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PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:55 am 
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Location: Darkest Eyre
Never Had it So Good Part 1

Bright.
Bright light.


Someone had left the light on, he thought as he woke. Everything was sore and his head throbbed with a pulsing intensity. He opened one eye before immediately closing it in renewed pain. It must have been one hell of a night. Raising one arm, he went to grab for his phone from the bedside table. It wasn’t there. Nor was the table. Nor, for that matter, was the bed. Instead, he felt leaves, rough twigs and cold earth. Ugh. He must have passed out outside. He grimaced and lay back, breathing slowly until the pain subsided. The world still spun around him and he felt incredibly weak. His head felt like it had been slammed several times with a sledgehammer, but there was no blood, just this splitting headache. Who was he? Where was he?

Mustering his strength, he sat up and opened his eyes again. He was lying on wet grass in a small mossy copse. The sunlight shone down through the tree branches onto his face, making him shrink back into the shade. An insect crawled over his leg and he brushed it away instinctively and it flew off past his face. It was a strange looking thing, like a crystal rainbow shot through with gold and silver. He swatted at it, but it buzzed away into the bushes. He tried again to remember what he had been doing last night or anything, but couldn’t manage to break through the fuzzy greyness that filled his mind. Looking around him gave no further answers – no cans, no rubbish, not even a cigarette butt.

Ignoring the niggling pain in his head, he drew himself to his feet and brushed himself down, taking stock of the situation. No phone. Dammit. He still had his jeans and t-shirt, although they were wet with dew and covered in dirt and leaves. They hadn’t stolen his trainers, which he guessed was a bonus. Reaching into his back pocket, he felt for his wallet. It was gone as well. I’ve been robbed, he thought. I’ve had my drink spiked, they’ve robbed me and dumped me out here. Wherever here was, he concluded bitterly. He listened for traffic, but no sound came but the chirps and trills of birdsong. He figured it was early morning by the light. A brief look through the undergrowth failed to turn up his phone, his wallet or any possessions that could remind him of who he was. Well and truly robbed.

There was nothing else for it but to push through the trees and hope he came to a road. The trees seemed unfamiliar, for that matter. He could recognize some sort of elms, great, thick oaks that soared high above the canopy and gnarled twisted ash trees, but others were laden with intricate blue blossoms and thin golden leaves. He trampled through the undergrowth, scratching his legs and arms in the process. Small snippets of memory ebbed back to him as he headed onwards. His name was Sam, Sam Johnson. He was 21 years old and a history student at University College London. Last night, there had been a party. They’d gone back to someone’s house, but the faces and names seemed blurred and beyond him. He had sat down on a couch and felt very, very drowsy.

The ground began to rise in front of him and bright sunlight broke through the screen of trees. Scrambling up the bank, he reached a narrow road paved with small stones. The warm sun was high in the sky to his right and a soft, pleasant breeze blew past him. Fields of wheat waved slowly in the wind on the other side of the road, which stretched off in either direction over a gently rolling landscape. No houses or landmarks stood out to orient him. He had no idea where he was, or what direction London lay in. With a resigned shrug, Sam began to walk along the road towards the north. A small rabbit darted out of the wood in front of him and eyed him carefully before scampering away into the long grass. Several bees buzzed past his face, but paid him little mind. Hopefully he would reach a house soon and be able to call the police and get himself out of this predicament.

He walked down the road, keeping a careful eye out for any of his possessions. Five minutes passed, then ten minutes. Nothing seemed to disturb the peace of the quiet country morning and Sam began to despair of ever being found. He saw a flash of sunlight off a metallic object in the grass up ahead and ran to investigate it. His heart sank slightly as he found it was a largish silver coin and not his iPhone. Picking it up and examining it he saw a portrait of the Queen and an inscription: ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA BR OMN REG. Flipping it over revealed a royal coat of arms flanked by the initials ER and surrounded by another inscription: FID DEF IND IMP HALF CROWN 1960. Something seemed a bit jarring, but Sam couldn’t put his finger on exactly what was the nagging thought at the back of his fuzzy head.

The sound of a car engine approaching behind him shook him out of his musings and he turned to wave it down. An old-fashioned black vehicle came over the rise behind him and he frantically waved it down. It slowed to a halt and pulled up next to him. Sam was fairly sure it was a Rolls Royce of some sort. The driver’s side door opened and the sound of classical music came out, followed by the driver himself. He was a tall, blond fit-looking man in his mid-thirties with a neatly trimmed moustache, a cheerful, open face and a strong upright bearing. The man was dressed in a well-cut charcoal three piece suit and wore a royal blue tie and sparkling black shoes. He smiled and nodded at Sam.

