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Tylor Kranyak
Author of Legacy of Krazatan
The Inventor
     Sarah entered the workshop to see that Rick had forgotten to turn on any of his lamps. She found him hunched over his usual spot, working on his latest project with only a single flickering oil lamp to illuminate his space.
     "I swear, Rick, I don't know how you can get any work done in this light," Sarah said as she lit a couple more lamps so she wouldn't stub her toe or crack her knee while manoeuvring through the crowded workspace. Granted, she had seen what the space looked like a couple times while it was well lit and could attest that the darkness was a definite improvement, but with the kind of precision Rick always claimed his work required she wouldn’t be surprised if the lack of light was the reason why none of his creations ever worked.
     Without looking away from his project, Rick responded, "Oil costs money, money that I need to pay for other, more important materials and substances."
     "What about the gallons of oil you have in the jugs upstairs, can’t you use those at least? They’re just sitting there after all."
     "That's military-grade kerosene for the incinerator I was working on. It's too valuable to waste on common lamps. Besides, it smells like singed cat hair when it burns."
     "If you hadn't boarded up your windows when you got this place you wouldn't have to worry about light, you know." She glanced at the former windows and the planks that covered them. The wood had been cut and fitted so perfectly that not even a single ray of light could crawl through the cracks. Shelves had since been built over the windows and the rest of the wall. They held all sorts of odd baubles and contraptions. She picked one up to examine it. It looked like an overly complicated cork remover with spiked prongs and an iron center.
     "I don't want anyone seeing my work and stealing my ideas. It's bad enough that I even let you in here. Did you get what I asked for?"
     She put the weird cork remover back where she found it, knowing that Rick would throw a fit if it wasn’t exactly where he had left it. "Yeah, yeah, I got it." She all but dropped the box she was carrying on a nearby table. The sound of its impact had Rick shooting up out of his chair and racing over. For someone who spent every waking hour hunched over a workbench he could move pretty quickly when he wanted to, a trait Sarah found oddly impressive.
     "You idiot, be careful!" He scrambled to open the box and check its contents. "If even one of these is broken then my work could be ruined!"
     Amused by the man's distress over a simple package, she smiled and said, "Relax, the glassblower made sure they were all properly padded. You could throw that thing against a wall and nothing would break with all the paper he stuffed in there."
     "I don't care," Rick said as he tossed aside copious amounts of said paper to get to the prizes inside. "These are custom made, each one costs more than you make in a month at that substandard meat locker your family runs."
     "What's wrong with our butchery? Last I checked it's the only place you ever go when you crawl out of your hole to eat, that is when you’re not relying on me to bring all of your food."
     "It's the only place close enough for me to bother making the trip. I have more important things to spend my time on than wasting an afternoon going to the grocer across town."
     Rick pulled out a strange looking thin glass with ridges around the lip. It looked like some sort of drinking glass, but the body was completely rounded. "You custom ordered a bunch of glasses?" Sarah asked, thoroughly annoyed that Rick had wasted her afternoon with such a trivial task. "That thing looks like it would fall over the moment you put it on the table."
     "It's not for holding liquid," Rick told her as he brought it to another table where he had lined up a bunch of tiny brass cups with thin wires sticking out of them.
     Sarah hopped up and sat on the edge of table so she could watch as Rick tried fitting one of the brass cups and the glass together. "Then what is it for?"
     Rick held up the glass to inspect the ridges, though how he was able to see anything in the darkness was beyond her. "This, right here, is going to eliminate the necessity of lamp oil for everyone, and instead use it to generate something more powerful than a simple flame with only a fraction of the fuel." When he found a brass piece that fit with the glass he screwed the two objects together before putting them inside a nearby machine that, if Sarah remembered correctly, was used for pumping air either into or out of whatever it was connected to. It was hard for her to keep track of all the strange things Rick made, but she remembered all the ones that actually worked since they were so few and far between.
     As Rick started cranking the shaft that stuck out the side of it the pump, Sarah asked, "And how is that little piece of glass going to do that?"
     "The glass itself is just the container for what will make the light. Have you ever wondered why lightning lights up the sky at night? It's not made of fire, so how can it produce more light in a single instant than any flame we can create? What if we were able to harness that energy and use if to our own ends, use it to light up our homes and streets?"
     Sarah cocked her brow. "You want to trap lightning in that little thing? How are you going to do that, tie a key to a kite and try to fly it during a storm?"
     "Don't be ridiculous, nobody is crazy enough to do something that stupid."
     "By that do you mean you couldn't find anyone crazy enough to do it for you?"
     “That’s irrelevant. Besides, I have a better way to generate that power, I just haven’t had the means to apply it to anything until now.”
     Signing, Sarah said, "You know, Rick, all of these things you make are neat, but none of them actually do anything. Not to be blunt, but, when are you going to make something that actually, well, works?"
     "All of my inventions work, the proper tools to build them correctly just don’t exist yet."
     “You mean like that whirligig you crashed off the side of the bell tower last week? You were pretty confident that it would fly while you were hauling it up there.”
     “I told you, it’s called a gyrocopter, and it didn’t work because I couldn’t produce a source of energy to create the kinetic force necessary to spin the blades fast enough to generate lift. What I’m doing right here will prove that such an energy exists, and once I get the funding for it I can recreate the gyrocopter with a generator powerful enough to spin the blades as fast as I need them.”
     “What about that other flying machine you made a few months back, the one that looked like a bird? You were pretty sure of yourself that those sticks of gunpowder were all you needed to get it in the air. They’re still trying to fix the chapel’s roof after what happened, you know.”
