The Extermination Device of the Blacksmith
Clan Uvoma 13’s streets had been exposed to whatever impurity was causing mass blindness. It was a scourge. Guesses were that some laboratory experiments had gone haywire deep in the urban sectors of the clan after new entities had invaded our solar system. To breathe clean air now meant the dependence on high-powered masks which acted as separators, converting the inorganic to organic. The masks were modified to stabilize and regulate the rate of contamination.
The particles first infected our spaces years ago. They interfered with the ecosystem, tipping the once balanced scales. The Council of Chiefs, who saw to the affairs of the clan, proposed a bill, and a safe site was established miles away from the servers. The selected cores that harbor high-powered energy, which, when combined electrically with the ancient Kianji Dam, could power all of Clan Uvoma 13. This was a well-known fact.
I was a worker at the clan’s train station, where the ancient magnetic locomotives and greased steam engines were housed. They were spectacular machines that fed on the sacred powers of coal. I remember the coal to be darker than the blackest night.
My essential duty was transporting my clansmen by train. My passengers were usually herbal doctors, mechanically advanced mistresses and their boyfriends, or miners who were not giving up their search for answers regarding the blindness and deaths. The destination was usually the same each time—the same liquid metal market which was located in the safe isolation zone.
Clan Uvoma 13 had fire breathers that focused all their efforts on incinerating the visible particles in open spaces. They always had their personal protective equipment on from head to toe—dreadful costumes fabricated as if for military use. Those fire breathers were also the law enforcers. Like every citizen, they wore their engineered masks. They could fight anything, but the strange machines that often perched atop the palm trees were not within their pay grade. Their weapons could do no damage. The pestilence was indeed a coded ghost, supernaturally causing havoc, flawless in stalking vulnerable lungs, and inflicting pain upon the infected. So, changing locations was paramount. The machines would soon face retaliation from the clan.
Soon, my train was packed full. I tweaked the lenses of my mask’s eye sockets. The color of things changed. Everything was now green, as if hidden behind jade curtains. The world was now like a distorted blueprint.
I recognized the ancient tablet that was meant for inputting commands to my train. It had five selected compasses, a number of steel protractors, and spindles. It had several other functions that I had yet to get used to. The formal dress code for the clan’s train conductor was a robe imprinted with symbols that recounted in pictograms the Clan’s ancient battle with aliens. One of the signs was the lightning bolt of Amadioha, the glorious thunder god whose hands were permanently gloved with glowing fuses and smelted iron.
The sky was now empty and covered by orange clouds. Despite the abilities of the fire breathers, the air wasn’t improving. At times, meteor showers would rain down upon the hills and mountains that were closest in proximity to the strange machines. Everything was a reminder of the invasion. Weather forecasters and analysts had long ago gone underground in search of answers. They had experimented for years. Was the world ending?
Yam tendrils had started to weave themselves into power lines—luscious green leaves entangled with the solid cabling. The cables had been made by pressurizing lead and copper to form an alloy.
Throughout the neighborhoods and clan surroundings, gigantic flaming wicks of ignited crude oil burned and swirled like hurricanes of twisting fire.
The lenses on my mask recorded everything. My train’s horn blared the moment it sped away from the station. The sound echoed with a power strong enough to shrink and deform any matter made of blood, water, or bone.
My train’s destination would be the ancient worship center where tributes were paid to the forefathers who invented the teleportation vaults that had teleported my clan to safety many centuries ago.
I choked the engine a bit to maintain our speed. I clicked several buttons on the tablet, and the great chimney opened up above me. The smoke stack let out a loud cry and released hot ash into the air. That was the kind of depressurization that I had in mind. The train thundered on, sounding hard and mechanical, and heavy on the decibels.
At the gate to the teleportation vault, luminous scanners swept over the length of my train to analyze our properties. Every inch of the machine and its inhabitants was scanned by green x-rays projecting from the floating orbs. We were kept in suspended animation during scanning, since any sudden movement would mean instant electrocution. This was a test that was administered by the metal circuits of the scanners in charge of the passage. It was intended to separate the strong from the weak. Whoever designed this maze-like transport system surely sipped ogogoro while doing so.
The vault’s core was just ahead, bathed in a bright yellow light. I adjusted the lenses on my mask to dark mode to help my vision, and my passengers did the same. I glanced over my shoulder to check their collective composure. I recognized a bounty hunter who specialized in repossessing stolen machine parts and other high-grade technologies.
