Saturday, September 15, 2007

Shutting the Door: Part Three

The days rush past, a dizzy flurry of hours and minutes, and here I have allowed almost a week's worth of them to come and go since last I sat down to record my part in the events of last Saturday. Too easily and agreeably am I distracted from recalling this terrible affair, and I have welcomed the work the Museum has required of me. But I know that I must keep my promise, and so I will now make an end to this account, though I doubt it will satisfy you, Bella. What you desire is quite beyond my ability to recall, much less document.

I will also here note the arrival this past week in New Babbage of a physician by the unusual name of Akiteckt Undercity, a rather peculiar young woman whom I have taken into my confidence. I will admit that I find myself somewhat at a loss to explain this sudden trust, and I am wary of making another mistake of the kind and magnitude I once made with Molly Underwood. Dr. Undercity claims to have begun her own experiments in time travel, though I have come to suspect that she is not half so knowledgeable as she would have me believe her to be. I have done my best to discourage her from the path of her investigations, and I fear I have told her many things I would have been better off keeping to myself. Time will tell, of course. She did not witness the events at the Imperial Theatre, though it seems news of those events may have led her here.

Bella, I really must make my conclusion to this account as brief as possible, for my nerves cannot endure any lengthy or detailed recollection of that day.

As I have said, when the portal opened by Eliot's device parted the veil of space and time, allowing those beings some have called the "Great Old Ones" entry into this world, I opened a second vortex, one leading back to the universe of my birth and to the machine I have here called the Whole. Believing that I had decided to allow myself to be reclaimed, she welcomed me, and as those dreadful elder things began to fill the skies above New Babbage, I transmitted the extraction protocol. But I had managed to situate my vortex so that rather than pulling me to her, the Whole dragged towards her the creatures summoned by Jason Moriarty. Inside the theatre, I used myself as a sort of conduit, redirecting the energy flowing out of the Porta Terrarum mechanism in such a way that is was fed directly back into the device, almost immediately causing it to overheat. A terrific explosion followed, filling the auditorium with smoke and great billows of flame, and the delicate innards of Professor Eliot's contraption were fused and rendered useless. Moriarty's portal was slammed shut.

Immediately, the blue-white plume rising from the Imperial vanished, leaving only the three monstrous "Old Ones," which only moments later were claimed, one by one, by the vortex I had created. And then I sealed that doorway after them. It is at this point, in a final, vicious surge of power from the Whole, guessing my deception too late to forestall the consequences, that I fell, plunging back to earth, landing unconscious upon the bridge which spans the canal between Ginsburg's and the theatre. I am told I spoke a few words to Miss Paine and Gloriana Maertens, though I myself have no such recollection.

And here it is that I come to that portion of the tale, Bella, that I suspect you are most keen to hear, but also that portion which I am the least eager to relate. Though I have only just said that I was "unconscious," the truth is that while my body lay upon that bridge, my mind was occupied elsewhere. In a darkness so perfect and profound I found myself unable to even remember the very fact of light, I listened as someone or something spoke to me. And eventually I realised that the speaker was, in fact, the same voice that had called upon me to stand as a shield against the "Old Ones." I would name it the voice of this world, though in so doing I know I only raise more questions. But that is what is was, truly. And from it I learned that my automaton shell had been battered beyond all hope of repair in the encounter and could not now hope to survive. And the voice then offered me two paths, from which I might freely choose: I could "die," which I believe would have meant the merciful release of senseless oblivion, or I could return in a new body provided me by this world. I chose the latter, and from memories stored within my failing self was that new form constructed. Not a body of liquid metal as I had previously inhabited, but one of living flesh and blood, sinew and bone, fashioned after the race known as the Nebari, whom I encountered at the age of "seventeen" during that first accident in my father's time cabinet.

