Saturday, 28 June 2008

Soylent Green

Yesterday was a dreadful day, it started just before dawn with a young urchin lad knocking on the door of my palisade home for all his worth. Urchins are notorious for their tricks and tom-foolery but there was clearly something wrong, I threw on a house coat and bid him enter.
"Soylent green", he spluttered, "a soylent green plague".
"Calm down", I ushered him to a seat in the music room and fetched him a glass of elderflower cordial. "Now, slowly, what is this nonsense".
"Miss Beq, it ain't no nonsense, there's a green plague an' its comin' out of that box on yer tower fing."
The back of my neck prickled and a shiver followed down my spine.
"Ve kids is callin' it the soylent green killer 'cos it makes no noise but it kills stuff."
"It kills! Who has it killed? Oh what is happening, could this get any worse?"
"I dunt no nowt bout oo it as killed but ver eyes burst and they tern inta normous catypillars"
"Pure fantasy child, I fear I must go see this silent killer for myself. Thank you for bring it to my attention".

I raked around in my purse and sent him on his way with a few small coins and a slice of carrot cake.

With the way things had gone of late, there was of course a chance that the boy was right, and in any case I had to go and re-examine the casket. It had not seemed damaged the previous day, no leaks or cracks were obvious.

Dressing quickly I rushed out of the house as the sun was pulling itself up over the horizon. I made straight for the Vernian sea and rushed to the tower. I am afraid to say that at least part of the boy's tale was correct, an eery green mist was oozing from the casket. It was however clear that the boys claims about its toxicity were exagerated to say the least. Tiny fish swam through the mist feasting on the nutrients that were suspended therein. However it was clear that this thing could be left no longer. I had to repair that casket and yet it was in no fit position to be worked upon.

The only option left was to release the casket from the "claw" that held it, that meant cutting the ironwork. While the mechanical claw arm that I bought from Ms Frye is powerful but would not cut into the steel structure without making an enourmous mess, indeed it may not open far enough to get a grip. I would have to find another way. The ironwork used is cut on the surface and then sunk, on the surface the cutting is done using a relatively new (re-)discovery, the gas acetylene. Mixed with oxygen a tremendous heat can be created and if correctly contained will make short work of iron. However, this is not so easily used beneath the waters. I recalled and article in a recent edition of "the collected papers of the Sub-aquatic Engineering Institute"; in which it was argued that by the use of an increased flow of air one could achieve a good welding or cutting flame even under water, though in experimentation this had been shown to work only to a depth of around 50 metres. My luck was in, the casket had wedged itself between 40 and 50 metres below sea level.

I took the Hippocampus, along the canals and left it just outside the Janus Industries factory. I had already decided on my course of action. I was going to modify one of Ms Frye's Wrench arms to act as a cutting and welding torch. I would feed the burning gas from one of my hip cylinders via a concealed hose. My luck was truly with me. I had only partially recalled the article but as luck would have it the correct edition of the journal was on my desk in the office when I arrived. It made it clear that Acetylene whilst the best gas on the surface was quite volatile under pressure and could not be used at a depth of more than 10m, luckily Hydrogen could be used as an alternative and this, whilst being more readily available from Anabella Voom across the street was also stable and usable to the 50m depth that I had recalled.

I quickly set to work and within a few hours had a torch ready to go.

Compressed air is used to create a "dry" envelope in which the flame can burn. The flame itself is a mixture of Oxygen and hydrogen, cutting is achieved through oxidation rather than melting in the same way that it works on the surface.

I returned to the Hippocampus and made my way back to the open sea. I once again maneuvered the submersible, to within reach of the casket and proceeded to secure the casket to the tail section with Roebling steel rope, this enabled me to exert enough tension on the wedged casket so that if it started to move it might fall away from the glass in the immediate vicinity. There was a great deal that could still go wrong all I could do was try my hardest to minimise the risks.

I removed the upper set of chains, the lower set had unfortunately become wedged tight overnight. I then set about defacing my beautiful tower.

The cutting worked like a dream, a stream of tiny bubbles issuing from the tip as sparks and shards of oxidised iron fell away. It was not long before I had cut away the claw that had held the casket.

