On to Iona, under sail and safe, out of sight from all who wished to take our picture or confine us to a harshly lit room so they could ask an afternoon’s worth of uncomfortable questions. We had no interest in the water-cooler, conversation starter now being discussed in offices, world-wide: “Did you hear about the dragon?” We already knew the answer.
Nessie needed time to recuperate so a few days off, invisi-valve on, unseen and unheard, was what our dragon vet, Dr. Pendragon, recommended.
We returned to Mull to retrieve everything left behind in our rush to save Marcus. Surely the dragon hunters would find our abandoned stuff. We thought it best if we left no clues to our identity or whereabouts. We also wanted to retrieve the dingy and the old outboard motor. As soon as all the gear was back aboard, we set sail for Iona and began to plan our endgame.
Urgency? Not a chance; banished like weeds in a garden. We had no deadlines, no appointments, just one final unchecked box on our to-do list: insert Excalibur into the wall of Iona’s green marble quarry.
“This shouldn’t take long,” I said, soon after we arrived at Iona. “We should do this late at night when nobody is around. I think you two should stay on board. Drop me off in the dingy, I’ll take Excalibur to the quarry, insert the sword and we’ll see what happens.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Arthur. “Remember what happened at Loch nan Cinneachan? MacLean surprised me, whacked me on the head and stole the sword. I blame myself for that; I should have been more cautious. No, Magnus, I need to go with you. We can’t make that same mistake again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
“Alright,” I said, “You’ve got as much invested in this mission as I do, maybe more. But who might be waiting for us? MacLean is dead.”
“That’s true,” said Arthur. “But you don’t know what you don’t know. Jameson Black could have something else up his sleeve. I’m sure he’s pissed his grand plan blew up. I wouldn’t count him out just yet.”
“Remember when we were on Mull with Scratch and Etcheminm,” said Marcus, “and Etchemin asked if you were going to battle the Black fairies? That was new; I never heard of them before. Arthur, do you know anything about these Black fairies? Did that mean they were personally loyal to Jameson Black, OR, did ‘Black’ mean they were more deeply rooted in dark energy and matter, OR, did ‘Black’ mean they represented Evil? ‘Black’ can refer to any number of things.”
“Sorry,” answered Arthur, “I’m not familiar with Black fairies. But then, why would I be? I wasn’t a threat to Jameson Black. That wall he erected around Coll did its job; I wasn’t going anywhere. Even if these Black fairies exist, he had no reason to sic them on me, I meant nothing to him.”
“We’ve got a lot of unanswered questions, again,” I said. “Maybe this; maybe that. We can’t make plans based on a lot of ‘what-ifs.’ It’s like an old baseball friend of mine said: ‘Don’t look for the curveball. If a fastball comes, you’ll never catch up to it. Look fastball and adjust if he throws you a curve.’”
“We can be prepared, though,” said Arthur. “Jameson Black knows we’re coming; he just doesn’t know when. Here’s what I think we should do. He knows we’re bringing Excalibur. But he doesn’t know what Excalibur looks like. But we’ve got two swords now, Excalibur and the sword of Robert the Bruce. I doubt he’ll be able to tell the difference. If you’re not familiar with swords, they tend to look alike. If he’s expecting a sword, then we’ll show him a sword. But we’ll only bring out the Robert the Bruce sword. If he tries to steal it, like MacLean did, he’ll get the wrong blade. Then, at the last second, when we have to insert Excalibur into the wall, we’ll pull out the real one.”
“That a great idea, Arthur,” I said. “It sounds like you’ve pulled this little trick before.”
“You’re right,’ he said, “Something similar.
We were fighting in France and the enemy expected us to do something. We did just what they expected; they fell for it. It was the old sleight of hand trick. ‘Misdirection’ is what Merlin called it. Show one thing, do another. Actually, now that I think of it, it was his idea. It’s the basis for a lot of magic.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said, confidently. “If nobody is there to greet us, we move on to Excalibur. If we have visitors, we adjust to the curveball.”
Day became night. We made plans to go ashore around midnight, about an hour and a half before the 3rd quarter moon was expected to rise.
Marcus brought Poseidon’s Trident close to Iona and put the engine in neutral. Arthur and I climbed into the dingy and rowed ashore as Marcus returned the sail boat to deep water.
We brought the hard vinyl dinghy on to the rocks, exited the boat, lifted it up and walked the small craft to a place well above the high tide line and tied it off.
Now on land, Arthur led the way. I followed, holding the sword of Robert the Bruce. Excalibur was hidden in a satchel in Arthur’s backpack.
It was a short walk through the rock canyons and in just a few minutes we were in the quarry, the place where, years ago, Swede experienced such explosive results when he inserted Excalibur into the green marble wall. We didn’t see anybody; we didn’t hear anybody. Nevertheless, we thought it best to wait a few minutes to see if anything developed.
CLUNK. CLUNK. CLUNK. Three giant circuit breakers engaged their electric source, illuminating the small quarry with brilliant white light, as if this was Times Square, not a dark, remote island with a long history of meditation, prayer and quiet contemplation.
“Hello, Magnus,” said the man.
Well lit, the man was easy to spot as he rose from a gilded, gold chair which wasn’t part of the Christian retreat’s inventory.
He looked to be about 70 years old, 6 feet, 3 inches tall, about 240 pounds, dressed in a dark business suit and solid red tie. His blonde, well-groomed hair grew in many different directions, as if he was cursed at birth by a Nazi barber with the power to inflict infants with multiple cowlicks, thus insuring the hair dresser a life time’s worth of income.
I didn’t recognize him at first. After all, it had been 800 years since we last met back at Time Keeper Central. But Arthur sure did.
“Sit on that sword and rotate, you fascist fuck,” exclaimed Arthur, pulling no punches.
“Now, now, now, Arthur; there’s no need for that,” he said, walking towards the King.
“Stop there,” I ordered, leveling the sword, pointing it directly at Mr. Hissy-Fit. “You’ll go no further.”
“Jameson Black, how frightful to see you again,” said Arthur. “You look to be alone. What, no storm troopers today? Left them back at Auschwitz, did you?”
“Arthur, I know you are upset,” he said. “I do. Really; I do. What he did to you? So unfair. Not good. Not good.”
“What HE did to me? And just who was that?” asked Arthur.
“Why MacLean, of course,” replied Black. “He fucked everything up. I understand why you’re so angry, Arthur… [turning to me] Magnus; put the sword down. I came alone; I’m unarmed. This is a big misunderstanding. Big.”
