The Assembler

Chapter 14 - Now Get Us Out of This Mess

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

 

Septimus Marchant stood in the empty cavern. Chief Inspector Rory, Sergeant Lumm and Dr Finigal were with him.

“How extraordinary,” Finigal was saying, his eyes wide and his face flushed. He was rushing around the cavern inspecting the bits of detritus left behind. He was avoiding the dead men, however. That sad task was left to Lumm. Rory was assessing the overall scene, attempting to find some understanding in it.

“Let me make certain I understand what you are saying, Dr Marchant,” Rory said. “You claim that only a short time ago, this cavern was filled with not only home to Mr Black’s fantasmagorical machine but also it held Mr Black and your daughter?”

“It isn't magical, you know. It’s science. What we think of as magic is merely something we don't yet understand. Ned will tell you that. But yes, I assume they and their friend got this far. Otherwise...”

“Otherwise the machine would still be here?” Rory asked, squinting at Septimus as if he were attempting to assess how honest Septimus was being.

“Indeed,” the ex-don replied. “No one can use the machine but Ned.”

“Are you certain of that?” Rory’s voice was a whip.

“Yes. Quite. He thought it dangerous.

“Apparently it is. Do you think it is what did this to these fellows?” Rory’s lip curled a bit as he regarded what was left and what was not left, of the dead.

“Oh yes. If they were immediately outside the radius of the field, or attempted to enter into it once it was set in motion.. Oh yes...”

“I’ll keep it in mind, then, shall I?” Rory replied.

“It would be wise,” Septimus replied dryly.

“Sir?” Sergeant Lumm said, looking over at Rory. “A word?”

Rory sauntered over and then hunkered down next to Lumm. Lumm had turned over one of the dead men. This one actually had a face.

“Interesting,” Rory commented.

“Interesting?” Septimus echoed, staring down at the dead man. He hadn't had much experience with dead people, so he was going a tad bit green.

“This fellow is well known to us and to MI-6,” Rory replied.

“MI-6?” Septimus asked.

“Special Security Services. We tend to call them that. At any rate, they are aware of this man and who he works for. He's a foreign agent for the . Your friend Ned, whether he knows it or not, is in a great deal of danger. He’d be best served surrendering to us. He needs security and stability for himself and for that great machine of his. Just how big is it, by the way? Surely it must be fairly small for Mr Black to have moved it before we could get here.”

Septimus raised an eyebrow. “It took up the entire cavern.”

Rory goggled and Finigal, who’d been carefully looking around was listening in. “Oh yes, he’s right, Joseph. These indentations. All along here? They must be part of the machine.”

“But it’s impossible for three people to move that much equipment in a matter of minutes. Minutes, correct, Lumm? I estimate death at only a little more than an hour. Unless, of course, your Mr Black had moved the equipment before these men arrived to try to steal it.”

“If you find it necessary to believe so for your peace of mind, Chief Inspector, then by all means do so.”

Rory frowned at Septimus. Lumm, still examining the corpse did not offer an opinion.

“And I don't suppose you intend to tell us just where they’ve gone, do you?” Rory asked.

Septimus smiled. “Oh, I don't mind telling you that. But I truly doubt you’ll believe me when I do.”

“Oh? Well tell me anyway.”

“I expect they are all still right here.”

Rory snorted. “Yes, no doubt we walked right through them. Or are you saying they’re dead too? I’d find that hard to believe given you’re talking about your daughter.”

“Oh not dead, not dead at all. Quite well, I expect. Just simply.... Vanished. The real question is, can Ned get them back.”

 

 

“Benedict,” Emmie said, acid in her tone, “I cannot abide it when you go all mysterious and enigmatic. Say what you mean, clearly and without needless obfuscation.”

Ned leaned back against a bit of his Assembler machine and crossed his arms on his chest. His eyes travelled over the features of her face, a grin that irritated her no end, playing along his lips.

“Emmie, darling, the problem is the world is not precise and logical the way you try to make it. And, you don’t speak the language of mathematics.”

“Bollocks,” she retorted, making Cyril jump. He wasn't even aware Emmie knew that word.

“Ned’s correct, Emmie,” Richard agreed. “There are things about the latest findings in science that rather turn our views of reality, time, space and alchemy entirely upside down.”

