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Heart of Gold

They used simple sign language to communicate, hiding in the shadows, but not totally obscured. Their prey had particularly good hearing, but poor vision.

The quarry emerged out of an unlicensed repair shop clanking and whirring. Some of the henchmen showed disgust. It was an all human crew, not used to being thugs, but from some decent purebred families. A few had family pews rented in the Cathedral in the better days.

Their leader lowered his hand and two of their scouts, teens too old to be urchins, but too young to have ever been true outlaws reached overhead and produced Y shaped sling shots with stolen surgical tubing, pelting the clank as it tried to defend itself. The shots stuck, lodestone magnets. It quivered and fell to the ground like a fish out of water. 

The thugs came in and threw a dirty blanket over it. The leader paid the teens off and helped his gang ferry the artifice to a dirty row-house in the Capability Mews. 

The blanket was removed.The room was smokey and dark. The clank registered what details it could. Big stationary engines outside, lapping water, passing canal boat with three piston double condensing motor. A goshawk. They nested sometimes in the Church spires. It was too dark for him to see.

“Serial number and maker.” the leader said. 

“My name is Kosciuszko” the clank answered, its voice wheezed by leather bellows against some complicated harmonica work deep inside the chest cavity. A rich baritone.

“Work of love, this one.” someone said from near his legs. A woman. 

“Free range are you?” the man asked, in a sneering tone.

“I am free.” the clank said, saying it as a curse. If it could spit, perhaps it would have. “Free.”

“Not now, you’re not, my walking clock. Comprehend that we are going to open your panel and take a look around. We can do this the easy way or the difficult way. Did you take some poor human’s job, clank?”

The clank did not respond, recording the man’s voice to a reusable buffer cylinder in his secondary data mill.

“I shall rephrase. Do you have employment?” the man queried.


“How much?”

“2 Quatloos a month.”

“Cheap. In bookkeeping trade, I reckon.”


“Well, 2 Quatloo Kosciuszko, struggle, and I’ll smelt you, I swear to the Builder. The breakers will pay me 10 times that for your metal. You are worth more dead than alive, if you want to call it life. Sit still and we’ll let you.. well, live. Determination accepted, yes?”

Kosciuszko struggled for a moment. “How do I know that you will keep your word.”

“Don’t push it. It’s a risk you’ve already calculated,  tinpot. You work in the financial district? No bother answering. Protocols keep you from divulging financial information yes?”

Kosciuszko nodded.

“But not naming your employer?”

Screw drivers were already opening the chest plate.If a clank could panic it was about to. “Cinderman and Karnes, Chartered Bankers.”

“Eureka! You’re a positive gold mine, tin pot!” the leader exclaimed in joy. 

“Turn the lantern up. I can’t see for shite.” the woman said.Female. Irish accent with traces of something else. American? Cross reference. Bostonian?

“A moment.” The leader blew pipe smoke into the clank’s eyes, obscuring its poor vision.


The torso was opened. “There it is,  Mark VII unit template, but someone made him privately. Nice work. Secondary data mill found. Sneaky bugger, he’s been recording us the whole time,”the Irish woman said.

“My memory!” Kosciuszko was panicking now, but other human arms were holding him down.

“Don’t blow your mainspring, tinpot!” the leader said. “Have you not a backup? Always keep a backup.”

“My employers will search for me,” it remonstrated.

“Got it!” she said, opening the memory unit where a human’s liver would be.

Safe mode. Reboot. Run.

He was lying in dark room. Voices. A woman argued with a man.

“How did I know it was encrypted? You told me to rip its memory and I did.”

Safe mode. Reboot. Run. Log Abend.

He was lying in dark room. Voices. A woman argued with a man.

“Looks like the encryptor is in that heart shaped thing, Mr. S.” she said.

“That contains his primary mainspring. Number crunchers like this have a fail-safe in case they go dormant too long. Look, Mollie, this is not a squash job. I’m not getting done for clankmurder.” he answered. “It’s coming around.”


Safe mode. Reboot. Run. Log Abend. Stabilize.

Lights. A man in a mask.

“Your heart unit has been replaced with the windup mechanism from a torpedo. You have 1 hour to get to a repair facility. You’d better hurry. Here’s a street map.”

Confusion. Diagnostic confirmed. Stand up, run to door.

“Someone named you Kosciuszko, clank.”






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  1. Garnet Psaltery Garnet Psaltery November 27, 2012

    I do not like this villainy.

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