IronHorse: The locomotive man CHAPTER 4
sat rigid in her chair. The skirt and blouse she was wearing today
itched like mad. Dressing up was never really her style. However,
she sat next to IronHorse in the massive courtroom and did not scratch
the tingling sensation in her calf despite her instincts to do so.
“Now, just for the record again, this is just a hearing. We need to
clear up a few things about the incident on the night of October the
12th at approximately 1:45am.”
The person speaking was the city representative
from City Hall in Atlas Park. She was an attractive woman, but her
face was cold and her movements were precise and sharp. She had a
glare that could scold even the most brazen of heroes and the room
was silent when she spoke.
At the moment, she was representing the
City in the whole mess here. Clockstopper and a few of his supporters
fell into that category, but lines were sharply divided even among
that group. The Paragon Police department refused to side with the
city in the matter and was only lending evidence for the hearing.
Carl was even sitting behind Maria and IronHorse in the courtroom
doing his best to lend support. Hank was drumming up support in the
precinct as well as acting as a witness.
Maria appreciated that. She
was scared to death.
IronHorse on the other hand seemed to be perfectly
fine. Jovial even. That was one hell of a trick considering he was
heavily manacled and chained down to a heavy concrete slab placed
behind the bench for “the defendants.” Clockstopper insisted that
the “Rogue Machine” needed to be restrained. IronHorse submitted only
as long as Maria was present.
“She’s going to read the report from
the Paragon Police now.” Maria heard a voice whisper. “Then the prosecution
will make its case, and then we make ours.” Maria nodded and looked
at the woman speaking. She had a bright smile and a kind face. Her
eyes were a brilliant blue behind simple glasses. Her clothes were
professional, and well suited to this room, but her stark pink hair
offset any tone of “Lawyer.”
“I still can’t believe you’re a lawyer…”
Maria whispered to Sparkle or Miss Anna Keldowski here. Sparkle giggled
and popped her gum as quietly as possible.
“Being a hero doesn’t pay
ALL the bills. Besides, I found that working on retainer for a super
group has a hell of a lot of benefits. I make sure we get a fair shake,
and people get treated right.”
The pink-haired lass smiled brightly
at the massive metal man and patted his well-polished and oiled shoulder.
Before coming to the courtroom out of the “Holding Cells” Maria had
worked IronHorse over with a brillo pad and almost a gallon of polish.
She was still fuming that they had held him in a cell like a prisoner.
IronHorse again let that slide off his back like so much water. She
shuddered again and looked at Sparkle.
“Besides, I’m not going to
let ANYTHING happen to this big lug. We owe him enough of an apology
IronHorse chuckled as his eye visor glowed a cheery pink.
He would have laughed as well, but Clockstopper insisted that the
“Dangerous Machine” be restrained in every way… including a mask akin
to that seen in “Silence of the Lambs.” Not that it really stopped
his voice because he didn’t really have a mouth. He just put on the
act to shut the little robo-racist up.
Maria sighed and leaned over
“You REALLY think we have a case here? I mean the Cops
and you guys support us. I have the packing invoice still, but the
crate was… well Tin-Man here used it for fuel on the first night we
met. And what if they go historic? Every document that has records
of IronHorse either paints him as a tall tale or monster.” Maria turned
to her friend and looked at him with her big brown eyes.
He’s not a monster.”
Sparkle smiled and put her hand on Maria’s palm
now. She nodded and tapped her nose.
“Don’t you worry. Shadowform
has done more research on your big friend here, as well as several
interviews.” IronHorse nodded and mumbled something before sighing
in exasperation as Clockstopper whirled to make sure he could not
talk… for the hundredth time. “Trust me… she has ways of finding out
the truth and she is CONVINCED that IronHorse is innocent.” Sparkle
stated. “Not only of things at the museum, but in the past as well.”
IronHorse jerked his chain at that and looked at Sparkle in shock.
She only grinned and chuckled.
“She refused to tell me how she meant
to prove it, but she was dead set on clearing your name of ALL charges.
Past and present. I’m not sure what you and her talked about big guy,
but it made a hell of an impression.”
