segunda-feira, 6 de setembro de 2010

Chapter 15

I have not asked Them whether I am fated to die when Their work is done. I am too frightened that
They may answer me.
—II. xxix
Windows shattered and cables broke in the world of dreams.
Ten thousand arms grasped at yellow-brown ichor. Towers swayed; brass and copper and glass
puddled in the air before raining into the rising sea of bile. The searing heat of the fire and the sticky cool
of the swamp clashed and annihilated each other. Steam burst upwards and tore the red sky, opening
rents into horrid other spaces, which screamed above the incessant booming of the clock.
Aaron fled for his life.
The diseased child-god had used him. Whatever the Lord and Lady had done to keep their malformed
spawn from invading the city, Aaron had undone.
At first he had seen her clearly, as Mama Engine emerged into man’s realm at the beckoning of her
priest. The layers of her essence unfolded in sequence, revealing progressively deeper levels of her mind,
from the simplest surface thoughts, to capricious desires and whims, to deep convictions of love and pain,
to an exacting point of fire, hungry to consume and smelt and mould.
At one instant he had been safe, buoyed inside his silver body and anchored firmly on Adam’s earth.
The next, he felt a tug at his mind, then dull claws slashed into it and a howl of pain ripped through him. In
that instant he became a thousand individuals writhing in pain on a thousand beds, cots, and street
corners, every sliver of his body ground apart from within by teeth and gears, black oil spilling from every
orifice. He’d looked up and seen the faces of friends and family, tormentors and cloaks, sometimes no face at all.
The diseased child-god burst from Aaron’s soul like water through a breached dike. In moments, the
thing’s pus-body had attached itself to the towers and walkways of the dream world, and then began to
oxidise them.
As the tower of hands bent and closed in, Aaron had torn himself free. Something of him was left
behind, to singe and curl and turn to ash.
The void. Where is the void?He ran through the copper-plated streets, through glass arches and across
chain bridges. Every turn brought him to a new corridor, identical to the last, or to a new chain bridge
over choppy, black seas.
It must be somewhere. He reached into it to get me, so there must be an entrance.
He reached a ledge and halted. From there, he scanned the sky ahead. A chain ran from the ledge some
two hundred yards to the prismatic saw creation that stood in for the Docks Tower. Beyond, black skies
and London’s army of ghosts waited and watched.
Words came to him from that echo of his mind that knew the unknowable:They guard the ancient
dreams of London from all invaders, even yourself.
He spun and looked back. Cracks spiderwebbed across the sky. Long trails of smoke flew in all
directions as the tower of arms lurched and bent and smashed against its foe. The air filled with the
wailing of souls on both sides as the gods threw those captured wretches into the fray.
Grandfather Clock ticked in steady rhythm, and did nothing to help or hinder.
He’d run as far as he could. The tower and the chains shook, and he wondered what good any amount
of distance would do him.
There is always a way out.
He closed his eyes and reached up with his mind. The rock-and-dirt world shunned him as he touched it.
A brief impression of pressure, damage, and deformity flashed over him: his second body had been lost,
and with it, his link to the city above.
The heat and the noise swelled. Aaron began to hear the screams of men and women echo in from the
real world, and longed for the peace of the void, which hid from his reach.
There really was no way out.
Was he to be a mute witness to this, then? Was he to sit and watch and do nothing?
What else could he hope for? His body was gone, and escape into the void unlikely. He dared not place
himself between the two entities clashing before him.
So there was no other course. Seeing was what he had always been best at: seeing, thinking, planning,
advising, but never acting. He had acted once, and he had been killed.
So he seated himself upon the hot air, and watched.
On a crowded cable car, halfway between Cambridge-Heath and Dunbridge, Thomas started
The cries flew out into the vast spaces around, vanishing without echo. White eyes in black faces turned.
Oliver’s company froze as one for an instant, uncertain. The stunned silence dragged on, each passenger
waiting to see if the sound was repeated.
“Ah, bugger the dog! Jesus!”
Oliver leapt up into the wagon and tore the concealing burlap blanket from Tom’s face. A visage of
agony greeted him. Oil and pus squirted from Tom’s burned eye.
“Sorry, Ollie,” Tom managed.
Oliver knocked him on the head. “You should be. I’ve told you a thousand and one times you make too
much noise, chum.”
Tom chuckled through his grimace. “Like a banshee. Awooooo.” The mirth dissolved into a fit of horrid
coughing that produced brown bile.
Oliver skipped his gaze over his crew. Bergen was already reaching for his pistol with his left hand.
Hews was likewise reaching for his. Oliver shook his head at them and they stayed their hands.
“I’m terribly sorry.” It was Missy’s voice. “Our friend is very sick with the clacks. We didn’t mean to be
a bother. We’re taking him to see a doctor.”
Half the crowd nodded and turned away. Conversations began all about the car, passing quickly from
mouth to mouth; everyone knew someone with the clacks, and everyone had a story to tell. The men of
Oliver’s troupe communally exhaled a held breath. Missy slid smoothly into conversation with a woman
close by. Thomas coughed and spat up, but by then the crowd’s attention had been redirected.
“Got a good tongue,” Hews said, from his position at the right front handle of the wagon. “I couldn’t
have made that half as convincing.”
“It’s why I hired her,” Oliver said. He pulled a rag out of his pocket and started blotting the fluids spilling
out of his friend.
Tom chuckled. “Certain there weren’t other factors, eh, Chief?”
“You’re supposed to be sick.”
“Wouldn’t you know it,” Tom said. “A dozen knives to the heart and two shots to the belly and it’s a
bloody fist in my gut that gets me.”
Oliver jostled his shoulder. “You’re going out pounding cloaks, remember?”
Tommy coughed again. “Ah. Right-oh. Where would I be without you, Chief?”
Packing coal in Aldgate, healthy and in one piece, that’s where.“I’m sure you’d be neck-deep in trouble
by now even without my help.”
“Ah! Stung! God’s own truth, if I ever heard it. Where is the king?”
Oliver started. “Jeremy?”
“Yeah. The little bugger didn’t run off on me, did he?”
“I…er…sent him on a mission.”
Tom’s one remaining eyebrow perked up. “Truly?”
Oliver tried very hard for a casual shrug. “I said I’d make him a member of the crew, right? Little guy
has to pull his weight. Besides, he’s shown he’s capable.”
Tom squinted through his good eye. After a moment, his expression changed and his face fell.
“Knew he was a good pick,” he mumbled.
Oliver gestured to Hews. “Take over, would you?”
The older man ended his conversation with a fellow passenger and obediently mounted the wagon as
Oliver climbed out. The wagon was of native Whitechapel variety, made of iron rods, tin, and aluminium.
They’d loaded it with a pack of supplies, Bergen’s steam rifle, Lawrence’s manual, and the translation of
Scared’s tape—and then Tom’s body, for when he’d come to, he’d been unable to walk and was far
too heavy to carry.
Oliver walked round into Hews’ place at the right handle and faced Bergen, who stood at the left.
Phineas, Heckler, and the doctor, they’d left in the Underbelly: Oliver expected a strike on Shadwell to
come within the hour. Phineas could give fair warning and had been through the last Uprising; Heckler
was a capable lad, and a prodigy shooter; and Chestle…well, he’d be needed soon enough.
It would have been nice to leave Bergen and his cannon there as well, but…
“Where is this mechanic of yours?” Oliver asked.
Bergen regarded him coolly, as if evaluating whether he was trustworthy enough for such information.
“John Scared has a hide at the top levels of the Dunbridge slope, and the mechanic keeps his workshop
in it.”
Oliver crossed his arms and leaned on the wagon. “So you’ll be leading us right into Scared’s
The German glowered. “I dislike your tone, English. Had I wished your death, I could have effected it
any number of times.”
That much was true. The man had certainly made an effort, and yet something about him tickled at
Oliver’s attention and set his mind to doubting every time the two ended up in the same room:Why would
Bailey, with his God-save-the-queen bravado, go out and hire a German? Why not a fellow Briton, born
and bred?
“Will Scared be there?”
Bergen snorted. “Doubtful. He’s likely evacuated to a different hide, as I know the site intimately. He
has another in Aldgate, and he has told me there are several more. I suspect one in Shoreditch, though I
could not say where.”
Oliver noticed Missy glance their way. After a second she turned back to her conversations with the
other passengers.
“Why would he evacuate, I wonder?”
“Barring any other report, he has to assume I’ve been captured, either by the cloaks or the English,”
Bergen said. “Although his spies have probably noted me with you. Scared is a prudent man.”
“Why did he hire you?”
Bergen crossed his own arms, arms much thicker than Oliver’s. “I am growing weary of your distrust,
Sumner. Do you interrogate all of your men like this?”
Oliver felt his hackles rising again.
“Keuper, I have a rule that I never question after the history of my people. I don’t believe a man has to
carry his past with him like Marley’s chains, and so I will not ask you about your past. I will, however,
ask you about the work you’ve done for Bailey, and for Scared, becausethat could be necessary.”
The cable car bumped as it passed over one of its junctions, where the cables hooked through the bent,
wobbling beams of an infant tower, still too young to hold inhabitants. The wagon car clanked and rolled,
and for a moment Bergen and Oliver halted to steady it with the handles.
“So, tell me,” Bergen said, when the car had stabilised again, “how do you choose your men, without
knowing anything about them? A man’s past is his definition.”
“I don’t believe that,” Oliver said. “I trust my sense of people is all. I consider myself a good judge of
Bergen barked a laugh. “Character? Your American is a criminal, Sumner. Your woman is a whore.”
Oliver’s fist flew out before he even felt the anger rising. His knuckles cracked the German across the
jaw, forcing him back and down against the wagon’s handle.
Good Lord, chap, what were you—
Bergen’s fist hammered into his cheekbone and drove through to the back side of his head. His neck
snapped in a wrong way and his whole body gave out.
He felt the German take a heavy footstep in his direction. Then Hews rang out like a bell: “That’s
Oliver groaned and tried to right himself. In his blurred vision, he caught Bergen, hand on his weapon,
and Hews, hand on his.
Missy appeared behind Bergen’s shoulder, eyes dark. She slipped one hand into her handbag and drew
an object halfway out. Even through tumbling perceptions Oliver recognised what it was. Missy’s lips
moved, muttering something for only Bergen’s ears.
“You came out the top on that one,” Hews said, still covering Keuper with his pistol. “Let it go.”
The German straightened, retreating into the general blur.
“I will not tolerate that again,” he said.
“Then don’t…insult…my crew!” Oliver slammed his hands down onto the grate floor and shoved
himself up.
“They bring it on themselves, Sumner,” Bergen said. “You have no discipline; you keep no controls on
your men. Africa would swallow you alive.”
“This isn’t Africa,” Oliver said. He grabbed on to the wagon handle to steady himself, then rose to his
feet. Feeling began to seep back into his cheek: an acute, throbbing pain. “But tell me: if it were, could
you kill every lion and tiger and snake and whatever else all by your lonesome? Could your one gun kill
all of them before they got you?” He jabbed his finger out. “It seems you’re so stupid as to think you can
fight this all on your own, and while I’d be happy to be rid of you, I frown on people getting themselves
needlessly killed.”
Bergen harrumphed. “Then you are a weak and stupid man.”
Hews stuck his gun in Bergen’s face, then in Oliver’s. “Enough,” he said. “I won’t stand for any more of
this lunacy. The next one to say anything gets a lump in the face.”
Bergen and Oliver exchanged glares. They stood that way for a long time. On their right, the slope of
Dunbridge faded into view through the smog. Their audience stared at them raptly, caught in their
Bergen broke the gaze and spat on the floor between them. Then he turned and strode away. The other
passengers parted around him, and watched as he walked to the far corner of the car and took a post
staring pointedly out at nothing.
Oliver sighed, righted himself, and turned to face the crowd.
“Don’t.” Missy pressed him back against the wagon with a firm palm. “Right now it’s gossip and that’s
all. There’s no sense turning it into something bigger.”
“You all right, lad?” Hews asked.
Oliver checked his jaw, his neck; nothing seemed permanently damaged. He nodded.
Only then did Hews stow his pistol. He swung his legs over the edge of the wagon and sat. For a
moment he wrung his hands. “That was far from prudent, Oliver.”
Oliver rubbed his cheek and said nothing.
Hews frowned. “The man’s been trying to get your goat since he met you and you just up and handed it
to him.”
Missy’s face suddenly compressed and she snapped at Hews through bared teeth. “Hogwash, Hewey.
If this is the only way to put that man in his place then let’s have more of it.”
“Lass?” Hews said.
“That’s a vile man we’ve hooked up with. I’ve said it before that he can’t be controlled. Do you need
more proof thanthat ?” She indicated Oliver’s face.
Oliver watched the tiny twitches of Missy’s lips and eyelids.
Hews leaned down over his shoulder. “Lass, our boy, here, struck first.”
“The German struck first,” Missy said. She looked at Oliver. “Didn’t he? Didn’t he really?”
After a moment, Oliver nodded. “That’s the truth of it.”
“Codswallop,” Hews said. “Your bloody temper’s the truth of it. That was disgraceful.”
“I’ve enough of a lashing for that already, Hewey,” Oliver snapped. “And you’ve no right to speak to
me like a child.”
Hews flushed. “I’ve all the right in the world, boy. I raised you—”
“You let me sleep under your smelting pots, Hewey,” Oliver said. “You let me carry coal and ore and
paid me a pittance to do it. And sometimes,sometimes, you told the other coves not to kick me for the
fun of it and then walked around puffing yourself that you were helping some charity orphan boy and
what a good soul you were.”
Hews trembled for a moment, cheeks puffing, eyes bulging. The words came out with slaver through the
teeth: “We fed you, boy. We clothed you and kept the Chimney gangs—”
Oliver cut him off. “Istole most of what I ate, Hewey. You weren’t about to share any of your wife’s
cakes, either, as I recall.”
Hews looked fit to explode. The next words came out barely a whisper: “Ungrateful child.”
Oliver returned the man’s glare until Hews turned away. Then Oliver dropped his head and chewed the
insides of his cheeks. Missy stood back, scowled, said nothing.
The maw of the Dunbridge station, edged in random growths of iron like crooked teeth, sucked the
cable car inside. The omnipresent haze of Whitechapel vanished, to be replaced by glaring electrics and
blasts of hot steam from a dozen unfathomable engines. Half-human crows scuttled to and fro, tinkering,
tightening, massaging, and placating. The Boiler Men that had watched every station for the past
twenty-four hours were conspicuously absent.
As the gates slid apart, Oliver and Hews each took up a wagon handle. Oliver felt every muscle popping
as he strained to move the wagon that first few feet. The wheels screamed terribly and caught on their
own axle every couple of inches.
The exertion pushed blood into his face, which made the pain worse. He must have a jolly bruise by
If that was the least damage you’d caused today, it would be a blessing.
Hews marched beside him, puffing and sweating, unused to such work, but no one was about to ask
Bergen to join them again. Oliver stole a look over. Hews, weighted with exertion, walked with dragging
heels—crestfallen, tired, and old. Fifty-seven years of life scraped together on Hews’ face in divots,
wrinkles, scars, and jowls, and Oliver felt a powerful sense of wrongness.
