Part four - The Killing Joke

Fergus paid the taxi driver and tentatively stepped onto his garden path. He stood at the end by the gate looking at the house, looking for signs of intruders.

Fergus stood frozen to the spot for some minutes, wondering if he was doing the right thing.

‘It doesn’t look like there’s a problem’, he thought, ‘surely they can’t be here yet... If I’m quick...’.

But then, the sound of another vehicle approaching had him tip-toe over to hide; he lay on the ground out of sight behind a clump of small bushes. A sporty SUV backed on to the gravel drive; a tall white haired man stepped out, looked around and ‘wiped on’ his alter ego. Instantly his thin frame became muscular, his stance solid and he seemed to be much more alert.

‘Close call,’ thought Fergus, desperately trying to remain silent, he kept his head down.

The man sent a text message as he walked to Fergus’ door; the door opened and Don, with a marijuana leaf on the front of his hoody, now as his alter-ego as ‘Blow’ stepped outside. So far Fergus had not managed to see the front of the white haired man’s hoody. The two men talked for a while then Blow stepped forward and patting his chest, a small compact cloud emerged. Blow shaped it with his hands, crafting a large doughnut of smoke, the sending it high in the air, enlarged it and brought it down to earth so that it encircled the house. Fergus was engulfed in the descending fog and before he knew what had hit him he was deeply stoned. Luckily for him he didn’t have to fall over. He made no sound. The two men went inside and closed the door.

On the road to Little Suppton, in a mini bus, Ying Yue was talking to Bert. Bert had wanted to fly on ahead, but Ying Yue, who it seemed every one recognised as leader, had insisted he was not ready to engage the hoods on his own and none of the others it seemed, could fly that far.

She told him, “We must work together. We know some of what they can do. Together we have a chance.”

Bert felt edgy, itching to get to his friend, but did see the sense in what she said. The mini bus stopped at a distance deemed to be just far enough away from Fergus’ house not to be heard. Ying Yue finished their briefing and the Round disembarked.

“Suite-up!” instructed Ying Yue and the T’s wiped up there sides and were all transformed. Bert scanned around to see the changes that had come over his compatriots; Caden, now Hot Chocolate (Choc for short) with shoulders the size of two men’s before the transformation was now wider and more muscular than any body builder or power lifter Bert had ever seen. He was dressed in all over chocolate colour with a cute cup and saucer on his T, almost lost in the expanse of chest. Ginny, a fairly fit late twenties woman to start with, looked ready for Olympic gymnastics in a suite that faded from blue at the top to pink at the boots. Lucas, AKA Flambo, looked like a young Usain Bolt before suiting up, but after, looked like he could beat Bolt in a race with ease. He was all over deep red with a Flaming Lamborghini cocktail on his T, and a full transparent face mask. Ying Yue’s T had a simple reflective disc on her chest and suited up she was all in black and it seemed she was a good eight inches taller than unsuited. Bert had learned to call her DM during operations.

Running as quietly as they could, they shortly arrived at the smoke shrouded cottage.

“Blow’s here,” said Ginny, quietly. Ying Yue nodded. The Round stood back from the ring of smoke. Ginny had given Bert a little background on one or two of the Hoods, he knew that holding your breath in the smoke created by Blow was not going to protect you. The Round had been trying to develop gas masks to combat the effects, but it seemed the smoke was able to simply soak into your skin.

“No sign of Fergus,” groaned Finnegan. “If they have him they’ll know about the boats by now.”

DM made her way to the front and patted the reflective disc on her chest; a disc grew spinning weightlessly from her T and glided forward, swallowing the mist until she pinched the disk away. Gradually she cleared through the mist and they saw the SUV on the drive.

“There’s more than just Blow,” whispered Choc, “he doesn’t drive.”

Beerman's Powers

Click the arrows for a reminder of

Beerman's Powers.

If that doesn't do the trick all is

explained in part 1

“If they’ve...” started Bert. 

But he was cut off by Ginny, “You can’t go in angry, it fogs your judgement... Compose yourself.”

