Granyu stood by the side of the road, gazing at Stonehenge. The sun rose behind the great, grey stones, now worn with age, but still a powerful reminder of his past.
'Do you want to get closer?'
Granyu had experienced Stonehenge at its glorious peak, 4000 years ago. He'd visited it many times in the intervening years, each time noting its further decline. It annoyed him. Although, as he admitted to his companion, he did feel a degree of satisfaction that people still cared about it enough to preserve it as well as they could.
'A few centuries ago it was completely neglected. Fifty years ago there were new buildings encroaching on the land. At least they got rid of those, and made some effort to protect what's left of it.'
He gazed again at the huge edifice. 'My tribe really knew how to build something to last.'
His companion didn't seem so impressed. Indeed, she seemed a little bored.
'If you don't want to touch the stones, why are we here?'
'I wanted to see it again.'
'You've seen it plenty of times. Every time we're in England you come here.'
Granyu pointed towards one of the fallen henges. 'That's where it was.'
'The arch. It's mostly gone now. The alter stone has disappeared.'
'What altar stone?'
'Do you never listen to anything I tell you?'
'Some of the time. Mostly I'm bored by your stories about Stonehenge.'
'You should try listening to yourself talk about the glories of Rome.'
'Rome was very glorious. Much more glorious than your Ixtini tribe.'
'That's a matter of opinion.'
The sun climbed in the sky. It was a warm day on Salisbury plain. Granyu looked again at the distant, fallen arch. He scowled. 'I should have killed Mixt that day. She'd been legally sentenced to sacrifice by execution. My blade was a few inches from her neck when the stones collapsed on us.'
He looked up at the sky. 'I'll still kill her.'
'You haven't seen Mixt for about three hundred years. She could be dead by now.'
Granyu shook his head. 'She's still alive. I can feel it.'
'She could be anywhere in the world. She travels.'
'I think she's somewhere close. I've learned to recognise when she's near.'
Granyu was a large man. He carried a very large sword. 'What year is this?'
Granyu nodded. 'Fifty years since I was last here. There's something in the air. England feels different.'
Rainith was unhappy with everything. 'Listen to that horrible noise.'
'What horrible noise?'
'Bells. You can hear bells chiming as these hippies walk down the road. Who wears bells?'
'Fairies?' suggested Nakishdan, to Rainith's great annoyance.
'We do not wear bells! Why would fairies do that?'
'I think bells sound nice,' said Nakishdan. 'You just don't like it that you've arrived somewhere where people aren't swearing and shouting, and spitting from the stage.' Nakishdan turned to Mixt. 'Weren't Pink Floyd great?'
It was 7 AM. Rainith the Red, Geeda Lala, Mixt and Nakishdan were walking along the pavement, part of the throng of people leaving the UFO club after its night of psychedelia.
'I could really get used to living here.' Nakishdan was enthusiastic. 'I wonder why I didn't? I just can't remember being around in the sixties at all.'
'Maybe you were but you were too stoned to remember?' suggested Mixt.
They came to a halt on a corner. The London street was quieter than Mixt was used to. She noticed the traffic lights on the corner were smaller.
'The cars are mostly black, instead of coloured.'
'The cars. They're mostly black, and sort of old-fashioned. I never noticed that much difference going back to the seventies but the sixties seems a lot older.'
'Never mind that,' snapped Rainith. 'What are we going to do?'
'Nakishdan and I are going back to the present day to tell Glade and Ms Darben that you're OK.'
'We're not OK! We're trapped in 1967!'
'Can't you just come back with us?' suggested Nakishdan.
Mixt sighed. 'Nakishdan, do you never listen to anything Agent Glade tells us?'
'Rainith can't come back. Fourteen Trees has blocked all time paths for her and Geeda. It's protecting them from 102 Woo and their new mathematician super-villain.'