Hews should be sitting by his fireplace in a country estate by now, sipping port and talking about the
upcoming birth of his first grandchild to any ill-fated cove he could con into listening to him. Instead he
had set up shop in Whitechapel, spied for the queen, lost a wife to cancer of the lungs, employed a whole
gaggle of men, and kept one little boy from falling into his own grave.
The sudden rage, wherever it had come from, boiled away, and Oliver’s guts sank into his shoes.
The wheels of the wagon clattered and bounced as they tipped off the ramp and into the station. Missy’s
silence and Tom’s fevered moans trumpeted their arrival in Dunbridge.
Oliver should have known better than this.
Missy mopped her forehead with a lace-lined white handkerchief. It came away yellowed and soiled.
It was Gisella’s cardinal rule: don’t ever be a mess. A lady should never sweat, never smell otherwise
than with perfume, never have her clothing or her hair out of sorts. She’d discouraged it even at the height
Gisella isn’t here, bird.
That didn’t matter. Missy still felt vile, soiled.
You were born in filth, little girl.That had been the repeating refrain of her inner voice the entire climb.
It had taken considerable coaching and cold water to rouse Thomas enough to get him on his feet. Even
then, he wobbled terribly with each step, flopping his tremendous weight to and fro without pattern. It
had taken all three men to keep him upright, and Missy had added her shoulder as well, knowing they
needed her but would never ask. Missy had never really been to Dunbridge. She had stopped through it
on her flight from the bordello, those eternal months ago, but she had merely stopped over at the station,
never experiencing the through-the-looking-glass maze quality of its platforms and walkways, its
staircases and ladders and dead ends.
She found her eyes leaping with fright to the shadows slinking out of the smog. Always, they resolved
themselves into Chinese women carrying baskets, men backing slips of metal, and stunted, bleary-eyed
children tromping after. They watched her with tiny eyes.
And no wonder: Thomas lurched like Shelley’s monster, falling every twenty steps to dent or crack a
stair or rail. Hews directed them with a few terse words at every crossing as they marched on. Bergen had returned, but the men spoke to each other only in the sparest, most necessary exchanges.
She’d caught the German looking at her several times. She couldn’t read the look. It wasn’t lust, not as
she understood it, but neither was it suspicion nor anger. It was a rapt and undisturbed attention,
detached and frigid.
When will Oliver listen to me and turf him?
Well, it seems you have two men here that cannot be controlled.
At long last, Hews announced that they had arrived, and they proceeded to wrestle Thomas through a
door far too small for even a normal man, and more or less dump him onto a thin mattress and a few
blankets in the corner. Each of the men threw the supply packs they carried against the wall. Then they
collectively stood back for a rest.
Missy glanced around. All about the place lay filthy blankets draped over filthier men. The air stank like
a sick house: sweat and piss, and some other acrid smell Missy didn’t recognise. The occupants could
have passed for corpses, for how still they lay.
Missy tugged on Oliver’s sleeve. He turned, still panting. Her nose wrinkled at the rough smell of him.
“Why did you bring us to such an awful place?” Missy whispered.
Oliver smiled. “It’s not so bad, compared to some. Besides, it’s friendly territory.”
“I would hardly call it that.”
“We find our friends where we can.”
A squat, plump Chinese lady waddled from behind a red curtain at the back of the room. She wore a
decorative Oriental dress of the most garish green with dulled gold detailing. Hews removed his hat and
stepped up to greet her.
“Mrs. Flower, I’m afraid we must once again impose on your hospitality,” he said.
The lady inclined her head slightly, then turned and vanished into the back.
“We’ll take a few minutes’ rest,” Oliver said. “Then Bergen and I will go visit this mechanic of his.”
A twinge picked at Bergen’s lower eyelid and he glowered darkly. Much to her horror, she realised she
understood that expression.
Yes, it’s the murderous one, isn’t it, child? Never forget that you are a killer now, too. Born a dog,
trained a whore, now you are in full blossom. Isn’t that just proper?
“Shut up,” she hissed. She slapped her hand over her mouth.
Only Oliver noticed. His eye flicked momentarily her way. Hews interrupted before anything could be
“I’ll go,” he said, hitching pants and fixing vest as he spoke.
Oliver knitted his eyebrows. “Hewey, I’m not…”
“I won’t hear it, boy. When was the last time you slept?”
Oliver blinked back his surprise. “I don’t…”
“If the answer isn’t ‘this morning,’ then you’re staying here. In any case, I’m the only one who knows
the ins and outs of this tower.”
Oliver stood a moment, considering.
Missy’s eyes flicked to Bergen. She recognised that look: studying a man to see how he could be
It is your duty to control your client, to bring him to his pleasure by whatever means are most agreeable
to him. For each man, a unique set of actions, phrases, and gestures will be his reins. You will learn to
pick these out through observation and intuition. Now, please, drink your tea, lay on your cots, and the
training will begin.
Oliver could be controlled by treating him like a child.
I won’t do it.
Of course you will, my dear. It is what you were trained for. The German lacks the flexibility to conquer
him, but you, my child—you are as fluid as rain. You can be whatever he needs you to be.
It was a new voice, rougher than she was used to. Chills ran up her spine.
At last, Oliver sighed.
“Fine. Just be back quick as you can.”
Hews screwed his bowler hat onto his head. The Chinese woman reemerged from the back, carrying a
tray with a brass kettle and four porcelain cups. Hews took his hat off again and bowed towards her. He
jabbed Oliver with an elbow and Oliver removed his hat as well, spilling unkempt brown hair to his
“Regrettably, we must go, Mrs. Flower,” Hews said. “By God’s graces, we shall be back before the pot
is cooled.”
Mrs. Flower did not appear to acknowledge the sentiment. She merely placed the tray on the floor by
Hews’ feet and retreated through the room, checking on her various semiconscious patrons.
Hews replaced his hat. Bergen dropped his steam cannon into the corner and stood it against the wall.
He’d climbed the whole way with it lashed to his back and barely looked out of breath.
He’s going to murder Hews and then he’s going to come back and murder you. But you’ll stop him long
before that, will you not? You and your little handbag.
Missy found herself piqued.
He would deserve it.
There’s my little dog.
Bergen ducked out into the dark of midafternoon. Hews made to follow. Oliver stopped him with an
arm on the shoulder.
Hews shook his head. “No time now, Oliver.”
Oliver let him go. The door shut. Missy had never seen a man so alone in a room full of people.
Now would be the moment to do it: just step outside the door and put a bullet through the German’s
“Come on, then,” she heard her mouth saying. “Let’s have a sit.”
Oliver wandered in her direction, then swerved and flopped to the floor beside Thomas. He used his
hands to draw his knees up to a cross-legged position, then shrugged out of his coat. Missy gathered the
tray and sat beside him.
She poured the tea and tried not to let her hands shake when it came out red. Gisella’s tea was always
red—that awful soporific that conjured up the hobgoblin man.
Heh. I see you remember me.
The teapot rang as it bounced off the tray and regurgitated its contents onto the floor.
“Oh, God…” Missy breathed.
Oliver reached across and righted the teapot. “No one will notice.”
That wasn’t what she meant.
The hobgoblin man is real. He came to visit me.
She felt the phantom sensation of his ghastly fingers against her face, and she forgot.
She returned to herself to see the profile of Oliver’s scruffy face. He stared at Thomas, who gurgled as
he breathed, and simultaneously stared at nothing. Tea soaked into the leg of his trousers. His skin had
turned several shades towards yellow. The lamplight reflected flickering flames into his eyes.
Something wasn’t right. Oliver’s mussed hair fell forward over his brow, shadowing his eyes, so that it
could not possibly be reflected light.
She shivered. He reacted to the motion, and turned those subtly burning eyes on her own.
“What so you see?” he asked.
She told him.
His eyes drifted closed. “It’s getting worse,” he said. “It feels like a hot iron up under my skull.”
She felt a chill rake through the moist air, and dared not ask what he meant.
He continued anyway. “It gets hotter the closer we get to the Stack. Mama Engine has taken up
residence in my head. It seems she fancies me as a consort.”
Missy sat very still, her skin crawling.
“The other one is in my guts. I’m not entirely sure what he wants from me.” He grabbed and gripped
Tommy’s flesh-and-bone hand. “This can’t be for nothing.”
There’s the opening. Take him in your lap, coddle him, sing to him, tell him everything will be all right and
make him yours.
Missy began reaching for Oliver’s hand.
I don’t want to.
Yes, you do.
She stopped, stripped off her filthy red glove, and took his fingers, skin to skin, in hers.
“You never asked me,” Missy said, “where I came from, Oliver.”
His fingers were calloused and scarred, and rough against her skin. They lay immobile in her hand, but a
slight flush crept up Oliver’s neck.
“Who you were isn’t my business,” he said.
Missy swallowed. “Oliver, I won’t…I can’t…tell you, but just…” She breathed. “Just understand that
the place I came from was a terrible place. She made us…I was dying there all the time.”
He was staring at her, and the dancing fire did not seem so threatening now.
“Never think that it was for nothing, Oliver.”
God, thelook he gave her. She felt a heat in her chest, a lightness of limbs. He was beautiful, his lips in a
small smile potent with such warmth that she…
She shot to her feet.
“Well, I’d best let you rest, I’d imagine,” said her mouth. “Weighty mission tonight, if all goes well.”
Still staring at her with that smile—that damnable alluring smile—he said, “I suppose that would be
“Indeed. Well, I quite think I’ll step out for a moment, perhaps buy us some biscuits or whatever they
sell here.”
“That would be delightful, Miss Plantaget.”
“And you needn’t worry for my safety. I’m quite capable of caring for myself.”
“That is something I would never doubt.”
“Good. Well…I shall be back soon.”
She fled to the door.
You forgot!
The handbag! She turned, snatched it, didn’t look at Oliver, returned to the door, and all but bolted into
the street. The grey of Whitechapel afternoon closed over her. Dunbridge, not having any classifiable
streets, had neglected to install streetlights, and thus the day was only slightly brighter than the depths of
The bag settled over her shoulder like an old friend. Just the presence of it kept her safe.
Couldn’t he keep you safe?
I’d rather have the gun.
The heat and the weightlessness ended with that thought, and she screamed in her mind to take it back.
Well, child. Is it not yet clear to you that your fate is one of villainy? With such thoughts as that, it is a
wonder you even affect a liking for him.
He would take care of me.
That was always my promise, as well.
She walked on, to move, to flee fitfully from the voice that haunted her. She told herself over and over
that she would indeed go back to him, and that she would bring something to eat. Something small, and
perhaps he would smile at her again, in that way.
Six turns, two flights of stairs, a pair of Chinamen babbling in their disturbed language, and she was lost.
Hopelessly. The only landmark visible was the Stack, its top crowned by a fierce, incessant red glow.
There were no proper stores to be found, only an endless succession of tenements, growing one into the
other with the vagaries of the tower’s supports. No alleys or façades broke the endless stretch of doors
unmarked and without signs, even in Chinese. At last, she stopped in an open plaza and stomped her
foot. “Prick on a stick,” she said.
“Now, now. What would the good matron think if she heard you using such language?”
The hobgoblin man shuffled from the dark.
Reflections boiled in her memory: his words, his laughs, the too-sweet smell of his breath, the horrid
prodding of his goblin nails, the commands that sunk down to stimulate the baseness of the animal, words
inscribed on the mechanisms of thought.
He trained you. I fed you the tea; then he came to you to implant deeply the lessons I rendered. He
primed you for this obedience, and you cannot cross him.
“With me, if you would,” he said.
Her feet followed his. He led her down a thin walkway to a dead-end circle stacked with garbage.
Rats—flesh ones—chittered and ran at their approach.
He’s real. Why didn’t I remember it?
“Come, my dear. Time is short,” he said. “It wasn’t unexpected, your lot coming here. The cloaks know
about this den of yours, too. But not to worry. I’ve put them off.”
He halted in the centre of the little circular end to the alley and pivoted, hunched over his cane. “What
was unexpected was my German being with you. I assumed my boy had done his duty, though he was
left a mess. Though his days upon the earth are limited, your Continental friend could still be of use to
Missy strained, breathed, whispered: “What do you want?”
The man perked. He adjusted his top hat and regarded her quizzically. “Tick, tick. Did you just speak
under your own volition, my dear?”
Her head moved.
“Heh.” The man reached one knobby hand into his pocket. “Either you are exceptionally strong-willed
or you are simply a remarkable freak in nature’s panoply. This will be quite dangerous, indeed, but I
suppose there’s no avoiding it.”
He slipped from his coat a stoppered bottle of red fluid. Her chest tightened up at the sight of it. “I trust
you remember this, my dear. Gisella’s preference is to dilute it with hot water.” The man opened the
bottle with two rough fingernails, then upended it and allowed a single drop to fall onto his fingertip. It
stayed there, quivering, like a blot of honey.
“Open your mouth, my dear.”
Her head shook slowly, back and forth.
“That won’t do, girl,” the man said. “I have other affairs that need tending. Open.”
Her mouth opened.
The man approached. “Stick out that tongue of yours, girl.”
The tongue obeyed.
The hobgoblin man smeared the drop from his fingertip along the length of her tongue. He tasted like
sweat and granulated sugar.
The gun, the gun, the gun, the gun…Words echoed in her mind. The fingers twitched. The handbag
opened. Inside: deliverance, power, revenge.
And suddenly a prison of ice closed on her, a glacial field too vast to cross, and canyon walls too high to
climb. It froze away the awareness of her body, the perception of walls and street and air. She dreamed
cold dreams. She dreamed of the hobgoblin man.
“Always a new experience,” he said. “I enjoy pure tastes myself time to time. It is a jaunt to heaven or
hell, as you please.”
Fingers rubbed her forehead, temples, cheeks, neck, prodded in armpits, ribs, hip bones, thighs, ankles,
Her shoes were off. Did he take them off? Did she?
“Speak to me of Oliver Sumner, my dear.”
Missy’s mouth opened, and she dictated Oliver’s every motion and word over the past day, up to his
frightening and cryptic remarks in the den.
Fingers over the eyes. The hobgoblin man was whispering under his breath, into himself.
“Why did you choose him over me, my love? Was he to be your champion and liberator?”
Fingers bearing down, penetrating, shearing into the brain.
“I am wounded, my love. I am betrayed.”
Fingers shaping, pulling.
“Heh, heh. But my, it is strange, my love, how things fall into place. Perhaps you intended to put our
weapon into his hands, to stay mine.” A gruesome smile. “But now my German is alive and he will carry
our torch into your husband’s depths instead.”
The fingers withdrew, wisps of thought and intention clinging.
“And so now I will do as rivals are meant.”
Missy floated up, buoyed on frigid winds ripped from the juices of foreign plants and the chemicals of
the brain. The hobgoblin man wrapped his horrid hand about her chin and cradled her skull.
“Little one, listen now. And as always, forget after you have heard, and be as you always were.”
Missy nodded.
“Heh. Or be as I made you, should I say? No matter.”
Fingers from the other hand, snaking along the jaw, scratching, soiling.
