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Story [Necroscope, RPF] Mary Formal and E-Branch

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Sith-I-5, Apr 15, 2015.

  1. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    This material starts out mine, but the briefing that Mary gets called into, was created by Brian Lumley.

    Australian Adventure - Day Three

    After a hearty breakfast of sausages and beans, tasted great, and filled a spot, but was of no nutritional value to her; she went back upstairs to to get dressed, then decided to do a patrol of the grounds.

    Mary posed in front of the full length mirror in one of the bathrooms, to check herself out.
    In deference to being in the Queensland State capital, rather than her normal fashion style, she had gone for a short-sleeved white blouse and knee-length black pencil skirt, with black heels. The intention was to pass for an office worker, if she had to go out.

    The tan-leather shoulder holster in her left hand was already weighed down by the Bren Ten, as she lifted it and pulled the loops up her arms, and smoothed the sleeves back along her biceps.

    She took one more appraisal, reflecting that fashion magazines would probably recommend a black shoulder-rig to compliment her skirt and shoes! Shaking her head at the absurdity, she then headed down to the back of the house.

    "Hold on Miss." A strong hand grabbed her bare arm as she made to step out the back door, its owner releasing her and stepping back as she turned in the doorway to look up at him.

    "Whoa." She muttered, taking in his upper form. His folded arms bulged with clustered muscles, under tanned skin than glistened with a fine patina of perspiration. Above the forearms, she could see the V-neck of a navy blue, sleeveless t-shirt, and under them, the lower legs of sideways hopping kangaroo.

    "Hi, you're one of the psychics, right?" His broad Australian accent, helped identify him as Warrant Officer Bygraves, one of the Australian Special Air Service men that Trask referred to as the "military commanders".

    She had an idea that the E-Branch head had no idea how military ranks worked, which while she did not either, she would not have classed "warrant officer" as a "commander" of anything.
    Still, it indicated that the Aussies were not sending their best and brightest into a fight with the Wamphyri. Their commissioned officers were staying in the barracks on this one.

    "No." She responded to his query. "I'm just an agent for E-Branch, providing support for the psychics." She nodded at his t-shirt. "Why aren't you in uniform? Not that I mind."

    "Now that we are in Brizzie, uh, Brisbane; they want us in civvies, so that we don't attract attention." He grinned down at her. "Gave me a chance to show that I'm a Roo's fan."


    "Yeah, alternate name for North Melbourne. Rules' football, you know?"

    She smiled back up at the trooper, noting that what hair had been left by his crewcut, was quite ginger, reflecting the sunshine streaming in behind her. She could feel the back of her calves warming up from the heat. "I'm familiar with the concept. Like our rugby."

    Bygraves shook his head slowly, "Players run about while holding the ball in their hands, true, but there the similarity ends. If you are free this evening, and we are not on an op', I would be happy to explain the differences."

    She shrugged. "Its a date. Now, what was it you wanted? I'm doing a patrol of the grounds."

    Bygraves indicated the shoulder holster, tight against the short sleeve of her white blouse. "You don't want to be taking that hogleg out there. What if we are being observed?"

    "Well, Miller did a runner with all that information, right? Which is precisely why I am armed."

    "And what if the Opposition calls the police, saying they have seen someone prowling the grounds while armed, and the local cops raid us? This is supposed to be covert."

    Formal frowned. "The Opposition? What, Russian E-Branch?"

    "No, the vampires."

    "Oh." Her expression cleared as she bobbed her head in understanding, and wiped a hair strand out of her face. "I guess the term means different things to different people. So what do you want me to do?"

    Bygraves stepped aside, half-turned and nodded towards the shadowed hallway leading deaper into the safe house. "Come on."

    Mary closed and locked the back door, and preceeded the SAS officer towards the central area.
    The ground floor featured four long rooms, each to a side, served by large windows, either unobstructed bullet-proof glass, or concealed by net curtains.

    The furniture within was slightly out-of-date, but gave the place a wealthy, residential feel.

    The central room, completely hidden from the outside world, was filled with electronic and communications equipment, screens, and whatever apparatus was needed to make it into an operational and command centre. It was permanently manned by the E-Branch techs, Jimmy Harvey, or Paul Arenson.

    A trestle table in a corner to the right as they entered highly-polished sliding wooden doors, was before a tall green safe with an open door, and Mary could see racks of handguns inside.

    Bygraves shuffled behind the table and held out a hand for her weapon. "You can have it back tonight."

    She pulled at the leather strap, and started to shrug out of the apparatus. "Why tonight?"

    "Nightfall. We'll dole the things back out, then. But, nothing is going to happen in broad daylight, Agent."

    "I hope you are right." She said as she handed the rig across to him, and received a plain grey lottery ticket stub in return. She held it up. "What's this for? Nobody else has a Bren."

    "Procedure." The warrant officer turned and placed her gun on a shelf in the safe, and closed the safe, spinning the combination. Straightening to face her, he volunteered to join her on patrol.

    Mary shook her head. "I expect you would be too much of a distraction, Warrant Officer."

    * * * *

    The safe house exterior was aluminium cladding designed and painted in an imitation of timber, not very well when you were looking at it close up.

    The gated drive that wound down to the road, was lined by palm trees, and lawns, the grass dried to straw, surrounded the house on all four sides, with high stone walls minimising observation from outside.

    Anyone climbing over those walls would be unlikely to get far across those sprawling lawns without getting spotted. Though if they had to dig their guns out of the safe, she didn't know how much help the early warning would be.

    Round the front, on the gravel-laid drive, two saloon cars had been laid on for their use. Bullet-proof windows, armour-plating, all the vehicular defensive mod-cons.

    After checking out the cars, Mary stood on the drive, hands on hips, squinting towards the horizon to see if she could spot any nearby buildings.

    In her view, any observer would need a ladder placed against the outside of one of those walls, steal a fire engine - for the ladder, a telecoms truck - for the cherry-picker, or a helicopter.

    Funnily enough, helicopters were the eventual focus of the briefing that Liz Merrick stuck her head out of the front door to call her in, to attend.

    Everyone was in the centre room by time the two women arrived in there, the Arcateenian surprised to spot a new face - David Chung - an Anglo-Chinese locator that Trask had left in London to run things there.

    When did he get here? She thought, noting that the lucky attendees, including Liz next to Jake, had seats; then was pleasantly surprised to spot Bygraves signalling herself, patting the chair beside him on the front row. She smiled gratefully, and planted herself among the abbreviated row of soldiers, crossing her pale legs.

    "Much appreciated," she whispered to him.

    "No worries."

    She heard muttered queries of "What's with the Whisky Tango?" from some of them, but any investigation of what they meant, would have to wait until after the briefing.

    Trask, citing a query from someone at the Gibson Desert camp, presumably one of the locals, as to why they did not capture a vamp for study, gave a comprehensive run-down on the Wamphyri threat, and how they compared to biological warfare

    "Think of it this way." Ben suggested. "Men have devised chemical and biological weapons, toxins and living viruses, that could wipe us all out - destroy Mankind itself - if they were to get out. We keep these things in secure laboratories where we study and develop them. Well, when I say 'we', I mean men, 'scientists'. In outlawed lands mainly, dabbling in a mostly outlawed science.
    For happily, a majority of governments have long since banned such agents; they deem them simply too terrible to for study or development. And they are right."

    Mary felt a pleasant shiver go through her as she felt a light sensation on her bare knee, her SAS neighbour's rough palm having settled atop the crossed legs extending beyond the hem of her skirt.

    She glanced down, then, suppressing a smile, returned her attention to Trask.

    "But the unpleasant fact is that because some people continue to experiment with this stuff, our people are required to follow suit in order to find vaccines and antidotes. They don't want us to be caught with our immune systems down, as it were. So yes, these terrible poisons exist in just about every country capable of handling them. But by God, you'd better believe they take damn good care not to spill the stuff."

    So, to summarise, Formal thought to herself, everyone signed up to banning the things, but ultimately nobody takes a blind bit of notice.

    "We all know that the Richter scale is the yardstick for the power of earthquakes. But if it was the measure of all potential disasters, then to cover man-made biological weapons, it would have to stretch from nine to ninety, and to cover the Wamphyri, it would have to cover from ninety to infinity! That's by my personal scale of reckoning, and I am not wrong."

    Mary leaned slightly towards Bygraves as Trask looked around his audience, and whispered, "I hate when he sit on the fence about things."

    The soldier shushed her, but she sensed amusement from him.

    "And remember, our man-made toxins and viruses aren't bent on escaping; they aren't sentient! But only imprison a vampire, and he is thinking from that moment on, how to get free. He wants to be free, like you, and wants you to be a prisoner, like him. A prisoner of something growing inside you, that will gradually make you someone - something - else. Something other."

    Trask looked over their heads to the people in the rows behind.

    "So then, now maybe you can see why we cannot suffer a vampire to live. The point being, we really won't suffer a vampire to live. Be sure of this: if you get infected, there is no cure. Which means we'll kill you."

    A quiet murmur rippled through the ranks.

    "Oh, it'll be clean. But it'll happen. A moment after one of us - I include myself - shows up positive, he also shows up dead..."

    Mary was quite relieved when her boss moved onto a comparatively more pleasant subject.

    "We think it's likely that our quarry has a hideout in the mountains. Where they come from, the Wamphyri are very fond of their aeries - the places they live - the higher up, the better. Unfortunately, that does not tell us very much, doesn't narrow down his or her location. For as you know, as well or better than I do, there are mountains galore around here. But there's also a paradox in that the Wamphyri do not go much on sunlight."

    A snicker went through the crowd.

    Bit of a fragging understatement.

    "Wierd, wouldn't you say, that our friends has chosen to set up show here? Well, maybe not. You see, our friend is not dumb. He knows that we know his habits, and that we have known of his 'invasion' from square one. That means he also knows this is the last place we would think to look for him. Trouble is, he might already know that we have located and dealt with Bruce Trennier, which in turn means he may already be expecting us. We could have already lost the element of surprise."

    "So how are we going to find them?" A voice piped up from the audience.

    "We have a couple of days before our back-up squads, and our big ops vehicle are in situ. And that has to be one of our first priorities: to find obscure and non-obtrusive sites, with access to principal mountain approach, where we can harbour these men and vehicles when they arrive. So, as of noon today, we'll be air-mobile again, but not in the jet-copters that you have grown used to. They'll be on standby in hangars at the airfield where we came in.
    There is a firm in town which does aerial sightseeing trips by helicopter, north along the Coastal Range to Gladstone, and south over the MacPhersons and along the Richmond Range as far as Grafton. Which is ideal for our purposes, as it covers the ground we are interested in, and the pilots will have first-class local knowledge. Alas, we cannot simply commandeer this firm, men and machines, but we will want the final choice of where they fly. I will later contact Prime Minister Lance Blackmore, to see what he can do."

    Trask then assigned the people who would go on the choppers:

    "Military commanders, you will be looking for naturally concealed campsites for your contingents, harbour areas, and access routes. And you'll also be checking your maps, doing an aerial reconnaissance of the entire area. As for my people:" He shifted his gaze to look at the E-Branch operatives in the room. "We'll be scanning the mountain heights for our quarry. In truth, we don't really know what we're looking for. But it won't be all blind luck. Two of my men, Lardis Lidesci and David Chung, are specialists in this area. One of them will go on each chopper"

    Trask stood up from his perch, signalling that they were in the endgame of the meeting.

    "Okay, that's it. From midday or thereabouts, we should have these planes at our disposal. Get your maps, cameras, or whatever you need, sorted out now. As for myself, as much as I would like to be going with you, someone has to mind the shop. Dismissed."

    There was an instant hubbub in the room as everyone rose of their chairs.

    "Really?" Mary whispered archly to Bygraves, uncrossing her legs and rising, remembering to tug her skirt down. "No-one corrects him on the 'military commander' thing?"

    "What? It's deadset." He frowned down at her with an amused expression. "We are military, and who do you think commands the diggers?"

    "Diggers?" She echoed, frowning right back at him.

    One of the other SAS men leaned in, this one in red t-shirt and khahki shorts with the bottoms rolled up to make them even shorter. "That's what we call soldiers, Miss. Diggers."

    Bygraves nodded. "Deadset."

    A piercing whistle turned heads back to Trask, who signalled that he had more to say. The noise level dropped.

    "One final reminder. This is a covert operation. Try not to give anything away to these civilian pilots. Have a set of answers ready to hand. For instance, you could be fire chiefs carrying out preliminary aerial surveys, ensuring there won't be a second Great Fire of Brisbane. Something along those lines. I'm sure you'll think of something.
    That's it, and I hope I didn't bore you too much. Gentlemen, thanks for your time and attention..."

    Bygraves turned to his fellows. "Alright, you heard the man. Start working out what we need. Who wants to be Quey (Quartermaster)?"

    One soldier raised a hand.

    "Good. Let's get to it."

    "See you later." Mary called softly to her departing friend, as he and the other SAS sol- diggers, filed out of the Operations Centre.

    To be continued...


    Thanks to:
    Wikipedia page ( for Aussie military slang. Very interesting stuff.

    The North Melbourne Football Club ( for Bygraves' guernsey (the sleeveless t-shirt business) design in 1997.

    The Australian Explorer website ( for general Australian Slang.
  2. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    The characters and environment created by Brian Lumley, the rest of this part, is mine.

    Australian Adventure - Day Three (11am...ish)

    As the assigned personnel moved away to prepare their gear, Mary was left in the Operations Room like a lemon, but her mind was working.

