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OMNIVERSE [SAGA 1] : ARTIFICER (chp.1)
Quarry Factory resided at 25 Hillside Crescent in the locality of Candlesborough, a district remnant of a bygone time when the lampposts were gas lit. Now glass spheres lit the streets, magnifying the white-hot luminescence of electric wire. Bright as the lights were, they failed to sheen the reflective copper roads because of the ever-present fog that permeated throughout all the cities of Victoria’s North and South Shore regions.
Quarry Factory itself was inlaid with as many metal fittings as any other industrial manufacturer would be. From the outside the property held the wood and stone furnishings of an era on its journey to antiquity. With gate and grounds secured and vast few of the common folk ever peered into the site’s inner happenings
Almost! though Alistair upon the ringing signal of arrival from the factory’s gates.
Tall and fat, Alistair’s rise from his desk knocked his chair backwards. He had never been praised for grace, but his patience was almost a family trademark. Today it met a rare occasion for temporary leave. Donning his raincoat and top hat, Alistair grabbed his umbrella and made haste for the gate of Quarry Factory.
“You alone?” asked the Hitherland accent of the chauffer in the wood-and-metal electric carriage that rounded the copper street in front of the factory’s gate. Another man sat beside the chauffer. They both wore black-rimmed hats which made their faces hard to discern.
Alistair swallowed. It was the 29th hour of Moon’s-Day, in another hour it would be Tide’s-Day. Except for the foggy bodies of lamp glow, it was pitch-dark outside.
“Yes,” said Alistair, “I’m alone.” The thunder and rain emphasized it.
If these men were thieves, Alistair had no recourse. But this transaction could only happen in these circumstances as far as his bounty was concerned.
“It’s gonna to cost you extra for us to take ‘em inside,” said the driver. “It’s a big load.”
Another half hour passed before the three men finished unloading the 10 wooden crates into the facility’s main laboratory. Alistair then paid for his goods and bade the men on their way.
At last having the chance to heed the buzzing ring of his office’s landline telephone, the owner of Quarry Factory knew exactly who was calling and what he’d say before the speaker reached his lips.
“Elenore, I’m going to be staying overnight… Yes, again… ”
Alistair’s wife had no idea why her husband had been locked in the family factory every night the entire month of Onos. None save Alistair and one other knew, and for the sake of the Quarry Metals Company that’s how it would stay for the time being.
Alistair didn’t know why he was whispering. They were alone in the factory on the uppermost level at the uppermost room. What was once been an attic had 11 years prior been refurbished as Jack’s living quarter.
“Jack! Wake up!” Alistair spoke aloud this time and knocked.
“Alistair?” groaned Jack.
“I know it’s late-err early, I mean. But the shipment just arrived,” spoke Alistair excitedly.
Jack opened the door to find the man formally dressed and drenched in rainwater.
“Why didn’t you call me to help you carry the crates in?”
“I forgot in my hurry.”
“You should be careful at your age,” said Jack as the boy regarded the plump, stark-bald, white-bearded Alistair Quarry.
“Oh, Jack,” said Alistair at the recognition of his oversight. “I almost forgot. Happy Birthday.”
It dawned on the youth as it had on the senior. The date was Tide’s-Day the 7th of Duos, 1917, and Jack London was in his 22nd year of life.
“Thank you,” Jack said quietly. “I forgot.”
Alistair’s smile waned with a sigh.
Even though he never blamed or even questioned anyone, Alistair could only imagine the kind of thoughts that ran through Jack’s head. The refusal to fuss or nag was a golden asset in the realm of production, but when it came to social metrics no inner truths were betrayed in his young green eyes.
“Are we going to get to work?”
Jack’s question snapped Alistair’s mind back into the fore.
The wooden crates were each 200 centimeters long 85 centimeters wide and 70 centimeters tall. Alistair had to roll them in by dolly with the two other delivery men as their weight would not permit lifting.
Jack slowly and carefully took a crowbar to the first of the ten crates furthest to their left. When the timber plank covering the contents inside the box came off his eyes lost any glaze that might have lingered from his sleep.
Inside was a 190-centimeter-tall mannequin made entirely from metal. The models portrayed a male figure as did the other nine when later exposed.
“What does it do?” asked Jack as his thumbs bound against each other between his weaved fingers.
“I don’t even know how to turn it on,” said Alistair. “I was hoping you’d know.”
“Well there’s the obvious option,” reacted Jack.
The senior and junior broke down the rest of the box around the first metallequin, propped its naked body onto their dolly and moved into the charge center.
The charge center was a large empty office with enough room to hold a sports pitch, but instead encased the coil.
The coil looked as if an artist and engineer had come together with the idea of wrapping a giant copper fence into the spired likeness of a behemoth seashell. The narrow end of the metal obelisk faced tAlistair and Jacks entryway while the larger end lay far across the room attached to an equally impressive steam turbine.
