The Automaton Anarchy: Chapter 2, Scene 2
For a moment, Ignatius thought Winifred meant the pump, hoses and slab. That is what captivated his gaze. It took Ignatius a few seconds to realize that the copper was pointing to a human figure in the far corner. Approaching the figure with care, Ignatius discovered quickly that it was not a person. It certainly gave that impression. However, closer inspection revealed that it was an Automaton. One, the likes of which, Ignatius had never seen before.
All that sat in the corner was a torso, head and one arm. Where the other parts might be, Ignatius did not know. He stood upright and turned back to face the block. He motioned for Winifred to circle the room and check for other entrances. Meanwhile, Ignatius followed his legs as though he were in a dream. With some trepidation, he moved slowly around the raised table. The shape of the tarp blurred the outline of what lay underneath, but it was readily apparent what lay on the table. The pump’s hosing ran into the left side of the cover. Taking the corner of the tarp with a grand flourish, Ignatius swept it off the table.
Staring up at him was the face of a young man. Even in the unsteady green light of the chemical solution, Ignatius could see bruising on the cheeks. There were no eyes. Instead, dark lensed glass from a pair of goggles capped each socket. The right arm was missing, replaced with an exquisitely crafted metal one, taken from the lifeless Automata in the corner. The hoses from the ceiling dipped down to the ribcage and shuddered as something ran down the one, into the body and back out and up through the other. Ignatius reached into his pockets and took out his magnifying glass.
Infrequently something dripped off the bottom of the dip the hose made, creating a sticky blue puddle on the floor. The last hose, from the pump, entered the left side of the chest, under the arm. It pulsated with a moving fluid too. The rest of the body from the waist down was a patchwork of ordinary flesh and Automata parts. Ignatius looked at each joining, closely examining them through his magnifying glass. There were stiches with surgical thread at some places and more crude cauterizing of flesh to metal at others. Where the tubes connected though, was both a marvel and mystery to Ignatius. It was a seamless transistion from whatever the hose material was to the skin. Ignatius’s hand hovered just over the facemask that covered mouth and nose, trembling just as his fingers brushed the tube.
“Ignatius!” hissed Winifred, “Something’s coming.”
Ignatius withdrew his hand as if scorched and took up his cane. He flipped the concealed switch that allowed a trigger to pop from the handle and extended a pair of pointed contacts from the tip. Winifred backed away from a branching hallway that was diagonal from the one they entered. Winifred had his pistol out and checked to make sure it was cocked with his thumb.
“Back to the elevator car, maybe we can use it to get out,” Ignatius said.
Moving around the table, Winifred stumbled against the structure and then tripped over the arrangement of hoses. With a soft ‘pop’, the tube that connected to the body’s left side sprang loose. Blue fluid spurted out onto the floor and a brass bell started ringing next to the pump. Slow, deliberate chimes rolled through the room. Heavy feet pounded the floor coming towards the room in a rush. Winifred unwound himself and made it to the hall just as Ignatius went back to the slab. Without hesitating, he snatched the connector and shoved it back to the body.
Just as he reconnected the hose, a gunshot rang out.
Looking up Ignatius saw an Automaton topple over. A large exit wound from the bullet yawned out of the skull. Turning his head, Ignatius saw Winifred re-cock the pistol and wave urgently. Giving the hose a second glance, assuring himself that the connection was as tight as possible, Ignatius retreated back to the elevator car. More metallic feet sounded in the far hallway, getting closer. Ignatius crossed the threshold into the elevator cage and snapped the gate shut.
He glanced around the walls of the car until he spied the lever to control the engine. He threw the lever forward to the first floor indicator. There was a groan of gears turning somewhere unseen and with a jerk the car began its ascent. Before they lost sight of the hall, a round silver face peered at them from the corner. Ignatius thought he saw a flash of light behind the glass eyes. Before he could contemplate that, the elevator shuddered to a halt having arrived at the ground floor.
