Phil Phorce: The Hidden Uses of Torture Machines

Really long post today, but it’s part thirteen of the Phil Phorce.  This was the high point of this episode, in my opinion, so please, tell me what you think, honestly and candidly.  Thank you for your cooperation.  Enjoy!

Sebase gave up in disgust.  “It’s not coming.”  The floor around him was littered with splinters of wood from his chair, and each one had broken as he tried to pick the lock.

“Let me try,” said Percival from the other side of the room.  Just as he had selected a piece of wood, the door opened.

“Hello, gentlemen,” said Ralph, walking in.

“Actually, he isn’t a gentleman,” said Percival, pointing at Sebase as he hid the wood in his back pocket.

“It was a general greeting,” explained the lord.  “It had to be, since I don’t consider either of you gentlemen.  Come along!”

Sebase followed first, but Percival pushed ahead of him.  “Where are we going?”

“To your doom.”

“Seriously, man, scrap the sinister responses,” said Percival.  “Where are we going?”

“The torture room.”

“Scrap the sinister names, too.”

“It’s actually the informal dining room, but I had a few adjustments made.”  Ralph cackled evilly, then coughed and put a hand to his throat.  “When I don’t make sinister responses or have sinister names,” he explained, “I feel the need to laugh evilly, and that sort of hurts, you know?”

Percival raised his eyebrows and shrugged.

“Where do you eat, then?” asked Sebase.  “Your formal and informal dining rooms are taken.”

“Do you need a special room to eat?” asked Ralph as he pushed open a door.  “You’re a traveling player; I didn’t think you would be so picky.”

The room they entered had nothing to designate it as a dining room of any kind, formal or the opposite.  In fact, it had everything working to the opposite effect.  A table was in one corner, covered in plush toys.  Another table suggested equally terrible torture methods, being covered in various types of slippers.  A door off to the left was marked “Wardrobe”, and on the other side was a hallway marked “For the Convenience of the Tortured”.  A machine directly opposite the door they had come in was obviously the chief torture mechanism.  It was big, it was scary-looking, and it had flowers painted on the sides.  It had a control panel on one side with a large blue button.

Sebase whistled when he saw all this.  Percival saw a sudden spasm of pain flash across the lord’s face, but it was gone once the whistling stopped.  To experiment, he started singing under his breath a sea shanty he had learned a long time ago while he was marooned on a landlocked island in Kansas.

Ralph, as soon as he heard it, screwed up his face, as if suffering from a long-delayed itch caused by his massive rash.  “Stop that!” he yelled at Percival.

Instead Percival sang louder.

The lord screamed and covered his ears, his face contorted in pain.  He clamped a hand over Percival’s mouth.  “Don’t sing,” he told Percival menacingly.  Percival nodded and was let go.

Sebase leaned close to Percival and whispered “I need to learn that song.”

“It’s not the song, it’s the music,” replied Percival cryptically.  “He can’t stand music.  Don’t sing.”

Sebase shrugged.  Percival was the leader here.

“You have come here to be tortured.”

“We didn’t come ourselves,” said Percival.

“You were brought here to be tortured.”

“Any chance we can leave?”


“Any chance we can use the restroom?”

“Both of you?”

“No,” Percival said quickly.  “Well, I don’t know about him, but I kind of need to… you know.”

“Of course,” said Ralph.  He pointed to the hallway on the right.  “Third left on the right.”

Percival walked down the hallway, looking for the third left on the right.  He ran into a large sign saying “Bathroom”.  He turned back.

“Couldn’t find it,” he said.  “There was only a bathroom, and I needed a rest, not a bath.”

“There is no rest for the wicked,” quoted Ralph.

“Ah, so that’s why you don’t have one here.  But you ought to put one in just in case someone who isn’t related to you comes, shouldn’t you?”

Ralph looked confused.  “You’re saying that I’m wicked?”

“And your family.”

“Well, that’s kind of low, don’t you think?  You’re first.”

“First for what?” asked Percival, eyeing the table of plush toys.

