HH Hanging

I don’t even know how to fall properly.

“I’m coming back up to get you!”

If you wouldn’t mind is what I wanted to say. Having jumped with a rope looped around my waist, it pulled taught and left me bent double, dangling and swaying in the wake of the Tallneck’s wandering. The wind had been knocked out of my lungs, again, but was fighting for space in my throat along with what felt like my lungs, my vocal chords, any excess neck flesh, and everything I’d eaten in the last few days.

What really escaped my mouth was:

“Blurll. Burr. Gahh.”

I’d lost my top hat in the whiplash. Aloy had managed to rescue it from an impending Tallneck hoof, and presumably still had it on her. I hoped she was wearing it. Now featuring a wildlands savage motif, complete with old English Victorian: for when you have to hunt machines at 7 and open a factory at 8.

These sort of thoughts revealed just how much blood was pooling into my skull. Another random one, encountered like an odd item floating down a murky river, was how amazingly skilled Aloy was at tying knots. This one had caught my bulk during a heavy descent and still held, leaving me like a puppet struggling in the billows of its long coat.

Somewhere nearby were sounds of physical exertion, as Aloy made her second climb up the Tallneck – this one even faster.

I became aware of something in my upside-down coat pocket knocking against my head. It took several attempts to get my hand going in the right direction, so messed up by gravity, fatigue and a mostly unfamiliar position, but I managed to reach the pocket. My fingers wrapped around the cool metal of the sonic screwdriver and extracted it.

There was a brief tug in the rope. I twisted my neck, focusing my attention upwards, looking into the greatly concerned face of Aloy.

Don’t worry, I’ve got this. “Dergle werrlee gert thers.”

I held the sonic tip against the rope, and activated it.

Aloy was halfway through what I assume was the sentence “What are you doing?” when the rope snapped at the point I’d been sonic-ing. Particle excitation, weakening structural integrity of interweaved fibres – an admittedly specific setting I never thought I’d need.

“HH!”

HH.

AKA: the man who took two attempts to fall off something.

Who also sincerely hoped that his Pause( ) ability was prepared…

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Truth Atop the Tallneck

It was a smooth, faultless, stress-free climb.

For one of us.

Aloy led us to a high rise in the land, to bring us in line with the Tallneck’s back, shoulders and hip joints. She took a running leap off some rocks, grasped one of the bottom signal relays ‘spines’ that led up its tall neck, and began to climb.

I gawped at her like someone at an acrobatics show. Her movements were so fluid and sure. She even made it look easy; demonstrating agility, reflexes and strength that put me to several shades of shame.

I then proceeded to body-slam onto the Tallneck’s back, knocked all available wind out of my lungs, and everything just sort of shambled along from there.

Some time afterwards – exact details have been omitted to preserve at least a little dignity – I joined Aloy on the wide, round radar disc that served as the Tallneck’s head. I bobbed and swayed slightly in the motion of its passage, but once sat cross-legged like her, I felt safe enough. There was an interface connection point in the centre of its head; we sat either side of it. Aloy took another rope from an abseil point secured at the front of its head, and I looped it around my waist. I tied a knot; she then proceeded to tie a better one.

Thus we sat in peace, as the world stretched and swayed out and around beneath us. I did my best to conceal just how badly I was out of breath. Many different creatures in the evolutionary chain are good climbers, plus several people, and I am undoubtedly not one of them.

“What do you think?” She seemed to wait for my breathing to calm down first, but it could have been a coincidence.

“It is, rather spectacular.”


 

Before we progress any further, let there be a Confession: I was wrong, as it turns out. (I’m not the type of person who refuses to admit when they’re wrong; it happens far too often to be denied or ignored.)

This is Earth, Odyssey got that much right, but my prediction that it was an Earth that had never suffered experienced the influence of mankind proved incorrect. It required great attention to detail, a whole lot of scrutiny, and access to Google Images on the Q.U.A.R.K, to discover what Aloy called home was actually in the American regions of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Naturally beautiful places where, in the right spots at least, one could be forgiven for assuming they had the planet entirely to themselves.

One such as myself. I did say could be forgiven.

During our walk, however, I had learned that humanity was still alive and somewhat well, but had somehow been set back several centuries. Where I would have expected flourishes in technology and construction, instead the camps and sanctuaries we had passed contained wooden huts, denizens dressed in scrap metal, their main concern: hunting before nightfall.


