Disclaimer: This Story first appeared in Steampunk Tales Issues #6 and #7. They had only asked for first printing rights and the right to continue printing. As I am allowed to do with this as i like I have chosen to leave a copy of it here for reading and hopeful review.
Through the deserts of Nevada Giants did battle. One fought because it had been made to by a people desperate to survive. The other fought because if it didn't it would be torn limb from limb. The first of these colossi, the one that had been called on to defend this land, was little more than a roughly man shaped pile of rock that continually crumbled, reformed, and somehow, despite being made primarily of immutable stone, seemed to convey a sense of anguish in its movements. It was never meant to be bound to serve men, no matter how noble their purpose. The other was a thing not of nature, though it did bare a resemblance to the African gorilla, which neither it nor those it served knew of. It looked to be made of iron, brass, and a few other metals, but it was far stronger than these. It had to be if it were to survive long in this fight.
The stone creature threw itself at the iron colossi with all the weight and momentum of an avalanche. It was all the metal monster could do to not be bowled over and crushed, much less fight back. New-made dents shone in its shoulders, chest, and one large one on the side of it's head. Dents that no weapon could have made, for its skin was too hard and too resilient for the pitiful armaments of the day. It bellowed defiantly as it withstood another avalanche-charge from it's opponent. More dents. Soon it would, if it couldn't find a way to escape, be battered into so much scrap.
The cannons that had, when it had first been confronted by the stone creature, been perched on it's back were useless here. Each time pieces of the stone gholem were blown off they somehow managed to remain animated amid the jumble. Worse than this was that as each of the larger segments broke up the iron beast's foe became more nimble.
Still, it did not give up the fight. There was one weapon left. One it did not want to use. It wasn't something as melodramatic as a bomb that would kill everything in the area, including itself. No. The thing that gave it pause was fear that its handlers would find out about this weapon, and attempt to force it to explain how to build more of them. It had other costs, but they paled, in it's mind at least, against the thought of war going from iron-clads, machine-guns, and horse drawn artillery pieces to what it was about to use.
It clung to the ground as the air around it heated. It's opponent reformed and stood watching, unsure of what was going on. Had it been smarter it might realize that retreat was the best option against an unknown. In it's experience, however, nothing had been able to do much more than cause minor injury. It watched the air around the iron beast heat, first to the point where water would boil, then to where dry wood would catch alight, then hot enough to melt softer metals. Incidentally it had also grown hot enough around the iron monster to shatter stone.
The rock gholem did not understand how it became this hot, but what of a little heat? It had survived even Monster Slayer. How it did not understand, save that later as a way of showing gratitude it had done the mythic figure two services. Even so, that had been the one and only time anything had come close to doing it lasting harm, and it had the scars to show from the effort. Next to that, what was a little heat?
The heat that the iron monster produced was not the weapon it feared. No. This was only its inner workings trying desperately to remain functional under the added strain they had been put under. The dread weapon lay in it's chest, at least the focusing portion of it did. It raised on it's hind limbs and bellowed a final challenge to it's opponent before gripping the two heavy plates of armor at it's chest right where your breastbone would be and pulled. The plates swung open like doors. The rock creature saw light, was bathed in it, and found itself being eaten away by it.
It's final thoughts were a mix of pain, anger, and, odd as it may seam, relief. It had been put to uses the great makers had never intended, and that misuse hurt it far more than anything, even this disintegration, had done to it during it's existence. Maybe the iron monster did it a favor by putting it out of it's pain. It might have cared if it knew, but in not knowing it did not care for the final thoughts of the last of the rock people.
To: [Marked out Text]
From: Edward Fawkes
Subject: Mission Summery #14
I begin by stating that I wish that a mediator had been chosen for this task that had even the bare minimum respect for the natives of these lands to speak with them in a civil manner. As things stood, unfortunately, the man that you sent dictated terms, all while sneering at those assembled there. He spoke of the negotiation as another might at being told he had to discipline a room full of children. It was unwise, in my view, for him to know of my existence or for me to have to act as his bodyguard. Had I not been there he might have had a little more care with his words, and perhaps that would have prevented the following attack.
It pains me to inform all of you that the man you sent did not survive. The restraints inside the crew compartment within Goliath was not equal to the force of repeatedly being pounded and pummeled by a small mountain's worth of rock. The creature is dead, if one wishes to see that as a good thing I won't offer argument. I simply regret at mess things have become and I doubt using my services even in an implied threat would be effective. The so called Indian Wars may be winding down, but have a care. I ask that of you. Those that feel they have nothing left can be the most dangerous fighters.
To: Edward Fawkes
From: Emily Harrison
Subject: Father's Wishes
I know you had expected either punishment or a new assignment by this point Dear Edward, but my father and the others have been in closed door meetings for the past week. I had simply wanted to send word so that you would not worry at the silence. On reflection this may not be possible, for I have replaced that with a worry over the sudden irregularity. Do not be concerned, please I ask that of you my gentle giant. Father will smooth things over, he always has before, and you will be free to roam the greatly expanses and unsettled places again. I wish that they would allow you to transfer yourself to something else. While I can see good sense behind their fears of Goliath on the loose without you at the helm I wish. No. I will speak no further on the matter. My best, Always.
To: Emily Harrison
From: Edward Fawkes
I have been asked to go to California in the event that negotiations fall through with a Chinaman that locals call Doctor Zeus. He showed about a decade ago and since settling in has impressed the local press with his scientific endeavors as well as his near single handed wiring of the entire town for electricity. We have been called in because of several reports of 'unnatural doings'. I do not know how much of these reports can be trusted, and how much is a vile concoction based on the man's ancestry.
If at all possible I would like you to join me in this Belle. You've proven a sharp mind, a calm head, and a touch of grace often missed while I'm out and about. If you are allowed to accompany myself and those sent to do the actual investigating meet me three days from now where you first saw me. If you cannot please send word, or have a message waiting for me. I will understand if you are not allowed, but your company lifts my spirits and keeps the men on good behavior.
Emily Harrison's father, as it turned out, was quite happy with his daughter joining Edward on this excursion. He recognized that they had a fondness for each-other, and also knew that unlike many other would-be suitors, even if Edward still wore the flesh and blood of his original body he would as soon kill himself than to make any unwanted advances. Many fathers might not approve of their daughters doing as his had done in the past, and was about to again. However, and this had gotten him no end of grief, he saw that she would do as she wished regardless on if he approved or not. So he let her follow her fancies from time to time, and had been rewarded in kind not only by discovering that his child had a talent for field work, but more importantly she remained affectionate and faithful to him.
As a change of pace, fair and faithful reader, I have decided to include fragments from the journey that our hero, heroin, and mostly crew of sidekicks undertook. Once you see what they must endure when they get where they are needed I trust you will agree with me that this is done to show them a measure of mercy.
It took time to get to California. Time Edward had spent dictating the latest chapter of a book he had been working on to Miss Emily Harrison. Before his life led him to become the hulking iron fist of the organization he currently worked for, back when he had to depend on others to do everything including feeding him, he had added to his family's fortunes by writing dime novels. Typically they were outlandish things he himself wouldn't have been caught reading, but he was told that they were popular with boys of a certain age, and the practice had left him feeling better about himself. Though he no-longer needed to live by the words he dictated to others, it was a habit that he didn't want to get out of, for even now it had proven comforting in those long spaces between where he lived, and where they would send him. That and, much to his delight, 'Emmy' liked working for him.
