It was easy to see that the staff of the Factory-Cathedral had their doubts about their new boss. A lot of the people in Yu-Shan looked odd, but “god-blooded kid” really wasn’t one of the guises that gods used – and it didn’t lead them to expect much. Sure, they’d gotten tied up in projects that they couldn’t finish – but it was pretty unlikely that a kid would be able to fix that, no matter how promising he was!
At least the boy turned out to be methodical. A survey of the premises, examination of problems, detailed inventory… Not a bad start. He even hired some minor unemployed gods to get some of the more standardized ingredients stocked up again. He’d have to find most of the rarer stuff himself of course.
Charles found that the supplies of magical materials, particularly jade, were fine.
The Adamant stocks were a little low, but it was a VERY low demand magical material, since attunement could be annoying. He might need to restock after making the artifacts that required it though.
There was some Soulsteel… and it hadn’t been made from Ambrosia (which put it in the “figure out how to let people out” pile). At least it was a low-demand magical material. As it turned out, most of what was on hand was… well, those definitely weren’t human faces. Trying to date it was… also odd. The metal was about twenty years old. The souls, on the other hand, were easily several billion years old.
Interesting and somewhat scary and VERY odd. Very old souls. Apparently far older than earth – or the universe. Raksha perhaps? The stuff was carefully tracked… It looked like it had been captured during a Sidereal mission, and using it required prior approval from the Bureau of Endings. The Chosen of Secrets on that team had been quite befuddled by it. Soulsteel was rare enough, but stuff like this was even more so.
He left it alone for the moment. He didn’t know how to let anyone out yet anyway.
The starmetal was mostly ambrosia-made. It was very rare to execute gods nowadays, unless they’d lost their domain and somebody needed a scapegoat.
Well, THAT was just fine! Using ambrosia was quite acceptable!
There were plenty of basic components for the rating-1 and even a lot of the rating-2 stuff – and it would be at least weeks before anyone would even starts to imagine that anything could be done. It looked like the place normally ran six days a week, but only for about eight to ten hours – leaving a fair margin around the cool-down-and-recharge cycle that corresponded to “night” on Earth. Hm. That left some time in which he could use the facilities while no one was around!
Charles started planning. It would be best to stay under the radar for a bit, at least to start. He had some more charms and things to learn before he’d be ready to get into too much trouble. Ergo, at least for the moment, it would be best to study, make more artifacts, and get ready to deal with it when the serious questions started. Maybe if there was a good opening to deal with the gold or silver factions… He could just get THEIR artifacts ready fast.
- So high priorities for private, personal, projects – after his tools and Ixian’s amulet – were Rachel Cartier’s boots, Malakai Run-and-Gun’s personal transport, and Sal Montague’s stuff. That was Solar, Lunar, and the Gold Faction. They’d be sure to appreciate it, they were all potentially very good contacts, and they were all unlikely to say anything about someone who could provide off-the-record artifacts fast.
- Then WWW and Hiparkes – because the web was important (and because Charles kind of liked horses).
- Well, maybe he’d sneak in a few of Hiparkes official orders on the “unofficial” side too. They should be pretty easy.
- Lastly on the private side, the pirate goddess and Gustav Meyer – and Gustav wouldn’t be getting his stuff unreasonably early even if it was done early after all the others. After all, Gustav WAS bronze faction and Charles didn’t want to attract too much attention – so keeping deliveries for him on a reasonable timescale was sort of important. As for the Pirate Goddess… Well, unless she’d changed to internet piracy she probably wasn’t expecting her order to get done at all quickly – and SOMEBODY had to be towards the bottom of the list.
As for the official ones… nobody had put any special priorities on anything, at least as of yet. Ergo, lower-level artifacts first, simply because he was just starting up on the job, and those were simple, relatively quick, and would be a shakedown. Besides, he could take proper advantage of having access to a factory-cathedral to make lots of smaller stuff at the same time.
Harmonic Adapters would be best to start with. He only had orders for a few, but there were multiple orders, they were an easy start, and more were always in demand!
Ergo, for the first month or two, presuming that nothing came up, it was going to be lessons, run the cathedral, do private projects after hours, gather ingredients, and research things… A good thing that “running the cathedral” overlapped a good deal with study, design work, and gathering ingredients – and that he didn’t need to sleep all that much!
After that he could give their artifacts to Rachel, Malakai, and Sal and see what reaction he got…
He scheduled a few minor repairs – nothing too serious, but in an essence-forge as finely tuned as a Factory-Cathedral even the wrong shades of paint could fractionally impair performance.
The staff was pleasantly surprised at that. The kid had spotted pretty much everything – including the paint, and nobody had bothered with fixing THAT is eighty years. Had they actually gotten a boss who knew what he was doing? It might explain why someone with so few apparent political connections had landed the job… He could be older than he looked of course. That kind of thing was always hard to tell with god-blooded.
