Archivist note: This post is from an older recovered archive.
((Posted by Arconus Arkright on May 1, 2010))
“So, I’m supposed to just drop everything and fire up my ship for a trip to a parallel universe to fetch you, is that it?” asked Mr. Mornington.
“Sounds like a plan,” I said.
Missing Mile, North Carolina was minutes away from a complete power failure thanks to my pandimensional transmitter which was drawing massive amounts of electricity from the local grid to reach Brunel Hall in New Babbage.
“Well, I suppose I should consider it part of my civic duties to make sure the time stream isn’t littered with displaced Babbagers,” said Mornington. “But I’ll need some time to check the instruments at Fullarton House, figure out exactly where you are. And I’ll need you to keep your signal going for the next 24 hours.”
“That could be a problem. I’m about to blackout this entire town as it is. I can’t maintain this signal without somebody noticing.” I was back at the ranger station next to Paper Lake tapping into the power lines that connected to the cabin. Electricity follows the path of least resistance, but in this case, that path didn’t lead to the businesses and double-wides of Missing Mile, it lead down a tiny little hole I’d made in the universe. I was making lights flicker rather annoyingly all over town.
“What about this: Start up your transmission again in exactly 24 hours and I’ll be looking for it so I can home in on your position.”
“Done! See you… Whoops! Gotta go!”
I saw what looked like lamps approaching the cabin via the adjacent road and feared it might be utility workers investigating the sudden power drain. I’d been incredibly lucky on this little excursion, all things considered, and I didn’t want to mess things up because I was feeling smug.
But, if I do say, getting the transmitter to work in this oddly underpowered world was just this side of clever. It was a bit like witchcraft: Take one alien sonic gizmo, use it to disassemble your second alien sonic gizmo, use the parts to make a sub-quantum harmonics filter to force some photons to perform unnatural acts, add a drop of blood (mine) containing iron atoms from another universe, hit it with a modulated EM wave and stand by as it automatically seeks out more massive sources of iron atoms with conjugate hadron resonance giving you a low power interdimensional antenna. Easy peasey! The problem? The force fields doing all the work are smaller than a water molecule, but the electricity needed to keep them going drains more than 85% of the power output from the local utility.
I understand the scientists of this world are spending billions of dollars to build enormous devices to do what I accomplished with a pair of alien screwdrivers and some found bits of circuitry and cable. I must remember to tell Victor when I see him. What a hoot!
. . . .
I needed a few hours with no distractions to prepare for Mr. Mornington’s arrival. I’d heard his vessel had the ability to disguise itself — a function, I’ve been lead to understand, that doesn’t always work perfectly. I had to strike a balance; find a discrete spot for materialisation that also afforded me access to a decent power supply. Another relaxing stroll through town would, hopefully yield an answer.
[9:20] ((AmazonGirl)): hi
[9:21] Arconus Arkright: Greetings
[9:21] ((AmazonGirl)): do you like ****
[9:21] Arconus Arkright: Excuse me?
[9:21] ((AmazonGirl)): with me?
[9:22] Arconus Arkright: Flattered, but no, thank you. Good Morning.
[9:22] ((AmazonGirl)): you don’t want
[9:22] ((AmazonGirl)): in a hotel room do you want
[9:22] ((AmazonGirl)): me and you
[9:22] ((AmazonGirl)): and the bed
[9:23] Arconus Arkright: So kind of you to offer, but I’m afraid I must decline
[9:23] ((AmazonGirl)): why are you afraid
[9:23] ((AmazonGirl)): you’re a strong man
[9:23] ((AmazonGirl)): if I invite you, do you want
[9:24] ((AmazonGirl)): How tall is your ****
[9:25] Arconus Arkright: “tall”? Look, I’m afraid the charms of the fair sex are wasted on me. Good morning.
[9:25] ((AmazonGirl)): can you show me your ****
[9:26] ((AmazonGirl)): and I can show you my cat and my ****
[9:26] Arconus Arkright “haven’t the time at the moment. Good morning!” and practically runs around the corner
[9:28] Bubba Actor: that big woman right there looks a bit scary doesn’t she…
[9:29] Arconus Arkright: Quite
[9:29] Bubba Actor: I’ve seen her around before. I watch EVERYONE
[9:29] Bubba Actor: When you work with organised crime…. you have too
[9:30] Arconus Arkright: From what I’ve seen, everyone in this town bears watching
[9:31] Arconus Arkright: Did you say crime?