Just then to the left side of the house in the garden, three figurers walked into the cleared air. Blow fashioned a ball of smoke and hurled it in the direction of the Round. Dark Mirror countered with a spinning shield that sucked in the growing smoke ball like a whirl pool. She pinched and it was gone. Choc took a tiny cup and saucer, instantly enlarging the saucer to the size of a tractor wheel and he sent it flying at the group, Bert sent two beers jetting towards the head of Blow, Ginny fired ice cubes like bullets and Flambo held up a glass that sent a stream of blue flame toward the hoods. As the projectiles reached the group, they all shrank and disappeared before they reached their targets.

“It’s ‘Pinch,’” said Ying Yue, “he has the power to pinch anything we conjure.”

To this Hot Chocolate threw a huge rock from Fergus’ rockery filing in their direction, yelling, “shrink this!”

It was dark and Pinch couldn’t quite get out of the path of the rock; it struck him a glancing blow to the side of his head and he fell by the feet of the third hood. The tall white haired man realised they would now be vulnerable to attack and he smacked the laughing face icon on the front of his hoody. A bright yellow beam blasted out from his chest, just in time, Dark Mirror blocked with a mirror disk big enough to shield the Ts of the Round, but the beam reached Finnegan 100yards back and to the side. Finnegan fell to his knees and folded up in hysterical laughter. This was the power of the hood that went by the name of “Lol” At the same time as Lol’s attack, Blow sent another cloud to rest between the fighting factions and neither group could see the other. Bert flew up above the melee, but was spotted by Blow, who sent a series of small clouds in Bert’s direction. Lol tried to catch Bert in his Beam; Bert managed to avoid it, but realised leaving the safety of Dark Mirror’s shield was not a good idea and returned to the Round. Dark Mirror was finding it hard to defend against the beam and the smoke and ordered a retreat.

Again, their view of Fergus’ house was blocked by a smoke barrier. All was quiet with the exception of Finnegan rolling about laughing in the background. Then the SUV that Lol had arrived in burst through. Hot Chocolate sent a bin sized cup of thick brown drink to cover the escaping vehicle’s windscreen, but Pinch was awake enough to counter and the large sporty car tore off into the night trailing a smoke screen.

Standing in the still of the night, they had no answer to the hoods getaway. They still didn’t know if the Hoods had Fergus. They all ran back to where Finnegan was creased up laughing on the ground with Katie, Alex and Ava trying their best to comfort him, Finnegan was laughing uncontrollably; Ying Yue hovered a disc over him, hoping in some way, to draw away the effect of the beam.

“He has a chance,” she said. “He was far enough away and the beam weakened travelling through the fog the effect maybe lessened.” 

At the back of the group, Bert quietly asked Caden, so as not to let Katie hear, “This could kill him then?”

“Oh yeah,” whispered Caden, “that’s how Harvey died. It’s a really nasty way to go.”

Just then Fergus’ only neighbour came out of his house to complain about the noise. “Oy! You lot! Do you know what time it is? What the blazes are you playing at?” He would have said more, but he walked through a thin cloud of Blow’s marijuana and decided to sit down crossed legged on the grass verge instead, to play with his slippers.

All attention returned to Finnegan, Flambo who had ran back for the bus pulled up along side the huddled group. With Finnegan made as comfortable as possible on the back seat, Flambo, still in the drivers seat started to make a three point turn. Bert and Caden ran over to the house to see if there were any clues about Fergus’ whereabouts.

“His laptop and his guitar are still here,” said Bert picking them up. “That means he’d not been and gone before they arrived.”

“They could have him,” replied Caden. 

“Or maybe he didn’t come here at all. Maybe he’s not as stupid as we thought?” Said Bert.

“He was THAT stupid,” said Ava poking her head around the door “He’s asleep in the garden. We saw him in the headlights when we were turning the bus around.” The two ran out while Ava closed the door.

Standing over Fergus, Bert (still holding Fergus’ guitar and lap top) and Caden paused briefly, looking down at Fergus’ serene, grinning face and shook their heads. Then Caden quickly picked him up and they ran back to the bus.