Since readying for a genuine production run would take a couple of days, Charles went off to look for ingredients. First up…
- For Ixian’s Amulet of Shadow Walking, a vial of darkness from the depths of a cave where the sun had never shown, carved with an obsidian blade which has tasted blood, from the heartwood of a tree hit by lightning during a night storm.
- For the Windblade it was feathers from five different predatory birds, a globe of each of the four winds, and a cloud from an otherwise cloudless day.
- For the Swift Rider it was horseshoes from a Kentucky Derby champion and a hipparion bone.
A good thing he had cash! Hiring some agents or unemployed gods (there were more than a few who were willing to help out cheaply) could handle most of this. Any Spelunker or minor earth-deity could get the vial of darkness. He could easily chip out a obsidian blade – and surely blooding it wouldn’t be too hard. There were storms all the time, so the wood was just a matter of finding a tree that got hit during a storm at night. Ixian had influence with the little gods, and it was his amulet; he could just put out the word and they could even drop by at night before anyone saw and heal up the tree for it’s little-god dryad. Predatory bird feathers were a little scarce – they were mostly protected species after all – but money (and the exemptions for licensed falconers and older artworks) would cover that easily enough. After all, he had put in his own little zoo out in the fey reaches, so adding a few more exotic animals was nothing. His Inugami could trap some winds and clouds for him with thaumaturgy. Horseshoes from a kentucky derby winner might take some explaining, but should be doable with a fairly simple visit. There were a lot of winners on stud farms; he could just have someone visit, get a horse to throw a shoe, and collect the other three when the farrier said “Oh well!” and pulled them off to fit a fresh set. Horses threw shoes, and got fitted with replacement shoes, all the time, and it wasn’t like it hurt the horses any or the shoes were normally worth anything. It was an odd souvenir to want, but not like it was hazardous or secret or anything; any farrier would be willing to sell them. A hipparion bone was a bit more exotic though since they WERE extinct. Perhaps a natural history museum? He’d probably have to visit personally. Hipparion bones were fairly common, and could probably be bought and sold readily even if it wasn’t like they could get replacements from the stud farm.
Thank goodness these were only low-powered exotic ingredients! Higher-range stuff was going to be a lot harder.
Ixian was more than happy to help out with the crafting of his own amulet, and sent messages to his Terrestrial god friends to watch out for trees struck by lighting.
Oooh wait! With divination, and lifeweaving, and his skills, he could probably transform a few live gazelles or something into live hipparions! They wouldn’t be genuine for magical purposes in the first generation – but a century-long duration was quite long enough and they would breed true. He’d just need a few bones to start with – along, perhaps, with some line about genetic reconstruction from tiny DNA fragments in it or something! That would make whichever god is / was responsible for them really happy though!
Well… now that he’d thought of the poor, domainless god… Off to the natural history museum!
The receptionist wanted to know what his business with their paleontologist was of course. He DID look like a typical kid.
(Charles) “I’d like to talk about some extinct species and about funding one of his projects!”
(Receptionist, arching an eyebrow) “Well, I’ll see if he has some spare time then.”
As it turned out after a call, Dr Valenti wasn’t too busy today, thought that education was part of their business – and that if the kid donated a few bucks, it was a bonus. They sent him in.
(Charles) “Hello Dr Valenti! I’m pleased to meet you!”
(Dr Valenti) “The pleasure is mine, Mr. Ward. Now what are you interested in discussing? It’s been somewhat slow today, so I do have the time.”
He was pretty dubious about the “funding” claim, but he was more than willing to talk about his subject and specialty!
(Charles) “At the moment, I’m primarily interested in the horse’s evolutionary tree, especially Hipparion.”
(Dr Valenti) “Fascinating creatures, with a wide range. I remember when…”
The doctor spent some time talking about his first dig involving the creatures – and Charles was quite willing to converse for awhile. It didn’t take all that long for the man to forget that he was talking to an early teenager – or at least to conclude that he was talking to a prodigy.
(Charles) “Now, essentially I have a project that I’d like to try; current magnetic resonance imaging techniques suggest an alternative approach; a reconstructive scan projected onto a protein matrix, so as to provide a good reconstructive model of the soft tissue structures. What might be called temporal imaging. To try this out, I need some Hipparian samples – but I understand that they’re one of the more common fossils, and a few of the more damaged samples can readily be spared for such an experiment. In return, I am willing to fund your next dig for – shall we say – six months. Plus, of course, there’s the new data from any reconstructions I manage to produce.”
(Dr Valenti) “That’s an… impressive technology, young man. Where did you find it?”
(Charles) “Mostly my own theories – but, if it doesn’t work, the cost is rather small.”
