Seven Clouds looked out into the horizon, leaning against the railing of the rooftop. He'd been here many, many times before, gazing into the sunset. The sweatshop that he worked for often drove him to the edges of his sanity. It was the same tasks in and out, always unreasonable deadlines, always cold and indifferent coworkers. He could barely scrape together a living, so focused on giving his father the necessary medical treatment he needed and making sure his sisters had an education. Maybe they could avoid this fate.
Seven Clouds has a mother, but she left when he was still a child, leaving him to raise his family on his own. He'd tried to find her numerous times, to figure out why she'd leave them; he couldn't believe it. A mother doesn't walk out on her baby chicks like that. He bit hard into the cigarette sitting between his lips. Just thinking about her puts him on edge.
He talked to cops, to his neighbors, anyone who could have known anything, but she'd just... vanished. Disappeared one day and left him to take care of the family affairs. He adjusted, after an initial shock. His dad had to be taken care of. His medical condition had cost him his legs, and while he could handle the chores with great difficulty, Seven Clouds was not about to make his father work that hard.
He'd picked up cooking, cleaning, all the tasks that make a household run. But that wasn't enough. His mother's income was the only thing keeping their finances afloat. Their cash began to dwindle. While he might have been able to skip meals, his sisters and father could not.
So he worked.
Dozens of part time jobs and ten years passed. His sisters had grown up, always knowing the weary Seven Clouds. He had no time for school, and failed his placement exam for college. Still, he persisted. His father's health had deteriorated, and he had to be placed into a home. His sisters, now teenagers, were preparing for their own college exams and careers. He had to find full time work that could pay the bills.
So it was that he found Zen Electronics. He was able to make a healthy sum by relying on connections and becoming an engineer for the company. The work came naturally to him. He'd always been fascinated in electronics, and had worked in many shady companies assembling technology. He studied between bites of crackers at work, cramming for the interview.
He passed, if only barely. The company struggled to hold onto any real engineers; the culture was so toxic and the work so simple that many of their workers would break or move on to greener pastures. If they hadn't been so desperate, they would not have accepted the scruffy fellow he was.
He wasn't exactly a pleasant man to look at. Thick stubble, wild and messy black hair. A scrawny frame, muscular from years of part-time work in construction sites, but not in any way he could pull off convincingly. He'd tried to find nice clothes for interviews, but all he could manage was an olive green jacket and some black jeans. In short, he cared little about his appearance.
The managers took him as he was.
It wasn't the worst workplace he'd been in, and he learned more about machines as he continued in the company. The unreasonable demands of his seniors had become more manageable as he realized tricks they couldn't accomplish, ways to wire circuits that defied reason and yet worked anyways.
If he was more familiar with electronics, he might have realized then that the things he did were impossible. His creations, twisted as they were, defied rational sense. It took him three years to realize his circuits shouldn't have worked. That this was a fluke. The math did not work out; two plus two did not equal one, and that something about how he worked was wrong.
Today, as he looked into the sunset and down at his calloused palms, he felt like something was different. He couldn't grasp it, but his circuits were real. They were tangible, held results that nobody could question. But he didn't understand how he could manage it, and how everyone in his department could repeat his circuits without encountering any issue.
Seven Clouds was starting to wonder:
What was real?
What was fantasy?
Maybe he'd discovered a new branch of engineering altogether. That science was still intact; there had been precedent. Quantum engineering was still a relatively new field, and he'd overheard from his fellow engineers that it held all of the answers. This could be an example of that.
He closed his palm. Those rationalizations would have to do. There were no other rational explanations left. Heading back down to his workstation, he kept his head low and continued to work away. There wasn't much time left until he could go home. He tried to block out the sound of Clear Light snoring, not very far from his desk. The engineer wasn't long for the company. As soon as his boss caught him, he would surely be fired.
Seven Clouds hesitated, picking up an eraser and tossing it over the cubicle wall. He could hear a noise as Clear Light's snoring was interrupted, the shifting of an office chair as he fluttered to life, and the sound of boots clicking down the hallway.
The department head stopped by his cubicle, his snake-like eyes staring down at Seven Clouds. His diamond-like irises were distinctive enough to earn him the name Venomous in the workplace; if he could grow scales and teeth, it would complete the image. He seemed to like the name, and Seven Clouds could swear he played into it at times.
A shiny golden jacket with snakeskin patterning was worn over the shoulders of a lean and muscular frame. His jaw was sharper than most, and his black hair was kept short and trim, except around the wisps of a mustache on his upper lip. He wore sharp pinstripe pants and tall, black boots with a heel that clicked as he walked.
"Seven Clouds. Have you made what I asked for, yet?" Venomous stared holes into the back of Seven Cloud's neck. He had been waiting impatiently for Seven Clouds to finish all day.
"Yes, sir." Seven Clouds nodded, rolling up a piece of blue paper and passing it over. "I wasn't able to reach peak efficiency with the testing tools, but a few more rounds of revision should do the trick."
Venomous stared at the parchment, looking it over. "It should do fine for now. Go home and work on the revisions later this week. You have a family to tend to at home, right?" His eyes narrowed again, and there was a hiss in his voice as he spoke. "A man your age should not spend all their time in the workplace."
His words stung, as much as Seven Clouds felt reluctant to admit it. "I'm sorry, boss. I'll try to spend less time in the workplace."
"You should be. Pack up, go home. Get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow." Venomous walked away from the cubicle and to the next, now, checking in on Clear Light, who would be wide awake by this point and no doubt scrambling to hide the evidence of his nap.
Seven Clouds grabbed his things, heading out before he could hear of his coworker's unfortunate fate. He just hoped that his warning was enough.
Seven Clouds invents machines that shouldn't work, but do anyways. A witch takes notice of him, and now he's become her magical assistant! His coworker, a giant panda, teaches him the ropes. Using magical engineering and artificing, he'll help solve everyone's problems! Bullies at school? Problems with poltergeists? Arguments with parents? He'll settle your issues, and maybe even solve a few crises of his own. Getting a boyfriend would be a good start!