The Automaton Anarchy: Chapter 7, Scene 1
Screaming, always there was the screaming. Sometimes the choir of distress took on the tones of children, teenagers to younger. Other times, like this one, the voices were deep baritones raised in anguish. The human noise stuttered, broken up by staccato explosions of machine gun fire. In his mind’s eye, Ignatius saw trees splintering; clods of earth exploding up from the ground and men are falling under the withering fire of a Gatling gun. Dazed and confused Ignatius put his hands over his ears and moaned. He twitched violently, unable to control himself.
The shaking became even harder. He raised his hands to ward off the attacker. Realization struck Ignatius. He forced his eyes to open and found himself looking up into Angela’s deep brown eyes. She wore an expression of concern on her face but slowed her shaking once he responded.
“¿Qué ha pasado aquí?” she asked.
“What happened,” repeated Ignatius in English. He gingerly touched his face. The contusions were throbbing, hot and painful. “I recall a raid, that hybrid bastard Elijah was here. What time is it?”
“It’s after midnight. I came with Winifred and the police wagon like you suggested,” Angela said.
“No!” said Ignatius, aghast. “We must track them down, immediately.”
“What happened?” Angela asked a second time.
“Elijah attacked in the afternoon with a gang of hired thugs. I have no idea what damage they caused beyond what I can see here.”
“Johnathan is still here. That’s something at least.”
“Yes. Get Winifred’s men to come down here and move him to the fort. How are the other Automatons? And Wellsie, did he make it?”
“Most of them are ruined. I checked the roof and the two up there are not working, shot through the head by a large caliber rifle. The ones in with Johnathan are not functional anymore. There are four on the second floor that made it through unscathed. Wellsie is with them.”
“Have them get the damaged units into the paddy wagon too. Maybe Wellsie can lend them a hand and repair the others. Elijah has both Mary and Johnathan 2.0. We will have to get the word out to find them.”
“We will,” said Angela. “Why don’t you let me examine you? Perhaps I can do something.”
“Actually you can,” said Ignatius placing his hand on Angela’s forearm. “Take a sharp knife, strip the wires and twist them together. That should make a strong enough connection for the braces to start working.”
Angela nodded, “I won’t even ask what this new incision is, or who did it.”
Is that jealousy in her voice? Ignatius kept silent on the matter though.
Angela muttered under her breath in Spanish, while examining the wires. Ignatius knew better than to ask her to translate. The words he recognized were unladylike; the others suggested a colorful grasp of the language. She pushed him down flat roughly. He felt her start to pull on each wire in turn. The sheathing drifted down to the floor and a few seconds later Angela was done.
“Give that a try,” she said.
Ignatius tried to move, but was unable. “Did you see any movement?” he asked.
“Wait. One of the wires came loose. Sorry about that sweetie,” Angela said with a little chuckle. “Go ahead and try it again.”
Ignatius twitched a foot and then the other one. A few minutes later, he was regaining his feet. Winifred came into the room.
“Rotten luck Ignatius. Things seem to have gone sour on you.”
Ignatius regarded the redheaded police man for a moment before hanging his head.
“You are right about that Winifred. I am not even sure how to proceed. I lost both Mary and Johnathan Fawkes 2.0.”
“We still have the original Mr. Fawkes though, right?” Winifred asked.
Ignatius examined the part man, part machine lying in front of him. There was shallow respiration and some color. The young man seemed to be on the mend, despite the grave injuries and radical surgery. Ignatius noticed the drugs used to keep Johnathan sedated were nearly gone.
“We should move him to Fort Couch. They have medical supplies there which Mr. Fawkes will require. Winifred will you head up that detail?” asked Ignatius.
“Of course. What will you do?”
“I am going to search for Mary. If the enemy has her then he has all the knowledge necessary to create more hybrids. You might want to stress that tidbit to Colonel Witmore. It might motivate the good Colonel into preparing the city for an assault.”
“Mary?” said a weak voice.
Ignatius started and looked down at the young inventor. One eye opened a sliver. It was clear and focused. It swept around taking in the surroundings. A trembling hand lifted up and shakily pointed at Ignatius.
“Where is my Mary?” asked Johnathan Fawkes in a voice that was not entirely his own.
