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I raced to BD1 on level 2 and was met by carnage. Through the blast doors all I could see was a rather disconcerting purple mist swirling and billowing up against the reinforced windows like it was trying to find a way to get out. Nothing at all within the room was visible.
“Turn on the extractor fans!” I yelled.
“On it!” Amber replied as she tapped furiously on her paw tablet. “Extractor fans on in 3…2…1!”
The sound of metal grating against metal screeched out as the huge floor and ceiling fans began to whir into life, their powerful motors beginning hum in BD1. The rhythmic sound echoed around the steel bunker corridor and the floor trembled gently beneath my paws.
A few moments later, the strange purple smoke began to dissipate until finally aftur a couple of minutes the room was completely clear, the fans turned off and the only thing left or visible in it was the clock. Standing there in the centre of the room emanating an extreme sense of smugness, now I know that sounds odd but if mew’d been there mew’d know exactly what I’m talking about.
The vibes coming from the room we too purrculiar fur sure, and I said. “Dudes run some checks before we open the doors, there’s something real hinky happening here!”
“Do mew feel it too?” Came the response of Amber, Smooch, Parsley and Pandora.
I shuddered and it felt like ice tipped claws had just raked along my back. “Yeah, there’s something really wrong about that clock and I’m just waiting fur CJ to send me his files on it,” I said, before adding. “Pandora see if Horice will come up here and take a look while we search fur Fudge!"
Pandora raced to the elevator and descended to level 8 emerging into the massive biosphere dome.
“Horice! Horice!” She called in her odd, little foreign accent. “Horice ve ‘av a situation, Basil needs mew on level 2 stat dude!”
The pawesome lagoon shimmered and reflected the stars shining high up in the biospheres roof. (The biosphere runs on GMT time and has daytime and night-time cycles.)
“HORICE!” Pandora screeched as loud as her lungs would allow.
The deep, rich velvet blue water began to ripple, and a trunk breached the surface and trumpeted loudly. Horice lumbered out of the water, he shook himself vigorously and covered Pandora in a spray of saltwater.
“Oh dude, did mew really ‘av to do that?” she asked in exasperation. “Saltwater is hideous on my silky locks, it’ll take me days to comb out the knots!”
“Oh sorry Pandora,” Horice said with mild bemusement. “I didn’t see mew there!” (He lied, he knew exactly where she was! MOL) “Now then young ’un tell me what ye boggle is?”
(FYI we rescued Horice from an island lost in time and space, he’s a hefflelump, much akin to an elephant apart from he has magickal powers... oh and as he’s originally from the 1600’s so he talks in pirate-speak, mew can find out more in our epically epic pirate adventure: The Extraordinary Tales of Captain Basil Blackheart and The Crew of The Crimson Revenge - coming soon in a new book.)
“Horice, Fudge bought a really ugly clock,” Pandora began, and a few minutes later she finished with. “And now Fudge is missing and that eveel clock is emanating some kind of veird power signature.”
“Aye little ’un that does be sounding like some hoodoo for sure,” Horice mused thoughtfully. “Get on me back and I’ll accompany ye to see Capt’n Basil and hopefully we'll be finding the Artful Fudger.”
Meanwhile, in the control room, we were running effury type of diagnostic programme we had in the bunker to locate Fudge, just in case he’d wandered off and got lost again [this has happened four times now when he decided to go off exploring and ended up on levels that aren’t yet mapped, as the bunker is effur evolving and adding new levels to itself courtesy of some nano-technology which Humphrey created, and believe me when I tell mew its expanding by the day.
“Amber is the video feed ready fur playback?” I asked. "And has CJ sent the info yet?"
“Basil, no on CJ and yes the video will be ready in 2 shakes of a lambs' tail, I’m just getting all the footage ready from the moment Fudge left the Control Room and headed towards BD1 and then I’m adding the extra footage from inside BD1 to see exactly what Fudge did before he disappeared,” Amber answered, her voice shaky. Then she added. “Mew know I so wish Snowie, Humphrey and Posie were here right now, Snowie is so much better on comms and surveillance than me!”
The air suddenly chilled by about 15 degrees and a light rainbow-coloured mist began to swirl in the centre of the control room.
