Friday, 24 March 2017
Dreamweaver (part 4)
The sound of erratic electric violin playing haunted the grotesque halls of Coin’s castle. It was threatened only by the faint hum of ancient machinery. Ali was a geek, there was no denying this, and so she’d dabbled with lots of different comics over the years. One such comic was Hollow Earth, the first volume of the Bureau of Paranormal Defence’s adventures. She felt like she was in that. (I’m aware how vague a reference that is, but google it - Ed)
The point was, the gigantic castle was gothic in the extreme. The walls were carved from glittering obsidian, gigantic chandeliers of flickering ember swinging above her head as she strolled. There were flaming torches sat on either side of every door, the heads of which looked worryingly like skulls. She tried her best to ignore their fiery gaze.
Realising that none of his cages could hold her, Coin had let her free. He said he knew her primitive mind couldn’t risk destroying his plans or comprehend how impossible it was to escape. She had come very close to swearing at him, but instead sped off into the far distance.
The castle was expansive, she’d give Coin that for all his faults. On Chris’ Minecraft Server, Chris and Sophie had created a huge fortress (known as Lucky Catsie’s Castle) which they’d spent hours and hours working on yet, despite all that, Coin’s castle was still more impressive. Every room was the size of a mansion, the roofs vaulted and the walls intricately carved with immense detail. Every wall was adorned with lovingly painted complexities; she spent four hours staring at an impression of a Lowry painting, only to realise that every face in the gigantic crowd had been replaced with that of students from Gilliam High.
The violin playing was growing louder all the still so Ali decided to investigate. She’d started off touring the castle at full speed, only breaking from the purple haze for momentary breaks before setting off once more. Now, however, as she began to hear her stomach grumble, Ali realised she couldn’t continue as she had been going. Instead, she walked her way to the grand hall and attempted to sneak between the huge spouts of technology. They were colossal machines, all cogs and chimneys mixed with Van De Graaff spheres and fizzing Tesla Coils. There were pulley systems hanging about that’d make Archimedes jealous. Ali didn’t pay attention to it, however, because she was too busy studying the cobbles under foot to ensure they didn’t move and alert Coin to her presence. Not that she’d expect him to be able to hear anything under the sound of that erratic violin.
As she reached the end of the machinery, Ali dropped to her knee and peered out at Coin. He was stood on the slightly raised platform at the front of the hall. In front of him, there was a huge frame beneath a velvet curtain, a golden rope ready to pull the curtain open. Light was shining through the stained glass above.
Suddenly, Coin stopped playing and placed the violin down on a table to his side. I say table, to Ali it looked more like an steampunk altar, half of it covered in a plethora of complicated levers, dials and different mechanisms. From a chair on the side, he picked up his purple cloak and slung it over his shoulders, then pulled on his 3D glasses. With a devilish stroke of his ginger goatee, he began to lecture an invisible audience.
“Tonight, we make history.” Coin said. “Oh, great lord of the Alternate Realm, for the first time since the Incident and since millennia before, I shall align the dimensions of the multiverse. The Convergence shall begin tonight and with it, the Camel God shall cometh!”
He grabbed the golden rope and yanked it. The crimson curtain fell away, revealing a frame on the other side. It was like a gigantic painting frame but strewn with coppery wires all hooked up to the tesla coils emerging from each block of technology. There was a winding lever to its side which he grabbed and began to revolve, lowering a gigantic projector from above. Ali felt like she was in a very steampunk version of the classrooms back at Gilliam High.
“Using my Infinite Doorway Aligner, I will break down the extra dimensional barriers and open a tunnel through which you, my great lord, can clamber. Your Realm can spill into ours and the ascension of humanity, of all the Multiverse’s peoples, will begin. Camel God, I summon you.”
He went to click on the projector block, presumably the Infinite Doorway Aligner, only to stop and frown. “Ali, I know you’ve been watching me all along, just as I know your friends are approaching on horseback as we speak. I control all in this realm. I know all.” He smiled, his beard sparkling. “I know that they will die just as easily as I summon the Camel God and thus ascend existence to its next plane.”
