(Explanation and disclaimer: this is not a Canon Lovecraft tale (though very large cannons do appear in it.) It's set in my scenario where the Great Old ones have indeed returned awhile back, and everyone (the survivors anyway) is quite happy with it. Not realising there are FAR worse things out there. Oh, and it's a mostly anthropomorphic setting. That's nothing to do with the return of the really great, amazing and fantastic Old Ones, it's just the way it is…)
It is, though, a very Lovecraft inspired work. Now, read on if you dare…)
At The Mountains Of Cuteness
Being a H. P. Lushcraft tale, as transcribed and edited by Simon Barber.
It is not without great hesitation that I break my self-imposed vow of silence, and put before the world at last the true facts, as far as I
witnessed them, of the Grimslaithe-Nakajawa Expedition of '34, from which I alone returned. And it was not wholly ficticious, the loss of
memory which I claimed before the investigating team and the relatives of those who had left the English shores with me three months before ...
a fractured skull was my own souvenir, and it was long before more than hazy outlines of those final hours returned to mind.
Even now, I would keep my silence, preferring to forget forever what I now recall with such hideous clarity. But from Asgarth University
there are solid plans being made for another expedition ... and they will be heading into the same peril, if they follow our route. To their
leaders, I beg publicly, avoid those deadly waters, if you value your souls and your sanity ... for lives are the very least of what stand to
be lost, if you enter there !
But I must start at the beginning, with the facts and events that can be proven, if I hope to convince those brave, foolish
explorers. There was a time when I was as brave myself, before my nerve went, and as for foolish - I was not merely ignorant, but worse, I
closed my eyes to events I should have noted, and refused to draw conclusions that might have saved my sanity and my companions' lives. It
all seems so long ago, now - but the calendar counts only sixteen months before any of it began. My snout was free of any trace of white fur,
It was a telephone call that began it for me, as I returned home late one evening. I had been working late at the University, in the
final days of my postgraduate course in Practical and Applied Theology. There was just one interview to write up, and a dozen e-prayers still to
be sent off in thanks, and the final draft would be complete.
"Glad I could catch you at last, me old hound !" I recognized the booming tones of Huddesworth Senior, one of my class who had also stayed on,
though in the PseudoScience department. "Got a vacancy coming up, I thought you might be interested. Professor Grimslaithe's little boating trip
out West, seafloor surveys for a couple of months. They've had a couple of folk drop out at the last minute - are you in ?"
My eyes fell on the calendar, with two dates underlined in red. The next week, when my final paper had to be in - and the end of the month,
when my grant funding ran out. One of those dates I could face without worries, but the other -
"Count me in," I nodded to the phone, my tail thrashing happily. "I'll be round first thing tomorrow with my toothbrush packed!"
Of course, things took rather longer than that. Huddesworth had thought of me for the crew due to my handiness with improvised machinery
- the previous year I had won the Heath Robinson Scholarship by building the most eye-catching, nitro-burning dragster unicycle to ever pull
twelve "g" straight off the start line. Persuading the actual organisers that they wanted me, was another matter, and it was the day
after my last paper was handed in that I was accepted, and learned exactly what I had volunteered for.
"Undersea mapping," I blinked as I stood on the harbour of Asgarth town,looking through the expedition plans with Mr. Grike, from
the Vague Engineering department. "But ... surely that's all been done? Both ways, from the top down and the native maps upward." I nodded
greetings to Cth'Rhy'Gac Junior, as the handsomely squamous philosophy professor climbed out of the harbour. A world-renowned leader in his
area, he was never out of his depth. A deep one, certainly.
"Aha..." Mr. Grike tapped his own tusked boar-snout, turning to wave at his icthyitic colleague. "That depends. Most of the basic work
that surface-dwellers could do, certainly was finished before the Millennium, and then of course after that we had access to first-hand
accounts. But - there's a few parts that ... weren't ON the sea floor then." He opened up the chart to show where he meant, and I winced. Not
long after the Millennium, following the newly discovered Cup-HandlePrinciple of geological instability, various "Sticking-out bits" of the
continents had broken off and fallen into the ocean.
For a few seconds we both stood there by the harbour wall, somehow feeling slightly chilled despite the Spring sunshine. All around
us, was the normal routine of the town and harbour, peaceful right out to sea where a heavy swell showed something huge was undulating just
beneath the surface. A mile-long tentacle waved cheerfully on thehorizon, and the feeling passed.