“Let’s start at the beginning,” I said. “First of all, what the hell are you doing here? To my knowledge, you never emerged before; you’ve always been in Time Keeper Central.”
“I emerged once or twice, but you’re right, mostly,” he said. “But if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. It’s an old cliché’ but it’s a good one. Very good. I wrote that, you know. Now everybody says it.”
“How’d you emerge so precisely,” I asked. “Emergence technology has a margin of error, plus or minus five years. But here you are. What’s up with that?”
“You’re right, Magnus. But our scientists are the best. The best. I love our scientists. They were working on new technology. Better. But it was untested. So I volunteered to test it. I did. I said, ‘I have to get to Earth fast, to help Magnus.’ I said that, you can ask anybody.
So here I am. It worked. I must be the bravest guy in the whole galaxy. The bravest. None better.”
“What makes you think we needed help? Arthur and I have it covered. We’ve got the sword. We’ll stick it in the wall and complete our mission. This was your idea back at Time Keeper Central. We’ll finish up and be on our way.”
“No, No, No” said Black, moving to stand between me and the marble wall. “No need for that. It’s unnecessary. It wasn’t my idea in the first place.”
“Whose idea was it?” asked Arthur.
“The Master Time Keeper,” said Black. “But he’s so small minded. A small man. Small. No Vision. None. My idea is much better. Much. It is a Big Idea. Bigly big.”
“Which is why you have geniuses like GG MacLean crawling over each other to come here and help you build this bigly big idea of yours, right?” said Arthur.
“GG MacLean, what a loser,” said Black. “When we interviewed for the job, he applied, told lies, a lot of lies. But we’re good people, we are; we’re the good guys. We believed him. He was fake news, like CNN. All lies. Not Good. Not Good.”
“If you’re the good guys, then why was I trapped on Coll these last five hundred years?” asked Arthur, angrily. “What did I ever do to hurt you? NUTH’N, THAT’S WHAT!”
“You’re right, Arthur, you’re right,” said the smooth talking salesman. “MacLean, he sure did fuck it up.
I was back at Time Keeper Central. I trusted him. I was as angry as you.
The wall? It was a test wall, an experiment. It never should have affected you like that.”
“Are you saying you’re sorry?” asked Arthur. “That you apologize for the centuries you kept me trapped on that lonely rock?”
“It’s MacLean who should apologize; I couldn’t do anything about it,” said Black, not willing to apologize himself.
“Take me fer a sook, do ye?” exclaimed Arthur. “Gonnae no dae that. Mak’n me cowk, ye are. Honk’n bawbag.”
“What do you need a wall for anyway?” I asked, trying to change the subject and give Arthur a moment to calm down.
“I’m glad you asked that, Magnus. I am. Now put the sword down? I’m not going to kill anybody,” said Black, calmly, trying to build trust between us.
“Don’t do it, Magnus; he’s talk’n mince,” said Arthur, continuing to warn me of Black’s guile and calumny.
“It’s OK, Arthur; we’re just going to talk. But you keep the sword, just in case.”
I tossed the sword of Robert the Bruce to Arthur. It stuck in the ground and wobbled.
“Be careful, Magnus,” said Arthur, itching for a fight. “He’s a pure, dead liar. As for you, ye minted jobby, you touch one hair on his head and yer loused; you’ll taste my sword before you’ll see it com’n!”
“Arthur, Arthur,” said the Director of Terran Expansion. “It will be fine; just fine. We’re all on the same team. We want the same thing. Don’t we? I think so.
I talked to a lot of people; a lot of people. And they all say the same thing. Let’s make the Garden of Eden great again.
Magnus, follow me; I’ve got something to show you.”
Jameson Black and I walked to the other side of the well-lit quarry where many three dimensional models were displayed, artist’s conceptions of his BIG plan. There were miniature hotels and swimming pools; well-groomed golf courses and adjoining bungalows; lakes and oceans, speed boats and yachts; casinos and entertainment venues, everything a tired and worn out Time Pilot would want to rest and recuperate between emergences.
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I just explained it so I brought the models here to show you what we’re going to do.
The Master Time Keeper. What a stooge! He’s an embarrassment. A small man, small; No vision. He keeps us confined in that warehouse he calls Time Keeper Central. It’s a joke.
When I took over this position, I inherited a mess, a mess.
This…is what we deserve. So much better. So much. It’s paradise. It’s the Garden of Eden, and we’re going to make it great again.”
We walked over to the far end of the display, past many different locations, to a display which featured the one and only high rise building.
“This is where we start,” he began. “The location of the original Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve, what a couple of losers. They got tossed out, ruined it for everybody.
God gave us this paradise. It would be wrong not to use it. Wrong. So we’re going to fix that. Fix what A-hole and E-hole fucked up. We’re going to make it great again.
Our archaeologists discovered the original site. Somewhere in Mesopotamia. I don’t want to say it’s in Iraq. Bad name, Iraq. Fucked up. Big, big problem, that name. Hard to brand. So it’s Mesopotamia, again. Maybe Babylon. I don’t know. We’ll see.
And over there, that high rise, that will be our intergalactic headquarters. Our archaeologists… I love our archaeologists, wonderful people. The best. They discovered the site of the original Tower of Babel, too. It’s true. I was there when they came in with the great news. It was great. Wonderful. Happy people. Happy. So that’s what we’ll call our headquarters: Black Tower. And the Garden of Eden resort site? Black Garden. Tremendous. The Best. Only the best.
There’s more. We’re going to expand to other locations, other places where Time Pilots can feel at home and not like they’re stuck in a seedy Mexican hotel.
Over there, that’s the model for the Isle of Coll. It’s why we wanted Arthur to do that test, before MacLean fucked it up.
We start with a member’s only club. Very exclusive. It will stretch from the ocean to the loch. We’ll build two new communities. Tremendous facility. Tremendous. It will be dedicated to the “spirit” of the Time Pilots.
We’ll start with a pavilion down by the ocean dedicated to Scotch whisky. Get it? Spirit? It’s all about the spirits? Scotch from every distillery in Scotland.
Then we’ll move to European wines and beers. From everywhere: France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Spain, everywhere. We’ll have a wine making workshop. Beer gardens. Then finally, in a huge, and I mean HUGE area near the loch, will be a whole city devoted to vodka. It will be very Russian. I love the Russians. The best Russian vodkas. The best.
