I crossed to the torch, picked it up and put the battery cover back on – after checking the batteries for corrosion but finding them more or less as-new, if a little slimy – and switched it on. Harsh fluorescent light joined the piercing ray of Wasteland sun stabbing down from the cellar roof.
“Huh,” I said.
I looked around, wondering where my case had gotten to. I’d dropped it at the same time as the torch, but it was nowhere to be seen in the little cellar.
Well, I thought, if I know my time travel, someone picked it up and put it in a box with L&E LOST & FOUND written on it in chemi-pen. For all I know, it was Rose herself. Then they left it behind in another cellar for past-me to pick up. It’ll show up again, or it won’t.
Reassured by the presence of my torch, and – if I was being honest – a little reassured by the absence of the case, I set the torch on the floor and climbed back up the ladder-stairs to pull the trapdoor closed. Then I came back down, picked up the torch again, and crossed to the door.
“This will do you no good, Hatboy.”
I turned and raised the torch at the sound of the familiar voice.
As I’d suspected, although the corner had been empty two seconds earlier, the Myconet was now sitting there with her translucent little tentacles waving under her gnarled old mushroom-head.