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On the 25th hour the gate drew shut and Alistair’s electric carriage shrunk into the mire of fog on route to his personal residence. Jack watched it go from the clock shaped window of the factory’s attic in which he lived.
“You sure you don’t want to go out for some shakes before I head back? Maybe a bite?” Alistair had asked on his way out only to be politely refused by the younger.
Jack never celebrated the 7th of Duos, for the sake of his parent’s memory.
Being young when they died by fire on his fourth birthday what little he knew of his mother and father was fleeting. Imagraphs, telecast recordings and Alistair’s stories were most of what Jack had left to remember them by as people. As professionals, they were survived by their contributions to the field of Calculative Science.
If Jack was the apple of his parent’s tree then one glimpse at his living space would show he was still firmly rooted to the branch. At his desk were various metals and parts with which Jack carried out personal experiments; conductors, resisters, circuits, and switch boards all made in his isolation. Books and stationary were the other part of Jack’s room. Though organized the sheer volume was enough to take out of thought any tidiness an onlooker might have considered.
Seating himself, Jack mulled over the documented anatomy of the metallequins in a continued effort to decide how he would proceed with the following day’s experiments. The deep thrums of the factory’s power generation focused his pensive mind despite hovering in the background of his thoughts like the breathing of some large mechanical beast.
Alistair Quarry – Personal Journal – Tide’s-Day, Duos the 7th, 1916.
It’s been 30 years since I saw the original model. I was a younger man, abroad on the island-continent of Zi’Ar; in the blazing markets of Sindra. Peter and Theodora were with me then, too.
Those were happy days. Uncertain, to be sure, but truly happy…
Most, if not all the books in Jack’s abode contained knowledge about circuits, electricity, and conductivity, and he knew them by memory; clearly seeing with detail their pages in his mind.
Circuits themselves made intuitive sense to Jack. Like numbers, circuits were forever consistent in their interactions. It was this invariable truth about them that lay closest to his heart, if only because there were so many other aspects of his young life that he could not reconcile.
Jack needed numbers and electronics more so than he loved them. In all the time that Alistair kept him from institutionalized schooling and the media’s awareness of his lineage, Jack did what he did because these puzzles and problems were the sole earnest memories of his family. Only in these things could Jack recreate the image of their faces outside of an imagraph, the touch of their larger hands holding his smaller ones.
Alistair Quarry – Personal Journal – Tide’s-Day, Duos the 7th, 1916. (Cont’d)
Peter and I first learned of Raz Al’Uaweeb’s Auto’Matan (Automaton) in 1882. We found it at the Oxburg Athenaeum amidst a break from Peter’s delving onto the topics of Axiomatic Logic and Arithmatic Operations.
Various sections of the work Peter sought out had been pioneered in the cities of Sindra and Nazar throughout the 10th and 11th century. By complete happenstance we came across Al’Uaweeb’s A’Hmena (Marvels), his magnum opus of mechanical design; banned throughout Zi’Ar after the spread of Fahl’Em.
Conceived in the year 957, the first of its kind was a rudimentary, simple model; unlike the prodigies we received in the crates this morning. Made of gear, lever and pulley, it lacked the intricate electronics of the centuries to come. Nevertheless, for over 800 years it carried out its function in tolling the giant bell of Vizier’s Clock on the 15th and 30th hour of each day.
Peter and I, still young and excitable in our late twenties, made a pact that one day we would go to Salm’Andar to see for ourselves Vizier’s Clock and the realization of Al’Uaweeb’s marvels…
The 30th hour chimed over to the 1st and sleep could not come soon enough. When it did it would lack depth, for which Jack was always grateful.
Meditation was the teenager’s primary method of mental reset, coupled with as little time for deep slumber as his body allowed. It lacked the satisfaction of unconsciousness, but paid dividends in alertness during his daylight hours.
The tradeoff between deep sleep and the benefits of meditation was not the motivator behind Jack’s nocturnal nature, it was a consequence. The actual perpetrators of his midnight wakefulness were his own dreams.
Alistair Quarry – Personal Journal – Moon’s-Day, Trezs the 26th, 1885.
It is done. The greatest achievement that I or any person has witnessed since Isav Faustadt’s development of the Letterpress in 1311, during the reign of the Czarrdan Empire.
Peter Hvelsa’s Analytical Engine will do for computation what the press did for language, and will undo for the Quarry Company all the shame of my Father’s debts and the memory of the Harborfront Disaster on which my Grandfather’s legacy and the Quarry name have been ruined.
Tomorrow we will reach out to investors, and if there’s any worth on my end of our partnership it will come to the fore now. For all my Father lost, my family name still has its face value. It is in my hands to relay the foundations that previous era eroded.
Jack would be lying if he ever said that walking around Quarry Factory at night did not put him on edge.
He had moved in when he was 13 and save for a few rats nothing excitingly terrible had ever been encountered. Still, there was something about the tall ceilings and open corridors at night that elicited in him the discomfort he routinely felt when extinguishing all the power on the top floor.
Jack refused to shut his eyes if there was any electrical power in his vicinity.
Candle in hand he would walk through the halls of switchboard walls connected to large dynamo generators in the rooms of the floors underneath. One by one he would cut the currents to all the appliances, devices, and fixtures located on the top level.
When back in his quarters, he undressed, bathed and then got into bed. Preparing, he always recited the same mental warning before embarking onto meditation.
Don’t follow the patterns, don’t follow the patterns, don’t follow the patterns...
Alistair Quarry – Personal Journal – Thunder’s-Day, Otto the 13th, 1885.
There are no words to describe Theodora.
