'Good bundle of fanzines,' said Lala.
Rainith was carrying copies of Sniffin' Glue, Ripped and Torn, It Ticked and Exploded, and Sticky Glitter.
'I know the girls who write Sticky Glitter.'
'Do you?' Rainith was immediately interested. She had written reviews for Sticky Glitter, though still hadn't worked out how to deliver them to the correct time period.
'They live not far from me. I could introduce you.'
'Where do you live?'
'Ladbroke Grove. In a big squat on the corner. What about you?'
'Nowhere,' admitted Rainith.
'We've got room if you want. There's a whole floor upstairs no one lives in yet.'
Rainith was about to enthusiastically accept the offer when she realised that she'd failed to ask a question she probably should have.
'Wait a minute. How do you know I'm not human? Wait. That's not what I meant to say. I mean why do you imagine I'm not human?'
Lala laughed. 'Different wavelengths. It's sort of obvious. To me, anyway. It would be hard to explain.'
Rainith looked at her suspiciously. 'So what about you? You said you're not human either? What are you?'
'I'm Kesh Ven Ven Lar. I thought you knew that already.'
'You're Geeda Lala.'
Rainith's confusion grew. They'd been looking all over the past for Geeda Lala. Here she was. She didn't appear to be a superior criminal, which was perhaps not such a surprise. Search Unit Sigma hadn't really believed she was. Even so, Rainith hadn't expected to run into her buying records in Rough Trade. As far as Rainith understood, she, Mixt and Nakishdan had been sent to find Geeda Lala and bring her back. It had never been quite clear to Rainith how that was meant to happen. Mostly the mission had consisted of fighting the winged snakes that now seemed to be populating the past.
'It's a really nice day outside,' said Lala. 'I have some shopping to do. Do you want to walk up Portobello Road with me and I'll show you the squat?'
'OK,' said Rainith.
They left the shop, each carrying records and fanzines. Outside the sun was still shining and Rainith was again overwhelmed with the felling of being young and free, and happy.
'So how did you get here from the future?' asked Lala.
'Some sort of tunnel. I think the Kesh showed the Department how to make it. What about you?'
'I wrote some equations. I had to leave in a hurry so it didn't go quite as planned. I crashed into your universe about 2000 BC and barrelled through a few more time periods before I got here. It was a bit of a bumpy landing. But I think it went all right. Didn't create any problems, as far as I know.'
'I think the world's going to end this time.'
'Really? You're not normally that pessimistic.'
'I know.' Nakishdan paused the Playstation. 'But now Rainith's stuck in the past, something really bad is bound to happen.'
Faced with a stressful situation, Mixt and Nakishdan had retreated to their favourite room to play Star Metal Planet. Their meeting with Ms Darben had been a great strain. Tomorrow was group therapy day, always another stressful event.
'Maybe one fairy disappearing into the past isn't enough to end the world?'
'Didn't you say there was a lot of international tension back then? Threats of nuclear war?'
Nakishdan couldn't remember if he'd been alive during the 70s, but Mixt remembered them.
'There was. Russia and America were always falling out. Then they'd sort of make up. Then they'd fall out again. It was bad. Though I never really thought a nuclear war was going to happen.'
'Rainith will probably start it.'
'I'm sure she won't get involved in government affairs,' said Mixt. 'She just wants to see the Sex Pistols.'
Mixt and Nakishdan were engaged in a tricky assignment in Star Metal Planet, a bombing mission against a pirate outpost on the fourth moon. They needed to complete it to make progress in t he game, but it wasn't easy. Nakishdan struggled to manoeuvre their space-fighter into position, under heavy fire from cannons on the ground.
'Granyu was just about to chop my head off when the arch collapsed.'
Nakishdan paused the game again. 'None of that made any sense.'
'When I was being sacrificed.' Mixt looked unhappy. 'At Stonehenge. Granyu was the warrior who was meant to sacrifice me. He was a mean man. I'm sure he enjoyed it. I was laid out on the altar, under the great northern henge. Ready to go, as it were. Granyu raised his sword, and just then the whole stone arch collapsed on us.'
Mixt shuddered. 'Awful experience. Tons of rock. Just toppled over for no reason. That was how I died. Or was meant to die. Except there was a flash of light and a very loud bang and next thing I knew, I woke up somewhere else. About a thousand years in the future, though it took me a while to realise that.'
Nakishdan finally managed to place their space fighter in the correct position. Canon fire from below was still very heavy. Their shields were almost down. Mixt had only a few seconds to aim and release their bombs.
'Take that!' she cried, as she pressed the control.
The bombs fell. Instead of wiping out the cannons, they landed harmlessly on a rocky overhang which protected the pirate base.
The withering ground fire cut thorough their shields. Nakishdan desperately tried to escape but it was too late. Heat beams destroyed their engines. The space-fighter plummeted to the ground, killing StarMix and StarNak in a huge explosion.
'This mission is really hard.'
Nakishdan put his hand on Mixt's shoulder. 'I'm sorry you got crushed under a pile of rock.'
