Unit 3 was semi-functional now, and his upgrades were mostly working, although his missing eye and leg would spark on occasion. It was the first to arrive at the meeting that Objective Metier had made, though the owner of the graveyard was there as well.
Dr. Maddox Lionheart was there, and she was showing signs of distress and anger. Bookworm Hienrichs had also arrived, along with the former Deacon of the church of Dagon, who had presided during the one mass it had attended. It seemed that quite a few people had arrived for this meeting, whose invites were to have been everyone who wanted Mission Objective Henri Metier gone.
He was not on time for his own meeting, but not by much as he arrived and gave a pleasant, “Hello there, come along!”
“Where are you taking us?” Maddox asked as they all followed him to the western side of the graveyard.
“First I have to ask, why have you all come so unprotected?” The identified anomaly which had been referred to as a ghost asked.
“Who said we’re unprotected?” Stormy said, and the unit watched him cross his arms.
Maddox echoed a similar rebuttal, but the ‘ghosty’ chuckled and replied, “I mean you’re here quite alone. What if this was a trap?”
The unit wondered if Objective Metier was having trouble with his optic sensors, seeing as there were none to be seen, since there were a great number of people here. Bookworm muttered under her breath nearby, “When isn’t it a trap?”
“What if it is indeed?” Stormy asked back.
Doctor Lionheart stood up and addressed the ‘ghosty’, “Just because my husband is not here, that does not mean that I am alone. You have caused too much havoc already. Just get to what point you don’t have.”
That was when the explosions went off around them, and everyone looked about confused by the sounds and sights around them.
“What’s going on?” Maddox yelled, as Bookworm gasped and leapt back, and Stormy shielded his eyes from the sight, and the gathered doctors, clockworks, and scientists all reacted and stepped away. Unit 3 had one go off directly underneath him, but though it sounded and looked like an explosion, there was no force behind it.
“Just proving a point. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt.” Objective Metier assured them, but it did little to calm down those he had invited here.
“What are you doing, Metier?” Dr. Maddox Lionheart demanded.
“Just allowing everyone to experience the same explosion that killed me, and proving that if I wanted to, I could have set it up to kill you all ahead of time. Nothing but a manifestation. No harm intended.”
Unit 3 did not understand how this could have been done, a mirage was the closest thing in it’s data to compare it to, and that was what it labeled the event as.
Dr. Sonnerstein spoke next, stress in his voice had raised several octaves, “What IS your intent, Metier?”
“I know you’re insane, but this is IT. What the hell are you doing?!” Dr. Lionheart asked.
Henri chuckled in apparent amusement, “Simply proving my point. I mean no harm, otherwise you would BE harmed.”
Unit was unsure how this had answered their question. Speculating a probable meaning made it seem that the ghosty could have been implying that he could have somehow seen to it there had been real bombs there if he’d wanted there to be.
“If you still had a face, I would slap it.” Doctor Lionheart said, showing more signs of stress and anger.
“Stop playing around, you aren’t a child…” Stormy added, and the unit turned back to Objective Metier as he began to speak again.
“You are quite right, I have a purpose to all of this,” it said.
“Tell us what you have done and what you promised.” Doctor Lionheart told Objective Metier.
“Very well, but first I have a message about ‘shields of faith’.” Henri said, which caught the clockworks attention. Hadn’t Avariel called the guns of the church weapons of faith? Henri sounded dismissive of what he was saying however, but this was data it wished to collect.
“What are you talking about?” Dr. Lionheart asked.
“I personally don’t agree with anything she said, but promises are promises.” Henri said, confirming the unit’s hypothesis that the ghosty did not think much of what he was about to say.
“She… the city…? Or someone else…?” Sonnerstein asked, and Bookworm guessed aloud that it might be Miss December.
“What is he talking about? Metier, be clear. No more games.”
“Very well, Id,” Objective Metier replied, and unit 3 searched it’s memory files. There was nothing under that name or subject…unit 3 resolved that it would need to update and gather more data soon.
