A new toy

- October 4th, Paramount Hill, early evening -

Stepping up to the door, Josiah raised his hand to knock, but thought better of it. The First Citizen didn’t knock - What the hell was he even thinking!?

His apprehension at what he had seen last night must have him even more rattled than he had realised.

Instead, he firmly grasped the doorknob, twisted it and pushed the door open to sweep into the room beyond, closely followed by a small retinue of attendants; the bodyguards fanning out on either side behind him, their long black coats, weapons and rebreathers conveying an air of silent menace.

Surrounded by her eerily silent machines, cast in the grey watery light from the high, rain spattered windows, Lilith looked up from her work.

“First Citizen” she smiled and set down her screwdriver “This is a most unexpected surprise”

“Ms. Dawkins” Josiah acknowledged, coldly. What this harpy was up to in here was an affront to science.

“I think you’ll find that’s Professor Dawkins” Lilith corrected him, airily “Now, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, and what,” she frowned as another two attendants wheeled a trolley, bearing a coffin sized crate, into the room “is that?”

“Leave us” the First Citizen clicked his fingers and waved his retinue away, never once taking his eyes from the woman in front of him “Ms. Dawkins and I have matters to discuss”

Folding her arms, Lilith waited in silence while his people busied themselves with scurrying out of her lab, her mind alive with the possibilities that this encounter represented. Could this, she wondered, be the representative that Blackwell, had mentioned? Was Josiah Hazard really in the pocket of the Clockwork King!?

When they were finally alone, it was the Josiah who spoke first.

“What you are doing here is not only dangerous and immoral,” he said in a low voice, “but, in my opinion, it is a blasphemous atrocity of science”

“This is progress, darling - Investigations into the nature of consciousness for the betterment of mankind. My experiments are approved by the Society and well within the strictures of the Elysium Accord” the last was utter bollocks and Lilith knew it, but it would take someone with highly specialised knowledge to disprove the statement, and she was willing to bet that Josiah Hazard was not that person.

“Don’t give me that” he snapped back “I saw what this ‘science’ of yours is capable of, while I was visiting your sponsor last night”

This came as something of a surprise, but Lilith chose not to react “Oh?” she said instead “So you’re the lackey I was told to expect?”

“I am no lackey!”Josiah exploded.

“Then what is it that you want?” Lilith met his anger with a withering glare.

Fists clenched by his side, the First Citizen took a deep breath to calm himself. “The Clockwork King has a task for you”

Lilith raised her eyebrows at this; an unspoken inference of a single word: Lackey. She knew it, the Clockwork King knew it and, however much he might protest otherwise,so too did Josiah Hazard.

“And what is this task?”

“There is a man, currently languishing in hospital; an agitator and Red Crew sympathiser. We have no doubt that this this man is guilty; but it would help if he were to confess some very specific information. Times, dates, places and names. Do you understand?”

“Of course; but why not simply torture a suitable confession from him?”

“This is to be done without the knowledge of the inquisition. When they do get their hands on him, we want him primed and ready to spill his guts”

“Quite literally, I imagine.” Lilith chuckled “So, I take it that you want me and this ‘atrocity of science’ of mine to help with this?”

“Indeed” Josiah pulled an envelope, sealed with the wax imprint of the Clockwork King, from within his coat “These are the memories we want implanting in the patients mind”

“Oh?” Lilith breathed, her interest piqued “Purely artificial memories? Interesting... I had assumed you wanted memories transfering from an actual Red Crew operative; but yes... I can see how that might be achieved. Very interesting indeed”

Josiah repressed a shudder as he placed the envelope down on the workbench between them. This technology could damn anyone. It wasn’t right that it should exist.

“Your sponsor has anticipated that you might require some reference material” he said, turning to unclasp the latches on the crate his people had maneuvered into the room “So he has seen fit to provide you with this”

He threw the crate open to reveal a woman in her early twenties, gagged and trussed up in a straitjacket; the welter of bruises on her face, partially concealed by frizzy blonde hair. She moved weakly against whatever she had been drugged with.

“This is a Red Crew operative”

“Excellent” Lilith prowled around the workbench to get a better view of her new test subject “How... expendable is she?”

“It would be better if she didn’t survive whatever process you have in mind”

“That’s wonderful, darling” she reached into the crate to caress the woman’s bruised cheek “You and I are going to have so much fun together”

Lilith looked up at Josiah, her eyes alive with excitement “When will I get access to the patient?”

“Five days from now” he said “We’ll sedate him and bring him to you like this one. Can you work with sedated subjects?”

“Of course; in fact it’ll make it easier if he has no memory of the procedure” Lilith returned her attention to the woman in the crate, gently brushing her hair away from her face with her fingers “Five days should be adequate”

“Good. The Clockwork King will be pleased”

Lilith straightened and smoothed her hands down her dress before extending one towards Josiah “Thank you First Citizen, it’s been a pleasure to make your acquaintance. This is new science - You should be proud of your part in what will undoubtedly be a breakthrough”

Josiah regarded her outstretched hand with cold disdain “I believe that concludes my business here. Good day to you Ms. Dawkins”

Lilith cast herself into one of the fireside chairs in the lab once he had left, and drummed her fingers on the armrest, deep in thought. So the Clockwork King had been demonstrating her memory transferal techniques to the First Citizen, had he?

This meant that someone, somewhere had managed to duplicate her experiments - But how!?

Her notes were all encrypted in a cypher of her own devising, and the apparatus had been constructed with a range of intricate boobytraps that would result in the destruction of anyone seeking to copy her work.

Bennett, her lab assistant, was the obvious source of a leak, so maybe it was time to engineer an unfortunate lab accident for him?

Lilith scowled. If he really was responsible, killing him would immediately tip off whoever was duplicating her work, so maybe there was another way?

This would require a bit of thought. A deep trawl through his memories, perhaps? Some selective editing?

She’d need to try out a few of the more avant-garde techniques she’d come up with, but it should be possible

The woman in the crate interrupted her musings by groaning; she must be slowly coming-to. Lilith sighed and stood. She’d been planning on returning to the Lady’s Grace and having another turn with that Rutledge girl again, to see what other shameful and degrading things she could persuade her to do; but that would have to wait. Business came before pleasure and she was going to be very busy over the next few days.

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