    She had already done a patrol, and knew the layout of the safe house exterior.

    One advantage of not being chosen for assignments, even if it left her feeling like Jackie No Mates, was that her time was her own, and her thoughts immediately turned to procuring proper sustenance, which since it involved the traumatic removal of a heart from a live human being, needed to be done on the down low.

    She stepped up to Trask, who had his hands on the back of Jimmy Harvey's high-backed executive chair, as the short technician, pre-maturely balding while in only his mid-Twenties, sat before the array of computers and communications' gear.

    "Boss, is it alright if I go out into town? I want to try to find a local launderette, clean what I was wearing out in the Gibson Desert."

    Trask straightened and glared silently at her with naked hostility. Then his expression softened, and he replied, "But there is no need."

    She frowned back, not taking his earlier expression to heart. "No need? Why? Is there a budget for me to replace my clothing?"

    "Ha-ha, no. We have a washing machine here. In the kitchen."

    Frag. Despite her calm expression, she was infuriated. She crossed her arms and glared momentarily at the floor, unsure how to follow up.

    "So are you volunteering to wash everyone's laundry?" The E-Branch head continued.

    She glanced up to see Ben's mischievious expression. "Huh? No!"

    He put two fingers to his lips and repeated his now trademark piercing whistle, getting the attention of everyone still in Ops. "Agent Formal has volunteered to do some laundry. If you have things that need washing, leave them on your bunks."

    There were smiles and some appreciative applause from the gathering, one of the suntanned SAS men in a crumpled red t-shirt nodding to her, "Good on ya, Luv. Not only look like a proper Sheila, you are a proper Sheila."

    Nearer the doorway, the check-shirt and jeaned Merrick scowled at him. "And if I showed some leg, would I be a 'proper Sheila' too?"

    "It'd help." He elbowed one of his colleagues, and grinned.

    Mary cringed inwardly; she had never been the Suzie Home-maker type, but it was too late to back out now. "Alright, but make sure your names are written inside whatever you leave out. I am obviously not going to know whose uniform belongs to whom."

    Bygraves exchanged a friendly look with her across the room, as behind him, his team-mates queued around a doorway too small to allow them all out at once. "You don't know what you have let yourself in for." He warned.

    "I think I have an idea." She glanced back at Trask, but he was back with Harvey, deep in discussion now that his fun was over.

    She waited for the crowd to disperse further, then made her way to the kitchen, intending to check out this washing machine that her boss said they had.

    Getting captured by E-Branch, or getting appropriated by SMERSH three decades before, had given her access to civilised society and some of the accoutrements that went with it, but such experiences were only a tiny portion of her life.

    The rest of her time on this planet, consisted of many decade hibernations, or time as a hobo or tramp, punctuated by monthly feeds.

    "Ah, that must be them." She muttered, upon seeing two hip-height blocks of white metal, fronted by a circular transparent porthole door, and lozenge-shaped buttons of different colours.
    The settings had English language titles that she did not understand, for example, Express 20, and Stop. Okay, maybe not Stop.

    "Bine , așa că modul în care rahat lucrezi?" She queried as she squatted before one of the washing machines, her fingers gripping the clean white top to stop her toppling backwards. She 'd be pretty impressed if it not only came with voice recognition, but Romanian recognition too, enough to know that she had asked, "Alright, so how the crap do you work?"

    The drum behind the glass was very shiny metal. The whole thing looked like the Australian government had bought it new, for their Pommie guests.

    Bold black lettering on the top left above the front-loading door, identified the model as a WT 2780 WPM AUS.
    The last three letters obviously meant Australia; she doubted it meant Austria, or Austerity.

    "You're looking like you haven't seen a washer dryer before, Mary." Liz' voice came from behind and above.

    Formal looked over her right shoulder to see the operative leaning against the doorway. "I haven't. What's a washer dryer?"

    Liz crossed her arms. "Your kidding, right?"


    "Washer. Dryer. I don't get which of the two words is tripping you up."

    The squatting female sighed. "Look, don't get sarcy. Help me."

    "A washing machine washes clothes, and to dry them, you either put them into a related machine called a dryer, or hang clothes on a radiator, or put them outside to let the breeze and air dry them naturally."

    "Well, hanging our stuff outside is a no-no." Mary pointed out, "we are going to need line-of-sight on the surrounding walls, for security purposes."

    "A washer dryer does the first part, then a second cycle starts after the water has drained off. A combination of high speed spin and air, I guess, dries the clothes without you having to open the machine. All in one process." With a sigh of her own, the younger woman trotted across the linoleum, her blue-denimed left hip stopping to Mary's right, and hooked neatly manicured fingers up into a shallow alcove that she had not spotted, pulling a drawer out to the left of the stencilled lettering. "The washing powder goes in here. Just a cup full, if there is one in the powder store." Her hips twisted as she looked around the kitchen. "Do you see the powder?"

    "No." Mary admitted, "but my angle is not the best down here. Must be in one of the cupboards." Her mood brightened as it occurred to her that if there was no washing powder within the safe house, she would have an excuse to explore the neighbourhood, after all. Then, thinking about someone other than herself for once, she glanced up at the telepath. "You don't seem your normal cheery self. What's wrong?"

    Liz sighed a second time and dropped into a squat beside her. "Can you keep a secret?"

    "Girl, you have no idea." Mary's eyes twinkled as she smiled at her colleague. "What's up?"

    "We espers within E-Branch have an un-written rule not to use our Talents on each other. It is just accepted."

    Mary noted that Liz' confession mentioned nothing about not spying on E-Branch members who were not psi-endowed, but did not ask the obvious question. Besides, Liz thought she was an U.N.C.L.E. liaison, so really, she should not be confiding anything.
    Masking her thought that this was getting all too complicated, she instead offered a smile of encouragement. "Go on."

    "Trask has got me spying on Jake."

    The Arcateenian felt her eyebrows rise, and she glanced automatically back towards the doorway, confirming that the two women were alone. She looked back at the downcast woman, and felt for her. "Why?"

    "I don't know. Our...our drive out to the Gibson Desert was a test for all of us. To see if we could cope with this stuff, and also my baiting Bruce Trennier just before we finally took him down."

    Mary nodded. "I did notice Ben finally smile when Jake beamed you away from Trennier."

    "Yeah, that was ******* wierd; the beaming, not the smiling. It was like being weightless is a vast, dark cavern. And I sensed in his mind's eye, streams of numbers scrolling down like that screen in The Matrix?" She fell silent. "I shouldn't have said anything. I don't want you passing that information to U.N.C.L.E."

    Mary shifted weight to be able to safely take one of the hands anchoring her, from the top of the washing machine, and made the common confidence-keeping finger motion of drawing an imaginary zip across her lips, and twisting off one end. "It's off the record. Just between us girls. Right?"

    Merrick unexpectedly flung both arms around her, cheek to cheek, and hugged her gratefully. "Thanks!"

    "Leggo leggo leggo-" Mary pleaded, the finger pads of her left hand slipping along the top of the machine, as she tried in vain to remain upright while supporting Liz' weight, then they slipped off and there was nothing to stop her rolling back onto the lino, while attached to her, Liz fell on her side, and instantly started laughing, the sound clearly cathartic.

    Mary joined in a moment later, though her mirth was not genuine.

    When they untangled and picked themselves up, Liz wet her fingers with her tongue and ruefully rubbed spit into the yellowing bruise on her left elbow, half-shown beyond the end of her 3/4-length sleeve. "Dammit," she muttered, while Formal stepped away to check the cupboards suspended on the tiled walls at head height, opening them, and slamming them closed. "If you are trying to find the washing powder, it's more likely to be stored lower down, like under the sink. You only store that stuff high up when you have children in the house."

    Mary nodded at the advice. Made sense. She slammed the food-filled space she had been peering into, and glanced around for the sink, crossing quickly to it, her black skirt sliding up white thighs as she leaned over to check the dark enclosure that hid the sink's u-bend piping.

    "Ah-ha!" She exclaimed, with way too much happiness. She pulled a suitably colourful cardboard box that if it was not washing powder, she would be quite surprised and have to swallow her exclamation. She straightened and gave the box an experimental shake: certainly sounded powdery inside.

    The picture on the sides were of a young skipping girl in a fluffy white party frock, inside a yellow circle, with the italicised red NIRMA brand name above.

    The Arcateenian had never heard of it, and assumed it to be a local Aussie brand. In fairness though, she was not an expert on washing powder makes. For her two hundred years on this planet, her exposure to the concept had been very, very recent. "Alright, I got the powder. You think it better to collect the laundry from everyone's beds, or have them dump it all down here?"

    Liz looked over, pulling her sleeve down. "No telling if you are going to get to everyone's stuff, or if you are going to be called away during the afternoon. Best for everyone to stick with what they are doing."

    Mary nodded. "Good call." She brought the Nirma box over the washing machines, and set the box down on top. "How's your arm?"

    "I'll live."

    "Do you have to change before your helicopter ride, you lucky, lucky girl."

    "Hey." Merrick adopted a serious tone as she put hands on her hips. "It's not a holiday!"

    "Still, I'm sure you'd take it over having to do everyone's laundry."

    "Well. yeah." Liz grinned. "Any day of the week." She looked around. "So, given that we are letting everyone leave stuff on their beds, how do you plan on ferrying the loads? Ideally, I would try to find a big basin." She glanced at the agent. "I expect you know what a basin is, right?"

    "Yes, we're in luck. They had basins at the Refuge." A shadow passed across Formal's face as she recalled what had happened to the Romanian orphanage. "You look around for a basin. I'm going to grab a bedsheet from the airing cupboard, and load some clothes into it, Dick Whittington-style. Give us a shout if you find something."

    "Roger that." Liz turned to examine the vast kitchen environs, while Mary stepped through the doorway and made her way up the stairs, hauling on the polished brown bannister to make her ascent easier. "MARY!"

    "LIZ!" Mary stopped on the staircase, leaning over the bannister and looking down to the kitchen entrance.

    "GIRLS! SHADDUP!" Trask's annoyed voice called from inside Ops. "We're on the horn to London."

    Mary looked towards the voice, then jerked her hand back from the bannister when she felt something touch the back of it, finding Liz holding a large black plastic bag, still folded flat, up to her.

    "Bin liner."

    Gesundheit. "Thanks." Mary took the item, and grasped it tightly, running her gaze down it. "Good idea. Alright, stay down there. I'll need your help when I bring the first load down." She continued up the stairs, concentrating on finding the edges and seams of the bag so that she could open it out.

    There was the short walk past the bathrooms and into the dormitories proper, where her colleagues were milling about, digging through backpacks and rucksacks, with things spread over bedspreads to sort them out.

    "Alright, the first ten of you to bring your dirty laundry over to me, drop them into this while I hold it open for you." Despite being volunteered into the position, she was enjoying the tiny moment of power. "Don't just crowd around me; make a queue."

    To be continued...
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
  3. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    I am really enjoying this story so far; your Mary is really interesting to read about, and the laundry bit here cracked me up. She didn't get what she bargained for, clearly, but it worked out in its own way. :p

    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  4. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Thank you for commenting, Mira_Jade ! Feedback is rare on this project, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that you have been reading along.

    Can I ask which bit of laundry experience cracked you up?

    Was it getting volunteered by Trask; puzzling over what a washer dryer was; what?
  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    I just now caught up, and I hope to do so better in the future. :)

    As for the laundry experience, I liked the puzzling over what a washer and dryer actually was, and the moment's power she derived from doing so in the end. :p
    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  6. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    The characters and environment created by Brian Lumley, the rest of this part, is mine.

    Australian Adventure - Day Three (11:30am...ish)

    The bin liner was full after just half a dozen bundles of debris-encrusted uniforms.

    Mary collected her own laundry, stuffing it on top and lugged the heavy bag down the stairs, careful not to trip, then on the ground floor, dragged it into the kitchen, where Liz was moving the left-most washer dryer's dial back and forth like she was doing a spot of safe cracking.

    The dark-haired woman turned, looking serious. "Good, you've got your first load. I have been through the settings, and set both machines up to do a full-on cycle with each load. All you have to do is put the clothes in, close the door and make sure it is safely shut, pull that drawer out, add-"

    Mary put up a hand. "Hold on, hold on, I should probably be writing this down. Remember, I'm going to be doing this by myself whilst you and the rest of The Helicopter Spies are gallivanting along the coast. Back in a moment." She turned on her heel and headed straight into Ops, striding past the rows of vacated chairs into the centre of the large chamber. "Alright, I need some writing paper and a pen."

    Ben Trask was still standing behind the seated Harvey, talking to a face on the rectangular monitor screen up on the wall.

    Mary peered up at the face, recognising him from London HQ, but unable to place the name.

    When she looked back, Trask was sliding smoothly into Harvey's seat, and the technician was standing and leaning across the equipment-strewn trestle table between them, one hand extending the requested items towards her. "Agent?" He said, pleasantly.

    "Cheers, Jimmy." She took the proffered pocket notebook and ballpoint pen. The notebook was already open on a blank lined page. "Any secret stuff in here?"

    "Some Cosmic stuff." He affirmed, knowing she was cleared for Cosmic. "Return the notebook once you have written and torn out what you need, and don't leave it laying anywhere."

    "Copy that. Thanks again." She headed back to Liz, stopping before her with the pen poised above the handheld paper in anticipation. "Alright then, from the top."

    By time Liz had finished, Mary had moved to pressing down on one of the machines. She tore out the page from the notebook, and advised that she needed to take it back to Jimmy Harvey.

