Chapter the first
It was a beautiful Autumn day and Heather was having a birthday party. The sun was shining brightly upon the shores of Lake Gurley Biﬃn and birds were twittering away in the nearby forest. Heather’s loving brothers had brought along their charming friends and she was receiving all the attention she could want. She didn’t even have to dance about singing ‘Look at me, look at me’ because people kept on talking to her and wishing her a happy birthday.
The young people had decided to take an easy stroll along the lakeside, and all was going swimmingly until one of Heather’s loving brothers came over to give her a gift. Heather very much liked receiving gifts and quickly shredded the paper to reveal a beautiful necklace. It had an exquisite (one must always use the word ‘exquisite’ when describing jewellery) chain that rippled in the light when it moved—like ﬁne silk. The pendant was a dark sapphire set in intricately wrought silver. The setting seemed to twist in upon itself in impossible ways and made Heather dizzy looking at it. Staring at the gem, Heather felt as if she were shrinking and falling into a dark pit.
Heather may not have fully appreciated the workmanship in such a gift, but there were a number of young ladies in the party who needed to be politely reminded that mouths are best left closed. Meanwhile, Heather somehow remembered enough manners to thank her loving brothers for the birthday present and put on the necklace. The party began walking again and Heather was delighted to ﬁnd that people kept coming up to her and asking to look at the gift. They had not got far however, before there was a great splash from the lake. It was followed by a great roaring noise, like the squealing of a baby pig would sound if it were slowed down and ampliﬁed until it distorted. Everyone whipped around to see a giant slug monster had risen from the lake and was undulating towards them at great speed.
The party did not have any time to react before there arose another great hullabaloo from the forest behind them. All heads whipped around once again to see two rather angry looking hippopotami burst through the undergrowth and into the park. The reason for their anger appeared to be the fact that there was a very ﬁt looking young lady standing with one foot on each of their backs and pulling on a pair of reigns. She was wearing what can only be described as a breastplate in the most literal sense of the word. Her ﬁery red hair (for one cannot have a red-headed heroine without ﬁery hair) streamed out behind her and she stood upon the backs of her hippos with a relaxed air, rather like an aristocrat waiting to be picked up by a gilded carriage.
One of the more vapid young ladies in the party could not keep herself from stating the obvious and exclaimed excitedly ‘It’s Princess McKenzie!’. The princess let out a wild war-cry as the hippopotami bore down on the party with even greater speed than the slug monster. After a mighty pull on the reigns the great hippopotami ploughed to a stop. Princess McKenzie, however, did not. Springing lightly from the backs of her hippos she sailed gracefully over the heads of the party (performing far more somersaults than were strictly necessary), drawing her sword from behind her head in mid air. She landed solidly on the slug monster’s head and drove her sword deep into the area where one would expect to ﬁnd its brain.
Green ichor erupted from the wound as Princess McKenzie withdrew her sword and leapt back to earth. Not bothering with the somersaults this time, she landed in a dramatic pose in front of the Heather and her loving brothers. They all stood and watched as the monster lashed about in the shallows before letting out a ﬁnal moan. Finally it lay down and died.
Everything went quiet as Princess McKenzie turned to face the group. There was not a spot of slug-goop on her and every hair was in its proper place. They waited with bated breath for the Princess to speak.
‘Would any of you have a spare napkin? It’s just that I need to clean my sword.’
Instantly a dozen handkerchiefs appeared, hanging from the extended arms of charming young gentlemen. Princess McKenzie took the nearest one and and proceeded to thoroughly clean her sword. Everyone watched politely while she ﬁnished the task. This done, she held up the handkerchief, which was giving oﬀ black smoke and rapidly disintegrating. ‘Um, I’m sorry about your handkerchief. I’ll have to buy you a new one.’
She was hastily reassured that it was quite all right and one of Heather’s loving brothers stepped forward. ‘Princess McKenzie,’ he said, ’It’s lovely to see you again. We’re ever so grateful for your, er, assistance with the slug monster. A truly magniﬁcent piece of work.
‘May I introduce my sister Heather? Heather, this is Princess McKenzie.’
