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Smoke and Mirrors

orignal post date 4 July 2009

(one week ago)
I failed.

I never found Tenk.

I stared into the ashes of his cold forge and wished there was some way he could still be alive, but weeks had passed without a sign. It was hopeless.

My eyes fell on the saw still clamped in the vise. He put it there when he had heard Kurore was back in town. I remember how he brightened up at the news, saying the rabbit was back to give him his leg as the gift he had promised Tenk went he last left the city. He whistled to himself and slowly ran a file over each tooth, sharpening it. I wanted to him to say something else, hear some malice in his voice, but he just stood there whistling tunelessly and sharpening his saw as if it was the most natural thing in the world to cut off someone’s leg as a present.

That explained those bones he kept.

I wanted to hate him right there, but I couldn’t. There was too much turmoil in the city. We needed a sign. Something to give the resistance hope. Maybe if Kuroe thought Tenk was back, he’d become unnerved and make a mistake. I took the saw and found a good box. Then I went to the little room where Tenk kept his things and found some not too faded hair ribbons he’s got from some little girl for who knows what sort of favor and wrapped the box neatly, even affixing a tag. That room gives me the creeps. Hair ribbons, watches, bits of cheap jewelry, buttons, shoelaces, and those too clean bones, each with a sharp edge where it had been sawn from its owner. He showed it to me back when I tried to explain how money works. In the best forgery I could manage, I addressed it to Kuroe, from Mosseveno Tenk.

I took the box across town and left it where Captain Undertone would find it. He would know what to do with it. I had taken some of Tenk’s tools also, they looked like toys for a child if not for the signs of wear. Anyone in town would identify the tools as his. I took the long way home, sticking to back alleys to avoid Kuroe’s goons and the even present smashitron robots. A battle had happened on Loner Lane, the street was filled with the debris of bombed-out smashitrons. Someone had saved me some work. I took Tenk’s hammer from my coatpocket and placed it on the street where it would be sure to be seen by the right people. It was a lie, but one that would give the Resistance hope.

Finally I returned to the cold forge behind Mr. Questi’s instrument shop. There was a man there, one of those short stout fellows you see drinking at the pubs when the ore trains come from the northern mines. I hadn’t noticed the train in town, but there was too much on my mind.

“Whar’s th’ mayor,” the short man asked gruffly.

His name was Odnar, apparently a friend of the Clockwinder’s. I related the entire tale of Dr. Obolensky’s rise and occupation of the city. I told him that I did not believe he was still alive, even told him what I had done.

“You better hope he’s dead,” said Odnar. “He’ll kill ya if he finds ya been messing with his tools.”

We went up to the attic, to that nest of old clothes and rags Tenk called a bed. Odnar toed the pile and pulled out a ragged patch shirt.

“Well, if you need a clockwinder, I’d be about the right height…”

I looked at him skeptically. He had the beard, the stature, but he was broad where Tenk was build slight. But from a distance… maybe…. if it was enough to make someone believe, and they wanted to believe, than believe they would.

“I think we’ve got a plan, Mr. Mayor,” I said, and for the first time in over a fortnight I felt ready for the good fight. “Let’s go see if Overlord Obolensky believes in fairytales.”

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