The old tinker’s toy store was the kind of place that glowed a warm, shiny yellow, illuminated the snow and dark sky around it during the winter holidays.
It was a mecca for children, who adored the kind old man but even moreso adored the wonderland of toys his little store featured, most of which he made himself. He specialized in elaborate wind up toys which would move and seem to come alive for a few magical minutes. His most prized creation, though, of which only a limited number existed and were made only once or twice a year, were his tiny, mechanical fairies. To adults, the fairies really did seem to almost have a life of their own. The children however never doubted the truth, that they were indeed alive.
The tinker’s brilliance was second to none. He certainly could have had a stellar career in a number of well respected and high paid professions, but toys were all he cared to make. He would have died of shame if he ever were to know that he had inadvertently built of the one government’s great wartime military assets.
The tinker’s brilliance was undisputedly inherited from his father. His father was highly regarded in his prime as one of the greatest Dollmakers in all of New Albion. His Dolls were the creme de la creme of craftsmanship, design and ingenuity. His year’s previews would set the bar for that season’s Doll design and many people would rush to retrofit their already existing Dolls with his new designs.
Needless to say, when the purges came, the tinker’s father was one of the first they came for. His wife, now his widow, fled the city with their very young son. She went all the way to the great northern forest where she still had lineage who lived in one of the small peasant villages on the outskirts. She was a fish out of water there. She had loved her urban lifestyle and status and was utterly unable to adjust to village life. She began a correspondence with an old acquaintance who lived in another city, and eventually left to visit him and pave the way for her and her son’s relocation there.
Because she never returned and only wrote occasionally, her village relatives shook their heads and assumed she had been unsuccessful. A more urban observer would have taken the same facts and concluded the opposite.
So the boy grew up around the forest. He was looked after by his relatives, but they were rather lax, certainly with their own children and moreso of course with him. So it was that the boy would wander deep into the forest where it was no secret faeries lived.
The genius for conceiving and building things which the boy would come to display as he grew, some in the village assumed was a result of being touched by the Fae. This is not true. The boy’s talent was already there and would have come out no matter where he was raised. The Faeries were responsible more for his taste. That he regarded toys as a better expenditure of time and money than important gadgets and technological leaps was a result of his boyhood time spent with the Faeries deep in the forest.
By the time he was in his 20s, his obsession with building intricate things was unquenchable and the types of materials he most wanted to experiment with were unavailable. His girlfriend, a bright village girl who was kind, pretty and a caring companion to his eccentricities, finally convinced him to move back to New Albion. They got married and used the small amount of money they received as wedding presents to make the move.
He first got a job in the burgeoning radio industry. Over the next decade he was instrumental in developing much of the technology that allowed New Albion’s impressive radio network to thrive. At a drunken industry gathering one night, he even bragged that he could open a radio line to Elysium itself, but this sort of talk, even as ridiculous a moment of arrogance as it obviously was, was the kind of thing that could get you Taken. A few people starting taking a close look at him and his background began to slowly rear its damning head.
It was his boss who swooped in. His boss had watched the tinker’s brilliance with admiring awe for years and wouldn’t have hesitated to protect him with his own life. The tinker’s boss warned him of the coming trouble, and vowed to create as difficult a trail as possible. The tinker and his wife left their apartment, moved to Tin Pan Alley where they bought an unassuming apartment above a little shop. The boss doctored the tinker’s papers so much that all information about him became just a little wrong, and put together was responsible for the authorities losing his trail entirely. No one picked it up again until the events some years later we are about to recount.
Thus the tinker became a true tinker. He took his interest in building toys and opened up a toy store.
The toy store was not very successful for a long time.
In the midst of the lean years, his wife died one winter morning. Soon after this he began dreaming of the faeries of his childhood. His loneliness and grief became obsession and it was during this time that he began building little metal fairies.
His goal was to give them life. It took him years, during which his shop sat and collected cobwebs, but he recollected enough pieces of faerie magic that one winter, close to the anniversary of his wife’s death, he finally succeeded in animating one using a snowflake placed in a special compartment in the center of its body as a soul.
The fairy became his only companion. He reopened the store, but this time, due to the tiny fairy flying about, met with an entirely different reaction: success. People began coming to the store, being enchanted by the wonderful toys and the flying little metal fairy, and spreading the word. Orders came in for little fairies. The more the tinker insisted he couldn’t build any, the higher the price offered.
And so the tinker began building fairies. At first he built four a year, but over time that dwindled to one or two.
One day a group of children came to talk to him. Two of the little metal fairies had become their friends, and they had noticed that the fairies had no ears to hear, or voices to speak. They lived in a deaf world where music was meaningless and they could not talk to one another.
The tinker thought long and hard. He remembered the Dolls of his youth and was shocked to realize he had repeated the sins of his father. He set about to correct this.
It took him some time and he had to consult some forbidden volumes which discussed a famous Doll named Jasper, but using his radio background, the tinker devised a method whereby sound could be projected into the fairies using radio. They could talk to each other, one on one,and could control who received a their particular broadcast frequency.
One weekend, during a fair, a group of the little metal fairies organized a dance number they performed for the children. It was a delightful hit.
The father of one of the children in the audience was involved in high level government military technological innovation. He became fascinated with the precision of the fairies choreography and how well they responded to live, improvised interaction. A few days later he stopped by the tinker’s store to chat with him, one nerd to another. The more he found out the more dazzled he became. He foresaw a device which could allow orders to be broadcast straight into a soldier’s helmet, either individual, or group. Specific orders could be broadcast to 20 men, 5 men, 1 man, instantly. It would revolutionize troupe movement and tactics. To later generations, this type of technology would seem passe, but in that time period, it was a game changer.
Without telling the tinker that he worked for the government, the father began returning to the store with bottle after bottle of wine, becoming close friends with the tinker, over many a late night drunken conversation getting the tinker to bit by bit, piece by piece, unwittingly tell him step by step how to build such a device.
The tinker never heard the name MCG, nor ever knew of its existence, much less that he had designed it. He lived out his life running the most beloved toy store in New Albion and making childrens’ dreams a reality.