So, two brand new communities will be built: Phishedtown, on the ocean, down at the beach and Dacha City by the loch. The whole facility will be called Bar-a-Lago.
Then, to tie it all together, we’ve already acquired the rolling stock from an historic steam powered, narrow gauge railway. We’re going to bring it all here, including their famous engine, number 420. We’ll bring it here; it will run 24/7 between both ends of Bar-a-Lago, up and over Ben Hogh. Yes, it’s only 106 meters tall, that’s as high as you can get on Coll. But the 420 can do the job; it can get you pretty high. Yes, the famous Blooteredville railway will be coming to Coll. It will be tremendous.
We’ll spread out from there. Completely transform that ugly, shitty rock into the best 10 golf courses in the galaxy, the whole galaxy. The best. Ten of them. Each one more difficult than the one you played the day before. We’ll bring in water warmers and winter heaters, a full four season paradise. Palm trees will thrive in December. We’ll have green side aquariums full of local species, like basking sharks, and a fully netted bird sanctuary alongside the fairways. Birders from all over the galaxy will want to play here, check off a couple of rare species from their list while they wait for their tee time. Wonderful.
But we’ll keep that quaint sense of total darkness it’s already got since it’s so far away from any artificial light sources. We’ll have golf balls illuminated from the inside so you can see where they go when you play at night. You’ll never lose a ball again.
Then we’ll bring in huge tanks of natural gas and bury them, you’ll never see them. We’ll light up blue lights lining the fairways. A lot of blue lights, a lot. But they’re really little, so little. They’ll only light up for ten seconds when you are ready to tee off, then they’ll go dark again. There will be SO much gaslighting...
This project will be called Black Sky. It will trump any golf course in the world.
Then, over there, another paradise. Unique. Our Central America location: Black Jungle.
The Mayans, they love the idea. Wonderful people, The Mayans. I’ve talked to them, a lot of them. They’re with us, the Mayans, 100%.
And finally, over there, our Egyptian location, Black Pyramids. You get the idea.
We don’t just want to make the Garden of Eden great again. We want to make it BIGGER and greater.”
I didn’t know what to say. It was all so much, so unexpected, so over the top. While I couldn’t pin down exactly why I felt this way, I still felt unsettled, as if my gut was about to talk or puke; I didn’t know which.
“This looks like it’s well on its way,” I said. “When did you hope to break ground?”
“I’ll be honest,” said Black, “we hoped we’d be underway already. But MacLean’s fuck up set us back. It’s true. It’s not terminal, though; we have a backup plan.”
“And what’s that?” I asked.
The intergalactic financers behind this project will still sign off on the construction loan if we have possession of Excalibur. Yes, the intergalactic communications protocol won’t be able to be installed until 2062, the next time the solstice and the full moon arrive at the same time, but we can wait and schedule that for the end. We’ll keep it in storage.
So that’s all we need to get started. We need Excalibur.
It’s up to you, Magnus. All the Time Pilots are counting on you.
I’ve talked to everybody. Everybody is so, so excited about this project.”
“You never answered my question, back there,” I said. “Why do you need a wall?” What’s the wall for?”
“Oh, yes, the wall,” he said. “We’re going to build a wall, a great wall, and the fairies are going to pay for it.”
“The fairies?” I said, surprised. “What do they have to do with this?”
“When our Time Pilots are here, we want them to be safe,” he said. “Completely. It’s all about security. Right now, the gates to Time Keeper Central are like a sieve. They’re terrible. Terrible! It’s a big, big problem. Undocumented fairies come and go, come and go. We can’t have that here. Can’t.
When Fairie Central sends its fairies here, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending fairies that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems here. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good fairies.
So we’re going to build a wall and the fairies are going to pay for it.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Some of it sounds OK, but some of it sounds too good to be true. You know what they say…”
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…yeah,” said Black, “I wrote that one, too. It’s become a great cliché. It’s in all the books now.”
“It’s more than that,” I said. “A week ago, I had a dream. I met a man named John Witherspoon, a man of great virtue. He called on people to take the virtuous path in life. He said it was vital. He said we must have a moral foundation if we want to build a great nation. I’m trying to see the virtue in all of this.”
“Virtue?” said Black, “I’m like the most virtuous guy in the galaxy. I’m all about virtue. I’m not building this project for myself. I’m building it to help out all the Time Pilots. We deserve it. That’s virtue, isn’t it?
Look. Humans only exist one way, in the positive phase. Fairies only exist one way, in the negative phase. Time Pilots exist in both phases, simultaneously. We’re the superior race. We absolutely deserve it.
And now that I’ve assumed control of this project, you finally have a leader. The forgotten Time Pilots of the galaxy will be forgotten no more.
Doesn’t that sound like virtue? It does to me.
Magnus, you can make the whole thing come to life.”
“Well, it’s all very big,” I said, “very big.”
“Yes, it is,” he said. “That’s good. That’s good. Let’s go back to Arthur and tell him the good news.”
“I didn’t agree to any…”
Black interrupted my protest and began to walk towards Arthur.
“Arthur, my old friend, good news,” he began. “Magnus and I have cleared up everything. It was all a big misunderstanding. He’s agreed to help our honored Time Pilots. They need our help and Magnus has stepped up, bigly.
“Is that so?” said Arthur. “So tell me, Mr. Black, why do you need Excalibur? I’m not exactly thrilled with the idea of giving you my sword. Magnus was given a mission, to come here and reboot the Earth’s ethics protocol. But now you’re telling us his mission has been aborted? Is that it?”
“This whole idea of an ethics reboot is junk science,” said Black. “Nobody can prove it’s a problem. Some people say it is; some say it isn’t. Nobody knows. Needing Excalibur to reboot the ethics of the entire planet? That’s silly; totally unnecessary. We’ve got better plans for the sword. Much better.”
I couldn’t believe what I just heard. All you had to do was look at the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century to see how screwed up the planet’s ethics had become. And yet, here he was, Mr. Virtue himself, saying it wasn’t a problem. My ears were burning.
“Do you deny that our social climate has changed and is continuing to change?” I asked.
“It can’t be proven,” said Black. “Nobody knows for sure. It’s the dishonest media. They lie. They say, ‘the sky is falling, the sky is falling.’ It’s all fake news. Fake.”
“But people’s passions run hotter and hotter every year,” I said. “Cooler heads don’t prevail. It seems we have fewer, cool headed grownups in responsible positions. So it’s not fake news. 4,000 scientists associated with the United Planets’ Commission on Social Climate Change say it’s a fact. The Tunguska Event sent a dark energy ripple through the structure of human ethics and distorted it. It’s a fact. It needs to be reset.”
