Chinese New Year & The Dragons Gate

xdragonkoi-jpg-pagespeed-ic-6lpffncpzp January 28th. Chinese New Year. 2017 – Happy Year of the Fire Rooster!

To be completely honest, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to retell this little story for a while now, & Chinese New Year, is probably the best one I’ll get.

I apologise in advance for any mistelling in this version, but this is a traditional Chinese allegorical story akin to Aesop’s Fables, that’s been retold for millennia, particularly to children around the virtues of perseverance and rewards. As with all verbal story traditions there are many many variants of the tale too.

The (very) abbreviated story is that near the top of the Yellow River in China is a particularly foreboding waterfall, known as “The Dragon’s Gate”. (There is a whole other “prequel” story as to how it came to be there, involving the Yellow Emperor, his grandson, a flood of biblical proportions & a Golden Dragon, which I won’t go into here, but it’s a good story in it’s own right, so Google it sometime).

This story, however, says that at the top of this waterfall, is a Gate, guarded by a Golden Dragon, and that any fish that can successfully make it’s way up the waterfall & over the gate, is transformed into a beautiful and powerful Dragon. Every year in the spring Koi swim up stream, getting stronger up against the current until finally they come to the waterfall. Some turn away, discouraged by the rapids, others try and fail, but those with the most determination and perseverance, manage to make it to the top and are indeed transformed into Dragons.

I hope that the Year of the Fire Rooster is the year that  we all pass through our own personal Dragon’s Gate’s and transform into Dragons!

(A more detailed telling of the story can be found here)

 

 

 

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The Tales of Doc Baroque (Part 5)

Lacertine, a Lizardman was the character of a fellow player. I incorporated him in this story with his permission.

The Flight of Lacertine

That evening we ate as a trio, it was the first time I’d had both the Doc & Sister Fister’s company together. It was afterwards Doc Baroque enquired,

“Do you play billiards by any chance? A little like your snooker or pool”.

“I played a little pool when I was at college,” I lied. In fact I’d played a lot of pool when I’d been at college. I’d been the campus champion two years running, while studying & had supplemented my meagre funds while a student hustling the local pool halls.

“Close enough. Here, come with me.” And with that he led me across the study to one of the book cases, moved a couple of old volumes to reveal a handle. He pulled down the handle, & the whole bookcase swung open. Revealing a staircase. He led me down the staircase into another room, decorated in a similar classical style, wall to wall bookcase, juxtaposed with modern computer or electronic devices. He pulled back a dust sheet revealing a large billiard table. As he began to set up the table, he began to speak.

“Here we are, the cellars, & our nerve centre. It’s not often we have visitors & even rarer to find one who might like a game.” He indicated the table, “This is where we keep all our research, & documentation, my father writings were just the first of our collection. They’re over there” he said nodding to the furthest wall, “Similar works, though not nearly as complete as my fathers were discovered in 1945 in Nag Hemmadi. Those ones over there, we rescued from Oparnplatz in 1933 from the hands of the Nazi’s. There’s some extremely old Chinese works over there that we had smuggled out of China after the Cultural Revolution, and some early masonic stuff we acquired during the chaos of the Civil war in the America’s. They’re all copies & without the originals we can’t fully prove their authenticity, but the content appears to be genuine enough, & if it is, then some of the content at least would be contemporary with the library at Alexandria. There’s some early Persian codices over there. And this little lot,” he paused chuckling to himself, “comes from the Vatican archives” he grinned “We broke in ourselves for those ones back in the early 1900’s. Was shocking how they were being cared for. It’s incredibly diverse, but it all has one thing in common, it’s esoteric and has proven to be invaluable in our little venture here.” He smiled. “It’s all been archived, documented & digitised so we can cross reference one cultures’ mythology against anothers. Fascinating stuff”.

Billiards

I stood dumb-founded. “Shouldn’t this be made available to the world, the knowledge you have at your fingertips…..” I trailed off.

“Whatever for? I mean this is all information that was being kept from the public for whatever reason. I like to think of it as preserving it. IF it were to ever go into the public domain, you think it would bring some sort of harmony? No, it would just give people more to argue & start wars over, not that people need an excuse to have one of those. & you think scholars & academics could actually ever agree and come to some sort of conclusion? That would be a first in mankind’s entire history. Besides, “ he grinned again “it gives Cecilia & I our edge, our specialised services aren’t just about pure strength & might you know, there’s a great deal of intelligence that is often also needed, and stealth.”

With that he indicated the billiard table, “You can break” he said. Despite my mis-spent youth in the pool halls of home, I was soundly beaten, my only consolation was that my youth had at least given me an eye for the game, but the rules were so far from pool or snooker, that I was always going to be at a disadvantage.

As we played billiards, more Brandy flowed and the evening turned into night. It was then Doc, only slightly inebriated began to open up once again about his & Sister Fister’s adventures…

 

I told him I’d read about the Zomborg in the afternoon, & enquired as to what had come of him.

“Ah, The Zomborg, and that Supreme Hero City,” Doc chuckled, “Ghastly place, although, I must say not due its inhabitants. That Lizard fellow we met there, Lacertine I believe, not our first encounter with him, if I recall.”

I looked at Doc silently, in the hope that’d he’d go on.

“Yes, Lacertine. I don’t recall the exact date, but would have been the mid 1800’s. Cecelia & I were in South America, in the Andes or somewhere, the old Incan territories in modern day Equador & Peru, or perhaps it was the Aztecs, I don’t really recall to tell the truth. We were infact there as we were looking for some additional material for our little library here to tell the truth.”

He paused to draw on his cigar, & leant to the side a little leaning on his billiard cue.

“Anyway, we were deep in jungle, hundreds of miles from anywhere you might consider civilisation, or indeed anywhere where man had even set foot for centuries if ever, seeking out an ancient temple, & we’d become lost. We had long since run out of any of our supplies, and were reliant on hunting the indigenous wildlife merely to survive. We’d settled down not far from a large swamp, in the hope that the following day we would be able to press on with our quest. However, that was not to be. That night, we were taken unawares & set upon by a tribe of amphibian men, captured and taken to their settlement.

We were held captive there for perhaps a week. We were not mistreated other than being held against our will and from what we could gather were for all intent and purpose a peaceful species.”

“It’s a shame, the same couldn’t be said for all the inhabitants of the vicinity.” Interjected Cecilia.

“Yes, quite.” Said the Doc.

“Those evil Lizard people.” She interrupted, “They were dreadful. You see, it transpires that these Amphibians were for all practical purpose slaves to another tribe of Lizard men who’d ruled this area since before man. The old tales of you hear tell of about Quetzacoatl and the like infact had their origins in the Reptiles. IT was them that ruled the region, it was them the Inca’s and Aztec’s worshipped. They had no more status than the poor amphibians, it’s just that human history has put them down as myths and legends. But they were and are as real as you or I. The sacrifices you hear about before humans finally abandoned the region were to these Lizard ‘gods’. & the lizards would keep taking the tributes and sacrifices to as the main part of their diet!”

“Indeed,” said Doc, taking over the tale again, “I was just getting to that. As I was saying we were held captive there for perhaps a week. It was at day break though, that we were awoken by a commotion outside. A platoon of the Lizards had arrived for tribute from the subjugated amphibians, & it was us that was offered to them! They’d kept us to offer as the next sacrifice to save their own hides.

“And so we were unceremoniously marched through the forest for a day or two where until we arrived at the lizards’ main city, a well-defended stepped pyramid deep in the mountains surrounded by other Lizard dwellings.

We were hauled before the Lizard Empress & her Praetorian gaurds. “Humansss, yess” she said “It is many ssun cycless sssince we have dined on human flesh. Thesse sspecimens will do very nicccely. Take them to my sssister, the high priessstess, they will make exxcelllent sssacrificces to bring back the moon in sseven daysss”

We were locked away in cells deep in bowels of the pyramid, more like some reptilian larder I suppose.”

Sister Fister again took over the story, “It was dark, dank, humid and all but silent down there. It the air was stale, and stank from years of squalor. It took a while for eyes to become accustomed to the dim lighting, especially from the damage they’d received in the Zigonian space craft. Our hearing on the other hand didn’t need the same time to adjust. I could hear a constant dripping noise from within the cell, & the scurrying & squeaking of rats or some other such vermin. We sat mostly in silence, but did talk together about our predicament. We knew that we would be held for a week before the next new moon & presumed that was when we would be sacrificed. It was then that a third unknown voice interrupted.

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“Your prethumption ith correct” it interjected. “You will indeed be thacrifcthed to ensure the return of the moon to the night thky.”

“Who said that? Who is there?” Doc asked, startled, it was still too dark to make out,  “What are you doing here? Show yourself” & instinctively he readied himself to fight.

“Have no fear,” the voice said, “I will do you no harm. I am Lathertine and I am altho a prithoner here, although I know your fate will come much thooner than mine.”

He shuffled forward out of the gloom but it was still too dark to really make out who we were talking too.

“If you reach over your head againthst the wall there, you’ll find thome lichen. Thcrath it.”

We did as we were bid, and along with a most revolting aroma that made the stench of the rest of our cell smell comparatively pleasant, it began to glow, dimly to start with, then it slowly increased its luminosity until we were bathed in a light comparable to dusk. It was only then we could make our company out. It was another of the Lizards, however this one had a shock of blonde hair on his head & top lip.

“Itsth a natural defenth mechanithm of the plant to give off that pungent thmell when itsth dithturbed, but a thide effect ith that it altho glowth, be careful though the gath it gives off ith highly flamable. My nocturnal vision ith rather acute compared to you apeth, tho I have no need of it, but I imagine it benefitsth you.”

We eyed him somewhat suspiciously, but thanked him.”

Doc then again took over the tale.

