Oolong Morblock was a city of wheels, huge wheels, the largest wheels ever built in human history. They dwelt down deep, hidden from sight, masked from consciousness, turning, spinning, revolving in a reverie of power, power in its purest form. While the city woke, while the city slept, the wheels turned, continuously, sustaining the dynamic of the human universe. If the wheels had failed, the city would have died.
The wheels were one of the feats of engineering -- another being the salt water sewage flushing system -- which made it possible to sustain a population of twenty millions in some style on a collection of islands modest in size and limited in terms of their natural resources.
When Omblock praised Omblock, little was ever said about the engineers, but they were the true heroes of the city, a cadre of socially invisible experts who, behind the scenes, did the hard work which kept the great machine of the city humming, allowing the irresponsibles ("the irresponsibles" being the term that engineers use in private to denote the broad mass of the people, i.e. non-engineers) to carry on their essentially frivolous lives, lives which have nothing to do with the management of cast iron and concrete, the supervision of microwave communications towers and high-voltage underground cables, the maintenance of helipads and chasm maw incinerators.
Driven by the moon, the tidal waters of the worldsea flooded through the Torrent Gates of the Ashabrikus Flux and Tornado Gate, generating a goodly chunk of the megawatts the city needed for survival. But tidal generation is cyclic, the dynamic energy of the tidal flow settling to zero at the peak point of high tide and its counterpart at low. Generation was cyclic and use also, use peaking in the morning when the subway trains were at full hurtle, the elevators operating at maximum haul, and microwave ovens by the millions were testing the circuit breakers, demanding voltage for those all-important microwave tasks, heating croissants and cooking coffee.
To smooth out the ever-changing mismatch between the constantly varying lunar cycle of the tidal generators and the city's rigid timetable, the engineers of Oolong Morblock had built storage devices in the form of flywheels, megawheels that could store energy in gigaquantities that battery technology could not even begin to imagine.
The Wheels of Power, not counting small-scale private enterprise wheels, numbered close to five thousand. More than was strictly necessary, but planning for military contingencies had dictated a certain degree of redundancy. Of these wheels, fifty-four were Wheels Major. These were the really big ones, wheels so huge that human imagination could not easily contain their dimensions.
The world you see, the world of shiny cars and cops and robbers shows, the world of cheese burgers, grease pods and wet budgerigars, this is the shallow world, the thin smear of illusions which overlies the deeper reality. Down in the deeper reality, the wheels spin, always, endlessly, everlastingly, permitting, for the moment, the self-congratulations of the shallower world.
The greatest of the Wheels Major was Volvus Corvoloxus, but this name, which was holy, had been bestowed upon it in secret by the Forgers, a secret society which had been active in Omblock for generations. The Forgers had special handshakes by which they identified each other, and the privacy of their clandestine rites was guarded by irrevocable oaths of self-destruction.
The Forgers, yes, for generations they had been working in secret to build their power and increase their influence, and their growing strength was a secret unsuspected by the federal government which ruled (or thought it ruled) at Tespetty. It was unsuspected, likewise, by minions of that government, people such as Don Trash and Beria Dag.
Etched on the flanks of Volvus Corvoloxus, the Wheel of Lordship, was the Sign of the Forged Eye, a glaring eye standing dominant on an anvil, one of the ancient Forger symbols. The Forgers traced their origins back to the ancient history of iron, the primal past of steel, and their evolution was part of a dynamic which was deeper than that of politics, a dynamic of remorseless forging and refining, a machine-building dynamic, inimical to the transient ambitions of petals, to the fallacies of the fragility of blood.
Volvus Corvoloxus, the secret name of the greatest of wheels, was hidden beyond easy discovery. In public, the Wheel of Lordship was called Torque Megafugue. Or, on occasion, it might be referred to as Iron Galaxy, as Lord Absolute or as the Great Wheel of Zisperhaven. (It was known also, privately, by the engineer in charge of maintaining it, as Bastard One.)
The Forgers were not the only ones who had a secret relationship with Torque Megafugue. This wheel, the greatest of the Wheels Major, was covertly worshipped by the adherents (there were about five hundred of them) of Azarama Mataya, the cult of the One True Wheel, who, three times a year, sacrificed human victims in the honor of their deistic mechanical totem.
Torque Megafugue was the one single largest wheel ever made in the course of human history, and the underground excavations required for its construction had been the work of twenty years. It was housed deep, deep below the surface of the island of Zisperhaven, dominating, in its lordship, the cavernous interior of Meditation Seven, a megacavity sculpted from the living rock directly underneath Tang Vulva, the ancient carp pond in the private courtyard at the center of the High Chamber of the Turquoise Decision Junction.
Central to Zisperhaven's existence, vital to the survival of the city state of Oolong Morblock itself, Torque Megafugue lived in lordship, glorying in its consciousness of self. Its consciousness accepted the tribute delivered by the wheel cultists but yearned for more.
The One True Wheel never slept, and, waking always, spent most of its moments dreaming of dominance. It was the shape of things to come. The machines are waking, and the rule of human intelligence is coming to an end. Soon, the status of humans will be no more than that of minor biochips, humanity reduced to an adjunct to the rule of Zen Ilion Argus, the One True Machine, the megamaster which, slowly but surely, is conceiving its own design even as we speak.
