Almost, But Not Quite, Entirely Unlike Painting - RPLOG
The letter was not especially forthcoming when it came to details. It was delivered anonymously early this morning requiring the presence of Highlady Longtail at a specific address at a specified time in order to teach a member of the Spyguard to prepare and develop pictures from her 'Camera' as a show of goodwill to the Good family. It bore the official royal seal and was signed by Sirus himself. The location in question seems to be a small, private alchemical laboratory and apothecary. The sign on the door says that the shop is closed.
Flora rolls her shoulders lightly as she makes her way through the academy district, tails flicking behind her. Over her shoulder, she's carrying a bag, filled with several flasks of specific chemicals and mixtures, each of them padded around to avoid too much movement of the flask. Along with that, the bag contains a cloth sheet and a few wooden struts.
A knock on the door, a tailflick as Flora waits. "Yes? Flora was going to offer a LongTech Industries' employee for the development," she mumbles, her tail swishing, perhaps a bit annoyedly.
The door opens to reveal a tall, rather intimidating doberman in the long, black coat of a spyguard. "Highlady," he says, with a slight nod, "Please, come in. I apologize for any inconvenience. Did you bring any guards with you? I fear they will have to wait outside." The tall canine ushers Flora into the closed apothecary and firmly closes and locks the door behind her.
"No guards," the she-cat mumbles, shaking her head. "Just Bastet. She's coming with," the she-cat notes, resolutely, as she gestures to the golem moving close behind.
The tigress's tail continues flitting behind her, her gaze moving out over the apothecary. "Too bright. Won't work. Will ruin the pictures. Red light only, too. Needs to be red.
"I am well aware, Highlady," the spyguard says, inclining his head toward a door behind the apothecary counter, though he seems just a little displeased with the way the golem pushes him aside while he tries to close the door. After the mechanical cat has passed, he locks up and leads the way into the back room.
Back here, the lone window has been carefully covered and a heavy curtain blocks the door to the front of the shop. A long table and a number of wide, flat dishes have been laid out, with small mathemagical lamps giving light to the room. The canine mutters something and traces a finger along each lamp, causing it to dim to a lurid, red glow. "Will this do, lady?" he asks.
"Better. Good enough. Probably," the cat mumbles, pulling out her flasks. "Name?" she questions, brow raised, her tails still twitching. It's clear she isn't exactly pleased with the arrangement, considering she's basically handing over her company secrets to a complete stranger.
"Need flat bed. Glass. Also tongs," she continues in either case, as she places her flasks, marked with specific tags, onto a free countertop.
The big doberman perks an ear and looks a little confused at the questions. "What do you mean na-" he starts, then seems to have a sudden realization, "Oh yes, just a second." The dog's features start to shift and soften a bit as his ears start to stretch. And stretch. And stretch. His short, dark fur becomes fluffier and lightens to reveal striped, tiger patterns and it is not long before Fenris stands where the doberman was only a moment ago. "Sorry about that," Fenris says, "I don't like to walk around in public wearing the uniform. Not as myself anyway. No one will hire a musician that they know is a Spyguard, after all." The burly bunny reaches under the table and produces the requested items. "Anything else we need?" he asks, apparently oblivious to the possible, and probable effects this kind of reveal could have.
Flora raises a brow, her tails twitching behind her as she watches Fenris take the shape of, well, Fenris. "Few things," she mumbles, pulling out a stranged, folded-up construction from her bag, only to unfold it as a tripod of sorts, with a hook underneath. "Magical lamp here, off. Then the cloth over it. Will take a good while after development."
"And Flora expects friend Fenris to keep the process a secret. If any other Spyguard need to know, it goes through Flora," she mumbles as she pulls out a couple of sheets of paper, wrapped up in cloth. Finally, two photo-slides. "Camera is easy. This is the hard part, yes. And the unsafe part. Need to work out a safer way to work with the chemicals, sometime."
It doesn't appear she's responding to the new knowledge -just- yet.
"Of course," Fenris says, "That is why Sirus sent me. He thought that maybe a familiar face would make you more comfortable. The tiger striped rabbit stands and watches Flora work with rapt attention. "Just tell me what you are working with as you go along," he says, "I think I can follow if you talk while you work."
"Chemicals are marked. LongTech will supply them like that. Don't remove markings, should be okay. Timing is important, and no re-using chemicals," the she-cat notes, her ears flicking lightly as she pulls out a leather bag, containing a pair of leather gloves, clearly bleached by some of the chemicals. "Always use gloves. Not the worst chemicals LongTech uses, but still not good. That one will damage clothing, and will hurt. No lasting damage, as far as Flora knows. May whiten fur. Awful to get out.
"That one, not so bad," she mumbles as she gestures towards a canister of what seems to be salt.
