Transmigrations (Book I of The Tales of Sage & Savant)
by Eddie Louise
Copyright © 2018 by Eddie Louise
Soigné City 450th Year of Reconstruction
It began, as beginnings are wont to do, with the search for meaningful labour. An advert on the whispernet alerted me to a position at Les Charges de L’Affaires — an organization I’d never heard of. They were asking for historians with expertise in ancient Pan-Atlantic cultures. Not Cataclysm, not Post-Cataclysm, not Reconstruction, but the dusty, neglected, ancient times that were my passion. My specialty didn’t have much élan, so meaningful work was scarce; I answered the call.
Les Charges de L’Affaires was located in a Puzzle-box Revival building, on an island in Lake Recondite. The architectural style made it difficult to estimate exactly how large the building was, or how many people it could hold, but one thing was certain — it was big. The pneumatic railroad took me right to the front portico. Inside the lobby all the Escher-like angles were filled with plants — orchids, bromeliads, and anthuriums. The plants were the only living things other than me.
A MOTH buzzed me as I stepped through the doors and I held up my left wrist for identification. A blink later, a green path lit-up in the floor and I followed it into the building. It led me past the bank of lifts and down a hall. I passed an empty cafeteria and a necessary room before the path terminated at the entry to a small Virtual Reality chamber, dominated by a very large chair that would have been at home in the cockpit of a spaceship.
I was greeted by an AI that instructed me to dress in the compression suit hung on a hook behind a privacy screen. Once I was dressed, the AI asked me to sit in the chair. Robotic arms descended from a gantry on the ceiling and activated electrodes in the suit over the nexus points of my body, a neuro-sensing helmet lowered onto my head, and the AI activated a screen wall, telling me to describe what I saw. The screen showed a woman, late nineteenth century, Steam era, in a laboratory setting, involved in some kind of industrial accident. I watched in horror as untrammelled arcs of electricity danced across her form. In the foreground, hands extended and fused painfully to a large glass jug which tilted to pour steaming water across the woman’s convulsing body.
I described the scene as I saw it, swallowing past a lump in my throat. The picture blinked off and there was a few seconds of uncomfortable silence. I didn’t know if I should change back into my street clothes or stay in the chair. I had no clue whether I had done well or bombed spectacularly. After an endless minute, the AI offered me the job. I found out later that none of the others saw anything on the screen at all. I was the first to successfully use Telesensation technology outside of the laboratory.
As best I understand it, and I am not a quantum scientist, the device uses quantum signatures, obtained from artefacts of an era, targeted to create a sensate field allowing me to see, sense, and experience a historic happening. And I mean all the senses — you feel, smell, and taste the things you see and hear. In a way, I get to live moments of history through the lens of Telesensation.
I would be observing and documenting a pioneer in the technology of limb reattachment, a titan in primitive electroneural studies and one of the first women in the scientific arts to be granted full standing alongside her masculine peers. I’d heard of all this before, but according to Les Charges de L’Affaires, she also investigated Transmigration — a form of consciousness transference. Telesensation provided an opportunity to peer into the past, no transfer of consciousness necessary, and I was extremely gratified to be given the opportunity.
Les Charges de L’Affaires seemed awfully willing to throw credits at this project, providing a level of opportunity unheard of in my speciality. The fact that I interacted only with the AI for the entire hiring process — and that computer was far too reticent about the abstract for the job — made me feel I had not been told the full story.
The lack of human contact in my interview could also explain why, on my way out of the building, when I spotted a young woman — about my age, standing by a cluster of bright yellow, Dancing Lady orchids — I halfway raised a hand to her, and then felt like a total idiot for waving at a stranger.
Regardless, in light of this, I decided to prepare the following private observation reports from my activities as a Telesensationist.
I reported for duty on my scheduled first day, following the instructions they had pinged me with. I was back in the same chamber where I had undergone the interview test. There was no one there to greet me.
