Previously in Future Prefect... after tracking down an old but extremely rich lady living on the outskirts of Los Angeles, our heroes were able to consult with the fabled Dustbins of Wisdom, which informed them that they must now travel to the moon in order to solve the mystery of the earthquakes. They now plan to return to London to investigate the construction of a vehicle which will convey them to the moon.
The h2g2ers emerged into the hallway, closing the basement door behind them and discussing what the Dustbins had revealed to them. Clearly, they had to proceed back to London as soon as possible.
Their talk was cut off by an impact against the front door, followed by a second. At a third, the door burst inwards, and at the same time most of the windows broke, glass flying into the house followed rapidly by men in dark uniforms, several per window and about a dozen through the doors.
Frozen to the spot, Bath found himself invisible before he could even be sure that the intruders had seen him. Agnes and the others appeared slightly misty to his eyes, although he knew to anyone else they would appear to simply not be there. Pord was gesturing sharply
towards the lounge - it had a wide double door which stood open, and presented the best opportunity of slipping around the intruders and out into the night. He took a step towards it.
'We know you're still there,'
one of the men who'd burst in the front door said, levelling his gun down the hall. Bath noticed a disturbingly large number of other guns pointed in their general direction as well.
'If you don't reappear pretty soon, I think we'll just start firing. I wonder, do bullets pass through invisible people?
Agnes muttered too quietly for anyone save the h2g2ers to hear.
'You'd think they would have developed something more sophisticated by now.'
'They're good enough to kill us,'
Pord muttered back.
Bath studied the men at the end of the hallway, and the ones he could see in nearby rooms. They had the old woman and her butler on the floor, hands cuffed behind them and several guns covering them.
'I can't protect us and them at the same time. And what about Bill?'
'Well? What are you going to do?'
the man who'd spoken before asked.
'Men, prepare to fire.'
There was a general sound of weapons being cocked, although Bath was certain they had already been ready to fire. Agnes sighed, and a moment later all the h2g2ers except herself became visible. The intruders started slightly, but recovered quickly, clearly not used to seeing people appear from nowhere right in front of them.
'All of you,'
the man said.
'There was another woman with you before we came in.'
'She's already gone,'
The Geraldine said. Bath caught his breath. Would they believe that? The man slowly nodded.
'I'm sure she hasn't gone far, and we'll find her anyway. I'm an agent of the Internal Security Agency. You are under arrest for breaching cultural purity, aiding the escape of a convicted prisoner and conspiracy to subvert American citizens.'
He looked at Bath.
'You are additionally under arrest for jail breaking. Cuff them.'
The last was directed to some of his men, who immediately came up to the h2g2ers and pulled their hands behind them, applying handcuffs quickly, efficiently and, to their prisoners' minds, tightly.
In the basement, Bill heard the crash of windows breaking and feet thudding to the floor above even as the Dustbins finished answering his third question. He also heard the ISA agent place the h2g2ers under arrest. How long until they searched the basement?
'What do I do?'
he said, more to himself than anything else, and was startled when the Dustbins rattled their lids. He had, after all, already asked his three questions.
'Climbest thou into the leftmost Dustbin,'
the Dustbins intoned in unison, although quietly enough that nobody upstairs would be able to hear.
'Thou wilt be safe from capture within.'
'Thou hast thine three answers,'
the Dustbins informed him.
'If thou wouldst know the reason for this, examine them and that which derives from them by logical thought.'
Bill stared at them for a moment, but then the sound of feet moving upstairs made him move. He climbed into the leftmost Dustbin, pulled the lid over the top - and suddenly found himself in a much larger space than the Dustbin could possibly contain. It changed before his eyes, ribbed and tarnished metal forming seamlessly into shelf upon shelf of books. Looking up, he saw only more shelves, extending upwards as far as he could see and, he was sure, further. Looking down was a similar extent of shelves, and he suddenly realised he was standing on nothing at all. Thankfully, whatever it wasn't seemed as solid as the floor in the basement, so he decided not to worry about it for the moment.
'How do I get out again?'
'Momentarily, the way will become clear,'
the Dustbins said from apparently nowhere. The voice echoed around the vast space.
'And do I wait until it's safe to leave?'
'It will be safe to leave as soon as the way is visible,'
was the reply.
'How is that possible?'
'Thou shalt not emerge in the same place from which thou hast entered us.'
'Where will I emerge?'
'Where thine destiny can begin to be fulfilled.'
And that, Bill reflected, wasn't a particularly helpful piece of information at all. The Dustbins had told him what his destiny was, but they hadn't been particularly specific about the hows, whys and wheres of it all.
The shelves dissolved, and Bill found himself inside a dustbin again.
'Climb out, and walk thine life's true path.'
Bill did so, and gasped. He stood beside one of the Dustbins of Wisdom, although it seemed slightly hazy, as if it wasn't really there. The Dustbin, however, stood in a small clearing surrounded by enormous trees, huge trunks soaring hundreds of feet into the air,
and a blue sky decorated with puffy white clouds high overhead. It was a far more vivid blue than Bill had ever seen in his life. For that matter, everything seemed clearer and sharper, and the air smelled... different.
'Where am I?'
'Thine feet rest upon the ground of the Black Forest in Germany,'
the Dustbin said.
'Thine destiny begins here. Walkest thou forwards through the
forest, and thou shalt find it.'
There was a pop, and the Dustbin vanished. Bill looked around.
he said to himself.
'Sounds simple enough, I guess.'
Squaring his shoulders, he did just that.
What will happen to our heroes from h2g2, arrested and imprisoned in America? What will happen to Bill, stranded in the Black Forest? What is his destiny? Why won't the narrative reveal his thoughts about it, and why didn't we get to see the bit where
the Dustbins told him what it is? Some of this, and more, in the next enthralling Future Prefect, brought to you by large amounts of chocolate and a stuffed toy penguin.