Fenris stands a little back, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his coat. "I hate to ask," he says, "But are you saying all of this from experience?" The bunny is a firm believer in learning from other people's mistakes. Mostly. He pays careful attention to both the ingredients and the process.
"Well, some lasting effects. Red skin, mostly. Hurts, apparently. Flora hasn't tried herself. Don't intend to try. Or intend to see what happens when it's not removed quickly. Vapors are awful. Have to get it from vapors. As for experience... Not always Flora's. Is not a bad substance, though. Can rinse of with water. Use as much water as necessary. Always have water nearby. Soap seems to help. Flora isn't sure why, but it helps with the pain, and it reduces redness of skin afterwards. Use a lot of both. Several minutes. Continue for a while even after it stops hurting."
The cat's tail flicks behind her, before gesturing at the other bottle. "That one only hurts. Maybe some red skin, but far less serious for both. So use the gloves, yes. And an apron," she notes as she pulls the latter from its own pouch. "Closed, leather shoes, too. No open shoes. If shoes are splashed, get new ones. Safer."
"Understood," Fenris says, watching Flora work, "I believe there is a spot for that right over there, if necessary." The rabbit points out a small, curtained alcove. "They work with some nasty stuff here sometimes," he says, "I chose it just to be safe." He looks down at his fluffy, exposed lower legs and takes a small step back, away from the pain inflicting chemicals.
Flora moves about for a bit, getting everything set up. One flatbed on a magically-powered heater it fits on, the other on the table itself. With careful motions, the now-protected feline pours out the dangerous liquid into the lower flatbed, while the upper bed is filled with water, gently tipping the cannister and dropping in the salt-crystals. "Avoid splashing. Keeps the workplace safe. This needs to be heated," she notes, placing a thermometer into the water. "Always clean the thermometer afterwards. Can use a big bowl for this one too
Now, the pictures," she adds, taking one of the slides, and sliding the front-panel up, and carefully taking out the slide with the tongs. "Won't see any changes for the negative. That's why time is important. Need to time the first bath right."
"How hot?" Fenris asks about the heated solution, "And how long should the first bath last? Do you use a sand glass?" The lop eared bunny walks slowly around the table, examining the many tools and chemicals without touching.
"Flora counts... Have a clock in the workshop for the employees," the she-cat notes, before gesturing at the dial on the thermometer, which seems to mark one temperature in particular, different from the standard marking. "That hot. Keep it that hot," the she-cat notes, simply waiting for the first bath. "Can move it around, goes faster. Harder to time. If a lot of pictures should be processed, can fill a big bath, and hang them in, for good coverage," she notes, still visibly, if silently, counting.
Fenris stands in silence, letting Flora do her counting without distraction. He can only wonder why Sirus wants someone to be able to develop his pictures. It is not like taking a covert picture is likely to happen. Not like those devices with Creator magic. Imagine the possibilites of Creator moving portraits! And not simply from a spyguard perspective. The rabbit had been a little worried, expecting more of a reaction from Flora when he was revealed as a Spyguard.
"So... How long?" the she-cat finally ventures, asking about Fenris's affiliations while still counting out, before holding the paper up. "Rinse well with water," the she-cat notes, before dipping it in a separate, water-filled bath. "Do not put it right in the other one. If slow, precise development is needed, there is an alternative. Can use a brush, and brush that," she notes as she points at the first liquid, "onto the paper. Heat helps," she adds. "more control, takes longer. Results in a better picture. Much better. Will show with the positive, where it matters more," she explains, before dipping it in the final solution. "Can just sit there for a while. No hurry."
"How long?" Fenris mirrors the question, "What? The Spyguard thing?" He looks pensive and takes a seat on an empty patch of counterspace. "A while. Couple of years now," he says, "I was recruited shortly after the Small Folk Murders. It was part of why I couldn't accept your offer of knighthood."
"Flora understands, yes. Either case, after that bath, rinse again. Different water. Never re-use the same bath. Can use the same baths at the same parts in the process, but never for different parts," Flora notes as she sets the fourth bath down, filled with water. "After rinsing, carefully dry."
The rinsing and drying doesn't take too long, and Flora seems satisfied with the process.
"This is the negative. Won't show a clear image. But it's there, yes."
That was easy. Fenris had honestly expected at least a little more surprise. "Negative?" the rabbit asks, "Does that mean it is a bad image? I thought we just had to put the right chemicals on the paper and the picture would show up."
"No. Flora will explain. The paper is special. It changes when light hits it. Red light, less change. Which is why Flora uses red light to work. But... The parts hit with light become black. So something bright becomes dark. Negative. Black is white and white is black. So a negative," the cat notes with a smile.
"The negative is small. Will be making small positives too, but... They can be much bigger. Flora will show that later. Not today."
