You have landed at the place where you can experience the continuing chronicles of the Loudhailer Electric Company mothership and crew. Starring Leconauts Captain Lou Loudhailer, Sonic Architect Parsons, Ricardo the Astral Bard and Bombardier Legg. Written by Loudhailer Electric Company’s Sonic Architect and keeper of the sacred flangector, this is Season 21 of the adventurous antics of the Leconauts traversing the galaxy and encountering a myriad of marvellous musical lifeforms and dastardly villains as they venture forth to perform at the galaxy’s Temples of Song.
HERE WE GO WITH SEASON TWENTY-ONE OF THE LECO CHRONICLES! IT’S EPISODE ONE AND CHANGES ARE AFOOT…….!
‘Shadow spirits’ said Admiral Bunting, with an air of finality.
‘Shadow spirits?’ repeated the Astral Bard, somewhat incredulously.
‘Yes, I’ve seen it happen before. Very rare, of course, and they are only able to predate when there is an unusually high concentration of negative ions in the air.’
The Astral Bard smiled ruefully. Yes, he could well imagine that a ‘high concentration’ of negative ions had allowed his crewmate to be snatched by such quasi-mythical entities as shadow spirits.
‘So the Leco needs a new Bombardier; any thoughts?’, asked the wily space renegade.
‘As a matter of fact, we’ve already made an appointment’ replied Captain Lou. The Admiral raised an eyebrow, almost imperceptibly. ‘An acquaintance of the Sonic Architect. He comes highly recommended. Excellent references from the Aftershock, a light starcruiser of the Cover Class, and more serious active duty on the Antarctica.’
‘The Antarctica?!’ exclaimed the Admiral. ‘A vessel shrouded in the mysterious mists of antiquity, captained by a clone of your own Sonic Architect if I’m not mistaken?’
‘You are correct’ smiled the Captain. ‘I’ll wager he can tell some stories of serving on such a hallowed ship?’ said the Admiral, clearly fishing. The Captain smiled. ‘You know that the Antarctica’s missions are all top secret and no crew member can speak freely of them!’ Captain Lou wagged a finger at the Admiral, who quickly blushed and lowered his eyes.
With that a familiar ‘whoosh’ announced that visitors were imminent. As the door to the Admiral’s office opened two figures entered the room; first, the Sonic Architect, a new flangector interface module strapped around his upper body; secondly, a tall and lean man whom the Admiral did not recognise. The Admiral’s eyes were drawn to a distinctive and highly unusual tonsure of green hair, standing up straight from the newcomer’s head. He carried a pair of thunder sticks.
‘Evening, Admiral’ said the Sonic Architect, cheerily. ‘Allow me to introduce Bombardier Legg, our new Thunder Conjuror.’
The Bombardier stepped forward and gave the renegade salute whilst announcing ‘Bombardier Legg reporting for duty, SIR!’ He placed a particular emphasis on the last word. The Admiral stood and extended his hand in the ancient Terra Gaian greeting. The Bombardier took it and shook it warmly and enthusiastically. ‘At ease’ said the Admiral and the Bombardier immediately became much looser.
‘Tell me, soldier’ asked the Admiral, ‘you ever seen attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion?’ ‘Er, no sir!’ replied the Bombardier. ‘Hmmm’ muttered the Admiral. ‘You ever executed a slingshot around the sun in order to travel back through time?’ ‘Er, no sir!’ came the reply once more. ‘Hmmm. You ever take the Kobayashi Maru test?’ ‘Of course, sir!’ came the reply. The Bombardier sounded somewhat exasperated. ‘I..’ he began, but the Admiral cut him off short with a wave of his hand. ‘Never mind that now. I just have one more question for you, musicnaut!’
Bombardier Legg looked at the Admiral, expecting him to speak again, but he remained silent. After a sextagrain, he decided to break the silence. ‘What’s that, sir?!’ he asked. The Admiral walked around the Bombardier’s back and came full circle to face him. ‘How long’ he began, ‘do you figure it would take you to de-spaceweed a Firebird class starcruiser……..?’
HERE’S EPISODE TWO OF SEASON TWENTY-ONE! IN WHICH THE LECONAUTS ARE GIVEN A MISSION…….!
‘….spaceweed?’ Bombardier Legg looked nonplussed. ‘Yes, spaceweed’ repeated Admiral Bunting. ‘Your predecessor was the go-to person when the disposal of spaceweed became an issue. He could clear a heavy starcruiser in a sextaset. And dispose of it, too!’
Spaceweed was the semi-sentient plant which drifted in space and could wrap itself around sensitive equipment on the exterior of a starcruiser, or clog important intakes and exhausts.
The Bombardier was just about to respond when Captain Lou cut in. ‘That won’t be an issue any more, Admiral’, she began. ‘We have taken delivery of some new nanobots which are programmed to do that particular job.’
