“Good gods they’re filthy.” Frost greeted him, looking over the tops of the brass framed trifocals Francois had made for him, with a jewelers lense and colored glass filters not in current use fanned out to the side. “What did you do, hire yourself out as a bloody chimney sweep?” It was a usual greeting. Frost thought of his wings as borrowed property and lamented his care of them. He would probably take them back if he could find a way.
“Mon Dieu, the doctor is picking up slang,” Francois said with a smile. He thought the Albion accent suited Frost. He had never sworn much before, Francois assumed because he wanted to set himself apart from the STRIKE dialect. If only Ethan were alive he would be proud of him now, not that he would understand a word he was saying.
Francois carried his old accent and epithets into the new tongue. It had always been about remembering what was lost. Once that had been his grandmother at the stove in their blue and yellow kitchen, and that bottle of cooking wine that never got any emptier,. Now he thought of Alain sprawled naked, sunk deep into that dog-reeking leather couch, those opal eyes and grease smudges on his cheeks, “Talk to me. Say anything.”
His accent didn’t get him into any trouble. People assumed it was the language of his marvelous winged race, and scholars reported it a living example of ancient Hebridean. That he and Frost could both keep mum and straight faced when people discussed it was their favorite shared joke. Maybe their only…
Frost took him by his wrist and dragged him to a metal swivel stool. He had a kit, a small badger brush, oil, a chamois. Francois took a deep breath as he started cleaning. “They really don’t get so dirty. The dust, it was much worse.” The dust used to eat at the feathers, worked its way down to the skin and gave him rashes. This was just coal soot and machine grease. The badger brush and deft hands tickled and warmed him, took his breath away, like good brandy rolling on the tongue. With anyone else it would be embarrassing, but something about Dr. Frost drove any feel of sexuality out of the act.
“I was looking at chimneys, at the new mill. You think we could set up some kind of chemical filtration system in them? As it is those short stacks are spewing coal dust all over the city. The old textiles plant is downwind, and has sealed all the windows and doors to keep the soot out. Imagine working that place with no open windows or fresh air in this heat. They’ve got kids in there…”
“You went inside a steel mill. Do you know what will happen to you if a spark, an ember, a splash of molten anything touches these?” It was more scripted speech between them, but the Dr.‘s focus wasn’t in it. He was actually thinking about the question.
“We’ve come on these people in the first throes of their industrial development. Processes start out crude, filthy. We can’t hurry them along to nuclear energy.”
“Doesn’t it feel like we brought it with us, seeing black cloud towers up into their living blue sky?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. We’ve been careful.” Dr. Frost’s lab with all of his advanced experiments were deep underground. He kept them utterly secret, or tried to. “Still, we might be able to rig a smoke scrubber and desulfurization chamber for them.” In Chronos their arts had nothing in common. But in this world Dr. Frost was brought nearer to sciences he understood. They made a fair team, with Frost’s alchemy and his engineering. Dr. Frost in turn seemed happy to have anyone who understood the physics and chemistry he was talking about at all, even an old hoverbike mechanic.