Henrik Blessing

Chapter 17 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Doctor Ansel set an armed guard over Adewole's room in Founder's Hospital this time, a chamber set up more like a tiny study than a sickroom, but with round the clock nursing and enforced rest periods. "Oladel, my friend, you've stepped in it," he said, "and not just with the brass." He launched into a scolding featuring variations on the theme you could have been killed, you crazy Jerian.

Adewole shrugged. "Siegfried, it does not matter any more. I have no intention of escaping. I did what I had to do, and there is an end to it. I shall stay here until you tell me I may go."

"I certainly hope so. Berger left orders to fill you full of needles if you so much as stick a toe out of this room without permission. I can't vouch for what will happen if you get loaded up with that much anesthetic, even at your size."

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 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:


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 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.

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