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 Post Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:28 am 
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One possibility, of course, is being hired by parents eager to encourage their children to eat their vegetables.

----------------

The man with the clipboard leads them past a simple wooden stockade (in good repair, but strangely a good deal less strong than the brick and/or stone buildings inside) into a nearby village. There does not appear to be an actual gate as such - there's merely a gap. Most people spare them only a brief glance (which almost invariably turns into a long stare at the sight of Spot); transport through the village seems to be mostly on foot, although there are also a lot of horses and the occasional bicycle. The windows have glass in them, and there are enough on the ground floors of the houses to suggest that no-one seriously expects a horde of barbarians to break through the laughably insecure stockade and storm through the village. The streets are cobbled, with gutters along the side to carry away any rainwater that might fall upon the city itself.

There are streetlamps. They appear to be gaslamps, from what Spot can see of them.

And there's a smell. A smell of smoke - woodsmoke, coal smoke, and burnt gas all linger in the air - layered with a smell of horses (and no matter how assiduous the street-cleaners are, horses still leave piles of dung here and there) and, to a certain degree, people who have not had a bath for some time.

The destination to which the clipboard man leads them is the second-biggest building in the village; a structure of stone, surrounded by its own (much stronger) stone wall, which in turn has an actual gate guarded by two bored men with halberds. The building itself is somewhat palatial - it has a bigness that is evidently designed to impress, to tower over those who come before it (unlike the biggest building in town - a railway station, which has a kind of a utilitarian bigness which suggests that it is that big because it needs to be, and which was almost certainly built after the palace but looks a good deal more used and less polished).

One can see the space elevator that bought them down from here. The elevator is heading up the cable again.

"Three immigrants," says the clipboard man to the palace guards, "come to see His Majesty."

Without bothering to send word into the palace, the guards open the gates to let the party in (but they keep the children very firmly outside). Inside the walls are the palace gardens - carefully tended, neat, clean.

The King is evidently expecting them (and probably has been ever since he saw the elevator lowering) - there's a group of trumpeters that blow a series of fanfares, and then the group is led into the throne room.

It's not really as big as one might expect, given the size of the palace. It would hold a fair-sized crowd, which is not present; the only people present are Spot, Steve, Wilshire, the clipboard man, a young page with a trumpet who looks ready to blow it at the slightest excuse, and what one presumes are the King and Queen. They're sitting on thrones and wearing crowns, at least. The thrones themselves are either gold or gold-plated, and the crowns have an impressive selection of shiny jewels in them. The King, a somewhat overweight man, rises to his feet and takes a deep breath, evidently about to launch into a long, prepared speech.

Then he sets eyes on Spot. For a moment, his royal composure cracks, as his eyes bulge with surprise. Forgetting his speech for the moment, he instead asks a single question:

"Who are you?"

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 Post Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:11 pm 
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"I am Spot, your majesty." it answers. Spot bobs in a way that might be mistaken for a bow, as performed by a spider.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:20 am 
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King Edward looks at Spot for a long moment. The nervous page raises his trumpet, but the King waves a hand and he lowers it again. "Rumour has it," he says, still looking at Spot, "that you and your friends are building some sort of war machine in Dominia. Might I ask exactly what that is all about?"

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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:14 pm 
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"Your Majesty, my comrades and I just arrived on this world a quarter of an hour ago; and until that time I did not know that there were any more like me on this world. Indeed, I did not know there were any more like me anywhere; I was resigned to being the only one of my kind."

After a beat it continues: "That being the case, I can only guess what they might be building; and this court can probably do a better job of that than I can, knowing more of the situation than I do."

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 Post Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:39 am 
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King Edward gives Spot a long, calculating look. The page with the trumpet takes advantage of the pause to blow a sudden fanfare, making the King jump and glare at the page.

The Queen continues to just sit there, studying Spot closely.

"Very well, then." replies the King. "In that case -" He takes a deep breath, and launches into his prepared speech. "Gentlemen and, and metal thing, today you have entered -"

"Oh, stop it, Ed." interrupts the Queen. "I must apologise for my husband," she adds, "he can go on for hours if I let him."

The King turns around to face his wife. "We are royalty, my dear. A certain dignity is expected of us."

The Queen, in a completely undignified manner, sticks her tongue out, which causes the King to turn his back on her and resolutely ignore her.

"If you didn't know about the others," asks the Queen, addressing Spot, "then may I ask precisely why you came here in the first place?"

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:21 am 
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Spot hesitates for a second, then says "The short answer is that we're following the man who landed in Dominia; he did something dangerous on another world, and we want to stop him from trying again somewhere else. The long answer would probably take several hours, your Highness. Or is it your Grace?"

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:34 am 
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The king turns round to give his wife a worried look. The page takes the opportunity for another fanfare, though this one is more dramatic and foreboding. The King turns about and glares at him. "Will you STOP that?" he snaps, irritably.

"Either will do, but 'Highness' is technocally correct." says the Queen, before continuing "So, what he's building is a war machine of some sort, then?"

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:18 am 
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After a couple of seconds, Spot replies: "They could be building a weapon system of some kind, but if so it would be to use against targets above this world or on another one. This world is not suitable for the dangerous thing he wants to do."

After a few more seconds it continues: "Unless they are somehow building a very large copy of a robot like me. He could not do that; but the others might be able to, and if so it would let him try the dangerous thing on this world." With a curl of a few tentacles, it finishes "I regret, your highnesses, that exactly what that danger is what would take several hours to explain. For your purposes, if he succeeds then it would be at least as dangerous to you as any war machine."