'That's OK. I'm over it now. I suppose it worked out all right in the end.'
Mixt didn't really look as if she felt all right. She'd never quite got over her last day at Stonehenge.
'Can these cups come out of quarantine yet?'
Mixt shook her head. 'It's only been six days. They need a full week.'
On the occasion of Glade's visit to her house, a consequence of the Great Heating Crisis, as it had come to be known, Mixt had provided him with several cups of tea. She was a woman with a sense of duty towards visitors, even if that came at a cost. After any stranger used any of the cups or mugs in the house, they had to go through a long period of de-contamination, being washed, bleached then left in isolation for a long period, till, Mixt hoped, all harmful outside germs and contaminants would have died off. She did have special cups, for use only by visitors, but still insisted on the lengthy cleaning process, for fear that she might accidentally use one of them. That had happened before, in an absent minded moment.
'Or I might use one after over-indulging in gin,' she admitted frankly. 'It does make me irresponsible.'
Nakishdan opened the laptop that was lying on the floor by his feet. 'We haven't checked our top-secret Department email today. What's the password?'
Mixt frowned. 'Why can you never remember the password? It's really important.'
'Is that another way of saying you've forgotten it too?'
Nakishdan rummaged around under the couch for the notebook in which they'd written the password, in violation of strict instructions from the Department.
'We have an email from Ms Darben.'
'Do you think she has any sort of sex life?' wondered Mixt.
Nakishdan looked puzzled. 'I've never thought about it.'
'You'd think she wouldn't have. WIth her being quite grim and emotionless. Sort of person who only thinks about duty. But that might be a front. Maybe she's shagging all over the place. She might be notorious for it in the department.'
'Maybe she's happily married and lives quietly with her husband.'
Mixt was dissatisfied at the thought. 'Stop spoiling things. I'd rather think of her shagging furiously at every opportunity. Maybe she slept her way to the top?'
'Of a government spying department?'
'Why not? Probably happens all the time. I should invite her to my next party.'
'Are you really going to have another sex party?'
'Yes. Why are you looking unhappy about it?'
'I don't like them.'
'I seem to remember you actively engaging at the last one.'
'I really don't see why you, noted OCD sufferer, phobic, and a woman who panics if someone from outside so much as drinks from one of your cups, suddenly decides it's all right to have hundreds of strangers fucking all over your house.'
'There's a reason. I explained it to you.'
'No you didn't.'
'Didn't I? Well I will some time. What does the email say?'
Nakishdan looked at his laptop. 'It says we're to stop writing down our secret passwords in old notebooks. Apparently Glade noticed.'
'Oh. We can't really dispute that. Anything else?'
'Yes. Ms Darben wants us to visit the fairy kingdom of Mercia.'
'Well now they're just making fun of us.'
Geeda Lala carried an armful of cushions up the wooden stairs to Rainith's new room. Behind her, Rainith did the same. They dumped them on the bare floorboards.
'Do you wan't more?'
'How come you have so many cushions?'
'I found them in a skip. I think a furniture shop got rid of them. Good cushions.'
'Can I really live here for free?' Rainith was quite suspicious of this.
'Sure. Why not? It's only me here. I'd like someone else. Mostly I don't like anyone living too close, in case they notice I'm doing unusual things.'
'Like travelling through time?'
'Yes. When I first got here, I didn't realise it was so unusual. Caused a few awkward situations. But I know lots of people round here anyway.'
According to Geeda there were many squats in the area.
'Do they get evicted?' asked the fairy.
'Not very often. No one seems to want the houses. I don't know why.'
Geeda looked around the room, and smiled. It was still quite bare, but the cushions were an improvement, and they had a spare mattress downstairs, which was enough to be getting on with.
'Just put a few posters up and it'll be fine.'
'How long have you lived here?'
'That would be difficult to say. I move around a lot.'
'What, different squats?'
'No. Different times.'
'Oh.' Rainith. 'Doesn't that create problems?'
'Nakishdan was always worried about time paradoxes. Like meeting himself, I think. Or something like that.'
'I'm Kesh. It doesn't effect me.'
Rainith might have pursued the subject, asking Geeda about the potentially disastrous effects of her flying around through time, but she had other matters on her mind.
'Were you at the first Sex Pistols gig?
'Yes! It was one of the big dates in my diary, I couldn't miss it.'
'I want to go there too!'
'Great!' Geeda was pleased. 'We can go right now!'
Rainith shook her head. 'I can't just travel anywhere like you. I need the stupid Department to send me in their train.'
They pondered this for a while, upstairs, and downstairs in the kitchen, while making tea. Geeda's kitchen table was constructed out of a large board resting on four beer crates, partially covered by a blue sheet.
'Why haven't your department sent you there anyway? If they've been sending you to gigs I was at, why not that one?'
Rainith didn't know. 'Maybe they don't have a full list?'
'I'm sure we can think of some way for you to get there. It's really worth seeing. At their first gig the Sex Pistols only got to play five songs, but you could tell right away that they were going to change everything.'