Winifred whipped the gate out of their way and led the way back through the rows of tables and doll parts. The screech of metal against metal informed them of the lift’s descent, but neither man paused to look over his shoulder. They reached the reception area, bursting through the door hard enough to push it off its hinges. Together they emerged into the gloomy late morning light and steady drizzle. Winifred provided cover by walking backwards, keeping his gun pointed at the factory until he reached the fence.
“Myron,” called Ignatius, “Get the horses ready.”
Myron tumbled out of the coach, spilling out onto the ground. He collected himself, dashed up to the horses, and started pulling off the hobbles.
“What’s the matter, Mr. St. Eligius?” he called.
“Damn your eyes man, less talking, more getting us out of here,” said Ignatius.
Myron vaulted into the driver’s box, seized the reins and snapped them over the horses’ flanks. Pulling on the right rein, Myron steered the horses in a tight turn and clattered southward on Cameron Street.
“Well that was exhilarating,” said Ignatius.
Winifred looked dubious at the inventor’s description of the scenario. “Ignatius, what the Hell was going on in there?”
“The answer may defy logic, but with the facts at hand, it is the only true answer. Please, put your skepticism aside for a few moments and listen. As you are no doubt aware, the USDF Stalwart went down more than a month ago in a lightning incident. Onboard was a young man, known as Johnathan Fawkes. He should have perished in the crash. There was a shipment of his latest Automatons in the cargo hold. Yesterday I flew out to Pittsburgh and stopped to visit the site.”
Ignatius continued, “My investigation there turned up evidence indicating that not everything or everyone died in the wreckage. In fact, a group of a dozen individuals organized themselves and marched off in an easterly direction. Furthermore, there was the suggestion that a litter carried someone away. It is my theory now that something miraculous happened on the airship. Whatever it was, it changed the Automatons. They repaired themselves enough to be able to walk. They are the ones who brought Johnathan here to Harrisburg. That was Fawkes on the table in the toy factory. I am sure of it. Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers now. It sheds some new light on our earlier postulations and proves us on target.”
“You expect me to believe that a group of machines did all of this on their own?” Winifred threw his hands up, “Ahh, I’m a simple Copper. If you tell me that’s what happened, then that is what happened.”
Ignatius spread his hands out, “I wish I could provide hard evidence to explain everything, but alas there is only what we saw in the basement. Johnathan Fawkes’s body was being kept cold with a preservative circulating through him and Automatons reacting to our presence.”
“Coppers gotta trust their guts all the time. What do we do next?”
“This seems to tie directly to the Mayor’s request that we investigate the disappearance of his Automata. If we delve into one, the other will explain itself. I think we need to make contact with the Automatons and find out if they can communicate with us. If they can, then we can ask them direct questions. Find out what their purpose is, what they are doing with Johnathan.”
“Well, how do we do that?” asked Winifred.
Ignatius rubbed his chin for a moment. “I think we need to go back and ask. It is a direct course of action. However, we should have some extra information I think. Can you find the owner of the factory?”
“Yes. Drop me off at the nearest station house. I’ll start my enquiries immediately.”
“Bring him back to the factory. That is where I will be, after collecting a bite to eat and some coffee. Myron! To the nearest Police Station if you please,” called Ignatius.
“Right you are sir,” answered the driver.
Within a couple of minutes, Myron pulled the carriage to a halt in the yard of the Cameron Street Station. Winifred exited the cab but held the door open.
“Be careful if you go back there without me,” he said to Ignatius. “Do you want a gun?”
“Thank you, but no Winifred. I will not use one. Do not worry. I will not do anything rash, at least not until you return.”
Ignatius smiled down at Officer Goodman and tipped his hat. Winifred closed the coach door and jogged over to the station door. Ignatius sat back and lit a cigar, while Myron wheeled the carriage back onto the street. Exhaling blue smoke through his nose Ignatius considered the possibilities that intelligent Automatons without the need for punch card directions, might present.
Surely, it was a fantastic leap forward. Another question plagued him, power. How did they derive their power? The Automata in the Mayor’s office ran on fire and coal, producing a small amount of smoke. From what he saw underneath the factory, the new machines did not have a smokestack at all. Myron stopped the coach at a rough looking public house, which sat back from Cameron Street near the canal. Several chimneys rose up from behind the building and tendrils of wood smoke drifted out into the falling rain. The front of the establishment included an overhang for horses. Like as not, it was for wagons laden with goods and the huge draft horses that pulled such loads. Myron drew back on the reins, and then leapt down from the box seat to hitch the team up. Myron opened the door to Ignatius.