"Good morning. Welcome to Telesensation Chamber One. I am your guidance computer. I will be recording all of your thoughts and observations during the Telesensation sessions through the Andres interface."
"Okaaaay. I thought I would be in training this morning, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone about." If you have ever spoken with an AI, you know that it can take a little getting used to. They don’t breathe and that little difference creates an uncanny valley in their speech. I always feel a little uncertain at first, when getting to know a new system.
"I will be conducting the training. Your aptitude tests indicate you possess the required empathy traits and situational observation skills necessary for this job. The only real training you will need is in protocol and machine interface for proper reporting."
"Alright. Hey, computer, where are all Les Charges de L’Affaires employees? I assumed there were a ton of them, based on the size of the building, but I didn’t see anyone when I came into work this morning."
"You will be introduced to any coworkers in due course, if you prove successful as an agent and sign the NDA appropriate for each stage of your advancement."
"This chair is really comfy, that’s recherché"
"This project is of a particularly complicated nature. Predictive models anticipate you will have many inert hours each day as you are enmeshed in the program. This chair has an electrical induction system that will exercise your musculature and prevent such human frailties as deep vein thrombosis which can develop as a result of prolonged sitting."
"But I’ll be able to get up and move around, right? When I need to eat and use the facilities?"
"This building has a full cafeteria or I can order lunch for you to consume in situ. I can also alert you when your bladder has grown overly full. If this proves problematic, I can request a med-team to alter your suit for catheter function."
"Umm, thank you, but that won’t be necessary."
"Shall we get started?"
"I am as ready as I’ll ever be."
"Lowering the C.R.A.P. helmet into place. Positioning the Ocular Amalgamator. Engaging the Temporal Extrapolator. Please think the following phrase so that I can adjust recording levels: ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.’"
"Isn’t that the pangram used to test typing acuity on ancient keyboards?"
"It is technically a holoalphabetic sentence; it allows me to process your sub-vocalizations and calibrate the digital equalization for best possible thought-to-text translation. You might be surprised to learn that most people slur their thoughts. If you would prefer, you could use ‘pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs’ or ‘sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow.’"
"Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs, huh?"
"May I remind you, there is no need to speak out loud. You may simply think the words."
"Correct. Can you think the holoalphabetic sentence, please?"
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
"Thank you. The Telesensation Link is established and secure. From this point forward I will record and translate everything you think. You may start your notes now."
Okay. Where do I start?
"During your interview we established only a partial link. The visual connection is the most difficult to create, and your ability to do this is why you were hired. Today we have chosen a diary entry of Doctor Sage’s from a day that involves no trauma or physical pain. By using this example, you will be able to experience the complete Telesensate linkage allowing you to think what she thinks, feel what she feels. These sensations will begin as soon as you read the first line of the diary entry, which I will feed onscreen, line-by-line. Are you ready?"
P. SAGE 05/01/1893 11:00 HOURS
Whoa! My head is heavy. Why is that? Oh it’s the hair. Wow, is this how heavy long hair is? Why would anyone ever wear it?
"Justin, your heart rate is increasing. Just relax and allow yourself to feel without thinking too much. Try making a list of the sensations; isolate them. And remember to breathe."
Okay, um, heavy hair, rain, smell of tea, pressure at the ribs, I’m sitting, but my spine is very straight, sad, alone, desperate to get to work but…
"Good, Justin, your heart rate is slowing. If you open your eyes you will see Doctor Sage on the screen, this might be a bit disorienting."
I opened my eyes and the screen showed me, not me, well it felt like me, I mean, it wasn’t me, it was this woman, dressed in the restrictive corset and petticoat style clothing of the late Steam era. I looked at her from the outside, but everything I felt was coming from inside, they were her thoughts, sensations, and emotions. The room began to spin. I closed my eyes again and breathed deeply until the feeling passed.
