Karl Deviatka

Chapter 5 Episode 4 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Peter sat down next to Deviatka to finish his sandwich. “Ask him what they eat here,” said Deviatka.

Peter shrugged at Adewole’s translated question. “Depends on what’s to hand. Ma does well with frog, rat or snake—rabbit and goat when times’re good, but most all our rabbit and goat go to the City. Most everything goes to the City.”

“And when times are bad?”

“Times’re allus bad. Thass what angler bugs’re for.”

“Ask him what an angler bug is,” said Deviatka.

Chapter 5 Episode 3 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The road warden and his kin asked Peter many questions in a fast patter; Adewole had trouble keeping up. The warden knew about the expedition from Dunalow already. Were they oathbreakers? Not as far as he knew, Peter said, since they hadn’t taken the oath to begin with, but yes, they did have metal flying machines as they’d heard; Peter had seen them himself. Adewole wondered how the warden had learned about them. Many couriers had passed them, but all at a fast walk not a run; none had stopped to talk, and none as far as he knew had seen the flying machines.

Chapter 5 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The autogyros returned with the support crew, the mission readied itself, and the explorers moved out. Sergeant Jagels and Corporal Wirtz took picket. Peter Oster followed; the two professors and Major Berger walked beside him. Signalman Oberman rode herd over Doctor Ansel, who was forever finding matters of high biological interest on the roadside, and Lieutenant Lentzen and Corporal von Sülzle brought up the rear.

The journey took them along what Peter called the Great Road, which he said ran around the island’s entire circumference: “They do say a wall once stood here, all round the island.” A pastiche of stone and bricks, many crumbling, made up the road’s surface, repaired piecemeal over centuries. Time had eroded what must have been wheel ruts; animals had once drawn carts here. No carts traveled the road now as far as Adewole could tell. Barrowmen and fast-moving people on foot passed them in both directions, most hailing Peter Oster and goggling at the expedition, especially Adewole. Those on foot—the ones Peter called couriers, who delivered small packages and messages—slowed down to stare at the party, often walking backwards to get a good long look. No one ever stopped; Peter said unlike him, they couldn’t afford to. “Couriers and such, their job’s in not stoppin’. Do I stop, I get work. Not them. See Kolbsgate in the distance?” said Peter, nodding toward a stone edifice far off down the road. “Thass that we go to.”

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

The owls finished their approach and took up perches in the branches of the willow overlooking the pond, each a careful distance from the other two. Adewole followed Major Berger to stand before them. The owls' feathers ranged from tawny to chestnut; black framed their large amber eyes, and a fringe of white feathers surrounded their faces. If Adewole hadn't known they were there, they might have blended into the tree bark entirely. The largest one blinked solemnly, while the two smaller ones swiveled their heads from side to side, scrutinizing the Eisenstadters. "Greetings, owls. We come from the land below and would meet the humans of this place," said the Major.

The two swiveling heads stopped abruptly. All three birds stared at him, then swiveled their heads in unison to stare at Adewole. "Perhaps they cannot speak?" murmured Adewole.

"We speak fine," rasped the largest owl. "Here you shall find t'is you that speak bad. We understand one another, but you mayn't understand t'unfeathered 'uns hereabouts, nor they you. Not easy, any road."

Chapter 4 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Dean Blessing waited in the hangar beside Minister of State Faber and the General of the Eisenstadt Defense Force. To Adewole's surprise, Blessing greeted him brusquely but professionally. "A momentous day, gentlemen. I hope we are all prepared for it?"

"As best we can be," answered Deviatka.

"Good," said Blessing, clapping him on the arm. He shook hands with Deviatka and then with the astonished Jerian. "Karl, Adewole, safe journey."

"Safe journey, sir," blinked Adewole.

"See?" said Deviatka as the Dean stumped away. "Not all that bad a man, really, but I'll be damned if I let him sell anything more out from under me, and that's a promise, friend."

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?

Chapter 3 Episode 5 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

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!”

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