    On her return, Formal indicated the bloated bin liner. "I'm dubious that we're gonna fit all that in those two drums."

    Merrick smirked. "You don't fill the drum with clothes, silly. What about all the water that has to pump in there?" She squatted down beside one, and clicked open the circular door. "C'mere." She pointed to the load. "And bring that."

    Mary joined her, kneeling on the opposite side of the open portal, with the bag by them like a final co-conspirator. She reeled in disgust as Liz plunged her hand into the bag, grabbed up the first bundle that she could reach, and thrust it into the washer. "Just your hands? No gloves or nothing?"

    "No gloves or anything."

    "No gloves or anything." Mary repeated dutifully.

    "I will wash my hands afterwards, of course. That's why God invented washing up liquid."

    Mary frowned quizzically. "Seems a bit of a climbdown after creating the earth and seas and stuff."

    Another handful got flung into the drum. "It's that attention to detail that makes all the difference." Merrick smiled as she got a third handful. "You would do well to remember that. Do you want to have a go?"

    "Not particularly."

    "Nevertheless, you start filling that one." The telepath indicated the second machine. "We'll get two loads going."

    Formal shuffled backwards and tried to open the door to the second washing machine, the whole thing screeling about an inch out of position as she gave it some welly.

    "What?" Liz looked up, her mouth open. "Oh, for pity's sake."

    "Door won't open. How did you open your one?"

    Merrick leaned to her team-mate, dropping onto her knees to do so, and lightly slapped the other's hand away from the tightly sealed door. "Watch my hand. Far right end of the control panel is a button marked door."

    Mary leaned over Liz' fist. "Oh yeah."

    "If the machine has stopped, press that and it should release the locking mechanism; pull the door open. If there is water in the drum, you won't be able to pull the door open mid-cycle, as you could cause flooding."

    The door opened after a harsh click, and Mary wasted no time in throwing bundled up desert camos and underwear into it.

    "Only fill it halfway at the absolute most, then seal the door, make sure it is secure, and then put some powder into the drawer that I showed you earlier."

    "Got it."

    Mary got hers filled, secured the door, then brought one knee up, using that leg to raise herself into a standing position, then leaned over her colleague to reach the bag of Nirma. "Come on, Slow Coach," she issued to Liz as the other was still filling her drum. "Alright, so where's this cup that I'm supposed to use as a measuring...cup. I guess that's where that term comes from." She stood holding the powder bag up level with her own shoulder, and gazed down at Merrick expectantly.

    "Look at the back of the packet for instructions. They'll be in picture form, so they'll be right up your street."

    Formal pouted and silently retaliated by nudging Liz gently in the ribs with the toe of her shoe, then turned the bag around, and sure enough, there were instructions in pictorial directions in four panels. "Says the cup is inside the box."

    She tore the thing open to investigate, finding the advertised plastic cup that would definitely be dodgy for hot drinks, but A-OK for the blue and white washing powder on which it settled.

    Referring back to her notes, she filled the cup, tapped it against the inside of the box to level the powder off, and deposited it within the drawer of her machine. Pushed the drawer closed.

    Surprisingly stiff for a new machine, She thought, adding, as the actress said to the sexbot. "Okay, so you say you have already pre-set both machines?"

    Liz looked up from where she knelt. "I have already pre-set it for Soak and Pre-wash before it gets on with the main business. All you need to do is press 'Start', and leave it alone till it stops humming, and there is a light flashing. You remember how to open the door?"

    "Yeah, button on the right here."

    "Good girl." Merrick smiled, then froze. "Oh wait! Did you check the clothes?"

    "For what?"

    "Metal things!" The telepath waved and chopped with her hands of emphasis. "Coins, nails, bullets, anything that could conceivably go into a person's pocket for safekeeping, but you don't neccesarily want to put through a wash. Agent Wanganeen indicated that those sort of stowaways could harm the machines."

    Formal frowned. "Who the hell is-"


    "Sorry. Who is Agent Wanganeen when he, she, or it, is at home?"

    "She." Liz started pulling the load that she had put into her washer dryer back out, letting them roll over the rubber lip onto the tiling. "Nice Aboriginal woman. ASI. Not to say that I felt like the victim of gender profiling, but the boys got shown the Ops equipment when we arrived, while I got led through into the kitchen." She leaned forward to examine the drum, ensuring she had left nothing behind, then began rifling through the clothes, checking for pockets, then checking the pockets. "My Indesit back home used to laugh at coins, though I'll admit to being scared that they could break the glass."

    Mary got back down, released the door and followed suit, managing to understand that she needed to perform the same checks without needing it spelled out to her.

    She grimaced and averted her gaze with her first hand insertion into the pocket of a pair of desert camo trousers, her fingers cautiously probing. "Ack. Join E-Branch, see the World!" She mocked quietly.

    "All checked. " Liz started stuffing her load back into the drum, hand over fist, while Mary observed her jealously. "C'mon, don't take too long doing that. You want to get it over as quickly as possible, but it is vital work, believe it or not. Any idea what an hours churning in hot water will do to a paper map, or notes that someone left in their pocket?"
    She slammed her door shut, checked the seal, then stood up to retrieve the plastic cup and pack of NIRMA.

    The Arcateenian put her head down; just for the heck of it, pretending that it was a race, deftly checking the pockets and pouches of her current item, and tossing it into her drum; grabbing the next one to feel for anything hard through the rough camo-patterned material, fingers into pockets, exploratory wiggle, withdraw and toss item into washing machine, next.

    She did not look up at the sound of powder pouring and the drawer being pushed home on the adjacent machine. The thing made the sound of released air, then started audibly gurgling water.

    "Aah," Mary conceded defeat, her spine audibly cracking as she knelt up and sat back on her haunches. "Bee Eye Tee Cee Ay."

    Liz narrowed her eyes at her and clicked her thumb and middle finger at her several times as a clear signal that she knew the reference: "Xander Harris! Buffy the Vampire Slayer!"

    "A bitca? What's a bitca?"

    The two high-fived.

    Mary cleared her load, confirming no foreign objects apart from one golden foil sachet for Trojan Magnums, and put the stuff back into her washer dryer.
    "I told 'em, put your names on things, cos I'm not going to know who belongs to what."

    Liz crossed her arms. "No-one's going to claim a packet of condoms, Mary."

    Formal closed and secured the machine's front-loading door, and knelt up to examine the control panel. "They're Aussies, and there are Sheilas in the house. Of course one of them is going to claim them. They'll probably double dare each other about it."

    "I wonder..." Liz Merrick regarded the golden square, sitting on top of the machine. " you think the event that made the Trojans famous, had anything to do with the naming of this?"

    "You won't know it's inside till someone has spent all night drinking?" Mary leaned back from her machine and looked up at Liz. "How do you turn this bitca on?"

    "Control panel, these two buttons. Second one up with the icon that looks like an aspirin, that is the universal sign for power button. Press it once."

    Mary did so. "There's a light inside the drum! Is that normal?"

    Liz whistled appreciatively at the faint green glow illuminating the top of the drum load. "My machine back home doesn't do that. Could be unique to Australia. Probably explains why they don't want nails and crap in with the shirts." She waved a finger over to the left, adjacent to the powder drawer. "See the Start/Stop button there. Use that to start the programme running after you have done the prep, eg. checked the clothes, sealed them inside, and turned the machine on. You can press 'stop' in an emergency, but if everything going okay, just let it stop by itself."

    "Got it." Formal indicated a button to the right of it, with the icon of a clockface. "What's that?"

    "You can delay the start of the wash programme with that."

    "Why would I want to?"

    Merrick pursed her lips in faux consideration. "If you suspected that starting the wash cycle, would make the machine blow, you could give yourself a couple seconds to get out the kitchen."

    "Orrrr, I could just not turn it on."

    "Also an option."

    Mary contemplated her machine, mentally ticking the boxes. Clothes loaded, door securely sealed, machine turned on, washing powder inserted.
    "Fire in the hole," she warned, and pressed the 'Start/Stop' button, eliciting the same sound of released air, then the machine started sucking water in from somewhere.

    Liz took a step back towards the doorway. "So, you good with this?"

    Mary smiled and gave a friendly wave of dismissal. "Sure, go join The Helicopter Spies."

    As the telepath headed upstairs to do whatever preparation she needed to do before she and the others went off, Formal smiled to herself.
    The Helicopter Spies was one of about eight Man from U.N.C.L.E. movies released theatrically in 1960s England, and dropping the title into conversation with people that did not know any better, was going to become a new facet of her hobby of tricking people about it.

    To be continued...
  7. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    And the laundry adventures continue. :p This was another amusing update, and this bit -

    "I will wash my hands afterwards, of course. That's why God invented washing up liquid."

    Mary frowned quizzically. "Seems a bit of a climbdown after creating the earth and seas and stuff."

    - had me actually stifling a laugh. [face_laugh] I loved your dialogue here. =D=
  8. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Thank you, Mira_Jade! :)

    I'm enjoying doing my own thing for a bit, as the book that I am using steers away from parts where I can insert my character, eg. the novel follows the helicopter bit, so Mary really does have the day to herself.
  9. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    The characters and environment created by Brian Lumley, the rest of this part, is mine.

    Australian Adventure - Day Three (1pm...ish)

    Liz, Jake and the others had gone off an hour ago, around noon, to the airstrip where the helitour firm was based.

    Ian Goodly, the team pre-cog, had stuck his head round the door before leaving, asking if she had packed a swimsuit.

    "Oh yeah," she laughed, "after Trask told Liz and I not to bring swimsuits, that this was not a ******* holiday?"

    The man looked puzzled. "Just that I am seeing some swimming in your very near future. Very choppy waves." He shrugged as the car outside beeped loudly, the sound clear through the kitchen windows. "Oh well. See you later this evening."

    "Laters," She acknowledged, standing by the machine and tugging her skirt down at the sides to a couple inches above her knees.

    Although it was longer than the colourful type she usually wore, she was starting to like wearing it, even though she normally eschued such corporate wear, her lifestyle having lent itself to eclectic fashions, like the backless top and ra-ra mini' she had worn out into the desert.

    Formal returned to the clothing from her first load that she had piled up on the centrally-placed white-sided and black-topped kitchen island, although on close inspection, the jet laminated surface was an expensive-looking gloss of black and mottled greys, like a monochrome soup, frozen in time.

    The clothes were dry and warm to the touch, and when she picked up a random item and buried her nose into it as she had seen discerning housewives do on in-numerable television adverts, there was a pleasant fresh scent.

    She industriously started making piles, matching them by name, and then folding the items along logical lines, undershorts, t-shirts, camo tops and bottoms. Socks were a free-for-all.
    Her own laundry got special attention, but the new skirt she had been wearing when she had hand-to-hand with that vampire thrall, had gotten ripped to shreds, and getting washed had done nothing to improve it.

    Sighing, she crossed to a chrome pedal bin, and dumped it as the polished lid snapped up to receive the offering.

    Trask called her into his office, two hours later, and looked apologetically at her across a bare-topped desk, while the Arcateenian fidgetted nervously, her hands together in her lap, rolling over each other.

    "How is the laundry coming, Mary?" He eventually enquired, though she could see in his eyes and manner, he did not really care about that.

    "First two loads finished, Boss. Items dry, folded, and left on the beds. I have two more loads in the machines and running through their cycles."

    "Good. Good work." Ben nodded gravely.

    "What-what is this about, Boss?"

    "A.S.I. are sending a car. They want to talk to you."

    Formal raised her eyebrows at this development. A.S.I. was Australian Special Intelligence. Although not directly involved in the vampire hunt, it was they that had been tasked by Australian Prime Minister Lance Blackmore to meet E-Branch's logistical needs, and had provided this lovely safe house that both she and Trask were sitting in.

    "I obviously had to tell them about you, just as I told them about everyone on the team that was landing on their soil. They did not seem to have a problem before, and now, out of the blue, they want to talk to you." He looked genuinely apologetic, not that that made her feel any better. "Ian is certain that you will be coming back to us, but the future is a devious thing, Agent; so if we don't see you again, thank you for your service. You have done some sterling work." He stood up and extended a hand to her.

    Mary stared back. Just as she was fitting in, as well!

    She could not bring herself to shake that hand, and returned to the kitchen, pausing in the doorway to survey the empty room. The island's black-and-white theme was replicated in the many cupboards at floor and head height, fitted white doors with long vertical metal handles. The work counters and splash surfaces were in the same black-grey.

    She continued her laundry work in a bit of a daze, until she heard the crunching of tyres on the gravel out front as a car rolled in.

    Trask collared her on the way out, and told her not to do anything drastic until she was sure that ASI wanted to harm her, and reminded her that Ian had felt that everything was going to be okay, and that she was coming back.

    She stepped into the back of the black limo, and settled into the leather, or faux leather seat, and looked up to frowned through the open glass partition, at the driver steering the car smoothly down to the opening wrought-iron gates.

    She worried in silence for about twenty minutes, as the town blurred by outside the tinted windows, then started to overcome her own feelings enough to focus upon her driver, noting that she was a brown woman with tight black cornrows plaited front to back on her scalp, and a face dominated by a flat but cute stub of a nose.

    Mary was reminded of the woman that Liz had talked about, and after a nervous squeal instead of words, managed to pipe up with, "Uh, Agent Wanganeen, is it?" She felt her own voice sounded a bit reedy.

    The woman glanced up into her rear view mirror. "Agent Formal." She sounded warm and pleasant.