“Here is what I wish of you, girl. Go to Oliver Sumner, on whatever pretence suits the moment. Then
dispatch him by the most expedient means available.”
The head nodded.
“Obey me,” the man said. “But remember nothing until you next lay eyes on me. Now get on your feet,
dress, and go about your business. This should be done with all haste.”
Her shoes were back on.
“Off you go, now.”
The moment crumbled and the memory fell with it. She found herself at the edge of a dim, unremarkable
junction of several walkways.
“Prick on a stick.”
Where was she going? What was she doing?
You went to fetch food, you scatterbrained child.
Yes, of course. Something to eat. Something to make Oliver smile at me.
A flash of inspiration hit her and she knew exactly what he needed.
What does our dog-turned-whore-turned-murderess have on her corrupted little mind, I wonder.
Shut your trap, you old bat.
Missy strode into the dark.

Chapter 14

Her chosen will call themselves the Brothers ofCreation. They will be Her Intention, the legacy of human
creativity bent to Her purposes, and weaned upon Her ancient Methods, and they, too, will call me
—V. i
Scared left Tuppence crying. They always cried, at first. In a while he would send the boy up to Gisella’s
house of sin and her girls would feed him and dry his eyes.
He toddled his ancient frame up the twenty wooden steps leading from his bedchamber, avoiding, with
great difficulty, those that concealed his various traps. Blast, he must take some of these out. Security did
him little good if he slipped one day and found himself stuck on the point of a poison dart.
It was a shame about the other boy. He’d died of fright, perhaps, compounded with malnutrition and
general filth. He’d left the poor thing’s body where it had fallen, as it provided a perfect learning
opportunity for the one still alive.
Such darling things, children. Such wonders of God’s world. When you call me husband and master, my
sweet, what wonderful offspring we will fashion.
“Tick, tick, tock, my sweet. The watch stops at the end of the day.”
His voice echoed back from the plaster walls. The heat that burned in the back of his head flickered in
time with the lamps in their sconces.
And what do you want with this other man, my sweet? Well, soon I’ll know that secret, too, and in time
I will own every scrap of soul you try to hide.
He wandered the halls of his labyrinth awhile, alone with his thoughts. When he was a boy, he’d
wandered in a similar fashion through Hyde Park, sometimes halting to climb the Gate, until some
policeman or well-meaning citizen chased him off. It had been a distraction then. Now it was a necessary
exercise to keep the mind calm and functioning.
The labyrinth was one of four hidden in various towers close to the Stack. This one was his least
favourite, lacking a proper amount of madness in its design. It was functional, for certain, but hardly
inspiring. Unfortunately, since his hides in Aldgate and Dunbridge had been compromised, he had to
settle for this one. It sat below Gisella’s den of sin, so there was some consolation there. Fine and stern
old woman, she was, and she’d be chaste to her dying breath, bless her.
He walked through halls and staircases, past row after row of identical doors. His mind churned and
refused to lie silent. He caught himself ticking several times and each time angrily clamped his teeth.
Why did he feel anxious? It was planned, all planned.
He stopped, halted his breath. His ears picked up the last distorted echo of a scuffing. An intruder?
Moran didn’t know of this place. Neither did the German, or Boxer or Hobbyhorse. And Gisella would
never lower herself to walk these filthy halls.
Scared twisted his cane’s head, releasing the knife from the tip. The click it emitted resonated down the
halls. Scared’s senses picked at that noise, dissecting, calculating.
He flattened himself against a shadowed corner and waited.
At length a figure stumbled around the corner at the hall’s opposite end, stooped and limping. The
intruder placed his hand on each door as he walked, as if counting them.
Scared had not fought with his cane for years. It had to be used like a bayonet to be formidable. For a
brief moment he feared his arthritic knuckles would not be capable of it.
He could hear the intruder’s laboured breathing, the moist sucking of the terminally ill. The figure
shrugged through a pool of light.
“Oh, my boy!” Scared cried. He rushed from concealment even as the figure collapsed to the floor.
Scared knelt down and gathered the boy’s head in his hands. “Oh, my darling. What have they done to
Tears rolled down Penny’s cheeks, from eyes that stared glazed at the ceiling. The boy’s mouth opened,
closed. A bullet had cracked through his sternum; his shirt was black with old blood and filth. The wound
had been cauterised, probably by the broken flasher still hooked to the lad’s belt. His skin was pale and
sunken beneath the grime.
“Lie still, my boy. I’m here.” Scared knew Penny was dying. Nothing could be done but to give him up
to the cloaks, and that, Scared could never wish on one of his sons.
Penny’s breathing grew more relaxed as Scared stroked his hair. Eventually, the boy fell into a light
No, my child, I cannot save you. But there is life in you yet, and you deserve more than an infected
death in a lonely hallway.
“Don’t weep, my darling,” he whispered. “All is not lost. There are potions, my dear, secret mixtures
that can sustain you for a few glorious, final days. I will make one of these mixtures for you, my sweet,
and it will fill your veins with burning blood and bring strength into your legs once more.”
Penny opened his eyes again.
“And we will get you knives, my darling, for I know how you adore knives. And for those few days, you
will express that one act at which you were so blessed by Providence to excel.”
Penny’s tears dried up. Some of that stone came back into his eyes, that carefully crafted heartlessness
Scared had slaved over for so many years.
He could not help but smile.
Ah, pride; how can they call it a sin, my love?
The little bell dinged. Oliver found the shelves in their places and the lamp buzzing overhead. His first
step onto the floorboards sent up a creak, and then the skittering of retreating rats. He let the door slide
shut behind him, and waited.
Outside, Bergen sat casually on the front step, puffing on a thin cigar.
Oliver heard the whispering of shifting cloth, and turned to face the bookseller as he floated into view.
“I thought I’d be seeing you again,” the old man said.
“You seem to be closed for a while,” said Oliver. “Let’s have a chat.”
If anything, the man’s smile grew toothier.
“Of course. Shall we?” He indicated the rear of the store.
“Right here is fine, if you please,” Oliver said. “I have questions for you.”
“I’m sure you do.” The man’s hands clicked softly as he folded them together against his stomach. He
settled back into a sitting position, as if buoyed on whatever lay beneath his skirt. “I’m happy to
accommodate them, with the Lady’s blessing.”
Oliver opened his coat and drew the heavy book from within. Fickin’s eyes followed it.
“This is not theSumma Machina, ” Oliver began. “Not the real one anyway.”
“It’s the real one.”
Oliver breathed slowly. “I want no lies, Crow.”
“I have none to tell, Mr. Bull. That is the original script as written down by Atlas Hume in 1834.”
“Then can you explain to me why the canaries haven’t gone to war with you yet?”
“Ah, yes, the prophecies.” Fickin steepled his fingers. “The Brothers for Order cannot go to war, Mr.
Bull. Their only reason for being is to bring things into harmony. What wars have you ever known to be
Oliver rubbed the raggedy stubble on his jaw.
“So they know?”
Fickin nodded.
“And they do nothing about it?”
“You must understand the mentality of the clock, Mr. Bull,” Fickin said. “A clock is a machine. It
repeats one task endlessly, unchanged. That is its role. Even for its own preservation, a machine cannot alter that role.”
“What is Grandfather Clock’s role, in your opinion?”
“Grandfather Clock exists to bring about harmony and precision. He controls the environment, to make
it safe for the Mother to create. He makes it possible for the Great Work to be built.”
A faint sound penetrated the windows: two taps of Bergen’s foot. Entry had been accomplished.
Fickin straightened, agitation coming into his eyes. “But Grandfather Clock never stops with simple
harmony. He wants everything to tick to his tune, so that nothing can ever be out of place. Once he is
done with humanity he will turn his efforts against the Mother herself. He will suffocate her, as he has for
their entire union. Gods, when I think of the aeons he’s been doing this to her…”
A flicker of fire lit Fickin’s eyes.
And there you are, my Lady.Oliver tapped his pocket. Inside, Jeremy stirred.
“You have no idea, Mr. Bull, how old they are. They’ve been on our small little world since the great
beasts ruled it, hiding in their primitive brains and waiting for a race capable of birthing them. We are their
chosen people now, the builders of their womb and the stewards of their kingdom.”
“She didn’t think to kill him sooner?”
The fire flashed deep in those sunken eyes. “She didn’t know how, Mr. Bull. She doesn’t understand
him well enough. It is like asking a tree to understand a steamship. We were the first she found that were
capable of fathoming him; that is why she adopted us as her children. She needed our help. The Lord
simply wanted to dominate us.”
Jeremy nudged his nose out of the pocket. Oliver spread open the book and began leafing through
pages, focussing his attention on the flashing brass, to draw Fickin’s eyes there.
“She found someone, didn’t she?” Oliver said. “She found a whole gaggle of people lining up to help her
cause. Like Scared. And myself.”
The fire dimmed. “I’ve always been a bit ashamed that she felt she needed to look outside the
“So it really doesn’t matter who gets their hands on this weapon of hers. As long as it’s used, she’ll be
the one who benefits.”
Fickin licked his lips. “She’s waited so long for freedom from her tyrant consort. And now, through our
help, through the help of this man Scared, it is within her reach.”
The emotion welling up in the bookseller was Mama Engine’s own.
“We areher salvation, Mr. Bull. Can you fathom that? We tiny creatures of flesh and blood. She loves us
so fiercely for what we are willing to do for her.” He eyed Oliver with a smile. “She will need to take
another husband, you know.”
Three taps of Bergen’s foot: instrument delivered, awaiting the go-ahead.
“I think she will be disappointed,” said Oliver. “She and her kind aren’t welcome here.”
Fickin perked up. The fire danced in his eyes, casting its glow over the rows of spines lined on the
“So you know about the child, then?” he said.
Oliver nodded.
“Mother Engine always wanted children of her own,” Fickin said. The heat of his body touched Oliver’s
face. The air began to grow smokier. Illumination from no discernable source spread into the room. “She
once tried, long ago, to conceive from the Lord’s seed. What was born was an abomination to both of
them, a creature of disharmony and decay. It has dogged at their heels from world to world, unable to be
rid of them just as they are unable to be rid of it. But what else could come from a union of such hatred
on the one hand and indifference on the other?”
Fickin became distracted with the passions washing over him. Oliver took the opportunity to scan the
room and take in the changing light, the sudden smokiness of the air. Right now, in the back of the store,
those four furnaces were flaring higher as a fanfare for the goddess’ arrival.
It was time to leave. Oliver took one quiet step back towards the door.
“She likes you, Mr. Bull,” Fickin said. “You have qualities she fancies.”
Another step back. Jeremy poked his head fully out of the pocket.
“I don’t presume to understand her,” Fickin said. He floated closer as Oliver retreated, stretching out his
hands in a kind of pleading gesture. “She has needs and desires far outside the boundaries of human
experience, and she engages in many kinds of unions.”
There’s a vile image.Oliver snapped theSumma Machina closed and slipped it back into his pocket.
“She knows my opinion of her, Fickin. I’ll be going now.”
Fickin snatched Oliver’s sleeve. The voice that spoke next was no ancient bookkeeper’s, but a rattling
gasp like the last breath of a dying man. “Sheneeds you. She cannot suffer this again. She must have a
husband who will love her.”
The lamp overhead exploded, raining sparks onto the shelves. Strips of Fickin’s skin peeled off steel
bones when Oliver tore his sleeve loose, and Oliver bolted for the door. Jeremy burst from his jacket in a
flurry of ticks and buzzes as the shop exploded into orange light.
Oliver did not see what Aaron Bolden did next. For an instant time suspended, sound deepened, and
space expanded past comprehension. The cracks and fissures in the walls began leaking yellow pus. A
sickly green light flared up outside the windows.
Fickin’s cry for deliverance gurgled away.
The pus fell to the floor, where it picked up a sudden speed and rushed past Oliver’s feet. An instant
later a blast of heat struck him from behind, followed by a wall of hissing steam, and a shriek of pain went
up like the beams of a tower ripping itself apart.
This time without hesitation, Oliver tore the door open and plunged into the street.
The crack of the sidewalk against his cheek brought him back to clear reality.
Bergen made no move to help him up. The German drew his revolver and trained it on the bookshop.
Oliver lifted himself off the street, straightened collar and cuffs.
“Light it now, Phineas,” he whispered, knowing the sailor would hear him.
The derringer leapt into Oliver’s hand.
The bookstore stood dull and darkened. The door creaked shut. They waited.
Phineas appeared by Oliver’s side.
“Got the block evacuated, sir,” he said.
Oliver nodded, keeping his eyes trained on the door.
“Better cover your ears,” Bergen grumbled, leaving his own unprotected. Phineas ran off, already
bunching his collar around his head to dull his hearing.
Oliver’s heart stung for him.I’m sorry to have to do this to you, Phin.
Steel fingers slick with blood moved the shop door aside. One spindly appendage, bending evenly at a
hundred different joints and arching like a spider’s leg, reached beyond the doorjamb. Oliver heard
Fickin’s voice from inside.
“Why do you do these things?” the bookseller rasped, his face a hint of teeth and bloodied scalp. “Why
do you hate her so? All she wants is your love.”
The voice held all the sadness and hurt of the unjustly wronged.
The German loosed a shot that took Fickin in the face and drove him back. An instant later the building
exploded and they all crashed to the ground.
The concussion broke windows halfway down the street. A gout of fire threw the back of the shop’s
roof and its supports into the air and lit the Underbelly with more light than it had seen in twenty years.
The roof of the bookshop rained down in fragments for blocks around. Some of it had probably struck
the underside of the upper Concourse. Bits of plaster and twisted steel clattered on the street around him
as Oliver lay curled on the ground.
“Gott in Himmel,”Bergen cursed beside him. “How much did you use?”
The last pieces of the bookshop crashed to the street all around, and Oliver slowly uncurled.
“Twenty-seven,” he said. “A full third of Heckler’s supply.”
“Why so much?” the German asked.
They both got to their feet. Oliver removed his hat and shook it off, then ran a hand through greasy,
knotted hair. “I had to be sure that abomination of his never gets loose in the Underbelly.”
“I wouldn’t lay odds on it now, English,” Bergen said.
“I won’t be satisfied until I see it in pieces, Keuper,” Oliver shot back. “Now keep me covered.”
Obediently, the German raised his pistol and aimed it into the ruin of the shop. Oliver caught the rare
flicker of an actual expression on his face—amusement?Bugger him.
Amazingly, the door and much of the building’s façade had stayed intact. Dying fire flickered through the
shattered windows. Greater fires than these had already claimed the atmosphere of Whitechapel.
The door cracked off its hinges as Oliver swung it open. The bookshelves had toppled forward like
dominoes, spilling their wares all about the floor. Some were burning; most were simply blasted into
pieces and lay snapped and mangled in piles against the remaining walls.
Beneath one shelf lay a twisted heap of iron and steel. It twitched ceaselessly, respiring puffs of dry,
dusty smoke. It had too many arms, too many legs, and not nearly enough skin left on it, but it lived.
One of the old man’s arms grasped feebly at Oliver’s shoe.
