Staring out of the train window, the boy sighed as the miles flew past, each taking him further from his family – his worried mother and the father he would never see alive again. He was to stay with a distant aunt he’d never met, out in the country, having been packed and rushed out of his home in the early hours of the morning. Answers to his tearful questions were not forthcoming, only his mother’s weeping face and his father’s strict glare.
By his side was his school satchel, containing an apple, some sandwiches and a thick, leather-bound notebook, into which his father had stuffed folded blueprints, sketches and diagrams quickly salvaged from the workshop. His father was keen to impress upon him how important it was he kept these documents safe and was not to mention them to his estranged Aunt. Indeed, it was clear that he was to make no mention of the Great Machine or his work with it to anyone outside of the immediate family. The boy just nodded mutely at this request, but he understood perfectly.
During the weeks before his impromptu departure, the Colonel’s visits to his father had become more frequent and more explosive. Anthony had been made to hide in his room upon any knock on the door, and could only hear the raised voices of the two arguing men muffled through his floorboards. Every visit was accompanied by a greater number of footsteps, and a greater clanking and rustling of military uniforms and rifles.
His father had taken to drinking heavily and had no time to discuss anything, least of all the Great Machine, which had lain dormant for months now. Anthony relished the return to a normal sleep pattern and a cessation of his intake of the bitter tincture his father prepared for him, he assumed to keep him awake through the long nights of toil.
Still, he missed the machine, and he missed the time spent with his father. He missed the blistering steam and the whirring and clanking of the mechanisms as their experiments got ever closer to achieving their goal – the transmission of music and art through time itself.
Their latest test transmissions had gone well – all the diagnostic report cards signified that the messages were being received, although at this point there was no way of knowing if the broadcast had reached the desired parties, or someone else entirely. At this point, it was irrelevant.