Christian S. Barnes

Diminutive Artificer

Description:

Nobleman, skilled in the art of invention with a thirst for adventure

Bio:

Bastard son of Valentine Brown, the 2nd Earl of Kenmare.

Such was the hurt upon hearing his father’s scorn of his short stature, Christian agreed to take his mother’s name and make no claim on his father’s title in exchange for a titled estate in Ireland, town house in London and investments with ongoing income, despite being the first born son.

Deciding that education would be the key to his success, Christian’s formal studies in engineering were rapidly overtaken by his natural aptitude for ‘the way things work.’ Interest in the printing press and rail transport led to several successful ventures in these areas, using talented businessmen to front the companies and skate around the unseemliness of a member of the peerage dirtying their hands with commerce.

A dapper dresser in public, Christian is always seen sporting some contrivance when in private settings, his favourite being a full suit of armour crafted by his own hand. More than one of the London horror stories may have been fueled by Christian’s armour clad midnight ramblings.

Encountering the KC.

At a young age, Christian was already showing the curiosity and mechanical aptitude which would fuel his future inventions.

While browsing through the clockmaker’s shop nearest his father’s London home, Christian was to overhear the craftsman being berated for his inability to fix a nobleman’s pocket fob.

Sauntering up to the counter, Christian looked briefly at the workings of the fob’s gears. With all the gravitas a child under ten could muster, he said ‘Excuse me sirs, but I think you’ll find there is a gear missing.’

While the craftsman spluttered with indignation, Christian picked up some needle nosed tweesers, searched for a second or two in a pile of gears before selecting one: ‘I think this will do. You might want to cap the rod it sits on somehow so that it won’t fall out again.’

The nobleman was slightly taken aback, but mostly amused by the boy, and told him to stay until the clockmaker had tried the selected gear. The nobleman’s gaze became at once more interested, and more steely when the gear both fit and worked. His tone brooked no disobedience when he asked Christian for his name and station.

Upon hearing his lineage Christian was dismissed with the curtness he had come to expect as a half noble bastard, and went on his way without another thought.

If Christian was singled out during his education and work life, given more challenging tasks, pushed further than his peers, he attributed it to the common desire to break the ‘little man,’ rather than an unseen hand influencing his life and choices.

The Challenge:

Shortly after his first commercial venture could be deemed a success, Christian was spending an evening typesetting the front page of the irregular periodical he printed on his first press.

Editorial duties belonged to the front man of his printing business, so Christian’s first reading of the page was as he set the blocks into their correct order. A perculiar feeling stole over him as he finished blocking and printed his first test page.

The story was ghoulishly fascinating and wildly outlandish – the tale of reanimation of deceased children at a nearby orphanage. There could clearly be no truth to the tale, so Christian halted work on the typesetting, intending to set a better page on the morrow.

Making mental note to admonish his editor for letting such obvious fiction appear in his factual pamphlet, Christian decided the night was ripe for rambling, and returned home to done his latest suit of armour.

Some hours later, and to his significant astonishment, Christian realised that he was looking at the local orphanage, and had been scouting entry routes for some minutes already. Curiosity won out over good sense, and the little inventor climbed out of his tree, across the road, over the garden wall and up to the coal cellar entrance as quietly as he could.

The cellar door was padlocked with sturdy iron, so rather than risk the noise to break or open it, Christian went up the wall and into the first floor office window. Sitting prominently on the desk were notices outlining the closure of the house and relocation of its denizens: the orphanage was too unseemly to resist the rising fortunes of the neighbourhood.

Remaining as quiet as possible. Christian made his way through the house, seeing little sign of recent habitation, and was about to leave when the ear horns in his suit picked up a faint but steady buzzing coming from the direction of the cellar.

Shock, horror and no small sense of wonder washed over him as he eased the door open. Lying on surgical beds were no less than six ‘children.’ Each on looked deathly pale, and had some kind of modification. This one a prosthetic hand, with wires disappearing into the flesh of the arm, that one with metal plate grafted across half its face.

