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Friday, 31 January 2020


                                                BRAIN  GAMES ON QINSATORIX

                                                          by  Tom Leonard

                                                         FIRST  FOUR CHAPTERS

                                            CHAPTER 5: THE APE SWANS' NEST



And so it came to pass. The autumnal winds were blowing in from the East and the pine trees giving vent, when the youthful High Priest of the Aztalan and six of his ageless Elders took shelter in the Wigwam of the Fireball Fighters to meet with the Shiner delegation: the gibbon-faced Foreign Secretary of Qinsatorix, the bullish, green-haired Chief Economic Advisor to the First Minister, the corrupt prince of the homo erectus, and the manipulative ' headshrinker' who was headmaster of the Alpha-Omega Academy.

      The eleven wily politicians discussed great matters of State, in particular a proposed Peace and Reconciliation treaty with all indigenous Icarians in the entire Red Trojan Universe, a treaty
which would, in reality, be orchestrated by the Shiners on behalf of the so-called Divine Plutarchs.

(The plutarchs were projected by the Shiners as representing the interests of the 'ruling' hi-tech Icarians in Trivoli, though the plutarchs regarded themselves as in God-like manipulative control of the entire planet, rather like the Borgias and the other sick, cruel and abusive Roman Catholics who sought to control Planet Earth 'from above' for over two millennia.)

      Who the twelve Divine Plutarchs actually were was an open question, though it was generally accepted that the Grand Reincarnate Sir Aristotle Sunkist was one of their number, and it was rumoured that they all lived on separate islands, or in hermit's huts on isolated rocks, in the Archipelago of the Shiners. It was even suggested that they were all Shiners of sorts, though the Shiners themselves fervently denied this (as of course they would!).

      The plutarchs weren't quite as powerful as they imagined themselves to be, largely because of the strong though competing effects of the aggregate forces of humanoid behaviour. In particular, group humanoid consciousness can fly off the rails in its entirety in situations where specific evil humanoids are only partly to blame.  Humanoid populations that are unable to harness their group consciousness face doom and even Armageddon on the planets they inhabit.

       Even though the Foreign Secretary Dirk Eradacus was a low-class Apollo Gibbon, he was a long-time Honorary Closet Shiner, and as such had been secretly elected to be a Superior Elder of the Closet Shiners (The Closet Shiners didn't usually attend the meetings organised by the common or garden Shiners, but instead got themselves involved in all sorts of covert intrigue of the type that tends to make the minds of ordinary folk boggle in disgust).

      The vain and narcissistic  First Minister of Qinsatorix, who resided in  Trudeau Tower in Trivoli, was  kept 'totally unaware' of Eradacus's and  Ket Martingale's two-faced conflicts of interest, and was not himself a Shiner. As far as the proletariat was concerned, it was the democratically elected Parliament in Trivoli who made the crass decisions, though subject to the influences of mysterious 'ripples from above' and a variety of crass political advisors and eugenicists.

      The Emperor and the Imperial Icarian Royal Family played a largely ceremonial role, though they flapped their Charlesian ears and stuck their long  noses in whenever they thought that it was in their own interests to do so. They'd lost public respect in AD 2698, when the Princess Royal was discovered in flagrante delicto in a public latrine with the Archbishop of  Madron and two horny Apollo Panthers, and they'd struggled to maintain their credibility ever since.

      The expensive jabber-elk  hunting trips in the Salacian Urals didn't help, particularly since the talented jabber-elks were a much-treasured species. Neither did the infernal show-jumping.The overworked dromedaries received lots of public sympathy, and oodles of favourable coverage in the tabloid press. When the portly Princess Infante won an Adephian gold on Sasquatch, it was  Sasquatch who received the plaudits for tossing her into a ditch after the last fence. The princess was roundly booed when she received her medal, for her never to be forgotten cruelty to the family pussy cats and porgis.

Left to their own devices, Pippa and Slim drifted off for a natter under a Mumbo Jumbo tree, where they discovered a couple of comfy places to park themselves, in the gnarled, snake-like roots. Barely had they sat down when two tiny Aztalan girls crept up, squatted on their heels in front of them, and listened to their every word, while the purply-black, star-shaped festoonettes eavesdropped from the prickly bark.

      "Dreyfus was so very kind and considerate to me last night", said Pippa, only for the Apollo Unicorn in question to stride up, waggling his noddle and wobbling his slightly twisted silver horn. He came arm-in-arm with Tamzin Soyabean, the intended indentured wife of the Qinsatoran Foreign Secretary; she still looked sullen and distraught, though the bruises covering her lovely face were now a lighter shade of blue.

      Slim swatted a hungry festoonette that was making inroads into his shoulder."You should switch to a vegetarian diet, Dreyfus," he joked."Your tummy's wobbling as much as your alicornia."

      Dreyfus clasped his tummy in dismay. "That's a funny word. I hope you don't mean my weegie."

      "I meant your feckin stupid horn, you ted."

      "And how are you this evening, Tamzin?" sidetracked Pippa, as gently as she could.

      "It's a relief to be able to talk to another human," burbled Tamzin, "---homo sapiens, I mean. Some of the other creatures on this planet are beyond the pale. And, as for those homo erectus---."

       Slim felt a bit insecure about that since he was a full silver-blooded Icarian. "Please tell us the story of your life, darlin'," he interrupted. "Where was you brung up?"

       Tamzin smiled a glimmer of a smile at that attempt at the vernacular.

       "I was brought up by two redundant copper and arsenic miners in the tiny village of Bethlehem-on-the-Dnieper, and felt repressed and traumatized as a child," she spieled, as if on a stream of oblique consciousness. "My Uncle Joe worked me and my mother to the bone in his gin and crystal crank distillery. The crank was so noxious that it gave me pimples on my face, and it made me so brain-fogged that I failed my standard grades in Pottery and Cookery at Beth Remedial."

      Pippa felt very disturbed by that. "How appalling! Wasn't crank banned in the Destructive Chemicals Act of 2702? It's almost as bad as Ritalin."

      "It certainly damaged me, even more than the gasohol," sobbed Tamzin. "And after that miserable let-down, I was forced to work with the hard-boiled laundresses in  Wash and Tailor Incorporated as a lowly assistant seamstress. I was really skilful with needles, and seemed to have developed fresh talents. But the laundresses enjoyed having fun with the stray lads; first of all they'd coat the poor lapdogs with raspberry goulash, would you believe? And then, before I could say 'How's your father?' the bitches coated me with goulash too! And then they had the audacity to try to lick it all off ! And when they ran out of goulash they opened their pots of marmalade----Aaaaaaarg!"

      Slim had once been licked by a laundress himself, and the peanut butter had stuck to his skin. "How utterly degrading! Our employers should show more duty of care in  the workplace."

       Tamzin pulled herself together. "Yes," she sighed,"and that mean-fisted lizard's negligence got me into a right fucking pickle. One day, Lady Jemima Sunkist came in and offered me a job in Fantasia, as a receptionist in the Hotel de Wash. It sounded like a chance to escape the drudgery and all the bullying, the chance of a lifetime! But, before I could say 'Bob's your uncle' the sleazy gibbon from the harem took me upstairs to the God-dammed Celebrity Suite, and made me spread by lovely legs for all and sundry. It was so revolting! And now they've hitched me up to another smelly gibbon. It's  enough to make you want to puke in their soup."

      Pippa was wondering how best to reply to Tamzin's very sad and troubling tale of woe, when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the web-footed ape swan Lysistrata walking determinedly across the meadow, hand-in-hand with a swarthy Apollo Walrus (who Pippa took to be the bubblecopter pilot).

     The Aztalan girls read Pippa's thoughts."They're off to the casino in the Cavern of Chance and Fortune," said the one with the snub nose. "It's under the khaki wigwam next to the first-aid tent."

     "They'll be able to chance their luck on the roulette wheel with three zeroes," said the one with the floppy ears. "It's totally biased. Why don't you all tag along and take your chances too?"

      After empathising for over ten minutes and in very compassionate terms with Tamzin's sad dilemmas, Slim and Dreyfus decided that they wanted to visit the casino to ferret out more social injustices. So away to the Wigwam of Saint Fortuna  they all went.

Two talking llamas checked the four companions' credentials and showed them into the inconspicuous-looking wigwam. Thereupon, the tiny Aztalan girls encouraged the inquisitive quartet to follow them through the vibrating Ring of Randomness, down an ancient limestone staircase lined with Plurassic Age paintings of humanoid Dinosaurians, and through a maze of curiously shaped stalagmites that stood over seven feet tall and resembled zany part-humanoid, part-machine Grottzappers from the Planet Ceres.

      After successfully negotiating a six inch wide vertical 'squeeze', Slim got totally discombobulated by the bright red flashing lights and python-like silver stalactites, and thought that he was in psychosis. And when a passing Aztalan waiter gave him a free glass of Potentia, Slim's eyes turned into prisms.

      "Welcome to the Cavern of Chance and Fortune," exclaimed a very tall, extremely slender Aztalan lady with three neatly arranged, big floppy breasts, who was painted glossy bright green all over. "The azure-jack and multi-dimensional dice tables are behind the beanpoles on your right, and the Monte Carlo roulette wheel is straight ahead. If you strike lucky on number 13, then today's special prize is a trip down to the Hades tavern for a free flagon of consciousness-enhancing Psychedelia. Otherwise, it's forty cents a shot. Our waiters would be glad to run a drinks tab for you, and we wouldn't object too strongly if you didn't pay up.  If you'd like to gamble, then the chips cost a silver guinea each. Please pay cash up front or punch your pin number into your friendly croupier's Facilitating machine."

