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Author Topic: Cloak and Brolly: The Unlikely Adventures of Penelope Goodnight!  (Read 304 times)
Prof. Jericho Wahl
Snr. Officer
****
United States United States


« on: May 01, 2017, 08:13:37 pm »


Cloak and Brolly: The Unlikely Adventures of Miss Penelope               Goodnight!


Her cover story is that she is the much beloved governess of a well-to-do widower and his family from one of the more affluent neighborhoods in the city. This is untrue.
Her actual job description would have her sound as if she is nothing more than a glorified truancy officer. This is also untrue.
It is true however, that Miss Penelope Goodnight cares greatly for the city’s many orphaned, abandoned. or homeless children, and worries about their future and current welfare.
That many of these troubled youths possess skills and abilities beyond the normal kin does not concern her one bit.
For so does she.

CASEFILE THE FIRST: The NeverAfter.
Chapter One:
“His Majesty’s Bureau for the Rehabilitation of Remarkably Gifted Waifs and Strays” does not officially exist; you won’t find it listed in any government directory, public or private, nor will you find its legend emblazoned over any gothic archway or stoic façade in Caledonia Court.

For if The Commonwealth were to ever openly admit to its existence, they’d have to own up to at least two other facts: that the welfare system of the glorious Albion Empire has greatly failed it’s youngest citizens, and that there really are Things That Go Bump In the Night.

Both sometimes being the same thing.

However, it is occasionally difficult to keep such matters on the sub rosa, especially when one is tearing down a midday cobblestone street in a candy-apple red speedster, being chased by a fire-breathing Jabbersnatch the size of a city bus, while a glorious madwoman in a red   and black striped mourning dress and top hat is standing in the backseat opening fire on said beastie with an elephant gun.
I find I’m actually looking forward to how the Bureau is going to spin this one in tomorrow’s papers.
Hello, my name is Prudence Harvey, and I’m not the actual heroine of this tall tale, merely its humble narrator.
That honor goes to the said blue haired young lady in the top hat  standing in the backseat, Miss Penelope Goodnight.

Me? I’m the pink haired one (yes, pink) and I chauffeur, mostly. Anything winged, wheeled or otherwise, getting us from point A sometimes all the way to point Z at speeds that are less than sensible. Pleased to meet you.
“So what’s the plan, Miss?” I inquires, daring a quick look over my shoulder.
 “Get us to the Queen’s River, Pru, before the schools let out and the streets get even more crowded!” she answers, quickly swinging around her signature bumbershoot to deflect a blast from the Jabbersnatch.
“And then?”
“I’m still working on that part, I’m afraid”,
Ah well. She’ll figure something out. She always does.

Chapter Two:

Freedom.
Below them the capital city of Avalon sparkled like a perfect reflection of the night sky above, bathed in a dreamlike pale blue glow, casting even deeper azure shadows.
Above them, the source of that illumination, hung low and impossibly large, seemingly serene and benevolent.
With the gentle zephyrs of the night holding them aloft, rustling their hair, billowing their clothes, BrambleJack knew, with absolute certainty, that this was what freedom felt like.
In the distance, the massive clock tower of Ol’ Charlie stood sentinel over the Queen’s River, giving witness to what was a quiet, almost profound moment- until Jack pinched Nellie Bliss on the bottom and cried, “Tag! You’re it!”
“Aurgh! What is your fixation with my backside, you fiend!!”
Bramblejack just laughed in response: which, if he was honest with himself, was his usual response to such things. Unfortunately, he was seldom honest with anyone, unless it really mattered. And the chase was on.
Through the night they flew, under bridges, over factories, across endless rooftops; stirring up neighborhood dogs, spooking unsuspecting pigeons, laughing and playing like children half their actual age.
For Nellie, a pretty young brunette not far from the age of courtship, The Gift (her words) awoke in her only recently. Raised in a loving, but very proper family, she knew well that such behavior was not befitting of a young lady. It was exhilarating.
For BrambleJack, a strapping young lad and true son of the streets, such conduct came as natural as the power to fly, or levitate others.
Little did they know that their secret, indeed a secret shared by their entire compania, was known and coveted by those who would exploit them…
Logged
Prof. Jericho Wahl
Snr. Officer
****
United States United States


« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2017, 08:18:26 pm »

 Chapter Three:
Mornings should not happen until at least midday. The sun should not even rise until at least 2:30 in the afternoon. Any time less is inhumane and makes one appear to be hungover. Shut up.
I’m writing a letter to Parliament. There ought to be a law.