“Dudes we’ve got a bunker breach!” I called out. “Weapons ready… and why the fluff didn’t the alarm system sound?”
The swirling mist became denser and more opaque as the seconds ticked by and then a huge burst of white light radiated out and lit the room up brighter than a bursting star. I shielded my eyes and ducked down behind the centre console until the brightness faded. I took a breath and was about to leap into action when I heard a familiar voice.
“Fur cods sake Humphrey, next time mew want to break-out of the Rainbow Bridge dude without the propurr papers, can mew do it a little more quietly and without the fluffing end-of-the-wurld light-show?” Snowie snapped. “And get your huge bulk off me, I can’t breathe!”
“Oh hush now Snowie,” Humphrey laughed loudly. “That was the most impurresive break-out from OTRB they will have effur seen!”
“Humphrey, get offur yourself dude!” Posie groaned. “Besides I could mention at least 8 other break-outs that were more impurresive than that!”
Humphrey was just about to reply when I dived at the trio, tears were streaming down my face and I didn’t even realise it in my offurwhelming joy to see them again. Furgetting that they were in their non-corporeal forms aka ghost-form I passed right through them and landed on the floor with a thwump.
I rolled offur and said. “Guys, thank cod mew’re here!” At this point I realised that my fur felt a bit damp and hastily wiped the tears away with my paw as I holstered my glock with my other paw.
“Basil dude!” Humphrey grinned at me. “Dude, Snowie heard radio chatter and we just knew mew guys are going to need our help.”
I gave him a rather purrplexed look. “Radio chatter at the RB, how’s that pawsible?” I asked.
“Oh well mew know, I can get my mittens on some really cool tech up there and I built a speshal transceiver that picks up earthly realm frequencies and I calibrated it to specifically listen to yours.” Humphrey explained his huge grin still in place. [Jeez mew have no idea how much I’ve missed that grin.]
Parsley said before I could speak, “Awww guys I’m just so happy to see mew all!”
“Me too,” Smooch agreed wiping a tear away. “And me too,” Amber said with a choking sob.
“Let me get mew theelectromagnetic field generator and mew guys can get charged up and become totally corporeal again,” Parsley said starting towards the door.
“Dude, that tech is so last year,” Humphrey laughed and waved his paw fur effuryone to see. “I designed these new purrsonal slim-line corporeal generators, I call it the ‘Earth Me Device’ or EMD fur short and I’m making a mint with them OTRB, they’re selling faster than Snowie’s organic catnip crop!”
“Dude, that’s the best!” Parsley said in awe. “Turn it on, show us!”
Humphrey tapped the OLED screen with his claw and a picture of a rotating earth appeared on the tiny screen, he tapped it twice and the next moment instead of looking through a hazy image of him, he was purrfectly solid, exactly like his old self.
I pounced on him and hugged him so tight, I couldn’t believe he was back, that they were all back and right when we needed them. Miracles do happen, and I had neffur been more relieved than I was in that moment.
Amber was sobbing as she, Snowie and Posie hugged, Smooch piled in on them and before I knew we were all in a huge hug pile, laughing, crying, laughing some more and crying tears of joy.
In fact, I don’t know how long that lasted until I heard a cough and Pandora said. “Er excuse moi, is this a private pawty or can anypurrdy join in?” she asked in her odd, little foreign accent and jumped into the heap.
Horice who was actually too large and would have purrobably squashed us to death stayed on the outer fringe and used his trunk to pat our newly escaped fursibs.
“Humphrey ye salty seadog, it be grand that ye came and Snowie and Posie too, it be a mighty fine day when ye grace us from thee otherworldly realm,” Horice beamed.
We slowly broke apart and there was much paw-bumping and hugging still happening until I realised that we were in the middle of a heinous situation. I said soberly. “Guys, dudes how did mew know that I… no, we needed mew?”
Humphrey sat on his old chair and said. “Basil, we’ve been monitoring mew guys fur months on the new transceiver and yes I’ll be selling those too soon, but I digress, the transceiver lets us hear what’s happening but we can’t broadcast out, it’s a one-way affair, so basically we’re spying on mew dudes… like 24/7!”