“Spot of bother there, old boy?” he spoke in a cut-glass accent.

“Hi, mate. I just woke up back there and think I’ve had my drink spiked. They took my wallet and phone and everything.”

The man looked at him quizzically. “Whatever were you carrying a telephone around for?”

Great, a genuine posh idiot. thought Sam. “My iPhone. You know, a 6.” he explained sarcastically. The man looked no less puzzled but continued to smile as he nodded again.

“Well, whatever the case, I can give you a lift to Ashford. You should be able to be sorted out there. Student, aren’t you?’

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Last time I was down in the city I saw a few dressed up like you in that American-style costume. Jolly good wheeze, eh?” the man laughed heartily.

“Um…yeah. You couldn’t tell me whereabouts Ashford is, could you? I can’t really remember much at the moment.” The guy was clearly weird, but Sam felt somehow that he could trust him. The man laughed and clapped his hands in obvious amusement at something.

“Sorry, forgot that you weren’t from here. Ashford. It’s about 10 miles up the road, on the railway halfway between Aylesbury and Winslow. I’m Simon Bailey, by the way.” He said, extending his hand. His grip was firm, but not crushing.

“Sam Johnson.”

“Righto, Sam. I’ll run you up to the police station there and they’ll be able to sort you out. Hop in and we’ll be there in a jiffy.”

Sam climbed into the comfortable leather passenger seat and looked around for a seatbelt.

“Lost something else?” asked the driver as he closed his door and started the engine.

“No, just looking for the safety belt.” Sam murmured, feeling slightly embarrassed.

“My dear chap, this isn’t an aeroplane!” laughed Bailey as he drove off at a high speed. Sam sat back in the seat as the music on the radio started up again. Looking at it, he saw it was an old fashioned device with two large knobs and a number of silver buttons underneath. It was playing some sort of old military march like in the movies – very brassy and loud.

“Do you get Radio 1?”

“No, only the Home Service, Light Programme and the Third Programme out here, I’m afraid. Speaking of that, it is just about time for the news.” Bailey leaned over and twiddled the knob until it reached a position a third of the way along the display. Sam glanced at his watch and saw the time. Just before 10 o’clock.

Home Service. Strange. No one has called them those for years, Sam remembered.

They caught the end of a majestic fanfare followed by the familiar sound of six pips and a rather formal voice. “This is the BBC Light Programme. Here is the news. Talks continue in Stockholm between the British Empire, the United States, France, Germany and the Soviet Union regarding the Eastern European situation. Foreign Secretary Lord Wooster has stated that he has solid hopes for a lasting agreement between the powers. The Air Ministry has announced that a Royal Air Force Vulcan bomber has successfully dropped Britain’s most powerful hydrogen bomb yet in a test on Christmas Island in the Pacific last night, with scientists being very pleased with the results. A successful Commonwealth military operation in Malaya has captured or killed seventeen Communist terrorists overnight. A woman in Dublin has given birth to sextuplets at St. James’s Hospital; both mother and children are reported to be well. RMS Great Britain left Southampton early this morning on her first North Atlantic voyage since her recent refit. Manchester United won again last night thanks to a late goal from Duncan Edwards and keep their twelve point lead in the First Division. And the weather this afternoon is forecast to be fine and sunny, with a chance of showers over parts of Wales and the West Country.”

Bailey switched off the radio with a contented chuckle and focused back on the road. Sam sat back in his seat and exhaled. This was no longer a case of not knowing where he was. It was now a question of when he was.

British Empire. Soviet Union. Hydrogen bombs. Malaya. Vulcans.

As a history student, he felt fairly sure he knew the general period – some time in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Thinking things through like this helped him stop from losing it. The crossover time between the technology and politics was fairly narrow. Let’s see…there was the moratorium between 1958 and 1961 after Operation Grapple in ’57. Sometime in the early 1960s, he concluded. Still, there was only one way to make sure.

“Simon?” he ventured in an unsteady voice

“Yes, Sam?” replied his driver jauntily, keeping his eyes on the road and his hands upon the wheel.

“This may sound like a strange question, but what date is it?”

