Patreon LogoYour support makes Blue Moon possible (Patreon)

Tales of the Meridian Society! (TheCorsair, Madame Mim)

Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#2
Greenwich Royal Observatory
Friday, September 27, 1918



"Ah, delightful. How nice to see that I hurried across the bloody continent to be the very first to arrive."

Doctor Algernon Swift scowled at the room in disgust, before turning to hang his coat and hat. He was a robust man, possessed of doctorates in physical and electrical engineering, known as much for exploring and big game hunting as for his advances in the fields of Martian technologies. Although nearing his middle fifties, he was still healthy and vigorous and more than a match for many men half his age in the boxing ring or barroom.

Still scowling, he moved to the sidebar and poured himself a large brandy. "Blasted inconsiderate, if you ask me," he continued, thumping the bottle down. "It isn't as if I'm not busy, after all. And if I can make it on time, then why can't Captain Drake or the bloody Fenian? They've only got aeroships, after all."

Doctor Swift had heard, once, that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness. He preferred to think of it as the only way he could have a sensible conversation. But, by the time he'd drained his glass, he was feeling more relaxed. Filling it again, he wandered over to the great oak table that dominated the room.

The table was a circle, for the same reason that Arthur's Knights sat at a round table. It was set with a large disc, half black and half white. Etched on the circumference of that circle were the words "Inter Lucem et Tenebras Stamus". He toasted the words as he sat. "Damn right we do," he agreed cheerfully.

"'We do' what?" The voice belonged to a younger man - from Doctor Swift's perspective, at least. A man with curly dark hair, smartly dressed in the uniform of a Royal Aeronaval Officer, who spoke in an accent that betrayed his upper-class upbringing.

"Stand between the light and the darkness," Doctor Swift responded easily. "Don't we, Captain Drake?"

"But of course," answered Colin Drake, moving to the sidebar and pouring himself a coffee. Black, with just a splash of brandy. He was still, technically at least, on duty. "If we do not, then what purpose is served by the Meridian Society?"

"Damn right!" agreed Doctor Swift. "Too bloody damn right."
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#3
"Madame LaMonte! Always a pleasure." Erik Heinz-Schmidt smiled and tugged his sleeves down a little nervously. A tweedy man in his early thirties, he had been recruited for the Meridian Society for his talents in linguistics and interpretational skills in languages both modern and ancient, though his interest in botany and herb lore had come in handy more than once. He bowed and kissed Madame LaMonte's hand.

"Always. Pleasure, after all, comes in many forms Herr Schmidt." The attractive widow smiled warmly, her eyes meeting Herr Heinz-Schmidt's. The reluctant heir to Germany's leading steel production company had always felt her gaze to be predatory, unsettling. Anne Marie knew this, of course, which was why she did it. One of these days, she had sworn to herself, she would get Heinz-Schmidt to loosen up. Him and that uppity Yankee gun slinger.

"Er...Shall we?" Erik offered his arm to the woman, who smiled like a cat who had cornered a mouse, and took it.

"Damn right! Too bloody damn right."

Herr Schmidt apologized quietly to Anne Marie, who only laughed. Unlinking their arms, he held the door open for her. "Gentlemen, we are in the presence of a lady now." Erik smiled with good humor, though it was a gentle heads-up to the others in the room.

The way Madame LaMonte entered the darkly-paneled room could only be described as slinking, her crimson lips turned up slightly in an enigmatic yet slightly self-satisfied smile. The woman was very aware of her...assets, and of how to make her presence known without saying a word. She hung her coat on a peg near the door before sitting gracefully in a chair that had been pulled out for her.

"Good evening gentlemen." Her voice slid through the air like fine silk over polished marble, her dark eyes moving around the room to each man present as she turned that smile to each of them, lingering a few moments longer on Herr Schmidt again just to fluster him all the more.

It worked. Clearing his throat, he rocked back and forth on his feet a few times once greetings had been exchanged. "So, does anyone know if Sam is supposed to be here this time? I know she has to come the furthest. Captain Shane, well...who knows, ya?" he chuckled nervously, never having felt quite like he fit in very well.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#4
The door to the room swung open, and the voice of Hderr Erik Heinz-Schmidt called out "Gentlemen, we are in the presence of a lady now."

Captain Drake was the first to his feet, but Doctor Swift was right behind him as Madame LaMonte swept gracefully in. Both men were, in their ways, gentlemen. And gentleman would not fail to rise in the presence of a lady. Although, to be honest, it could be truthfully said - albeit not in mixed company - that no man would fail to rise in her company, gentleman or not.

"Good evening gentlemen." Her voice slid through the air like fine silk over polished marble.

"Madame," Captain Drake said, accenting his words with an elegant nod of his head. "Madame LaMonte," echoed Doctor Swift, voice slightly gruff. But then, wasn't it always?