With steel ropes taking the strain, I gingerly returned to the submersibles controls and edged away from the building. A terrible groaning issued forth as the sub and I fought against the inertia of the casket. Then all at once the casket was lose and plummeting toward the glazed habitation pod beneath us. As planned the rope took the strain and the casket swung down and away from harm but the weight jolted the Hippocampus violently sending us tumbling briefly with it. The submersible whined as it rotors and stabilisers fought to adjust to the weight swinging precariously below but the depth controllers won the fight and within a few minutes I was able to lower the casket back to the sea bed.

On the seabed I was better able to examine the casket and found the source of the leak. Hidden from view when it had been embedded a small gash had been formed during the accident, tearing the outer skin and slightly puncturing the second skin inside allowing the sea to get to the remains. I was now too deep to perform any repair, so I strapped the casket securely to the tail section of the Hippocampus and returned to the surface where in the shallows I was able to perform a repair on the casket. The repaired casket was returned to the depths still attached to the submersible's tail to ensure that the vessel had indeed been re-sealed. I checked the fastenings once more and then returned to my mooring alongside the airlock. 100 metres above me the sun had set many hours ago and the moon itself was now making steady progress across the night sky.

I retired to my makeshift bed in Aegir's hall to consider my next move; the final move of this wretched thing. I would not tolerate the continued existence of this thing as clearly people could not leave well alone.

(( I have tried to keep the engineering principles of this solution within the bounds of physics and the time frame of the genre. Whilst mixed gas cutting was well established in the early 20th cetntury I have had troubel finding accuarate data for its first use and the first application in a aub-marine environment. If anyone has found such a resource I would love to hear of it. Having said that I think I am safe to say that the technologies used are well within the bounds of the steampunk genre.

I should also appologise for the contrived start of this entry, but it did allow me to win a bet by indirectly mentioning the name of a 70s sci-fi film and I don't think Beq noticed a thing ! ))

Friday, 27 June 2008


It is clear to me now that someone is either playing games with my sanity or extremely careless.

I spent last night back on dry land in my Palisade residence. It is comforting to relax in a bed that does not seem damp and musty, I must resolve the air quality issue in Aegir's hall soon. Late this evening I returned back to the sea, in part to consider my next attempt to dispose of this thing, as I returned to my office in the top of my tower I spied the casket, not far below where it should still have rested but precariously balanced on the iron framework of the tower itself, mere inches from the glass that holds the sea at bay. How it got to be there one can only imagine, some form of piracy seems the most likely explanation of these goings on.

The difficulty now, was in safely removing it, I took the Hippocampus and after much careful and rather nervous manouvering I was able to stabilise her alongside the casket. Emerging carefully, I stood upon her tail and examined the casket, it had clearly fallen some way and was very well wedged, though not so well that I felt sure it could not tumble should a storm arise.

Luckily I had bought a pair of implements from Ms Frye's store just yesterday and having linked these in to my own suits power source I was better equipped than perviously but it was clear however that no one person could lift this from its trapped position. The Hippocampus could surely pull it free but I could not fully account for the forces involved and feared that the risk was too high.

After a long while I came to the conclusion that for the time being I should simply secure it and take time to plan the correct approach and ths the casket now sits some 50m below the surface of the Vernian Sea, some 40m above the sea bed, chained to the tower below which it should be buried.

I wonder if I might seek the help of Ms Frye in my endeavours. She is most resourceful and has more than enough lifting gear, perhaps the only person in Babbage that could conduct such a .....wait, Beq you foolish girl, no! surely not. It would make sense though.

I met Ms Frye on the way to the ocean, she knew my intention. She alone knew my intention in fact. She alone knew my intention and had the ability to undermine my actions. Oh dear, what madness has beset the people of Babbage, what is the attraction of this foul thing that seems to render the most rational amongst us insane. One considers ones own actions in this light too, in my haste to perform a service to the community have I inadvertantly elevated the risk? The casket is strong and sealed tight of that I was sure but what if it were to leak?

Thursday, 26 June 2008

one finger, one thumb keep moving...

It has been a long two days since I buried the burnt remains of that accursed monsters thumb, longer than is usual as I have slept but a little and then such shallow dreamles sleep that seemingly drains one further, waking with a start, heart pounding.

I have busied myself, my steam barman (Fimfeng) is now partially functioning, and I appear to have resolved a few of my earlier errors in his design and construction.

