Surprise Visit (part 23)


The end is nigh, or so they say. The end of this tale, anyway. But not right now: this is merely part 23, which is only almost the end…

Chapter Eight

Two days after fleeing Cruton, Nigel was still complaining to Magnuss that he and his retinue should have returned to Scroton. But as much as he wittered on about the subject, so Magnuss ignored him.

“You needed a vacation before this little escapade,” Went Magnuss’ argument, “you certainly need one after it!”

The aforementioned retinue agreed with this, none more so than Beatrix. So the Tankerville Norris remained on course for the Solar System…

The Museum of Future Technology was safe; there was no rush; rather than use hyperspace conduits, they traveled at supra-light speeds through regular space. Of course they did contact Cushions Smethwyke to tell her that the museum could drop the Chameleon Cannon Cloak and come out of hiding – for which the huge-toothed yellow earplug was very grateful. Also, whilst they had time on their hands, Walker Crabtrouser, Bertram Hisscod, and Fermin Gusset had discussed the problem of the Cruton spies in Scroton’s midst. Whilst doing so, Walker recalled his clandestine meeting in the catacombs with Fermin…

He mentioned the moment when he feared he and Fermin were not alone. This information forced Bertram into a confession:

“Um,” he began, “you know Scroton is supposed to be a free society in which no citizen need ever worry that the state is spying on him or her?”

Both Militarians replied with a long, questioning, “yes?”

“Well,” Bertram continued awkwardly, “by and large that is true: but some years ago our younger selves were having some problems with small animal infestations that were spoiling our stored custard powder, which was kept in the catacombs. Well, to cut a long story short, we put up closed circuit television cameras all over the city that were linked to a central recording suite at the Security HQ. They…aah…are still in operation. We spot quite a few naughty goings-on with them. It’s all a bit … you know… hush-hush. Strictly speaking it shouldn’t be happening. I don’t think Nigel knows anything about it.”

Perhaps Walker and Fermin had enjoyed one too many café cortados that morning: both were a little slow to figure out the significance of what the Security Chief was telling them. Bertram recognised this in their slack-jawed response to his confession:

“There will be a visual and auditory recording of your conversation in the catacombs.” He said. “More importantly, if there was anyone else present – listening in, like Cruton spies might – they’ll also be identified.”

Walker didn’t waste a second: like a trained gymnast he was half-way to the door before Fermin and Bertram could get out of the way.

“I’m calling Scroton.” He said. “Those spy cameras are a god-send. That recording is gold dust. Bertram, you are genius. With your evidence, we’ll have those rotters identified and rounded up in a jiffy. Just don’t tell Nigel about it: he’ll be very cross.”

A day later, the Tankerville Norris reached Earth. Its landing flight path took it over the smog-enshrouded former habitation of Le Ciudad de Droxford…   

 

The sight of it set Beatrix’s creative juices flowing. After flying slowly over kilometre after kilometre of a bland, formless sameness, she said to Hair-Trigger:

“Your rather natty trick of sucking up the constituent atoms of the shape-shifter with the Bussard collectors has got me thinking: since the Cruton weapons that tore the city apart were the same as the Scroton weapon that disassembled the giant sausage roll, might it be possible to use the same trick to repair La Ciudad de Droxford?”

Magnuss and Nigel, who were busy making a toasted banana sandwich, looked up.

“By the Saint of All Earplugs,” Magnuss boomed in a most masculine manner that shook some dust from a high lintel that previously no one could reach, “Beatrix that is brilliant. If the atoms haven’t blown too far, we’ll be able to suck them up again in next to no time!”

“You mean,” Nigel said almost disbelievingly, “that Beatrix might have found a way of giving back the city inhabitants their homes and livelihoods? Why, it’s almost a miracle? Beatrix, I loved you before: now I prostrate myself before you: the true brains of the planet Scroton!”

Shortly after that, the ship arrived at Tower Six in the smoggy space-port of the Museum of Future Technology…

“I’ll get straight on to Cushions with the idea.” Magnuss said as the ship grounded. “Looks like half the city’s atoms are hanging in air above the museum. This could be a quicker job than I first imagined.”

This was good news for the party from Scroton. It enabled them to go about their vacation with hearts swelling with relief and pride. Soon they were taking in all the sights and poking their collective nose into technologies from many eras that were yet to exist. Such was their enjoyment of the trip, not one of them noticed gangs of museum workers going about their business.  Work gangs using their futuristic equipment to clean the air, the interior and the exterior of the museum, and the surrounding countryside for many kilometres distant; then compress the minute detritus into large plastic bags; and finally transport it to the site upon which the Ciudad de Droxford had existed originally. So they were pleasantly surprised, as the end of the vacation came near, to receive an invitation to visit the, still incomplete rejuvenation of La Ciudad de Droxford. The first sight to greet them, that night, was the downtown city business centre, with all its tower blocks…

From there their air taxi followed the central highway through the main retail zone…

…where it alighted – to allow them to see, close-up, one of the almost-completed residential areas…

“See, Beatrix,” Nigel said as the married couple stood in the centre of an empty plaza, “without your presence, none of this would have been possible. This is a lasting legacy to you. I hope they name a barrio or something after you.”

Beatrix didn’t quite know what to say. Fortunately Fermin arrived at a dead run from a side street. “Golden One,” he yelled from the corner of an apartment block, “you gotta see this. Hurry.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Only a smidgen more to come, then you’ll be able to access and read / download the complete tale. Won’t that be nice!

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