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The Magic Coach

by prof 

Posted: 21 December 2009
Word Count: 1976
Summary: Fiona,and her mother die in an accident. Her father badly disfigured.In her parallel world she orders him to build the coach able to travel anywhere. Fordham, his village, becomes well-known for the success of its kids.Many families would like to live there.This includes Moreton, the leader of a school gang,and Rodney ,the leader of a nationwide drug firm. Both are dealt with by the Friends-with police help.Rodney dies when chased by the Coach.David teams up with Donna, Rodney's wife.

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Thrum! Thrum! Thrum! The deep-throated throb of the engine could be heard as soon as the Fordham school bus entered the High St – a street that wound it’s gentle way down to the harbour; pausing on route to pass through the market square - observed by several fine Victorian shops, many of them retaining their original facades; but then Fordham itself had retained a great deal of its olde-world charm, which is probably why so many people were attracted to live in, or close by it. But, as we shall see, that wasn’t the only reason so many families wanted to live in the town.
Waiting expectantly by the bus-stop in the square was a group of about twenty pupils, some with parents, their ages ranging from eleven to seventeen, on their way to Dormington the nearest large town, ten miles inland.
Now, there are buses all over the world; scarcely a city or town anywhere that doesn’t possess them- but Fordham’s bus was unique. Unique? Really unique? Well-yes. It was designed not only to be able to travel on land, but also over and under the sea, as well as through the air. Not that you could tell this from the outside –for there it looked pretty well like any other bus, for all this immense power was hidden. The back half of the coach housed the motors (a turbo-diesel for the land and sea; a jet for the air); one of the conventional luggage storage spaces housed a powerful computer and mechanisms for operating the various control systems. Only the roof seemed a little thicker than might be expected (since it housed a set of rotors as well as the retractable wings), but that was only really noticeable from the inside.
All the rest (such as the streamlining) were cleverly hidden. Even the tyres, designed to travel over any kind of surface, appeared to be normal; yet they were especially fabricated, to inflate for travelling over rocky terrain, or landing on rocky surfaces, and deflate for landing on ice or slippery surfaces - so the ride was always comfortable and safe: but for flying or going under water the wheels could retract. What an all- purpose vehicle it was! No wonder the pupils were excited. For all, except the new pupils, knew what lay in store for them.
And here it came, trundling down the street, rumbling over the cobblestones, to park at the kerb. Eighteen pairs of eyes gleamed with anticipation, examining the bus to see if it had changed during the summer holidays, if Mr. Bowman was still driving. Yes, there it was- looking just the same –with Mr. Bowman still almost invisible in his yellow coloured glass cabin. But two pairs of eyes were looking elsewhere; the two youngest who were going to secondary school for the first time, and stared anxiously at their parents, frightened by this large vehicle that was going to take them away from their home. Hands tightened their grip – encouraging words were spoken.
Two seventeen year olds Nerissa and Jonathan, stepped forward. Nerissa, a dark-haired, attractive, petite but strongly built 1.6 metres, and a keen gymnast; Jonathan, fair-haired, well-built 1.75 metres, keen on soccer, played for the school; both prefects.
Jonathan entered a special code, MACH 3 (which wasn’t the speed of the coach, because it could travel much faster even than that, but an abbreviation of MAGIC COACH), on the keypad at the side of the door which was located towards the centre of the bus, while Nerissa marshalled the other regular travellers into an orderly line, the youngest at the rear. The line began to climb the steps, each one being recognised by a camera and the entering of their own PIN number on the pad which opened the door for them; and then they began to fill the seats nearest to the door as they went along; nobody saying a word, not to each other or to the driver- an air of suppressed expectation driving-up the adrenalin level.
When it came to the two new pupils they were still clutching the hands of their parents. Nerissa said quite firmly ‘Sorry, no parents allowed!’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ said one mother ‘ it’s their first day at school, of course one of us has to go with.’
‘I’m sorry’ said Jonathan ‘that’s the rule. The children will be perfectly safe with us; we’ve all been through the same process; and you can see we’re all perfectly well.’
‘I’ve never heard of such a thing!’ said one of the fathers. ‘Every child needs a parent with them on their first day at school.’
Nerissa took over. ‘We don’t say you can’t be with your child; that’s perfectly understandable. What we do say is that you have to find some other way to get to the school. We’ll meet you there.’
‘Let me speak to the driver’ said the second father, attempting to climb the steps. But the door refused to open. He turned to Nerissa. ‘What’s the code?’
‘I’m sorry-that’s personal. We each have our own and we are under the strictest orders not to divulge it to anybody.’
‘In any case’ said Jonathan, ‘the bus doesn’t like having adults on board.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ said the first mother again. ’Who’s driving this stupid machine?’
‘Mr.Bowman.’ said Nerissa ‘but you won’t get anywhere with him!’