       The gambling tables behind the beanpoles were surrounded by hordes of perfectly sober ape swans from the nearby Isle of Mainau and a number of well-plied tourists from the Hotel of the Pink Hapsburgs in the village of Mainau (many of whom were on psychedelic highs). The Aztalan croupiers were having a field day; they were chuckling away while the tourists got fleeced. The secret lenses and wily, orange festoonettes in the stalactites were enabling the croupiers to pull every mean trick in the book.

       To the left, a squat and very hairy Aztalan was guarding a huge red hot cauldron full of bubbling Sweet Paprika seasoning fluid, which generated a stream of yellow noxious gas that gushed through a flue in the roof of the cavern. He occasionally threw in a chicken or a live fox.

      "This is where we throw customers who cheat," snarled the Aztalan, in apparent jest. "You lot look as if you'd make a tasty supper, though I'd probably mix you with chives."

      "I don't want to be mixed with chives," wailed Dreyfus, clearly misinterpreting what was doubtlessly an idle threat.

      The other three teenagers also felt a touch nervous. So they all marched straight on, penniless and guinea-less, to the Monte Carlo Simulation Chamber.

      The roulette wheel was fully twenty foot in diameter, with 39  pockets equally spaced around its circumference, and it took four beefy Aztalan to set it in motion,  Thirty-six of the pockets (which were coloured either silver or gold) were haphazardly assigned one of the numbers 1,2,--,36, and the three green pockets were each labelled zero. The casinos on the mainland were required by legal statute to ensure that their wheels were fair, in the sense that on any particular spin the heavily weighted, round leather football could be regarded as 'equally likely' to end up in any one of the 39 pockets (each with probability 1/39). A punter betting a guinea on a specified number between one and thirty-six would receive 36 guineas if his bet turned out to be correct. However, if the outcome was one of the three zeroes, then the House would scoop all the bets. It wouldn't take a statistician to be able to work out that if the roulette wheel was fair, then the House would in the long run (i.e. after a large number of spins) invariably make a substantial profit. This would indeed amount to 1/13 of all money bet.

      A highly compulsive businessman from Naples-under-Lyme was repeatedly betting on the number 17 while being plied with free glasses of Potentia by a fawning waiter from Hades. The slick businessman felt that 'since 17 hadn't come up for a while, it was very likely to come up soon'. Little did he realise that the wheel had been fixed so that the football couldn't ever end up in the number 17 pocket! The stupid chancer was therefore set to lose his shirt, and his bow-tie too.

      As if by a fluke, the number 23 came up on three consecutive spins. All the punters therefore rushed to place their bets on the same outcome, number 23, on the next spin.

      "Don't be silly, folk!" cried Slim. "The outcomes on consecutive spins are statistically independent!"

       A hefty croupier ran up, booted Slim in the seat of his pants, twisted his fingers Freemason-style, and made a strange hand gesture (with Slim's twisted fingers) towards the ceiling. On the next spin, the football landed in the number 23 pocket, but bounced out and ended up in the number 7 pocket.

      'I do believe that the wheel is fixed with a deflecting device," muttered Pippa.

      All the losing punters ranted, raved, and  demanded their money back. Not to be outdone, Dreyfus Dreadnought leapt onto the roulette wheel, and hung on to the ivory statue of Erosia in Flagrante at its epicentre.

      "This wheel is biased and grossly unfair," he announced, with aplomb. "It, in all probability and according to my advanced calculus level multiple pi calculations, scoops up approximately 31.416% of all money bet, regardless of how skilfully you bet."

      At that, eight stroppy talking pigs ran up, hauled Dreyfus and his three companions through the exceedingly tight subterranean squeeze, dragged them up the stone staircase, and, to the consternation of the talking llamas, threw all four of them onto the sheep and llama dung heap in the ravine.

The eleven wily politicians emerged from the Wigwam of the Fireball Fighters an hour or so later, with impassive expressions on their faces, and Prince Alfredo skedaddled  at pace towards the bubblecopter without uttering ne'er a word of farewell, followed by the two hard-nosed government officials from Trivoli and the ubiquitous psychopath Alistair McCull.

       Lady Jemima emerged from the Wigwam of Saint Fortuna and caught up with her colleagues shortly afterwards after stopping for a brief snog and a well-received canoodle with two of the Aztalan octogenarian elders.

      When the four dirty, smelly, and dishevelled teenagers boarded the bubblecopter, they  were encouraged to sit down immediately behind the swarthy Apollo Walrus pilot, who apart from objecting to the stench, turned out to be suffering from a rare compulsive disorder. During take off he rambled on incessantly about the price of toothpicks, and was still complaining about the price of toothpicks a few minutes later when, after a  hop up to 2000 feet, he took the copter into a spiral nosedive over the postcard-perfect Isle of Mainau.

      During their steep take off, Pippa caught a glimpse of a fleet of shining blue ocean freighters at anchor in Scalpel Flow. During their rapid descent, she caught a briefer glimpse of a tall, shining white, castle keep emerging from a small lake. The greenish-blue lake (known as Lake Spectrum) was nestled inside a redstone asteroid crater and looked as if it was well below sea level. The lake was partly concealed by a ring of dense, dark green trees surrounding the rim of the crater.

      Maybe that's where the nasty Snazis once hid, deliberated Pippa. It could be the Ape Swans' NestThe Snazis escaped along the subterranean canal to Fantasia, where they were shot to shreds and hung from lampposts.

      Just when the copter seemed about to dive head over heels into Lake Spectrum, it abruptly levelled out, as if by animalistic instinct, and headed for the landing pad by the Hotel of the Pink Hapsburgs, where the pilot endeavoured to land it in one piece.

      Pippa was still sorting out her baggage, and looking for the very tiny otter she thought she'd hidden inside her night bag, when she saw Sleeping Sparrow, High Priest of the Aztalan, riding up the beach on a giant llama, cheek by jowl with his favourite non binary squaw. They'd travelled at pace from their village on Fantasia to catch the low tide.

      The hotel ranked equally in the tour-guides with the highly expensive Ambassadors Lodge off Tavistock Square in the City of Lanterns, in terms of both Spartan luxury and imaginative handicap courses for physically disabled guests needing a quick pee. It was staffed by a hundred or more ape swans who fell over each other in their efforts to provide ultimate satisfaction for the more prestigious of their guests, if not for the plebs.

Later that night, Pippa and Slim, now looking remarkable spruce, attended a highly convivial St. Crispin's Eve reception in the Drawing and Quartering Room, hosted by the Grand Reincarnate Sir Aristotle Sunkist and his delectable fifth wife, who Sir Aristotle nicknamed 'Whatchamacallit' since he could never quite remember whether she was called Tipsy or Tracey. While Dreyfus Dreadnought wasn't formally invited, he took a whiff of the hedgehog and mackerel hors d'oevres, and decided to gatecrash the toffee-nosed proceedings in the hope of polishing off a chocolate and meringue pie.

       Pippa and Slim focused their vibes on Tamzin Soyabean once again. She promptly left her gibbon-faced fiancee Dirk Eradacus hob-nobbing on the podium with the Sunkists and their power-seeking cronies, and when she joined her soul-mates it made her feel human once again.  But when Pippa was button-holed by a minor official with a diatribe about the whereabouts of the six local were-walruses, Slim and Tamzin made their excuses, and retreated to the ornately decorated terrace outside.

      Dreyfus surveyed the VIPs on the podium, like a child on the sidewalk, while taking a gulp or two of Iron Brew.  And he suddenly noticed a female Apollo Unicorn standing there, silver horn firmly in the vertical, who could have been his twin sister. Upon closer scrutiny, he realised from the way she flinched that she must be the spouse of the host, Sir Aristotle Sunkist, a rough diamond of a whore-monger if ever there was one.

      What a wonderful creature, pondered Dreyfus, in the deep and dark crevices of his mind. If only I could be her gay lover. But then Dreyfus recalled that he'd been brought up as a bloke, and tears welled in his eyes.  .

      Sir Aristotle must have sensed Dreyfus watching. He cut short his political and highly complex conversation with Sleeping Sparrow (who was somewhat provocatively dressed in a frilly, mauve quanta-skirt and an Aztalan bra-ket). Thereupon, the Grand Reincarnate of the Shiners took out his crystal glass monocle, and scrutinised his prey from a distance, in minute detail. He decided that Dreyfus was the girl for him, for that night at least, out of his deplorable inner consciousness.

     "You make such admirable choices, Daddy," purred the mind-reading Lady Jemima. "Your sixth wife, perchance?"

      "You know I prefer them as cuddlesome and hairy as the Queen of Sheba's legs," growled Sir Aristotle. "Maybe I should chance my luck with the talking Koala instead."

      A few minutes later, Dreyfus crept closer to the podium and hid behind a huge Fritalian panda who was having a whale of a time. Dreyfus was just in time to overhear a snippet of dialogue which seemed to be of vital political importance.

      "---and my dear brother King Philippe, Archduke of the Asturias is waiting in Constanta for the Homo Erectus troops to arrive from the Land of Qet," Prince Alfredo Saxie-Monteith was saying. "They will then join forces with several battalions of Royal Pelimodes, and march on Trivoli, uniting the squabbling factions of Apollo revolutionaries as they go. My dear mother, the Dowager Queen Wilhelmina, Lady of the Lake, will follow with the uranium-powered battle-tanks and Big Meg. She'll blow 'em away."

     "You're doomed to failure," retorted Sir Aristotle Sunkist. "The Divine Plutarchs will never countenance such an outrageous adventure. You're all from an inferior sub-species, every man jack of you!"

      "But you promised us your support," wailed the prince, "at the Summer Solstice Weinfest in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in June. While we were downing a bottle of vintage malt together."

      "Poppycock, malarkey, and blatherskite! I said that totally in jest."

      "Now I see you pretty game," growled the prince, with the gravity one would expect of a royal homo erectus. "We will nevertheless proceed at pace with our revolution, and the Icarian Royal Family and all you fucking plutarchs will suffer the consequences."

