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
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...
A brief scream was obliterated as the rocket shifted upward, rising out of its silo; the fire filled the rickety gantry where Arthur and the Agency had been. It blew out through the open security door. Spreading through the unexplored corridors, catching a few of the unlucky Generic Guards who had decided after all to come and rescue their boss.
It reached and melted through a door on which were printed the words 'Arms Store'. The explosion lifted the forest from its roots as the underground network of stores and depots ignited sending a huge dome of earth and trees high into the sky with a deafening sound.
3s, 2s, 1
Arthur burst through the leading edge of the forest and out onto the beach the others ran out after him hotfooted by the clownz and some actors.
The blast sent them all flying off their feet. Arthur landed in the surf and spun around to see the rocket lifting off from the ruins of the forest. Very quickly it disappeared through the shroud of late evening clouds.
'We've got to stop it!'
shouted Arthur above the wind that had suddenly sprung up.
'What about Guy?'
'I'll need to get him back to the Agency if I'm to have any hope of saving him.'
'How? We're trapped on this island.'
'If we hitched a lift with A-HA...'
said Jill, looking at Gonzaroolio
'We could... '
said the clown.
'Morton took the plane and left already.'
'There's not enough time.'
Farther down the beach, Big Ben chimed the passing of the hour.
'I've got an idea.'
Arthur ran down the beach and into the palace of Westminster with everyone else in close pursuit.
'No time to explain.'
'I just hope that it's still there.'
Heddingly, easily the best athlete of the group, soon started to outpace the others. As he caught up with Arthur he enquired
'That what is still there old chap?'
By now they were pounding through the corridors of power. Since everyone had decided to take advantage of the unexpected tropical paradise the place was deserted.
No one stopped Arthur as he charged through the large double doors and strode up to the Speakers Chair and pocketed something. He perform a quick U-turn a ran out of the chamber he headed at speed and began ascending the long staircase to the bell-chamber.
Mere moments later they emerged into daylight on a small platform at the top of the famous clock face and Arthur handed the object he had pocketed to Heddingly.
Heddingly looked at the solid brass coloured ball that he had just been passed.
In the sky the rocket was obviously completing some complicated navigational manoeuvre as it had hardly moved from it's last position.
It was nearly 500 yards away but looked like it was just about ready to move away in a seriously fast and menacing (and all metaphors aside, non-sexual way.)
'If we can hit the abort lever, just below the nose cone then the rocket will plunge harmlessly into the sea.'
'If not the rocket is carrying the most deadly virus known to man, if it releases it over a major city, the deaths could be incalculable.'
said Arthur, piling on the melodrama.
'As the worlds greatest bodyline bowler you are the only man who could possibly make this work.'
He looked at Heddingly - his face was grimly serious.
'I know it's a long shot, but it's the only chance we have.'
Heddingly took the brass gavel from Arthur, felt its weight in his hands. He looked out at the missile in the distance. Set his shoulders, said a quiet tribal prayer of some sort, reeled back his huge shoulder bringing his arm right behind his back and launched the ball at the rocket.
It zipped through the air and completely failed to connect with the abort switch just below the nose cone.
Instead it neatly struck the navigational guidance switch just to the left of the abort switch sending the rocket into a neat 90o right-angle turn pointing it directly at the Houses of Parliament and the assembled group of Clownz, various actors and members of the Agency (Alive and Not-Quite-Dead Yet.)
'Oh, well that's just perfect.'
said Arthur deridingly.
'You save me from being shot but now you are going to kill me with a missile.'
'I'm sorry, my throwing always did tend to have a left-way bent.'
said Heddingly weakly.
The matter of seconds it took for the accelerating missile to reach the island was - well - just a matter of seconds. It soon passed over the heads of Arthur and the others and the virus compartments opened and a stale greenish wind swept down over them.
The missile, its load delivered, ditched itself in one of the larger sand banks on the beach head.
'Well it was nice knowing you.'
said Heddingly reservedly to Arthur.
'Mmm. It's sad to think things will end like this.'
He then turned to X and the two embraced with lots of masculine back-patting.