Ralph hauled Percival over to the strange machine.  “This.  Do you know what this is?”

“If I did, would I be running right now?”

“Depends on which way.”

“Probably that way.”  Percival pointed to the way out.

“Perhaps.  Do you want me to tell you?”

“Will you let me run?”

“That way?  No.”

“Which way, then?”

“Would you just let me tell you?”

“Do you want to tell me?”

“I’ll tell your friend, then.”

“Will he be able to run?”

Ralph ignored Percival.  Turning to Sebase, he said, “This is a time machine, of sorts.  It can only send you into the past, but it can do that quite precisely.  What makes it a torture machine, however, is the fact that I can send different body parts of a person back in time.  The pain is nigh unbearable.”

“There isn’t any way to get them back, is there?” asked Percival hesitantly.  He had an idea, but didn’t want to show it.  He needed time.

“Perhaps.  No one has lived long enough to do so.”

Percival winced.  “While we’re on the topic of systematically dismembering a person, would there be any chance that wild gophers were time machines?”

“It’s quite possible,” said Ralph.  “Why?”

“One took my finger and I want it back.”  Percival showed him.

This time it was Ralph who winced.  He pushed away Percival’s hand.  “I said maybe.  Now, since you’re first, I’d like you to sit in that chair.”  He pointed to a chair next to the machine.

“I’d much rather stand.”

“You’ll collapse after the first removal.”

“I’d still like to stand.”

“You’ll sit,” said Ralph decisively, and pushed Percival into the chair.  He manacled Percival’s left arm to the arm of the chair.

“I’ll sit,” said Percival, looking distastefully at the manacle.

“Hold up your arm.”

Percival shook his left arm, rattling the chains.

“The other one,” sighed Ralph.

Percival slowly lifted the right one into the machine’s opening.  It was a large boxy thing with one opening and windowed sides.  Percival could see Ralph at the other side, on the controls.  “Um,” began Percival, “would you be terribly disappointed if I removed my arm?”


“Disappointed enough to do what?”

“Kill you slowly.”

“I thought that’s what you were going to do anyway.”

“I was planning on just dismembering you, causing probable death, but not certain death.”

“O-kay.  I think I’m all right with that.  Push the button.  Oh,” said Percival.  “Why is the button blue?  Why not red?”

“They ran all out of red buttons.”

“They?  Who’s they?”

“It’s more correct to say ‘who are they’, not ‘who is they’.”

“Well, pardon my grammar.  Who’s they?”

“The button store where I usually get my big red buttons.”

“But it’s blue.”

“They sell all colors!”

“Why didn’t you get something like black, or pink?  Much more sinister that way.”

Ralph swore.  “Stop trying to buy time!”

“Can we buy some, then?”

Percival looked and saw the entirety of the present Phils standing there at the door, including Quirk.  It was Phoenix who had spoken.  “Sorry, Percival.  We would’ve come in sooner, but we couldn’t think of anything good to say.”

“Quite fine,” said Percival.

Ralph was seized from behind by the old lady.  She grabbed his ear and twisted until Ralph cried out in pain.  She walked Ralph away from the button and out into the main room, followed by the rest of the Phils, except Sebase.  He took a needle from the table of plush toys and picked the lock on Percival’s manacle.

“So now you pick a lock,” said Percival.  “Figures.”

“I didn’t have tools for it before,” said Sebase.  Percival shrugged his excuse aside and marched to the wardrobe room.  “What are you doing?” asked Sebase.

“Tell the other Phils about the weakness we found in the lord,” Percival told him, ignoring his question.  “It’ll help with the interrogation.”

“Won’t you be there?”

“Just in case I’m not, here’s the key to the apartment where you can do the interrogation.”  Percival tossed a large ring of keys.  “One of those will work.  The others will probably go to other apartments—Liam can tell you where those are—or just little padlocks I never threw away the keys to.”  He stepped behind a screen, still talking as he changed clothes.  “Ask Phoenix for the most intense piece of music she can think of.  If she can’t think of one, just use Beethoven’s 7th symphony, any movement.  Those can get pretty intense.”

