Archivist note: This article is from an older recovered archive and might be obsolete or in need of updating.
Most recent revision is shown below, by Galactic Baroque.
”The tale of a curious evening at the local hospital as told by Arconus Arkright”
If you’re fond of getting around by teleportation, my multitool is a superior aid in subspace navigation… when it’s working properly. When it’s exhibiting the kind of wonky behavior that accidentally lands you in the middle of wedding receptions (uninvited) funeral processions (unwelcome) and circumcisions (unsightly), repairs and recalibration are called for.
It appeared as if recent exposure to a concentrated electromagnetic pulse had done more damage to the multitool than I’d realized. The last straw was when an errant teleport sent me crashing through BlakOpal Design’s store in New Babbage and the money I’d been saving for one of their fine suits was instead used to pay for a picture window and a trio of demolished menswear displays. The device was unwell, so I took it to the hospital.
Well-equipped hospitals have many delicate instruments that must be maintained. It is handy, therefore, that the William Wilde Public Hospital has a well-equipped workshop in its rear annex. I stopped by there one evening to find Henry, the emergency medical technician on staff during the overnight hours, snoring loudly at the reception desk.
“Henry, I’m going to use the workshop, okay? Henry? Henry? HENREEEEEEEEE!!!” The hospital’s night drudge continued to lean back in his chair and snore. I considered it the universe’s way of saying, “Welcome to Wilde.”
I got to the workshop, settled in and began tinkering with my misbehaving mechanism, safely ensconced in one of the few places in town with its own special room for dead people. A more superstitious person might have been a bundle of nerves and, perhaps, would have been a bit unsettled by suddenly hearing deep, guttural fresh-from-the-grave sounding voices speaking behind their back.
“The blood is here. Show us the blood.”
Yes, it was a hospital, but it was a Babbage hospital, meaning it was at least as troublesome as the least troublesome part of a troublesome city.
From the hollow, echo-y voice of their leader, I assumed I was dealing with ghosts. “You can’t have blood. Go away.” Always best to take a firm hand in these matters. I tried to ignore the intruders and re-focus on my work.
“It is here. Take us to the blood. They want it.”
Curious about the “They” I turned around to see three stylishly outfitted, albeit slightly grungy sky pirates looking quite serious, as if they were pondering the social impact of some dread disease or trying to do trigonometry in their heads.
“The blood!” the lead pirate insisted. These were persistent spectres and they were moving closer.
I’d had experience with ghosts before. Touching or walking through them made one feel cold and tingly, rather like having a chilled glass of club soda thrown in one’s face (which has never happened to me and I had done nothing to deserve it and I’m sure that person was just a bitter, angry type anyway). True, these three seemed a little more opaque than the ghosts I’d encountered before, but as I approached them — walking around the work tables as they walked through them — it never occurred to me that they could cause injury. So when the lead ghost’s very solid fist connected with my very solid skull I was, in so many different ways, stunned as I fell to the floor.
“The blood!” repeated the monomaniacal lead pirate looking down on me. Unsure how I was supposed to help them if I was unconscious, and less than desirous of another rap on the noggin, I quickly crawled out of the workshop, down the steps, and ran back into the main building. Teleporting out of trouble under the circumstances wasn’t an option. Without my usual navigation assist, I could have easily ended up on the far side of the planet… and returned to find three angry un-dead pirates who had only been given more time to allow their aggression and resentment to fester, ferment, and become even more pronounced.
I entered the hospital through the triage area and went into a hallway where I spotted a dark-haired young lady wearing a billowy dress. She turned to face me looking somewhat startled. “Hey, lady, there are some… things after me, you’d better get out of here. And is that *really* what you’re wearing? Were you part of some contest to see who could show the most cleavage without getting arrested? Leave something to the imagination, for heaven’s sake. And those colors! You like the ‘fell in a charcoal bin and got all bloody’ look? And are those really twigs in your hair? You must be rich to be able to pull off that level of daft! And that painted-on raccoon mask that, I’m guessing, was eyeliner at some point? How someone with such excellent bone structure could so thoroughly botch a simple makeup job…”
I’m sure I would have said at least a few of those things if invisible forces hadn’t sent me flying backward into the wall at the end of the hallway before I could even speak. It was one of those evenings.
“You know where the blood machine is?” the woman asked sweetly.
Since all the breath had just been knocked out of me, all I could do was attempt to mouth the words, “What the hell are you talking about?” The lady did not find this response satisfactory.
I was a gasping heap sitting on the floor, propped up against the wall. The woman approached me and leaned over, smiling. “You want to show me where they keep the blood, don’t you?”