In that time they did more than speak sweet nothings to each other when they thought the others wouldn't notice Emily climb into Goliath's crew compartment for her to speak in private. They planned, sure, they helped Edward with his book a little, but mostly they speculated about why they were needed against a man of science. Edward kept quiet, as Edward didn't quite believe the reports himself. He hoped very much that they were mostly tales spun by men that had little love of the Chinese. If not, well, he had survived enemies that tried using electricity against him. It wasn't pleasant, far from it, but he had survived and overcome. He would do it again if need be. He simply feared for the others that were with him. Though he could hardly be called human anymore, wedded to the Goliath construct as he was, he feared what was to be.
With the cheer gone from the journey I have elected to leave our intrepid and good men, for they are good people no matter what any may say otherwise. Don't fret. I am only going to lightly tred through only the dull and uninteresting parts that wouldn't interest you anyway. When next we see Edward and his now not-so-merry band things will have picked up, never you worry. I won't cheat you, fair and kind reader, of what you came to see.
California. It's a big place. They'll be awhile in getting to where they are needed. So, where then do we go in the meantime if not with them? Let us pay this 'Doctor Zeus' a visit. It may prove enlightening, gentle reader, if we see him with our own eyes rather than depend on the attitudes and preconceptions that Edward and his merry band may have.
His birth name was Kobayashi Saburo, and ever since he had left his home across the ocean he had gone under a variety of assumed names, pet names, nicknames, all because most people couldn't pronounce his proper name even when they had the politeness to address him as more than 'boy' or 'dog' or hundreds of other insults he had to endure because of his ancestry.
This man was now in his mid thirties and going under the name of Thomas Koba for the benefit of the town that had taken him in. At present he was in the middle of taking stock of the different dried herbs, medicinal or otherwise, he had harvested over the past growing season. Some of these plants were toxic if given in more than the tiniest amounts, or required blending, heating, or distillation and refining to make them useful for more than crude poisons. Some of these he used to season his food at night, and it amused him to no end whenever he let a dinner guest in on what had spiced and seasoned their meal. Others only became more deadly after refining and blending, at least if they were eaten. These he had other uses for. Uses that he was not quite so open and joking about. These people had given him respect where few had before, and he was not about to test that gift more than he felt was needed.
Everything was in order, and he had enough for his needs at the moment. He spoke to himself in his native tongue as he gathered four different glass bottles. Three would serve to add seasoning to the food he and his guests would eat that night, and the fourth. Well, even if Saburo was largely a kind and gentle man his lines of experimentation are on occasion unethical in our eyes. If asked politely on the matter, he would probably reply that without people like him to test the bounds of what was possible, so long as he did not subject unknowing or unwilling persons to his theories, why should anyone have a care?
His self-conversing continued as he placed three of the extract containers in his kitchen and took the fourth to a work-room well away from the rest of the home. Everything in this room was neat, clean, and orderly. The animals he kept here were well fed, talked to, and occasionally played with. It made things more difficult for him of course. He mused on this as he took one of the rats from its cage and let it scurry up his arm, across his shoulders, and back. This hurts me far more than it will you little one. He carefully took an eyedropper with his free hand and filled it partway with his concoction. This will rip my heart in twin if it kills you. He gently squeezed, letting first one, then two drops of the mixture soak into a piece of bread.
The rat, when placed in with the treated food, sniffed cautiously at it. He had chosen a rat for this because of their discriminating pallete. Their sense of taste was one of the keenest he could find and rarely ate anything unfamiliar, so if it ate the treated food then he was sure that there was no taste to the solution. As the rat nibbled at the edge of the offered food Saburo considered what could be mixed with this solution, if it worked as he hoped, both for added nutritional value and for flavoring. While his mind was occupied with this the rat took the bit of bread between its paws and ate hungrily. Saburo watched with interest for the next hour as the rat first darted this way, then that frantically searching its enclosure before toying with several objects he had placed inside to keep it occupied. He would have to do more observations, long term as well as short.
The tests were needed because he wanted to see if the concoction affected succeeding generations, overall longevity, and general temperament. This was another reason he chose rats as test subjects. They matured faster than any other mammal he could get his hands on at the time, and if rats died as a result there would be no public outcry as there would be if he used something that wasn't already considered vermin. Even with many unanswered questions he allowed himself a smile. Coffee and teas had stimulants and other things to keep mind and body alert, but they came with a price. Cocaine had promise at one time as a natural way of staying alert and full of vigor, but even this far west he had read increasingly sensational reports of what people had done under it's affects. He dismissed much of it as racist propaganda to deny one class or another some substance they enjoyed. That did not, in his eyes, mean he should dismiss the news entirely. Had anyone done any serious study on it's effects? No matter. His mix was of an entirely different sort, even if the end result he hoped for would give the same vigor.
After his hour of observation and note taking he made sure the rat had plenty of water, as he feared dehydration to be an issue, then double checked to make sure everything was secure and that nothing could be shattered by some freak accident. An ounce of preparedness saved a wagonload of grief. He then went to prepare dinner. Cooking, along with chemistry, poetry, and music, was a passion of his. People often asked him why he didn't hire a full time cook if he was as busy as he claimed. However he would have none of it. Cooking was an art as much as painting, and even when it was just for himself, he took pride in that art.
Tonight, however, he had a larger audience. Tonight he was to entertain the Mayor, Council, and a few other notable locals. They would not be here for hours yet, but he would need that time, as well as the twins that worked under him in the kitchens, if he hoped to have everything prepared and ready by the time they arrived. He knew partly why they wanted to meet at his home, he had given this city electricity. He had done so without use of dam or coal fed generator. How he did so was a thing that he was very proud of, and he would not share the construction methods with any, not until he was honored by the wider world for his work. No sense in having worked twenty years only to have an idea snatched out from under you.
That, alone, would have been enough for the gathering, but by what he had caught in the proverbial wind there was more for the evening. Beyond that he had not the slightest, but no matter. Here was his home. Here he had been given respect for his achievements. Here was a place that treated him as he felt his work deserved. Had they not had this grand home built for him as a show of thanks for his services? He would return that kindness, service, and honor in kind. That was how it was with a lord and his vassles was it not? Maybe he wasn't quite a liege lord, or even an administrator, but when those with titles and offices heard his advice they more often than not did as he said when he said. He would not admit it to himself, but he loved them for that.
As Saburo prepared to dine and charm the local governing body, others were about that night, and not all of these thought so highly of the man that the local papers had hailed as Zeus, Bringer of Lightning. They served an as-yet-unknown party, and though they hold ill-will to the Chinaman whom they saw as little better than a jacked up puppet of Edison's, or perhaps Westinghouse preparing some grand demonstration, they held no personal animosity to the man. These people, all in the employ of some wealthy family or another, thought it only business they were conducting when they sought out Saburo's power stations. Their task was to shut the man's grand experimentation down, or at the very least to discredit him and whoever pulled his strings.
What they found was a series of lines radiating out from the main settlements into the apparent middle of nowhere. They lead to towers that, as the building records showed, were buried almost as deep into the ground as shone above. Somehow these towers provided the power to everything. They didn't look so much, not to the men that sought them that night. By the way their overseers had talked it would take far less to topple them than they had brought with them.
They saw themselves as businessmen doing a job that required a little more dirt than most in polite society would condone. Unfortunately for them Saburo would consider what they were intending as an act of War against not only himself, but against the entire town, and he took such matters very seriously.