“You’ve got scientists on your side; I’ve got scientists on my side. Nobody knows for sure,” said Black. It’s unproven. But I know a lot of people, a lot, who say the asteroid impact in Russia didn’t mean a God damned thing.”
“Let it go, Magnus, you’ll never change his mind,” said Arthur, “Remember what your great American, Mark Twain, once said: ‘Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.’”
“Now, now, Arthur, let’s be nice. I know we’ve had our differences. But this is a wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start,” said Black. “I know you’re not a Time Pilot but I’m sure we can make some kind of exception and let you through the wall. Have you ever played golf, Arthur?”
Mount Arthur was furious; his volcano, about to blow. Here was Black, reminding him of the infernal wall that kept him hostage those many centuries. And now, Black had the temerity to offer him a pass through this border wall of the future, as if he was God himself, offering Arthur a special dispensation because of the greatness of Black’s virtue and generosity.
“Fer wye were ye ever born, ye glaikit fud. You’re sainted Scottish mother would be rolling over in her grave if she could see you know,” he screamed.
Arthur picked up the sword of Robert the Bruce and dashed towards Jameson Black.
“No, no, no, no, Arthur. Not Good. Not Good,” exclaimed, Black, now retreating backwards before Arthur’s charging sword, stumbling as he went, tripping over a rock and tearing a hole in the trousers of his tailored, Savile Row suit.
“There’s no need for violence, Arthur. We can make a deal. I’m the king of deals; I’ve made deals all over the galaxy. Big deals. Huge. I’m sure we can come to an agreement,” he said, pleading his case.
“Here’s my offer,” said Arthur, pointing the sword directly at Jameson Black’s chest. “You go away and then I won’t have to bloody this perfectly good sword.”
“Arthur, let’s not be ridiculous,’ said Black, regaining his confidence, standing up, the tip of Arthur’s sword still inches from the buttons on his suit. “You know, I could take that sword from you, if I wanted to.”
Arthur laughed. Here was Mr. Hissy-Fit, telling the Middle Ages’ finest swordsman he could take the sword out of the King’s hands as if it was a butter knife on the dinner table.
“Is that so?” said Arthur, rolling the blade ninety degrees before flicking it and cutting off one of his suit buttons.
Black was surprised by the quickness and dexterity of Arthur’s swordsmanship. But it did not faze him and he stayed calm in the face of the sharp blade.
“No, not that sword,” said Black, confidently. “The other one, Excalibur, the one you’ve got hidden in the backpack.”
Another unexpected twist. How did Jameson Black know Excalibur wasn’t the sword Arthur held in his hands?
Now that the cat was out of the bag, I walked the few yards to the backpack, removed Excalibur and held it straight out, pointing it directly at Jameson Black.
“And just how did you know that?” I asked.
“Oh, please!!!” said Black, now pouting with a dismissive smirk as if I had just insulted his intelligence. “Magnus, have you forgotten? I’m smart; I’m really, really smart. And I’ve got a lot of smart, Time Pilots who love working for me. Do you really think I’d come here, to go through all the hassle of emerging, without taking some precautions. Please!
You see that over there, on the other side of the quarry, hidden in the shadows? That’s my little Black Box. You like that name? I do. One of our great, great scientists came up with that name when he gave it to me. I love it. He’s been promoted, by the way.
It does all sorts of things. Arthur, if you’d be so kind and not run me through. I’m going to walk over there and show Magnus what it can do. Don’t worry; I’m not going to kill you. I’m your friend, remember?”
The Director of Terran Expansion walked to the other side of the quarry and stopped next to the gold leaf covered chair he sat on when we first arrived. I followed him, stopping in front of the Black Box. It was an unmarked, non-descript cube, 1 meter on each side.
“It doesn’t look like much but this little box can detect sources of dark energy and dark matter. When you and Arthur rowed ashore, it lit up like the Vegas strip. Excalibur? It’s so full of dark matter, even if this box only worked at ten percent power I could tell Arthur had the real sword in the backpack. See, look at it go. The box is all lit up.
It also showed me the very nice dragon swimming behind that beautiful boat of yours. Nice boat, by the way. I’ve got one or two like it. They’re a little bigger; power boats. Big, big engines. But yours is nice, too.
So….; Magnus, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you fell for the Master Time Keeper’s lie. I know; I know. You were told there was this mystery man living in America, this Arthur 2.0, and he was going to fix everything. It’s not true; it’s all a lie.”
Arthur and I looked towards each other, totally on the same page after what we just heard Black say. Nobody ever said Arthur 2.0 was in America. But now, Black said exactly that.
“This whole ethics reboot he sold you, it’s not real,” he continued, though I was only half listening, still consumed by this new bit of vital information.
“Let me have the sword,” he said, “and we can make things so much better for our people, so much better.”
Jameson Black was a very persuasive man. Surely, he didn’t rise to his height of power and influence because he was stupid. As we stood before the quarry wall and the little Black Box, the Time Pilot made a convincing argument.
He could tell I was thinking it over, running various scenarios through my head.
“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s all so confusing. I wish Swede was here. He could help us figure this all out. What’s true; what’s not true. What’s exaggeration versus what’s an outright lie. I miss him; I wish he was here.”
“Swede and Nimue are on a well-deserved holiday. They earned it,” said Black. “But just think how much better it would be, for them, if this big expansion was complete? They are the people I’m talking about, the good people, the hard working Time Pilots and a few select friends. It’s the Swedes of the galaxy we’re working for.”
I walked in circles, rotating Excalibur’s handle in my hand as I paced, turning it clockwise, then counter-clockwise then back again the other way.
My head, clogged with uncertainty; what was the right choice? What’s the right thing to do? Was I being selfish if I chose to believe Black’s story and hand him the sword? Or was I being realistic? If I chose to keep Excalibur, was I stupid, like Bonnie Prince Charlie before the Battle of Culloden, not taking changed circumstances into consideration, blindly going forward with some noble but doomed plan despite the changed reality? Or, if I stuck Excalibur into the marble wall, proceeding with the mission, was that because, psychologically, I still needed to seek someone’s approval? Hoping they’d tell me I was a ‘good boy?’ And what of my responsibility to myself, to the Spirit of Merlin and to my predecessor Merlins who held this sacred position before me? What did I owe them? What was the right choice?
