Journey of a Wayward Son
The air here was still and quiet. None saw Jason as he slowly paced the boarders of this field. Granted none would have bothered him if they had since ownership of field, and in fact a fair amount of acreage in the general area, belonged to him. the last man that owned this place didn't do much walking at this late hour, but I suppose, fine and fair reader, that you wish to know why Jason was out at this dark and late hour rather than to hear me prattle on about the habits each of the prior owners of this land. In all truth Jason was deep in thought, disturbed by a telegram he had received on his weekly trip to town.
The message itself was inconsequential, at least if one took it at face value. If one knew the cypher that Jason and his partner had agreed on you would find, instead of a message about local life in a Montana cattle ranch, learn of devices that were far in advance of what was supposed to exist. You would also learn that the man who had created these devices had been taken captive and was currently being held indefinitely, without trial or even the minimum courtesy of a military hearing. Even if the man had somehow, as the message hinted, preformed some sort of unnatural and cruel act against an entire town of people, Jason thought he deserved the rights due to any citizen of this country.
There was more to the message than this, though news of some misguided man of science out west having toed over the line of good morals in an honest attempt at finding a better way of dealing with criminals while possibly being a pawn of some as yet unknown party would have been enough to set his temper foul. They knew far more than his friend had told them, possibly enough to put Jason's position as well as his freedom in the balance. How they learned these things the letter did not say, but they knew some of his secrets, enough to have people scrambling to both call on him for aid, and to denounce him as part of some sort of conspirator.
His unease at this wouldn't have to sit long, for he had been asked to see the man and the things that he had created. The message, unfortunately, hinted that the powers that be thought that Jason himself might have something to do with this fellow and that it was only at the intervention of his corespondent that he would not be stuffed into a cell alongside this Oriental. At that Jason's nose wrinkled in disgust, either that was a very sincere statement at how hard his friends had to work to keep him from being mixed up in matters, or else it was a very thinly veiled threat that their protection would be removed if he didn't cooperate.
He left town in a decidedly worse mood than he had entered. There was no choice in the matter; his father, at least thats what most here thought their relationship was, had told him their mutual employers needed him. He was to pack for a month's stay to attempt to help figure out what this chinaman had done and if he had been the pawn of some hidden agency to figure out what motives they might have.
- * *
Let's leave Jason to pack and set his affairs straight. These are tasks that are better left done while we turn our eyes elsewhere, and possibly learn a thing or two in the process. A dark haired slightly and short of stature woman by the name of Emily Harrison will be the focus of our attention. She too has had dealings with this chinaman, and unlike Jason, her presence there had most decidedly not been asked for. In fact she has been barred by her father, who is also her employer, has forbidden her to have contact with this man. His reasoning has less to do with keeping his child out of harm's way, and more to do with keeping the man from being beaten within an inch of his life before he can give them answers.
Emily had seen this man up close only once since he had been taken into custody. She saw the mass of healed burn scars she had inflicted on his face and smiled then. She had told him that she did not care if he had somehow managed to cure Death itself, that if they allowed her close to him again she would wrap her hands around his throat and choke the life from him. He didn't have anything to say in response to her proclamation, nor could he bring himself to lock eyes with her. In his heart of hearts he hoped that she would end his life, not because of the things he had done. No. He hoped that she would take his life because he viewed it as better than continuing to be a prisoner in this place.
He had been promised, when he broke with his people's custom and tradition by surrendering, that he would be allowed to continue his research and that he would be kept updated on what uses his studies were being put to. Instead he had been jailed, barely fed, and if he did not talk when they had wanted him to he had sometimes been beaten. Emily did not know about his conditions, they had tidied up, and made sure the man was in good health, in preparation for her visit as part of an inspection by her father and the overs that shifted money and power about in the shadows and behind closed doors.
Their's wasn't a criminal organization, but they felt that governments would only constrain their efforts, and that the public would either see them as a sure sign that the rich in this country had far too much power, or they would see their government as being too weak to be worth following. Either way would be a disaster to them, as they needed the facade of the status-quo to exist in order to face the things they did, things that the average man or woman of the day either did not know of, or dismissed as superstition.
Emily often went over that in her head as she looked over old case files. Thunderbirds, Rock Monsters, some sort of lake monster, and more had either been 'contained' or 'made safe'. These reports that she studied, both for her own education and as a means to help the captain of her excursion team by trying to find patterns and trends of where and how these things happened. So far she's noticed a drop in 'natural' threats, either by creatures too vicious or out of the ordinary to leave for the army to deal with, or those that had been summoned by native tribes that were dissatisfied with the lopsided agreements they had been forced into to avoid extermination. This sort of thing she had a slight sympathy for those on the other side of the divide. They wished only survival, either individually or as a culture. Instead it was the things caused by men like the one that she had sworn to torment until his dying breath that gave her troubled sleep and stole her joyful moments.
