The Sinister Seat: Chapter 7

“Do you have some family that could help?” said Marie to Lady Arlington.

“Ah,” Lady Arlington smiled wanly. “My family. We have never truly been a close family. I was really only supposed to get married, to someone rich naturally, and quit the house. There was never any idea I might return or need help or even… affection.”

She dabbed her eyes lightly before continuing.

“You probably can’t imagine what that’s like,” Lady Arlington said. “I imagine you come from some marvellous, sprawling family, forever in each other’s pockets.”

Marie looked down.

“Actually my family is rather small,” Marie said. “For some time very small, I rather lost touch with my mother and only recently found her.”

“Well you see, we are the same then, you and I,” said Lady Arlington. “Fish out of water, detached from our birthplace and separated from our family. I suppose I should be grateful I’m in my own country. Do you miss France much? London isn’t a patch on Paris I imagine.”

“I… well my home is here,” said Marie, a little hesitantly. “My husband is here.”

“Yes, but surely you must miss it. Maybe you could persuade Sir John to go back. Has he been there?” said Lady Arlington.

“Yes, he lived in Paris. We met there…” started Marie.

“Well there you go!” said Lady Arlington. “Convince him to go back and you can be home again. You can have what I don’t have…”

Lady Arlington dabbed her eyes again a little.

“I do wish I could ring for tea,” she said. “Have you been home recently?”

“We went to Paris last year,” said Marie.

“I’ll bet that was lovely,” said Lady Arlington. “Nice to be home and with your own people. Did you meet with your mother? Of course you did.”

“Actually, that was when I found her,” said Marie, looking down.

“Well, then that’s a sign you should go back,” said Lady Arlington. “Why be like me, separated from your home.”

Marie looked up.

“Isn’t this your home?” she said.

Lady Arlington winced a little.

“It was…” she said and dabbed her eyes again.” It was, I suppose, when Lord Arlington was well and we had servants and society. Now, I have nothing but an empty house and a deranged husband.”

Lady Arlington fixed Marie a stare.

“You see now how important it is to have people around you, people who know you and you can trust. Do you have people like that?” she said.

“I… we have friends,” said Marie. “Our maid seems very loyal.”

“Pfff…” said Lady Arlington. “These people go in a shot when trouble comes. No, you need family. Only family will help you.”

Marie looked downcast and Lady Arlington studied her carefully.

“I’m sorry my dear,” she said, “if I rather hit a nerve. I imagine your husband is much more… robust than mine. All the better to take him with you. Go back home.”

Marie looked up and a tear seemed to be forming in the corner of her eye.

“Here you go my dear,” said Lady Arlington, passing over a handkerchief. “I have a spare.”

Painting in Background by Mary Ramsey Pichette

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 6

Sir John looked around the room. It was indeed a games room with a billiards table in the middle. Around the edges of the room were some racks with cues and there was a globe on wheels. Lord Arlington was gibbering.

“Seems normal enough,” said Sir John warily.

The globe rolled towards them and the top opened. Inside were bottles of spirits and glasses. Lord Arlington’s gibbering grew more intense. Sir John picked up a bottle of whisky and looked at it quizzically.

“Seems your guests aren’t so terrible,” said Sir John.

“Don’t drink it!” said Lord Arlington. “It’s poison.”

“Well it’s not one of the premier names, but I think you can be too picky about these things,” said Sir John. 

He looked back at the bottle in his hands. It had a skull and crossbones on it now. Sir John put it back gently.

“Earlier,” said Sir John, “you said it was obvious why these… phenomenon wanted you to leave. But I don’t think it is. At least not to me.”

“They want it, the house,” said Lord Arlington. “For themselves.”

“But why?” said Sir John. “What do they want with it?”

Lord Arlington gibbered some more then and pointed at the cues. They were rattling in the racks.

“That can’t be good,” said Sir John. “Funny how this keeps happening when I ask you questions.”