“Yes, we talked for many hours into the night. Well I say that, he mostly talked, we mostly listened. He explained firstly why he was also a prisoner. The lizard people live in a very rigid militaristic matriarchal social structure, with one queen who will lay vast batches of eggs. If the eggs are then buried near the swamp and the mud is kept wet, it will produces male off-spring. However, one or two eggs in every generation, once buried, the mud is allowed to dry, & kept warm in the sun. This produces female off-spring. One queen can produce thousands of children and this is how they control their population numbers. I suppose much like a nest of ants or hive of bees. The vast majority of the males, once hatched are raised on their normal flesh diet, but all the females, and a select few males are returned to the queen who produces a milky like substance which these few are raised on until adolescence. This stimulates the growth of wings in these few, and these mature into the patrician ruling elite, the Queens’ Praetorian Guard, the army officers & the High Priestess. While the rest, exclusively male are the soldiers, and slave masters, and one or two are selected as shaman.”

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He paused to pour some more brandy, silently offering Sister Fister & I some while he lit another cigar.

“However, very, very occasionally this lactated substance can cause a recessive gene in the infant lizard to be triggered, & instead of their wings being stimulated, it stimulated hair growth. And this is what had happened to this fellow Lacertine, so although he was of royal lizard lineage, he was essentially classed by his people as a throwback, & freak, so had been locked away in the cells since his childhood.”

As our evening rolled on, the Doc & Sister continued to talk about their conversation with Lacertine & the Lizard society. How their culture was built around their worship of the sun, moon & stars, & how they were required by the Priestess & Shaman to make sacrifices to the moon monthly to ensure its return to the night sky, & how the Shaman in particular would use the intestines from their victims to predict future events. In their ancient past, there had been an uprising of their human slaves, which had been brutally quashed. Those that had survived had fled. So for many generations the Lizardmen had made do with sacrificing their Amphibian slaves, however, apparently their flesh is not quite as succulent as human.

shaman

“The following day, or at least after some semi-restful sleep, the true passing of time was hard to tell in that place” Doc continued, “We were awoken by Lacertine offering us some food.  Not having eaten for the best part of the previous day we readily accepted it. “What is it?” I enquired.

Lacertine replied, smiling “Fresh rat, captured thith morning!” clearly proud of his culinary prowess.

Cecilia & I glanced at each other momentarily, “Mmmn, good. Tastes a little like chicken,” she lied.

We ate anyway. And the conversation turned with our new friend turning to the possibility of escape. To begin with he was quite reticent, insisting that this prison was inescapable, & even if we were to get out of the cell, the twisting maze of passages meant we’d never see the light of day again. Besides, we as puny humans would be no match for even the weakest of Lizards. It was then I made a wager with him. I explained the rules of arm wrestling to him & said if Cecilia, a ‘mere human female’ could beat him, then he must accept to help us escape. He eyed us suspiciously, then looking at Cecilia’s apparently feeble frame accepted.

They settled down to wrestle, & of course Cecilia won. Lacertine was astonished, and somewhat taken aback. Not understanding how a human could beat him. We explained about our abduction & what had happened to us.

Reluctantly, he agreed to help us & together we conspired to escape. It transpired that the day before we were to be sacrificed we would be transferred to the preparation room where the rituals required to cleanse us would be undergone, & that would be the best time to attempt to escape.

So all we could do was sit & wait for a few days. We passed the time exchanging stories, us about our adventures, he about the traditions & legends of the Lizardmen, & the great army the queen had been laying for many seasons now with plans to reconquer the continent with.

Finally the day came, a single guard entered, clearly not expecting any resistance from humans, but he was no match for the three of our combined strengths & we quickly over-powered him. Lacertine donned his uniform & we quickly exited.

Lacertine led us through what seemed to be miles of twisting corridors. One thing I will say is he was right about was that we would never have hoped to find an exit without his assistance. Eventually he turned to us signally us to be quiet, & he approached a door into a large chamber. Apparently, this was the preparation chamber. Lacertine indicated we needed to slip passed silently, but Cecilia hissed between her teeth,

“No. We have to get in there into the hatching chamber he told us about. We have to destroy the eggs. If we don’t she’ll continue to grow a massive army & take over the whole of South America, & then God knows what next.”

She was right. Lacertine & I looked at each other, nodded & burst into the High Priestesses chamber. With her were two Shamen, a Lizard captain, & two more guards. This wasn’t going to be an easy fight, but it was too late, we were committed. We did at least have surprise on our side & we eventually overcame them. Both Cecilia and I sustained some serious burns, & Lacertine himself was badly cut across his chest & what I can only imagine was the Lizard equivalent of bruising. We took a few minutes to gather ourselves & breath. Fortunately for Cecilia & I, our rapid healing kicked in & our burns began to repair.

Battle 2

We made our way into the hatching chamber. The sight before us was astounding, hundreds upon hundreds of what I can only describe as nests made out of damp mud. Each contained half buried, between two to five eggs, and each egg, through its semi translucent leathery shell, you could clearly see a lizard embryo. Once again we could smell the pungent aroma from the luminous lichen. It was then I had an idea. “Quickly,” I said, “The lichen, get as much as you can glowing.” Cecilia, Lactertine & I busied ourselves, agitating the lichen so it gave off light, & clouds of the noxious, smelly gas. Very soon the room was bathed in enough light so as to be like a well light modern room, and we were almost over powered by the revolting stench. We left the room, & I gathered up one of the dis-guarded Lizard fire sticks. I hurled it into the hatching chamber. It worked, the gas instantly ignited into a fireball, pretty much torching the entire batch. I grinned at Cecilia. “There, that should put pay to that little lot.”

We left the Priestess’ preparation room each of us taking a firestick, Lacertine once again leading the way.  Both Cecilia & my burns had all but healed. The same couldn’t be said for Lacertine, he was rapidly losing blood from his injury.

He eventually took us to a final room.

“The only way out isth through here I’m afraid. It’th the Queenth, throne room though. Thith ithn’t going to be pretty.” He said.

“On three”, I said. We braced ourselves, “Deep breaths, one, two, three…” & we burst in on the throne room. There she stood in front of her throne surrounded by her Praetorian Guards, the Elite of the Lizard army, two more soldiers were in attendance along with an amphibian slave. The Queen hissed, but it was too late, we were already upon the guards, surprise once again was our ally. We were at least this time armed, & the two soldiers were quickly defeated, which helped even the odds, but these Praetorians were strong & cunning. A long fight ensued. We managed to overpower three of them, but in doing so both Cecilia & Lacertine had been knocked unconscious. That left myself against the last guard. I was exhausted, & he I circled one another, looking for an opening to attack. & then I saw my chance, the big lizard, dropped his guard just fractionally, & I hurled myself at him. My fire stick caught him cleanly in the face, & he was out cold.

Just as I finished him off though, I felt a searing pain in my left shoulder – the Queen had come at me from behind sinking her claws into me, simultaneously she hissed & I let out a scream.

“SSSsssss. You think you can esssscape human? I think not. SSSSsss”, she hissed at me insidiously.

Battle1.png

“I think I can.” I yelled back, & with my right arm, I grabbed her wrist, & pulled out her talons from my shoulder. In one movement I turned, still holding her arm. There was a loud crack as the bones in her forearm broke. This time it was her turn to yell out in pain. The amphibian lashed out with his tentacles & whipped her across the throat, wrapping it around neck. He squeezed the breath from her & she collapsed, unconscious to the floor.

I looked at my saviour, & thanked him. It was then I heard his voice, in my head. He was a telepath.

“We must be quick. Come with me”. He took hold of Lacertine, I took Cecilia, & he led me out. Night was setting, “we have but one night before this is discovered. I will take you to my people. There you will be safe for a while at least,” I again heard in my head.

I quietly we left the Ziggurat, & silently crept out of the Lizards town, carefully avoiding the few remaining Lizards that were still awake.

He led me though the jungle, Cecilia came around, although she had sustained some serious injuries. He & I took turns in carrying the limp body of Lacertine.

“He will recover in time,” I heard again, “but it will not be safe in this region for sometime now. The Queen will desire revenge. She in Empress of not just this Lizard tribe, but all the Lizard towns in this area. She will gather an Army & hunt you three down for this slight.”

He took us to his village, this time not as prisoners. It turns out his people were healers, & mystics. He explained to their chief the events, & as Lacertine had rebelled against the reptiles was now a fugitive. The chief consented to his people healing Lacertine, & by morning he was all but repaired, save for a wound in his upper arm, which was deeply infected.

I sat with their chief, him silently speaking in my head, “You three must leave” he told me, “I have word that the Queen has already raised a force to capture you and they are headed this way.”

“But what about you?” I enquired out loud.

“We will fight them off as best we can. Too long have my people been subservient to the reptiles, but no longer. We will buy you a little time for you escape, but at a great price. This will be my peoples last stand.”

I looked at him dumbstruck. “You would sacrifice yourselves for us?” I asked.

“Not only are my people healers & telepaths, but we are clairvoyant as well. Our time has come. This is our fate.”

“Then all I can say is thank you.” I replied, “Although that seems utterly inadequate”

Again I heard in my head, “No need to thank me my friend. It is foreseen, our destiny. One of my people will leave with to guide you to safety. The one who you escaped with last night.”

And with that, he left. I went back to Cecilia & Lacertine & explained what was to happen.

We gathered our things, & the Amphibian, now a free man led us away through the jungle. We headed north & travelled for many days. Eventually we came to the coast & a small town, at last something  Cecilia & I recognised as civilisation.

“This is where our paths part my brother”, the amphibian said to me. “You must return to your lands from here, I will take Lacertine further north. There is a new country there, the land of California I believe you people call it. Many of your people travel their now seeking a yellow metal from the ground. I foresee one day a great city will be founded where he will be more accepted amongst your people. He has his own destiny, now. I am the last of my people, but after I am gone, in more than 1200 moon cycles the Lizards will rise again. It is his destiny to help prepare your people for their return.”

