Monday, 7 August 2017

Love, Lies And Old Allies (part 4)

Mama Mia. Here we go again. My my. Isn’t this an excruciatingly bad musical. 
Ali wasn't a massive fan of musicals. They weren’t really her kind of thing, but she’d been to see the school production of Hairspray and her mum had dragged into the living room when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had been on. She hadn’t particularly enjoyed either of those experience but compared to the Abba inspired monstrosity she was watching now, she would take Dick Van Dyke and his hideous accent any day.
“What’s the matter, Ali?” Charlotte asked, noticing the dismay across her face. “Don’t like musicals?”
“It’s not that… it’s just that I’m more a Bee Gees girl myself.” She said.
On the floor, Julie looked up and said, “I totally agree. The Bee Gees are a good British band. Abba are immigrants.”
Desmond came in from the garden. “Sorry about that guys. Just, had business to attend to.”
“What business?” Ali cried. “You’re always disappearing like that but I still don’t understand what you’re doing.”
“I’m just dealing with important matters.” He said. “Needed to talk to a few Year Sevens.”
“There are Year Sevens in Charlotte’s garden?” Ali frowned.
“They’re small enough to fit through the holes between fence panels.” Julie shrugged.
“Anyway!” Charlotte cried. “I’ll go put tea in, yeah? Everyone okay for pizzas?”
“I’ll give you a hand.” Julie said, standing up and shuffling after her.
 Desmond frowned at them for a moment and then turned to Ali. “Want a drink?”
“Coke would be nice.”
 “Oh, I have plenty of that.” Desmond laughed and disappeared into the kitchen. 
That left Ali alone in the front room. She stood up and wandered over towards the pictures on the mantlepiece. Most of them depicted Charlotte at various concerts, one of her at a Christian festival, but there were a couple others of people Ali vaguely recognised as Charlotte's parents. One showed the mother with a guitar stood outside the Cavern Club, perhaps because she was never invited to play inside. The other showed the father with a small dog, a Cocker Spaniel if her memory served.
“That’s Alby.” Charlotte smiled, wandering over. “My dad’s dog when he was little.”
“Cute.” Ali said.
“Yeah.” Charlotte said. “He always looks that way in the pictures. Anyway, here’s your drink.”
Ali took the Coke and smiled, taking a sip. “So, Charlotte, done any more songs lately?”
“I’ve been working on one recently.” Charlotte said. “I’m not sure how it sounds though.”
“What song?”
“Kiss Me.” Charlotte replied, her face glowing in the late evening light. Considering how close the two of them were, Ali was surprised she couldn’t feel the glow on her skin. They stared into each others’ eyes for a minute, locked together, Ali almost entranced, feeling like she was falling and tumbling deep into Charlotte’s soul… 
“You know, by Ed Sheeran.” Charlotte added and broke Ali from the trance.
Ali found herself, for the first time, thanking the Gods she wasn’t more impulsive. “That’s, yeah, that’s a good song.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot easier if you have someone to sing it about. Actually, recently, I've been singing it a lot better than I used to.”
“I’d love to hear it.” Ali said.
“I’d love for you to hear it, but unfortunately not.” Charlotte said. “Mr King confiscated my guitar the other day.”
“No! That’s awful. Why’d he do that?”
“Well, I was in a Science lesson so I probably shouldn’t have been playing it.” She laughed. “I know where it is; in one of the music rooms. I just need keys to get in.”
“Can’t you ask Mrs Jones? She’ll let you in, won’t she?”
Charlotte shook her head. “I asked her but she said she’s got to do as the Assistant Principal says. If I could get keys, though, I’d be able to get in.”
“Where are the keys?” Ali asked.
“Last I saw them, they were on Mr King’s desk. He’ll probably give them to the Caretakers in the morning.”
“Then we’ll have to steal them tonight.” Ali grinned.
Charlotte’s mouth hung open. “We can’t break into the school!”
“We wouldn’t be; I know a secret way in, and I’ll go alone so that I have less chance of being caught.”
“Okay, but make me a promise.” Charlotte said.
“What promise?”
“Actually, two promises. First that you’ll only get the keys. There’ll be loads of guitars in the music rooms and if you spend time looking through them, you’ll be more likely to get caught. I can sneak in early tomorrow and get it then.” 
Ali nodded. “And the second promise?”
“That’ll you let me take you for a milkshake to say thank you?”
Ali smiled. “I’d like that. A lot. Right, back in five minutes. Save me some pizza.”
Charlotte saw her out. As Ali was beginning to step out of the door, Charlotte tapped her on the shoulder and bent over. “Here’s something to keep you going.”
She kissed her on the cheek and then closed the door.
Ali wandered until she was out of sight and then punched the air several times. A massive grin plastered across her face, she exploded into a purple haze and disappeared.

