THE TIME TUNNEL:
VILLAGE OF TERROR
The image displayed on the Time Tunnel viewscreen was one of breathtaking beauty. The setting was almost timeless; a village made up of buildings of a variety of architectural styles, located by the sea. Tony and Doug had landed on the cobbled pavement of what looked to be the village square. The Tic-Toc team relaxed as, onscreen, the time travellers got to their feet and dusted themselves down. It was more often the case that Tony and Doug arrived on a battlefield or in other places of great danger, but this particular setting seemed so tranquil as to offer no threat at all to the two timelost scientists.
"Well, this makes a nice change," said General Heywood Kirk who was standing behind the two scientists manning the main consoles. "Have you got a location yet?"
"No, not yet General," said Doctor Swain. "It looks as if it might be France or Italy judging from the style of those buildings." Swain turned to his pretty young colleague who was working at the main console beside him. "How about you Ann, have you managed to get a temporal fix on the boys?"
"The probe is just beginning to intensify now, it's..." Ann broke off with a startled gasp.
"What is it, Ann?" asked Kirk.
"They...they're back," stammered Ann. "Tony and Doug have arrived back in 1968 – they're in the present!"
For a moment there was dead silence in the control room as this news sank in. Then, suddenly, there was a spontaneous cheer and clapping from the personnel manning the room. Kirk waved them to silence but he was wearing a delighted smile as he did so. The General turned back to Ann and Ray. "Can we let them know? Is voice contact possible?"
"Not yet, General," answered Ray. "We need to build up power after the last transfer, and we also need a location from the computer."
Another scientist approached. Tentatively the young man asked: "Dr. MacGregor, do we know when in 1968 Tony and Doug are? I mean...they could be a few days, weeks or even months behind or ahead of us."
"That's a good question, Jerry," said Ann as she worked to refine her coordinates. "Judging by the strength of the readings I'm getting I'd say we're looking at a live picture of where the boys are right now – and I mean right now."
Ray looked up from his own instruments with a look of mild surprise on his face, and said: "I've narrowed down the location to somewhere in the British Isles." All eyes in the control room turned to look at the viewscreen. Tony and Doug were almost home.
"It's very quaint," said Doug as the time travellers took in their surroundings. Around a large village green were picture postcard cottages painted in delicate pastel shades. Overlooking the smaller buildings were two larger structures – a watchtower and a rather imposing domed building that should have looked totally out of place but somehow didn't.
"It's nowhere that I recognise, how about you?" said Tony, who, like his colleague, was admiring the view.
Doug shrugged. "I don't know. I'd hazard a guess at Italy but the climate doesn't seem right."
"Well, just so long as there are no killer androids lurking in the basements around here," said Tony with a wry smile, referring to a previous adventure. Doug raised an eyebrow at the comment and was about to reply but stopped as something caught his eye.
"Hey, Tony look!" said Doug pointing at a sign on a nearby wall. "Wherever we are they speak English." The sign read: Battery Square. Somewhere in the distance a band struck up the Radetzky March. "We're not going to learn anything standing around here," suggested Doug. "Let's split up and meet back here in, say, half an hour." Tony nodded and the two time travellers went in different directions.
Doug soon found a small shop with a sign above the window proclaiming it to be The Village Store. He stepped inside and found himself in a slightly musty area with shelves stacked high with tins and various groceries. As he looked around, Doug also noted that the little shop seemed to sell everything from records to cuckoo clocks. Behind the counter stood a large man wearing a striped sweater and straw boater that gave him the appearance of an overweight gondolier.
"Good morning sir, how may I help you?" asked the shopkeeper.
"Good morning," replied Doug in kind. "I seem to be a little lost and wondered if perhaps you could tell me where I am?"
The smile on the shopkeeper's pockmarked face vanished for a moment and Doug could have sworn that he saw pity in the man's eyes. The smile returned as quickly as it had disappeared and the shopkeeper said: "Ah, you're new here."
"Yes, that's right," said Doug, disturbed by something in the shopkeeper's manner. The man looked at Doug while his plump fingers played with a badge pinned to his striped shirt. The badge was emblazoned with a penny-farthing motif that was also to be found on the tins sitting on the shelves behind the counter. No information regarding the location of this place seemed to be forthcoming, so Doug asked: "Do you by any chance sell maps here?"
