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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
    Note: characters, environment, and overall plot created by Brian Lumley. That said, the writing is mine on this chapter.

    Australian Adventure – Day, well, night, Three (post-helicopter debrief)

    Mary allowed her boss to get a few steps ahead as the group broke up, then trailed after him, towards the lounge. She owed at least one of their ‘Australian friends’ a twirl, but did not want to be mistaken as accompanying Trask as a group speaker.

    An arm reached between two people and grasped her upper arm, and she turned to look up into the square-jawed Goodly’s face as he stepped through to her side. “See, I told you you were coming back.”

    Yes. Yes you did.

    “And was there any swimming involved?”

    She nodded. “Not that much, but I can tell you, my swimsuit would not have been suitable.

    Ian frowned down at her, accentuating the subtle scratches on his face from going face-down in the desert to bear her away from that exploding grenade. “So what were you doing?”

    Border control.” Mary patted her friend on the arm, and indicated Trask’s back as he entered the lounge, several metres away, leaving the door open. She could hear him telling the locals that the helicopter surveys would continue the next day, but that both choppers would have a different E-Branch crew. “I’ll see you in the lounge later?

    He advised that in order to let the soldiers relax among themselves, the E-Branch people, himself included, would be in the Library.

    Surely that’s not going to be open, this time of night! Don’t they normally close at five?

    “Not a public library!” Ian laughed. “That ground floor room with all the book shelves. Sometimes has a piano. We’ll be in there. ”

    Leaving him, Mary stepped into the lounge, brushing shoulders with her superior as he left, then shutting the door behind herself, she smiled at the chatting soldiers, who were now looking to her, raised her hands out to the sides like a ballerina, and gave ‘em a spin.

    Bygraves stood up from the comfortable-looking armchair that he had claimed, picked his duty weapon, a distinctive-looking F-88 Asteyr carbine, and pulled the strap down over his head so the weapon was at his back.

    He crossed the room to where Mary was doing her promised pirouette, the air catching her white uniform skirt and lifting it out enough to show some inches above her knees as she twirled.

    Actually, she had cheated. Upon revealing her plan to her ASI counterpart, Wanganeen had had her doing rehearsals at the airbase, the women realising that the regulation skirt was too restrictive for such antics, so they had stopped off at a clothing store to get a knee-length circle skirt in a matching shade and material.

    This was working so well that the crouching warrant officer was able to scythe an arm clear under the floating panels to scoop her up, attracted exaggerated groans from his peers!

    “Don’t wait up!” He called back to them, as he carried her to the doorway, where she slid the door open. “Wow, you are pretty light.”

    Thanks!” Formal accepted the compliment, and relaxed into his arms.

    The soldier angled his way through, so as not to bash her head, and made for the staircase.

    She allowed herself to be cradled all the way up the stairs, and past the bathrooms and the soldier guarding the landing, and into the main dormitory, noticeably cooler than downstairs, thanks to the audible background hum of the air conditioning unit. With what people had to deal with during the days, they should be able to sleep and refresh themselves during the night.

    Bygraves effortlessly carried her to her cot, and laid her down onto her bed covers. There was already a cot pushed next to hers, which the soldier walked around and sat on the far side, leaning down to pull his boots off.

    Mary rolled onto her front, elbows digging into the wide-banded stripes of rose pink and chocolate brown of her blanket. She turned to watch him.
    There is no point stripping all the way. I don’t plan on getting serious on literally our first night.

    “Yeah, don’t get your hopes up, Luv.” Bygraves chuckled as he quarter-turned to face her, his left thigh coming up onto his own blue-and-black banded blanket. “We’re not ‘ere to ‘ave a Naughty; we’re just gonna veg out while I educate you all about our Footy.”

    His bed creaking as he rolled over to face her, he began to expand her knowledge on that strange variation on the Beautiful Game.

    * * * *

    Saturday - Day Four

    After breakfast, the helicopter teams headed out, their crews swapped around, with Liz’ assignation deliberately keeping her route away from Xanadu, and the Wamphyri mind that had been sensed there.
    Now paired with Lardis and Jake, her chopper would be taking the northern routes.

    David Chung and Ian Goodly would be checking out other mountain ranges to the south, both teams looking for more sign of mindsmog, while their SAS crewmates would be looking for places for their slower-moving backup forces to set up camp.

    Ben Trask, technician Paul Aronsen, and Mary Formal, along with some of their Australian allies, spent their time in the central Operations Area, poring over maps and schematics.

    Everybody was in civvies, even Trask, uncharacteristically sporting a tatty black t-shirt depicting some heavy metal band that she had never heard off. It looked to her like it lived in the boot of his car.

    Paul.” Trask called, looking around at the seated computer technician. “If we raid the island.” He straightened and smirked to himself. “What do I mean, if? When we raid the island, what ways do they have to escape? We are not expecting any Wamphyri to be there, so no-one is going to be flying away.
    That was a known skill among the Great Vampires; creating bat-like wings for emergency escapes when cornered.

    What if they have made flyers or warriors?” Mary enquired. She had never seen one of the horrific flying creatures that the vampires were able to create in great vats on Starside, using vampirised humans or trogs (semi-sentient neanderthals) as the building material. She had read about them in the files, though.

    Trask shook his head. “Well, let’s hope not. I cannot be certain, but I feel that Liz would have detected them when she picked up those scared thoughts.

    “A.S.I. emailed a compressed file on Jethro Manchester.” Aronsen piped up. “He has a yacht which is moored several hundred metres from the house. They have a way off the island.”

    Find out what type it is. Then call up and print the schematics.” Ben turned to the Arcateenian, looking down at her. She had put her clothes from the previous day, her RAN uniform and her office wear, into the washer dryer, and had resorted to her racier fashion, a tight pink short-sleeved tee, showing a British Lion (eg. the sort you see on coats of arms) and her trusty green plaid mini-kilt that had had her eventual bed partner - Bygraves had pushed their cots together - regretting that he had to join the aerial surveys, and she had earned her a wistful look from Ian. “As our navy gal, Mary, I am putting you with the island team. Study the information that we get on that yacht, in case you have to check it out. If Manchester or any of the other thralls get to that boat, you are going in after them.

    She raised her eyebrows at her boss. “Oh, great!” She exclaimed. “What if more than one gets to the boat, I’ll be outnumbered in an enclosed space!

    “No worries,” assured one of the soldiers, “we won’t let them get to the boat.”

    She looked at the SAS officer. “I will hold you to that.

    Paul Aronsen had been clacking away at the keyboard in the background, then called their attention up to the screen projection, now showing the side-view of a sleek white boat with triangular sails, and a very low flat windowed structure that peaked above the main hull.

    Mary had been expecting a motor cruiser like Janos Ferenczy had had, not a sailboat, but she could hardly expect a vampire from Starside and one from Earth to have similar tastes, could she?

    Standing behind and to the left of Aronsen’s seat, she crossed her arms and gazed up at the vessel on which she was expected to educate herself, as Paul started talking. “That’s Manchester’s yacht, a Hallberg-Rassy 40. Although the designer was Argentinean, it seems to have been built in Sweden. The island of Orust to be precise.”


    She glanced down at Paul’s head. Two-and-a-half centuries on this world, and she had never realised that Sweden had an island. She looked back up to the boat.

    “Well I’ll be stuffed.” Muttered one of the people behind the E-Branch trio, looking up from her spread open nautical charts. The RAN helicopter commander from Mary’s own mission the previous day, Danielle Bailey, had been hastily read in by A.S.I., now that an offshore target had been included into the vampire hunting operation, and sent round.

    Ordered into civilian gear in case the safe house was being spied upon, the slim brunette looked out of sorts in her tasselled, flouncy white sundress and bare feet. She looked like she should be at a wedding.
    Beside her hip, the sea charts were the sort that wanted to roll up into two cylinders of paper as soon as you released them, so she had the white, kitten-heeled slingbacks that she had arrived in, sitting on the map, holding the sides down. “Shame he didn’t buy Aussie. Don’t feel so sorry for the tall poppie now.”

