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BlackEagle Girls
and The Ice-Angel of Death

Chapter 3 - New blood

Narenda Upaday's soft-brown skin seemed paler than usual, or perhaps the yellowish lights surrounding the school quadrangle gave that impression. She shivered involuntarily, trying to make her mind accept the fact that her jogger-shod feet were gliding over the close-cropped lawn without actually making contact. Her dark eyes, large and liquid, stared fixedly down, until with much effort she managed to lift them and turn so that her gaze took in the wider surroundings and the figures of her companions. 'I cannot bring myself to believe that this is real,' she managed, quickly turning her gaze again toward her feet, almost as if she thought that she might suddenly come skidding onto the grass.

'Neither can I,' managed Belinda Moss, the Form Captain of Hopewell Hall's One A. 'I thought that both of you were on mind-bending drugs and in need of help. Why would anyone think anything else when approached by two girls who suggested incredible things such as flying and travelling around in some sort of weird space craft? I just decided to humour you both to find out what had happened to you. I never really believed that... but wait! How do Narenda and I know that somehow you haven't managed to drug us? This surely can't be actually happening? It must be a dream, or are we hallucinating?'

Monique, who was at Belinda's side, said, 'If you are not ready for this, we can take you both back to your beds and settle you in for the night. By morning, Harry will have all memories erased and you will not recall a thing. So far no harm has come to you. Do you want to go on?'

'I am not sure,' said Narenda, as the four drifted to a halt, hovering above the grass. 'Ohh, but look! there is that girl Terri and Tsu Tsuang floating toward us! And what is the thing hanging above the garden over there? It looks like some kind of dilapidated old shed!'

'Nah! That's just the BlackEagle,' said Priscilla, waving at the approaching girls. 'Now if you two want to take a look inside, you'll have to make up your minds. So far so good. Is this a dream? Have you taken drugs? Is this real? Are you being threatened? Do you want to see what we can show you?'

'It must be a dream,' said Narenda, gazing about the sterile interior of the BlackEagle. 'I will wake up and find myself in bed.'

'And when you do, could you come down to my Dorm and wake me up too?' answered Belinda, running her fingers over the warm, yet unyielding surfaces surrounding her.

'Ruff!' said a voice out of nowhere. 'I guess it's about time for me to say "this is your Captain speaking". Dogs in Space! Awooh! Alright then! Hi girls! And a special hello to you Belinda and you too Narenda. Of course Narenda, we know each other already. You and your little sister Nisha and your mother took me in for a while there when I was wandering around the neighbourhood waiting to come back to my home. I really have to thank you for introducing me to Priscilla and Monique. But anyway, I'm sure they've both filled you in by now, so considering that it's almost midnight and we have to get you all back for some sleep before your Sunday activities, it's best that we get on with tonight's adventure. Now as this is an exercise to convince you Belinda and you Narenda that this is real and that you're not both drugged or dreaming, where would you like to go? For the next couple of hours The BlackEagle can take you anywhere in the world so as to prove its reality. Narenda, your choice?'

Narenda blinked in the pale blue light of the interior, desperately trying to get her head around the very idea that a little black dog was actually, in some disembodied way, talking to her. 'Well, my Father was born in Jodhpur State, that is in Rajasthan in India, about three hundred kilometres from the border with Pakistan. I should very much like to see it. Could we go there?'

'Umm... Sure,' came Harry's reply. 'Let me see, allowing for travel time we can get there around eight-thirty at night. What about you Belinda? Where would you like to go?'

'Well Jodhpur sounds really interesting, especially because it gave its name to our horse-riding breeches, but I should very much like to visit my Grandmother, Cicely Baxter's home in England, at Southend-on-Sea, overlooking the Thames Estuary in  Essex,' said Belinda positively. 'I've never actually been there of course, but I can give you her exact address. It's very close to Southend Pier.'

'No need, I can pick that up from my information files. I'll do that as you travel,' Harry answered. 'If you depart now you could be there around four-thirty in the afternoon. Maybe it's best if you arrive in daylight first and look in on Jodhpur on the way back, considering that it's dark there already. The journey will take a little while, so please get yourselves settled on these couches.' As Harry said the word "couches", six of them slid soundlessly out of silver cabinets and each of the girls clambered on, Narenda somewhat hesitantly. 'Uh-uh, before you all get settled,' continued Harry, 'please check out the toilets. Big trips around your world need a pit-stop...did I say "pit?" Gotta get my teeth checked. Anyway, you guys don't want any little accidents, now do ya?'

