Ian Tregillis attended the University of Minnesota for both college and graduate school. Eventually the university decided it had seen quite enough of him, so it politely but firmly asked him to leave, grow up, and get a real job. Ian’s parting gift was a doctorate in physics for his research on radio galaxies. After finishing his thesis, he moved to New Mexico just as soon as he found a group of people willing to hire him. He’s still a bit surprised by this because he has no useful skills.
In 2005, Ian attended the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in East Lansing, Michigan. (This was the second-to-last Clarion class in the program’s 35 year run at Michigan State University, before the program moved to its new home at UCSD in 2007.) There he spent six weeks living in a sweltering, slightly creepy, soon-to-be-condemned sorority house with twelve other aspiring writers. Scurvy was a problem. However, in spite of many predictions, cannibalism was not.
After Clarion, and thanks to Walter Jon Williams, he was welcomed into New Mexico’s disproportionately large community of professional science fiction and fantasy writers. Although he often feels like a minor league batboy inexplicably mistaken for a professional baseball player, he has shared critiques with, and worked alongside, a long list of New Mexico writers including WJW, Daniel Abraham, Melinda Snodgrass, S. M. Stirling, Ty Franck, Victor Milán, Sage Walker, and George R. R. Martin.
Nowadays he lives in northern New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists, and other disreputable types.
In The Mechanical, Ian Tregillis has created a world where mechanical servitors called Clakkers do the bidding of humans, but not everyone can afford one. Below is a lease contract for a Clakker, specifically Jax, one of the main characters.
Congratulations on your decision to lease a mechanical servitor from the Sacred Guild of Horologists and Alchemists (hereafter “the Guild”). With proper adherence to the recommended maintenance schedule, as described below, your mechanical will provide you and your heirs flawless service and unswerving dedication every moment of the 99-year lease period.
Please acquaint yourself with the information in the attached booklet. The optimal and safe operation of your mechanical servant depends upon your comprehension and retention of the information contained here. Furthermore, it is advisable keep this lease certificate (the blue pages) in a safe place. In case of legal disputes, audits, or temporary requisition of your servitor (see below) by agents of the Guild or the Brasswork Throne (hereafter “the Throne”), this lease agreement will be your only means for re-asserting your right of leasehold over the particular mechanical listed below.
A copy of this agreement has been filed at the Guild Offices in The Hague (Ridderzaal, Huygens Square, The Binnenhof). Additional copies may be requested in writing. A 750 guilder fee applies for the copying and re-filing of lost paperwork.
This lease does not constitute a change of ownership. As per the Regulation and Regularization of Clockwork and Alchemical Trades Act of 1680, all mechanicals, clock- and alchemical works have always been and will forevermore be the exclusive property of the Throne and no other entity.
The execution of this lease contract will re-prioritize your mechanical’s loyalties by modifying the relevant hierarchical metageasa. Absent extraordinary circumstances, or conflicting directives issued by the Throne, the fulfillment of your orders will always be your servitor’s primary objective. (See attachment, Chapter 2: Directives, Geasa, and the Hierarchy of Obedience.)
In cases of civil disturbance, natural disaster, and other acts of God, your mechanical may temporarily be requisitioned by agents of the Guild or Throne. Every effort will be made to return your mechanical promptly and in substantially equivalent condition.
These terms cannot be altered.
2. Servitor Identification
Your SERVITOR-class mechanical has been forged with the following serial number:
and the following true name:
This name has been installed primarily for your convenience; in the course of normal operation, it will rarely be necessary to address your servitor by its true name. It may be shortened (e.g., “Jax”) or omitted according to your preferences; your servitor will always acknowledge any form of address from its primary leaseholder. However, only the invocation of your mechanical’s full true name can activate a reprioritization of subsidiary clauses within the hierarchical metageasa. (See attachment, Chapter 2: Directives, Geasa, and the Hierarchy of Obedience.)
The name is a concession to human convention. Mechanical servitors have no sense of identity.
3. Lease Period
The terms of this lease shall remain in effect from
12:01 AM, Central Provinces Standard Time, August 22, 1808
11:59 PM, Central Provinces Standard Time, August 21, 1907
as measured by the internal chronometers installed within the mechanical in question. A lease renewal may be negotiated with the Guild only in the year prior to the expiration date. Subleasing to third parties may be permitted on a case-by-case basis, subject to Guild approval.
The payment schedule cannot be altered. Interest rates may be renegotiated as market conditions merit. The Guild and Throne, together and separately, retain the right to alter the duration of this lease, subject to reasonable compensation to the leaseholder.
4. Maintenance & Damage
The application of proprietary alchemical and horological arts during the forging process guarantees the extraordinary strength, resilience, and durability of your mechanical. A minimal expenditure of effort on your part will ensure the machine provides you, or your designated heirs, with 99 years of exemplary service. (See attachment, Chapter 5: Estate Planning and Inheritance Laws Pertaining to Servitor Leases.)
Your servitor contains precision parts machined to extremely high tolerances. It is therefore recommended your servitor return to the Guild offices in Huygens Square, The Hague, for routine inspection and maintenance by qualified technicians and alchemists on a standard 20-year cycle. To that end, we have scheduled the following appointments for your servitor:
- Friday, August 22, 1828
- Tuesday, August 22, 1848
- Monday, August 24, 1868
- Wednesday, August 22, 1888
These dates have been stamped into your servitor during the forging process. Your servitor will remind you, or your designated heir, of upcoming maintenance appointments. These appointments may be rescheduled at any time; please be aware that extensive deferral may lead to the degraded performance of your servitor. If your servitor will be coming to The Hague from the New World, please allow several weeks for the travel, servicing, and return of your mechanical.
While extremely unlikely, it is possible that under certain extraordinary circumstances your mechanical may take damage in the course of carrying out its directives. It will notify you, or your designated heir, if it becomes damaged to an extent that degrades its capacity for perfect service. Should that happen, your servitor should be brought (or take itself, if this is possible) to the Guild offices in The Hague as soon as possible. Service and repair fees may apply. Should your mechanical become completely incapacitated, the Guild will not pay for shipping costs to and from The Hague.
For your safety and that of your family, colleagues, and your fellow citizens, the attempted maintenance, disassembly, or internal inspection of your mechanical servitor is strictly prohibited. Your servitor will log and report to the first available Guild and/or Throne representative any attempt to repair, alter, or inspect its internal functioning by any person or persons who are not qualified Guild personnel. Violation of these terms is punishable in terms up to and including execution.
If your personal or business dealings are likely to bring your servitor into contact with citizens of nations from beyond the Central Provinces and the Protectorates, be aware: your servitor has been forged with an ineradicable directive to defend its internal mechanisms from attempts at unauthorized access by agents of foreign powers. This directive may temporarily override the human-safety metageas as circumstances warrant.
By signing this document you assert your understanding and acceptance of the above stipulations, and you waive the right to renegotiate, alter, or contest the terms of this agreement. Signing this contract in no way indemnifies you or your associates (family, heirs, business colleagues, fellow citizens) from the consequences described above.
for the Sacred Guild of Horologists and Alchemists, Date