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Ambassador Steam (IC, Solo)

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Earth Victoriana, MI 7 Building

Lord Lucien Lockwood paused outside the solid mahogany doors of the MI7 Master known only as "V". He brought up his fine silver shod cane and politely rapped on the doors three times.

"Enter" roared the voice beyond.

Lord Lockwood adjusted his collar and strode in with as much confidence as he could muster. Which was quite a lot. In any other situation he would have been as bold as brass. He was possessed of a truly exceptional mind, and he had no shortage of social grace. Combined with an athletic, tall physique and a certain unruly handsomeness, he had everything to be confident about.

However, this was MI7 - the head of the most secretive division the Empire's intelligence services.

"V" put down his pipe and gave Lockwood a meaty stare from behind his overgrown eyebrows. "There you are" he said, with some annoyance, reloading his pipe.

"Now then, Sir" he continued, without waiting for Lucien to reply. "We had high hopes for you, dear boy. Bright chap and all that. Did quite a job on the Hampstead Hatchet..."

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Previously...

Lord Lockwood pulled up his coat over the drizzling rain. November, in a cold winter, on Hampstead Heath, at midnight, in the middle of a rain that seemed to seep and stick to his clothes...

Not his idea of a pleasant evening.

But three murders here in three weeks. And grizzly ones too. He had asked around, and examined the scenes, carefully examining for clues. The weapon... a Hatchet, the man was large, with a slight limp, and a particular type of shoe, with worn soles. Left handed. He had even tracked down the soil that had been trampled around the victims.

All of it had lead him here. He realised that he was now close, and it dawned on him that he may in fact be in some physical danger.

Ahead, a copper patrolled the pathway, solitary, and also wet to the core.

"No use running", said Lord Lockwood calmly. "The games up!"

The grizzly copper shuffled to his side, with a slight drag of his right leg. "How did you know?" he growled.

Lockwood replied with an even smile. "Aside from all the evidence you left at the scene, the victims... you tried to make it look like a grizzly serial killer, but they were all crooks themselves, carrying large amounts of money. A bent copper like you knew just when to strike..."

"Damn right, and I bet you are carrying a pretty penny too, being a Lord like you are..." snarled the Hampstead Hatchet pulled out the flashing steel from under his rain coat, and charged the Lockwood.

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Lucien sidestepped the man. The Hampstead Hatchet was not clumsy, far from it. He was actually deadly, and totally at home fighting with the blade.

But the sleuth was faster, quicker, and more skilled with his trusty cane, which he brought up into a Baristsu fighting pose before slapping the blade away and striking back with his stick.

The two men spun around to face each other again, each now aware that their enemy was not some helpless maid or witless thug. Both men were fast, strong, and able, and had a taste for the cut and thrust of fighting. Lord Lockwood moved with a cunning but effective grace, and his opponent with a powerful and violent crouch that spoke of much experience in dirty fighting.

His heart racing, Lucien - in a detatched manner, came to realise that the detection of the criminal was only half the matter. One must also apprehend the villain. And in this case, that put him in considerable personal jeopardy.

He was not surprised to find he loved the flush of adrenaline.

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The hatchet crept forward and sprung, faster this time, aware that Lord Steam was a capable pugilist. The cane came up, but too slow.

Damn! Keep mind on the Job! he cursed, as he felt the blade sink into his abdomen.

"Ouch", he commented, as he sunk to one knee, flailing with his cane. The Hatchet stepped back, withdrawing his bloodied blade with a grin on his face.

"No different to all the rest are you, your Lordship?" he sneered. "You bleed just the same, and you will die just the same. "

"Indeed" replied Lucien, wobbling slightly - and more than he needed to. "My predicament seems most perilous..."

Again the blade came down, on his shoulder. It Stung, but he didn't feel the seeping wetness as he did over the first wound.

"Die!" screamed the Hatchet, lost in bloodlust. Perhaps he was insane after all... he seemed to be relishing his murderous goal.

