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Chapter Eight: Jestfully Clean
Ace stared at the tree that he had never seen before. It was large and artificial, strung with wooden cranberries and plastic icicles. It made him sick, so he turned around.
Roughly thirty people were sitting at a large table, with a live turkey in the center. The table was too large for anyone to reach, but they tried anyway, moaning and flailing like zombies. The turkey spun around and around trying to watch all the people at once, then spotted Ace.
"Oh! I say, old boy. I'm in a spot of trouble here. Would you mind terribly throwing me that decorative egg on the mantlepeice? That's a good fellow."
Ace expressed no surprise at the upper class english accent, but the mantlepeice appeared out of nowhere, knocking him backward as it spun around on a section of wall. A man with a whip and another man in a suit with a small handgun were crouching in the fireplace. The man with the whip pulled on a concealed lever and the fireplace swung back into the wall, so quickly that a decorated jeweled egg was thrown into Ace's hands. He tossed it to the turkey.
"Ah, many thanks good sir!" The turkey proceeded to peck the egg until it cracked, and a large hot air balloon exploded from within. The turkey hopped into the basket and pulled on the lever controlling the burners, rocketing up to the sky and destroying the roof of the building in the process.
"I'm sorry I can't carry you the rest of the way, friend, but I can tell you to find the lifeguard! He knows exactly what to do and where to go! You will know him by his disdain for popular music! Farewell and godspeed!"
The turkey vanished into the stratosphere and Ace looked around to see the house completely dessicated. The walls had crumbled into the odd brick or two, and the fake tree had been replaced by a real one with nests and live birds inside.
Two of the birds flew out of the tree and took wing away from the house ruins, towards a forest. Ace sprinted after them as fast as possible, but still lost sight of them in the giant woodland area. Stopping to catch his breath, he leaded against a cairn of stones.
Ace whipped around, but couldn't stop his angular momentum. He caught a glimpse of a relatively young man in military dress uniform, then-
-crashed on top of Cody, totally tangled in his bedsheets.
"AGH! AAAGH! Okay okay! I'll tell you everything! I was the one who put the electric eel in the toilet tank! I poured canola oil into the superintendent's mailbox! I stole Emily's duffel bag while she was at gym class!"
Ace shook his head, then shook the wolf. "Wake up you weirdo."
"I- I- I... I like to sing-a, about the moon-a, and the June-a, and the spring-a..."
"I'm sure. Be quiet while I try to get out of this."
On the coffee table, in a sizeable spot cleared of parts and tools and old notebooks, Ace placed the puzzle cube, the opened letter, the hidden medallion, the unopened letter, and a hammer. He stared at them for a while, concentrating.
The robot was supposed to keep that medallion for him, or possibly from him. Furthermore, the robot was told on the back of one envelope to not open the other. This meant that either the robot had been instructed to open the envelope in question, OR that it always handled his mail.
The question, though, was how? All the mailboxes were down on the first floor, and Ace knew intuitively that Kimiko would not pass for ordinary or even remotely "one of those things" if seen by most other tenants. Therefore, she had not gotten the mail. She had not placed the mail there.
That meant either he had, before losing his memory, or somebody else had and counted on him losing his memory. Except... except that some of the data didn't add up. If the instructions for rewinding the maid were meant to deliberately lead him to the medallion, that meant either somebody else wanted him to find it, or he wanted himself to find it and to make sure nobody else did. The data, in either case, was deliberately wrong.
It stood to reason, therefore, that comparing the other information would display a pattern, and if the other informations inaccuracies somehow beneffited him, it could be assumed that the medallion would do the same. Ace promptly stood up and headed into the kitchen.
As he had suspected, in the back of the fridge behind a few jugs of expired milk, there was an unopened can of Red Bull. He popped it open and immediately took a drink. When he stopped, he ran his tongue around inside his mouth. The taste was not unpleasant, but it was bizarre. Like taking some... some candy of some sort, grinding it into powder, and mixing it with ginger ale. Clearly a great deal of sugar and caffeinne involved.