I concentrated on blocking all other sensations except that of the davenport she was sitting on. I focused on ignoring the giant cockpit-style chair beneath me until I felt the chintz-covered, rather uncomfortable monstrosity in Mother’s sitting room beneath my thighs. Oh! That wasn’t my thought; my mother hated chintz. It was her thought, Doctor Sage, the woman on the screen. I took another deep breath and tried again. This time I felt a little less dizzy. These were my Doctor Sage thoughts. These were my work thoughts. "Don’t bring your personal life to work" was going to take on an entirely new meaning for me.
"This is working, Justin. I’m going to try the first line of the diary now."
Stuck in Oxford thanks to rain. The train is stopped by debris on the rails and I’m trapped at my mother’s.
"How is that?"
Wow! I feel her irritation. She is stuck because of the storm, but she has important work she wants to get back to — her galvanization studies. Mother doesn’t understand; calls it "mucking about". She misses Erasmus and his no-nonsense acceptance of her scientific mind. She is hungry and hates that she is not allowed to run to the kitchen and get a snack. She’ll be damned if she’ll disturb the staff for it either.
"Shall we go on?"
I worked through the diary entry line-by-line and gradually the sensation of experiencing versus watching began to feel more natural and the pit in my stomach filled itself in again. Petronella Sage, like most people, had a much greater interior than exterior self. Like the line from that ancient television show, she was bigger on the inside. Once I realized this and stopped trying to wrap my mind around the whole, the entire exercise became a game of focus; what I focused on became clear and the rest was background noise.
Right. I think I am ready to do an action file now, one where something happens.
"Acknowledged. Before each session, you will record pre-Telesensation notes to mark the file. These notes should contain the following information:
Agent Name, Telesensation Agent Number.
Entanglement Registration: Series Alpha
Report Number and Telesensation File Name"
My name is Justin Bremer, Telesensation Agent 31235.
"Please follow the proper informational order for the heading. I have placed it onscreen for you to read."
Right. Got it.
Justin Bremer, Telesensation Agent 31235
Entanglement Registration: Series Alpha
Telesensation File: Sage/Savant.01.05.15.0765
"Ask me to initiate the file."
Please initiate the Telesensation file?
"Initializing the file."
No, wait! If you are initializing the file are we going live? I mean I thought I would get to practice with a more active training scene. I can’t be expected to dive right in and do a job that I don’t fully understand how to do.
"Due to the nature of the research undertaking, you will need to learn on the job. I will be there to guide you."
I am getting a strange feeling about this. How will you guide me? You don’t seem to know the parameters of this task any better than I do.
"I am an A67-5Mil advanced AI system, the most powerful computer ever built. I can assure you, the learning curve will not be too steep for me."
Then why don’t you just do the reports?
"It is impossible to program an AI with the required empathy for Telesensation. As you observe through the Telesensation link, my servers will extract and categorize your brain activity to extrapolate the necessary data."
Are you telling me that my historical expertise is surplus to requirements?
"Not at all. You and I will examine the results of these sessions together to ensure the final reports accurately reflect the historicity of what we have observed."
Right. The first record in the file is a T6B copy from — it says an original Edison cylinder.
"An Edison cylinder is a wax tube that was fitted to a rotating device and could inscribe and preserve sound waves via application of a needle to the wax. It is the primary method used by Doctor Sage to make records of her scientific investigations, although there are also diaries, university reviews, and newspaper articles in the record which you will, on occasion, reference. It is all very primitive."
I know what an Edison cylinder is — this is my era of specialty, after all. I was just surprised there was an intact artefact of this type; they are extremely fragile, and most collapse within one hundred years.
"This particular Edison cylinder is a post facto recollection made by the Doctor following a laboratory accident. The Doctor was more specific in her preservation tactics than others of her era. We have a number of her Edisons on file. For this particular instance, the quantum targeting has been calculated from a handwritten log created the day of the accident."
Right. Let’s do this thing. Please initiate the file.
"Initializing Telesensation file Sage/Savant.01.05.15.0765"
King’s College 1893
Doctor Petronella Sage bit her lower lip in concentration. The electrodes at her temples itched, but she ignored the irritation; concentrating instead on the cadaver reclining on the slab in front of her. She glanced at the chart on the wall, confirming the nexus point for the nerves below the elbow and adjusting the electrode a centimetre to the left. She needed to place the suction cup in the perfect place to properly stimulate the nerve and allow for flexion.
Soigné City 450th Year of Reconstruction
My brain flooded with sensations. In the training session there had been a tidal wave of feeling, but it was quiet, reflective — a rainy day kind of thing. This connection was different. The Doctor was calm, focused, dedicated to a specific task without the fear of electrocution overwriting her thoughts. All of this might have been gleaned from watching the scene as entertainment. But I also knew that under the calm she was nervous; she felt a frightful need to prove herself, to be taken seriously. I understood that she was determined not to see her work sidelined or credited to a man as her grandmother’s had been. I knew that she was behind in her correspondence obligations to her mother and expected to receive a card at any moment commanding her presence in front of the paterfamilias. I knew that the eel pie she had eaten at luncheon was an uncomfortable lump in her stomach.
"You must remember to breathe, Justin." The computer chimed in my ear, bringing my spiralling thoughts back to the task ahead. I took a few deep breaths and focused back on the screen.
King’s College 1893
Petra carefully wiped a drop of sweat from her brow and added the other electrodes. Once the cadaver was fully prepped she returned to the wooden chair she’d prepared for herself on a nearby dais. She carefully attached electrodes to her own arm in corresponding positions to those on the body of the girl who had, just hours ago, become the unwitting subject of this experiment.
Doctor Sage had not intended to progress to human cadaver trials in her galvanization studies for several weeks yet, but since the Burke & Hare Act of 1826, coming by a cadaver for medical research was most difficult and scientists had learned to respond when a body became available. This cadaver was of a young upper-class girl, who herself had wanted to be a scientist. Her will had expressly detailed her desire to donate her body to science — specifically to a female scientist. Thanks to an out-of-control steam carriage, Petra Sage was suddenly in a position to test her galvanization theories on more than sea anemones, hedgehogs, and piglets.
Moving a human arm using only the electrical current from her own nervous system would be much harder than making gelatinous tissue twitch or quills quiver. Petra pulled a speaking tube down from an extendable overhead arm and flipped a switch on a console to the right of her chair. In the furthermost corner of the room, a small brass chain lifted on a ratcheted gear and triggered a lever which lowered a stylus against the wax cylinder of an Edison recording device. Doctor Sage waited for the machine to make one complete revolution before beginning to speak.
"Laboratory of Doctor Petronella Sage, Kings College, fifteenth of May, 1893, 4:00 p.m. Test subject, female, early twenties, deceased three hours. Subject has broken ribs, shattered hip bones, compound fracture of the left femur, and a caved-in skull. The right shoulder and arm are intact, however, so there is a chance I will be able to galvanize this limb and stimulate movement in the extremities.
"I have attached electrodes to the nerves below the subject’s right cubital fossa and to the corresponding sites on my own right arm. For the first attempt, I will be using only the electrical energy from my own consciousness. If this is not sufficient, I will apply outside electrical stimulus in increasing increments until galvanization is achieved."
The Doctor finished her recording and flipped the switch to raise the needle from the wax. The Edison cylinder continued to spin, ready to reengage at the same spot when the needle was once again lowered. As she did this, the door to her stuffy, second floor laboratory bounced open, ricocheted off the wall and nearly flattened the entrant on the rebound.
"I say!" the as yet unseen man exclaimed. "That is a most unruly door, Petra. You really should call the chaps down in services to have a look at it."
"Hello, Erasmus," the Doctor called out.
The man who came through the door at last was Professor Erasmus Savant. He bore the face and finely styled moustache of a gentleman. His hair was a gingery colour that he insisted was auburn; his clothes were of impeccable cut and fine fabric.