“I’ll tell you why I hate her, Crow,” Oliver said. “I hate her because all the women and children that
slave in her factories or twitch and rot on her husband’s Chimney aren’t alive enough to hate her. I hate
her for the air, and the dark, and for the disease that’s eating my friend alive from the inside.”
The shape screeched like a heavy door on unoiled hinges.
Oliver watched Fickin trying to crawl and had to blink back tears. “I hate her because she doesn’t let
her people die.”
He raised his eyes and stared into the empty space were Mama Engine had once come for him.
“Please,” he asked, “let this one go.”
The twisted shape continued to squeal, continued to grasp at unseen things with steel fingers.
Oliver sighed, and stepped over the body. He walked over the downed shelves to the back of the shop.
The dynamite had broken a hole clean through the Underbelly. No sign remained of Fickin’s monster or
the four furnaces used to craft it.
Bergen, from behind: “Are we finished here?”
“Yes, Keuper, we’re finished,” Oliver said. “Get Tom ready to be moved. We’ll be going shortly.”
The German retreated.
Oliver stood amongst the ruins of the shop and let his sadness have expression. After the Uprising, with
the Underbelly burning, he’d sworn it in a silent pact with God: no more children shot in the streets for
getting in someone’s way, no more families broiled alive by steam guns for hiding in their cellars, no more
homes or lives burned and torn down.
And here I am, destroyer of my own city.
But this was the hideout of an enemy. This was the stronghold of an invader who would have brought
only more misery. That made a difference, didn’t it?
And what of those who might have been hit by stray debris? What of those who will suffer at the hands
of the cloaks when they come down on you for this?
Strange. That had sounded like the German.
The echo of Bergen’s momentary smile flashed in his mind. The German had never laughed; Oliver
imagined him laughing over this.
He dug the crushed body of Jeremy Longshore out of the rubble before departing.

Chapter 13

The second principle of the machine is Harmony. This is the core of the wisdom of the machine: that
component parts cannot but work together towards the accomplishment of the machine’s noble Purpose.
In that Harmony facilitates the completion of this Purpose, the machine will devote its resources to the
promotion of Harmony and the excisement of those elements that would draw it into chaos.
IV. iii
Gisella had never laughed, so why did Missy hear laughter? It had been echoing in her mind all day; that,
and a gravelly voice that whispered to her from every reflected surface.
“Bursting apart,” I believe it translates. In a few seconds you’ll cease even to dream, my pet. You will
live only for my voice, and will do all I ask of you.
Missy still wore a smile, brushed with beet juice to redden the lips. She wore red gloves and a red scarf
tucked around her neck. Had she dressed herself that morning? It was so difficult to remember.
“You are certainly invited to join us, Miss Plantaget.”
Missy started. Hews was offering to help her out of her chair.
“Oh. Of course, I should be delighted.”
She accepted the man’s outstretched hand and stood. Hews smiled at her and moved to join Phineas
and Oliver in the hall. The instant he turned his back, she shot her fingers to her temples and gave them a
good massage to clear the fog from her head.
She followed them down Sherwood’s staircase and then down the hall to Oliver’s room.
“Shut the door, be so kind,” Phineas said. Hews quietly closed the door once Missy had stepped
through. Smells of dust and spent candles came to her, along with the faint scent of a man’s body odour,
unmasked by powders or perfumes.
“Your face is distressingly grave, Phineas,” Missy said.
“Didn’t say it was easy or safe, did I?” Phin pulled his hat brim down, dragging it even farther over his
nose. The single oil lamp in the corner caught only the wrinkles on his chin and neck.
Phin reached deep inside his coat and withdrew a box of pale wood, carved with Oriental symbols and
painted in patterns of red, no longer than his stunted index finger.
Her attention turned to Oliver, with a vague notion that she was supposed to be watching him.
Oliver held out his hand for the box and Phineas placed it in his palm. Phineas’ hand shook as he
released it, and he withdrew from it as from a coiled snake.
“What is it, Phin?” Oliver asked.
The old sailor shuddered as he inhaled to speak.
“Chinamen call itmei kuan . Means ‘pleasing to the eye,’ near as it was explained to me.”
They all crowded around Oliver as he undid the clasp of scarlet string that held the box closed. Missy
could swear she felt a heat coming off Oliver above and beyond ordinary body heat.
Do not be frightened of your own heat when it comes on you,said Gisella.Encourage in your own mind
the breath to quicken and the face to flush, as both will be most arousing to your client.
Oliver opened the box with a single finger. Within, nestled in a crumple of unspun cotton, lay a vial of
blue glass. A glass stopper, held in place with copper braids, kept it shut. It could not have held more
than a thimbleful of liquid.
Hews cleared his throat. “How is this to take us anywhere, Phineas?”
Phineas had turned away, and now faced into the darkest corner of the room. “Doesn’t take you
anywhere. Frees up the spirit. Lets the breath out. You’ll be lying on the bed, no breathing, no heartbeat,
even.” Phin looked back over his shoulder. The lamplight caught electric brilliance in his eye. “But the
places a body can go, Cap’n! The things a body can see!”
Hews frowned then. “Hogwash. Opium addicts say the same, pitiable creatures.”
Phin eyed him over the rim of his collar.
“This ain’t opium, gentlemen,” he said. A hideous smile crept onto his gargoyle face. “This is St. Peter’s
gate in a bottle. You’ll be bigger than the world, Cap’n. They say it would turn a man into a god, if only it
didn’t kill him first.”
They all stared at the bottle. Eventually, Missy spoke just to break the silence.
“Well I for one am intrigued. Shall we try it?”
Hews huffed and retreated to the door. “I’ll have no part of this foolishness.”
Oliver slipped the bottle free with two careful fingers. “None of you will. Hold the fort, Hews. Find me
that entrance to the Stack and keep the German under control. We’ll be done when we’re done.”
Hews set his jaw, nodded, and departed. The door snapped shut in his wake.
Oliver offered Phin the bottle. “How does it work?”
Phin jerked away from it. “Confound it! Keep it back! Don’t…don’t tempt me.”
Oliver wrapped his fingers over the bottle. Phineas visibly relaxed as it vanished from sight.
The old sailor exhaled. “Just…there are terrible things to be seen, ’s well as wondrous. I never learned
properly how to protect myself. A body’s got to be so careful.” He rubbed shaking hands over a face
that suddenly gleamed with sweat. “I did a favour for some Chinese—what, I won’t say—when I was
over there. They let me have a sniff, just a sniff. I swear I saw…I saw…”
Missy shivered at the old sailor’s next word.
“God.” Phineas swallowed hard and audibly. “Spent twenty years just sittin’ in that room, workin’ up the
nerve to drink it. I don’t take it anymore—can’t—but I could never part with it either.”
Phin choked up. He clenched his fists and jammed them into his pockets, apparently done talking.
Oliver turned the bottle over in his palm. The liquid caught the light with the rich sheen of liquor.
I’m supposed to watch Oliver,Missy remembered.Someone told me to. A man…
The fiendish grin and teeth flashed back into her memory.
“No. I don’t…” escaped her lips.
The man’s voice:You will not remember any of this, little one. No, not a whit, until I command you to.
Oliver and Phineas were staring at her.
She cleared her throat and affected a broad smile. “Please forgive me. I haven’t been…Well, never
mind me. Shall we?”
Oliver lay back on the bed and Missy perched beside him on a fragile wicker chair.
Phineas hovered at the exit, sunken in his crumpled clothing, with his calloused fingers twitching towards
the door handle. “Miss, you take the bottle. You pop the cork and hold it under the cap’n’s nose, right?
Ollie, you take a sniff. Remember, only a sniff. Like a pinch of snuff.” He shuddered. “And don’t dare
drink it! Not a drop.”
“I’ll be careful, Phineas. Just get back on post,” Oliver said, passing the bottle to Missy.
“Not a bloody drop, hear?” Phin hesitated, wringing his hands. “One bloody drop—look what it’s done
to me.”
Then he left, shutting the door behind him.
Oliver looked up at her with that concerned, welcoming gaze that so frustrated her. She forestalled him
before he could speak: “How inappropriate, the two of us shut in a room alone.”
Oliver took her hand. Though the touch was light, yet still the warmth of it penetrated into Missy’s body.
Her insides began to quiver.
Your client may wish to court you as he would a proper lady, or he may wish satisfaction immediately.
He will indicate this through his gestures and expressions. In time, you will learn to read these cues as
clearly as letters and will know the correct course to follow.
She could not withdraw her hand.
“If something’s amiss, Michelle, just tell me,” he said. “No one will think the less of you for it.”
“Ollie, I can’t say. Ican’t . I’m not…Please, don’t ask me…Don’t ever…” She choked off, and painted
her mask back on with a fury. “Well, enough of the failings of womanly temperament, I say. Shall we get
on?” She lifted the bottle.
Oliver did not release her hand. “As much as I’m able and you’re willing, Michelle, I’ll take care of
A pause. Then, “I appreciate the sentiment, I truly do, Oliver. But we’re not here to trade pleasantries,
are we?”
Her hand withdrew from his. The heat of that contact receded.
He settled back on the bed, eyeing her curiously, and nodded.
She unstoppered the bottle and held it beneath his nose. He sniffed quietly, and she quickly withdrew it
and closed it.
Oliver’s eyes drifted closed.
Oliver, be careful,Missy thought.
“Oliver, be careful,” said her voice.
He nodded, then fell still.
Missy stared at him some long minutes, then slipped her fingers back around his. Nothing moved in the
little room.
He slipped from waking to sleep, and then into something else.
He was eight years old. He’d run away from Hews’ factory, where he’d been sleeping under the
smelting pots that kept warm long into the night. He’d stowed on the lift down into the Underbelly, and
chased himself through streets and alleys. The vagrants eyed him, the vendors hoarded their goods away
from him, and ordinary folk kicked him out of the way with a curse.
Behind a bakery on the Eighth Row, he made his bed. He smelled the scent of the bread and imagined
he was tasting it, and lay down on the edge of the Underbelly, nothing but air and smoke beneath him. He
would butter the bread, he decided, and he would have raspberry jam besides, and a glass of milk from a
real cow. And it would all squish together in his mouth and get stuck in the holes where his baby teeth
had fallen out, and he would worm it out with his tongue and chew it again, until it dissolved into his saliva
and slipped down his throat like syrup.
He must have fallen asleep. A boot to his shoulder blade roused him, then another to his hip rolled him
over. Then gravity took him.
He plunged down, leaving his body behind. The wind whistled through his hair and across his face. Ash
flicked across his eyelashes and tickled his neck and toes.
Sherwood was above. Sherwood was below.
Where did he stop, when the falling became stillness and the rushing air silence?
Oliver opened his eyes.
Below, above, all around stretched an endless vista of light and dark. The roiling shapes of massive
chains snaked between sparkles and flares of furnace fire. Embers swarmed in the air like fireflies,
chasing shapeless creatures of molten glass. His eyes adjusted slowly, as if coming from the light into the
dark, and the sky became muted fire of crimson and orange.
The landscape was not without form. Out of the web of chains and fire rose towering, geometric
buildings of copper-shaded glass, edged sharp as razors. Silk-fine strands of brass and silver linked one
to the other. Gears and springs turned to no apparent purpose on their outer surfaces. Oliver recognised
them: Shadwell, Stepneyside, Cathedral, and others in the far reaches of perception. Where the Stack
should have been stood a tower of intertwined mechanical arms pulsing with red light. Sulphurous fumes
billowed out like curtains raised by the wind, and everywhere, the clacking of machines and the roaring of
“This is how I always see it.”
Aaron sat beside him, perched on a steel beam connected to nothing. He sat with his knees pulled up to
his chest, and his coat-of-many-pockets dangling down. In the manner of dreams, his features seemed to
shift as if seen through water, the only constant his eyes, an unnatural blue that tracked on Oliver’s vision.
Where are we?
Aaron twiddled his fingers awhile. “There’s another side to things. This is where one finds theidea of a
place, as well as its ghosts and its dreams. Manchester is built of wicker and wool, and cotton rains from
the sky.”
Whitechapel hasn’t fared so well, I’d guess.
“All its dreams here are dead, surely as night and day were killed off by the smoke,” Aaron said. “Now
there’s only the three of them, and the little parasites that live in them.” He indicated the globs of glass.
And us.
“We aren’t really here like men aught to be. We’ve no histories anymore and no idea about ourselves.”
Oliver scowled at him.Remind me to speak to you whenever I’m lonely for gloom and pessimism.
Aaron laughed. “I am dead, after all.”
Not from where I’m sitting.
Oliver tried to settle down beside the strange dead man but found himself without limbs to move or a
rear to seat himself on.
Aaron, I’m here because I need your help.
“What happened to Bailey? I heard you talking about him.”
He’s dead. Sorry to break the bad news to you.
Aaron shook his head. “He’s not dead.”
The Boiler Men shot him, Aaron.
“And when have you known that to kill anyone in Whitechapel?”
What do you mean?
“I heard the bells silence him. He cried out to God when Grandfather Clock subdued him.”
You mean he’s on the Chimney?
Aaron nodded. “I heard him. The sound carried into this place.”
Oliver felt his real heart skip a beat, perceiving it like the echo of a far-off drum. The crew wasn’t safe.
Damn it all, Baileyknew where Sherwood was!
That limits my time here, Aaron. I’ll need to get back as soon as possible. But I need to know a few
things first.
Aaron nodded for him to continue.
Scared discovered a method to kill Grandfather Clock. How do we kill Mama Engine and the other
one?He had no finger to point, but Aaron followed his gaze to the depths of the city. In the shadows of
ash and smoke, glinting in the red light, a sea of pale sludge shifted restlessly.
He considered a moment. “My researches always seemed to point to the production of an event in the
same medium as the gods. I was always stuck on discovering what medium they dwelt in. Certainly, they
are nonphysical, but are they mental, or spectral, or aetheric? I could never tell.”
Scared must have found out.
“Mama Engine told him where to look,” Aaron said. “And Scared must have designed a delivery system
to carry his poison into Grandfather Clock. If he has discovered the effect necessary, then we’d
simply…But I would need to see…”
Aaron looked ashen. His face thinned visibly before Oliver’s eyes, skin paling, eyes sinking deep. For an
instant it looked as if he might withdraw right into himself and crumble to dust. Then he clamped his blue
eyes shut, breathed, and hugged himself. When he came back he seemed healthy again.
“I will need a close look at Mama Engine.”
‘You’ meaning ‘Jeremy’?
Aaron nodded.
I have a way.
Aaron’s fingers began fidgeting again. “Be careful how you use me, Oliver. The third god is part of me. I
can always feel him in my mind. I…might have sold him my soul.”
Oliver had no hands to clasp the man with, no smile to reassure him.
I need you to stay fast, man. You took the same oath I did when Bailey recruited you, I’m guessing.
You hold to that.
It did cheer him a bit. “Till St. Peter’s gates, I suppose. Queen and country, and all.”
Good man. I’m happy to have you on my crew, Aaron.
Aaron laughed. “Demoted! I ran my own crew up until three days ago.”
The crew! Oliver looked about.Ah…chum…how do I get back?
“Think up,” he said.
