by Robert Williams
Des popped over to Mike's Manic Motors one morning in order to buy a new cronk bracket for his Fiat 126. However he was surprised to find that Mike wasn't there - in his place was a spotty teenager.
"Who are you?" asked Des.
"I'm Mick the Manic Mechanic," mumbled the teenager. " I'm Mike the Manic Mechanic's nephew. He's not 'ere so I'm looking after 'is garage for 'im."
"So where is he then?" said Des.
"I told you, he's not 'ere!" mumbled Mick.
"I can see he's not here!" said Des. "Maybe you could tell me where else he isn't!"
"Yeah!" mumbled Mick. "He's not on the London Eye, he's not up the Empire State Building, he's not at the Taj Mahal, and he's not at the old factory on the Broadway...oh 'ang on a minute, he is... Whoops..."
"Ah right, I'll go and see him there then," said Des. "Ta!"
Des drove across to the factory and parked his car outside. The factory had been disused for many years, and looked in a rather rundown state.
"I wonder what Mike's up to in there?" said Des to himself as he wandered round the outside of the factory. "In fact, where's the way in?"
Des walked all the way round the factory looking for a door.
"Come on, there must be a secret door here somewhere!" said Des.
At last he found the secret door. The big giveaway was that there was a door with 'SECRET DOOR' written above it.
"Ah, this'll be the secret door then," said the ever-perceptive Des. He opened the door and walked in. "Hello!!" he called.
"What are you doing here?!" exclaimed Mike the Manic Mechanic, hurriedly flinging a dustsheet over whatever it was he was working on. "How did you get in?!"
"Came through the secret door," said Des.
"How on earth did you find that?!?!" said Mike.
"More to the point, what are you doing here that's so secretive that you have to have a secret door?!" said Des.
"Not telling you, it's a secret," said Mike. "How did you know I was here, anyway?"
"Your nephew Mick the Manic Mechanic told me, well sort of," said Des.
"Oh great, you can't trust anyone these days," said Mike. He picked up his mobile phone and rang his nephew. "Mick, you're fired!"
"Bit harsh, isn't it?" said Des.
"In this line of business, you can't afford not to be harsh!" said Mike.
"But what is your line of business?!" said Des.
"Hmmm," said Mike. "You promise you won't tell Lotus? Or Porsche? Or Ferrari?"
"Who?" said Des.
"Okay then, I'm about to show you what will probably be the most glorious, most wonderful, most phenomenal thing you've ever seen in your entire life!!" said Mike.
"What, even more than RoboDes?!" said Des.
"Yes!!" said Mike.
"What, even more than that episode of 'Keeping Up Appearances' when they went to that stately home?!" said Des.
"Yes!!!" said Mike.
"What, even more than 'Bohemian Rhapsody' performed by a band entirely composed of chickens?!" said Des.
"Well...maybe not that," said Mike. "Now wrap your eyeballs round this!! One...two...three..."
Mike whipped the dustsheet away and revealed a small, and rather rickety-looking, sports coupe. It had massive spoilers front and back, huge wheels and a gigantic pair of exhaust pipes.
"Ta-da!!" exclaimed Mike. "Whaddya think?!"
"I think that episode of 'Keeping Up Appearances' was better," said Des. "What is it?!"
"Des Wednesday, feast your eyes upon the first prototype of...the MEDFORD MANIAC!!" exclaimed Mike.
"Riiiight," said Des. "Did you build that?"
"Certainly did!" said Mike. "With the Maniac, I aim to achieve my lifelong ambition of becoming Britain's largest car maker!"
"That's not exactly going to be difficult, is it?!" said Des.
"Isn't it a beauty?!" said Mike. "All being well, it'll be ready in time for its world debut at this year's Birmingham International Motor Show!!"
"That'll be interesting," said Des, "because the Motor Show's in London this year. The Gardening Live exhibition's in Birmingham instead."