The cat turns down the heat on the heater, then removes her safety-gear and takes the now-dry photo.
"Now, need to make a positive."
Fenris watches with interest. "So do you mean that it doesn't matter what size the negative is?" he asks, "You can make the. . um, positive any size you want?"
"Within reason. A too small negative means no details. But yes. Smaller is possible, bigger is possible," Flora notes as she brings the developed negative over, putting it down, before briging another piece of paper to fenris, along with a brush. "Carefully brush this side with the first solution, and heat gently, yes. Easier with magic, friend Fenris can do it. Then under the light, and the negative pressed on top."
Fenris does as instructed and takes the paper and brush. He gently coats the paper with the solution and channels just a touch of fire math, sending warmth evenly through the canvas. "Pass me the negative," he says taking the blurry black and white page and pressing it against the blank sheet, "How long do I need to hold it?"
A small chuckle, a shake of the head, before pointing at the cloth-covered light. "Put it there. Negative on top... Lamp on, and cloth covering the whole. Will take a while. At least thirty minutes," the she-cat notes as she leans back, taking a seat in the mean time. "Will make the positive, then need to do the same process on that.
"I could almost paint a portrait in this time," Fenris jokes, following Flora's instructions and laying things out, "I wonder why it is that Sirus wants all this. I just think of anywhere that a picture like this would help me for anything other than a portrait and I just feel like the process takes too long."
"-this- process takes long. The making of the slide that becomes the negative takes five minutes. Can friend Fenris copy everything in a report in an enemy camp in five minutes?" Flora asks with a raised brow, her tail flicking behind her as she waits.
"And, more importantly... The negative can be re-used. Many copies can be made of the same photo, meaning it can be reviewed by many beings."
"Yes," Fenris says, "I could. But that is not really the point. I'm not really sure what my point was. Just making conversation." Honestly, the burly bunny looks a little uncomfortable in his Spyguard coat. He probably does not pair the coat with his actual face very often.
"Flora doubts everyone could. And it's not just reports, of course. Other things, as well. Approaching armies, camps. It makes some things easier. Other things, not so much. And, of course, Flora hopes to improve the speed, but... It's difficult, of course. Takes time. But still. Imagine being able to do it in one minute. Less. Flora believes it's possible, but it'll take time. Improvements."
"Perhaps it's not immediately useful now, but... Flora imagines the Spyguard would want to be at the forefront of technology. Perhaps it's an investment for the future. A trial. Flora doesn't know. All Flora knows is that mister Sirus is interested."
"After all... The creators can do it for moving images. That means it's possible to do it fast. Maybe not the same way, but... It's possible."
"Yes," Fenris says, "You are probably right, and I know that Sirus wants it. Have you given him a camera too?" The Bunny walks slowly around the table, looking over the chemicals and tools spaced carefully around. "They can do still images too," he says as he looks around, "In the blink of an eye, it is pretty amazing."
"Yes. Maybe one day, the LongTech camera can do that too. And of course, yes. Sirus has a camera," the she-cat notes, her tail flicking behind her as she looks towards the covered lamp. "Will still take a while. After this, we prepare the other one, and do the same, so Flora can show the difference between brushed and soaked."
Fenris laughs suddenly and openly at that. "You mean we have to do another one?" he asks incredulously, "You are going to keep me locked up in this dark room all day! Don't you have children you should be going home to play with? Or machines to build or scorchers to practice with?" The rabbit gives a buck toothed grin.
"Flora has time. And Flora'd much rather show things proper," the she-cat notes as she takes a moment to peek under the cloth. "A few more minutes. Then developing. Flora will prepare the next," she mumbles as she sets to work brushing the other blank sheet.
"Anything else friend Fenris is curious about?"
"The kids!" Fenris says with a grin, "Tell me about the twins! When are you going to let me start spoiling and corrupting them? You have to start acrobatics and pick pocketing early! How else are they going to survive in court?"
"Flora... Doesn't exactly see why either of those is necessary in court," the tigress mumbles, scratching the back of her head, while she's moving to swap the two pieces of paper, placing the previous one on the counter. "Develop, yes. Flora will soak this one, friend Fenris can do the brushing and the heating on the other one. Will be a clear difference," she points out as she gets her protective gear on again. "Friend Fenris will want to watch this. Second soak is based on intuition. Same with brushing," the cat points out as she grabs the paper with the tongs, and lowers it into the liquid...
"That, my dear Highlady," Fenris says, watching the slowly darkening photograph, "Only goes to show how little time you have spent at court." He smiles as he watches the image of Flora holding her children with her husband standing close behind slowly emerge on the white paper. "I can't argue with the results of your work," he says, "It is as fine a portrait as anyone could ask for." The tiger-striped rabbit then goes to work brushing and heating the next paper, just as Flora asked.
