Previously in Future Prefect... Bill met some people who spoke in lines of exactly ten syllables and promised to teach him what he needs to know in order to fulfil his destiny, about which we have yet to be informed. Agnes hid invisibly in the basement of the house in Los Angeles from which Bill had escaped with the help of the Dustbins of Wisdom, and from which the others were taken after being arrested by the highly stereotypical Internal Security Agency. Bath experimented with oral magic, summoned a potted sunflower and has now managed to stick himself and four guards to the floor of a corridor in California State Penitentiary...
Bath muttered softly to himself while he waited for the guards to do something, working over the imp-summoning spell in a continued attempt to modify it. A bit further down the corridor, three potted sunflowers (one of them with purple petals) and two imp-shaped statues attested to the lack of success of his efforts. Around him, his four guards stood looking increasingly pale as they continued to fail to lift their feet from the floor.
Clearly they weren't used to magic, since nobody in America seemed willing to admit it existed, and Bath had to admit to himself that if he hadn't been able to feel his spell, he would probably be reasonably unsettled by suddenly not being able to pick his feet up off a floor which looked perfectly normal. Not to mention having his weapon turn into a kitten and scamper off down the corridor. Bath wasn't sure where they'd gone, but they'd probably turned back into guns by now.
'Someone's coming,' one of the guards said suddenly. 'If you let us go now, you might be able to avoid execution.'
Bath snorted. 'Fat chance of that,' he said. 'Isn't that why I'm here?'
'It's not. You and your companions are potentially valuable sources of information, you know. Talk, and perhaps you can live a reasonably comfortable life.'
'I'm not about to tell anybody anything I don't want to,' Bath informed him. 'ahsh'kerinta'bahallaa gotonté'belin'
A shimmering appeared near the potted sunflower with purple petals, and then coelesced into a small scampering imp. Bath smiled at it, and it scampered around behind him, climbed up his trousers and moments later had undone his handcuffs.
'Excellent,' Bath said to it. 'Thank you.'
He gestured, and the imp vanished, along with the sunflowers and statues. Another wave of his hand, and his legirons fell off. His feet also unstuck from the floor. He studied the guards for a few moments.
'The spell will wear off by itself in about two hours,' he told them. 'Until then, why not engage in pleasant social conversation?' He looked up and down the corridor. 'By the way, where's the person you thought was coming?'
The guard who had spoken didn't say anything.
'Lying really doesn't get you anywhere,' Bath said, and strode off in what he thought might be the right direction. Several corners later, he encountered a barred gate across the corridor, and stopped dead in his tracks.
It wasn't the gate which stopped him, of course, but the sight of Pord squeezing his way out from underneath a door on the other side of it. The Sitter on the Chair of Moxon appeared perfectly normal, but the eye was unable to look properly at the area around where he had managed to fit himself under the door, as if space had distorted to allow him to fit through the tiny gap.
Which it had.
'Hello Bath,' Pord said cheerfully, pulling his legs out from under the door and getting to his feet. 'I didn't expect to see you out so quickly. Left your hands free, did they?'
'No, I remembered a little oral magic. I didn't know you could do that.'
'To be honest, neither did I.' Pord came up to the other side of the gate. 'Evidently, neither did they.' He frowned. 'It's very strange, you know.'
'I would appreciate having a chance to talk to you about it when the opportunity arises.'
'Talk we shall, but first, how about getting the others and getting out of here?'
'Sounds good to me,' Pord said.
Agnes climbed hesitantly out of the basement, but as the Dustbins of Wisdom had said, it did appear to be safe. Broken glass still littered the floor, and there was no sign of the old woman and her butler. Presumably they too were still in the custody of the Internal Security Agency. She became visible and went into the kitchen, where she found enough food to make a hearty breakfast. Spending a sleepless night in the cellar had certainly improved her appetite.
After she ate, she sat in thought for some time. Bill had apparently been transported to h2g2 by the Dustbins, but they had told Agnes that she needed to stay in America. Or was that just for the night? She didn't see what help she could be to her companions, and was fairly sure they were capable of breaking out of prison by themselves if they had to. If they weren't she certainly wasn't capable of going in by herself to get them. Invisibility was all very well, but it did have its limits, and her other powers wouldn't be very useful at all.
She returned to the basement.
'Thou wouldst know more,' the Dustbins said.
'Yes. What should I do? Last night you told me I had to stay in America.'
'Many things change,' the Dustbins said in what Agnes was sure was an embarrassed tone of voice.
'What do you mean? I don't have to stay in America anymore?'
