IronHorse: The locomotive man CHAPTER 6

The girl parted her lips and began her reading. "IronHorse's first coal fire was ignited at 16:11 on October 14th, 1864…"


The visions were coming in clearer than ever before, Kitsumi had to pause for a bit and take a deep breath after rattling off the date and time of the mechanical man’s “birth.”

"Um… Hello?”

Kitsumi started and almost opened her eyes. The voice was familiar. It had a deep timbre’ and was somehow very calming.

In her mind, she formed the name and focused as she did while chatting with her sword.

“Mr. IronHorse?”

“Heh… Just IronHorse Mam. I’ll be damned if I know how I’m doin’ this with y’all but I hope you don’t mind if I tag along with you.”

“Tag along?”
Kitsumi was confused by the statement but she could hear the deep chuckle of the machine man again.

“Yeah. Ya see, I don’t rightly remember much before I… well before 1866, so I figured since you’re strollin’ down memory lane I’d hitch a ride and find out myself.”

Kitsumi wanted to ask more, but the past seemed to jolt forward again. The history of the being she touched began playing itself out as if it were some old movie.

“Let me know if there is anything I can do Miss Kitsumi.”

“For now, just hush. I need to focus.”

Inhaling again she watched the scenes of the past play out, and in a dull monotone she rattled off the names and places where the events were taking place.

It was in Chicago, and young Edward Thorp had just fired up his creation “IronHorse, the locomotive man” for the first time. There was a bout of applause and then the breaking of a bottle of champagne on the hull of the machine. After the party, Edward sat staring at the machine shaking his head.

“You’re little more than a glorified suit of armor.” He whispered. Kitsumi winced as she heard the voice. It was almost the same as that of IronHorse himself! It lacked something however. The voice seemed weak in comparison.

“Holy Crow… I guess, I guess that’s my dad huh?” Kitsumi heard IronHorse whisper. She mentally shushed him again and kept on listening.

“Glorified armor for a certified fraud.” Edward sighed and placed his head in his hands. “At least you’re lucky though. You don’t have to worry about being something other than what you are. I envy that in you.”

“As well you should Mr. Thorp.”

The new voice cut as a knife edged in ice. A figure strode forward. Kitsumi rattled off the name of the man but could do nothing to describe the air of palpable malevolence about the man.

“Mr. Dumas! Welcome sir!” Ed nearly fell out of his chair trying to greet his financer for the IronHorse project. “He’s all ready to go for you sir!”

Andre Dumas snorted and looked at the massive metal man.

“Not much to look at is he?”

“Well sir, IronHorse was designed to be a show-piece for your railroad. He’s stronger and more powerful than any locomotive on the lines now. He was never built for looks, but built for power.” Ed smiled at the hulking figure and wiped off an errant oil-spot with a rag. “True American engineering here. Better than any automaton yet. Even those Nemesis things.”

“But, am I to understand that this wonderful automaton can not operate on its own?”

Edward fell back and looked hard at Andre.

“How… How did you…”

Andre grinned the smile of a predator and sighed.

“Even the great Nemesis engines that ravage the union troops to the South are not without some human component Mr. Thorp. I’ll grant you this body you have built is impressive, but without a mind, he’s little better than the locomotives you based him upon.”

Edward swallowed hard and sighed.

“He… he does have a mind sir… Me.”

“HUH?”

“IronHorse Shut up!” The mental words rang out and almost washed over the scene knocking Kitsumi’s concentration loose.

“Of course Mr. Thorp… You are the brilliant mind behind this beast’s engineering but that’s hardly…”

“No sir, I mean I am its mind. Watch.” Ed walked towards IronHorse, began working some valves, and opened a hatch in the metal man’s back. Without another word, he climbed inside and then the hatch closed promptly.

