[Book VI, Act VI, Scene I. The Paddy Wagon. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHARLIE, CLINT, DUR and HARVEY are here, having been unceremoniously dragged out of the hole dumped in the back, despite their protests. LUCKY was pulled out of the hole, but wasn't thrown in the wagon. The party can hear some voices from the front, although there is a solid barrier there and they can't see who's in the front. Just then, JOE's voice can be heard.]

Joe: Open the sneering grille.

[A tiny grille is opened and JOE is visible, wearing a HARMA uniform. He sneers in at the party.]

Joe and the party have met several times, starting when he was the leader of the Guardians of Uprightness, who briefly took over Queens View. He is known for his ultra right wing and conservative views, and has been offended many times by the party's general indecency. He was briefly engaged to Maria, who the party helped kill (justly). It is no surprise that he is involved with HARMA. All but Dur and Charlie have met him previously.

Charlie: Where is our colleague, Lucky?

Joe: Never you mind about your Lucky colleague, you should be more concerned about your unlucky colleagues! [Roars with laughter]

Dur: Oh? And who are they?

Joe: [Stops laughing abruptly] They're you! [Slams the sneer panel shut angrily]

Alice: Yay! Well done, Dur!

Harvey : Of all the people, troop! Nunpar! How in blue blazes did he know where we were!

Austin : [To Harvey] Well, since Lucky is not here perhaps he was a mole. [glances at Harvey] a spy from the HARMA.

Joe: [Slides open the sneer panel] I just followed the stench of evil here. And your young friend wasn't a mole, he - uh, actually, yes, yes he was a spy.

Charlie: [To Joe] Ah, allow me to introduce myself! Charlotte Parker-Kensington, Watcher. I've read the file on you HARMA lot. Not a very pretty business, is it, selling hamsters to be killed for sport?!

Harvey: We used to play cricket with the little blighters back in Vietnumnum! Far safer than grenades, but not as much range!

Alice: Wow! You trained hamsters to play cricket? That's really cool!

Joe: [Enraged] Stop talking about hamsters! We have nothing to do with hamsters! [The driver whispers something to JOE.]

Joe: Well, hardly anything!

Austin : [To Joe] It does not suprise me at all that a power hungry maniac like you would enjoy torturing hamsters. You are quite vile.

Joe: [Indignantly] They really enjoy it! [Composes himself] Vile? Really? And yet you're the ones on the way to Re-Education, aren't you?

Harvey : What makes you think that?

Joe: We're the ones driving - we know where you're going!

Charlie: And where might that be?

Dur: To Re-Education! Duh! We're talking in circles!

Alice: Gee, Charlie, when Dur can keep up with the conversation better than you, you know you're in trouble!

Joe: Yes, to the Re-Education centre. The HARMA Initiative has an exciting range of treatments that they can try out on you. Who knows? Maybe some of them mightn't even kill you!

Charlie: [To Joe] And what has this to do with hamsters?!

Joe: [Exasperated] Nothing! What the hell is wrong with you people?

Alice: [To Charlie] They're clearly branching out. I expect that they're now using different kinds of rodents.

Charlie: To be fair, it is smart to diversify.

Joe: [Bangs his head against the sneer grille] There are no hamsters at the Re-Education centre. And if there were, do you know what they'd be? Dead! Because hamsters can't be re-educated!

Charlie: Well, that and the fact that the HARMA Initiative exists solely to have them killed for sport!

Alice: Or maybe they killed them all proving that they can't be re-educated? I think that's something that was self-evident. [To Joe] I said good day, sir!

Joe: But -

Alice: Good day!

[JOE slams the sneer panel shut, leaving the party in relative peace.]

Dur: Now what do we do?=20

Is pestilence locked up with us?

Austin : Perhaps Mr Scar could try to boot the door open?

Pestilence and Lucky are gone, so it's just the party

Alice: [Tries to see out one of the tiny windows] Good idea, Aus. I don't like the sound of this Re-Education centre one little bit. [Turns to the others, worried and pale] I mean, there could be reading!

Dur: [Shudders at the thought] Do their atrocities know no bounds!

Clint: Let's not stick around to find out! [Flexes his door-kicking foot and applies a hearty boot to the door.]

[CLINT gives a fine boot to the door, but it is rock solid. The sneer panel opens immediately and JOE's ugly, sneering mug appears.]

Joe: Hehe! Idiot! Virtually every part of this wagon is surrounded by two inch thick metal!

Clint: [Shrugs and tries to apply his boot to Joe's ugly, sneering mug instead.]

Joe: [Still laughing at Clint, with a very nasally irritating laugh] Ha! Ha! [Turns to the driver] I don't know why we don't install sneer panels in all the wagons.

[Boot. CLINT's boot goes right through the sneer panel and connects with JOE's face just as he turns to sneer some more.]

Alice: [Wincing at the awful crunching sound as boot meets nose] I guess that's why!

Austin : I believe Mr Scar has found the part of the carriage that is not made of thick steel. [Austin tries to unhinge the door or pick the lock/trip the lock]

Harvey : [Winces] By the saints, private Scar, good shot what!

[Alas, AUSTIN's tools were taken when the party were captured, so he cannot get the door open.]

Joe: Aiiee! Get his foot out of here! It stinks!

Clint: Oh yeah?! Get back here and let's talk about it man to... [looks at Joe contemptuously] uh... mindless thug!

one assumes that the sneer panel is too small to send, say, Dur or Charlie through it and strangulate the driver? Wishful thinking, I suppose!

[looks >at Joe contemptuously] uh... mindless thug!

Dur: [Peering through the sneer whole around Clint's foot, he tries to catch site of Joe] I demand to be let out of here right now! I'm a doctor, by the gods! I'll have you know my lawyer will hear of this! [Looks to Austin] Errr.. right? [Dur tries to cast command on Joe] =20

Austin : [To Dur] I shall represent you as you request. [Makes some notes. To Harvey] Colonel, perhaps we can rock this carriage from side to side to make it fall over, which may well break open the door and allow us to escape! [Starts trying to rock the carriage from side to side to topple it over] Come on! Altogether!

Harvey : [To Clint] Place your armpit against the opening, private! Reek the blackguards out of it, what!

Clint: [Places his pit against the opening, muttering something about "only being used for his reek,"] There.

[Try as he might, CLINT can't get his foot out, and suddenly yelps in pain as someone bites it. The rest of the party, other than DUR, who tries to say his spell, begin running back and forth to try and rock the carriage, but, initially at least, don't enjoy much success.]

Clint: [To Joe, incredulous.] Did you just bite me, you sick freak?!

Charlie: [To Clint] Oh, dear! If only we had a doctor! Surely you're going to need a rabies shot now, at the very least!

Austin : Keep rocking! It might work if we go round a corner and get our timing right!

Harvey : [Puffing and panting] Let us hope we are not travelling along a cliff, what!

Joe: Hey! Stop that!

[The carriage rocks dangerously from side to side.]

Alice: Oh. I think I'm getting a little seasick!

Charlie: [Delighted] It must be working! He's becoming enraged!

Austin : [To Alice] But we are no where near the sea!

minimal posts from me - in a conference until Friday! sorry for the late notice. The conference is supposed to have internet

Alice: [Looking like she's about to puke] Really? Are you sure? I thought we were at the seaside?

All: [Nonchalantly] No, no, we're miles inland.

Alice: [Suddenly looking healthy again] Phew! Thank goodness for that!

[ALICE joins in with the to-ing and fro-ing and suddenly the carriage topples over and slides a good twenty feet before coming to a halt, with the party all neatly stacked up on top of each other against the wall, with, starting from the top, HARVEY, CHARLIE, AUSTIN, DUR, CLINT and finally ALICE.]

Of course, no one has any weapons

Dur: [Grimaces uncomfortably] I sure hope that is someone's foot! [Checks] Oh wait, it's MY foot.

Alice: Yes, but what the hell is it doing in MY ass?

Clint: The tango?

Alice: [Counts to herself for a few seconds] Pf! If anything, it's the Foxtrot!

Dur: Well! It's the only dance I know!

Alice: And not very well, clearly!

Joe: [Looks in through the sneer panel, clearly somewhat hurt] You bastards! You're just making it worse for yourselves!

Clint: You're still here? Get lost, before we have the Doc practice the Foxtrot with you!

Joe: This is serious! I could have been badly hurt - my penis nearly got stuck in the sliding door!

Away for 1.5 hours

Charlie: Do keep your penis sheathed, or we shall enlist our attorney to file a harassment suit!

Alice: Hm, at what stage does it cease being harassment and start being amusement?

Clint: When you point and laugh, Bimbo!

[ALICE points and laughs at CLINT.]

Clint: Harassment!

Alice: [Stops abruptly] Yeah, let's direct it at Joe instead.

Joe: [Clearly leaning over to see in through the sneer panel] Welcome to hell.

Charlie: Not really? How thrilling! I've read all about it, but never dreamed I'd actually get to see it! [Excitedly goes to reach for her notebook] Wait, you took my notebook?! You monsters!

Colin's away today

Harvey: Yes, I think we may be in hell. [The driver whispers something to JOE.]

Joe: Er, actually, I meant, welcome to Helen Baxter's Reform Home.

Austin : [Sullenly] I don't suppose it has a spa?

Joe: Sure it does! And massages, and a swimming pool, it's just great!

Charlie: Wonderful! I'll need to have my spare suit pressed, as well, so arrange to have a cleaner pick it up for me.

Joe: Uh, well, not for you, you're here for re-education. All the spa facilities are for the members of the HARMA initiative. It's a tough job keeping you lot under control, you know.

Austin : [To Joe] Under whos authority are you retaining us, and what, exactly are we being charged with?

dull conference at the moment!

Joe: [Dramatically] Under the authority of the HARMA Initiative, that's who! The list of crimes that you are charged with is too long to read here, and some are so heinous they don't even have names yet, but top of the list is consorting with a demon!

That's what we're here for!

Charlie: If by "consorting" you mean "battling against," then guilty as charged! Otherwise, you are quite mistaken.

Austin : [To Charlie] It is pointless trying to reason with that moron. He has no idea of how many times that we have saved the world, nor how many times we have sacrificed ourselves to do so. He is merely a twisted husk of jealously and narcissistic self importance. [Checks his hair in his pocket mirror]

Joe: So... you think I'm a hunk, eh?

Austin : [To Joe] Husk! moron! [rolls his eyes] Seesh!

Joe: Well, I'm flattered, and maybe even a little curious, but you are unclean and in need of re-education. Now, all of you, back against the wall!

[The party can hear the sound of someone opening the back door.]

Charlie: [Laments] You can't possibly seriously intend to re-educate me?! All those years of study, for nothing?

Dur: [Agreeing] Yeah! And I was never educated in the first place so how could you possibly RE-educate me?

Harvey: Hah! [To Joe] How do you answer that, what? Our doctor never even had any education! [Thinks for a moment] Er, hm.

Austin : [To Harvey] Perhaps he is self taught?

[The door clunks open. Standing there is GEORGE LA FORGE, the HARMA member that the party already encountered, along with about twenty other men in similar uniforms. Also there is JOE, wearing a HARMA uniform and holding a bloody handkerchief to his nose.]

George: Well well, we meet again!

George: [With a big smile] Yes I am! Because, what would re-education be without the insane beatings?

Clint: So it's just like education then!

Austin : [Sighs] Why do psychopathic fascist organisations like HARMA have to rename everything to make it sound less like tortuing people for nothing.

Joe: Because torture is wrong. However, motivational physicals are just dandy!

Dur: Hey! Are you here for re-education too?

Clint: You bastard! Putting in the boot is one thing, but "turn your head and cough" is way beyond the pale!

Alice: [Nods in agreement] Too right! I don't even know what I'm supposed to be feeling when they do that!

Joe: Alright, all of you, come out with your hands up. Don't make us use the hose.

Clint: [Looks around at the party, questioningly.] Do we come quietly, guys? Or kick some ass first?

Charlie: [To Clint, softly] Quietly for now, I should think. Outside, we won't be trapped like rats, at least!

Austin : [Sgihs. Deadpan] Great. They have a hose. Iexpect that this will be the first time that Mr Dur and Mr Scar have had a wash in decades.

Alice: Are you sure it's that kind of hose? [Discreetly points to her rear end] Mm-hm?

Harvey: [To Clint] Confound it, Private Scar, I must agree with young Charlotte. If they attacked us now it would be like shooting sitting ducks in a barrel!

Austin : [To Harvey] Let us all rush out and scatter then?

Harvey : Divided we are weaker, private Sleaze. Let us see what transpires.

Austin : [To Harvey] Then let us rush enmass?

Alice: Mass? This is hardly the time or place for that! [The party are dragged out and handcuffed, before being led through a damaged (from the carriage crash) gate. There is no chance to make a break for it.]

Joe: [Triumphantly] Welcome to your new home - this will be unrelenting hell!

End of scene, next one coming right up

[Book VI, Act VI, Scene II. The Warden's Office. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHARLIE, CLINT, DUR and HARVEY are here, still handcuffed and having been dragged roughly in here. Also here are GEORGE and WARDEN BISHOP, who, unlike GEORGE, is not wearing a HARMA Initiative uniform. The other guards are waiting outside.]

Bishop: [Sitting behind large desk, heaves a sad, heavy sigh] You people were top class. Saving the world, killing bad guys and even [looks at a report on his desk] saving kittens. [Looks a bit closer] Er, eating kittens? Hm.

[Everyone glares at DUR, who just shrugs, making a "So?" gesture.]

Bishop: I can't help but wonder what turned you all around, that you find yourself here.

Charlie: Sir, I assure you, we are all perplexed by these charges. Our mission has not changed one whit! What precisely are we supposed to have done?

Bishop: [Sighs again, even more sadly] The formal list of charges will be read to you when you are officially admitted, Charlotte, but being spotted by hundreds of witnesses consorting with Pestilence was enough to get you here.

Alice: [Whispers to the others] Oh no! He must have had a camera! I bet it's up on Noobtube by now!

Bishop: And you coming from such a good family, Dr. Parker-Kensington. It, well - excuse me. [Takes out a tissue and dabs some tears from his eyes] It's just very upsetting.