Herr Schmidt shuffled nervously. "So, does anyone know if Sam is supposed to be here this time? I know she has to come the furthest. Captain Shane, well...who knows, ya?"

Captain Drake took three long strides, and drew out a chair for madame LaMonte. "Soon, I believe. I received a telegraph from her, shortly before my arrival, indicating that she would be here..."

The door crashed open as Samantha "Sam" Cavendish. In counterpoint to the elegant Madame LaMonte, she wore a charcoal grey sack coat with a matching waistcoat and trousers tucked into plain black boots that reached mid-calf. The only concession made to her sex was a linen blouse. Captain Drake and Doctor Swift, who had just taken their seats, bobbed back to their feet. "Howdy, gentlemen," she announced cheefully, "an' y'all can sit back down. No need to stand on ceremony - I'm jus' one o' th' team." Then her eyes narrowed. "Miss LaMonte."

She didn't dislike the woman. Or, at least, she tried not to dislike her. But Sam had fought for everything she'd ever gotten, first for respect from her pa and then for her place in the Rangers, and then for respect as a Ranger, and she had just never had time for "bein' all girly'. And Anne-Marie LaMonte epitomized everything she'd ever been prone to describing as 'girly', and something about that just rubbed her the wrong way.

Shaking Herr Schmidt's hand in passing, she crossed to the sideboard and poured herself a tall glass of scotch. "Any o' y'all want some, while Ah'm over heah? Ah'm in a right good mood, so Ah'll offer jus' this once." With that she crossed to the table, giving Doctor Swift's shoulder a comradely squeeze as she went past.

Then she stopped cold. "Captain Drake, what th' hell y'all doin'?"

"I am," he said, "holding your seat."

"Why?"

"Because," the Captain answered, in the same tones he would use to explain that the sun rises in the east, "you are a lady."

"Ah'm a Ranger."

"And a gentleman does not sit, when a lady stands. and a gentleman does not let a lady seat herself."

Scowling, she flung herself down in the seat. "There. Y'happy now?"

He smiled. "For the moment."

She swallowed some scotch, looked to the other woman in the room for support, and then remembered that Anne-Marie would probably expect that sort of behavior. "Right. So, where's Kieran? He on his way, or has somebody finally hanged that rogue?"
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#5
As if on cue Sam burst in. Erik had been in the process of hanging his hat when she came in her usual boisterous manner through the double doors. Jumping, he fumbled his hat and nearly dropped it. By the time he had recovered the other men had jumped to their feet and Sam was over at the sideboard pouring herself a scotch. He blinked she offered to pour them a drink. Of course Erik had worked with her before, and they had met in this room plenty of times in the past, but pretty as she was he still couldn't quite get used to Sam Cavendish.

"Good evening, Mademoiselle Cavendish," Madame LaMonte returned tacitly, her smile not quite reaching her eyes as she smoothed out the skirt of her dress. It was no secret amongst the Society that the two didn't exactly see eye-to-eye, but as much as Anne Marie might like a chance to have it out with the uncouth Texan the chance had yet to present itself. She knew Sam thought herself quite the tough bitch, but Anne Marie killed people for a living; she would be more of a match than the Ranger suspected.

"Ah'm a Ranger."

Anne Marie resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Sam worked so hard to deny her femininity. It was silly and juvenile, to her mind, to actively deny all semblance of civility the way she did. When the other woman looked to her for support she very nearly laughed aloud.

"Sam, it's simply manners which are bred into us when we are very young," Erik explained calmly as he crossed to the sidebar, trying to ease the situation a little. "Things are done differently in Europe than they are in the Americas. For instance, since Anne Marie is widowed she is still referred to as madame, the equivalent of your 'missus.'" He poured himself a snifter of brandy and turned. "Speaking of, Madame...er...Madame?" He gestured to the sideboard and she shook her head.

"There is no wine. I will stay with water, thank you Herr Schmidt." Her smile reached her eyes this time.

"Last anybody heard Kieran is still on his crusade against lawfulness and order." Erik turned to Sam as he sat at the large round table. "As for being on his way, however..." He paused to look at his pocket watch before replacing it in his waistcoat pocket. "Well, Captain Shane's ways are not our ways, are they?"
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#6
Oddly enough, it was Colin that answered Erik. "His ways are our ways," he said, deliberately, as he gazed out the window, "in the only way that really matters. He is a member of the Society, whether or not we approve of his profession."

"Oh, very well said," murmured Doctor Swift.

"Still," Colin added, "if he wasn't so damnably useful, I'd have him before the bar myself."

Sam snorted. "Seems like y'all are just a might biased, Cap'n."

Captain Drake favored her with a level gaze, which she returned easily. "He is a rogue and a pirate, Miss Cavendish."

