Issue 3: Action, That's How! (A Caper in Time Part 2)

by Evan Forman and Michael Robertson - One Chapter a Week Starting 27.11.16


Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - King Zaedar is Introduced, He Learns of Our Hero’s Exploits in Issue #2, and A Mysterious Force Awakens™ From The Depths of The Ancient Past
Chapter 2 - John Boss - Incredibly - Escapes from "The White Palace of Death”, Shoots A BUNCH of Dudes, and Makes His Way to The Relative Safety of Dryadora’s Coal District
Chapter 3 - Dhubagèl Escorts Aerin Through The Sewers of Dryadora, But Maybe Also His Subconscious? What I Mean is We Get to Know More About This Previously Mysterious and At Points Unsettling Character, and The Subterranean Setting is Associated - in Jungian Psychoanalysis - With The Subconscious, So That Works
Chapter 4 - That Relatively Sedate Chapter Was Just a Break from The All-Important Action! As John Boss and Chel Make Their Way Through The Coal District In Their Attempt to Find Safe Refuge, But Not Without The Police Giving Chase
Chapter 5 - John Boss, Aerin Liette, Dhubagèl Shaen, Chel Hagar, and More are Finally United, and Ready to Strike Back Against King Zaedar’s Brutal Regime
Chapter 6 - The Past 30 Years of Aerin's Life Are Unlived for the Sake of the Plot, by Which I Mean Primarily the Plot of This Book, but Also the Plot Which the Red Hand Formulate in This Chapter, Which - If That Wasn't Obvious to You, Reader - Is a Clever Bit of Wordplay on the Similarities between The "Diegetic" Rebellion's Plot Which Requires Sacrifice, in a Very Fatalistic, Heroic Sort of Way, and The "Non-Diegetic" Aristotelian Plot Structure Which Requires Sacrifice in a Very Ritualistic “High-Maintenance Volcano God” Sort of Way
Chapter 7 - In a ‘Baroque Formalism’ Power Move, Four Conversations between John Boss the 34th and the Three Members of the Dryadora Red Hand Cell Are Intercut with a Scene of Domestic Mundanity, and a Scene of Great Heroism Which Is Also a Flashback into the past of John Boss the 41st. For the Purposes of Light Genre Parody, a Minor Character Has a Silly Name; A Minor Character Waits for a Bus, Which Doesn't Actually Move the Plot Forward or Contribute to The Themeing in Any Meaningful Way, And a Minor Character Mentions Things from Wurld’s past but Doesn’t Explain Them, Which Gives You That Kind of High-Fantasy Texture without the Bogged-Downedness That Comes with Fields of Exposition: All the Flavour of Fantasy with None of the Nutrition, and I Think That's Beautiful
Chapter 8 - The Night before the Operation, Aerin — Overcome by Insomnia — Hides Away in His Study and Distracts Himself from His Fear of Tomorrow's Events with the Comforting Familiarity of His Self-Loathing. Kreida Tries to Comfort Him and the Two End up Comparing Notes on a Relationship Forged under the Crucible Pressures of Mental Illness. It's Actually Really Nice.
Chapter 9 - There's a Flashback to an Episode from Chel Hagar's past with Revealing Parallels to Another Episode from Chel Hagar's Past: Chapter 7 of Issue #2. You Might Assume This Is Our Only Reason for Jumping Back a Few Years in Time, but Only If You Pay Attention Will You Notice That We're Subtly Reminding You of and Expanding on the Sub-Sub-Plot of Dryadora and / or the Whole Elvin Empire's failing Electricity System, Because That's Going to Be Important Later. We Then Seamlessly Transition into the Red Hand Cell's Infiltration of the DTV Station Where the Tapes of What Actually Happened in the Arena Are Kept. Being the End of Act II / Beginning of Act III, Things Go a Bit Skiwhiff and the Chapter Ends on a Thrilling Cliffhanger That You'll Have to Wait 'Til next Sunday to See Resolved!
Chapter 10 - Aerin and Krieda Spend Most of the Day in Dryadora's Pearl District, a Nice Day out Which Is Actually a Ruse by Aerin to Get near the Arena Where the Prime Minister Is Making His Speech. Krieda Is Conveniently Scheduled to Visit Her Parents in the Afternoon, so This Gives Aerin the Perfect Opportunity for a Heartbreaking Goodbye Scene before He Goes to Infiltrate the Press Crowd and Place Lockswell's Signal Jammer on the DTV Van's Satellite. Aerin and Dhubagèl Engage in Some Breathtakingly Suspenseful Scenes of Social Deception, but Are They Wily Enough to Avoid Detection by the Already On-Edge Members of the Prime Minister's Elite Guard? Also, How Good Was Doctor Who Last Night?
Chapter 11 - The Red Hand Defend the Control Room as Their Broadcast Goes out to the World. They Flee, and after a High-Octane Chase Scene They Escape into the Forests. All Hope Seems Lost, but Then They Are Saved by a Mysterious Character from an Earlier Point in the Story in a Way That Is Surprising but, Crucially, Still Made Inevitable by the Aristotelian Clockwork We've Established up until This Point. I Liked This Week's Doctor Who a Lot More Than Frank Cottrell-Boyce's Last Episode. It's Good That We're Getting More Fully-Realised Alien Planets In The Show Again
Chapter 12 - The Twelfth One

