Another Place: Where You Need To BebyStorm62©
Not exactly a sequel, more a tying up of loose ends.
Kelly sat at her desk staring at the wall. Time had dragged since Dave and Susan had left to go back. She had been at her happiest for a long time while they were here, but no-one at the radio station had that same spirit now. Maybe it was her. She sighed; maybe she was the boring one and they were all too polite to tell her. Whatever it was, it was making her feel restless. She didn't feel she was contributing enough anymore. She let out another big sigh.
There was a knock on her office door.
"Come in." She called.
"Thank you Miss Kelly." The guide said, entering and sitting across the desk from her.
"Guide, what are you doing here? The station is still doing its job isn't it?"
"Yes it is Miss Kelly, quite the best idea you have ever had in your thirty or so years working for me. But you feel there is something wrong. I heard your sigh."
Kelly smiled to herself, even after all this time she still forgot how extensive the guide's powers were.
"So you came to see me and find out what my problem was this time. And after all the time I've spent here, isn't time you started calling me 'Kelly' like everyone else?"
"As you wish. I suspect, Kelly, that I know what your problem is. It's the same one you've always had; ever since I threw you in at the deep end as a junior guide, when I should have accompanied you on your first multiple collection."
Kelly reddened and dropped her head.
"I suppose you're right sir. But it was my mistake more than yours. It was a busy time, that was why you needed juniors, and it was me who lost those souls, not you."
"Dear Kelly, I suppose it's pointless for me to tell you that you have more than made up for that mistake."
"It doesn't affect the fact that there are a thousand souls lost out in the wilderness of time because of me."
"Would it surprise you to learn that less than half of those souls are still lost?"
"Yes it would." Kelly leant forward, her interest piqued. "How?"
"I keep lists of those who are lost. And recently a number of those on your list have been turning up here."
"Again, how?" Kelly was stunned at this revelation.
"They made their way into the city from the wastelands beyond." The guide shrugged. "This has caused me to suppose that the rest may also be out there somewhere."
"Why are you telling me this? It doesn't make me feel any better."
"I would like you to complete your mission Kelly. I know you miss your friends Miss Susan and the inestimable Dave, and I think this undertaking will fill the void their departure has left."
"I don't know sir." Kelly answered dubiously. "It has been a long time since I did any guide work."
"I know my dear." The guide was patient with her. "That is why I propose to send someone with you, someone who is a little more attuned to this kind of work."
"Who? Dave and Sue?" She asked hopefully
"No. I have no wish to disrupt their lives further. I have been trying to train a particular junior for quite some time. His name is Brad and he is proving a little...troublesome. I wish you to go with him beyond the city and find those missing souls out there. Will you do it?"
"Well, the station doesn't really need me any more. Practically anyone can make the decisions I have too these days." She paused. "Give me a couple of days to find a replacement and I'll accept."
"I hoped you would agree, so I have brought you one or two possible temporary replacements."
"Of course. This is your project and I would never dream of taking it away from you. I will bring Brad here tomorrow and we can sort out what you'll need and where you're going." The guide stood and offered his hand. Kelly shook it, once again astounded by his prescience.
"I have to ask sir. Why me?"
"Mainly because I think you still feel responsible dear Kelly. You still torture yourself over your error. Hopefully this is what you need." He turned and walked out.
Kelly looked out from the edge of the city and could see nothing but the vast wilderness. Sure, it was filled with vegetation, water, possibly even animals, but no-one knew for certain. The sketchy reports from those who had arrived at the city through it described a landscape full of forests, scrubland and the occasional range of hills with a few mountains thrown in. She sighed, adjusted the pack on her back and then started to walk, calling to her young companion.
"Come on then Brad, let's go."
"Okay Miss Kelly. The guide thought we should head for that mountain away in the distance."
"I doubt we'll do that in one day. It looks a week away at least."
"About two and a half days I reckon. It's about fifty miles away."
"You really think we can do twenty miles a day?"
"Sure. Unless you're not as fit as you look." The youngster grinned cheekily.
