Lee, from Warcradle, has updated us with a new tale from the world of Wild West Exodus... Can we trust Edison? Let's find out.
Thomas Edison strode down the wide corridor with a gaggle of students in his wake. Unlike most of the buildings in Payson, the central research and development wing of the Enlightened’s Creatives Department was lavishly decorated. Plush red carpet stretched the length of the corridor floor and Honduran mahogany wood panelling lined the walls. Portraits of prominent Enlightened patrons hung proudly, their size dominating the space all the way up to the tall ceiling and looming over any who walked beneath them.
“Ephraim, inform galvanics that I require the capacitor I requested over a fortnight ago in my labs by midday tomorrow or heads will roll. Eustace, send my best to Doctor Jameson at the Berkley Institute of Illinois and thank him for his correspondence. Tell him that I hope to take up his invitation in the near future. Henry, you have yet to submit your report on the latest modifications to my phonic amplifier. Make sure it is on my desk before the end of the day.” A chorus of bedraggled ascent issued from his overworked entourage, some of them making notes in small notebooks with diminutive pencils.
“Now I have business to attend to. About your tasks.” Edison’s collection of assistants and students peeled off, returning to their own labs and offices to enact their master’s wishes. Edison continued along his way until the passage changed direction. Instead of following the corridor to the main entrance hall of the building he stopped next to a door with ‘Workshop 73’ printed in black script on the glass panes set into each of the double doors. He looked around furtively. Satisfied no one was observing his movements, Edison took a small leather wallet from inside his jacket pocket. He opened it and took out a lock pick which he used to open the door. Checking again to make sure he was still alone, Edison pushed open the door and entered Gustave Eiffel’s temporary laboratory.
It was dark inside. Edison pulled his goggles down over his eyes and flipped a couple of switches built into the lenses. The light enhancement filters slid into place and the view of the room changed from pitch darkness to a ruddy red, allowing Edison to see where he was and what he was doing. He cursed softly as he took in the room and realised that it was mostly empty. Following his presentation at yesterday’s symposium Eiffel had already packed up his work ready to be transported back to The Asylum, his Promethean Complex in La Garita Caldera. Edison was too late. Annoyed, he began to poke around anyway, confident that Eiffel would be absent a good while yet. He had last seen Eiffel conspiring with Doctor Jean-Antoine Saule the biologist at the east gate. No doubt the spidery cretin and the Canadian freak show were plotting against him before Saule departed to visit whichever deluded patron had requested his services next.
Edison finished searching the laboratory area and found himself outside the room that Eiffel had converted into an office for his use while he stayed in Payson for the Eighth Annual Enlightened Symposium. Pushing past the double doors he found a neatly set out room containing several bookcases, a desk, a richly upholstered chair and a chalkboard. Though small it had space enough to allow Eiffel to move about on his augmented legs without difficulty. Framed on the wall were Eiffel’s baccalaureates in humanities and science and some space on the bookshelves was given over to a collection of artefacts he had picked up during his travels in Egypt. Typical of the man’s arrogance, thought Edison. Eiffel was only staying here for the two-week duration of the Symposium but any visitor granted a personal audience with him would hardly be able to miss his accreditations.
Still, Edison was glad to see that Eiffel had left packing his personal effects till last. Turning his attention to the chalkboard he found it covered in equations and diagrams. He was unable to read them properly through his goggle’s filters so reverted his vision to normal and switched on the electric lights. His prudent forethought of switching off the filters ensured that he did not blind himself in the garish burn of the overhead lighting.
Looking at the writings on the board, Edison saw that the diagrams were, in fact, rough sketches and concepts of design for various projects. He took out a notebook from another of his jacket pockets and began to take notes. There was a design for what appeared to be canal locks, only on an unprecedented scale. There was also a type of flying machine, a tunnel with a giant fan at one end and some metrological equipment. Eclectic, thought Edison, but there must be something useful in amongst it all.
“Found anything you like Thomas?”