'Oh you two.'
said Jill with flat disdain.
'I don't know what your moping about have you seen the use-by date on that thing?'
She handed Arthur a pair of powerful-looking binoculars. Arthur wondered where she had kept these throughout the hectic adventures of the last few hours, but quickly dropped that line of thinking and instead peered through the lenses at the crashed missile:
Star Wars Project Use-By Date: 18-5-87 All material contained within will automatically sterilise after this time and become completely non-lethal but may provoke strange and unknown symptoms such as the eruption of yellow and purple spotty rashes on the hands and face and hysterical fits of laughter accompanied by a tendency to answer 'Wibble' when asked the question why is your face purple and yellow and will you please stop laughing now?'
said Arthur and turned back to Jill who promptly burst out in hysterical whooping fits at Arthur's new purple and yellow complexion.
Heddingly tried valiantly to suppress a giggle but his lower lip trembled and it soon escaped into a full belly laugh of immense tenor and bass. He was beginning to change colour as well.
'Heddingly? Jill? Why are both of your faces going purple and yellow and will you please stop laughing at me?'
they both cried out in unison and promptly burst of in child-like fits of giggles again.
'Oh good grief.'
said Arthur with an air of studied indifference.
He left them both on the balcony of Big Ben and stalked off down the stairs. After some strategic searching he eventually found the warping device which had brought them and the Houses of Parliament to this island. He pushed the button and entered into the menu London, England.
There was a flash of white light - the kind that leaves flashy purple patches on the backs of your eyelids. There now materialised in front of him a London underground schematic rail map. He selected Westminster Station and confirmed this on the keypad. There was another bright flash of white light which left several MP's lounging on the beach, who were complete ignorance of the drama that had unfolded in the bunker, wondering how in the Devil's blazes they were going to get home again.
At this one MP turned to the other and said:
and burst out laughing much to his Right Honourable Friends' utter bemusement.
In the centre of London...
There was a flash of light and noise that sounding something, but not quite like, a meringue imploding and the Houses of Parliament re-materialised directly over the heads of some serious looking and (briefly) very surprised international news journalists who had been covering the building's disappearance.
So potent were the effects of the missile that some of the contagion had been carried back with the building to London and had in its descent managed to infect the news-casters before squashing them flat.
Upon arrival at the entrance to Heaven one of the recently deceased journalists was seen to inquire to St Peter why his face was turning purple and yellow.
'WIBBLE!' said St Peter.
Since heaven is eternal, Time literally has no meaning there. However, the aim of good literature is to smash dogma and challenge un-critical thinking wheresoever it encounters it and now defying all reason and conventions in story telling, your humble narrrator wishes it to be noted that later that very afternoon in a small ante-chamber just off of the Pearly Gates...
St Peter drummed his fingers on the reception desk and invited another of the journalists to take a seat in the waiting area. Being a non-corporeal entity the effects of the chemical warhead though highly contagious had little or no effect on the dead, and after a while everything was back to normal - comparatively speaking. This was very tiresome indeed, especially as he had a tricky administrative mix-up to sort out.
St Peter had several ledgers open on the desk and his assistant had just arrived with another pile from storage.
'I've been through all the 'G's, sir'
said the assistant, who was chewing gum in a most un-angelic manner
'He ain't on the list.'
St Peter motioned the problematic individual who had been seated in the waiting area to approach the desk once more.
'Let's go through this again!'
said St. Peter, eyeing the individual over half-moon spectacles and consulting his notes
'Your name is Ghali...'
said a ghostly Boutros, as a personification of a soul he was manifested with his own body
'No, it's Boutros-Ghali.'
'Double-barrelled, I see.'
grumbled St. Peter.
This was another of his pet hates. He gestured for his assistant to go and look in the 'B' section.
jumped in Boutros
he finished apologetically.
St Peter scribbled in his notepad.
'Has anyone ever told you, you look a little like Courtney love?'
St. Peter massaged his temples.
'She's here too - '
Boutros pointed out the small South American woman in the waiting area. Imelda waved back.
'I had her body you see, so I suppose we were killed together in a manner of speaking.'
'Yes, yes. This is most irregular!'
scolded St Peter.
'And I see you were both supposed to have checked in here some time ago - '
he stared piercingly over the top of his spectacles
'But for the wonders of modern science.'
This was becoming an increasing problem for Heaven what with recent advances in cryogenic technology - it was playing havoc with St Peter's filing.
It was clear that the Angel held Views> on this, but it was clear that what was required with regard to this issue was a definitive policy statement from The Senior Management.
St Peter slammed the nearest ledger with a decisive thud, and swept past Boutros into the back office and conversed agitatedly with his assistant. There followed the familiar sound of the opening and closing of cabinet drawers.
Then he emerged again and presented Boutros with a sheaf of paper.
'Fill in the form and bring it back to the desk.'
he said, and then his eyes were over Boutros's shoulder at the next client.
As Boutros turned his eyes met those of his young friend, Guy.
'You're not supposed to be here, not yet.'
St Peter rolled his eyes theatrically and started drumming his fingers again while the two figures in front of his desk embraced each other happily. He set about putting his ledgers back on their shelves and then moved to enthusiastically begin searching the 'G's' again while the pair chatted animatedly.
A few minutes later the younger man vanished with a quiet 'pop'. St Peter shook his head despairingly as he imagined the scene taking place in some Emergency Room somewhere, as some jumped-up surgeon snatched another soul from the jaws of death and once more messed up his records.
he wearily announced to the assembled souls remaining in his waiting area. Vanessa Feltz and Uri Gellar were still puzzling over their forms and didn't seem ready.
A large man, you might have described him as 'burly' but that really all depended on whether you wanted to keep the use of your legs - slammed his form down on the desk.
'MY NAME LEICESTERSCHNIITCH KITANYA-IRRANIA-TATONYA-KARENSKA-ALISOV.'
he barked angrily.
said St Peter.
The form was slid towards him. He examined it quickly, then he took a small rubber stamp from a stamp-tree on the desk and inked it at length on a red inkpad. Gently he pressed it onto the form.
With a twinkle in his eyes and a smile turning up the corner of his mouth he returned the application form to Leicester.
Leicester took one look at the form but before he could leap over the desk and attack St Peter, he was grabbed by the shoulders and led away by a pair of very dour angels with cigarettes behind their ears...
said St. Peter.
.....'You are not supposed to be here!'
As an experiment, he tried opening one eye. Looking around cautiously Guy awoke to find himself attached to a variety of large and somewhat noisy machines most of which had flashing lights and some of which were going 'Ping!'
His razor-sharp mind instantly recognised that he was in an intensive care unit in a private medical unit and then quickly moved on to deduce that from the faint smell of diesel fumes and sounds of cockney news-vendors drifting in from outside the window, this was in London.
He lay for a while drifting as his body healed.
Some time may have passed when Guy noticed a white-coated figure was examining him in a calmly professional and non-sexual way.
'It was touch and go Guy... '
He said grimly
'but I think you are going to be OK now. Some of your friends are here to see you
The doctor turned to Bob, Jill, Arthur, X, Heddingly and Gonzaroolio.
'Five minutes. - no longer.'
he cautioned sternly.
'It looks like its all over, old chap.'
said Arthur cheerfully
'The Houses of Parliament have been restored, The Red Leicester is dead. Tim is in a high security detention centre picking out his interior decor, the last few MPs have been ferried back to London by Morton and the boys and the purple and yellow spots have all disappeared.'
said X - but no-one laughed.
groaned Guy, propping himself up in bed and looking meaningfully at Gonzaroolio.
'You mean the Criminal Clown, Cryogenic Cloning Company.'
shifting uneasily on one foot trying not to look guilty of something.
Guy sighed as he saw from the expression on Gonzaroolio's face.
His worst fears were instantly confirmed. He sighed the weary sigh of a man who has spent 36 hours in reconstructive surgery and 3 weeks in a coma but who is now going to have to find his shoes, tighten his belt, breathe deeply and save the world - again.
'Are you going to explain or shall I?'
'It would be easier if I just showed you.'
said the clown.
