The body on the table appeared quite human at first glance, but a second look revealed the bolts and a thin patina of rust over metal plates. A large metal spike, also with a good deal of rust, impaled the chest of the mechanical man.
“Give me hand here, will you, Obfuscato?”, said Doctor Obolensky, tapping the spike. “This harpoon has to come out.”
A pair of black-gloved hands emerged from the gloom surrounding the brightly-lit table where the operation was going on. “You’re not supposed to know I’m here. How do you *do* that, old man?” The hands pulled the harpoon free with with a screech.
“I don’t give away my secrets that easily, but let’s just say that in my younger days, I spent a few years in lesser-known parts of the Far East”, replied the Doctor. “What’s the state of the Piermont?”.
“It’s all wired, as you instructed.”, replied the gravely-voiced phantom. “It should cause quite the impact at this evening’s ball. What’s with this mechanical man, Doctor? He doesn’t look like one of your Smashingtons….as a matter of fact, he looks quite a bit like you.”
“One of my old duplicates….in my younger days, there were heroes out killing me at least every other week. Or so they thought.”, the old man grinned at the memories. “In reality, they were busily abusing this fellow. He had a more convincing rubber skin on him then, of course, but that didn’t stand up well to the decades he’s been in the store room.”
“Planning on faking your death after blowing up that dance hall?”, asked Obfuscato.
“No, no, I’m afraid this fellow lost a job, as the heroes became scarce, and the ones remaining were increasingly incompetent. These days, I only have to fake my death once a year or so, and even then, it’s always something I can handle on my own.”, Doctor Obolensky peered into the hole left by the harpoon. “I really was a good shot back then. Right through the Motivator!”, the ancient villain chuckled.
“Why would you harpoon your own double?”, there was a swish of black robes as Obfuscato moved forward into the light. This didn’t actually reveal anything of doctor’s mysterious guest, however, as he or she was cloaked head-to-toe in loose black robes.
“Oh, I wasn’t greatly experienced back then, you understand. I gave this fellow free will, because of course, that was the all the rage at the time. And of course, he started getting all uppity….first he demanded I build a girl for him. And then he started refusing to get killed. Eventually, he turned on me, of course, and we had a truly legendary battle on the deck of the whaling ship I was using to hunt…well, that’s a whole different story.”
Doctor Obolensky gestured at one of the glowing-eyed Smashingtons guarding the secret workshop. “There’s a reason those things are so primitive. I’ve long ago learned my lesson regarding granting too much intelligence to my creations.”
“So why are you fixing him now?”, asked Obfuscato.
“Well, I’ve arranged to build a theater in Wheatstone. I need someone to run it, and have you ever met real theater folk? I’m going to rewrite his brain a bit, and put him to work as the impresario. And just to shut him up, I’ll pull his mechanical paramour out of storage as well.”
Obfuscato moved off into the darkness. “Is there any tea? And a theater? Does this have something to do with why you’re blowing up Piermont?”
“It’s over by the door, just push the button on the Elemental Auto-Brewer. And yes, of course, not only will blowing up Piermont get rid of the most annoying of Babbage’s populace, But also, the pesky music and dancing won’t interfere with the performances at my new theater.”, replied the Doctor.
There was a click from the darkness, and then, the sound of distant thunder, followed by a loud KRAKA-BOOOM!
“That wasn’t the button for the Auto-Brewer, was it?”, asked Obfuscato.
Doctor Obolensky dropped his face into his palm, and sighed.
“No, Obfuscato, it wasn’t. You’ve managed to blow up Piermont while it is totally and completely…empty. About two steps to your left you’ll find the Auto-Brewer.”
There was the faint sound of movement, a click, and the sound, and smell of steaming hot tea being dispensed.
“You really need more lights in here.”, commented Obfuscato.