The Automaton Anarachy: Chapter 5, Scene 1
The sun had yet to make an appearance over the eastern hills as Myron drove up to the toy factor for the third time. The drive back into Harrisburg had taken longer with one less horse and a considerably heavier load. The rain was holding off for the moment, which gave Ignatius little comfort. He assisted Mary Kendall down from the carriage and sent her to the factory with her two Automaton guards. Ignatius went up to the front of the coach.
“Myron, I think it is time you headed back to Wyndfast. I am sure you have attracted enough attention yesterday and we do not want a repeat performance. Go home and get some rest,” said Ignatius.
“As you say, Mr. St. Eligius. I’ll just hitch Thunder and we’ll be off.”
“Myron, perhaps you should stop by Mrs. Murphy’s on the way and get something to eat. You look a bit peaky.”
“If you think so, sir,” said Myron barely able to suppress a smile.
Ignatius left his coachman and hurried across the factory yard. Getting closer to the building he could see shadowy figures moving about the main work floor, blurred by the dirt crusted windows. Ignatius entered the building to find Wellsie and several of the Automatons in the middle of the floor fabricating what looked like a metal basket with tracks to allow something set on top of it to swing a certain distance. It took Ignatius a moment but he caught on, it was so that whatever held the real Johnathan Fawkes it could be maneuvered to lay him flat or hold him upright.
Off to one side Mary, the mechanical Johnathan, Angela and LMk-03 stood in a tight knot. Angela peered over Mary’s shoulder at Ignatius and exclaimed: “Ah-ha! Would you care to explain how your paw prints wound up on Ms. Kendall’s bosoms?” A dangerous, green light shone in her eyes.
“There was an accident, some tumbling in the dark. Ms. Kendall just happened to fall on top of me,” said Ignatius.
“I’ll just bet she did. What, nineteen times?” fumed Angela, “viejo sucio…”
“Ask her yourself,” snapped Ignatius. “There are larger issues here than your petty jealousies.”
“PETTY JEALOUSIES?!?” raged Angela, “She comes traipsing in here, breathless with your hand prints across her chest and you think I’m being petty?”
“Ms. Boas, honestly nothing happened. We went down the hill to the coach and I slowed down. Mr. Ignatius hit a root and crashed into me. It was all just an accident,” said Mary.
“Angela, we were being shot at. You should know that I have no inclinations toward Ms. Kendall. I should think this is hardly the time to press a romantic agenda. Speaking of which,” said Ignatius pivoting to Johnathan 2.0. “We need to set up some Automatons on watch. I fear that someone is also interested in harming Mr. Fawkes and Ms. Kendall.”
“I agree,” said Johnathan 2.0. “I will set a guard at once.” The Automata stated to leave, but Ignatius caught his arm.
“What of Mary? Should she be introduced to the others? What of LMk-03?”
“Mother’s presence is known by every Automaton here. I broadcast that at once. As for LMk-03, he is not much good for anything.”
“Could he stand guard in the lobby?”
“Yes. That might be best,” said Johnathan 2.0. After he sent the older model to the factory lobby, Johnathan 2.0 gave Wellsie’s work a close examination. “This will do. Let us move it to the elevator and prepare Father. Then, Mother may examine him and prescribe the best way of repairing him.”
Johnathan and the other Automatons easily lifted the metal basket and carried it over to the lift. They carefully loaded it and Wellsie joined them. They all rode down into the frigid basement. Mary clutched her left arm and looked down at the floor.
“What’s wrong?” Angela asked.
“I don’t know how I am going to do this,” said Mary. “For weeks I have believed that he was dead. Now, they expect me to be able to ‘repair’ him. I am uncertain how I will face my Johnathan. In my mind I cannot picture how the man down below might resemble the man I love.”
“What happens if you cannot?” Ignatius asked.
Mary shrugged her shoulders and hugged herself. Angela moved closer and put an arm around the younger woman. “It will be all right. You’ll see.”
“Absolutely,” added Ignatius. “After all, you are one of the top minds in the field of Bio-Mechanics. If anyone will have a chance to make Johnathan better, it is you.”
“But I do not have the technical ability that he does. I can design and engineer parts. Nothing of his quality,” said Mary.
“I will assist you in any way that I can. Along with Wellsie, we can manufacture anything you might think necessary.” Ignatius assured her.
