There’s some clear influences at work in Clockmaker’s Folly, and I’d say that the most obvious influence (though perhaps not obvious to others) was the character of Grace.
Her nature definitely owes a lot to the writers of Mass Effect, and the portrayal of female Shepard by Jennifer Hale. Prior to working on this story, I asked Kate about her favourite two characters in any sort of fiction – one was Shep, and the other was Henry DeTamble from The Time-Traveller’s Wife. Thankfully she forgot I’d asked about that, and the whole spectacle here caught her by surprise.
They entered a new room which was more expansive than the rooms before it, and though a faint fog crushed around them, Grace felt a sense of scale and situation that clashed with her concept of being underground. This one felt large, and almost outside.
She saw a large crank in the middle, and a pane of frosted glass behind it. The gears were still there, though their sharp angles and coloured lights were muted.
“Just like before? Where’s this going, Knox?”
“Not yet. Look closely.”
Avery approached the glass, and knelt down against it. There was the same fog there, but it cleared away at the faint touch of his breath. There were two smaller cranks, one crimson and the other gold.
“Blood before bounty,” mumbled Grace.
The turns of the crimson crank were swift, though the response from the machinery didn’t match. Loud clanging and heavily struck metal replaced the tubular bells and chimes that Grace had come to expect, especially from a source so small.
The change was not subtle. She felt the floor shift upward smoothly and rapidly, lifting them both. It was no longer a room, but an elevator. The ceiling above was faintly visible amidst the fog, and as they were closer to it, a split formed, gradually widening until it was large enough for them and the crank to pass through.
The lift stopped as the platform they were on became level with the ground. They were definitely outside now, though Grace didn’t know their exact location. It seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place it; a park of some kind, with a few lines of trees adorning stone pathways. The air was fresh, and aside from the faint fog that had continued to permeate, was also clear. The stars above were brighter than the city usually allowed for, but it otherwise felt like a normal night.
“A little warning next time?” asked Grace, her voice rising.
“There’s no danger to you here.”
“Not what I asked you.”
“I won’t make it a habit.” He paused, though only Grace’s piercing gaze offered him a reply.
“Continue,” he added.
She stared at him for a few moments longer, adding a raised eyebrow to let him really know how impressed she was.
Go on, he mouthed.
“I’m about three seconds from seeing if I can dislodge this big boy right here,” she said, slapping a palm against the larger crank, “and seeing how hard I can hit you with it before you or it breaks. I’m doing it.”
Avery nodded quietly, and kept his mouth tightly closed to hold back any smile, words or expression – each had the potential to push Grace that little bit past annoyed. It may have been an exaggeration, but he knew her words were not mindless rhetoric.
She continued with the other small crank, unsure what changes this one would bring. The sounds were softer; a quiet rattle close by. It took only a few seconds for the effects to be seen.
A pair of metal rods rose up from the ground by the base of the largest crank. They both had a kink at the top, on which the rods folded once they were fully extended.
“Three?” asked Grace.
Avery nodded. “And I’m about to become extremely annoying.”
“Did you mean to tell me that when we first came down here?”
He shook his head at her, and motioned toward at the cranks. “Numbered from left to right. When I say the number, that’s the one to start turning.”
“Feel free to jump in any time.”
“I’m sorry Miss Tamlyn, but I cannot.”
She would’ve replied. She was about to, but heard Avery say two before she’d thought up an adequately sarcastic reply.
Grace started to wind the middle crank in the ensemble of controls. There was ordinarily a delay. All of the other machines so far had had such a delay, but this time the change happened immediately.
The clouds around the park began to shift, and there was a feeling of wind around her. She had only gone through four revolutions by the time she head the next number.
Grace switched, and cast an eye upward. There was something different. Not the clouds. She wasn’t sure that it had been the clouds at all. She tried to focus on the sky, but before she had the chance, Avery called out for the third crank to be started.
She could definitely feel the change this time, and as she looked skyward, she could finally spot it. There were clouds there, but what was behind the clouds would normally seem impossible to her; even now it felt improbable.