 

Something had happened to mankind. That was the overall conclusion I settled on, now I had the opportunity to sit, rest, and think. Some kind of event, or possible disaster, had resulted in a “reset” wherein there were no flying cars, no underwater cities, no Huxley-esque breeding factories. Instead: a bunch of evolutionarily-stunted savages who prayed to the sun, feared the dark, and had a refreshed obsession with metal. A reversion to a Cavemen period, state-of-the-art robots notwithstanding.

My fascination with this place grew by the second; its beauty and its mysterious history that had potentially run backwards…

“You sure do frown a lot when you’re thinking.”

So far lost in the realm of thought, I faintly jumped when Aloy spoke. “My apologies. That’s what it looks like when I try to mash ideas together. It’s my vain hope of making something in the realm of a theory. Once I’ve got one, I can test it.”

“Sounds like an obsession.”

“There is no such a thing as too much information.” Just those who are unwilling to accept the answer.

“You sound like Sylens.”

“Silence? I’m rarely silent, there’ll be plenty of time for that when I’m dead. Before that untimely event occurs though, I plan to learn the truth about this place.”

“What’s the theory so far?”

I expressed my ideas on a planet-wide reset. When she looked surprised, impressed even, my hearts twitched. “Am I close?”

Aloy stood. “It’ll probably be easier to show you. Come on.” She ran forwards to the abseil point and leapt off from the Tallneck’s head. The seconds during and after her doing so were spent by me sitting in a stunned silence. I flinched at the sudden appearance of a grappling hook latching itself to the abseil frame.

“She jumped off first,” I said to myself, as if saying it aloud would help believe it, “then she threw and attached the hook?” That to me would appear in the Abseiling Handbook as Rule 1, under Things Not to Do. And, why is it that such recklessness is also so undeniably cool?

I crawled on my hands and knees and peered over the edge. There she was, safe and sound on ground level, beckoning up at me to follow.

I sat back and glanced at the Q.U.A.R.K. Pause( ) would provide an express elevator option. Stop time before hitting the ground, and we’ll go from there. She might as well find out about the whole ‘superpowers’ thing sooner, rather than later.

I jumped.

Less than two seconds later, I remembered the rope was still tied around my waist…

HH

The Land That Time Upgraded

Aloy and I passed literal hours walking and talking, swapping answers as payment for the deed to ask another question. On the path we walked, dense alpine forestry turned to wide and sandy deserts, which in turn became snow-scattered plains and mountain-ranged tundra to the south. Populating all of them, in all kind of shapes and some terrifying sizes, were the robots.

Aloy preferred to call them ‘machines’. She would point out the various types and name them, as we crept by Watchers, Sawtooths, Lancehorns, Shell-Walkers, Longlegs, Tramplers and Ravagers. Their labelling system suggested 31st century humanity valued simplicity.

The robot names were quite plain and literal, yet still contained enough power to distil fear when necessary. Certainly, the word ‘Thunderjaw’ worried me, though not nearly as much as when I saw the damn thing. Someone, or something, had anthropomorphised several Japanese fan-fictions at once and created the ultimate end result in robotic dinosaurs. Ignoring the lack of two small arms, it basically was a mechanised Tyrannosaurus Rex, kitted out with disc launchers and cannons.

We paid the Thunderjaw the widest berth, though not without my looking back to study its enrapturing beauty at every possible moment.

When the way seemed clear of machines, at least for a while, we would walk again normally and resume the conversation as if it hadn’t paused.

“Good thing you know how to use stealth,” Aloy confided, as we finished sneaking through the umpteenth patch of long grass. It appeared to be cover enough to hide from the robots. I was fortunate to have packed hayfever tablets.

“You don’t reach one-thousand-five-hundred years without relying on discretion now and again.”

“You’re a thousand years old?”

“A thousand-five-hundred, yes. A thousand, five-hundred-and-something, I lose track. My turn! Where are we going?” I probably should have asked that sooner but I’d wasted most of my questions on each robot’s abilities, Aloy’s backstory, and where one would acquire a wooden staff. Everyone else had one. I would like one too.

“A thousand years old, though.”

I waved an airy hand. “Meh, this planet’s over seven billion years old, I’m nothing compared to that.”

“You don’t look that old.”

“Nor does the planet, but there we are. About the question I just asked…” Never try to distract me from an answer, it doesn’t work.

Aloy didn’t strike me as the type to sigh often, but I could tell she came close then. “We’re going to where I was heading, before your arrival interrupted things. I’ve been tracking a HADES breach.”

There are an infinite number of ways to arrest my fullest attention, and this one was added to the list. “And what, pray tell, is a HADES breach?” My shameless and over-excitable brain conjured images of a buried Hell location bursting out of the ground, like an earthquake but with extra brimstone and a Grecian God of the Underworld.

“It’s a virus. One like the corruption I told you about. It takes over the mind of machines and controls them, makes them feral, and even more dangerous. I managed to shut the HADES signal down, but some traces were left behind. I need to destroy them before HADES tries to return to its original strength.”

My over-excitable mind quickly tore down the canvas, on which it had been painting its own version of a HADES breach, threw it aside and went back to thinking. While I was admittedly a bit disappointed, she still had my attention.

“A disembodied remnant of a rogue AI interface……and you’re going to hit it with a stick.”

Aloy tapped two metal attachments on her staff. “That’s what these are for. They contain the code that destroys it, I just need to know where to put it. I hope that screwdriver thing of yours will help too.”

“Riiiiiight. I did wonder why you let me tag along.” Aloy is an obvious advocate of ‘works better alone’. It’s a trait I recognise, first and foremost in myself, then in others. I don’t believe for one iota of a second, however, that it is always the better option.

“You didn’t have to join me.”

“Are you kidding? You saved my life. I make sure to stick with people who do that.” My eyes roamed the sprawling landscape, landed on something in particular that was a little hard to miss, and grew ever so slightly wider. “Also, ask me another question.”

“Why?”

“That’ll do – because I need it to be my turn.” I pointed towards the machine I’d spotted. “What is that thing?”

To emphasise just how easy it was to spot my target, Aloy didn’t ask me to clarify. “That one’s called a Tallneck.”

Mark up another point for simplicity.

“It’s beautiful.”

And it was. Standing tall, very tall, about three stories high, was a colossal giraffe-like machine. It had a radar dish for a head, horizontal from the neck joint, like someone had crashed a UFO into its skull. Signal relays stuck out from the back of its neck almost like spines. Like all the other machines it had outgrown, it was armoured in white panels.

Its behaviour and demeanour suggested that the Tallneck knew, without doubt, that nobody was going to try anything untoward against it. It showed in its gait; the confident and calm stroll, the slow grace of a real giraffe, sure and secure in its dominion over all. The Tallneck seemed devoid of weapons, which just proved my point. It didn’t need them.

I watched it a few moments, and chuckled.

“Something wrong?”

“Hmm? No, sorry, I just…I have this thing for ‘gentle giants’.”

Groot. Pan*. The Iron Giant. Toothless. Songbird, and Big Daddies, when they’re in a good mood. Stephen Fry. Optimus Prime. Dragonite. Lennie. Ents. Rubeus Hagrid. John Coffey. Snorlax. Hellboy. Totoro. Brian Blessed. K-2SO. Don’t ask me why. I just, genuinely love them.

“Would you like to climb it?”

I snapped my head round to look at her. I have heard gunshots and looked round more slowly. “Oh my god, yes.”

HH

* Of Pan’s Labyrinth.

The Huntress and the Homeless Helper

My life had transitioned into a sudden blur of ground, sky, ground, sky, gnashing metal teeth, followed by some more sky, and a swipe of landscape; all caused by the robotic thing barrelling into me, then throwing me about – too like an animal toying with its prey.

I put some distance between us and turned to face it, and in what was perhaps not the safest decision, I took a few more moments to look. I might have even stared a bit.

“You are gorgeous.

A humped quadruped robot, animal in behaviours; akin to a wild dog or large cat – Hyena, my thoughts threw at me – but one that had been re-imagined in cutting edge technology and white panelling. Beneath its armoured exterior, the manufacturing put into it seemed almost biological, yearning for “real life” in a delusion of grandeur that would make Isaac Asimov shudder. The way it moved and flowed, it was a symphony in robotic design, not some humanity-grade unimaginative production of mathematics. I would have been willing to bet that a human did not design it.

Because, in my most basic of terms, it just looked cool.

And, with two glowing red eyes, it also looked murderous. Two piercing lamps were set in place in its metal skull, above a crusher-like mouth of two rotary blades covered in spikes, held in a close formation. These looked capable of grinding up metal. My bones would stand even less of a chance.

This realisation is what stopped my ‘fan-girling’ over the machine that appeared destined to kill me.

