A Prelude to Extinction (RP Thread)

Dr. Lughaidh O’Brennan sat at his desk in the engineering lab and stared blankly at the blueprints in front of him. He had been sitting at this desk for almost three days now, desperately sketching designs and running numbers. An untouched mug of coffee sat nearby, left there by Jane hours ago. Dark rings sagged under his bloodshot eyes, and the desk was littered with broken pencils and torn paper. A low humming pervaded the lab, but Lewy had long since grown used to the noise.

“It’s useless,” Lewy muttered to himself as another ball of paper joined the several already piled high on the floor. “This design draws far too much energy from the specimen; it’s liable to kill whoever we put inside it.” He chewed on his pencil thoughtfully.
“Though, is that really an issue at this point?”

“Ugh,” he berated himself, “Now I sound like Martha. Makes me want to drink just talking to her.” Lewy paused chewing for a moment, and idly regarded the bottle of whiskey sitting nearby. He wondered if there was still any left at the distillery. The distillery. He furrowed his brow and stared at his rough plans for the device, and then back at the bottle of whiskey. Would that… Of course! It seemed so simple now!


Jane jerks up from where she was trying to thread wire through a dissonance-dampener. She frowns in thought for a moment. “I’m right here, no need to shout, tell me why we’re going out?”

Her frown deepens as she takes in Lughaidh’s condition.

“Have you slept? You said you would! I thought that it was understood. Time will pass and wheels will turn. But without sleep your brain will burn.”

Jane pauses and mutters lines under her breath for a moment. “Even I can feel the strain. Best to sleep and try again.” She says.

“Sleep?” Lewy snorts with bitter laughter. “We can’t afford the luxury. This has to be ready, and soon. We don’t exactly have a large window of opportunity to pull this off.” His face softens as he continues, “Or… a lot of people to help.”

He sighs, and puts down his pencil. “And yet, you may be right. It’s probably a good idea to get some sleep before we head off. It’s a long flight.”

“How long? it’s not in your heavier-than-air craft is it?” Her thoughts tried to assemble themselves properly. Um letsee, mum’s safe for the moment, Dr Wintergarden promised me she wouldn’t leave the shielded bunker, I’ve spoken to most… Jane blinked again.

She was aware that Lewy wasn’t the only one who needed rest. Small repairs automatically ran when Jane was asleep, memories were sorted, shuffled and neatly filed or deleted by perceived import. Her brain was maintained and cleaned. Jane dreamed diagnostics, boring as that was. At the moment her memory was a little scattered, and thoughts were running around the same paths in useless circles.

“I’ve delivered the mail.” She blinks again and tries to work out if what she just said made sense. “and I’ve got the parts for the dam. When we next have time”

“Energy cannot be created nor destroyed.” Martha’s voice comes calmly across the room. “It’s a basic tenant of physics. If you want less energy taken out by the subject then more must be put into the system by some other means. I could still adapt the system for another energy source to be present as well. I think.” It’s not the first time she has suggested it in the last few weeks, but she maintains her calm as she raises it once again, certain eventually the humans will see the logic in her argument.

She listens attentively to Jane’s rambling. “Time is there for the taking. Using it effectively is the best thing to do. Sleep is not a wasteful use of time.” She returns to the original point. “Where are we going to fly to? And why?”

“Well I’ve noticed there are no volunteers to replace the last energy source you used.” snapped Jane “where do you plan to find more?” and regretted it instantly. First, being irritated at Martha achieved nothing, and second, if Martha had an answer to that question, then Jane didn’t actually want to know. She yanked on the braids of her hat in a nervous gesture.

“We? We’re not…” he pauses thoughtfully for a moment before continuing, “Actually, that’s a great idea. The device I need to collect is quite large, and you two are much stronger than I am. It’s an aetheric condenser - part of my old work in Germany. It will solve almost all of the energy problems,” he looks pointedly at Martha, “negating the need for a second… volunteer.”

