The Clock Struck Ten

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The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Wed May 08, 2013 10:03 pm


At times it seems as though I have no purpose, that my struggle against Bordelon—destined to failure—will mean that on the day I die, I shall have ultimately led a life in vain. In fourteen years of chasing him, I have only killed his brother; I was foolish. Lured by the sense that Thierry’s power was what kept them at large, it never occurred to me that I would have only been clipping off the tail of the serpent. Léandre, the strategist, was the head of that great dragon. How could I have guessed…? But that is no excuse. I am not a man in a position to make excuses.

If at the end of it all I cannot end his tyranny—my enemy is just a man, but so elusive that in my frustration he gains eternal proportions—then would it have been better to never have taken up the chase at all? I will have accomplished nothing but the death of one man and a futile death, because it ended and changed nothing for us. If I die, history will remember me for my failure, not for my struggle—and at the end of it all, will the struggle have been worth it?


-Extract from the personal diary of Thomas M. Blackmore


May 14, 1871
Dear Headmaster Attawater,

We would once again request postponing the graduation of Ms Rekha Isabelle Gunnerkind for the fourth consecutive year. As we have stated before, we do not doubt her knowledge either in traditional or spark-related academics. Ms Gunnerkind is quick to learn runes and their uses, and is proficient in differentiating between different types of sparks. She is able to somewhat channel sparks into smaller stones possessing stable rune chains, but still lacks the ability to properly manage stones with delicate and/or unstable runes.

Ms Gunnerkind has improved during the past year. She no longer empties stones sporadically and unintentionally, though we are still apprehensive as to this ability if she were to be placed in a state of heightened emotion near small and/or unstable stones. Ms Gunnerkind has also demonstrated the ability to direct smaller quantities of sparks into medium-sized stones, though she still will occasionally overload them or misdirect sparks into an area near the stones.

It is with all this in mind that we, her professors, recommend delaying her graduation. Ms Gunnerkind has shown progress consistent with that seen in other channelors capable of directing all sparks, and we hope she will be capable of leaving us in another two or three years.

Sincerely,

Shannen Robertson
Genevieve Hart
Ansel Ogden
Octavia Wheeler


—letter requesting the delay of Rekha Gunnerkind’s graduation from Her Majesty’s Academy for Talented and Advanced Young Channelors


Last edited by Alacer Phasmatis on Thu May 23, 2013 11:50 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Sun May 12, 2013 12:17 am

London, 1906


“Tom? Tom. Speak to me, Tom, please do say something!” Thomas’s eyes squinted open to the sight of a dark-haired women dressed in green damask, crouched beside his bed with the most heart-warming expression of appeal and womanly worry. Her fingers, slim and small, had worried rosettes and knots into the silken quilt that was draped over the inert magician. From the grey dirt griming the edges of her fingers, it was evident that the woman had been stoking the fire (crackling merrily across the room); she knew how much Thomas enjoyed relaxing before the hearth with a paper and plenty of tea.The edges of his eyes lifted in a smile. “It does a soul well to know he’s wanted,” the invalid chuckled, gracing one of the worried hands with a familiar kiss.

“Oh shut up!” She wailed, then stuffed a mouthful of the linens against her lips in chagrin. “I’m sorry, Tom, I didn’t mean it that way, it’s just that-- that-- well, look at the state of you!” Thomas rose and examine himself, sparing a wince for the tightness of his abdomen. His heart hammered in his throat and he did not know why; peeling back the covers, he didn’t see a gun-shot blasted side caked with blood, but whole and knitted tissue.

Ah God, now what sort of decent Christian man would heal a fellow this badly, eh?” He groaned, rubbing vigorously at the knotted mass of inflexible muscle. “Was it Davison?” He asked absentmindedly, examining the white threads of pale new skin that criss-crossed over his slightly darker, more used flesh. “Davison would do that to me. Come now, just look at this! Go on, Sarah, feel it!” Blackmore struck the locus of the fully-healed wound for emphasis. “Hard as rock! Idiot.”

The hardness of expression he found in the woman’s pressed lips and stony eyes did not agree. “You were unresponsive,” she stated plainly, “for four days.”

His brows met in astonishment. Something imperative rang clear and alarming in recent memory. “I have a date to ke--”

Sarah’s hand met his face in a resounding slap. “Thomas Mason Blackmore, you-- you-- you insensitive tomfool! How could you not tell me?!

The agent took a cautious step back, one arm raised in surprise as though to fend off continued assault. “Tell you what—that I was at work? I didn’t think it necessary,” he admitted plainly. It was the wrong answer.

“Not necessary,” Sarah whispered, dark eyes flashing. “Not. Necessary. OH, Thomas, and will it ever be necessary with you? Will it be necessary, perhaps, when you’ve lost a leg? How about an arm, that’s not a very pleasant thing, or your life, with me never to know that my husband lies dead in a sewer, never to be recovered because it’s in another WORLD? Thomas Blackmore, don’t be a clod, you stupid rake. I care about you, how do you think I feel when you’ve been missed at the table and it turns out that oh, no!-- he wasn’t being late, he didn’t forget-- he was out getting shot at and being chased and just conveniently neglected to-”

Blackmore laid a finger on her lips, eyebrows raised in imperious command. The foggy film clouding his thoughts was dissipating and as it lifted, flashes of greater and brighter things grew, one on the other, into a tumult of irritated emergency. “Yes,” he stated in a moderately irked tone, “I was getting shot at. Quite frankly, sweetpea, I’m far more concerned about the fact-” her mouth opened in protest but Thomas continued, “-that there’s a brand new London that we didn’t even know was out there, possibly a London where we can find some refuge from Léandre and plan a proper end for that immoral bastard. Oh,-- and incidentally! I’m afraid that afternoon tea somewhat pales in comparison to the debt I find myself landed in, by grace of a female who did a wealth more to ensure that I stayed alive than me telling you what I was about would have actually accomplished. Which, indeed, is nothing! Now. Get one of the footmen to fetch Forester and relay that Agent Blackmore is returned to health and service, that-”

Thomas broke off, looking at the picture of hurt and fury he had clasped between his hands. “Nevermind,” he sighed, “I’ll do it myself. And for mercy’s sake, please put out the fire; Jonathan had me on the wrong end of an explosion.” Sarah’s mouth tightened into a thin line and Thomas suspected that had he not been invalid just moments ago, she would have hit him again without any regret.

* * *

Now alone, Thomas sighed, leaning his head back. He’d have to find the footman but oh his head ached, and the corridor walls with their linen paper and glossed mahogany were so cool against his pounding skull. He licked his lips; dry. Get a drink before leaving, he decided. But no… first, first, he had to remember everything. There was a lot to remember. It was so important, too, that he bring it all intact to Forester. The warehouse! Oh God! Thomas’s heart leapt into his throat and he could have very nearly killed himself—Roberts! Cheverell!—he had had to jump without them and—God!—four days, four damnable days!

They could be dead. Rekha. She could be dead. Thomas got up, brushed nonexistent dust from his waistcoat, and stumbled to find pen and paper; he had to order his thoughts but Lord love him, it would be done.


Last edited by Alacer Phasmatis on Sun May 19, 2013 6:01 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Mon May 13, 2013 4:12 pm

Thomas stumbled into the parlor, where he saw a quill but no paper. “George!” He snapped. His manservant appeared on the dot, doing a magnificent job of not showing any surprise whatsoever that the magician of the house was up on his feet again (And what else do I pay him for? Thomas thought, not unkindly). “Fetch me a few leaves of paper, George,” Blackmore ordered, glowering about the room as though by calling on George, the sought item would magically appear without further prompting. “Right away, sir.”

When George was gone, Thomas repeated the corridor ritual of resting his head against the cold, lovely wall. “Missed a bit, Davison…,” he murmured abstractly. “Did you have it out for me, eh…?” He closed his eyes. Just behind him, he heard the rustling of paper being laid down on the table. Thomas groaned involuntarily and clutched his head, trying to grab it all; he knew he would just if it weren’t for the pounding. Lord, he might vomit. We were in the warehouse. Yes, very much in the warehouse. Opium. London Two. No, no, no, London Ten. Cheverell had been mind-linking them. And then… He opened his dark eyes and as the cracks began to fill, spun on his heel, grabbed the pen and paper, and began to write his report—furiously.

----------------

It was evening in England and the red-orange shafts of setting sunlight, spilling in through weathered glass, made the swirling dust motes glimmer like gold. Jonathan’s auburn hair glinted like fire from his vantage point, and Thomas thought, You’re very badly hidden, Jonathan. From his mind, Cheverell sent the image, and Jonathan disappeared—not making more than a small scuffing noise as he did so. Francis wasn’t on the ground with them, among the crates of poppy seeds and refined drug; he was on the rafters, squirrel away like a crafty aerial fox. Should Léandre get the slip on them, which they hoped against hope he would not… well, Francis had a clear view, if that should happen.

The mood was tense, charged. Jonathan Roberts’s legs complained at the burn of crouching too low amidst the stacked crates of his berth. They were tired and the day had been long--that special length which comes when the months turned years of an investigation coalesce and the loose ends are just screaming to be tied in one heap of adrenaline-fueled, covert glory. The three agents found themselves in an old shipping warehouse in the opium docks of London Ten, ready to conclude the longest chase of the millennia. A chase that had been started and abandoned and resumed as long ago as 1502, and even earlier.

Thomas, in his hand, held a small glass ball. Two crossing bands of gold-plated steel ran along the outside of it, upraised so that if the ornament were dropped it wouldn’t crack. Down the centre, like the axis of a globe, ran a thin golden needle and pierced centrally on that were two elliptical rings, one two-thirds the size of the other and nested within the larger figure. A thaumatogauge that tracked Bordelon. The two ovals were counter-spinning each other, slowly. He’s here, Thomas thought, and a sweat broke out across his brow. On the continent, somewhere, but not close yet. His free right-hand curled around the pistol hanging by his hip. All three of them were armed as well as they could be without sacrificing speed, with the very best from Europe 4—an anarcho-fascist land where sophisticated weaponry mingled with extreme social decay into an ever-increasing arms race.

A wave of warm feeling washed across their minds; Roberts giving a final good-luck nod to him and Cheverell. Thank you, Thomas answered, and from Francis, blast him to Hell, sparky. Roberts laughed at that, and Thomas started at the little glass ball. Faster. He’s in England. Most of this would rest on Thomas’s shoulders. It was perhaps the heavy knowledge of this that kept him terse and formal when his two fellows were modulating their nervousness with banter. Francis Cheverell, Jonathan R. Roberts, they were both very good magicians and two of the best, most loyal accomplices (and friends) that a man could ask for. But they weren’t the ones who could battle Léandre. They would distract him, the way a pair of dogs distract a wolf whilst the hunter levels his gun on the harried devil.

Without warning! The obelisks whirled so quickly that in Thomas’s hand the thaumatogauge’s vibrations were palpable and he didn’t need to say a word—the alarm in his mind instantly touched on Roberts and Cheverell, God bless him for a telepath, and no sooner did it than two voices cried out in Thomas’s mind at once and a blast of fire aimed for the magician—

Thomas swore, leaped back and rolled, shooting blindly in the direction of Jonathan’s target. «ARRÊTEZ! » The light voice roared, and on a whirl of red coat and blond hair, Thomas found himself preparing to fight and forced to halt. He breathed very lightly. Pressed against the base of his skull, cold against his scalp, he felt the barrel of a pistol. In his thoughts, Cheverell—now crouched unmoving on the ground, like a little cat—showed him what he already felt: Léandre behind him, and a picture of the scene to show ways he could escape. He didn’t need to see the glittering eyes and the twisted loathing to know he was very much in danger.

Thomas’s hand still held a gun. « Lâchez vos armes. Levez vos mains. » Quickly he let it slip from his fingers, heart screaming regret, and he raised his bone-white hands as the devil had bidden. To Francis and Jonathan, the same orders were given, and «tenez-vous où je peux voir, merdaille.» Slowly, reluctantly, the two agents laid down their guns—Jonathan stepping out to join Francis so that, as ordered, Léandre could see them both.