    "I understand that ASI have been told about me."

    "Yes, and in isolation, we would be very hard on your sort of behaviour. But alongside the Wamphyri threat, and the fact that you are on our side, we are willing to take a different view."

    A thought occurred to the Arcateenian, and she piped up with, "Do your people, the Aborigines, have vampires in their folklore?"

    "Well, nothing like what E-Branch are tackling. We have the Yara-ma-yha-who, but as long as we stay clear of fig trees, we're laughing."

    "You named it after the sound you make when you stub your toe?"

    Wanganeen sounded instantly annoyed. "Well, if you are going to make fun-"

    "Sorry, sorry." Mary gritted her teeth at her faux pas. "That was uncalled for. Please accept my apologies."

    The driver sighed. "Alright, but don't make a habit of that. Now, sit back and relax. We are almost at the airport."

    This deepened Mary's frown and confusion as she laid nervous hands on her knees. "Am I being deported?"

    "Oh, good heavens, no. You are being co-opted."


    "Seconded. Temporarily re-assigned."

    This did not sound too bad, but the worried shapeshifter was no less confused. "Re-assigned to what?"

    "The Australian Defence Force. Specifically, the RAN's Operation Resolute. " The driver advised, as the boundary fences of the airstrip appeared on the horizon through the windscreen.

    "The 'ran'." Mary echoed, uncertainty lacing her voice, frowning at the back of the driver's head.

    "Royal Australian Navy. Operation Resolute is the long-term mission to protect our borders, with RAN obviously guarding our waters." Wanganeen paused her explanation to show her credentials to the guard on the gate, and steered the car towards the huge grey hangars. "One of our patrol boats encountered a seemingly typical Vietnamese-style fishing boat, and pulled it over, deploying an inspection team on a fast insertion boat, which was promptly blown out of the water by a torpedo with the loss of all hands. The patrol boat was damaged by a second torpedo, and managed to radio for assistance."

    Everything went dark and a bit chillier as the limo rolled through the wide open rear doors of a hangar, and she could see at the far end, beyond the opposite doors, the silhouette of a military style helicopter.

    Wanganeen stopped the car beside a couple of offices built into the hangar interior, almost like Portacabins, but not mobile-looking, and bailed out of the car, coming back to open Formal's door, continuing as she waited for her passenger to emerge. "Obviously RAN wants to arc right up, but the Prime Minister have ordered them to stand down and shadow the intruder vessel until we can insert a specialist."

    Glancing up as she demurely exited the back, knees together as she twisted ninety degrees to put both legs out first, Mary noted the faded UNIVERSAL EXPORTS sign in faded, slanted letters.

    "Ian Goodly said he saw swimming in my near future," she advised, leaning forward to rise, and follow the ASI agent into the chilly first office.

    On the dark wooden desk before them were two black duffle bags with military peaked caps sitting atop them, and what turned out to be grey folded flight-suits beside each. There was also a pile of folded rubber under one of the flight-suits.

    Mary approached the bag that was pointed out to her and picked up the cap to peruse it, while Wanganeen took off her black suit jacket to reveal a short-sleeved starched white blouse with black shoulder epaulettes with two thick gold bands, one straight, and one throwing a loop. She put the hat from her bag on her on her head. It was black and white cloth, with upturned side wings similar to what Women Police Constables in Britain used to wear in decades past.

    "The mission is in flux, so we might be landing on a ship that is out in the area where this happened. So change into the uniform, then put the flightsuit on over it; it could get cold on the Sea King, so you will be appreciative of the extra layers. Your civilian clothing, underwear too, will have to stay here"

    Formal looked flustered. "Well I can't change out here with you then, can I? Isn't there a changing room?"

    "I'm sure you have not got anything I have not already seen."

    "You mean in general, right? Not my bits, specifically."

    "No, in gen..." The ASI woman broke off and sighed. "I shall meet you outside by the car." She piled the flightsuit and sap onto her duffle, and carried them out the door, the bloated bag knocking against her knees as she went.

    Mary breathed a sigh of relief. Her first time on her own since leaving the safe house. Mary nodded to herself. "Okay-dokey." She stepped out of her heels and started to dis-robe.

    Everything clean and white, the short-sleeved blouse, choice of trousers (which she imagined would be problematic, a few days a month), or knee-length A-line skirt, socks, sports bra and granny pants - "You gotta be kidding me," she muttered incredulously with a handful of the latter, thinking, Join the Navy. Dress like Bridget Jones..

    It was the sort of thing she imagined the bespectacled spinster of E-Branch, Anna Marie English, would wear. But to be fair to the ecopath, she wasn't actually old. Anna Marie's appearance aged or blossomed in step with the World's environmental health.
    Putting the woman by a map, asking her to run her finger over it, and keeping a close eye on her face; was how her people tracked attempts at covert pollution. Her skin visibly smoothed as her digit touched pristine areas, but only have her find one of the submarines that the Russians had been sinking, packed to the gills with nuclear waste, and watch her face tighten, or cankers form.
    Wierd, the Arcateenian mentally shuddered, with the stuff that I've seen, that's what I find freaky?

    Mary noticed her own blouse' shoulder-boards bore just one looped gold stripe, compared to her companion's; then lost sight of them as she zipped the grey flightsuit up to her neck.
    Black combat boots replaced her heels, and she left all her stuff on the dusty desktop; stuffed the rubber pile into the duffle without seeing what it was, put the cap on, and headed out to the car.

    "Sorry, I should have done this first," Wanganeen advised straight off, "so hold the end of this scroll, just like you would a Christmas Cracker."

    Formal did so, looking bored.

    "Using the authority vested in me by the Governor General of Australia, and the serving Minister of Defence, I hereby temporarily commission you to the Royal Australian Navy with the rank of Acting Sub-Lieutenant."

    Mary stared at her companion in disbelief. "Wow, that was fast."

    "Normally there would be twenty-one weeks of training, a marching band and thirty minutes of boring speeches by a couple of senior flag officers, but we don't have time for all that. Our quarry would be on land and working as a busboy if we did this properly." She nodded to the helicopter. "Come on. Chop chop."

    Both women picked up their pace and jogged to the blunt-nosed sky blue whirlybird, where a crewperson in flightsuit and visored helmet, helped them aboard, gave them un-visored helmets with microphones, life jackets to put on, and helped them to some basic-looking seating that folded down from the wall.

    Even with the helmets to protect their hearing, there was an audible whine as the rotors overhead started to turn, slowly spinning up.

    The passenger area was fairly cramped, and their bags were slid over the fluted metal floor into a corner already occupied by what looked like a black jet-ski, all three items now filling about three quarters of the available space.

    Mary was able to look out of one of the small windows to see the tarmac falling rapidly away as they took off, and looked round when she felt something bang her helmet.

    The crewperson withdrew his knuckles, knelt back, and pantomimed the moving of their microphones in front of their mouths, which both she and the other agent complied with.

    "Lieutenants, welcome to our Angry Palm Tree-"

    Mary glanced at Wanganeen, who mouthed Helicopter back at her.

    "Now, she's a Westland Sea King Mark 50, with an operational range of 664 nautical miles. When we have reached our top speed of 112 knots, or 129 miles per hour, we will head directly to the danger zone."

    Wanganeen gave the man a thumbs up, so Formal, whose hands were already getting cold, copied her, whilst wondering if they had gloves up here.

    "I'm Flight Lieutenant Dan MacLellan of Eight-One-Seven Squadron. Our pilot is Commander Danielle Bailey. Do you have any questions?"

    Formal pinched the metal of her microphone and called into it to be heard over the sound of the rotors. "Will we be landing on a ship?"

    The man shrugged, replying, "We won't know for at least another hour. We are too large to operate from a ship, but dropping you onto one for a visit is another matter. Still, if we don't, we will land onto the water and deploy one of you on the wet bike."

    She had noticed the amphibious hull under them, and had no concerns.

    Wanganeen aimed a thumb at Mary, beside her. "She'll be the one going out."

    "What am I doing when I get there?"

    The ASI agent ignored her to look at the crewman. "Is there any way we can converse without being overheard? This is classified?"

    He slipped forwards off his seat and placed headphones that arced over the scalp, onto their laps. "These are on a different circuit to the helmets. You can talk freely with those."

    ASI and E-Branch agents gritted their teeth against the deafening roar of the twin Rolls-Royce Gnome' turbines as they swapped devices, then Wanganeen leaned in. "By attacking our sailors, this individual on the fishing boat has basically banged a spoon on a plate, and called out the back door, 'Puss puss puss, din-dins'!" She grinned at the Brit. "And you're the cat."

    "First time I've been called 'Puss puss', but if there is a free heart in it, I'll take it."

    Smiling to herself at the thought of finally getting some sustenance, and from such an unlikely source, Mary peered out her window as the rugged coastline blurred by underneath.

    To be continued...


    Mary onboard the Westland Sea King

    Research done on

    Yara-ma-yha-who -

    pencil skirt advice -

    Wikipedia entries for Royal Australian Navy, Westland Sea King (which RAN deployed in 2003), Clearance Diving Team.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
  10. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Ooh, her new mission is really interesting here; I can't wait to see how it goes! [face_thinking] You did a really great job with setting up the scene and the players involved, I could perfectly picture it all in my head.

    But there were lots of fun bits in this update - I enjoyed the Yara-ma-yha-who lines, the speedy induction into RAN, and the little but we got to know about Anna Marie English (what a fascinating gift she has!). Describing the helicopter as an angry palm tree cracked me up, as well. :p
  11. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Don't think there is anything of Lumley's in this bit. This succeeds or fails at my hand.

    Australian Adventure - Day Three (later in afternoon)

    Mary, nose pressed to the round-edged square of plexiglase that served as her personal window, watched as the coastal roads and bluffs blurred by, a couple of hundred feet beneath them, then without any obvious reasoning, they banked sharply and steered to the North-East, over the grey-blue surf, quickly leaving the yachts and tourist watercraft behind.

    After a few minutes, Wanganeen stretched past her to point out the window at a long thin island, covered in greenery. Several white-painted lighthouses poked up out of the canopy of treetops.

    "That's the Moreton Island National Park." The Agent's voice came over her headphones.

    "Oh yes!" Mary shouted over the roar of the rotors, flashing a smile at her companion. She felt duty bound to pretend that she cared.

    "Traditional home of the Ngugi tribe. Evidence was found that they had been there about two thousand years."

    "What, that little strip of land?"

    Wanganeen raised non-committal eyebrows, and sat back in her seat, leaving the British agent to contemplate the sea and sky as the Westland Sea King chattered noisily through it.

    Mary thought she had an idea why the woman had told her that.

    She had seen a cartoon in a magazine with an avian newscaster in suit and glasses, doing an outside broadcast, gravely reporting on downed airliner behind him, where a couple of un-identified birds were thought to have been sucked into the engines, and were missing, presumed dead.

    This was probably like that; Moreton Island only interesting her because of the Aboriginal connection.

    She idly tried to remember who the cartoonist was. Glen Larson, Gary Larson, Gertrude Larson? Someone in the Larson clan, anyway; first initial, 'G'. Oh, that was going to bother her for a while.

    Several minutes later, she was alerted by a tap on her knee, looking around to see McLellan, the flight lieutenant leaning towards them from his own backwards-facing seat, move his straight-fingered hand over to Wanganeen's knee and repeat the deed, both women realising in the same instance that he meant to communicate something, and sharing a grimace as it meant they would have to endure the roar of the turbines, to change from their headphones back to the helmets.

    Perhaps seeing their faces, he smiled and waved a forefinger at them, then pulling a jackplug on a black cable from under his own chair, and leaning across to thump it into a corresponding hole to Wanganeen's left.

    His voice came through over their headphones, which caused Mary some relief at least.

    "I'm quite impressed that neither of your Sheilas had to chunder." He nodded to show that he was being genuine. "So anyway, we are coming up on the HMAS Warramunga. She is several miles ahead of the intruder, and if you fail to stop the fishing boat, she's the line in the sand to make sure that it does not reach shore."

    The ASI agent chimed in. "That also means, that once you are onboard, it would be a good idea to get the vessel stopped, or its course changed."

    Formal frowned. "I don't know how to drive a boat!"

    Dan glanced her way. "But you're in the Navy."

    Mary shut up right there. She knew better than to blurt how she had come to be in it, though Agent Wanganeen had inducted her with a practised ease that indicated she had done it lots of times before.

    Movement outside her window caught her attention as the helicopter banked to lower that side.

    Below and to their right, a long grey ship with an occupied landing pad on the stern, and a long black pole that she knew to be a heavy gun, poked Dalek-like out of a blocky light-grey turret on the bow, the front end. Between the two extremities, maybe three levels of superstructure, for crew, command, or communications, the last evidenced by a forest of black aeriels and a slowly revolving concave dish.

    She smiled as she spotted a small red Kangaroo logo on the side of the thick grey chimney, then frowned at the helicopter already occupying the rear landing pad. At first glance, it looked a smaller model than her Sea King.

    "She's aleady got a chopper down there." She pointed out.

    "Deadset," the man confirmed with a nod, "so we will be setting down in the water half a mile from the intruder, then deploying the wet-bike."

    Mary noted his use of the same word as the Warrant Officer Bygraves, after the briefing that morning.

    Behind him, the pilot's head cocked to the left, as if she were trying to see them in a non-existent rear-view mirror. Her voice came over the headphones: "We will be setting down in a few minutes. Start getting ready."

