Well Mrs S was somewhat displeased when her aged printer finally gave up the ghost.
Charles was delighted, though, and had soon extracted something called a circuit board from the defunct machine.
“Take a look, Henry,” he said. “Spiffing base for another time machine!”
I had to agree, so we have a new model incorporating this futuristic technology with good old steampunk tradition.
Instead of a steering column, there’s something called a control deck. It pulses with multicoloured lights, naturally, and has a clock and time warp repeat button. (Well, someone might understand why…)
I left Charles to fiddle with the pod things that power it, but I insisted on installing a traditional safety valve.
For the comfort of our customers, we added a padded velvet cushion and a steel luggage rack. There is also a handy claxon which sounds automatically to warn anyone in the vicinity when the vessel is due to stop.
Not our most aesthetically pleasing craft, perhaps, but an intriguing machine, nonetheless.
“It’s been a while,” Henry told me, wistfully, “since I went time travelling. Any chance you could help me out with a new machine?”
“Fine,” I said. “As long as you can source all the components from our junk box.”
“My pleasure, Madame,” he beamed, and headed off to rummage through the collection.
An hour or so later he was back with a particularly ugly little bamboo chair, a couple of clarinet keys, a light-up Christmas badge, an empty ribbon reel, the inside of a sewing thread spool, a clip from the old shower curtain, a few beads, promisingly-shaped wires and springs and a plastic robot arm.
“Hmm,” I said. “Interesting. How are you going to power it?”
” ‘If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration,’ as my dear old friend Nick used to say. That circuit in the badge is at a perfect frequency and has plenty of energy stored in its batteries. As for the vibration, just take a look at these springs and the switch on that clarinet key. Try twanging it!”
I did. It made a rather pleasant Jew’s harp sound and vibrated beautifully.
“Okay Henry. You get the circuits sorted and I’ll get to work with some paint and copper tape,” I told him.
Before long the machine was finished. Certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing of objects, but when he sat in the seat, Henry had foot pedals that could be calibrated to the target date and time, a copper steering column, a strange silvery sphereoid that did goodness-knows-what, but seemed very important, along with a clock and altimeter.
“Dear Madame, if you would be good enough to give the temporal booster rocket a turn and then ping that little lever you liked so much, I’ll give it a spin,” Henry smiled.
“Don’t forget to put your goggles on, I told him. And make sure you’re back in time for the trip to Shrewsbury.”
“It’s a TIME machine, Madame!” he chided. “I can be back at whatever time I choose!”
“Yes, I know that, but – just be careful, Henry. You know how, um, adventurous you can be.”
Henry waved his cap to me and then, as I started the contraption’s rocket up and watched the blue and red sparks firing away inside it, he focused all his attention on that strange silver ball.
“Henry, how are you going to start it up by yourself when you want to come back…?” I was asking.
But I was all alone.
He still isn’t back.
I just hope he’ll make it by the time of the Shrewsbury Christmas Steampunk Spectacular, Knowing Henry, he’ll be there with seconds to spare.
If you’d like to take a look at the machine, or even contemplate buying it, do come and join us at the market in St Mary’s Church on December 1st and 2nd 2018.