Pretty rough mess. Thomas swallowed. He heard the click of the pinfire revolver, old-fashioned, like Léandre. Cheverell, Jonathan, you’re still armed with— But Roberts didn’t wait.

JUMP TOM!

The agent didn’t think before pulling away, first world, magic carrying him—what! He shouted in alarm as the other magician’s inferno snared both him and Léandre, and why couldn’t he jump. Less than four feet away Léandre rolled over and was getting to his feet, swearing in French, second world, third, fourth, fifth—no, no, no!, and Thomas ran away from him and his partners as Cheverell did the same, fanning from Roberts to make a surrounding triangle, but—

Roberts, Jump, Tom, jump you idiot, why are you still here—
I can’t, he’s blocking me, how the hell—
Francis, THEN RUN, DAMN YOU!

Cheverell fired all his rounds at Léandre then stooped to re-load, and Thomas tried, again and again, because Bordelon didn’t care about the other two—they were flies swatting his face. He wanted Blackmore, the man who killed his brother, and even with the combined effort of Roberts and Cheverell, Léandre ran as untouchable as a pagan god—preternatural speed, unholy anger—he dashed around and over and past their bullets and fire, slowed but not stopped. Levering his pistol once, his evil eyes rose—

Thomas had to jump.

--pain exploded in his side, all the world ran together—

He jumped.




Last edited by Alacer Phasmatis on Sun May 19, 2013 6:05 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by ShadowPhoenix on Mon May 13, 2013 7:00 pm

Rekha happily trotted home, her boots landing with a satisfying click with every step. The night air was somewhat chilly, and there were relatively few people on the streets. It was the wee hours a Sunday morning at this point and most people were abed, except for the drunks who stumbled out of bars. It was for this very reason that Rekha tended to take side streets when she’d stayed out this late, and why she saw so few people on her way home.

Normally Rekha didn’t prefer to stay out this long, particularly on a Saturday night, knowing that Ms Robinson, her landlady, always saw to it that they went to Sunday service. At the beginning of the week, however, she had been assigned a beauteous powerstone that needed both repowering and some maintenance care for its rune-work. Since it had been so close to its finish, Rekha had opted to stay later. The factory was closed on Sundays—she had just barely managed to complete her task and document it before the night manager had sent everyone out—and Monday mornings were when completed powerstones were removed and new ones brought in. It would truly have been a shame to leave it sitting in a corner for another week.

As Rekha turned down the somewhat narrow sidestreet—any smaller and it would qualify as an alleyway—a shadow seemed to break off from the wall and hit the street with a thud and a soft moan. Rekha squeaked, jerking backwards, watching the lump for any further movement. When it didn’t seem inclined to do so, the tiny woman cautiously crept forwards, hugging her thick shawl tightly. Upon closer examination, the bundle turned out to be a very tall man. He had fallen sideways across the cobblestones and looked like he’d hit his head on the opposite wall, probably eliciting the groan she had heard (as if falling on cobblestones wouldn’t do that anyway).

“Sir?” Rekha tentatively asked, creeping forwards. There was no response, audible or otherwise, so Rekha continued her approach until she was within a foot or two of the man. “Are you alright?” she asked again, examining him closely. The light here wasn’t as good as in the larger streets, but a small, dim lightstone behind her gave her enough to see by. The man didn’t look terribly old, had dark hair and… very pale skin. Almost worryingly pale, in fact. Rekha glanced over the rest of him, and noticed a dark stain seeping through his jacket. Frozen for a moment, she panicked, imagining the worst. Forcing herself out of it, she cautiously reached out and pulled the jacket aside with a shaking hand. More liquid, probably red, had marred the man’s shirt. Rekha pulled her hand backwards, pressing it against her mouth. Think, think, think, she commanded herself, focusing on her breathing. Right! There was an emergency box positioned right on the corner at the opposite end of this street, she remembered, only a few meters away.

Rekha looked the man’s prone body, then set down her nearly-empty basket by his head and draped her shawl over it. She moved away a touch, and took a scampering leap over him, and broke into a full-out run, nearly tripping over herself when she tried to stop at the box.

Grabbing the microphone, she hit the button several times, as if that would help anything. “London Emergency Services,” a voice rasped out of the grill above the button. “There’s a man in the street; he’s unconscious—I don’t know, he might be dead—and he’s covered in blood and I think he needs an ambulance—”

“Are you at station 4116c?” The voice, perfectly calm, broke her off. “Yessir,” Rekha replied.

“An ambulance will be there shortly. Please stay with the man, but refrain from moving him.” With a click, the transmission was cut off.

Rekha took a deep breath and leaned against the wall, pressing her fists against the cold stone. Calm down, she told herself. She’d done what she could; she’d called for help and that’s all there was too it.

Turning, Rekha forced herself to calmly walk back down the street and stad next to the man, leaning back against the wall, looking anywhere but at him. A few moments later, an ambulance did indeed show up, and Rekha moved out of the way so they could take the stranger. Before they had a chance to take him away, a police officer and an automaton showed up, and tried asking her a few questions.

“May I go with him?” she’d asked. Her request had been granted and, gathering her things, she was lead to the officer’s coach and taken to the hospital. The man was immediately rushed behind swinging doors while she and the officer were taken to another room where he questioned her.

She then sat in the waiting area for what seemed like an eternity, staring at the floor. A doctor came out and informed her that the man had had to undergo surgery, and notified her that a bullet had been removed from the wound. Rekha requested that the man be given access to anesthetics which was granted, after all of her information was collected and checked to ensure that she could indeed pay for them—or rather, her father could. She and the officer then had another little chat, given that bullets, or solid projectiles in general, were by and large illegal. When she was released, the man had been moved to a room on one of the higher-security floors. No one wanted him to slip away before a few questions could be asked.

A nurse asked her, then, if she would like to stay and Rekha wearily indicated she would, her nervous energy mostly spent. Entering the man’s room, she sat herself on the chair and stared at the wall, after glancing at him briefly. Idly, it occurred to her that she’d miss Sunday service. Ms Robinson would probably forgive her, though. Hadn’t their Lord healed the sick (and thus visited them) on the day of rest? With that thought, Rekha drifted off to sleep.

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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Fri May 17, 2013 10:13 pm

Sir.

Sir, are you alright?

Darkness.



Waking up is a process. The voices came first; or the lack of them, like a buzzing of cotton in his ears. Touch came last, because no one was touching him. Sight was closed off because Thomas would not open his eyes. But he felt and assessed as well as he could, and he noticed: disembodiment around the abdomen, cold smoothness (metal railing) next to slick cloth (cheap linen with a little treatment to make it easily cleaned) and this was over him, a blanket. Someone was breathing softly a small ways to his left, and there was a constant droning as of machinery (the buzzing cotton); for one dreadful moment he feared that he was in Europe Four—they had such sleek, elegant torture chambers. They would heal a man just to wrack information from him later. And he smelled antiseptic cleanliness, like their medical bear-traps.

Cautiously, he opened his left eye as barely as he might while seeing, to know who breathed: a young woman, red-haired like Jonathan, curled up in a chair. That is not familiar raiment. Thomas now opened both eyes fully and roamed the room with gaze alone, taking stock and trying to know where he was. This cannot be World Four. It is not London One, or World One for that matter, he thought with a pang of contrition (Roberts, Cheverell! Be safe!), And it is not Three, Two, or Five, because they are too primitive. Glancing down, he saw needles plunged into his arms, and again he glanced at the girl. They have antiseptics here and anesthesia. Countries in Worlds Four, Two, Seven, Nine, and Ten have this technology. But if this were Ten, I would be dead. His eyes settled on the door out of his room and on the white walls, the white ceiling. It wasn’t showy, but in light embossing there was scrollwork in a script he didn’t recognize. Do they speak English here? Is this even Britain? The girl had seemed English enough but perhaps—I haven’t been in World Seven in a month. The Saracens had been in Gallaecia but perhaps they made it to…

What am I thinking? Thomas closed his eyes, willing back a wave of ill humor. World Seven might have Arabic in Europe but these scrawls aren’t Arabic ,and Europe Five is a miracle of science to them, let alone intravenous drug delivery…

He wasn’t afraid that he did not know where he was, and not too many agents would have felt fear—what use are panickers in a military unit? But it made him too aware of his vulnerability. “Excuse me miss,” he said softly, a little hoarse (he needed water badly), and changing his manners from high society to lower-class. He wanted to seem polite and a little stupid. Fortunately he caustically quipped, it won’t be too hard to take on the latter. He didn’t move; the anesthesia made his limbs loose and relaxed. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “but I don’t know where this place is. Would you please tell me? I—I have a pounding headache. It’s hard to think.” He hoped she spoke English.
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by ShadowPhoenix on Sun May 19, 2013 1:33 am

Sparks flowed all around her as Rekha watched, entranced. She had never seen their like before; they glittered and glowed with a nigh-holy aura and sounded like the soft tinkling of crystal, a warm summer breeze, and a soft hum, all combined into one gentle, shifting tune. They were marvellous, and somehow felt right.

This must be what finding your sparks feels like, Rekha mused. All spark users, even those who could channel multiple sparks, had an affinity for a certain type of spark. For most spark users who could channel only one type, this was the only kind they could access. This spark type, for those with abilities to sense more than one, was what they could find and manipulate the easiest and was described as being the most physically pleasant type to work with.

This wasn’t the first time she’d had such a dream; her specific affinity had yet to be discovered, though she’d been desperately searching for years now. Everyone said that, once you found it, you just knew it was yours, but Rekha sometimes feared she’d missed it somehow.

“Excuse me miss,” a voice slid into her dream—for a dream it must be; the sparks were odd, somehow, not quite touched by stones nor the surroundings, and were linked together in a rather solid way instead of floating about here and there. Rekha ignored the spoken words, not willing to leave this peaceful, though admittedly unrealistic, fantasy.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know where this place is,” the man’s voice persisted, “Would you please tell me? I—I have a pounding headache. It’s hard to think.”

<<I’m having a dream about sparks,>> Rekha mumbled in Hindi, letting the words slide over her without bothering to understand, shifting in the chair with the intent of rolling over. A sudden jerk flung her awake as she slid off of it entirely, in spite of her attempt to catch herself. The woman stared at the piece of furniture in front of her, confused. The automaton stationed across the room asked, “Are you well, miss?”

“Yes. Please give me a moment,” she said, distractedly, pressing her palms against her eyes and attempting to shake the dregs of sleep from her mind.

Firstly, she obviously wasn’t in her parlor being woken by her father’s butler. Secondly… Ah. There had been a man and now they were in the hospice; he had just asked where they were, hadn’t he..?

Rekha stood up and brushed her skirt absently with one hand, the other still pressed against her eye. She was obviously still partly asleep, as the sparks still danced so tantalizingly in her mind. It would have to do. Turning around to where the stranger lay—she didn’t need to move anywhere since the room was so small—her mouth paused, partway open to answer his question.

The man was covered in sparks. No, the sparks were coming from him. Like they had been in her dream, they were strange, wonderful, and new. They had to be coming from him, she numbly acknowledged. The nurses had removed all of his personal effects, so he couldn’t have had a stone on him. Even if he had, these sparks evidently had never been in a stone, let alone have just come from one. And even if they felt like wild sparks, they were too clustered around him to have been such.

And the runes, the thought came, belatedly. They scrawled across the interior of the room—walls, ceiling, floor—keeping all sparks outside. They ensured that spark users didn’t strip the various stones used around the hospice, either accidentally or no. She could still see sparks bouncing off the perimeter of the room, but she couldn’t actively reach them nor feel them passively being drawn towards her.

Manners, some part of her mind prodded. Instantly her hand dropped to clasp the other one in front of her and her mouth shut for a brief moment before she gave the man an attempt at a cheerful smile. It probably looked at least a little bit nervous and distracted.

“My name is Rekha I-Callie Sandford,” she said, aborting the Isabelle before the first syllable was properly out, “We’re in St. John’s hospice, in London. I found you,” she couldn’t bring herself to add ‘covered in blood’, “and called an ambulance. You were in surgery for several hours, though the physician says you should recover after adequate rest,” she finished, helpfully. Her eyes drifted from his face then—she hadn’t really been looking directly at it to begin with, instead watching the sparks that spewed from inside of him and surrounded his body in a fuzzy outline—to follow the path of some as they passed through her and then back to him. She didn’t watch them the entire way; she didn’t need to. Spark users didn’t have to see sparks as they could simply sense them. Looking provided a lot more detail than this simple sensing, though. In addition, she was being horribly rude.