“June 2nd. My goodness, you must have had a couple last night.” Bailey chuckled, slowing down to a halt as he spotted several sheep ambling across the road ahead.

“And what year?”

“1961 of course.”

Sam’s eyes widened and he swallowed grimly. Was this a nightmare? Was he drugged with some truly weird substance? Or could he have really…If he had, then he needed to keep things quiet and figure out some way of getting home. Should any of these backward people work out what he really was, then he would be thrown in a mental hospital or worse…

Bailey stopped the car to let the sheep finish crossing, turned at him and smiled. “So, when are you from?” He fixed Sam with a level stare.

“What?! How?! I mean, what do you mean?” Sam’s mind went into overdrive, trying to put together a response and some sort of cover story.

Simon shook his head and sighed lightly. “It’s quite obvious you are some sort of traveler from another time and place, old boy. You are dressed like nothing I’ve ever seen before, your hair is cut very strangely, your accent and speech is different and you were unfamiliar with my radio but seemed to presume knowledge of some sort of phone. All of that was enough to make me think something queer was going on. Then you went and sealed the matter by your reaction to the news and then asking the exact date. A chap simply doesn’t forget what year it is without a good cause. So, when are you from?”

Sam was left with nothing but the truth. “2015.”

“Goodness me, the 21st Century. Good to see we made it through without World War 3. Or was there one after all?” He seemed suddenly serious.

Sam thought about telling him about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, about Yugoslavia, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, London and Paris but decided to take things one step at a time. “No, there wasn’t a war.”

“Nice to see that they weren’t that silly. Are you really a student?”

“Yes. I read history at UCL.”

"UCL?"

"University College London."

“Of course. What type of history?”

“My thesis is on British defence policy in the 1960s.” Sam smiled wanly at that one and Simon chuckled.

“Well, old boy, if we can’t get you home, at least we can get you a job at the War Office.”

Bailey nodded, started up the car again and headed on towards Ashford. Within a few minutes, they crested a green hill and Sam caught his first glance of the village. It was like a picture straight out of the Archers, Harry Potter or even Lord of the Rings. Several dozen little houses and shops with flowery gardens were arrayed along winding cobblestone streets lined with trees, bushes and neat hedges. In the centre of the village, a stone church rose up next to a brilliantly blue river, a huge oak tree, a broad village green and a crooked ramshackle tower. Further out, it was surrounded by orchards, fields of tall, waving grain, impossibly green meadows, hedgerows and, in the distance, thick woodland. On one hill stood what looked like an old monastery whilst across the vale stood a genuine castle.

Simon glanced over at Sam. “I can’t see the local constable being able to help you with your particular problem. What do you say to going to the pub and working out what we can do next over a pint?”

“That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day.”


Last edited by Simon Darkshade on Tue Dec 22, 2015 9:39 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:15 am 
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Nice start! Working things out in a pub is always a good idea.

Simon certainly took the concept of displacement in time calmly. Is that common in Dark Earth?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 2:36 pm 
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Slightly worried that our dear Queen appears to be a fella in this universe, or maybe Sam was sufficiently hungover to mix up REX and REG?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2015 4:40 pm 
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He is rather woozy; we'll put it down to that. ;)

Time displacement is not at all common in Dark Earth; Bailey is more than he seems.

There have been sufficient little indications thus far that Johnson hasn't picked up on that show that he where he thinks he is.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:48 am 
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Hmm, is Bailey's middle name "Steel" at all? ;)

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Sir Humphrey Appleby: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to. Then they can't tell anyone. Like secret agents, they could be captured, tortured.
Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:54 am 
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No, not at all. He's a man of the world.

Johnson hasn't made the deduction of what RMS Great Britain, Duncan Edwards, Foreign Secretary Wooster and a single Germany entail. Strangely enough, there is a bit of a connection to the latest 1947 update on the Middle East, but that will play out in the next few parts.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:57 am 
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Keep it up! Between this, your other work and Conrad it's good going at the moment!

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Sir Humphrey Appleby: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to. Then they can't tell anyone. Like secret agents, they could be captured, tortured.
Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:13 am 
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Thanks Craig. I've got the last bit of French tanks going up tomorrow, which will contain a fair bit on the Battle of France as well as some interesting postwar tidbits on the Indochina War, followed by the last installment in Part 7 of 1947, mysteriously titled Shadows over Oxford, later in the week.

