IronHorse: The locomotive man CHAPTER 3

“So uh… Either one of you have any kids?”

Hank and Carl chuckled while looking out of the windshield of the squad car.

“Well I’m a confirmed bachelor and Carl has three little ones.”

“Oh Jeeze… Carl I am SO sorry for getting you all mixed up in this. I swear I’m gonna set this right somehow.”

“Hey IronHorse, no worries. We not only have your side of the story, but I’ve seen how nutso that freak hero Clockstopper can be. Besides, the Paragon Police department is backing you on this thus far. Everything from the scene backs up your story and Miss Estavez gave a statement that supports your side of what happened. Last I head on the radio is that she is on her way.”

IronHorse grunted and sighed.

“I do have a question for you though big guy.” Hank asked. “When you grabbed a squad car and hoisted it, did you even THINK to check if anyone was in it?”

IronHorse stood as he had for almost the past hour now. In the middle of the street in front of the Freedom Corps headquarters in downtown Steel Canyon with a police car held over his head. Hank and Carl sat inside and sipped their coffee while talking to the iron giant. Outside however, the scene was damn well near pandemonium. A barricade had been erected and police as well as heroes had the area secured. There was a strange tension in the air as the police and several heroes argued loudly with some of the other heroes. IronHorse sighed again.

“Frankly boys… I was so ticked at that point I lost my head. As soon as I heard you two shout however I froze dead. From there its… well.”

“Its become a media circus and a damn mess is what it is. Scared the hell out of us you did.” Hank sighed and looked at the floor of the cab. “And made me spill my coffee.”

“After seeing what Clockstopper would have done if I had NOT began bluffing though? About the throwing you or ripping the gas tank open?”

Carl coughed and winced.

“Don’t even kid about that Big Guy. In my little opinion Clockstopper is a sociopath only kept on by the FC to keep rogue AIs off the streets. They BARELY control him as is, and there have been several blocked investigations into his attacks on civilians, police, and even the police drones.”

“Lovely… I pissed off the local psychopath.”

Hank snorted and did his best not to laugh.

“Fill us in again as to what happened big guy. Right now its your word against his and ours. The PD is backing you but we want to make sure the story is clear.”

IronHorse sighed and grunted.

“Its Arizona all over again…” He sighed. “O.K. It went down like this…”

The blast had torn apart most of the front of the museum, leaving a huge crater in the steps and a blown out hole in the front entrance. IronHorse covered Maria with his body and could still feel the aftershocks rattling his frame. Chunks of cement rattled off his plates and rang out as they connected with his boiler.

“Maria?”

“Yeah… Oh my God… Oh IronHorse…” Maria was clearly rattled when the massive metal man stood up. She stared at him, and at the dents and crumpled parts of his body. For everything that had happened, he stood there as if this was just another day.

“Whoof… Now THAT was one hell of a party!”

“You’re loco you know that tin-man?! But… I owe you my life. My God IronHorse, if you were not here…”

That’s when the sirens sounded, from all over. IronHorse winced and looked about. He could see the squad cars screaming towards them and defensively stepped in front of Maria. That’s when he was thrown back and up into the air.

“CLOCKWORK!” Came the shout. “DAMN YOU! What new Machine is the King rolling out now! Fear not lady!”

“What the…” Maria was able to say just before being gently lifted into the air and pulled away from the front steps.

She floated over to a woman dressed in blue spandex with feathers up and down the sides of the garish outfit. She smiled gently at Maria as she moved her out of the way of several other blue and red clad people as they charged up the steps.

“SMASH THE CLOCK!” The smallest of them screamed. He wore some kind of armor and had several gears worn on a belt like pelts of animals. His mangy red hair and beard barely covered the symbol of a fist emblazoned on the front of his chest-plate. His eyes were masses of red fire however.

Meanwhile IronHorse slammed into one of the remaining walls of the building before being surrounded by three blue and red costume-wearing people. One was a small woman with a ball cap on backwards. Her bright pink hair stuck out in pony-tails as she looked at him.