    Dan pointed his forefinger like a pistol, in the direction of the British agent. "If you are the one going out, you better put your drysuit on." He leaned hard to his right without undoing his seatbelt and closed a fist on the rough black material of her duffle back, pulling it across the deck with a mighty grunt. He had to unplug the communication jack in order to pull it before the girls.

    Mary shifted in her seat to pull her hands out from under her backside, having hit upon the idea of sitting on them to keep them warm. She bent her fingers a couple times, then snap-released her restraints, grabbed the bag from him and pulled it the rest of the way between her feet, zipping it open to reach in for the heavy rubberised crap that she had collected off the desk where she had gotten changed.

    Agent Wanganeen signalled for her bag too, saying that if she was putting Mary in the water, she better be suitable dressed as well.

    Formal paused as the black and grey drysuit unfolded as she lifted it out of the bag, enquiring, "What do I do about my life jacket? Pull the drysuit up over it, or take it off, and put it back on afterwards."

    She had directed this towards Dan, but he had not re-attached the comms cable, and in addition, had left his seat to kneel beside the ski'd watercraft, pulling a transparent plastic covering from around it. She turned to Wanganeen, who in turn looked at the clothing in her hands.

    "Err, if you go in the water, you may need access to your life preserver, to get to the whistle, or the little flasher. So you'll need to wear it over the drysuit."

    Mary nodded. "Copy that."

    * * * *

    The Commander called back from the front that they were going down, and Mary reflected that the exact same words, in a more urgent tone, would be quite concerning.

    She pulled her boots back on, now that she was zipped into the bulky black drysuit, a heavy rubber suit that were loose on the body, with lots of folds in the stiff material. She had a velcroed pouch on each thigh, with the flap on one being lilac for some reason.

    "Well, that's that game up." The seated A.S.I. woman muttered over her headphones as she observed.

    "What game?"

    "The one of convincing this air crew that we're RAN too. We couldn't even source the same make of drysuit." She nodded to Mary's left hip. "You've got Santi Ladies First branded across your crack, while mine's an O'Neill."

    "This is a rush job; I wouldn't worry about it."

    Tossing the headphones onto the seat after getting her head jerked back by the taut wire, the British agent later on, staggered close to where Dan was kneeling beside the wet-bike, while standing to her left, Wanganeen seemed to have taken an interest in a strange umbilical-like pipe that Mary had found sticking out the left side of in the suit, level with her torso.

    The Australian operative was holding the flexible pipe, and looking round, a curious expression on her face, like she was looking for the Hookah smoking device that came with it. "Umm..."

    "Umm?" The bemused Arcateenian echoed.

    Wanganeen leaned past her. "Dan, where's the gas canister?"

    The crewman looked up at her, eyebrows furrowed in confusion, "What gas canister?"

    Mary glanced at each as they spoke, feeling like they were speaking over her.

    "I was given to understand," The Aboriginal agent explained patiently, "that drysuit bouyancy was achieved by inflating them with gas, or air, or something. I'm assuming we're not supposed to just blow into the pipe."

    "Well, no-one told us to pack a gas canister."

    Wanganeen rolled eyes. "Well, that is just great, isn't it? What if she falls in the water?"

    Dan glanced up at Formal. "Can you swim, Lieutenant?"

    "In a pool, sure." Her minds eye popped back to the rundown facilities of Parkside Pools' swimming baths in 1994 Cambridge. The designers certainly hadn't skimped on the depth of the larger pool's 'deep end'.

    She'd been there for the aquatic part of her E-Branch schooling, encouraged to dive down far enough to touch the bottom, and she had discovered that she attracted a fair amount of admiring looks in a one-piece swimsuit as she gingerly padded barefooted across those slippery, cracked tiles.

    "Your file says you have Bronze Water Safety?" Wanganeen's tone of uncertainty brought her back to the present. "What's that, a hundred-"

    "Yes, swim a hundred metres in t-shirt and shorts. Plus other trifles. But again, that was in a pool." Formal waved stiffly out the small window. "I have never had to try it in the middle of the ocean before."

    "Oh, we're nowhere near the ocean. That doesn't kick in till several hundred miles from the coast, and we haven't been flying that long."

    "That really doesn't help." Mary told him. She had the urge to vocalise that this was beginning to sound like a bit of a Mickey Mouse operation, but she had caused offense once already today, and these people were her ride out of here, so she suppressed her yen.

    "Well, just try not to fall in the water."

    "Oh, yolungu boii (your mum's fat ass)." The A.S.I. agent swore softly and retreated to her seat, pulling gently on her sandy-haired counterpart's waist to draw the younger-looking woman between her open knees in the manner of a mother preparing to adjust her daughter's wedding dress. She moistened thumb and forefinger with saliva and cleaned the end of the pipe that was going in her mouth.

    "I hope we're not taking it in turns." Mary quipped on seeing this, her left arm raised to give Wanganeen access. 1994? She wondered, thinking about her swimming lessons again. That was nine years ago! I shouldn't still be the rookie after all that time. The thought occurred that maybe the Branch did not recruit that often, as clearly, Espers did not grow on trees.

    "I'm too old for this ka ka." The matronly woman sighed, her chest swelling under her O'Neill-branded neoprene tunic as she drew in a deep breath, .

    Dan pulled the plastic layering off the bike and patted it down the sides, and onto the deck, exposing the curved depression of the black seat, with the V of the handle-bars within easy reach. He lifted the seat off and set it to one side, then to the audible sound of a latch on his side of the vehicle, lifted the hinged top of the watercraft like you would a car bonnet, and put down a thin black rod to keep it aloft while he investigated the innards. "Good, full fuel tank." He murmured to himself. "And the seals look okay."

    The floor pushed up mildly, enough to make Mary bend her legs slightly, and lose her balance momentarily, groping for one of the velcro handholds hanging down from the ceiling. Their Sea King bobbed gently to watery sounds coming from underneath.

    "We're down!" Commander Bailey reported from up front, reaching up to flip some toggles on the slanted instrument panel above her, while the helicopter rode the choppy sea. "The boat is to our left and heading away from us. You will have to launch quickly before it gets too far."

    "Just pop the sunnies on." Dan fished out a pair of dark-lensed sunglasses out of a pocket, and slid them up his nose, before unlatching the almost floor-to-ceiling side door through which the two agents had boarded.
    He deftly slid it aside towards the tail end with a heavy chunk, lukewarm spray from the choppy waters, and salty air invading the helicopter.

    He knelt at the edge of the opening and manouvered two flat metal pieces into place, hooking them into rectangular holes in the floor, creating a short makeshift ramp into the water.

    He shuffled back on his knees enough to leave himself room to manouvre the wet-bike from the corner and in front of himself, straining to turn it so that it's nose was aligned with the ramp. All the while the helicopter cabin shifted up and down on the waves.

    Mary looked down as Wanganeen inhaled deeply once again and blew steadily through the tube into her side, the black and lilac rubber moving ever so slightly at the extra inflation.
    "Tough crowd," she muttered.

    The other woman blinked and sat back, pulling the tube from her mouth. "Strewth, I'm getting light headed now."

    "Leave it then." Formal suggested, putting her arm down and gently taking her tube back, holding it in her left fist. "Is there a valve or something I need to close?"

    "Nah you'll be fine." Australian Special Intelligence' finest looked drained, but even so, gathered enough energy to send her British counterpart on her way with a light swat across the rump of her suit. "Besides, you have your life jacket."

    Using handholds suspended from the ceiling, Mary crossed to Dan, laying a hand on his shoulder as she moved around him to the wetbike. The gripped each other in a fireman's grip, and he helped to lower onto the saddle of the bobbing wetbike, one leg gingerly lowered at a time, till she was settled astride the depression.
    She placed her hands round the rubberised handles and shifted in the seat to get more comfortable. "Ferro," She called back into the chopper, referencing the pilot in Aliens, "immediate dust off once I'm clear, but stay on station!"

    Dan frowned. "Eh?"

    "Nothing." She gazed down at the handlebars, waiting for him to tell her how the controls worked.

    "So, you know how to operate that thing?"


    MacLellan seemed quite amused by this, and she narrowed her eyes balefully at him as he leaned back and turned away from her to call inside, "Yah never told me the Pom was shark biscuit!" But she had smoothed her expression by time he came back to look down at her. "Yeah, maybe this is something you should have mentioned during the journey."

    "I assumed somebody would show me." She admitted, as the water lapped over her knees and bobbed the watercraft into the sky blue metal hull below him.

    "Never assume. Double check."

    "Well yes, thank you Flight Lieutenant. I shall take that onboard." Assuming I live through this.

    To be continued...

    Research - Parkside Pool, Ian's home page. 1994 Swimming Pool facilities in Cambridge, UK. - Aboriginal swear words - Australian slang - Aussie Translator
  12. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Hee, hee, I am enjoying this turn in Mary's adventure! As always, you are doing a great job with setting up your scenes and building up towards the action. I am already very interested for what happens next, and I am really enjoying the Australlian flavor you worked in. It felt very authentic. I particularly liked:

    "Well, just try not to fall in the water."

    "Oh, yolungu boii

    Such great advice. :p :rolleyes:

    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  13. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Mira_Jade - Continued gratitude for your presence and feedback. :)

    The Aboriginal swear word has become a favourite since you highlighted it

    Don't think there is anything of Lumley's in this bit. This succeeds or fails at my hand.
    Australian Adventure - Day Three (afternoon, at the fishing boat)

    Commander Bailey's voice floated back from the cockpit, "Aw, don't be jack; show her the controls."

    "Oh alright." Dan kneeled at the rim and leaned out of the doorway to point one hand just ahead of the E-Branch secondee. "You see the red knob there on the fuselage between your legs?"

    She looked down to see, just beyond level with her knees the indicated control with ON and OFF legends, like a flat dome with a single fin that could be pinched between thumb and curled forefinger. She nodded. "Yup."

    "That's the ignition. Turns the machine on and off. The handlebars you will have spotted already. Twist the rubberised handgrip of the right one forward to go faster, and back towards you to slow down."

    Formal narrowed her eyes in concentration and nodded. "Got it." Her eyes tracked to the right of the power switch and felt her cheeks warming despite the chill water lapping against her legs. Inside a square white border on a black background, there was an actual list of instructions!

    She was willing to bet that Dan had not seen it either, because once the veneer of the polite military officer had been lifted away, she could totally see him demanding that she...what was the acronym? R-T-F-M? Read The Fragging Manual.

    There was also, a bit closer to her saddle, transparent glass or plastic dome with the black needle of a compass flickering underneath.

    Hadn't even occurred to her that she would need one!

    "The left handle is just that, doesn't do anything."

    "Although if I pull it towards me, I guess it'll go left." Mary interjected, pulling on that handle.

    "Correctomundo. And if you pull on the other one, you will steer to the right. Just remember not to pull too sharply, or you'll go in the drink."

    "How do I brake?"

    "Well, you won't stop on a dime, of course-"

    "Of course."

    "But on the right handlebar, on that fat bit to the left of the handgrip, is your emergency stop button. Can only see it from the front though."

    Mary stood on the grey rubber patches on the outside running boards and leaned forwards to look at the suggested area upside-down, spying a discreet red button with STOP engraved into it. She figured her index finger would be able to easily reach it, assuming she remembered it was there of course.

    Dan grinned. "If you ever try that on a motorbike, give me a call so I can watch you flip over the front wheel."

    Mary returned to her seat, suggesting they exchange numbers after the mission.

    "That boat hasn't stopped for us, you know." Bailey advised from the front. "Better get going, otherwise we might as well bring you back onboard, and fly closer."

    "First give her a weapon." Wanganeen piped up for the first time in several minutes. "We can't send her in, unarmed."

    "Yeah, good idea." Dan leaned back into the shadowed interior, out of Formal's sight and she took the opportunity to glance towards the shrinking stern of the target fishing boat.

    "Here you go, Lieutenant." Dan said behind her, and she looked back to see him leaning out of the Sea King again, one fist stretched towards her, ready to hand something over.

    She twisted on the saddle and reached up with both hands, taking an adhesive-sealed plastic pouch containing an automatic pistol and an ammo clip. The gun seemed to be the same make as the sidearms that Jake and Liz used, making it a Browning, but she did not recognise the exact model.

    MacLellan did not volunteer that information, but she put that down to him thinking she was a fellow member of the RAN. Although technically, she was, following the abbreviated ceremony before the flight.

    She put the pouch on the fuselage between the 'V' of her neoprene-clad thighs, opened the package and weighed the empty gun in her palm for a quick moment - felt a tad lighter than her Bren, maybe ten percent lighter?
    She slammed the gold-metalled magazine into the hollow grip, and stuffed the weapon into the velcroed pouch on her right hip.

    "Okay, see you soon." She deftly turned the steering handles to the left, away from the helicopter's hull, and twisted the activation knob, carefully so that it did not break off in her hand.
    Her right fist cautiously moved the rubberised handgrip forward, the vehicle rumbling beneath her. She had no audible reference points for wetbikes, so did not know if the thing sounded healthy, or that meant it was going to explode beneath her.

    The watercraft gently pushed out into open water, away from the floating Sea King, its rotors continuing to swirl half-heartedly over her head.

    "Okay, here's where the fun begins." She muttered, then turning the handlebars so that it better pointed after her Meal of the Month, and more forcefully twisted the throttle, her bottom sliding a couple inches back in her seat as the watercraft lurched ahead, purring happily as it accelerated after the boat.

