This story is posted on dtdb as the description of a clubless Morgan Gadgets deck. At first I ignored it, as I guess many of you guys did, but then I gave it a second glance, and I'm very glad that I did! Really enjoyed this gem, more so than some of the official fiction. Good work, Adam Sunt!
Plan for Territorial Acquisition via Automatic Army
By Adam Sunt
There was a meeting and Irving Patterson was there. He had invited along this, well kid, but really a damn natural conman and forger. Jake Smiley, he always introduced himself with a grin. Teeth polished abalone white by some snake oil he peddles. The kid would ink the deed transfer signatures and bank balance certificates to keep the whole thing liquid through that front bought off old man Baird.
William Specks brought along ideas. He had to be dragged to the meet. He paced, against the wall, counting. See the plan needed muscle. They were sure to draw some kinda unwanted attention buying up half the county like this. Someone had to physically protect the plans interests and William was not it.
See Specks was smart, and just as useful: unscrupulous. When some company cowboys brought back one a those mechanical men, those ‘Quaterman’ that fussed up, self righteous, Drew Beauman has been running’ round town chasing their tails looking for trouble. The helpful cowboys found the Quaterman while out on the town. It was busted up, maybe had too much to drink, who knows how. Anyway, William had been working the design for weeks and is confident he will have the first prototype up and shootin’ in a matter of days. That should be all the muscle needed.
Just in case the clockwork wonder men don’t show up on time, Travis Moone was brought on board. He was the real deal gunslinger of the bunch. Or at least talked the talk and looked the part. Maybe, in any case, if the guy catches a bullet along the way no one's gonna remember. Guys like him come cheap in Gamorra and Travis joined up for hardly more than a box of William’s drawing pencils cost.
Elander Boldman, fitting to his surname, had hatched the scheme. Now seated idely in a high back chair, his pepper grey frizz of hair scratching audibly at the leather with every motion of his head. Brandy glass in one hand, swirling, he fiddled at the toggles of a flame projector propped beside him with his other ‘free’ hand. Once he was finished with some simple tweaks, what would be a simple stream of fire erupts forth, instead, as an explosive ball. The devastation will be a marvel.
That though, is a small thing. Elander had bigger plans. The idea of an empire. A great empire of marvels. Mechanical men building the most wonderous world. Beauman thought small. He had an idea, but no vision. Clockwork deputies playing at good guy is no great thing. Armies though, armies change the world. A tireless, clockwork, army of reason by science could right the ills of the world and place a man of vision atop things. Put Elander where he should be.
A step at a time though, crawl then walk, run then fly. First the town Elander, then the world. Lets not get ahead of ourselves. Irving Patterson of course knows none of this. He thinks this is a simple land grab. Buy up everything fast as the kid can work up a bill a sale. Move in some muscle and evict the previous (rightful) owners. Irving had seen it done a dozen times by the late Mr. Morgan to penny ante ma an pa ranchers. Those times he always had to keep to his work, bought off by a wage. Not this time, Irving was a stakeholder. In whatever this was.
“So what the hell is this then?” said Irving.
The men had gathered in the smoking parlor of the Morgan mason. Irving and the kid had arrived last, and stood just inside the doorway. William Specks was along the west wall by the books. Travis Moone stood on the east side of the room looking his best to appear tough. Elander was distracted, and sat legs crossed in one of the high backed chairs. Despite the room no one smoked.
“Yeah, whats this big play?” Jake said. Irving had met the kid hocking bogus train passes at Charlie’s place. Clyde was about to take notice and gearing up to hurt the kid when Irving stepped in and bought the kid a drink. Clyde a bottle. Irving liked the kid, they played cards and Irving had invited him into this meet. There was no talk of a play.
“Shut up kid!” Irving said, loudly, and waved his arm at Jake behind him to sit. Jake did sit, with all his weight, into a thousand dollar over stuffed calfskin sofa. The silver studded cushions popping one of those studs, presently, it landing with a plop on the rug by Irving's boot.
