Sometime later at the Moscow Airport. The unholy duo waited for a flight...
...and waited some more...
Finally Rasputin, his eyes glowing red with anger, strode up to the young woman behind the flight desk. His attempts at hypnosis garnered no improvement in the level of service whatsoever; thus thwarted Rasputin crashed back down into the cheap plastic seat cursing unspeakable things under his breath.
Cursing, The Mad Monk settled in to wait, his evil mind plotting world domination, his toe tapping to the catchy tune leaking out over the intercom.
Rasputin squirmed uncomfortably in the plastic seat. Their flight had been delayed again, and he was wondering about relieving his frustration by hanging up the check-in girl and eviscerating her. Tim had assured him it wouldn't help, but he believed in experimentation.
"Tim" he said airily,"who is the most powerful person on the planet?"
Tim looked up, annoyed, from the Jeffrey Archer novel he'd picked up from the stands and was trying to get into.
"Most people would say that's the President of the United States of America. He's the leader of the free world, you see. They are electing a new one right now. But you might want to aim a little lower than that" He harrumphed, and opened the book again.
The Mad Monk sighed, and wandered off to get some coffee. He had the patience born of decades of suffering in Hell, but only now did he comprehend true mind-numbing boredom. He got the coffee, and to amuse himself he persuaded the vendor to pour the vat of steaming liquid over his own head. Leaving the screams and confusion behind him, he strolled into the lounge area where a TV was on CNN.
"Choosing The lesser of Two Evils: - America Votes", intoned the dramatic disembodied voice of the show's anchor.
It cut then to a replay of a press conference of the incumbent standing behind a podium regurgitating his speech:
"So... in conclusion... you must let the our party build a better future... for our children... for our country... and especially for our children. Thank you... good night... and God Bless... America"
To thunderous applause from the carefully vetted members of sympathetic press junkets, the candidate was manhandled off-stage by his aides. Rasputin stroked his wirey beard thoughtfully.
"I can surely do better than that." He mused, as he walked back to the departure gate.
The World turns... and in an unspecified location, an elderly clown was waking up with a bad headache.
Gonzaroolio rolled over, yawned, stretched, hit his head off the low stone ceiling and promptly passed out again. A few minutes later after he regained consciousness again, his primal survival instincts prevented him from making the same mistake. He gingerly swung his legs over the sides of what passed for a bed and looked around the small room. The walls were polished slabs decorated with carved spiral patterns and, reaching down with inquiring toes, deduced that the floor cold stone. The only furniture was the bed and to his utters confusion, an old cast-iron laundry wringer.
"I've been kidnapped by some militant dry cleaners?" he tested the idea out loud, and quickly discarded it.
He was absorbed examining the wringer when one of the slabs went grinding back and two heavies came into the room.
Gonzaroolio looked at them approvingly. They were your proper, solid henchmen types, with apes clearly visible in the lower branches of their family trees; all overhanging lips and dragging knuckles, with beady little eyes and short tempers.
The old clown was pleased in some obscure corner of his heart. He may be in the hands of a villain, but at least they were a traditionalist.
They jostled him professionally through more low, stone corridors to a central atrium - the walls curved away at the edge of seeing. The central hall opened out into a large roughly oval-shaped space - there was a domed ceiling of slabs, in which there were suspended shapes. At first Gonzaroolio couldn't quite make out. Occasionally they were illuminated with little bolts of blue lightning chasing each other through the air, leaping from vast pieces of arcane machinery which seemed designed to do only one thing: and that was to shoot little sparks of blue electricity at each other.
And in the centre of the room, sitting at an ancient altar and tapping away at a laptop, was Annabel. She looked up and gave a brief, joyless smile.
"Ah!" she exclaimed,"You're awake."
Gonzaroolio opened his mouth to give a pithy reply, but thought better of it. The be-suited woman had already turned her
attention back to the laptop. He figured he'd let things see how they played out.
"Oh yes" she continued, eyes fixed on the screen, "I expect you're wondering where you are and who I am and what my evil plan is. Only can it wait? I've got to close this deal now or Mobius is going to defer payment again. Suffice to say that you're underneath Stonehenge now, in the centre of an age-old conspiracy. OK? Ciao, babe. We'll dialogue later." and with that returned to her laptop.
"Wait!" called Gonzaroolio, somewhat taken aback at how is own voice echoed - "There's one thing I have to know."
Annabel raised an eyebrow.
"What's with that laundry-wringer?"
"Oh that old thing?" she said dissmissivly. "Well, it was just cluttering up the place, so I said, let's put it in the holding cell, out of the way. OK?"
"Yeah, Ta!" and so mildly less baffled, the clown was led back through the prehistoric tunnels to his cell.
Some distance away and also underground...
"What conspiracy?" asked Robin.
"An ancient one" bustled Richter unhelpfully.
"Yes, yes - you've told me that already."
"I have?" said Richter absently looking up from the piles of manuscripts he was busily sifting through before stalking off to the other side of the cave. Robin chased after him.
Richter made his way up the long fight of stairs as they spiralled around the main spire of rock up toward the central
He spoke as he strode.
"Some time around the turn of the new millennium - it's so hard to be precise about these thing, I'm mean the old races tried to be accurate. Drawing constellations invisible to the human eye without telescopes and all that but that's just nothing compared to a good digital watch in my opinion... anyway, by consulting the entrails of certain animals they prophesised, now; the return of a dark and terrible evil. It is, I believe, that evil that triggered our seismographs the other night1"
"My god!" said Robin quietly, studying the laces in his shoes and twirling his cape nervously.
"Are you sure? - about Stone Henge I mean."
"There is more to that site than you could possibly know. - oh no!" he said quickly - panic sweeping across his face - he cleared the last few steps in a sort of agitated shuffle.
"I only pray they haven't discovered The Artefact."
"Ancient druid technology, boy. Beyond the comprehension of even today's scientists. It is the key to stopping the evil but if miss-used it could doom us all. Our one saving grace my be that they have not yet discovered it or have no idea of it's significance."
"Why what does it look like?"
"It is shaped to like an old cast-iron laundry wringer." said Richter hastily trying to access the computer and looking back over his shoulder...