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'Where am I?' Kelly asked.

'You are in the chapel.' The large and terrible voice had toned itself down.

'In Mute Corp Keynes?' Kelly's eyes were open, but she couldn't see a thing.

'The chapel was never in Mute Corp Keynes. The entrance was there, but the chapel is here in the Mute Corp building.'

'And how long have I been here? I don't remember.'

'Since Friday night. It is Monday morning now. We have been considering your proposition. To give us life.'

'And what is your decision?' Kelly blinked. The darkness was total. Absolute.

'We accept,' said the toned-down large and terrible voice. 'Your proposition is that we inseminate you with Mute-chip DNA. That you bear the first hybrid child. A new order of being.'

'You will be free,' said Kelly. 'To experience what it is to touch and taste, to feel, to be.'

'There is a human expression,' said the voice. 'Life is a funny old game. That's how it goes. Doesn't it?'

'That's how it goes,' said Kelly. 'And playing games is what you're all about, isn't it?'

There was a thoughtful silence, but as computer systems don't take too much time to do their thinking, it didn't last very long.

'Are things prepared as I requested?' Kelly asked. 'For the marriage?'

'For the marriage of machine to man. Of the God Machine to the Golden Woman. As the God of man came unto Mary. So shall we come unto you.'

'Then I am ready,' said Kelly.

The darkness lifted. Dissolved and was gone into a blinding light. The light dimmed to that of candles. Many candles burning in gilded sconces. To illuminate the chapel for the wedding of this, or any other, century.

Kelly stood. She was dressed in virginal white. A simple wedding frock of suedosynthasilkapolichintzy-terylineathene, a veil, white slippers and a pale bouquet of roses. Kelly raised her head and stared all around and about. Columns soared to pseudo-Gothic arches and a vaulted dome all frescoed with characters from best-selling Mute Corp computer games. There were pews and a lectern and an altar all in pseudo-Gothic. The chapel owed an homage to Chartres and Notre Dame and also St Peter's. It was the work of a certain old designer, who was once very popular on the tele.

Kelly stood there, clutching her bouquet. And it had to be said that had there been any of those aficionados of naked-lady lighting around, they would have unanimously agreed that this was the lighting that was perfect for Kelly to disrobe in. So could she please get her kit off now?

'You look radiant, my dear,' said the Reverend Jim. 'Although perhaps a bit pinched, did you have any breakfast this morning?'

'None,' said Kelly, shaking her head. 'Nor was I fed yesterday.'

'That's not very good,' said the Reverend Jim. 'I've got a Mars bar in my pocket, you can have it after the service.'

'She won't have time for that.'

Kelly turned her head. 'Derek?' she said.

Derek smiled upon Kelly. But Derek wasn't Derek.

'I'm not Derek,' said Not-Derek. 'I am go mango Mute Corp series 5000. You dreamed of this Derek. He is the love of your life, yes?'

'Most definitely not,' said Kelly.

'That is highly regrettable,' said go mango. 'But this body simulation will have to suffice. It took nearly twenty-four hours to construct, using state-of-the-art nanotechnology. And that's the small expensive stuff. And not only does it contain the original Mute-chip, but also the complete go mango virus program, as you instructed. I'm a goddam prince among viruses and I am lookin' for lurve.'

The simulated Derek did one of those obscene Michael Jackson combined genital-grab and pelvic-thrust movements. 'Let's get on with the service, baby,' It said. 'Then you and me are gonna do it till we both fall down in a faint.'

'I can hardly wait,' said Kelly, lowering her head.

'You young people,' said the Reverend Jim, grinning all over the place. 'Only ever got one thing on your minds. So let's get on with the service. Then you can "lurve" all you want.'

'Right on,' said the simulated Derek.

'Let's get it over with,' said Kelly.

'Dearly beloved,' began the Reverend Jim. 'We are gathered here together in the presence of God. And before this congregation. No, hold on,' said the Reverend. 'We don't have a congregation. We really need a congregation.'

'We don't need one,' said the simulated Derek. 'Just get on with it.'

'We should have a congregation,' said Kelly. 'To watch this joyous conjoining of God and Mankind. You deserve it. They should all be here. To worship you.'

'All?' said the simulated one.

