The author would like to apologise for the lateness of delivery of this instalment, caused largely by a lack of time and inspiration. The plot's mapped out, but working out how to tell everyone about it isn't so simple. Anyway, I hope it's worth the wait.
Previously in Future Prefect... with the help of Linda's rather impressive power to make people understand truth when it is spoken to them, Bill took over America and ended the war. Now an uneasy peace is restored, and he is working to prepare the world for the
arrival of the extraterrestrial ship - whatever its intentions may be. Having thoroughly caught the saving the world bug during her trip to America and the moon, The Geraldine has caught a plane to America to nag Bill about it.
The Geraldine tracked Bill down in a charred and blackened suburb of Washington. Emerging from a burst water pipe which was still gushing its payload all over the road, she saw the new President of America standing in the back of a pickup truck. He had discarded the green robes of the order who had trained him, and instead wore an expensive suit and tie, which was somewhat spoiled by a light dusting of soot and stone dust.
'No, no, leave that there. I'll move it!' he was shouting at some workmen struggling with a large steel girder.
'Yes, Mr. President,' the workmen replied, and moved out of the way. Bill raised a hand, and the girder floated gently into the air, then settled to the ground about ten metres away.
'Getting to know people, Mr. President?' The Geraldine asked him. Bill spun around with a smile on his face.
'Geraldine!' he exclaimed. 'Don't touch me, I'm covered in soot.'
'I wasn't intending to,' The Geraldine said, eyeing Bill's dirty clothes. 'You need to talk to Bath, he's been single-handedly reconstructing Broadcasting House in London and there's not a bit of dirt on him.'
'Bath worries too much about appearances,' Bill said dismissively. 'Even when he was blowing places apart when we all got captured, he was doing it with flair, just in case anyone was
'Well you should be worrying about that too. You are the President after all.'
'My new panel of advisors think it's good for people to see me helping with the recovery effort from the war. Especially since I've publicly announced it was a bad idea to have it in the first place, and I think I've nearly got the generals to formally apologise to h2g2.'
'So what brings you to America? There are a great many nicer places to go, you know.'
'I'm worried,' The Geraldine told him.
'About that spaceship?'
'Well hold that thought. I've got something to show you.'
Bill jumped down to the road and took The Geraldine's arm.
'I thought you said not to touch you,' she said.
'I can break my own rules if I want to,' Bill replied. Suddenly they were standing in a large office decorated with the finest plasterwork. Bill let go of The Geraldine's arms and went to the desk. The Geraldine noticed that his suit had become impeccably clean some time during
'That's a good spell,' she complimented him. 'No dizziness at all, and very quick to cast.'
'It's a gift of mine,' Bill said. 'I'm trying to work out how to teach other people to do it.'
He punched a button on the top of the desk, and a large section of wall slid away to reveal an enormous screen, displaying what to The Geraldine's eyes were quite primitive diagrams of the inner solar system.
'The holographic displays are on order,' Bill said, noticing her reaction. 'Along with the graphics processors to power them. There seems to be a lot of interest in h2g2's technology since the general population of America found out about it.'
'There would be.'
'Oh yes. Several automobile manufacturers appear to be fighting to the death for exclusive rights to import and make hover vehicles, and the movie industry is suddenly suffering from a desperate need for every A-list celebrity to have a hydrocycle to go with their beach house in Miami.'
The Geraldine shrugged, not knowing much about American culture or industry.
'But anyway, I'm sure you can understand these displays, primitive as they may seem to you,' Bill continued, gesturing at the part of the screen showing a diagram of Earth, the Moon and Mars. A large blue circle indicated the position of the extraterrestrial spacecraft which was now being watched intently by astronomers all over the world.
'That looks fairly normal,' The Geraldine said. Bill touched a control, and the view of the solar system panned towards the sun, to display a region quite close to the orbit of Venus.
'That does, but this doesn't,' he said. A red circle appeared just inside Venus' orbit. 'They're all concentrating so hard on the one we knew about, they haven't seen this one yet.'
'You mean... that's another alien spacecraft?'
'The very same. Lloyd spotted it; he's got a bit of a gift for premonition and remote viewing. He drew these pictures of it.' Bill took some sheets of paper from a drawer and handed them to The Geraldine. They depicted various views of the exterior of a sleek, dagger like ship, and one sketch of what looked to be an interior, complete with crew.
'I checked it myself,' Bill said. 'What he's drawn is as accurate as his skill with a pencil can let it be.'
The Geraldine stared at the picture again.
'But those are humans... what does this mean? Are there humans on the other ship as well? Where did they come from?'
'Lloyd is attempting to find out at the moment,' Bill said. 'He only gave me these pictures this morning. We'll know soon enough.'
'When will the new ship get here?'
'About three hours before the first one, according to my rather vague calculations. I'll ask some astronomers to work it out for me later today.'
'What do they want?'
'We're going to find out, aren't we?'
'When does it arrive again?'
'About five months' time. I'm not going to enjoy waiting for it, that's for sure. Would you like to stay for dinner?'
Meanwhile, on the Moon
Derek had spent a lot of time looking out at the stars since the Americans had returned to Earth after the destruction of their weapon. Somewhere among those gleaming points of light was an extraterrestrial spacecraft which, after months of bombardment by the American weapon, was probably filled with extremely angry beings of some sort. The prospects for peaceful first contact weren't looking particularly good.
Behind him, a circle of light formed on the floor, slowly extending upwards into a glowing cylinder, which vanished with a rush of displaced air. Gillian stepped up to Derek and tapped him on the shoulder.
'Penny for your thoughts?'
'Sorry. Archaic English expression.' She grimaced. 'I really want to go home.'
'But you can't yet. There's still too much for you to do, isn't there?'
'How did you know that?'
Derek smiled slightly. 'One of our prophecies mentioned you. I used to think it was a talent that afflicted some of our people, but since Bill brought you two here and you told us where you came from, I've thought that perhaps one of the things you've still got to do is to go back and plant our prophecies to make sure this all turns out the way it is supposed to.'
'This is hardly the ideal result.'
'You're not going to get much better though, are you? Mucking about with history is a tricky business, and it's not too bad on the whole. We're on the verge of a golden age, I think.'
'Assuming we don't wreck it. Humanity's quite good at that, I've heard.'
'Oh, I don't think that'll happen.'
'What makes you so sure?'
'Natural optimism I guess.' Derek shrugged. 'So what brings you here?'
'Bill wanted me to give you these.' She handed Derek some pencil-drawn sketches. He flicked through them for a few moments.
'The interior of the ship the Americans were firing at, yes.'
'But... what does this mean?'
'It means the rules have changed. You know about the second ship?'
'Yes, Lloyd showed me the sketches. This is definitely not what we were expecting, you know.'
'I know. Why would anyone expect it?'
'Point. But where are they from? And why two ships?'
He looked out at the stars again. 'And why are they coming here now?'
What startling revelation has been revealed about the ship the Americans were firing at? Why is there a second ship, this one full of humans, on the way to Earth as well? Will we have to sit through five months of narrative until both ships arrive? Find out, if you can
stay awake, in the next exciting Future Prefect.