Episode 19: The Malteser Fulcrum

Our gang of Kids had time-jumped into the main Loop, a problem they recognised immediately when energy started sparking up the walls towards its next pulse. They dashed to the nearest emergency exit and hit the override button to tumble out into the service corridor. Oddly, the alarm did not stop outside and emergency green lighting was in place; the siren was interrupted by a monotonous female voice announcing ‘Evacuation protocol in progress. Please go to your retrieval point’. They note that they were in Area Q15γ, crammed with heavy hi-tech machinery aimed into the tunnel, trailing cables and untidy workstations which seem to have been abandoned in a hurry. They approached a security door across the way, cut the wires to the cameras and attempted to frig the card lock. They had a card from the corpse in Boulder City but it didn’t work for this sector. Tommy considered upgrading the card to ‘Access all Areas’ but Robbie, more paranoid, pointed out that any data transfer might alert security to their presence. They attacked the door instead, but it was a big blast door and not susceptible to mere crowbars. After some thought they rigged a powerful solenoid to slide the bolt back and managed to heave the door open.

Behind this were smaller corridors going straight ahead, and curving left and right, all dimly lit with emergency lights. Various ordinary doors led off to rooms either side. In the gloom ahead they saw a bunch of noisy, argumentative adults retreating through the next security door. They noted a sector map on the side of the corridor showing the nearby rooms to be offices, toilets, lockers, staff lounge etc. They were in Sector Q14γ, with the security door ahead leading to Q13γ. The gang snuck into the locker room and discovered a range of adult uniforms and coveralls, but none in teenage size. Kin failed to extract hot chocolate from an obstinate vending machine but did discover that all prices were listed in Euros in 2005. Tommy headed to tables near the sinks where enough free coffee and tea making gadgets had been rigged up to keep researchers going for 24 hours at a time. Tank disembowelled the confectionary and crisp vending machine and they all tucked into the first meal they’d had in two days. In the middle of all this a security guard appeared in the doorway demanding to know who they were and how the hell they got here. They pulled the old ‘we’re on a school trip and we got lost’ sob story.

The harassed security guard decided that this obvious fabrication could be sorted out later and his clear duty was to get the kids evacuated immediately. He herded them towards Q13γ and heroically refrained from using his taser despite being pestered with nonsensical questions. The gang did discover that his name was Lt. Golotov and deduced from the logo on uniform that he worked for DART. In Q13γ they milled around in the canteen with researchers, guards and admin staff who were speculating on why they were being evacuated this time. Andy chatted amiably to everyone and established that they were near the main outer loop on the southwest sector furthest away from Dedcot, and that the A.I. research was based right at the hub. The large distances involved was underlined by the fact that there were bikes and scooters abandoned nearby, and the staff were all waiting for a vacuum tube pod which would whisk everyone away to a secure, above-ground military hangar; women and children first. Andy created a fuss about going to the toilet right now which was just enough distraction for Robby to unclip and remove Golotov’s security access card for sector Q. As the pod arrived and people bustled into it, a combination of sneak and outright scrummage saw the kids evade their guard and bike away. Only Kin noticed a faint silvery shimmer across the pod doors with an old underground carriage visible beyond.

The kids biked away as fast as they could pedal and were soon out of sight in the gloom. A couple of kilometres or so down an increasingly dim, quiet and run-down spoke corridor they were brought to a halt by a rusty old blast door blocking their way. There were cameras. Pete and Kin noted that the door mechanism were on their side, which implied that the bad stuff would be on the other side. They decided to press on regardless. Ash dealt with the cameras by covering the lenses with toffee from her Mars bar and Kin not only completely overrode the lock mechanism but independently invented lock bumping at the same time. Behind the blast door the corridor air was stale, dusty and smelled faintly hot. The singed corpse of a rat lay in the corridor ahead and a large red throw switch was set into the wall about 100 metres ahead of them. They’d watched their scifi films: they recognised a laser hallway when they smelled it! The kids wafted all the floor dust up to make the beams sparkle, and Pete took a moment to channel his sister; unfortunately he only made it halfway through before getting zapped in the backside and falling to the floor. Kin came to his rescue with his impressive array of lenses to divert a beam and burn out some of the other laser projectors. Pete got hauled up and Tommy got pulled away from the big red switch. They pushed on.

