Previously in Future Prefect... Pord and Bath rescued Bite and Bark from whatever torments they were undergoing in prison, then dropped by and rescued The Geraldine, who had been just about to give her American torturer a lesson in assuming too much about how his victims' bodies work. Back in England, Agnes and Linda travelled to
Cambridge to browbeat the head of the School of Magecraft at Cambridge University into working up a spell to take them to the moon. By stark contrast to all this action, Bill wasn't seen at all.
The Geraldine tried to brush the stone chips out of her hair from the latest wall Bath had demolished on their way out of the California State Penitentiary. From the other side of the pile of rubble which used to be a fairly substantial wall, she could hear someone weeping; a guard who'd pulled a gun on them and found himself stuck to the ceiling by an invisible force.
The oceanographer looked at Bath without attempting to attract his attention. He was starting to look very haggard and appeared to be teetering on the brink of exhaustion. He'd done a lot of magic to get them this far, and he wasn't going to be able to do much more. She reviewed her own abilities along those lines and concluded that if they had to rely on them, they were in more trouble than she thought they were, and unlikely to escape from it. Bite and Bark had little in the way of active psychic power either, although their ability to work almost as a single person in two bodies would come in very
useful if it came to close-quarters fighting. And as for Pord...
'We should keep moving,' the Sitter on the Chair of Moxon said, looking at the others. 'We've got them surprised, but they'll rally ahead of us eventually and then we'll have to start killing people.' His mouth twisted with distaste, and something showed in his eyes.
He had killed someone, at the start of their escape, loosing some force The Geraldine didn't understand. What worried her about it was that it clearly surprised Pord, and Bath didn't appear to know why the telepath could suddenly do so much more. He had, The Geraldine understood, escaped from his cell by crawling through the gap under the door, which couldn't have been more than half a millimetre high judging by the rest of the prison.
'We're not going to be able to keep on like this much longer,' she said. 'Bath's getting tired. None of us have much in the way of power to back him up with either - certainly not for this, anyway.'
'I know, I know,' Pord said. 'If only...'he paused, then changed what he'd been about to say. 'We have to move.'
They headed down the corridor in ragged order, Pord and Bath at the front, followed by The Geraldine with Bite and Bark taking the rear. All were watchful at any intersections they encountered, lest guards be waiting in ambush. They saw none for a while, then came across another barred iron door blocking the way. Bath stared at it for a moment as if wondering what to do with it, then flicked a finger and sent it flying from its frame to land on the floor several metres away with an enormous clanging sound.
'Woops,' he said. 'Didn't mean to hit it quite so hard...'
They continued, The Geraldine eyeing Bath more worriedly than before. If he was getting too tired to judge the power of his spells properly, he could kill himself with a mis-aimed gesture, using up all his energy in one over powerful spell. Almost as bad, he could produce one too weak and get them all captured again.
He's got some more in him yet. The Geraldine felt Pord's thought drift into her mind. I've seen him do this before. He gets tired, but stays that way a long time before he gets into trouble.
Let's hope you're right, The Geraldine thought back, relying on Pord to pick the thought from the surface of her mind. By his slightly troubled expression, and the way he eyed Bath, she thought he had.
She realised they had stopped moving, and also realised they were standing before another large wall, made of roughly-finished concrete and looking to be extremely thick.
'It's the outer wall of the building,' Bath said. 'After this, there're a few fences and another big wall before we're outside.'
'What's the plan?' Bite asked, putting a hand on the wall as if to feel it.
'Blowing a hole in it would be very noisy,' Pord said in a distracted kind of way. 'There's probably a better way to do it. When I got out of my cell...' he trailed off, studying the wall intently, as The Geraldine would have studied an interesting fault line, or the readings of seismographs in the vicinity of a volcanic eruption. He trailed fingers along it, then suddenly stopped and assumed an expression of great, calm concentration. 'Stay here,' he said, and slipped into the gaps between the molecules in the wall. That was
all it could be described as, The Geraldine thought, watching the last of him seeming to move into that impossibly tiny space without constricting or deforming in any way at all.