“That’s… That’s my secondary water tank…” IronHorse whispered. “’Tain’t nothin’ else in there…”

Kitsumi sighed and could feel that IronHorse told the truth… There was nothing in that area Mr. Thorp opened in the present day but water for the boiler. But in the past…

In the past IronHorse stood up and saluted Mr. Dumas.

“Here you go sir! See? He has a mind, but no one else but you and I know this. Even the other engineers don’t know. I kept this design aspect quiet so we can at least have SOMETHING that looks like its operating on its own. Granted it is sort of like that old Chess-Playing automaton but at least it’s a sight better than the Nemesis things. Trust me Mr. Dumas, with this baby at your rail-shows we will pack them in!”

Andre stroked his goatee and grinned. He nodded simply and then pointed hard at the moving metal man.

“I want you to ensure that just you and I know about this Mr. Thorp. I wanted a true thinking machine for my show, and this is hardly it, and definitely won’t be if others found out. The presence of this metal man may pack crowds in, but finding out it is little more than a puppet will definitely hinder the show. I assume you’re the only one who can drive it?”

“Yessir.”

“Good. Keep it that way. And be prepared to move in the morning.”

With that Andre whirled about and marched from the premises. There was a hiss of steam and the hatch opened on IronHorse’s back again. Ed climbed out slowly and wiped the sweat from his brow.

“Hot… Hot in there.”

Time lurched forward, dragging the minds of Kitsumi and the present day IronHorse along with it. Kitsumi rattled off the shows, how Mr. Thorp drove the machine. How he was constantly browbeaten by Mr. Dumas.

She also described how Ed had become friends with the rail workers and other showmen. They all nick-named him “The Doc” and liked him. Especially since he kept their meal ticket, the shows big draw IronHorse, running like, well like a fine tuned machine.

“April Twenty Second, 1866. The Dumas Rail-Show enters a small Arizona town named Dudley.” Kitsumi rattled off the date and time as the images whirled past. It was coming up on the critical timepoint.

Kitsumi and IronHorse bore witness to the show going up, and the draw of almost the entire town to each performance. They also saw Indians from a local reservation come to watch, although they never applauded. It was there Ed became friends with a local Shaman as well.

The Shaman was named Raven’s Whisper and he came to the camp to heal one of the workers.” Kitsumi rattled off. IronHorse just watched now… being told to shut up so many times finally stuck.

Ed was amazed by the Shaman’s skill in healing and soon took to talking with the man. It was here that Raven’s Whisper expressed serious doubt about Andre Dumas and his reasons for coming to Dudley.

“The Earth has secrets here Mr. Thorp. Old and ancient ones. I have no doubt of the prosperity the train will bring to these lands, but ask at what cost. Mr. Dumas is looking for some thing Mr. Thorp. Count on that.”

Ed would have, and even had begun to suspect the same. Their shows always seemed to be away from big towns, and out in the open. Dumas always seemed to come away from each area with something new he loaded into his personal cars, but never spoke of them. The frightening thing was, Ed suspected Mr. Dumas of much more. One only had to walk past his car at night and he’d get the feeling of something twisting in his stomach while the air seemed to freeze. It was unnatural, but Ed, poor old Ed, never had the strength to confront his employer. He feared being exposed as a fraud with his puppet. He had promised the world a thinking machine, and Ed could not stomach being thought of as a liar.

In addition to his guilt, Ed was being worked ragged by Andre. The shows became longer, and more strenuous. It put the body of IronHorse to the test, but it always met the challenge. It also forced Ed to work and re-work designs for the body to make sure IronHorse was constantly at his peak condition.

Then… on September 20th 1866.

“You want me to what Mr. Dumas?”

“I want you to perform Mr. Thorp, we have paying guests and you being at this town festival would be good for our image as a rail-line.”

“But that’s well over a 14 hour day!”

“Indeed… You should be fine Mr. Thorp. That… Thing of yours has met every other challenge, and now I need BOTH of you to do this. There will be a substantial amount of monetary compensation waiting for you if you accept.”

