Tiberius stared out of the Dragonfly’s window as the silver airship drew closer. He saw the ship’s harpoons glinting in the sunlight like metallic spears, ready for action. He heard the roar of the canons firing buckshot, like dragon’s breath. He sensed the burning gas as a fire caught hold, as sharp as acid. Turning to his master, Tiberius purred, “By all that ticks John, it is time for you to jump! Humans before mechanicals!”

Chapter 1

Nudging the backdoor of Octavia Dogood’s Academy for Young Girls, Lily Hartman peered across the playground. No one was in sight and within a few seconds she was running as fast as her legs could carry her towards Crispin Lane and freedom. At the end of the lane, she paused and leant against a tree to recover her breath.

Once again she opened the letter and read through the terrible news. Her father, John Hartman, was missing and his airship destroyed. His last words to her had been so strange, ‘Make sure you save time’. Many nights she had lain awake in the dormitory and wondered about what it might mean.

At that moment, she heard a distinctive meow and a familiar face appeared from some bushes, ‘By all the tocks you’ve taken a ticking long time to get out of that dreadful place!’ said Tiberius, ‘Give me a wind-up will you? I’ve used up a lot of energy escaping from those scallywags.’ Lily grinned as she wound the key and Tiberius gave a low purr of satisfaction. His marmalade fur was somewhat singed from the airship’s crash landing but otherwise he was in fine form.

That afternoon, Robert was surprised to see Lily and Tiberius standing in Pincher’s Alley at the back of Townsend’s Hororlogist’s. ‘Of course, it’s your mother’s decorated clock,’ he said. Lily sadly nodded her head. The clock was something that her mother had treasured. She had put it on a bedside table in Lily’s bedroom. Many nights Lily had lain awake, watching the second hand inch round, as steady as a drum beat. On the clock’s face a painted kingfisher flew like an azure spark but the memory of her mother was still painful. ‘Sorry,’ muttered Robert, looking down.

‘He’s right,’ yapped Tiberius, ‘No time to lose. We need to take a steam-wagon back to Brackenbridge Manor and begin the search before some rapscallion lays their greasy paws on that clock.’

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