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The word for the world is wonder. (part ii d)

Neptune was kind. The sea was fair calm, and the swells manageable. As McCullough approached the island his mind reeled and his entrails tickled with the possibility of being splattered with buckshot or impaled on a harpoon. But the bold Texan remained unengaged — too low on the surface of the water to attract the attention of the clockwork defenses; thus he made it easily at place to moor the boat on the stone ways there, climbed up onto landing and took in the empty quay, the quiet stone buildings, and the cobbled road that ascended before him. He climbed directly to the Library plateau with the notion of clearing the city top down, and circled through that building and the empty stalls around it, then proceeded in a long spiral around the essential cone of the island, searching out every nook and cranny, every building and alley, shop and house. Occasionally he would take food from his knapsack, sip some water from his bull’s-eye canteen, or pull out the occasional dried and sugared fig to chew.

    Just before sundown he located Underwood in a palatial building; the room where he lay was filled with a sickening sweet smell. The Sergeant’s arm was swollen three times normal, he was coated in layers of perspiration and burning with fever under several layers of blankets. The Texian dribbled some elixirs from bottles he had obtained from Bishop Hispidus  into the slack mouth of his damaged countryman as well as prepared some broth to spoon down his gullet. The exhausted agent passed the night on a nearby couch, while the stricken man snoring loudly or moaning softly.



     With the sunrise he prepared his Sharps rifle and pulled a small square of paper from his vest. It held directions written by the Bishop , consequently McCullough made his way to the first landmark, a quaint water fountain with four lions heads which still trickled water into the base. From there he found his way to an alley, part way along which was a small subtle hidden doorway that descended into the bowels of the city.

    He had to trust to a path of thick planks, questionably solid, that bent alarmingly under his weight, they angled downward and turned, first left, then right, then again steeply descended. Finally he reached a large metal portcullis, firmly locked down, and an absolute barrier. He peered through the linkages and could see an impressively large, cavernous space through which middle a massive metal column extended as far up as he could crane his neck and as far down as he could see into a breathtaking distance, a red glow radiating from far below. A rhythmic basso shudder gave the impression of something spinning inside it.

    Directly across from his position was a circular platform on which he could see the top of a large, rectangular structure which continued around behind the column as well as far below it, on top of this was a brass box, about the size of a man. This is his target. The barrel of his Sharps just fit through the barrier; he flipped up the leaf sight and took careful aim. McCullough surveys the result of his first shot, but the box is so far away, and the brass surface so darkened with age, that he can make no determination of the effect. As instructed, he carefully fired more rounds into it in random locations – of the forty rounds in his cartridge box he fire three quarters, determined to save the last for his and Underwood’s defense if needed. Unsure if he had made any difference, if he had harmed the machine in any way, the Texian sighed and retraced his steps back to his fellow Texian.


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