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PC name: Archibald Regiblaster

Location: Rochester Grand Steam Fairgrounds

Date and time: 7 April 1921, Midday

Archibald scanned the fair grounds. Hundreds of inventors gathered to showcase their wondrous machines. Uproarious chatter interjected with clicking gears filled the room. Men donning cog-infused clothing and extravagant facial hair were vying for each other’s attention in the hopes to boast their accomplishments. It was a familiar sight.

Among them, Archibald was asked to exhibit Bishop: a marvel of steam-powered prosthetic augmentation, the invitation sent by George Greene himself said. Half his body seamlessly transitions from metal plating into beast and back into metal, giving off a beautifully intimidating image. The flowery language that embellished Archibald’s work was complemented by an opulent, sprocketed gilding along the edges of the card, but they were not wrong. There was no other invention like him. Other contraptions were either purely automaton or replacement limbs for missing ones. To infuse prosthesis with the flesh was a dream that Archibald turned into a reality.

However, as illustrious the honor of being asked to attend the Great Steam Fair is, Archibald had other intentions being there. Dino made mention the kids working on the Protean Machine were going to be at the fair and lo and behold perched directly across from him was the team. It seemed all too easy. Convenience was not a virtue that was widespread nowadays.

They were teeming with child-like exuberance and accompanied by Tenerly, who appeared more as a chaperone than a financial backer. Nathan attracted a small crowd spouting his overstatements, while Emily constantly got corralled by Nora. Gabrielle stood silent by Nathan, peering back and forth between their display and those who gathered. Their booth functioned as a daycare center in addition to a scientific presentation with Tenerly at the head. It was mind boggling that the future of Archibald’s comatose brother lie in the hands of four bouncing students.

Yet, in front of him stood the machine that could potentially shelter consciousness. Brass coated its body and dimly reflected the lights overhead. The wires flowing through each section were expertly placed to give the appearance of tendons. Despite their youth, they created an impressive work of machinery. It was stationary, but still exuded breaths of life by answering questions or occasionally turning its head to greet whoever hinted interest. The group assured passersby that uploading the conscious was a success, but the machine lacked something. Archibald noted the monotony in which it spoke and recited memories as though it were reading a script. Its disaffectionate tone suggested the upload was not perfect.

Archibald would not see his brother become an apathetic automaton, but the protean tech was closer to reviving him than any prior advances. Prosthesis augmentation could only enhance the living tissue available, not restore states of the mind. Combining his research with theirs seemed to be the only possible way to helping Gregory, but even that was an absurd idea. The variables of joining the two would take months of testing that Archibald did not have. Gregory’s vital signs had been on the decline and were harder to stabilize. Wasting time is no longer an option.

For the first time in a long time, Archibald felt nervous as he approached them. They had no reason to help him. Pleading was foreign to him and begging was unattractive on anyone. Tenerly had the upperhand and if he still held any animosity toward Archibald from their frivolous rivalry, then Gregory would be lost forever. They were his last hope.

Tenerly was the first to spot him. His eyes shifted from surprise to uncertainty. He excused himself from the other four and stepped towards Archibald. Three months ago, the two would have met with contrived banter aimed towards disrupting the other’s ambitions. Now, they near each other with caution. There was no facade of regality behind their movements. Their mutually established enemyship yielded little action, but Archibald still felt tension between them. Perhaps Tenerly simply did not like him; his distrustful stare certainly expressed that. Regardless, this man was essential in aiding Gregory.

Emphatically, Tenerly said “Archibald.” His eyes did not wane.

Archibald composed himself before responding.

Image Credit: Elephant Tattoo | Stuart Patience