Bottles & Cans - The Tasty Adventures of Beerman
Part Six - Follow the Leader
Every face was filled with the same slightly vacant expression; men, women, children. They all stopped whatever it was they were doing, and they turned towards Bert and Ginny, or if closer, Ying Yue and Caden. It seemed, for now, Lucas had not been noticed.
“They have Hypno,” said Ying Yue, across the linked phones. “His powers are considerable, but if we stretch the crowd out, I believe he would fail to sustain control over more than a two hundred yard radius. Push through and run back the way you came. I’m hoping these people won’t hurt us, I think they want to catch and hold us.“
Either side of the polarising crowd, the couples ran, dodged and pushed outwards, through the on-coming puppets of Hypno. Their pursuers were persistent and made every effort to capture them, but luckily they were not as fit and fast.
‘Training pays off,’ thought Bert, as he and Ginny made it past the last of the grabbing hands. Bert and Ginny back peddled, watching for signs that the virtual puppet strings might snap. Eventually, it seemed they had. There were a lot of very confused people.
At the other side, Ying Yue and Caden had also pushed through and escaped. They were joined by Lucas, who had been pretending to be a part of the throng, seemingly trying to grab Lucas.
“Let’s get away from this mess,” instructed Ying Yue, across the network. “ Just back off to safety as far as you can for now, all the time looking out for the Hoods. It could be we are going in the directions they planned now. We’ll regroup eventually. Stay connected.”
“Got it,” said Ginny.
“Hang on, Ying Yue,” said Bert, “it’s Ruby, with the cat T-shirt. I see Ruby!”
On the edge of the thinning crowd, Ruby was trying to clear her head and gather her thoughts. Bert ran over and took her by the shoulders, looking into her eyes.
“Remember me?” he said. “Little Suppton, freind of your dad? Bert? Yes? And Ginny, you remember Ginny?” Ginny had arrived slightly behind Bert, taking more stock of their surroundings.
“What’s going on?” asked Ruby. “Where’s this? How?”
“I don’t like this,” said Ginny. “it’s, it’s too easy.” Agitated, she was scanning in all directions.
Ruby, still discombobulated, continued to question. “The Sea!?” she pointed.
“Maybe she just escaped with the others?” said Bert. “We have to take her with us.”
“Come on, this way” insisted Ginny. “We need to get as far from here as possible.” Ginny led them away and called through to Ying Yue again. “We have Ruby, she emerged from the crowd.”
Ying Yue replied, “Be very cautious, assume they are watching.”
Ruby was gaining more control of her thoughts now and insisted she should know what was going on.
Bert tried to explain. “You were hypnotised, kidnapped; we are here to take you home, but there is still danger, we need to get you away from here.”
“Kidnapped? Hypnotised? Have you called the police?” Ruby was desperate for answers.
“Yes, yes we have, but they’re not here yet and we have to get you away from the bad guys.”
Finally, though looking confused, she seemed willing to go along with whatever it was they were proposing.
“This way, “ Ginny urged. “Ruby, pretend you’re choking”
“Choking?” asked Ruby.
“Just go along with it,” said Bert.
Ginny stepped out into the road, in front of a relatively slow-moving family car. Waving it down, she ran around to the driver side, opened the door and said, “She has a nut allergy. We have 20 minutes to get her to a hospital. Can you help?”
“Get in!” the driver replied.
On the way to the hospital, Bert let Ying Yue know what was going on. Ruby, playing along, making choking noises.
On arrival, Bert and Ginny thanked the driver and the three ran inside as if Ruby’s life depended on it. Out of sight, they wound their way around the corridors of the extensive hospital, checking constantly that no-one was following.
“I think we’re safe for now,” said Ginny and finally sighing with relieved.
Click the arrows for a reminder of
If that doesn't do the trick all is
explained in part 1
“I saw no sign of anyone following,” said Bert.
“Do Mum and Dad know?” asked Ruby.