“Thank you both. I appreciate your kindness,” said Mary. She drew in a deep breath, “Let’s get started. Fretting over it, will not make it go away.”
“Follow me,” said Ignatius.
He led the two ladies to the stairs and down into the basement. At the door he cautioned them to expect the cold blast, “It is necessary to preserve Fawkes,” he explained.
Ignatius had the women wait and went forward to check on Johnathan, the Automatons and Wellsie.
“Wellsie, where do things stand?” asked Ignatius.
“The platform is basic, but working well enough to support Mr. Fawkes at the moment. We were going to transfer him over, care to lend a hand?”
“Delighted,” Igantius said. He moved over to the old stand where Johnathan clung to the last threads of his life. The tubes still gurgled with fluids flowing in and out of his body. Several Automatons joined Wellsie and Ignatius.
“Righ’. You lot, pick up Mr. Fawkes like a crate o’ eggs. Place him in the basket, carefully. Ignatius, you watch the tubes. Keep them from gettin’ caught up in anythin’. I’m gonna connect the stand to the engine. On the count of three. Ready? One. Two. Three!”
The Automatons all lifted their creator on a wool blanket. In perfect unison they side stepped over to the new basket that waited for Johnathan, and lowered him in like a mother setting her babe to sleep. Ignatius eased the tubes that dangled from the ceiling over to the new platform. With lightning fast moves, Wellsie connected power leads to the small engine and brought them over to the base of his stand. Connecting them was short work and within moments the metal began to exude an almost visible aura of cold.
“It’s a bit more intense than the freezer temperature around the basket. I woulda enclosed it had I the time or parts,” said Wellsie.
Mary, who had stood back while the transfer took place, now came forward to peer at her beloved. Johnathan 2.0 came to stand next to her.
“We did what we could in the field, Mother. It was not the best of solutions but the one that would work.”
Mary nodded, unable to answer. She bit the top of her fist. Then, Mary took in a shuddering deep breath.
“The arm, is it permanently attached or is it simply a placeholder?” she asked Johnathan 2.0.
“It is a mere placeholder. Most of the grafts that we performed were like that. We kept the wounds closed as best we could.”
“Are they working parts?” said Mary. She probed the arm with a delicate finger.
“No, we used what was available without dismantling those of us that survived.”
Mary frowned and walked around the table several times, ducking under the tubes.
“What is it that you are pumping into him?”
“It is a combination of fluids from a variety of sources. A plant compound is tinting it blue. As we can best determine it is much like your blood. It carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.”
“Brilliant,” Ignatius murmured.
“Yes. How much do you have in supply?” asked Mary.
“There is enough made to sustain Father for several more days. We are constantly working on making more.”
“All right,” said Mary. Her tone was brisk, determined. “I will need to remove the grafts, assess the damage underneath, repair the organs, replace what I have to and make the prostheses permanent by wiring them to his central nervous system.”
“That sounds like it could take a while,” noted Ignatius.
“It will, I think it is safe to say many hours. One of the Automatons will be required to provide good working parts, since the temporary ones may or may not be functional. If we work from the most damaged areas out to the least, he should stand a chance for survival. If you would excuse me for a moment, I feel a bit lightheaded.”
Mary left the room, her footsteps growing more rapid as they faded in volume.
“What is she going to be able to do?” said Wellsie, “She don’t seem too steady to me.”
“Estupido! She’s obviously distraught over the fact that the man she loves is nearly dead and the best chance at saving him is to turn him into something between human and machine. Mary has to be feeling doubt, recrimination, and great sadness. Tonto!” seethed Angela at Wellsie.
“We are unsure of how to proceed,” said Johnathan 2.0. “We are not prepared to handle these varying human emotions.”
“This is why I will not believe that the machines are ‘alive’,” said Angela. “Ignatius, you and the clanker over there pick one of the Automatons for parts, Wellsie make sure that table of yours is going to work like it’s supposed to. I will go talk to Mary and see what can be done to help her.”
“That is fine. I would add one task to your list, Angela. When the surgery starts, I want you to take charge of watching the building and making sure that it is kept secure. We were really shot at back at Mary’s cabin, which means there is someone out there who wishes harm to her. I get the impression that once the operation starts it will be a long process which should not be interrupted.”
