Authors: Paul Gamble
“Is it?” asked Grey, laughing. “Well, if it is, we really should tell her so that she can stop doing it.”
If Jack hadn't been ready for Trudy running up the wall, the two Porcupods pursuing her certainly weren't. Unable to stop in time, they clattered into both each other and the corner and collapsed, unconscious.
Trudy continued running up the wall and, just as she reached the top, she placed a foot on the ceiling and pushed herself off. This allowed her to perform a perfect backflip and land gently on the floor.
She turned around from the wall, and Jack noticed that she was barely out of breath. The two remaining Porcupods, having seen what had happened to their comrades, slowly approached Trudy. One moved toward her and lashed out with its lobsterlike claws. They cracked and snapped in the air around Trudy, but she dodged them easily, smiling as she did.
The other Porcupod shuffled backward a foot or two. At first it looked afraid, but then Jack realized that it was going to take a run up and then launch itself at Trudy. Jack wanted to shout out and warn her, but his breath caught in his throat.
Jack needn't have worried. Although Trudy was still dodging blows from the nearest Porcupod, she noticed the other scuttling rapidly toward her. It leapt in the air, clacking its claws together like an insane maraca player. As it reached the peak of its leap Trudy bent backward. The Porcupod looked as startled as a creature can look when it has an armored snout for a face. It sailed over Trudy as she snapped into a backflip. Just as the Porcupod was directly over Trudy's flipping body, she whirled her feet around and kicked it, forcefully propelling it into the wall and making its body crumple up like a concertina. Jack winced, almost feeling sorry for the animal.
There was only one Porcupod left in the room now. It stopped trying to attack Trudy and looked at its three friends, all of whom were lying unconscious and battered around the room. It snapped its claws once in a rather thoughtful manner. It looked at Trudy again and then scuttled backward into a corner of the room before lying down and making a strange rasping-breathing noise. If Jack hadn't known better, he would have thought that it was trying to whistle in an innocent manner.
Trudy brushed down her school uniform and walked toward the glass door. Grey opened it and bowed to her as she exited the room. Jack had a million questions he wanted to ask, but he couldn't seem to persuade them out of his mouth.
Before Jack could say anything Grey looked at his watch. “I'm afraid we don't have time for anything more tonight. If you two stay here any longer, your parents will be asking difficult questions. I'll get a Ministry car to take you home.” Grey left to make the arrangements.
Trudy and Jack were left standing in the corridor by themselves. Jack's jaw was still hanging open in amazement. Trudy looked very pleased with herself, but Jack felt that that was understandable. She probably wasn't allowed to use her amazing skills in everyday life and it must have been a wonderful feeling to be allowed to show off. It would be like winning a gold medal at the Olympics and not being able to tell anyone about it.
Jack pulled himself together. “I've just got one question.”
“Yeah?” said Trudy. “What's that?
“Well, with all the skills you have, why on earth would you want to be my partner? I mean, surely there are better people you could be working with. Like a ninja or something?”
Trudy sighed. “Not that many other people would agree to work with me. People tend to find me scary.”
“I do find you scary,” confessed Jack. “But I still want to work with you. You'reÂ â¦ amazing.”
Trudy smiled and stuck out her hand. Jack shook it. “I'm not sure I'm amazing,” said Trudy. “But I'm certainly Strange and Unusual. Maybe a little bit Impossible tooÂ â¦ sometimes.”
Grey came back to find them shaking hands. It seemed to make him happy.
“I've got a Ministry car waiting for you outside.”
Trudy's shoulders slumped. “Do we have to travel by Ministry car?”
“It's late already; your parents will be wondering where you are. You know a Ministry car will get you back home in half the time of a normal car.”
“I know, but.â¦”
“But me no buts,” insisted Grey as he hurried them down a corridor toward the exit.
Once outside, Jack was impressed by what was waiting for them. He couldn't understand why Trudy had been reluctant to travel by Ministry car. It was a long black limousine, polished to such a high shine that even in the twilight it seemed to shimmer.
“After you,” said Trudy.
Jack didn't have to be asked twice. He heard Grey say good-bye as he scrambled into the back of the car. It wasn't quite what he had been expecting.
Inside, the car was disgusting. When he had opened the door, a cloud of noxious air had rolled out, the smell of which was almost unbearable.
Although the car was spacious with two wide leather seats facing each other, it was filled withÂ â¦ well, it was filled with deeply unpleasant things. Some organic unpleasant things. Some man-made unpleasant things. And several organic man-made unpleasant things.
It took Jack several minutes to find somewhere to sit down that wouldn't make a squelching noise.
Trudy climbed into the car and flopped down on the seat beside him. “The first time anyone travels in a Ministry car they always take a few minutes trying to locate the cleanest part of the seat to sit on. After you've been in one of these cars a few times you'll realize that it's all equally filthy.”
Trudy waved good-bye to Grey as he slammed the door of the limousine shut.
Jack couldn't see the driver; they were separated from him by a smoked-glass screen. He could see the outline of a head with a black chauffeur's cap on it. The glass screen was never moved down, but Jack could hardly blame the driver. After all, the passenger compartment smelled awful. The driver would either have to keep the glass up to avoid the smell or would have to have his nose removed. And if the driver did have his nose removed, then his sunglasses would always be slipping down his face.
“Is this really the best car that the Ministry can afford?” asked Jack.
“Not the best, it's just the fastest,” said Trudy.
“I don't understand: Is it so fast that the cleaning staff can never catch it? I'm sure there has to be some kind of speedy valet service somewhere that could have it looking spick-and-span.”
Trudy shook her head. “If it was cleaner, then it wouldn't be as fast.”
