“Something is not right.”
“What isn’t?” Vila asked a very nervous Cally.
“It’s a Ghost Train; it’s supposed to make you wary. You know, it isn’t really anything to do with Ghosts.”
“And you would know about this, would you?” Avon asked.
“Well, not exactly. But it stands to reason, doesn’t it? This is an amusement park, part of a long abandoned pleasure dome. They are hardly likely to put anything remotely scary in here…are they?”
“Depends what you mean by scary, Vila,” Dayna retorted.
“Look, that ride...it didn’t hurt us, did it?”
Avon rubbed his arm, still bruised from Tarrant’s over enthusiasm on the Dodgems, “You speak for yourself.”
“Yes, sorry about that,” Tarrant smiled back, “But Vila is right, they wouldn’t put anything dangerous or too scary in a place like this. That would drive away all the customers…”
“So why is it abandoned?” Cally said quietly, still looking up at the grotesque pictures painted on the overhead hoarding.
“Yes,” Dayna replied, “that does seem strange.”
“The war I expect. That has a lot to answer for…”Avon said absently, looking around at the stalls, strangely quiet, unlit and silent, but still able to exude a distinct atmosphere of malice.
“So,” Tarrant began, “Would Blake come here? If so, why. From what I gather, he was hardly the sort of man to waste his time on frivolities…”
“No….he wasn’t…” Avon’s voice trailed off. Whatever Cally was sensing was affecting him too, “I think we should leave.”
“Oh, come on Avon,” Vila
cried, “We’ve got this place all to ourselves. Why can’t we, just this once,
waste our time on friv...having fun. Look, there are some side shows here that
really look exciting. Why don’t you use your magic and switch these things on...at
least let Dayna and me have a go on them.”
Vila picked up some round wooden hoops from the stall in front of him.
reached for a gun lying discarded on the next stall.
She studied the weapon, “It really wouldn’t hurt that much…would it?”
Avon still wasn’t sure and the expression on Cally’s features only seemed to reinforce that distinct feeling of reservation about this whole park…about being here at all.
“I think we should leave…”
But Vila had other ideas.
While Avon had been seriously debating the wisdom of ever coming to this forgotten theme park, Vila had managed to find his way round the back of the stall and found the elusive ON switch. Both the hoopla stall and the shooting range lit up, and the tinny ‘musak’ once again filled the air.
“Vila! Why?….” Avon asked, aghast at Vila’s intervention.
“Because it’s here and we’re here….and guess what, the Ghost Train is open for business too. Which is more than can be said for these two stalls…no prizes. Not even worth the effort. Come on Dayna…how about a nice ride on the ghost train.”
“Sometimes, you can be just too forward…” Dayna replied.
“Not really, I scare easily and I want someone with me who I know will protect me from any nasty ghost or ghoul.”
“Even if they’re not real.”
Vila smiled and took Dayna’s hand, “Coming Cally? The more the merrier, as they say.”
Cally looked at him; his face a picture of childish innocence, “I don’t know, Vila. Something is in there…”
“Of course it is. That’s the whole point of this ride; to scare you silly.”
As he spoke a small, metal car rattled through the large doors at the end of the platform and stopped before them.
“Seems a shame to waste it,” Vila said guiding Cally into the car and then settling himself between the two women, “Now then…”
“Roll up; roll up!”
Suddenly, standing in front of them was a tall figure, resplendent in an outlandish costume from old Earth; a red coat, white breeches, black boots and a large black hat, “Prepare yourselves for a ride of a lifetime. Please keep your hands inside the carriage and firmly on the safety bar, which I will now place upon your laps.”
“Who the hell are you?” Vila gasped.
“I am your conductor; your guide…now for the ride of your life…”
As the figure spoke, two doors opened to reveal a deep blackness interspersed with swirling multi-coloured lights and the car shot forward.
“Bon voyage,” the figure called out waving the trio off.