At the sound of the voice, Edison jumped, nearly dropping his notebook and pencil. He turned to see Gustave Eiffel standing in the office’s doorway. Edison had been so enthralled with his note taking he hadn’t noticed the man’s arrival. Despite curing his defective hearing with Enlightened implants they had not been sensitive to alert him to his rival’s return, even though since he was crippled Eiffel had taken to walking about on six mechanical limbs in place of his flesh and blood legs. That Eiffel had managed to creep up on Edison was baffling and he made a mental note to begin work on increasing the capabilities of his aural implants once he was through here.
Eiffel had originally stood at a diminutive five foot three inches and the replacement of his legs had not increased his height by all that much. Edison had often wondered if Eiffel’s Constructs were always so big in order to compensate for his own lack of height.
“Jean-Antoine warned me you might try something like this. Nosing around looking to pick up any last useful crumbs of research before we left.” Eiffel said accusingly.
“I don’t know what you mean Gustave,” replied Edison. His augmetic hand beginning to twitch as his annoyance at being caught unsettled the interface. He shoved it in his trouser pocket to hide his alarm. “I simply came looking for you to wish you safe travels. I will be indisposed tomorrow morning when you are scheduled to leave so would not get the chance otherwise.”
Eiffel snorted in derision, standing aside from the door. He held out an arm, beckoning Edison to leave. Edison put his notebook and pencil back into his jacket pocket, straightened and walked out of the office. Eiffel followed him towards the Laboratory exit, his augmented legs clicking on the tiled floor. Of course, now I can hear you, you squat little rat, thought Edison.
“Whatever will you do now Thomas? All the brightest minds of the Enlightened are returning to their Promethean Complexes. Soon the only truly brilliant mind left around here will be Burson Carpathian himself and he will be returning to The Warcradle soon enough. Besides, I think he’d notice if you were to steal his designs.” There was an underlying mockery in the tone, but Edison simply smiled and turned to look at Eiffel.
“I’m not the fraud you all think I am Gustave. I am a genius in my own right. If ever I took an idea away from someone it was only because they could not have taken it to completion. Their failures would have consigned those ideas to history. Too many people quit when they hit an obstacle, I merely see a clearer path towards a solution.” Eiffel wrinkled his nose in disgust.
“Spare me from another of your dime store quotes for the ages. You have your place in our esteemed company as much for the work of others than of your own invention. Tesla was right, one day the world will see that you are not what you claim.” Edison stiffened as that name. His ire was really up now.
“Well, you’d know all about that wouldn’t you, Bönickhausen?” Hearing his real name spoken aloud brought a wince to Eiffel’s face.
“I mean it, Thomas. There has been a meeting. Jean-Antoine and I have made an official complaint to Carpathian. The tide moves against you.” Edison snorted and turned, resuming his walk towards the exit.
“Oh, well. If there has been a meeting I had best watch my step. There is no more fearful force in this world than a committee.” Without waiting for Eiffel to reply Edison laughed as he opened the door to leave, pausing for one last parting shot.
“Safe journey Gustave. The land outside our borders is hazardous, I’d hate for you to have an accident before you reached your new home.” With that he left, leaving Gustave Eiffel alone with his indignation.
Edison left the Creatives Department building and hailed a carriage. He barely glanced at the slack-jawed constructs that pulled the contraption. They grunted as he instructed them to take him back to his house in the residence quarter. As the carriage drew away and clattered towards his home, he checked his notebook. He had managed to get most of the information from the chalkboard down. He would have a couple of weeks to work on what he had found while Eiffel was travelling back to The Asylum. As long as Edison presented any breakthroughs to Carpathian before Eiffel could, then he could claim ownership of the ideas for himself.
He checked his pocket watch. Doctor Jean-Antoine Saule should be on his way by now. The Union had been tipped off as to his route. It was likely that none of the Enlightened would ever see the mad little man ever again. More’s the pity, thought Edison, he always was good for a new discovery or two.