Hearts and Pistons
Reginald B. McGuinness, Esquire (Automaton RB-912)
Eyes of a gas lantern, and skin of copper.
You’ve seen automated constructs before; indeed they are a favorite plaything of powerful wizards… but one without a master? Surely there must be something wrong here.
Dressed in a traditional black suit with a thin upswept collar and ascot tie, this particular automated machine acts more or less human-like. It’s hard to tell what it’s thinking or feeling, however, as it shows very few facial emotions – probably due to technical limitations in construction.
In any event, as it speaks, you notice a proper accent and almost fanatic attention to manners of etiquette and the ‘proper ways’ of doing certain mundane tasks.
The musket slung about its shoulder adds to the confusion.
Memory Log 3551 – Initializing thought process datalink…
//Transferring uncompressed memory data to processing unit… 25%…50%…75%…100%
//Begin compressing of memory data…
That crisp January early morning air caused a slight condensation to form upon my exterior, perhaps giving an astute observer a clue to the warmth that was generated within. My body produced power from an unknown source; to dig around would be to cause irreparable damage and pain, these things I’ve known from previous outings. Simple ideas such as this are always brought to light when the goings get… different.
The day’s events were confusing, to be precise. New people who at first seemed to be just like all the others, seemingly only interested in how I was created, or where my master was (don’t they realize that I too seek out these answers?!) turned instead to be a group of people who were just as lost and confused as I was. Broken families, homes abandoned, lives turned in directions of unknown destination. Perhaps we are all not so different after all, perhaps the only difference is in our creators.
The ships bells begin to toll, signalling the coming beginning of a new day. Perhaps this day I can try this ‘social interaction’ that I have read about.
Isaiah’s Tales of the Bronze Man
(Stories and other vignettes of the man cast in bronze)
“There’s no need to be frightened,” the bronze man coolly explained, his mechanical voice lacking any hint of empathy. Looking down upon a filthy creature, covered in mud and muck from the acrid downpour of smoky rain, the mechanical man raised his simple pistol to its head. The creature was a man, cowering in the corner of some dark alley, hidden between the towering brick and stone buildings leering up into the sky like the many fingers of an urban forest.
“Please no, I’ll pay you anything!” the man pleaded. He was shivering from the cold.
The man of bronze continued to stare down, his eyes unflinching and unnerved. “I’m sorry, but your time for forgiveness is long overdrawn.”
With a simple flick of the finger, a hammer of sparks shot down into the barrel of the pistol, sending a single lead bullet through the air and piercing the life of the pleading man. He fell limp as the shockwave sound echoed across the buildings.
Bending down, the artificial man searched through what possessions that man had, and found what was requested – a single etched cog. The automaton brought the cog, tightly clasped in his metallic fingers, up to his eyes, and gazed upon the fine etching engraved across the outward circumference of the gear. It was a pattern, almost like a key.
A rustling behind him disturbed his concentration; turning, he saw a wretch filtering through the trash of the alley. Pocketing the cog and holstering his pistol, the mechanical man walked out of the alley, with a gentlemanly stride, and cocked his hat to the wretch.
The residence was small, dimly lit, and by all accounts a highly halfling affair. Strewn about the main sitting room were what appeared to be fragments from ancient and long forgotten civilizations, lying half contained in wooden boxes or out on small tables surrounded by books and tomes of unknown origin.
Sitting in a high-backed winged chair, leather bound and studded with small brass tacks, sat a halfling, whose house this surely must belong to. His long beard and frazzled hair spoke of his lack of time wanting to deal with personal matters of grooming.
“Do you have it?” the halfling asked, a hint of anticipation in his voice.
The mechanical man, still standing in the entryway of the home, procured the cog from his waistcoat pocket.
A glimmer, perhaps reflected from the fireplace, appeared in the eyes of the halfling. “My God, you’ve actually found it.” He swallowed. “Bring it here.”
As he spoke the door opened and a young lady entered the room. She was plainly but neatly dressed, with a bright, quick face, freckled like a plover’s egg, and moved with the brisk manner of a woman who has had her own way to make in the world. The mechanical man’s gaze fell upon her as he stretched out his hand to the halfling, gently placing it into hairy outstretched hands.
She stood, half buried in shadow, and made no other emotion or sound.
“My dear Reginald,” the halfling spoke, “this is truly your best find yet.”
With his name spoken, the mechanical man spun his head around to look the halfling in the eyes. “Yes, Ernest. But there is one thing…”
“What is it?” he barked, his eyes never leaving the study of the gear.
“I… I had to kill the man.”
Ernest, still never looking up, waved his hands as to shoo the question away.
“Pay no mind, it’s of no importance. Now, please, have some rest… or whatever it is that you do… upstairs in that workshop of yours.”
Reginald’s thoughts raced… ‘Pay no mind’? He was not a biological being, but the sense that others of the same capacity would have no mind to pay to the deceased was…
He was conflicted. How could it be possible that the simple act of killing carried no weight in his mind, yet the aftermath left him conflicted? At the time, it was the proper thing to do to fulfil his mission.
Puzzled, he made his way upstairs to the workshop he had fashioned in the residence. Ernest let him stay here for a sum of 5 silver a week, of which jobs similar to that he had just completed were his main source of income. He wondered if there was anything more he could do, but those thoughts would have to wait. For now, it was time to power down for the evening.