The Gang were approaching, but it wasn’t on horseback. No. Steven wasn’t quite that efficient. They approached on donkeys. He had managed to summon them a variety of Dungeons and Dragons based equipment too; swords, axes, a gigantic carpet and a Dungeon Master’s Guide that was thick enough to break a man’s skull with just one swing. They each took their weapons; Chris taking the carpet as a cape, Sophie the swords, Freya the axes and affectionately naming them Stabby and Slashy and Steven the book because books rocked his world. The donkeys groaned under the additional weight but thundered on regardless, towards the darkness of Dreamweaver’s Fortress of Shadows.
It was an imposing structure, a giant necromancer’s toothpick, protruding from the hill side like a sword from an octopus. “Any chance you can summon a diamond pickaxe?” Chris shouted as they rode towards the obsidian palace.
“I summoned a carpet earlier, Chris.” Steven replied. “Don’t push your luck.”
They rode on, brave and valiant, their donkeys winding up the jagged path that lined the cliff face and then onto the top where the trees became thin and the tower loomed closer. The path became so thin now that they had to pull into a quadrant, Steven and Sophie taking the lead and Freya and Chris behind.
“Hey, Chris,” Freya said, pulling her donkey a little closer so they could hear each other over the howling winds, “Chris!”
The illustrious leader of their small team snapped out of the dark recesses of his mind that he’d evidently fallen into and turned to her. “Sorry.” He replied. “I was just… thinking. You alright?”
“Yeah, as long as you are.” She said. “You looked like you’d just discovered the secrets of the universe.”
“Wouldn’t I look happy if I’d done that?” He frowned. “My glands would be secreting happy endorphins had I done that.”
To celebrate his pun, Chris graced her with double finger guns, only to realise how bloody terrifying such an incident is for all involved when you’re meant to be steering a donkey with both hands. He quickly took hold of the reins again.
“You know what I mean. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He said. “Just, storming a massive castle isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.”
“Yeah, but you’ll be fine. You’re Captain Jaffa Cake.”
“But I’m not though, am I?” Chris replied.
Chris sighed. He didn’t like talking to Freya because he could trust her and that opened him for all sorts of emotional outpourings. As a general rule, he wasn’t really into emotions that much. They weren’t a thing that often bothered him; sure, he got happy and laughed a lot but he didn’t let any of the other emotions get to him. It just wasn’t part of his character. (Which makes him bloody difficult to write - Ed.) “Look, you’ve got to promise not to tell Sophie and Steven. I love them both, of course, but the idea of Sophie knowing anything about my emotional state deeply unnerves me and I’m the one that Steven goes to when he’s feeling emotionally needy, not the other way round.”
“Chris, what’s this about?” Freya asked, frowning.
“Thanks. The point is, well.” He paused. “How do I word this?”
“Slowly and calmly.” She smiled, unsure how she was being so sage about the whole thing.
Chris took a few moments to get his thoughts together and then said, “Sophie is Lucky Cat, isn’t she? She can control probability anytime she likes. Same with Steven. He’s the Summoner. He can summon whatever whenever, albeit it not very well but still. There’s nothing stopping him from doing it. Then there’s Ali. She can go at the speed of sound with the click of her fingers. She doesn’t need to put on the costume. And you, you can stop time at the drop of a hat, then pick up the hat and carry it to the other side of the room before pressing play. You’re constantly Tempus. Tempus is part of you.” He sighed. “Me on the other side. I’m Chris Rogers. I’m just a computer scientist with puns and revision guides and quirkiness, right? Then, I eat a Jaffa Cake and BOOM! Captain Jaffa Cake is there, looking handsome and bold, ready to save the world. But that's not me. That’s a different guy. We can say he’s my inner persona all we like but we both know it’s not true. When Mr Phillips is showing me one of Bessie’s screens with pictures of us on, I see you, I see Sophie and Steven, I see Ali and then I see some other guy who looks a bit like me. You guys are superheroes. I’m a kid who has to become someone entirely different before I can actually do anything. Look at me now. All you guys, limbering up, getting ready to kick ass with your powers and I’m sat here useless because I haven’t had a stupid little biscuit. I’m a fraud. A liar. I might as well not even be here.”