“Id?” At first the doctor had sounded confused, but then her voice got deeper and she stood up straight, “Where. Is. He.”
“I’ll get to my involvement with the cat later,” Henri said, and then he asked them what they put their faith in, but it appeared that Mrs. Lionheart wouldn’t let herself be deterred…
“Tell me where he is.”
“Nowhere that you can find him,” Henri laughed, “But don’t worry, I spoke with the fox last night. He may find him.”
“Naturally. But you will tell me or else…”
Unit 3 didn’t see what made Stormy cry out, but he shouted, “Maddox, Think before you act!”
“He has Arnold. I need to find him.” Dr. Lionheart said.
“Oh no, that cat is far beyond where I can currently reach,” Henri told them.
Stillwater commented softly, “Then I believe you are useless to us.. .Perhaps you should go see her.. and sleep..”
Dr. Lionheart didn’t give up however, “I *will* find him. That is non-negotiable.”
That was when Miss Hermit made her presence known to the group, or at least to Unit 3 who had not seen her arrive and had no idea how long she may have been there, “Mr. Metier. How is Tepic to find him?”
The ghosty chuckled as he replied, “They both share a similar trait, they’re bound to find one another.”
“The kitsune must walk then to find him?” Miss Hermit asked.
“Why can I not find him? He is bound to me…” Dr. Lionheart said softly, but Unit 3 was still close enough to hear.
“Maddox, because he literally is nowhere…” Dr. Sonnerstein tried to explain but his colleague turned on him.
“What do you mean? He can’t be nowhere. That’s IMPOSSIBLE.”
“He fell into one of the cracks.. He is beyond existence… he is in the void at the end of things.”
“No he didn’t. He never went anywhere near that crack.” Henri chuckled again, and Unit 3 turned his attention back to his Objective who was providing interesting data tonight. “And your connection is his lifeline back Mrs. Lionheart. If he could ever figure it out for himself.”
Sonnerstein tilted his head at Henri, “Then where? I heard his scream coming from it… Someone saw him.”
“He fell out of existence all on his own, using the rift as a board.”
Kristos ears tipped back. “Are you meaning to tell us he chose to unexist?”
Doctor Lionheart protested instantly, “He would never leave me. He would NEVER…not again…”
Stormy Stillwater crossed his arms, while Miss Hermit was saying they would be in need of a walker in the near future to help them, “That is like Arnold yes.. but I doubt he would leave Maddox.. Shut up your lies and get to the point..”
“He must not have told you what she told me.” Henri laughed at them.
“What did Id tell you, Metier?” Doctor Sonnerstein asked.
“That he was bound to this world, by a mistake long gone. He used the rift to fix that.”
The unit was unsure what to make of this information, though it would make a point to report all of this to Avariel and see if this Arnold might be able to be reached using dimensional travel.
Dr. Lionheart turned and crossed her arms. “You are purposefully trying to hurt me. Just tell us where he is and how to find Arnold…. and then how to get rid of you. That’s all I want to know.”
“He’s fallen out of existence, because he doesn’t know how to will himself to exist in a place yet, he’s never needed to.” Henri explained, though this new data did not compute very well and it could not comprehend the meaning the ghosty might have had. What could it mean that Arnold didn’t know how to will himself to exist? It had never encountered a situation where anyone else had needed to do so.
“He knows he needs to exist here… for me…for US… He promised he wouldn’t leave.” Doctor Lionheart was saying soon after, so apparently this Arnold was perhaps someone that might stop existing if it stopped wishing to…it took a moment to update a few things and when it returned it had missed part of the conversation and they were talking about the ‘shields of faith’ again. Which Objective Henri told them he would not tell him about how to find them or and never even suggested how to make it, and the unit was disappointed though it would still make a note to Avariel about the possibility of crafting one anyways. “Id had another suggestion which she believes would help, I think it’s a waste of your time.”