‘I see’ replied the Admiral; he looked almost disappointed. ‘Automation’ he mumbled, followed by something else which the Leconauts didn’t quite catch. Captain Lou was sure it was better that way.
‘Anyway, I have a new mission for you’ he continued. ‘Upon the Plains of Older Ness. A time well has opened up and some subversives are using it to come through to our temporal location. I need you to plug it!’
‘Won’t that be a little tricky?’ asked the Captain. ‘Older Ness is a, how shall we say, backwater. The appearance of four members of the Renegade Alliance is bound to cause comment and concern.’
‘I’ve thought of that’, replied the wily space bandit. ‘I’ve organised a festival of spacechants at which you can appear. You won’t be conspicuous at all!’
‘Excellent’ said the Sonic Architect. ‘We have a perfect spacechant which will plug a time well very nicely!’
‘I figured you may’ smiled the Admiral. ‘In fact’, he continued, ‘some of the subversives I mentioned have been putting on their own festivals and have actually……’; he swallowed hard, almost choking on the next words he was about to say. ‘……actually launching other people’s spacechants into the aether!’
This bizarre pronouncement was met with cries of ‘yeurgh’ and ‘surely not’ and sundry wretching. Launching a spacechant not of your own making into the aether had long been regarded as an abomination.
They all recovered their composure and the Admiral spoke again. I’ve sent the co-ordinates to the Leco’s mainframe; it’s a place called Burton Constable Hall.’
‘Aah’ exclaimed the Astral Bard, ‘the origin of the legend of Bert and Con’s Tay Bull, Aule!’ ‘Quite so!’ exclaimed the Admiral. ‘So, get yourselves there and plug the time well! I don’t want to find that any more subversives from the Age of Legends have found their way through!
Back on the bridge of the Leco, Bombardier Legg was becoming accustomed to the systems and equipment of the starcruiser. There were a few tricky manoeuvres which he still needed to get to grips with. The Captain spoke; ‘set course for Older Ness, Bombardier!’ she instructed. ‘Aye, aye, cap’n’ came the reply. ‘Let’s approach from the ocean side; that way we’ll arouse less suspicion! Full ahead then double back on the starboard bow!’
‘So that means we’re heading….?’
‘Yes’ replied the Captain. ‘Out to sea……..!’
HERE WE GO WITH SEASON TWENTY-ONE EPISODE THREE! IN WHICH THE LECONAUTS FIND THAT YOU’RE NEVER VERY FAR FROM A JOBSWORTH!
The Leco wheeled to starboard and came around over the Sea of the North on the approach to th Plain of Older Ness. The twinkling lights of Kardomah City were visible in the distance. ‘Retro thrusters’ cried Captain Lou, ‘steady as she goes!’
‘Aye, aye, cap’n’ replied Bombardier Legg, releasing pressure on the twin pedals controlling the Thunder Machine which was supplying motive power to the Leco’s helm. The huge vessel came to a standstill. ‘Cloak in place’ said the Astral Bard. The ship was now invisible, a precaution which Captain Lou felt was prudent. The less the people on the plain below knew about her business, the happier she was.
‘Lecopod ready for embarkation’ announced the Sonic Architect. The four space bandits entered the tiny craft and the Sonic Architect activated the Sable Star Artisan drive which powered it. A couple of sextagrains later and they were emerging from a stand of trees in front of an imposing building which stood in its own parkland; Burton Constable Hall. They moved forward purposefully. The Sonic Architect and Astral Bard took the lead, probing with their flangector interface modules and scanning for temporal displacements. ‘Anything?’ asked the Captain. ‘Not so far’ replied the Sonic Arcitect. ‘What are we looking for, exactly?’ asked the Bard. ‘Probably a stone structure, circular in shape, standing proud of the ground by two arms or so’ answered the Captain.
Just then, a small vehicle somewhat akin to a moonbuggy emerged from the side of an outbuilding and began to move towards them. Its driver spotted the Leconauts and a pair of orange lights on top of the vehicle began to flash. The driver was waving his arms in an alarming fashion. His mouth was moving but at this distance nothing could be heard. As he came closer his speech became audible. ‘Go back, go back, it’s one way!!!’ The Leconauts maintained their forward motion and the vehicle screeched to a halt just before it would have collided with them. It’s driver emerged, red in the face. ‘What are you doing?! Did you see the signs? It’s one way!’
‘We’re only going one way’ said the Astral Bard, which seemed to infuriate the fellow. ‘Yes, the wrong way!’ he cried. ‘Look’ said the Sonic Architect, ‘we just want to go down there’, pointing to a track which led off the one the fellow had blocked. It was literally one garden beyond the vehicle. ‘You can’t go down there! More’n my job’s worth to let you go down there! You’ll have to go all the way round! Who are you anyway?’
