Episode 10: Double Deckers and the Trusty Tube

It’s May 1985 and it’s exam season. Our adolescent gang have slogged through their internal school exams and next it’s the turn of the older year groups to sit their important ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level exams. To facilitate this and to reduce noise levels, the younger pupils are sent out on a number of school trips. Lower school has already been shipped off for a week in Yenworthy, which is a rather basic campsite that Oxfordshire County Council maintains on the edge of Exmoor for character building purposes. The gang, however, were headed in the opposite direction: their year were off to central London for an educational visit to the National Museum for Science and Industry. This was less exciting than it might sound; since London was only 45 minutes away by train most of the kids knew it very well. They all had firm ideas about where best to go once they could slip away.

At 8am prompt they assembled outside the school each with a rucksack containing their pack lunch and a concealed set of non-uniform clothes to change into later. Three coaches were lined up and half a dozen teachers tried to complete roll call and herd the noisy, unruly throng of kids aboard. The gang headed for the back bench but to their consternation Tank pulled away to sit with Nellie and Sandra nearby. Robbie dislodged those already at the back and, as the coach lurched off, everyone tucked into their pack lunch. By the time the convoy hit the M40 motorway the aisle was already littered with snack packets. The first hour of travel wasn’t so bad while they countered the teachers’ sing-a-long with improvised lyrics, but then teenage restlessness surged. A rubber band skirmish broke out across the aisles. Tommy rigged a superior catapult which arced most of the way to the front of the bus . Pete and Andys’ catapults failed entirely but Kin’s ricocheted all the way down to the very front. Robbie not only matched Tommy for projectile efficiency but managed to smack the teacher squarely in the back of neck. “TUCKER! Stop that”, he yelled without even bothering to turn around. The tournament came to an end with a clear winner.

The journey seemed endless but eventually the convoy pulled into South Kensington while its rear occupants were bopping away to ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ on Tank’s Walkman cassette player. In the chaos of disembarking they suddenly realised that they entirely failed to plan ahead, so they allow themselves to be herded with the rest of the mob across to the Museums. There was a general scrum around the toilets as 150 kids realised the same urgency after two hours on a coach, which gave the gang time to confer. Tommy just wanted to head as far down into the museum stacks as he could, Kin preferred to get to the junk shops on Edgeware Rd, Andy wanted to find ‘Gay’s the Word’ bookshop to get advice about his Mum’s AIDs treatment,Tank wanted to reach Virgin Megastore on Oxford St for the release of the new Dire Straits album, and Robbie wanted to get all the way out to Camden Lock for its alternative lifestyle scene. Pete intended to stick with Robbie as she was “most likely to need rescuing”. Teachers started to herd them toward some sort of press junket set up near the entrance hall, but Ash sensed a trap and urged them all into hiding.

From partial concealment the gang observed that the main hall was decked out for an official pre-opening of something called the ‘Launch Pad’, presumably part of the institution’s new commercial, quasi-privatised identity: ‘The Science Museum’, complete with expensive logos. There were TV cameras present, daily newspaper journalists, plain clothes security, museum staff in new uniforms as well as the half dozen carefully selected school groups.The gang twigged that this event was pulling staff attention away from the lower stacks and immediately snuck away down the big marble staircase. All except Tank who, mesmerised by the bright lights and girls, stayed to meet his political hero, Michael Heseltine. Andy and Ash loyally stayed to keep an eye on him. The Minister duly swanned in to make a suitable speech about this public outreach project, giving fulsome thanks to the Lever brothers who had sponsored it. Ash sidled out. Meanwhile, those kids who were really keen on getting their hands on science were already frigging the security lock into the stacks below.

Upstairs at the Launch Pad, the kids were finally set loose on the interactive exhibits. Tank and Andy initially planned to go around with the girls and helpfully explain what to do, but when Andy looked around Tank had gone to try and meet the Minister of State for Science. Andy was at a loss to explain to Nellie and her friends why Tank preferred the company of Michael Heseltine to her and it was left to Andy to get hands on with the girls. Tank’s genuine admiration and unusual neatness actually permitted him to be escorted nearer to the Minister who was at that moment looking for a suitable prop for his photo opportunity. Tank not only got his programme signed but also became the pupil pointing at stuff in the photo used for all the evening papers. His teachers were very proud.

Meanwhile, in the dimly-lit lower stacks below, Tommy was in his element. He discovered that the majority of the space was piled high with the hastily dismantled remains of what must have been quite a large exhibit on the failed British Satellite Broadcasting Company.  Tommy and Kin emptied their backpacks and started pilfering as fast as possible. From her customary position as lookout, Robbie recognised the service elevator coming to a halt at their level just at the same time that Gizmo pinged and displayed a new message: ‘museum security systems bypassed’. They all dived into cover and put Gizmo on mute. A trio of museum staff in correct uniforms and nametags came in and, working from lists on a clipboard, loaded a substantial pile of satellite tech onto a trolley and headed back up the lift. It all seemed perfectly legit except for Gizmo’s alert. Ash gained their attention by frisbeeing a ‘squarial’ into the doors but stood in plain sight to do it. They simply kicked it free, reprimanded Ash and hit the Up button. Unwilling to be dismissed so lightly Ash headed up the service stairwell to intercept.