Sighing, Ed looked at the machine. He didn’t want to… Hell, he didn’t even really have to, but Ed nodded. Ed was never a strong willed man.

The day began almost before sunrise and lasted through parties, showing for the townsfolk, dances, lunches, dinner, and then well into the night with feats of strength and daring.

Ed faltered in the suit by the time the day was over, and the both of them staggered back to the train-grounds outside of town to rest.

“Hot… hot in here.” Ed whispered as he began to drift off. The fumes from the coal and the heat from the burner had finally begun to take their toll on his body. He coughed again and again.

“Oh No…” IronHorse whispered.

Kitsumi was impassive but she could feel it. She knew Ed was dying, and she knew there was nothing she could do to help. As she continued, a tear ran down her cheek.

Ed coughed again and fumbled with the latch of the suit but he was too weak to open it. The best he could do was hit the lever and dump the contents of the boiler. Silently he prayed that this would make the heat go down. He felt tired, so very tired and even through the heat he laid his head down, and closed his eyes.

At approximately 11:32pm Edward Thorpe died.” Kitsumi reported. Bother her and IronHorse were dimly aware of the gasps and some tears from the crowd in the courtroom.

Someone else is there in the night. Raven’s Whisper has entered the makeshift machine shop.” Both Kitsumi and IronHorse wondered what the shaman was doing there. His kind face looking into the eye-visor of the massive metal man. Gingerly the Shaman reached out and caressed the metal.

“It is rare that a man makes something like this without the intent to make a weapon or something to rape the Earth.” The Shaman began. His voice echoed through the ages and suddenly Kitsumi and IronHorse both had the unnerving feeling that the Shaman was looking directly at both of them.

“This form was created not out of arrogance, not out of greed, but out of desire. Mr. Thorp wanted strength, but not just of body, but of spirit as well. He poured his heart, mind, and skills into this machine. It is a temple to intelligence, but also to strength. It is a pity that this strong body never had the strong spirit that both it and Mr. Thorp so desired.”

“But now, now the places I guard are threatened by one who would open doors that should forever remain shut. It was through the likes of him that the Old Ones first even knew of us. I have need of a man, no, something more than a man to help us keep the darkness at bay. I wished to plead with Ed to help us, but his strength was never there. He was chained by his body and forever thought himself weak. And now… now I feel his spirit leaving.”

Raven’s Whisper looked hard at the metal body. He looked hard and nodded as if he came to a deep conclusion. “I can feel the eyes of history, and those who read it. I can feel the heart of a man, and he is a man, beating in a metal shell and filled with the strength of a thousand men. You may think I stand speaking to shadows, but I stand speaking across the gulf of time. What is born here tonight has a higher purpose. He is to be strength, kindness, intelligence, and above all a guardian on the likes of which man has never seen. I can feel you watching, but your eyes are not for this moment, but know what I do now, I give to the world as a new guardian, a new creature, a new hero for all time.”

“Edward Thorp, your body hindered your hidden strong spirit, IronHorse your strong body lacks a soul to make you truly live. Your fates have always been intertwined, but now you become one… Arise IronHorse, the Locomotive Man!”

There was a flash of light and Kitsumi as well as IronHorse were blinded. A shout went up from the people in the courtroom. Kitsumi’s cough had people rush to her side, but her hand never left the arm of IronHorse.

'I… I don’t know what happened. It’s, It’s morning now. September 21st 1866 and…”

Abruptly the visions stopped. Kitsumi looked up dumbfounded and then stared at IronHorse.

The city representative looked at Kitsumi expectantly.

“Well? Do you need a break Miss Ichimura?”

“No… No, but I can’t read living material.”

The spectators went silent as they stared at Kitsumi. Even IronHorse tilted his head.

“What miss Ichimura?”

“I can’t read living material, and at precisely 6:45am on September 21st 1866 IronHorse became… Alive.”
TO CHAPTER 7 >
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