Kelly had been a little surprised when the guide had turned up at her flat with Brad. He looked like a fifteen year old boy, which in a way he was. People's bodies didn't age from the moment they arrived here. He had been in the city for five years though, and the guide had been training him for the past eighteen months as a junior guide, but was having problems with the lad. Brad for his part didn't seem put out by his apparent failure, but he was extremely keen to prove himself one way or another. They had planned what they thought they needed for a long journey. They didn't carry much food, the guide was certain that they would be able to find more as they progressed. Kelly hadn't been sure about this, but Brad and the guide had convinced her. The guide had never been wrong before, but there was still a niggling worry that there was a first time for everything. The other thing she wasn't sure about, despite assurances from the guide, was Brad. He seemed a little, well, full of himself. Probably the ignorance of youth she thought.
They had been walking for two hours now, and making good progress. Kelly turned and called over her shoulder.
"Why don't you take the lead for a while?"
"And miss the opportunity to stare at your bum?" He smiled.
"You can't say that!" Kelly exclaimed.
"Because it's not polite. The era I came from was much more..."
"Repressed?" Brad answered. "Miss Kelly, I know you're from the Edwardian period, and I'm from nearly a hundred years later, but things change, you've changed since then."
"Nevertheless, no-one from my time would come out with a statement like that."
"What would they say then? ' Madam, may I comment on the exquisiteness of your posterior' or 'the juxtaposition of your facial features renders you utterly beauteous'?" He asked somewhat facetiously.
"Possibly, but it sounds better than 'you've got a luvverly bum missus.'"
"I never said that!"
"You thought it though."
"Well, yes, I did. Mainly because you have got a lovely bum."
"Brad! Can we stop talking about my bottom?" Kelly snapped exasperatedly.
"All right, all right." Brad grinned evilly. "There's no need to be so anal about it."
"Do you really think you should be talking to me like that? I could be your great grand mother or something."
"As an unmarried Edwardian girl, I doubt it."
"That's enough! I can see why the guide was having such a difficult time training you, you are very annoying."
"That wasn't the problem." He smiled that infuriating smile. "All right, let me go in front for a while."
They trudged on, Brad taking the lead, not as reluctantly as he made out. Kelly had been silent for quite a while, lost in her own thoughts. For some reason she liked Brad, and his words, though a little shocking to her, had seemed complimentary.
"Do you really think I have a nice bottom?" She asked out of the silence.
"Sure. Even in those combat trousers, it looks quite pert and well-rounded." He said over his shoulder.
Kelly blushed despite herself.
"Then I thank you, but could you please keep your comments on my body to yourself in future, I'm not really used to talking so freely about it."
"I'll try Miss Kelly." He turned and grinned at her. "You know, you didn't sound so uptight when you were on the radio, especially with Dave."
"That was different. That was just for the show." Kelly went an even deeper shade of red. "And I knew Dave didn't mean it, I knew he was in love with Sue. I can't be sure if you're for real or not."
"So, you don't know if I mean it or not?" Brad was grinning again.
"No, I don't." Kelly shook herself. This boy was so annoying! "In any case, I'm a lot older than you. Even if you do mean it, it isn't right."
"Oh come on, you're only a few years older than me."
"Only on the outside. I've been here over thirty years. And in the real world, there's an even bigger difference, something like a hundred years between our births."
"So?" Brad took her arms. "You're over-thinking things Kelly. Like I said, things change and so have you. You are not the same as when you arrived here, you've evolved, adapted. Try to take things at face value, as they are, not as they 'should' be." He seemed very earnest.
Kelly stared into his eyes. He meant it. Maybe that was why the guide sent him with her. She looked down.
"Okay. I'll try." She said quietly.
"That's all I ask." He turned back around and began to walk forward again. "Come slow coach, we're falling behind schedule."
"I told you I thought twenty miles a day was too much."
"Rubbish. Get those sexy legs moving!"
"BRAD! I warned you..."
The two of them sat around a small campfire, drinking coffee and nibbling the hard biscuits they carried, each lost in their own thoughts. To Kelly's surprise they had made more than the twenty miles on this first day. Brad was wondering how he could get Kelly to open up a little more to him. The guide had suggested he try, saying there was more to her than just a dowdy administrator, but not elaborating. He had been quite pleased when she had responded so forcefully to his teasing about her bottom, and she had let slip more than she realised. He hoped this was the right way to help her, she was a nice person and this was his first assignment.
