When you’re fourteen, how do you save your world from the Great Decline and prepare for a quest to save a parallel world by stealing a nuclear bomb? It sounds ridiculous but David has some unique advantages.
On his world, he is the Duke of Barabourne and highly favoured by the king. Being young lets him be receptive to new ideas and being lost on a parallel world, fostered and going to school there gave him plenty to think about.
Join David and his friends in this, the second book of the Worlds Beyond Trilogy, as they tackle problems that governments could not solve while the biggest problem of all, the quest waits menacingly in the background.
Publisher: TAU Publishing UK
Paperback: 241 pages
Curiosity now dominated and Craig was waiting, backpack already over his shoulders when Danny arrived in a taxi.
“Royal George, Barnbury Lane, please.” Danny told the driver as Craig clambered into the taxi.
“Why not the station?” Craig asked, “There’s a direct service to Victoria.”
Danny glanced pointedly at the driver and whispered, “Not yet. This is phase 1 of the journey, just go along with it until phase 3, OK?”
Craig realised the driver was trying to listen and his love of spy stories took over. He nodded. As they drew up at the Royal George, Craig saw the (steam) brake driven by Godfrey and looked quizzically at Danny.
“That’s phase 2.” Danny said, “Ready?”
Craig was beginning to believe that he would end up on a remote farm surrounded by steam-punk nutters but he had to admit, the steam brake was fun, and he would like to drive it. For now, he relaxed, enjoying the view from a novel position.
His fears about a remote farm seemed to be confirmed when they turned into a field though he gasped as the hall came into sight until his attention was drawn to the airship that they were approaching.
“Ready for phase 3?” Danny asked.
“We’re travelling in that?” Craig gasped, “Is it your uncle’s? Is he flying us to London?”
No, it’s a naval ship. Darren will be skippering it but don’t worry. The Chief Petty Officer is training him.”
“Who’s Darren?” Craig asked, “I know it’s stupid but for a moment I thought you meant your brother.”
“I did.” Danny answered, “It’s like a different world, isn’t it?”
Danny was extremely pleased with himself for planting the idea of a different world in Craig’s mind. He was pleasantly surprised when Craig grinned and nodded.
Craig already had a sense that things were not right. The chief petty officer’s uniform seemed better suited to a 1940s war film and Darren even had an air of being in charge as he bent over the chart table. He smiled a greeting to his brother and Craig, then gave his orders.
He was still confident as the airship rose and turned onto course, steadily gathering height and speed while CPO Hammond dutifully handled the controls. Neither did tapping a message on odd looking radio equipment and noting the reply seem to worry him. Craig read enough to know that they were expected, somewhere, but he was not sure where. When he turned to look out of the window, his sense of unreality increased.
A train was pulling into Chasebourne Station. The problem was that it was a steam train and Chasebourne was little more than a village. There were no dual carriageways linking the town to the motorway, Craig could not even see the motorway though they had to cross at least one to reach London.
“Chief, I think we’re over the wrong town. It looks more like Bromley than Croydon.” Darren called out, “Is it OK if we turn 200 to port.”
“Mr. Lambert, I know that you’re just a passenger on this trip but will you take over the helm please?”
“Yes Chief.” Danny replied, “Come on, Craig. You take the wheel while I handle the flight controls.”
Craig stared wide-eyed but followed Danny, gingerly taking the wheel from CPO Hammond.
Danny glanced at his position then spoke to Craig, “The arrow thing shows that the rudder has 50 of port. That’s because of the wind. You’ll feel the rudder trying to turn and you hold it. The compass shows the course so if we start turning, I’ll tell you how to compensate.”
Craig nodded, unable to speak. Of all the possibilities he had considered for the trip, steering an airship never entered his thoughts.
“Increase rudder to 150.” Darren called out and Craig suddenly found everyone looking at him. He spun the wheel and the indicator duly moved then he looked up, watching the sun move around.
“The correct answer is to say, ‘150 of port helm, Skipper’.” Darren said, “You then repeat it when you’re done.”
“150 of port helm, er, Skipper.” Craig duly repeated.
“Darren’s a Captain Bligh when he’s in charge.” Danny laughed, “Go with it though, because he’s good.”
Craig nodded. It was all too strange but he was enjoying the novel experience. CPO Hammond was also enjoying himself. He took a lot of ribbing about becoming a schoolteacher but he was impressed with his young squad, especially Darren.
As they approached St. James’ park, he should have taken over but Darren was fractionally ahead of him and giving the right orders. Instead, he positioned himself beside Craig to keep an eye on the newest crew member but again, Danny was explaining things and Craig was coping.
“Drop anchor.” Darren called out then, “Stop engines. The crew is relieved.”
Darren turned nervously to CPO Hammond who contented himself with a nod. Craig was shaking.
“Wow!” he managed to exclaim.
“Phase 4.” Danny said, “We hail a cab.”
Craig looked at the horse drawn brougham then at the rest of the traffic.
“It really is a different world, isn’t it?” he whispered, “What’s going on?”
“Not yet.” Danny said but before they could climb in Lt. Worthington hurried up to them.
“His Majesty wishes to see you.” He gasped.
“Us?” Danny exclaimed, “David’s not with us.”
“He knows. The exact invitation is that I should ask Mr. Lambert and Mr. Williams to visit him. It’s more of an invitation than you think because normally it’s ‘attend him’.”
“Come on.” Danny chuckled, “Attend or visit, it’s not the sort of invitation that we can refuse.”
Craig did not appreciate the joke but he had picked up on something.
“His Majesty?” He queried, “It’s still 2018 isn’t it?”
“Do you remember when you laughed at David for being so confused by history?” Danny asked, “He wanted to explain but we’ve been summoned by King Charles VII and I hope I remember when to bow.”
“David? You mean his stories were true? He hates me, why am I here? Is he a duke? How did we get here?”
“David doesn’t hate you and you’re here because he needs your help. We tricked you a bit because we had to convince you that David really is the Duke of Barabourne, at least on this world. There is an uncle, Lord Westerham and David’s real uncle but all of David’s friends call him uncle because it’s respectful.”
“OK!” Craig muttered, “I get it but what’s going on now?”
“I don’t know.” Danny admitted, “He’s OK though.”
As always, Danny felt the angry eyes of the high and mighty in the land burnt into his skull. For all practical purposes they were just a couple of badly dressed guttersnipes with privileges that they could only dream of. Danny tried kneeling as he saw the king and Craig even more uncertainly followed suit.
“Thank you for the courtesy.” Charles said, “I understand that it’s not your way. Is something wrong?”
“You usually say we not I, sir.” Danny replied.
“Well spotted. My father said that King and state were indivisible. I no longer believe that to be true, and I think that it’s a personal matter if I choose to have sausages for breakfast instead of kedgeree.”
Danny grinned, “It makes sense, sir.”
“We, that is the state and I do have agents keeping an eye on Barabourne, the boy and the estate which is how we learned of your visit. You, Mr. Williams, are not of this world yet we assume that you are here to assist His Grace so you’re welcome.”
“I don’t know, sir. I don’t really know what’s going on.”
“Craig thought he was visiting his own London. We thought that he should figure out for himself that there really are parallel worlds.”