Arryo and Gretchen are prepared to face the world for eachother, but power always corrupts
Gretchen stood before the city council, her hands grasped firmly together to hide how they shook with rage. The words of the moronic men fell deaf upon her ears. They thought the strange being she brought from the fabled city to be an abomination. They wanted her to not only not attempt to make more like him, but to destroy her beloved. ‘Mechanical beings should not have souls, they should not have emotions’. . . they were wrong.
“We demand that you leave him behind for proper disposal,” one of the older men, Lord Fisher Finkle, decreed.
She imagined yanking his bushy white mustache right off his face and making him eat it. The council may try to give an air of class with their suits and smart bowties, but their stupidity betrayed the reality of their nature. They were a bunch of heartless monsters.
She shook her head, “No. I will not.”
“Lady Washen, this is not a request.” Dr. Whiteburn explained, staring down the sharp bridge of his nose with a sternness usually reserved for small children.
“No, this is not just some piece of machinery you can destroy because it no longer works right. This is a living being; this is someone I care for strongly. I will not simply hand him over for you to destroy at your leisure,” she hissed.
Two armed policemen walked up to either side of her mechanical mate, who stood behind her with his dark eyes held down to the ground. When they wrapped their hands around his jointed arms, he raised his face and looked into Gretchen’s.
So, it had come to this after all. . .
She whispered, “Do not allow them to take you.” He nodded his head and jerked his arms sharply. His strength outmanned the two policemen and they smashed into each other; letting go of him. Two more policemen raised their pistols into the air and plinked away at his metal form. He looked over at Gretchen, and she took a deep breath before she nodded her head, too.
Gretchen dropped to her stomach, covering her ears and eyes. Without a word, he raised his hands and a bright, white light began to glow in the palms. The councilmen all blustered and protested, but the metal man did not stop. The light became brighter and brighter, its glow seemed to shimmer and twist.
A loud pop noise echoed in the hollow confines of the massive courtroom. When she felt Arryo, her metal mate’s, hand upon her shoulder, she opened her eyes and looked around. He warned her if he used his weapons, the results would be grotesque. He didn’t lie to her.
The councilmen’s remains were black, charred statues sitting in their chairs. Even the two policemen stood in the same position, their burnt guns still pointed at Arryo. Her heart hurt at the sight, but she warned them that she would not give him up.
“Arryo, this is only the beginning. They will never let us be,” she stammered, “we must make more like you to stand up to the forces they will send.”
*SIX MONTHS LATER*
Gretchen stared across the smoky city, her hazel eyes surveying her newly taken kingdom. Down below, in the building crowded streets, her mechanical soldiers marched about. They were not like Arryo, though they did look like him. Not a single one had a soul or the ability to think on their own. They still needed human guidance, but it was not difficult to find volunteers to join her army.
She turned around to her metal mate and adjusted the thin gold ring about her wavy hair, “In another six months, we will have crushed the rebellion and we will be free to figure out how to imbue your creations with souls.”
Arryo raised his dark eyes to hers. Being a being of few words, it still bothered her when he didn’t speak. He conveyed so much with her eyes and she didn’t like the disapproval she saw in his.
“What do you want of me?” She asked and turned around again to gaze out onto the expanse of rooftops, many being no more than rubble.
She felt his hand on her shoulder and she looked up into his eyes. He gave her arm a squeeze and said, in a voice still somewhat rusty, “My love, I do not want you to destroy everyone in your path. You asked for more like me to protect us against a corrupt and ignorant force, not take over the city.”
“Don’t you see?” she spread her hand out at the war torn city, “I am trying to do exactly that. They will always come after you, but if we cut them down at the source, you will be safe.” Arryo fell silent, his eyes surveying the desecrated remains of the once proud city.
Sleek copper colored zeppelins with the insignia of Gretchen, a tiny red dove, on their tails twined through the tallest skyscrapers. An occasional single pilot fighter plane would fly by, the buzz of its small but fierce engines drowning out the more muted hum of the airships. Though there had not been an open battle near her castle in over three months, she still made sure the air and ground were well patrolled.
If she’d been talking face to face with Arryo, she could not have so blatantly lied. His dark brown eyes always seemed to see into the depths of her soul and he would make her cough up a confession of her greed for more. She justified everything to herself that she was doing it for his best interest, but she knew better.
So did he.
