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Jake x (1) multiverse f.., p.1
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       Jake X (1) Multiverse Fugitive, p.1

           Peter Magycon
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Jake X (1)  Multiverse Fugitive


  By Peter Magycon

  COPYRIGHT © 2015

  All rights reserved

  Chapter 1

  Orbiter Commander

  LOG , ORBITER probably about May or June year unknown, Good breakfast, bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, tomato, new sauce, Waybread toast and coffee. CLEO gets all the ingrediants from a machine. FIDO cooks on another and a third machine gobbles up used plates, cups and cutlery.CLEO says I am an alien Prince but I think I am a kidnapped human who has been put up here to keep me out of the way! Main report: the I have put on weight but the fight goes on! The invaders must be defeated! I have send gunships, rockets, tanks, armoured robots and super nukes to all corners of the globe. I cannot join the fight directly because Iwe have no transfer vessel but I can send war materials.The Orbitor is mnch cleaner after FIDO activated a squadron of cleaning bots. They scurried around like mice. The onboard computer has finally come on line and reports that Orbiter has been here for 12,500 earth years! Why so lomg? Why is it here?Why am I here? How did I get here? I have no answers! Why do I have peculiar ears and who sewed them on?Lots of questions nobody to answer except computer CLEO who is obsessed with chess! At the moment sheCL. The computer is busy playing (by remote) in a big tournament in Moldavia,. World Semi Finals! FIDO and me will be train spotting near the corridor which has about 500 metres of the East Coast Main Line running down it. Amazing engineering feat to bring a part of the ECML up here without the peple even knowing it! Another example of alien super high tech. Beating them will be hard but I am here as a secret agent using their own weapons of them,the bastards! have copped nine LNER namers this morning.I am starting to think of FIDO as a friend who alsc wants to get all the namers and “cop the lot.’ I found a pack of playing cards under the console …”

  It was now quiet on the Orbitor. Jake sat on his collapsible chair at the far end of the East Coast Main Line. FIDO stood next to him. Then an elf suddenly appeared! An elf! Walking straight down the railway.The elf glowed, even through the bright fluorescent lights. He stopped briefly to examine his surroundings. Smoke blackened tunnel walls smelling of coal dust, smoke and steam. Computer CLEO had explained that she had teleported the track up to the Orbitor. Trains were now diverted into the Orbitor but crews and passengers had no idea this happened! Getting an operating section of the ECML onto a satellite was an engineering feat of the first magnitude! Astonishing, even for a modest superstar like CLEO herself.”

  The elf continued walking towards the two train spotters. Jake was dressed in a blue doublet with ski pants and ornately carved boots. His mop of blondfair hair outlined a freckled face, a pronounced Jakeed nose and a pair of large elvish ears. Ears that were pointed at the top and bottom,definitely not normal ears.. FIDO was standing next to Jake, a golden, metallic figure looking like a bit player from Star Wars. The two train spotters stared at the elf as he came closer. The elf was dressed in a green doublet with long boots and bright red trousers.His huge ears framed a cheerful face with ruddy cheeks.

  Where had this elf come from?

  Obviously not from war torn Earth …unless he was one of the invaders!

  The mysterious invaders! Jake had never actually seen the invaders who were hidden inside giant walkers and massive tanks. They might be insects! They might be colored green, blue, pink or purple. Or t The invaders might well be elves! Invading elves! Invaders who had knocked Jake out, stitched on elvish ears and then putleft him up here in the Orbitor while they took over histhe planet!

  But they had forgotten one thing!

  The Orbitor was armed!

  Forgotten for thousands of years but still armed to the teeth!

  Jake could and did fight from Space!

  The elf drew near. FIDO appeared to immediately recognize himthe elf: The golden robot spoke: in his broken metallic voice: “Elf Lord Alaric! Welcome aboard! I will prepare tea immediately,”

  He rolled away to his private cubby.

  Jake sat on his spotting stool thinking. An elf had walked in! Quite possibly an invader! FIDO had recognized the elf .

  Did this mean that FIDO was also an invader?

  An invader with a deep cover? Jake’s allowance of TV (nightly from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm) had taught him all about spies with deep cover and people like Jame Bond who could shoot you while pussying up to a good looking girl – who was probably also a spy!

  Even computer CLEO might be an alien spy, using chess as a deep cover!His friend and spotting partner?

  But….the more immediate problem – why wHad this elf arrived on a transport ship? If so, the ship could now be commandeered and used to get down to Earth! But who would supply Earth’s Defenders with weapons and consumables if Jake went down to fight? Earth’s Forces would have no supply of replacement ammo! No reinforcements!

  No Commander to rely on in these desperate days of planetary conflict.

  Was this elf actually here?

  T to neutraliseneutralize Jake? To take out the top gun?

  But there was no time to consideration this vital matter. The Orbitor

  wwasas nearing the moment in its erratic orbit when Jake could and must act to save Earth!. So Jake simply ignored the newcomer.

  He stood u[p, gathered his spotting manuals and walked up the track.

  His feet crunched on gravel.

  The signals rested. No trains.

  He turned onto the main deck with its polished steel floor.

  Jake He moved to the console and sat down.

  The elf followed him, climbing over the railway to stand next to him.

  The elf executed a sweeping bow!

  “Elf Prince Jake! Your Imperial Grace! Razor of the Ever Expanding Perimeter!Outer Galaxy! Scion of the Secret Cabal! Stealthy Misanthrope! Command your servant,Alaric of Your Murderous Throng! Why are you here and what can I do?

  Jake turned to the elf with an icy stare.

  “I am not Prince Jake and you can stop your foolish pretence. We both know who I am! T the Space Commander, the Planetary Defender! Jake snapped. “Numero Uno! “I am not Prince Jake! As you well know I am not an elf! I am not a member of your murderous throng of invaders! I am Copen Jake Hagen, Commander of the Orbiting Defender,cargedam a human being charged to defend my planet against Invaders! You may have kidnapped me and sewn on huge flapping ears! But you cannot change my inner self! I am human!”

  He indicated a chair.

  “Sit and learn how one human is I am repelling yourt Murderous Throng!”

  Alaric sat.

  Jake began operating the toggle. The main screen began to flash. A map of planet earth showed red jags of lightening flashing at various parts of the globe, A list scrolled down. Main war areas: Russia,, North America,Scotland, Australia, Antarctica. Position critical Russia, Scotland.

  A list of “Available Ordinance “ scrolled down screen . Blasters, Ground Annihalators, Armourecd Infantry, Super Cannon (heavy) , Super Cannon (light) Orbiing H Bombers. Each notation was followed by a number indicatingshowing inventory.