“Hey Trunk? I don’t think he’s a clock…”

A massive man strode forward and looked down as IronHorse began to get up. The figure had the same blue and red costume but his face was the texture and shade of fresh bark. His hair was a mass of leaves and his eyes shone with a bright green light.

“I think you’re right Sparkle. He has an aura Mother Earth can feel… I don’t know how. No other machine feels like this one.”

The third figure sat perched on the rubble nearby and watched without saying a word. Her skin was a purple/black shade and the horns on her head curved over and again to form some impressive spirals.

“It has a soul.” She whispered.

“Of COURSE I do!” IronHorse finally got to his feet and vented some steam in frustration. “What in THE hell kinda greetin’ was that? I mean I was already almost damn well near blown to bits. I don’t need y’all trying to finish what a buncha green skinned thugs could not do!”

“Trolls… I can feel their souls departing.” The dark figure whispered. Trunk looked at her.

“Shadowform, your lead was right then. And we owe you an apology stranger.” He offered a wood hand in apology and IronHorse was about to take it when he was suddenly thrown up in the air again and then blasted out of the air by a chunk of the main pillar from the ruined entrance.

“LIES! It’s a damn CLOCK! Are you all BLIND?!? KILL IT!”

The furious man in armor focused again before IronHorse could come out of the daze he was in. Another chunk of rock lifted into the air and rocketed towards the Locomotive Man. Trunk however, already seemed to grow an axe from his body and split the massive piece of stonework in two.

“CLOCKSTOPPER! CEASE! He is no CLOCK!”

The little man seethed with fury as IronHorse found himself unceremoniously dropped to the ground. “GAH!”

Maria meanwhile pleaded with the woman to help her friend.

“Is that guy nuts! IronHorse SAVED me! Leave him alone!” The woman looked at the little man and then to Maria and then to IronHorse. She made some gestures with her hands, and then sighed. Grabbing a tablet and marker at her side she began to write.

~That is Clockstopper. He thinks the machine man is a clockwork. He is trying to protect you.~

“But he’s NOT a clockwork!” Maria shouted.

“We know.” Trunk stated as he helped IronHorse up. Sparkle and Shadowform assisted as well, and kept Clockstopper at bay.

“You’re all BLIND!” The little man roared. “Paragon code 40d!” He suddenly shouted and stood with a smug grin. Shadowform snarled at him while Sparkle let out an audible sigh.

“What… What’s that?” Maria asked. The feather-covered woman was already writing.

~Paragon Code 40d. All unlicensed AIs are to be taken into custody for questioning and possible disassembly.~

Maria looked at the woman in horror. Trunk meanwhile looked at Clockstopper in fury. “You little…”

“You KNOW the law! We take him in! ARREST HIM!”

“Like HELL you will!” Shouted Maria. Suddenly she found herself locked in place and hovering as the little man looked at her.

“Assisting the rogue AI huh? I should CRUSH you…” A dark hand suddenly appeared next to the little man’s throat. Claws popped out and slowly caressed the pulsing veins in his neck.

“It is enough we are taking in an innocent man. You harm her and I will feed the shadows who still lurk here your soul next.”

Clockstopper gulped as Shadowform looked into his eyes. Maria fell to the ground and the feather-covered woman quickly ran to her. She pressed her hands on Maria and a dull green light seemed to flow from her body into miss Estavez.

The wounds and even the fear from the night seemed to vanish from Maria’s mind. Meanwhile three feathers fell from the woman’s cloak. Maria’s anger however, was not lessened in the slightest.

“Silent Dove, watch over her. We will escort out GUEST downtown and clear this up. I’m sure the cops will want to hear this.”

“HEY!” Maria shouted. Clockstopper however took the chance to run forward and slam a pair of manacles onto IronHorse’s wrists. She could see that the machine man’s eye visor had turned a deep hellish red. He was angry, but he was holdin’ it in.

“HEY!” Maria shouted again even as Silent Dove placed a re-assuring hand on her shoulder. IronHorse looked over at Maria and shook his head.