RING…RING…RING. It was Jameson Black’s cell phone. I recognized the ring tone. It was God save the Czar, the Russian National Anthem in the 19th Century, prominently featured in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
“Is that right?” said Jameson Black, talking to someone on the other end. “Is it working? [pause]... What’s that mean?” he said, angrily. “In and Out? Just tell me, one word answer, yes or no, does it work? [pause]… You don’t know for sure. It might?… That’s more than one word, fucker. I’ll tell you what I know; YOU’RE FIRED! Now get off my phone!”
Jameson Black, The Director of Terran Expansion, pushed the end button on his flip phone and hung up on whoever was on the other end.
“What a dildo!” said Black, putting the obsolete phone back into his pocket. “He’s one of those fairies, from Buttfuck, Pakistan or some such God forsaken place. Couldn’t understand a word he said. We let all these fuck’n fairies come in here and they can’t even speak English. That shit’s gonna stop! 100%.
“Is what working?” I asked.
“I guess we can give it a try,” said Black, looking calmer after his flash rant. “I don’t know if this will work. We can give it try. If it doesn’t work, that’s on all those geek fairies who programmed this Black Box. We’ll see.”
Jameson Black reached down to push a blue button on the top of the box. After a few flickering seconds, a holographic image came into view. It was life sized but out of focus. We couldn’t make out what it was supposed to be. This unique event was enough to get Arthur to walk towards the two of us to more closely investigate this strange phenomenon.
“Is that some sort of new television,” he asked.
“It’s a hologram,” said Black. “Yes, Arthur, it’s like a television. It’s three dimensional and we can broadcast this image from anywhere in the galaxy. [Black now looked at the flickering image.] Come on, dunderheads, focus…FOCUS!”
“Is there any sound?” I asked.
“That’s the part that might go in and out. At least that’s what I think he said. I could only understand every third word. What an idiot!” scoffed Black.
A crackling sound came out of the Black Box, like a microphone hooked up for the first time. Maybe it was a defective microphone. Whatever it was, we started to hear a few words, then static. A few more words, then more static. It was SO annoying, trying to hear what the blurred image said.
Then the audio connection locked in, rock solid, and we heard the spoken words perfectly: “Can you hear me? Are you there? Can you hear me?”
The voice repeated, three or four times, repeating the same simple questions, again and again. When the technicians on the other end eventually tuned the signal, the hologram’s projection became crystal clear. It was Eilidh.
“EILIDH!!! YES, I can hear you,” I screamed. “Eilidh, talk to me.”
Again and again, I called her name, but it was obvious, she could not hear or see anything from my end of the transmission. She just kept asking, ‘Can you hear me; are you there? Can you hear me; are you there?’
She was dressed in white and seemed to float in space. I couldn’t discern any background or setting; she could be anywhere, or nowhere. I couldn’t tell if she was transmitting live, at that moment, or if this was a pre-recorded event. The only way I could tell for sure was to talk with her, in a live, regular conversation. But that wasn’t going to happen.
Jameson Black was back on his phone now, trying to clean up the transmission, or so he wanted us to believe.
“It’s the what?” he said, talking into the flip phone. [pause]…LISTEN!…TO!… ME!… Slow down; Speak… English... [pause]… It’s the Gronk-u-what? What the Fuck? [turning now to the two of us.] Have either of you ever heard of a Gronkulator? I think that’s what he said. He said, ‘the Gronkulator still needed to be spiked.’ [pause]”
Arthur hadn’t heard of anything like that; neither had I. I guessed it was specialized Time Pilot technology not working properly, causing this two way holographic transmission to fail.
“TWO WEEKS!” screamed the furious Mr. Hissy-Fit. “You cannot be serious! I’ve got a Time Pilot here going crazy not knowing where she’s been. He needs to talk with her. [pause] NO! I don’t believe in can’t. There is no can’t. I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe you’re fired. All of you, FIRED!”
Jameson Black closed the flip phone and threw it as hard as he could, shattering the brittle plastic against the cold marble walls of the old quarry.
“Well, we tried,” said Black, who seemed to calm down very fast, too fast to be authentic rage. “It’s just so hard getting good help these days. That’s going to change, too. 100%.
Just before you came ashore I learned Eilidh had been found. She’s safe. She’s in a medical facility being checked out. She might have been injured, I don’t know for sure. I just learned this a few hours ago,” said Black the Compassionate.
“Where is she?” I demanded. “Why is she in a medical facility?”
“I don’t know; honest, I don’t” said Black. “Like I said, I just learned this a short while ago. But she looked pretty healthy to me in that short hologram we saw. I’m sure she’s alright.”
“He’s lying, Magnus,” said Arthur. “Look at him. Look at his body language.”
“You’re the one who’s lying, Arthur,” shouted Black, his anger rising again. “You don’t care about the Time Pilots; you’re not one of us. All you care about is yourself. Don’t believe him, Magnus.
Look, we can zip thing up right now and put it to bed,” he continued. “We get on my helicopter and within minutes we’ll be at that medical facility. You and Eilidh will be reunited. Just hand me Excalibur and we’re off. Simple as that.”
“Magnus, if you hand him that sword, we’re dead. Marcus, too.
I’m sorry, Magnus, but he’s got Eilidh; he’s holding her hostage. Or else she’s already dead and he wants you to believe she’s still alive. That’s what that hologram charade was about. Don’t fall for it, Magnus; let’s finish what we came here to do.”
“GET OUT OF MY HEAD; ALL OF YOU!!!” I screamed.
I walked away, leaving Black and Arthur awkwardly standing together by the Black Box, next to the gilded, gold leaf chair, directly in front of the green marble wall we came to stab.
Excalibur felt so much heavier now. It was. Not only did I carry the weight of its unique, silver and carbon steel blade, freshly infused with dark matter, I also felt the weight of the whole galaxy on my shoulders. There was a right decision; I just couldn’t see it.
For three minutes I walked in circles, three of the longest minutes in any of my lives. Pacing, pacing, pacing.
Arthur was right, of course. His was a logical, well-reasoned, accurate analysis. But Arthur was a warrior while I saw myself more as a lover and I had fallen for Eilidh, hard. I couldn’t just dismiss that love as easily as Arthur the warrior might want me to. If I just gave up on trying to find her, did that mean I didn’t really love her that much in the first place? Or, did I have the courage to accept that our love was real and yet still proceed with what amounted to a sacrifice. Could I do that; sacrifice her for some greater good? Did I have the moral strength to surrender the fight for Eilidh, to make a triage decision in the name of a higher love, a love for people I had yet to meet? These are the decisions which litter the road to virtue and a no-decision, decision was not an option.