[9:31] Bubba Actor: Yes actually
[9:31] Bubba Actor: One of our meeting areas is S-SE of here
[9:32] Arconus Arkright: Thank you for the warning… I’ll give you your privacy
[9:32] Bubba Actor: It was no warning….
[9:32] Bubba Actor: It was an Invitation
[9:33] Arconus Arkright: How interesting
[9:33] Bubba Actor: You need not get your hands dirty; we have some lesser jobs
[9:34] Arconus Arkright: Go on
[9:34] Bubba Actor: We have… Drivers; Lawyers like me; as well as people who work Inside the city leadership
[9:35] Arconus Arkright: You don’t say
[9:36] Bubba Actor: I quite clearly do
[9:36] Bubba Actor: If your ever interested…
[9:36] Bubba Actor: Merely stop by
[9:37] Arconus Arkright: So many kind offers I’m getting today.
It sometimes seemed as if every social pathology known to scholars and sages was on full and vivid display in that upholstered toilet of a town. Having what I hoped would be my last meal at the Waffle Hut, I asked a fellow diner a question…
[9:47] Arconus Arkright: Right… before I’m at my next gala function, about to go into my rant about the horrid little town with the tiny library that made me sleep in a sewer, is there anything you can tell me to redeem this place?
[9:48] Tricia Planer thinks about it a moment, considering, brow creasing. “They got real good pie here. I’m not much on cooked fruit, but the cherry is delish.”
[9:50] Arconus Arkright: Gives Tricia a blank stare. “The cherry pie *is* good, isn’t it?”
[9:52] Tricia Planer nods. “Just the right mix of tart and sweet. That’s hard to get right you know.”
Through the window, I could just make out the local hospital in the distance. Still sitting at the counter of the Waffle Hut, I formed a plan. With the last of my money, I ordered cherry pie, scrambled eggs and a strawberry milkshake to go. Since the mixture wouldn’t fit into one cup, I had to ask the waitress to put it into two.
. . . .
I had turned my spartan sewer lodgings into quite the laboratory. Much of that equipment was strapped to my back when I stumbled into the emergency room of the Missing Mile Hospital and threw up cherry pie, scrambled eggs and strawberry ice cream onto the floor.
Earlier, I overheard something fascinating while listening to citizens discussing the brownouts of the previous evening: no one was worried about the hospital because the hospital had its own powerful, immensely useful and handy generator. But they also had security guards. I could have attempted entry by stealth, but the consequences of getting caught too soon introduced too much uncertainty for my comfort. Better, I thought, to be invited in.
Coughing up a generous quantity of chunky red sick adequately diverted hospital staff from questions like, “What is that large piece of technology strapped to his back?” which always come second to questions like, “Will he vomit on my shoes again?” I managed to get myself into the hospital without sneaking around with a sinister-looking device. Instead, I was ushered in by the staff and practically given a tour of the facility before being given a bed.
A tag was put on my wrist letting everyone know I was, indeed, supposed to be in the hospital. The attending nurse took my temperature and asked many questions (answered with big, fat lies, natch) before leaving me with a clipboard full of forms to fill out. I reached down next to the bed where my burden had been left. It was a completely bogus assortment of electronic odds and ends wired to a battery to look intimidating and cause further distraction. I switched it on an left the emergency care ward. I’d left my real equipment near a side door that seemed little used except by hospital employees when they went outside to smoke. (Doctors and nurses who smoke? I’ll ponder that later.)
I retrieved my equipment and made my way to the x-ray room on the second floor where, I imagined, I would most easily be able to access high capacity electrical cables. But there was someone in the room. In a lab coat. Sitting. Reading a magazine and ruining my day.
All of this was taking longer than I had imagined. Mr. Mornington would be looking for my signal soon, and I wasn’t nearly ready to send it. I heard someone coming and ducked down a corridor with a sign marked with the letters “MRI” and an arrow. Following the arrow, I found myself with a Plan B.