Soigné City 450th Year of Reconstruction
Once again my senses reeled as the program expanded to include the Professor. I had heard this man’s name before, though he was not as well remembered as Doctor Sage. I dredged my memories from first year Pan-Atlantic studies and vaguely recalled an Erasmus Savant who wrote a series of books on archaeological ephemera — the sorts of small details in culture, dress, and accessory that allowed a historian to properly date an artefact in the years before LIDAR, radiocarbon dating, magnetic resonance, DNA testing, and other technologies allowed us more precise methods. Considered a genius in his time, he was replaced by mechanical means.
Erasmus Savant’s mood and energy were as different from the Doctor’s as oil and water. His thoughts floated in my mind like soap bubbles, hers darted across like rabbits. His primary concerns were whether his friend had eaten and whether he would be allowed to assist in her efforts. Her primary concerns focused on establishing scientific evidence strong enough to be recorded as more than a footnote in annuls of the discipline.
King’s College 1893
"As always, you have a most convenient sense of timing," the Doctor said, smiling at her friend.
"Convenient?" the Professor asked as he gained control over the unruly door. He turned back to the room and his gaze fell on the cadaver. "I say — where did you get this fine specimen? I thought today was for the pig." His eyes travelled from the corpse’s empurpled toes upwards past the knees to a dawning realization. "My! Must she be naked for this process? It is quite scandalous!"
"Erasmus. You have studied the sex lives of the ancient Greeks, the worship practices of the Aztecs, and the debaucheries of the Romans — I should think the sight of one unclothed cadaver would hold no distractions for your great intellect. Beside the point, I need her naked so that I can observe her complete musculature. The human body is an incredibly complex machine; anything I observe through the course of these experiments could prove key to my research."
"I see, yes, of course," he said, coming to stand beside the Doctor. "Are you ready for this Petra?" he said, genuine concern in his voice. "There is quite a difference between a hedgehog and a human after all."
"I must seize the moment and run the test as soon as the rigor mortis passes but before decomposition begins. It is a rather narrow window of opportunity."
"Indeed. What might I do to help?"
"I simply require your presence as witness to the process. Mr. Cunningham does not hold with women galvanists, and has attempted to sway the Board of Regents into forbidding my research. I must produce results, and soon, or the university will revoke my privileges."
The Professor eyed the cadaver, his nervous gaze fixated on the tips of the fingers which lingered right at the nipple. "Any chance you could move her hand down to the table? The current placement is rather distracting."
"I need her elbow in a relaxed, bent position. I need you to watch and see if her fingers twitch."
"I am to stand out of the way, calmly waiting for her fingers to twitch against her naked breast?" Professor Savant said wryly, looking about in vain for a nook or a cranny in the overstuffed laboratory where he could stand safely out of the way. Every inch of space in the lab was crammed with scientific instruments, cabinets full of strange devices, and wires and tubes bearing a myriad of liquids from place to place. Doctor Sage held her position at the university by way of a grant, but it was a smallish one and most of it had gone to equipment, supplies, and this tiny, crammed laboratory.
Soigné City 450th Year of Reconstruction
Computer, how can I know this? About the grant, I mean. Or Sage’s grandmother? Or that the Professor prefers to call his hair auburn? Am I mind reading?
"Not precisely. The human mind is capable of storing a great quantity of data which is then recalled to inform emotional response, action, and conversation. The Telesensation system is creating an entanglement field which allows us to read the electrical impulses of that data and translate them into ideas for you to glean."
So, through technology, I have the power to read their minds?
"That is one way of looking at it."
King’s College 1893
After considering his options, Savant settled on wedging between a large glass cylinder full of bubbling water and a bureau that rattled with metallic intent. He slid himself into the tiny space — within arms’ length should he be needed.
