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 Looking Glass Chapter 1 and 2

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Quicksilver

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Posts : 503
Join date : 2010-05-21
Age : 31
Location : Belton

PostSubject: Looking Glass Chapter 1 and 2   Sat May 29, 2010 6:37 am

01000001011101110110000101101011011001010110111000100000010000110110100001101001011011000110010000100000010011110110011000100000010101000110100001100101001000000100110101100001011000110110100001101001011011100110010100100000010000010111011101100001011010110110010101101110001000000101001101101000011000010110010001101111011101110110001101101000011010010110110001100100
- Transcript of The Dream Diary. AEW. 3135

Chapter 1:
Aya had been told, many years ago, that there were many advantages to growing up in a small town, to not always being on the move from one place to another. There wasn’t the hustle and bustle of the city, where no one had the time of day for his fellow man, nor was there the heavy smog of the refineries and Aetheric plants that meant if the wind blew the wrong way you wore a filter mask or choked, and there weren’t any of the religions to deal with – no Solinar, No Spiral, and no Machine cult. On this last, at least, Aya could agree to that being a good thing.
Instead, people tended to know each other better, tended to look out for one another more – to make more of a community out of what would otherwise be a collection of perfect strangers thrown together by chance and circumstance with no regard for the man next to them – in other words, the city.
These were good things – so Paul, her Master had told them when they bought the repair shop in Highcross and sold their old trap and wagon. It would be a better life for Aya, and she would grow to be thankful for it.
Aya yawned and rubbed at her eyes, trying without much success to wake herself up. It would be all well and good, living in a small town, if their business was in farming, or baking, or blacksmithing, or even locksmithing – there would always be people who needed a new door or a new key. However, when your business was in the repair and maintenance of Machina, then a small town must surely be the last place you would want to settle.
To Aya, that made a small town a prison of tedium, a trap made to ware away at a bodies’ patience until they snapped, like the constant, percussion drum of the rain beating against the tin roof was beating away at her ever growing headache now.
Aya twisted the screw-driver one final time, and slid it behind her ear, admiring the work she held completed in her hand. A brand new pair of Aether goggles, to replace the ones Paul had sat on last month. With a bit of buffing and a Merlin to look at the lenses, they would be a fine addition to her belt. Not that they could afford a Merlin with their meagre earnings this month.
Apart from the odd clock or pocket watch going awry, or the accounting machine at the wholesalers skipping a gear and making a pigs ear of the bills and entitlements when the tax man came around, there would be no real, regular work coming to the shop until the rains stopped and the roads cleared, and the farmers could start planting the next crops again. Then, of course, they would expect Aya and Paul to be five different places at once, and Aya would be complaining for a wholly different reason.
Aya slipped the unfinished goggles into her pocket, rolled her shoulders, and yawned wide and loudly, slipping further down into her chair as she did so, and getting lost in the rain as it pattered against the glass display window – noticing as she did that the sign would need repainting.
If only the local farmers would think about things, and realise that they didn’t need to wait until a week before the crops came in that the flywheel on their thresher still needed replacing, or the oil on that old Steamer pulling the plough hadn’t been changed in a year, then things would be a lot better – Aya wouldn’t be bored senseless, and Paul wouldn’t get quite so worked up about the jobs that he did receive.
As if to illustrate her point, their was a loud crash from the back rooms, followed by a series of resounding bangs – Aya could just imagine a steel prybar falling hard against ceramic plates – and the booming explosion of the big Murthan yelling a string of curses that he had never deemed proper to translate out of his native tongue, but Aya had a fair idea were based around the ancestry of the Machinas’ creation, and not in a good way.
The sounds went quiet, and the air seemed to get heavier past the doorway, and Aya didn’t need to look to know Paul was standing over their one and only job in a black fume. She twisted in her seat, and kicked the on switch to the heavy, handmade Caff Machina that they had built, years ago, and had since been much bemoaned and much repaired – and occasionally modified from its original specifications. The twin compressors engaged, piping red hot steam through the remains of their Caff bean supply, and after a heaving sigh of spent energy and a grinding burbling sound that made Ayas’ hand itch to reach for a spanner and see what was going on, a thick black residue of reconstituted Caff flowed out of the nozzle into Pauls Mug.
Not fresh, by any means, but when the roads were all washed out, and the Murthans’ precious beans were nearly two weeks late, the sludge that they’d managed to save from the last batch was really the best there was available, and would have to do.
Aya stood, grabbed the jar of Spice bark, and crumbled a stick into the mess as she covered her mouth from another yawn. As she finished, she heard the Murthan come out of the fume, and begin muttering in his course baritone, Aya imagining him peeling of a strip of Stumble from the wax paper covered ball he carried at all times and stuffing it into his cheek.
“I just don’t see how the blasted fool could have done it and still though it’d be alright to run his cart into town on that injury. I give up, I tell you! The stupidity of man eludes me.” Aya picked up the mug, and a wedge shaped oat cake for herself, and carried them through to the rear room. “If I can’t figure out something, then we’ll have to wait for the rains to stop and the road to dry out, before we can call in some heavier equipment from Jollens’ over in Bluewater.” He made a face, and Aya shared the distaste. Although Jollen had a bigger shop, and more custom then Paul and she could hope for, he would still demand a large cut of their pay for use of his equipment. Paul plucked the mug from Ayas hands without looking, and swilled the thick broth around the Stumble in his cheek, swallowing it down with a grimace.