And then it turned to face Avon and Tarrant.
They in turn both stared back at it.
“What is that, Avon?” Tarrant whispered.
“A Hologram and a very sophisticated one. It can interact with us.”
“Perhaps you can find out from it what happened here.”
“It’s a Hologram…”
“So you said.”
Avon thought for a moment. He did have questions; several. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt, even though the concept perplexed him.
“Sir, perhaps you should join your friends. You have many questions and the answers lie there in…”
Avon stared at the disembodied figure, “It is a ghost train…”
“It is more than that...it is a gateway.”
“Yes,” the figure said, putting its ethereal hand on his shoulder. Avon shuddered. The hand was solid, he could feel it. “A gateway to all your hopes and aspirations...to everything that you hold dear.”
Avon stared at the figure. Its transparent form seemed to be solidifying.
“What are you?”
“I told you…your guide…”
Tarrant’s voice distracted him for a second, but the figure remained in place, staring at him.
“Avon,” Tarrant repeated, “You need to look at this.”
“Excuse me,” Avon said sweetly, wondering why he was being so polite to a Hologram, but under the circumstances it seemed the best thing to do.
“Of course…but please don’t be long…”
Avon pondered that remark and then quickly walked back to Tarrant.
“What is it?”
“This hoopla stall.”
“What about it?”
Tarrant held out one of the wooden rings, “Seems solid enough, doesn’t it? Throw it at one of those columns of light.”
On the stall in front of him, were a number of cubes, each emitting a column of brightly coloured light which rose to about one foot in height.
“Throw it over a column and see if you can get the ring over that square base. If you do, according to the poster over there, you should get a prize…”
“…But Vila said there aren’t any prizes.”
“There is; your life.”
“I’m taller than the average customer I expect…just throw it. I just hope my reflexes are sharper than it.”
Avon took one of the wooden rings, felt its weight in his hand, “Over the column, you say?”
Avon took aim and threw the ring towards one of the columns of light. It hit the column, but instead of falling, it hovered in mid-air.
“So, I missed…”
“It’s a little more complicated than that…”
“…if the force of this ring hitting your head didn’t kill you, then this ring, once over your head and round your neck would strangle you. That’s the prize…your life.”
“And the shooting gallery?” Avon asked quietly.
“The same premise I expect. You aim for the target, but miss…”
“And the target fires back.”
“Cally was right, something is very wrong. Over here in this darkened corner anyway. The games fight back. When you play, you play for your life…”
Both men slowly turned to look at the Ghost Train.
The holographic figure was smiling at them. It beckoned.
“Any time you are ready, gentlemen. The ride of your life awaits you.”
“What do you think he means by that?” Tarrant asked.
“Exactly what he says,” Avon replied.
They were both standing on the platform by the track and opposite was the Hologram.
“We’d much rather wait until our friends finish their ride,” Tarrant said.
“Then, my friend, you shall have a long wait…”
“We could destroy this ride,” Avon pointed out.
“In fact,” Tarrant enjoined, “That might be an idea.” He raised his gun and pointed it at the Guide.
“And risk never seeing your friends again,” the Hologram said, “I don’t think so.”
“How can that thing think, Avon? It’s just a Hologram. You said so yourself.”
“So I did.”
“And you are tempted…Tarrant…” the Hologram whispered.
“How does he know my name?”
“I could go into an explanation, but it would take some time,” Avon murmured.
“….and Tarrant, the opportunity that you have longed for awaits you.”
“Don’t do it,” Avon said.
Tarrant thought for a moment, “What if I decline? Perhaps if I choose another time….”
“Then you’ll never see your friends again. It is now…or never.”
“I don’t have any choice. Cally, Dayna and Vila will remain inside this ride for all eternity…”
“I’m sure Orac and I will…” Avon began.
“Somehow, entrusting their future to you and that infernal machine doesn’t fill me with confidence.” Tarrant reholstered his gun and climbed inside the car.