The Astral Bard bridled at the perceived sleight; the Leconauts were known throughout the four quadrants. The Galactic Council had put a price on their heads. ‘We seek an oasis’ answered the Bard, sidestepping the ruffian’s questions. ‘Do you have a well at which we may water our horses?’
The man looked beyond the four figures; clearly, he could see no horses. ‘You haven’t got any horses! Clear off or I’ll call the police!’ All four Leconauts burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of such an idea, to say nothing of the fellow’s impudence. This seemed to enrage him and he drew a long sweeping implement from his vehicle and began to thrust it toward the Leconauts whilst shouting ‘shoo!’ This brought about even more outbursts of hilarity from the space renegades. Imagine, the four most wanted fugitives in the galaxy being shooed by a jobsworth with a besom broom! They dusted themselves off and tried to regain their composure. The Astral Bard moved deftly to the side of the man and put a hand on his shoulder. The man fell to the ground, unconscious. ‘He’ll be out for a couple of sextagrains’ chuckled the Bard. ‘He’ll wake up with a sore head, but otherwise he’ll be ok!’
But Captain Lou diverted everyone’s attention by shouting ‘look! Over there!’ A circular stone structure stood a little way off, with a peaked roof over it. A wooden frame held a rope which descended into the aperture within the circular structure. ‘A time well!’ exclaimed the Sonic Architect. And then, a head peered over the stones from inside the well……………
HERE WE GO WITH EPISODE FOUR OF SEASON TWENTY-ONE! IN WHICH THE TABLES ARE TURNED ON OUR HEROES…….!
The Leconauts all ran towards the well. The head had disappeared when its owner realised he’d been seen. ‘Show yourself!’ called the Bombardier. They reached the well and stopped a pace or so in front of it. The Astral Bard was just about to peer over the rim when Captain Lou called ‘Careful! We don’t know who or what it is! The Bombardier drew his thunder sticks and stood ready. ‘We know you’re in there’ said the Sonic Architect, calmly but firmly. ‘You may as well come out – we mean you no harm.’
A low thrumming sound emanated from the well and a current of cool air preceded the emergence of a figure. It was a man, in his early twenties, and he glided out of the well as if carried by an unseen giant hand. He looked at each of the Leconauts in turn and then gave the Renegade Alliance salute! ‘Who are you?’ asked Captain Lou, mentally noting that she had never seen this person at any renegade gathering.
‘Greetings!’ replied the stranger. ‘My name is Yute; Trib Yute. You may find this hard to believe, but I am from the future!’
Although she didn’t show it, Captain Lou felt momentarily stunned. In all the time travelling exploits of the Leconauts, they had journeyed to the past. They were always the more technologically and socially elevated parties in any of their temporal encounters. Now, here was someone who may be more advanced than she and her crew! She wasn’t sure she liked it. All this ran through her mind in a split quantabit.
The Astral Bard had begun to answer the newcomer. ‘That’s not particularly unbelievable’ he said, calmly. ‘We ourselves are seasoned t…..’, he didn’t get to finish as the Captain dug him in the ribs. ‘What do you want with us?’ she asked, and then realised that the newcomer was smiling, and broadly at that. Bombardier Legg moved forward almost imperceptibly. Captain Lou gave a covert hand signal and he relaxed.
‘You’re the Leconauts!’ he said, with a note of something akin to awe in his voice. Captain Lou realised a tear had begun to trickle down one of his cheeks. ‘Yes, we are’, she replied.
‘You may not believe this, but in the future there are bands of spacechanters in all the worlds who do nothing but launch your spacechants into the aether. In the future you are the biggest thing in the nine universes!’ Almost immediately his face darkened. He realised he had said too much. ‘Damn’ he said, almost to himself. ‘Don’t worry’, said Captain Lou. ‘We’ll try and forget we heard that. You haven’t exactly infringed the ninth protocol.’ ‘You mean the tenth protocol?’ he answered, then immediately said ‘damn!’ again under his breath.
‘But why have you come here? And why are you looking for us?’ asked the Captain. ‘It’s in the prophecies’ replied Trib Yute, in the legend of Bert and Con’s Tay Bull, Aule; a Festival of Song to be held here on this day, at which you will launch your spacechants into the aether, with Bombardier Legg at the Thunder Machine!’ Captain Lou’s mind was reeling; she was used to being the one that knew about the future. The tables had been well and truly turned.
‘But why this particular Festival? Why not any of the others?’ Bute smiled again. ‘This one is special’ he said, ‘this one contains the Dreamscape which has been lost to our time. We believe this was a deliberate act of sabotage. I have come to collect the Dreamscape and take it back to the future!’
‘Why is the Dreamscape so important to the future?’ asked the Sonic Architect. ‘I can’t tell you that’ replied Trib, with a genuine note of regret in his voice. ‘But trust me, it is of vital importance!’