     Rick waved the comment away. “That requires a different kind of power, one that can generate forward thrust instead of vertical. If we can apply the same kind of force that knocks cannons back when they fire to vehicles in a way that we can control, then we can travel the entirety of the continent in a matter of days. Once I can get my gyrocopter working and prove that men can fly, I’ll get all of the funding I need to get that glider working, too. Just you wait, pretty soon we’ll all be flying with the birds instead of walking with the rats.”
     “Whatever you say, Rick,” Sarah said with an obvious lack of enthusiasm, though deep down she reveled at the thought of what Rick was imagining. For all his faults the man had vision and a wonderful imagination, to the point where Sarah found great joy in simply listening to his plans and ideas, even if none of them ever worked. Now, if only he was more amiable, then maybe the rest of the community would at least see the value of what he was trying to do instead of labelling him as a whack-job.
     He stopped cranking and removed the glass to inspect it, tapping it lightly as if to feel some sort of vibration. Satisfied, he turned to move on to another table, but stopped in his tracks when his eyes passed over the shelves. He all but snarled as he marched over to his trinkets and adjusted the position of the cork remover Sarah had fiddled with. "I told you not to touch any of these! I have them organized in a very specific way."
     Sarah rolled her eyes. "I put it back where I found it."
     "No, you didn't. It's two inches too close to the edge. I don't want it falling off and breaking."
     “They’re not going to fall, Rick. The only way they’ll leave that shelf is if they sprouted wings and flew away, and even then they probably wouldn’t get far if your other experiments are any indication.”
     “My creations are perfect! If I didn’t have someone snooping around my workshop all hours of the day and moving around my equipment where I can’t find it then I wouldn’t be having so many problems.”
     Sarah frowned. “I don’t snoop, and I’ve never hidden any of your things.” She threw her arms up into the air in an exasperated manner. "God, you're unbelievable, you know that? I don't even know why I bother talking to you. All you ever care about are these contraptions that don't work. When are you ever going to do something useful with your life?"
     "When are you going to stop your incessant nagging? You're the one who always comes in here unannounced to talk my ear off while I'm working. I’d get better company from a vole, at least then I wouldn’t have to listen to it talk."
     "Maybe if you’d ever make something useful I'd stop bothering you! Fat chance of that ever happening, though."
     Rick’s gaze turned bone chillingly cold. "Is that a promise?" he asked in a low, menacing voice.
     Sarah stared right back at him with a gaze hot enough to melt iron. "Yes, it is," she dared him, thoroughly fed up with his childish ways and egocentric attitude.
     Rick calmly walked over to his main workbench where the item he had been working on when Sarah came in sat. He screwed the brass end of the glass into a socket and hooked up a few stray wires around the device. He turned to face Sarah again when he was done. He stared straight into her eyes as he reached over and flipped a switch. The room lit up so bright that even the darkest corners of the workshop were no longer hidden. The sulfur stain on the ceiling from Rick’s first explosion was like giant black swath of paint in the stark contrast of the light, and the various pieces of glass and metal equipment littered about the tables shone back in the brightness of the flare. The little piece of glass easily produced more light than all of the workshop's lamps combined. Sarah had never seen anything so bright in her life other than the sun, and she couldn't tear her eyes away from it. For the first time since meeting Rick, the man had rendered her completely speechless.
     Rick nodded toward the front of the workshop and said, "The door's over there."
     Anger rippled through Sarah's entire being as she pushed herself off the table and marched for the door. "Fine, I hope you're happy with your stupid glass!"
     As Rick turned back to his new invention, he said, "There's a box next to the door, don't forget to take it with you."
     "Why should I?" Sarah demanded as she reached for the doorknob.
     "Because it's your birthday present."
     She stopped in her tracks, her hand frozen on the half-turned knob. Slowly, she turned and asked, "What did you say?"
     "It's your birthday today, so that's your present."
     She frowned. "My birthday was last week."
     Rick perked up. "It was?" He glanced at the calendar on the wall to his right for a few moments, then shrugged. "I guess you're right. Well, it's still your present, so take it."
     Sarah found the unassuming brown box on a nearby table and opened it. Inside was a metal hand-sized cylindrical device. "What is this thing?"
     "It's a utility knife I was working on. Since you spend all day cutting meat I figured you would find a use for it."
     Sarah turned the device around in her hands. She found a string of white buttons on one side. She pressed one and let out a surprised yip when a long blade shot out of the end. Curious now, she pressed another button and a corkscrew came out next, then another to bring out a tiny pair of scissors. At the end of the string of buttons was a single blue one, when she pressed it all the tools slid neatly back into the device. "This is... one of the nicest things you've done for me." Frowning, she asked, "Are you feeling okay?"
     "Don't get excited, it's just a prototype that didn't get past testing. It's nothing more than a paperweight for me."
     A gentle smile spread across Sarah's face. Pocketing the knife and turning back to the door, she said, "See you tomorrow, Rick," before walking out of his workshop.
     The door clicked closed behind Sarah as she left. After a few moments of silence Rick turned to look over his shoulder at the door. He stayed that way for a while, simply staring at the door, completely ignoring his newest and most successful creation. Only when he heard a strange buzzing noise did he turn back to his device. The glass gave a few sharp flickers before suddenly bursting to pieces, the flash of the explosion blinding Rick. "Dammit!" he shrieked as he covered his eyes. He moved away and reached out with his free hand for something to guide him when he tripped over his stool. He toppled into the wall with the shelves that held all of his odd tools. The impact caused the shelves’ hinges to break apart and bury Rick in his collection of contraptions.