There were trails in the sky; staggered arcs streaking against the black of night. The stars, moved faster than Grace had ever seen.
“This has got to be a trick,” she said, though continued to turn the crank.
“Two,” answered Avery.
“I’ve already turned it.”
“Yes you have. Two.”
The next part came without warning- a burst of light that showered her eyes with brightness.
“What is that?” she asked with annoyance.
“The sun, Miss Tamlyn. It is the sun.”
Her mouth opened, and after the words “How could it be the sun?” had been voiced, her jaw was left hanging.
“In a minute,” said Avery. He held an arm against his forehead, and watched as the glow rose from the edge of the horizon, waiting until it hung just high enough in the sky to paint it blue. “The third once again, but only once.”
“Then?” She asked as she moved to the other, and then pushed the crank around one last cycle.
From another point on the horizon, Grace saw the speckled whiteness of what at first seemed to be a cloud. As it continued to ascend, there could be no doubt. While the sun held firm in its position, they were observing the slow rise of the moon.
“Science is a lie, Miss Tamlyn. The celestial event unfolding before you is a lunar eclipse, controlled as the immutable laws of this world are, by machines like this and others I have shown you.”
The sky darkened as the moon passed in front of the sun, finally halting when the light had been completely blocked. Grace shook her head, looking up at the eclipse, and then to Avery.
“Apparently I just caused an eclipse. No shit it’s fucking complicated.”
Avery held up his hands, “You have to stay calm.”
“Tell. Me. How.”
“It’s very complicated.”
“Then tell me something, Knox.”
“An imbued orrery,” he gave as an answer.
“I know what one is,” she interrupted. “That confusion you heard was about this actually being an orrery.”
“It works in the same way as the other machines,” he explained. His hand gestured to the individual parts of the control, and then up into the sky. “These move the planets. Stars. Even the earth itself.”
“The Earth,” she said with a tone of finality.
Avery nodded. “Yes”
“Something beneath the earth… controls the earth.”
He nodded again.
Grace looked up at the sky, toward the darkness of the umbra, and the surrounding flare of the sun’s corona. The eclipse was something that she knew could happen, but to occur like this didn’t feel real.
“So I did this?” she asked.
“The machine did, but otherwise yes.”
“Okay then. Show me the machine that lets me change the sun’s colour. I want to make it blue.”
Grace nodded with a smile, “It’d cause quite a stir.”
Avery shook his head, “You’re not taking this seriously.”
“Actually I’m taking it very seriously. I want to see something new.”
“As far as I know, there’s no machine that changes the colour of the sun in isolation.”
She squinted at him. “As far as you know.”
“Yes.” Avery glanced off into the distance – not at anything he could see, but peering through his own thoughts. “Time.”
“Time,” he answered without giving her an answer. He returned to his thoughts, and Grace glanced up at the sky again. The darkness seemed to reach too far. The brightness around the shadowy moon seemed fleeting, yet permanent.
She reached for the cranks, and gave the third one a turn, but in the opposite direction to what she’d done before. A burst of sunlight broke the black of the sky, leading Grace to a smile, and Avery to calling out “Stop!” Her hands lifted up, and her head turned to face him.
“What is it?” she asked.
“You mustn’t turn it backwards. It can break everything.”
“Couldn’t put a ratchet in play? Stop it turning backwards?”
Avery shook his head, “There was no need. For all the devices I have shown you, I never once told you which way to turn.”
Grace looked at the crank, hovering her hands above it, then motioned to turn. “Clockwise. It just felt natural.”
“And this last unfortunate turn?”
“That’s not a thing.”
“Why not?” asked Avery.
“People don’t say that.”
“I say it.”
“You’re hardly people, though.”
“Ouch,” said Avery, though he was smiling.
“Sorry, but… other spectrums?”
His lips stretched out into a broader smile, gave a nod of concession, then glanced toward the eclipse again. He saw hues that seemed halfway between blue and yellow, without even a speck of green. “Alright, Miss Tamlyn. You’re ready.”