“Not exactly,” said Ginny.
“It’s complicated,” added Bert. “We need to get you somewhere safe, then we can get you up to speed.”
They left the hospital via a door on the far side to the one they went in. Luckily, there was a small hotel just along the street. They checked in and went to their room.
Ginny had a pocket scanner to check Ruby for electronic devices, She found nothing. Ruby still had her phone, but it was out of juice, so it had not been giving her location away.
For the next hour they brought Ruby up to speed with some of what was going on, and found out that in fact she didn’t have a T-shirt that came with powers. Hypno must have hypnotised the cats to follow her. After much manoeuvring, Ying Yue, Caden and Lucas joined them at the second hotel.
“We were definitely not followed,” said Lucas.
Ying Yue nodded, “All clear.” She asked all to sit and started a debrief. It took an hour or so, by which time Fergus and the others had packed up, driven across and joined them. They all piled into the mini bus. On route back to Ely, everyone was vigilant, looking for signs they were being followed. But no-one spotted any thing untoward. Eventually most of them relaxed.
Bert and Ginny were sitting together in the mini bus. They didn’t say a lot, but both felt a connection. Eventually Ginny fell asleep with a contented smile, resting on Bert’s shoulder. Fergus gave Bert a knowing look. Bert nodded, as if to say, ‘yeah, OK, you’re right’.
On arriving at the boat, Ying Yue suggested that at least one of them should tune in to the captured Chinese Round. If Hypno was in the UK, things may well have changed there. (Remember, tuning into the transmitting member of the Chinese Round entailed getting somewhat close to legless on TD drinks). Caden jumped at the chance to have a skin full of Bert’s beers. Fergus volunteered too. It was pointed out that he would not receive the transmitted visions when drunk, him not having an empowered T. “You never know until you try,” he said.
Caden was driving and he pulled up at the entrance of the marina across the water to where the Dutch barge was moored. “You can all walk round from here, I’m not wigglin’ the bus through all that parked crap,” he said.
In the narrow boat they had pulled up alongside, Gus pulled back the curtain to see them disembark. “Huh, it’s the party people,” he said in a disapproving voice. “ I thought it was quiet last night, they’ve been away.”
“Don’t stare, dear,” said Daisy.
Caden drove off to take Ruby back to her parent’s house. Before Ruby hopped out to walk a short way home, Caden handed her a window sticker and a toy monkey with a hidden camera that would face down her garden path.
“You know how to set this up, right?” he asked. Alex explained everything on the way down, so no problem. She walked home, going over her amnesia story in her head. Not great, but it was the best they could come up with. Ruby’s head was still spinning from all she had taken in. It would be easy to believe she had lost her memory.
Back at the boat, all were settling in with a drink or two. Lucas playing at being DJ, Kate and Fergus had the food sorted; there was an air of relief about the place. As soon as Caden got back, he started trying to catch up with Fergus on the drinks tally, but it was evident Fergus was a few in the lead. The light was fading outside. Inside, the way things were going, it could be everyone would get to see what was going on in China.
It looked like a party boat from the outside once more.
Fergus was the first to get to the required state, and, what do you know? He did get connected. “Stop! Music!” he said.
“It’s not the shirts, it’s the booze! I can see China! at least, I think that’s what I see. “
Everyone stopped and gathered around Fergus.
There was a sudden silence.
“Oh Shit!” Fergus exclaimed. “Oh no!”
“Describe,” said Ying Yue.
Fergus shook with horror, “People in just their Ts, vacuum packed to vertical slabs all with their right arm held in a mechanism that hinges over their chest. They are plumbed and wired around the walls of a... not sure...circular room... tank. They’re arranged in a circle, all looking inward, all connected. One guy has definitely been experimented on. It looks like they tried to dig him out of his shirt. There’s nothing left of him, but what there is, is still alive. There’s another two circles of units above the one I’m viewing from, with spaces, a lot of spaces for a lot more.”