"Ah..." said Mike. "That would probably explain why the organisers told me they could probably fit me in next to the Exotic Gnomes stand. Oh well, never mind."
"So, that Maniac thing," said Des. "How can you afford put it into production? You've got no money!
"Ah, well there have been rumblings..." said Mike.
"Oh sorry, that's me, I haven't had my lunch yet," said Des.
"No, no, rumblings that are set to rock the world of big business to its very foundations!!" said Mike. "I'm close to clinching a deal with one of Britain's biggest investment companies...oi Des, wake up!"
"Oh sorry," said Des, waking up. "Boring words such as 'business', 'investment' and 'companies' do tend to send me to sleep."
Just then Mike's mobile phone rang.
"Excuse me," said Mike. "Good morning, The Medford Motor Company, Mike the Manic Mechanic speaking...can we talk? Oh yes, we most certainly can!!"
As Mike chatted away, Des started nodding off again as Mike was using more boring words like 'business', 'investment' and 'companies'. He was woken up again with a start when his own mobile phone rang.
"Hello? Oh hello, Mrs Greasy," groaned Des. "Can we talk? Well, I'd rather not..."
The following conversation contained such words as 'cafe', 'lunch', 'delicious', 'mashed' and 'potato', words which made Des feel physically sick. But like a good little boy, Des drove straight over to Mrs Greasy's cafe, where Mick, Clive and Wayne were already present.
"Can you believe it?!" said Des as he walked in. "Mike's started his own car company!!"
"Fascinating," sighed Mick. "Are you going to buy one of his cars then?"
"Not likely, it looked like it was about to fall apart," said Des.
"Oi Des, are you blabbing about my new car?!" said Mike, suddenly bursting into the cafe.
"Des says your car looks rubbish," said Clive.
"Well of course it does, it's a prototype!!" said Mike. "Don't worry, when the Medford Maniac goes into full production, I promise it'll be as well built as a Citroen 2CV, or something. Anyway, I'm here to deliver you all some BIG NEWS!!"
"Have you clinched the deal?" said Des.
"Yes!" said Mike, excitedly. "I am pleased to announce that the Medford Motor Company has just been sold in a multi-pound friendly takeover by the Progressive Investments Group! For full details read the Financial Times tomorrow!"
"Will there be full details in the Disney comic as well?" asked Des.
"Probably!" said Mike. "This news is going to be EVERYWHERE!!"
"The Progressive Investments Group?" said Mick. "I've never heard of them. They must be complete lunatics to want to invest in you!"
"That's right!" said Mike. "And now I have the financial backing to be able to commence full production!! At last I have realised my life's ambition!!"
"My life's ambition is to be able to come in here and eat something edible," muttered Des, looking at the mouldy chips Mrs Greasy had just served him.
"But there's just one thing!" said Mike. "My new boss reckons I can't operate this company on my own. Apparently I've got to hire an apprentice. So he wants to meet all you lot at my factory tomorrow morning at nine o' clock sharp!!"
"Where is the factory, anyway?" said Mick.
"Can't tell you, it's a secret!" said Mike.
But unfortunately for Mick, Clive, Wayne and Mrs Greasy, Des did know where the factory was, and so he was able to drive them all there the next morning, ready to meet the boss.
"For goodness sake, you could have at least have all smartened yourselves up a bit!" said Mike, looking up and down at the motley crew inside the factory. "We're about to meet the boss, the big cheese, the chairman of the Progressive Investments Group!!"
"What are you talking about, this is my best tank top!" said Des.
"So that's the Medford Maniac," said Mick, looking at the prototype. "Des, you're right, it is rubbish."
"For goodness sake!" said Mike. "If you're going to be company employees, at least have some faith in the product!! Now shhhh, I can hear the boss coming!" They heard footsteps approaching - but the smell gave the game away even before they saw who it was.
"It's Farmer Files," said Mick.
"Don't be ridiculous, how could it be?!" said Des.
Then the footsteps stopped, and they saw the boss's figure standing at the secret doorway.
