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Orpheus and the Dark Aether – Chapter 13: Aftermath

Orpheus observed the events at the hotel through the receiver in the ship. Suddenly, the feed was lost. The clockwork decoy must have succeeded in pulling Metier through the crack. He needed to verify that the mission was a success. This would take a bit of stealth though. He did not want to risk having Metier seek retribution if the plan had failed, so Orpheus through on a hat and fake handlebar mustache to hide his face. He then headed to the power station to meet up with Von Thesium.

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At the power station he found Von Thesium and a Timelord called The Philosopher. Orpheus introduced himself as Rusty “Cog” Shackleford. He knew it was better to hide his true identity until he knew that it was safe to reveal himself. The two men asked him to lead them to the Hotel Excelsior. They were supposed to meet a friend there. “Cog” agreed.

The Philosopher told him that he had felt that something terrible had happened at the hotel, but he did not know what. The three men walked in mostly silence until they got to the hotel. They looked around the lobby, but soon realized a group had gathered outside. The three men joined Dr. Sonnerstein and Stormy Stillwater by the crack. Dr. Sonnerstein explained that

they had been following Henri Metier and Mr. Angkarn towards the crack. By the time they got to the hotel, Mr. Angkarn had been pulled in, trying to pull Metier with him. Unfortunately, at the last moment, Metier had been able to slip away.

“Phil” wandered over to the wall, noticing a small sonic device blinking at the base of the wall. Cog noticed as well, wishing the other Timelord had just left it alone.

“Look what I found,” said Phil. “It seems to want our attention.”

Mr. Shackleford asked to see it. As he took the device from the Philosopher, the light turned steady. A connection had been made. “If I’m not mistaken, it appears to be remotely connected to… something else. I shall have to bring this to a friend.”

While Mr. Shackleford pocketed his sonic, he overheard Stormy explain that the glowing drawing on the ground in front of the wall was a ward of protection he sometimes he used, but he did not remember drawing this particular image.

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Suddenly Cog heard a horrible scream as a brass covered figure momentarily clawed its way out of the crack. The figure vaguely resembled Mr. Angkarn, if he had been made of metal. The figure was quickly pulled back into the void. “What the??? Did any of you see that? Please tell me you saw it too?”

Dr. Sonnerstein looked towards the crack, his brow furrowed. By then the figure was gone. Johann stared at the crack, as if a stern look would bring the figure back. Stormy just shrugged.

Johann explained to the group what Orpheus had been telling him before they were interrupted earlier that evening. “Orpheus told me that a friend of his wrote to him, informing him of cracks forming in Boston, and who knows where else. It seems that some people there have also been pulled in, but when they have, any sign that they had even existed vanished with them.”

Cog moved to the back of the group while Johann explained what he had been told, realizing that Kristos was starting to become aware of Orpheus’s disguise. The group continued to talk of time burning. A clockwork rat arrived, informing the group that the power station had been successfully shut down. Cog used the new arrival as a distraction so he could approach Kris

and whispered so no one else could hear “Don’t worry, I wasn’t actually pulled in. I’ll explain later. Keep this to yourself for now, especially since Metier got out.”

It was getting late and the group began to disband. Kristos helped fill Stormy in on what had happened while he was in the trance. The ward was intended to prevent against a temporal collapse. Stormy began to feel ill, so the doctor took him to get some rest. Cog filled Unit 3 in on what had happened. Unit 3 rolled off to report to Miss Falcon.

***

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As “Cog” left to examine his sonic, he almost ran right into Dr. Sonnerstein.

“Oh, Hello Kris, I didn’t see you there.”

“I just returned. Stormy is resting in bed for the time being. The ward took a lot out of him.”

Kristos glanced off towards the mechanical rat, who had stopped to observe the new interaction before heading back to Clockhaven, and leaned in to whisper, “Did you truly fall in there?”

Cog pulled the sonic out of his pocket, checking the light was still on. “Good, the connection is still active. No, I didn’t really fall in.”

Kristos looked at the sonic. “You placed a sensor in there… er, should I say out there?”

Cog, or shall we say Orpheus, whispered back, “No, it was a clockwork man. It was equipped with a perception filter to impersonate me. He is broadcasting from the other side of the rift. If I get back to the Tardis I can establish a link, and hopefully use it to find Arnold.”

“I see!” said Kristos.

“Is it true that Metier made it out of the rift?”

“Yes, he did… but he’s dead to begin with, and mad on top of that.”

Orpheus explained that the clockwork had phase shifted Metier, made him tangible long enough to grab on to. “Indeed…? That’s quite a feat. Metier has said the only one

who can get Arnold out of there… is Arnold himself… or something to that effect. Which leads me to believe that survival, in wherever that crack leads to, may very well depend on one’s will power. If Arnold returns, he may not be the same anymore.”

Orpheus nodded. It made sense. Arnold had not vanished from existence because the people in New Babbage are some of the most strong willed people around. If the will power was weak, the people would lose their existence. The two men talked for a little longer, and then Orpheus excused himself to download the information being broadcast. He watched the sun start to rise over the skyline and hoped that he would still be able to sneak into the lighthouse he was hiding out in.

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