The Club

The League's Clubhouse
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"old cast" equals"set in concrete"?

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 12:53 pm 
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<center>Chronicles of the League and the Intrepid Sorority
Vol VIII No. 10


Soundtrack:
Lemonjelly - Lost Horizons
</center>



Two cyclists approach the Clubhouse. They are dirty, bedraggled and weary; blackened by road grime and with hair plastered to their heads in thick skeins matted by rain. Tyres crackle on grit washed from the decorative border onto the usually smooth drive. LEDs shine a bright blue-white, making the rain sparkle like sugar frosting. A selection of party lights twinkle randomly: a swarm of deep sea plankton in the dingey grey ocean of a granular dawn.

The single flask of coffee they had shared between them is long-since dead and cold. They have only crumbs left of their malt loaf supply and there is one squashed and miserable flapjack buried in the depths of their luggage somewhere. Besides that they are reduced to a couple of non-caffeinated Honey Stingers (the Ginstings ran out before the coffee did) and an out-of-date SIS Go gel in Tropical flavour. Even their water bottles are near empty.

They draw to a stop at the last bend before the drive opens out into the smooth, well-swept area where the covered cycle racks for guests are installed. At the moment it is flooded with a couple of inches of standing water. A blackbird trills from a tree across the lawn, declaring its territory to all within earshot. Sweat-salty water drips down their faces, sour on their lips.

One of the cyclists wipes the wet from his face, pushing hair out of his eyes.

"They ain't gonna recognise ya, toots."

The other drains what is left in her water bottle with an air of determined finality and changes the display on her bike's computer. She looks up into the sky and scowls. In response a pair of black specks appears, growing incrementally larger, finally resolving into two ravens that tumble from the sky to take up residence on her bike: one on the Carradice Trax and the other on the bars.

"Your hair's grown," Thought observes.

"It used to be shorter," Memory adds. "And you had a different bike."

"This one's blue," Thought continues. "And you finally got those Oakleys."

Ravenbait wipes raindrops from the lenses of her Mag M-Frames and affectionately pats the stem of the On-One Il Pompino she is riding. "It won't matter," she says. "Jarvis will know who I am."

"Are you sure?" Wolverine asks. "Cos I could really use a beer."

"I'm sure. Let's get the hell in out of this rain, eh?"

The ravens flutter their wings for balance as the cyclists set off slowly towards the neo-classical edifice of the Club. It looms large before them, the pale grey stone only a minuscule shade different from that of the glowering sky.

At the steps they dismount. Leaden arms heave their steeds up to the polished wooden doors. RB does not bother ringing the bell. She takes hold of the brass rings serving as handles, bike nestled against her hip, turns and shoves.

The entrance hall is briefly empty, puddles forming around their feet from passenger rain dripping onto the chequerboard marble floor.

"Madam." Jarvis appears from nowhere, utterly unstartled. "If you would care to leave your machines here I will have them taken to the stables. There is a pot of Colombian nearly ready. I also took the liberty of putting some towels to warm and preparing the hot tub."

Ravenbait rests her bike against the wall and switches off the CatEyes. Wolverine props his bike against hers.

"Were you expecting us, Jarvis?" she inquires.

"Colonel Fury was good enough to advise me of your probably imminent arrival, madam. Am I correct in surmising that your gentleman companion —" his eyebrows move a millimetre skywards "— would prefer something other than coffee?"

"I'll take the coffee," Wolverine relies. "And beer."

"Very good, sir. Would sir or madam care for something to eat?"

"Bacon butties for two please, Jarvis." RB tells him, hanging her Gore-Tex on her bars. "With a side order of muffins. Is the fire going in the lounge?"

"Given the unseasonably dismal weather, madam, most certainly. The Wing Commander is there at present, oiling his weapon." Wolverine makes a choked, strangled sound. RB smirks. "We have been kept extremely busy by processed meat traders while you have been..." He pauses, expression slightly disapproving. "Elsewhere."

"I'm sure you've done an absolutely splendid job keeping the place convivial," RB tells him, removing her shoes and easing her feet out of their sloshing Sealskin waterproof socks. They had been supposed to keep her feet dry but instead had proven remarkably effective at keeping water in. Now her toes are pale and wrinkled, resembling old spring onions left in the fridge to go soft.

She hands the socks to Jarvis, who manages not to seem too disgusted. "Do you wish for me to have these laundered or incinerated, madam?" He conspicuously refuses to examine the lilac slime hanging in globules from the outside of the socks.

"Forty degrees ought to do the trick," Thought says helpfully. Jarvis inclines his head downwards to favour the bird with a dubious glance.

RB and Wolverine are already heading for the comfort of the Club's lounge, leaving damp footprints in their wake. Thought shrugs and flaps to catch up with them, leaving Jarvis to deal with the wet bikes and Ravenbait's revolting socks.

The lounge is quiet and snug. There is a log fire crackling in the hearth and a grandfather clock counting away the moments of its existence in the corner. The warmth of the mahogany panelling and the sumptuous upholstery of the furniture contrast with the dismal grey of the panoramic view from the large bay windows.

