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Bradwell Village School meets an alien

Marshal Anderson reports on a close encounter of the educational kind

Micro User '90

The adventure began when some of our fourth years - middle school - logged on to our electronic mail service. To be honest, we had made very little use of it over the past two years and kept it going basically because Sherston Software had put some money towards it.

These particular children were having their first taste of electronic mail and were writing a letter to Sherston to thank them for their help.

To everyone’s surprise there was a message in the mail box waiting for us. My first assumption was that it would be one of those dull county circulars that we get from time to time that actually concern secondary schools, we still being among the few primaries with Email in the county.

After sending our letter it seemed a good opportunity to show the children how to download the message on to disc so it could be read later - watching the phone bill, you see. None of us expected this:

Help! Who are you? What year is this? Is there anybody there who can help us? There are two of us here, Jason DeVere and Emelda Grant. We do not know what has happened. We seem to be Lost. Is there anybody who can receive this message, please answer. Who are you? Where are you? What year is this? God save the King!

There seemed no reason not to respond so they went ahead. Their message was short. The children introduced themselves as Mrs Kennington’s class and informed the senders of the year that we have a queen these days. The message that came back caused quite a stir. Jason and Emelda, erroneously addressing their letter to Mistress Kenningtons-Class, claimed to be from Evesham - which tallied with their mailbox heading - in A.D. 1649 - which didn’t.

They seemed to have little idea about where or indeed who they were, except that it had something to do with Zorg and that things were definitely not as they should be. What they needed were some terms of reference to get their memories back, and could Mrs Kenningtons-Class help by telling them the sort of clothes they would be wearing?

Jan Kennington, their class teacher, was quite happy to make this part of the class work and so off they went to the school library. Jason, apparently, would be dressed in ruffs and plumes and Emelda in ringlets and frilly dresses.

Jason thought this fine, but Emelda was disgusted at such opulence.

They also filled us in a little about how things had started: it seems that Zorg had instructed them separately to go to the churchyard in Emberly Castle. Here they met for the first time where they had touched the gnomon on the sundial.

We soon got the answers when a message arrived from Zorg. An important, powerful creature speaking exclusively in capitals.

He/she/it informed us that Jason and Emelda were bringing an article of great power but, as both had touched it at once, the transporter calculations were upset. Co-ordinates were being calculated to bring them the extra 300 years to Zorg’s time and we were to leave them alone.

The next message from Jason and Emelda seemed very urgent. They asked us not to believe Zorg and enclosed a host of questions about their 1 7th century lives.

While filling in a lot of background knowledge, the class also managed to sort out, using maps and guide books, that the church they had vanished from was probably St Mary’s. At the same time they worked out that Jason was a royalist, Emelda a puritan - hence their different reactions to the clothes. Our children also pointed out that they were a group not a hyphenated Kennington.

However, to hedge their bets they also wrote to Zorg to find out what the object was and just what would befall who if they continued to help the lost pair.

Paranoia set in about now as Jason and Emelda, concerned that Zorg was intercepting their messages, started to encode many of them as well as being extremely cryptic about the solutions to the codes. As an added measure they suggested we use a password which locked the messages against prying eyes. The password was also hidden in a riddle.

Zorg now tried a different tack - Jason and Emelda were just silly children playing a joke, we were to ignore them and run along and play.

This caused quite a cavalier reaction from the fourth year of Bradwell Village. Our buildings insurance didn’t quite cover us for Acts of Zorg, but they wouldn’t listen. Pin-pointing Jason and Emelda’s disappearance then became the task. Having found the place the time was narrowed down by the fact that Charles was still alive when they left. After that they went on to identifying Jason and Emelda’s parents' names from clues they could remember.

By now theories were developing about how this had all come about. Zorg was seen as bluffing, no one believing in his powers. But how had the children been transported?

The explanation our fourth year came up with was that in that geographical area there had been several important battles and events that changed history. Somehow, these events were so strong that they had caused a vortex or time warp, trapping the children or allowing Zorg to kidnap them.

Meanwhile things were speeding up. Having found out that Jason’s mother’s name was the same as the King’s wife’s the search was on for Emelda’s father’s name. This stretched our school reference library to its limit and no one could find out who had written New Atlantis. On top of that, Zorg had changed tack again. Now he was demonstrating his power by coming up with some obscure personal details about the children in the class.

At a loss to know how Zorg could know this, they became more determined rather than worried. By this time Jason had enough of his memory back to return home but Emelda still had a problem. Zorg seemed to be involved in this and they needed to cut his power finally.

They discovered that transmitting Zorg’s first name would give them the break they needed and this arrived heavily coded. The code was cracked and the final message sent:

Dear Zorg, or should we say AMNESIA! ! ! ! HA-HA! Thought you could beat us eh? Well eat this! Jason and Emelda are home!! We think you've lost your mind so we're sending over a sledge hammer to knock it back in!!! WOOF! Sorry Zorgie Baby, but we've won and you've lost! Lots of love (shove off) PauL, Tim, Liam and everyone else in Mrs Kennington's class.

And we never heard from any of them again.

The children experienced a warm glow of satisfaction - while in the staff room we wondered at the chain of events that had a group of 12-year-olds burying themselves in history books for half a term.