This is the latest installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year. There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out. The story proper starts here.
Meredith got out of the Landrover and looked around. Llyn y Fan Fach was not quite as impressive as they had expected – the legend that Esther had recounted had built up the place somewhat and the body of water did not live up to it. A small lake, by virtue of the fact that small rills tumbled down the mountainside as some kind of watery sacrifice, and because, when the lake was high enough, excess water fed into the arteries of the land. It was these two features that technically made this a lake rather than a large pond. The lake lurked at the bottom of steep sided mountains. Bunter being busy elsewhere, the AI took it upon itself to tentatively offer that the shape of the lake was a bit like that of the island-continent Australia, and that the general setting was reminiscent of a a volcano, or an impact crater, that had tumbled down and worn away preferentially on the northern side. In fact, the AI said, the small U shaped mountain range was the result of glaciation. Meredith made a note to find out what glaciation was at a later date. Maybe. It didn’t seem to have any direct relevance at the moment. Meredith caught themselves reflecting on how the lake didn’t look anything like Australia: too rectangular and the point bit was in the wrong place entirely. A speech bubble might be a better analogy. Meredith ruefully reflected that Bunter would probably have gone with speech analogy option, avoiding the distraction of overthinking things. Trying to ignore the sensations of missing the sentient sub-routine, and of hoping that it was ok, Meredith gave a virtual shake of the head and returned focus to the tasks at hand.
Owain, by virtue of unmarked farm roads, sheep-tracks, and dry stream beds, had managed to bring the Landrover to the foot of the Picws Du peak, a few hundred metres from the edge of the lake and half a kilometre from the point at which the footpath up from the carpark reached the demesne of Llyn y Fan Fach.
“Owain, just tuck the Landrover back to the edge of the hillside would you?” Meredith said whilst rummaging in their backpack for something. Owain obliged, and then hopped down from the drivers seat. By this time Meredith had found what he was looking for: a small package, the size of teabag. Meredith issued an instruct/authorise code and the package began to unfold, and unfold, and unfold.
“Esther, Owain, quick! Grap hold of an edge before we lose it entirely!”
“What is it?” Esther gasped as she grabbed at the proffered edge, reacting to the tone of voice.
“Invisibility cloak…” you could almost hear the smirk. “Right lets pull it over the Landrover. Yes, that’s right. OK, Esther, you make sure that it’s tucked in round the wheels at the front. We don’t need to worry so much about the back, because nobody will see it, but we do need to make sure that it can’t flap lose or something.
They stood back to admire their handiwork.
“I thought you said it was an invisibility cloak” Owain said critically. “I can still see the Landrover.”
Meredith attempted to snap his fingers in a grand gesture, and failed due to the lack of sufficient tension between the two fingers. They both looked at the little alien at the crucial moment though, the moment when the activation code was sent, and that was what mattered. Looking back to where the Landrover was parked, Esther let out a little squeaking gasp, and Owain gave a low whistle. He was surprisingly calm and collected, and didn’t walk towards the car, but instead circled around it, wolf-like. He stopped, shock showing on his face and then he started laughing, beckoning Esther over. His sister joined him, although in the few moments that it took her to reach the spot where he stood, he was laughing so hard he could barely stand-up. There, hanging in the air, she saw the part of the Landrover that hadn’t been covered by the cloak. the back door, the rear wheels, just appeared to be standing there. She moved her head slightly. It was impossible to see the Landrover from any other direction, and because they had folded the cloak around at the back, there wasn’t even a tell-tale one dimensional line.
“Come on you two – we’ve got work to do.”
“Coming” Esther said. BY this time Owain was weeping and practically doubled over. She couldn’t see the joke herself, but that was boys for you. She grabbed his sleeve and gently pulled him along, he stumbled slightly but took a deep ratcheting breath and tried to get himself under control. Esther walked slowly, with many backward looks at the empty patch of ground and the steep slope of the mountainside behind it. By the time they reached Meredith, Owain was almost master of himself again. When he finally took in the scene before him, it might have made him hysterical again, but instead his eyes went as wide as saucers.
Whilst the siblings had been distracted by the novelty of the hidden vehicle, Meredith had taken the opportunity to flow out of the clothes that formed the disguise and to tuck the clothes into the backpack. Space had been made for these by the removal of several items. The largest Meredith picked up and placed in Esther’s hands. He took out a couple of plaster-like patches and gently slapped them on the back of Esther and Owain’s necks.
“Right, it’ll take a couple of minutes to synch, but this is my support AI, and I’ve given you both access privileges. The AI will help you if things go wrong, and will also help you to stay in touch with me. Esther has priority, because right now she seems the more sensible of the two of you.”
“Hey!” Owain said. Meredith would have loved to raise an eyebrow at this point, but lacking eyebrows chose to ignore the comment. Instead, he handed Esther the sunglasses which immediately gave her a heads-up-display of the location.
“Cool! Thank you!”
“So unfair” Owain muttered.
“They’re a better fit for you” Meredith said looking at the girl, “although they’re so easy to use that even Owain could use them.”
“What is this? Pick on Owain day? And I did get you here!”
“Ooooh!” Esther gasped, as the patch on her neck tingled. She wondered if the events of the morning were starting to catch up with her, as a whispering sensation prickled across her brain. It felt a little like the sensation of having thought of something for a split second, forgotten what it was, but being left with the ghost of the thought.
“And what are they for?” Owain was asking, pointing at the other items on the ground.
“Watch” Meredith said. Again, an activation code was sent, but this time Esther felt it inside her head, and saw a number of icons appear on the HUD. On the ground, the packages opened and unfolded like flowers, to reveal small drones which immediately took off and flew up into the sky to give some coverage of the foot-path up to the lake, the carpark and the rest of the Llyn y Fan Fach area. On the HUD, one of the icons blinked and Esther worked out how to look at it and cause it to maximise. The video stream from the drone showed some serious looking black cars pulling into the car-park.
“That doesn’t look good!” she exclaimed. “There are some more of those cars like the ones at the cafe, and one that looked expensive and unsuited to the countryside. From this one emerged a figure who straightened his jacket and immediately began gesticulating in an authoritative and peremptory manner.
“OK. Looks like we don’t have much time. You two find somewhere to hide. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I’ll try and stay in touch, but don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a bit.” And with that the little alien bounced down to the water’s edge.
Just as they bounced higher, preparatory to diving into the lake, Bunter made contact. Through her link, Esther heard a voice say “It’s me, Bunter. I’m in.”
“Initiate phase 2. Esther’s in charge for now” and the spherical alien disappeared into the water.
Esther looked at Owain who said “Who’s Bunter?”
In their minds, a voice said, “Who’s Esther?”
© David Jesson, 2019
During 2019, I’m undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.
The shape of the story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.
Part 11: to borrow from Terry Pratchett, not quite the final frontier, but pretty penultimate… Again, no poll, because I know what I want to do to finish off, but if you’ve got any special requests do make sure to let me know!
See you next month!