It stalked about in front of me, padding this way and back again. It never took its eyes off me, its saw-jaw clicking as if preparing for its chance to devour me. My brain was on mass-download, trying its best to remember everything it knew about hyenas, beyond what I’d seen in The Lion King. ‘Pack animal’ emerged to the surface, so if I wanted to survive this thing, time was of the essence. A longer wait could mean a bigger group.

I moved my hand, drifting it towards my coat to equip the sonic screwdriver, entirely forgetting the No Sudden Moves rule. It was cue enough. A metallic roar, a flurry of front legs and lunging back ones, and the robot tore towards me. I turned to run, back into Odyssey.

That’s when I saw her.

She was running on the upturned base of my ship – though sprinting seemed more accurate. Ginger hair tied in dreadlocks flew backwards in her wake. I couldn’t see her face yet; my attention was drawn to the large staff she was bringing around to strike. Her legs bent beneath her. She leapt as though weightless, soared over my head, towards whatever was chasing me. I followed her arc, watching her fall and, upon turning, I saw the monster within a metre of reaching me.

Her spear reached it first, buried deep into the middle of its neck joint. She landed a moment later and managed to stay upright as the robot slumped to defeat beneath her, releasing death throes of blue sparks and the whines of dying machinery. A rendering metallic scrape, as she extracted the spear with the ease of someone plucking a blade of grass.

Kill made, she knelt next to the fallen machine and proceeded to loot it, removing from the exoskeleton various components and small shards of metal.

The section of my brain dedicated to manners and politeness, one usually left to fend for itself, calmly cleared its throat and pointed out that once again, someone else had saved my life.

Trouble is, when someone has just saved your life, showing gratitude feels like it should include something more than the two words ‘thank’ and ‘you’.

Other trouble is, I can be horrendously awkward when I least expect it.

“Nice stabbing skills.” Oh-so-smooth, HH.

She turned to face me, at least giving me the chance to commit my saviour’s face to memory: young, brown-eyed, freckled, alert. A lot of wisdom and attentiveness in the face, and equipped with a staff, bow, and quiver. Handmade armour, which seemed to involve similar white panels to the robotic beside her. Explorer. Hunter. Scavenger. Survivor.

And thus, the robot was no longer the coolest thing in the vicinity.

“Let me try that again. Hello. Thank you. I mean you no harm,” I said, ticking them off my fingers. Fingers four and five are usually ‘what planet is this?’ and ‘where is the nearest restaurant?’

My saviour walked straight past me, and fixated her entire attention on my smashed, upside-down ship. Looking over her shoulder, I couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed, yet amused, at how much he resembled a flipped and helpless tortoise.

“And you came here in that thing.”

I stood to the right of her. “That I did.”

“I tracked your arrival, after I heard you hit the mountain” she said, pointing her staff over the landscape. I followed her line of sight and peered towards the top of the snow-covered peaks, picking out one peak in particular that wasn’t quite as snow-covered as the others. Not coincidentally, an avalanche was falling below it. “Not that it was too difficult, for me or that Scrapper. You made more noise dropping out of the sky than a broken Stormbird.”

Scrapper. Stormbird. My immature mind latches onto these kind of terms like a five-year old being handed a chocolate bar. I’d have to save questions for later, much like the one regarding the small triangle-shaped device I’d noticed was clipped to her right ear.

“Nobody else flies around here, I gather?”

“No-one dresses like you, either.” Too like a master archer, she wasted no time getting straight to the point. I waited for her next word to either be Who, or Where.

“What-” is as far as she got. The cry of a new machine, overhead, drew both our attentions skywards. It sounded like the perfect blend of an avian shriek and an alarm klaxon. I saw a robotic bird with the wingspan of a small plane, and a chainsaw in place of a beak. It hovered in the sky, with more skill and grace than Odyssey should have had.

“Is that one of the Stormbirds?” For someone facing danger for the second time in five minutes, I might have sounded a little too fascinated. This new arrival was equally gorgeous, like the smashed hyena-machine nearby; another phenomenal development in robotic design.

“Glinthawks,” she informed me, taking her bow in hand. “They’re attracted to scrap metal, and they never hunt alone.”

Sure enough, two more ‘Glinthawks’ were approaching from behind us, gliding over the lake. I could almost feel it as she tensed beside me, like detecting a sudden change in wind direction. I watched her in my peripheral vision, saw her draw back an arrow with a flaming tip. The sort of weapon that promotes short, swift business.

