Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Day in the Life, Part 1

(Inspired by Daniel Keyes' classic science fiction short story "Flowers for Algernon"  - RJ)

"Freedom!" squeaked Brie as she spotted an opening in the wires and dashed out. She felt a little badly about taking advantage of the carelessness by Rigor, Dr. Tesla Steampunk's assistant - he always treated her well - but she saw escape as her duty, and this was the first opportunity she had seen.
Rigor saw the escape out of the corner of his eye and moved quickly for a big man, but he was too late. In a blur, Brie was gone. Dr. Steampunk would be angry. She scampered across the laboratory, darting to and fro, moving quickly and erratically to prevent the now-frantic assistant from tracking her progress. With a final burst of speed, she moved through the open door of the laboratory and skidded to a stop on the stone steps leading to the main floor of the house.

Catching her breath, Brie considered her next move. Her heart rate was slightly elevated, but she knew she could run without serious effort much farther than she had come. But. But. She sighed. She could run, but she wouldn't. To gain her freedom, only to turn her back on everything that was still going on in Steampunk's laboratory would weigh heavily on her conscience. She had to go back and do what she could to disrupt the operations of the lab, even at the cost of her freedom.

As quick as her escape was, Brie's return was slow and stealthy. She assumed Rigor was still looking for her in the laboratory; certainly, she had not seen him follow her out of the lab door and up the stairs.
Brie was one of the white mice in the lab. She couldn't really complain about the food, which was plentiful if bland. She wasn't happy about the accommodations - the cage, the newspaper lining - but they weren't so bad. No, her complaint was in the experiments that Rigor, under Dr. Steampunk's direction, conducted. She watched helplessly as one mouse after another was snatched, injected, and returned to a separate cage, vital signs carefully monitored. Some died quickly, some slowly. Some lived, altered in a way that Brie could not know. None ever returned to the main cage.

Then it was Brie's turn. Rigor gently scooped her up and placed the syringe against her stomach. She tried to bite and scratch, to no avail. The liquid coursed through her, cold but otherwise seeming to have no effect. Brie stood rigidly, waiting for something to happen. Slowly, imperceptably, she realized that she was more aware of her surroundings. She could sense the other mice, anxiously awaiting their turn; Rigor, carefully watching Brie for any change in her behavior; the test tubes bubbling over burners a short distance from the cage; and the smell of fresh air just beyond the laboratory door. She became aware that she and the other mice were there for the Omnipotent One's experiments (except that she could now make sense of the gibberish that the Omnipotent One and his assistant had been speaking and knew that the Omnipotent One was named Tesla Steampunk and that his assistant was nicknamed "Rigor," and that this was a form of humor). Finally, she knew that she and the other mice would be used for those experiments until they met a sad and likely painful end. Self-preservation had always made Brie look for ways out of the cage, but now she had been given the gifts of perception and analysis to figure a way out. When the opportunity came, she was ready.

Monday, May 28, 2012


I happen to be ensconced in temporary office space - as long as "temporary" is defined as two-plus years - because my agency was wildly optimistic several years ago about its prospects for expansion, back when $1.5 trillion deficits were a new thing and senior bureaucrats thought that gravy train could keep going forever. As a result I'm in a much nicer section of town than I was before or ever will be again. I'm surrounded by high-rise offices filled with private sector employees who make a lot more money than I do. This wouldn't be so great, but those high-income workers demand places to eat, drink, and otherwise spend money. It's shopping Camelot!

Well, not every nearby spot has been gentrified. Part of the blocks of M and N Streets between 18th and 19th Streets, for example, retain old row houses, surrounded by newer, tall office buildings. Most of the row houses are now shops, restaurants, and bars.

One holdout is the Camelot Club, a "gentleman's club." (Or so it says. I've never been inside.) A former rival, the 1819 Club, now closed, was only two doors down. (It's the white building to the right in the picture below.) In between is Bell Wine Shop, a building I have been in frequently. One has to be a little careful not to wander into the wrong place. Two doors down from that is now a pizza shop, but for some time it was home to Jasmine Therapy, a massage parlor that was shut down by the police amid allegations that the business was actually a "massage parlor."

