Saturday, August 15, 2009

The proposal, final installment

This is the last chapter in my proposal. This is where the steam punk elements come in. It was a blast coming up with the inventions. I did not plan on Von Swaim being OCD, it just kind of happened. I worked with someone who had the condition and it was not fun, believe me.

Chapter Four

The big clock in the foyer chimed seven times as Dr. Edmond Von Swaim, who also held the title of Baron, walked into his breakfast room. The room was located on the second floor of his manse and overlooked the street. He preferred to eat in the smaller room instead of using the expansive table located in the formal dining room on the first floor.
There were those who would say it made more work for his servants, as they would have to carry things from the first floor kitchen located on the back of the house, to the second floor. Those who would say such things did not know of the steam powered lift that was installed off the kitchen just for this very purpose. His servants merely had to enter the small room; turn the wheel and they were carried up to the floors above. It worked in warehouses and hotels, why not put the same technology to use in homes? It made for less waste and more efficiency upon the part of his servants.
Von Swaim had his breakfast in the room upstairs because it was smaller and therefore less wasteful. If there was anything the Doctor could not tolerate it was waste of anything. Time, money, resources and inventions; all were things that should be used to their utmost potential. Even his title was carefully chosen. He much preferred to be called Doctor, since it was something he had earned, than Baron, which was something that had been passed down generation after generation, because of something one of his ancestors had done. Just as the Queen was Queen because of something her ancestors had done. She was Queen because the royal blood ran in her veins. The same royal blood that was in Von Swaim's
A maid wearing white gloves placed his meal on the table as he waited by the window. The street below was just springing to life. The vendor carts were in place along the way and young boys held up newspapers on the corner, their cries of headlines lost against the panes of glass.
Von Swaim noticed a bright array of flowers at the cart on the corner. Roses, lilies, carnations and daisies swirled in a kaleidoscope of color against the grays and browns of the cobblestones. They would have to be from a greenhouse since spring was just upon them. The snow from a few days past was gone now and there was a definite feel of warmth to the air. Perhaps he should invest in a bouquet and have it sent around to the girl. It would not hurt to extend some sort of token to Pemberton after the near disaster of their visit.
Von Swaim turned when he heard the teapot placed and examined the table as the maid curtseyed her way from the room. Everything was placed to his exact specifications; still his practiced eyes scanned the table, just to make sure. His utensils were placed exactly one inch apart, his glass containing his special health mixture was precisely five inches above his spoon and at the correct angle from his plate. His meal, which was the same meal that he had every morning, was arranged exactly as he desired it on the plate and cooked to his taste. The teapot emitted enough steam to let him know that it would be the appropriate temperature when he poured his first cup. The only thing left was the morning newspaper and it lay beside his plate, folded once in the middle.
His staff worked hard to please him. They had learned what happened when he was not pleased. Heinz, his butler, was an excellent and demanding instructor and Mrs. Shultz, his head housekeeper, had a sharp eye. Their ways produced results, one of which was a secure position in the Von Swaim household. For the most part, his staff was grateful to be employed during these trying times. While life was pleasant for the titled and rich, it was not so for the common folk. Whitechapel was full of people who would give anything to have steady employment, even if it meant dealing with the strange idiosyncrasies of Dr. Von Swaim.
Satisfied that all was at is should be, Von Swaim sat down and ate his meal, cutting each morsel into the same size and eating it in the same order. Eggs, sausage, toast. Eggs, sausage, toast. He treated himself to a spoonful of orange marmalade on his last bite of toast and then quickly drank his special mixture in one long steady gulp. He poured his tea, added lemon and a half-teaspoon of sugar and stirred it five times, counting as he stirred. He took one sip and picked up the paper.
As was his custom, he started on page one and read each article, working his way from left to right across and down the page. If an article was continued on another page he did not turn to it, instead, he finished page one, then went on to page two and so on until he had read everything worthy of his notice. Despite the ineptitude of Parliament and the Queen's frustrating retreat from society, it wasn't until he got to the social pages and read about the reception for the entertainers from the Wild West show that his temper flared.
