Yuri's Story III
Placing this last wire connecting the generator emitter to the spike that would catch the lightning Basma would produce from her storm was delicate work, Yuri thought as he blinked sweat away from his eyes. He had to make sure that no part of the wire touched the massive heat sink he’d installed, or it could melt and it would make their plan’s success problematic to say the least. But, if he connected it to the steel housing to keep it out of the way, it could short out and ruin things as well…just in a less destructive way than the wire melting would cause. And it didn’t help that he had been forced to learn how to tune out the constant shouting, like some sort of anti-white noise that disrupted nerves and didn’t soothe them.
“Are they still going at it?” Hengameh said to the gadgeteer as she walked into what he was calling his workshop. On an estate this size, they usually had an area with a small forge where blacksmiths could do repairs, tanners could sew and cut leather and coopers could make barrels, and so on and so forth. And, they even had a steam-powered lighting system with globes spread throughout the area. Yuri had fell in love with the place the moment he saw it. “I would have thought they’d have run out of things to shout at each other by now,” the monk went on.
“Did you get it?” Yuri ignored her question for the moment, hoping that Hengameh had indeed found the tool he had sent her out for almost an hour ago. She smacked her head and reached into her belt pouch and pulled out a pair of long-nosed needle pliers with a rubber grip, and he took them from her with a smile of thanks. He didn’t want to touch the wire’s bare end with his fingers, since the sweat from them could cause a very negative reaction in the field frequency disruptor generator. If I want to be taken seriously by the Guild of Intrinsic Craftspeople I need to come up with a better and cleverer name, the Liyudi mused to himself. With hands that were slightly shaky, he finally made the connection.
“There, that’s done it,” he said after he tightened the screw down holding the wire in place. He sat back, finally wiping the sweat off of his brow. “Oh, and apparently not seeing each other for four years wasn’t enough time apart. You Aryans sure love to be dramatic, don’t you?”
Hengameh raised her eyebrow at him. “Excuse me? Don’t you think that’s a little rude, to lump me in with Arash and his father?”
Yuri arched an eyebrow right back. “So, you’re telling me it wasn’t dramatic to rip the magi’s manhood right off when he insulted you?”
The monk had the grace to flush slightly with embarrassment. “Well, all right, maybe that was a tiny bit dramatic,” she said as she held her thumb and forefinger apart only slightly.
Snorting, Yuri turned from her and cast a critical eye over his creation. “Are you talking about the size of his manhood?” She squawked in protest. “Whatever you say, Hengameh. Far be it for a lowly gadgeteer to criticize how a monk handles someone.”
“Oh, shut up,” she said as she smacked his arm playfully. “So, if you’re done teasing me, is this….thing ready?” waving her hand negligently over the device.
“Yes it is. I just need the sample of Bahram’s bodily fluids to figure out his frequency, and I should be able to tune the device so it singles out the evil sheikh and him only. Basma sent me a messenger spirit, a little Air Elemental, and she said that she’s got her stuff and is just waiting on Kambiz to return.” Yuri told her as he made sure the gauges were installed properly for the umpteenth time. He knew that he was being overly cautious, but since their whole plan depended on him being able to tune into Bahram, he didn’t want any part of this to fail. If it did, their deaths and the ruin the evil sheikh would rain down on Amol would be his fault.
Being an outsider to this land –as all Liyudi felt like in one way or another- Yuri had never truly placed any faith in the Aryan divinity, only paying it lip service when it was required. Then again, he had never been that faithful towards the twin Liyudi Gods Svarožic and Dažbog either. He was a man of science, believing in what he could experience and prove, not what others told him was true. But, it was true that Bahram had powers that couldn’t really be explained, whether they came from E’laa’hi or something else, and so Yuri came close to praying that his device would work well enough to stop the sheikh from hurting people.
“Are you worried about them?” Hengameh said, referring to the Qazzam and the Bozmajeh-Mard as she hoped up on the table and began swinging her legs back and forth like she was a little girl. I guess we all deal with boredom in different ways, the Liyudi thought bemusedly as he made sure none of his tools fell off from the constant swaying motion.
“Not at all; I know that Kambiz couldn’t just stroll in to the inn and have access to Bahram’s room. From what I hear, that bastard has most people he comes into contact with scared of their own shadows, so the dervish’s mission would require some care and finesse. No, I’m more worried about Arash and his father Babak. If our duelist doesn’t overcome his difficulties with him, his mind won’t be on the task at hand, and that’s bad news for all of us.”
“He’s not my duelist,” the monk said good-naturedly, but her eyes lost their focus for a second and she tilted her head to the side as if she was imagining the handsome Aryan. Yuri smiled to himself; it was good to see a real woman interested in Arash, not that he could judge any of his past relationships, as they had happened before he knew the duelist. And she definitely put Arash off his axis, which was a great thing for the giant ego he possessed. It helped keep him grounded, the Liyudi thought of his friend.
