Erica wrinkles her nose and looks about for the source. *sniff sniff* Traversing the room with a few determined strides, she samples the air yet again.
“Oh drat, where is that smell coming from? smells like the fens in here” she says to no one in particular. Its everywhere – yet nowhere. Her shop is empty at the moment. She drops to all fours and proceeds to scurry about the carpet nose-first, searching like a blood-hound.
“I simply can’t abide bad smells, especially in my shop, what will prospective customers think?”.
On that note, the shop door opens abruptly, ringing the bell which she always thought to be too loud, causing her to start. Frozen like a deer on the railway tracks, she looks back and up at her visitor.
He’s tall, fair haired, dressed splendidly in good suit, and staring wide-eyed at her. Realizing that she has her head in the corner of her shop and her bustle-enhanced bottom on full display she jumps to her feet, quickly brushing and re-arranging her skirts into a more respectable state. A warm glow rises to her cheeks.
“Ahem, er” he starts nervously “I am sorry to have disturbed you Miss…”
“Oh please sir, no you are quite welcome, please come in.” she ushers him quickly inside and closes the door, sounding the dratted bell again. “How may I be of service?”
Looking far more comfortable, he settles into a calm business demeanour, though his eyes betray a wandering intelligence – distracted, always thinking. “I have heard, on the grape-vine as it were, you have been experimenting with ‘tubes’.” He looks at her expectantly.
“Why yes, though I must admit some success, I am quite at a loss to figure them out at present, what is the nature of your enquiry?” she glances at him sideways, hoping to pump some information from him. Whose loose tongue had broadcast the nature of her latest work? Probably her own, come down to it. She has been asking around quite a bit for perspectives and known to relax after a pint or two.
“I was wondering if I might examine and even purchase one, I have heard of such devices and am intrigued.” his eyebrows arch on that last word, looking hopeful.
“Oh, I regret to say sir, I have no working prototypes at present, and am still in the midst of my own experiments to perfect the devices.” She left out the pending patent application. The nerve! Though quite an innocent sounding question, it was quite beyond propriety to ask about acquiring one’s prototypes.
“Ah quite right! quite right!” His outward manner is one of calm acceptance, but the air has taken on a pall of disappointment. “Not for sale at any price then?”
“I am afraid not sir, it would be remiss of me to offer such devices for sale until I can be assured of the safety of my clients, though if you would be so good as to leave your card…” What rubbish, Babbagers couldn’t care less for their own safety. Still, a plausible enough excuse.
“An excellent suggestion, you will let me know when they are available then?” he offers a cold smirk along with his card, which she accepts reluctantly.
“The very instant sir, and if there is anything else you might be interested in…” she gestures about her shop hopefully at her various copper contraptions.
“Not at present.” With a polite but stiff bow he turns to the door. “A good day to you Miss Fairywren.” he steps out and shuts the door with slightly too much force, ringing the dreaded ball again.
She follows as if to catch him up but stops. “Good day, sir.” she says softly, far too late as he has already disappeared into the bustle of a quite busy Abney Parkway. She tries to identify her feeling – half annoyance and half dejectedness it seems. Business is not so good as to be turning away customers – not at all – but this little glass tube could make or break her future. Or it could just as easily be nothing.
She strides over to her desk, muffled clomps of her boots on the giant Persian rug that adorns her shop floor. Taking a small key from her bracelet, she unlocks the second drawer of her desk and gently removes a velvet bag and places it on the desk. Tossing his card carelessly amongst her papers, she begins to undo its string. A quick glance at the open window behind her, and she feels its prudent to have a bit of privacy. She quickly locks the doors and draws the blinds – closing for the day. Sitting back down and turning up her desk lamp, she unties the string and reveals the curious device.
She turns it over and over in her hands, examining its detail, its precision. She calls to mind the curious effect, the whine, the blue glow and wonders – what have I created. She has discovered, after some apparently less than discreet enquiries, that this is not the first device of its kind, though extremely rare. What makes it special is its exacting construction and curious effects when a current is applied. Her I-V plots fill her head, still a complete mystery after a week of experimenting and data collection.
Holding it by the socket, she flicks the glass with a fingernail. It hums a sweet note, an ‘A’ unless she is much mistaken, remembering her pianoforte lessons. She looks closely and sees something new. The filament, partially concealed in the metal mesh that surrounds it, is vibrating. Interesting. It appears to resonate with the glass, could this be…?
She opens another drawer of her desk and produces her current notebook. Dipping a pen into the ink-well she is about to write, and stops. The nib is mere millimetres from the page surface. A tiny drop of black ink drops from her saturated pen onto the paper, making a horrible blot. She seems not to care, her mind lost in thought.
With this visitor still fresh in her mind, she revises her plan and thinks it more prudent to not record her discovery at this time. A mild wave of paranoia visits her mind and she looks about for hiding places.