Disclaimer: This thrilling tale of the exploits of the TCDA was penned by the Irish Samauri in May 2012, and is here archived with nary an alteration or edit.
Constable Skeetle had just reached the most delicate operation in the servicing of his weapon, the magnificent Webley and Stronginthearm Mark VII ‘Widowmaker’ (with, of course Dr Schadenfreude’s patented Proximity Deterrent). The table in front of him was covered in parts and tools, some of which could only exist in the slightly more... relaxed reality of HQ.
Being brought up as a keen believer in the Daemonic Manifestations of the Triumvirate of Distraction, Misfortune and Comedic Timing (that recent fashion saw fit to pervert into a single entity colloquially known as the Ironic Overpower), he looked around for anything which could distract him, noting that his partner had still not arisen (who could be very distracting when she put her mind to it), and that the alarm on the Computational Engine in their shared Readiness Chamber was set to silent.
Skeetle made the required feint attempts at locating the component, thereby offering up a small sacrifice of his time as a gift just in case any of the Triumvirate may happen to be watching (the hand gestures of warding preferred by the devotees of the IO were nothing more than idle superstition to his mind).
As the last echoes faded away, Skeetle was acutely aware of two things. The first was that the volume control of their Computational Engine was now in the upright and locked position, and the second was that the resonant frequency of the bell was exactly that which would cause the Emulsific Compensator to shatter.
Some days, even the most careful observations of the required rituals left you with egg (or in this specific case, viscous blue fluid) on your face.
The noise had been loud enough to wake the dead, literally, as it turned out. Skeetle could hear the sounds of his companion moving around in her room, as he turned the control wheel of the Engine to the ‘accept’ position.
Various mechanical sounds, clicks, clacks and hisses, started emanating from the Computational Engine as the automatic keyboard began typing up the mission parameters. Other aspects of the machinery activated on cue, including the recently purchased Bugatti Self-Contained Tea Production Automaton.
The Engineer from the Department of Applied Technical Creativity had successfully integrated it with the Computational Engine the previous night, and now Skeetle would be automatically served with a cup of the finest tea prior to every mission. The Constable was a firm believer that no Gentleman Adventurer should ever have to combat the vicious multitude of the forces of badfic without first having imbibed a suitable draught, and now he wouldn’t even have to brew it himself.
A mere 8 seconds after activation, the patented Quad-Stack Supercharged Overpressure Boiler had delivered a stream of hot liquid into Skeetle’s waiting cup. With much trepidation, he slowly brought the steaming hot drink to his lips. It was time to find out if that reviewer in the latest TechnoTeapot serialisation actually knew what they were talking about.
Best. Purchase. Ever.
He was still standing in the middle of the RC, with an expression of absolute bliss on his face, when his partner walked out of her sleeping chamber. The sight of her caused his smile to turn up by a couple of notches.
“Vy must my zluuuumber be dezturbed?”
She was wearing a corset and leather trousers, the black of her clothing emphasising the paleness of her skin. Her hair, usually intricately braided, hung loose.
Skeet wandered over to the output array, cup of tea still in hand, and looked at the roll of parchment that was spilling out into a bucket. The report was clearly extensive; a couple of feet worth of printing had already collected, with more still being printed. Usually the reports generated by the Department of Expeditionary Reconnaissance were only several inches at most.
“Sky-pirates of teh Caribbean.” Skeetle read out the title of the fic they’d be going into.
“Apparently. Also: Sky-pirates. Despite the fact that this abomination of an amateur literary work is set in the year of Our Lord 1665, fully two centuries and more prior to Messrs Wright and Wright perfecting their design for an effective and efficient aeronautical engine-“
“Yez, yez, I am fully avare of zhat, zame az hyu. Vot of ze mission itzelf?”
Skeetle began scanning the document printed out so far, giving his partner the highlights. “Um... according to this, there’s a whole armada of Extra-Canonical pirate ships, which can fly naturally, virtually every EC in there is a Sue or Stu, with Improbability Quotients up in the sixties at minimum, so a severe danger of Total Personality Transfer for the most lusted after canonical characters... oh...”
“It seems that most of the ships have a version of the main canons. Reconnaissance think it most likely to be a collaborative effort, with each respective author lacking the capacity to share any of their LOs.”
“Zoundz like hard vurk, I vill be vanting zumtink tzu perk me up a leetle, bevore ve head in.” She sashayed into the kitchenette off the main room, taking a vial out from the prototype Chilled Organ Storage Unit that Medical may or may not know they were missing.
Skeetle’s continued assessment of the fic was interrupted by the sound of tortured metal and the grinding of gears. The typewriter stopped moving, one arm frozen in place halfway to the page.
While he was no Engineer or Armourer from DATC, Skeetle had grown used to the idiosyncrasies of their device, and cast his eye over the engine, noting which parts were locked solid, which quivered in their mountings, and which of the multitude of gauges had needles approaching the red.
“Pass me the... number seven, left handed, adjustable correction wrench, would you?”