'Look, it's really alright,' said Priscilla, reaching over and patting Narenda's hand when they had all finally settled down, 'you'll get used to this after the first time. Bit like the big fun rides. It's all about G Forces and st...UU...UFFFF!'

'See, wasn't so bad was it?' asked Priscilla, rubbing her temples and trying to get her eyes to focus properly.

'Are you serious!' said Belinda Moss, two couches away. 'That was sensational! Better than anything I've ever been on! Almost better than horse-riding and the pony jumps on my Father's country property! Absolutely exhilarating! Can't wait for the return journey!' She was already on her feet and making for the viewing portals that were sliding open all around The BlackEagle.

'What's with her?' muttered Priscilla irritably, struggling to sit up. ' "Horse-vriding here, horse vriding there! Vriding in our Joddies over the pony jumps on Father's country property. Can't wait for the vreturn journey! Though I never vreally believed it." Is she up herself or what?'

'She is just over excited, ' Monique answered, rubbing Narenda's back and looking anxiously at the Indian girl. 'Are you alright Narenda?'

Narenda, who had covered her eyes with her hands as if to hold them in place, slowly allowed her fingers to part. 'I am truly happy that Harry made us go to the toilet, otherwise I should be most... um... uncomfortable.'

'Oh do come on Narenda, get with the spirit of the thing,' called Belinda, pointing out of one of the window ports. 'Look! We are perched on Southend Pier, the longest pleasure pier in the world from what I have been told about it and...oh dear! Here comes the Pier Train!'

As the others followed her outstretched arm they saw that what Belinda said was true; a train was indeed swiftly approaching the BlackEagle where it hovered centimetres above the tracks.
'Ohhh! Ooooh! Ahhhh!' screamed all six girls in unison as the train bore down and only a fraction before the collision point, the craft containing them shot sideways out of its path. The Pier Train rattled by and the girls could distinctly see the eager faces of passengers taking their last look at the sights before disembarking and making their way homeward.

'Oowhee! That was a close one!' managed Priscilla, easing her bracing holds on the sides of her couch. 'Harry you little...darling...you forgot to remind us about The BlackEagle's avoidism system.'

'Oh that? Yeah, sorry guys, that's the Aversion feature cutting in. Tsu and Terri, you both know about it.'

'Well of course we do, but it always surprises us at the last moment, and we didn't have any time to explain,' answered Tsuang Tsu, steadying herself against her couch. 'Perhaps Harry, now that we have seen Southend-on Sea's most famous sight, you could take us on to our destination?'

'Belinda's Grandmother's house? Hold tight! There! Didn't hurt a bit, did it! Considering it's just down the road.'

The girls, feeling their heads spinning, managed to adjust their eyes at the scene confronting them.
'This is not a house. It is a supermarket,' said Monique, who was first to recover.

'It's the address I came up with Belinda,' came Harry's voice from the speakers of the BlackEagle.

'Yes,' said Belinda, 'but you seem to have gotten it wrong.'

'Happens sometimes, even to us. Ever heard of Roswell? But... Wait on a moment or two, I'm just checking back through some information files on location and history... Yeah! Here! Umm... '

There was silence for a few seconds and all the girls looked at each other with puzzled expressions until Harry said, 'Belinda Moss, are you pulling my leg? And remember I've got four of 'em. This is the correct address! Your Granny Cicely did live here, wouldn't give up her little cottage to the developers, until finally she died nine years ago and they pulled it down and turned it into this!'

Five pairs of eyes turned toward Belinda Moss who, in turn, turned bright crimson. 'Oh... Well, you see I just wanted to... test... whether you... well, if you were so... so intelligent as I've been told to expect... you know, organised people from outer space, if they're really real, should be able to know everything about us and so... and so I just thought I'd try to catch you out... and anyway I still don't know if this is a dream or not... ' she ended lamely.

'I see,' said Harry's calm voice before any of the others could interject, 'so you still aren't prepared to accept what's happening and where you are? Alright! Girls, resume your places on the couches. This calls for a further demonstration.'

