Kizzy Shepard, a Guild approved steamfitter, had recently been given funding by the Union to carry out experiments into creating Breaches, something that would surely affect the balance of power in Malifaux. While she has yet to have had any real success she is getting close, and this has attracted the attention of various people willing to help her out in her workshop. Besides Choukon, a Three Kingdoms woman who had been helping her out since she had started the project several weeks ago, she knew that Felix has been sent by her secret investors, the Archanists, to help and update them on her progress, and that Guignol offered his services as a bodyguard after her previous bodyguard failed to turn up for work. But the other people’s motivations were a little less clear, or downright creepy. For instance a couple days ago a woman calling herself Ashley had knocked on her workshop door in the middle of the night and told her that Professor Von Schtook had sent her to help with the work. Kizzy hadn’t argued, not wishing to know how the Professor had found out about her experiment or why he had sent someone to ‘help’ after all this time. Then there was the self proclaimed The Amazing Chavis, a down and out street magician she had felt a little sorry for and agreed to let work for her. He seemed to have some interest in teleportation theory, and zero interest in the woman under his employment, Courtney.
It was a cold February morning when Kizzy finally pulled the lever on her prototype and set the enormous machine whirring away. A small hole in reality began to form, green tinted light spilling into the workshop. Success! Until a rattling sound preluded a plume of oily smoke pouring from part of the machine’s workings and the mini breach vanished. Choukon managed to get the frost rimmed window open and slowly the heat and smoke dissipated. Despite the setback Kizzy was delighted. The machine had worked, and the interocitor that had failed shouldn’t be too hard to replace if she sent her ‘workforce’ out to go get what she needed. They were a resourceful bunch and she was sure they would find a way to get the interocitor’s schematics off her old acquaintance Rasul Layton. She scribbled down his address and handed it over to them, certain that this time tomorrow the machine would be back up and running.
It wasn’t a long carriage journey to the Howling slums but it took the last of The Amazing Chavis’ money and Courtney almost ended up walking, until Choukon offered to pay for her seat. The address took them to a cake shop, a swinging sign proclaiming it to be ‘Limpetts Crumpets’. Ms Limpett turned out to be a pleasant woman who pointed them to a staircase at the back of her shop when they asked about Layton. Chavis took the opportunity to snatch a couple of cupcakes on the way through. Part way up the stairs the building started to shake and a strange machine-like howl rose up from the ground, subsiding only a moment later. Ms Limpett seemed unfazed, explaining that it was a normal occurrence that gave the Howling Slums their name.
The workshop at the top of the stairs was a mess of scattered junk and paper. At the far end was a woman – or at least someone wearing a dress – bent over a table. Guignol stepped forwards and the figure pirouetted on the spot at the intrusion. It gracefully raised it’s arms, revealing two long scythes where hands should have been, and leaped forwards, landing gracefully in front of the mercenary with a clockwork whirr. Guignol draw his twin blades and danced around the sentry, avoiding it’s slices and putting in attacks of his own. Choukon stepped into the fray, slashing the construct with a blade hidden up the sleeve of her beautiful clothing, and Ashley charged forwards to engage as well. Felix took advantage of the scrap lying around and used his magic to form a cobbled behind the melee, while Chavis did his best to stay out of the way. Under this onslaught the construct was damaged enough to stop moving, vital gears knocked out of place in its inner workings. Hurried footsteps rushing down a second flight of stairs announced the entry of the sentry’s owner, a half dressed pale looking man trying to pull a sweater over his shirt. Rasul Layton demanded to know what they were doing in his home, and angrily cried out when he saw the damage done to his very expensive servant. Choukon was next to him in a moment, using all her skill in flattery to calm the man down. She apologised and explained that they were here for the blueprints to one of his inventions, the interocitor, deliberately leaving out the fact that it was Kizzy Shepard who had sent them. Layton was loathe to part with the schematics of an invention he had not yet patented, he had not got the money to cover the Guild’s fees for filing the necessary paper work. Chavis, sensing his big moment, stepped forward and held up a pouch for all to see. Within were coins aplenty, far more than the inventor would need to cover the fees. Between the payment and Choukon’s diplomacy Layton agreed to make a copy of the schematic for them. While he worked Guignol picked up a tool and set to work repairing the construct that they had damaged, displaying an impressive skill and knowledge of its internal workings. Ashley decided to help as well, darning the holes and rips in the dress it had been wearing so that by the time Layton reappeared, paper in hand, the sentinel looked a lot less worse for wear. Layton seemed quite pleased with this, going up and running his hands over the dress with a dreamy and slightly creepy expression on his face. The group used this as an opportunity to sneak out before the man noticed that the bag of money they had left him was really just a cupcake.
