To set the stage, Sir Maurice Newbury, an agent of Queen Victoria, has been attacked by three revenants, victims of some sort of disease brought back from India that turns people into vicious creatures. Newbury survived the encounter and was brought to the house of the Fixer, who uses his amazing technology to keep the Queen alive as well as tend to serious injuries her agents suffer.
Newbury woke with a start.
He sucked at the air.
His head was throbbing, although he felt as if he’d somehow been infused with a warm, liquid glow; warmth that started in his belly and seemed to seep upwards towards his head, gloriously taking the edge off his pain and leaving his mind to wander in a drowsy state of semi-consciousness. He knew the sensation of old.
Newbury peeled open his eyes, and then immediately shut them again. The light in the room was blinding, clinically sharp, and it seared the back of his retinas like a hot knife. He drew a ragged breath, pulling the air down into his lungs. His chest felt like it was on fire. Cautiously, he tried to open his eyes again, reaching up to shelter them from the glare with cupped hands. Stinging tears ran down his cheeks. He blinked them away. Finally, an image resolved.
He was lying on his back on a hard metal table. A face was looming over him. He tried to sit up.
“No, Sir Maurice. Try to lie still. Everything is going to be all right.”
Newbury felt a hand on his chest, holding him still on the table. He blinked up at the strange face that was hovering over him. The man was in his late forties, balding, with a neatly trimmed black beard. A bizarre mechanical contraption sat on his head, like a wire frame that encompassed his temples and forehead, with various accouterments and glass lenses attached to it on folding levers and arms. The man reached up and flipped one of these lenses down over one eye.
“Who are you? Where am I?” Newbury had a panicked edge to his voice.
“I’m the Fixer, and you’re in my workshop, underneath my home. You have nothing to worry about.”
Newbury breathed a sigh of relief, allowing himself to relax. He’d never had occasion to visit the Fixer before, but he was well aware that the man existed: a personal surgeon of Her Majesty’s who made himself available to her agents in times of dire need. He remembered Bainbridge speaking about him in the carriage, just after the attack. What was not good was the fact that, if he was here, his situation was potentially very grave indeed.
…He felt gloved hands tearing at his clothes and the faint stirring of a breeze on his exposed flesh. Nevertheless, the room itself was warm, and listening to the sounds around him, he had the sense of a workshop full of bizarre mechanical devices. There was a faint electrical hum, accompanied by the occasional sound of a belching valve as it issued forth a cloud of hot steam, as well as the constant tick-tock of numerous clockwork engines powering objects that he could not see from his limited vantage point on the table. Newbury tried not to imagine what the man was about to do to him with the strange machines that were making such sounds.
…The Fixer stood at the foot of the table, fiddling with an array of surgical tools, which pinged noisily on a steel tray. Beside him on a wooden trolley was a rack of steel hypodermic syringes, which contained a range of strange, multi-colored fluids. Newbury took the opportunity to take a better look at the man who called himself the Fixer.
Aside from the contraption on his head, the man was wearing a tarnished leather smock and matching leather gloves. Newbury couldn’t help thinking that he had more of the appearance of a butcher about him than of a physician. He had a ruddy complexion and the manner of a public schoolboy. Newbury suspected he spent a great deal of time in his workshop, and very little time engaging with the world.
…The basement was lit by a series of long, unusual gas lamps that arced across the ceiling from one wall to the other, curved glass tubes that terminated with gas valves where they met the walls at each end. An array of strange machines and surgical tables filled the space in between. One of these – a large brass contraption about the size of a small table, with two glass vats full of bubbling fluid atop it – had long coils of tubing that snaked out from the belly of the machine and away into the dark corners of the room. Another, smaller contraption was fitted with wheezing bellows of the sort Newbury had seen attached to Queen Victoria’s life-preserving engine. It even rose and fell with the same constant rhythm of Her Majesty’s breathing machine, although in this instance it appeared that the bellows were helping to power an unusual electrical device, the lights on it flickering from orange to blue as the exposed filaments danced with the current.
The alarming contraption above Newbury’s own table was connected to an extensive brass framework, a kind of large gun on a moveable rail, with fat tubing trailing from the back of it and disappearing into a nearby hatch in the floor. The device had a trigger fitted to the undercarriage and the end of it terminated in a spread of fine needles, bunched together to form a neat point. Newbury shivered.
The Fixer turned to notice him looking. “Impressive, isn’t it?” He turned to encapsulate the room with a gesture of his arms, indicating the various machines. “This is what Dr. Fabian gets up to when he isn’t busy attending to Her Majesty or running errands for the likes of you and Sir Charles. Works of genius, every one of them.”
Groggily, Newbury met his gaze, and felt immediately disoriented by the sight of the man’s strange eyewear, which magnified the appearance of his right eye so that it seemed at least three times the size of his left. “So, what’s next? Surgery?”
The Fixed smiled. “Of a sort. I’m going to knit your shoulder and chest back together with my stitching machine.” He indicated the gunlike device on the rail overhead. “Then I can give you a blood transfusion and a dose of one of Dr. Fabian’s excellent compounds.”
Newbury narrowed his eyes. “What will it do?”
“Fix you, of course.” The man beamed….”When the powder is dissolved in saline and transfused into the human body, it boosts the existing immune system, helping the blood cells to clot and bind, so that muscles and bones can reconnect very swiftly indeed….”
(From George Mann, The Affinity Bridge, pp. 220-25.)