The Queen Kateryn
It's been almost five hours since the group made their escape from the ambush that had been set up for them on the tracks between Ordon and the Royal City. Outside, it would most likely be a bit over five in the morning, but the blizzard had picked up again and the sky outside was darkened by the powerful flurry of slow. The entire group had moved to the locomotive, the only place in the train which was still warm and could provide shelter after the fight and breaking through the barricade had shattered most of the windows. The Locomotive was lightly illuminated by the light filtering through the furnace door, on the bottom floor, everyone had bundled up in whatever they could find in different corners of the locomotive. On the second floor Thad was sitting on the floor by the giant machine-heart, several tools, parts were around him and a valuable blueprint was open on the floor. He was still slowly and diligently working on his new Sentry construct, giving it the final touches as most of the others slept and checking on the instruments and gauges every now and then.
had dozed off at some point. When he awoke, he checked that the train was still all right, as well as the people in it. He didn't see Thaddeus around and didn't like that, since he thought that the engineer should be at least watching the controls and such. But then, Rill didn't know that much about trains and of course there was only one way that they could go. Either way, he decided to look for Thaddeus and after concluding that he wasn't with the others, Rill climbed to the second floor. Once there, he took his time to look around before approaching Thaddeus. "What are you doing?" he asked, merely curiously, not demandingly.
The floor was cold and hard and Zahrah
had moved to a chair and then given up trying to sleep for the moment. She found herself watching everyone else until the only person left awake was Thaddeus. So the escort had climbed the stairs and stationed herself not far from him, leaning on the railing and sitting on the floor as she lazily watched him build whatever he was building. She didn't rightly care at the moment what it was, all she cared about was that her mind had something other than their arrival to focus on. When Rill approached, she looked up at him but didn't say anything as her eyes went back to Thaddeus, waiting for him to write something in his ever present notebook.
Having tuned most everything else out, Thaddeus
sat hunched over his project, working as carefully and precisely as a surgeon in the midst of operating on a living body, although he looked something like an overgrown boy surrounded by an assortment of highly-advanced playthings. The engineer was a night owl by nature, but the stress of everything that had come before during the trip and the hours of intense concentration finally appeared to be showing in the bags under his very bloodshot eyes. It took him a beat to realize that he was being watched and that Rill had asked him a question. Thad blew a hank of disheveled hair from his eyes before sitting-up and turning to regard his audience. He smiled very vaguely and tiredly to both Rill and Zahrah, reached for his pad of paper to write A sentry construct, presuming that the Ranger would know what he meant by that. As he stood, Thad's joints popped as he stretched his lanky body as they tend to do when one has been in the same position for an extended amount of time, and he eventually closed the distance between he and the other man to show him the pad.
"And what are you doing here?" asked Rill from Zahrah as well. When Thaddeus showed him the notepad, he looked a little intrigued. "Oh, so you're building one? Can I watch? I haven't seen them being built so I'd like to know how it happens."
Although Zahrah would have typically answered, Rill seemed immediately distracted again by whatever Thaddeus had written on the pad, which she hadn't caught. Didn't bother her much and she stood, doing like Thad and stretching. Hers involved more fluid (and sometimes distracting) movements that put her flexibility on display. As her hands slowly ell to her sides again, she gave Thaddeus a smile. "Your hands are wonderful for such delicate work." It wasn't much of a compliment, but it was true. And the best compliments were the ones that even the receiver couldn't really argue with.
Eyebrows raising, Thaddeus looked from Rill to the construct and then back again. It was obvious to Thad that he was almost done, but to the layman, it possibly just wasn't that evident. Pad and pencil in hand, Thad did allow an exceedingly brief sidelong glance at Zahrah as she stretched,, then wrote It is nearly complete. There is the matter of connecting the power supply, then the casing must be sealed., then nodded over his shoulder toward the metal carapace on the floor amidst the rest of his tools and mechanical bits and pieces as he offered Rill the pad of paper to read. To Zahrah and her compliment, he cast a genuinely self-deprecating half smile and tipped his head in silent thanks, causing his unruly mop of hair to flop into his eyes again.
