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Lady Alexia Laplace stood alone in the main machine room of the dockside warehouse she and Aristophanes Brown shared for work purposes, swept clean of dust and the reinforced floor gleaming. She checked her pocket watch, dropped it back into the pocket of her heavy cotton trousers, and stood impassive. Expectant.

A bulb lit up fizzily on a slightly untidy looking wire ridden console in the centre of the room. The signal.

She advanced across to the console, and threw a large dipole lever. At once the air crackled between a large steel platform in the centre of the room, and a sort of inverted lightning rod affair suspended from the high Georgian ceiling, illuminating the room with a faint blue glow. As the glow illumination got stronger, the crackling subsided to silence.

In the corner, Carina the cat burglar sat on her best behaviour, face lit with a cyan glow.

The glow got brighter, and suddenly there was a violet flash midway between the rod and the platform. The world was flooded with the glow of an eerie spring, and then, normality. Normality and nominality.

Alexia took her hand away from her face and opened her eyes. Carina sat and concentrated on the after images flashing before her retinas, shaking her head.

Upon the platform sat the dull silver Poincare machine, as silent as the moon a metallic box sheathed in what looked like transformer coils. Then, in the one featureless side of the cube, a door opened downwards, and a silver and copper sphere rolled down a rail affair in the back of the door. A round door opened, and out stepped Aristophanes Brown, beaming broadly and looking quite the dapper chap in his broad striped suit. He was carrying two boxes, one of which he awkwardly waved at Alexia.

“Here you are Lady Alexia. VOI trousers just like you requested, in heavy cotton. So much cheaper than in London. But by heaven, the crowds in New York! It was like a frost fair. The haberdasher’s looked like it had been set upon by hyenas!”

Alexia took the box while helping Aristophanes down from the platform. “I suspect it looked like that after just you had been through it, if your flat is anything to go by. Did you get anything for yourself?”

Aristophanes toted the other box. “Managed to get myself the baragraph cylinders I was after. Verdi at the Met, Mozart. Again, so much cheaper than here. It’s a scandal, I tell you. Has the lady been behaving?”

Carina looked up, Alexia looked across at her. “Yes I think so. I think she wishes to avoid being a diving bell test pilot again.”

“Good good! We’ll make an selectively honest woman out of you yet, Carina!”

Carina smiled a little sourly under her thick obsidian hair. Aristophanes gave Alexia a friendly pat on the shoulder.

“Good show on the transport! Any problems?”

“No Ari, all well, got you back first time of asking. Does the machine attract any attention in New York? Or is our landing ground secure?”

“In a quiet warehouse in the upper class docks. I’m not steerage after all!”

As they talked, Carina grew wide eyed, staring at something on the platform. Alexia saw her first, then Aristophanes, then both turned to see what had alarmed her so.

“Oh my!” excalimed Aristophanes. “More flotsam!”

The creature emerging from the Poincare cube was built along similar lines to a beaver, but with silvery grey fur like the ash of anthracite. It had powerful front paws, like those of a badger, and large dark eyes set beneath some very saucy lashes. As it emerged onto the platform, the animal could be seen to be about four feet long, with a broad, flattened tail.

But what was most startling about it was its face. Rather than a mouth, it had something akin to a beak like the strange creatures of Australia. Only this was more like a horn, or trumpet.

It padded down from the platform, silver as a squirrel. Carina stiffened into her corner, but it paid her no more than a friendly sort of glance as it trotted across the floorboards like a graceful crocodile, light on its feet as a pigeon’s feather. It snuffled around the walls, evidently in quest of something it could smell.

“What is it after?” asked Aristophanes.

“I have no idea Ari. The feeding habits of unfamiliar otter like creatures captured randomly in transit by a multi dimensional transportation device are not my strongest point,” answered Alexia flatly.

“Never mind what it wants,” quavered Carina eventually. “Doesn’t anybody know what it is?”

The creature pottered around for a moment or two longer, before with an excited sounding hoot, it found a bucket of alum crystals on a bench that Alexia had been growing for an experiment. Some were as large as lumps of coal, and upon jumping up surprisingly easily onto the bench, the creature sucked a couple of these down its trumpet mouth, before giving another couple of hoots of appreciation.

“Well, we know what it wants at aany rate,” stated Aristophanes.

The animal jumped down onto the floor again, before making its way to a pot of slightly tired looking flowers sat in the brightest corner of the room.

“They are sickly enough as it is without that thing emptying its bladder on them Ari!” scolded Alexia.

Aristophanes began to move to shoo it off, but before it got the chance, it began to sing.

Sing at the flowers.

The song was warbly and mellifluous, at one moment like an owl, at others with the more talkative tones of a whale. It was a beautiful, haunting sound, tuneful and melodic to earth ears, but at the same time not of the earth. Aristophanes and Alexia were captivated, and Carina began to relax.

A shaft of sunlight sliced the room through a high window, picking out the odd mote of dust.

Something strange was happening. As the creature sang further, the flowers began to pick up in brightness, their weary petals to unfurl, fuschia and late rose to blossom. Their leaves became greener, uncurled, and their stems straightened, proud as a soldier.

Evidently satisfied with this, this most musical of animals trotted off, and sat in front of Alexia, resting its head on its forepaws.

A moth flew across in front of Aristophanes Brown’s face. “We shall call it a “moon-a-muck”. I’m sure there is more it can do than sing to flowers!”

“Even if it couldn’t, that would be enough, Mister Brown.That would be enough.”

The moon-a-muck raised its head, and looked at Carina with understanding in its great dark eyes.

Copyright Mulberry Lightning 16.11.14

Gosh, this was longer than I thought, took two hours or more. Verging on not flashfiction. The moon a muck is a creature long on my mind, and these stories seem an ideal home for it, somehow.

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