'He's bending space,' Bark said.
'And time,' Bite added. 'But that's not so important here.'
'Where's it come from?' Bath asked. Being of h2g2, anything about Pord was usually within the knowledge of the two Gurus.
'It appears to be an ability he's had for some time,' Bite explained, 'but he hasn't had occasion to use it before we ended up here. It requires a different way of thinking about the world.'
'He probably didn't start thinking in the right way until we came to America,' Bark took up the explanation. 'The strangeness and the imminence of execution would have done a lot to change the way he was thinking.'
'Changed the way I was thinking,' The Geraldine said.
'So it did,' Bite said. 'I've never heard you sing before.'
'And with any luck, you won't hear me again,' the oceanographer told him. 'What is Pord doing?'
Before anyone would reply, Pord slipped out of the wall in the same way he'd gone into it.
'That's really rather disconcerting,' Bath told him. Pord grinned.
'I thought it might be,' he said, 'but that's not the good news. I have a plan.'
'Let's hear it then.'
'It's really rather simple. I go back out there the same way I just did, and make a big noise and fuss just inside the outer wall to distract the guards. I'll do that about a quarter of the way around the perimeter to the left. Then, when I give the word, Bath blows as much of this wall, the fences and the outer wall to dust as possible. If you can blow a clear path out of here, so much the better. Then cast a shield and make a run for it.' Bath nodded, and Pord turned to the other three. 'Geraldine, there's a sewerage processing plant not far outside the outer wall which appears to handle all the waste from the prison. Find a sink or something and get yourself out there, and take Bite and Bark with you. Bath and I will meet you near there, and then we'll see about getting back to h2g2. We may need to go to the moon, but I'd rather stop off for a decent meal first, wouldn't you?'
'Definitely,' Bath said. 'Give me the word when you want this wall gone.'
'I will. Everyone okay?' Everyone nodded. 'Right. Here we go then.' Pord slipped into the wall again. The Geraldine shook hands with Bath.
'Good luck,' she said, and smiled at Bite and Bark. 'Let's go,' she said, striding off. The two Gurus knew all about this particular
ability, which was probably her most improbable but was very useful when she needed to go somewhere in a hurry. Some time during her field training in oceanography, she'd picked up the ability to traverse any system of flowing water almost like it was some kind of teleportation network, rushing along pipes and appearing at any tap or outlet along the way, all within a couple of seconds from leaving her starting point. Taking Bite and Bark along with her would be more difficult, but she could do it, and now Pord had found her a definite destination, she was a lot more confident about using her abilities to escape.
They found a bathroom, no doubt for the guards as it was fairly
comfortable and well-provided with things they'd never have let the prisoners near, and gathered around a toilet.
'Ready?' The Geraldine asked. The two Gurus nodded. The Geraldine nodded back, smiled at them, and leaped into the toilet. At least, that's what it felt like to her - anyone watching would have simply seen their forms waver and alter into thin liquid streams which merged with the water in the bowl. Along the pipes they sped, faster than the eye could perceive even if they'd had eyes and light to see
with, and then it was the right moment, and they were standing by a large open tank full of stinking raw sewerage. Bite and Bark screwed up their noses and brushed down their clothes automatically, although they were perfectly clean.
'That was interesting,' Bark ventured after a moment, and The Geraldine laughed at them. It felt good to be out of the prison walls.
'Come on,' she said. 'Let's go find somewhere to hide until
Pord and Bath get here.'
They didn't have to wait long before Pord found them,
looking tired but inordinately pleased with himself, and the four of them listened to assorted detonations coming from the direction of the prison.
'Should we see if he needs any help?' Bite asked after a while of this.
'He's fine,' Pord said in the slightly distant tone The Geraldine had come to recognise meant he was reaching out with his telepathic abilities. 'He won't be much longer.'
'You're a useful guy to have along, you know that?' Bite said. Pord grinned at him.
'Hadn't you realised that already?'
Bath arrived a few minutes after that, looking almost on the verge of collapse but smiling all the same.
'Made it,' he said as he collapsed against the wall and slid down it into a lazy sitting position. 'They won't find us here.'
