Henly saw pretty much what he’d expected when he re-materialized. That is, a conventional square room consisting of posh aesthetics of the period beside several incongruously designed builds of a technologically advanced culture. Any of these mismanaged could cause catastrophe if used in their current state.
Wasn’t it always the way?
He switched off the apparatus on his ear; the space was sufficiently lit with oil lamps set on surfaces around the room. He stepped over to a writing desk against the northern wall. There were hand-written calculations on parchment, scrawls made with a quill pen which lay nearby and beside a bottle of india ink. The penmanship betrayed someone not schooled to read and write from this era, where students mastered calligraphy before they proceeded with schooling – or so he understood from historic texts. Henly deduced that anyone with such a scrawl had to have come from a society which did not rely so much on hardcopy and the need to write by hand.
A humanoid perhaps.
His scanner identified the function of many odd builds as he pointed to each one to gauge their emissions. “The air must be toxic down here,” he muttered, but when Henly pointed his device to an odd invention which looked in part like a pipe organ, he found it was a cleverly camouflaged filtration system. There was every possibility that most high tech objects within the dome were being prepared to resemble local style and exist undetected, with the intention for what? Perhaps to not adversely affecting the local populace if the pipe organ was any indication. In truth innocuous items such as an armchair or torch lamp emitted radiation as well, so such considerations were – if nothing else – noble.
But to what end would these serve in New Babbage? Certainly the lengths taken to introduce these tools and engines were not necessary to observe the city’s inhabitants on an anthropological level, so if to not affect or alter them for some self-serving purpose, why? Then again…
Henly whirled to face the center of the room. A chandelier hung over what looked like a round wooden frame table with green velvet surface. It closely resembled something for playing card games, but not quite. The highest concentration of chronotons were emitted from this object.
Henly looked around for an anomalous blur or other indication of a portal idling nearby, but could detect no distortions.
The ink on the quill pen was half-wet when he first observed it. Now the ink had dried complety. Whomever was here was not gone long. But to where?
The device registered nothing beyond the room. The radiation of the universe’s starlight could not be read to give Henly any confirmation that he was anywhere where he had been.
He leaned over the scribbled notes again. No message for help, just formulae and calculations.
Henly stepped back and leaned lightly against the pseudo card table. He closed his eyes in an effort to concentrate on his physiology to determine any sensation of altitude. There was just the artificial enviroment of the room.
Suddenly he found himself back in the water beside the sphere. How did this happen? As soon as he surfaced several strong hands yanked him out. A small crowd of locals raucously patted him on the back amidst a flurry of congratulations. They moved enmasse with a disoriented Henly toward the nearest pub to celebrate.
Amidst the confusion, Henly noticed over his shoulder that it was dusk.