Major Florenz Berger

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 7 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The formal diplomatic mission arrived a week after the landing; though the Risenton Council was offered a fact-finding mission of its own to Eisenstadt, all six declined in horror. The diplomats' arrival relieved Professor Adewole of most of his duties as translator; along with Ambassador Weil came a small cadre of Middle Rhendalian scholars. Adewole spent two weeks teaching them the Risenton dialect--some as he learned it himself--and by the middle of Juli he found himself more or less free to do as he wished. "I would very much appreciate having you on the island for consultation," said the Ambassador. "You still possess greater linguistic skills than the rest of the translation corps. While I almost understand the aristocracy here, the common people are near-incomprehensible."

Adewole assured her his fellow academics would soon be up to speed but he'd be delighted to stay, "especially if I might be granted access to the University of Risenton Library."

Councilwoman Lumburgher was in nominal charge of the University, and upon applying to her, Ambassador Weil was repelled. "I suggest you try directly, Professor," she said. "You have dealt with Henrik Blessing. I'm sure you can manage Imogen Lumburgher."

Chapter 6 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

"Keep a sharp lookout, people, guns away for now," said Berger.

"Oster," called a Council member, an irritable-looking man in blue, "what are you doing here?"

Peter's face veiled itself in stupidity; he touched a knuckle to his forehead. "They landed in the turnip field, sir. Asked me to come with."

"And you let them? Who are you to let a gaggle of--of clearly deranged people onto my property!"

"Peter Oster, move off," called Captain Winston. "These are none of yours."

Chapter 6 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Risenton Road ran straight over almost flat country; any unevenness folded more like a wrinkle in a sheet than a hill. As they walked along, the roadside became less rural and more urban.

Within two hours, they entered the City. The buildings here were far, far older than anything they’d seen elsewhere on the island, or in Eisenstadt, where old buildings tended to be torn down and replaced. Soaring buttresses, arches and magnificent carvings reminded Adewole of the thousand-year-old cathedrals and palaces found on the Rhendalian plains, decorated with chiseled mottoes only scholars like Adewole could read these days—mottoes much like the ones he found inscribed all around him. Even among these ancient and impressive structures, newer cob buildings and larger ones of salvaged stone squatted in the margins, their roofs thatched and their few windows unglazed.

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 5 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Adewole didn’t dare turn around, but he sensed the soldiers creeping forward. “Major, get behind us,” called Lieutenant Lentzen.

“No need for alarm yet, Izzy,” murmured Berger.

“Dark man, do you tell ‘em we mean to take ‘em in to see the Council—by force do we mun,” the woman called to Adewole. “We’re on’y four, but more are on the way.”

“Nay, that is to our liking,” the professor responded. “We wish to speak with those who lead you.”

“Totty’s the talk wi’ the noose round yer neck!” yelled the excitable man. “The Council square oathbreakers up right!”

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 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.

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