Camelot Club small

Although I'd prefer a slightly different mix of businesses nearby, it's hard to argue with the entertaining view.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Travelogue: Victoria City, Part 2 (Inner Circle)

Having circumnavigated the outer circle of Victoria City, I venture into the interior. The starting point is the telehub - illustrating Victorian civility with its top hat:

Caledon Victoria City 5 12 12 010

Circling the telehub are large buildings, mainly comprised of shopping stores:

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Above, L to R: Caledon Library meeting room, To a T and Silver Rose

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Above, L to R: Martini Discovolante, Skye Qi, Chrono Clothiers

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Above, L to R: Exuberance on the Park, Library Reading Room, Whynaught Estate

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Above, L to R: Posture is Everything, M'Lady, Creator Space Co-Op

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Aether Salon - Spirits!

For the last Salon of the season, Baron Wulfenbach invited Jarl Otenth Paderborn to discuss the subject of spirituality and religion in Second Life.

 The Jarl talked a little about his own path into Second Life, first seeking fellow Quakers and then becoming involved with the Unitarians, before discussing other spiritual centers of the virtual world.

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Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and Jarl Otenth Paderborn

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I try to figure out how to operate the coffee machine

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Some of the Salon attendees

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Ladies Solace Fairlady and Darlingmonster Ember, with Mr. Linus Lacombe

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Miss Gabrielle Anatra, Miss Bookworm Hienrichs, Miss Sidonie Ancelin, and Miss Nika Thought-werk (a clockwork being)

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Admiral Wildstar Beaumont

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Clockwinder Mosseveno Tenk, with Mrs. Holmes (!) in the background

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Miss Belle Milneaux (background) and Dame Kghia Gherardi (foreground)

Additional pictures, from Miss Hienrichs, are available here. A complete transcript of the even is available at the Salon's Aetheric Pages.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Travelogue: Victoria City Part 1 (Outer Circle)

Leaving Primverness, I returned to Caledon's capital, Victoria City. The city is such a hub of activity that a single entry will not do it justice. I'll start with a tour around the outer circle, starting at the Guvnah's mansion:

Caledon Victoria City 5 12 12 001

Nearby is the Red Room Gallery, a long-standing fixture in the community, with its art available to the public in a relaxed setting.

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The Victoria City stop on the train line has its own train station, an attractive yellow-and-red building along the tracks.

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Nearby, just behind and to the right of the train station, is the Steampunk Tintype & Telegraph Newspaper. Its neighbor is Carntaigh House, residence of Misses Gabrielle Riel and CronoCloud Creeggan:

Caledon Victoria City 5 12 12 004

New to the area are the Inns of Court:

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Anchoring the city is the main branch of the Caledon Library:

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Nearby is Mr. Whynaught's sculpture garden:

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Beyond the sculpture garden stands Goode Inventions and related buildings owned by Dr. Goode:

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Finally, Caledon Library houses its steampunk collection in the lot next door - naturally, in an airship moored above the ground - all that can be seen from ground level is the massive chain keeping the airship steady.

Caledon Victoria City 5 12 12 009

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sanity Falls - Last Time Around

** Thar be spoilers ahead - Best beware! **

As the note says, spoilers. Mild ones, in some regard - and, in any event, I'm only guessing as to the meaning of it all. I will wait to post this for some time, to minimize the number of people who might be reading this still working on the hunt.


After a time, I collected all fifty parts of the ransom - $1,000,000 - and waited for instructions. However, as I waited, I I saw the timer tick to zero. I had failed!

I found myself on the bridge leading into Sanity Falls, just where I started, except that  the sky was the color of an apocalypse and the bridge itself in ruins, ending abruptly and falling to an abyss below.

Sanity Falls  End 001

Here was an apparition, a ghostly Alex perched on the edge of the bridge, as if ready to jump. But Alex is me, right? How could I be both here and there?

Sanity Falls  End 002

I tried to grab him, only to find him/me/us falling…a long way down...

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…only to find myself unharmed in a subterranean room - a warehouse? - that appeared to be hastily outfitted for medical work. Beyond the room was a locked door. (And many thanks to the two people who helped me out at this point. I puzzled over the code to unlock the door for quite some time before asking for help. In the end, the trick turned out to be quite simple.) Beyond the door, a corridor. Beyond the corridor, another locked door, and finally...

Sanity Falls  End 005

…the end.

I enjoyed the game very much. I'm not a big fan of hunts, so my enjoyment came from the mystery itself, following the storyline to a satisfactory conclusion. (I'll say I suspected a good portion of it, but being right doesn't take away from the enjoyment.) The entire experience was well-done. Kudos to the Madpea team!

As I think about the resolution, I do wonder, though: was Livea ever real?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Up to No Good?