There was a short silence, then Captain Lou spoke; ‘we have been sent to plug this time well. We have been told that it is being used by subversives. How do we know we can trust what you say?’ The Bombardier tightened his grip on his thunder sticks.
‘I know of no-one else who may have used this well’ said Trib Yute, ‘and I need it to return to my time. ‘Surely you have more sophisticated methods of temporal travel in the future’ said the Astral Bard, ‘a time well is positively primitive!’
‘Again, I cannot tell you why’ replied Trib, but please, believe me when I say that the Leconauts represent the only hope for the salvation of the future; everyone and everything’s future………!’
IT’S TIME FOR MORE ADVENTURES WITH THE LECONAUTS! HERE WE GO WITH SEASON TWENTY-ONE EPISODE FIVE! IN WHICH DECISIONS ARE MADE WHICH WILL AFFECT THE FUTURE AND THE PAST! BUT WHOSE FUTURE, AND WHOSE PAST??!!
The Leconauts stood around Trib Yute, trying to process all he had told them, and, indeed, all he hadn’t told them. They were used to being in the future and having people ask them questions about what was to come; now here they were trying hard not to give in to the temptation to do the same!
Presently, Captain Lou broke the silence; ‘when we launch the Dreamscape into the aether the well will be plugged’ she announced, ‘therefore you won’t be able to use it to return to your own time.’ Trib Yute considered this for several sextagrains. ‘I have to collect the Dreamscape, and I also have to get back to the future. Nothing can stand in the way of my endeavour!’
‘Then we appear to have a conundrum on our hands’ said the Sonic Architect. ‘Indeed, we do’ echoed the Astral Bard. The Bombardier was clearly pondering something; his eyes were screwed closed and he raised his head, which was slightly cocked to one side, to the sky; then, he spoke. ‘Suppose we construct a time delay between the well and the stage’, he offered. ‘Say, five sextagrains. That would give Yute time to get from the stage into the well, and thereby back to his own time, before it closes.’ He made this momentous announcement with a completely straight face, as if he was suggesting something no more outlandish than a trip to the seaside.
‘And how do you suppose we achieve such an end?’ asked the Bard, with not a little exasperation in his voice. Bombardier Legg smiled broadly. ‘Something they taught us in space school; I guess it wasn’t part of the curriculum when you guys were there.’ The Astral Bard bristled. ‘Go on’, said Captain Lou, encouragingly. ‘Well, I can weave an Archimedean Screw with my thunder sticks; I would have to do it from the stage, so Yute would have to climb into it right at the end of our launching the Dreamscape into the aether.’ ‘Are you sure you can do that?’ asked the Captain. ‘Oh yeah, piece of spacecake’, replied the Bombardier, with no more drama than if he had said he could make a cup of Thyringian Tea.
‘OK, let’s do it’ said the Captain. Yute took his position in the Field of the Acolytes and waited. The Leconauts stood a while longer before moving to the Room of Preparedness situated at the back of the Temple of Song.
‘Do we trust him?’ asked the Astral Bard. ‘Is he who he says he is? And are his intentions honourable?’
‘I think we do’ answered the Captain, then pausing in consideration. ‘We’ll keep an eye on him as we launch the Dreamscape. If we get the slightest inkling that all is not well we’ll launch a Gordian Knot and capture him.’
‘Why don’t we just do that right now and not take any chances!’ exclaimed the Bard. ‘Because’, answered the Captain, ‘I have a strong feeling that he is being genuine, and I want to give that feeling a chance.’
The Bombardier nodded in agreement; they all turned to the Sonic Architect expectantly. ‘Yes’ he said. ‘I agree with the Captain. We should give him a chance. But if he gives us any reason to suspect foul play then I’ll flangect his donkey into the middle of next septalog!’
The other three smiled and then chuckled, breaking the uneasy tension which had enveloped them.
‘Right, to the Temple!’ said Captain Lou. Just then more sounds emanated from the well; sounds of climbing. ‘What the…..’ began the Bard, but he got no further. A thickset and unruly-looking figure began to emerge from the well. Captain Lou gasped; ‘Zeke Clanton…………!’
IT’S TIME FOR SEASON TWENTY-ONE EPISODE SIX OF THE ADVENTURES OF THE LECONAUTS! IN WHICH AN OLD AQUAINTANCE APPEARS. OR SHOULD THAT BE A FUTURE AQUAINTANCE? THINGS ARE BECOMING CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER……..!
The unkempt but unmistakeable figure of Zeke Clanton clambered out of the well. He looked around at the group of people arrayed about him. Captain Lou felt a pang of guilt; Zeke looked like a cornered animal. He had heard her whisper his name. ‘How come you know my name?’ he demanded. ‘I done never seen you before!’ Captain Lou’s mind was racing. This was a younger Zeke; he had travelled here from a time before their encounters in Bodie. He had no idea who she was.