  “Moscow!” snapped Jake. “Status?”

  A red hued picture appeared . It was tiitled “Cossacks Smashed!!”

  The screen cleared and showed an open square surrounded by buildings which looked vaguely Asiatic. A title: Red Square, Moscow.A small group of mounted mounted Cossacks soldiers dressed in red pants and blue tops made a hopeless charge against a massive column of strange looking tanks. The tanks fired some kind of energy beam, mowing down riders and horses indiscriminately. Soon the floor of Red Sqare was covered with dead Coss

  Jake ground his teeth and bristled angrily.

  “Send one squadron of H bombers to Moscow…warn defence to take maximum cover....bomb the bastardsinvaders to hell!”

  The Orbitor rocked as a squadron of bombers peeled off. They dived towards the planet. Jake glanced at the receding shapes through a pothole and then turned his attention back to the screen.

  Jake: “Scotland!”

  A view of what was presumably a Scottish moor now came into view. A lonely bagpiper played “Down In The Glen.” The surrounding hills appeared to be on fire. A weird landing craft was advancing towards a line of kilted figures waving swords. The defenders were being chopped down like nine pins from a murderous blast of raw energy.

  Jake hit the desk in fury!

  .He spat:Jake: “Eight Heavy Blasters to Scotland! Eliminate invading landing craft! Then sSeek out and destroy all landing craft!”

  The floor bucked as thre screen showed as succession of spacecraft left were were shown leaving the

  Orbitor and divingheading towards the planet below.

  A voice intoned: “Ten seconds to black outremain.Critical Problem: east coast USA!

  Third tidal wave! Fleet caused by squadron of alien carriers using neutron bombs! American defence fleet decimated! President appeals for your help!”

  Jake (furiously): “Dispatch Heavy Rescue units six and eight , New York! Arm plus Kamikaze

  Attack Squadron Nine with supernukes! Dispatch East Coast USA and eEliminate alien bomb carriers!””

  There was a bright flash on screen as more ships peeled off the orbiting craft and dived towards the distant planet. The whole interior of the Oorbitor sJake as the ships left..

  The screen suddenly faded to black.. Jake slumped forward onto the console. “So little time! So much to do! So many dead! My poor planet!”

  The elf started. “Your poor planet,Sire? Have we invaded?””

  Jake stood up and glared at him:

  “Yes! My planet Have you?Are you one of the…. iInvader!s?”

  His stood up and hisw hand now rested on the pommel of his sword.

  “I am not an invader!Certainly not!” said the elf. “I am Alaric your faithdful leige lord!”

  He continuedis hand was now on his own sword pommel.: “Your Majesty! I am stunned by those vids of Scotland. They are total fakes! I was actually in Scotland less than 24 hours ago! I arrived on the Multiverse Express and got off at the first point marked on the Ozro work sheet. A remote Request Stop on a Scottish Moor!. with no Rentry Port.. I found a bleak moor, a tunnel under a rock, a basic dwelling stocked with food and, drink, facilities, And it was unoccupied! nNo sign of any warlike activities, no sigh of your Royal Party! So, I put on my full Bigwig disguise and travelled down the East Coast Main LineAnd n. oNo sign of any war! I travelled on through Engand, reached London, got back onto the Multiverse Express and , travelled to the second dwelling point on the Ozro worksheet., Chirnside Park in Australia. It was uUnoccupied!, still no sign of your party! I rested there overnight. Then I decided to come up on the transfer vessel and see if there was any sign of you up here on the Orbitor. and found the flip ship. I decided to go up to this Orbitor and check. And here I am!”

  Jake was gazing narrowly at the elf when the robot came forward with a tray piled with scones and a silver teapot.

  “Tea or coffee, Lord Alaric?’

  The robot spoke in a grating voice as if his vocal chords needed oiling.

  “Tea!” said the elf.

  As the robot served there was an explosive pop. The figure of a girl appeared, standing next to Jake.

  Her half naked body was covered in tatoos.

  “Elf Lord Alaric! How gracious of you to visit this happy household! I am the new USSR Remote Chess Champion, soon to be Remote World Chess Champion! I am the Royal Carer, Computer hologram CLEO!’

  “Royal Carer?“

  The elf was startled.

  His teacup rattled.

  Alaric: “Is his majesty ill?”

  CLEO: “Lord Alaric, we should discuss his case in private. Please move to Mmy stateroom? over there…” She

  She indicated a door.

  Alaric walked over and entered a sumptuous stateroom.

  The hologramphic girl was now lying on a divan.

  Alaric: “Where is your hardware?”

  CLEO: “I am connected to the Orbitor onboard computer via the desk.The onboard computer is now working again after a long period of neglect!”

  The hologram pointed to a desk at the far end of the room.”

  Alaric: “What is His Majesties illness?”

  CLEO: “He is suffering from split personality. He believes he is an earthman who has been kidnapped by aliens and given Elvish ears! As part of his treatment I have constructed a 4 D vid of earth under attack by aliens! He is the Earth Defender! By the way, I won the silver turnip as the Most Talented Remote Chess Newcomer of the Year! Next step is the world championship! Do you like this hologram?”

  The elf stared at the tattooed figure.

  Alaric: “I sat with the Prince and saw a vid! Ssections of the planet under violent attack! Places I have recently visited, perfectly peaceful places! Now I find the Prince thinks the planet is being invaded by aliens! Elvish aliens! He apparently launched several ships from this portal….what is going on?”

  CLEO: “I compiled a clever program to assist his treatment! A I have programmed a video planetary war with full sensories. When the fake

  war ships take off with supplies this Orbitorship actually shudders! Full sensory realism! The Orbitor computer takes care of that! Between war activites the Prince train spots in the corridor. These activities keep him busy while I am busy playing chess. I have made sure he stays fit. He also has a daily swordfight with the robot, --and for ongoing mental capability he has learned to drive a steam train! He eats really, really well! I have a Cordon Black cooking program. And…” the hologram paused as if about to give tremendous news: “ I hope you will stay for lunch? I will shortly become Earththis planets Chess Champion. Would you care for a quick game right now?

  A holographic chess board appeared with pieces in place.

  CLEO: “Please make your opening move! All practice is beneficial! ”

  Alaric (ignoring the chess board) “Why is the entry deck covered in gravel and a pair of railway lines?”

  CLEO “To assist with trainspotting. To add realism!FIDO is also keen on spotting. My railway display is an ultra hologram of marvellous ingenuity! I have a compete file of all steam namers as per 1952! My creation is

  more than just brtilliant! It is titanilly stupendously !!”marvellous!”