    Tall poppie? Already unsure whether she was ought to salute the woman and call her "Ma'am", or slap 'er legs in an effort to stop her gouging her toes into the carpet (which was very distracting), Formal stayed silent and glanced from her up to her boss, expecting the latter to educate the new girl as to why it was dangerous to exhibit sympathy for these vampirised folk, but Trask surprised her, turning back to the yacht without answering the woman.

    Mary isn’t going undercover to buy it off him.” He reminded the technician tersely. “She just needs to know her way around it.

    “Sir.” Paul nodded, reigning himself in.

    To be continued...


    Wikipedia entry on Boot Dusseldorf, the common, in Germany maybe, shorthand for the Dusseldorf International Boat Show, to identify a yacht that won in 2002. - for information on Jethro Manchester’s yacht. - for the local terminology.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  2. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Note: characters, environment, and overall plot created by Brian Lumley. That said, the writing is mine on this chapter.

    Australian Adventure – Day Four (Saturday)

    And how big is that thing anyway?

    “Marine vessels tend to be sized by length. The ’40 is a forty-footer-”

    Hence the name.” Mary observed.

    “Possibly.” Paul allowed with a nod, scrolling down the screen on his computer, so that the image of the boat moved up out of sight, to be replaced by rows of stats. “Forty-point-eight feet to be precise, and if metric is your thing-”

    “Twelve-point-four metres.” Bailey supplied.

    Chin pinched between thumb and forefinger, Trask angled ever so slightly towards the slight officer. “Thank you, Commander.” He turned back, signalling Paul to continue.

    “She can make unlimited ocean voyages, so if they managed to slip away on her, they could go literally anywhere in the world.”

    Well, maybe not Marrakesh.” Formal quipped, thinking of somewhere notoriously dry and sandy, and hoping that the famous location did not have a fishing port, or some water access that she did not know about. “It’s a yacht, not a korabl’ na vozdoshnoy podushke. Not a hovercraft.

    No-one queried her knowledge of Russian. David Chung’s previously mentioned tracking of their submarines, had been helped along by her translating intercepted signals; but while her knowledge of the language mainly gained in the 1960s, before and during a short stint working undercover at the Russian consulate in Istanbul, for the Soviet-era counter-intelligence agency, SMERSH, E-Branch had supplied the relevant Dummies tome, to refresh her.

    We should check the weather reports. If we can raid on a night with no wind, even if they get to the boat, they won’t be able to fill their sails to even move.

    Remember Ian Goodly’s vision? Apparently, we are going in on a full moon.” Trask nodded to the screen. “That group of islands, the Capricorn Group, is in the middle of nowhere. Like my Zekintha after a bowl of Weetabix, there will always be wind.

    Formal studied her boss from the side, noting that this was the first time he had talked about his slain lover.

    Beyond him, the helicopter commander stepped past him to the right of Aronsen.
    “Actually, that isn’t quite true.” Commander Bailey interjected, definitely not showing the same deference to E-Branch conversations as her Special Air Service cousins. “Even in the middle of the sea, the wind can disappear for days on end. Used to be a problem for sailors, hundreds of years ago, but this is the 21st Century. If you check, I think you will find that that sailboat has an engine.”

    Paul was already scrolling the page. “She’s right. Big diesel number. A Volvo Penta D2-55. Huh.” He frowned at his computer monitor. “Volvo do boat engines? Who knew?”

    Good work, Commander.” Ben nodded grudgingly.

    “I’m sending everything to the printer now.”

    A blocky three-layered cream white monstrosity, on the trestle table facing the rows of chairs, started chugging noisily as the laser printer got to work, line by shuddering line, eventually spitting out sheets of coloured-in paper.

    Mary turned to it and grabbed up the first two sheets. “That’s not an engine,” she reported upon seeing the image of the large dark green power plant, “that’s a space station.

    It’s too big to be a space station.” Ben chimed in without looking.

    Aronsen refused to be outdone, giving a low mournful growl, consistent with being a furry space pilot.

    * * * *

    Mary allowed the printer to rattle its way through the short collection of pages that it hummed out in quick succession.

    The agent picked up the thin wad of colourful text and graphics, the paper pleasantly warm in her hands. She rifled through the pages, careful not to get a paper cut.

    Paul?" She called to the tech. “Anything else to print out?"

    "Not for the yacht, no."

    Cool." Formal turned away from him and Trask, when she heard Ben pipe up behind her.

    Print off some layouts of the island. If Mary has to go over land from where the raid boat drops anchor, to Manchester's yacht, I don't want her getting lost. Plus copies for all the team members, including the chopper crew. Girls?"

    Both Danielle and Mary turned to look up at the E-Branch leader, the former replacing a wide shoulder strap that had slipped off her left shoulder.

    Trask looked from one to the other. “I want you both to equate yourselves with how the yacht looks. Commander, if it does make a run away from the island, you are the only one that will have eyes on it until we can get our ground team back to the boat."

    "This raid is definitely happening at night-time, Sir?" Bailey enquired differentially.


    Wouldn't daytime be better?" Mary interjected, thinking that the sunshine would work against the vampires, and create an advantage for the humans.

    "No, Lieutenant." Bailey looked across at the Arcan. "Best way to limit witnesses is to go in at night."

    Plus Ian's vision about Xanadu mentioned a full moon, remember. We'll want to hit both locations, plus any more that we discover, at the same time."

    "Vision?" Commander Bailley echoed warily.

    Don't go raising your eyebrow at me, Young Lady." Trask glowered into the naval officer. "“You have your talents. We have ours." He nodded towards the velvet-backed chairs beyond the printer. "“Sit with Mary and look over the pictures."

    Watching the younger woman bristle at being told off like a cheeky schoolgirl, Mary got the idea that things would go easier if she pretended for a moment that she really was a naval lieutenant, and needed to defer to Bailey for guidance.
    She glanced at the brunette. “Ma'am?"

    A flash of something, not quite gratitude, not quite relief, crossed the officer's face. "You heard Mr Trask, Lieutenant. Let's go."

    Yes, Ma'am." Mary nodded her agreement, then the printer started to chunk and rattle, its out-tray filling up with A4 sheets, showing a top-down picture of the target island. “Mm. Capricorn One."

    "What was that, Lieutenant?"

    Mary shook her head. “Oh nothing. I was just giving the island a name. Since it is within the Capricorn Group." She led the way out to the chairs, walking down the central aisle to the fifth row, then set the printouts down on the nearest seat so that she could start re-arranging the chairs, Bailley putting hands on hips, and watching her.

    In the end, she left two seats of the back row together, for the two women to sit side-by-side, and turned around five chairs from the row in front, into a semi-circle before them.

    I hope you are putting them back after." Trask called.

    Yes, Boss."

    Mary started spreading the prints onto the chairs, then sat down, Bailey settling to her right, lifting the skirt of her dress, and crossing her legs under it.

    "So, you're a spook then?" The commander asked, though it sounded more like a statement of fact. "Not RAN."

    Mary knew that the term was slang for "intelligence operative", except notably, the U.S., and gave the other woman a bashful smile. “Well my commission is official, Ma'am. Just...a bit short term."

    Bailey shot a meaningful glance towards Trask, then looked back at Mary as she raised both hands to curl her fingers to do air quotes. "And are you talented as well?"

    Oh, I'm only seconded to E-Branch. I'm their liaison with the U-N-C-L-E." She spelt out the letters.

    "The what?"

    United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. UNCLE. This vampire thing has worldwide implications, so I'm embedded with E-Branch till this gets sorted out."

    Bailey narrowed her eyes and looked away. "Uncle. I'm sure I've heard of that."

    Our public relations team will be so pleased when I tell them. Champagne and everything."

    The woman turned back to look at Mary. "No, I mean as a tv series. I thought it was made up."

    We were thanked at the end of every episode, in the credits. What did you think that was about?" Affecting disgruntlement, Formal momentarily pouted and cast her gaze over the array of printouts, then leaned over the long bare thighs of her lap to select two to study first.
    She sat back with a white sheet showing top and side-view deckplans in stark black lines, and a colourful sheet divided into eight colourful pics of the yacht's interior. Blues and brown were the colours of the day, being the seat fabric and wood panelling, respectively.