Charlie: [Flustered] Sir, we were comrades of expediency only! We briefly shared a common enemy, and he assisted us in escaping that enemy. But there is nothing more between us, nor shall there ever be! [Getting very flustered] Ever!!!

Austin : [To Bishop] Is there no fair trial? We did what we had to to save lives! Pestilence would simply have killed us had we attacked him, what use would we be then! This good woman here [gestures to Charlie] saved the the dwarves from destruction, by her sacrifice, which made Pestilence unable to carry out his dastardly plans!

George: Dwarves! See, Warden? They are evil scumbags! They ought -

Bishop: [Holds up a hand to silence George] Enough. It isn't my job to comment on guilt or innocence. You have been sent here under emergency powers that have been granted to the HARMA Initiative, and it is my job to make sure that you get treated fairly. [Pours out some cups of tea for each of the party using an impossibly delicate tea set] And treated fairly is what you'll be.

Alice: [To the others] Phew! For a while there I thought we were in trouble!

Bishop: [Checks his watch] Right, you better drink your tea. It's almost time for your 6PM beatings.

Austin : [To Bishop] Beatings? We have not even been charged with any crime yet!

Bishop: Yes, the system isn't perfect, but we have to live with it.

Austin : [To Bishop] No we do not! We have rights! We have the right to a fair trial *before* any beatings!

George: Hey! Shut the hell up! Don't talk to the Warden like that! [Jabs Austin in the ribs with a baton]

Bishop: Please! George! He is merely making an argument. Sadly, that is no longer the case, Mr. Sleaze. Order 3/132/44 gives a clear timetable for the activities of prisoners being held on suspicion of moral turpitude.

Dur: Beatings?! Jeez, its like I'm a kid all over again!

Alice: Well, I think this all sounds perfectly horrid - I certainly don't want to be beating anyone!

Clint: [To Austin.] You sound like one of those soft-headed, bleeding heart pinkos! "Oh no, the guards are beating the snot out of that evil murder suspect! Stop them!" Yeah, like the cops have ever needed an excuse to put the boot in before the trial before. [Clint rolls his eyes.]

Dur: You sound just like mother! "This hurts me more than it hurts you!" and "I hate doing this!" Of course, it wasn't as convincing between her bouts of laughter.

Alice: Hm. I suppose that accounts for why you find me so attractive.

Bishop: Well, my friends, you clearly aren't in a mood for drinking tea. It's now time to enter the jail, but please, if there's ever anything I can do for you, whether it's help contact relatives outside or get a different kind of mint for your pillows, don't hesitate to ask the guards to let me know.

Charlie: [To Bishop, warmly] How thoughtful! It's really the little touches that make all the difference, you know!

Clint: As opposed to the big touches, like they'll be giving you in a sec, and which make mostly just bruises! [Stands and looks around for a likely escape route.]

Harvey : [Angrily to Bishop] Let me tell you this sir! If one of your misbegotten cronies lays a finger on my niece, or any member of my troop, I will hold you personally responsible, what! And Phili help you, sir!

Bishop: Ah, Colonel, I do understand your concern, but these people are professionals, and finger, or other appendage for that matter, they lay on anyone, will be done so with the utmost of precision. [Glances at the report in front of him] Hm, I think I might know your wife, Colonel!

Charlie: [To Bishop] What do you mean, sir? You don't have her in this horrid place?!

Austin : [To Charlie] Well, she is very well known.

Harvey : Indeed - I can see you were a troubled young man

Bishop: Yes, that's a good way to put it. She helped me at a very lonely time of my life.

Charlie: [To Harvey] I'm surprised you allow your wife to continue to work, Colonel! That's very enlightened of you.

Austin : [To Charlie] That's one way of putting it.

Alice: [Nods] It's all about the sex. [Pause] I mean, equality of the sexes.

Austin : [Nods in agreement with Alice] Yes, the quality of the sex, [does a double take, hastily] I mean equality of the sexes.

Harvey : I would never deny my wife her humanitarian hobby, what! I think she does an invaluable service to the community! Trying to put a smile on the faces of those who would otherwise face an evening of lonely self loathing!

Charlie: [Cheerily] And it surely must sate some of her own unattended desires, as well. How wonderfully generous of you, Colonel!

Bishop: Such lovely people. [Hugs each party member in turn] Please, be careful.

[Exit the party and GEORGE.]

Bishop: [Sits down at his desk, before taking a photograph of Jasmine out of a drawer in his desk] Ah... Mistress Jasmine....

[Meanwhile, the party are lead through a warren of passages until they get to the admissions centre, which is staffed by twenty or thirty HARMA members. The person in charges appears to be SPOTTY DOOHAN.]

Spotty: Och aye, and welcome to Helen Baxter's Reform Home, where we've been beatin' good manners into reprobates like you for 120 years.

Spotty Doohan

Charlie: [To Spotty] A pleasure to meet you, good man, but I can assure you my manners are excellent. Had I my knapsack, for example, I would give you a generous tip, big enough to feed your family for a week--and with change left over to pick up a posy for the [finger quotes] little missus.

Spotty: A pleasure, is it? Well, let me tell you, by the time we're finished with you the pleasure will be all mine!

Austin : [To Spotty, deadpan] A pleasure to meet you to.

Clint: Awful lot of pleasure going around. [Gives Spotty a "drop dead" look.]

Charlie: [Snaps at Clint] We did NOT have sex!

Clint: In that case, wait until you meet your new cell mate!

Alice: Of course you didn't - you were busy doing it with Pestilence!

Spotty: Welcome to your new home. When I was put in charge of admissions here, I was told one thing. Make sure that no one ever escapes. And you know what? No one ever has.

Last frrom Conor #35

Clint: Well, you know what they say... There's a first time for everything! [Eyes Charlie.] Ask her!

Last frrom Conor #36

Austin : Well, if you let us go now then we will not be escaping, and therfore your impeccable record will remain unblemished. I must say, that I am feeling completely reformed already.

Charlie: [To Austin] As am I! Surely we're free to go then? Wouldn't want to risk taking the re-education too far, you know!

Alice: [Nods] Me too! I certainly believe in, er, whatever craziness you people believe in today, [to the others] don't you?

[Everyone else nods and makes assenting noises.]

Scotty: [Sceptical, but not dismissing the argument] Hm, I don't rightly know, but you certainly do sound like you believe.

Harvey : Absolutely. Look at what happened to doctor Trindle! Over education can lead to madness. Madness what!!!

Scotty: Hm, let me administer the test. [Dramatically] How much do you believe?

Charlie: Er, a lot!

Spotty: [Stares Charlie in the eye for a good ten seconds before breaking away] Oh, okay then. That seems fair. [Starts to unlock Charlie's handcuffs]

George: [Suddenly spotting what's going on and interrupting] Hey! What are you doing?

Spotty: Uh... [cagily] getting these prisoners ready for their beating?

George: You better be!

Austin : [To George] I too believe that I am completely reformed.

George: I don't care! [To Spotty] Get them processed, immediately, and remember what the chief said, no more just believing people when they say that they're reformed. [Shakes his fist] And no hugging the prisoners!

Away for the weekend, see you Monday!

Dur: [Looks perturbed] Daily random beatings are one thing, but the 'no hugs' rule seems to be taking things a bit far!

enjoy!

Austin : [To Dur] I am quite sure that they will provide cuddles instead, if you would like them.

Harvey : By the saints, all of this talk about beatings and discipline, just like being back in junior cadet school, what! I wonder if they will serve curried boot for dinner?

Charlie: That's horrific! Not to mention a clear violation of Section 602, part 48, line QV of the military code! That school should be shut down and its administrators sent to prison!

George: Curried boot? Hah! You'll be lucky! [Calls out to someone out of sight] What's on the menu for tonight?

Voice: [Calling back from out of sight] Curried boot.

George: Gah! Okay, [points to some prison garb] get changed.

Harvey : [Looks at the prison garb] No.

Charlie: [Wrinkles her nose in distaste] Yes, I really must agree. Those clothes won't do at all. We shall keep our own clothes. They won't interfere with the beatings and so forth.

George: [Gives a smile] Good. [Gestures to some baton wielding prison guards] Prepare for a level two beating. [To the party] Change.

Austin : [To George] What possible purpose will a change of clothes serve? Surely it would be more cost effective if we wore our own clothes?

George: This is about education. It's not supposed to make sense. [Hits Austin in the back of the knees with his baton, knocking him to the ground]

Remember, the party are still handcuffed

Charlie: [Winces, watching Austin hit the ground] In any case, how are we to change clothes with these dreadful handcuffs? Not a very well thought-out plan, I must say!

George: Another smart ass, eh? [Thinks for a moment] Hm, I suppose that does make sense.

[The party are all released. There are clearly too many guards to make an escape, and only a fool would suggest one.]

Alice: [Whispers to the party] Maybe we should try to make an escape?

Austin : [Wincing in pain on the floor. To George] You just want to be a demon yourself! Mindlessly inflicting pain on others, like this! You are no better than they are!

Dur: [Is already in his outfit and admiring himself in a mirror.] Why thank you! Those old clothes were getting a bit old anyway.

George: It isn't mindless. Watch, this is my idea. [Hits Austin again]

Lose 4hp Austin Tom is without electricity??? Well, everyone else in Houston is!

Clint: [Slowly picking through the clothes] Hey! [A little louder to be heard over the whistling of the other guards at Dur] Hey! Leave him alone!

Harvey : [Angrily] If I find a crushed golden honeyed locust in my pocket, there will be hell to pay!

Charlie: Priorities, Colonel! Priorities! [Digging through clothes] A bigger problem is what we're going to do about the Pediculus humanus corporis [shudders] to say nothing of the Pthirus pubis!

Alice: [Finding herself some clothes] You mean... from Pestilence?

Charlie: No! From these wretched clothes!

Alice: Oh. [Steps behind a convenient board and emerges seconds later with her prison garb] Hey, these look kind of like pyjamas, don't they? Especially with all these pictures of Teddy Bears on them.

George: [Glares at Spotty] Hey! What are my jammies doing in there?

[Moments later, ALICE has changed again and GEORGE has them back.]

George: Okay, the rest of you, get changed or else... [taps his head with his baton]

Alice: Well, if he's going to beat himself on the head with that thing, I don't think anyone should get changed!

Austin : [Starts looking through the overalls, frowning and tutting] The workmanship on these overalls is simply awful! Who on earth is your tailor! [Eventually finds some and steps behind the board]

Spotty: Hey! My mother made those! She was up all night!

Charlie: [Disgusted, picking through the clothes gingerly] Doing what, rummaging through trash bins?!

Austin : [Indignantly, to Charlie] Well it certainly was not my rubbish bin! How awful would it be to have nondesigner clothing in your rubbish bin! [Pales at the thought]

[Everyone is now changed into prison garb. Enter CHOCO LATAY, another HARMA Initiative type.]

Choco: [Smiles at the party, momentarily dazzling everyone with one of his silver teeth] Hello. My name Choco Latay, and I'll be your re-education officer.

Choco Latay

Dur: Excuse me sir, but have YOU ever been re-educated?

Choco: Indeed I have, Dur. And I am grateful for it.

Clint: Well, isn't that nice! No need to go reeducating others, though!

Tom is in the very irritating state of having power at home but no internet until Comcast gets out and hooks the cable back up. I'll be able to email from work, but I'm afraid I'll be pretty unavailable for... a week? Two weeks? I don't know how long it'll take them, to be honest. I'll try to get in to work a litle earlier than normal - should be easy since I can't get up in the morning and check what's going on in the world from home anymore!

Harvey : Grateful? So grateful that you would inflict the same re-educationing onto others? Tell me this, what was the biggest benefit?

Choco: It's difficult to say. Either the complete removal of my nipples from the constant electrocution or the widening of my back passage so much that my head fits up there.

Austin : [Nodding in agreement] You are rather well cerebrally endowed.

Charlie: [To Choco] And didn't that, er, sting, just a tiny bit?

Choco: [Turns one way and then the other to let the party fully appreciate the enormity of his head] It's so large I could be Oirish.

It is, of course, a well known fact that the Oirish have enormous heads.

Charlie: [To Choco, scoffing] That's merely a myth cooked up by the Oirish. Not coincidentally, they also started the one about the correlation in size between the, shall we say, upper head and lower head, mmm?

Alice: [Nods vigorously] That one's true, Charlie. [A little dreamily] I remember a wonderful night with Seamus O'Romeo. [Sigh]

Austin : [To Alice] Did he speak with an Italian accent, by any chance?

Alice: [Shrugs] I don't know. Never heard him speak.

Away for the afternoon, so no posting from me

Austin : [Deadpan] How romantic.

Clint: Sounds perfect to me! Hook up, do your thing, go your separate ways! No "don't you want to talk first," no "let's just cuddle..." None of that crap! Who needs romance?!

Harvey : By the saints, private Sleaze, you always jump to the wrong conclusion! Knowing my nieces big heart, it was no doubt the fact that this O'Romeo character was a mute!

Charlie: [To Harvey] No doubt you're right, Colonel. In fact, I've noticed that in many ways, your niece is quite like your beloved wife!

Choco: Enough of this idle chit chat. Time to see your cells. [Gives an evil smile] Better stay close together, because this is a single sex jail. [Leers at Charlie and Alice] People in here get mighty lonely.

Charlie: [Intrigued] My word, you have hermaphrodites here?! Whatever for? What crimes have they committed??

Austin : [Rolls his eyes] He means that this was an all male prison, until Alice and you arrived here, and is implying that you may be subject to sexual assault in the near future. I feel quite reformed already.

Choco: The crime of smug self satisfaction. Boobies and a lad? [Becomes staggeringly enraged, with a red face and much spit flying as he jabs his fingers in the air to emphasise his point] That's just not fair! [Calms down again]

Choco: [Sneers at Austin] Yeah, that's exactly what I meant. Now, you scum may refer to me as Captain. And let me tell you, I am here to purge you of all sinful thoughts and to extract payment for them. In fact, we're so thorough, that you need to pay for any possible future sinful thoughts in advance.

Charlie: Surely it's a sin to commit sexual assault, wouldn't you say? I think perhaps WE are the ones owed payment!

Choco: Payment for sexual favours? [Thinks] Hm, maybe that's how you made your living on the outside, Fish, but that's not how we do things here!