Another quiet and cool corridor with the faint smell of mould. Q10γ was a cheap, 3m circular tunnel of poured concrete with occasional old municipal doors in each side. Out of pure curiosity the kids poked their noses into one and discovered, under a large canvas tarpaulin, a pile of early space satellites from the 1950s. The whole area has cold war vibes with old posters and delightful signs such as ‘Classified project: Forbidden to photograph and reproduce.’ ‘Warning! Radioactive area’. The next random room had desks full of old typewriters. They pushed on to the next security block and the door committee took out both cameras and the lock. Beyond was another corridor going straight ahead, and others curving left and right, all dimly lit. Trotting out of the darkness to the left came a small pony, followed by a dozen wing clipped hens. Tank befriended the pony and abandoned his wheels in favour of riding, on the grounds that it looked more epic along with his spear. They peered into an old 1960s bot workshop and shelves of old-fashioned civilian clothing in leather suitcases. Their enthusiasm for pilfering threatened to bring movement to a complete halt, but eventually Robbie and Andy herded them all onwards.

As they made their way through Q9γ they noticed that Pete had gone very quiet and was not moving along so well. The problem was his scorched backside where the laser burn blister had spread. Also his trousers and underpants were a bit charred. Ash, channelling the echoes of Annie, persuaded Pete to get it seen to. Stepping through a random side door for privacy they luckily discovered an obsolete medical station specialising in radiation and burns. Since Annie only knew about 1960s kit anyway, this was just about perfect. There were even posters and instructions on what to do and how to find stuff. He got patched up and changed into clean sports kit, including the iconic lilac shorts. The gang also decided to take some of the potassium iodide tablets just in case. They moved on. Another security door loomed up whereupon the door committee swung into action and they breezed through into area Q8γ.

‘Unauthorized personnel strictly forbidden!’ was the sign stencilled onto the wall in large, unfriendly letters. Skittering sounds came from up ahead. As they looked for somewhere to hide a large, weaponed security dog-bot came into view, reminding them strongly of the unpleasant encounter with something similar in Reet’s scrapyard during their last Easter holidays. The pony shied, chickens got thrown to the fore; as half the gang ran away down the clockwise corridor it attempted to zap Robbie but missed. Tommy tried to type commands into Gizmo while running behind the gang, but mistyped. Ash, Pete and Tank decided to stop, turn and fight although Tank’s spear failed to penetrate. Fortunately Ash’s metal arrow accurately took out its weapon, and Pete spectacularly somersaulted onto its back and wrenched off its sensor pack. This gave Tommy just enough time to catch his breath and send an immobilising command to the bot via Gizmo. Tank retrieved his spear and posed heroically. After that scramble the gang gathered round to see what they could scavenge and concluded that the sensor pack was probably broadcasting location before being crushed. To mislead any pursuit they rapidly backtracked to the intersection and travelled a full kilometre anticlockwise to the next spoke corridor, P8γ, and rode as fast as they could towards the next door.

