Authors: D. L. Mackenzie
The Last Adventure of Dr. Yngve Hogalum
The Magnetron Chronicles, Volume 1
D. L. Mackenzie
It is 1877, the Age of Steam. The Second Industrial Revolution is well under way, and science is propelling a dizzying technological renaissance in medicine, communication, electrification, and railroads. There is a palpable sense of expectancy: the promise of great advances, and the shapeless, undefined dread of a world that is somehow getting ahead of itself.
Across this spe
llbinding, perilous milieu strides the Hogalum Society, men of extraordinary intellect and character, men of letters, men of action. They master science and bend it to their will. They plumb the depths of black mysteries beyond the reach of science, and confront the barbarous depravity of the criminally insane. They defy tyrants and advance the cause of civilization and the general welfare of mankind. They desire neither wealth nor fame nor recompense in any form, save for the satisfaction of doing good—and succeeding when no one else dares even make the attempt.
What follows is the first volume of the only known historical account of these brave, uncompromising, and unconventional heroes:
The Magnetron Chronicles
Thus released by circumstance from my former vow of silence, I hereby declare myself free to divulge the greatest secrets of my time, most of which are interwoven with a common thread….”
I am called Phineas J. Magnetron, although my unusual surname was not bestowed upon me in the usual fashion by accident of birth, but rather as a byproduct of an altogether different class of happenstance. As a matter of historical record, I was born Phineas
Juchnook Mugglesworth on June 7, 1843 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the United States of America. The circumstances and events that led me to change my name are the subject of a lengthy story which I shall save until a later time.
However implausible it may seem, what follows is my true and unembellished account of actual events I have witnessed with my own eyes. Despite numerous past admonitions against
making such recordings, I have set about writing this memoir for the same reason that most men put their thoughts to paper: to unburden my soul. Indeed, as I anticipate no human being will ever have occasion to read these words, they can serve no other purpose.
For the sake of husbanding my own tenuous sanity, I shall hereinafter presume the exceedingly improbable event that my words
will one day find an intelligent audience. Further, I shall presume that you, dear reader, inhabit my distant future—millennia hence—and that I am long ago dead. Perchance it is now said of me that I have gone to a better place. But it is
, the reader, who now occupies the place, or more accurately, the time, which is where and when I most fervently desired to be:
! Yes, the future, with all its wondrous devices and yes, its terrible weapons. Though it is a commonplace for you, the future has beckoned to me since my young adulthood. Through some inexplicable phenomenon—another matter which I hope to address in future writings—I arise every morning awash in fading visions of a future I shall never see with my eyes.
So, do I write to tell of the future?
No, as the bulk of my direct temporal experience is limited to the latter half of the Nineteenth Century, I must confine myself to the telling of events which are almost certainly historical to you. But the history I will relate will have no corresponding reportage in your history books. The history I will relate will be beyond the reach of any historian as it was all but unknown in the very era in which it took place, and those whose station in life made them privy to such knowledge were sworn to secrecy. Indeed, I have maintained utter silence for decades—once an eternity, now a fleeting nictitation contrasted with the stupendous immensity of time itself.
Despite a sturdy confidence that I will be shielded from any earthly repercussions which might otherwise arise pursuant to the indiscreet revelations to follow—owing to the unfortunate eventuality of my death—I shudder nonetheless at my own temerity in violating my sworn oath of secrecy. However, my current abject situation is so extraordinary as to render moot any such comparatively quotidian prohibitions. Thus released by circumstance from my former vow of silence, I hereby declare myself free to divulge the greatest secrets of my time, most of which are interwoven with a common thread: The Hogalum Society.
This elite fellowship utilized the most advanced technology available—technology which surpassed that yet conceived by the most brilliant minds in academia and which dwarfed the comparatively primitive gadgetry of the most powerful governments on Earth.”
In my day
the mystery burned hot, the question dwelling upon the lips of every man, woman, and child in the civilized world, to wit, was the Hogalum Society genuine? Were there strange goings-on taking place in secret, stalwart agents keeping order independently of governments and other revered institutions, veracious men of action resolutely battling evil in all its multifarious forms? The answer is yes! The Hogalum Society not only existed, it thrived. Its counterparts in the treacherous underworld of foreign connivance and treasonous domestic misconduct had nothing but contempt for the most adroit law enforcement agencies of the day, dedicated and praiseworthy though they may have been. But they trembled at the mere mention of the Hogalum Society, I can assure you.
Why?” you ask. Very well, I will tell you. The Hogalum Society counted among its members several of the most intelligent and resourceful men walking the face of our planet. This elite fellowship utilized the most advanced technology available—technology which surpassed that yet conceived by the most brilliant minds in academia and which dwarfed the comparatively primitive gadgetry of the most powerful governments on Earth. These incorruptible men supported the civilized world while remaining above its rank influence and petty foibles. The Hogalum Society was an unsung benefactor of mankind, but the tool of no individual man, government, nor other entity.
How can I know these things? How can I, a humble tinkerer, be privy to these hitherto unknowable secrets?
I hereby proudly proclaim: I am a member of the Hogalum Society. I joined this august body in 1866, shortly after meeting in London with the men who comprised it then: Dr. Anton Karswell Valkusian, the enigmatic psychological and metaphysical practitioner and researcher; Dr. Leonardo Cerebelli, the brilliant physicist and engineer; and Atticus Satyros, the well-known magician, mentalist, and escape artist. This disparate assemblage of diverse talents was catalyzed to brilliant endeavor by none other than Dr. Yngve Baltasar Hogalum, the group’s leader and chief provocateur.