       "The gin is going to your head, Your Highness, and I didn't even hear you say that. Now, would you like a soothing mug of creamy---."

         The giant pandas were getting noisier and noisier, and so Dreyfus wasn't able to hear the conclusion of that emotive conversation; indeed he largely forgot about it when he was approached by a delightful flower girl, who blew him a kiss and gave him an immense bunch of red and pink roses, and a crafty wink.

An hour later, Slim and Tamzin were still whispering sweet nothings together on the terrace. And then, upon a sudden concordance of impulses, they hid behind the Icarius and Periboea tree for their first tender kiss.

     "Wud yer like to come up to my room for a quick coffee and a bite of my peppermint cookie?" Slim sheepishly inquired.

     "They still burn adulteresses at the stake on this planet," chuckled Tamzin,"but who gives a toss?"

      Meanwhile, Dreyfus was taking a bite out of a well-spiced slugs-and-snails-and-puppy-dogs-tails hors d'oevres, when Lady Jemima Sunkist mischievously sidled up.

      "My Daddy wishes to deign to meet up with you," she burbled, fluttering her crimson, artificially elongated eyelashes.  "I think he could be mistaking you for Mummy's twin brother."

      "Wot the Alfie Dickens does he wanna meet me for?" stalled Dreyfus, feeling a bit itchy.

      "I don't know about Mummy, but I'm up for a four-way."

      "Fuck!" wailed Dreyfus, suddenly feeling a mite insecure.

       At that very moment, there was a concordance of humanoid consciousness across the entire planet. Three wizened old creatures in Ur-in-the-Chaldees stirred in their beds, and got up to visit the loo.

      "Unto us a Child is given!" wailed the one with the false teeth.

      "Looks as if we're going to have to head west again," slurped the incontinent dribbler, "searching for some stupid heavenly star."

      "Fuck that," reacted the bearded reactionary. "I'm goin' back to my bed."

In the morning and after a late breakfast of Quaker Oats, fried ostrich eggs and sliced llama, the Shiners set off on foot for the Ape Swan's Nest, with the four youngsters, Sleeping Sparrow, and his ever attentive squaw in tow.

      When they reached the Hillock of the Mad Hares, Prince Alfredo told Ket Martingale that he felt completely at ease with the conversations of the evening before, and that he thought he'd reached an accord with Sir Aristotle Sunkist before the Grand Reincarnate left for the Ape Swan's Nest, looking completely shagged out, in the early hours of that morning.

      Ket scratched his green sideburns, and pulled out a flea. "Jolly good show, old chap," he bullishly replied. "I'm sure that the courageous efforts of the Royal Family of the Homo Erectus will draw all good humanoids together, in the spirit of the Shiners, and Sir Adebe Adobe Maneke, his very self, and that you will conquer the evil oppressors and reduce the Imperial Icarian Palace to dust."

      The prince raised his fist in triumph. "Gung ho, old bean!"

      Ket sniggered to himself. He thought that the prince was an unadulterated buffoon.

      The party was accompanied by an honour guard of six unisexual pectishes, large eagle-faced sub-humanoids with sawn-off shot guns for upper arms which they fired using their trigger fingers (one finger for each upper hand). The pectishes had been intelligently designed by an eminent Grottzapper on the Planet Ceres a couple of centuries previously, and fetched a thousand bronze dollars each on the black market. Their lower arms sported large fists which could clench like a vice, and their claws could take off a humanoid's head in a blink of an eyelid.

      Slim and Pippa politely detached themselves from their companions, and walked hand-in-hand along the woodland trail, feeling a touch irritated by a pectish with B.S.D. who kept squeaking to itself while its claws scraped the gravel.

      Slim decided not to let on to Pippa about his bedtime frolic with Tamzin Soyabean of the night before, since he was concerned that she might be jealous.

      "I think that Tamzin  is beginning to recover from her ordeals, now that she has made friends with people of her own age," he said, with an all-knowing tilt of his head.

      Pippa furrowed her brow. "Yes, but we must find away of protecting the poor darling from that monster Dirk Eradacus. He'll treat her abominably for a couple of years and then exiled her to the Isle of Limbos. He should not be allowed to marry her!"

      "That's easier said than done," argued Slim. "Once she's indentured, he'll lock her away in his turreted mansion on the Aventine Hill in Trivoli, and we won't be allowed any contact with her."

      "I'll find a way of helping her to escape. That I will!"

      "But where would we hide her? Where would she stay?"

      "Hummmmmmmm. That's a problem---Maybe we could ask the mammashunters to help us."

      "Great idea!  I'm in secret j-spot mail contact with Hera. I'll seek her advice when we develop our escape plans more fully."

      Pippa looked puzzled "Hera? Hera who?"

      "Hera Herrera of course, silly. She attended the meeting on Lismore with her two even brighter orange granddaughters."

      "That rings a bell! She may be the mammashunter who visited me on Caleb a week or so ago. I mistook her for an apparition! She said she was a budding revolutionary."

       "She certainly is, but she may need to incite violent protests by the Apollos and maybe the Trinkons. There were only a few hundred mammashunters left after the Stingwell massacre of 2710."

        "Wow! Methinks we should spread our wings and become revolutionaries too."

        "Yes, in principle at least," agreed Slim. "But we should protect our own butts."

        "Too true," agreed Pippa, feeling a twinge in her recently transplanted kidney.

 The woodland pathway merged into a much wider, muddy track. Just as Slim and Pippa were about to soil their shoes in the sludge, a cylindrical, steam-powered truck roared by and headed towards the dense thicket of Jasmobob trees that obstructed the view ahead.

      The party of visitors and the intellectually challenged pectishes successfully negotiated the next quarter mile of the mud-and-dung-ridden track, despite having to step into the nettles whenever yet another truck zoomed obliviously by. And when they emerged from the other side of the thicket, the trucks were all unloading their wares onto a ledge overhanging a redstone crater.

      When Pippa peered over the edge of the crater, as nervously as a sheep on the Isle of Tiree, she saw the bubbling bluey-green waters of Lake Spectrum about eight hundred feet below, and wondered whether she was taking an eye-test . In the middle of the half-mile-wide lake stood a magnificent, white castle keep almost five hundred feet high, and Pippa was most impressed by the flowering Mango trees she thought she saw on its roof.

      "It's a replica of the tower which the courageous, predatory Normans built on Planet Earth to suppress the cowardly indigenous citizens of London," asserted Prince Alfredo, vigorously scratching himself. "and the only way in is through the Water Gate. So we'll need to go down on the heavy traction elevator. Don't worry! The lift shaft is firmly riveted to the sloping rock-face. "

      Pippa didn't dare to even look sideways when everybody descended  in the enormous titanium elevator cage, with only a few jolts, the stacks of crates shaking  precariously around them. She opened her firmly shut eyes, with a start, when the exit gate crashed upon, only to see a dozen or so pectishes herding a flock of yellow, woolly sheep onto an ancient Royal barge.

      The lake was teaming with ape swans, many of whom shouted words of welcome while the Shiner delegation and their appendages were crossing the bubbling water on the quarterdeck of the barge. Sleeping Sparrow and his non-binary squaw waved condescendingly back from the Royal throne, looking as imperial as any Emperor and Empress of the post-modern era.

      When Dreyfus Dreadnought threw a red pebble at an ape cygnet, a slightly larger ape cygnet threw a mollusc shell back which deflected off Dreyfus's snout and hit Lady Jemima in her navel. The Foreign Secretary Dirk Eradacus gave Dreyfus an awkward look, while his fiancee Tamzin couldn't stop herself from chortling. Dr. Alistair McCull simply sat there looking obstinate.

      When the barge reached the Water Gate, one of the dumb pectish escorts yelled, "No traitors today, only sheep for the slaughter!"

      The portcullis was slowly raised, and there on the crab-shell-encrusted stone steps stood the lovely 'Whatchamacallit' , the Apollo Unicorn spouse of  the Grand Reincarnate, Baron Aristotle Sunkist of the Hapsburg Principality of  Mainau.

      "Welcome to the Ape Eagles' Nest," she politely declared. "My husband is waiting for you in the Chapel of St. Vincula. Would you all care to join us for a glass of cream sherry?"

          Please click here for

                                        CHAPTER 6: INTRIGUE ON LAKE SPECTRUM



Saturday, 25 January 2020


                                            BRAIN GAMES ON QINSATORIX

                                                             Tom Leonard

                                                    FIRST THREE CHAPTERS

                                CHAPTER  4:  THE SHINERS REACH A CONSENSUS


Pippa felt both relieved and delighted when Slim appeared for Sunday morning breakfast in the Hotel Las Fuentes. She was amused when her buddy Dreyfus scampered up with the coffee and burnt toast, and felt surprised that he had such a clear head. Hers often felt fog-ridden until well after lunch.

     "You're looking much too skinny this morning, Dreyfus," she teased. "You should try to put on some weight."

     Dreyfus smiled, and flexed his very masculine chest while imagining that he resembled a thoroughbred pegasus. "I'm working on it, darling. I've just polished off a large bowl of wheat crunch."

     "I thought that jobby catchers had gone out of vogue," grunted Slim, who hadn't quite woken up yet.

     "Of course they haven't, you stupid coot," retorted Dreyfus."They stop the roaches in the kitchen when they try to crawl up my leg."

     "I do hope you had oodles of fun during your trip to the Hotel de Wash, Slim dearest," intervened Pippa, with a quizzical smirk.

      Slim smiled as weakly as a clapped out mad hatter. "It was O.K, I suppose.Some of the dancing freaked me out, and the Gina Turner oldies evoked bad, haunting memories."

      "Maybe you should have danced into the night at our Ceilidh. Dreyfus and I had bundles of fun,"

      "Wish I had, I suppose, though there was all sorts of weird stuff in Fantasia, and that gave me considerable cause for reflection."