Not wanting to face the silent judgment he passed upon her, she said, “Why don’t you go check on the lab developments? Perhaps they have finished up your skin.” Arryo began to pull away from her, but she turned around and pulled him against her in a tight embrace. She might be a little infatuated with the power of being queen over the industrial city, but that didn’t mean she didn’t still love her mechanical soul-mate.
Arryo turned away from his lady, his geared heart feeling heavy in his chest. He loved her, but he knew she wasn’t the same creature who once found him in the belly of the ancient ruins of a great city. Power did corrupt and the corruption worked its way into her heart, leaving very little room for him or anyone else.
Being the last of his kind, he never expected to find love, but when he sat up and spoke to her for the first time in the ruins, he loved her. Her fiery green eyes met his and he saw such intelligence in them, he couldn’t look away. Everything about her spoke to him. Her light brown wavy hair was streaked with gray from her years of adventuring and her tan face was speckled heavily with freckles from time spent in the sun.
When he met her, she’d worn explorer gear complete with a wide brim hat and a pistol on her hip. Now, she often wore a red hoop skirt pulled back to reveal black leggings tucked into light brown ankle boots. Her tan corset laced up tightly over a red short sleeved blouse and her usually messy hair was captured with a thin gold band. She wasn’t exactly dressed like royalty, but it was as close as the strong willed woman was willing to bend. She still looked beautiful to him, but he much preferred her explorer’s clothes. He liked explorer Gretchen much more than Queen Gretchen.
The soldiers he helped her develop lacked souls and even if he knew how to invoke the spells to do so, he wasn’t sure he would have told her. It seemed bad enough she was taking over her fellow city-mates, but to create others simply to be ruled seemed cruel. He couldn’t give her what she wanted anymore.
He made his way through the long corridors and down several sets of grand stairways before he found himself in the basement. Down in the bowels of Gretchen’s castle, she employed several brilliant minded scientists to develop new weapons for the war, and a synthetic skin for him.
While Gretchen did not mind his bare metal appearance, his look scared the common man. If they successfully created skin for him, she wanted it mass produced for the hundreds of robot soldiers distributed through the city. She believed that one of the biggest reasons why the opposition found so much footing was that the soldiers scared everyone with their soulless expressions. Skin might aid with that slight hiccough.
He slipped through a dark doorway to find one of his dear friends toiling over a stretch of material. Grimelda wore a pair of leather-framed safety goggles over her eyes as she poured a light amber liquid over the material. He always enjoyed watching the stout woman work, for she poured her soul into everything she completed.
Unaware he stepped into the room; she ran a hand through her coiled mop of light brown curls and reached a hand into her overflowing tool belt. She pulled out another vial; this one filled with something dark brown and drizzled it over the material. She took a gloved hand and rubbed it into the surface.
Arryo bumped the wall on purpose, making her jump and look up. When she saw him, her doughy face broke into a wide smile.
“Here to see how your skin is coming along?” She asked; her voice warm and welcoming. He nodded and she gestured for him to come over. He slid over, his moves almost snakelike.
When he first woke up from his centuries of sleep, every shift ached and caused him to squeak in protest. Now, nothing in his movements suggested his mechanical being. He was graceful and seemed to flow from one place to another. Thank goodness for the oil that lubed his innards, being stiff was terribly unpleasant.
Grimelda pointed down at the material she was working on and his geared heart skipped a beat. He resisted the urge to touch it, to see if it felt as soft and buoyant as Gretchen’s flesh.
“It looks real,” he whispered.
She nodded proudly before she sobered up, “The problem I keep running into is that the skin dries out. I’m working on developing a formula that you’d have to rub in every other day, at least. But we’re getting there.”
He knew that she was the closest to actually creating a useable skin, but that wasn’t why he chose to visit her. He knew something about her that could get her killed. Before he said a word, he looked around the lab to make sure that they were alone. When he verified no one else shared the space, he leaned his head close to Grimelda’s.
“I think we need to leave soon,” he confessed.
Grimelda’s eyes widened, and she asked, “Is she onto us?”
He shook his head, “Not yet, but she’s becoming more tyrannical every day. I know she has other scientists developing truth serums and I’m confident she will use them on her employees. I doubt they would work on me, but if she used it on you, she’d find out about me anyway.”
“Well, let’s get your skin up and running, and then, we’ll be up and running.” She laughed and pushed a stray lock of curly hair out of her face. He nodded and watched as she rubbed in a spot of the fluid she missed.