Six foot four, a walking block of muscle, as dark as they came, and covered from the pate of his shaven skull to the backs of his ankles in the tattoos of Murthan Merlins, Paul Sanguine looked every part the surly Machinist that he was, built for hauling around huge chunks of metal and ceramic and dealing with the arcane methods that powered them. Yet even he was dwarfed next to the Machina that seemed to take up every inch of free space within their not badly sized workshop.
Aya looked at it sadly. The Murthan was amongst the most handy Machinist that Aya had ever met, but if he said the job was a duff, then there was little on the face of Titan they could do for it to get it moving again.
“Poor old creature. An ignominious end for you then?” She sized up the huge machine, taking a step back to get it all in her view. “Shouldn’t have been mistreated so.”
The hulk of a Machina, as much rebuilt and repaired, scavenged and improvised as Aya had ever seen over the Mind knew how many generations of masters, looked forlorn and beaten where it lay on the floor of the workroom, its head ware deactivated and powered down to prevent it stirring and battering the comparatively soft humans who worked on it.
Shaped like a dog or wolf, but built to the size of a small carriage, the ancient machine was a leftover from an era long gone, that was for sure. She couldn’t be sure, as they had found at least three date stamps within the parts and panels of the beast, but Aya would guess it dated from around the time of the End War. More than likely it had been built to fight amongst the legions of the legions of the Machine god, the Perfect Mind of the Creators, only to have the was end before it could be deployed. You saw them occasionally, war machines that had been unearthed in some bunker or buried factory, rebuilt and repurposed, and handed down like heirlooms. Now, this mighty beast was reduced to an overgrown plough horse, pulling the laden cart of an unscrupulous merchant.
Aya ran a hand over the scarred, multi coloured ceramic plates of the Machinas’ shoulder, running a finger over its binary identification code, and patted its flank absently. The heavy side armour on its chest had been carefully unsealed and removed, revealing behind it the inner workings of the impressively sized chest and shoulder. It was a mess, not the least of which because of the reams of wire, armour plates, and delicate crystal matrices that Paul had had to disconnect and remove in order to get under the rib structure beneath the armour. He had crudely hung an Aether lantern inside, lighting up the cavity like a brass and diamond grotto, but the spilled components still looked like the spilled organs of some great fallen beast that had hunted its last.
The problem that had puzzled them all the last two days was this: Somehow, the piston connections to the right shoulder had sheered, and a micro-explosion of pressurised oil had sent wires and stabilising rods careening in all directions. The next time the Machina had taken a step, the shoulder would have given out and disconnected completely from its mooring structure. Unfortunately, the Merchant running the train hadn’t noticed or hadn’t cared, and had drove the Machina on to Highcross, each step making the damage worse. The sheered metal had ridden across the inside of the chest cavity, and had shattered several of the containing crystals running from the deep buried and reinforced power source.
Without those, the Machina would have been misfiring and jerking like a man in a seizure if it hadn’t have been disconnected first. In order to get it working again, Aya and Paul would have to extract the broken machine components, a job which would require suspending several tons of Machina from their ceiling while they manipulated it, before removing the leg, replacing the shattered piston, and replacing the dark blue crystals in sequence, without disturbing the aetheric flow over much. All of which they could do, but for the fact that they would need to grow the crystal to be exact replicas of the ones that were broken, and that would require Jollens’ equipment.
“couldn’t we rig up a temporary Aether distributor, just until the merchant could get this one to a crystalarium?” Aya asked, pondering, getting head and shoulders inside the machine to get a better look at the damage.
“I wouldn’t trust it, not on something this intricate. You’d have to get the cable width and channel rate exact in order for it to work, and it still wouldn’t last more than a few days before the components burned through.” Paul heaved a sigh as he sat down, and to Ayas’ chagrin, took up her cake and dunked it in his mug, before slurping the coffee through the thick oats.
“What now then? Do you think that merchant will shill the cost for the crystals and the work separately? It’ll be a pricey job to do it rushed, and you know Jollen will stick us for every stiver of the cost.” Aya got her foot inside and placed it carefully on the small maintenance platform inside the cavity, lifting herself so that she could get a better look at the current feeds and the mess of crystal shards. She checked the power readings before she touched one experimentally.
“Not to me, perhaps. No right minded Daleander would give a Murthan his money unless he was triple sure it wasn’t a trap, or a Game. Way the world works. Still, why else would I keep a scrawny young thing like you about if not for tempting lecherous old men out of their money pouches?” he snorted, and Aya was suddenly very aware that her seat was perched at what in any other girl would be considered a wholly inappropriate position. She blushed, slightly, and crawled a little further inside. It was good that she was still as small as most ‘prentices, or she’d never be able to do this.
“Probably, because you’re little more than a filthy old man yourself.” She retorted, hearing him laugh and stand, before walking around to the other side of the Machina and checking the instruments there.
Aya touched the crystal again, and began to twist it in its socket, seeing if she could free enough of the base screw to see if she could whip up something temporary. Something tinked at her feet, the sound of metal cooling, and there was a small vibration.
“Aya, what are you –” whatever Paul had been about to say was lost, as the world around Aya went white, and a stream of black specks began to build on the back of her eyelids. It took her a minute to realise they were numbers, a constant stream of numbers in her head.