The cues all jumped off the rack in unison and started hopping around the room. At the same time the balls on the table began bouncing lightly. Then one flew off the table, straight at the two men. Sir John moved to the left and a second ball flew at him. He grabbed Lord Arlington and dragged him under the billiards table. There was just enough space under for them to fit. Around them they could see the base of cues hopping all over and balls flying about. Sir John looked to see where the door was.

“Why do they want the house, Lord Arlington?” said Sir John.

At this point all the cues stopped hopping.

“They want to use…” whispered Lord Arlington. He screwed up his face and looked confused. “They want to use…”

His answer was drowned out by all the cues banging on the table and the balls bouncing violently on the top.

“They want me to not know, that’s for sure,” said Sir John. “I’m just going to do something, and then I have a little escape plan.”

Sir John tried on his goggles and then did something with the cryptozoetropometer. Then he scrabbled to each corner of the table.

“Hmm, as I thought,” he said. “Ok, Lord Arlington, we’re going to get out of here now. Press up with your back and we’ll walk with the table to the door. And if we’re really lucky, the door will open out.”

“But it must weigh a tonne,” said Lord Arlington.

“Yes, but it has wheels,” said Sir John. “Which I have just unlocked.”

The two men slowly moved the table in the direction of the door. The cues and balls grew more frantic as they did. When they got to the door, Sir John gave it a push. It didn’t move.

“It’s locked! We’re doomed!” said Lord Arlington.

“I have a little device which will help,” said Sir John. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a small silver box.

“Bosch safety lighter,” said Sir John, who flicked it open and pushed it to the door. “Keep to the back of the table.” 

Seconds later it exploded and the door fell open. Sir John and Lord Arlington ran out of the room.

Background Painting by Mary Ramsey Pichette

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 5

“Well I must say you have a most impressive library,” said Sir John, looking around the bookshelves.

Lord Arlington started wildly about the room.

“Wait, wait,” he said, “they’ll do something.”

“These ‘they’,” said Sir John. “What are they exactly? What do they want?”

“What do they want?” said Lord Arlington. “They want to drive me from my home, but they won’t, they won’t.”

“Do you know why they want to do that?” said Sir John.

“Isn’t it obvious?” said Lord Arlington. He pointed suddenly. “Look, look.”

Sir John looked and saw that two of the walls had extended, seemingly to infinity. He snapped on his strange goggles again and looked down the length of it. He tutted, then pulled out another device that looked like a fat gun.

“This is a cryptozoetropometer,” said Sir John. “It can detect all manner of living creatures. Since the ectoscopic glasses are showing nothing, again. I thought I’d try this.”

“What’s it called?” said Lord Arlington, looking perplexed.

“It’s a cryptozoetropometer,” said Sir John and then sighed when he saw the confusion on Lord Arlington’s face. “Also known as an omega device.”

“Oh!” said Lord Arlington and looked relieved at that. Sir John pointed the device down the infinite corridor. A frown formed on Sir John’s face.

“Still nothing, I wonder…” he said and walked to the bookshelves. 

He glanced at a few books before spotting one.

“Oh you have an original copy of Tamerlane ” said Sir John. “That’s rather rare.”

He walked past a large vase and a suit of armour and stopped at another bookshelf.

“And another one,” said Sir John. He walked further down past another large vase and suit of amour before stopping.

“And a third!” he said. He picked up the third copy then walked back towards Lord Arlington. Lord Arlington in turn pointed behind Sir John.

“Look!” said Lord Arlington. “Look! Look!”

Sir John looked behind and saw what Lord Arlington was pointing at. In the far distance books were starting to fly off the shelves. It looked like a literary tsunami as books crashed into a great wave, heading toward them. Sir John glanced down at the bookshelf either side of the vase and suit of armour, before turning to Load Arlington.

“Tell you what old chap,” he said. “Let’s run!”

Both men ran as fast as they could to the door. But the door was no longer there, it was just another book shelf. Sir John put the book he was holding in a gap on this shelf and turned round.

“Is there another door?” he said,

Lord Arlington was gibbering again and the flying book wave was getting closer.

