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 Men of Reason

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The Laughing Stranger

Posts : 455
Join date : 2013-08-29

PostSubject: Men of Reason   Wed 27 Aug 2014, 17:59

George Allen, the sweaty innkeeper, threw wide the first door they came across at the top of the stairs, and Ryan O'Toole emitted a low whistle in amazement. The room was crammed with tall chattering and whirring machines shaped like towers, interlinked by a series of spinning belts and sparking coils that spilled out of the room and into the next. Allen muttered something under his breath and set O'Toole's case on the ground just outside the door.

"Erm, well, these are his rooms, alright. He's in there somewhere, mister. Hardly ever leaves, just the occasional assistant coming and going at any and all hours. He is a queer duck, Swade."

"That, my dear fellow, is a mighty understatement."

The innkeeper chuckled but seemed reluctant to approach the tangled web of machinery, so the inventor thanked him for bringing his luggage upstairs and dismissed him before beginning to carefully navigate the haphazard collection of belts and coils. O'Toole knew the British expatriate had rented several properties in and around Austin, but he was surprised to see that the Logician had also apparently monopolized the second story of Allen's inn. The adjoining doors to four rooms had been flung wide to accommodate the lazily spinning belts and trails of copper wiring that conjoined the parts of Swade's sprawling machine. He found Doron Swade sitting in the fourth and final room, nestled amid a series of whirring, chattering machines each the size of an armoire.

"Swade." O'Toole acknowledged the shorter man with a nod.


The Artificer did not see a clear place to sit, so he stood, eying a contraption that was all sharp-toothed gears and swiftly-alternating switches. Swade grinned, three gold teeth gleaming as he stuffed a sheaf of illegible computations into his back pocket. "How is the iron-mongering business?"

"Fine... fine." O'Toole murmured. Swade was a small-boned man with delicate features and a pristine suit and jacket, and he seemed somewhat out of place among the grinding cogs. O'Toole had always thought of Swade as the well-dressed sort whose natural habitats were limited to the drawing rooms and parlors of decadent European dinner parties. "You look like you have quite the project on your hands."

Swade snorted out a laugh and waved his hands expansively. "Oh, you noticed on your way in, did you? Haha, yes, my Differential Engine is quite the marvel. It calculates, it processes, it all but thinks on its own!"

O'Tool's eyebrow arched in silent criticism. Swade might be a genius but the Artificer had little interest in his theatrics. "I'm afraid I am quite familiar with your device already; I watched the demonstration in New York several years ago, at the exposition."

Swade's face darkened and his cocky exuberance was replaced by indignation. "That was an unfortunate mechanical failure, a worn gear slipped! The underlying enlightened science is utterly sound... look O'Toole, don't listen to any of the naysayers! Especially Roark, damn his piggy little eyes! There were a lot of ignorant onlookers in that crowd who-"

"I seem to remember this engine of yours doing little more than complex mathematics and few non-Euclidean sums before it overheated and broke down." O'Toole shook his head. "A slipped gear, indeed."

"You scoff, blacksmith, but this is only the beginning. This admittedly recalcitrant computational device is capable of not only facilitating the use of multiple different scientific disciplines, it is adept at predicting the likelihood of future events, the erratic movements of trans-aetheric bodies, and even makes a mean kettle of tea to boot!"

O'Toole didn't bat an eye. "It makes tea? How the devil does it do that?"

"One of its cooling vents feeds into that stove over there and that pulley system overhead draws up the water in a pot from a subterranean spring. It only works once ever three hours but too much Earl Gray tends to put me into hysterics anyway."

"Fascinating." O'Toole picked his way across the cluttered room and poured himself a cup. "What if I wanted a demonstration?"

"Ha! You mean, 'Swade, why don't you redeem yourself after the dismal performance at the expo!'" The Logician gave a sharp laugh as he nimbly hopped across the room to join O'Toole next to the makeshift stove. O'Toole just sipped the warm tea, savoring the subtle flavor of oranges and spices as he regarded the towering drives of the Differential Engine. "Don't tell me you came all this way just to have a chuckle at my expense, O'Toole. Why are you really here?"

O'Toole stared long and hard at the arcane machine. "I couldn't care less about your past failures, Doron. I think your machine works well enough, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to come." O'Toole set down his empty tea cup and finally turned toward the gregarious mage, his eyes cold and determined.

"This is about finding my daughter."
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