01000011011010000110000101101110011011100110010101101100001000000111010001101000011001010010000001001101011001010111010001100001011000110111001001100101011000010111010001101001011101100110010100100000011011010110100101101110011001000010000001101001011011100111010001101111001000000110010101100011011101000110111101110000011011000110000101110011011011010010000001100001011011100110010000100000010000100110111101110010011010010111010101101101001000000110000101101110011001000010000001111001011011110111010100100000011000110110000101101110001000000111001001100101011000100111010101101001011011000110010000100000011011010110010100101110

As the numbers burned across her vision, Aya shook, and spasmed, and let go of the crystal. “-doing!” Her ears rang, her head ached, and her skin itched. Aya practically dived out of the chest cavity as the power inside the core arched out along the channels and fried more of the crystals, and blew out Pauls’ Aether lamp. The big Murthan ran around the side of the machine and scooped her into his arms, pulling her away as the Machinas’ eyes burned golden in their sockets and it tried to rise from where it lay. It got up nearly to two feet off the ground before the final bolts holding the broken leg in place sheered off and it fell, deactivating again.
“What in the two thousand hells were you doing in there, Aya?” Paul practically shook her in his haste to see that she was uninjured. It took a second to realise that she couldn’t speak while he was doing so. He stopped just long enough for her to spit out “Paper. Pen.” And “Now.” Before she had to catch her breath. He sat her down on the damaged chair they used as a flop seat, and rushed to grab a scrap of parchment and a pencil from the work table. When he returned, she wrote down the string of numbers as best she could – a talent she had learned she had many years before – and turned the sheet to face him. “I saw these numbers. Have you any idea what they mean?”
The Murthan took the sheet and rubbed his bald pate with his callused hand. “I’ll find out. What a time to have one of your dreams. Never do that to me again, do you hear?” he ruffled her short cropped hair, and reached for his mug of Caff, draining the contents in one gulp, and near spitting at the flavour. Aya refrained from telling him that she didn’t think the numbers had come from her this time.
The mug clattered to the table, and when Aya looked up from between her knees, he was pulling on a heavy rain slick and a wide brimmed hat. “Where you going?”
“I’d offer you a drink, but all we have left is so awful even I wouldn’t drink it. I’ll go over to the store and see if he has anything left other than water,” he said looking out at the heavy rain that continued to fall. “The one thing we have plenty of is water.”
He was nearly at the door, when Aya called him back. “At least we have one less problem to work at now, eh?” She said, heaving herself from the chair and over to where the Machinas’ leg had fallen crumpled to the floor. “I was really struggling to think how we were going to dig this thing out.” She laughed, and the Murthan smirked, before tipping his hat and making his way out into the rain.

..::::..