“Urgh.” Charlotte said, wiping her lips and stepped over to the cupboard under the stairs. She opened it and picked up her guitar, from over the slumped bodies of her parents. Then she walked back into the front room where Julie and Desmond were waiting, a group of Year Sevens laying the table.
She sat down and began to strum, not forming any particular song but just making a nice acoustic noise.
“Everything go to plan?” Desmond asked.
Charlotte smiled. “Like a charm.”

The Museum of Ancient History. A shadow seemed to pass over its walls, merging into the growing darkness of the summer night. Then, all of a sudden, there was a flare of orange and Captain Jaffa Cake landed with a roll, bouncing to his feet and slinging a Jaffa Cake into the security camera overlooking the space where his friends were about to emerge.
The Jaffaery goodness obscuring the camera’s view, Lucky Cat, Tempus and the Summoner hurried around the corner to join him. Lucky Cat waved her hand over the door and changed the probability of a visitor today accidentally dropping a wine gum, which a cleaner had accidentally swept into the small hole where the bolt at the bottom of the door slid into. As a result, the bolt wasn’t shut and the door swung straight open.
They stepped into the Celtic Hall. Tempus waved her hand through the air and slowed down time. “The guards should be frozen in whatever room they’re in.”
“Good.” The Summoner said. His hand flared and a set of blue prints appeared. Beginning to unravel the scroll, he revealed a detailed map of the museum. “We’re here and the Palmers’ Office is… here. Come on.”
They hurried out of the room and down a few corridors until the entrance to the Camel God hall roared up on their right. Captain Jaffa Cake pushed the door open and they wandered through, into the large room, heading around the side of the sacrificial temple and over to a pair of wooden doors in the far corner.
Captain Jaffa Cake gave it a push and sighed. It wouldn’t budge. To the side, there was a keypad. He turned to Lucky Cat. “Reckon you could increase the probability of me tapping the right buttons?”
Lucky Cat pointed to the screen at the top, which displayed the need four buttons to be pressed. Observing the nine keys, she said, “Captain, there are four hundred and ninety five different possibilities. I don’t think I have that much power.”
The Summoner raised a finger to his ear and said, “Reiteration Man, can you hear us?”
Sat in the Cairns Cave, Reiteration Man was leant back in a chair behind B.E.S.S.I.E., watching them on a screen whilst he ate a bowl of granola. “I’m not entirely sure if I approve of this, you know.”
“Please, sir.” The Summoner said. “We need to know our enemy.”
Reiteration Man sighed and leant forward, clicking a few keys at his desk. Then he hit enter. In the museum, the little bulb on the keypad lit green and the door swung open.
“Thanks, sir.” The Summoner said and the Gang wandered into the study.
It was a small room, big enough from for two desks and a sofa’s length between the two. A window overlooked the museum’s forecourt but they weren’t there for sight seeing. Instead, they set their attentions on the desks and the book shelves.
Books seemed to line the room, every bit of the four walls containing them apart from where the door and window were placed. The Summoner, who was a slave for a book obsessed website, grinned and ran over, beginning to prowl through the books for anything of interesting. 
Captain Jaffa Cake wandered over to the computer on one of the Doctors’ desks and raised a finger to his ear. “If you wouldn’t mind helping me, sir. I haven’t quite got to the part of my EPQ dealing with hacking computers.”
On the other end of the line, Reiteration Man sighed. Then the computer in front of the Captain became unlocked. 
“Thank you.” He said and began to search the files.
Behind him, Lucky Cat changed the probability of research being left out and several books opened on each desk. She wandered over but the vast majority of them was on the sacrificial temple, not on anything to do with being trapped.
