"What have we here?" asked the Duke. He used his free hand to finish typing, then turned, holding the butterfly towards his compatriots.
"Is that a butterfly?" asked Anise.
"I've never seen something like this before," said the Duke. “It looks harmless enough.”
"How did it get in here?" asked Edison.
"We must have landed the ship around it,"said the Duke, staring at the little bug on his finger. “But whatever it is, it’s from Earth. That's where we've landed.”
"We're on Earth again?” said Edison, “What time period?”
“Why don't you see for yourself?” said the Duke. He didn't take his eyes off the butterfly as he reached back and pressed a button which opened the doors. The Duke lightly shook his hand and the butterfly took flight, heading back outside. Edison flinched as the butterfly flew past him, and he backed away.
“It won't hurt ya,” Anise giggled.
“I'm not scared of it,” said Edison, “I just don't want to hurt it. They're so fragile.”
Edison then followed the bug outside, with Anise behind. They both looked around at the see-saws, play equipment and surrounding trees.
“Looks pretty modern to me.”
“We're in Hyde Park,” said Edison, turning back to the Duke. “Is it the right time? Is this when we left?”
“Give or take a few days, yes,” said the Duke, as he closed the doors to the console room.
“Then can I go?” asked Edison.
Anise and the Duke both turned to look at him.
“Why?” asked Anise
“I'm still on-duty,” said Edison.
“Will you come back?” asked Anise. Edison looked at her, opened his mouth, but didn't answer.
“You're not a prisoner,” said the Duke, walking over to him. “You can leave whenever you wish. But if you want to stay, you need to tell me, or we might leave without you.”
“Look, I don't know,” said Edison.
“Chess . . .” said Anise, sadly. “Don't go.”
“Can I have time to think about it?” asked Edison. The Duke stroked his beard as he considered.
“We'll remain for one day. If you don't return to the ship by then, I'll assume you've decided to stay.”
Edison nods, and Anise offers him a hug, which the Inspector accepts.
“If you stay, I'll miss you.”
“Me too,” said Edison. Then he turned to go.
“Oh, Inspector?” said the Duke. Edison stopped and turned to look at the Duke. They stared one another for a few seconds, before the Duke said, “You can't tell anyone where you've been.”
“I know,” said Edison. Then as he walked away, he grabbed his radio. “This is Inspector Chester Franklin Edison, reporting for duty. Do you read me?”
He left the playground and headed off into the park.
“Do you really think he's gonna leave?” asked Anise.
“I didn't think he was going to stay in the first place; but he proved me wrong.” said the Duke, he looked at Anise, but his eyes were drawn to her feet. “Where are your shoes?”
“Oh . . . I lost them when I jumped off the elevator,” she said, looking at her toes. The Duke raised an eyebrow, then turned to the ship and fiddled with the panel by the door.
“You should really be more careful,” said the Duke. “I wouldn't want you treading on something with bare feet, come on.”
The Lift made sounds as if it were moving, but the cabin remained still. After a moment it stopped with a clunk and a mechanical voice said: 'Wardrobe'. The doors opened to reveal the grand walk-in wardrobe, which looked more like an alien clothing boutique than a wardrobe. Anise excitedly ran inside, with the Duke following behind.
“Hey, is there a shower in this thing?” asked Anise, rifling through the racks.
“There are decontamination showers somewhere on the lower levels. Why?”
“Because I've been wearing this outfit for two days, Duke. I need a shower. And a change of clothes; can I use one of these outfits?”
“You can keep it, if you so desire,” said the Duke. “I don't exactly need the women's clothing.”
“Perfect,” said Anise, as she found a little, black skirt, and the Duke smiled to see her so delighted.
The Duke waited outside of the ship, sitting on one of the swings and fiddling with his laser spanner, as the afternoon got darker and darker. He clicked a switch and the prongs of the spanner began spinning around very slowly with a dull whizzing noise.
Suddenly, the door to the ship opened, and Anise stepped out. She was wearing a textured mauve t-shirt, designed so that it looked like the fabric was a rippling stream, with short sleeves and a conservative but wide neckline; a short, black skirt & a pair of white running shoes. Her hair was slightly damp from the shower, so it was slightly curly and limp, but still as neat as she could get it.
“What do you think?” said Anise.
“You look beautiful,” said the Duke. Anise smiled as she walked over and joined him on the swings.
“So, what do we do now?”
“We have to wait to see if Edison will return,” said the Duke. “In the meantime, I think the power cell in this spanner is low.”
“Oh, okay,” said Anise. “Does it run on batteries? I've never seen you charge it.”
“It's part of the ship's equipment, it can charge wirelessly from the console. But when we faced the Slyph, I utilized a power surge, which requires a lot of energy, it takes a long time to replenish.”
“Right,” said Anise. She kicked back and started to swing lightly back and forth. “Do you want to do something?”
“What do you mean?” asked the Duke, returning the spanner to his jacket.
“Well, if you need to recharge the spanner, you could plug it into the console, then maybe we could go somewhere. Y'know, together.”
“I don't know where anything is on this planet,” said the Duke. “Where would we go?”
“We could see a movie,” said Anise, with a shrug.
“What is a 'movie'?” asked the Duke.
“Y'know, a film,” said Anise, but the Duke frowned. “Moving pictures. They put it up on a screen so that it's nice and big.”
“Is this similar to a holographic projection?” asked the Duke.
“Well, yeah, but a little more low tech',” said Anise.
“Then no, I wouldn't want to watch that,” said the Duke.
“What about dinner?” she asked.
“Are you hungry?” asked the Duke.
“I will be later . . .” she said. “We could go to dinner.”
The Duke frowned again.
“'To dinner'? Where is 'dinner'? Do earthlings all go to one place to eat?”
“No, but . . . y'know, we could go to a restaurant to buy dinner.”
“Oh. Well, I don't have any terrestrial credit. I don't even know what you trade with on this planet.”
“I could pay.”
“No,” said the Duke. “That wouldn't be fair on you.”
“Well, I can't just sit here, all night!” said Anise, getting annoyed.
“I could . . .” said the Duke, looking over at her. Before he could say anything else, there was a loud bang! off in the distance, and the Duke jumped to his feet.
“What is it?” asked Anise, jumping up, but the Duke just ran
“I don't know. Come with me,” he said. They jumped the boundary of the playground and ran down the path. It was a fair way from the playground to the road, but when they arrived, they found themselves at the scene of an accident. Looking down the road, they could see a cab and a bus. The cab was sitting at an angle, obviously struck by the bus, with nothing more than a scratch on the rear fender. It didn't look like it was a serious crash, until the duo walked around to join the crowd, and saw the third car caught between them. A red sedan was caught on the corner of the double-decker bus, and the metal had warped around it, the whole chassis bent at a sixty-degree angle.
