“Let me out!” Lucas awoke, screaming.
His heart pounded unceasingly against his chest. Sweat hung on his skin, forcing him to throw off his blankets and hold himself.
“If I never get any sleep, it’ll be the death of me...”
The hiss and clonk of mechanical footsteps got louder, and a bobble-headed ‘bot strolled into the room.
It’s eyes lit up, literally, in salutation.
“You’re looking a far cry better than I, old friend,” Lucas said inspecting the bags under his eyes in the mirror, “Forget the tea. I need something stronger.”
Astam Junction was warm, and everyone down the street could be seen trying to stay in the shade. The bangarang of railway sounds swam in Lucas’s head, mixing with the erratic emotions from last night. His gaze fixed to his feet the whole walk over.
He made this trip at least once a month to restock his supply of chocolate. The air inside was bittersweet, and dusty. Lucas knew what he wanted, but he couldn’t pull himself to speak quite yet. The dream shook his very core, and browsing a sweets shop might, he thought, help to ease the urge to recluse.
“Good morning, Adam. I’d like my usual prescription.”
“Does Doc’ Bittersworth know you’re cheating on him?”
“Yup, ” Lucas smiled, “ honestly, he thinks it’s better for me than any snake oil.”
“How’s the work going?”
“Alright. I’m still trying to get over this hump we’ve got with this new research machine.”
“Hope this helps,” he said handing him a bag of chocolate, “you should see this new thing I’ve got back there for the taffy. I wasn’t in the market for anything like it, but the lady made a hard bargain.”
Lucas brought his attention up to the back room window. An automaton without a head was busy pulling taffy with mechanistic consistency. Lucas looked at it in confusion, slightly upset.
Adam looked worried. “Are you alright, sir?”
“Yea, sorry, rough morning. Thanks.”
And with a quick smile, Lucas walked out.
He was anxious and ruffled. He figured he would be better off going to work early today. Demidays were typically his to take off, but some time in the drawing room upstairs would be cathartic.
Putting charcoal to paper had a tactile feeling about it. You could breath the art upon it, if it didn’t mean sneezing black for a month.
He was accompanied by his personal automaton, Augusta, and one of his assistants, Meredith.
The drawing he ended up with was a little frightening. A brain with chains, nails, and test tubes embedded; His subconscious torments were brought to the surface on the canvas.
“A bit gruesome, don’t you think, sir?” Meredith asked, unsurprised that her boss was being peculiar.
“I’ve been tossing and turning about this all week, Meredith. I can’t figure out why.”
“It’s the prototype, sir. You’re very obviously worried about the ADD engine,” she emotionlessly stated.
“Well, enough wasting our design paper I guess,” Lucas stood up, “Join me?”
“To the workshop?”
“Where else do I spend my time?” he said with a smirk on his lips, but not in his eyes.
The elevator descended deep under the surface of Orr. Gigantic furnaces, boilers, and a myriad of white coated personnel kept from overheating by planting the place firmly underground.
“Boss!” another employee in a lab coat approached.
“I want to see her.”
“He’s been sleepless about it,” Meredith dryly explained.
“Thank you, Meredith. I’m worried about our progress with the new ADD engine,” Lucas explained himself more professionally than his assistant.
“So, sir,” the assistant shouted over the machinery, “We were hoping to activate the third instinct soon.”
The pounding of the machining processes behind him always reminded Lucas of a heart beat; It soothed him so much to be in the shop.
They reached a table with an automaton sitting upright upon it. The gears and piping were all exposed. An in-progress prototype generally only had two things that were shiny and complete about them, the steam engine and the scroll box. Everything else were being actively redesigned.
“Hello, again, I can’t wake you up yet. I won’t let you suffer that,” Lucas said, looking at the bulge on the inactive automaton’s head. He turned to his team behind, “Alright gang. How do we deal with the new module? Timothy?”
