A few select moments of outrageous coincidence and mindboggling complication on the path to destruction...
In Victoria, the news of the multiple death, carnage, burning, and outright destruction of one of Melbourne's suburbs ranked third on the news bulletins, following on from a fever pitch torrent of football news. With Hawthorn at the top of the ladder, it is difficult to determine which was considered the greater tragedy.
The public remained blissfully unaware that this was only the beginning...
The minister sat and authorized the funding approvals for another year. Authorizing generally consisted of stamping them 'approved', and that was a task he usually got his secretary to do. But today he was feeling energetic, and, having arrived early, had already finished picking his nose.
Despite being in charge, the minister actually had no idea what he was authorizing. The executive summaries were far too long at half a page and contained too many big words, and, after all, the widespread use of whiteboards was still years away. Anyway, he wouldn't have been asked to authorize them if they weren't neat ideas, so why should he waste everyone's time by reading them? He turned another page and stamped approval for the continued funding of a project whose title he couldn't even pronounce, unaware that how often this occurred was the only thing scarier than the ramifications of the said project...
Detrius sat in the CES waiting for the woman to return with his form. She had been gone for an interminable time, yet for the simplest of tasks. One rubber stamp was all it needed. Biting his lip in frustration, Detrius decided dealing with the public service must be something like having a baby. Except that the public service took longer, hurt more, and left you with no visible end result or pleasant memories of how well f*cked you'd been.
Such a degree of ineptitude could not simply be accidental... He had started the day with a positive attitude. Having finished up at his current work, he had decided to spend a pleasant morning signing on for unemployment benefits. He had been so positive in attitude that he even refused to snort at the misnomer: how anyone could term a cheque that would just manage to cover the cost of sub-standard accommodation and enough food to keep him alive a 'benefit' was actually quite amazing. Instead, Detrius had decided he'd just have to sign on several times. Little did he realise that once would prove challenge enough.
The system being what it was, signing on first meant a trip to the CES, or Commonwealth Employment Service. That name was also a misnomer: it was certainly run by the Commonwealth, but, beyond the people behind its counters, rarely offered anyone any form of employment and the service received was roughly analogous to the type for which farmers hire bulls.
Detrius had been on unemployment benefits before, and remembered that signing on had entailed filling in a form about as thick as an instruction manual for the assembly of an aircraft carrier. Questions ranged from easy and obvious ones, such as your name, which he could just about handle, to things that everybody carries at their finger tips, such as personal details of your mother, father, grandparents, everyone you live with, how many of all of the above you sleep with, yearly averages of how frequently you do so, and the flight number and arrival time of the plane that last delivered you to Australia, had you ever been out of it. Detrius couldn't remember a question relating to the number of thymine bases on his X-chromosome, but he was sure it must have been in there somewhere. He had shuddered at the thought of the time it had taken to fill out the form and reached into his pocket.
The letter he removed was from the Department of Social Security and had been sent to him when he had gained the job from which he had now somewhat hastily departed. The letter informed him that, as he was now spending all day, every day earning a wage about half of what the Department was paying him, he was no longer eligible for unemployment benefit, but, should the situation change, he could present the letter at the CES to ensure a much faster rate of reapplication.
Detrius had shuffled forwards to the reception counter, had handed over the letter, and had explained that, as he'd only been employed for (a record) five months, he was sure they would still have all his details on file. The woman had given him a sickly smile and pushed over a form about as thick as an instruction manual for the assembly of an aircraft carrier.
Worried about his parking meter, Detrius had filled the form in as best he could, and following the woman's advice that the form be lodged with the DSS, had left the CES and tracked his way down to the other department. After an interminable wait there, he was told he had failed to get the completed form stamped at the CES, and would have to do so before any claim could be considered.
He returned to the CES only to find another long queue. As he reached the front of the queue, he was told that no new forms could be processed between midday and two, and he would have to wait quarter of an hour. The reason for no new processing, he was told, was to allow the staff to clear the backlog of work that always built up during the morning, and to deal with general enquiries from the public; an entity which, in its expression, apparently did not include the unemployed. Detrius spent quarter of an hour watching the staff read magazines and throw paper planes at each other.
At two, he had handed over his form. The woman gave him a sickly smile and told him to wait until he was called. He explained that he only needed a stamp for the DSS, and she replied that he would need to be interviewed first. He sat and waited. It was now twenty minutes past the hour, and he had heard nothing. His parking meter was due to expire, and he toyed briefly with the idea of running out to put more money into it. Trouble was, he knew that the second he was out the door his name would be called, and then his form placed back to the bottom of the pile. But he was also risking gaining a hefty parking fine. He thought about explaining the problem, but one look at the receptionist was enough to convince him not to bother. She was about as cheerful as a slum-dweller in Surat. 'They probably keep people waiting in return for a percentage of the fines,' he joked to himself.
It was half past when his name was called. The woman smiled and gave him his form. 'It only needed to be stamped,' she said, and dismissed him in the way that only snotty public servants can. Detrius rushed back to the DSS, queued, waited while they scrutinised his form for anything else irregular before grudgingly accepting it, and then returned to his car. There was a parking ticket under the windscreen wiper.
Whack! Reek sat and smacked his head into the wall. In half an hour it'd be time to change sides, he thought, and smacked it again. Whack!
Fred had a problem. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, and that was a bit of a problem in itself. But there was something more important than just his problem. There was another problem. A bigger one. Oh dear, thought Fred. So many problems. And the big one was beginning to look as though he would have to do something about it...
They were sitting in Royal Park, on the grass by the Tamar River. The muddy
water gurgled past in sluggish harmony with life in the city. Detrius had sunk
into a morose mood on the discovery that none of the local pubs were open: the
more he saw of the early morning the less he liked it. George sighed deeply.
