The Wabbit and Lapinette took cover inside the Cardboard City and for a while they seemed to lose the Fake Vote. But barking cries drew their attention, so they dismounted and approached with caution. The MoTo Snails nudged each other. "It's a spieler," said Mo. "and he's hammering the stock," agreed To. Mo looked around carefully. "I don't see no lurkers." To nodded and spoke quietly to Lapinette. "He's a fast guy, hang onto your cash." The Trader was getting into his stride and he threw his arms wide. "Special price for a special lady!" Lapinette's eyes moved imperceptibly. "Can the lip and tell me what you got." At this point, the Wabbit took his cue and slid round the back to look at the merchandise. The Spieler picked up a box. "I got votes, any kind you like," Lapinette looked unimpressed. "They're all transferable." Lapinette narrowed her eyes and the Spieler continued. "I transfer votes to you. You transfer cash to me." The Wabbit poked around everywhere and heard something odd from inside a box. "Help, get us out." The Spieler turned. "Don't talk to the goods." The Wabbit spoke sharply. "The goods are hot." "They don't call me Honesty Bones for nothing," said the Spieler sharply. "My votes are as good as new, used once only." The Wabbit looked up. "You're nailed, buster - and your goods are seized." "Naw, naw, naw. " The Fake Vote swooped down from the rooftop and gripped the Spieler's neckbone ... [Spieler: fast talking trader who attracts customers with "patter". Lurker: A trader that hangs on the edges of a market stall.]
The Wabbit gasped. He remembered the MoTo Snails speaking of a Cardboard City and what a Cardboard City this was! All the same, this was a Quest and anything could occur. So he drew a Snazer gun from the secret compartment he'd designed specially for To. "Expecting to find trouble Commander?" asked Mo. The Wabbit grinned and every one of his 28 teeth gleamed in the light. "No. I expect trouble to find me." To glanced across the entirety of the city. "I don't like coloured cardboard." "It tastes of toxic," said Mo, "but I see plain cardboard over there." "Yum yum," said To. The Wabbit shook his head. "It may be an enemy playing a trick." "I hate enemies," said Mo. To snarled. "And the enemies of our enemies are dumpling heads." Lapinette nodded in agreement. "Let's look over there." "What for?" asked Mo. "I don't know," smiled Lapinette, "it's your Quest." Mo and To looked at each other and shook their antennae. "We seek the Holy Snail." Lapinette tried not to laugh, but the Wabbit simply said "There is none." Mo and To drew back. "What? No Holy Snail, you say?" The Wabbit held up a paw. "I mean the Quest is more important than the objective." The conversation stopped as staccato calls shattered the air. "Listen!" whispered the Wabbit. There it was again. "Naw, Naw, Naw." "Take cover in the cardboard!" yelled the Wabbit.
"Goin' up" yelled Mo. "Second floor, third floor, fourth floor," shouted To. "Perfumery, stationery, wigs
and haberdashery," yelled Mo. "Rooftop restaurant and restrooms," shouted Mo. The Wabbit made a wry face. His snail modifications were no longer secret and he knew very well his project was far from complete. Lapinette sighed because she knew the Wabbit always programmed jokes into a retrofit. "Wabbit!" Her voice didn't carry in the rarefied atmosphere and the Wabbit only hear "bit". So he made a guess. "Good bit of work, don't you think?" Lapinette grimaced. "Get us down Wabbit, before we freeze." "Your knees will be fine," shouted the Wabbit. "Just cling closer to Mo." "Can you hear flapping?" shouted Lapinette. The Wabbit looked pleased. "I'll leave the applause until later." "Flapping!" yelled Lapinette. This time the Wabbit turned. Talons extended, the Fake Vote hurtled from a corner of space with a banshee wail that cut through everything in its path. "It brought pals!" cried the Wabbit as he ducked. "Which floor, Sir?" asked Mo. "Basement!" yelled the Wabbit. "Goin' down!" yelled Mo. "DIY, key cutting and barbers' shop," shouted To. The fake votes hovered, swooped and lunged but the MoTo Snails were too fast. The Wabbit watched the curve of the earth flatten as they plummeted in free fall. "How do we stop?" shouted Lapinette. "Shop?" asked the Wabbit, "we can do that later."