“Please keep your arms inside the carriage and hands firmly upon this safety bar which I shall place upon your lap. And now, for the ride of your life…”
“Wish me luck,” Tarrant smiled nervously as the doors opened and the car hurtled into the abyss.
“And then there was one,” the Hologram pointed out as another car pulled up alongside Avon.
“There always is.”
“I should offer you this carriage…but I know that you are considering the possibilities.”
“You turn down the ride and walk away; teleport back to your ship….”
“How do you know…?”
“..and finally have what you have always wanted. Freedom. But that freedom comes at a price. Their lives for your freedom.”
“I can wait until the ride finishes; I’m not in any hurry…”
“…It doesn’t finish until the last of the group enters. If he doesn’t; then they don’t finish the ride of their life. It is very simple…”
“My life for theirs. That is what you are saying?”
“Is it a price that you are willing to pay?”
Avon thought for a moment. This was just a Ghost Train, in an abandoned theme park, but something was at work here. He didn’t believe in ghosts; just cold, hard facts. And the cold, hard facts were inside this ride. Something, or someone, had modified the basic mechanics and created something other than an innocent few minutes of escapism.
“Once I enter this ride of yours…”
“Then it is finished for them. But you have prolonged the ride unnecessarily by your questions. What they have endured may be beyond the human brain’s capacity for understanding.”
“But Cally isn’t human…”
“No, she isn’t. Is she?”
The Hologram smiled at him and then made a grand show of inviting him to be seated. It seemed so real, even though it wasn’t a solid image, but it spoke and moved exactly as a human would. It unnerved Avon.
What exactly was waiting for him inside this ‘Ride of His Life’? It didn’t bear thinking about; but then the others were no doubt experiencing something unbearable, and he was prolonging that agony.
“All right. You, or whoever is responsible for this insidious attraction, win.”
“Naturally. Only a cold hearted, selfish individual would walk away and leave his friends to their fate.”
“Yes, really. Oh, there have been those who have done that.”
“Yes, in the old days. But that did not placate the observers. They demanded, and got, a spectacle.”
“Anyone who walked away and thought that they were free was very much mistaken…they then had to run the gauntlet of the side shows….”
“This isn’t an Amusement Park is it?” realisation suddenly dawning on Avon.
“It is for those who watch, but then executions would be so very boring without some entertainment. Wouldn’t they? And I should tell you that your friend Orac will not be able to miraculously teleport you or your friends from here. It has tried several times….”
“How do you know….?”
“I know everything. Please be seated and prepare for….”
“Yes, I know,” Avon interrupted, taking the proffered seat “the ride of my life…. “
Vila’s first realisation that the ride had finally halted was when the fresh night air caught in his throat.
“Is it over? Can I open my eyes now?”
He lowered his hands so firmly clamped over his ears and decided to risk opening one eye. The car was outside again, sure enough, and the strangely garbed Hologram was standing at the far end of the platform staring at him. He turned to his left. Dayna was slumped over her outstretched hands, and to his right was Cally, her usually bright curly hair damp and frazzled, covering her face.
They were both unconscious.
“What have you done?” Vila asked the Hologram.
“I may well ask you the same question? You do not seem overwhelmed by your experience.”
“What experience? As soon as that car went through those doors I made sure I didn’t see or hear anything.”
“Your hands were supposed to stay on the safety bar…”
“Yes, I thought something was amiss, how you insisted on hands remaining on the bar at all times…I thought this ride would never end!”
“And it nearly didn’t. But your friend, Avon, finally saw the futility of the situation…”
“He’s in there?”
“Yes, and so is Tarrant. Both strong minded individuals, but even they will succumb.”
Vila turned to Dayna and tried to wake her, but her tear stained face was enough to convince Vila that she was still in the grip of a nightmare, as was Cally.
