Tenk's Clock

From New Babbage Department of Records and Archives

Years ago, when Babbage was new, the City commissioned a clock.

At the time, Babbage's skilled builders were deeply involved in projects vital to the city's infrastructure, and no one was available to craft it. The city elders were forced to seek out a builder on a foreign shore.

Details about the actual designer of the clock are conspicuously absent from City records. An unpublished Babbage Cog article dating back to that time mentioned that the clock's works arrived in a dozen wooden crates, in several shipments over several weeks, with detailed assembly blueprints written in a language no one in Babbage understood. The word "Sk├źnderbej" was mysteriously inscribed on some of the crates, but left virtually everyone scratching their heads. Some of Babbage's finest crafstpeople cooperated in deciphering the instructions and assisting in the clock's assembly and installation. Unfortunately, a few pieces were left over when it was completed, and these were wrapped in oilcloth and shoved under a boiler, with the hope that they would prove extraneous.

Several weeks later, the clock was revealed to the public, to great fanfare.

It never worked quite right.

For years the time it told was *close* but not perfect. Babbagers would be startled when it chimed at unexpected intervals. Worse, it was unpredictable - some days a few seconds slow, some days hours fast. There was that one day in midwinter a few years back when the clock tolled 13 o'clock ... at two in the morning - and then went silent for a week.

Needless to say, this drove everyone crazy. Speculation ran rampant: a shipment of parts was intercepted by pirates before delivery. The clock's design was an insidious plot by foreign elements to deprive its citizens of sleep, thereby throwing the City into disarray in preparation for a full-scale invasion. One group even propagated the theory that the clock told time perfectly - for another dimension. After a time the City lost patience. Too hard to disassemble, the mainspring was detached, the facing of the clock was bricked over, the works sealed, and the clocktower became part of the city's skyline - anonymous and largely forgotten.

Shortly after Tenk took over as Mayor of New Babbage, while scaling the sootstained wall of a tired building (you know, like you do), he came across a sealed steel hatch on a corner obscured from view. Tenk, of course, carries a set of lockpicking gear with him at all times (a special pocket for it has been stitched into his toque), and after some fiddling the hatch gave way, revealing a dusty room filled with the shapeless bulk of covered machinery. Lifting the edge of an ancient greased tarpaulin, he was amazed to find the clockworks for the Sk├źnderbej clock almost perfectly preserved. Some research among the City archives and in the bowels of the Burton Library ensued, after which Tenk concluded that this situation Just Would Not Do. Nothing upsets a mathematician more than a bad clock.

For several months since, Tenk has taken to rolling up his (very short) sleeves whenever he had a few spare moments, bringing his formidable mathematical and troubleshooting skills to bear on the old problem. He would scale the side of the old tower and spend long hours wedged into a corner amidst the cogs and gears high above the streets, as unsuspecting citizens passed by far below. He ended up opening the casing itself, re-machining each gear and timing rod to exacting specifications, and re-assembling the clock from scratch in the purpose-built southwest tower of the new City Hall.


The result is a clock that tells time perfectly - but keeping it running properly requires constant supervision. So in consultation with the architects, Tenk had an office grafted onto the side of the clocktower where he can keep a close eye on things. The Clockwinder is so in tune with the mechanism that he has been known to stop office visits in midsentence with a raised finger, cock his head like a spaniel, then sprint for an oilcan and disappear into the forest of gears for minutes at a time, only to emerge grinning and besmudged, the hands of the clock perfectly synchronized to his pocket chronometer.

Tenk is still searching for the missing pieces, which he is convinced will provide the crucial counter-governing necessary to make the clock reliable again. No one has any idea where they may be.

-Aeolus Cleanslate

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