Nakishdan wasn't listening, He was looking at the fliers people had been handing out as they left the club. 'Hey look, Soft Machine are playing next week. Could we come to that?'
'Get me out of this place!' cried Rainith.
'Really, Rainith, this wouldn't have happened if you hadn't disobeyed orders and wandered off through time,' said Mixt.
The fairy scowled at Mixt, unwilling to admit she'd been in error. 'I knew you humans would let me down. I should never have trusted you.' She turned to Geeda Lala. 'If we're stuck here, where are we going to live?'
'I've been thinking about that. People around my squat in Ladbroke Grove said the buildings had been empty for years. We could probably squat there again.'
'We'll help you find somewhere,' said Mixt. 'Glade wanted us to make sure you were safe.'
They walked on. The street was dull and cold after the warmth of the UFO club. Nakishdan was still looking through his bundle of fliers.
'Jimi Hendrix is playing at the Marquee next week. I'd like to see that. You should go, Rainith.'
'I'd rather be run over by a bus.'
'Fourteen Trees did say we should keep going to gigs,' Geeda reminded her companion. 'She must have had a reason to say that.'
Rainith looked very gloomy at the prospect. Mixt halted abruptly, causing Nakishdan to bump into her.
Mixt was turning to look in every direction. Her eyes narrowed, as if she was peering into the furthest distance. 'I thought I sensed someone.'
'Just someone I used to know. I probably imagined it.'
They walked on, accompanying Rainith and Geeda Lala to their new home, but Nakishdan noticed that Mixt was wary, and her hand was inside her coat, ready to draw her long-bladed naginata at any moment.
Despite her youth, and her status as an interloper in this world, Geeda Lala had practical skills. She'd learned from her experiences of squatting in the seventies and found no trouble transferring these skills to their needs in 1967. When they arrived at the block of council flats in Ladbroke Grove, many of them were empty. Correctly identifying one occupied flat as squatted, rather than rented, by the blanket hanging over the window in place of proper curtains, she made friends with the squatters, and borrowed a crowbar. Using this, she opened the door of the derelict flat next door. Once inside, she seemed satisfied.
'This will do. The electricity's off but I can fix the fusebox. We can live here for a while.'
Rainith shrugged. It was all the same to her where she lived.
'Do you have money?' asked Mixt.
'I'm not sure,' said Geeda. 'I used to make what I needed - '
'With mathematics. I'd just calculate some scenario where I found it in the street, or something like that. But Fourteen Trees warned me not to do that any more. So I'm not sure.'
'If the Department sends us back again we could probably bring you some. They have stores of old money.' Mixt looked around the flat. The walls were covered in ancient wallpaper, printed with tiny flowers. In the same cupboard as the fusebox, there was an electricity meter with a coin slot.
'You need sixpences for this. 1967 was pre-decimalisation. There were still 240 pennies in a pound. I liked that. It was so pleasantly impractical. And they had ten-shilling notes. I liked them too.'
Nakishdan suddenly beeped. Everyone stared at him.
'Did you just beep?' demanded Mixt.
'I think so.'
'How? Have you become a robot?'
Nakishdan looked confused. He felt around in his pockets, finally producing a small, transparent screen.
'What's this? How did it get in my pocket?'
'It must be a message from Fourteen Trees,' said Geeda, taking the screen.
'What does it say?'
'Geeda, I've programmed this to appear when you reach somewhere safe. Don't tell anyone where you live, and don't tell me either, if we meet. Mathematician Girsin is attacking 47 Jeng, trying to steal our information. The less we know about you the better. I need to get you back to 1975 but we can't do it yet. 47 Jen will try nudging you forward in time. We'll get you back eventually. Keep going to gigs, I'll find you there.'
'What does she mean nudging us forward?' demanded Rainith. 'How many nudges will it take? Are they big nudges or small nudges?'
'I don't know.'
'They'd better be big. I don't want to stay here.'
'Nudge doesn't really sound very big,' said Mixt. 'Sounds more like a few days at a time.'