Beautiful does no justice to her as her comeliness is one of fixed and unaging eminence. Intelligent is belittling as her aptitude for arithmatics surpasses even Peter’s deep and intricate mind, only to complement in him his greatest attribute of an imagination grounded by a technical framework. Character and judgement were never in question as I witnessed firsthand Theodora regard Peter with eyes that would only ever resurface for him after we shared with her family the grandeur of his Analytical Engine and all it could be.
If at all my pride were stung by her overlooking me as a suitor, the pain has been repaid many folds over with the joy of her funding our endeavor out of her own savings despite the hesitance of her father. It is my own shame that I could not convince the senior Bella D’or solely, though it might be expected, for the Bella D’ors are an old banking family and thus conservative in their appraisals of untested prospects.
It is a blessing in disguise, Theodora’s conditional involvement on the grounds that she analyze and reexamine the engine’s design with the aim of further optimization. If any value I did contribute today, it was in my immediate acceptance of the terms before any intellectual rebuttal could arise from Peter, whose dumbfounded face was almost itself worth the sum we were asking for.
What Jack saw every time he closed his eyes was incredibly hard to explain and since no one had ever asked he had never bothered to try.
First there was the black background which swallowed all his vision’s area, and second were the wisps within it. The wisps were never stationary, never solid, glittered red, green, blue, white or didn’t glitter at all. They created trails, clusters, new colors and sheens. The structures they combined to create could encompass any physical state, any fleeting abstract.
The ephemeral combinations of the wisps took to what Jack identified as patterns. The patterns were sometimes simple like a closed circuit on a black plane, sometimes granular phantasmagoria akin to watching the shadow of shallow water reflected on underlying sand; and further yet at other times they led him straight into dreams which varied by familiarity, realism, and his own waking awareness.
Jack feared all of it – the magnitude of his dread directly correlated with the complexity, detail, and frequency of whatever patterns formed.
The eve of the metallequins was no different and Jack’s sleep was disturbed by the poignant crackles of electric energy swathing from his fingertips onto his woolen blanket. He gasped himself awake, tearing the sheets away from his body. The open circuit of miniature lightning arched over a foot from his hands before vanishing as Jack’s covers fell to the floor.
Alistair Quarry – Personal Journal – Sky’s-Day, Quators the 24th, 1889.
The city of Sindra is old. I can feel it in the dry wind and withered stone. This place is beautiful, there’s no doubt, but in a sad way – a way that is telling of how much more beautiful it must have been in the era of men like Raz Al’Uaweeb, under the rule of Salm Bazhkim. A beauty that a millennium of decline will never fully erase. Still, the shadows of Sindra are cast long and wide and the light scarcely lingers.
Travel is difficult, even at our age and with our resources. The temperature is hot; the terrain rocky, flat and arid. The coast of Zi’Ar is jagged with mountainous volcanoes to the south. The terrain changes as one explores the country and were it not for the advent of airships I would assume the journey impossible.
Salm’Andar is located in the southwest third of the continent, northeast lies Vatra encompassing the second third of the landmass, and to the very north is the unsettled territory of O’Amon – a gradient of barren dessert, open savannah, and thick jungle.
They have no copper roads in Sindra, and Salm’Andar at large for that matter. Instead the streets are made of layered stone, pebbles, sand, and cement; very much like those in the days in which Czarrda held dominion over Godric and Portega. The vehicles do not operate on electricity either, but burn an elixir of liquified plant and wildlife remains called crude oil to generated combustion-powered propulsion. It is a completely alternative system to our own, and most interesting to me even though I highly prefer the medium of electricity as a means of generating power.
Regardless of the climate, the differences in technology and culture (of which we are yet to learn), Peter and I are still as eager as we ever were to see Vizier’s Clock and the attendant whom tolls its bell. Unfortunately, having just arrived our endurance is spent and we must rest and await the morrow to appreciate in full the work of Raz Al’Uaweeb’s genius.
Jack hoisted himself up as he had the day before when Alistair came knocking. There would be no more sleep that night. It was the fourth hour and there would be six more before Alistair would return to continue with their project.
Sitting up on his rear end, Jack leaned forward onto crossed legs and paused. He saw a glimmer, or imagined it, off to his left by the far corner of his desk. Then shadows moved, caught only by the peripheral of Jack’s vision. A small clump of darkness by the bead of glint rose in height beside the leg of his chair for an instant and shrank again to hover closer to the floor.
The whiskers gave the rat away when it strode out of the desk’s penumbra.
It’s huge. Jack could only gape at it. How did it get inside?
The rat was as big as a cat, and totally black. Only the glints betrayed its eyes.
It moved closer.
Jack was frozen in freight, and perplexed.
Suddenly it stood on its hind legs and leapt onto the seat of Jack’s chair.
“Finally awake, Jack?”
“Yah,” was the whisper Jack exhaled.
“Sorry I didn’t get here in time for your birthday,” said the Rat. “Slipped my mind,” its smile existent and sinister, “If I’d remembered I’d have brought you a candle.”
“Quiet,” growled Jack reaching to turn the desk light on in a swift motion. The beacon failed. His desperate repeated attempts availed to no difference. Disregarding the lamp, Jack crashed out of his bed to grab motors and bolts and screws and hurl them at the rat.
“Oho, take it easy,” cackled the rat, deftly jumping off the chair. “It was only a joke.”
This time the static that shocked Jack awake came from the mattress itself. The covers were wrought on the ground. Beside the covers lay a smashed assortment of Jack’s metal tools, littering most of the floor’s area, rattling with perpetual motion by some invisible force. His study light was disconnected as well, and radiating brilliantly with a brimming hum.
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