I closed and sealed the large metal doors of the room containing the magnetic resonance imager and got to work. Connecting my transmitter to the power cables didn’t take long, but by the time the sub-space signal was broadcasting, I’d already heard two people knocking on the door, no doubt wondering where the regular technician was. But then, the light, friendly knocks ended — replaced by insistent pounding and shouts of, “WHO’S IN THERE! OPEN THIS DOOR! NOW!!” Fortunately, the caterwauling staff failed to drown out the noise I had been waiting to hear — like someone pushing a fully loaded metal filing cabinet across a bare stone floor, only they have to stop every couple of seconds because it’s so heavy. My ride had arrived. Apparently, one floor above me.
I disconnected the bits of non-terrestrial technology from my transmitter and stuffed them into my pocket while hospital employees on the other side of the door went from curious, to panicked, to just plain mad.
At first, I thought, “Why should I run from these people? They were doctors! Reasonable men and women of science. And no one I saw looked as if they could bench press 300 lbs. Of course, there was more than one of them. Along with a bunch of hospital security people. Maybe lots. Perhaps with guns and unresolved childhood issues that made them prone to excessive violence.”
Abandoning logic and reason as a viable option for escape, I noticed the extremely live power cable in my hand and the large metal door in front of me. “They’re doctors,” I thought. “They’ll heal.” I jammed the wicked end of the cable against the door. Sparks flew, obscenities were shouted and before anyone could regain their bearings, I was out the door, down the hall and looking for the stairwell.
“Security to the second floor, MRI.” The announcement over a loudspeaker made a lovely, echo-y noise as I climbed the stairs to the *third* floor. I tried to seal off an empty hallway linking two lab areas to buy myself some breathing room. I shorted out the opening mechanism on one side with a sonic lance, but the doors on the other side were not automatic. I would have to block them.
A 3-meter tall samovar stood in the hallway that looked very heavy and promising in a blocking-the-door capacity. Getting behind it and giving it a push, it seemed a lot heavier than it should have been. My mind was abuzz with plans, back-up plans, stratagems and counter-stratagems as it ranged through every possible way this little affair might play out, but it finally sunk in: HEY, DUMBASS! YOU’RE TRYING TO MOVE A 3-METER TALL GIANT COFFEE MAKER SITTING IN THE MIDDLE OF A HOSPITAL CORRIDOR!
The lid of the urn flipped open. I pulled myself up and over the top and landed with a thud on the floor of the time ship’s control room between a set of double doors.
“What’s it look like?”
It took me a moment to realise what Victor was asking. “Oh… it’s a big coffee urn.”
“Damn! That’s not right! Thought I had it fixed. Oh well… better hang on to something. It’s a bit of a rough ride.”
I can’t say I know Mr. Mornington well, but I now knew of his capacity for understatement as I bounced from one side of the control room to the other. Then, the motion of the capsule smoothed out, slowed down, and finally stopped.
The ship’s double doors, working in a more usual manner this time, opened up on to Academy Downs. Victor followed me as I stepped out of his craft and took in a deep lungful of sooty air. “Good to see you, Babbage,” I said once my coughing fit subsided.
“Mr. Mornington, I don’t know how to thank you. At least I can start with this,” I said handing the sonic thingamajig back to Victor.
“There it is! I figured you had it. I was kind of hoping you had them both. There were two I couldn’t account for. Do you hear…”
My hand was on the pocket full of sonic gizmo bits. “I’m sure the other one’ll turn up. I know, how about I rent a room here at the hall? I could pay you back and, besides, it’s about time I got my head out of the clouds and put down roots some…”
“GATSBY RENTS ROOMS!” said Victor. “Or The Excelsior… nice place The Excelsior… right across from city hall so they’re used to all kinds of chaotic… just try The Excelsior. Nice place, The Excelsior. Try The Excelsior.”
“You know,” I said wondering if The Excelsior had a pool, “this much I will say, Mr. M: If you ever hear me complaining about the ghosts and explosions and killer robots around here, just remind me that… what *is* that noise? Sounds like its coming from… BLOODY HELL!!”
We looked up to see a giant mechanical sky kraken gnawing on the roof of Brunel Hall, smoke belching from its cracked outer casing, evidently the result of a recent battle of some kind. I dashed into Mr. Mornington’s time ship and re-emerged with a shoulder mounted sonic cannon that I’d noticed sitting in the corner.
“Permission,” I said, handing the weapon to Victor, “to retract my last statement.”
With a sigh, Mr. Mornington raised the cannon to his shoulder and got the mechanical menace in its crosshairs.