“Maria, calm down. I’ll go with these folks and get this mess all sorted out. Just… Just be ready if this turns into Arizona again.”

Maria winced at the reference. IronHorse meant the kangaroo court that had ordered him taken apart back in 1864. She would be damned if she let that happen again.

“Don’t you DARE hurt him!” She shouted. Trunk nodded simply as Sparkle ran off and quickly came back with a massive paddy-wagon emblazoned with the same blue and red colors as the group wore. Clockstopper watched IronHorse smugly and didn’t take his eyes off the locomotive man for a second.

“You have my word miss, this being will come to no harm.” Trunk stated. He opened the back of the wagon and ushered IronHorse in just as the cops came screaming up in their cars. Silent Dove moved to them quickly and the last IronHorse saw of Maria was her being ushered to the steps by paramedics and Silent Dove.

He sat on a bench in the back of the wagon as Trunks and Sparkle took to the cab of the vehicle. Shadowform and Clockstopper sat in the back with him. From the looks of it this wagon was a mobile lab, as well as prison. As soon as he had taken his seat Clockstopper pressed some button and rods of energy erupted from the floor and ceiling to cage IronHorse in.

“Is that REALLY necessary Clockstopper?” Shadowform hissed. The angry little man however just stared at IronHorse with ill concealed hatred.

“You’re a Clock. I don’t care what they say.” He whispered. “And I’ll tear you apart before they have a chance to stop me.”

Given the circumstances, IronHorse still enjoyed his first ever ride in a vehicle like this. It was strange but it sort of reminded him of the presidential cars of the railroad. It was also a hell of a lot smoother of a ride.

“You have an old soul.” Shadowform spoke to break the silence. Clockstopper snorted and moved to a work area.

“Don’t know about that.” IronHorse stated simply. “Just woke up three days ago after a hundred and forty year siesta.” Shadowform’s eyes went wide and gently reached out to touch IronHorse.

“Ah ah ahhhh little demon.” Clockstopper snarled. “No touching the prisoner. No talking for that matter either. I don’t want you making some kind of rash connection to him before I interrogate him.” Shadowform whipped around and snarled.

“What makes you think Trunk is going to allow that? You KNOW we don’t trust you when it comes to interrogations. And I will be damned again before I let you harm this man.”

“THAT is NOT a man!” Roared the little man. “IT is a THING! Nothing more! IT LIES to you and you believe it! IT probably lied to that idiot woman as well! IT killed the trolls and would have killed the woman! IT will be interrogated by me because I am the expert at AI and I will determine if IT needs to be taken apart.”

Looking at IronHorse again, Clockstopper snarled under his breath in a barely audible whisper. “And you WILL need to be taken apart.”

Shadowform shook her head again and looked at IronHorse. The massive metal man sat staring at Clockstoper. The light in the mechanical man’s eye visor was a deep red now, and she could feel the anger coming off him in waves.

“You know RUNT.” IronHorse stated. “I met men like you back when I was working the railroads. Didn’t like them.”

Clockstopper turned and walked to the caged machine. He prodded IronHorse with a wrench through the energy bars.

“Oh YEAH? Like I’m even gonna listen to you. Not like you can do anything to me. those are EMP bars. You try to pass through them and you’ll lock up just like any other clock or machine menace.

Shadowform suddenly looked up and then looked back and forth between IronHorse and Clockstopper. The wagon had slowed and almost stopped.

“I’m gonna interrogate you and then take you apart piece by piece before smelting you down.” Clockstopper snarled, heedless of Shadowform’s presence any longer. he jabbed IronHorse several times with the wrench.

“Miss.” IronHorse asked gently. Shadowform looked back at him and winced from the hellish fury glowing in his visor. “Are we almost stopped?”

“Yes.” Shadowform stated. IronHorse nodded and then looked directly at her.

“Then I’m gonna say right now I’m sorry for this, but I’m done bein’ pissed on by a bigoted little twerp.”
CONTINUE >
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