Go to Episode 1
Back at the house, Sam and Lisa unloaded the shopping from the car. Meanwhile, Martin slipped back into his room to see if the computer had come up with anything new. Nothing happened with the computer at all. Some sort of screen-saver was throwing random blocks of colour around the screen. Martin tapped the mouse, the shopping list and the mysterious email reappeared.
Martin was re-reading the email from the Annabelle person that had caused Mandy to start acting strangely, when the door opened and Sam walked in.
‘Sam, did you get a chance to speak to Mandy yet, find out what the fuck she was on about?’
‘Yes captain. Chief Security Officer Lovelace did apprise us all of the ongoing nature of the mission as she put it. In fact, that is why I just knocked on your door, sir.’ Sam held up a thick electrical cable with a strange plug on its end resembling some prehistoric crustacean.
‘Sam? Come on…. The joke – whatever it is – is over. I’m not in the mood for being pissed about any more this morning.’
‘Stop all this Captain and sir bollocks now! The joke’s over. Do you understand?’
‘Do you mean that the mission has been aborted Captain?’
‘Mission? What mission?’ Martin pulled the chair out from in front of the computer. ‘Sit down Sam. Please.’
Sam carefully placed the end of the cable on the desk and sat down. He looked up at Martin.
‘Now is this thing some sort of joke or game?’
‘Well, just what the fuck is going on then?’
‘We are about to begin our mission, Captain.’
‘Now, when I woke up this morning, as far as I knew, I was just an ordinary office worker – a sales invoice clerk – who happened to share a house with two other men and two women students. One of those men – you Sam – was the owner of that house.’ Martin was suddenly excited. ‘In fact! In fact, wasn’t it you this very morning who reminded me that I owed you some rent?’
‘Yes. Yes, I did, sir. But that was all part of the cover story.’
‘A-ha, so you admi…. What cover story?’
Sam twisted uncomfortably in his seat and glanced at his watch. ‘The cover story for the mission,’ he said in a tone of voice he usually reserved for explaining the obvious plot of a television drama to John for the fifth time.
‘Sorry, sir, I just haven’t got time to go into that now, if we want to launch on schedule.’ He jumped to his feet and nosed around the back of Martin’s new computer for a few moments.
Martin finally managed to get his voice connected back to his mouth. ‘Launch? What bloody launch?’
‘Sorry, sir. I’m just the Chief Engineer. If you want to discuss the mission, I would suggest you take it up with Lieutenant Hardy. Meanwhile, I need a screwdriver.’
The door almost closed in his face and Martin was alone again. He realised the door would not shut properly because of the cable Sam had snaked through it. He turned to investigate the end of the cable Sam had left on the desk. ‘Lieutenant Hardy? Lisa Hardy? Lieutenant Lisa Hardy?’
‘Yes sir. Reporting for duty, sir!’
‘Oh shit. Not you too, Lisa,’ Martin said as he turned around.
Lisa marched across to the shelf holding Martin’s old unused CDs and flicked through them. ‘Has Chief engineer Boyd interfaced the main drive to the computer yet, Captain?’
‘What is going on Lisa?’ Martin slumped down on his bed and rested his head in his hands. ‘How come you’ve all started to act so strange? Things haven’t been the same since those juggling balls arrived this morning. Since then everyone has gone crazy and now you’ve all started calling me Captain, for some reason, like that lunatic Mandy.’
Lisa looked up from the CDs. ‘That’s because you are the captain…. Do you mean it didn’t work?’
‘What didn’t work?’
Lisa sat on the chair in front of the computer toying with a CD she had selected from the shelf. She looked closely at Martin, peering into one of his eyes and then the other. ‘So… when the… when you opened the parcel and the juggling balls fell out did you feel anything? Did anything happen?’ Lisa picked up his wrist and felt for his pulse.
‘No, not really… I just wondered where they came from, and so on. Well, you were there.’
Lisa nodded slowly and thoughtfully. ‘And later when you received the email?’
‘Nothing… well, nothing like what happened to Mandy. Anyway, what was supposed to happen?’
‘The juggling balls were supposed to be a trigger to break you out of deep hypnosis, out of your cover story.’
‘What cover story?’
‘Your cover story. All that Martin Laws stuff: working as a Sales Invoice clerk with ambitions of being a Computer Programmer, who has lived in Quarry Bank all his life, unmarried, living in a house with two other men and two female students.’
‘But all that is true!’ Martin scanned carefully around the room, hoping to catch a glimpse of the hidden TV cameras. This was getting far too complex to be a joke thought up after a night down the pub. It had to be one of those television programmes where friends or relatives set-up someone they know, making the unsuspecting patsy look a complete prat for the vicarious entertainment of an audience of totally-mashed couch potatoes.
Lisa sat down on the bed beside Martin. She tapped her fingernails against the CD case then sighed. ‘None of that Martin Laws stuff… your whole past life… all your memories…. None of that is true. It is just a cover story. We, all of us, are here on a mission.’
‘What about my parents: mum and dad, my sister. The dog – Franklin? Are you saying none of them exists? Because, if you are, you are talking the biggest load of bollocks since a dinosaur’s stag-night.’
‘When was the last time you visited your parents?’
‘Well, you know how it is… what with one thing and another… I did intend…. Only last week I was going….’
‘You can’t remember can you? That is because they don’t really exist, sorry.’ Lisa smiled sympathetically and patted his arm. ‘Anyway, I must get on.’ She opened the CD case and took out the disk.
‘How come you… you and Sam suddenly know all this then?’ Martin had the sense he could almost touch the piece of wool that would unravel this whole charade like a cheaply-made jumper.
‘When we got back from shopping, Mandy and John were waiting in the kitchen for us. As the security chief for the mission, Mandy was brought out of the cover story first… for security reasons, obviously. Then she brought out John, again for the obvious security reasons. When they had checked everything out and felt the mission was still secure they brought the rest of us out. Do you understand?’
‘Well, as far as I understand it, you were supposed to be the first one to be brought out. It is like a form of very deep hypnosis. The juggling balls were supposed to trigger it. You were supposed to see them and suddenly, like Mandy, like the rest of us a few minutes ago, it would all begin to make sense.’
Martin nodded. It made sense in an insane, irrational and completely incomprehensible way, much like the rest of his life, in fact. A life that now – apparently – didn’t really exist. He looked down at Lisa’s hands as they toyed with the CD. ‘Just what is that CD?’
‘Oh, this: Super Summer Sun Fun: Hot Party Disco Hits of the 80s.’
Martin felt himself beginning to blush. ‘You know, I just don’t know why I bought that one. I’ve never played it…. Honest.’
‘That’s good, because if you had ever tried to play it, it wouldn’t have worked. That is why it was given that nauseating title.’ She waved the CD in front of his face. ‘This is the navigation software data for controlling the ship.’ She slipped it into the drive on Martin’s laptop and watched the drive light flicker. ‘Oh shit. Sam hasn’t fitted the interface.’ She ejected the disk from the laptop and opened a hidden flap on the cube.
‘Lisa! What are you doing?’
‘I’m getting this ready. It is going to be the main control system for the craft,’ Lisa said as she pulled a connecting lead from her pocket and connected the laptop to the cube.
‘Captain! Lieutenant! Quickly, sir, Ma’am!’ Mandy stood in the doorway urgently waving at them. ‘There is something on TV, on the News; I think you ought to see!’
Lisa dropped the other end of the lead she was holding and ran out, following Mandy. Martin looked around his room, at the suddenly very disturbing familiarity of it all. He shrugged, and turned to follow the two women.