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
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.”
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.
“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
“Tag along?” Kitsumi was confused by the statement but
she could hear the deep chuckle of the machine man again.
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
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.
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.
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.”
am I to understand that this wonderful automaton can not operate on
Edward fell back and looked hard at Andre.
“How… How did
Andre grinned the smile of a predator and sighed.
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
“He… he does have a mind sir… Me.”
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…”
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 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
“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?”
“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.
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
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
“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
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.
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.
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
“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…”
the visions stopped. Kitsumi looked up dumbfounded and then stared
The city representative looked at Kitsumi expectantly.
“Well? Do you need a break Miss Ichimura?”
“No… No, but I can’t read
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