The Weapon Maker's Philosophy
Chapter 2: The Map says 'Go Here'
Timeline: Day 5, Afternoon
Edward sat cross-legged off to the side of the deck, the dimming rays of the sunlight shining on his back and illuminating the dirty notebook in his hand. His hand strummed up and down the open page, the pencil frantically scratching out his latest idea onto the already filled page. Every inch of the paper was covered with various diagrams, formulas, and sketches.
Under normal circumstances Ed wouldn't have minded doing his work in the privacy of a locked workshop. He'd grown so used to the dim light of a single desk candle that he had no trouble seeing even when wearing thick, dimming goggles. However at the moment his workshop wasn't much of an option. His latest stunt with rotary powered firearms, combined with his procrastination of patching the hole above his desk, had nearly shot up one of the engineers. Edward had been banished from his workshop under threat of being fed to the engines until he fixed the broken wall, and he was far too busy with his work to be bother with that at the moment.
The blown-out wall was causing quite the stir with the engineers, namely that man Brem who treated the engines like children. Large metal children. His mouth twisted into many a swear and a shout as underlings scuttled around, attempting to continue their work as though there was not a huge hole gouged into the workspace. Nicholai passed by it with only a short curious glance. It wasn't his business what went on with the engines or the handy man.
At his heels, a cat walked leisurely by. The handyman's, he'd deduced after a time. Nick took to leaving scraps out for the animal, but he was never certain if it was the cat eating them or the rats on board.
He climbed up onto the main deck after the animal and lit the last cigarette of the pack he'd discovered when the ship was still fastened to land. A sad thing, to be out; Captain said they'd make port soon though, so more likely than not, he'd be feeding the habit.
While Ed continued his drawings Copper strode merrily across the deck to greet him. Ed tried to ignore him and continue his work, however once Copper rubbed his furry cheek against his hand he couldn't help but smile. Setting his open journal off to the side Ed stroked his friend's back gently, while Copper started to purr.
Nick took a seat on the railing, one leg dangling over the side. The wind was not strong; it was much like being at sea, rocking steadily as they were. "The handyman who near blew up the engine room?" He exhaled smoke, tapped off a little column of ash. Queer assortment on the ship, he thought.
At the sound of Nicholai's voice both Ed and Copper looked up in unison. They had each been so preoccupied with each other that neither had noticed the man approach. Edward studied the tainted's face carefully, though his monotone expression and thick goggles hid it well. Copper stood up and hid behind Ed as he began to speak. "The cook who makes the stew?" he queried, mimicking slightly Nick's original words. "I've heard it's good, though I haven't had time to try it myself." His appearance made the last fact rather obvious. Nicholai did think the man looked unhealthy; and by his standards, being stick-thin as well, that was quite a lot to say.
Ed picked up his journal from beside him and returned to his designs. The book was opened to a page containing several sketches of multi barreled rifles mounted on thick tripods and placed on what appeared to be a ship's deck. The overall design was reminiscent of the underwing guns of a clockwork fighter.
Still adding further sketches and formula into his book, Ed returned to the cook's original words. "But yes, I suppose that would be me." he answered. Although he personally wouldn't have put it as such, considering it wasn't close to an explosion and the engine itself wasn't damaged. Just a few minor cuts and scrapes, but if someone didn't want to get hurt by flying metal than they shouldn't be working on an engine in the first place. Still, Ed had learned it was pointless to correct other people's minor mistakes, not that it particularly bothered him in the first place.
"Ed will do fine, though." he added, flipping through the pages of his notebook. He stopped on a page with a few drawings of cake, as well as some alchemy formula clearly labeled 'Fireball Cake'. The fact he was speaking to a cook had reminded him that he should update his recipe with a clear label that it was not for eating.
"Ed," he said in a mumble, taking a drag. He would have offered his hand but some people were less than enthused when faced with touching someone who was afflicted as he was. "Nicholai, I'd prefer. Tired'a people callin' me cook," he said. He glanced at the man's notebook, his hand flying quickly over every spare inch and border.
"And if you're concerned about further damage to the holds I'm planning on reinforcing the walls in my workshop." he added as he scribbled in the added note. "So I'd appreciate if you held off on any complaints to the Captain. She already knows and I'm sure she's gotten enough of them."
He shrugged, looking over the side of the railing at the clouds and distant watery terrain below. "Doesn't matter to me, even if it did matter to the cap'n," he said. His place on this boat was to make and serve the food; so long as the food stores and the equipment in the kitchen remained usable, he was perfectly calm with whatever the destructive handyman wanted to do. Ed was somewhat relieved at how well Nicholai was taking the handyman's mistake. He'd almost gotten used to shouts and lectures on the importance of structural integrity.
Nicholai glanced at the book, "What is it you're writing?" Ed's hand stopped fluttering momentarily at the question but quickly resumed. He'd since gone back to working on his original designs, although at the moment was penning his own hypothesis' as opposed to established facts.
"In general?" Ed questioned without actually expecting an answer. "Clockwork rotary cannons." he continued, beginning a new sketch on the inner workings of such a gun as he spoke. "I recently had the opportunity to examine the wing cannons of a clockwork fighter, which function on the same principle." Ed tilted his head in the direction of the remains of the fighter, partially covered by a thick tarp to protect it from the elements.
