Buy The Bye is a somewhat imposing building that straddles the line between Market and Glowtowns, a one time warehouse turned weapons store and workshop and living space, it’s a massive metal shell of a building, windowless (save a few near the top of the building, and those are barred up sturdily), gray, and almost boring, it blends well into it’s neighborhood. Or at least it would if the entire front of the building wasn’t enchanted with moving billboards and advertisements proclaiming the sorts of things that would be sure to draw the eye of anyone looking for a fancy new way to kill something.
The lights flicker and change, like a massive LED screen only with far more definition and flare, and occasionally the illusions even turn 3D and ‘explode’ out from the building harmlessly, unless you have a heart condition and are a tourist. There are no store windows on the front either, instead there is a GIANT pair of heavy wooden doors banded in iron, the sort that makes one think of castle doors somehow, and in the base of one of them a more human sized door. Today the door has the word ‘CLOSED’ glowing at eye level, spelled out in flickering flames. Beneath that in cooler blue fire it reads ‘Unless you’re Mia, then come on in but knock first so nothing inside thinks you’re trying to steal from me’, which is hard to read since it’s tiny print spelled in flickering fire.
Mia turns up looking ready for work. This means she has gray coveralls on, and a duffle bag full of tools. But she also has a holster slung low on her thigh, because a girl has to have standards. And she really likes her guns. She spends a minute eyeing the animated billboards and finally notices the bit of text directed at her. Chuckling quietly, she approaches the door and knocks, before letting herself in to escape the lights and noise. “You in here Leo? You better have pants on…”
Inside the place is… oddly enough shop like. The room is vaguely rounded and fills about half the space available inside. In the center is an oblong counter with glass cases and an old style cash register that ‘ka-chings’ when you use it. Inside the cases are weapons that glow and occasionally… move. On their own. All of them seem to be chained in place. The walls on the other hand, those are lined with weapons, starting directly left of the door is the simplest of weapons, pointed sticks and cudgels, but as you curve along the shelves to the right, they grow increasingly sophisticated, by the time you come back to the entrance one can see locked cases with energy weapons and advanced armors inside them. The range of weapons runs an /impressive/ arc, from crossbows to mech mounted cannons and back again. The amount of death in this room alone could arm a small army. Well. “I’m in the back!” a voice calls from far away, a bit echoy, “Head straight in and when you get to the swords look for the most boring broadsword you’ve ever seen, there’s a door handle next to the blade! Come on in, it’s unlocked today!” high overhead in the shadows cast by the ceiling, there’s a soft whirring noise when Mia moves, as if something were following her. One hopes it’s just a camera.
Mia’s senses are finely tuned and she does catch the whirring noise. She glances around to make sure it isn’t something obviously dangerous, but she really isn’t expecting any trouble today. She moves through the shop slowly, exploring different options and expressing curiosity, albeit silent, before finally getting to the door in question. It takes her a while. She likes tech in all it’s shapes and sizes, and magi-tech is no different.
At the broadsword, she finds the doorknob, and lets herself in to the backroom. “I swear to god Leo, if you’re not wearing pants…”
The Workshop is something else entirely. If one were to read centuries old science fiction from the Victorian age, when such things were more or less created, this is what one might imagine Frankenstien’s laboratory looked like. There are tables everywhere, each sectioned off neatly by a walkway and some space, so that while the entire room is widely open, each has a defined location of it’s own. Glass beakers and bottles filled with mysterious colored liquids bubble and boil over burners, tubes travel from one to the next to the next, gases are collected, run off is trapped, a madhouse collection of chemistry chaos fills a large table to one side, no less then 3, maybe 4 ‘experiments’ going on all at once. Another table is covered in soldering iron, wires, scraps of circuit boards and metal, computer parts lay in neat organized piles around what appears to be a cybernetic leg of some kind, half disassembled, it’s innerworkings exposed for all the world to see. Another work bench just holds rolls of leather, a sewing machine, large scissors and razor knives for scrivving, another has gemstones and chisels and hammers, another wood with a similar set up only complete with saws and sanding stations galore. There’s even a forge in the far corner, it’s coals glowing a soft orange color, anvil and hammers and the like lined up neatly in racks on the wall, and near the bay doors that surely act as loading/unloading for the working matters of this place, there are Tesla coils, humming softly but not yet spitting their bolts of lightning into the air. Up against the wall where Mia walks in, just a little to one side, is a cot with a pillow and a patched blanket on it, there’s a sink nearby and jutting from the wall is a rain shower head, the sort one uses to rinse off in case of a serious chemical spill… only this one has shampoo and soap on a rope hanging from it’s neck. His entire living space is as spartan as his work space is indulgent.