The Hologram began to make its way along the platform towards him. Vila looked for a way out and decided to climb out of over the back of the car. He didn’t want to leave the two women, but he had no choice.
“There is no escape,” the Hologram stated, “And besides, you wouldn’t want your two friends to endure yet another trip of a lifetime? Would you?”
Vila took his gun from its holster and raised it, “You stay away from them! You’ve got Tarrant and Avon; leave Dayna and Cally alone.”
For a moment, the Hologram stopped its relentless advance. Perhaps Vila’s relunctance to fully participate in the ride had thrown whatever controlled this Hologram into turmoil.
Whatever was at the centre of this entire experience had no idea what they were dealing with. Vila was an unknown quantity, but for all his bravado, he was feeling sick to his stomach.
If he did carry through his threat and shoot not only the Hologram but even its control booth where it had first materialised, there was no knowing what would happen to Tarrant and Avon who were still in the grip of this nightmarish scenario.
“Tarrant!” Vila yelled, “If you can hear me, I could do with some help…now would be a good time!!”
Tarrant shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts.
Everything had seemed so real, and everyone, including ‘him’, had had a real presence. Not a Hologram but a real, live person.
Tarrant had even felt compelled to leave the car he was seated in, to join ‘him’, but the unseen bonds had held him firm.
Then as suddenly as Tarrant had found himself facing the one person in his life whom he had looked up to, then ‘he’ was gone. The car had lurched forward, gathering speed and racing to another destination.
But it was another familiar voice that now reached Tarrant…a voice filled with fear. Tarrant took one last look over his shoulder, desperate to see ‘him’ again; but there was nothing. The moment had gone, the bonds had broken and Tarrant was now headed along another path. What he would find there filled him with apprehension. Was this another part of the ride? Another illusion waiting to greet him? To tear him apart?
The doors burst open and Tarrant was greeted by Vila…
“And about time too!”
Avon had dared not look up as his own journey through his memory had proceeded. He had heard their voices and even thought had felt their touch; but these were Holograms, weren’t they? Besides, he had persuaded himself that he didn’t need to actually see these people. He had succeeded so far in his life to avoid recalling such bitter moments and he wasn’t going to allow any machine the privilege of seeing that iron will collapse.
But this wasn’t just a machine; something was in his mind searching for anything it could use against him. Everything was being channelled through his hands, held so exquisitely tight around the safety bar.
For whose safety he wondered?
The carriage he was in seemed to slow and drift to a halt.
The other voices had gone.
Now he was alone. He looked up.
It was dark; but not dark enough to conceal the skeletons littered about the ground. Were they illusions?
“No, Avon, they are quite real.”
He tried not to show his surprise, but the presence sitting beside him in the car has already detected that slight moment of discomfort.
“Welcome to your life, Avon.”
“So,” Avon began slowly, “That was the sum total and your are the prize, Blake?”
“Who else would be here to greet you on your final journey?”
“I can think of several others.”
“Yes, I’m sure you can.”
Avon slowly turned to look at his travelling companion, “You look almost real.”
“Who’s to say I’m not? For the most part those who came before you believed me to be real.”
“Hence the rumours. You were never here, were you? Just a Hologram…”
“A sophisticated one, by your own admission, but more so than the gentleman outside."
“So others wanted to see you as well…more fool them.”
“Actually, there was only one. It was he who ‘created’ me, so to speak, but once I came into being…”
“Yes, from his thoughts. This was, at the time, a mere carnival ride. An innocent pastime. But he had heard much about it and wanted to see for himself…”
“Well, don’t bore me with the details, Blake….”
“Space Commander Travis, of course. He did try to shoot me. Which was unfortunate, but I survived and other patrons of this park came in here and saw me…hence the rumours. Don’t tell me you came here on a wild goose chase?”
“I have almost given up with these wild goose chases, but Vila insisted. He could not believe that an Amusement Park would be left abandoned.”