"Ah, yes," said the shopkeeper in an almost relieved tone. Doug decided that the man was on firmer ground when it came to selling things rather than dealing with geographical enquiries from strangers. The shopkeeper handed him a map (also decorated with a penny-farthing motif) and turned away as the jingling of a bell announced the entrance into the shop of another customer. As he opened out the map, Doug was disappointed to find that it gave as little help as the shopkeeper. There was a fairly basic outline of 'The Village' (no name), 'The Sea' and 'The Mountains.' Doug turned back to the shopkeeper but instead found himself confronted by two men wearing grey, vaguely military style jumpsuits and white hardhats. Incongruously, they also wore dark sunglasses and sported penny-farthing badges like the shopkeeper's. Hardly had Doug taken in this bizarre image than one of the 'soldiers' brought a cosh down hard on his head and everything went black.
Tony wandered along narrow twisting streets and found himself standing on a small jetty. Into the jetty was built a ship made out of stone. Tony decided that whoever had built this place must have a sense of humour, which was more than could be said for the people he had so far encountered. Whenever Tony had tried to stop one of the blank faced individuals who inhabited this place, he had been greeted by either shock or outrage at his questions. Usually the person would walk (or run) away. One woman had stopped long enough to tell him that: "A still tongue makes for a happy life," while another person had simply pointed to a poster bearing the legend: "Questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself," before disappearing. Tony hoped that Doug was having more luck.
It was as Tony turned to make his way back to Battery Square that he heard the roar. It sounded like some wild animal, almost like the roar an angry lion might make, and it stopped Tony dead in his tracks. Around him the occupants of this strange village froze like statues. Something was very wrong with this place, Tony decided, and he began to run along the jetty. The roar sounded again and Tony's blood ran cold. Then, ahead of him, appeared a large white balloon, a little like the ones used for meteorological experiments, but this one seemed to quiver and act as if it had a mind of its own. The 'roar' came again and Tony was shocked to realise that it was the balloon making this unearthly noise. Tony abandoned his plan to make for the village and dropped off the jetty onto the sandy beach below. As if it were alive, the balloon quivered in an almost imitation of anger and leapt into the air, coming to rest on the sand ahead of Tony. The scientist turned to run but slipped, stumbled and fell. With yet another predatory roar, the balloon raced toward Tony and began to smother him. Tony tried to fight, but the balloon seemed to wrap itself around him. The surface of the thing felt sickeningly like warm flesh and throbbed as if to a heartbeat – it was alive! Suffocated, Tony sank into unconsciousness.
The team at Project Tic-Toc had watched in growing alarm what was happening to Tony and Doug. Ann turned desperately to the General and cried: "We've got to transfer them!"
"But if we do that we'll lose them in time again and we'll be back to square one," replied Kirk. "We might never have this opportunity again, Ann - Never!"
"But General, we have to do something!"
"Look Ann, I've been on the phone to the British Embassy. This place, this...Village, it must be some top-secret installation. Once we've explained what our boys are doing there I'm sure that the British authorities will be only too happy to release them."
Ann was about to protest again when a loud hissing sound filled the control room. She got to her feet as everyone started to look around for the source of the strange sound. Ann suddenly noticed an odd smell and an unfamiliar taste in her mouth. Before her eyes, the General, Ray and the rest of the personnel in the Time Tunnel control room began to stagger then fall to the ground. Her vision blurred, and Ann too fell to the floor.
She didn't know how much time passed before she regained consciousness but Ann was relieved to wake up in the familiar surroundings of her quarters at Tic-Toc base. Blearily she sat up on her bed and got to her feet. Ann looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror next to the bed. There was a penny-farthing badge pinned to the lapel of her lab coat with the number 47 superimposed over the larger wheel. Panicking, she ran for the door and opened it. Instead of the corridor that she had expected to find outside, Ann instead found herself in the open air looking out at the very same village green where she had seen Tony and Doug arrive on the Time Tunnel viewscreen.
Back in her room the phone began to ring. Her senses shattered, Ann stepped back inside to answer it. A clipped voice speaking in a British accent on the other end of the line said: "Glad to see that you're awake Number 47. Please come and join me for breakfast. Number 2...the Green Dome."