Agatha H. and the Fair Dinkum Blue – Part 15

Genre: Steampunk / Gaslamp Fantasy
Stumbles Clumsily InGirl Genius
Mara’s Involvement: low/medium
Time: continuing after The Pauper Princess and the Way of the Trilobite.
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The story so far!
–Our Heroes gained some ground!
–Higgs nicked a door!
–That makes sense in context!

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Legal disclaimer stuff:
“This story is not approved by, sponsored by or affiliated with Studio Foglio LLC or Airship Entertainment.”
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The Pauper Princess Fanfiction Theatre Presents:
Agatha H. and the Fair Dinkum Blue – Part 15!

Gilgamesh re-entered the Wulfenbach bridge, cradling his communicator in one hand and rubbing his ear with the other.

“What happened down there?” Tarvek asked over the bustle of other inter-fleet communcations, most regarding damage control, casualties, and rescues. The medical ships were filling up quickly. Bodies and body parts were being found kilometers away. Almost nothing in the tornadoes’ paths was immune to damage.

“Higgs got through,” said Gilgamesh. “One of the clanks was destroyed before Zeetha and Dimo could follow, and debris from the storms drove them back. They need another way inside. She made that point rather… forcefully.”

“I don’t blame her,” said Tarvek. ”Now, it can be pried open, even if minimally and very briefly. But Higgs is inside. We received his signal that the first package was delivered. As for the second package… His communicator’s still on, but it’s stopped moving.”

Both men were quiet a moment. Gil broke the silence. “That could mean a lot of things. It was broken, or… This is Higgs. He’s unstoppable, you know. He’ll contact us. He’ll find a way.”

“Herr Wulfenbach!” said Professor Óriásifej from a far side of the bridge. Gil could see at a glance the sorry state of the Professor’s weather machine, if ‘sorry’ were sufficient to describe the melted, smoking mess it had become. “I don’t think there’s a chance now of stopping another barrage like that.”

“There wasn’t anyway, Professor,” said Gil. “Even at full power. Your sonics have been faring better; I have an idea about combining the wave motion cannon with magnetic fields to rip through their accursed shields once and for all!”

“If the package doesn’t deliver,” said Tarvek.

“What?” said Gil. “You’re against a spectacular display of strength?” He ignored Tarvek’s eye roll.

“Herr Wulfenbach!” A woman in a lab coat strode quickly through the bridge. Unusually for one of Gil’s technicians, she appeared to be entirely human. Perhaps she hid construct scars under the long sleeves and coat? She handed him a  folder. “You asked that the results be brought to you immediately?”

“I did,” he said, and flipped open the folder. Tarvek leaned in for a peek. A peek was all they needed to comprehend its contents; they traded a knowing look.

“Thank you, Doctor,” said Gil. The doctor nodded and departed as quickly as she came, while Gil gestured for the Techmasters to join him and Tarvek in the conference room.

“Gentlemen,” said Tarvek as soon as the door was shut. “There’s some bright news. After the Heterodyne lab accident that allegedly took the life of Mrs. Mouseheart, I managed to get a tissue sample of the remains. It was compared against another tissue sample that we can state with 96% certainty was from her. A genetic comparison was run.”

Gil held up the folder. “Not a match.”

“That is bright news,” said the Professor. “The Princess is alive, then?”

“That is our hope,” said Tarvek. “But that raises some troubling questions. That means that the Other managed to swap out the real Princess with an unfortunate victim and kill her in the accident, and then abscond with the Princess to… somewhere. Most likely to Matilda.”

“Meaning,” said Gil, “She had some way of traveling between camps that we haven’t detected.”

“But whatever it was,” said Tarvek, “I think it’s safe to say that it still needed shields to be down. The Heterodyne shields were down for several minutes. That must be when the switch happened. Gentlemen; it appears that the Princess is a captive in the palace of an evil Queen. And I’m now going to pretend that those words did not just come from my mouth.”

“Oh, I’m not,” said Gil. Tarvek glared. Gil leaned closer and grinned. “When you least expect it…”

Be that as it may,” said Tarvek, “We don’t let the enemy know that we know this. Understood?” The remaining Techmasters nodded assent.

“Doctor,” said Gil, “Unseal the Heterodyne lab and scour every millimeter of it for clues. Inform of us anything that seems unusual.”

“Herr Wulfenbach,” said the Doctor, “I will be in a Spark’s laboratory.”

Gil sighed. ”Unusual- Beyond– Oh, just use your instincts. And Professor-“

“Hold on,” said Tarvek. “Did you call in Othar, too?”