Focusing intently on the man’s face, she pressed her right thumb into the heel of her opposite palm, just in case. It somewhat hurt. She wasn't still dreaming.

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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Sun May 19, 2013 11:17 am

We’re in St. John’s hospice, in London. I found you and called an ambulance.” She spoke with unfocused eyes and Thomas wondered curiously if, perhaps, the girl was blind. It was a shame about the ambulance, because once a man was on the radar it was a trial to get off, and possibly the effort would be greater than it was worth. A similar circumstance with Edward Belgrave that had brought him to the antiseptic hells of Manchester Four. “You were in surgery for several hours, though the physician says you should recover after adequate rest.

“I should hope-,” Ah! She was looking at him now! Not blind after all. “-so.” With his legs upraised slightly to tent the linen so that his motions couldn’t be seen through the cloth, Thomas pulled out the long needles. I hope to God the pain will not be too great. Softly, he added, “Thank you for your kindness.” As Blackmore’s fingers brushed his pockets for the thaumatogauge, he came to a cold, striking realization: he had no thaumatogauge.

“Miss Sandford,” he said with a tremble, struggling to sit upright—he legs were leaden from the drugs and his head thick. “Miss Sandford, this is very, very important and I’m so sorry, but it isn’t going to make much sense to you.” He was looking around the room, heart hammering in such fear he might almost swoon again. Not by the bed, not on the table, not next to her, was there a safe for his clothes? Can I trust this girl? Could he risk not trusting her?

“I’m in danger,” he whispered to her, “terrible danger, and the man who shot me might be here. And I swear on my life that if he is here, he will not hesitate to destroy what stands before him. I have a coat, a black greatcoat. You probably saw me wearing it.” His cheeks flushed with red colour as he briefly imagine the other possibility—that he hadn’t had enough strength or magic to make it to this world with anything but himself—and then he paled, because that would leave Léandre with the thaumatogauge that had taken such irreplicable circumstances to make. “If—if that were the case,” he continued “in the right-side pocket there will be a glass bauble, a small one. Two gold bands cross each other and a golden obelus pierces through, suspending two oblong discs, one greater than the other. Please, bring it here. Or look at it, tell me if the discs are spinning, and don’t let anyone take it or know it exists.”
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by ShadowPhoenix on Sun May 19, 2013 1:19 pm

“Miss Sandford, this is very, very important and I’m so sorry, but it isn’t going to make much sense to you. I’m in danger,” the man said, somewhat frantically looking around for something. Rekha moved forward in an attempt to help him sit up, but aborted the action ere it began. She was far too small to help a giant such as he. Her lips parted to tell him she’d go fetch the nurse, when he continued, “I have a coat, a black greatcoat. …In the right-side pocket there will be a glass bauble, a small one. Two gold bands cross each other and a golden obelus pierces through, suspending two oblong discs, one greater than the other." Rekha frowned at him; he was describing some sort of stone-driven contraption, which wouldn’t work in here. Obviously this man had never been in a ward such as this. “Please, bring it here. Or look at it, tell me if the discs are spinning, and don’t let anyone take it or know it exists.”

As the man finished, Rekha cut in quickly, in case he decided to keep talking before she could respond to anything—or, perhaps, before the anaesthetic kept talking for him.

“You’ll be safe here,” she said, soothingly. “You’re in the secure ward and, in addition, the police are making sure extra precautions are taken since…” well, there was no easy way around this, really, “…since you were shot with a bullet.”

Rekha then glanced at the wall straight ahead. The automaton stood there, patiently, in case of any physical emergency, either to protect the man or herself. Behind it, and all around her, she again noted the sparks bouncing off the runes and going about their way. They seemed so simple and plain now.

Returning her gaze to the man, she continued, vaguely gesturing to the room around them. “You can’t bring spark-driven objects in here. These runes keep them out, and pull sparks out of anything brought in. The exception,” here she motioned at the automaton, “occurs only when stones are surrounded by a significant amount of their own runework, creating a, a bubble, I suppose, that the sparks float around in but cannot leave.” Here her eyes drifted again to watch a thread of the man’s sparks—it was so odd to think of sparks belonging to a person, and she wasn’t sure if she actually believed it herself—and she reluctantly looked at the invalid. Perhaps she was going mad herself, or being deprived of sparks was causing her to see things.

“I’ll go find a nurse, though, and you can ask her to return your coat,” she concluded. Yes, it would be best to leave this room, to feel the sparks, her sparks, flow through her instead of imagining she were polishing the impossible.

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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Mon May 20, 2013 1:53 pm

Meanwhile, back in the opium dock warehouse


Jump, Tom, jump you idiot, why are you still here—
I can’t, he’s blocking me, Thomas roared back into the link, and Jonathan’s blood ran cold but Francis roared right back, THEN RUN, DAMN YOU!

As he spoke, Francis fired all his rounds at Léandre then stooped to re-load, while Jonathan ran against Bordelon and muscled him with a thump to the wall. Something fell with a clink as he did so—but the magician had already magicked to meters away, then hopped back as Francis’s bullets clipped his shoulder, red blood blooming on sanguine cloth. Even with the combined effort of Roberts and Cheverell, Bordelon ran as untouchable as a pagan god—preternatural speed, unholy anger—he dashed around and over and past their bullets and fire, slowed but not stopped. Jonathan wanted to howl in fury at the sight of the French and English magicians; Léandre was gaining ground with every hindered step and Thomas looked like nothing so much as a hare about to be snapped up by a lion.

Léandre leveled his pistol, and with an inhuman bellow, Roberts sprinted towards him just as Francis pounced from out of sight and tackled the Frenchman. The shot rang foul and they saw Blackmore crumple soundlessly over his side; then he was gone. Gone, gone, gone. “Frank,” Jonathan shouted fiercely, “I owe you a drink for that!” But he did not smile; instead, Jonathan Roberts whispered a prayer for his wife, Mary, and their four lovely children. For now, there was no Agent Blackmore to divert the attention of Jean Bordelon, and the two magicians left could match Léandre no more than a pair of basset hounds could match a wolf.

On the instant, two shots rang out—one for Roberts, one for Cheverell. Both agents dodged and as Jonathan wreathed himself in flames (the harder to catch him) he came eye-to-eye with a shining glass object on the ground. That was what made such a chinking noise, he thought, pocketing Thomas’s thaumatogauge and turning just in time to see Léandre calmly shooting Cheverell in the knee. So that Frank can’t monkey away.

Flinty eyes, as cold as chipped ice, peered into the heart of the magical conflagro. Léandre hissed over the pained scream from Francis, “Stay here, M. Roberts.” His English was sibilant and susurrated with the overtones of French. “I’ll not hurt you or your partner, should you comply.”

He lies, Francis thought, grimacing and looking aside at the hand of the enemy rested comfortably on his shoulder.

I know. Jonathan swallowed and sat down. I’ve the thaumatogauge. Keep him occupied, wherever he takes you. I must get it to Matthew. Cheverell’s eyes went wide, not at the news but at the pain as Bordelon thoughtlessly shifted him to standing upright on his ruined knee. Fifteen minutes. Maybe. Be swift, Jon.


In the wake of their absence, Roberts collected himself and with one hand pressed upon the thaumatogauge in his pocket, he began to run. The wharfs and ferries of London Ten were occasionally falling to pieces and even more occasionally, paved with precious metals as a tribute to some pagan belief. So as he ran—not pausing once for breath—Jonathan’s steps alternated between a series of cracking as rotten wood splintered beneath his heavy steps, and tinking as his shoes clattered over gilded wood. The city had been expanded beyond the lovely Isle of Britain so that it extended over the sea, with rafts and curraghs acting in place of the standard horse-and-buggy of terrain. The magician did not bother to hail down any of these—the masters would want money and time, no doubt. So with a resourcefulness that would have better been manifest in Cheverell, he leapt from dock to ferry, then from ferry to raft, curragh, raft, and back onto solid planking. His trail was one of disregarded screams and fluttering hands.

It must have been half a league that he ran before Roberts consented to steal a horse, whipping out a long knife better used for butchery from the recesses of his jacket and sawing through the leather carriage harnesses in several quick strokes. As the coachman came running out of his house to accost the thief, Roberts casually cocked a pistol that had been holstered above his chukkas, not sparing the servant so much as a glower. He mounted the horse bareback and spurred it into a pell-mell gallop.

Matthew Payman lived in a red-brick home with a mahogany door, where he had a sigil of roses carved over the lintel like so many affluent people in this city did. Roberts flung himself from the horse and stumbled into the door, a blow that served as a knock. “Oh, just a moment, just a moment!” A bustling, elderly housekeeper opened the door. She took one look at the red-haired, blood-covered, soot-stained and torn-coated man at the doorstep and screamed her way into a dead faint.

“Mrs. Pembroke!” A deeper voice called from within. The affected Mrs. Pembroke came to and scuttled away in a tizzy, squalling for Mr. Payman. “What-,” and a most familiar face that Jonathan hadn’t seen in five years burst through the door.

“You son of Abaddon,” he breathed. “Get out of here! Go!

“Wait, Matthew,” Jonathan grabbed his sleeve.

“No!” The retired agent gave him a sharp shove backwards. “I left that world and whatever it is that Blackmore wants, tell him I’ll have no part of it—now go!” His Persian eyes spat venom. “Léandre is tracking you, isn’t he? Get out, Roberts. You won’t be safe here and I have washed my hands of all that. My hand,” he growled. The left arm was a stump at the elbow. As he started to close the entry, Jonathan flung himself between door and jamb, and shoved the thaumatogauge into Matthew’s pocket.

“Recognize that pretty trinket, Payman?” He snarled, glowering from beneath his brows. “Tom doesn’t send his regards, I do, and you’ll pass them on to him or I’m a dead man. He knows you stole his own thaumatogauge after you were released from service, so don’t pretend you won’t know when he’s in town. Now,” Roberts slithered out of the tight embrace of door and frame, though he caught the door to finish, “I’ll go. Far from here, don’t you worry your head, sandman. I’ve no intention of letting Bordelon net you and I both.”

Matthew Payman leaned against the door, pale and shaken. Outside he heard a “hyah!” and the sound of galloping hooves growing faint. With trembling fingers, he withdrew the glass ball from his pocket. He’d never actually held it before—few men had—but he had seen Thomas use it time after time, when they were lounging in his study all out of ideas (Benjamin trying to flirt with Sarah under Thomas’s forbidding gaze, she as unmoved as Penelope), or on a trail around the worlds. Now it was in his hands, that innocent little sphere of glass and gold. It was warm, almost hot; he’d expected it would be cool. For an object of such importance, it seemed less imposing while it was cupped in his smooth palm, as though a mystery had been stripped of its secrets. He curled his fingers over the bauble and closed his eyes as the long rings begin to spin. The thaumatogauge hummed in his hand.

When it stopped, he opened his hand again, gazing sadly at the little thing. In Persian, he whispered a quiet oath: “khak bār sāret, khang-ē Sheytan.” May you be cursed and killed for a devil, Blackmore.
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Mon May 20, 2013 6:21 pm

Back in St. John’s Hospital


For all his poor spirits, Thomas had to try to not laugh when Rekha spoke so carefully about the bullet. What else could I have been shot with? He thought, bemused. Surely arrows were out of the question in a civilization that appeared as advanced as this—a thought that struck him when he followed her eyes to a mechanical contraption by the opposite wall. But as if to explain something of his missing clothes and the thaumatogauge, Rekha Callie Sandford continued, “You can’t bring spark-driven objects in here. These runes keep them out, and pull sparks out of anything brought in. The exception,” she pointed helpfully at the mechanical contraption, “occurs only when stones are surrounded by a significant amount of their own runework, creating a, a bubble, I suppose, that the sparks float around in but cannot leave.