Each body looked like it was dead, and felt cold and clammy to the touch, but their chests all rose and fell as if breathing, and the veins in their necks and wrists pulsed as if with lifeblood. Fearing for his safety, Christian skulked from shadow to shadow until he was certain there was only one entrance to the room and that no one else was present.

Every belief Christian held dear about the sanctity of life, and the everlasting soul was challenged by what he saw, and the unnaturalness and wrongness of the situation began to weigh on him. Looking around, Christian found nothing to indicate what was going on in this room, no way to tell if the perpetrator was trying to help or harm these innocents.

Christian found himself staring at the face of a boy, who would have been of similar height if standing. After unknown minutes, he tore his gaze from the boy’s face, which bore passing resemblance to his half brother. The boy had a metal plate visible beneath his shirt, covering where his sternum should be, and there was a gentle knocking sound coming from underneath.

The familial resemblance was too much. Christian decided that what was left of these poor children could not be left to whatever ends were approaching them. He had never taken a life before, and was not really sure he was going to now, but had to destroy these ‘things.’

Never a slow wit, Christian simultaneously realised that he had no idea how to deal with someone, even a child, who was undead. A futile search of the room turned up no tools or weapons, and in the moments before he remembered the naptha stores in the linen press. A quick trip up and down the central staircase later, Christian was piling naptha around the room, and preparing to strike the first match.

He nearly finished it without noticing. Nearly didn’t notice the pipes running down the inside of one leg of each of the surgical tables. For eyes like Christian’s, any change in a surface or a texture or colour or anything at all was enough to warrant investigation, so he ground the match under his heel and leaned in for a closer look.

It took a minute to figure out that the bodies were plumbed for air and ‘blood.’ it took two minutes more, and quite some effort to trace the pipes as they lead under the wall opposite the door. Finding his way into the room on the other side of the wall took much of the rest of the night. but once he had, the buzzing was explained by the pumps and other machines, apparently running on electricity.

One of the packing crates the machines were sitting on had an address stencilled on the side, but there were no other markings on anything in the room. Making note, he made his way quickly back to the room with the bodies and set his fire, making his escape before the watch arrived or his feathers were singed.

A month later, all of his research into the address had come up short, and all his attempts to enter the building had been rebuffed. Nothing in his array of gadgets or tricks had been any use, so he put down his vanity, and hatched his final plan.

On the following Wednesday, just after the lunch rush had entered the building (Christian had come to the belief that there was some sort of club inside), a dirty, smelly street urchin wearing a stolen rotting great coat made his way up to the font door, and bashed as hard as he could.

When the doorman answered, a croaking, childish voice wafted out from under the urchin’s cap "I have a message for the master of the house, guv. It’s for his ears only.’ Maybe it was the smell, maybe it was the glint that the doorman saw in the urchins eye, but he opened the door just a little too wide, and suddenly the child was sprinting towards the main club room.

Taking in everything that was to be seen, the urchin ran to the main table, shedding his coat and putting on display the hideous prosthetic and pallid skin. He managed to grasp the hand of one of the men at the head table as it was raised in shock. The urchin’s grip was astonishing – far too strong and far too steady for a street waif.

The croaking voice came forth again: ‘Please guv. Help me. Me name’s Scooter. My house burned down and I can’t find my maker. Please guv!’

The men at the table recognised the prosthetic, and made the short jump to recognising the boy they had laid on the table all those weeks ago. As the colour drained from their faces, and the staff made their way forwards grabbing for their various weapons, the urchin’s voice changed.

Peals of laughter came from under the cap, and the urchin collapsed, letting go of the hand he had taken, rolling under the table. When he came out the other side, he stood proudly and proclaimed ’ Well met, ladies and gentlemen of the Kerberos Club! Me name’s Scooter guv!’ before collapsing in laughter once more.

Scooter’s mirth was contagious, and soon the whole room went from shock to laughter along with him. Once more he stood and addressed the room. ‘Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of the Kerberos Club – you almost had me. Almost. My name is Christian Barnes, and I intend to take the name Scooter in honour of your challenge. Will anyone sponsor me in my application for membership??’

Christian S. Barnes

Kerberos Club timness