“No!….No!…………No I’m NOT A PREVIOUS CUSTOMER! I DON’T NEED A BROCHURE!”
“I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR LATEST OFFERS.”
“Look, will you just- please – just – stop! Just stop – just…”
“LOOK. Before the next question, before you offer me one more discount, before you say one more automated sodding word…WILL YOU LET ME SPEAK?!”
Barely, between HH’s grunts, murmurs and overall very British mannerisms pointing towards irritation, FutureHH heard the automated voice on the phone finally reach a full stop and go quiet.
“Finally! Now, all I want to do is order a planet. Doesn’t have to be large, doesn’t have to be close, doesn’t even have to have oxygen. It just needs to be able to kill four sidekicks in vibrant clothing, without any bat-dressed do-gooders showing up to save the day.”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MY REQUEST?!”
The mobile phone left HH’s right hand, flew several feet, bounced off a painting of inverted chickens – without breaking it – and landed a short distance away across the room, next to a small pile of mobile phones of varying efficiency. HH kicked it out of the way and picked up another one.
“Never call Magrathea,” HH hissed, “never-never-never.”
FutureHH took in a breath, held it for ten seconds, and released. “So, 42 laps of the console so far, and four phones down. Do you think it’s time for a new strategy?”
HH whirled on him like a tornado turning on a very casual looking farmhouse. “You could just tell me where I’m going,” he said through gritted teeth.
Future HH slapped his thighs and stood up. “Could, but I won’t. I told you last time, no more freebies.” He glanced at his much younger self and had to smile. “Y’know, we haven’t looked this angry for a while.”
“There’s something in my head,” HH retorted, throwing his hands in the air. “Something making me like this, making me want those four little idiots in the cargo hold to just be…dead-dead-DEAD.”
“Yes!” HH pointed at him. “That’s what we’ll call him.”
“The Rapture locals. Then Chompy. Only the males can find my head, apparently. Splicers and Chompy and Obsession. Splicers-Chompy-Obsession. SCO. What’s SCO, what am I trying to tell myself?”
FutureHH sank into his chair again – much in the same way he had when HH threw away mobile phone no.3 – head in his hands. “Ned ALIVE I forgot how difficult this bit was…is.” When he removed his hands, HH’s face was millimetres from his.
“What is it?” He hissed. “What is the new thing controlling me? What else are you not telling me?”
FutureHH leant back, away from the maniac’s eyes and breath, rubbing his eyes under forefinger and thumb. “It’s probably just madness, HH. So far you’ve done elation, anger, obsession, self-doubt and now you’re hearing voices. Essentially the Joker’s biography pop-up book.”
“I looked into his eyes.”
“Yup, that’d probably do it.” He had, after all, looked into FutureHH’s eyes before and it had changed his life. Same basic principle. The eyes are not the windows into the soul, they are the doors.
FutureHH sighed. “One last freebie,” he muttered, holding up a finger. He stood up and moved to the console’s keyboard. “Only because I can’t take any more of this chattering with your maniacal self. My maniacal self….ergh.” He typed something into the machine and a planet appeared on the console screen. “That is where you’re going.”
HH stared at it, for several, long moments. “There?”
The inner-insanity went quiet, just for a moment. HH’s face fell. He grimaced and sniffed. “Very well.” His hands reached out to the console.
FutureHH grabbed his shoulder. “Aren’t you forgetting someone? Go collect Womble.”
HH snorted. “Collect him? Collect? Do you not know him at all? If I even breathed the word ‘collect’ around him, he’d leave behind a melted, foul-smelling puddle of ooze formerly known as HH. Oh, plus, he doesn’t need to see me like this. He probably took his fill of ‘wacked-out-tour-guide’ on Zombie-World.” To complete the look, HH used his forefingers to make made looping motions around his ears.
“Trust me,” FutureHH cut in, eyes ablaze with the light of galaxies again, “you will need him to be there.”
FutureHH let go of HH’s shoulder and took hold of the Q.U.A.R.K on his, HH’s, wrist instead. A few quick beeps and a sonic scan later, he stepped back and returned to the console.
“What did you just do?”
“As ever, you’ll find out.” The TARDIS entered flight mode for a few moments and became still again. FutureHH opened the doors and Gotham stretched out beneath them like an ugly map. They were higher than the tallest skyscraper. Lit by streetlamps and headlights, cars milling around below looked like luminescent insects hurrying around their nest.
“When will I find out?” He’d heard the phrase enough times already, it was worth trying for an actual answer, just once.
“Add in ‘who’ and ‘where’ and you’ve got the full set. Quit asking questions and just go with it. It’s like an old saying; to learn how to fly, you must first learn how to fall.”
So saying, FutureHH shoved his younger self out of the TARDIS.
The ground suddenly began rushing up to meet him. HH found himself laughing, without any reason as to why. It just felt right. High winds rippled his coat outwards into a fan shape, like a failed homage to Gotham’s true anti-hero.
“Back to Gothaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam!”