"Yep," she agreed, knockimg back more scotch. "Seems to me, that was the point."
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#7
"It was," Erik agreed, taking a sip of brandy. "What I simply meant are the ways of punctuality."

"Still, you have to agree it is a bit of a nuisance, always wondering whether he's alive or dead," Anne Marie commented, looking around the table. "Captain, couldn't you call your men off every now and then? Or perhaps offer him a job as a privateer?"

"Privateer? Pah!"

The doors burst open, causing Herr Schmidt to nearly spill his brandy as he jumped at the sudden noise. He cleared his throat and straightened his tie as Captain Kieran Shane came striding in. Wordlessly he crossed to the sidebar and poured himself a glass of whiskey before sitting at the table between Herr Heinz-Schmidt and Doctor Swift, looking at Madame LaMonte.

"If I wanted to be the king's lapdog I'd become a law-abiding English citizen, wouldn't I?" he pointed out with a smirk before taking a sip. "You know, I'm beginning to suspect you lot don't much care for me. Especially you, Captain Drake." He grinned and chuckled before taking another sip. Of course they didn't like him; he was a pirate, after all. "You didn't start without me, did you? If you started without me my feelings will be hurt terribly, you know."
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#8
"Still, you have to agree it is a bit of a nuisance, always wondering whether he's alive or dead," Anne Marie commented, looking around the table.

"Not really," Sam commented with a shrug. "Ah jus' always assume that he's alive, no matter what." She sipped her drink. "Cause he always is. Hellfire, Ah'd believe he was still alive if Ah saw him hanged."

"Captain, couldn't you call your men off every now and then? Or perhaps offer him a job as a privateer?"

Colin shook his head. "Madame LaMonte..."

"Privateer? Pah!"

Doctor Swift jerked a little in surprise as the door slammed open, while Captain Drake shook his head resignedly and Sam made an aborted gesture towards her left breast. Captain Kieran Shane strode in, pausing only to pour himself a drink before throwing himself down in a chair. "If I wanted to be the king's lapdog I'd become a law-abiding English citizen, wouldn't I?"

Colin massaged the bridge of his nose. "You are an English citizen, Captain Shane, no matter what claims are made by the provisional government of the Poblacht na hÉireann."

"You know," Kieran mocked, "I'm beginning to suspect you lot don't much care for me. Especially you, Captain Drake."

Drake sighed. "I don't dislike you, Captain Shane," he said, slowly. "Give you five minutes to talk, and I very much doubt that Saint George himself could dislike you, for all your sins. I merely disapprove of your vocation - you are a fine member of our Society, and would..."

"You didn't start without me, did you?" Kieran continued. "If you started without me my feelings will be hurt terribly, you know."

Doctor Swift rose, thumping his glass down on the table as he did. "Ladies," he said, then gave Drake and Shane a pointed glare. "Gentlemen. In the absence of the other members of our Society, I shall call our meeting to order." He glared at the two Captains some more. "And that means that we are not at home to Mr. and Mrs. Silly Buggers. Do I make myself clear?"

He sat back down. "Now then, Herr Schmidt. Your last dispatch concerned your confrontation with the Devil Lord and his Machine-Man hybrid slaves. Perhaps you could brief us all on what took place, once you tracked the Devil Lord to his fortress?"
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#9
Kieran blinked incredulously as Captain Drake insisted that he was an English citizen. A wide grin spread across his features before he let out an explosive ha! and shook his head.

"You are funny, Captain, you really are. Erin's my only mistress, and God damn the King!" He raised his glass as though in a toast before drinking. "You know, I'm beginning to suspect you lot don't care much for me. Especially you, Captain Drake." Another slow grin lit his features as Drake claimed to like him, to believe him a productive member of society. The saints themselves would like him, even. He sniggered into his drink and gulped before interrupting the officer to ask if they had started without them.

In response Doctor Swift rose and called the meeting to order, glaring pointedly at both ship captains. "And that means that we are not at home to Mr. and Mrs. Silly Buggers. Do I make myself clear?"

"Not in the slightest mate." Kieran exchanged a glance with Anne Marie, who looked down to hide her sniggering. She didn't know what that meant, either. The pirate threw a glance over to the linguist, who shrugged.

"Now then, Herr Schmidt. Your last dispatch concerned your confrontation with the Devil Lord and his Machine-Man hybrid slaves. Perhaps you could brief us all on what took place, once you tracked the Devil Lord to his fortress?"

"Er, ya." Erik shifted in his chair, pulling a small journal from an inside pocket of his coat and flipping to the correct page. Also withdrawn from his pocket was a wire-rimmed pince-nez, which he placed on his nose before holding the journal to the appropriate reading distance. "Miss Cavendish and I had followed one of these hybrids to a rather large estate in the Spanish countryside. We sneaked in through the basement, where apparently he had been creating these...cyborgs, I suppose would be the correct term, linguistically speaking."