There is much potential here. Should I tell you of Saburo's reaction when he realized that more than just his home had been plunged into darkness? While informative I think it better to leave the exact details something of a mystery for the time being. What of those men that blindly followed orders and were, even now, overseeing the chaos they had made to ensure that there would be no quick recovery? Their fate, too, shall be learned, but as with Saburo I shall leave the details of how they end up that way up to your imagination. Instead I think that it is time to see how Edward, Emily, and their band are fairing.
By now they have gotten within a day's travel of their target, at least the larger part of the party that went by rail, then horse, had. Edward, Emily, and two others had traveled as fast as Goliath would take them. It was hot, cramped, and the three that traveled in the crew compartment had gotten bounced about enough so that they had to make frequent stops to allow their stomachs to settle. When not traveling, either because of darkness, waiting for wagons to pass out of sight, while camp was being made or struck they spoke of what the other party would find and report. All hoped that Edward's command of Goliath wouldn't be needed, at least not more than his unusual senses. Those they all agreed they would need to rely on, for he saw and heard what no man could even with the most powerful of telescopes or other apparatus.
By the accounts they received this town of Beth was somewhat isolated, not near enough to a powerful enough river for hydroelectricity to have been an option, and not big enough for lines to be strung from elsewhere. They weren't even sure if other cities this far west had widespread use of electrical power, which worried them. All knew that ignorance could get them killed.
They asked themselves why this town. Why didn't this man settle in one of the great port cities along the coast? Between them they reasoned that he wanted to feel important and needed, which would not be possible in a larger place. In the port cities he would be just another oriental. Here he would be, in all likelihood, unique. If he had somehow brought power to the entire city he had influence, be it respect or fear, from enough of the locals to have them do as he wanted.
"We're jumping to conclusions." Edward's voice rumbled low, he hoped low enough that it wouldn't carry too far. "Maybe he just presented a plan that they thought would work. I want to believe that he likes the feel of power if we've been set against him." He rumbled low, almost a purring noise, "I'm just worried. It isn't just a lone madman, if he is indeed mad, but a man that may have a whole town as hostage, or in thrall."
"Why don't I go ahead then?" Emily spoke softly, but her jaw was set, and her eyes dared anyone to question her.
"No!" Edward shifted uncomfortably, suddenly aware how loud his denial was. "I'm sorry, but what if he takes you hostage?" Were he still human he would have fidgeted. As it was the Goliath barely moved, looking as cold and dispassionate as a statue.
Emily looked up at him, fixing the hundred foot tall metal colossi with the same defiant look she had the rest of the group. "Why do you think I volunteer to go? They won't suspect a woman as much as either of you." She was calm, did not raise her voice, and contained her temper. They would see her talking sense, not a spoiled girl throwing a tantrum at not getting her way.
There was more to discuss than that, but they eventually relented and started giving her instruction. They were quick to explain that she didn't need hand holding or coddling. They merely wanted to make sure that if something went wrong she would be able to keep her wits about her and have a plan of some nature. She accepted with only a small loss of dignity and, in secret, was grateful their concern was less to do with her being a woman, and more because she was one of them. Before she left she was given a flare gun. "Just in case things get out of hand. Fire that and they'll have Goliath to deal with." Tom closed her hand around the handle of the device and patted it before she was helped on her horse.
Edward watched till long after human eyes would have lost sight of her. The others knew his feelings for the woman. They also knew better than to make light of whatever shape their relationship took. He might not be flesh and blood anymore, but he is still human, and so if one wanted to call what he felt for her Love, then who is to argue?
To: [Marked out Text]
From: Edward Fawkes
Subject: progress Report
Miss Emily Harrison has convinced the rest of us that it would be best that she be the one to enter and make contact with the advance teem. Her logic and reasoning is sound, even if it rankles me to admit that. She has with her tools in case she must escape confinement, enough supplies and clothes to make her cover story believable, and most importantly she has her wits about her. If things are so out of control that she cannot find a way out she will signal with a flare and I will be there within the hour. I do not like this, but if I had my way I would go there myself. For both our sakes, Sir, I hope that the reports we had been given were grossly overstated.
Vigilant in Service,
Emily Harrison arrived to a town in turmoil. On her way she had heard distant rumbling and though none were near this place, she had to guess that somehow the two events were connected. The typical bustle of even small towns was evident. Nothing in town appeared damaged. The people, though, looked like something had happened. Curiosity demanded she find answers, so she headed for the telegraph office. While those actually sending and transcribing the messages could not speak, the people there might be able to help shed some light on what had gone on.
On the way there she saw almost a dozen men wearing strips of black cloth tied to both arms and across their foreheads. She stopped and stared, some of them looked familiar to her. Her frown deepened as she approached, she did know a few of them.
"Alex?" She was close enough to the group clearing where a wooden frame had collapsed. One of the black striped men glanced her way with dull lifeless eyes. She did not like that, even when he had been worked to the bone he always had an eager face and ready smile. "Alex!" The man grunted but continued his labor without so much as another glance her way.
Emily looked somewhat confused at this turn of events. Maybe he couldn't get a message to her right then. That had to be it, yes. She would stable her horse, go find a room for the night, then see if Alex would be more talkative in private. It was a good plan in her estimations, but the man's face bothered her. To her he looked like he wasn't there anymore, like something had loosed the man from his body and somehow kept the body animated.
What bothered her most was that none of the townspeople took this work-gang as something out of the ordinary.
Saburo dinner had gone well, at least until the power went out.. They talked of a statue of his likeness to honor him for his contributions. This he waved away with little effort, they didn't really have the money for the construction, or at least didn't have the money to do that and several other of his improvements he wanted to offer up. They ate for a time before anyone else spoke, but when they did, things were less complimentary.
In spite of the fact they accepted his medicine to keep the violent docile enough to learn useful trade skills, or offer menial service with little supervision there were dissenting voices. All of them agreed that his way was better, at least when properly applied, to other methods they had seen before. Maybe they were a little too quick to point that out, maybe not. However what they did not trust, not even in the hands of someone as well meaning as their overseas benefactor with the means to, at almost a whim, control anyone.
Saburo, more often known here as Thomas, Doctor, or Zeus, thanked them for their honesty. He was grateful he was not the only one suffering internal debates over if anyone, no matter how well meaning at the onset, could be trusted with this marvel of chemical science. He had admitted no clear idea on how best to put their fears to rest, and promised that if they ordered him, as an official act, he would destroy the casks of the formula he had already made as well as the means to make more. However, he was quick to point out, he would not destroy the actual formula. That he would merely keep safe for future study and hopeful refinement into some substance that would not leave the person on the receiving end as little more than a becalmed spineless servant.
Oh there had been no end of argument over that. No man, one argued, could be trusted even with the mere knowledge much less the means to this. Another pointed out that without the knowledge of what made this there was no possible way of making a counter-agent in the future if someone less kindly disposed stumbled on the how of this substance. There were more sides to the tangle of course, but ultimately those were the two prevalent schools of thought on the matter.
Once the shouting had died down Saburo rose from his seat to address all of them. "I appreciate your opinions and honesty in this matter gentlemen. However the discussion has long gone the way of pointless bickering and I will not tolerate petty arguments under my roof from anyone, you least of all." Dead silence greeted that statement. They weren't sure if he had just threatened them or not. "I will speak with several of you in the morning in a more official capacity on the matter. Till then let's forget our troubles, perhaps over some pie, yes?" He smiled thinly at them. "A pity that we did not have this discussion a month sooner. I have heard some of the most wonderful stories, but I'm sure we can find a way to distract ourselves." At that they mumbled agreement, most still unsure of how they stood in the man's eyes just then.