'Detrius, how much do you remember of the past?'
George gave a slightly knowing smile. 'Do you ever get the idea that you're different from everyone else? That you're better?'
'All the time,' Detrius answered truthfully. He often told people that he felt that way too.
'That's because you are. Detrius, this is hard to accept, but the reason for all this, all these feelings and differences, and why I'm here now, is because we're from the future. We came here because of the monster. We were sent for that reason.'
George stared out over the river. As understandably treasured a commodity as flights out of Launceston were, there were none available until the afternoon. Still, the wait gave them a good opportunity to tease their minds and beat matters out. And there were important matters about which he had to remind Detrius. About the monster.
We have to stop it,' he said.
Breathless and almost collapsing, Daz, Steve, and Ferret leapt into a ditch some forty metres - the length of the wire - beyond the overpass. On the highway, the van was now in plain sight, and closing on the tanker.
Steve desperately started to attach the wires to the detonator, while Daz unwisely leant his elbows on the handle of the plunger to steady his view. Their plan was to wait until the van was on the overpass, then blow the twenty sticks of gelignite that were attached to its supports. They failed to see the almost fatal danger this presented to their incarcerated comrade, and, due to their over-estimation of the amount of explosive needed and their under-estimation of the amount of concrete this would displace compared to their own distance from it, to themselves.
Apart from that, the plan was almost perfect...
Not too far away, Julian wasn't feeling very happy about matters either. He also thought he had heard something, and had popped his head out of his office to look. He was now wishing he had stuck it straight back in again, instead of going for a wander. The corridors were so creepy at night, and, more recently, it was as though something malignant was lurking within them. Something that haunted the building when everyone else was away...
He shuddered, wishing there was more light. But, in the tradition of all Australian construction jobs, the wiring had been rooted from the word go, and would take a little bit longer to fix. After all, the complex had only been running for about a decade and a half, so why hurry? If it had been up in the top notch offices, like George's, or any of the main labs, it would have been done straight away. But no-one cared about the labourers and research assistants down here; the ones who worked their butts off at odd hours. No one cared that the temporary lights barely gave enough illumination to reach the floor.
Julian stopped sidling down the passage and listened again. There it was. The gurgling and dripping. The hairs stood up on the back of his neck. But still he pressed on. Around another corner was an open office door, with light spilling out. It was one of the research and planning offices, used daily by several people at once. Julian knew that one or two other people from such offices also worked at night, like him, mostly to avoid weekday crowding and the personalities of their room-mates. Right now that crowding and those personalities didn't seem so unattractive...
Julian crossed to the office and looked inside: it was empty.
The gurgling came again, and a low moaning, like pain. He was certainly heading in the right direction. Yippee. Telling himself not to, he moved on, towards one of the storage rooms.
Whatever was making the noise was definitely in there.
He tried to open the door carefully, but it was stiff from lack of use, and made a noise that would have put Dracula's coffin to shame.
The gurgling stopped.
Julian fumbled for the light switch, but got no response. Stuffed wiring, and a room too disused to bother with even a temporary light. Not that they do much good anyway, Julian thought drily, trying to let humour distract him from a heart so overactive it was bending his ribs. He rubbed dust and spider web away from his fingers.
Treading carefully, he walked towards the centre of the room. The dull spill from the doorway illuminated various oddly angled edges. A cold sweat had erupted on his brow and back, and in his armpits. He stopped and listened. All was silence. He turned in a circle, looking carefully into the darkness. He could see nothing. He waited for what seemed like ages, his eyes gradually adjusting, but still there was nothing.
Slowly, his heart rate fell. The sweat began to recede, and he turned back to the entrance in relief. His stupid imagination had been overacting again. It was probably just something in the pipes, or even nothing at all. What a twit he'd been. He almost laughed.
Then tentacles engulfed him from the darkness, and the door slammed shut.
Having listened to many of the broadcasts himself, Inspector McKenzie was beginning to wonder what he had committed himself to. For a start, he could distinctly remember using the word 'possible' in connection with 'terrorists', but that seemed to have fallen by the wayside. Instead, the media had collected the emotive, and, in hindsight, possibly inappropriately chosen 'T' word, and run with it like an All Black forward faced by the Wagga-Wagga Morman Tabernacle Choir.
With the start of a new day, the biggest manhunt in the history of New South Wales erupted across half the state. Unfortunately for those searching, the taxpayer funding them, and McKenzie's career, it was the wrong half.
Having corrected their wayward wanderings, Detrius, George and the slowly recovering Celi were already out of the Sydney area and heading south.
Then, for a second, it seemed to have stopped, and even Ferret had stuck his head up over the rim of the look-out. That was when the rockets took off. The big ones. The anti-tank ones, the anti-aircraft ones, the lot. The ones that he had laid out on the ground. Pointing more or less out over the look-out...
One of them nearly scalped him as he dropped back down, its fin leaving a small red line across the top of his shaved head. From where Ferret lay, he had a beautiful view of the vapour trails streaking out over the lookout, and vanishing towards Canberra...
So it was that a man from the future, wearing a lime green, wide lapelled
polyester shirt, flared, purple corduroy jeans, and second hand thongs, stood
before the ACT Anti-Terrorist Squad, one or two pissed off and upset security
guards, three disgruntled, bleeding, or frightened skinheads, a transsexual
barmaid, a raving lunatic mistaken for a homicidal maniac, and two alleged
co-conspirators, trying to both explain the presence of the corpse of a man who
wasn't dead yet, but lay at his feet and stood in the audience, while avoiding
mention of a monster, exploding time capsules, and the devastation in the area
around him, below him, and temporally behind and before him.
'Er, I know this looks bad,' he started...
Only one thing still needs an answer. DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW MORE?