"I'm confident I can reconfigure the design to function from a stationary stand. I anticipate such a thing would be useful against aircraft or massed infantry charges, although I don't expect many of the latter on a skyship." Edward continued. As always when it came to pet projects his voice had begun to show a lot more emotion and intensity then his usual monotone, and he'd clearly begun to ramble.
Ed paused for a moment and began again. "Specifically, though, I'm experimenting with the application of alchemical flame to any projectiles fired from such a gun. I recently mixed some highly flammable fuel for use in welding heat and pressure resistant metals and it seems like a waste to reserve it to such a menial task." During his perhaps overly long explanation Ed's hand wandered off his sketch and doodled a set of stick figures shooting at incoming planes.
"I imagine incendiary ammunition would be highly effective against incoming unarmored planes..."
Nick was lost somewhere between the talk of cannons and the ramble about alchemical... something or other. He watched the handyman's hands gesticulate animatedly and raised his eyebrows slowly at the growing intensity of the man's voice as he spoke passionately. It was all quite amusing, truth be told. But the intellect was lost on Nicholai. "Don't think I understood half'a what you just said," he replied after Ed's voice had trailed off. He lifted one shoulder in a shrug, "Guns are guns, n'matter how fancy you make 'em. They're all made for the same thing and s'long as you know how to do that..." He shrugged again and breathed smoke through his nose. The cigarette was already half-spent.
"But don't let me get you un-excited," he said, staring off over the railing again. Nick was a simple person but he could fire a gun as well as any man, especially with one good eye. His hands were steady; he'd been hunting skinny rabbits and the like since he was old enough to hold a gun. Of his brothers, he was not the best but he was not the worst either.
Edward's hand slowed down, and finally stopped. He looked up from his notebook and briefly stared off across the ocean through the gaps of the railing. Nicholai's comment had given him a minor pause, although it wasn't something he hadn't considered before.
"The purpose of a gun..." he mumbled, voice trailing off at the end. The other man looked up at the soft words. It was question with many philosophical implications, ones Ed didn't think about very often. His academic pursuits revolved around far more logical, predictable things then philosophy. The clacking of a metronome or the bobbing of a water clock; a ticking gear or turning wheel. These were the things Ed thought of, not questions with no definite answer.
But that wasn't to say that Ed was blind to such things either. He made weapons. Whether he personally used them or not made little difference, he was ultimately a death dealer. No human being could do what he does and not at least consider the implications of it, even if in only some far off part of their mind. Only a monster can do that.
Ed's view was particularly pragmatic, even pessimistic. He'd studied history, wars in particular, during his time brief tutoring in his original home; perhaps seeing enough tomes and books on the subject to fill a library had influenced his ideas on the matter. "The way I see it people are going to kill each other no matter what I do." he started, somewhat suddenly. "I agree with you, though, one gun is like any other. If a man is killed by one of my creations, I don't think it would have mattered if I hadn't created it at all. Either someone else would have done so or they would have just used a different gun."
He lifted his goggles to his forehead and rubbed his eyes, exposing them for the first time in the conversation. Though his face still held the same expression it always did, it still seemed somehow more alive, and his eyes held almost a glint of sadness. He was having a rare moment of introspection, and it showed. Maybe it was because he wasn't cooped up in his workshop, maybe in was the sunset, or maybe it was the tainted man before him, no one could tell. For whatever reason he was giving thought to his trade beyond building a better gun.
"So I make things that explode, and I make things that shoot, and I make things that kill." Ed finished rubbing his eyes and brought his goggles back down over them, his expression losing the levity it briefly held. He returned quickly to his journal and began penning further designs.
"Because if I don't someone else will."
Nicholai believed that. People liked nothing more than to war with each other, kill each other, for this purpose or that reason. Animal instinct, he thought of it; the weak were killed and the strong survived, just like in the wild. And humans were all the more dangerous because they had the brains to put together instruments of war. Always upgrading the technology, making more efficient killing machines, more effective ways of killing innocent people. He swallowed his disdain for the practice in theory. When you came down to it, when you were placed against a foe who had a gun pointed at you, you either fired or you died. There was no hesitation, Nick knew from experience.
"Maybe," he agreed. Suddenly, out of some morbid curiosity or wonder, he asked, "Have you ever killed anyone?"
He didn't mean to pry but he couldn't take back the question, so he looked at the handyman, one eye glistening black and the other a dull blue. Ed's pencil didn't stop this time, nor did his question cause nearly the reaction he had just had. It was almost like it hadn't happened at all, and considering the way Ed usually flipped between dull monotone and an eccentric ramble it wasn't likely anyone would have believed Nicholai if he mentioned it to anyone else.
Frantically scribbling further schematics as before, Ed gave his answer "Directly? No." it was obvious what he implied. Whether he'd pulled the trigger or not was irrelevant; there was blood on his hands and he wasn't going to deny it.
"And you?" he queried back, almost out of a sense of 'Be prepared to answer what you ask.' rather then genuine curiosity.
He nodded. Once he was away from the West, Nicholai did whatever paid. And since he was forthcoming with what he could offer, if a captain or a first mate asked him to kill someone, that was what he did. He was nearly without fail as well. However many people he did kill, strangers all, there was a blankness in the back of his mind that he hoped to clear. Men he actually wanted to murder back home.
The cigarette went down to its last and he tossed it overboard with a deep frown. They would make port soon though and he was sure to find something else to smoke. The habit had picked up too fondly for him now.