Layton had helpfully scribbled a list of items needed to build the interocitor in the margins of the schematic. Most of them were common items but next to two he had written a short note. One, a vacuum manifold that looked on the diagram like an imploding pear, had ‘Captivating Salvage and Logistics’ written next to it. The other was labeled as ‘Toroidal combustion chamber – Guild surplus’. Both the Guild enclave and the pawn shop were a good two hour walk away and they had no money left so the group set off towards downtown, knowing that they wouldn’t make it back to Kizzy’s workshop until late.
The Guild Amalgamation office had a queue. That was bureaucracy for you. After only a half hour wait next to individuals clutching odd and interesting inventions tightly to their chests the receptionist called them over to a side room where they we met by Carlotta Fromm of the Amalgamation office. Unfortunately this turned out to be a dead end as the woman informed them the Guild’s entire stock of toroidal combustion chambers had been destroyed due to all the constructs that had been fitted with them going rogue. Chavis suggested to the others that rogue constructs would probably be their best bet, and by chance they were overheard by one of the inventors queuing for the patent office. He took them to one side and explained that he knew the location of Ampersand, a town built and inhabited by constructs that had escaped their masters. The man agreed to tell them where to find the settlement if they could bring him back a second toroidal combustion chamber, which he needed for his next big thing!
Their work at the Guild enclave done, the party set off for the riverside slums, hoping to reach Captivating Salvage and Logistics before it closed. While it was inadvisable to walk the streets of Malifaux at night, when they reached the junkyard the slum area was unusually quiet. The shop door proclaimed the place closed, but the door was slightly open, spilling weak light onto the slush outside. While a more mercenary individual might have suggested caution to be the best option, The Amazing Chavis simply opened the door and stepped in, announcing himself as he did so. This startled the two heavily armed thieves ransacking the shop front, both of whom dived behind the counter and drew weapons. Chavis bolted back outside leaving an image of himself in place. This worked remarkably well. As the thugs opened fire on the illusion, Guignol, Ashley and Choukon burst through the door, closed the distance between them and the counter, vaulted across and engaged in melee. One of the thieves was cut down quickly, her body hitting the floor after a shattering blow. Then it convulsed. There was a horrid snapping sound as machine parts inside the woman broke her bones and split her organs, melding them together with metal and forcing life back into the vile mess. A foul, corrosive gas poured from the abomination and it leaped up on the counter to attack the people around it. Not long afterward the second thief fell, a look of panic in his eyes as he realised his fate. He too had his body splintered apart and reformed by what ever dark magic or machine had been forced inside him. Having seen many horrors like this before, Ashley was rather unfazed by the two plies of raw weaponised flesh attempting to claw at them. Guignol betrayed no more emotion in fighting these things than he had anything else and Choukon had training and discipline to draw on. Chavis however rushed to the nearby kitchen and was violently sick in the sink, allowing his fellow companions to dispatch the… things.
The shop, which had already had its stock thrown around as it was being ransacked, now resembled an abattoir floor, if said abattoir was staffed by rabid wolverines who had yet to get the hang of knives. Ashley looked around and informed everyone that there were more than just two pairs of footprints. That in mind they carefully began searching the building, checking each room for hostiles. Guignol stepped out the back into the snow covered junkyard and spotted a figure crouched down behind a scrap pile, gun drawn and ready. The thieves began firing, Guginol ducking and weaving his way towards them. Ashley took a less graceful approach, charging up to the towers of scrap metal and knocking them over onto the people taking cover behind them. As a tactic it worked, and as the men were crushed or cut down by Guignol or Choukon they were twisted into necrotic machines that attempted to flee back into the piles of scrap, but the party were too quick for them and eventually all that was left in the fenced off yard was scrap and carnage.
It took over half an hour of searching to find the small fist sized component nestled among the rust and rats. Chavis had opted to search the inside of the building and had managed to find himself a decent amount of money, which he pocketed. Unfortunately his nosing through rooms meant he accidentally walked in on Ashley as she was trying to reattach her arm – the one that wasn’t meant to come off. This didn’t make his day any better. After their success they headed back to Kizzy Shepard’s workshop to report on their progress.
Kizzy had managed to check over the workings of the machine, and even clear some space on her work bench for the interocitor’s assembly, when her workers returned. They handed over Rasul’s schematics and had even taken the initiative and tried to get some of the trickier components for her. Everything seemed very doable, it was just getting hold of a toroidal combustion chamber that was going to slow the project down. Now her workers wanted to go look for a mythical town somewhere in the northern hills to get one. She sighed and handed them enough money to hire a coach there. With any luck she might be able to find one herself if the whole thing turned out to be a hoax.