58 HOURS, 40 MINUTES, AND 12 SECONDS

John Boss helped Chel out of the dark waters and onto the slippery rocks that lined the river, across the foot of a huge concrete wall. She tried to follow him as quickly as she could without falling, cold metal hand gripping her wounded shoulder. John picked his way across the wet stone which reflected the faint light of the moon. "Are you bleeding badly?"

"I can't see in this light.” Chel sighed, hair dripping. “I can't feel it on my hand, and I'm soaking all over."

"There should be lights once we get up to the street level,” said John, assessing what he could see of the world above. “We'll need to stay hidden, wherever it is you're taking us."

"We need to find something to use as a makeshift bandage."

"I AM wearing a perfectly good loincloth."

Chel smiled with some difficulty. "That's horrifying."

They reached a cramped staircase that clung to the river wall - pockmarked with barnacles and dried fungus - and clambered up, Boss being careful not to be spotted by anyone who might be passing by. Checking for any movement up or down the silent, lopsided street, they scuttled across the cracked and patchy road into the shadow of an alley, a grubby crack between one colossal factory husk and its twin. John peered around the corner, out from the dark onto the road lit by sickly green that hung in fog from the few working streelamps. "We both need civilian clothes. People will ask questions if they see someone in uniform at this time of night."

"John, this is the Coal District. People will fucking gut someone they see in uniform at this time of night."

They inspected the open street, a million death-black eyes staring down at them from red-brick sockets and rotten window panes, mostly covered over with boards or metal. John whispered, "What's that over on the other side? An old curtain or something?"

"Oh, it'll work for now."

They sprinted across the exposed space, trying not to make too much noise across the broken tar. Back in shadow, she popped out the knife from her thumb and cut a strip of the curtain which had been rolled up and thrown out. John pulled the strip taut and wrapped it around her wound, snugly tying a knot at the back. "How's that?"

"Stinging, but okay. If it's clothes you want, we'll need to go further into the residential area. This is just where all the factories used to be."

"What happened to them?"

"Moved out to the country when they changed the law about...thirty years ago? Turns out if a species does nothing but hard labour for centuries, they start to evolve for it. The factory owners wanted free labour under the guise of “these are the jobs nobody wants to do”, but those were the only jobs most of these people could do. So *you'd* better be even more careful than usual.”

“Why?”

“You get these old posters from a hundred and fifty years ago of Coal District miners and young guys laying the railways. ‘Men at work’,” she said, putting on a deep voice and raising a fist in front of her chest, smiling a little. “You look just like one of them. Moustache and everything. Insult to injury.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Wait til we pass some old trainwreck drunk and he’s reminded he lost his livelihood to some fucking…”

“What?” John asked.

“Be careful, is all.” Chel replied.

"I thought you were taking me somewhere safe."

"I am! Eventually."

"Well, lead the way."