      "Would you like a dollop of purple marmalade?" purred Dreyfus. "I like reflecting too. It gives me strength"

      "One day we will rule, and they will have cause for reflection," burbled Pippa, out of her inner id.

      "It's much too early to think deep," yawned Slim. "I guess I'd prefer raspberry goulash  s'il vous plait, Captain Dreyfus."
      "You're looking remarkably altogether this morning," replied the teenage Apollo Unicorn, with a crafty wink. "A modicum of corny humour too. Maybe you were touched by an angel during the night."

      Slim went bleary-eyed. "Yes I was, and I've had a change of mindset. I'm gonna stop being an evil Knievel for ever and anon."

      At that, the celebrated mind-body therapist Dr. Alistair McCull appeared on the scene, puffing his hash-pipe.

      What's the ghastly headshrinker up to now? wondered Pippa. We must be in for some nasty surprise or other. But that's what shrinkotherapists are like!

       McCull grinned contentedly. "I'm glad to have caught up with the three of you loveable muppets all at once. We've had a change of plan. You'll  be very excited about this, kiddies! Later today, we'll be taking a copter trip over the lofty peaks of Fantasia and landing on the magical Isle of Mainau for even more Shiner hospitality. Maybe we'll get some lemon meringue pie this time."

       Fuck this chancer! thought Dreyfus, giving McCull the evil eye. "What's the catch, Herr Head Doctor?"

      "There's no catch, you impudent, monocerosic whipper snapper. Tomorrow is St. Crispin's Day, and that's an official holiday at Alpha-Omega. So we don't need to fly back to Caleb until late Monday evening. You'll enjoy our stopover on Mainau, and several of our Shiner amigos will be travelling with us."

       Slim munched his burnt toast, burped, and tried to retch. "Why that shitty cesspit, Herr Lord and Lector?"

      "I'll make you sweat buckets for your truculence! We're going to meet the Grand Incarnate of the Shiners, of course. He lives in the 'Ape Swans' Nest' on Mainau."

      Pippa passed wind. "What the feck is the Ape Swan's Nest?"

      "You're heading for an old-fashioned dose of orang-u-tang potion, young lady. The nest we're going to nestle in is a bit like the Eagles' Nest way up there in the Salatian Alps, where the Snazi leadership once hung out. But it's in the middle of the Isle of Mainau and below sea level. The Grand Reincarnate feels safe there from his enemies, whether real or imagined. He verges on post-perinatal paranoia at times, like many great men of his kind."

      "What the fuck does that phoney toad-eater have to do with anything?" asked Dreyfus, with a fierce twitch of his snout.

      "You're none to bright for a unicorn! His Gracefulness is the thirty-second reincarnate of the Sir Adobe Adebe Manake who founded the Shiners fully a thousand years ago, and a finer spiritual leader you could never hope to meet. He leads the Shiners by shining example, a knight in shining armour if ever there was one. You should feel privileged to be invited to meet him."

      "I don't feel privileged," moaned Pippa. "I wanna go home to feed Scatty."

      "Who's in Hell's name is Scatty?" spluttered McCull.

      "My pet otter, of course,"

      "Yet another figment of your vivid imagination! I'll ask the travelling Shine-shrink to magno-infuse your receptors with a psychosis debilitator during the lunch break. Your God forsaken receptors too, Mr. Quick, but with eight hundred extra milligrams of concentrated mahi mahi. That should settle your nerves for the rest of your day, though you may slurp a bit."

      "Not in my spleen!" howled Pippa. "This isn't a Quaker Retreat! You're trying to control us for your own deceitful purposes!"

      Dr. McCull smiled. "It won't be in your spleen, young lady."

         Mercy on us! agonised Slim, turning into a jellybean.

Later that morning, all the Shiners and Attenders(apart from the party-revellers with bladder-busting hangovers) took part in a Quarterly Regional  Business  Meeting in the Emperor Artorius Auditorium, an Era Nouveau building with a leaky roof in the grounds of the Hotel Las Fuentes. After soothing each other's seriously punctured skin with lashings of  i-base lotion, Pippa and Slim felt well enough to attend, and so they did.

      Pippa knew that the Shiners had, like the leading mathematical logicians, long since discarded democratic voting as a rational way of making group decisions. It can, for example, lead to ridiculously contradictory conclusions when three or more motions are put to the vote.

      Pippa was therefore looking forward to seeing how the Shiners' much-vaunted 'Decision Making by Consensus' worked in practice. Slim couldn't understand how anyone could ever know whether a consensus had or hadn't been reached, and Pippa couldn't comprehend how anyone would understand afterwards what had really been decided. Notions like 'The Spirit guides us', 'It's Yahweh who decides' and 'The ignorant should hold their peace' simply didn't seem to hold water.

      When Pippa arrived at the meeting,she was surprised to see a delightfully pretty ape swan on the podium, exchanging pleasantries with the red-nosed Grand Clerk, and busily shuffling and re-shuffling the papers on her colourfully engraved black ebony desk. Piper wondered why the ape swan was there, since the highly discriminatory Shiner rules only permitted homo sapiens and Icarians to attend their official meetings.

      The Grand Clerk began the meeting by standing up and waving Sir Adobe Adebe Maneke's little blue book around his head. "If there are no objections, I will record the Minutes of our March 2712 meeting on the Isle of  Thrush as read and approved. Thank you!"

     That was a bit quick, thought Pippa. Maybe he's trying to hide something important.

     "By special arrangement with the Grand Reincarnate, who has just returned from the Planet Daedalus," continued the Grand Clerk.  "I have invited his political consultant Lysistrata, here present on my left, to attend this important business meeting, purely as an observer of course, so that she can communicate our decisions back to him through his telepathic mind-wave receptor. Any objections to the presence of a sub-humanoid bird-animal in your midst? No? So we have a consensus! That's passed then."

      So that's why there's a sub-humanoid in the meeting, pondered Pippa. I wonder what the cocky ape swan is really about?

      "The only item on the agenda is 'The Approval of our Annual Meeting Report'," added the Grand Clerk. "I would therefore like to put the Higher Elder in the light, and to invite him to address this issue in further detail."

       The Higher Elder was a very elderly Icarian with flowing, pinkish-white hair, and a wrinkled, well-scrubbed face. After various multitudinous procrastinations, Pippa was beginning to see rabbits running round the walls when the speaker finally got to the point.

     "And so the major conclusion of our retreat should be that 'love makes the planets go round,'"  pontificated the old fool. "There's a little bit of love in everybody, and everybody should forgive everybody else their little bit of mischief. Everyone should recognise that anybody else might have a totally different opinion; just live with it! Love is the essential ingredient of our faith. When we have love then nothing else really matters. Love, love, love!"

      "Is that a motion?" inquired the Grand Clerk, cleaning his ear with a toothpick.

      "Of course it is. I so move!"

      "Seconded!" cried a squat gnome in the peanut gallery.

      "The motion has been proposed and seconded, and is therefore on the table," declared the Grand Clerk, clapping his hands together and clenching them as ponderously as a gorilla from Crockville.

      When the Higher Elder sat down there followed a respectful, deathly silence. But after a few minutes, a green-skinned lady wearing a morning suit and a top hat leapt up to speak. For reasons best known to himself, the Grand Clerk stared at the ceiling and studiously ignored the lady, and when she flopped back into her seat she was furiously biting her lip.

      Several very quiet minutes later, a prim Icarian gentleman in a pin-striped suit rose to his feet, and peered at the Grand Clerk through his monocle.

      "The Higher Elder is effectively restating our Articles of Faith, as decided by our forbears in Madron in AD 1972," he lisped. "Maybe this year we should include a few more specific conclusions in our report. In particular, some of us seemed to agree yesterday afternoon that the valiant efforts of Aid and Abet to assist the convicts in the Southern Swamps by taking them free, chemically enhanced bars of Galaxy should be highlighted in Shiner Tit-Bits. Furthermore, a bunch of insightful Junior Shiners from Lapperland advocated free tamponage for all high school girls with a GPA exceeding 3.2. I propose that we include all such seminal items in our report in order to emphasise our socially pro-active agenda."

      What a good idea, thought Pippa. They could give them free squeegy-rubbers too.

      A dozen  or so further Shiners and Attenders got up, at sporadic intervals, and the six who were acknowledged by the Grand Clerk made a variety of further suggestions for enhancing the annual report.

      The Grand Clerk was about to sum up when the ape swan official observer hurried over like a busy body on heat and thrust a sheet of pink paper onto his pearl-encrusted desk .

      The Grand Clerk twitched his remarkably long, thin, red nose. "Thank you, Lysistrata----Whoops!----and many thanks for reminding me about this. During a top secret meeting last night in the Hotel de Wash, we agreed to parley with the indigenous Icarians in Aztalan with a view to brokering a Treaty of Peace and Reconciliation between indigenous Icarians everywhere and the Qinsatoran Parliament in Trivoli, in particular regarding the redistribution of wealth from the Monte Carlo Casinos around our planet.---- I'll minute that!"

      "Wot top secret meeting?" inquired a flaming redhead with a pentagon of udders for breasts.

      "You're out of order!" screeched the Grand Clerk. "Sit yerself doon!"

      "They're just trying to siphon off the revenues from the casinos in Aztalan," howled a highly offensive yuppie hipster in excessively ubertight, velvet pants."Corruption! Fraud! It makes me wanna crap and vomit. All over you, you creepy sucker!"

       "You're out of here! Security guards!

       There was another deathly hush while four Apollo Lions tossed the exceedingly rude and obnoxious hipster in the air, and hauled him away, flashing his mankle, like a carcass of sweaty meat.

       This is surreal, thought Pippa, scarcely believing her eyes, but good riddance to that wanker..

       After a short period of reflection, Prince Alfredo Saxie-Montieth of the Homo-Erectus rose pompously to his feet.