The view was much better in dark mode. I watched as the energy field surrounding the vault’s core sucked us in.
“Hang on, everyone!” I announced, shouting into my megaphone. My voice boomeranged through the speakers.
Beyond the light was a void deeper and darker than the darkest tunnel. We remained temporarily suspended for a beat, then burst out of the shell-like veil that had restricted unauthorized movements, and into the sweetest place of what was left of Clan Uvoma 13.
Sparks splashed against the magnetic rails and steam poured from the stacks as the brakes caused the train to squeal to a stop. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Is everyone in good condition?” I asked my passengers.
I clicked the tablet again and the exit doors slid open. The rusted mechanisms inside the doors shrieked. I removed my mask and inhaled deeply to fill my lungs with fresh air.
I was the first to step down from the train. Everyone else had removed their masks and were now drooling like dumbstruck androids. Two newbies had vomited inside my train and later apologized for the mess. The group disbanded some time later, spreading out among the irrigated gardens.
I inhaled the fresh scent of petals that grew wild beneath the hybrid trees, and then made my way to the black market known as Mgbuka 7/13, which was the place to go for all the new technologies that had been reinforced with stronger code. The techs were just analogs, but all of them had been handmade by the great Shaman with whom I was to seek counsel. The analogs were decades old, but thanks to the Shaman, they still showed promise in the fight against our enemy.
I noticed that time was now moving abnormally fast. The unseen vibrations caused me to shiver. I ignored my discomfort and carried on.
It wasn’t hard to find the ancient workshop of the Shaman blacksmith, for it was hotter than any other place in the galaxy. You just had to follow the heat. Outside the workshop was a field of rusty tools, and looming above the tools were giant statues of my ancestors, cast in metal.
I ventured inside.
The many rooms of the workshop each had their own chimney for smithing. The fires inside the furnaces burned hot enough to melt any metal in seconds.
The Shaman was a traditional man, lanky in stature, but he possessed hands that could reshape any and all matter.
When I entered, he was busy at work, his broad back turned to me. He always worked alone, but he was fond of my visits. He had even thought about teaching me a few of his secrets.
“Greetings, Shaman of Mgbuka 7/13,” I said. “I am here on behalf of the Council of Chiefs to retrieve the device. Is it ready? We are scheduled to launch tomorrow by 8:00, as stated in the commissioned contract…sir.”
“I know what the contract says,” the Shaman replied. “Come in. The device is ready.” He continued to hammer away as he spoke.
Suddenly, he stopped, lifted the glowing metal with his massive iron tongs, and submerged it into a nearby salt bath, which caused the entire room to fill with steam.
I was sweating helplessly.
As hot as the air was, the Shaman appeared to be unbothered. He made his way to a safe in the wall—a safe he had forged himself—and he punched a security code into a panel of invisible buttons on the wall beside it. The locking bolt thundered open.
Inside the safe was the device.
The Shaman retrieved the device with two hands, both of them trembling, and brought it over to his workbench.
The device glowed like something alien.
Its specifications were rather modest—small and unassuming—but there was no doubt that it was a killing machine. To the untrained eye, it was simply a box, a timer, thirteen nozzles, a trigger, a vast array of magnetic sequences, a few cylinders of concentrated, inorganic gases, numerous colored wires, and some circuitry.
The Shaman removed the metal from the salt bath. It no longer glowed red. It was now black like onyx.
“This is the easy part,” he said.
With both hands, he affixed his new creation to the device’s exterior, creating what appeared to be a protective shell.
“Is that all?” I asked.
“Patience,” he said.
“I really don’t have time, sir.”
I glanced at my wristwatch. My train would need to depart soon.
“Tell me,” said the Shaman. “How it is out there? Are the machines still watching us? Are we winning the battle? How do you manage to survive? Do the beautiful masks I make help? And how many of these new devices are you going to need? If it is launched, and then detonated at the right second, just one will do the required damage. It should keep the airspace contained…for now, at least…while we wait here. The Veil will keep us well-isolated.”
“It will need to do more than that.” I said, stealing another glance at my watch. “It has to. The air here is priceless.”
“We have our ancestors to thank for that,” he said.
I nodded in agreement. I then accepted the new toy and bid him farewell.
His eyes were red from the heat.
“Stay safe out there, Victor,” he told me. “And keep your distance from infected places. We may never know how long this all will last.”
© 2020, Solomon Uhiara