"Oi Farmer Files, get out the way," said Des. "We're expecting the boss of the Progressive Investments...(yawn)...Group!!"
"Of course..." said Mick, as realisation dawned upon him. "The Progressive Investments Group. PIG. How could I have been so foolish?!!"
"Oooooh arrrrr!!!" said Files. "Oi am your boss! And oi be lookin' for an appren'ice!!"
"But I don't understand!" said Mick. "Not so long ago we were reduced to recording a charity single to help you out! Now you've got your own investments company?! Did you win the lottery or something?!"
"Oooooh arrrrrr!!! No' a' all!!" said Files. "The success of Wayne's websoite, WCs Reunoi'ed, gave me the oidea to start moi own websoite. And so oi did - PIGBay!!"
"PIGBay?" said Des. "What's that? Sounds like the kind of seaside that I'd like to avoid!"
"It be moi new internet auction site! And oi' be makin' a fortune selling ultra-rare Beatles memorabilia!!" said Files. "Loike a napkin genuinely once used by Ringo Starr to wipe 'is beard on!! And John Lennon's iPod!!"
"Good grief," said Mick.
"Ooooooh arrrrrr!!! And now oi be a multi-millionaire!" said Files. "But oi want more!!! So oi be takin' over Moike's company! As soon as oi saw that car oi knew Moike 'ad a success on 'is 'ands!!"
"Which of them are you going to pick as the apprentice then?" asked Mike.
"Oi don't know," said Files. "So, to foind out, oi be settin' these 'ere candidates a series of challenges, and elimina'in' 'em, one by one!!"
"Where did he get that idea from?" said Des.
"So 'ere be your first challenge!" said Files. "This 'ere vehicle needs marketin'! So oi want each of you 'ere to be comin' up with a clever, snappy slogan to be sellin' the Medford Maniac!!"
Not wanting to incur the wrath of Farmer Files, the apprentices did as he said, while Mike put the finishing touches to his car (ie putting an engine in it). After an hour, Files asked them, one by one, for their slogans.
"Ooooh arrrr!! Mick, what be your slogan?!"
"'The Medford Maniac - What a Way to Go'," said Mick.
"Rubbish!!" exclaimed Files. "Cloive, wha' about yours?!"
"'You'd Have to Be a Maniac to Want to Drive a Maniac'," said Clive.
"Awful!!" exclaimed Files. "Des?!"
"Well I decided to emphasise the safety angle, that the car is so safe that there is no chance of having a fatal accident," explained Des. "So my slogan is 'The Medford Manic - I Wouldn't Be Seen Dead In It."
"Appallin'!!" exclaimed Files. "Wayne?!"
"'Mickey Mouse Is The Best!' said Wayne.
"Hmmm..." said Files, thoughtfully. "Abysmal!! Wha' abou' you, Mrs Greasy?!"
"Oh I'm sorry Farmer Files, I haven't got one," said Mrs Greasy, "I've been busy making some fizzy pop for you all! It's a brand new recipe I've just invented!!"
"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!" said Files. "Well, oi never be hearin' such a load of ol' tosh in all moi loife!! Des - you be fired!!"
"Thanks," said Des.
"Mick - you be fired!" said Files.
"Thank goodness for that," said Mick.
"Cloive - you be fired!" said Files.
"Oh dear what a shame," said Clive.
"Wayne - you be fired!" said Files.
"Owwww!!!" said Wayne.
"But boss, that just leaves Mrs Greasy!" said Mike.
"Hmmmm..." said Files. He looked at the glasses of revolting-looking fizzy pop that Mrs Greasy had placed on the car's rear spoiler. "Mrs Greasy - you be fired!! Now, for your next challenge..."
"How can there be a next challenge, boss, you've just fired all the candidates!" said Mike.
"Oooooh arrrrr!!!" said Files. "You all be reinsta'ed!!"
"OH NO!!!" said Des, Mick and Clive in unison.
