“I come bearing holiday greetings,” said Junie, smiling as she held out an envelope addressed to the Daggers after Jed had opened the door.
“Thanks,” said Jed taking the envelope. Jed raised her eyebrows as she looked at the card inside. “Mumsy looks so…delightful.”
“She has her days,” said Junie.
Jed shifted her gaze from Junie to the man who stood behind her with a dented mechanical owl cradled in the crook of his arm. “Nice bird you’ve got there Emerson,” she commented.
“Thank you but I think it is a bit defective.”
“That’s a shame.” She looked back at Junie with a smirk.
“I thought maybe Kimika could have a look at it… see if maybe she can get it functioning properly again.”
“I’m sure she’d like to but to what end?” Jed asked. “What’s that bird to you?”
“It is a message of distress from my most sovereign majesty Queen Princess. I believe my young squire, Sir Brother Malus, is in peril, for were he not, the Queen would be appealing directly to his more immediate availability.” Emerson shrugged.
Jed just stared at him for a moment with a look that was quite unfathomable. After a brief pause she looked at Junie with an expression that made one think that it wasn’t a question of if Emerson had been drinking the paint thinner, but how much. She finally said, “I have no idea what you are talking about but it sounds somewhat intriguing, so let’s go and ask Kimika. Follow me.”
The dark haired woman stared intently into the now-open access panel on the back of the ART unit, poking at the mechanical guts of the device with a fine tipped screwdriver.
“I think it is just a wire shorting out,” Kimika said. “Perhaps due to the change in temperatures it has gone through… not to mention crashing through your window.”
“Do you think you can you fix it?” asked Emerson as Kimika closed the panels and pushed the little button on its chest.
“Of course,” she replied, putting down her screwdriver before giving ART a mighty smack on the top of its head. Suddenly the static broke and the unmistakable voice of Queen Princess delivered the following message:
Emerson Lighthouse, weeks ago you served me in the Sagrada Lucia Rebellion. Now I implore you to help me once more. Shortly after you departed for New Babbage, putting your personal glory and self-interests above that of the realm, Sir Malus and a band of my most trusted warriors left on a mission of mercy to save the survivors of the terrible Henri Gifford airship disaster. Reports suggested that they had been marooned on a remote jungle island known as New Nublar. Since leaving the landing craft upon the shores the morning of their arrival and setting off into the jungles, we have had no word, no message, and no idea what has become of our greatest soldiers. The realm is on the verge of teetering back into anarchy and I fear what will become of us if our peacekeepers are not found safe and returned to service. We may yet lose this rebellion which we have won. I have placed information vital to any potential rescue mission into the memory systems of this ART Unit. This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Emerson Lighthouse, you’re my only hope.
PS. Maid Marion says to say ‘hi.’
“Well, I was right,” said Jed, “that was interesting.” She looked at Junie.
Junie grinned from ear to ear as she looked at Emerson. “You met a maid named ‘Marion?” She burst into laughter. “That’s so awesome!”
“Isn’t it? You know what they say about truth being stranger than fiction.” Emerson smiled.
Jed cleared her throat and redirected their attention to the task at hand. “This is all very nice, but what are you going to do about Malus?”
“Right,” said Emerson. “I thought you would take the militia and go save him.”
Jed shook her head. “This isn’t a matter for the militia. Besides being way outside our jurisdiction, I don’t think we can get away with mounting a full-blown military expedition to save one wayward ex-churchman. No, this has to be a private mission. Since this monarch is appealing to you personally, I think you need to be the one to take care of it.”
“So what are you going to do now?” asked Junie as they left the Dagger residence.
“I’m not sure,” said Emerson, “but I did get an invitation to go have tea from one of the church brothers. A close friend of Malus’s named Brother Riddler. I think I need to let them know that Malus is missing and in all likelihood in grave danger. Maybe I could talk the church into providing some sort of assistance in helping us find him.”
(Thanks Jed, Kimika and Junie for all the help and edits)