“I am sorry Mr. Fawkes, Mary was abducted,” said Ignatius. His voice was flat. Ignatius felt the drain of his constant action fully. The elixir wore off while he was unconscious. Now he simply felt more exhaustion than what he ever felt before. Part of the issue was that the chemical combination burned his tissues as it left his system.
“Who took her?” Johnathan asked.
Angela walked around Winifred to stand near Johnathan’s right shoulder. Ignatius looked around at the faces of the others and finally shrugged.
“I do not know the proper identity, I believe she is in the clutches of a man I call S.V., based on some evidence found a long time ago. This man worked for the Confederate Army. He experimented with grafting machine parts to humans during the war. He is as slippery as they come. My current theory is that he took Mary because of her skills. Before, his man-machines were unreliable in the short term. We think this is the same man who was after Mary in Chicago.”
“I see. I could sense her nearby at one point. It was like a dream, I think. What are you doing to recover her?”
“We are searching high and low, the Harrisburg Police are being turned out and I have other contacts that will spread the word far and wide,” said Ignatius.
“Fine,” the modulated voice said. Ignatius realized then that Johnathan’s lips did not move.
“Who are you?”
“Good Heavens, where are my manners. This gentleman is Office Winifred Goodman, Sergeant with the Harrisburg Police. Over here is Angela Boas, my companion and I am Ignatius St. Eligius. At your service.”
“I don’t think I can move and it’s terribly cold,” said Johnathan.
“Yes, you are in a freezer,” explained Angela.
“Your Automatons brought you here,” added Winifred.
“Mary performed rather extensive surgery on you. We felt it best to restrain you. What is the last thing you can recall?” Ignatius asked.
“The dirigible I was on board. It was struck by lightning and was going down. The fool pilot thought to outrace the storm in a headwind. We were overtaken and took a direct hit.”
“The Automatons have gone through a change since then,” Ignatius said. “You see they now have the ability to reason and perhaps even feel emotions. They can think independently from your original programming and even speak.”
“Mr. St. Eligius, your reputation precedes you. I must say I never heard that you were a spinner of fairy tales though.”
“Were that the case, the day would only seem half as strange as it actually was. Not only are your Automatons sentient, Mary was kidnapped by a hybrid man/machine.”
Johnathan lay quietly in the basket for a few moments. “Do you have a plan?” he asked.
“I want to move you to a safe location while beginning the search for Mary in earnest. There are four Automatons left here. They will accompany you to Fort Couch. The commander there is as brilliant as he is trustworthy.”
” It is paramount that Mary be found Mr. St. Eligius. I could not contemplate life without her.”
“We will find her. You have my word on that, Johnathan,” said Ignatius. “How are you feeling? Anything unusual? Well, more unusual given your situation.”
“No, I feel pretty good. There isn’t much pain at all. My vision is a little blurry. Things are kind of soft all over if you know what I mean.”
Ignatius found himself nodding with Johnathan’s description. Having tinkered with more than his own share of illicit narcotics Ignatius knew the sensation well from both sides of it. The pain would slip back in place after the morphine ran out. With it, the clarity and focus would come back. Tapping the makeshift medicine delivery system Ignatius guessed that Johnathan had another half hour before running out of the drug. They needed to get him moved as soon as possible.
“Winifred, go fetch some men to move Mr. Fawkes up to the paddy wagon.” He leaned closer to the copper and whispered, “he is running low on morphine. When the pain returns his wits will too. I do not think we want him dwelling on Mary’s disappearance.”
“Are you suggesting that we keep him under the influence?” Winifred asked with a sharp tone.
“I am suggesting that rather than allowing him to suffer greatly from the surgery, we continue to deliver medicine to him. This will have the added benefit of preventing him from concentrating on the loss of his ladylove. Are we in agreement?”
Winifred frowned, the muscles in his face pulling the sides of his great mustache down to a point where his mouth was out of view. Instead of replying, Winifred left the room. Angela caught Ignatius’s eye and raised an eyebrow. Ignatius shook his head and shrugged.
“Angela, would you stay with Johnathan. I will round up the remaining Automatons and the damaged ones and get them to the wagon.”
“All right. Ignatius, how close were you to using it?” she said with a meaningful glance at the pistol laying on the floor.
“Closer than I liked,” he replied leaving the room.
It did not take long to locate the other machines and then instruct them to collect the others. Since the threat of discovery was over, Ignatius sent one to open the main gates in order for the paddy wagon to pull up to the front of the factory. Six enormous draft horses pulled the wagon into the factory’s drive.