For his part Leo is over at another table, this one light up from beneath itself, microscopes, small etching and drawing tools, various small chemical pots and brushes, weights and measures a plenty cover it’s impressive surface. It looks like a restoration station perhaps? The little man waves, “Back here!” he calls, waving her forward, “Been setting up my gear for today.” he waves a gloved hand at all that is around him.
Mia comes in and smiles looking over all of the preparation and tools. “Damn Leo, this is a nice setup you got here,” she says, setting down her duffle and reaching out to sort through some of what Leo has put out. She’s careful though, and it’s obvious she knows what she’s doing.
Once she has a sense of what all is available, she squats down, unzips the duffle and hauls out a metal canister about the size of a fire extinguisher. The canister is not simple looking though. It has a number of dials, gauges, buttons and doodads on one end, and the metal is cold to the touch. Various warnings are printed as well, including such classics as ‘Contents Under Pressure’, ‘Handle With Care’, and ‘Medical Nanites Do Not Ingest’.
“So where should I drop Chilly Willy here?” Mia asks, hefting the thing. She doesn’t seem to struggle with it, but her juiced up muscles are corded and taut. It must be heavy.
Leo points to the table, “Where ever you like, it’s not a glass top light table.” and in fact, he’s right. It’s a stone table that seems to be generating it’s own light, so she doesn’t have to worry about dropping the heavy thing on it and shattering the plate. Cause there isn’t one. Magic is all fancy and stuff.
“We’re gonna need the stone and the pages, I think I have a solution here that we can use to retrieve the lettering from some of the charred areas, and if there’s a enough I can cast a spell to sort of kinda recreate the rest. Like a uh…” he looks for the right word, “predictive algorithm, giving us the most likely version of what the pages said. Only slightly more effective because it’ll be working off of some magical mumbo jumbo you don’t care about. Also once I get the stone under the microscope, I can see if I can repair the flaws, maybe extract it’s information without ruining any more of it.” he eyes her, “We good with all that?”
“Makes sense to me,” Mia says with a grin and a nod. There’s a weighty thunk when she sets the canister on the table as gently as she can. “I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with ‘mumbo-jumbo’ so far. And ‘predictive algorithm’ is the most sensible thing I’ve heard anyone say in six months.” She fishes a few more tools from her bag, hangs them on her belt, and then gets a pair of rubber gloves as well, tugging them onto her hands. A pair of safety goggles rounds out the outfit.
“So where do we start?” Mia asks, taking the notebook from her pocket. She sets it on the table and opens it to the first laminated page, and then retrieves the stone as well, setting it in Leo’s reach.
Leo eyes the table’s contents for a moment and his hand shakes when he reaches for the stone. He pauses to eye it irritably and then stops himself, forcing a long slow breath. In through the mouth. Out through the nose. He says something to himself under his breath and his hand steadies, “I’ll handle the stone, it’s my area anyway, the pages are yours. If you can safely get them out of those plastic sleeve and,” he reaches out to pluck up a small clay jar with a thin clear liquid in it, “use those brushes over there to /carefully/ coat the pages with that, it’ll halt any other degradation might come and prime it for the mending spell.”