"We managed to disguise ourselves using uninstalled faceplates and gauntlets. While Sam scouted the area I took the opportunity to open up one of the hybrids, which were--admittedly cleverly--run by steam power and clockwork. To my horror, however, when I took off the face plate I discovered...a human. The missing townspeople of which the police had informed us were connected to the Devil Lord. They were...ahem...they were technically still alive, but I do not know if they were truly people anymore. The gaze of the one I examined was distant, unseeing...soulless." The tweedy man looked up to Sam as though asking for help. He hadn't let on to the rest of the Society that the image of this machine-man--it had been a woman, actually--had haunted his dreams in the weeks since past.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#10
The Fortress of the Devil Lord
Somewhere in Spain
Three weeks ago...


Sam gripped her automatic, focusing on the workroom door and trying to ignore the nervousness gnawing at the pit of her stomach. Normally, a bit of breaking and entering didn't really get to her. But this? This was unsettling.

Erik worked at the faceplate of the Machine-Man, saying something about having to understand the principles that activated them. That made them walk and move like men, and even imitate human reasoning in a limited degree. And she understood, in theory. But this workroom, for all its sterile grey walls and gleaming steel, smelled like a slaughterhouse.

"Cain't y'all hurry this up, Erik?" she muttered. "Ah don' like it here, not one bit. An' why does a man makin' clockwork automatons need himself restraints on the work tables? Mah pappy never needed no straps t'work on an engine."

Those straps were something she kept obsessing on. If there was one thing she had, it was a horror of being tied down. Of being helpless. And...

Herr Schmidt gasped, a wordless sound of shock and horror. She spun, bringing the heavy automatic up in one smooth motion, then tried to control her heaving stomach at what he'd uncovered. The faceplate - no, call it what it was. Call it a mask was off. And beneath it...

Bile rose in her throat, and she had to look away for a moment.

Beneath it stared back the scarred face of a woman, old blood crusted on metal embedded in her skull. Her eyes were open, looking blankly around, and her mouth worked silently. "God damn," she swore. "What th' Hell are we dealin' wit', here?"
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#11
Erik nodded as Sam mentioned the straps on the tables. He had seen them, too, and she was right; he could see no viable reason for someone needing straps to work on an automaton. Finally he managed to work open the faceplate and it popped open with a noise of protest. A scream worked up his throat but died, coming out only as a gasp, as a human face stared back at him. He staggered backwards a few paces, quickly pulling a handkerchief from his breast pocket to cover his mouth as his stomach heaved. Erik closed his eyes and took a few slow, deep breaths but that didn't help; he only breathed in the metallic, cloying smell of blood and death. When he opened his eyes again she was still there, staring blankly, mouthing with no sound. He felt like an awful human being when he slammed the faceplate shut, but he couldn't look at her anymore. It was too grotesque.

"There is nothing we can do for the ones already converted," he said quietly once he had sufficiently suppressed his gorge. "But they are perhaps hiding prisoners in another part of the mansion to await conversion. Here..." Near the work table were stacks of body parts ready for use and he picked up two of the masks as well as two pairs of gauntlets to hide any flesh they might show. "We can more easily move about if we are disguised, if they think we are already converted." Still, Sam's hair presented a bit of a problem. All of the automatons, he had noticed, had similar haircuts regardless of gender. Looking around, he found one of the cyborgs stacked against the wall wearing a hat and quickly snatched it up.

"Here," he said without much further explanation. He piled Sam's hair on top of her head and hid it underneath the hat. "Just be sure it does not fall off, ya? Now we find where they are hiding prisoners, we get the innocents out, then we take down this Devil Lord."

In all honesty, Erik wanted more than ever to go home. He had been brought into the Meridian Society for his intellect and expansive knowledge, and onto this case in particular for his knowledge of mechanics. He had been among some of the first to reverse-engineer Martian technology left behind after the invasion of 1898. He was most certainly not a fighter, which was why Sam had been sent with him. Erik was, in fact, rarely armed until it was necessary, and was somewhat relieved to see an arm-mounted heat ray on the gauntlets; he wouldn't have to find a gun and Sam now had extra weapons in addition to hers. Once they had situated themselves to where the looked suitably like the other automatons, Erik led the way to the steps leading up from the basement to the rest of the house. He reached for Sam's hand, but pinkened behind his mask and thought better of it, instead taking her arm.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#12
"There is nothing we can do for the ones already converted," he said quietly.

Sam's eyes were wide with horror as she continued to stare at the mutilated woman, and she wiped at her mouth as if she had vomited. "No..." she murmured, voice shaking a little. "No. There's got... got to be something we can do for her. For them."

