I ran into Mr. Cleanslate on my evening walk. He was testing a new device a little bit--some sort of an automated street sweeper. Frankly, I found it rather intimidating. And I couldn't help but let my eyes stray over to the Athenaeum. I thought I'd get some information from him, by asking questions that anyone would ask. What I learned...is horrible.
They know there's something wrong. They're fully aware of it. He said the punch cards are meaningless. But they haven't shut the Engine down! It's still running, and they're still burning books!
Mr. Cleanslate said those were the orders from the main office. Apparently, the costs involved in shutting down or starting up the Engine are high, and they keep thinking they're close to fixing it. And Mr. Steamweaver said that they couldn't let "one little flaw" stop the flow of progress.
I felt sick. Absolutely sick. I knew that Mr. Steamweaver didn't think much of books, but to think that he'd continue to burn them even though he knows the output of the translation is meaningless...I never thought he'd do that.
Mr. Cleanslate left me then. When he was out of sight, I rushed into the Athenaeum, and confirmed it. The machine was still running, and books were still going into the furnace.
In my agitation, I fair ran to Mr. Jervil's factory, next to the Mechanix Arms, and found Miss Sky Netizen. I told her about it, pacing around. I was thinking, as she suggested, that subtlety would have to be abandoned. But then something she said made me pause--that "this really is all about money." Maybe it is...and if it is, maybe he could be persuaded to resell the books, instead of burning them. I know of collectors in the States who would give their right arms, or even their firstborn, for the rare books he has. (For that matter, I know of collectors who would more readily give up their firstborn.) I'm sure people here would be willing to buy some, and those in other cities may, too.
After all, I would bet that Mr. Cleanslate bought these books as cheaply as he could. He could sell them for less than the new price, but more than what he paid for them, so he would make a profit. Could that be enough to change his practice?
I must talk to him. Soon.