“Holy hell,” said Anise, “can we help them?”
“We can try,” said the Duke. They walked out onto the road, and the Duke could see the driver on the right side of the car, amidst the bent metal. “Are you alright?” asked the Duke, tapping on the cracked, rear window. The woman inside slowly nodded.
“How can we get her out of there?” asked Anise.
“Move back,” said the Duke, looking inside the bus. But the driver wasn't in the bus, he was on the phone, calling for help or an ambulance.
Suddenly, the entire car began to move. Anise and the Duke watched as the front lifted off the ground and swung around, pivoting on the rear, left tire. Carefully, the front was placed back on the ground, and they saw as the man that lifted it walked around to the driver's side. It took them a second to process what they were watching. A man in a well-kept business suit and a green tie walked around to the door, and in one clean motion, ripped the door off its hinges.
“Do you need a hand?” the man asked, in a very proper British accent. The woman nodded, and so the man placed his foot on the bottom of the door, and grabbed the crumpled section of roof with his hand. Without breaking a sweat, he kicked down and pulled up, and with a fwump! The crumpled roof bent upwards, widening the opening. The man helped the driver to undo her seatbelt. “Can you stand?” he asked.
She shook her head, so he carefully helped her to step out of the car. Anise ran forward to grab the woman's arm and they both helped her to sit on the ground. Her head was bleeding and she looked dazed.
“Is there a doctor here?” Anise called out. A pair of students ran over, and announced themselves to be medical students.
“Take care of yourself,” said the man, then he stood and turned to walk away.
“Hey, wait!” called Anise, standing up to follow him. “How the hell did you do that?”
The man didn't respond. The Duke came over to join them as Anise grabbed his shoulder to turn him around.
“Pardon me,” he said, shrugging off her hand and continuing to walk away.
“What's going on?” asked the Duke. “Excuse me sir, would you stop?”
The man suddenly started running.
“What the hell?” said Anise.
“Run after him!” barked the Duke, and he started running. Anise followed suit.
“What's going on?!” asked Anise.
“What he just did was not humanly possible,” said the Duke. “I want to know what he is!”
“Why are we running after him?!”
“Because he's running away!”
The man turned down a side road, along the pavement and Anise overtook the Duke as she rounded the corner to follow him, starting to close the distance between her and the stranger.
“Wait!” Anise yelled, “Just stop a second!”
The man made another sharp turn behind a building, but Anise was a few feet behind. She turned and ran down the alley after him, but when she couldn't see him, she slowed to a stop. She glanced around, listening only to the sound of her breathing, when there was a loud thud from overhead. She looked up and saw the man standing on the roof. He didn't stop to look behind him, he ran over the rooftop and out of sight.
“What the hell . . .?” she said. She heard the Duke catch up behind her, and when he saw her, he leaned against the wall and took a moment to catch his breath before asking.
“Why did you stop?” he gasped.
“He . . . he jumped the building,” she said, pointing, as she joined him.
“What?” he asked.
“It's like he's a bloody superhero . . .” said Anise.
“Then why was he running away?” asked the Duke. he walked further down the alleyway, and saw something on the ground. He knelt down to see it up close. “And he didn't jump.”
Anise walked to stand beside the Duke, and saw that he was running his fingers along a patch of ground. The ground was grey concrete, but there was a pair of black circles two feet from the wall. The Duke flinched as he touched the warm surface, then held his fingers close to his face, with ash on them, and smelt it.
“Eugh . . . plasma burn,” said the Duke. He stood up and brushed his hand on his jacket. “He must have plasma jets in his boots or some such thing, to so quickly char stone like this.”
“Well, what now?” asked Anise.
“We're lucky,” said the Duke. “Plasma rockets aren't exactly common in the centre of Earthly cities, if we're to find this man, we should set the computer to detect any plasma signatures, and wait for him to jump another building.”
“Duke, why are you so keen to catch this guy?” asked Anise. “Can't we let him go? I want to know what he is as much as the next time traveller, but he's a hero. What harm can he do?”
“Everyone thinks they're a good guy,” said the Duke. “I just want to make sure.”
When Edison walked into the London Branch of the metropolitan police station, it was to an office full of busy cops in their cubicles. But as soon as they saw him, all paperwork stopped and all eyes were on him.
“Edison?” said DI Morley, “Holy hell, where have you been?”
“He's back!” someone else shouted, and the rest of the room was filled with a smattering of applause. Then he was flocked by a dozen officers, either seeing if he was really back, shake his hand or to congratulate him on returning safely or even to ask where he'd been and who had found him. It was too much for him to deal with at once, until he heard a voice, speaking over the crowd.
“Edison.” said the Superintendent. He sounded calm and didn't raise his voice, but he could be heard clearly over the din. The crowd spread out and made a hole for Edison to head towards the boss's office, and he saw the Superintendent standing there, a stout man, balding, with thinly-framed glasses. “Can I have a word with you?”
He walked into his office, so that Edison could follow.
“Good luck, mate,” said DS Waterhouse. Edison nodded and followed the Superintendent into his office. It was walled with windows, but the blinds were drawn, which wasn't a good sign. Edison closed the door after him as he entered the office.
“Good afternoon, sir,” said Edison.
“Is it?” said the Superintendent quietly, “That's yet to be seen.”
Edison didn't say a word. He was trying to remember the speech that he'd prepared in his head.
“Where the hell have you been, Chester?”
“I'm sorry, sir,” said Edison, trying to compose himself. “ I was preparing to return home after securing the area around Liverpool street station. I was jumped by two men. Knocked out. I don't know where I was . . .” it had sounded good in his head, but out loud, the lie was starting to sound foolish. “They had a bag on my head, threw me in the back of a van. I didn't see much, they beat me around, and after a few days, they threw me out at Hyde Park, so I made my way back here.”
“You were kidnapped?” said the Superintendent.
“Yes sir,” said Edison. There was a long pause as the Superintendent linked his fingers and stared at Edison, his eyes flicking as they scanned every inch of the Inspector's face.
“Do you know who it was that attacked you?”
“No, sir. They attacked me from behind.”
“I see . . .” he said. “Do you know why they let you go?”
Edison shrugged and shook his head.
“I have no idea, sir.”
The Superintendent leaned back in his chair, staring at Edison.
“You've created quite a mess for me here, did you know that?” asked the Superintendent. “After you went missing for two days, without a trace, we reported your case to the media, in the hopes someone might have seen you. For a whole week, it was headline news: London Officer Missing.”