The twins served small dishes, each with a slice of apple and blackberry pie. "If this does not meet with your approval I have shortcake." The man known as Thomas seated himself and started eating. He really was grateful for their conflicting opinions, but once words became heated around the table it often became all but impossible to have a clear headed discussion, at least that was his experience.
The lights fluttered for a few moments before brightening back to full. One of the Twins had gone to The Doctor's side and whispered to him that they had to switch to the home's personal generator and that the rest of the town had gone dark. He nodded in understanding then, after everyone had finished, explained this to his guests and offered that they stay until he and those that worked under him could isolate the problem and restore power. He expected them to argue with him, they were the elected officials of this town, and they needed to appear to be dong something. However, as one explained to him, they had done something. They had, at least as the records would show, gone to him to get him to fix the problem.
A half-day's ride away from town was an enormous metal construct that had not been there three days ago. To our eyes it would look like someone had made a gorilla out of metal and armored it for war, placing cannons on it's back, one at either shoulder, and given it a crude, almost nonexistent, face. Two men looked to the metal giant expectantly, for its eyes were infinitely keener than there's and was currently surveying the town, at least what even it's keen senses could tell from that distance.
"There goes another one." Edward's voice was like the rumble of bulldog sized bumblebees in the air, "I don't know what those spires were for, but another one just went down." In truth he had a clear idea on what they might be, but he dismissed the notion as soon as it formed. Without access to a library such as the Goliath construct had in it's memory he found the idea too fantastic to be believed that anyone had found a way of tapping into what would best be described as æther by men of the day as a way of creating electricity. That wasn't an accurate description, but even with the knowledge at his mind's beck and call Edward had no other means of explaining if anyone had asked.
His two companions made disgusted noises. They were experienced enough to know that too many things they didn't know was bad for going into a situation, and they had stuck their collective necks in with far too many things they couldn't answer. Most of all though they were worried that Emily hadn't come back with word from the team of men they had sent ahead to look for information.
They asked if they could go look for her. Edward rumbled low and shook his head. That slight gesture, translated to the Goliath's size and frame, was plain as day. He had originally said he would give her one day, and that day was almost up. Still, he would give her the time she had asked for. Anything less, even if she was in danger, would earn little more than resentment from her. It hurt where his heart would be if he still had one, but Edward wanted them to wait. So they would wait.
Another of those black-banded men served Emily when she had gone to get breakfast. As with Alex the man had a vacant expression and spoke not one word to her. She found it more than a little disturbing, and told the man at the counter so. He shrugged helplessly and explained that they wouldn't harm a fly. They just where what they were, and any further explanation would take too long for someone that didn't already live there.
She smoothed her skirts to keep her hands from shaking when the same black banded man took her dishes. Something about them unnerved her, and would go a great ways to explaining the overall tone of the report she had gotten from the report. Something wasn't right here, maybe one of the councilmen would have some more straightforward answers than those she had gotten from the streets.
After paying she made her way across town. The route she took was not direct, and she paused often to see if any of those black banded men had followed him. Something deep in her being screamed that they were inherently wrong, and she listened to that instinct even if it felt somewhat foolish. So far she had counted two dozen of these men about town doing chores or running errands. Along with Alex there was the three other men from the party that had gone ahead to see what could be seen. None showed any signs of recognition and none had anything to say to her beyond what task they were about.
It disturbed her, but she would find out more before taking action. Maybe these marked men were paying for crimes here. It made sense, except that none she had seen seemed to have any sense of self about them. They all acted mild and meek as watered milk, and that simply didn't fit with the tales of prison she had heard. Even had those stories only been half true they spoke of men harboring a deep and abiding hate of all things during their internment.
Eventually she made her way to city hall and for a moment thought she was safe. It was only a moment, but a happy one for her, one that had gotten burst by a well dressed black banded woman that had greeted her in cheerful tones asking her name and business. Emily didn't know what she said, but the woman calmly led her through the building explaining the town's founding by settlers who had originally come in the '49 rush that had soon discovered that it would be better for them to move elsewhere. According to Emily's guide they had and, through sweat and tears, had managed to build a thriving community in the middle of nowhere.
The woman knocked on a seemingly random door and announced that there was a visitor before guiding Emily inside. The man seated there was wide faced, wide bodied, and had the look of a kindly grandfather to him. He told her to sit and made the black banded woman fetch something to drink before asking, in patient tones what the matter was.
Emily had told the man her name and that she was here taking a rest before buying supplies to continue seeing the wild America before civilization gobbled it up. It wasn't exactly a lie. It was part of the reason she had wanted to be in her father's group. They seemed to go about everywhere on the continent, and some places abroad, but those parts she had left out of her tale. According to her she had a few companions that had traveled into town ahead of her and she would vouch for them as gentle souls that wouldn't start any trouble, or steal from anybody. She only wanted to know why, when she finally found them, that they showed no signs of recognizing her, and wore the black bands she had seen many of the serving persons about town wear.
He soothed her worry with kind words. This all had to be some sort of mistake he said. Her friends might have been mistook for being party to the destruction of the power stations a few days back. That had to be it. He would speak with Thomas about this at once. All she had to do was sit here, drink her tea, and everything would be fine.
Emily sipped only enough of the cup placed in her hands to be polite. Her instinct screamed in her ears that something was wrong, that the man was going to toss her in a sack. She listened, and only drank a little, enough so that he wouldn't be offended or think she might suspect something was amiss. After she walked out of here. After... She felt dizzy. Everything felt strange, she had to lay down. No worries, the man had told her, she would be taken somewhere safe to lay down. It had to be the weather getting to her, or maybe her constant travel.
Her world grew dim, then dark. Voices spoke at the edge of her awareness of getting her moved, she wouldn't have come alone, and someone shouting to find the men she spoke of. Her last thought, before even those thin and distant voices went away, was that if she got out of this Father wouldn't let her go out again.
The man some knew as Thomas Koba , but most here addressed as Doctor since the town's electrification, was in a black mood. Workers had moved, as directed, to clear away what damage could not be repaired. In the deepest parts of his mind he knew that once word had gotten out about this place's electrification the spies and other low men would come. He had thought that he would have had more time to present his accomplishment to the nation before they tried anything. All were caught and dealt with as humanely as he knew how, far more so than the prison system of this country in his opinion.
His anger at what had happened wasn't directed at the remaining three spires and in town, but at those that had either gotten away, or had directed these men from elsewhere. He had questioned them all after they had been dosed. In that condition they wouldn't likely try escape, or lying to him, so he had questioned them in privet while they could still speak. In those moments he lamented that after only a brief time the tonic rendered those under it's effect unable to speak. There had been one example, but he hated to bank on singular examples of anything. Nature, after all, has a way of throwing the odd wrench in every finely tuned theory man has made.
What he learned disturbed him. One group supposedly had been sent expressly to destroy his generators since he would not sell the technology. That was something he had expected. His defenses, both on site and elsewhere had proven that much at least, even if they had not been able to prevent the actual destruction. No. The other group disturbed him far more than this.
They had been sent ahead of an agent they only knew as Goliath to see what they could learn of him and his work due to black rumors floating their way. Even under the formula's influence they could not name who they worked for. He supposed they did not truly know who they worked for, nor did they know what this 'Goliath' looked like, save that he was supposedly their best and had only been fielded in cases where all hope of peaceful resolution seemed gone.
