London’s burning – Parental supervision – Raking through the ashes – News from Khartoum – Belief and knowledge
Andrew Parsons sent to prison!
Rina Prescott reporting
To those of us who know him, it seems absurd to think of Andrew Parsons as a violent, dangerous individual, but others are not of this opinion. He was arrested on an aggravated bodily harm charge, which carries a prison sentence of five years. Luckily, a fast acting group of Algernon University faculty and Lady I crewmembers were able to effect his return to his workshop, where he continues to work on his projects. The Algernon Clarion is able to report that the charges against him have been dropped.
One of Lady I‘s new crewmembers, a Miss Brenda Lee, volunteered to accompany Mr. Parsons to prison to protect him from the influence of his fellow inmates, a task which she performed with all due diligence. Her selfless actions surely prevented Mr. Parsons from suffering from the toxic environment in prison.
Mr. Parsons could not be contacted for comment.
I find myself currently pressed into a sort of janitorial role, where I have to come in with a mop and bucket and clean up the business other people have done on the carpet. Where to start? I have succeeded in restoring Andrew the Giant to his natural habitat of fire and steel, where he is now crafting a pair of replacement knees for Miss Alexandra Tennant. I still find it somewhat surreal that we can apparently repair not only machines but also people with bits of metal, but for her sake I am glad that she has a brighter future to hope for. To get Andrew free, I’m afraid I had to adopt a rather threatening demeanor and suggest that I have Secret Service powers I do not in fact officially posses. I like to think that it was my reasoning that persuaded Samuel Morris, and not fear of retribution.
Young Wainwright has done a sterling job in finding the London Prometheus hideout, and has managed to obtain a list of other such places, or at least the cities. Please find included his notes. Winston, we have severely underestimated Prometheus’ technological capabilities. If I may believe Wainwright, they have a machine that can communicate instantly over any distance! Wainwright holds that he was communicating directly with Mr. James T Riley, who was in Paris! No doubt this is how Mr. Slate could direct attacks against us from the comfort of his Sudan base, and obtain news from his agents worldwide.
Wainwright made only two slight mistakes. The first was to allow young Mr. Tennant to play with the equipment. This alerted Prometheus agents in “Venetica”, who then proceeded to activate a self destruct mechanism that reduced the entire base to ashes. Which once more reinforces the rules against bringing civilians on missions, but I suppose we can only take what we are given. Once the ashes cool down, I suppose some of your forensic experts will have to go there with a fine sieve and find out the details about this mysterious device.
The second mistake was to assume that the evildoers were in Venice. Even an honorary Doctor such as myself would know that Venetica is not Venice, but Vyatka – Kirov as it is now known. It seems someone is going to visit Russia. Still, we now have a list of cities to scour for Prometheus presence, which is excellent progress.
This leaves us, of course, with one important question: the operators of the electrical device. Where are they now? Why weren’t they there? What were their last orders? Where are they going, and what are they going to do once they get there? I have a sinking feeling that the answers may well be close to home. But I have already doubled the guards. Let’s hope that whatever Prometheus throws at us, we can weather.
And now I think it is my duty to persuade the parents of Miss Carrie StJohn to see sense and drop the charges against Andrew. Malcolm already tried once and failed. We can but hope.
Miss Carrie StJohn has earnt herself an easy essay question for the next History semester. I had a meeting with her parents and they brought her, no doubt to look dejected and devastated, and frightened of her life on the same University grounds as the Beast of Algernon. This turned out to be a miscalculation on the parents’ behalf. Allow me to expand.
When the StJohns came in, Carrie looked pitiful. Eyes dull, cradling her arm in a sling. Her mother had her hands on her shoulders, and directed her to a chair.
“Good morning,” I said. “Please sit down.”
Mr. StJohn only nodded, Mrs. StJohn said nothing. They took the chairs offered, refused offers of tea or coffee, and adopted a hostile demeanor.
“Sir,” said Mr. StJohn. “Why are we having a meeting with a History teacher, rather than someone with the power to negotiate?”
Well, I can tell you, Winston, I was thoroughly intimidated. It is only my years of Secret Services training the allowed me to continue.
“I am not only a History teacher, Sir. I am also the Head of Security.”
“Well, that’s a bit of a shambles then, isn’t it?” said Mrs. StJohn. “Just look at my daughter!”
I did. She looked like she did not want to be here, but had been convinced somehow.
“I’ve had my share of broken bones, Mrs. StJohn. I know the feeling. I wish her a speedy recovery.”
“If you had done your job, and kept that monster contained, she wouldn’t need to recover.”
“That, Mrs. StJohn, is where I must differ. If our Founder’s grandson Andrew Parsons had not acted as he did, events might have taken a much darker and tragic turn than they already have.”
“What do you mean?”
I reached into my desk and pulled out two pieces of paper I’d prepared. “I am willing to put at your disposal certain facts that Chancellor Munroe was not at liberty to discuss. But those facts must not leave these four walls. I will need you to sign this agreement that you will not do so, except as required by Law and so forth, and so forth.”
