“So,” I asked the Grand Poobah of our little group, and Holder of the Purse-Strings, “What is it that troubles you?”
Martien Pontecorvo, despite being the senior of our team, is still a spry old goat and quite capable of slinging bricks and mortar with the best of them. With the aid of the model I provided, he not only erected the factory and offices of PFV Nourishments, but also expanded on them to build the foundations and storerooms. Such is the energy of this man, and such is the perfection of my design.
But now we stood in the empty hall, him, I, and an assortment of cogwheels and metal parts rolled through the harborside doors. I glanced at the rusted hulks and shuddered, remembering Mr P.’s exulting over their being “tried and true” and “very economical”. No doubt Ms Flood had been down below sowing those blasted spores already, and she had been saying something about some wonder fertility treatment she’d found. “Buck-You-Uppo” or something like that.
I know there are cemeteries in New Babbage, and I suspect one has a resident goose, and said goose is unnaturally attracted to my grave. I kept feeling its great webbed feet trampling all over my soul.
But I digress. Back in the here and now, I rapped a knuckle against one huge metal shell. “What might these be for?”
“Tanks,” said Mr P., “One’s to be a cooking kettle and the other’s for storing, before filling the cans, you see.”
Oh dear. “So, what do we wait upon?”
“Well, I need an engine to hitch to the boiler, so it can work the driveshafts, and some more pipe to carry heat to the kettle, as well as…”
“Well of course driveshafts! I’m not having any of that electric business in here. Don’t trust it, and besides I can’t find a decent blasted generator anywhere. I have one, but the bally fool sealed everything up tight. Can’t adjust it.”
“So it’s good old mechanicals. Just need to lay everything out, work out where the shafts go, and the conveyor belts, and of course the machinery. All running to the same beat of the drum. I mean, boiler’s shaped like a drum, eh? Hahaha.”
I rolled my eyes at this, and looked about. Humming a bit, I finally came to a conclusion.
“Put the kettle,” I cried, “In the southeastern corner there, and the filling machine north of it; now this wall,” and I struck an authoritative hand to bricks in what had been the doorway to the storerooms, “hosts the machines that take and prepare the ingredients, including Ms Flood’s blasted morels, and the belt that tips them into the kettle… Um.”
“Clean water… what will happen with that?”
“Er. Perhaps some water tanks are in order… and charcoal filtration maybe…” Mr P. frowned and sucked on his beard a bit, scribbling yet another note on his clipboard.
“Right then. The can belt takes the cans on the anticlockwise grand tour through the filling machine, and hence to capping and labelling devices, before -” I gestured to the only opening to the south, “Outward Goods.”
“That reminds me… signwriters,” Mr P. nodded, scribbling away on his clipboard.
“We keep this west side more or less clear,” I explained, “since there will be those who wish to deliver, or have delivered, to the front door.” I shrugged. “Either due to infirmity, aristocracy, or because their transport does not handle steps at all well.”
Martien’s pen hesitated. “Quite,” he responded at last, jotting something lengthy down, “Now my dear chap, can I trouble you to do me a favour?”
“What sort of favour?”
“I need some labels made. Be a good fellow and scare up a design, will you?”
“Oh, of course. Any special…?” I swirled my hand in a question.
“Tasteful, of course, and Nutritious, and Product of New Babbage, not to mention Guaranteed Not to Explode, and of course expounding on, ah… there’s her scrawl… ‘Genuine Wild Mushroom Flavour’,” he concluded with a meaningful look.
I got the meaning at once, since I know Ms Flood, and she does tend to be overly enthusiastic at times.
As I wandered away down the street, I felt something niggle me quite severely. Buck-You-Uppo. I’d heard about it somewhere, not just from Ms Flood’s lips, and I could not help noticing that every time I worried at the mystery of what Buck-You-Uppo was, the spectral webbed feet of doom waddled about my hackles.