These two sections were written in the summer of 2005 and were intended to be the first of a series of bits forming a background story for a wargame campaign. My local wargame club at the time was planning a Victorian Science Fiction campaign using the GASLIGHT ruleset. I started dating Hanna just as the campaign was scheduled to begin, thus reprioritizing my Saturday evenings, so I'm not sure what happened in the campaign. I never got around to writing any more of this project, so these two sections are presented here for any amusement value they may provide.
The hunchback glanced over his shoulder to ensure that everything was in place. Confident that all was ready, he threw his entire body onto the huge lever and pulled it down as far as it would go. Lightning arced across the laboratory. The castle lights flickered three times, went out completely for a half-second, then returned to their normal dim glow. The row of fuses over the hunchback’s head crackled and hummed. A flask of bubbling green liquid on the far side of the room shattered, spreading glass shards and steaming emerald globules in all directions. A small bell on the wall dinged.
“The sandwiches are ready, Master,” said the hunchback.
“Excellent, Roland,” said the doctor. He laid the book he’d been reading softly on the side table and settled back into his armchair. “How is work progressing on the Anti-California Ballistic Missile?”
“I’ll continue work on it right after lunch,” said the hunchback. He arranged a pair of toasted sandwiches carefully on a paper plate and poured a tall glass of milk. “Master, I know you’ve explained it to me before, but I’m still confused. Could you tell me exactly why it is you want to destroy all life in California?”
“It’s to prevent the existence of something called the Captain and Tennille,” said Doctor Thwackworthy.
The hunchback paused to think for a long moment. “This has something to do with the time machine again, doesn’t it, Master?”
“Yes,” replied the doctor. He accepted the plate of sandwiches and took a sip of the milk. “You wouldn’t understand, Roland. It’s science.”
“I see,” said the hunchback, nodding. “It’s sort of like the time you laid waste to that vast expanse in Russia?”
“I had to,” insisted the doctor. “They kept humming Gilbert and Sullivan tunes. They had to die.”
“I can see that.” The hunchback fixed himself a plate of sandwiches and sat on the edge of a workbench. “Oh, the latest issue of ‘Mad Scientist Digest’ arrived in the morning mail. It’s on the armoire.” He took a bite of a sandwich half. “Sorry Master, the brie is a bit runny today.”
The doctor laid the paper plate beside his book and looked around to find a newspaper placed atop his favourite, well-worn copy of ‘A Traveller’s Guide to Things That Need to Be Blown Up’. He whisked up the newspaper, spent several minutes unfolding it, and flipped quickly to the back.
He read quietly for a moment, then said abruptly, “Here it is, Roland. It’s what I’ve been waiting for.”
The hunchback looked up nonchalantly. “Something interesting in the personals?”
“Indeed,” replied the doctor. “Listen to this: ‘Arch-nemesis needed. Evil mad scientist, 50-something, seeks worthy foe with whom to do battle. Must provide own minions. No fatties.’”
“That does sound interesting,” Roland said. “Who is it from?”
“Says it’s from a Professor Inqueblought in Alberta. Where’s Alberta, Roland?”
“It’s in Canada, Master.”
“Canada, eh?” The doctor rubbed his chin. “Is that one of ours?”
“No, Master,” said the hunchback. “It’s a different country. Head towards Montana, turn north, and keep on going. You can’t miss it.”
The doctor leaped out of his chair, bumping the end table and spilling sandwiches and milk onto the floor. “Prepare to destroy Alberta, Roland. And bring me my slippers.”
“Yes, Master.” The hunchback turned his face away and smiled to himself.
The giant appeared at the top of the staircase carrying a small cannon under each arm. “I found these in the back of the shoe closet, Master,” he said in a soft voice. “What are they?”
“Ah!” exclaimed the professor. “You found my opera guns. Thank you, Armand.”
“Opera guns?” the giant repeated. He held one cannon up and squinted into the end of the barrel. “What do they do, Master?”
“The concept,” said the professor, “was that you shoot someone with the opera gun and it turns him into an opera singer.”