“You mean the memory queue?” Timothy clarified. ”I’ll admit that it’s not great. The hand-off process is awful, and the segregation points leak.”
Lucas cringed. Leaking chemicals are an easy death for a child of metal.
Meredith spoke up, “Maybe if we weren’t so adamant about the segregation of parts, we could make a holistic system that worked.”
Lucas pointed casually at her, “What about Jacques? If it wasn’t separate, we wouldn’t have been able to save him.”
“Sir, with all respect, we could have rebuilt or replaced the ADD engine. It was your insistence on separation that is forcing these designs to fail.”
Lucas looked at the team, “You guys want to prove me wrong?”
They smiled. Whenever he asked that question, they got to draw and argue upstairs into the wee hours of the night.
Lucas led the way to the elevator and took another bite of chocolate. “All of course.”
A month and forty thousand ciams later, Lucas was ready to flip the switch.
Strapped to a vertical table, the marvelous machine stood. Her decision engine shined in the light of the workshop. Her breastplate was adorned with the shield from the Antifordian flag, the ends of her legs and arms were adorned with flowery patterns. Her face was painted up like a doll by some artisans from Auto-Marie.
Timothy held up a clipboard and began reading the checklist, “Fill the tank!”
Meredith climbed a footstool and opened a small hatch on the steam tank. She poured the searing hot water and resealed it, “Check!”
“Final Inspection of the ADD Engine!”
“Scrollbox clear of scripts?”
“Light the furnace!”
Meredith pulled down a tube, from which hot coals tumbled into the automaton, “Check!”
“Release the straps!”
A switch on the back of the table released all the straps at once, and the automaton compressed, and straightened back up.
One of the engineers turned on the phonograph. What played was a specially commissioned record, designed to aide in the activation process of third instincts. It started out with low bass tones and worked it’s way up to melody, while the machine stretched it’s motors, ignoring the advanced decision making processes.
When the melody calmed and quieted, Lucas walked over to it.
It’s eyes lit up and scanned the room. They focused on Lucas, who was snapping his fingers until she did.
The room was silent, for the last part of the process required it.
"Now, child, I am Buford, and you...” the anticipation was palpable, “are Adele. You will respond to Adele, the one who is yourself. I am Buford."
The team spent the next few weeks hard at work.
Timothy and Lucas worked to refine and find errors in her communicative abilities. She didn’t have a phonographic array like Augusta did, no. Her innovative expressive ability lay in sign language.
Lucas had these simple conversations with her everyday.
“What is the square root of twenty-seven?”
“I don’t understand,” she signed.
Lucas looked to Timothy, “That’s an improvement over yesterday.”
“What is your name?” Lucas asked.
“Little moon,” she replied.
“And what are you?”
“A machine lady.”
“Very good,” he patted her on the head, “Let’s go see Meredith.”
He stood up and extended his mechanical hand to Adele, who grabbed it gentle and rose up.
Meredith was excited, in her own way, about Adele. She spend her time working on the new scripts and scroll-script language features, such as skip sections that recalled past action outcomes.
“Oh, you’ve brought her back!” she smirked, “If you’d give me more time with the darling, I’ll have her brewing your Earl Grey in a week. That fine articulation of hers is brilliant to work with, sir.”
“I’ll bring her by after our errands, Meredith. You can have her for the whole afternoon,” Lucas answered, “I wanted those scrolls you made for shopping.”
“Oh, yes.” She rustled through the bins behind her, “Here we are. Watch out with number twelve, sir. I couldn’t get the dear to put her arms back down unless I’d run it a couple times.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
He was bringing her to shop for an outfit. Adele was the prototype for truly social setting-ready automatons, and so, they needed to have her do activities in proper lady dress. He’d done the same with Jacques, but the clothes of a gentleman weren't as much of a concern, being much closer to the body.
They took a train ride into Argenstrath. Adele’s eyes were glued to the window.
“What are you looking at?” he asked her.