(Dr Valenti) “Well, no one is likely to make a fuss over a few samples. I’ll let you check some out under my name in return for letting me witness the process. – and, of course, the funding. You are serious about that, of course?”
Charles hadn’t quite planned that far ahead. Well, he did have a normal residence in Atlanta; he had one of the Inugami set up some complicated equipment, combined with some illusions, and some stuff that could burn out and smoke spectacularly. He could use a few of the Gazelles from his personal amalgam-making zoo. He certainly wanted to imply that this his “results” were unrepeatable!
(Charles) “Of course. I believe your last dig had a budget of 600,000$?”
(Dr Valenti) “Around 400,000, actually. I have many hard-working graduate assistants to help me.”
(Charles, pulling out a pocket computer and making some baking arrangements) “Very well then. It should be credited to your departments account, earmarked for your next dig, now.”
(Dr Valenti, blinking) “Your parents must treat you exceptionally well.”
(Charles) “Unfortunately, only my grandfather is available – but I make most of my own money these days; I hold the family resources in reserve.”
(Dr Valenti, startedly) “Ah. Well, I appreciate your donation, Charles.”
Dr Valenti was seriously wondering now… This boy – well, young man – claimed to be making enough money on his own to throw that kind of funding around on personal experiments? And still had time to study natural history and electronics in that kind of depth? Still, if he actually could reconstruct a soft-tissue model the technique could answer a LOT of paleontological questions!
Besides… At worst, he was up enough money for another dig without all the bother of raising funds and down an afternoon and few bones that weren’t at all unique or even unusual specimens. There wasn’t really any risk at all.
Dr Valenti got a few bone samples out of the storage rooms – and they headed off to Charle’s “apparatus”.
Charles’s little show basically involved feeding the specimens into the “machine”, a vat of fluids (actually an illusion over few gazelles of the appropriate sizes), lots of instruments, a gradual “reconstruction”, then a massive “power surge”, lots of smoke, and several damp and confused Hipparions about. The specimens were, “sadly”, “destroyed” in the event.
(Charles) “Dear me. THAT was not supposed to happen! In fact, it really ought to be impossible!”
Dr. Valenti needed to sit down. He was more than a bit woozy after that.
Charles got him a glass of water – and put the hipparions in the well-fenced yard.
(Charles) “Well, it looks like neither the original specimens nor my apparatus survived – but I suppose we’ll have to call it serendipity!”
(Dr Valenti, sipping his water and staring at the hipparions.) “Well. That’s… definitely the best word for it.”
(Charles) “Oh dear. I’m not sure I even want to try explaining this at the moment!”
One of the hipparions was looking his way… Almost certainly a minor deity peering through. The gaze was far too bright for a mere animal.
Charles made sure that Dr Valenti was where he couldn’t see and waved at it cheerily. It whinnied and nodded… He’d probably be hearing from that deity later on. He or she was probably a subsidiary under Hyparion these days.
(Charles) “Well, I suppose this gives the museum a new attraction! Animal care isn’t really my speciality, and I suspect that we’ll want a vet to give them rather a lot of immunizations before letting them come into contact with any other equines! They’d probably catch something they aren’t resistant to yet if they did!”
He fished out his computer and set about finding one, informing the man that they had foals, possibly with weak immune systems, so a full set of vaccinations and precautions against transinfection are were order. Fortunately, finding a horse veterinarian in Georgia was no trouble at all – and some money and a simple short-term secrecy agreement could handle keeping things quiet for the moment.
After all, if the man did start talking at the moment, he’d probably just get his license suspended for being crazy anyway. He could write it up later, especially if he wanted to work with Dr Valenti, who presumably had little expertise in live animal care.
The veterinarian was just as stunned as Dr Valenti, but he was perfectly willing to work on the hipparions.
(Charles) “Now, I think I’ll have to put this project on hold for a few months of consideration… Hipparions are almost certainly harmless, but re-introducing extinct species should probably be done with considerably more caution!”
Dr Valenti and Dr Winston were studying the hipparion very carefully. Charles figured that it was a good thing he’d done a complete job, right down to the genetic level! He quietly did some immunity-boosting and other health-boosting effects on them too – although it was fairly obvious that their patron god was keeping a very close eye on them anyway.
For someone who’d been without a domain, and so near-powerless, until a few hours ago, that wasn’t a bad suite of protective charms. Perhaps he, she, or it had gotten more help? Of course, as the species repopulated, there would be unprotected ones, but that’s how nature gods worked.
Oh dear. He really hadn’t thought this through all the way… In a week or two both Valenti and Winston – and probably a few more people – would be wanting to talk to him. On the other hand, he’d be needing a lot of odd things – and the museums and scientific research community was a great place to get them.
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part II (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice, Part I (ruscumag.wordpress.com)