Sir John looked at the wall opposite and saw a door. He grabbed Lord Arlington and ran towards it. A few books were starting to fly around their ears, harbingers of the greater oncoming wave.

“No, no!” cried Lord Arlingon as Sir John tried to pull him through the next door. “That’s the billiards room.”

Sir John sighed and gave the man a sharp tug and they fell through the door just as the storm of books arrived.

Infinite Library

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 4

The room was gloomy and sparsely furnished but still retained elegance. Plants were being used to fill the gaps where once chairs and tables might have been.

Lady Arlington sat and smiled thinly at Marie. She poured two cups of tea from a tarnished pot.

“No servants,” she said.

“Because of the financial problems?” said Marie.

“That at first,” said Lady Arlington, “then my husband’s erratic behaviour did for the rest. I’m forced to make my own tea now.”

“Your husband was very vague in his letter,” said Marie, “but wrote very convincingly. It seems he genuinely feels something amiss. Do you know the specifics?”

Lady Arlington laughed humourlessly.

“Oh good Lord, yes”, she said. “The house has somehow turned on him, wants him gone. This manifests in strange, uncanny behaviours. Pens writing messages, rooms changing and so on. It’s a complete hallucination, of course. I’ve seen him with my own eyes staring at nothing and shouting absurdities.”

“Do you know why the house has, as you say, turned on him?” asked Marie.

“You’re rather ascribing agency to what is clearly madness,” said Lady Arlington. “But I’ll humour you. The house wants him gone from this place so it may use the place for something more worthy. And with someone more worthy to use it. He, as a financial failure, is not fit to keep it. I’m not an alienist, but it’s not hard to see the ‘house’ is nothing more than his own internal voice, racked with guilt.”

“It’s none of my business, of course,” said Marie, “and maybe I am reading too much into a short conversation. But, you don’t seem very concerned about your husband’s state of mind.”

“Quite the contrary!” said Lady Arlington. “I have lost my best lady’s maid. Frankly I’m livid.”

“I mean, you don’t seem very concerned about him,” said Marie.

Lady Arlington smirked a little.

“My dear,” she said, “I do not wish to patronise, and I am sure things are different on the continent. But it is rare that people of my social standing marry for love. More often we marry for… convenience? For the importance of continuity? A little fondness helps of course, but time and circumstance often cause even that to wear away. I doubt one marriage in four is functioning well in my social circuit. But still, we keep up appearances as best we can. Affection is not expected but appearances most certainly are.”

“Lord Arlingtons behaviour must be affecting those… appearances,” said Marie.

“Quite,” said Lady Arlington. “Another good reason to keep him at home. I’ve gone to quite some lengths and some degree of subterfuge to maintain a degree of respectability. No-one discusses business, so the financial ruin is a secret. And servants are for talking to, not listening to, so I don’t worry about gossip. But it’s frankly a nuisance that with half our furniture absent and him raving, we simply can’t entertain here. I have explained that he is deep into a novel.”

“He likes to read?” said Marie, puzzled.

“No my dear, the poor lunatic is a writer, or at least aspires to be,” said Lady Arlington. “Complete waste of time in my opinion and you can see for yourself what an overactive imagination gives you.”

Lady Arlington looked sourly at the tea.

“Do you want some more, only I’d have to go to the kitchen,” she said forlornly. A small tear formed at the corner of her eye.

Painting in background by Mary Ramsey Pichette

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 3

“You see! You see!” said Lord Arlington manically, pointing here and there in the room.

“Actually,” said Sir John, looking puzzled. “I don’t. It looks like a normal study to me.”

“Shh,” said Lord Arlington and Sir John fell quiet.

At first it seemed silent, but then Sir John noticed a scratching sound in a closed bureau. Lord Arlington made a noise between a giggle and a gibber. Sir John went over to the bureau. The noise was coming from the top section, the part which opened into a writing desk. Gently Sir John opened it and looked inside. There was a small pot with some pens and one was moving around, making the rattling sound. At the opening of the bureau a sheet of paper slid itself out and the pen hopped out of its holder. The pen began to write on the paper. Lord Arlington’s noises grew louder. 