At that time Mission Objective Jimmy arrived to their gathering, and Unit 3 would have greeted him and told him that it had chosen to become a white rat based on his suggestion he should be more individualistic, but it’s voice was damaged and it had only one front leg so it couldn’t even write.
Stormy replied soon after, “You want to know of faith… I have faith in Maddox.. and Kristos.. and Scald.. and even the rest of these disgusting people… I need no other shield.”
“Just as you need no other tool to destroy the crabs dear Deacon?” The unit nodded it’s head, this was true that no other weapon had proven effective yet, and they had been called ‘weapons of faith’ by Miss Avariel. “Or should I say former Deacon?”
“Your attempt at hurting me shows how weak you really are. I feel sorry for you.”
“No, dear Deacon, I meant no harm.” Henri laughed again, “I was simply laughing at you. I haven’t meant harm with any of this.”
Sonnerstein approached the ghosty, “Please, Metier, just tell us what Id said.”
“Yes, tell us. We’ll decide if it’s a waste of time or not,” Miss Hienrichs added.
Dr. Lionheart spoke through what the unit could only assume were clenched teeth as there was some interference in her dialect, “The POINT, Metier. The point. Shields of faith?”
“Id said very simply that your faith is broken, and weak.” Objective Metier began as he paced around the graveyard, “You see the monsters at night? I see them at all times, they are never metal to me, that is a lie. So again I ask, what is your faith in? Do you not have one answer which you can all agree on?”
“Oy ‘ave faith in a lotta things.” Objective Jimmy replied.
“Science.” Enjinne said.
“All of us have faith in different things.” Dr. Lionheart added.
“It’s possible we all have faith in this city..” Dr. Sonnerstein said, and Stormy nodded. “But nothing is ever certain, is it?”
“That is weakening to the whole. She said that the best thing to have faith in for you would be what the ball was dedicated to when I shot the cat. What I hear you even tried to manufacture.”
Everyone paused for a moment, unsure what he was talking about until Dr. Lionheart spoke up, “Hope? Hope is something the needs to be believed in…”
Dr. Sonnerstein mumbles under his breath and the unit turned towards him to hear. “I’ve been speaking it the whole time and never even stopped to think of that…” Objective Jimmy looked at the doctor and gave a shrug.
“Wear your little hope badges, they might not do anything, but remind you to hope, that’s the message.” Even now the unit could hear an edge to the words the ghosty was saying, which it labeled as contempt. The unit was aware of the hope badges that had been crafted earlier that year, and made a note to mention it to Miss Falcon, as well as trying to find a way to craft effective ‘shields of faith’ which apparently these would not be. Of course they were still struggling to even make effective ‘weapons of faith’ or aether weapons at the moment…
“Oy musta missed part of th’ conversation. Wot faith are you talkin’ about sir? Oy ain’t wearin’ no badge…” Jimmy said, though the unit did see what might have been a badge on him already.
“You don’t need a badge to hope, Jimmy. It just happens. I always have hope… at least a little.” Dr. Lionheart said.
“Now, onto things I actually believe!” Henri said, sounding eager to dismiss everything he had just said. “Now you wanted to be rid of me. I’m disappointed in all of you.”
“And we are as equally disappointed in you. Now get to the point.” Dr. Lionheart rebutted.
“You never did understand me, then again you never bothered to put in any effort into it, otherwise you could have been rid of me in the first week that I was here. A single request from your Emperor would have been enough to see me gone.” Henri laughed again, and the Unit wondered how the Emperor could have convinced him to go when no one else’s request had been heeded.
“Emperor Crumb?” Dr. Maddox asked, and she was echoed by others.
“Didn’t you tell them Dr, that I made another ritual after I was dead?” Though it wasn’t clear which doctor he meant to the unit.
“How is he import– you never told me that!” Dr. Lionheart exclaimed.
Dr. Sonnerstein did a gesture that had been classified as ‘facepalming’, “Emperor Crumb, of course…”
“The dead are such asses..” Unit 3’s attention was taken away when Stormy shook his fist and suddenly shouted, “SHUT UP GRANDMA!!”