      "Thank you all so much for considering this epoch-making Peace Treaty at this seminal point in time," he burbled, clearly his mucous-lined nostrils. "It was debated during an ad hoc meeting late last night while we were relaxing together in Fantasia on t'other side of the creek. Those present included a Superior Elder, myself and your very own Lady Jemima Sunkist, the cherished daughter of our much revered Grand Incarnate and his dear, sadly-departed wife, the Duchess Matilda-Maria von Hapsburg of Hohenlochwort-uber-Rhein. Indeed, several of us are planning to stop off in Aztalan this very afternoon to initiate the peace negotiations with the High Priest of the Aztalan and his tribal elders, before proceeding to Mainau to report on our progress to our much beloved Sir Aristotle Sunkist himself."

      Slim thought that was quite a turn up for the book. Such a secretive meeting in such bizarre surroundings! And Lady Jemima sticking her oar in once again.  Like daughter, like father, he supposed. And the Shiners seemed to be operating on several different levels at once. Slim thought that they were a bit like the insidious, multi-fanged Q.I.A, a sort of Yurassic dragon perhaps, like a brain machine where some bits don't know what the other bits are up to.

      The next deathly hush  lasted fully ten minutes, while Pippa's crazily reactive thoughts zigzagged through her grey matter like out of control wheelie-dodgem-boards. The Grand Clerk finally roused himself and banged his desk with his heavy-metal gavel.

      "It is now the appointed time for the Clerk to prepare the Minute!" announced the petty megalomaniac, selecting an elegant feathered pen from his gold-encrusted Quill Pen rack, specially imported from the third moon of the Planet Dallium.

       After several minutes of frantic scribbling, the Grand Clerk rose to his feet and read out loud, "During their Retreat on the Isle of Lismore during September 2712, the Shiners decided to emphasise that love makes the world go round, since when we have love nothing else matters. It was also decided to pursue our pre-existing socially pro-active agenda with due diligence. It was furthermore decided that we should initiate Peace and Reconciliation negotiations with the indigenous Icarians in Aztalan--- That really made my knuckles ache, folk. Anything else?"

      An exceedingly tall and thin gentleman wearing a floppy white toga rose solemnly to his feet. When he spoke he sounded like the Roman orator Publius Cicero. "I must say how much I admire the Grand Clerk's thoroughness and eloquence, which does him credit before the Living Gods: Yahweh and Asherah, Jovius, the All-Seeing One, and the eleven Alephs, all in one. I wonder, however, whether a few of the new socially pro-active projects which were proposed yesterday afternoon might deserve an honourable mention? Some of them seemed to be both creative and imaginative."

     The Grand Clerk blew his prickly nose, a touch noisily, and looked the Romanesque gentleman straight back in the eye.

      "Insufficient consensus," growled the clerk, flashing his jet black eyelashes.

       How about that for a lark! Pippa was still recoiling in shock when Slim Quick leapt to his feet.

      "Wot about Aid and Abet's scheme to help the convicts in the Southern Swamps?" he persisted. "They're worked to the bone, dying of thirst, and getting rhino-whipped and slowly garroted at the whim of the sadistic Apollo Serpents. If love is universal then we should show love to those who suffer, much more so than to the filthy rich fat-cats who propagate the lies and deceit."

      The Grand Clerk went glazy-eyed, but he recovered quickly and raised his bright purple eyes to the Heavens. After a few seconds, he nodded as if in effusive agreement with unfathomable divine forces above, and banged his desk three times with his hefty gavel.

      "The Higher Elder's motion and my amendments and none other are passed by Yahweh-inspired group consensus and are therefore the sanctified Word of the Living All-in-One God," he sanctimoniously declared. "This meeting is thereby automatically adjourned. We will next meet on the Isle of the House Dogs during March 2713, at which time the Minutes of the current meeting will be presented for your kind and generous approval."

       And so that was that.

During that Sunday afternoon, Pippa, Slim, and Dreyfus stuffed their bags full of loot and set off for the nearby Bubbly Bojo's  Bubblecopter Pad. They were greeted on the amazingly smooth, titania-enhanced tarmac by their four travelling companions, who they'd nicknamed 'Creep-face' McCull, Ket Fartingale, Prince Alfie O'Muggins, and Lady Slippery Fingers, though they daren't tell them that to their faces.

      While the seven Creatures of Yahweh were busy confabulating, they were disturbed by the wail of a Rozzer siren coming from across the bridge. The wailing grew louder and louder as a pig-mobile sped across the hotel forecourt and onto the tarmac, where its flashing crimson and orange lights caused consternation among the chumpmunks and sent them rushing to the bushes.

      The pig-mobile was closely followed by an extremely long yellow limousine which ground to a halt just in front of the massive, multi-rotor bubblecopter.

       Slim was wondering which very important personages would alight, when a middle aged Apollo Gibbon in a lounge suit and carrying a red brief case stepped out of the car. It was Dirk Eradacus, the Foreign and Alien Secretary of Qinsatorix no less, the gibbon who was responsible for much of the political intrigue around the planets, the person who decided when to start wars and when to end them, a humanoid to be reckoned with.

       Eradacus was accompanied by the ape swan Lysistrata, the political consultant who'd participated in the Shiner business meeting earlier in the day. But, to Slim's consternation, the motley pair were followed out of the limousine by a forlorn, red-haired teenage girl with bruises covering her face. He recognised her immediately. She was the slender redhead who'd asserted herself in the Celebrity Suite of the Hotel de Wash during the night before, the girl from the harem who'd so bravely told the lecher prince where to get off. Slim felt his shamrock-shaped heart pulsating in unison with the human heart of this unfortunate victim of predatory abuse.

      Slim noticed a striking resemblance between Dirk Eradacus and the glorified pimp in the Celebrity Suite, the Apollo Gibbon who called himself the Head Theropithacus. Slim surmised, perfectly correctly, that Eradacus was the nasty pimp's younger brother.

      Power and corruption are much too closely entwined on this planet, concluded Slim. I wonder whether is was like this in the Milky Way Universe. I guess that it's safe to assume that it was.

      Dr. Alistair McCull rushed over to greet the Foreign Secretary. "I'm honoured to be travelling with you, Dirk, old bean, " he blithered. "It will be fun putting those Aztalan through their paces together."

      Eradacus blinked, and peered, with due decorum, down his handsome nose. "You're welcome, my good fellow. You will have met my colleague Lysistrata this morning. And this cute teeny is my fiancee Tamzin ---Tamzin Soyabean as I remember. They have such stupid last names in Bethlehem,  and I blame that on the village idiots. I simply love the way this one walks, and she has the choicest thighs in the whole of Christendom."

      "Soon to be Tamzin Eradacus," purred Lysistrata, "Dirk's fourth surrogate-wife."

      "The first three were sent to the Isle of Limbos." explained Eradacus, with an ape-like grin.

      "How utterly charming," blethered McCull. "I simply love her human breasts."

When he boarded the bubblecopter, Slim was encouraged by Ket Martingale to sit next to him, in an aisle seat. Thinking that he had property rights, Ket took a firm grip on Slim's knobbly right knee and didn't release his grip for the entire trip. Slim felt imprisoned, and thought that this was all because he'd behaved like a very naughty puppy dog the night before, at the whim of the high-powered government economic advisor.

       But that was a wonderful, exotic memory, thought Slim, wot happened between us in the power shower. Hopefully it will erase some of the more horrendous memories of my youth. Yes, it was such hilarious fun while it lasted. But in terms of sensitive feelings that's all there was to it.

      The distraught redhead Tamzin Soyabean was sitting immediately across the aisle, next to Pippa who was in the portside seat. Pippa gave the much battered stripling some ointment to rub into the bruises on her face. When Slim glanced at Tamzin, the poor girl turned her head and sobbed.

      When the copter soared towards the clouds, Pippa imagined that she was a Barbie-doll inside a huge watertight bubble rising towards the surface from the deep depths of Oceania and that the birds were dino-fish escaping from the hippo-sharks. When the copter levelled into the horizontal, a thousand feet above the mystical mountain peaks, Pippa imagined that the peaks were purple killer bear-whales rising through the water to eat her. When the copter dived towards the North Fantasian Steppes, Pippa thought that she was about to be buried feet up in the ocean deep.

      Slim was peering through the perfectly transparent floor at the thousands of sub-humanoid peasants toiling in the fields below, when two Imperial battle-cruisers zoomed by, at five hundred feet, and engulfed the supposedly intellectually challenged hordes in clouds of pink margon gas,

      "That's just to keep them happy," explained Ket. "We wouldn't want them to complain too much about their lot. We spray them with glowzone when we want to sterilise them, and they never know the difference. It's all part of our sub-humanoid eugenics program, you see."

      "What do you spray them with when you want to genocide them?" inquired Slim, caustically.

      "Galt gas, of course. They disintegrate into piles of dust and ashes."

      "I'm beginning to get the idea. You must have read the works of Professors Alfred Ploetz and Eugen Fischer in the Aryan Annals of Anthropological Eugenics. They were dead keen on racial hygiene."

      Ket caressed Slim's perfectly smooth chest, tenderly, with his unusually tiny right hand. "You're learning! Keep up the good work and we'll award you a University Scholarship. You can study Business and Law at UCLA."

      Slim wanted to slap Ket across his God-dammed autocratic colonialist face, and only just managed to constrain himself. But the prospect of studying at the University of Corinth at Los Alamos did appeal to him. The Isle of Los Alamos also housed the Global Security Complex.

When the bubblecopter circled above the village of Aztalan, Pippa could discern scores of wooden huts and wigwams scattered between the pine trees below. When they landed in the Meadow of the Ghost Riders, several hundred bollock-naked indigenous Icarians were waiting, with bowls of.tasty pompomogranites and delicious grapeshot, to greet them, their silvery orchadeuses glistening in the golden sunlight.

