Como un complemento al videojuego: “Shades of Violet: Song of the Clockwork Princess” que estamos produciendo, en ratos libres me he dado a la tarea de crear cuentos cortos y textos que pudieran enriquecer la historia del mismo. Uno de estos proyectos es Mävka, un cuento corto sobre la infancia de Origa e Ivanova en el opresivo pais de Syberia. Aqui les comparto el primer capitulo:
(advertencia: Esto puede que tenga una que otra falta de ortografia, le falta algo de edición:)
There are several ways to strike a conversation, some of them easier than others. A simple greeting. A friendly commentary. Ask for the time. Ask about the weather.
The weather was not a particularly interesting topic to talk about in Norgorka 13. Here, all you get is several chilly variations of cold. In a good day, the closest to warmth you can hope for is a sliver of light that escapes the grasp of the thick clouds that forever cover the tall, reinforced walls of the Orphanage. And even that was quite fleeting.
Needless to say, it was most definitely icier than yesterday.
“I can’t see a soul in this blasted snow four-eyes, give me something to shoot at or i’ll die of chill and bore” I bitterly spat to my spotter friend, Sparrow.
“Pray the enemy does not see you as clearly as I see them. Twenty degrees to the right. Adjust your irons about seven degrees of elevation. Just below the mark. Fire.” she answered.
A few seconds of adjustments later, a thunderous gun blast sent our regards towards the face of a very unlucky chap a little more than 2 miles away from our position. A good mark, all things considered. Moments later, a dry thud left a poignant smear of red over the pristine nothingness of the frozen tundra, which was promptly devoured by the raging storm.
The day was done. We were heading home.
Sparrow was like all of us, nameless. Our nicknames were substitutes we called each others out for convenience’s sake. To the Commonwealth bureau, we were merely numbers. The handlers discouraged us of using personal callings; as they believed it encouraged laziness and rebellion. We used them nevertheless.
“They’re getting closer Mavka. These lookouts are getting craftier by the day. There will come the day when we actually get to see their faces before we smear them good” Sparrow said with worry hidden under her dry speech.
Sparrow was my navigator. Snipers usually worked in pairs; I was the sharpshooter. She had many little jobs, like helping me reload my rifle, maintaining it clean and well oiled, carrying the supplies, and writing logs of our incursions into no man’s land.
But her greatest task was to work the “array”. A bulky and cumbersome device that allowed for early detection of targets as far as 10 miles from our position. It was quite a difficult gadget to operate. Deployed, an array looked like a wearable drafting table complete with compasses, sextants and optical contraptions of sorts.
The device had to be operated by a competent mathematician with a temple of iron. Both to translate the magnetic pulsations of the tactile membrane to a working matrix of triangulated coordinates; and to do it with enough precision and timing so that the first shot fired would always meet its mark.
Worse even; every single Array was explosive-rigged to blow at the slightest mistake. In the snowy frontiers of Syberia, where the enemies’ blindness was sometimes our only strength, an array in the hands of the opposition would level the field of play. And our tiny advantage on the white wastes was far too precious to gamble.
Arrays needed to be “unlocked” every time via a pulse code that was transmitted from the local orphanage. These codes consisted of numeric cyphers that had to be solved in precious little time. Many navigators were lost as they cracked under the heat of battle, or mistook a deadly calculation.
Then again, the brass could consider blowing up all arrays in the field if they felt their safety was compromised. They were truly fearsome machines. And it was only natural that we would treat the instrument with a certain degree of reverence and dread. I always found myself breathing lighter when Sparrow folded and packed her grim contraption away.
“If they do, we’ll make sure they see the white of our teeth and the smile in our faces. Maybe we’ll even have time for a rude gesture or two.” I reassured her.
My job as executor was just as important. But my work tool was always harmful for the other party at the very least. The cold cast rifle was both hefty and needy, traits I wouldn’t desire on anything other. To a good sniper, it was both a lifeline to cling to and a cross to bear.