After that will come the next chapter of The Red Shadow, more Never Had it So Good, German, American and Soviet tanks, Korea and a few odds and ends; the last two 1947 installments have actually cleared out the last roadblocks for the Great War. Once school term finishes in a few weeks, I'll have a bit more time and hopefully will be able to spin a few entertaining yarns.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 12:50 am 
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Never Had it So Good Part 2

“Super. We’ll drop into the Lion and Unicorn; we should be down in a minute or two. Now, when we get there, I’ve got a spare jacket in the back you can wear, which’ll save you from standing out more than you have to. And it’s probably better if we say you’re from Australia.”

“Australia? Whatever for?” said Sam.

“A couple of reasons. Firstly, it is sufficiently far away that it will explain why you’re not familiar with every thingumabob and whatsit you come across and secondly, no one else from around here has been there, so they’ll simply assume that you are just acting normally rather than barmy or strange.”

Sam nodded. It made as much sense as anything else that was going on. His mind was moving at a million miles an hour trying to take in everything. Breath in, breath out. Take one thing at a time.

“Yes, that’s the spirit.” exclaimed Bailey. Sam realised he must have been speaking aloud. He looked behind him to see a herringbone tweed jacket neatly folded on top of a pile of brown paper parcels tied up with string, a small suitcase, a brown mackintosh and copies of The Times and Le Figaro.

“Just been over to Paris on business. Came back on the early morning Comet to London, so I was able to take breakfast at my club and pick up my coat from Ede and Ravenscroft. Good thing for you I did, or I’d have missed you and you’d still be walking.”

They drove down through the fields of gold and along the leafy streets of Ashford past a row of cottages to the village green. On one side of the lush grass stood an old slate-roofed Gothic church with its tall wooden doors wide open surrounded by a low stone wall containing a well-kept churchyard. Next to it, spreading its boughs and shade over the wall, was the large oak Sam had seen from the hillside, looming even larger than any such tree he’d ever seen before. A small stream burbled along gently on the other side of the green, crossed by an old stone bridge overgrown with ivy whose presence across the river did not perturb the pair of dignified ducks who slowly cruised underneath it and beyond sight. Overlooking them was the twisted, tumbledown tower that looked impossibly as if it had been deliberately constructed in such a fashion. It seemed to be built out of a strange copper coloured stone and was capped by a cheery red roof. Half a dozen people walked slowly about, all dressed rather more formally than Sam.

Bailey went past the group of buildings around to the other side of the green, waving pleasantly at passersby as he slowly pulled up to a halt outside a small flagstone walled pub. A hand painted sign of a golden lion dueling with a rearing unicorn hung from a rickety wrought iron bracket above the forest green door, moss grew beneath the half a dozen flowerboxes that lay under the leaded windows and pigeons darted out of the eaves of the neatly thatched roof. A hand carved wooden table and several chairs sat out under the front window. Smoke puffed away cheerfully from the twin chimneys at either end of the building, giving a warm, welcoming impression. Sam felt a palpable wave of relaxation coming over him for some strange reason he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

They got out of the car and Sam shrugged on the proffered jacket as they headed inside. As they stepped over the hearth, he had to momentarily pause and blink to find his bearings in the dark, slightly smoky interior. At one end of the room was a vast stone hearth flanked by a long wooden bar intricately carved in swirling patterns, behind which stood dozens of bottles festooned with brightly coloured labels and a barman busily occupied with his daily chores. Large beams of timber crisscrossed the roof, supported by ornate wooden pillars that stretched down to the polished stone floor. Several faded watercolours and old tapestries hung on the walls next to a battered dart board, along with a felt noticeboard covered with several scrawled notices and yellowing pictures obviously cut out of a newspaper. A few streaks of sunlight penetrated the room from the kitchen doorway across from the front bar and from between the heavy brocade curtains, providing a warm patch for several kittens to nap, but the predominant source of illumination came from a pair of green lamps hanging at either end of the bar. The old innkeeper looked up from the glass he was polishing, revealing a grizzled yet pleasant mustachioed face and a pair of twinkling ice blue eyes.

“Morning, Mr. Bailey. Didn’t expect you back until tomorrow. Did you have a good trip?” he said in a voice affected with a slight burr.

“Yes, fine thanks Tom. This is young Mr. Samuel Johnson. He’s the son of an old war chum of mine who went out to Australia. Sam, this is Old Tom Harding. He’s kept the bar here at the Lion and Unicorn since before I was born.”

