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Purify - Chapter 20 Coming Home

Carrie was in the slide arrival zone of the solar system when she got word that the Eric Laithwaite had returned and made contact with TIO Rio. She received instructions from Stakus to make contact with Ken and the others to lure them to returning the Slider to the control of Time Command. In case persuasion didn’t work they also gave her the codes to take over Eric remotely.

Taking one of the inter-planetary Slip-Streamers, she manoeuvred close to the Eric Laithwaite and radioed Ken. He seemed to be in a good mood and even invited her to Jaunt aboard.

Though she was worried, at first, that Ken, Len or Den wanted to kidnap her as well as the ship she accepted their offer. On board, Ken inviter her to have tea in the mess and they discussed their options.

“I’m still worried about the punishment for stealing a Slider Ship,” said Ken.

“What if they forgave you for that because of the fascinating options you opened up by accelerating the signal?” asked Carrie, “I mean, they are making a big fuss about it back on Earth you know.” She was playing it cool for now to check out Ken's state of mind.

“How was the material you collected from the Moon of Guger?” asked Len.

“Brilliant!” Carrie said, “The most efficacious stuff they had ever had. They are already experimenting with other planecides to see if they can replicate what you were doing so that they can save them in the same way.”

“They’ll never manage it without our know-how though, will they?” asked Den who was drinking coffee.

“Well, it is true that they haven’t succeeded yet but I am told that this is due to the conditions not being exactly right. Why, is there a special secret?” asked Carrie.

“Yes,” said Len, “there is.”

“There you go then,” said Carrie, “they have to forgive you if you can help them unlock the secret to accelerating the signal so they can get the Purify material and save planet-fulls of life.”

This seemed attractive to Ken, Len and Den but for some reason they were holding back. Something, or someone, appears to have got to them. After tea Carrie returned to her ship and reported back to Stakus and Uli what their response had been. Stakus and Uli knew exactly why they had been so reluctant to return the Slider. It must have been because Xen and Wen had managed to get a message to them. Even though Ken and his crew would have been safe from prosecution for exactly the reasons put forward by Carrie, it didn’t fit in with Xen and Wen’s plans to give up the Slide Ship just yet.

Carrie decided to come clean and contacted Ken for permission to come aboard once again. This time Ken refused, which shocked Carrie as everything between them seemed OK when she had left. Wen or Xen must have got another job for them. Suddenly the String Slider Eric Laithwaite began preparations for another slide.

Carrie couldn’t let them get away and she jaunted aboard just as they slipped out of real space.

String Sliding is not to be recommended unless you are strapped into a proper seat which Carrie was not. She had jaunted to the mess and just had the presence of mind to lie down on the floor as she had been taught in Slide school before the slide kicked in.

And ‘Kicked in’ was the right term. As the ship slid along the superstring to wherever Ken had in mind, Carrie felt every twist and turn as though it were a kick in the ribs. Normal slide seats are located at the ship’s centre of gravity and so they don’t suffer from these effects nearly as much as Carrie was now. Before the ship emerged back into real space time she had passed out in pain.

When she came to she was tied to a chair in the mess. “I could have done with this before we slid” she thought, ironically.

Den was with her. “Ahh, so you’re awake?” she said.

“Blatantly,” said Carrie, “Look, are the ropes really necessary?”

“Captain doesn’t want you touching anything sensitive. He says you might try something funny,” said Den.

“To which I am expected to say ‘You’re not going to get away with this’ because we seem to be playing the movie cliché game,” snorted Carrie.

“Can’t I at least have something to drink? I don’t know what it is about Sliding but it always makes me thirsty.”

“Sure, have some of this.” Den offered Carrie a glass of water which she slurped eagerly.

Captain Ken came into the mess. “Ahh, you’re awake.” He said

“Blatantly” said Den.

“Don’t you start,” said Carrie, “You will start telling me what a fool I’ve been and now what are we going to do with you?” she added, sneering.

“I wasn’t actually,” said Ken, “I was going to ask if you fancied a nice game of chess.”

“Novel, I’ll grant you that. But it is a little difficult with my arms strapped to this chair like this.”

