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The Automaton Anarchy: Chapter 3, Scene 2


Ignatius blinked twice, shook his head to clear it and contemplate the last few words the Automata had spoken.

“I am sorry, you named yourself after your creator?” he said.

“Of course. This is a human conceit is it not? To name one’s offspring after themselves?”

“Certainly. A father will pass his name on to his son, in essence continuing the family lineage.”

“We must prepare for the arrival of the Mother. You must hasten her here. What do you need?”

“A street address would be a nice start.”

“We do not have such data. We can provide physical description, age, gender, certifications,” said Johnathan Fawkes 2.0.

“But no useful information? Such as a last known address or current plans?”

“We can consult Father’s journal. Perhaps one of the less logical sections can provide a reference point as to where Mother may be.”

Ignatius looked down at the notebook in his hand then back at the machine. “I will start looking immediately. You should know, others will be arriving soon.”

“Other humans?” asked the new Johnathan.

“Yes. They are friends of mine.  They can help us. If we work together we can solve many problems.”

“Mother and Father are the only problems that need to be solved at this time. Automatons do not need human interference any more. We shall move apart once we have our Creators.”

Ignatius nodded, “Would you mind if I took this upstairs to read and wait? It is a bit chilly down here.”

“You may go upstairs, do not attempt to leave with the journal. That must stay with us.”

Ignatius agreed and made his way back up to the factory floor. The air above was certainly warmer than the freezing basement. Ignatius found himself a seat near one of the front windows that emitted enough light to read the journal.

Half of the pages in it were covered with notes regarding the development of the Automatons. It seemed that Johnathan Fawkes envisioned them as mostly independent helpers. The new instruction set that Mary created allowed them to react in almost human like ways to their environment. That, paired with the sensors built into their heads which trapped sight and sound, permitted them to be able to function without a constant flow of punch cards going into a reader, feeding the machine its next instruction.

They could adapt to situations and respond to spoken commands. The rest of the journal was decidedly more personal. Over the course of the next half hour Ignatius learned of Johnathan’s hopes and aspirations outside of the Automatons. Mary Kendall occupied a large portion of them. They met while still in college in Chicago. He had advertised for an assistant to help him solve some core mathematical problems regarding the instruction set. Mary answered the ad setting all of Johnathan’s preconceived notions on their ear. Several months into their partnership as inventor and assistant, Mary brought a new way of storing data to Johnathan for consideration. It had to do with using magnets to record information to a piece of metal.

Ignatius reread the passage several times before he started to understand the process. Shaking his head Ignatius readjusted his thoughts and concentrated on finding some reference to Mary’s background or family that may assist him. The journal gave precious little in terms of a physical description. A few pages later, Ignatius paused and reread a passage several times. It appeared to indicate that her family had ties to the Harrisburg area after all. They owned a small cabin set back in the hills along the Susquehanna River, several miles north of the city. Johnathan and Mary visited it last year around springtime.

Though the fields burst forth in multihued color, my eye is drawn to the south where Harrisburg lies. The city is bursting along its industrial artery Cameron Street. Factories produce new machines and goods every day. They are fed mainly by canal and railway, though the airship docks on Forster Island also account for a fair amount of raw materials. This is the city where we shall settle. Perhaps in a house along the river, near Boas’s farm. It used to be a fort during the Indian wars, or so Mary tells me. The land is lush and verdant. It is such a complete change from Chicago…Maybe then we can finally be at peace, without the threats of our unknown stalker.

Ignatius pondered the last sentence. Johnathan and Mary did not have the quiet, contemplative life of scientists as much as it may seem. Who would be circling around them? Ignatius chuckled, so many possibilities! Johnathan was on the edge of modern technology, his machines worth untold millions. A easier question might be: who is not after the boy.

The shop door banged open and Wellsie swaggered in with an enormous wrench over his shoulder. His overalls strained to hold the barrel chest in check. A black bandana capped his head and he stroked his salt and pepper goatee for a moment surveying the factory.

“Real nice crapper you’ve invited me to,” Wellsie rumbled. He flicked water off his shoulders with his free hand, carelessly spraying it against the wall.

“It could not be helped. This time, I think even you will be impressed,” said Ignatius.

Wellsie shrugged, “Any chance of some light?”

 “I rather doubt it. This building has not functioned in years. You can try one of the lamps in the office, back through the reception area and to your right.”