The outburst went unexplained and the unit turned back to the conversation at hand, Metier was speaking again.
“After I died things were rather interesting, but it eventually became clear that my soul belonged first and foremost to two things before all others. Babbage, and a name which I cannot share with those who do not already know it. Still, most of you have become acquainted with it, after all, everyone here has heard it in their nightmares or have peered into the hole where the Van Creed drilled too greedily and too deep.”
“I hear it’s voice all the time, and I agreed with it even before I was dead. We are nothing. We will be nothing. We do not matter. Nothing matters. No one matters. It’s true, of course.” Henri laughed, but those around the unit seemed uncomfortable.
“What are you talking about? You are trying to confuse us. Stop it.” Maddox said. Dr. Sonnerstein frowned, his ears tipping back. Out of the corner of it’s one working eye the unit even managed to note that Bookworm was narrowing her eyes, glaring at the ghosty.
“Oy have faith thet we do matter, sir.” Jimmy retorted.
“Or as the great poet once said…” Henri then began to project his voice, and he recited a passage that was familiar to Unit 3,
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Henri Metier laughed, as he finished the soliloquy without interruption, and then turned back to them, “My favorite line, from my favorite play.”
Stormy was the first to speak, “The act is over.. go home now…”
Lionheart sighed. “Now is not the time for that. Tell us what you mean!”
Thankfully Objective Metier clarified his meaning for once, “Life has held no meaning for me, it never has. Existence itself is meaningless, pointless, and it always has been, as are your lives. It’s been nothing but a game to me.”
“What matters to me is this nonsense has grounded my airships and that’s bad for business….sooner this madness is cleared up the better” Enjinne muttered in the back.
“And yet I have chosen to fight for the city which I once declared war upon, instead of working with your enemies, which I could have easily done, as I have far more in common with Moriarty than I do with any of you. I underwent a ritual which bound me to this city completely by choice.”
“Proving, yet again, what an idiot you are.” Mrs. Lionheart said resolutely.
Objective Metier responded with what may have been a habitual chuckle, “A fool is many things, but you would have done no different. You’d have done it faster.”
“I did not bind myself without thinking to a city,” Dr. Lionheart said, and Unit 3 took this unusual data and stored it for his later report.
“Yes you would have. When you saw her ravaged. When you know that what is after her is filled with a lust that can only be called an intent to penetrate.
“You never did notice the obvious. In life I wore the clothes and armor of a musketeer though they had ceased to operate over seventy years ago. You never once bothered to even consider that I did this not only out of respect for my families history, but simply because I love the tales of Alexandre Dumas. I saw a damsel in distress, a terrified woman being molested by a beast, and I choose to help save her.”
“Beast? Where did you see that?”
“Those ‘canisters’ you see are like the forced penetration of the town. The pain is rippling through all of you, it’s citizens. The best way to describe what is happening is that the city is struggling to prevent violation being forced upon her by something bigger who has lusted over her for many years.
“In other words…the city clings to me, as a woman who has been violated. She is terrified, in pain, and wants to be saved.
As the others spoke to argue the unit had to shut down to update it’s information and make room, and then when it came back to the conversation Dr. Lionheart was saying, “Why would the city want you, when there are better saviors about?”
The unit was hoping to hear a good answer for that when Metier spoke again, but it seemed that question was going to be ignored by the ghosty as it went on as if she hadn’t spoken.
“Everything I’ve done I’ve done while trying to help and while the results may have been immediately painful those I have guided have grown into something more except for a few who did not survive their trials. Bookworm here, she saw what she needed to see and almost drowned, but for it she is now better prepared to face the menace coming. Your cat friend has broken his bindings trapping him in this world and undid that which was once wrong. Even the robots who have followed me in the past shall be better off in the end thanks to me.”
Unit 3 did in a way have the ghost to thank for it’s upcoming upgrades as well as it’s new color scheme, but it had not liked the process that had been required to get there and would not take the same risk again.