Before the six girls had time to make sense of Harry's words, the scene beyond the BlackEagle
started to shimmer. Something was happening to their vision of the world beyond. Through the portals the supermarket began to blur and sweep aside, objects and signs and people all appeared to distend and peel away, left to right, as if they were being blown, portion by portion, out of the frames. The speed and intensity picked up in a whirling cloud that physically buffeted the craft until, somehow, the motion began to subside and the spinning before the girl's eyes slowly resolved once again into sight. Fragments of images collected, falling into place like so many building blocks randomly sorting themselves into patterns until there, before the owl-wide eyes of the girls, stood a small, neat, shingle-roofed cottage. Colours were busily assembling: yellows and greens and lavenders of the garden, creams and ochres of the walls and eaves, reds of the single chimney, the grey and white of smoke issuing forth from its grimy tip. The sky beyond was the pale blue of a duck's egg, smudged by whips of streaming cloud. With a shock the girls suddenly saw that there were rubble-strewn blocks of weedy land and the shells of vacant cottages left and right, marching off into the distance along a pale road that swept away toward low rises of housing on one side and down to the rolling marches of the sea on the other. Construction had already begun on a carpark at the south end. A steamroller and some other deserted digging machines littered the bleak expanse.

'What do ya think?' came Harry's voice, breaking the silence that seemed to have enveloped the girls.

'This is Granny Cicely's cottage. I've seen black and white photos of it when I was younger,' said Belinda in an awed tone.

'Monsieur Harry, how did you make it happen? How can you bring us this picture as if it has just been... how do you say it?... rebuilded?' said Monique, struggling like the others to understand what had taken place.

'Yeah, right! Umm, you girls gotta get a handle on this. It's like... Umm... This isn't easy to tell you, but its you that has been rebuilded. It's all to do with molecular structure; moving stuff around through time and space, forward and backward. Bit tricky to explain, but we can do it. So what we have here is how it is, and what we have here is how you aren't, but how you have come to how it is. In other words, you've all been moved and reassembled. What you just thought you saw was time and space rolling backward, yet it was really you doing that. What you see now is reality, but what you are seeing it with, your eyes, your minds and bodies, are not. You are all now here in Nineteen ninety two, viewing it through senses that can never be here in reality but are, in spite of that. Get my meaning?'

'No!' said Priscilla, holding her hand to her head. 'What the hell are you talking about Harry? Are we looking at a vision of what once was, or are we back there, actually in that time?'

'Why don't you find out?' said Harry, as the portal entrance of the BlackEagle slid open. 'You are all free to step outside. Stay together. Don't be afraid, you are only limited by time. You have just a short while. Do not attempt to wander or to communicate. Anything you do or say or touch will not register.'

'What about sanitizing us before we go out?' said Priscilla, standing in the usual place before the door.
A cutting breeze wafted in bearing faint odours of salty-sea and wildflowers, but it was also the tangy smell of fresh bitumen that assailed their noses.

'There's no need for any exit process,' said Harry. 'You are ghosts. You have no imprint. You leave no mark. You may only observe. Tsu, take a Hand Activator. I will tell you when to come back.'

Harry's words seemed to resonate inside Priscilla's skull as she and the others stepped down onto the soft turf of the cottage before them. As they began to walk toward it the quaint little front door opened and a woman emerged, followed by a silver-grey cat. The woman bent down and placed a saucer of cream on the porch, straightened up and surveyed the scene of desolation that surrounded her cottage. Belinda choked, her hand raised to her mouth.

'Is that your Grandmother?' asked Terri as the group stole forward.

'Yes, it must be. I have only seen photos of her when she was younger, when Grandfather was alive and my Mother was growing up, but oh, she looks so old now... '

The woman took no notice of their approach and turned to sit down upon a bent-wood chair that had its back resting against the wall where a widow box, spilling over with bright coloured flowers, seemed to defy the emptiness surrounding the cottage. From the deep pocket of her apron she produced a pad and ball-point pen and, balancing the pad upon her knees, began to write. Occasionally she would pause and look up at the line of the road that bent away toward the sea, or back to the rises of housing in the west. The cat, having enjoyed its cream, settled down at her feet, curling its tail about her slippers.

'That's Princess Grey. Grandmother had her for many, many years. She was her only company after Grandfather died, but she... ' Belinda's breath caught in her throat as she choked back a sob.

'Is that a letter your Grandmother is writing?' wondered Tsu Tsuang, daring to draw closer to the porch where the woman sat, deeply immersed in her composition.

'Tsu, do you think you might carefully slip up there and see what she is saying?' queried Terri, her arm now about Belinda's shoulders as the girl craned her head forward along with the others.