“Fine. You talk to that lout over there, remind him to be a damn human being when Mary’s around,” said Angela. She stalked out of the room after Mary. Ignatius threw Wellsie a look. The blacksmith shrugged his oversized shoulders with a perplexed expression on his face.
“Need I remind you that we are in the middle of a complex and very delicate situation?” asked Ignatius.
“I guess so. I have to point out that if she messes up we lose Fawkes and all of his knowledge. No big deal as far as I’m concerned. What do I know, I’m a simple man,” Wellsie said. His face was contorted with anger.
“If I may interject, failure is not probable. The Mother has the knowledge and skills to facilitate a successful repair,” said Johnathan 2.0.
“Be that as it may,” Ignatius said, “She is human, and may have plenty of doubt.”
“Should I say something to her?” asked Johnathan 2.0.
“It might be a good idea. Perhaps you will inspire her confidence. That will count for a great deal in the hours to come. By the way, do you have the instruments necessary to perform surgery here?” Ignatius asked.
“Yes. We have made several trips to gather what supplies we may need. I do not think anyone has noticed. Please excuse me. I will go talk to Mother now.”
Johnathan 2.0 clanked out of the room, leaving Wellsie and Ignatius standing next to the gently humming table. A few minutes later and several Automatons came into the chamber and approached Ignatius.
“RMk-03 has sent us to you for selection,” one said.
Ignatius recognized it as one of the first ones he met, because it still wore the worn overalls. Ignatius rubbed his arms briskly, attempting to restore some heat in them. The constant low temperature was starting to sap his body heat. He wondered how Wellsie managed the climate, but conceded that the thick pelt of back hair must have something to do with it.
“Come on Wellsie, let us see which one is most suitable.” He looked over the three Automatons. Each one looked to be in as good shape as possible. Ignatius peered closely at each joint, limb and fixture that he could. He and Wellsie circled the machines several times. To his eye, and Wellsie concurred with him, the Automatons were each perfect.
“Which one d’ya reckon?” asked Wellsie.
“It seems to be six of one, a half dozen of another,” confessed Ignatius. “You there, step forward please.”
An Automata wearing a threadbare set of long johns clanked one step toward Ignatius.
Ignatius blinked hard. It almost looked as though the machine had soulful eyes.
“You will do. Please wait over there next to the engine. You two may go about your business,” he said.
“We are to start preparations for the repair of Father,” said the overall wearing Automata.
“Very well. Go ahead. Let us know if you need anything, all right?”
“Yes, Mr. St. Eligius. We will.”
After the two machines left, it was only a couple more minutes before Johnathan 2.0, Angela and Mary all returned to the room. Mary wore a floor length fur robe, which left her arms free. Angela handed Ignatius a similar piece of clothing.
“I am going up to the rooftop to keep an eye on things. Will you be okay?” she asked.
Ignatius nodded, pulling the cape around his shoulders. Immediately he felt some of the warmth returning to his body. Mary approached the selected machine and smiled fondly, with a trace of sadness.
“Oh, RMk-09. You were chosen?” she said.
“Yes, I was. Mother, will it hurt?” asked the machine. A note of fear dangled at the end of the sentence.
Mary reached out with her hand and touched the smooth face, stroking it in a soothing way.
“No, you will not feel anything. I hadn’t gotten around to designing sensory receptors that would allow you to feel other than the large, simple ones to help you avoid collisions.”
“Will I cease to be?” This time there was more than a trace of fear in the modulated voice.
“No, sweet RMk-09. Your memories are stored. I shouldn’t think we will need your storage or difference engine. Ignatius will be gentle when he removes something. You have nothing to worry about. We can replace any part we take. Do you understand?”
“I do. Thank you, Mother.”
“Now then, Mr. St. Eligius. We are going to be at this for quite a while. Are you prepared?” asked Mary in a strong voice.
Angela squeezed Ignatius’s arm and quietly left the room.
“I am ready, if you are,” replied Ignatius.
“Then let’s do this,” said Mary as several Automatons wheeled in the surgical equipment into the room. She pointed to a wrench and indicated where on RMk-09 to remove the bolts. In the meantime, she had selected a scalpel and stood poised over Johnathan Fawkes.
“Oh my love, forgive me,” she whispered to herself with her eyes closed. She opened her eyes and nodded at Wellsie, who cut off the field of cold that encircled the brilliant inventor. Mary bent over the damaged body of her lover and began a confident incision along the fusion of flesh and metal near the chest.