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The New Mechanical Arrivals

This humble one, your scribe, was pondering the wheres and hows of sleeping and other arrangements in my harbourside desmesne, when to my surprise I saw Mr Pontecorvo stride past, face in his clipboard and muttering to himself.

“Three-way manifold,” was one phrase I heard, “Comb valves” was another, “Need a gearbox perhaps?” was the last I heard before he proceeded out of earshot.

To say this poorly educated one was baffled was superfluous. The design for the factory machinery was elegant in its simplicity. Why would fresh soup, for instance, have to go three separate ways? Was a comb valve some sort of straining mechanism – and wouldn’t that turn the soup into nothing but a mere broth? The idea of a gearbox at least I understood.

Curious, I mounted the steps to the factory back door and looked inside. Two new hulks loomed beside the boiler.

Connected by a rather oily shaft, the two cylindrical machines stood awaiting installation. The thinner of the two sported a pair of capped pipes, one on top and another down one side. The fatter was adorned with a squarish vent on the side and a oil-smelling contraption on top.

I took the cap off one of the thin machine’s pipes and squinted, seeing a plane of dull metal. With the aid of my faithful fishing rod, I prodded it, and it gave slightly, causing the shaft to squeak a little. It was a sort of self-contained water wheel or paddle-wheel, no doubt to be attached to the boiler. Which meant the other machine would be powered by it, but to what end?

Crossing the factory floor, I frowned at three crates side by side near the south wall, then at a large and recent arrangement of brass pipe. There was a rubber shock absorber, then a bend that terminated in a funnel. I went upstairs and saw Martien’s desk.

The scrawls involved badly drawn pipework, gramophones, valves and two words. Auxetophone was the most prominent. Other variations appeared; Apocalyptiphone for one. Bombastiphone was another. Scratched out was Catastrophone. A scribble of what looked like a generic control desk for one of those ‘disc jockey’ record recitals festooned with valves (labelled, variously, ‘volume’, ‘bass’, ‘midrange’ and ‘treble’) and a large handle.

Letters cancelling orders of ingredients. Increasingly waspish correspondence between himself and Bogg & Co. But most intensely regarded, if the dirty fingerprints on it were any indication, was this advertisement:

Advertisement for Victor Talking Machines

Ah! But Mr P. can be a mystery. Perhaps he intends to boost productivity among the imminent workers with music while they labour over the kettles and cans?

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