I didn’t want to miss another opportunity. In the brief time before the nearest ‘Glinthawk’ lowered to within an attacking distance, I had my chance to take out the sonic screwdriver. Her arrow came back further, ready to fire, making the bow-string creak. My hand rose and I activated the sonic before she could fire. The bulb at its tip glowed orange, it released its trademark buzzing sound.

And the Glinthawk dropped like a dead-weight. I had just enough time to register that its eyes had switched off, before gravity served its departure.

I would have assumed that any flight-based robot would have shock-absorbing counter-measures, although perhaps not capable of surviving a dead-drop from over fifty feet, and onto the robot’s head. It (crash)landed and shattered in a flameless explosion of metal. I whirled on the spot and executed the advancing pair in the same manner. They had the lake to land in but, gauging by the two soaking explosions that followed, water didn’t help much.

She lowered her arrow, her bow, and lastly her defences, suddenly too fascinated by the sonic in my hand. Her gaze marked it with intrigue and maybe even greed in her eyes. After all, I had brought her a device capable of switching off the native machines. The advantageous equivalent of showing up to the battle of Hastings with a missile launcher.

“How did you do that? What is that thing*?”

“The answer to both of those questions is a sonic screwdriver.” She opened her mouth to respond, no doubt to ask what is a sonic screwdriver”, but I got in first. “Now, seeing as we’re both asking questions, shall we start with your name?”

“I’m Aloy.”

“Pleasure to meet you Aloy, my name is HH. You see? An answer for an answer, if that works for you?”

“It does, and that counts as your next question.”

I couldn’t help but smile. This looked extremely promising.

HH

* There is only one way anyone ever has questioned my multi-tool sonic screwdriver, and they always include the words “what”, “is” and “that”. “Thing” is an added bonus.

New New New Earth

Odyssey didn’t quite make a “landing”. Nor did he crash. Most crashes involve an unexpected stop and an unwanted level of forward momentum. That isn’t what happened to us. Once we’d shot clear of the Causality Convergence, and things calmed down by at least two percent, we arrived in the new location and proceeded to make the most exuberant and tumultuous arrival possible.

Start as you mean to go on, I suppose.

We shattered through the atmosphere in a series of barrel rolls, glanced off what seemed to be a nearby mountain, struck what I assume was a tree – maybe several trees – span out, and came to an eventual rest, upside down, next to a lake. Or a reservoir. Or the sea. All I know is, we heard a large splash. And whether accidentally or deliberately, I shall never learn which, the artificial gravity had been switched off. This meant that my Mystery Tour started with my being treated like a sock puppet in a washing machine.

I pushed a filing cabinet off myself and got to my feet, taking stock of just how many other things besides me were now on the ceiling. The interior’s domed ceiling, now inverted into a bowl, held every single loose item left in the console room. I felt a bit like I was wading through a ball-pool, one made a lot more painful by the addition of hardback books and very-recently-broken teacups.

Also, turns out I own a lot more shoes than I originally believed.

“Odyssey, damage report?”

Damage report diagnostics: non-functional.

“Terrific. Tell you what, run a ship-wide scan-”

Done it.

“Good, then access the black box mainframe-”

Done it.

“Right. Now-”

Done it.

“Well, I can see I’m not needed around here. You do whatever you need to do, and I’ll…”

Do much of the same, I’m sure. Localised integration and live-updates are still operational. It’s the 31st century, location-“

It was my turn to interrupt. “Do the words Mystery Tour mean anything to you? I’d like to invoke just a little bit of unknowing and, wait, did you say 31st century? As in 31st century Earth? The only planet which would refer to a century as its thirty-first?”

So it would appear.

“We shot into a Causality Convergence on Earth, were split across an infinite number of timelines and dimension points, and ended up more or less back where we started?”

Excellent. Now that you have a firm grasp of the Obvious, let’s move on to harder studies like Concepts and Theories.

Despite one of his better undermining techniques, I broke out into a massive grin.

“This means I’m back in the era of Futurama!” I skipped through the remaining piles of belongings and random detritus, vaulted an up-ended desk, and stood next to/above the rear hatchway.

“Odyssey, lower the rear door, please.”

In this position I think the word you need is ‘raise’ the rear door.

“It does me good to know that the crash didn’t knock out your sense and systems of sardonicism.”