“Bollocks,” Emmie repeated. “Reality is what you can touch and see. What is so odd about that?”

“Is it?” Ned asked her. “Touch the rock cavern wall over there.”

Emmie marched over to do exactly that. She pulled off the glove she wore rather violently then reached out her bare hand. She gasped when it passed through the stone as if it were not there. She looked back at Ned. “Explain,” she demanded.

“The Assembler was meant to be a computational machine. But while I was creating it, a few ideas came to me to improve and extend the design. Those improvements have made it into something else entirely,” Ned replied.

Richard was frowning. “Perhaps not. What is reality but the end product of formulae and mathematics? Maths in particular is the basic language of the universe. So if we want to manipulate that universe, how else would we do it.”

Ned looked at Richard with renewed respect. “Indeed. The problem is, my Assembler is only experimental. It’s not a stable working prototype. I’m still tinkering with it. Thusly, I’m not entirely certain I can get us back to where we were. And if I cannot be precise...”

Richard frowned. “Yes, I see the problem. We either end up sharing a space/time with our own selves of that place and time and thus possibly we die or create, well, chaos, or ...”

“Or we end up inside a rock or even somewhere else entirely,” Ned finished for him. “There’s the issue of Earth’s rotation and movement through space and time, and ...”

“Yes,” Richard agreed, his mind lost in the problem. “A good many other variables as well, like imprecision in an experimental machine. Even the materials might not be entirely without flaw. Crystals particularly.”

“What!” Cyril shouted. “What are you two talking about? This is when you drive me quite mad, Ned. And you, Richard, you are just as bad. And speaking about why, just why, Richard, did you bring Emmie here of all places? You ought have taken her home! Father is still terrified for her safety I’m certain!”

“Ah, ever Mr Practical,” Richard replied. “No imagination Cyril. Good old chap with his feet firmly planted on terra firma.”

Cyril frowned. “Stop making fun of me. I do too have an imagination. At the moment I’m imagining what I should do to you. And I’m imagining just what you might have had to do with the kidnapping of my sister?”

“Cyril.” Emmie spoke up, turning her attention from the not quite material wall, and the two alchemists. “Richard happened to be with me when I was abducted. So they took him too.”

“I see,” Cyril replied, sounding unconvinced.

Richard crossed his arms on his chest and looked amused rather than offended.

Margot, who’d been silent up until now, standing a hair’s breath away from Ned, finally spoke up. “It is rather odd, is it not, they abducted you when there was a witness there to see?”

Emmie was lady enough to give that some thought. “Yes, that thought occurred to me as well, but I was about to step into my flat. And, thinking back on things, I now realize there was an aborted attempt at the BM just as I was leaving for the night. A short while later, I was attacked on Great Russell Street between the BM and the Museum Tavern but managed to break free with RIchard’s assistance. Given those two attempts, I suspect they felt it was their last hope of succeeding.”

Cyril had gone pale, and even Ned’s smile was gone as she told of the attempts made against her.

“Good God,” Cyril muttered disgustedly. “What’s become of London that a lady is not safe on its streets.”

Ned opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it abruptly.

Emmie eyed Margot then him. “They told me they wouldn't harm me so long as Ned agreed to help them with something. I explained that I doubted I’d be much good as a hostage for his behavior but they didn’t seem to believe that.”

Ned raised an eyebrow.

“Seeing as how he’s moved on,” Emmie added, looking at Ned defiantly. “Would you care to explain all of this to me?” Emmie crossed her arms on her chest and began tapping her foot as she stared pointedly at Ned.

Richard moved a few steps closer to her.

Ned, finally looking away from Emmie, shrugged. “I've told you what I know. I’ve explained about my machine. Beyond that, I can only guess.”

“And you do hate to guess,” Emmie hissed.

Ned met her eyes again. “It seems .. I’m so sorry you got pulled into all of this. Obviously whoever it was thought we...”

“Thought we meant something to one another?” Emmie asked pointedly.

“Thought we meant something to one another,” Ned agreed.

“Well, silly them.” Emmie glared at him. “Now get us out of this mess, Ned. Since you seem to have stranded us in Limbo.”

 

 

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