When Paul returned, clattering the bell over the shop doors as he came in, Aya was upstairs in the living quarters they shared, staring into the mirror over the washstand, having just finished scrubbing herself raw with soap crystals. Her skin was rosy red from the action, and her messily cropped blonde hair stood out in spikes and clumps, untameable without the serious application of a brush.
If Paul Sanguine looked at home and comfortable in the Workshop of a Mechanist, Aya Sanguinw-ward looked wholly out of place, as uncomfortable in her skin as she was any where else since they had come to the decision that a life on the road was bad for the education of a young lady. Not that there was anything particularly lady-like about Aya, but still.
A full 5’6” in thick soled boots, Aya was just taller than her age mates in the town, but small when compared to most Mechanists. Small boned, with little in the way of roundness, and muscles too toned and not nearly lady like enough, with her short cropped hair she would look more like a teenage boy if it weren’t for the lumps and bumps that made moving around inside an engine difficult, and made men think she had no business doing so in the first place.
Then there were her eyes. Her left one was a perfect periwinkle blue, unflawed and bright with intelligence – or so she thought. Her right was a deep hazel, rimmed and cut through with a band of golden yellow. Touched, the Solinar would call her – usually followed by a tirade and an attempt to drive her from town for her unlucky omens.
The eyes were probably why no one had wanted her when she was a baby, after her parents had died. Only Paul had seen past them to take her in. When the dreams and the numbers had started two years ago, setting her shaking and shouting gibberish in her sleep - and sparking machinery to life around her and the shop – she had thought even he would see she were a bad omen and give her up. But the solid, taciturn Murthan had merely written down all she told him, or fed into his books and Difference engines those things she wrote down, and began looking for what she was trying to say. He was a good man.
She heard his heavy tread on the stairs, and quickly pulled her overalls over her shoulders and zipped up the front. His tattooed skull appeared over the rail soon after. “Hey there, Aya – you feeling a little better now?” He held in his arms a small canvas bag, which he reached into and pulled out a brown glass bottle – Sweetroot, by the looks of things. Aya smiled, and took the proffered bottle. It was ice cold, moisture still dripping from the glass as she handled it.
“Where did you get this? Don’t tell me he still had some in stock?” She went over to the table where they ate, hooked the metal cap underneath it, and slammed her hand down, freeing the bottle altogether. She took a gulp of the sweet, fizzy drink and sighed. “I thought they’d be out at least until the rains cleared up.”
“The old Badger had a couple of bottles squirreled away. I convinced him to part with them for a sheckle each.” He cracked open his own bottle and collapsed onto the padded seat by the fire – which needed tending.
“A sheckle? There’re only worth two stivers at the best of times, Paul – you shouldn’t have.” Still, the bottle was open, and she needed something sweet. She slumped to the seat next to him, and propped her back against his meaty side.
“Aye, well, you owe me, then. You can cook dinner tonight, and clear away the dishes.” He said, chuckling a single note deep in his throat. Aya rolled her eyes and sighed. It wasn’t like that’s what she did near every night anyway. The Murthans’ idea of cuisine was char grilled or burnt, with little room in-between. “Meanwhile, I’ll get to stripping down that beasts leg, seeing what can be salvaged and what can be replaced from the scrap pile. Might need to talk to Helsforth over at the smithy about that Piston, though. It’ll need a new lining, and I haven’t got the metal for that.”
He picked up a ledger that was perched precariously on a stack of journals and books by the fire – the remains of whatever they’d been working on or researching in the past month or so.
“Honestly, I don’t know how this job is going to pay, not without getting payment for the labour first, plus parts and repairs. That damn merchant really mucked things up, I tell you.” He flicked through the ledger, taking a pen from where it was resting on the side, and started scratching out figures in the margin. “Best I can see is if we can get seventy pounds off him total, with forty up front before we set out work. I hate to ask for money for work that isn’t done, but this is a special case.”
“Ask for eighty, and sixty five up front. This is a special case and we’ll have to refuel and re-oil Reliable before we can make the trip down to Bluewater. Oil and fuel don’t come free or easy around here. You’ll have to see if Helsforth has any spare for his forge.” Paul tipped the pen at her and nodded, then totted it up in his head.
“That’ll be your job, then, Aya. We need that money before we can do anything, and I’ve always left it to women to find a way to make men part with it.” Aya punched the slab of muscle that made up the Murthans’ arm behind her head, but he only laughed. She let it go, leaned into him, and drank her Sweetroot. “Dirty old man.” She said, just to shut him up. The rain continued to hammer down on the roof above their heads, and for a second time that day, Aya wished they lived in a city, where the rain never fell to the ground, and a Mechanist could live like a king if he had the skills. What a ball that would be, she thought, and sucked at her drink.

Chapter 2:
There was a dripping noise. Quite apart from the constant drum of rain, that was now fading, taking a short reprieve from dousing the North in its fury, or the steady, yet inconstant rattle of glass and tin in the wind, it was something closer at hand. A tap left on at the basin or in the kitchen area, perhaps, or a leak in the roof that would have to be repaired before the next rains came some time the next day, dripping onto the floor. The sound entered into Ayas’ subconscious. Even in her dreams, she noticed it.

010000010111011101100001011010110110010101101110

Aya opened her eyes. She was sitting with her back propped against the great brass and ceramic ribs of the Machina sitting in their work space, she recognised. But rather than her being crammed into a space almost too small for her, the arched metal bones soared high into the air above her head, becoming indistinct as they blended with an artificial sky, the circuitry arrays of crystals and wire twinkling like stars behind a spattering of heavy, ominous clouds. Or smoke.
Aya could sense heat and light pressing like a physical thing against her back and cheek, could smell the acrid tang of would and metal heating and snapping as they were consumed by fire, but with all the logic of dreams, Aya could not turn her head to look.

0101001101101000011000010110010001101111011101110110001101101000011010010110110001100100

There was a pulse of buttery light somewhere in the ‘sky’ overhead, and Aya looked, not questioning why she could turn her head there, but not behind her. This was a dream – the past moments and expressions didn’t matter as the events moved ahead unabated. The inner armour casing, the last line of defence a Machina had to protect the ancient, Aetheric core that powered its limbs and mind, had cracked open, the panels sliding apart like the segmented sections of a shell suddenly shored from their moorings. A golden radiance, like summer sun but thicker, speared through the gap in heavy ribbons of light, breaking through the smoke layer and lighting the inside of the cavernous space with reflected glory, as any brass it touched burned. There was a buzzing somewhere near Ayas’ ear, that joined the constant, incongruous sound of dripping water hitting something solid, and pulsed alongside it, making a rhythm of dream music.

