There is only one day of NaNoWriMo left. It’s been a crazy ride, and it hasn’t been dull. I’ll be giving my final thoughts tomorrow night. But today, I’ll be treating you to the final excerpt from The Clockwork Heartbeat. You can read the other three by clicking the following links:
Please keep in mind that this is a vomit draft. The only editing I have done to it was a simple check over to make sure it was readable. Enjoy.
Saul woke up suddenly as if awakened by a nightmare. He was disorientated for a few moments. He didn’t know where he was or what was going on, but he knew that he was in pain, horrible pain. His left arm burned and stung, and his hand felt cold and heavy. He coughed and tried to sit up, but he couldn’t. There were strong leather straps going across his chest making it impossible for him to move. He could feel his legs were strapped as well.
He was still very lightheaded and dazed. He looked around at his surroundings. He was no longer in the secret workroom under the clockwork stairwell in his store. This place was new. It was well lit with powerful lights shining down from above. The amount of light washed everything out and made it hard to see anything around him, and there were long sheets of plastic hanging from the cold, stone ceiling. He was lying on what felt like a metal slab. He had a sheet covering him. He could smell the bitter stench of sterilization all around him.
He struggled against his bindings again, but it was no use, he couldn’t move for but a little bit. The lightheadedness remained, but the dizziness was starting to fade away, and his wits were beginning to return. He didn’t know where he was or what he was doing here, but he was alive.
He thought back to the fight he had with Kleverland. He had been stupid to try to best him at swords when he knew that the good doctor was a champion fencer, but at the time he thought it was the only way to keep him from stealing Sam.
The image of the True Automaton filled his mind. What would they make him do? What would they train him to use? Would he be used simply as a model for the Germans to make more True Automatons to create a mechanical army, or would they throw him into the heat of things and make him fight in the war that was going to begin sooner than anyone would like? They were going to take this marvel of engineering that was so curious about life and turn him into a killer either way.
That’s when the terrible truth hit him, his hand was gone; his life as a clockwork engineer was over. Experts in his field relied on the deftness of their hands to get their work done. There were no one handed clockwork engineers. Life as he knew it had been changed forever. The damage done to his arm was irreparable. He could never work again. But he couldn’t deal with that at the moment, he would have to consider his options later. For now, he needed to figure out why he was strapped down to a table and unable to move, and how he could escape.
He hoped the pain he was feeling would ebb away, but his arm and hand continued to throb and feel heavy. But then he thought about it, his hand was gone; Kleverland cut it off with a sword. He shouldn’t be feeling anything at all in his hand, but he distinctly felt pain. He tried to lift his arm and found that only his upper arm was bound, he was able to bend at the elbow and lift it into view.
Saul felt like he was going to vomit. Where is hand used to be, was abomination of metal, a clockwork hand. It was surgically attached to his arm. It was golden, like most clockwork prosthetics, very similar to how Sam’s hands worked; clockwork with brass coverings to protect the insides. He could see little doors could be opened for repair of steam replacement. He didn’t know everything about clockwork limbs, but he did know that they ran on steam. He tried to move some of the fingers but nothing happened.
He gave up and lowered his arm. He needed to get out of here he tried to thrash around to loosen the straps that bound him, but it was no use, they were too strong.
“Easy,” he heard a voice say from the darkness beyond the bring light. “Don’t hurt yourself.” Dr. Jim Kleverland walked into view and smiled down at Saul. He was wearing a medical smock and there was mask hanging around his neck, like he had just taken it off his face. His red hair glowed in the power of the lights above him. “You’ve lost a lot of blood, just stay still for a while.”
Saul’s mouth was dry, he struggled to get the words out, it didn’t help that his head was still spinning and his arm had the continuous dull pules of pain. “W-what have you done?”
Kleverland’s smile dropped, like he was insulted that Saul would even ask a question like that. “I saved your life, Saul.”
“You cut off my hand!”
“Yes, but I’ve replaced it. Right when a limb is severed is often the best time to attach a clockwork replacement. It’s easier to attach it to the nervous system and allow the brain to control it, but doing it right away has the drawback that the pain is more severe for a while. Consider it an equal trade for the True Automaton, or consider it a payment if you’d like. I took Sam, and saved your life and gave you a top of the line clockwork hand to replace it.”
Saul laid his head back and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to stop the room from spinning like he was on a merry-go-round. He opened his eyes to see Kleverland still hovering over him. “You cut off my hand, you take Sam, and you think clockwork will replace it?”