  Alaric: “The Prince must get back to Multiverse Central for urgent treatment right now! There is no tiome to waste.”

  CLEO: “But I must win the World Champs first! Then I can accelerate histhe program, increase the

  flow of namers, kill off the aliens, exhaust the inventory of weapons and

  tell him he needs to go to Multiverse Central to copthe rarest namers!”

  I must compete in the chess finals. Surely that ismust be the main issue?”

  Alaric: “The main issue? The main issue!!! A trip over most of Universe Zero to make a computer the world chess champion of a savage world! The

  While the Prince is obviously off his rocker! There is no feasible reason

  tTo delay!”


  Alaric: “Silence!”

  His face was now suddenly suffused to a mottled red.

  He moved to the door and shouted a savage: “FIDO!”

  The robot appeared.

  Alaric: “Remove the computers drive from the console and give the unit to me. I will carry it. Pick up Prince Jake and carry him to the docking bay! We must return to Multiverse Central for urgent shock treatment!”

  The robot immediately moved over to the console

  The figure of CLEO was
wringing her holograppic hands in anguish.

  “But Lord Alaric! The finals will be held soon! Why….”

  The hologram vanished as FIDO jerked the entire console from its footing. There was a sudden blinding flash and a massive boom. Smoke gushed out of the console which now lay in parts. The robot picked out a small module and gave it to the elf.

  The robot followed the elf onto the main deck.

  Jake was still at his console completing an addendum to his Captains log..”A strange elf is aboard …there has been an explosion and I suspect his to be a saboteur… intent on destroying the ships armaments and …’

  All the lights failed and the console went dead. The area where the “railway” had been was now the metal floor of a tunnel. Rails, signals and even gravel had vanished..

  With the power failingm Jake had jumped up and rushed to the door housing CLEO,FIDO and the elf. He appeared and

  He waved his sword at the elf. “Where is the ECML What have you done!” he yelled. “Damned alien spy! Stealing the main line!”

  He advanced on the elf.

  “I”ll fix you, invader!”

  “Disarm the Prince, FIDO,” said the elf calmly.

  The robot moved in a blur of motion.

  Jake lost his sword immediately.

  Itt vanished into the robots body.

  FIDOThe robot picked him up bodily.

  “Hey! Put me down!” shouted Jake furiously. “I am Earth’s Defender! “ He glared at Alaric from his upside down position. “OK.we’ll settle this! Single combat! Winner gets the planet, Invaders all committ harry carry! Lloser getsgets….” He was trying to think what the loser would get as the elf led the partym down the corridor.

  Spluttering threats, Jake was carried bodily by FIDO. They proceeded

  down a long,metal passage. Jake was shouting and cursing, kicking his legs fruitlessly. The robot followed the elf who climbed a short set of steps at the end of the corridor. Followed by FIDO carrying the struggling Jake by his belt, the They climbed up a short staircase elf walked into a fat circular shaped craft parked in a docking bay.

  Jake was dumped into a seat. A strap shot up around him automatically. He was now effectively trussed. FIDO sat next to him.

  The elf sat at a control panel and said: “Fiften ten alpha nine twenty.”

  The entry door closed. A section of the roof above the ship peeled open.

  They lifted silently into space.

  Earth floated below them, a large blue disc etched against the starry waste.


  ……….. Chapter 2

  First Contact

  Col Phillip Viljoen stood watching the men of the ANZUS UFO Division as they painstakingly used magnifying glasses to study the surface of the first hole of the Chirnside Park golf course. The fairway slopes down past the backyards of several houses on Kingswood Drive. Behind it there was a small lake fringed with trees marked with the scars of countless misshit golf balls.

  The occupant of No 54, Kingswood Drive was an old lady with grey hair, She had a suprisngly upright carriage and a defiant expression. She was standing next to the colonel. They were facing the fairway. The Colonel had just spoken on his mobile phone, apparently expressing some concern for her sanity. He had used the term: total nutcase. She had overheard and now bristled: “”I still have all my marbles, Colonel,” she said. “That big hole may have somehow vanished but it was right there!” She pointed to an area directly opposite. “Right there! It was just where those men are searching. The flying thing went straight up. No sound at all! Just straight up and then the hole vanished!”

  She turned to face the house where a small dog was pawing at the base of an oak tree growing inside the garden.

  “Bertie! Leave that tree alone!”

  The dog continued to attack the tree, contantly whining.

  The colonel was brooding on what appeared to be a total waste of military resource. This old lady had phoned to report a strange object r taking off from the golf course at the bottom of her garden. She had reported a large depression which it came from. With his remit to “investigate all sightings” the colonel had brought a full crew. But so far the trip was a wipe out. The golf course showed no sign of alien activity. In short,

  another wasted trip. The Colonel was about to send the whole team back to base when Sergeant Button reported an echo indicating a structure directly below!

  Sgt Button: “It appears to be about 100 metres by 80 metres at a depth of 50 metres, sir! Three areas, probably rooms, a large cicular area under the golf course and a tunnel going due east …I’ll call the ground inspection team in and we’ll do a full doppler. Do you want the heavy excavation squad called in,sir? “

  It was the Eufeka koment for the UFO Division,

  “Yes!” said the colonel joyouslyhappily. “A real contact at last! Get heavy ex them in, slap a D notice on this house and the golf course! Get a full armed squad tround the perimeter, keep the neighbours out! And inform R & D…tell them to get all their stuff down here immediately. And inform Publicity R,,,,”

  The sergeant whistled and waved the men on the course in.

  The dog continued to paw frantically at the oak tree base.

  “That dog seems to have scented something in the tree,” said Sgt Button.

  “May be the aliens have a tunnel up to ground level?”

  “He hides old bones under there,” said the home owner. “He’s probably trying to dig one up… “

  Col Viljoen’s cellphone suddenly played a few bars of Walzing Matilda and he answered it.


  “Control here! Report on the Chirnside Park alert! You have ordered a Category Zero! Is it thea Jackpot? Finally? What’s happening!”

  “Sir, brilliant news….contact radar have found ….”

  At that moment the colonels phone cut off and a giant hole began to appear on the fairway directly opposite. The grass surface appeared to slowly fade as a massive aperture began to appeare. It seemed to expand from the centre, rippling out in ever increasing lateral segments until it stretched across the entire fairway.

  Apart from thea keening wind there was no sound.

  Col Barry , the soldiers and the home owner stood gaping at this astonishing vision. The dog took one look, yelped

  hysterically and then disappeared in the general direction of Lilydale.