“Like mew’re listening to effurything?” Smooch asked wide-eyed. “Mew didn’t hear when I broke your… oops, I didn’t say that aloud did I?”
“My custom ATV, that mew crashed into the tree down the field and it blew up?” Humphrey teased.
Smooch gulped. “Sorry about that dude, I didn’t know mew’d supurr-charged the engine and it just kinda got away from me!” he apologised as he blushed beetroot red.
“No worries little buddy, I’ve got another one part built on level 12, so it’s all good,” Humphrey beamed. “And actually I didn’t like the paint finish on that one, so mew did me a favour!”
Smooch let a huge sigh. “Thanks Humphrey, I was going to hit Parsley up fur a loan to pay fur a new one.”
“Furget it, besides we’ve got bigger purroblems at paw because Fudge is AWOL and MIA and there’s a storm raging outside that rivals the one Noah was in, so we’ve come back to help!” Humphrey said.
I let out a breath that I didn’t know I was holding in and said. “B Team take your stations and let’s find Fudge!”
~ Chapter Five ~
Hoo Doo and Hocus Pocus
Snowie turned on her EMD enabling full corporeal mode like Humphrey and sat in her old seat at the comms desk. She began tapping furiously on the keyboard and moments later the video feed popped up on effury single monitor in the control room.
We watched as Fudge ambled towards the store cupboard on level one to retrieve the dust-sheets, but just as he was about to open the door, he paused; ears pricked and began to look around the empty corridor.
“Snowie is there any sound footage?” I asked.
“Calibrating Basil,” she answered efficiently.
Hitting another button, the video feed stopped and then started again and this time we heard the most chilling voice. It was harsh, yet soft. Grating, yet smooth. Creepy, yet soothing. It whispered. “Fudge help me!” Offur and offur again.
We watched as Fudge peered around, he said nothing but his face spoke volumes, it was like he was in a trance. The voice seemed to fade in and out, just feint whispers of cod knows what and Fudge followed it all the way to BD1, where he opened the door and headed straight to the grandfather clock as the door sealed behind him.
Snowie zoomed in on the footage and there was a collective gasp in the control room as the pendulum door creaked open and a gnarled, clawed hand reached out from inside and grabbed Fudge roughly.
Suddenly snapping out of his reverie, he tried to fight the clawed hand that seemed to have grown and now had Fudge's entire body in its clutches. Fudge went berserk, lashing out his claws and fangs slicing the vile hand to ribbons, but it still didn’t let go and the room began to fill with purple smoke billowing from the clock and then there was nothing once the room had been vented.
“Play it again Snowie purrlease,” I asked. “In supurr slo-mo if pawsible.”
Posie was staring hard at her monitor and said. “Snowie can you get a better image of the clock face, there’s something going off there?”
More footage began to roll.
Horice stood outside BD1 and was studying the clock closely through the glass portal in the securely sealed door. He let his magick ju-ju [yes that is really a real thing] begin to filter into the front of his mind and as he did so a huge, glittering sapphire jewel popped out of his forehead [yes this is also real] and it began to pulse, radiating shards of dazzling blue light into BD1.
Pandora was purrched on his trunk as he’d elevated her to window height. She tapped her comms headset and said. “Basil, can mew see this? Turn on the live feed fur BD1.”
The shafts of iridescent blue light became more intense and danced all around BD1 as Horice scanned the clock. He took a huge intake of breath and his trunk slipped, Pandora jumped to the ground and the light show stopped abruptly.
“Horice vhat is wrong my furiend?” Pandora asked gently patting his leg.
He gasped and took another rasping breath. “It’s… it’s…” he faltered as he stumbled and sat on his ginormous derriere with a plop. “It’s not of this world, it's so bad... I can't... NO!!!!”
“Basil, this is vurse than ve thought!” Pandora said into her comms unit.
“Pandora I’m sending Parsley and Smooch to help mew with Horice, they’ll bring his glider-platform, bring him back here,” I said trying to keep the apprehension from my voice.
Parsley and Smooch headed out of the control room and I said. “Oh heck, this isn’t looking good guys!”
Amber suddenly said. “Basil CJ has just sent a file to your purrsonal email, do mew want me to retrieve and open it here, or do mew want to open it privately?”