“You see, you see!” Lord Arlington said. “What does it say?”

Sir John looked at the writing. The letters were spidery and uneven. It was a single word, repeated over and over.

“It says ‘Leave’,” said Sir John. “Hmm, this seems like some normal poltergeist activity. Let me just try the ectoplasmic goggles.”

Sir John put on a cumbersome pair of brass goggles and looked again at the scratching, dancing pen.

“How odd,” he said. “Nothing thaumaturgical at all. I wonder what’s moving it. This will prove an interesting puzzle. I’ll just go next door and get some more equipment.”

Sir John removed the goggles and turned towards the doorway. He stopped suddenly as there was no door, just a wall.

“Did… we came in there, didn’t we?” said Sir John.

“They move them,” said Lord Arlington, wild eyed and nodding enthusiastically. “They move the doors.”

Sir John walked back to the place where the door had been and pressed his hands on the surface, in case it was a disguised door. It was not, the wall felt solid behind the oak panelling. He heard a noise then from a desk in the corner of the room, and saw another pen jump from a pot and start scratching on paper. Sir John went over to look. Again the same word, “Leave” repeated over and over.

“Are you sure there’s not a switch or something to open that door?” said Sir John, clutching, he felt, at straws. Lord Arlington giggled by way of explanation.

Suddenly another pen on the bureau jumped up and started writing, then a third. A fourth pen flew across the room and joined the one on the desk. All of them wrote the same word over and over. The pages were turning into a spinning gyre of ink.

“We’d better, we’d better do what they say,” said Lord Arlington. “This way now, to the library.”

He grabbed Sir John and pulled him to a door opposite from where they had entered the room. Sir John looked perplexed at the study as he allowed himself to be pulled through to the next room.

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 2

The man opened the door and let Sir John and Marie into the entrance hall of Deer Abbey in Headbourne Smithy. He was dishevelled with unkempt hair, unironed clothes and a wild manic stare from his red beady eyes.

“You, you came,” he exclaimed, tears in his eyes.  “My god, you came. It is you isn’t it, not some fiendish trick?”

“Er…yes,” said Sir John. “I’m Sir John Jennings and this is my wife Marie. Is Lord Arlington in?”

“Is he in? Is he in?” chuckled the man. “He’s always in. Always.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “May we… meet him perchance?”

At that the man’s chuckles erupted into hysterical laughter.

“Seem I that strange to you?” he said. “I must, I must. It is me, I am him. I am Lord Arlington!”

“Oh,” said Sir John. “My apologies, pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine, all mine, Sir John, Mrs Jennings,” said Lord Arlington. “Please call me Edward.”

Enchante,” said Marie. She kept a little distance from the deranged man.

“Well this is indeed a magnificent house,” said Sir John. He cast his eyes around the hall, the wide stairs and the gallery above.

“No!” shouted Lord Arlington, making Sir John jump. “No… it is… it is… you will see. You will see. Come, come.”

Lord Arlington took Sir John’s sleeve and tried to drag him into the room to the right.

“If I may… just unpack some of my tools,” said Sir John, looking alarmed. “To help?”

“Of course, of course,” said Lord Arlington. “Forgive my haste, I just need you…need someone to see it.”

“He’s quite mad you know,” said a female voice from above.

Sir John and Marie looked up to see a woman dressed in white. She stood in the gallery, and was looking down with a wry expression on her face.

“Lady Arlington,” said the woman by way of explanation. “I fear your journey here may be in vain, if you hope to find something supernatural. I’m afraid my husband is merely… overwrought.”

“Hurry, hurry,” hissed Lord Arlington, ignoring the woman.

“You don’t think anything is amiss?” said Marie while Sir John unpacked a suitcase he had been carrying.