“You would say that.”
“No, Chris. I mean it.” She said. “Jaffa Cakes aren’t biscuits.”
Chris let a smile spread across his unusually sombre face.
“And anyway, the rest of it's nonsense too. Steven, Sophie and Ali might have their powers all round the clock but we don’t.” She sighed in the same regretful strain as Steven had. It was her typical policy to listen to other people talking and only offer her opinion when she absolutely sure it wouldn’t conflict against anyone else’s. (They didn’t want a repeat of the collarbone incident* now, did they?) Now, however, Chris was in need and so it was her duty to venture her experiences. “Back in DnD club, I could have stopped that entire thing if I’d frozen time. But I didn’t. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn’t freeze time. My powers didn’t work. Then I tried again when me and Sophie went to see Mrs Carpenter but it didn’t work then, either. I don’t know if I’ve lost my powers or just my proficiency with them but I’m just as useless as you might feel right now.”
“That’s your excuse for being useless?” Chris frowned. “For giving in? Are you being serious?”
A voice in Freya’s head reminded her this was why she didn’t usually share her vulnerabilities. “Yes. Yes, it fudging is. I’ve got no confidence for these things anymore!”
“Freya, you are the best exam taker I know. Seriously, I go into exams wishing I was half as capable as you. Steven does, Sophie does, half the bloody year group does. The other half is too busy being too drunk or too high to know who you are or that they’re in an exam but that’s not the point.” He let a fleeting smile grace his lips. “The point is that when Mrs Vault is being a cow, you don’t give up after two questions. When the Maths papers are killing us, you don’t refuse to turn up to paper three because papers one and two kicked your ass. This is just like an exam, but with more psychopathic, reality altering, mad quantum physicists running around. Just because you didn’t do as well as you’d like in the mocks doesn’t mean you’re going to fail the final exam.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Of course I do.” He smiled, his voice sinking to its maximally reassuring tone. “You’re amazing, Freya. Don’t let a little thing like crippling situational anxiety and a lack of all confidence get in your way.”
“You ask me, you don’t need a biscuit to be a superhero.”
“I can’t tell if that’s you trying to be reassuring or pointing out the fallacy of the situation because Jaffa Cakes aren’t biscuits.”
“Don’t ruin the moment.”
“This is a surprisingly long stretch of path.” Chris frowned and looked up, just in time to notice a flaming boulder being flung from the top of the tower.
“Duck!” Steven screamed, trying to summon Entropy Elephant (yeah, you’d forgotten about him! So had we. - Ed) to put the fire out, but it was too late.
“Where?” Sophie frowned, then changed the probability of the flaming boulder missing them. It rolled a natural one in its range check and flew straight over them, instead crashing into the road and slinging up a spray of glowing pebbles in all directions.
“That was a warm reception.” Chris said, and resisted the need for finger guns.
*Don’t ask - Ed
Inside the castle, Mr Coin cursed. He stepped down from the platform, his cape flowing out from behind him as he did. Marching, with impeccable style, over towards Ali, he grabbed her by the throat and lifted her up. For a geek, he was surprisingly strong.
“Come on, Flish.” He sneered. “You will play your part in the Convergence now, rather than later! Oh Camel God, great lord of the Alternate Realm, hear my call! We begin our work towards the alignment of the worlds now!”
He carried her around some of the machinery until they reached the space between one of the far walls and a machine that looked suspiciously like a hamster wheel. “Get in.” Mr Coin said.
“No!” She cried. “Do I look like a flipping hamster?”
He looked her up and down. “A little bit, yeah. It’s the way your cheeks bulge when you’re laughing.”
She made noises at him frustratedly, finally managing to string together some words. “That is a horrible thing to say! There is no way I’m going to help you if you talk like that! Ugh! You horrible person.”
“Ali Grant, if you do not step into that hamster wheel right now and help me carry out my plans of multiversal domination, I will be very annoyed, bordering on moderately upset.” Realising that probably wouldn’t work, he added, “And I’ll kill your sister.”
“You wouldn’t do that, Mr Coin.”
