Oladel Adewole

Chapter 4 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Juni 15th: Expedition Day

To Adewole, the early morning darkness possessed a surface tension holding back the sun. Even the lamp light in Mrs. Trudge's dining room struggled against it. The room felt encapsulated and small, and Adewole fidgeted. "Mrs. Trudge," he said, "you did not need to get up before dawn and see us off."

"How was I to stay in bed, knowing two of my lodgers are about to make history!" she exclaimed, shoveling fish onto his plate. "No, no, no, if you're going to risk your lives in those flimsy mechanical whirlybirds, you'll do it with food on your stomachs." Adewole winced at the word "flimsy."

Deviatka saluted him over an enormous pile of fried potatoes. "Eat up, old thing! Death is optional, but Mrs. Trudge's breakfast is inevitable."

On the center of the table between the toast rack and jam pots lay the newspaper. A photograph of the delegation press conference took up most of the paper above the fold, but for the masthead and a six-column headline screaming:

EXPEDITION DAY!!!

Explorers Depart for Dangerous Journey!

The Question: Is There Civilization on Inselmond?

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The group flew every day after that.

The final practice day before the great expedition, the flight crew loaded sandbags onto all five aircraft to simulate their cargo. The autogyros took off in formation, Hildy Goldstein on point, all passengers aboard and black mercury in the boilers.

They flew over Lake Sherrat, low enough to make white caps on the water and to see the ferry passengers wave their hats. When they flew over the University, Adewole realized the yellow-and-red brick courtyards taken together made a larger pattern, a checkerboarded star. Was it intentional? Adewole wondered how many patterns could only be seen from the air.

The formation took no chances and skirted the financial district's steel towers, though they did fly into the Drift, beneath the island itself. Adewole did his best to stare up through the spinning rotors to study its underside, but he couldn't make out much detail.

Chapter 3 Episode 4 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Trinke snapped to even greater attention--Adewole hadn't thought it possible--and opened his notebook. "Minister Faber, you have a nine o'clock--"

"The Chancellor can wait for me for once, Trinke, the Founder knows I've waited for him enough times. Will my skirts be a hindrance, Miss Goldstein?"

They were not. The field crew tucked Faber into the two-seater autogyro seat and dressed her in goggles, gloves and a canvas duster hobbling her skirts enough to keep them out of the way. Hildy Goldstein took the pilot's seat behind her. The engine roared to life; smoke and steam billowed around it. Hildy opened the throttle, and the craft shot down the tarmac and wobbled into the air, rotors whirring.

Chapter 3 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Adewole came into the first briefing the next day not knowing what to expect. "I have never served in the military," he said to the officers ringed round the table. "Jero's is entirely professional. If you join, you join for life, and it was never my ambition. I think I have hit someone perhaps twice."

"Not much for you to do in the hitting line, Professor," said Major Berger, an older, mustachioed man; cheerful lines offset his naturally melancholy eyes. "You will be translating. With your background in anthropology and languages you're our linchpin. We don't know who we're facing up there, but we face someone. Miss Goldstein's private report gives us strong reason to believe the island is inhabited. And…" He cleared his throat. "We have some confidential intelligence I trust the officers and gentlemen at this table will consider privileged: not only are there people on Inselmond, some are aware of our existence. More than that, I cannot say. Yes, Quartermaster?"

Chapter 3 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Dean Henrik Blessing had already come round his desk and stood now before the thankfully glowing grate. He was a round man, almost short. A bulbous nose dominated his florid face, over a small mouth made smaller by a great mop of white mustache, which just cleared his upper lip. Small, pale eyes glowered beneath the most alarming eyebrows Adewole had ever seen; they rose in great white wings against his forehead—itself a majestic gleam expanding right on past where his hair once had been. Blessing dressed to the last precise detail; his heavy watch chain traced a perfect arc across his paunch, his heavy gold cufflinks and stickpin reflected the fire, and expensive tailoring marked his well-cut clothes. The man always looked as if he had money, perhaps more money than the Dean of a major university might ordinarily possess, and he liked to display it.

Blessing shook Deviatka’s hand. Adewole extended his, but the Dean ignored it and began the tirade Adewole could practically recite by heart. “I don’t mind telling you, young man, that if it weren’t for stupid Hubert Mueller flinging his money all over town you wouldn’t be here. I’ve said it before—why couldn’t the man have endowed an engineering chair! A humanities chair. Waste of money! Told him so to his face just before he died. ‘Hubert,’ I said, ‘if not the sciences, then music,’ I said. Now, music! That has utility. It is altogether a wholesome, orderly, mathematical thing, music, and I would have supported him even though the money would have gone to the Conservatory and not to the University. But no, he wouldn’t listen, and now I have to fill the Mueller Chair or lose the money, and I don’t mind telling you, young man, that losing the money would be even worse than gaining another daydreaming twaddle merchant, spouting nonsense and bumping into things while the rest of us get things done!”