He reached inside his padded suit with the squirty flower and took from within one the many secluded pockets, a letter. The envelope bore the official letterhead of The Seines Cheese Shipment Ltd. One of Leicester's business fronts.
Gonzaroolio walked over to Guy's bed-side and handed him the envelope.
Guy opened it gingerly and removed the letter from inside, read it once through to himself, then out-loud to the rest of the group:
I have been impressed with the Generic Guards our new project has produced; they swell the ranks of my personal army. This will prove very useful when we launch a strike at The Agency.
However, I want you now to move the operation up a level. I want you to adapt the Guard Cloning programme to produce a small collection of independent terrorist clones that could be dispatched to any location on short notice. As usual, I will leave the technical details and the design up to you and your cabal.
This is very, very important to me.
Go to the bakery at Barn Street and ask for a Mr Smittington. He has facilities on-site.
Guy handed the document back to the clown.
'The Criminal Clown Cryogenic Cloning Company?'"
said Gonzaroolio guardedly.
'And Mr Smittington at Barn Street?'"
'He's our front. In the basements beneath the bakery we have a network of cybernetic cloning chambers. It was one of our works-in-progress under Leicester.'"
'And you knew about this?'
questioned Jill in disbelief.
'Yes, we were monitoring the situation before... before Boutros... left for the Bahamas.'
He replied wearily.
said Bob, expressing a keenly felt desire to re-enter the narrative after his side-lining in recent posts
'What's the problem? The clownz are on our side now. You were aware of their plans which, might I say, are redundant now The Big Cheese is Toast.'
'He-he. Cheese on toast.'
giggled X. But no one else joined in.
'Er... it's not quite a simple as that.'
Everyone turned to look at him again. A past master of the circus Big-Tent, Gonzaroolio thrived under this sort of scrutiny.
'The clones... they're... erm... pre-programmed.'"
'What sort of clones are they?'
'The cyborg kind. Part clone, part deranged homicidal psycho-machine. All clown. Right down to the Day-Glo orange wig and everything - We spent months perfecting that. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to grow spun-nylon of the correct shade in a test-tube.'
he finished with a touch of pride in his voice.
'You said they were pre-programmed. To do what.'
'Well you know... the usual, loot, destroy, spread forth havoc and terror. Only - '
the clown broke off.
'They have a massive inferiority complex and are pathologically depressed. One day they rebelled. Between themselves they took a vote and became a Doomsday Cult. When I heard this I immediately ordered the entire project be scrapped, only on the way to the incinerators, a unit broke free and escaped. Last I heard, they had run off screaming into the night decrying the 'coming of the end'. We hadn't installed the trackers at that point but we think they are still on their projected missions to infiltrate major cities around the globe and to detonate.'"
inquired Arthur incredulously.
'Yes, each carries a small but devastatingly powerful explosive charge.'
'And now we've got to stop them.'
From his bed he tuned and looked at his assembled Agents.
'I know, it's going to be hard without Boutros to guide us. But have faith in me, I will get us through this.'
'Just tell me where to go.'
'No, not this time, Robinson. I have something more important for you and X to be getting on with.
I want Bob and Jill to sort this one out. Bob, Jill I want you to go with Heddingly and Gonzaroolio and try and track down these missing suicidal cryo-clonwz.'
He gestured to X and Arthur to come to his bedside. They spoke quietly the speech being mostly inaudible
'You two, I want you to... and... Switzerland... Dying Pilchard... bring back the... All clear? Good.'
'Right, off you all go then.'
said Guy. The assembled crew all moved towards the door.
'Oh and Arthur?'
'It's two 'o' clock.'
he said rolling onto one side.
'Send in the nurse would you please - it's time for my sponge bath.'
And there it would have ended...
Can the Agency stop the Cryo-Clownz from fulfilling the Mission of Doom?
Will Arthur and X discover the true meaning of 'The dying pilchard bleeds beneath a Turquoise Moon'?
Will Tim escape from prison and seek to resurrect his old boss using the discarded Ouija board Leicester had locked in his safe for just this sort of incident.
To be continued... ?