The Musketeer stood behind a thick, snow covered rose bramble. He had never been to Tirr before. The city was surrounded by a dense forest of ancient oaks that climbed up and over hillsides and mountains. The forest was known throughout the kingdom. The timber was felled in the name of the Royal Navy, turned into schooners and sloops, ships-of-the-line and cruisers alike. The wood was as hardened as the citizens within the city’s walls.
The Musketeer admired the majesty of the area. Tall mountains, thick trees, and a city wall that looked like it would deter even him for a little while all combined to make Tirr a rather pretty place. The beauty of the land hid the city’s recent troubles. The Crown fired upon a street riot of lumberjacks and blacksmiths demanding attention to their plight as laborers a month prior. The violence left part of the city burned and ruined. And somewhere within the city was the laboratory of an engineer named Rieso who was building the Crown’s most diabolical machines. The Musketeer came to Tirr to destroy that lab and the research contained within its walls.
He stepped through the bramble, crushing the bush underneath his mighty step, and ventured toward the city. The snow popped and compacted under his boots. He saw wagons of food crates and people riding motorized bicycles in the distance. A guard was shaking down one of the incoming merchants for a bribe. Well beyond his range of vision, but not escaping his ears, he heard a regiment practicing drills.
He was to meet with a friend of the resistance, a baker, outside the city the walls. After meeting the contact he was to do the one thing he deplored; wait.
He was incapable of stealth, or disguise. He was an over sized, metal plated warrior with tubes running around his body, rifle in hand and a number of blades magnetically sealed to his legs and back. Against the snow in the bright of the waning sun he was walking mirror. He knew moving to the wall before sundown was foolish, but he was as confident as he was blindingly easy to see. He stepped to the wall as if to dare the King’s men to come for him.
He was disappointed when he safely arrived at the rendezvous point and the baker opened the resistance’s disguised entryway. Bricks of the wall pushed outward and slid aside, creating a gap just large enough for the Musketeer to walk through, but still needing to duck. Every door in the Kingdom he needed to duck through.
“Well, big fellow, they were not lying,” the baker said as the Musketeer stepped forth, “this way.”
The baker led the Musketeer through a tunnel system, also just too short, and to the back of his bakery.
The Musketeer marveled at the baker’s set up. Racks as high the ceiling, not too short, full of bread loaves and pastries. The smell of the ovens was intoxicating and it was obvious the baker was well aware of that fact. A series of fans and tubes directed the oven’s heat to the street out front. An oven on the west wall dinged and rattled signifying the baking process had ended. From the ceiling dropped a mechanical arm that opened the oven, pulled out the finished loaf, placed it on what looked like a trolly car on a rail track and the loaf was whisked away to display area out front. If he had to be anywhere, the Musketeer was pleased with this place.
“Help yourself,” the baker said with a slight stutter, “you’ll need your energy I suppose.”
The baker was not wrong.
The Musketeer feasted on everything from sourdough to stuffed pies. The baker occasionally stepped into the back room to sarcastically ask if the Musketeer was full yet. The Musketeer did not understand the subtlety and kept eating. The baker wondered if the resistance was going to pick up the bill.
Night fell and the Musketeer left the bakery.
The streets were empty and dark. Most of the cities or camps he visited were lit by gas lamps or electrified bulbs at night. Following the riots the lights of Tirr were no longer lit at night. Curfews were in place and patrols were regular. Thankfully, he knew what to say and looked like he belonged where the troops of the blue and lavender trekked. He only needed to find his way to the basement of a lawyer’s office just a few hundred yards away. He marched as if on patrol and walked slowly to give the appearance that he was supposed to be where he was. A duo of fusiliers walked by him and saluted as they had been trained to do. He missed the unquestioning respect of lower ranking troops.
He saluted in return, grunted and continued his march. Deception had never been a strong suit, but he found it almost fun.
The lawyer’s office was a short building adorned with waving flags and marble lions at the entry way. The Musketeer had passed through a thousand entry ways, gates and doors with these same lions and flags. Any loyal subject hoping to gain the King’s favor wanted these symbols of the crown out for all to see. He pushed one of the lions over.
He ignored the papers and flags of the interior and took a spiral staircase down to the scientist’s laboratory. In the lab he could not ignore what he saw.
The walls were covered schematics and formulas. The electric bolt shooting tower at the armory, the automaton warrior from the field and a number of armored carriages and weapons that could devastate entire cities were plastered on every inch of space. He was horrified at the creations this one man brought into the world. It was a laboratory dedicated to destruction and violence. The inventions of Lionel Rieso were a tremendous threat to not only the resistance, but the world.
He moved to begin his aether pump, which would give him the strength to level the building around him and walk away. As he reached for the button he saw a schematic most familiar. A body’s outline was drawn on a piece of stained, yellowed paper. Next to the outline; armor and tubes. Rieso designed the suit of armor that was melded to the flesh and bone of every Musketeer serving the King.
The Musketeer stopped the aether from entering his veins. He would need no help this night to pull down a building. Within himself he felt rage and anger. For the first time in memory he had a way of freeing himself from those feelings; he was going to destroy the work of the man that had destroyed his body. He smiled at the satisfaction of vengeance.
Thanks for reading!
Here’s more in this series:
The Academic’s Evening