"But they are perhaps hiding prisoners in another part of the mansion to await conversion. Here..." Near the work table were stacks of body parts ready for use and he picked up two of the masks as well as two pairs of gauntlets to hide any flesh they might show.

She flinched away from the mask and gauntlets. "No!" Loathing filled her voice. "You cain't... Ah cain't wear.. wear that!" The fear in her voice disgusted her, but the thought of that mask and those gloves touching her, of the screws digging into her flesh and boring into bone, was hideous.

"We can more easily move about if we are disguised, if they think we are already converted," Erik answered, reasonably. Then he laid the mask and gloves down, turning to look for something else.

Sam stared at them, forcing herself to breath slowly and deeply. "You're right, of course," she finally said. "No way we can fight our way through all a them." Flesh crawling, she holstered her automatic and slipped her right hand and arm into the armored glove. Nothing happened. No hooks or bolts dug in. If anything, it was slightly loose.

Erik returned with a hat that - and she'd never actually ever admit this out loud - she thought was kind of cute. Slipping her left arm into the other gauntlet, she cocked her head and looked at him curiously.

"Here," he said without much further explanation. He piled Sam's hair on top of her head and hid it underneath the hat. "Just be sure it does not fall off, ya?"

She'd once broken a man's jaw for commenting on her hair. But Erik's sure fingers didn't seem to bother her in the slightest as he tucked her hair under the hat and set it on her head. "Ja," she said, then chuckled a little. "Ah mean, yeah. No reason to attract attention, right?"

"Now we find where they are hiding prisoners, we get the innocents out, then we take down this Devil Lord."

She fumbled a little with the face mask, before getting it seated correctly. It smelled of leather and metal and old sweat, and was clammy and slightly damp on her forehead and cheeks. All in all, she decided, she'd be tearing it off the first chance she got. "Sounds like a plan," she agreed cheerfully. "Take him down. All the way back down to Hell, where he belongs."

Erik led the way to the steps leading up from the basement to the rest of the house. He reached for Sam's hand but thought better of it, instead taking her arm. She hesitated for a moment, then crooked her arm and allowed him to do so. "We're a right pair," she smiled behind her mask. "Jus' two more o' th' Devil Lord's Machine-Man slaves, out fer a night on th' town.

The stairs opened into a small enclosure just off the main hallway. Sam cracked the door and peered through. "Looks clear," she whispered. "That's good. Ah'd hate to have to trust our disguises more'n we need to." Behind the mask her brow furrowed in concentration. "If'n Ah recall correctly," she finally said, "Ah'm pretty sure Ah saw bars on th' windows on th' east side o' th' house." She glanced back at Erik, before remembering that neither one of them would be able to see the other's expressions beneath their masks. "Mebbe th' prisoners are held there?"
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#13
Erik smiled behind his mask at Sam's gumption. He was not what he would consider a hero; he was brave when he needed to be, but typically liked to avoid conflict and work behind the scenes. Sam...well, she always ran in head-first, guns a-blazing, and he found that an admirable quality in anyone, particularly a woman. When she suggested that they were a pair of automatons out for a night on the town he snickered behind his mask.

"Ja, we go out dancing every Saturday night when this Devil Lord is done with us. Ja?" He snickered again. "Anyway, you don't seem the type to enjoy dancing..." He was glad for the mask, despite the smell and claustrophobic feel. If he hadn't had it, Sam would have seen the deep blush and the way he avoided her gaze. Now was most definitely not the time for such talk.

Sam gave he all clear and he breathed a little more easily and went to move into the open. Her voice, however, stopped him. Yes, of course they needed to figure out exactly where the prisoners were and how to get there. He nodded when she suggested the east side of the house.

"We came in at the west wing," he murmured back. "Usually in places like this there are main corridors, ja? If we can find that, it should be a straight shot to the other end. Is a big estate, though; taking main corridors can be risky."
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#14
"Ja, we go out dancing every Saturday night when this Devil Lord is done with us. Ja?" He snickered again. "Anyway, you don't seem the type to enjoy dancing..."

"Never had much time for it," she agreed cheerfully. "Oldest of seven, and joining the Rangers an' all that. The EUM's all full of that machismo crap. So Ah got no idea whether Ah'd like it or not. Maybe Ah'll learn, if'n we get outta this mess with all our own parts."

She smiled under her mask. "Drake's always sayin' Ah outta try an fit into po-lite society better anyhow. Shoot, Ah can see it now. Ah'll get me a proper dress, somethin' all flouncy like Anne-Marie might wear, and have me a comin'-out ball."

The stairs opened into a small enclosure just off the main hallway. Sam cracked the door and peered through. "Looks clear," she whispered. "That's good. Ah'd hate to have to trust our disguises more'n we need to." Behind the mask her brow furrowed in concentration. "If'n Ah recall correctly," she finally said, "Ah'm pretty sure Ah saw bars on th' windows on th' east side o' th' house." She glanced back at Erik, before remembering that neither one of them would be able to see the other's expressions beneath their masks. "Mebbe th' prisoners are held there?"