'I want the nudges to be bigger!'
'She said you have to keep going to gigs,' Nakishdan fished out his fliers and studied them again. 'You should go and see Jimi Hendrix at the Marquee next week. I'd really like to see that. Maybe the Department could send us back again?'
Rainith turned to Geeda Lala. 'Tell Fourteen Trees to nudge us far enough so we never have to see Jimi Hendrix.'
Mixt and Nakishdan rode the underground pathway from 1967 back to the present day.
'Poor Rainith. Stuck in the past, eight years from where she wanted to be.'
Nakishdan couldn't raise much sympathy. 'It's her own fault.'
'I liked her short, spiky hair.'
'It did suit her.' Nakishdan looked at his feet. He wore a pair of short boots which had three straps running round them, each with a silver buckle. The boots were blue, to match his kimono.
'Who did you sense in London?'
'No one,' said Mixt.
'Yes you did. You sensed someone.'
'I was mistaken.'
Nakishdan immediately became irritated. 'You're not telling me the truth. Why are you secretive about things? I don't like these lies. And subterfuge. And lies.'
Nakishdan's boots flickered, and the blue changed to red as he found himself suddenly troubled by painful intrusive thoughts, as unpleasant images flashed into his mind.
Mixt noticed his boots changing colour. She recognised the symptom. 'Are you all right?'
'It's no use lying about everything. My feet feel funny. Are we almost home?'
'Not far - '
Nakishdan's intrusive thoughts began to overwhelm him. 'I don't like this carriage. My feet feel funny. So do my fingers. I want to get out.'
'You can't get out, we're moving, you'll kill yourself.'
'That's all right.'
Nakishdan stood up. Mixt grabbed hold of his kimono. 'Sit down.'
'I don't like these lies and subterfuge.' Nakishdan looked scared and unhappy.
'I thought I sensed Granyu and Flavia,' said Mixt, to divert his attention from his problems.
'The warrior who was meant to sacrifice me. Geeda Lala's collision with Stonehenge gave him the same sort of immortality it gave me, apparently. He's been pursuing me ever since.'
'He regards it as unacceptable that the sacrifice wasn't completed. An insult to his honour, and the tribe's. Also, he's an unpleasant, violent man, who probably enjoys cutting people's heads off. He can't rest till it's done.'
'Oh.' Nakishdan's boots changed back to blue and he looked a little calmer.
'We haven't actually met all that often in the intervening four thousand years. I'm not certain he's lived through as much of it as I have. I think he might only appear at certain intervals. I've never been able to find out properly, because whenever we do meet, he tries to kill me.'
'Flavia the Sorceress. Or Flavia the Poisoner. She answers to either. She was a Roman woman, exiled to ancient Britain. For poisoning people, I think. Though again, I'm short on details. She has nothing against me personally, but she does support Granyu, so we've ended up enemies anyway.'
'And you thought you sensed them in 1967?'
'It's lucky they didn't find us.'
Mixt shrugged. 'I wouldn't have minded. I want to meet Granyu again.'
'So I can kill him. I became fed up running from him a long time ago. Thats why I travelled round the world, learning how to fight.'
Nakishdan considered this. His painful intrusive thoughts had disappeared, banished by Mixt's interesting tale.
'How often have you met, after Stonehenge?'
'Six or seven times. But we never had a really conclusive battle. The first few times I managed to escape. When I'd stopped trying to escape and was ready to meet him, something always got in the way.'
'I was remembering the thirty naked, heaving bodies that got in the way at an orgy on the Isle of Capri, courtesy of the Emperor Tiberius.'
'What were you doing at an orgy?'
'Fucking everyone, of course. What else would I be doing? It was a really inappropriate place for Granyu to start waving his sword around.'
Mixt laughed again. The train pulled into the station at Aldwych. She rose from her seat.
'I want to know more about this orgy,' said Nakishdan.