    After pinpointing that there was a ladder near to where the steering wheel was, that climbed down into the, she visualised herself stepping down that way, her Bren pistol held in one fist and leading the way, whilst she held onto a bannister with the other hand.

    The blueprint didn't show a bannister, but those steps looked seriously steep, verging on vertiginous, and this was a seagoing vessel. There had to be a bannister, surely?

    Beside her, Danielle picked up the island map and leaned back, also. "You are probably fine, naming it Capricorn One, lieutenant. Although I have been more concerned with how to get there, rather than the destination itself, my map certainly did not have a name for it."

    Thanks." Mary showed Danielle her blueprint. “There's a lot of LKRs on this thing, all along the hull, whatever they mean."

    "Lockers. LKR is short for lockers." The aviator sensed her counterpart's lack of understanding. "Places to keep stuff, so it doesn't fall out every time a wave hits."

    The Arcan bobbed her head in understanding. "Oh, those!" She glanced over the actual interior photos. There really were a lot of them. All over the place. Above what she took to be bunks, below seats, embedded in walls. Drokk.

    She looked up at Trask, drawing his attention.

    What's up?"

    There's a lot of lockers onboard this thing. Do I have to check every one?"

    Wamphyri loved to leave bits of themselves laying about. They were like the worst vines. If one part of them failed, staked and dusted; maybe some part of their being could infect a new host, and eventually, possibly, a Wamphyri would again walk the Earth.

    The original Necroscope, Harry Keogh, scourge of vampires on two worlds, had been cleaning out such remains from a ruined Romanian castle, when he had unwittingly inhaled spores from mushrooms. The fungi had been a remaining essence of the long dead Wamphyri, Faethor Ferenczy, if she remembered right.
    Faethor hadn't even died in the castle. He had vampirised a Wallachian warrior during the Crusades; left him to look after the castle, and gone on a European Tour.
    Faethor had lived long enough to finally "buy it" in Berlin, during a World War II bombing raid.

    Don't check them at all. Unless you suspect they could hold a human. That is the size of menace that you are checking for. Once you are done, we'll send in a fire team."

    She breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks Boss."

    To be continued...

    Notes - for information on Jethro Manchester’s yacht.


    Mary stalks the U.N.C.L.E. headquarters.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  3. Emperor Ferus

    Emperor Ferus Chosen One star 7

    Jul 29, 2016
    I have to admit, I'm not too familiar with the torchwood series or any characters, but by the end, I felt familiar with your characters, especially Mary. You did a good job describing without overdoing it, I could really enter her head as well.

    I could easily imagine the Australian setting, you set it up pretty aptly. I was engaged pretty quickly and stayed that way to the end. 10/10
    Iron_lord and Sith-I-5 like this.
  4. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Excellent way to begin a Monday:

    Like my Zekintha after a bowl of Weetabix, there will always be wind.[face_rofl]


    We were thanked at the end of every episode, in the credits. What did you think that was about?" [face_rofl][face_rofl]
    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  5. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Nice discussion with Mary going over the mission. Waiting for the story to continue
  6. Mira_Jade

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

    Jun 29, 2004
    Once again, you do such a great job with setting up your ops without losing the voices or personalities of your characters - you clearly put a great amount of thought into your world building and it certainly shines through. I love how your fandoms mesh together, too - the line about U.N.C.L.E. being thanked in the credits had me cracking up.

    I can't wait to see more of this as it goes. :) =D=
    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  7. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Thank you for continuing to look in, Emperor Ferus, pronker, earlybird-obi-wan, and Mira_Jade.

    The feedback, much appreciated.

    Note: Characters and situations created by Brian Lumley. This intervening material is mine.

    Australian Adventure – Day Four, late afternoon

    Dannielle had long ago gone back to her maps, and brought them back to where Mary still sat, so that she could study them whilst sitting down.

    Formal, taking a break from looking at the photos, had asked Paul to get a shot of the steps that she would have to descend to get into the yacht.

    She imagined that that meant either Australian Special Intelligence, or E-Branch HQ, back in London, contacting the manufacturer directly.

    The pictures she had, were promotional ones, intended to whet the appetite of prospective customers, and she intimated that the steps had not been considered that inviting.

    She knew that if she made it down the steps alive, to her immediate right would be the kitchen area, whilst in front of her would be a main dinner (well, any meal really) table, served by multi-person seating on both sides.

    There was an awkward route between the table and left-hand seating to a doorway serving a stateroom (bedroom) at the yacht’s bow (front end). The top-down blueprint gave the table a serrated lines that the Arcan took to mean that the table could be folded down. That would ease the route to the bedroom considerably.

    If, at the bottom of the steps, she turned to face the kitchen, then continued to quarter-turn to her right, she ought to face the main bedroom at the rear of the boat. If she got trapped in there, and could fit, there ought to be a transparent square hatch in the ceiling that would let her out onto the rear deck behind the

    Mary grimaced at the term. More a wheel tent than a wheel house, and even then, that was only if you pulled the tarpaulin back to cover the open-air area during inclement weather.

    There was only so much information she could gain from flat photographs, even in glorious colour, and the blueprints; however, if she was reading the blueprints correctly, behind the ladder, steps, whatever it looked like she was going to be breaking an ankle on, should be a compact engine room, or Ambush Alley.

    Whomever had written the blurb, had really expounded on what was in there, as well as the ease of access, which was, according to him or her, what you wanted in a long-range, Blue Water Cruiser.

    Yeah, if you say so.” She murmured, her eyebrows rising as she noted that there was even a spare propeller in there! She hoped anyone trying to change propellers in the middle of the ocean, remembered to secure it with a rope and some of those knots that boy scouts and sea cadets get taught, cos if they didn’t, and that heavy thing slipped out of their wet hands, it would sink into the depths like the ******* Nautilus.

    Mary leaned back and studied the arc of photos. She was happy with the layout, and now her thoughts turned to the practicalities.

    It would be night time. If the boat was empty before the raid, then the lights onboard would be off, and since vampires can see in the dark, there was no reason, apart from maybe muscle memory from when they were alive, for them to switch the lights on if they got to her.

    The blueprints did not show light switches, nor, in the main, did the photos. There was a desk alcove in the salon, which had over a dozen switches and fuses, showing that you could operate a lot from that single point; but her concern was for when she was standing at the ominously dark entrance in the wheelhouse.

    Unless she could see by moonlight, where the nearest light switch was, she was stuffed!

    She closed her eyes, tuned out the ambient noise from the others, and thought about other sources of light.
    She could bring a flamethrower, using it to light up her pathway. But that meant relying on the diesel engine not having any leaks. She didn’t want to blow the boat up, especially while she was aboard.

    Formal was reminded of her fellow agents that had been assigned to checking the tunnels behind Bruce Trennier’s Creechur barn. They had had tactical lights - Surefire SMG Forend Lights - secured to the barrels of their machine pistols, so that they could illuminate where they pointed their weapons.
    Eyes still shut, she nodded to herself. That looked like the way to go; score some parcel or insulation tape, and tape a Maglite, a small, black cigar-shaped flashlight, under the barrel of her Bren Ten. She should be able to adjust the beam from a thin lance of light, to a wider diffused arc.

    * * * *

    She jumped in the seat, awaking with a start and instantly looked guiltily at the commander, only to find the seat next to her un-occupied.

    Mary swept her gaze to the left, across Ops.

    She was alone. No E-Branch. No SAS.

    Place smelled strongly of lipstick. A distinct red note.

    Mary wasn’t into make-up. She had never been a child here, so had not started out with candy-flavoured cosmetics, and been guided into the world of makeup by a doting mother, nor the peer pressure of other girls at school.

    The Special Branch-run school in Cambridge that E-Branch had sent her to, had covered it, the psychological effect a well put-together female could have on male targets. And on some female ones.

    So she knew her way around a makeup bag, but it was something deliberate, a precursor to an assignment to a diplomatic consulate or embassy; it wasn’t something that she subconsciously applied every morning, to show her face to the world.

    What the hell?

    The room given over to Operations, was at the centre of the ground floor, so there were no windows for her to judge the time.

    She took in the green, wrought-iron safe. Still locked.

