Future Prefect

1 Conversation

Previously in Future Prefect... having found no information relating to the

earthquakes in h2g2, the h2g2ers turned to Bill, who suggested a consultation with the

Dustbins of Wisdom, which may or may not exist. Their only lead to finding the Dustbins of

Wisdom is an old woman living in a large house on the outskirts of Los Angeles, who found

our heroes loitering in the garden and has invited them in for coffee.

Part Five

The interior of the house was as richly furnished as the exterior suggested, and did much

to confirm the tales of the old woman's fortune. Bill looked around appreciatively, his eyes

widening as they passed a room which had two walls entirely made of three-dimensional

television screen. Other rooms were no less impressive - there was a gymnasium which looked

to be capable of serving forty people simultaneously, a dining room with a table that could

probably seat two hundred, and an indoor swimming pool with no fewer than seven

exciting-looking water chutes.

'We can go swimming later.'

the old woman said, noticing Bite and Bark looking at the pool longingly.
'First, there are more important matters to deal with.'

She led them to a comfortable lounge, where they all took seats, and their host rang a

bell. The butler appeared, totally unruffled by the curiously-dressed h2g2ers who clashed

horribly with the upholstery.

'Coffee for all of us,'

the woman said.

'At once, ma'am.'

The butler departed.

'Now, I expect you have many questions, but please try to hold on to them until you

see if I am about to answer them. If I am not mistaken, you...'

she indicated the seven h2g2ers
'... have come seeking something, and you...'

she indicated Bill,
'... have told them that the Dustbins of Wisdom might be able to tell them what they want

to know. Correct?'

Everyone nodded.

'Good. Now, as for how I know this. About fifty years ago, when I was young and

foolish, my father told me about the stock exchange, and how much money some people made

out of it, and how much money he was losing on it. I was something of a mathematical genius

at the time, and he was hoping I would be able to help him regain some of his fortune by

calculating statistics and doing probability projections and the like. I drew up a few for

him, but I soon saw that math wasn't the way to go about it, so I turned my attention to a

legend I had heard some years before.'

'The Dustbins of Wisdom?'

Bill asked. The woman nodded.


she said.
'After a great deal of time spent in the library and on the Internet, I tracked down

someone reputed to know where they were. When I found him, he turned out to be just

another person with a crackpot theory, but I followed up on it anyway. He'd never done it

as he said he didn't have anything he wanted to know badly enough to make the effort, but I

wanted to beat the stock market, and because I was young and foolish I followed up on his

theory and I found the Dustbins of Wisdom.'

'Where were they?'

'Behind the White House.'

the woman said.
'Fool Presidents had kept them there for centuries, not even knowing what they were. A

few functionaries had evidently found them and used them, and some rumours had leaked out,

enough for me to find them in the end. Of course, getting to the dustbins behind the White

House isn't particularly easy, so one night I managed to sneak past the guards and make it

to the dustbins.'

She paused to clear her throat, and then the butler arrived with a large tray of coffee cups

and an enormous jug. He filled the cups, handed them around and then departed again.

'So you consulted the Dustbins of Wisdom?'

Agnes asked.

'I did.'

the woman said.
'Somehow, although they looked the same as all the other dustbins there, I picked them

out of the mass immediately. Don't ask me why - I used my three questions on other things. I

stood before them, and they hailed me as a true seeker, worthy of the knowledge they had. I

could ask them three questions, they said, and they would be answered true, although one of

the Dustbins noted that my liking the answers wasn't guaranteed.'

'So you asked how to beat the stock market?'

Bill said.

'Yes. I asked them who I should invest in, and they gave me a list of fifty companies,

which I wrote down on the notepad I had been thoughtful enough to bring along. Then I

asked them when I should sell the shares to make the most money within a decade, and they

told me the dates for all of those fifty companies. They were dead right, as well. I sold my

shares in all of them on the dates I was told, and they all plummeted in value the day


'What about your third question?'