This was not my first encounter with the
illustrious doctor. In 1863, Dr. Hogalum had dragged my limp, half-dead body from a corpse-littered battlefield near Richmond, Virginia and nursed me back to health. It was then that my strange visions first manifested, and it was Dr. Hogalum who suggested that they might be more than mere hallucinations.
, I had recovered fully from my injuries and was travelling in London when I was I was reacquainted with Dr. Hogalum by the strangest of coincidences. On a whim, I had responded to a personal advertisement in the Telegraph, through which the advertiser sought “unconventional thinkers,” a curious qualification for which I hoped my contumacious mental indiscipline would suffice. As I came to find, the advertiser was none other than Dr. Hogalum, who was recruiting a replacement for a Hogalum Society member whose formerly robust nervous constitution had buckled under the strain of his arduous duties and who was therefore deemed inadequate to the challenge.
After hours of enervating interviews and an unusual
initiation ritual involving bushel baskets of
tarantulae and a keg of Thrale’s Russian Imperial Stout, I was subsequently made a full member of the Hogalum Society. Imagine my pride at being accepted into this noble patriciate of great men and great deeds—and the humbling burden of doubt in my own meager endowments.
Three years later, Pierce Coburn from
New South Wales joined our ranks, and we were six. The years that followed were the happiest of my life. Rarely was there not some stimulating conundrum to be unraveled, and never were we at a loss in the unraveling. Innumerable minor quarrels and the few truly distressing altercations that transpired over the years could in no way diminish the luster of our achievements—or my measureless esteem for these intrepid and effulgent paladins toiling in obscurity for a better world.
I shall have much
to say about my Hogalum Society fellows later, but at the moment I am obliged to address the indomitable intellect that was Dr. Hogalum. After his untimely demise in the late summer of 1877, I spent many days overcome by grief, my mind’s-eye blurred by the persistent image of his gaunt figure and inscrutable countenance. In time, I came to the realization that the legacy of the good doctor lived on within me. As long as mankind remained bedeviled by villainy, and while there remained within me the breath of life and astuteness of mental faculty, I felt duty-bound to carry on in his memory.
I embarked forthwith upon a course of action which—but for my having conceived it—could otherwise only have been described as inconceivable.
Even the surviving Hogalums would in due course openly deride my plan, and indeed, in retrospect I have some inkling of their theories on my descent into madness. They were quite incorrect, as I would prove later, but even now I feel the sting of their mockery.
When I began to speak, they listened attentively, but as the details of my proposal became known, they shifted uneasily in their posture and demeanor.”
It was late afternoon
several weeks after Dr. Hogalum had been laid to rest. I had called a meeting of the Hogalum Society, our first without Dr. Hogalum serving as chair. The mood was somber, and the usual high jinks of the ordinarily garrulous Hogalums was nowhere in evidence. My housekeeper Mrs. Mackenzie was grim but effectual, shuffling her squat, ample figure to and fro in the pursuance of her household duties. My butler Anders seemed his usual taciturn self except that his characteristically poor posture had worsened to a dreadful slouch. Pung the gardener remained pitiably disconsolate, his bantam frame crumpled on the floor in an inert ball of melancholy. He had wept loudly and uncontrollably for two full days, his wailing eventually subsiding into a forlorn moaning. Even his cats seemed listless.
At my direction, Anders brought out five tall glasses of Dr. Hogalum
’s Inebriol Elixir as a nostrum for our suffering as much as for refreshment. At his full height, Anders was a full two feet taller than Mrs. Mackenzie, but I observed as they exited the room that they now appeared equal in height, so burdened by grief was his stature. At length, I arose and addressed the assembled Hogalum brothers with what amounted to a eulogy for our fallen champion. We became aware that Pung had failed to leave the room when he began to weep once again, his melancholy rejuvenated by my honorific memorial. Tears gushed anew from behind outlandishly thick spectacles, flowing down his flushed, soggy cheeks.
re-entered the room and hoisted Pung from the floor, cradling him in his enormous arms, and commenced to carry him from the room. I asked him to deposit Pung on a settee at the far end of the room and leave him be, and also to fetch Mrs. Mackenzie from her kitchen so that all interested parties might be present to hear the heartening news of my forthcoming ambitious undertaking.
In my mind
’s eye, a wave of contentment and gratitude was to have swept away the pall of sadness and tribulation smothering that room, but it was not so. When I began to speak, they listened attentively, but as the details of my proposal became known, they shifted uneasily in their posture and demeanor. Soon they had taken on the passionate
esprit de corps
of a Salem witch hunt—with me as their wicked quarry.
Valkusian reacted first and most ardently, swearing in his mother tongue and
unceremoniously exiting the room in a plume of pipe smoke. “Deplorable tomfoolery” he called it, as I recollect. Cerebelli attacked my methodology and my motives, snorting out a series of exaggerated satires of my plan. Coburn laughed uproariously at my “inimitable waggery.” Satyros wore a horrified expression but remained silent. I believe he was at that time concerned for my sanity.
Mackenzie’s face went crimson with apoplectic fury (which was not at all unusual) while a barely perceptible penumbra of displeasure fell sparingly over Anders’ implacable countenance (which was tantamount to an unrestrained outburst in Anders’ case). Only Pung seemed to have received any solace from my proposed course of action. He began to titter fatuously, waving his fingers and directing a dreamy expression toward the ceiling.
I was mortified.
I had hoped to receive assistance and guidance from my compatriots but clearly nothing of the sort would transpire. Stinging with disappointment, I resolved impetuously to begin work at once—in secret—and was suddenly imbued with an unshakeable confidence in my own resourcefulness. Of course, at that moment I had no conception of the difficulties with which I soon would be presented. Had I known how truly difficult my task would prove to be, I might never have made the attempt.