“I didn't know,” said Edison, feeling guilty. The Duke didn't tell me that we'd come back a week late.
The Superintendent held up a finger, to signal Edison to remain silent.
“That's when questions start coming in from all sides. Why did he disappear? Why was he alone? Why was he armed? Who's fault is it? Who's to blame? The I.A. came through here, through my precinct; alongside some unified bloody “task force” - army men charging through - all accusing us for the disappearance of one of our own officers. There was word of homophobia in the media. A hate crime, in this day and age!”
Edison's blood turned cold. He hadn't told his boss that he was gay, he'd told almost no one because it was a private matter. How could they have found out?
“Then, through all this talk of corruption, gay-bashing & the rumour mill churning out cock-and-bull, you come waltzing through my door, fit as a fiddle. It raises more questions than it answers, Edison.”
“I'm sorry, sir,” said Edison.
“Don't be sorry, be smart,” said the Superintendent. “I don't know where the hell you really were, but no one out there is going to believe your “kidnapped” story, I sure as hell don't. You passed firearms training above the margin, on a bad day, you've outperformed some of my seniors, and then this happens.”
“I don't know what to tell you,” said Edison. “I really was kidnapped, just . . . I can't explain.”
“Enough,” said the Superintendent. He looked more sad than angry. “You're a damn good detective and a good man. I don't want to believe that you've gone and done something wrong, but we have to deal with this all properly. We're gonna give you a check-up and a drug screen, check your story-”
“Sir! I never broke the law!” Edison snapped.
“Be silent, Detective Inspector!” the Superintendent snapped, and his voice alone was explanation enough as to why he was the boss. “I want to believe you, Edison. I want the truth to be that you've been dragged off on some misadventure and been dropped right back on my doorstep, in one piece, like a goddamned miracle! But it's my job to suspect the worst and prepare for it, and the only way to deal with this is to call the media, tell them we've found you and we're still investigating what happened. If it turns out you're on the straight and narrow, then I'll feed them your kidnapped story, but until then, I have to take this very seriously.”
Edison was angry, but he nodded. He didn't want to be paraded around like a crook, but he couldn't tell them the truth. If this is what it took to be accepted back on the force, he'd do it.
“Alright, sir,” said Edison, standing up. Without being asked, he removed his police duty belt and placed it on the Superintendent's desk. “I'm guilty of nothing; I just hope I can prove it.”
The Duke was at the console of the timeship, checking the sensors, while Anise sat on the velvet couch, arms folded and legs crossed. She was sullen, but the Duke didn't seem to notice. After a while, he smiled, satisfied with the readout and turned around to his companion, his smile faded.
“Are you hungry?” he asked.
“ . . . no.” said Anise, then she stared at him, silently.
“Is something the matter?” he asked.
“I don't understand why you're so keen to run after this guy,” said Anise. “Couldn't we do something else? Something that's not chasing after aliens? Something more fun?”
“Anise, that man has very powerful alien technology, in the form of those jump-jets, and I cannot understand that unnatural strength that he possesses. Either he's an alien that can hide amongst humans, or some kind of man possessed. Perhaps a very convincing android, either way I need to know why something so powerful is on your planet.”
“What if he's just likes saving people?” said Anise. “What if he's just like you?”
“Then we'll find that out,” said the Duke. “I don't want to hurt him, Anise. I just want to know his motive, for sure. It's my duty as a Duke - and a time lord - to make sure that the presence of this man will not cause disorder on this planet. If you want, after we've dealt with this, then we can do something fun.”
“Okay,” said Anise, unfolding her arms and sitting them in her lap. The Duke turned around to check the readout again.
“Duke . . . do you remember when we went dancing?” asked Anise, a little self-consciously.
“Of course,” said the Duke, offhandedly. “I could never forget it.”
“What did that mean?” asked Anise, nervous. “I keep wondering if that meant something more, it felt so close. Did you mean something more by it?”
“It didn't mean anything,” said the Duke, making Anise's heart sink. But he continued, “it’s just an Oathacan hwalgas, from Rathea. It's just a couple's dance, there's no ritual to it.”
“I didn't mean the dance . . .” mumbled Anise, she looked over at the Duke, and sighed. “I wonder what the Oathacan word for 'friendzone' is . . .”
“Plasma burn!” yelled the Duke, tapping one of the screens, and turning around. “The signature is across town.We need to hurry, so we'll get there in the ship. Hold on tight!”
Night had recently fallen outside the apartment building, when the timeship rematerialized on the corner of the block, a large metal elevator cabinet with exposed metal brackets. The doors opened and the Duke ran out of the Lift.
“There, plasma burn,” said the Duke excitedly, pointing at a dark mark on the ground. He turned to see Anise walking out of the ship behind him.
“Alright. Where's the superman?” asked Anise.
The Duke looked up to the top of the apartment block.
“Nowhere to go but up,” said the Duke.
“If he's up there, why didn't you land the ship on top of the building?” asked Anise.
“Because the signature was here,” said the Duke matter-of-factly, pointing at the scorch marks in the gutter. “Come on, we'll take the stairs.”
The Duke walked towards the glass doors leading into the apartment block, but it was locked. He takes the laser spanner out of his pocket and points it at the door; with a clack the electronic lock released and he opened the door, then Anise followed as he lead the way inside. There was no lift, so they climbed up the stairs to the roof. They quickly reached the door onto the roof, so the Duke carefully opened the door to checked outside before stepping out.
“There he is,” said Anise in a harsh whisper. The man was standing a foot or so in front of some kind of standing vent on the roof. They watched as he pointed his right hand at the vent, and a thin, red beam shot towards the vent, where it burned it let off a thin strip of wispy, white smoke, then he lowered his hand to his side . The Duke flung the door open and stepped out onto the roof.
“Stop right there, sir,” said the Duke. The man's head turned to see him as he approached. “I don't mean trouble, but I demand to know what your goal is here.”
The man swiftly turned to look at the Duke and swung a punch at his face. The Duke caught it with his left hand, but the man swung with his free hand into the Duke's hip. The Duke growled in pain, grabbed the man by the throat, lifting him off the ground slightly and slammed him into the vent-box,denting the top deeply, and he held him down.
“What in all of time are you?” the Duke seethed.
Despite the violent throw, the man looked unaffected; his hair wasn't even dishevelled. He pointed his left hand at the Duke, looked him in the eye, and then his hand seemed to flicker away, in a pattern of geometric shapes, like dismantling polygons, down to the wrist. Underneath, was a thin almost-skeletal silver hand with black knuckles and white, textured pads on the fingertips and the edges of the palm; in the centre of the hand was a thin, blue, rectangle, like a small, neon light. It glowed briefly then fired a blue, pulsing beam. The Duke was thrown off the man, landing on his back.
“Duke!” screamed Anise. “Are you alright?!”
“Stay back,” said the Duke, sitting up, “I can handle this.”
With a hissing sound and a whoosh of fire, the man suddenly rose to his feet, swinging upwards while stiff as a board, and the Duke rolled to the side, and rose to his feet.
“I don't want to fight you!” yelled the Duke. The man raised his right hand, and as before, the surface skin disintegrated revealing a skeletal hand, but instead of a blue rectangle on the palm, the thumb was dark black with a glowing, red line to the thumb-tip. The Duke dove to the side as it fired a thin, red beam. This beam was very bright and with one burst there was a flash of glowing, red embers and smoke where it hit the concrete. the man turned the laser weapon at the Duke again, and he ran for the stairwell, ducking behind the doorframe as it fired at the spot he had just been occupying, scorching the concrete.
The Duke was face to face with Anise as he caught his breath.
“Are you alright?” asked Anise. “This is starting to seem like a bad idea.”
“Doing the right thing is usually a bad idea,” grunted the Duke as he reached into his pocket to retrieve his spanner.
“Can I help?” asked Anise.
“Just stay safe,” said the Duke, adjusting the controls on the laser spanner.
Then, he walked onto the roof again, pointing his spanner at the man. The prongs of the spanner let off a small, purple spark of energy, and red light on the thumb-laser went dark. The man swapped hands, so the Duke pointed the laser spanner again, pressing a button, but nothing happened. He pressed it three times, but it didn't work.
“Oh, drat,” said the Duke. The man fired a pulsing beam of blue light at the Duke which repelled him backwards. He maintained the repulsor beam as the Duke fell over, rolled backwards, and was pushed off the edge of the roof.
“DUKE!” screamed Anise. The beam ceased and Anise ran over to the edge of the rooftop. She saw four fingers gripping the edge, and leaned over to see him dangling by one hand. Anise lay on her stomach and reached out to grab him. “Take my hand!”
The Duke was hesitant, but he put his spanner in his pocket and threw up his arm, grabbing her wrist as she grabbed his. He tensed his arm to pull, but Anise started to slip forwards.
“Bloody hell!” she screamed. She grabbed the edge of the building with her free hand. “You're really heavy.”
The Duke frowned, then glanced down at the ground, eight storeys below at the sidewalk, untended garden and iron fence
“Let go,” said the Duke.
“No,” Anise said, her voice quiet, like a whimper, she was starting to shake from the strain. “I won't let you fall.”
“It'll be alright,” said the Duke. “Just let go, I don't want you to fall with me.”
“No, I can't.”
“Let go,” said the Duke. “Even if I die, it doesn't matter; everything will be alright.”
“I won't let you die!” said Anise.
He let go of the rooftop with his left hand.
“NO!” screamed Anise. “No no no . . . someone, help! Please!”
She held on tight with her hand, but she was losing her grip on the roof, she was being dragged down.
“Anise, let go!” ordered the Duke. “You'll fall!”
“I won't let you die . . .” she grunted, hair falling over her face. “I won't let go.”
Behind Anise, the man appeared, and he grabbed her by the upper arm.
“No! Leave her alone!” screamed the Duke.
But then the man stood up and walked backwards, bringing Anise to her feet and pulling the Duke up, together. As soon as his waist was at the edge of the rooftop, the Duke grabbed the sides and began to pull himself up.
“Watch your step,” said the man, in a very formal, British accent.
Anise wiped tears out of her eyes as she looked at the man.
“What on Earth . . .” she muttered and the Duke climbed to his feet.
“You almost killed me,” snarled the Duke, in response the man just stared at him.
“What are you?” he asked.
The man continued to stare, standing stock still like a store mannequin.
“I know you're an alien,” said the Duke. With a cough, he reached into his pocket and retrieved a maroon pocketbook with a stylized, circular symbol on the front, he opened it to the page bookmarked with a blue ribbon. “I'm the Duke of Rathea. Now what in all of time are you?”
As quick as a flash, the man knelt down in front of the Duke, and bowed his head.
“Duke of Rathea, I humbly apologize,” said the man.
“Next time, you could start with that,” said Anise, her voice still trembling.
The Duke shot her a dirty look.
“On your feet, man,” said the Duke. “And tell me who you are.”
The man stands up straight, and stares blankly into space for a moment, until his entire body begins to dematerialize. From head to toe, large geometric segments faded away, the surface hologram peeling back to reveal a humanoid machine. Its head was smooth, with a large, oval-shaped panel of opaque, black glass in place of its face and forehead. its body was very smooth, polished metal; sleek with miniscule details, of secure panels, unrecognizable ports and tiny, glass panes along the surface of the torso. On its chest was some kind of concave plate built in like a satellite dish without an antenna in the middle and glowing, Its arms and legs were less detailed, but none the less sleek and efficiently designed, except for the lower portion of the legs, which looked like softly glowing, pale-blue tubes contained in metal bracing, with two retractable feet at the base surrounding dark, metal thrusters which must have been the plasma jets.
“The superman is a robot?” asked Anise, bewildered.
After a few seconds, the black glass of the man's face flickered and became transparent, to reveal what looked like caterpillars. From what they could see inside of the head, there were six in total, each about three inches long, and quite plump, very much like regular caterpillars. However, each one was much shorter than a regular caterpillar, with only six limbs each side; they wore some kind of decorative cloth, bound to them with rings between each leg; The large eyes on their faces, bordered with dotted ocelli, were blue-green, opalescent and compound, like flies & their six, thoracic forelegs were segmented, unlike their six hindlegs.
The space within the head of the machine was separated into two levels, the top level like a gantry overlooking what could only be described as the bridge, as it looked like the interior of a spaceship, only miniaturized like a dollhouse. But instead of dolls, it was populated with insects.
“No,” said the Duke. “It's a spaceship.”
There were three insects on the gantry, reading the computers, two caterpillars in navigational stations at the front; and, in the very centre, one of the caterpillars was curled up into a scoop-like chair, and was looking at the Duke with it's shiny, compound eyes. It chittered the mandibles of its little mouth, and the machine translated in that same, Proper English voice.
“I am Captain Hwitwoo of the H.G.S. Gravid Heavy. We are most sorry for attacking you, our reflexive subsystems identified you as hostile, and so I ordered the attack in the belief that I was protecting my crew.”
“Oh my gosh, that's adorable,” said Anise, giggling, perhaps from hysteria. “They're little caterpillars!”
“Anise, compose yourself,” said the Duke under his breath. “They may be small, but they must be highly intelligent to have built such a complex machine. We're making first contact with an intelligent, alien species; be respectful.”
“Okay,” said Anise, she sniffled, though she couldn't stop smiling. “They are really cute, but.”
Chester Edison sat at a metal desk in an interrogation room, facing the reflective side of a one-way mirror. He'd surrendered his radio, and they'd removed his high-visibility jacket during a check-up, but otherwise he was still wearing the same uniform and vest, although he had removed his hat and placed it on the table. Edison had already given them a statement, and gladly tested for drugs and alcohol as well as a brief psych evaluation and even a medical check-up from a nurse. But they'd found him perfectly healthy, sane and sober. Edison hadn't requested a lawyer, he didn't need one; because, technically, he hadn't been charged with any crime, he was merely co-operating in every way he could to prove that he was an honest policeman.
Edison was just waiting while the other police worked outside. They'd already done all they could without a conviction, and he was sure they'd be letting him go home soon. There was even talk that he'd be put on paid leave for a week or two, basically to rehabilitate. Edison, of course, didn't need any leave, but he knew that this was less for him and more so that the superintendent could keep him at a safe distance while this mess blew over. He was just waiting for one of the officers to come through the door, so they could take him home.
When the door finally opened, however, Edison didn't recognize the man that walked through the door, a very tall, redheaded man with a moustache wearing a suit and tie. He shut the door behind himself and walked to the table, walking slowly and deliberately, so that each footstep seemed to punctuate his movement. He placed a manila file folder on the table, slowly pulled out the chair and sat down opposite Edison.
“Good evening, Mr Edison,” said the man.
“Good evening . . . sir,” said Edison, with a confused frown.
“My name is Dr Felix Gough,” said the man. “I'm with the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, and I've been looking over your case.”
“Case?” asked Edison. Have they decided to charge me?
“Of your abduction,” said Dr Gough.
“Oh, I see,” said Edison. “Good news I hope.”
Edison had meant to lighten the mood, but in response, the doctor sucked his teeth and opened the folder in front of him.
“Are you aware that London has the largest number of public security cameras in the world?” asked Dr Gough.
“That I am, yes,” said Edison.
“Are you also aware that the density of cameras diminishes, the further you travel from the central business district?”
“So, on the night of your disappearance - the sixth of July this year - were you aware that your actions within the construction site on Bishopsgate would not be recorded by video camera?”
“Well, no. I don't think that thought was in the forefront of my mind,” said Edison. “What is this, an interrogation?”
“Just questions, Mr Edison,” said the doctor. “Can I ask when you broke your nose?”
Edison paused for a second. A strange woman in a space-suit cracked it with a gun . . .
“When I was kidnapped, my attackers must have broken my nose.”
“Must have?” asked Dr Gough, looking up.
“Yes,” said Edison. He didn't attempt to elaborate, he wasn't very good at lying on the fly.
Dr Gough took a pen from his pocket, scribbled something on one of the pages within the folder, then placed that page under the rest of the papers.
“Do you know who this man is?” asked Doctor Gough, as he took an enlarged photograph out of the file, spun it around the right way and placed it in front of Edison. Edison leaned forward and could see a grainy, black and white photo of the Duke. Even though it was blurry, there weren't many men that dressed and kept themselves like the Duke. In the photo, he was walking down a sidewalk, looking at something in his hand.
“I'm sorry . . . I've never seen that man before,” said Edison, shaking his head.
He could feel his stomach churning.
“Not long after the time of your abduction, this man was seen in the area around the Bishopsgate construction site,” said Dr Gough. “The only one on a deserted block.”
“And you think this man attacked me?” asked Edison, tapping the photo with his finger.
“We're investigating every possibility.”
Edison felt unsure, in the photo it looked as though the Duke was dialing a mobile phone, but Edison knew that it must have been his laser spanner. Thank goodness they couldn't make it out, in the photo, he almost looked like any other man walking down the street, calling home because he was late. Wait, he does look like just anyone, doesn't he? thought Edison.
“Wait, let me get this straight . . . you have footage of a black man walking down the street late at night, and you just assumed that he was involved in violent crime?”
“That's not what we're saying, Mr Edison.”
“Look, I told you that I didn't see my attacker. I don't know his ethnicity. The last thing I want you to do is assume that he's black.” Edison placed his hand on the photo and slid it back towards Dr Gough. The doctor returned the photo to the folder and looked over some more of the papers.
“Alright then,” said Dr Gough, closing the folder. ”I think that's just about it. You're free to go.”
He stood up and picked up the file.
“What, that's it?”
“Yes, just a formality, really. There were some suspicious circumstances, we had to make sure everything was on the level. I hope you understand.”
“Of course,” said Edison, with a respectful nod.
Dr Felix Gough then walked to the door, and opened it before turning back to Edison.
“Oh, one last thing . . . do you know what day it is today, Inspector?”
“I don't know. Wednesday?”
The doctor paused for a second and glanced at his watch.
“Hmm. it's a Sunday, today. I guess you must have lost track of time . . .”
Edison didn't say anything until the doctor closed the door behind him and left, then he sighed heavily. It's over for now . . . but I can't help but feel like it's not over forever.
The Duke, Anise & the starship H.G.S. Gravid Heavy had left the rooftop, and were standing at the front of the console room of the Lift. The starship was once again veiled in the guise of a nondescript businessman with a green tie; meanwhile, the Duke was flying the timeship from the console, returning them to Hyde Park. so the engine was grinding and whirring rhythmically.
“Our scans indicate that your associate is human,” said the starship, gesturing towards Anise. It was fascinating the way the ship moved, it was so lifelike, except for what it was saying, he seemed like any other human being.
“Anise is a special case,” said the Duke. “I, like you, am merely a visitor here. I know little of the planet, so she is my ambassador. My guide.” the Duke said. “She will not reveal your existence to the peoples of this planet, I promise you that.”
“I understand,” said the starship. “I don't mean to imply any distrust.”
“That's fine,” said Anise, rubbing her arms awkwardly.
There was a light shudder underfoot, and a dull clunk as the timeship landed in the playground. The Duke silenced the engine and turned to the starship.
“So, tell me, why is it that you've come to this planet?” he asked.
“Of course, my lord. We are on a scientific expedition. On our home planet of Ceris, we often struggle to defend our cities against wild animal attacks . . . the cariputo do not possess the gigantism of your kind.”
“The Cariputo are your people?”
“Yes. We have come here to research how the less-developed insects of this world manage to survive against large predators, so that we can improve our own defences to be more effective and less energy-draining than what we've done so far. We were investigating the nest of a wasp species atop that domestus, when you confronted us.”
“Enhancing your defences is a noble mission, captain,” said the Duke, bowing his head respectfully. “But this world is not aware of intelligent alien life. You have caused some disorder by coming here.”
“We recognize this world's pre-lightspeed status, this is why we've constructed our starships to blend in,” said the starship.
“But your actions betray you. Humans are not as strong as your starship, and we saw you lifting a civilian vessel earlier today.”
“That wasn't us,” said the starship.
“Well, it sure as hell looked like you,” said Anise.
“No, you don't understand . . .” said the starship. Suddenly, the ship stood stiff as a board, and the surface hologram dissipated, revealing the humanoid machine underneath, and the cariputo within the head.
“We've been having some difficulties with the ship's reflexive inconspicuity subsystems,” said Captain Hwitwoo. “We don't directly control the actions of the H.G.S. Gravid Heavy while veiled, that is while we're blending in. Human movement and emotion is too difficult for us to replicate in real time. So our computer analyzes and replicates human speech, action and locomotion while we give very basic directions.”
“I don't understand. You're not in control of your own ship?” asked the Duke.
“It's more complicated than that,” said the captain. “Commander Twiput, can you activate the inconspicuity subsystem without the veil, please?”
After a moment, the starship came to life and glanced around, it quickly noticed that Anise and the Duke were staring at it.
“Sorry, I must have dozed off for a second there,” muttered the starship, then it mimed putting its hands in its pockets.
“What is this?” asked the Duke.
“Sorry,” said the ship, walking towards the Duke and offering a handshake which he didn't accept. “Have we met? My name is Gravid Heavy.”
“Grey-vid?” said Anise.
“Yes, how are you?” asked Mr Heavy, offering her his hand instead. Anise shook it, and although the fingertips and palm were rubber, it was a firm, human-like handshake.
“The name is unusual,” said Anise.
“I get that a lot,” Mr Heavy said with a light chuckle.
Suddenly, it let go of her hand and stood up perfectly straight again.
“Move us out to a safe distance, commander, we don't want to crash into her,” said the captain. In response the starship walked backwards, back to where it was standing before.
“As you can see, it's a well-designed facsimile. But lately, the system has been prone to stray from hiding, such as intervening after that vehicular collision.”
“So, you're saying the ship helped those people automatically?” said the Duke.
“Yes,” replied the captain. “It was not our choice to save those humans.”
“What, so, saving people was an 'accident'?” asked Anise, sounding bitter. “So much for a 'superman' . . .”
“Our systems are designed to blend in, above all else, Anise. We mean no disrespect to your people,” said the captain. “ After all, it was those actions which drew your attention to our existence, wasn't it?”
“That and the plasma burn,” said the Duke. He pointed at the plasma jets on the ship's feet. “When you take off using your plasma jets, you scorch the ground, it leaves a distinct burn.”
“We'll have to make a note of that. Officer Twikwa, send that information to the engineers,” said Hwitwoo. One of the cariputo on the gantry level bowed its head and crawled into a small elevator tube, headed for the engineering level.
“Well, we can't allow a ship with a malfunctioning hologram to wander idly around a human city,” said the Duke. “ But, perhaps I can help you. I have some understanding of artificial intelligences. If you wish to enhance your camouflage systems, I could network you to my ship's console and take a look at your computer, see what's causing this error.”
“Of course,” said the captain. “This mission is vital to the development of my people. I would be honoured if a duke such as yourself were to help us.”
“Alright then,” said the Duke, returning to the console. “Can your ship's computer connect to mine wirelessly?”
“Of course,” said the captain.
The Duke activated a holographic keyboard and and screen, as he connected to the cariputo's computer, when suddenly the room filled with the sound of whistling, chittering and squeaks.
“We're connected. I just have to translate . . .” said the Duke. Anise walked up next to him so that she could speak only to him.
“How long is this going to take?” she asked.
“I'm not sure. Why?”
“Because you promised that we could do something fun after we'd dealt with the 'superman'.”
“You don't find this fun?” asked the Duke with a smile.
“No. Duke, be serious. I just don't like you being a duke all the time.”
“I am the Duke. I can't stop being who I am,” he said, frowning.
“I’m not asking you to stop being a duke . . . I'm asking you to be the Duke that took me dancing.”
The Duke looked at her and sighed, softly.
“-hear us? We're receiving you, can you hear us, my lord?” asked the captain, in that familiar, British accent of the ship's computer. The holographic screen on the console showed an image of the cariputo crew aboard the bridge.
“I'm receiving you,” said the Duke. “Now, how do I access this inconspicuity subsystem?”
Anise just went to go sit on the couch again.
When Edison finally arrived home, he felt exhausted. Not sleepy, but worn out. He stepped inside, and looked around. It was a perfectly ordinary house. It was cosy and a little old-fashioned with the floral upholstery on the couch, dark wood tones, a fireplace, china cabinets in the corner and wooden furniture, but it felt like home to Edison. Everything looked like it was where he left it a week ago. He had expected things to be in disarray, as it was police procedure to search a person's home if they went missing. Either they hadn't really searched or they'd been really careful looking through his things.
Before anything else, Edison headed to the bathroom. He threw his work clothes in the hamper and stepped into the shower to wash off the dirt from all manner of different places and times. Then, wrapping his towel around his waist, he combed his blond hair into a neat little cowlick, shaved and washed his face. Then, grabbing his belt and shoes, he went into the bedroom, put the accessories away and got dressed. He chose to dress in a pair of jeans and a mottled grey shirt with a V-neck collar and long sleeves, since it was a little chilly that evening. Then we went and sat down on his couch. He lounged back for a moment, staring at the ceiling, then glanced to the little side table where the phone was. He couldn't see the face from this angle, but he knew someone must have called, so he pressed the button to check his messages.
“You have seven messages.”
Edison leaned forward, looking at his bare feet as the phone beeped, then played the message.
“Chess, it's Dave. We're having a dinner at our place, this Sunday, with the family. If you're not doing anything-”
Without looking Edison presses the delete button, the phone beeps again. The message began, but in the background there was the sound of a lot of people and music, and the messenger sounded drunk.
“Hey, Eddy! . . . don't you think about stayin' at home! You come out man! Come out and party woo-” Edison presses delete again. Stupid drunk dialer probably got the wrong number. The phone beeps and the next message begins.
“Uh . . . this is Sarah. Y'know, everyone's looking for you, I just . . . if you get this message, call the station. Okay bye, just . . . bye.” the phone beeps “Tuesday, five twenty-one p.m.”
Sarah, thought Edison with a sigh as he deleted the message, she's been pining for me for months. I don't have the heart to tell her she's not my type. With a beep the next message begins.
“Chester, it's Mum,” Chester immediately sat up and looked at the phone. “We just got a call from Inspector Morley, he says you just walked into the station.” Edison heard her sigh with relief. “Your father and I have been so worried. Please, call us as soon-”
Edison picks up the phone, cancels the message playback, and dials his parents. The phone rings, and Edison drums his fingers on his pants, impatiently. It rings again. And again. After nine rings, there's a beep and he hears his Mum's voice.
“You've reached Carol and Frank. We can't come to the phone just now, but please leave a message and we'll get back to you.” The phone beeps.
“Uh . . . hi Mum. It's Chester. I'm back, I'm okay, I'm well. I'm back . . . I hope you didn't worry too much, it was just . . .” space, aliens, time travel, “. . . well, I'm home now. I hope I can talk to you soon. Tell Dad . . . well, tell him-”
“Hello?” said a gruff voice on the other end of the phone.
“ . . . Dad?”
“What? Who's this?” said the voice, before clearing its throat. He must have picked up the phone.
“Hi, Dad. It's me, Chester.”
“Oh . . . Chester. Are you alright, boy? Your mother was worried sick.”
“Yeah, Dad, I'm good.”
“Good to hear. What happened to you?”
“I was jumped y'know. By some gangsters . . . look, is Mum there?”
“It's almost two o'clock in the morning, boy. She's asleep!” growled Frank.
“Right. Sorry, Dad . . . I can call another time.”
“That's probably best.”
“Okay. Tell Mum I love her.”
“Will do. G'night.”
“Goodnight,” said Edison. He heard the clatter as his father hung up the handset.
“ . . . I love you too, Dad.”
Edison hung up the phone. He was about to check the rest of his messages, but he realized that he didn't care anymore. He laid himself sideways to lie on the couch, then rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. It's two in the morning, I should get to bed . . .
Edison sat up and went to his bedroom. He sat down on the end of his bed. He didn't feel tired, so he just laid down again, and again found himself staring at the ceiling. It was so quiet, here. He'd gotten so used to noise, all the time. Particularly the whirring, wheezing, grinding sound of the Duke's timeship as it spiralled through time and space.
“No,” said Edison, sitting up again. “The Duke doesn't want me there, he thinks I'm trying to steal his girlfriend. And it's way too dangerous . . .”
Who are you talking to, Chess? . . . you're talking to yourself. Well, then, who are you trying to convince?
Edison got up and switched on the light. He found a fresh pair of white socks, some dark brown shoes & a brown, suede jacket out of his closet. He put them on one by one, then grabbed his iPhone from the charger at his bedside table and his wallet.
Then, Edison headed out into the living room and towards the door. He opened it and walked down the footpath towards the gate, when he stopped. The streetlights were the only illumination on his quiet, sleeping street & he felt strange leaving his house without his uniform on and so late at night, he felt vulnerable.
His police equipment had come in handy more than once through time and space. But he wasn't a policeman anymore, he was on mandatory leave and all of his equipment was in his work locker. Edison stroked his chin thoughtfully for a moment, then went back inside.
He searched in his spare room, and found a box of camping gear. From that, he grabbed an empty hiking utility belt, some cable ties and a multi-tool, then closed the box. He strapped the belt around his waist, slipping the tools into the compartments, then headed into the kitchen. In the cupboard above the stove, he had his own mag-lite torch, which he added to his belt, as well as some notepads and pens he stored there. Then, after some hesitation, he went to his bedroom, and retrieved his own set of handcuffs and keys from his bedside table, then fetching his keys from the key rack in the cupboard, Edison headed out to his garage. He switched on the light and walked over to a locked, steel box he kept under the bench; a gun safe. He knelt down in front of the safe and paused for a moment. He rubbed the key in his fingers as he thought to himself, I could get in a lot of trouble for this. Finally, he unlocks the case and opens the lid, I could get in a lot of trouble without it. He adds the gun to his belt, and prepares to head out, into the unknown . . .
The holographic screen on the console was showing several lines of code, half-translated, with several sections highlighted and underlined. The Duke was frowning deeply.
“I don't understand what all of these numbers mean.” said the Duke, running his finger along the side of the screen.
“Alright. Well, I believe I've found the problem,” said the Duke
“Really?” said Anise, heading over from the couch. “What is it?”
“See here?” said the Duke, pointing to several highlighted lines of code. “These are the recordings of when the ship has done something that put it in danger of being discovered.”
“Those are just lines of code,” said Anise.
“It's compressed, for the report. See, look . . .” the Duke tapped his finger on the lowest highlighted section. The screen was then filled with a short video.
It looked like footage of a sidewalk at night, filmed from eye level. Anise soon realized that it was from the perspective of the ship. As it walked past some women in skimpy dresses, someone started yelling.
“Come here, ya bastard! I'll bash yer skull in!”
The ship ran faster past the crowds, until it saw two drunk men, one on the ground, bleeding from his nose, the other standing over him. It grabbed the attacking man's hand.
“You don't want to do that.” said the ship's voice.
“Get off, ya fag!” The man yelled at the camera, then threw a punch that made Anise flinch as it hit the camera, making it flicker. Then he started screaming; he'd broken his hand. The camera turned to the man on the ground.
“Are you alright?” asked the ship, as a hand came into view, offering to help the man up.
“Yeah, cheers, mate.” standing up.
Then the video ended, returning to the screen full of code.
“There are several records like this,” said the Duke. “But if these numbers are timecodes, that means the earliest record of an anomaly is here.”
The Duke scrolled up and pointed to another highlighted record, this record looked different, as it was highlighted, but also had a red outline.
“What's that?” asked Anise.
“That's an out-of-character error,” said Captain Hwitwoo, through the comm. “If the system encounters a social situation that it isn't prepared for, the program goes into recovery mode, so that it can adapt to the situation and learn how to handle it in the future.”
“So what was the error?” asked Anise.
“According to these logs . . . ” Hwitwoo paused for a moment. “We tripped over.”
The Duke pressed the highlighted section and it played another video.
From that same eye-level perspective, the ship was looking across the street as it crossed the road. After a few seconds, the vision flipped downwards, and two hands appeared as it braced itself and landed facedown. Luckily, the face didn't collide with the ground.
“Oh my god, are you alright?” called out a voice. The camera looked up to see a young black girl, a teenager, run over and kneel down, holding out her hand. The video stared at her for a moment. “Here, come on.”
The girl leant down closer and the hand disappeared from view as it grabbed his shoulder and helped him to his feet. Car horns started to blare.