He turns to Jane and smiles faintly. “Don’t worry, we’ll need to take one of the regular airships in order to actually fit the device into the cargo hold. That’s why it’s going to take a bit longer.”

Jane brightens up. “We could short cut through Hell if you want. I’m pretty sure I know the route, it would take no time at all, and errr…” Jane trails off as she remembers that as Lewy is human, they’d be stuck with all the problems that being human in Hell provoked. “Well, actually we could sleep on the airship. Save time that way.”

Uriel walks in, and briefly surveys the mound of papers that used to be a floor before he speaks up. "Back to Germany? I hadn’t realised the place was anything other than a smoking crater."
He steps carefully though the room, and rests against a chest in the corner. “I can hold the fort down here if you need someone to, although I wouldn’t mind seeing the place for myself. If it’s your old laboratory you’re referring to, I should quite like to see it again.”

“That’s the place,” Lewy grimaces slightly at Uriel. “I’d rather go into hell than back there, but personal feelings aside, it’s our best shot at making this work. And,” he grins wryly, “it might be good to have someone else along who knows the lay of the land.”

Lewy looks around the room, and his eyes rest on the box-shaped device that it is the source of the low humming noise. “But if we’re all going to go,” he gestures towards the device, “we should probably take that with us. I really don’t want to leave it unattended.”

Jane knows what that means. She carefully removes the various plugs, wires and links, then, being careful not to leave any more marks on the metal (in fact finger shaped indents can be seen where she’s done this before) she lifts the device and begins the awkward process of maneuvering it out of the lab. It wasn’t heavy by automaton standards, but it was so inconveniently shaped.

“I could hide it in the Royal Mail bunker while we’re away. It’ll be safer there. It’s delicate machinery” an edge takes a chunk out of the wall as she passes, belying her words “it can’t just be hauled across a continent.”

Lewy grins at Jane, “Just make sure it doesn’t accidentally get delivered somewhere, and we have a deal.”

Jane smiles at them all “And I can grab my bedroll! See you at the airship.” With a few thumps and angry yells from people in her way she heads off to the bunker.

Uriel pauses, thinking something through. "We’ll need to let everyone else know we’ve gone. You’re all very good at disappearing at strange hours of the night and causing worry for other residents of the camp. I’ll go and tell Blake."
He pulls a watch from the pocket of his shirt and consults it. “On second thoughts, I’ll leave a note on his door. Unless he’s still awake, but I doubt that to be the case.”

“That seems like a good idea, Uriel,” Lewy says. “In the meantime, I think I’ll head to the Taverna and grab a quick bite to eat. I’ll see you all at my airship in… let’s say, an hour?”

Lewy strides from the room, heading for Flint’s Taverna.

“I am here to help,” Martha calmly states. “If the best I can contribute is to carry heavy objects, then so be it. I’ll be waiting at the airship for our departure.”

Jane jittered. She’s dropped off the device, showered, slept, eaten, re-braided her hair, reset her tattoos and probably had arrived at the airship early, and that’s why the others weren’t here yet. Hopefully not too early. Infernonaughts told each other campfire tales of meeting yourself if you messed up the time frames. Infernonaught Johnston swore black and blue he’d come out of a portal in time to see his own back going in.

It probably wasn’t wise to use the time distortion in Vrill-space just to get a decent nap in.

Jane’s eyes darted from side to side. Maybe she’d hurt Martha’s feelings when she snapped at her. She KNEW Martha had those, even if Martha claimed otherwise, Jane had seen her lose her temper once. Scary.

Uriel finished off the last of his cup of tea, tucked his satchel under one arm, and started walking towards the mooring posts. He nodded to the few people who were awake in the taverna at this hour: a group of soldiers arguing over a map, a young woman nursing an infant. Let’s see how the continent is faring, he thought to himself.

The day seemed clear for now, but a bank of clouds could be seen rolling in from the west.

“I’m sure that won’t pose a problem for Captain O’Brennan,” he muttered, and quickened his pace, coming upon the mooring towers just as the sun cleared the hills properly.