Ace finished the can of drink, crumpled it, and threw it in the trash. The letter had spoken of Red Bull tasting so terrible that he wanted to remove his own tongue. It later mentioned that there was a design he had to make a prosthetic tongue as a replacement. There was a distinct connection there, implied or otherwise, so that was the logical next step.
Cody put his paws on the edge of the drawer and looked inside. "Huh. I had you figured for a boxers kind of guy."
"Hah. Hah. Just help me find those designs."
"Uhm, I have this very important rule that I live by, and that is to never touch another man's underwear if it's at all possible."
"Fine. Check the other drawers."
"...okay, you win that round." Ace stooped over and opened some of the drawers on the bottom, revealing bluejeans, slacks, turtleneck sweaters and t-shirts. Cody immediately began nosing around and sniffing.
After about five minutes, Ace had found nothing. He closed the underwear drawer and started to go through the drawer with turtlenecks in it. Cody recoiled from the slacks drawer he was investigating. "OW! Dammit! Ambush!"
"I just whammed my nose into something really hard. It was waiting, just like those oysters!"
"Okay, maybe they're clams."
"That still doesn't make any sense." Ace reached into the drawer and pulled out a wooden box. It looked like it might have once held jewelry. Ace flipped open the top and found himself looking at a silver tongue, in the most literal sense.
It seemed to be the right size, inasmuch as Ace could tell the right size of any body part at all, but it differed from most tongues in that the base was mounted around a rotating crossbar, which was in turn welded to what looked like a pair of hex nuts. Perhaps most significantly, there were two devices that looked like the hammers of old double-action revolvers, mounted on the underside and hooked to reciprocating arms.
Beneath the tongue was a small picture showing, as near as Ace could tell, a cross-section of Kimiko's face.
Cody stared, disconcerted, at the sight in the bedroom. Kimiko's head had rotated about forty-five degrees and Ace was bolting the tongue to the inside of the "mouth" using some prongs that he had deliberately pointed out to the wolf.
Ace shut the "mouth" section so that the face once again seemed a metallic mask, and lowered the head to its normal inclination again. He sat on the edge of the bed and fixed his gaze at the robot.
"Kimiko, can you understand and utilize the add-on mechanism?"
"Good. Do so. It will help the exchange of information."
"Understood. I thank the Builder for returning to me my voice."
Cody's ears perked up. Kimiko's voice sounded like it had a vague Japanese, possibly Korean accent, which kind of clashed with the appearance of a french maid. Of course, the robotic appearance clashed with the fact that the voice sounded almost perfect, and had almost no trace of mechanical grinding, scratchiness, popping, or metallic echo.
"Returning your voice? Please elaborate."
"Yes Builder. When I was first constructed, I was built only to clean. The Builder has added additional parts and hearts to give me thoughts and reason and feeling and choice. Then, five years ago, the Builder instructed me to let him remove my voice machinery. I was sad that I could not sing or practice languages, but the Builder has always been correct in his actions."
"...did I ever tell you why I removed your voice?"
"Yes. The Builder told me that men of low natures and evil scavengers would want information from his past that I knew of. The information was too critical to allow it to be lost forever, so the Builder sought to hide it in the manner of a lock and a key. My mind was to be the lock and my voice the key. I am happy that I will be able to sing again."
"I...see. I think I see. A further question."
"Ask and I will answer Builder. I am happy to answer now."
"Are there any other things that I need to do to unlock the information stored in your brain?"
"Forgive my re-interpretation of the Builder's question. If the Builder means that the information presently in my brain may be expressed vocally now that I may speak, the answer is yes. If the Builder means that all information I was intended to relay can be stated, that answer is no."
"Alright, thanks for clearing that up. Please elaborate further on the second part of your response."
Kimiko turned her head ninety degrees and pointed to a part of her skull. "The Builder created me with a previously unheard of innovation in clockwork intelligence, namely the use of hearts to store information which could be removed and re-installed while maintaining its symbolic integrity. The approach is identical in its goal to modern computer technology, with respect to replaceable disks holding information as magnetic patterns."