What would usually happen is the rear exit hatchway would descend and lower into a ramp. This time, it rose up and outwards, essentially turning into a glorified cat flap. Once its mechanisms had shut up, I could heard the splashes and sloshes of water but could not see it. Content that I wouldn’t ruin my shoes, I took my first step out into an unknown world.

And what a world it was. My first glimpse and turn-on-the-spot took my breath away.

When my breaths returned, they formed some simple words: “I don’t think this is Futurama.

What was your first clue?

“Stop it you, just, focus on those repairs. You’ll enjoy it. I won’t be there for a while.”

Odyssey lapsed into an enthusiastic silence.

I was left to my new surroundings. Odyssey had confirmed it as Earth, and while the basic shapes suited, I was struggling to believe him. It didn’t look like Earth, sound like it, smell like it – it was an Earth set in the future and yet one reverted back to the past. This was a version where Nature had won, or perhaps more accurately, gotten revenge.

Odyssey and I were next to a fresh water lake, in the lowest point of a valley, one which rose into forests on my left, and became foothills of a mountain to the right. The greenery, all the flora and fauna, were rich, green and peacefully living, with no glimpse of metal or anything else manmade. I glanced down at the lake waters which were crisp and clear as glass – I could see salmon happily flitting about beneath the surface.

I took a deep breath, enjoyed it, took several more, filling my lungs with its freshness.

A 31st century Earth. An alternative version, which resembled  a long lost time where designations like ’31’st century’ would not exist for millennia, and the creatures that would find their words were several billion evolutionary steps ahead.

It was utterly magnificent. I couldn’t say where or why humanity had gone, but I couldn’t say I minded, either. As much as I love and oft visit the new age and technological delights of Futurama, it is gratifying and quite overwhelming to look out upon a version of the Earth that hasn’t been built over and buried.

A world that was allowed to win. I couldn’t quite believe how wonderfully peaceful it all was.

Which, at that precise moment with that thought resting in my head, is when I got attacked by a gigantic robot.

HH

A Playlist of Song Choices for an Unknown Timelord

A companion from a distant past* – or possibly a distant future, they’re easy to get confused being so distant – recently asked me about my musical choices. At the risk of being judged, harshly even, below are twenty five songs** lifted at random from my Q.U.A.R.K library.

Some of them I simply listen to and enjoy, like the rest of you. And to some, or most if I’m honest, I make stories. Tales to match the tune, as it were…

  1. King of the Kingdom of Man – Wax Fang.
    A powerful and mesmerising number; with its fantastic ending, this song always gives me images of the birth of a new world, or the death of an old one.
  2. Majestic – Wax Fang.
    This song found me, quite unexpectedly, and I’ve loved it ever since. (It contains one of my favourite epic guitar solos – which is a recurring theme.) It was also the song I used as a “beacon” to try and find Womble.
  3. Friend, Please – twentyonepilots.
    Suitably sci/fi and, in typical style of twentyonepilots, poignant and moving.
  4. The Hunted – Snow Ghosts.
    An epic battle between two mortal enemies.
  5. Shake It Out – Florence and the Machine.
    The journey of a rebellion.
  6. Amarillo – Gorillaz.
    Another end, or another beginning.
  7. Somewhere Only We Know – Keane.
    When you find yourself feeling like you’re ‘home’ but not in the place you left it.
  8. The Sound of Silence – Disturbed.
    It begins with the words Hello Darkness, my old friend. That, and the raw emotion that burns in this melody, is something I could not ignore.
  9. Fireflies – Owl City.
    Perhaps a clichéd choice, but it is humbly beautiful.
  10. Love is Blindness – Jack White.
    Guitar solo.
  11. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix.
    Guitar solo.
  12. The Times they Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan.
    No big reason for this one. Clue’s in the title.
  13. Journey of the Sorcerer – Eagles.
    No universe wanderer is complete without their towel and this almost-seven-minute long delight, used in adaptations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
  14. Pompeii – Bastille.
    Glimpses into the past. Hints of sand and marble. Would go well with a romp through Ancient Rome or Greece.
  15. Starlight – The Supermen Lovers.
    I’ve known and loved this one for so long, I don’t need a reason anymore.
  16. White Flag – Delta Heavy
    I surrender.
  17. Demons – Imagine Dragons
    A song so revered and vital, it inspired its own blog post.
  18. Black & Endless Night Revisited – Wax Fang.
    The song I shall play if/when I return, or am returned, to Gallifrey.
  19. Into the Past – Nero
    Clue’s in the title.
  20. LA Devotee – Panic! At the Disco
    Catchy and fun – both welcome words when one is piloting through the Time Vortex for the majority of one’s existence.
  21. Don’t You – Simple Minds
    Don’t you forget about me is an important lesson to bear in mind. Only in memories are we truly immortal.
  22. Tom Sawyer – RUSH
    Another science-fiction must.
  23. Baker Street – George Rafferty
    Guitar solo/Saxophone solo.
  24. Delta – C2C
    Found this one entirely at random, a suggestion based on a suggestion, and have enjoyed it ever since.
  25. Throne – Bring Me the Horizon
    An overpowered ballad that conjures images of war and conflict. I don’t mind that so much when I’m not the one fighting.