‘How did you get here?’ asked the Sonic Architect. Zeke looked around wildly; there was now a look akin to fear in his eyes as he took in the unfamiliar surroundings. Suddenly his hand went to a holster at his side and he pulled out a mean-looking Colt 45. He brandished the weapon and shouted ‘don’t nobody move! I want to see the Marshal!’ An eerie echo of their previous encounters sounded in Captain Lou’s mind. A cast of unsavoury characters acted out scenes in her memory.
‘There’s no Marshal here’ said the Astral Bard calmly. ‘You don’t need the gun, Zeke’ he continued. ‘Nobody wants to hurt you!’ ‘Damn right nobody gon’ hurt me! I’ll plug ya first! Fill ya full o’ holes! He cocked the trigger of the weapon and continued to wave it around. Then Bombardier Legg struck; quick as a flash and with a cry of ‘hai ya!’ he had Zeke on the ground and the gun in his own hand.
‘You ain’t fightin’ fair!’ moaned Zeke. ‘Got the drop on me! Doggone hocus pocus Eastern candy-ass ways. It ain’t right!’ The Bombardier twirled the heavy weapon around his forefinger and tossed it into the air. It spun over his shoulder and landed in his backpack.
‘Now Zeke’, said the Captain, ‘you still haven’t told us how you got here!’ ‘And you ain’t told me how you know my name!’ retorted the desperado. ‘Ok’ replied Captain Lou. ‘I’ll tell you how I knew your name if you tell me how you got here!’
This seemed to calm Zeke, and as the Bombardier loosened his grip he sat up and relaxed noticeably. He dusted off his coat and wiped his hand across his mouth. ‘I’m powerful thirsty’ he said. ‘Is there a saloon nearby? I could sure use a shot of redeye!’ ‘Try this’ said the Astral Bard, proffering a bottle which contained a reddish-brown liquid. Zeke lifted the bottle to his lips and took a deep draught. ‘Hoowee’ he exclaimed, ‘sure burns a dollar’s worth!’ ‘Made it myself’ said the Bard, almost inaudibly, a smile playing across his face. There was mischief in his eyes.
‘Are you going to talk, Zeke?’ asked the Captain. He looked up into her face, seemed to consider something, then began to speak. ‘I got separated from mah brothers in the desert. I figure I fell asleep in the heat and the mule just kept goin’ ‘til it couldn’t go no more. I came to by the side of a water hole. As I wus takin’ a drink I see a reflection of somebody behind me. Next thing I know I come around in this here well!’ Something was nagging in Captain Lou’s mind but she couldn’t quite grasp it. ‘This reflection, Zeke; was it somebody you knew?’
He looked down; ‘no, ma-am. That is, I cain’t say fer sure, but I don’t think so.’
He raised his eyes defiantly to meet Captain Lou’s. ‘Now you tell me how come you know who I am!’
She considered for a moment, then spoke. ‘We met in the desert outside Bodie. You found me almost dead and brought me back into town.’
A look of utter shock passed over Zeke’s face, then he began laughing. ‘That there’s the biggest load o’ horseshit I ever done heard!’ he cried. I never seen you before in mah lahf!’
‘Well’ replied the Captain, ‘you were so much older then. You’re younger than that now……….’
HERE WE GO WITH SEASON TWENTY-ONE EPISODE SEVEN! IN WHICH THE LECONAUTS FIND THAT THE PAST IS TENSE……!
‘You ain’t makin’ sense’ cried Zeke, with exasperation. ‘How can I have been older then? You bin’ drinkin’ this guy’s rotgut?’ He poked a bony finger towards the Astral Bard, who recoiled, aggrieved at the description of his revered brew as ‘rotgut’.
‘Look around you, Zeke’ said the Captain calmly. ‘Does any of this look at all familiar to you?’ She swept her arm to indicate the grand house behind them which Zeke seemed to see for the first time. He did a classic double-take and his eyes widened. He took of his hat and clutched it to his chest. ‘Whut is this place?’ he whispered. ‘The question’ replied Captain Lou, ‘is not only “what”, but also “when”! Somehow, you’ve travelled into the future, Zeke!’
‘It cain’t be! How….who….whut……where?’
‘It’s true, Zeke’ said the Captain, firmly but with tenderness in her voice. ‘Has anything – strange – happened to you recently?
He thought for a moment, his eyes cast downwards, and then looked up as realisation struck.
‘The lahts in the skah!’ he exclaimed.
‘What are “lahts”? And “skah”? asked Bombardier Legg. ‘Lights in the sky’ explained the Sonic Architect. ‘Zeke comes from an extremely backward, superstitious and intellectually stunted country called America. It’s how they speak there.’ The Bombardier nodded sagely and said ‘got it!’
During this exchange Captain Lou’s eyes had widened and she began to question Zeke more urgently. ‘Lights in the sky? What kind of lights, Zeke? Did they speak to you?!’