Chel stepped forward, navigating the rain-slick stretches of empty space, only barely populated by old cars and the occasional vagrant singing to himself, bacteria feeding on the corpse of a city. Some of the buildings had visible purpose, once, others were now just crags of brick that suggested windows and doors; maybe decades ago, maybe a century. Did the shifting piles of rats ever look up at these grand and ancient ruins as they scavenged at its feet?

They reached a fire escape, a metal squeal rattling out as John pulled it down, its legs piercing the floor of mud and trash below. The rusty structure seemed to shift as they moved up storey by storey, back and forth, back and forth. Boss attempted to carefully open a window through a hole in the broken glass, but had to pull and ended up ripping it upwards with a loud crack.

The room inside was small, short, and dirty, furnished by an ashtray, a spoon, and three quarters of a mattress. Chel leaned out of the door and listened for the slightest sound of non-insect life. "Right, I think we're alone," she whispered. John opened the wardrobe, which contained:

● Three moth-eaten hoodies.
● Two pairs of jeans.
● A t-shirt.
● One pair of what were once, presumably, trainers.
● A half-empty jar of money.
● A rucksack of bags filled with powder and razorblades.
● A half-full first aid kit.

“What’s this?” John knelt down to inspect the thing. “Green bag with a plus sign?”

“Oh shit, give that over here,” said Chel.

John tossed it over to her, and started pulling clothes off their hangers and onto the bare wooden floor. “And put some of these on, you can keep your uniform in the bag.”

Chel sat down below the window and hauled her boots off with her good arm. She undid the buckles at the sides of her bulletproof vest and pulled it up over her head. John emptied the bag's contents onto the floor and stuffed the vest inside. "You need a hand with that bandage?"

"No, it's..." Her hand stopped short of untying the knot that kept it clutched around her wound, trying to think of a way she could get it off, get undressed, and quickly get it back on again. "...Yeah." She unzipped her jacket and wriggled off the left arm, John stepping over the glimmering shards of broken glass to take the knot, Chel becoming suddenly aware of the warmth radiating from his huge body as he sat behind her on the bed, his arms at her shoulder. "Ready?"

"Go."

He untied the bandage and Chel winced as she pulled off the other arm of her jacket. The touch of her cool metal fingers send chills down her soaking skin as she fumbled at the top button of her shirt for a few seconds before she flipped out her knife. "Hold the shirt out,” she ordered. John reached around and pulled the sodden, thinly transparent fabric away from her chest and she slid the blade down the middle, buttons bouncing on the floor below as her shirt opened up. She retracted the knife and tried to take it off on her own, but every inch of it still clung to her.

"Here,” said John, as she felt his fingers gently slide down the sides of her neck, taking her collar and pulling it down from her. She closed her eyes with a sharp intake of breath, the bloody white fabric peeling off from her wound as John pulled it off, her half-naked body glistening in the gentle light of the moon. Which had come out now.

He placed a hand on the underside of her arm and guided it up a little, applying the bandage from the first-aid kit tightly around her shoulder.

“What’s that sound?” she tried to turn.

“Don’t move. I’m almost done,” he commanded.

“I just want to listen to find out what the noise is, I’m just turning my head-”

“It’s a flying metal thing, probably one of yours, it’s been approaching for about a minute now but I didn’t want to say anything. Done.”

She shot up and spun around. “A fucking HELICOPTER?!”

She leaned out the window and listened to the hum of a helicopter engine drifting over the city, watched it illuminate the jagged skyline of half-collapsed buildings with a spotlight. She rushed to put on the filthy jumper and shoes, violently stuffing her uniform inside the backpack. "How long have you known about that!?"

"You'd have moved!" he smiled.

"We need to be as far away as possible right the fuck now."

"It's not looking for us, specifically..." said Boss as they rushed out into the hall and down the stairs. "...well, it literally is, but it isn't getting anywhere fast."

"Those choppers can go over a hundred miles an hour."

"There's a lot of city for it to search, and we could be hiding in any one its many nooks and crannies."

"Thermal cameras."

"What?"

"They can see us through walls."

Chel and John burst out from the creaking wooden door and onto the street.

"You make a compelling argument, but I can't help but feel that everything will probably be fine."

Chel stumbled over her own feet on a patch of cobbled road that was still visible amongst the scabs of tar, and collapsed.

"Chel!?"