“I called for all of the Techmasters to…“ said Gil. He groaned and made a beeline for the bridge, followed by the others. Direct communication via Othar’s talkbox was attempted, and failed. Gil slammed a shaky fist onto a console, which inadvertently fixed the staticy glitch that had been plaguing that technician’s imaging screen for days.

Gil shook his fist at the ceiling. “How does he do that??”

*******

“-ISIS THETHE CLACLANK!” said… well, the clank which had earlier managed to open a sliver in the shield without being taken apart. By now its vibrations were so violent, the words were barely discernible. It either could not hear Zeetha’s frantic shouts for it to stop, or it was too late. In either case, in the next ten seconds “the” clank was reduced to “the former” clank as the vibrations finally reduced it to a pile of parts.

“Aw,” said Dimo, “Iz too bad. He had lots uv confidence, dot vun. So, vat did our hapless leaders say?”

Zeetha scoffed, “To wait for backup. I’ve got their ‘backup’ here!” She unsheathed her blades, girded her loins, and made ready to charge the wall herself. Her growl of determination was interrupted by Dimo’s tight grips on her shoulders. She shook it off roughtly and faced him.

“What are we supposed to do??” she demanded.

“Not dot,” he said, and as if to assist the Jägermonster in making his point, a lone, faux-Jäger soldier rushed them both. With scarcely a look, Dimo evaded the rushing attack and grabbed the enemy, then whirled in a full circle to gain speed before hurling the hapless creature directly at the shield. Its momentum was only partly impeded as it was reduced to a pile of ash from back to front. A lingering breeze began disposing of the remains.

A distant rumbling under their feet led to thoughts of those massive worms. Sonic weapons had dispatched one or more; the enemy’s own tornadoes’ had taken out others thanks to collateral damage, and yet there were still more? Zeetha loaned Dimo one of her swords. The two raised them high, preparing to stab at the first thing that dared rise from the earth.

One of Herr Wulfenbach’s drilling machines rolled up – on the ground and not under it. It looked rather worse for wear, but was still useful as a vehicle. Those machines had been locked into position to assault the shields nonstop. The storm must have ripped this one from its mooring and sent it flying.

The drilling machine slowed to a halt. The cockpit was popped open, and a grinning Other Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer, stood up in the pilot seat, arms akimbo.

“Greetings, all!” he said. “Time to take the fight right into their laps, wouldn’t you say?”

“Othar!” said Zeetha, sheathing her blade. “They sent you as our backup??”

“Ha!” he said. “No one ‘sends’ me anywhere! I go wherever there is justice to dispense, wrongs to right, and villains to pummel! Climb aboard and join me, won’t you? The fit may be a little tight, though. But a little intimacy never frightened a Hero, eh?”

Whatever reply he expected from the two, dead silence may not have been one of them.

“You… do want to pummel villains, yes?” he asked with as much uncertainty as would ever manifest for him.

“How are you expecting to do this?” asked Zeetha. “You think you can tunnel inside, or-?”

“Exactly!” he said. “With any luck, we’ll cut quite a swath through their defenses, and you’ll be reunited with your young swain!”

“Heh,” said Dimo. “Ektually, Meester Higgs iz a leedle older dan-“

“Hold on!” said Zeetha. “We just watched one of their fake Jägers get fried to dust, and Humunkus over there was shaken to pieces! How is this thing going to do better?”

“The plan is to burrow our way in, of course!” said Other. “But not straight ahead! Down, down, where the worms feast and the ants make their home! Their shields can’t go down that far. Under, back up, and right into the lion’s den!”

“Ah, now I get it,” said Zeetha. “But why didn’t the Boys do that already?”

“You’re welcome to ask them,” said Othar. “Who can work out out how Sparks think?”

“But I thought you were-“

“Shall we, then?” said Othar, gesturing to the vehicle. “Can’t let the enemy regroup and all that!”

Zeetha and Dimo traded looks, shrugged, and climbed inside. It was, indeed, a tight fit. Othar gallantly took his shrinking ray from  Zeetha to ease her entry. Once Othar was finished cramming himself into the pilot’s seat, she called for him to send the ray back. Typically of him, he pretended not to hear.

“Hey!” she said, still trying to get his attention. “I’ve got an idea! Othar, once we’re inside, we start shrinking everyone and everything! And while you two unleash hell, I find Higgs and Agatha!”

“I like your idea,” said Othar, “But you have one detail wrong; we’re not shrinking the enemy for this mission.”