Mr. StJohn bent forward. “What is this, Dr…”
“Pike,” I said. “Godfrey Pike.” It is so nice when people actually listen to you, Winston. At least when I am teaching, not listening will cost you points on your exam. “This is a standard non-disclosure agreement. In essence, if you ever disclose what I am about to tell you, there will be legal ramifications.”
“We are not signing anything,” said Mrs. StJohn.
I raised my hands. “That is at your option. But if you don’t, then I cannot explain to you why any lawsuit you care to bring against Algernon University will evaporate like dew in the morning. I am very sorry, but your daughter has been caught up in a matter of State security. And that is all I can tell you, unless I have your signed agreement not to discuss it.”
State Security, Winston. Magic words. Things that affect the safety of our beloved nation. I think Prometheus qualifies. Mr. StJohn picked up the paper and read it. He looked back up at me.
“This will not prevent us from bringing up matters in the court case?”
“No. Though any court case will be behind closed doors, and will not be on the public record.”
Mr. StJohn pulled out a fountain pen and signed both copies of the document. He passed the papers to his wife.
“Sign it, Mildred. Let’s get this matter behind us.”
Mrs. StJohn glared at me. “Don’t think for a moment that this will prevent us from doing right by our little girl.” With an angry gesture, she signed her name.
“Carrie as well, please.”
“She’s underage,” said Mr. StJohn. “And furthermore, she cannot hold a pen.”
Carrie looked up. “Yes I can, Father.”
“Darling, I don’t want you to sign things you don’t understand.”
“Be quiet about anything we discuss in here, or else. Correct, Dr. Pike?”
I had to smile. “Precisely so.”
“Right.” Carrie picked up the pen in her plastered-up hand, and signed. Not quite as legibly as usual, but quite legal.
“Thank you, Carrie,” I said. “Now all we need is a witness. Just a moment.” I walked to the door, and let Miss Sunderland in.
“Miss Sunderland, do you recognise these people?”
Miss Sunderland looked at the StJohn family.
“I do,” she said, in a voice that would have frozen the Sun.
Miss Sunderland picked up the pen and signed, she gave a little nod, turned round, and left. I gathered up the paper, gave one of the copies to Mr. StJohn.
“Well then,” I said. “I’m afraid I have to tell you that there have been attempts to abduct Mr. Parsons at gunpoint, by an organisation unknown. At great personal risk, Mr. Parsons disarmed the individual and detained him till the porters could take him away. Through Andrew’s actions, we have learnt things about this organisation that we might never have otherwise.”
“Abduct him?” Mrs. StJohn scoffed. “I find that very hard to believe. Why would anyone want to have him? What use is he?”
“Mum…” said Carrie, but her mother ignored her.
“Andrew Parsons has one of the most fertile minds in civil engineering today,” I said. “He is able to create in his mind the most complex pieces of machinery, and then build them with his own hands. He has set his mind to steam turbines, armoured vehicles, lifting mechanisms, navigational aids for airships, water pumps, repeating rifles, wind turbines. And all of his inventions work as soon as he assembles them. There is no engineer like him in all of Britain, even in the world. Combined with his total lack of interest in all things worldly, that makes him the perfect accessory for all manner of unsavoury organisations.”
“Do you count this University as one of those organisations?” said Mrs. StJohn. “Because the way you treat your students here…”
With a sudden violent motion, Carrie leapt to her feet.
“Mum, stop!” She shouted. “Do you realise what happened when you had Andrew arrested? Everybody here hates me now because of what you did to him. He didn’t do anything wrong! He’s just big and I got in the way. He didn’t even see me!” She took her arm out of the sling. “Do you see this? That’s his signature there! He came to see me in the hospital, and he apologised, and then he sat with me and talked about physics for an hour!” Carrie took a deep breath. “There is this thing I’d tried for days to get into my head. Pressure. Temperature. Volume. Flint just showed me the formula, and that was it. I would never have gotten it, and Flint told me that maybe I just wasn’t meant to understand it! Andrew didn’t just give me a formula, he told me what was going on! How the molecules bump into each other and heat up, how heat makes water molecules move faster, and then I understood! I didn’t even have to write it down, because I got it!” Carrie slammed her plastered fist on my table. “I want to learn from him, and you want to have him thrown out. Please Mum, Dad. Stop this. It was an accident.” She looked at the floor. “It was just an accident.”
“We’ll be able to afford a much better school than this, darling.”
“And after that, another? And another? This is where I want to be, mum. I’m tired of going from one place to another.”
“You said they were being nasty to you. Wouldn’t it be nice to start over?”
“No! No more! I’ll make up with my friends here. Because you are not going to sue my school! If you try, Mother, I will make sure that you fail. I will tell the bloody truth! It was an accident.”
Mrs. StJohn gave me a stare like a thousand suns. “You have set my very own daughter against me. I’ll…”
Mr. StJohn took his wife by the arm, looked at me. “Excuse us a moment?”