    She should never have let Warrant Officer Brygaves put her weapon in there. What sort of drokking nonsense was that?

    Formal stood slowly, listening carefully, and tiptoeing towards the sliding doors of the exit, putting an ear to the wood to listen for sounds beyond...silence.
    She hauled the door open and peered down the short hallway to the front door, where the sun was bright on the square of frosted glass, providing plenty of natural light.

    The agent got no sense that there was anyone in the kitchen and dining area to the right of the hallway, or on the staircase to the left.

    Tiptoeing again, she crept carefully to the doorway of the kitchen, and eased her head around the jamb, sweeping her gaze across her stomping ground of the last few days, and where she learned Liz had spent some of the night in a vigil near the washing machine, probably aching to get her jeans back.

    Mary took that to mean that Jake had not responded to the telepath’s late-in-the-day reveal that she had legs, but that was no fault of the rookie operative; Jake was clearly still holding a torch for the Natasha girl that he had lost in Marseilles, at the depraved hands of the Sicilian mob.

    Drokking smelt of lipstick in there too.

    Shaking her head, Formal tiptoed for the stairs, both to check out the top floor, but also because she remembered where Merrick stashed her sidearm. She wouldn’t have taken it along for the day trip.

    She had not secured the ground floor yet, there were other rooms to check, like the Library, but the wanting to get herself armed was feeling like a priority.

    Left hand on the bannister, the woman forged upstairs, halting when her eyeline was level with the carpet of the upper landing, where it ran past the three bathrooms, their doors all ajar to various degrees.

    She could see straight through to the main sleeping area, but still could not detect any signs of life.
    Where is everybody?

    * * * *

    Around fifteen minutes later, Mary had determined that the supposed safe house was deserted.

    The upstairs was secure. She had checked Liz’ makeup supplies, all looking intact, which made the lipstick smell that permeated the place, more of a mystery.

    She had her Browning, the compact automatic so small that it seemed like a toy gun, especially in comparison to Mary’s own Bren Ten.

    The downstairs was secure too, Mary having gone through the other, heavily draped rooms, and having to switch on the lights to see. They had instructions not to open the drapes. It stopped any observers from using those listening devices that relied on sound waves from occupants’ voices, reverberating across window panes.

    Now she had returned to Ops, intending to call London HQ.

    The next obvious move was to check the grounds, but the Arcan decided it was best to advise headquarters what had transpired so far, in case something happened to her.

    She sat in the chair usually occupied by the techs, Paul Aronsen and Jimmy Harvey, and tapped her personal code into the keyboard, looking up at the monitor screen.

    To be continued...


    I Googled, “does lipstick smell”, and a forum called [URL=''][/URL] gave me the thing about lipstick notes.

    I was on the International Movie Firearms Database for another project, eventually finding out that all the Surefire accessories I see mentioned so often on tv and movie props, are in fact just the light attachments!
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
    pronker likes this.
  8. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    where is everybody? Mary alone but having great ideas about lights and smells
  9. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
  10. Mira_Jade

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

    Jun 29, 2004
    Huh, the deserted safehouse is a mystery! But it looks like Mary has a couple extra senses that will, hopefully, help her solve it.

    This continues to be a really interesting tale. I look forward to seeing where you take it. :) =D=
  11. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    There is a discussion on the other forum about "epics losing readers".

    I wanted to reassure that this has not been abandoned; fic challenges on the other place are taking their toll.
    pronker likes this.
  12. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Sounds interesting [face_coffee] Where is the discussion?

    Happy writing,

  13. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
  14. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Note: Characters and situations created by Brian Lumley.
    This intervening material is mine.

    Australian Adventure – Day Four, early evening, but still bright.

    After a few moments to establish connection, the kind grandmotherly face of their ecopath, Anne-Marie English, popped up before her, a woman whose Talents comprised being able to track pollution across the world, and snorting like a piglet, which she instantly did upon spying Mary.

    It was only when she daintily cupped a hand over her mouth, that the Arcan realised the other woman had been laughing. Despite the woman being in her Thirties, just a decade older than Liz, there were liver spots on the back of that shaking hand, the agent observed.

    Mary narrowed her gaze, and worked out what to say, while the other composed herself.

    Mary.” English let go a smirk. “Mary, uh, wasn’t expecting to see you calling, this time of night.

    Of course, it’ll be night-time there. Twelve hour difference. She realised, fidgeting in her seat. “Anne-Marie, everybody seems to be gone. Only me left. I cannot explain how, especially as the sun's out, but I think we’ve been hit. And probably not important, but the entire place smells of lipstick.

    Fall asleep, did you?” Anne-Marie had her hand up again, trying to conceal either a yawn or a grin. Mary suspected the latter.

    Formal eyed the other, uncertain how to answer. It usually wasn’t wise to lie to these psychic bods, but there was nothing about English’s particular skillset that spoke of her being able to tell if she was fibbing.
    Although according to the files, years before, she had detected mindsmog in Darcy Clarke, a senior E-Branch operative who had been suspended for unauthorised contact with Harry Keogh, at a time when the Branch suspected that the original Necroscope had been vampirised.

    Still though.

    Maybe I did.” Mary allowed cautiously. “How could you tell?

    I don’t know what happened to the others, but someone’s drawn a red moustache and eyebrows on you. You never seemed the type to allow that while you were awake.

    Mary's hand instantly went to her forehead, confirming the observation, and she looked away from the screen, feeling her cheeks warm. “Oh, those ba-

    I daresay that could be the source of all the lipstick that you have been smelling.” The HQ duty officer continued, talking over her.

    The Arcan turned back to the keyboard, finger finding the button to break the connection, then looked back up to the monitor, “Thank you, Anne-Marie. I will check around to see if they left me any clues as to what happened to them, then look outside. Safe House, out.

    Mary suddenly had an idea, and re-dialled London, scant seconds passing before Anne-Marie appeared on the wall monitor.

    "Hello again."

    I'm going to wash my face in a minute.” Formal informed her, although she realised that she probably shouldn't have led with that.

    "Good girl, but you really did not need to tell me."

    Mary put up a palm to silence her. “I'll be about five minutes, but what I want you to do is...” She paused, thinking that this might be a cart before the horse moment. “ you have any locators on-site?

    "Of course." Anne-Marie rattled off a name that Mary recognised. Locators like David Chung, who had flown out to join them recently; could locate people and things on maps, just by thinking about them, although holding a personal item made the task easier and more accurate.

    Good.” She nodded. “You should have artefacts for all agents, so that you can check our locations and health. A hairbrush for Trask, one of Liz' old P.E. netball skirts from school, that sort of thing.

    "Broadly." English flattened a hand, and made a gesture that replicated the word. "But I see where you are going with that, and it is a good idea. You want us to check if the agents on your team are at the safe house, or somewhere else. Okay, you go wash your face, I'll get a couple of the guys on it. We should have something for you in five to ten minutes."

    Thanks, see you in a moment.” Mary cut the connection, and rose from the chair, making a beeline for the doors and beyond them, the stairs.

    They had three bathrooms, and there was one that she and Liz used, they liked to think, exclusively; and both their makeup bags were in there, balanced on the bath rim.

    Liz' was a glittery affair, that looked either silver or shades of pink, depending on how the light hit it; whilst her own was an eye-burning shade of coral pink, with a lipsticked mouth print on it in gold leaf.

    She tucked the gun into the back of her kilt, took her bag to the sink, stared open-mouthed at her reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror, and silently swore a painful fate to whomever had given her thick Groucho Marx eyebrows reaching halfway to her hairline, and a finer handlebar moustache under her nose.

    The eyebrows laughed at the soap and water, but thankfully succumbed to creamed wads of cotton wool, Mary wondering all the while why she had not woken up whilst those were being applied! She was a little more gentle dealing with the moustache, then when all was removed, she gave her face a good soapy wash, dried it on one of her towels, and rubbed in some moisturiser.

    Now, with hands washed and dried, and everything squared away again, she felt ready to trot back downstairs and see if Anne-Marie had found anything.

    * * * *


    Mary stared at Anne-Marie in shock, hardly believing that a person who looked like her grandmother, could open with that phrase from the neighbour out of The Simpsons!