Suddenly an alarm blared through the air and Arryo’s head snapped up to stare at the mini blow horn on the wall. It yelled three times in succession; a breach. Gretchen was in danger!
He didn’t even say good-bye to Grimelda as he threw himself through the door. He ran faster than a human being, leaping over five stairs at a time. He heard fellow guards running up the stairs, but none of them shared in his urgency to get to his beloved. The double doors to the throne room smashed into the walls behind them with the force of him bursting through them.
Gretchen was on the floor, her hands in front of her face. A thin man, in brown trousers and a matching velvet vest, stood over her. Even from behind, Arryo could see the cold determination in his stance. He stood next to a tea tray and he held a teapot in his hand, but it wasn’t just a teapot. His thumb hovered over the lid, over a barely discernible button on the top. A small trail of steam rose from the spout, giving the illusion of tea, but Arryo was confident the source was something more nefarious.
“Don’t move, or I will press this!” The man warned; his voice low and ominous. Arryo froze in place, his hand up in the air to show the guards at his back to stop as well. A small airship rose into viewing of the balcony, but they didn’t have a clear shot.
“What is it you have?” Arryo asked.
The man laughed, “A bomb.” Without moving, Arryo’s hand began to glow. Gretchen saw what he was going to do and lowered her hands to her ears, squeezing her eyes shut. The rebel looked over his shoulder to see what motivated her movements, and Arryo had a few brief seconds to see how young the boy was before the blast of power shot out of his hand.
It filled the room with searing light and a loud pop before it thrust into the zeppelin outside the window. He heard the thunderous crash, but he didn’t care. While he didn’t agree with his love’s war, he would do everything he could to protect her. He closed his hand, ending the electrical stream and slid to his knees, past the charred remains of the rebel and to the side of his beloved.
Gretchen sobbed hysterically and he scooped her into his arms, pressing her against his solid chest. He would need to clean the rust spots caused by her tears later, but it was worth holding her shaking frame, being her comfort.
“I told you,” she cried out, “I’m just trying to keep us safe. They will never stop, never let us just live in peace.” Her words reminded him of the lies she tried to sell him and he held her all the more tightly, but stared darkly out the window where he could see the smoke rising from the downed airship.
He would help the rebels stop the queen and destroy the force he helped her build, but he would not help them kill her. Grimelda and he needed to leave soon so he could explain his stance and that if the rebels continued, he would be forced to stay with Gretchen for her protection, instead of aiding them in their war. Gretchen would be furious about his betrayal, but once they ended the war, he would come back for her and whisk her off to somewhere quiet and exotic. Somewhere that it didn’t matter she loved a metal man. She would eventually forgive him and they would move on with the lives. At least, that was his optimistic plan.
A human commander shoved his way through the mechanical soldiers filling the doorway and blurted, “Milady, the “Angel’s Mist” has been destroyed, there are no survivors. Should we send for backup?”
She swallowed down her tears and blinked at him. Arryo thought of explaining the situation, but she cleared her throat, and said, “No, it was a lone rebel and he has been taken care of.” Her green eyes returned to Arryo’s face, and he smiled sadly at her. Everything was so turned upside down. This wasn’t what he signed up for when he returned with her upon her airship, “The Molly”.
“Thank you for saving my life.” She reached up and cupped his face with her hand. Holding her close, comforting her; the war seemed so distant, he could almost pretend it was all okay. At least, until he shifted slightly and saw the blackened remains of the young man who tried to take his mate’s life.
With soulless warriors at his back, protecting the queen from further attack, and a corpse practically touching them, he realized how torn apart their world was with the war his love started. The sky outside looked red from the smoke in the atmosphere and he knew fires burned all over the city from the skirmishes between humans and robots. Several red dove tailed zeppelins floated in the sky, their ominous presence reminding the remaining citizens that they should abide by the newly implemented laws, or else.
Gretchen banked on a quick conquest, her belief strong that the metal soldiers would eliminate her threats, but he knew better. He knew the rebellion would never just roll over and let the mechanical men destroy their soul. No, people like Grimelda may go into hiding, but they always resurfaced with a vengeance. The war would not be quick, it would not end without high costs to both sides, and he was a part of the very opposition his love sought to stamp out.
All because they loved each other.
Word Count: 2979
This took first place in a wonderful steampunk contest. If you're up for the challenge, go check it out and add your own tale of mechanical adventure.