Okay readers, I think it’s time I’ve treated you to another excerpt from my novel. Just in case you missed the last two and want to go back and check them out, the first one is here, and the second one is here.
In this scene, Saul and the group are turning on Sam the Automaton for the first time and seeing him come to life. Now, keep in mind that Jill insists that Sam is a girl, she she refers to him as “she” throughout the novel, so both male and female pronouns are used for him. Please remember that all of this is vomit draft, so it’ll have only enough editing to make it barely presentable. Enjoy!
They walked back to the table when a sound stopped Saul in his tracks. He thought he had heard a tick coming from behind him. No one else moved, so maybe it was nothing, but then he heard it again. Tick, tick. It was faint, almost not there at all. Again, no one moved, so they didn’t hear it. Saul slowly turned around and walked back to the Automaton. A few of the gears inside were moving. Then slowly, more of them began to move. The ticking wasn’t loud at all, but now it caught the attention of more than just him. Tanya and Jill walked over, and finally Kleverland and Xandria.
With shaky hands, Saul opened the faceplate, to see the brain’s clockwork silently moving very fast. He closed it up, then looked at the chest. Everything was moving. Some sections more slowly than others, but everything was moving.
Saul closed the chest piece up and the ticking passed away into near silence. Saul held his breath, and he could feel the tension in the air as everyone else in the room did the same thing.
Saul watched as the fingers on the Automaton started to move, just small movement; a slight wiggling. Then the lids on the eyes fluttered, and opened. And he saw, for the first time, the eyes of a machine as it looked out at him. There were acrylic coverings to protect the photoreceptors from damage or dust, and the lids covered them. But now, he looked at Saul. His eyes flicked over to Xandria, then Jill, then Tanya, and then finally Kleverland, but they returned to Saul. Because of the face plate, there was no emotion or facial expression, but Saul could almost sense his curiosity.
He moved his arms a little, and they moved with only the slightest sound. He lifted his hands to his eyes and he gazed at his own hands. All of his movements were smooth, but precise. He examined his own hands for a short while then put them down. He looked directly at Saul again, then cocked his head to one side, like a curious dog would.
“Hello,” Saul found himself saying to him. Then thought about what he had just done, and turned red.
The Automaton straightened his head and looked at Jill, who had walked up to him. “Hey there,” she said. “I’m Jill, this here is Saul. He’s a nice guy.”
“He can’t understand you, Jill. He’s a machine,” Kleverland said.
Jill shrugged. “Maybe, but if she’s alive, we might as well be friendly.”
Oddly, Saul agreed with Jill. He was so enamored by what he was seeing. Yes, it was too early to say that he was alive, but Saul saw something in the eyes. He didn’t know how to describe it, but he knew that there was some intelligence in those eyes. But at the same time, there was not much there either. It was like looking into the eyes of a curious child who didn’t know what everything was yet.
“I’m Saul Deus,” Saul said. “My father was….was your father.” Why was he saying these things?
Xandria put her hand on his arm. “Saul, let him adjust.”
Saul nodded and moved back.
The Automaton looked down at Saul’s feet when he moved. He put his leg out and took a step, then another, and stepped out of the closet. He looked all around him, at all the shelves and boxes, and at the table in the center of the room.
Saul put his hand up, and the Automaton copied his movement. Saul put his other hand up, and the metal man followed suit. Saul was amazed. He was learning. Saul laughed out loud. “He works! He actually works!”
Kleverland stood next to Saul, his mouth was still hanging open. “Let’s not jump the gun here, Saul. It moves, yes. But let’s give it some time to determine if it fits the criteria.”
Saul was too excited to really listen to him, but in a small way Saul agreed, they didn’t want to be too quick in deeming him a True Automaton. Just because it moved it didn’t mean it was alive or could think for itself. A clock moved, simple automatons move, but they weren’t alive. They needed to wait a bit. “I agree,” he said hesitantly. The Automaton was now coping Jill’s movements. He faced Kleverland. “Let’s give it a week before we call it. That should be plenty of time to determine that he will function under his own power, as well as give us an insight on whether or not he’s alive.”
Kleverland rubbed his chin in thought, looked at the Automaton and said, “Very well, a week. By the end of the week we’ll make our decision on the state of it.”
Saul caught the “we” in there. “I thought you had to leave.”
Kleverland sighed. “This may be the greatest invention known to mankind, Saul. I’m not going anywhere.”
Saul smiled and shook his hand. “Fair enough. I think I may have to close the store for a week.”
Kleverland smirked. “I thought it was a business?”
Saul chuckled. “It looks like we’re both willing to put our lives on hold for this discovery.”
The Automaton was now standing in front of Saul again, watching him. Jill kept trying to get his attention, but it wasn’t working so she stopped and walked around them and said, “She needs a name.”
“It’s a boy!” Saul, Kleverland, Xandria, and Tanya all said together. Their synchronous shout caused the Automaton to blink and look at them all in turn with his head cocked to one side.
Jill put her hands up in frustration. “Fine! How ‘bout we name it Sam? Sam can be for Samantha or Samuel.”
Saul liked that. He looked at the metal man and smiled. “Sam, huh? An ambiguous gender name. Do you like that, Sam?” He just cocked his head to the other side. “Sam it is then.”
Jill gave a loud woot for joy, as if she had just won the Kentucky Derby.
“Hold on a moment,” Xandria said. She left the work room. Sam watched her go, seeming to notice the door for the first time.
When Xan came back she had a bottle of champagne in her hands and several glasses. She put everything down on the table. “I bought this just in case. And I think this calls for celebration.”
Saul took the bottle and started to peel the foil off the top. “Great idea, Xan.” He popped the cork and pored the drinks. All five of them held up their glasses.
“To George Dues,” Xandria said. “The greatest clockwork engineer the world has ever known.”
“Present company excluded,” Kleverland said under his breath.
Despite Kleverland’s comment, Saul found himself tearing up. They all clinked glasses and drank. Saul had to wipe the tears away from his eyes. “Even if this is all Sam does, walk around and mimic people, it’s still one of the greatest clockwork achievements I have ever seen. And it wouldn’t have been done without Jim’s heart. To Dr. Jim Kleverland.” He raised his glass, the rest followed and drank.
“And to Nikolai Stentov for the addition of his style to it,” Saul said, raising the glass again.
“And to Saul Deus,” Xandria said. “The man to put everything together and turn it on.” Everyone drank.
“And to me,” Jill said, raising her glass high with mock pride on her face. “I named her.”
“Him!” everyone else said, but they drank anyway.
“And to my father again,” Saul said, his eyes still glistening with tears, “who never got to see him turned on, but probably imagined what this day would be like.” Everyone finished their glasses. Saul put his back on the table. Sam walked over, picked it up and lifted it into the air. Everyone but Kleverland laughed.
-Excerpt from The Clockwork Heartbeat; Chapter 15, by Andrew Ronzino
Current word count for The Clockwork Heartbeat: 58,564/50,000!
Until next time,
Andrew Ronzino, Clockwork Engineer