Previously in Future Prefect... After travelling to the moon, our heroes and heroines Bath, Pord, The Geraldine, Bite and Bark pick up a new ally - a native of Luna by the name of Derek. Meanwhile, elsewhere on the moon, Linda and Agnes took a nap in preparation for attempting to find out where all the moon people the Americans took prisoner are, and what's being done to them. And somewhere that's definitely not anywhere near where the story's taking place at the moment, Bill continued to not be mentioned.
'You want us to run?'
'Yes.' Bath regarded The Geraldine levelly as he explained the time limits on the spell that would allow them to survive without spacesuits while they trekked fifty kilometres across the lunar surface. 'You know, it's not as hard to run on the moon, there's less gravity here.'
'I don't care,' The Geraldine said. 'I'm wearing entirely the wrong shoes.'
'Wouldn't it be a better idea to just conjure up some spacesuits?' Bite suggested. Everyone stared at him.
'I never thought of that,' Bath admitted. 'Spacesuits it is then.'
It didn't take the wizard long to produce enough spacesuits for everyone, and they left the moonbase through an airlock which Derek pointed out to them. While at first The Geraldine found it fascinating to bounce her way across the lunar surface, enjoying the barran landscape and the low gravity, after about twenty kilometres it became boring. By thirty it was mind-numbing, and by forty she was almost ready to take her helmet off just to see what would happen.
'I never realised quite how boring it is here,' Derek mused over the helmet transmitter at just about that time.
'You're not kidding,' The Geraldine shot back.
'Sssh!' Bark said. 'The American base is not far ahead.' The Guru had climbed the edge of a rather large crater, and was waving to them from the top of it. They all followed him up, and looked over it to see the American base spread out below them. It was clearly defined into different areas - transparent domes filled with greenery, presumably where food was grown and oxygen recycled, nestled alongside blocky grey cuboids, solar panels, a scorched launchpad and an enormous dish-like apparatus which towered above the rest, mounted on a base that allowed it to face any part of the visible sky.
'What's that?' Pord asked, pointing at it.
'I was hoping you could tell us,' Bath told him. 'Surely someone down there knows what it's for.'
'Oh,' Pord said, blushing inside his helmet. 'I should have thought of that.'
There was a pause while he reached out with his mind, and then his voice was very quiet.
'I think we should go down there and find Linda and Agnes,' he said.
'Because that thing is a weapon, and it's aimed at an alien spacecraft just outside the orbit of Mars,' Pord told them. There was a long silence.
'Best be off then, hadn't we?' The Geraldine said, and headed down into the crater.
Meanwhile, inside the American moonbase
After resting, Linda and Agnes, once more under the cover of Agnes' ability to become invisible, made their way to the part of the base which housed the moon people prisoners. It wasn't particularly hard to find, as prisoners were being marched in and out of it all the time. All the two women had to do was find some prisoners being taken back, and follow them.
Thus they found themselves in a darkened room with several large cells around its edge. The occupants of the cells were lying down on thin mattresses, attempting to sleep. After a hard day's work, sleeping wasn't particularly difficult for most of them, but Agnes and Linda found one person they recognised from the Queen's audience cave, who was sitting up and staring at the ceiling.
He gave a start when they appeared suddenly right on the opposite side of the bars, then his eyes widened in recognition.
'You! What are you doing here? You'll be captured. And I don't think you'll find a life of slavery at the end of your interrogation.'
'Slavery? So that's what it's about,' Linda said. 'They treat you as slaves?'
'Yes. We work ten hours a day, then we're fed and watered and made to sleep. Then we get fed again, and work some more. It's been this way since the Americans came back to the moon, about ten years ago. We had escaped, but as you saw, they found us again and brought us back.'
'Do you know why they came back to the moon?' Agnes asked.
'I've heard them talking. We're not supposed to know anything of course, but I've picked up bits here and there.'
'Do you know what the machine does?'
'Yes, I do. I overheard two of the technicians talking about it when it was being built.'
'It's a weapon. Aimed at deep space, although I don't know what they're firing at. They all seem petrified that they won't succeed in destroying whatever the target is though.'
Linda thought for a moment. 'An asteroid, perhaps?' she speculated.
'Could be, although given the numbers we saw in the control room, I'd think it'd be able to take out most asteroids with one hit,' Agnes said.
'True. Unless they're not very accurate.'
'We should find out. I don't think destroying it when we don't know what it's supposed to be used against would be a good thing, even given the damage it's caused to h2g2. For all we know, it could be preventing something worse.'
'Somehow I doubt that,' Linda said. 'But you're right.' She turned to the moon person. 'Do you think you could guide us to somewhere we might be able to find out what this weapon is for?'
'Yes, I think so,' the man replied. 'But it will be difficult to avoid detection.'
'Even if we're all invisible?' Agnes asked lightly. 'What's your name?'
'Well then Patrick, let's see about getting you out of this cell, shall we?'
Freeing Patrick was accomplished with surprising ease. The Americans clearly didn't seem to have thought that someone might be able to come and free their prisoners, so Agnes, invisible again, was easily able to sneak out and steal an electronic key which opened the door.
Patrick led the two women back towards the control room, then stopped them in a corridor, near to a small nondescript door.
'Technicians' library,' he whispered to them. 'Should be useful.'
He opened the door carefully, then froze in startlement. From inside the room came an exclamation in a familiar voice, and Linda pushed past him, gesturing at Agnes to lower their invisibility protection.
'Pord!' she said. 'So nice of you to come.'
So now that almost everyone is reunited, are we ever going to find out what the weapon is firing at, and why the Americans think it's so dangerous? And where's Bill? Find out in the next exciting Future Prefect. It's not as good as chocolate, but it ain't half bad.