Princess McKenzie smiled graciously. Heather stood with her mouth hanging open. It stayed open for a good many minutes while Heather’s loving brother introduced the Princess to the rest of the party. There was some polite chit-chat for a while and Heather began to resent the fact that she was no longer the centre of attention. She was just muttering ‘It’s my birthday’ under her breath when there was a rather loud exclamation from Princess McKenzie. ‘Oh, it’s Heather’s birthday! How lovely! Happy Birthday! How old are you?!’ (The princess seemed to be one of those people who use far too many exclamation marks when they talk). ‘I’m ever so sorry that I don’t have a present for you,’ continued the Princess, ‘You simply must come and meet my hippos though, they’re such dears.’
And so, Heather found herself walking arm in arm with the Princess while she told the others grandly: ‘Heather and I are going for a little walk. You shall have to ﬁnd some other way to entertain yourselves until we get back.’
They soon reached the hippopotami, who were standing in the shallows well away from the slowly melting slug monster, munching on water plants. When they saw Heather and the Princes coming, they obediently trotted out of the water to meet them. ‘Heather, this is Tigris and Euphrates. Tigris, Euphrates, this is Heather.’
The hippos stared at Heather menacingly. ‘Oh they like you! I’m so pleased,’ exclaimed the princess.
Heather wasn’t convinced by this. ‘Are you sure?’ she asked.
‘Oh yes,’ replied the princess, ‘You can tell because they haven’t tried to rip your arms oﬀ.’
Happily for Heather, Princess McKenzie took her arm again and they moved away from the hippos. A change seemed to have come over the Princess. She kept drawing in breath as if to say something, then would think better of it and walk on a little more. Eventually she spoke.
‘Your brothers and their friends, they’re awfully… um… gentlemanly, aren’t they? I mean, they’re ever so polite all the time and… kind of… nice, don’t you think?’
Heather went into a state of shock. A female, who until recently seemed quite sane, was apparently talking to her about ‘boys’. She couldn’t think what to say. She stammered a kind of ‘mneuh?’ but couldn’t manage anything more coherent. The princess however, did not seem to notice.
‘You don’t think I over-did it do you? I mean, your brothers especially, they all seem quite capable. You don’t think I should have just left them to deal with the slug monster by themselves do you? I mean, I wouldn’t want them to feel like they were being shown up by a woman. You don’t think I should have maybe, let them join in a bit do you? Like maybe I should have just kind of weakened the monster a bit then sort of let them kill it or something? So they felt like they were being useful?’
Heather managed another ‘mneuh?’ before Princess McKenzie spoke on.
‘Yes, you’re right, I know your brothers are more mature than that, but I do so want them to like me. I was brought up in a family werewolves you see, and my brothers thought it was the height of etiquette to eat out of a bowl instead of just ripping a carcass up on the ﬂoor. Your brothers and their friends are, well, a completely diﬀerent species.’
Heather opened her mouth then closed it again.
‘Yes, I know, people will like me for being me, not for being somebody else and everyone’s been ever so kind and friendly. You don’t need to tell me, I know I’m being a little paranoid, but everyone has silly thoughts every now and then, don’t they? It’s not easy you know, being a princess and all. You never know what people are expecting of you.’
The princess paused for a moment, then seemed to brighten up again. ‘Let’s go back to the party. It’s been so nice talking to you Heather—it’s so sweet of you to listen to all my worldly woes—and on your birthday too! I’m so glad to have met you.’
So they re-joined the party and Princess McKenzie once again became the centre of attention. Heather did not really notice this, however, because she spent the rest of the afternoon trying to ﬁgure out what had just happened.
Chapter the second
Several days later, Heather was wandering vaguely about the shops in the city, trying to decide how to spend the rest of her birthday money. She had already bought (and eaten) enough sugary things to make herself feel quite ill, and had no idea what else she could spend her money on.
Lost in her thoughts, Heather was startled to hear someone calling her name from some distance down the street. ‘Heather! Heather! Oh, how lovely to run into you like this!’ Heather looked up to see Princess McKenzie waving and rushing up to her. The Princess was dressed quite diﬀerently from when Heather had last seen her. The breastplate and sword were gone—replaced by a stylish blouse and jacket—and her hair was tied back in a neat bun. Heather was at a loss to explain how anyone could yell and wave at someone in the street and still look so incredibly cool and sophisticated.
Heather managed to remember her manners as the Princess reached her. ‘It’s very nice to see you, er, Your Highness.’