“I am not Jon Coin. I am Dreamweaver and you will do as I say or I will spill your sister’s blood in sacrifice to the Camel God.”
There was something about the blazing eyes beneath his 3D glasses that made Ali reconsider being cheeky again. Solemnly, she stepped into the hamster wheel and began to run.
“Good.” He said. “Keep going until the multiverse is aligned and the Camel God has returned!”
With that, he melodramatically swept his cape to the side and marched down the length of the hall to a pair of very small doors. They opened under his touch and allowed him out onto the balcony that overlooked the path the Gang were approaching along. He flung a flaming boulder at them but when that failed he decided he’d need to do something just slightly more impressive. Thinking about it for a second, he decided that he had complete control over the Physics and Geology of the world they stood in. He could do whatever he wanted to it and they wouldn’t be able to complain.
With that, the Dreamweaver wove nightmares.
Around the Gang, still galloping along the clifftop peninsula, the ground began to crumble and contort. Cracks spread out, huge black scars, like two dimensional lightning strikes. From the growing fissures, dust and gas hissed in violent release. In some places, magma was thrown up, becoming lava as it was observed. Sophie thought of Schrödinger’s Volcano. Steven thought of a Boomtown Rats parody a Geography teacher had once shown him about pyroclastic flows.
There was a growling from the floor beneath them; it had already been shaking but now it positively quaked, a ripple passing through it and threatening to uproot the donkeys from where they galloped. It was followed by a tremor of immense proportions so powerfully rich, so chaotically deep that it could only be a roar. There were creatures swirling around them and they were growing stronger by the second.
“Sophie!” Chris cried. “What’s the plan?”
Before she reply, there was a rip-roaring explosion from their side and a gigantic Empire-Strikes-Back style worm monster exploded from the ground.
“Oh god.” Sophie cried. “We’ll be worm out before we even get there.”
“Now isn’t the time for puns!” Freya cried.
Suddenly, the ground on the other side of the path was beginning to rumble too. It fractured and crumbled, spewing up dust clouds full of debris. More of the worm creatures began to spew out, one head then another and another. It was like a nightmarish realisation of the elephant’s toothpaste experiment. Their bodies were long and cylindrical, disguised by evolution to look like scales but in all truth as weak as creatures that spent their entire lives away from danger could allow.
On the other hand, the massive gaping jaws filled with spindly, gleaming teeth didn’t look as if they were a result of logical evolution either.
One of the worms suddenly lunged towards the centre pathway, its mouth stretching open so wide it could engulf all four of them in one go. “DUCK!” Steven shouted at the top of his voice. The Gang threw themselves into their donkeys, the worm roaring over them, its hide rubbing against their backs. Dirt trickled down and then, suddenly, the worms were burying themselves once more in the ground on the other side, forming a huge, muscular loop over the heroes.
In such a situation, there are two possible scenarios. One is that the donkeys stop running, frozen to the spot with fear. The other is that the donkeys run quicker because they’re so terrified. It was the latter that happened, with the donkeys thundering on and neighing with anger as they did.
Despite this, the worms followed, terrible roars bursting forth from their lungs as they rampaged through the air. Some of them, arching over the path and then digging down deeper into the ground, began to burrow further and constricted around the pathway until it was torn in two. The leg of Chris’ donkey was sucked into the crush, snapping it and sending Chris, carpet and everything else sprawling.
“Chris!” Freya cried, as another worm caught sense of him and reversed its path, turning around and opening its jaw wider than Physics suggested was possible. Coin was in charge of this world; he set the laws of Physics here.
The worm roared towards him. Chris placed the carpet above his head, tried to hide himself from his unending peril. His last thought wasn’t of fear, wasn’t of the fact that Captain Jaffa Cake could probably have got him out of there. The thought was of a new friend he’d just made on the Minecraft server and how he’d probably never get to talk to her again.
Then suddenly Freya was there, stood atop her donkey, twin axes swirling through her hands. She leapt off, swinging through the air, both axes raised to the heavens, her knees bent as she sailed. The blades bit into terrible worm flesh, cutting like a hot knife through butter. The worm screamed, beginning to fit in fatal agony. Within an instant, it had lost all life and died, falling away into the dark realms from whence it came.