Wing Commander Spesh looks up from his gun when they enter and frowns. He recognises Wolverine readily enough — there's no one quite like the hairy runt — but RB looks, well different. She has hair. She seems to have lost weight. She has what is known in common parlance as the thousand yard stare. Could cycling coast to coast across Scotland do that to a person? Even with midges?

"Hey guys," he says, setting the AK47 to one side for the moment. "Awful weather we're having."

RB and Wolverine pull their chairs as close to the fire as they can get.

"Hi Spesh," RB says. "It is kind of shitty out there."

"Didja miss us?" Wolverine grins, earning a stern glance and poke in the ribs. "Hey! What was that for?"

"Different timeline now, Logan," RB whispers. "He'll be completely oblivious."

"But it's been a year!"

"He doesn't know that."

"How can he not know that?!"

"Oh, fer pity's sakes Logan. It's a Marvel thing. Go with it."

The Wing Commander scratches his head with a contemplative expression.

"Is this the part where we're supposed to segue seamlessly into a massive retcon that completely rewrites everything that happened in the past with no more of an explanation than 'this is a different story arc'?"

RB, Wolverine and the two ravens gawp at him. Damply. Steam is drifting from them. It is the effect of the fire on their wet clothes: it only looks like his question has sent them into does-not-compute overload.

"Um." For once RB is lost for words. She is still trying to work out how to respond when Jarvis enters bearing a tray loaded with comestible goodness. He sets the tray on the coffee table, tutting at the mess being made of he upholstery by the two wet and filthy cyclists. After lifting the silver cover keeping the bacon rolls warm he leaves the room and returns a minute later with a bundle of towels.

"These should accelerate the drying process when properly applied, madam." He presents RB with the towels, arching his eyebrows, and stands there, looking down at her with an unblinking stare.

"Properly... what?" Bewildered, she looks from Jarvis to the towels and back again, finally following his gaze to the sodden carpet around her feet. "Oh. Right. Yes. Of course. Thank you, Jarvis." She stands up and wraps one of the huge bathsheets around her, throwing another one at Wolverine. "Logan. Get that round you. Towels can be washed. The furniture can't."

"Yes sir," Jarvis says. "If you'll forgive the crude observation, Eau du Chien is not a suitable fragrance for armchairs of this quality. This is a gentlemen's club, sir."

"What's he sayin'?" Wolverine demands around a mouthful of bacon buttie.

"He says you're making the chair smell of wet dog," Thought translates. He skips backwards from the snarl this earns him.

Wolverine crams the last of his roll into his mouth and gets up, shrugging off his shirt and dumping it in the hearth where it starts to sizzle. RB watches him discreetly while ostensibly re-arranging the bacon on her roll into occult symbols with fine details provided by the brown sauce.

"It's fluffy," Logan complains, sitting back down with the towel wrapped around him. It's almost bigger than he is.

"We like fluffy," RB says automatically. "Thank you, Jarvis, we can manage from here."

"Shall I take Mr Logan's shirt for laundering with your socks, madam?"

"That would be perfectly lovely."

The butler retrieves the sodden garment, somehow managing to give the impression he is using a pair of invisible tongs, and vanishes.

For a while there is silence save for the ticking clock, the snap and sputter of flames and the soft whistles of two snoring ravens. Wolverine downs two mugs of searingly hot coffee and two bottles of Budvar in short order, and not long after that is also asleep. RB nurses her coffee, cradling it in her hands to absorb every last mote of heat and reverse what feels like near-terminal hypothermia.

Spesh has returned to weapon maintenance and is now carefully re-assembling the automatic rifle.

"You're not going all Gommer Pyle on me, are you?"

"Who, me?" The Wing Commander laughs. "Nah. Just making sure the armoury's fully functional. The war against spambots never ends, you know."

"Because if I find out you've given that thing a name I am going to have to confiscate it."

Spesh checks the action is clean and puts the gun down. "You were saying something about story arcs?" He pulls up a chair and helps himself to coffee.

"Can it wait?"

"Not really." There is a glint in the Wing Commander's eye. "After all, according to Sleeping Beauty there I've already been waiting for a year."

RB refills her coffee cup and heaps sugar into the oily black liquid. "You'll have to help me out a bit. Cake Stop?"

"Alive and well. Positively kicking."

"ACF?"

"Sealed tight, save for a few recidivists who prefer to come and go."

"The Club?" There is the slightest tremor in her voice, as of spun sugar just before it snaps.

The Wing Commander pauses and looks at his old friend for a few long seconds. How many adventures have they shared? How many malt loaves consumed, pots of coffee brewed and bottles of ale quaffed? Have they not both been engaged that Promethean task of defending the Clubhouse against the Legions of Spam these past months?

"Humour me," RB tells him.