    "...our readings indicate that the team should be close by. On the grounds, or perhaps down in the basement?"

    Far as I know, we don't have a basement.

    "Well, have you checked the grounds?"

    Not yet.” Mary nodded to herself. “I'll do that now.

    "If it helps, one of the guys said he was getting a distinct barbie vibe from Liz' hairbrush."

    As in the dolly?

    "As in barbecue. Sausages, buns, 'throw a shrimp on the', etcetera."

    All right, I will check that out. Thank the team for me.” Mary rose from her seat, the wheeled chair rolling back slightly. “Safe House out.” She cut the connection, and headed for the front door, by way of the kitchen.

    It was still daylight, judging from the diffused light coming through the front door pane, and she recalled Warrant Officer Bygraves' warning that toting visible guns outside might precipitate a police response to their secret compound.

    She pulled a red-and-white tea towel from one of the drawers, and wrapped it round Liz' Browning.
    The local Rozzers (police) would be less likely to roll out armed officers over a report of someone carrying a tea towel, no matter how out of place it looked.

    Formal opened the front door, pausing on the front step to sweep her gaze across the view.
    Both saloon cars were present, which meant the helicopter crews were 'home'. But also present was a larger dark blue transit van, its sloped front adorned by a rack of a thick steel piping intended to protect it from collision with large animals. Godzilla, perhaps.

    She stared at the third vehicle for a moment, then turned left, following the route of her patrol yesterday morning.

    The sun was bright, but a bit cooler as the afternoon moved on.

    Her fingers kept the cloth tight around the gun in her right fist as she held it down by her right hip, her gaze looking across the parched lawn ahead and to her right, as well as the front of the house that she was walking alongside, trepidation building as she approached the corner, peering around it to see more of the lawns and small hillocks that were in front of the whitewashed walls of the compound.

    She could hear the soft murmurings of speech and laughter, and continued moving past the leafy hedges that had been planted close to the house, and proceeded till she got to the corner that would give her a view of the back garden.

    The espers back at Headquarters had called it right. There was a barbecue going on, the SAS and E-Branchers either milling about, standing together and chatting in small clumps, or sitting together on moulded white plastic chairs. She recognised several faces as people who would have been driving the Operations Truck, and other vehicles.

    Hail, hail, the gang is all here.

    Closer to her, with their backs to the safe house, and serving food from a pair of table-clothed trestle tables, were two young lads and two young women in short-sleeved rash vests, the boys in dark blue ones, the shorter girls in butterfly-patterned, two-tone ones, pairing dark blue torsos with coral-coloured sleeves.

    Mary's presence was quickly detected, and she was treated to applause from several of the participants, which had her blushing with embarrassment as she glowered at them.

    Two people not clapping, Ian Goodly and Warrant Officer Bygraves, came quickly towards her, each reaching for her with welcoming smiles, then dropping them to regard each other as they stood before her.

    The lanky, square-jawed Ian had the height, whilst Bygraves had the brawn.

    The pre-cog broke first, looking from the SAS non-com to her, and back. "I'll get Mary a burger, you find her a chair."

    Bygraves grinned at that. "Good onya, Boss!" He watched Ian peel away to squeeze into the crowd in the direction of the servers, head and shoulders above most of them. "He stands out like a shag on a rock." He observed aloud, then turned back to Mary. "He took that well. Didn't even crack the sads. (Didn't get all moody)."

    Mary had already tucked the pistol, tea towel and all, into the back of her waist-band, and now crossed her arms as she regarded the warrant officer. “What the hell is going on here?

    Bygraves had gestured to the crowd, who by this time were back to socialising with each other. "We're having a barbie."

    I can see that. Why?

    Bygraves gestured for her to follow him, and led the way to a crescent of mostly occupied chairs sitting in the middle of the garden. "Well apparently, you playing subbie yesterday did something to please the RAN brass up at Mordor, and they sent some scran and those jubes over there as thanks."

    She narrowed her eyes at the reference to the fictional Lord of the Rings location, and followed his gesture towards the youngsters, then felt herself being gently pulled down onto his lap just after he re-took his seat. She relaxed into him as he laid a hand on her bare thigh, fingers alternately stroking her, and playing with the sharply pleated hem of her kilt.

    There were soldiers on the other chairs, each grinning either down at Bygraves' busy digits, or up at her, one greeting, "Arvo. Nice of you to rock up."

    She smiled back at him, not knowing what 'Arvo' meant, but understanding that the rest referred to her eventually joining them. “I'd have 'rocked up' earlier, if the place wasn't sound proofed, and I could see into the gardens.

    Ian turned up with a hot burger in a bun pressed between two paper plates, and a chilled bottle of Fosters. "Good sleep?"

    Yes, thanks.” She reached up to take the plates, whilst Bygraves reached his free hand around her to hold her bottle. “How come nobody woke me up? I had to call London when I couldn't find anybody inside.

    "Yeah, we know. Couple of us overheard you when we snuck inside to use the dunny."

    Of course they did. She realised without saying anything. They were SAS after all. While she associated the Special Air Service with flash bangs and crashing through windows, she had no trouble believing that they would be able to creep in to use the loo without her hearing them. Although, they couldn't have flushed!

    Without saying anything, she opened the bun to confirm the presence of beef burger, some salad, and ketchup. She took a bite and munched contentedly, enjoying the flavour and the texture, despite the fare having no nutritional value for her.

    She opened a hand, and her attentive soldier pressed the Fosters into it so that she could wash the morsel down.

    Ian stood over them, not bothering to bring a chair over. "When we got back, we were told not to disturb you. So we just came round to the garden. Those navy ratings back there," he pointed behind himself to the kids, "had already set things up. Trask wasn't keen, but the diggers (soldiers) and our people were, so, when in Rome."

    Mary smiled up at him before taking her second bite. "Ooh, listen to you, going all native."

    It was sounding like her friends on the returning helicopter teams had not seen her moustached features, which made her feel a little bit better, and she realised that she did not need to be the hostess of Police Five to work out who the culprit could be.

    While she wouldn't have put it past any of the SAS, it was unlikely that they had lipstick to hand, which left only the females present - she discounted Liz, unless she had somehow rumbled the UNCLE lie; and the two young girls serving the food.

    Scanning the various faces around the garden, her attention alighted on the distant Commander Dannielle Bailey, chatting animatedly with her Sea King' crew-mate, Lieutenant Dan MacLellan.

    That bitch.

    "Ay?" Bygraves queried, tightening his hug around her waist, and frowning up at her.

    Oh nothing. I was just thinking aloud.

    To be continued...


    Rash Vest designs from Mountain Warehouse -

    Sources for Aussie slang - ,

    "Hail, hail, the gang's all here" is apparently an American popular song from 1917.

    Police Five was a British crime re-enactment tv show, lasting five minutes, that appealed for witnesses to phone dedicated police numbers
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2018
  15. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    fun with the moustache and the 'barbie'
  16. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Thank you for reading. :)
  17. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Godzilla, perhaps.[face_rofl] I enjoyed the ambiance of the barbi and the way Mary was looked after by her gang -- allowing her to rest and join up with them when she could. Also good was the slang and Mary's working out who did the deed re her makeup job.]-}
  18. Mira_Jade

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

    Jun 29, 2004
    This continues to be a fascinatingly diverse story! You definitely always leave me intrigued to read more! In this update, I got a kick out of Mary's 'make-over', and her figuring out who the culprit was. The slang was a lot of fun too! A great breather-chapter between all of the action and the intrigue you have been giving us!


    I was not expecting that at all, and it drew quite the chuckle. :p [face_laugh]

    This was another fun update! Thanks for sharing. :) =D=
    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  19. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    @pronker @Mira_Jade

    Thank you both for continuing to read, and continuing to relay which bits you enjoyed.

    I had a brief vision of those bull bars giving Godzilla a sprained ankle, should they have a coming together.

    I had concern that the lipstick would be a jumping the shark moment for readers, so I am relieved that it worked out.

    Thank you for mentioning the slang and make-up, so I could judge how they worked.
    pronker likes this.
  20. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Note: Characters and situations created by Brian Lumley.
    This intervening material is mine.