"Hey Mike, can I go for a drive in yer Mickey Mouse please?!" whined Wayne.
"Mickey Mouse?!" said Mike.
"He means your Medford Maniac!" said Mick.
"He can't go for a drive, because I haven't put any petrol in it yet, have I?!" said Mike. "Tell you what...why don't you go and sit in the driver's seat and pretend you're driving it!"
"Thanks!!" said Wayne. He went and sat in the car and started turning the steering wheel and making driving noises to himself. Meanwhile Mrs Greasy's fizzy pop was not proving to be much of a hit with the others, unsurprisingly.
" Get rid of that rubbish, Mrs G," said Mike, "or at least get it off my rear spoiler!! That's not what it's for!"
"Oh sorry, I thought it was a built-in picnic table," said Mrs Greasy.
One by one, Mrs G took the glasses of fizzy pop off the spoiler, and put them on Mike's workbench, but unfortunately as she removed the last one Des happened to walk into her, causing her to drop her concoction right down the Medford Maniac's fuel pipe, much to Mike's horror.
"What have you done?!?!?!" exclaimed Mike. "You've only gone and contaminated my fuel tank with fizzy pop!!!"
"Sorry, I was just looking for the way out," said Des.
It just so happened that at that point Wayne, who was still pretending he was driving the car, touched the accelerator pedal and to his, and everyone else's, horror, suddenly found that he actually was driving the car. The Medford Maniac shot off at great speed across the floor and right through the factory wall.
"Ah, a way out!" said Des.
Everybody rushed after the car, through the hole in the wall, and found the car and Wayne, both remarkably undamaged, sitting in the road outside.
"WOW!!!" exclaimed Mike. "This is amazing!! The power in that fizzy pop is incredible! Did you see how fast it went?! And only on a single glass! Think what we can achieve with a full tank! Hey everyone, we're going to the test track!!"
And so the next morning, Des, Mick, Mike and Mrs Greasy travelled to the nearest test track in order to give the Medford Maniac its first ever test drive. In order to save on fizzy pop power, Mike hired a tow truck to take the car to the track. The others travelled in Des's car.
"Who's going to drive, then?!" said Mike, when they arrived at the test track. "Mick, fancy it?"
"No way, I've renounced my driving licence!" said Mick.
"Stupid question, I shall be driving of course!" said Mike. "That's why I've got my racing driver suit and helmet!!"
"Ah, I wondered why that was," said Des. "All you need is a very nice moustache like Nigel Mansell's and you'd look just like that racing driver chap, whatever his name was!"
"Now I've put a roll cage inside this thing, because I reckon this car is going to be FAST. And I mean SUPERFAST!! You're about to see something you've never seen before!!"
"Yeah right, fast car going round a test track, whatever," said Des.
"I'm about to break the world landspeed record!" said Mike.
"Been there, done that," said Des, who had indeed done so, in none other than his Fiat 126.
"Is this going to take long?" said Mick. "It's going to be boring just watching you going round and round the track."
"Boring?!" exclaimed Mike. "Boring?! Next thing you'll be saying that motor racing is boring!!"
"Well it is!" said Mick.
"Then next thing you'll be saying that golf is boring!!" said Mike. "Well it is, actually. Anyway, enough of this mindless chit chat!!"
"'Enough of the mindless chit chat'?!" said Mick. "Why end the habit of a lifetime?!"
"Keep an eye on this equipment, on here it'll tell you how fast I'm going!" said Mike, showing Des and Mick a gadget with a digital readout he had just got out of the Fiat 126's boot. "Now Mrs Greasy - hand me the fizzy pop!"
Mrs Greasy did so, and Mike poured the contents of each glass into the Maniac's fuel filler. Des and Mick wished him luck, and Mike got into the car. He donned his helmet, started the engine, and straight away shot off round the track in a cloud of smoke. Des and Mick kept an eye on Mike's speed as he began accelerating round the circular track.