Beyond P7γ they started to feel they’d evaded pursuit and ducked into a side room where a line of ancient hazmat suits and blower fans were lined up. They tinkered with their scavenged weaponry but only had a few minutes before lookouts heard a familiar skittering approach the door. Most of the kids hid behind suits. Tommy and Kin hastily rerigged the scavenged zapper and handed over to Andy to point it at the door. Tommy set up gizmo to hack the dog-bot as before and Tank opened the door a half-chicken width to allow a signal out and the bot’s laser zaps to get in. The zaps ricocheted around the room injuring both Tank and his pony. Tommy hit ‘return’ and believed he immobilised it. Tank swung the door wider so Andy could shoot out whereupon he could see that there were two bots outside. Andy blasted one sensor pack away. Ash shot an arrow but missed. Tank and Pete rushed the immobile bot. Tommy failed to immobilise the second bot. Andy shot again and got the second sensor pack, it zapped the room at random but fortunately everyone ducked the shot. On Andy’s third shot he managed to hit its energy pack and discovered that this battery type explodes. Tank and Pete rolled away from the charred bots, both kids now scared as well as injured. They’d had enough of saving the world and wanted to go home. Robbie rallied her gang and persuaded them to press onwards, at a good pace since something now knew they were there. The kids scurried several hundred metres along this spoke corridor and came into view of a new type of door: it was bigger, it had a digital number pad as well as a card reader, and it had some interesting looking sensors pointed at it. Ash very carefully covered the sensor inputs with foil sweet wrappers. Tommy attached Gizmo to the keypad and deployed all of his programming expertise — to complete failure. A red flashing light started up. Kin elbowed him out of the way and after careful examination of the actual keys tapped in a code, cancelled the alert, and unlocked the door. It was a really big door.

Area P6β opened onto a large, well-lit curving hall enclosing the beta loop, built in the 1960s. This too looked recently deserted, with a lot of workstations and future tech equipment crowded about. It was entirely modern and not derelict at all. There were a number of small drones flying around and there were dead bodies visible, both with slashing wounds. Andy hefted his new zap weapon, eager to try it out again. Tommy tried hacking the drones but only discovered that their directive was something to do with personnel. Andy snuck towards the bodies and retrieved a security card. Tommy decided to go and fetch the other security card but bumped into some equipment on the way alerting the drones to his presence. “Intruders! Intruders! Alert!” broadcast the first two drones as they come over. Andy zapped one out of the sky, but Ash missed her arrow shot and the drone injured Tommy. Robbie hauled Tommy into cover while Tank, seeing his friends in danger, urged his pony forward and hurled his spear straight through the remaining drone reducing it to a hundred components. The gang heard more drones approaching and dashed to the next door. While they were figuring out the card reader an ominous shimmering started to appear around the door. They dashed a kilometre clockwise around the walkway, Andy successfully shooting another drone out of the air along the way.

At Q sector the door committee overrode its guard sensors but stalled at the biometric pad. Ash, an unexpectedly tough lass, offered to go back to retrieve a dead body but Robbie pointed out that it would be easier to reprogram the security card to Tommy. After a successful hack they got through into Q5β to another deserted office sector: canteen, offices, toilets, DART security, cinema/lecture room. These have a lot of bright white lights, mysterious sockets and flat screens showing crisp, clear emergency messages. The people who were working here clearly left in a hurry and left behind a number of pastel or silver tricorders, phasers and communicators. They loaded up with a selection of Star Trek gadgetry but disappointingly there was no dematerialisation on demand. While Andy stood watch with his trusty zapper, Tank examined a pink rectangle with attached headphones and its controls were so simple that even he managed to sample all the 2005 hit tracks that it contained. “Push the Button” from Sugababes seemed especially apposite. In the DART security room they hack around with Golotov’s security access and finally got a look at a map of the UK Loop complex in 2005. It was huge. Time bubbles started to form around them and while most of the kids dodged away Tank and Pete were trapped in the canteen. Andy and Pete were determined to rescue everybody but one bubble loomed menacingly over Tank. Tank heroically pushed Pete away calling “save yourself!” He disappeared. Pete was very upset and Robbie did her best to reassure him.

The door committee breezed through the next sector door but came to an abrupt halt at the sight of a restless ankylosaurus blocking the corridor. There was no logical explanation for this. They dodged right and just kept pedalling. P4β appeared rather more carefully and neatly abandoned, possibly explained by the labels on the side offices: medical, freezer stores, dorms, TV studio, MI7, MI16. Alas Kin did not recognise the latter designations and suspected that his mother wouldn’t tell him anyway. The medical section was tempting but Robbie just grabbed a first aid box as Andy hurried everyone onwards. Pedalling up spoke corridors which looked increasingly like a space station, the kids were stopped by double doors plastered with triangular hazard signs, also ‘TOP SECRET’ and other signs proclaiming the area beyond to be property of HM Govt and the US Dept of Advanced Research & Technology. Despite all the expensive extra security which had been installed, a blast of cold CO2 from Kin’s fire extinguisher and a quick callback to factory settings had the doors opened in no time at all. There was no spoke behind these but the gang followed the curving corridor anticlockwise and eventually found the T junction they expected. Turning left into M3α they discovered an area with a lot of biochemical labs, offices and secured vaults mysteriously labelled CDC and EPA. An entire suite of purple labs logoed Cadburys which tempted them briefly, but then more bubbles started to drift into view.

They biked onwards, braked just short of the next doors and Ash leapt up the wall to destroy the sensors. Kin and Tommy fumbled around trying to persuade the biometrics to let them in but got nowhere until Robbie leaned in to correct their program spelling. Tommy blushed. The next M2α corridor seemed to be something to do with the space programme, which was a surprise to the kids as they weren’t aware that Britain had anything to do with space. Saxavord Central Control, Skyrora and Lockheed Martin proprietary engineering and data storage were the areas they regretfully left unexplored as they dodged ahead of an increasing number of slow but persistent time bubbles. With spelling and connectivity sorted out Gizmo was finally able to operate remotely and the doors to N1α opened up as the gang approached. Beyond was a narrow 2m corridor that led into darkness. Pipes in the ceiling leaked water out onto a slippery floor, and ahead a shimmering milky white bubble drifted across the space between the concrete walls. To either side were glass windows which looked down onto vast, shadowy spaces where huge black blocks curved away into the distance. The corridor looked heavily damaged, as though some sort of firefight had taken place through this area, but there were no signs of anyone around, alive or dead. Where the windows were cracked or holed, ice and fog had formed. Ahead was a high-tech vault door, blown in by some massive explosion.

Abandoning their bikes the kids cautiously edged forward and peered through. Behind the last door a narrow metal walkway curved left and right. Ahead was a 10m high underground room filled with shimmering, silverly time bubbles. Sprayed concrete covered the chamber’s bare walls and ceiling. Two large ventilation fans circulated air, and a smooth concrete foundation supported grates above the wet floors. Opposite was another vault door and a wall of measuring equipment. But nothing was as imposing, mysterious, or frightening as the object glimpsed in the centre. Insulated cables and pipes were spread out over the grated floor like tentacles that all led to the middle of the hall. Elevated above the rest of the room, these built a high tower that stretched from floor to ceiling: a machine of cables, metal, foam, LEDs and controls, but in a form which was more organic than mechanical – a gnarled tree trying to lift its branches toward the sky. This is especially disturbing to Andy, who saw the whole place explode during his dream transfer from the 1960s. The kids withdrew and conferred in frenzied whispers about what they could possibly do. They rapidly identified the time bubbles as Klein’s most dangerous defence and reckoned any direct attack was unlikely to succeed but might be used as a distraction. A pleased whinny alerted them to something approaching from behind. They were amazed to see Tank, looking sunburned and uninjured and dressed like Lawrence of Arabia. “How’s it going?” he greeted them. His time anchor had worked successfully, to Pete’s great relief.