On the bridge, before the startled eyes of any number of New Babbage's populace, I vanished, reappearing shortly thereafter in the garret above the Museum. Briefly possessed of some vestige of my former telepathic abilities, I called out to Miss Paine, and she heard me. She came, bringing with her Loki Eliot and the orphans, and the sight of them gladdened my soul (if I ever may be said to possess such a thing). Though alarmed at my somewhat altered appearance, they were relieved to see me, as well, and I lay on the chaise lounge while they milled about and asked questions I could not ever hope to answer. Glory was there, too, and more briefly, Captain Susenko. But, as you may well imagine, I was confused and exhausted, and too soon found it necessary to end our joyful reunion. I fell into the deepest sleep of my life, then, and if I dreamt, I did not dream of the Whole and her burning seas and endless halls of blinding light.

Make of these words what you will. For now, they are the best I can do, but I will not be insulted if you dismiss them as a lie or as the raving of an unhinged mind. I must go now, for work calls, but once again, and hopefully not for the last time, I thank you, dear Bellatrix, and hope that these pages find you well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shutting the Door: Part Two

I am trying to return to the day-to-day business of managing the Palaeozoic Museum, reopened now since Friday. I crave the mundane work of science once again, though, I must admit that part of me is becoming restless, following the chaos and uncertainty, the fear and danger of the past month. Last night, Miss Paine and I wandered down to the Canals and sat a while with Gloriana and the orphan Jimmy Branagh, and I told her of Bella's decision. We were delighted when Lucius showed up, quite unexpectedly, for we see so awfully little of him these days. He was eager for news of Moriarty's defeat and, I think, somewhat shocked at my altered appearance.

I am not keen to continue the narrative I began yesterday, but, as I've said already, it is the least I can do for Bellatrix. For without her level-headed intervention in July, Miss Paine might never have "recovered" from the werewolf attack in Kittiwickshire, Caledon. Still, I hardly know how to pick it up again. By the hour, the details seem to fade, and my reluctance to recount them redoubles.

My first warning of the impending disaster on Saturday was Moriarty's sudden, sickening presence in my mind, while I attended a meeting beneath Babbage Square. Quickly, I discerned that Myrtil had kept her appointment, and, still passing myself off as someone working towards the same fiendish ends as Moriarty, I asked him not to touch her, to leave her to me, hoping in this way to at least spare her life. Truthfully, he was so elated to have Victor Wunderlich's piece of the Eliot device, I think Moriarty had lost any interest in murdering any single person. As quickly as I could, I rushed to the Imperial, sensing little time remained to forestall his plans. When I arrived there, I discovered Myrtil, along with Mckay Beck and one or two other of the urchins, all of them terrified and dashing about. In short order, I learnt that Moriarty had all the components and that he had retreated into some heretofore unsuspected subterranean chamber below the theatre. Soon, working together, we had located the trapdoor leading down to this chamber.

I am sorry, Bella, but from here, any straightforward narrative is not possible, not for me. I shall do the best I can, but already the proceeding hour or two have become a blur.

Still believing I was his confederate, Moriarty admitted me to the room where, I discovered, he had re-asssembled and triggered the Porta Terrarum device. I stared in horror at the machine, at its genius and in full knowledge of the damage it had already wrought upon this world. Moriarty talked, and I listened, responding only with such words as would not betray my genuine purpose. He informed me that, via alchemical and biological studies, Eliot had made of his own grandson the true third component of the device, and that young Loki's blood was the key. The man was insane, and I knew there was no hope of appeal to reason, of dissauding him from the course he had long since charted. I did my best to keep the orphans clear, shutting myself in that pit with Moriarty as the device thrummed and the very fabric of space and time began to bend about me.

There were many witnesses to the crackling plume of blue-white energy that rose from the center of the theatre, passed from the Porta Terrarum device up into the theatre's "projector," which them carried it across the auditorium to the "screen" — in truth some mechanism that magnified and redirected the beam heavenward. I shall not here waste my strength and patience in describing it, though I have heard some compare it to a gigantic flower of light and heat. Certain of his victory, Moriarty lowered his guard, as the sky was rent with the loathsome howl of the otherworldly creatures that had begun to enter by way of the vortex forming high above the Imperial. I did the only thing I was certain would give me any possible advantage. I opened myself to the Whole, dropping all my carefully built defenses, and calling her to retrieve me at last.

