Armitage awoke from a rather pleasant dream where he was not in a military compound waiting to pop into a space time rift on the whim of a council office receptionist. It involved cups of tea and pottering around the garden for the most part. There may have been croquet at one point but he was too busy tending to his roses for that.
He opened his eyes slowly and realising where he was mumbled an “oh bugger me” before closing them again in an attempt to at least pretend that he was still asleep.
“Excellent, you’re awake!” Came a reply.
It wasn’t Goodwin. This was a new voice and one wholly more friendly and upbeat than either Goodwin or Koala. It sounded excited almost, which Armitage found most annoying.
“I was just about to wake you” the voice continued quite chipper. “You need to get ready, it’s nearly time”.
Armitage sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, he had intended to try and get hold of his family, protest loudly but politely about his current situation and try and get hold of a tooth brush as he had neglected to brush this morning.
“And you are exactly whom?” he asked turning towards the source of the voice.
“Turner” came the reply, “Ichabod Turner, please to meet you”.
There was nobody precisely where this somebody ought to be.
“Why can I not see you? Armitage puzzled, already fast acclimatising to the new ridiculousness of his post-council-office-trip life.
“Oh yes, sorry I do forget sometimes” came the disembodied reply, “the easiest way to explain it is that I exist in a place between your world and a million others. Went into into a rift a few years ago and came out like this.”
Armitage said nothing, waiting.
“Imagine the world as a sheet of double ply toilet paper.” Ichabod continued, “This world is one sheet and the other sheet is one of countless others. I exist in-between those two sheets of toilet paper.”
“As scientific explanations go” Armitage snapped, “that is bloody awful!” His breathing quickened, his head started to pound and he started to feel sick again.
“Yeah my wife said something along those lines when I told her” Ichabod replied. “Well, in between the screaming and the crying and the insisting that she had told me something like this was bound to happen if I insisted on wandering onto rifts.”
Armitage thought he sounded like he was smiling. He wondered if his own wife was destined for a similar fate.
“I probably need to rethink how I explain myself to people” Ichabod continued, then paused for a moment whilst Armitage put his head in his hands. He really needed a nice cup of team and another lie down.
“Come on Armitage” he insisted “we can’t be lingering here all day we have places to be. Lets have you, chop chop.”
Armitage struggled to his feet, head spinning. “Ok, where are we going?”
“Oh this is going to be fantastic”.
“I very much doubt that.”
Ichabod laughed. “Do you want to put on those fatigues?”
Armitage had no intention of putting on the fatigues and boots laid out on the green trunk at the end of the bed. “I was supposed to be repotting my azalea today you know!” He complained loudly. “It isn’t flowering and it really needs looking at.
Ichabod didn’t reply.
“You know what” he said, “I think I shall remain in the clothes I am wearing thank you very much.” He folded his arms in as much of an act of defiance as he could muster.
“Suit yourself, follow me” instructed Ichabod.
Armitage followed Ichabod’s voice as he was lead between the tents and to a small door in the side of the stadium. There were surprisingly few people to be seen. He had seen a couple of heavily armed thick set men milling about outside one of the large green tents and a small squad of around a dozen men could be seen running at the far end of the row of tents but that aside it was by no means busy.
“Could you get that?” Ichabod asked. “I seem to be struggling with my hands in this reality a little today.”
Armitage pulled the door open and they passed through inside, Ichabod leading him through a series of winding corridors until they appeared at another door. Armitage pulled it open without being asked.
The first thing he saw when he passed through the door, hearing it clang closed behind him, was Koala Jackson deep in conversation with Goodwin. They were just a few metres away on the edge of what was once the pitch inside the stadium, but the grass was mostly gone now and more tents were scattered across it’s surface, with one particularly large one squarely in the centre. Masses of heavily armed troops littered the place and there was a real thrum of activity wherever he looked, with crates of what he assumed were weapons and ammunition being moved about. Much of the seating in the stands had been removed and what looked like sand bag emplacements and bunkers took up much the space where the seating had once been.
“Good heavens!” he exclaimed loudly. “What the bloody hell is this?”
“Armitage, Turner, over here” boomed Koala Jackson. “Front and centre, sharp!”
Armitage really did not like being barked at. It made him feel most uneasy given that he was by nature a more collaborative sort, prone to problem solving through the sharing ideas and the exchange of dialogue. Judging by the look on Koala Jackson’s face she didn’t seem to be in the mood for anything other than him being front and centre, so he hastily obliged.
