Quantum Coyote
Chronicles of the Cake Stop
Vol V No. 1

Good morning boys and girls! Welcome to the first in the special extended edition of our gripping and educational adventure periodical for gentlefolk of all ages endowed with a youthful disposition! When last we left our intrepid heroes and heroines they had finally met up with Captain Jack Sparrow, that most infamous of pirates, and had joined with his crew upon the pirate ship The Black Pearl, the finest galleon ever to sail the seven seas. Now they sail ever closer to the boundaries of what is righteous and decent, and yet we know that, while stained and dirtied by a life of roguishness and lawlessness, any gentleman or lady would recognise that this buccaneer has honour. Just as well, for it does seem that the lovely and courageous Mrs Pike would otherwise be at risk of impropriety and of losing her modesty!

And what of the Priestess, last seen leaving the rest of the League and the Sorority to go on without her? Has she finally been unmasked for a coward? Has she finally lost her mind to the world of strange and pagan gods and creatures that all right-thinking boys and girls know should never become more important than hockey, rugger, tuck and other good things of that nature? Or is something more sinister afoot, and, like a true heroine of the League, she is sparing her most fine and noble friends from horrific risk and danger?

There is only one way to find out, noble reader. The adventure awaits....

Ship's biscuit and wrinkled apples do not make a good meal for hungry cyclist or pirate alike. Fortunately Captain Jack Sparrow has some very firm ideas about what to feed his crew. He also has Jack Shandy, who once was a puppeteer and had a much more French-sounding name, although that was before he crossed paths with the notorious Edward Teach, by then known as Blackbeard, and discovered just why the venomous old sea-dog wore smouldering gun cotton in his beard. Much water has passed under the bows since then, and he is a quiet mainstay of the Black Pearl's crew. He is useful to Captain Jack for more than just his unique touch with a chicken stew. His time as one of Blackbeard's unwilling minions gave him opportunity to learn some things that most folk of the sea would not learn willingly.

Magic things.

Now he sits on the bowsprit dropping crumbs of old, stale biscuit into the water that surges past, and when the dolphins come he watches the way they slip and slide through the clear blue water, and the way the sun dapples on their thick hides, and he counts the number of times that they surface against the number of times the ship rears her prow in the long swell. He scans the sea ahead for any flotsam and squints up into the sky to look for sign.

"I hope you know a good houngan or mambo, feathered one. That is one mighty baka you mess with," he murmurs. He could be talking to the dolphins who still surge and soar in the bow-wave. "Or maybe you should be seeking a bokor. I hope you know what you are doing."

He scatters the rest of the biscuit into the sea, brushes the remaining crumbs from his hands and then wanders back down to the galley with a distant, faraway look on his face, to prepare gumbo for the evening meal.

*   *   *

Back in the torturous, twisting folds that comprise A-Time, Fingal and Ravenbait are hunting. Like a loyal hound, Fingal knows just where his mistress wants to go and is doing his very best to get her there.

The only problem is that the where isn't a where. It is a who. The location of the who keeps changing. The Hollow Man knows that the Priestess is on his trail and for some reason, despite more than a decade of uneasy truce, he does not want to be found. This is not going to stop either woman or bike, however, and while the rest of the League and the Sorority are sunning themselves on the warm wooden planking of The Black Pearl, Ravenbait is being led ever further down into the dank, grey and dingey corners of A-Time, where shades go to hide from the harsh light of self-awareness and where others go to hide amongst the shades.

Thought and Memory sit vanguard, one on the bars, one on the rack. When it gets overgrown, as it is here, in this lost, forgotten corner that once was beautiful and well-tended, then they must. Briars grow now where once was a rose garden, and there is heavy worm sign. This part of A-Time is already being recycled into new memories. One of the Gardens of the Lost, then, those whose spirits die before their lives are truly over. A fine place for a shade.

But Ravenbait knows that her quarry is not here. She scents the air and consults the ravens. He was never here, except that he was not unconnected with the sad demise of the woman whose spirit garden this had once been.

"People have the right to choose, boss," says Thought. "Even when that choice is a sorry one."

"I know," says the priestess grimly, as they force their way out of the garden and onto a stony path with a stagnant stream flowing in a ditch alongside it. Fingal, being slightly twitchy in the steering department, does not like this surface and is struggling to maintain his course.

The priestess sends the ravens high overhead to look for a better route, and offers up a prayer to her Goddess to help her on her way; and to the One Eyed God, the Oathbreaker, Backstabber, to help her find her quarry. The birds return with news that there is a better track only a little way distant.

"Come on, sweetheart," she murmurs to her bike. "It gets better soon and when we get home I'll strip and clean the whole transmission."

They make it to the cleaner surface, and in the far distance the priestess sees a flock of black birds.

"A murder of crows," she mutters with a grim smile. "Well now. Let's just see what you've got to say for yourself."

Fingal's lumicycles pierce the gloom and the two ravens flank her, soaring with hardly a flap of wings, as they follow the gritted clay track designed for use by an unaccompanied 12 year old, finally to reach the end of their hunt.