"Sitting in the ruins of your life, looking upon the detritus of your once proud hopes and dreams? Hey, I can relate."
Fanaka looked up to see Axel munching on a pastry in the middle of the ruins of the music shop. To his right, past the broken windows was a chaotic battle. Through his tears, Fanaka couldn't quite make out who the sides were, but he knew some of the combatants to be Nalda's army of solid-light holigrams. To his left, Jemmy and Mildred were trying to get to the hologram-generating equipment in the backroom, but the way was blocked by a shining forcefield.
"She was…" Fanaka said. "Nalda, I mean. I love her. How could she…"
"Fanaka, she loves you," Axel said. "Never doubt that. But she's a killer cyborg from the future, you know? And when you're dating a killer cyborg from the future who's programmed to help bring in the Age of the Automaton, then… well… things can get a little rocky, you know?"
"I crossed lightyears to find her," Fanaka said. "Dimensions. Never thought of returning to my own timeline to see my family. It was all for her."
"Do you two mind having the deep-and-meaningful later?" Jemmy shouted. "Because we could use some help, here." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 45: Friends"
Jemmy Harrison's unnamed music shop wasn't the best place for a scientific conference, but it would have to do. Jemmy had quite an impressive array of computers, albeit mostly obsolete ones. The Babbage-engine brain of the dead steampunk ornithopter was also there, with Nalda translating. And Axel was there, and he was a genius after all, as was Mildred Po, perhaps the world's most talented amateur rocket scientist. And of course there was Fanaka, who seemed to be in charge of everything, after retrieving the mysterious Crystal Skull from its hiding place in Emile Fortunado's cellar.
That had proven more difficult than he'd hoped. Emile's shop had been closed, so Fanaka had gone to see Emile's colleague in the liquor business, Harry Montressor. But Harry's shop was also closed, and building noises were coming from inside, so no one could hear Fanaka knocking. In the end, Fanaka had to bribe a dodgy looking yellow cat in a straw boater to pick the lock on Emile's door, and retrieve the Skull from under a pile of receipts for fortified wine.
Now the Skull sat on a piano stool in the middle of Jemmy's floor, while the assorted geniuses and AIs stared at it, glowing softly in the dark.
"Creepy, isn't it?" Jemmy offered. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 41: Destiny"
Fanaka stood in the clock shop and thought about time. This wasn't unusual, as he was a scientist and engineer specialising in the study and control of time. And yet he wasn't thinking about time as a scientist would. He was thinking of it more as a poet, wondering at how it came and went and how you always seem to have too much or it at any given minute, but too little in any given week. He was thinking of how time felt, not how it moved. The sound of all the clocks ticking away was a reminder just how many years it had been since he'd last stood in the shop.
It was while he was thinking of how odd time was that Axel Platzoff walked into the shop and reminded him of how easy his own relationship with time had been. Axel's villainous younger self had been catapulted forward in time from the 1990s to the Battle of Wellington Road, where he had died, somehow leaving Axel's present self alive and well.
There, Fanaka thought. It was impossible to understand that malarkey as a scientist. A man's evil past killed, leaving his reformed present alive? That wasn't science, it was magical realism. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 38: Tulpa"
The morning sun was shining over the Super Centre carpark. The earliest retail workers were arriving as best they could with the entire Easter parking area occupied by the massive form of the great metal bird. Mostly, they avoided looking at it. The people of South Hertling were becoming adept at not seeing things.
Fanaka yawned wide as he kicked the bird’s landing gear. “It’s an ornithopter,” he said.
“Yes,” he added.
“Is that all you can say?” Donna asked.
“But you’re an engineer from planet Steampunk, right?” Donna said. “This should be right up your alley.”
Fanaka scratched his head, kicked the landing gear and made a ‘maybe-maybe’ sort of gesture. “Well,” he said. “There are giant steampunk ornithopters, and then there are giant steampunk ornithopters, if you follow me.”
...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 34: Ornithopter"
During his absence, Fanaka had stopped shaving his face and head. The hair on chin had sprouted and begun to go grey. Over the years, these grey hairs had spread across his jaw and up his sideburns, almost reaching his hairline. The shirt and slacks that he had worn when he left Earth had long since worn away, and he wore some undergarments that he'd stolen from a Zalgon starcruiser under a worn camelhair dressing gown that he'd been given by an old friend.