I don’t know if I actually decided yet but Jameson Black called me back to their location to give me one last, well-phrased sales pitch.
“Magnus, I know I said this before, but I mean it; I really do. Honest. I have the power to take the sword from you, if I wanted to do that. But I don’t want to do that. We’re on the same side. We’re both Time Pilots. We both want the best for our people. I know you believe that.
I want you to hand me the sword of your own free will. It’s the right thing to do. You know it; I know you do. We’re partners in this great project; the two of us.
So, please, hand me the sword. Then we’ll get on the chopper and go see your lady. Whatdaya say?”
He reached out his right hand looking for me to clasp it in a mutual bond of friendship, sealing our deal, before I handed over the precious blade, peacefully.
“Thank you for your kind offer, Mr. Black,” I began. “And for your concern about Eilidh. Yes, I’d like to see her. Very much. I’ve been so worried about her.”
“Yes, Magnus, I know you have been,” he said, compassionately.
“And yes, I’ve made my decision,” I said.
I looked at Arthur but he said nothing. He gritted his teeth, slowly shaking his head from side to side. I knew what he meant.
“And my decision is,” I said, looking Jameson Black squarely in the eye. “My decision is…. that I will fulfill my mission as it was given to me by my guide and mentor.
Mr. Black, Arthur, if you would both step back and take cover, this might get explosive.”
“NOOOOOOO!!!!” Don’t do it,” screamed, Mr. Hissy-Fit. “Don’t do it, Magnus. You will be hated by everybody back at Time Keeper Central. They are counting on you. Everybody. All of your friends, all of your colleagues, they will hate you, Magnus.”
“I’ve made my decision, Mr. Black, now step aside,” I said, my anger and irritation with this ass hat growing stronger.
“Magnus, you’ll hate it back there. It will be hell,” he said, still trying to plead his case.
Arthur stepped in, to add his two cents.
“Don’t let a little taste of hell deter you, Magnus; it’s not that big a deal. I’ve been to hell, but I left, ’cause I didn’t like his momma’s cook’n.”
Guh – ZINGGG!
Dang, Arthur, I thought. Zinggggin’ Hissy-Fit’s momma, too? That’s cold, dude.
Jameson Black wasn’t listening. Bullies never do.
“I can hear them now; all the Time Pilots,” he continued. They won’t say, ‘I knew Magnus Cook’; they’ll say, ‘I knew Magnus the Kook, the guy who had the keys to The Garden of Eden in the palm of his hand. But he was crazy and tossed them away.’ You’ll join Adam and Eve in the Fuckups Hall of Fame! You’re all such Losers!”
“You’ve lowered yourself to name calling, have you? That’s so second grade of you,” I replied, keeping my emotions under control. “That’s fine. Call me any name you want because but I know EXACTLY who I am.”
Was that true? Did I know “exactly” who I was? Cuideachaidh wasn’t so sure. That’s why he sent me back to the 18th Century, to help me discover my true self. But understanding is one thing, acting on it is quite another.
Ever since my meeting with the assistant taibhsear, I never felt strong enough to claim one identity above the other, to make a pro-active decision, to claim either Magnus or Merlin as my one, true identity. I never corrected people when they called me Magnus if I thought I was Merlin, or vice versa.
Decisions have consequences; I understand that. But we have to be willing to live with the results of our decisions. NOT to decide? To live in limbo because we’re afraid to choose? That’s a decision, too. Cuideachaidh knew… to continue my Merlin/Magnus self-identity conflict was not an option. I HAD to decide: Who was I?
Though the sand in time’s hourglass still hung suspended, it was decision time. I rewound the past few seconds and replayed Black’s insults, rants and name calling a second time. I picked it up a few moments before the pause, initiating a deja-vu moment, a decision three lifetimes in the making.
“You’ve lowered yourself to name calling, have you? That’s so second grade of you,” I replied, keeping my emotions under control. “That’s fine. Call me any name you want because but I know EXACTLY who I am.”
I begin my first incantation:
Kairos. Chronos. Time to see.
MY black magic. Gone you’ll be.
The name’s not Loser.
The name’s not Kook.
I am MERLIN!
And you’re pooched.
I leveled the iconic sword and aimed it directly between his cold, lifeless eyes.
“You’ll go to hell. HELL!!!” screamed Jameson Black, one last time.
“Alright, then, I’ll just go to hell,” I replied.
I thrust the sword of Camelot past his right ear, into a small crevice in the green marble wall directly behind the soon to be ex-Director of Terran Expansion.
The rock accepted the sword.
Now… we waited.
Toc, tic, toc. Toc, tic, toc.
I retreated rapidly, running as fast I could towards the shoreline and the hoped for safety of anywhere else, as far away from the quarry as I could get. Arthur was right behind me. But Jameson Black did not run away. He tried to remove the sword from the stone, hoping to stop the impending ethics shutdown before it got started. He could not. The die was cast and the sword’s new removal protocols were installed instantly upon Excalibur’s insertion into the stone.
From this point forward, Excalibur would only be removed from the green stone of Iona by someone worthy of such a high honor. Jameson Black was not that man.
Fifteen seconds passed. Mr. Hissy-Fit continued his efforts to remove the sword from the stone but his time was up. Excalibur began to shake violently; the motion knocked him to the ground. The quarry walls vibrated like an earthquake, long overdue.
Jameson Black realized his attempts were in vain. He tried to run away from the quaking walls of the sword skewered quarry but he didn’t get far.
The south wall of Iona’s quarry exploded in a green marble hailstorm. The blast’s shockwave knocked Black’s paunchy body to the ground. Green rock slivers poked holes in his Savile Row suit, tearing it to shreds.
His angry, God-of-War, Mars red tie was soiled Green Peace green. Oh, the humanity!
Marble dust covered everything, including his well-coiffed cowlicks, coloring his blonde, salon styled hairdo, witch skin green. But his complexion remained pale; his lips, pouty, as if he knew he lost a bigly, big deal to a couple of losers. He did!
Losers-1; Big Deal Maker-0. It felt good.
Arthur and I made it to the relative safety of the shoreline and took refuge under the dingy which we overturned, using it as a makeshift shelter to protect us from the green rocks raining from the sky.
As we waited for the dust to settle, waiting for the right time to come out from under our protective raft, we both began to feel queasy.
