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OMNIVERSE [SAGA 1] : ARTIFICER (chp.3)

by

Viktor Xhelilaj



CHAPTER THREE

On Thunder’s-Day the charge center was reorganized to Jack’s direction. Many long, wide tables and additional instruments had been brought in to occupy the spaces around the coil. On the tables lay the metallequins, supine and numbered; and beside them the various auxiliary machines.

The first of the automatons sat attached to the thrumming generator as per the day of its delivery, upright with open, glowing eyes. Beside the metal-work patient stood the analytical engine.

The engine was a wardrobe-sized assembly of gears which moved impossibly thin needles on and off a wide metal board to activate countless microscopic conductors called transistors. Each transistor was identified by a one or zero signature dependent upon whether a current moved through it or not. The signatures were combined by the engine to represent the numbers, letters and symbols of processes designed by the user.

A second system of the machine, located beneath the transistor board, held six metal disks stacked on top of each other in the fashion of a cylinder. Thin metal arms, headed with needles, infused or eliminated electrical charges on the mosaic of cells coated on each disk via electromagnetism. By tracking the charges on the disks, the analytical engine could store and access memory via a distribution of electrical signals. Like a vinyl music recorder with twelve ephemeral needles the disks spun and the arms charged, combining their efforts to create the music of context and information via inputs of ones and zeroes.

After all the processes were initiated and done the results were exhibited via the large quartz screen hovering beyond the metallequin’s head. At that moment, the only visual on the display was a sepia image of Theodora and Peter, smiling out to their son and his godfather.

Jack had yet to formulate and load onto the quartz display the schema he would use to measure whatever factors he deemed important in understanding the automatons. Deeming such factors was another labor entirely.

Thus far, his efforts were invested in finding and unscrewing complementary groups of small fittings at the joints of the machine-puppet; from shoulder to finger and hip to toe. In doing so he had removed the many sets of metal plates that, save the gaps designed for mobility, acted as the body’s plated skin.

“So?” asked Alistair who sat in a wheeled chair behind Jack’s hunched position, “have we learned anything?”

“We know that the design of the machines follows from the documents,” answered Jack who moved around the metallequin to look for more of the removable fittings. “We don’t really know more than we had reason to assume before, but we can work off of our assumptions now.”

“I figured it would take time,” acknowledged Alistair.

Unplugging the automaton so that it once more rested on its back, Jack moved forward with his experiments.

“I need the cutter.”

Alistair watched carefully.

“There’s no screws on the skull plate,” continued the boy.

Jack left to and return from the back of the room. When he came, he was accompanied by a wheeled table supporting the motor-saw.

Spinning so quickly as to appear a solid circle, the serrated edge slowly and incrementally dipped into the metal skull of the metallequin, which was rolled over and held up by Alistair. When the saw’s blade came to a jagged still its teeth more clearly exhibited the blue blood of the test subject. Removing the heavy cap of its head revealed what looked to be two individually asymmetrical lumps of delicate blue gelatin.

“Amazing,” declared Alistair.

Jack could not speak.

Throughout the gelatinous lump in his hand danced as many glimmering wisps as the young marvel had never seen; all the same color. The silver spots of light were so numerous and tightly bound that their universal proportions were beyond estimation. Weaved within the luminescence of nodes were infinitely thin threads of attracting force; Jack did not see the latter, but could feel them.

Then all the automatons began to glow with the iridescence of Jack’s dreams, and Alistair looked on confusedly whilst the boy surveyed the room as if disoriented by his surroundings. With shivering hands, Jack slowly placed the brain back into its lodgings and stared at the now spectrum colored blood on his hands.

“Are you alright?”

Jack nodded.

“Are you sure? If you need a break-”

“I know how to begin testing,” said Jack, with wanderlust eyes.

Alistair stilled his sights on his godson. “I’ve always been humbled by your brilliance, Jack.”

Jack remained silent with humility.

“But,” added Alistair distantly, “I’ve always been worried by your stoicism as well.”

“I’m fine. I’ve just lost a bit of sleep over the complexity of this project. We’ve never tackled anything like it before.”

“You know, even on admitting that you find the task difficult, I’m still not convinced that you’re entirely human.”

The comment chilled Jack like a shower of iced water, but he maintained the countenance of a statue.

“I’d wager a decade of the Quarry Metal Company’s revenue that a team of our top engineers would not know where to begin with these… enigmas,” Alistair gestured to the metal specimens. “And yet you already devised a method for testing them. On the second day!”

“About that,” said Jack. “I need a favor.”

Alistair was listening. Years of business acumen had instilled in him the tendency to never agree outright to a request, no matter who it came from.

“I need to keep my test documentation private, even from you.”

There was an unspoken rule between Jack and Alistair. Upon the same basis that Jack never asked about Alistair’s larger plans, Alistair never interfered with Jack’s working processes.

“You’ll keep it logged on your encrypted filer then?” asked Alistair.

“Of course,” acquiesced Jack. “One of the benefits would be to further safeguard our intellectual property. If you keep your plans secret and I keep my methods secret, then the security of the total strategy is doubled.”