“Australia, do you say? Well, we don’t get many from down there round these parts. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Johnson. I do hope you enjoy your time here.” Sam noticed that Tom spoke slightly slower to him, as if to make himself more easily understood.

“Thank you, Tom. I hope I do.” Sam said with what he hoped was an Australian twang, deciding to keep conversation with the locals to a minimum until he could ascertain further details from Bailey.

“Now Tom, can we have two pints of bitter and perhaps a ploughman’s if it isn’t too much trouble.”

“Very good, Mr. Bailey,” responded Old Tom amiably as he reached for a pair of glasses and filled them with a thick amber fluid from a golden tap “I’ll just get your drinks and then pop into the kitchen to see what Maggie can rustle up.”

They moved over with their pints to a table in a shadowy corner underneath a stuffed vulture and sat down in the easy chairs.

“So, Sam, I’ll wager you have a few questions.”

“Only about a million and a half of them! For starters, why did you presume that I was from the past before? How could you known that? Who even are you?” began Sam rapidly.

“As I said before, it was where the evidence took me. It isn’t the only explanation, mind you. You could be mad, I could be mad or you could be lying. In the short time we’ve been together, you’ve given me an impression of a young fellow who is rather disorientated and a bit shell shocked, but lucid and rational all the same. That knocks out the first option. As for the second, I’m fairly sure I’m not mad, or rather, not too mad – I’m as mad as I am, but no madder!” Bailey chuckled, raised his pint in mock salute and took a sip.

Sam returned the gesture and took a deep drink of the surprisingly cool beer. It didn’t taste like anything he had been used to at ‘home’, but had a rather unique herbal aftertaste that was both bitter and sweet and left him wanting more.

“This is good stuff. What is it?”

“Lion Ale. Surely they’d still have it in your time?”

“Not that I’ve tried. OK, if you think neither of us are mad, then why don’t you think it’s possible I’m lying?”

“Well, not to put too fine a point on it, a lie would be rather more well-crafted and come across as if you had decided upon it beforehand. Your words and actions would have clashed with each other. I’ve had a bit of experience with determining truth and what not in the past, you know.”

“Makes sense, or at least enough sense for the moment. What about my second question then. I mean, who are you to be so calm about meeting a genuine time traveler? You act as if it is nothing out of the ordinary!”

“It is quite out of the ordinary, Sam, let me assure you of that. Most people would react in a rather different fashion and generally presume you to be a raving loony. As to who I am and why I don’t…well, let’s just say I’ve been around a fair bit more than most chaps from around here and I’ve seen a thing or two. I travelled for a few years after the war before I came back and married Victoria and it was certainly a strange world back then. I even fell in for a bit with a rather clever boffin, a sort of doctor. He works up in London with the Ministry of Space these days, I believe, and he might have an idea who can help you. I’ll write him a letter this afternoon when we get home.”

“That sounds like an extraordinarily unlikely coincidence.”

“Precisely. Tell me, had you ever been out to that location where you woke up prior to this morning? Back in your time, I mean.”

“No, I’ve never been through this part of the country before. I grew up in Hampstead and we always went abroad on holidays. Why do you ask?”

“Just a question, nothing to it. Some places have strange events occur more often that others in my experience. Anyway, you can stay with us up here in the meantime. No sense in you wandering about and getting hurt or lost.”

“That’s very generous of you.” said Sam, not being able to keep the suspicion out of his voice.

“I can understand your wariness, Sam. Here I am, a stranger you’ve just met, telling you to trust him and come and stay with him. By the sound of it, that isn’t as common a reaction in your time. I know it’s hard, but you’ll just have to trust me. Besides, it is half hols at the moment and the children are home. They’d be excited to have a guest from far off Australia.” Bailey smiled warmly.

“How many children do you have?”

“Six at the moment. Peter, Richard and Elizabeth are home from school, Mary and Susan are both to young and George was born last year.”

“Six kids! That must keep you busy.”

“Oh, you can say that again, my dear boy. The boys are mad over their sports, Scouts and their battleship cards and the girls keep asking for a unicorn pony, or all things. I had less trouble back in the War!”

“Yeah, kids. They want all sorts of crazy things. What do you do for a job, Simon?”

“A mixture of things. I write a bit, do the odd column for a few newspapers, sit on a few committees in the City, travel to various places talking to various chaps about various things and read a fair bit.”