'We did not foresee what hath occurred early this morning. Climbest thou into the rightmost Dustbin.'
'What happened this morning?'
'Thou shalt discover the truth soon enough. Climbest thou into-'
'-the rightmost dustbin,' Agnes interrupted. 'Yeah, yeah.' She did so, and as Bill had before her, found herself in what appeared to be an endless library. 'Where are we going?'
'Thine task there will become quickly apparent,' was the only reply she got. A while later, she climbed out and found herself standing between two large heaps of rubble. The ground shook occasionally. She turned back, about to ask what had happened, but the Dustbin was gone. Smoke filled the air.
She started forwards, rounding a corner, and stopped dead. It was a road running along the side of the Thames, past what used to be Westminster Palace, but totally changed. Horribly changed. Rubble piled up wherever a building had stood. Some had evidently toppled, leaving rubble strewn across the road and into the river, which was grey with stone dust and frothed around the larger pieces of rubble which stuck out of the water. Across the river was more of the same, and several streams of smoke rose into the clear but dull sky. There were people in the distance, and she ran towards them.
'What happened? What happened?' She demanded as she came close enough. They paused in their labours to look at her.
'Where have you been, to not know?' One, a man with a shock of dusty blonde hair, asked. 'There was an earthquake. The whole city is in ruins.'
'Another one? Fate, no! Not London! Are - are many people dead?' The man shrugged.
'Nobody knows. Several thousand at least. The Sitter on the Chair of Mina-'
'She's alive? I must see her at once!'
'I think she's off that way somewhere, near where the Towers were.'
Agnes did not pause to thank him - she was off running before he'd finished speaking.'
In the square where the Towers had stood was now only a pile of rubble. Many people climbed over it, and more in hovercars flew over, some lifting blocks of stone up on force beams. Agnes shuddered - they were pulling bodies out from underneath them. The Sitter on the Chair of Mina stood in an open-topped hovercar which floated a couple of feet from the ground, watching the proceedings with a blank expression on her face. Her black, skin-tight leather trousers and top were covered in dust, torn in places, and she had a blood-encrusted wound on her forehead. Agnes went straight up to her.
'Sitter,' she gasped, 'Sitter, I must speak with you.'
'Why? Who are you?' The Sitter on the Chair of Mina peered closer. 'Ah, I recognise you now. You're that singer, Agnes. Didn't Pord take you to America with him? Did you find out what's causing these?' She gestured to the devestation with her free hand. The other one held a long black whip.
'We think it's some kind of experiment being conducted by American scientists,' Agnes told her. 'They don't have any earthquakes there. The Geraldine thinks they might be diverting the energy here somehow. The Dustbins of Wisdom told us we should go to the moon to find out more, and how to stop it.'
'The Dustbins of -? Never mind. You can tell me about it when there's time to stop and think. Where are the others?'
'They're still in America. They got arrested by one of their internal agencies. I hope they manage to escape, but the Dustbins brought me back here, they said I had something to do and that it would be obvious. I assumed it was to tell someone what I had found out. Especially in the wake of what happened here.'
'That may be so. If we must go to the moon to find the bottom of this, then go to the moon we shall. Get in.' Agnes climbed into the hovercar, and moments later the Sitter on the Chair of Mina had sent it speeding into the air. 'I'm Linda, by the way,' she introduced herself.
'Hi,' Agnes replied. 'The Dustbins also said they'd brought a young American here, although they didn't say where. All I got was the impression that he wasn't in America anymore.'
'Then he shouldn't be too hard to find. Do you have any idea why?'
'They said he had a destiny to fulfil. I don't think he's a threat.'
'We will find him anyway. No doubt you could benefit from talking with him, and if he has been of help to you in America, perhaps you could take him to the moon with you.' She turned on the videophone and made some calls, asking various people to start tracking down an young American man recently arrived. There were some startled exclamations, but nobody argued with her.
'With me?' Agnes asked when Linda had finished. 'I'm going to the moon?'
'Of course. Pord took you to America for a reason. I will take you to the moon for the same one. Possibly more of them.'
'Try and stop me. You wouldn't believe how much Pord had to shout at me to stop me coming with you the first time.' She smiled slightly. 'I'll show him who's the better one at this game.'
Agnes decided it might not be wise to inquire what Linda meant by that.
Will Pord and Bath manage to pull off their daring escape? Will they rescue the others? Next time we see Bill, will he be speaking in some form of verse as well? How will Agnes and Linda fare in their preparations to go to the moon, and what will they find when they get there? Will there be any more earthquakes? Will any of the characters ever eat something? Come back next week, and find out.