Mo and To shot round the track and quickly broke records for the next hundred years. The gale made the Wabbit's fur stick to his skin and Lapinette's ears were numb. But Mo and To were pitted in a test of endurance and a hundred laps passed in so many minutes. On Lap 150, the Wabbit leaned into a bend and felt a tickle in his ear. Lapinette did too and ignored it but the Wabbit couldn't. He fidgeted and glanced behind. Nothing. Yet there it was again. This time it wasn't a tickle - it was more like a bite. The Wabbit tried to look up but fierce talons raked his fur and sliced at his head. The Wabbit let fly a stream of expletives that would have frightened wrestling champions, had any been in a position to hear. To heard though, so he laughed and stored up the words for future use. In that instant, Mo and Lapinette drew ahead and now it was Lapinette's turn to suffer razor claws swiping her ears. "Faster!" yelled the Wabbit. "It's the Fake Vote." He gritted his teeth as Mo and To throttled up but the Vote was in their slipstream and it swooped and raked and sliced. The Wabbit had no option. "Mach 20!" The wind caught his words and passed them to Lapinette. "It's against the rules!" she yelled. The Wabbit clung to To and yelled back. "It's an exception!" "We hate rules," said To. High up in the Tower, the race marshal saw the MoTo snails turn into two blue balls of energy and vanish. He flicked through his rule book. "Stop and Go Penalty," he muttered.
Mo and To whizzed round the track on a warm up lap and slithered to a halt on the grid. The Wabbit bent down. "To. Remember to deliver power to the track at all times." "No flying" murmured Lapinette to Mo. "No traction, no speed," said the Wabbit. "Stupid rules," grumbled Mo and To and they grinned at each other. Lapinette and the Wabbit felt Mo and To vibrate like tuning forks and heard a whine as the MoTo Snails powered up. The Wabbit's teeth rattled and he gripped To tightly. The wind from the sea was icy. He glanced at the sky for any sign of sun and suddenly pointed. "What's that?" "Oh," said Lapinette, "you always get birds at a race track. They're defending their territory." "Silly winged things," said To. The Wabbit was a little tense. "Well I wish they wouldn't swoop today, they have all week." That's not a bird," said Mo. "Its the fake vote from the ballot box." "The one that scratched me with its claws," growled the Wabbit. They were so busy watching the flying vote, they nearly missed the start. The Marshal with the red flag walked between them and was gone. They all stared at the lights. For a moment the flying vote landed on the gantry, fluttered and flew high into the air. At that instant the red lights went out. With two sonic booms. Mo and To vanished round the first corner. The wind tore at the Wabbit's fur, but from the corner of his eye he could still see the fake vote hanging like a bird of prey. "Why don't you fly south for the winter?" hissed the Wabbit.
The Wabbit shouted "Mount up," like he'd seen in Westerns. Then Mo and To set off at a cracking pace along a cliff side path only to emerge at what seemed at first sight to be an aerodrome. But this was no aerodrome. With the ballot boxes and fake votes safely concealed in a cave, the Wabbit put his concerns on hold and grinned at the view. "Race track!" shouted Mo. "Speed Trials!" yelled To. A hollow voice boomed from the Tannoy system and echoed down Pit Lane. "Late registrations for the MoTo snails have been authorised by the Chief Track Marshal." The voice continued with technical details at enormous length until the Wabbit could take no more. He bent down and spoke quietly. "Is this part of your Quest?" Mo and To waved their antennae. "Yes, it's a test and a trial," said Mo. "Speed, endurance and technique," uttered To. The Wabbit nodded gravely, but something was scratching at his back and he didn't want to start a race with discomfort. "What? Get off! Grrr." "Look!" said Lapinette. She pointed at a rogue ballot paper that appeared to have stuck to the Wabbit's back. Suddenly the Wabbit felt sharp claws detach from his fur and he looked round as the fake vote floated into the air. The Tannoy system boomed suddenly. "Mo, To, Lovely Lapinette and The Wabbit to the starting grid." "The floating vote will have to wait," sighed the Wabbit, "but where on earth is it going?" The MoTo Snails' shells hummed softly and the snails started to move. "How is that done?" murmured Lapinette. "Superconducting quantum solid state technology," replied To. Lapinette smiled. "Any instructions?" "Stay cool," laughed To.
