Published by Hodder Children's Books
£4.99 each

1: Breaking Through
ISBN 0-340-73982-7

Angel Ashe has got problems. It's one thing to have successfully escaped from her home in the mindlessly commercial hi-tech world of Eurostate-8; but it's quite another to find herself hurled into a primitive alternative reality, where people haven't even heard of washing, let alone electricity. To make matters worse, the folk of the Village have decided that she is a being sent from the gods to be their Spirit Childe. They want a miracle, and they expect Angel to deliver. And her friend Winter, the only person who can get her out of this, isn't around to help…

Every single person in the Village was waiting for Angel when their chief, Karma, led her outside. At the sight of their smiling, expectant faces, Angel felt a lurch of sheer panic, and the real meaning of Winter’s warning came home to her with a slam. This was why the Albionites were being so nice to her. They thought she had Special Powers—and now the time had come for her to prove it, by making the endless rain stop.
            She couldn’t control the weather, of course. In Avalonne, the computer Vee-world she had created at home, it would have been easy; she had programmed several disasters into her adventures there, and her game persona, Angel Ravenhair, had cured them (after a great and heroic struggle) with magic. But this wasn’t Avalonne, and she wasn’t Angel Ravenhair; not here, not any more. This was all too horribly real.
            The rain drizzled down on her head as, hoping that her quivering legs wouldn’t give way under her, she unwillingly trailed in Karma’s wake to where a tall, rickety ‘throne’ had been hastily cobbled together. It was made from bits of wood, decorated with bundles of
wet grass and bunches of soggy flowers, and Angel realised that she was supposed to sit on it to perform her ‘magic’. She climbed up and settled herself as best she could on the sodden seat, trying not to grimace as it squelched ominously under her. The rain trickled through her hair and down her face. Now what? she thought. Was she supposed to say something? And if so, what on earth could she say?
            Karma stepped in front of the ‘throne’ and, flinging both arms skyward, launched into a stirring proclamation (laced with capital letters as usual) about Yellow Sun and Blue Skies and Green Leaves and Healing. The Villagers answered with cries or moans or whoops, depending on what was expected of them—then Karma swung round and gestured towards Angel.
            ‘O, Spirit Childe! We, the Children of the Stars, Custodians of the Trees, Guardians of All Nature’s Virtues, call upon you now to Work Your Magic and Heal Our Land! Cast your Spell, Spirit Childe—Cast it, and Let All Be Well Again!’
            There was an awful, waiting silence. The Villagers’ eyes seemed to bore through Angel like hot knives, and though their smiles were as sweet and friendly as ever, she suddenly felt much as she had done when the marauders had confronted her in the Experience Mart.
             ‘Er...’ she said.
             ‘Ahhhh!’ breathed the Villagers. ‘Yes; oh, yes!
            ‘Hush!’ Karma commanded them sternly. ‘The Spirit Childe must not be interrupted in her Great Magic!’ And to Angel: ‘Speak, O Spirit Childe! Speak in the Tongue of the Spirit Realm, and let the Rain and Sun Obey You!’
            Angel felt as if her tongue had glued itself to the roof of her mouth. But as she desperately groped in the muddle of her mind, Karma’s last words gave her a vital clue. Speak in the Tongue of the Spirit Realm— her only hope was to give them an impressive mouthful of words that would mean nothing whatever to them. This whole ceremony was so crazy that they probably expected her to talk gibberish. If she could just satisfy them for the moment, it would at least give her time to think up an excuse for failure.
            She took a deep breath to steady her nerves, and said, ‘Input: network communications.’
            Another gasp went up. Everyone stood very still, staring; even Karma was mesmerised.
            Connect me to Zone Bohemia,’ Angel went on. ‘Vid link, Azure Block.’
            ‘Spirit Magic!’ someone whispered. ‘Oh, she is so wise!’
            Angel wrenched her face into a suitably stern expression. ‘Spider off, or I’ll wipe your circuits!’ she announced portentously. Then suddenly she remembered Twinkle, her Therapet computer cat, and changing her voice to a fair imitation of Twinkle’s goo-goo tone, she added, ‘My sponsors are called Recreation Realm FunFriends, and I know a song about them. Shall I sing it for you now? It goes like this: “I’m Just A Little FunFriend, FunFriend, FunFriend; I hope that you’ll be My Friend, My Friend too!”’
            It was totally and utterly insane. As Angel sang Twinkle’s fatuous song, the Villagers went into raptures. All the yelling and whooping that had gone before were nothing to what they did now: they jumped around like demented kids, rolled on the ground (covering themselves in mud and grass-stains in the process) and waved their arms or kicked their legs wildly in the air. Some started to bang things and blow things in a kind of cacophonous music, and a few even started to chant the song’s words, ‘I’m Just A Little FunFriend, FunFriend, FunFriend’, as if they were the key to some fabulous spiritual awakening.
            She didn’t know how long the chanting and cavorting went on, but at last the Villagers must have had enough, for they started to collapse on the grass in a daze of happy exhaustion. Angel looked nervously round for Karma, but he was flaked out with the rest of
them, flat on his back and staring up at the rain with a beatific grin on his face.
            Oh, well. Phase One was safely completed, by the look of it. Phase Two—what to do when the magic didn’t work—was a vid she’d play later, when she’d had a chance to think.             No one was paying any attention to her now, so she scrambled cautiously down from the dripping throne and, trying to appear both casual and dignified in case some people were looking, returned to the Dwelling. As she went, she thought: Winter, you’d better get back spidering quickly. Because if you don’t, I think there could end up being some very big trouble around here!