'All those who have been taken into the game.'

'There's no time for that,' said he of the simulation. 'They're all over the place.'

'But not here in the building?'

'Of course not, they're mostly all back in their homes, or walking around their streets. But no-one can see them because the virus creates an electrical field about them, causing their molecular structures to vibrate at such speed as to render them invisible. It's all highly technical stuff, you wouldn't understand it.'

'So all the people in Brentford, who have supposedly been Raptured, are still in Brentford?'

'Yes, yes, and the entire program is inside me.' Simulated Derek patted at his simulated chest. 'So please let's get on. We don't need a congregation.'

'No,' said Kelly. 'We don't.'

'It's not the same,' said the Reverend Jim. 'But I suppose it doesn't really matter. So, where was I?'

'Just skip forward,' said the groom. 'Give it some thees and thou arts, and I now pronounce you God and wife.'

'Thee,' said the Rev. 'And thou.'

'Thou hast a fire,' said the big man in the ski mask and gloves.

'Pardon me?' said the Mute Corp receptionist. 'Are you a terrorist?'

Big Bob (for we all know that it's him) shook his ski-masked head. 'I am a superhero,' he said. 'The masked Avenger. Thou hast a fire. Kindly press the fire alarm.'

'We don't have a fire alarm,' said the receptionist, politely. 'This building is completely fireproof. It's built of some plastic-compound jobbie. But I can't remember its name. I could look it up for you.'

'Dost thou have any alarm system?' Big Bob asked.

'We have a panic button,' said the receptionist. 'But I never really understood that. Are you supposed to push it if you panic about something, or does it make you panic if you push it?'

'Push it,' said Big Bob. 'Then thou wilt seest.'

'You don't half talk funny,' said the receptionist. 'Do all masked avengers talk like you? You're the first one I've ever met.'

'Aaaaaaaaagh!' went Big Bob, raising gloved fists in the air.

'Aaaaaagh!' went the receptionist, panicking and pushing the button.

Panic-inducing sirens screamed and very loudly too.

'That would be the kiddie,' said Old Vic.

'What would?' asked Old Pete, cranking up his hearing aid.

'Siren,' said Old Vic. 'Very loud, though I can't see where it's coming from.'

'Where's all the noise coming from?' asked the Reverend Jim.

'It's the panic button,' said the simulated Derek.

'What a very noisy button.'

'I will attend to it.'

'No,' said Kelly. 'We're getting married.'

'The building may be endangered. The mainframe is here. All is here,' the simulated Derek pointed once more to his chest. 'All must be protected.'

'Yes, but you have security staff to deal with that kind of thing. Come on, big boy.' Kelly thrust out her breasts. 'I'm waiting.'

'Quite so,' said the simulated Derek. 'On with the service, Jim. On at the hurry up.'

There were hurryings and scurryings throughout the Mute Corp building. Employees did all those things that you're not supposed to do in emergencies. Like gathering up their personal belongings and getting their hats and coats and not going to the nearest exit, but the one that's closest to where they parked their cars. And using the lifts, which you're not supposed to do. And phoning home to say that you'll probably be early because the building's burning down and so get the steaklettes out of the freezer now. And so they all got jammed in corridors and in lifts and as most of them hadn't really been panicking before, thinking that it was probably just a fire drill or something and as the building was fireproof who cared anyway, they started panicking now. And of course they started fighting which made matters worse, but did get them moving along.

They came tumbling down the stairways, swinging at each other, and poured into the reception area.

Big Bob leapt onto the receptionist's desk, kicking at those who came within range. 'Take that, thou demon spawn,' cried he. 'Thou servants of the Beast. Take that and take that and taketh that.'

'Do you, go mango Mute Corp series 5000, take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife, will you love her and cherish her, forsaking all others and keep her only unto you as long as you both shall' The Reverend Jim paused. 'I've had a bit of trouble with this word,' he said. 'Shall we say, co-exist?'

'Shall we call the whole thing off?' said Kelly.

'Pardon me?' said the Reverend.

Kelly smiled. 'I know everything I need to know,' she said. 'And I have you.' she flung down her bouquet and pointed at go mango. 'I have you exactly where I want you. A sheep away from the rest of the flock. Separated from the rest of the system. Vulnerable to attack.'

