ARE WE GETTING OUT OF HERE NOW OR WHAT?'
he called back.
Arthur and X both turned and looked at the digital read-out.
2m.00s, 1m.59s, 1m.58s
Arthur, Jill, X, Bob and Heddingly ran for the open security door. They charged up the long steel steps that led into the bunker and emerged blinking into the filtered daylight of the forest.
Gonzaroolio was leant against a tree. All around were his dishevelled soldiers (some of them on purpose, in deference to their profession, still wore the huge boots, green wigs and squirmy flowers of clowns and clownz everywhere.)
'We've got to... go!'
wheezed Bob breathlessly
'This whole place is about to blow-up - RUN FOR IT!'
1m.10s, 1m.09s, 1m.08s
In the darkness of the pit, a low rumble awoke The Red Leicester. He rolled over and looked up into the boosters of the rocket.
He looked around. Boutros was there but the other one had gone. He reached up and touched his neck. Bruises ran right around, where he had had the life near crushed out of him.
46s, 45s, 44s.
Another low-felt rumble sent a load of dust in the pit and the Red Leicester hacked and coughed painfully.
30s, 29s, 28s.
'I'm going to die.'
Far off in the distance he thought he saw a bright point of light and closed his eyes.
'This must be the tunnel.'
It was becoming uncomfortably warm...
20s, 19s, 18s.
Dying. He was now sure of it. With a concerted effort Leicester opened his eyes one last time and noticed how the light appeared to be advancing down now very fast indeed and looked uncomfortably as though it was on fire...
10s, 9s, 8s
'Oh shi -
3s, 2s, 1.
The fire roared inaudibly - so loud that you couldn't stand to hear it. Not that you'd want to be there to hear it of course: the heat was enough to satisfactorily warm a pot noodle at 20 paces...
To be continued...