“Thank you” I said, “Thank you for everything you and your people have done for us, if ever Cecilia & I can help you, we are forever in your debt.”

“We are not destined to meet again my friend, but thank you for your company too.”

Cecilia & I turned to Lacertine to say goodbye, I took his hand & he winced. It was clear the infection had gone but had left his arm weakened and damaged.

Lacert1.jpg

“Here” I said, “take this, I don’t have the slightest intention of needing it on my homeward journey, & have a spare at home. Your need is greater than mine.”

& I unbuckled my arm support & gave it to him. With that we parted, Lacertine & the Amphibian made their way across land to America. Cecilia & I made passage back home.”

Doc reached for another cigar, & offering me one, enquired,

“Another frame of Billiards?”

The Tales of Doc Baroque (Part 4)

This story departs a little from “Doc’s Universe”. However, it had been announced that the game was closing, so I wanted to write an adventure that also included a number of my league & forum friends, so it has departed from the original idea in my head for this particular tale. Maybe one day I’ll rewrite it as I’d originally intended.

Zomborg was another character I created, a Neanderthal that had been reanimated by evil science and enhanced with cybernetic implants. I guess part Terminator, part Hulk, part  Star Trek Borg.

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The Salvation of The Zomborg

“Excellent news.” He said as he briskly walked across the study, “Which story?”
“The succubus.” I replied “The Malevolence.”
“Ah yes. The Malevolence. Well if you don’t mind, I will leave you to your own devices, there is plenty here to keep you occupied, I have some rather urgent matters that I must attend to. “ He smiled & with that walked across to the far end of the study, moved a couple of books from a shelf, revealing a keyhole. From his pocket he pulled out a key, put it in the lock & turned. To my astonishment, the bookcase swung forward, revealing a staircase. “Good day to you sir” were his parting words & he disappeared down the flight of stairs, closing the door/bookcase behind him.
I returned to the journal from Sister Fister, opened where I had left off & began to read again.

(From the Journals of Lady Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert)

Prologue:
doc13On an icy plateau, a lone hominid collapsed exhausted & wounded. Had he stood upright he would have been approaching seven feet tall. A giant for his time and species, which more normally even six feet tall would still have been a prime specimen of Homo-Sapien Neanderthalensis. And he was broad, a physique of pure muscle, even the most physical of Olympian homo sapiens in modern times could not come close to rival. He had spent that day, like most others hunting with others of his kind to take back to the village to feed his clan. But he was never to arrive home. Instead, due to his injuries, sustained while hunting, he exhaled his last breath and died. A small family of lynx-like cats came upon his body that night, and half-heartedly began to gnaw at his corpse, but his flesh was already freezing solid in the cold. By morning that nights heavy snow had covered, & the wind had drifted over him so much that no-one would have known he had even passed there.

The Present Day (Early 21st Century)
Over 5,000 miles away and 350,000 years later Gaylord and I were responding to a fax we had received. This time our talents had been called for by an unassuming middle-aged man, Victor Smith, an American mortician who it transpires was also a bit of a fan-boy of a one Dr Fulkherth, most recently of Superhero City. In trying to emulate his hero’s work, he’d also acquired some of the Dr’s research papers, & was trying to recreate (on a budget!!!), one of the Dr’s more outlandish experiments.
He had somewhat nefariously managed to acquire the frozen remains of a Neanderthal and was undertaking some “extracurricular” work of his own. He had busied himself for some months previously. Meticulously he had fashioned, and with the precision of the obsessive, painstakingly fitted new cybernetic limbs to the damaged corpse. These prosthetics had then been hooked up to an old mainframe he had had stolen, & he had painstakingly created the punch cards required to program them. By some miracle, in short his experiment had actually been a success, but the creature he had re-animated, (And named “Zomborg”), had very quickly proven far too strong to be restrained in his impromptu “laboratory”. Gaylord and I had been engaged to capture “Zomborg” before the authorities did & this man got in deeper trouble for his meddling.
As far as tracking him, this was perhaps one of the easier jobs we’d undertaken, after all a seven foot tall Neanderthal with cybernetic limbs does tend to leave a bit of a trail of an inadvertent destruction behind him and also stand out from the crowd.
Within a matter of days we had followed him to the out skirts of Superhero City. A rather unique metropolis, which attracted some of the most “unusual” people imaginable. SHC was a modern day Mecca for those individuals who through natural mutation, or by being exceeding rich and with nothing better to spend their wealth on, buy physical enhancements, or by just sheer bad luck & freak accident (radioactive insect bites seem to be a popular one in this category), have gained extraordinary superhuman powers. Rather cruelly Gaylord referred to the populace as the biggest concentration of side-show freaks known to man. I chastised him, reminding him of our nature & said that we ought to fit in well then. He said nothing, raising one eyebrow just glared at me. This was, however, going to make the task of finding Zomborg somewhat harder, as he’d sought refuge in the one place he stood a chance of blending in…
It was a warm, sunny afternoon, and we were hot on the trail of Zomborg in one of the slummier districts of SHC when we set upon from behind by a gang of street youths. In any other city in the world, this would not have proven to be a problem with our unnatural strengths. However, we were taken by surprise and these young thugs also, so it appeared had superhuman abilities too. A vicious fight ensued, which neither side was apparently going to win, we were in a standoff and cornered down a seedy alleyway.
It was then that our proverbial “Cavalry” arrived, an ear piercing Wolf’s howl echoed from the main street followed by the shouting in a Scottish accent, “I’ll bite their fookin’ ankles, the wee bastads”.

Round the corner came three figures, the same voice yelling “Kira, Ace, aren’t these the wee feckers we told to nae be roun’ here n’more?”
With that, the street gang looked over their shoulder, & realising that between The Doc, myself & these strangers, they were outnumbered, and fled.
“See Kira, tol’ya they’ll nae mess wi’ tha Bad Mune Wolf”. The leader then looked directly at me, “Ya’alrite doll? C’mon we bes’ get ya and the big man here oot a bit pronto, c’mon, lets tekem te tha Bootcamp.”
Doc & I brushed ourselves off, & introduced ourselves. “Aye, well I’m Bad Moon Wolf, this feller here, wi’ the Ninja moves, he’s Kira, & rockboy there, he’s Ace, pleased to meet yoos”.
They led us for no more than ten minutes, the streets not becoming anymore discernibly salubrious than the alley where we’d met. We stopped outside a run-down old disused YMCA building.
Bad Moon Wolf led the way in, “Welcome ta our Bootcamp. Spawn? Ya here Deathspawn? Come & meet some new guests”
Out of the gloom a shadowy figured stepped forward & bid us welcome,
“Ya better tek these nice folks ta meet tha Brotherhood, Spawn,” & with that, Kira, Ace & The Wolf, left. We followed the Deathspawn down a flight of shabby stairs & through a steel door. Immediately the surrounding, whilst still stark where much better kept, clean, better lit.
“This is the real centre of our organisation, the ground level building is just for show, to keep unwanted interest away.” We were led down another flight of stairs, “This was all excavated out from the old SHC undercity, it serves us well as a main base of operation,”. The winding corridor led to a lift. Spawn pressed the down button & the low whiring grumbling of the mechanics of the lift indicating it was coming filled the air. We stepped into the lift, the doors closed behind us, & we felt the lift shift down. ‘ping’, the bell indicated we’d reached our destination, the doors opened & we stepped out, the choice of two corridors lay before us, Spawn pointed to the left one, ”Down there is the Ice Cavern, that’s where the Penguins are” We could hear the raucous sound of honking & laughter echoing up on the chill from down there.
I looked at him puzzled, “Penguins?”
“Well they’re not penguins really, they’re just a bunch of dumb asses who think they’re penguins. Dress like penguins and everything. Completely batshit crazy mothers to be honest, but they’re great fighters, I mean these guys are psychonuts when it come to a fight, and that’s what’s needed round here so we let ‘em stay. Just take ‘em a couple of buckets of raw fish-heads & bacon once a day, & they seem to be happy. Just a shame they haven’t figured out how to use the bathroom yet, some poor bastard has to clear up their guano once a week. Oh yeah & the one they call chilli, keep away from his porno stash is all I’m sayin’”

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Under his breath and through gritted teeth I heard Gaylord mutter “freakshow” & I threw him a glare.
Deathspawn indicated the other passage, & let us down it. We entered another cavern, the floors neatly smoothed. & a large glass corridor suspended from the ceiling. There, waiting to greet us was a another group.
“Doc, Sister, This is the Brotherhood of the Scout.” We shook hands with a Blonde Lizardman. He spoke with a slight lisp.
“Hello, welcome. I am Lathertine,” he smiled “You’ve already met Death-thpawn here, but let me introduth you to the retht of uth. The thurfing hippie gentleman ith the Dood. Thith thuavely drethed blue chap ith The Blue Dodol. The Viking at the back ith “Bertherker” Harald, & bethide him ith Plathmathtorm. Then in the gantry there’th Thadowcat & Throcky, & on guard duty today guarding our datathenter there is Thling, Huggy & Burning Ithe”

