So much work to do! It has prevented me from keeping record of the occurrences since the chilling abduction of a large portion of New Babbage.I have done what I can. For now.
Tired, chilled with my own persperation, and too tired to eat, I will take a moment to recall highlights from the past few days.
After waiting far too long to hear from the brave lass who volunteered to get word to Mayor Tenk, I prepared a kit and went off to see if I could find her. I decided to start where we had met, the void that had formerly been Port Babbage. After-all, perhaps I had been mistaken. I have been working hard for weeks. For all I knew it was a legacy of my tormented days with M. – the fatigue catching up to me, perhaps I was experiencing a retrospective swoon.
As I walked down the alley, my heart sank as I could clearly see the sunlight bouncing off of the Vernian waves. This would have normally been a delightful sight if it were not for the fact that I should not be able to see those waves at all. Before I knew it I was once again standing over the precipice overlooking the void where Port Babbage had once been. Something clank-hissed softly behind me. I span around, my hand tightly clasping the vial in my pocket.
My grip relaxed, slightly, as I saw the form of the adventerous maiden who had risked more than her life to attempt to save New Babbage.
She informed me that she had had no trouble delivering the message to City Hall, the very Hall which my eyes told me was not there.
The young lady looked down as she kicked something nervously with her foot. If in fact she could see New Babbage where I could not, then she was indeed being quite kind to humor what she must only take to be some raving lunatic.
Summoning my courage, I turned my back towards the void and tried to address her in somewhat lighter conversation. Even with my back turned, I could feel the void glowering at me. The hairs over every millimeter of my neck stood up in terror.
I made my voice as gentle as I could and introduced myself. Soon the lady told me more than she realized about herself, and these goings on. Her name was Ms. Genevieve Comeford. She was a new visitor to our city, looking for adventure and possibly someplace safe to stay. The odd device on her back told me that she was brave and likely quite fit. While she knew how to work it, Ms. Comeford only understood its most rudimentary operation. Had she known the reality, she might not have been using it so cavalierly. I of course had seen these things before… once upon a time in the future. I had also tended to the men who had been battered and bruised attempting to perfect them.
So here was a traveler from a far off land, although by all accounts contemporaneous with our City (she had heard recent reports of our city from where she came from). A traveler with a piece of technology which should not exist yet. A piece of technology which allows its wearer to fly, without wings. And she had been flying with this apparatus as she entered Clockhaven precisely at the same time that I had inadvertently flown the Gretchen into a localized aetheric disturbance!
So there it was. The reason… or at least a reason as to why she could see New Babbage and I could not. Somehow, due to her entry from afar and probably her use of anachronistic technology she was somehow not quite in the same phase as the rest of Clockhaven. Yet she had been flying over New Babbage and into Clockhaven. Somehow, this very special girl still had a link to both locations… wherever they might be in the great Dodecahedron!
I explained my theory to the lass, and to my surprise, she seemed quite interested; not at all in a condescending manner. I momentarily closed my eyes, bracing myself. When they opened, I turned back to the void. She still saw the City, I did not.
Come! Grabbing her hand, I rushed back to the Clocktower. We ran up the steps and threw open the study door. Ms. Comeford graciously stepped into my spartan lodging. The door closed itself safely behind her.
No alarms. No infernal combustion. She was still standing there looking earnestly at the rows of books and other items on my shelf. She even said she found my place cozy. Dear child.
I begged her pardon and ran up to the lab. A moment later I was down with the aether compass. I asked Ms. Comeford to please take a seat. As I believed she was still somehow linked to both Clockhaven and the rest of New Babbage, I believed she was a living anchor… the very thing which could reunite the parts of our city. She looked me dutifully in the eyes and asked what she could do. I told her it would take a minute, but that I needed her to be still. She did not even ask as to the risk!
With the flight pack, Ms. Comeford and the aetheric anchorings I had previously effected all in one location, I tuned the compass… and drew its arms together to the point directly beneath her chair. That should do it.
Compass in one hand, and Ms. Comeford’s petite, but firm, hand in the other, we walked back toward the abyss… and kept walking! Port Babbage was back. I think she laughed to see me craning my head in wonder at the shops she took for granted. I was simply relieved.