As the Old Ones emerged in the skies of New Babbage, I sent the codeword that had eluded her. My body responded, taking that truer form, casting aside so much of the illusion of flesh, and I shoved Moriarty aside. Furious at my betrayal, he demanded to know what I was doing, and so I told him. Whatever shreds of sanity the man might still have harboured were, I believe, lost in that instant. He transformed once more into wolfish form, but compared to the things he had invited into this world, even that fiendish visage seemed tame. I ignored him and set about attempting to contain the immense flux of energy the Eliot device was releasing. As the theatre filled with roiling balls of flame, I rose above the building and met the tentacled nightmares in the sky. And it was then that the Gallifreyan weapon, that entity I call the Whole and of which I was created to serve, opened a second vortex to claim me.

So near to the end, I would prefer to conclude this account now and be done with it. But it shall have to wait, as I am being called away by Miss Paine to attend to matter downstairs in the Musuem.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Shutting the Door: Part One

This morning's post brought me a letter from Bella, bearing a Steelhead postmark. I have sat in my garret above the Museum's gallery, reading it over and over again, trying to imagine the response I will compose later. In the letter, Bella stated her desire to immediately resign her position in the League, and also that I please finish my account of the recent and terrible events here in New Babbage. I do not welcome either request, though I have decided, with considerable reluctance, to grant both. We will certainly be weaker in Bella's absence, but her order has agreed to take her back, on the condition that she immediately end her affiliation with the League. Under such pressing conditions, I could not possibly consider trying to persuade her to do otherwise and so remain among us.

In some ways, though, her second request seems the more daunting of the pair. Much horror and tumult has transpired since my entry of September 5th, and I am quite certain I am unequal to the task of setting those events to paper. Indeed, before I received Bella's letter, I had already placed the typescript, the wax cylinders, and all associated documents into a locked tin box and planned to hide them away at the Abney Park laboratory this evening or tomorrow. As I have said before, I am not the woman who began this journal. And if that statement held any veracity prior to Saturday, it holds a hundred times that now, to the degree I almost feel I will be concluding a tale begun by another person entirely. Perhaps, even, a tale written in several hands, spoken in several voices, as it seems "I" have been in a constant state of physical and mental flux since my arrival in New Babbage back in June. At times, I hardly can discern the threads of continuity linking these successive incarnations.

But I shall do my best, because I remain ever in Miss Bracken's debt, and she has asked. For my part, I would say that the Eliot device has been damaged beyond all hope of repair, and that the murderer and lycanthrope Jason Moriarty is gone from our midsts, and that would suffice. In the end, that is all that matters. But Bella would have the gory details, and so I will endeavor to set them down, what I can recall. Here in Babbage, I find there is considerable confusion over precisely what did occur, and in the streets I have heard no end of outlandish conjecture and supposition. Even those who witnessed the phenomenon cannot seem to agree precisely what it was they saw, and I believe that is likely for the best. The sooner the particulars of these foul days are forgotten, the better, and so I am acting against my best judgement in recording them here.

On Thursday, I learnt that one of the orphans, one of only two girl children among that ragged company, had left a letter in a sealed envelope inside the hidden room, the killer's lair, which Miss Paine and I discovered Tuesday last. Though I was unsuccessful in retrieving the letter before Moriarty, I was able to learn from its author, Myrtil Igaly, that she hoped to exchange a forgery of one third of the Eliot device for Victor Wunderlich, presumably still held captive by the werewolf. Though Miss Paine and I both begged her not to meet with the monster, assuring her that she could not possibly hope to trust him, there are few things more absolute than the will of a thirteen-year-old girl.

And so, on Saturday afternoon, Moriarty returned to Babbage and answered her request for an audience, and, accompanied by another orphan, young master Mckay Beck, she met him in the auditorium of the old Imperial Theatre. And, as it turned out, what she had to offer him was far more than a counterfeit component, but a genuine piece of the device, previously in the possession of Victor Wunderlich (but entrusted to Mckay prior to Wunderlich's kidnapping).