Oddly enough, part of me felt enthralled and genuinely compelled to answer, “Yes, of course I’ll show you. Would you also like me to buy you six horses and a chocolate shop, my dear?” But the part of me that was still in possession of its faculties won out.
“What the hell is going on?!? Who are you?!?” I spat out when I finally found my breath.
The woman gave me a thoughtful look. “I said I want to know where they keep the blood. Won’t you show me where it is?” I was nearly spellbound by her twinkly smile. Nearly. Spellbound.
I asked, “What are you, some kind of witch?”
She gave me a second thoughtful look, straightened up, then gave me another scrutinizing stare. “Oh, good grief, you’re a fairy!” she said, thoroughly exasperated. “That spell never works on nancy boys.”
I was more than a little taken aback. “Well, don’t you just have the big ol’ pair of shiny brass ones! The blood-thieving witch is being all judgmental and calling people names!”
I stood up and dusted myself off. Witch girl made a witchy hand gesture and I was suddenly pinned against the wall, immobile.
“You never answered my question. Very rude, sir.”
I noticed movement to my left. Witch girl followed my gaze down the hall to where the three sky pirates were now standing. Then, she said something that left me entirely confused.
“Oh look, your lovely friends have come to help you! Aren’t they precious!”
“Hang on,” I said, “aren’t they with you?”
“No. They aren’t with you?”
“Oh… well, never mind,” said the witch girl, “strangers are just friends you haven’t brutally beaten yet.”
The three spectres moved toward her. “The blood! Show us the blood!” The lead ghost hadn’t changed his tune in the slightest.
Witch lady released her hold on me to focus on the ghostly glee club, but nothing appeared to be happening. Witchy hand gestures were not stopping their advance.
“Stop. Stop!! Why aren’t my powers working? Why don’t my powers work on them??”
“Ha! ‘Cause karma’s an even bigger bitch than you!” I shouted as I quickly ducked down the adjacent hallway.
I hurried into the surgery and, as I was trying to figure out how to lock the doors, I noticed a half-finished machine over by a tall, metal refrigeration unit that was connected to a plethora of pipes. Papers and tools were scattered around the device, including what looked like the draft of a letter. “Dear Dr. Himmelfarb, blah, blah, blah… blood preservation processor, blah, blah, blah, engineering advice, blah, blah, blah, new parts, blah, blah…”
The ghosts wanted blood, but witch lady asked about the blood *machine*.
“Witch lady” I thought to myself. She might have been playing at being a witch, but it wasn’t sorcery that sent me flying and pinned me to the wall. It wasn’t the first time I’d been given a telekinetic toss across a room.
The surgery doors flew open and in a wink the sorceress in question was in the room with me. She slammed the doors behind her.
“Oh, look, the witch is back.”
“Maybe I can seal them,” she said, looking at the doors and slightly out of breath.
“Did you cast some psychic spell on Henry at reception to knock him out? Is that why he hasn’t heard all the ruckus and come running?”
“I haven’t done anything to him,” she said to me over her shoulder. “He’s just a sound sleeper with a very poor work ethic.”
“And you were looking for the blood preservation machine?”
“It can process blood and keep it fresh for months! Human blood is one of the most magical substances in creation. So plentiful, yet so difficult to acquire. Only skilled witches like myself and the members of my coven should even attempt to cast spells with it. A preservation device will greatly simplify our… undertakings.”
“I see. The perfect appliance for the busy witch on the go. How perfectly bloody marvelous! You had to steal one now? You couldn’t just wait until it’s on the market and buy one?”
“Why should I? Besides, I’m sure such a device will be priced well beyond the humble means of a coven like ours.”
“Well, you’re out of luck. It doesn’t even look as if it’s working yet. How did you even learn about it?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know. At least this evening doesn’t have to be a total waste,” she said as she walked over to the big ice box. “I’m sure the hospital can spare a pint or ten of… oh. How interesting.”
“There’s no blood in this blood bank.”
“No blood here?” I allowed the realization to sink in for a moment. “So the blood the translucent chucklebums are after… is…”
“Think they’d be happy if we just gave them the guy at reception?”
I gave her my most schoolmarmish sneer of disapproval. “You’re sick.”
“Ucchh, spare me your pointless opinions,” she said as she closed the cold unit. “Now pretend for a moment you possess an ounce of competence and tell me how to stop the blood thirsty ghost girls.”
What did she just say? “Girls? Did you say, ‘girls’?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just now in the hallway, I saw three scruffy, yet ruggedly handsome, sky pirates who reminded me an awful lot of some BlakOpal models I… ran into recently. What did you see that you thought was so ‘lovely’ and ‘precious’?”