Chapter 3 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Mai 7th

Adewole's last trunk—the one bearing the precious green coffee beans—had still not arrived. He should have put them in the one with the tricky new combination lock, the one full of books he might just as easily have left behind in favor of the coffee. How was he to face Dean Blessing this morning without coffee? He drank tea at breakfast instead, politely keeping himself from making faces in front of his landlady Mrs. Trudge, whose outline mimicked the teapot’s. Eisenstadters believed tea to be more refreshing, altogether more restorative than coffee, but Adewole couldn’t figure it himself.

Mrs. Trudge set a good table otherwise, including on this morning: mushrooms fried in butter; fresh little fish straight from Lake Sherrat; toasted bread; and an oaten porridge—something he’d never eaten before, millet or rice porridges being preferred in Jero. “Eggs?” Adewole said hopefully.

“Eggs, sir!” said Mrs. Trudge in a whispered shriek. She took a calming gulp of tea. “You’re a foreigner, Professor Adewole, and as such I can’t expect you to know all our ways. Dear Professor Deviatka,”she appealed to Karl, “please, make sure he doesn’t ask for—eggs–in front of strangers.”

“Don’t ask for eggs in front of strangers, Ollie,” admonished his friend.

Chapter 2 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Adewole's fingers stopped playing with the kikoi's fringe; his hands dropped into his lap, stilled by the grief flowing so close beneath his skin. "You are well-briefed, ma'am," he said as the ache spread in his chest. "I was not sure I could properly care for Ofira in a foreign country, and with our mother dead I could not leave her. I was going to wait until I had gotten tenure, and she was older." He paused and reached into his suit jacket. Inside his wallet he found a fading photograph: Ofira's bright little face. He turned it to face the Minister. "She would have loved Eisenstadt. She loved birds, and talking ones would have…" The ache nearly won, and he stopped to recollect himself, replacing her picture in his wallet. "River fever took her from me last year. She was only nine."

"You've never told me any of this," said Deviatka.

"It is hard for me to speak of it," murmured Adewole. "I have neither tenure nor sister now. The Creator, I suppose, took away my obstacles. She has played a fine joke on me."

Chapter 2 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

"I thought perhaps you might prefer it to tea, Professor," came a charming, dry voice from the main door. It belonged to a woman of his mother's generation; she stood ramrod straight and elegant in a rich, dark blue business dress, her silver hair piled atop her head. Pinchnose reading glasses dangled from a handsome beaded chain round her neck. Piercing blue eyes fixed themselves on the two men.

Adewole and Deviatka stood, the one hasty, the other languid. "Minister Cecile Faber, may I introduce Professor Oladel Adewole of Jero, current holder of the University of Eisenstadt's Mueller Chair in the Humanities," said Deviatka.

Adewole extended his hand; the woman took it in a dry, firm grip and gave it a decided shake. "Have you had coffee?" she said in Jerian.

Adewole laughed, delighted. "That is how we say 'how do you do' in Jerian, Deviatka--we ask one another if we have had coffee. No, Madam Faber, I have not had coffee in many a day."

"Then please," she said, indicating the couches.

Chapter 2 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Hammering at his bedroom door awoke Adewole the next morning. "Adewole! Adewole! Ollie, old thing, get up, the most extraordinary thing has happened!"

Grumbling and sleepy, Adewole shrugged a robe over his nightshirt and shuffled into the sitting room on his long, bare feet. "Please do not call me 'Ollie,' Deviatka. 'Old thing' if you must, but never the other. Especially first thing in the morning before I have had my coffee--oh, damn." He scratched the curls sprouting on his head and peered at the early morning light in the window; Ofira had called him "Ollie," but no one else. "Anyway, do not call me that."

"I knew it would get you up," said the agitated Deviatka. He flourished a newspaper in the other man's face. "Look!"

Chapter 1 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Adewole continued up the stairs to the sitting room he shared with another young professor, Karl Deviatka. Though Deviatka was a newly-made full professor in engineering--the University's most celebrated department--and Adewole held a chair in the most neglected department, they'd become fast friends almost from the moment of their meeting here at Mrs. Trudge's house.

"Do you have a few pfennigs to buy standing-room tickets to the Opera House, old thing?" called Deviatka from his bedroom.

Adewole opened the case of his two-stringed Jerian bansu. "Why?"

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