This princess gave a dismissive wave of her hand, ‘Oh please. There’s no need to be so formal—we’re friends. My, that is a lovely necklace you are wearing. Did your brothers give it to you? What are you up to this afternoon? Please tell me you don’t have any plans. I simply couldn’t bear it, for you absolutely must come and meet my friend the professor. He’s ever so funny and he has such an interesting workshop.’
Having no reasonable excuse and not knowing how to say ‘no’ to the princess anyway, Heather found herself following Princess McKenzie’s conﬁdent footsteps through a maze of quiet alleys and back streets until they arrived at an un-remarkable old warehouse in a street full of unremarkable old warehouses. They knocked on the door and after a few moments it was opened by a man in a lab coat.
Heather was not sure what to make of the man in the lab coat at ﬁrst. His head sprouted a rather large amount of curly dark hair and there was a very vague expression on his face. He seemed a little surprised by the appearance of two young ladies on his doorstep and had to think for a second. ‘Ah yes, Princess McKenzie isn’t it? My goodness, is it four o’clock already? It is Tuesday isn’t it?’
The Princess laughed and kissed him on the cheek in a very princess-like manner. ‘Of course it’s Tuesday,’ she smiled ‘It’s my visiting day. And look, I’ve brought a friend with me. Her name is Heather. Heather, this is the Professor’.
‘I’m very pleased to meet you Professor, er,’
‘Just call me “Professor”’, said the Professor, ’It saves the trouble of having to remember names.
‘Well, come in, come in. Can’t be standing in the door all day. Not that it isn’t a very nice day to be standing in the door. Oh dear, did I use a double negative? I was never very good at grammar. Well isn’t that a lovely necklace. Very pretty indeed. Now where did I put that book?’
They stepped into the workshop and Heather’s mouth dropped open in awe. It was huge, and cluttered with all sorts of things just crying out for Heather to ﬁddle with them. In one corner was a group of benches covered in books. There was also some kind of small scaﬀolding, soldering irons and various bits of electronics. Nearby were several strange looking ironing boards, arranged neatly against the wall. In another corner was what appeared to be a brightly lit greenhouse containing lots of exotic plants. Another corner contained a lathe, milling machines and several other pieces of serious-looking machinery. There were benches covered with Bunsen burners and various bits of glassware that looked like they had come straight from a B-grade horror ﬁlm. And computer screens were scattered all around the place. One of the walls was host to a number of aquariums full of brightly coloured ﬁsh and amphibians. What immediately drew Heather’s eyes however, was a big, green steam engine in the centre of the room, sitting on rails that ran along the length of the workshop.
Once inside, the Professor bustled oﬀ to look after something at one of the work benches and Princess McKenzie followed him around, chatting happily. She didn’t seem to notice that the professor hardly realised she was there. He would mutter ‘Oh, that’s nice’ every now and then, and this seemed to keep the Princess happy.
Heather’s mammoth curiosity was spinning wildly out of control at this stage. She could hardly keep herself to a walk as she went over to peer at the ironing boards. They looked just like ordinary ironing boards, except that the board part was much thicker, and the part where the legs were hinged had some sort of casing around it, with slots for the legs to move freely. On the underside of the board was a big red button.
Of course all sensible people know that when faced with a large red button, the last thing you should do is press it—at least, not without asking what it does ﬁrst. Sensible people also know, however, that this requires a great deal of self restraint—something Heather was sadly lacking in. And so, of course, Heather pressed the button.
There was a whirring noise for a couple of seconds then the ironing board folded itself out onto its legs, ready for use. Heather stood watching it warily for a moment, but the ironing board just sat there. She peered underneath it and all around the sides, trying to ﬁgure out what it did, but there was nothing one wouldn’t ﬁnd on an ordinary ironing board. A little disappointed, Heather turned around and went to look at something else. She had not gone far however, when a noise made her turn around. There behind her was the ironing board, travelling along rather like an inch worm. She kept walking and to her delight, the ironing board followed her around like a lame puppy.
The professor appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. ‘I think they’re rather cute, don’t you? Much easier than having to lug them round the house all the time.’ The professor walked over to the ironing board. ‘Can’t have it following you about all day though, you’d like to do some ironing for me?’