"Well," Spesh takes a deep breath. "The Pikes are gone. Madame Vice returned briefly from her overseas venture but did not stay. Fatters makes the odd appearance when his ears are burning. Gunner drops in very occasionally. Spen was kicked out by the Great Dictator for the very same crime you were found guilty of, and of course we welcomed him here." He shrugs and turns a stoic visage towards the drab grey of the windows." We still have the beloved Chairman and Lady Provost; Redshift, RJ, Stew, Rev Will and Tombt. Heretic puts on a good show. Cookiemonster's a regular, Valiant has been crowing about his sound system off and on. Mrs Pingu's still with us, as is Gordon, scm and Pedaldog." He counts them off on his fingers. He only needs three hands. Just enough to overhaul a set of Campy Ergoes.

"It could have been worse," RB whispers to herself. Her black eyes brim with tears and she quickly turns her head away so that the Wing Commander will not see her cry. A treacherous part of her tries to argue that it could have been better. She knows it lies. They did the best they could with what they were given. The time is long since past for self-recrimination.

"Yes," shrugs the Wing Commander. "I could have forgotten that they were ever here, just as I suspect most of them have." He pulls a face. "They were here, weren't they?"

"Oh yes," RB replies, her voice tightly controlled so that it will not tremble. "Gunner, the Pikes, the Things, Charlotte, Simon L4, Nutty — ha! even Macleach, way back in the beginning."

"It seems unreal," Spesh shakes his head. "Like a dream."

Ravenbait sniffs, wipes her nose and clears her throat. When she turns back to him and smiles it is a brittle, contrived expression.

"Probably for the best, dear boy," she tells him. "I think the League's heyday has passed. It's possible we may not see the like of those great adventures again." Her smile fades. "Even you probably don't remember the Temple."

Spesh feels a momentary frisson of recognition, like that sparked by a whiff of scent too fleeting to evoke full memory. He tries to freeze it, pin it as one might try to pin the ephemeral beauty of a fluttering butterfly into a glass display case, and with as much success.

"You are disbanding the League?" He does not like the sound of this.

"Heavens no! It's not my League to disband, Spesh. I'm just saying that perhaps it will be easier for you to deal with things as they are and will be if you're a bit hazy on things as they were."

Spesh puts his coffee down. This calls for something stronger and less caffeinated.

"So..." How does he phrase this? In as straightforward a fashion as possible seems the best option. "What happened?"

He looks into the former Priestess's black eyes and briefly there are things swimming down in their onyx depths that make him regret having done so. Then she blinks and they are gone.

"I'm afraid, Wing Commander, that the rest will have to wait after all." She kicks Wolverine's feet. He comes awake with a start and the bright snick of adamantium claws. "Put those away, Logan. It's nothing we haven't seen before. There's a hot tub downstairs with our names on it and I stink only marginally less than you do."

Spesh watches them go. RB's back. He's not entirely sure that she ever actually left but she's definitely back.

What this means is another kettle of haddock entirely.

Sam

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 1:51 pm 
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That inaugural Dumb Run was even harder than I thought, by the sound of things ...

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 6:12 pm 
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Pedalpowered submarines anyone? :wink:

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 6:40 pm 
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This does mean we're open for suggestions again.

Sam

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 7:00 pm 
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Latest Cl*rkson plot - they're deliberately mucking up the weather to drown the cyclists. League scuba riders to the rescue. :wink:
Bike mounted on 2 canoes with the back wheel driving a Mississipi paddle wheel?

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 7:05 pm 
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I will observe that one of the tracks on this installment's soundtrack is "Nice Weather For Ducks".

Sam

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 7:10 pm 
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Some mates of mine are into canal boat trips. They like playing "Smoke on the Water" full bass, full volume, when the boat's passing through a tunnel. :badger: :badger:

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 8:35 pm 
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Heretic wrote:
Latest Cl*rkson plot - they're deliberately mucking up the weather to drown the cyclists. League scuba riders to the rescue. :wink:
Bike mounted on 2 canoes with the back wheel driving a Mississipi paddle wheel?


Not so much the merkin-coiffed one's doing, I suspect - one could be tempted to detect the dainty hand of the warped scientists from the last volume as being behind the abysmal weather we've been afflicted with lately.

Strange cloud seeding experiments gone deliberately awry...

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 8:38 pm 
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That was done after WW2. The result was (allegedly) the Lynton & Lynmouth floods of 195(3?).

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 2:55 pm 
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I'm still completing this volume, incidentally. So we're looking for another couple of episodes to clear this one up and settle everyone into the new... er... timeline thingumy.

Just bear that in mind before getting overly enthusiastic about what to include in this one.

Sam

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 12:29 am 
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Oh.

Can anyone currently posting who doesn't want to be in the Chronicles please let me know either here or in PM.

Thank you please.

Sam

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 5:34 pm 
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Count me in. :wink:

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2007 12:16 pm 
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And, while I'm at it (cos I'm plotting, as always), can anyone who wants more than a walk-on role stick something up in the character bios thread unless I've got one for you already? Otherwise I have to invent your character from scratch and I might get it wrong :evilchuffy: .

Heretic, I never did find yours, despite looking everywhere.

Ta muchly.

Sam

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2007 8:18 pm 
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Mine's under my old C+ name of PW. You have got it, we had this conversation just after we first moved to Haemorrhoid M.

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