"Careful, Erasmus," Doctor Sage cautioned. "That H2O crucible is not stable. I keep meaning to get the stand looked at, but I can’t do without water at sterilization temperature whilst services take their sweet time in repairs."
"Right you are; I shall be quiet as church mice. Though that colloquialism is a patent misrepresentation of reality — church mice are notorious scrapers, scratchers, and squeakers. I wonder if the meaning of the thing has become polarized over the years — perhaps it once was a pejorative against fidgety children…"
"Indeed," Doctor Sage responded, only partly listening. She was well used to her friend’s ramblings and knew that he required no direct response.
The lab became eerily still; the only sound was the soft rasping of the Edison cylinder in the corner. Petronella Sage’s face was a mask of intense concentration as she fixed her eyes on the arm of the subject, raised her forearm slightly, and slowly flexed her fist. There was no corresponding movement in the subject. After a few moments of this, Doctor Sage sat back with a sigh of exasperation.
"Of course, it wasn’t going to be simple." She said to herself before hitting the switch to reset the needle on the Edison wax. "First attempts at galvanization show no results. Unlike the simple nervous system of an anemone, human physiology is more complicated and perhaps needs higher amplitude. Next, I will attempt to add external current to the impulses from my brain."
She flipped the switch to raise the needle from the wax once again. Standing briefly, Doctor Sage reached above her head to a console suspended from the bottom side of a large dynamo. She flipped up three switches and released a crank from its locked position. The crank unfolded on a long stem that allowed Doctor Sage to sit back in her chair and grasp the handle comfortably. She gave the crank a dozen good turns before the dynamo caught and spun to life. Lightning crackled in the glass cylinder of the dynamo suspended above her head. Forks of white and blue energy struck at each other and rebounded off the glass walls, building into an impressive display of natural fury.
Professor Savant glared at the glass cylinder as it filled with writhing light. "Are you quite sure this is safe? I should be most unhappy if you were to electrocute yourself."
Doctor Sage was busy strapping into her chair with heavy leather belts across her waist and chest. "Of course it isn’t wholly safe, Erasmus, but it is a controlled experiment and my safeguards are in place. There will be more dials to deal with now…" Petra’s voice trailed off as she considered the problem. After a few seconds silence she looked up, "Have you read the work of Sylvan Muldoon on Spirit Walking?" she asked, ignoring his question.
"Astral travel? Well that is mostly looked on as theosophistic clap-trap is it not?"
"His religiosity is spurious, but what he describes as germane to the steps of separating consciousness from one’s own body is not that different from what I undertake here. He, of course, cloaks his ideas in mystery and obfuscation, but the underlying theory is the same — one must lose contact with the anatomical anchor of one’s self and concentrate on the electrical energy of the consciousness."
"I see, but what then when the properly electrified limb is attached to a corporeal recipient?"
"Projection at that point will be unnecessary. It is yet to be determined whether a surgeon could ever directly connect the replacement limb to the nervous system to allow for involuntary movement, but certainly, when I am successful with this line of inquiry, I am confident that voluntary movement can be achieved."
"Just why are you strapping yourself down so vigorously?"
"These belts contain grounding wires that will keep me safe from any accidental excess energy — it is a simple safety measure."
The belts settled in place, she looked up to read the gauges on her caged lightning and judged all to be ready for the next attempt. She flipped the switch and lowered the Edison needle to the wax.
"Update one, 4:35 p.m.. I have increased the electrical current to four amperes and will route my own impulses through this energy stream and then to the subject at four coulombs to start, increasing to ten coulombs, twenty-four coulombs, and sixty coulombs at regular intervals."
The Professor looked nervously at the whirling electricity suspended overhead and said, "Petra, honestly, can you assure me you have this electricity under control?"
"Needs must, in order to compensate for the resistance I encounter in the wire," she said, waiving away his concerns. "Let’s give this a go, then. I will need your help with the console; I cannot enter the trance state and position the dials. Don’t be alarmed if the electrical energy becomes excited, Erasmus; it is just part of the process."