Robbie regathered everyone’s attention and went over the final plan which required a fair bit of co-ordination on her part. It was dangerous for those doing the distractions but gave Tommy the maximum chance to hack into Klein. “What’s the play if we manage to persuade it to stop?” Andy wanted to know. “We take it down,” Robbie decided, “we can’t risk it changing its mind.” And on that note, the gang were ready to move. First up was Kin who targeted the data feeds and any other input that he could hardwire to Tank’s pink iPod plus he took control of the nearby microphones and programmable lighting. By the end of it he was exhausted but was able to initiate a 2005/1980s disco in the chamber around Klein-2 and direct its attention towards Tank. Tank chatted synth music with the A.I. and got it to reminisce about when it shared music with the Professor and how annoyed it was nowadays, which left Tank thoroughly scared. Next Andy stepped into the spotlight, trying to charm Klein-2 into stopping its plan to take over the world and becoming upset to discover that it thought it was saving mankind, even though most of them were so very stupid. Meanwhile Pete and Ash had got down to the main floor and were dashing around being distracting and disruptive while avoiding the time bubbles clustered there. Pete was sure of his training and his running kit and proved far too elusive for the bubbles to corner but was still thoroughly exhausted by the end of it. Ash was sneakier and luckier but was upset to find that bubbles were still clustered around her no matter which adjacent reality she slid into. She just about managed to elude them. Meanwhile, hidden behind Robbie in the shadows Tommy attempted to hack his way in. He had an upgraded Gizmo to help, a bicycle helmet full of schematics about Klein-1, Robbie with a zap gun protecting him, and the sure knowledge that this was about as different from milking cows as he could possibly get, but he was still very scared. He concentrated on getting to the command channel by which Klein-2 controlled all the silvery time bubbles around it, and on Robbie’s signal flung them all at the A.I. to collapse. It was an overwhelming success. Bits of Klein-2 were scattered throughout all of time and space with only a few sorry screen shards and some artistically sparking cables left dangling in the huge chamber.

Kin turned the disco off and the gang were left gazing around at a deserted chamber. “Wow,” commented Robbie. It then occured to them that they were temporarily unsupervised by adults in a top secret location. Despite agreement that they really ought to get rid of Klein-1 as well no-one stopped Tommy as he trotted off towards the data banks still wearing the helmet and carrying Gizmo with the stated intention of ‘sucking those banks dry’. Ash gathered up interesting gadgets and wandered into the TV studio where a synopsis of current news was on repeat: Ex-PM Tony Blair assumes the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Conservative Party begin voting on a new leader following the resignation of Michael Howard. Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall prepare for a state visit to the USA. The CDC confirms the success of stem-cell transplantation as a cure for HIV after extensive trials over the last few years. IICD confirmed in its final report of September 2005 that the IRA had decommissioned all of its weapons, and New Who sweeps wins at the National Television Awards. Ash with Andy dashed off to M3α where they knew that CDC was based. Tank discovered GUI interfaces on the computer so searched for, and found, UK election results and marginal seats and decided that maybe he would become a Labour MP instead for the purposes of his career. Robbie spent some time chatting quietly with Pete while he recovered from his several ordeals. Kin slipped into the control centre of M2α and learned a lot about the state of international space cooperation, monitoring satellites, the Russian Federation and ‘President Frogman’. By the time any adults found them they were innocently munching purloined Cadburys chocolate in a lecture theatre watching Star Wars Ep. III: Revenge of the Sith.

At a final meeting with Professor Thelin she undertook to deal with the 1950s bubble, probably collapsing it back closer to its own time to reduce trauma to its inhabitants, but the weird item in the stream would require more thought. She would not be rebuilding Klein and in fact would concentrate on returning to the 1950s herself. DART agents shook all the kids down for obvious 2005 gadgetry but the old bicycle helmet and Andy’s battered thermos flask containing frozen stem cells escaped their notice. Surprisingly Tank’s Ottoman spear was allowed, as were the stone chimes and Ash snuck an iPod away in her knickers, but all other hardware was removed. It was just as well the adults didn’t realise just how much information had been retained. Eventually the gang were sent back to Tommy’s hay barn in October 1985 via some knelling spheres connected to localised workstations. In the event they arrived correctly in time but slightly sideways into the middle of Aunt Persephone’s bluestone circle. The last thing that they heard from 2005 was a junior technician commenting, “Well that’s funny. Why aren’t we getting any readings beyond 2020?”

The UK Synchrotron Loop at Harwell, Oxfordshire, 2020.

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 10: Double Deckers and the Trusty Tube
Episode 11: Bounty Hunters
Episode 12: A Ripple in Time, Part 1
Episode 13: A Ripple in Time, Part 2
Episode 14: Smartie Pants
Episode 15: Reality Bitz
Episode 16: The Welsh Confection
Episode 17: Aero space
Episode 18: Curly wurly Timey wimy