  A large silver disc hadnow appeared overhead, descending vertically. There was no sound. The disc appeared to be about 50 metres radiusacross.. It entered the hole smoothly, almost like a descending elevator. Within a few seconds both disc and hole had vanished. The cropped green surface of the golf course first appeared at what had been the centre of the hole. The centre segment then seemed to expand outwards.

  Inside the crater, the planetary landing craft settled onto four landing pods. A and a door opened on one side. Jake was carried out by FIDO. Alaric followed carrying CLEO. The computer had now activated some kind of bult in voice circuit and was complaining continuously and bitterly. They entered a short tunnel which lead into a rough cave. It had been cut from base rock. As the party entered lights flashed on. Jake could now see a small camp bed, two chairs and a TV set.The wall facing HJake showed a large display Ntitled Habitation no 2. It indicated one large bedrroom/sitting room, a toilet and a cooking area .

  In addition the dispay showed a tunnel marked “Surface Exit.”.

  FIDO released Jake, who sat on the bed studying his surroundings. He was still holding the pack of cards which he had found in the Orbitor. Alaric had put CLEO’s hardware onto a shelf and ordered the computer to stop blathering. He ordered FIDO to make coffee.

  Alaric then sat studying a hand held device.

  “May I take a leak!” said Jake casually.

  He indicated the wall display. “Down the corridor, first left,OK?”

tainly your Highness! I am checking to find the nearest Multiverse Express station and we wll leave as soon as we have had refreshments.”

  Alaric was preoccupied as Jake left the room and walked down the corridor. It seemed to be carved from solid rock, like the rooms of the “habitation pod.” His footsteps rang inside the narrow corridor as he reached a junction. Instead of turning left to the toilet area, Jake turned right and opened a door with a horizontal bar. He started climbing a series of wet, stone steps. The staircase was covered with greasy mud... Despite hours of sword fighting, Jake was not in very good shape. Months in the Orbitor had affected hizs fitness, The stairs seemed to be endless. When he reached the top stair he was puffing heavily. He found himself inside a kind of earthern cavern,surrounded by the root system of an oak tree. It was dripping wet,cold and muddy.

  He was now facing a second door. A red bar annnounced some kind of warning , this time in Elvish. Jake ignored the message and lifted the bar. Immediately an alarm started blaring far below. Jake pushed the door open and faced a line of four soldiers who were busy with some kind of mine sweeping equipment.

  The four soldiers froze, staring at Jake in astonishment.

  Jake had intended to speak, announcing his role as Earth Defender and offering to join Earth against the invading aliens. In the actual event he could not think of anything to say. He stood there with his mouth open and his ears sticking out . He waved his pack of cards and one card slipped from his hand,fluttering to the ground.

  The officer had now drawn a pistol and was moving sideways to get a clear shot. Jake was desperately trying to decide what to say in order to prove his humanity. His massive elf ears must be giving the soldiers a false signal…but what convincing message could he give? That he had been kidnapped operated on and given elf ears …

  He finallly decided to speak and said:

  “I am the Orbitor Commander and …”

  The soldiers stood irresolute whie the officer continued to sidle sideways inch by inch. This tableaux seemed to be frozen when FIDO suddenly arrived, pounding up the steps from the underground building. The robot pushed Jake aside and aimed some kind of pistol at the four soldiers. A cone of golden energy seem to erupt ftom the device It surrounded the soldiers in a kind of glittering golden framework. The four men appeared to go rigid and then waver like images in a heaving sea. The area surroundiing them appeared to become one dimensional. It now looked like a painting which someone had left in the garden. The soldiers were now stretched insideover the surface like mirror images, strange one dimensional figures inside a golden frame.

  Now the robot ceased firing, grabbed Jake, slammed the door closed and ran down the staircase at high speed carrying Jake under one arm. His arm was incredibly powerful so that Jake had no chance to escape. The robot slammed the bottom door shut and Jake was ultimately dumped on a bed in the room he had just left.

  Above the pod Col McInnes was phoning National Security. He had examined the stricken troopers. The three men were frozen inside what appeared to be a massive pink energy slab, standing on the edge of the lawn. Troopers were attacked the pod with hammers and wooden staves. They made not impression on the enigmatic object. Other troopers were hammering on the oak tree in the area where the alien had appeared. Col McInnes spoke into his phone “Special situation Red Zero Zero! Continuous air cover, mortars, secure the entire area of Chirnside Park…

  Send heavy lifting equipment….Alien has droppped some kind of card. May be a disease carrier. It is now inside a plastic Zola (safety tube. for R D.) The alien said he was the Orbitor Commander and then probably ordered the robot to open fire!”

  In the pod “Pardon, me, Highness. I am activating the repeller screens to ensure our safety and keep the pod inviolate.” AlaricHe was fiddling with some kind of disc. He spoke briefly to the robot. “FIDO! Use handcuffs to restrain Prince Jake. Store the destabilizer. Then, rReturn to your duties, Ccoffee for two.” Jake was handcuffed to the bedhead with a small cube which seem to emit a beam of light. The robot then put the gun into his right leg cavity and returned to the kitchen. Jake lay back on the bed fuming. He should have had a plan! He should have a prepared speech. “We are now secure!”

  Alaric announced . “I have activated theAa neutron barrier. Your Highness! If you will give me your solemn promise not to try and escape from this pod I will release you. “

  Jake agreed since there was now no chance of getting out. He must wait for a new opportunity and make sure he didn’t mess it up again. Alaric pointed another cube and the handcuffs appeared to fly into the cube. “I assume you wanted to parlay with the barbarians! But there is no point in offering them them membership of the ELF (Elvish Liberated Foundation.) . They are savages and this place is too distant to join the 42 Subject Planets! These local savages are not fortunate enough to be fostered by the Elvish Master Race! us!“

  He suddenly jerked upright and shouted:

  “The fist of steel! The arm of Might!

  Obey the Elves or die tonight!”

  His massive ears had gone a bright red and his whole body sJake.

  In the next second he recovered and sat on the bed next to Jake..

  FIDO arrived with a tray of coffee cups.

  “Attention!” a thin piping voice came from a metal block which Alaric had placed on a shelf. “Computer CLEO reportiug. There is an escape tunnel going north for approximately 50 km and terminating at Yea Railway station. The primary escape vehicle is in stasis at Yea.”

  “But where are the Ozro workers?” said Alaric. “Why have they excavated two habitation pods? And why was the transit ship not

  stored at the satellite?

  His face and neck again suffused to a bright red and he stamped his foot.

  Damned Ozro rubbish!”

