The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 15

Viscount Vernal opened his eyes.

“I don’t think that worked, mister,” said the lead puppet. “We’re all still here.”

“What the…?” said the Viscount.

“I don’t think it was quite enough power,” said Phlebotomous. “Maybe it was only 1.2 gigawatts.”

Viscount Vernal looked peeved. 

“I can wait,” he said. “I have all the time in the world.”

There was a commotion from the door.

“I thought I said…” started Viscount Vernal before his jaw dropped. His security staff were running, shouting and apparently fighting…

“Clowns?” said the lead puppet.

“Not just clowns,” said Sir John. “These are the conjuror’s friends, a whole circus of them.”

“There’s too many of them!” shouted one of the servants, covered in flour. “We couldn’t stop them.”

A lion walked into the room, followed by a man with a chair. Another woman entered, doing back flips and kicking people in the head as she went.

“Use the electric sticks,” shouted Viscount Vernal. “Repel them at once!”

Some of the servants grabbed sticks attached to the walls and pointed them at the circus crew. Sparks shot out the end viciously and the circus members backed away.

“You are no match for the power of Viscount Victor Vernal!” shouted the Viscount. “Kill them all!”

One of the maids who had been cleaning up turned around.

ARRETER!” she shouted, and everyone froze.

“Well, well, well,” said the Viscount, “another magical creature for my machine. How fortunate I will be indeed to consume the power of the famous Marie Jennings.”

Marie looked puzzled.

“This is shielded you see,” he said. “I am perfectly safe from harm here and… oh what’s that?”

There was a blinding flash and a terrible crack as 1.21 Gigawatts of electricity struck the spire. Like a snake it began coiling down the machinery on the walls, heading toward Viscount’s throne. The viscount began to laugh.

“When that surge reaches this throne,” said the Viscount, “I will be powerful beyond belief.”

Mon dieu, mon dieu,” said Marie, watching the slow progress of the electricity. She grabbed the inert forms of Sir John and Phlebotomous. 

Réveiller!” she said to them.”Quick, we have to stop this machine.”

The two were briefly flustered before looking around as Marie went to wake the others.

“We could re-route the main core power into the ground,” said Sir John.

“No that won’t work,” said Phlebotomous, “the recalibration device would reflect it back up again. What if we boost the upper dampener? Might that hold it for a while?”

“That could work,” said Sir John, “but there’s a risk the flow diodes might not hold it. Maybe we can use the time to boost them with some shielding for the differentiator.”

There was the sound of blood thirsty screaming and the two turned to see a maid rushing toward them with a katana. They dived out the way as she sliced through the wiring just above the throne.

“You can’t do that!” shouted Viscount Vernal. “How dare you!”

“Consider this my resignation,” said Miss Henderson.

“How did you know to do that?’ said Sir John.

“Oh these so-called geniuses can’t help but explain how their toys work. I was at the talk earlier when he explained it. I worked out I just needed to cut the wire.”

“Good work Miss Henderson,” he said. “We’ve got you now Vernal.”

“Oh I didn’t explain everything,” said the Viscount. 

He pressed a button on the chair and it began to rise majestically on a pulley system.

“He’s getting away!” cried Sir John.

One of the acrobats from the circus grabbed a descending wire and climbed rapidly hand over hand. When he got to the Viscounts chair, he grabbed the Viscount and pulled him out. The movement caused a swaying and the pair descended in a spiral. As they landed at the bottom, a clown rushed forward and threw a custard pie into the Viscount’s face.

“Ta-da!” said the puppets in unison.

“Now that’s show business,” said Miss Henderson and punched the Viscount very hard in the face. He fell to the ground.

The Clockwork Conjuror rushed into the room.

“Where are they? Where are they?” he said. “Oh there they are, safe and sound, my little guys.”

“Are we glad to see you boss!” said Danny.

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 14

“…And for that reason I will ask all of you not to disturb me this evening,” said Viscount Vernal. His lips pulled back into something resembling a smile, if one had heard a description but never seen one. The group of servants faking listening attentively turned away and changed their looks of polite interest into utter incomprehension as they filed out of the room. Two maids stayed behind to tidy up.

