Serial Saturday: Nightmare Engine of Doom Part 21 – A Crime Against Nature

There was a massive man in the center of the room, a huge muscular fellow who at first appeared to be wearing armor of leather and steel. Then I took in the glassy look in his eye, his lack of hair, and the puffs of steam that were darting from various points at his body, and realized what I was seeing–a steam-golem. I should have recognized it at once, of course, given my training. Elias Black had researched them thoroughly, and had passed the knowledge on to me. Black himself had made various automata, and of course I had made the Automated Armsman myself, only to lose it on that tragic traintop battle.

But normal automata are distinct from steam-golems in that they are driven not by an artificial intelligence, but by a real intelligence, dragged from some hapless soul through the most vile of magic. This is, of course, a terrible thing, but I had always been interested in them in theory, and the specimen before me was a remarkable example. It was an amalgam of flesh, leather, and metal, and it was clearly, based on the exhaust that burst from it from little vents as it moved, powered by a small internal steam engine. The engine was clearly cunningly-designed, to drive such a large body while being relatively small.

The golem was obviously strong, as well, which I inferred from the fact that the massive wardrobe that I had heard falling had not only been tipped over, but thrown clear across the room, scattering the liquor bottles Enzo had stored there everywhere.

It really was an exceptional piece of work, and I confess I found myself wondering about the particular of how one might go about building a similar one, even though it was, of course, an abomination.

“What the hell took you so long?” Enzo demanded, which sent my gaze darting about the room trying to find him. Then the steam-golem whirled, massive arms flailing, and I saw that Enzo was clinging to its back, riding the massive creature with the tenacity of a limpet. It, in turn, was trying to remove him, but its metal-clad arms, while powerful, were not particularly dextrous. Enzo must have gotten aboard him early on, and it seemed to have destroyed every piece of furniture in the room while trying to scrape him off.

“Do something, you idiot!” Enzo bellowed as he was swung away from me again by the steam-golem’s frantic motion.

“I’m afraid it will be quite resistant to my pistol,” I said. “Those metal plates will protect its innards, and at any rate I’m not sure I could do enough damage to the steam engine. And it is magic that carries the impetus from the steam engine to its limbs and so on, you see. So my pistol will certainly not disrupt that. A tricky problem, I’m afraid. In fact, I can see the burns you gave it with your radium pistol, and clearly that did you little good.”

I was lucky, in fact, that Enzo was distracting the thing, as it had no doubt been given instructions to kill both of us. It was odd that no one else had come running to the room, in fact. No doubt, it was due to the fact that after Enzo’s loud speech in the hotel lobby on the evils of Methodism, the clerk had given us rooms in an otherwise deserted section of the hotel.

“You’re the bloody occult mechanic,” Enzo shouted as he swung nearby, causing me to take a step back. “Mechanic it!”

I realized with a start that I had, in fact, carried my tool bag into the room, giving me access to a range of arcane tools. Of course, conditions were less than ideal, with the golem trying its best to kill Enzo, striding around and flailing clumsily, if with a stoic demeanor. I was further distracted by the stream of foul profanity pouring from Enzo as he clung to the creature, occasionally bouncing off the ceiling.

But I soldiered on, ducking and weaving as I studied the golem, finally spotting a hex bolt which appeared to be located in a location near several steam vents that would be a prime location for an override dump valve. Whomever had created the steam-golem (and it could really only have been the Countess) had failed to follow the Rizby-Klyne critical labeling protocols of 1888, however, so there was no yellow triangle with a pictogram of a puff of steam to confirm my suspicion. That would be just one more crime to lay at the Countess’ door. I suspect she had little fear of the government bureaucracy in charge of enforcing the protocols, given that she had no fear of violating natural law.

In any case, I threw caution to the winds, and after sorting through my bag for the hex wrench of the correct size ensorcelled with the appropriate spells (a hexed hex wrench, as I liked to call it), I darted in. It took several tries to get the wrench into position, but just as Enzo’s shrieks heralded the fact that the golem had finally got hold of him, it went still for a few seconds, allowing me to slot the wrench in and give it several desperate counter-clockwise turns.

A massive burst of steam and water droplets burst from the relief valve as it opened, nearly scalding me and soaking my shirt, and the steam-golem slowly fell as the the pressure in its engine dropped to nothing.
Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on March 10, 2012.