Kelly suddenly broke the silence.
"Brad, I'm sorry if I sounded snooty or prissy this morning, but I'm not really used to people talking to me as a person. Everyone just sees me as a manager, or some authority figure. It was a bit different with Sue, Sara and Dave, but even they held back slightly."
"I'm sorry too Miss Kelly. I think arriving here so young, so full of myself, made me realise what I'd missed out on. It made me impatient. I just want things to happen straightaway, so I jump in with both feet. It doesn't always work, and makes me a bit unpopular. So I'm sorry if I offended you, I didn't mean too."
"Thank you for that. I know you mean well, but there is a huge gulf between our ways of thinking. I know I need to be more flexible and I am trying, but it is slow progress I'm afraid."
"I think if you can put up with me it will be a step in the right direction."
"You might be right." She smiled sweetly for the first time in a while. "I'm going to turn in now." She said, opening her sleeping bag.
"You're not going to sleep in your clothes are you?" Brad asked.
"No. I was going to take off my boots and then undress inside the sleeping bag."
"That is trickier than you think. I'll tell you what, seeing as its you, I'll look away."
"You promise not to peek?"
"I promise." He said, turning his back on her and staring into the darkness. There was the rustle of clothing being removed and then the sound of the sleeping bag zipper closing.
"You can turn around now Brad, and thank you." Kelly called.
"I think that may have been worse than watching." Brad said turning back around. Kelly's face was peering out from the tightly zipped sleeping bag.
"How do you mean?"
"I mean my imagination ran riot listening to the rustles and zips." He grinned once more, seeing the look of discomfort on her face. "By the way, you might want to turn your boots upside down. That way there's less chance of them being invaded by creepy crawlies." Kelly shuddered and quickly leaned across to turn her boots over. Brad began to undo his own boots.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm getting undressed as well."
"Then I'm going to look away."
"That's up to you." He shrugged. "It doesn't bother me as much as you." As Kelly hurriedly looked away, Brad could see that she was blushing again. He smiled to himself. She looked really cute when she reddened. He climbed into his bag. "All right, I'm done."
"You're not teasing me are you?" She asked with a hint of worry.
"Not this time I swear."
Kelly sat up and looked at him.
"You're right about the imagination." She said, still flushed about the cheeks.
"What! Even you Miss Edwardian Girl." He said in a mocking voice.
"Yes. It's your fault for mentioning it." She rested her head on her knees.
"I'm sorry Miss Kelly. I wasn't thinking."
"Kelly isn't my real name you know, it's just what I'm known as here."
"What is your name then?" He asked, genuinely interested.
"Katherine. Katherine Elizabeth Louisa Isobel Chambers."
"Or 'Keli' for short. I get it. Neat."
"Sort of neat. See you in the morning Brad."
"Goodnight Kelly." Brad lay awake for a while, thinking. The guide had been right. Kelly was worth trying to get to know. She wasn't really the stuffy stuck-up manager she appeared to be in an office. Out here she was less sure of herself, more vulnerable. He liked that about her. He smiled to himself, turned over and went to sleep.
Kelly awoke with a start, the sun already on her face. She groaned softly at her aching leg muscles, massaging them a little to ease the twinges. She sat up and looked around the camp. Brad wasn't around, but he had re-lit the fire and there was a tantalising smell of fresh coffee wafting over her. She stood and stretched, letting the bag fall down. She bent over to pick up her trousers, and then pulled them on.
"Good morning lazy bones." Brad's voice came from behind her. She whirled round. "I found us some fruit for breakfast." He smiled.
"Brad! How long have you been there?" Kelly asked worriedly.
"Long enough to tell I was right about your bottom."
"You're evil!" She snapped.
"No I'm not, I'm honest. Evil would have been having my wicked way with you while you slept. This is merely being mischievous." He grinned cheekily.
Kelly went bright red, with anger this time. She strode up to him, her eyes flashing, and slapped him hard across the cheek.
"That was for even thinking of me like that." She said angrily. Brad's head dropped down. Kelly saw the movement. "And if you're thinking about saying something about my bosom then forget it right now!"
