Valentin only realizes someone is behind him when a thick glove starts waving in his periphery. He pulls off his earmuffs and swivels away from his workbench. "Chief!" he says, leaping awkwardly to his feet.

"May I?" Chief Horologist Komarova picks up the the little automaton, turning it over in her hands. "Yes, good technique. Perhaps, though... do you have a sheet of paper?"

He flips over an old diezoprint and shoves it across the workbench; Komarova pulls a graphite stub from her oilstained coveralls. As she sketches changes to his algorithm, Valentin's elation at the elegance her changes bring out turns to dismay. With deadline already looming, he'll have to start from scratch. His face falls.

"Don't worry," she says. "We'll make a clocker of you, yet."