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.
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
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,
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
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
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.
“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
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’?
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
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
“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
“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
“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.
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
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
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
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.”