The boar coughed. "Actually, we've been asked to investigate the whole area - here." He pointed on the map. "It seems there's still a lot
of geological activity, with some very strange sea-mounts reported from a distance. The local ... government want us to map it out thoroughly
before any of them swim over and take a look. Surface-dwellers only on the active team."
I nodded, a little relieved. It made perfect sense - in the general run of events, none of the expedition members would expect to
see their fourteenth decade - I knew, as we all did, how much more in terms of centuries Cth'Rhy'Gac Junior and his relatives stood to lose if
a dangerous expedition went wrong. (The University had needed to introduce a new category of "Mature Student", to cope with those who
were only 2 percent into their expected life-spans, but still could lecture on most of recorded history as seen first-hand.)
"So, we're going for a bit of underwater sight-seeing ? " I looked at the expedition outline, and my ears raised in surprise. "It's
scheduled to experiment with using ice-dam techniques, in the open ocean ? I've heard of that ... freezing a caisson of ice all the way to the
ocean floor and pumping the water out ... that'll need a hell of a ship to provide that much refrigerating power!"
Clint Grike's rock-solid features split in a stony grin. "Won't it just. One hell of a ship."
It was Barnstoneworth who filled me in on the details, as we retired to the pub that evening, the Eurocrat's Head. The tavern was
old, comfortably so ... I noticed three of the Historical Architecture students in the corner, textbooks out, arguing over the date of a well-
preserved leatherette coffee-bar. All around us was history, some of it dating back to the fabled 1960's era ... rumour had it that a band of
ghouls exploring deep in the sub-basement had once come across a real aluminium barrel for pressurising ale.
I looked around the room, drinking in the familiar sights - the upper floor was new, having been gutted in a firefight with armoured
assault units of the Salvation Army just before the Liberation ten years ago - but down here, things looked much as they had done for merrily
"Cheers ! Eh, but it'll be good to see the sights a bit." The great bristling badger set two brimming pint tankards down. "I've been
here ten years, like, time for a change. And ..." he looked around, taking in the memento-packed room, the air rich with hops and the sharp
scents as pints of absinthe were poured out, " it's a bit o' history that'll be taking us out there, an' all. A Macro-ship, that's what we've
found, left ower from the War ... enough of it left to salvage, forwhat we want."
I almost choked on my ale. "A Macro-Ship ? There's one survived in one piece ... and they just let us Have it ? HOW ?" For I had only
once seen one, the size of a small town on tracks, far off on the horizon in the final days of the EU Liberation, heading south towards
the nightmare land that our ancestors had shudderingly called Belgium.
He chuckled, his sharp teeth gleaming. "For this trip, like, you might say we've got friends of Influence, who want to see it go
smoothly. Friends in high places, 'cept they're down there at the five tonnes per square inch level, like. And ... you might say, it needs a
little ... work on it, to get it going."
How much work, and the scale of the problem in every sense, I found out the next weekend. There were twenty or so of us on the
quayside, looking out into the rain-swept drizzle that faded into grey evening out to the East, where we strained our eyes every few minutes.
Suddenly one of the engineers, a white cat in a fluorescent yellow boiler-suit that would probably show up from orbit, pulled off his
pocket stereo and grinned around at us, whiskers twitching.
"Got a neutrino detector patched into the left channel," he tapped the pocket-sized box smugly. "Someone's running a reactor out
there, or I'm an ape-descendant. Take a listen."
The box was passed around us eagerly, and we had to agree. The Bulky Disc was still running in one ear, one of the "neo Prog-Rock"
albums that modern digital recordings have made so popular, allowing the bands to explore musical frontiers involving eleven-hour guitar or even
drum solos. But in the other ear, there was a slow, random ticking as ultimately tiny particles passed through the world's mass unhindered
till they met the "Virtual V " of the detector's force-field. Swinging the set, I stared out with the rest of us to the rolling fogbanks of
the North Sea, where something was definitely fissioning its way towards us.
Half an hour later, our thoughts of damp fur and freezing paws were forgotten. The wind had sprung up in sudden squalls, just as the
last of the light touched the moors and altar-stones high above Asgarth town behind us. And there, suddenly churning through the grey waters
towards us, was a quarter of a million tonnes of sentient armoured fighting vehicle, its wrap-round tracks each the width of an autobahn,
driving straight out of the pages of History and onto our dockside !
