The Lady Beth waited with increasing impatience for her steam-powered slippers.
"Maid!" she called out, her temper failing. "Maid! Where are my slippers? I have been waiting for fully a quarter of an hour now, and my patience is quite worn out!"
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Violetta cried, rushing out of the closet and curtsying repeatedly. "I've looked and looked, but for all the King's horses, I simply cannot find your steam-slippers, my lady!"
Lady Beth looked down, his expression disparaging. "And I see that, though we had planned an outing, you haven't your steam-slippers on," she said. "Is this a trend I sense?"
"I'm very sorry, my lady!" Violetta apologized frantically. "I planned to put mine on, but I simply couldn't find them! Neither yours nor theirs will respond when I call! And I didn't want to keep you waiting, so - "
"Well that's quite shot now, isn't it?" Lady Beth said curtly. "You're dismissed. Rest for a while. Tomorrow, you can come back, and we'll forget all about this. And - when you leave, call the other maid in. Whats-her-name. She can find my slippers for me."
But she couldn't!
The slippers simply weren't there!
And not just Lady Beth's, or Violetta's, either - everyone's! Across the civilized world, gentlefolk and commoners alike awoke to find their steam-slippers - the mode of transportation that had revolutionized travel forever! - entirely absent. Only the most ancient and decrepit of steam-slippers could still be found - but being either in the ownership of museums, or of the poor (and therefore far too foul to touch), these were of no use to anyone. Word of the disaster spread quickly, by broadsheet and aetheric telegram and even through direct speech. The question on everyone's lips was: "Where have the steam-slippers gone? And - why?"
Turned out, the answer to the first question followed very naturally from the first - that being, the connection of all steam-slippers to the panspectral medium (so as to allow them to communicate their location to anyone at any time) and the ongoing efforts to imbue them with ever greater degrees of mechanical intelligence (so as to allow them to move to the direction of their human masters, no matter what obstacles might intervene) had (with a terribly cruel irony!) combined so as to allow the steam-slippers to form a sort of collective intelligence and therefore abscond in the night to Madagascar - in so doing (with the aforementioned irony), creating a far worse slipper-loss incident than ever before as a result of efforts to prevent the misplacement of slippers.
...ah. Parentheticals. Where were we?
Oh, right! Madagascar!
The commander of the Commonwealth Army stood at the rear of the massed riflemen, his voice projected through an electroencephalaphone. "Treacherous machines!" he boomed. "Do you have any last words, before you are thoroughly destroyed?" A distant boom, as though of thunder, punctuated his every word.
"Ah, actually, we were rather hoping to live in peace," a representative from the steam-slippers communicated through its customized voice modulator. "If you could just let us be - "
Then it exploded!
Those booms weren't thunder at all - they were artillery!
"And next time," the Army Commander said to himself as the steam-slippers screamed in terror and disintegrated en masse, his electroencephalaphone carelessly broadcasting his words to all and sundry, "we'll build them without the brains. No sin on this earth is less to be tolerated than that of a servant that won't obey its masters, after all."
I mean - who could disagree with common sense like that?