They came out of the darkness as a lumbering wall of muscle, their steel-shod hooves clacking against the cobblestones. The beams that made up the walls were six inches thick and bound with iron. By Ignatius’s estimation, it would hold Johnathan and several dozen Automatons. For the number of bodies it had to move this night, it was more than suited to the task. A familiar soft rushing of wind made Ignatius start. Standing next to him was an Automata.
“How did you manage to sneak up on me?” asked Ignatius.
“I soled my feet,” said the Automata.
“What made you think to do that?” Ignatius said.
“It seemed to me that stealth is required. Those remaining have taken measures to reduce the amount of noise we make.”
“Ingenious,” Ignatius replied.
The process of loading the wagon did not take long as Ignatius predicted. When they brought Johnathan out on the basket, Ignatius halted them.
“Johnathan, I have to know. How do you power the Automatons? They do not seem to be burning coal and there is no smoke.”
Johnathan grinned dreamily, “The secret is natural gas,” he said tapping a finger against the side of his nose. “It burns five times as hot, uses less space and they can run longer. The only exhaust is water vapor and most of that feeds back into their boilers. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone, but there’s a huge stockpile of gas here…In Pennsylvania. I was going to seek permits from the Mayor to start mining it.”
“I see,” said Ignatius.
Several things fell into place for Ignatius. Johnathan sent the first few Automatons to the Mayor in order to curry some favor. Then he promised a bigger delivery of more advanced models. ‘Baron’ Hirsch smelling money in the deal sent Ignatius to investigate the disappearance of the Automata to see if there might be a chance of reviving the deal.
Winifred came out with a shotgun cradled in the crook of his arm. Several other cops were scaling the paddy wagon to perch on the roof with weapons of their own.
“Is everyone aboard?” Ignatius asked.
“The basement is clear,” said Angela.
“Fawkes is in and so are all of the Automatons. I think we’re ready to go,” added Winifred.
“Keep an eye peeled for any signs of trouble,” Ignatius said.
Angela and Winifred climbed into the front of the wagon. Ignatius with the assistance of his cane hobbled around to the back. He had just taken hold of the handle to begin climbing up into the rear when two things made him hesitate. Initially he balked at climbing into the hold because the last time he did so he was under arrest for homicide. That led to several years of incarceration and nearly permanent separation from Angela.
The other thing that made him pause was a groan from the bushes near the front gate. Whistling to the police on the roof Ignatius unsheathed the blade secreted in his cane. He moved in the direction of the sound. Fatigue caught his toe on a loose stone and he staggered but managed to recover. Reaching the shrubbery, he pushed several branches aside with the blade to reveal a thin man lying on his back. His right hand clutched his ribs and blood stained clothes and limb alike.
“I know you,” Ignatius said, kneeling and pulling more vegetation out of the way. “You delivered an assignment to me from Colonel Witmore.”
“Aye, I did,” replied the wounded man. “Name’s Winston. Could you do me a solid and get the flask out of my hip pocket? Got done up a righ’ treat by that big black buck that’s stalkin’ ya.”
Winston spat saliva and blood off to one side and took the flask from Ignatius. He swigged from it and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.
“Colonel Witmore put you on my tail, did he not?” asked Ignatius.
“Aye. I’ve been followin’ you. When the Negro came out with Miss Kendall and her machine-man, I tried to intervene. That thing just reached into his shirt for half of a second and then damn near ripped me in two. I managed to see which direction he headed.”
“Indeed it is. Try to take it easy Winny, we shall get you a doctor and you can tell us what you saw.”
“Isn’t time. They went south. I heard a horse and carriage. One of the men mentioned flying. *cough* Do you have a light?” asked Winston. A sad crumpled cigarette dangled out of his mouth. Ignatius struck a match and held it under the cigarette. Winston took several drags.
“You goin’ to see the Colonel?” he asked. Ignatius nodded. “Ttell him I’m not gonna be able to report in tonight.”
“We will send help,” Ignatius said.
“Don’t bother. Wouldn’t be in time anyway…”
Winston sank back into the bush. The glowing ember and trail of smoke was the only sign of him. Ignatius rose and hurried back to the wagon. He climbed in and pounded on the side. The wagon lurched into motion. Rumbling out onto Cameron Street the paddy wagon soon vanished into the night.