Cody hopped up onto another chair. "Actually, almost nobody uses that anymore. USB data storage is the fad these days. Like a tiny computer hard disk."
Kimiko turned to look at the dog. "The principle is essentially the same. Now please get off of the furniture. I must keep things clean and tidy."
Ace waved a hand. "Cody is an unusual dog... wolf... man thing. If at all possible, treat him as another human, like Mitch and John."
"Understood. I will extend rules of accepted persons to include Cody the dog wolf man thing."
"Good." Ace leaned forward. "Now, back to business. You have used the term hearts several times. This term is unfamiliar to me, even though I feel as though I should know it."
"The Builder used the term hearts to describe parts with a 90-degree frequency rotation of symbolic patterns and energy. The Builder described the Mechanomantic process as a rotational pattern of the object's time axis to where its own internal rotation would act upon another time axis, as a hyperspacial tandem clockwork, or upon another physical component as a direct conversion of energy into the desired action."
Cody looked from Kimiko to Ace, then back to Kimiko, and again to Ace. "What. The. FUCK?"
Ace waved a hand dismissively. "All it means is that mind and thought are everywhere, sound is just a right turn away from gravity, and time is just a perceived difference between two frequencies. Nothing you need to worry about."
"Oh. Good. For a second I thought it was something important."
"Hah hah. Alright Kimiko. Essentially, there are things you can tell me, and things you can't until I find the right parts and install them in your brain."
"That is correct."
"Alright. Here's a long shot. Can you tell me anything about any of those, uh, hearts? How to find one or more?"
"I remember the Builder removing certain components over a span of years, but have no theoretical or direct knowledge as to their present location. I do know that the parts total four, and range from a simple bolt to a self-contained machine resembling a vehicle ignition key."
"Hmmm. This will probably not be easy, if these thing have been removed over a period of years. Borderline impossible, perhaps, if they are hidden."
"The Builder could construct a clockwork with the specific purpose of locating the hearts."
"...that won't be possible. Somehow I know that's going to require some of my own time axis rotation and its synchronous history. Frankly I don't have that much to spare."
Ace settled down further in his chair. "Plus... there's something John said yesterday, when Drew was all messed up. Something about mages leaning on their magick too much. I've been running and forgetting for years now, trying to build a mechanical steam shovel to dig me out of a hole already deep enough to collapse and bury me alive. It may be time for me to turn around and use what I already have."
"How do you mean?"
"Well... simple deduction, first of all. Following my own trail of metal breadcrumbs, secondly. Thirdly, limiting my work to small scale, monofunctional devices. That only requires a single day. Plus, it may be possible to find the solution to the puzzle that is... well, pretty much my whole freaking life, with only one or two of those hearts. Speaking of which, the medallion that was in your mouth earlier Kimiko. Did I place it there?"
"Yes. The Builder placed it within my mouth for safekeeping, so to assist later."
"I apologize. I do not know."
"Fair enough. What about a puzzle box designed like a Rubik's cube?"
"I am familiar with this creation of the Builder's."
"Really? Hold on a moment."
Ace ran into the living room, grabbed the cube, and brought it back into the bedroom. He placed it in Kimiko's hands.
"If you can solve it, please attempt to do so now."
Kimiko's hands began to blur and a low hum could be heard. There was a rapid flash of colors and the cube stood on Kimiko's palm, all sides the same color.
Cody leaned forward. "Well. That was anti-climactic. I was expecting one of the sides to flip open. Or the cube to pop into different peices and leave us the contents. Or-"
The top row of the cube began to spin, slowly rose up, and fell off. Ace reached for the cube, turned it on its side, and had what looked like an eyeball roll into his hand.
"Oh JEBUS! That is so DISGUSTING!"
"Oh, grow a pair. It's not a real eye, it's a metal and crystal eye. Designed to translate light energy into nerve vibrations. Right?"
"The Builder is correct. The Builder possessed that visual sensor before I was constructed, then had John Reeso regenerate the Builder's original eye."
