Fiction Fragment: Border Time

Gerald Thorne sat in his study, running the thin silver chain links flow between his ink-stained fingers. He was aware of the soft rumble of the traffic outside, but it was the patient ticking of the clock that held his attention. The clock itself was on the marble mantelpiece behind him. It’s mechanism ran smoothly with gentle winding every week or so, and it had travelled with him everywhere that it had been practical to take it.

It had been a present upon his graduation decades ago. It’s simple ornamentation was classic in its beauty. It had always kept perfect time, except for under certain esotoric conditions.

With the thick drapes excluding the outside world, and the only light coming from thick candles either end of his desk, the scene had a timeless quality that seemed gathered and layered, condensed even. The steady ticking of the clock continued to slice that timelessness into even segments that fell away into eternity.

He looked and trickled the chain links from one hand to the palm of the other slowly, back and forth in time with the clock. The silver gleamed in the candle light like water catching the evening sun. The moment of dusk was near: the border time, the boundary of night and day. The procession of seconds continued, each as unremarkable as the next as Gerald’s awareness of the outside world faded and focused on the moment.

The clock skipped a second. And then another. All was silent. Gerald gripped the silver chain, and then he heard the click of a dog’s claws on the vinyl flooring outside the door.

Short Story: What The Butler Sees

Lord Farnsworth’s butler, Barnes, had seen better days, but the gearsmiths in Lanthorn Street had done their best to restore him after his last misadventure. The old ticking noise that had usually preceded him into the room was gone, but the pneumatic hiss of his prosthetic leg more than made up for it.

If the encroaching mechanisms fused with his ailing flesh bothered him, he was far too stoic to make a fuss where anyone might see him. He had served both the present Lord Farnsworth and his father before him with faultless efficiency, leading some to joke that he had a little clockwork in him long before the gearsmiths were commissioned.

He advanced with military precision ahead of the girls into the dining room, and supervised them as they prepared the room for breakfast. An array of platters and tureens were rapidly filled, and the smell soon brought the houseguests out of their respective rooms.

Lord Farnsworth may have been called away, but he had left strict instructions with his gentleman’s gentleman that the frankly motley crew now assembling should be extended every courtesy. Barnes was assiduous in his efforts to make this happen.

The Bellingharm woman and her companion Alexa were first to arrive, and politely acknowledged his presence even as they took their seats. The next to enter was Herr Manchen, whose polychromatic lenses concealed much of his scarred face. He was soon engaged in a heated debate with the dour engineer-savant who had arrived in the small hours of the morning. He had given his name as Orson – at least that was what Barnes hoped he’d said – his hearing wasn’t what it was.

Last but not least was Lord Farnsworth’s advisor, the mysterious androgyne known as Harp. Barnes didn’t trust them, but his employer did. They exchanged a cool glance and then Harp started filling a plate with a hearty selection of fruit.

The strange assembly paid Barnes and the servants little mind as they broke their fast. Seeing that the serving girls weren’t needed any further, he dismissed them for the moment and moved with heavy gait to rest near the speaker tube in the corner. If help was needed, he could discretely manage it.

Barnes allowed himself a private moment of reverie. He remembered his more dashing days with the regiment in Africa, and previous teams that Lord Farnsworth had assembled to resolve certain matters for The Crown. He wondered how many of this new group would return this evening, or the days to come.

Then Herr Machen threw a punch at Orson, and small pastries went tumbling. Harp moved out the way as they staggered back and forth, and just smiled as Orson produced a slide-rule to fend off his assailant.

Barnes stepped forward. He may have seen better days, but that didn’t mean he should let this one get any worse.

Fiction Fragment – something scifi

Money – as was to be expected – had changed hands. And Varras owed Bensen what he had paid for before leaving the Borean on his previous mission. Perhaps simplistically, Bensen had chosen to believe that the debt would be honoured, trusting to his reputation. The ring of guards around the room was not an encouraging sign.

Varras spread spatulate fingers and shrugged. “Such baroquing of technology these days; such an intriguing waste do you not agree? The sign of a degenerate culture I’m sure.”

Bensen’s smile did not quite reach his eyes. “Unless, of course, there’s a reason for it.” He turned the disarmed pistol over in his hands – his fingertip tracing a swirl here, his palm brushing a figurine’s face, just so. He ended up holding the inert device by the foresight, dangling it casually by his side.

Varras affected not to notice and changed the subject. “So tell me, why should I not now have you disposed of as an anachronistic lesion on my profit plans?” His sharp teeth glinted as he savoured the moment. A squeeze of Bensen’s fingers and the pistol fell to the floor, suddenly unadorned, as the decorative filigree framework writhed and twisted around his hand. The Assassin whipped his now glittering fist into the air to point at him.

The pistol hit the ground, all but unnoticed, the clatter sounding tinny and far-off.

Varras’ eyes focussed on the delicate tracery flowing around Bensen’s hand that condensed into a solid mass across the back of his fist like a gaudy set of knuckledusters. The three jewels had migrated here – and with the Assassin’s fist now bunched to present them directly at him, Varras suddenly noticed a faint glow within them that had not been there before.

“You can try.”