01001101011000010110001101101000011010010110111001100101001000000100001101101000011010010110110001100100

There was something behind the light, Aya could see. Something revolving in its own space. A great sphere of brass and light and arcane dimensions. Aya could see a wide arc of it as it passed her vision, and despite the already great size of the vision compared to her immensely small perspective, Aya was struck by the impression that it was far, far larger than it appeared. An immensity that her mind refused to process, and which slid off of her processing centres like water off of a ducks back.
“It killed all of us, you know. Yet look at it – does that look like victory to you?” The voice seemed to come from a very great distance, and yet was also right by her ear at the same time. Likewise, it seemed very young, the cadences child-like, yet also immeasurably old at the same time, a gulf of time that Aya refused to even consider. Aya wanted to turn, to get a glimpse of the speaker, but something prevented her – her own sanity perhaps. Yet it felt warm, not like the fire, but like the presence of a mother when you’re frightened by the storm outside. Comforting. Before Aya could make more of this, it was gone, and Ayas’ eyes were allowed to turn, but still not far enough to look behind her.
While her head was turned, though, while her concentration was momentarily distracted, a great shadow passed over her, a predatory thing that she could not remember having ever seen before, in dreams or in reality, but something ancient and deep, something feral inside of her cringed back from it.
When Aya could look again, the light had changed. It was a small change, infindesimal, and it took precious moments for the subconscious representation of her waking mind to register it and make her see what it was. The stars weren’t shining any more. Aya glanced up, past the murky, heavy clouds, looking for what could have happened. The stars, the converted power relays, were shifting positions, swirling out of true, moving around a central, deeper darkness. They formed a spiral, a swirl of dying giants, whose light was being drawn inward, an inexorable pull towards oblivion, towards consumption.
The heat and light of the fire behind Aya vanished, replaced by something else as a shadow passed over her. Something dark, cold, and empty. It sent a shiver up her spine and made her skin want to crawl away from it, made every impulse within her scream at her to run away and hide like prey. Yet even now, she could not turn, could not move, could not even scream. She was held fast by the dream and its rules.
A hand fell on her shoulder. It was cold, clammy, and wrong in some fundamental way. It gripped her collar bone, and Aya could feel the heat and life, the vitality of her self, leeching away, being drawn into an emptiness that could never be filled. The breath caught in her throat, a scream that couldn’t be released wedged in her chest, a ball of pure animal terror as a second hand fell across from the first, and they began to draw together, closing toward her neck.

010000010111011101100001011010110110010101101110001000000100000101110111011000010110101101100101011011100010000001000001011101110110000101101011011001010110111000100000010000010111011101100001011010110110010101101110001000000100000101110111011000010110101101100101011011100010000001000001011101110110000101101011011001010110111000100000010000010111011101100001011010110110010101101110

The light burned gold and she was blind.

..::::..

Ayas’ consciousness returned in a solid jolt, and she shot awake, her mind clear with animal terror. Her breath caught in her throat, and her twisted sheets trapped her movements as she tried to bolt from her cot and away from here. There was a resounding crack, and a wave of cold chills washed over her, as though all the heat had been leeched from the room. The sweat on her face and back instantly cooled and she shivered, her teeth chattering. Aya snapped around, expecting some horrifying corpse figure, some hideous nightmare dredged from her subconscious and a nightmare that was already beginning to fade. In her haste, she knocked the glass of water that she had left on her bedside table to the floor, where it shattered with a sharp snap of glass parting from the pattern that had been beaten into it.
“Mind!” She swore, and dashed the sheets from her body, jumping from her bed to find something to mop up the spilled liquid, and something to clean the glass shards up with before she ended with one lodged in her foot.
With one foot on the bed, and the other still caught in a tangle of sheet, Aya stopped, something registering on her minds eye, but it taking a second for her conscious mind to catch up. She looked back at where the glass had fallen. Although the glass had broken, it had not shattered. It rocked back and forth slightly where the momentum of its fall had not quite dissipated. It had been held in place by the contents. Not water, but ice.
Gingerly, Aya picked up the glass, careful not to let and of the slivers slip from their alignment, and held it in her fingertips in front of her face. No, not ice, she reasoned. The glass was still room temperature, and the contents were the wrong colour and consistency. What had replaced the water in Ayas’ glass was something altogether harder to explain. It was solid crystal, with a clear, blue tinge that glittered in the soft lamplight from beyond her curtained bed space.
Her breath catching, Aya carried the mess into the living area, shouldering aside the heavy curtain that separated her privacy from that of her masters’ and the living areas they shared, and threw it into the kitchen waste, being careful to overturn the contents so that it was well buried beneath layers of fresh and mouldering garbage. Before she could think any more, before she could begin to process, Aya mentally shut down her mind, headed back to her room and grabbed a towel. Quietly, she headed for the rear stairs that led down, past their small forge, to the washhouse. It was pitch black outside and cold, the rain having left the ground moist and cold to the touch.
Aya locked the door behind her, and turned on all the pumps, setting the heat to full, sending scalding water sheeting over dark stone and a heavy cloud of steam into the Aetheric light, making the room hot and close. Aya stripped out of her night wear and sat down in the stream of water, where she began shivering. She stayed there for a very long time.