"Not today!" replied the sleuth, with a spring in his step and a flash of his cane, that drove into the Man's Jaw and sent him stumbling away to his knees. "Its not quite as bad as it looked!" he remarked, holding his aching wound.

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The Hatchet rose to his feet, shaking the cobwebs from his head. He staggered as he regained his composure, waving the bloodied knife in front of him.

The two men no longer exchanged words. In the midnight rain, they faced off to each other, each desperate for victory.

The cane and blade clashed, and clashed again, both glinting. Bodies thrust against one another, and boots strained for balance in the wet and muddy ground.

The fight became less elegant and more ferocious. Lucien knew he was, this time, fighting for his life against an opponent who was a killer. Dispelling his mind of all thoughts of failure he once again grappled with the Hatchet, and both men tussled from side to side, slamming into a tree as they battled for supremacy.

In the end however, Lucien was stronger, faster, and more able. A slip, and the Hatchet left himself open. A swift low kick compounded the stumble of the murderer, and the cane whipped around connecting with the villains head. This time, the Hampstead Hatchett did not rise. His bloodied blade slipped from his unconscious fingers and tumbled to the ground beside him.

"And let that be a lesson to you!" proclaimed Lord Lockwood, tapping his adversary with a foot.

Now to get this patched up... he thought, observing the bloody mess he had left on his shirt.

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Back in MI7...

"Ah yes, thank you, sir" replied Lord Lockwood, recalling the night of frenzied combat he had had with the bent policeman. He rubbed his side automatically, remembering the steel of the blade. Fortunately, he had been patched up with no problems. He could afford the best surgeons in London, and knew a far few of of the Harley street physicians personally.

Important lesson he recalled. Detection is only half the battle!

"Well, it all ended up quite well" he continued. "The rotter is locked up for good now, and the Heath is safe once more".

"Yes yes" replied V. "Showed some promise there. Our best detectives couldn't crack that as fast as you did, I dare say. And I understand you made quite an impression with the Royal College of Metaphysical Engineering, with that unfortunate Zepplin incident..."

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Previously

"Sir, given the perilous situation that we find ourselves I would be must oblidg'd if you could attend to the controls of our aeronautical vehicle!"

Lord Lockwood gave the pilot an admonishing stare.

"Forget that, your highness!" said the petrified pilot. "The engines gone, the balloon is leaking, and we are crashing. "

"A most perilous predicament indeed" remarked Lord Lockwood. The Zepplin was slowly crashing, smoke belching from the engines - both into the vehicle and out of it, leaving a black trail as the huge Zepplin lurched this way and that through the skies.

The pilot gave a jaunty wave, took one backwards look as Lucien leapt to try and apprehend the man, but to no avail.

"Bon Voyage!" shouted the pilot as he leapt from the door into the open skies, the only parachute on the Zepplin strapped firmly to his body.

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Lord Steam was not impressed.

"Rotter! Coward!" he yelled at the departing Pilot, shaking his fist violently. I'll have words with him later... he swore. Still, first things first - he was in a pickle, to say the least. He gazed around the terrified passengers as the Zepplin lurched again. They were all in a Pickle.

"To the Engines!" he declared, wrapping his scarf around his neck to keep the fumes out.

The engine room was indeed thick with a vile black smoke. At the floor, spanner in hand, was a semi-conscious middle aged man. Dressed well, rather spiffy, too old to be an engineer on a Zepplin, no calousities... noted Lord Steam in quick succession. Conclusion: well meaning passenger, scientist, trying to save us.

He leant down by the man, wafting away the fumes as best he could. The unfortunate soul coughed violently and started. "Keep away, man!" he spluttered. "I have to repair the engines!"

"And who are you?" asked Lord Steam.

"Sir Archibald Crane" came the wheezed reply. "Of the Society for Metaphysical Engineering. I design these damn things... leave it to me to fix it..." he grasped his spanner and tried to rise, but the man was overcome by fumes.