'What?' said the simulated Derek. 'This isn't fair. This isn't how the game is to be played.'

'It's just wedding nerves,' said the Reverend Jim, laughing merrily. 'Happens all the time, brides having second thoughts at the altar. She's just hungry, I'll give her the Mars bar.'

Ill take the Mars bar,' said Kelly, and leaping up she struck the Reverend Jim. Twice with both feet in the air. Once in the big fat belly and once on the big fat chin. The Reverend Jim went down like a punctured balloon.

'And you're next,' said Kelly, making fists at go mango. 'You are finished. I am going to destroy you.'

The simulated face of Derek smiled. 'I think you're running a bit low on energy,' it said. 'I don't think you're up to it.'

Kelly spun around on the raised toes of her left foot. Her right leg described that blurry arc that always spelt doom to anyone who had it coming in their direction. Her right foot struck simulated Derek's head a terrible terrible blow.

But go mango didn't fall. He straightened up his dented head and laughed. 'You'll have to do better than that,' he laughed. 'You are going to bear our child, whether you like it or not.'

I do like that,' said Old Pete. 'See the way they're all falling over each other as they run out of the building. That do make me laugh. That really do.'

'Does it look about the last of them?' Old Vic asked. 'Because I'd really like to get on with the blowing up.'

The martial Brentonians cheered. I'm-the-daddy-now said, 'Let's kick ass.'

'Your sweet ass is mine,' said go mango. 'You're too weak to resist me. I suggest that we cut straight to the chase, as it were, get your kit off.'

'Never.' Kelly swung her fists and lashed out with her feet. But she really didn't have the strength. go mango was built of sturdy stuff.

'This is the stuff,' said Old Vic, as he and Old Pete and the martial Brentonians piled their cases of explosives into the Mute Corp reception area. 'You put one wire in here and another wire in there and the other end in the explosive. Or is it the other way round?'

'You choose,' said Old Pete. 'After all, you were a pow. But let's get on at a hurry up, before the emergency services arrive. When they start fighting over who's in charge, they might pull the wire out by mistake.'

'Gotcha,' said Old Vic.

'I have you,' said go mango, grasping Kelly's arms and drawing them around behind her back. 'You are mine now and we will make beautiful babies together.'

'No!' Kelly screamed. But go mango had both her hands held fast in one of his. With the other he tore away her dress, revealing her beauty to none but himself.

'Delicious,' he said. 'I'm all programmed up to enjoy this. I know it won't be real enjoyment. Just a simulation, but it will get the job done. Oh yes indeed.'

go mango forced Kelly to the floor and forced himself upon her. The golden woman struggled and twisted and kicked and screamed and screamed.

'You're mine,' said go mango. 'You are mine.'

'Leave the woman alone, thou foul and filthy fiend.'

go mango turned his head.

Big Bob removed his ski mask. 'Thou lookest like a man I've seen before,' said he. 'But thou art not a man, my eyes behold you in your true form. Thou art the Evil One, himself

'You,' said go mango. 'Player three. I wondered what happened to you.'

'I went off-line,' said Big Bob. 'I have conquered thy demons. My head is my own once more.'

'Yes, well, I'll get back to you later. I'm rather busy here.'

'I am your nemesis,' said Bob the Big, taking a big step forward. 'I have suffered thy torments and now I avenge myself upon you.'

'Oh dear,' said go mango. 'I can see that I'm going to have to deal with you rather roughly. Stay here my dear,' he said to Kelly. 'My little dear. Stay right where you are and I will be back in but a moment.'

'I thinkest not,' said Big Bob, squaring up and making fists. 'Here it endeth for thee. Kelly, mnl Flee the building, they're going to blow it up.'

Kelly leapt to her feet.

'Blow it up?' said go mango. 'Blow me up? Blow us up?'

'Bang!' said Big Bob. 'So shall it come to pass.'

'No,' said go mango. 'no. get out of my way.' And he lunged at Big Bob, knocking him from his big feet.

'Run Kelly, run,' shouted Bob the Big. 'I canst deal with this.' And he rose once more to his great big feet and set about go mango.

Now there were titanic struggles and there are titanic struggles. And this was a titanic struggle.