Before Oliver could ask the meaning of that advice, he had followed it. The city dropped away below
him at a fantastic rate, dispersing like wind-blown leaves. Only Mama Engine’s tower of arms remained
and for only an instant.
He breached the red sky and awoke behind the bakery to find a heel of bread sitting on the concrete
beside his right hand, buttered.
He awoke again, into a jarring shake.
Phineas bellowing: “Don’t—bloody—that don’t fuckin’ work, Yank.”
Heckler’s thin face and moustache coated in sweat: “Suh!”
Oliver tried to shove him off, but his strength faded and the arm flopped down. He tried to speak, and
the words came out slurred and useless.
“Get him the tea, woman!”
Phin hauled Heckler back. Missy appeared at Oliver’s side, tilted his head, and poured warm, bitter tea
between his lips.
“What?” he managed, spitting tea onto his chin.
Heckler clenched and unclenched his fists.
“They’re here, suh,” he said. His eyes quavered in their sockets. “The cloaks, suh. Dozens of them. And
the neighbourhood folk all on their tails.”
Phin spat onto the floor. “Cap’n, 1812 about to break out.”
“Oh, not again” escaped Oliver’s lips. Images of the Uprising flooded his brain: fire reaching to the upper
concourse, bodies left in gutters and streets, gunfire, and the hot, close confines of those tunnels they’d
built, where for endless hours Oliver and his men had sat and listened to friends and families and
neighbours scream and weep and finally fall silent.Not again. Not because of me.
He met the eyes of the others, anxious, expectant eyes, waiting for him to give the word.
Missy’s finger wiped a drop of tea that clung to his lips.
“They need you,” she said.
He extended her an arm. “Help me up”
Westerton was not above taking pleasure in his work. Those well-to-do ninnies at headquarters seemed
to frown on anything but grim-faced, joyless discipline. They said it was Grandfather Clock’s way,
efficiency over emotion. Westerton disagreed. Grandfather Clock’s way was for all parts to work
together according to a single Purpose. Each part had a Function, and no part—certainly not those
stiff-nosed codgers at the Stack—could impose its Function on another.
When I’m in charge I’ll drum them out and make them into fucking Catholics.
They’d told him his understanding would grow as his brass bones and copper nerves did. He’d told
them that he was the way he was because the Lord wanted him that way. At least they’d had the
intelligence to let him lead the attack—there was no better man for the job of vengeance than Marcus
“There’s no place to go, you scoundrels!” he cried. “I’ve denied you every exit. I’ve a man covering
every window. Come out now or I’ll have my men blast that door apart and execute every last one of
His voice rang satisfactorily in the cavern beneath the Shadwell Concourse. Now if only he’d had
something spectacular to wear to the occasion. His two best suits had been ruined by these foul Britons,
leaving him with an old tweed frock coat, moth-eaten at the cuffs, and slacks without a crease or proper
hemming. They’d also soiled his hat with so much of his own blood it might never come clean.
Ah, there was the anger again. Good.
The man beside him—Westerton hadn’t bothered to learn his name; he was a foul-aspected
churl—gestured with his rifle to the upper floor.
“Som’un in the window.”
Westerton followed his gaze.
“Well, bloody shoot him, then,” Westerton ordered. “Show him we’re in earnest.”
The man locked his rifle to his shoulder and let fly an expert shot that caved the glass and tore aside the
“Ha-ha!” Westerton bellowed. “There’s a dishing of the Lord’s Justice!”
“Din’ get ’im,” the man said, lowering his rifle.
Westerton wheeled on him. “Simpleton! I’ll do it next time.” He drew his weapon. Those few hours in
the noxious and corrosive air of the downstreets had marred its perfect finish.
By the Lord’s name, what a horror.The downstreets were much worse than anything he’d ever heard of
them: the air, the stench, the dark, and those loathsome mutant wretches that wandered the place. It had
ruined his suit, pocket watch, and much of his skin during the fall. Only faith had kept him alive, and his
prayer that the Lord would bring him back to Harmony. And so He had. Rage and devotion had fueled Westerton’s rapid and tireless climb back to the Lord’s realm.
Now revenge was only ten paces away.
“Come out, you bastards!” He discharged his weapon into the tenement’s front door, punching a hole in
it and nearly splitting it down the centre. “I’ll crush your heads with my bare hands.”
Was that not a rallying cry? Was that not a marvellous cue for his assemblage of brutes to cheer?
He turned to the churl at his side. “What is wrong with your men? Don’t they enjoy working the Lord’s
The man ground his bestial jaw. “The folk, gots a queer look on ’em.”
Westerton turned around and surveyed the vast crowd of Shadwell’s wretches that had gathered to
“What, these beggars?” Westerton said. “Pay them no mind.”
“Sir, they’s angry wit us. Some’s armed theyselves.”
Westerton squinted at them.(Damn this infernal dark!) Therewas something shifty about them, some
gleam in their eyes like hungry dogs. Some indeed carried weapons—butcher’s knives, crowbars, pipes.
Not a one of them carried so much as a pistol.
“Pay them no mind, I said,” Westerton ordered. “They think they can best us with little bits of steel. Let
them try.”
Westerton pivoted back to the tenement. “You have a ten count, rebels! Then we make sieves out of the
lot of you.”
“He’s got a set of pipes, that one,” Phineas grumbled.
Oliver leaned heavily on Missy’s shoulder for support. The potion had drained nearly all strength from
his muscles.
“Bergen, what do you see?” he called.
The German called down from the mezzanine. “Three dozen. All armed. Rough men. We won’t be able
to bargain.”
“Not with that fop,” Hews said. “Loud-mouthed braggart. How many times have we killed that man,
Bergen’s window exploded. The German flattened himself against the wall.
“Are you hit?” Hews called.
“Nein,”Bergen said. “A magnificent shot, though.”
“Bergen, are you well enough to fire that cannon of yours?”
A savage gleam came into the man’s eye. He ran to fetch it.
“Heckler, take his post. Hews, the other window. And don’t be seen.”
The two men ran to their positions without question.
Phineas shrunk to the floor, quaking, his hands clamped over his ears.
And it will certainly get louder.
Oliver turned to find Missy staring at him with a fire in her gaze, her jaw set. Her eyes were a pearly,
almost opalescent blue, and completely unafraid.
“Michelle,” he said. “Get Phineas and the doctor down into the tunnels.”
“Oh? So I’m to run off and leave the killing and the dying to the men, is that it?”
“For the love of God, woman, not now! I needshooters, Missy. No amount of smiles or sashaying will
help us right now.”
“You ungrateful swine!”
“This is not a debate,” Oliver said. “Move your feet or we’ll have words.”
Missy snorted. “I quite think we’re having words now.”
The door exploded. An instant later, a piece of the staircase followed suit. One or both of them yelped
and together they dove towards the side hall, landing in a heap of tangled limbs.
Oliver coughed as dust and wood chips cascaded through the air. “You’re all right?” he asked.
“The picture of health,” Missy snapped.
Tom and Dr. Chestle appeared in the hallway arch.
“Ho, ho!” Tom said, clutching his gut with one hand. “Hardly the place, now, birds.”
Missy shoved herself away and stood.
“What’s going on?” the doctor asked.
Without another word, Missy grabbed Phin’s sleeve and then the doctor’s and more or less dragged
them into the hall.
Thomas, now dressed in his soiled shirt and oversized jacket and sporting a boy’s cap on his head, bent
down and hoisted Oliver to his feet with a one-handed jerk.
“How now, Chief?” he said. “You seem out of sorts.”
Oliver tried unsuccessfully to stand under his own power, and fell back on Tommy’s arm. “Hewey!
What’s the word?”
“Westerton’s rallying the troops, I think. First line’s coming up to fire.”
“What about the crowd?”
A pause. “They’re keeping back.”
Good.But how long would that last? This had to end quickly, before the anger of those poor coves
overwhelmed their good sense.
“Find some brick or steel for cover,” Oliver ordered. “Don’t return fire.”
Heckler froze in the middle of cocking his Winchester. His expression spoke his opinion of that order.
Hews saw it as well. “Swallow it, lad,” Hews told him. “Find cover.”
“Us too, Tommy.”
Tom pulled them both up against the thick arch of brick around the door.
The cloaks’ first volley burst like firecrackers and pieces of plaster and glass rained down on the foyer
and the stairs. Two more volleys rang out, the cloaks firing with precision timing.
In the silence following, Westerton boomed again.
“Inside, my Brothers! Glory to the Harmony! Glory to the Great Machine! Bring them to me, my
Footsteps approached the front door.
“Tommy!” Oliver hissed.
The big man looked at him in confusion.
“The traps, Tom!”
Tom swallowed Oliver in a hug and dove into the corner.
The first cloak kicked in the front door. The bolt disconnected from the doorjamb, causing a copper
latch to fall into its vacant place. The latch touched a copper plate, freeing electricity to run from a hidden
chemical battery into the four sticks of dynamite embedded in the brick.
The ensuing thunder ate the four or five cloaks closest to the door. The whole of Sherwood shook with
the blast. Portraits crashed to the floor upstairs; more plaster and glass toppled from above. Oliver felt
heavy impacts on Thomas’ back, but the big man, braced shoulder to the wall, held fast.
Oliver choked on a lungful of dust and Tommy’s oily odour. He heard and felt the grinding in his friend’s
abdomen. He swallowed to moisten his throat.
“Ready!” he called.
Tom released him, stood, and turned. Oliver slumped against the wall, finding some strength in his legs,
and fished out his derringer. He checked above: Hews had his Bulldog out, Heckler, his Winchester.
And Bergen stood atop the stairs like a Greek god.
Three cloaked ruffians streamed through the door. Hews and Heckler set upon them instantly, raining
fire down from above on both sides. One cloak fell dead; the others simply reeled aside as more came
through. Oliver added his derringer to the barrage; Tommy hurled a brick. Together they subdued this
next group, but as the third one came through Oliver realised both he and Hews were out of ammunition,
and Heckler would be soon.
Oliver scrambled to reload.
“I send you to your places in hell,” Bergen growled. Oliver grabbed Tom by the suspenders and
dragged him back.
The noise alone shattered all the windows at the front of the building. The round burst one cloak into
strips of red and brass. A steam cloud streaked after the bullet, cracking with white electricity, which
lanced through the whole crowd of canaries. As one, they spasmed and dropped, smoking and twitching,
to the floor.
“Mother of Jesus!”
Oliver didn’t know who’d said that.
In the blink of an eye twelve Brothers died. Just outside the door, steam rose from a hole large enough
to fall through.
If the functionality still existed in his organs, Westerton might have pissed himself.
“What was that?” he cried. He snatched the churl’s sleeve. “What was it?”
“I dunno,” the other man muttered.
“Egads! What on the Lady’s black Earth could do such a thing? How would rebels get ahold of it?”
Lord Grandfather, protect me.
The Brothers’ eyes fixed on him, their faces all identical looks of astonishment.
“What? Do you need me to tell you what to do? Kill them, you simpletons!”
When the Brothers hesitated, the crowd on their fringe shifted uneasily. Some raised their weapons.
“Do you want a fight?” Westerton yelled at them. “Then come and get one. We’ll butcher you all!”
At that instant shots rang out from the tenement and the crowd surged forward.
The Brothers, distracted by the shots of the rebels, did not gun down the crowd as Westerton had
imagined. The outer line of Brothers fell beneath iron pots and crowbars, screaming and panicking.
More shots rang out from the tenement, felling two more Brothers close at hand.
“I refuse to let you win again, you villain,” Westerton bellowed. He raised his revolver and blew one of
the crowd to mist. Then he charged the headquarters of his nemesis. Bullets hammered through his vest
and coat, lodging in the mechanisms of his body. His next two shots destroyed large stretches of wall.
“I will avenge you, Brothers!” Westerton screamed as he barrelled through the shattered arch. “In the
Lord’s name and the pursuit of Harmony!”
On the other side of the doorway was a staircase, winding tightly around a support beam. At the top of
the staircase, clearly visible through a gap between smaller beams, stood the largest gun Westerton had
ever seen.
“Fucking…” was all he had time to say.
An impact hammered his right shoulder and tore his arm from his body. His collarbone and ribs
collapsed on that side. He spun wildly, careering off the archway.
Lord, protect me…
Blistering steam rushed over him, searing exposed skin and eyes. Cracking lightning followed and…
Oh, by the Lord, the pain!He couldn’t stand, couldn’t feel…
The floor struck him in the face. His whole body burned, inside and out. Oil flooded his mouth and heat
seared his brain. In an instant, senses and thoughts burned away, leaving only agony and rage.
Huge hands clamped around his neck and began closing with the force of a dozen steam-powered lifting
The fucking crow!
His remaining arm shrieked and bent as he lifted it, but it obeyed him. With a towering effort of will, he
lashed out at his attacker. The brass bones in his fingers sank deep into slick flesh. He tore it back and
struck again, this time latching on to thick bones. He squeezed and twisted these, yanking them from
beneath the skin. The pressure on his neck released and he drew a halting breath.
Another body tackled him from the side, this one lighter, flimsier. Westerton glanced down. Even
through the white streaks that marred his vision, he recognized the drawn face of his nemesis.
Nothing noble or eloquent came up Westerton’s throat, then, just shrill, bell-like laughter.
He yanked his fingers free of the other brute’s rib cage and shot them out at his adversary’s throat. He
squealed with glee as they found purchase around a soft, human windpipe.
One quick twist, one tick of the clock.
Massive hands hauled his fingers back, robbing him of his prise. He struck out with his other arm,
forgetting it was lost.
Then the bullets came into him. Round after round, six, ten, twenty penetrated into the core of his body,
denting bones, knocking gears apart, twisting springs. His body shuddered, and with a curse on his lips
he passed out of harmony and fell still.
Thomas collapsed.
Oliver forgot his burning throat. He wheezed his friend’s name and reached out to him over a stretch of
floor impossibly long.
Thomas Moore: the latest victim of Oliver Sumner’s ill-fated crusade.
Oliver’s vision ran with black spots and then vertigo conquered him. Through reeling perceptions, he
watched Heckler rush up to the fallen cloak and put three more shots into him. The young American then
ran to the door, sidled up against the remaining brick, and began shooting outside.
Oliver concentrated through the ringing of gunfire and the dulled sounds of combat and strained to hear
the only thing that mattered to him: Tommy’s breathing.
It was the German’s voice he heard. “You must get to safety.” Bergen lifted Oliver by the collar and
dragged him to the side of the room.
“Check him,” Oliver whispered.
“If he lives, he lives,” Bergen said. Bullets pinged off the beams above. Bergen deposited him just inside
the hallway and left him there.
Oliver may have passed out, for the next things he saw were Missy’s moist eyes as she bent over him.
“That’s it, Oliver,” she said. “It seems I’m to be the one taking care of you.”
She held a canteen to his lips and he drank like a camel. When he was done she wiped the excess off his
His first question: “Tommy?”
For a single instant, Missy’s face betrayed her panic, and then she was as calm and as soft as could be.
“The doctor is working on him now. They want to speak to you when you’re ready.”
Whoever remains.“Help me up.”