He lifts the stone in his gloved hand and moves it over towards the microscope, which is oldschool and made mostly of brass and copper by the looks of it. He begins turning knobs and gear wheels on the machine slowly before settling the stone in what looks like a brass claw designed to hold just such an object. “So what’s all this for again? Nobles in Dogwood?” he asks curiously as he seems to fiddle with the focus.
“No problem,” Mia says, leaving Leo to deal with the stone. “It’s a project for the Graves House in Dogwood, yeah. They need it for something, and I’m getting paid in tech access. Should be pretty sweet.”
She turns to the book of plastic pages and mutters aloud, almost as if an incantation of her own, “Plastic, no cellulose, plastic, no cellulose,” over and over. Then she takes the first page in her hands and an indistinct gray cloud swarms over the sheet, eating away at the laminated covering, leaving the burnt pages in as good a shape as they ever were, since being burned.
She takes a deep breath after the first one is done, cupping the gray cloud in the palm of her hand. “If I pass out while I’m doing these, don’t touch this stuff, ok?” She gestures with the little gray cloud to make it clear.
Leo eyes her curiously as she works, and from inside his bowler hat a pair of optics drop down, lenses made so that his eyes suddenly seem to enlarge behind them. “Huh.” he says, staring at the cloud in her hand from behind what are obviously a form of vision enhancing optics. “Well that about explains that.” he says before the optics slide back up into his hat and vanish from sight. He turns back to the microscope, “Not a problem. Seen what that shit can do, don’t want it anywhere near me.” he ignores the itching feeling that suddenly flares to life in his right shoulder, and the fingers of that hand seem to flex a few times of their own accord.
“Okay… so the flaws here are fragile. The heat didn’t do this baby any good…. Lemme see what I can do…” He whispers words in a language that was dead before the Golden Age, and he reaches down to lift an awl that’s almost needle fine at it’s tip. It begins to glow softly blue as he sloooooooooowly lowers it towards the stone’s surface. He has the attitude of a surgeon more then a scientist or maker of things. Hell, even his breathing is carefully even and timed.
Careful and meticulous, Mia works through a few more pages, but doesn’t seem any more tired than after the first one. She keeps up the conversation while she works, “Actually, I have a new project in the works, putting this stuff to better use, if it goes well. If I have the calculations right, it’ll be preprogrammed to close up any wounds a person has suffered.”
She focuses on unplasticking a couple more pages and then continues, “That’s what I need a sequencer for. I’ve got a pretty good formula so far, but I’m not ready to test it on humans yet. Worked great on a cat I found though. Poor thing must have got in a fight. Most of it’s ear torn off, and some other hurts too. The serum patched it right up. By the next morning you’d never know it had ever lived outside.”
Leo doesn’t answer or speak, he merely continues to mumble and sloooooowly move the awl about the largest fissure in the stone. It makes a sound like thin ice cracking on a frozen lake, and then he freezes up solid, not even breathing. A moment later everyone’s ear pop slightly and he lets his breath out, “Okay then.” he says, his cheeks puffing out a little with the exhale, “Okay then…” He turns to look at her and slumps a little in his chair, clearly trying to catch his breath as he grins.
“So you need a gene sequencer because accounting for the wild variations in individual genotypes without one wouldn’t make your healie juice functional on anyone with more then a…” He hand wobbles and tries some head math, “what? Two percent variation from the source material? Which I assume is you. Which means basically no one else in the world except maybe any twin you might have hidden around. You going to try to make a one size fits all kinda thing, or going for a more custom cocktail per customer thing?” he asks, his tone curious.
Mia works her jaw, the familiar stretch to help her ears pop and then she nods at Leo. “Damn, nice work with that. I won’t even pretend to understand the process at work.” She finishes the last few plastic pages and the cloud recedes… /into/ (?) her hand.