‘I don’t understand’, Thomas almost said, but he bit his tongue and perforce tried to absorb as much as he could. When Rekha offered to get a nurse for him, he thanked her and added, “would I be able to speak with this nurse about—,” he waved his hand across the room, trying to keep the pain and bewilderment out of his eyes and failing. “-sparks? I… I don’t remember anything about them. I’m not sure I even remember where I came from. I don’t feel safe here. I don’t remember anything that’s happened to me, only what the man looked like and what he said right before he shot me, and…” He swallowed hard.

“I’m sorry, Rekha-- Miss Sandford,” he confessed with a meek half-laugh. "Here I am and you've spent the night beside me, a complete stranger... and I just can't seem to stop talking." He leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes. “Sorry,” he whispered, with a shuddering intake of breath. He turned away, waiting for Rekha to get the nurse.
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by ShadowPhoenix on Tue May 21, 2013 5:22 pm

“Would I be able to speak with this nurse about sparks?” Rekha nearly choked at that. How could someone forget what sparks were? Forgetting that would be like forgetting how to speak; it was little wonder the invalid couldn’t remember his own name, then.

“I’m talking too much, and you have already helped—such a good deal!—enough that I can’t ask you to let me talk off your ears too.” Rekha blinked, pulled out of her own thoughts and stared at the man who had closed his eyes and turned his head. She felt a sudden twinge in her soul. Even if someone weren’t a channelor, their entire world revolved around, was founded, around sparks. Not only did it give the channelors jobs, but it gave rise to machinery used in everything from simple heaters to automatons and chimera laboratories. This man desperately needed help, and she briefly prayed he’d be able to get it.

Rekha looked at the door and bit her lip. She wanted to leave, badly. It hurt to look at these sparks that didn’t exist, hurt to know her fantasies were so desperate as to impinge upon the waking world. And she was scared. If this sensation didn’t go away—if she still sensed these sparks, even after she left this room—then she was going mad. And if she were mad enough to see and hear these sparks, and to know them to be unreal solely by dint of one little fact, how could she know what else in her life was naught but a spectre?

Rekha pressed the back of her hand against her mouth and shut her eyes. She wanted to run out of this room, just to check if her sanity had abandoned her. But… there was a man there—in the world beyond her eyelids—who had been badly injured, regardless of whether she were slightly touched or not. The nurses would only be able to provide vague, superficial answers to any questions he had about sparks. She could do a lot more to, in that way, at least, set his mind at ease.

Taking a deep breath, Rekha opened her eyes and pulled her chair up. She then collected a book from the bottom of her handbasket. Fortunately, it discussed powerstone preparation and runes. It was in Hindi which the man might or might not have great familiarity with; it didn’t really matter, she supposed, since she intended to speak to him instead of have him read it.

In a business-like tone, she said, “Sparks are, simply put, energy. They come from one of two places: the environment or stones, usually termed powerstones.” Unless, of course, they’re from you which is beyond impossible and only exists in my head. “There are a large number of subtypes of each, many more than have been properly classified. Each subtype can be used for a different type of work. For example, there are sparks that can be used to …” here she propped open the book on the edge of his bed and opened a page at random, “levitate airships,” she pointed to the depiction of sparks surrounding a powerstone, “or heat,” she said, paging to an entirely different part of the tome.

“About two thirds of spark types are naturally found in the environment—also called wild-type, in case you were wondering. The rest are found and formed in certain types of stones that are eventually carved, refined, and processed into powerstones. Most sparks, wild-type or not, can be utilized for a number of different applications with varying degrees of efficiency.”

“As for stones,” Rekha said, looking at the man solemnly, “a good summary is that there are a number of different kinds of rocks and gems that can be used. On to runes and runecircles,” she said, tapping the open page to redirect his attention back to the diagram. It had the sparks drawn near the top of the page, a larger than necessary stone, and the abbreviated word form of the runes used to make said stone written in small, neat letters along the bottom half of the page.

“Runes direct the sparks so something actually happens, and happens exactly like you want it to. Stones, as part of their processing treatment, are written with an initial set of runes that determines its life purpose. This can be changed later in time, but takes a lot of effort and a very skilled channelor. Once the stone has undergone all of its processing, it needs to be filled with sparks in order to do anything. Over time, it will eventually gather sparks, but we’ll all be long dead by the time even a small stone—” she balled one hand into a fist to demonstrate “—gathers half its spark capacity. So channelors fill them. In order to help speed up this process, channelors make another series of runes—colloquially called runecircles, though technically any circular set of runes count—that help gather the sparks, making it significantly easier and safer for a channelor to fill a stone.” This was accompanied by her turning the page to a diagram of a basic runecircle, meant to serve as a weak touching point for practically any kind of spark.

Now Rekha looked at him, searchingly. She had heard that sometimes a person’s memory returned when confronted with the forgotten topic. If his had, she didn’t want to keep talking and repeating things he would know very well by now. If he hadn’t… well, she had a lot more she could remind him about, and a fair amount he wouldn’t have known in the first place.

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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Fri May 24, 2013 6:47 pm

“You’re talking too fast,” Thomas tried to say as the young woman launched into a thick description of the the nature of ‘sparks’. She bowled over him but did slow down-- speeding up incrementally as she continued. It was immediately evident that Thomas had in her a connoisseur of the craft, and when she was done with all explanation and expecting his reaction, he was slightly disappointed to have to shake his head and give her an apologetic half-smile. “No dice,” he said thickly. An ache was creeping up his side. “I--.”

He wasn’t sure why he did it, but the sudden onset of pain rushed Thomas to his feet, clutching his abdomen and trying not to shriek. Face red, veins bulging in his neck and a sweat breaking out across his brow, he stumbled to the door and tried to open it-- forgetting in the grip of agony that there were runes scrawled all over it. Why in Christ’s name did I pull out the damned needles! Of course he had not expected Rekha, had not expected her to stay, and had been anticipating her disappearing for a nurse-- giving him time to jump unseen. But now he saw he had not the strength to so much as unlock a door, and he slammed body and fists against it uselessly. “Damn it!” he roared, only he had lost awareness of his own voice and of the cold, metal grip around his arms-- and of being dragged backwards to bed, and of Rekha’s frightened scream-- and was rapidly becoming disembodied of mind, aware that there was too much pressure in his chest and dimly half-thinking his head was about to burst like a melon--- and then he lost consciousness again.

When he came to again, Thomas tried to rise and found he couldn’t even sit upright; his arms were strapped to the bed. Blinking against too-bright lights, the agent turned his head and thickly muttered “Rekha?” It wasn’t her in the corner this time. It was a man, a big, burly man who looked as though he might give Thomas a fair fight when the agent was in decent condition. “Ah. Officer.” The gentleman didn’t speak, although his plumed mustache twitched and he leaned forward. Thomas sighed; some plans rarely ever manage to start or end well.


Blackmore endeavoured at least five more times to leave during that night, lying motionless and willing for the magic to be sufficient; there were officers around the clock now, and he couldn’t hope to make another essay at the door. It was useless, and the law enforcers were not the conversationalists that Rekha Sandford had been. At one point, Thomas had thought he would die of fear-- his thaumatogauge was not among his effects (he had applied such pressure on the matter that eventually the nurses attending him acquiesced to examine his garments for the bauble). It must have been anticipated that the strange man would try to escape on the news, as the nurses returned not only with the information, but also with morphine, of which they gave him such a large dose that his senses fled for the next few hours (some good came of all this; the police were willing to treat him as a victim rather than a perpetrator, and Blackmore gave them as thorough a description of Bordelon as they would need).

It would end up being three days total that Thomas Blackmore was sequestered in the strange new world, which gave him much time to think on it, to fret over his abandoned partners, and to ask for a Bible so that in the event that he said something untowards and the hospital staff might think him mad-- well, he’d rather not be seen as a blighted soul. He knew from inquiry that the year was 1873 and he knew, from his own world, how terrible being committed to an asylum would be; best to make himself seem properly devout, and just hit quite hard on the noodle.

He was reading this bible on the second day when Rekha came back, and on the third day as well. Their conversations were long (what else was there for a man, feigning devastating amnesia and restrained to his bed, to do?). On one or two instances Thomas let slip something he hadn’t thought would be a problem-- Rekha didn’t know what cats were and when he spoke of grassy fields she gave him the queerest look, then asked if the drugs were addling him, did he think?-- but he managed to salvage the stuation, turning it into a bedtime story he remembered from him father. In truth, Agent Blackmore had never met his sire; but the nameless vagabond that Miss Sandford found on the streets might as well have one. For want of personal material, Thomas relied heavily on his day-to-day experiences with Jonathan. It was not ideal. Each time prevarication was forced, he felt another surge of panic. The last man to have died for him had been killed slowly and exactingly by Leandre. He’d bite his lip, close his eyes, and pretend a headache while he determined, all the more strongly, to not waste a minute as soon as he set foot in his own Britain again.

It was on the evening of the third night that Blackmore tried again. He’d had a long day made a little easier towards the end by Rekha. I’m truly sorry, madam, that I could not stay longer for you. Flexing his wrists, Thomas strained against the restraints-- then he sat up straight, smiling to himself as he held them in his palm. The needles came out too. He frowned then; he needed to check his clothes himself. Cautiously (and with a sense of inner relief, for proud man that he was, it had been grating to be treated as a vagrant and a weakling by the policemen-- in his own world, he was so far above such a petty office) , Blackmore reached for his magic. The response of it thrilled him. He turned up in a room of safe-locked cabinets and found the one for his room. Opening it by transporting the lock’s tumblers to another dimension (tricked learned unhappily from the Bordelons), Thomas swung the door open and rifled through his effects himself. Of course it was not easy; he had to raise his arms and for his bullet-wound’s stitches, that was a strain delivered too soon. The threads snapped, more a sound than a feeling while the painkillers were still in effect. Come now, here’s the shirt, coat, vest, trousers... He grit his teeth; true enough, there was no thaumatogauge. Frowning, he disrobed and began pulling on his own clothes, ears primed for the sounds of approaching others. He smiled to hear it, when he did-- it was as he finished buttoning his last cuff. Rubbing his hands together, Thomas took a deep breath, and as the door to this room of safes was thrown open and a team of officers rushed forwards to apprehend him, Agent Blackmore jumped into the void and was beyond them.


Thomas stumbled into his own livingroom, heedless of a maid’s scream as she dropped a trayful of scones and tea. Soft white hands grabbed him and he looked up, dazed by Sarah’s dark eyes swimming in a halo of light and sound. She was speaking sharply and more hands-- Forester!-- grabbed him, and then he shook his head, struggled to stand, and lost consciousness for the third time in as many days.

London 1906

Agent Blackmore sat straight and let the ink cool. He was satisfied with what he’d drawn up; twelve pages all told, part of it in shorthand, and with the details of he and Rekha’s conversations largely intact. Those were some of the most valuable insight he had into this new World 11. As soon as the ink lost its wetness, he folded the leaves into his waistcoat and rose. He would find his jacket and hat, get to the agency, and he would save his partners if he could.
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Mon May 27, 2013 5:31 pm

Once comfortably settled, the magician leaned back with a sigh. The chauffeur didn’t try to speak with him today. Each pothole and cobble of the road made him smart, even on the healed bullet wound, as the new muscles were so cramped and tight. He tapped the head of his walking stick thoughtfully, staring out the window.

Thomas seemed, to the common eye, to be a perfectly normal English gentleman. At six and a half feet, he was usually the tallest figure in a room, but his mother had been strict with her rod and as such, her offspring had never developed that slight slouch of the shoulder that other tall men generally exhibited. When not occupied with his work, he was a sportsman and a fireside scholar. There was a certain spark of the north to his visage, which was perhaps a bit long and milky fair, the sort of fairness that would only burn in the sun. Black hair trimmed in a longer, dandyish fashion was combed neatly back, and the clothes he wore were of excellent quality, if simple in their cut. Thanks to Sarah’s peerless ability as a wife and manager of the household, Thomas’s disregard for tidiness and the state of his wardrobe rarely was apparent, bar his adamantly private study.