Through this time I have avoided returning to the ocean, it has unnerved me so, however this evening I resolved to return to the place at which I laid the remains and dispell my fears. Oh how wrong I was. I am not a supersticious type, as those who know me will attest no gods hold sway over me save for the laws of nature herself. I was not therefore prepared to find that the casket in which I had lain the finger was no longer buried but had somehow been borne to the surface of the seabed and lies propped up against the bedrock foundation of my tower.

I have resolved to bury it once more but I must first raise it back to the surface and ensure that it has not leaked noe been otherwise tampered with.

I write these next lines some hours after this entry was begun, I was at first shocked to the core, bewildered at the apparent supernatural forces at play but common sense prevails, there is still mystery in this but it is of human creation. Someone has unearthed this, someone deliberately tampering with my attempts to dispose of this abomination. I have my own thoughts as to who might have the means and the motivation here but I shall keep these to myself for now for there are many scenarios to explain this, the illness manifest in numerous ways. Only today Miss Lily Nightfire, a normally sane person, was heard to say that she has a part of this beast and is content to eat it, such madness beggars belief.

With my mind now resolved upon this issue I will retire and repay this sleep debt. When I awake I will put this right once and for all.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The finger (or thumb) of Babbage

Over recent weeks New Bababge has been plagued quite literally by the diseases brought carelessly into the city by Mr. Stanley Effingham of Stanley's Emporium, New Babbage. Mr. Effingham himself had sent the relic of a monster's hand to his young assistant Django Yifu without thought for appropriate caution.

the hand was duly burned but in recent days the remains have been given away by young master Yifu. This insanity perhaps brought on by the infection that the poor boy himself has suffered will serve only to distribute the suffering. Thus I took it upon myslef to claim what ever remains I could and bury them deep under sea.

I donned my, as yet partially completed, "Carma" hard suit and headed up towards the emporium in which the relic is being stored. To my disappointment just the one peice remained, but I took the thing and despite its weight bore it towards the docks.

Dressed in a brass suit and carrying a mouldering monstrosity, one is apt to draw attention and I had to warn Ms Kaylee Frye to keep back lest she become infected.

On the docks I enclosed it in a coffin of iron and then took it into the depths.

As I buried it, I could not help but feel that something was watching me. I put this down to the murky water, the confined nature of the suit, and perhaps a little to my own paramoia. IT took some time to dig away enough of the sea floor and bury the box. The bedrock unfortunately prevent ed me from covering it completely but with but a tiny corner showing I feel it will be safe for now.

I returned back to Aegir's Hall, a nagging feeling of paranoia, something telling me that all was not well. But who am I kidding, the thing is sealed and buried, what further harm can come of it?

((Further images and a video account when I get it edited can be found at Beq's flickr stream for the finger -

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Large scale casting process (notes to self)

I believe I have stumbled upon a process that may revitalise the large scale construction industry. PRevious processes have rarely been able to produce ironwork of spans much greater than 10m, larger structures were possible but extremely limited as the casting facilities of proportions in excess of 10m tend to have been for defined purposes and thus are very specific sizes, e.g. the most common is perhaps the 20mx20mx0.5m plate.

I have this evening devised a mechanism that allows, through careful restriction of the casting process, complex castings of dimensions that are a fraction of the larger cuboid casting moulds and thus allow the casting of a product that is for example 1/10th the width and 2/3rds the height and depth of the cast in which it is produced. Thus allowing the enterprising engineer the ability to cast a product that measures 25mx30mx12m from a cast that is 40x40x60.

Further experiments remain to be conducted and the testing of the casting detail checked thoroughly but early signs are good though it is clear that the finite limit to small detail work is somewhat larger under this model and proportional to the scale of the casting mould used.

(( to translate: I have been playing with sculpties and the manipulation of the mesh to effectively scale the sculpt within the bounding box. Not rocket science I know but an interesting wheeze. So where a typical mesh spans 256 sub units of its bounding box in all 3 dimensions, if the mesh is then scaled to be 50% of this then the resultant sculpt wil only ever be half of its bounding box in any dimension. So why do we care? Well the huge prims that are define in the SL universe are of bizarre and rarely useful dimensions but if I take a 40x40x60 box and then turn it into a sculpt whose mesh is constrained at 50% in all directions the sculpt would thus appear to by 20x20x30, thus we have almost arbitrary control over the scale. Of course, there is a down side. The sub units are defined by the bounding box. and thus the smallest distance that two points can be separated by is 1/256th of the bounding dimension or in my example 20mx20mx30m roughly 8cmx8cmx12cm limiting detail.