The trends she had noticed since the chinaman, who had been given the name Zeus by the town they had found him in, pointed to more people like him causing problems. She would have been out with the rest of her excursion team at that moment dealing with what supposedly was an ancient war machine making trouble in Old Mexico instead of confined to desk work sorting papers if it weren't for the chinaman. She hated him for making her spend time shut in this place. She hated this kind of work, it was boring and tiring and it made her unfit to be around unless you wanted your head snapped off. Still, it was work, and if it helped Edward and the others on top of things she would do it.
- * *
While Emily sifted through papers, and Jason packed for his trip, Edward fought. His opponent looked like a spider the size of a large house and armed with the sorts of weaponry that had not been seen, and if history were to preserve its course would not be seen again, for millenia. The man inside this giant spider had once been a Texas Ranger. He then became a problem for the Rangers because of his black and white view of the world as well as his tendency to be even more willing to murder and torture than the most hardened men he had been sent after. This man, who's name is not important for this story, had fled south to avoid his own dance with lady Justice.
Neither Edward nor the construct that his mind had been wedded to knew this. They did not care of the man's history. Their only care had been that he had somehow come into possession of a wonder-weapon of a bygone epoch and had set about dispensing his harsh brand of judgment on the countryside. As the Goliath's massive hands gripped the Spider's head Edward only thought that it was strange that the team had unearthed the Goliath hadn’t found this as well. Well, mainly he thought that this Spider was entirely too much of a personal pain in the neck, but the other thought might pop up after things were settled, if they settled.
The difficulty in this fight wasn't a matter of strength. Goliath had its opponent beaten hands down in matters of raw power. No. Goliath was having difficulties partially because of how nimble the Spider was, and the fact that his opponent had functional cannonry, whereas Goliath's twin shoulder cannons had since been exhausted. The men that had been in the crew compartment of the Goliath could do no more, their sole job during battle had been the loading and maintaining of those weapons, and now they were unable to do more than be bounced about in their harnesses. It made their blood boil that there was no more that could be done, but chin up dear friends, if Edward, the Goliath, and these fine and brave men survive they will have plenty to do. After all Edward cannot repair the construct himself, and even if they have to be told exactly what and where things had to be they could keep the great beast functional. there was just that little matter of surviving bursts of coherent energy being lobbed at them.
Edward charged the Spider, a thing it had done many times before, and again was rewarded by his opponent leaping out of the way. Why did it leap about so when a mere sidestep or roll would do to avoid being bowled over? Edward rumbled low as he made one of the cannons detach from Goliath's back. While it was out of ammunition, the canon would serve well as a club. He hefted it, tossing the makeshift weapon from one hand to the other as the Spider circled, possibly unsure of how to adapt to this new tactic. Edward would have smiled had he lips. The other canon was detached, giving him a weapon for each hand. He could not charge like this, he was too top heavy to effectively run on his hind limbs at speed. Still, he could leap, which he did repeatedly, each time the Spider jumping clear of deadly club-swings.
Edward jumped again, this time throwing first one of the cannons then the other. The Spider dodged the first, but was hit by the second. Even with direct mind-machine interfacing it is difficult to move more limbs than you are used to dealing with. Any sort of grace and control is gained only after long practice, and all that goes out the window when you've suddenly been caught off balance and without the use of several of these appendages.
The Ranger found out, far too late, that once the Goliath had to be called into action, anything that tried to oppose it generally did not live long enough to be tried by any judge or jury. Maybe that was a mercy for the man, but to Edward it meant more unanswered questions. The man left him no choice, but he would have liked to have learned more about where heh ad found the spider-machine, who might have helped him repair it, and if there were any connections to the Metal Angels he had fought four years before then. Still, done is done. Not only did they have the threat taken care of, but because of the similarities between the two constructs Edward thought they might be able to make a few longstanding repairs he had been denied due to lack of equipment and parts.
- * *
Jason's arrival was, to put kindly, under less than ideal conditions. His mood was not helped by the downpour that had started midway through his ride from the train station to, well, history wouldn't show the place's name so let's just call it his destination for the moment. You or I may not be familiar with the difficulties of traveling roads and trails that alternate between fair grasslands, to choking sticky mud that makes every step a battle, to portions of your intended path that had been gentle creeks in farer weathers now-turned to impassible torrents. However Jason encountered many, if not all, of these obstacles along his way. I have hinted at before, his destination was remote, and I will clarify that presumption now. It wasn't remotely near anything resembling civilization.
