Chapter 13

Chapter 13

A Chapter by Johnzo

The trio heads up to the mountainside laboratory.


Burrrp.  Indeed.”  Said Traz while straightening his dark blue cloak.  “What did I say?  Truly a great spread.” 

“You sure did.”  Said Trede with a light smile. 

Cassidy silently rolled her eyes at Traz’s brief display of uncouth behavior as the three of them walked along a stone path.  They had just left the main mess hall after concluding a quick meal. 

“I guess we’ll be off now, we don’t want to keep master Tenowon waiting.”  Said Cassidy.  “Are you both ready?”   

“Now more than ever.”  Said Traz while patting his stomach. 

Trede pulled at the collar of his grey jacket to make sure it was staying folded down.  He then tapped the hilt of his gunstaff which was hanging from his shoulder as always.  He looked down at his borrowed clothes.  Cassidy had found him a fairly plain red short sleeve shirt, it had the Cytech insignia over the right breast.  It was a sort of overlapping triple diamond shape stitched in gold.  Trede’s pants this time luckily fit just right, and the beige color suited his taste well.  “I’ve got nothing else to carry for now, let’s go.” 

The trio continued on to line carrier.  There was a large building at the base of mountain, and at the furthest edge of the compound making it really at the outskirts of the city.  The red wooden shingles stood out in the bright midday sun, contrasting the more neutral toned plaster the covered the rest of the 3 story building.  At the apex of this structure, Trede noticed the same insignia as his shirt on prominent display.  In a raised metal fixture, the emblem cast back the sun’s light and left a brass colored reflection on the stone path below in front of the main entrance. 

“These are where many of the high ranking member offices are.  If you’re lucky, someday you might get to host a meeting here.  Only the top prospects get to pitch new concepts to the board.”  Said Cassidy.  “But over here’s where we need to be.”   

At the side of the building there was a long overhanging roof supported by thin stone pillars.  As they turned the corner they saw the line carrier resting on a broad flat stone platform.  The carrier was made mostly of wood, but had had thick iron supports around the seams and corners.  It also had glassed in windows all around, and inside there was a continuous padded bench around the exterior wall, except for where the door was.  There were a couple workers who appeared to be getting ready for lift.  One of them was on top of the carrier examining the series of thick cables and pulleys.  The other was standing by a large machine that was also attached to the cables.  The device was nearly seven feet tall and the bulk of it was made of black iron, but there were several large chromed gears built in.  It spit steam here and there as some of the gears and other autonomous parts churned. 

The trio came to a halt several feet from the carrier and Cassidy sat her bag down.  “Hey guys!  How’ve you been?”  She said. 

“There’s miss Cassidy!  Things have been dandy, welcome back!”  Said the man standing by the black iron machine.  The other man on top of the carrier waived and smiled.  The first man spoke again, “We’ll be ready to lift just shortly.  This thing’s been sputtering a bit lately, just giving it the once over.” 

“We’ve got another passenger we’re waiting on too, should be here right off.”  Said the man on top of the carrier. 

“Ok, thanks!  We’re here waiting.”  Cassidy said.

Traz examined the black iron machine from where he stood.  “So, what is that contraption?” 

“That’s the steam engine that lifts the carrier.”  Chided Cassidy.  Such an engine was fairly common to the Cytech’s, and as such Cassidy was not that interested in describing it in much detail. 

“Impressive.”  Remarked Traz while scratching his furry chin. 

A set of footsteps rang out behind the group. 

“He-ey Cassidy.”  Said a voice.  A young woman in her early twenties approached as the sun shone off her round spectacles.  She was an inch or so taller than Cassidy with fair skin and had a blond pony tail pulled tightly back.  She was wearing a white 3 button collar shirt and khaki shorts.  The Cytech emblem, which was very familiar to Trede now, was emblazoned in black on the left breast pocket. 

“Nandiel!”  Cassidy exclaimed and ran over to give her friend a hug. 