"Leave it to me, Sir. I am a dab hand at this myself, heh? Lord Lockwood at your service!"

Lucien gently took the spanner out of the man's hand. Lord Crane resisted briefly, but Lucien was firm, gentle, and persuasive.

"Good luck to you, Lord Lockwood" he coughed, falling back to floor.

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Lord Steam waded through the smoke to the bowels of the Zepplins engines. The noise, heat, and smoke were almost unbearable.

He could swear that a spanner was rumbling around the main engine, from the sounds of it. There was a perpetual chaotic sound of metal clashing against metal. A small fire had started.

Grabbing an extinguisher, he pointed and sprayed at the flames. Something furious was fuelling it and it refused to die. However, Lucien managed to fight it to a stalemate, and could at least get close enough to see the engine itself.

Hefting his hammer, he started poking around. The engine was in a terrible state, barely functioning. One couldn't steer the Zepplin like this. There was no wonder the thing was yawing like a raft in an ocean storm.

Nevertheless, it didn't need to be perfect. If he could just get it to hold together for the landing...

A few moments later, he saw the solution. Bending a few pieces of copper piping (that blew off hot steam as he did, nearly scalding him), he managed to cobble together something good enough for basic flight.

At least, he hoped it would be good enough.

Coughing, he turned back to Sir Crane, who had lost consciousness, and started to drag the man out. The smoke was getting to him, too. He gasped for breath and coughed violently as he dragged the engineer out of the smoke-laden engine room.

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Lord Steam staggered out of the Engine room accompanied by a belch of smoke and an unsettling clanking noise as the Engine wrestled with his makeshift repairs.

In front of him were two large men. Both were dressed in shirts, bowler hats, and trousers with suspenders. Each carried a rather heavy spanner in their hands.

Shoulder sleeves rolled up. Smell of smoke. Oil on fingers. Slight burn mark on one fellows forearm consistent with recent scalding. Conclusion: saboteurs.

"Undo all our hard work, would you?" sneered the larger of the men.

"Hard work?" replied Lord Steam. "Gentlemen, I have just performed the hard work. And I conclude that all you did was throw a spanner in the works, so to speak. "

He glanced around. "And how, pray tell, would the saboteurs escape the sabotage?" Surely they weren't suicidal?

"Two more parachutes in storage, well hidden..." started the smaller, before the larger thug kicked his leg.

"Lets get this over with! For Ludd!" screamed the larger Brute, holding his spanner high and charging.

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Lord Steam elegantly sidestepped his assailant, with a shuffle of his shoes and a well placed shove to keep the man off balance. As fast as he was, he was not quick enough for the second man. He spun on his heel to face the Luddite, raising his arm and crouching as best he could. The spanner hit his side with a loud crunch.

"Ow!" he exclaimed. It hurt, but it could have been a lot worse. No ribs cracked anyway, but a nasty bruise tomorrow.

He lowered his head and quickly charged his assailant, ducking under the makeshift club and heaving the man from side to side. The man fought to regain his balance and initiative, but it was to late. Lord Steam straightened from his crouching charge and brought up his fist quickly and smartly. It was the perfect uppercut, and the Luddite's eyes rolled from the blow.

"Take that, ruffian!" said Lord Steam to the toppling body.

He spun around to face the larger man. "Give it up, Luddite!" he said "the games up!". He wasn't particularly surprised at the Luddites response: a heft of the spanner and a spit of defiance.

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The spanner, and the hefty arm, swung powerfully at Lord Steam, only to be blocked and twisted away by the Aristocratic detective's swift hands. The two men struggled, clashed and parted.

Lord Steam was confident enough. True, he would have liked his trusty baritsu cane, but this stiff was no match for his training and reflexes.

The man lunged forward again whilst Lucien chuckled with confidence. Over - confidence in this case.

Never underestimate a fanatic! he decided, as he recoiled, seeing stars. That one really hurt. He had walked into a quick, sharp blow. His cheek glowed and angry red, vaguely showing the indentation of the spanner head.