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We greeted each in turn & the foremost six led us past Sling into an office complex. As we walked, Lacertine continued to explain.
“Thith fair thity of ourth, ath you already have gathered I imagine, is thomewhat of a magnet for mithfitth that are shunned by thothiety. Conthequently, hath a thriving population of what one might call a-hem ‘Thircuth freakth’ “ He glanced at the Doc, “Thith population hath become factioned into groupth, that are regularly fighting one another, over territory, turf warth and the like. We are one thuch group, & thee ourthelveth ath vigilante’th keeping thith neighbourhood thafe. I believe you met Bad Moon, Athe9, & Kira earlier who were out on patrol,”
He led us into a meeting room, and the eight of us sat down. “Anyway, enough about uth, pleath, tell uth what bringth you here.”
Between us, Doc & I explained a bit about ourselves and our mission to find Zomborg. PlasmaStorm piped up, “Well if he’s loose in our neck of the woods here, we can probably help. We have a network of over 100 hero’s here in the city sure we can track them down,”.
“Good plan” said The Dood, “Dodol, put a call out”. Dodol smiled & reached for his tablet computer and tapped a few lines. “Done.” He said.
Within minutes, the tablet was pinging back replies of confirmed and unconfirmed sightings from across the city. Dodol grinned, “Efficiency personified. The most recent sighting appears to be from The Libertarian & Texas Tuff, over on the east-side.”
Without being asked Plasma leapt up, “Come on, I’ll take you there” He reached for a set of car keys, and looking at the Dood, said “Mind if I borrow this?”
“Sure,” The Dood replied “Just don’t char the seats like last time man”
Plasma led us back to the lift, bawdy noise & honking could be heard coming up from the ice cavern,
“…Gaylord Barecock… What sort of a name is that?!?…” followed by more peals of laughter and honking “…Sister Fister… Yeah we KNOW what she likes…phnaar” Individual voices were drowned out by more laughter.
Plasma stepped into the lift, & looked at us uncomfortably, “News travels fast round here.”
We stepped back into the dilapidated YMCA building upstairs. There, slumped in the corner was an inebriated body in a gasmask “Don’t mind him, he just comes here to sleep it off and avoid the drunk tank. FJ will be along in the morning no doubt to pick him up” said Plasma storm. The figure rolled over in his sleep, muttering, “Asshat, Douchebag.”

We got into The Doods’ hotrod. Plasma turned they key & it roared into life. He tapped on the screen on the inboard navigation system. Plasma engaged first gear, gunned the engine & released the clutch. We sped away in cloud of burnt rubber & screeching tyres.
Plasma’s redlined the car across town, following the beep on the navigation system. Plasma explained, “Texas has activated his tracker, we’re closing in on that.” Quickly we arrived at our destination. We’d arrived at a large department store already cordoned off by the police. A large crowd had already gathered to the view the spectacle.
We stepped under the plastic tape “Like THAT would stop the Zomborg” I said. As we approached the building an officer stepped forward “Ma’am, Sir’s I’m afraid you can’t go there.” Plasma looked at him “Ah Mr Storm sir, sorry I didn’t realised… carry on”.
The shop front had been smashed & smoke was already billowing from one of the broken windows. We climbed in through the broken glass.
“So, Gaylord, what’s the plan?” I asked.
“Quite simple my dear” he said, and reached for his gun.
“No! you can’t,” I replied, “You can’t kill just kill him.”
“Why not? It’s what we usually do. Never fear my dear, I’m not going to kill him.”
He reached down to his ammunition belt & pulled out some cartridges. No ordinary ones. They were clear & contained a luminous orange liquid.
“What’s he doing?” Plasma whispered.
“It’s OK” I said, “You’ll see.”
Zomborg had gone up the escalator, leaving a trail of destruction behind him. Doc followed, loading his rifle with the specialised ammunition. A cloud of orange gas billowed down.
I put my hand on Plasma’s arm, “Better stay back.”
From upstairs we heard a loud roar, two shots were fired then a loud crash, were followed by quiet.
“It’s perfectly safe now, you can come up.” Doc called from upstairs.
Plasma & I hurried up. There, prone on the ground was the massive inert body of Zomborg, with Doc standing over him, a scarf pulled over his nose & mouth. “Tranquiliser gas cartridges, he’ll be out for maybe a day, & groggy for a few days after that” he explained. We collected Zomborg up, & took him back to the abandoned YMCA building.
The brotherhood, Doc & I peered through a glass window into a Laboratory. The Blue Dodol approached the window & spoke to us through an intercom.
“It’s OK I think, his body looks like it was damaged by the implants, I don’t think they’re removable without killing him. The programming that’s been used is pretty crude though, if I can find a compatible interface I think I can probably do something about that. Leave it with me.”
Blue Dodol worked into long into the night alternating between one of the consoles of the Brotherhoods main computer cluster, & the operating table, soldering iron, wires, cables and tools in hand.
In the small hours he emerged. “It’s done!” he exclaimed, “I managed it, I’ve managed to hack in & re-write his main operating system & command codes, it’ll take some adjusting & tweaking, but he’s going to be OK.”
The Dood addressed the Doc “So what do you plan to do with him?” he asked.
“To be completely honest, I’d not got that far, but it’s becoming very apparent that perhaps the best place for him might be here with you chaps.”
Lacertine beamed “You mean we can keep him?” Oh exthellent! I think he’ll make a marvellouth member of the team.”
“Will mean I can make some more refinements,” said Blue Dodol, “You know I’ve done some research, Neanderthals’ reputation of thuggish stupidity was quite undeserved, they were quite intelligent, but their voicebox wasn’t much more developed that than of a modern Gorilla, but I think I can do something about that, with this little box of tricks & some more coding, I think I can get a much tighter interface between his organic nervous system & the artificial implants, give him his own voice box, & get him working better than ever. I’ll be able to program a basic vocabulary for him too.”
“Exthellent.” The Lizard added, “Plathma, once thith ith all done, perhapth you could take on thome thpeech therapy & elocution lethons…”
“That’s settled then,” Doc said, “we’ll be off.” & before there could be any protests, Gaylord & I beat a hasty retreat. As we exited, We head the now familiar voice of the Dood, “Now Plasma, I need to talk to you about the scorch marks on my drivers seat…”
We headed back to the private runway where I’d left the learjet & settled down for the long flight home…

The Tales of Doc Baroque (Part 3)

The Malevolence was another of my characters, created as a villain, a demoness and succubus.

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The Taming of the Malevolence

I settled down in the comfort of the large, overstuffed, tired armchair with The book proffered to me by Sister Fister, in front of the fireplace, although the blaze from the previous night was now gone, leaving just a pile of still warm ash in its memory, I turned to the first tale, and began to read…
(From the Journals of Lady Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert)
It had been perhaps 50 years since Gaylord & my abduction. The nature of the experiments the Zigonians had performed upon us, were long since a distant memory, although we had by then become familiar with their consequences. When they had initially occurred, I was in my early 20’s & Gaylord had barely reached his mid 20’s, and yet 50 years or so on neither of us looked a day over 30. Other changes had become apparent, & we were both now more than comfortable & adjusted into them. While we were not impervious to injury (& therefore we concluded were by no means immortal) our bodies’ capacities to heal had been much accelerated, save for Doc’s arm of course, to the point that as long as we were alive even from the most gravest of wounds we knew that in a matter of hours or for the most severe of life threatening injury, days, we were confident we would heal back to our full & much enhanced full strength. Doc had experimented with the limits of his strength by undertaking arduous feats that would be beyond that of a “normal” as we now would refer to the rest of humanity – “never mind as strong as an ox, I could take on a herd of them bare handed!” he used to joke.
We were still living in France at the time, although our mission to track down the Zigonian crew was still very much underway, & we were gaining quite a reputation in our chosen field of Bounty Hunters of the Exotic. This being said, we never courted fame or celebrity, & chose to remain as anonymous as we could. We would move on periodically before questions would be asked about our apparent un-aging, & were careful to leave as little a trace of our existence as we could. Over the years our choices of residence became gradually more and more remote.
It was then one morning when a letter arrived addressed to both of us from India. It was from a young lady whose husband, a captain in the British army had been posted to India after the transfer of Governance of the state had moved from The East India Company to the Crown, the Queen.
She outlined how, since moving, her husbands’ sleep & dreams were being disturbed on a nightly basis, how he would awaken in the night in the morning covered in a cold sweat & retell tales of his nightly dreams where he would be tormented sexually by a horned, winged demon woman. She believed him to be slowly going insane, when one evening an elderly woman came to their door & told her the story the “mohini” that had existed in these parts for many centuries, preying on the local men-folk. She begged us for our assistance, before his very soul was taken to hell for all eternity.
I showed the letter to Gaylord, he frowned, & looked up, “Cecilia, have you ever heard of a succubus?”
“No”, I replied.
“We must return to England, I’m afraid.”
& with that, he offered no further explanation, & while I protested asking, demanded & finally pleading for a further explanation, I complied.
No further information came forth from Gaylord until we were already on our journey back to England. Gaylord felt he needed to return to his old home & to see his father, although why he did not say, until we arrived. We found passage on a ship back to Plymouth, & made our way by coach back to Gaylords’ old village. It was during this journey, he finally opened up & shared more with me.

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“Cecilia, I know I have told you little of my former life, but I do know I told you my father was a Minister in our local town. But he was more than that, he would perform exorcisms for the local superstitious fisher men, bless their boats to protect them from storms at sea. He made a study of the super-natural & things beyond science. When I was a boy he would on occasion, tell me stories, well I imagine, coming from him they were warning of the evil that existed within this world and beyond it. One of those tales was about the succubi – they a demonesses that torture the souls of man in much the way that young lady described in her letter. Even as a child, my father had collected a small library of ancient writings on such matters. We need to refer to them, which is why I need to go home”.