“I should be upset you haven’t come to see me yet, but I’ve heard you’ve been rather busy.”  Nandiel smiled with a slight wink as she straightened her glasses. 

“My gosh, you have no idea what I’ve been through!  The worst should be behind us though.  How have you been?!  Did you get approval on that new project you told me about?”  Asked Cassidy.

“You could say so.”  Said Nandiel tilting her head just slightly.  “I’m on my way to meet with Master Tenowon about it now, I’m going to be working directly under his supervision.” 

Cassidy secretly exploded in a rage of envy, though was careful to not let it show.  Nandiel was already two years ahead of her in Cytech experience, and now she was being given such a tremendous opportunity!  Cassidy had looked up to Nandiel since first becoming a Cytech.  They were good friends as well, but this was nearly too much to swallow.  There was a great amount of competition among the younger Cytech members, and the best and brightest were always recognized and rewarded.  The Cytech Masters thought the competition was good for productivity, bringing out the best in all of young inventors, but it made things tough for those in the lower ranks.

“Wow!  That’s so great for you!”  Said Cassidy.  Unbelievable!  Any time I nearly get a leg-up on Nandiel she goes and out does me like this again!    

“I know!  I can scarcely believe it myself, most people don’t get to work with a master inventor like Tenowon until they’ve been practicing for at least five years.”  Said Nandiel. 

The slightly smug tone was barely noticeable, but to Cassidy it was unbearable. 

Trede scratched the back of his neck while staring at the ground, wondering if he should introduce himself or not.  He looked to Cassidy who’s smile seemed to have suddenly grown static. 

“So, these must be your new friends from the Northeast Territory?”  Asked Nandiel. 

“Oh.  Oh yes!”  Cassidy regained her grasp of the moment.  As she continued to speak, Nandiel walked past and offered a hand to Trede.

“You must be Trede?  I’m Nandiel Salastier, Cytech Junior Inventor Premier”  Trede took her hand and shook lightly. 

Cassidy rolled her eyes.  Oh rub it in why don’t you.  Nandiel was only one rank away from becoming a full grade inventor, which was only one grade above Cassidy, but she hated to be reminded of it. 

“You’ve come quite a long way, from what I hear it will be more than worth the trip for us all.”  Said Nandiel. 

She was standing a little too closely to Trede for Cassidy’s liking, so she decided to interrupt.  “And this is Traz.”

“Of the northern Selahns.  A pleasure.”  Traz interrupted, bowing low. 

Cassidy walked directly between Nandiel and Trede to reach Traz, bumping Trede back a step in the process.  She put her hand on Traz’s shoulder.  “Yes, he’s been quite an asset so far, I’m sure you’ve heard.  He’s been granted special guest privileges, so he’ll be going with us to Lab One.  He’s the first Selahn to ever visit us here in Sedenza.”

“Hello there, Mr. Traz.”  Said Nandiel.  “Welcome to our great facility.”  Her shoulders straightened in a sign of pride.  “You are in for a treat, rarely are outsiders allowed up to the mountainside lab, especially into Lab One.”

“Yes, I’m told it’s quite significant.”  Said Traz beaming.  “And I’ve always enjoyed the mountains, so it should be most enjoyable all around.” 

“Traz was just wondering about the lift engine over there, you’ve studied the full schematic Nandiel, what could you tell him about it?”  Cassidy said in a ploy to distract them both. 

“Well, it’s a simple design really.  There’s a boiler that feeds two main steam pipes, you can see them there at the base heading up the sides and into that compartment at the top.”  Nandiel continued on while Traz was listening intently, though perhaps not understanding much of the more technical jargon. 

Cassidy turned to Trede and spoke in a tone that seemed to urge caution, yet calmness.  “Just stay with me when we get to the lab ok?” 

“I…  Why?”  Trede was more than a little confused. 

“Nandiel has always been pretty… aggressive.”  Said Cassidy. 

