The night was a horrid one. Heavy clouds splilled snow into the city street, the open gutters leaving water from previous rains as slick sheets. Heavy icicles as tall as a man loomed threateningly along rooftop edges over the walkways. Through this torrent a horseless carriage navigated its way through the evacuated streets. An extra layer of black canvas had been draped over its shell to hide the placards on the sides. A mustachioed gentleman sat in the front outside the carriage, holding an umbrella above his top hat. Hidden panels built into the footrest guided the chugging contraption, leaving a trail of thick white steam behind it that quickly dissapated in the falling snow.
The vehicle slowed and hissed as it ground to a halt outside the signless storefront. The man stepped down onto the street, his tall leather boots sinking into the snow with each step. He left footsteps behind him as he circled to the back of the wagon and opened the door. A bonnetted lady in a rust-colored dress opened a matching umbrella. She rested her other gloved hand in his as he helped her down onto the sidewalk. The snow melted instantly around the man as he lowered his umbrella and blasted a jet of boiling steam from the tip. The woman followed behind as the moisture refroze behind them into a smooth path of ice.
They approached the door of the nameless storefront. She stood to the side as he slammed the knocker of against the aged wood with peeling black paint. A tall, rotund man opened the door, his face lit by the gaslamps inside, along with the greenish glow of of more arcane devices. He wiped his hands down his greasy labcoat and grinned a ragged smile.
"Herr Drosselmyer?", the visitor asked, standing straight and emotionless.
"Yes, that is I!" He chuckled as he wrung his hands, rocking excitedly from one foot to the other. "You must be Herr Mason! Do come in!"
"Thank you. I hope you don't mind that I brought my own creation with me, Fraulein Qlippothic."
Dr. Mason stepped back as the lady in rust curtsied at the doorstep. Drosselmeyer bowed to her as he leered back the construct. She closed her white-dusted umbrella and stepped through the doorway as Herr Drosselmeyer rose, gently beckoning her with fidgeting hands.
"Fantastic, Herr Doktor! I have heard much of your creations! Perhaps we can arrange a trade of services..."
In a blur of movement, Qlippothic lunged at Drosselmeyer with her umbrella, thrusting with it like a sword. Her umbrella opened outward, ripping away the cloth as the steel ribs bent forward. The metal rods wrapped around his torso like a spider's limbs, pinning his arms to his sides. Qlippothic stepped forward as Drosselmeyer gasped. His back slammed the wall of his laboratory with a thud. Dr. Mason entered closely behind and locked the door behind him.
Dr. Mason calmly closed his own umbrella and hung it on the coatrack as the host cursed and gasped in outrage. The guest ignored him, hanging his coat and hat before approaching.
Dr. Mason leaned in to look Drosselmeyer straight in the eye. "Do I even need to tell you why I'm here? You Sir, and I stretch the term 'Sir' beyond its limits here...have single-handedly wrapped our entire Art in a cloak of shame!"
Qlippothic sneered at the captive as she twisted the handle of her umbrella, tightening the bonds and making Drosselmeyer scream in pain.
Qlippothic spoke with rising anger in her voice. "They're singing about you and your precious ballerina in the pubs!" She stared at him a few moments, her face turning into a scowl. "And what's worse, the rabble are mistaking me for her! I can't walk down the street in broad daylight without ladies hissing at me and cads offering me 'a tuppence for a spin!'"
"She is...my creation", he sputtered defiantly. "A Child of Art and Science! Mine to do with as I..."
Dr. Mason closed in, wrapping his hand around his throat. "You DISGUST me! You call her your daughter and yet..." He swallowed hard. "If this were a simple case of Gallatea Syndrome we might have spared you and freed your daughter from your clutches! But you, Doctor, have squandered the Spark of Prometheus in a way I had never even considered!"
Qlippothic pushed the handle into his chest angrily and barked "WHERE IS SHE?" Drosselmeyer gritted his teeth and remained silent.
"One last time, we ask..." Dr. Mason drew a metal cigar tube from his pocket, opening it with a gentle squeeze to slide a metal syringe into his hand, "before I liquefy your brain to pour the truth out...all of it!"
Drosselmeyer shifted his eyes towards the door in the back of the laboratory. Darien nodded to Qlippothic, and she relased her grip on the umbrella. The metal claw retracted back into the shaft as Dr. Mason kept him from falling with a glove planted firmly around his throat.
"You may live, Drosselmeyer, but you will never use your Spark again."
Qlippothic snapped the umbrella in half and cast it aside as she scanned the equipment and supplies in the room. She focused her gaze on one of the tables and examined the contents. She picked up a life-sized ceramic doll head with loose blonde tresses in her hands, and turned the base of the skull towards her to peer inside. "We came just in time, Father! He was building another slave!", she snarled. She crushed the empty shell of a cranium in her hands.
As Drosselmeyer screamed in pain, Qlippothic charged the back door and ripped it from the hinges. She lifted it high to hurl it at his workbench, smashing it and the ceramic limbs strewn across it. As Drosselmeyer collapsed to the ground, groaning in the throes of violent seizure, Qlippothic entered the lightless room.
The construct covered her face with the handkerchief as the smell of the dank room nearly overcame even her cast-iron stomach. With a click, her left eye cast a spotlight beam through the darkness, and with a second click her right eye became a torch as well.
The narrow radii of illumination revealed unspeakable filth as her gaze drifted from one wretched sight to another, until she stopped at the shackles bolted to the wall. The chains clanked as they swayed slightly. The beams followed the links to a a pale wrist scraped down to the red porcelain beneath. Noting a gleam in the darkness, her light snapped to the face of a painted doll, staring back with emotionless eyes of green glass.
Qlippothic lowered her handkerchief, straightening herself as she adjusted the wideness of the beams to take in the full horror within. Dr. Mason stood in the doorway as Qlippothic finally spoke.
"We are here to rescue you."