The girl had been there. Merritt Chadwyke. Lord Pemberton's daughter. He assumed that after the incident in his study that they would go into hiding or at least spirit her away to a sanatorium. He never expected them to take her to a party or that she would be a willing participant in part of the exhibition. Or course he must take into account the columnist's need to embellish things. He had been the subject of such embellishments himself after performing some of his “party tricks” for English society. The buffoons did not realize that most of what he did with hypnotism was trickery. It was easy to lead the willing down such a path. But the girl…Merritt…she was the real thing.
Unlike other mornings, Von Swaim dropped the paper onto the table and walked to the window. He'd been strangely unsettled since the incident. She had surprised him. It was not often than he was surprised.
The canary's release had been most bewildering. He knew the mind was a powerful instrument but in his studies the most he'd ever seen done was spoon bending and a saucer moved across a table. His pet's cage was utterly destroyed and it wasn't even the center of her concentration. What could she do if she really focused on something? What was she capable of? It was a question that he desperately needed the answer too.
He studied the sky as he stood at the window, hoping that perchance he would see a flash of yellow against the pale cloudless blue of the morning. Von Swaim was quite annoyed at the canary's escape. It seemed ungrateful to him. It appeared disrespectful and that was something else he had no patience for. Did he not care for it? Feed it? Give it plenty of water and a safe secure place to live along with a view of the sky from its gilded cage? The creature should have been grateful to him instead of flying away in haste.
“Your loss my little friend. I am certain you missed your warm cage the past few nights when you were out in the cold air.” He drew some satisfaction from thinking of the tiny bird, shivering upon a barren tree branch or perhaps becoming the breakfast of a cat or a hawk. It was nothing more than the traitorous bird deserved.
He would think upon it no more. The girl however, deserved more thought. If she thought she could prance about London and go to parties as if nothing had happened then she was wrong. Something had happened. Something strange and wonderful. Something that was totally unexpected.
She was the one. She was something that he'd hoped to find but wasn't sure of its existence. Logic dictated that she could exist and that she should exist but his hopes of finding it…her…
Von Swaim turned from the window. Merritt Chadwyke did not know it yet, but she was the culmination of his life's work. She was the instrument that would lead to his greatest victory. She was the embodiment of a powerful weapon that he intended to use.
He would be the next King of England and she was the means by which he would achieve it.
His breakfast was over. The maid, who always waited in the hallway just in case something was amiss, nearly fell in her haste to curtsey when he burst from the room.
“Sir? Should I keep your tea warm?” she asked. Her fear of making a mistake was greater than her fear of speaking to her employer directly.
Von Swaim stopped and looked the young woman over as if seeing her for the first time. “No. I am done.” He went to the back staircase instead of his office. “See that I am not disturbed.”
“Did he say anything about the noonday meal?” the cook asked when the maid carried in the tray and told the cook and housekeeper, Mrs. Shultz, about the strange happenings of the morning.
“He did not,” she confessed. They both looked in confusion at Mrs. Shultz. She, along with Heinz and Simon, the mysterious Englishman with the strange hands were the only ones on the staff who had come to England with Von Swaim. The cook, maids, and footmen had all been hired on as staff after he purchased the houses that backed up to each other.
“Proceed as you would normally,” she instructed in her strange accent and left them to figure out the mysterious ways of the Doctor on their own. She went to the window that faced the courtyard behind the house and watched as Von Swaim went into the building behind. Something was troubling him and she was certain it had something to do with the visit from the English Lord and his daughter. He had offered no explanation beyond asking her to dispose of the twisted and ruined remnants of the cage and procure another one for the tiny yellow canary's return. The new cage still sat empty on the balcony outside his office with its door open and food and water inside. Was it just the missing bird that upset him or did it have something to do with the Lord's daughter and the tests he'd performed on her?
She felt his strange disquiet as if it were eddies beneath the surface of the river. To everyone else he appeared calm and serene as always, but to one who knew him as she did…Mrs. Shultz turned from the window and went back to her work. She needed to make sure nothing disturbed the Doctor when he was troubled or they would all suffer for it.

