I’ve Remade things before, but I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do this.
My name is Martin Fullius. I received my PhD in Engineering and Thaumaturgy at the Imperial Londinium College at Oxford. I am a certified free-lance Remaker. This is the journal of my latest work — for my own records, and for posterity should something happen to me.
It began this morning. I returned to my lab after an uneasy night to continue my private research. The sky was grey, as usual, making it difficult to see the Imperial Skystation that’s been docked over the city for two weeks now, doing Jupiter-only-knows-what. I’m grateful for the clouds.
There were children playing outside in the rain, singing.
Remaker, Remaker, make me a hand…
When I entered the lab, he was waiting for me. A pristine black suit, a high-collared cloak, hair so blonde it’s almost white, slicked back with oil. His features pointed, a stark intelligence in his eyes. His accent told me he was from Rome. He’d come a long way.
I asked him how he got in, but his only response was to offer me a job. He knew my work — finesse with clockwork, hands with exceptional manual dexterity, legs with exceptional strength, the entire contubernium I outfitted with grafted crossbows last year. But he also knew my other work, my personal research, my secret projects. He knew that my grants were running out. He offered to sponsor me, patronize me.
He offered me anything and everything I needed to focus entirely on my research with no need for outside commissions.
I gave him the only answer I could.
His name was Servius. I realise in my excitement that I neglected to mention it, despite the fact that I found it odd he gave only a praenomen.
He came again today to deliver his starting funds. It’s enough denarii to keep me working for a month.
I can only assume he works for the Imperial Philosopher’s Council. Where else would he get that kind of money?
The children are playing outside again. They distract me from my work.
Remaker, Remaker, make me an arm …
Such a trifle. Attach basic clockwork to existing muscles. Add an engine for extra power, if desired. I’ve made dozens.
It’s nothing to what he wants.
I want to get right into the application, but of course that’s impossible. There’s so much preliminary research to be done, and I’ve barely scratched the surface in my two years since graduating.
Servius told me he can get me resources, he has access to books I could never get on my own. It must be the Council. I gave him a shopping list of famous texts: P. Serrelius Cato’s On the Application of Clockwork; C. Cornelius Wyrfyr’s Thaumaturgy: Technology, Biology, and the Forces of Nature; Jean Claudius’s Philosophy of Steam; William Pound’s Difference Engine. I doubt he’ll be able to get half of them.
He returned already. He brought every book on the list.
I have become engrossed in my research. My laboratory looks like Alexandria after it was sacked — codices and rolls strewn everywhere, held open to certain pages and stuffed with bookmarks; notes and diagrams pinned to every available surface, layers of them scattered over tables and floor; pens and ink stains everywhere. I haven’t even touched a gear yet — the theory must be sound before I even attempt application.
Remaker, Remaker, make me a leg …
I cannot — I am too busy.
Servius returned today to check on my progress. He seemed impressed, though I detected impatience in his eyes. He will have to wait.
I’ve done as much as I can. I have a starting point, but now it requires testing. I’ve ordered a vast number of supplies — tiny gears, engines and tubes and valves, springs and wires and pumps.
My difference engine broke yesterday, and I had to complete my final calculations by hand. The numbers were so familiar by now that it hardly mattered. But I’ve ordered a new one. What’s a few hundred denarii when you’re on the government’s bill?
After struggling with my designs, I’ve realised the flaw in my plans. I have little hands-on experience with anatomy other than bones and muscle. I need to learn more, and more textbooks are not enough. I’ve asked Servius for bodies — he must have connections with the morgue, and corpses are used by the Council for research all the time. I need to study the organs, how they connect and interact.
Remaker, Remaker, make me a heart…
I am trying.
My work has advanced in leaps and bounds. Servius provided me with several cadavers, and the autopsies I performed have given me so much better understanding — I’ve studied anatomy before, of course, but never so intimately, never with my purpose clearly in mind.
The way in which everything is connected astounds me. Nothing works independently, each system feeding and being fed by each other system. If I am to replicate an organ, I must have this same interconnectivity, or the whole body will fail.
If only I could see the organs at work, then perhaps I could understand their connections — I could see exactly how one feeds another, not just the fact that they do so.
I can’t design a system I don’t fully understand.
I voiced my concerns to Servius.
He told me to pack my laboratory, that he could better serve my needs in Rome itself.
I think he smiled when he said it.
We’re flying across the channel right now. I can see the continent looming over the grey water. The hum of the engine fills my mind and I cannot concentrate. It’s worse than the singing children.
My entire life fits in this airship. And it’s mostly research.
Servius promises me that I’m getting somewhere. I want to believe him.
I’ve finally been set up in Rome. The city is cleaner than Londinium, to my surprise — at least, in this quarter. I can see the Colosseum from my laboratory. Servius tells me they hold Remade matches on the day before Kalends each month.