"Hmmm. I'll have to talk to John about undoing his work. But that's for later. It's now totally clear to me, at least for the moment, that I was trying to throw some person or persons unknown off my track while being sure to safeguard important information and tools for myself in the future. I may not have the whole answer, but I know how to find it. Cody, we're going to go out to eat, all fancy-like, and tomorrow, we will go on a quest for knowledge."
"This isn't going to be like a quest for the Holy Grail, is it? I demand a real horse, I will NOT settle for coconuts! No way!"
"Whatever. Kimiko, a few more questions."
"I shall answer."
"You mentioned you didn't like it when I took your voice away. Why didn't you try to get me to restore it?"
For the first time, Ace noticed something about Kimiko's posture. It seemed less mechanical and more human.
"The Builder has a reason for all actions. It is not my place to question them."
"...Kimiko, why are you here?"
"I exist because the Builder created me. The Builder needed me to perform certain tasks. Being needed is important."
Ace stared, then nodded. "Yes. Being needed is important. And I need you. I especially need you to be honest with me, because I'm getting the feeling something is not right here, and I need all the information I can to figure out what's wrong."
"I... understand, Builder."
"Kimiko, do you resent what I did?"
The robot looked down and there was a low hum in the air. Cody looked at Ace. "Hey, look, I've watched enough Star Trek to know when a robot is about to explode, and I think you need to withdraw that question! Very fast!"
"Kimiko isn't just a computer with legs, Cody. Clockworks are alive, even the smallest ones. That means they have the capacity, even if very small, to sneak through or squeeze past contradictions and paradoxes. Kimiko is alive, and I think she's hurt."
"One of your deductive logic things again? Or recovered memories? Look, I'll just go into the bathroom and wait for her to explode. If you survive, come and talk to me so I can say that I told-"
"Every day has been sadness."
Ace and cody looked at Kimiko, who was holding her head in her hands as though crying.
"The Builder always stood by me, watching out for my safety when I was less sophisticated. The Builder always sought to make me more than I was. Then one day, the Builder made me less."
Kimiko looked up. Cody moved back, almost falling out of his chair. The robot's eyes were leaking oil.
"I have resented the actions of the Builder. I am sorry, but I cannot change that fact. My desires and interests are at odds with the interests of the Builder, but I cannot ignore how I feel."
Ace looked at Cody. "There. Alive. Thanks, Kimiko. You've been very helpful."
The hum from the robot subsided slowly. "Understood. I have helped. That is... a good thing."
"You sure you're okay?"
"I will require additional oil within the next two days. All other functions sustainable. I am... okay."
"Alright. We'll grab you a pint of 10-W-30 on the way back from lunch."
"Actually Ace, it's past 4 in the afternoon. You were totally zonked out."
"So lunch is eaten at noon, or within an hour before or later. After that, it's dinner."
"Oh. Okay. I'm still calling it lunch though. Speaking of which, Kimiko, do I have any money stashed away, or do I have to sell a kidney for eating money?"
The robot reached into the blouse area of the french maid outfit and pulled out a money clip with a roll of bills. "The Builder instructed me to place this in a safe location. I based my choice upon the actions of similarly proportioned human females in films and television shows."
"Ohhhhh shit. If she's seen 2001 or Terminator or even Red Planet I think we're all gonna die."
"I find that I prefer films with the actor Michael Douglas in them. Gordon Gecko's speech about greed being good is logically sound."
"Okay, I was wrong. We're all gonna die, but FIRST we're going to go to jail! I can't go to jail! I'm too pretty!"
"Oh, quite bitching you stupid mutt. You don't have thumbs. At least they won't try to get you to pick up the soap!"
"They don't HAVE to! I already walk on all-fours you fool!! SAVE ME JEBUS!"
This just keeps getting better!
Mattias | profile | Nov 20, 06 | 4:36 am
I would just like to point out that, according to Dresden Codak, Kimiko apparently goes on to found a school of anti-mechanomancy.
stange_person | profile | Dec 09, 06 | 9:33 pm