Irving stooped and scooped up the stud. He clenched it hard in his fist and stared just as hard at Jake. At that moment Irving wished he was a fighter. The kid just cost him a weeks wages to rush up the upholsterer by coach from Shan Fan to fix that before Mrs. Morgan’s return. This was a meeting though, and Irving had to figure things out.
He collected himself. Let the kid off, like getting kicked by a calf. Before Irving could speak William Specks blurted out to the books he faced by the wall where he stood.
“I really am very busy, and this seems all for not,” said Specks. He addressed the shelf like it was part of the group.
“William, stay put,” said Irving sternly, pointing his finger at Specks who took no notice. “You’ve got to draft the deed surveys. Fast too, no more special projects. Not for a few day. We’re gonna need quick cash from nothin’ if this is gonna work.”
“Thats it though Irving, I have a workshop. Its safe there, I do my work. Its what works - for me. I don’t want more, now. This all seems rather risky.” Specks turned from the bookcase and pushed back his spectacles. He turned to see Irving standing, fist still clenched tight. William flinched.
“Oh god, this isn't gonna work. Mrs. Morgan’s gonna come back and have Lane trample my ass with his horse,” Irving said, shaking his head.
“What!” cried out Specks, “We havent done anything yet, have we? I mean, conspiracy right. Kinda, but who said she knows? Wait, do you know she knows?”
“Gentlemen please!” interjected Elander. They all looked at him for a full second before he drew his gaze from the device by his side. He uncrossed his legs and stood slowly, hand still swirling brandy. He took a long drink, and began.
“The land acquisition is but phase one mister Patterson. In that, I have every faith in you and your chosen assistant mister smiles.” Elander said, hoping to continue.
“Smiley,” Jake said, interrupting and punctuated by a bright grin.
“Yes, Smiley. Allow me to continue,” said Boldman, hoping to continue.
“By all means,” said Smiley. Elander looked hard at Irving, who shrugged.
“Mister Specks, you will assist them of course, in whatever land business they need. As for your special projects, proceed post haste to complete the clockwork men. You see, what we do now, fellows, will draw envy and enemies aplenty. Vultures circle the carcass of this town, and if we want to own it, we must beat off these vile that birds that are sure to plague us along our path. Who here can do that?”
“Thats where I come in” said Travis Moone too dramatic by half. He twirled his pistol, a little too slowly and stopped it, awkwardly, before holstering his piece with a flourish.
“No boy, I have met hard men and cannot count yourself among them. Aside, your pistol there, antiquated. For I have conceived of a device able to incapacitate a subject by electrostatic discharge. Overloading higher brain function resulting in, say, heavy incapacitation.” said Elander proudly and with not a little condescension.
“Listen, this is gonna be land grab right? Just put me out there, I’ll be your scarecrow pops,” said Travis, skinning his iron. “Bang, Bang,” he actually said bang bang.
Elander took a doctor's bag from behind his chair and placed it on the seat. He opened it. “What I have here is a single discharge field test prototype.” He removed the device from the bag and he held it like a pistol. It resembled a pistol, with some extra bells and whistles. He flipped a toggle on the device and it buzzed with sound growing almost too high pitched to hear.
A super audible whine filled the room.
“I had intended a test of this unit, this very evening. Perhaps at Charlie’s, lord knows I’ll need a drink after this meeting. Always easy to pick a fight there and give some test subject a jolt. But, alas this shall do nicely and to prove a point no less” said Elander. Then he shot Travis Moone.
When he pulled the trigger nothing happened. Not right away. Well the sound stopped. Then there was a low thumm from the gun and bright flash took Travis off his feet and slammed him hard against the wall. The air crackled and everyone was stunned. Travis hit the floor, slightly twitching as if going for his gun.
“Success!” Elander proclaimed. His tangled mass of hair bouncing with new boldness to punctuate his claim. “That makes the tenth successful discharge, of course the field model will have a carry along recharge unit to allow for repeated fire.”
