Character Interview: Colonel Sanderson Witmore
Before I begin the interview I just wanted to say a few words about it. It takes place in 1910. Colonel Witmore is in his 90s. This interview is supposed to serve as a bridge between ‘The Curriculum Vitae of Ignatius St. Eligius’ (this blogs series of novella/short stories regarding our hero Ignatius.) and a as of yet untitled novel that takes place in 1915 ish. It is the same world as described in the tales in this blog, just later in the timeline. The interview serves up a small glimpse of what has occured since the end of Ignatius’s stories and the new one. Spoiler alert *sort of*…
I tried to gloss over the 1870s and Ignatius specifically, so as not to ruin the next several adventures still awaiting him. However there are small hints which may raise questions or tip you off. Also, prior knowledge of Ignatius is presumed. Specifically: To Use a Gun No More. And Ignatius’s release from the hospital.
Anyway, enough of that! Here’s the interview. The italic text shows the reporter narrating things that are going on.
Colonel Sanderson Witmore (U.S. Army, Retired) has made a name for himself as an unsung war hero, industrialist and a pioneer in law enforcement. Five years have passed since Congress put into law the Tin-Man Act, which served to restrict Automaton production as well as the roles in society that they can fulfill. I recently had the chance to sit with the Colonel and talk about his continuing career evolution, Automatons and the course of America’s future.
The Colonel is in his early 90’s. The remnants of a full head of hair and beard are ghostly white, almost translucent. Once brown eyes are now glossed over with cataracts. There is a noticeable tremor in his right hand, yet his mind maintains a razor’s edge. He is in full command of his facilities and can recall large portions of his much-storied history.
Presented below are some of the questions I asked during our interview. The entire interview is currently under review for publication in Life magazine. It should be noted that the U.S. Government has refused to let certain portions of the interview be printed either here or in Life. We apologize if some of the interview seems disjointed because of the missing portions.
ME: Colonel, would you please summarize the highlights of your careers for our readers?
Colonel Witmore: The highlights? Fine. I served in the Union Army during the Civil War as an officer in the Espionage Corps. Following the war, I entered a more discrete role as a spymaster for the Federal government. I can’t say which department, so don’t bother asking! It was during that period, the 1870s, that I also entered a business partnership with Johnathan Fawkes and Mary Kendall. Together we formed Fawkes Corps, a manufacturing company. My main role was to procure government contracts for the Automatons.
Things changed a bit in the 1890s, as the Mark 3 models were in full production and Mark 4 was on the drafting table. I entered government service again as a liaison between the U.S. Marshals and Fawkes Corp. I was in charge of setting up and running a section of the Marshals devoted, well devoted to something that is still classified. There was of course the falling out between Fawkes and me, and then the legislation of the Tin-Man Act that I fought.
ME: Before you go on, would you clarify as much as you can the position in the U.S. Marshals?
Witmore: Son, there’s things that go ‘Thump’ in the night. Usually it’s just some asshole with more brains or guns than common sense. On rare occasions, something out of the ordinary crops up. There are things, real things that man won’t or can’t acknowledge as real that cause problems. Let’s just say that’s what the group does.
ME: That doesn’t really clear anything up.
At this point a man steps over to our table and whispers in the Colonel’s ear, then hovers at his shoulder.
Witmore: My minder here has reminded me that due to any number of secrecy agreements that I have signed, I may not continue discussion on that topic.
ME: All right, shall we move on then?
Witmore: It’s probably best.
ME: The Tin-Man Act of 1905. It is a law that restricts Automatons by placing limits on the roles in society they may take. Especially the ‘descendants’ of the Mark 2 line, those labeled as ‘sentient’. Opponents of the law, such as you argued that they are as sentient as humans and should not be regulated. What is the basis for your argument?
Witmore: Consider the context of this. The Civil War isn’t that far in the past. Yet, here we are trying to regulate a group based on their appearance. How they differ from the majority.
ME: But they are machines.
Witmore: The Mark 2 descendants are something more than machines. We never figured out what exactly happened when the airship U.S.D.F. Stalwart crashed, but whatever it was, it gave life to the machines. They turned into something more than the sum of their parts. They became individuals. Regulating them as if they were still just simple machines is in my opinion, inherently wrong. The country almost bled to death over the issue of slavery. I was not going to allow it to happen again.
