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“Where on earth did you find this thing then Ari? It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Alexia Laplace held up the rectangular black object between her thumb and forefinger as if it was diseased. It was about the size of a clutch bag, and was marked up like a typwriter without any keys.

“Did I not tell you that? Sorry. It sort of just fell out of the Poincare Machine last time I got back from…wherever it was. A bit bit of flotsam “out there”. It reminds me rather of one of those new “Jewish Piano” type cash registers”. He took his hat off, shook his fair hair about, and started to replace that hat before thinking better of it.

“One of these days that machine will come back from “wherever it was” carrying a plague fit to wipe out most of London”.

“Why look at me like that? You built it”.

“To your specifications. Specficiations that, I recall, came to you in a dream.”

“I dream of many things Alexia. Is it ready?”

“Of course.”

Alexia walked across to a table cluttered with tools, boots heavy upon the wooden floor of the first floor of the convered Docklands warehouse. She wore tweed trousers tucked into these boots, and a white linen shirt, while the hat of a common working man kept her sometimes auburn hair under control. Upon the table was an object sheathed in a black cloth, which she proceded to whip off without ceremony, to reveal a silver and dulled iron contraption of similar size to the black box, which she dropped off next to a pot of thinners.

“Here it is. An adding machine, as you requested.”

Brown came over for a closer look. “Call it a difference engione. Babbage did, it sound so much better. Will it print onto paper as a typewriter?”

“Again, of course. You ask, I deliver. It adds, subtracts, and multiplies and divides, just as you asked.”

“I’m so glad it’s finished. I need it so urgently”.

Alexia’s interest was piqued. “Have you been asked to calculate the orbit of a comet or some other celestial phenomenon? Is the earth in danger?”

“No. I need to calculate my taxes. They are overdue and revenue men are coming the acid rather. Criticism doesn’t pay nearly enough”. Aristophanes Brown sighed at this.

“Only in floozies.”

“Alexia please, take your mind out of the gutter. Unlike Erskine at The Times, I don’t give good reviews for services rendered.”

“Then you are a fool indeed, Ari,” said Alexia flatly.

She looked back at the black box, the discovery of which had inspired the construction of the difference engine.

“Ari, who do you think Sinclair was? And has he ever made an 82nd machine to go after this one.”

Aristophanes only shrugged, and lit a cigarette from a silver case.

Copyright Mulberry Lightning 06/10/14

this piece written in 23 minutes at work one lunchtime, surrounded by rickety old PCs

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