He barely rolled out of the Luddites follow up blow, shaking his head to clear the cobwebs as he did. The spanner connected centermetres from his head, denting the engine pipe as it did.

"You'll pay for that" he swore, rising to his full height and putting up his guard again.

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The Luddite charged again.

Simpleton. Repetitive tactics. Easily predictable. Counter attack method now evident...

Lord Steam could anticipate the man's move this time. His left hand came up to sharply slap the hammer away, whilst at the same time maintaining the man's momentum. His right hand drew back slightly and with a whipping motion, collided with the Luddites incoming nose.

There was a nasty crackling sound of breaking bone, and a bit of blood. Never did like the claret in a fight though Lucien Lockwood, as the second Luddite sank to his knees and then keeled over.

"Told you you would pay!" he said with satisfaction. Damn, his head hurt!

Another violent pitch of the Zepplin brought him to the task at hand. Peering out of a porthole, he could see it was a matter of moments before the landscape would bring them all to a grizzly end. Without further ado, he leapt from the Engine room, running full speed to the Pilot's chair.

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Lord Steam sat himself down at the Pilots control. Around him, a half dozen passengers trembled with fear, screaming at the Aristocrat to save them.

"Ladies and Gentlemen" he began, surveying the assorted levers, dials, and readouts. "I am pleased to inform you that I have effected emergency repairs on this vehicle, and it is now air-worthy. However, due to the danger..."

and the leaking balloon holding us aloft...

"...I fear I must elect to proceed with an emergency landing, in order to ensure your safety. " He smiled, as reassuringly as possible. If nothing else, he did not lack for confidence.

"Thank heavens you can fly the thing!" said one Passenger, a Texan from the sound of his twang.

"Of course" he smiled back warmly, and reached out to grab a few random levers firmly.

Of course, he conceded. He did lack in any flying ability.

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He yanked a few levers and pulled a few knobs. The Zepplin lurched wildly from side to side, still maintaining a dive into the fields below.

"You can drive this here thing, can't you, young man?" yelped the Texan, his knuckles white from gripping the seat.

"Of course Sir!" replied Lucien, as the ship yawed violently in response to another random tug on a brass lever. "But as temporary pilot of said vehicle, I would recommend all passengers adopt the brace position."

It was hardly the most inspiring of speeches, but nonetheless, the passengers dutifully went to their seats and crouched in the position. Some were crying, some were saying prayers.

Its all a matter of pattern recognition... Lord Steam told himself as he yanked some more controls. Slowly, the pattern resolved itself in his head. I see.. if I pull this, then that controls Engine angle...

With another few twists and turns, the Zepplin slowly pulled itself up from its dive. It was too late to pull up completely, and the damaged airship still lurched from side to side, but it was no longer in danger of complete disaster.

It hit the ground at a fair pace, dragging a furrow in the fields behind it. The engine screamed and belched forth more smoke. A few small fires started, and the passengers were bumped from pillar to post.

Nevertheless, they had landed.

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Back at MI7

"Yes not a bad show if I say so myself" smiled Lord Steam at "V", "everyone safe and sound. Well, not completely sound. A few broken bones and broken spirits, but nothing that won't heal..."

"Indeed" replied V, refilling his pipe and inhaling deeply. The man has an impressive aura of pipe smoke curling around him now. He looked like an affable, slightly portly old man, but there was no mistaking the fierce intelligence behind his eyes. One didn't get to be head of MI7, and one of the most important men in the running of the Empire, without a formidable intellect.

"Well, Sir Crane gave a rather complimentary spiel to the Royal Academy about your performance. Said you were a bit of a whizz in a pinch, both piloting and repairing the Zepplin, and fighting off two Luddites. Quite impressive. "

He paused. "To be honest, your reputation and your evident capability had initially put us in the mind to give you a high position in MI7" He paused again. "Potentially very high".

He sighed and gave Lord Lockwood a fierce Scowl. "Then there was that incident..."