Liza plucked the requested tool from its rack, her lips stained a dark red from drinking, and handed the high precision wrench to her partner. He sagged slightly under the weight, but quickly set about calibrating it. Spinning the dials at the business end until he was satisfied with the shape and weight distribution, Skeetle then stepped up to the malfunctioning device and, in a move that would have shocked and appalled the Oriental Artificer, rapped it smartly on its side (the Oriental Artificer, the same as any other traditionalist when it came to the fine art of percussive maintenance, would never dream of using the number seven for anything other than an overhead, vertical strike to a piece of offending machinery).
With a shudder and the hiss of venting steam, the Computational Engine started up again, almost immediately filling the small room with an unbearable racket.
The bell, rattle and whistle were all going, and as Skeetle once more turned the wheel to ‘accept’ he realised why the mission brief was so long. It wasn’t their mission, but rather an ‘All Officers’ alert. Maybe the integration of the Automaton hadn’t been totally successful, it made a damn good cup of tea, but had possibly affected the settings of the main Engine. Unless and until it landed him in hot water with the Portentuous Council of Transnatural Directors, Skeetle would consider that to be a fair trade-off.
The mission brief finished printing, and Skeetle scanned through the final section, detailing the specific request for assistance and the plan that the first Constables in the field had put together.
Alizabeth had finished her drink, gaining a bit of colour to her skin tone, and was rummaging through their shared weapons’ locker.
“Vot iz ze mission zhen?”
“It’s worse than I first thought! Not only do we have a veritable army of Sues, sorry, that should be ‘navy’, to deal with, and technology contamination, but the entire world is one huge Locational Continuity Error! The reason everyone uses airships is that the land has broken up into a series of ‘floating islands’.”
“Vy iz zat?”
Skeetle spoke slowly, at first trying to comprehend what he was reading, before his brain shut down all non-essential features to preserve itself. The exquisite tea was also a remarkably good coping mechanism. “According to Reconnaissance... uh... in the backstory of the fic... the world... exploded. Thus leading to the need for airships.”
“Ze Vurld exploded?”
“Yes, according to the Explorer for ‘no adequately explained reason’.”
The female Constable had finished arming herself, a pair of duelling pistols and a rapier were visible, and she’d have a couple of smaller blades hidden somewhere. Skeetle’s quad-barrelled repeating pistol and a more traditional cutlass were laid out on the table for him.
“Zo, vot iz zee plan, und vere do ve fit in to eet?”
Skeetle finished reading the mission briefing. “The plan calls for a group of Constables to take over one of the EC pirate ships, then launch it into the middle of a large, and rather lacklustre, ‘naval’ battle. Apparently the Phlostigon Department are working in conjunction with the Department for Technical Creativity to rig up a ‘large exothermic reaction generator’ that will be mounted on our captured vessel, and should wipe out all of the Technological Contaminations. Obviously, prior to that, teams are going to sent in to recover any canonical characters from the various ships, which is mostly where we’re going to come in.”
“Zho, ve are to be pirates zhen?”
“Actually my dear, the plan calls for us to chamaelenify ourselves as members of the ‘Royal Air Navy’, and why that wouldn’t be the Royal Air Force I don’t know, as the first part of the mission is to capture a pirate vessel, and we do have to keep as canonical as possible.” He began to work on the appearance altering device, calling up the default uniform for Royal Navy mariners.
Alizabeth strode forward and jabbed a finger into her partner’s chest, using her deceptively powerful strength to force him away from the intricate brasswork controls.
“No,” She announced. “I don’t like zee uniformz, ve vill be pirates.”
Skeetle opened his mouth to raise further objectives, but she cut him off before he had a chance to utter a single syllable.
“Pirates fight each odder all zee time, ve vill be perfectly canonical.”
“I still think that we should-“
Alizabeth’s hair streamed out behind her, blowing in a non-existent breeze, and her irises turned from grey to blood red. Shadows flickered across her face, as the lights within the RC flared and dimmed, and Skeetle’s flesh was covered in goosebumps due to the rapid temperature drop. All in all, it was an unnerving display, even for a seasoned Constable of the Transfictional Canonical Defence Authority.
“Alright, my darling: pirates it is.”
“Vot harre hyu vaitink vor zhen?” It had often been remarked upon in the past that Alizabeth’s accent grew stronger the more she drew on her power.
Well, my psychotic companion to move out of the way of the control column that she never bothered to learn to use, but there’s probably a more diplomatic way of putting that,thought Skeetle. He took on an apologetic tone, well aware of the finger stabbing just over his heart. “Oh, well, it’s nothing of course, but you are rather pinning me to the wall here, and I can’t quite seem to reach the controls from all the way back here.”
Skeetle added greatcoats to both of their ensembles, and selected a tricorn hat for himself. With their disguises set, and the appropriate weapons and equipment gathered, they powered up the Aetheric Sunderer and prepared to enter the Literary Realms once more.