Ignatius passed some money out to Myron, “Take this and get us both something to eat. I would like a cup of strong coffee, with cinnamon, please Myron.”
“Right you are, sir. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Water dripped off the roof of the coach and the eaves of the tavern. Puddles collected on the ground, running along the slight downslope, touching and merging into larger bodies of water. Ignatius felt his eyes burning as he struggled to keep them open. What were the Automatons doing with the body of their creator? With the pump and circulating fluid, it almost appeared as though the machines thought he was still alive and trying to keep him that way. Logic dictated that they attempt to repair Johnathan.
He kept coming back to the same question: Why? Fawkes is beyond current medical science. He, by all rights should have perished in the field near the wreck. Without warning, his right leg shuddered, pounding the floor of the coach with the heel of his shoe. Damn connection, Ignatius thought bitterly. I need to have it repaired.
His thought trailed off and a shiver went down his spine. It was so simple.The Automatons, unable to perform the repairs themselves, would opt to seek out one who could. If Johnathan were their father figure, Mary Kendall would be their mother. By their collective logic, she would be able to repair Johnathan.
There was the link between Johnathan and Mary, the Automatons seeking out her assistance. With her skills at bio-mechanics she could potentially not only save Johnathan but even restore him. That also made the substitutions on Fawkes understandable. The Automatons were preparing him as best they could.
It made sense now. She helped create the Automatons, was widely rumored to be in love with Fawkes and vice versa. The stories of her death must be false. The Automatons are seeking her out. Further, that would indicate that Mary was nearby. Perhaps even in the Harrisburg area. Why else trek all this way?
Myron exited the pub with a leather container and several bundles of food. Ignatius opened the coach door and beckoned Myron to join him.
“Come in out of the rain for a few minutes,” he urged.
Myron stepped up on the runner and gracefully entered the coach. “Here’s your coffee, Mr. St. Eligius. I got some sandwiches, looks like cold roast beef and a ham and cheese.”
“Thank you, Myron. Those both sound good. You pick the one you want. I do not care one way or the other.” Ignatius opened the container and sipped at his coffee, pulling a face. The brew was bitter and the cinnamon was so little it was unnoticeable.
“No good?” asked Myron.
“I have tasted better,” admitted Ignatius.
Myron picked morosely at his sandwich wrapper. Ignatius unwrapped the other one, and found he had the ham. He grinned knowing that Myron chose the better of the two. Still, he was hungry and whoever made the sandwich did not shy away with piling meat on it. The bread was a rough peasant style with grains baked into it. Once finished with his meal, Ignatius contemplated his next move.
“Myron, take me back to the toy factory. I think I know what to do. Once I am there, you go to the train station and send word to Wellsie to come out here as quickly as he can. After that, go back to Wyndfast and bring me a change of clothes, some food and the rest I will put on a list for you. Last, we need to send word to Miss Angela to let her know what is going on. In all likelihood we are not going to make dinner tonight.”
“Right away, sir.” Myron said.
Myron exited the coach and unhitched the horses. In a minute he backed them up and then turned back north on Cameron Street. Ignatius contemplated his moves. Wellsie would be able to lend a variety of skills not available to the police, and the kit he was going to ask for would allow him to entertain a number of roles. When they reached the toy factory, Ignatius scrambled out of the coach almost before it stopped.
He handed a note up to Myron and turned toward the gate, which still stood ajar. As Myron pointed the carriage southward, again he looked over his shoulder. Ignatius stood just before the gate. Walking stick, top hat and coat, Ignatius appeared to be every inch the gentleman caller.
The rain fell a little harder, Ignatius squared his shoulders and passed through to the freight yard and went inside the building. Though Myron could not be sure, he thought there was a flash of silvery light from inside the building just as the next factory blocked his view. Turning forward once more, he urged the horses onward at a breakneck pace.