A man wearing black around his arms and forehead brought him tea. The man's glassy eyed stare looked at everything, but saw nothing. The man sometimes called Zeus took the offered tea and waved the man off. More humane and infinitely more useful than locking them away. Zeus clicked his tongue before telling the man to go to his work room.
Once he finished his tea he would go there to look the man over. Occasionally some needed more than the weekly dose to stay subdued. Some had required little more than a half-doze and would be under for a month. This problem of dosing was a sticky issue with him. He did not want a man held like this longer than their sentence demanded. That is part of the reason he hadn't shared this discovery with the rest of the world.
The other part, naturally, was because most would view what he had done with loathing rather than applause. He barely trusted himself not not keep the whole town in thrall as his personal workforce and knew that the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and other American Aristocratic families would not be so sparing in their use of this substance. It was a moral mess, but since he had gone to the mayor and council with the proposal and had demonstrated that it had no lasting effects once it left the system they were more than happy to use it as an alternative to... Rougher forms of justice. There were the recent discussions on how best to decide when and how it was used, discussions he listened to more than dictated. He almost wished he had never created the stuff. Almost wishing, however, was not the same as wishing.
As he made his way to look the thrall over he whistled. Let this Goliath come. If he had sense enough to listen to reason and logic they may be able to end this without bloodshed. If he was more muscle than brain, or one of those fools that judged a man by the skin he wore, well, he would do what he must.
Edward growled. Too long had gone for his liking. He paced, barely giving mind to the men that scrambled away from him as he did so. It was a bad habit for him to pace when unmindful footfalls could crush men or even houses. Still, he could not do as he wished and simply bound into the middle of town and demand to know what the hold up was. NO! That wouldn't do at all, and in all likelihood it would turn what was still a giant question mark into a hostile exclamation point.
Still, there had to be something he could do. So he lumbered slow and purposefully to one of the intact spires. He wanted to see one of these things up close, and even if it provided no clues it would be doing something. He never was one to take sitting on his hands well.
The spire they approached was a skeletal metal construct that rose several hundred feet in the air. At its base was a two story building that looked almost large enough to contain the Goliath construct, at least if it had been laying prone. Edward rumbled low and disapprovingly at what he saw. True, he could grip the metal spire in both hands and wrench it free, if looks were anything to go by, but he dared not approach. To his eyes, and his eyes alone, there was a violet aura about the entire structure. There were slightly elevated radiation levels, but he estimated that the doses weren't high enough to warrant any problems. In fact outside of the immediate area of the structure the background radiation levels were below what he found in most areas.
No. What worried him wasn't the slightly odd radiation. What concerned him was what the æther, the dozen or so different dimensions that crisscrossed the normal four humans interacted in, looked like. Normally these extra dimensions were a chaotic jumble that changed seemingly at random and scarcely interacted with even the smallest particles. Around this structure the æther was ordered and calm. To him it reminded him of lace, highly complicated delicate lace. How did he manage this? Edward edged away from the structure in spite of seeing people entering and leaving the thing regularly. Its existence bothered him by what it had implied.
No matter how disturbing the thing was he had to study it to see what he could learn. Slowly he forced himself to look again. The lace swayed in slow patterns. No matter the pattern the spire acted as a central hub to the latticework. Beyond lay the usual chaos. No. Pause, Look again. More spots of order through the chaotic jumble, each where a surviving spire stood. Where two unbroken spires stood near their ordering re-enforced each-other, making the latticework extend further, merging where the two fields met. He looked at the ring around the town. There wasn't a complete ring even before several of them fell, but he could see sites where more were to be built.
If the whole town were ringed what would happen? The ordering extended inward as well as outward, so maybe the æther sharing the town's space would be completely ordered. What this effect might have he did not know. However when he searched his stores of knowledge the images that came to mind did not encourage him. The ancients, when they had gone to war, used weapons that drew heavily on forces that modern man did not understand. Even in more peaceful applications if the Valve allowing this ambient energy in did not preform just so then the resulting explosion would be, in theory, equal to that of an angry and vengeful God slamming his fist down. Torrents of power. The Sun's Strength and Boundless Energy loosed, though for a span of a few moments, on Earth. Were he human Edward would have been gripped with fear to the point of catatonia. As it stood though he was bound to the Goliath Mind and Soul and that bond allowed him to think rather than curl in a corner whimpering in terror.
He ordered both men to go find Emily, and bring her out kicking and screaming if need be. Both of them saluted and gigged their horses to run. Edward hated waiting, but other than watch the æther what more could he do?
Emily woke to find herself in a well made room, seemingly a guest room to some mansion, or perhaps a nicer hotel. The last thing she remembered were voices. It was hard for her to concentrate on them. Every time she tried it made her head hurt. She rose, washed her face and tried to arrange her hair in the washroom that she saw joined to the bedroom. Plumbing out here. She smiled at that. Maybe I can lay that at this Zeus's feet too. Her clothes were rumpled from her laying in them, but she decided that she was in reasonable condition.
When she stepped from her door she saw a short oriental man in a high collared black suit waiting for her. His hair was neatly trimmed and his face cleanly shaven. He smiled at her and offered a small bow. "I do not usually see to those that are brought to my door personally." His accent was hard to find, but Emily could still hear a strangeness here and there. "Usually my house is opened to those the town doctors feel need only a little rest or observation. This saves the hospital for those cases that need either more involved attention, or isolation."
She took the hand he offered her and was gently lead about an expansive home that somehow reminded her of the one she had grown up in. "I must say I didn't expect a home like this way out here."
Her guide, she figured he was either this Zeus fellow or perhaps someone in his family that had come with him, smiled. "I personally do not care much for the design, but I am looked on as a respected member of society. I would not wish to test these people's tolerance for my culture overly. That and my opening the majority of my home for civic needs does add to a general sense of good will." They passed a billiard room where four lank youths were playing. Emily couldn't help but smile at them. She fancied herself a fair player, and it always seemed to catch people off guard when they saw just how good she was.
Another room was wall to wall books save for a series of chairs arranged around the fireplace, the windows, and around a largish table. It was a very large room, perhaps the largest in the home. She saw people either reading quietly, or taking notes at the table. "I feel it my duty to this place to help in giving the children here every chance possible to learn. It was expensive, but what good is money to me? Is a man not measured by his worth by deeds rather than material possessions?"
"I suppose," Emily found the little man charming in spite of the fact she knew the man had to be doing this show of being giving and lavish with his resources for her benefit. "Most people seem to see worth only at how much you have to show and who you gather around you."
"Sad that that seems to be the case." The Chinaman lead her onward. "You said you found friends of yours wearing the black bands?" Emily nodded, hoping that they were finally getting down to business. "I am sorry if I had been mistaken, but they had shown up right as a group of vandals had destroyed several of the power stations I had constructed at the outskirts of town. You can understand my wariness no?" She nodded slightly. "I offer sincere apologies miss Harrison, but that was not the first group of people intent on making my life difficult."
She saw Alex enter. He still had a glassy eyed gaze about him, but he moved more like himself and less like a mindless doll. He gave her a faltering smile before embracing her. He whispered something to her. She didn't quite know what it was, but he seemed to show genuine emotion, which improved her mood. Maybe there was room to negotiate after all.