"We came in at the west wing," he murmured back. "Usually in places like this there are main corridors, ja? If we can find that, it should be a straight shot to the other end. Is a big estate, though; taking main corridors can be risky."

She thought about that. "Big ol' house like this says money, don'tcha think? An' money here in Europe means servants." She considered that. "An', as far as th' Devil Lord's concerned, we're servants as long as we're actin' th' part. Or did th' Machine-Men have some sorta radio telegraphic mechanism, that they used to tell each other they belong?"
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#15
"...Ah'll get me a proper dress, somethin' all flouncy like Ann-Marie might wear, and have me a comin'-out ball."

"You mean you haven't?" Erik was genuinely curious. He'd been forced to attend many a coming-out party in his youth and was surprised there was a female on earth who hadn't had one, just by sheer numbers. "I am certain Madame LaMonte will be more than thrilled for the chance to play at dressing you up. And you have never danced? Ever?" He straightened a little and smiled beneath the mask. "If we get out of this alive, I teach you I promise. I am the Viennese Waltz champion of western Europe, after all."

But then he was reminded of the situation and again turned quite an unflattering shade of red. He tugged his clothes straighter and nodded when Sam pointed out that money meant servants. They did look the part, after all. He shook his head when asked if the automatons had some way of telling each other they belonged.

"Nein, not that I could see. I think so long as we walk stiffly and do not talk much, we will be alright." Erik adjusted his posture so that his spine was rigid, his arms straight down at his sides, hands cupped. He would bend only at the elbows, waist, and knees. Having spent two years in the Army once he had turned eighteen, he was still quite adept at drill and marching, which he believed might actually come in handy this evening.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#16
"Haven't had me a comin' out party?" Sam echoed, laughing. "Erik, Ah'm th' oldest chikd o' a poor Tejas sharecropper. Ony po-lite folk get one o' them."

The laughter turned slightly mocking as Erik continued, though. "An' yeah, I jes' ber Anne-Marie'd jump at th' chance t'dress me up. Like Ah'm some kinda dolly or sumthin'." Her scowl didn't last, though. "But yeah. Mebbe you're right. An'if'n you're gonna learn somethin', learn from th' best."

[Hr]

"Walk all stiff-like? Ah c'n do that." Mimicing Erik she stiffened her spine, which had the unexpected effect of throwing out her chest and accentuating her smallish bust. Then, shoulders back, she strutted out into the hall in a fair approximation of the stiff gait of tbe Machine-Men. "This. Way," she intoned, trying to mimic their inflectiomless tones.

Sam stalked along the hall, eyes darting back and forth behind her mask. Her palms itched inside the gauntlets, and the mask was stifling. Then, on the left, they passed a kitchen. Inside, the Machine-Men were preparing some sort of gruel-like stew. She slowed, allowing Erik to come alongside her.

"Gotta feed prisoners," she murmured, nodding slightly. "Lessen you want 'em to starve..."
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#17
Erik tried not to notice as Sam pushed out her chest as she corrected her posture, straightening her back. Instead he followed, falling in step with her as she led the way down the hall as though she knew where she was going. That was the point, though, wasn't it? They were supposed to look like they knew where they were going. Erik tried not to breathe too hard, both so the rise and fall of his chest would be unnoticeable and so he wouldn't have to breathe in the cloying smell of the inside of the mask. He couldn't wait for fresh air. The intellectual passed the kitchen without a second thought, but soon noticed Sam wasn't behind him. She was standing near a doorway and standing aside to make room for him.

"Gotta feed prisoners," she murmured, nodding slightly. "Lessen you want 'em to starve..."

Erik nodded in agreement then jerked his chin in the direction of a few trolleys already loaded with food. The amount of food made his stomach clench, if only because that meant there were by his count at least forty more men and women awaiting conversion. Two of the trolleys were already taken, with Machine-Men standing behind them, waiting. The other two were empty, only half-full.

"We take those two food trolleys, they lead us right to the prisoners," Herr Schmidt whispered to his companion. "Just stay in step." He straightened again and walked boldly into the kitchen before positioning himself behind a trolley, waiting. His commanding officer had once kept them at attention for an hour and a half; ten or twenty minutes would be nothing.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#18
Sam followed Erik's lead, trying to match his military stride as he stiffly marched into the kitchen. She wasn't as polished - the Tejas Rangers were a police force, after all, not a military - but she managed without attracting any attention. Taking a position at one of the half-empty carts, she waited.

And waited.

