"Fido?!" This hurt. The werewolf cast a gimlet eye at Rose, though his eyes inevitably slid upwards to Gege. Rose, noticeable as she was, still faced stiff competition in the attention-capturing business. The werewolf muttered something impolite under his breath, then moved towards the ladder. He reached out and grabbed the bottom rung of the ladder, then began to pull himself up.
"Good luck everyone." Seventeen said grimly, then followed the werewolf. Cuchulainn was next, and in short order the rest of you headed up the tunnel, into the chamber of horrors and into a confrontation.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tick. Tock. Tock. Tick. Tick. Tock. Tock.
It was cold in the chamber, and the kind of frigid chill that left the breath smoking and formed little patterns of frost on metal or glass, given enough time. On the whole, the room was rather plain, especially compared to the panoramas which had greeted you throughout the transformed museum. Just a plan chamber with wooden floors and stout, brick walls. Several bookshelves lined with tomes from a long ago past ran along one wall, and a second was given over to a set of medical equipment, the height of early 19th century technology. There was a door, leading out to some strange corridor, and there were a handful of windows, showing an otherwise pleasant London night.
There was an operating table. The operating table, the one which Oleg Chernenko had wheeled in earlier this night, the one thing in this room which was actually real. Robert Hammond sat on the operating table, apparently unharmed, at least for the moment. The changeling was unbound, but there was an unpleasantly vague look in his eyes. They were glazed over, and utterly vacant. Beside the changeling stood one of the corpses which had so recently been messily executed on the floor of the Curio Room. In life, he had been a minor gang member. A tough man, nothing more. Now his skull was sawed open, and where his brain had been a device of clockwork and ectoplasm ticked away, slowly but surely. This was in one corner of the room.
In the second stood Fraulein Schäfer, ticking gently, forever 45. She was dressed in an apron stained with oil over a plain dress from an earlier age. Her aquiline, noble face was impassive. Her eyes were made of metal and glass, the ends of microscopes with those tiny ground glass lenses, set in those flat circles of shining brass. And the ticking came from her brain, the top of her head missing, the flesh at the edges of the open skull above her ears sealed with narrow bands of riveted brass, and the clockwork brain, the Schäfer Movement,in the open air, working in her head. She stood impassive, watching you with those alien eyes, while the long-dead mind still worked within that clockwork machine.
And in the third corner of the room sat Oleg Chernenko. Wormwood, the Poison Star. He looked... normal. In this madhouse of the past, Oleg looked like a white-collar worker on a lunch-break at first glance. Even sitting down, he was a tall man, cadaverous and thin, and he was ugly. His face was scarred by pockmarks, skin deeply lined. He had a neat beard, and his salt-and-pepper hair looked recently combed. He had taken off his jacket, the kind of garment that cost more than most of you were likely to earn in a year, and had spread it on the ground. His sleeves were rolled up and his tie were loosened, and he sat upon the casually discarded jacket, pouring himself a tumbler of rich, amber liquid from a bottle marked Glenfiddich.
Across his lap lay a single, steel baton. Thirty centimeters precisely from one end to the other, chill steel nevertheless somewhat rusted with age.
“I told you, Hippolyte, someone would show up.” Chernenko told the impassive ghost, raising the glass of whiskey in a toast.
Cuchulainn shot him before he took the first sip. From somewhere not heretofore seen, the mage withdrew a revolver, a huge gun with bullets in calibers usually reserved for shotguns. It took Wormwood in the chest, causing him to twist and jerk. Blood abruptly stained his shirt and coat. The Guardian must have hit him in the heart or an artery. Chernenko blinked and looked at the red spreading over his shirt.
“Always, the interruptions. No culture today.” Oleg said in a sharp, ugly voice. “I had not even made the introductions. There are proprieties to observe.”
Seventeen, caring precious little for proprieties, raised his hands and began to incant. Slippery, twisting words fell from his mouth, sounding like only so much glossalia to one not of the Awakened. Wormwood sighed and folded his arms, making a little “move this along” gesture with one hand until Seventeen finished. Then the Mage pointed his hand at Chernenko, and a bolt of lightning leaped from his hand. The air was filled with a sudden, acrid smell of burning flesh, as a fair portion of Chernenko's upper chest sizzled and boiled under the intense heat of the lightning.
“Guardians... pfah, I've lost my train of thought.” Chernenko said, then closed his grip on the steel baton in his lap. “Fraulein?”
From within a pocket of her apron, Hippolyte Schäfer withdrew a baton, precisely identical to the one in Chernenko's hand. Without a wasted movement, she swished it through the air like an orchestral conductor, gathering up energy and then releasing it in a spell of her own.
It was the same spell she had afflicted Caelan and Rakesh with before. Cuchulainn stumbled to his knees, clutching his head as if hit. The revolver clattered to the ground. Seventeen merely stood, eyes wide and staring, murmuring something in a horrified tone under his breath. “No... no... no...”
“So.” Chernenko said, grinning broadly at the Guardians' distress. “Introductions?”