"I assure you the condition is temporary, and produces no lasting harm. Unfortunately there is nothing I can do other than keep them comfortable until the drug has run it's course." She frowned at those words, but at least he showed some sense of regret over the mistake, and it's not like they were being mistreated aside from the state they were in. She should make allowances for that "Before you go," Her host gave her a whiskey flask. "I do not know who this Goliath is, but tell him I would like to speak with him, and that is to be a peace offering between us."
Her eyes widened when she took a sip, but the moment of shock wore off. "If we can speak peacefully together perhaps we may work some sort of arrangement." His voice sounded different to him, more, there were no words in her mind to describe the change. It just was. She immediately set the flask down and clasped her hands in front of her, looking downcast at having done something she wasn't supposed to. What's wrong with me? It was just a little scotch.
He gently patted her cheek, "I am not mad with you, but your current condition will make it difficult for this man to trust me." She nodded slowly as he spoke. "Come, let's sit awhile. I want you to tell me about the man I will be meeting. Emily followed him, not eagerly or even with resignation. She simply obeyed him. What did you do to me? HELP! Somebody. Anybody HELP! She couldn't make herself speak. Somehow it was too much an effort to make the words come out of her mouth.
Thomas Kabu, otherwise known as Zeus, or Doctor, berated himself as he led her back to her room. He rarely made such sloppy mistakes, but what else could this be? Could it have been given to her before she was brought in? Maybe, but that would have implied people dipping from the stored casks, and he checked on those twice a day personally against unaccounted for use. They could be watering the formula. He didn't like that thought, but what else could it be? He often had the convicted given their treatments laced with liquor. It both helped put them at ease to be offered a comforting drink rather than be handed a mystery liquid. He had fully intended to give Edward a flask of whiskey as a token of good will, but this... Either through oversight or mishap this was his fault and now he had to attempt to make it right.
Emily knew nothing of this internal struggle. In her rapidly deteriorating state she saw only that the man was visibly upset, and though she wanted to choke the life out of him for what he had done to her there was a near irresistible compulsion to go to him and give comfort. Yet when she put a hand on his shoulder he flinched away and snapped at her. True he apologized and tried explaining that it had nothing to do with her and that he hadn't intended to give a tainted gift, but in what little part of her mind that was still working the way it should Emily didn't believe him. Of course he would try playing it as if it were an accident, a way to keep her docile while feeding her only the facts and images he wanted her to have. She would take great pleasure in seeing Edward grind the man into pulp, and yet there was still that compulsion growing in her to ease his pain. Damn that man for what he has done. Damn him!
The man called Thomas Sabu led Emily Harrison back to her room. Even with the respect he has been given it would be misinterpreted by some if those in town saw that he had 'accidentally' dosed a woman who had then started following him about everywhere. It was tempting, every man had thoughts that bordered on the obscene, but no. He was a moral man, even if many who saw what he was willing to do in the name of reforming the justice system here would say different. Here this woman would wait for the worst of the formula to wear off. She would be safe from people who might take advantage of the suggestibility the first hour brought. True she had already imprinted on him and, till the formula wore off completely would do as he wished, but even if he did not feel comfortable with what he was doing, it did not cross the most important of lines he had drawn for his studies over the years.
Back in his work room he checked on the rat he had fed extracts to. It looked up at him before going back to grooming itself. Outside of the hour or so it had skittered to and fro in one of the larger enclosures it seemed to have taken the extract in stride It still acted a little livelier than normal, but that first hour of near frenzied activity made him wonder if testing, even on willing subjects, was wise. He reached a finger through the grating of its cage and petted the creature. It was a brave creature, even if it did not realize it.
On to Roland, the man whom had drugged the woman and brought her to his home. Thomas favored the white haired man with a frown. They already had words on the matter, and he believed the councilman to be sufficiently chastened to not need to repeat himself. The man reddened and hurried off. Thomas hoped that he would be able to repair the relationship, the man was generally good and honest. No need to have him afraid for a moment's lapse in judgment.
He followed close to Roland and reassured him that the girl was in good health and he had advised her to stay here til her friends were fit to leave. That was the truth, just not the whole of it. He then asked if Roland would like to see the public garden he had planned if the new wells yielded enough. Roland said he would be happy to and sounded sincere in his acceptance. The only sign that Thomas had that all was not well was a momentary look Roland got when he thought he wasn't being watched. Too much work to do to repair what a moment's loss of temper had done, but he would make the attempt.
Emily Harrison sat in the room that she had been guided to. Outwardly she appeared the picture of serene womanhood that was only marred by the dullness in her eyes. Inwardly she was a kettle of rage set to boiling over. She swore, cried, pleaded, and begged all in turn with her body to do something, anything, but sit there like she had been 'asked' by the chinaman.
She remembered the gun in her bodice and screamed at herself. If she could make herself fire the thing she could be saved. None watched her, and she had a clear shot, for the window must surely shatter. At least she thought it would shatter if she fired. It didn't matter. Her body was not hers, and that more than the black banded slaves horrified her. No. She was one of those black banded people now. Why then was she not being used for a play pretty, or to be put to task outside?
He knows about me and Edward. She would have wept if she could. He knows because I told him. Edward will come in another day, maybe two, and by then the chinaman will have found some way of turning the Goliath against him. What could she do though? She was as effectively bound as if she had been gagged and tied. No, not quite. What did he say? I could not be made to do something I did not want, like those men that go around making people cluck like birds. What I want is to stuff that little pig into one of Eddy's cannons and fertilize the countryside with him. I want to move. I NEED to move. Move!
One might have missed it if they blinked. Her fingers curled by the tiniest bit in her lap. Her heart soared. It wasn't enough by any measure, but it was a sign that she could fight still. She could and she would. There was no voice counter to her own. Only her body's stubborn refusal to move by all but the most focused of her will, and even then it was as exhausting as doing field labor.
Thankfully there was no rush. There was no sudden realization by the chinaman that his prisoner had found a way to make an escape. Life went on around her unmindful of the drawn out struggle within her body. Her fingers curled around the diminutive weapon. How this thing was supposed to work she did not know, but she dare not lose hope that it would work. All other flare guns she had seen were bulky things, and this... Thing was as small as most single shot holdout pistols she's been offered for self defense over the years.
Slowly, because all of her movements were slow, she aimed to the window. Pull the trigger. Her hand refused to close. Make a fist. Please for pity's sake. Edward won't find out what's going on til it's too late. Please! Just make a fist. PleasepleasepleasePLEASE! Tears streamed down her face both from the exertion and her being reduced to this state. Her body refused to move. She had, through brute force of will alone, managed to make her body her own in spite of the drug that she had been given, but this last effort was, for the moment, too much for her.
Do not condemn her my fine and faithful audience. Few could overcome even the small amount of the concoction she had drunk. Edward might have before he had become the Goliath, but for him it took a force of will to not give in to depression after the war had left him maimed and needing help for tasks you or I might take for granted. For you or I what she had done would probably have proven impossible. So please, do not think ill of her for faltering at that last moment. We will leave her alone, for there is nothing we can do to offer aid or comfort. Instead let's go see how Edward fares.
While Emily had tried signaling for help, Edward was busy examining the three intact power stations. The latticework they produced to his enhanced vision proved both disturbing and enigmatic. He knew, thanks to Goliath's memory, the theory of what might produce such an ordering. However without being able to examine the generators themselves he could only make guesses at how this man had produced the effect.
For a time he considered the possibilities, then went to look at one of the broken stations. Though this could be even more a danger than looking at one that was in good working order he decided the risk was worthwhile. The two men he had sent to find Emily hadn't returned, and that worried him. He needed something to do to take his mind off his worry, so he galloped on all four of his limbs to one of the broken spires.