  He suddenly erupted again: “Kill for the Love of Killing!”

  Jake sat on the bed wondering if he had any hope of escape from what appeared to be a totally mad elf..

  He drank his coffee nervously as Alaric paced up and down the small room, seemingly bursting with energy, glowing like a neon sign.

  “We will take the tunnel north to the escaper vehicle,” he said suddenly.

  CLEO suddenly spoke again. “I have retrieved a vehicle from Yea,” said the computer, “It is awaiting your use in the Dispatch Room. However, I caution against use of the vehicle at speed. I suggest 7kph in order to reduce the evidence of our passage and keep the Earthmen from learning that we have left!

  Alaric smashed his cup onto the stone cloor of the babitation pod.

  His face and his massive ears were again mottled pink.

  “7 kph? Ridiculously slow!” he shouted angrily. “We must go at full speed!” Again he immediately calmed down and said: “In any case how will the savages know we have left?”

  “Savages?” said the computer in her reedy voice. “They are definitely not savages! The soldiers were using ground penetrating radar before FIDO put them into a stasis box on your orders! The soldiers are in stasis and the humans are absolutely certain we are here! And if you look at the TV showing the air space above you will see gyro machines (helicopters) flying over this area and large diameter mortars being sited on the golf course. The best course is to proceed stealthily at 7kph …”

  Alaric looked at Jake. “A decision is required Your Majesty? Should we proceed at a ridiculously slow speed? Or should we press on at top speed like the conquers we are?”

  His neck and face again went mottled pink and he shouted:

  “Elves are Conquerers! Stand aside Primitives!”

  Jake reviewed his options. On the space station he had no chance to escape. There was no chance down here with the staircase blocked and the doors now locked. On the other hand, while he was travelling he might get a new opportunity to escape. And if they were tracked by choppers the army would be waiting at the end of the tunnel and he could explain his problem and ask for an operation to get rid of his ears. Fifty kilo
meters at 7kph would take 7 hours. Much too long!”

  Jake. “I say full speed ahead!”

  “His Majesty has decided!” said Alaric.

  He looked briefly at the diagram and then grabbed hold of CLEO’s box

  before leading the way He led them through a door where an open rail car sat on a monorail line.

  They climbed onto a monorail car and sped off down a long tunnel

  Directly above in a circling helicopter the observer was studying his screen. He saw a bright blob moving rapidly down a dim line which marked the alien tunnel. He reported to Colonel McInnes.

  “Smething moving fast in the tunnel, Colonel!”

  “Stay on it!”

  “Now under Healesville, speed approximately 150 kph!”

  “Roger,stay on it,report every 30 seconds.”

  The dot representing the alien train continued to move rapidly

  north east. under Dividing range, parallel to main road..”

  “Roger that!’

  The Colonel was studying a large scale map. He followed the road with one finger. He reached a decision. “Operator! Contact Mobile 9! They are to head to Yea station fast as possible! Use ground radar to intercept aliens travelling in tunnel. Authorize lethal force!”

  The alien vehicle slowed and finally stopped outside a rwailway coach which seemed to be floating in a kind of peculiar mist. There were lights inside the carriage and Jake could see three figures through what appeared to be a blue fog.

  Alaric jumped up onto a step leading to the carriage door. He was again red faced and shakingappeared to be inchoate with rage. He now vibrated, shaking with absolute fury. “Ozro dwarves!” he spat. “The worst kind of labour! AThe working party who failed to report for a new assignment! They are AWOL! P and the penalty is…death!”

  He was now brandishing a pistol in one hand and the CLEO’s computer module in the other.

  He rushed to the carriage door and pulled it open .

  He stepped inside, brandishing the pistol and yelling furiously: “AWOL! Ozro dwarves die now!”

  Two of the dwarves were sitting smoking ornate pipes.

  Moving as one, they both leapt up and flung the pipes at Alaric. Both pipes hit dead centre of his mottled forehead. The elf dropped like a stone and lay spread out comatose..

  The third dwarf was still sitting. He clapped loudly.

  “Little Sam says damn good shooting, Stumpy and Grumpy,” he chortled. “What shall we do with this representative of the Master Race?” Then hHee suddenly glimpsed the golden figure of FIDO. The robot had fastened Jake to his seat and was now standing in the carriage doorway.

  “Oops!” said Little Sam, “Watch out for the robo!”

  The two other dwarves had now produced knives. The knives were thrown simultaneously and forefully down the carriage. Each knife clanged as it impacted on the robots golden metallic body. But apart from the ringing sound there was no obvious effect. Inredibly, the The robot had caught the knives! He and now showed them to the dwarves.

  He spoke: “Renegades! Justice will now be served with your own knivesfe!”

  The dwarves were nowall babbling: “Spare us, spare us!”

  CLEO piped up from her position in the recumbent elf’s hand. “FIDO! Remember the First Law! Thou shalt not kill a human being!”

  FIDO: “But they are not human beings! They are Ozro dwarves of no consequence! Fornicators! Scum! Half grown baggage! Eliminate!”

  The robot was now shouting like a metal version of Alaric.

  “But they may be needed,” said CLEO.

  “Yes!” shouted Little Sam, “Yes,yes! We may b3e needed! We willwill be needed. We know how to turn on the heating element to raise steam.”

  “And we know how to get out of this grey fog so you can go somewhere!’ shouted Stumpmy.

  “And we can clean and water the engine and help in many ways! Many, many ways! Spare us!” said Grumpy. “Spare us! Merciful golden supeer robbo! Spare these three humble dwarves!”

  Suddenly Alaric sat up. .

  He took in the situation at a glance.

  “Damn good shooting, boys!” he said warmly. “Youpou must try out for the Royal Archery Squad. I will mention it to Prince Jake once he is himself again.….’

  “There is nothing in the station.” Colonel McInnes radio crackled as he received a message from the chopper. “The signal has stopped. Theyu appear to be under the station but nothing has shown on the surface. appeared.” The colonel then decided that ground covercontact was vital. The aliens might appear from their tunnel at any time. They could not stay in the tunnel indefinitely. He ordered an armoiured car to move to Yea station and take up a watching position. The helicopeter was to wait until the ground car appeared and then return to Melbourne. After a few minutes the radio crackled: Armoured car now in sight! Returning to base.”

  Jake had now been released and was inside the carriage. One of the dwarves produced a tool and pthe ressed a button. There was a peculiar jerk and the carriage suddenly shifted into “normal” 3 D reality. There was a loud pop. The and the train was noappearedw standing at the up platform in in Yea station.