New Babbage had been peaceful for quite some time. I was beginning to think that the situation would last forever, that the Clockwinder and Mr. Cleanslate had found the key to keeping the powder keg that is Babbage contained. Foolish me. Mrs. Breezy Carver-Fabre, was the one who first noted that New Babbage arch-villain Doctor Obolensky was active in the Vernian Deep, returned from his self-imposed exile and apparently making plans that could only mean trouble for the Clockwinder and the people of New Babbage.

I hitched a ride on a Cuthbert-class ironclad from Port Caledon - one can never be too careful, or too well-armed when approaching the Doctor - and we steamed our way to New Babbage, then on to the Vernian Sea and, beyond that, the Deep.

Looming in front of us was the familiar sight of Doctor O's lair/laboratory/hideout, rebuilt in the Deep. Outwardly, the structure looked the same as when I last laid eyes on it, sans the scaffolding. As we approached nearer, however, it became clear that Doctor O had been hard at work on improvements, and the renovations were not yet complete.

Obolenskidonia 002

A tree grows in Obolenskidonia:

Obolenskidonia 001

Sad little thing, isn't it? On the far side of the lair were clanks furiously constructing an extension to the island. The floating construction platforms dwarfed our ironclad.

Obolenskidonia 003

Through the captain's spyglass we saw one of the clanks quite clearly.

Obolenskidonia 004

We rounded the island and prepared to head back to New Babbage with our intelligence when the second officer sounded the alarm: she had spotted a gun placement. The captain quickly ordered the hull be sealed and that the ironclad move away from the guns at full speed.

The command came too late, however. The guns were fully automated, and responded to the motion of the ship. As we came into range, a searchlight illuminated and locked onto us. We could see the cannon swivel toward us and heard the booms as the device opened fire.

Obolenskidonia 005

A hit! Again and again the guns pounded the hull. At the captain's orders, our gunners returned fire, but the manual aiming was no match for Doctor O's automated firing mechanism, and our rounds did not fall true.

Obolenskidonia 006

Fortunately, the ironclad's hull withstood the initial volley. By the time the battery had reloaded, we were safely out of range, our ship damaged but still afloat.

I still know not what Doctor Obolensky is up to, but I am more convinced than ever that his plans bode ill for New Babbage!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bad Habits

Ridding myself of my shoulder and neck issues seems to be an exercise in ridding myself of a lifetime of bad habits. It's a little like learning to sit and walk again, only with the ingrained incorrect methods that created the problem in the first place.

I've learned a great deal about trigger points and the muscles that control the affected areas, particularly the levator scapulae. I know to spend more time listening to my body's aches and pains, trying to understand when I'm reaching a limit. I've learned to sit up in chairs, rear end all the way to the back; to maintain my head parallel to the ground as much as possible, rather than looking up or down; to get up and move frequently, every 30 to 45 minutes; to avoid leaning on my arms or elbows. I know a large number of stretching exercises.

Even so, it's often hard to know what works, or what I'm doing wrong. When I'm feeling good, it's hard to avoid overdoing it, often leading to bad days following good ones. I seem to be getting better about limiting what I do even when I'm not hurting, or hurting too much, in order to keep the healing process going. Still, human nature being what it is, I envision more setbacks along the way.

The scary part of the process is not knowing when - or if - the problem will go away entirely, i.e., I'll be able to spend, say, four hours at a keyboard in one day and still feel all right the next day. I never thought of having a desk job as being subject to the sort of injuries that could affect one's ability to do the job - certainly not in the way that other careers, in different environments, have obvious job-related injuries. In theory, muscles heal quickly. I have a sneaking suspicion that part of my trouble is that I keep irritating the same areas, so I never heal competely. On the other hand, part of the aging process is that body parts take longer to heal, or develop problems, such as arthritis, that are not only problems by themselves, but could affect the way other body parts work. That is, minimizing pain in one area could stress other areas.

On the other hand, the sensation of realizing that pain is gone is an amazing thing.

I keep telling myself that it's a process, cliche that it is. Celebrate the good days, live through the crappy ones. Life goes on.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Travelogue: Primverness

My last journey took me to Caledon Windemere. Moving northeast from there, bypassing (for the moment) Victoria City, we come to Primverness, now owned by Duchess Angel.
Although the train line continues from Victoria City, passing under a clock tower and cutting through a lush, mountainous area, the line ends abruptly, forming a circle to return toward Victoria City.

Caledon Prinverness 5 12 12 001

Along the coast is a lovely if battered church, brilliantly illuminated by sunlight.

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I found a shaky footbridge that works its way through the mountainous areas and walked along the path, past twin waterfalls.