It was a cold, five day journey to the location the inventor have given them. His information however turned out to be accurate and as they crested a hill they saw a rectangular walled town below them. Large tracks mixed the snow into an oily sludge, leading up to a wooden gate. Gary the driver halted his horses and refused to go any further, but Guignol jumped off the coach and headed straight to the gate. An ice covered construct turned to face him, grenade launcher ready. Guignol removed his mask and showed it what he really was. The construct was satisfied they were there for genuine trade and allowed them to pass into the settlement. It was a strange place, built on a grid system and full of open sided buildings, looking more like a warehouse district than a town. The residents were even stranger, a menagerie of machines walking around going about their business, what ever that was. They asked around about where to find a toroidal combustion chamber and were directed to someone called AFE in warehouse E13. E13 was easy enough to find, less open than the other buildings. Their noses (those that had them) were assaulted by strong chemical smells as they entered. The building looked like a chemistry lab, liquids bubbling away over burners and odd parts of animals floating in jars. A large construct with spider-like appendages protruding from its back turned from the petri-dish it was examining and exclaimed in a monotonous, whirring voice: ‘Welcome, flesh bearers.’ This was probably not the best greeting the party could have wanted from something with scalpels for hands, but the machine didn’t seem hostile, and when questioned it stated that it did indeed have a few toroidal combustion chambers and it would be willing to trade one for two functioning kidneys. This was a dilemma the party had not been expecting. Chavis suggested that Ashley be the donor, seeing as she clearly wasn’t using them for anything. AFE directed her to a rather bloodstained gurney to inspect the merchandise, but stated that they were no good as they had clearly ceased functioning some time ago. He did say that he would be willing to trade the chamber in exchange for being allowed to fully dissect the woman, but Ashley firmly rejected the offer. She did however manage to bargain him down to one kidney per chamber. Chavis’ next suggestion was that the remaining four of them draw straws to see who would end up on the table. A bit of skillful sleight of hand from the magician and Guignol was left with the short straw. He agreed to donate a kidney and promptly set off in search of one.
According to some of the constructs there was a small human settlement a days travel for Ampersand. Guignol strode through the snowy hills for a full twenty-four hours before reaching the mining outpost. It was simply a collection of buildings on the edge of a hill with a combined general store/pub/mess hall. There wouldn’t be many people here, but it could be a good hide out for criminals. Guignol went into the store, where he got a few worried glances from the occupants. He inquired as to whether there were any new arrivals in the town, and was told of two young men working in the mine who had arrived a couple of weeks ago. He set off towards the mine and soon came across two workers heading back for a break. While one greeted him – if a little nervously – the other wouldn’t look at the heavily armed mercenary. Suspicions aroused in his clockwork mind, Guignol allowed them to pass, then doubled back to follow them at a distance. They both headed towards the mess hall, but the man who had kept his eyes down detoured to the bunkhouse first before joining his friend. After a short wait Guignol entered the building himself and took a seat inside, carefully watching everyone. The suspicious man kept glancing at him, fidgeting with something in one of his pockets. When the other miners left to go back to work the man again returned to the bunkhouse, and this time Guignol went in after him. The miner was clearly startled to turn and see the expressionless mask staring down at him (who wasn’t). The mask accused him of being a criminal and the man denied it a little too strongly. Then the mask slammed a sword pommel into his face and split his lip. The miner took a few steps back and drew a revolver from his pocket, firing a shot and missing. Another blow from the sword and the man was down. Guignol found some rope and bound the criminal, before dragging him out of the building and back towards Ampersand.
Chavis had managed to relieve Gary the coach driver of most of his money when Guignol returned, a battered and struggling man being dragged behind him. When asked all the mercenary would say about him was ‘Criminal’ and the others decided to leave it at that. It was probably not the most moral thing to do, selling a man’s organs to a construct fascinated with the human body, but they managed to walk away with two toroidal combustion chambers and even some soulstone dust. Then it was just a case of another five days cramped in the back of a cold carriage back to Malifaux.
Kizzy was delighted at receiving the final component she needed. She handed everyone their wages and told them to have a night on the town while she finished everything off ready for the big day tomorrow. Guginol went off to find some better equipment, Choukon went to make a report and Chavis delivered the second combustion chamber to the inventor that had given the information about Ampersand to them. He was delighted and gave the magician half a dozen eggs he had modified with his new machine, infusing them with the essence of bacon. The man was a visionary! Chavis then went to someone he knew and sold the soulstone dust to him in exchange for an item to aid him with his fledgling magic.
At ten o’clock the next morning everyone was assembled in Shepard’s workshop. The machine loomed over them, fixed and ticking over as the heat from it’s boiler filled the room. A few last checks and Kizzy turned to Chavis, asking him if he would do the honour and pull the lever. With a grin and a flourish of his hand he did so. Everything began to work away and a small greenish rift formed at the centre of the device as it had done days previously. Their excitement at the success of the experiment would quickly prove to be short lived. With a terrifying screeching sound the rift suddenly doubled in size, then doubled again. It’s event horizon caught the edge of the machine and with a crunch ripped the metal off the side. Again the breach expanded, swallowing more of the workshop as someone started screaming, the sound echoing all around them. The faint figure of an old man, hunched over in pain, could be seen inside the green glow. He looked up and yelled to them ‘You fools! Stop this before…’ but his words were cut off as the breach expanded one last time, consuming the small workshop and everyone within.