However, the sheer ordinariness of his manner belied the truth of his work. England had many magicians, and most of them were useless. Those that were not useless generally found their magic useless, as it could not earn them their daily bread and butter. Thomas Blackmore was neither of these. Talent had been measured in him from birth and by the time he was four, the young Blackmore took his first step into another world. It had been harrowing to find himself transported from his family’s well-manicured, smooth lawn with their good-natured border collie, to a dark forest somewhere in Scotland. After he’d managed to get back home, however, and had had several days of bawling into his mother’s skirts, he found that the talent was not so bad. Thus it was that the King and Parliament heard of a strange little boy who could skip from his home in Manchester to the mountains of Alsace in a heartbeat. An agency existed which found such skills terribly useful.

They called themselves the third division of military intelligence, but the arcane and the military rarely found themselves mixed together. A more accurate description of this royally commissioned department would be that it monitored the movements of magic in and out of the country, be it malicious or benign. Officer Blackmore, honoured and decorated Chief Special Agent of International Affairs, dealt with the former. Magic was not always necessary to complete a task, but it was always what was dealt with. Dr. John D. Forester, the Directorate of Thaumaturgical Intelligence, headed Division Three with an iron resolution well-disguised in external warmth and fatherliness. Criminology had been his first passion in life, as he’d found he had a knack for following the threads of a case to a seamless conclusion, and it wasn’t until he’d obtained a doctorate in the field and was being engaged by Scotland Yard that Forester realized the truth of his infallible intuitions. Through his efforts and those of a few well-connected colleagues, Division Three was established.



“…And that concludes my report.” Thomas was standing partially undressed in his office, as a medical magician, Arkady Rudin, had removed his waistcoat and ascot, and unbuttoned his shirt to facilitate his ministrations (Thomas should have appeared disheveled, but Rudin was so fastidious that Blackmore seemed composed even in such a state). The concussion had been relieved, and with small, deft motions of the fingers, something of the muscular tightness was allayed as well. Two men sat in relative physical comfort as this process was conducted, both of them his superiors: the DTI, Dr. Forester, and the Deputy Directorate, Israel Tyson. They made a contrast to eachother, the first man being big and broad, with a full beard only just beginning to show his age in streaked grey, and a thatch of reddish chestnut hair that was thinning at the pate. Tyson was gaunt, almost tall, and therefore spindly as well, with a pedantic expression to his aged face and a thin pencil mustache, no other facial hair, and a thick thatch of steel-grey, well-groomed hair on his head. Tyson was also slightly darker and although he was old, there was a hint of athleticism yet in his frame.

“It is a fascinating one,” Tyson murmured in his gravelly voice. “You cannot return to this London, then?”

“Inspector Tyson, I cannot,” Thomas twitched involuntarily as Rudin slapped him on the side. “You are well, agent!” he proclaimed, as though he had just treated a thoroughbred and found it fit for racing. “If you do not stretch, it will hurt, and if you do not take runs—if you move infrequently. So do both!” He said all this with a thick Russian accent, and bid goodbye with such a unique informality that Thomas smiled at his back.

“As I had been saying,” Thomas resumed, “I cannot. My primary imperative at the moment, unless Britain wishes otherwise, is the retrieval of agents Cheverell and Roberts.”

“Blackmore,” Tyson said sharply, “you do realize they are probably dead?”

“Oh!” Dr. Forester interrupted with an airy wave of his great hand, “I think it is a little soon to say so yet. Agent, I am deeply disturbed by the loss of Léandre Bordelon’s thaumatogauge, and my first order is that you retrieve it—if possible—before you pursue the retrieval of agents Cheverell and Roberts.”

Thomas nodded quickly, hiding his upset by turning away as he dressed himself. Hershing, the man who could make the trinkets, had created six thaumatogauges monitoring Thomas, Francis and Jonathan’s movements in and out of world and country (a set of three for each respective category). It would have been a small matter for Thomas to take the indicators for his partners and use their signals to find where they were—even if it would leave him blind to Léandre’s movements. “From experience,” he said carefully, “I have found encounters with Bordelon to be rare; it is more than likely that Léandre, judging me to be either dead or biding my time, would be chary of crossing my path again, and so he would have a passel of loyalists to intercept me, rather than making it personal.” That just made Tyson seem angry. “But,” Thomas murmured, “I recognize that the thaumatogauge for Léandre is irreplicable. With your leave, inspectors, I would like to review the ranks of magicians and select a new Left and Right from them.”

“Send us a report by evening, Thomas,” Tyson warned, rising. He nodded briskly. Thank God they weren’t telepaths.
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by ShadowPhoenix on Tue May 28, 2013 7:12 pm

Wednesday, April 19, 1873, London

The day had started exceptionally early, before dawn, with Elizabeth knocking on her door, then coming to shake her awake when Rekha failed to appear, fully dressed, immediately. The maid rushed her through her morning routine, all but forcing Rekha into her clothes with a frantic sense of urgency. She wasn’t terribly chatty but did tell Rekha that the police were here and they had requested her presence. Rekha felt a sliver of fear, then. She knew of no reason that the police should appear at her home at such an hour.

The officer in the coach—a serious, foreboding man—simply told her that there had been an incident at the hospital and she had been called for. Rekha’s thoughts immediately flew to the man—whom everyone called Mr Smith—and she clutched her shawl tighter around herself. The rest of the trip was spent in silence, though her mind whirred and the trickle of fear grew. Had Mr Smith’s condition worsened? Had his attacker somehow found him? Had he remembered something utterly terrible? She couldn’t think of a reason she should be awakened at such an hour if it were due to the latter, but one never knew.

Upon arrival, she was taken to the ward Mr Smith was kept in. There were more automatons than there had been before, and the doors to the ward opened to reveal a mill of personnel, from the hospital, police force, and Ministry of Spark Administration and Research. Rekha suddenly found she couldn’t swallow. Something had undoubtedly happened to the runes in the patient’s room and they were going to blame her and—

“Miss Gunnerkind, it is a pleasure to meet you,” a woman said, breaking away from a conversation. She was of average height, with dark brown hair that had begun to grey. Her face indicated her to be well into middle-age, though her light eyes were sharp and commanding. “My name is Dr Shannon Martin, local director of MSAR.” Rekha nodded weakly, feeling more than a little bit stunned. She was in a fair amount of trouble, then.

Dr Martin continued, guiding Rekha to a back hallway meant for the hospice staff. “The patient vanished from his room earlier today without anyone, human or automaton, taking note of his departure. As soon as this occurred, the officer currently on duty alerted security. Mr Smith was found in this room here—” Dr Martin gestured to the door they were about to pass through “—whereupon he managed to vanish again in front of several guards.”

They stepped into the room and Rekha’s legs went numb. Mr Smith’s sparks—no, the sparks that had been around him—had mostly filled the room. They clustered in a jagged column in front of a row of locked cabinets and had diffused through the room from there. They were significantly more faint than those Rekha had witnessed—dying, a thought surfaced in her blank mind—but were still present. Rekha made a strangled sound in her throat, causing Dr Martin and a man she hadn’t noticed to pause whatever dialogue they had begun and look at her. Rekha then realized the other man was like her, a channelor of all spark types.

Rekha darted out of the room, frantically looking around the floor still littered with people. There were officers, nurses, doctors, the police automatons as well as smaller ones used to collect and/or locate sparks, new runes covering the floor and carefully placed sheets of paper, etc. But there were only a handful of sparks like those in the room behind her that had leaked out before a barrier had been set up. Rekha scampered down the hall to Mr Smith’s room—old room, rather—trying in vain to see the sparks that simply weren’t there.

Rekha burst into the room, surprising two men bent over a crystal on the floor. It was a nigh perfectly preserved space, as the sparks could neither leave nor be affected by other sparks. In the hallway, there was nothing. Mr Smith's room, though, was almost exactly like the one she had just exited. A jagged cluster of sparks lay across his bed, and had radiated a small distance outwards. Rekha backed out of the room, still trying to sense those sparks outside. She knew she wouldn’t find them, had known from the moment she’d stepped on the ward, really. She bumped against the wall where she stayed, trembling.

Dr Martin had been standing to one side and, after a moment, said, “Ms Gunnerkind, would you please be so kind as to accompany one of my men back to the Ministry and answer a few questions, given your recent interactions with the patient?”

Rekha felt her throat constrict and hot tears well up. They thought this was her fault, somehow, that she had helped Mr Smith move from one side of the ward to another. There simply wasn’t any other explanation for it and, on top of it all, she were going mad and seeing sparks that didn’t exist. They would know she were, the moment she mentioned those sparks. The first tear trickled down her cheek, leading the way for its fellows.

Dr Martin remained silent for a moment, then drew her to a chair in the lobby area. She vanished and another man appeared. Sitting next to the quietly crying woman, he began to tell her what everyone had reported seeing. He also reported what the spark channelors—one of which had been the man in the safe-room—had seen, that they had also witnessed the impossible sparks. At this point Rekha lost all self-control and began to sob, overcome by the knowledge that she weren’t going mad.

The man then took her to a coach—after giving her his handkerchief, noting that hers was already quite damp—and accompanied her to the Ministry’s headquarters downtown. Here she was taken to a small waiting room. After a time, she was ushered into the small office of a Mr Morris. She remained with him until well after tea-time, telling him everything she remembered about Mr Smith and their discussions, as well as drawing and describing the sparks she had seen. Finally, she was taken to the main lobby and her waiting father, who whisked her away to his manor.

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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Tue May 28, 2013 8:42 pm

“Halloran!” Thomas barked. A pudding-faced, genial man of middle age swept in at the sharp summons. “Mr. Blackmore,” he greeted. “Such a pleasure to see you-“

“Give these to agents Carthy and Goldfein,” he snapped. These were names he'd had ready a long time ago. Both of the men had had chances to meet with and work alongside Agent Blackmore, just not in the field-- not in other worlds. Secretary Halloran, obedient paper-boy that he was, took the missives quickly and without further inquiry; he was really one step away from a butler in manner, something which Thomas did not appreciate. “Send them my warmest regards and invite them to visit by my home, where my wife will happily receive them.” He smile without friendliness. “They’ll be joining one of the most dangerous families in the world. Might as well get the housewarming done-- while they last.”

“Too true, Mr. Blackmore,” Halloran agreed, as Tom pulled on his great coat and circumvented the need for further formality by jumping to his next agenda point. It was a room one floor up, a bit large and full of an organized whirring. The place was eclectic and decorated with framed photographs of unexpected things-- trees, leaves, buildings-- complimented in the appearance of the employees on the floor. Most magicians wore their hair longer than was strictly stylish and went clean-shaven. There was, as Thomas understood, a suitably pompous symbolism behind it (dithering about well-groomed, busy, he didn’t give a half-penny and simply knew he liked the look); this wasn’t the case with the gentlemen here, whose personal grooming would place them with the average lawyer or doctor. There was also a noticeable lack of women, desks, and clerical sterility. Indeed, with its glass-blowing tools, spools of metal thread, and artists with monocles working carefully at the analysis of various artifacts, it seemed much more like a craftshop. One man stood out, and Thomas made a beeline for him.

“Charlie!” He said genially. Although he had a profound distaste for Charles Hershing, he also had a profound need for the man’s cooperation. “I hope you’ve been well.”

“Officer Blackmore!” Agent, Thomas winced in his head. A slinky little magician with the angular weasliness of a ferret greeted him, one kink-fingered hand still holding up a pair of snub-nosed pliers. “Couldn’t have been worse than you, eh? Crikey!” He shook his head and put aside the pliers. “I tell ya, there’ll be some folks sore about the money downstairs, today. Pity about Frank, nice guy. Although,” he winked and went back to work, “there’s quite a few that won’t mind losing Jonny and his blasted column.”

An involuntary twitch curled Tom’s hands into fists. “I thought it was very well known by now that I do not enjoy having my partners be the subject of betting pools?” Thomas said, a little short.

“Oh, no doubt,” Hershing broke off as he affixed a little piece of silver to a needle. “But you know, they drop like flies with you. Gotta have a bit of fun with it or it’s all grim, like.”

“I imagine!” That was quite sharp; Charles glanced up briefly.