Nevertheless here we are, (barely) standing in the office of one Mrs.Vivian Forde, Bureau Director, having just been debriefed about yesterday’s shenanigans. Miraculously, there was no scolding- just some stern, grandmotherly looks of disappointment from the Director. Sometimes those are just as bad.
“They call themselves “The NeverAfter””, she says plaintively, sliding two sets of files across her massive redwood desk, motioning for us to sit down.
Just for a moment, the briefest of seconds, I catch the shock of recognition in Miss Penelope’s eyes. But then just as suddenly it’s gone.
I thinks, “interesting”, and endeavor to pay closer attention to the proceedings than I originally intended.
“At first blush, they appear to have been your typical urchin street gang; petty theft, confidence schemes, that sort of folderol.  Chief difference being an alarming success rate, with little to nothing substantial ever proven against them outside of truancy.”
I keep both ears to the Mrs., but let my eyes wander over to Miss Penelope casually, as she intensely peruses her folder. Something is definitely up.
I occasionally smile grimly and nod at Mrs. Forde, a trick I picked up in boarding school.
“But in just the past few weeks, things have taken a turn for the dramatic. Extortion. Blackmail. Gang muggings. Highway robbery. Arson. And again, nothing we can prove or connect to them directly. Possible victims or witness too afraid to come forward. Savage beatings. Property damage…”
I open my folder and the visage of a handsome young boy stares back at me, dressed as if in a stage production of The Pirates of Penzance. Smart, but several decades out of date. Smug, cocksure and full of swagger. Full of trouble to be sure, but not the kind Mrs. Forde speaks of. I just can’t see it.
By this time Miss Penelope is beet red, barely containing herself.
Oblivious, the Mrs. continues on:
“What we do know is this: they currently number three boys and two girls, ages ranging from 7 to 14, three being siblings, and at least three possessing supernatural abilities, though powerset and scope have yet to determined. Flight and/or levitation are at least confirmed. One of them may be an actual EmberSprite.”
This last bit of information leaves me gobsmacked. I sputter, “EMBERSPRITE? What, like in the fairy tales? A Fire Elemental? Are you serious?”
Mrs. Forde fixes me with a withering gaze from over the rim of her reading spectacles, calmly replying, “Yes. It would explain some of the more mysterious occurrences of spontaneous property combustion associated with this case. You may stop gaping like a beached trout now, dear. It is quite unattractive.” I snap my jaw shut.
Suddenly Miss Penelope springs to her feet, and just like that hands me her casefile, pops her top hat on her noggin, and grips her bumbershoot. Turning to me she exclaims (a little too cheerfully), “Well that’s it then! Come, faithful Prudence, time is of the essence! We’re off to save the commonwealth from certain peril!” And before the Director or I can say anything, we’re out the door.
Dazed, I only feel slight satisfaction as I witness poor Mrs. Forde with the same open-mouthed expression I held just moments before.
Once tucked away in our trusty speedster, I ask “So where to, Miss?”
No answer. No acknowledgement at all. It’s as if nothing else exists outside of her head.
 
