In an isolated house, a boy, Robert Stephen Jardine, sits at the kitchen table studying. Around him, clock stick regularly. He hears something moving at the window and goes to investigate. Robert closes the drapes and goes to the stairs, and hears his mother upstairs, chanting numbers and laughing with Robert's sister Helen. They then begin "Ring a Ring of Roses " together, and the clocks keep ticking. Robert continues studying and the cocks keep ticking. Each one shows a different time. The clocks stop, and Robert goes out to check the other clocks in the house. None of them are working, and there's a low rumbling sound and Robert calls to his parents. There's no one talking upstairs, and no response when Robert calls.
A Voice determines that several atomic weights can operate in a dimension containing human life: Gold Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver, and Steel. Sapphire and Steel are assigned to investigate the detected irregularity.
Robert hears Helen crying and runs into her room. Their parents Henry and Sarah are gone, and the rocking chair one was sitting in is still rocking. Robert asks Helen where there parents are, but all she can say is that they're gone. Henry's pipe and wallet are sitting on the floor, and the nursery rhyme book is lying open.
Later, Robert takes Helen down to the basement and gets her a glass of milk. He then goes out and looks around, comes back, and secures the door behind him. He says that he called the policeman's box and an officer is coming out to the point. Steel knocks at the door, identifies Robert by name, and knows that he called for help. Robert unlocks the door, and Sapphire and Steel walk in. Steel says that he contacted the police and told them that everything is under control. When Robert says that things aren't under control, Steel agrees and says that's why they're there. He strides into the house, and Sapphire tells Robert that the policeman has no chance of getting Robert's parents back but the two of them will. Robert asks if it's serious, and Sapphire's eyes glow sapphire and she says that it is.
Steel and Sapphire examine the house and wonder how old it is, and suspect that there were other buildings previously on the site. They know that the Jardine name is an old French name, and Sapphire wonders if it's a pressure point. Robert asks who they are, and Sapphire introduces the two of them. Robert compliments her on her name, and Sapphire thanks her.
Steel wonders why the clocks aren't working, and Robert explains that they stopped as the parents disappeared. The two Elements go to Helen's room and take some clocks and the children with them. Robert describes the rumbling noise, and demands to know where their parents are. Steel just stares at him, and Robert pulls Helen over to him. He demands answers, and Steel telepathically says to Sapphire that it can't be explained. Sapphire tells him that she can do it, and explains to Robert that Time can sometimes break into the present and takes things... and people.
The quartet enter Helen's room and Steel informs Robert that the clocks have merely worn down and can be set to work again. He confirms where Helen was and they recreate where Helen was when Robert found her. Steel has Robert sit in the chair Henry was occupying, and Sapphire sits where Sarah was. Sapphire says that it's important to know what rhyme the parents were saying. When Helen doesn't talk to them, Steel has Robert ask her. Helen finally tells them and Steel notes that the rhyme dates back to the Plague: another echo.
Steel winds one of the clocks and tells Sapphire to read the rhyme, and read them backward when he says to. He warns that she can't make one mistake, and Sapphire agrees. She reads and the clock stops. Sapphire continues and the bedroom door swings open on its own. A ghostly man in antique garb lets a similarly-dressed woman in, and Helen smiles at them. The woman screams, a wind blows up, and the woman disappears. A glowing cloud appears on the wall and a voice recites the rhyme. A corridor opens and an elderly robed man--the owner of the voice--walks down the corridor. Robert screams in terror, and Sapphire recites the rhyme backward. The corridor reverses and disappears, and Steel tells Sapphire to destroy the page with the rhyme.
Steel brings Robert over and tells Robert to take Helen to his room to sleep. He tells them not to come back into the room under any circumstances. Once the children leave, Steel says that no one can come in until they do what they have to. He tells Sapphire to burn the page in the downstairs fire.
After Robert tucks Helen in, he goes to the kitchen and finds Sapphire in a 20s flapper dress. She says that she gets bored with the same old clothes and explains that they're not real clothes. As she reaches for the salt and pepper, her hair and dress change. Robert admits that the two Elements are like the elements that they're named for, and Sapphire says that she saw the time corridor once at a ship at sea. She reverts to the appearance that she arrived in as Steel comes in and takes a seat. Steel tells Robert that he can't imagine the time corridor, and explains that there are things in it searching for a way into the present. However, they've taken the "trigger" away from the creatures by destroying the nursery rhyme.
Helen gets up and goes into her bedroom, turns on the light, sits on the bed, and calls to her mother and father. She recites the rhyme.
In the kitchen, the others realize that the clocks have stopped again. The trio goes to the bedroom and the door slams in their faces.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 19, 2018