Freya swung off her donkey and, although she kept one hand on the reins so it wouldn’t run off, she offered her other hand to the fallen Captain in order to help him up. “I’m assuming you missed that, right?”
She sighed. “Why does no one ever see my badassery?”
Helping him up, the two of them turned around to return to the battle, just in time to see two more of Coin’s flaming boulders soaring towards them.
Coin, stood on his balcony, laughed to himself. Gas worms were one of his favourite inventions, created in a Dungeons and Dragons session during his university years to deal with a player whose immediate reaction was to set everything on fire. To bring them to life now, well, it was his greatest privilege. He threw the flaming boulder towards it, excited to see the old monster in action.
The flaming boulder hit the gas worm and tore through its flesh. Then it met the gas that acted inside it as blood. “Oh shoot.” Freya had time to say before the entire thing grew into a gigantic explosion.
“Keep riding!” Sophie shouted to Steven, even though she knew two of her friends might have died. She couldn’t think about that, she couldn’t think about them being torn apart in a huge ball of fire, their bodies nothing more than ashen remains, char hanging limply from roasted skeletons. They had to save Ali now. That was all they had left.
The fire from the nearest gas worm spread to the next and the next. The writhing archways surrounding our heroes suddenly erupted into crimson streaks of powerful amber. The heat was tangible, the sweat rolling down their faces evaporating as it did. The ground was scorched. The donkeys brayed in terror. Shock waves rolled out in all directions and, on them, the most incredible sight Coin had ever seen was carried a loft.
Chris was holding both sides of the massive carpet as it was carried aloft by the force of the shock waves. Freya clung to his back, as Physics demanded they kept their mass concentration to the same area. It worked quite well, actually, as the carpet began to act like a hang glider, delivering them through the air and towards the balcony where Dreamweaver was waiting for them.
“Hey!” Steven cried from below. “Freya!”
Freya looked down, just in time to see the Dungeon Master’s guide flying towards her. She managed to catch it, slipping it into her pocket and returning her grasp to Chris before falling. “Can you go any faster?”
“Not unless you’ve got a propellor with you.” He replied.
And with that, the two of them flew slowly towards the balcony of Dreamweaver’s castle. The Physics teacher laughed and spun, his purple cape spiralling out behind him. He was ready to finish the Convergence and he wasn’t going to let a couple of teenagers stop him.
They burst through the window as Dreamweaver made his way towards the raised podium.
“Mr Coin!” Freya cried. “Stop in the name of justice!”
“I’ll go find Ali.” Chris hissed and began to dart away, but not before draping the carpet back around his shoulders and taking the Dungeon Master’s Guide from Freya.
Dreamweaver turned, as menacingly as he could, and cried, “How do you expect to stop me, Freya Carter? I am the Lord of this Dimension, the Master of this Reality. I am Dream-”
Freya reached to her sides and took hold of Slashy and Stabby. “I’m sorry to cut you off but I don’t think your plan is cut out for this.”
“The same pun twice.” Dreamweaver replied. “I think I’ll be more imaginative in killing you.”
“We’ll see about that.” Freya replied, and raced towards him, axes brandished.
Dreamweaver threw out his hands and axes that looked a lot bigger than Freya’s appeared in them. As she approached, he swept out with one of his. Sparks bounced as the two metal heads collided. Freya stepped back, ducked a large swing and ran beneath Dreamweaver’s flowing cape. Passing behind him, unseen, she swung her axe towards him again but he was in control of his dimension and knew where she was immediately. He spun just in time to catch the attack with his axe, knocking it away and laughing evilly. “I am too powerful!” He cried, dropping an axe and using the empty hand to send a shock wave blasting through the air towards her. “You will never beat me!”