Heather was about to say that she wouldn’t mind doing some ironing if that meant that she got to play with the ironing board, but the Professor had already reached over and switched it oﬀ. ‘Come and have a look at how the plants are going,’ he suggested. Heather thought that looking at plants was about as exciting as hand-washing her mother’s underwear, but was too scared to say so. She followed the professor over to the greenhouse and was surprised to ﬁnd that the plants were actually quite interesting. Many of them were carnivorous and would snap at her ﬁnger if she tried to touch them. Others had furry leaves that smelled of jelly-beans when they were stroked.
Being quite used to hearing strange voices in her head, Heather was not surprised at all when the tomato plant began talking to her. ‘Bonjour jeune dame, parlez-vous Français? Pourquoi m’incitez-vous à penser aux pommes de terre?’
Unfortunately, Heather did not speak French, and so had no idea what the tomato said, but she was most surprised when the Professor acted as if he had heard it too.
‘They’re terribly rude those tomatoes,’ said the Professor, ‘They know perfectly well how to speak English but insist on speaking in French anyway. Don’t talk to them for too long or they’ll start trying to sell you their newspaper. William comes in on Thursdays and types it up for them. It’s really just a lot of self-congratulatory propaganda, but, it keeps them occupied.’ He said something to the tomatoes in French then. It sounded like: ‘Si vous dites un plus de mot au sujet des pommes de terre, je mettrai des coléoptères dans votre pot et vous vendrai à EuroDisney’, but Heather had no hope of ﬁguring out what it was.
Heather had been so distracted by all this that she hadn’t noticed until now that it had become quite dark outside. She was just about to go and ﬁnd Princess McKenzie when suddenly all the lights went out. A couple of seconds later several red emergency lights came on. There was a whirring like many pieces of machinery coming to life. Heather looked up and saw that metal shields were slowly dropping from the ceiling to cover all the benches. At the other end of the room, several coloured lights began ﬂashing on a computer screen.
‘What’s happening?’ asked Heather predictably.
‘Oh nothing terribly drastic,’ replied the professor, ‘probably some international terrorist organisation trying to steal things again. It’s starting to happen rather a lot these days. I can’t imagine why.’ As he was speaking, the ironing boards lined up against the wall activated themselves. A small hatch opened in the top of each one. Soon, Heather and the professor were facing a row of automatic weapons and rocket launchers, mounted on the backs of a dozen ironing boards. ‘Well, there is that,’ said the professor. ‘Now if you and Princess McKenzie would be kind enough as to get up on the train—’
At that moment something smashed through one of the high windows of the warehouse It hit the ﬂoor and began to give oﬀ huge amounts of smoke. Princess McKenzie appeared by Heather’s side. All traces of vagueness had vanished from the professor’s face. ‘Both of you get up in the driver’s compartment now. Princess, I need you to drive.’
The professor sprinted around to the front of the engine and somehow detached the front of the boiler—or what appeared to be the boiler. With the front removed Heather could see the turbine blades of a very large jet engine. Princess McKenzie pulled Heather into the train. She ﬂipped a switch and several panels slid back to reveal a confusing array of more switches. The Princess ﬂipped another switch and Heather saw a large hatch open in the ﬂoor at one end of the warehouse. Underneath was a ramp sloping down into an underground tunnel. Before the smoke closed in, Heather caught a glimpse of the train tracks extended down into the darkness. Another switch and the engine started. Heather could see it sucking in the smoke in front of them.
It was getting hard to breathe. Another smoke grenade smashed through one of the windows. Heather began to cough uncontrollably. ‘Go!’ yelled the Professor, ‘There’s a military base at the end of the tunnel. They should keep you both safe until I come and get you.’
‘You’re not coming?!’ exclaimed the Princess.
‘There’s something I need to attend to. Now GO.’
Glancing at Heather coughing and rolling around on the ﬂoor of the compartment, Princess McKenzie released the brakes and they shot forward into the darkness.
Chapter the third
Heather was thrown against the back wall in a most inelegant manner as the jet-train accelerated down the tunnel. Princess McKenzie was managing to say upright but Heather could see the whites of her knuckles gripping the controls. Eventually they settled to a more constant speed and Heather slid down to the ﬂoor. She got up to look where they were going, but there was nothing to see but blackness beyond the small patch of light illuminating the tracks in front of them.
As darkness has a habit of doing, it seemed to go on forever. Heather felt as if they were travelling for hours. In reality it had only been about ﬁfteen minutes before they started to see yellow, ﬂashing warning lights attached to the walls. Princess McKenzie slowed the train to a more sedate pace. Up ahead they could see a steadily growing circle of light.