The giant thought about that for a long, long time. After a while, he said, “Why?”
“I quite like opera singers,” explained the professor.
“It sounds very evil, Professor Inqueblought,” the giant said. He set the two artillery pieces down on a coffee table. The table collapsed under the weight. The giant unfolded a nearby newspaper and placed it carefully over the debris. “Does it work?”
“No,” the professor said sadly. “A shame really, it was one of my favourite ideas. It makes a jolly big explosion, though.” His eyebrows raised suddenly and he smiled.
“Right then,” said Armand. “What do you want me to do with these metal mannequins, Master?” He motioned towards three large iron statue-like devices standing in a dark corner of the laboratory.
“Those aren’t mannequins,” said the professor. He produced a wooden box the size of a cigar case, its upper surface covered with small dials and switches and levers. “Those are my new automatons. Metal killing machines, unstoppable, designed to do my bidding and destroy my enemies.” He turned several of the dials on the control box in his hands. “I call them ‘Professor Inqueblought’s Evil Death-Bots.’ Let’s see if they work, shall we?”
The nearest machine’s metal eyelids flickered open. Evil red glowing lights appeared in the lenses where its eyes should have been. “I… must…” it said with an ominous metallic monotone, “… clean.”
“Hmmmm,” said the professor, “I may need to adjust their operational instructions a little.”
The second metal man awoke. “Heavens,” it said. “Will you just look at this place?”
“Those drapes are just awful,” said the third Evil Death-Bot. “You’re not going out dressed like that, are you?”
“Must clean,” insisted the first automaton. “This place is filthy. Oh my.”
“Shall I put these away with the others, Master?” the giant asked patiently.
“This is so very disappointing,” the professor said. He sat down heavily in his armchair. “I was counting on using my Evil Death-Bots in support of the war effort. Already the Americans are streaming across the border.”
“I have an idea, Master,” said Armand. “Why don’t you take that large cleaning vehicle you designed out of the basement and use that for the war effort?”
“You mean ‘Professor Inqueblought’s Evil Vacuum-Powered Floor and Rug Cleansing Conveyance’?” The professor’s eyes brightened with excitement. “That invention uses the suction generated by an artificially-created vacuum to literally lift soil and foreign objects up off the floor as a means of cleaning the surface.”
“Yes,” said the giant, nodding enthusiastically, “that’s the one. The 40-ton thing with three inches of armour plating and cannons and machineguns sticking out of it.”
“Ah, yes.” Professor Inqueblought replied, nodding. “That’s in case I needed to clean some flooring deep behind enemy lines.”
“You could use that for the war effort,” the giant repeated helpfully.
The professor looked puzzled. “I don’t follow you,” he said.
“You could put soldiers inside the armoured floor-cleansing conveyance,” the giant explained slowly, “ and they could use it to assault enemy positions.”
“I see, I see.” The professor stood up and spilled crossword puzzle books across the floor. “The soldiers could use the protection of the armoured cleansing conveyance to approach enemy strongholds…”
“Yes, that’s it,” the giant said encouragingly.
“… and clean the floors of the enemy positions!” exclaimed the professor.
“No, that’s not quite what I had in mind,” said the giant. He rubbed his forehead.
A sudden clacking noise interrupted their thoughts. The wireless scrub-o-type transceiver in the far corner of the laboratory spat out a strip of paper tape. The professor rushed over to interpret the message.
“Armand, look at this.” He stared at the series of holes in the paper strip. “It’s a reply to my message in the personals in ‘Mad Scientist Digest’, accepting my challenge.” He looked up at the giant. “I’ve found my new arch-nemesis.”
“Who’s it from?”
“A Doctor Thwackworthy, from Castle Scranton in Pennsylvania.” The professor stared absent-mindedly at the ceiling. “Thwackworthy… Thwackworthy… Isn’t he the man who destroyed several major European cities because he thought people were using portable telegraph devices in theatres and restaurants?”
“Yes,” the giant said, slowly banging his head against the doorpost. “I’m afraid that’s the one.”
The content on this page was written in 2005
Last updated: June 11, 2016