The sun is setting over the sea, painting the water red, and I find this new flesh is tired and hungry. So I shall set my quill aside for now, and return to the account as soon as I may. But, again, Bella, I say that only two things matter here — the nightmare begun by Professor Alexander Eliot has been ended, and the murderous campaign of his monstrous prodigy, Jason Moriarty, has been thwarted.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Occurrence at the MaYifu Arcade

I had still not recovered from the events of Monday, when Tuesday saw fit to deliver a fresh set of horrors upon us. If there is a pace to these events, then that pace must surely be quickening, for better or worse. For my part, I am still exhausted and unable to long endure the absence of a high-voltage source of alternating current. I can neither sleep nor eat, and I no longer seem to need water. My "physiology" seems to have abandoned all pretensions at the requirements of an organism. And I fear that my brief contact with Moriarty has left me somehow infected, and that this infection is the author of my inability to function free of an external energy supply. At least I am no longer dreaming, so I will count that as a silver lining.

Yesterday, Loki Eliot was attacked by Jason Moriarty, behind the opium den. This followed shortly after the reappearance of Victor Wunderlich, who led Loki and Jimmy Branagh from the absinthe house to the place where Moriarty's assault occurred. I am still uncertain of Wunderlich's role. Regardless, Loki was attacked. One or two of the townspeople reached him before I was able, and by the time I arrived, the pavement was red with his bood, though the wound would prove to be relatively inconsequential. I called for Miss Paine, Gloriana, and Captain Susenko, and I asked them to care for Loki Eliot while I searched the streets for either Wunderlich or Moriarty. However, Loki was extremely distraught and was soon rushing to and fro, calling for Victor, whom he believed stolen away by Jason Moriarty. Oh, this detail is no doubt important — Loki reports that Moriarty cut him, then pressed a handkerchief to the wound, as though to steal a sample of his blood.

I followed Loki, and soon we found ourselves in the dank alley between the absinthe house and Ordinal Malaprop's Babbage factory. Here I quickly spotted a splash of blood upon the street, and beside it a bit of paper with the word "arcade" scrawled across it. Though I have repeatedly searched the MaYifu Arcade on earlier occasions, and all to no avail (having long ago learned that Moriarty retained a stall there), Miss Paine and I dashed across the canal. She search outside, and I searched within. She was the first to detect something amiss at the southeast corner of the building, her keen senses detecting the coppery odour of blood coming through the wall. Inside, I soon located a panel that, when depressed, slid back to reveal a narrow, hidden room. The walls were heavily graffitied and cover with old photographs and suchlike, all of a particularly morbid nature. At the back of the room, we found Moriarty's journal, and Miss Maertens and I kept any sightseers at bay while Miss Paine examined this awful document, photographing all the pages so that I might closely examine them at my leisure. Also, on the north wall of the room, in blood, was scrawled the message, "Ready to Unveil the Truth," echoing the words Moriarty had spoken to me the day before. When we had thoroughly searched the area, Miss Paine and Glory and I left it to the clamoring crowd of urchins outside. I had grown so weak I could scarcely think clearly, and I was unable to close the secret doorway or find anyway to block it. That is, I suppose, Bow Street's problem.

Speaking of the latter, I did send a message to our Mayor and Chief Inspector, Mr. Sprocket, shortly after we decamped from the arcade. I related to him the discovery of the secret room and also the fact of my conversation (if not the particulars) with Moriarty. His response was customarily flippant, but at least I cannot be said to have tried to conceal my doings or the fruits of my investigations from our police.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Meeting the Wolf

I seem no longer capable of sleep. The electrical current appears to be all I require in the way of sustenance now. Though, since my meeting with Jason Moriarty, I seem to need a continuous supply of it. I feel, as I told Gloriana and Miss Paine yesterday, like a battery that can no longer hold a charge. Still, I am much improved from yesterday and will soon venture out again, hoping that I can locate the others and begin to devise some plan of action.

