Beating Heart of Machine

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5

The Archive lay still and quiet as Wenn made her way slowly and silently to the only other sign of life left under the massive gears of the Archive mechanism, both it's housing and the thing itself, a true work of ingenuity. The other person present was bent over a small, square table, scribbling furiously with a pencil and scratching his head. The table was covered entirely with papers, all but what space was taken by a glass of water. Wenn leaned close to the bent figure, her nose nearly touching his ear and asked, “What are you doing?”

Hemaut jumped, spilling his drink across the table. His fingers scrambled for the loose pages of his project in a hopeless effort to rescue them from the table-top flood.

“I'm so sorry!” Wenn said, but she was laughing, so Hemaut probably didn't believe it. Her hands moved faster than his, though, sweeping all of the pages onto the floor before the water could spoil them thoroughly. “I didn't think you'd be so twitchy,” she laughed.

Hemuat stared at her, incredulous. “I'm... working! And you just threw my entire project onto the ground!”

“Better down than ruined,” Wenn reasoned, stooping to pick up the scattered, soggy papers. She held up a dripping sheet and scanned it with a critical eye. “Hang them up for a little bit and-- Is this a blimp?”

“Yes,” Hemaut grunted.

“Not your presentation, is it?” Wenn asked, here voice weighted low by caution. “Because I can tell just by looking at this thing that it's worse than the blimp the city already has.”

“It isn't for the city,” Hemaut huffed, snatching the papers away from Wenn. “It's a side project.”

“A side-- Hemaut, what about your main project?” Wenn eyed him sternly.

“This is kind of part of my main project,” Hemaut said weakly while trying to put his pages back in order. “I think.”

“Hemaut, you need to ask Old Man if there's a purpose to all of those visits. If he's just wasting your time...”

“He isn't!” Hemaut protested in cracked, hysteria. “Old Man has his way of doing things. Anyway, even if it isn't what he has planned, I've got a concept to work with. It's practically done! All this is just icing on the cupcakes!”

Wenn bent forward to get a better look at his face and saw blood-shot eyes and pale skin. “Hold your hands still,” she commanded.

“I am,” Hemaut said, but his fingers were twitching so badly that the edges of the papers snapped loudly between them.

“How long have you been in here?” Wenn asked, noticing how many papers he was holding, as well as the small print and intricate drawings.

“All night,” Hemaut said. “I've been working on them since Old Man told me to yesterday.”

“You talked to Old Man three days ago,” Wenn said. “You haven't primed your heart in three days, have you?”

“I-- I don't know. What day is it?”

“Come on,” Wenn said. “Let's get you to the med-house.”



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