“Amber open it here, effuryone needs to see what that slippery FIB Director has set us up with!" I said in a low growl, trying to keep my bubbling anger under control.
Amber tapped a few keys on the console panel and the files streamed onto the control room monitors. There was a video file and I said. "Amber open the video furst and then print all the other files."
A moment later CJ's face appeared larger than life on the multiple screens. He said. "Agent Basil, I know mew're retired but this is a matter of global security and off-world security. Purrlease furgive my underpawed approach to enlist the help of mew and The B Team. It was not my intention to dupe or deceive mew, but at this juncture, I feel that I purrobably should have approached matters in a more upfront manner, " he took a huge sigh, his shoulders sagging and continued. "The grandfather clock that is now in your possession is a highly dangerous artefact with extraordinary powers. It leads to a place that no-one has effur returned from, a labyrinth if mew like with lots of different levels and challenges to offurcome to reach the centre, and what is at the centre, nopurrdy knows. I have lost many a good agent inside that confounded and deadly thing. The footage mew are about to see is from the camera feed of the last agent who entered and it is classified..."
The video footage continued; An agent who I didn't know was in a sealed hazmat room with the clock, the view was from a camera placed dead-centre on his chest, so we had the cats-eye-view. The eerie voice began to speak again, just like it had to Fudge and the agent stepped closer and closer to the clock. The door sprung open and the gnarled, clawed hand shot out and plucked the agent into the clock. It was that fast. We could hear the agents blood-chilling screams of terror as he entered a black void in the grip some monstrous beast.
"Stop the video, STOP THE VIDEO!" Snowie cried out and ran from the room.
Posie was quick to follow and that left just me, Amber and Humphrey. I could hear the squeaking of Horice's platform headed our way.
"Humphrey moved closer to me and said quietly. "Basil dude, that didn't look good at all, and that's where Fudge is?"
I nodded, "He's been in there 53 minutes and we need to go get him out stat! There's nothing on this planet that will stop me from retrieving Fudge and any other purrson that's still alive in there."
"But Basil, we don't know if they're dead or alive, and from what CJ said, no-one has effur returned!" Humphrey reasoned.
"Humphrey, mew of all cats should know we never leave our own, I'm not breaking that rule now and we will do whateffur we can to retrieve Fudge from that hell-pit spawn!" I answered through gritted teeth.
Horice suddenly appeared, he was on his side, flat out on his transport trolley. "Cap'n Basil ye shipmate Fudge is still alive... in what condition I can't tell ye, but I have to tell ye that whatever 'as him in its clutches is such an ancient and powerful evil that it freaked the bejeezus out of me, I 'av never felt such power and the worse thing was that it knew I was scanning the clock and its inner dimensions... it tried to take me powers and that’s why I 'ad to disconnect..."
"OK guys, the good news is this, Fudge is still alive!" I breathed a whopping sigh of relief. "Horice big dude, thank mew and before I get the dudes to return mew to level 8 is there anything else mew can tell us? Like can we take anything through the portal with us, like guns and stuff?"
The Hefflelump took a breath and said softly. "Ye'll need your wits about ye in that place Cap'n Basil..." And then he passed out.
"Oh heck!" I spat and then said a little more calmly. "Guys take Horice down to level 8 and make sure he has effurything he needs, get Posie to give him a medical check too and we'll reconvene here stat, when hopefully we have some kind of plan wurked out."
"Basil, come here," Amber requested. I went and stood by her console and saw that she was watching the rest of the video feed from CJ. "It seems mew can take stuff through... look." She tapped the screen with her paw.
It showed a place like no other I'd effur experienced or seen; the sky was black. Flat black, yet the light in the hell-spawn place was reminiscent of an ordinary offur-cast day here in Mewton-Clawson. There was a grimy, unkempt labyrinth that stretched fur miles in effury direction and the agent was still conscious [we could hear him breathing] as the clawed hand released its vice-like grip and dropped him from a height. He landed atop of one of the walls, but it was domed and at least 5 to 6 feet thick, and was coated with something so slick and greasy that he couldn't get any purchase as he began to slide into the terrifying grey abyss below. He landed with a soft thwump and looked upwards. The walls were at least 25 feet high and covered in living and rotting vegetation, there was so much foul detritus littering the floor that it was hard to see the huge, roughly-hewn stone slabs which paved the labyrinth.