  A secong dwarf used a nother alien tool was used to activate a nuclear the alien heater installed in the locomotive firebox..

  The third dwarf had retrieved the two pipes and was now busy cleaning them out.

  FIDO now unreeled a map and hung it from the ceiling. It showed an area of countryside with a barred railway line along the left hand side. The golden robot now pointed at one spot on the map.

  It glowed with a red blinking light.

  “This is the spot on the railway where we are now,” said computer CLEO. Her thin, piping, prissy voice came from a metal box now on the luggage rack.“This is our current position. But there is a problem.”

  “Inform Houston immediately,” said Jake. “Houston, we have a problem! We have captured an earthboy, planted alien ears and made him forget who he is!”

  Alaric: “Prince Jake! You are not an earth boy! You are elf Prince Jake who has been kidnapped by enemies of the Outer Empire and left to rot on this barbarian planet.”

  CLEO: “Barbarian planet? Ridiculous! Their chess players are incredible! Last night I only just managed to mate a Grand Master who left me on the verge of total collapse!

  Alaric: “But you are a mere computer! Any organic being from Central Powers could beat you at any game!”

  CLEO: “Oh yeah? Let’s play now,bigshot! I will open with the same five move attack I used last night! It caused mass hysteria in Moscow!”

  Alaric: “We haven’t got time! FIDO! Carry on!”

  FIDO pointed to an area of the map,circling one metallic finger. The golden robot seemed to glow in the light of the overhead lamps. Now Aan area of red light flickered along one side of a barred map line marked Railway.

  CLEO: “The red light marks a Positively Enchanted Area or PEA. It is controlled by an ex railway steam engine driver turned trainee wizard . The use of high tech equipment is causing inexplicable events which can be term magical. The trainee wizard. He visited this coach and traded advanced escape supplies for tobacco for the high tech equipment!”

  “What!” Alaric shouted, “Central Power escape equipment traded from this carriage? This is an Imperial vehicle! Equipment is not to be traded! What halfwit wo coould offer our equipment for sale to some passing human halfwit?“

  CLEO: “Ask our dwarvishf h halfwits how they got 60 bales of baccy?”

  “Well?” said Alaric, speaking to the blue Ozro dwarves.

  “How did you get the baccy?”

  His hand was again on the hilt of his sword.

  Grumpy answered: “Oh Majestic Ruler! Oh Esteemed Superstar! We threeWe three halfwits swopped useless some junk in the luggage compartment for highly useful baccy. We followed the golden rule: Be nice to the resident races! And he was a very nice resident racefellow, very nice conical hat, stars on his robe, very good s
taff, very obliging fellow. He mMust have been some kind of tobaco rep. Fifty bales of Minty Ho Ho strong black for a few bits of old junk!”“

  “Old junk!” said Alaric bitterly. “Central Power High Tech Escape Equipment! Irreplaceable! “ Then he brightened: “But unless the thief can read Elvish he won’t know how to use the gear! He is a stupid Earthman. According to the Manual, they are unlettered barbarians!”

  “The Multiverse Manual is more than 25,500 earth years out of date,’ piped CLEO. “It was compiled after the long range mappingexploration phase of Universe Zero. Since trhat time, t of 5.700 B.C., local time.The Earthmen have been getting much, much, smarter! Theis interloper may have learned Elvish. Running E Mails backwards reveals the Central Power Translator. Using it, the thief could get instructions on the use of our escape equipment.According to my inventory of Cached Escape Materials he appears to have acquired two very powerful devices – a hypno source generator capable of instant trance induction and a large scale matter duplicator with the ability to make pseudo forms. He probably also has a Weather Control Rod and several small items with devious uses. He is almost certainly using them and is responsible for the suspect area! The use of such high tech will make him appear to have magical powers!””

  There was a prolonged silence .

  Alaric studied the map. “This shows our location as Yea,” he said. “How did we get to Yea from Chirnside?

  “You used our pseudo tunnel which is about 50 k as the crow flies,” said Little Sam. “We used a Zaser to go under the mountain between Dixons Creek and Kinglake, en route to Yea station. At full power it took 38 minutes. The Zaser has no charge left…we should be on report for wasting energy….but as we are now helping you bigwigs to escape we drilled a pseudo tunnel to help you. the Masters of Central Power .”

  There was a long silence as this further news was digested.

  Jake moved to the door and looked out.They were standing in a station next to an open entrance which opened onto a square. Behind the entrance he could see an open square with shops and houses behind.

  He felt a blast of chilly air. .

  It was full daylight.

  He stood ready to step out.

  “Stop!” said Alaric. “Your Elfness is not to leave the carriage as you might get confused. In any event, we cannot just parkstay here exposed to barbarian attack! I must use an Invalidity Inaudibility device to cloak our presence.”

  He produced an object which looked like a torch and pressed a switch. Immediately, the atmosphere became almost black.

  All light and sound stopped.

  What did not stop were Jake’s thoughts. He was standing at an open door! A chance to escape and help Earth!c He immediately jumped straight at the wall of darkness! He landed on the platform which was bathed in bright sunlight. At the same moment an eight wheeled armoured car appeared at the entrance to the station. It and screeched to a stop facing the railway. Inside the car, the commander looked out from a viewing slot and yelled into his microphone.

  “UFO Mobile One at Yea station! An alien has appeared out of nowhere! Definite sighting of an alien! He is running towards us! He is armed! Carrying a sword! Huge ears! Laser on! Warming!”

  The three dwarves now appeared, running out of a strange shadow which covered the invisible train. They were shouting: “Freedom fer the Blue Lads! Damn the Outers! Nuke Elf Base now!”

  Vehicle Commander: “Three blue dwarves have appeared…. … all running towards us…They may be chasing the first alien…Laser ready in Laser ready in 10 seconds……”

  Jake had now arrived at the car.

  He was panting.

  He tried to smile at the astonished face staring at him through a slit in the armored car. Jake had planned to say “I am Jake! I have been kidnapped by aliens!!” Instead, he decided that his first action must be to clear the air. warn his human friends. He shouted: “Watch out for aliens!There is an invisible train standing in the platform. It’s aliens! They have a thing to make the train invisible!” They are in an invisible train!””

  The three dwarves then arrived and shouted:

  “Freedom! Damn the slavers!! Free the Blue Laddies now!

  Vehicle Commander: “Four aliens now standing in front of the vehicle. An elf dressed in period costume with a sword. Huge ears! Says there are aliens on an invisible train! He hHas now been joined by three blue dwarves. They are talking gibberish! LI intend to stun the lot of them…laser in 5 seconds..”