Much of yesterday was spent in the company of Miss Beq Janus at her house in the Canal District, attempting to answer as many of her questions as possible. It was a long and frustrating conversation, and, soon, we seemed to have reached a sort of cul de sac. Even now, far more at peace with the facts of my non-biological Nature than I was before my departure on the 31st, it is not easy to be seen as cold and distant, as only an unfeeling machine. I am not unfeeling, but I do understand why I may appear that way, even to those few people I have permitted near me. I am not human. And I do not act or respond as a human might, except by tremendous force of will and deception.

I should set down at least the barest bones of my meeting with Moriarty, if I am to bother setting down here anything at all.

Artemisia is one of the few I can reach with my mind, and while I was still mentally conversing with Miss Janus, shortly before dawn, Miss Paine called out to me. I do not think the call was even conscious, for she lay in a drugged stupor, dozing on one of the squalid pallets in the opium den behind the Imperial Theatre. I rushed to her, sparing only a few words of explanation to Beq as I took my leave. I entered the shadowy, acrid opium den to find Moriarty standing over Miss Paine, leering hungrily down at her. He appeared to me as a teen-ager or a young man of unremarkable countenance. He carried a jeweled cane, and his clothes were dirty and threadbare. Indeed, there was an air of dishevelment all about him. More than that, there was an air of insanity, and I immediately sensed some great power in back of him, some force like none I have ever before felt, nor here nor in any other world. He turned towards me, and in an instant was in my mind. There was no keeping him out, no profit in resisting.

Smiling, nodding to Miss Paine, he said to me, "She rests so sweet. You do best to keep your friends at bay if no harm is to come to her. I just want to talk to you, creature to creature."

When I asked outright if he were making a threat, the man replied, "Rather a plea for you to hear me out." To which I replied, "I am listening. Do not automatically consider me a foe, Mr. Moriarty."

He continued, "I sense you are different. I sense something old in you," and so I assured him that he must have keen senses, indeed. "I have been awakened," he said. "I know who it is that's beyond the veil, and you also know. Why don't you join me, and we can welcome the new dawn."

"Would it be that simple?" I countered. Truthfully, and somewhat to my surprise, my chief concern at this juncture was Miss Paine's safety. I heard Beq just outside the opium den, and struggling to keep my thoughts to her segregated from Moriarty's probing consciousness, I asked her to please be ready to enter and get Artemisia to safety, as I would attempt to lure Moriarty towards the stairs and to the landing above.

"Oh, yes," Moriarty replied, "glorious and raw, powerful and true."

"How much time do we have to talk?" I asked, and at once he inquired what need had one such as I to bother with the captivity of time. "The Old Ones have waited beyond time itself, and soon time will have no meaning anymore." I assured him that the form he saw before him, my physical self, was quite entirely subject to time. "You will not have to wait long, my dear," he promised. "You will soon be released."

By this point we had gained the stairs, I believe. I expressed feigned curiousity and dismay, that he could know so much of me, of my desires, but already he had begun to speak of other matters.

"Professor Eliot was like a father to me," he said. "He gave me abilities to see things no one else could see. To do what no one else could do. He created me, a conduit to the Old Ones. But I do not believe he realised my potential. Or the potential of his work. He did not understand what was at stake, and in his ignorance he shut down the project. And they tried to destroy any evidence of his work, including me."

And then he confessed to me having murdered Alexander Eliot. "I had to," he declared angrily. "He was ruining it all! I know where the three parts are."

Having at last reached the second story of the building, I called for Beq to go to Miss Paine, and soon the both of them were safe and clear of Moriarty.

"The parts," he continued, "I will retrieve them, and we will watch the veil be torn from off this world."

"Together?" I asked him. "You and I?" And he replied, "Of course. It's only a matter of days now. But, blood must be spilled one last time."

