“It appears that the three of them have indeed met. Not sure how long ago, my guess is at least one day out, if you take in account the travel time to their rail station, and one day back in to our rail station. Maybe another day of movement between wire operators. The decoding of the telegraph message was double checked, the message appears correct and current enough.”
“Dismissed…” The man behind the desk said softly as he shuffled through what appeared to be photos.
Most of the troops assembled out in front of the fortress had been waiting there the majority of the day, not yet allowed inside until the order was given. It is customary for troops not directly under the command of the fortress to remain outside the walls, with their superior officers coming inside to consult with IOP (Infantry Operations Command), but the legions themselves are never to be allowed inside the walls.
North American High Command Sat along the California coastline in the ruins of what used to be San Francisco. A colossal fortress made of steel and stone blocks, cut and hauled in from the quarry in a small mining town, known as Ione. A self contained city, powered by steam, using the ocean water the fortress was parallel with, to create the power that would operate, among other things, the desalinization plant within.
The army seized control of the the mining bureau, right after the California Republic was admitted to the union, around the same time that the western seaboard was scorched, and what small towns and villages that were operating in central California, depended on the “Grey Fortress” as it was known, for their survival. What used to be a land of plentiful agriculture, was reduced to mostly impotent farming operations with barely enough yield to stay alive in the region.
No one is really sure how the western seaboard of America was scorched, or how the forests of Canada putrefied, but Spanish operations in Mexico have now collapsed, and sent the land and its peoples into a descending spiral that has yet to letup. It all seemed to happen so quickly. All of a sudden, one morning, it was as if the sun had somehow come too close to the planet for just a moment in time that seemed time last forever, then darkness, then back to a normal sunrise, only to find everything black, and the once shining stone fortress turned grey.
The massive fortress gate slowly began to rise as the morning supervisor had given the command to begin dawn operations. “Begin circulation through the gate valve, vent the overnight tanks, pressure checks on all stopcocks, petcocks, and bibcocks. Thermostatic reports on all gear stations Mr Lewis.”
“Cog and sprocket maintenance and repairs completed well before dawn sir, temperature normal in all gearbox generator stations sir, aggregate overnight telemetry on the central gyroscopic engine containment complex due in one hour sir…” the short and stocky man said as he was tapping the glass covering a pressure gauge along the south wall of the physical plant control center.
The center of the fortress, known as the “Gyroscopic Engine Complex” was a heavily guarded structure, made of an unknown material, and little was known of it outside of its name. The only thing for certain, was that it was under the superintendence and aegis of the field division of Infantry Operations, the commanding officer’s personal legion.
“Mr. Cochran, we are at least 3 weeks behind, the fortress will run out of mineral soon, production needs to increase, Captain Parker is no longer interested in excuses”, the Lieutenant said sharply. as he brushed his hand across the mining dust that had settled on the large oak desk, that Professor Cochran could be found sitting at every morning.
An Alchemist of note, Johann Cochran had ventured west from New York, after resigning from his position as department chair at Oxford, coming to America with the hopes of testing his theories.
In his late sixties, rather short and thin, Johann was a boisterous man, something that came in handy as a educator.
He oversaw the Theoretical Alchemy and Theoretical Engineering department at Oxford, which was invite only, a course of studies that was known only to those that needed to know within the academic community.
“You can tell that madman the device can be reinserted into the bore when his people get the repairs made to the pipeline. No steam, no power, ergo, all we have is the crew extracting the Alkalinium by hand, which is a slow process.” Professor Cochran said confidently as the lieutenant had been slowly moving towards the desk. “That was not a request. As well as your presence at the fortress before sundown today.” the dusty soldier told him while leaning forward with both hands on the desk. “Now get up, and come with me. We have a long journey, and I assure you, we will make it back before the gate closes. Straight up, or across my saddle, you will be going.”
“You tell Antenor that I will descend to his ninth level of hell when I am good and ready, and not before” Professor Cochran replied.
“Have it your way old man, seize him” the lieutenant barked as four ragged and dusty cavalrymen stepped in through the door where they had been ordered to wait just outside of.