    After a few moments with no obvious sign that she was gaining on the boat, let alone the choppy wash that she see churned in its wake, she thought about calling back to the chopper for them to think of a way to slow the quarry.

    Freeing a hand from one of the handlebars while being careful not to change course, she patted in her suit in vain before giving up and putting her left hand back, stabilising her ride.

    She had no radio.

    There was that phrase taught at The Farm, that "no plan survives contact with the enemy" to which she and another trainee had scoffed that some must, but she was seeing the concept played out for real.

    "No radio." She muttered aloud, although there was a) no-one in earshot, and b) they'd have never heard her over the sound of the engine, anyway. She squinted against the water being thrown into her face ("splashed" did not do it justice), and the sunlight being reflected by a thousand different ripples straight into her eyes. "Sunglasses, a hat, some suncream, would also be pretty handy."

    The chattering reverberation of the whirlybird's Rolls Royce engines overhead, accompanied a downward pressure that momentarily pressed down onto her shoulders as the Sea King roared overhead from behind, quickly overhauling the boat and when just a couple hundred metres in front of it, lifted it's nose enough that even from her low angle, she could see it's spine and those deadly spinning main rotor blades from above as it banked around to the right before levelling off, presenting her right side to the boat's pilots cab.

    Commander Bailey was clearly getting the sailor's full attention.

    Mary grinned as she saw from the wake that the boat was decelerating, as well as more of the red stern rising above the water as the bow at the other end, dug in.

    She was already at the wetbike's top speed, so she noted fairly quickly that she was closing the distance.

    "This is the Royal Australian Navy." Bellowed out across the sea, surprising the Arcateenian. She hadn't realised that helicopter had a loud-hailing capability. "You will heave to, and prep- Oh, crap."

    "-and prepare to be boarded?" Formal muttered sarcastically, "is that what you were going to say?" She had been hoping that she could get aboard before the Happy Meal noticed her, but now she could only hope that she got as close as she could, because she might have to abandon bike if he spotted her too early.

    MacLellan's sage advice at not falling into the water, sounded in her head.

    "Actually, forget that last bit, just heave to." Mary twisted the throttle on the right handlebar as far as it would go without coming off in her hand, and thought she could hear multiple voices aboard the chopper, with one complaining that she could not just tell the boat to stop, without telling it why. "The guy is not just going to sit there...GUN!!"

    Mary lifted her head to see the silhouette of a bipedal figure standing atop the second storey of the aquamarine-painted accommodation block, shooting a light machine gun - the underslung 'banana clip' pegged it as an AK-47 - up at the Sea King, which promptly showed the shooter its belly and rapidly banked away into the distance.

    The figure turned on the spot, and swept the barrel of his weapon round to her.

    "Okay, bye." Despite her reluctant fairwell to the wetbike, the Arcateenian hesitated dismounting just yet. Weapons like that on full auto tended to shoot high, so even if the drokker aimed directly at her, his shots would be going over her head...just as long as it did not occur to him to fire in front of her, or switch to single-shot.

    She ducked her head and muttered Romanian profanities, stuff that had aided that her local colleagues at the Refuge to clean up after the children.

    She couldn't hear the LMG over the sound of her own engine, but the crack of bullets whizzing over her head was definitely noticeable, and she was less than a hundred metres and closing fast.

    The rear of the fishing boat had looked like a wall of wood that she would have to scale, but as the gap to it rapidly decreased, she could see that it seemed to have a little open veranda that accessed a cabin or quarters or something.

    Glancing up again, she could see that the sailor has stopped shooting and was running over the roof of the boat to the back, and she could see that if her plan had been to park the wetbike at the rear of the boat, he could simply stand at the edge of the roof and blast straight down at her, cutting her to mincemeat, not to mention ruining Ian Goodly's prediction that she would be rejoining her team-mates at the safe house.

    She lifted her butt off the saddle and aimed the watercraft's nose for the bobbing wood, hoping to hit on a downward motion, rather than an upward one, and in fact the underside of peeling scarlet paint rose before her, which she did not want.

    Doh! She thought as she throttled back a bit to slow and give the boat a moment to sink back into the glistening brine, then poured on the speed for the final push, diving forward over the handlebars as the fibreglass nose crunched into the hull and speared down into the water, the rear of the bike conversely lifting high into there air, which would have catapulted her inside if only she had remained in the seat!

    Mary missed the lip of wood and scraped upside-down into the back of the boat, sploshing headfirst into the water, the icy liquid closing over her chin as she brought her hands down past her shoulders to start spinning herself around to face the boat and help drag her under the vessel, while at the same time, her yellow life jacket tried to drag her back to the surface.

    Silver lines drilling into the blue water around her as bullets struck deep, a sort of bubbly impact sound reaching her ears from each thudding impact on the glistening surface above her.

    Mary reached for the familiar four-bladed shape of the propeller screw and used it to haul herself underneath, tucking in her legs to avoid getting them shot off.

    The bouyancy from her life jacket and suit kept trying to drag her up the curvature of the hull, but she held onto the screw. She didn't have to breathe as much as her human peers, so could stay down here longer, though she knew this situation was not going to remain static.

    Without the helicopter to bother him, if they decided to stay out of range, and her in the water, that ghiozdan de pulă up there would probably- a blossom of gold in her peripheral vision caught her attention, as did the accompanying shock wave of the wetbike exploding up next to the boat's stern, creating a layer of yellow and orange on the surface from the ignited fuel!

    The shock wave of another heavy impact from her right transmitted itself to her, and she slowly turned her head to see a man treading water beyond the boat's shadow, just three metres away, hands to his own face, and the vertical black rod of his rifle sinking smoothly into the dark blue depths beneath them as his spasmodic kicking took him back to the surface.

    Okay. She stared at him with the guarded surprise of a THRUSH' villain's pet shark, who had only been expecting the chicken. Hang about. Sharks! This is Australia; don't want one of them greedy gits getting to him before I do.

    Releasing her handhold on the screw, she aimed in his direction and started for him with a breaststroke, breaking the water as soon as she cleared the boat, which she did not really want to, but just like you could not fight City Hall, in some circumstances, the same applies to a life vest. But you could take it off.

    "Shut up." Mary silenced her internal critic, blinking to try to clear her vision, which was treacherously obscured now that half the ocean was washing down her face.

    Her arms ponderously went out to the sides and pushed against the body of water, propelling her forwards, and within moments had caught up to her victim, grabbing hold of the sodden right sleeve of his maroon shirt as he reared up out of the water and planted a pile-driver into her jaw, shrieking at joining the Broken Hand Gang and gabbling hysterically at her in one of those Far Eastern langauages that wasn't Chinese or Japanese.

    "Yeah, sorr-glug!" The sea swamped her apology for his injury, mistaking her mouth for an economy-sized submarine pen. She reared back herself, spitting salt water and straightening the fingers of her right hand as she drew that elbow behind her. "I should carry a warning sign that says, 'don't punch me'. Oh yes, Welcome to Australia."

    She plunged her fingers through through his chest, shirt, skin, ribcage separating under her fingernails, gripping his lacerated heart as dark red blood frothed from his lips.
    A gout of the garnet-coloured liquid came out with her fist, drenching her neoprene-clad forearm, and it was a grateful Arcateenian who closed her eyes and took her first bite of the nutrition she craved, in what felt like weeks. "Eto velikolepno. (That is magnificent)"

    The taste overwhelmed her senses, and the waters closed over her head as she let go of her gurgling victim, and floated face down, among the bits of flaming debris and flotsam, enjoying her Liquid Lunch whilst water rushed into his ribcage, collapsing his lungs, and dragging him down into the depths.

    To be continued... - Australian slang

    - Wetbike Hand warmer video (though I watched it for the controls, not to see someone warming their hands)

    Youtube vid - How Its Made - Personal Watercraft

    Youtube vid - How to buy a used Jetski Waverunner Seadoo or personal watercraft - PWC Video - Weapons used by Royal Australian Navy - Swimming Certificates

    Google Translate and Ewok Poet for Romanian swearword assistance.
    Ewok Poet likes this.
  14. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    The research you did for your action scenes really showed here! I was clearly able to follow it, and enjoyed every moment of it. Especially the, at times, counter-productive presence of the life-vest. :p

    (Just a reminder, though - in the English translation of your swear words, d*** happens to be on our list of [link=]disallowed words[/link]. So, if you could star it out or delete it completely, that would be greatly appreciated. :))
  15. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002

    Thank you for reading, and well spotted on the disallowed word. I had to search the disallowed list twice to confirm.

    I was lamenting elsewhere that I could not use anything on the list of swear words I had found, and the person I thanked for her help mentioned that pula meant the d-word, and a city in Croatia. I watched her post for several hours to see if it got moderated, and when it did not, decided it must be okay.

    Am I alright with "penis"? It is on the "allowed" list, but I don't know how "sheer biological sense and discussion" counts against fiction.
  16. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    No worries, that's what mods are for. It's an easy thing to miss when writing. :)

    You can use "penis" in the purely biological sense, as in talking about the body and its functions; it would be a no-go as an insult.
  17. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    Your two laundry chapters are a very fun response to the OC challenge—I see you took leiamoody's laundry example and ran with it, with hilarious results! [face_laugh] Poor Mary, with all her specialized psychic experience, having to stay behind and do everyone's laundry like a "Suzie Home-maker." "Join E-Branch, see the World" indeed! :( Add to that the fact that her alien background makes the process doubly unfamiliar. Good thing Liz is there to help out, both in navigating the machine and in providing her with some company and conversation (and good-natured teasing).

    Once again I'm enjoying your talent for humorous banter between characters. Some of my favorites:

    And this example of Liz really having too much fun teasing poor Mary about these machines:

    ...and finally the little plastic cup that would "definitely be dodgy for hot drinks" but is perfect for powdered laundry detergent. :D

    Fun stuff—thanks so much for sharing! =D=
    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  18. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Thank you for reviewing, Findswoman , and especially for pointing out bits that you liked.

    Much appreciated!
    Findswoman likes this.
  19. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    20/09/2016: Despite several other fics on the go, and two or three prioritised over the coming days, my girls’ (Mary Formal and Liz Merrick) place in their new RP game - E-Branch allying with S.H.I.E.L.D. IN Marvel Heroes: Resurgence - triggered the muse to add an update here for the girls' background material.
    My recent stuff has seen me struggling to add 200 words in a sitting; this was 2,622 words in two nights!

    Note: back onto characters and environments created by Brian Lumley, though pleased to advise that the first 800 words is just me. :)
    Australian Adventure – Day Three (7pm, post helicopter debrief)

    The safe house was doused in normal and ultra-violet lights when the ASI limousine pulled up in front of the main door and Mary hopped out, the oppressive evening heat hitting her after the air-conditioned cool of the car.
    She felt almost immediate wetness under her armpits as she leaned back in to haul the heavy black sports-bag with her other clothing in, off the back seat; thanking Wanganeen for bringing her back.

    The blocky black car drove away as soon as she slammed the rear passenger door.

    Hoisting the bag over her right shoulder, she looked like she was dressed in bright blue thanks to the ultra-violets spots above the recessed doorway, and she quickly shuttered her eyes, ducked her head and tried the door, struggling for a moment with the round handle as her fingers slid over an unexpected viscous material coating the slightly dented metal.
    It took her a moment to recognise the sharp stench of garlic.

    Great idea, she thought caustically, bending her knees to lower herself to get better leverage on the door knob, like a vampire would try to get in through the front door.

    This idea, in fact any brainwave involving garlic, was probably from that scary Lardis gypsy.

    The door opened a bit. She toed it further, expecting Lidesci to jump out and put his machete against her neck. It was night-time after all.

    She found herself facing two soldiers. One in the hallway and one above and to his left, her right, a quarter of the way up the stairs. Both civilian-clothed men were armed with SMGs (sub-machine guns), no doubt loaded with silver bullets, otherwise, what would be the point?

    “Officer on deck!” One called, straightening his posture, but still covering her.

    “It’s alright, it’s the Sheila who was doing the laundry!” The other digger, the one on the stairs, called over his shoulder.

    What followed was like a scene out of Meerkat Manor, quizzical faces emerging from the room to the left, and the heavy brown sliding door of the Ops Room at the far end of the entrance hallway, rumbling aside, framing Ben Trask’s bald form.
    Formal!” He barked. “Close that door and get in here; you’re late.

    Late?” The Arcateenian echoed as she stepped inside and used the heel of her court shoe to obediently close the front door. She would have done it before, but finding herself facing two SMGs had blanked her mind. “You didn’t even know if I was coming back.

    Ian reckoned you were, and that was good enough for me. Lardis?

    She forced herself not to jump as she suddenly found the gypsy right next to her, but could not help tensing as he picked at his fingernails with the point of his honed blade.

    She had made a point of not allowing him near her before, lest he somehow detect her alien nature. The Arcan glanced towards the staircase now, and the soldier blocking it.

    If Lardis said the wrong thing, she reckoned she could shift back to her natural form, and blur for the stairs before he could react, and then she would have to get past the soldier, and try to bust out an upstairs window. She'd have to snatch the machete off him, before he tried to use it.

    “She’s clean.” He acceded after leaning close to her and inhaling deeply through flared nostrils. “But she does smell...different.”

    Peaches and pomegranate. I had to have a shower.” Formal stared back at the wiry survivor of the vampire world, Starside, and taking her life in her hands, clapped them to his outer shoulders, deliberately running them down his natural animal-hide sleeves, wiping the garlic butter off onto him.