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The interior of Primverness is mainly a verdant rainforest.

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Much of the land has been left in its natural state, seemingly untouched by human hands.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Comments and Shouting into the Abyss

Marco Arment, of Instapaper and Build and Analyze fame, recently had a blog post entitled "Why I don't have comments on my site." He was responding to an insane, rambling rant of a comment on The Verge (which he reproduces in its entirety in his blog post). The comment, to the extent anyone can follow it, complains that Mr. Arment doesn't know "real" programming languages and is an Apple "fanboy" before an abrupt lane change into a paragraph on "stolen open source projects."

Although he doesn't say so explicitly, Mr. Arment's implication seems to be that having comments enabled leads to these kinds of comments, which then either require time-consuming responses or just leaving the rambling unrebutted. He's a professional software developer and spare-time blogger, so I understand that he doesn't have time for the first option and that the second option is unattractive.

I'll venture a guess that most bloggers share my opinion that comments are a wonderful thing. Most of us don't have a big audience and are happy to have evidence that someone out there is reading. Better than that, really: not only did someone read, but he or she took the time to share some thoughts with the author. I don't care how cranky the response - the cliche that it's better to be talked about than forgotten applies amain here. (Spammers, I make an exception for you. Begone.)

Blogging is clearly one tool in a professional's kit, a way to communicate with the public about one's product, whether that's a piece of software, series of science fiction novels, or a motivational speaking seminar. As such, people can choose the degree of desired interaction and, for those with big enough audiences, one-way communication might be the right approach. As for me, however, comment away.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sanity Falls Again

After Miss Kiana Writer's pep talk (in the comments of my previous entry on the hunt) I took up the hunt again. I had found 47 of the clues from town, but redoubled my efforts to find the last three.
That accomplished, I turned to finding the ransom money in earnest. As usual with hunts and clues, some were easy, some difficult, and some downright nasty. (And, no doubt, which bucket the clues fit into is highly idiosyncratic. What I found nearly impossible others might find child's play, and vice-versa.)

Sanity Falls 5 3 12 001

At two points along the way, I uncovered "dream sequences" that illustrated the shattered mind of poor Alex.

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Blood. And televisions.

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A tableau Freud himself would have enjoyed.

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As I find more of the ransom money, however, the timer clicks down, inexorably, toward zero. So close...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"Austerity" and Growth

Lately there has been some talk among the chattering classes that the so-called "austerity" budgets (in reality, budgets that are just less spendthrift than before, as they generally still run substantial deficits) are a Bad Thing because they reduce economic growth. The more sophisticated version of this argument continues: reducing growth also triggers more spending in the form of automatic stabilizers (unemployment benefits, for example), and thus both impoverishes a nation and fails to solve the debt problem.

In some trivial sense, that argument is correct. If Uncle Sam borrows money and spends it - whether on social welfare programs, government employment, or "loans" to soon-to-be-bankrupt solar energy companies, current GDP is higher than otherwise. If Uncle goes on a spending diet, the beneficiaries of this largesse have less to spend, current GDP takes a hit.

In a broader sense, however, the argument is absurd. Borrowing a dollar to give to someone incurs an obligation to pay that dollar back - plus interest. If people were infinitely-lived, that extra dollar of consumption today would mean somewhat more than an extra dollar of less consumption at some point in the future. Because people are not infinitely-lived, and because future generations don't get to vote on current spending, the electorate and the governments that represent them can borrow money today for a higher standard of living, leaving someone else to pay it back. There's no free lunch here. Only by forgetting that the money has to be repaid can people delude themselves into thinking otherwise.

European governments - such as the one in Britain - are coming under pressure to increase spending again. How selfish.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Confident Woman, Part 2 (Conclusion)

(Continued from Part 1)

I walked briskly down the cobblestone lane, not wanting to be late for my appointment. I stopped in front of an undistinguished door and checked the house number, then knocked on the door.

This was far from a difficult case. I had been summoned by the parents of a missing young lady. The police were uninterested in the case, suggesting that the lady eloped with a gentleman friend and would eventually turn up, a ring on her finger. Or not, but without a body in hand they were disinclined to spare the resources to look. The missing lady's mother mentioned that her daughter was determined to find employment, which led me to the Caledon Gazette and the help-wanted advertisements for the past several days. A search of the lady's room uncovered a similar stack of help-wanted pages, and some of the particulars were circled in blue ink. Most of those were no longer included in the most recent issue of the Gazette,  and it was quick work to satisfy myself that those jobs had been filled by someone other than our missing person. Several advertisements continued into the most recent issue, suggesting an ongoing vacancy. I had visited the premises of several of those advertisers and convinced myself that the missing lady had not been to any of them. This blank door was my next stop.