“And your life, Saul, and your life. My clockwork is expensive and it functions just as well as real human hands. I saved your life because I don’t like seeing people in pain. But the hand is expensive.”
“Sam is priceless!” Saul shouted.
“I agree, but what’s done is done. It’ll take a little while for your body to adjust to the clockwork. But it had been connected to your nervous system, you will be able to feel with it, not as well, of course, but good enough. This is my latest model and is quite advanced. I figured since I took Sam and cut your hand off I at least owed you something.”
“Why am I bound up?” Saul said.
“To keep you here if you woke up, and to make sure you were still during the procedure.”
Saul was beyond himself. He lost his hand, he lost his father’s greatest work, and he was at the mercy of Kleverland, who wanted to help Germany start a war. Then the faces of the people he cared about flooded into his mind. “What about Tanya, Xandria, and Jill? You haven’t hurt them, have you?” The tone in Saul’s voice was anger mixed with worry and desperation to know the truth.
Kleverland shrugged. “I didn’t go after them, if that’s what you’re asking. There’s no reason to, at this point I can’t do anything to hide that I’m technically a traitor to the United States. So, once we’re done here, I’m going to follow the group with the Automaton and help them work on it. My life here is over, so you see, you’re not the only one who’s wounded from this, Saul. I’m giving up my life as well.”
He was relieved to know that his friends and girlfriend were fine, but that didn’t stop his anger from boiling over. “You think that’s fair?!” Saul spat out. “You think that even compares to what you’ve done to me? You took my life from me! I need my hands for my work! You can be a doctor anywhere. You too my father’s work to use it for your own reasons, and you took my hand!”
Kleverland shook his head. “You can still work with the clockwork hand. Once you learn how to use it, and get used to it and how it functions, which will take some time, granted, you’ll be able to do everything you could before.”
Saul didn’t believe him. How could a metal hand compare to the deftness and subtlety of human flesh? He glared at Kleverland from the slab and wished with every fiber of his being that the doctor would just drop dead. But fate or God wouldn’t oblige him that simple desire.
Kleverland lifted his sleeve and looked at his writstclock. “Now, I need to be going soon. I have an aeronautical to catch.” He looked back down at Saul and smiled again. “There’s an ambulance carriage on its way here to pick you up. They’ll make sure you’re treated for dehydration or any other issues you may suffer from this experience. I have no doubt that New York doctors will be able to do at least that. The hand is powered by steam, it’s off at the moment. The furnace inside is small and in the palm. It will need to have the water replaced every three days or so. It’s state of the art, so you don’t have to worry about the furnace needing repair or doing any damage, and if you do have issues with it, I have already arranged for you to call Kleverland Medical, which will still run despite my disappearance. Any of the other medical clockwork engineers will be able to repair it for no cost. You’re set for life.” He said it like it were a treat rather than an inconvenience.
Saul wanted to spit in his face, but he had no saliva in his mouth nor the real energy it would take to aim properly. He growled at Kleverland, “No matter where you go, I will find you, Kleverland. I’ll make you pay for this. I swear it. I will find Sam and take him back, and make you pay for everything you’ve done tonight.”
Kleverland raised an eyebrow “Including saving your life? No one is ever thankful these days,” he said almost to himself. “Goodbye, Mr. Deus. The paramedics won’t be long. Don’t overexert yourself or you’ll pass out.” He turned around and started to walk away.
“Kleverland! I’ll find you!” Saul screamed at the top of his lungs in pure defiance of what the doctor told him. He regretted it the moment he did, the nausea and the dizziness came back.
Kleverland stopped and slowly turned around. From the fuzziness, he saw Kleverland in the half light from the overhead surgical lamps. His face was hidden in half shadow and it made him look menacing. “No,” he said in a smooth, cold voice. “You won’t.” And with that he walked away.
Saul heard his shoes fading away, then a door open and close. The black was fading in fast, he couldn’t help but begin to struggle again, and he was beginning to feel like he were trapped in an aeronautical during a storm. The bonds held him down and his struggles did nothing but weaken him more and cause blinding pain to shoot up his arm.
Then the black of unconsciousness crept in and left him alone in the darkness and pain.
-Excerpt from The Clockwork Heartbeat; Chapter 27, by Andrew Ronzino
Until the final night,
Andrew Ronzino, Master of Cool