The In-between – Part 26 of 31


Okay so I’m doing M’s prompts going to try and do a full month as one long story with no planning. Today it is “Century of Certainty’.

The instructions are to simply write for ten minutes or so each day and that’s about it. It’s certainly taking me longer than ten minutes and now looking like I will probably do all 31 as one long story. Who’d have thought eh…I had a real problem with this today, just no real time to write and when I did it was in fits and starts so it has felt all over the place but you know, I need to keep ploughing on and plough on I will and I will fix it when I edit it one day 🙂

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“Should we not wait for the other Gadzooks?” I asked I watched Plumduff going through her bag. She pulled out a device and laid it on the table in front of her, her face still large on the screens. She held a small gold dial in her hand and watch as the handles moved slowly until they came to a stop.

“They’ll catch us up I am sure boy, but we need to move fast. According to this your watch is not on Nin, not yet. But they’ll be back soon enough.”

O’Rourke had found a bottle of something and was pouring himself a large glass of a golden liquid. “And exactly where will you find them?”

“I won’t” she replied her gaze fixed on the device. “The ‘where’ I am going to leave up to you.”

“Probably a pub then” I said joking. Neither of them laughed.

“If McCann is right about you then it’s only a matter of time until we find them again. Destiny, fate, luck – call it what you will – you have a knack O’Rourke and this time you can use it for something other than getting out of an unnecessary scrape or winning on the horses.”

O’Rourke grinned and took a long drink from his glass.

Plumduff put the device inside her cardigan pocket. “Eldin will you bring up a map of Nin for me please.” Eldin obliged and Plumduff poured over it on the screen for a while. “Where to then James?” she asked stepping back from the screen. “Pick a place.”

O’Rourke said nothing and simply pointed to a location on the map and continued with his drink. I think he was enjoying the attention and casually wandered over to stand next to Eldin who promptly walked back to where he had just walked from.

“You sure?” Asked Plumduff.

He nodded and smiled. There was something both charming and unnerving about him and you really would not want him spending any time with your wife.

“Thank you Eldin” said Plumduff heading for the door. “I will make good on our arrangement when this is all over I assure you.”

Eldin said nothing but raised a hand and waved briefly and watched as O’Rourke and I followed her from the room and out of the building back down to the streets below.

“Margaret” I shouted as I ran to catch her up.  “What’s going on?” I asked struggling to keep up with her. “What did she show you?”

“I wouldn’t worry yourself” she replied weaving her way through the crowds. It was late but there will so many creatures from every reality scurrying back and forth. “It’s more a hunch than facts anyway.”

“I thought we were meant to be partners” I insisted placing a hand on her shoulder. “Where are we going?”

Plumduff stopped and spun around to face me, O’Rourke a short distance behind us as he fought distractions at every step.

“He’s after me Armitage, and he probably intends to do to me what he did to Crompton and if we don’t stop him then he will not stop until he finishes us all off. Now keep up, we need to hurry.”

“Margaret, could we maybe stop off here?” O’Rourke shouted as he peered through the window of the ‘Goat and Hound’. “It looks most welcoming and I do have quite a thirst.”

“No you certainly cannot” she shouted back curtly, and we set off again.

Twenty minutes later we had left the bustle of the Nin’s main thoroughfare behind and we climbed upwards through winding streets. Gone was the neon, the high hab blocks giving way to smaller industrial zones which sprawled away into the distance. The streets were dimly lit and Plumduff lead us onwards with a determination and clickety clack of shoes which echoed in the still of night.

“Much further Maggie?” Asked O’Rourke trailing behind.

“There’s a dirigible yard up ahead, that’s where we’re heading” she answered and reached into her bag to check the dial linked to my watch.

“And why are we going there again?”

“Really O’Rourke, are you actually paying any attention at all?”

“No, not at all” he answered sharply.

“This way” she said taking a turn to her left and leading us through a wide set of open gates into a broad forecourt. In front of us was a huge hanger. On one door was a logo of a transport dirigible above the skyline of a city and on the other the company logo which read “Foreshaw Dirigibles”.

“In there then is it?” I asked, pointing to a small door within the larger hanger door.

Plumduff stopped and waited for O’Rourke to catch up, again checking the dial and popping it back into her bag. O’Rourke stood and looked up at the doors towering above us.

“Big doors” he said quite matter of fact.

I wasn’t really sure how to answer so didn’t, instead waiting to see what Plumduff would do next.

“Moment of truth gentlemen” she said turning the handle of the smaller door. There was a click and she opened it about an inch. No alarm went off.

“If McCann is right, and O’Rourke is somehow blessed with immense luck then I am trusting that at some point in the evening to come we will encounter Mr Thrumhall and his colleagues.”

O’Rourke grinned and slapped me on the back. “Come on Lad, adventure awaits” he said and unholstering his pistol pushed through the door ahead of Plumduff.
All clear he shouted back.

“After you Armitage” Plumduff said and pulled the door closed as she followed through behind me.
You sure about this? I asked turning her. “How can you be sure?”
“Armitage my boy, I have been here for more than a hundred years and I have never been less certain of anything but we have no other options. Now lets not dilly dally eh.”

The room was big, bigger than big, it was downright huge.  Machinery lined the walls and above winches and chains hung from the roof which was barely visible in the dim light provided by strip lights on the walls. A small dirigible floated at the far end of the hanger and a small windowed cabin was suspended beneath the long oval balloon section and the whole thing was tethered with a long rope to a steel hoop embedded in the hanger floor.

