Cecile Faber

Chapter 14 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Eisenstadt, Oktober 13th

Adewole woke up. His throat burned inside and out, and his nose was rubbed raw. He lay not on the floor but on something soft and yielding. His head still ached, but only when he moved--and movement was difficult. His arms, his legs, all of him moved as if he struggled against a strong current pushing him down toward blackness. "Water," he croaked.

"He said something," said a voice nearby. Adewole forced his eyes to slit open. The voice's owner came into hazy view above him: a middle-aged woman in the blue-and-white stripes of a nurse, her graying hair caught back in a voluminous white kerchief. "Professor, can you hear me? I can't understand you."

"He's speaking in Jerian, he asked for water," said a more cultured, charmingly dry voice, a woman older than the first.

The nurse pressed a water-soaked cloth to his lips. He tried to turn his head toward the other woman, but something kept his head and neck in place. The nurse placed a cool, restraining hand on his forehead. "Professor Adewole, you cannot move your head, please stay still until the doctor comes and sees you. You must not move. I'll wring the water into your mouth--don't worry, I'll give you more."

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 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 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.

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