John turned her over. Her eyes lulled around vacantly. "Sewers."

"What?"

"In the sewers. There's a...safe..."

Her weak eyes fell shut and the struggle to keep her head up gently failed. The sound of the helicopter was getting louder. Boss threw the backpack over his shoulder, lifted Chel's limp body off the ground, and ran across the single designated block of grass for half a mile, down the concrete slab path being split open by weeds, and vanished back into the shadows of anonymous gray concrete.

Out of the corner of his eye he spotted something, and stopped. A red plus sign, like the one on the first-aid kit. Above, the helicopter scanned the near-empty streets, inspecting little clusters of yellow and green huddled in the translucent, overlapping mess of blue cuboids. John Boss kept close to the shadows, and slowed down as he approached the door of the building, its bare hinges reflecting a small fire inside.

“Fuck do you mean you didn’t see it?! Biggest arena fight of the century and I’m the only one in this shithole who noticed! Chanting! A human gladiator! A giant robot with a minigun for a face! It was amazing!” exclaimed the elf in a large black coat.

“I told you I don’t watch that shite,” replied the second elf, arms folded, huddled into the black hoodie he wore over a dark blue tracksuit.

“Fuck the both of yous, I’m away for a piss,” said the elf in the black coat, throwing open the back door of the pharmacy which softened itself shut behind him.

“What’s your excuse Alei?” asked the second elf.

Alei, chucking sweetie wrappers into the barrel full of fire, coughed up something and aimed for the barrel as he spat. “TV? I sold that fuckin’ thing for a fuckin’... cheeky wee hauf didn’t I?”

“A hauf?”

“It’s an old elvin word.”

“For what?”

“For a pound. A pound’s worth of the best upside-downers money can buy.”

“As in weight?”

“No, as in old money.”

The elf leaned back into his chair, resting his cheek on his fist. “You just made it sound like you sold your TV for half an eccie, is all.”

“Oh, no no no,” replied the older of the two, shaking his head as he threw another chocolate into his mouth.

“What’s the going rate for an eccie these days anyway?”

“Two pounds.”

“FUCK OFF ALEI!” the elf shouted as he got up off his ragged deckchair and turned to face the dimly lit shop, and stopped. Lying in the middle of the floor was a woman with a bionic arm, and a hulking human creature raiding the shelves.

“Alei.”

“That was a JOKE, mate, I was just having a wee joke, kidding you on.”

“Alei,” he whispered. “Oh for fuck’s sake.” He stepped back across the messy, checkered floor of the pharmacy and watched the beast take every individual bottle off the shelves, tear the lid off and smell its contents.

The beast found something and shot back over to the woman, kneeling down and bringing the bottle to her nose. Alei turned and jumped off his stool, silently disturbed by the creature’s massive form, the fact it wore clothes like an elf, but most of all its long, twirly moustache. It looked up at them with one eye, the other covered by an eyepatch.

“Ooee du seem seeus neue pe da sliem? Welah seeus gela homolom cray de guilles,” said the beast.

“Sorry mate you’ll have to speak up,” said Alei, walking over to the thing before the other elf stopped him.

“Ooel hae oandaro el uhave thae, sotha plusienien camuh lucan fordisme ansals!” it replied, making the motion of unscrewing something.

The elf in the black coat entered the room, and froze. “That’s it!” He pointed.

“That’s what!?” muttered the one that wasn’t Alei.

“That’s the thing that killed the robot! On the TV!”

John Boss knelt down slowly, placing his hands under Chel’s body.

“Well fucking kill it!” the elf shouted, pulling out a gun.

John leapt down the steps to the door and bolted around the corner into an alleyway, gunshots echoing down the street as they pierced the tar. Two of the elves ran after Boss, but as the street flooded with white light their leader stopped, waving at the spotlight of the helicopter. “Here! Down here!”

Seeing someone down in the Coal waving a gun, the officer in the helicopter opened fire and moved on with the search.

Pushed on by the sound of gunfire and screaming, John and the two elves ran faster. John vaulted over a short wall and slid down an old slate roof, jumping from the edge over a tall and narrow close onto a pathway on the other side. Alei took out his revolver and opened fire, John taking cover behind some bins. The other elf (Bascai? Bascai.) hesitated for a moment, before winding up a running start.