There was a massed sigh, and night-vision glasses were raised as more of it came out of the cloaking fogbank, its grey-black armoured
bulk blending into the darkening horizon. And then someone coughed nervously, and passed the glasses around. From the first we had seen of
it, I had thought there was something .. strange about it, apart from the tracks rotating in the "wrong" direction, slowing it for a docking
rather than an overrun attack on Asgarth.
I saw the cat in the yellow suit wince, as he stared out at our class project. He handed me the glasses, and I could read the name
"Eckingthwaite" on his nametag. "It's something like a Class Twenty-Six, as far as I can tell," he murmured. "At least... it might have been, before someone was ...
Unkind to it."
The next morning, I stood aboard our new home as it lay aground at low tide, still three hundred metres offshore. This was the last
surviving fragment of "I" deck, four turrets leaning out over the deeply scarred glacis plate that sloped down into the choppy Spring waters some
eighty metres below.
"Not a lot left of the upperworks." Clem Eckingthwaite, the feline I had met the day before, carefully set up a laser theodolite.
"There was J and K decks above where we're standing, as this was first built. But ... we're not sure what happened to them. In fact, we're
not sure about any of this ship ... no documentation, and ... it looks ... all wrong. It's one of ours, a macro-ship, but .. the
I nodded, for I had surveyed the rear decks, and found traces of Dimensional Shearing. This vessel had been fought to a standstill in the
war against the EU, as its huge scars still showed. Thousands of tonnes of mass were ... missing, in no sane pattern : evidently it had been
caught by a near-miss from a Psychotronic Bomb. I voiced my suspicions, and Clem's ears drooped.
"I ... can't see how it would have survived at all, a target this size. Not unless - unless it'd been in action right at the end,
when we'd overrun most of their Summoning sites ... by then, they had to fire from the far side of the territory they'd got left. Did you ever
see one of those ? I did. Or, I saw what was left of it ... the energy release takes a sort of arc outside Space, a bit like a hyperspatial
mortar. Shorten the range, and eventually you're pointing the thing almost straight up .. one miscalculation, and it drops down the back of
There was a silence between us, though in the background I could hear a portable set tuned to Radio Liechtenstein's most popular
wavelength - no adverts, no Disc Jockeys, just good honest Yodelling twenty-four hours a day, Every day.
Clem's ears picked up a little at the refreshing sound, and his expression was more puzzled than horror-struck.
"That explains the back hull... all the turrets must have been blown apart like a street-mime. But ... I've studied these vessels, and
... I can't quite put my paw on it, but... " he shook his head worriedly. "There's something very Different about this one."
For eight weeks we laboured, exploring and renovating. Fortunately, all macro-ships has been designed to carry on despite
massive damage: far from "restoring" it, half our work was more like peeling off layers, onion-fashion, till we reached the less damaged
core. Three trips we made to the Dogger Bank in the middle of the North Sea, to dump the larger pieces we had stripped off onto the artificial
reef the fisheries trade were building.
"Only thing you can do with it, really..." it was Clint Grike who spoke, as we watched the three-hundred tonne slab that had roofed H
deck's #23 turret, vanish with a huge splash into the cold grey waters. "At least, it's non-polluting ... just processed igneous rock, don't
you know, laser-fused. These ships pretty much build themselves... get the first reactors and the Helm up and running, and all you need to do
is point it at a mountain you can do without. No way could you spare the resources to make something this size out of metal."
"The Helm ?" I queried "I've heard the other folk saying they couldn't find it anywhere. What is it - some kind of computer ?"
He sat down, the spray glittering like jewels in his fur as he looked out over the flat expanse of ersatz volcanic glass that would be
our final roof, "G" deck being the first truly repairable level we had found. The boar stared moodily at the tracked engineering vehicles in
the far distance, and waved for me to join him.
"Maybe I'm starting to romanticise things in my old age," he looked out into the hungry waves. "But ... these vessels aren't like
any other machines. The size and complexity of its control systems and processors ... everything having to be routed in triplicate and
quadruplicate, no single vital spot on the whole ship..." He broke off, and looked at me strangely.
"When they built the first of these, they found out what you get if you link enough autonomous, intelligent units together, and program
them to constantly reconfigure themselves, ready to take damage and carry on. The ship ... lives. Not in the way some folk had thought ..
it's not the sort of intelligence you can hold a conversation with. But it lives, like maybe a coral colony .. no, more like a city, an old
city that grew up to suit itself. The Helm was the main control device ... that's what we can't find. Oh, we can control it - if you mean
steering it around the place, that's been done. Somebody's been here before us, and ... put in overrides, we can patch into those. Funny,
the way they had to do that." He stared out over the chill grey waters, and would say no more.