As Freya flew through the air, she had a sudden mental image. A question on Maths Paper One (Non Calculator.) Circle theorems. She’d looked at it, unable to comprehend what it was asking her to do, never mind actually do it. That night, when she’d got home, she’d revised Circle Theorems more than any other topic, probably recklessly so. It resulted in her not having a clue what to do the next day on Paper Two, when a question on angles in parallel lines came up. She revised that too, alongside Circle Theorems. Then, on the third day, she’d done Paper Three. The last question, six marks, was on both Circle Theorems and angles in parallel lines. She’d got full marks on that question. If she could do that, why couldn’t she do this? Coin wasn’t too powerful; he was too arrogant.
Freya hit the floor and snapped out of her flashback, rolling across the cobbles, bloodying her nose in the process. She sat up, cartoon birds swirling around her. Trying to get to her feet, she became increasingly dizzy but she had to. She couldn’t let him win.
He’d taught them back in Year Nine and, although he was wonderful teacher, he wasn’t a wonderful teacher of the curriculum. Sure, they’d learnt about quantum teleportation and Multiple World Interpretation but they hadn’t learnt about volcanoes and so they’d all failed their exams. Maybe now was the time to get him talking about something he was interested in. “Why Mrs Carpenter?” Freya asked, clambering to her feet. “Why did you bring Mrs Carpenter to this dimension?”
“The same reason I brought you to this dimension.” He said. “The same reason I brought Mr Jordan and Miss Boseman* and all the others.”
(*Miss Boseman was their Biology teacher who, for some reason, turned into a minator and went on burger rampages. They called her the Beefalo.)
“But what’s the reason?" Freya frowned. “Why?”
“Because the Camel God demanded it.” Dreamweaver said, obviously pleased to have an audience. “He needs an army of superpowered humans to support him ascend this world. For reasons that not even the deep logicians of the Chaos Theory can comprehend, beings who can control such power have conglomerated at Gilliam High. Other people would have been sickened by a radioactive explosion, vaporised even, but not we. We gained powers and those powers will allow the Camel God’s ascension.”
“But why didn’t Mrs Carpenter recognise us?” Freya asked. Come on, keep him talking whilst you get yourself working. It’s just like two Lego Bricks, needing to click into place. Mentally, she pushed the metaphorical, Danish playthings together with all her might.
“Because she is not your Mrs Carpenter, just as Mr Jordan isn’t your Mr Jordan. The high security prison you’ve had them sent to is unescapable, even to me, a master of reality. I had to take versions of the teachers from other dimensions, where they are yet to gain their abilities. I’m sure, however, that the Camel God won’t mind bestowing their powers once more.”
She would have questioned that last statement. Surely the Camel God couldn’t be the source of their powers, whoever he was, but it was too late. The metaphorical Lego Bricks were putty in her hands. She ran towards Dreamweaver, axes raised. He sighed and began to assume a defensive pose, when suddenly he found he couldn’t.
Click. The bricks pressed together and time stood still.
Freya ran to him and dug her axe into his, snapping it in half. The sudden force of collision knocked her concentration and time unfroze but the damage was done and she was able to jump out of the way as he tried to grab her.
Spinning round mid run, she swirled her axes and threw one towards him. He leapt up, avoiding the axe’s path as it carved through the air below his legs and she paused time with him levitating. She didn’t know how long she could hold those metaphorical bricks together, it was like there was a force inside them pushing to get out, but it didn’t matter. She was quick.
Grabbing his cape, she lifted it up and trapped it against a beam hanging from the room using her axe. Then she ran into the machinery, doing her best to hold time still but ready to let Dreamweaver swing whenever she needed to.
If only she’d looked at the portal. She might have seen the form of a demonic entity, all glowing colours and malevolence, slowly pressing to the front, seemingly unaffected by the metaphorical bricks clicking together.
Chris was unaffected by the time freeze. That was probably the best thing about being a superhero in his opinion: a level of immunity to his friends’ abilities. He ran through the machinery, terrified, heart thudding. For all he knew, Ali might be dead, might be tortured and disemboweled. He wasn’t entirely sure what he would do in such a situation but the notion didn’t really please him. He prayed to whatever Gods people generally prayed to in desperate hope he wouldn’t be presented with such a reality.
The Gods evidently answered his prayers for, instead of Ali’s corpse, he found a gigantic hamster wheel with his friend running around it. “Ali!” He cried, grinning. A frown crossed his head as he looked at the wheel. “I don’t mean to ham-stare but what’s going on?”