“At its peak this centre attracted many people from all parts of this star system...and more, but they soon tired of the innocent games. They took their custom elsewhere….”
Avon tried to move his hand, but it remained firmly secured to the so called safety bar. He began to feign disinterest, hoping that the Hologram sitting beside him would forget the lecture and move on to the inevitable.
“Don’t you want to know why?” ‘Blake’ asked
“Not particularly. I presume this is the end of the line and that you or whoever built this contraption intends to kill me.”
“So get on with it. You have me; now let the others go…”
“The arrangement was that I enter this damndeable Ghost Train and that the others would be released…”
“Released from this nightmare…but not freed. Oh no…there is more and I believe that you, of all people, would want to know the reason.”
“You are a Hologram; you don’t know anything about me…”
‘Blake’ smiled as he stepped down from the car, “I…we…all of this ‘ride’ as you call it, know about you. But you wouldn’t allow yourself to see the memories, painful as they are. Scooped from your mind by way of the interface.” He pointed to the safety bar, still holding Avon’s hands in its grip.
“I don’t need reminding…”
“But for those unfortunate devils sent here after this Amusement Park reopened for business…it was necessary; a part of the punishment. It drove many insane…”
“This Amusement Park became a killing machine. Sometimes a society experiences a downturn in its fortune and to placate the masses, something has to be done to distract them. The particular society involved in this business deal had numerous criminals and wanted rid of them…so the man who created this park invited them to send their citizens here; to be executed while the milling masses at home watched. Such spectacles can soon make unhappy people forget about their problems…but yours are over now.”
“The others…I was promised…”
“No, you thought you had made a bargain with my associate. Really Avon, did you not read the small print? How remiss. Those criminals who survive the mental torture in here are then allowed to ‘play’ for their lives. And you have seen two of the side shows on offer. There are more scattered around. Even that innocuous ride you all first experienced…it has an ugly side.”
Avon tried to pull his hand away from the bar to reach his gun…
“Even as we speak,” ‘Blake’ continued, “Tarrant, Vila, Cally and Dayna are being introduced to the other attractions. But for you, it is the end. This vehicle that holds you will begin to transform into a coffin. You will be sealed inside and there you will stay, until you die.”
“I can be very stubborn…”
“I know and there were times that some of the victims who entered here were of the same state of mind, which made the whole affair somewhat boring. It can take several days for a man to die entombed like you will be, and the spectators used to find that not exactly exciting. So you will be offered death…in time. Just as these poor unfortunates around you did, eventually. It will be quick, but painful and spectacular…”
“You haven’t explained why this park was totally abandoned. At least tell me that before I die.”
“The war. It put an end to this form of entertainment. It was closed and left to its own devices; waiting for the creator to return to his work here…or for someone naive enough to switch it back on.”
“No, Avon, that was down to you. You brought this park back to life, Vila merely completed the circuit. You really should have listened to your own forebodings and left…when you had the opportunity.”
The Hologram that was ‘Blake’ stepped back. It seemed so real. It was breathing, moving so very fluidly. Maybe it was the trick of the light, but it even looked solid.
“Don’t struggle, Avon. Accept your fate…”
Outside the Ghost Train on the platform, another struggle was taking place. Tarrant helping Vila lift the still semi-conscious Cally and Dayna from the car.
The strangely attired Hologram was quite still, watching.
“What’s it doing?” Vila asked.
“I presume it’s waiting instructions. Are you telling me that you didn’t see anything while you were inside this ride?”
“What? You must be joking. I’ve been inside one before…absolutely terrified me.”
“So why did you offer to go with Dayna and Cally?”
“Company?” Vila proffered.
As an excuse, that didn’t impress Tarrant, “You were hoping that they would be as terrified as you…”
“Okay, so it didn’t work that way. What about you?”
“I saw….saw someone I was close to, once…and then I heard you scream…”
“I did not scream,” Vila said indignantly.