An ear-splitting scream suddenly broke the silence and echoed around the maze. The agent gasped in terror, running away from the noise and hid behind a thick curtain of purple looking ivy which was growing out of the wall and along the ground like a thick carpet. He kept trying his comms unit but soon realised that he couldn't receive, only maybe broadcast out and he said. "Fur all those poor souls that come here aftur me, I hope my death won't be in vain."
Aftur waiting fur a few minutes, hardly daring to breathe as he listened intently, he suddenly began to run along the stretch of corridor he was on and stopped abruptly when he came to an offshoot.
"Amber, Amber!" I said as I had an idea. "Mew know just before the clawed thing drops him, we get a wide-angled view of the maze can mew zoom in and map it?"
Amber took a breath and said. "Basil, Snowie is the wiz at that... wait here I'll go ask her, she's purrobably feeling better aftur Posie got her a nice cup of nip tea."
I nodded and sat in Amber's seat as I continued to watch the video with Humphrey at my back. He said. "Dude, I'm sorry and yes mew're right, we neffur leave one of our own to an unknown fate."
I turned and looked at my older brofur and gave him the nod. "I know Humphrey, and I do understand why mew said it, this mission could be the last The B Team effur make."
He put his paw on my shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze. "Dude, if anyone can save Fudge and any others, it's us, so let's do this!"
Horice woke up on the soft, powdery sand next to his blue lagoon. Posie had given him the once offur and in her medical opinion deemed he was fine, though in need of sustenance aftur the psychic power struggle with the thing in the labyrinth.
"I need a banana," Horice mumbled.
"At your service dude," Smooch beamed as he and Parsley were dragging the largest fruit platter mew've effur seen towards him. "I hope mew don't mind but we got mew a mixed fruit salad."
Horice chuckled and clambered rather unsteadily to his feet. Parsley held out a banana and Horice took it with his trunk and ate it. 15 bananas, 5 pineapples, 7 melons and a bucket full of strawberries later Horice said. "Thank ye little furiends, I be feeling much better now, I can feel that me blood sugar levels are returning to normal!"
He headed to a small freshwater waterfall that cascaded into the lagoon and drank deeply before he returned to Smooch, Pandora, Posie and Parsley.
"Before ye go, I 'ave to tell ye this," he said somberly. "That thing in thee labyrinth will be extremely 'ard to dispatch, it be one of thee original Old Ones and draws its power from a source at the centre of thee maze, if ye can get there and destroy the source then ye'll destroy all the evil, but the journey through the maze will be fraught with danger, there's things in there that makes me trunk want to curl up and hide."
"Horice," Posie said gently. "Mew need to rest big dude and I've attached a call button to your front ankle, so if mew need me, just say the wurds Posie On Call and it'll page me, ok? And I'll be down here in a jiffy!"
Horice nodded and ambled towards the jungly tree line which stretched around two-thirds of the biosphere. He'd made himself a huge nest from the straw-bales we took down there and lay down to sleep.
Pandora looked at Posie and asked. "Is he really ok?"
Posie replied. "Physically yes, magickally I don't know yet, so it's best to let him rest and I'll assess him later. But now I think we need to find out what Basil's plan of attack is, come guys let's go."
Snowie was in the bunker canteen sipping nip tea from a china cup. She saw Amber and smiled, "It is so good to be home," she said as Amber sat next to her.
"Thank cod mew're here!" Amber replied reaching out and taking Snowie's paw in her own. "Are mew feeling better?"
Snowie nodded and drank the last of her tea. "Yes I'm feeling much better, I think Humphrey's wild escape took it out of me and then seeing that eveel thing take Fudge was just too much, but I'm ready to get back to business." She didn't add that she'd been having nightmares the last few days and that they were of an eveel labyrinth where only really bad things happened.
"Oh that's great because we need mew to map that labyrinth," Amber sighed with relief. Before Amber could say another wurd, Snowie was almost out of the door and headed back towards the Control Room. "Come on then!" she said with grim determination.
