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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2312952-Off-the-Record-Prologue
Rated: E · Fiction · Steampunk · #2312952
A patron of the sciences loses time exploring an eccentric inventor's workshop.
Charles Reigns Perspective

January 27th 1873 5:24 pm (Dr. Windsor Pierce's Workshop)

"Hello?" I rapped against the window annoyed. The Inventor's Workshop appeared closed off. "Windsor?"

The science guild had been pressuring me to meet with Dr. Windsor Pierce for weeks now. He was a problem I had inherited from my family who had naively agreed to fund his projects indefinitely.

We have a controlling stake in the Science Guild allowing us to decide where our resources are spent. Usually we have been pretty careful in making sure the projects that we have taken on have yielded amazing returns for the Guild. Dr Pierce was not one of those cases.

Perhaps he displayed an air of brilliance at one point. Maybe when my grandfather arranged the contract with him his work and theories had seemed promising. My experiences with him however have not lead me to that conclusion. The man was incredibly eccentric. He was reclusive refusing to share any details of what he was doing. He seemed content to keep whatever mysterious projects he had been working on from the rest of the world.

This proved to be disastrous as the contract my grandfather had set up for him has given him free reign with no oversight whatsoever. Any funding we provided him was used as he saw fit without any need to show results on his end. He also refused to meet with anyone but a member of the Reigns family leaving me solely responsible for the interactions with him. I've been trying to get him to terminate the contract on his side for years now.

***


In our last meeting I applied as much pressure as I could to get him to show me something. He wound up showing me a phonograph plugged into a bunch of cables. It was elaborate with several cords winding all over the place but disappointing to say the least. Papers were everywhere.

I remember him looking at me like I should be impressed.

"How much have you been drinking?" I said gesturing to several bottles lying on the floor of the room amidst the stacks of papers.

"They are for the machine I'm building" he assured me.

"The machine that you have yet to reveal what it is?"

"It would spoil the surprise"

"Windsor how am I supposed to explain this to the guild? All you have is a phonograph plugged into a wall and a bunch of glass bottles for God knows what."

"I'm sure you'll think of something Charles. Besides your family controls the guild. They can't do anything to you."

I hated the colloquial tone. He talked to me like I was an old friend rather than the person responsible for his funding. "It is not fun listening to them complain"

"If there is one thing I know about you is that you are more than capable of handling them." He squeezed my shoulder gently. "It will be ready soon."

"You've been telling them that for decades"

"It will be worth the wait."

***


When he contacted about a month ago that he had a breakthrough, I suspected this meeting would be another waste of my time but the guild insisted. Of course it figures that once I show up the doctor would be nowhere in sight. Perhaps he had left and had gone off to retire somewhere. If only I was so lucky.

I tried the door knob to his workshop out of frustration. To my surprise it opened.

The workshop was even messier than it was the last time I visited. The machine looked like a monstrosity now ...cords gears and cables combined with a ton of household items. To the doctor's credit he had put the bottles to use though they didn't seem like they served any practical purpose. Instead they appeared to be a bunch of model kits distributed across various shelves. Imagine a ship in a bottle but instead of the ships there were cities and places elaborately placed inside. Some seemed to have a fantasy element to them as if they were far off worlds or distant futures. Others depicted familiar places... Locations in the world / scenes from the distant past. I wondered how the guild would feel knowing their money was wasted on this collection. There were glass orbs across the machine that seemed to pulse with blue light.

Lying atop of one of the tables was a notebook. It read Displacement Schematics and guide to Temporal Transportation. Time Travel? I thumbed through it. It had elaborate diagrams and scientific notes I couldn't understand. My mind briefly entertained the idea that I had misjudged the doctor but I dismissed it quickly. There is no way this was real. The phonograph still remained as part of the machine. A circular record disk was attached to it. I wondered if the machine at least played music. I couldn't help myself from running my fingers across it.

There was a bright light and a whirring sound as the orbs began pulsing. The room seemed to shift around me. Something had changed. I looked at the lights across me. I walked outside the workshop. I had a cold feeling in my stomach as I suspected what had happened. I looked around for confirmation. A freshly discarded newspaper confirmed the date ...1833! I had traveled through time to 40 years in the past!!

Word Count: 917

Authors Note: This was written for "StAG Firebox - Open for March round! The prompt was to write a Steampunk story using the following image https://www.writing.com/main/images/action/display/ver/1704060483/item_id/231119...
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