    Australian Adventure – Day Four, early evening, 7pm-ish.

    Mary never did graduate to a garden chair of her own, at least as far as that night was concerned; remaining on Bygraves' lap whilst his fingers and hands took up various flirtatious activities around her form, making her giggle.

    Goodly brought up a chair, the SAS man allowing him to stay once he was assured that the senior E-Branch operative was not a rival for her affections.

    Mary noticed increased activity and conversing amongst Liz, Lardis Lidesci, Ben Trask, and Dan MacLellan.

    "They are expected up at HMAS Moreton, tonight." The helicopter crewman was saying as the quartet ambled pass, in the direction of the food tables.

    "Can they get there before nightfall?" Trask enquired.

    "Not if they drive within the speed limit."

    "Then they are not going. Lardis does not want anyone leaving the compound while it's dark. They can leave tomorrow morning when the sun comes up."

    "Now look-" MacLellan stopped, turning to Trask, who squared off against the Australian.

    "No. You look. I didn't want your damned barbecue here in the first place. You forced this onto us, and you brought them-" The E-Branch leader aimed a hand towards the servers. "-into this. Now you and they play by our rules. If the, the target, has us under surveillance, they could try to go after these kids once the sun goes down, so they stay here tonight."

    In the background, Mary could see Liz approach the servers and have a word with them, and then the youths started to help themselves to some of the food on offer, filling paper plates.

    Warrant Officer Davis put his legs out, reclined in his chair and smiled contentedly as he gave his belly a circular rub under his t-shirt. "Ah mate, it was good to fang out."

    Formal hugged her man, tapping at his scalp with her fingers, alternating quick and slow dabs, whilst looking over at the barely audible conversation between Trask and MacLellan.

    She turned back to look down at Bygraves as soon as she felt him move his head from under her hand. Now, either he was going to ask her to desist, or...

    "Oh, you want your hogleg back, do you?"

    "Well done!" She grinned, giving him a quick peck on the lips as reward. "I wasn't sure if you would recognise that." Her tapping on his head, had been Morse Code to impress on him that she wanted her gun out of the safe.


    Mary looked round to see MacLellan looming over her in an almost silhouette. She would have thought that Commander Bailey would have clued him in on her UNCLE story, but he was nevertheless using her temporary RAN rank, although she noticed that he had verbally demoted her from what he had called her aboard the helo'. “Sir?

    "Your Mister Trask and his gypsy friend are not keen on the ratings returning to barracks if they cannot get there before nightfall. Organise a detail to urgently pack up the chairs and tables, and get them back on that van round the front."

    She tried to spring to her feet, but found her immediate movement impeded by Bygraves' arm round her waist, which he started to move now, but that moment had gone. “Sir. Yes, Sir.” She clipped, rising from Bygraves' lap as Dan moved off, and looking round at him and his immediate group, rubbing her hands and furrowing her eyebrows in thought. “Righty-ho...

    "Even though you are just a lid, remember you are a commissioned officer in the company of warrant officers, Luv." Bygraves reminded.

    She didn't dwell on what a 'lid' was, hoping it was more Tupperware than sexually derogative. “And?

    "All you need to do, is say to us, four little words, and we'll do the rest."

    She raised an eyebrow at her friend, and dare she say it, boyfriend. “And what would they be?

    "You. Heard. The. Man."

    Okay then,” She tried tentatively, “you heard the man.

    "Well, at least put some bite into it. Like when you had us giving you our dirty laundry."

    Warrant Officer Bygraves, get these chairs onto that van.

    "Better, Ma'am." Bygraves sprang to his feet, looking round at the other soldiers, and clapping his hands loudly. "Alright, who here has a motorbike licence?"

    There were a couple of raised hands, a knowing laugh from someone who had clearly been asked that before; as well as a call from one for him to give it a rest.

    "Right, you four, start stacking the chairs and take them round the front to load into that van."

    With theatrical groans, the four selected diggers (soldiers), got on with the task, selecting white plastic chairs, even jokingly threatening to tip their owners out of them, and stacking as much as they could reasonably start ferrying up the side of the house.

    Bygraves turned to Mary. "See, that's how it goes. Orders trickle down the line. The Flight Lewie to you, the Sub-Lieutenant; then you to us, the Warrant Officers; and us to them." He indicated the men that were working away, and the others that had driven all the way across the country.

    The diggers.

    He nodded. "Dead set."

    Alright, well you lot can help by taking your own chairs round. One of you, stop by the kitchen and bring me a bin liner please. I'll start picking up the discarded plates and cutlery.

    They nodded. "Roger that."

    By the time someone came back with a bin liner, Mary had the plastic cutlery gathered in one fist, while the other hand had been used to Frisbee paper plates into a pile, the latter with little success, due to the myriad aerodynamic fails of an almost lighter than air, object.

    From the whiff, and the state of it, the bag was probably from her laundry trials the previous morning, which felt like a lifetime away.

    She slipped the knives and forks inside the liner, and hunted around for anything that was in the grass near to her, before heading for the field of plates, squatting near to the centre of their mass so that she could pick up whatever was within arm's reach.

    Around her, soldiers continued to pick up the plastic chairs, and ferry them towards the front of the safe house. They appeared to have abandoned the idea of piling them, and were carrying them one by one.

    The following hours before the everyone retired for the night, had been mostly uneventful.

    At one point, Trask had called out "Girls," then emphasising "My girls!" after Commander Bailey and two of the ratings had responded alongside Mary and Liz.

    The two E-Branch women had been assigned den mother roles, and instructed to prepare blankets and pillows in the library for the "kids."

    "Listen, Pom." One of the young men had countered, rounding on the dour Brit, "we might be younger than you, but we are not kids."

    Flight Lieutenant MacLellan had sternly told the younger sailor to "shut it", clarifying, "Listen mate, I know yur as mad as a cut snake (very angry), but right now, Mister Trask is the equivalent of the gods up at Mordor, so shut your trap."

    "Mordor?" Mary had echoed later, as she hefted the bin liner of picnic detritus into the kitchen, "What the hell is Mordor?"

    Walking alongside her, Bygraves explained, "It's what we call ADF headquarters, up in Canberra, our capital city."

    She guessed that the letters spelled out that 'Australian Defence Force' that Agent Wanganeen had referenced on the way to her helicopter adventure, the previous day, so did not ask for an explanation on that. "That's your capital city? I always thought Sydney was, the place with that big opera house."

    "Well, our states all get a bit territorial; you should see the rivalry between the Adelaide and Melbourne over who got to host the Formula One races. So to avoid any one state getting pissy about having the capital city in their area, Canberra was built independent of any of them, within the ACT, the Australian Capital Territory."

    A soldier that Mary had not seen since the operation in the desert, walked into the kitchen, glancing at them with momentarily raised eyebrows as he made a beeline for the food laid out on the island. "No need to stop perving each other, I'm just making meself a sanger (sandwich)." He put bread slices onto a paper plate, and levered the lid off one of the plastic containers. "What a ripper party you put on for us; a grouse welcome in from the GAFA."

    "Gaffa?" She echoed, from inside the embrace that Bygraves had put her in from behind, his strong arms encircling her waist as he nuzzled into and kissed the left side of her neck.

    "The Outback, Miss. The Great Australian **** All."

    "Ah." She turned slightly to the flirting warrant officer. "That reminds me, I want my Bren out of the safe, please."

    The warrant officer frowned down at her. "How does him making a sandwich, remind you about your gun?"

    She shrugged as best she could, with his chin in the way.

    Bygraves looked across to the soldier, attracted by the ding of the microwave, to see him pulling a steaming cheese-and-sausage sandwich out, turn his back on the island and lean on it as he took a bite out of his snack, munching contentedly on it.

    "So you want your gun now?" He asked.

    "Well, certainly before we go to bed."

    "You know what we should do?" The soldier asked between chews.

    Mary and Bygraves looked towards him.

    "We should move this food, and everyone, into one of the larger rooms, and have an indoor picnic before we have to gonk out (sleep). Way too early to be stopping this."

