Lady Augusta King, Countess of… yes, well, that was all in the past, stepped from the spacetime tunnel into a building that put her in mind of the lovechild resulting from a carnal act between St Paul’s cathedral and Crossness pumping station; so vast that it would have made St Peter’s basilica seem small and mean, vast enough to dwarf even the Analytical Engine that it housed, and the Analytical Engine was immense. The clattering and whirring machine glistened as cogs spun and worm-drives spiralled, belched steam from its reciprocating power source and intermittently emitted a heartfelt cry of anguish.
“Is that you, Master Dorje?” Augusta was still a little queasy from her brief, but always disorientating journey, but must, she felt, crack on. A head appeared from out of the leviathan, several hundred yards down its length.
“Ah. At last.” The diminutive Tibetan emerged holding an adjustable spanner and oily rag. He began the long march across the marble checkerboard floor. Augusta walked to meet him.
“Modifying I have been the Jacquard input teleprinter tape to accept. The holes so much smaller they are, and a take up spool designed had to be. Nearly there I am, maybe. Is that the interface?”
“It is indeed, Master Dorje,” said Augusta, thrusting forth her cardboard box triumphantly.
“Deep joy I have. With me down to the Jacquard Input Terminal you will come. Installing your device we must be. Tests we will conduct.”
A richly inlaid rosewood desk stood ready to take Augusta’s electro-mechanical binary interface device. Behind it an ornate brass ‘bedstead’ framework supported finely crafted drums configured to carry the teleprinter punched tapes, feed them over bodkin-like hole detectors and, once read, on to take up spools for storage. A dynamo, linked to the primary steam engine provided the necessary electricity to power the Interface. Augusta unwrapped her pride and joy, teleprinter output and tape feeders were aligned and voltages fine-tuned. Nuts were tightened, bearings greased and a sturdy whack with a rubber mallet administered to the delicate Jacquard reader. Initial test results were promising.
Dorje and Augusta emerged from the spacetime tunnel, their ears still ringing from the simultaneous clacking of n-thousand relays.
“MANY DECIBELS EXCEEDING EU HEALTH AND SAFETY REGULATIONS YOUR ANALYTICAL ENGINE IS. NEXT TIME, I THINK, EAR DEFENDERS WE MUST WEAR.”
“Excuse me, ma’am, this appeared at the passage entrance some time ago, demanding to see you. Says it’s urgent.” One of Le Chat guards was holding up Zelda, distastefully by two fingers on the collar of her distressed biker jacket. The young geek was holding a cigarette packet sized hard drive.
“We need to download this stuff as soon as poss, Mrs King. And there’s something I have to tell you. In private.”
“Back down the hole again, then. Ah well.” Augusta obviously did not relish yet another spacetime hop so soon. “Put her down please. You’re coming with us, child. I think you’ll be impressed. The experience is not unlike a niptrip.”
Once Zelda’s hard drive was plugged up and downloading into the Analytical Engine the trio sought a quiet corner in the bubble universe.
“There’s not much hard detail, but it’s definitely a CIA run black op. This is the thing though, once I’d managed to hack Langley, Les Chats Souterrains are involved somehow. Lots of emails and vague references to ‘the ultimate goal’.”
“I see,” said Mrs King, “and this information is all going into my machine I trust.”
“Treading carefully we must be,” from Master Dorje.
“There’s one more thing,” added Zelda, “another name kept cropping up. McGoogs.”