'That was something I sometimes wish I hadn't asked.'
the woman said.
'I said, "What do I do once I've sold all these shares?"'
She sipped her

'I can remember the answer, word for word. Their lids rattled, and they said "Thou must

purchase a grand house at the edge of the city of Los Angeles, and thou must in thine house

dwell until seven seekers come from across the ocean. And with them will come one of thy

kind, and with that one shalt thou find what thy kind is, and thy true purpose in life. Thou

shalt return here, and take us to a place of hiding, where none shall find us until thou

leadest the seven seekers to us, and we shall answer them questions three, and they shall use

our answers to preserve one world, and shatter another." As you can imagine, I wasn't best

pleased with it, and since I was young and foolish I forgot about that almost immediately.

Of course, when all their predictions about the stock market came true, I reconsidered,

bought this house and have lived here ever since. Waiting for you.'

She sipped her coffee and blinked at them.
'You seem taken aback.'

'It's not every day you hear that your arrival was foretold fifty years ago by three


Pord admitted.
'Dear lady, where are the Dustbins of Wisdom now?'


she said,
'Well, I couldn't just leave them there, especially since they'd told me to come and wait

for you in Los Angeles. They're in the basement. Would you like to go and talk to them now,

or would you prefer to wait until after dinner?'

A few minutes later, the butler opened the basement door and gestured down the


'The basement, ma'ams, sirs.'

he said.
'What you seek lies below. There is a light switch to the left of the door as you go



Bath said, going in first. He fumbled for the light switch, then sighed and waved a hand. A

ball of crackling white light appeared above it, illuminating the staircase sufficiently for

him to find the switch. After turning the lights on, he let the ball of light vanish.
'Well, here goes.'

The basement was as most basements are, only substantially larger. The floor was bare

concrete, as were the walls, and there was a slight feel of dampness in the air. Shelves and

cupboards stood around the room, piled high with forgotten things. The middle of the

basement, however, was clear, and in the very centre stood three dustbins. One of them

rattled its lid as the h2g2ers and Bill approached.

'Hail, seekers of knowledge,'

the Dustbins said in unison.
'Ye from afar, ye have three questions. Ye from nearby, ye have three questions, should

ye wish to ask them. Ye from afar, ye have no other option. Ask.'

The h2g2ers exchanged glances, then Pord swallowed and stepped forwards.

'Dustbins of Wisdom, we wish to know the cause of the earthquakes which have been

destroying our cities and killing innocent people.'

he said. There was a pause, then the middle Dustbin rattled its lid.

'As thou hast surmised, the object of thine quest doth stem from America. Technology

created to control weather, tide and place checks on natural disasters doth have unforeseen

side-effects. Ask.'

'Where should we go to remove the threat to our cities?'

'Ye must travel to the moon. On the far side, shall ye find what ye seek. Ask.'

'How do we get to the moon?'

'Ye must return to thine homeland. The ability to travel to the moon doth lie in thine

people's capabilities. Your questions are answered. Doth the one named Bill wish to


'I do,'

Bill said. He stepped forward.
'In private.'

'We'll wait for you.'

Bath said. The h2g2ers climbed the stairs out of the basement.

'And no telepathic eavesdropping!'

Bill shouted up after them.

'Would I do that?'

Pord called back.

'Of course you would,'

Agnes told him.
'Leave the boy alone. He deserves to find out what he should do with his life. After all,

we have kind of destroyed it for him. What did you make of what the Dustbins


'What can we make of it but what they said? We have to go back to h2g2 and find

someone who can build us a way to get to the moon. As soon as Bill's finished, we'll see if he

wants to come, then we'll head back to the hydrocycles and go back to London. No doubt the

other Sitters can help us find out what we need to know.'

Agnes nodded thoughtfully.
'Yes, they would have heard of it if anyone's been experimenting. Although I can't

imagine why they would. What's so great about going into space? We've managed perfectly

well without it since before America went its separate way.'

'Ah, but why did we stop at all? There are known scientific advantages to

microgravity research, you know,'

Bite said.
'Doesn't it seem odd that all space travel on our side ceased when America was cut off?

The history of that time is imperfectly known, even to Gurus. I suspect we may find a lot

more than just the end of the earthquakes when we get to the moon.'

How will our heroes get to the moon? Will someone build them a replica of an

Apollo rocket, or will they have something more sophisticated at their disposal? When will

we get to hear Agnes sing? And what really did happen three hundred years ago when h2g2

and America lost all contact with each other? Some of these answers may be revealed next

week, so don't even think about missing it. Future Prefect, the story which grows new plot

faster than the narrative approaches the ending.

The Future Prefect



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