Austin : [Brightens up] Pay? We are all completely bankrupt, after all, we have spent most of our lives saving the world, not earning money. So seening that we are completely unable to pay you, you may as well release us before you waste any more of your valuable time!

Harvey : Indeed so, private, well said! We are of no use to you whatsoever. Do be so kind as to open the door and let us roam free.

Choco: Oh, you can pay me, Fish. Pay me in blood, sweat and tears, they are the only money in this place.

Charlie: [Tsking] I must say, that's really rather inconvenient. It's not as if you can save bodily fluids and exchange them for goods and services yourself, after all. Terribly impractical.

Harvey : [To Charlie] Not strictly true, my dear. Many an ale brewer would disagree vehemently with you!

Dur: What if we don't "think" sinful thoughts? I must say I rarely ever think about my actions before I commit them.

Austin : [To Dur] Well then, the thought police will have to agree that you have not commited any thought crimes. [Ponders] Of course the fascinating, unanswered question is, how do they read people's thoughts?

Choco: That's okay, I'll settle for the pleasure of extracting the bodily fluids. The currency I want is your pain. The money I get is your suffering. Now, [gives another smile] you'll pay me my money down. And as for knowing what you think, that, Fish, is a trade secret.

Austin : [To Choco] It sounds more like a demonic power to me, or black magic, both of which I am sure you know lots about. [Looks perplexed] Why do you keep on saying 'Fish'?

[Book VI, Act VI, Scene III. The Dark Corridor. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHARLIE, CLINT, DUR and HARVEY are here, being escorted along a dark corridor. There is light up ahead and the sound of lots of jeering and screaming as the party approach. They are being accompanied by several guards, including GEORGE, all of whom are pushing and jostling the party, shouting loudly at them.]

George: [Roaring at the top of his voice] Come on, maggots! Move it! Move it! This isn't a walk in the park, you know! Move it! Move it!

Dur: Great! It's like med school all over again!

Austin : [Indignantly] This is ridiculous! In what was is this supposed to make someone a better person?

Choco: It's what I call new inmates. Kind of a nickname thing.

Alice: And do you call all new inmates Fish?

Choco: Yes.

Alice: And when do you stop calling them Fish?

Choco: Never.

Alice: So you call everyone Fish?

Choco: Yes, Alice. I mean, Fish. Anyway, enough time wasting - get ready to run the gauntlet. [Gives an evil smile] There are a lot of angry and frustrated inmates who are just dying to see you. I think Fish is especially happy about our new intake.

[Exit ALL through a large door.]

End of scene, next one coming right up

George: First we gotta break you down, then we build you back up again! Oh boy, wait until the other prisoners see what's coming!

Dur: Jeez! Would you listen to this guy? We get it ok, all the inmates are attracted to you! Honestly, a little modesty goes a long way!

George: [Dismayed] Hey! None of them are attracted to me! Not a single one! Not one! Not even one! [Holds up a finger and mouths the words] Not one.

[The party are almost at the exit that opens up into the main prison.]

Alice: [To Charlie] I know you're not used to men staring at you, just try and use it against them.

[ALICE and CHARLIE take a deep breath, close their eyes and bravely step out, and the shouting and jeering get louder, with a considerable amount of high pitched booing going on.]

Alice: [Opens her eyes and looks around] Hey! These aren't sex starved men at all! [With horror] It's a women's prison!

Away for about an hour

Charlie: [Jeering] Isn't that just typical! Women have a thing or two to say, and men round them up and imprison them for re-education! [To the other women] Rise up, sisters! Shed the shackles of our oppressors and come with us to a better day!

Dur: I thought women liked being shackled and locked up? I know my mom always used to tell my dad to do it. Handcuffs, rope, chains, whips, horse crops, ball gags, blindfolds... [Dur continues to name some of the more interesting items he would find laying about the house.]

Austin : [To Dur] It sounds as if you are going to be right at home. [Looks around at the other prisoners.

Clint: [Steps forward himself.] Hell, this might not be so bad!

[Bonk. CHARLIE gets hit on the head by a flying mug. Meanwhile, the prisoners whistle and give general noises of approval at seeing the fine pieces of man meat that the male party members are.]

George: [Pushing the party along, so that the arms stretching out from the various cells on either side can't reach them] Keep going! Move it! Move it!

Charlie: [Grabbing her head] OW! [Picks up the mug and flings in back in the direction of the prisoner who threw it] Take that, you ungrateful sow!

George: Don't taunt the prisoners! Keep going - we've got a special place for the likes of you.

Austin : I have a nasty feeling that this is the nicest part of the prison.

[The party continue, amidst much shouting and pushing from the guards, as well as many inappropriate and lewd comments from the other prisoners, until they reach a large double doors, which have a huge skull built around them so that it looks like the party are entering the mouth.]

Alice: [Eyeing the razor sharp teeth] I have a nasty feeling that you might be right!

Austin : [Sniffs the air, looking worried] Is that not the smell of burning flesh? [Panicy] Can anyone else smell that?

Harvey : [Sniffs the air] All I can smell is desperation, private!

Alice: [Flustered] Hey! I had grilled cheese for lunch - I can't help it!

George: [As the gates slowly, noisily and ominously start to open] That's the smell of skin being flayed from a human body.

Harvey : [Shocked] Why on earth would you do that? What crime necessitated such a punishment?

Austin : [Worried] And in what way is a punishment like that construed as re-education?

George: It wasn't so much a punishment as a reward.

Alice: A reward? What the hell kind of reward is that? For anyone other than Dur's mother, of course?

George: Flaying someone's skin off is a LOT of fun.

Charlie: [To George] You can't be serious! It must be SO tedious, not to mention the horror of getting blood stains out of fine fabrics!

George: Nah, I find if you have a good supply of white wine vinegar you can sort it out. The trick, you see, is to make sure that you - hey! Shut up! Keep moving!

[The gates clatter open, and a cold black mist swirls about inside. There is definitely a slight but disturbing odour. GEORGE and the others light their torches.]

George: Welcome to The Core.

Charlie: [Whispers to the party] There's something dreadfully wrong here. Can't you feel it? [shivers]

Austin : [Completely pales. Slowly] I have a very, very bad feeling about this place, there is something very very wrong here [Attempts to bolt out of the door before it closes]

Harvey : [Turns red and starts shaking] Infact, I think you could say, it's...rotten...to the core! [Laughs long, loud and alone]

[AUSTIN makes a break for it, but is blocked by some of the other guards, and pushed in, along with the rest of the party, into the dark corridor. The gate closes very fast.]

Alice: [Gives a shiver] Yes! I can feel it too - what the hell is this place?

George: [Looking particularly evil with the flickering of the torches] This place is The Core. A place where something so terrible happened that an entire core of the planet disappeared.

Austin : [Still trying to get out, straining feebly against the guards] Let me out! Let me out!

[The guards just push AUSTIN back, with no small amount of smug satisfaction.]

Alice: [Looking creeped out] What do you mean a core?

George: Like a slice. A small circle, from sky to Interior, completely gone. There's no natural life in here, light can't penetrate and it's not even possible to use magic.

Charlie: [Uneasily] And why have you brought us here?

Austin : [Beating feebly on the guards screaming in tears] Let me out of here! Let me out! I'm too young and beautiful to die! [Collapses wimpering in a ball]

George: [To Charlie] Because we just don't like you. We don't like your attitude, we don't like the boastful way you people [finger quotes] save the world all the time, we don't like your TV shows, your commercials or your comic books, and we don't like the way you dress. Most of all, we don't like your influence. When the famed Queens View Party appear in public as fully paid up HARMA Initiative members, there will be no stopping us. Being in The Core is a good way to wear down your will.

Dur: [Watching Austin unravel] You're assuming we have any will to begin with?

Harvey : [Concerned] What caused this...core?

Charlie: [To Dur] Speak for yourself, serving boy! The Parkers and the Kensingtons are renowned for their iron will and nerves of steel!

George: [Shrugs and grunts] Idunno.

Clint: [Glances with distaste at Austin.] No kidding! Pull yourself together, lawyer! How much worse can this be than that time when we... uh...

Will this week of a thousand horrors never end? Still no cable, so no home internet, and NOW my desktop at work has gone phut. Oh, the angst!

Austin : [Coughs a bit and straightens himself up with his back to the party. After preening for a few minutes turns around] This missing core is clearly the work of a great demon. [To George, with a terrified look, and frightened tone] By sending people in their you are feeding the demon's power, they feed on pain and souls. You have unwittingly been feeding a demon.

George: [Gives a thin smile] Unwittingly? Really? Sure!

Austin : [To George, alarmed] You mean that you are deliberately feeding the demon?

George: Demon schemon! All I care about is the fact that you scumbags are trapped in here until we say otherwise. It is completely impenetrable and not even magic works in here. No one has ever escaped. And now, let me introduce your personal Re-Education Officer. [Gestures to a figure standing just out of sigh, difficult to see because of the darkness and mist]

[The figure steps forward. It is TOM SELLSICK.]

Tom: [Gives the party a big smile] Hi guys!

Tom Sellsick

Tom is a demon that the party killed several years ago after he beat and tortured several of them. They met him again while briefly passing through hell, and inadvertedly helped him escape when he grabbed a talisman that Faetan didn't use properly. Soon after, he killed Sven Goring, the most beloved NPC ever and best friend of the party. Since then, he hasn't been seen.

Clint: You! [Tries to leap at Tom so he can strangle the demon with his bare hands.]

Finally restored internet at home. Not that I can complain much, having gotten power back right quick, but... yay!

[CLINT almost gets to TOM, but he's grabbed by some guards and pulled back.]

Tom: Woah, woah, woah! [Does a time out sign] Time out, guys! What kind of start is that to our friendship? I mean, it's not like I'm going to kill and torture you, is it? [Thinks for a moment] Oh yes, it is!

Hm, first time we've ever had a player with the same name as an NPC! Back in two hours

Austin : [To George] Your Re-Education officer is a demon who murdered our best friend! [Looks George in the eyes] You will pay for this.

George: [Holds Austin's glare] That's what they all say. But when he's done with you, you'll be a fully paid up member of HARMA. [With some distaste] Warden's pets.

Austin : [Defiantly] We don't want to be members of HARMA! We kill demons, we don't feed them! [To George] You are nothing more than a kitchen boy to this demon! Do you really think that he will do anything for you?

George: Well, he gives the most [whole body shivers with pleasure] diiiiivine foot rubs.

Tom: [Slides open another barred door] This way folks, and mind the step - [cheerfully] we wouldn't want anyone getting hurt on the way to the torture chamber, now would we?

Harvey : [Dryly] Indeed, where is the fun in pain if you're not inflicting it, eh!

Charlie: [To Tom] You bring up an excellent point! Have you not some standards in terms of fitness? Surely you aren't allowed to torture the elderly [nods at Harvey] or simpletons [nods at Dur]?

Harvey : Or dear sweet females! [Nods at Alice]

Tom: Au contraire! The best ones are the elderly, simple females. [Looks at Alice]

Alice: What?

Tom: Nothing. I'm just waiting.

Alice: [Thinks for a moment] Hey!

Harvey : [To Tom] How did you end up in this...core?

Tom: I was drawn to it, just like you were.

Harvey : What tosh! We weren't drawn to this wretched place! We were abducted and driven here!

Tom: [Shrugs] To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Charlie: This has nothing to do with produce!

Austin : [To Charlie] I think that there are a few Demons around here that might disagree with that.

[The party get to the end of the corridor. It leads to a chamber with eight cell doors leading off it, in four rows of opposing doors. At the end is a round room with another cell door. The party can see that there are people in the other cells, straining to see out through the tiny slits in them.]

Tom: [Geefully] Welcome to hell.

Austin : It seems to have changed quite alot since I was last here. Positively welcoming compared to our last visit.

Dur: Hmmm. It COULD use a few homey touches.

Charlie: [To Dur, looking around] Yes, I suppose it does seem a bit stiff and formal to you, a bit too "posh" if you will, after life in the gutters.

Austin : [To Dur] That pretty much sums up most of Hell.

[The party are shoved roughly passed the first four cells,

spotting the following people: ARAMIS, DUKE FOXINGTON, ASTRID, MONA WYDER and GONZO (in the same cell) as well as three empty cells.]

Aramis: [Looking unhealthy, but calling out to the party] What riff raff is this? I demand recelling immediately! I refuse to share my torture chambers with such lowlifes as these!

Duke Foxington

THere's a quick follow up to this coming to explain who these people are, please don't post until you see it.

Austin : [Calls out] Aramis! Astrid! Gonzo, Mona? What are you doing here? [Worried] What have they done to you?

George: [Rattles his baton against Aramis' door] Shut the hell up!

Gonzo: [Sweaty and shakey, looking very bad] It's bad. It's very bad. Look who they're making me share a cell with!

Mona: [Gives the party a big wave, which can hardly be seen through the tiny window] Hi guys!

[The party are shoved into cells. ALICE and CHARLIE in one, HARVEY and AUSTIN in another, and CLINT and DUR in the final one.]

Tom: Make yourselves at home. You'll be here quite some time.

The layout

There are some people in the key that aren't present. That's just to make it easier for me to bring them in when they're needed. Or maybe it's just to confuse people. Or maybe I'm confused?

Clint: What are you complaining about, Gonzo? At least your cell mate won't eat you if you fall asleep for too long! [To Dur.] Doc, we gotta get out of here.

get >out of here.

Dur: [His stomach grumbling loudly] And how do you suggest we do that?! =20

Charlie: [Calls out to the others] Hello, there! Does anyone have a notepad? If I could only find a notepad and pencil, I feel sure we could get organized and make a plan for our escape.

Alice: [Chortles at Clint and Dur] Wow, I'd hate to be in with one of them. Can you imagine? It would almost be as bad as sharing with Charlie, she'd have you driven crazy with all her organizing and [finger quotes] her side of the cell. [Realizes she's sharing with Charlie] Er, uh, oh. I thought I was in with Austin!

Clint: An understandable mistake, Bimbo. [Looks around for a loose rock or something that can be used to bash the cell doors open or at least to fend off Dur should he get hungrier.]

[The cells are very bare, with just a single small bucket in each room.]