Tempus sat down at the other Doctors’ desk and looked at the various photographs. They depicted their son beginning to grow up, from a baby to the man who’d perished in the radioactive explosion at Gilliam High. She frowned. There was something wrong with the pictures. She strained her eyes and realised. In the three photos depicting him under the age of about eleven or twelve, he wasn’t wearing the amulet he wore obsessively in all the other pictures. Although the pictures weren’t of the highest quality, they seemed to show the amulet as being green with black stripes spiralling out from the centre. There was something strangely hypnotic about it.
Raising a finger to her ear, she said, “Reiteration Man, can you do me a favour?”
“What is it?”
“I’ve got a hunch. Did Richard Palmer have any time off school when he was at Gilliam High?”
Reiteration Man opened up the school records, clicked on P and then set the search parameters to male ex-students in the correct time setting. Only about five options came up. He cycled through them and nodded. “Tempus, Doctor Palmer had a whole term off in his first year but the school allowed it because his parents insisted on his education being maintained whilst he was away.”
“Where did he go?”
“Give me a second.” He clicked the relevant box but made sure to give a spare keyboard a loud tap to ensure Freya thought he was doing something hackery. “Here we go. Went to Egypt with his parents for an archaeological dig.”
“Thanks sir." She said and turned to the others. “I think Richard Palmer started wearing an ancient artefact from the age of twelve.”
“What kind of artefact?” Captain Jaffa Cake asked.
“An amulet.” She replied. “Taken from the dig site where they unearthed the sacrificial temple.”
Captain Jaffa Cake typed ‘amulet’ into the search bar of the computer and nodded. “Well, would you look at that?”
“What?”
“The legend of the Camel God involves his banishment to an Alternate Realm.” Lucky Cat read over his shoulder. “And his physical remains were incinerated before being placed in an amulet.”
“I bet it was the amulet Palmer had.” The Summoner said. “If he was wearing it on the day of the explosion…”
“These pictures seem to suggest he wore it every day for over ten years so I wouldn’t be surprised.” Tempus interjected.
“If that amulet was hit by a radioactive blast, would that be enough to weaken the banishment? Allow the Camel God to return?”
“According to this legend,” Captain Jaffa Cake said, “his return would result in cosmic apocalypse.”
“But first it would be heralded by four messengers.” Lucky Cat read. “Four disciples of the Camel God.”
“Dreamweaver for one.” Tempus said, raising her fingers to count. “The Antithetic and the Calculator? Who’s the fourth?”
“The Beefalo.” The Summoner suggested.
“No.” Captain Jaffa Cake said, shaking his head. “She wasn’t trying to achieve anything greater than avenging fallen animals. There must be someone else.”
“Mr Moose.” Lucky Cat laughed. “His power is that he doesn’t need to blink.”
There was the sound of footsteps padding against the floor. Tempus cursed and froze the Camel God hall. She must have let her concentration slip. “We need to get out.”
Lucky Cat nodded and ran over to the window, pulling it open and looking down. There was maybe a thirty foot drop. “Steven, reckon you could summon a bouncy castle?”
“I can summon lots of pillows.” The Summoner said, shrugging and raising his hand. About a hundred pillows exploded into existence across the concrete forecourt. Lucky Cat climbed up to the window and changed the probability of her successfully hitting the pillows. Her scarves flew up behind her as she did, until she hit the pillows with a roll and leapt back to her feet. Tempus was next, slowing time as she fell so that she was able to touch the ground with infinite grace. Then the Summoner followed, his huge red cape flaring up behind him. He hit the pillows with a bump and leapt up, his cape spiralling out and hitting Lucky Cat.
“Thanks Steven.” She sighed.
Captain Jaffa Cake stood to the window sill and picked his shield from his arm, throwing it down so that the chocolate top hit the floor. Then, he leapt from the sill and flew, orange cape lifting up behind him. His feet planted themselves in the cake, Jaffaery goodness exploding in all directions but absorbing the impact of his fall.
“Let’s get going.” He said, a new Jaffa Cake forming on his arm. “We need to establish who this fourth messenger is.”
“And we need to tell Ali.” Steven said.