Rill didn't catch Zahrah stretching since he was looking at Thaddeus and the man's papers. However, when she spoke, he looked at her, temporarily confused by her words, though at least this time it didn't take too long for him to understand that she was talking to Thaddeus. With this revelation, he looked at the blueprint that Thaddeus had given him and scrutinised it. He knew he couldn't understand everything by far, but he tried to look for any familiarities so that he could ask more based on what he did know. He also took another glance at Zahrah since he realised that she hadn't replied. "Zahrah? Can I ask why you're here?" He glanced at Thaddeus then and arrived to his own conclusions. "Oh? Do you fancy him?"
She was going to allow the boys to talk mechanics, but the interest in herself made Zahrah look at Rill. His first question put her on guard. Some Daguerrians didn't like when a Majai overheard their conversations. Many times she had been forced to flee a thrown drink or another object because she stepped into the wrong room. But his follow up question made her simply smile and shake her head. How nice it would be to allow something as simple as attraction to rule her head. "As much as an amazing catch dear Thaddeus is," her voice practically purred over his name as she shot the man in question a look just under her lashes, "my mind was overrun with thoughts and I am simply here to observe and puzzle over his contraption. It gave me something more to think about." There. She had managed to compliment Thaddeus, throw off suspicion, and open the topic of Thad's gadget all in one fell swoop. That should do as an answer.
Regardless of Zahrah's reply, Thaddeus deemed Rill's question inappropriate, and, frankly, humiliating, even if it been hadn't intended to be so. His brow furrowed as he shot the older man a shocked look and reached to snatch the blueprint back away from him. At the hand of his older brother Merrill Jr., Thad was purposefully chagrined, albeit jokingly, in a similar manner on various occasions. Thanks largely to his inability to speak, the engineer wasn't a particularly outgoing individual, and, although he did his best to hold his own in polite company as he could, inevitably and by default, he ended-up being a wallflower more often than not. It was thanks to his breeding, however, that he did his best to mask his perturbation as he turned back to his mechanical project.
"Oh, okay," was Rill's reply to Zahrah, though he had no idea why she said what she said in the way she did. Thaddeus nabbing the blueprint away was completely to Rill's surprise. "Hey? What?" Rill looked confused and scratched his head as Thaddeus sat back down. "Oh, right, I suppose you might need that to finish the sentry," he then said, having thought of a reason why Thaddeus would need the blueprint back. He then waited and watched what the engineer did.
Zahrah wasn't as socially oblivious as Rill and when Thaddeus snatched the blueprints, her smile quickly faded as she watched him. Maybe he didn't want to be associated with someone of her standing. It made sense. The higher classes, while they would visit in secret, would never dare make any public announcements of their affections or intentions. Plus in most eyes she was little more than a glorified prostitute, even if her employment was so much more. She moved over to the man, reaching out gently and taking his paper and pencil, flipping the pad to the clean sheet on the back before writing in her careful script I apologize if you are insulted by the insinuation that I may be infatuated with you. She didn't want Rill to overhear her saying such a thing, so instead she held out the pad to Thaddeus again after making certain all her words were spelled correctly. Writing wasn't exactly her strong suit. That finished, she turned to Rill again. "So you have an interest in mechanics?" she asked, the lilt at the end of her sentence in an attempt to lead him into conversation and to demonstrate her slight disgust at the exchange.
While he looked like he was doing something constructive with the unfinished apparatus as his ratchet noisily and rhythmically clicked away, Thaddeus wasn't actually achieving anything, save for hiding his face, sitting slightly hunched over as he was, upon the floor. He became very still when Zahrah approached, then turned his head slightly at the sound of the pencil scratching against the surface of the paper. When she was through, Thad accepted the pad back, read what was written and debated whether or not to respond. As the escort made her inquiry to Rill, Thaddeus wrote, Your apology is unnecessary. It was I who should apologize to both of you for acting in such a childish manner., leaving it at that. Rill's question wasn't out of malice, after all, was it? The engineer sighed gently, set the pad with his response to the side, not wanting to interrupt the other two passengers' conversation.