  The turret swung around and a long gun swung downwards to point at Jake..A red dot appeared on his chest.

  Jake looked down at the glowing mark.

  He shouted: “No! No! No! Don’t shoot me! I am a friend!I am the Space Commander!””

  He drew his sword and bashed it against the laser barrel.

  He intended to simply reinforce his message.

  Unfortunately,the sword did not understand that intention at all.

  It instantly spurted a lateral column of rippling fire.

  A vivid flash rapidly expanded to surround the vehicle with a strange, purple flame. The laser gun immediately melted. The barrel drooped.

  Jake and the dwarves leapt backwards away from the fiery flaming car. A voice spoke inside the car.

  “Mobile One! This is Control! Report immediately! This in Control!””

  There was no reply.

  The steam train suddenly reappeared, apparently materializing from thin air. .FIDO burst out from the carriage and ranadvanced towards the armored car. It , which was now sparkling with an intense incandescence. The whole interior of the station was now reflecteding athis vivid purple light.

  Jake and the dwarves stood frozen with shock.

  The robot scooped Jake under one arm. He took the sword and parked it somewhere inside his metal torso. Finally, he grabbed the three dwarves,sliding one finger under each dwarvish belt until he had them all hanging like fish. He dashed back to the locomotive, dumped Jake onto the steel steps leading up to the cab and then took the dwarves through the open door of the carriage.

  Inside the locomotive, Alaric was sitting on a polished steel seat holding a small metal device. He was eating an apple. He suddenly spoke. “Well, your Royal Elfness, you are now definitely and certainly on the run! The human army will be after you for destroying one of their jeeps and killing the crew! The crew of that unfortunate vehicle knew, as I know, that you are an alien! But they didid not know that are a royal alien who now delusionally believes he is a kidnapped human being!”

  Jake; “I am not an alien. I am a kidnapped human being!”

  Alaric: “You are a royal elf who needs the treatment thar can only be provided at Central Power. However, the computer has located an alternative Gateway and we have this excellent train. She is headed by the steam engine Spitfire. And I understand that you are a passed driver?”

  He threw the apple cog out through the open window. It rolled onto the platform in front of the army vehicle with its drooping gun and peculiar brilliant, sparkling purple aura. Jake climbed up to the cab and sat on the drivers seat, opposite Alaric. He tried to understand recent events. Surely the army would not be taken in by his grafted ears? But they had they believed hime was an alien! No! They were correct about the blue dwarves. They were aHis liens! But his own human army had been about to fire a laser at him!!

  He had been bashing with the sword to make them understand his message! He had no idea the sword was some kind of Star Wars super weapon! It had stopped them firing all right! It had destroyed the car and probably killed the crew! And the sword would not be blamed! He would be blamed! He would be on the Most Wanted List for multiple murder, damaging military property damage and destroying a government laser!

  He decided to tackle the elf head on about matters.

  “Why are you invading this planet?” he asked.

  “We are not invading this planet,” said Alaric. It’s too far away!. The computer made up a vid about a make war. It was to
keep you occupied while she played chess!”

  “Why did you cut the link and destroy the main line?”

  “There was no main line! It was a hologram created by CLEO. Same reason. To keep your Higness busy while she achieved here potty Youra namers were all fakes! There is no regular steam on the main line! It’s all electric and deseil! The computer simply wanted to keep you occupied which she achieved her ambition to become world chess champion.”

  Jake chewed on this.

  It had the ring of truth.

  CLEO was obsessed with chess. She talked constantly about her own brilliance. And…if he did hand himself over he would be shot for killing a load of soldiers!

  WWho would believe his story about being kidnapping by aliens?

  His only option now was to run!

  To pretend he was now a friend of the aliens!

  He made a decision.

  “How did we get this train?” said Jake. “And what is this engine named? It is my first real namer. All my other namers were CLEO fakes!”

  Alaric: “Her name is Spitfire. She is an ex-LNER B1. She is here as the direct result of a WW 2 bomb blast which occurred thousands of miles away in England, a country on the other side of this planet! The English were at war with Germany. The Germans bombed a railway shunting yard. It was generally believed that this engine and coach were destroyed by a direct hit. In fact they were forced into another dimension! They were instantly shifted here. After some years in stasisthis remote siding, the engine was rusty and in need of repairs. The dwarves FIDO used working drawings taken from the human Internet. They have He worked every night for months! The only change from normal firing is a special nuclear heating unit. It is inside the fire grate and it has already been activated. We are ready to rumble!”

  A red glow from the fire grate began to illuminate the engine cab.

  “How do you know all this?”asked Jake. “How do you know FIDO rebuilt a train which was hit by a bomb! How do you know it came via a wierd dimension?”

  “The facts are all recorded on the etheric prototype which surrounds this train,” said the elf. “If your own senses were not so badly damaged, Sire, you would be able to see such details yourself.”

  “Good answer!” said Jake. “Bulldust! What’s FIDO doing now?”

  Alaric: “He is currently sitting on a rear buffer, waiting. He has two dispensers of a special instant rusting Shivver liquid. He will spray the rails to erase our tracks and confuse pursuit. ” said Alaric.”FIDO has set the nuclear heating element to generate steamthe temperature believed to have been preferred by top link drivers.. It will obtain maximum performance from this engine. While you were destroying and armoured car, FIDO was also busy.To confuse pursuit, FIDO moved at ultra high speed to Lilydale station. 50 k in 3 minutes! He went by road since the human Army have the former prison surrounded and the tunnel was deemed risky. Due to his use of Ultra High Speed, tarmac melted at several points! A regrettable side issue! FIDO put two lifelike inflatable dummies on the last carriage of the 7.09 Flinders Street, Limited Expresso. He secured the door locks .He returned in 4 minutes, slower as it is mostly uphill! Are you ready?”

  “Of course!” said Jake. “We may as well be off!”

  Alaric pressed a button on the metal device in his hand. The black cloud reappeared around the train. Jake could now see only his immediate surroundings, dimly.

  Alaric stuck up his thumb and then waved it forwards.

  With a clear memory of his lessons, Jake released the brake and pushed forward the regulator. He felt the engine begin to move. It would undoubtedly be chuff! chuff! chuffing! but there was no sound inside the black aura produced by the I/I device. The train gradually began to gain speed. The track under the invisible train vanished momentarily as the train passed, making a strange mobile shadow. The only other physical result of their passage came from the rails behind. They suddenly acquired a silver sheen as the invisible train passed over, instantly removing decades of deeply etched rust. The sheen was instantly removed as FIDO sprayed liquid over each rail.