The tracks ended in a huge room that was far too brightly lit. This did not worry the two young ladies so much as the large number of uniformed people who were pointing large guns at them. Princess McKenzie said something reassuring to Heather, but she was too scared to listen. Shaking from head to toe in a blind panic, Heather opened the door and slowly climbed out of the train, trying to keep her hands in the air as much as possible. When she reached the bottom she managed to turn around and hold her arms in the air for a good two seconds before collapsing into a quivering heap on the ﬂoor.
Princess McKenzie stepped out of the train warily (but still very elegantly) as someone in a more formal uniform than the others stepped forward. ‘Who are you? Where is the Professor? Why are you on his train?’
In a very calm and sensible voice, Princess McKenzie explained that something had tripped the security sensors at the workshop, moments before the power was cut. She described how someone had ﬁred smoke grenades through the window and the Professor had sent them on the train.
‘Where is the Professor now?’ demanded the in-charge-type-person.
‘I’m afraid we don’t know Sir,’ replied the Princess.
The in-charge-type-person began to yell orders. ‘LOWER YOUR WEAPONS. I WANT A TEAM UP AT THE WORKSHOP FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO. If you ladies would kindly come this way.’
Princess McKenzie helped Heather up and they followed the in-charge-type-person while around them soldiers rushed about turning the train around and moving it onto a siding while another, sleeker jet-train was moved into its place.
Heather was still quite shaky. With a massive amount of concentration, she managed to form a coherent sentence. ‘Does the Professor work for you?’ she asked the in-charge-type-person.
‘Not exactly,’ he answered, ‘Were interested in making sure that the Professor’s work doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, so you see that it’s imperative that we locate him as quickly as possible.’
The in-charge-type-person led them to a small, sterile room with a table and four chairs in it. Heather had seen enough television to ﬁgure that the large mirror on the wall wasn’t just for decoration.
‘Forgive me, I haven’t introduced myself.’ said the in-charge-type-person. ‘My name is Commander Blybottom. If you will kindly wait in here, I need to make sure we ﬁnd the professor. I’ll have someone bring some refreshments in shortly.’
Heather went to pieces at this stage. She began giggling uncontrollably. ‘His name had “bottom” in it. Tehehehehehe.’ Princess McKenzie sighed and sat down to wait.
Eventually Heather calmed down enough to become extremely bored. Princess McKenzie was not her usual, chatty self. She’d gone all introspective and thoughtful since they’d been asked to wait in the room. The door was, of course, locked but this did not stop Heather trying it every ﬁve minutes ‘just in case it’s only stuck.’ She took to making faces at herself in the mirror, hoping it would make anyone on the other side of the glass feel uncomfortable.
After what seemed to be an eternity, a uniformed man opened the door and came in with a tray of tea and coﬀee things and a plate of biscuits. Heather leaped upon the biscuits as if she hadn’t eaten in days. When she paused from shovelling food into her mouth long enough to look up, she was startled to see the man wink at her. She was even more startled when she realised she was looking at the Professor—so much so that she almost sprayed biscuit crumbs all over him. He had cropped his hair short somehow, but it was deﬁnitely him. Heather hadn’t realised until now that he was actually quite young. Turning his back to the mirror and leaning over the tray, he held his ﬁnger to his lips and slid a folded piece of paper under the plate. Heather was about to snatch it up but he grabbed her arm gently and shook his head, ﬂicking his eyes towards the mirror. Then he stood up and left, closing the door again behind him.
‘Sit down and talk to me Heather,’ said Princess McKenzie, patting the seat beside her and pouring herself a cup of tea. Heather sat down as directed and slowly realised that she was sitting between Princess McKenzie and the mirror. The princess began chatting away about all sorts of things—asking about Heather’s brothers, talking about various brands of moisturiser and excitedly describing a pair of toe-ended, stripey socks that she’d bought that morning. Then she began talking about nail-polish and leaned forward to display her nails on the table. Heather also leaned in to examine the nails. Still chatting merrily away about her ﬁngernails, Princess McKenzie reached under her arm and slowly drew out the piece of paper. Heather kept leaning forward while Princess McKenzie unfolded it:
Do not trust Commander Blybottom. He set up the attack. Will come and get you soon. Stay put.