& with that, he was silent for the rest of the journey. Upon arrival we checked into a local coaching Inn, a dingy hole, called “The Black Swan”, why we needed to stay there I have no idea, there were much nicer places in town. When asked, Gaylord just smiled & said “Just because…” I pressed him no further.
That evening we sat in the lounge & ate, Gaylord, introduced himself as Doc Baroque, as he was accustomed to, & he enquired about the Reverend Barecock. It transpired that the Reverend was still very much alive although now well into his 80’s. He now lived very much as a recluse, since the death of his wife 30 years ago from consumption, & although was still technically the minister for the town, for all practical purposes the towns’ day to day spiritual needs were seen to by the “young” Curate Brownlowe.
Upon the news of his mothers death, Doc’s face remained unmoving, the only outward sign of emotion was a single tear that rolled down from his left eye. But that night as he lay next to me, while I pretended to sleep, he silently wept.
The following morning we rose a little later than normal & headed to the Vicarage. We knocked on the door to be answered by an unassuming man, perhaps in his late 50’s.
“Curate Brownlowe I presume? My name is Doc Baroque, my partner & I are here to see Reverend Barecock if we may”.
“Good day sir”, the Curate said, “I’m afraid, the Reverend is very frail, and no longer takes visitors.”
“Oh, I think he’ll make an exception for me.”
And with that, Gaylord pushed passed Brownlowe, and entered. More than 50 years had not dulled his memory of his childhood home and he made straight for his fathers & late mother bedroom. I followed.
There, lying on the bed was an elderly man, he was near blind from cataracts. Gaylord closed the door behind us and sat upon a worn counterpane beside the elderly man. He reached out a hand & touched his fathers face.
“Father”, he said.
“Vicar.” The old man replied indignantly, “We’re Baptists here, not Catholic.” While the old mans body was frail, his mind clearly was still that of one perhaps 40 years younger.
“No father, it’s me, your son.”
A long silence fell in the room as realisation dawned across the old mans face. “Gaylord?” he rasped.
“Yes father it’s me”
“But, but they told me you’d died. With those scoundrel friends of yours. They said your body had been washed out to sea. I, I… Your mother & I, the shame of it, Gaylord. She was never the same after that night. Do you remember how bright & happy she always was? After that night, she never smiled again & took to this room, rarely leaving it. You broke her heart Gaylord. This can’t be so, I must be dead, & you’ve come to meet me. Where is she? My Beth, your mother, take me to her.”
“No father, it really is me. I’ve come home. I need, that is we need, your help”
& with that Gaylord picked up his father & carried him through to his study.
Gaylord had told me of his father, clearly the years had mellowed him, we sat long hours throughout the day & into the night. Brownlowe bringing tea & food from time to time. Gaylord told his father of our adventures. His father telling how life had changed for the worse in the Vicarage after Gaylord had left, how his mother had rapidly deteriorated. & of the letter we had received from India.
“Father, remember your old manuscripts, I need them now I need to understand how to defeat this Succubus creature”.
“Yes Gaylord, I still have them and much more besides. After your mother died, I went on a pilgrimage to the holy land. Look.” He gestured to a trunk. Gaylord opened it, it was full of old parchments. “These were sold to me for the princely sum of what must have amounted to a year’s work in that part of the world. But the contents are priceless. Nearly 2000 years ago, there was an early church, the Gnostics, the Zoharists & many more besides. These works are frowned upon by the church, I kept them secret, so much more to the faith than is told in the bible”.
To me, it looked very much like the loss of his wife destroyed the Reverends rigid faith in his church, but opened him to much wider spiritual possibilities.
“Gaylord, my eyes are all but gone, these writings & my translations of them are no longer of use to me, please take them, keep them safe, this in my legacy to you. I’m an old man not much longer for this world.”
“Thank you father, Cecilia and I must leave now but we will be back tomorrow,”
The following day, we rose early as was Doc’s custom & returned to his fathers’ Vicarage. Brownlowe had not yet arrived. Doc let himself in, greeted his father & began to load up his father documents. He had loaded the translations & his father studies and was about to start on the papyri manuscripts, when Brownlowe finally arrived. This time though the man was visibly angry.
“Baroque!” he bellowed. He drew a gun, pointing it at Gaylord. “Baroque. I know who you are. I listened to you yesterday. Do you know who I am?” he snarled through fritted teeth.
“Curate, listen.”
“No Baroque. You listen. My father was constable in this town 50 years ago.”
Gaylord immediately froze.
“Ahh, so you dooo remember. You were there that night were you not? No need to deny it, the men they captured, your partners in crime, confessed everything before they were hanged. But my father, was killed that night on the fight on the beach, run through from behind & cowardly gutted like a pig, by you.”
“No, Curate, I wasn’t much more than I boy myself, I killed no-one that night”
“You were THERE Baroque, that’s enough, guilt by association. You’re the last of them. We all thought you died that night too, but we were wrong. Well time has now caught up with you at last Baroque, you’ll not see another night on this world, Lord help me.”
& the Curate raised his gun at Gaylord & squeezed the trigger. The bullet hit him full in the belly.
I screamed “Noooo!” simultaneously lunging at Brownlowe. Even without my enhanced strength this man would have been no match for me, but in the ensuing melee the Reverends study was smashed, the oil lamp that lit the room was knocked over into the chest of manuscripts. Very rapidly the room went up, the curtains, the furnishings, everything. I grabbed a fire poker & struck Brownlowe across the face & he fell, not dead, but unconscious. I helped Gaylord out of the house, & down the path to our carriage. He was already healing from the gunshot, & I returned to the house to rescue The Reverend. I carried his frail old form out of cottage, & set him down coughing on the herb garden. I tried to go back in for the unconscious body of the Curate, but it was too late – the flames had taken hold properly now & I was beaten back.
“It’s too late my dear,” I heard Gaylord say from behind me, “If he’s not gone by now he soon will be”. & he knelt beside his father’s choking body & held him. We both knew it was too late to save him, the years had taken their toll on him & had been overcome by the smoke & fumes, silently he wheezed his last breath in his sons’ arms. Gaylord clutched his father’s lifeless corpse to his body, again tears leaving traces down his soot stained face.
I don’t know how long we stayed there, Gaylord rocking his father gently.
“Gaylord, we must go, there’ll be questions & we can’t afford to wait.” He looked up at me, nodded, gently lay his father down, & brushing himself off, silently we went to our carriage.
We returned to Plymouth, again in silence, & booked passage to India, now armed with Gaylord’s father’s life work. The long weeks that followed on that journey we filled with studying & reading the Reverend Bertrands’ translations.

We were perhaps little more than a week from Bombay, when we, or more precisely, Gaylord finally found what he’d been looking for, there were pages of information on the succubus. According to these Gnostics writings, and for all my convent education, I these were quite the revelation! But not told in the bible, before Eve, Adam had had another wife – she had left him & became the consort of the Arch Angel Samael, & these writings told of a more earthier & less “angelic” side to the seraphim & cherubs I was more familiar with. But Lillith & Samael had off spring – only daughters. These daughters too were banished from Eden for their lascivious natures, but were only capable of taking on a physical form through union with men. & so they were condemned demonesses, not quite Earth bound nor heaven bound to roam the cosmos looking for prey, so that they may for a short while take a physical presence. It also went on to describe the rituals needed to capture one.
When we finally docked in Bombay, we had already familiarised ourselves with the requirements of the rites, & made busy with acquiring and making our preparations. Ash from the wood of an olive tree, salt, the fresh blood of a cobra, & a quartz crystal set in rose wood.
It took a number of weeks to travel north to Delhi. When we weren’t travelling, we busied ourselves practicing this new rite – we were far more accustomed to vanquishing our chosen foes with a head on fight, rather than apparent majick or mysticism. By the time we arrived we had become quite proficient.
We made our way to the residence of the young couple who had contacted us, Capt. James Forrest of the 24th Gloucestershire Rifles & his wife Sarah. & we found the young captain in a sorry state, all but driven out of his mind by the nightly visitations, & his wife in terrible state on anxiety.
We introduced ourselves & explained that there was no more time to lose if we were to save the Captain.
We were shown to their room, & set about our preparations. Firstly we drew a square around the bed with the ash, followed by a second square, offset to create an eight pointed star. These were to represent the base of two intersected pyramids, one represented the physical world, the second to represent the non-physical. Next, the crystal was suspended at the apex of the pyramid to bind the physical & non-physical worlds together. Finally this was cleansed with the fresh snake blood. Which also was to entice the she-demon back to the world & this room.
Doc was to be the bait, & as evening drew in settled down to sleep. And then we waited. The hours passed by slowly into the night, the candles that lit the room slowly burned away to pools of wax, and I sat silently, listening to the heavy breathing of Gaylord in his sleep.
It was perhaps gone two in the morning when she finally came. The window boards blew open, & the curtains draped at the inside blew inwards. An acrid smell filled the room & the candles blew out. We were only lit by the light of the full moon streaming through the now open windows. Doc’s sleep became disturbed, he called out & began to thrash & writhe, still unconscious. While I could see nothing else present I knew she was here, this malevolent entity, & panicking began to mutter the words of the incantation over & over, each time raising the volume of my words.
I felt perspiration on my top lip, but did not break my chanting until there was a momentary bright flash of blue forked lightning from the quartz crystal and the edges of the two pyramids were formed. & it was then I saw her, the succubus, this malevolent hell-bitch harpy. She glared at me realising she had been trapped & from her finger tips a ball of fire came forth only to ricochet off the sides of the energy pyramid we had formed back at her. She hissed at me in anger. Doc arose from his slumber, & she grabbled him by the throat & began to squeeze, choking him. Despite his inhuman strength he was helpless to remove her vice like grip. I continued to chant the words of the incantation now the pace had quickened & I had raised my voice to a shout. By now I was wet with perspiration, partly from the warm Indian night but mostly from the exertion of holding this unearthly beast at bay.

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I grabbed for the remainder of the snake blood & in the same instance as completing the incantation for the last time, the lightning pyramid disappeared & hurled the bottle of blood at the demon. The little glass vile smashed & she was spattered with the blood. She hissed & writhed in agony & released the Doc from her grip. He staggered from the bed, & completed his part of the incantation just once. & then silence fell on the room, save for the moonlight still unmoved by the goings on there, we were again bathed in darkness. The crystal began to glow, firstly pink, then through all the colours of the spectrum – The Malevolence had been trapped within the Crystal.