First thing Armitage noticed was that she seemed to be carrying an inordinate amount of weapons, which surely did not bode well for the rest of the evening. Not that he knew anything about armaments, but they certainly looked rather dangerous and not something you would need were you pottering in the garden or making jam. There were Pistols in holsters on her belt, those he could recognise, and there were a couple or large pointy ones on her back which looked most unpleasant and which might take an eye out if you weren’t careful with them. Add to these the one strapped across her chest and the one in her left hand and she looked prepared for something that he was not.
“Is all that not heavy?” he asked, the words spilling from his lips without thought. Jackson didn’t bother with a reply.
“Gentlemen” she said with a certain menace that Armitage had not noticed earlier “Inrift into exactly ten minutes time we shall be entering Rift 1979.” Four heavily armed men in worn fatigues had joined him and Ichabod and they stood waiting for Jackson to continue.
Armitage felt sick again
Jackson stood to her full height, addressing the group but speaking to him directly. “Armitage, you are our key and are going to help me and my team pass through Rift 1979. Once inside the Rift you will remain with us whilst we complete our mission at which point you will accompany us back through again. Is that understood?”
“Well actually…” Armitage began before she interrupted him.
“You don’t need to ask questions” she snapped “you simply need to do as I tell you and stay close to Mr Goodwin. He will ensure nothing terrible happens to you.”
Armitage did not like the word terrible one bit. He had once spilled paint on the stair carpet, and that was about the extent of his definition of terrible. He feared her definition was somewhat significantly worse.
“Ichabod will be our guide between dimensions and the 4 magnificent specimens you see next to you are there just in case we need to negotiate with the locals.” Armitage looked at the one closest to him and he had to agree, he was rather magnificent. Not the sort you would have round for a spot of brunch but he hoped most certainly suited to something as ridiculous as whimsically popping into a space time rift.
“Now, if you all want to follow me we really must be going” she said sharply and headed off towards the large white tent in the middle of the pitch.
Goodwin grabbed his arm and pulled him after him as he hear Ichabod proclaim “Oh I love this bit. You’re going to love this Mr Shanks, just you see!”
Armitage doubted that very much. Approaching the large white tent he noticed Jackson’s team visibly tense. “What happened to your previous key?” he asked cautiously.
They looked at one another but didn’t reply. He was about to protest most vociferously when he suddenly found himself inside the tent, Goodwin’s hand still around his arm. He had anticipated a head quarters of some sort, or perhaps an information desk where he cold lodge a complaint, but this really was not what he expected.
Standing in the middle of the tent, the only thing in the room, was a door.
Now as far as doors go this one was for the most part a rather regular and unassuming door, the type you would find on any street. It was 8 panelled with a brass handle, letter box and knocker and painted jet black with a number two positioned slightly off centre to the right about three quarters of the way up. That was it, just this door.
He wanted to ask why there was a door, it seemed the natural question to ask, but given how the last few days had panned out he waited as someone would tell him eventually.
“Welcome to Rift 1979!” Jackson seemed rather proud suddenly”Oh yes, baby!” Ichabod exclaimed.
“I expected something a little more…” Armitage paused. “Well a little less door like really. Maybe a little more Hollywood.”
Jackson glared at him. “The door is a containment field Mr Shanks. Our alien friends were so kind as to leave us with this before they disappeared with our tea and biscuits.”
“Very kind of them” he mumbled.
Koala took his arm and pulled him towards the door. ” Now all I need you to do is to open it for me and step inside.”
This was all happening way too fast he thought. This sort of thing did not happen to people like him. People like him tended their gardens and contributed to the general well being of the village and drank beer and played darts in the pub on a Friday .
“And how exactly do I do that ” Armitage asked, hoping that there would be some complex ritual which he could make a mess of to delay what felt like the inevitable.
“Its a Door Armitage” Goodwin interrupted. “Turn the handle.”
“Well I could” he said, “But I really do not think that …”
“Open the bloody door Armitage!” Jackson demanded.
She scared him into action and before he knew it he had reached out turning the handle. It clicked, just as one would expect of a door and slowly he pushed against it. Before he had time to ask whether he might perhaps remain behind given his splitting headache he felt was a shove in the back and he tumbled through the door, the others bursting past and stepping over him.
After that it all got a little weird.
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