“Oh something is very much amiss,” said Lady Arlington. “You see, my husband was rather unlucky in some business dealings. We had to let the staff go, sell off a few things. It quite unhinged him. I’ve tried, God knows, to keep him calm. The doctor won’t let him out of the house, but that doesn’t stop him writing letters.”

“Quickly!” said Lord Arlington.

Sir John was by now wearing a hat with metallic arms protruding from it and a jacket bulging with mechanical devices.

“Perhaps I’d better…,” said Sir John to Marie  and was promptly dragged into the room next door.

“Behold the study!” said Lord Arlington from the room.

Lady Arlington sighed.

“Still, this may yet do some good,” she said. “If Sir John tells him the truth of the situation, that there is nothing even slightly unearthly to see, he may come to his senses. Or at least realise they have deserted him.”

“I had better join them,” said Marie.

“Oh really, don’t bother yourself,” said Lady Arlington. “There is nothing to see but a perfectly ordinary mansion, absent a few pieces here and there. Rather, come up here with me. We’ll have a lovely cup of tea and I can explain what’s really going on.”

Marie glanced into the study and saw her husband and Lord Arlington. The latter was pointing here and there wildly and Sir John just looked puzzled.
Alors,” said Marie. “I shall come up and join you.”

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 1

Dear Sir John,

First, I must apologise for the unsteady formation of my words on this page. In truth, my hand is ever gripped with trembles and shakes and it is a struggle to write my letters well. This is not, though, the result of some terrible disease such as those that ravage the muscles. No sir, this is the result of events that have instead ravaged my nerves.

But I get ahead of myself. Let me first make introductions. My name is Viscount Arlington and I have my seat in the small village of Headbourne Smithy in Hampshire. It is, it was, a most handsome house with fertile farmlands and a vista across the finest of England’s landscape. In truth, even now it retains these traits and yet…

Again I run too fast, too quickly. I fear you will not understand and if you do not understand you may not come to my aid. You may regard these words as the ranting of a lunatic and dismiss them. And indeed, sir, you would not be entirely wrong. There is a grain of truth in this, for whilst I am not completely insane yet, my mind is unravelling more and more as the terrible events unfold. I beseech you not to turn away at this stage, but hold fast as I explain.

If indeed, I can explain. What is there to explain? What is there I can commit to paper that would not in turn have me committed to Bedlam? Oh Lord, how hard it is. I can only hope that you, with the experience of the paranormal, the bizarre, may know what I hint at without using words. That you may understand what can happen when a man’s house and home is invaded by the uncanny.

There, I have said it, and I will not take it back. This is the truth of it. Were I less possessed of pride or a sense of history, I would simply flee the house. Indeed, every hour the thought comes to my mind. But I know that for the sake of my family and my history, I must stay and see this thing through to the end.

I have tried, Lord knows I have tried, these past two months to defend my home on my own. But every night has been worse and now, now, the most terrible change. Now the day itself is no longer sacred. Now even the sunlight is not enough to banish them. Sir John, I am so much in need of assistance in these matters from one such as yourself. One with experience, one with knowledge and one with the moral strength to see these terrible… things… down.

I have money, much money, and so on that score you need not be concerned. I beg you, beseech you to at least do the honour of coming for a visitation, so that I may explain and, maybe even show, to you what I confront in my own home.

Yours in hope,

Viscount Edward Arlington

Now That’s Showbusiness!

Gentle Reader

It cannot have escaped your attention that our recent and rather prolonged story has come to a satisfactory conclusion. “Another job well done, Mr Michael,” we hear you cry. Please, please, no need for such words. Your perpetual adoration is reward enough for him.

“What next then,” we hear your further cry. “What of the new tale?”

What indeed! Well, Dear Reader, we are delighted to announce that Mr Michael’s latest stellar, stormy and salubrious story – The Sinister Seat – will begin serialising from next weekend. We hope you can contain your excitement!

“Hurrah!” you cry, “and here’s to many more!”

