|The Pocket Watch
Author: Windspeech PM
My English Final, and my first attempt at Steampunk. Set in the old west, where technology takes a different turn. Rated "T" for a bit of violence. I might add upon this.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Western - Words: 2,612 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Published: 05-27-11 - id: 2918445
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: This was written as my final in English, and is also my first step into writing Steampunk-related story.
The Pocket Watch
The smoke from cigars and cheap tobacco streamed from the open door of the saloon, the movement inside was relatively dull. There was only about twelve patrons throughout, of those twelve, three were distracted by harlots, one of which plays the piano in the corner, making the setting a bit livelier; four patrons are at a gambling table, losing to the dealer at the head of the table, who doesn't even need the cards hidden in the mechanism under his sleeve. At any given time, there are about two people roaming; this number is consistent for most of the night, and they don't seem to want anything, uncertain if they are even alive. The last three patrons were probably the most pathetic, those who just sit at the bar counter and wasted any coin they had on them for cheap, homemade alcohol that is still overpriced, considering the low amount of effort put into making it.
Of the three patrons at the bar counter, one is talking to the bartender, a burly man with a receding hairline, blue eyes, and a shiny copper arm that glistens in the dim light. The arm itself largely resembles an organic arm, with the exception of the small gears and motors visible in the openings of the outer layers of copper plating. Just above the elbow is a cylindrical tube that holds a fair amount of steam, of Winston make, more common and easily refilled at the proper markets; this four inch tube with a two inch diameter can hold enough power for a week of use by the mechanical arm, which will shoot out a puff of steam from the exhaust pipes pointing outward on the shoulder occasionally, as the arm stays active while the man pours another glass for the man in the furthest corner.
The man, who constantly glances at his golden pocket watch, picks up the drink and cautiously sips at it, monitoring the saloon, watching for any sign of danger, as though he expects someone to kill him. Of course, this fit of paranoia most likely derives from the fact that he holds in his hand a very special pocket watch that was stolen from a very wealthy entrepreneur. He was a worker in a steam factory, a much esteemed job, considering what others have to turn to, until an accident with a machine killed his brother.
He had stolen the pocket watch from his employer with the intension of affording a proper funeral; but since he stole it, there have been a few men who have tried to kill him, only losing him on horseback. He owns a gun, but has never had much chance to practice, never saw much point; it sits behind the counter out of reach. For safety reasons, the bartender confiscates all weapons at the door. The gun itself is nothing too fancy, a standard 'Barns &Barn's' clockwork revolver, loaded with six rounds of low grade copper bullets; it was mostly for a sense of safety that was absent at the moment.
"What happened to your arm?" the paranoid man heard the other drunk ask the bartender. The bartender glanced back to him, then to his arm.
"Old war injury," He replied, turning a knob on his forearm. "I was helpin' civilians away from a burning building behind enemy lines during the war 'gainst the 'Sychs." His arm goes inert as he pulls the Winston container from its place and puts it in a drawer, replacing it with a full one. "They fired a wave right through the woman I had my arm around, taking the arm with her." He turns the knob again, connecting the hose to the container, 'breathing' life back into his arm with a large puff of steam that was backed up in the pipes. The drunken man looks down at the counter, sways for a moment, as though he can't think straight, he sways and shakes his head, eventually falling backwards onto the floor.
The bartender sighs and pulls a lever behind the counter and suddenly the floor opens up underneath the unconscious man and he slides under the floorboards. The first time someone sees this, it is a bit of a shock, and they just stare at the sight, but after one has sat at the bar for a large portion of the day, they know that the intoxicated man that has just fallen through the floor is travelling on a 'safe' series of conveyer belts that lead to the outside. Along this path, it is fairly common to 'lose' possessions along the way; which seems to become a major form of income for the owner of the saloon, the bartender with the copper arm.
The war that the man mentioned comes to the paranoid man's mind; it was started in the matter of a week over a dispute between scientists and engineers arguing about the use of steam and clockwork over a stranger science of psycho-kinetics. During the war, the Steamers, as they were named by populace, had the upper hand of wealth and numbers, but the 'Sychs, who were psycho-physiological theorists, had some of the greater minds and weapons that could kill in numbers never imagined before. Bottom line: the Steamers won. Not many people care beyond that fact.
The man in the corner of the bar pocketed the watch and stood up, suddenly inspired to stay a little more sober than the, until recently, other intoxicated patron. He dropped the coin he owed the bartender and received the gun from him. He fastened it onto his belt and picked up the hat that the other man had left on the counter, placing it onto his head. The man turned to leave and the third person that sat at the bar, a woman who hardly drank from the less-than-decent alcohol behind the counter, walked up behind him, a small, four-shot derringer in hand.
"Don't you move," She whispered in his ear, the entire saloon not noticing them, as though they were made of crystalline glass, went along with their business. "Reach into your pocket and hand over that pocket watch along with anything else with value."
The man gulped, feeling the four barrels on his back; shaking, he reached into his pocket, feeling for the cold metal. In the split second the watch is visible, the door of the saloon, which has been closed for a fair amount of time, bursts inward as several men rush in, armed with automatic needle rifles, weapons from before the war, 'Sych weapons that could fire metallic needles at such a speed that they can pass right through human bones.
The man who they are after, for the very reason he expected they would be after him for, dove behind a large table, hitting the edge of it, knocking it over to protect him. He turned from his spot on the floor, expecting to see his would-be thief to be torn apart from the storm of needles that whirred across the room; however, that was not the case, the woman, clad in men's clothing, was ducked behind a table on the side opposite of the direction he dove. The paranoid man pulls out his 'Barns & Barn's' and pops out to get a shot off, he sees that there are five men, and to his surprise, one has just had part of his head forcibly removed by the cheap, copper bullets that were not made to hit anything, but instead either become inert in a puff of smoke, or explode violently in the revolving chamber of the gun.
