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It was midnight, and a mist was rolling across the smooth black waters of the Serpentine to the makeshift raft upon which Aristophanes Brown, and his engineer and mechanical muse Lady Alexia Laplace were sitting. Both were dressed head to foot in black, and Alexia had taken the liberty to apply dark make up to their hands and faces.

Secrecy was the order of the day.

“Tell me again why we are doing this,” murmured Alexia from amidst the mizzle in the darkness. “I’m not sure of the economic gain.”

“My dear Alexia,” said Aristophanes as he lit another cigarette, “keeping this little show on the road is a financially onerous operation, as you know. Using this bathyscapic device, lucrative salvage on sunken vessels like HMS Camperdown may well be possible, assuming this machine works.”

“It works” said Alexia confidently. “Everything from the support structure above” – she indicated to black painted iron beams raising up from the deck – “to the drop chain and oxygen supply” – both of these fell in a series of lazy kinks from the top of the arms to the surface of the water – “to the sphere itself are perfect, I assure you.”

“Speaking of the sphere” muttered Aristophanes over the gentle thrumming of the air pump, “let’s raise it up and check it.”

Alexia threw a lever on a slightly lashed together control panel, and the chain being to crank slowy up on to a drum above their heads. Both looked anxious as they heard the sound, and scanned the lakeshore for any passing constables, but there was nothing. They began to feel calmer as the black painted silver steel sphere broke the surface.

Alexia used a gaff hook to snag the assorted mechanised arms and pipes protruding from the top third of the dully matte machine. She pulled it in close to the side of the raft, and reached over with both arms to open the hatch at the top of the device, which was barely three feet wide at the top.

The hatch swung open, to reveal in a dimly lit interior the angered face of Carina Cartena, cat burglar and private contractor, as caught by Aristophanes at the theatre.

“Ah my dear Carina, that’s an hour. All good so far?”

The raven framed face glared up at him. “Brown you swine, what are you doing? Why have you imprisoned me in this wretched box? I demand you release me!”

Alexia began to lower the hatch again.

“And tell your harsh faced friend that when I get out of this thing, her life won’t…”

Alexia slammed the hatch closed. Aristophanes flicked his lighter, and knocked on the porthole just visible above the waterline, as the chain began to lower the machine again.

“One more hour Carina, then we’ll be sure it works. You are doing very well!”

Carina’s voice was dulled behind the glass. “You swine! You brigand! You bast…”

And below the water she went.

“Well Alexia, there’s no issue with her oxygen supply!  I’m pleased with progress, you’ve excelled yourself!”

Aristophanes lit another cigarette even though he hadn’t actually finished the one he was smoking before.

Written in 20 minutes, inspired by my Futurelearn Oceanography course

“Evidently.” said Alexia thoughtfully, auburn hair as coal in the dark, blowing across her face on the faintest breeze. “Another hour, yes?”

“Another hour.”

Alexia Laplace consulted her fob watch by the light of Aristophanes’ cigarette.

Copyright Mulberry Lightining 06.11.14

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