    “And why did you do that?” He enquired, squinting at her, not tensing, or relaxing, just standing there, not quite leaning on the wall.

    Well, you did not have a hand-wipe ready. And I was hardly going to wipe it on my new uniform, was I?” In the standard indoors lighting, it was more obvious that she was in a pressed, short-sleeve white uniform blouse with the black-and-gold rank epaulettes, and the belted A-line skirt, mixed with her own heels.

    “Why are you in uniform?” Bygrave’s voice asked from nearby, and she turned to find her warrant officer friend had approached and was standing over her. “Your boss was very cagey about what had happened to you when we got back. I thought you had bailed on us.”

    Mary stepped close and grinned up at him. She definitely got the vibe that he had been concerned about her. “I got seconded to your RAN. Royal Australian Navy?” She clarified automatically. “All I have been thinking about for the last hour, was getting back here and doing a twirl for you.

    The twirls can wait.” Trask barked from the other end of the hall. “Get in here. Lardis, you too.

    Flashing a smile at the SAS soldier, she trotted ahead of the Starside native and stepped into Ops, finding the smattering of people inside, the full complement of E-Branch – operatives, agents, support personnel – had commandeered the front row of chairs closest to the square of tables in front of the monitor and wall maps.

    Before sitting, and basking in the stares of her colleagues, whether appreciative or curious, she scanned the faces for the only other female on the contingent, Liz Merrick, finding the young woman looking subdued, and sitting next to David Chung. To be fair, he did not look that much better.

    Mary frowned, shocked to see that the noted tomboy had changed into a peplum-waisted black skirtsuit, pairing a slim suit jacket with a cute above-the-knee pencil skirt; instead of the shirt and jeans that she had gone out in that morning. When the telepath lifted an ivory knee to cross it over the other, the Arcan noted from the flash of crimson silk, that it was a wrap rather than pencil skirt.


    E-Branch's Liz Merrick

    There was no seat next to Liz, and she could feel Trask glaring at her during her undercover fashion policing, so she quickly found a spare seat next to the technician Paul Arenson, since Jimmy Harvey was in the hot seat behind Trask.

    The E-Branch leader quickly seemed more relaxed now that he had his people before him, and the room was closed off. He had no worries that the SAS men would listen in from the other side; they would be brought up to speed soon enough.
    Sorry, Mary, but you missed supper. You will have to make yourself a sandwich after.

    Don’t worry, Boss. I ate out.” That much was true; you could not get any more “out” than the middle of the ocean. Ben’s Talent dealt with truths and lies. As much as his idea of what happened would come nowhere close to her afternoon, she could see from his face how much the truth of it was like a balm to him.

    David Chung rose and kicked the briefing off, describing a short-lived mindsmog contact he had had when the helicopter-

    Angry Palm Tree. She translated in her head.

    -that he and Liz had been on, settled for re-fuelling at some place called Gladstone, and then went on to describe the triangulation system that they had worked out.

    “Taking Gladstone as the centre of a clock-face,” the locator explained, “the first reading would see the minute hand at some thirteen minutes past the hour, or a few degrees north of east. As for the second reading over Sandy Cape, that would be about twelve and a half minutes before the hour, or north-west.”

    Formal treated this navigational stuff like the music round in a pub quiz, not her jurisdiction.
    As she hoped that a mission of which she was the sole participant, never relied on her ability to understand whatever the senior operative was talking about, he went and stood before an illuminated map on the wall, and used his index finger to point out the coordinates, then traced the directional lines to their juncture some sixty miles out into the open sea.

    “Which puts it – whatever it is – right there.” David finished, his tone uncertain. Looking at the indicated spot, he could only offer a baffled shrug. “The last place on Earth that we would expect to find a vampire or vampires. Right in the middle of an ocean, with nothing but water and lots, I mean lots of sunlight for miles around.”

    Mary leaned forwards, forearms folded onto the raised one of her crossed legs, for a better look. In the back of her mind, she had a vague memory of a Wamphyri with a yacht. Too vague to say anything, especially in case her mind was telling tricks

    But you got readings.” Trask pointed out, standing several feet from the Anglo-Chinese operative. “You got mindsmog. So, how do you explain it?

    “Explain it?” Chung frowned back at him. “But if it wasn’t for Liz here, I’d probably simply ignore it!”

    Mary looked sharply at the other woman, sitting along the same row of chairs as she was.

    “A glitch,” he continued, “something out of kilter in my head....a headache? The evidence of the map, the location, it’s all against us. I mean, what would a vampire be doing out there? Also, we know that in the past we have puzzled over similar effects from other espers, from talents outside E-Branch giving of vibes they don’t even know they’ve got! So but for Liz I’d probably settle for someone on a ship out there – maybe a cruise liner?”

    Formal stared along the row at her counterpart, in gender only. It was all too easy to lose track of how different and more valuable to the Branch Liz was than her.

    “Using pre-cognition to place bets in the casino, or maybe telekinesis to drop his ball on his numbers at roulette. Someone who is extraordinarily ‘lucky’ who does not know he even has a skill – who thinks he has a ‘system’ – but who nevertheless has been banned from half the mainland casinos. That’s what I’d be tempted to think, except...” David tailed off and joined her in looking at the dark-haired girl. “...Liz doesn’t think so. But there again, no matter what anyone thinks, nothing can change the fact that its sixty miles out to sea.”

    But so were those Russian submarines,” Trask reminded, referring to the decommissioned vessels that were currently nuclear hazards abandoned on the seabed, and unacknowledged by the cash-strapped Russian government. “and you haven’t been wrong about those. And I remember a time when a certain Jianni Lazarides had just such a ship, The Lazarus, out on the Mediterranean.

    Mary furrowed eyebrows in an attempt to prompt her memory. The ship rang a bell, but not the name.

    Yes, but his real name was Ja-

    -nos Ferenczy!” Mary blurted, snapping her fingers as she remembered the name. She looked up at Trask. “Ah, sorry Boss. I was trying to think of his name as soon as David started... using...” She flashed an embarrassed smile up at him. “Shutting up.

    And...” Ben tried to recover his momentum, moving his gaze from Mary to Liz. “He was Wamphyri too. One of the very worst.” He said this for the benefit of the newer people, for that encounter had been some years back. “And remember: just because there is lots of sunlight, does not mean our man has to go out into it..

    He turned to look down at Liz. “David says it might be nothing. But he also says you don’t think so. So what do you think?

    Liz looked anxiously from face to face, and Mary tried to smile encouragement her way, perhaps prompting the British woman to say, “Ben, are we right to place this much faith in my Talent right now? I mean, at that kind of range, riding David’s probe-”

    A slight smile creased Formal’s face, although she knew it meant one psi-power piggybacking another.

    “I could easily be mistaken. I’m not really sure that-”

    No no no.” Trask cut in impatiently, chopping the air sideways. “Just tell us what you got and let us try to figure it out. It isn’t the first time we’ve done this, Liz. And it isn’t as if we are vying with one another to see who will be the first to find these damned things! But while no shame attaches to being in error, still we do have to find them. Which means anything is better than nothing. So whatever it was you sensed out there, lets have it.

    She joined Trask and Chung on their feet, standing before the illuminated map showing the coastline nearest to them, then she dropped into her seat, her right palm smoothing down the back of her skirt first - which Mary was amazed she knew how to do - crossing her legs and adopting a thoughtful expression.

    Well?” Trask leaned over her now, eliciting a protective urge to wash over Formal, who felt like jumping off her chair to move the bald man aside.

    “Fear!” Liz blurted it out. “I felt fear!”

    Ben stepped back from her great green eyes, wide with sudden knowledge. “You were afraid?

    “Not me no.” Liz shook her head, dark tresses washing over her cheekbones. “He, they – whoever they were – were afraid. That’s what it was, Ben; terror, gnawing at them, eating their hearts out.”


    “More than one, I’m sure.”

    Uncertain a moment ago, and now you are sure?

    She shook her head. “I just wasn’t willing to believe that there could ever be such hopelessness, such utterly black despair.”

    Sounds like a Tuesday on Arca. Formal thought about her home planet. The one she had run away from, well, been exiled from, to come here.

    “I suppose I thought it was the emptiness. The psychic void before David’s probe found – well, whoever they are – and that the fear was in fact mine. But now...”


    Again she shook her head, her expression indicating that she was searching for words. “I know that I personally, have never been that afraid – unless something happened to cause me to lose all hope, all faith.”

    Trask nodded. “In short, unless you had been vampirised.

    Mary glanced at her superior, thinking that that statement sounded like one of his classic logic jumps, then, she remembered that he too had a psychic talent, and in the time it took her to form that opinion, his talent would have told him if his opinion was hot or cold.

    “I...I don’t know. I imagine so.” Merrick stammered.

    Formal’s gaze tracked her boss as he seemed to take a different tack. “Or could it possibly have been a fear of discovery? Had someone detected David’s probe and reacted to it?

    Liz shook her head again. “No, I don’t think so. It was simply - or not so simply - an aura of overwhelming doom.”

    Good.” Trask grunted. “And on both counts. One, that you weren’t detected. And two, that whoever it was, couldn’t have been afraid of you. But they were afraid, and I think we can all imagine of what.

    He looked up and looked from face to face till he found Lardis Lidesci.

    The Starside chieftain confirmed. “Thralls. These were thralls, and fairly recent. Thralls who don’t have much contact with their master, but who know he’s there nevertheless. Aye, and they have every right to fear him!”

    Another nest. Why not? It’s entirely possible.” He frowned. “But out at sea?

    “My point exactly.” Chung put in.

    Well, Janos had that boat.” Mary reminded, her chair creaking as she sat back.

    Maps.” Trask turned to the on-duty tech facing the bank of screens and keyboards. “Jimmy, see if the computer has an even smaller map of that area, and blow it up on that wall there.

    “I’ve been working on it.” Said the other, tapping a key. “Consider it done.”

    The wall screen turned blue, if not entirely blue. For in the specified area there were the dotted outlines of reefs and other irregular shapes: islands or islets, and legends identifying them as Heron Island and the Bunker and Capricorn groups, the latter because they lay on top off or close to the Tropic of Capricorn. Other lettering at the top of the map said that this was the top of The Capricornia Section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

    The Arcan heard Trask murmur quietly, “So not necessarily a ship after all.

    To be continued...
  20. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh, very interesting! All of the beings with different 'talents' are so fascinating to read about, and now I am really curious about the 'ship', too . . .

    Peaches and pomegranate. I had to have a shower.” Formal stared back at the wiry survivor of the vampire world, Starside, and taking her life in her hands, clapped them to his outer shoulders, deliberately running them down his natural animal-hide sleeves, wiping the garlic butter off onto him.

    [face_laugh] I love her gumption and daring. I hope that that doesn't come back to bite her. :p

    Another great update. =D=
  21. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    thank you for looking in, Mira_Jade

    Even though I enjoy reading Mary's updates, nothing validates like someone else reading and commenting.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2018
  22. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Note: characters, environment and the briefing created by Brian Lumley; Mary interjections are mine. :)
    Australian Adventure – Day Three (7pm, post helicopter debrief)

    David looked sicker now, actually green around the gills, which Mary had thought was a metaphor, but to her surprise, there actually was a faint green...rash(?) forming below his nearside jawline. “What a fool he is who has no faith in his God-given skills.”

    “Not at all.” Ian Goodly put in. “When we use talents like these, it’s against nature. I mean, even we appreciate that what we’re doing isn’t, well, mundane.”

    And to be fair,” She hazarded, waving up at the wall projection. “there is a lot of sun out there, with no obvious shelter, before Jimmy zoomed the map in.

    “Is it any wonder that we are sceptical of our results?” Ian continued from his chair to Mary’s left. “Or that we occasionally fail to see their significance?”

    There was a contemplative pause with no-one speaking for a few seconds, then Trask remarked, “You are right, Ian. And I was on the point of making much the same remark, but as I’ve already said, this is not a skills contest. How we get there does not matter a damn, only that we get there. Where these monsters are concerned, the end always justifies the means. Any means.

    “Huh.” Lidesci said from his position several metres behind the seated group, leaning against the frame of the sliding door. Almost like he was guarding it, stop anyone leaving. “And in Starside, whenever a man ascends to a vampire Lord and becomes Wamphyri, they have much the same saying. It’s not the route but the getting there. In that respect, except that their evil has been made ten times as great, these monsters are much like men you know.”

    Because they were men. And God knows, we’re none of us pure. Very well, now let’s get on – but as soon as we are done here, I want the Duty Officer to contact our aide in Prime Minister Blackmore’s office. We need authority for liaison with someone high in the administration of the reef marine park. We need to know who or what is out there on those islets in the-” Ben glanced back up at the projected map, “-Bunker and Capricorn groups.” He paused, looking off into space, then looked straight at the Arcateenian, who took a moment to notice, then returned his gaze. “Mary, are those really ‘navy whites’, or did you drop by a costume shop.

    The subject at hand being nautical-based, fed how she responded. “They are real, Boss. I have been temporarily commissioned as an Acting Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, or RAN. It only works on operations sanctioned by Australian Special Intelligence, though.

    Trask aimed a finger at the floor before him, and prescribed a level circle with it. “Which this is, and has been.” He nodded down at her. “We may be able to find a role for you beyond doing the laundry. Okay!” With that emphasis and rise in tone, he shifted his attention to Goodly. “Ian, you and Lardis there were in the other chopper party. And just like David here, I know you too had a problem. Time now to have it out in the open, get it cleared up.