“Do you feel that?” I asked Arthur.
“Yes, I do,” he said. “It’s like, well, I don’t know what it’s like. It’s more like… nothingness…I seem to have lost my bearings.”
The avalanche of green marble stopped. We felt safe to come out from beneath the dingy. Except for the green dust covering everything, nothing had changed since before the explosion. But still, I felt like I lost my compass, my moral compass.
“Arthur, do you think I made the right decision?” I asked. “I’m not so sure anymore.”
“Three minutes ago I would have said, ‘Yes,’” he replied. “But now, I’m not so sure. I don’t feel like I’m sure of anything right now.”
And so it went for the next hour or so as the Earth’s ethics protocol underwent the reboot process. Everyone on Earth was affected. Luckily, the multiple restarts which were part of the process didn’t have any dire consequences. Other than feeling periodically weird over that hour, the people of the earth came through the reboot unscathed.
Not so for Nessie…
When the sword pierced the stone, Nessie flapped her wings violently. She rose high into the sky, then fell and hit the water, hard, creating an enormous splash. She emerged from the water, again and again, roaring in pain. Gushers of liquid nitrogen spewed from her nostrils, freezing into blocks of frozen salt ice where the cold, liquid splashed upon the ocean.
Since ethics are such an important part of a dragon’s self-identity, Nessie was affected by the ethics shutdown far worse than humans. She was rudderless, not knowing right from wrong, alone in a strange world, freaking out.
She rose from the water again. This time she flew towards the island, blind, looking left and right, not sure of anything.
Nessie came back to earth, landing on the rocks and ledges above the quarry. Her talons tried to grip the rocky outcrops, but it was like when she first tried to land on Coll, she couldn’t get a good grip.
Her ethics in flux, unable to hold the rocky ground, Nessie was an out of balance mess. She fell on her side, mindless; dragon drunk. Her long, powerful tail swung up and down as she dangled on the edge of the quarry, trying to get her bearings. When her tail swung down and to the left, it swept the quarry’s length, flicking pieces of green marble dust out of the way, like a maid with a broom. She swept right and her tail smacked a large boulder, sending it towards the west end bleachers, a home run. But the next time she swung her tail to the left, she didn’t sweep dust or whack boulders. With her tail fully extended, Nessie delivered an epic blow, a square struck belly thwack. She walloped dusty green Jameson Black and sent his arrogant evilness flying towards the east, towards the witches on Mull.
Out of the quarry he flew, arms and legs flailing. But his airborne body didn’t fly far. Jameson Black fell into the ocean between Iona and Mull to await whatever fate befalls reprobate Time Pilots once their duplicity has been revealed.
“Let’s go to twelve… to Cotton Mather and Henry Ward Beecher…”
“Henry, look at her, lying there on her side…poor thing.”
“She made a mistake. She knows it.”
“Yes, she did, and it’ll cost her.”
“Cotton, I know how she feels. You’re angry when you get to the tee. You don’t even think about it, you just grab the driver. You’re mad at the boss; you’re mad at your spouse; you’re mad at your kids, your last putt, the world, whatever. I’m sure that’s what Nessie was feeling. She just wanted to drive that hole, whack his balls all the way to China. We’ve all been there; haven’t we?”
“Oh, yes we have, Henry. But…Shhhhh…Don’t tell the other Puritans I said that.”
“Her anger got the best of her and that’ll cost her a stroke.”
“What was it, Henry? Too much club?”
“Absolutely it was too much club.
Look – Those big dragons, the big hitters, they can make it to the green in one. And on a good day, with the wind at their back, so can some other dragons. But most weekend duffers can’t. And you have to know your circumstances. This is the 12th at Iona National! It’s the most seductive hole on the whole dragon tour. It practically begs you to aim for the flag.
Look at it flapping on the pole over there in the Witches’ Cauldron on Mull. This is a short Par-4; it’s only 4,000 yards. A real Eagle possibility, if you can make it across the water. And everybody gets greedy when they see it so close. They start celebrating that Eagle before they even tee it up. Some of these arrogant young guns, the red dragons especially, they want to show off to their girlfriends what big hitters they are; impress the other guys. So they shoot for the flag in anger or in pride, and they slice it, like Nessie did, and they don’t clear the water hazard.”
“It’s not just wrath. Envy, pride, greed, they’re all here on twelve, Henry. But so are lust, gluttony and sloth. All seven deadly sins are in play at Hallelujah Corner here at Iona National.”
“Cotton, if you were her caddie, would you advise her to keep the driver in the bag?”
“Absolutely. Go with a 3-wood on the tail. Maybe even a 4. Sacrifice distance for control. Had she done that she could have laid him up and then gently rolled his balls close enough for an easy, second shot chip onto the green.”
“I think you’re right, Cotton. You’ve got to stay humble to play this hole. That’s what the 12th at Iona National is all about. Stay in control of your emotions; stay within yourself; don’t get seduced by greed. Par is the winning play here; maybe birdie if you’re short game’s good.
She’s young. She’ll learn.”
“Let’s go to Martin Luther and John Knox over on 15.”
At a minimum, Jameson’s Black’s impromptu emergence, though it lasted just a few hours, was over. I wouldn’t have to deal with him for the rest of my life here in the 21st Century. But after that, I didn’t know. Was he dead? Was he to be sentenced to some Time Pilot prison in the far reaches of the galaxy? Those decisions were above my pay grade. He was gone, and, for now, that’s all that mattered.
Arthur and I climbed to the top of the quarry to see how Nessie was doing. I was concerned; so was Arthur. The poor thing took quite a beating over the last hour. She was still on her side, her breathing, labored.
“How’s she look,” I asked Arthur.
“She’s alive, that’s good.” he said, as we walked around her body, looking for any signs of injury. “I don’t see any puncture wounds. She’s young. She’s healthy. I don’t see any reason why…wait a minute.”
Arthur went to the front, to Nessie’s head. He spotted something which concerned him.
“C’mon girl, lift your head; you can do it,” said Arthur, trying to coax the young pup to lift her head up, even a little bit.
Nessie heard him and with what little energy she had, she raised her armored head just enough for Arthur to see what he wanted to see.
“Good girl, Nessie. OK, you can rest now; good girl,” said Arthur and the dragon placed her throbbing head back down on the hard rocks of Iona, suffering from the reptilian equivalent of the worst hangover you could ever imagine.
“What is it?” I asked, afraid of the worst. What did you see?”