“That’s extraordinarily vague, Mr. Bailey.” Sam said sardonically.

“You’re extraordinarily welcome, Mr. Johnson.” returned Bailey with a grin.

At that point, Old Tom came over to the table with a large platter arrayed with a freshly baked loaf of bread, a pat of golden butter, thick wedges of cheese, half a dozen pickled onions, hardboiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, a pair of bright green apples and several thick slices of rosy pink ham that he set down before them. Sam’s stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten since a quick sandwich yesterday afternoon. Bailey smiled and passed Tom a couple of silver coins and was rewarded with an appreciative nod and a gap toothed smile.

“There we are, gentlemen, I know it’s not a lot, but it’s all we have for now. I hope ye enjoy it.”

“Much obliged, Tom. Wonderful as usual. Be sure to thank Maggie for us.”

“That I will, Mr. Bailey.” said Old Tom as he moved off back to the bar and busied himself with his preparations for the day.

“Well, tuck in then, old boy.” instructed Bailey and Sam needed no further invitation. The bread was crusty and warm and the soft, unctuous butter and sharp cheese complimented it extraordinarily well, as did the tang of the pickles. He helped himself to a slice of the ham and was pleasantly surprised at the salty smokiness that pervaded every bite. After a few minutes, he was replete and stretched back in his seat, taking a long draught of bitter as Bailey polished off the last of the ham and began slicing his apple with a pocket knife.

“Not bad, eh?”

“Not bad? That’s the best pub meal I’ve had in ages.”

“Jolly good. Bit of nosh and drink make everything seem a bit better, as we always used to say back in the war.”

“I noticed you talking about that. You mean World War Two?”

“Yes, I was a lieutenant in the 6th Ox and Bucks in ’44 and ’45 through France, Holland and Germany. They called me back for Korea in ‘51, then I spent some time in Malaya and took a little trip to Egypt in ’56. Since then I’ve been able to catch up on the gardening a bit more, apart from last year.”

Sam nodded in apparent understanding. “I can see what you mean about seeing a fair bit of the world.”

One of the kittens had woken up from its slumber in the pool of sunlight and was now stalking a piece of fluff across the room in a fairly authentic imitation of its savage ancestors.

“Indeed. I’ve been to most parts of the Empire over the years, although I haven’t spent a lot of time in the darkest depths of Africa.”

“It will be interesting to see how things change with that now that all of that is going away at last, what with Suez and all that.” Sam ventured, thinking back to what he knew of 1960, of the winds of change blowing over a continent and the decline of empires.

Bailey looked at him quizzically and grinned in a rather baffled fashion. “I’m afraid I don’t really catch your drift, Sam. What about Suez?”

“Decolonisation. The end of an era and superpower pretensions. Stuck between Europe and the past. I think it will be next year when Acheson will say that ‘Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.’ The times, they are a-changing, Simon!” Sam concluded triumphantly as he put the last bit of cheddar on a slice of the quite delectable bread. This future knowledge could come in quite handy. Think of all the songs I know…

Bailey bought him back from his musings “Acheson said that? Dean Acheson?”

“Yes, sir, he did. Or will.”

“The American Ambassador to the Court of St. James?”

A strange buzzing sensation began in the back of Sam’s consciousness. Not enough to disturb his train of thought, not when he was on a roll like this, but enough to be noticeable. Ambassador? That didn’t seem right.

“I’m not sure what he is, but he’ll say it.”

Bailey looked vaguely crestfallen. “Oh my. It seems things look like they’ll change quite a bit in the next year, then. No way we can stop it?”

“What? Why? You can’t change history? It would be just like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

“Ah, now that one I do understand. Marvelous ship, the Titanic. I took Victoria and the kids to see it last year when we were in Liverpool. They’ve done a great job with the old girl.”

“You mean they raised the Titanic?”

“I can’t see why they’d have to. She hasn’t been in service since the War.” The buzzing sensation became stronger.

“Since the war?”

“Yes, they retired most of the old liners after the war when they had done with trooping duties. Anyway, what was all that guff about Suez? We won the war in 1956, after all.”

Sam sat still, the buzzing sensation now permeating through his whole being. Bailey saw the confusion on his face and read it correctly. “Things haven’t happened as they did in your time. You know what this means, don’t you?”

“Yes. This isn’t my past.” Sam’s face set in a grim expression and he lay his makeshift sandwich down on the table.