Alistair walked up to Jack and rested his bear paw of a hand on his godson’s head.

“You can tell me anything, you know that. Right? I have absolutely no intention to disagree with you or disallow you your request for private record keeping. I just want you to know that whatever- if ever anything is bothering you, you can come to me right away.”

“I know, Alistair.”

“And if you want to stop living here, only Achile knows how you do it, you can always move back into the Mansion.”

“The Mansion doesn’t have a lab.”

“We could put one in.”

“Yeah but can you put in a dam, and a hydroelectric generator?” asked Jack with a smirk. “Do you remember the last experiment I tried at the Mansion?”

Yes,” recounted Alistair, laughing despite himself, “you blew out all the lights in the district. What is it you were building again?”

“Particle propeller,” said Jack.

“Pretty ambitious for a ten-year-old,” said Alistair, still grinning.

“Catastrophic failure,” admitted Jack.

“You definitely held up the traffic,” agreed the godfather. “Well if you change your mind, there’s a room waiting for you. A couple in fact. And if you end up interrupting all of Victoria’s radio telecasts on another go, I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

“After the automatons are ready to show at the Regal Society, I’ll consider it.”

“Till then,” said Alistair. “As for now, I have some corporate affairs to handle. I trust you will be fine without me, if not better off.”

“I’ll manage,” said Jack.

“Make sure to take some breaks,” finished Alistair, donning his coat and top hat on his way out.

“Alistair,” said Jack, “before you go…”

Alistair stood by the door.

“Yesterday was my birthday, but it was also the anniversary of your wife and daughter’s death… I forgot to say that I’m sorry, and that I should have come out with you for that meal.”

“Don’t worry about it,” waved Alistair, “That you’re concerned is more than I would ever have of you. Yesterday we received the automatons and tomorrow the world will, too. It’s as good a reason as any to focus with excitement on what’s possible, and leave to rest what’s already come to pass.”

With nothing more to say, Alistair was out the door.

*****

JACK’S RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT LOGS: #1024 >> 1917 / 02 [DUOS] / 08 [THUNDER’S-DAY] / 19:22:45

The second day’s testing was also a success, despite how minor.

Today we confirmed the machines are in fact inlaid physically as they are diagrammatically. The synthetic materials overlaying the body make it difficult to study the organs, but it’s not so important at this point.

What is important was that we could remove the cap of Subject #1’s skull. Its brain [Subject #1] has been placed right beside the body in a glass casing, but remains connected to the spine by metal threads found at its base.

My hypothesis that the document diagrams {REFERENCE LOG: #1023 >> IMAGES: 1-5} depict something physiological about these automatons is growing more and more valid. Assuming it is true also sets a bedrock for the future experiments I am planning.

Here lie my greatest worries. To move forward with this important work, which I really believe will improve people’s lives, I will have to use my ‘disposition’. The limits of these abilities are unknown and have proven extraordinarily dangerous. My knowledge regarding these phenomena are guesses, but it is my honest belief that I can do more good through the potential of the automatons than the harm I have already done.

And I must do good, if any can be done at all. It’s what my parents would have wanted, and the least of what I owe to Alistair who has done nothing but give to others for as long as I can remember.

Moving on… I do not know how Alistair came by the automatons, but I am confident of the following theories:

1 – The five diagrams are of: The nervous system, the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the skeletal system, and the digestive system. I have compared these diagrams to the lastest diagrams of the human anatomy and the resemblances are too striking to be coincidental.

2 – The nodes on the diagram of the nervous system referenced in IMAGE 5 of LOG #1023 are related to the nerve endings of the human body, and the neurons of the human brain. This is supported by the same evidence garnered for my first theory, but also by rigid sitting position of the automatons as currents are run through them, and their supine lying position when no current is present. My lack of medical knowledge fails to validate this assumption fully, however the dense blue gelatin sacks seem to respond in the same contracting fashion as muscles when stimulated electrically. 

3 – The process by which these machines are programmed and operated can be explored by the phenomena I experience, specifically my ability to manipulate electricity via the alignment of ‘wisps’ I perceive. I plan on using my ability to activate in isolation as many of the specific neural pathways of each subject as I can manage. This method of isolating pathways will attempt to discern which, if any, are responsible for whatever functions these machines might be capable of. I will also attempt to cipher any combinations of pathways which could enable higher, more complex functions.

4 – There are other individuals out in the world, primarily the makers of the processes which created these machines, who experience the same phenomena that I do. I cannot fathom how any single person could build the automatons by hand; especially their brains. Whatever technology has been deployed in their production has likely been designed by persons knowledgeable of ‘wisps’. Of all my theories, this is the one for which I have the least evidence.

5 – The knowledge of any progress made on the automatons must be kept secret. The Oceanic Wars were founded on the advent of the arrow. I am afraid to think of what conflict these machines could breed, especially if their potential is as great as I currently estimate it to be.

Tomorrow I will log onto Oxburg’s medical database to begin researching the human brain and build testable hypotheses.

*****

Below is my Patreon. I will be writing and rewriting this a lot. If you are interested in helping me out it would be greatly appreciated.

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=5568986

 

 

 

 


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