“The city. Many people.” she replied in her simple mechanistic way.
She seemed to Lucas like a reserved and refined toddler. He felt a fatherly pride, admiring their work. She was strangely more like a person than any other machine before her. It was mostly projection, he was sure, but he couldn’t stop smiling.
It was a perfect day out.
Philomena Thurgood was a powerful business woman. Cut-throat and vicious in everything she had done.
She worked for a highly successful watch making business, an expert leader in the coal industry in the Prush Confederacy, and a stellar leader for a coalition of mining towns out in the Istoki desert. She's the woman who made the desert profitable. PhD. Thurgood had been a recluse for the past year, and the public was curious to see what she was spending her time on.
A large crowd gathered in the courtyard next to Gearford's stock exchange. She stood next to a large covered object. She drew a crowd of businessmen, brokers, and technocrats.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I have been looking around the business sectors and one particular whole industry has been monopolized by a single company.
"For years now, if you needed mechanical aide in business or industry, you had only one choice. We've all seen the Buford Automaton working the ticket booth in Astam.
"This was fine. They have done a fine job at advancing technology. However, for them to go unopposed in the market is tragic.
"Now you have options. I introduce..."
She pulled the curtain off the object. A large wooden automaton waved to the gasping audience. It’s completely clockwork mechanics spurred and ticked.
"Cerillius Industries. We are here to make clockwork automatons for small businesses and inexpensive industrial use. Not a single drop of precious, life-giving water is wasted on the operation of our precision machines.
“We are now accepting orders.
“The monopoly is dead!"
The crowd cheered wildly in excitement and fervor.
She hopped into her paddock's carriage and sped off to her business office in the city.
Lucas awoke to a bright morning’s avian melodies. Bob brought him the paper like every morning, all crumpled from his crude grip.
He didn’t bother to open it as he made his way down to the office. He peered into the chocolatier’s shop on his way the Buford Automaton’s main R&D office, and continued on his cheery way.
“Good morning, Tracey,” he said to the secretary as he went to his office.
“Morning, boss,” she said, looking perplexed.
“Have you read that yet?” Tracey asked.
“The paper?” Lucas said.
“You better brace yourself.”
He put his hat on the coat rack and cautiously opened his paper. The headline punched his mood in the gut: 'Thurgood Sets Her Sights on Buford'.
“The Ticking Clock should not be printing sensationalist ravings of a—a— oh, my...” terror hit Lucas after the initial panic. “Something must be done. Assemble the team. I want them here, now.”
“Right on it, sir! Most of them are already downstairs.”
“I’ll call for them, then. You find whomever’s not yet here.”
Lucas walked into his office and pulled down a microphone that looked like a gramophone with a grate, “Calling the design team. I need you in my office, promptly. And someone, please, bring Adele with them.”
The team came into the office and sat down on the couches lining the walls. Adele walked in with Meredith, and strolled over to stand by Lucas.
Lucas rubbed his temples, “Hello, Adele. I’m going to be having a stressful day.”
To his surprise, Adele walked out of the room.
Meredith smiled, “She’ll be back. Don’t worry about it.”
“Worried? Me?” he held up the news, “Have any of you read this!?”
He had Timothy read the paper to the room while he took a swig of something he’d got from Doctor Bittersworth for his nerves.
Meredith calmly asked, “So what’s the plan, boss?”
“Okay. Well, there’s an automaton in the local chocolatier’s. We’re going to buy it from him. Pay handsomely, he’s a good man. If you can, we should give him a replacement automaton. I’m pretty sure it’s one of hers judging by the photograph in the paper. Find out as much as you can about her technology.”
“We can do that, sir,” Meredith reassured.
“How can she get these prices?” Timothy said, smacking the paper, “She’s undercutting us like hell.”
“I’m not sure...”
“We’re with you one hundred percent, boss,” one of the other team members said.
Lucas felt sick.