“Sorry, Blackmore,” he amended. “I know it’s not been the same for you. Guess you’re here for thaumatogauges? Who’re the new Left and Right?” He grinned that horrifically toothy grin of his again, and held up his delicate project. “Got a head start on you and began making two new ones the minute word got out that you were out cold, without Frank and Jonny.”

“Killian Carthy and Richard Goldfein,” Thomas replied, “but—“

“Dick?” The magician’s face lit up. “Oh, he’s a good one, Killian probably won’t last long though. Irish. Bit tetchy.”

“When I want your opini--,” Thomas passed a hand over his face. Sucking in air between his teeth, he exhaled and quickly said (before Hershing could start speaking again), “Charles, I need both of their thaumatogauges. Roberts and Cheverell. Léandre must have taken the one made for him, or else it fell, and I know he has my partners. Who,” he added, incapable of disguising a brief bite of venom, “may very well be alive. It’s better than nothing.” The logic: perhaps Léandre would bring along Cheverell or Roberts as a bargaining chip or hostage, should he wish to face Thomas. Certainly, it would be easy for him. He knew his staff would take his side, at least, so although he had every intention of leaving World 1 soon, they could be relied upon to argue for him, even against the formidable Tyson.

Thomas’s heart almost warmed towards Charles when the seedy creature pressed the silver-and-glass orbs of his partners’ thaumatogauges into his palms. In fine cursive filigree their full names were carved on both lateral and longitudinal bands: Jonathan Roland Roberts and Francis Cheverell. It was almost like a promise. No, Thomas thought, walking out of the agency, it is a promise.

“Sarah,” Thomas called gently, as the scenery changed from the workshop to his parlour, “sweetheart, may I speak with you?” There was no response. Gripping his cane, he walked on light feet to the boudoir, where his wife was curled up on a divan. Her bare feet were peeking out underneath the piled green cloth of her dress, which fell in fanned folds over chintz flowers and mahogany wood to an elegant Persian carpet. It had been a Christmas gift from Mahyar Peyvand, a Tajiki agent who preferred to pretend he was English. The entirety of Sarah’s rooms were like that, a mix of her personal tastes mingled with the intrusion of gifts from her husband’s colleagues (particularly those who lived to see a year in service). Belatedly, Thomas remembered that even that damask dress was a gift. It was from Ted. The corners of his mouth tightened; Sarah had meant a subtle message in wearing it. Here he’d thought it was because she knew he liked to see his wife in green, which brought out the limpid darkness of her eyes so well.

Mentally shaking himself into composure, Thomas knocked on the ajar door. “Sweetheart?” When Sarah did not respond again, Blackmore recognized that it wasn’t merely because the woman was so thoroughly entrenched in her reading that she’d failed to hear. She purposely ignored him. So, uninvited, he crossed the threshold and sat down beside her, taking her legs on his lap.

For a moment her heavy eyes flashed. Sarah’s fingers twitched on the book as though she debated moving to strike him or shift him away, but the firmness of her lips decided it. Sarah continued to ignore the man. “I know you’re upset with me,” Thomas murmured, running a hand up and down one of her slim ankles, “but please, my love, have patience with me. It’s been hard for more than just one of us.” He could, he knew, take her feet in his hands and cover them entirely. When they were newlyweds and just come back from a country trek through the snow, with their cheeks nipped red and her toes numb in their boots, he used to do just that. She’d marvel over how hot his hands were, after all that exposure to the winter wind.

And now you are as cold as winter yourself, Thomas thought. Clearing his throat, he broke through the reflectiveness and stated, “I’m promoting two new agents to rank under my direction. Replacements for Roberts and Cheverell. I thought, Sarah, that you would like to hear the details of it.” Now, although she didn’t yield to him, Thomas continued. She would be listening. “What happened in the opium docks was—well, Jonathan, Francis, and I were in London Ten. We knew Léandre would be there; there were signs of activity from his men across Asia and Europe showing that he’s trying to re-assert his fiscal control in Europe 10.”

“I was shot, Sarah, and he was blocking my every attempt to escape. Roberts and Cheverell covered my back while I, your husband, ran for his life. But, here’s the… the fly in the ointment, sweet.” His throat tightened and he swallowed. Circling her ankles with his fingers and releasing them, Thomas whispered, “I couldn’t use my magic. That’s why I was shot. Léandre had gotten the drop on us, and I wonder now if it was a set-up all along. I wanted to escape to the other worlds and come back for Francis and Jonathan, but I—I found that each effort left me in that London 10 warehouse. He was on the war path, my love, and in a moment of sheer panic, I pushed through the veil into a strange, strange new London.”

When he looked up again, Sarah had tucked aside her book and was observing her husband speak. Her lovely hands were crossed over her knees and her mouth was still stiff, but her eyes were softer now. Perhaps she thought of Roberts. There was worry in that expression, and Jonathan’s Mary was close to Thomas’s Sarah. Encouraged, Thomas continued, “I fainted in the streets and awoke in a hospital there.” Then he told her, plainly, all about Rekha and the mechanical devices, and the incident with the police. He left out the wonder in her voice when Rekha’d spoken about Sparks, or the stories he’d shared with Rekha of cats and meadows and horse-drawn carriages.

“You have been busy,” Sarah murmured, shoulders curving inward as though she was containing herself. It was not spoken as a concession. "You were also quite rude, I recall, and quite unnecessarily rough, towards all the efforts and comforts provided entirely for you."

"I see that."

Leanings forwards, she took one of Thomas’s hands and brought it to rest in her knee, playing with his fingers while she sighed heavily and said nothing. At last Sarah spoke, “I can’t forgive you this time, Tom. I- no, don’t interrupt,” she gave him a quick glare as his lips parted, and he pressed them firmly together, nodding apology. Huffing in brief exasperation, she covered the back of his hand with her palms and said, “How would you feel if I disappeared one night? I didn’t tell you, didn’t leave a warning, but it was nonetheless something I’d known would be happening quite a bit in advance. After I’d gone, you were left to wring your hands and wonder if it had been a kidnapping, usual business, or something urgent. Perhaps it would occur to you to fear that Jean Bordelon was involved.” Her husband was silent and his hooded eyes were trained on the floor. Sarah pressed on, “Wait for a week. When I come back to you, Tom, I come back and faint on the hearth in a pool of my own blood. Magic healed my wounds but did not restore me, not for four days. Me, your wife. And all those four days I showed no sign of life beyond a pulse and breathing.” Sarah’s breath caught as Thomas lifted his gaze from the floor and looked at her, almost sorrowful in his expression, and she swiped the forming tears from her eyes. Harshly, as if to erase the brief vulnerability, she demanded, “Can you imagine how I felt, coming into the drawing room to see my husband lying in a growing pool of his blood, pale as death! C-can you imagine, Tom!”

“Oh, my sweet Sarah,” Thomas murmured, rising and falling to his knees beside her as his wife curled over her knees and failed to not weep. “I’m so sorry,” he embraced her, “I’m so, so sorry that you had to see me like that.”

She scoffed incredulously through the tears, but she also gripped his arms and held him close. “That’s n-not even the point,” she sniffed and wiped her eyes on the hem of her dress, and quickly essayed to regain her composure. “Dense lummox.”

Thomas smiled into her hair. Kissing the back of her smooth, lilac-and-lavender scented neck, the agent said softly, cheek resting against his wife’s ear and jaw, “I don’t know what to do with myself now, Sarah. I had a plan, you see, to let you entertain my new appointees this evening while I went-“

“-to see the wreckage of the battle, find the thaumatogauge, worm out your old contacts and go play the knight for Jon and Frank?” He couldn’t see her smile, but he felt her cheek lifting sideways without going upwards too much, so he imagined it was a rather dry and sarcastic smile. “You’re very predictable, Tom.” He wanted to laugh and tease her with, then why were you so worried for me, if I’m that easy to guess!, but he knew she’d hate him for it, so he hugged her a little tighter instead.

“That’s the right of it, my dear,” he conceded.

“I think that the right of it is also the right,” Sarah murmured, turning in a rustle of fabric to face him, “but that you’re being as foolish as a young man if you do this now.”

“I am young. 36 is not old.”

“But would you be foolish?” She inquired. There was still a little weepiness about her and her eyes were dimmer with mixed rebuke and weariness. “You are very weak, my love, weaker than you’d like to admit when our friends are in danger.”

“I can-"

“Shhh.” She squeezed his hands. “You can get yourself killed is what you can do. Look at the time, Thomas; look at it and tell me, how long ago did you come too?”

Blackmore didn’t need a watch to know that. “Almost five hours,” he said, grudgingly.

“You’ve lost a lot of blood twice,” Sarah stated, “once at work, once ripping the stitches. You think five hours will see you fighting fit again?”

“Five hours on the heel of four days here and three days there!” He protested, but she didn’t look ready to brook his disagreement.

“You need to be at your best for this, agent,” Sarah stated. “I support you here, Thomas, believe me I do. I remember Teddy as much as you.” Thomas’s eyes almost glinted in the bile of choler at the mention of him.

“Then.” He snapped softly, “sweeting, think of Roberts gutted like—“

“NO, Tom.” Her nails dug into his shoulder and for a woman, her eyes blazed quite fiercely. “You are not to leave the house for two days at least. I love Jon, and I love Frank, and I would wish no grief on Mary and her four children by ripping away their father, but I cannot send my own husband into a combat he isn’t ready for!” Tom’s eyes narrowed, but it was a spite without teeth; she was right. He acted on emotion, not logic, because of his fear that anything could happen the longer he delayed.

And the truth of it was, anything could. Protocol required that he let that be the case, because he was a national treasure and his partners, bluntly, were not. “But I can’t,” he said softly, “after Edward. Léandre’s changed, Sarah.”

“But you can,” she kissed his mouth and rising, guided him out of her private chambers, “and you will. Be a good agent, do their beck and call, and let them trust you, Tom. No one gives loose rein to an unruly horse, and you risk becoming that if you keep on doing what you want. This shall be cruel, my love,” she added, “but who would have lived longer if he had thought more with his head and less with his heart? Léandre or Thierry?”

“That is cold,” Thomas growled, as Sarah receded into the boudoir and returned with a pen and stationary. She scribbled a few quick lines, folded it three times with an additional blank sheet, and handed that to Thomas. Then she took another sheet of paper, wrote on that, and gave it to her husband as well.

Think a little,” she chided, standing ready to close the door. “Tell me if that doesn’t suit you as well, my magician?”

Thomas unfolded the papers, scanned them once, and couldn’t help a quick chuckle. “I’m an idiot, Sarah. Forgive your husband his hot-headedness. He took quite a knock to the brains recently, and I'm afraid he's a bit dull even in the best of times."

“I forgive him everything,” she smiled. It still wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t cold either.

Léandre had a great talent for moving objects other than himself between spaces. Thomas, however, could manage something of the art as well; it simply wasn’t as easy to wrap his head around the motion. But, he reflected, settling back in his study and closing his eyes, letters are easy little buggers. Briefly there was no Thomas in any world, less than a second’s time. A letter floated onto the foyer floor of 441B Jerusalem St, the residence of one-armed Mahyar, whom everyone else called Matthew. And a little wind of magic carried the next letter to the workbench of Rekha Sandford, with her initials scrawled on the front and a quickly added drawing of a chamomile flower inside the folds.



Last edited by Alacer Phasmatis on Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:01 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:29 am

London 10
           
            Matthew’s footsteps were the first thing to announce his presence. A person didn’t need to be blind to know his heavy-footed limp. It did not impair the speed of his movement any, but the former agent always landed more heavily on his stiff left leg. Clomping to the door that day, to see about the shipping business he managed, the magician was stopped cold in his uneven tracks, clu-THOMP. He stared.
 
            “Shit!” He swore, and with a snap of his fingers, swept up the paper. He gave it a perfunctory scan and a sniff; barely scented paper, cream, thick stationary, this was certainly from Sarah’s desk, so Tom was likely to have been injured and still invalid if his wife were writing for him. Matt scoffed and crumpled the note in his fist, angrily clomping to the sitting room instead of out the door. Invalid or harping on heroics,  Payman thought vehemently. He could practically see the scene, given the two years and some he’d spent working under the magician. It was around his time that Sarah had really started including herself in their work and the woman was a fount of better ideas and alternate methods.
           