Is this really of any use? I think so I'll play more soon, and post some shots that might make this gibberish more sensible. Appologies to those for whom this is old news :-) ))

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Death, Disease and Desperation returns to Babbage

It is with a heavy heart that I write these words. One of the young ladies who had worked at the Muses playhouse in the Babbage Palisade was found brutally murdered not far from my own home. It seems her throat had been slit and her body thrown from the walls. It is sad but uncommonly consistent that murder and crime follows the entertainment trade, especially where an element of sexual interplay may exist as I have more than < the following few lines are crossed through and illegible, an occasional word is decipherable > ...... understand ..... depravity.

In a morbid twist to this horrendous crime it seems that the incompetence of our local constabulary, last endured with the Eliot crimes, has once again been lofted high for all to see, with the body of poor Miss Justice, such irony in her name, apparently vanishing from the mortuary, it having been left unguarded despite any autopsy having been conducted.

The murder occurred a few days ago and I have been somewhat tardy in coming to know of it. For days now I have been lodged in my Vernian Sea office burning the gaslight to its wits end, working upon the problem of the sicknesses that beset my labourers when exposed to this most unforgiving environment. It seems, in fact, fortuitous timing as a mystery plague has fallen upon the city, blamed upon the apparently ill-advised exhibition of some mouldering relic, New Babbage is a shining example of the young modern state, in its drive to be dynamic and creative it has but the most basic of laws seen in other older and, debatabely, wiser states; not least of which is any sense of import restriction or quarantine. No doubt that may change now. News of the plague and the murder came to me via the venerable Cog news journal and as can be seen from the pages glued herewith covering both sorry tales, the aforementioned hand is to be burned publicly. I can think of no better way to spread an airborne disease, lets hope that their plan does not go awry.

It has occurred to me that the apparent isolation of the Vernian Sea would be a fine place for a murderous fiend to lie low during a murder hunt. As such I have taken to walking the tunnel system at random times armed with my trusty sword stick. If the culprit lies here then it would be better for him that I did not find him, his type ... well, suffice to say that I find it hard to not consi
der him as a representation of past evils visited upon me, it will take all my will and faith in justice to stay my hand should that chance arise.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

photogram time

Mr Dagger paid me a visit this evening, while I was at work on my latest piece of equipment. He is shooting (I believe that is the term he uses though I find it rather course and somewhat discomforting as a choice of words for what is a studied and artistic endeavour), for a pictorial calendar, many residents will have their likenesses reporduced and I understand that it is to be sold for a charitable cause known as the SLRFL.

He observed me as I stood by my suit, the bottom half being worn, the top half suspended from its hoist and I suspect that the image will look something like that below.

Idly standing alongside my suit, the Janus "Karma", based on the work by pioneering brothers Carmagnolle in France. I believe that they have yet to use their suit as it is too heavy. Mine while heavy (more than 250kg) is steam powered with both a small on board supply of both air and steam with pumped air and grid steam supplied under normal conditions via an umbilical. and thus all the hardwork is done for me. I do however depend on the hoist to get in and out of the confounded device.

Life Under Pressure - research into the effects of living beneath the sea

It has become apparent in recent months that the effects of barometric pressure distort the life sustaining capabilities of the air the we breath. Operating at the depths of the sea bed in the Vernian Sea is difficult at best but has proven quite dangerous for my labourers and myself over sustained periods. During the construction of my undersea building, also known as Ægir's hall, I used steam labour wherever possible but until such time as the steam grid itself was connected and made live I had no choice but to employ human labour. We lost 3 men to the ravages of the ocean, a small cost I am told for an engineering project such as this but it hangs heavy about my neck. Three men, one of whom had a family to support, a role which I am now providing for as I will not see people thrown out upon the "charity" of the workhouse at my doing, were lost and many other injured while all of us were at times rendered unwell by various effects.