IronHorse shrugged in a strained
fashion… the chains only allowed so much movement.
Maria sighed and
shook her head. She looked to the courtroom and saw the sea of faces.
Heroes, police, civilians, and lawyers. She was tense and worried.
If this did not work, then under Paragon law, IronHorse would have
to be taken apart. She felt her stomach churn at that thought. How
she had gotten so attached to the tin-man in so little time she had
no clue. But as she watched him sitting there, she knew he had to
be saved. Her eyes drifted to Clockstopper. He was glaring at IronHorse
with hatred intense enough to melt steel. The little man was bandaged
almost from head to foot and the report from Freedom Corps said he
had several broken ribs. Sparkle said most of the damage was minor
but still. With Clockstopper’s constant glare at IronHorse, she knew
that if they lost it would not be another packing crate for the big
It would be a furnace.
Maria fought back tears of worry and began
to whisper a prayer in Spanish not only to God but also to her father
to watch over them both.
Neither God nor her Father truly heard the
prayer, but IronHorse did, and he had to do his best not to snap the
chains that held him so he could lean over and hug Maria tight and
chase her demons away. For now however, he had to play the captive,
and for Maria he would do that.
The hearing proceeded simply and quietly.
The reading of the report went almost unheard by Maria until Clockstopper
began to yell that the Paragon Police had fallen under the thrall
of the Metal Monster. That started a vicious shouting match and threats
from several officers to revoke Clockstopper’s Hero License. The word
psychopath was shouted and the little man was set to explode just
as the City representative stepped in.
“ALL OF YOU! I should hold
you all in contempt. No more outbursts from EITHER side. You so much
as twitch Mr. Clockstopper and you will be expelled from this room.
The same goes for the Paragon Police.” The icy fury coming off the
woman chilled the room. Everyone fell silent but Clockstopper was
obviously fighting the urge to lunge at the police.
“We will now hear
from the prosecution on this matter.” The city representative turned
over the floor and Maria sighed.
Meanwhile, in a back room on the
far side of the Courthouse, Shadowform sat and wrote furiously. Her
fingers were a blur on a keyboard of a junky old PC while her tail
wrote notes on a scratchpad. Everything from the past day of talks
with IronHorse, as well as her research into historical records and
documents were being written down. Once all the notes were there,
she stood and began to pace.
IronHorse operated for four years, but
admitted to only truly being conscious for two of them. From 1864
to 1868, he was a main attraction in a traveling railroad show owned
by a man named Anthony Dumas. A little known rail-baron who had a
rather seedy background. They traveled from state to state before
the infamous attack on the small town of Dudley Arizona and the nearby
That was where the story diverged. IronHorse told
of how it was in that time he truly “came to be.” He could not explain
how really but he knew he woke up one day, and in his words: “Whammo!
There I was!” He admitted to dreaming about Hopi shaman and hearing
drums in conjunction with that night, but beyond that, he could only
“No shaman I knew of came to the rail-grounds for the show.
They came after the shows to help some of the workers and I got to
talk to a lot of them. I figure it was just a mixing in my dreams.”
Shadowform jotted down the quote and mumbled. She doubted the “mixing
of dreams” motif. Especially when IronHorse described his dreams from
when he was disassembled. They were too accurate, and in some cases…
intimate. Especially when he described being put back together by
Shadowform blushed and shook her head. Snorting sulfur fumes,
she went back to her notes.
He stayed in that town for almost 2 years
because the moment he awoke he began to fight against his “owner,”
Mr. Dumas. IronHorse told many stories then. Things that were not
in the books of tall tales about the west, or in historical documents.
He met Buffalo Bill Cody, who was only in the military at the time,
but even then offered to buy IronHorse from Dumas. His offer was rejected
but he wrote to IronHorse often. The metal man wished he held onto
the letters, but he used them for fuel and to cover any correspondence
with someone who was trying to convince him to just leave Dumas.
because he was afraid of Dumas, but more along the lines of wanting
to keep an eye on the rail-baron.