The Wabbit and Lapinette hauled the ballot boxes to a secluded cove nearby and there they opened them. "What shall we do?" asked Lapinette. "We should count the votes," replied the Wabbit. Lapinette nodded - because she knew the Wabbit was inclined to excessive formality. As the Wabbit counted, he examined each ballot paper and made piles as he'd seen in election counts. A breeze sprang up and Lapinette pursued papers that drifted across the beach. "They all say 'No'", murmured the Wabbit. "Did you spot any votes for 'Yes'?". Lapinette shook her head. "Can we eat them?" called Mo, who had a snail's liking for cardboard. "I don't suppose it matters," said the Wabbit. Mo and To nibbled the ballot papers and snorted. "They taste awful." The Wabbit scrutinised bar codes and frowned. Then he sniffed a ballot paper and wrinkled his nose. "There's something strange about these." He turned and called to Mo. "What do you think?" Mo waggled his antennae. "They smell of decay." The Wabbit looked at Lapinette and moved his ears from side to side. Lapinette knew matters were serious. She sniffed the ballot papers too, then jumped back in revulsion. "Yeugh". The Wabbit sighed and sniffed again. Then he put an ear close to the papers for a very long time. He sniffed once more. His head rose and he looked out to sea. They all waited as minutes passed. "These voters don't exist," sighed the Wabbit. Lapinette shifted uneasily and gave voice to the question that hung in the air. "Why?" The Wabbit let the paper drop from his paw. "Because they're dead."
The Wabbit thought it was a plane and it was. An old turbo prop swept low along the lines and they all took cover. But just as it reached the MoTo snails, it swooped upwards with a deafening roar and blue boxes spiralled onto the track. The Wabbit grabbed one and inspected it. "These are ballot boxes," said Lapinette. The Wabbit was puzzled. "Maybe they're the missing votes." The turbo prop disappeared out to sea, leaving only the sounds of waves moving shingle on the beach and rustling of paper. "What missing votes?" asked To, who was old school and critical. "There were strange stories from my land," said the Wabbit. "Tales of remote polling stations and ballot boxes and jeeps in the night." "I remember," said Lapinette. "It was in La Stampa." "We hate newspapers," said Mo. To agreed. "They're not worth the paper they're written on." "Like votes," said Mo. To laughed. "They give you a box and some stuff and you have to put the stuff in their box." "Sometimes that's true," said the Wabbit sadly. He shook the box and heard something scratching. So he peered through the slit but saw only paper. "All the same," said Lapinette, "votes shouldn't just disappear." "They didn't disappear," said Mo, "they were redistributed." The Wabbit shook his head like a donkey. "We need to look at them, but oh, why didn't they land in the sea instead?" Lapinette blinked and winked. "They would have been floating votes ..."
Mo and To told their friends they could bring a few items with them and the Wabbit and Lapinette were taking no chances - because they knew anything could happen on a Quest. Although they might meet friends, the Wabbit reasoned they would certainly meet enemies too. "Sometimes," said Lapinette gravely, "it's hard to tell them apart." Mo and To glided easily across the rugged terrain and as they slid along, they solemnly changed the names of everything they saw. This was some kind of ritual and the Wabbit joined in. Trees were called stones, houses became cars and, curiously, fences were named giraffes. Mo and To reached an old single railway line and wheeled to face the horizon. "This is our path," said Mo. "More of a track," said To. Lapinette squinted her eyes and stared down the railway until she could see no further. "Are we on the right lines?" quipped the Wabbit. "What about trains?" asked Lapinette. "We'd have a long wait," said To with a rude gesture of his antennae. "Government Cuts," grimaced Mo. He ejected a stream of slime and slithered in it. Lapinette flapped her ears. "I thought I heard something." "It's the sea," said Mo. "No it's the land," said To. "It's the damp whispering grass," snorted Mo. They looked at each other and laughed and wouldn't stop. The Wabbit jumped down, put his ear to the track then sniffed. The metal felt cold and smelled of verdigris. "Sounds like a plane ..."
The Wabbit and Lapinette met Mo and To in the early morning on the edge of town. Mo and To were punk snails and fashioned themselves accordingly. They had reason to be grateful to the Wabbit. He was responsible for a retrofit that made them incredibly swift and so a speed of Mach 2 was nothing for the MoTo Snails. The Wabbit held on to To and tried to get comfortable. "Our namesakes have passed away," said Mo. "Oh no," said the Wabbit sadly. "Let's remember them," said Lapinette softly. The Urban Sphynx made a haunting funeral sound that spiralled round the Abandoned Tower and they all shed a tear. The Wabbit broke the long silence. "Why are we here?" Mo and To nodded at exactly the same time, but To spoke first. "We shall now embark on a Quest." Mo explained further. "We're obliged to find something and for success we must make our Quest with friends." Lapinette steadied herself on Mo's back. "What are we looking for?" "No-one really knows," said Mo. "We'll know when we find it," said To. The Wabbit thought long and hard. "And when we find it," he asked, "will we bring it back?" "It depends how big it is," said Mo. To's antennae wagged. "It could be a new land made entirely of cardboard." Lapinette smiled to herself. "We can't bring that back, so what shall we do?" "Eat it." said Mo and To.
