Of course, Robert had heard the legends of the Go-cart King, but he had never given them any credence until now. The legends told of a ghost suburb tucked in amongst the countless neighborhoods that surrounded the city proper. This ghost suburb was home to many strange and wondrous flora and fauna, and it was roved by a gang of eternally young boys who toured the ruins on go-carts of great wonder. It was said that these go-carts never needed refueling and could reach speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour, which is pretty fast for a go-cart. The boys called themselves the Perpetually Eleven, which referred to both their age and their number, and they were led by the Go-cart King. Many and varied were the stories of their exploits and adventures.
Now, standing in the presence of these legendary characters, Robert found himself speechless. He opened and closed his mouth a few times but failed to formulate any meaningful syllable. After a few seconds of this, the king’s right-hand man spoke again.
“Speak, mortal,” he demanded. “What brings you to our domain?”
At last Robert found his powers of speech. On impulse, he went to one knee before the king. “Forgive my trespassing, your majesty,” he said. “I was fleeing from deadly peril. In truth, I know not how I come to be in your domain.”
The king’s right-hand man was about to speak again when the king silenced him with a gesture. “Few who tread the path to this land do so knowingly,” said the king. He appraised Robert coolly for a few moments. Robert waited with his head slightly bowed. Finally, the king spoke. “Your bearing is noble, sir,” he said. “Rise and tell us your name if you will and recount your tale of peril.”
At this the engines of the go-carts roared to life as the riders repositioned their vehicles in two rows before Robert. Their driving was perfectly synchronized.
Robert quickly recounted the events of the afternoon. As he did so, the king’s face grew troubled. When Robert had finished, the king spoke. “Your tale is indeed an unfortunate one, Robert Wilson. But know this: the creature that hunts you even now is not unknown to us. His name is Crutchford, and he is a plague upon the lands of the Go-cart King.” There were nods and murmurs of assent amongst the other boys at these words.
“It has been many centuries since last we heard tidings of Crutchford,” the king continued. “Now it would seem that he has infiltrated the mortal realm, where none exist that can oppose him.” The king’s expression hardened. “This I will not have,” he said grimly.
The king turned to regard his retinue. “Gentlemen,” he said, “it was surely our duty to deal with Crutchford in our own domains. We failed to do so, and now he besmirches the home of Robert Wilson with his foul taint of evil. As the blame is ours, the responsibility is ours as well. We are honor-bound to come to the aid of Robert Wilson. Are you with me?”
“Yes!” cried the rest of the Perpetually Eleven in unison.
“Then it’s settled,” said the king, turning to Robert. “We will assist you, Robert Wilson. With your help, we have the means, I think, to deal with Crutchford.” He turned again to address the other riders. “Armstrong and Liddle will go to the fortress and bring the dismantler drone. We will rendezvous at the Bridge of Time. Ride!” The last word was shouted.
With a deafening roar, the go-carts sped away, leaving the king and Robert alone in the street. The larger group of go-carts went down the road; two of the boys, presumably Armstrong and Liddle, broke away from the main group and disappeared between two houses.
The king turned to Robert. “Robert Wilson, you’re with me,” he said. He gestured with his head to the back of his go-cart. Robert noticed for the first time that the back of the cart sported small platforms and handles on either side. If one were very foolish, one could step onto the platforms and cling to the back of the vehicle as a passenger. Shrugging, Robert clambered aboard. It was a day for foolishness.