That’ll do, for now. These are very much the tip of a much larger and greatly varied iceberg.

And I remain open to suggestions =]

HH

* Inspiration for this post goes to a good friend Penny Dawinter.

** Twenty five Earth songs, anyway, for the sake of being relatable. There are others music choices to be sampled and collected from across the cosmos. Universal Number Ones have included: ‘903 Goldberg Variations Mixed With Noises from A Spaceport Bathroom,’ ‘Best-Selling Tones Unit no. 72’ and several million other songs centred around the typical love narrative of “Male-Being invades planet of Female-Being, Male-Being kidnaps Female-Being, Male-Being and Female-Being invade more planets together.”

+ For more insight on HH’s musical inclination, check this earlier piece: Solo.

The Q.U.A.R.K

HH is going to be a little busy for a while. Specifically, he’ll be losing touch with reality, while flagrantly thwarting the time travel rules set in place by his ancient ancestors – for the something-hundredth incident. He’ll arrive somewhere new, with a headache, hunger, and a habitual urge to pester whosoever is in charge.

Unless something goes wrong. Which is usually the case.

Until then, please allow me one more introduction. It’s not a character this time, but a gadget. It isn’t a sonic screwdriver either, although like all assigned Timelords, HH does own one that he made himself. It lights up orange, has its own miniature radar dish, and frequently runs out of battery. It dwells among other bits of assorted junk, within bigger-on-the-inside coat pockets.

The other device, strapped to HH’s right wrist, is vitally important to his wellbeing and survival – and to really back up this point, it was given to him by his future self*. If anyone knows what sort of help and tools you’ll need in life, it’s an older version who’s lived through the damn thing. HH is lucky enough to communicate with his, though unlucky in that FutureHH only ever comes to him when he so chooses, bringing along a condescending tone and mild aversion to being useful.

Future selves have normally suffered, and they’ll be damned if you get to avoid all the bad stuff.

The device is called the Q.U.A.R.K. (Don’t ask anyone what that stands for, we don’t know**.) The device didn’t have a name at first, but FutureHH advised that Womble would get to name it. When HH and W were reunited in the world of Futurama, Womble was a penguin (don’t ask about that either) and his vocabulary was quark, nothing more.

(It shall always remain HH’s regret that, given he was visiting Futurama, he failed to call the device This Thing I Wear On My Wrist.)

Features of the Q.U.A.R.K include:

  • Communication across all of time and space. Examples include carrier pigeon, graffiti and stone monolith.
  • Information relating to whichever time zone and planet HH happens to be occupying.
  • A means of interfacing between HH and whatever local computer mainframes and machinery exists.
  • It’s linked to Odyssey.
  • Five terabytes of storage for music. (HH has only just breached six gigabytes…)
  • Every last file of the Gallifrey archives. These were stolen by HH before his deserting the Time War, except he lacked the authorisation to read them. The Q.U.A.R.K changed that.
  • And from those archive files – if I could lean forward conspiratorially here, I would – his Abilities.
  1. Pause( ). That’s right, HH can stop time; though to date, this ability has saved him from a sky-high drop into Gotham City, and successfully removed him from countless awkward conversations. Stopping Time is not an easy nor risk-free manoeuvre. HH is aware of the damage it can cause, though not in any meaningful way. Not yet, anyway.
  2. Greed( ). HH hasn’t used this one. Not yet, anyway.
  3. LOCKED
  4. LOCKED

(According to FutureHH, abilities 3 and 4 will present themselves “in the moment they are needed most.”)

All Timelords have these powers of manipulating and harnessing Time to their own advantage, and all Timelords are subsequently suppressed and lied to, for the duration of their lives. This was decided by the Timelord Elders, AKA “the powers that be.” Because what The Powers That Be fear most of all is being replaced by A New Power To Be.