            Which is more of an insult to the men than a credit to her, Payman noted, throwing himself down in a plush chartreuse armchair. The magician’s deft fingers unfolded the wadded paper and smooth it over his knee. The missive was brief.
 
            Lost the thaumatogauge, probably by the docks. Plan gone foul in Warehouse Four. Find it. I’ll be there for it soon.
            -TMB
 
Matt’s almond eyes glittered with an indeterminate breed of fear and anger. “Fine, Tom,” he growled aloud, “I’ll clean up your mess, you shit-faced Scotsman.” The opium docks were where he’d planned on going that morning anyhow. It hadn’t taken Thomas’s note for him to very quickly hear that there’d been a massive explosion in one of the warehouses, that a good deal of quality drug had been lost, and that the source of the fire was inscrutable. Matthew had instantly planned to see what damage Roberts had done to his stock the next day. It just… soured the expedition somewhat to suddenly have it be under Agent Blackmore’s orders. With a gruff sigh, he heaved himself onto his feet and briskly limped out the door.
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by ShadowPhoenix on Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:11 pm

Monday, April 24, 1873, London

Rekha waited as the tram slowly slid to a full stop, rising and following the crowd out the doors.  Coline—Coline Natalie Durand—followed on her left.  Coline had been assigned to her the day after Mr Smith’s sudden departure.  She was, in theory, Rekha’s—or rather, Rebecca’s—French cousin who had come to London to work as a mechanic given the current shortage of jobs in France.  In reality, she was there to keep an eye on her much smaller counterpart until someone decided the young woman’s physical well-being was no longer in danger.

Coline towered over Rekha by approximately 8 inches, and her naturally serious expression made her even more foreboding by the tinted glasses she wore most of the time.  She was odd-eyed, her right eye a lighter shade of brown and her left a light blue, and it was only through sheer politeness that Rekha maintained eye contact when speaking to her.

Rekha shivered for a bit until their brisk pace warmed her some, at which point they were nearly at Mr Nagakar’s shop.  It lay towards the outskirts of London, and was fairly sizable but still cosy.  Rekha had worked there part-time for almost a year now and had been exposed to a different range of stones than at the airship plant where she worked full-time.  

Rekha slipped in the back, hearing Mr Nagakar’s loud voice from the front as he tried explaining to someone why their stone couldn’t be repaired by the channelors here.  Before she had a chance to greet Alfred and Willie, the brothers who lived not far away, Willie piped up, excitedly, “Miss Becky,” he said, using his preferred shortened version of Rebecca, “Miss Becky, you’ve got a letter.  It was there this morn’n, when Alfred ‘n me got here.”

“Really?” Rekha frowned.  She didn’t use this address for anything, and couldn’t fathom why someone would bring something here.  “Who gave it to you?”

“Not a soul, miss,” the small boy said sincerely, taking off his working goggles and holding them to his heart.  “I didn’t read it, an’ may Heaven above—” the ceiling was deprived of his earnest look as Alfred soundly cuffed him.  “Mum’d smack you if’n she heard that kind of talk.”  Turning his attention to the two women, he said, “It was one of you temps that brought it in late sometime; Willie ‘n me didn’t know ‘bout it till this mornin’.”

“Well, thank you anyway.  And thank you, Willie, for not peeking into someone else’s business.”  Willie’s chest swelled with pride and he looked fit to burst.  Avoiding promises to tell the young boy what the letter contained, Rekha climbed up to the first floor where the spark users’ workstations were.  It wasn’t much and there certainly was a lot less space here than at her other job, but it served them well.  Three old, solid desks were somewhat randomly scattered through the room.  One was against the far wall, near the window, and nearly always remained in place.  The other two had a habit of wandering depending on who was working there.  Mr Nagakar, like many small-business owners, employed a handful of part-time channelors with different affinities and abilities.  This enabled him to accept stones from a wider range of customers than he’d be able to otherwise.

One wall was dominated by a chalkboard.  Part of it had the channelors’ names followed by what stones were theirs to repair.  The rest of the space was used as needed.  The opposite wall held a small bookshelf that contained a few books, chalk, one and a half tea sets, and a small cubby where mail was placed.  

The first thing Rekha noticed as she hung up her shawl was a slight haze over the desk near the window.  Peering at it, her heart almost stopped.  Coline observed her as she crept forward slightly, then froze.

Biting her lower lip, she tentatively said, “Coline…?  There are more sparks like the ones in Mr Smith’s room.”  

“Where?” the woman asked, a light French accent tinting the word.  Her eyes, visible now that she had removed the lenses, looked around briefly before returning to Rekha.  She didn’t move, and wouldn’t, until Rekha told her what areas they were in to avoid spreading them further throughout the room.

“Just over that desk,” Rekha said, slowly.  She finished making her way to it, slowly, straining to see if the sparks were anywhere else in the room.  There were a few over the mail cubby but nowhere else.  They were a perfect match for those she'd seen in the hospice, both in type and dispersal pattern.  They’d only appeared in certain areas, with no indication as to how they got there.  They seemed to originate from one point, but these sparks were mostly dead and lacked the clearly-defined cloud that she’d seen before.

Rekha then turned to retrieve the letter itself only to find that Coline had done so already, and was holding it with her handkerchief.  “May I open it?” she asked and Rekha nodded.  Coline carefully did, ensuring that she didn’t touch the paper even once.  Smoothing it out on one of the other desks, she moved over so Rekha could easily read it.  

To Miss R.C. Sandford,

I hope you are well, my abrupt departure aside, and that I have not given you over-much trouble. Please consider the following advice as a favour from a man who owes his life to you:

I have not caught Jean Leandre Bordelon. Your London police have been informed with a full description of him, and I recommend that you keep a few officers with you at all times. I say this out of precaution; I do not seriously believe that he has followed me to London, if he did not appear while I was confined. When I can I will endeavour to meet you again. Write to me on these papers if there has been any trouble.

Go well.

-Mr. Smith


Her initials had been written on the front, and there was a drawing of a chamomile flower inside, near the bottom.  Behind the letter, there were a couple of other sheets of paper, also covered in sparks.  

“Does this mean anything to you?” Coline asked, tapping the flower with the edge of a fountain pen.  Rekha brightened, the somewhat frightening puzzle temporarily forgotten.  “Mr Smith drew one for me when he realized I didn’t know what chamomile looks like.”  

Commotion from downstairs indicated the arrival of more people, and Coline held up the letter in one hand.  “Shall we continue this later or do you need more time?”  Rekha shook her head and the other woman neatly folded the letter and slipped it into Rekha’s handbag.  Rekha bit her lip again and tried to put it out of her mind for the time being.

***

Later that evening, the redhead sat at her window and stared out over the dark rooftops.  She and Coline, mostly Coline with Rekha’s passive agreement, had determined that the letter had most likely been written by a woman.  The creamy stationary had embossed scrollwork along the top and the handwriting had been smaller and neater than was typical for a man.  Coline had also discovered that the paper smelt very faintly of lavender.  

There had been the requisite trip to the MSAR with the letter, where it had been examined as well.  It had been dusted for prints and, while they hadn’t been clear, it was obvious that there was one small pair and one larger pair.  Again, this lined up nicely with the idea that perhaps a female had written the letter and given it to Mr Smith to deliver.  Coline had then brought up the idea that either Mr Smith had remembered more than he let on, or someone he knew had come along and reclaimed him.

Upon a second look, Rekha had noted something she’d missed before.  The ink itself seemed to have some sparks in it, mostly dead, and hidden beneath the sparks that had surrounded Mr Smith.  No one thought much of this in general; ink was sometimes treated before it could be used to safely copy certain runes into books, but why it would be used for a mere letter was puzzling, as was the relative lack of absorbency of said ink.

Personally, Rekha was quite relieved that Mr Smith had either returned to someone or been found.  It had been far too early for him to leave the hospice and at least now she knew he had someone around to watch after him.

Rekha ran her fingers along the surface of one of the extra pages, trying to swallow the uneasy feeling that hadn’t ever really left since she’d first met Mr Smith.  These events were wrong and broke the basic rules of sparks.  She was sure his disappearance from the hospice and the appearance of the letter could be explained easily enough, but other things…

If all this were mad, she wasn’t alone.  It was actually a greatly comforting thought, to know that she wasn’t simply imagining things.  Which made things significantly more… intriguing.  It was too new and somehow wrong to be anything more but perhaps, under different circumstances, it might almost be exciting.

Padding over to her writing desk, Rekha began to draw over one of the pages, crafting a simple depiction of Mr Smith’s sparks and the haze it had created, spiraling out from a jagged core.  Belatedly, she remembered that these sheets had been given to her as a means of communication.  At the Ministry, she’d been told not to respond unless something did happen, but she felt that was perhaps rude.  She should at least let Mr Smith, or whoever was writing for him, know she had received his message…

Writing around the drawings, she penned, 

“Mr Smith,

I hope your injuries are healing well.  If Mr Bordelon has indeed come to London, I have yet to hear of it.”

Here she paused, biting her lip.  She desperately wanted to ask about his sparks, about how he managed to disappear and get the letter to her desk in the first place.  This letter wasn’t the right way to do it, though.  She’d need to sit down with him to ask all of her questions.

“God Bless.  

Rekha Callie Sandford

P.S.  I apologize for the drawings; I belatedly realized that I should save the other pages in case of an emergency.”

The letter thus composed—with very neat handwriting, for all that it was crammed between her ill-conceived doodles—she waited for the ink to dry and resolved to take it with her the next time they returned to Mr Nagakar’s shop and leave it without Coline noticing.

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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Sun Jun 23, 2013 9:52 pm

London 1
 
            In the neat, book-stuffed retiring room, second library really, of the Blackmores’ home in London, sat two men. One of them was slender, with a quick mouth and a fair complexion that freckled only the slightest across the bridge of his nose. A woman might have masked it with powder, it wasn’t much. That man shifted frequently though not nervously, and his fingers picked up things at random, while his eyes were fixed on a book opened before him. He turned the old pages carefully, using silver tongs. His hair, that deep blue-black color frequently found in Ireland, was pulled back with a bit of coarse leather cording, an obtrusive poverty of luxury that was at odds with the double-breasted, gem-buttoned plum waistcoat he wore. This man’s cravat was rich black silk and his morning coat a charcoal grey affair draped over the back of his chair. His shirt-sleeves were rolled up to his knobby elbows, and currently, his nimble fingers were playing with the amethyst-set golden cufflinks that had been earlier to the task of cuffing said sleeves. The dirt of London hadn’t so much as sullied his striped trousers. Underneath the city finery was an alternate persona, a man who loved to roam incognito with soot on his face and torn knees on his breeches, rubbing shoulders with blackguards and thieves for the sake of his job. This was Killian Carthy.
 
            Directly across from him was a magician much more plainly dressed, whose coat and hat had been properly left in the coatroom. This man had a thick thatch of brown, wavy hair that looked as though it would be fine yet somewhat coarse to the touch. His eyes were an unremarkable brown set in a face that was also unremarkably tanned—neither the brown of a rigorous traveler nor the pastiness of a desk worker. It was Richard Goldfein’s jaw that was his most outstanding facial feature. When he was tense, when he smiled or made any expression, the lines around his cheeks and the twitching muscle of mastication would spring into action and provide the finishing touches to an ordinary expression. If faces were books—this was Killian’s opinion—those lines and that jaw made Richard Goldfein an extremely readable book. The Irish magician’s eyes rarely made contact with Dick’s when he spoke, roaming instead over the tell-tale signs of those fine little movements.
 
            Killian looked up and smiled as Thomas returned, shifting up from his elbows with a doggish stretch. “My apologies, gentlemen.” The magician slid back beside Dick, holding up an envelope in two fingers with a smile, which he slipped next to the sugar bowl and explained as, “just took a quick correspondence break.”
 
            Killian’s winged brows shot up with a cocky is-that-so-now, but Richard had already plowed on with the conversation. The Irishman shuffled his playing cards—Carthy usually kept a deck of them on hand—and listened with feigned rapture as old news was mulled over again. He was more interested in Blackmore’s wearing full morning dress indoors, even his hat. Action would be afoot soon if he read the game face right.
 