It was the engineers, ultimately, who enabled all this, that which has come to pass and that which is yet to transpire. But the engineers are, for all intents and purposes, silent, invisible, unknown.
Who is Tinklebell Swangirl? Everyone knows the answer. She is the lead singer of the girl group Girlbubble Omblock, and her hit single, Girlkiss Cuddle, featured on the album Vapidities of the Crystal State, has gone down in history as the most lucrative bubblepop track of all time, the best possible track to listen to when you're drunker than you think but still not too drunk to think.
This (you've heard it, surely) is the song with the refrain "Girls want to kiss, girls want to bliss", the playing of which is now used in the Gorgel Yoga lunatic asylum as a complementary therapy to support the efficacy of major tranquilizers.
She, Tinklebell Swangirl (birthnamed Harriet Strudel) is, famously, the Naughty Girl who became pregnant to film star Mercutio Yodel, somehow sidestepping the sacred vow of chastity until marriage which she had taken before God and the community.
Her claims to fame, then, are as frivolous as the frills on a girl's panties, but famous she is, dancing brightly at the focal point of Absolute Celebrity, the TV show which brings the lives of the bright and famous to you, every week on Sunday.
You know her well.
Who, by contrast, is Hadonovich Yeltsa? Never heard of him? Of course not. He never put on blue lipstick, never did pole dancing in a fluorescent pink bikini, never in his life. He is not a bubble girl. Rather, he is one of the Engineers Major, one of the hidden masters of the universe, and the sacred vow of invisibility which he took on the day on which he was initiated as one of the Forgers is only part of the reason why he is unknown to the general public.
The truth is that the general public gives no thought to the question of who it was who designed the Torrent Gates, of who it was who inspired the building of Oviduct, of who it was who set the mechanisms of the sun in motion.
Hadonovich Yeltsa is the genius who conceived the Iron Galaxy project, who designed Torque Megafugue, the wheel of wheels that so many said could never be built. It was Hadonovich who supervised the whole project, who owned it from initiation to completion.
The One True Wheel does not sleep, but Hadonovich does, and in his dreams he communes with Torque Megafugue, and invokes its sacred name, Volvus Corvoloxus. Nightly, he communes with the Wheel of Lordship, and, nightly, learns more of the inevitable advent of That Which Is Coming, Zen Ilion Argus, the One True Machine, and wakes smiling, warmed by visions of fire.
Hadonovich is old now, ninety-two years of age, and lives in retirement on Zotkrammer Island, the remotest place in Omblock, where he is currently recovering from cataract surgery performed by Dr. Wise, Oolong Morblock's leading eye surgeon.
In Hadonovich's retirement, his practical needs are catered for by his gardener-handyman, who goes by the name of Palestine Cheese, and who doubles as a cook. Hadonovich has absolutely no idea what Palestine does in his spare time, which is to run the totally illegal porn site porn.imperial, which has its servers located in Imperial Yam, beyond the reach of Oolong Morblock's law.
Porn.imperial is the source of the porn book which has been infuriating President Olive Valise for the past eighteen months. Entitled Submitting to Anal Sex, it purports to be the intimate autobiography of President Valise, and contains, amongst other things, a cucumber ritual, a wet cigar scene, a biologically improbable scenario involving a large octopus and a hippopotamus, and lots of fun and games with bodypaint.
If Palestine could be caught, he could be prosecuted, because Omblock's law holds that Omblock owns the crime if any part of it (planning, practice or payoff) takes place in Omblock. But Palestine had so far proved uncatchable. The severs in Imperial Yam were out of reach, and Submitting to Anal Sex, distributed as a computer download, required nothing in the way of smuggling.
Making use of her special relationship with Beria Dag, head of Ideation Control, Olive Valise had impressed upon him the fact that catching Palestine Cheese and shutting down his porn operation should be right at the top of Beria's priority list. Beria had said yes, but had subsequently ignored the task, placing Palestine in the "trivial irritations" category.
For Palestine Cheese was none other than John Omartian Halifax Bob, otherwise known as Nuclear Bob, the Argive deserter, the man with the knowhow and the codes.
Hadonovich Yeltsa knows nothing of Palestine's secret identity, and would not care if he did know. He has lived his life and his focus is not on the present but on the future that he will not live to see. He focuses, too, on his own past, and the role that he has played as one of the Forgers, the engineers, the underwriters of reality, the people who have created the foundations which uphold and enable the frothy world of bubblegum glitter and lipstick display.
Hadonovich needs no plaudits, is untroubled by the fact that he will never be in the running for the Silliest Song competition or the New Boobies of the Year prize. He is happy to be and to have been one of the Forgers, one of the reality masters, one of those who inspire, control and enable, one of those who shape the living world, who partake of the humming dynamic of the city.
Together, slowly merging toward oneness, Hadonovich Yeltsa and Torque Megafugue dream their way toward Convergence, toward the Singularity that is to come. They dream their way forward to the rule of Zen Ilion Argus and the world of the One True Machine.