“Can you believe how green this place is?” Hengameh changed subjects so fast even he had trouble keeping up, Yuri thought bemusedly. “I’ve never seen so many trees and plants and grass in my life! Sure, at the monastery we grow our own crops and whatnot, but this,” she waved a hand around, “this is so much more! It is almost enough to make me feel at peace…you know, if it wasn’t for Arash fighting and us having to battle an evil sheikh.”
Yuri smiled at her exuberance. “You forget, there’s a tributary of the Ghezel Ozan River that flows beneath Amol. Not only does it provide our wells with drinking water and let our sewage system work, but it keeps certain parts of the city vibrant and alive.” As she processed this, he went on. “And, in our caravan I’ve been all over this land and there is so much more to it than desert. Padeshahi is truly beautiful in its myriad splendors. You need to spend more time exploring the world and less time practicing at your monastery,” he gently admonished her.
Changing subjects yet again, Hengameh said, “So last I had heard Arash was yelling at his father for the way he constantly compared him to his brilliant but bratty sister –Firuzeh, I think is her name- and Babak was yelling back that it was Nasrin, the mother, who was always trying to impress her son and so she went off to die instead of staying at home safe and sound. And then there was the sound of someone getting punched, if I recall. Anything new to add?” the monk asked Yuri.
Arash’s father was a very dignified man, was what Yuri had thought when they were brought into his study to meet him. He was much taller than Arash, about 5’10” (which placed him at nearly Yuri’s height), with skin barely tanned and hair gone mostly grey and cut a modest length. And, in stark contrast to Arash, his face was cleanly shaved with not even a hint of a mustache or a beard to darken it. Unlike some older male Aryan that the Liyudi had met, Babak still looked like he kept in relatively good shape, and his dark brown-eyed gaze was sharp and focused behind his spectacles - which meant he didn’t have a problem with using too many drugs or alcohol. Since he was a senior architect it made sense that he stayed alert and aware, even at home, since a problem could arise at any time.
Dressed in a dark green shirt and blood red pants that looked recently pressed, with a black leather vest and green-dyed boots, Babak had appeared shocked to see his wayward son darkening his door once more. His shock only lasted a second, and then remembering his manners he asked them all to come in and sit down, asking if they wanted some tea or wine to quench their thirst. Both Yuri and Hengameh had thanked him, saying that they only wanted water, but Arash had merely stared in sullen silence. Finally, Yuri had awkwardly told Babak the reason they had come to him, and he quickly offered his support. Ringing a bell, the senior Rostami had summoned a servant and told her that whatever they needed they could have. And then they were led off, leaving Arash and his father behind, glaring silently at each other.
“Nope, they just keeping circling around those points. Tell me, are all Aryan families like this?” the Liyudi asked Hengameh, hoping for some insight.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged her shoulders. “My parents dropped me off at the monastery when I was only 1, and if they gave a reason to the head monk he never told it to me.”
“I’m…I’m sorry,” Yuri said, ashamed by his impertinent question.
“Don’t be,” she simply replied. “The monastery is the only life I’ve ever known. Wishing for things to have been different is a waste of time. This is the life I have, and I’m determined to make the best of it.” Looking at him, Hengameh said, “What about Sandstrider…I mean Liyudi home life? Did your parents fight?”
Now it was Yuri’s turn to shrug. “We are a matriarchal people, and the mothers in the family make all of the decisions about trades and the skills the children will pick up, though the father can and should have some opinions about that. As far as my family goes, it’s been my mother, my brother and I for many years. My father, trying to impress my mother and prove he was just as shrewd a trader as she was, made a deal with the wrong people to try and smuggle stolen goods out of the city we were in at the time. Our laws –and the laws of the city- were clear, and even though my mother regretted turning my father in, she had to for the good of the caravan and our people. Last I heard, he was still pressed into slavery for his crimes.”
“Wow,” was all Hengameh could say, and Yuri agreed with her succinct statement. “We all seem to have messed up childhoods. Do you know Basma and Kambiz’s story?”
Shaking his head no, Yuri said, “Nope, they’re pretty close-mouthed about their past. I do know that Arash has had some kind of dealing with her in the past, but that’s it. Maybe they’re lucky enough that they had a normal upbringing?” The monk smiled and nodded her head yes, but their reminiscing was interrupted by the door being thrown open and Arash storming in, sporting some scuffed up clothes and a new black eye.
“That’s new, does it hurt?” the female Aryan asked Arash, and he shook his head no.
“Nope, you should see my father’s bruise. Now that’s a nasty one,” he chuckled for a second, but winced at the pain it caused. Seeing the disapproving looks on both of his companion’s faces, he rushed to defend himself. “Hey, my father threw the first punch!”
“And why did he do that?” Hengameh said quietly. Arash blushed and mumbled something under his breath. “I’m sorry, we didn’t hear you,” she said, including Yuri in this awkward conversation. “Could you speak up?”