Jack frowned. “Sorry? I think I may have misheard you. I thought you said that if this car was cleaner, then it wouldn't be as fast.”
Trudy nodded. “That's exactly what I said. Simple physics.”
Jack was willing to concede that it might be because of physics, but it certainly wasn't simple physics. Simple physics was about lights being powered by electricity or magnets attracting metal. Simple physics was gravity causing an apple to fall to the floor.
Jack tried to make himself comfortable but failed. “Explain how physics makes this car travel faster.”
“Isn't it obvious?” asked Trudy.
, Jack thought.
It really isn't
People often wonder why ninjas wear black all the time. The most common explanation is that it helps them hide. Of course this is a ridiculous suggestion. If you are trying to stay hidden, black is the last color you should be wearing. Walk into almost any house anywhere in the world and check the color of the walls. They are almost always white, or apple white, or some type of fruit/vegetable white, or magnolia. Now, imagine a ninja standing against one of these walls. Now, some people may suggest that ninjas originated in feudal Japan and so they probably wouldn't have come up against magnolia-colored walls. And naturally this is true. However, in feudal Japan, although walls weren't generally painted magnolia, equally they weren't all painted black. To suggest that would be to suggest that all Japanese in the Shogun era were Goths/Emos. And they weren't. Evidence gathered by prominent archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians demonstrates that many parts of Japan in the middle of the last millennium wouldn't even have been aware of the work of Marilyn Manson or the Sisters of Mercy, much less would they have been able to tell you that Robert Smith was the front man of The Cure.
So we have to accept that the Japanese weren't Goths. In fact the walls in their homes were frequently made of paper and were therefore white or whitish. (This must have made it very confusing for toddlers growing up in Japanâ“Hey, stop drawing on the wall with your crayonsÂ â¦ use this paper insteadÂ â¦ never mind.”)
So the color that ninjas wear clearly wasn't for concealment. And yet ninjas were considered to be invisible. The reason for this is simple. The power of the mind can bend much of what people consider reality. Ninjas could sneak into places because they
they were invisible. Those who taught ninjas picked only the very fattest children to train. A key part of the training was a crash diet. Previously fat children were slimmed down to half their previous sizeâand such a change made them feel that they were fading away to nothing. When they started believing this, they naturally believed that people would have difficulty seeing them. Merely having this belief made them harder to see.
But the question still remains, why do ninjas wear black? Well, you never quite forget it if you are ever overweight. Ninjas might have slimmed down, but they always remember that they used to carry a bit more heft. And so they still have a tendency to wear black. Not because black helps them remain hidden, but rather because they remember that wearing black is meant to make you look slimmer.
The moral of this story is that you should never bully the fat kids in school. They may well not be fat at all. They may just be ninjas in the early stages of training. You won't notice them when they come for their revenge. In fact, the first thing you'll know about it is a throwing star sticking out of the back of your head.
If you wish to learn more about the origins of karate, please read the section
Martial Arts/Karate: Origins
Trudy explained the physics of the Ministry car as the chauffeur drove through the streets of the city.
“I refuse to believe that cars that smell bad move faster.”
“Well, of course you don't believe that,” said Trudy. “That would be ridiculous.”
“Good, I'm glad we've established that,” said Jack, unsure of where that left them.
“Have you ever noticed that when you're having a good time, days will pass in a flash? However, when you're having an awful time things seem to take forever.”
“You mean the way that the summer holidays seem to pass in the blink of an eye? While the last math class on a Friday afternoon seems like it'll never end?”
“That's it.” Trudy nodded. “Or like how when you have to get a tooth drilled at the dentist it seems like it takes hours but when you walk outside and look at your watch you realize it only took five minutes. That happens because time actually
slow down when you're having a bad time. Simple as that,” said Trudy smugly. “Negative emotions slow down time.”
“No one knows precisely, but everyone experiences it. Everyone knows bad experiences last far too long.”
“Supposing I believe you,” said Jack. “What does this have to do with the car being filthy?”
“No one could enjoy a trip in this car, right?”
“So inside this car people are unhappy and their negative emotions make time move more slowly.”
“But shouldn't that make the car move more slowly?”
“No, it actually makes the car move more quickly. The car creates a bubble of slow-moving time around us. But we continue to move at the normal rate inside this slow time. So to the world outside we move a lot more quickly. Does this make any sense to you?”
“That's good, because it makes no sense whatsoever. It also breaks most of the major laws of physics.”
“So how does it work, then?”
“Don't know,” said Trudy with a shrug, “but it does.”
“Is that how you were able to move so fast when you were fighting the Porcupods?”
Trudy nodded. “You think of the saddest thing you can possibly remember and then you can move at impossible speeds.”
“That's amazing! I thought it was martial arts or something.”
“Not martial arts, although the gymnastics helps.”
“It feels like people are always explaining things to me at the moment,” grumbled Jack.
“Don't worry about that,” said Trudy.
“Because I'll eventually learn the ropes and then I'll know as much as they will?”
“Oh no,” she said, laughing. “It's just that you'll eventually get used to the feeling.”
The car dropped Jack off at his house first. He said good-bye to Trudy and walked inside. His parents were watching a wildlife documentary. His mother greeted him, smiling. “I've kept your tea in the oven.”
“Did choir practice really take all this time?” his father asked.
Jack didn't want to lie to his parents, but he thought about trying to explain the Ministry with its evil squid creatures, homicidal teddy bears, and grotesque Porcupods. He decided that he'd tell them eventually. Just not tonight.
“Sorry, Dad, I got talking to a girl.”
“A girl?” his father asked.