Sure was a lot of food, she decided. And more'n 50 tin bowls. But the must be keeping the prisoners alive, and even relatively healthy. The 'gruel' appeared to be more of a stew of barkey and lentils and root vegetables. Probably even be tasty, with a marrow bone and some seasonings. But probably nutritious.

The Machine-Men in front shifted, carts rattling to life as they begsn moving. Swallowing hard she fell in behind them.

Why oh why did this have to be covert?
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#19
Erik felt his stomach tighten in hunger as he stared at the bowls of stew. It occurred to him he hadn't eaten since the previous evening. They had been going and doing so much that they had forgotten to eat. He gripped the cart a little more tightly and kept from sighing. It certainly smelled good.

They were moving. Erik quickly fell in step, following the others out of the kitchen and down the hall. As predicted, it was a straight shot down the very long corridor to the cells in the east wing. A series of zigs and zags through the more labyrinthine wing. Suddenly they stopped and Herr Heinz-Schmidt nearly ran into the automaton in front of him. The Machine-Man at the front of the little convoy stepped out of line to unlock a heavy iron door.

"Please let us go! Mercy! Have you no souls?" Pitiable wails came from within and Erik shuddered as they walked in. He followed the other automatons' leads, bending stiffly at the waist to set food down and slide them under the cell bars. He wanted to whisper to them that they were about to be rescued, but to do that would be to risk everything just for a little assurance.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#20
Erik shuddered at the sight of the cells, giving Sam a moment's concern that he'd give them away. But the German scientist mastered himself quickly, continuing the charade of being an automaton with uncanny skill. Being a waltzing champion, she decided, must teach all kinds of control.

The iron door was heavy, balanced to swing shut once it was no longer closed. The walls were thick, effectively muffling all sounds, and there were no signs of any speaking tubes or periscopes. Good. That made this easier.

She pushed a bowl through the slot, watching the little girl on the other side stare blankly at her. She'd seen that expression before, more times than she cared to think. Children, women, even men had it when they'd lost all hope. Smiling behind her mask, she winked.

Rising, she reached back inside her duster as she spun. Her free hand grabbed the Machine-Man's face, jerking him backwards and stretching his neck. As she did, her right gauntlet clattered to the ground and a hand whipped around gripping twelve inches of glittering steel. Her pappy's Bowie knife, the only gift she'd ever had from the man. Blood and other fluids spurted as she half-cut half-chopped into the Machine-Man's throat, opening it to the spine.

The other Machine-Man jerked around as Sam let the first corpse tunble to the ground. She twisted, using her gauntleted hand to bat the hybrid's arm and heat ray out of line, then drove the keen point of the Bowie into the hybrid's voicebox and out the back of his neck. The point grated on metal and bone, and the Machine-Man stared blankly at her for a moment.

Sam tore the knife free, twisting it as she did. "Welp," she said, nimbly dodging the spray of hydraulic fluid and blood, "they led us here. Figgure we don't need them no more."
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#21
Erik bent to slide a bowl beneath the cell bars of a man only a little younger than himself who was most certainly once heartily built before being left to waste away here. He heard the grate of metal on metal and jerked quickly to a standing position, only to hit his head on the heavy lock on the way up. He was bent double for a few moments at the most, rubbing the back of his head, before straightening to see Sam standing amongst a mess of bodies and fluids. He stared blankly at her for a few moments before pulling off his mask.

"What did you do?" He looked down at the automatons, still leaking blood and fluids, before turning a confused expression back up to Sam.

"Welp, they led us here. Figgure we don't need them no more."

Erik blinked once. Twice. It made sense, he supposed, though a little heads up would have been nice. He was simply glad he had been put with someone who could handle herself so efficiently. His mask clattered to the ground as he let it slip from his fingers before he pulled off one of the gauntlets and let it fall as well.

"I hope you do not mind, but I am keeping this." He gestured to the wrist-mounted heat ray. "I need a weapon. Let us try to get everyone out before sturdier automatons are notified." He aimed the heat ray at the nearest lock, which after a few moments sprung open, the metal thoroughly melted. "Do not be afraid," Erik said quietly to the woman huddled at the back of the cell. "We are here to help."
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#22
One by one the prisoners emerged into the basement hallway, blinking in surprise. Sam let Erik handle the locks - she was a decent shot with a heater, but she didn't have the fine touch of the German inventor. Instead she set herself to keeping an eye on the door, and getting the prisoners organized.

"Sí, es cierto. Estamos aquí para ayudarle," she told them, her Spanish owing much more to the Mexican than the Castillian, but comprehensible enough. "Come. Usted necesitará su fuerza."

Finally, they were all loose. With that, she scooped up their fallen gauntlets and handed Erik back his mask. "Reckon we'll still need these," she told him, removing his hat and gently pulling the brass mask back over his face. "Once we get these here folk outside, we still gotta find th' Devil Lord." She grimaced as she pulled her own mask back on, and stuffed her arm back into the gauntlet. "Be a might easier, if'n we ain't gotta shoot our way to him."