    "That is actually a great idea. We can tell stories." Formal acknowledged, thinking which room to use. "We'll use the library. I'm sure the kids won't mind if everyone crowds in there, especially if it means they will be able to stay up late. There were plenty more spare sheets and blankets that I can bring down, and lay out as a sort of groundsheet."

    The soldier smirked at that, drawing a dark glare from Bygraves that sobered him up real fast, straightening him off the island, though he still held the plate. "Sorry WOD," he mumbled around whatever he was chewing.

    "Take your sandwich and go tell everyone what we are doing."


    "The indoor picnic," Bygraves further clarified, as the soldier headed out. "Not the cuddling." He addressed Mary. "Meanwhile, you get those sheets and bring them down. I'll start taking the food in."

    The Arcateenian aimed a finger after the departed trooper. "Aaand, what was that about?"

    "Never you mind." He released her and smiled as he swatted the back of her kilt. "Off you go and get those sheets, Subbie."

    Flashing a grin back to him, she sashayed for the stairs, the green pleats swishing enticingly around the top of her thighs, with him watching that more than the rest of her. As she put her hand on the bannister, and took the first two steps, calling to him through the reduced view into the kitchen, "Is 'Wod' short for Wodger?"

    "No!" He laughed. "Go!"

    "So what is your first name?" she had to bend over to still see him as she ascended

    "I can't tell you that! Orders."

    "But I'm your girlfriend."

    "Working for a foreign intelligence agency, remember."

    Although pleased that he had not denied that she was his girlfriend, she pouted a little as she disappeared upstairs, defeated in The 'Find Out His First Name' Affair. Whether she claimed fealty to the U.N.C.L.E., or E-Branch, there was no getting around that statement.

    To be continued...

    - Wikipedia
    ADF Headquarters - Wikipedia
    Mordor - Australian English military slang, although that says only that Army headquarters are up there.
    The 'Find Out His First Name' Affair - Apparently, all the Man from UNCLE episodes and films were titled as "Affairs" of some kind, eg. Season Two's The Tigers Are Coming Affair (imdb).
    pronker likes this.
  21. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Extremely clever as well as playful, you go, girl.

    That's right, flex those muscles ..

    This hit me in the solar plexus; yes, each one was Affair, just like Wild, Wild West was "Night of the X" … Ha, clever ep titles back then took the place of continuity which is so prevalent now that if you miss even one ep, you're scrambling to catch up. :S Good post![face_cowboy]
    Sith-I-5 likes this.
  22. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Fun with Mary and the first name affair
  23. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    @pronker -I know you are fellow UNCLE fan, of course, but I cannot fathom how much, to have that visceral a reaction to the "bla-de-blah affair" callback!

    I am grateful to you and @earlybird-obi-wan for continuing to read and interact.
  24. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    Note: characters, environment, and overall plot created by Brian Lumley. Some of the writing is mine.

    Australian Adventure – Day Four into Day Five, 10pm to 1am (night)

    Mary Formal stood by the door of the library where the E-Branch, Australian SAS (Special Air Service), and RAN (Royal Australian Navy) personnel had spent the fairly fun evening, having a quiz, playing games and finishing off the food; as the boys and girls who had been serving them outside, got stuck into the idea of creating what their older counterparts insisted on calling 'forts', hanging up spare sheets over the backs of chairs, and taking cushions and other soft things under the miniature tent city, to sleep on.

    The helicopter pair of Danielle Bailey and Dan McLellan, were discussing if they should remain down here in a den mother capacity, or if the kids would be fine.

    Lardis had already warned everyone not to look out the windows, or respond to anyone outside trying to get them to open the windows or doors, and let them in.

    The young ratings had looked confused at that, but promised to obey the instruction.

    Reminded of that, Mary thought it would be a good idea if one of the two stayed down here to oversee them, however she recognised that as a sub-lieutenant, it was not her place to suggest things to senior officers.

    She backed through the library exit, closing it after her, shot a glance along the hallway to the sealed front door, and padded around the ground floor, looking for Bygraves, so that he could get her gun out of the safe.

    Apart from the E-Branch duty technician sitting at the communications console in their Operations Room, and a flamethrower equipped digger sitting on the bottom of the stairs, there seemed to be no-one left down here, so Formal headed upstairs to the bedrooms, running her left hand up the smooth wooden bannister to steady herself up the dark staircase.

    Stepping onto the upper floor, she passed the three empty and dark bathrooms; and the individual bedrooms, the last two before the main dormitory, already occupied separately by a sleeping Liz Merrick.

    She hadn't wondered how her team-mate had scored her own room, assuming that she had bagsied (reserved) it when she had arrived on the first jetcopter out of the desert.

    Formal proceeded into the darkened dormitory, with beds against the left-hand wall, and more opposite them, under the windows on the right, looking over the back garden where the barbecue had taken place that afternoon.

    On the left, second and third beds pushed together, Warrant Officer Bygraves was down to his white singlet and undershorts, sitting up on his bed, waiting for her. He looked over and smiled upon seeing her.

    "Don't get comfortable." She warned, passing the occupied first bed, and standing at the foot of theirs. "I want my gun out of the safe, please."

    "Way ahead of you, Luv." He acknowledged, leaning over to her bunk and lifting her fat white pillow out of the way, pressing it up into the headboard. Underneath, shining in the hospital-type spotlight that telescoped out of the wall above the SAS man, were her Bren, and the 15-shot magazine. "No jellybeans (ammo) in the barrel, so the gun is safe."

    "On second thoughts," she allowed, nodding an acknowledgment back at him. "feel free to get comfortable."

    "Fancy helping me out?" He inquired, patting a hand onto his lap, as a clear invitation.

    SUNDAY - Day Five

    Hours later, Mary's eyes snapped open.

    The dormitory was dark, and her cheek and a hand were resting on Bygraves bare chest, which rose and dipped slightly under her as he breathed rhythmically.

    She blearily turned over his wrist so that she could see the luminous hands on his wristwatch, a Traser H3 Commander Force, according to him. It was a few minutes shy of 1am.

    "You alright, Luv?" The chronometer's owner asked softly, not moving apart from the breathing.

    "I'm fine." She whispered back, eyebrows furrowing as she tried to fine-tune her senses to see what had awoken her. She rolled away from him, and sat up, her sheet falling down her chest.

    Whatever it was, it wasn't anything from outside, or from downstairs.

    "I....want to check on Liz. I'll be back in a moment." She swept back the covers and put her bare feet over the side, toes momentarily digging into the carpet.

    "Want me to come with?"

    "No no. You go back to sleep. I'll be fine."

    The Arcateenian stood up and carefully stepped around the bed, till she felt certain that she had a clear run to the exit. She might be an extra-terrestrial shape-shifter, but she was as susceptible to kicking her toes into something hard, and not liking it very much, as any regular human.

    Formal made it to Liz' bedroom without incident, and had already detected her counterpart's soft sobbing.

    Easing open her door without knocking, she entered and closed it behind her, seeing in the light coming through the window, the silhouette of Liz Merrick sitting up in her bed, arms around her knees, and shuddering with whatever had upset her.

    With her friend sitting up, that created a space behind her at the head of the bed, which Mary settled into, shuffling on her hands and bottom till she could sit back against that wall, then put her hands under Liz' armpits from behind, physically lifting the young woman off the mattress and pulling her back onto her own lap. She then pulled on the coverings up over Liz' legs and up and around her shoulders, making sure they were both fully wrapped up.

    Mary hugged her gently, stroking Liz' dark shoulder-length hair, drawing on all her experience at The Refuge to coo words of reassurance. "Hey, it's alright; you are safe now. Shh. Tell Auntie Mary what's wrong?"

    "The, the, the, face. The face."

    Alright, what face? With that unspoken thought, Mary hugged her closer to reassure her, her hand sliding up into the ruffled short-sleeve of the latter's baby-doll nightie as she rubbed warmth and tactile contact into her left arm.
    It must have been some face to get the poor kid so upset like this.

    "Tell me everything that happened, there's a good girl."

