The Assembler

Chapter 7 - Someone's Taken Her!

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

“I’ll have to go back to my workshop to grab my things. And hide what can't be moved on short notice. I’ll find a way off the islands. I know several.

“Can I borrow your roadster, Margot?” Ned asked, shuffling through a stack of handwritten notes he had with him.. Before she could answer he was adding, “I’ll leave my notes on the lighthouse mechanism, Septimus. With them, you and Margot can easily rebuild it.” He was handing a subset of the pile of papers over to the don.

“But...” Cyril said, feeling a bit pole-axed, standing in the middle of the room, ignored for the most part, watching all of this. What was going on here? Didn’t anyone even care why he’d come?

Margot turned to face Cyril then, her face making it quite clear she was furious. “You have no idea what you've done, do you? Idiot! What were you thinking?”

“I..” Cyril started, “I mean... what?”

“You’ve brought them to him, you fool,” Margot hissed, leaning in toward him and for a moment there Cyril was certain she'd slap his face. But she didn't. Instead she ground out, “We were keeping him safe until a blundering idiot like you ruins it all!” She brushed several tears from her cheek then rushed out of the room.

Cyril was staring after her, confused even more by her hurried exit so he didn’t realize Ned was standing in front of him until he turned round. Ned pulled him into a bear hug. “Don't mind her. You couldn't have known. I never told you. Not your fault. I thought secrecy the safest option and had hoped they’d leave you and Emmie alone if I just cut off all ties.”

“You never tell me anything,” Cyril pointed out tartly. “If you had I could have sent you a telegram or a letter pleading for your help. Instead I came to visit the only man I knew of who might have been able to contact you. I didn't know you were here. I thought you were somewhere in darkest Africa or the wild west or somewhere. The Barbary Coast for all I knew, playing at pirate. Now, without even asking me why I’m here, there you are just running off without even asking if .. If ... It’s Emmie, Ned,” Cyril finally got out.

Cyril felt Ned stiffen a moment then he pushed his friend away but held firmly onto Cyril’s shoulders. He met Cyril’s eyes. “You aren't here just slumming? You were looking for me? Why? What about Emmie? Tell me!” Ned demanded.

“Someone’s taken her, Ned. Someone has her. Here,” he shoved the note that had come to him at the manor at Ned and then fished a small item out of his pocket. He held it out to Ned as well. “The ring arrived separately. I suppose they wanted to make certain we believed they had her. She never takes that ring off. You gave it to her.”

Ned had gone pale. He took the ring Cyril was offering him and turned it over and over in his hand, the note momentarily forgotten. It was a sort of gear, made up in gold. He’d given it to Emmie before... He’d been a fool to think...

Ned clutched the ring hard and then turned his attention to the note, never letting go of the tiny ring nestled in his palm.

Margot came rushing back into the room then to skid to a stop as she took in Ned’s tension and Cyril’s despair. “What? What is it?” she asked, looking from one to the other of the young men. “What’s wrong? Ned, you have to be gone now!”

As Ned was staring wordless at the note, it was Cyril who replied. “They’ve kidnapped my sister and are demanding Ned surrender himself to them, or her life is forfeit.” Cyril said it emotionlessly. He’d been practicing saying it for days, since he'd gotten the note in the first place.

Magot’s mouth fell open, her eyes going wide.

When Ned seemed frozen, just staring at the note, Septimus stepped forward and removed it from Ned’s frozen fingers. “May I?” he asked. When he got no response from either Ned or Cyril he opened up the note and read it. He took his time with it, pondering the levels of meaning, threats and promises it entailed.

“Of course,” Septimus finally said, “there is no guarantee whoever it is will keep his word and let her go. He might still kill her once they have you. She’ll know who they are, obviously. Know far too many things to just let her go. They’d want another threat to keep her quiet. And from what you tell me of her, I doubt they’d be reassured even if she agreed to all their demands.”

Ned nodded. True. Emmie never did know when to keep her mouth firmly shut. “I...” Ned began, looking ashen. He sank into the nearest chair. “I have to think,” he said, clutching his head with both hands, but still holding the ring. “They demand that I go back to England with Cyril,” he added, looking up at Septimus. “I confess I’m not sure why.”

“‘With your Assembler,’ it says,” Septimus added. “Why would anyone want that thing, Ned? It doesn't really do anything, does it?” He looked over at his former student, a question in his eyes. “Or does it?”

Ned looked away and sighed a bit shakily. “It does quite a bit. I think. I mean it does something. I’m just not certain what exactly it is doing, why it does it or how it does it. It’s dangerous.”

“Coming from you, that’s worrying,” Septimus replied dryly.

“Well, you can't go back to England, that’s certain,” Margot commented fiercely from where she was rooted in the doorway to the veranda.

“You aren't just going to abandon her?” Cyril asked, his voice rising in panic. “It isn’t her fault she’s been taken. How was she to know? She hasn't seen you since you left, hasn't ... I... Oh, God,” Cyril added sinking into a chair himself. “We’ve got to do something!”

Ned seemed to stir himself then. “Yes, we’ve got to do something. And sitting around here pointing out the obvious, and the impossible, is not the something we need to be doing.”

“What is then?” Margot asked, walking over to put her hand gently on Ned’s shoulder.

Cyril. to his horror, felt envy and a bit of jealousy that she and Ned were so close. Poor Emmie.

“Firstly, I need to pack up the Assembler. Margot, help Cyril book a berth on the next airship heading to England. Two days should be enough.”

“But you can’t!” Margot wailed. “They’ll execute you! That’s what the man told us!”

“Execute you?” Cyril repeated, not quite believing the word.

“Yes,” Ned replied quietly. “That’s what they do to traitors.”

 

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