Princess McKenzie kept on chatting away. Heather couldn’t believe that one person could talk so much yet say so little. Soon, her eyelids began drooping and her head felt far too heavy. She thought she would just rest her eyes for a little bit when Commander Blybottom came storming into the room. Heather jumped and her chin slipped oﬀ her hand, banging painfully on the table.
‘Where is the Professor?’ the Commander demanded.
‘You didn’t ﬁnd him?’ said Princess McKenzie in an innocent voice.
‘My chin hurts.’ whimpered Heather.
‘The professor has disappeared and apparently the last people to see him were you two. It is very important that we ﬁnd him so if you have any idea where he might be, any idea at all, I need to know about it now.’
‘He said he would come and get us,’ said Princess McKenzie, all but pouting.
Just then another uniformed person came rushing into the room. He seemed a little out of breath. ‘Ah, Sir?’
‘What is it?’
‘We, um, seem to have a situation sir. If you could just come- ’
‘What kind of a situation?’
‘Well Sir, you see… there um,…’
‘Come on, out with it man.’
‘The compound Sir, it appears to be surrounded by a herd of pink elephants Sir.’
The Commander’s military training seemed to take over here. His eyes had a glazed look about them but his voice was authoritative and certain. ‘Right. You follow me. These two ladies will have to wait.’ So saying, he left the room, leaving Heather and the princess locked in again.
They had not been waiting long when suddenly the lights went out. Seconds later the door opened, letting in an eerie glow from the emergency lighting in the corridor. The professor’s voice spoke from a shadow in the doorway. ‘Quickly. Put these on.’ He handed them a lab coat, clipboard and pair of glasses each.
‘What’s going on?’ asked Heather.
‘Follow me and I’ll explain on the way. I want to get as far as possible before the lights come back on,’ said the Professor, ushering them into the corridor. ‘The Commander was planning to keep you both as hostages to get to me. I had to create a diversion to get you both out of there.’
They had reached the end of the corridor and were turning into another when the lights came back on again. Heather could hear people yelling orders somewhere in the distance and the sound of running feet. They seemed to be in a quieter part of the compound, however. ‘This is the research wing,’ explained the Professor, ushering them on, ‘I did some work here a year or two ago.’
They passed rooms full of computers and various pieces of electrickery. Most of the rooms were dark and quiet, but a few contained people staring at computer screens, completely engrossed in their work. There was not much time for Heather, to take all this in however because they were hurrying along quite quickly. They had just turned into a new corridor when the Professor and Princess McKenzie suddenly stopped. Heather looked up to see Commander Blybottom at the other end of the corridor. All three turned and ran back the way they had come.
‘We’ll have to split up,’ panted the professor, ‘try and get back to the train if you can.’
This sounded like an incredibly stupid idea to Heather, but there was no time to argue. The other two had sprinted oﬀ along side corridors. She could hear people running and yelling behind her. Giving an ear-shattering scream, Heather ran away as fast as she could. Heather was very good at running away screaming—she had had a lot of practice. Eventually though, she realised that the screaming probably wouldn’t help her if she wanted to hide. With a great eﬀort, she managed to stop yelling and keep on running.
Turning a corner, Heather found herself back in the science wing. Checking that no one was behind her, she ducked into a darkened room and hid beneath a desk.
Heather began to cry. Tears trickled down her face as she tried to stiﬂe her sobbing. She was lost in a strange military base and had no idea where her friends were. She wasn’t even quite sure how she’d become mixed up in all of this. There was no hope of her loving brothers showing up either, they would have no idea where she was.
Heather went on quietly sobbing in the dark for quite some time before she noticed the faint glow coming from her clipboard. Looking down, she saw that it was not really a clipboard at all, but was actually a very thin computer screen. On it was a map of the compound. Not only was there a map, but she could also see three small dots representing her, Princess McKenzie and the Professor. Heather was surprised to notice that she was actually not very far from the large room with the train and the Professor appeared to be there already, while Princess McKenzie looked to be hiding like she was.
Sniﬃng and blinking away her tears, Heather got up and peered into the corridor. She couldn’t hear or see anyone looking for her, so she stepped out into the corridor and began walking cautiously in the direction of the jet-train. Glancing at her map, Heather noticed that Princess McKenzie had begun moving again too. She was surprised to ﬁnd that there was hardly anyone about in the corridors. All noise of pursuit had died away. No-one seemed to be looking for her at all.