“I think she’ll be fine,” said Dr. Pendragon. “I think she has a bad headache and she’ll need to sleep it off. She’s down and out for a while.”
“What were you looking for?” I asked, still concerned about her health.”
“I have to think about it a bit more; I’m not sure what I saw. But let’s go down into the quarry and find that sword,” said Arthur, changing the subject.
Arthur and I walked down through the cracks and crevices in what was left of the quarry’s walls. We made it to the bottom, unscathed. Here, right where we had been with Jameson Back an hour ago, was Excalibur, buried halfway into a boulder sized piece of the green marble rock, broken off the wall of the quarry. The boulder, with its silver sword imbedded deep within, stood alone, apart from its quarry bound brethren, like a silent sentinel, beckoning all who dream of becoming a King.
Arthur smiled as he looked upon the sword in the stone. It brought back such vivid memories only he could understand.
“You know,” he began. “I was just a kid, back then. I know some of the books written about me say I was a teenager. No. I was nine. I could barely hold that thing. That’s a pretty heavy sword for a nine year old kid to lug around.”
“When you pulled it out, did it come easily?” I asked, curious how the procedure worked.
“Yeah, it did, actually,” said Arthur. “I didn’t even think about it; it just came out. I didn’t even know it was special.
A bunch of us kids were playing, climbing on trees, climbing on rocks, the stuff normal nine year old boys do. I think we were playing hide and seek. I climb up on this rock that had always been there, as long as any of us kids could remember. I lose my balance and start to fall. So I grabbed the handle of this sword that was sticking out of the anvil in the stone, and as I fell off the rock, the sword just came with me. Luckily, when it hit the ground, it didn’t fall on me. It could have, easily.
I take it back to Sir Ector’s place, where I lived, and when he saw the sword, he got real serious, ‘Boy’ he yelled, ‘where did you get this sword?’ I thought I was in trouble.
One thing led to another, and, here we are, again, the sword’s in the stone.”
“Yes, we are,” I said. “We certainly are.”
I walked to the green boulder and took the handle of the sword in my hand. I tried to remove it. It wouldn’t budge.
“That baby’s in there,” I said. “Why don’t you give it a try, Mr. King; it’s your sword. You did it once; you can do it again. Yank that sucker out of there.”
Arthur, never one to pass up a challenge, walked up to the green boulder and took hold of the sword’s handle. He gave it a small tug. It didn’t move. He pulled harder. Still. Nothing. Finally, he climbed on the top of the boulder, to gain all the leverage he could, and tried one last time to pull the sword out of the stone. It wouldn’t budge.
Arthur jumped off the boulder, looking a bit defeated.
“I think you’ve got this one wrong, wizard boy; I don’t think it’s my sword anymore.”
I went back up to Excalibur, tugging on it again, weakly, not even trying to pull it out. That’s when I noticed the writing on the sword’s blade. It was that classic sentence every nine year old boy who ever dreamed of becoming a King memorizes as soon as he hears it the first time. But now, it was a bit different, shorter, a change that would make all the difference in what was yet to come. I read it out loud:
“Whoso pulleth this sword from this stone is Right Wise...”
“That’s it?” said Arthur, a bit puzzled. “Where’s the rest of the sentence? Is it beneath the level of the stone?”
“That’s it,” I said, “that’s all she wrote.”
Arthur looked a bit down, but not too much. He snapped out of it in just a few seconds.
“It’s alright,” he said. “It’s a new world and I’m an old man. It’s all good. It’s not my sword anymore. The world is a lot bigger than my olde England ever was. If my Grandson is in America, like Black said he was, then what the sword says makes sense. I’m OK with it. I am.”
“You mean Grandson seventy one times removed, don’t you?”
“Was it that many generations?” he asked. “You should know, wizard boy, you always were good with math.”
“What do we do with this giant green boulder?’ I asked. “We’re not moving that thing.”
“Hadn’t thought about that,” said Arthur. “I think we’re OK; it’s not going anywhere. I don’t think the Christians on the other side of the island are going to steal it.
Let’s get back to the boat. Marcus will want to know what happened to us. Nessie, too.”
“Right, Nessie.” I said, agreeing with Arthur’s plan to return to the boat. “I’m sure she’ll want to sleep a while. She’ll be fine where she is, nobody can spot her.
“Not necessarily,” said Arthur. “Here’s the situation. When I looked under her chin, I looked at her invisi-valve. It’s smashed all to hell. She must have damaged it when she flopped around up there. If I had to guess, I’m thinking she isn’t invisible any more. The valve’s scales were broken off.”
“You mean the whole world can see her?” I said, still not quite grasping the enormity of our changed situation. “We’ve got to move her, get her back under water, something. We can’t let the paparazzi see her lying here.”
“I’m all for it,” said Arthur. “If you’ve got any good ideas on how to move a drunk, hundred ton, sleeping dragon with a bad headache, I’m all ears. What’s your plan?”
“I don’t have any ideas,” I said, assuming worst. “Let’s get back to the boat. Maybe Marcus has some ideas. He’s always got good ideas.”
“Yes,” said Arthur, now putting his arm around my neck and shoulder. “We can do that, go back and ask Marcus. But it’s going to be dawn pretty soon and those Royal Navy fly boys will come back as soon as the sun’s up. I think we have to be realistic here. As soon as those helicopters see Nessie asleep on the rocks, our lives will change, in ways we can’t imagine.”
Arthur was right. There was no way we were going to escape detection like we had up till now. It was… invisible… game over. We’d have to accept our new normal.
“How do I look,” I asked Arthur after a few minutes thinking it over. “I’ve never been on television before.”
Already, I had started to savor our victory over Mr. Hissy-Fit, regaining a bit of my swagger, starting to accept the reality of our impending fame and international celebrity.
“Like the skinny, hairy, ugly, old bastart I came to know and love all those many years ago,” he said, now giving me a big hug.
“Arthur, you crack me up, you really do.” I said, chuckling and enjoying the moment.
“No, Merlin, I don’t think you understand,” he said, his voice now far more serious than it had just been. His tone didn’t seem to mesh with the lightness of the moment. I could tell, something was up.
“Merlin, I love you, like a Grandson loves his Grampa,” he said. “Like a father loves his son, like a soldier loves his buddies he goes to war with. I always have. That will never change, Merlin; never.
But a lot of things will change, for you. They already have.”
“What do you mean, Arthur? How have I changed?”
“Let’s get back to the boat,” he said. “Marcus is probably worried sick about us.”