..::::..

Paul Sanguine dreamed of a pealing hammer. A heavy beat that shattered every image his subconscious tried to present him with. On some level, he had the feeling that the sound was outside of his own head, and was not the after effects of a large measure of Stumble and good brandy, but was something real. What was more, it had been going on for a long time, and the only reason he hadn’t thought of it before was that his body had been in a state so far below consciousness that he couldn’t have made it respond had he wanted. The dream weed was an addiction left over from another life, but it was one that he had the most trouble breaking, as it had always seemed to inspire him in his youth.
As his body recovered the energy it needed to function, he rose from unconscious to a dream state, and then quickly to something just below awake. He rose in a sullen heap of vulgarity, and clapped his big hands over his eyes, scrubbing vigorously at his eyes with his knuckles, and raking his ragged fingernails along the line of his skull. The hammer continued unabated.
It took him precious minutes to find a pair of trousers and to remember how to put them on, but by the time he was done, he had recovered enough to rise and go and find Caff. The hammering paused, took a few minutes, and then resumed at a new resonance, as though whatever was being hammered against had changed consistency. He grunted, and crumbled a large dose of spice root into the now near inedible remains of the Caff beans.
Paul went to the back door, and strode out into the weak morning sun bare chested, Caff in hand, to find Aya dressed in coveralls, a leather work apron, and heavy gloves that covered her to her elbows, a pair of by the looks of it unfinished Aether goggles covering her eyes and holding back the shaggy, wet mop of her hair. She gripped a pair of working steel hard between the teeth of a long handled pair of tongs, holding it at an angle over the good anvil, pounding it with a heavy peal hammer with the other hand. The metal was at a white hot drawing heat, almost close to burning, and a shower of sparks arced off the metal with each strike.
Paul stood there for a minute or two, taking in the scene and letting the Caff recharge his brain, before he descended and dressed himself in a similar thick apron and gloves, all without Aya noticing once. He walked up behind her, noticing the set, almost angry set of her jaw beneath the goggles, and sighed. He placed one hand on her shoulder, and slapped her hand away from the tongs. She flinched, but let him take a hold, while she moved around to the other side of the anvil, a look of acceptance in her shaded eyes. Let her work it out on the steel he thought. It’ll be easier then trying to pry it out of her. When he had braced, she took a better, two handed grip on the long handled hammer, and began again to peal out a rhythm, the metal distending and flattening with each blow, until the heat had gone from white to a muddy yellow, at which point Paul removed it from the anvil, and stuffed it under the coals of the lit forge. A few heavy, one handed pulls of the bellows pump brought the metal back up to working heat, and they continued, Paul turning the metal to best receive the flat of the hammer, and bringing the length down from a solid, rounded bar about a half metre in length and a handspan in thickness, to something more like two metres in length, a half metre wide, and just under an inch thick. It took a couple of hours, and several reheatings till Aya nodded in satisfaction tha it was ready for whatever purpose she had beaten it.
With an unspoken agreement, the Machanist and his apprentice swapped places, and Aya took up the tongs, while Paul went to the covered shed they kept their best tools in to retrieve a shorter, finer hammer built for bringing out detail work. Aya heated the metal to a buttery yellow, then placed it back on the anvil, now holding it with a double pair of togs to control the shape the metal took more easily.
Without more than two words at a time, Aya directed Paul as to where to strike and where to pause, while she shifted the sheet about, and shapes began to form out of the flat sheet. Curves, and solid blocks, sharp triangles and long ovoids. As each part took shape, Aya would declare it finished, and Paul would switch over to a heavy chisel, hammering through the small neck of connecting metal. The main sheet would go back into the fire, while the smaller shaped section was taken via tongs to the barrel of oil to be quenched, followed by a second quenching in water, which sent heavy clouds of steam curling into the morning air.
They worked the sheet for another three hours, drawing it down and shaping pieces that would seem to an untrained eye to be completely random in appearance, quenching each one separately, then placing them on a long finishing table under the covered eaves of the shop, before moving on to the next piece, always working from the original sheet, and never wasting a scrap of steel.
The last piece, a two and a half foot long tapered triangle – that would hold a wicked edge unless Paul missed his guess by a mile – finished taking shape, and Aya quenched it for longer than was strictly necessary in the oil bath while she breathed deeply and seemed to deflate. The hard look went out of her face, and she pushed the goggles up onto her forehead. Her face was a coating of red and black grease around a relatively clean area, and she looked worn through.
