The weeks since the attack on Doctor Westbridge had been eventful for Professor Quinn. Assisting Captain Heinrichs, his daily assignments and projects, and the hunt for Unit 6 left the administrator little time to dawdle. Thankfully their search for the elusive unit was shortened thanks to their instruments detecting Dean Falcon’s horn.
Rather than tidying up that loose end the investigative clockworks found another mystery. Unit 6 had been attacked, his hulking form displaying blackened scorch marks when recovered. Quinn and others noted the damage was repairable and that perhaps the unit could identify his attacker, but Dean Thorne considered that a waste of resources. His superior treated this as an unintended favor, gifted by the unknown attacker, and suggested the meltdown should proceed without further investigation.
Quinn had to admit repair work would not be an efficient use of materials given the automatons intended destination. However, the mystery had clockworks and staff alike searching for some clue others might have overlooked. The administrator did not have time for another distraction and allowed them to continue their rudimentary detective work. He focused his energy on maintaining a schedule and managing the station.
Some would find these mundane efforts boring or unglamorous, but Quinn enjoyed this aspect of his profession as much as activating the portal generators. He was sipping his coffee and reviewing the mid-afternoon reports when the clockworks alerted him to two unexpected visitors. He was about to inquire further when two small figures entered his office uninvited.
The first was a young child who looked at the professor with righteous fury conveyed in his red-veined eyes. “Oi! Yew tha’ same professor done melted moi frien’?!”
The Professor had trouble understanding the assertion, though he assumed it involved the destruction of Avariel Falcon or Unit 6. He studied his visitors and recognized them from reports of the Aquila IX incident that destroyed Dr. Falcon. The child was Loki Gearhead and his companion was Beryl Strifeclaw. She gave him a nod in greeting, but gestured back to the boy.
The clockworks could have removed the intruders, but the Professor put down his coffee and stood politely. “Well, if you would allow me to properly introduce myself, I am Professor Neige Quinn. Could you be more specific as to what I have done? I did not understand your inquiry.”
“Oi! Noic ta meetcha, oim Lowkey,” The child tipped his hat, revealing a lit cigar in one of his hands. “Now wofor yew melt moi frein’?”
Quinn grimaced as the lad took a deep puff of his foul smelling leaf. “Please refrain from smoking in the Power Station. Even in an office I don’t like to take chances with the equipment or agitating the creature.”
Loki narrowed his eyes and took a deep breath and blew smoke at Quinn deliberately. Quinn remained passive, arms behind his back at the defiant display since the smoke evaporated long before it reached him behind the desk. With a final sneer the lad dumped the rest on the floor, which was hurriedly cleaned by one of the smaller clockworks.
Without missing a beat, the Professor continued, “I assume you mean Doctor Falcon?” Beryl nodded once. “I must regretfully inform you that was ordered by the Deans of the Lovelace Institute. The choice was not mine and I’m afraid that is all I should say on that particular matter-”
The Professor paused as Mr. Pendle was running up shouting the Professors name. The clockworks outside parted allowing the small man inside. He brushed past Loki to the boys annoyance, but the Professor soon discovered why when he read the report. He looked back to Mr. Pendle. “Does the Captain have a phone?” At a shake of the Pendle’s head the man turned to Loki. “Tell them we’re informing her at once, and forward the information to the other Deans if you haven’t already.”
As Mr. Pendle returned the way he came, the Professor turned back to the urchin, “I need a runner to fetch me Captain Hienrichs immediately. Can you do this?”
Loki snorted, “Oo? Me? Oi dun think yew kno oo oi am mista!”
“I need to report a situation concerning the spider monsters that attacked here early this year and she doesn’t have a phone.”
“Oi!!” Loki slapped his forehead in shock. “Itsy! Oi know ‘er!” He started to growl, looking at Quinn with renewed anger, “‘Ey! She ain’ no mansta!”
“Oh…” The Professor gripped his mechanical hands together in annoyance. “I can see that we’re going to have an argument every time we speak aren’t we?”
“Tha’s roight if yew keep puttin yer foo’ in yer mouth!” Loki reached into his pack and bit into a dark brownie, munching it and yelling at him between mouthfuls. “Firs’ you dun melt moi frein’ an’ then ya call anotha a mansta!”
Quinn shook his head, having regretting his own words as soon as he said them, but the inebriated boy was taking offense to his every request and explanation. Arguing only wasted time. What he needed was to focus the situation and the boy towards something more productive.
Tipping his hat lower he continued more subdued, “Please, I simply need to talk to the Captain and explain the Itsy situation as soon as possible. And you can either go fetch her, or get off this property and not hear about your spidery friends predicament?”
“Wot oi look loik a messenga boi?!” Loki fumed and finished off his brownie in one final bite. He started to shout some more, but with the brownie in his mouth the Professor couldn’t understand him. Still, it was clear the lad was refusing.
The Professor crossed his arms. Precious time had been wasted on this exchange, when someone else would have been halfway to Wheatstone by now, “Considering that I have no reason to share the information with you, and you care for Itsy so much, a simple request to fetch Captain Heinrichs should have been incentive enough. But I suppose you don’t care for your friend as much as you profess.”
“Are ya daf!” Loki said, his mouth now clear of obstruction. “Oi sai’ oi dun know whare she lives!”
The Professor winced angrily, gritting his teeth as he tried to reign in his temper. He was about to storm out of the room when Beryl moved towards the door. “I know where she lives Loki. I’ll take you to her.”
The lad nodded in agreement, but not before rudely tipping his hat with his middle finger and spitting on the office floor. The Professor ignored the spittle and grabbed his coffee, letting the clockworks clean the mess as he got to work. He suspected the portal generator would need to be primed.