    The pre-cog stood up, and in a couple paces, was able to toss a pamphlet, with a folded map attached, onto the table behind Ben and David, the latter of whom, took his seat beside Liz.
    “I picked this up at the Skytours helipad.” Ian reported to the group, turning to face them. “It’s a freebie; a giveaway route map into the MacPherson Mountains, and a colour brochure describing the wonders and benefits of the Xanadu health and pleasure resort. But that’s not all I picked up. There was – or I should say there may have been – something else, when we flew over the place.”

    A feeling stole over Mary, prompting her to push aside her self-congratulations at having a potential opportunity to wear the uniform again, as a certain deference came with being an officer, even such a low-ranked one as hers, and look along the row to her left, where she witnessed Jake’s position and attitude shifting from a bored listlessness, to observing, narrow-eyed with curiosity, the speaker.

    She followed his gaze, and recognised Goodly’s nervous tension as he stood before them.

    Formal always got on well with Ian. He had always made an effort, subconscious perhaps, to be cordial and friendly to the new intake, regardless of their background.
    Once you were E-Branch, you were family.

    This cordial relationship had stepped up a gear one day, after his shrill panicked voice had piqued her interest enough to cut short a heated phone call to a carpet suppliers – long story – and head out of her cubicle to find their headquarters inexplicably invaded by the paramilitaries of C.M.I., Combined Military Intelligence, two pinning Ian to the wall, and holding a serrated blade to his throat as they interrogated him.

    She had put one’s head into the wall, and been about to break the other’s neck when the pre-cog had called her off.

    “- same problem as David.” He was saying. “The location: all that unhampered sunlight. I just can’t see how the kind of creature that we are looking for, could exist up there...if that’s what it was about.” He held a placating hand up towards Trask, who had begun to look impatient, “Yes, alright, I will get to the point. But there are complications.
    “First: as we were descending towards the place, so that we could get a better look at it, our pilot / tour-guide mentioned a fire that took place in the El Nino back in 1997. And I found some of his descriptives vivid and perhaps evocative: the place was like kindling, it went up like a tinder box, etcetera.
    “Also, while we’ve been here, I have heard quite a lot of talk about the Great Fire of Brisbane, and with all this awful heat and all-”

    You saw a fire?” Trask interrupted.

    Goodly nodded. “But I couldn’t see its cause, and I could not see when it was happening. I mean it could have been a mental response to what the pilot was saying. For example, when someone says ‘do you remember’ this or that other thing, you are made automatically to see it in your mind’s eye. It could be that our pilot evoked just such a response in me. And Ben, if it was one of my things, it was only the briefest glimpse. Smoke, and yellow flames...gouts of leaping fire-”

    Mary frowned. Who says ‘gouts’?

    “-roiling up into a night’s sky, and a full moon hanging there....and someone shouting, ‘To me, to me’.”

    Trask adopted a look of amazement as he stared at his friend. “How long have I known you? It sometimes seems like I have known you forever. And yet I have never thought to ask you, have you ever seen the past?”

    The gangly pre-cog cocked an eyebrow. “I remember the past, just like everyone else.” He added with a wry chuckle, “It’s just that I remember the future too.” She saw his body language change as he became serious again. “That’s what we have to consider, Ben. The future. And we know just how devious that can be. Or is it my talent that’s devious? I have never been able to figure that one out.”

    Okay, so we don’t know if you saw the past or future. It’s just one of those times when your talent leaves you in doubt. But there’s one clue at least.


    You said it was night time when Xanadu went up in flames, and-

    “Not Xanadu. Just a collection of weekend or holiday homes. On the false plateau where Xanadu stands now.”

    Whatever.” Trask waved a hand. “But you did say there was a full moon?

    “Yep.” Goodly nodded.

    Well, a hell of a clue.” Ben looked down across the table at the technician at the computer keyboard. “Jimmy, does that thing connect to local libraries? Newspapers? For the fires of ’97?

    Jimmy Harvey’s smile said that not only was he way ahead of them, but-

    The wall changing from the blue and brown of a map, to the black and white of projected newsprint, caught everyone’s attention, and heads swivelled that way.
    As they watched, Harvey zoomed in to the small print. The location, date and time, everything was there, written into the report.

    Good. Now Jimmy, can you cross reference that with phases of the moon?” A moment later, the E-Branch chief’s shoulders sagged with the news that there had been a full moon that night. He slumped into a chair, looking uncharacteristically dejected. “Dammit all to hell. That was the last thing I wanted to see; a bloody full moon.” He glanced up at the pre-cog. “So maybe you see see the past, and not just remember it, after all...

    “And maybe he can’t.” Jake piped up.

    This was the first time he had said anything all meeting, so everyone looked towards him in silence, which he made no movement to break.

    To be continued...
  23. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Good interplay of relationships - Mary's proud of her uniform in a low-key way and grabs any respect she can get. It seems that "Once you were in E-Branch, you were family" applies to all the nuances of family life here in the meeting, the put downs and verbal tugs of war inherent in any family. And now the pre-cog can actually see the past, interesting development, or does Jake know better?[face_plain]
    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  24. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    pronker - Thank you for dropping in and commenting. Jake has an idea about something, but it relates to a detail in Ian's vision, rather than his abilities. It will become clear in the next update.
    pronker likes this.
  25. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Note: characters, environment and the briefing created by Brian Lumley; Mary and Broomhall interactions are mine. :)

    Australian Adventure – Day Three (7:40pm, post helicopter debrief)

    Well go on then.” Trask prompted from his chair.

    “Shouldn’t we take the next step?” Jake asked.

    What next step?

    Jake momentarily glanced at her, then back towards the centrally placed group of Ian, David, and Ben. “The same as we did with David Chung. I seem to have been hearing about synchronicity, coincidence, and what have you, since colliding with this outfit. So couldn’t this be the very same thing?”

    You lucky git, Mary thought at the shaggy-haired ex-Para (Parachute Regiment soldier) no-one has ever said the word ‘synchronicity’ to me. Also, what are you talking about?

    “Just because there was a full moon back then,” Jake continued, “doesn’t mean that the pre-cog was not seeing the future up there at Xanadu. Or aren’t there going to be any more full moons?”

    Trask turned to Harvey. “Jimmy?

    The screen updated again, changing from the newsprint to a line of circles with varying divisions of black and white, clearly denoting lunar phases.

    Three days time!

    “But does it mean what we are thinking? Are we going to do that, or is it our old friend El Niño again?” Ian was still cautious. “Will it result from us attacking the place and burning out a nest; or from a freak of nature, a terrible disaster? I still cannot see how it is possible for our quarry to exist out there.”

    Same thing with David and the sea trace, though.” Formal interjected.

    Jake nodded and pointed in her direction. “Agreed. And maybe I’m stupid, or not as bright as you people, but I do not see how there could be a fire up there except that we are the cause. Surely the first thing we’ll do if Xanadu is not what we are looking for, we’ll warn whoever is in charge, about the fire. And we’ll be able to tell him when, so there will be no loss of life.”

    Ian shook his head. “You are not at all stupid, Jake. In the dark, its always the blind who see best. But believe me, you don’t understand the future. I don’t understand the future! And I say again, it is not knowing what will happen that counts, but how it’s going to happen. The only sure thing is that once it is foreseen, then it will happen. As for loss of life, I did hear that voice calling, ‘To me, to me’.”

    “Well, it is a hotel resort.” Agent Broomhall pointed out. Apart from helping him to dismantle the showers out at the Western Desert campsite prior to their move here, Formal had not really interacted with him on this operation. “Maybe they’ve booked The Chuckle Brothers.” He impersonated the childrens’ entertainers’ tone and catchphrase: “To me, to you!”

    There were snickers from the gathering, which Trask indulged.

    “What about rescuers?” Liz suggested.

    Or one of us, pulling the teams out. Didn’t you recognise the voice?

    Goodly shook his head. “Not over the roaring of the flames, the shattering of the glass.”

    “Glass?” Jake echoed. “Did I miss something, or is that something you have not mentioned before?”

    “I only just this minute remembered it!”

    “There was plenty of glass in that topmost dome” Jake reminded. “In the pleasure dome itself. Black glass from the looks of it, covering everything but the windows.”

    “No,” said the pre-cog, “not black glass, but solar panels, a sort of glass I suppose. The upper dome was covered with them: a very startling effect. But the windows themselves, they were glass certainly, and they circled all three lower floors.”

    Still in his seat, Trask had leaned forward to pluck up the colour brochure, and had unfolded it while Ian was talking. “You think that the casino’s going to burn?

    But Goodly could only shrug his defeat. “It is all speculation. Don’t ask me what I think. I still don’t know for sure if the fire was in the past or the future. And I’m damned if I can see how any kind of vampire can live up there.”

    “But I can,” Jake put in. Faces turned to him, but his attention was on the wall monitor, where an aerial shot of the MacPherson Range was being slotted into place. “It was something Lardis said that got me thinking about it.”

    “Me?” The Szagny said from behind them, sounding like his doze had been interrupted.

    “When you said, ‘Well, wouldn’t this make a wonderful aerie, without all of this sunlight of course.”

    “That’s right, I did say that.”

    “Look at the map.” Jake raised an arm to point at the wall. “That dogleg fold and the false plateau sitting in the middle. The mountains are much higher and steep sided. The fold goes north to south and then backtracks. Certainly Xanadu gets plenty of sunlight, from say, 09:30 in the morning, to 16:30 in the evening. The rest of the time, it is in the shade and at night, the darkness must be utter – except for electric lighting of course.”

    Artificial light cannot harm them.” Trask reminded. “Schwartz doesn’t like it but it cannot kill him. Only sunlight can do that, natural light.

    “Not quite true.” Lardis barked from the doorway. “The Dweller, Harry Hell-Lander’s changling son, used artif-...artificial light, yes – in the form of ultra-violet lamps when he battled the Wamphyri in his garden in the mountains west of Starside.”

    Mary looked over her shoulder at the Starside chieftain. There was a whole history to this vampire menace, as well as a side for whom details were pretty sketchy, and that was everything that happened on the parallel world.
    Due to the look of the Gate on Starside, a huge glowing ball sitting in a dried lakebed, ‘the Hell Lands’ was how the Szagny and the Wamphyri referred to Earth, so Harry Hell-Lander was the original Necroscope, Harry Keogh from Earth.

    His kid, this Dweller, apparently; had only been on Earth as a baby, so very little was known about him.

    Trask explained to Lardis that ultraviolet light was sunlight. “Artificial, I’ll grant you, but sunlight nevertheless.” He addressed Jake. “Maybe you are right. For sixteen or more hours a day, the sun is not in fact shining directly onto that place. When it is shining however, it is doing it very brightly.

    “But don’t they sleep during the day?” Jake countered.

    Like logs.” Formal interjected.

    “In Starside, when the sun’s rim came up over the barrier mountains, the Lords and Ladies usually ran to their southernmost apartments.” Lardis explained. “And there they slept, and even then with drapes at their windows. But if they were caught out in the open Sunside of the mountains, as occasionally happened, they would have to seek caves or deep holes in the earth till nightfall.”

    The Arcan absorbed this. A difference to the vampires of popular Earth culture. No necessity to sleep during the day, apparently.

    Jake nodded and said to Trask. “And do you think there are no deep holes in the ground at Xanadu? Check the pamphlet: fancy fountains, saunas, gymnasiums, even an aerial monorail and a casino. But none of it visible from the helicopter. All that stuff will be below ground. Remember, the current resort was built over the previous one.”

    Trask blinked, and gave his head a shake as if to clear it. “Do you know, I believe you could be right. This creature we are looking for could be right there, in or under Xanadu!” He tossed the brochure onto the table. “A place like that, where we would least expect to find him...

    This entire meeting has been a litany of places where we would least expect to find a Wamphyri.” Formal pointed out.

    Still though.” Trask looked contemplative, the gathering silent while everyone looked towards him for orders or further statements. After a few seconds, he perked up, looking slightly more animated. “Three days...and a lot to do. Not least to prove our point, clear the way before we can take any real action.

    “Prove our point?” Liz piped up, sounding recovered from her earlier badgering.

    Make sure that we are on the right track. So we can be certain when we go in, that what we want is there. And as for clearing the way, well, the Gibson Desert job was one thing, but Xanadu is quite another. All of those people; we’ll have to find a way to get them out of there before we go in – and without arousing anyone’s suspicion...

    This straightened Formal in her seat. Despite the target being a health resort, this was the first that someone had mentioned that there were civilians there! Human shields?

    Right, so let’s get to it.” Ben smiled, the happiest that she had seen him since Jake’s vanishing trick with Liz. “This night is still young, but there may be only three of them left.” The E-Branch director made a move up the aisle to the door behind them, Lardis already heaving at it to slide it aside, but then Ben stopped and turned to face the group standing to trail him out, effusively, for him, thanking his four fellow espers, Liz, Ian, David, and as an afterthought, Jake too. The two technicians, Paul and Jimmy also got mentioned in despatches. “So well done, all of you.” He finished. “And now get your thinking caps on and try to look ahead. Jimmy: dig up some plans for Xanadu, its sub-surface systems, etcetera. Ian: please draft a comprehensive record of this meeting. Paul: it’s late now, but first thing tomorrow, ensure that I have access to Prime Minister Blackmore’s office so that I can organise a liaison with someone on this marine park thing.” Trask clasped is hands together, and his already rare smile widened. “And that, I think, is that. Now I have to speak to our Australian friends. I’ll see you all in the morning.

    To be continued...
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018