He stepped past me then, exiting onto the bridge of weathered planks the orphans have placed between that building and the adjacent structure to the north. Standing there, as the first light of dawn broke over the city, I watched as he transformed from the shape of a man into that monstrous and all too familiar hybrid of man and wolf. A great black brue, not so unlike the beast Lucius Sin once was. With a guttural cry, the monster leapt to the cobblestones below, and, stunned, sickened my the sensation of his mind upon my own, I was helpless to do anything but watch his retreat towards the eastern canal.

Somehow, I found my way back to the Museum, and there yet another horror was to be endured. It is nothing I can write of now, for the effort of making this entry has entirely exhausted me, and I fear I must rest once more. But I pray that the fiend sensed no deceit in me, that he believes I spoke true, that I am in league with him, working towards the same diabolical ends. Somehow, I must continue to elude the suspicions of this town, and of its police, and also elude the others who may hunt me — the 13 Club, the Vangreed Soc., and the Freemasons — and find some way of heading off the disaster that must now be very near at hand.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Strange Days

I have spent this last hour holed up inside the Abney Park laboratory, reading over and listening to journal entries I made almost seventy-five years ago. It seems incredible that I authored those documents, that I have just heard my own voice, recorded on wax cylinders three-quarters of a century in the past. But I know these things to be true. I have returned to New Babbage, and to its inhabitants, and to my colleagues in this place and time, I seem only to have been absent for the space of perhaps twelve hours, probably less.

Can I resume this journal? Should I? Certainly, I am not the woman I believed myself to be when I first arrived in here in June. Two months ago. Seventy-five years ago. I have become, instead, this paradox. This contradiction. Surely, I will not be speaking with the same voice.

I was blind when I left. Now I am only mute.

On August 31, according to my faded memories and to the ink still fresh in my ledger, I resolved to bring the Underwood woman back to Babbage, having come to understand the harm she could do, and the foolish decision I made when I entrusted her with such a terrible secret. I must have been in a panic, and I can even speculate that I might very well have been in a deranged state. That was, for me, so awfully long ago. She had become a problem to be solved, and I doubt I saw her as anything more. And, whatever else might have happened, I tried to get her to enter the temporal translocation cabinet at Abney Park. Knowing that it could only lead to her death, as the cabinet was not yet ready for tests on living organisms, still I bade her enter. In a flash, her molecules would have been strewn across the aether one hundred and fifty metres above the lab, and with her, the secrets I confided, of my true nature and the cipher I will not even here repeat. Artemisia arrived, though, and, from here, there are no notes to fall back upon and my recollections are too hazy to trust. But I have been told by Miss Paine that Molly Underwood escaped, and that I slit my own throat and entered the cabinet with a small weasel or ferret in my arms. It is almost too bizarre a tale to even credit as true.

As to what happened afterwards, well, that is something I may never fully write down anywhere. I left this world and entered yet another. One very near to this. And I lived a long life there, and in time, I understood that my affairs in New Babbage, in this universe, had been left incomplete and unfinished. And with great difficulty I returned, arriving in the city sometime late on Saturday, the day after my departure. Not even a full day had passed here, and yet for me, those seventy-five years came and went.

I am exhausted, and must rest. I will write more later, for this past evening, just before dawn, I did at last meet Mr. Jason Moriarty, the werewolf created by Alexander Eliot. And the meeting has left me weak and unable to regain strength without a constant application of alternating electrical current. There was a frightful occurrence at the Museum, shortly after dawn and my audience with whatever manner of hideous being Moriarty has become. He speaks of the return of the Old Ones, and he thinks me a compatriot in his campaign to ease their re-entry into this world. Am I? Is that what I have become? Even though I have only meant always the exact opposite? He has touched my mind. He has somehow stained me. I cannot get his foul reek out of my head. There will be another murder, one more he says, and soon, and I have no idea what I might do to prevent it.

I have sealed myself inside Abney Park laboratory. I pray my strength returns. The League is not strong enough to stand alone against what is coming, and Heaven help Bow Street and the bloody Freemasons and the 13 Club and anyone else who tries to hold back this rising tide.