As Sneak Previews turns 18 in the relentless countdown towards unleashing Roger Steel on an unsuspecting world (his, if not ours), I thought it was about time I introduced a few of the companions Ann and Arthur will have to, er, deal with on their great adventure.
Resourceful as they are, our protagonist and his or her friends stand little chance of rescuing their sibling without aid. But whether they want it or not, the help they are about to get is going to make their mission that much more complicated.
The first ally they meet is the eponymous Roger Steel, an Irish agent of imperial hegemony, a pawn of power pursued not only by his own dark nemesis, but the most formidable of the empire's opponents as well.
For example, Svetlana Ruskaya, enigmatic flame-haired, fiery tempered daughter of the great Russian Steppes, whose pursuit of Steel takes her from the burning deserts of central Asia to the vertiginous heights at the roof of the world.
And Yu Mei Ling, lithe dynamo of martial energy seeking peace from a traumatic past and absolution from a proud but fraying empire.
And Hamilton Ruff, stalwart grandson of the American Revolution, mourning the theft of his country's birthright with a vow to realize it's founders' dreams in defiance of the most powerful empire the world has ever known.
With allies like these, who needs hordes of bizarre and terrifying enemies coming between them and their sibling?