Missy hoisted him with surprising ease, given her small frame. With him leaning on her for balance, they
hobbled into the foyer. Thomas lay in a corner, splattered in slick blood. Dr. Chestle knelt over him,
covered to his elbows in gore, while Phin looked on. At Oliver’s entrance, the sailor looked up, and
shared a gaze that communicated the hopelessness of the situation.
“A saw,” the doctor said. “I must have a hacksaw, or anything that will cut iron.”
Phineas hastened to obey, a pronounced stoop in his step. Oliver’s gaze fell back to Tom.
I can’t help him,Oliver told himself.If he lives, he lives. Then,I’ve seen him weather worse. He hadn’t,
but it was a comforting lie.
Reluctantly, he pulled his eyes from his friend and allowed Missy to guide him to the front door. Outside,
he found Hews supervising the disposal of the dead cloaks and the distribution of their firearms. The
townsmen were carrying the bodies one by one and tossing them off the side of the Underbelly, not half a
block away.
As soon as they saw Oliver, the pointing and the questions began.
“Were they after you, Oliver?”
“What in heaven’s name’ve you got in there?”
“Are we going back to war?”
“What do you need us to do, Oliver?”
Oliver gestured to Hews, who mounted Sherwood’s front steps and turned to the crowd. “Quiet! We
can do nothing until we all settle down and hold civilised council like civilised men.”
The shouting died off, though murmurs continued. Oliver looked out on the sea of faces, stained with
soot, blood, oil, some with tears. It was a force all its own, the mob anger, something beyond reason and
beyond control.
A man Oliver knew, a baker, stepped from the crowd, his ribbon-thin teenage son with him. He still
wore his apron and working shirt, covered in flour and ash and with the sleeves rolled up. The prints of
bloody fingers stained the corners of his apron.
“Oliver, we know you’re up to something. The whole place’s buzzing ’round it,” He began. “We want
Oliver swallowed. “Fred…” he began.
“You killed them, didn’t you?” said the baker, moustache twitching rapidly as he spoke. “Ain’t no one
who’s done it before, but you did, and the whole town knows it. We heard the battle down there, and lo,
no Ironboys climbing back up. Just you. A cove draws that like a chalk X.”
“Fred…” Oliver tried again.
The baker blundered ahead. “And what with these canaries showing up on your doorstep, we know
you’ve got something new. We’re sick of it, Oliver. I’ve been mixing ash in my flour for weeks, and
yesterday this crow comes a-knocking saying my boy’s got to go to work in some factory starting his
next birthday. We want in.”
How do I say no?Wasn’t this what he had longed for—the average man finally digging in his heels?
Hews leaned in close to him and whispered in his ear. “They’re willing, lad. You can’t deny a man his
proper time.”
For an instant Oliver was aware only of the hundred pairs of eyes on him.
They wanted to fight. Oliver had felt it for five long years—in their stares, in their none-so-casual
greetings, in their body language. Since the Uprising’s bloody end, it had been simmering in the back of
the minds of every survivor. Oliver had ignored it, placated it, redirected it, but now, with some forty
cloaks murdered in the street, they were going to have war no matter Oliver’s fears.
It’s a second chance. It’s a chance to do it right.
He tapped Missy lightly on the shoulder and, with some hesitation, she withdrew her support. Oliver
wobbled a little but stayed upright. He gave the baker a smile, clasped his shoulder, and stared over him
at the crowd beyond.
“All right, listen, now,” he called. “I need all of you to prepare, as the Boiler Men may be down here in a
matter of hours. I need the tunnels reopened and stocked. I need a weapon placed in the hand of every
able-bodied man, and I need everyone incapable of fighting evacuated to the tunnels. I need any other
cloaks in the Underbelly dealt with, and I need barricades set up on the Parade outside the lift station.”
Immediately, the fevered undercurrent stilled, and the crowd buzzed with galvanized energy. A rush of
excitement filled Oliver toes to crown, a sensation of confidence and competence and indestructibility,
and for an instant he forgot the Uprising, and remembered why he’d led them.
“And I need every explosive that can be found placed in the hands of this man.” He pointed to Heckler.
“I need all this done in one hour, gentlemen. One single hour.”
They held still, waiting for more.
Hews leaned forward. “Now,you slack-jawed cockneys! Hop to it.”
The men ran in all directions. The baker grabbed his son by the shoulder. “Now we give ’em what’s
coming,” he said, and they both bolted away.
Oliver watched them hustle, swollen with pride for the few instants before he remembered how many of
them would likely be dead by midnight.
“Goodness,” Missy breathed. “You have them trained like hounds.”
Hews chuckled. “One needn’t train a hound to sniff, lass, nor to chase a hare. All the same, you’re a
regular John Bull, lad.”
Oliver nodded, surprised to find a grin spreading over his lips.
“So they say.”

Chapter 12

Chapter 12
His chosen will call themselves the Brothers of Order. They will be the expression of His Function, and
the makers of His Harmony, and they will call me Master.
—IV. i
It was like a veritable sewer of the filthiest dregs of humanity, all coated in their own foulness, all
gathered together in a drainpipe so clogged that no amount of rain would ever wash it clean.
Yes, that’s it.
And those churls at the Stack had sent him knee-deep into it without so much as a clothespin to protect
his nose. Yes, he’d botched the capture. Yes, he’d let the British sons of bitches shoot him to death. It
hadn’t beenhis fault. They’d been hiding in a tool cabinet, for goodness sakes; a bloody, bleeding,fucking
tool cabinet. How could he have known? Yet his superiors had blamed him harshly and shipped him off
to Shadwell to wallow in his shame.
Except that Marcus James Westerton did not feel shame, as it didn’t do one a damned lick of practical
good. What he felt was anger; anger at those queen-worshiping zealots and whatever inborn human
stupidity drove such people to rebel against their betters.
Anger, you see, wasuseful . Anger made people do as you wanted.
“Look sharp, you,” he growled, without warning or provocation.
The young lad who was the target of the growling shrunk back like he’d been actually struck. The Stack
had given Westerton two fresh recruits as underlings and he had to go about breaking them in. The
sooner they kowtowed to his every whim and cruelty, the faster they could become an adequate fighting
unit. This one lad—Eugene?—Westerton had ordered to stay by his side as a bodyguard. The other
marched some twenty feet ahead, in the company of the intolerable street urchin leading them to their
And what a prise, what a prise.
“You, boy!” Westerton called. “How much farther is it?”
The little cretin turned a gap-toothed grin back at the question. “No’ long, sir. Few mo’ turns, i’ is.”
“It had better be soon, or I daresay you’ll get no shilling. And if I’m in a mood I’ll have you hauled off to
the Chimney.”
“No worries, suh. Few mo’, likes I said.”
His growl seemed to have little effect on the human rodent.I might have him hauled off anyway, on
account of his irksome presence.
Despite himself, Westerton felt his foul demeanour slipping. Whether this creature was lying or not, the
day would be a good one. Either he would send that animal to the Chimney, or he would have
satisfaction on one of the men who’d shot him. He’d almost had him once, but the villain had eluded
Westerton with the help of that damned bookseller Fickin. A traitor and rotten to the core, that one. Why
didn’t the Good Lady simply burn him up?
Because the Lady is as inconstant and as fickle as any woman. Not like the Lord. Ah, his is the beauty
of structure and logic. Unassailable. Hedeservesto be worshipped.
“Here, sirs,” the boy said. “Just here.”
They had arrived at an alley, which, like all the alleys of this God-cursed tower, was dark and stank of
mould and general hideousness. Westerton checked the street to either side. He recognised none of the
tenements nor the guttering lamps or the stray dogs probing the stairways and doors looking for food.
“Where are we, Brother?” he demanded.
Eugene swallowed hard and shook his head. “I…don’t rightly know, sir.” He cringed at Westerton’s
gaze and mumbled an apology.
The street boy stood expectantly at the alley mouth.
“Presumptuous child,” Westerton said. “You think I’ll pay you before the job is done? For all I know
you’ve led us to a whorehouse and will run off with my shilling.”
The child shook his head. “Led you true, I did, suh. The door’s at the end, in there.”
“It had better be.” Westerton motioned Eugene to move up beside his brother-in-gold. Westerton
himself drew out his 1.20-calibre breech-loading sidearm, which he had ordered custom built at great
expense. It was always a fine day when he got to fire the thing.
“You stay here,” he said to the boy. “We’ll be back presently.”
The boy sat patiently on the curb and stared at his shoes.
The alley’s shadows swallowed his two underlings after a single step. Cursing under his breath,
Westerton followed. The dark that closed over him was nearly total, revealing only hints of the walls and
the vague outlines of forms in front of him. He’d never been able to see properly in the dark since his
initiation, when Grandfather Clock had blessed his heart and replaced much of his nerves with copper
wiring. Westerton trusted that the Good Lord had a reason for this particular debility, though he
sometimes found it irritating.Not that I’m ungrateful, noble Grandfather. Not at all.
Two shots filled the alley. Something wet splattered on his face and frock an instant later.
“To the sides, my brothers! Give me space.” Without waiting, Westerton discharged his weapon directly
down the alley’s length. He thrilled to it: percussive force sufficient to shatter nearby windows and enough
recoil to tear the arm off a mere human being. His enthusiasm dulled somewhat as the impressions the
muzzle flash had burned onto his eyes resolved themselves into two bodies crumpled on the street in front
of him wearing gold vests.
His heart-clock began to fall out of rhythm. “Brothers?” he said. “Answer me, you disobedient
At a whirring and grinding from behind, Westerton grabbed for another shell from his pocket and
scrambled to reload.
That’s it. Get closer, Englishman. Get up where I can see you.
Rapid, plodding footsteps accompanied the noise. At the last moment Westerton whirled and discharged
the weapon into the centre of the massive shadow closing in on him. The shadow jerked and halted.
Westerton laughed aloud. “Take that, traitor. A taste of the Good Lord’s justice.”
The shadow swiped out a hand and ripped the gun from Westerton’s fingers.
“What do you know?” it said, pointing to its belly. “Got me a matching pair now, Chief.”
“Wh-what?” Westerton stammered. “You’re a cloak! You’re a bloody crow, that’s what you are!
Fickin put you up to this, the no good bastard.”
Then a voice from behind: “It occurred to me that you probably don’t see very well in the dark, Mr.
That made his heart-clock twinge painfully. He was out of balance, his perfect order disturbed. He felt
an infirmity creep into his knees, and spun around to find two figures, one hunched as if aiming a rifle, the
other tall and thin. He pointed accusingly at the taller one.
“You! You’re under arrest.”
“I’m very busy right now, Westerton,” said the man, “and I can’t have you or yours prowling about the
Underbelly looking for me.”
At that Westerton cackled. “Do your worst, villain. Kill me again if you like. I’ll simply come back for
you tomorrow, and I’ll have more men next time, now that I know where you’re hiding.”
“Ah, yes, that. Well, surely you don’t think I hired that young lad to show you to my real hideout.”
“It doesn’t matter. I know your face. That is all I need to find you again.”
“Be that as it may, I’ll need a few days more. I’m going to have my associate shoot you and then we’ll
be tossing you off the tower.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Listen closely, Canary. I’m going to give you your gun back before we drop you. Use it only to defend
yourself. The hounds shouldn’t bother you unless you become hostile.”
He’d intended something more eloquent, some scathing words to put these renegades in their places.
Well, perhaps a sterling display of violence would suffice. One second was all he needed; a quick
squeeze or a quick jerk and the battle was won even if they shot him down. A single tick of the clock.
The Ticking Lord had long ago taken away his pain, and then his fear of death. He hesitated only an
instant, then lunged.
The third man shot him in the throat. The big man dragged him back by his collar, while the others closed
in. He took seven rounds in the stomach and chest before his assailants were done. In each flash
Westerton absorbed the grim-faced glare of his adversary, memorising its creases and features until he
knew them as well as his own.
Body forced out of harmony, he slumped to the ground and found he could not move.
It doesn’t matter. The Lord protects me. The Lord will bring me back to harmony so that I can strip the
eyes out of that fucking creature and break his skull with my fingers.
His senses went dark, and he was alone with the ticking of his own heart.
The Ninth Prophecy was delivered to me as follows:
Whether this year I see will be a time for mourning or celebration I do not know, for so much will be lost
and in a single stroke so much gained. How can She contemplate such an act, and how can I, knowingly,
consent in its execution? I do not understand this strange path Providence seems to have laid out for me,
to be a vessel for two warring minds and to aid in the slaying of one by the other.
For She will kill her mate, of this I am certain. Since the vision has come to me they have both consented
to its propriety. Even He, the Great Machine, knows it is fated to occur, and though He cannot give the
act His blessing, for such sentiment was long ago banished from His mind, His very incapability of
considering another outcome admits his tacit consent.
This is madness, and yet She is not mad. She, after all, existed before She took Him as Her lover. Was
He man or machine before that horrid affair? I cannot say. The answer is there in this terrifying new mind
of mine, if I dare to ask for it. But I dare not. I haven’t the courage.
Another is coming…Isee…
I will name this my Tenth Prophecy, and it was delivered to me thus:
She will take a mortal lover, a new consort to fill the place of Her murdered spouse. Who this will be I
cannot yet see, but he will be a creature of logic, as the Great Machine was in the beginning. She has
been angry for so very long, and this poor man will bear the penalty for Her suffering. My mind trembles
when I dare to dwell upon it.
This man is to be moulded as one moulds clay or stone. What She desires of him is Her secret to keep,
though She would tell me, if only I was not such a coward.
Almighty God, why did they pick me? Of all the whelps wandering London’s streets, why am I to be so
cursed? For I know, too, what I am to suffer, what terrible deeds I am to perform at the behest of these
creatures from Beyond.
I call these things my Eleventh Prophecy, and will speak on them no more.
—IX. ix–xi
Candlelight gave poor illumination at farther than reading distance, and she hadn’t made any sound. She
just had a way of being noticed.
Oliver closed theSumma Machina and set it on the short wicker table.
“Miss Plantaget,” he said. He rose, approached her, then swept up and kissed her gloved hand. Her hair
was down and fell about her shoulders. The soft light seemed to glow beneath her skin as her lips spread
in a smile. Realising he’d been staring, Oliver cleared his throat. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
She cocked her head and blinked lazily at him. “I suppose you’re aware that there are perfectly good
reading chairs out in the lounge, not to mention better light.”
“Solitary contemplation can be good for one,” Oliver said. “Phin says the Hindus and the Japanese do it
all the time.”
She fixed him with a stare he found unreadable.
“I don’t doubt that Phineas says it,” she said. “He also says he once owned a pet sea serpent he called
Oliver chuckled to hide his growing unease. Why was she looking at him so intensely?
“I haven’t heard that one before.” Oliver straightened his vest, then the suspenders beneath it. “What is
“Thomas is awake again. I thought you would like to know.”
“Thank you.” He made to push past her. When she didn’t move aside, he waited.
“Is there something else?” he asked.
Her eyes searched his.
“Oliver,” she began. Several expressions passed over her face in rapid succession. “It’s the German.”