The waiter tucked the team in nicely, took the order and vanished. "How do we get out?" said Lapinette. The Wabbit positioned himself to speak. "We don't usually have any trouble!" "Where's my dwink?" said Tipsy. "We just ordered," said Skratch, "it's only a matter of time." "Talking of Time," ventured Lapinette, "what was that for a kind of adventure?" It was the moment Skratch the Cat had been waiting for and he leaned forward with delight. "We were in a revisionist space western." Lapinette grinned. "Revisionism is a departure from tradition that favours critical views." Skratch nodded. "So each episode was a signifier only for itself." Tipsy suddenly waved. "The story showed that events shouldn't be stored in a shed, like gardening tools." "They can if you keep them in a neat block," said the Wabbit, who had been reading. Skratch was dismissive. "That assumes time and space is relative depending on where the viewer is located." "So what about the Zones?" asked Lapinette. "The Zones were self-actuating fields of persuasion, which bent towards us," said Skratch. They all went quiet. "What about iconic instability?" muttered the Wabbit. Skratch giggled. "The Zoner clocks were indeed unstable. They were icons and also signs." "What kind of signs?" asked the Wabbit. "Signs of the times," said Skratch.
"We could site a Big Dipper over there," said the Wabbit. Wabsworth scanned the middle distance. "What about a Ghost Metro?" The Wabbit grinned and winked. "It could burst shrieking from underground." The Wabbit had come across an abandoned fairground ride and caused it to be located at the rear of the Department of Wabbit Affairs. There, he was slowly renovating it. That caused much amusement to his team, but the Wabbit paid no attention whatsoever. He had succeeded in making a device that played hurdy gurdy music using three old fiddles and a computer keyboard. This made rather a ghostly sound that aroused speculation on dark moonless nights when the Department worked late and the Wabbit was practicing. "About the Dinosaur Fund?" said Wabsworth. The Wabbit's android double was an exact copy but a lot had happened since inception. He looked at the rides and touched the Wabbit's shoulder affectionately. "Things go up and down." The Wabbit was unphased. "Fluctuations in the market?" "In our favour," smiled Wabsworth. "For a while we had more funds that exist anywhere." "How long did that last?" asked the Wabbit. "20 minutes," said Wabsworth. The Wabbit saw his plan for a Wabbit Land Pleasure Park disappear in a single instant. So he thought for a while. "What kind of Market do we need, a Bull or a Bear?" Wabsworth smiled broadly. "A Beer Market," he chortled
The Wabbit hopped on a desk and tried to look stern. This was a bare room sometimes borrowed by the Wabbit for interrogations. But it belonged to the Crimes Against Time Agency (CAT), which had set the investigation in motion. The three Zoners looked so subdued that the Wabbit felt somewhat tolerant. Skratch shook his head, then scratched it. "Psst," he purred to the Zoners. "Shuffle your feet and wring your hands." Tipsy waved to attract the Zoners' attention. "It's better for you in the long run." The Wabbit paused for a very long time and although the clocks couldn't sweat, a little machine oil trickled down their faces. "You can't go around collecting time!" yelled the Wabbit. The Zoners muttered that it was only a bit of fun. The Wabbit shoved his paws deep into his fur. "It causes time turbulence, which gives others a rough time." There was silence. "Every time I turn around, there's trouble!" shouted the Wabbit. The Zoners nodded, so the Wabbit continued. "There's a time and a place for everything." In the silence that fell, the Wabbit realised he didn't dislike the Zoners and smiled to himself. "As regards a suitable penalty. I've hardly had time to think." The clocks wrung their hands and the Wabbit pointed. "You will remain in Time Zone Zulu." The clocks shuffled their feet so the Wabbit thought for a while. "You will keep accurate time." The Zoners looked rueful. "Anything else?" "Yes," said the Wabbit. "Time off for good behaviour."