Zeke was clearly struggling with how much to reveal to this group of strangers. ‘I didn’t tell nobody! Ah figured they’d say I wus crazy! Mah brothers woulda laughed in mah face! I ain’t crazy!’
‘No, you’re not crazy, Zeke’, replied the Captain, ‘but someone is clearly trying to mess with your mind. Why would you end up here, on this particular day?’
‘I’ll be damned if’n I know’ said Zeke. ‘But my brother Ephraim bin actin’ kinda strange just lately.’ Captain Lou felt a chill run over her skin. She remembered Ephraim; he didn’t possess the humanity which Zeke did. ‘Tell me, Zeke’, she asked, ‘who’s the Marshal in Bodie right now?’ Zeke looked up and answered without hesitation. ‘A feller name o’ Bunting. Marshal Darren Bunting………!’
IT’S TIME FOR EPISODE EIGHT OF SEASON TWENTY! IN WHICH THE ADMIRAL HAS SOME EXPLAINING TO DO……!
Captain Lou tried hard to not let her jaw drop. ‘Bunting, you say?’ ‘Yup’, replied Zeke. ‘As Marshals go I seen a whole lot worse!’ ‘Follow us, Zeke’ said the Captain, decisively, and the party headed towards the Temple of Song. As they reached the vestibule to the side of the Temple, Captain Lou caught sight of Admiral Bunting inside. She smiled to herself; the Admiral was in for a shock.
The party reached the threshold and Captain Lou stepped inside. ‘All hail Admiral Bunting!’ She gave the salutation slightly more vociferously than she would otherwise have done, mainly to ensure Zeke caught the name. The Admiral turned. ‘All hail the Le………’; the words froze on his lips and a look of sheer surprise spread across his face. His cheeks began to colour. The Captain indicated Zeke by moving her arm backwards. ‘I don’t believe you’ve met Zeke Clanton….? Zeke; Admiral Bunting.’ Now Zeke’s jaw did drop. For a few quantabits he stood open-mouthed, eyes wide as he regarded the Admiral. ‘But…that…whut…who…how…?!’ ‘What’s the matter, Zeke?’ asked the Captain with feigned surprise. ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost!’ She turned to Admiral Bunting and planted her hands on her hips.
‘I…I…I can explain!’ stammered the doughty space renegade. ‘I’m sure you can’ answered the Captain, cutting him off in mid-flow. ‘But right now we have a job to do’. The Leconauts took their position on the launch pad and prepared their equipment. The Astral Bard scanned the faithful to make sure Trib Yute was in position; he was.
The Sonic Architect uttered the arcane incantation which began the launch; ‘one…two…three…four!’ The sound of the Leconauts’ spacechant filled the air, twisting and writhing like a living thing as it communicated itself to the thronging faithful. So far, so good. An air of expectancy descended as the Captain announced the Dreamscape. The Astral Bard looked across at Trib Yute, who had moved…oddly…at the announcement. As the spacechant began its ascent the Bard looked again at the visitor from the future. Something wasn’t right. Trib Yute’s head jerked upwards and moved from left to right at lightning speed. Then, his eyelids retracted and a green glow appeared in his eyes. Numbers began to cycle upwards in both ocular organs. ‘He’s an android!’ The thought screamed in the Bard’s mind’s eye. He looked across at the Captain, trying to attract her attention. She was busy with the spacechant. He looked across at the Sonic Architect, who also was absorbed in his work. Finally, he turned to the Bombardier, who nodded knowingly. He’d seen the same thing. The Astral Bard shrugged his shoulders, as if to say ‘what shall we do?’ The Bombardier smiled and nodded. He had a plan. ‘That’s good’ thought the Bard and re-applied himself to the task in hand.
As the final cadences of the Dreamscape drifted into the aether a strange thing happened; Trib Yute began to fold in on himself, becoming smaller and less human-looking with every move. Eventually all that remained was a cuboid box with a blinking red light on top. The faithful around had noticed and were becoming agitated. Suddenly, flames shot from the base of the box and it began to ascend into the air. ‘What the…..?’ exclaimed the Bard. But the Bombardier was ready. He launched a Gordian Knot from his Thunder Machine, which sped toward the box. But it never reached its target. Zeke Clanton had shot into the air at the speed of a stooping falcon and somehow….enveloped the box in an inky black cloud. Then, he shot off into the horizon until only a tiny black pinprick could be seen. Then he was gone. A strange electrical burning smell hung on the air. The Leconauts, all momentarily stunned, turned to face each other as Admiral Bunting walked out onto the launch platform. ‘Well, I wasn’t expecting that!’ he said.
HERE WE GO WITH SEASON TWENTY-ONE EPISODE NINE! IN WHICH THE LECONAUTS AND THE ADMIRAL FEEL THE EFFECTS OF THE ASTRAL BARD’S SPACEBREW……..!