The small white kitten had trotted over next to his chair and now looked up at him with its appallingly cute and oversized azure eyes.

“’Scuse me, I can has cheese sandwich?” it miaowed in high pitched, distinctly childish English.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 4:50 am 
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Simon, now look.

Dragons- great.
Tanks with bayonets- better.
Tactical (or tacti-cool?) magicians- brilliant.

Putting "I can has cheezburger" in a story- PRICELESS!

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 5:25 am 
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Simon Darkshade wrote:
“’Scuse me, I can has cheese sandwich?” it miaowed in high pitched, distinctly childish English.

Sam's been coping quite well with temporal and cosmological dislocation up to this point. I think he may lose it now.

Incidentally, it's just hit me - Bailey is taking it in his stride precisely because Dark Earth has so many weird and wonderful things. A mere visitor from another timeline is quite pedestrian compared to a dragon.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 8:13 am 
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Thanks Craig; it occurred to me that it would be an interesting method of showing Sam that he is in a completely different universe, as well as having a bit of a humourous reference about how even cheeseburger-loving cats have their roots in Dark Earth.

(Note to self: Investigate the possibility of dragons fitted with bayonets and cannon packs ridden by battle wizards.)

RLBH, you are quite correct on both counts. Sam has been running on empty as far as his emotional and intellectual resources are going and is hitting the wall. The buzzing sensation is a psychosomatic symptom of that impending collapse. He will need a fair bit to get him back on an even keel; it is fortunate that he is in a relatively peaceful and relaxing neck of the woods.

Secondly, the magical nature of the world does make some of its residents slightly more well equipped to cope with strange events. This is generally the case for well-traveled and educated individuals or the denizens of the large cities, who have seen many, many strange things. The majority of the population are like the majority of the population in any country or world - used to what they know and somewhat suspicious/uncomfortable of profound difference.

Time travel within Dark Earth is so rare as to be virtually unknown, but is a theme in popular fiction. Johnson is in another universe altogether, as he realised when the kitten asked for his food. The initial shock was from thinking he had simply went back to 1961, then from realising he had gone to an alternate 1961 and finally that it was an alternate 1961 in a universe where the physical laws of nature are profoundly different.

The reason Bailey in particular is taking this in his stride is hinted at strongly - he is in an 'interesting' line of work and there are some particular details about his postwar travels that will make everything make sense.

As a note, Sam Johnson didn't know enough on British licencing laws to realise that a pub being open and selling alcohol at 10 o'clock is not quite what one would expect in this era. If he had asked Bailey about it, he would have received another polite look of bafflement and an explanation that opening hours used to be like that during the world wars, but shifted back to previous patterns in 1921 and 1948 respectively. The presence of different beer is also something he did not notice.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:01 pm 
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Talking kittens. Simply brilliant. :D

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 5:49 pm 
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Gruit/grut instead of hops?

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 1:06 am 
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Yes, that is one of the different ingredients, along with a few herbs that don't occur on Earth.

Jan, all of the talking opium addicted feline swashbucklers and irascible bulldog secret agents in the other stories started off as rather precocious kittens and puppies at one stage. ;) Glad it was amusing.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:48 am 
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This is going very well Simon. I felt as if I was being gently nudged toward a door/window/realisation then with a wack I was propelled through!

Will Sam faint, go looney tunes or just sit there with his mouth agape catching flies?

HeHe, I still have from my time with our Education Department their calendar so know that state schools start summer holidays in the near future, freeing up your time for more :D

Jonathan


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 4:46 pm 
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That was what I was going for, Jonathan, so I'm glad it succeeded and hope you enjoy the ride.

Sam is going to feel very tired and dizzy as a result of taking everything in at once.

Summer is almost upon us, so there will be a fair bit of time to devote to this and other projects; I even have a priority list of different chapters of different bits of writing organised.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 12:39 am 
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Simon Darkshade wrote:

Summer is almost upon us, so there will be a fair bit of time to devote to this and other projects; I even have a priority list of different chapters of different bits of writing organised.


Great tidings indeed, carry on and thank you for providing us with all these exellent yarns.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 3:32 am 
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Thank you kindly. Like a firing squad, I aim to please. There will be something on one of the tales by the end of the week.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 4:03 pm 
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Quote:
Like a firing squad, I aim to please.


Bit of a gabbler are you? Readyaimfire? ;)

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Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.


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