And he promptly fell asleep.
Linda applauded loudly as Agnes let the last note of her third song trail away. It was one of her favourites, a ballad concerning a befuddled old man who'd wandered off into a forest one day and encountered several highly improbable things within it, culminating with a woman who could only be described as perfect in every way - who then proceeded to break his heart. It was unkind, but Agnes wasn't famous for her kindly nature, just her singing voice.
'Excellent,' Linda said. 'Truly excellent. I've always liked that
'You're not the only one,' Agnes told her, smiling. She glanced in a nearby mirror to make sure her hair was still acceptable. It wasn't of course - they'd barely had time to get the dust out of their clothes on the way up from London - but she could improve it a little. There was a knock on the door, and it opened.
'Professor Derilim begs to inform you that it will take another five hours before the spell to send you to the moon is ready,' a young student said after sticking her head around the door. 'He suggests that in the mean time you might like to have something to eat, freshen up and perhaps get some sleep.'
'Sounds good to me,' Agnes said. 'I've not slept since before we went to Los Angeles.'
Linda scowled. 'I suppose if we have to wait any longer, we might as well use the time,' she said. 'Lead the way.'
The student led them to a couple of rooms three floors up. Agnes headed straight for the large bath and settled down for a long soak, eyeing the food laid out on the table hungrily. It was that which got her out of the bath after she'd washed her hair. Wrapping a towel around her body, she sat at the table and began to eat.
Four hours later, she was awakened by a knock on the door.
'Yes?' she called.
'It's Linda,' the unmistakeable voice of the Sitter on the Chair of Mina said through the door. 'The spell's nearly ready.'
'Right,' Agnes said. 'Give me a few minutes.'
She dressed in clean clothes, ran over her hair with an Insta-Style brush (not something she normally resorted to, but this was an emergency, and it was better than leaving it to its own devices) and went out into the hall, where Linda was dressed in a rather low-cut black leather bodysuit decorated with polished chains. The room where Professor Derilim had prepared the spell was at the top of a tower, so they took the elevator.
'We've put together some supplies for you,' Derilim said when they arrived, keeping one eye on the faintly glowing circle several students and other Professors were maintaining. 'Food, drink, medical kits and a couple of emergency space survival spells.' He took a small object that looked rather like an overgrown paracetemol capsule out of one of the bags and indicated a large red spot on the end of it. 'Just touch this and think "activate" and the spell will trigger,' he said. 'Or, if you're holding it and are exposed to vacuum, the spell will trigger automatically. It will keep you alive for two days in deep space, which should be long enough for us to pick it up and bring you back to Earth.'
He handed them their bags.
'I also packed some weapons based on what I could find out about what you know how to use,' he said. 'Now, if you're ready?'
He indicated they should enter the circle, then took his place in the wizards surrounding it and began to chant in a deep voice. The others joined him in parts of the spell, chanted counterpoint in others and sometimes broke off with completely different incantations which nevertheless somehow seemed to fit perfectly. Gradually, Agnes began to feel a drifting sensation, and realised she was floating about a foot from the floor. No sooner had she realised this, however, than the room fell away beneath them and they could see the world shrinking below them, faster and faster until it was just the
blue globe familiar from historical records of space exploration. And then the moon was ahead of them, growing larger every moment. Agnes closed her eyes - surely they were going to slam into the surface - but nothing happened.
Gradually, she became aware of a humming sound, and opened her eyes. They stood in a small room, constructed entirely from metal, with a couple of dim lights near the door the only illumination. She
felt peculiarly light.
'Well, we made it,' she said. 'What next?'
'We go and find out why the Americans are up here,' Linda said. 'And then we stop them before they can unleash any more earthquakes on us. Does that suit you?'
'It suits me down to the ground,' Agnes told her. 'Let's go.'
What will Linda and Agnes find on the moon? Will they get captured and have to escape, or has the author tired of that particular plot idea? When will the others join them on the moon, what is Bill up to and why hasn't he been in the story for ages? Find out, in the next fascinating Future Prefect.