“Yeah, you’re exactly right. I think I have a process to make it universal, for one price, but then a geno-typed version to sell to the more discerning customer. Longer lasting effects, deeper efficacy, that sort of thing. I think they’ll really sell.”
Leo nods his head, “Why make a cure when you can sell a treatment?” he says in a very neutral tone. “Could be a good market for that, shit, you take something like that up into the wilds, some of those pop up prospecting towns? I bet you could clean up. Get someone like your noble friends to finance you, make that an empire in and of itself.” he grins mischievously at her, “Net yourself a little noble husband, get some blue in your blood. I see how your mind works girlie, eye on the brass ring.”
He reaches over to gently lift the stone from it’s place in the claw, “Now, to see if I’m any good at this and try to extract the actual information…” He moves it to the edge of the light table and starts checking it against a series of odd shapes carved in the stone there, before to long he finds one that it settles into, more or less, and lets it click into place.
“You’re not wrong,” Mia says with a chuckle. “Husband or no, it could be the launch of a new house. I’m excited. Hardly eat or sleep lately.” She is so pumped, she’s not even using complete sentences when she’s in the thick of it.
When the stone is in place, Mia checks the integrity of her rubber gloves, and then gingerly picks up the plastic-less pages. Carefully, like a surgeon in her own right, she stacks them by the stone and steps away. “Alrighty, fingers crossed.”
Leo nods his head and licks his lips once, “First, the stone. Then the pages.” he says this softly before he shakes out his arms as if trying to work some looseness back into to stiff joints. Something about the motion is wrong but it’s hard to place. He takes a deep breath and reaches out to place his hand over the stone and closes his eyes. His lips move quickly, words spilling out like a sports announcer on a radio broadcast, the spell unwinding itself from him and working it’s way through the table itself. The stone flickers to life, a light from inside slowly dimming it’s way like a weak candle flame before catching fully. The table then shows a few images, fast, unfocused, followed by a sound not unlike a gunshot and Leo is physically thrown free from the table, a crack of energy shooting through him hard enough to send the small man tumbling across the floor a solid five or six feet, a waft of smoke curling in his wake.
He lands sprawled on the floor in a small yardsale of tools and items, arms and legs akimbo. The stone in the table is empty of life and split into 3 completely separate pieces, greenish vapor rising from it’s hollow and charred center. Luckily, the pages seem undisturbed.
Mia circles, watching Leo’s process. She’s curious as hell, but she knows better than to interrupt an expert at work. It takes one to know one, and it doesn’t matter to her that their disciplines are different. But at the first whiff of danger, Mia can’t help it, her brain hits the plunger on her juice, and she’s supercharged, just in time for him to get thrown back.
It’s not just that she’s fast, it’s that her nanite serum messes with the flow of time itself. And when Leo is thrown backwards, she’s already in motion, darting back to get her arms behind him, and cushion his fall. They go down in a pile, a yard sale indeed, but at least he didn’t hit the floor with nothing beneath him.
Leo groans a bit as he lays, sprawled on Mia, and then moves, slowly, rolling to the side and planting a hand on the concrete floor of his shop and climbing to his knees, “Well,” he mutters, turning to spit something pinkish out of his mouth and to the side, “that sucked.” he grunts and starts to pick himself up, slowly, carefully. “I can’t see.” he says after a moment, going very still, “I-… I can’t see! I’m bli-” he reaches up to his face, stops, pushes his bowler hat up off of his eyes, “nevermind. I’m good.” he says, suddenly once more the picture of calm. He adjusts the hat and looks around, starting to pluck up tools, “So good news bad news time. What do you want first?” he pauses the stretch his back, which pops softly, and groan again, “That’s gonna smart tomorrow.”
Mia helps Leo to his feet and chuckles when he’s confused about his hat. “I’ve got a prototype healpack if you’re feeling adventurous,” she says, keeping a supportive hand on Leo’s shoulder. She stoops to help pick up tools as well, saying, “Well, I’m a bad news gal, so let’s start there.”