“Aggressive?”  Said Trede, still looking for clarity. 

“Yes.  It’s just that…  You’re not familiar with how things work around here, I don’t want you to get taken advantage of.  This is a huge break for you, getting to work with Tenowon, I’ll make sure you get treated well.  You know, so that you don’t get overlooked or…”  Cassidy thought to choose her words very wisely, but wasn’t sure how to finish the thought. 

If you say so.”  Said Trede.  “This whole inventing business is pretty new to me, I’ll take your word for it.” 

Cassidy breathed a heavy sigh of relief, then wondered if her sigh was too revealing, but Trede seemed to not notice.  Phew, ok he’s on my side.  I’m not going to let her ruin my chances.  If there’s any possibility Tenowon will allow Trede to choose a partner, it has to be me.  I’m not going to miss out on a chance to work in Lab One.  “Ok.  Good.”  Cassidy nodded her head in agreement. 

“And finally, there’s a lever that allows the direction of the actuator to be changed, which is how carrier can be lifted up and down the mountain side.  The simple rope and pulley system takes care of the rest.”  Nandiel finished her description of the machine, Traz was wide eyed in amazement. 

“How clever!  We Selahns have never much taken to science, but I’m beginning to see the appeal!”  Said Traz. 

“Looks like we have another convert on our hands, huh Cassidy?”  Smiled Nandiel. 

Cassidy walked up to the two of them just as one of the mechanics spoke. 

“We’re all set to go there ladies and gents, and um…”  He paused trying not to offend Traz with a miss-choice of words. 

“We Selahns are too of the gentlemanly persuasion.”  Said Traz bowing only from the neck with one hand open off to the side.  “Shall we be off?” 

“All aboard sir, thank you.”  The mechanic wiped his brow without realizing how dirty his hand was and left a healthy size oil smudge on his forehead. 

“Thank you both.”  Said Nandiel as she walked by and onto the carrier. 

The remaining passengers boarded and took seats dispersed around the carrier.  The other mechanic leaned out from behind the black machine and spoke, “We’ll have you up in about thirty minutes or so, we’ll see you around!”  As he spoke, he gestured to his comrade tapping his own forehead while raising his eyebrows. 

“Huh?  Oh…”  He said sheepishly as he took a kerchief out to wipe his brow. 

“Thanks guys!”  Nandiel and Cassidy spoke in unison. 

The carrier lurched forward as the black iron machine whirled to life.  The chromed gears began spinning at a much quicker pace and the vent of steam shot out of both sides at an even pace.  The carrier moved forward at first, then slowing started moving upwards as well.  In short order they were several feet off the air and climbing quickly.  From there Trede could get a good view of the mountain.  The cable stretched up higher than seemed possible all the way to what appeared to be a plateau on the mountain side far off in the distance.  The mountainside itself was mostly barren rock, a mixture of grey boulders and brown earth.  There did appear to be several trees and a hint of green on the edge of the plateau, whether or not they were natural or landscaped Trede could not tell from such a distance. 

As the minutes passed, the group continued making small talk, mostly about the scenic view which had infinitely impressed Traz, and he was most keen on letting everyone know about it.  Though eventually, he was content just to stare out at the wide expanse in all directions, his chin rested on his hand as he looked out the window. 

Cassidy gave Nandiel the short version of how she had found Trede and the events that lead up to their sudden departure for Lab One.  And by that point they found themselves nearly landing on the plateau.  The landing area was very similar to the one they had just left, but of course a few thousand feet higher off the ground.  The carrier slowly came to a halt and there was a dull thud as it hit the stone slab of the dock. 

“Here we are.”  Said Nandiel with an excited smile. 

“Nandiel, there he is.”  Cassidy said in alert as she elbowed her friend. 

Trede looked out and saw a man talking to someone in a security uniform.  The man signed a paper attached to a clipboard and the security personnel walked off.  The man came towards the carrier. 