They walked to the other end of the room, and started whispering at each other. I looked at Carrie. She saw me looking at her, and gave me an uncertain smile. She opened her mouth to say something, but I put my finger on my lips. On the other end of the room, Mildred StJohn hissed something unladylike at her husband, turned round and walked out, slamming the door behind her. Mr. StJohn took a moment to compose himself, then came back to Carrie.
“Are you sure you want to stay here? With the danger? And the rest of the students?”
Father and daughter looked into each other’s eyes for a moment. Then Carrie nodded quietly.
Mr. StJohn put his arms round his daughter.
“We love you very much, sweetheart. I’ll talk it through with your mother.”
“She’s mad… angry.”
“She’s been before.” Mr. StJohn looked at me. “Sir, given the circumstances, I don’t think we need to pursue this any further. I’ll instruct my solicitors.”
“Thank you Sir,” I said.
Mr. StJohn left, leaving me with Carrie. I stepped round my desk and put my hand on her shoulder.
“Come on. The Rifle Club is going to unveil the trophy.”
Carrie drew a sleeve across her eyes, looked at me.
“They said Jocelyn only hit bullseyes the entire tournament. Is that really true?”
“Yes. Amazing but true.”
“Good grief. I’m going to need to step up my game, then.”
“Once you get that cast off, the Brownings are all yours.”
And so, Winston, that particular genie was put back in its bottle. I’m sure Parsons will never know how close he came to ruin. I will recommend him as a tutor to young Carrie StJohn.
Dr. Godfrey Pike.
Thank you for your reports concerning the ruins of the apparatus found in the London basement in Hackney, and the report from our Khartoum agents.That was very fast, and I much appreciate it. I must confess that the details escape me completely, but never fear, I am in a place of Learning and Knowledge, and I will find someone who does understand. You say that this machine operates on principles of electricity and magnetism. I have played with magnets like every other boy, and spent many a day fishing for coins underneath one of the London bridges. But a magnet loses its potency over a distance of mere inches. Can this really be what enables Slate to make clocks move and fires ignite over a continent away? The mind boggles.
It would seem that the Eagle’s nest is well and truly empty of its eggs. From the report, it would seem that there were a number of explosions not caused by our enthusiastic friends of the Khartoum airfleet. Specifically, in rooms containing nothing but twisted bits of metal. I think we may assume that those were the long-distance message facilities, and maybe more. Why would an egotistical maniac like Mr, no Magister Slate bother to destroy his equipment? Not the actions of a man who knows his time has come, Winston. I am turning to the opinion that the Magister flew the nest before its destruction, perhaps even before the attack. Which would mean that we are not safe yet. In fact, Mr. Slate might leave instructions to be carried out after his death. He looks the type.
We are cautiously optimistic that with the destruction of their Sudanese base, we have given Prometheus something more important to think about than getting rid of our kind and gentle eggheads and airship operators. But I do see a certain lack of finality, Winston. I would not shed a single tear to learn that Magister Slate is no longer in the land of the living, but I lack a corpse. I want certainty, and that certainty has been buried under tons of rock where I cannot get at it. I do wish our Arab acquaintances had kept their heads slightly cooler. It cannot be helped, Winston. If he survived, no doubt he will make his presence felt. It may please you to know that young Mr. Wainwright has finally managed to establish some kind of rapport with the Moghadam family. Poor Wainwright had to sift through some rather disturbing documents in the presence of a large number of dead women and children. You and I both know what that can do to one’s faith in Humanity, Winston. It comes with the job I suppose. He requested leave to visit his mother in Manchester. He will be back in a few days, replete with motherly love and chicken soup. I envy him, Winston. Old age robs us of comforts like these.
Mr. Ahmad Moghadam sent Wainwright a letter, which I have steamed open like an old granny. Ahmad Moghadam extends his thanks for the assistance rendered at the Belian-Ibelin mine, and cordially invites him for coffee, should he find himself in Khartoum. Which is not a bad turn for an ignorant Kafir such as he. And we will make use of it, Winston. I want more information. More travel to the tropics for him when he returns.
I am feeling a good deal better about our progress than a month ago. We have a good number of puzzle pieces, an edge, and at least two corners. The rest will no doubt yield to serious enquiry.
It seems that the destruction of their London and Sudan bases has somewhat dampened Prometheus’ enthusiasm for sending their evildoers to attack us. But never for a moment do I believe that we have seen the last of them, Winston. The house in Hackney was easily large enough for a whole nest of them. Where on Earth are they? What rough beasts are slouching towards Ipswich at this moment? I hate loose ends, especially if those loose ends can do us serious harm.
Another loose end is Hammond’s expedition. They died of, effectively, madness induced by claviceps purpurea. Who slipped that into their food supply? Why did they do it? I cannot even speculate.
Still, we will be on our guard. Let them come! We will be ready for them when they re-emerge!
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