Ali was creeping through the Cairns Cave. The stone piles that leant their base its name were scattered throughout the tunnels and, as of yet, she wasn’t entirely sure why. She decided that she’d ask Mr Phillips to install some cameras and get to the bottom of it once and for all.
Ahead of her, there appeared to be lights on. She cursed under breath and slowed down, taking more care now not to alert anyone to her presence. She crept forward slower and quieter, peering towards the amber glow of the main room. 
Approaching the wooden frame that held up the doorway of the tunnel, she saw the cave’s only occupant. Mr Phillips himself, sat at Bessie watching something in the black and white of security footage.
She took a deep breath and then willed herself to speed. Her whole body rippled and any observers would have sworn she exploded into a haze. To her, however, it just appeared like everything around began to move a lot slower. The Laws of Physics were the same in all reference points; that was special relativity for you.
She hurried across the central cave, towards the stairs she knew led out to the staff room entrance. Her presence went mostly unnoticed, except for a selection of past papers on the coffee table that ruffled as she burst past them. Luckily, she was out of there and up the stairs before Mr Phillips could react.
Emerging in the staff room, Ali turned off her powers and hurried over to the door. She pushed it slowly open. On the other side, something moved.
She shrunk back into the wall and held herself very still, becoming suddenly aware of how loud her heart was thundering in her chest. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and wrapped her fingers around the door handle, pulling it open and stepping through the door frame. Nothing on the other side. 
She stuck her head out. A pair of Year Sevens were walking down the corridor, towards the Assembly Hall.
“Trust us to get locked in.” One of them muttered to the other.
“At least we’re not going to run out of food.” The other laughed.
“The boss’ll be well miffed if we eat his stock.”
“Yeah, but he’ll be more miffed if he finds a pair of dead bodies down there tomorrow morning.”
“Suppose. Race you to the Pringles?”
“You’re on.”
They began to run. Ali watched them disappear into the Upper School Dining Hall and then stepped out, turning once more into a purple haze. Then she crept along the corridor, passing the Upper School Dining Hall and Assembly Hall, passing the reception and reaching Mr King’s office. The door was locked by an electromagnetic clamp but she simply leant on it and it opened; that was the power of her momentum. The door swung open and she stepped in, heading over to the keys on the table. Switching her powers off, she reached out and picked the keys up. They were on the end of a maroon lanyard and placed around a large keyring. There was a large skeleton key as well as several smaller keys for individual rooms and a fob. With a ring of keys like that, you could probably enter every room in the school. She grinned at the prospect of Charlotte playing her that song and exploded into a haze once more.

Wednesday, the next morning, Chris and Steven arrived around the same time. Little known to them, there was someone watching them from the little room above the main entrance. As they walked beneath it, Chris turned to Steven and said, “I need to head down to the Cave to get my bag; I left it there yesterday.”
“I was planning to meet the girls there anyway, seeing we’ve got free periods all day.” Steven said. “I just need to go find Ali first so we can get her up to date. See you down there.”
Chris nodded and headed off to the end of L-Block. Steven, meanwhile, headed to the left, into M-Block and in the direction of the Upper School Dining Hall where Ali sat most mornings. In the far distance, he thought he saw Desmond Gilliam with a pair of tired looking Year Sevens. Frowning, he hurried along when he heard a voice behind him.
“Hey! Steven! You looking for me?”
He turned and saw Ali approaching. “Yes, yes I was actually. We found some stuff out that we wanted to bring you up to speed on. Come down to the Cave, I’ll show you.”
“I’m afraid I’m a bit busy right now. Charlotte’s doing a performance piece and I said I’d go see it.”
“Please, Ali. This is important. It’s about the Camel God.”
Ali sighed and shook her head. “I’m sorry Steven. You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice but she’s my friend.”
Steven watched her run away, after Desmond Gilliam and the year sevens. “So was I.”

Ali hurried up M-Block hallway and into Upper School Dining Hall, over towards the kitchens. She took a left through a door that led up onto the stage. Padding across, she reached the stairs at the back and hurried down, towards the large room under the stairs. She looked around, grinning, it was a wonderful sight.
Desmond looked up from the Year Sevens he was attending to and smiled. “How’d he take it?”
“Exactly how we wanted him to.” Ali replied. She began to glow, her skin rippling. She stretched and twisted, creaking and cracking. All of a sudden, Ali Grant was gone, replaced instead by Julie. She smiled. “With the Gang divided and the Flish working for us, nothing can stand in our way.”
There was a pattering of footsteps behind her. She turned and saw Charlotte walking down the steps. “The Flish doesn’t work for us. Not just yet. I have the keys but not her complete trust. I believe we should tell her the truth.”
“Don’t you think it’s a little risky?” Desmond asked.
“Potentially but you know I can be charming.” She smiled. “We tell her the truth and we use the full range of her powers. You know it makes sense.”
Desmond sighed and nodded. “I suppose you’re right.”

“You know I am.” Charlotte said and turned to Julie. “Go fetch Ali. It’s time we moved the masterplan forward.”