“November 1977, the home of geography teacher Doyle Humpester [still photograph of man holding chalk] is struck by a nuclear blast, which ignites the gas main destroying his home and everything in a quarter mile radius [aerial view of the smoking ruin of the street]. Mr Humpester and his wife, Anne, are recovered alive and in good health from the radioactive rubble a week later [wedding photograph of Mr and Mrs Humpester]. Humpester is heard to claim that they were, and I quote ‘reassembled by the Magnetic Lords of Atlantis’. They are both taken to Northfork military hospital [location classified] to recover and be assessed. Nine days later Doyle and Anne are reported to have escaped after apparently petrifying the guards [still photograph of soldier, skin texture is distinctly granular] and turning the facility walls into a permeable jelly [still photograph of ragged, spongy hole in wall]. They disappear for twenty-three years. [MOD classified notice]”
The film peters out and the kid flips the lights back on. He turns round and goes “so, what do you think? I got it from a bag I found on a train between London and Brighton.” I grimace, which is tricky with teeth like mine “Well, I don’t think Dad’s going to like it.” The kid’s not listening though. I think his name is Chris or something boring and he’s babbling on about the other videos and papers that were in the bag, “one of the others gets into all the weird stuff that went down in the ‘80s and ‘90s, like that village in Wales disappearing.” “You don’t say” I mutter under my breath. “And there’s one on the Beastlie Boys and that pub where everyone died and the-“ I bristle at that (I can’t help it) and place my hand on Kevin’s shoulder. For the first time he shuts up and pays some attention.
He’s what, twenty-two? I found him on an internet forum devoted to geeking out and theorising about the activities and origins of Galaxy Team. Most of it is just mental nonsense, but now and again someone says something that sounds less crazy. And when you also hear that the Ministry of Defence has lost another laptop or left a folder on the tube… So I sought him out, Chris, Keith whatever and got myself invited to a little home movie showing in his mum’s cellar. That he’s showing me VHS footage only backs up its authenticity. “Listen kid,” I say, “you shouldn’t believe everything you hear about the Beastlie Boys”. Carl looks worried. He should be. I growl, and my claws slide out, curling over his shoulder, thick hair sprouts out of my sleeves. There’s a thump, a thud and a stifled scream followed by another thud and the sound of breaking glass from above us. Charlie goes white. “Sorry mate, that’ll be your mum”. The crashing continues.
I look at the kid with my real eyes, all black and rimmed with fur. “You’re about to die, so you may as well get some of your facts straight.” Tediously Kyle starts to blubber, “bu-bu-but you’re m- Mu’Tant Ra Koon”. I sigh, “yep and only me and my brother upstairs know what really happened in that pub. So you want to know, or do you want to die sooner?” I admit they’re not the best options in the world, but he managed to snot-bubble out a yes.
“We were the first to survive, me and Man-Ho Tujsk. We were four when Dad started the experiments. I guess that sounds pretty bad to outsiders but he was a great dad. We used to play with cyborg baboons and laser ducks in the mornings, get hypno-educated in the afternoons and at night Dad read us fairy tales and crime thrillers. This was all in Llandwi-ge-Hw of course, occluded from view. Dad was always determined that his children should be as special as he and Mum had become.
“He’d managed to get hold of some decent DNA from one of those freeze-dried Siberian mammoths and a Cuban contact had slipped him some thirteenth century land sloth genes. That’s where I get these claws from. Now Dad’s a genius, no doubt about that but that doesn’t mean he thinks too far ahead. So sure, you can shoot your boys up with retro-viral mammoth and sloth DNA and give them amazing super-powers but it’s definitely going to limit their potential for gainful employment.
“More importantly, it was going to be tough to meet girls. We were sixteen, we wanted to meet girls, go to the pub, do normal things. So we sneaked out through the Imperceptibubble and headed to the nearest pub, The King’s Chestnuts. We knew we’d stick out a bit, but Mum had long taught us the magics of the ancients (or as Dad said, old science) and we could at least hide the tusks, fur and claws which might seem odd to the locals. We thought we were doing alright – we’d gotten served (cider, naturally for teenagers) and settled into a dark corner.
“What we didn’t know was that MI6 had been using the pub as a small base of operations since Llandwi-ge-Hw went missing and we were exactly the sort of thing they were looking for. They pulled out guns; we pulled out our claws and tusks. We can rip up a bar pretty quickly, and managed to throw enough barstools and tables around to get us outside and into the beer garden. There was a lot of panicking and yelling, and then helicopters turned up – black against the night sky. Without any warning they threw out gas grenades. They must have misjudged the wind because it all streamed away from us and over the pub.
“Within a minute all the MI6 guys and the pub staff were dead and we were standing in a spotlight. I thought we were dead too, but the helicopters exploded and crashed flaming to the ground. It was Dad, in the Petulance, the jet he’d built to spite Mum’s ban on motorbikes.”
I look down at Clive, “not our fault you see.” The cellar door falls inwards and I see Man-Ho Tujsk’s big shaggy feet at the top of the steps. “Right then. Time for us to go Colin.” “So, you’re the good guys?” he whines. What can I say? “It’s complicated”. He looks sort of relieved, until I lean forwards and pull his head off. I gather up the tapes and go upstairs.
“What was you doin’ down vhere?” Man-Ho asks as we leave the house, locking the door behind him. The fire catches and blows out the windows as we close the gate. “Just thinking about old times bro’.”