Mr. Rolan Aurumberg owned a factory and warehouse complex in Port Babbage. His wife had died in childbirth, leaving him with a son, Hubert, who was called Hube for short. The boy showed an early aptitude for engineering, as, of course, did many children in New Babbage, and was schooled at the Church of the Builder with a number of his peers.
Mr. Aurumberg’s passion was for the Oiling Festival, especially for the Honkin’ Big Machine competition. Hube began assisting his father early on, and the two greatly enjoyed their times working together on their entries. Not that they ever won – they came close a few years, but always, they were lacking that certain something that would make their entries really stand out.
When Hube was twenty years old, he and his father had yet another entry. Unfortunately, a few days before judging, his father died of a heart attack, leaving Hube the family business. On the last day of the Festival, he trudged away from the pavilion, clutching the third-place ribbon and prize money the judges had handed him. He rather suspected that their entry had ranked that high only because of some last-minute sympathy voting. Hube wandered the streets, hearing the sounds of celebration drifting through the lanes, until finally, he found himself in front of the Church of the Builder.
Hube sank down into a pew in the empty church, staring ahead at the altar and the stained-glass windows behind it. ‘What can I do?’ he prayed silently. ‘What can I do to make a truly spectacular HBM? Not for myself, but for my father.’ His prayers continued, sometimes in coherent thought, sometimes just in feelings, until he fell asleep where he sat.
When Hube woke the next morning, he didn’t really remember any of the specifics of the dream he knew he’d had. What he had was a phrase, repeating over and over in his head.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.
‘But what is worth doing?’ he wondered. ‘And how would I overdo it?’ As he pondered these questions, the beginnings of an idea began to form. He sat there throughout the morning, mulling it over, until he was startled out of his reverie by the people beginning to gather for his father’s funeral.
After the funeral, Hube lingered at the grave, nodding and murmuring his thanks to the statements of condolence given him. Finally, though, he was alone. He knelt down and whispered, “I’ll win it next year, Father, for you. Just wait and see.”
For nearly an entire year, Hube worked whenever he could on his idea, leaving the running of the business to his foreman. He made detailed blueprints. He gathered the supplies he’d need, storing them first in his own warehouse, then renting another for more. And, quietly, he talked to certain property owners, convincing them to let him use their land or building to aid in the construction of the HBM he was planning. He paid them well up front, but always had them sign an agreement that they would keep it a secret until he started its actual construction. And so, no one knew just how many people he was talking to…
Hube did not, of course, actually set hammer to nail during this time. He waited until the end of the opening ceremony of the Oiling Festival, as was traditional. The moment that was over, though, he was off and running, along with his fellow HBM builders. Hube, though, seemed to be driven more than any of the others. He worked day and night; no one knew when, or even if, he slept. The property owners he’d contracted with were worried at first, but soon realized that he worked nights in his factory or warehouse, leaving them to sleep in relative peace.
Those Babbagers not busy building something for one of the Oiling Festival contests watched Hube’s progress in amazement. Scaffolding, tracks, wood, metal, engines, and machines spread out from his assigned place in the HBM build area, attaching to or climbing up, around, over, and down houses, stores, factories, and warehouses. They watched him working in Port Babbage, Clockhaven, Babbage Square, and the Canals districts, and marveled at the speed with which whatever it was he was making was erected. As the days of the Festival marched toward the climax week, they saw that his constructions were converging on City Hall, and wondered what he was going to do.
He showed them. In one night, fueled by who knew what, and sanctioned by generous, judicious bribes to various civic officials, Hubert wrapped the exterior of City Hall, and its clocktower, in his contraption, joining everything together. And at 9:00 that morning, he pressed the start button.
Pressing the button got the ball rolling – literally, as a smooth steel ball was sent down a track, triggering a whole host of events. Flags waved, horns, bells, whistles, and sirens sounded, lights flashed, pendulums swung, and as one steel ball reached the end of its journey, another would start. For twenty minutes, this continued across half the city, demonstrating nearly every principle of physics, mechanics, and engineering one could imagine, until finally, a ball rolled down a track until it pressed another button back at the start, where the machine… dispensed a cup of coffee.