The four parents took no notice and marched their children to the front of the bus and attempted to speak to the figure they could see in the driving seat - but the windows were so tinted nobody could see in clearly - and treble-glazed, so he was completely insulated against any outside noise and couldn’t hear a word they were saying. (Though, it has to be admitted, he was quite capable of lip-reading their words, assuming he wanted to; which in this case, wasn’t so) He put his hands over his ears, waved them towards the parents and shrugged his shoulders, till they got the message. There was a conference. Since the children were going to the same school, they agreed to take them themselves. One of the mothers had a car. But they made it clear to Nerissa and Jonathan that they would protest to the head when they arrived.
‘Naturally’ said the two in unison, ‘All parents do.’ And they boarded the bus and the door closed behind them with a satisfying ‘clunk’. As soon as they were all seated, Mr.Bowman got the bus under way and pressed some buttons. Down came a huge computer screen; round twisted the backs of the seats to reveal a smaller computer screen and keyboard
Mr Bowman spoke to them through his microphone. ‘I see everyone is here, except of course for the new ones, but I’m sure they’ll soon be be joining us. Well, I assume you all had fantastic holidays and will want to talk to each other about them as we go on our journey; so let’s get on with it shall we? We’ve wasted far too much time already. Just a second. I’ve had an idea! Did anyone go on holiday to some place that was so fantastic they think we would all enjoy going there?’ Several hands shot-up. Several voices shouted their enthusiasm.
‘Very well, I’ll leave it up to.Nerissa and Jonathan to sort it out. I’ll get us on our way.’
As the coach left the town it passed by a lovely Georgian mansion (The Priory) overlooking the estuary of the river, and, waving to them over their ornamental wrought iron gates, were May and June, the two sisters who lived there. Up they all jumped to wave back – a daily ritual which acknowledged their special relationship; for every Saturday morning in term time, four of them would visit the house to help clean it and look after the garden - since the sisters were well into their eighties and not very mobile. And what did they get in return? Delicious home-made cakes and fruit drinks; and a packet of home-made sweets. Not forgetting a present on their birthdays. Oh yes- we mustn’t forget too, the smallish yacht in which the oldest of the students would occasionally take some of the group out on picnic tours of the estuary and its many islands.
When they returned to their seats Nerissa told them to type-in their holiday destination (unless it had been so horrible they wouldn’t want to return there!). Each keyboard was connected to the main computer and as they typed the name appeared on the large screen.
‘How do you spell Savannah and Boca Raton?’ Thirteen year-old Mary wasn’t the only one who needed help. Not that any of the students knew all the answers - but they got the computer to do a search, and by the time the bus had left the road and entered a dark tunnel all the names were on the screen. The bus stopped - the lights went on. Jonathan pressed a button; there was a whirring noise and up on the screen came a map of the world with all the places marked out with red dots. Nerissa pressed another button and a pointer came to rest on Venice. ‘Perfect’ said Nerissa and told Mr.Bowman, who programmed his computer and started the engine. ‘Somebody hasn’t fastened their safety belt properly’ he said, before checking and pressing the take-off button. Out went the streamlined nose –up went the rear panel of the coach to become the tail-fin, while revealing the jet-engine. With a rush of sound the coach gathered speed and, as they left the tunnel, out came the wings, the wheels retracted and the coach took-off, climbing rapidly into the sky. In no time at all they were travelling at super-supersonic speed.
A camera fixed to the underside of the bus showed the route they were taking with each student able to hone in on anything they wanted to investigate further; even ask questions. But in any case there was a running commentary, describing in general terms the nature of the ground below. A drop down menu was available with files on History, Climate, Economy, Political system, Famous people who had lived there, even the sort of music they enjoyed and, should they need to explore further, they could also type in particular questions.
But before they arrive it is necessary to make some things clear. When the bus entered the tunnel it entered a parallel world in which time meant nothing at all. The time you returned was the time you left. And while they were in this strange world they were invisible. They could walk and talk, travel on trains and buses, eat, drink, do anything they wanted; all completely unknown to the people in the real world. Conversely, they could not hear or feel anything in the real world; there they were only observers.
And how did all this come about? Let’s start about three years earlier. Mr.Bowman was a design engineer, that is to say he designed machinery. A good-looking, attractive man, well-liked by the people he met. In particular his wife, Flora, and his daughter, the hyper-active Fiona. At that time it was Fiona’s twelfth birthday. Saturday afternoon on a cold wet miserable winter’s day. They were due to buy her a new bike. But Fiona had just started her first period and wasn’t feeling well. His wife thought they should postpone it for a week, but that was when Lexford, his local football team were playing Manchester United and he’d been given a ticket. So he’d talked to Fiona, showed her the brochure with the cycles illustrated, got her excited enough for her to say she wasn’t that ill and then talked her mother into going that day.
A day he would never, ever forget.