"This is incredible, I've never seen acceleration like this before!!" said Des.
"He's only been going half a minute and he's already approaching the sound barrier!!" exclaimed Mick. And seconds later, there was a massive boom, proving that Mike was now travelling at supersonic speeds.
Half an hour later - it was still accelerating. And all they could see on the racetrack now was a blur.
"I can't believe what I'm seeing here," said Mick. "This gadget must be broken. It says he's doing over 670,000,000 miles an hour! He's approaching the light barrier!! And nothing can travel faster than light!! According to Einstein, anyway!"
By now the Medford Maniac was still gaining speed, but as it approached the light barrier the rate of increase got less and less. Two hours later, Mike was still circling the track, and still hadn't quite reached the speed of light. Then suddenly they got a shock. The digital readout showed zero. The blur on the race track had vanished. The Medford Maniac was nowhere to be seen.
"He did it!" said Mick. "Mike broke the light barrier! He travelled faster than light!"
"But I don't understand?!" said Des. "Where's he gone?!"
"Back in time!" said Mick. "Einstein proposed that if you were to travel faster than light, you'd travel back in time! Which is what Mike has done!"
"And it's all down to my amazing fizzy pop!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "I'm going to make a fortune!!" Straight away she got onto her mobile phone.
"I wonder what's happened to Mike," said Des. "How far back in time has he actually gone?! I suppose this means we'll never see him again!"
"We might!" said Mick. "He could travel back to the future by driving his car close to the speed of light, but not exceeding it!"
"That would be a good title for a film!" said Des. "Let me just write it down...'Driving His Car'..."
"Though he probably won't because I expect he's used up all his fizzy pop supply," said Mick. "Meaning that he's stranded in the past. He could be stuck centuries back!"
Once Mrs Greasy had finished conducting her business, they decided there was nothing more they could do at the test track, so they travelled back home at something less than supersonic speed in Des's Fiat 126.
"Well I bet we're all thirsty after all that excitement!" said Mrs G when they arrived back at the cafe. "And what better to quench that thirst than with some of my amazing fizzy pop!!" She handed them some glasses of the aforementioned.
"Oh botherations!" said Des, accidentally on purpose spilling his fizzy pop all over the table and Mick's jumper. Mick then did the same to Des.
"Oh you clumsy twosome!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "I'll have to make you some more!! And they'll cost you another £26.14 each!!"
"How much?!?!?!" exclaimed Des. "That's ridiculous!!"
"I've just done a deal with the Progressive Investments Group!!" said Mrs Greasy. "I'm going to become a millionaire selling this stuff!!"
"Never mind that, how are we going to get Mike back?!" said Des.
"There's nothing we can do," said Mick. "We don't even know how far back he's gone!"
Just then they heard a familiar noise from outside - a kind of strange, wheezing groaning noise. Des, Mick and Mrs G rushed outside and were shocked to see a police box on the pavement. They were even more shocked when Mike the Manic Mechanic opened the door and walked out.
"Hey, thanks for the lift mate!!" said Mike as he walked out. "Ta-ra!!"
He closed the door, and the police box faded away into thin air, accompanied by the same noise.
"Cor, that was a bit of luck, wasn't it!!" said Mike. "Thought I was going to be stuck in 1996!!"
"1996?!?!" exclaimed Mick. "You mean you went back ten years?!?!"
"Yup!" said Mike. "Britpop, John Major, mad cow disease - it was just like the old days!"
"It was the old days!!" said Mick.
"But what about your car?" said Des. "Why didn't you bring that back with you?"
"Couldn't fit it through the door!" said Mike. "But don't panic, I had a fantastic idea!! Come with me!"
Des, Mick and Mrs G walked with Mike down to his garage.
"Used me nonce, didn't I!" said Mike, as he led the others round the back of his workshop where stood a tumbledown old wooden garage. "Parked it in here in 1996!"
"But didn't you run the risk of meeting your earlier self?" said Mick.