We both collapsed exhausted & fell asleep.
We awoke the following morning still dishevelled from the events of the night before. The crystal still cycling through the spectrum, it’s eerie glow…

Epilogue.
We ended up settling in India, in a small remote & isolated house, a little further north of Delhi close to the boarders of Tibet. & as of writing this, still remain here as our base of operations. We kept the crystal for many years until a time came when we could dispose of it safely. We have a peepal tree outside. & while we have never returned to Doc’s home town, each year the first blossom of that tree is picked & sent to the cemetery there & placed upon the grave of The Reverend Bertrand Barecock & his wife Beth.

We later learned that that young Captain had lost his life in the up-rising of 1857, when the Mughal tried to take back control of their own lands. We were both deeply saddened that our efforts that night only bought Captain Forrest & Sarah a few years of peace together.

As I closed the book, I looked up at the clock. It was early afternoon. The study door burst open, and in strolled Doc Baroque.
“Ah there you are my good man, I trust you rested well. I’m deeply sorry I wasn’t around this morning, I hope Cecilia has kept you entertained.”
I looked up & smiled kindly at him, indicating the journal still on my lap, “Oh yes, most entertaining.”

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The Tales of Doc Baroque (Part 2)

Sister Fister (or Lady Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert), Doc’s partner and sidekick (and the original wild-child of the British aristocracy).

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The Second Act

The following is a transcript of a conversation with Sister Fister held on the morning of February 7th 2014:

“Good morning. I trust you slept well. I’m afraid Doc Baroque has already left this morning. He is an early riser. He will have gone for a long walk and is not normally back before the afternoon. Please, can I get you some breakfast? We have eggs and bacon, it won’t take too long. And tea? Please. Help yourself, there is Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Assam.

I understand your conversation went well last night. I imagine, he described me as an aristocratic wild child. Tsk. Let me tell you a little and perhaps you can make your own mind up. Yes, it is true I was born into a very minor British aristocratic family although the Fitzroy-Herberts’ were not as wealthy, as you’d normally asociate with the words, British & Aristocracy – the family fortune had been all but squandered by my grand-father with poor investments and gambling. The family home was still in my father’s name, although mortgaged up to the hilt. As children though my brother and two sisters were blissfully unaware of this. I was the second to youngest, after Emily and Frances, then myself followed by our younger brother, Gideon. My mother had had a number of miscarriages too, and another son who died in infancy before Emily. To be honest, my mother suffered from melancholy, depression I think you call it nowadays. So we saw little of her, and would content ourselves playing with one another or the children of the staff. Emily and Frances, especially Frances were always looking for ways to get me into trouble, and I spent an inordinate amount of time outside of my father study for punishment. I admit, yes I was mischievous but not to extent that Frances made out or my father believed. Nowadays, I would have been labelled a Tomboy, I even preferred to wear boys’ britches – so much easier to ride or play, but back then I was “unruly & unladylike”.

My Father was never a patient man, and had a terrible temper, by the time I was 7, his patience had worn thin, and the day after my 8th birthday, I was packed off to St Flora’s convent in Colchester to “learn some discipline & how to become a young lady, like Emily”. Nothing could have been a greater contrast to the home I was leaving. Gone were the open fields of Herfordshire, the countryside of my father estates, the horses we would ride – I loved to ride, and rode “like a boy” – another thing that infuriated my father. Instead were the cold grey stone walls of St Flora’s the rigid, disciplined, joyless life in the convent. It was sheer misery. And that was when my rebellion was truly sparked. The irony of it, is this “unruly” girl sent away to be “tamed”, it was in sending me away actually further created this “wild child” they were trying to tame. By the time I was 14, I had run away from there on many occasions, only to be packed off again by my father the minute I got home. Each time the discipline from the nuns became more severe, I was a “Wicked & Godless child”. I began to hate my father for it, and my mother for letting him.

So, the last time I ran away, I decided not to go home. Instead in the spring of my 14th year, not long after midnight I left & headed straight for London. From there I knew I needed somewhere to go quickly, England & France were again at war, so I cut off my hair, stole some boys britches and shirt and signed up for Wellingtons’ army. I learned to fight with both sword & gun. I know Gaylord likes to tell people I was a nurse, during this time. I think he feels a little uncomfortable with the truth. I was in fact in a field hospital just before I was abducted, but had been shot, rather than “doing my bit as Florence Nightingale”! Of course this time in the hospital meant my little deception was discovered, so as soon as I gained enough strength, again in the dead of night, I slipped out & deserted.

So there I was, alone in a hostile France, for a few days & nights I found an old abandoned barn where I rested & recuperated. I tended to my injuries as best I could,  living off of the land, hiding from locals, stealing poultry from farms or vegetables from the fields, this went on for only a matter of weeks, when it happened.

These days, with your modern cinematography and television it has become somewhat clichéd, but it was exactly how it happened – the abduction. Late at night in my barn I heard a noise from outside. I peered out of knot hole & could only see an incredibly bright light, that hurt my eyes, it was mesmerising. I couldn’t help myself, and without a thought of the risk I was taking crept outside to see what on Earth it was. & there, above my barn was a silver metal disc just hovering in the sky, a load humming noise coming from it. I should have been terrified, but wasn’t, I was overwhelmed by curiosity. So I stepped forward for a closer look, into the blinding light, & was immediately pulled up into this craft by some unknown force.

I don’t know how long I was held captive alone, day & night became meaningless in this machine, it certainly must have been a number of months before I first  became acquainted with Gaylord (he detests that name by the way, you’d do well to simply call him Doc, I’m still the only one he tolerates to use it). But it must have been a month or two. During that time I discovered these visitors, these invaders were from a distant galaxy. I’m sure Gaylord has told you, but these vile creatures, were like insects from space – the Zigonians. They were here to find out firstly as to where we here on Earth were a threat, but secondly, their Empire was expanding under their new Queen Kemma Axonix & they were looking to humanity as a potential army they could engineer. I learnt all this from a young officer, Quazar, I believe. I’ve since learnt he has gone on to become quite powerful in the empire but I remember him as a young lieutenant.

They kept the ship well hidden in a remote part of the French Alps, & would from time to time go out on abduction forays. Most of these test subjects died from the experiments they were being subjected to, I imagine with them, the extrapolation of our genes was taken a little too far, & they died. Although I also witnessed several being deliberately killed – taken beyond the threshold of their endurance. Then one day, a young man – a sailor judging by his uniform was unceremoniously dumped into my cell. & that was when Gaylord & I first met.

I know he must have told of our escape, it was a combination of the spring thaw, & the constant humming of the crafts engines that ultimately caused an avalanche. In spite of our genetic enhancements we were lucky to escape alive. If it hadn’t been for Gaylord, I’m not certain I would have. His arm was crushed in that accident. Because we had no access to proper medical help, his arm didn’t heal properly. Originally I fashioned a splint of sorts that sufficed.

Immediately after the crash though, there were other survivors, although none of them human. Perhaps a dozen or so of the crew survived. Over the next few decades we took it upon ourselves to hunt them down one by one. They had scattered across the whole globe, & for perhaps 100 years or so we busied ourselves hunting them down to extract our revenge.

Until there was one left, young lieutenant Quasar – we had intelligence that he had made his way to the America’s. It was here, we happened upon a young inventor, a brilliant Austrian. Nikola Tesla I remember, & he fashioned the Doc’s arm strap he still wears today, to support his “gimpy arm” as he calls it. But that diversion cost us, Quasar had salvaged a beacon from the wreckage of their craft, & had periodically been sending out distress signals. Tesla had isolated these signals, & Gaylord & I went off to kill the final Earth bound Zigonian. But that, alas was not to be, we did track him down to a farm in Wisconsin, ironically he was hiding in a barn just as I had been all those years before when they’d first abducted me. Gaylord & I had him cornered & were ready to go in to finish him off, when in “the nick of time” from Quasars point of view another craft from Zigonia materialised & he was whisked away, exactly how I had been.

& that was how Gaylord & my little career began as Bounty Hunters of the Exotic. That wasn’t the last visit of those vile insects, nor will it be the last no doubt. We have taken on many varied jobs for people over the years, but that, my friend is where our hearts lie, Zigonian Hunting each time they return. I understand from one insect we captured, that Quasar has gone on in the Empire to become quite powerful leader. Had we not let him escape, then perhaps not they’d not have returned so often.”

With that Cecilia led me back into the study, where Doc Baroque & I had talked the night before. Without a word, she pulled down a  large, dusty, leather bound book.

“I’m over 200 years old now, old enough to be your great, great, great many times over grand mother. I’ve made a note of the things we have done over the centuries”

I opened the first of the books, in beautiful hand written script, the first page, read, “The Journals of Lady Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert”. Clearly many of the books in here we all her meticulous records of her & Doc’s adventures. And I had one of them in my hands.

I turned the first page, in the same exquisite script, capitalised, were two titles,  “The Taming of The Malevolence” and “The Salvation of The Zomborg”. I looked up at Cecilia uncertain of what she meant. She nodded her silent ascent for me to continue reading, so I settled down in the same seat I’d so intently listed to The Doc the night before.

As she left the room, she looked over her shoulder, “oh Yes, “Sister Fister”. Where that comes from is no doubt something that puzzles you. Well many assume that the Sister is from my time at the convent, but no, the whole name came from much earlier than that – it was Gideon, when he was very small, barely one, he could say Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert properly, in his little mouth it came out “Sister Fister” – Emily, Frances & myself thought it was so funny, it stuck”.