Rill wondered what Zahrah thought she was doing, writing to Thaddeus. He didn't come up with anything, which annoyed him first, but when Zahrah spoke to him again, he decided to just let it go. He was quite oblivious to the underlying tone of Zahrah's question. "In a way, I suppose. I'd like to know something about engineering, though I'll never build anything. Surely I'm too old to start studying the art properly. But just learning a few things, that would be nice. It keeps the mind fresh."
Putting a hand on Thad's shoulder, Zahrah gave the man a gentle and patient smile. "You are fine," she said quietly, for his ears only. Then she turned her attention to Rill for a moment. "You are never too old to learn," she stated, agreeing with him in a way. She seated herself gracefully next to Thaddeus, letting him work as she picked up the pad, writing and talking at the same time. "I do feel often that people miss opportunities presented because they thing themselves incapable." She handed the pad back to Thaddeus as she finished her sentence, effectively holding two conversations at once. Your reaction was honest. I cannot fault you for that.
With a very small smile of thanks, Thaddeus tilted his head enough to peer at Zahrah through the fringe of hair hanging in his eyes. His gaze dropped to the pad, which he picked-up and read, before exchanging the ratchet for his pencil. The graphite tip hovered a moment over the paper, but Thad set the writing utensil and pad rest on the floor next to him, instead. He began work in earnest on the construct again, choosing not to open himself up to more questioning by Rill. If the man had a particular question, Thad assumed that the ranger wouldn't hesitate to ask it.
Rill nodded lightly to Zahrah's words but didn't have anything to reply. Instead, he did what he could and watched what Thaddeus was doing. After a while, he started looking more contemplative, as if he wanted to ask a question. Still, he didn't want to interrupt Thaddeus's work too badly, so he waited until the engineer seemed to not be completely immersed. "What all can that thing do, exactly?"
Zahrah had long grown accustomed to being dismissed by the male population. She sat by and watched, fascinated by what Thaddeus's hands could do. She didn't want to think too much on the earlier conversation. Her profession didn't allow the luxury of thinking too much on certain subjects. Rill's lack of response was interrupted when he finally asked the question that was floating in her mind and she sat back, looking at Thad for the answer.
Sitting up a little straighter as he reached for his pad and pencil, Thaddeus wrote in reply This model is primarily designed to raise alert when danger is present, then paused, only passingly pondering the irony that he was only building the sentry now. It is akin to a mechanical guard dog, if you will. He first showed the pad to Zahrah, who'd sat down next to him, then, after she'd hopefully read it, passed the notebook to Rill. Turning back to the construct, Thad's shoulders hunched again in a familiar posture and his slid his palms along his thighs until his hands reached his knees and rested there. The engineer silently stared at the device before him, mentally reviewing each step he'd taken to this point, periodically looking to the blue print, to make sure that he'd executed each instruction properly.
Rill read the pad and then handed it back. He was intrigued. "How does it know danger? Does it also have senses like us?" he asked.
Quickly reading the pad, Zahrah tilted her head and looked at the construct. She didn't really understand mechanics in the way that others could. Being Majai was a deterrent, but she was so much more in tune with people that the cold metal never really held much interest. But she was willing to learn and pick up what she could, even if she could never do it. Information and secrets were worth their weight. So she looked over when Rill asked his question, equally curious about it.
Thaddeus remained hunched-over and cross-legged for several long moments, drumming his fingertips on his kneecaps, as he considered the best way to explain what it was his mechanical creation could do. The young man debated whether the easiest course was to simply finish the construct so he could demonstrate its capabilities, instead. He sat very quietly for several extended moments before bothering to reach for his pad and pencil again. It can, in its way, discern its surroundings via a combination of lenses and sensors. Thus, it can identify matter that ought to be there and what ought not to be there both through visual and auditory stimulation. Before delving deeper into any more information, not that he had a great deal more to explain than than, Thad offered the paper for the other two passengers to read.
Thaddeus's answer mostly sparked more detailed questions in Rill's mind as he read it. However, he thought that the way in which a machine could discern danger was way beyond his comprehension and probably the beginning engineer, too. A simpler question formed in his mind as he recalled how Thaddeus had managed to fix the train. "Where does it get its... power? Somehow I don't think it eats like a real dog would." He didn't just hog the notepad but gave it to Zahrah as soon as he had read it so that she wouldn't have to wait long.