I wait until we put some distance between us and the Bureau, then turn down a side street and pull over.
I then turn in my seat and look Miss Penelope dead in the eye. “Tell me true, Miss. You know these urchins, don’t you?”
Her jaw sets defiantly, but she answers straight away-
“Only by the proof of their actions.
“Everything Mrs. Forde said was true, particularly -especially- about their keen intellect. Each one of them could become criminal masterminds or rocket scientists if they set their heads about it.
“But I know something about them our “field agents” apparently don’t. That each and every one of those children sees themselves as miniature Dennis Moores.”
“You mean like ‘robbing from the rich and giving to the poor’”
She nods grimly. “The destitute, the infirm, the elderly.”
With a huff I turn back in my seat and grip the steering wheel, shaking my head.
“I’m not saying that their perfect little angels Pru, but I know for a fact that they have extended and bettered the lives of many unfortunates. Taken in abandoned children too young to care for themselves…
I can see them becoming more ambitious in their operations, but never this violent, this destructive”
Miss Penelope’s words fall silent for a moment, but I know exactly what she is going to say next, know that she will say the words in that voice:
“Something’s wrong here, Pru, very wrong. And I intend to find out what!”

Despite myself, chills shoot down my spine. I feel a satisfying impish grin crawl across my face. I’m told I have quite a fetching impish grin. I check myself in the rear view mirror.
Why yes, yes I do… The fun was about to start.

Chapter Four:

The urban blight known as Kingsgrave was once described as A Misery Wrapped in Pestilence and Covered in Shame. And rightly so.
Once a majestic testament to the afterlife, it was an elegant cemetery filled with magnificent mausoleums, angelic statuary and loving monuments to the departed- all built foolishly on a low flood plain, which it fell victim to,  repeatedly.
Incongruously, built around this already rotting landmark rose an industrial complex of riverfront warehouses and factories, now also long since abandoned, fallen to decay and ruin. This then, was the domain of Lord Edmund Spike.
A self-appropriated honorific to be sure, but an absolutely undisputed one.
For Edmund Spike was one of the most feared underworld figures of Avalon, a ruthless, scheming and quite possibly mad crime lord of no equal. Flamboyant and theatrical, with arched eyebrows and handlebar moustache, many have mistaken his behavior as foolishness, to their ultimate undoing. As he would have it.
Sequestered in the former administrative offices overlooking a vast factory floor, Edmund Spike surrounded himself in the luxuries of his ill-gotten gains, in an attempt to offset the squalor of the nightmares below.
The same squalor he cut-throated himself out of years ago.

The same squalor where he held BrambleJack prisoner now. It was all he could do to keep from squealing like a little schoolgirl at just the thought. So he didn’t, not in the slightest.
Rising from a gilded throne that would do any Bavarian monarch proud, Edmund Spike loomed over BrambleJack’s prone and lifeless form, cackling, crowing, cawing like a magpie.
He then grabbed the boy by the chin and lifted him up to eye level. Jack’s were wide open, but unfocused, unblinking.
“BrambleJack. How like your namesake have you been a thorn in my side. Like- how do the cowboys say? A bur in my saddle. A knife in my back!
“Ooh, I know you’re in there, railing to the heavens, rattling at the cages of this little prison I’ve devised for you. In fact, I made certain of it!
“For you see, I never wanted you as a willing thrall, ho no!
“Every foul deed, every cruel word, every betrayal I had you commit, I wanted you there, bearing witness.
“How did you feel when I had you best that poor, poor elderly shopkeeper, hmn? When you threatened his cowering wife with the same if she didn’t cough up their protection money?
“What kind of anguish, what kind of horror?
“You know, at first I toyed with the idea of taking your precious princess while you watched, but I now think I’ll have you defile her, you ruin her, and have you laugh that annoying little arrogant laugh while you do!
With a vicious snarl the crimelord threw Jack across the room, to crumple like a ragdoll in the corner.
“That same arrogant twitter you used every time you thwarted my plans, made me a fool, SPOILED. MY. FUN!”
“Uhm, Lord Spike?” came a voice, as timid as it was frightened.
Wild eyed, Edmund Spike turned ferociously at the interruption. “YES?”
It was Mr. Pertwee, his chief assistant, trembling like a mouse before a hyena.
it’s the EmberSprite. She’s gone. We can’t find her!”
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 08:40:26 pm by Prof. Jericho Wahl » Logged
Prof. Jericho Wahl
Snr. Officer
****
United States United States


« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2017, 08:21:12 pm »

Chapter Five:  

Frankly, this isn’t the first time I’ve wondered at the way Miss Penelope’s brain works. I mean, I have no doubts what so ever at her abilities to make things happen, I just sometimes worry at the wisdom of them.
I mean, I’m not exactly what polite society would call a prude, and we have worn plenty of not much in the line of duty before, but…  I stare at our reflection in the dressing room mirror, and don’t know what to make of what’s staring back:  pin curled pigtails, hair bows and ribbons, matching black and white pinafore dresses, white tights, each revealing more thigh than I know quite well is legal. I’ve heard of private limehouse shows like this: Gilbert and Sullivan are great patrons.  
“Sooo… lower east side then?”
Miss Penelope tuts me while fixing one of my hair bows.
“Don’t be silly, Pru- to the world we’ll appears as precious moppets. No older than 8 or 9. Perfectly acceptable attire for that age.”
I cast a dubious glance at the vast expanse of her blouse top, long a subject of acute envy on my part, and sigh. “8 or 9. If you say so, miss.”
“I say so, miss.” She then stands back and appraises me with something that looks like motherly pride. I blush a bit. “So what’s the plan again?” she quizzes.
This is the part that I relish. This is me in my element.
“I act the right brat. Scream, fuss, throw a tantrum. Draw attention. You know, typecasting.”
“While I work the crowd, picking pockets and lifting watches all the while acting the poor put-upon older sibling”.
The idea is to not get caught by anyone other than those who know what their looking at, meaning the NeverAfter, and impress them with our slight of hand. But it has to be finessed just right and not look too slick, or they’ll either get suspicious, or not want to take us under their wing.
It’s a big gamble any way you look at it, but I think we’re up for it.
I feel that impish grin again.
“I WANT A LOLLY!” I shout, jumping right into character.
“What? Oh Prue, not yet, wait until-“
“I WANT A LOLLY!”
“Prue…”
“I want a lolly, vanilla crème with strawberry swirls! I want one, or I’m tellin’ mum I saw you snogging Harrison March in the back seat of the speedster!”
“That’s not cute, Prudence…”
“And I’ll tell her you was making all sorts of funny noises back there, too! I WANT A LOLLY!”
And she buys me one too, as big and round as my head. Ah, I love theater…

Chapter Six:

The way Tinderbox figured, humans were just naturally predisposed toward being dumb.
The bigger the head, the more air there was between the ears. It’s wasn’t their fault really, it was just physics.
So while she had to admit putting her in an old jam jar neck-deep in water to keep her from igniting was indeed clever, puncturing air holes in the lid was not. The water might have prevented her from lighting up, but it didn’t take away her natural strength, and the ventilation made for perfect hand grips to unscrew said lid. Q.E.D.
She looked around and fretted a bit. She had to hide, and soon.
Tinderbox was an EmberSprite, part of a supposed mythological genus of elemental-based fairy creatures. They were human-like in appearance, and, well, small; usually no more than five to six inches tall.
Her would-be jailers would return to check on her soon. They seemed fascinated with her, and would just stare, swearing oaths of disbelief. Thoroughly soaked, she needed to dry out a bit before she could use her wings again. Then there was that bothersome detail involving, what were those called again? Friends.
She had to rescue them.
“Drying out” was proving problematic, however, as Avalon was currently experiencing one of its signature summer storms, and the ancient factory had plenty of ventilation all its own.
The rata-tat-tat of the downpour on the vast tin roof above was deafening.
Hugging her knees to her chest, Tinderbox curled up and tucked herself away on a cold metal storage shelf, weighing her options and attempting to formulate a plan.
The two-day old newspaper underneath her did little more than keep her bottom warm. Mostly.
That is, until she noticed the headline: “GOVERNESS AND CHUAFFEUR BRAVELY “BAG” RUNAWAY PARADE BALLOON”.
“Parade balloon? “Pfft.
The fire-fairy had to roll her eyes at the accompanying photo- if that wasn’t a rampaging Jabbersnatch, she was The Tooth Fairy. Her low regard for human intelligence was duly reinforced. But it was the young lady with the bumbershoot in the photo that caught her attention.
She knew that bumbershoot. Any Fair-folk in the know (which was any Fair-folk, period) knew Penelope Goodnight.
Suddenly Tinderbox lit up like a firecracker, sparks flying from excitement.
She had a plan!
Mostly.