The door was locked from the inside as he knew it would be. No trouble there. He possessed a key. He found Simon coming toward him in the dim light of the long hallway.
“Sir?” It was obvious that his man was surprised to see him here at this strange hour. He usually did not make his rounds until the late afternoon. “Is something amiss?”
He held his hands behind his back as if he were afraid to show them.
Von Swaim looked pointedly at Simon's arms and raised an eyebrow. “Why don't you tell me,” he said. “Is something amiss?”
Simon brought his hands around and held the clenched fists before Von Swaim.
“They have locked up sir,” he said. “Dr. Macmillan was examining them when we saw your approach.”
“Have you been keeping them lubricated as I instructed?” Von Swaim held his hand out to indicate Simon should precede him down the hallway to the Doctor's Office.
“Yes sir.” Simon said. “Macmillan seems to think it is the dampness that is having an affect on them.”
Von Swaim saw the strain around Simon's eyes and mouth, still he voiced no complaint. Simon had lost his hands with the swing of a blade in the Boer War. If not for Von Swaim's generosity he would be dead, or worse, a beggar. Fortunately Von Swaim had discovered him during his travels in South Africa before it was too late to help him. He'd recognized the brilliance and desperation in his pain filled eyes, but something more, he'd seen a man who would do anything to be made whole again. The trip had been most satisfactory. He'd returned with the diamonds he needed and as a bonus he was able to enlist Simon into his cause.
Macmillan barely looked up when the two men entered. He simply motioned for Simon to sit upon a stool and place his two fists upon the table beneath a powerful magnifying class.
The hands were larger than normal but that was to be expected since they were made of brass with each finger joint made up of intricate gears. The wrists were hinged so that they moved up and down and rotated side to side. Both appendages were attached by heavy cuffs that were screwed into the actual bone of the arm. It was quite painful, of course, since the bones had to be drilled and the gears attached to the muscles and tendons of the forearms with thick strands of catgut. In addition, Simon's upper arms and shoulders were thick with muscle because of the weight of the brass hands. He functioned quite well and kept the pain at bay with small doses of opium that was carefully doled out by Macmillan.
Von Swaim watched patiently as Macmillan carefully lubricated each joint with small drops of oil after taking out the miniature screws and reinserting them. It would be quite painful to remove the bands that attached the hands to Simon's body so both men endured the tedious nature of the intricate work.
Macmillan was another discovery that he'd come across quite be accident. The man was a genius and had studied extensively the anatomy of the human body. Unfortunately his quest for knowledge had led him to engage in the crime of grave robbing, and that, in addition to his great love of whiskey led to him barely escaping the shores of England with his life. Both men were great admirers of DaVinci and thus a partnership was born in the Lourve when they realized that between the two of them it was quite possible to bring some of DaVinci's ideas into existence.
“Release the fist,” Macmillan instructed.
Simon looked intently at his hand. For it to function, he had to move the muscles in his forearms. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he concentrated upon the task. Finally, the fingers relaxed and the hand lay, palm up upon the table.
“Keep moving it.”
Simon flexed the fingers, back and forth, fisting his hand, and then relaxing it until he was able to do so with ease. There was a distinct release of tension as all three men realized that the problem was now solved.
“I suggest two more treatments with oil each day,” Macmillan said. “I will see if I can concoct a lighter mixture since this damp weather seems to be leading to coagulation.” He went to work on the other fist while Simon exercised the first.
“That sounds like a responsible explanation and treatment,” Von Swaim agreed.
“What brings you to visit this hour of the day?” Macmillan asked. Unlike the rest of his staff, Macmillan held no fear of Von Swaim. Both men were geniuses in their own fields and both had no problems with using any means possible to come to the end they desired. Von Swaim had no doubt in his mind that Macmillan stayed with him because Von Swaim turned a blind eye to his experiments and had an unlimited source of funds and a well stocked bar. In return Von Swaim kept him on because the man did not hesitate, no matter how outlandish his requests.
“It appears that things may be happening quicker than I anticipated.”
Both men stopped what they were doing and looked intently at Von Swaim. It pleased him to see that they were waiting for his next words.
“I believe I have found what we were hoping for.”
“You found the Prism?” Simon's voice held a hint of disbelief.
“Further testing will be required,” Von Swaim said. “But I have high hopes that I have indeed found her.”
“Her?” Macmillan asked. A sly grin spread over his face. “That's a bonus we did not plan on.”
The man's tastes were perverse, another reason why he'd been run out of England. His crimes, besides grave robbing and desecrating the dead also included several acts of sexual perversion and whether or not the participant was agreeable or breathing did not matter to him in the least.
Simon looked nervously between the two men.
“As I said, further testing is required.” Von Swaim looked around the laboratory. In one corner a completed suit of armor stood, made completely of brass and steel with hinges and joints. Various weapons were scattered about on tables along with a collection of large gems cut to exact specifications. Another table held several large sheets of paper, all covered with detailed drawings. Von Swaim lifted the top sheet to look at a sketch beneath it.
“Should we step up the manufacturing?” Simon asked.
“Yes.” Von Swaim's finger trailed over the notes made on the page. “The warehouse is secure?”
“Yes sir,” Simon replied. “The adaptations you asked for have been put into place and are ready for your inspection.”
“We can have the weapons ready,” Macmillan said. “But the army. That's another thing entirely. The men you have are not ready and Whitechapel has been picked over for viable candidates.”
Von Swaim looked at Simon. “Go to Ireland,” he said. “I am certain you can find several worthy recruits there.”
“Shall I take the airship?”
“Yes. Take it. I want things in place as soon as possible.” He walked to the window that overlooked the courtyard. Bars covered it as it did all the windows. The recruits needed to know that compliance was their only recourse. That there was no chance of escape. Unless they turn into a canary…His eyes darted back and forth, hoping to see the flash of yellow that would say his pet had come home.
“The Wild West show has come to town gentlemen. I believe it might be just the thing to get the queen out of hiding. We must be ready when and if the time comes.”
He left without another word.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this marvelous series and serious LESSON!

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg