by Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett
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Echoes of the past... echoes of the future. Honoré Lechasseur can see the threads that bind the two together; however, when he and Emily Blandish find themselves outside the imposing tower-block headquarters of Dragon Industry, both can sense something is wrong. There are ghosts in the building, and images and echoes of all times pervade the structure. But what is behind this massive contradiction in time, and can Honoré and Emily figure it out before they become trapped themselves?

Part mystery, part detective story, part dark fantasy, part science fiction... original adventures in time and space.

  • Released: March 2005

  • ISBN: 1 903889 45 6 (Standard Edition); 1 903889 46 4 (Deluxe Edition)

Honoré and Emily find themselves standing outside the Dragon Industry Tower, an office block adorned with the same “horned devil” symbol that caused Emily such distress when she saw it in Victorian London. They enter the tower to investigate, and find a newspaper dated December 1995. A security guard named Dorkins confronts them, but retreats in terror when the ghost of a young woman appears in the corridor and rises up through the ceiling. Honoré and Emily follow her to the top floor via the lifts, but find themselves passing through a black void into a normal 1940s-style house. Emily finds a letter informing Mrs Barton that her son George has died in combat; she then glimpses a young boy on the stairs, and, when she tries to follow him upstairs, finds that the stairwell ends in a solid wall of darkness. She and Honoré split up to investigate further; Honoré descends into the cellar, while Emily enters the kitchen.

Elsewhere, a woman named Alice finds herself trapped in a strange void; she no longer seems to have a corporeal body, and neither do any of the other women trapped in the void with her. The women have no idea how they came to be here; occasionally they are returned to their homes for a brief period and are allowed to eat and drink, but always they find themselves back here. Alice meets the haughty Patience and her timid servant, Mary; a hippie named Sandi; Joan, a matronly woman from the 1950s; and Tess, a street urchin from the year 1892. Sandi believes that they’re all dead and in Purgatory, while Tess believes that she’s hallucinating under the influence of opium. Joan tells Alice to get used to this strange new existence -- but then both Joan and Tess vanish, and Sandi reveals that this is the first time two women have gone at once.

In the kitchen, Emily has a vision of the house being destroyed by a bomb, and then finds herself back in the intact house -- with Joan Barton, who used to live here with her daughters and their families. Eager to have someone new to talk with, Joan explains that her husband and son were both killed in the war, and that the rest of her extended family died when a German bomb hit the street while Joan was out shopping. Joan is then taken back to the void, and Emily is taken along with her. There, Emily tries to question the other women, but few are willing to share their stories and some have been driven mad by their time in the void. Nevertheless, Sandi eventually gives in and tells Emily that she got her boyfriend Joe killed when she bought some bad acid. She also tells Emily that she believes Tess was an underage prostitute, and realises too late that Joan, who regards Tess as something of a replacement daughter, has heard this.

Alice explains that she used to be the personal assistant and fiancée of John Raymond, who built the Dragon Industry Tower; it turned out to be a money sink, and Raymond’s business enemies ensured that it bankrupted him. Raymond killed himself by leaping off the Tower’s roof, but Alice tore up his suicide letter so she that she’d get the insurance money, and was subsequently wracked with guilt. Emily asks Alice about the devil-horned symbol, but according to Alice, it was just a symbol that stuck in Raymond’s mind after he saw a tramp drawing it in the 1950s; it has no other significance to the Tower. Emily then turns to Patience, who angrily refuses to tell her story; however, Mary realises that Emily might be able to find a way out of this hellish void, and though Patience orders her to remain silent, Mary tells Emily their story.

Meanwhile, Joan’s cellar steps lead Honoré to Chang Wu’s opium den, where he meets Tess. She is startled to find a man there, but eventually realises that he poses no threat; however, she’s upset when she is not returned to the void, which she claims is better than the life she left behind. She accompanies Honoré back upstairs, where one of the doors in Joan’s home opens to reveal a Regency hall in which debauched revels are in progress. The party guests don’t see or hear Honoré or Tess, but Tess somehow recognises two of the women; despite never having seen them before, she somehow knows that the young woman sitting next to the cruel Squire is Patience, and that one of the serving wenches is Mary. Another door opens up, leading Honoré and Tess into Patience’s bedchamber; there, they watch as the Squire forces Mary in and reveals that the serving wench has conceived his child -- something that Patience never managed to do, even though the Squire effectively purchased her from her father so she would bear his heir. Furious, the Squire begins to beat both Patience and Mary, but before he can kill them both they vanish into thin air before his eyes. The Squire flees in terror, convinced that the two women were witches.