“I was only kidding,” said Ken, “I’m rubbish at chess. All I’m any good at is captaining these things and I seem to have gotten myself into a mess at that.”

“But it doesn’t have to be this way. The guys at Time Control would have granted you all an amnesty in return for the secret of slide signal accelerating.” Carrie pleaded.

“That’s not what we heard,” said Len who had, by now, joined them in the mess. “According to my contacts you were going to make an example of us by parading us through the streets of New London and then executing us at the tower since Treason is still an offence that carried the death penalty.”

“Don’t talk rot!” said Carrie, “I mean, does that sound likely? Haven’t you asked yourself if that really is a likely thing to happen in our day and age, in London!?”

“Now you come to mention it, it does seem a little harsh,” said Den.

“But it is something that we have done in the past so I wouldn’t put anything past them.

“Yes – but is it likely?” she asked again, “anyway – who is telling you all this rubbish? We know all about Xen and Wen and you should know that they are not what they seem either.”

“What about Xen?” asked Den, a little too enthusiastically.

“He is no more interested is saving the people on distant planets than I am in wanting them dead. Which I never was, I only wanted them to find their own destiny without our interference. But that is an argument for another time. What you should know is that Xen wants to keep the sickness in the headlines because it means that his land investments in Taiwan will keep on going up in value.”

“He never has investments in land in Taiwan,” said Den.

“Oh yes, he does and Wen, What about her? She only wants the Rebel activity to continue so that her shares in Sino-Doom will go on rising.”

“She has shares with those war mongers?” exclaimed Len, incredulously, “I always knew there was something creepy about her.”

“How do we know you are not just making this up – or it might be something that Stakus told you to say?” asked Ken, not unreasonably.

“You’ll just have to believe me. Besides, what have I got to gain from telling you this which will only piss you off? – If I wanted to lie I’d tell you all some rubbish about how marvellous your cause is and that I am only aboard because ‘I wanted to join you’” Carrie had said that last bit in her girly sing-song voice. The lights went out.

While she had been talking she had managed to loosen her bindings. In the confusion that followed she managed to knock Ken and Len out with the chair because she had the benefit of the Infra Red imaging contacts that Stackus’ boffins had developed. She could see perfectly the monochrome green shapes in front of her. Unfortunately Den had managed to get away in the scuffle. She won’t have got far Carrie mused to herself.

The lights came back on as they were programmed to do in response to the sing-song command that she had issued. She was grateful for the download that she had managed to do while she was taking tea with the Captain earlier. It provided her with a repertoire of commands that she could use at will to control the ship, over-riding any commands given by any of the ens. Right now her priority was to find Den before SHE did anything silly.

She found her cowering in a corner of the bridge. She appeared to be crying. “Is it true that Xen is only in it for the money?” she asked.

“Afraid so,” said Carrie, “he owns most of Taiwan. Did you know that it is the only place on Planet Earth where the sickness hasn’t reached. Nobody knows why not but it sure does make it a popular destination for the fabulously wealthy.”

“That is such a betrayal,” Den said, “he and this Wen character are in it together?”

“Yes, they are,” said Carrie, “did you and Xen have …”

“It’s over!” interrupted Den, “I never want to see him again. I’ll help you bring the ship back. I have had enough of this Pirate lifestyle. I want to get back to safe research into time and quantum causality.”

“I can bring the ship back, All I need is for you lot to get strapped in. Have you any idea how painful it is to slide without being in a proper chair?”

Carrie and Den persuaded the others to come quietly and they all strapped in for the slide back to Earth. But before they energised they noticed the arrival of some old friends.

“You’d better check the main viewer,” said Ken who had swapped being tied to a mess chair to being strapped into a Slide Chair.

Once again the voice spoke into their brains directly. It asked them to describe the sickness and, once they had done so, it told them to stop all unmanned slide experiments. They would never work and they are what is causing the sickness. Just as abruptly the Purple Pentagonal Bi-Frustum zipped away. It was in stunned silence that the slider ship oozed its way back to Earth.

When it re-emerged into real space it was in familiar company. Sat alongside it was the Tony Robinson. The captains greeted each other like old friends then Ken asked to be taken to Time Control. He had some important news from the purple people.