I can imagine the competing Remakers, designing more powerful arms, large engines to be carried by the gladiators, more sophisticated mounted weaponry.
But each one is restricted — the grafted limbs, the steam engines, and the clockwork parts are only as strong as the gladiator’s body can handle. But what if the body itself is remade? Their capacity for power increased?
A remade heart is not just steam and gears, it’s not just a philosophical breakthrough. It’s power.
Servius brought me the first subject today.
His name is Publius. He’s a soldier from the 43rd Legion. His lung was badly damaged in a battle against the Arabs. He will die within the month.
And so he has offered himself to my cause.
I have done what I can non-invasively. Publius has insisted that I go farther — he wants me to cut him open, observe the organs first-hand. He insists that he will die anyway, and he’d rather help me with my research than die without a cause.
I’m not sure I can do it. The procedure will likely kill him. Does Dis care if he would die anyway?
I have accomplished nothing since I performed the procedure on Publius. It was the most informative study I have ever performed — I could see how the blood travelled from system to system, how the heart pumps it through its chambers, around the body so efficiently, so quickly before returning.
He did not live long. The heart is so necessary, the blood gives life to everything else.
There was so much blood.
Servius brought me another subject.
Claudius is another dying soldier. A foul growth has attached onto his liver and is quickly destroying it — he is unfit for battle, and will soon be unfit for anything.
I told Servius I wasn’t sure I could do it. He reminded me that Claudius would die anyway, and that if I succeeded, I could prevent the deaths of hundreds.
What choice do I have? Publius gave me so much. I’m forming theories, crafting models. I think it will be possible.
I have examined and tested ten soldiers now, each dying from a different condition. I stopped asking their names.
I have enough research now. I can begin a working model.
It has taken me some time, but I believe it will work. It’s only a test model, of course — certainly refinements will have to be made.
My work was assisted greatly when Servius brought me an apprentice. He is a young nobleman, Greek, working off indentured servitude. He is a brilliant philosopher, and has a real knack for thaumaturgy, though he is physically weak.
My model must be tested now. I have asked Servius for another soldier.
What a catastrophic failure. My device could not sustain the body’s systems. It must be refined.
The refined model fared much better, though the soldier still died. I fear that a dying system is not the best testing ground.
Servius bought me an old slave. He lacks the flaws of the dying soldiers.
I am close. Three slaves have died by my hands, but I am close. Their bodies were too weak.
I no longer believe Servius works for the Council. I sent a clockwork spy after him yesterday, after he delivered another slave. I wasn’t able to learn much, but he seemed to avoid the government buildings like the Plague. His money certainly doesn’t come from there.
The slave screamed as he died. The steam engine burned his insides.
Something that he screamed concerned me. I’m not sure he was really a slave.
My apprentice has been avoiding me when I run tests. I believe I know why now — his heart is weak. I think Servius wants me to Remake him — make him my project, my success.
But I’m not ready yet.
There are children outside my window. How interesting, that the same children’s rhymes of Londinium exist in Rome.
Remaker, Remaker …
The children were outside again yesterday.
My tests have not been working. I needed someone young, someone without the flawed systems of the adults Servius has brought me.
But the clockwork couldn’t sustain his small body.
I don’t know where he gets the people. I don’t care anymore. They are young and strong. They die screaming.
I am on the verge.
I am ready. Ready to Remake my apprentice.
I never knew such success could be wrapped in such failure.
His heart and left lung have been replaced by clockwork and steam pumps. The systems interact, the blood flows, and he lives.
I assume he lives. As soon as he rose, he struck out at me. I think he cracked a rib. Such strength from that heart.
When Servius returned, he was furious. I tried to explain that it had been a success, but he was concerned only with the apprentice. I do not understand it.
Now he has forsaken me. He too has disappeared, and with him my funding. I will not be able to pay for the lab. Soon I won’t be able to afford food.
I look around my ruined laboratory. Machinery is strewn everywhere, broken or only half-completed. He destroyed much when he left. Steam billows from my generator, impotent. The difference engine won’t calculate. Books are ruined. Blood stains every surface.
I sit here in near-silence, and I wonder what I have done.
Children sing outside my window.
Remaker, Remaker, make me a soul …
That I cannot do.
Note to readers: This story has a follow-up in Issue 25, A Clockwork Heart.
About the Author
Lucas J.W. Johnson is a writer, game designer, and entrepreneur. He’s published several short stories, including Remaker, Remaker in Fireside, a companion piece to Clockwork Heart. He also founded Silverstring Media, a narrative design and new media production studio, where he’s consulted and written for award-winning games like Extrasolar and Crypt of the Necrodancer, and developed original games like the critically-acclaimed Glitchhikers and the coffee-themed horror game Morning Rituals. Lucas has been designing narratives since Grade 3, when he was first introduced to tabletop RPGs, and continues to game regularly. He lives with his boyfriend in Vancouver, B.C.