Adele walked back into the room with a steaming cup of tea.
Meredith smiled and spoke up again, “I didn’t end up needing a whole week.”
“But...” Lucas was nearly in tears, “how?”
“Stress. It’s a trigger word that you need a cup,” Meredith explained, “Now calm down, and reward her.”
Lucas smiled and patted Adele on the head. “Thank you.”
He took a big sip, closed his eyes, and felt the tension on his lids.
As much as he tried, he found no information on where the Cerillius units were being manufactured. It was enraging.
The Grand Theatre added a new ticket booth, with a Cerillius Industry automaton. This was one of many instances of no-bid wins by Thurgood's new company.
She had convinced the public that Buford's products were for someone with pockets far deeper than theirs.
The team investigated the machine they handsomely paid the chocolatier for, and found only minimal mechanical improvements to draw inspiration from. Most of the cost saving came from the materials and lack of deep logic. It could pull taffy like a crank that didn't stop when you had stopped turning it.
He received a letter from the ironfist lady herself.
Dear Mr. Buford,
It is my own pleasure to inform you that we have both been chosen to travel to Titania for this year’s World’s Fair.
It is my hope that you will indulge my competitive nature and use this meeting of our two selves as an excuse to pit our machines against each other in a contest.
I hope things are well, and I look forward to seeing you and your machines in one week at Argenstrath’s very own Arbiter.
PhD. Philomena Thurgood
He responded in kind. She had to be up to mischief, but to decline might have some unforeseen consequence.
Dear Doctor Thurgood,
I am truly honored to have the Technocracy chose the both of us to represent the great nation of Antiford.
Your challenge interests me greatly.
Lucas Merriweather Buford
The World’s Fair was an important event, gathering the nations in peace to show of their technologies and aspirations. This year, the event was in Titania. Which among other consequences, meant that the Arazian countries were expected to show off. It was easier for them to bring large marvels than any Paorrian nation.
An accident had shut down the direct route north through the mountains; So Buford stood in Argenstrath, watching the men load both his and Thurgood’s technologies into the Arbiter. It was a grand airship, built to show off Antiford’s might and power during the Antiford-Prussian war. It’s captain was the tough-as-nails Belafonte Grum.
The man who was tasked by the Technocracy of keeping the ship funded and flying came to greet Lucas. Nester Delgato, the only Baron of Argenstrath, walked with pride. His image would startle most people, but Lucas was not one to shy from alternate appearances. Nester’s tail wagged via gadgetry that Lucas, himself, built. Lucas occasionally tried to get into the mechanical prosthetics field, but neither the Argenstrath Medical community, nor the technological requirements made that too easy.
“Good evening, Nester!” Lucas shook his hand.
Nester handed him a short note with salutations and itinerary for the day.
“You know, we really ought to teach you some sign language, Adele here is great to practice it on. I know you’re not deaf, but notes must be truly inconvenient, old chum.” Lucas goaded.
Nester cocked his head in disapproval. He could talk, it just hurt and was muffled too much to hear outside his life sustaining mask. He motioned for Lucas to give him the note back, flipped it and pointed at the questions listed.
Lucas responded to them, “I only need the small bed. Just me and the automaton.”
Nester was concerned for Lucas who seemed lonely to him. Seldom did Lucas appear to put deep trust or hold personal relationships with close friends. Nester’s impression wasn’t very off base. Lucas’s last strong friendship was with his mentor, Lars. He did put great trust in the Order of the Badger, but Nester would never be allowed to know about them.
Nester was a good man, but a man of his statute had to align hard with the Technocrats after the revolution, or face exile to the Istoki. Both Phinneus and Abigail talked about the good people who were sent to their deaths out in the desert. Phinneus himself spent time in exile.
Lucas didn’t know his opinions on the leadership of the country. The black sleeves, Nester's personal guard, were always more loyal to their city than their country, but, Lucas didn’t want to put his friend under any suspicion from the Technocracy.