“What the fuck are you doing!? Go around the-”

Bascai skipped over the wall, ran down the slope and flailed over the chasm, slamming stomach-first onto the barrier and trying to climb up. Alei walked backwards, took a deep breath, and noticed the lopsided bridge across the gap just ten steps to his right. John took off again as he heard footsteps and the sound of Bascai struggling, down a long and uneven flight of stairs and around a corner into a flooded street, past a strange metal apparatus.

“stop” muttered Chel.

“What is it?” asked John, supporting her head.

“There’s a generator there, they’re about to chase us over water, we’re on dry land...I think?”

“Yes.”

“You do the math.” She faded away blissfully again.

John thought about it for a moment. “What?”

She faded back blissfully again. “Rip it off the wall and throw it into the water, idiot!” she croaked.

John quickly placed her down, propping her up against a wall. He inspected the device, essentially a slot for what looked like a large jar of black, opaque glass buzzing and shimmering a little as he got closer. He gripped it by two metal handles at the side, and pressed his foot against the wall to tear it out. The lights on the street snapped off, and he could see the shadows of the two elves growing as they came around the corner. They landed in the long and fragrant puddle, and didn’t see John as he threw the battery down onto the water.

The impact created a small burst of light, followed by an immediate swallowing of the entire street in uncanny green light with no source, as immediate curling around the chimneys as it was devouring the rubbish that clogged the street, melting it down into sludge. Bascai and Alei couldn’t run, somehow, both of them transfixed by something that wasn’t there, as if lost in the same hallucination. John covered his mouth and nose and did the same for Chel, thinking that this was airborne. He could have sworn there was wailing, from all around, an old and crooked voice that babbled about her stillborn child and the ashes of her city as Bascai and Alei were pushed to their knees by irresistible force, were lifted up out of the boiling water, and Alei was thrown violently through a window. “The window!” screamed Bascai, pleading to nobody standing below him, just in front of him, pointing at the solid brick wall now painted in Alei’s remains. “They threw him threw the window like he was nothi-”

Bascai stopped, his eyes widening and mouth agape after being jolted forward an inch. Blood soaked through his clothes from a fine point in his chest, and he fell flat onto solid air above the ground as John heard a sword scrape against cobbles. The light vanished, leaving John and Chel in burnt, dry dark. The elves were gone.

“Chel? Chel!” John pleaded, picking her up again.

“Hm?”

‘Did you just see that?”

“Heard it.”

“What in the gods’ name was that!?”

“Why you don’t play near electricity pylons, John.” She coughed as she chuckled to herself.

A breathless John Boss ran down the moss-covered staircase that clung to the side wall of a dark close. The helicopter spotlight swept down the street ahead, illuminating the stagnant trail of sewer water that stretched out into the street from the mouth of a tunnel at the upper end of the pathway. A flimsy section of wire fence with a warning sign had been erected across the entrance, but inevitably kicked in and pulled down. “We’re here, Chel” said John, checking to see if she was at all conscious. “You’re safe now.”