Heather reached the room with the train and hid herself behind some conveniently placed crates. She soon saw why there appeared to be no one looking for her. There was some sort of ﬁre-ﬁght going on between the Professor (who was on the train) and various soldiers—except the soldiers were the only ones ﬁring bullets. With a look of grim determination on his face, the Professor was pointing what appeared to be some kind of ray-gun at the soldiers. It made no sound and didn’t really appear to shoot anything at all, but the Professor would point it at someone and they would collapse and lie still. The only evidence of the weapon’s use seemed to be a red mark on the skin—about the size of a tennis ball.
Heather couldn’t decide what to do. She was sure that if she tried to get to the train someone would shoot her. On the other hand, if she stayed here someone was sure to ﬁnd her and shoot her anyway. She slumped back against the crates and stared at the ceiling lost in thought. She was wondering how much it hurt to get shot when a movement caught her eye. Princess McKenzie was up in one of the air conditioning ducts. While Heather watched, the Princess slid the grate aside then dropped lightly to the roof of the jet-train and swung herself into the driver’s compartment.
Heather watched her give the Professor a quick princess-kiss on the cheek, then begin to start up the engines. A couple of soldiers tried to get to the tunnel entrance but the Professor shot them before they reached it. ‘They’re going to leave without me,’ thought Heather to herself. She decided she’d have to run for it and risk being shot. Suddenly, Heather was grabbed from behind and a gun was pressed to her head.
‘HOLD YOUR FIRE’, came the voice of Commander Blybottom. Keeping Heather between himself and the Professor, the Commander dragged her out into the open. ‘I suggest you drop your weapon,’ yelled the Commander above the roar of the engine. ‘You may want to turn that engine oﬀ too Your Highness’.
Looking at the Professor’s face, Heather suddenly became very much more afraid. His eyes were ﬂashing brightly but his face remained like stone. Slowly, an evil smile spread across his face. This was the quiet, controlled anger of a killer. He raised the gun and pointed it at Heather and the Commander. In a very, very calm voice he said ‘Let. her. go.’
‘Perhaps you don’t understand,’ replied the Commander in a sarcastic voice, ‘You see, I’m pointing a gun at your little friend’s head and you can’t kill me without shooting her ﬁrst.’
A number of things happened very quickly then. The professor shot ﬁrst Heather then the Commander, one after the other. The Commander fell to the ﬂoor and Heather felt her necklace growing very warm. Then she fell to the ﬂoor too and began to wonder why someone had dropped a sheet over her head. Everything suddenly felt very dry and hot. There were loud thumping noises coming from somewhere and she had an overwhelming urge to curl up into a ball and hide.
What had actually happened was that Heather had turned into a turtle and was sitting underneath some of her own clothes. Princess McKenzie leaped out of the train and dived to where Heather was. Performing a neat roll, she picked up Heather and the necklace, then leaped back into the train. The professor released the brakes and the jet-train shot forward into the tunnel, followed by bursts of ﬁre from the soldiers behind them. They were soon out of range though and the ﬁring stopped.
‘You didn’t really kill the Commander, did you?’ asked Princess McKenzie as they shot through the darkness.
‘Kill? What? No, this is a stun ray. Surely you’ve watched enough science ﬁction to work that one out? No, he’ll wake up in a couple of hours with a small patch of sunburn and an intense hatred for anything magnetic.’
‘What happened to Heather then?’ asked the Princess.
‘That stone of hers that she wears around her neck, it disrupts electro-magnetic ﬁelds in ways we don’t quite understand. Her brother was helping me do some research on them a little while ago so I had the necklace made up for him. I had a feeling something like that would happen.’
‘Should we change her back? Can she be changed back?’
‘Oh yes, it’s quite simple to change her back, but I wouldn’t do it now. I don’t think she’d be very comfortable without any clothes to wear. The eﬀects will wear oﬀ in a couple of days anyway.’
They shot out of the tunnel onto open tracks then. The Professor let Princess McKenzie and Heather oﬀ at a quiet station then shot oﬀ into the night. Princess McKenzie took Heather home to her family and explained how she had been turned into a turtle and what had happened. Heather’s loving family were most relieved to have her back and thanked Princess McKenzie warmly. It was quite late (or very early) by this stage and they invited Princess McKenzie to stay the night and rest before she went home. Princess McKenzie, however, politely refused. ‘I’ve got to go home and feed my hippos’.