To try putting a more even hand on things I shall explain. This place houses deranged, warped, malicious, and just plain bent persons that would have, had they been less violent or dangerous, been counted amongst the other pioneers and innovators of the day. Those that watched over this lot had wanted their charges nowhere near anyone or anywhere else, which I count as a sensible precaution. Men, and more than a few women, that had hoped either to conquer the world, or at least change it whether it wanted changing or not, now tended the large communal gardens, or preformed other mundane chores that saw to the needs of all that called this prison home.
Though it was still drizzling rain, and it was wet and nasty when Jason's coach arrived he made the driver stop so that he could get out at the gate. It wasn't, I can assure you, that he wanted to walk the final few hundred feet. What prompted this was the fact that Jason's transportation doubled as a supply wagon that brought things that either could not be made by the inmates, or to replenish stores that had run low faster than they could be re-stocked locally.
When Jason was seen to by guards at the door and, after showing proper credentials and signed orders, was escorted him to meet with the warden. He did not expect to be greeted with the head of this place, for he thought that the work he had been called for didn't merit the attention. No matter what he thought his visit warranted there was still a tour, small talk, and a rundown of their most noted residents.
- * *
Here are a few of these, just so that we may gain a feel for the exact sort of people that are sequestered away from even the more normal sort of criminals out there:
He was born to a wealthy family in the south and used that wealth, as well as contacts he had gained over the past twenty years following the Civil War to attempt to build an army to restore the south to what he felt was its proper and rightful place. What differentiated him from the hundreds, if not thousands, of others who wanted to see a different end to that awful struggle were his soldiers. Each of his soldiers had prosthetics that either made them stronger, or more agile, or in some other fashion enhanced them above and beyond the limits of normal people. Many of these other enhancements involved guns, in fact every prosthetic Derek had grafted had a component somewhere that could act as a firearm. To be sure, at least by the photographs that had been shown, were crude by Jason's standards. The fact that the man had gotten any of his 'Men of metal blessed by God to become Lords of Death.' to work at all troubled him greatly. All of these so-called enhancements should have killed the men they were wedded to, but all but the most extreme worked, though most of the volunteers paid for their technological gifts with their sanity. His capture had been Edward's first assignment. Given how many died whenever Edward brought the Goliath to bare Derek is also one of the oddities of Edward's tenure with this group.
Marek, like Derek, came from a wealthy family. Unlike Derek he saw all government, state as well as federal, as inherently evil. While there were many Anarchists, or those that were labeled as such that wanted to make a peaceful statement of their beliefs to spread their creed, Marek was one of the bloodier sort. He had, through means that were not in the summery Jason had been given, somehow became stronger, faster, and had gained faster reflexes than most ordinary men. Once he had gained his gifts he started going around dressed all in black wearing a bone white mask and dark wig calling himself 'The Doll'. His capture had been a hard thing, resulting in the deaths of twenty different agents before it was over. Jason made a note to talk to the man later, partially at the warden's request, and partially because even though the man was clearly insane, he had a way of speaking and baring that held Jason's interest.
Though he had only been in this country a handful of years he had gained a reputation as a toy-maker, specifically dolls. It was said that his creations, human, animal, or otherwise, often possessed a quality of life about them that even the most celebrated in the business could not match. Unfortunately that essence, though possibly soul would be a better word, was achieved through bloody ends. Hundreds children's bodies were found on his property. Jason did not believe the rumors that were listed in this report of dolls that sprang to life without internal mechanism or external strings. It was just too much outside of the realms of science and reason to believe. As to what connection the children had with the dolls he could not guess, save that there had to be something within the twisted depths of the man's head for there to be a reason, but he would not ask. That one he wanted to stay away from at all costs, for he did not trust himself to not simply kill the man.
Mary Ann Scott:
Mary not only is one of the few women staying here, but is also one of five persons held under continual watch and barred from contact with any of the other inmates. The guards that interact with her do so only after donning an extra layer of clothing and a filter mask. You see, Mary thought that she had found a cure for 'The wickedness of men and frailties of women.'