They met up with Thurgood at the base of the ship to finally climb aboard and fly northward. She was chatting with some members of parliament.
“Good evening, doctor Thurgood!” Lucas shouted over the propellers, starting up.
“Call me Philomena,” she said, shaking his hand.
Lucas, still surprised by the friendliness, replied, “Lucas.”
“Shall we? It’s freezing under all this wind.”
The crowd were all excited and nervous.
A path cleared through them as the captain’s booming voice charged forward, “You think that’s cold, wait ‘til ya lift up into the atmosphere.”
He was absolutely right about that. The legislators aboard weren’t used to flying, but many of the Antifordians were aware of the temperature difference in the sky. Lucas put on a Kuuvian jacket, and Philomena was seen on deck in Titanian furs.
Nester got to acquaint himself a little with Adele and her sign language. Lucas found this extremely amusing. Adele couldn’t read, so the two couldn’t understand each other through complex language. It was academically fascinating at the least.
Lucas thought about how Doctor Moreau must be giddy in her grave.
The great city of Hjem revealed itself once the Arbiter lowered below the cloud layer. It’s sweeping roads and striking architecture proved itself the pinnacle of the industrial yeti world. They, like all host cities, spent large resources cleaning up and preparing the place for international scrutiny. Very often, a city will vote against hosting the event for this reason. Gearford hadn’t seen a world’s fair since it had held that name, post-revolutionary Antiford not being able to spend much toward urban development.
The fair grounds were well implanted in the city to promote local businesses, pubs, and restaurants.
As big as Lucas could feel sometimes, seeing a city’s true scale from the air always humbled him.
He took Adele’s hand and brought her to the bow of the ship to observe their descent. The information of scale, flight, and foreign lands might almost be too much to learn, but it was worth the risk.
“And over there is where they fought great battles. You can still see some of the damaged old barricades.”
She silently leaned on the railing, holding her hat in the wind.
When they landed, carriages pulled by great horned deer were ready to bring them to their hotel. That night, everyone rested. The show was in a week, and they would have many restless nights to come, meeting diplomats and setting up the exhibits.
In the hotel room, Lucas looked over Adele’s inner workings. They’d done a lot of improvements to her in preparation for this event.
“I’m just going to tighten one last bit.”
Adele’s infinite, non-creature patience held her still.
“Time for rest. I’m going to turn off your engine now.”
Adele signed “no”: her index and pointer meeting her thumb.
“Very cute. It’s time for bed.” He sternly instructed.
Adele stomped and repeated herself.
“What’s gotten into you? I swear I’ve gone too far with the self-preservation routines...”
She ran around to the other end of the room and sat on the window seat, looking outward. He walked toward her, and turned the fire down.
She turned it back up by using the mirror in the opposite corner to find the dial.
“I’m tired. I’m going to bed,” he grumpily turned the engine completely off.
With no way to re-light herself, Adele had no choice but to lie down. Lucas proudly watched as she went to sleep, her eyes slowly fading to black.
When he woke up the next day, Lucas ran down to Meredith’s room, knocking incessantly on the door.
“Sir, it’s six in the morning. Go back to bed.”
“Adele is missing.”
“Dry morning! Let me get dressed. I’ll meet you in the lobby.”
He realized he’d not changed out of his night gown or put his arm back on, and ran back upstairs to get dressed, himself.
When they reconvened downstairs, the bellhop approached them, “I was instructed to give you a message, sir.”
The small note read: “Your pride has you devouring water. Now the water devours your pride.”
They ran all around the city, looking at every bridge and fountain.
They found her in a fountain, face down. It took them a few minutes, and all their strength to pull her out of it.
“I blame Thurgood.” Lucas said.
Meredith acknowledged his suspicion. “For once, sir, I’m inclined to agree with your paranoia. That witch is going to pay.”
They carried Adele into the nearest cafe.