A few minutes later they entered the Control Room and Snowie sat at her console and began tapping away on the keyboard.
"It's rendering now," she said. "Though I don't know how comprehensive a map it will be given the limited view we have and the fact that we can only see the top portion, who knows what could be lurking in there!"
"Snowie, just get what mew can, anything will help," I replied.
"I should be able to give mew a 3D schematic too, so mew will have a better indication where the dead-ends are from what we can see... I'll also run a diagnostic to see if there's a pattern to how the maze is constructed and if there is, I can fill in what we can't see."
"Now that would be pawesome!" Humphrey said. "But I can bet one of my next 9 lives that it's booby-trapped!"
I nodded. "Oh I totally agree, but if we have some sort of map and from the brief view we had we can see to what looks like a tower in the centre, if we can get there undetected, find Fudge and anypurrdy else and then get the freak outta that place, it'll be a good day."
"How are we gonna destroy it Basil?" Humphrey asked. "Because once we've done the rescue mission, we can't leave a place like that fur anypurrdy else to fall into can we?"
I nodded in agreement and said. "Humphrey, we have to destroy it, but whether it can be destroyed in its entirety we won't know that until we get there."
"While Snowie finishes her map, I'm going to my lab to see what goodies I can bring along."
"Yep don't furget the C4," I called as he ambled out of the door.
"Basil dude, I've been wurking on something much better than C4!" Humphrey laughed.
"Sounds great dude, get a bag full ready to go!" I replied.
I ran to my private office and opened the video file on my PC and picked up at the point we'd left off in the Control Room; The agent was breathing hard, gasping fur breath as he continued to run along the off-shoot passage, ahead in the gloom a blue mist began to billow from rusted, dripping pipes high up on the walls. The eerie mist grew and rolled in a giant swell towards the agent, he stopped dead in his tracks and ducked behind a pile of rubble. He held his breath as eking vapour tendrils lashed out from the mist at the walls and floor as it rolled forwards, getting closer and closer to his hiding place.
He said in a terrified whisper. "If this is my last transmission may Bast have mercy on my soul!"
The mist was only feet away from him and deep within the cascading miasma light flashed like mini lightning bolts and it emitted an electrical hum. The tendrils we're combing effury inch of the walls and floor, as little sparks cracked and sizzled when they touched decaying matter and putrid puddles in their quest to find new prey.
The agent took a deep breath and waited. The mist suddenly filled the screen, a high-pitched zap sounded and then there was nothing. No sound, no vision, just nothing.
I let the footage keep playing and then realised that even though the screen was black the video was still recording. Then I hit the fast-forward button... 1 minute... 2 minutes... 3 minutes... 4 minutes... I kept my paw on that button and at 17 minutes and 42 seconds the footage continued.
I was agog at what I saw and nearly had a cat-niption [like a conniption only a cat version and no, there was no catnip involved whatsoeffur] I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. My eyes bugged and I couldn't catch my breath. I blinked several times, opened my eyes but the view was still the same. I rubbed my eyes most vigorously and then checked again, it was the same, finally I reached into the bottom drawer of my desk and retrieved the rather special bottle of Nip Scotch that I kept in their fur medicinal purrposes only and took a huge swig. Gulping it down and then burping rather loudly I turned back to the screen and it was still there.
"Oh jumping jellyfish covered in spikes this can't be true!" I yelled and then just because I needed to, I roared; it was so primal and so savage, in fact, it actually even scared the bejeezus out of me.
A few moments later my office door burst and Humphrey, Amber, Pandora, Snowie, Smooch, Parsley and Smooch [did I miss anyone?] almost fell offur themselves to see what my boggle was, landing in a rather ungainly heap on my furry plush handmade Furrsian rug.
"Dude, what the fluff is going on?" Humphrey shouted the loudest.
Waving my arms like a mad-cat possessed as I just couldn't find the wurds to say what I needed, so I took another massive swig of my medicinal Nip Scotch, swallowed and jabbed my claw at my computer monitor.
OH MY COD!
See mew same time, same place next week fur the next thrilling chapters
The Clockwurk Labyrinth
commander Basil and the b team
Offur and Out Until Next time
Click here to Go to Chapters 6 and 7 - link coming soon