"If we fix it, what will you do?" Jay asked.

"Oh, with Doctor Finklestein's help, we can take control of it and make this Halloween amazing! Better than Christmas, even!"

Jack pirouetted with a flourish and strode off through the trees, beckoning them to follow “Now, come along!” he urged “There's no time to waste”

Nobody moved.

“We'd have to be fucking stupid” Cass shook her head.

“Yeah, completely” Jamie agreed “Why the hell would we want to help killer robots?”

“Because...” Jack snarled as he abruptly stopped and began stalking back towards them “If you don't, you'll never be able to break the spell”

“What spell?” Jay asked, feeling uncomfortably aware that none of them were armed and keen to diffuse the situation.

“Why...” Jack gave him an evil grin “The one that's transformed this ship and all your crew mates into a fairytale nightmare, of course”

Cass shrugged “It's just nanotech morphology; advanced but not difficult. I should be able to reverse it”

“Oh, you don't have a chance in hell of managing that in time, missy”

“You think?” Cass said, coolly.

“This is Doctor Finklestein's very own secret spell” Jack's voice sank to a gleeful whisper “If the spell isn't broken in three days, the transformation becomes complete”

“Whatever -”

“No, wait” Jay held up a hand, interrupting her “What do you mean by 'complete'?”

“Isn't it obvious?” Jack leered down at them “Surely you must have noticed that Mr. Harris here,” he pointed at the frog poking it's head, inquisitively out of Jade's bag “still knows that he's Mr. Harris?”

“Ah” Cass said quietly.

“Wait,” Jay looked from Jack to her “What?”

“You can't fit a human brain inside a frog” Cass explained “Well, Artemis would probably give it a go, but it would just get messy”

“And your point is...?”

“Harris's consciousness is still in there, so it has to have been backed up onto high density storage of some sort – Storage that can be rewritten at any time”

“Exactly” Jack clasped his hands “You're a smart little cookie, aren't you? – Gold star for you – Top of the class!”

“So in three days time,” Cass continued, doing her best to ignore him “if the 'spell' isn't broken, Harris and everyone else will get their consciousness's overwritten with whatever they've been transformed into – They'll be irrevocably lost”

Harris gave an alarmed croak.

“Can we not just take a backup and save them?” Jade asked “Like what we do with holograms...”

“Probably not” Cass shrugged “I'd be willing to bet there'll be all sorts of anti-tampering safeguards – Am I right, Jack?”

Skellington narrowed the dark pools of his eyes “I can that see we're going to have to watch out for you” he said thoughtfully.

“So, it looks like we're helping with fixing this computer” Jay said, wearily.

“We don't have to”


“Yeah, I know – I'm just saying”

“It's probably best if you do” Jack gave them one of his most hideous smiles “There are precious few of you Humans left in the universe – It'd be a shame to lose any more”

Jay shot him a black look, wondering what the hell that statement was meant to mean.

“Um...” Bruno heasitantly raised a hand, not really knowing where or how he should contribute to this exchange, but wanting to do so all the same “Why, uh.. Why don't we” he glanced, nervously at Jack “We could...”

“Let's not spoil the surprise, eh mate?” Jay clapped a hand on his shoulder while Cass sighed and Jade rolled her eyes. Jamie facepalmed.

“Oh… Right” Bruno nodded wisely. He had been about to suggest finding somewhere quiet, where they could pop a bit of Duran Duran on and have a nice cup of tea and Nutragrain bar, while they discussed the matter in detail; but his companions seemed to have other ideas.

Maybe, he mused, they were planning something with those electromagnets.

Jay turned back towards Jack “Saving the crew is our priority” he said, firmly “We'll help you in any way that we can”

“Oh, I knew you'd come around” Jack grinned “With your help, this Halloween will be the best one ever; but there's one thing we need to do first” he turned and started leading the way through the misty woods “Follow me” he called back “It's not far”

“What isn't?” Jade asked, suspiciously.

“You'll see...”

Struggling to keep pace with Jack, the group hurried after him and emerged, some five or so minutes later, out into a forest clearing, containing a tall, rickety-looking building.

“Behold!” Jack swept out an arm, gesturing towards the rambling mansion, towering above them “Doctor Finklestein's observatory”

“Why the hell do we need to be here?” Cass frowned.

“Who likes surprises?” Jack beamed, but his smile quickly faded amid a chorus of 'No' and 'Not me' from the Dwarfers. He sighed and looked heavenward for a moment, as if looking for divine strength and inspiration.

“Well, we can't send you off into the asteroid unprepared, can we?” he said after a moment “Doctor Finklestein has something to help. Now, come along," he beckoned "follow me...”

“I really don't like this” Jade murmured as they entered the observatory and began climbing the rickety stairs, to the Doctors laboratory on the first floor “There are way too many unanswered questions”

“Yeah, I agree,” Cass replied, in a low voice “but I don't see that we have many other options. Let's stick with it for now and see what crops up – I'm sure we can turn it to our advantage”

“You're starting to sound more and more like Jay” Jade smiled “The old Cass would never have said 'Let's just wing it'”

“Bugger off”

“In fairness, though, I've noticed that he's started planning things more, as well”

“Probably for the best” Cass returned Jade's smile “You can't just go making shit up as you go along forever”

“Well, it's worked for the last six hundred years...”

“What the fuck!?” Jay had reached the top of the stairs ahead of them, just behind Jack, and had emerged out into the laboratory first.

“You...” came a panicky woman's voice as everyone else crowded up the stairs and into the room “What's your name? Thingy – Help me”

Jack clamped a bony, but surprisingly strong hand down, onto Jay's shoulder “I'd advise you not to” he whispered.

“Oh, that is wrong” Jade said, slowly shaking her head.

Harris croaked in amphibian agreement.

“Ah, our guests” Doctor Finklestein looked up from his work and wiping his hands on his blood splattered lab coat, he slipped his goggles up onto his forehead to reveal a pair of beady, black little eyes.

“Help me...”

On the bloodstained bench in front of him, Captain Ferrington-Blonde seemed to have been hacked into pieces and reassembled with extra pieces of what looked like Justin Pancake. The mans head had been grafted onto her shoulders and was lolling, cheek to cheek next to hers amidst the bloody tangle of her hair. Their limbs seemed to have been sewn back onto their shared torso at random.

“Downing” Ferrington-Blonde screeched when she saw Bruno “This is all your fault – I'll see you court marshalled and shot for this!”

“Nah – don't listen to her” Pancake grinned up at them, as he inched one of his hands towards the Captains breasts on a groping mission, only to have it viciously slapped away “It's not all that bad”

“What is the meaning of this!?” Jay demanded, roughly shaking Jacks hand from his shoulder and casting his eyes around the room, looking for something dangerous to arm himself with.

“Ah, yes” Finklestein nodded “Skellington said you'd need this.” He reached a skinny, black rubber gloved hand out and pulled on a large lever, set in the floor near the end of the bench.

All at once, a thick metal door suddenly crashed closed, barring the exit behind the Dwarfers as a thick, billowing cloud of noxious green gas engulfed them from above.

What's the gas do to us?

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