Sixty-four

Travelling up in a suspensor shaft was a lot less intimidating than travelling down. You didn’t have to step into space at the beginning of the trip for one thing.

As they floated side by side, Pyrgus said uncertainly, ‘Do you think the Generals mean it?’

‘They mean it,’ Fogarty told him. He turned to Madame Cardui. ‘Have you contacted the Ferals?’

‘I do wish you wouldn’t call them that, dahling.’

‘Have you contacted the Forest Faerie?’ Fogarty said tiredly.

‘You really think it will come to war?’

‘You heard the boys in uniform. We’ll be at war from sunset tomorrow. We’ve tried to avoid it, Cynthia. The trick now is to win it. You’ve been in touch with Cleopatra, haven’t you?’

Madame Cardui lowered her eyes and nodded. ‘I got a message to her in the night. She was kind enough to send an immediate response.’

‘Which you didn’t tell me about.’

‘My deeah, when did I have the opportunity? You were still in bed when Pyrgus arrived with his news and then we went directly to the Situation Room.’ She shrugged. ‘In any case, it gets us no further. Queen Cleopatra sends her profound regrets, but believes the present situation is a matter for the Faeries of the Light and the Faeries of the Night. It has no bearing on or relevance to the Forest Faerie and consequently she has formally declined to put her forces at our disposal.’

Fogarty snorted. ‘Can you arrange for me to meet Queen Cleopatra later today?’

‘You won’t change her mind, Alan: I know her very well.’

‘I’m not trying to change her mind,’ Fogarty said. ‘If she won’t join us, she won’t join us. But she might have some ideas where Blue has gone – the foresters know a lot about hiding places. And she might help us capture the time flowers. Or destroy them.’

They arrived at the surface and stepped out of the suspensor shaft. Pyrgus was suddenly animated.

‘You mean a commando raid, Mr Fogarty?’

‘Something like that.’ Fogarty caught Madame Cardui’s expression and added, ‘Look, we’ll be at war tomorrow. We need to start thinking about ways to win it.’

‘That’s a brilliant idea!’ Pyrgus told him enthusiastically. ‘I’ll lead the raid!’

‘No you won’t!’ said Fogarty and Madame Cardui together.

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