Corporal Arnold Wirtz

Chapter 8 Episode 2 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

Deviatka returned two days later. “I have been waiting for you to come back, Karl, I have found an extraordinary thing,” said Adewole as his friend came through the door of Frey’s stable.

“That would be fortunate, because Peter Oster and I found nothing of note at all—it’s why we came back early,” sighed Deviatka. He handed his gloves and cap to Wirtz and slumped into a chair. “Tea, please, Wirtz, and something to eat. I’m starving. What did you find, old thing?”

From his friend’s polite face, Adewole knew he thought it would be some new folk tale or other. Now, Adewole would surprise him as much as Deviatka had surprised him that first flight in the autogyro. “Diagrams, machine diagrams, quite unexpectedly complex, I think. I believe they predate the Rising, though the book itself is handwritten, not printed, and looks as if it were bound not long after the Rising from individual notes rather than folios.”

“Not surprising, a printed book couldn’t be as old as all that.”

Adewole told him about the Library’s books. “The ones predating the Rising—at least a thousand years old, Karl—are printed, not transcribed. They had the printing press a thousand years ago!”

Chapter 8 Episode 1 | The Machine God | The Drifting Isle Chronicles

The next day, Deviatka and Peter left for their tour; Corporal von Sülzle went with them at Berger’s insistence, leaving Wirtz behind to care for Adewole. At first he thought it was a bit much, a whole corporal to himself, but once he’d filled two packs with his dictionaries, reference books, blank books, notepads, inks and pens Adewole appreciated Wirtz’s help lugging it all over to the Library.

Mr. Buckan had set up the rare books room as an office. He gave Adewole a key. “You must keep it locked at all times, Professor, even when you are in here by yourself. The books in this room are invaluable, irreplaceable, as I’m sure you realize.” A lightcrystal brightened the room. A sole stool provided the only seating at the long trestle table.

“I’ll send a barrowman to East Camp for a proper chair, sir,” said Wirtz. “You deserve better than that.”

“It does not matter,” muttered Adewole absently, his attention focused on a single book, lying on a goathair felt pad atop the table. Its binding looked like old books he’d seen bound in ostrich leather, its raised bumps a dark, dull shine against a creamy background.

Judging by the covers, the books spanned some three hundred years. Most were bound in cow leather, and he assumed they were pre-Rising. Some were bound in something else—goatskin, according to Mr. Buckan. He indicated the sole book on the table. “This one is particularly fragile, sir. It is bound in frog leather. I, ah, I should not be letting you handle it.”

Adewole pulled on his cotton gloves, never taking his eyes off the thin book. “I shall be quite, quite gentle, I assure you.”

“Your gentleness was never at issue, sir,” murmured the librarian. Adewole looked up at the nervous tenor in the man’s voice, but he had already left the room.

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 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 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?"

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