“Awe fuck! They’re all awake,” he continued. “They look drugged, but I think they know what’s going on.”
“Ginny, I’m going to need your help,” Ying Yue said, in a resigned tone. Ginny just nodded and produced a large G and T. “I have to see this for myself, “ added Ying Yue. “ Maybe, we should all see it”.
Everyone nodded, but all enthusiasm to drink had gone.
“I’d like to unsee it, “ slurred Fergus. Bert pinched in his direction and suddenly Fergus was sober again and disconnected from the vision.
“You can’t do anything about the memory I suppose? asked Fergus.
Bert shook his head, “Sorry mate.”
One by one all but Alex, who didn’t drink alcohol, experienced what Fergus had. One by one they were pinched back to sober. A stark reality had hit home. All that had viewed the traumatic vision, although sober, were somewhat punch drunk. Some disgusted, some angry, some fearful and some felt hopeless knowing that they wanted to do something about the plight of the Chinese Round, but they had no idea what.
Across the water in a narrow boat, Gus and Daisy were sitting watching a recording of Emerdale on their TV.
Just outside their boat, four men in hoodies stood by the water’s edge looking at an ipad.
“It didn’t go any further than this.” said Chuck. “Then it turned back and went to Little Suppton, I’m guessing to take her home.”
“Yup, that’s her house.” said Don, pointing at the screen. (The Hoods had used a GPS device that they had made Ruby swallow. It didn’t show up on Ginny’s scanner because it was dormant. It took four hours of digestion to activate it and it would eventually break apart enough to be passed out of the body.)
“We could go get her? See what she knows?” said Michael.
“We could,” said Haskell, “but she might alert them by phone before we get anywhere. The less they know the better. No. They are here. I know it. Within walking distance of this spot. We stay here, we watch, we bide our time.”
Haskell unzipped his jacket and stepped over to the window of the narrow boat. He could see through a gap in the curtains an elderly couple watching TV. He sharply rapped on the window. As Daisy pulled back the curtain, Haskell patted the front of his hoody and Daisy quietly walked over to the door.
“Well, who was it?” insisted Gus. Daisy said nothing, she just unlocked the door. The four Hoods climbed aboard.
“Well, Daisy, who...?” said Gus, but with another pat of the hoody, Gus was silent.
Gus and Daisy quietly turned and shuffled to a bench chair, sat bolt upright on it, froze, and then flopped inward, resting on one another.
“There,” said Haskell. Obviously pleased with his handywork.
“Now, where were we?”
“What time did the tracker say it arrived here?” asked Haskell.
“4.23pm,” replied Chuck.
“Isn’t technology wonderful,” said Haskell, through a grin.
“Now, your names are?” he asked the entranced couple. They both answered with their full names.
“Well, now, Daisy and Gus, did either one of you see a vehicle pull up outside of your door around twenty past four today?
“Yes,” said Gus, “a black mini bus.”
“Excellent,” Haskell’s grin was getting wider and his eyebrows shot up with delight. Can you picture that bus for me? I want you to picture what you saw in your head.” Haskell held onto his brow and slid his hand down over his eyes. “Ah, yes, yes, ohh, you are good at this, very clear. And do you know these people?”
“We only know them as the Party People. They don’t talk to anyone, mumbled Gus.
“And, what more can you tell me about the ‘Party People’?”Haskell probed.
Gus gave a long description of their observations, occasionally interrupted by additional information from Daisy.
There was now little doubt in the minds of the Hoods; the Dutch barge across the water was home to at least some of the round.
“Here, share my vision,” said Haskell and he turned to the other three. He patted the eye on the front of his hoody. They jolted gently backwards as if hit softly by a large pillow. They froze and their eyes moved as they might in REM sleep.
“You see, there are others that you had never seen before. Now you will recognise them as quickly as the people in Sunderland did. As if you had known them all your life.
“Now, we wait, we watch, we plan, we strike, “ said Haskell.