            It had been two days since Killian and Dick’s sudden promotion to one of the most dangerous jobs hiring, which meant it was nine days since the parting of Blackmore from his partners. Thomas insisted on carrying about Jonathan and Francis’s thaumatogauges in his pocket, where they always sounded like they were about to crack as they chimed against eachother.­­ Ask Carthy, the agents were dead. Nodding his head, he glanced side-long at the letter sitting just within reach. Thinking that he could perhaps get up and satisfy his curiosity by—
 
            “Interested, Carthy?” Tom folded over at the waist to lock eyes with Killian, amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes.
 
            “Oh, no,” Killian frowned and shook his head seriously, training his baby blues on his commanding officer with the most honest expression he could muster. “Not at all, Tom, just admiring the glasswork on that bowl of yours.” He winked as Sarah came upstairs; perfect timing. “Quite fine, my dear, even to a con on the straight-and-narrow.”
 
            “Mmm.” Tom smiled tightly. “Sarah, dear.” He held up the envelope, and she took it. Killian made a point of disinterest, which only seemed to amuse Blackmore. “My mistake for bringing that here,” he kissed Sarah’s hand and she smiled.
 
            “So,” Dick interrupted. Killian tried not to follow Sarah with his eyes as she elegantly left the gentlemen to their discourse, her small fingers unfolding cream stationary that he thought he could see a drawing on (can’t trust the corners of your eyes too well). “So!” Killian chimed in, clapping his hands with an over-bright smile, “a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse, Tom. But,” he gestured at the empty space by the bowl and nodded, “I see you’ve gotten some of your touch back, unless it’s turned into your habit to receive post from your study, late in the afternoon, through some bribery of the postman.”
 
            “Mm,” Tom grunted. “It is indeed. But,” he added, rising, “I won’t manage us three. Just one of you gentlemen will have the pleasure of your first inter-world travel.”
 
            Killian sighed and leaned back, crossing his arms behind his head. “So, Dicky-boy’s to comb over the remains, aye?” Blackmore nodded and clapped Killian’s knee in conciliation.
 
“Them’s the breaks,” Carthy sighed. “What else?”
 
“I’ll need you to do some research and see if you can find anything historic to support the idea of the “sparks” Miss Sandford described.”
 
            The Irishman cocked a brow and grinned, straightening. “Qí, prana, druidic lore, is that your shift?”
 
            Thomas nodded. “Richard,” he said, extending his hand, “let’s go.” Dick had time for one surprised look up before he and Blackmore were gone. Killian pursed his lips and bowed to the vacant space. “And that, my friend,” he said aloud, “is why I didn’t use the coatroom.” Dick would probably not enjoy getting soot and ashes all over his clean white linens, which was his own fault for lacking foresight. It wasn’t a secret that Thomas would zap you without asking nicely first.
 
            “An admirable prudence, Mr. Carthy.”
 
            Killian very nearly jumped out of his skin. “Mrs. Blackmore!” He exclaimed, twisting around to look over his shoulder whilst simultaneously getting to his feet. “Pardon me, Madame, you walk so quietly I didn’t hear you.”
 
            Thomas’s dainty wife with the dark, liquid doe eyes simply smiled, one hand pressed noticeably behind her back, gesturing that he seat himself again. Killian did so, trying not to pay attention to the beating of his heart until he knew exactly why a beautiful woman with a dangerous husband had waited for her man to leave before cornering him. “You seem nervous, Mr. Carthy,” Sarah murmured. She touched his arm and he smiled thinly.
 
            “Pardon me, Mrs. Blackmore. But I’m not sure what occasions such a tête-à-tête, and I have a delicate constitution.”
 
            To her credit, the woman only laughed, and it occurred to Killian that she wasn’t acting particularly promiscuous. Was she toying with him? Almost as if to confirm this, Sarah unfolded the arm that she’d bent behind her back. In her hand was a sheet of thick, folded stationary.
 
            “Oh my God,” Killian breathed. “Your husband will not appreciate your showing me the contents of that letter, my good lady.”
 
            Raising her brows in amusement, Sarah dryly corrected, “My husband wanted Mr. Goldfein to think that you wouldn’t know anything he won’t know. Mr. Goldfein is a man Tom needs right now, but he’s a law-keeper. The written rules say that he’ll listen to the agency first and Tom second, and the written rules are precisely the problem. So here I am, Mr. Carthy, because Tom would like me to propose a little rule-breaking to you.”
 
            There was no response for that. Killian crossed his arms and tilted his head.
 
            “Go on.”
 
 
London 10
 
            “G’blimey!” Richard gasped, stumbling against the much bigger Thomas, who frowned. “Will you be ill?” He questioned, bracing the agent with a hand. “If you’re going to vomit, not on me.”
 
            “No!” Richard gasped, running a hand through his brown thatch, looking all around with undisguised awe. “That was—heavens have mercy.”
 
            “I’m sure they will,” Thomas pressed his lips thinly and briskly nodded. “Have a hold of yourself? Come on then.” He took long strides across the wooden planking of the docks, footfalls landing with an even clip that suggested an athlete. Behind him, Richard joined suit, lagging despite the importance of their being here to soak in the sights and smells of the tenth-world wharf. Ordinarily patient and tickled to see how new realms affected people, Thomas this time found himself biting back a groan. London 10—with its occasional gold-gilt planks, dangling silver lanterns, coarse sea-men, and elegant ladies and gentlemen taking boats across the piers—was a little Venetian and a little ordinary England, therefore not so exotic that it would warrant such an attention. At least, that was how it seemed to Thomas Blackmore, whose eyes had witnessed far greater wonders.
           
            The warehouse was still standing. Blackmore sped up as it came into view, a plain white-stone cube with blasted-out windows and angry black burns scuffing the proximity.  “Here we are,” he breathed, unaware of Richard falling into step beside him and narrowing his focus.
 
            “The fire, was that Agent Roberts?” Goldfein queried.
 
            “Naturally,” Thomas responded, fingers tightening in his pocket around the thaumatogauges. “Jon wouldn’t create such a blast around Francis unless he was already dead or elsewhere. If my contact here reports no bodies, odds point to them being alive.” Richard nodded, sucking in air between his teeth as he followed Agent Blackmore into the burnt-out shell of the building. “Detritus has been cleared,” Thomas noted.
 
            “Aye,” said a voice from behind them. Dick whirled around like a horse spooked, but Tom didn’t even flinch. “Mahyar,” Thomas murmured. “Report.”
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by Alacer Phasmatis on Sun Jun 30, 2013 11:23 am

London 1

“Sarah!” Killian and the woman both jumped as Blackmore entered the scene exactly behind them, a brisk walk unbroken as he and a sweaty Dick Goldfein found seats and Blackmore exchanged a glance with Carthy—unnoticed by Goldfein, who had his eyes closed. “Alright there, Dicky boy?” Killian chortled. Richard nodded, opening his eyes and swiping at the beads of perspiration on his forehead. “We got a lead,” he said hoarsely, “on Roberts. He made a run for it with—“

Thomas reached into his pocket and held up the familiar trinket. “This,” he smiled enigmatically, palming the thaumatogauge. “Goldfein here immediately learned everything that happened from the gold bands. Richard, you and Sarah will work on the leads we’ve gathered.”

“Oh?” Goldfein landed surprised eyes on the prim woman. “Indeed,” Sarah said smoothly.

“Killian,” Thomas rose and held out his hand, “We’re going to go to America.”

“What’s in America?” The Irishman queried, taking the proffered limb and dressing in his effects in a single, elaborate motion.

“A contact by the name of Andrew Slye,” Thomas stated. “Goldfein knows him, I do too; you’re a friendly man and you’ll debrief him on the case, stay with him for a few days, convince him he wants to help us.”

Dick smiled, flipping through the books that Carthy had arranged at random to make it appear that he’d been looking into sparks. “He’ll make a good spy,” the agent murmured, distractedly. “Thomas—Tom—and I agreed on that much.”

“Brill-“
The ground fell away under his feet and everything was disappearing and changing and moving in the split second of a stopped heart, in a fashion previously inconceivable and unimaginable to Killian’s human experience.

“-iant,” he gasped, just as Thomas jerked him out of the way of an incoming carriage. “This isn’t America,” Carthy gasped. “And that was not jumping the pond.”

“No,” Thomas confirmed, straightened his lapels and giving his partner a quick slap on the cheek to make him lively. “We’re in London. London 11. You are ready, Killian?”

“Oh I am ready,” he said under his breath, as Thomas steered them towards an industrial shop and entered with a sunny, “Hallo. Is Miss Sandford here?”
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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

Post by ShadowPhoenix on Sun Jun 30, 2013 12:44 pm

Tuesday, April 25, 1873, London

Rekha paused, the tip of her chalk hovering over the board she had placed on her desk. She had nicely placed the letter on her desk this morning, and had gone downstairs to fetch something. When she had come back, the letter was gone and the same sparks were in its place. These were still in the jagged formation as the others had been, but were less diffuse and the details were much crisper. Now, though, she felt the sparks again. They formed the same pattern not too far down the street, only the area they covered was much larger, perhaps twice as large as the one she’d seen in the hospice.

Some sparks detached themselves from those she had initially sensed and moved closer. These looked exactly like the ones Mr Smith had in that there were both proper sparks and dead ones. Rekha looked at the board in front of her again, the rune-circle she was modifying, the stone that lay toward one end of it. Rekha bit her lip and tried to focus.

She set the chalk down a handful of moments later, pressing her hands into her face as the sparks entered the shop, nearly directly below her. She waited a few moments, and was rewarded to hear the thudding of small feet pounding up steps. Willie burst into their loft, earning him glances from the two other channelors currently sharing this space.

Willie happily trotted over to her, patting her shoulder. “Miss Becky—”

“I know,” Rekha said, unintentionally cutting him off. “Sorry,” she said, removing her hands from her face and giving him a small grin. Willie returned it tenfold, displaying two gaps where teeth had recently been before scampering off.

Rekha stood, clutching her hands nervously. She felt somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, she was pleased that Mr Smith was obviously well enough to move around, even if she didn’t understand how. On the other, it was unsettling that he had just appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

Taking a breath, she made her way to the front desk, pausing long enough to wipe off the chalk marks on her face and stand near Coline. Coline looked up after a moment and Rekha looked at her pleadingly. Coline nodded and finished tightening something into place on the partially dismantled aeroboard and came over, wiping her hands on a piece of cloth.

“Mr Smith is here,” Rekha said, realizing that she was still clutching her hands nervously. “He just appeared out of nowhere and now he’s here,” she tried explaining. “Apparently he asked for me.”

“I’ll just check through some of the records, then,” Coline said, heading for the door. Rekha hesitated for a moment or two, then ran back upstairs. Sifting through a box of empty stones, she picked out one that was approximately half the size of her fist. It had very simple runework and could be filled with just about anything.

Coming back down, she followed Coline’s example. Mr Nagakar was on one side of the shop, speaking with another customer. Coline was to the left of the door where the books were kept, entering something into one of them. Mr Smith was easy to find, even without his sparks, given that he dwarfed everyone else in the room. Next to him stood a man Rekha didn’t recognize but he, she realized with a knot in her stomach, had sparks too. She’d been so focused on Mr Smith’s that she hadn’t noticed, but they were certainly there. The moved like Mr Smith’s did, but looked very different.

With a start, Rekha realized that she’d been staring like a dumbstruck child. Making her way toward them, she smiled somewhat. They were near a portion of the counter used for initial stone analysis, usually just what type of stone was being dropped off, how full it was, and if there were any glaringly obvious issues caused by faulty runework.

“Good afternoon, Mr Smith,” she said, setting the stone in front of her, fingers sliding into her pocket to grasp one of the pieces of chalk it nearly always contained. “I’m glad you seem better,” she said warmly, giving a quick glance to his companion before returning her gaze to him. She truly was glad he was out and about, but she tried not to think too hard on the fact that he had had surgery just a week before. Wrapping her mind around his very existence was hard enough as was.

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Re: The Clock Struck Ten

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