The others rushed up to the lift and start to hack into the overrides, but suddenly realised that it would be so much more useful if the security breach had started 20 minutes earlier and erased their own break-in. They fixed this and were distracted enough to head down rather than up to explore the lower stacks at leisure. So Ash’s backup failed to materialise at the same time that her luck ran out. The museum’s lower basements were much more extensive and packed away than they had expected. After opening drawers and cupboards at random the gang remained baffled by collections of cogs, microscope slides, old notebooks, sealed Victorian test tubes and other paraphernalia. Some items looked old enough to be from the original Great Exhibition and Tommy was disappointed not to find the stuffed frogs. Old tech wasn’t really doing anything for the gang so they headed back upstairs to regroup. But Ash was nowhere to be found.

Over lunch the gang asserted to each other that Ash was almost certainly absolutely fine but, just in case, they probably ought to find out what had happened to her. Deducing that the service lift came out at the rear of the museum in the loading area, they gave their teachers the slip and went outside and around the back. Tommy vaguely remembered a blocky outside broadcast van being parked there on the overwritten tapes, but there was no longer any sign of it and no sign of Ash either. A friendly local coffee shop owner confirmed that he did see such a vehicle pulling out and heading north at the right time. Hopping along the bus routes and charming various police officers, news-sellers and hotel doormen along the way, they determined that the broadcast van went up the Edgware Road. They paused to wrestle with diversions at this point but eventually stuck with their quest. The pause gave Tommy enough time to notice that the local Paddington Green police station had some interesting tech and used Gizmo to hack into it. The place turned out to be the HQ of the Met’s anti-terrorist unit and packed chock full of surveillance databases. Finessing their vehicle logs Gizmo reported that the van had gone on up through Maida Vale, turned off along Willesden Lane, and was currently headed into Wembley.

They decided to hop on the tube and change at Baker St for the Metropolitan line which would take them up to Wembley. At Baker Street they spotted Ash heading south so there ensued several minutes of farce as they chased each other across the bridges and connecting tunnels until they could finally reunite. Ash appeared to be unruffled and described her abductors as a bunch of “cool dudes who were just borrowing some kit for a gig”. Tommy opined that gigs which used purloined satellite equipment generally involved James Bond. Kin pointed out that he’d nicked some vital components off the kit so it might not work. By now thoroughly curious they rock up to Wembley in the hopes of a surprise Dire Straits gig, but discovered instead the IXth UK Athletics Championships were taking place in the Stadium. Pete was delighted. Everyone else… wasn’t. They verified that the broadcast van was cunningly concealed in plain sight amongst the other broadcast vans.

After a fair bit of faffing around trying to figure out how to sneak or blag their way in, they finally came to the realisation that they could simply buy tickets. These championships, always less important than the AAA Championships later in the season, were a mid-week and under-funded sporting event which was only pulling in a mediocre crowd. By claiming student discount (and they were clearly kids) they only had to pay one quid each to get in. Tommy reminded them to keep an eye on the tech. Tommy, Kin and Robbie followed the visible camera cables down towards the BBC media centre. From there they noticed that behind the athletics scoreboard and timing displays there was a very large stage starting to be constructed. Tank, Pete and Andy clambered upward to the very top of the stands where they spotted satellite dishes being set up on the roof between the twin towers. They met up and shared news.

Robbie sussed out the maintenance route up to the roof and led her gang up to the suspicious activity. There they discovered a bunch of scruffy young technicians who were busy setting up some very familiar satellite dishes plus a whole array of additional kit along the southern roofline. The techs were surprised but not particularly displeased to see a bunch of kids, and a couple of them even said hello again to Ash. They did look like roadies. Some cagey banter ensued but Kin and Tank calculated that they were there to transmit something from the location. The techies were happy to describe the ordinary bits of kit and some basic principles but were not forthcoming on their more interesting items and purpose. Tank let on that they possessed the vital item which was missing from the Science Museum kit. Kin was willing to reinstall this focussing node in exchange for more information, whereupon Tommy demanded to know who they were. They claimed to just be a bunch of freelancers.

The kids were allowed to watch but not play. They deduced that the techies were clearly testing a bunch of satellites for an uplink. Pete wandered off to watch the athletics from on high and was disappointed to find that he couldn’t see the scoreboard as the installation was carefully angled not to be visible to the BBC crews. Half the gang returned down to the championships and were just in time to watch Zola Budd race barefoot in her comeback year; she set a new world record for the 3,000 metres. During her medal presentation Pete managed an experimental lap before officials chased him off the track. Kin took photos, ostensibly of Pete but actually of the techies and their setup. Tommy failed to plug gizmo in anywhere interesting but did come away with the bearings of the dishes. Andy eventually rounded everyone up and chivvied them all back onto the Tube so that they didn’t miss the coach home. It took a good half hour and they had to run the last quarter mile above ground, but they made the meet with minutes to spare.

Dedcot Introduction
Dedcot History
Dedcot Location Map
Dedcot Character Generation
Playground Football; rules of the game
Episode 1: Life on Mars Bars
Episode 2: Twix a Rock and a Hard Place
Episode 3: SCreme Egg Scramble
Episode 4: Time for a Picnic
Episode 5: Marathon Man
Episode 6: Careless Wispas
Episode 7: Bar Noir
Episode 8: It Takes Allsorts
Episode 9: Jolly Tots and Candy Bots

Episode 11: Bounty Hunters