Lucas left the table and approached the waiter, “Look, here’s twenty ciams, bring a couple hot teas and a couple pots of hot water.”
When the man returned, they poured the hot water into Adele’s tank and brought her back to life.
“We’re a wreck,” Lucas pointed out.
“I’m wet,” Adele signed.
“Yes, you are. Remind Timothy to install an innate distrust of Cerrilius Industries and the doctor when we get back,” Meredith grumbled between sips.
The sun came up, warming the cold air of the city.
The days passed with great fervor and everyone gathered upon this one city to see what the world had built.
The Kuuvians were showing off new surgical techniques on dummies. Mercia brought some interesting farming equipment. The people of Monte-Diamont were displaying all sorts of mining equipment that Antiford’s diplomats were curious about. There were strange and fantastical things from all over Paorr and Araz. It was truly a sight to see.
Most importantly, the Antiford Exhibit stood as a shining embassador of the Technocratic nation. There was a great display by the textile companies that showed off the whole process of production, from cotton to cloth! Both Thurgood and Buford had an automaton performing pretend tasks on painted backgrounds.
Thurgood’s area of the exhibit featured the taffy puller, a watch assembler, and a small puppy that wagged its tail and hopped. Lucas had Bob put out a fire periodically with his hose arm, an L series automaton performing production line work, and Adele was performing a dance and would talk with those passerby’s who understood sign language. The sign near her encouraged them to do so.
Philomena walked over to Adele and spoke with her. Lucas could see that they were, but not what it was they were signing. He finished up and walked over.
“I’m very impressed. You should build more of those!” Thurgood complimented.
Lucas’s patience wore thin. “Yes, well if they were all like Adele, no one could afford anything we made.”
“So these are all research machines, then?”
“All of the ones I travel with. Adele’s finger dexterity is brilliant, but I doubt I could sell too many. Most of the impressive tech is in the brain pan, so to speak.”
“I’d love to take a look sometime,” she said.
“I bet you would,” he said, furrowing his brow.
“You seem in need of a good night’s rest, Mr. Buford.”
He fell completely silent for a moment. The civility began to crack a little between them.
“Beautiful workmanship, that watch maker.”
“Oh yes, I built one for a shop in Gearford, lovely people.”
“What do you want, Philomena?”
“Lucas, I want to stop you from getting too full of yourself and your ‘scientific breakthroughs’. I’m a student of history, among many things, and you follow dangerously in a particular lady’s footsteps.”
It was said. She’d deduced that his work came from the line of Doctor Moreau’s pupils.
“My work doesn’t resemble that of anyone, excepting my teacher, who I’ve named the logic engine after. I wear that on my sleeve, but I will not have the contributions of myself or my team be dismissed. This is the product of modern engineering, not old experiments.”
“Just be careful out there, Buford. The real world is about more than just dolls.”
He looked at Adele and back to Thurgood, “Don’t you ever threaten me, again. Stay away from my family, whether that be my team, my automatons, or anything else I hold dear.”
“Threaten? This is just business. If you keep making such extravagant products, you’ll lose your shirt. You are too young in the game to be at the top,” she turned and walked back to her section “Get out of the steam-powered business, if you can’t stand the pressure.”
At this point, Lucas couldn’t focus on anything else. He was furious. He couldn’t imagine what the competition she intended to ask for would entail. No doubt something that played only to her strengths.
Adele walked up to Lucas and hugged him. He hugged back ferociously.
That night, they received one piece of instruction for the competition the next morning: prepare one routine for one of your automatons that will impress an audience.
The next day was overcast and grey. The fair continued on with it’s exhibits and it’s big stage shows, but a chill swept past from above.
“Up next is a very exciting moment for the industrial world. Two of the biggest names in Antifordian engineering are here together for the first time!”
The crowd cheered, and they walked up to either side of the announcer.