“All right, but you sounded frightened enough to drag me out of…Avon’s still in there.”
“And that is where he will stay!” the Hologram announced, “He offered his life for your freedom.”
“That doesn’t sound like Avon at all,” Tarrant murmured looking towards the closed doors.
Somewhere, behind those doors, Avon was facing his worst nightmares.
“I wonder what…”
“Don’t even think about it, Tarrant.”
“And now,” the Hologram began, “It is time.”
“Time for what?”
“To face your final challenge…all of you.”
Vila swallowed, “I don’t like the sound of that.”
“No….you shouldn’t,” Tarrant whispered, “Those side shows that so interested you? I expect they are part of the challenge.”
“But there’s no harm in them,” Vila pointed out,” They’re just stalls; you know, all the fun of the fair.”
“Except, they aren’t any fun at all.”
“They kill you, Vila.”
Vila suddenly went very pale.
“You will be assisted to your chosen stall,” the Hologram said, once again moving towards them, “The Sentries will accompany you.”
As he spoke, four more Holograms appeared from the control room at the far end of the platform. All dressed in black…
“They look like Federation Guards…” Vila muttered.
“Probably picked it up from us.”
“They’re only Holograms, Tarrant, surely they can’t…”
“I’m not about to find out. Take care of Dayna and Cally….”
“What are you going to do?”
“Destroy that booth. That seems to be the centre of its power.”
Vila took Tarrant’s arm, “But you destroy that, you could kill Avon.”
“Well, unless you can think of something else…that seems the only way out of this mess.”
Vila watched as Tarrant strode towards the approaching guards. Slowly he raised his gun and fired.
All five Holograms flickered slightly, but then resumed their approach.
Tarrant fired again.
A direct hit, and again they flickered.
This time, though, the tinny ’musak’ began to fill the air, growing louder with each passing second.
Tarrant fired again. He was sure that he had hit the booth, but the ‘musak’ was now pounding through his head.
Another shot and a shower of sparks this time.
“Vila….it’s trying to disorientate me…you’ll have to do it. Vila…”
But Vila was gone. Tarrant was horrified.
Dayna and Cally were still lying on the ground, oblivious to what was going on. The musak was reaching an ear splitting crescendo and Vila had vanished.
“It seems that the others have a different idea. They will not go quietly to their deaths,” Avon pointed out to ‘Blake’ who seemed puzzled. It was a testament to whoever had created this monstrosity that even the Holograms were capable of emotions, unless of course they were merely extracting those emotions from the previous visitors to this Ghost Train.
It didn’t seem possible, but the evidence was plain to see. In another time, another place, Avon reasoned that he could have sold this advanced technology to various interested parties; once he had thoroughly inspected it of course.
But for now, he had other concerns. The creaking of metal did not bode well. The car he was in seemed to be changing. What had ‘Blake’ said? A coffin?
‘Blake’ turned to face him, “The Sentries will take care of your crew.”
“They’re your crew too, you know.”
“They are Blake’s, so in a way, they are mine. But you should be considering your fate, Avon. By now most men would be begging…”
“I’m obviously more resilient than most men…”
“Your memories tell me different. Even though you could not face them; I did. You’ve done many things Avon, some of which hurt you…”
“If this is part of the torture, then please don’t bother…”
“And do you really hate me?”
Avon didn’t reply. The metal was closing in on him. Slowly coiling around his legs and upper torso. His hands were still in the grip of the interface, refusing to move.
“Before you are sealed up inside your coffin, you will be asked if you would prefer a quick death. These poor souls that you see around you, they were stubborn, but then realised the futility of their defiance. There will be no escape, Avon, once you are sealed in death will come slowly. It will be a long, drawn out agony…and I will watch, every second, every minute…”
“At least Blake had the decency not to gloat…”
The Hologram that was ‘Blake’ suddenly shimmered.
“Something wrong?” Avon asked.