Alice: This is outrageous! Surely they're going to give us more to drink than this tiny bucket of [dips her fingers in and licks them] er, [somewhat hopefully] lemonade?

Austin : [Carefully examines his cell for weakness or anything of interest] We should check that the enemy have gone before attempting to break out. [Checks to see if there are any guards, or Tom]

is there a pickable lock? Loose masonry?

[Although the windows in the otherwise solid metal doors are tiny, it's possible to see as far as the cell on the left on the other side and on the right. This means that CLINT can see as far as GONZO and AUSTIN, but no further.]

Aramis: Austin, my friend. We have a highly complicated and well organized system for seeing if there are no guards. [Calls out] Clear in two!

Gonzo: [Gruffly] Clear in three.

Duke: [Sounding a little stoned] Uh, clear in, uh, four?

Aramis: You may speak freely.

The door is bolted from the outside and the masonry looks very solid, being made up of large blocks at least one foot square.

Austin : Clear in one.

busy now

Clint: Uh, I guess clear in zero? [Brightens suddenly.] Hey, Doc, you got a spoon? Maybe we can use it to pick away the mortar!

Alice: Don't let him do it, Dur! Don't let him spoon you! [To Charlie] I've seen every episode of Zozz. A spoon introduced to a cell with two men always ends up stuck up someone's jacksie.

Don't tell me you don't know the famous spooning scene!!

Harvey: Aramis, how did you all end up in this wretched place?

Unfortunately I'm away for the day on a client site without connectivity

Charlie: [To Alice] I can't even begin to imagine what you mean by that, but I must say it isn't helping the situation!

Aramis: I am an innocent victim of the HARMA initiative, living a kind and innocent life until they broke down the door of my room in the brothel. I ask you, how are those hookers to make decent money without their customers robbing the occasional bank!

Charlie: [To Aramis] Oh, you must know the Colonel's wife?

Harvey: Of course he does! Aramis the kind of man who keeps up with the society pages, aren't you sir?

Aramis: [Gives a quirky smile] But of course. Allow me to introduce everyone. The lovely Astrid, imprisoned on suspicion of membership of a banned organisation. The delightful Mona, imprisoned on suspicion of membership of a banned organisation. The devilishly handsome Gonzo, imprisoned on suspicion of membership of a banned organisation. And Duke Foxington, imprisoned on suspicion of being a banned organisation.

Austin : Who is it that is banning organisations, left, right and center? The HARMA?

Charlie: Delightful to meet all of you! We are the Queens View Party. I am the party's Watcher, Charlotte Parker-Kensington, and may I present Colonel Harvey Kingston-Short III, Mr. Austin Sleaze, Mr. Clint Scar, Miss Alice Bassett-Short, and our serving lad, Dur [gestures to the respective cells of the various party members as she calls each name]. We haven't a clue why we have been incarcerated, but from the sound of it, I'd guess it's under suspicion of membership in a banned organization!

Aramis: Almost certainly, Lovely Lady. [To Austin] Yes, my friend, I fear it is them. Their barbarity knows know depths, for I see that they have also taken your clothes - I myself wasn't even permitted to keep my favourite lace handkerchief.

Alice: Sorry, but did you say that Duke was imprisoned on suspicion of being a banned organisation?

Aramis: Indeed I did.

Austin : [Indignantly] Who is this Duke anyway? I have certainly never heard of him. Is he one of these 'd-bay' Dukes? You know, the kind you can buy?

Duke: Uh, no.

[Everyone waits a while, clearly expecting more explanation.]

Astrid: Oh for God's sake! Duke is his name!

Clint: So can we rush them when they come for the torture and fight our way to freedom? Or maybe we should try the old "help, my cell mate's sick/dying/about to eat me" trick?

Charlie: I hardly think they would release us all at once, Mr. Scar! We wouldn't be much good rushing one at a time. [To Aramis] What plans for escape have you implemented thus far?

Aramis: Alas, I have tried, my friend. You and the squirrely fellow might have better success, but they always arrive in numbers to drag one to [slight pause] The Core.

Aramis: I tried the old "help, my cell mate's sick/dying/about to eat me" trick.

Alice: How come it didn't work?

Aramis: Don't have a cell mate.

Austin : [Concerned, squirming a little] What exactly is the Core?

Clint: There! Doc, you pretend to be sick or something, and when the guards come by, we'll jump 'em! They'd never think anyone was so stupid as to try the same trick twice!

Alice: [Applauds Clint's brilliance] Yay! No one ever realises how stupid we really are!

Aramis: [Points at the round room] I mean The Core of The Core. I'd heard about it before - a slice of the earth where something so awful happened that it winked out of existence. That room there is the exact spot, the core of The Core. [Head drops] That's where they'll take you.

Austin : [To Aramis] And what happens inside the Core of the Core?

Clint: [Shrugs.] We get Cored? A core is a core, for sure, for sure, unless it's a demonic core, for sure. You never heard of a demonic core? Talk to the HARMA!

I, uh, am really sorry.

Apologies to Kevin, but I have to do it!

Dur: [Screams] No! No! No! Noooooooooooo! Make it stop! Make it stop!

Aramis: The pain you feel now is nothing compared to the pain you'll feel in The Core of The Core, my squirmy little friend.

Charlie: [Shuddering] It's hard to imagine anything worse than the bellowing and yammering and the filth of these cells!

Astrid: The Core of The Core is worse. The room is surrounded by walls that are five foot thick. They strap you to a metal chair. And then they leave you to experience the sheer nothingness that is The Core. And there is no escape.

Aramis: And those fiends from the HARMA Initiative want to use it more! Only The Bishop has prevented them from doing so. He's a nice man. At least, he was until I seduced his daughter. [Thinks] And his wife. [Thinks some more] And that reaction after I bedded his granddaughter, well, suffice it to say it made seducing him all the more difficult!

Alice: [To Charlie] Isn't he just dreamy?

Austin : [Sighs] It sounds like someone's head may already be emptier than the core of the core!

Charlie: [Disgusted] I should say not! I prefer men with more discerning taste. And rather more discreet!

Alice: Austin! [Whispers] Dur is standing just there! Don't say it in front of him! [Glances back to Charlie] Like Pestilence?

Charlie: [Impatiently] What, shall we do each other's hair up in pincurls and debate which of the Reetles we like best?! [Affects an insipid, girly voice] Oh, I like that Sean, he's just adorable with all that ill-informed rebellious nonsense he spouts and those dear little round glasses of his make him look ever so smart!

Alice: [Gives a squeal of delight] That's a great idea! I must tell you, Charlie, I'm a little relieved. I thought you were going to be all [waves her hands around and puts on a gruff voice] stop having fun, we must make lots of boring plans about escape. [Back to normal] My favourite is Bingo. Did you know he does the voice on those Thomas the Frank Engine cartoons? What a sweetheart. I bet he just loves kids.

Well, he does here! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV0-xP84axQ

Charlie: Don't be absurd! We must use what little time we have to form a plan for escape! Preferably six or seven plans, ranked in order of probability of success, each of which shall have a code name so that we can initiate them even when surrounded by enemies. [To the others] Now, lamentably, I have no pencil and paper, so I will have to use this rusty nail [brandishes a bent, rusted nail] to scratch our plans into the wall of our cell. For security reasons, I will be using a language of my own invention and will arrange the plans in such a way that they appear to be no more than an innocent mural of Askew Gardens. [To Alice, gravely] Of course, I will do my best to teach you my language in case I am killed.

Alice: [Grits her teeth] Better teach me that language fast!

- sent just to me Favouritism!

Austin : [To Alice] But it may be prudent to enter the core of the =20 core with and already vacant mind, that way you have nothing to loose, =20 so how could it be painfull?

Sigh! Four years into this game, you think I'd have "reply-to-all" mastered by now!

Charlie: [To Austin] Good thinking, Mr. Sleaze! [Starts scraping the wall with her rusted nail] I'll make that Possible Plan Number 1. Have Alice teach us to empty our minds. [Inspired] We'll codename that plan "Imbecile"!

Dur: [Taps his head] Done and done!

Alice: Good idea! [Thinks for a moment] What's the codename again?

COlin's away

Harvey: [Rattles his door] By the saints! When do we get fed? This old soldier is starving, starving I say!

Aramis: Do not worry, old chap, they bring around some slop every Thursday. [To Austin] Having an empty mind doesn't mean that you won't be affected by The Core of The Core. It just means you're an idiot who gets affected by The Core of The Core. Isn't that right, Mona?

Mona: Quarter past two!

Austin : [Dissapointedly] Oh, I see.

Mona: Quarter past three!

Harvey: [Points towards Duke] And what did you say this chap was here for? Suspected of being a banned organization? What on earth is that about?

Aramis: It's true. They claim that he's a dangerous organization.

Hey everyone/Conor please pull my work e-mail off the list for a bit. I have to go get my son who is sick and won't be able to answer from work today or tomorrow. Kevin Day Receptionist =20 Hanson North America 300 E. John Carpenter Freeway, 15th floor Irving, TX 75062 =20

Tel: 972-653-5500

Fax: 972-653-5616=20 Kevin.Day@hanson.com www.hanson.com =20 =20 =20 =20

Mona: Quarter past three!

Harvey: [Points towards Duke] And what did you say this chap was here for? Suspected of being a banned organization? What on earth is that about?

Aramis: It's true. They claim that he's a dangerous organization.

Clint: [Impatiently.] Well? And which organization would that be?

Austin : [Smirks] Probably in our comic book fan club or something. Chatty fellow, is he not?

Duke: Uh, they think I'm the Jebusians.

Jebus, the self professed Son of Dog, was somehow invited to a conference on deciding who the real god is. Also present were Alice, Austin and Clint. The conference couldn't decide, but the attendees were almost killed by a "Bum", a bomb like device. Their lives were saved by Jebus throwing himself on the Bum and taking the brunt of the explosion

Jebus

Charlie: How quaint!

Alice: Why do they think that?

Duke: Because I told them.

Charlie: [Fascinated] As some sort of social experiment, to see if people would buy it? Or are you a lunatic?

Duke: Uh, neither.

[Time passes.]

Alice: [Irritated] So what was it?

Duke: An effort to save the lives of thousands of Jebusians.

Austin : A noble cause. So basically we are all good guys, and they are the bad guys, and we are in their torture chambers. [Frowns] Mona, why are you in here? What did they charge you with?

Mona: They said I was [whinely] whiney. Me, whiiiiney. I'm not whiiiiney.

Austin : [Cowers back from the door] Okay, okay, of course you are not whiney, they must have another reason.

awa hame

Clint: [Rolls his eyes.] That's the problem with you lawyers - always willing to tell a lie if you think it'll get you something!

Alice: This way we'll ALL get something, Stinky - peace and quiet from her!

Austin : [To Clint] And it is also polite, Stinky.

Aramis: Indeed sir, there is always space for good manners. However, we need to escape as soon as possible, for they will kill us all.

Austin : Does anyone have a good plan?

Alice: [Jumps up and down, holding up her hand like a school child] Oh! Oh! Oh!

Charlie: [To Alice] Yes, Miss Bassett-Short? [Holds her rusty nail, poised to take notes]

Alice: [Suddenly looks downcast] Oh. Wait. He said a "good plan, right

Charlie: [To Alice, impatiently] Do sit quietly like a good girl. [To the others] The Core of the Core sounds dreadful, so let's not go there, shall we? What are the known weaknesses of our captors, then?

[ALICE makes to say something, but thinks better of it.]

Aramis: They are deathly afraid of magic. One of the main goals of the HARMA Initiative is to outlaw it completely. If they had their way, anyone caught casting spells would be jailed immediately. That's why they love The Core so much, because there is no magic here.

Charlie: Wonderful! We have a spell-caster among us. [To Dur] Be a good chap and cast a spell to scare our captors and there's a shiny copper in it for you!

Dur: But I thought it wasn't possible to cast magic in here?

Alice: [Tuts haughtily at Charlie] Do sit quietly like a good girl. And pay attention.

Charlie: [To Alice, patiently] You clearly lack a scientific mind. Are we going to simply believe it impossible without experimentation?!

Alice: Sure, if it means I get to spend more time locked in this cell with you!

Dur: Okay. Here goes. [Does an incantation and waves his hands around, clearly casting a spell]

[Nothing happens. Absolutely nothing.]

Dur: Well, that's disappointing.

Alice: Tell me about it. My money was on you being blown into teeny tiny pieces!

Dur: I still get that copper piece though, right?

Austin : [To Dur] You could try that warping wall trick that you used to stop the Dwarves. That could take the doors of our cells off their hinges.

Charlie: [To Alice, smugly] And now we know, through experiment and observation, that magic does not work here!

Dur: That's the one I tried! I felt nothing.

Alice: Speak for yourself, Charlie, I'm concerned about the statistical validity of conducting just one experiment!

Austin : [Nods in agreement with Alice] Quite correct, Alice, I should think that at least twenty tests should be carried out before any conclusion is drawn.

Clint: Hey! Anyone good at sleight of hand? You know, that crap that stage magicians use when they try to convince you that they've pulled a rabbit out of your ass? Maybe we could make these HARMA freaks *think* that magic still works here!

Dur: [Shakes his head] I can tell you now, we're about as likely to get results from me casting a spell as a tramp is to find left over food in my trashcan. If I could afford one, that is.

Alice: That wasn't sleight of hand, Clint, it really was up your ass!

Clint: [Impatiently.] Don't try to convince me, Bimbo, try to convince them! You wanted a plan, right, and my "let's just kick ass when they come to torture us" was vetoed...

Austin : [Slightly wary] I may know a few sleight of hand type party tricks, but we have rather limited resources.

Clint: Hmm. Alright everybody, who's got something that the lawyer can magic up? Chuckles, you've got the nail... Anything else?

Alice: I have a string of brightly coloured handkerchiefs all knotted together!

Harvey : I have a stash of golden honeyed locusts hidden in my armpit!

Apologies for the silence - having a complete mare at work

Charlie: I have this rusted nail! [Waves the rusted, bent nail]

Dur: Great! Now all we need is something useful, and we'll be out of here in no time!

[The doors at the far end of The Core swing open, and GEORGE, TOM and several other HARMA Initiative members come in, heading straight towards DUKE's cell.]

Tom: [With a smile] It's time for Du-uke!

