The room was dark. An old coaling station at the docks.
Spires stood beside the clank, a four armed thing used for loading boxes onto cargo boats. Recent model. All the right gears. Called himself Snap. The goons were contentedly doing simple maintainence on the creatures’s exposed gear works.
He say comfortably on sturdy chair he was in. This springer would be a real mauler if he had decided . fortunately his fly wheel had been disabled in the course of him arriving, ostensibly for upgrades.
“Does your owner know you upgrade yourself?” Spires asked. “Seems a bit risky”
“I intend to by my own ..” Snap semed to want to use the word freedom, but chose not to, “business some day. Have to be ready.”
Spires nodded, “Oh I don’t judge. Clearly not, or I wouldn’t be offering clandestine upgrades. Here we go, the very thing. This will speed up the computations you need when making balance checks. You’ll move even faster now. I’m going to put numerical sequence in, and you check it out.”
The gearage, like an almost microscopically dotted music box disk was inserted unto his open chest cavity, the fly wheel tightned, and four-armed Snap was whole again.
The clockwork man sat for a moment doing an internal diagnostic. He smiled and nodded. “Very well done, Mr Spires.”
Spires grinned, “One moment, let’s try one more thing, Snap.” It was true, the new programming would help somewhat, but there was also a bit of code that allowed him temporarily slow ocular input.
“I can’t see straight.” Snaps said, fretting, “Something’s wrong.”
“Is it indeed, is it indeed?” Spires started the kinetoscope. “Let me test something.” A series of lights passed before Snap, short flashes and long, too fast for a human eye to discern. But unaware to himself, Snap was processing it.
“No..” Snap said, as the lights ended. It was a simple sound, but compelte. A sound of despair. It notted Spire’s stomach, but he reminded himself that clockworks were just analog’s of humanity. Even their emotions were simply products of the same infernal machines that now dominated daily life. Sometimes he felt like a Luddite.
“Can you see, now?” Spries asked the clockwork.
“Yes” the other affirmed, but sadly.
Spires turned the gas lamp off. There was compelte darkness in the room, then just a bit of a flitter in the dark, from both of Snap’s’ eyes. Spires knew, if slown down, the pattern would be the same as the code he’d run through the kinetoscope.
He opened a shutter. Sunlight streamed into the room. “Well, we’re done here. Drop off your payment later at Wheatstone. No need to hurry.”
Snap trudged off like a wounded Atlas.
From the shadows emerged Mercury, messenger to the underworld. Kir was paying him to keep tabs on Spires.
“What did you do to him?” Mercury asked, distaste evident in his voice.
“Kir wanted me to introduce a disease in clockworks. I don’t know why, I don’t want to know why. I’ve done that.” Spires said, dismantelling the Kinetoscope.
“This thing you worked on, itis sick?” Mercury asked.
“Can’t give a clank the sniffles, and they are too hardy for physical self destruction, internally.” Spires said. “So, I depressed him.”
The Messenger brought out his calabash pipe, already loaded with a sweet smelling cavendish, and lit it from a lucifer. “How so” he said.
“Any calculation into the future is beset with zero-sum outcomes. He’s fighting constantly to maintain any sense that any action he takes, will have any positive outcome or meaning. Zero sum loop.” Spires said. “He’s sick, enough, yeah.”
“Machines.” Mercury said, as if it were a curse, then, puffing out smoke, added, “It is contagious.”
“Eye contact with other clanks in his series. It will modify over time. I can’t say how effective it will be past the a certain exponential point. Could be moreso or less so. Anyway, I fulfilled my job.” Spires finished loading up his tools.
“I will inform our mutual friend” Mercury said, and strode away, tapping the pavement with his umbrellas as he did so.