      When Dirk Eradacus and Prince Alfredo led the Shiner delegation across the green pasture towards the Wigwam of the Fireball Fighters, the bronze, clean-limbed High Priest of the Aztalan came out and raises his arms in salutation.

      "Hello, I'm Sleeping Sparrow," he said."How about a few rounds of Omaha poker?"

                                          Please click here for

                                       CHAPTER 5: JOURNEY TO THE APE SWANS' NEST





Thursday, 23 January 2020

ODE TO THE GOWDSPINK by Robert Fergusson

Frae fields whare Spring her sweets has blawn
Wi caller verdure owr the lawn,
The gowdspink comes in new attire,
The brawest ‘mang the whistling choir,
That, ere the sun can clear his een,
Wi glib notes sain the simmer’s green.
Sure Nature herried mony a tree,
For spraings and bonny spats to thee:
Nae mair the rainbow can impart
Sic glowing ferlies o’ her art,
Whase pencil wrought its freaks at will
On thee the sey-piece o’ her skill.
Nae mair thro’ straths in simmer dight
We seek the rose to bless our sight;
Or bid the bonny wa-flowers sprout
On yonder ruin’s lofty snout.
Thy shining garments far outstrip
The cherries upo’ Hebe’s lip,
And fool the tints that Nature chose
To busk and paint the crimson rose.
‘Mang man, wae’s heart! We aften find
The brawest drest want peace of mind,
While he that gangs wi ragged coat
Is weel contentit wi his lot.
Whan wand wi glewy birdlime’s set,
To steal far aff your dautit mate,
Blyth wad ye change your cleething gay
In lieu of lav’rock’s sober grey.
In vain thro’ woods you sair may ban
Th’envious treachery of man,
That, wi your gowden glister taen,
Still hunts you on the simmer’s plain,
And traps you ‘mang the sudden fa’s
O’ winter’s dreary dreepin snaws.
Now steekit frae the gowany field,
Frae ilka fav’rite houff and bield,
But mergh, alas! To disengage
Your bonny bouk frae fettering cage,
Your free-born bosom beats in vain
For darling liberty again.
In window hung, how aft we see
Thee keek around at warblers free,
That carrol saft, and sweetly sing
Wi’ a the blythness of the spring?
Like Tantalus they hing you here,
To spy the glories o’ the year;
And tho’ you’re at the burnie’s brink,
They downa suffer you to drink.
Ah, Liberty! thou bonny dame,
How wildly wanton is thy stream,
Round whilk the birdies a’ rejoice,
An’ hail you wi a grateful voice.
The gowdspink chatters joyous here,
And courts wi’ gleesome sangs his peer:
The mavis frae the new-bloom’d thorn
Begins his lauds at ear’est morn;
And herd loun louping owr the grass,
Need far less fleetching til his lass,
Than paughty damsels bred at courts,
Wha thraw their mou’s and take the dorts:
But, reft of thee, fient flee we care
For a’ that life ahint can spare.
The gowdspink, that sae lang has kend
Thy happy sweets (his wonted friend),
Her sad confinement ill can brook
In some dark chamber’s dowy nook;
Tho’ Mary’s hand his neb supplies,
Unkend to hunger’s painfu cries,
Ev’n beauty canna cheer the heart
Frae life, frae liberty apart;
For now we tyne its wonted lay,
Sae lightsome sweet, sae blythly gay.
Thus Fortune aft a curse can gie,
To wyle us far frae liberty:
Then tent her siren smiles wha list,
I’ll ne’er envy your girnal’s grist;
For whan fair freedom smiles nae mair,
Care I for life? Shame fa’ the hair;
A field o’ergrown wi’ rankest stubble,
The essence of a paltry bubble.

Robert Fergusson

from Robert Fergusson: selected poems, edited by James Robertson, (Polygon, 2000)

BEDLAM: Edinburgh's Lunatic Asylum in Darien House

                                                       DARIEN HOUSE HOSPITAL

 Darien House Edinburgh

Darien House was the headquarters of the Darien Scheme 1698. Later it became Darien House Hospital that looked after mentally ill patients. It stood in the area known as Bedlam on the corner of Teviot Place and Bristo Street (now Bristo Place). Bedlam area was situated in the triangle od Bristo Place, Teviot Place and Forrest Road with two main buildings, the poor house for children and the poor house for adults.  The building on the corner named Bedlam was knocked down in 1845 a year after the patients of the asylum were transferred to the new Edinburgh Lunatic Asylum in Morningside. The Edinburgh Lunatic Asylum was founded by Doctor Andrew Duncan in 1809 and opened in 1813 after the loss of Robert Fergusson who was known to have suffered from depression. However, after a serious head injury caused by a fall led to the famous poet being diagnosed mentally unsound, the 24 year old died of his head injury.  In 1847 a new church was built on the Bedlam area which is still present today. The Church Building was taken over by the University of Edinburgh in the 1970s and later the Theatre Company which is the oldest student run theatre company in Scotland now occupy the building. The Bedlam Theatre is named after the area where it stands today.

                                                 SITE OF DARIEN HOUSE


                                                      POETIC MADNESS AT BEDLAM


FOR MORE than two centuries, Robert Fergusson has been remembered more often for his influence on two other famous Roberts – Burns and Stevenson – than for his own remarkable literary achievements.

Yet Fergusson, whose poems are now regarded as amongst the greatest written in the Scots vernacular, has left another enduring and important legacy. His death in tragic circumstances, at the age of just 24, inspired a young Scottish doctor to campaign for a more humane approach to the care of the mentally ill and to found what is now the Royal Edinburgh Hospital
                                              ROBERT FERGUSSON--WIKI

                             ROBERT FERGUSSON--BURNS' FORGETTEN HERO


                                               EDINBURGH HISTORIC HOSPITALS

Saturday, 18 January 2020

REBORN ON SOUTRA, a novel by Thomas Hoskyns Leonard


                                                                  REBORN ON SOUTRA

                                                           by Thomas Hoskyns Leonard


                                      Copyright: Thomas Hoskyns Leonard, Edinburgh, October 2017




This novel is written in a unique highly humorous and slightly Chaucerian style, and life in the Middle Ages is parodied in a Pythonesque and at times surreal fashion with some serious social messages intended for the present. The Scottish knight Sir Richard de Liddell visits the medieval hospitals on Soutra Hill on a regular basis to deliver herbal remedies from his garden on Calton Hill in Edinburgh. He is forced to seek sanctuary on the Soutra during 1436. He returns to Edinburgh in1462, as Le Chevalier Duncan Le Cottier, after a quarter-century of intrigue in York, France, and Patowmeck (in North America), during England's 100 years war with France and the subsequent dynastic struggles between the Yorkists and Lancastrians in England. There are numerous medical and psychological themes in the novel. Sir Richard suffers from a medieval form of Attention Deficit Disorder, Jonathan Hart is autistic and Count Rene of Anjou is psychopathic

                                      Please click on   REBORN ON SOUTRA

                                                     REBORN ON SOUTRA

Friday, 17 January 2020


                                                             BRAIN GAMES ON QINSATORIX

                                                                       by Tom Leonard

                                                                  FIRST THREE CHAPTERS

                                                       CHAPTER 3:   THE HOTEL DE WASH


Slim and Ket caught up with Prince Alfredo and Lady Jemima on the bridge to Fantasia at the very moment that the night-train to Cajamarca screeched noisily overhead, while hurtling along the magnetic rail  towards the coastal villages of Lismore way behind them. Slim thought that the intrusive Maglev train was bisecting his frontal lobes and separating his left brain from the right. But when his neurons flew into a dreadful tizz, Ket calmed him down with a shot of  Van Winkle Wort.

      "There'll be a few drunken deadbeats on the night-train to nowhere," said the prince."They're still mixing the gin with the gas in the Barber's Closet."

      "And with a splash of crank," added Ket. "That den of iniquity used to be a Speakeasy during the Prohibition. The sharp-beaked hoodlums from Windy City went there to ply their trade and the Apollo Skunk TRIAD took care of the snitches."

      "Maybe we should slum it in Rick's instead," said Lady Jemima, tongue in cheek, "though I'd need to change into my half torn breeks."

      "Who on earth is Rick?" inquired Slim.

      "They called him Tricky Rick, since he was into conjuring tricks. He was an icon of the Gay Liberation Movement, but he died of the insidious green pox."

      "And he took a few of his pretty boys with him," added Prince Alfredo, with an inane grin.

      "And a third of his customers before him," added Lady Jemima, with a grimace. "Enough of the young 'uns survived to bury him on the Mount of the Purple Bay Leaves. The Loud and Proud choir lauded him to the Heavens."

      "But it's much too grimy down there," complained Ket. "It's like a feckin cesspit. They throw beer all over each other while they're flouncing on the bar."

      The prince gave Slim the cringe-making glad eye. "Why don't we let Mr. Quick here choose our first port of call?" he suggested, with a hint of a royal sneer. "Before we ascend the Barbary Pirates' staircase to the more subtle delights above."

      "I just want to mellow out," moaned Slim, feeling quite insecure. "If you're up to that sort of silly junk, then please don't include me out---I mean in."

When they reached the western shore of Wash Creek, a huge edifice disrupted their view of the mysterious walled city beyond, and the immense shining dome of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre that rose above it. 

      The Hotel de Wash had been built Gringogothic-style four centuries previously to provide accommodation and sustenance for the wealthy tourists on the Maglev trains during their first stopover on Fantasia. The station hotel had long since gone into decay, only to be renovated some fifteen years previously with a broader clientele in mind. The funding from the Scarlet Mafioso didn't go amiss, and the hotel had that sort of seedy look about it, Indeed, the local Mafioso baron often projected himself as a businessman of repute there; he was well protected by his two leather-clad, gun toting henchmen who offered their dubious favours to anybody who could be taken advantage of.

