Chapter 7: On the run

Douglas woke up. The ceiling was narrow and the room small. It was dark. Not so dark that he couldn't see anything, but dark enough for a good horror movie. He went to the cell door. It was made of thick metal bars, and looked very solid. 'I wonder who's going to send me a cake in here. But a file wouldn't help me anyway.' He gave the door an angry kick - and it flew open. Carefully he looked into the corridor.

About half an hour and uncounted junctions later was lost. 'Great. I manage to escape from this cell and then I get lost.' At this moment a group of Grandels came around a bend. Douglas started to run. And faced another group of Grendels. 'I didn't see this before...' Douglas stepped on the black disk and pushed a button.

He was still standing on the disk but everything else had changed. Seconds later he was in a garage. Or in a lab. Douglas wasn't sure about this. He left the disk. There was a button on it's side labelled "POWER". 'Perhaps I should turn this off before the Grendels follow me.' In the very second he was doing it a Grendel started to materialize on the disk - and collapsed into a pool of blood and flesh. There was even a complete claw. 'I must have deactivated this while it was teleporting the Grendel. My good luck, but the Grendel would have d a different opinion.' He looked through a window. A garden could be seen and the moon was shining. 'Home.' Then the phone rang. Well, a phone rang. Douglas finally found it under a pile of electronic components. He answered it and almost dropped the phone like an electric eel as he realized what he was doing. Hardly daring to breathe, he held the telephone to his ear.

"Rule One in housebreaking," said a voice. "Never answer the telephone when you're in the middle of a job. Who are you supposed to be, for heaven's sake?"

"Who is this?" he demanded at last in a whisper. The voice was unperturbed.

"Neighbourhood Watch," it said. "If you look out of the back window you'll see..." Trailing the phone, Douglas hurried over to the window and locked out. A distant flash startled him.

"Rule Two. Never stand where you can be photographed. Rule Three. Never forget Rule Two. Rule Four... Are you listening to me, Douglas?"

"What? Yes..." said Douglas in bewilderment. "How do you know me?"

"Rule Four. Never admit your name." Douglas stood silent, breathing hard. "I run a little course," said the voice, "if you're interested..." Douglas said nothing. "You're learning," continued the voice, "Slowly, but you're learning. If you were learning fast you would have put the phone down by now, of course. But you're curious - and incompetent - and so you don't. I don't run a course for novice burglars as it happens, tempting though the idea is. I'm sure there would be grants available. If we have to have them they may as well be trained. However, if I did run such a course I would allow you to enrol for free, because I too am curious. Curious why you should suddenly be needing in resort to house-breaking."


"So I do a little research, phone Directory Enquiries and discover that the garage into which you are breaking into is the lab of Katherine. I know that she invented the HoloDeck, and I wonder if that can by any chance be related."


"You are speaking with..." Douglas fell out of the bed and hit the ground. 'That was a nightmare. It's hard enough to be a prisoner of Norns and Ettins.'

"Hey, get up. Rain wants you to meet Maki."

'Why me?'

Chapter 8