“Strap him in,” said Ying Yue, and they drove into the night.

As the sun rose on the rounded very ‘English Countryside’ hills just north of York, a sporty SUV rolled into the grounds of an old mill. Parked precisely, the passengers waited for the platform it was parked on to sink beneath ground level. Don and Chuck helped their friend Michael out of the car and into their underground HQ. Two more rushed over to the still slightly concussed man, loading him on to a stretcher trolley. As their fellow hoody was taken away, Don and Chuck walked over to the black glass office in the centre of the otherwise open plan space and stood where they knew there was a door.

A voice came through a small speaker above them, “Enter.”

Don and Chuck shuffled in and stood in a small illuminated patch. Further back, hidden in shadow, a desk with two seated figures rose up from the floor below. There was an uneasy silence, then Don started, “There were too many of them.”

“Did we say you could speak” said one of the two.

The other leaned forward, still in the shadow, but his eyes caught the light, ice blue. 

“We expect more. The Elders need four more captured alive before the end of the year. Understood?”

“Understood,” they agreed.

“You will deliver them, or you will take... their... place,” a voice threatened in a slow and sharply punctuated fashion.

Chuck and Don dipped their heads, nodding slightly. The door opened behind them.

“You will be joined by another from the China operation. He will be your leader,” said the other voice.

“Get out!” the two spoke in unison.

Don and Chuck shuffled backwards slowly out.

The others in the operations room, maybe twenty or so, had stopped what they were doing and were watching as the two emerged. The door closed behind them.

“Get back to work!” snarled Chuck. Settling down at their desks in a partitioned area, Chuck

poured them both a coffee.

Quiet at first, Don spoke. “This is not how it should be. We are ‘Ahrn’. We are not here to be sacrificed.”

“Careful,” said Chuck.

“Four captured by the end of the year? All they have to do is hide and we’re screwed. This whole captured alive thing. It’s, well, what is it for?”

“We won’t hold back on the ones without Ts,” said Don.

The Round had spent the night on the south side of Cambridge at a safe house near Duxford. Not that many had had any sleep. Finnegan had not stopped laughing all night and was looking exhausted by the ordeal. Katie had held on to him throughout. Still, there were signs that he was showing improvement. He had managed to drink a little water and even got a few painkillers and a Valium down. Fergus was still out cold, still grinning.

Bert walked out into the walled garden for a while to reflect. His friend and his friend’s brother could have been killed last night. Some of the beers that he had sent jetting toward the Hoods could have killed one of them, if it had gotten through. Did he really mean that to be the case? Was he a killer now? Was that self defence, or attempted murder? Can taking any life ever be justified?

Earlier yesterday afternoon, it seemed like there was fun to be had. On the boat, with everyone coming to sample his beer it was as if life could become one big party, what’s more, with him at the centre of it. Now he knew he was at war. But it was all so sudden, so sobering. He stood transfixed, watching a spider wrap up a recent catch. The fly struggled, but to no avail. Its buzzing grew weaker and weaker - then stopped.

Eventually, Ginny came out to join Bert. She stood close, put her hands on his shoulders and looked into his sad, confused eyes.

“You’re lonely, anxious, obviously weighed down with doubts, even guilt, and maybe worse. I know exactly how you feel” she sighed. “Been there,” and she gently pulled him closer for a hug. “Come here... Don’t say a word, just hold on and gather your strength... We are here for you. I’m here for you.” 

Bert held on, eventually taking a deep breath and he half left the embrace. The two, still standing very close looked deep into one-another’s eyes for a short while, until Flambo came dashing out.

“He’s waking up,” he chirped, “Fergus is waking up.” Bert and Ginny exchanged little smiles to end the encounter and followed Flambo into the room where Fergus was coming round.

“What’s for breakfast?” Fergus enquired, still very, very sleepy, “and what’s he laughing at?” 

Katie left Finnegan, marched across the room and slapped Fergus hard across the cheek. Satisfied she returned to Finnegan.

What was that for? asked the bewildered Fergus. 

“Christmas!” snapped Katie.

Part 5 >>>