She went to remove the heavy leathers and change her tools, while Paul walked over to the finishing table and examined the pieces where they had been arranged. What he found was that under the heat, they had not been drawing down and shaping steel. The metal looked like standard working steel drawn from the large scrap pile at the corner of the house, but was in fact shot through with different coloured metals. Paul saw that Aya had taken bars of iron, working steel, brass and a few others, bound them tightly in wire, and welded them together at white hot temperatures, drawing them down, splitting, reheating, and further drawing down the bar. It must have taken three or four such splits to work the bar through with this many bands – the job of half a day at the forge at least. As they only did such a task by request, Paul knew there had been no Butterfly welded metal in the scrap or lying about the workshop, which meant that Aya had worked it from scratch, and by hand – a task even a master would not lightly contemplate, and which Paul usually had the town Blacksmith do for him while he concentrated on the finer workings of a job. To do it oneself was a waste of time and energy for a Machanist.
Still, he thought, weighing a piece of the cooled metal in his hand, Aya had done a fine job. The end result would be stronger – and lighter - than steel alone, and the butterfly pattern, once brought out with an acid wash and a heavy polish with a sharp sand mix, would make for a fine show piece. It would even be good enough for a masters’ knot, Paul surmised, though he would wait till he saw the finished article to assess that fully. While it was long overdue, Paul wasn’t keen to lose his assistant just yet. Paul marvelled at the extent of the work Aya had gone to.
“How long have you been up?” Paul asked, the first words to leave his mouth since he had risen with the morning light, and it was now fast approaching noon. He was distinctly aware that he hadn’t washed, and the sweat and grease of the forge had only added to the smell of a nights unwashed flesh, but he had held back from the wash house for this long, and thought he could handle it for a few more minutes, as his muscles quivered as they cooled.
“I don’t think I slept more than an hour, maybe two.” Aya picked out a heavy pick that they used for punching rivet holes, and a medium weight peal hammer to do the task, and walked over to join Paul at the table. She took hold of a sheet that had been lying covering up a large bundle taking up half the finishing table, and drew it back, revealing the detached arm from the Machina they had been working on. The whole of the piece had been stripped of ceramics and steel, as well as every broken piece – a lot of which Paul noted had already been replaced with scavenged or found parts from their workshop. “I’m surprised I didn’t wake you sooner,” she said, her face saying that she knew exactly why he hadn’t, and didn’t approve, but had given up trying to change him. “I’ve been at the forge for most of it.”
“Dreams again?” Paul made a conscious effort of not looking at Aya while she his a flinch, and instead went back into the shed to grab the old towel he stored there for when either of them desperately needed a wash after a stint at the forge. Aya shook off whatever reaction had claimed her, and began measuring up the first punch hole, lining it up straight and striking, taking three falls of the hammer to punch through the hardened metal. It was no way near as strong as the Creator ceramics that she was replacing, but Paul doubted whether even a steamrifle round would punch through in a single try. Plus, Paul had a feeling that Ayas’ would look a lot nicer aesthetically than the dull, non-reflective grey ceramic that was the common material used in these ancient Machina.
“I’d…rather not talk about it, Paul. I’ll have these plates punched by noon, then I’ll be off to see the Merchant when I’ve cleaned up. See if I can’t convince him to part with some of the funds he must have squirreled away.” Aya didn’t look at him, but Paul heard the brittle finality to her words. It was one of the rare moments that Aya would lock away and tuck down deep inside herself, never to be seen again.
Not very happy about leaving it that way, but knowing his ward well enough after twenty odd years together to know there was nothing he could do to solve the problem, Paul grunted once and nodded, slinging the towel over his shoulder and making for the wash house. In his mind, he turned his thoughts away from Ayas’ odd behaviour and turned it instead to his insistently growling stomach, and the slab of salt pork and hard cheese that was waiting for him. He thought about it, and then decided to follow up his late repast with a trip over to the Blacksmiths. Though Aya had done the hard work herself, the Pistons would still need replacing, and they didn’t have the necessary equipment to make those at the Machina shop. Plus, he remembered, the wiry, bearded man had a few bottles of good apple brandy reaching maturity in his cellar, and Paul thought he might have a powerful need for some good stiff drink later, when the rains came back.