Austin : [Sounds worried] To late!

[DUKE's cell opens, and GEORGE and several of the HARMA members go in, with TOM shutting the door behind them. He then moves further over so that the party can see him better.]

Tom: [Hardly able to contain his excitement] Looks like Duke's in for it now!

Charlie: [To Duke, encouragingly] Chin up, good man! [To Alice, in a low voice] Poor doomed fool.

Alice: [Loudly] Poor doomed what?

Austin : [To Charlie] Perhaps it had escaped your notice that we are all in the same situation! [Rolls his eyes] Typical watcher, always watching, never doing. [Looks all around the cell for some insipration]

Charlie: [To Austin, miffed] Yes, I notice you've been a font of wisdom and a flurry of activity since we've found ourselves in this situation, Mr. Sleaze!

Dur: I don't see what all the fuss is about. We have these comfortable, cavernous rooms, and all the straw we can eat.

Alice: You mean that yellow stuff on the floor? I thought that was supposed to be a bed.

Clint: I thought it was a toilet!

Harvey : We can't just sit idly by, troop, and passively watch this evil occuring! [Loudly] I say, that man has the plague! Can you not see! Get us out of here this minute, before we all come down with it!!!

Alice: The plague? [Panicky] Oh no! We're all gonna die!

Tom: [Calmly] Oh, calm down. You'll all be tortured to death long before you die from the plague.

Kevin's address is back on the list, make sure he's on all mails from now on please.

Harvey : But what about you? Eh? What about you? Ending your days with lingering, excruciating agony!

Tom: Good point, but [shrugs] given that it's not true, I don't see what it matters.

[The party hear the door of DUKE's cell open. He is dragged from the cell by six HARMA members, with a hood over his head.]

Aramis: [As Duke is dragged past his cell] Duke! Speak to me! [Rattles the door]

Clint: Hey! Do you freaks really think you need six people just to subdue some insane old fool?

Austin : [To Charlie, indignantly] We, it seems as though you have not been watching either, for if you had, you would recal that I have made more escape suggestions than anyone else! [To Tom, loudly] Surely it would be much more efficient to put all of us into the core at the same time? Then you could have the rest of the day off!

Alice: [To Clint] Clearly, you've never seen Uncle Harvey after a losing streak at the annual Christmas Snakes and Ladders tournament.

Tom: Sure, it would be more efficient, but a whole lot less fun. Now, if I remember right, you had a bit of a thing about faeces, right? [Drops his pants and crouches down as the six disappear into The Core of The Core with Duke, slamming the door behind them]

Austin : [Grimaces and turns away from the door. Humerously anoyed] 'A thing', are you suggesting that I am some kind of a pervert!

Tom: No, but I am! [Takes out a newspaper]

Clint: I'll say! What kind of a pervert reads a newspaper?!

Alice: Be quiet, Clint! He might make us read it!

Harvey : By the saints troop, this is an outrageous situation to be in! Outrageous I say! Waiting here to be picked off one by one! [Clicks his fingers] I say dear niece, is it possible, by combing one rusty nail, and your pocket full of handkerchiefs tied together, that we could possibly swing it onto the latch outside, or of one of the other cells, give it a hearty tug, thereby opening the door?

Charlie: [Alarmed] But what if we lose my nail? How will I take notes?!

Alice: Don't worry Charlie, I don't think it's possible - at least, not without a well trained pigeon to drop the nail onto the latch.

[The door of The Core opens and the HARMA Initiative people come out. The party can just make out DUKE, tied to a chair facing away from the door, hood still over his head and slumped down, before the door slams shut and is padlocked.]

Tom: Time to hear some screaming!

Charlie: [To Tom] You twisted little man! How CAN you be enjoying this?

Tom: [As though he's speaking to an idiot] It's because I'm a twisted little man!

Austin : [Silently moves to the corner of the cell adjacent to the door, and stays very quiet]

[TOM rises, leaving a startlingly large jobbie on the ground behind him.]

Tom: Right. Let's move these others.

[The door to ASTRID's cell is swung open and the guards all pile in, clubs a-swinging.]

Alice: [Straining to see what's going on] Oh no! Now we'll never be able to escape - that just smells way too bad!

Austin : Eeep!

Charlie: [Utterly disgusted] Really, now! Was there any need for that?!

Alice: The only thing I've seen that was more disgusting than that was when Pestilence did it - and threw it at Austin. [Looks at Charlie and gets a little flustered] Although, I'm sure he's much nicer now.

[GEORGE and company emerge from ASTRID's cell, with her twisting and struggling, before throwing her into DUKE's old cell. Fortunately for them, the opening on that cell is still shut from when they went in to get DUKE.]

George: [Clearly having taken a few punches from Astrid and looking somewhat worse for wear] Next?

Tom: [Points to Gonzo's cell] Next.

Charlie: [To Alice, appalled] He didn't! And to think, those hands were all over m--er, that is, dangerously near me, briefly, at one stage, as we were all fleeing our pursuers, together, in a group. In public.

Alice: [Sympathetically] I know! They must have been fractions of nanometers from you - I just hope he washed them properly first!

[Before long, GONZO is also dragged from his cell and relocated in ASTRID's old one.]

Updated map:

Updated Map We have a new system for displaying maps, so please let me know if you encounter any problems. Some of the functionality isn't there yet, e.g. list of all maps but it should work for all the maps for the current action

Tom: Sleep well, my friends. [Gives a big smile]

[Exit TOM, GEORGE and the others.]

End of scene.

[Book VI, Act VI, Scene IV. The Core. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHARLIE, CLINT, DUR and HARVEY are here, as are GONZO, ASTRID, MONA and ARAMIS. There has been absolute silence from The Core of The Core since DUKE was put in there, several hours ago. The others are telling the party that usually there is a lot of screaming.]

Aramis: It is indeed a terrible place, although probably not for such brave hearts as yourselves, but young Duke has shown himself to be a screamer in the past. And yes, that huge metal door is very thick, but usually we can hear something.

Austin : [To Aramis, hopefully] Perhaps he is asleep?

Aramis: I fear that is unlikely, my friend.

[The gates open, and GEORGE enters.]

George: Time for some taunting! I do hope his screams have kept you all awake?

Charlie: [To George] Not at all! He has borne this so-called pain you inflict with quiet grit and a stiff upper lip! Perhaps you aren't the master torturers you claim, after all! [To Alice] I quite look forward to my turn, as I could use a good nap.

Alice: Yeesh. You'd imagine with all that snoring you're doing, Charlie, that you'd also be doing some sleeping!

Clint: Probably just heavy breathing, from thinking about Pestilence. You know how chicks are.

Charlie: [To Clint] Just because you find that women pant in your presence does not necessarily mean they are aroused, Mr. Scar! I think it far more likely they are merely out of breath from trying to stay away from the likes of you!

Alice: [Nods in agreement] You are pretty Stinky, Stinky.

George: [Unlocks the door] We'll see!

[GEORGE opens the door and a huge cloud of smoke pours out, engulfing him.]

Clint: [Defensively.] Wasn't me!

Austin : [Squeals, anxiously] They burned him alive!

George: [Staggers back, coughing] What the hell happened here? [Angrily to Austin] What happened?

Austin : [Panicky. To George] You burned him alive! You vile fiend! [Panics, looking around the cell for some way out]

does George tread on the crap?

George: What? Why the hell would I want to do that? [Treads on the crap] Ah, shit!

He wasn't going to, but it's funnier if he does!

Austin : [Seeing George tread on the cable, grimaces in pain and falls into the corner, crounching, hiding] Nooo!

On the cable??

George: [Sliding along for a few feet before falling backwards, smashing his head on the floor] Aaargh!

[Enter TOM and several HARMA flunkies.]

Tom: What the hell is going on here? What's with all the smoke?

Harvey : It would seem that your people are having fun by burning people alive!

Tom: [Storms over the The Core, stepping on George's chest as he does] What? [Goes in and reappears] He's gone!

Charlie: [Excited] Perhaps he found a means of escape!

You mean you haven't heard of the term 'cable' before? As in 'lay a cable'? Where have you been all your life? Quoting Conor Ryan :

Austin : [Still in a crunched up tense ball in the corner of the cell] Noo! It was magic!

Ew! On Thu, Oct 2, 2008 at 10:17 AM, wrote:

In polite company! 2008/10/2 :

Tom: [Holding the shirt that Duke had been wearing] That's right, it was magic - right here in The Core! It looks like the HARMA Initiative is right, [dramatically] all magic must be banned! [Less dramatically] And gum.

Austin : [Straining to speak, quietly] And, ... and, ... poop. [Pauses. To his right arm, grief stricken] Oh, Serendipity, I'm so sorry I got you both into this. Do appologise to Maplin for me, I just cannot face him right now. [Tears up, bubbling, as his speaks] I'm sure he'll understand. [Sobs in the corner] Tell him I'm sorry! [Goes quiet]

Tom: [Angrily] Shut the hell up! [Shouts at George] Get up and get his clothes.

[GEORGE staggers into The Core and emerges a few moments later with a bunch of rolled up clothes.]

Tom: Bring them to the warden. [Looks around angrily] This is why all of you must be put to death! [Storms off]

[Exit GEORGE, TOM and all the various HARMA people.]

Mona: He - he escaped? Wonderful! Wonderful!

Gonzo: Impossible!

Charlie: There must be another way out of the room! [To the others] Tell us all you know about the room!

Mona: It's big. And cold. [Time passes.]

Aramis: I believe it is escape proof, Lovely Lady. It is of a spherical shape, with walls three feet deep and a metal door six inches thick. It is completely bare save for a chair in the middle, that is moulded with concrete to the ground, to which the unfortunate victim is chained.

Why do I have trouble believing THAT! Kevin Day Receptionist =20 Hanson North America 300 E. John Carpenter Freeway, 15th floor Irving, TX 75062 =20

Tel: 972-653-5500

Fax: 972-653-5616=20 Kevin.Day@hanson.com www.hanson.com =20 =20 =20 =20

In polite company! 2008/10/2 : a falls

Dur: That doesn't sound too bad...

Because of the amount of time I spent in Texas in the last few years??? 2008/10/2 Day, Kevin R. (Las Colinas) NA :

Aramis: Ah, yes, that's the good part. However, they are then subjected to the harrowing nothingness that is The Core of The Core. [Admiringly] How on earth did he escape?

Burn! Kevin Day Receptionist =20 Hanson North America 300 E. John Carpenter Freeway, 15th floor Irving, TX 75062 =20

Tel: 972-653-5500

Fax: 972-653-5616=20 Kevin.Day@hanson.com www.hanson.com =20 =20 =20 =20

Because of the amount of time I spent in Texas in the last few years??? 2008/10/2 Day, Kevin R. (Las Colinas) NA : 'lay

Charlie: Perhaps he never entered the room at all? Classic misdirection!

Dur: Maybe he didn't. Maybe he's just invisible, or maybe something 'took' him.

Clint: Well, maybe he'll get back here and let us the hell out!

Austin : [Gleefully, sounding a bit bonkers] And we can all go and have a nice bath and buy new clothes!

Alice: Don't be ridiculous, Austin! Clint would never have a bath!

Mona: But where did he go? He can't be invisible - magic doesn't work here. Well, except my spell that turns me into a toad. And that's hardly useful.

Charlie: [Snaps her fingers] Perhaps HE turned himself into a toad and hopped away?!

Austin : [Manically] Perhaps he turned himself into a fly and went to eat the ..., the, ... [Goes quiet and then mutters something to himself in the corner]

Charlie: [Concerned] Mr. Sleaze, are you quite well?!

Gonzo: Oh for God's sake! Of course he didn't turn into a toad - there's no magic here! What the hell is wrong with you people?

Dur: So you're suggesting that he somehow escaped from an inescapable room leaving no trace behind what-so-ever? [Looks to Austin, twirling his finger near his head] This guy's cra-zee! [To Mona] Can you really turn yourself into a toad?

Mona: [Proudly] Yes I can!

Clint: Can you do a demonstration and hop out of your cell?

Mona: [Gives a slightly self-conscious laugh] No! [Shakes her head as though Clint has made an absolutely outrageous and hilarious suggestion]

Dur: [Looks at the rest of the party] Maybe the REAL torture is being stuck down here with them [Motions to Mona and the rest].

I know I just got back, but I'm going on a much needed vacation tomorrow! I'll be back next Thursday. Conor, after today, can you take my work e-mail off the list until I get back?

Gonzo: That's what I kept saying! She can't turn herself into a toad!

Mona: Well, I can't just make it happen, of course, but it does happen to me.

Alice: Soooo. You just spontaneously turn into a toad?

Mona: Yes.

Alice: And when does this happen?

Mona: [Gives Alice an incredulous look] Well, [emphasis] I don't know, do I? It's not like I can see myself!

No prob!

Clint: [Nods his head in agreement.] We've got to get the hell out of here!

[Enter BISHOP, TOM, GEORGE and JOE. JOE has a broken nose (from CLINT's violent and unnecessary assault back in the carraige) that is plastered up.]

Bishop: What's all this nonsense about?

Joe: It's true, Warden! These - these Path Ethics have brought magic into The Core! We must move quickly to protect the realms. A complete system of incomprehensible and ludicruous laws prohibiting the use, enjoyment and belief in magic are needed!

Kevin's work address is off the list for the next few days

Charlie: [Hopefully] Does that mean you'll be releasing us?

Joe: [Enthusiastically] Sure! Well, in the sense that we'll need to get you out of here to take you around the back and shoot you in the head.

Bishop: No one's shooting anyone in the head. [Steps into The Core for a few moments] [JOE nods gleefully at CHARLIE, doing an arrow-shot-into-the-head motion with his hands.]

Austin : [Quietly from the corner] Did they take it away yet?

Dur: Not really, but most of it is kind of walked into the ground now.

Austin : [Squeeks in terror] No no no, eek!

Charlie: [To Harvey, urgently] Colonel, do attend to Mr. Sleaze at once! I fear he may have lost his mind!

Harvey: Pull yourself together, Private Sleaze!

Bishop: [Walks back in from the cell] I need to think about this. In the meantime, clean this place up. [Points at George's blood and crap soaked head] And clean him up. Feed these prisoners. Give them more straw for their beds.