“Why?” She replied, her voice pained and slogged but probably from the pun rather than the exertion. “Why would you make that joke?”
“I’m just trying to lighten the situation,” Chris replied. “Can you slow down?”
“No.” She said. “I’ve tried but there’s just too much momentum or something. I can’t stop!”
“Then I’m going to have to stop you.”
“Could you eat a Jaffa Cake first? No offence.”
Chris ignored it (or rather, he allowed it to niggle at him from his subconscious rather than from the rest of his brain) and stared at the set up. The hamster wheel was built into a massive block of machinery, an axle down the centre controlling its movement. There was probably a dynamo on the other side, transferring the kinetic energy into electrical. Wires ran from a box on top of the machine to the projector like object pointing at the huge frame with the pandimensional portal in it. Despite being a Computer Science prodigy, Chris realised that he knew very little when it came to extra dimensional travel machine terminology.
If he could break the dynamo, perhaps it would jam the entire system and stop the wheel? He cursed. It was a rubbish idea and he knew it. If only he had some kind of guide to this mad world of Coin’s, some kind of rule book. Suddenly he realised the weight in his hand. He looked down and grinned. He’d always hated Dungeons and Dragons.
Stepping forward, he jammed the Dungeon Master’s Guide into the space between the wheel and the wall it was sat in. The wheel stopped moving instantly, throwing Ali into the axle and knocking her to the ground. She managed to regain consciousness for long enough, however, to clamber out of the wheel and down to the ground.
“My hero.” She said, frowning at Chris. “Superman wouldn’t have let me hurt my head.”
“I’m not Superman.” Chris replied.
Suddenly, Freya burst around the corner. “I can’t hold it any longer.” She said and exhaled. It was hard to ignore the rivulet of blood running down from her right nostril.
Time began to flow again, yet the portal didn’t die away.
“I must have generated so much electricity it began to store it!” Ali cried. “Damn!”
“We need to do something, Chris.” Freya said, although she sounded slightly dazed as she spoke.
Chris frowned. What could he do? He was just a lanky Computer Science student from the North West of England. He had no powers, no talents. How was he meant to stop a gigantic extra-dimensional machine. Then he suddenly realised. “It’s just a massive computer. I can do computers.”
“The control panel is near to the portal!” Ali cried. “Come on!”
The three of them ran out of the machinery and over towards the control panel. It was slightly more complicated than your average Windows PC but the plethora of levers, dials, displays, plungers and general stuff didn’t matter when they considered what was straight in front of them. An On/Off switch.
“Do it, Chris!” Freya cried. Inside the golden frame, the portal was beginning to swirl more and more powerfully, bright colours oozing out like a rainbow on steroids. “Quickly!”
“Stop right there!” Dreamweaver cried. There was the tear of material and he fell from where his cape had suspended him. Raising both hands, he summoned machine guns. “One further move and I’ll blow you both to Hell.”
“At least there will be something left of them to go to Hell.” Said a voice from behind him. “I’m the goddamn Summoner and I’ve summoned a Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Launcher (Pocket Edition.) This is Lucky Cat. She’s going to make it bloody certainty that only you get vaporised. So I’d put down the guns if I were you.”
Dreamweaver turned and saw, sure enough, Steven and Sophie standing at the balcony, carrying between them a huge rocket launcher with the red tip of a miniature nuclear missile emerging. Sophie shrugged. “You shouldn’t have gone on that lecture about the H-Bomb when you were meant to be teaching us about Nuclear Fission, sir.”
Dreamweaver sighed and dropped the guns. “Flick the off switch, Rogers. I’ll program it to take us back home.”
The projector like machine was called an Infinite Doorway Aligner. Coin programmed it to align only the doorways that would lead them home. It did just that, the portal firing up in glorious blue. The six of them walked through and emerged, from an orange glow on the other side, in M9, the Geography classroom where the whole thing had begun.
Character sheets and dice were scattered all across the floor from the proceeding commotion. The model of the cave system, with red paper applied to the trees Chris had burnt, was crushed and destroyed. The Gang, however, were home safe and that was all that mattered.