Zeetha prepared to ask what he meant, when Othar began fiddling with the controls on his shrink ray. It hummed and whined while he aimed it— directly at the floor of their vehicle. She yelped and pushed against the canopy, to no avail. “Othar! No! No no no no-!“ She had no choice but to shield her eyes against the blinding flash that was followed by a sickening disorientation and nausea. She made a note to ‘thank’ Othar for making the experience so much more unpleasant than the first time she’d been shrunk to ant-size.

Grains of sand and dirt became boulders. The ground shook as ordinary soldiers, now the size of Greek Titans, converged on the spot where they once were. Othar chuckled to himself as he revved the motor and pointed the vehicle downwards, until its drill caught at the dirt and began burrowing. In moments the mouth of a new tunnel was forming, and the vehicle began tipping forward to follow it.

“Onwards and up– er, downwards to Adventure!” said Othar, chuckling all the way. Dimo allowed a grin; Zeetha groaned and planted her palm onto her face.

********

“Step lively, slave,” Lucrezia snapped. “Keep up with us.” She and Matilda made their way briskly through damp corridors, thanks to periodic sprinklers and fog wafting through to root out any other invisible intruders. The original plan had been to escort their Heterodyne slave to a laboratory, but they had changed their minds to take care of other business first. They were now on their way to the control room seen on Airman Higgs map. Lucrezia kept her faceplate shut and optics set at the frequency that had allowed her to see Hicks before. No other invisible intruders were detected thus far.

As their slave, Mara had been told to stay two or more paces behind her Mistresses. The constant, excruciating pain caused a stumble or two, but nothing to prevent her keeping up with them. It was unfortunate that she was so easily distracted by any new device she saw along the way, and every stray sound she heard. Their brisk pace afforded no more time than glances at anything. As for sounds, she heard something familiar behind her. A skittering that may have come from tiny feet. Tiny mechanical feet. The quickest of glances over her shoulder revealed a blur of movement that may or may not have come from Sturm, but it did sound like the little clank.

“-Rats,” she heard Matilda muttering. The Queen herself paused in order to glance over her shoulder. Mara barely avoided a collision. Matilda pushed her away and sneered. “Clumsy fool.” She sighed. “As perfect as my Queendom is, we still have the occasional vermin running about. Do you know, when I arrived here, I could swear that every creature on this continent was hellbent on killing everyone?” She chuckled. “And they were! So I made them ten times deadlier.”

Lucrezia snapped up her faceplate. “What is the point of this? We have things to do!”

Matilda scoffed, but continued their walk. “My, my. You’re always in such a mood. And to think that we share such a… kindship.”

You should talk about moods.”

The two women reached the control room. Matilda and Lucrezia jockeyed their way inside simultaneously. Mara lingered in the doorway just long enough to confirm that it was the little clank Sturm that had been skittering behind them. She looked straight ahead but held a hand to the side and sublty waved it away. There was no way to look over and see if it had been intelligent enough to understand her gesture.

Matilda went straight to her favorite aide, Hugh, and ordered that “the Admiral” be recalled for a new mission. It turned out that Dupree was already on her way back, for reasons of her own. Lucrezia’s gaze lingered on Hugh as he and his Queen spoke, and finally snapped out of it when Matilda cleared her throat loudly.

“I’m only admiring your taste,” she said.

Matilda smirked. “I suppose it makes sense that ours would be similar. But again, he’s mine. Touch him and die.” She beckoned to Mara, who shambled over. Matilda pulled her closer and kept her voice low. “Slave: our mutual friend Mr. Higgs had this room mapped. What was our enemy planning? What did he do in here while unseen?”

I don’t know, your Majesty,” said Mara. Matilda slapped her cheek hard. The Queen’s reflexes were quite good, but Mara’s were still just fast enough to avoid extra pain. “Not lying. Their own plan. Nothing that I knew of.”

“Useless,” said Lucrezia. She addressed the other minions present in the room. “Everyone! Look this way! We have-!“

“What the hell was that??” Admiral Dupree announced her arrival loudly, wasting no time with decorum, and stomping up to her current boss. She leaned in and jabbed at Matilda’s chest, just shy of making contact. “A little warning next time about monster storms would be nice! Three of my ships were thrown as far as the valley! And one of them–! Well, I have no idea where it is!

Admiral,” said Matilda with a smile, “You simply must watch your tone. Their intensity took us by surprise, as well. I thought we managed a respectable job at steering them, but collateral damage happens. Such is the nature of SCIENCE! you know. Were any of our ships destroyed?”