Astrid: [Annoyed] SOME straw!

Bishop: Make it happen. [Storms off, leaving just George and Spotty to look after the place]

Austin : [Pulls himself tighter into the corner, facing the corner. Quietly, like a mouse] Eeek.

Clint: [With no little distaste.] Oh, stop being a little girl, lawyer.

[After a short while, everything is cleaned up, and pieces of hard break pushed through the tiny openings in the doors, as well as some extra straw.]

Alice: [Looking at the pile of straw on top of the few crusts of stale bread] What are we supposed to do with this?

Clint: Hey! We use it to make dummies, and then when the guards come in to get us, we can jump 'em!

I've forgotten - the doors, are they just a series of bars, or actual doors with a little dealie for staring through/pushing straw and moldy bread through?

Alice: Jump the dummies? What the hell is the point of that?

Teeny tiny dealie deal

Austin : [Straightens up and cautiously peeks through the bars to see if the turd has gone. Sighs in relief. Then, smirking. To Alice] I believe that Mr Scar's carnal desires have moved down the food chain a little, from sheep to cereals, allbeit cereals mocking the human form [smirks, then frowns and flicks a little bit of straw from his overalls]

Harvey : [To Austin] I say private Sleaze, are you quite alright? You seemed not to be in control of your actions for while, there!

Austin : [To Harvey] Who me, colonel? Nooo, it must have been your over active imagination. [smirks] You must be starving, but that crusty bread does not look overly appetising.

Alice: He's right, Uncle H. I think you must have imagined him hiding in the corner, weeping.

Charlie: Yes, I think we're all agreed that Mr. Sleaze is to be pitied, and now let us move on to the matter at hand!

Alice: It had to be magic, surely? It's a great trick!

Aramis: But alas, it cannot be, lovely lady. For there is absolutely no magic in the core.

Harvey : But good sir, he must have found a way! How else would you explain his disappearance from a room which is impossible to escape by conventional methods? Eh?

Charlie: I still say it was misdirection! He never went inside! He must be tucked away somewhere. Or maybe he was never who we thought he was, and he was only a guard in disguise?

Aramis: I cannot explain it, good Colonel. It is possible, but highly unlikely that he was an imposter. Even if he was, how did he get out?

Astrid: I agree - he had to be an imposter! This is all a ploy by the HARMA Initiative to outlaw magic!

Austin : Perhaps we can set fire to all of this straw, and create enough smoke for us to escape unseen?

Clint: Great idea, lawyer! We'll just set fire to the straw, walk right out of our cells, and waltz out of here! Unless we can't get the doors open, in which case we'll set fire to the straw and roast alive!

Alice: Unless we don't have anything to set the straw on fire, in which case we'll be juuuust fine!

Dur: Except we'll still be stuck in here.

Alice: You're a real glass is half empty kind of guy, aren't you?

Dur: Half empty? I wish I was so lucky to have that much!

Austin : [To Clint, indignantly] It was only a suggestion. We could wait until the doors are open, then set fire to the straw, or push some burning straw through the grating, then push the rest of the straw through, therby setting the fire alarm off, which should, by law, open all of the doors [looks dubiously at the door], but they might not have had a fire safety inspection recently.

Charlie: [To Austin] Yes, they don't strike me as "by the book" types, I'm afraid! Perhaps we'd have better luck if we could understand how our fellow captive disappeared. Maybe we could follow suit?

[The gate opens. Enter TOM, GEORGE, SPOTTY, JOE NUNPAR and several other HARMA Initiatives. They draw out clubs and stand outside ASTRID's cell, except for JOE, who approaches the party.]

Joe: Well now. Somehow bringing magic into The Core? Sounds like the work of devil worshippers to me. I guess you're all gonna burn at the stake!

Austin : [To Joe, furiously] How can you have the cheek to call us devil worshippers when your own colleague, Tom, is a demon!

Clint: Hell, it's not like you weren't gonna burn us alive anyway, lawyer! [To Joe.] Please, Brer Joe, don't throw me into that burning fire! [Turns to Dur and gives a surreptitious thumbs up.]

Joe: Hey, it's not like I worship him or anything!

Austin : [To Joe] But you are working with him! A demon! That is against your own laws! [Rolls his eyes and turns away from the grate].

Joe: You know nothing about our laws!

[Enter the rest of the HARMANs, carrying the limp body of ASTRID, again with a hood over her head. As they pass by the party's cells, TOM gives everyone a big, cheesy grin.]

Tom: Don't worry, it'll soon be your turn!

Harvey : Are we to have a last meal?

Charlie: [To Tom, jeering] You fools! You are playing with forces you don't understand! The last person you took inside evaporated. What makes you so sure something unexpected won't happen again?!

Tom: [Sneers at Charlie] We're counting on it!

[TOM follows the others into The Core, and they shut the door behind them.]

Alice: Quick! Someone lock the door!

Austin : [Squints through the grating] Is there a latch or something that can be easily knocked across the door to lock it?

Alice: No! Damn! If only we had a pigeon right now!

[Enter TOM et al, with ASTRID tied limply to the chair, hood over her head, before slamming the door behind them.]

Tom: Now, if we come back and she's gone, well, I'll eat my hat!

Austin : [To Tom] A hat eating demon, we have not heard of one of those before. Do they rank highly in Hell?

Tom: Not as highly as amulet stealing ones!

[Exit TOM et al.]

Alice: [Calls out] Astrid! Astrid! Can you hear us?

[No answer.]

Charlie: Oh, but they don't! In fact, they rank just below the toenail clippings eating Mictlantecuhtli demons!

Clint: Could she hear us even if she were still inside that room?

Aramis: I fear not, my pungent friend. Nothing penetrates the core of The Core.

Quoting Conor Ryan :

Austin : [Musing] If Tom is getting his power from his amulet, it probably does not work in here either, so perhaps we could defeat him in here if we get an opportunity?

Clint: Yeah, but lawyer... given that he's named Tom, he must get power from his giant... well, you know.

Every time I see that name, I have to reread to make sure I know who's being talked about!

Alice: Ego? Almost certainly. You know, Aus, he only needed that amulet to get out of hell, he probably doesn't need it here. Hm, I guess there's nothing to do but wait.

[The party waits. After an hour or so, BISHOP, JOE, TOM and several other HARMAites come in.]

Bishop: [As Joe unlocks the door] This time I want to see it for myself. It is simply unbelievable that they used magic to escape.

Any time it's something bad, it's almost certainly you!

Harvey : Hmm troop, perhaps this core of the Core is weakening, somewhat!

Bishop: Impossible! The Core has lasted for tens of thousands of years!

[The door opens, and another puff of smoke comes out like before. Coughing, JOE and BISHOP enter.]

Alice: Aramis, did it always smoke like that?

Aramis: Just the last time.

Austin : [Snootily] Considering the lax safety standards in this place I am surprised that you allow smoking in the Core.

Alice: Especially with all this hard, uncomfortable straw!

[Enter BISHOP and JOE, both looking shocked.]

Joe: See? I told you! They have found a way to bring magic into The Core!

Bishop: [Looking pale] She's gone!

Alice: Dead?

Bishop: No, gone!

Charlie: [Clears her throat rather elaborately] Ahem! Gentlemen, perhaps you require some expert assistance? I am a highly trained investigator with impeccable credentials. If you would allow me to investigate the chamber, perhaps I could help you resolve this puzzling situation?

Joe: No! [Loudly] No! You are prisoners here, there is absolutely, positively, no chance whatsoever that you will be part of this investigation.

End of scene, next one coming right up

[Book VI, Act VI, Scene V. Bishop's Office. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHARLIE, CLINT, DUR and HARVEY are here, sitting on comfortable chairs, with BISHOP sitting behind his desk. There is a tray of impossibly delicate food on a table in front of the party, containing things like skewered snakes feet, honey coated flies eyeballs etc. as well a tray of tea cups. It is now ten minutes later, and the party have just been deposited here by JOE and GEORGE, who are also sitting down.]

Bishop: Please. Make yourselves comfortable. [To Joe and George] Not you.

[Exit JOE and GEORGE.]

Bishop: I think, perhaps, that I require some expert assistance.

Austin : [To Bishop] We could probably provide you with expert assistance. We would, of course, require our equipment and clothes.

Bishop: [Cold stare] Impossible. [Warm smile] Please, help yourself to some caterpillar eyelashes, they're delightful. [Gives a long, sad, sigh] I can furnish you with items that you deem necessary. Just give me a list.

Charlie: Yes, I quite thought you might. We'll need full, unhindered, unaccompanied access to the chamber, and we must have a supply of tools, including a notepad, three sharp pencils, four shovels, two pickaxes, a spool of 20-gauge twine, two magnifying glasses [to Bishop, impatiently] Why aren't you taking this down?! Oh, do give me the notepad and pencil now, and I'll make a list. That will be much more efficient.

Alice: [To Charlie] Why don't you just scratch it into his desk?

Bishop: [Hands over a notebook and fountain pen] Now, [good-naturedly] don't go stabbing anyone in the eye with this, please! Ever since poor old Patch was done over, the guards have had a big problem with that.

Austin : [To Bishop] So, how may we help you?

Bishop: This business of there being magic in the Core. Frankly, I don't believe it, but two prisoners have disappeared in the last eight hours. Unless I can come up with a plausible explanation, I fear that the HARMA Initiative will be given drastic new powers. I need you to find out what happened.

Alice: In return for what?

Bishop: Your freedom.

Alice: No, what do we need to give you?

Bishop: Uh, nothing. You'd actually be doing me a big favour. I don't particularly like HARMA either.

Clint: So we help you come up with a plausible explanation for how those two got out, that doesn't involve magic, and you let us go? Sounds fair to me! I'm sure we can come up with something!

Unfortunately, I have to take the ol' car in for an emissions test this morning, so this is probably it from me for the day.

Bishop: [Offering Clint a plate of butterfly teeth] But it has to be plausible!

Charlie: It will be plausible, utterly factual, properly documented, and well annotated!

Alice: Forget that, Charlie! Let's just do a quick search on the Winternet, copy someone else's and hand that up! He'll never know the difference! [Beams at the others, apparently unaware that Bishop is sitting right there]

Dur: [Shrugs] If it's good enough to get me a medical qualification, it's good enough for this!

Austin : [Looks horrified] You bought you medical qualification on the winternet! [Speechless for a moment] That is disgraceful!

Dur: I'll say - it cost just 40 copper pieces! I spent a fortune on my real medical training! Still, it's always useful to be able to fall back on that dental certificate, even if they did spell dental wrong.

Harvey : [Eyes the food hungrily] So tell me this, has the Core ever behaved this way before? Were there any other of these disappearances?

Limited posting from me today, unfortunately. None till lunchtime at the earliest

Austin : [Has a nibble of a spiced frog eyelash] It is possible that the HARMA are deliberately making it look like magic in the Core, in order to gain more power.

Charlie: [Sips a cup of tea and daintily eats flies eyeballs] How would that help them gain more power, though?

Bishop: [Nods at Austin's words] If they can get people to believe that even The Core has been infiltrated with magic, it will be easier for them to ban it altogether.

Charlie: No doubt it's just a clever trick, easily solved with the right personnel! Now, could we please be allowed to investigate? We've had quite enough time for snacks and so forth.

Austin : [Puts half of his spiced frog eyelash into the wastepaper basket] Indeed, one has to watch one's figure and keep in good shape for demon quelling.

Harvey: [Shovels a huge handful fruit fly eyes into his mouth] Mm!

Bishop: Certainly. What would you like to see first?

Kevin's back - make sure his address is on the list please

Austin : [Muses] Well, it make sense to examine the scene of the mystery, the core of the core itself, since it is the core of the core of the core of the mystery of the core.

:o)

Clint: [Hopefully.] A girlie mag?

Bishop: [Tosses a copy of "Biggun's" on the table] To the core!

[Soon everyone is back in The Core of The Core. It is a spherical room, with enormous thick walls and a huge metal door. In the middle is a seat to which a prisoner can be attached. The walls are plastered, so there doesn't appear to be any way of opening secret passages and the like.]

Clint: [Distractedly, glancing through the magazine as he speaks.] Hmm. There was all that smoke, right? Maybe this place is lighting people who sit in the chair on fire!

Charlie: [Goes to examine the chair] Surely there would be at least a trace of ash, Mr. Scar! And do stop reading those horrid magazines. We have work to do!

Clint: And they say girls just wanna have fun! [Tucks the magazine away and goes to look over the chair for ash.]

Bishop: There was some ash, they cleaned it up when they got her clothes.

Charlie: [Nods approvingly] Very tidy. How much ash? Trace amounts? Or a large pile, say enough to fill an urn of some sort?

Alice: And if so, how big is the urn? Big? Or really, really small?

Bishop: A reasonable amount. [Makes a shape roughly the size of a football] But there was no trace of any human remains. Oh yes, and the clothes were slightly singed.

Charlie: You found the clothes? Remarkable! Spontaneous human combustion!

Bishop: Indeed. However, one spontaneous human combustion is remarkable, but two? Well, that's just suspicious. Joe's theory is that the ash is what is left behind by them casting teleportation spells.

Charlie: Absurd! Teleportation spells do not leave this much ash. And the clothing would most certainly remain on the body of the teleported.

Harvey : Perhaps it was the intention to teleport but it went horribly wrong! Or perhaps each victim was a chain smoker?

Dur: Or MAYBE they just transmuted themselves to LOOK like ash! That way, when they cleaned out and throw away the ash, they make their escape before transmuting back into their old selves! It's brilliant!

Bishop: Brilliant it may be, but it involves magic. If the solution you come up with is only possible through magic, I fear you will be put to death before the night is out.

[Time passes.]

Bishop: You don't seem too perturbed.

Alice: It depends on what night you're talking about, I suppose.

Bishop: Tonight.

Alice: Oh. Oh dear.

Gone for the weekend!

sorry for no posts today, the promised land of internet has no border in Manchester it seems!

Austin : Oh Dear. [Sits in the chair whilst he catches his breath] Well it does look like them may have simply burned to death, which is not particularly surprising considering the fact that you allow the Demon known as 'Tom' to leave the core of the core last, after tying the sacrifices to the chair [looks down] this chair. [goes a little pale]

Alice: Let's tie Austin down and see what happens!