With that she smiled, closed the door behind her, & there, in the quiet of the study, save for the clock ticking on the wall, I settled down to read, The Journals of “Sister Fister”…

The Tales of Doc Baroque (Part 1)

A couple of years ago, I dabbled with online gaming. I wasn’t that impressed as I found the communities around them quite bitchy and cliquey, and often a bit of a time sink. There was one, however, that was different, sadly now defunct Superhero City, was on the face of it, a simple do-the-prescribed-adventure-grow-your character kind of thing, but it did have a very active, vibrant and for the most part, positive community and forums around it, and that was perhaps the attraction more so than the game itself. Part of that community was dedicated to Role Playing, which essentially involved developing back stories for characters. It was pure unadulterated escapism, at times very silly, and to be honest, gave a group of adults that probably should have known better, the chance to kick back and be kids again. My main character was called “Doc Baroque” and was a “Victorian English Adventurer” based around Steam Punk mythos. As the Doc stories increased, I did play with the idea of a graphic novel.

You probably had to “be there” and be part of it to get it and appreciate it, but I’m including his early adventures here, if only to keep stuff I’ve written all in one place. Having said that, one day I might go back, finish and tidy them up, and write down the other ones that I have in my head too.

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The Tales of Doc Baroque

The beginning.

The following is a transcript of an interview with Doc Baroque, held on February 6th 2014.

“Good Evening. Thank you for joining me. Can I get you a drink? Brandy? Excellent. My father would neither have appreciated nor approved of it. Here. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable. You found your way then. Well obviously, or you wouldn’t be here, would you?  My…. Retreat…. Can be a little um, hard to find, or so I’m told I am off the beaten track here, certainly. But not to worry, that’s how I like it. And you’re here.

Now let me see, if I recall correctly, you were making enquiries about me, yes? Well where shall I begin? Well I’ve already mentioned my father, so why not there.

I was born in the late 1700’s, in a small but thriving coastal market town in the west country of England, its primary form of employment was either as a fisherman or a farm labourer on the local estates. My father, a rather stern and sombre man was the local Baptist minister, Reverend Bertrand Barecock. I was Christened Gaylord – a name which over the years has given rise to much ridicule, hence my preferred nom de plume – Doc Baroque, but more of that later. While we were by no means wealthy, we as a family, were afforded some status in our local town, and for certain, were better off than most. He was a devout and stern man, but for myself and my mother was quite distant. I have very few fond memories of him. My mother, on the other hand couldn’t have been a greater contrast, she was bright, cheerful, in those days we would have called her gay, but I understand in your modern parlance, which has come to mean… something else! My father certainly wouldn’t have approved!

So I was lucky although at the time didn’t really appreciate it. I was well educated, well for those days. My parents ensured I was tutored in many of the new and more modern subjects, botany and science, as well as mathematics as well as the more traditional classics.

By the time I was fourteen though, I was bored. I see that now of course. But I was restless. Market day would come and go, which was the real highlight of the week. All the local farmers would come to town to sell their wool or grain. And in the summer, more exotic traders and entertainers would come to the fayre. I lived for that time in the summer. I would seek out these strange and wonderful people, hanging on their every word for the tales they would tell of their travels. I’m sure now most were embellished at the least, if not down right utter fabrication, but to a fourteen year old boy, blessed with more than his share of imagination, they were enthralling.

It was about this time I became more aware of the doings of adults, and without my father’s knowing I would frequent “The Black Swan”, one of a number of coaching Inns in the town. The Black Swan had much lower tariffs and as a consequence attracted the seedier side of our community. Consequently I found its clientele far more interesting. And soon became acquainted with a close circle of ne’er do wells, & was slowly drawn into their entrepreneurial venture.

Time is short, so I won’t beat about the bush, but they were wreckers and smugglers. I’m sure you’re familiar with the practice as time has somewhat romanticised their trade, but believe me, to a boy of fourteen they were brutal, the deliberate wrecking of ships on the rocks and theft of their cargoes. To me though, it provided the adventure I longed for. Throughout that summer I enjoyed running with these brigands, much to my mother and fathers consternation.

Throughout that summer, we became bolder and our little venture seemed to be going well, but as the nights drew in our fortunes began to turn, Lord Culshaw, the local land owner and member of parliament, unknown to us, became more and disconcerted with the apparent lawlessness of our area, and called in the excise men. And this was when my life really turned around.

It was one night in late October as I recall that it happened. It was moonless, and a storm was blowing in from the sea – perfect wrecking weather. We went out to the cliff’s and set our lanterns to create a fake guiding light to the trade ships that followed the coast, and like Sirens, lure them onto the rocks, where the survivors would usually be killed and the ships loot taken. In my defense, I was too young to be involved in the murderous side of things, that was left to the older members of our gang, but in the taking of the contents of a ships hold, I was most certainly up to my neck in it.

Anyway, I digress, we lured our target onto the rocks as normal, and it was then we discovered what was waiting for us, instead of the usual booty we found the ships hold full of perhaps a dozen well-armed troopers, from the garrison. They immediately opened fire upon us and a bloody melee ensued. But I was terrified, I got off of the ship as quickly as I could and fled up the cliff path, only to spot in time Constable Brownlow of the excise waiting with another group of six soldiers. That night the fortunes smiled upon me and I hid. They were more intent in getting down to the ship and as the remainder of my cohorts tried to flee, they were waiting. I dared not move and eventually the noise of the fighting died down and I listened intently. It was apparent that all but three of our little band had been killed there and then and the three that remained alive were arrested and taken to the town jail. Later to be hanged.

Their voices all eventually died down, and I assumed they’d left, but I waited until the sun was rising and the storm had all but calmed, before I left the safety of my hiding place in the rocks. I knew returning home would be out of the question, so there was nothing left but to flee. And that I did.

As a child my father would on occasion visit Bristol, and from time to time I had been allowed to accompany him, so that was where I decided to head for. I had no plan as such at the time, it was merely a place I’d visited so headed that way. I don’t recall how long it took, I traveled mostly at night stealing food when I came across a dwelling or another unfortunate traveler. Perhaps it was a week maybe two. But I eventually arrived. I slept rough for a few days in the city itself down by the Docks, until hunger drove me out. I found work doing this and that for a few pennies, and took lodgings, in an Inn, the cheapest I could find, and the days and nights all blurred into one.  Much could be said of my time then, but let me move on, after all it’s what you came here for.

You seem to have finished your brandy, a little more perhaps? There help yourself. You’ll find cigars in the box beside it too. Please help yourself. I will have on too.

Now, where were we? Ahh yes, Bristol. I was there for more than a year, perhaps two, I’d found regular work in a assisting a local apothecary. Mr Roberts I recall him, a kindly gentlemen. It was mostly cleaning or tidying up his little premises  but from time to time I was called on to assist him with preparing a medicine or mixing the compounds for his pills, and I learnt a little about the treatment of sickness. Happy times, & perhaps if the events that ensued had not arisen, then I would perhaps have remained there and lived a natural life.

But that was not to be, no. One evening in my lodging I was eating, when a group of men entered into the bar. They were rather loud but jovial and were buying drinks for all the patrons, such generosity had never been witnessed in this establishment, so of course we took full advantage of it. We drank ourselves into a stupor, so forgive me if my recollection even now is somewhat hazy. The following morning however, I awoke to find myself aboard a ship. The HMS Unicorn of his Majesties Navy – I’d been press ganged into service. England at the time was at war once again with France and I was going to war!

Because of my learning of Botany as a child, and the time spent with Mr Roberts, I quickly came to assist the ships surgeon. Although a surgeon now wouldn’t recognise what went on. Ships butcher would perhaps be more appropriate. In any case, it was my time aboard the Unicorn where I also learned to handle a sword and gun properly. I was involved in many a battle. And could perhaps fill a novel of the time I spent there alone, but that’s not what you came to hear is it? But it was my time aboard where I became known as “Doc Baroque” – the Doc part is self-evident I was working for the ships surgeon after all, but Baroque? Well, the ships Boatswain, had an unfortunate speech impediment and couldn’t say my surname properly and Barecock became Baroque, and so my legend was born. Nothing more than that!

It was however the time where my story does become much more interesting and had I not lived it, and were to hear the tale told to me, would be where I would start to not believe any of it. But I tell you, not a word of this is a lie.

But we’d been in a particularly bloody fight when the Unicorn took a full broadside, and was crippled. We abandoned ship. Fortunately we were not far too far from the coast and headed for land. I crawled onto the beach exhausted, and collapsed. The next thing I knew when I came too I was no longer on a beach, but in a white room, so strongly lit I’d never witnessed brightness like that before. Now much is told in these modern times of beings from other worlds, stories a rife on your internet, but nothing of the sort was remotely considered possible in those days, and would be dismissed as the work of demons. But in actual fact. That is precisely what had happened. My apparent lifeless corpse had been taken by visitors from another world with hostile intent. I later discovered this was an early reconnoiter of our world, and were interested in the dominant species on the planet. As my strength over the following days returned to me. I was taken out of the confines of the bright white room, & put to sleep, when I came round I found I was much stronger

It was then I was put into confines with someone who has become very dear to me, Lady Cecilia Fitzroy-Herbert, you will perhaps know her better as “Sister Fister”,  the original wild child of the British aristocracy, she’d had a convent education, but the nuns could not assert discipline to her so she left, and she’d ended up working in a field hospital on the land front of the war, as of all things a nurse. She too had been abducted.

Over the coming days the experiments continued, but Cecilia would inform me of precisely what they were actually doing, although how she came to know is still a mystery to me. They were changing the very make up of my body, engineering my DNA in your modern terminology. They wanted to extrapolate how strong human potential was, with view to creating their own army to fight their wars on some distant star. So I was rebuilt from the inside out as it were. This was also where my and Cecilia’s extraordinary longevity has come from too. The bright lights did however do irreparable damage to our eyes, and to this day is why she & I both have to wear these shaded spectacles in all but the dimmest of lighting.