“Kudos, Mr. Bolderman!” Williams Specks said with a nod. “Is discharge stable? Aside necessitating the greasing of one's hair to prevent embarrassment, what is the risk for misfire?”
“Is he alive?” asked Irving.
“Minimal risk for a single charge unit such as this. The reloading pack, however; is cumbersome and the flash charge process is, as of yet, prone to: catastrophic discharge. Ideal though, to be carried by our Quatermen. These solutions paired shall bloodlessly defend our interests,” insisted Elander, holding the device proudly out before him.
“Brilliant, and with minimal physical risk to us. Always ideal. Even the law can’t take issue with such, less lethal, measures” said Specks.
“Is he alive?” said Jake.
“We can scale up production with acquisitions. More Quatermen armed with my Asyncoil gun, that is what i'm calling it by the way, Asyncoil. With proper funding, we can have a Asyn-man on every street corner in Gamorra. Then, the California maze gentlemen and the world.” said Elander.
“Alive? Yes, what parts ‘bloodless’ and ‘less lethal’ do you fail to understand?”
“Well, he stopped twitchin’ and never really did start breathing”, said Irving. “So, that to me, and I’m no expert, makes me think you killed him.”
Elander marched over to where Travis lay on the floor and observed he was indeed not breathing. He went to the bag. Reaching inside, he pulled out another identical prototype of the Asyncoil gun. He flipped the toggle, there was a sound. He then shot Travis again, who jerked, and gasped, then lay there finally breathing.
“Sometimes a second application of incapacitation is required to insure the condition sets in, one way or the other. Anyway, until our soldiers are ready we must protect ourselves.” said Elander. He put his prototypes away and shut the bag, placing it behind the chair. He then walked to the wall beside the bookshelf where he had before learned a long wooden case.
He dragged the case to the middle of the room, not far from where Travis lay. He undid the latch and opened it. Inside were four shining auto revolvers.
“Take one, each of you” insisted Boldman. “Irving and Jake, you will see to the properties and acquisitions while Specks and I prepare our counter play; to whatever comes our way.”
Irving picked up one of the gatling pistols, he looked down at the distorted reflection it cast of him as he turned it awkwardly. “Mrs. Morgan is not going to like this.”
“In any event, she will be on board with success. Aside, should she take issue with our initiative…” Elander said trailing off and looking down at Travis, he took note that a puddle had formed beneath his midsection soaking out from his groin. “Things need not get unseemly”.
Elander reached out and grabbed his bag that sat behind the high backed chair and stepped around the case to take Specks by the shoulder. They walked away together, talking about things Irving couldn't hear and doubted he would understand if he could. Irving looked down at the case, William had forgotten his. Irving glanced over at Jake, who stooped to pick out a pistol. Elander shut the lid.
“Not today Kid, blow your damn hand off. Then what good are you to us?” said Irving.
Jake scowled for a moment, then flashed that smile. “I’m headed to Pearlie’s. Blow off some steam, think this over. Do you some good too, Irving, relax,” smiled Jake. He spun on his heel and left from the room.
So that was the plan, far as Irving could keep up. It was crazy, sure to fail. They didn't have the men for this. Sure Boldman and Specks -maybe- can wind up a couple fancy clock men and zap some sore sods. Maybe Travis ends up as the puddle instead of laying in one. They would need help.
They should approach James Ghetty, always eager to be up to something. Harold would come along purely for the science, and bring his protection field. That might help, however Irving suspected they would all be in need of much more than some gizmos to save themselves from what looms.
The company was coming apart at the seams, since Mrs. Morgan took over. Her scheming had driven wedges between the men that built, and worked, the company. Everyone was plotting. Lula and Lane had most the cowboys with them. The scientists were a panic. Without Mrs Morgan to protection, what would happen? Something was coming, and that in times like this, all bets were off.
In the middle of this whirling mess stood Irving Patterson. What move does he have? Irving knew; he’d play every side. Even Elander’s long shot of a ‘master plan’. Someone was sure to come out on top. Whoever did would remember Irving Patterson having been behind them, some point at least, along the way.