Chapter Seven:

Nellie Bliss and her younger brothers were huddled together and chained down to the factory floor, each link of the chain as big and heavy as a ship’s anchor line. They were hidden away in what used to be the factory’s boiler room, out of the summer storm, but swallowed up in pitch blackness. The air was stifling, warm and damp. Musty, like rain after a forest fire.
Yet it was as if it were the dead of winter, the way each sibling shook with fear.
The youngest, Princess Larkspur, vainly attempted to hold back tears as she clung tightly to her elder sister. Nellie and her brother, Reginald, cooed and coddled her as best as their shackles would allow, each wanting to reassure the miss that their friend BrambleJack would soon come to their rescue, as he had done countless times before.
But was it not in fact the Forever Boy who put them there in the first place? “For safekeeping” he said with a sneer, in dark parody of his usual merry tone. “That was not Jack,”, Nellie secretly whispered to herself.  
Indeed it seemed as though Bramblejack had “not been himself” for quite some time. It was small things at first; an unkind word, a sharp physical reaction, all barely noticeable.
But soon the “marks” became more high-profile, the scams more dangerous, and Jack, ever more ruthless. So they stood up to him, refusing to go any further. It wasn’t fun anymore.
Only to shortly discover themselves there, stolen from their sleeping beds.
Suddenly, as if reading their very thoughts, the boiler room hatch door slammed open, revealing BrambleJack himself. However, far from being the dashing, swaggering figure he usually presented, this Jack was a feral, wild-eyed beast- hunched shoulders, labored breathing, snarling lips. His eyes fixed upon Nellie with an unmistakable hunger.
He swooped upon her, giggling maniacally, taking an oversized skeleton key and frantically releasing her from her shackles. Then, as fast as he appeared, he made off with her, flying her high above to a factory catwalk. Nellie was firmly in BrambleJack’s clutches, unable to break his hold. Then, abruptly, he just… stopped.
For Nellie an eternity seemed to pass in that single moment.
Suddenly Jack’s eyes snapped wide open as awareness shot through him like a bolt of lightning. His body went rigid as her gasped for air, nearly choking on each breath. He fell, coughing violently.
But while his mind was there, his body was still not his own.
He continued to claw at Nellie’s dress, his face contorted by anguish and terror, great tears welling up in his eyes.
“It’s SPIKE, blast him! He’s wormed his way into my mind! I can’t control it! I CAN’T CONTROL IT! NO!’ Fear caught in his voice as BrambleJack fought desperately against his actions. “It’s not me! I swear to God Nellie, it’s not me! You’ve got to get away from me, Nellie! Run! RUN!!”
Pinned down beneath him, Nellie’s expression remained soft and forgiving as she said, “Oh Jack, you silly boy. Do you think I’ve forgotten everything you’ve ever taught me?”
A savage right uppercut doubled with the choice insertion of her knee to her future husband’s sensitive areas knocked the poor boy out cold. Kneeling beside his unconscious form, she gently caressed his face and added, “I believe you sweetheart, I truly do. We’ll exchange apologies later”.
She then reached down and unsheathed his short-sword from its scabbard and coldly regarded its tip with her forefinger and thumb.
Whether he knew it or not, whether he believed it or not, Edmund Spike, criminal mastermind, lord of the underworld, was a dead man.

