Stephen Ayres© All rights reserved.

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Extract from Chapter One:

Chapter One

Another finely honed blade drew a crimson path across Robin's heavily mutilated body. He laughed defiantly, his tunic no longer a lavish Technicolor Sherwood green but a matted hue of sodden red. The sheriff's men would surely overwhelm the wily outlaw at any moment. Robin Hood could not escape. Propped up against a mighty stone pillar, a bloody stump where his left leg had once been, he lashed out at the frenzied crowd of chain mailed figures closing in around him. Robin steadfastly parried blow after blow. An unexpected swift flicker of metal saw Robin's sword arm sliced clean through just below the elbow. There was no sudden spurt of arterial blood, the wound mercifully shocked into traumatic paralysis. Robin's closest friends and most steadfast warriors, Will Scarlet and Little John, fought bravely, cutting a bloody swathe toward their stricken leader. Robin sensed the end was nigh and, with his one remaining arm, reached for his trusty bow. His assailants stood back in stunned disbelief at this gallant futile gesture. A sudden silence fell throughout the shadowy banqueting hall.

With the bow held deftly between remaining arm and leg, Robin cried out triumphantly, "May this final arrow avenge my father's death, and play some small part in restoring my sovereign lord, King Richard, to England's throne."

He let loose his final arrow. The aim proved remarkably true, and the arrow embedded itself in the black heart of the evil Sir Guy of Gisbourne, who stood gloating from a high balcony overlooking the fray. Staggering back and forth a few times for true dramatic effect, the villainous knight cursed both Robin Hood and King Richard as he fell headfirst to the cold stone floor below.

A loud cheer went up, and the sheriff's men threw down their weapons. Within seconds, Robin sat triumphant upon the sturdy shoulders of the Merry Men, his wounds now forgotten. All sang bawdy ballads of Sherwood Forest until one of the monks in the hall revealed himself to be none other than King Richard the Lionheart. The good, just, and kindly monarch took centre stage and swore to restore peace to the green and pleasant land of England, his first decree being to return the estate of Locksley to Robin Hood. A look of despair crossed Richard's battle worn face. He placed a comforting hand on Robin's shoulder.

"I have grave tidings my loyal friend. Would that my royal powers could turn back time for I have been reliably informed that fair Maid Marion was killed early in the fighting; her throat cut by that wicked rascal, Gisbourne."

Robin held his forehead in stunned disbelief and walked over to a large oak table. Hiding underneath was the portly Friar Tuck gorging himself on a tasty leg of chicken.

"You let the bitch die again you worthless piece of shit!" shouted Robin angrily stabbing Tuck in the eye with a dining fork. "I told you to watch out for her! She's worth twenty points and a chance at the bonus level."

Teeth clenched, Robin tapped his fat comrade on the head with the skewered eyeball. Friar Tuck was less than amused, his immense expanse of stomach shaking furiously.

"Just watch your language Mr Hood," spat Tuck, squinting venomously through his remaining eye. "You think I'm gonna waste my time looking after that bitch just so you get the bonus screw level? I get points for staying in character so if I see a table of food what the hell do you expect me to do?"

Robin stood impassive for a moment, squaring up to the rotund man of God. "Well, have a few points on me, Triar Fuck." Robin thrust the eyeball into Tuck's gaping mouth. Friar Tuck gagged violently at the unwelcome taste and texture. Before Robin could stab Tuck in the other eye a loud buzzer sounded, a soft feminine voice filled the hall.

"Game over in ten seconds. Please remove headsets. Please remove headsets. When headsets are removed, the bodyweb will automatically retract. Do not attempt to leave cubicles until bodyweb is fully retracted. Thank you."

Robin lunged at Tuck and waved the remaining eyeball triumphantly. The warm glow from the burning torches of Nottingham Castle glitched into white noise. Headsets removed, the three friends found themselves back in 2025, in the grimy neon of ‘Phazers’, Brighton's oldest amusement arcade. The filament sensors of the bodyweb retracted and ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood - Official 1938 Technicolor Game Edition’ returned to advertising mode, enticing more customers.

The three men played this particular game almost every lunchtime. After ten years, they, like the machine, were now older and nearly as obsolete as the technology.

Stephen Ayres: Copyright 1993