Mr Phillips came up when Chris emailed him, using his reiterative abilities to undo everything Dreamweaver had done. The alternate dimensional versions of their teachers were sent back to the right domains with no memory of their experiences. M9 was returned to its former glory and Coin’s portable Doorway Aligner was destroyed.
Men in black suits turned up to arrest Dreamweaver. They asked no questions and gave no thanks. The Gang didn’t mind so much; they were the heroes Gilliam High deserved, regardless of whether they were wanted.
The next morning, sat in the Upper School Dining Hall where Miss Francis had suggested they went to the club in the first place, Chris, Sophie, Steven and Freya laughed and joked about all the badassery that had occurred. “When Freya had the twin axes, though, and was going at the gas worms!” Chris cried. “Oh my, that was so cool!”
“And then the worms were exploding and it was mental!” Steven grinned. “Gas worms. Whoever came up with them must be a genius.”
“You would say that.” Sophie said.
Ali got to the doors and saw the four of them having fun, laughing. They’d had that adventure, without her. She didn’t know if she could bare to listen to it.
“Hey, Ali!” Cried a voice from behind her. She turned and frowned. Desmond Gilliam, the Big D, the grandson of the school’s founder. “You alright?”
“Yeah.” She said. “You?”
“Good, thanks. I meant to come find you yesterday but I forgot. Is it true you’ve got a Ouija Board?”
Ali laughed. “Yeah, my nan meant to buy an ironing board and she thought Ouija was the brand. Why?”
“Me and the Head Girl really wanted to have a go on one and, well, if you’ve got one, we wondered if you wanted to come, have a go with us.”
Ali looked at the others laughing and joking. They wouldn’t miss her. “Yeah, sure. You going to speak to her now?”
“I was planning to, yeah.”
“I’ll tag along.” Ali said, and walked with him, away from the Gang.
After Credits Scene:
High security prison. The walls were black, the uniforms were black. There was an atmosphere of palpable fear everywhere you went. In one of the cells was Donald Jordan, furiously scratching equations onto the walls in chalk. None of the guards knew how he got the chalk, but he did.
In solitary confinement, Celia Carpenter was reciting poetry for hours on end. It had begun to drive the staff mad, but not as much as it did when she asked them questions about real world events that had never happened. One of the guards had broken down in tears when she’d asked whether Japan still had the One Child Policy.
In another cell was the newest inmate. Jon Coin. He had kept mostly silent so far, with a distant look in his eyes as if he was staring into another dimension. Occasionally, he started rocking back and forth in his seat, shaking as he craved cigarettes and a return to the life he’d started taking for granted.
His hope was beginning to dwindle, his faith in the Camel God with it. Create the portal, the God had whispered, and all will go to plan. The world will be ascended and the endgame played. Yet, for some reason, that wasn’t what was going on. How could it just lie to him like that? He was furious, but also heart broken. And now it was trapped in the Alternate Realm with no hope of ever returning. It made him want to cry.
“Don’t cry, Jon.” Said the form that suddenly appeared next to him. It seemed to shift and morph as he stared at it, but it never lost that stunning white glow, like an ethereal messiah, a divine aurora. Coin realised it was an astral form. The Camel God’s astral form. “Craft. Craft a new world with me.”
“But how did you get here, oh great one?” Coin demanded.
“When the girl paused time, she just gave me an opportunity to step through the portal. I am not confined to the four dimensions, nor am I affected by her powers. Or any of their powers. If anything, she assisted me.” The Camel God noticed his discomfort at this notion. “Fear not. I will reward you for your efforts, as well as her. Your reward will be immortality at my side.”
“And the girl’s?”
“She will be the last of her team to die. They have challenged me too many times but I will vanquish them.”
“You’ll need a body to do that.” Coin said. “Please, take mine. I waste it.”
“I appreciate the offer, Dreamweaver, but no. You are too valuable to me. I think that I will claim the form of another…”
“Another human? Another powered human?”
“No.” The Camel God said, passing through the wall. “Another Physics Teacher.”