“You’re right, it is him.”  Said Nandiel with nervous excitement.  She opened the door and was the first to jump out of the carrier on to the well trimmed grass. 

“Master Tenowon, it is a great honor to be here.”  Said Nandiel, she bowed her head just a little. 

The rest of the group filed out of the carrier as Tenonwon approached. 

“Hello Master Tenonwon, Cassidy Thairbrooke at your service.”  Cassidy offered a slight curtsy in respect. 

“Hello young ladies, thank you for such kind greetings.”  He paused.  “And Mr. Trede.  It’s a great pleasure that you could join us.”  Tenonwon put forward his right arm to shake Trede’s hand. 

Trede reached forward and audibly gasped.  Tenowon’s hand and forearm that was sticking out of his long-sleeve shirt was completely mechanical.  The metal rods and  wires were near perfect to human in size and shape, but the mix of copper and assorted silvered metals made it obviously stick out.  Trede could see the inner workings of the hand clearly through the open gaps in the metal.  This was the most intricately designed device he had ever seen. 

“I…”  Trede was a bit shocked but managed to take the hand and shake it.  It moved naturally, but felt nothing like the sort.  He managed a mumbled.  “Thank you.” 

“Don’t let this contraption distract you.”  Said Tenowon with a light laugh.  “The original model is getting some R&R, that’s research and repair in this case.” 

“Amazing.” Cassidy whispered under her breathe in awe of the flawless movement of the mechanical hand. 

“And Mr. Traz, a fellow who knows the art of timeliness from what I hear.  Thank you for joining us as well.”  Said Tenowon. 

“I’m honored good sir.”  Said Traz bowing once more. 

“Well, you have arrived.”  Said Tenowon as he gestured with an open hand back to the large complex of buildings behind him.  Many of the buildings looked like the Cytech main office from the ground level, but some were even bigger and most had different mysterious contraptions installed on the roof, or visible from the many windows that were on the front side of each building.  There were several people out amongst the yard as well, some talking, some tinkering with small handheld tools at a work bench that was setup in a pavilion near the right cliff side of the plateau.  It was clear this was a very active and productive site.  “Welcome to the Mountainside Laboratory.  And especially welcome to Lab One.”




“As you can see, Labs Two through Six line the front grounds here.”  Tenowon was giving a basic tour as the group walked down a stone pathway towards the campus.  “Over there to the right is the pavilion, occasionally even we senior inventors need some fresh air.  It’s a nice break to sit out in the cool mountain air, it helps refocus the mind when tackling a particularly stubborn design problem.  But were we’re going is around the back of campus.”

They continued down the stone path and passed in between lab buildings two and three.  As they passed the corner, another building came into view.  It was a story taller than the other buildings and over the main door directly underneath the cytech emblem were the words LAB ONE.  There was a large double door up front steps, it was made of iron and heavy wood stained black to match the iron.  Trede was taken a bit aback by the severity of lock, bar and gear that adorned the door. 

“Quite the security you have here good sir, expecting intruders?”  Traz broke what had been a brief silence. 

“We weren’t expecting intruders once before years ago, that was our fault.  We’ve taken measures to ensure such a thing doesn’t happen again.”  Tenowon took out a ring of several odd and misshapen keys.  He began placing the keys and turning them in a series of locks scattered throughout the door.  “Lab One is under the highest security, all the locks, windows latches, even this very door were uniquely designed by us to ensure our best secrets stay just that.”

“Secret.”  Said Traz as he grinned. 

“Precisely.”  Tenowon nodded with raised eyebrows.  He finished inserting and turning the seventh key then paused and waited a moment.  Then he tapped his metallic hand on a spot near the middle of the door, a loud bang sounded and with a jerk several gears and rods began moving and turning as the door rolled open splitting down the middle.  “Let’s go inside shall we?”

Tenowon entered the building first followed by Traz and Trede.  Following up in the rear were Nandiel and Cassidy, who could scarcely contain themselves. 