There was the story about the strange
raid into the town by odd circus folk. This had caught Shadowform’s
attention and the story was captivating. It was horrid in implication
that this demonic troupe of circus folk roamed about and found towns
to “feed” upon. The feeding consisted of kidnapping children and,
changing them. IronHorse refused to elaborate on how they were changed,
and only said that he was damn glad of his iron hide cause it could
NOT be warped by the “critters.”
“Possibly… Fae? He is akin to Cold
Iron…” Shadowform whispered now. It was another mystery for another
The main problem was the story he told about the night in question.
He claimed that he was nowhere NEAR the town when it was attacked.
“A damn stupid mistake.” He whispered. His voice filled with regret.
Shadowform noted that on her pad and pondered it again.
left the town because something was attacking the reservation. He
called them wolf-like things, but from the description, Shadowform
was convinced it was a pack of werewolves. The way they hit in a team
and took down the strongest warriors just by better tactics. IronHorse
came out because he made friends with several of the braves and one
of the shamans.
The pack hit in the night and IronHorse met them head
on. She made a note about the metal man’s lack of subtlety but for
something made out of Iron and Steel, subtlety was not really needed.
The fight was brief. The werewolves were clearly overmatched and beaten
within an inch of their hides to hear IronHorse tell it. She was skeptical
of that at first until she looked at the damages he caused in the
Trolls and Clockstopper.
Those were with a few punches. Just one shattered
a stone covered Ogre’s skull like a walnut, and a restrained punch
broke seven of Clockstopper’s ribs even THROUGH his armor. Correlating
that with the fight IronHorse described with the wolfmen… a “knockdown,
drag out, ball to the wall brawl” in his words, seemed to describe
a fight that would have leveled a building easily. Even with the noted
healing powers of werewolves, a punch that can level an ogre in a
blow would give a wolfman some definite pain.
However, the pack obviously
had other motives. They grabbed the shaman friend of IronHorse and
ran. He blindly followed trying to save his friend and came to an
old abandoned mine. The descriptions were hazy here because IronHorse
didn’t look much, just followed.
He told of tearing through several
doors and finally a massive set of stone blockades before entering
what he called a temple. “It was lit by torches and was filled with
what I at first took to be folks from the town. Well they were of
a sort… But these folks were residents of the cemetery and not the
town.” IronHorse found some kind of lair filled with the walking dead.
He described the battle as lasting all night. He was swarmed and swarmed
again to the point of barely being able to move. However, he kept
on fighting. He even admitted to running low on fuel and in an act
of desperation, grabbed one of the fallen zombies and stuffed the
bits into his furnace. “Don’t EVER wanna do that again. Not that I
felt bad about it but the STINK… Whoooeee! I can’t smell much but
I smelled THAT!”
He lost count of how many he had beaten or torn apart
when he heard the scream and then the explosion. A wall of fire ripped
through the tunnels and incinerated the zombies. He lost track of
the wolfmen and the force of the explosion blew his battered form
up and out of the tunnels.
When he landed the mine collapsed and the
only thing he found was the spirit bag of the shaman. He took that
back to the reservation and found it was a smoking crater, as was
the town nearby. What disturbed him the most however was that not
a single body was found.
“The spirit bag was taken from me at the
trail. Dumas claimed it was evidence I killed the shaman. No one listened
to me… I kept on sayin’ that I never woulda hurt Raven’s Whisper.
But no one listened…” That last quote gave Shadowform pause again.
Raven’s Whisper was the name of the shaman.
Wolfmen, zombies, shamans,
buried temples, and disappearing towns. No wonder they didn’t listen.
It sounded crazy, or at least it would have if Shadowform were a normal
person. To her it sounded like a bad day at her job. However, she
could not reconcile the different groups. Obviously there was magic
afoot there, but where did the wolfmen fall in? Moreover, the zombies,
were they working with or against the wolfmen?
Shadowform began to
pace again and snorted in frustration. What did it all mean?
of the shaman came back again. Raven’s Whisper.
That was the place
to begin. She knew the dark paths and the ones lit by the fires of
the occult. She knew of the nature spirits and of the men who could
speak with them. She knew who could help here and where he could be
found. The question was, would he help?
It was never easy speaking
with a God… Especially one who was masquerading as a Hero.
needed to speak with Father Raven.