Brad was genuinely upset about her reaction to his remarks; it wasn't what he'd intended.
"I'm truly sorry Miss Kelly. I just thought that after our talk last night... No, it doesn't matter. I have no excuse for what I just said. All I can do is ask for your forgiveness and promise never to speak like that to you again."
His head was bowed but Kelly could see the distress in his eyes. She calmed down.
"I forgive you, and I'll hold you to your promise, but I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have slapped you. A mixture of anger and embarrassment I'm afraid. Please accept my apologies."
"Anything for you Miss Kelly, I mean it."
"Good. Now, what fruit have you found? I'm surprisingly hungry."
It took them a little less than the two and a half days to reach the foothills around the mountain, but most of that third day to climb one of them. Now they stood on the top of quite a lofty hill. Beyond they could see the wilderness stretching before them. Kelly turned around and looked back towards the city. She was amazed at exactly how far they had walked in such a relatively short time.
"Any idea which way we should head next Brad? Did the guide say anything?"
"Other than suggesting we head this way to start with, no. All he said was that I should be able to sense where to go next."
"He got that far with your training?"
"Yes. There was only one thing I couldn't do, and that was the transporting."
"Which is why we're walking?"
"I suppose." He stared out over the vista before them, concentrating. Finally he pointed. "That way I think. If we follow that river, I think I sense souls in need." He turned to her. "What about you Miss Kelly? You were a guide once, do you feel anything?"
"I haven't been a guide for a long time Brad."
"But you did the training; you should still be able to do it." He looked worried, in need of a bit of reassurance that he was right.
"I'll try." She said. Kelly closed her eyes and let her mind go blank. It had been a long time since she'd done this. She concentrated hard. There was a glimmer of something she hadn't felt for a long time. She raised her finger and pointed while her eyes were still closed. She opened them and looked where she was indicating. It was roughly the same direction Brad had said they should go. "Well, I think that makes it unanimous Brad." She smiled, pleased that she hadn't completely forgotten the guides training.
Brad smiled back, glad that she had corroborated his previously unused skill.
"Good. It seems we're on the right track then. We'd better start down and find somewhere to camp for the night."
"I agree. My turn to lead?"
"After you." He paused. "Junior Guide Kelly." He smiled at her to show he meant it as a compliment.
"Thank you." Kelly smiled back. "Junior Guide Brad." They both laughed and then began their descent.
They hadn't talked much since the second morning, each of them dealing with the anger and embarrassment in their own way. For Brad it seemed the best way to keep his promise, to keep his exuberance in check. And Kelly was upset with herself for the way she had reacted, and she thought that her words had unintentionally encouraged Brad to speak the way he had. If that was the case it was better to say nothing so as not to provoke the boy into an unwanted response. What words they had exchanged was banal stuff about their route or how they were doing.
The discussion on the hilltop earlier had caused the mood between them to lighten and to cause them both to rethink a little. It looked like being a long journey and neither of them was particularly happy walking in silence. With this in mind, when they were making camp part of the way down the hill, Brad spoke.
"Miss Kelly, I've been wondering, can you tell me about your time here with the guide?" He thought this should be a safe subject for conversation, but he added. "You don't have too if you don't want too."
"I don't mind." She smiled, glad that they seemed to be talking again. The smile made Brad thankful that he had asked the question.
"So, what was it like when you arrived here?"
"Well, the city was fairly new at that point. Up until then people had been arriving in dribs and drabs, easily dealt with on a one to one basis. Their problems were simpler to resolve as well, but the guide could see that all that was going to change quite soon, that a lot of unhappy people would be arriving in large groups within a short while. The city was founded so that there was somewhere for them to stay until their problems could be solved. He also realised that he would need help, so he selected a few new arrivals to train as junior guides."
"And you were one of them?"
"Yes. He's always been able to select people who can help him, although I think I am the only one to fail him as a guide." She looked downcast for a moment.
"I don't think you failed him. From what I've learnt he just had to use you before you were properly ready." He gave her a sincere look. "Anyway, look at me. I'm not exactly a rip-roaring success. Perhaps he saw something else in both of us?"