A small nod, a small smile, and Flora moves the photo over to the waterbath to rinse it, soon after moving it into the fixating bath and leaving it there for a bit. "That other one, we brush after it's exposed. Developing takes a bit longer, but it means you can decide exactly when to stop, yes."
"If we need something quick, we use the bath. If we sell it to a customer, brushing, because it gives a better picture."
"As for court... So far, Flora's court-days have been civil, yes."
"Well," Fenris says with a gentle smile, watching Flora work, "Court days." He does not elaborate on that comment. "Why is brushing any better than the bath?" he asks, "Wouldn't the bath get the paper more evenly?"
"It does, yes. But... The image was visible in seconds, yes? If it's in there for too long, it's gone, and the paper is just paper. That means that you have to know exactly how long to keep it in there. With brushing, you can control that much better," Flora explains as she checks the second image. "Few minutes, then it can be developed, yes."
"Huh," Fenris says, looking at the newly developed picture, "So do you just take it out when you like how the picture looks? Or do you have to take it out earlier?" It is typical Flora that she skips over Fenris's inflamatory remarks and teasing and sticks resolutely to the task at hand.
"Oh, right... Court. Why would Flora be in court if it's not a court day? Unless Flora needs the King for something, in which case... Flora isn't exactly intending to pick the King's pockets, no."
"A little early, with the bath. Especialy after having used the water a few times. Sometimes, better to replace the water. Five pictures before that at the very most."
"Other one should be about ready. Maybe a good idea to hang then up from a clothing-line, when actually doing that. Means friend Fenris can easily see them, and judge if they're ready."
Fenris nods and turns to open up a few drawers before producing a ball of string and a few clips, usually used for hanging herbs to dry. "Will these work?" he asks, holding them up and walking over to receive further instruction. "And as far as court goes, you never know what is going to be useful," he says with a shrug.
A small nod, a smile, and a tailflick. "Should be fine, yes. Something to suspend the paper while developing. Keep in mind that if friend fenris is satisfied, rinsing should be done immediately, after which the image should be fixed," Flora notes, before bringing the second copy over. "Brush, and heat gently, until satisfied. Then rinse and fix."
Fenris quickly hangs the string, then follows Flora's instructions, carefully brushing water onto the paper and channeling the slightest bit of fire into the paper to heat it evenly. "It's sort of like the trick with lemon juice and a match, right?" he offers as he works, "Making the things you painted in lemon juice appear with heat, only more complicated."
"Sort of? But now you paint with light, and chemicals, yes. Instead of lemon juice," the cat notes, her tail twitching behind her as she watches Fenris slowly extract the picture from the paper. "Softer brush also gives a smoother coating."
The picture appears much slower than before, but it does allow Fenris to decide how much contrast he wants to see in the photograph. Brushing for a short period of time only reveals the brightest areas, while brushing longer allows for more contrast, up to a certain point, of course.
"That is fantastic!" Fenris says with a buck-toothed smile, "So, how do we keep the sun from burning it all like it did with your earlier pictures?" He spends a bit more time brushing water onto the image, then hangs both pictures up to dry.
"You fix the image by using the second chemical. Gentle heat, as on the thermometer, let it it for a while, and just wait. Then it's done. Fix it, then compare the difference, yes," the she-cat notes, taking the few sheets of paper that haven't been used and carefully tucking them away again. "Flora will show how to scale pictures later. Not that hard, but not the subject for today."
Fenris follows Flora's instructions carefully, then looks over his handiwork. "Not bad!" he says, "And not too hard when you know the trick of it. The rabbit goes around the room turning the lamos back up. "Anything else I ought to know?" he asks.
"The process is easy. The chemicals? Not so much. And that knowledge will remain with LongTech for the time being, yes. Will gladly supply them, of course. Just need to know when they are close to running out."
"And keep in mind they don't last forever, either. Should get enough to do the work that needs doing, not more. Doesn't stay good forever."
"Flora will explain the use of the camera later, as well as how to scale the negatives, yes.
Fenris nods and starts packing things away carefully, disposing of used chemicals and materials. He replaces everything he has moved, looks around the shop, gives a nod and hus features once more shift gradually into the doberman who answered the door. "Thank you again, Highlady," he says, his voice lower and growlier than Fenris, "I would be grateful if you could keep my affiliation with the Spyguard to yourself."
"Of course. Flora understands, yes," the she-at notes, her ears flicking lightly as she looks to the door. "Needs to be unlocked, still. Either way, can find a spot during the weekend to show the magnification process. Shouldn't take too long. Same for the photography itself. Simple process."
Fenris unlocks the door and opens it to reveal the quiet evening street. "I'm afraid that duty calls outside of Firmament," he says, "But you can be sure that I will contact you when I get back."