With the City restored, my work was only just begun.
I explained to Ms. Comeford more about the experiments I had been running to investigate these seemingly localized aetheric disturbances. I fear I may have let slip a bit too much about my past and some of Gretchen’s more harrowing travels over sulfur lakes. Ms. Comeford was a true lady and did not begrudge me her company. In fact, she seemed truly interested. Soon we were standing near where the last event had occurred. I pointed up to the odd machinery above the two buildings… the pneumatic post and the candy shop… One or both might have something to do with it. Since the post was likely more interconnected across the city, I had started to investigate there. Then an idea struck me.
She had been flying over roughly the same area, and had not been effected. Could it be me? Could it have been Gretchen? Perhaps something about either Gretchen’s propulsion or my existential displacement had triggered the event. Could these skies be safe to other travelers? Ms. Comeford stepped back from me, her eyes a-glow. She asked if she could be of assistance! Hmmm… when the Master has need, the assistant will appear!
We discussed the theories and devised a plan. From the field above the alley, Ms. Comeford would launch. She would then fly due west along the same path that I had experienced the various disturbances. She would fly as far as she could across New Babbage and then straight back. I prepared her for the possibility of running into the same problems I had over the past several days. After telling her the facts she needed to know to be safe and giving her an aetheric landmarking token which I had anchored to the Clocktower, she agreed to come back here on foot from the tower if she ran into trouble. I crossed myself and said a prayer to keep her safe as she lifted off of the ground and sped off.
Within seconds she was a spec in the sky. And then she was gone.
I waited and waited… the clocktowers chimed.
Just as I turned to rush back to the Clocktower to ensure her safety, I saw her bounding up the steps… She had had to use the token! I ran to her and looked her over thoroughly. She was soaked and smelled of the Vernian Deep. She quickly confirmed that she too had been plunged into its depths, without falling or flying. One second she had been cruising over the skies, the next she was being pressed against a wall of coral frantically pressing the aetheric token.
Despite the misadventure, which should have harrowed any male adventurer I knew, Ms. Comeford looked rather exhilerated. The pink of her cheeks set off the spark in her eyes. After a second inspection to verify her well being, we were off, back to the lab forming the next experiment.
We would take out the Gretchen. With two of us, we would be able to observe the disturbances and collect helpful data. So far, my preparations, while not keeping us exactly safe, had allowed us to escape from utter peril. Ms. Comeford had proven to be a most capable individual and a most willing assistant. Thank you Lord. You send us aid when we know not to look for it ourselves!
We set off in the Gretchen. This time I took very careful and deliberate course changes. I gave the Post a wide berth and we sailed far west in Babbage. Then I circled back and we flew close to some of the other points of trouble. We had a few difficulties in the vicinity of the disturbance I encountered in Underby’s neighborhood, but I was able to right the Gretchen and get us back on course.
And then a gasp from my intrepid assistant. As I tacked away from the point which had kept us in irons with sails full, she turned to me trembling and with horror in her eyes. “It was gone!”, she said. I pulled Gretchen to, and held Ms. Comeford to settle her. Being woven of strong stuff, she pulled herself together with a deep breath. She then told me what she had seen. As I had been struggling with the Gretchen frozen above the city, she had looked over the starboard rail. All she could see was the Vernian. The entire city was gone. And then, just as suddenly, it was back. A flicker in some cosmic gas-lamp?
If she had been humoring me up to this point, she was now my devoted companion in this terrifying exploration.
After a few more encounters with these localized phenomena, we made it safely back to the Clocktower. I had more data than I had ever had before on these specific manifestations and a new assistant willing and able to learn.
…. my head grows heavy now and the drumming persists in making itself known to me. In this tired state, I cannot ignore it as I usually do. I put my pen away for this evening and shall continue the tale of these recent events and how the brave Ms. Comeford has become both our savior and our charge in need of saving. I glance at the bent and broken image of our true savior… “Give me strength My Lord.” My eyes turn upward, imploring ” … deliver us from evil.”
“Amen.” croaks Albertus from his niche in the bookshelf.