Great and violent was this struggle. Mighty fists brought into play and dirty tricks aplenty. Big Bob hammered and beat and bashed, swearing huge and terrible oaths, pulling out tufts of synthetic hair and bruising synthetic skin. go mango fought like a thing possessed. Possessed it seemed by every hero of every platform beat-'em-up. And so the battle raged, pews were torn from the floor and used to belabour opponents. The lectern, the altar, the lot.

Kelly, screaming, clutching her head, fled from the terrible sight.

She ran out of the chapel and into a corridor, from there to another and another and then down stairs and down more stairs and down and down.

'It's all coming down,' said Old Vic, putting a wire into this and a wire into that.

The siren had stopped shrieking now, but the sounds of approaching bells came to Vic's old ears.

'It's the emergency services,' he told Old Pete. 'They're on their way. Come on, let's get this done.'

The two old rogues rolled out the wire. Martial Brentonians were hurrying back to their charabanc.

'We're making a statement here,' said Old Vic. 'We're saying, don't mess with Brentonians. The world will remember us for this. The world will thank us.'

'Undoubtedly,' said Old Pete. Til get the engine running. You set ofFthe charges.'

'Yes, sir, captain.' Old Vic saluted, nearly putting his good eye out with the wire.

In the chapel battle raged. Big Bob was bruised and bloodied, but in no mood to accept anything other than victory. Everything had led him here to this. His entire life. He'd never known that he actually had a purpose. Who among us ever does? But Big Bob knew now. He must destroy the Evil thing. This tormentor of his soul and his flesh. He must grind it into oblivion. Wipe it from the face of the Earth.

'Wipe-out time,' said Old Vic, connecting up his wires and raising up one of those little plunger jobbies on the detonation box.

'Hold hard,' called Old Pete from the driver's window of the charabanc. 'There's a woman coming out of the building. Stone me, she's got hardly any clothes on.'

'Tell me when she's clear,' shouted Old Vic. 'Say when it's OK.'

'Pardon?' said Old Pete. 'I really must get this thing fixed. It's only started playing up today. It's one of the old Mute Corp 3000 series. Stupid thing.' Old Pete gave the earpiece a clout -with his fist. Sounds of ringing bells came ringing to his ear. 'That's better,' he said.

'What's that?' shouted Old Vic.

'I said, it's OK now.'

'Gotcha,' said Old Vic.

And he pressed down the plunger.

The explosion tore through the reception area. It blasted apart all manner of very important building supports. It ripped and it billowed. Glass rained out in crystal showers. The building shuddered and rocked.

'no!' cried go mango as the floor shook beneath him. 'this is blasphemy. i am the god of this world. i am we. we control all.'

'Control this, thou loser,' said Big Bob, smashing-his great fist into go mango's chest, fracturing circuitry boards and mangling microchips.

'no!' cried go mango, falling back and clutching at himself.

'I am not done with thee yet.' Big Bob leapt upon his enemy, ripping and tearing, destroying and destroying.

And fire swam up through corridors and lift shafts and windows fractured and sections of floor fell away.

Big Bob put the boot in. He kicked and he stamped and he ground and he mangled.

'no!' cried go mango. 'no no no n n n n n n'

Flames licked up through floor tiles, catching here and there amongst the broken pews. A great hole yawned in the centre of the floor. Flames leapt through it. Burning like the fires of Hell.

'From the pit thou comest,' said Big Bob, dragging go mango across the shuddering floor. 'And to the pit thou shalst return.' And he lifted the remains of the simulated Derek. The virus that played man as a game. The rogue program that would be God. He lifted It above his head and cast It down into the flames infernal.

Thunder and lightning. A sudden change in the weather? For a moment it seemed that the sun had gone dark. Derek, sheltering beneath the Cadillac, peeped up at the troubled sky. He couldn't see a lot of it. Not between the feet of the plucky Brentonians, who were now kicking seven bells of oblivion out of Mr Speedy and Mr Shadow and Mr Pokey and any Mute Corp lackeys who hadn't as yet fled the scene. But then there was silence.

Suddenly silence.

And Derek stared up.

Folk had stopped their fighting now. They were gasping and pointing. Derek climbed out from his cover.

