The locomotive man CHAPTER 2
“Miss! Miss can you tell us what happened?”
“Are you all right miss! Will you give a statement?”
“Are you the
owner of the mechanical man miss? What is its name miss?”
whispered. “His name is IronHorse.”
“The creature’s name…” the reporter
began before a cup of hot coffee hit the man square in the back of
the head. He yelped in pain while Maria stood scowling fiercely at
“HIM! He is a HE you smug jackass! NEVER call IronHorse
an it or a creature! You hear me? NEVER!”
The throng of reporters
backed off but the shouted questions continued. Maria shook her head
and sat back down.
Paramedics draped another blanket about her shoulders.
Officers and firemen huddled around her while EMTs checked her pulse.
Her eyes however returned to the ruined façade of what was once the
front of the Paragon Museum of Science and Industry.
Most of the fires
had been put out, but the structural damage had been severe. But no
matter what the reporters said or what the public saw, she knew that
if it hadn’t been for him, not it, HIM, the entire building and all
the exhibits would be destroyed right about now.
A young officer finally fought his way through the crowd
to the young woman. He wore an old fedora and a trench coat excessively
big for him. Even with all the madness going on about him, she had
to snicker. “You’re trying too hard hotshot.” Was the first thing
she said to him.
“Pardon? Are you… Are you Maria Estavez?”
her new cup of coffee brought to her by one of the older cops, who
was still snickering at the use of the old cup of coffee.
I mean you’re trying to damn hard to look like a detective. I mean
come on, who told you, you could raid Bogey’s closet?”
The young officer
coughed and straightened his collar. The older cops snickered again.
“Miss, we have a lot of questions.”
“Same here… Where is he?”
“IronHorse. Where is he? Once this all went down and
you finally showed up, he was whisked away. Where is he?”
officer coughed again and shook his head. He pulled out a notepad
and pen and did his very best to look official.
“Well the machine
Maria stood and glowered at the man. Raising her arm
with the cup of coffee, one of the other officers intercepted her
before she could throw it.
“Um… the PERSON in question is in Freedom
Corp’s custody at the moment. I can tell you more if you please answer
a few questions.”
Unmitigated hatred flowed out of Maria’s eyes as
she looked at the young officer. “Call him a machine, a creature,
or an IT again and I’ll make sure you’ll be choking on a pair of nuts…
The young officer’s eyes went wide and flinched as he took
a few steps back. Regaining his composure, he took off his hat and
sat down on the steps near Maria.
“Given the situation I’m going to
let that slide. Look, we got off on the wrong foot. I’m detective
Frank Harris. I just want your account of what happened tonight. We
can get a full statement at the station later but I want you account
Maria sighed and nodded as Frank started taking notes.
still feel his arms pressed about her. The warmth of the metal and
the tenderness of the gesture behind it.
Yet, she still didn’t want
to let him go outside.
“You look… well you look like a massive clockwork…”
“Oh jeeze… I saw a feature on those little buggers on the news. First
off, I’m a hell of a lot better constructed than those little twits
are. Second, I look better and I have more of a vocabulary.”
sighed and began to pace. IronHorse had covered a LOT of ground in
his reading since he never needed sleep. He had learned an incredible
amount, but still, every so often, she needed to correct him on things.
Anything mechanical however, he seemed to know backwards and forwards.
She looked at him worriedly.
“Look… It’s not just that you KINDA look
like one, it’s the fact that there are other AIs in the city and Paragon
as well as the world has put certain restrictions on such things.”
“AIs… Artificial Intelligences… THINKING MACHINES…”
Maria, I told you. I’m not artificial. Sure, the body may be prefabricated,
and the parts can be swapped and repaired, but ME… I’m alive and NOT
something anyone made.”
Maria sunk to the floor and began cursing
under her breath in Spanish. IronHorse chuckled and shook his head.
“Um… I don’t think it’s physically possible to tie that in knots while
riding a camel.”
