segunda-feira, 6 de setembro de 2010

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.

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