“Another mass funeral,” he said, head hung low. “Forgive me Your Majesty,” he looked out on the line of sixty placeholder graves before him as he wiped his eyes. “But French…Prussians…Americans …refugees all.”
“Of course, no forgiveness is needed, Dr. Todd,” came the Queen’s shaky response. The apparatus protruding from her back noisily competed with her frail voice. Her eyes welled with tears. “Even the Americans were under my protection; they flew in my skies, and I could do nothing but watch as they burned.”
The Queen and her retinue remained on the scene for the duration of the ceremony, protected from the English rain by a somber pavilion and thick coats. Dr. Elias Todd was not without pride as he noted that he was the only commoner among them. No one came so highly-qualified as he, and it was his duty, honor, and privilege to see to the Queen’s personal health. Of course, his very qualifications were also a source of shame, so tightly were they bound to the tragedy before him.
“It would seem that Proctocus can still wreak his havoc from the very surface of the moon,” he said after they had boarded the Queen’s short-range airship, tuning a dial on the Queen’s life support. He had designed the system himself, a last-minute stroke of brilliance to counteract the deadly poison the Queen had been given by Dr. Emmanuel W. Proctocus, once the greatest minds in science and now no better than a degenerate madman.
“SWARM is a headless hydra now,” The Queen said before descending into a fit of coughs and wheezing. Dr. Todd became a thing in motion, fingers manipulating dials, switches, and buttons on the apparatus carried by one of the Queen’s personal guard. A combination of medication and sedative coursed through a set of tubes into Queen Victoria’s back.
“Is that better, Your Majesty?”
“For heaven’s sake yes, Doctor,” she replied with a motherly roll of the eye. “You may be the only thing keeping me from Saint Peter, but I should hope that I am well enough to survive a cough.” The doctor muttered an apology, though he caught the gentle glint in her eye. “As I was saying,” she continued. “These attacks are nothing compared to the horror that rocked the rest of the world. They are the death throes of an organization without leadership.” She stared into a cup of Earl Grey and worried her lip. “It pains me to endure them, but I am soothed to see the first rays of dawn.”
“Of course, Your Majesty.” Todd looked down upon the streets of London. The population had grown to nearly ten million since the refugees had begun arriving, and the city was dangerously close to buckling under the weight of its own responsibilities. In all the world, it was the greatest bastion against Proctocus’ armies, though it did not escape him that even Achilles had his limits. Todd wasn’t able to leave the palace so often as he would like, but he knew that food was a daily problem, and the hospitals worked feverishly to contain what some were calling a New Bubonic. The forces of evil seemed intent on throwing the world back into the dark ages; for every good day there seemed to be a weeks’ worth of ill news. There were days when even the thought of his darling Toni could do little to bolster his melancholy.
Not long after arriving at the palace, the first footman approached the Royal Party. He hurried through the formalities. “Your guest has arrived, Your Majesty,” he said. “He awaits your pleasure in the library.”
“Excellent,” the Queen responded. “Dr. Todd, please go and make our guest comfortable while I make preparations.”
She dismissed the doctor before he had a chance to protest. He was the single most valuable person to her health, yet she always seemed to be finding opportunities to escape him. It was most vexing.
Todd made his way to the library, worrying so much over the Queen that it didn’t even occur to him that he had no idea whom he would be greeting. He opened the doors to find a man of undoubtedly Slavic descent perusing a musty tome in one of the room’s many high-backed chairs. He was young—though Todd had to remind himself that the man looked no older than himself, since the accident that reversed the doctor’s age not long ago—and smartly-dressed on a modest budget. According to the fashion amongst the youth, his black hair was parted and slicked close to his scalp. He wore a well-kept moustache.
“Good day, sir,” Todd began, moving toward the stranger with a hand extended. He felt a strange electricity between the two of them as he approached. “You must forgive me, but I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure…”
“Tesla,” responded the man, closing his book. “Nikola Tesla. I am certain I pioneered the concepts behind the engine that carried you to me, though of course no one will admit it.” Every word from his mouth carried the weight of vast intelligence. “Five years ago I would have bet on it.” He looked Todd over, but did not rise to take his hand. “I am pleased to meet you.”