The citizens were amazed. The amount of engineering and thought Hube had put into the contraption was stunning. The entire thing was built in sections that would reset automatically once the guiding ball had finished its run in it. That way, people didn’t have to wait for the entire sequence to be completed before making the next coffee order, but only until the first section had reset. If anything went wrong in one section, the balls in the sections behind would be held at the ends of those sections until things were fixed. Others marveled at how he’d incorporated existing architecture into the machines set up along the track.
Hube himself, though, was most proud of what he’d done at City Hall. A large rubber ball was propelled upward, spiralling around the clock tower, until it actually went into the gearing of the clock. Hube had studied the gears for weeks, mapping their precise positions at every time of day. The tracks leading into and out of the gearing were set up to shift slightly every second, so no matter what the time was when the rubber ball entered, its bounding path always ended up at the track leading out.
Hube’s Honkin’ Big Machine quickly became *the* attraction of the Festival. Youngsters bet each other on how far they could keep pace with the machine. Those not so athletically inclined could still track the progress by the lights and sounds emitted from each section. Some folks found a favorite section, machine, or engine, and would watch it for hours. And all agreed that the coffee dispensed, while perhaps not the very best, was certainly good enough to be worth the wait.
Hube stayed by the coffee dispenser for the most part, during the time his machine was open to the public. (He locked it up from 10:00 at night to 8:00 the next morning, giving those living alongside the tracks some relief.) He would tell and retell those who asked about the various components, and, of course, about the dream that had started his idea, the phrase that had driven him.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.
On the final evening of the Festival, Hubert smiled and waved as he accepted the applause of the gathered Babbagers. He’d fulfilled his promise to his father, and felt like he was riding a wave of happiness. A group of his friends called for him to join them for a drink. He said he would, after he took the elevator up to the top of the clock tower in City Hall to make one more inspection of that section of his HBM.
He never came back down.
His friends finally went up after him. They searched the clock tower thoroughly, shining lanterns everywhere, calling his name. But all they found was a lone hammer lying on the floor, its handle engraved with Hubert’s name.
Word quickly spread through the city, carried from one Festival-goer to another. A few wags suggested that he’d fallen into the clock’s gears, or even into his own construction, and so perished. But there was no sign of such an accident, and more than a few people wondered if something… supernatural might have happened.
It was as well that Hube had won first prize. He’d spent all his money on the HBM, and the winnings paid for his funeral. There was no body, of course, but he was given a plaque and small statue inside the Church of the Builder, with the hammer set up in a small niche. The Aurumberg family business passed to the faithful foreman.
Hube’s HBM was left standing after the Festival. Officially, that was done to honor him. Unofficially, the city fathers were more than pleased with the extra money from tourism it brought into the city. All through the spring, summer, and fall, it was kept running throughout the day, though they continued to shut it down at night. The snows of winter, though, affected the functioning of the contraption too much to allow it to continue. With some reluctance, the city officials ordered it to be disassembled. A host of engineers swarmed over it, studying the various mechanisms. One small section was taken to the Church and placed, with the hammer, at Hube’s statue.
Once that winter had passed, the next Oiling Festival was held. Nothing, of course, could top what Hube had done last year, but the judges noted that the overall quality of the entries had definitely improved over previous years. They announced the winner – a young man who’d build an industrial-sized wiggyfish-oil press with an improved piston system. When he came up to get his prize, he somewhat shyly told everyone that, before the Festival started, he’d gone and spent the night in the Church of the Builder… and had included Hube Aurumberg among those to whom he’d prayed. That night, or so he said, Hube had visited him in his dream, and had helped him to brainstorm ideas for machines that would spotlight his piston system.
Once he’d finished his account, the woman who’d received second place stood up and said that she’d brought part of a vital machine into the church and laid them before Hube’s statue, asking for his help with the gearing system. And before her eyes, the gears had moved of themselves into the configuration that was needed.
Well, with stories like this, it didn’t take long for other engineers to being seeking help at Hubert’s memorial, and stories of divine aid multiplied. It wasn’t long before Hube Aurumbert was beatified by the Church of the Builder, becoming, among other things, the patron saint of Honkin’ Big Machine builders. Every year, before the Festival, engineers spend the night in the church, praying to him for his aid in their HBM endeavors. And very often included in their prayers is the phrase he’d made famous:
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.