Ah…whilst we salute your insatiable appetite for our tales of the Jennings, there we may have to disappoint you. We suggest that you are seated and have a stiff brandy in your hand because…


“No!” you exclaim, “that cannot be so. Surely a man as young, handsome and vital as Mr Michael has a veritable library of tales in him.”

Well yes, perhaps he does, and at risk of sending you once more on a rollecoaster of emotions, there will be more writing. But not much more on the Jennings. You see, his intention was to create 8 stories and 2 novels in this great saga. That second novel will be a slowly evolving, multi-facted, grand-guignol magnum opus. And Mr Michael feels that this should be developed carefully, slowly, in the dark. Rather like a bad hangover.

But do not fear, Dear Reader, the intention is to share this novel, once completed, with you all via the means of some book publishing platform. Indeed, given that we have fished our original stories out from the mighty Amazon, it has been our intention to republish all our collection of wondrous tales in such a manner. In fact, Gentle Reader, if you can recommend such a place, where one may publish “e-books” (as we believe they are called) and offer them to the public for little or no charge, please feel free to let us know.

Well, Dear Reader, we hope that our little announcements haven’t put you in ill-sorts but rather that you are excited for our new tale.

Yours etc

The good people of the Benthic Times

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 16

Sir John and Marie were sitting in the drawing room of their Southampton Row house. Marie was busy with her crochet and Sir John was simultaneously reading the newspaper and eating biscuits. A series of grumbling sounds and appreciative mutterings were issuing from him, depending on the activity.

“Well I’m glad that all got resolved,” he said, putting down the paper.

“What did?” said Marie.

“That whole business,” he said, waving a hand vaguely at the paper. 

There was a knock at the front door. They could hear conversation and what sounded like giggling before Miss Henderson entered with Detective Symonds.

“Detective Symonds,” she announced. “I shall fetch some tea. Oh, and some more biscuits.”

“Sit down Detective,” said Sir John. “How are things, is the swine behind bars where he belongs.”

Detective Symomds sighed.

“Sadly not,” he said. “It rather seems that the Viscount had a cosy relationship with the police up there. They were… reluctant to press charges. In fact, they seemed more than a little keen to press charges against yourself and your… entourage.”

“What!” said Sir John.

“Don’t worry,” said Detective Symonds. “I disabused them of that notion.”

“How on earth did you manage that,” said Sir John. 

“I issued vague threats of unleashing an army of ninja maids and vampires on their patch,” said Detective Symonds. “Not to mention pointing out they had failed to protect the Viscount from assault by a circus troupe. They backed down in the end. But, I wouldn’t rush up there in a while.”

“So the swine walks free?” said Sir John.

“Well as I said, there was little we could have charged him with,” said Detective Symonds. “You may have to reconcile yourself with having rescued the puppets and thwarted his plan.”

“Hmm…” said SIr John. “On that score I received a letter from the Conjuror. He was most delighted to be reunited with his troupe, and says he’ll be forever in our debt.”

“I suspect he’s forever in a few people’s debt,” said Marie.

There was a knock at the door again, and after a pause Phlebotomous came in.

“Miss Henderson says there will be some tea and biscuits coming soon as long as,” he screwed up his face trying to remember, “no one else turns up unexpectedly when she’s supposed to be doing the bloody ironing.”

“She said that to you?” said Sir John.

“No, she was several feet away but I have excellent hearing,” said Phlebotomous.

“We were just talking about the Conjuror,” said Marie.

Phlebotomous scoffed. 

“That fraud,” he said and rolled his eyes. It had the effect of looking like he was about to pass out and Sir John instinctively reached forward.

Miss Henderson arrived then with an enormous plate of biscuits and a vast pot of tea.

“Just in case,” she said as she laid it out.

“Will you take a cup with us?” said Sir John. “You did save our bacon, again.”

“I should be delighted to, Sir John, but I am presently engaged in domestic matters. I would be grateful if Mr Bosch might come down later to look at some of the machinery. I feel if it were working properly I might be better domesticated.”

“Finally!” said Phlebotomous, “something interesting to do!”

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.