    It took some coaxing, then, haltingly between sniffles, Merrick began to relay the nightmare that she had had:



    Liz saw the Size 5 netball arcing across the wooden-floored gymnasium towards her outstretched arms, where she captured the grippy pimpled surface between her palms, bending her arms to bring the thing closer to her chest, where she could see the words GILBERT emblazoned across it in black, with Spectra written in a smaller font underneath, both words oval-rimmed inside two stylized mauve triangles.

    She kept the toes of one foot planted onto the floor, lifted the other foot and pivoting a short way around to face her Goal Attack team-mate, Kamali, standing by the goalpost several metres away, and with both elbows bent and out, level with her shoulders, straightened her arms, double-handedly propelling the ball from her chest to the Indian girl, who caught it, dodged on the spot to evade the flailing arms of an opposing player in a yellow bib bearing the letters, 'GD' (Goal Defence), and launched the ball upward to where it cleanly dropped into the string-net basket, bouncing at their feet to be collected.
    At this point, whilst half-a-dozen class-mates cheered around her, the E-Branch telepath paused, curious at her surroundings.

    This was the gym at Ashfield Girls, her old secondary school in London, England!

    She looked down, noting her white-lettered black bib over her white short-sleeved t-shirt, and the navy-blue pleats of her P.E. skirt swishing around her thighs from the momentum of her pivoting to 'chest pass' the ball on to Kamali, just now.

    Merrick felt eyes on her, and glanced to the side of the hall, where a familiar-looking man was sat on a low wooden bench. He glanced away from her, turning to the empty bench beside him, and she overheard him apparently talking to nothingness: "What do you mean, they're a bit under-dressed? That's how you play netball. Well, I hope it was worth it." The man checked his wristwatch, then levered himself off the bench, still looking down at the spot next to where he had been sitting, as if he could see someone there. "I have business to attend to, Korath. Let me know if you want me to pick you up a pack of Kleenex. ...You don't even know, of course you wouldn't."

    He walked alongside the scuffed painted line that marked the netball court boundary, heading for the double doors beyond which children gathered before a teacher let them in, and beyond that, the school corridor.

    As he pushed through one of the doors, Liz suddenly remembered where she recognised him from. It was Jake!

    She went to call after him, but stopped herself, as if knowing that to draw attention to herself like that, would be bad.

    She headed after him, leaving the netball court despite the protests of her school-mates and harsh whistles from a woman in a blue tracksuit, grabbing a small drinks carton from a bunch that were for post-game re-hydration, and followed him through the door, where she staggered, her trainers slipping onto the rain-soaked cobbles that lined the narrow night-time street between buildings.

    Merrick glanced back to the porthole-windowed sports hall doors, instead finding the solid, single outside door set into the dark wet brickwork of a venue bearing the pink illuminated sign, Le Jockey Club!

    Oookay... Turning from the doorway, she stepped out into the road, and had to bite the back of her hand to keep from crying out in pain, lifting her right foot off the ground and balancing shakily on one leg as her gaze fell upon the roadway before her, the wan streetlights catching both the shallow domes of the cobbles, but also the wicked peaks of inch-and-half spikes that Jake appeared to be liberally casting over her side of the road, as he backed into the shadow of an alcove on the other side away from her.

    Looking up the slightly sloped alleyway, she could see a brightly-coloured Citreon 2CV parked a few metres from her, blocking half of what was laughably called a road around here; and as she examined the scene, she could see that anyone else so unwise as to drive down here, would be channeled onto the spikes.

    Pressing the fist with the carton into the building wall to steady her progress, she hopped ungainly to the car, spying the black-on-white licence plate M-1026-A, which for some reason, put her in mind of an armed thug ignoring a white Lotus Esprit's anti-theft sticker to put a rifle butt through its' window, and the British sports car exploding in his face.

    This is clearly a dangerous street to drive down, Jake, she thought at the team's new Necroscope, and frankly, you don't seem to be making it any safer.

    Keeping her wounded foot in the air, Merrick left the wall and hopped in the night-time drizzle across to the car, turning and sitting on its curved hood, the warmth of the metal on the backs of her thighs and under her bottom, indicating that he had not been parked here that long, the engine still being warm. Despite the heat, it was obviously still raining, so her knickers and skirt were instantly wetter through than the rest of her was rapidly becoming, but with her injury, she didn't notice.

    She placed the slightly crushed, but still unopened drinks carton on the bonnet beside her, fingered her sodden bangs out of her eyes, pulled her injured foot up onto the other leg, and levered the damaged plimsoll with its embedded spike, off; the bottom of her exposed white ankle sock showing a widening circle of dark wetness that she took to be blood. Great.

    She looked up at the sound of another car, eyes widening at the sight of an dark-looking Fiat careening down the alleyway straight towards her, then at the last moment, just before her bleeding foot became the last of her worries, the driver turned the wheel, skidding on the slimy cobbles to dodge around her Citroen and finding Jake's spikes, the pops of punctured tyres loud in the deserted street.

    Quite a corpulent gentleman threw open the driver-side door, and leaned out to examine the deflated mess of his front-right wheel, only for Jake to creep out of the shadows, raising what she figured to be a sap or a truncheon above his head, the driver alerted to the nearby movement.

    Liz overheard what sounded like surprised German: "Uh? Bitte? Was ist?"

    There was an audible whap sound, and the man collapsed back into his car.

    Bitte, eh? Liz thought to herself, not knowing what that word meant. More like bitten, to me.

    "I am a red horseshoe magnet salesman." Merrick frowned at Cutter putting on an unfamiliar voice dripping with dramatic sarcasm. This was accompanied by first an audible humming sound, then the metallic tinkling sounds of the spike carpet rolling across the cobbles and seeming to jump up into his arms, with a quick succession of metallic impact sounds. "There was the sounds of a-zipping and a-zapping! Do you think that was the hotel card being de-magnetised? Oh, oh, I owe you an apology."

    She had no idea what was up with the funny voice, but she felt the Pied Piper of Small Metal Crap, drop something heavy in the Citroen's open boot.

    While Jake moved to grab the man's legs, and used them to pull him unceremoniously out of the car, really exerting himself to move the fat frag; Liz remained on the bonnet.

    She had no idea what to do about her foot. She was dressed for P.E., the acronym used in British schools for Physical Education, so had no first aid kit on her. She was also reluctant to hop over to the apparent club, as it had been a school gym before, and she was wary of things changing again either before she got inside, or whilst she was inside, and got out.

    She twisted round to regard the car that she was perched on. She could check inside for a first aid kit, or even clean tissues, something to press against the bottom of her foot. And as Jake seemed to be pulling his victim across the ground to the back of the 2CV, there was no risk of getting left behind.

    Sliding off the car, Liz hopped round to the side of the car, pausing to toss her spike onto through the window onto the driver's seat, and pulled open the forward passenger door. She wondered why Jake could not see her now, when he clearly had done so during the netball game.

    To be continued...


    The original version of the "dream" being explored, is on page 448 of E-Branch: Invaders.

    Rules of Netball -,_footwork,_and_passing

    Citroen 2CV6 -ën_2CV, and the licence plate is that of the same model of car that appeared in the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only

    I called up a netball ball up on Amazon, for description purposes.

    This chapter is brought to you by the name "Ashfield", which crossed my desk at work, making me think it sounded perfect as the name of a girls' school, and suitable to expand on Liz Merrick's history.
    It allowed me to break a 14 month writers' block, and generate 2006 words (incl. formatting).

    During an edit, I decided I wanted Mary to check Bygraves's watch for the time, and these resources guided me to what Australian military could wear:

    My muse has a low-key unrequited desire to crossover E-Branch with a 2018 police tv series called Bulletproof, so I picked Liz' classmate from IMDB, representing one of the detectives - Kamali Khan.

    2020 edit: Inserted a Brian Regan bit about magnets, as I just realised the spikes were still on the floor as Jake drags the captive through the crime scene.

    Last edited: Jan 20, 2020
  25. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Very cute visual here of the kiddies playing whenever they can, regardless of their surroundings.

    We have a Citroen D 1970, so this was nice to read about the little 2CV!:falcon:

    I'm glad the inspiration struck and the tale continued - it's a favorite. The dream included disturbing elements, almost a nightmare, but more, really, I think on the 'whaaaaaaaa .... ?' side and I look forward to more.[face_nail_biting]