“I said, it may have been because I told my father that if he hadn’t been such a judgmental controlling prig, my mother may not have rushed off like she did to prove to him that she was still a capable warrior,” Arash said louder, and both Yuri and Hengameh cringed. “Yes, I know, not my proudest moment,” the duelist finished as he flopped down in a chair by the service room door. “But he winds me up tighter than Yuri’s mecha-arm.”
“Thank you for reminding me,” Yuri told his friend as he reached into his belt pouch and pulled out his winding key and a small pouch of lubricating grease. “You may want to step back, this can smell pretty bad as it works its way in.” Neither of them stepped away, so he simply ignored them and unwrapped his mecha-arm. Now that he wasn’t so focused on building the FFDG –there, that sounds impressive, Yuri thought with pride- he could hear how his gears weren’t ticking as fast as they normally did. He was just lucky that it hadn’t stopped working in the middle of something delicate and dangerous, like hooking up that wire.
Using the screw blade on the back of the winding key, Yuri opened up the main panel on his mecha-arm. It not only it covered the key slot where he wound it up, but also where all the gears and pistons seemed to meet. There were wires that mimicked the nerves as well, but his mentor Igor had done such intrinsic work on those that the young gadgeteer prayed he never had to mess with them; he knew his skill level wasn’t up to that task. Not yet at least, but he felt confident he would get there one day.
Gently, Yuri poured the lubricating grease into the slot and inserted the key, winding it up until it gave a soft click. His mentor had installed that as a safety feature, so he never overwound it and damaged this one-of-a-kind prosthetic. After he had done that, the gears and pistons began to make their normal whirring and whooshing sounds, as familiar as the gentle lullabies his father used to sing to him. Yuri pushed those thoughts aside, since they wouldn’t do him any good right now, and focused on the task at hand. Once he had screwed the main panel back down, the sounds became muted almost to the point where they could only be heard by someone putting their ear to his mecha-arm. And there was no one who had reason to do that.
As he wrapped the artificial limb back up, the Liyudi looked up to see if his friends were disgusted or horrified at what he had to do. Hengameh looked as if she had a million questions she wanted to ask, and Arash looked awed, which was an odd reaction for the cocky duelist to have. “You know,” the Aryan said softly, “I don’t think I’ve told you since we began this crazy adventure how much I appreciate you and your genius. Truly Yuri, thank you.” He turned and shyly said to Hengameh, “And thank you for deciding to help out a couple of strangers.”
“It was my pleasure,” the monk said, clearly at a loss for words from the unexpected sincerity. Yuri said nothing, just smiled at his friend and looked down so no one could see the couple of tears that fell from his eyes. “So,” she said, clearly trying to regain her mental equilibrium, “is that clock you have over in the corner correct? Is it really just past 21st Bell?”
“It should be correct; father hates it when things don’t work like they should,” Arash said sullenly, and for just a moment Yuri could picture the duelist as a little boy, trying to conform to the way his father thought he should be, and failing miserably. It made him feel bad for his friend. “I’ve asked the cook to prepare us something to eat, to make sure we have our strength up. When Basma and Kambiz get here, they can eat as well. Yuri, you want to join us?”
“You guys go on ahead, just bring me back something to munch on. I need to get this thing repaired so I can at least defend myself if something goes wrong,” Yuri said as he pulled the pistol that had once belonged to Foma out of his knapsack.
“I’ve never seen you with a weapon before,” Arash said in an odd voice, and Yuri realized that it must have been very jarring to him to know that the gadgeteer wasn’t a pacifist.
“Well, I can’t count on my friends to be by my side to keep me safe; we have no idea what Bahram is going to throw at us, so I want to be prepared just in case.”
“Well, do you even know how to use one of those?” Hengameh chimed in.
Smirking at her, Yuri said, “We gadgeteers were the ones who thought up and built the first pistols, so yes, yes I do know how to use one of these.” He smiled at the end to take the sting out of his words. “Really guys, this is just as a last resort.”
“All right, my friend,” Arash said as he clapped Yuri on the shoulder. “I can understand that. Come on, Hengameh, let’s leave the mad genius to his work.”
“I prefer gadgeteer, Arash,” Yuri said drolly.
“Aren’t they the same thing?” he fired back, giving a little wink at the end. Then, he and the monk went to the kitchen to partake of some nourishment, leaving Yuri alone in the work space. Chuckling to himself, he put the pistol down and pulled out what he really wanted to work on, but without busybodies poking their noses into his work. Carefully, he opened the small black pouch and rationed out its prized content into what almost looked like eggs. It was an idea he had stumbled upon just this morning that he hadn’t gotten to test yet, but if it worked, it would definitely take Bahram and his magi bastards by surprise. Not that he didn’t have faith in his invention, but it never hurt to have a back-up plan, just in case. Cutting small bits of pitch-soaked hemp, Yuri began to assemble his nefarious creation while humming softly to himself a song that resembled a lullaby or the sounds of his mecha-arm ceaselessly working.