Dupree scoffed. “There’s unusable and there’s gone. But if that’s all you care about, I can’t say for certain if any were destroyed. Half of them need repairs but can still fight. And-“ She stopped after noticing Mara, seemingly for the first time. Mara did not return eye contact. “Is that who I think it is?”

“Admiral-“

Dupree giggled and clapped her hands in glee. “I get to redecorate already?? Oh, you shouldn’t have!”

“We haven’t,” said Matilda.

Dupree grabbed Mara by the jaw and turned her head from side to side. “But what did you do to her? She looks awful! You’re making more work for my taxidermist!”

“Admiral!”

Dupree stopped grinning and let go of Mara roughly. “What!”

Matilda glared. “She’s not your furniture yet. And, Admiral, you were recalled for a far more important matter. I need you to spare some ships so you can locate a spy – one Airman Higgs – who’s escaped to the western coast. He has our portable portal, and we need him found before he works out how to use it! If he hasn’t already.”

“Hold on,” said Dupree. “Did you say Higgs? And you can’t be more specific than ‘the western coast?’ I don’t need ‘some’ ships; I may need the whole squadron for this!’”

“We can’t spare the whole squadron,” said Matilda. “I know from personal experience that he’s a formidable fighter, but he couldn’t take on more than two of our ships.” Dupree folded her arms and arched an eyebrow – the only one she had, in fact. “Three?” More staring. “Oh, come now!”

“Do you want your precious portal back or not?” said Dupree.

“Obviously,” said Matilda. She grunted. “Fine. Send whatever you think will get the job done. I don’t care what condition he’s in; pry that portal from his cold, dead hands if you must! It’s our only working prototype, and the Spark who created it is no longer with us. Now, if memory serves, the last setting took him to somewhere around 29 degrees South and 114 degrees East.”

“It’s a start,” said Dupree. “But if he gets it to work, that’s all moot, anyway. Don’t you have some way of tracking it or something?”

“Admiral, just…” Matilda said, struggling to remain composed. “Time is wasting. Pursue and eliminate!”

“Now that, I’ll enjoy.” The Admiral was not given to saluting superiors, and did not make an exception for the Queen. She spun on her heels without ceremony and made haste to arrange a Higgs-hunting detachment.

Mara was furtively watching her leave, but not so keenly as to miss Lucrezia raising her arm as if preparing for a backhand. Mara drew back and locked gazes with the Mad Empress, until the latter finally relaxed her arm, but not her mood.

“See how much trouble you’ve caused us,” she hissed. “The next slip will mean your death. Oh, and before I forget: your family’s, too.”

In other circumstances, uttering a threat to Mara’s family would instantly earn the would-be villain a 180-degree spin of the neck. She had reconciled this straying from her path of peace long ago. And yet now, she was helpless to do aught but listen in horror as her own mouth and throat flatly blurted the words, “Yes, your Imperial Majesty.“

Lucrezia addressed those in the room again. “Everyone! Your attention! Whatever you’re doing now, stop immediately and look for anything that looks out of place! There have been enemy intruders in the palace, and may have planted a fiendish device unseen, in this very room!”

Lucrezia was fluent in the Queen’s English, which was why the Dinnundrians had some difficulty penetrating her accent, but they managed to convey amongst themselves that something needed to be found, and set to it.

******

“Are you ready, Professor?” asked Gil. The Professor impulsively made a final adjustment to the large viewing screen, almost did so again, hesitated, and then finally nodded. “Excellent. Open the package!”

The Professor straightened up and stood as primly as he might when welcoming his first class of the semester, and then broke into a grin and slightly-suppressed giggle as he picked up… a small, black remote and pressed its single red button.

The viewing screen hummed quietly at first and displayed a few white and grey spots. In little time both the humming and spots on the screen increased in intensity, until the humming began sounding more like a bit of high-pitched screeching, and the spots became static with outlines of movement. To the gentlemen’s right was another device equipped with paper and ink that began automatically typing. Tarvek skimmed its contents, then traded nods with Gil.

The static gradually cleaned up into proper images and displayed a most welcome sight: the Dinnundrian control room where Higgs had delivered his package. Within were all sorts of hapless minions – and other – reacting to the immensely amplified flash grenade that currently assaulted all of their senses. Not only the usual strobe lights and screeching sounds to blind and deafen, respectively, but also odors that only a Jäger could love, and steady bursts of static electricity to shock and, with any luck, incapacitate.