A pause.

"Specially if'n they call out th' sturdier Machine-Men you mentioned."

A pause. Then she put his hat back on his head. "Y'all ready, Erik?" Then she glanced over her shoulder. "Mantenga en secreto, amigos. Vamos a salir de aquí."

(OOC: I am trusting Google Translate for my Spanish, here.)
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#23
As Sam spoke to the prisoners Erik paused in his work, his eyebrows raised in mild surprise. A smile played at his lips, but he went back to his work. Still, there was something not quite right...they couldn't just let fourty or fifty prisoners walk loose about the castle like this. He spotted shackles against the wall and crossed to grab them.

"No, no, no te preocupes," he soothed a woman who began to cry and back away as he approached her. "Sólo necesitamos una manera de sacarte de aquí. Es sólo un disfraz. Confíe en nosotros." He gently clasped the shackles around her wrists, making sure to show her he wasn't locking them before moving on to the next person in line, essentially creating an unsecured chain gang.

"You speak Spanish," Erik mentioned lightly as Sam removed his hat and pulled his mask over his face before handing him his other gauntlet, "I am impressed." He didn't mention that he himself spoke eight languages living languages and two dead ones--Latin and Sanskrit--but linguistics was his occupation. It was somewhat expected.

"Y'all ready, Erik?"

"You know, that is a rather curious thing that's almost entirely unique to your dialect, this referring to a singular as a plural. Particularly in the second person. I really--" Sam put his hat back on him and he clamped his lips shut. Stupid. Babbling. "Yes, I'm ready."

"Mantegna en secreto, amigos. Vamos a salir de aqui."

"The best way to get them out would be to lead them back to the laboratory," Erik muttered from the corner of his mouth as they walked through the heavy iron doors, leading the chain of escapees. "Act like we are taking them for reconstruction then sneak them out the way we came in."
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Messages
3,779
#24
"You speak Spanish," Erik mentioned lightly as Sam removed his hat and pulled his mask over his face before handing him his other gauntlet, "I am impressed."

"Shucks, t'wern't nuthin'," Sam mumbled, feeling unaccountably embarrased by his praise. "Ah'm from Tejas, after all. Y'learn Spanish, comin' from there. Speak some Nahuatl as well, an' Apache an' Hopi. An' a bit o' Creole French, too."

Trying to distract herself she focused on the importance of staying disguised, so they didn't have to fight their way through assembled ranks of Machine-Men hybrids. Finally, she asked "Y'all ready, Erik?"

"You know, that is a rather curious thing that's almost entirely unique to your dialect, this referring to a singular as a plural. Particularly in the second person. I really--"

Smiling behind her mask, she perched his hat back on his head. "We c'n talk about mah dialect after we get finished here," she said, not unkindly.

"Yes, I'm ready."

"Good." She glanced over her shoulder. "Mantenga en secreto, amigos. Vamos a salir de aquí."

"The best way to get them out would be to lead them back to the laboratory," Erik muttered from the corner of his mouth as they walked through the heavy iron doors, leading the chain of escapees. "Act like we are taking them for reconstruction then sneak them out the way we came in."

"Right," she muttered back.

The walk back was short, but nerve-wracking. With every step Sam was convinced she could feel invisible eyes on her, watching everything they did. And the people they'd rescued were, understandably, anxious. They looked around wildly, keeping up a murmured litany of prayers and curses as they did. Fortunatly, it lent an air of authenticity to their proceedings.

Finally, they reentered the laboratory. Sam crossed the room, cracking open the exterior door and glancing through. "It's clear," she said, before adding "Está vacío. Póngase en marcha - ir a la orilla del río, luego seguir al sur."

Some of the prisoners nodded, and the rest looked frightened but determined.

"El pueblo más cercano está a unos treinta kilómetros río abajo."
 
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
3,216
#25
Erik, too, felt eyes on the back of his neck. It was highly disturbing and he wished he could shake the feeling. He felt like a shepherd leading frightened livestock through a tight pass with unseen wolves pressing in on all sides. He wished he could comfort them somehow, assure them that their escape was real, but he simply kept on in his stiff walk down the long corridor.

Once they reentered the laboratory, Sam crossed the room and checked outside. The coast was clear. The prisoners nodded as she told them to get to the river, that the closest village was about twenty miles down stream. Still, for some reason, they stood. Erik's heart pounded in his chest, creeping up his throat. They were running out of time. He pulled the chains off of them as Sam spoke and when they didn't start going he opened the door a little wider and motioned to the smooth lawn and the glittering river beyond.

"Vais! Correis! Ahora!" He motioned out the door. "Rapido!"
 
Top Bottom