“You… You understood that?!?”
“Maria… I was on the
railroads LONG before even the stuff happened in the courts. I picked
up a lot from the workers. Hell, I speak Spanish, Gaelic, and even
Cantonese. I know a little Hopi as well, but I’m more partial to their
music than anything.”
“You… You spoke with the workers?” She sat down
amazed IronHorse chuckled and dropped to the concrete floor beside
“Yep. Not like I’d wind up with the big shots in their little
wagons and trailers. I was just a machine to them regardless of if
I could talk or not. Property… That was the final court ruling as
well. I was nothing more than property and at the liberty of whomever
could prove they owned me.” A vent of steam punctuated an exasperated
sigh. “So I took up with the workers and loved them like a family.
Hell, I was even taught a little kung fu. Not much mind you, just
how to throw a punch and get more power. Heh… Sure helped in drivin’
“Wow… I mean just wow…” IronHorse chuckled again and
shook his head. He offered his hand to Maria and helped her up.
for three days I’ve been readin’ books and watchin’ this little box
and learning all about this future I stepped into. I’m dyin’ to see
it, despite the fear. Hell, half of life is knowin’ when to tell those
little fears to shut the hell up. But look… if you’re really that
scared, we can wait, but you ain’t getting off the hook without doin’
two things for me.”
Maria looked at him critically. His eye visor
was a cheery pink and she knew he was smiling.
“O.K. tin-man… What
IronHorse laughed. “I FINALLY watched “The Wizard of Oz”
last night so I get the joke now. But honey, I have enough heart for
anyone! As for what I want… One, I’d like some music.”
and waited for the next question.
“Two… I want you to tell me about
“Look… All the conversation has been thus far has
been either about history I missed or about history I saw. Time to
change pace. If I can’t get outta here, you’re not leavin’ either
till I know about YOUR history.”
Maria laughed and grabbed a chair.
IronHorse nodded and looked at her expectantly.
“Well if you want
my history, lets narrow down what kind of music first.”
chuckled and reached over to grab a book. He handed it to Maria whose
eyes went wide with shock.
“Blue Man Group? You want to hear Blue
“Hey, you were the one who left their DVD here. I want
to hear their music! I like the drums and stuff… very cool to watch.
TOTALLY different from the stuff I used to hear.”
“Hopi drums?” Maria
asked. IronHorse chuckled.
“Yeah and Cantonese singing. But I TOLD
you that story! Now you tell yours!”
Maria skipped that part for Detective
Frank Harris. It was something she was amazed she even told IronHorse.
About how her mother died when she was very little, but how her father
brought her up in their garage. How she was more of a tomboy than
anything and how she kicked a lot of “vato” ass to get where she was.
Her father killed himself trying to pay for her college, and died
from cancer. It broke Maria’s heart, but she fought on to get her
degree in engineering history.
A strange degree, but it put her with
things she loved. Not just machines but OLD machines. Classic cars
like her papa worked on, as well as the steel and steam monsters of
a bygone past. She really had no family, and the few friends she had
were amazed how she could throw everything into “Hunks of metal.”
“Every Machine has a soul Bonita…” Her father used to say. “Once you
can touch that soul, even the oldest piece of junk can come to life
and be good as new!”
Every machine has a soul… She had forgotten that
phrase until she met IronHorse. She never believed her father in that,
even though he could work miracles in things. She was bright to be
sure, and could assemble even the most dilapidated piece of outdated
machinery, but never had her father’s touch.
Until now… Until she
had a legend in front of her. Something out of Americana folklore
and tall tale myths. The story of IronHorse was just that, a story.
Of the machine man who could do amazing things. Of the nightmare when
he went berserk and how man triumphed over him and took him apart.
It was a Golem tale… A dream, and yet, here he was. Denying the things
and filling in the holes in the folk tale. Never revealing how he
came to be, even if he knew how. Still Maria marveled…
has a soul…” She whispered.