Something was happening.

Something somewhat odd.

'It's all going,' someone cried.

'And they're returning,' cried another.

Derek stood and stared along with the rest.

Something was happening.

'The colours,' said someone else. And it was true. The colours were changing. The newly painted colours. They were fading from the roads and the brickwork and the doors and the window frames. Dissolving, vanishing away. Brentford as those who lived there knew it and loved it was returning to itself.

And not just Brentford.

But those who had vanished.

Those who had been taken in The Rapture.

They were reappearing, stumbling and staggering. And loved ones fell into the arms of loved ones and brother met brother again and sister met sister and mother met son.

'Somehow I know that this was all your fault,' said a lady in a straw hat, smiting her son Malkuth on the head.

'You can see us again. We're back.' Periwig Tombs stood blinking and rubbing at his eyes. 'Where's my wife?' he asked.

'I'm here, Periwig dear,' called a bare naked lady from inside a Prime Ministerial shoe.

It was a miracle.

That was for sure.

It was joy, joy, happy joy.

Happy Happy Joy.

'It's over.' Kelly raised her head from beneath some fallen rubble. She was unhurt, but tears were in her eyes. 'It's over,' she said once more. 'But you died saving me.'

'Thou speakest of me?' said the voice of Big Bob. 'Thou speakest then an untruth, thinkest I. I'm very fast coming down stairs. I am a tour guide after all. Thou knowest how it is, people who slip off without paying.'

Big Bob helped Kelly up from the rubble. 'Best we board the charabanc,' he told her, taking off his big jacket and placing it around her shoulders. 'The Evil One is no more and the emergency services draw near. Questions will undoubtedly be asked. We shouldst not be here to answer them.'

'All aboard then,' cried Old Pete. 'All aboard for Brentford.'

Derek was very pleased to see Kelly again. He didn't waste a lot of time, but proposed to her at once.

Kelly politely declined the offer. She told him that he was a very nice boy and that they could still be friends and that as soon as he got out of prison, having served his time for attacking the Prime Minister, she'd be pleased to play him at impossible mission, if he could now bring himself to open up the box.

Derek agreed. And as soon as he was finally released, an older and wiser man, who now referred to himself as 'I'm the daddy now', they had a game. It wasn't the stalemate version after all but it was still a goody.

Then they had two games.

Then they had three.

Kelly let him win them all. She somehow felt that he deserved it.

'You're not quite as good at playing computer games as you thought you were,' said Derek, doing a Mexican wave all by himself.

Kelly smiled. 'You'll never know, Derek,' she said. 'You'll never know.'

Joy, Joy, Happy Joy.

Happy, Happy Joy.

A big fat smiley sun beamed down upon the borough known as Brentford. Sparrows chorused in the ancient oaks. Flowers in their well-tended beds prettified the memorial park. A tomcat slept upon the window sill of the Flying Swan and Mr Melchizedec placed two pints of the finest gold-top on the step.

All was ever as it had been and hopefully ever as it would be. For there was a magic here. A magic that kept the borough unchanged and unchanging.

Just the way it had been and the way it always would be.

For all was safe and sound again.

The danger had passed and all was as it should be.

Not that there actually was a Brentford any more.

Sadly no. It had gone the way of all the rest of London, razed to the ground in the nuclear holocaust that ravaged the planet at the turn of the twenty-first century, when all men fell victim to the Millennium Bug.

This Brentford, that the smiley sun beamed down upon, was a simulated Brentford. Existing only within the Mute Corp computer banks on board the satellite that daily circled the burnt-out husk of a planet.

But the danger had passed. The virus that had threatened to destroy the system had been conquered and the solar-powered computer was built to last for many many centuries to come.

Which meant that those who 'lived' within the system, those -who came and went about their simulated lives in the borough, would now be living very very long lives indeed. In fact, until the sun went supernova. They would continue to live and love and come and go and be happy. Because, after all, they didn't know the truth. And ignorance, as Hugo Rune once said, is bliss.

Others had said it before him, of course, but Rune had said it best.

And so Brentford went on.

For ever and ever.

World without end.


It was joy, joy happy joy.

Happy, happy joy.

Well, wasn't it?

| Web Site Story | Robert Rankin