The door opened. "Yes?"

"Dr. Bak? I'm here in response to advertisement."

"Excellent. Do come in." I followed him into the anteroom, then to his laboratory. Among the various chemical odors, I detected the distinct aroma of burning flesh. I felt confident that this was where my client's daughter met her fate, and my stomach dropped when I thought of having to tell her parents that she would not be returning. "Please put on the clothing I have prepared for you and we can get started."

I had anticipated that the young woman's disappearance was the result of foul play and I had taken precautions. What I did not anticipate was how quickly the scientist would take me into his laboratory and begin his grotesque experiments. I stalled as long as I could, but Dr. Bak angrily ordered me to hurry, so I took the bundle of clothes and changed into the workman's smock and loose trousers. Perhaps unwisely, I had taken no weapon with me, believing that things would be worse for me if a weapon were discovered upon me.

"This is an unusual laboratory," I commented when I returned in my new clothing. "What sort of experiments do you conduct here?"

"I am a scientist of the human mind. Never mind that now, though. As you can see, I am in a hurry. Time is short, and I have none to waste explaining myself to an uneducated girl such as you."

Uneducated? Miss Dorris would have had this man's guts for garters had she heard him say that. My old headmistress was unlikely to rescue me at this point, however, so I nodded meekly and walked to the laboratory table. Rather than climbing on the table, however, I feigned a swoon, grabbing the side of the table to keep myself upright just before my head hit the slab. "I feel faint, Doctor. Perhaps I could have a glass of water before we begin?"

He gave an exasperated sigh. "Incompetent girl! You seem to be the worst of the lot. Never mind your faint head or your glass of water. We shall be done shortly, and then we can see about your needs. If you cannot lie on the table on your own power, I shall have to place you there."

So much for that ploy. I hoisted myself onto the table. How much time had elapsed since I had entered the house? Dr. Bak approached to strap me in. I thrashed on the table, not having to feign the fear in my eyes. He looked disgusted and back-handed me across the face. Momentarily stunned, I could not resist as he buckled my arms and then my legs into place. He then added the electrodes, and finished by stuffing the gag in my mouth. Striding to the control panel, he started adjusting various dials.

A tremendous crash upstairs penetrated even the well-insulated laboratory. That was the front door, I surmised. Other, somewhat more subdued crashes followed as door after door opened. Dr. Bak looked up at the first noise but then returned to the control panel, moving even more quickly as he made his final preparations.

The door to the cellar banged open and a familiar voice called down. "Rhianon? Are you there?" The voice belonged to Caledon police sergeant Natalie Bishop, a muscular woman with a mechanical arm, an icy-cold stare, a deep scar across her face, and a surprisingly warm smile. Sergeant Bishop was my close friend and, in this escapade, my cavalry. I tried to signal my presence, but the gag was effective and I could make no sound. Natalie decided to try the cellar anyway, and I heard her heavy boots making their way down the stairs. She appeared in the doorway and took in the scene in an instant.

The doctor moved to provide power to his apparatus and restart his insane experiment. Natalie's reflexes were faster, however. In an instant a large police revolver appeared in her right hand. Her mechanical arm remained steady as she pulled the trigger twice. Dr. Bak jerked backward, falling to the hard floor, blood pooling around his chest.

"I seem to be just in time," said Natalie, removing the gag and unbuckling the straps.

"Your timing is as perfect as ever," I said, my voice shaky.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Confident Woman, Part 1

The young woman walked briskly down the cobblestone lane, the assurance in her stride masking the uncertainty in her face. She stopped in front of an undistinguished door and checked the house number against a sheet of paper in her hand. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door.

Her parents were disappointed with her insistence on answering the help-wanted advertisement. They ensured she received as good an education as possible for a girl, but they did so under the assumption that she would use her skills to enchant a suitable husband. Though she was not averse to the idea in the abstract, she was less enthralled with the choices available to her. Perhaps, she reflected, she preferred to see what the world - or, if not the world, at least Caledon - what the world had to offer before starting a family.

The door opened slowly, revealing a pale man in a white lab coat. "Yes?" He drew the word out to several syllables.

She touched her reticule for reassurance and said nervously, "I'm here to interview for the position you advertised. You are Dr. Bak, are you not?"

He opened the door wider and bowed slightly. "I am. You're here for the laboratory assistant position? Excellent." He bade her enter the anteroom. "Welcome, my dear."

