Following on from Part 12:
'Hit the emergency rescue button?' Edrig suggested.
'I don't know... I don't know.' replied Adrig slowly, suddenly becoming the cautious one. 'I think we need time to think.'
'Why? And these people are getting closer by the way. I think they may be looking for us.'
'Quick then, get these coats on and run. An emergency rescue takes quite a while to swing into action you know.'
'Oh. You didn't tell me that,' said Edrig, as they grabbed the coats from the ground and hurriedly put them on. 'How long does it take?'
'Your basic training should. have... Oh... Not done it. Well, not before morning I expect, and it's not even midnight yet. Now run!'
And so they ran across the road and down a street at random, turning right at a junction, left at the next junction, then right again and running on. And they ran fast, for they were very young in their own terms, Edrig just leaving childhood and Adrig perhaps the equivalent of a young man of 717.
Eventually Adrig stopped and so Edrig did too, and they stood puffing in a shop doorway.
'I don't think they were even looking for us Adrig. Heavy these coats, aren't they?'
'Useful though, because our outfits really have turned out to be rather bright and obvious.'
'So what now?'
'A seat, and a think. Look, down there, a bench beside that monument. A seat and a think my boy, and keep calm, don't worry, I've been in a worse pickle than this before.'
'That's true,' agreed Edrig, trying to calm himself. 'At least we are not wrapped up in a big hungry spider's cocoon.'
'That's the spirit! And we have our communicators, with their emergency rescue buttons, and now we have time to think.'
'What's Macrig going to make of the new arrivals though? And our Lady Lord?'
'That,' said Adrig, 'is one of the things we need to think about, because we don't want to get rescued and end up back there without a story. We need a plan.'
'Oh yes,' agreed Edrig rather sarcastically. 'Finally we need to sit down and devise a plan. A plan to get us out of this mess that we might not have got into without a proper plan in the first place.'
'There is no need for cheek like that! And it's not my fault that I tripped and dropped my stunner, really...'
'And is it not your fault that you took us into a club with dancing men?'
'Not really. We are explorers lad. And what do explorers do? They explore. Now. Stop bickering and let me think.'
And having reached the bench, they sat down and they tried to think.
Edmund was looking at Alan and Alan was looking at Edmund, and their initial confusion had turned into concern about the intense queasiness they were both experiencing.
'I'm going to throw up mate.'
'So am I.'
But instead of any such messiness, they lapsed into unconsciousness together.
And Adrig and Edrig were still sitting thinking. Not saying anything, until Edrig distractedly looked at the monument beside him and with his very limited command of the language attempted to pronounce a few words.
'World... War... Two... The Gret... No... The Great War... What's that all about? These dates are very recent.'
'Yes. They are still in the big war stage here. And they have nuclear weaponry, so really it's touch and go whether they will survive or wipe themselves out.'
'Oh... Most samples wipe themselves out if they get to the nuclear stage while still at the big war stage, from what I've seen.'
'Exactly. It's very rare, only about a three percent chance of survival once that happens.'
'But we made it through, if you can believe the ancient records.'
'Yes. That's true. It's the second key phase in the survival of the fittest societies. The first one being tribalism.'
'But tribalism causes the big wars in the first place, doesn't it?'
'It does, and that's the confounding issue. The big societal challenge. To become tribal enough to survive and then to subsume the tribalism into unity for the better good.'
'Do you think they'll make it through Adrig, this lot?'
'I doubt it. Look at all those names from just this little area. The fighting wipes out millions you know. Millions.'
'Perhaps there is something to say for the ladies being in charge,' offered Edrig, 'even if our ones are big nasty bastards.'
'Perhaps my boy. Perhaps. But... the ladies down here. Did you have time to notice them in the streets?'
'Yes,' sighed Edrig. 'Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Slim, soft skinned, stunning, and so seemingly compliant. They hold their men's hands!'
'Something worth staying here for perhaps, my boy.'
'Perhaps. For a while at least. To come so far and not to see the slim dancing ladies...'
'And that damn man was naked! Do you think the dancing ladies might do that?'
'I doubt it. The ladies are more civilised, but still, you saw the clips. They don't wear much, Not much at all. But then my recordings are necessarily limited. It's a thought eh? Good god!'
And they fell silent for a while, gazing out at the deserted street as midnight approached, until a police car turned out from a side street and quietly rolled to a stop alongside them.
The two policemen looked at Adrig and Edrig while Adrig and Edrig looked at the policemen.
'These guys are young and fit,' Adrig whispered, 'just like footballers.'
'What are you thinking?' Edrig asked with concern.
'Nothing. Nothing yet. Just considering options.'
The policemen appeared to be having a conversation, presumably about them, and then eventually the nearest one got out and approached.
'Where did you get those coats?'
'Oh... Eh... Found them,' said Adrig, as low as he could.
'Why are you talking like that?'
'It's the way I talk.'
'Are you taking the piss mate?'
'Sorry officer. I have a condition, with my larynx. And so does he,' and he pointed at Edrig. 'He can't speak at all.'
'Really? Oh well. I've never seen you two before, and these look very like Alan and Edmund's coats. Do you know Alan and Edmund?'
'And you found the coats? I think not. And where have you two popped up from then? Where have you come from?'
'Far away. We are travelling.'
'Hmm... Well these do look very much like Alan and Edmund's coats, and we haven't seen them tonight, and that's a first.'
'Don't know them sorry, and these are ragged old coats someone tossed in a... in a... Well, just tossed away.'
'They are very old, I agree. And you better not be taking the piss with your silly voice mate. I think something funny is going on.'
Adrig just shrugged, but in his pocket his hand was sliding his stunner open.
'You seem sober too, and that's pretty odd too. No bottles? What's in your pocket?'
'Nothing,' Adrig assured him, removing both hands and slapping them against his sides to indicate no bottles, and Edrig followed him in that gesture, while Adrig's hand slipped back to his stunner.
'Where are you planning to sleep?'
After looking at them for a bit longer the policeman turned and walked back to the car, but before closing the door he called out, 'We'll be watching out for you. OK? We'll be watching.' And then the car moved off.
'Where are we going to sleep?' Edrig asked, and Adrig just shrugged again.
'The rescue button?' Edrig suggested once more.
'Not yet. I need to think.'
'Can we not at least contact Macrig?'
'Hmm... Perhaps, but these basic communicators are very limited, partly in order to be so small. They have the power for only very few short messages, and we should not waste it.'
'But I've got one too.'
'I know, but still, don't use it. Not yet.'
'Are they not likely to get in touch with us?'
'Probably, once the two drunks arrive. But I need to think.'
'Why are you so reluctant to get rescued right now?'
'The Lady Lord,' Adrig admitted. 'She told me last time that my travelling would be done for ever if I needed to get rescued again. Rescue is an extreme option you know. Two rescues and you're done with field trips for ever.'
'And this place does seem to have much to offer.'
'Especially the ladies eh?'
'Yes, the ladies, and the whole sociological structure that seems to have the ladies much more willing to be equal to the men, and to please the men. The men are very lucky here. Yes indeed, this place has much to offer.'
'Even though they are on the brink of blowing themselves to extinction?'
'Well yes, that is a drawback. But come on, let's just stop this chatter, and let me think.'
When Adrid did think, Edrig knew that it was a long process. Not minutes, but hours. As a sociological analyst he was actually rather reluctant to think, because he would get absorbed in the analysis of every avenue of interaction and ever nuance of societal structure that might affect his plans. It occurred to Edrig that this was probably why Adrig tended to avoid making plans in the first place, But now, he wanted to think. So Edrig fell silent, and soon nodded off, with his head resting against Adrig's shoulder.