“So, how are we going to attach it?” asked Jack who had yet to look at the papyrus paper Alistair had collected from the box. “I’m assuming there’s a manual.”
Alistair furrow a worried frown along his white caterpillar brows as he moved to allow Jack access to the contents.
The scroll rolled out into five separated portions each containing a different diagram with the same outline. All the outlines figured two male bodies superimposed onto one another. Both bodies were encased in a circle that perfectly met the tips of each arm and leg. One body was drawn in the image of a cross, his arms sprawled out horizontally about his shoulders and his legs joined beneath him vertically aligned with his head and chest. The second body that was imposed over the first was made in the likeness of the letter X. He had his arms lifted above the shoulders, and the legs sprawled away from those of the first making the diagrams all look as if they were pictorial instructions onto the techniques of making snow angels.
They were not children’s pictorials though, because as simple and similar as the outlines all were, each of the diagrams was wrought with intricacy contrastingly different from all the others.
The first diagram detailed what appeared to be the skeleton of the metallequin. Skull, spine, ribs, forearms, shins, fingers, shoulder-bolts, ankle-bolts, wrist-bolts, the list went on for more than two hundred metal bones and over three hundred joint-bolts.
The second layout explained the positioning and purpose of synthetic gel fills which were set out over the skeletal system whilst also sitting beneath the metal shell which was the metallequin’s skin. The gel was apparently there for the mechanical energy output of the body, how it was powered still alluded them.
The third diagram was the first of two detailed layouts of synthetic tubes which moved what must have been some foreign liquid throughout the gels previously analyzed. Where the heart would be on a human was a mechanical-gel construct programmed to normalize the pressure of the foreign liquid.
The fourth diagram was the second of the synthetic tube systems. It began at the mouth and ended near the tailbone of the body. Alistair and Jack were dumbfounded as to its significance, but made note of its existence regardless.
The final layout was the most interesting and complex. It also happened to be the least evenly assorted of the systems with regards to concentration across the body. A series of metal wires and nodes were dispersed throughout the body. All of them found their way to a gelatinous hub of nodes incased in the skull of the metallequin. Each node on the body had at least one corresponding node in the gel within the skull.
“Where did you get these things?” asked Jack. He’d known for the entire month of Onos that they’d be coming, but he was not prepared for what they’d opened. “They must have cost a fortune.”
“I can’t tell you that,” said Alistair. “Not right now at least. You’ll be the first to know if I tell anyone at all, I swear it on Amethy’s head.”
Jack didn’t say anything. Alistair never swore in vain, much less so with the name of his daughter as the crux.
They went back to the laboratory and looked through all the other crates for additional paperwork. None was found, only the one document had come with the entire shipment.
“Are you going to contact the manufacturer?” asked Jack.
“It’s too expensive,” said Alistair. “More than it would be worth for an incomplete answer, and I feel that the probability of such an answer is adequately high enough as to raise its concern.”
Jack figured that the cost Alistair mentioned was not merely monetary.
“We’ll probably need the entire year,” said Jack to himself as he rubbed the first joint of his index finger across the short brown stubble of his chin. He'd’ enjoy the challenge of figuring out these enigmatic machines – that alone was worth his time. It bought little else those days anyway. “Well let’s try hooking the first one up.”
The turbine was running and sparks were flaring across the room, harmlessly licking Alistair and Jack who stood fearlessly within their radiant, insubstantial tendrils. A high-pitched thrum reverberated around the room in unison with the flux of lightning.
Adjacent to the coil lay the metallequin in a supine position. One wire attached the narrow end of giant coil to the left side of the metallquin’s head. The other wire which lay in Jack’s gloved hand would attach the right side of the figure’s head to monster-engine.
“Ready?” asked Jack.
Upon the completion of the circuit, the thrumming sounds within the room increased in volume. The display of lights remained unchanged.
It was ten seconds before the first response took hold. On the tenth second in fact, just before Jack was to relent and remove the wires from the metallequin’s head. Its lidless eyes flickered then shone with an electric blue glow whilst the body unexpectedly hoisted itself upright into a sitting position, almost concussing Jack who had leaned in to sever the circuit. Then the machine sat still doing nothing else.
“You alright?” asked Alistair.
“Surprised me,” said Jack, “but I pulled back, didn’t hurt.”
“You’ve always had your reflexes,” acknowledged the senior. “So?”
“So now we test,” said Jack. “There are nine other crates. We plug them all in. If we get the same results, probably means the unit is working consistently.”
"You have anything planned?” said Alistair.
“We open them up,” shrugged Jack.
micheledutcher - Remember to send your scifi/fantasy humor stories to firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance to win $100/$50/$25 for 1st,2nd,3rd place. Winners announced in June's issue.
micheledutcher - As the first installment has peaked my interest already, the remaining story should be fun. 10 crates with robots inside ... what comes next? We'll see next month!
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