Now that sight and sound were clear, they watched the occupants of the room through the banks of their own viewing screens. Reactions to the sensory overload varied, but were invariably entertaining. Over the din – somewhat muffled on the New Europan side – and flashing lights, they could just make out some women attempting to bark commands.

Gil thought it might be a good time to chime in and get their attention, when another sound came from one of their extra screens in the room. It was a contact signal – a familiar one. Tarvek reached out to shut off the signal, when an image popped quickly into view. The glowering visage of his favorite cousin, Violetta, joined by Krosp I, Emperor of all Cats, whose face just barely peered from the bottom of the screen.

“Violetta, this is not a good time!” said Tarvek. His hand hovered just by the power switch.

“Where is Her Ladyship Most High?”

This is not a good time!” remained his answer.

“Spare us,” said Krosp. “The fact that she hasn’t resumed her daily contact means that you’ve failed to find her!”

“She is not missing,” said Gil. “It’s more complicated than that. He’s not exaggerating. This isn’t a good time!”

“GoodbyeForNowWe’llTalkLater,” Tarvek blurted, and flipped the switch. The callers of Castle Heterodyne disappeared from view. As soon as Tarvek resumed his attentions on the view in Dinnunder, they reappeared.

“Thanks, Castle,” said Violetta.

“THE YOUNG STORM KING WAS BEING RUDE,” it said.

“Violetta-!”

Back on the screen depicting Life in Dinnunder, an armored figure near the back of the room could be seen holding up something and crushing it. With that, the package was destroyed, and the Dinnundrian control room reverted to its own version of normal. Lucrezia, helpfully still clad in Agatha’s personal Heterodyne armor, gave the device one last look before tossing it aside angrily and striding toward the viewing screens. Just out of sight, they heard the groan of another woman. It was a familiar groan to both of them, albeit for different reasons.

Lucrezia’s helmet disappeared into the folds of the suit. “Well! Wasn’t that inconvenient. Really, boys? A song and dance number?”

“We only wanted to say hello,” said Gil. “Introduce ourselves to our hostess, the so-called ‘Queen Matilda.’ She wasn’t damaged by the light and sound show, was she?”

“’So-called??’” an incensed Queen grumbled before stepping into view. She did a respectable job of pretending that she had fully recovered. “Fine words from Monsieur… ‘Emperor Gil!’ ‘Emperor Tarvek!’ Bah!”

Gil slapped at Tarvek’s arm and pointed at the screen. “What did I say? Zola! Called it!”

“I said that I had a list,” Tarvek protested. “Of course she was on it.”

Gil waved it off. “Then you should have named her and not Anevka. Honestly, and you pester me about Bohrlaikha.”

If this isn’t a bad time for you two?” said Zola. “No doubt you’re burning with curiosity. How did I end up here, of all places, and managed to rule it in such short time? Ah, mon cheri, you see-”

“We don’t care,” said Gil. “And I’m not your ‘cheri.’”

“Of course you care,” she said. “After your voyou friend the alleged Storm King assaulted me in his typically brutish manner, I managed to make my way to-“

We. Don’t. Care,” said Gil. “At least, not enough to hear the entirety from that far back. Now you might be interested to know-“

What the hell is going on there?” Krosp interjected from his imperfect vantage point. “Turn this thing around so we can see what’s happening!”

“Who is that?!” Zola demanded, whose view of the New Europans did not include the screen depicting Krosp and Violetta. “You’ve got rather cheeky minions, I should say. Wouldn’t last a second under my rule.”

“If memory serves,” said Lucrezia, “It sounds like Ag—er, ‘my’ cat.”

Krosp’s habit of correcting Agatha’s constant refusal to accept him as her liege was momentarily stayed. He’d caught the odd hesitation and change of wording, and did not trust it. If those buffoons had let her become the Other again-!

“My La-!” Violetta started, and then was stopped by Krosp’s paw slapping over her mouth. She was a smart girl – appropriately suspicious – but he’d already used up their allotment of knee-jerk reactions.

“They’re not minions,” said Tarvek. “Just unexpected visitors. Now, we’re going to be generous about this and offer you the chance to surrender.”

Zola and Lucrezia traded looks. “Because…?” said Zola.

“Oh, no,” said Gil, “That would be spoiling things.”

Lucrezia scoffed. “Going to bring the city down around our ears? While this body is still in it? Hardly. It was clever of you to hide an EMP pulse in your little smoke bomb, but our systems have come back online by now.”

“Good,” said Gil. “Then you’ll notice-“

“Your Majesty!” a minion was heard shouting. “Our shields are dropping!”