"Naaaah, I wasn't in!" said Mike. "I'd left a note on the door saying that I was away in Scotland on some lunatic mission dreamt up by some numpty who for some reason wanted to crash a flying Mini Clubman containing Dave Presley into the Loch Ness monster!!"
He opened the garage doors and gasped. Inside sat the world's only Medford Maniac - but it was now little more than a rusted wreck.
"Oh dear!" said Mike. "I knew I should have fixed that leaky roof...what's the boss going to say?!?!"
"'Ooooh arrrrr', probably," said Des.
"Never mind that, the Medford Maniac is yesterday's news!" said Mrs G. "The boss has an amazing new investment opportunity now with my time travelling fizzy pop!! Got stacks of the stuff in my shed, all ready for sale!"
"Your shed?!" said Mike. "Oh no! Well, I suppose you'd have to find out sooner or later!"
They walked back to Mrs Greasy's cafe, and round to the back yard where, to Mrs Greasy's horror, lay a pile of bricks and wood that used to be her garden wall and shed.
"What on earth has happened?!?!?!?!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.
"Hold on a minute," said Mick. "Didn't you say you had all your fizzy pop stacked up in that shed?"
"Yes, that's right!" said Mrs G. "Along with the recipe!!"
"So how come there's no fizzy pop amongst this wreckage?" said Mick.
No one had an answer, so Des filled in the silence with a rendition of 'The Twilight Zone' music.
"Actually, I must confess," said Mike. "It was me!! I did it!!"
"No you didn't, how could you have done?!" said Mrs G. "You've been with us the whole time!"
"No, I did it just now, when I was in 1996!" said Mike. "Thing was, I was a bit pooped after driving that car at ultrasonic speed for hours on end!! So I thought I'd pop over to the cafe for a cuppa!! Thing was, though, I wasn't quite used to driving it on public roads, and it would appear I didn't yet have the handling tuned to perfection! So I'm afraid to say I accidentally drove it through the wall and right into your shed!"
"You fiend!!" said Mrs Greasy.
"Tell you what though, great tribute to my car building skills, the Medford Maniac was hardly damaged!" said Mike.
"Who cares about the Medford Maniac, you've destroyed my back yard!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "You're paying for this, Mike!!"
"At 1996 prices, I hope!" grinned Mike.
"But I still don't understand," said Des. "Why did Mrs Greasy's fizzy pop disappear?!"
"I think I know," said Mick. "Mike changed history when he went back in time! So in 2006, Mrs Greasy could not have put her fizzy pop in that shed since Mike had already destroyed it in 1996!"
"Good grief," said Mrs Greasy. "So where did I put it all then?!"
"Goodness knows," said Mick. "Could be anywhere!"
"Oh great," said Mrs Greasy. "The special recipe was hidden with the fizzy pop! If I can't find it, I'll never be able to make any more! And then bang goes my exclusive deal with the Progressive Investments Group!! Farmer Files is going to be furious!!"
Mrs Greasy rushed into the cafe to search for her fizzy pop.
"Hey, if Mike's changed history, then maybe Mrs G never actually made any fizzy pop!" said Des.
"That's right, he must have completely altered the subsequent timeline!" said Mick. "But if that's the case, then without the fizzy pop, Mike could not have gone back in time, and none of this would ever have happened!"
"None of what would have happened?" said Des.
"I don't know," said Mick. "What were we just talking about? What are we doing standing about in Mrs Greasy's back yard for no apparent reason?"
"Hey, you lot!" said Mrs Greasy, coming outside again. "Why don't you come inside, I've got an exciting new drink I've just invented I think you're going to love!"
"Sounds disgusting," said Mike. "I think I'll pass on this one, I've got an amazing new secret project to get on with!"
"What's that?" asked Des.
"Can't tell you, it's top secret!" said Mike. "All I can say it that's it called...the MEDFORD MEGALOMANIAC!!!"
Copyright © Robert Williams