Friday, August 28, 2015

Chemistry Lessons (1)

Silas sneezed. Delicate glass crunched. He opened his eyes slowly. Afraid of what he'd see before him on the lab table. The tube was ruined. He'd squeezed too tightly. Involuntarily. Too bad. Now it was broken. The four percent solution had spattered across the jumbled notebooks, beakers, tins and other chemist's impedimenta piled all over his work space.

No fire. This time. That was good news, such as it was. He set the tongs down and retrieved his broom and the dust-pan. The glass was too brittle to salvage, so he brushed it into the pan and would dump it into the rusty old barrel out back. One of the lackeys or minions would haul it away once the barrel was filled. Silas didn't want to know where they dumped all that toxic sludge. In his line of work one did not ask too many questions of one's patrons.

A putty knife picked up a good deal of the congealing white powder residue. Thankfully this had only been a four-percent solution and not something more powerful. It was contaminated now, of course, so he scraped the gunk into a zinn-plated can next to the window. The Distillers or Candy-Makers would be able to use it in their work. He'd need to go get some fresh stock to begin all over again. His work wasn't like theirs; he was constantly finding out wrong ways to do things, ineffective mixtures, dangerous side-effects, unplanned-for consequences, inert solutions...the list of failures and frustrations went on and on. The others merely followed recipes, tried and tested formulas. They were discouraged from experimenting or elaborating on what had already been proven effective and efficient. The overseers and inspectors working for the unnameable patrons were ruthlessly strict about such things. They would tolerate no deviation from the schedule nor would they allow for curiosity or investigation outside of the one dingy lab where Silas was chained to his work-table.

It was important work they were doing. The parrot that taunted him through his window always made a point of reminding him of that on a daily basis, castigating him in six languages and then praising him in sarcastic tones that reminded Silas of the Head Overseer. He hated that filthy bird. He prayed that an owl or a winged monkey might catch the rotten thing and twist its head off. But nothing ever happened to the nasty bird. Maybe he just wasn't earnest enough, not pious enough. He wasn't certain; religion had never appealed to him and he knew next to nothing about such things. His mother had joined the Soulless on his eleventh birthday after selling him into indenture to the Quadling Commune in an old candy factory. His father had gone missing after the all-clear was sounded and was rumored to have been killed then raised as a Reanimant, but Silas had no way of verifying that. It was a good story though, so he held on to it. He didn't see any point in attempting to delve any deeper into such troubling, unpleasant matters. It was just asking for pain and disappointment. He preferred to spend his time and effort conducting experiments with various chemicals, substances and materials. Where people remained an opaque mystery to him, the world of chemistry was a wonderland he thoroughly enjoyed exploring and investigating.

Silas dreamed in chemical formulae and equations. He visualized the various states and interactions. He had an uncanny knack for isolating new compounds or finding new techniques or refining existing processes. His masters loved him for his devotion to his work and for the results of his efforts.

Since his last breakthrough discovery his masters had promised Silas a special reward. He was to have an assistant to help him in his work. They would be here soon and he would be expected to examine and question the prospective candidates and then to pick one to work with him, to share his lab and his living space. Silas was nervous. His hands shook ever so slightly. He had been alone for so long, with just his test-tubes and his beakers, his chemicals and his processes that he wasn't sure how to react or respond to another living human being sharing his space, let alone his work. But then his masters hadn't said anything about the new assistant being alive. Perhaps it would be some sort of automaton, or a golem, or a reanimant like his father was alleged to have become. That made him nervous. He wasn't comfortable around twitchers and he was positively terrified of even the least offensive types of homunculi.

Silas became so agitated, so worked up in his speculation and ever-increasing sense of dread that he did not notice the young woman chained to the other work-table. They had brought his new assistant into the lab while he was asleep. She sat huddled against the far wall, silently watching him through her deliberately mis-matched eyes, scratching at the scabs criss-crossing her skin from where the Comprachicos had stitched her into a patchwerk-girl. They had erased most of her memories as part of the process of converting her into a living toy, but something had gone wrong and she was considered spoilt. So they locked her away with this wild-haired lunatic who hummed and muttered to himself and ignored her. It felt good to be ignored. She kept silent and waited for him to finally realize she was there. It only took three days.


2 comments:

  1. They way you write for Wermspittle with all the considered and well-developed context and the ability to show it from so many perspectives makes me think this kind of tale could be a good basis for a new kind of themed mini-supplement. In each supplement the short tale would be the central element and provide a source for the gaming material, with each character, location, item etc. either featuring or relating to the narrative. The tale could even be 'internally serialised', scattered throughout the work, with the gameables interspersed with it as they appear. It would essentially be publishing a short story with spin-out interactive elements included.

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    1. Interesting idea. I enjoy writing about Wermspittle, and drawing some of its denizens and things as well. I have been considering ways to deliver more 'gameable content' in connection to Bujilli and thus I've been building one of his Little Brown Journals as a pdf full of spells and things. This 'internally serialized' approach might be a good direction for us to consider as we move forward with all this stuff...it might even be done like a series of footnotes or side-bars...hmmm...there are several other ideas for how to do thais I want to try out now...thanks for the suggestion!

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