Leo shakes his head furiously, “You keep that stuff outa me. I… don’t like tech inside me. Got a thing.” he taps the side of his head with a fingertip, “Can’t shake the feeling that it all just feels like death inside living people.” shrug. Then he moves over to the table, “Bad news: The stone is fucked. I mean proper fucked. We’ll not be getting anything else out of it ever again. Good news: We emptied it before it cracked so I can make you a new one, sans flaw.” he moves over to the light table, tucking tools and odds and ends back into the many pockets of his apron, “So there’s that.”
He then leans over the table and stares down into the pale soft light, “Alright you big lump a marble, show me something new.” he says, reaching out with his fingers and splaying the tips against the stone. There’s a soft chime sound and images begin flitting across the stone’s surface, not unlike the magical illusion billboards that grace the front of his shop. “bythemakers…” He whispers softly, his eyes going wider and his breath hitching as the images keep flipping up.
“Fair enough,” Mia says, chuckling, hands in the air. She’s not one to healbot someone against their will. “I don’t have any consent forms with me anyway.” Her eyebrows go up when he mentions the new option, and she follows him to the table. Watching over his shoulder, she gives a low whistle.
“Wow… That’s not just another stone is it?” She reaches her fingers out, hovering over the images of blueprints on the table.
The table flashes through blue prints, which is fascinating. Because that’s what they are. Blue. Prints. No one uses blue paper to do detailed schematic drawings of buildings, they haven’t for centuries. Everything now is computer, magic, or just ordinary sheaf of whatever paper material is available. Not even noble houses do actual blue prints anymore, why waste the coin to dye paper /blue/ after all. No. The only thing that would have a blue print would be if someone found an archive of things from Before. “These are before the Rifts.” he says, his voice barely a whisper. “This!” he stops at one and points, jabbing with a fingertip, “This is a manufacturing plant. See the machines? Automated manufacturing! And this!” he sifts to another image, “That there? That’s a parkinglot.” he turns to eye her, “A lot. For a building. Designed to park large numbers of vehicles. No one does that anymore. Water lines.” flick, “Power lines.” flick, “Reception.” flick, “Material storage.”
He stops and slumps back a bit, staring at the images, “You know what this is?” he asks her, his expression awed slightly. “This, Mia, is a motherfucking treasure map.” he flicks through a few more images, “Well.” pause. More flicking. “Half of one.” flick. flick. flick. “We have details on the building, we have… have…” his voice trails off and he stops, staring at something on the table. Something on one of the images. He reaches out to touch something on the image, “That’s… not original.” he glances at the burned pages she’s treated with the mending primer only minutes before, “The handwriting.” he points from the pages, the things that are there that are legible, and then to the blueprint, where notations are scrawled. There is an undeniable similarity. “We have a building, a complete lay out, and the knowledge that someone’s been there in the last, I dunno, hundred years?” he then looks at the pages, “Once we’re there, we can find any place we want to. We have a map.” he taps the table. “Now all we have to do is hope that somewhere in there,” he points at the pages, “is a map to the treasure trove itself.” he shoots her a look, gnawing his bottom lip. “Don’t tell your masters about this. Not yet. Just… don’t. I think, I mean, there’s a chance, whatever’s in there could set you up without having to owe any noble family.” he looks back at the images, his hand running over the blueprints and the notations written on them, “It’s Golden Age, Mia. That’s what you’ve brought me. A map of a Golden Age production facility, and just /maybe/ a map /to/ a Golden Age production facility.” his grin grows wider as he turns to eye her once more. “The primer will be dry and set in ten hours, after that we can see what we have. How do you feel about lunch? I’m thinking something sandwhichy.”
Mia and Leo put their heads together and start to piece together the mystery of her burnt papers and damaged data stone.
December 26, 2409
Buy The Bye