“Well,” witch lady said rather sheepishly, “they were sort of dance hall… burlesque… with the… pretty corsets and… bits and things…”
“Oh-ho! Reeeeeeealy? How innnnnnnteresting! Tell me something: are you simply fascinated by burlesque… or is Sappho’s sister done making fun of the ‘Wilde’ man?”
Witch girl was indignant. “Of course I’m going to continue making fun of you, you’re still an idiot. A more noteworthy fact is that those things out there are not ghosts. Is it possible that, somehow, we’re making them?”
“Telepathic mind tricks. My guess… someone is making us make them. Gotta get back to the workshop before they show up again.”
Keeping an eye out for vampiric pseudo-spectres, I quickly made my way to the rear of the hospital and out the back, heading toward the annex. Witch lady had pulled up her skirts and was jogging briskly behind me.
“You know, witchy-poo, if you’re going to pursue this sort of lifestyle, you might want to think about minimizing those skirts a bit.”
“‘Minimize’? Wear a… a ‘mini-skirt’? Are you mad? What if every young lady started dressing that way? It would be the downfall of western civilization.”
At the door to the annex, we heard it behind us: “The blood! The blood is here. Show us the blood.” The lead ghost chap was starting to sound awfully silly, like one of those dreary fellows who always tries to steer a conversation back to sports or fishing or the amazing self-improvement book they just read that helped them become an even bigger crashing bore. If it weren’t for the terrifying popping-up-out-of-nowhere-and-slugging-you-senseless trick I’d have found the phony phantom quite dull.
The wicked witch and I raced upstairs to the workshop. Watching the three sharply-dressed ghouls, they seemed rather lethargic, moving in a slow and deliberate manner until one of them felt like hitting you. But unreal beings have the unfair advantage of being able to move at the speed of thought any time it suits them. The three spectres were in the workshop when I got there.
“Keep them occupied, won’t you?” I said to my temporary ally as I bent over the bits and pieces of my multitool and got to work.
I needed three things and I could only find two. And the battery was discharged, I needed a replacement. And where was that thing I used that time? And could this *possibly* have taken any longer? At last, there was the third… and the connector… and the power supply.
“Oh, Nancy,” said witch girl as she telekinetically (and ineffectually) hurled objects at the approaching ghosts, “you were planning on actually doing something, weren’t you?”
I attached a new battery and I was ready. I gradually increased the power and adjusted the controls. “Let me know when it hurts.”
Witchy-poo whipped around and glared at me. “Hurt? Me? What?”
Finding the correct combination of signal frequencies and wavelengths caused witchy to grab her head in pain and scream in a most delightful manner. It takes three supercyclic oscillators to generate that kind of psychic static, the kind that breaks telepathic links and disintegrates ghostly psychokinetic constructs. The pirate/dancers dissolved into the aether, and the source of the night’s troubles (the *other* source) forcefully bumped into the hospital annex.
Witch girl was still staggering a little. “Did something just hit the building?”
I disconnected the power supply from my signal generator. “I think we’re finally about to find out the ‘They’ behind our evening’s entertainment.”
Standing outside in the clearing between the annex and the hospital, the witch lady and I could see a large silvery disk hovering about twenty meters above us.
“They had a psychic cloak,” I said. “They’ve probably been floating there all night, we just couldn’t see or hear them.”
“I’ve never seen an airship like that.”
“It’s not an airship. It’s a spaceship.”
“Nonsense! Spaceships don’t exist,” said the witch.
“DEAR GOD!!” cried Henry who perhaps thought he was still asleep and dreaming, but was in fact standing at the emergency entrance of the hospital just a few feet from where I was. He had spotted the strange craft which wobbled erratically in mid-air for a moment before four bursts of steam were fired from the underside of the ship. It sped upward into the cloudy night sky and out of sight.
“Well, that’s them gone,” I said, brilliantly demonstrating my powers of observation and side-stepping the numerous unanswered questions left by the aliens’ hasty departure. I turned to the wicked witch who was straightening her twiggy hairdo. “Can I give you a lift somewhere? The nearest prison perhaps?”
“Oh, good grief,” she said. “You really are an idiot.”
A sudden flash, a loud bang and copious amounts of smoke suggested that the witch was not straightening her hairdo, but was instead retrieving a small, hidden explosive of some kind which she used to cover her exit. I doubted very much that she had teleported away and was fairly certain that she remained in the vicinity, but fatigue and general disinterest put paid to any notion of pursuit.
Knocked to the ground by the blast, Henry stood up and looked around. “Phew! Glad that’s over!” he said once it was clear that no witches or aliens remained within earshot. “Doesn’t do to have too much excitement ’round here.”
“Of course not!” I said. “It’s a hospital, for heaven’s sake!”