Another two weeks passed, fourteen days of hard labour, three shifts a day of the intricate work of getting the Macro-ship ready to
face the Ocean. I recall little more than a blur of climbing through ductwork, tracing leads and setting endless patch panels to link the
ancient, decade-old electronics with our own systems. At least the drive reactors had survived, or the task would have been hopeless ... though
they were solid-state coolantless affairs, each one buried in a block of Asawa-Zarkov thermocouple compound, transforming the simple fission
core's heat direct to electrical drive for the huge tracks and the water-jets that drove it afloat. They were on B deck, far below the
waterline ... but what was below them on the very keel of the ship was sealed off, the access doors welded shut with ten-centimetre armour
plate. Pressure gages assured us that any leaks would be inward, not out.
"What's down there, had better stay there," Clem Eckingthwaite winced visibly when I queried him about it. "For what we need, the B
deck groups will provide quite enough power ... what's down there on most designs is the weapons systems reactors."
I must have blinked, for he looked at me pityingly. "Believe me, you don't want to be in there. That's not a nice clean solid-state
system, or even a liquid-sodium design ... I'm cleared to work on those. On "A" deck they never had mortal crew, just the maintenance
robots who were sealed in and left there ... there's several boiling-potassium reactors, hundreds of tonnes of pressurised liquid metal down
there. It's all cold and solid right now ... I don't think there's anybody left who even knows how to re-start one of those things. For
which we can be grateful."
That night, I worked late, and missed the ferry hovercraft back into town. There would be an hour or so until it returned with the
evening shift, and I found myself alone, with just the great echoes ringing in the ship's corridors, a kilometre long, for company.
Shouldering my toolkit, I followed the ancient tyre tracks down the long expanses of lonely metal. Once this vessel had hummed with life, with
purpose ... its thousand-strong crew and its almost-living on-board systems keyed to desperate pitch as it ground its way across the EC
federation's frontier, so that mortal life might endure against that which the Eurocrats had summoned from pastel dimensions of fluffy
I stood, in the middle of the corridor, and closed my eyes for a Minute. There was the lonely sighing of wind through the hatchways, and
In the far distance, the cries of seabirds perched on the superstructure.
The vessel seemed ... at peace, somehow, in the manner of an ancient crumbling fortress ... those of its crew who had died, had gone down in
battle with their blood hot and their back-banners flying, and their spirits feasted forever at Odin's long hall. Very different indeed to
many an area I had shudderingly hurried past on land, where the cordoned areas around sites of the EU's Political Correctness Enforcement
Community Centres would be the psychic equivalent of cobalt-bomb craters for centuries to come.
A wry smile came to my face, as I stopped to critically examine the new welding work on the electrical conduits and the fat, insulated
liquid-air ducts that cooled the weapons systems. The pub I should be in right now on the bustling Quayside of Asgarth town, was known as the
Eurocrat's Head for short .. but the full name on the licence read "Da Federalist Bastard Wiv 'Is Nut Ripped Orf An' A Gurt Bayonet Stuk
Innit" - and according to Barnstoneworth (who had been in town just after the Liberation), the original inn sign had not been a Painting.
"Well, Cheers, lad !" Toasted that very same badger, not ten days later, as we celebrated the ahead-of-schedule completion of our
task. "All ready for sea, like ... just the supplies to finish loading, and we're off !"
It was a wild, windy night outside the taproom of the Eurocrat's Head, where outside the bay we could see the riding-lights of The Good
Ship Vengeance, as its rediscovered papers had named it. Enough power and control had been restored to get the town-sized battle machine ready
- its solid-state reactors had years of working power left in them even now, and only the needs of its mortal crew remained to be filled. On the
dockside, several hundred tonnes of frozen tripe, vindaloo paste and processed canned green mushy peas awaited calmer waters to be loaded
aboard for the galley store rooms.
I nodded, raising my mug of ale. "To the Vengeance .. swords turned into ploughshares .. or in our case, excavation trowels." We
raised our glasses and drank, our tails swishing in time to the music as a party of cheerful ghouls hunched around the jukebox selecting from the
latest Ungrateful Undead album.