      The Fritalian owners of the Hotel de Wash were, nevertheless, much respected pillars of the community, They regarded the hotel as as a 'social complex' with a range of facilities which might appeal to all sorts of special tastes. And it certainly did!. The High Court Judge in high heels and the dominatrix with the diamond-studded cat o' nine tails and the live, spitting snake for a whip could attest to that.

 (The Hotel de Wash was almost identical in appearance to the Hotel Washington in Berzerkeley U.S.A, which was destroyed by fire in AD 1996, after its proprietor and a large proportion of his customers had perished from AIDS/HIV. The replica on Fantasia was built, and dedicated to the Heroes of the Alamo, by the mixed-race descendants of two Texan survivors of the fire. The Texans had teleported to Qinsatorix following the mysterious disintegration of the Twin Towers in New York City in AD 2001, for reasons that they kept to themselves.

      In 1984 a highly eminent Professor of Ceramics predicted, while smoking dope with the horny lads in Rod's, a drug-ridden leather-bar in the basement of the Hotel Washington, that "the human race will go to the stars". Unfortunately, he passed away during an overnight gay acid party in his house on Pickford St, a few years later, and turned into very minute particles of dust which were buried in a casket in his weed garden. Nevertheless, the homo sapiens on Qinsatorix are living evidence of the validity of his extremely insightful statistical prediction.)





      Ket suggested entering the iconic complex via the colourful Club de Quash (where the Slapper Group Qincunx Unafraid was beating its drums). But Slim preferred to head for the hot and sweaty Cafe de Palms. There they met the younger of the brothers who owned the hotel, an exceedingly handsome, dark-haired hominid from Fritalia, who had a reputation for being as hard-boiled as the Seven Sirens of Sinicula and then some. He said that his camera-handy big brother focused on the 'film-making' and 'special events', though he was hesitant to say exactly what these activities entailed. 

      The handsome Fritalian went on to explain that his very own, much older, husband was the director of 'Bedlam', the Lunatic Rehabilitation Centre on the nearby Isle of Jung. Moreover, the Club de Quash served, on an informal basis, as one of his hubby's several 'waiting rooms'(where the 'loonies' hung out until they got sectioned).

      The younger proprietor, who had a hyper-manic look about him, recommended the soft spider crab with laced piglets'' eyes, and the four party goers quickly polished off a large, ornate silver platter of this delicious concoction, before moving on to the imaginatively spiced Neander fillet steaks. 

      Slim wondered for a moment whether  he was turning into a cannibal, but decided not to be fussy. After a few tentative bites, he felt like throwing up, which made him suspect that his steak was well past its due date. 

      Slim was distracted when a pair of white-furry-coated creatures answering to the names of Kev and Bev came in and completed a four-fisted recital on the grand piano which made the walls shake. Kev and Bev were weighed down with enough rubies and sequins to light the room, and they could have easily been mistaken for the Liberace brothers,

      "Those bozos are much too much macho for my liking," complained Lady Jemima. "A touch of genuine femininity wouldn't go amiss."

      "I'm completely the opposite," reacted Prince Alfredo, picking his teeth. "I prefer twinkettes with a sniff of the tomboy about them."

      "I admire your versatility, " replied Lady Jemima, trying to look boyish. "But wither next should we wander?  I could relax in the Giggling Girls room, while you guys take Slim downstairs for his initiation in Rick's."

      "I don't wanna be initiated!" protested Slim. "I'd prefer to dance the night away in the Smart Town Disco."

      "Whoopee! Let's dance the Donna Shalala together!  I'll leap around like a boomer, while you flip into one of your cerebrally innovative flat spins,"

       Prince Alfredo gave Lady Jemima an encouraging nod and a meaningful wink. "In the meantime, I'll roost around in the nether regions, to see what's up, Maybe we should drop in on the Giggling Girls before we talk to the Two-Timing Ticklers. Whad do yer think, Ket, old bean?"

       For reasons best known to himself, Ket twisted his fist into his right eye-socket and compressed his eyeball towards his brain. "Don't forget that we have something special lined up in the Celebrity Suite, old chap, You're wouldn't want to tire yourself out too quickly."

      "I enjoy tiring myself. It gives me strength! Now let's get ready to roll!"

      Lady Jemima sighed, and powdered her nose. "You're always in a slap-happy rush,Your Magnificence. They still haven't brought my raspberry mousse au chocolat au lait."

     "You're so selfish, Jemima," snapped the prince. "You've already eaten half of my frog and Gorgonzola poupette."

When Slim emerged into the bell-shaped vestibule, a stump-legged ogler with two large earrings stomped up. "And what are you into, bright boy? Would you like to sandpaper my leg?". 
      Slim felt mighty irritated by that, and he was relieved when he and his three companions finally ascended the dingy Barbary Pirates' staircase together, having already stopped off in the multi-sex loo for a well-timed pee(Slim didn't give a toss when his missed the toilet bowl and his pish splashed up the wall).  But when Slim and Lady Jemima headed through the first floor fire-door, Ket Martingale and Prince Alfredo continued up the, now plushly carpeted, stairs, towards the bat-infested rafters.   

      The Smart Town Disco had opened to great fanfare a few months previously. The intention was to attract the sorts of civilised gay people (in particular the twinks and twinkettes) who didn't want to risk misadventure in Rick's, or on the Metal Frame, or in the Tele-Hologram room, in the sleazy basement way below (though a trip down the VIP elevator to the Barber's Closet did facilitate access, through a concealed doorway, to everything the basement, and the S&M dungeon deep in the lithospheric crust, had to offer).

      The head bartender of the disco was thickset and grizzly-faced with an unkempt black moustache and an exaggerated sense of his own importance, so grizzly that even the most assertive of the lanky bar-elves ran to his bidding. The awkward Neander-Erectus took an immediate dislike to Lady Jemima, who he regarded as an  alien object and a threat to his space. 

      "When's the show starting, my fine hominid--I mean, fellow?" inquired Lady Jemima, after the appalling creature served up two very short measures of gin and It.

       "When Miss Eagle Princess does the fecking bong-splits on the podium," snarled the bartender. "But he's still away taking a shit."

        Lady Jemima and Slim retreated to the dance floor where they danced the Jackson Rumba to the tune of Trystonian River Dance, and hand-in-hand with a pair of  cocky Pelimodes from Oceanville, After they'd tripped the light fantastic with four abundantly cute Apollo Swans during the fabulously orchestrated Return of the YetiLady Jemima seized Slim in her arms and waltzed the Que Sera, Sera with himin ever increasing circles. But they came to a grinding halt when Slim accidentally trod on the foot of an outrageously attired drag queen from Trinkville.

         "How dare you stamp on my lovely tootsy-tootsies?" shrieked the drag queen, taking a hefty swing at Slim's shining cranium with his rainbow-coloured handbag. Slim felt as if a volcanic eruption had turned his grey matter into shards of red hot glass.

         "Tootsies, my left foot," howled Lady Jemima, giving the drag queen's ear a stern twist. "Crab-lobster claws, you mean, you stupid Trinkie twink!"

         The grizzly head bartender bounded over full of strop, and seized Lady Jemima by her left antler. "Any more of that nonsense, you trumped up slut, and you're  out of here and barred for a week."

          The kick that Lady Jemima promptly delivered to the bartender's crotch came with the expertise of a dominatrix out of Basin Street. The unfortunate fellow fell to the ground roaring in agony, rolled over, and went completely inert.

          Everything got a bit tense when six clean-limbed bar-elves ran up, pinned both Lady Jemima and Slim to the pink, laminated floor, and sat on top of them spitting venom. However, at that very moment, Ket Martingale most fortuitously appeared on the scene. He arrived in the nick of time!

          After ten minutes of intense diplomatic discussion, and a perfectly legal transaction involving a hundred guinea Imperial Bank of Trivoli note and six gold pieces, Lady Jemima and Slim were released into Ket's custody, and the bar-elves put the inert bartender on a makeshift stretcher and carried him downstairs to wait for the super-medics. 

         As soon as they were through the door, Miss Eagle Princess ( in real life a local, highly studious historian of note) leapt onto the podium, performed the bong-splits with a loud bang, and the real show began.

         Ket took his much dishevelled companions down to the Barber's Closet in  the basement to sort themselves out. The five customers there quickly finished their drinks and left, and the waitress went to hide in the kitchen.

        Lady Jemima needed time out to fix her falsies and straighten her twisted left antler.  "At least I sorted out that hominid mother fucker. I was hoping he'd spill his guts all over the fake Eagle Princess"

       "A touch of decorum wouldn't go amiss," snarled Ket Martingale. "We're supposed to be putting on an aristocratic image for the prince, and just look at you! You're behaving like that Whore of Babylon when she ruled the whole feckin planet with her legs in the air."

        Lady Jemima smiled, coyly. "She and that bitch in Revelations had nothing on me, darling. I've taken more in a night than the Empress Messalina."

        "Jesus wept!"

       "They bounced all over me,and hurt my orchadeus," wailed Slim. "What's more my brain feels as if its full of dum dum bullets. We should call the Rozzer police!"

       That set Ket off, though only because he was in a right rage already.  "Much good that would do you! The pigs would track back on your record and laugh."

      "What? What on earth do you mean by that? You're trying to confabulate my perfectly well-balanced mind!"

      "Stop fooling yourself, you brain-blocked numpty," raved Ket."I know exactly what you did when you were eleven! You're as innocent as a boogy-goblin from Hades and you've deserved everything you've got since." 

       Slim's face contorted, though only momentarily, in anguish. "Aaaaaaaaaarg! Mother! Father! Granny! Come back to me and save me from my ghoulish fate!"

       "I do believe that you're connectome detached."   