“Book-chan, remember….Daniel refuses to speak of this. Could this have connection with the Old Engineers?” Miss Hermit said and the unit turned to find Book frowning unhappily, though she remained silent.
“As for why, it is the purpose for which I was born.” Objective Metier replied, and Dr. Lionheart for the first time seemed unable to say anything to that.
“I was prepared for that journey even before I was born. We all have a time and our place in events, and I am what I was made to be.” Objective Metier laughed loudly and seemingly out of control of himself to the point Unit 3 would call it a malfunction, and Objective Jimmy shook his head and joined him with a chuckle for some reason…hopefully the condition known as ‘madness’ was not contagious.
“And when that purpose is over? What then?” Miss Bookworm asked, but Objective Henri wasn’t paying attention anymore it seemed as he continued to speak on his own.
“I discovered it fully when I went through the rift with that clank on that day. Things had been revealed to me, many things, when I died, but this revealed everything about myself. I finally knew exactly what I was, and who, and why.
“That doctor, Cyberfaustus, confronted me when I was alive. He suggested that there was a child within me that had been mourning what I was doing, or that abuse had somehow sparked my nature.
Henri turned to them all and the unit could tell that he was greatly amused or pleased, “Nurture had no hand in what you call my madness. All those memories and nightmares which the creatures bring out of you, it is less pleased with the results with me, because as it pulls on those times and makes me remember those moments I react the same way as I did when they happened the first time.” Henri began to laugh wildly, “I don’t suppose you’ll find it at all surprising at this point that I laughed even as I died!”
“Of course not.” Dr. Maddox said softly, and Stormy added, “You were atop the world.. weren’t you?”
“There is a time and a place for everything, and I am what I was meant to be. I was meant to be here doing as I am, it is my purpose as many of you have your purpose.”
“What the hells could your purpose be? Manical laughter and idiocy?” Dr. Lionheart asked him.
Objective Meiter then turned a half step, “And yet even with a purpose you can’t forget that you are also meaningless. Even having a purpose for your existence doesn’t change the fact that existence itself doesn’t matter, nothing does.”
“You should nearly like Moriarty…” Sonnerstein began, but Henri went on as if he’d said nothing.
“But then again, that’s only half the truth, because since nothing matters then there’s also the truth that it doesn’t matter that nothing matters. As Shakespeare said, we are poor players strutting on the stage which we call our lives. Let’s give our audience a good show!”
There was some mumbling about that as the ghosty laughed, and Unit 3 took a moment to check the ghosty’s logic for fallacy. By the time it had returned the conversation had moved on again, and it must have missed something important because Objective Metier was saying, “Share my burden Mrs. Lionheart, and I will never manifest again.”
Mrs Lionheart tightens her crossed arms. “Your burden? How?”
“Better to ask *what* his burden is.” Bookworm warned Maddox.
“Or, you can destroy me,” Objective Metier added.
“The latter suits me.” Enjinne replied loudly.
“We are very alike Mrs. Lionheart. Both our families share similar traits.”
“What would I have to do? And with what?”
“Accept the binding of the city with me,” Objective Meiter said, and then added, “You could slip into a coma.”
Bookworm visibly stiffened when she heard that, and Mrs. Lionheart’s eyes grew wide. “Bound to the…the city?”
“Or possibly just cry as you see her pain,” Henri said dismissively.
Stormy shook his head and reaches for a vial he had on his person, “That isn’t going to happen!”
“This is a willing choice she can make,” Objective Henri stated.
“It’s too dangerous… and besides, it’s not just me that I must think of. I have a husband.” Dr. Maddox replied, her voice was lower and less assertive now.
Objective Henri chuckled, “Then I hope you prepared a means to destroy me. I won’t resist.”
“Good!” Enjinne said and looked around to everyone. “Anyone got a sword? Chop his head off.”
Sonnerstein tilted his head at Enjinne, “Pardon? He’s already dead. He is not physical…”
“He is made of some matter….I confess I know not what…but something must harm this incarnation as much as any thing that appears before me.” Enjinne responded, but belatedly as the conversation had moved on.