Oliver sighed. “He’s a sullen bravo, I know. I’d stick him with a different crew if I thought any of the
others survived.”
“You got word, then?”
Oliver nodded. “Joyce’s address was hit by the Boiler Men early this morning. The cloaks assaulted half
a dozen other places at the same time. I can’t say there’s much hope.”
“I’m sorry.”
Missy’s face readjusted into the subtlest expression of sympathy, and suddenly all the sadness he hadn’t wanted to feel flushed over him in one wave. No Joyce, no Sims, none of the other crews. Oliver knew
how it would have happened: echoing footsteps coming up the street, a blast of steam through the door,
another through a window, leaving the men to choose between fleeing into the street and being shot or
hiding inside and being broiled alive.
During the Uprising he’d seen it happen to a neighbourhood family, and he’d run to his secret tunnel and
hid. They’d chosen to stay inside, and he’d listened to the mother scream for more than an hour before
the Boiler Men got around to executing her. That memory had always been caught on the question of
whether she was screaming for her children or screaming from her own pain. Silly thing to wonder about,
all these years later.
A warm finger poked into his arm.
“Come back, Oliver,” Missy said, a soft, petite smile on her red lips.
Oliver cleared his throat. “Sorry, I was just—”
She held her finger up to interrupt. “I don’t care to know where you were just then, Mr. Sumner. The
past is really not something one should worry over. Don’t you think?”
She lowered the finger. Her eyes awaited agreement.
“Right,” Oliver said finally. “That’s a sensible piece of advice.”
“I’m glad you agree.” She drew her finger through the air as if following the path of a fly, eventually
landing it on an unseen piece of furniture. “Getting back to my original question…”
“The German. Right.”She isa distraction. “I know he’s abrasive and I don’t want to make excuses for
“Then don’t.” Missy’s look became harder.
“…but right now he’ll do us more good than otherwise. You should have seen his shooting, Michelle.”
“It might be better that I didn’t,” she said. “He’s an evil man, Oliver. That’s as clear as day to me.”
“I wouldn’t have chosen him, for certain.”
“Then kick him out. Let Heckler use that ghastly steam gun of his. He can’t be trusted; surely you can
Missy looked to be in genuine earnest—no, in panic. He watched Missy’s jaw and lips tighten.
“He can’t becontrolled .”
It’s the same expression as the last mission,he realised.She wore the same one just after she’d
stabbed…Oh my.
“I think he can be,” Oliver said, trying to reassure her without exaggerating his chances. “I’m keeping an
eye on him and I’ve got Hews doing the same. I think we can keep him in line. Besides, he wouldn’t give
up his cannon willingly, I don’t think.”
Missy scowled. Her fingers fidgeted on her handbag. “There are other ways to get it away from him, you
Oliver’s eyebrows shot up. “What did that mean?”
A small gasp, and then Missy was all smiles and fluttering eyelashes. “Just a suggestion, Mr. Sumner, an
attempt to be helpful. You were once a thief, were you not?”
Oliver smiled back, allowing himself to be led from the subject. “I know many people would have
considered me one. This may be a different situation.”
“Well, there you are.” Missy gathered arms close to her stomach and tipped her head to him. “Just a
suggestion, then. Well, please just…Well, watch him, would you?”
“I said we would keep him in line.”
“Then, my gratitude, Mr. Sumner.”
“Anything for a pretty face, Miss Plantaget.”A very pretty face indeed.
She smiled at him, then strode into the foyer as if she had somewhere very important to be.
Dismissing Missy’s strangenesses for the time being, Oliver stowed theSumma Machina on his bedside
table. The language made perfect sense to him even though he had never so much as looked at it before.
This oddity had been accompanied by a burning in the back of his skull, identical to when he had sighted
the ghosts on the rusted stair.
He hurried down the hall to one of the unused chambers that Dr. Chestle had converted into a sickroom.
Oliver swung the door open and flinched at the smell of alcohol and the greasy odour of Tom’s sweat.
Thomas lay shirtless atop the covers of the room’s single bed. The doctor sat on a short oak stool to the
right, sewing shut the new gaping hole in Tom’s stomach. Jeremy Longshore lay curled in one corner like
a dog.
“ ’Hoy there, Chief,” Tom said with a wave.
Dr. Chestle calmly pressed Tom’s arm back to the bed. “Please try not to move, Mr. Moore.”
“Ah, the doc’s a bit grumpy this morning, Ollie. Seems he’s a bit miffed about me being shot. Imagine!”
Oliver walked up to the bed and inspected the wound. “Bigger than the last one, Tommy,” he said.
“Three inches side to side,” Tom said. “You could drop a shilling through me.”
Oliver laughed automatically, trying not to betray his trepidation. Black veins lanced across Tommy’s
chest beneath the skin. They radiated from the flasher burns on his ribs and shoulder, like the tunnels of
burrowing worms. Dark grey patches discoloured large portions of his arms and stomach. His chest was
a patchwork of scars, notably the group of them over his heart.
“I am a right mess, aren’t I?” Tom said.
“No uglier than usual, chum,” Oliver said. Tommy’s face was a wreck as well. Chestle had patched
some of the wounds closed with stitches and bandages, but the left eye was still nothing more than
burned, burst flesh. The right watered constantly, but he seemed to be able to see from it, and that was a
“Bet my arm doesn’t seem so strange now, eh?” Tom lifted his mechanical arm to show the point where
iron bones pierced out of malformed human muscle.
Chestle again pushed the arm down.
“Kindly lie still, Mr. Moore.” The doctor was sweating almost as much as his patient. Oliver detected
the faintest tremble in the man’s hands.
“Best follow his directions, Tom,” Oliver said, “or I might have to shoot you again.”
The poor doctor’s eyes flared wide.
“The man is quite the disciplinarian, Doctor,” Tom said. “Of course, I would have shot him as well if my
aim wasn’t so lousy.”
The doctor paused. “That’s appalling. That’s no kind of talk for civilised men to engage in.”
Oliver laid a pitying hand on his shoulder. “There’s not a word of it untrue, Doctor. Surely Hews warned
you about us.”
The doctor cleared his throat and admitted, “He did not praise your good sense.”
Oliver rubbed his own jaw, where the stubble had progressed to the soft beginnings of a beard. “‘Good
sense’ is a relative term, I’m afraid.”
The doctor finished the final stitch and cut away the excess string with a penknife. “Good sense is good
sense, Mr. Sumner. I’m advising that Mr. Moore stay confined to bed for now. He may have whatever
food bolsters him but should refrain from imbibing for the time being.”
“I’ve always wanted to try teetotalling,” Tom said.
“I would see you outside, Mr. Sumner,” said the doctor.
“I’ll be there presently,” Oliver replied.
Dr. Chestle packed up his equipment and left to wash his hands.
As soon as the door shut, a groan tore out of Tom and he curled his hands over his belly.
“Easy, Tommy, easy.” Oliver fetched a cloth and dabbed at the big man’s leaking eye.
“Bloody, I’m all right. Just feels like a rat eating my liver, is all.”
Oliver’s guts had long since knotted irretrievably. He tried to speak and found his mouth dry.
Tom scowled at him.
“Now don’t you dare go and tell me you’re sorry for dragging me out on business last night. I had to be
there in case things went sour, and we both agree it’s a better thing that I got shot than someone else.”
“Ah, Tom…” Oliver felt tears coming to his eyes and blinked them back.
“I’ll go out again, Ollie. Often as you need.” Tom gestured after Chestle. “I’m a walking dead man, and
the cutter knows it. I’d rather spend my last days pounding on cloaks than lying in bed like a grandma.”
Oliver clasped him on the shoulder, trying to smile. “That’s my lad.” Oliver jabbed his thumb at the
doctor’s bag. “Don’t think he’d mind.”
Oliver left the room as Thomas stole himself some brandy.
He found Dr. Chestle in the bathroom, drying his hands with a frayed towel that had been in the building
since Oliver purchased it. Grey and red wisps swirled in the large bowl that stood in for a proper sink.
The tub was half full, it being the crew’s only way of storing water; plumbing was reserved for Aldgate
and Cathedral Towers.
The doctor looked half dead himself: pale skin, unkempt moustache and hair, eyes sunk deep into the
head. Oil and blood stains marred his white shirt and vest.
“Tommy seems to be under the impression that he hasn’t long to live,” Oliver said.
Chestle’s sigh was like the gurgle of air escaping a punctured lung.
“I’m unable to tell you how much time he has, Mr. Sumner.” The doctor finished with the towel and hung
it over a bent iron drying rack nearby. “I had one patient die on me in a matter of days. Some are still
holding on despite all sense. Once the disease turns, there’s no way to know.” The doctor began
absently rubbing his left hand where brass nibs poked through the skin.
Oliver crossed his arms. “Don’t figure there’s a cure.”
The doctor spent a minute smoothing his moustache. “I’ve spent most of my career studying this ailment,
Mr. Sumner. So have my colleagues. We’ve yet to determine a viable cause, much less a cure.”
Oliver knew the cause—not that a man of science would believe it. Oliver offered his hand and the
doctor took it.
“Thank you for your help, Doctor. The Underbelly could use a man of your talents.”
Chestle smiled at that, but shook his head. “I have patients in Bishop’s Gate and Fenchurch who need
me, Mr. Sumner, but your offer is appreciated.”
“Then how about the offer of a few hours’ rest? We’ve an empty room if you’d like to make use of it.”
“Your offer is very kind. I may.”
Oliver escorted him back to the sickroom and left before the doctor realised his brandy was missing.
He detoured to Heckler’s room briefly to check his progress.
The young American looked up from the tiny desk they’d acquired for the work of translating the tape.
He set his fountain pen aside and mopped his brow with a well-used kerchief.
“What can I do for you, suh?”
“How’s it coming along?”
“Jus’ about done, suh.” He shifted uncomfortably. “But Ah got some bad news.”
“I’d say I’m getting a taste for it,” Oliver said, then gestured for him to continue.
“Well, suh”—Heckler showed a few of his translated pages, coated in scribbled notes and freehand
diagrams—“Ah’m almost done with the translation, but there ain’t no way Ah can build this here
“Why not?”
“Ah don’t have the tools it’s gonna need, suh. I don’t have the materials. And…” He placed the papers
neatly back on the table. “Ah just wouldn’t know how, suh. This ain’t no gun and ain’t no trap neither.”
Oliver sighed. “Finish it anyway. At least that much will be done.”
Heckler nodded and slipped the pages back into their proper place in the manual, then bent to work
without another word.
The poor young man had been slaving on that one task for six hours now, though Oliver knew he was
desperate to be part of the planning. Heckler was the only one among them who had any kind of
mechanical aptitude. Except for Bergen, perhaps, but Oliver wasn’t about to let him lay hands on the
“Is that really Bergen Keuper upstairs?”
Oliver looked at his young crewmate curiously. “I have no reason to doubt it.”
Heckler fiddled with his pen. “Ain’t that something else, eh, suh? Even back in Williamsburg, Ah’d heard
of him. Is it true he took a lion through the eye at three hundred yards?”
“I have no reason to doubt that, either.”
“Hot damn—beggin’ pardon, suh. Do you think he would teach me if Ah asked?”
“I wouldn’t know,” said Oliver. “But let’s just wait until after the ruckus dies down to ask him, eh?”
“Oh. Of course. Sure thing, suh.”
Oliver left him to his work and climbed the curly staircase about Sherwood’s trunk towards the lounge.
He found Hews standing at the top, hand slipped into the pocket of his plaid vest, pipe smoking from
between his teeth. His hair was roughly combed, his muttonchops ragged, his face downcast and sullen.
“Damnable shame,” he said. “I served with Bailey in Afghanistan. There’s never been born such a
natural soldier as he.”
“You have my condolences,” Oliver said.
“Don’t pretend you’re too choked up, lad. You’ve hated the man since you were fifteen.”
Oliver sighed and joined Hews in silent contemplation of Sherwood’s random support beams. “I never
hated him, Hewey, but I won’t pretend now that he treated me well.”
“I can’t fault you for your honesty, lad,” Hews said. “But he was a great man, and I’ll go to my grave
saying nothing less. He took me for a collaborator at first, you know; couldn’t get past the fact that I
owned a factory.”
Oliver smiled at memories. “You might have called it a poorhouse, or an orphanage.”
Hews shrugged. “I did my bit. The cloaks never caught on that my efficiency came from feeding my
workers more than gruel and oil. Well, until recently.”
Oliver turned to search Hews’ face. “What do you mean?”
“A cloak came by last week,” Hews said. “Told me I’d have to join up and take my vows or step aside.
I’d love to believe they’d let me take my retirement in the country, but we both know them better than
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
The older man shrugged. “Nothing anyone can do about it. The canaries know me too well.”
“But Bailey might have been able to sneak you out on the airships. And we could still hide you here.”
Hews gave him a wise, fatherly smile. “After tonight it might not matter, eh?” He left the rail. “Shall we?”
They entered the parlour, finding Bergen brooding over the main table. Maps and lists carpeted the
room, stealing spaces on chairs, end tables, and great expanses of floor, some pinned on the walls
concealing the nameless portraits and their disapproving glares. The one on the main table was a detailed
map of the Stack, specifically, the terraced rings of factories, train stations, and chapels that coated its
outer skin.
Bergen acknowledged their presence with a nod. His midsection had been expertly repaired by the
doctor. Bergen had hidden the bandages beneath a loose shirt and now affected perfect health.
Oliver greeted both of them, then planted his knuckles on the table and leaned over it.
“We found an entry, no doubt,” Hews said. “The Stack is actually fairly accessible. We’ve five
entrances via cable car, four via rail, and walkways from Aldgate and Commercial Towers.”
Your American says the device will work only from within the Chimney,” Bergen said.
Oliver nodded. He’d feared as much.
The map was bewildering in its complexity, a twisting maze of hallways, walkways, lift shafts, staircases,
chambers, and rooms and massive engines, pistons, and constructions arranged in no sensible order. The
Work Chamber dominated the Stack’s centre, at the base of the monstrous shaft from which the Stack
took its name. There, in that dark place, the crows toiled endlessly on Mama Engine’s Great Work. The
Chimney paralleled it on the south side, much smaller and fifteen storeys down from the Stack’s surface.
“Do we have an ingress yet?”
Hews traced a route on the map as he spoke. “I can get us to the freight lift that runs down the southeast
edge of the Work Chamber. Only thing is, there’s a large gold chapel three storeys down, so we’re likely
to be spotted.”
“We will go in disguise, then,” Bergen said from behind crossed arms.
“Won’t do us a mite of good,” Oliver said. “We can dress up all we please, but the canaries know their
Hews sucked his pipe. “I’m still waiting on telegrams from a few of my acquaintances. I might be able to
get us down a steam pipe on the north side. It’s all ladders and we’d need masks, but there’s not likely
to be any golds, at least.”
“A long march around to the Chimney, as well,” Bergen said.
Oliver scowled, his patience already wearing. “I didn’t think you would balk at a little hike, Keuper.”
Bergen glowered. “You mock me.”
“You’re the one moaning about it. Stiff upper lip, as we say here.” He looked to Hews. “How long, do
you think?”