       Slim stared blankly into space. "No I'm not! My connectomes are in my gut."

       The Apollo Deer waitress felt quite stressed when she came in with three large mugs of chocolate-spiced Cappuccino. But when the three unruly customers took a gulp, they began to look a bit drowsy, and she realised that the powdered chocolate had done the trick.

       "Prince Alfredo's going to give me a ting on my ear-mobile when they're  ready for you two philanderers in the Celebrity Suite," announced Ket Martingale, gritting his teeth, after several minutes of muted silence,

       "I need to take a very long pee first," declared Slim, heading for the concealed door.

Slim's head was feeling a bit better when he emerged from the washroom, though his orchadeus was still in painful disarray.  But he was perturbed to hear a gross mixture of anguished screaming and horrifying wailing that echoed, quite surrealistically, down a dark eerie corridor. He ventured nervously along the corridor, since he somehow felt responsible for finding out precisely what was happening. He found it difficult to believe that he wasn't just 'hearing' the screaming and wailing within the confines of his very own skull.

      Upon lurching through a purple nyloid door, Slim found himself inside the synthetically colourful Tele-Hologram, and felt bemused by the images of the mythological beasts that thronged around him.

      "I'm Pan," whispered a delightful Pegasus, galloping up, "Would you like me to take you for a ride?"

      "No thanks," replied Slim, as a gigantic Faun also tried to fawn up.

       And when the divine Jovius descended through the ceiling, disguised as an ape swan, Slim howled, "I'm not into horses, goats, or horny god-heads," and headed for the bright red swathe of light, whether real or imagined, that he perceived somewhere ahead.

       Slim was soon to discover the source of all the diabolical screaming and screeching. Several naked customers, all moderately cute newcomers to Ricky's, had been strapped in various curious positions to the three-dimensional Metal Frame (that was even larger than the Berzerkely metal frame of yore). Around the frame stood seven well-hung bar-elves, all wearing black leather jackets and nought else. What they were doing to with their instruments of torture to the unfortunate customers  was too hedonistic for any humanoid or beast to want to describe.

       Slim reeled in the stench and choked back his vomit. When he recovered his senses, he stood there transfixed, and stared at the gross animalistic ritual, and all the dripping blood, like a fixated Vampire bat-owl.

       How disgustingly horrible! he concluded. But this is my chance for a sort of redemption. I was pure evil when I was eleven, but the creatures in leather are much more evil than even I can imagine in my totally filthy mind, I will therefore shed my guilt about what I did when I was eleven, and try to handle my remaining  evil thoughts in a mature way and turn myself into a good person, henceforth and into the future.

      "Here's another cute new customer!" gurgled a gigantic Apollo Gnome, attempting to grab Slim by the scruff of the neck. "La creme de la creme de la creme."

       But Slim ducked, twisted, and fled for his life.

A couple of minutes later, Slim thought that he was crashing through a brick wall, only to discover that he was inside the Barber's Closet once again,

      "You've kept us waiting, Mr. Quick," complained Ket Martingale, peering at his swat-watch. "More seriously, you're keeping his Royal fucking Highness waiting. Now away with you to the Celebrity Suite! I'll be drinking with the loonies in the Club de Squash when you and Lady Jemima have finished."

      "And tuck in your t-shirt!" demanded Lady Jemima. "You wouldn't want to look like a scruffy peasant."

       When Slim and Lady Jemima exited into the vestibule, the stump-legged ogler was asleep in a wicker chair in the corner, with a Hunky Man magazine on his lap. So up the two long flights of stairs they went only to encounter a stern Apollo Octopus, sitting behind an ivory and whale-bone desk on the bluish-green laminated landing.

        "Welcome to the Celebrity Suite!" announced the octopus, with a courteous enough smile. "Please put your valuables into these leather pouches, just in case they get nicked."

        When they entered the plastically palatial Celebrity Room, Prince Alfredo was reclining on a Penrosian chaise-longue, drinking rye and dry with a muscular humanoid with hairy limbs and a baboon-like face. They were both wearing silver jock straps and scant else. Slim was shocked out of his mind, but Lady Jemima didn't bat an eyelid,

        The muscular Apollo Baboon grinned like a fully-fledged baboon. "Greetings, playmates. I am the Head  Theropithecus of this sordid Establishment. I will gladly take you into the Fritalian Harem, so that you can select your very own love puppets. If you plan to stay here longer than the scheduled 75 minutes, then who may wish to choose Extras who might suite your fancies for a further 30 minutes. Sub-humanoids of the fourth and fifth gender cost extra, but those of the seventh gender, and all monkey spankings, come free,"

       "What if I want to be spanked by a monkey?" asked Lady Jemima, in apparent jest.

       The Head Theropithecus carefully eyed the good lady up. "For you, that would be fifty cents,"

       Prince Alfredo burped, and licked his lips. "But seriously, folk. What sort of scrubber do you think I should hit on tonight?"

      Slim thought that the prince's attitude was utterly appalling. If the prince wanted to regard his potential tricks as scrubbers, then where did that put him in relation to the remainder of humanoidanity?

      Lady Jemima took several seconds weighing up the options. "I do believe that you're in your raving heterosexual mood tonight, Sire. Would you like a human bimbo, or maybe one of the Icarian blondes with cubes for breasts?"

      "I guess I'll try a homo sapiens lass this time, if there's a sleek, ginger-haired one like Slim. And bring him a plump Icarian. Would you prefer a sexy lass, Slim, or one of the cute lads from Manessa?"

      Slim felt tempted, but realised that he was in the wrong place. However, there was a sudden rush of blood to his head, and he felt tempted again. 

       "I'm not fussy," he replied, while not wishing to say what he actually wanted,

      The Head Theropithecus grinned.  "There's no need to be bashful, Slimmykins. We'll bring you one of each."

      Slim felt confused, and didn't know which way to turn.

      Ten minutes later, Lady Jemima and the Head Yin returned from the harem, with a slender human redhead, a plump, golden-skinned girl with sextagonal breasts, and an exceeding rotund youth from Manessa with large floppy bunny-rabbit ears. Slim noticed that all of love puppets' eyes were glazed, and didn't realise that this was caused by the high doses of haloperidol which they received by daily injections into their spleens.

      "I've changed by mind!" slobbered the prince. "I'll try the redhead and Willy Grunter both together. Bring them here and make them kneel at my feet."

       While the prince was anticipating something sophisticated, complicated and reasonably pleasing,  his plans were thwarted by a very rare occurrence, for that harem at least. Despite feeling 'brain-fogged' by her anti-psychotic medication, one of the'love-puppets strenuously objected to the proposed agenda.

       "No, shan't!" shrieked the redhead. "And certainly not with that sweaty, greasy son of a bitch,"

       "Please leave her alone," howled Slim, but to ears that were, by and large, as a granite gravestone.

       "Thanks for trying," sobbed the girl, only for Lady Jemima to grip the her arms, and push her towards the foul-smelling chaise-longue. 

       "There's absolutely nothing to be scared of, darling,"  asserted the hard-nosed Madame.. "Here! Let me show you how to do it. I always like to show my girls what pleases His Highness most."

       "That's because you enjoy them yourself, you dirty slut," chortled the prince. "Beware the roving hand of the devious Sunkists from Hell!."

        "The only thing I inherited from my Daddy was my thirst for nature, the creative, and the divine,."  objected Lady Jemima, angrily.

        "No!!!!!" wailed the redhead. "Shan't! Ever!"

        The prince frowned like King Herodius the Second when his favourite dish of lampreys and Byron burger came overcooked, but he recovered his composure and eyed up the fat youth. "I guess I'll have to make do with Willy Grunter then. And put the Icarian one on the green-spotted sofa. Slim deserves his bit of fun too,"

        Slim was about to throw off his clothes and rush over to the green-spotted sofa, when he remembered the promise he'd made to himself in the basement when he saw all the horribly evil stuff on the Metal Frame, the promise to stop being evil and to try to live a better life.

        Slim therefore re-buckled his belt, strode over, imperiously, to the smelly chaise-longue, and confronted the dumbfounded prince. "I have just felt tempted, Your Highness, to become a predator like yourself, one who abuses his sex objects without regard for their sentient feelings, a person who preys on youngsters for his own evil purposes. But I would prefer to live a better life, and only wish that you, in your highly privileged position, would follow my example."

        "Bravo, sonny! What a neat little speech. What should we do with him, Theropith, old bean? Should give him to the bar elves or throw him to the shark-lions?."

        The Head Theropithecus thought, very pensively, for at least fifteen seconds. "I'll need to ask the Apollo Octopus in reception about that, Sire. Now why don't we all relax and do something entirely different?"

When Slim made good his escape from the Celebrity Suite, he rushed straight down the stairs and headed for the Club de Quash. Most of the customers seemed to be staring into space, but Ket Martingale was propping up the bar while surviving the company of a loquacious lady from Garten Parmisch-Kirchen on the Dnieper with a tic in her tongue,

      "I didn't know you had such a nice little friend," purred the elegant lady. "Isn't he a darling?"

      Ket was already pissed off with the flirtatious lady. "He purrs like a pussy cat, and now we're on the way home to beddy-byes."

      "Whoops! I didn't know what you're really like. In that case, I'm away to play 'Snakes and Ladders' in the roof-garden. In the meantime, it's Gute Gesundheit und auf Wiedersehen, until we meet, once again, on the mystical plains of Hegor!"                                  !"

       Ket and Slim crossed the bridge to Lismore together without uttering a word. When they reached the Hotel Las Fuentes they headed to their rooms on the second floor. When they reached Room 222, Slim invited Ket in for a mug of hot chocolate, and before his head even hit the pillow, the confused youth was purring like a boss-eyed puma.

       This is my reward for being good, he thought. 


                                             CHAPTER 4: THE SHINERS REACH A CONSENSUS