This is some of what FutureHH taught, and HH learned, when the Q.U.A.R.K allowed him access to the archive files. It also added another reason to the list entitled Why HH Hates the Timelords So Much.

So in summary: the Q.U.A.R.K is a device that no-one should ever be without. Communication purposes, limitless assistance to any inter-dimensional traveller, and super-powers – to name just a few.

It’s a shame that HH tends to forget that he has it…

R

* A future version of someone gives their past self a gift, and thus they always owned it. I never could resist a paradox.

** Suggestions have included ‘Quite Unique And Reasonably Knowledgeable’ or ‘Quietly Underestimating a Racist Koala’.

Mystery Tour

One of the hidden party tricks of my TARDIS, Odyssey, is an ability to help passengers if they are suffering inebriation, or being under the influence of drugs. In a matter of seconds, it can process the chemicals and toxins out of the bloodstream and restore the subject back to normality. What it doesn’t do, however, is remove the come down or hangover that comes afterwards.

“Odyssey, fire up the grill…….Odyssey, build a grill, then cook some ba……Odyssey, we need to buy bacon!” I shouted all this while somehow occupying three different chairs at once. It was a masterful Slump.

His programming doesn’t allow Odyssey to sigh. What he has adopted instead is he will hum three seconds of the song ‘Mad World’ – because we both know it is so depressing, it infuriates me. So far, since rejoining Odyssey on the planet Adraxus, we’ve gone through the song three and a half times*.

Why not finish your request internally, before speaking it aloud?

“I think better out loud.”

Then I dread to think what you leave unspoken.

“How’s that bacon coming?”

Then came three more seconds of song.

“Fine, if you want something else to do, get us in position. It’s nearly midnight. Time for us to surf.”

Would you be referring to the Causality Convergence?

“Yes.”

The incredibly dangerous and disruptive vortex anomaly?”

“Yes.”

The entity with the potential to shatter even a War-TARDIS into a quadrillion tiny fragments?

“Yes.”

……received and understood. On a related note, which format should I use for your last will and testament: PDF, GIF or Holo-Tape?

I lurched into an upright and undignified position. A lot of fluid sloshed about in the process. My brain felt like a raisin in a lake of oil; my stomach, like a vat of Molotov cocktails.

“We’ll be fine. We have one of the most experienced pilots on board.”

We do? I don’t recall collecting any additional passengers.

“Hilarious, I’m sure.” I stumbled over to and dropped into my captain’s chair, taking my place at the helm. Space awaited us beyond the cockpit glass.

We drifted above the planet Earth, its blue/green orb hanging in the night sky Odyssey was poised to drop into the Time Vortex at the precise moment things turned into a whirlpool of timelines. Almost like a surfer waiting for the right wave, except a surfer knows they will eventually land back on the same shore. Drop into one of these waves, and you can turn up anywhere, anywhen.

My hands curled around the twin joystick controls. New Year’s Day was about to begin.

Information available: I’ve just finished constructing that grill you wanted.

“Not now; dive, dive, dive!”

A schism tore itself open across the face of the planet – undetectable to them, but the TARDIS equivalent of spotting an off ramp, to me. Odyssey nose dived and we shot into the Time Vortex at its most tempestuous, its most dangerous, and thus its most exciting.

“WHEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I hate everything about this.

Dropping into one of these things – the Causality Convergence as the Time(dull)lords had it – is like sealing yourself in a barrel and dropping off an infinite waterfall during several storms and an earthquake of magnitude 15. Add in 100% more noise, and a kaleidoscope of every single colour in the spectrum, including some that haven’t been invented yet. And throughout all this psychedelic vibration, is the undeniable sensation of moving forwards.

Light bent, distorted, rippled and stretched. I kept my focus forwards, on whatever was ahead of us, which seemed to literally be a little bit of everything. Odyssey’s engines roared, sounding too close to their breaking point. It felt like the whole ship would be shaken to pieces.

And yet, we kept going, while endless New Year’s Eves turned to Days around us.

The speed was incredible. I felt like I was going to be pushed backwards through my seat and onwards, through the rear hatchway. My cheeks were now somewhere nearer my ears, which themselves felt like they were making passage to the back of my head.

And through a clenched jaw, I managed to cry the words:

“Mystery Tourrrrrrrrrrrr!”

HH

* In short, people sigh so often around HH, he will eventually assume it’s how they breathe – R