South through the Lake District, the landscape scattered with strange angular Red structures. The dull green grass on the soft hills was covered with these bright red things, collapsed geodetic spires topped with shattered domes. They looked like failed schematics for crimson mushrooms.Somewhere out on the endless prairies of North America was the successful version. A skyhook fifty miles square at the base, topped off at 23,000 high by something that looked suspiciously like a giant starship.
No-one went anywhere near the thing. Red seemed to have plans there and they might involve us.
We sat drinking whisky in our compartment watching the view. Somewhere around Lancaster Giles and I lit up Cuban cigars ("rolled on the thighs of nubile young puppets," joked Giles) and resumed our argument.
"So you think we can't trust the puppets with anything more complex that food preparation and street sweeping?"
I looked around the wood panelled room. As so often in this kind of place the dim light, the gentle glow from the furniture, the hypnotic flicker of the open fire all combined to produce the kind of comfort conducive to making decisions for others.
On the wall, among the trophies and certificates, was a print of the Origin Point, Red Ground Zero.
An ugly street in Kenner, Louisiaina with a bar and a gas station on one side, two blurred hotels on the other. A crack in the street pouring out a crimson liquid.
"Alan. have you ever wondered where all the puppets go?"
Hesitatingly I said, "Well, sir, I assume that they're working for us. And many must maintain the bits of civilisation we aren't currently using."
"Many do exactly that of course. But think about it. Ever seen them breed? A mature puppet can produce fifteen progeny every six months. Most do. So where do they go?"
"Honestly, I don't know"
"They go East, Alan. In ever increasing numbers."
He pointed at the map.
"By now we should have expanded out to at least 5000 degrees east. We're stuck, however."