We were kept prisoners for a number of months until the opportunity arose for our escape – the craft we were being kept on was hidden in the alps. The thaw came early and an avalanche destroyed the ship. The irony is that we too would have died had it not been for the experiments we’d been subjected to. We had the strength to firstly survive and secondly escape from the crashed vessel.

And so she & I fled, and this is was the beginning of the adventure that is the lives of myself & Cecilia. We made our way across the world as adventurers, earning a living as we may as Bounty Hunters, Treasure seekers and the like. We settled here in India during the time of the Raj, and as you can see, we have amassed a modest fortune that keeps us comfortable, this has come with our extraordinary longevity, and our somewhat specialised services. With the advent of the aircraft Cecilia learned to fly and so she is our pilot too, she still even has “Betsy” her first ‘plane, but of course we travel in much more modern machines nowadays. We still travel the world and we are still called upon even now by people with only the most interesting of assignments.

And so that, my friend is really how it all began, that is after all what brought you here.

Another Brandy? And what is it you’d like us to undertake for you?”

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The Other Little Starfish

1461209_780743158634952_3828632876436937753_nWhen I was running my own coaching business, I trained with an organisation called CTI. They often sum up their ethos to coaching with “The Little Star Fish Story“, a story by Loren Eisley, that’s been gradually adapted over the years. I admit it is a lovely story, but I admit that at the time, I was really annoyed at CTI for using it, more because of the fact that in their story, no-one actually asked the Starfish its point of view or what it wanted. So I started to re-tell the story from the Starfishes perspective. I admit, originally it started off as a parody and written in the style of a children’s story, but like lots of things, morphed into something else:

The Other Little Starfish

Once upon a time there was a little brown pimply starfish. He lived on a coral reef, beneath the sea in the warm pacific ocean just of a pretty little island with all his starfish. Most of the starfish were content & happy with their lot, they slowly crawled along the reef finding things to eat, it was a simple life. But this wasn’t an ordinary starfish; he had a little more imagination. Sometimes he would venture a little further along into the shallows and gaze longingly at the waving palm trees wondered what it was like to be there instead. Tentatively, he pushed one of his arms out above the surface, just to see what it was like. It felt strange; the comforting water he was so used to no longer supported its weight, making it feel heavy. Even so, he was elated and excited.

Later that afternoon, while he was pondering life on land, a school of fish swam by, their silver scales & fins flashing in the water & he was in awe. One of the elders in the school noticed, broke away from the main body & went over to him.

“Hello little one” he said

“Hello” said the little starfish “I was just admiring your beautiful scales, how wonderful it must be to shimmer like that. All I have is theses brown pimply bumps on me”

The fish replied, “We all are, what we are, & we all do what we do according to our natures” smiling kindly.

“Oh I’d love to shimmer & dart freely like you do,” said the starfish, “you all look so beautiful”.

“Oh we all were something else once a long time ago” said the fish, “something to do with something called evolution I think”

“Evolve?” asked the starfish, a puzzled look furrowing his brow “What’s that?”

But at that moment a stream of bubbles came torpedoing down from the surface, & A fat seagull snapped up his new friend & just as quickly was gone.

The following spring, he again was spending a day gazing longingly up the beach. A gull caught his eye & he remembered the events of the previous year. “Wow, it must be so much better than even being a fish to be a gull” he thought to himself, as he slowly crept along “They swoop & soar & glide & they don’t even need water, oh yes and so much better to be the diner rather than dinner too”. He sighed to himself, & turned around to go home to his starfish friends feeling inspired & in awe at the spectacle that he’d seen.

When he got back, excitedly he told them all what he’d seen. So enthusiastic was he that some of the younger ones wanted to see for themselves, but the older ones looked at him. “We’re starfish” they said, “We don’t swoop & soar, or glide. We shuffle & creep – its much safer like this”

But whispering began around the reef, & curiosity was stirred in many.

The following morning, when the little starfish arrived at his favourite spot on the beach, he was surprised to find hundreds of his friends gazing up at it. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” they said. “How wonderful it would be to be a gull like that. How much freer it must be. Tell us little starfish, how can we be like the gulls?”

He replied, feeling a little lost, “I don’t know. But I think it might have something to do with something called evolving.”

“What’s that?” they all cried in unison.

Feeling embarrassed & a little silly, “I don’t know” he said.

A disappointed silence fell on the collection of starfish for a while, and then a small voice piped up at the back “I know! I know! Lets ask the whales, they are the wisest of all the creatures that live in the sea, surely they must know!”

The starfish all cheered & together crept along the seabed in search of the whales.

Normally they knew the whales were shy, solitary & elusive, but they knew at this time of year they might just be in luck. It was spring after all and they knew the whales gathered together to both have the great whale council, and also to find partners.

It wasn’t too long before they heard the mournful song of one in the distance, & following the sound, soon spotted the barnacled underside of a giant humpback, silhouetted high above them against the bright blue surface.

“Mr Whale, Mr Whale” they all cried “You are the wisest of us all that dwell in the sea, & we need you’re help”

He heard the chorus of voices & majestically flicking his tail turned around & dove down to the seabed to find out who was calling him.

“My, my” he said, “what have we here? Aren’t you little ones venturing a little far away from the reef?”

“Oh Mr Whale, please help us,” said the same small voice who’s idea it had been to search him out in the first place. “We’ve been watching the gulls swoop & soar & we so dearly would love to join them. Tell us please what is evolution?”

The wise old whale let out a booming chuckle, and with a gentle smile in the one eye the starfish could see, said, “Well let me see, evolution is it you want to know about? Well let me tell you”

And with that the starfish all shuffled together & silently waited in anticipation for what he may say.

“Well”, said the whale, “a long time ago when the world was young all creatures lived here in the sea. It was a little crowded so I’m told there was much more of us all back then.” A hint of a reminiscent tear welled in his eye, “Hmmmn yes, soo many more of us all, we whales back then would always be in council together so I was told by my great-great grandfather, none of this once a year together stuff & the whale-wives, yes they were so much easier to find and happier too…” he cleared his throat for a moment and came back to the present “Yes sorry, you were asking me about evolution weren’t you? Well like I said, a long time ago, we all lived in the sea and we all got along for the most part. Some of the fish got a little discontented with their lot though, and one day one clambered up onto his fins & hauled himself out of the sea & was never seen again! Gradually more & more of his fellows did the same. Now I’m not sure exactly what happened next, you’d have to ask them I think, it’s all a little unclear, but apparently they all changed into the creatures that live on land.”

“You mean like the gulls too that fly in the sky?” asked the smallest starfish.

“Well yes I suppose so,” said the humpback “they live on land now don’t they, so they must have. Stands to reason.”

“Wonderful!” cried the little brown pimply starfish, “See, see my friends, we can live out there too!”

“Thank you” he added.

With that the whale waved his tail goodbye, and on the eerie melody of his song, the starfish heard him singing “Good luck little starfish”.

The little starfish all turned around and headed back to the reef for the night.

The following morning the little brown starfish woke up excitedly, and went looking for his friends.

“Listen” he said “Last night I was thinking. Next month it’s the spring tide, if we prepare properly, we can use it to help us evolve up onto land. And in the meantime we need to prepare. I tried it just once, I put my arm out of the water, it felt so heavy. We must get strong. We need to exercise if we’re going to evolve.”

& With that for the next month they busied themselves, exercising with increasingly bigger & bigger rocks. The elder Starfish looked on puzzled, wondering what was going on. They said nothing though – it wasn’t the starfish way after all. Instead they enjoyed their youngling’s new-found enthusiasm but were still a little bemused.

At last the night of the spring tide came and the young starfish excitedly gathered on the beach in the shallows. The sky was clear and the starfish could see the moon full and unusually large. The carpet of stars just added to the magic the starfish were feeling.

They waited, giggling and laughing as they were gently washed further & further up the beach, with each wave.

A turtle that had been busy laying and burying her eggs dragged herself past “what are you doing?” She asked, her already wrinkled brow, furrowing deeper with puzzlement.

“We’re evolving!” chorused the starfish.

She looked at them still puzzled “Ah that” she said, not really knowing what they were talking about.

As the sun rose, for a while both it and the moon could clearly be seen by the starfish & slowly the tide withdrew back down the beach until later that day. And the starfish were overjoyed – their first morning beyond the confines of the sea!

As the sun rose higher their new world slowly awoke, for the first time they heard the cawing of the gulls clearly over head, no longer muffled by the sea.

It was then they heard a sharp yapping sound that was new to them. A strange creature came bounding across the beach panting & barking “Oh I want to evolve into one of those” one of them said excitedly.

“Oh I still want to be a gull,” said the little brown starfish.

“Hello” he said to the new creature “What are you?”

The dog sniffed & licked him “Err you taste salty” said the dog, wrinkling his nose “I’m a dog” he added, “I’m taking my human for a walk. What are you all doing here?”

“We’re evolving” he replied, adding, “Tell me, how can I evolve into a gull?”

“Yes, yes,” piped up another starfish, “& how can I evolve into a dog?”

The dog cocked his head to one side & scratched his ear with his hind leg. “Hmmmn, not sure about that, maybe you should ask my human”

The dogs’ human eventually caught up, and couldn’t have been more surprised by the sight that met her eyes – hundreds of starfish above the high tide line.

“Please miss,” asked the little brown starfish “Please tell me how I can evolve into a gull”

Of course being a human, she didn’t hear the little starfish voice

“How odd” she thought to herself, “They must have been washed up in the night poor things”

With that, she picked up the little brown starfish, kissed him & threw him back into the sea. She was sure it was just her imagination, but she was sure she could hear a tiny voice calling,

“Nooooooooooo” cried the little starfish “nooooooo, I just wanted to evolve!”
But the dog was sure, he heard something else,

“Yes, yes, yes, I’m flying, I’m a gull!”