Zola glared at him. “Then raise them.”

“…I can’t!”

Zola disappered from view, but was heard to say, “The override. Where’s the override?!” Then: “Slave! Get up, you worthless thing!” They heard, but could not see, Zola’s struggle to rouse someone – a woman, by the sound of her groans. “Get over there and help them!” She gave orders to others to rally their forces and protect the palace. People darted in and out of view to carry them out.

Lucrezia stepped forward to deliver her fiercest scowl before reactivating the suit’s helmet. “This is temporary,” she said. “And this place is still a fortress, with or without shields. I’ll slaughter your troops myself! You sent Jägers, no doubt. Well-!”

“As much as our Generals disagree; no,” said Gil. “Not anything conditioned to obey Agatha’s voice.”

My voice!”

“Lucrezia,” said Tarvek, “We don’t want to do this. Zola: surrender now, and you and the Dinnundrians will be treated fairly.”

“’Fairly,’” said Zola, “As in finishing what you started with me? I’ve got a lot more than Darius’ Flight Raiment in my arsenal these days.”

“What have you done to these people?” he said. “It’s not wasps; no doubt its something else forcing their obedience, but it’s also poisoning them. Killing them slowly. Turning their organs to sludge!”

Zola shrugged. “A means to an end. I’m not proud of the inefficiency, but it gets the job done.” The handsome man they’d dealt with before – her aide-de-camp or what have you – stepped up and murmured something to her. Whatever it was, she was pleased with the news. She clapped her hands together in glee. “Ooo, mon amie, you remember my little death ray from above, don’t you? Gil? How is that ship of yours these days?”

Gil glared. “Still in use. One way or another.”

“How efficient,” she said. “Well, it was a bit of a blow for you to find and destroy my communications satellite. The world does run on information, after all. Haven’t managed to replace it yet. Fortunately, we still have the weapon satellite.”

The two Emperors traded looks. “You–” said Tarvek, “Our fleet’s shields are strong enough to withstand it. You’d be wasting a shot!”

“Not here,” she said. “There. Back home. Hugh, dear; fire when ready.”

“At once, Your Majesty.”

“You’re still wasting a shot!” said Gil. “Do you think we left the homelands defenseless?”

“What?” said Zola. “Is the entirety of Europa in a bubble?”

“What’s going on?” A female from out of view was heard. The voice reminded Lucrezia of that traitorous, former Smoke Knight.

Tarvek said, “Violetta! Krosp! Make sure the Castle-!”

“OHHHH, STOP PANICKING,” it said. “THE MISTRESS HOOKED UP THE NEW DEFENSES HERSELF. IT WILL BE LIKE THROWING WATER AT A FISH.”

“We’re going to find out, then, aren’t we?” said Zola. “Hugh?”

“The bear has been dropped, Your Majesty.”

“Castle…?” Violetta was heard to say. Then a low rumbling that quickly and gradually increased in intensity.

“Hey!” said the Krosp cat. “What’s the-? It’s not getting through, is it?”

“OH, NO,” said the Castle. “BUT IT IS GOUGING OUT A LOVELY PATH IN THE MEADOW BEHIND US. IT’LL REACH US IN JUST A FEW- MORE-”

Violetta cried out and just managed to avoid being crushed by debris falling from the ceiling.

“Violetta… Krosp…” said Tarvek, “Get out of there.”

“Castle!” said Krosp. “I’m no Spark, but it doesn’t seem to be holding!”

“HOHOLD ONON,” it said. “JUJUST SOSOME MIMINOR… OHOH DEDEAR. BUBUT THETHE MISMISTRESS-?“

“Get out of there!”

“Hmmm,” said Zola, smirking to Lucrezia, who was strangely silent, “I’d actually been worried that there’d be no damage. It sounds like the Castle is taking a beating, non?” She nudged the still-silent Lucrezia. “Non?”

“Er…” she said, as if waking up, “No. I mean, yes! A triumph, to be sure!”

“Get! Out of there!”

The screen sputtered on and off, with each moment ‘on’ showing more and more destruction, until it was impossible to tell if they were seeing static, or dust and sparks. They heard, at best, snippets from Violetta and Krosp.

“Trying <<spfffk>> Too much <<skrrrk>> Krosp! <<kksskk>> BOOM Violet <<sphhhvmvm>> boom Boom BOOOOOM-“

The screen snapped off. For three seconds, there was pure silence.

“Violetta…” Tarvek whispered.

–To be continued

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