The Case of the Missing Irregular

Part 1

by Stacey (SST205 at

(Please note: aside from Tennyson, the members of the Fayre family are my creations--not of the show.)

Tennyson sat in his hoverchair, just outside the gaping cave-like entrance to the New London Underground. For the fifth time in that half hour, his dark blue eyes looked up from his Bible and to the digital clock on his hoverchair's dashboard.

Quarter after three! he thought to himself. Deidre and Wiggins were supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago. Oh, well, I was here a bit early.

He closed his Bible, turned in his seat and put it behind the backrest. He had quite familiarized himself with the upcoming Sunday School lesson, having read the Scripture text four times. He traded the Bible for a book he'd gotten at the Archival Library, repositioned himself in his seat and began to read.

He had barely read a sentence when hands grabbed the straps of the parachute he wore, and he was lifted roughly out of his hoverchair. An arm was wrapped around his small torso, and a hand was clamped over his mouth.

Tennyson thought, Whoever's nabbed me certainly doesn't know me!

A stocky man with greasy hair grabbed him by the ankles and steered him toward the mouth of the Underground. Whoever had hold of his upper body followed.

As they went down the stairs, Tennyson and his assailants were shrouded by darkness for a moment. Upon reaching the bottom of the steps, the dim illuminators on the ceiling of the subway tunnel provided some light, but not much.

"Okay, Jake," the man who held Tennyson around the chest said, "Go on up there an' grab the chair. I'll stash the kid."

The young captive's heart was pounding. What in the world did these men want?

Just then,

"What d'you bloody weasels think yer doin?!"

Tennyson looked to see the silhouette of a woman standing in the entrance to one of the side tunnels. As she moved out into the light, he could see her wizened face and finger-combed (though not well) grey hair.

"M-Miss Agatha." the man behind Tennyson stammered. "W-we, we--"

"We was just tryin t' get us som extra credits, we were," the stocky man answered. "Th' kid's hoverchair must be worth an awful lot."

The woman came all the way out of the tunnel, lifted her long skirt a bit and jumped down onto the subway track. After that she came toward them, her grey eyes shooting fire. "Jake, you get yer filthy 'and away from that boy's mouth -- 'e can't speak a word, any'ow. Mickey, you and your rat friend take 'im into the tunnel--" She pointed behind her, "--an' set 'im down real gentle-like, 'cause if ya don't, I'll strip the skin offa both yer 'ides!"

The two men scrambled down onto the track with Tennyson, the one called Jake nearly dropping him as he took his hand away from the boy's mouth and wrapped it around his chest.

They hustled him across the tracks, into the smaller tunnel from which Miss Agatha had come, and set him down on an apple crate near the side of the tunnel--far more gently than when they'd grabbed him.

The woman stamped her boot-clad foot. "Now get up there an' get th' boy's chair b'fore someone swipes it!" she commanded. "Th' boy can't get anywhere w'thout it!"

"Yes, Miss Agatha," both men said, almost falling over one another to get back through the tunnel and up the stairs.

The woman glowered after them a moment, her fuzzy brows knitting. After a moment she turned to the boy by the wall and knelt down, groaning a bit as old bones popped. She looked up at him, her grey eyes much softer now, and said, "Did they 'urt you, li'l 'un?"

Tennyson drew a deep breath, trying to slow the beating of his pounding heart. He swallowed more than once, but his mouth and throat had gone completely dry. He shook his head.

Miss Agatha looked over her shoulder. "Gertie!"

A tiny ragamuffin of a girl appeared from somewhere deeper in the side tunnel. "Yes, Miss Agatha?"

"Go an' get this li'l fella some water. 'E's 'ad a nasty fright, 'e 'as."

The girl curtsied a little, showing off boots with holes. "Yes, Miss Agatha," she said, scurrying off.

The woman in charge of the New London Underground turned her attention back to Tennyson. "I apologize fer yer scare, Tennyson. Those two 're new 'ere. I told 'em they could stay if they earned the'r keep, but after this, I'm thinkin' of shippin' 'em out."

Tennyson shook his head. He looked at the old woman with pleading eyes.

She eyed him levelly. "Y' want me t' give 'em another chance, don't you, lad?"

The boy nodded.

"Mm. Yer good Christian auntie's taught y' well, she 'as. All right, one more chance I'll give 'em, but they lay a 'and on you or anyone else again and they're gone. Outta 'ere."

They heard the tiny steps of little Gertie coming back through the tunnel. She held a chipped teacup in her hands -- and a little water sloshed out the top even though it was obvious she was trying to be careful.

"'Ere, Gertie, I'll get it," Miss Agatha said, grunting as she got up. She retrieved the cup from the child and brought it to Tennyson.

The boy took the water gratefully. It tasted a little odd, but he didn't question it.

Just then there was a humming noise. Tennyson and Miss Agatha looked to see Mickey and his partner Jake maneuvering Tennyson's hoverchair into the small tunnel.

"What took y' so bloody long!?" the woman demanded, on fire again.

"We couldn't figger out how t' start it," the one called Mickey explained, though lamely.

Tennyson thought that odd; all one had to do to make his chair go forward was push a button. Then, there weren't too many people who knew how to use his hoverchair anyhow.

"Now," Miss Agatha said, once again gruff. "Get yer filthy hides down there--" She pointed back down the small tunnel. "an' take all the beddin' fer washin', an' I don't wanna see y' out here again 'til yer through!"

She dug into one of the many folds of her long skirt and produced a couple of well-worn credits, which she slapped into Mickey's hand.

"Yes'm," both men said meekly, scurrying off.

Almost as soon as the men were gone, a familiar voice rang through the main tunnel.

"Tennyson! Tennyson, where are you?"

On to Part 2!

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