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."


When the Dire Foundry was a warship, she had a broadside fierce enough to rattle anything in the Pirate Fleet. Christened only by allocated number, she gained the nickname with her reputation for the names she forged, the skies she blackened, for the molten fire that rained from her crucible heart. That's all behind her now. But while her power may have been tamed and yoked to the spirit of free enterprise, Valentin can still feel the history behind each gear, each spring. At the end of every shift, he puts aside his tools proud to be keeping this lumbering titan in the air. The Foundry, famously, never rests, and Valentin is lulled to sleep every night by her escapement's endless hum as she drifts across the sky.