She walked into the narrow foyer. Panelled doors led off in every direction. An unpleasant burning smell lingered in the air. As Dr. Bak closed the door, she studied her prospective employer. He appeared to be in his late 50s with a shock of white hair. His face bore a slightly maniacal expression.

"Shall we get started?" the scientist asked, a hand gesturing to a door to her right.

"With the interview?"

"With the job. I'm afraid my previous assistant left us quite unexpectedly and I have experiments that cannot wait." He walked through the door as though there was no question about her willingness to follow. She wanted to ask the scientist what the job paid, what the hours were, why the previous assistant left unexpectedly, and so many more questions, but she was afraid. She had found few jobs for women with no experience, and, though this one was a trolley ride and lengthy walk away from her home, she did not want to lose the opportunity, so she meekly nodded and followed the scientist through the door.

The door led to a set of stairs heading down to the cellar. The burning smell became stronger as they descended, mixed with the earthy, mildewy smell of cellars. At the bottom, the stairway opened into a large room configured as a laboratory. To the right were a number of beakers filled with unearthly colored liquids along side a disused distillation column; to the left was an operating table, freshly washed, with a set of workman's clothes on top. A number of electrical leads sat on the table, connected to a large generator that sat in the corner of the room. The generator hummed and occasionally threw out a spark.

"This is my laboratory, naturally. You will be working here with me." He looked at her from head to toe, as though judging her height, then gestured to the clothes on the operating table. "Put those on, please." She looked horrified at the thought. At her hesitation, Dr. Bak said, "Quickly now."


He let out an exasperated sigh. "There is a small room off to the side. You can change there. And don't be silly, girl; I have no interest in you sexually." She gasped at his choice of words, but nodded acceptance. She picked up the clothes and walked into the closet to change. She removed the bustle, overskirt, and underskirt, and put the trousers over her bloomers. She shed her bolero jacket, placing the workman's shirt over her corset and blouse. The trousers were loose, but stayed over her hips.

Dr. Bak looked up briefly as she returned to the laboratory. "Excellent. Now we may begin. Please lie on the table."

"I thought I was to assist you in your experiments."

"Oh, indeed you are. But we cannot go on like this, with your constant challenges to my authority. When I give an order, I expect it to be obeyed."

"Yes, Dr. Bak," she replied meekly, and made her way to the table. What have I gotten myself into?

The scientist applied a viscous fluid to the electrodes and taped them to various parts of her body. Her eyes widened in fear as he took two sturdy leather straps and placed them across her body, buckling her in tightly. "Science, my dear, is a harsh mistress. She releases her mysteries only reluctantly, after much sacrifice. One tries, fails, and tries again. Eventually her secrets succumb." She tried to scream, but nothing more than a whimper escaped. "Oh yes, that reminds me." He placed a gag in her mouth. "This is not for the benefit of the neighbors, mind you. The walls are well-insulated and no amount of screaming will rouse them. No, it's for my benefit. Screaming disturbs my concentration."

He moved to the generator and grasped the lever that would tie the electrodes into the circuit. "I am convinced that a suitably-applied voltage, though it will stop the heart, will maintain brain activity indefinitely. My first few tries were unsuccessful - too much voltage, I'm afraid - and nothing was left functioning. I think I've got it right now. I have instruments that will monitor brain activity. Of course, the next step is to devise a way to communicate directly with the brain. Who knows? If all goes well, we will speak again." She thrust her weight to one side and then the other in a wild attempt to free herself, but the straps held her fast. The scientist threw the lever. The electrostatic hum rose louder and the burning smell intensified.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Travelogue: Arkham

Today I'm deviating from the geographical progression of this series, traveling by airship to the north of Caledon, north of Penzance and just to the east of Brigadoon, to the new area of Arkham.

Owned by the Duchesses Sha'uri Cheshire and Solar Angel, Arkham is a forbidding area. For example, the castle is downright intimidating:
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Warehouses are nothing unusual, but the fence made me a little nervous.
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That nervousness did not recede when I peered inside. More cages…to keep human captives?
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The castle clearly dominates the skyline, but the other large structure is the asylum.
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Though the asylum appeared to be in ruins and unused, some parts looked as though someone could keep a patient - or a prisoner - from leaving.
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After that, I hastened back to the airship for a trip back home to Steam Sky City, where the only thing to fear are mad scientists (and air pirates, and the occasional zombie, but still…). Good thing I kept the propellers turning during my visit!