Although she didn't want to admit it, Zahrah was more confused by the explanation than anything else. She looked at the notepad and frowned slightly before handing it back to Thaddeus to answer Rill's next questions. She didn't have anything to add at the moment as her mind tried to puzzle out what had already been said.
When they were both through with the pad, Thaddeus gently took it back and wrote, This model simply utilizes a machine heart for its power source. It does not require the same power as this train, for instance, so its power need not be supplemented or combined, as the locomotive's does. With a wisp of a smile, he handed the notebook back to Rill, then focused on sealing the sentry's shell.
Now Rill understood even less than before. After reading Thaddeus's latest reply, he spent a moment quietly thinking. He thought his questions were getting worse. "Um... I don't know if this is a stupid question or something, but... What is the machine heart, anyway? Can that even be answered?"
Zahrah was so completely lost in the conversation that she decided to look at the actual construct. To follow the metal as best she could in whatever twists it took. She wanted to put out a hand and touch it, but that seemed a silly thing to do, so her hands sat folded in her lap while she looked over the metal contraption in front of them. Thaddeus seemed to really know his engineering.
It needs a name. Thaddeus scrawled quickly and flipped the pad to Zahrah after wiping his hands off on a well-used rag that probably used to be white. Neither she nor Rill seemed to have a clear idea of what he was trying to explain, but after she hopefully had a chance to read those few words, he went on to write, For lack of a better comparison, the Machine Heart functions, as it name implies, as the heart of the construct, yet it also the brain of the device. It provides its power. Of course, this model's operations are quite simple, as I have explained, so its power needs are minimal. He handed the pad to Rill with a small smile.
On seeing the note, Zahrah looked at Thaddeus and then back to the machine. A name? That was difficult. It needed to be a good name. Something meaningful. Something that sounded nice and was easy to say and remember. She tilted her head at the clockwork contraption and a thoughtful expression crossed her face. Something to do with clocks perhaps? It took her a long moment before she turned to Thaddeus and lightly brushed his hand with hers. "Tok," she said with a bright smile. It was the only suggestion she made and while she didn't expect Thaddeus to agree with it, there was the chance he liked the name just as much as she did.
Unsurprisingly, Rill couldn't make heads or tails of Thaddeus's explanation. Maybe it was time to let the topic go since there was little chance he could comprehend the issue. He didn't have anything to say about the machine's naming, so he just waited to see what would happen.
Thaddeus kept his attention on Rill, as he fully expected the Ranger to ask another question. When he was met with silence, Thad waited a couple polite moments, then flipped the cover of the pad shut. Zahrah then had the Engineer's attention, and in fact his hand twitched as if he thought a fly had alighted there. To try and cover his gaffe, Thad smiled with a touch of sheepishness and quickly combed the fingers of the same hand she'd touched back through his hair. The young man looked between Rill and the Escort and clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouthing, doing his best to simulate a tick-tock sound. Smiling warmly, he looked keen on the suggestion.
"Yes!" Zahrah said, a genuine smile lighting up her face. There was a moment when she wasn't an escort, she was just pleased. But that moment passed quickly. "Exactly! It seems to be something you can say as well." She tried not to look too pleased with herself, but it was hard not to be. Looking over at Rill, she tilted her head. "What do you think?" she asked politely, not wanting to leave him out.
Rill didn't have anything to say about the name. He thought it a little odd that people named things anyway. Therefore, he was quite baffled when Zahrah asked him what he thought. "Um... Right? How does it know what its name is? Can you later tell it that you rename it, or something like that?"
The engineer's tired face brightened at Zahrah's reaction, and Thaddeus nodded once, then held his hand out and gave a so-so gesture when she said he could also 'say' the constructs name. He gave a ha;f shrug and a little smile, then rested his hand on the robotic creature's body. He looked sidelong at Rill, who certainly seemed to have an unquenchable need to figure things out, then held a single finger on his other hand up to indicate one moment, please, and he closed his eyes. While in careful concentration, Thad used his special skill to speak to the machine, hoping to imprint its new name upon it and to stimulate the construct into powering up (Engineering).
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