Barnstoneworth's snout furrowed in concentration, as he followed my gaze out into the blustery night, the air wet with spray and low cloud.
"Eh, tha' finds Strangest things," he mused, tapping his luggable dataTome, where an ancient Bulky Disc of data was spinning
wheezily, "We didn't re-name t' ship, that's what it were called in service ... but the Vengeance, isn't it's original name . After its
first major damage, it was re-named and re-fitted ... major-like. Which explains a thing or two ... but not everything. It'd been abandoned for
six months after t' North Sea third campaign, a track blown off by a nuclear mine, and left heeled right over in t' mud o' the Frisian island
"Or perhaps in the Silt of the Island of Mudd ?" Clem Eckingthwaite called out across the room. He and a dozen of the
electrical engineers had been celebrating all day with our Russian Exchange students around a portable Field Altar to Stakhanov, Patron
Saint of Industrial Overachievers. It looked as if the Russian Unorthodox Church had made a few converts that day.
Barnstoneworth glared at the cat, who was demonstrating to his fellow-believers that you actually Could drink the traditional "Yard of
Ale" using vodka. He tapped the databook, his eyes still troubled. "We're missing half o' them technical notes, and there's nowt
about it before its refitting," he looked at me over the rim of a quart of Kreakstones Kamikaze (as exported to the Imperial Family of the
Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphereoid). "An' I mean, nowt. The Vengeance just ... shows up in the earliest records I can find, as a salvaged wreck
... in urgent need o' fixin', and no crew listed as alive to rejoin it, like they always did. The funny thing is, tha' knows, half the salvage
work weren't repairing battle-damage. I've got some of the manifests ... it LOOKS, more like it was ripping out working systems they just
couldn't patch into. Which is barmy, like... them things were built on standard template, but here's a request for some adaptors because "The
fastenings are all wrong, right down to the screw pitch". Those have been universal sizes for sixty years and more."
I nodded, frowning. There was a lull in the conversation, and I swept my gaze around the pub. It might be a long time before I sat here
again, I knew, and I fixed the calm scene in my memory . All was as it should be for one of our final evenings ashore: the scent of freshly
drawn ale, the flickering of the firelight, and the background chatter of the radio in the other bar. Being a Thursday, it was that game-show
where a randomly picked suburban family were given two weeks to plan and carry out the assassination of some famous sporting or media
personality, using only common household tools and materials.
Just then, there was a commotion from near the main door, and I recognised the strident voice of Phoebe Elsthwaite, a vixen I had known
for several unhappy years ; being a Mathematical History specialist, I was not the only one she had enjoyed (from her point of view) a non-
linear relationship with.
Barnstoneworth caught my eye, his own ears twitching. "Wonder what she's found to Investigate this time ? She should have been one o'
them Tabloid newspaper Reporters in the twentieth century .. before folk found out all them things were true any road, and lost interest..."
But then there was no more time to talk, for the vixen herself had spotted us. She was hard to miss herself, being of an unusual shape
for her species... not precisely fat, in the standard Earth-Goddess proportions, but wide, solid and blocky. If anyone ever made a statue of
her, their natural material would not be marble but heavily reinforced concrete.
"So, they roped you into this as well ?" She clapped a paw on a shoulder of each of us, her voice that surprisingly delicate huskiness I
remembered. "Don't say I didn't warn you ..." I blinked. "You haven't warned us, yet ... but I imagine
you're going to. What about, this time ? The "Vengeance" is about as seaworthy as we can make her."
Reaching into her shoulder-bag, she flourished a glossy magazine. "Journal of Conspiracy Studies ... you can't be telling me
you don't subscribe to it ? Article of mine listing the so-called "coincidences" that are following this whole project."
"Conspiracy studies," Barnstoneworth gave a heavy mock sigh. "I should have guessed, tha'd be into t' Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory.
If you can't explain something with tha' first piece o' paranoia, that's taken as proof a bigger and older one's t' blame. "
Phoebe sniffed disdainfully, though I could see from where she held the cover, one article was earnestly re-creating pre-dynastic
Atlantean politics from "An Inspired correlation of modern supermarket prices and fourteenth-century Venetian Inheritance Law."
"I'm coming with you," her tail swished menacingly, and I saw half a dozen sets of ears and tails behind her droop like falling trees.
"There's something strange about this whole mission, and I intend to find out what !"
