The Rise of the Machines

It’s happening! It’s happening! Where’s Arnold Schwarzenegger when you need him?


Oh, holy cow, that’s big.

This is a ThyssenKrupp bucket-wheel excavator, capable of digging a football field to a depth of 25 metres in a single day (though, I’d wager, not capable of doing so neatly). Just imagine one of these things coming towards you, spelling the end of all mankind.

Mind you, given that its top speed is 1 km/h, all you’d have to do is run, or maybe walk. Heck, you could twist your ankle like the most theatrical Doctor Who companion and still be able to crawl to safety.

Link courtesy


The Night Girl: When Fergus Met Perpetua

Blessed are the grandparents and understanding wives. Occasionally, I’m allowed a writing day, where I leave Vivian with my parents and spend the day writing. Or, more often than not, spend the morning finishing the laundry and spending the afternoon writing; this makes me feel less guilty. I have been able to take an afternoon every two to three weeks and spend some time on The Night Girl.

Thanks to Erin and Cameron, I have a better idea of where the plot is going. The story seems to be morphing into a bit of a love story with Perpetua and Fergus, and I have a pretty good idea of what Earthenhouse wants and how he intends to get it (unfortunately, the name is copyright to the Tolkien estate, but we’ll see what other legends I can pull up). Erin says that The Night Girl now has the feel of a hurricane over warm water — full of building energy — and I hope she’s right. There is definitely the sense of something building. Unfortunately, the hurricane is just sitting in the middle of the ocean, churning away. It hasn’t yet set a direction.

Erin suggested that the story might flow better if Fergus follows his own agenda and picks Perpetua out as somebody who can unknowingly infiltrate Earthenhouse’s organization. With that in mind, I’ve rewritten the early part of the book so that Fergus and Perpetua’s first scene comes earlier. This scene takes place in one of the foodcourts of Toronto’s PATH network (I call it the Underground City) almost immediately after the prologue, after Perpetua has spent a fruitless morning looking for a new job.

“We’ll be in touch.”

The only problem with quitting a job, thought Perpetua, is having to look for the next one.

She tapped her latest position into her resume, and hesitated, wondering if she should include contact information. Around her, the library whispered.

The was no way she was going to get a good reference out of these guys. So, after some thought, she typed, “Reason for departure: company bankruptcy (moral)”

Honesty was the best policy, after all.

She saved her resume and pressed print. The library printer hummed to life. She grabbed up her copies and swept out into the street.

“We’ll be in touch.”

Toronto was so hot, the gargoyles on the cornices were sweating. Perpetua pushed past business suits and power dresses like a fish heading upstream. Cars growled and honked. Streetcars clanged their bells. She shielded her eyes and looked for the next temp agency. Then she pushed through the oven-like streets into the meat freezers of Toronto’s downtown office buildings.

“We’ll be in touch.”

Perpetua circled the revolving doors twice, debating whether to bake or freeze. Eventually she decided she could have coffee while she froze and she stepped back into the building. She took a down escalator into Toronto’s Underground City.

She could tell just by scent who amongst the crowds had just come in off the street and who had been indoors all day. She brushed past bare arms with goosebumps and skin that steamed, and burst from the stream into a food court. She stumbled over to a small coffee stand called Wired Fergus, lonely beside a flashy Starbucks joint, and found that she only had enough change for tea. Better than nothing.

She spent the next few hours refilling her tea and staring at the crowds streaming through the corridor, like a kid by a river, tempted to try skipping stones. Behind her, the Starbucks baristas cried, coffee, coffee, coffee.

The flow of people ebbed, reversed direction, peaked, then began to ebb again. She spread her gear on the seats around her table, setting out her black rucksack, her make-up kit, and a set of books on honing one’s resume. She flipped through her journal and sipped her tea whenever she saw a mall cop glance at her with disapproval.

Suddenly, a newspaper and a steaming cup topped with whipped cream plopped down in front of her. She looked up with a start.

A young man with unruly brown hair and pallid skin smiled down at her with thin lips. She recognized the barista from the independent coffee stand, who she’d been pestering for hot water once an hour.

“Hey,” he said, with a voice like a casual shrug. “Compliments of the house.”

She blinked and looked up at him. Her eyes narrowed. “Free coffee?”

“No,” he said. “Free newspaper. The coffee’s four-fifty.”

She drooped. “Not intereted.”

“It’s mocha caramel.”

She sat up in her seat and peered at the frothy cup like a thirsty bird. She looked in her purse. “All I got is a toonie.”

“Done,” he said. “You look like you could use a break.”

“Hmph.” She took the coffee and took her time sipping it. The last thing she wanted right now was sympathetic conversation. This wasn’t a bar where everybody knew your name, this was a food court. But the young man didn’t go away. He stood by her table, polishing a white coffee cup.

She set her cup down. “What makes you think I could use a break?”

“You’ve been sitting here all afternoon, circling classified ads in a newspaper,” the man replied. “That means you’re looking for a job. Given the amount of time you’ve spent here, that means you don’t have a job. So, I thought I’d help.”

“You are a master of perception,” muttered Perpetua, returning to her coffee. Then she looked up. “Help? How?”

“I got a lead.”

Perpetua’s eyes narrowed again. She looked him up and down. Weirdness quotent: high. He was tall and thin and had a thin face, like he’d been standing between subway doors that had shut on him, several times. Lecherous quotent… next to nil. His eyes were on her eyes, and not on any other part of her body. He was also standing four feet back, respecting her personal space. So, not some groper or someone who thought she was a prostitute. He could still be a psychopath, though, but a look at his grey eyes made her less certain. They weren’t cold. They were just masked in a thick veil of calm.

As she looked him over, he continued. “I got another stand downstairs, by an office. They’re looking. The ad’s in that paper. I circled it.”

And before she could say anything, he turned and walked back to his coffee stand, paying her no more attention.

Perpetua swigged her coffee - it was a liquid chocolate bar - and flipped through the paper. It wasn’t the Globe and Mail, but some alternative rag, full of rock concert listings and adult services. If that barista thought she was that kind of girl— then she saw it.


Need girl. Girl type. Girl good at computers. Girl like deep basements and not scream funny.

Hours: 10 p.m. - 6 a.m. $15/hr. Bring resume at 8 p.m. Today. Hire on spot.

TP Earthenhouse Rare Coins, Bouncers and Art Installations.

Sunlife Tower, Subbasement 3

King & University, Toronto Financial District.

Perpetua folded the paper, frowned, then reopened it and stared at the ad again. Surely the hours were typos, but she read again the title of the ad. “Night Girl”. Working through the night.


She glanced at her watch. 7 p.m. The corridors were almost empty, and echoing with lonely footsteps. Somewhere around numerous corridors and half-opened doorways, somebody practiced an aria from La Traviata.

Perpetua drained her coffee, folded the paper, an set off in search for Subbasement 3.

Erin’s working hard on her writing as well, and has recently made progress on Plain Kate. I’m trying to return the favour and look after Vivian more in the evenings so that she has time to write.

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