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Previously...

The knock on the door was furious, urgent, and swiftly followed by a thunderous roar.

"Lockwood! Come out you rascal, I know you are in there!"

The door jolted with the force of men ramming it. Sturdy as it was, there was little doubt it would not hold up long.

Lord Lucien Lockwood pulled back the bed sheets on the bed and sat bolt upright. "My!" he exclaimed. "What a pickle!" he added, fully realising that he was, indeed, in something of a pickle. Next to him, Lady Bellowforth sat up next to him, equally afraid.

Lady Bellowforth was a society beauty, and no mistake. Along with her grace, charm, and looks, had come a slightly rebellious and wild streak. Combined with a failing marriage to the rather stiff Lord Bellowforth (a marriage arranged by the respective families), it was little wonder that she was known for a menagerie of illicit affairs within London Society.

Of course, Lord Steam could hardly resist when the good Lady threw herself at her. Perhaps he had one or two too many glasses of port that evening.

And now, Lord Bellowforth, a man of ferocious temperament, was knocking down the doors to beat the daylights out of him...

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Lord Steam dashed out of bed. Realising his state of dress (or rather, lack of any dress) he quickly whipped off the bedsheets to preserve some modesty. In doing so, he did of course deprive Lady Bellowforth of any such modesty.

"Apologies dear Lady!" he stuttered, as he wrapped the sheets around his torso. "I fear I must depart. Such sweet sorrow. And oh do give my regards to your husband!"

"You can give them yourself" smiled Lady Bellowforth, to the tune of the bedroom door splintering and an enraged Lord of the Land bursting forth, armed with an elephant gun and three burly manservants.

"Toodle pip" was Lord Steams only words as he launched himself to the window, crashing through it, and bouncing off the carriage belwo to land face down in the mud.

"LOCKWOOD!" screamed Bellowforth, firing a massive blast out of the broken window just to appease himself - for the Lord of Steam had landed out of his field of view.

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Lord Steam hung onto his bedsheets, now smeared with mud, and shivered with the cold winter air. Not his best of days, he reflected. And he wasn't out of the woods yet. He could hear Bellowforth screaming and running out of the room - no doubt to give chase from the front door of the mansion.

With a few strides, he reached out and flung open the door of the carriage. The chauffeur was already rather startled by the Sound of his Lordship hitting the roof of the horseless cart. He was halfway out of the vehicle when Lord Steam helped him with a shove, forcing him out and landing face down in the mud.

Seizing the initiative, Lord Steam leapt into the Car and started her up. The engine kicked into life, and steam poured from the bonnet pipes.

"Au revoir!" waved Lord Steam to the enraged Lord Bellowforth, who ran till his lungs gave up in pursuit of the car, and fired an ineffective round of shot from his gun in fury.

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Back at MI7

"Anyway, young man" continued V "nasty rotten business that... the less said about it the better. "

Lord Steam thought he could see the vaguest hint of smile on V's face - albeit one that the spymaster quickly battered down into the depths of his stony face. Bellowforth was a powerful man in the government, but not perhaps a popular one.

"Any way, it has occurred to me that I have the perfect place for you" he continued "somewhere to lie low for a while. Might be right up your street. You are familiar with the work at the institute for metaphysical engineering yes? The Brit Machine?"

Lord Steam nodded. He was on good terms with the institute. He was hardly the calibre of the top scientists and engineers of the country, but he wasn't far off, a dab hand at that stuff.

"Well, you may also be aware that Ms. Wells, one of their top scientists, recently discovered a new dimension. Called Earth Prime by their inhabitants. Very odd place. England lost all its colonies, extremely sad. They seem to do fairly well even labouring under such a disadvantage. Anyway, we would like you to be the official ambassador of the empire to that dimension. "

Lord Steam was surprised to say the least, but excited to. He had of course heard all about the recent discovery. The new dimension sounded extremely exciting, quite an extraordinary place. It was, as V suggested, a rather good fit for his current difficulties.

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