“Back there” said Plumduff pointed towards where it hung, “we need to find some cover.”

“You sure about this Maggie?” Said O’Rourke. “I had hoped for something a little more…shooty.”

“No, I’m not sure at all. But time will tell.”

O’Rourke wheeled a number of tool cases over and lined them up to prevent us from being seen by anyone coming through the doors and Plumduff pulled out the dial and sat on the floor with it in the palm of her hand waiting for it to move.

I tried to make small talk with them both but they seemed quite happy to sit quietly and wait. I still had so many questions about so many things yet now didn’t seem the time. Plumduff was especially quiet, the reality perhaps preying on her mind. We waited for a couple of hours with O’Rourke’s snoring the only noise and Plumduff constantly checking the dial.

As I lay staring up at the roof, my jacket propped beneath my head, Plumduff shook my leg and pointed at O’Rourke sat propped up against the tool case. “Wake him up boy” she whispered.

I shook O’Rourke and he opened his eyes slowly. “What is it, breakfast?”

Plumduff shushed him and gestured to the dial. I crawled over to her and it was moving, the hands rotating slowly and coming. She grinned as they stopped moving. “They’re on Nin.”

I crawled back to where I had been laid and peered out just as a bright blue flash lit up the room. The lights dimmed and then went out and for a moment the hanger was plunged into darkness. Moments later I watched as an orange circle appeared hovering just above the ground and from within stepped Thrumhall, four shadows and three of his gang. Plumduff looked over at O’Rourke who shrugged and gave her a thumbs up. She shook her head frantically as he pulled out his pistol and readied himself to stand.

“No” she said as quietly as she could. Wait.

The portal closed as quickly as it had opened and Thrumhall walked towards the centre of the room, the device visible in his hand. Plumduff motioned for me to stay low as she squeezed herself beneath the tool store to get a better look.

From the dark I continued to peer out and watched as Thrumhall placed the device on the floor and the shadows positioned themselves at either side of it. He stood over it bathed in the blue light emanating from it and as we had seen at Eldin’s, and arc’s of silver and blue electricity fizzed between the shadows and the device. The stars in the blackness of their forms burned more fiercely and with a crackle portals began to appear all around them.

Nearest to me I could see the volcano I had seen in the painting of Crompton, the red crown spewing lava high into the air as smoke billows upwards. There were oceans and plains, mountains and cities. Nearest to Thrumhall I could see a city that seemed so familiar yet as I scrambled through my mind to place it it slipped through my fingers and the thought was lost.

“What the devil” said O’Rourke his head just above mine as I peeked out. “That’s quite a thing don’t you think?”

I nodded and shushed him as Thrumhall walked over to a portal beyond which I could see a tree covered hill and a small wooden shacked settlement. A slow flowing river with high banks ran close to the opening. He turned to those with him and called them over, pointing into the portal and giving them instruction that I couldn’t quite make out. Daktar nodded and the three of them stepped through and disappeared. Thrumhall waited for a moment, pulled his pistol from his belt, and then passed through after them with .the two remaining shadows.

Plumduff had slid back out from underneath the trolley and was now stood behind us, and she dragged us both back by the collar.

“O’Rourke, we need to go now” she said her face pale and panic written across her face. “Now James, we need to get through after them.”

That was all O’Rourke needed to know and he burst into a sprint after them, Plumduff on his heels. I scrambled to my feet and took flight after them convince that this was by far the most stupid thing I had ever done. O’Rourke closed in on the portal and not looking back threw himself through it and disappeared.

As Plumduff neared it the shadows suddenly sprung into life, taking up a defensive position around the device and coiled as if to pounce.

She skirted the first as it lashed out at her narrowly missing. “Keep going boy” she yelled as she tumbled through after O’Rourke. It was too late though and the shadows now stood between me and the portal, their eyes burning like the sun and arcs of electricity cutting through the air.

I took a step back thinking that I might be able to take a run and get past but they began to advance on me. I scrambled backward and fell, my pistol spilling across the floor and they continued to bare down on my position. Reaching behind I tried to find it but it had slid under the cabinets behind which we had hidden and was out of reach.

They were now close enough for me to see the stars burning in the blackness of their bodies, and I thought this was it – my luck was about to run out – when suddenly they stopped. The blue glow emanating from the device dimmed and they instantly scampered back to it but it was too late, the connection between them and it had been severed and the portals quite suddenly disappeared as the hangar was plunged into near darkness.

I took the opportunity to scramble towards the back of the hangar and in the direction of a small door I had noticed when we had been waiting earlier. Feeling around in the dark I found what felt like a handle and pulled. A door opened and I quickly ran through pulling it closed behind me before collapsing to the floor against it with my heart pounding in my chest.

Sat in the dark I waited for the shadows to find me, convinced still that this was the end of the line for me once again. I had no idea what had happened to O’Rourke or Plumduff and had no way to contact McCann or anyone else from the Office. I put my ear to the door and listened. I could hear something outside, something scratching and scraping and coming closer.

Gripped with panic I scrambled around on the floor reaching out in the dark looking for anything that I might be able to defend myself with. As my hand felt something hard and cold and as I examined it I realised it was a chair. I picked it up by the legs and held it up ready to swing as the I heard the door handle turning slowly. Holding my breath I waited, prepared to make one last stand against the shadows.

As the door flew open I screamed. It was not a particularly manly scream, but it was a scream none the less and as I swung the chair wildly it met something soft and there was a groan as something hit the floor.

“Bloody hell, steady on Armitage” said McCann. “We’re on the same side remember.”

Part 27