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N*E*D - & - F*A*T - B*L*O*K*E - I*N - 2*1*1*3

Picture a warm, stark and gloomy pentagonal room. Three of its sides together are of darkened, almost opaque glass. Opposite, angled at 120º and facing the glass walls, are a couple of long sofas. On one of the sofas rests a shapeless, badly dressed blob called Ned. Behind the sofas stands a tall pot plant like a palm-tree. There is nothing else in the room.

Everything except the plant and Ned is grey-white. It could be adjusted to black or swirling rainbows or whatever esle Ned selects from potentially 50,000 options. At present it is set to ‘variable’ grey, which will darken according to how near Ned is to falling asleep. He has preset the room to watch his body rhythms and adjust temperature and ambient brightness accordingly.

Ned’s sleep threshold - below which the 'room' would question an attempted interruption - has not quite been reached. This is lucky for Fatbloke who now approaches the entrance, triggering an alert.

From no obvious point in the room, a soft feminine voice announces, ‘Visitor approaching.’

Ned opens one eye. The garden is just visible through the trans-glass. He groans, then slurs: ‘OK, let ‘im in. What's the time?'’

'Ten twenty.' says the voice as the glass begins to clear.

'Too bright.' he says, turning away from the light, 'Go slower. And let's have a small table.'

Several items of furniture riside in amorphous form beneath the floor. A lump rises and takes the shape of a table.

Fatbloke enters the room, ‘Gawd, you’ve got it easy.’ he says.

‘And why the hell not?’ responds Ned. He manoeuvres himself into a sitting position, rubs his eyes and sighs,

'You're turning into cabbage, mate.' says Fatbloke.

'That's rich, coming from a balloon.' replies Ned, getting up.

'Oi, watchit.' snaps Fatbloke, 'Are we going to the Drome then?'

'Yep, 'course we are.' says Ned, 'Fancy a beer?'

'A bit early, but why not?'

'Two Screamers.' says Ned into his wrist-pip. 'One cold.'

As with the floor, various appendages and services hide in the two walls. A concealed panel opens to reveal two cans that protrude on a tray.

They grab one each, then swap. Then they head through the archway to the entrance lobby. By the outside door, Ned slips his plythene sandals on and they go out onto the drive.

'Ahhh,' cries Ned, pulling an indignant face, 'A bloody slouch-wagon again.'

'I thought you reckoned they were the most comfortable.'

'Maybe they are,' mumbles Ned, 'But you can't see over hedges, and it's just boring.'

'What, bored in twenty minutes?' replies Fatbloke, getting in, 'Anyhow, we can watch a holoshow.'

'I've seen enough of that crap to last a lifetime.' says Ned getting in and taking a long swig of Screamer.

Fatbloke instructs the destination monitor and the wagon heads smoothly onto the road, accelerating gently yet swiftly to a strip that takes them towards the tunnel to France... which in 2113, with auto-driven all-electric cars, takes road traffic as well as trains.

Fatbloke selects a holoshow anyhow, and soon Ned settles and both become totally absorbed....

Suddenly, 90-minutes later, Ned raises his head for the first time since the holoshow began. He looks out and shouts, 'Gawd in hell, where are we?'

Fatbloke screws-up his face and peers out, 'Somewhere near the Alps, by the look of it.' He says, expanding the satnav. 'Approaching Morez, just north of Geneva.'

'That's bloody Switzerland, you great jerk!' snaps Ned, 'The Drome's in Moree, near Orleans, just south of bloody Paris! I thought it was taking a bit long. We should have been there an hour ago. How the hell did we end-up here? What did you put in that stupid gadget?'

'Morez is in France too.' says Fatbloke, 'Just! I must have hit zed instead of e by mistake.'

'I don't know why you don't use the voice recognition.'

'I can't speak Frence, that's why.' responds Fatbloke, 'If I tried, it would lead to even bigger mistakes.'

'If you can get bigger than Geneva instead of Paris.' groans Ned.

'I've corrected it now anyhow.' says Fatbloke, so we should be there in less than an hour it says.'

'Gawd, another hour in here?' sighs Ned, 'I reckon we should stop somewhere for a break. Need to stretch me legs a bit. Getting stiff stuck here like this.'

'OK,' agrees Fatbloke, 'What do ya reckon, a town or a village, restaurant, pub, what do you have in mind?'