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The Discovery of Sir Robert's Harmonica

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Since the first publication of selected pages from the HLBS secret archives, a number of HLBSologists have expressed a desire to discover more detail pertaining to some of the more singular issues raised by those documents.

Indeed, some particularly enthusiastic investigators even went so far as to arrive at our gates requesting clarification, elucidation and inundation.

And so it fell to our weary chief archivist to point out that "inundation" means "an overflowing", and that they probably meant "information" meaning "an imparting of knowledge". At this sad news those poor confused souls went away in search of better dictionaries, while we all obviously had a damned good laugh.

Amusing though this episode was, it remains a salutory lesson that alliteration can be the undoing of anyone, and should never be undertaken lightly.

All this aside however, and in our continuing endeavors to keep the public informed, we have decided to publish an abridged account in answer to the question we are most frequently asked at HLBS towers:

"Yes: but where did you get the harmonica?"

The truth is out there ...


Somewhere in the deserts of North Africa, the then Brigadier Sir Robert Fortescue-Smythe was having a particularly dreary afternoon.

He slowly put aside his hide-bound copy of "Lost Artifacts and Ancient Technologies" by Browning B. Browning and mopped his reddened brow with a handkerchief.

"Blast this heat Fenton: where's my lemonade?"

Fenton, who in those days served as Sir Robert's batman, appeared as if from nowhere bearing a silver tray with a single glass of chilled lemonade. One of the many strange things about Fenton, apart from his always immaculate appearance, was the fact that he never showed signs of the heat. Or indeed any other source of duress for that matter. Not Ever.

"Your drink Sir," Fenton offered the glass to the Brigadier.

"Ah - good chap," Sir Robert took the glass and drained it quickly, then thought for a moment. "How on earth did you manage to chill it all the way out here?"

Fenton's steel-grey eyes shone for a moment and he almost smiled.

"Guild secret I'm afraid Sir."

"Hmm."

Sir Robert mumbled something as he always did in these situations and replaced his glass on the tray. He often wondered what it would take to wrest even one of these "Guild Secrets" away from Fenton. His next strategy had been to attempt violence of some kind, but he'd given this up after witnessing the man deal with a half dozen drunken sailors in Casablanca. It would be a long time before Sir Robert could look at a barstool again without wincing.

Gazing across the rocky desert for insipiration, he saw instead that one of his Sergeants was marching briskly towards him from the rocky dig-site his men were working in.

Sir Robert looked the man up and down as the Sergeant saluted and stood to attention. His red uniform was immaculate and his buttons shone like the sun. His white pith helmet was pulled down so hard that his eyes were hidden completely from view, and the chin strap fitted tight under his square, jutting jaw.

Sir Robert nodded curtly.

"What is it Dredd?"

"Sir! The lads have found something you might care to take a look at."

Sir Robert winced as the Sergeant barked the word "Sir". The man had a curious ability to make you feel you were hearing his voice inside your head, rather than through your ears. Most disconcerting: especially after a night's carousing.

"Oh very well," he sighed slowly. "Lead the way Sergeant."

It was probably only more dinosaur bones or broken pots, but there was nothing much else going on. Sir Robert wondered where all the interesting finds had gone to, and it was probably somewhere else.

Sergeant Dredd span on his heel and marched off towards a rocky outcrop where his men had been digging for water.

As Fenton and Sir Robert followed on behind the Sergeant, Sir Robert shook his head and tried to imagine what on earth a man like Dredd would do if it weren't for the Army. Hopefully he would never have to find out.

Reaching the dig-site, Sergeant Dredd stopped abruptly and called the men to attention.

"All yours Sir!"

Sir Robert winced once more and looked about him.

"At ease chaps, at ease."

While the dusty engineers stood easy, Sir Robert noticed what looked like carvings in the pale rock surface the men had cleared.

"This it Sergeant?" Sir Robert realized his mistake as soon as the question left his lips, and braced himself.

"Sir!"

Sir Robert felt his eyes begin to water, and now definitely felt a headache coming on.

"What d'you make of these Fenton?"

Fenton seemed calmly unaffected by the Sergeant's voice and walked confidently over to the rocks. He knelt down to look more closely, and ran his fingertips over the indentations. They were geometrical and regular in shape, and seemed to have been cut to a precise depth. Even more unusually, the various lines were all exactly the same width, and had a sharp right-angled profile.

"They seem to have been cut with some kind of milling tool Sir," he said quietly.

He continued to examine the billiard table smooth surface, brushing away collections of sand here and there. As his fingers touched the center of a section depicting a kind of circle with a network of spirals within it, he noticed a dull metallic glint.

"Hello, what's this?"

Carefully lifting away some sharp rocks, Fenton uncovered a small rectangular metal object with a grill down one side. It looked very like, well, nothing so much as a harmonica.

Sir Robert looked a little anxious.

"That's not going to make any kind of noise is it Fenton?"

Fenton apparently ignored the question and, pausing only to give the object a polish on the tunic of his least favourite engineer, raised it to his lips and blew.

A strange unearthly hum seemed to emanate from the very rocks all around the men, and a spherical swirling shape seemed to shift in the air above them. Fenton stopped immediately.

"Looks like this needs careful study Sir," he turned to Sir Robert. "Shall I dispatch it back to headquarters?"

"You did say careful study, Fenton." Sir Robert scratched his cheek thoughtfully.

Fenton smiled.

"Very good Sir."

And put the object carefully in his pocket.

   
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