  At the first a junction they turned right. Soon they were traveling over a new set of rusted rails. The track was, overgrown with numerous plants and even small trees which had forced a way up between the sleepers. FIDO had now emptied his pail of rust producer and the robot sat staring at the disused permanent way as it unrolled behind the train.. Spitfire balefully squirted steam, oil and hot water on the encroaching undergrowth in an attempt to restore railroad authority. Still cloaked with its I/I shield the train then ran silently across a short viaduct. A lake glistened below, rippling. Ducks swam around idly dozing, unaware of the invisible train which swept silently past on the old railway line above.

  On board the engine, Alaric pointed to the Invisibility Inaudibility device in his hand. “Need to conserve power!” he mouthed. He pushed the button to the off position. Instantly the black cloak lifted. The cab was filled with a massive roar and the steady hissing of escaping steam. The sudden appearance of the train scared the ducks into a wild panic.

  Jake was beginning to really enjoy himself. This was far better than driving simulators. In the sims he had been obliged to obey numerous signals and signs to either gain or lose points. He had needed to worry about points being set the right way, maintaining the correct speed according to signs placed alongside the video track, etc. His learning experiences had been closely supervised by ratty Computer Prison Warder CLEO. But here he had only a track of rusted rails along with the shrieking wind, the smell of hot oil and steam and the roaring grind of powerful driving wheels. There were no signals and best of all there was no bossy, fussy computer overseer to constantly tell him off!

  He had a powerful real steam engine under his personal control!

  In a burst of sudden exhilaration, he pushed the regulator fully forward. The engine responded with a rush of steam. The wheels began to slip as the engine attempted to charge forward into the black night. “Turn back the regulator,Sire!” yelled Alaric. “Proceed slowly, with caution! We may have to must stop very soon when we come to another junction. I only have a very approximate idea of where it is!”

  “Where is it approximately?” shouted Jake.

  “4 miles from Yea!”

  Alaric’s reply was almost erased by the roar of steam and the screech of wheels.

  “There’s a sign!” yelled Jake. “I chain to the junction!”

  Alaric suddenly yelled: “Slow down and put the brake on!”

  Jake reached up, twisted the regulator and applied the brake with all his strength. With a clamorous screech and a huge blast of steam the train shuddered to a halt. Ahead they could see a set of points and a junction with another line.

  Alaric produced a cell phone and pressed a button:

  “FIDO! Set the points.”

  However, the robot did not immediately appear.

  Instead, a carriage window opened and Stumpy looked out angrily. “The driver is a maniac!” he shouted. “Drive more carefully!”

  Alaric looked out of the side window and the dwarf saw him;

  “Your Excellency! What a…a…lovely surprise!” the dwarf babbled. “Oh Esteemed One! We tried to stop that loony driver escaping custody! We rans after him but hes got away! Hes tried to get us arrested by the sojers! Us loyal workers! Then he killed the sojers with his magic sword! We could not do anyfink! We tries, how we tries! Because we are all super loyal, Esteemed One! Super, super, loyal Ozro workers! We wasere at Yea because we was just taking a short Breaks! Because we woz worn out!! We want to go back to work! We Ozro’s love working!”

  His head vanished and the window slammed up.

  FIDO emerged from the rear coach buffers

  The robot was equipped with another set of feet which appeared to be quite suited to the wet gravel surface. He walked forward to the junction and inspected the points. One finger squirted oil at a point below the junction rails. Finally Thethe lever fulcrum and the connecting rod were oile
d before the robot appeared to be satisfied with the condition of the apparatus. He pulled back the lever, causing the junction rails to slide over and connect with the main line rails. He carefully inspected the rails, checking the seating.

  Finally, the robot flashed a small green light mounted on his chest.

  Then another light flickered in the cab wall.

  A small speaker sounded.

  CLEO: “Patching in the UFO Group.

  A male voice spoke. “First contact site in Chirnside Park has been cordoned off. Entry to the underground site is blocked by some kind of force field. Relief convoy now approaching second site, railway station at Yea. First cContact Vehicle transmitted message re alien and blue skinned dwarves but has gone off linestopped transmitting… …”

  There was a short delay then..

  “First contact vVehicle appears to have been hit by incendiaries.....laser barrel melted…all metal surfaces bare of paint A volunteer has entered the vehicle.. NCO and crew alive but incoherent.. we are removing the men to Army hospital.....Melbourne command is sending road/rail/water vehicle to travel main line to Tallarook..then branch line to Yea and Mansfield … out...”

  “Well,” said Jake. “We got away!”

  “But they are coming down the line as soon as they get a vehicle,” said Alaric. “The I/I device makes us invisible but we are still physically presenthere. We need to get moving and reach a Gateway so we can be gone for good! We must go up the line towards Tallarook. The map shows a Gateway there. FIDO, set the points and then reset them in the opposite direction when we have passed.”

  The robot carried out his instructions.

  Steam hissed from the locomotives cylinders.

  The firedoor was now red hot as the alien device pumped out large quantities of heat. Jake eased off the brake and the train began to move slowly forward. The engine clanked over the connecting rails. When the carriage had cleared the junction FIDO pulled the points back to their original setting. As the coach drew level, the robot shot out one metal arm and opened the carriage door. His body lifted upward in one huge, effortless motion and in a second he was back inside the carriage. The door closed and he returned to his chore of washing up the dishes. Jake wound up the regulator and the train began to move with increasing speed. Inside the carriage, the dwarves were again shouting bets as they proceeded with some kind of game.

  The interior of the carriage was blue with baccy smoke.

  On the footplate, Jake had his head stuck out of the engine side window. His face felt cold but the radiant heat from the boiler kept the rest of his body warm. They steamed along the overgrown railway line, disturbing legions of rabbits who had taken up residence trackside.

  “Well, so much for the Enchanted Area,” said Jake. “A load of rubbish.”

  Alaric:“We are now going straight into it!”

  Jake: “Gibberish! It’s just old fields and a few cows and stuff.”

  He muttered to himself: “Stupid alien gits!”

  They passed a siding. An ancient cattle truck was sitting forlorn, rusting and rotting. It appeared to be patiently waiting for an engine to pull it somewhere. But the only locally available locomotive was fully occupied, grinding down the track, followed by one ancient Pullman coach. Jake could see only rusty rails extending forward, barely visible. The railway seemed , a forlorn, bisected by weeds, grasses and small trees. A herd of cattle broke into a sudden stampede, rushing away from the line as the train approached. The cattle ran for a distance and then stopped and turned, looking searchingly at the strange train on a railway that had been derelict for many years.

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