The apparently low cost in lives I can to some extent associate with the work patterns that I have enforced, patterns shaped by the research, recently published by great minds such as M. Paul Bert of the Sorbonne who in particular has informed me greatly as to the mysteries of the maladies that we have faced and who while documenting the effects of compression on the body built upon the work of the brave young Dr. Alphonse Gal whose early work was based upon his own experimentation using a steam powered air pump of primitive design and studies of sponge divers in Greece. Bert and Gal's research helps to categorise and explain the maladies associated with breathing air at abnormal pressures and gives explanations to those effects noted by Triger earlier in this century in Caisson miners, a line of work not too dissimilar to our own undertakings in the depths of the Vernian.

I will write more on this in days to come as I need, right now, to continue work on my solution to some of my problems rather than recording them for posterity.

Writing and studying in my Vernian Sea office at the top of Aegir's hall. M. Paul Bert's work on Barometric pressure is close at hand.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Dear glad to have found you

It has been a long time since I wrote here. I have only just found this diary, the pages matted and congealed from exposure to the waters. It was lost in the floods in the canals back in the last months of the previous year to this and only today did I find it stuck upon a bookshelf amongst my many other books, I can only guess that it was found by one of my friends when we moved the house earlier this year and was placed there for safe keeping. Still I digress from the business at hand. To bring things largely up to date.

And yes, I have moved home, in the most literal sense. The canals plot with its delightful view of the ocean was sadly too small to support the building and my expectations and so I endeavoured to acquire a larger plot of land. As luck would have plot of land was made available in the Babbage Palisade, the oldest part of our fair city, the plot formerly a series of low grade homes that had unfortunately fallen in to ruin was suitable for clearance and permission to build was granted by our Mayor, Mr. Sprocket. Thus with the aid of a few helpers we moved not just the contents but each and every brick and fitting from the canals to their new place of rest. The new location is beautiful just beside the wonderful old city wall. I made a mistake in the rebuilding of the house however and the walls are no longer perfectly true which has caused my no small amount of discomfort in the continued building. I shall at some point pluck up the courage to tear down the building and start again as I think that this may be the only true solution.

There is more though, before the house was moved I had acquired a plot in the Vernian sea. This exciting new environment is an underwater extension to the city and with buildings serviced by grid steam and surface pumped air, accessible through luxurious glass and steel tunnels is the epitome of modern scientific advances and an idyllic spot in which to set up a new place. I bought a large plot and have built a large construction that should one day soon open its doors as the worlds first underwater restaurant and hotel, a quiet retreat away from the hustle and bustle of modern city life. Within the facility I intend to deploy many of my own industrial products and employ the services of steam men; I chastise myself for such blatant masculine terminology but one can but consider them as male when you consider their demeanour. To look into their eyes is to gaze into the void, their mechanical minds not capable of original thought, programmed as they are to their developed purpose a one track mind in the most primitive sense. Still a steam man, regularly maintained, has never yet let me down, in that much they differ from their namesakes.

In the months since its building I have left the build to test its resilience to the forces of nature, to let Neptune's wrath try to break in, and so far we have had but minor incidents. There is however something amiss with the atmosphere, the pumped air from Babbage is plentiful enough but somehow the building retains a musty, damp feel. I am therefore contemplating an overhaul of the larger spaces to incorporate and furthermore, sustain plant life in the hope that this will cleanse the air. I have heard tales of the Aether travellers using plant life to a similar effect.

Finally, what of the plot left behind in the canals? I have decided to retain this also and am building a factory complex. A manufacturing facility in which Janus creations will be constructed and from which they will be dispatched. Not being inclined to simple industrial dullness I have contrived to build the factory with some of the charm of my childhood memories of the ... ah but I forget myself... it would not do to write of that even if this were a private journal, nothing is truly private after all. I have had reason to be concerned as to my past life in recent weeks. A stranger entered my house, as is so often found in Babbage, and as such an event to which I am accustomed. However this stranger was presented as a gentleman but behaved as quite the opposite, his approach too close, swathed in the vapours of excessive liquor, his interests purely carnal. As I berated him and sent him on his way he commented that he would rather the coquette than the prude. Perhaps it is all in my mind, perhaps he was simply a stupid drunk, perhaps he had lost his way from Miss Nightfire's establishment, but it has set one to wondering, to dwelling on the past. Oh Tali, I miss you, with each and every day, oh how I wish that I had the Faith, to think, nay, believe that with each passing day I move a day nearer to our reunion, but alas my hard heart sides with my head and I know that this is not so.