“I can’t believe I’m finally here!”  Said Nandiel. 

Cassidy was wide eyed as she entered the doorway she scanned the room.  Even here in the entryway there were schematics strewn about, partially built devices hanging from the walls and furniture that sparked her curiosity to no end.  “Nandiel… this is amazing.  This is going to change our life, I just know it.”  Cassidy saw what looked to be a incomplete motor, but it was so small, much smaller than any of the traditional gear based machinery that was found commonly elsewhere in the guild.  “Nandiel, look at this!  I think it’s a drive engine of some kind, but it’s…  Hey Nandiel?”  She looked up and realized she had been left behind.  Way to go Cassidy, you’ve been here 30 seconds and already getting lost.  She ran ahead and caught up with the group as they entered a room at the end of the hallway that opened up to a very high ceiling. 

“Now there’s a sight!”  Said Traz. 

The room was impressive not only in size, but as one might expect, there were numerous inventions all through the room each more impressive than the last.  There was a large mechanical tower, nearly twenty feet tall.  There were many tubes, pipes and shiny metallic panels covering it’s every surface.  At it’s base there was a thick glass door partially obscured by soot, but visible inside was a blue flashing light.  Hanging from the ceiling was something that looked like a triangular set of wings made of canvas, through through the center of the triangle was something that wasn’t too dissimilar to Trede’s gunstaff, with what would be the blast chamber pointing towards the back end of the device.  Near the rear of the room was a large three-wheeled cart, it was in some state of disassembly but appeared to have a series of gears at the rear where two wheels hooked up to a drivetrain of some kind. 

Wow.  Thought Trede, surprised in the fact that he too was surprised. 

Cassidy and Nandiel stood at the doorway and marveled at the sight trying to take in as much as they could.  Exercising their restraint, they refrained from making a sprint to one of the various workstations.  Scattered about were some of the best tools the two junior Cytechs had ever seen.  Each workstation had a multi-lens stack magnifier, welding sticks, a myriad of implements for metal working on large and minute applications, a complex table sized distillery, the list went on.  Near the back of the room was a large wooden bookshelf that contained a multitude of jars and beakers each with a different color liquid chemical that was clearly labeled.

Cassidy continued soaking in the scene.  She had thought of a dozen ways to improve some of her existing inventions already. 

“This place has everything!  More than I could ever have imagined.”  Said Nandiel whispering over her shoulder as she leaned towards Cassidy. 

“This is a busy place most days.”  Said Tenowon.  “Soon to be busier, you’ll all be spending quite a bit of time here for the next few weeks.  Why don’t you all take a look around and get familiar with the surroundings?  Let me know if you have any questions.” 

Cassidy and Nandiel eagerly stepped forward at the invitation and went straight to two of the open workstations and began closely examining everything that could grab. 

Traz wandered off out of sight behind some of the taller counters near the back of the room. 

Trede didn’t move, but looked up at the three-cornered wings hanging from the ceiling. 

Tenowon approached him.  “That’s an interesting one.  Haven’t quite solved the thrust problem, though I think the contour wind swept design is sound.  We’ll get back to testing it eventually.”

Trede didn’t respond, he knew at this point he was in way over his head.  What am I doing here… They are going to find me out for sure, I’m not an inventor.  I’m just not like these people. 

Tenowon waited for a response, but could see Trede was in thought, and perhaps not about the concepts of contour wind design.  “Are you alright?”

“I…  I’m fine.”  Said Trede. 

“It is a bit strange isn’t it?  This place?”  Said Tenowon. 

Trede did not respond again. 

“It’s ok, really.”  Tenowon continued, “I remember when I first came here years ago, probably before you were even born.  The Cytechs hadn’t made nearly as many technological advancements at that time, but it was still a strange new world.  Before that time I had spent most my time in the mountains to the northwest.  It was quite a shock, seeing so many people working together, creating, building these amazing things.  Things that have never been seen before by anyone outside these walls.” 