And then he was gone.
Tarrant stared down the barrel of his gun.
The Holograms had vanished, the ear splitting music had stopped and the lights had suddenly dimmed. In the distance, only the Dodgems ride seemed oblivious to the rapid change of events.
Tarrant slowly turned round and came face to face with a very happy Vila.
“How?” Tarrant asked
“It’s called an OFF switch…marvellous invention. Now when you’ve quite finished, maybe we should think about getting Avon out of this ride and getting these two young ladies back to the Liberator.”
Cally and Dayna were seated on the steps that led up to the Ghost Train. Each were keeping their experiences to themselves; whatever or whoever they had seen inside that ride had drained them emotionally and all they could do was sit still, both staring at the ground.
It was quite dark now, and it was getting colder, but even the now hushed Ghost Train still seemed to exude menace.
Tarrant and Vila were at the far end of the platform, studying the firmly shut door.
“I saw some of the victims in there, Vila,” Tarrant was saying, “Just before….Some were hung up, others were encased in something. A coffin, a metal coffin. Others were just on the ground in grotesque postures…Didn’t you see anything?”
“No….and I’m very glad that I didn’t.”
“What if Avon…I mean when you threw that switch, what if he was…?”
“Facing the same thing as those poor devils?”
“Someone will have to go in there…”
“Don’t look at me,” Vila said bluntly.
“No…somehow I thought you would say that. Make sure Cally and Dayna are all right…and then switch off that other ride over there. It’s making me nervous.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Blast open these doors and run headlong into danger,” Tarrant replied. He looked at Vila and smiled a very tired smile, “Isn’t that what I usually do?”
Avon pulled the last of the metal from his legs and cursed the pain from the cut on his hand. It had taken some effort to release himself from the partial coffin, but at least he had had the opportunity, unlike the poor souls whose remains were scattered around this part of the track and the others who were still just about visible in their own metal tombs; lined up against the wall.
The twisted minds behind this scheme for dispatching their unwanted prisoners must have worked overtime to accumulate so many bodies.
He tried to peer through the gloom to see exactly how ‘Blake’s’ Hologram had been projected. But he could see nothing. Given time he could discover the secret of this device; a device which now held his secrets.
The pain in his hand drew his attention.
He had to find his own way out of this nightmare and the tracks leading off into the all-encompassing gloom were the only tangible answer.
He took one last look at the spot where ‘Blake’ had taunted him. Slowly he began to walk away, his hand clutched to his side. What was waiting for him outside?
More to the point, exactly where was outside?
Tarrant had tried his bracelet several times; to contact Orac, Avon…but still no response. Something was still blocking all contact, possibly the one ride which had lured them into this mess in the first place. Until Vila had found the shut off mechanism then it would keep them from ever getting back to the Liberator.
He was staring at the doors contemplating his next move, when he became aware of Cally standing next to him. She was still quite pale from her experience and Tarrant didn’t particularly want to know that that experienced was.
“He’s lost,” Cally murmured.
“Cally, how is Dayna?”
“She went to help Vila…..”
“Cally,” Tarrant continued softly, “if you are up to it, I need you to tell Avon that I am going to blast these doors wide open. The last thing I want is for him to be standing behind them…”
“..and in pain.”
“Just tell him…”
“How can I be sure that he hears me?”
“We don’t. We could wait for whatever is shielding this place to dissipate, but if he is hurt, then we may not have time….”
Cally closed her eyes…
Avon was sure he heard something, but considering where he was it was possible that some back up circuits were still operating. The dull glow of the emergency lights did little to light the way and he was slowly edging along a wall hoping that it would lead him out.
There it was again, in his head.
Trying to tell him something?
Somewhere behind him was that noise again…or was he imagining it?
He turned to look back into the darkness, vaguely illuminated by the dull red emergency lighting, but even that was fading. Suddenly he heard someone or something pounding on metal. And it was quite close. He reached for his gun, mindful that his right hand was now throbbing with pain.
