Dogcarts rolled down the wet streets of Craftham City. The stars appeared early this time of year, though remained mostly invisible behind the dark clouds hovering above the busy capital of New Albion.
Through the sounds of rattling coach wheels and horses trotting on the cobble stones, a strange sound could be heard, unfamiliar to most of the citizens brave enough to patrol the streets in this weather. It was the sound of an automobile. Inside were Sir Dunbridge and his aide - and friend - Edgar Hannon, on their way to a night at the theatre.
Owner and artistic director Alan Helmsworth stood at the entrance of The Tomorrow Theatre, awaiting the arrival of his special guests. He greeted them with honors, most of his wealthier and nobler attendees could only hope for. There was a reason for that of course: Helmsworth's Tomorrow Theatre owed a lot to the inventions and ideas of the crippled, but brilliant Sir Dunbridge.
"Welcome Sir Dunbridge, Mister Hannon. I trust you had a pleasant drive in your new automobile? Hope the weather didn't trouble you.", he said jovially.
"This was its maiden trip through such weather, but I must say the drive went rather well.", answered Sir Dunbridge satisfied.
Edgar opened the trunk of the high-tech vehicle and pulled out his crippled master's walking chair. He then opened the door and helped Sir Dunbrigde from the automobile into the chair.
With a gesture of his hand, Alan Helmsworth ushered a bell boy, who carried a long power cord, that was plugged-in somewhere in the theatre. Edgar attached the cord to the walking chair and with a spark, it came to life like a giant metal beetle carrying a passenger on it's back. Edgar held an umbrella over Sir Dunbridge, who was manipulating handles on the arm of the chair to guide his insectoid machine towards the Theatre. Slowly, the walking chair climbed up the steps to the entrance. Helmsworth - still impressed about this invention, even after seeing it a few times before - walked next to them.
"Tonight's performance is "The Clockwork Servant", a futurist play about a scientist who creates a mechanical butler, which - of course - has dire consequences." , he said.
Helmsworth's theatre was known for putting up these Scientific Fictionals, as they were billed.
"Isn't it against your principles to feed the fear of the masses when it comes to new technology?", asked Sir Dunbridge. "I thought you aimed to inspire them about the progress of science. With plays like this, you might turn them into sceptics."
"I regard it merely as a form of suspense, rather than a warning not to trust technology. Look at it this way: people know how dangerous the Far West can be, but it hasn't stopped anyone from exploring the most remote and obscure parts of it."
"True. Fear of the unknown might also trigger the desire to confront and understand it.", said Sir Dunbridge.
It was indeed true. The audience was always awe-inspired as well as sceptical about the futuristic visions they come to observe at the Tomorrow Theatre. Tonight wouldn't be any different. In fact, tonight's performance would become the most talked about in the history of the theatre. That had nothing to do with the quality of the play itself, though.
Helmsworth was a visionary. Not only in the pieces he chose to bring to stage, but also in the way he funded and built his own theater from the ground up. A costly, but succesfull endeavour. Tomorrow Theatre was the only venue in Craftham City that had electrical power. It was the theatre of tomorrow, not only because of the pieces that were played, but also in the way the building itself contained the latest technology, courtesy of the intellect and talent of Sir Dunbridge, who had cooperated in the building of the venue.
As such it was the only theatre, Sir Dunbridge could visit. His custom-made electrically powered walking chair couldn't be plugged-in elsewhere. The crippled amateur investigator often couldn't enter the other theatres in Craftham, unless he was carried to his seat by four men, a disreputable act a genteman of his calibre would never allow.
Here however, he even had his own theatre box, in the balcony at the right of the stage. Once inside, Helmsworth saw to it that the bell boy provided another power cord that could be attached to Dunbridge's walking chair. With slow crablike movements, the technological marvel walked the broad stairs up to the first floor, where Sir Dunbridge reached his box. This box too, was customized to his wishes. It had only four instead of six chairs, so Sir Dunbridge had enough room to manouvre his ingenious walking contraption.