“Will do. Then you can tell me what’s so dammed important that I have to drop everything and come into the city.” He looked suspiciously at Ignatius, “Did you know Maria had a pie prepared for tonight?”

“No, I did not. Pure coincidence only. I know how much you love her pie. Go see about lights, so I can tell you what is afoot.”

Wellsie retreated back the way he came and Ignatius could hear the gigantic blacksmith rummaging around in the office. Several minutes later a few feeble rays of light peeked from under the door. Wellsie moved into the room holding a lamp overhead, casting its glow all about.

“Nice, did you pick the decor yourself?” he asked.

“Save it, this is important. Why did you bring the wrench then?”

“Not many problems won’t yield to a big fuckin’ wrench.”

“I suppose not. There are some Automatons below that need a few repairs, and one rather special case. It will require a delicate touch. Let me explain,” said Ignatius. He proceeded to tell the blacksmith from Mechanicsburg of the Automatons and their strange but incredible journey.

“Johnathan Fawkes is down below?” asked Wellsie at the conclusion.

“Yes. Sort of? Most of him at any rate. I thought you could build a life sustaining platform for him. Maybe incorporate the pump unit somewhere.”

“Mr. St. Eligius, who are you talking to?” echoed a voice from the vents.

“My associate, the gentleman who can help you construct items,” replied Ignatius.

“Our trust only extends to you. Even that is a bare minimum. Do you vouch for him?”

“Absolutely. As I said, he can rebuild the containing unit you have for Johnathan. It will provide more stability for the Father. Then when we bring the Mother here, she will have a greater chance at succeeding.”

“There can be no question about that. The Mother will complete the task. Do you have others you wish to bring here?”

“As a matter of fact I do have several more people. Wellsie is a blacksmith and tinkerer, there is Winifred Goodman and Angela Boas, investigators, who are both skilled at finding people The four of us are all that I would bring in here with you.”

“Ms. Boas is known to us. Mother saw to it that our databanks held useful knowledge of the world around us. We do not have much time. The Father’s life signs fade even as we discuss who may or may not be allowed in this building. Now, tell us of your plans to find Mother.”

Ignatius toed the ground with the point of his shoe, “I do not have an exact plan just yet. I am however gathering new ideas at every turn of events. Would you allow Wellsie and me to return below?”

“You may return. Be mindful, we are watching you both,” said the hollow voice.

“This way, Wellsie,” said Ignatius as he led the way over to the staircase.

Moments later they stood in front of Johnathan’s table. Wellsie rubbed his chin, pacing around the table and looking at it from different angles.

“The hardest part is gonna be keeping it, err, him cold. I’ll have to rig some kind of cooling system into it.”

“How long?” asked Ignatius.

“Not too long, a couple of hours at most. Providing that the materials are on hand.”

“I think so, check the second floor. There is bound to be some parts or other materials there.”

“Mr. St. Eligius,” said Johnathan 2.0, “What is you intention?”

“Wellsie will stay here and work on building a sustainment platform for Mr. Fawkes. I am going to find Ms. Boas and check into something that came up in the journal. Johnathan and Mary have visited this area before. They stayed at a family cabin outside of the city, north of the train bridge. I hope to find some clue there that will point me in the direction of Mary.”

“I will accompany you. Finding her is all that matters now,” said Johnathan Fawkes 2.0.

“Wellsie do you have a handle on what you need to do here?” asked Ignatius.

“Yeah, shouldn’t be a problem. Will yer tin men be helpin’ me?”

“We are not ‘his tin men’, we are our own individuals. It would be best if you retain that,” said Johnathan Fawkes 2.0.

Wellsie looked to Ignatius, who merely shrugged, “I did say it was complicated,” said Ignatius.

Several Automatons entered the room. Each wore rough home-spun shirts and dungarees. They stood next to Johnathan 2.0 patiently waiting. In the shifting light of the freezer’s air their eyes blinked on and off, tossing bits of blue illumination off the walls.

“We must go apart for a minute. We will return,” Johnathan 2.0 said to Ignatius. The three Automatons left the inventor and the blacksmith clanking off down the opposite hallway.

“What’s goin’ on here?” Wellsie demanded.

“I told you, the Automatons are acting independently from any instruction issued by man. They are for all purposes complete sentient creatures. They have a singular purpose at this time. Fixing Mr. Fawkes. Whether or not they succeed will depend on us,” said Ignatius.