He walked down the steps of the saucer shaped craft that had brought him home and tested the ground with his foot. Yes. Earth. He had a satchel full of equipment that he could use to test this hypothesis. There was no need. Every fibre of his body said 'Earth'. More to the point, he could see a little shack with a sign that read 'South Hertling Cub Scouts'. The shack shook slightly and a deeply unpleasant music issued from within. Highland Dance group. That made it the second Wednesday of the month.
Fanaka turned back. "We made it," he said. "Earth." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 31: Homecoming"
Welcome back! Sorry for the delay. When last we left off, Donna was instigating the rescue of the Handy Pavilion staff currently in prison, in order to raise a force to fight the resurgent DIY Barn. The issues of what's up with the Brownie, the weird cult in the kebab shop, and the missing Ms Shan are still up in the air. And surely that subplot about the cartoon cats will start to make sense at some point? Meanwhile, Alfred, Delia and Fanaka have all been arrested and Delia tried to deal with the situation by combining the power of the Watch and the Measure. We open on Fanaka dealing with some of the consequences of that action.
Fanaka stood on the roof of the police car and scanned in every direction, and in every direction he saw nothing. Nothing. Not a white void, nor a grey void, nor even a black void. Nothing at all. It hurt his eyes to look at it, and the fact that he could see at all without any ambient light hurt his brain.
"Well," he said in his own language, "there's a thing." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 27: Occupants"
Delia had never been in the back of a police car before, but nonetheless she made herself at home. She shared her seat with Alfred and Fanaka, who were the only others who had been arrested. Gwen had avoided arrest by knocking a policeman to the ground and fleeing with the protesting Christian thrown over one shoulder.
"Wait, I haven't committed a crime, yet," the young man had cried as his lover dragged him away.
Karl had disappeared in the confusion with Ron in hot pursuit. Once again law enforcement had proved meaningless to anybody who wasn't already law abiding.
Well, mostly law abiding. To Delia's exasperation, Alfred seemed to have had some sort of extremely quick identity crisis, and reinvented himself from 'aging shopkeeper' to 'teenage hooligan.
"Did you see that? Did you see Gwen take down that copper?" he laughed.
One of the constables in the front of the car turned around with a look that was meant to say 'imposing authority' but which Delia read as 'hurt feelings.' ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 26: Drive"
Apologies, my tens of readers for for late posting; extra busy at the moment.
Fanaka was not a stupid man. He was a genius, in fact. And this, unfortunately was the problem – namely, that as a genius he knew a thousand more ways to be stupid; more paths to foolishness than the average person could even imagine.
Another aspect of not being stupid was that he deeply aware of the possibility that he was being foolish as he set up his anti-aircraft battery in Wellington Road, just outside the South Hertling Super Centre and across the street from the giant evil Pyramid that had risen from the ruins of what was once the South Bannerman Mega Centre.
But smart or stupid, genius or fool, once a man has begun building a steam-powered anti-aircraft gun in a public road, there's no easy way to walk back from it.
Fanaka stood back a little to admire his handiwork. He nodded and smiled – not a happy smile, but a satisfied one. It would work. It would work perfectly. Once Ron fired his rocket, the AA gun would automatically spring into action and shoot it down. Additional AA emplacements around the Pyramid ensured three hundred and sixty degree protection. Carefully prepared labels on each of the guns misidentified them as art installations. Since most of the citizens of South Hertling would happily have walked a mile to avoid an art installation, Fanaka judged them safe from tampering. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 23: Downstage"
Hoonworld Auto was having a sale. The Super Centre carpark was unusually noisy, both from the unusual number of cars for a weekday and the extreme volume of their engines. But on a little bench in a quiet corner, Fanaka sat next to the Brownie. Only a few Super Centre customers walked past, most studiously avoiding the man in the dashiki, a circlet of bronze gears around his head and his companion, a metre-high man with pointed ears, dressed in a black corduroy suit and silk waistcoat embroidered with skulls.
"So, I was wondering if perhaps you have seen him," Fanaka said.
"Look," the Brownie replied. "Thanks for voting to acquit me and all but I don't think I owe you any favours." ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 19: Genius"
"Are you sure you haven't seen Ronnie anywhere?" Fanaka said.
"Nay, faith sir, I've not," replied the armoured knight behind the icecream counter.
The ice cream shop was relatively new, it's one staff member on duty was not. He was dressed head to toe in medieval armour, save for the steel gauntlets which had been removed to better facilitating the handling of gelato.
Fanaka sighed an angry sigh. Sir Kay was the last. He had now made contact with everyone from the Time Lost Support Group and no one seemed to know just where Ronnie had hidden himself – and, presumably, Mildred's prototype rocket. ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes – Part 15: Frustration"