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Comments by other Members

NMott at 17:35 on 22 December 2009  Report this post
Hi, Prof, good to see you've posted an exctract.
It's a very interesting idea for a story. You WWmailed me about it's age range and I have to admit I'm having trouble placing it. Currently it's told from an omniscient (ie, author's) view point which is more suited to a younger reading age. But the story idea and the range of characters is more suited to an older reading age. I would suggest redrafting it for an older reading age - maybe 7-9yr olds.
I would recommend choosing one of the characters to be the main character (main protagonist), and have him/her as the main narrator of the story. You might also consider telling the story from a first person point of view, or a third person limited point of view (ie, limited to that character and not told from any other character's view point) - put yourself in that character's shoes and imagine it happening to them as you write it down. Only write down what they see, think and feel as the events happen around them, and that will help to keep the story focussed.
You haven't said what level of feedback you are looking for and i don't want to overload you with too many suggestions, so i'll leave it there for now.
All the best with it.

- NaomiM

Pat M at 15:29 on 24 December 2009  Report this post
Hi Prof, I just had a read of your work as a treat to myself for having finished peeling veg for tomorrow!
I notice on your profile that you feel your age is against you...RUBBISH!!! Some of the best writers started writing very late in life, so you just carry on!
It's a good idea for a story and I'd be interested to see where it goes after this.
To be picky, I agree about the age range being difficult. You have descibed the children very precisely, even their heights, but maybe if you left it a little more vague the reader would 'see' them as their own age, so would give you more flexibility. Children like the main characters to be about their own age or slightly older so they can relate to them.
I find the use of brackets a bit distracting, maybe you could re-word to avoid them. I wouldn't get too bogged down with the technical descriptions either, leave it more to the reder's imagination as to how it all works.

If the driver is going to play a large part in the story it might be interesting to try writing it from his viewpoint, as he would see everything that was going on, a sort of observer in his insulated driving seat.

‘Somebody hasn’t fastened their safety belt properly’ he said,
I like that, sort of combining fantasy with down to earth reality! Ordinary every-day bits like that, make the fantasy side of it more believable I think.

Good luck with this, it's a good start.


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