“Just wait, you idiot!” the girl yelled at the car, then the pair walked to the side of the road. “You could've been run over, if you weren't so lucky.”
The video ended abruptly.
“Nice girl,” said Anise.
“I think I understand the problem,” said the Duke. “The system was adapting to a new situation, so it was in danger. Then it witnessed a girl running over to help it. The system must have learned from that.”
“That you have to do everything you can to help people in need . . .” said Anise.
“Exactly. But that's putting it in danger. It's already risked revealing itself at least half a dozen times.”
“So, what can we do about it?” asked Anise.
“Simple,” said the Duke, pointing the highlighted entry log again. “I just have to delete this, and the program will forget about it. It will return to normal.”
“What?!” screamed Anise. “No, you can't just delete the memory of that girl.”
“Anise, we've been over this . . . it puts the cariputo at risk.”
“What about all those other people at risk? He saved that woman today..”
“Anise, It wasn't built to be a hero.”
“Is anyone? You're going to turn him into another passive bystander. How can you call that 'normal'?”
“The cariputo want to be a passive bystander.”
“Gravid doesn't,” said Anise.
“Anise, please . . .” mutters the Duke. “It's a machine.”
“A machine that made a choice. We ran into it because we were doing the same thing he was, trying to help someone in need.”
“You don't understand,”
“But what about them?” asked Anise. She flicked her finger over the screen rolling through the data. “What about all of these people?”
Anise pointed at the screen, accidentally clicking the last highlighted section. The video of the last recording started to play.
In the video, someone was leaning over a ledge, screaming.
“No no no . . . someone, help! Please!” Anise recognized her own voice.
“Anise, let go! You'll fall!” the Duke screamed. It was the scene from earlier that night, but from the ship's perspective. The video seemed to zoom in rapidly as the camera ran forward.
“I won't let you die . . . I won't let go.”
A hand appeared as the ship reached down and grabbed Anise's arm. Then the video stopped.
The pair of them stood there in silence for a moment, then Anise marched up to the H.G.S. Gravid Heavy. The ship was slightly taller than her, but she looked at the captain sitting in his chair.
“If Gravid hadn't saved us, we wouldn't even be here helping you!” she yelled. There was a beep from the console behind her as Anise pointed an accusing finger. “You don't have to put yourself at risk just to save people, but it's not right to stand by and watch when someone else needs your help!”
The captain glanced around the bridge, when Anise turned back to look at the Duke. He was looking at the screen again, confused.
“What did you just do?” he asked, turning around.
“Your companion triggered an out-of-character alert,” said the captain. “No one's ever yelled at the ship before.”
“Well, the program adapted,” said the Duke. he tapped the latest entry on the screen, and it played a video of Anise yelling her speech, from the ship's perspective:
“You don't have to put yourself at risk just to save people, but it's not right to stand by and watch when someone else needs your help!” then the video ended.
The Duke turned and stared at the screen.
“Captain Hwitwoo . . .” said the Duke, turning. “This is the first time I've seen your kind of adaptive technology, but do you think this might be the solution? Does the program understand human speech?”
“Of course,” said the captain. “It's programmed to be able to talk.”
“Then, if it understood what Miss Trevino said, perhaps it learned from it. It was adapting to the situation.”
“We can't be sure,” said the captain. “We don't have an artificial intelligences expert aboard.”
“I understand,” said the Duke. “But I think this problem is solved. The issue isn't that the ship was helping people, it's that it was doing so with inhuman ability.”
“I don't know if I can take that risk.” asked the captain. “What if someone else discovers us, because the ship decides to help someone?”
“You've seen tonight that humans do help one another. By allowing someone to suffer when they're in need, you could also draw attention to yourself.”
The captain considered this for a moment.
“Look, just leave it for a while,” said Anise. “You know how to delete the thing if you have to. But for now, don't . . .”
“Alright,” said the captain. “We'll test it out, and see if we can't blend in. Raise the veil, commander.”
With that, the surface hologram reappeared around the ship, and it smiled.
“Thank you, Anise,” said Mr Heavy, nodding. “And Duke. Perhaps we'll meet again. But, we'd best be heading off now. There's much research to be done.”
Then, the starship turned and walked out the front doors of the Duke's timeship.
“There. That didn't take so long, did it?” said the Duke.
“It took over five hours,” said Anise.
“Five hours isn't a great deal of time,” said the Duke.
“It is to me,” said Anise. “But I'm glad you didn't change him for the worse.”
“That was all you,” said the Duke. “Now, if I remember rightly, I promised you that I was going to do something after we finished here.”
“Like what?” asked Anise. “It's midnight, we can't go anywhere.”
“Why do we need to go somewhere?” asked the Duke. “I don't need to go somewhere to enjoy time with you, Miss Trevino. You say you like dancing? There's a ballroom on the ship . . .”
It was sunrise by the time Edison drove to Hyde Park. He got out and walked down the path, fully equipped with his hiking belt and pulling a shiny, blue suitcase behind him on its little roller wheels. It was a gorgeous morning, as he walked through Hyde park, looking over the green grass surrounding the playground. The ship was right where he'd left it, and so Edison wanders through the gate and up to the ship. He stops for a moment outside of it and sighs.
“Good morning, old friend. I've missed you.”
The doors opened in front of him, and he steps inside. As he entered the lobby, the first thing he noticed was that he could hear soft music. Is that elevator music?
Tapping on the rear door, it too opened, and he saw himself face to face with the throne room, and its marvellous Rathean decorations.
“What the . . .?”
The music was coming from deeper inside, so Edison heads past the room, though the gallery and opens the doors to an enormous ballroom. The music was much louder inside, and he saw Anise and the Duke, doing some kind of waltz or tango.
“Is this what you two do when I'm not here?” asked Edison.
“Chess!” Anise screamed. She let got of the Duke and ran to greet him, almost tackling him with an excited hug. “I'm so glad you're back!”
“It's good to see you too,” he said.
“Oh, you missed out. We met a superman that was a robot with little caterpillars in it!”
“Uh . . . okay.”
“Inspector!” said the Duke, smiling as he joined them. “It's nice to see that you've made up your mind.”
“It wasn't easy, but . . . I'm a policeman. I can do more good out here.”
“You've made the right decision,” said the Duke. “Should we be going, then?”
“No no, not yet. I want to show Edison how to dance.”
“Me?” said Edison. “Anise, don't be silly. If anything, I'll be teaching you how to dance.”
Anise grabbed his wrist and they both ran to the middle of the dancefloor and the Duke chuckled as stood to the side and watched them both trying to dance together.