4-3

They all crawled out of the back of the Landrover. Sophie groaned, "I thought the trip in the back of the van was bad. I feel like every bone in my body's been fractured!"

Frank rubbed his head painfully. "Yer no kiddin! They didnae believe in comfort wae thae tanks!"

"Come on everybody, let's get inside." The Professor was already pulling his keys out. "I've got to fire up my gizmos and check everything's working. It's all portable, but I'll need you lot to help me drag some of it up the hill. If we can get it set up and get Johnny intae the centre o' the circle before the next emission event maybe we can isolate the chronon. Midday'll be our best chance, I think."

The bothy and shed at the side were crammed with all sorts of electronics, computers and junk. Professor Watkins pointed which of the piecees of junk had to be lugged up to the ring. Pride of place in the shed were given over to a large diesel generator.

"There's a pretty good windmill generator ootside. I use this for the big jobs. I got it cheap when they were breaking up an old RSG nuclear bomb shelter." The Professor put a key in the ignition and fired it up. "I've had cables laid up to the ring for years."

They all had something to carry, Frank, Teddy and Colin were lugging the biggest piece of equipment between them. "Careful way that, lads! That's the gizmo that does the do-ins! Looks like it'll only take the one trip. Good! I don't think we've got much time left."

Professor Watkins was just finishing his set up at the ring when the big, fluorescent yellow, Seaking helicopter buzzed in low and landed near them. The detective sergeant jumped out first to give the DCI a discreet hand out. They walked over to the group. Haiggert cast an appraising eye over them all, "I'm Detective Chief Inspector Haiggert of Strathclyde Police. You're all under arrest! Suspected kidnapping, peverting the course of justice, driving without due care and attention. I'll sort the rest out later."

Professor Watkins stepped forward. " I'm Professor Watkins of Dundee University. These young people are helping me with my research."

The pilot jumped out of the helicopter. Professor Watkins! It's me, Flight Captain Boyd! Can I have a quiet word Sir?" They stepped away from the others. "Detective Chief Inspector Haiggert's here with me. All hell's breaking loose over that young yank chap ye've got with you! I know for a fact there's five military choppers on their way here. Three of them are American. One of them's got absolute, top level clearance. There's some guy called Von Slagerhamer in charge."

"Why are you telling me all this Captain Boyd? This all sounds strictly `need to know,' to me."

"Yes sir. When I picked up DCI Haiggert he mentioned your name. I radioed base and they patched me through to `Space 1' on a scrambled channel. I'd heard rumours, down the line, you were still, unofficially, attached."

"Space 1? I'm surprised ye can be so casual mentioning, The Project. Ye know we don't have an independent space programme, to speak of." He smiled, ruefully. "And what did they say?"

"I got put on to a Colonel Dare. He told me to give you any information and assistance that I could. He also warned me that there are other interests at work."

They walked back to the group. Professor Watkins addressed them all."I know about Von Slagerhamer. There's two shades o' opinion about the man. There's the official one: He's a brilliant, if eccentric, scientist who has the ear of the Whitehouse and the Pentagon. Or, there's the other one: He's an ex-nazi, nutcase who stole some brilliant ideas and cobbled them together with an pseudo-religious, ideology undiluted by his time in the US and has his own group of followers round him as his own personal army."

"Von Slagerhamer put me here!" Said Johnny. "I hoped he'd be dead by now! I might have guessed he was behind all this craziness."

"It's forty years since I first heard o' that nutter. I was in the British Rocketry Group. We all heard the rumours about Project Rainbow." Professor Watkins shook his head. "They must have thought they'd got another Von Braun on their hands!"

"Look!" Called Inga. "More helicopters!" Flying down low over the hills came what seemed like a small armada of five helicopters. Two more RAF Seakings, two small, fast, USAF Apache helicopter Gunships and a giant Chinook cargo ship. The noise was terrific.

Professor Watkins glanced around at the equipment setup and pulled out a remote control from the pocket of his anorak. "Captain Boyd I think you should get back to your ship. Hail the other craft and tell them to stand down. I don't think you'll have much luck with the Americans. Then call Space 1. Talk to Colonel Dare and tell him whit's going on. Then give him the message, `starr'd face.' Just that mind. Should act like Domestos oan official channels." Tommy Boyd ran back to his helicopter.

"Now folks, with the kind permission o' the Chief Inspector here, I think we should all step into the middle o' the circle." Dutifully they all trooped after him.

copyright, AndroMan 2003.