New Babbage is a city of turmoil that undercuts its own efficiency at every turn. That was how Professor Quinn was tempted to begin dictating his five month report to Dean Thorne, but he did not want to appear antagonistic towards his new home. Instead he dictated to Mr. Pendle, “Dean Thorne, I hope that you are in good health when you receive this repor-”
“Are you paying by the letter?” Mr. Pendle chimed in bringing the Professors oration to a sudden stop.
At the little man’s mischievous grin Quinn took a calming breath before continuing, “I’m not paying ‘anything’ for correspondence between this Lovelace institutions, but I see your point about brevity.”
Ordinarily, Mr. Pendle would request the Professor come back with a prewritten letter that he could edit. However, like the late Dr. Falcon, Quinn found it difficult to hold a pen or type accurately with his replacement appendages.
“What I need is a list of things necessary to the report since the start of my residency,” Quinn said with a growing smile. “Starting with that first month of renewing service and almost achieving the levels provided under Doctor Falcon. But without mentioning the minor inconveniences along the way.”
Mr. Pendle nodded in agreement. They both remembered the incidents of the past five months clearly. Shortly after he arrived some lunatic tried to paint-bomb their roof purple. After Quinn and the clockworks thwarted his ridiculous (and mostly harmless) attempts, the Professor had seen no danger in allowing some urchins to set up a lemon-grade stand at the entrance. At first he had thought they had mispronounced a lemonade stand, but he was mistaken. Their moonshine lemonade made people sick, and worse they were selling explosives found at the docks. That setback had been nothing though compared to the repairs from the mole men. Some of their neighbors homes disappeared in a single night from that attack. It was easily the worst of the events until the attack in July.
Clockworks wrestled with other clockworks while designs and instruments were being stolen. He had called the militia to report the lost items and damages, as well as the Board of Deans, but the culprits were still at large. “Since they already know about it, we’ll need to make a follow up report on the thefts. Let them know we repaired and replaced most of the damaged clockwork.”
Mr. Pendle scowled at the mention of that, “You’ve replaced over half the clockworks since you got here man! I’m surprised you haven’t melted down Unit 6 yet!”
“I replaced only those that needed to be replaced a long time ago, or were badly damaged,” Quinn said crossing his arms at the old debate. “And I’ve only gotten to a fourth of the current clockworks stationed within the facility. My goal is half by the end of the year.” Quinn paused and then gestured to the paper, “Actually, add that to the list.”
Pendle scowled, but he grudgingly made the note. Professor Quinn was considering the recent martian activity when suddenly a loud crash came from below caught his attention. From below he could hear a strange shrill metallic shriek of excitement.
The Professor and Mr. Pendle dropped their discussion and rushed out of the building heading towards the entrance to the underground approaching the chess room. Little clockworks made to resemble animals crouched in fear imitating their real counterparts while larger ones looked about uncertain. Quinn ignored the dozens of gathering clockworks of differing makes and models and opened the door to find Unit 6 upended.
“Unit?” The Professor stayed back unsure of what had caused the clockwork to fall so dramatically. “What is the meaning of this? Are you alone in the room?”
“I..am..not..alone!” The unit cried out sounding almost excited for its slow method of speaking. Professor Quinn stepped behind the other clockworks as he readied his mechanical hands to defend himself if necessary. The unit soon continued, “Doctor..Falcon! I..Saw..Doctor..Falcon!”
Quinn frowned as he looked to Mr. Pendle and the gathered clockworks. They appeared to be as confused as he was, but there was hope in Mr. Pendle’s eyes. The small man rushed into the room searching excitedly.
“Are you certain, Unit 6!” Pendle asked encouraging him to speak up. “How could she be here?”
“She..was..glowing!” Unit 6 relayed excitedly. “An..aetheric..presence! I..could..almost..see.. through..her!”
“See through her?” Pendle sounded both tired and disappointed. “You mean like a ghost? How is that possible?”
“It isn’t,” Professor Quinn said authoritatively, but felt the resentment in the room from his abrupt ending of their nonsensical ramblings. He cleared his throat trying again more diplomatically. “Clockworks lack the means of leaving behind ectoplasmic manifestations, so unfortunately that could not have been Dr. Falcon.”
“It..must..have..been..Dr..Falcon!” Unit 6 rumbled, making the Professor regret not decommissioning him sooner. “I..must..investigate..this..immediately!”
The Professor did not want to waste time or resources on searching for answers to a malfunctioning clockworks strange hallucinations. He also knew that their resentment at his attempts to fill Dr. Falcon’s ‘horse-shoes’ would not be served well by preventing this mad scheme. Shrugging, he looked to Mr. Pendle, “Very well. So my report will conclude with martians, strange anomalies, and clockwork unicorn ghost hunts, yes? I do believe this might be the shortest tenure in the history of Lovelace.”