“It is strange.  I just feel out of place here.”  Said Trede in a low and quiet voice. 

“It’ll be an adjustment trust me, but don’t worry.  It’s a harsh world out there, we stay cooped up in our little towns, our oases that keep us safe outside of this broken world.  We constantly battle back against the elements, just to eek out a small living, just to survive.  It’s a different culture here, one of opportunity, dreams and ambition.  You’re probably thinking you don’t belong here, that you don’t fit in, we all feel that way at first.  It just doesn’t seem like this place could be real or that it’s not fair, why pursue knowledge when others barely maintain life itself?”

“Life is barely maintainable.”  Said Trede.  “Experience has taught me that.” 

“Let me show you something.”  Tenowon stepped away for a brief moment and returned with a folded up map.  He set it out on a nearby vacant workstation and spread it open.  “Here, look.” 

Trede walked over.  It was a map of the entire known world, the massive single continent where all life existed, but it looked strange somehow. 

“This,” Tenowon smiled as he put his hands on the corners of the map, “this is a map of the of our world, it was hand drawn by two explorers who braved the barren lands to discover what secrets it may hold.  This was nearly three-hundred years ago, and you know what they found?”  Tenowon tapped a metallic finger on a few key sites on the map.  Each one was way outside of any inhabitable area that Trede was familiar with.  “Ruins.  Fallen structures, broken buildings, and many more unexplainable artifacts that still have us scratching our heads.  But what does it all mean?”

“No one even lives in those areas, the air whales don’t even go there.”  Said Trede. 

“You’re absolutely right, no one lives there today.  Said Tenowon.  “But, it’s clear someone did live there, the question is when.  This map is three-hundred years old, and these sites were already in an ancient state of disrepair.  Our oldest documents are roughly five-hundred years old, and even those have no mention of anything regarding these fallen cities.  It’s confounding!”

“That’s interesting, but why does it matter?”  Asked Trede. 

“You said it yourself.  Life.  There used to be so much life out there, I’m sure of it.  Some of these ruin sites are massive, they could’ve only been built by intelligent beings like us, or perhaps like Mr. Traz’ kin.  We just don’t know!  And these places, it seems like life used to be so much more widespread back then, but what happened?  Was there some event, some massive climate change or catastrophe?  What happened back then, and could life ever be restored?  How can we learn from the past to improve the future?”

Trede opened his hands and slowly shook his head, he knew he didn’t have any answers.

“That’s why we’re here Trede.  The search for knowledge isn’t profane, or a waste of time.  It’s for the benefit of the lives of the very people around us.  I can’t even number all the ways the Cytech guild has improved the lives of the people here in Sedenza, and that’s not even including our satellite labs in places like Jonin and some of the larger out-skirt towns.  Being a Cytech isn’t just about intellectual pursuits, it’s about making the world better.  It’s about finding answers to the questions that make lives better.  You don’t have to be an elite master inventor to do that, you just need to try… try and reach those goals.”

Finding answers…  That sounds familiar.  Thought Trede.  Maybe I could fit in here, maybe he’s right.

“So, what do you say?”  Asked Tenowon, his tone was encouraging, but not forceful. 

“Ok.  I’m in, I’ll stay.”  Trede said as he placed his hand on top of the map.  Just then he noticed what looked like human fingers sticking out from underneath a tarp nearby on the same counter.  What the…  “Tenowon, what is that?”  He pointed and reached towards the tarp. 

Tenowon’s mechanical hand quickly reached out and grabbed Trede’s before he could touch the tarp.  “Perhaps that’s enough of a tour of Lab One for the moment.”  Tenowon’s smile was genuine, but his grip was firm.  “Best to leave some some surprises for later.  It’s going to be a busy few weeks.” 






© 2010 Johnzo

Author's Note

Another rough first draft. A couple new characters are introduced here, mostly dialog and character development here. All comments welcomed!

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Added on July 20, 2010
Last Updated on July 20, 2010



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