As the splintering crash of the last falling crate died away, Victoriana opened her eyes. Though her father had taken her once as a special treat to a military tattoo, she had never seen so many large and nasty looking weapons in her life – and they were all pointing at her and her companions.
‘Zo,’ drawled Molotok,’vot haf ve here? It iz our little schpy, iz it not?’
‘On da count o’ t’ree, we’ll exterminate ’em!’ snarled Serp, waving his blunderbuss in an alarming fashion. ‘One, two…’
‘Vait, vait!’ commanded Molotok, stretching out his arms. ‘Ve haf no need off all zose nasty bangs, and all zat blood. Ve can let nature do ze trick for us. Put zem into ze Optic Chamber.’
Urged forward by the prodding of numerous weapons, Irving and Fingers helped the two youngsters over the rubble in the tunnel and past the Blenkinsop Intensifier towards a huge funnel which had been coupled to the end of the machine.
‘Just like Papa’s phonograph,’ thought Victoriana, ‘only much, much bigger.’
Molotok stopped beside a door and produced a large key from his pocket.
‘Zese Pritish Army fellows,’ he said with a sneer, ‘zey alvays produce zings in tuplicate und it makes it zo easy to hobtain ze keys.’
‘Now get in!’ he ordered, gesturing towards the open door.
With the help of a block of stone standing by the door, the four prisoners entered the dark cell.
‘Und now,’ sniggered Molotok from the doorway, ‘you just wait for the sunrise!’
Stepping back, he slammed the door to and locked it.
‘Oy,’ said Irving,’ dat was unexpected. Fingers, can youse spring da lock?’
Fingers made his way through the gloom to the door, produced a twisted piece of metal from his pocket, and started fiddling with the lock.
Victoriana became aware that the gloom inside the little room was lifting. She turned at Rusty’s exclamation.
‘Look, Victoriana,’ he gasped.
She found she was staring at a huge glass eyepiece set into the mouth of the funnel, and through it poured pure moonlight. Distorted and blurred though the orb was, below it stark and upright in relief stood the towers and skyscrapers of Brooklyn.
‘Gosh,’ she whispered, ‘it’s beautiful, like a fairy playground.’
‘It’s also deadly,’ whispered Rusty grimly. ‘We are inside the Telectroscope, and that is a lens. When the sun rises over Brooklyn tomorrow, the lens will focus its rays in here and we will all be fried to a crisp.’
‘Wadya say if I bash dese dials an pipes, kid?’ Asked Irving from the opposite end of the cell, waving his hand at the wall whose centre held a large and glittering stone.
Rusty shook his head.
‘Den has any of youse godda Fairy Godmother, ’cos we’s gonna need one. C’mon, Fingers, do ya stuff.’
‘Ya know Fort Knox, Oiving?’ Fingers said over his shoulder in a gloomy voice, ‘dis one’s his brudder.’
* * *
Resigned to their fate, hoping only that Molotok might change his mind and set them free, the four settled down to sleep as best they could before sunrise.
They were awakened by a tremendous screeching and scraping noise and by the jolting and rolling of the chamber.
‘We’re movin,’ said Fingers unnecessarily.
And they were: they watched as the Brooklyn skyline rocked from side to side and grew gradually smaller, leaving just a gaping view of the clouds and moon.
‘Waddya know,’ breathed Irving.
‘But surely, it’s all fixed in concrete,’ wondered Victoriana.
‘I conjecture,’ started Rusty, ‘… I conjecture that we have been hauled bodily onto some sort of trailer…’
There came a rush of steam and a crashing and clanking as of huge chains being thrown over the Telectroscope, then more creaking and groaning and panting of steam and their movement became more controlled and purposeful and picked up speed.
‘Well,’ continued Rusty, as his steadied himself against the rocking of the chamber, ‘I would say we are no longer being dragged, but we are on wheels.’
At that moment, a powerful lamp on the control wall sprang into life, flooding the chamber with light, and a wild unkempt figure leapt through the doorway.
‘Masweet,masweet,maverraawnbabby,maTelec…’ the figure warbled , breaking off and glaring when he caught sight of the surprised occupants. His kilt swirled vigorously as he pulled a huge claymore from its scabbard at his belt.
‘Whityadoingere? Whoreyerascals?’ he shrieked, waving the sword around his head.
‘Just a moment,’ said Rusty, pulling a small metal box from one of his pockets.
Opening a small compartment, he extracted a stick of charcoal which he slid into a hole in the box, then cranked a tiny handle, causing the box to emit a cloud of sparks and smoke. He pointed the box at the irate stranger.
‘Please repeat your message,’ he requested politely.
The newcomer’s face turned a brighter shade of red.
‘Ahsayaginwhoreyerascalsanwhitryadoinere?’ he spluttered.
Rusty turned a tiny wheel, and the box proceeded to speak in a high-pitched tinny voice with a plummy accent:
‘I wish to repeat my previous question, namely, that I should be most grateful if you would provide me with a means of identification to enable me to establish your bona fides; you might also care to give me a brief but reasonable explanation for your presence here at this time. I have to warn you that failure to satisfy my enquiries at this stage may lead to precipitate actions on my behalf whose outcome could prejudice your long-term health expectancy.’
‘I’m sorry,’ said Rusty into the stunned silence, ‘the vocabulary and predication really need some adjustments, but I haven’t had time to do that yet as I wanted it to translate some Chinese for me. Papa created it when he worked with Mr McCavity at university because he wanted to follow the conversation when McCavity got together with Brown and McHerring.’
‘I recognised the accent as soon as I heard this gentleman speak,’ he added, glancing at the red-faced fellow, who hadn’t ceased glaring at them.
‘Is dis McCavity, McHerring or dat guy Brown?’ asked Irving, signalling to Fingers to circle around behind the intruder.
‘I believe this is Mr McHerring,’ said Rusty.
‘AchIhaenathetimetawaste,’ snorted McHerring, ‘yecanarlrotineretillwereachhame!’ Having spoken, he flung himself from the room, slamming and locking the door.
‘Time is passing so quickly,’ announced the machine to his disappearing back, ‘that I really cannot linger here when there is so much still to be accomplished. I am therefore forced to leave you at this conjuncture to pursue your own devices in this chamber until we reach my beloved homeland.’
‘Heavens!’ exclaimed Victoriana.
Rusty pounced on a piece of paper which, dislodged by the swirling of the kilt, had fluttered to the floor: he studied it carefully, his face rapidly losing its colour as he did so.
‘We are in the hands of a madman,’ he announced to the others when he had finished. ‘According to these notes, McHerring and his associates have stolen the Telectroscope and are taking it to Scotland. McCavity has bored down to the tectonic plates beneath the earth, and they intend to modify the Telectroscope to separate the plates Great Britain sits upon, in order to achieve true independence for Scotland.’
This chapter by HB. © Tachybaptus et al. 2017.