“Aren’t you worried about what they might do after they get Fawkes back? What if they decide to make more of themselves?”

“That is a concern for another time. Go on upstairs and see if you can find the parts you need. I will wait here for Johnathan 2.0. I will take my coach to Ms. Boas’s place, collect her and proceed northward. The sooner we can locate Mary Kendall the better.” In a lower voice he said “It will placate them for a while. Time with which we can assess their intentions.”

Wellsie nodded and set his oversized wrench down on the floor.

“I’m gonna see what’s lying about,” Wellsie said, stomping off with a creased brow and frown pushing at his goatee.

The blacksmith rattled his way back up the stairs, his footsteps fading a little bit the further away we got. Soon Ignatius was left standing in the room with only the pump’s chuffing to break the silence. Angela would know where the camp Fawkes referred to in his journal was.

Wellsie raised a good question, what was the intent of the Automatons once their Father was revived. Would they be satisfied to live in peace, would they settle back in to the role of simple mechanical servant? He thought the second option was unlikely. How would the Mayor react when he finds out that the machine he paid for is no longer a simple punch card machine, but a new kind of citizen would thy be able to vote or keep land? Ignatius pushed those thoughts to one side as Johnathan 2.0 returned.

“I sent Wellsie to the second floor to find what he could,” said Ignatius.

“We decided that I am to travel with you to aid your search and to make sure that you do not reconsider your position of assistance. The others will be able to keep your blacksmith properly directed.”

“I must protest. It is going to be difficult enough for Ms. Boas and me to reach the cabin. Bringing you with us will slow us down and raise questions. People who see you are going to want to know what you are.”

“Their questions are not relevant. Only finding Mother is relevant. You forget, twelve of us managed to travel from Somerset to here without being stopped or raising any sort of outcry. I will not be what slows you down.”

Ignatius looked doubtfully at Johnathan 2.0’s frame. He could not question its ability to travel. His own on the other hand was largely suspect. His braces might relapse at any moment.

“Fine, join me. We will take my carriage a goodly part of the way, that should keep you out of sight long enough for us all to get into the woods. Perhaps even by dusk.”

Ignatius turned and strode out of the chamber, climbing the stairs up into the relative warmth of the main floor. The metal feet of Johnathan 2.0 trailed after him. Wellsie entered the factory floor at the same time as Ignatius emerged from the basement. He carried a solid wood and metal workbench in his hands.

“I found this. It’ll serve as a good base. Are you settin’ off?”

“Yes. Johnathan 2.0 is coming with me. Do you know if Myron is outside?”

“I believe so. I thought I saw your carriage out of one of the windows upstairs.”

“We shall return as soon as we can.”

“The others will assist you in your construction. Please do not attempt anything foolish,” said Johnathan 2.0.

In his metal hands he carried a broad hat. Wellsie smiled thinly and continued on his way over to the elevator. Ignatius paused at the doorway to reception. He gave the Automata an appraising look.

“You should pass unnoticed at a distance. With the rain and fog those clothes will do a good job of concealing what you are.”

“I do not wish to hide from the world Mr. St. Eligius.”

“Now is not the time to draw attention to yourself. If you do there will be nothing else but endless questions and scrutiny. Then, how will you restore the Father?” said Ignatius.

The Automata remained silent for a minute. It hesitated at the door. Ignatius strode through the reception room and peered across the factory yard. On the other side of the fence the carriage waited. Myron sat under an umbrella on the driver’s box. The rain was falling faster now. Ignatius could not see beyond the carriage. He turned to Johnathan 2.0 and beckoned. The Automata crossed the room to stand next to Ignatius.

“We will move across the yard and straight into the coach. The gate is open, slightly ajar. Will the rain affect you in any way?”

“Water will not impede me in the slightest.”

“All right then. Let us go to Ms. Boas’s home and collect her. After that we head upriver.”

Ignatius surged out of the waiting room into the cold deluge. His top hat deflected a good amount of water. His gait was so awkward he found the Automata passing him before crossing half the yard. They shambled out of the gray haze, startling Myron so much that he nearly fell off of his seat. Ignatius opened the door for Johnathan 2.0 and while the Automata entered the coach Ignatius called up to Myron “Take us to Ms. Angela’s, on the double!” Without missing a beat Myron snapped his reins and they took off. The cab skidded onto Cameron Street before Ignatius had even closed the door.

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