Hews shrugged. “No more than a few hours, one would hope.”
“Smashing. Keuper, you’ll go out and get us supplies.”
The German’s face flushed. “I am no one’s errand boy.”
Oliver straightened to his full height. “You’re irritating me, Kraut. This will be difficult enough without
your obstructing us at every step.”
Bergen looked a bit surprised, as if he was realising for the first time that he was not the tallest man in the
room. “You accuse me of hindering you.”
“Yes, Keuper, I do,” Oliver said. “I need the support of all my men on this. If you have some problem
being necessary, we can discuss that at a later date. Besides, of all the ones here, you’ve likely been
through the most hostile of environments, and presumably know how to prepare.”
Bergen was slow in his nod.
Oliver bent back to the map. “Good. Get some money from Heckler and return in a half hour.”
“So soon?”
“I expect more cloaks will be coming after me, and I am not difficult to find if one asks the right people.”
Bergen nodded again. He uncrossed his arms. “You’re more prudent a man than I thought. I apologise
for my behaviour.”
“Thank you.”
Bergen strode out.
Hews had watched the entire exchange without a word. He lowered his pipe. “You realise those were
the same words Bailey said to you just yesterday.”
Oliver lowered himself into a chair. Suddenly his bones and his brain ached. “They worked on me,
didn’t they?”
“I must say,” Hews continued, “that I, myself, wouldn’t have known how to handle that man.”
Oliver shrugged. “He needed to know I was strong enough to be followed. That was all.”
Hews turned to wander, idly examining maps and portraits.
“You’re becoming more like the boy I knew, who was always brazenly stealing my wife’s Bundt cake
but never any of my money or valuables.”
“She made a good Bundt cake, rest her soul.”
“I’m just glad to see you coming back into your own.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Hews smiled and waved the question away.
Oliver took a moment of silence to run down the mental list of things that needed to be done. “Hews,”
he said. “I need to know more about Aaron Bolden.”
Hews scrutinised a portrait of a particularly sad-looking woman. “Doesn’t seem to be much point now,
“I need to know what comprises these abilities of his. I need to know what he is capable of doing.”
“Bad form,” Hews said, “to speak of the dead as if they’re still around.”
Oliver couldn’t quite bring himself to assert that Aaron was not, in fact, dead. The hesitation stretched
long enough that Hews turned from the portrait and raised a fuzzy eyebrow.
“My, my” was all he said.
Another minute passed before Hews began speaking. He wandered the room’s perimeter as he spoke.
“Aaron had a gift, lad, apparently since his younger days. He didn’t tell too many people of it, you
understand, because of accusations of Spiritism and so forth. He said he could see the inner essence of a
thing, whether person, animal, building, or machine. I never think I quite wrapped my mind around it.”
Oliver leaned forward. “What did he see of Whitechapel?”
“Patience, lad,” Hews said. “Aaron was born in Manchester, but he’d always felt a draw towards
London, he said. He came here at the age of twelve. That was in 1877, just after the Boiler Men put up
the wall and drove out the last of the British Army loyalists. They’d been fighting for eight or nine years
before that. You’ve never seen them use their lightning guns, have you? What they could do to a
man—to a battalion even—with a single shot…Such things shouldn’t be allowed.”
Hews chuckled. “Right—Aaron. He described Whitechapel as one might a garden or a reef. He spoke
of Mama Engine’s breath coming in and out of the Stack and the beams and pipes and all the larger
things as her garden. He thought of the towers, that is, the floors, buildings, cable cars, and so forth, as
Grandfather Clock’s domain.” Hews puffed his pipe, and finding it empty, tapped the ashes out in the
small bowl provided for that purpose. “He said they weren’t territories, as a normal man might govern,
but rather limbs and organs. He viewed Whitechapel as two immense systems of biology intertwined.”
“Only two?” Oliver asked.
Another pause. “My boy, youare full of interesting intelligence this morning, aren’t you?”
“Did he ever talk of the other one, the one that lives in the downstreets?”
Hews considered. “Not as I recall. He did seem to have an intimate fear of looking down off tall heights,
Oliver sighed.He likely knows more about that one by now. He considered pouring himself a drink, just
to have something to do with his hands.It’s ten o’clock in the morning, chap. Tea might be more
appropriate, don’t you think?
“Must I beg for clarification, lad?” Hews said. He’d returned to the table and seated himself while Oliver
was distracted.
“By the bye, there’s a third god in Whitechapel,” he said.
“I gathered.”
“I think we may be able to turn it against Mama Engine. I just need to talk to Aaron again to arrange it.”
Hews grunted. “You might start with prayer, or a ´ance.”
Mercy. How shall I begin to explain this?Oliver pushed his scraggly hair back from his forehead.
“Well…I suppose if you were going to think I’m mad you’d have already come to that conclusion.”
“Long ago.”
“Aaron isn’t dead, Hewey. Rather, I don’t think he is. He’s a prisoner or guest of the third god. He’s
connected to it in a way that at least allows him to speak to it, and he may have intelligence about these
creatures that could be helpful. He said he would be gathering information.”
Hews rubbed his muttonchops. “All right. That rapping and séance nonsense aside, I wonder how one
speaks to the, shall we say,nebulously dead?”
A sound ticked at Oliver’s ear. Not a noise, so much as a pregnant silence hovering at the door. He
straightened and cocked his head. “Iwonder who it is that’s standing in the hall, listening to us.”
Hews started. They both turned their heads.
Missy stepped into view, bashful and charming. “You’ll pardon me, of course. I was passing by on the
way to the kitchen and found your conversation irresistible.”
Both men stood. Oliver offered her an empty chair. “If it wasn’t impolite to say so, I’d have to call you a
sneak, Miss Plantaget.”
“‘A woman of many talents,’ will suffice, Mr. Sumner.” Missy slipped herself onto the cushion with a
cat’s grace. “You know, I met a man once who was a Spiritist. He said the dead can speak through a
special board with letters on it.”
Hews chuckled. “I doubt that this one would, lass.”
“All ideas are welcome at this point, I think,” Oliver said.
Missy set her elbows delicately upon the tabletop. She had chosen gloves of a deep red this morning.
Funny that Oliver hadn’t noticed them before.
Missy drew a cigarette from her bag and held it out for Hews to light it. He did so, with an air of
importance about the action. Missy then turned her dyed lips and huge, glittering eyes on Oliver. “Correct
me if this is a woman’s simplification of what is certainly an important and complex situation, but couldn’t
you return to the place you met this dead man the first time?”
You’re playing me, girl. I wonder what you want.
Oliver mused a bit. “That would be a mite difficult. I’m not entirely certain I was anywhere at all.” Again
that brandy tempted him as the memories of those horrible vistas stirred. “I don’t think they canbe
anywhere, as you or I define the term.”
“Poppycock,” Hews muttered. “A body has to be somewhere. We just need to find the route, is all.”
“There isn’t any way to walk to this place, Hewey.”
A voice from the door: “There’s a way.”
They all looked up to find Phineas at the door, sunk in his ulster coat and hidden beneath his hat.
“Sorry f’r eavesdropping, Cap’n, like some fool housebreaker,” he said. “But there’s a way, aye.”
“Tick, tick, tick.”
Irregular footfalls echoed down the long hallway. Windows of red stained glass in unknowable geometric
patterns measured the wall space between arches. Clocks of brass and chrome gazed down from the
ceiling. The floor shook with the rumble of the Stack’s constant eruptions. These things passed in and out
of John Scared’s senses as he walked to his death.
Someone had betrayed his location. It was the only explanation. Some dishonest underling had turned
informant and led the baron to him. He wondered how much money the baron had offered him, or what
religious claptrap.
The cloaks had shown up on his doorstep. It could not have been accidental, as he had made an entirely
new residence—in addition to his usual hides—at the side of a theatre, down an alley, in the most
crowded and confusing level of Commercial Street Tower. They’d walked right up and knocked.
“Baron Hume, the First Favoured, requests your presence, sir.”
Of course, Scared had presented his most congenial smile and informed them that he was glad they’d
come, and that he had intended to give a report to the baron in the near future, in any case.
“I have information I’m certain will be of great use to him.”
A quick train and lift ride later they had deposited him at the entrance of the Long Hallway, as it was
called. The two cloaks who had fetched him still stood guard just beyond the bronze entry doors. There
was no need for them to provide an escort, as the hallway had only the one exit.
He took another step, leaning heavily on his cane.
What bothered him was that the baron must know his intentions by now. The British agent they had
captured two nights previous could not have held back any information about the designer of the
god-killing device. Scared had to assume he was being brought here as a prisoner; yet if the baron had
wanted information, he would have had the Boiler Men haul him to the Chimney and there would be no
need for any personal meeting.
Scared did not like unknown variables.
“Tick, tick.”
Hmmm, perhaps it is a nervous habit after all, my dear.
But perhaps Baron Hume was ignorant of who had asked Scared to design the weapon and then given
him the intuitive knowledge to do so. Such information might be used as a bargaining chip. All he needed
was to barter passage out of this hallway. Once back inside the Stack, a thousand avenues for escape
presented themselves.
The Long Hallway led from the Stack to Baron Hume’s personal chapel. Both hall and church hung in
the air without any apparent means of support. An escapee, breaking through the stained glass, would
find not even a beam to shimmy down to freedom. And given the proximity to the Stack’s burning maw, the air would likely kill him before he managed to descend anyway.
The hall ended at another set of bronze doors, smaller than the hall’s entry but set with greater detail.
Gears and springs of all shapes and sizes covered both doors, churning faintly away. Scared studied for
an instant the pattern of their movement, tracking motion from gear to gear; one spring wound another,
which unwound and coiled yet a third.
Above these doors a silver clock ticked its regular time. Of all the clocks in Whitechapel, this clock
alone told only the proper time and nothing more.
The doors ceased their motion, and steam blew out of their hinges as they swung outward.
You’ll see me through, won’t you, lover?he thought.Half of the man belongs to you, after all.
The heated tickle at the top of his spine, so long an indicator of the Mother’s attention, had faded all too
rapidly over the past few days.
The doors fastened themselves to the walls. With an effort, Scared straightened and took one reverent
step into the chapel. For all the times he’d been in it, he could not help but marvel. Seething red light
illuminated the chapel floor, cast by the Stack and entering through the enormous plate window at the
peak of the chapel’s arched roof. Every inch of every wall, even up in the arched ceiling, was covered in
clocks. The clocks were of all sizes and shapes, rendered in brass, iron, copper, tin, and glass, all
showing strange and foreign calculations of time, and all ticking in their own rhythm. Thousands of ticks.
So many they washed together in a sound not unlike the sea, or a forceful wind blasting in the ear.
The faces of Grandfather Clock.
The baron waited beneath the great quartz clock that hung like a cross at the far end of the room, silk
top hat and cane tucked under one arm.
Scared removed his hat. “Sir.”
Baron Hume lifted his head and gazed at the quartz clock with reverence. Any human features he may
once have possessed had long since been subsumed: his skin had become strips of brass, and his only
identifiable features were his expressionless eyes.
“Jonathan Augustus Scared,” he said.
John Scared waited, reading into the baron’s stance and movements. Hume was a difficult man to read,
given what had been done to his physical body by the two intelligences that inhabited it. He seemed to
have taken more and more of the Clock into his habits, such that his movements read like a gear turning,
and yielded no useful information.
Today, however, Hume’s shoulders were ever so mildly slumped.
The baron turned smartly on his polished wing tips.
“On the one hand there are limits, on the other creations. When one ends the other must outgrow itself to
the point of stagnation. The ending of one is the ending of the other, but one wonders where that ending
Heh. He actually needs my help, darling. What a lark.
“What do you need me to find, sir?”
Brass eyes, tinged red by the light, studied him. The baron wore a tailcoat and impeccable slacks, a
crisp and gleaming tuxedo shirt beneath. Strange how he always made a point of dressing like the man
he’d been.
“The ending of order without the growth of chaos, sealed in the code of scratches upon the skin of trees.
Where is that which is yours no longer?”
He knows then. As expected.“I have yet to locate it, sir. When I do I will notify you.”
The baron’s featureless black head tilted slightly. “The enders of prophecy are men who walk upon two
legs. These creatures of great words and frail bodies saw at the stem of that which must come to be. Do
they hide in their own skin and resist harmony?”
“The Britons are mostly wiped out, thanks to the golds,” Scared said. “I have my boys looking after the
rest. Not to worry. I have them well in hand.”
“A hand on the saw moves. Is the saw vicious when at the neck, benign when at the trunk? Who can
hate that which is moved by another hand?”
Scared’s eyes narrowed. “Your point, sir?”
“You are a tool, Jonathan Augustus Scared. You are the saw that revels in the shedding of dust, thinking
itself mighty.”
Is that you speaking, pet? Heh. You really know nothing about me.
“I live to serve, sir. Truly.”
“A dog who walks in front of his master still cannot swing a cane. In this one thing he can be proud, but
no more.”
I already know what place you’d pigeonhole me, my love.
The baron continued. “Creation without limits is chaos. A yard without a fence is a plain. A sea without a
shore is a place where men drown.”
A long pause followed, so long Scared almost turned to leave. Then Hume spoke again, in a voice softer
and more human.
The question carried genuine pain. Was it the man speaking now, and not the double tongue of the
“Can you be more specific, sir?”
Another long pause, like a machine with a stuck gear, grinding to break loose. When the words finally did come, they emerged in a clockwork rhythm with gaps and starts, like Hume was choking on them.
“Brother slays—brother a plant—despises the—sun why—does a harp fall—out of tune when—the
music is—so beautiful?”
Scared actually laughed. He cackled, his voice ringing off the hard surfaces, mingling with the ticking,
playing with the light.
“You don’t understand, do you, Hume?” he said. “You can’t fathom it at all. Under all those gears and
pistons, you’re still that same simpleminded architect who could never get his buildings to stand.”
The baron stared with the eyes of a statue.
“Shehates him, Hume. She hates him because she loves him and she loves him because he doesn’t care
one whit about her. It’s madness, all of it. Mania and melancholy all around. Your gods areinsane,
The baron replaced his top hat. The white ribbon wrapped about it near the brim sparkled like sunlight
on water.
Yes, I said it, my sweet. I said it directly to his face and to yours. And yet he won’t kill me for it because
it is the God’s own truth.
There was something of a man in the way Hume turned away to contemplate his Church of Measured
Scared took it as his cue to exit. He deliberately planted his cane out of synch with the cacophony
around them.
Yes, Hume, see if you can find your answer in that ticking monstrosity.
Marvelous! The weak-willed man who’d written theSumma Machina was still buried in that mechanised
body, and still remembered the failing days of his own sanity. Back then, the baron had realised the
absurdity of the Lord and Lady: a match made in hell and consecrated with shit and shackles. Scared had
simply reminded him of that.
Scared had read him. The man inside had stirred, and begun thinking and feeling again. So much the
better if his doubts rendered him unable to act. That just left more of the city open to acquisition by one
Jonathan Augustus Scared.
Oh, my sweet. Even your adopted son cannot save you.
The bronze doors hissed closed, and Scared practically skipped down the Long Hallway.