Previously in Future Prefect... Linda went to rescue the moon people from their enslavement. Agnes demonstrated her vocal abilities to the American soldiers, causing them all to pass out and allowing Bath to use his magic to destroy the American weapon on the moon. The Geraldine showed off some of the things she can do with water, while Bite and Bark proved what you can do when you have access to the entire martial arts knowledge of every individual who has ever lived in h2g2 territory.
Three hundred years earlier
Daniel Harris awoke and spent a few blissful moments wondering who he was and what he was supposed to be doing.
Then he remembered. The ships, the magic, the missiles, the magic, the counterspell, the pain...
There had been so much pain. Now he was here, and when the pain came again the people in white took it away, if he called for them to come. He vaguely remembered somebody trying to explain something to him, days ago, maybe longer. He hadn't understood it, couldn't remember it.
He got out of bed and sat on the floor, leaning against the wall. It was soft and warm, as was the floor. Comfortable. He liked to sit here and watch the tree out of the window, see its branches waving in the wind, and the birds sitting in it. He didn't see the man looking in
through the glass panel in the door.
'His mind has almost totally gone,' Lloyd said, turning away from the door. 'The backlash from our counterspell affected him badly.'
'It's a risk, but what were we supposed to do? Let them flatten New York with that tsunami?' Gillian, a tall, slim and beautiful witch in her mid-twenties, had been the leader of the circle which had cast that particular counterspell. She was also the first person in England who'd realised she had the gift for magic.
'Certainly not,' Lloyd assured her. 'The price is regrettable, but necessary.'
'It wouldn't have been necessary if they'd been a bit more subtle! We'd have been able to make contact with them properly, help them along, but they had to go blundering into it with all their ignorance! At least we were careful-'
'And look where we ended up before we had help,' Lloyd interrupted. 'Imagine if we'd had to work out all the rules by trial and error, like they were doing. They got further than we did, I'll give them that - but it wouldn't have been long before they overstepped the line. The ones who didn't get caught in the backlash realise that, at least. Best if you did too.'
Gillian assumed a sulky expression. 'I know perfectly well that they couldn't have continued like that without suffering serious consequences from a mistake,' she said. 'It was me, after all, who-'
'And we said we would never tell anybody about that,' Lloyd interrupted her again. 'Nobody must know.'
Gillian nodded absently, and they walked on down the corridor, then rode up several floors in an elevator, emerging in a large, high-ceilinged room, brightly but gently lit by the sunlight shining through the windows which comprised most of the walls, diffused by the thin
muslin curtains drawn across them. In the middle of the room, a slightly portly young man dressed in dark green robes was kneeling on absolutely nothing about two feet from the floor, his eyes closed and his hands spread to his sides, palms upwards, fingers relaxed. A
slowly rotating ball of energy, looking not unlike a miniature sun, floated above each palm, and there was a subtle but definite aura in the air around him.
As they entered the room, he opened his eyes and sank to the floor, the energy balls and aura vanishing. He got to his feet.
'Any improvement?' he asked.
'No. He remains unchanged,' Lloyd reported. The news brought a frown to the young man's face.
'Are you sure? No sign of improvement at all?'
'Certain. May I ask, why is this wizard from the Channel Islands so important?'
'Both of you are unique in this place in knowing where I am from, and why I am here. You know what I intend to do here. Unfortunately, Daniel Harris is rather vital to the continuation of my intentions, and he has to be of sound mind in order to carry out the things he must do!' He frowned again. 'If only... that's it!'
Gillian stepped forwards. 'If only what?'
'If only we had people with greater skills in magical healing!' The green-robed man suddenly became excited. 'What we need are the best healing wizards available - the wizards who trained me.'
'Bill... if you bring more people from your time with you...'
'No, no, I'm going to take Daniel forward to my time. Three hundred years of progress, who knows what they can do to him? Perhaps we can teach him a few things while we're at it. I'll have to be careful of course...' he drifted off into thought for a few moments, muttering
under his breath. 'It should work though.' He took in the expressions on their faces. 'Don't look so disapproving! I'll bring him back a few moments after I left, no one will ever notice he's been gone. With any luck, though, he'll be his usual lucid self again, and we won't have
missed a minute of our timetable.' He laughed. 'Who knows, this is probably the way I'm supposed to do it anyway. I'll have to find out when I get back.'