Captain Lou turned to Admiral Bunting, a quizzical look on her face. ‘Why do I get the feeling that you know more about this than you’re letting on?’ she mused, almost thinking out loud. The wily space renegade shuffled from one foot to the other, looking decidedly uncomfortable. ‘All will become clear’ he finally said. ‘I sure hope so’ answered the Captain.
The Leconauts removed their flangection units and thunder machine from the launch pad and gathered in the vestibule. The Astral Bard produced a flask in the shape of a Tay Bull’s horn and opened the silver stopper. He produced four crystal goblets from his voluminous cloak and poured a libation into each one. The Leconauts all drank, licked their lips and murmured words of approbation. Then the Captain spoke. ‘What just happened?’ she asked. The Bombardier looked to the Bard, then answered. ‘Well, the Astral Bard and I both noticed that Trib Yute was in fact an android. We tried to get your attention, but both you and the Sonic Architect were absorbed in the spacechant. I launched a Gordian Knot but Zeke was on him before the knot could connect! I’ve never seen anything move so fast!’
‘I see’ answered the Captain. ‘I can’t for the life of me figure out how all these things are connected. The Admiral knows, I’m sure, but he’s being tight-lipped.’ She seemed to consider something, then continued; ‘let’s go and have a look at the well. I’d like to make sure that it is actually sealed now.’
The four space renegades proceeded, but the Admiral figured where they were heading and ran from the vestibule to intercept them. ‘Er, why don’t we go into the Green Room and relax. I’ll explain everything there, I promise.’ ‘Very well’ replied Captain Lou, ‘but it had better be good!’ ‘Oh, it is’ retorted the Admiral.
A few sextagrains later and they were all relaxing on luxuriously-upholstered furniture in the grand hall of Burton Constable. The Astral Bard had produced another crystal goblet and handed it to the Admiral. He filled each glass with the translucent liquid from his horn.
‘So tell me’ began Captain Lou, ‘how have you enjoyed being the Marshal of Bodie?’ A fresh flush appeared in the Admiral’s cheeks. ‘At first it was very enjoyable. I went there purely on a whim, for a little R & R!’ ‘Not my first choice of destinations for R & R’, replied the Captain. ‘Still, you’ve always been – peculiar – in that regard! Please go on!’
‘Er, yes, indeed’, he stammered. ‘As I say, I was having a good time but then I saw the sky portal.’ ‘The one which Colonel Greaves…that is to say, Marshal Fender Gibson was using?’ interjected the Captain.
‘The very same’ replied the Admiral. ‘I thought our technical team had sealed it, but it wasn’t the case, and I saw that it could be used to travel to almost anywhere or anywhen by anybody! It was too dangerous to leave it open.’
‘So what did you do?’ asked the Captain.
‘I decided to investigate its primary node, which led me to the time well at the front of this house. Unfortunately, the first secondary node I discovered led me to the future where I encountered Trib Yute.’ ‘So he really was from the future?’ asked the Sonic Architect. ‘Oh yes’ answered the Admiral, ‘and a future best not contemplated. A future where…..’ he shuddered involuntarily. His meaning was not lost on the Leconauts. It was clearly a future populated by androids.
‘I came back through but obviously some of them followed me, which is when I asked you to plug the well. I figured if they saw me again then they would know I was on to them and would…prevent me from finishing the job.’ The Bombardier arched an eyebrow.
Captain Lou nodded; ‘go on.’
‘Then Zeke came through – he had travelled down the primary node but got stuck somewhere in the middle along with some of the futurebots. I still don’t know how but he must have exchanged some of his DNA with that of the futurebots. That’s the only way I can explain how he was able to do what he did.’
‘I guess all that talk about the Dreamscape being important to the future was just hogwash’ said the Sonic Architect, looking crestfallen. ‘On the contrary’ answered the Admiral, ‘I think it was very important. I am sure that they needed it as code to unlock some cosmic anomaly or conundrum. Perhaps we’ll never quite know why.’ For a moment there was silence then the Bard said, ‘let’s get some fresh air.’ They all stood and moved out onto the parkland at the front of the house. Just then, a pinprick appeared on the horizon and began to quickly increase in size. In a couple of sextagrains that strange electrical burning smell filled the air and a crack of thunder produced a cloud of acrid smoke which cleared to reveal……Zeke Clanton………..!
THE LECONAUTS HEAD TO BODIE, AND IT’S TIME FOR THE FINALE OF THE LECO CHRONICLES SEASON 21, EPISODE 10…….! READ ON SPACE PALS:
…..but this wasn’t the same Zeke Clanton who had disappeared only a few sextagrains ago. This was the older Zeke Clanton; the one who Captain Lou had encountered in Bodie.