It was Tarrant.
“I hear you.” But Avon’s reply merely echoed round the cavernous edifice.
“Take cover.” Cally’s voice again.
Take cover? Why?
His answer came seconds later as part of the wall just up the track suddenly imploded sending debris through the tunnel and throwing him off his feet.
When the dust cleared, he realised that he wasn’t alone.
“So you made it.”
Tarrant was staring down at him, making no effort to reach out a helping hand.
“I almost didn’t. Thank you.”
Tarrant shook his head, “I can’t take the credit for another man’s work.”
“Yes…he switched it off.”
Avon got to his feet, dusting the debris away from his knees.
“You’re hurt…” It was Cally.
“Just a cut; my mode of transport disagreed with me.”
“The car?” asked Cally.
“They should rename it the Death Ride,” Avon said, “It transforms into a coffin….”
“That would save a great deal of trouble,” Tarrant pointed out.
“So, after all that, was it worth it? Blake was never here…”
“Oh he was…and still is.”
“Blake is in here?” Cally asked.
“Not as such. This device takes memories, experiences…”
“And you saw Blake, but that doesn’t explain how the rumours started.”
“That was down to Space Commander Travis. He came here some time ago, when this was an Amusement Park. Obviously looking for something to take his mind off Servalan. He actually shot the Hologram….”
“How do you know that?” Tarrant asked, a hint of disbelief in his tone.
“Blake told me.”
“Blake TOLD you. Avon, that was…is a Hologram. They don’t do that!”
“This sort of Hologram does. Just think, the technology required to produce this…”
“I don’t want to think about it,” Cally murmured.
“Neither do I, Avon,” Tarrant agreed, “This technology nearly killed you. How did this Blake explain that?”
Avon shook his head. “As with most things, the paying public tired of these simple, old fashioned games and rides. It fell into disuse until the creator of this theme park was persuaded to use it for a more insidious matter. A society with a bubbling mass of unhappy citizens who needed distracting. And they got it. Their overflowing prisons used to provide entertainment…”
“I don’t believe this…”
“Tarrant, this entire complex is…was a killing machine. We were lucky…”
“You can say that again,” Vila said, appearing through the gloom, “I finally got through to Orac, there are three Federation Pursuit ships heading in this direction, followed by a transporter of some kind. We’ve got to leave…now.”
“This technology…” Avon began.
“…Should be destroyed. I don’t know how this thing works, but it has my memories and experiences somewhere inside it and I’m much rather not have those shared with anyone,” Tarrant said defiantly.
“I agree,” Dayna added, her face still showing signs of seeing and experiencing something very distressing, “And I’m sure Cally shares those sentiments.”
“We don’t even know where the heart of this machine is,” Avon pointed out, “This Ghost Train is only a portal, a gateway…”
“Well, it’s all turned off now,” Vila smiled.
“Somehow, I don’t think that will solve the problem,” Tarrant said, “We need to destroy it; now; completely.”
“This technology is very advanced; in time….”
“We don’t have time, Avon, we’re leaving now. Let’s just hope that I’ve managed to damage it to some small degree.”
“I doubt you’ve barely touched the surface…”
“Now wouldn’t that be unfair….”
As the teleport began to take hold, they could hear laughter; from somewhere in the distance, a continuous, hearty sound of laughter…
…And in a darkened corner, lined with ancient arcade games, long forgotten by the original builders of this park, was a glass sided case. Inside was a wooden figure of a man; a man with a grotesque countenance. White, with garish colours emphasising his features; his attire somewhat worn, but that of a long time past Harlequin. He was sat on a throne, his wooden hands clutching the ornately carved arms.
His jowly face was set in a wide grin.
And he was laughing; rocking backwards and forwards in his dimly lit case…laughing.
* * *
© 2015 LaraSue-Lectori Salutem