IronHorse: 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?”

“Him.” Maria 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 the reporter.

“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.

“IronHorse…” She whispered.

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?”

She sipped 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.

“Yeah… And 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?”

“He, miss Estavez?”

“IronHorse. Where is he? Once this all went down and you finally showed up, he was whisked away. Where is he?”

The young 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 in question…”

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… your own.”

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 now.”

Maria sighed and nodded as Frank started taking notes.

She could 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.”

Maria 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.”

“Say what?”

“AIs… Artificial Intelligences… THINKING MACHINES…”

“Look 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 her.

“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’ rail-spikes.”

“Wow… I mean just wow…” IronHorse chuckled again and shook his head. He offered his hand to Maria and helped her up.

“Look 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 you want?”

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.”

Maria nodded and waited for the next question.

“Two… I want you to tell me about yourself.”

“What?”

“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.”

IronHorse 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 Man Group?”

“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…

“Every Machine has a soul…” She whispered.
CONTINUE >
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