Chapter Eight:

I now know what a drowned sewer rat feels like. Well, minus the dead bit. And the smell.
Shut up.
After a full soggy day of pinched cheeks and swatted bottoms (lucky me), me and the miss have been no closer to finding our objectives than before,
As fate would have it, however, that’s when one of our objectives finds us. Stings like a bee too, the cretin.
Picking itself off the wet cobblestone street, it berarates us for being the clumsy, oversized beasts we are, chattering like a mad chipmunk. For the second time that day I just stand there, open mouthed,.
It‘s the EmberSprite

It says, “WherehaveyoubeenIhavebeenlookingpforyoualldayI’mTinderboxI’mafriendofBrambleJackhe’sintroublewhyareyoudressedlikeprostitutes?”
At least I think that’s what it says,
After grabbing Penelope’s brolly, we wink into our normal outfits and give chase.

Chapter Nine:

Lunge. Thrust. Parry. Thrust.
Spike and Nellie struck at each other with a ferocity unparalleled,  blades clashing loudly, like thunder.
Thrust, parry, strike!
Nellie moved swiftly, matching Spike strike for strike. Spike smiled smugly, with a cool confidence. Nellie ducked Spike’s blow, BrambleJack’s shiv sure in her hand. “Ha! Is that the best you got, old man?’ Suddenly Penelope and the girls joined the fray, “Is this a private party, or can anyone play?” Nellie laughed and bowed to Penelope. “Be my guest. Miss Goodnight, I presume?” “Why yes, what gave me away? It was the hat, wasn’t it?”
“That ain’t it,” Prudence snorted, ‘I call ‘em Alice and Leopold myself”. And the battle was joined.
Tinderbox sighed. “No one say hello to the faithful sidekick, why don’t you?”
This exchange of pleasantries did nothing for Spike’s mood- “Four against one, eh? How sporting of you.” Thrust, Thrust, Parry, Thrust.
Penelope brandished her bumbershoot like a cutlass as she sliced the air. making a mockery of Lord Edmund’s maneuvers. “I’d say ‘touch’e, but I’m not sure you know what that means…” With a start, Spike lunged for Nellie, teeth gnashed, screaming, “ENOUGH!!’
Grabbing her by the throat, he held her by his sword and backed away from the group. “Don’t take another step closer.,,” Lord Edmund’s eyes grew wide. “No, DO come closer, give me another reason to run the trollop though! In fact, NEVERMIN-“ Lord Edmund’s eyes grew even wider then, as he stared at his chest and the business end of a sword protruding from it. “What-“
At the other end of the point was Mr. Pertwee.
“You had to spoil it, didn’t you, Eddie? It used to be such
 Fun- YOU used to be such fun…
‘Travel the world’ you said, ‘play the bad guy, you said,
“They’re just children, Eddie, kids! How could you…”
Pertwee sobbed as his captain’s life slipped away.

Chapter Ten:

So we just stood there, in stunned silence. What was there to say? Thanks for killing your psychopathic boss?
Over his shoulder, Pertwee said, “Go, Take your friends and go, Please”.
And so we went, leaving the two of them in a pool of blood and rainwater,

Later;

BrambleJack and Nellie smooched. The End. That’s what you wanted to read, wasn’t it? But oh no, what you get is Nature Boy and his One True Love carping over the fact that he missed all of the action.
Boys.
When the fireworks subsided, we all made all of the proper introductions   and the usual offer to join our group. Nellie was all for it, but Nature Boy just scoffed at the idea. That’s when Tinderbox spoke up: “Sign me up!”
BrambleJack and his girl just stared at the EmberSprite,
I yelp.
“I’m tired of playing third fiddle around here” Tinderbox complained, and flew to Penelope, embracing her cheek. I yelp again, a little louder.
Tinderbox and I then both sigh. For completely different reasons.
                                            

« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 08:44:17 pm by Prof. Jericho Wahl » Logged
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