She showed her friend which knobs and buttons he was to dial for each step of the process, giving him prime indicators to watch for and gauge readings to expect. Confident he could manage, she relaxed back in the chair, closed her eyes and concentrated intently on the subject.
Erasmus felt growing unease as he watched his friend settle back into her chair and enter a trance-like concentration. Nothing happened for several long minutes, and he was about to step forward and nudge her, fearing she had gone to sleep, when the energy in the dynamo whirled with a new furore. It spun and looped, crossing back on itself in a manner most unnatural, until it started to spin in an upwards spiral. As it began to stabilize, a new strand of energy joined the white and blue, weaving a golden ladder back and forth between them like the laces of a corset. The now-joined spiralling columns slowed into a languid turning. Fascinated, Erasmus watched the helix turn — starting when he remembered his charge in this experiment.
Erasmus wiped his sweaty palm on the thigh of his woollen trousers and reached out to turn the dial Petra had indicated. As he leaned over, his hip knocked into the crucible containing the boiling water. It teetered threateningly and Erasmus held his breath, but it settled back into place and he refocused on his charge.
The dial had a tension spring behind it that clicked faintly as he turned it. A valve on the bottom of the glass cylinder holding the smoothly turning lightning opened slightly and the air filled with static energy. Erasmus felt a tingle in his scalp and he snorted a bit to clear the tendril of Petra’s hair that had risen to tickle his nose. He was afraid to attempt to stand down as he counted to one hundred; the boiling water was making his hip uncomfortably hot, but he was unsure he could right himself without knocking it over.
"Hang in there, old boy," he said under his breath. "She is counting on you"
He carefully turned the dial to the second position. His load-bearing knee was beginning to tremble, but he admonished it firmly, "Buck up there, lefty, we are halfway home."
The valve opened further and the energy in the cylinder began snaking downwards towards the arm of the deceased. The tubing twitched, writhing like eels in a net, as the electrical pulse made its way inexorably towards the clammy flesh below. The twitching increased as the energy reached the electrodes, bucking as if there were a push back against the flow.
The cadaverous arm began to shudder and Erasmus twitched in unconscious solidarity. The crucible of water tottered, on the verge of plunging to the floor. Without thinking, the Professor wrapped his arms about the crucible, attempting to stop the fall. His palms and wrists screamed in protest at the heat, blisters rising almost immediately on the skin. Ignoring the pain, Erasmus carefully righted the stand and settled the glass cylinder in its place, only daring to remove his hands once he was sure he’d averted disaster.
His eyes were drawn back to the cadaver and he saw that shuddering had given way to specific movements. The fingers were alternately splaying and curling, the forearm rising and falling in a slow but determined arc — the perfect mirror of Petra’s own movements.
"You’ve done it, old girl!" he shouted at Doctor Sage, forgetting that she was in a trance. "You’ve done it!"
Three things happened as a result of Professor Savant’s untimely enthusiasm. First, Petra’s eyes flew open, her concentration broken by his shout. Second, the arm of the cadaver dropped to the table, lifeless once again. Third, the whirling energy in the dynamo above their heads began to crackle with insane intensity, lashing out with forks of blue lightning. The power of it broke out both ends of the cylinder, sending spears of electrical current into the lab; one of which sprung downwards aiming directly for Petra’s chest.
"Petra!" screamed Erasmus. He lunged forward, thinking to put his body between hers and the menacing lightning. Instead, he slammed against the crucible of boiling water, sending it crashing to the floor.
Time suspended as Savant tripped and spun and realized with horror what he had done. Water cascaded over the Doctor and splashed over Savant’s boots. The water pooled beneath Petra and she gaped gormlessly at him, her hands up to ward off the assault as he landed face first between her thighs. The first fork of lightning struck the water, sending up a fountain of steam and water as a second strike hit home in the centre of his back and everything went black.