Bill raised a hand and cast out a flaring circle of light. A sharp gesture, and Daniel appeared next to him with a slight pop. Bill looked over at Lloyd and Gillian.
'Want to come and see the future?'
Three hundred years later
The first thing Gillian decided about time travel is that she didn't like it at all. First, there was a swirling sensation, then a rather unsettling feeling not unlike being ripped out of the fabric of reality and dropped down a very deep hole.
They landed at the bottom of it, and Gillian blinked, looking around. They appeared to have arrived in the middle of a forest clearing. Blue sky was visible overhead, and the wind rustled gently in the leaves of the trees, which were predominantly oak. The air seemed
extremely fresh and clear.
'Where are we?'
'Exactly where we were, I should hope,' Bill said, brushing off his robes, for he had stumbled upon arrival and got leaf mulch on them. 'Just about three hundred and four years, two months and six days further forward in time. That's roughly a day after I left.'
'So...' Gillian frowned, trying to get her head around the concept of time travel and its effects. 'So you've been with us in our time for nearly a year, but you can come back only a day after you left?'
'Of course. I could come back before I originally left if I wanted to, but I don't know what would happen if I ran into myself. As far as I'm aware, I'm the first human with the ability to time travel, and the rules are a little hazy. I prefer not to take chances.'
'That's probably wise,' Lloyd agreed. 'So this is Somerset three hundred years in the future?'
'Yes. I don't know England that well myself, I'm from America, but I gather there's a large forest in southern Somerset in this time.'
'Looks like it's been here a long time,' Gillian said.
'About fifty years. They used magic to help it along,' Bill added at the disbelieving looks. 'It's extremely common in this time.'
'Oh yes. Most of the people in this part of the world have at least some small amount of magical ability. Not many people have the potential to become full-blown wizards or witches, but there are a good many people with some rather unusual skills.' He sighed.
'What's wrong?' Gillian asked.
'America missed out on so much. I wish I'd grown up here.' He noted their uncomprehending looks. 'Of course, you wouldn't know as it hasn't happened yet as far as you're concerned, and you'd never find out about it anyway. To put it in a nutshell, in your time it won't be long before America becomes isolated from the rest of the world, which becomes united under the example of h2g2. You've heard of h2g2, I take it?'
'Of course. I remember watching Peta's state funeral when I was a girl.'
'Good. Now, once isolated, America finds that there are a couple of magic-users in their population. Instead of taking advantage of them, they react out of fear, and they are killed. It doesn't take long before anyone with even a glimmer of magic in America dares not use it, and magic essentially dies out. Some still have the genetic ability, but since nobody ever uses it, it rarely expresses. So while the rest of the world have three hundred years to develop more and more powerful and complex magic, America lags behind.'
'But you're from America. How did you find out you could be a wizard?'
'Some dustbins told me. It's a long story, but I met some people from h2g2 who'd come secretly to America and needed to find information about something with affected them greatly. I was sympathetic to their cause, and helped them, and along the way I found out about my powers. Suitable arrangements were made, and I was able to leave America for
Bavaria, where the first ability I discovered was that of time travel. Time was rather short then, as it is now, so I used it to travel backwards in time several years so I could have a more complete training period. Once I'd come back to this point in time again, I had figured out some of the more obscure parts of the history surrounding the split between America and h2g2, and concluded that I had to travel back in time to help you. So that's what I did. Your attempt to locate any experienced wizards in the world in your time helped, of course.
Once I arrived I didn't have a clue where to look, but then your spell lit up the entire planet.'
'So now what?' Lloyd asked.
'Well, first I see if Daniel here can be helped, and if we can restore him to his right mind, I'll take him back to your time. He still has things to do there, according to our history at least.' Daniel had flopped back onto the leaf mulch and was staring absently a the sky, showing not the slightest sign that he even knew the others were there.
Bill smiled. 'You'll find out.'
So at last we find out what happened to Bill during all the action elsewhere. But has he now accomplished his destiny by helping the English wizards of three hundred years in the past, or is there more to come? And what are his intentions of Gillian and Lloyd? Come to think of it, what's happening with the h2g2 invasion of America while Bill is swanning about in the fourth dimension? Read the next Future Prefect, and you may discover the answers to some of these questions... if you're lucky.