Lord Vernal looked around the room, first up at the vaulted ceiling with its spire in the centre then down at the circle of chairs arranged on the floor with wires snaking around them. In the chairs sat 23 puppets. Then he looked up again to see lightning arcing across the sky and whispered, “soon”.

He began to don a strange looking hat when there was a commotion at the door. A man came into the room.

“My lord…” started the man.

“I thought I said no interruptions Smith,” said the Viscount. “Was that somehow confusing?”

“No my lord, but we thought you would want to know about this. We found these two snooping.”

Mr Smith indicated to the doorway and a couple of rough looking fellows came in carrying sacks on their shoulders.

“Ugh!” said the Viscount. “What foul men are these?”

“These are your employees my lord,” said Mr Smith. “The snoopers are in the sacks.”

The two men undid the sacks to reveal Phlebotomous Bosch and Sir John.

“Well, well, well,” said the Viscount. “What do we have here?”

“I think it’s two men, sir,” said one of the thugs, which earned him a sharp glance. He shrank back, or as much as man can when he is six foot five, and also quite tall.

“And what men indeed,” said the Viscount. “It’s my old friend, the vegetarian vampire, who was so very helpful before. And… wait… I recognise you from the church.”

“Sir John Jennings,” said Sir John determinedly. “Paranormal investigator.”

“Well you’ve come to the right place,” said Lord Vernal. “Look, here are 23 little supernatural creatures. Although soon there will only be two magical creatures here, when my fully operational device will extract their magic into me. In fact, I think I may make that one by having your vampire friend for dessert.”

“You can’t do that!” cried Phlebotomous, glancing wildly around the machinery lining the walls of the room. “Oh, my mistake, it looks like you can.”

There was an ominous rumble of thunder above.

“Then let us begin,” said Load Vernal.

He walked over to an ornate looking throne with wires connecting it to the spire. He sat in the throne, donned the strange helmet. He looked around him one time and glanced up as the lightning played around the spire.

“Soon,” he said, his voice rising from a whisper to a roar, “I will be more than a man. Soon, I will be powerful beyond belief. Soon… I will be immortal!”

Viscount Vernal closed his eyes and smiled. There was a flash high above in the spire as lightning struck.

Arts and Crafts

Dear Readers

First we would like to apologise for the recent slow progress of posts on this illustrious organ. All we can do to explain is to quote one of the world’s greatest philosophers, and say that, “life is what happens when you make other plans.”

We do now hope to resume something like a more regular and indeed more frequent publishing schedule. Readers can be re-assured that not only is the Clockwork Conjuror complete, there is a new story that Mr Michael has commenced. More on that topic later in the year.

We have also uncovered recently a most amusing device called DALL-E. This contraption is, amazingly, able to produce “art” to demand based on a literary prompt. I use art in the loosest possible sense here, for reasons that will shortly become clear. We are also aware we are a little “behind the times” on this topic, but then being behind the times is perhaps half of what we do here.

So, intrigued by the proposition of an autocreating art machine, we gave it a cursory description of Mr Michael and Ms Pichette to see how it would cope. This is the result.

The resemblance is uncanny, in that it doesn’t resemble us at all but rather something uncanny. We then asked the device to create an image for Miss Henderson, with this result.

We are reminded here a little of Francis Bacon’s Screaming Pope – not least because the image caused us to cry out a religious oath at some volume. Lastly we asked the device to re-imagine our famous “clocktopus” logo.

We’re not quite sure what the time is on that clock, or what the curious debris at the base of the picture is, but this does at least have something. With any luck, it won’t pass it on to anyone else.

So, our little survey led us to conclude that whilst this device was not terribly suitable for producing art of great note, it could produce “visual material” that is at once unsettling and hilarious. Since that is almost our metier, we thought we might, if you would indulge us, use a few examples for the next few episodes of our story. Ms Pichette will of course effect the magic she does to make the automated “artwork”seem more visually appealing. Or possibly, given the source material, visually appalling.

We look forward to entertaining you on a more regular basis forthwith …

The gentlefolk of the Benthic Times