“Why won’t you be there?” asked Sebase.

“That one looks nice,” said Percival as he picked a green vest from a hanger.  “Those pants will be good…”  He put them on and stepped into the open.  “How do I look?”  He started flipping through coats on hangers, shaking his head with each one.

“You haven’t answered me!”

“Ooh, look, this one has stuff in it,” said Percival, showing Sebase an old-fashioned greatcoat with long tails.  It was lined with bulging pockets.  “It’ll do.”

“For what?  What are you doing?”

“Are you quite sure I’m doing anything, my dear fellow?”  Percival turned to face him as he put a top hat on his head.  He was starting to acquire a British accent.

“It’s obvious,” said Sebase.

“It’s more than that, Sebase; it’s obviously obvious.”

“That accent is sounding strange.”

“It’s British—what did you expect?”  Percival selected a pair of shoes and put them on.

“What are you doing?”

“We’ve been over this already, Sebase.”  Percival stepped out, ducking slightly as he came through the door because of the height of his hat.

“But you haven’t given an answer!”

“No,” said Percival in a contemplative tone, stepping to the control panel of the torture machine.  “Be a good little bloke and move that chair for me.”

“Not until you tell me what you’re doing.”

“You’re so uncooperative,” Percival complained as he pressed one last button and moved the chair himself.

“You’re being even more so.”

“So…?  Oops, forgot a stick,” said Percival, walking back into the wardrobe.  “Golly, this place has everything!”  He chose a walking stick that had a sword built in.  “Oh, phone too.”  He rifled through the pockets of his old pants and brought out his phone.  “It’s good for talking over long distances and… different time zones, as well as bashing people over the head.  Do you think it’ll work?”

“What?  What are you talking about?”

“Time, of course.  Can never have enough.”  Percival walked into the machine, making sure all of him was inside.  “Would you please, as a last favor before I travel through time, push that button?  This trip was made possible by…  Something like that would look great on your mantle.”

“What are you talking about?  You aren’t going back in time!”

“On the contrary, my dear man, it seems so.  Ta-ta.”  Percival took a rock from the inside of his coat and leaned out of the machine, throwing the rock into the air.  It sailed in an arc over the machine as Percival tipped his hat to Sebase.  “Sometimes,” he called in farewell.

The rock would hit the blue button if it landed.  Sebase lunged to catch the rock and batted it away, but fell onto the control panel.  Before he could lift himself off, his elbow pressed the blue button.  Percival smiled as the machine hummed, but the last look Sebase got of him was of his face grimacing in pain, just before he disappeared into the past.

Leave a comment


  1. Absolutely wonderful! The dialoge was hilarious, and I loved the irony of how the torture room was filled with cheerful, childeren’s things. I can’t wait to find out where Percival went. Will your next Phil Phorce mission be to try to find him and bring him back?

  2. This is great! I can see why you like it so much. The cliffhanger at the end is great. I can’t wait to see where and when Percival went!
    Oh yeah, and the Old Lady grabbing Ralph was hilarious.

  3. E.W. Soper

     /  April 8, 2012

    Ridiculously entertaining dialoge! I know I enjoy writing witty dialogue between my fighting forces, but I can only imagine how much fun this was to write!

  4. seanajvixen

     /  April 8, 2012

    The dialogue was absolutely hilarious and I loved the part where the old lady grabs Ralph was simply brilliant! Now I’m really curious where and why Percival went back in time. Will the Phils go after him?

    • Thanks! You’ll see part of what happens in the next two installments. But Percival’s clothing is one clue as to when…

  5. Robyn Hoode

     /  March 2, 2013

    How do you get third left on the right?
    Dismemberment is good torture. Better than my sorry attempt to tickle the victim (among things in that tote in the shed)…
    The old lady’s part… wonderful.
    I kinda got a Gandalf leaving Frodo right after the birthday party from Percival. (“I have business to attend to”, “But you’ve only just arrived!”, etc.)


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