What he found was both expected, and yet still disturbing. Though these broken machines were largely nonfunctional there seemed, to one degree or another depending on where he looked, some residual ordering effect in these areas. The lattice was far less complex here, and it only barely covered where the buildings were, but it was still evidence pointing to this effect being an intentional part of the device's design rather than some accidental by-product.
Edward grunted as he made his way to the weakest of these places and gently, at least as gently as a ten story tall war machine is capable of, peeled the roof of what remained of the building back to get a better look. To our eyes the machines would have looked like a jumbled, but organized, mass if they were in perfect order. To Edward's, assisted as they were with Ancient knowledge, the sight would have both interested and terrified him.
What he saw can best be described as something almost living in terms of complexity. Crystals pulsed weakly here and there, others were in the process of growing, a reaction to being wrenched from the places they had been seeded. This machine, if one wanted to call it that, bore no mechanical parts save for where wires were crudely spliced for power to feed from the growth. The implication of a technology so alien disturbed him. Had the lattice and lace effect been made by some mechanical means, there were a few men he knew that might have been able to stumble upon the effect, he would have been at ease. As it stood now he thought that this Zeus had to be another like his adopted son, someone that had landed here from points and time unknown. The difference seemed that this man was far less squeamishness in meddling.
He could not allow these broken things to continue trying to grow. They might grow into a configuration that would draw more energy than they were capable of storing. If that happened it might take a day, or maybe a year, but with a charge stored in an unstable matrix there was no hope of diffusing the thing before it, and everything for hundreds of miles, would be vaporized.
With a decisive motion he wrenched the still glowing crystals free and broke each in his hands. With each he felt the goliath's systems energize slightly. Maybe it was good that he had come here, he thought as he made sure he destroyed everything. The dust would not reform or regrow into anything dangerous, though people may, in a century or five, wonder at the garden of minerals and crystals that would eventually grow here.
There were two other stations he had to see to. As he loped to the nearer of these he puzzled at the energy transfer that happened whenever he destroyed these crystals. There was no way for him to know how much Goliath could hold before things started burning out. There had been a fair number of slapdash repairs and modifications made. Where the current crew compartment was used to house something that his memories called a jump coil. What it did he didn't know, save that it was past anyone's capacity to repair with the scant little that the salvaged material they brought from the site Goliath was found. Actually he did know, but even with what he had seen over the years his mind refused to wrap around the concept of a machine such as Goliath flying.
Should he try keeping a few of these crystals for later use? He toyed with the notion, because he had never felt so alive as he did then. Goliath purred and hummed as it had only at one other time, and he didn't want to have to suffer lightning strikes every time he wanted to recharge. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to carry a few back with him, they might prove useful. First, though, he would have to wire his son and see if the man had any advice to offer.
We need not fear that whatever message Edward went to send would be interpreted by those in the sleepy strange town of Beth. Nor do we need to worry at what the person receiving his telegram would make of the words being copied for his son, that lot was a professional and proper one. Messages not intended for them did not matter save in clear cases where murder or theft was in the air. Because Edward's message was neither it may raise a few eyebrows, for some of the terms would be unfamiliar, but it would be quickly put out of mind save by the man that it was intended for.
While Edward was in route to the next broken spire to ensure it did not turn into a bomb of unthinkable power the man most once called Thomas, and now known more often as Zeus, looked over Emily's still form. He walked in while her arms, locked and trembling, held a diminutive pistol at the window she was seated in front of. He calmly told her to put the gun down. Slowly, far more slowly than one under the formula's influence had ever done before, she did as he said.
He was, contrary to expectations, excited and pleased that he had finally found someone else who showed some resistance to this formula. "Try to understand that I had not intended you to be in this condition, and I had separated you from the others so that you would be safe until you were yourself again."
"Not... Right..." Emily's voice was a small thing in the air, each word taking her entire effort to form. "...people... Must...free. Country... Finds out..." She gulped air and her face flushed with the effort to speak, but she continued as best as she could. "Would... Make... Slaves of us all."
Zeus nodded to the girl and stroked her hair lightly. "I know they would." His voice was soft and he hoped soothing. "I've noticed that my own use of the drug has become more free than it had once been when dealing with crime. Would it help if I told you that you may speak?"
"Think. Not." Emily continued to struggle for words in spite of the man's encouragement. "Feels. Like... Like. Moving boulders."
Her 'host' pressed a warm mug into her hands and told her to drink. She did so, both because she had been told to, and because she was thirsty. "Do not worry. It's just tea, none of the... Other... Added in. It's taking a toll on you, and I won't have you kill yourself from exertion." When she finished he took the mug from her. "Your partner puzzles me. By your descriptions, unless you've somehow managed to lie while the drug was taking root in you, he seems like the sort that would seek peace. She nodded once. How had she been able to answer his questions before, but barely able to make herself speak even with his permission?
Her host took a measured breath. "He's been destroying several of my power stations. True, they were already damaged. However I had thought that I might be able to repair them." He looked past her out the window. "Now I will have to rebuild both the enclosures and regrow the matrices themselves. Your partner would not have done this without a good reason yes?" She nodded again. "I know that they have been destroyed, in case you're wondering, because the lines leading there now sow no reading whatsoever instead of the fitful stuttering bursts of power they had been getting up until recently."
"Maybe. Stations. Died. On their own." She would speak, no matter what sort of strain he said it was putting on her. It was a mark in her favor that she was able to fight the drug even that much, so damn this man. She would speak her mind. "Intact Stations... Untouched?"
Zeus nodded to her, "I had wondered at that. He's only gone after the damaged stations, leaving those that are still running alone. Do you think it's possible he believes that leaving them damaged, but in place poses a danger?" She nodded. "I won't ask you to speculate on the kind of danger, it would take too long for you to articulate yourself," Emily scowled at that statement, "Tell me, what purpose did you have for the pistol?"
"Signal... Help... Edward would come." Sweat started beading on her forehead. "Couldn't. Escape."
"I see," Zeus pursed his lips together. It makes sense that she would attempt to signal for help if she thought she was being used as bait for a trap, or perhaps a hostage against the construct's good will. Without another word he left. Through a supreme effort effort Emily turned her head to see where he placed the pistol, and found it sitting in her lap. Either he did not think that she was able to pull the trigger, as had happened before, or he wanted her to signal Edward to rush in blindly.
What of the men Edward had sent into town to find Emily? Though they are minor characters it would be rude to simply ignore them after they had been sent on their mission. Unfortunately they were not faring as well as Emily, and in spite of the kind words and small mercy Thomas Sabu had shown her he showed these men none. They were, currently, deeply drugged and laboring in his lab to build... Something. We cannot speculate what at this point, save that it is very likely a weapon. Hold tight dear reader. We near the final act!
The small pile of Crystals Edward felt were safe enough for transport pulsed weakly beneath the canvas he had hidden them under. With luck he would be able to collect them in short order. He considered, as he bounded as fast as Goliath would carry him, that he was being herded to a trap. The reports said that this Zeus had made anyone that stepped out of line into a will-less slave. Had he done that to his men? Worse still, had he done that to Emily?
He wanted to charge into town, smashing everything until he drew the man out so that he could crush him in his fist. Caution, and his dwindling rationality, dictated that if the man used a dimensional lattice he might have other unexpected things laying in wait. No matter what he has, I will break him if he has hurt her.