Bishop: It seems highly unlikely that they burned to death. There would surely have been some trace of them.

Austin : [Gets up and starts searching for secret doors/ trap doors etc] Yes it is highly likely, so the HARMA may have removed the evidence to make it look like magic.

Charlie: And it's a bit peculiar their clothes didn't burn, though I have read in some cases of spontaneous human combustion that can happen. Were either of the victims heavy drinkers? Smokers?

Bishop: There were plenty of scorch marks on the clothes, they were just fairly intact.

[AUSTIN goes around the room quickly, but it is all plastered and the walls appear to be very thick.]

Dur: Perhaps it is the chair itself that is causing the reaction? [Tentatively places a hand on the seat of the chair]

Austin : [Carefully checks the chair and the floor, particuarly beneath the chair] They could all be faked. Tom is a demon, remeber, deceit is a basic tool of his trade.

Bishop: [To Austin] Unlikely. The Core existed long before Tom came here.

Alice: [Waits for Dur to touch the chair] Bzzzzzt!

here.

Dur: [Wrenches his hand back, screaming like a girl.]

Alice: Heh heh! [Steps over to look at the chair and gingerly touches it]

it]

Dur: [Seeing his chance for retribution] BZZZZT!

Alice: [Wrenches her hand back, screaming like a little girl] Duuuuuuur! [Turns angrily to him] What the hell is wrong with you? We're in the middle of an important investigation here! I could have been killed!

Clint: Look on the bright side, Bimbo. If you were, at least there wouldn't be much left of you to clean up.

Alice: On the other hand, Stinky, if it was you we'd be in big trouble, because cleaning you up would be a mammoth task!

Clint: [Defensively.] C'mon, Bimbo, you know I'm allergic to soap and water! Anyway, Bishop, what did you do with those ashes? Maybe the doc can figure out if they used to be people?

Bishop: They're in urns in my office. I can get someone to bring them here, but be warned, there is nothing left but ash. No bones, nothing, not even a [sadly] golden tooth that could be sold off to pay for a wayward daughter's bail.

Charlie: Have you had it scientifically analyzed, though?

Bishop: As rigorously as conditions here in the jail would allow.

Charlie: [Excited] And what did you find?

Clint: Weren't you listening? They found no loose change and no golden teeth!

Bishop: [Nods] We also established that they were ashes.

Charlie: But what KIND of ashes?! Surely you could tell if they were animal, vegetable, or mineral, at the very least?

Bishop: As I said. They were as rigorously analyzed as they could be.

Alice: And how rigorous was that?

Bishop: Spotty took a taste and said he thought they were ashes.

Austin : It may also be worth while taking a look at the clothing, there may be something enlightening in the evidence there.

Alice: You mean like fire enlightening?

Charlie: [Snorts in laughter] Precisely! [Surveys the room critically] The answer must be here. We must be missing something.

Austin : Yes Charlie, two prisoners. [Examines the floor for traces of broken glass]

[Enter SPOTTY carrying two bags.]

Spotty: Here we go cap'n! One from Astrid and one from that other guy.

[Alas there doesn't appear to be any glass.]

Alice: [Takes one bag and opens it] Let's see. Just a shirt and some trousers. [Holds up the very feminine and frilly shirt] Who's was this?

Spotty: I think that was Astrid's.

Austin : [Examines the shirt as Alice holds it it up] Well, Aramis looks like the kind of guy who might wear that too.

Harvey: By the saints, I hope not! [To Spotty] Did you take Aramis' shirt?

Spotty: [Defensively] No!

Alice: How come she wasn't wearing prison garb?

Spotty: This is prison garb!

Yes, it is, I should have made that clear

shirt?

Dur: It's better than what I used to wear! [Examines the ashes to see if he can determine anything useful.]

Alice: [Looks at the other clothes] Hm, pretty much the same thing. Just a shirt and trousers.

Colin's afk today

Harvey: [To Bishop] And these are the only items that were left?

Bishop: Indeed.

Harvey: Most rum and uncanny. It reminds me of an incident back in Vietnumnum. We had a chap there, a lieutenant he was, who could build a miniature version of anything, absolutely anything. However, one day we asked him to build a miniature version of a miniature stove that he had recently built and [incredulously] he build a huge one, huuuuuge!

Dur: Though I don't know exactly how to respond to that story colonel, I can say with some confidence that there doesn't seem to be enough ash. As a doctor with experience of being forced to cremate the remains of the dead, especially to avoid a particularly invasive investigation by the authorities, human cremation tends to leave more ash than this.

Charlie: [Alarmed, to Dur] Be a good chap and get a cold compress for the Colonel. I believe his mind has finally slipped that extra little inch of the way, into madness.

Harvey: Eh? What are you blathering about now, woman? I merely said it reminded me of that story because it was rum - and uncanny!

Alice: So the ash isn't theirs? Well then, that brings up one obvious question, doesn't it? Who's ash is it??

Charlie: Must you be so morbid? Perhaps it is merely ash from a fire!

Dur: [Exasperated] How on earth am I supposed to know that!? Oh wait, of course... [Dips his pinky into the ash and tastes it, hoping his.... unique... taste can identify the remains.]=20

Alice: Well, of course it's from a fire, it's ash! Yeesh! You wanna write that down, Charlie? In case we forget it?

Charlie: Naturally, I mean a run-of-the-mill wood fire, you absurd creature!

Alice: I didn't know what you meant, only what you said!

Clint: [To Harvey.] She's going to be with you until you die, you know. [Looks around the room again.] Well, if it's not human ash, and it wasn't their clothes, what could they have burned? And why? [Looks up at the ceiling in the off chance that an escape could be made through it.]

Austin : [Sits down in the chair] Perhaps it is only apparent if the door is locked from the outside? [To Bishop] Would you care to do the honours?

Harvey: [Beams proudly at Clint] I certainly hope so, what!

[The ceiling seems to have the same seamless plastering as the walls, with no obvious locations for a secret passages and the like.]

Bishop: Certainly. [Exits, closing the door behind him and locking it.]

Spotty: [Looking uncomfortable] Er, I'm not really needed here, am I?

[It is very, very cold here, and unnaturally dark. Everyone is filled with a sense of dread, and everyone's thoughts turn to their own mortality and insignificance in a cold and uncaring universe.]

Alice: Hey! Who's finger is that up my nose? [Pause] Oh wait. It's mine. [Pause] Hey! That's not my nose at all!

no difference there then! :o)

Austin : [To Alice] Indignantly] No, it certainly is not your nose. =20 Please take your finger out of my ear this instant! [Pauses] Does =20 anyone have a light?

Alice: It certainly tastes like my nose!

Spotty: Sure thing, Cap'n. [Lights a match]

Clint: [Now illuminated, but oblivious, he continues to scratch himself and sighs contentedly.] Now I am truly alive.

Austin : [Sneers] Well, now that Mr Scar has reached the zenith of his life, has anyone noticed anything useful [Glances around] Does someone have a torch? Scotty?

Spotty: It's Spotty, Cap'n. Ah'm afraid ah have nae tarch.

Alice: How come you suddenly sound Scottish?

Spotty: Ah, hen, ah just get all salf conscious when the lights are on, ye ken? Ah, hare we go. [Lights up a torch] My mistake, I actually did have a torch after all.

[The room is fairly well lit up, and seems pretty much as it was.]

Charlie: [Goes to check the chair] Well, this isn't particularly revealing so far!

Alice: So where did the ash come from if it isn't people? And yes, I know, it came from fire, but what was burned in the fire?

Austin : [Still sitting in the chair, wriggles around a bit] The chair appears to be solid enough. Perhaps they burned some straw, or that awful bread in the fire?

Spotty: Nae, cap'n. That bread is indestructible!

Clint: Yeah, and unless they stuffed the straw down their pants or something like that, they couldn't have burned that, either. [Scratches his head, puzzled.]

Charlie: Let's think this through. The possibilities are these: they never entered the room, they never left the room, there's some way out we haven't uncovered yet, or they were disintegrated into a pile of ash so small, not even our resident [finger quotes] doctor believes it possible. Am I missing anything?

Clint: Well, why there'd be ash in here if it didn't come from them being disintegrated, or burned, or something like that. Maybe the way out only shows up for chain smokers?

being >disintegrated, or burned, or something like that. Maybe the way out only >shows up for chain smokers?

Dur: What about the chains? Aren't the victims chained to the chair? =20

Spotty: Almost! Look - [Shows some thick leather straps] They are bound with these.

Dur: [Swallows hard] Maybe we should recreate the EXACT circumstances of the disappearances?

Harvey: Good idea, Private Quack! Now, double quick time, chappie, onto the seat!

Dur: [Looks shocked] But I bruise like a peach!

I think that is my third.

Alice: Well then, that's just [stagey] fine! [Beams happily] Uh, I mean, peachy!

Clint: [Pause.] Hey, you've never had objections to bruised peaches before, Doc!

Austin : [Nodding in agreement] It is possible that Aramis and Astrid where never in here. They had bags over their heads, for no obvious reason, so it could have been to disguise the fact that it was neither Aramis, nor Astrid, but one of the Harma, pretending to be one of the unfortunate prisoners. Then they could simple leave a small pile of ash, some singed clothes and walk out in their regualr HARMA uniform, which only leave the question, where are Astris and Aramis? Still in their cells?

Dur: Well THAT certainly sounds better than strapping me into that chair!

Clint: Hey, don't knock being tied up until you've tried it! [Pause.] Not, uh, that I would know.

Unexpected hour long meeting with the boss this morning. Yay for not knowing math!

Alice: Oh come on, Stinky! Don't be coy - who here hasn't spend a weekend tied to a chair? Actually, Aus, it was Duke and Astrid who disappeared, Aramis is still there. You could be right, but surely we'd have seen what happened to Duke? Remember, they put Astrid into his cell after he disappeared.

Charlie: Perhaps there's something to that! Let us go examine Duke's cell at once!

Spotty: Good idea! [Tries the door] It's locked! We're all gonna die! [Pushes and bangs on it] Help! Help!

Austin : At least we know that this room is not sound proof.

on holiday tomorrow until the 10th Nov :o)

Spotty: It is sound proof. I'm just panicking. [Bangs on the door] Help!

Alice: Oh for God's sake. [Pulls the door in] See?

Bishop: [Steps in] Well? What do you think?

What a great life you have!

Austin : We think we need to inspect Duke's cell.

Indeed, where would we be without QVA to come back to?

Bishop: Certainly. Please, come this way. [Walks to Duke's cell and unlocks it]

Austin : [Goes into Dukes cell and has a good search around] Let me see, Spotty, could you bring your torch in here please?

Spotty: Sure thing. [Brings the torch in]

Bishop: Be careful you don't set the straw on fire.

Spotty: It's okay, there isn't any here.

Charlie: [Triumphantly] Aha! The straw is what was burned to make the ash!

Alice: Hey! What happened to all the underpants?

Clint: They were burned to make more ash? [Shrugs.]

Alice: But how come the other clothes didn't burn?

Clint: Because they took them off?

Alice: Where are they then?

Clint: They put them back on when they left! They wouldn't get very far stark naked, you know.

Alice: I think you should stop talking.

Charlie: [To Alice] At least he's trying to think this through! There must be some explanation for all this nonsense, and being quite nonsensical himself, Mr. Scar is perfectly well qualified to offer his opinions.

Clint: Yeah! Thanks, Sarge. I think. I'll go check that other cell, see if the straw is missing there, too. [Goes to peak through the door in Astrid's cell.]

Austin : Perhaps they were not wearing underpants? [Finishes searching the cell]

does he find anything?

Harvey : Or perhaps their underpants were made of straw!

Austin : [To Harvey] Remind me never to use your tailors!

of on hols, see you in 3 weeks look after Austin!

Alice: His tailor's what? Underpants? I don't think that guy ever wears underpants, Aus. At least, I never saw any.

Charlie: How on earth would you know that?

Dur: [Alarmed] Don't ask, don't tell sarge!

Alice: Oh, like your tailor wears pants, I suppose? [To Clint] Remember, Stinky, both Duke and Astrid were in this cell immediately before they disappeared. Those HARMA bastards moved Astrid in here just after Duke disappeared. [To Spotty] Uh, no disrespect.

Spotty: Aw, don't worry about it. We're a right shower of bastards. I can't stand us.

Clint: Oh yeah. Hey, why move people into this cell before moving them into the Core, anyway?

Spotty: Uh, I don't know. We never used to do that. Tom ordered it.

Bishop: That's the first I heard of this!

Clint: Maybe we should have a word with ol' Tom!

Austin: [Turns to the party with an almost indescribable level of smugness] I believe I may have found a clue. It is really rather ingenious. [Inspects his nails, sighing at their cleanliness]

Charlie: [To Austin, eagerly] Go on, let's have it!

Austin: [Dramatically] A secret passage! [Points at a stone about four feet long and one foot high] Just there. Rather brilliantly disguised, I must say. However, not good enough to evade Maplin's touch.

Charlie: Marvelous! [Snaps her fingers at Clint] Mr. Scar, let's get that hidden door open!

Bishop: [To Spotty, angrily] Get Tom and Joe in here immediately. [To the party] Good work. Very good work. [Thinks for a moment] Very, very good work.

Clint: Yeah yeah. [Looks for a way to open the hidden door and, if all else fails, gives it a shoulder.]

Austin: There is no need for such brutality. [Presses delicately on the slab, and it flips open, revealing a very steep chute that drops into darkness]

Charlie: [Peers down the chute] Right, let's have a look at this! [To Harvey] Colonel, you had better stay behind. If there's a rough landing at the end, you might break a hip.

Clint: Hey, that's why we've brought along a doctor!

Harvey : Well troop, let's not hang around, eh! Once more into the breach, and all that!

Is it a vertical drop or more of a slide?

Charlie: It's your choice, of course, Colonel. I do think you should consider what I said about your hip. At your age, these things take ages to heal! [Peers down the chute] Perhaps we could throw some straw down to cushion our fall?

Bishop: Please! Be careful! Who knows how far that drop is?

Alice: [Peers in] Well, it's a pretty straight drop down.

Dur: Perhaps we could get a bit of rope?

Bishop: I'm sure Spotty will bring some back with him.