He stepped over, of all things, a rusty tricycle, and became enveloped in the reeking dark.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - King Zaedar is Introduced, He Learns of Our Hero’s Exploits in Issue #2, and A Mysterious Force Awakens™ From The Depths of The Ancient Past
Chapter 2 - John Boss - Incredibly - Escapes from "The White Palace of Death”, Shoots A BUNCH of Dudes, and Makes His Way to The Relative Safety of Dryadora’s Coal District
Chapter 3 - Dhubagèl Escorts Aerin Through The Sewers of Dryadora, But Maybe Also His Subconscious? What I Mean is We Get to Know More About This Previously Mysterious and At Points Unsettling Character, and The Subterranean Setting is Associated - in Jungian Psychoanalysis - With The Subconscious, So That Works
Chapter 4 - That Relatively Sedate Chapter Was Just a Break from The All-Important Action! As John Boss and Chel Make Their Way Through The Coal District In Their Attempt to Find Safe Refuge, But Not Without The Police Giving Chase
Chapter 5 - John Boss, Aerin Liette, Dhubagèl Shaen, Chel Hagar, and More are Finally United, and Ready to Strike Back Against King Zaedar’s Brutal Regime
Chapter 6 - The Past 30 Years of Aerin's Life Are Unlived for the Sake of the Plot, by Which I Mean Primarily the Plot of This Book, but Also the Plot Which the Red Hand Formulate in This Chapter, Which - If That Wasn't Obvious to You, Reader - Is a Clever Bit of Wordplay on the Similarities between The "Diegetic" Rebellion's Plot Which Requires Sacrifice, in a Very Fatalistic, Heroic Sort of Way, and The "Non-Diegetic" Aristotelian Plot Structure Which Requires Sacrifice in a Very Ritualistic “High-Maintenance Volcano God” Sort of Way
Chapter 7 - In a ‘Baroque Formalism’ Power Move, Four Conversations between John Boss the 34th and the Three Members of the Dryadora Red Hand Cell Are Intercut with a Scene of Domestic Mundanity, and a Scene of Great Heroism Which Is Also a Flashback into the past of John Boss the 41st. For the Purposes of Light Genre Parody, a Minor Character Has a Silly Name; A Minor Character Waits for a Bus, Which Doesn't Actually Move the Plot Forward or Contribute to The Themeing in Any Meaningful Way, And a Minor Character Mentions Things from Wurld’s past but Doesn’t Explain Them, Which Gives You That Kind of High-Fantasy Texture without the Bogged-Downedness That Comes with Fields of Exposition: All the Flavour of Fantasy with None of the Nutrition, and I Think That's Beautiful
Chapter 8 - The Night before the Operation, Aerin — Overcome by Insomnia — Hides Away in His Study and Distracts Himself from His Fear of Tomorrow's Events with the Comforting Familiarity of His Self-Loathing. Kreida Tries to Comfort Him and the Two End up Comparing Notes on a Relationship Forged under the Crucible Pressures of Mental Illness. It's Actually Really Nice.
Chapter 9 - There's a Flashback to an Episode from Chel Hagar's past with Revealing Parallels to Another Episode from Chel Hagar's Past: Chapter 7 of Issue #2. You Might Assume This Is Our Only Reason for Jumping Back a Few Years in Time, but Only If You Pay Attention Will You Notice That We're Subtly Reminding You of and Expanding on the Sub-Sub-Plot of Dryadora and / or the Whole Elvin Empire's failing Electricity System, Because That's Going to Be Important Later. We Then Seamlessly Transition into the Red Hand Cell's Infiltration of the DTV Station Where the Tapes of What Actually Happened in the Arena Are Kept. Being the End of Act II / Beginning of Act III, Things Go a Bit Skiwhiff and the Chapter Ends on a Thrilling Cliffhanger That You'll Have to Wait 'Til next Sunday to See Resolved!
Chapter 10 - Aerin and Krieda Spend Most of the Day in Dryadora's Pearl District, a Nice Day out Which Is Actually a Ruse by Aerin to Get near the Arena Where the Prime Minister Is Making His Speech. Krieda Is Conveniently Scheduled to Visit Her Parents in the Afternoon, so This Gives Aerin the Perfect Opportunity for a Heartbreaking Goodbye Scene before He Goes to Infiltrate the Press Crowd and Place Lockswell's Signal Jammer on the DTV Van's Satellite. Aerin and Dhubagèl Engage in Some Breathtakingly Suspenseful Scenes of Social Deception, but Are They Wily Enough to Avoid Detection by the Already On-Edge Members of the Prime Minister's Elite Guard? Also, How Good Was Doctor Who Last Night?
Chapter 11 - The Red Hand Defend the Control Room as Their Broadcast Goes out to the World. They Flee, and after a High-Octane Chase Scene They Escape into the Forests. All Hope Seems Lost, but Then They Are Saved by a Mysterious Character from an Earlier Point in the Story in a Way That Is Surprising but, Crucially, Still Made Inevitable by the Aristotelian Clockwork We've Established up until This Point. I Liked This Week's Doctor Who a Lot More Than Frank Cottrell-Boyce's Last Episode. It's Good That We're Getting More Fully-Realised Alien Planets In The Show Again
Chapter 12 - The Twelfth One