He caught Captain Lou’s gaze and held it. Then he doffed his hat and said ‘Howdy, Miss Lulah!’ Captain Lou was taken aback momentarily. He knew her! ‘Zeke’, she began, ‘this is a surprise. Where, or should I say when, have you come from?’
Zeke smiled. ‘It’s a long story ma’am, but I figure I could leave a few o’ the more hair-raisin’ parts out of it and give you the bare bones!’
‘Well, maybe leave a few of the hair-raising parts in’ replied the Captain. ‘Come on, let’s sit down and see if we can figure this thing out!’
The Leconauts and Admiral Bunting lead Zeke into the hall and resumed their positions in the luxuriously appointed salon. Zeke settled into an ornate armchair and began to speak.
‘After I first met you in Bodie, then you came back and we had that business with Marshal Greaves ‘n’ all, I’d been havin’ strange dreams. I gradually began to remember sump’n’ from when ah wus younger. I figured that maybe ah wus inventin’ it. After all, some pretty weird stuff went down in Bodie. But then ah got to figurin’ that it wus real, an’ that ah did come here when I wus younger. An’ I figured there was a purpose in that. I knew there wus sump’n’ I had to do.’
The Sonic Architect interjected, ‘ah, so when you showed up here, that was actually the reality of what you’d begun to think was perhaps a dream from long ago?’
‘Exactly that, sir’ said Zeke. ‘Please, don’t call me sir’ said the Sonic Architect, scarcely able to suppress a shudder.
‘Sorry, sir’ replied Zeke, ‘I mean, Sonic Architect!’ ‘No worries; please, go on!’
Zeke cleared his throat. ‘Somehow, my younger self had arrived here and had the encounter with the futurebot.’ ‘Yeah’ said the Bombardier, ‘you were all over him like a rash. What actually happened, there?’ ‘I ain’t too sure ‘bout that’ replied Zeke, almost apologetically, ‘but I figured he weren’t all he appeared to be and that he was somehow fixin’ to hurt Miss Lulah.’ He cast his eyes down and his cheeks reddened. ‘Sump’n’ seemed to take me over and I found mahself flyin’ at him. We tussled but I got a grip on his head and took him away.’
‘Where is away?’ the Astral Bard and Bombardier Legg both asked simultaneously. ‘Back to Bodie. I dropped him in the Marshal’s office just before that – thing – dropped out of the skah and turned that ole shack into matchwood!’
Captain Lou’s mind was reeling. Cosmic connections abounded. ‘Then I went through the sky portal and suddenly that younger me was back in mah own tahm. Then when it came to the tahm we took you out o’ the desert an’ to the Marshal I knew that what ah’d dreamed wus actually true.’
I tried to get a glimpse o’ mahself hittin’ the office but it all happened too quick. Next thing I know I go through the sky portal again and I ship up here and now.’
Captain Lou tried frantically to make sense of the timeline. So the young Zeke had dropped the futurebot into Marshal Greaves’ office and gone back to his own time. Then, dodecamoons later, when he began to live through that episode again as the older Zeke, he realised that the dreams he’d been having were actually memories. But then he had come back here to set the record straight, so had he left Bodie before his vow to become a preacher? ‘Tell me, Zeke’, she asked, ‘how are you and your brothers getting on these days?’
‘Well ma’am, we don’t exactly see eye to eye…..they figured ah wus goin’ soft, so they done told me ah weren’t the leader o’ the gang no more. Ephraim, he…’ ‘Yes, I’m sure’ said Captain Lou, sparing Zeke the rest. ‘But I know that there’ll be a better life for you in Bodie from now on.’
‘Oh no, ma’am, I ain’t goin’ back to Bodie.’ Captain Lou’s heart jumped into her mouth. ‘Well, what…..’
Zeke smiled, realising what Captain Lou was thinking. ‘Oh no, he said, blushing again, ‘I got me a new partner!’ With that a thunderclap rent the clouds and a familiar sight roared into view astride his famous spacehog; ‘Shaman Hood of the Hawk!!!’
And so it came to pass that Shaman Hood of the Hawk did walk among the Leconauts and did hand around his fabled earthenware jug, and all did partake of the psyder from within. And the Astral Bard did proffer his Tay Bull’s horn and the spacebrew it contained was enjoyed by all.
After much feasting and making of merry, the Leconauts and Admiral Bunting did wander out to the lawn at the front of the great house. Captain Lou noted that where the time well had stood there was just a piece of scorched earth where no grass grew…….
Then the spacehog of Shaman Hood roared around from the back of the house, with Shaman Hood on the front and Zeke sitting behind him. They both waved adios and then shot into the sky until all that could be seen of them was a tiny pinprick in the far distance…….then they were gone………….!
Discover more Adventures of the Leconauts here:: https://loudhailer.net/the-leco-chronicles
Written by Loudhailer Electric Company’s Sonic Architect and keeper of the sacred flangector, Jeff Parsons