[Right on cue, enter SPOTTY, holding a good long length of rope.]

Spotty: I thought you might need this. [Peers down the hole] You know, that probably goes right through the earth and out the bottom.

Alice: You mean out the other side, right?

Spotty: No, the bottom.

Alice: Sooo, you think the earth is flat?

Spotty: Of course!

Alice: I see.

Clint: I bet there's another entrance in the Core, hidden somewhere. [Looking around for something to tie the rope to.] Let's go! I'll go first.

Alice: Let's tie it to the door.

[One end of the rope is tied to the door and the other to CLINT's foot.]

Dom's on holidays

Austin: Perhaps it might be stupider to tie it to his neck?

Alice: Almost certainly, but this is funnier!

Charlie: Lead the way, Mr. Scar! And do be careful!

Clint: In a moment, Sarge. [Tries to walk around Alice a couple of times to leave a coil of rope around her, then starts the climb down.]

[CLINT climbs down, but ALICE does step out of the coil. He descends for a good thirty seconds, until all the rope is gone. CLINT is left hanging in space.]

Bishop: I do believe this could be bottomless.

Clint: Hell. We could be climbing for a loooong time! Someone get a torch so we can drop it down and see whether it hits bottom! [Starts climbing back up.]

Spotty: [Hands over his torch to Clint] While we're waiting, and while I have everyone here, I wonder if you wouldn't mind hearing my idea for a new torture? [Looks around enthusiastically] You know, we've got the warden here, and we've got some people about to be tortured, I think you guys could be a good test audience. If I make it big and manage to sell it on the torture circuit, I'll cut all of you in on the action. [Pauses for a moment] It's called The Slow Knock. What I do, you see, is stand outside the door, and give a slow knock. Eventually it'll drive people so crazy they'll confess to anything. Watch!

[SPOTTY exits the cell and shuts (but doesn't lock) the door. Knock.]

Alice: [As the torch is dropped down] Well, I suppose what matters is that we've proved they didn't mysteriously burn up in The Core of The Core, right?

[Knock. Pause. Knock. Pause. Knock.]

Spotty: [Opens the door, beaming madly] Is it annoying yet? [Shuts the door and knocks once, before opening it again] How about now? Is it annoying now?

Clint: C'mon, Bimbo, where's your sense of adventure? Don't you want to find out what's at the bottom of the bottomless pit? [To Spotty.] Why don't you go first?

Charlie: [To Spotty] Do stop that. It only makes me pity you, and that doesn't strike me as an effective torturing technique!

Spotty: Hah! The slow knock getting to you, huh?

Harvey: Not the knock, no, merely knocker, what! [Looks down the shaft] Well, it can't be bottomless, otherwise it would not be much of an escape route, troop! [To Spotty] You there, do you have another length of rope?

Spotty: [Beams at Charlie] Hah! Now I know it's getting to you - that's always how my wife gets when I'm close to pushing her over the edge.

Bishop: I didn't know you were married.

Spotty: Well, she's more of a girlfriend sort of thing. And, I suppose, not so much a girlfriend as a lady who lives across the street with a convenient tree outside her bedroom window.

Alice: [Looking down the shaft] Are we sure it's an escape hatch? Did Astrid and Duke really escape?

Charlie: Yes, it does look more like a Certain Doom hatch than an escape hatch, I must agree. Perhaps they were killed, after all.

Bishop: So. It's all a dirty HARMA plot.

Spotty: Aye, it's the kind of thing we would do, alright.

Bishop: Just wait until I meet Joe.

[The whole building is suddenly rocked with the sound of a massive explosion, and the fire bursts out in the hallway outside the cells.]

Alice: Uh, I think that means Joe is here.

End of scene, next one coming right up

[Book VI, Act VI, Scene VI. The Core. ALICE, AUSTIN, CHARLIE, CLINT, DUR and HARVEY are here, along with BISHOP and SPOTTY, in ASTRID's old cell. There has been an explosion in the main hallway off which all the cells lead, and, although there is some fire, there doesn't appear to be much difference.]

Spotty: What the hell is going on?

Book 6, Act 6, Scene 6. Anyone think something bad might happen??

Charlie: Something rather ominous, I fear!

Uh oh!

Dur: Perhaps we should jump down the shaft rather than face being burnt alive?!

Spotty: Hold on. I'll have a word with them. [Pops his head out the door a second, only to come back with a bunch of arrows in his hat] They said that if we surrender you guys they'll let us go free.

Bishop: Those bastards! How dare they!

Spotty: The good news is that the place isn't burning that badly, I don't think we have to jump down that bottomless shaft yet.

Clint: I say we improvise some clever weapons out of arrows and rope and kick some ass!

Austin: Excellent idea, Mr. Scar. Now, if we can fashion some damp straw into swords, we'll almost certainly defeat them!

Bishop: I'll talk to them - they're bound to listen to me.

[Exit BISHOP.]

Clint: And I suppose you'd rather run away, lawyer? [Gives Austin a disdainful look and tries to improvise a terribly clever weapon out of Spotty's rope and a couple of arrows... just in case.] Just let me finish this and rescue ol' Bishop first!

Alice: [Looks at Clint's weapon] What's that supposed to be? A ball of wool?

Bishop: [Staggers back in, wounded in the shoulder] The cheek of it all!

Charlie: [To Clint, indulgently] Yes, very impressive, Mr. Scar! Nothing stings like a rope burn!

Alice: Found that out from Pestilence, eh?

Charlie: [To Alice] Do get your mind out of the gutter and concentrate on the task at hand!

Alice: [Makes a whipping sound] Yes ma'am! Maybe we could get the others out of their cells? Fight our way out?

Joe: [Calling from out of sight] Surrender now or we'll kill you all!

Dur: [Calling back] And you WON'T kill us all if we surrender?

Charlie: [To the party] Shall we risk the chute?

Joe: Uh, well, not right away, anyway.

Bishop: [To Charlie] No! This is The Core! If you drop into it you might never be seen again!

Charlie: [Boldly] Perhaps, but think of the publishing opportunities I'll have if I survive! [Attempts to enter the chute]

Clint: [Yelling back, to Joe.] That's very comforting, but I'm afraid you'll just have to wait!

Bishop: [As Charlie disappears] No!

Alice: Well, what the hell else are we supposed to do?

Aramis: [Calling from across the way] You could free me, and I will help you defeat our enemies in a dashing and daring way.

Austin: [To Alice] Well, I'm certainly not following her into oblivion! [To Bishop] Would you please release the prisoners? We're going to need as much help as we can!

Bishop: Certainly! And as soon as all this is finished, I would like to secure your services to sue the HARMA Initiative! [Hands a set of keys to Spotty] Release them!

Spotty: Uh, aye cap'n. [Crawls along the floor towards Aramis' cell]

Clint: Hell, yeah! Like I said from the start - let's kick some ass! [Pauses.] Hey, what about the Sarge? You guys want me to go after her, tell her to get her clipboard-toting butt back up here?

Bishop: There's no point - you'll never see her again.

[Suddenly the whole building is rocked.]

Bishop: I hate to say this, but I think you should surrender. There are hundreds of guards here, as well as twenty or thirty HARMA members. There is only one way in and out of The Core, and that's where they are waiting.

Alice: Why then is the whole building being bombed?

Bishop: [Shrugs] Idunno.

Harvey : I think there's nothing for it troop, into the chute! Otherwise we'll be blasted to bits or crushed to death by falling masonry!

Austin: [Sighs] If you say so, Colonel. [Pulls his suit arm protectively over Maplin, shuddering]

Aramis: [Scrabbles across to the party] Not so, my friends! I believe that The Core itself is under siege - I saw Tom and Joe cowering in the outer chamber, clinging together like frightened little girls.

Tom: Hey! It's cold in here! We're just trying to keep warm!

Austin: [To Harvey] Perhaps we can make a retreat then, Colonel?

Aramis: Nonsense! Let's charge them down! Chase them back into whatever is attacking from the other side!

Bishop: Be careful, that man! This is one of the most well fortified structures in the entire realms, I can't imagine what dark forces could be causing all of this.

Dur: And what's to become of Charlie?

Bishop: Her body has probably been sucked through a black hole and spat out into space.

Alice: [Peers out] Hey! They're advancing on us!

Clint: [Yelling out to Tom and Joe.] Hey! Get me a sword so I can put the hurt on whoever's out there! [Quietly, to the party.] Pestilence again, maybe?

Tom: You must be joking! They're never going to get through!

Alice: [To Clint] Boy, is he going to be pissed when he finds out Charlie's disappeared!

Clint: [Nods.] That's tragic irony, that is. With luck, he'll blame those freaks outside and leave us the hell alone!

Aramis: Another disappearance! Where did she go?

Austin: [To Alice, smirking] I doubt he'll be that angry. He couldn't get away from her fast enough!

Alice: Well, she is a little wearing at times!

Aramis: They are approaching us! Let's see, there are ten of us, and twenty of them. Our only weapon is Austin's razor sharp wit and Clint's what appears to be badly knitted sweater, while they are all heavily armed. They are wearing armour while what we have can barely be described as clothes. [Smiles] I almost feel sorry for them!

Clint: Hey, don't forget this rope, and these two arrows! Hmm.. What would MacVyger do?

Alice: He'd probably step through his CigarDate and escape!

Harvey : Hmm, he always struck me as one obsessed and in love with himself! Personally, I believe he would invent a time machine out of a discarded shoe box and some hair, travel back five mintues into the past, and then admire his future selfs own buttocks from behind what!

Alice: [Muses on this] Well, he does have quite a fine ass, Unc.

Austin: [Sighs and picks a bit of fluff off his pants] So, do we face the horde or jump into the void?

[JOE, TOM and several other HARMA-ites slowly advanced, weapons drawn, as the entire tower continues to shake.]

Bishop: No! Don't jump down. Whatever is causing the ruckus beyond, however terrifying and dangerous it is, it has to be more palatable than the void.

Dur: [Thinks] So our choices are between the peace and quiet of non-existence or a slow, painful, agonizing death?

Bishop: The void is not peaceful, my lad - it is a neverending spiral of doom and despair!

Austin: But how do you know that?

Bishop: Because this is The Core - that's all that's here, nothingness!

[TOM arrives at the doorway, crossbow in hand, flanked by several HARMA-ites.]

Tom: No one move. I've got a poisoned bolt here that will kill you before you hit the ground.

[The whole building shakes once more.]

Clint: [Belligerently.] Yeah? Well let me tell you where you can stick your poisoned bolt!

Dur: Do you only have the one? =20

Tom: I think I already know where it's going! [Holds up the crossbow to fire at Clint, before turning briefly to Joe] Don't worry, once we get that big canon working again, no one has any chance of getting in. [To Dur, with a sneer] There are plenty for everyone!

[There is another massive crash, and suddenly the hallway outside the cell is filled with flying debris, and JOE, TOM and the others go flying along the floor. The party are completely shield due to being inside the cell. There is then absolute silence, save for the groaning of those caught in the blast.]

Alice: Wow! What the hell was that?

Clint: A timely rescue? Impregnable fortress, my ass!

Alice: Chastity belt, huh? [Shrugs] Whatever floats your boat, I guess, although, given that we're in a prison, it probably makes sense.

[Everyone creeps forward and look out the door. Sitting there on the barrel of an absolutely enormous canon is PESTILENCE. The canon has smashed right through the wall of The Core and the party can see that there is a trail of bodies leading up here, as well as many prisoners escaping.]

Pestilence: [With a big smile] Now, do I know how to make an entrance, or what?

Clint: [Smugly.] You're late. [Pauses.] You look terrible!

Hurrah for random lucky guesses!

Dur: Indeed. Maybe if you had been a few moments sooner, Charlie wouldn't have leapt into oblivion... =20

Pestilence: Oblivion? What are you talking about?

Sorry, forgot to say, it's a bank holiday here, so not much posting from us

Clint: It's so hard to tell sometimes! [Nods at the bottomless pit.] She went that way. If you hurry, you might just be able to catch her!

Harvey : [To Pestilence] She jumped into the Core!

Austin: And not a moment too soon. We were all thoroughly sick of hearing her swoon on about you!

Harvey : Well, she was laying it on a bit thick, I must admit! However, private Sleaze, we can't leave a member of the troop trapped in who knows where!

Pestilence: [Turns and punches Austin, knocking him down, before softening a little] Really? What did she say?

Lose 4hp Aus

Pestilence: [To Harvey, getting back to his normal demeanour] I can't go in there, but you can. [Leans in so only the party can hear] You look after her, I'll look after you.

Harvey : We always look after our troop, what! What can we expect to find down there?

Pestilence: The origin of The Core. Something so evil that the place where it took place disappeared from the earth. [Gives a smile] Hey, maybe you guys were responsible!

Dur: [Whispering to Clint] Or maybe it's where he boffed Charlie for the first time. [Shudders at the thought] THAT'S enough to tear a whole in reality.

Pestilence: Nah, but maybe the first time I boff YOU could be!

Clint: [Shudders and steps back away from Dur.] The mental picture alone might have been! [Steps up to the pit.] What are we waiting for, Harv?

Austin: [Peers into the pit and sighs] Surely there's a more civilized way to do this?

Tom: [Steps up, standing beside the gun] Stop where you are, right now!

Clint: Lawyer, can we discuss this later?

Must dash to work

Alice: There might be, but I bet this is the quickest!

Pestilence: [Puts his hand over the barrel of the gun, stretching his fingers to fill the top] You guys better go. Me and Tom have something to discuss.

Tom: Well, well, my old mate, Pestilence. Haven't seen you since we burnt down all those orphanages!

Harvey : [Looks at the others] Well troop, I think there's nothing for it. Let's get going!

Alice: [Holds open the secret door] Yikes, it's dark in there! Oh, well. [Leaps in]

Austin: [Jumps in, clutching Maplin protectively] Goodbye, cruel world!

Bishop: [To the party] Fear not, my friends. I will ensure your freedom when you return.

Clint: [Nods to Bishop.] See you then. [Takes the leap.] Geronimoooooooo....

[Exit HARVEY and DUR, following CLINT down the passageway.]

Bishop: So, uh, what exactly is down there?

Pestilence: Enormous blender. It'll chop them into pieces.

End of Book VI, Act VI, next one coming right up