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:10 am 
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"I don't think it needs much explanation." says the King. "If it's big enough, it can probably step on our buildings and flatten our armies."

"I don't think that's what it means, dear." replies the Queen. Addressing Spot again, she continues "He's not really interested in us, is he? He's still trying to fight in whatever war in Heaven got him kicked out. A giant version of you wouldn't seem to be an immediate help in that - unless you can fly, of course. But if creatures like you are good at building things, then a giant version would be useful for building big things... giant weapons of some sort, perhaps, to aim at enemies beyond our ken, who will then shoot back but might hit us instead?"

The Queen considers this for a minute, and then adds "Can you fly, incidentally?"

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:15 am 
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"I can not fly. No farther than I can jump, anyway."

It continues: "For all I know, the robots in Dominia are building weapons for the kind of fight you describe. You do not need to be big to build big things; you just need to make the proper tools. A big robot, though; it would not be meant for building big things. Such a robot, if it were successfully built, should be able to make...strange things. Powerful things which should not be able to work, but often do. Unfortunately, in order to build these strange things the robot would have to start to think in strange ways. And remember, this robot would be very young; it would have not had time to learn much about the world around it before it started this work."

"In fine, your Highness; if this is what they are doing, if they can and do build such a robot , then dangerous and very powerful tools would be built and used by a being with the mind of a somewhat insane toddler."

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 Post Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:00 am 
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"I have seen how much damage a toddler can do to a perfectly innocent toy." muses the Queen.

"Bah! No toddler can threaten us." insists the King.

"I wouldn't be so sure." murmurs the Queen. "Legends from the distant past suggest that there were fearsome weapons before recorded history, and there's certainly still occasional craters here and there."

"A toddler will have no strength." replies the King.

"How much strength does one need to pull the trigger on a crossbow?" asks the Queen. "And if this - ball - is right, we might be talking about things far more dangerous than any crossbow."

She looks for a long time at the group, considering the situation. The page prepares to blow another fanfare, but without even looking up the Queen says "Not now, Tom." and he subsides.

"If you're telling the truth," she says at last, "and very few people who come off the Lift from Heaven do, then it is important to stop this Forsaken man before he finishes. And if you're not - well, then we'll still appreciate it if you can prevent him building his device. There would be... diplomatic repercussions if we were to actually provide you with any actual assistance in the matter, but it would nonetheless probably be to our advantage if he were stopped."

"Surely that only applies to assistance that can be traced?" asks Steve, finally speaking up.

"Officially, that applies to any assistance at all." says the Queen, stressing the first word slightly.

The King frowns and grumbles under his breath, clearly not happy at the turn this conversation has taken. "mumble mumble stupid cloak-and-dagger mumble mumble..."

"Quite." nods Steve. "But if, for example, we had questions - could you perhaps give us some answers?"

"Ask your questions." says the Queen, carefully neutral.

"First of all, do you know where this man and his robots are to be found?"

"Not exactly." replies the Queen. "However, I can give you an approximate location. You'll need to take the train to the city of Chan, just this site of the Dominian border. Then you'll need to cross the border; it'll probably take a few weeks to get the paperwork sorted out, they've really toughened their border controls lately, and I really can't suggest sneaking across the border, but if you do, rumour has it that the late-night guard shift can be bribed. Once on the other side, you'll need to find the city of Dree; most of the rumours of strange spherical robots seem to come from that general area, so he's probably somewhere nearby. Any other questions?"

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 Post Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:35 pm 
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Spot answers: "Since I have arrived, all I have heard about the robots in Dominia is that they are building things, that they have been seen drinking in a bar, and that they come for little girls who do not eat all of their vegetables. Can you add to that, your Highness?"

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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:08 am 
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"I hadn't heard about them coming for little girls who don't eat their vegetables." says the Queen. "There have been a few other rumours that have reached my ears, though. A number of Dominian artisans have been recieving... odd orders from Dree, usually for clockwork parts - springs and gearwheels, that sort of thing. These are generally in only a few sizes and gear ratios, but in vast numbers; the artisans are having trouble keeping up with the orders, and extra goods trains have been observed carrying thousands of identical cogwheels. The Forsaken man has been seen in Dree, accompanied by never more than three metal balls with tentacles on. The metal balls themselves seem to be treated mainly as small children; he speaks sharply and firmly to them, and warns them often not to touch some object, yet fills them with alcohol. On one occasion, the metal balls were observed in Dree without the Forsaken man; he hurried into town some minutes later, found them in the bar, and spoke sharply to them. They then all left town again together. That they are building something is an obvious conclusion, but I do not know what."

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 Post Posted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 5:41 pm 
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After a few beats, Spot observes "Alcohol will not get them drunk. They drink it to keep moving, much the same way you eat. I do the same."

"From what you describe, your majesty; it sounds like he may have decided to build just the brain of the bigger robot. It might be done with the right sort of clockwork and machinery, though it would fill a fair sized building using such parts and work rather slowly. Of course the three robots would have to build any strange tools based on its' instructions."

Another beat, then it concludes: "They would still need something to power the brain, though; a steam engine, water wheel, or such like."

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 Post Posted: Sun Feb 17, 2013 5:29 am 
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"There is a river that runs through Dree," muses the Queen, "which might provide motive power to a waterwheel. There is also enough coal used in Dree that a bit extra would not be particularly noted; or he could be fuelling his engine with wood from the forests."

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