Previously in Future Prefect... our heroes are almost completely reunited on the moon, but the action skipped back to Earth where America is busily invading h2g2. Observing all this is the fairly mysterious Bill, who used to be a simple if large and fat American teenager but now appears to be involved in some far more unusual things than a few illegal pieces of software.
Towella was tired, but the heat of advancing burned in her blood as she rode in the back of an aircar, her maps displayed before her as she directed troop movements to harry the retreating Americans back towards Siberia. They'd advanced a considerable distance during the two days since the initial attack, but finally the unprepared forces of h2g2 had rallied and were pushing them back despite their continued attempts to use nuclear weaponry to punch holes in the defences. It had worked at first, but some wizards had arrived from Australia who were proving particularly talented in detecting and countering nuclear detonations before they did any serious damage.
'Get some more air support over our southern column,' she ordered. 'The American bombers are slowing them down, and they have to arrive on time or the whole plan falls apart.'
There were acknowledgements, and gradually the reports showed that the southern column was moving at full speed again as the American bombers were shot down before they could drop any of their payloads.
'Persistent, aren't they?' she muttered, watching the graphical representation of another wave of American fighters, hopelessly outnumbered, attempting to defend the bombers. It didn't work. Some more people died, and the southern column carried on moving.
After the greetings, hugs and inevitable 'what have you been doing?' stories, Pord called the reunited group into some sort of order.
'I'm afraid we have something of a problem,' he said. 'I managed to find out what the Americans are shooting at. There's an object just inside the asteroid belt on a course to intercept Earth in about six months' time. The Americans believe it's an extraterrestrial spacecraft, and they also believe that it is hostile. That is what they are shooting at.'
'And is it hostile?' Agnes asked.
'I don't have the slightest idea,' he said. 'I can't reach out that far, and if it is an extraterrestrial craft, I probably wouldn't understand what they're thinking anyway. However, I don't think shooting at an alien ship is a good way to encourage peaceful relations, do you?'
'No, not really. So we destroy this place?'
'That's the plan, yes,' Pord confirmed.
'Sound's good to me. Let's do it.'
'Anyone want to say anything?' Pord asked the others.
'What about our people?' Derek asked, looking over at Patrick. 'There are hundreds of us here.'
'We'll make sure they get released,' Pord assured him. 'I was actually hoping to minimise damage to the base itself, otherwise we'll kill a lot of people we don't have to.'
'And how are you going to accomplish that?' Bath asked.
'I was hoping you could come up with a spell to rip the weapon to pieces without any of the usual mucking about with explosives.'
Bath considered that for a moment.
'Makes sense,' he said. 'I'll see what I can do. Although I have to say, you've spoiled all my expectations. I was looking forward to some nice explosions.'
'You can blow things up when we get back to Earth. Now, we'll need to split up. Agnes, take Linda, Derek and Patrick and get the moon people out of here. Bath, Bite, Bark, The Geraldine and myself will make our way to the weapon and destroy it.
'Let's go then.'
Bill raised his hand to knock on the door of the old lady's house, but it opened before his knuckles contacted it. The butler bowed slightly to him.
'Welcome back, sir,' he said. 'Please come inside.'
In the living room, the old lady sat in a chair watching flames crackling in the fireplace. She looked around when Bill entered the room.
'There you are,' she said. 'The Dustbins have been expecting you back.'
'I've only been gone a week or so,' Bill said.
'By our time, yes. They suggested to me that you've experienced considerably more time than that. They've grown quite talkative. I moved them into the kitchen so they could keep me company when I'm cooking.'
'I'd like to speak to them, if I may.'
'Not as much as they'd like to speak with you, I'm sure,' the lady replied. 'Feel free, it's just through that door.'
Bill went into the kitchen and closed the door behind him. The dustbins stood in a line by the cooker, rattling their lids.
'Hail, ye from nearby. Thou hast discovered thy destiny.'
'Not quite. I need to know more,' Bill said.
'Thou knowest all that thou doth need to know. One thing only shall we tell thee.'
'And what's that?'
'The time at which thou must begin thy task. When the sun doth rise once more, and travel across the sky to its zenith, must thou begin.'
'Noon tomorrow, then.'
There was a short, slightly sulky silence from the dustbins.
'Approximately, thou art correct. Go now, and rest, for thou shalt require all thy strength to succeed on the morrow.'
'I have one more question,' Bill said. 'I hear that the cause of the earthquakes is a weapon on the moon, firing at an extraterrestrial spacecraft. You, however, said that it was climate control technology gone awry.'
The dustbins rattled their lids.
'We were correct,' they said. 'But the situation doth change like the wind. Thou shalt understand more upon the morrow.'
What is it that Bill has to do at noon tomorrow? Will the enormous hole in the plot which the Dustbins left us with resolve itself, or will the author have to do some serious work to accomplish this feat? Find out in the next exciting instalment of Future Prefect.