“Everyone in the audience, you’ve, by now, received paddles and are wondering what they’re for. There’s going to be a competition, but we’re not using a panel of judges. We’re going to judge the winner with an auction-vote!“
The crowd cheered on.
Auction-votes were a strange tradition, dating back a few centuries. The idea is that each party holds something for auction, and the contestants are never really sure which item their neighbor is bidding on until the final bidder announces it. The winner gets their item sold at the highest common denominator, and the losers go home with their item unsold.
“She is not up for auction,” Lucas whispered.
Timothy commented, “That woman is Skret incarnate.”
The announcer called them up to the stage, “Buford Automaton, and their only entry in this contest, Adele!”
Applause boomed from the pit below.
“And on your right, a force to be reckoned with: Cerillius Industries and their assortment of machines!”
Thurgood walked on stage, her lackeys behind her pulling in a menagerie of clockwork machines.
“So that’s her game. She must have built a machine to perfectly match each contest,” Timothy surmised.
“I’m not sure she’d have stooped that low. That’s dipping a little further into the unlawful realm that she may be comfortable,” Lucas reassuring no one but himself.
The announcer continued, “The particulars of this competition have not been known to the contestants ahead of time in the interest of fairness and entertainment for our audience. They have simply provided the best technology they’ve created.
“Firstly, the automatons will compete on speed in a hundred meter dash! Secondly, contestants will display their strength! And lastly, ladies and gentlemen... and I am excited for this... they will chose one skill to impress you based on the strengths of their automatons.
“May the best automaton win!”
The crowd cheered wildly. A competition was the best thing to break up the show-and-tells of the day, and everyone was pumped.
They led the crowd to a wide street, lined with small shops. there were two markers, and between them, devoid of people, the race track. In the center of the road were a row of trees. They were to setup at one end and race on either side of the trees to the tape at the end.
Meredith and Timothy went ahead to the finish line, while Lucas prepped Adele.
“Now, Meredith doesn’t have any racing or even running scripts in her bag of tricks, so I want you to pay attention to me,” Lucas said, snapping his fingers for attention, “Please be fast right now. When the gun fires into the sky, I want you to get to Meredith faster than the wooden automaton over there.”
“Those are bad people,” Adele pointed out.
“Yes, they are bad. That’s why you need to run when the gun fires. You need to win”
“I can win for you. I can beat the bad people.”
“Very good. Win for us.”
“I will win.”
“Get ready, dear.”
And with that, Adele walked up to the start line. She stood upright looking at the man in the middle with the starting pistol.
Meanwhile, the Cerillius crew were posing their automaton in a starting position and winding the machine. Thurgood stood erect, watching everyone. They attached a wheel to it’s chest.
“Inventors! Are you ready?”
Their crew scrambled behind Thurgood; Lucas clasped his hands, both flesh and mechanistic.
“Are you set?”
Adele turned up her boiler knob and lifted one leg forward.
The pistol fired into the air, and the two machines began running. Adele managed to find a good pace, but without the logic on how to run, it was just a very fast and exaggerated walk. The Cerillius machine, meanwhile was fixed into a low profile, galavanting along.
It was not a close call, she tripped over her dress a few times and never could match the speed.
Adele crashed into and hugged Meredith, which startled the dickens out of her. Meredith made sure to turn back down Adele’s knob and inspected the ADD Engine underneath her wig.
“How’d she do?” Lucas asked, catching up with them.
“Did you have your eyes closed?” Meredith had to ask.
“No, I’m well aware of the race. How’s the ADD Engine holding up with all this?”
“She’s just fine, sir.”
Adele looked at Lucas and asked, “Did I win?”
“No. I’m sorry, we didn’t win.” he said.
Adele lowered her head and shoulders.
He grabbed her shoulders. “Hey, new task. We’re going to have you try something new.”
Adele looked back up and they all walked back to the stage.
“That race kind of destroyed her dress, sir. She can’t go on like that,” Meredith suggested.