The woman, however, has skill to spare; killing the other four men with the four shots she had, quickly loading the derringer with the special spiraled steel bullets that have enough penetrating power to pass through four cast-iron furnaces. This is a fact that she herself has tested on a number of occasions. The man could tell that she was not to be trifled with. He stood up and looked to find that the entire saloon was standing in awe of the event, not knowing if they should cheer, throw up, run, or just go back to their business. The dealer at the card table took this opportunity to slip a few coins into his pocket without any notice.
"A round of drinks on the house!" the bartender announced, trying to break the grim mood of the crowd and keep them in his establishment, taking any money he could from them.
The music started again, but was silenced by a high-pitched whistling noise coming from outside of the bar. It cut out into silence again, only a pattern of clanking footsteps followed by hissing noises could be heard, the darkness outside covered all but the occasional glint of metal in the flowing dust. The woman readied her weapon at the door; awkwardly, the man did the same, doing his best to look like he knew which end of the gun to hold it from. The silence was broken by a gasp, a scream, commotion to escape the ever growing lethality of the saloon, and four loud gunshots. These gunshots were not exactly four separate gunshots, but four gunshots that harmoniously exploded outwards simultaneously.
The thing that had entered the room was a sophisticated piece of machinery; an Autonomous Steam Assassin; or A.S.A.: Model R; "Whirring Blades." Each of the A.S.A. models are specialists in a field of combat, this model is close quarters. In each hand, it holds a steam powered handle, with a spinning saw blade on the outer end.
It is in a very human shape, the size of a thin, young man; its head contains a synthetic brain, given a loyalty for its 'employer' and is trained for close quarter combat situations. Its entire outer layer is armored, yet light enough to keep this A.S.A. light on its feet and its maximum running speed well over fifty miles per hour. More than enough to catch a horse and kill its rider before he can get a shot off. The armor gleams a dirty silver hue and evidently, is denser than four cast-iron furnaces.
The woman is barely able to move out of the way as the machine bursts forward, the saw blade hissing out steam as it cuts through the air. It turns its skull-shaped head towards the man with the pocket watch, detecting its objective. It tries to backhand the man, missing as he dodges the swing, his hat slipping off his head, being cut in half a second later as the Whirring Blades assassin continues to slice toward him. He is almost beheaded when his back bumps the bar counter. He quickly pushes himself over the counter and slides across, falling to the floor on the other side.
At this point, his heart is racing and he has lost any sense of security that his worthless Barns & Barn's could have given him. But then he notices the lever. The same lever used to banish poor drunks into the cold, unforgiving world outside. He kicks the thing as hard as he can, as though his life depended on it, because in all honesty, it did. The next thing he knew, the assassin was under the floor boards, he breathed a sigh of relief before he realized that the A.S.A. would only come back angry. He raced towards the open door, hoping that there would be a horse tied to the saloon's post. Halfway across the room, a spinning blade extruded from the floor, almost cutting his foot in half, but within a few seconds, it stopped spinning and underneath the floor, the steam assassin could be heard rolling outwards into the dark night.
When the man exits the warm, inviting saloon, he is overjoyed that there is indeed, a horse tied there. He takes as little time as possible to untie and mount the horse. From the second the ASA walked in, only about a minute passed as the man rode away from the saloon, and the mechanical man rolled out of the side of the building, steadying itself for a midnight run after the horse rider, attempting to kill him with only a ten inch knife. If it were human, it would be annoyed at the challenge, but the machine doesn't get annoyed, it gets results.
The man, having arrived in the small town this morning by train, had absolutely no idea where he was or where he was going. Hell, he could be headed right to the edge of a cliff for all he knows, he thinks in his head as the horse gallops at a steady pace. The irony behind this thought is that that is exactly where he is headed, with a homicidal metal monster hot on his heels.
Fortunately, the horse he took is a local one that knows the area, and surprisingly, does not want to run foolishly off a cliff. So is comes to a halt by the cliffside, and in the process, throwing the man off of its back and running back to town, where its owner, a kind rider who doesn't make suicidal runs off of cliffs will feed it and keep it in the stables during the night.
This is all while leaving the man alone on the side of a cliff, exposed for any threats that can range from disease carried by mosquitoes, to say, a razor blade wielding mechanical murderer charging towards him at fifty-seven miles per hour. When it gets there, however, it slows to a walk and holds the knife at its side, ready to slit his throat, take the pocket watch, and go home to recharge, leaving the unfortunate man mangled on the side of a cliff.
Then he realizes it. The main objective of the Automated Steam Assassin is no doubt to take the pocket watch back to the employer; otherwise it wouldn't bother bringing it back at all. He takes the golden chunk of clockwork out by the chain, gathering it in his hand. The ASA focuses on its primary directive, cocking its head to the side, and then moving forward to take the goods to its employer, after killing the thief, of course. As the employer specifically stated when hiring the ASA for a double job; the second job instructed to commence directly after the first.
The man, however, does not hand over the watch, but rather turns around and throws the source of his woes as hard as he can, watching the glint of gold disappear in to the blackness. A few seconds after he throws it, the ASA runs at full speed toward the pocket watch, as programmed to do in such a situation, not taking the cliff into account until it is limply falling down the vast clearing, getting crushed under its own weight as it hits rocks jutting out of the sheer drop of the cliff.
The man, exhausted, sits on the edge of the cliff, pulls his worthless revolver from its holster, examines it for a while, and tosses it off the edge as well.
Author's Note: This is my first attempt at Steampunk genre, and I might write more that builds off of this one or write another short story. I would appreciate feedback but do not expect it.