Her 'cure' first cased those it infected to feel a continual sense of joy and peace. Do not applaud yet, as while the first stage of this unnatural thing that she had created soothes violent souls the next stages would, were I to describe them in full, make even the stoutest hearts weak, so what follows is only the barest of explanations of what those poor souls undergo. The second stage of this infection causes the poor unfortunates to seek out others and attempt to spread this 'cure' to others. Fortunately this stage does not last long and, contrary to the masks the guards wear, is not transmitted by coughs or mere casual contact. In the third stage those infected hunger, not to spread their 'joy', but for human flesh. There is a stage after this, but its effects I cannot go into, other than to say that this 'cure' Mary Ann Scott hoped to produce is lethal in all those that are infected save for one person. Mary Scott admitted herself into the care of this place in one of the few moments that she has when she is able to fight the mind-warping effects of her own 'cure for human evilness'.
- * *
Jason listened to this with mild interest. His experience had given him a sense of the sorts of people these were, but he was familiar with none of the names, faces, or even the exact crimes they had committed. In a way, to his mind, that was a relief. If things were slipping, as he thought they might be, surely this lot would have been enlisted to aid one side or other of this conflict he hoped was only a product of his troubled imagination.
Eventually, far too soon and at the same time not soon enough, Jason found himself looking at Kobayashi Saburo across a bare wooden table.There was silence for a time as each man studied the other, before Jason decided to break the ice.
Saburo's eyes widened at that,
Jason clasped his hands before setting them on the table, He did not want to spend hours getting to the heart of the matter, not because they wanted him to find out Saburo's backing party, but because the subject really did interest him, and he wanted to know.
Saburo's tone made it clear that, no matter what shame he had by being a captive, he was fearful, even here in one of the most heavily guarded buildings west of the Mississippi.
For one of Jason's background the concept didn't sound too far of a stretch. If one could, say, cross through the river of time in body, how different was it to be able to view, without actually entering, a moment to see what had/will/might happen? He did not want to come right out and tell his big secret. If this man had been made a pawn by one time-traveler then another, no matter how good natured and well meaning, probably wouldn’t be trusted.
Not only did the very notion of traveling time seem like something ripped from Wells, but there was the more practical concern. If the man that had given Saburo lattice technology could eavesdrop and had a continual ear on the man, the chances were high that they were being listened to right then. Of course if this man could peek in and see what anyone and everyone at any given moment was up to at the drop of a hat they were already without hope of finding a way to contain him. No. In Jason's estimation there had to be practical limits, or at least he had to act as if this man, if indeed it was a man, had limits. Otherwise he would give himself over to hopelessness.
For his part Saburo was curious about his newest visitor. There was a pause, just long enough so that he could read the expression on Jason's face.
Jason leaned toward the other man, He laughed a little then, Looking at Saburo it would be easy to tell that something had happened to his face, but few would have guessed at how extensive the injury was, or that it took weeks rather than months for the wounds to heal as they had.
Jason, under the guise of a wayward son finally come to claim his heritage, had taken to learning the tasks of his new home's staff. in particular he enjoyed both watching the kitchen staff, as well as educating them on foods and ways of preparation that they weren't familiar with. His knowledge and thoughts on the culinary arts at first took Saburo off guard, but soon found his footing somewhere in discussing baked goods and from there the conversation took on a life of it's own.
After nearly an hour of discussing less important yet more enjoyable matters a bell chimed somewhere off in the distance. Jason rose, as did Saburo, and both shook hands. Saburo sounded somewhat resigned,
He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Then, in a far less formal manner, he said,
The two bowed before going their separate ways. Jason would stay for a week, possibly as long as a month, then return to his plantation home in Georgia. There were things there he wanted done if he was truly given a free hand in running the place.
- * *
Edward had went over the message again. It had been delivered the day before by one of those that had been sent into town provisions for his men and to relay his post operation report. The Spider-Machine was destroyed and rendered unrecognizable save for a few things Edward had made his crew pull away to hopefully be of further use. The machine's pilot lived, though having both legs crushed and likely to suffer an addiction to morphine wasn't something Edward considered a positive ending. Still, the man was going back to answer for the things he had done, as well as to hopefully shed light on how he had gotten his hands on a Muu war-machine.
The message from his 'son' was to the point. He wanted to try doing more with the family home and land. Edward applauded the desire to try new and different things, but he was unsure if the idea of turning the place into a school for 'Those with the most urgent of needs.', which he took to be blacks and other groups that were all but cast out of 'proper' society would work.
He would give Jason his blessings in doing what he felt he needed to for the sake of this project, but in his heart of hearts even with the man's unique insights and knowledge he could not anticipate the backlash that he would receive from his more militant neighbors with deep seated grievances with how the end of the war left things. Then again if it came to that, Edward just might have to go see to his ancestral home personally. Damned the secrecy. If it was between keeping his head down and keeping the place where he, his father, and his grandfather had all been raised it would be no choice at all.