“Of course. It’ll look better to have her in metal for the strength competition anyway. Now do you have a scroll for this?”
“Yea, it’s an old one that you wrote for Bob.”
The audience was impressed when she walked onto the stage for the strength competition. Her chest emblazoned with the shield with two moons.
“Wow! You could paint that one blue, white, and gold! It looks like Buford Automaton is ready to take the gloves off!”
Wooing and laughter came from the crowd.
The Cerillius team replaced the arms of their machine with others, made from both metal and wood.
“Alright folks, now we’re going to prove how much these machines can lift!”
They had a couple horned deer pull in carts of barbells in front of them.
The two machines walked forward and lifted the first set of weights. Neither had any trouble with it. They turned around and set it behind them to focus on the next set.
Ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred kilograms - the strength displayed here was amazing by any standard. The weight could no longer be expected to be lifted by even a yeti, never mind human.
The Cerillius contraption eventually lost. It’s strong arms snapped clear off it’s body in an attempt to keep up with Adele.
Lucas walked over after the weights were all dropped and patted her on the head.
“Wonderful job, Adele.”
The announcer riled up the crowd again, “Well, we will have a short intermission while Buford Automaton sets up the stage for their final impression!”
Meredith, Timothy, and Lucas had stayed up all night preparing for this. They carried bales of hay up to the stage area, fitted Adele in white from head to toe, and a particularly fat scroll fitted into her back. They rolled back cables all the way to the side of the stage and attached it to a single pull handle.
The announcer returned to the stage, “Ladies and gentlemen, the final attraction will be on the inventor’s own terms. This is the final event before the auction-vote. Buford Automaton has the stage...”
Meredith put on some delightful melody on a gramophone they bribed the hotel to borrow. Adele strolled casually through the bales, swinging a parasol. When she reached the front of the stage, the music changed to a dark and stormy orchestration with deep drums. Lucas yanked on the handle that turned the bales around, revealing giant angry thief faces painted on the back.
Adele cracked the parasol against the “thief” closest and continued to masterfully attack them. She gracefully glided from one to the next in tune with the music. She almost couldn’t have done it that well without the music, there was no coincidence.
When all the bales had been forced on their side, she stopped. She brushed off her dress and the music was swapped back to a happy tune. She sat on the hay.
The crowd went crazy. it was, no doubt, impressive.
“Wow! Don’t mess with this sweet lady-maton!” the announcer quipped, “Next up, Cerillius Industries!”
They brought out a gigantic table filled with meats. Their automaton had a chef’s hat on and knives for it’s hands. It worked quickly and mechanistically through the food without a hitch. It was a wonder.
What it created was a big, savory smelling pile of flesh, some cut thick like steaks, some cut thin like deli meats.
“Cerillius Industries just might have made the cut for a lot of our audience!”
Some of the crowd laughed, others cheered, and yet a few in the audience started to get sick of the puns.
“Dignitaries, representatives, people of Hjem and all of Orr... What are we all bidding on? It’s a contract war. Please get ready to bid on a contract with the company of your choice.”
“Bidding will start at with one thousand ciams.”
The paddles flew up and bidding went quickly through small increments. Lucas was really nervous. At each step along the way, the damage to the loser becomes greater.
“Fourty-five thousand ciams!”
The sky cracked, and rain came pouring down upon Hjem. Umbrellas and hats came out.
Adele stood smiling, a bit oblivious of the weather.
“I have fourty-five thousand ciams! Can I get Fourty-six thousand?”
“Can I get fourty-six thousand?”
The crowd stayed silent.
“Sold! Now sir, the winner?”
Everyone’s eyes were fixed in anticipation at the gentleman yeti.
“I was impressed by the lady’s automaton’s fighting spirit!”
Lucas ran up to and hugged Adele, the metal of his hand clanked against the her. The rain poured over their faces.
“Did I do good?” Adele asked.
“Yes, you did very well.”