..::::..

When the door to the wash house was shut, and Paul was firmly out of sight, Aya winced, and dropped the peal hammer and the pick. She had to force the fingers of one hand open with the other, and began to massage feeling back into her hands, one finger at a time. Her back was screaming, her arms were burning, and a tension headache had built to boiling point in her head.
Her attempts unsuccessful, Aya stripped off her coveralls to her waist and dunked her arms to the elbow in the still warm quenching barrel, working the warm water into her numb hands.
She had been beyond stupid to push herself like that, and was none too sure that she should still be standing, let alone conscious, but apart from the cramped feeling in nearly every muscle in her body, she felt more grounded than she had since the previous morning. She didn’t even feel all that hungry. She normally knew better than to be such an ass, but from the moment she woke in the night, a strange energy had been burning in Ayas’ mind.
When she had finally stepped out of the wash house in the dark and cold of the night, having barely slept and with no intention of going back there then, she had worked herself into a black mood of utter cold disgust for herself. She had entered the Workshop, and spent long minutes staring into the cavernous hole of the Machinas’ chest, trying to recapture the threads of her nightmare, and wondering why the space filled her with such a crawling sense of unease.
Then she had seen the arm. Not what it had been converted into, the leg of a mechanical beast of burden, but what it had been originally. Something in her vision and how she saw the Machina twisted, and she saw the whole of the construction with a new light, seeing the thought that had gone into every line and weld, and the negligence that had led it to its current state.
Aya realised she could see how to repair it, could even envision improving on the original design in some aspects, and almost immediately cleared a space in front of the splayed out device where she began to sketch out diagrams and equations. With a flash of something close to a self made challenge burning within her, Aya had begun stripping it down, making notes, rushing from place to place and scavenging parts from the various draws and cabinets around the shop, trying to think what she could make or borrow otherwise. Soon she had been heating the forge, and the rest was a blur of too much concentration, where actually memory failed.
Aya took one of the shapes of metal she had worked, incongruous on its own, and quickly punched the holes for the bolts that would moor it. She moved around the arm, and opened up a panel over the wrist and forearm, revealing some of her earlier work from the night before. A mobile platform of scavenged steel sat within the original but disused housing of a slip scabbard within the arm itself. Aya slipped out the bolts she had cut, and layered the unfinished metal shape over the platform, securing it in place and bolting it down. When it was tightened as far as it would go, she reach back and under, tugging on a replaced connection that attached to a servo in the shoulder. With a snap and a smooth, oiled hiss, the slide shot out and down, appearing out from under the wrist plate and over the back of the hand, revealing its true purpose – a near three foot long, heavy steel blade, built for concealed carry on a war Machina. While it was sans edge – Aya hadn’t dared work an edge into it before attaching it in case she slipped and lost a finger – it still held a dangerous promise. Aya grinned, ever so slightly grimly. She’d repair the Machina alright, but not just as a fixer-upper. The idea had struck her so suddenly during the work that she had been working towards it for some time without realising it. This was going to be the sign of her Masters’ Knot. She was going to build a Machina as it should have been made.
As Aya arranged the rest of the pieces on the table in front of her, she was already planning in her mind the next stage of the construction.


Last edited by Quicksilver on Sun May 30, 2010 2:02 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added chapter 2)
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Jeff the Ninja Fox

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PostSubject: Re: Looking Glass Chapter 1 and 2   Sun May 30, 2010 5:18 am

I like it ^_^ it has a good pace, and i assume things get explained as the chapters go on. The characters are rounded and well thought out aswell and i like the descriptions of the machines ^^ overall veh good
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PostSubject: Re: Looking Glass Chapter 1 and 2   Sun May 30, 2010 2:04 pm

got chapter 2 written rather feverishly today while at a 1940's event dressed as an RAF flight frame engineer. thought i'd get it written up and posted before i went to bed.

Jeff, could i ask you to elaborate on what needs to be made clear? i have some notes, but it'll be good if you could add to them
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PostSubject: Re: Looking Glass Chapter 1 and 2   Sun May 30, 2010 2:56 pm

Just things like you've said she keeps getting shunned because of her eyes, that people think its a bad omen, but why is it? What is it a bad omen for? Was she born with the eye?

Also her dreams/number vision thingys, i think you mentioned that they started two years prior, was there anything that set them off, was it enviromental? Or is it genetic? Is it connected to her strange eye?

As i said its mainly backstory stuff, which i assume gets revealed as the story unfolds, and as the character becomes more developed through the writing.
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PostSubject: Re: Looking Glass Chapter 1 and 2   Mon May 31, 2010 2:08 am

the two years ag thing was actually a typo, but i think i'll keep it that way, as it fits better with the story and its progression, now that i've had some time to go over the Touched and their abilities. the eyes things is present in all touched, and is a sign of their ancestry. i won't go into it all that much, but touched all bear one eye of a specific colour, relating to a different school of abilities:

Brown/gold: Metacreativity (creation)
Green/blue: Psychometabolism (biology)
Blue/silver: Clairsentience (prescience and knowledge)
Brown/Red: Psychokenisis (Energy)
Grey/Emerald: Pschoportation (Travel)
Silver/Grey: Telepathy (the rarest and most distrusted discipline)

Each eye colour also related to a specific ancestor.

Most of that has been forgotten, though, but the Solinar have many cautionary tales about Touched that have grown to become tyrants and great sinners - and others about those who have been redeemed. usually in holy fire. basically they are the equivelent of witches, and the closer you get to the capital cities, the more the distrust grows. most people, though, fear them because the Spiral are unusually interested in them, and no one wants to be in the way of what a Black Priest wants
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PostSubject: Re: Looking Glass Chapter 1 and 2   Mon May 31, 2010 7:21 am

*nods* cool i get it now ^_^ its really interesting, but i think its not all that relevant in the first chapter immediatly i think stuff like that is usually better explained when it becomes more important to the character within the the development of the story...
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PostSubject: Re: Looking Glass Chapter 1 and 2   Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:46 am

yeah, i know, sorry - i tend to like to find that stuff out for myself as well, but i think i wrote that last post mainly to clear it up in my mind as well. Well, Chapter 3 is complete in draft form, and needs to be typed up, and the chapter 4 segway chapter is about half way as well. have got plans now for everything up to chapter 10, and vague mile stones for everything else up to about chapter 25 - 30
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