The way back was devoid of conversation as always. We kept our heat inside where it counted and let the storm have its bully way with us. After a day’s wage we knew well what awaited us back in Norgorka. Something that made braving the tempest a worthwhile endeavor.
There was another kind of warmth more desirable than the rays of the sun. And for our kill we would have plenty of that. A feeling of thaw filled us as a bowl of liquid gold made its way into our ever-empty belly. Knowing the steep prize at it which it had come made it even more wholesome.
It was a rather simple system really. The premier traded in life. If we took it, we were fed. If we took greatly, we were filled. The cold of a bullet, for the warmth of a body. A cruel exchange that most of us Numbers had to live through if we ever hoped for something more than stale bread and murky water.
It was a privilege earnt in blood. Orphans who were not fit or able for active service were forced to earn their keep by working the shops. Some got lucky by getting assigned cleaning duties or something manual like the gunners and machine heads. Others didn’t fare well at all. Either by dyeing fabrics or working at the forge; It was a slow death of fumes and poisoning that made you lamer by the day. But at mealtime, all the working numbers were the same, and usually received a mucky mix of stale bread, half-rotten vegetables and a pint of water.
Such was their fate. And although we were fully aware of the difference in our conditions, it didn’t bother us much. A warm belly and our fill of sustenance was just enough to make us forget human charity. We didn’t dwell on it at the very least, as other things occupied our minds.
“Sparrow, did you hear about Radish?” I asked. Trying to make some small talk while we were indoors.
“What about her?” She said. Not bothering to look away from her plate.
“Her navigator got dumb and missed a number. Radish got the worst of it.”
“Really? how so?”
“She still lives. Barely.” I said, letting my voice trail a bit with a sudden sense of respect. Losing a leg or an arm made you unfit for service. Which was as good as any other death sentence.
Sparrow lifted her eyebrows and dwelled on it as she chewed on one of the little precious chunks of meat sprinkled in our soup. We used to disguise true concern with nonchalance and it worked like a charm every time.
“You’ll be glad to know that won’t be happening to us anytime soon. I already know our next unlock code by heart”
“Is that so?” I was genuinely curious. “care to tell?”
“The code is sent through sound waves using the thumper deep underground of this facility. Here, see”
Sparrow placed a metal fork over her shiny tray. It vibrated and moved in a wobbly way alongside a rattling sound. It stopped, and again went on; slow at times, and brisk on others. Then it repeated all over again.
“Go on ahead and admit that you don’t understand a rat’s ass. I won’t mock you much” Sparrow raised her head and crooked a smile. Her playful way of telling me about how she was oh so much smarter than dumb-as-dirt me always hit where it hurt.
“Why bother at all if that won’t keep you from being stuck-up about it?” She was looking at me with her highbrow grin and scoffy eyes. I hated that.
“The thumper is like a big hammer hitting the ground below us. A part of the Array is attuned to resonate to its wallop. The cycle changes every evening after our meals, and the code renews itself for the next day.” I caught myself with my jaw drooping a little bit too much. Which probably compelled her to gloat further: “If you were wondering, this one was particularly easy to figure out.” I made an obscene gesture to show her how much I was wondering.
A hollow sounding horn caught me by surprise and made me drop a piece of unsavory bread on my bowl.“Hush, it’s time for the evening word” Sparrow chirped in her usual bossy demeanor.
As far as we knew, the war had been going over for long before we were even born. In the long run, it didn’t matter much to us. All that was important is that the war was, and that it was ours to fight. But the daily reports from our Premiere tried their best to stick some patriotism where the sun does not shine. Not that it stuck, anyway.
I would usually complain of the bore that is hearing the dogmatic ramblings of the daily report. But I found myself longing for the comfort of the everyday news. I have to admit I had always feared change, but there were certain changes I dreaded more than others. The announcement was clear, direct and merciless: The regent Premiere had died today.