The Maestro slammed the lid shut on his portable computer. He had just spoken with Ministry HQ about the evening’s activities. Never had he been so livid, so infuriated with them over Warehouse business as he was now. They just didn’t seem to understand. He had done the scan himself, and he was convinced the artifact was completely harmless. He had to think….
Earlier that night~
The Maestro sat in the fairly crowded Bucket. He did not spend as much time in the Gut as he once had, and yet tonight he felt the need for a change of scenery. It also happened that tonight there was a recitation of a short story by Stoker. It was a wonderful retelling, and the crowd was drawn in – all except the Maestro. His mind wandered and he found himself distracted. It was many minutes before he even realized the seat next to him was occupied by Doctor Sonnerstein.
“Hello Orpheus,” the man said.
The Maestro turned, caught off guard. He had not expected to hear that name ever again. “I’m afraid you have me mistaken for someone else. I am the Maestro,” he explained to the man. The two patrons remained silent for the duration of the story. Once it had ended and everyone else filed out, the Maestro turned to the pale man next to him.
“How did you know it was me?” he asked.
Doctor Sonnerstein explained he had a way of sensing a person’s essence. Despite the changes in physical appearance, it was not entirely impossible for the Maestro’s true identity to be determined.
The Maestro told him briefly of his encounters since “Orpheus” had been presumed dead after the Dark Aether incidents. He had been trapped in the Void beyond the cracks, but had found a way out into a parallel world. After many many years, events had lead him back to New Babbage, now employed by the Ministry. He had been attempting to retrieve a lost portrait, and had nearly succeeded. He would be trying again tonight. He asked the doctor and Stormy, who had returned to the Bucket, if they would assist. They had nothing better to do, so they agreed. After the Maestro retrieved a bag he had hidden outside, the three of them began the trek across town.
It should have been an easy task. The trio arrived at the Gangplank and Doctor Sonnerstein went in to act as a distraction long enough for Stormy and the Maestro to sneak in through the Bakery. Stormy kept an eye out for Ms. Ginsberg or Sir Emerson, who as luck would have it, were nowhere to be found. But from there, things quickly went downhill.
The Maestro had descended the steps to the basement where the portrait was hidden. He found the crates stacked less neatly than before. Upon quick inspection, it appeared that there had been some damage to the floor that had undergone a hasty repair job. That was not the most troubling part. There, in front of the crates, stood a mysterious device. It was covered entirely in brass plating and stood upon three legs. Its body towered high above, and he could make out four glowing spheres. “That wasn’t there before, was it?” he thought to himself.
Suddenly, everything went quiet. He didn’t have time to panic. He had to get the painting and get out. “It’s probably just nerves,” he thought to himself as he carefully removed the painting from beneath the sheet. He replaced it with one from his own personal collection; a tall man in a smoking jacket with wild curley hair, a man called “Kramer.” He placed the original carefully into the bag and whispered up at Stormy, “Psst…. is it still clear?”
He had expected to hear Stormy say that it was safe to sneak out, but instead he heard only silence. Surely he was over his nerves by now. He whispered a little louder; still he heard nothing. He began to panic. He tried once more. The silence vanished. He heard, to his horror, the sound of Miss Dagger’s voice coming through the wall between the basement and the Gangplank, “Don’t worry Maestro, we all think you got away with it!”
The Maestro panicked. How did they know? Had he really just heard that? Were they coming down for him? He backed into the tripod device and convinced himself that it had moved since a few moments ago. The fear and panick grew as he stumbled backwards, nearly knocking the crates over. He had to get out of here. The doctor and Stormy would be ok on their own; they could claim they had been coerced to help steal the painting. The Maestro scrambled through the curtain and into the sewer, holding tight to the bag with the portait. As if guided by fate, he quickly found his way out of the sewer and in Clockhaven Square. He checked to see if he had been followed, and convinced that he had not, he carefully made his way back to the Warehouse. He had been successful, but now he would have to lay low for a bit. The Ministry could sort things out later.
He sat in the safety of his hideout and looked at the portrait he had worked so hard to acquire. He just couldn’t understand what was so special about it that the Ministry would send him here to gain it for the archives. His scans revealed no special properties. It was just a portrait of a rather dapper looking Mr. Mornington standing in front of his hotel, while holding his rabbit cuddled in his arms. While a nice portrait, it wasn’t worth all the cloak and dagger tactics. He had informed his superiors that the portrait was harmless, but they insisted that it be taken care of.
Once the Maestro had calmed down a bit he decided that, after a more thorough inspection, he would return the painting to its rightful owner – Mr. Mornington.