On a sudden impulse, Tsu stole up the wooden steps and, coming close to the seated woman, dared to peer down over her shoulder. The cat, where it basked in the soft sunlight, inclined its head and stretched a lazy paw that raked the front door-mat where Tsuang Tsu now stood.

'Dear Enid and Roger,' Tsu began to read, though the lady writing took no notice of her voice, 'it is wonderful to hear of your news. After all these years you finally have a daughter. I knew you could both do it! Told you you had to keep practicing! Sometimes these things happen when you least expect them to. And after all you've both been through, what with doctors and clinics and all that. Anyway, I'm so glad for you both. Give little baby Belinda Cicely all my love and special kisses from her Nanny. I do so wish I could be there with you or you could bring her here so that I might hold her for just a minute. She is so special!!! But then, my dear Daughter, you were just as special to me. I had to wait for you until I was thirty-four and you have only had to be patient til you were twenty-nine! So celebrate!
I wish you were able to come and visit me some time in the future, perhaps after you get over the birth and are feeling strong enough, though I do know that Roger is so busy trying to get your Riding to Hounds property up and running. Oh my Dear, I do miss you both so much after Dad's passing. It has been difficult these last years, especially since the developers have moved in. Once, we had a beautiful little town. As you know, this cottage is where your Grandmother and Grandfather lived and where I was brought up in Southend-On-Sea. I just can't bear to leave it, even though all my neighbours have gone. Most were bought out, or have died and the developers just come in and buy up the land and, well now I'm the only one left. They're making a carpark around the cottage and say that if I won't sell out to them they don't care. They'll just wait until I die and then tear it down for their wretched supermarket. But I'm determined not to give in. I still love this little cottage, despite all their worst efforts to make me leave.
Well, my Dear, I suppose that's all I have to say and tell for this letter. Princess Grey sends her warmest purrs to your new addition. I am so pleased for you both to have the baby that you so fervently wanted. So, for now...' Cicely Baxter's hand paused, and Tsu Tsuang halted her reading of the letter.

From out of nowhere a brilliantly coloured butterfly appeared. It fluttered down and settled on a flower in the window box, slowly batting it's wings.

'P.S. A most beautiful butterfly has landed on the phlox in my window box. I've never seen one like it! It is like a rainbow of bright colours... Belinda Butterfly! That's what it is. It's a sign from my new Grand Daughter saying hello to me. Oh Edith, I wish you all could see it, it's so lovely. Just the sight of it helps to renew my faith in all things bright and beautiful.
Well Dears, I must close for now. Being Saturday afternoon I can enjoy the peace and tranquillity until they come back on Monday.
All my love,
your Mother and proud new Grandmother, Cicely.'

Belinda was crying now, reaching out her hands toward her Grandmother as Tsu stepped down from the porch. Behind her, Cicely Baxter tore loose the sheets from the pad and began folding them before tucking everything back into her apron pocket. This done, she lifted her head to gaze again toward the sea.
As if knowing that her Mistress was finished her task, Princess Grey stretched and leapt effortlessly up into Cicely's lap.

'It's time to return,' came Harry's voice from Tsu's Hand Activator.

'Now Belinda, do you believe that all this is real?' said Harry's voice from the speakers of the BlackEagle as the girls assembled inside the craft and the outer portal slid closed behind them.

'Yes, yes... I believe... I believe... ' Belinda began to sob again. 'It took three more years before they finally wore her down. Heart failure. That is what my Mother and Father told me. Except for Princess Grey, Grandmother died alone, in her own home, in her own bed. I was only three years old. I never got to see her, never... ' she buried her tear-streaked face into Terri's shoulder, crying uncontrollably.

'What... what happened to the cat? To Princess Grey?' asked Priscilla, tentatively, and was immediately sorry that she had.

'She vanished. After Gran died, she just disappeared and was never seen again... ' Belinda's shoulders were heaving so much that the others gathered about to comfort her, Priscilla last of all.

'We have a little time left,' said Harry. 'Narenda, still want to see Jodhpur by night?'

Narenda raised her face from the group, her own cheeks now tear-stained. 'Perhaps some other time Mister Harry. I think we should all go back to Hopewell Hall. Belinda and I need to spend tomorrow getting used to all this. It has been quite... ' She faltered, lost for words.

'I think that you all want to go home, don't you?' said Harry's gentle voice. 'You've seen enough, and now you know. Very well. Settle yourselves down for the ride. Oh, and Belinda?'


'About the butterfly.'


'The butterfly was you.'

Chapter 4 [next]

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