As the all-but-deserted Clockhaven Queen pulled in to port, I was struck by how much bigger and, if possible, even more impressive New Babbage seemed these days.
Even though I had only visited once (and then all too briefly) I could recall reading a travel guide by Burro Publications in Steelhead’s library and marvelling at the city’s use of technology. True that given my childhood in what had been Manchester I had (and indeed, have!) plenty of reason to distrust and even hate technology, but as a doctor I know full well that technology is only a tool and any evil, or good for that matter, wrought by technology is in fact created by the man, or creature, utilising the technology.
I was contemplating these philosophical quandaries as I disembarked and walked along the quay. Evening was setting in and the empty streets were growing dark. I was suddenly aware of just how awfully empty the streets were. A chill wind blew between the silent buildings, a strange keening sound only just evident over the noise of the Queen mooring up. I was certain I picked up a familiar scent wafting in from the city too, a sickly sweet smell that I knew all too well. Death was in the air.
The shop was on the waterfront and the note had said to look out for a console or door which would open with a voice command and grant access to the cellar. I searched high and low but could find neither – the front of the shop was simply open and given the shop’s position on the quay any cellar there was likely to be very damp indeed. The only door I could find in the shop was a curious circular affair at the back of the shop, but there was no console nearby and it opened perfectly well with only the slightest of pulls.
But what a strange place to have a door for it opened, by the smell of it, into the sewers of Clockhaven. Was this the cellar door the mysterious note alluded too? If so were the sewers (wide, covered canals which took the waste of the city away into the sea and were an engineering marvel the slums of Shanghai needed desperately if the outbreak of some foul disease was to be avoided) the means of delivery for the Bing Kong? And what were they delivering that was so important? There was only one way to find out: I had to enter the sewers and see where they led and to do that I would need a boat. There was only one place in Clockhaven I knew of that supplied such a vessel and I turned on my heels and headed into the darkening night…
To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.