Honoré and Tess return to the hall, where Emily and Joan materialise; Joan and Tess thus get to see each other for the first time, and despite what she’s learned of Tess’ past, Joan forgives her young friend for the choices that were forced upon her. A young boy then appears in one of the hall’s mirrors -- and steps out through the glass. Joan greets him as a mother would a child, but is shocked when he innocently asks her cruel and hurtful questions about her own children’s deaths. Emily and Honoré realise that this is not a human child at all, but the time creature that the Cabal of the Horned Beast had been using to track down time-sensitives; though they freed it from the Cabal, it became trapped in the Dragon Industry Tower, able to reach out through Time but unable to escape itself. Since it had been used by cruel men to hurt innocents, it sought to atone by saving women whose lives were being destroyed by cruel or insensitive men; however, it still wishes to be free, and in order to escape, it needs to absorb the energy of a person’s timeline, effectively erasing that person from existence. It insists that it does not want to take an innocent life, however, and Emily realises that it wants the timeline of an unborn child. It confirms this, but then reveals that Mary miscarried when the Squire beat her; it is Tess’ unborn child that the creature wishes to devour.

To Joan’s horror, Tess reveals that she’s already aborted her baby. After her father murdered her mother in a drunken rage, she was kicked out on the streets and became an unwilling child prostitute; when she found out that she was pregnant, she had it aborted, feeling that she wasn’t fit to be a mother. Joan, who has lost all of the children that she cared for, is enraged by Tess’ choice -- but the boy now reveals that Tess was pregnant with twins and that only one foetus was aborted, so she can still offer up the other to help the creature escape. Joan protests, but the creature sends her back to the void. There, Joan finds that Mary has finally lost her temper and lashed out at Patience, who had always feared that Mary was trying to usurp her position in the household; Patience now realises that the Squire abused Mary just as much as he did Patience, and vows to make amends if they escape from the void.

Tess realises that the time creature has taken on the form of the boy that she’s being asked to give up. Seeing her potential son standing in front of her, she stops seeing him as an abstract concept and instead as a living child, and thus decides to keep the baby and try to give it the life she never had. Furious, the creature threatens to start killing the women under its protection until Tess agrees to its terms, but Emily knows that it really doesn’t want to. She thus offers it an alternative: she will allow it to take the life of a man who threw that life away by committing suicide, but only if it agrees to release the women it’s been holding in the void. The creature agrees to Emily’s terms, and takes the life of John Raymond, the man who built the Dragon Industry Tower and then threw himself from its roof. As Raymond’s life and all its consequences are erased from history, the creature begins returning the women back to their homes. The women materialise in the hall before vanishing, and Joan apologises to Tess for her harsh words before learning that Tess has chosen to keep her child in any case.

The grateful time creature offers to restore Emily’s memories, but though torn, she turns down the offer. The creature becomes suspicious, and Honoré, realising that Emily has a plan, tries to distract the creature by asking it to open up a path back to 1995 so that he and Emily can leave. He realises too late from Emily’s reaction that this was a mistake -- and when the creature tries to open the path, it finds the Tower fading in and out of existence. John Raymond built the Tower in which the creature became trapped, but since the creature has just erased John Raymond from history, the Tower was never built, the creature was never trapped there, and it could not have erased John Raymond from history. The paradox is trying to resolve itself, and the creature’s time bubble is collapsing.

Realising that the creature could still take Tess’ baby by force in order to free itself, Emily distracts it while Tess and Joan flee down the path to 1995. The creature realises that it’s lost its chance to escape, but rather than take its revenge on Honoré and Emily, it allows them to go free. Honoré and Emily flee down the path, and escape from the office block with Alice, Tess and Joan moments before it vanishes from existence. Since Alice was outside Time when John was erased, she can still remember him, and, taking comfort that he won’t be completely forgotten, she promises to take care of Tess and Joan and help them to find new lives in 1995. Dorkins the security guard then arrives to confront the strangers standing outside the warehouses that have replaced the Tower, but Honoré and Emily use Dorkins’ time-snake to leap back home to 1950, much to his astonishment. Meanwhile, the creature’s enclave collapses as the paradox resolves itself -- and to its delight, it finds that this has freed it to travel through time and space once again.

Source: Cameron Dixon
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