Suppressing a groan, I bought us all the next round, recalling how ten years before, buying a person of the opposite sex a drink had
been a criminal offence under the Pro-social Homogenisation Enforcement Directives #4533778 to #4533986 bis, whether or not they had wanted or
even asked for one. Hesitating as I looked back at the table, I ordered two more pints of Kreakstones and a carafe of Amerretoni for Phoebe.
That was another well-remembered taste of hers I had not shared. Barnstoneworth's nose twitched as I set the tray down on the
table. "Amerretoni,", he looked on, his muzzle wrinkling, eyebrows raised. "The most far-reaching export from that part of the world since
Soya Substitute. An expensively priced, yet unpleasant, experience, it manages to combine an authentic eighteenth century recipe with the up-
to-date flavour of something bootlegged by bored engineers in an Eastern Block oil refinery."
The vixen gave one of those special grins that could damage exposed electrical circuitry, as she raised her glass of the blue, oily-
looking liquid. "Cheers ! Last chance we'll have for awhile ... on board, there'll only be the usual half-a-pint of rum in our daily
rations." She looked over at the engineers, and her ears dipped. "Weapons crew and reactor personnel get two-thirds of a pint nominal, of
course, scaled up or down to their body mass."
For a few minutes there was a reflective silence ... something with an albedo of about .85, my training told me. Then I noticed Phoebe
leafing through her contract, the same commercial class as mine. My ears must have raised a little at the sight - for she waved the papers
"I need the money too, you know..", she sniffed. "The Conspiracy Studies Department won't fund my new project .. I'm having to get it
researched and printed privately." She leaned over and looked around the bar, conspiratorially. "I've got a hot lead on this story, that's
going to blow holes in History as we know it. There's this pile of old songs I found, recordings from the early 1960's, mostly ... I don't
think anyone can ever have analysed them properly. As soon as Anyone sets foot on any sort of transport ... motor-cycle, car, aircraft ...
chances are they're dead before the last verse. Scale that up with the known traffic levels of the time ..." She looked across at me, her
eyes gleaming, ears pricked up. "It must have been ten times worse than the Plague, the Black Death and the Los Angeles Ebola, rolled into one
... and not only do the official records overlook it totally, but ... " her grin was triumphant "I've talked with old folk who must have been
amongst the handfull of survivors ... their minds have been wiped completely, every single memory of the events removed ! Now, that's what
I call Proof." She sat back, her arms folded, and emitted what my grandfather's pre-computer games would have described as a (Grin + 6,
Save Vs. Gaze Weapon). "Probably masterminded by a loose association of the Bavarian and Wurtemburger Illuminati, the Wilfriedian Society of
Gugnunks, and the last desperate survivors of the Sigue Sigue Sputnik Fan Club."
Barnstoneworth's muzzle twitched resignedly. I exchanged a sympathetic glance: it was not my choice of company to take into the
howling wilderness, far from the cheerily bright altar-fires of our own yodelling civilisation. He nodded towards the corner, and I followed him
there, to where the pub's games machines flashed and bleeped. He looked over at me, and edged behind a NanoBall game being
played by a Slow Lorris and a transonic-in-a-dive Lemur. The lights of the display twinkled in his eyes, as the players' Five-a-side nanobot
teams earnestly kicked a BuckminsterFullerite carbon molecule around a transistor playing field forged from a chunk of old 1586 DX processor.
"It's a good thing they've got the traditional launching ceremony sorted out for the Vengeance," he gave a wry grin, one ear up
and the other down. "Much better than wasting a champagne bottle, tha' knows... our Reverend caught one o' them Sociologists hiding out in
Australia, and us Ministry of Certain Things was kind enough to gi' 'im ower to us. They'll stake him out in front of the tracks first thing
tomorrow, before we roll."
In the corner of the room, I spotted our local Vicar, the Reverend Archibald "Machete and Hammer-Job" Naismith, earnestly
explaining something to our flag officers. We had wanted him to come along, but he had been impressed by what he had seen on his antipodean
trip, and was joining the full-time watch for dimensional invaders in the area of Australia's Ramsey Street public open-air nuclear testing range.
I sighed with relief, looking around the room. It was a good thing these days that our Vicars could relax a little, as spacetime
recovered from the pounding it had taken in the EU war, where so many Psychotronic bombs were used that the area around Brussels was still
slightly fractal even now. "Well, at least that's One thing sorted - a proper sendoff. I have a feeling we'll need all the good luck we can get."