The night wind felt cold as it blew against the Maestro’s face. He had been out walking for hours and needed a break. He stepped into the first building he passed and nearly ran into a tall gentleman dressed all in dark leather. His cold dark eyes looked out from beneath short black hair. (7) The Maestro apologized and introduced himself. The dark man introduced himself as Elvis Oyen, a local businessman. He explained that he and his father made curiosities for sale, and in their free time experimented with new energy sources. Currently, they were looking into ways to harness phlogiston, a highly combustible element. The Maestro explained that he too had experience in the sciences, particular temporal theory. It was through this that the two men began to discuss the theories involved in time travel, and eventually it was disclosed that Mr. Oyen and his father had developed a time machine, but that it had ceased working. It was believed that phlogiston could be used to reenergize the machine. The Maestro offered to see what he could do to assist in the repairs, which Mr. Oyen gladly accepted. It would have to be another night he explained, as he had prior engagements with a woman. He quickly departed.
The Maestro continued his evening patrol, moving to the canals on the west end of town. As he followed the canal north, he saw what looked like a disassembled rocket ship in the lot behind the lighthouse. Curious, he approached the building and knocked on the door. Emerson Lighthouse opened the door.
“Are you aware someone has been using your lot to construct an unauthorized trans-aetheric vessel?” inquired the Maestro.
Sir Lighthouse responded, “Yes. I need to get to Mars.”
The Maestro looked on, inquisitive. “And why do you need to get to Mars so badly?”
“I noticed something odd in my telescope,” said Mr. Lighthouse. “It looks like there are canals up there, and you know what that means.”
“Martian mushrooms along the canal banks,” responded the man.
“So, you are putting together an expedition to travel into deep space so that you can harvest theoretical mushrooms on hypothetical canals?” asked the Maestro.
Sir Emerson looked at the Maestro with a completely straight face. “Yes. I mean to trade them coal for mushrooms. They are further from the sun you know, so it must get cold there.”
The Maestro looked at the man. Surely he was a bit off his rocker. And yet, the Maestro knew the stories of his adventures, and somehow he always managed to turn out ok.
“Oh, if you’re trading then obviously it is a sound business plan,” he said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “What could possibly go wrong?”
The two men continued to talk about Sir Emerson’s plans to construct a rocket and be the first human to get high off of Martian mushrooms. Talk soon drifted to ideas of what Martian life would look like. The Maestro shared stories he had heard that theorized that Martians lived in the frozen wastelands, or possibly were aquatic. Emerson was sure that even if they were aquatic he would still be able to trade them coal; he was that good of a salesman.
The Maestro suddenly turned the discussion away from Mars. He remembered Sir Emerson from his time in New Babbage before the Dark Aether. He knew that, despite the tall tales, Emerson was one who could be counted on, in an unorthodox sort of way.
“You strike me as a man with connections. I need an unregistered reality enforcer device. I have some, let’s call them “exotic” artifacts arriving and it would be terrible if they were allowed to maintain their true potential.”
“I do have connections, but not with that area,” explained Emerson. “Perhaps Mornington has in in with those connections.”
“I was hoping for someone a little more discreet. He seems to be quite rapped up in many of the rumours you hear around town.”
The Maestro continued. “You do not recognize me, do you?” When it was clear that Emerson did not, he explained. “I once helped you dump a body into the river. People called me Orpheus back then. I look quite a bit different than I did back then.”
Emerson stammered. “I remember sir, but…. But… but you died! That blue cabinet of yours crashed into one of the cracks.”
“That is true. It’s quite a long story, but I have survived. The truth is, I went into the space beyond our universe. The void between universes, and when I emerged, I was in a universe parallel to ours. The same, but different. It has been many years since I left here, from my perspective at least. Dark forces have pulled me back to this universe, and back to New Babbage.”
Emerson joked about the parallel universes he’d be visiting after trying the Martian mushrooms. The two men continued to talk a little longer, but it soon grew late. Sir Emerson offered a place for the Maestro to crash, since it was late and Clockhaven would be quite
a walk. The Maestro took him up on his offer and made his way to the chair in the corner.
Once he was sure that Emerson had also gone to bed, he got up and began to look around. He had reason to believe that an artifact had recently arrived in New Babbage; a painting. He checked the bookshelves for some sort of clue. “Perhaps it is behind the shelves,” he thought to himself. (10) Unable to find anything, he snuck next door. The door was unlocked, which made the search easier, however the painting was nowhere to be found. So as not to arouse suspicion, he snuck back into the lighthouse and proceeded to fall asleep. (11) When he awoke, he found that Emerson had already departed for the day. He left a quick note thanking his host for his hospitality and made his way back to Clockhaven. There were still many places that the painting could have shown up.