ME: The legislation passed though.
Witmore: It did. Tragically. Now we are seeing the racism crop up across the country. Treating these automatons as ordinary, dumb machines. Treating them as though they are something to be held in contempt or fear. Mobs are attacking them, destroying them out of fear.
ME: Well, is there anything to restrain the Automatons from acting aggressively toward humans?
Witmore: There isn’t. However, they have served this country far more effectively and bravely than you’ll ever know.
The government minder clears his throat at this point and puts a restraining hand on Colonel Witmore’s shoulder.
ME: Tell me about the exemption to the Tin-Man Act.
Witmore: It allows for hybrids, which are people with mechanical prosthetics, to remain classified as human and therefore not subject to the law. Interestingly, the language that would have placed caps on mechanized percentages and which organs could be replaced no not make it into the bill. A large southern contingent made sure of that.
ME: I am not sure I understand.
Witmore: Without those limitations, I could take your brain out of your body, replace it with a mini-Babbage engine and send you out into the world. You would then be labeled a ‘hybrid’ even though you are no longer a functioning with a human brain. I could replace 99% of your body, organs and tissue and still you fall into the ‘hybrid’ category. The hybrids have given us the most trouble.
ME: Mr. Fawkes is famously a hybrid, so isn’t it a good thing that there are no restrictions on him?
Witmore: To an extent, yes it is a good thing. However, the Confederates like hybrids a lot. So much so, that they turned children and young men into ravaging monsters at one point in the war just to see what would happen. That caused quite a mess within the Espionage corps.
ME: You are referring of course to Ignatius St. Eligius’s torrid affair in the south during the war aren’t you?
Witmore: At least the one most often talked about. The hybrids at that point were not rational and prone to committing atrocities.
ME: Is Ignatius St. Eligius still alive?
Witmore: I am not sure. He may be.
ME: In 1901, you had a falling out with Mr. Fawkes. What caused that?
Witmore: Foolishness. A Terrible foolishness on my part that cannot be undone now. Even though to a small measure, it is now a necessary evil.
ME: Please elaborate if you will.
Witmore: Fawkes wanted to augment the Automatons, to make them more refined and combat ready. I argued against it. I could see the possibilities; a public outcry against it, possible ways it could go wrong. Fawkes wouldn’t hear ‘no’. He went and weaponized some of the Mark 3s.
That of course brought us to the Tin-Man Act. As the first few prototypes were put together, the Marshals contacted Fawkes, circumventing me, and asked for some specific versions. There is now a group of Automatons investigating special circumstances.
Agent Denali: That’s more than enough Colonel. I suggest you find a different topic to discuss. Otherwise, this interview will be at an end.
ME: Fine. Can you tell me about your work with Ignatius St. Eligius? You were linked to his movements after his release from the Pennsylvania State Hospital, a facility that specialized in the treatment of the mentally unstable.
Witmore: His is a complex tale although it is not mine to tell.
ME: Any comment on his long-time lover, Angela Boas?
Witmore: I cannot make any regarding Miss Boas.
ME: My sources say that she performed a number of duties as a mercenary. Some of it was scouting, some of it cultural research. Tell me Colonel, what is so classified about another country’s culture?
Witmore: Some secrets are meant to be taken to the grave. Don’t you agree? No, you probably don’t agree. If you did, you wouldn’t be a journalist. See, between Heaven and Earth there are more things than you or I will ever know. Who is to say what may be out there, just beyond the boundaries of possibility?
There is a wry smile on the Colonel’s face. It is the smile of a man who has said something very clever. The government watchdog is frowning now. I think Colonel Witmore may have crossed a line. His words are intriguing, and I must know more.
ME: Tall tales and rumors claim government agencies study, track and intercede a unique phenomenon called Cryptids. Can you elaborate on those operations?
Witmore: I can neither confirm nor deny any such knowledge.
ME: Colonel, are you seriously going to sit here and claim not to have any knowledge of the Cryptid branch in the U.S. Marshals, which according to my sources employs no less than five automatons as field investigators.
Witmore: Not seriously, no. That’s what I am going to do though, isn’t that right Denali?
AD: I think this interview is over.