“I want to. I truly want you to be gone…” Dr. Maddox told Objective Metier.
“Then do it,” the ghosty urged her, for a reason that the clockwork could not determine.
“Well, that explains why you swooned as you did Book. This is certainly deeper than a mere possession.” Miss Hermit said to her friend.
“I don’t know how and you know it. I’m still just learning,” Dr. Lionheart said.
“Yes you do,” the ghosty replied, though he didn’t offer any more data about what way that might be.
“No, I don’t…I know what I want to do. But I don’t want to fail.”
Dr. Sonnerstein looked to Miss Hermit, “Any ideas?”
“To destroy him, no.” Hermit admitted. “To contain him, perhaps a slight chance.”
Finally Henri provided the data they sought, “There is a stone which I cannot go anywhere near lest it would consume me. Your entire building is made of the stuff I hear.”
“The asylum?” Stormy asked.
“The asylum!” Dr. Lionheart cried. “We need to get him to the asylum!”
Dr. Kristos spoke up, “Your soul would be devoured, not move on…”
Henri chuckled in answer, and Dr. Maddox said, “He doesn’t care. And at this point, neither do I. I want him gone and getting him to the asylum is the only way to rid us of him.”
Dr. Sonnerstein shook his head, sighing, as Stormy muttered, “Then why not come with us. .to the asylum? If you want oblivion so badly?”
“Please, Kristos… Let us take him there. He needs to leave and if this is the only way… Unless you wish me to share his burden and die….Helio would be upset.”
“As would your teacher.. we haven’t even gotten to Ch’i fields yet!” Stormy muttered.
Dr. Sonnerstein turned back to his colleague, “I would never wish that for you, Maddox!”
Objective Metier chuckled again and commented, “I can just walk there if you like.”
Dr. Maddox turned to the side, “I don’t know what to do… I don’t know!”
Sonnerstein turned to Miss Bookworm. “His crimes were against you as well… Would you condone the decimation of what remains of him?”
Mrs. Lionheart ran her hands up into her hair, an obvious sign of confusion and frustration, “All I wanted was Arnold back…. I don’t know what to do…..”
“Let me tell you this then…I’ll make the same offer to all of you. All of you that could share at least.” Henri turned to the others and stared at Miss Hermit. “How about you, Miss Hermit, or you, doctor?”
“Define your terms Metier,” Miss Hermit replied.
“That if you share the burden of saving this city from the dark aether, pledging yourself to the city as I have, that I will never again manifest. I will still continue my duties, helping this city. Forever.”
“Will you provide me the weapon?”
“Please, Miss Hermit, don’t.” Dr. Maddox said quickly. “Don’t submit to him. He could be lying… even now, he could be lying.” Bookworm appeared to be chewing her lip now.
Miss Hermit was not deterred, “Within the un-named clan, faith has another meaning…trust. That is my faith.” Hermit took a step forward, “Will you share that version of faith with me Metier?”
Mrs. Lionheart lowers her hands. “So you have to have faith that he’s telling the truth…”
Stormy muttered, “Mad in life. Mad in death.”
“My purpose was to be mad.” Objective Metier said as he stepped towards Miss Hermit. “I was never intended to be a child who could cry.”
“Ms. Hermit..? What are you proposing?” Sonnerstein asked.
“We all have a purpose,” Hermit said with a nod of acceptance. “His was to be mad. Mine to be a servant. I am a kunoichi Doctor Maddox, I understand purpose.”
“But what if you die? Miss Hermit, I can’t let that happen…”
But it was too late, Objective Metier walked into Miss Hermit, and after a few moments he walked back out of her and vanished from all sensors.
Things were confused and hectic as everyone rushed around Miss Hermit, who appeared to be in pain now…there was one more strange thing that the unit noticed as they were taking her to city hall to recover was that the hat that had been nailed to the tree was gone…
Unit 3’s mystery folder was about to get even larger…