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She pulled a pair of her very own Doctor Nightingale’s Particle Deflection & Re-Magnification Examination Goggles off their hook and wrestled them over her coiffure, cursing as it stuck on a jeweled comb which she ended up ripping out of her hair and shoving down between her breasts for safekeeping.
The frothy dress would be ruined, too, no doubt. The gorgeous yet subtle signature embroidery of a Nightingale on the front of the bodice did not deserve such treatment. He would owe her five new and better dresses in repayment for this, this travesty of reason.
Shifting her tightly drawn corset a bit so she could draw a bigger breath, Miss Silverstone continued steamily, pushing the button on the Goggles that popped out a complex series of See-Through-It lenses. It was her own design, hence Barrie had started a company with her as “Doctor Nightingale,” and she’d made a fair bit of coin from the invention, too. It was unique among such devices, and took into account all kinds of things, including magic and beasties and all manner of ectoplasmic and aetheric Creatures.
“Oh.” she said quietly into the hissing echoes of the Lab as she used the lenses to peer through layers of metal skin into the guts of the Time Troll. She swore. “Judy beggar of a Ladybird Dollymop, Barrie, what have you done?” She shook her head in disbelief.
It was bad. The Troll seemed to be watching her, which made it all the worse. Then it shifted slightly, confirming her fears. He’d brought the Troll to life, the silly, vain daisy of a man!
“Daft perfidious pointy-punk flower-headed soot of a soft Nickey!” she mumbled angrily, pulling a De-Riveter from the tool shelf and plunking glowing coals into its receptacle, glaring hotly at the monstrous machine. She filled the De-Riveter’s canister with near-boiling water from the gas stove and then, as the red coals heated the water to steam and the pressure gauge ticked up, she braced it against her shoulder and set it around the first rivet locking in the clicking heart of the Troll.
She could swear she felt a tiny shift again, as it tried to move away from her. Thank whatever gods there be it didn’t have legs! The De-Riveter whistled, and Lady Lorena Lake Silverstone attacked with the hellish fierceness of a deadly and determined Diva.
The voice that could put silk to shame lowered into a primal growl. The Troll groaned and wailed in reply. Sparks flew, as did rivets, popping off one after the other in succession until she had ripped into the heart of the metal monster, her chest heaving and shoulder bruised from the effort. The dress was singed, blast it all, and would never recover. For that, she gave the Troll a very unnecessary kick.
Hauling back the heavy sheet metal, she looked within, goggles down and readjusted for straight-on-spectroabnormal viewing. Yes, there it was, the ghostly Life in the Machine that had caused the trouble. Two vile, glowing eyes stared at her malevolently, burning from the inner casing of the Time Troll. She shook her head, dumbfounded.
Barrie was a fool to listen to spirits at séances, to the whispered gibbering of his wicked mad Uncle, to the strange and arcane books from his father’s library, and here was the result: a conscious, living machine – not a simple clock-work like the valets and maids, no, a demon-dark conjured from those curséd sooty books! It was his Lord father’s fault, blast him to the furnace and the whole loony lot of them, too!
The hissing steam in the pipes became interfused into a sibilant voice that sent a creeping shiver down her corseted back. A slit-like mouth creaked open; metal made malleable as flesh.
“I live…,” it wheezed darkly,”…or he dies.” A chortling laugh bubbled up as if from the depths of the making of the world, to hack and spit gleefully into the night.
Lady Lorena Lake Silverstone narrowed her emerald-green eyes, squared her fine pale shoulders, cocked her hip and addressed the monstrosity firmly, using her fullest, most authoritative ringing round-toned voice that could carry to the balcony of Hell and back, dripping with Diva Power. “Oh, really? Tell me, monster, why did he bring you here?”
The hissing voice coalesced into the grind of metallic words. “He wanted…,” it gathered steam for itself like an old man taking breath, “…to be young…,” dark, cruel laughter jittered out its lips before its final words, “…Forever.” It burst into a flaming roar of laughter, clanging and bending the walls of the Time Troll like a strongman flexing his muscles. The Troll, too massive to lurch around the lab, managed only to rattle like a room full of kettledrums.
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Yes, that sounds like Barrie.” She muttered curses and imprecations that would have turned even Barrie’s ears red to hear, even from her lips. Then an idea, a risky one, came to her with a flash of inspired brilliance, which, of course, for a Diva, is as normal as tea and toast. She stole a glance at her Barrie, still dangling in the infinite.
“Well,” she sniffed, “That’s all well and good, Troll, but you have no limbs, and if you detach yourself from the pipes you’ll have no voice and no steam to fire your life along. You are as trapped as he is, I’m afraid.” The creature stopped its twisted giggling to fix its two glaring eyes upon her.
“Yes Trollikins,” she purred, “You heard me right. I know you are trying to throw your considerable weight around down here, but I’ll have none of this, mind you – I’ve made no infernal deals with you. I’ll leave you two to it. My dear husband’s vanity is his own undoing. And yours.” She gathered her skirts, gave her deadliest smile, then performed a dramatic and practiced turn filled with arctic winds and steel so cold it could break bones – a turn only a true Diva of highest caliber could successfully enact.
The temperature in the room dropped rapidly, causing frost to move along the pipes, wild clouds of steaming air to billow around her, and her breath to puff visibly out of her satisfied lips. ‘Beat that, hell-spawn’ she thought at the Troll.