He was almost at the edge of town, only a few hundred feet from the boundary marker, when he saw something approach. One of these was Emily, clad in a robe of some sort, being led by a shorter figure. At first he took the man to be an automata of some sort, for no part of him was visible through the strange scaled armor. It was only when the figure removed the snarling mask styled in the form of a demon, that Edward saw the face of the man he had been sent after.
"Doctor Zeus I presume?" The armor-clad man nodded once. Edward barely noticed the man, not when he saw the vacant look in Emily's eyes. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?" His voice, before a low rumbling earthen thing became a massive God-Voice when he made his demand. He almost attacked then and there, but then what if he needed the man to undo what he had done to Emily? It was that thought, and that thought alone, that kept Saburo alive.
"Edward. No." Emily's voice sounded strained and tired as well as halting. She looked tired, but she sat straight and even though her eyes seemed to hold nothing her voice told him that she was still there. "No Death." Zeus gave her a withering glare, but she somehow held where she was. "No Killing. It won't happen. Not Here." She wanted that for herself. Her time confined in her body had stiffened her resolve. IT may prove a disaster if this Zeus had truly wanted to talk peace, but she didn't care. She would kill him. That is, she would if her body would let her.
"LET HER GO!" Edward demanded in his thundering God-Voice. He would not kill this man, not unless he must. He was taken aback when his opponent nodded once, seemingly giving Emily permission to go. At that signal she rode till her horse was by the Goliath's rear legs. She smiled, seemingly at being let go.
Edward growled low as his opponent pulled a flask from his saddlebag and took a drink. "Your men will be released as soon as the formula has worn off. In their current states they would be a danger to you and themselves out in the wild." The man craned his neck to look up at Edward, to try seeing the construct's face. "I trust this makes things squa-" He was interrupted by a flare, white hot and fired at less than thirty feet, impacting his face. Never mind the fact it was a tiny thing that only burned for a few brief seconds. Emily shook as she clutched her now-empty gun.
The armor-clad man, even as he was still blinded by pain and injury, drew the sword at his hip. It was curved similar to the cavalry sabers Edward was familiar with. Unlike those swords the army had for ceremony this one was thinner, better made, and by the noise it made as it was drawn, it seemed as if it had cut the very air around it. Still, it was only a sword. What could it possibly do against him?
Hear me Giant! Edward had no idea what language the man spoke, but was more impressed that he man was actually able to speak at all in spite of what happened to his face. I am Kobayashi Saburo. I do not care what intentions brought you here. You have destroyed my property and sent men to spy on me when I only wanted peace. You want my blood? His sword seemed to glow, first red, then white. Edward rumbled disapprovingly at this. He had a heat induction weapon? Come and take it! The man spurred his horse into a gallop toward the Goliath.
What foolishness was this? Did Saburo not know that, wonder weapon or no, he was still just one man on a horse verses a thing that had been forged to level cities? Was this suicidal charge meant to end his life in battle, rather than be taken as a prisoner? Edward leaped out of the man's way. He would not attempt to see if this sword would be able to pierce his armor.
When the Goliath landed the ground shook, causing both Emily and Saburo's horses to panic. Emily rode her horse's frenzy out placidly, swaying this way and that in her saddle. Saburo, on the other hand, reigned in his animal, not allowing it to give way to it's fear by bending it to his direction. Again he charged at the Goliath construct. This time Edward smacked the ground ahead of Saburo, causing his horse to rear, knocking the man to the ground.
"Yield." The God-Voice was gone. His anger was there, but now on a much tighter leash. His opponent had not attempted to use Emily as a hostage or shield. Emily was safe, and so he saw the situation slightly more rationally than he had moments before. The man needed to be taken prisoner if not because of the substance he had drugged people with than because of the strange and disturbing technologies he had made use of.
Saburo's sword had lost it's glow, becoming merely a well made blade instead of the wonder weapon it had been moments ago. "I cannot." He attempted to stand, and found that one of his legs could not handle the weight. "Surrender is a thing I cannot do." He wrenched his helmet free before placing the sword at his throat.
His eyes never left the Goliath, and so missed Emily slide off of her horse. Her eyes were still dull, but they showed a faint glimmer of their usual glow. "It's over." Her voice trembled, "We will see that your work does not get misused. We must take you with us, otherwise all this." Her speech was still strained, if not as halting as it had been before.
"All you've done will be either forgotten or used for evil ends." She placed a hand over his, and moved his sword away. She still wanted to kill him, but the thought of him wrapped in chains rather than taking this quick way out suited her mood better. Maybe in time she would forgive the man for what he had done. After all were he the more familiar sorts of monsters that she had seen than he wouldn't have been nearly so sparing with his discoveries. I doubt this, friends and gentle readers, but for her sake I hope she can let her hate go.
Surrender was a thing that Saburo had been taught was the lowest of the low, the unendurable shame. Seeing the fruits of his labor, his life's work since coming to this country, fall into the sort of men that ran the railways and mines and a thousand other institutionalized monopolies would have been an even worse thing. He threw his sword away and whispered, "I yield."
To: [Marked out Text]
From: Edward Fawkes
Subject: Mission Summery #15
We will remain in the town of Beth until more agents are sent to act as both peacekeeping force and oversee the transfer of all marked materials to [marked out text]. Until they arrive Emily has decided to act as our spokesperson when dealing with the town officials. Once they had been made aware that their respected and lauded Doctor Zeus had used his mind-controlling concoction on persons that had nothing to do with the the sabotage of the town's power stations they were quick to aid in locating the stores they had of the stuff for immediate disposal.
This was done under my personal supervision, but not before we had taken enough to keep the 'good doctor' out of trouble until we transfer him into long-term care and observation. To preempt anyone wanting me to take a sample for study I have to refuse. Nobody can be trusted with the means of turning other men into slaves. While I owe you much, sirs, I cannot trust you or anyone with either a sample of this substance or the formula for making it. What we have kept to keep the prisoner subdued for the journey shall be destroyed the instant it is no-longer needed.
It must be stressed, for the record, that I very much doubt that this man is without morals. Emily was treated well, as were all those that were, rightly or wrongly, subjected to this formula. He used his talents largely for the betterment of those around him, and those that Emily spoke with after the fact explained that they had been in discussions, that this man had initiated, over how best to oversee administration of this dread tonic to minimize possible abuse. For whatever it is worth I feel that once he is safely locked away he should be treated with as much respect as possible, that is of course barring escape attempts, violent behavior, or anything else his forced surrender and captivity might make him do. His crime, no matter how it is looked at, is severe, but I ask on his behalf for leniency.
I have, in the meantime, packed away several crystals from the power stations that had been constructed around the town of Beth both for further study, and because they contain energies that can be used to keep the Goliath powered. That is one matter, among many others, I would wish to speak at great length with our prisoner over once he has regained the ability to speak. It is regrettable that this man is among the small portion of society this foul drug leaves mute as well as pliant to suggestion once it has fully taken hold.
Once we have returned I ask that Emily be given time to recover from her experiences. I ask also that I be given time away from field work to personally speak with the prisoner at length as well as attempt to make sense of what discoveries he has made. The chemical mixtures I can believe were his work and his alone. However the technologies that went into the power stations as well as the strange suit of armor he wore when he came to confront me reek too much of either some long forgotten or far too advanced knowledge being given to him to use as he would. I do not like either in all honesty and would like to know if we should face more of these things coming out of the woodwork anytime soon.