A matter of faith
Posted on Sun Nov 18th, 2012 @ 8:01pm by Brother Elias Ambrose
Edited on on Thu Dec 27th, 2012 @ 8:29pm
Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Timeline: Day 4
Tags: Cult of the Machine, Elias
Erm had been tempted to ask doctor Yorvlad to start cutting off the imperfect flesh that he'd been cursed with, but at that last minute the boy had had second thoughts about it. Not because he thought Yorvlad wouldn't do it, in fact he felt lucky to have such an open minded surgeon on the Steamhawke, but because he needed someone with supplies and the skills to replace his imperfect body parts. Yorvlad was good at cutting out bullets but he wasn't such an expert on sewing people back together again. Erm remembered the mess the doctor had made of Kanya's arm, and shivered.
He also shivered because of the rain, and held his new robes tighter. Erm wanted to go below decks and mingle with his crewmates, spreading the joy that joining the Church of the Machine had given him. But the last time that he expressed that joy and adoration, he'd been cast out by his friends. That girl was a god-made-machine and nobody else agreed with him. Instead, they'd sent him to sickbay to get his head checked out. Doctor Yorvlad had offered Erm a good bleeding but the boy declined, and now was leaning against the railing looking out at Seaport and feeling sorry for himself.
Lightning flashed and Erm spotted twin points of reflected light among the crates on the docks. With the freezing rain pelting down on him, Erm felt a wave of curiosity. Within moments he was off the ship looking for the mysterious lights. Erm didn't find anything unusual, but as he stepped away from the crates he spotted a lone figure striding away. The boy was compelled to follow the mysterious figure further into Seaport, and quickly started jogging through the rain to catch up with it. As he turned a corner Erm caught a better sight of the man. He was tall and swathed in a long back cape that spread out behind him as he took long strides along the street. Rain was battering off the man's rounded hat as he stopped in front of a door and knocked loudly over the din of the growing storm. As Erm moved in closer, someone opened the door for the man. The door closed again right in front of Erm's face.
It was a soup kitchen. Without hesitation Erm also knocked on the door, and it once again swung open. An old lady beckoned him in, and Erm was happy to get out of the rain. The lady shut the door behind him, blocking out the cold and the wet.
"Come for something warm to eat, have you my dear?"
But Erm wasn't paying attention. A long black cloak hang from the coat stand beside the door, a puddle growing on the floor below it, and a round black hat sat atop the stand. Through large doors Erm could smell and hear the soup kitchen, but he was more interested in the trail of wet footprints leading under a side door. While the lady was distracted by a Seaport resident knocking on the door, Erm used his advanced engineering skills to turn the handle on the side door and open it.
"You're overdue for a full reconditioning, I can't keep tuning you up like this" came one voice. It was a man wearing a shirt and waistcoat, a pair of goggles strapped on, and his hair pulled back in a pony tail. He had his back to Erm, and was turning a wrench on something. "I will take your words into consideration" began a quiet voice, "but there is too much at stake to leave Seaport any time soon. There's a big problem here and I want to find a solution."
"Whatever you say boss" replied the first man. He left, and Erm was alone with the owner of the second voice. It belonged to a clergyman who was adjusting his robes now that the technician had finished. Erm caught a glimpse of metal where there should have been flesh. "Soup kitchen's the other way, son" smiled the man as he was checking that his gloves were on tightly. He glanced up at Erm from behind a pair of dark glasses, raising an eyebrow at the way the boy was dressed. Erm was wearing red robes, while Elias wore robes of black.
"I'm Brother Elias, have we met?"
"I'm Brother... erm... You're also a follower too, aren't you?"
"'Erm?' Yes, I follow the Way. I am on a mission to bring relief to Seaport during this stressful time. To give the residents a sense of safety while those who want power make mistakes that threaten everyone." His words remained quiet, and made Erm feel calm. He felt a warmth from Elias who was somehow standing a lot closer to him than a few seconds before.
"One cog moves another, Brother" smiled Erm, holding out the cog strapped around his neck. "Excuse me?" asked Elias, leaning closer to the boy. Erm could hear a distinct mechanical whirring sound from under the man's robes, and his knees quivered with joy. "What is this?" asked Elias. "A cog? Something isn't right here." Elias took a heavy step back and took a long hard look at Erm. Those robes, that symbol, and he'd heard those words before... Could the Church of the Machine have spread to Seaport? He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes with worry.
"I'm not your Brother, boy. I follow the one true Way, while you have been led down a path of darkness." Elias stared at Erm in anger but also with compassion for the boy's plight. Erm just stared in adoration at Elias, for the man's eyes were made of glass, like the depiction of the Machine God on the front cover of the holy manual.
Erm spoke excitedly. "I thought the girl was the god-made-machine, but now I know that she was merely a temptation placed there to test me. Now the twin lights of the machine have led me to you. It is you I should worship!"
"Nothing holy led you here. Twin lights? That was just the lightning reflecting in my eyes. You must stop this madness and listen to sense, boy."
"Why else would you be standing there, except to beckon me?"
Elias was silent. He replaced his glasses and turned away from Erm. "I was worried about Daenelia. I was hoping to catch another glimpse of her. It was a moment of weakness."
"You are not weak, you are perfect! To be with the machine is to be with the God" Erm fell to the floor before Elias, his head bowed.
Elias threw off his black robes, revealing a long-sleeved undershirt stained with dark grease. He peeled off his gloves, revealing bent and misshapen metal fingers. Elias rolled up his sleeves to expose the state of his synthetic arms. The metal was rusted, gears at the joints grinding together roughly as Elias flexed them. The plating had been soldered together several times.
"Does this look perfect to you, boy? My body is getting older and rustier by the day. Everything hangs together but only because a piece of paper somewhere tells the technicians that they have to follow me around. Get up boy, there is nothing divine about technology." Elias grabbed Erm and lifted him to his feet. Tears were flowing down the boy's face. "But machine is eternal, and man its servant!" Erm exclaimed.
"No." said Elias softly, pulling open his undershirt and revealing a chest made of iron. With quite some effort his metal fingers pulled one of the iron plates open. Inside the man's chest was a jumble of gears, rubber tubing, and a glowing green canister in the middle of it all. "Look into the heart of your god, boy. One day this contraption is going to fail and I am going to die. Maybe a decade from now, maybe on Christmas day, or maybe by this time tomorrow. The technicians can do all they can to keep my gears greased and my engine ticking over nicely, but nothing in this world lasts forever." He slammed his chest plate shut and smiled sadly at Erm. "Nothing is eternal except this" he said softly, placing his iron hand on Erm's chest. "Your soul. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise."