Goliath: Champion of Man


The Goliath robot.... writing about it was what gave me a shot in the arm to try, again, writing professionally. The setting has been kicked around for roughly two and a half years. I've grown attached to the characters here in that story set. This is their last hurrah.... and i don't remember writing it. I fall asleep at the keyboard. I wake up. huge pile of text in open office, then another pile in a second file. I don't remember writing it. It looks familiar, but then again I had been having this nightmare/dream of the goliath robot fighting the tripods of HG wells.... 

I know I've batted the concept around before so.... if any of this looks like stuff I've already done please tell me. I hope I haven't', because with this pile of text I have caught back up to where I need to be on NaNo this year.



It has been three weeks since the end of the 'Tripod Invasion'. Though messages had been carried via cable and duly reported across the world, most took the matter as a hoax. Edward had his doubts on the origins of these tripod devices, for in Goliath's libraries had been accounts of the seven other worlds circling our beloved Sun and all signs pointed to Mars as being a great cold lifeless desert. Plus there were the creatures themselves to take into consideration. Though he had knowledge at a thought's reach that did not make Edward an expert by any means. However considering these beings, apparently boneless and resembling the great mollusks of the Deep he did not think their bodies were suited to the dry reaches of Mars as the ancients thought it had been.

From somewhere close to his left foot Edward sensed someone banging on his armor with a sledgehammer. With a grunt he acknowledged the un-known person and looked down at them. "Yes?"

"Bossman wants a word with you." Edward did not recognize the person holding the hammer, which in of itself didn't concern him overly. People came and went from here to other secret places often. "Miss Harrison sent me to give you a little warning. She says he wants your opinion on these Martians." He snorted in disgust, "They got sick and died, isn't that proof that they're not a problem?"

"Maybe." Edward did his best to keep his tone conversational, and somewhere below a low rumble of thunder. "Maybe whatever sent this batch will realize their mistake and figure out a way to vaccinate against whatever killed them." He didn't think it likely, but that didn't mean they could afford to remain complacent. He wasn't sure, because he heard conflicting news reports on numbers, but only a bare handful had nearly leveled London before they toppled. How much damage could dozens or hundreds of these things do, even if they would all die in a few days?

The man went white at the idea of another invasion, and ran for it. Edward dismissed the man from his mind and set about searching Goliath for more concrete records of anything matching these otherworldly invaders. Surely the great construct's builders had to have encountered something like this before. There were similar technologies here and there, at least the heat weapon seemed familiar to Edward. If they all had those it might prove difficult if they concentrated fire on Goliath, but he felt confident if they couldn't focus on him as the main target he could probably take two or three. Yes, Goliath's armor and heat dissipation should be able to cope, at least for a little while.
His employer and friend soon arrived. Edward wondered if the man continually had several changes of clothes with him at all times to change into at a moment's notice in case it ever looked like he had even the slightest hint of dirt. The man always looked newly dressed and shaved. Yet he had an easy manner about how he moved and no apparent fear of the construct. " Operatives are trying to secure examples of both the creatures and their vehicles for an up-close inspection, but at this point you know what we know. What do you make of it?"

Edward rumbled low as an audible cue that he was thinking things over. "I've never been fond of an opponent that I can't speak with, and since these aren't even human I do not know if I can judge their motives the same as I could any of the tin-soldier types that I've seen in the past few years." More low rumbling for his employer's benefit as Edward considered what his intuition told him. "They first went after the seat of British power, which makes sense because they dominate the world stage. If we see conflict it may well be either as a beachhead so they can locally manufacture the means for another attempt at toppling British influence, as well as anything the other European powers could bring to bare on the situation. This is actually the more pleasant scenario in my eyes."

Mr. Harrison merely quirked an eyebrow at this pronouncement, yet when he spoke there was heat to his voice. "What do you mean pleasant? Dear God man, if these things land here that means colonization! Outside of Goliath we don't have anything that can fight them on their own terms. They'd overrun the country in a month if they mean to stay."

"If America were merely a stepping stone they might not care one way or another about us so long as they see that the local population won't interfere with their plans." Edward's head shook side to side, almost as if he were negating himself. "No. I take that back. If they land here, regardless of their real target, they'll set about wiping out everything and everyone that doesn't suit their uses." Something about those vines frightened him, and he couldn't say what. Maybe the Martians harvested them after maturation, maybe not. These invaders in general gave him a sense of dread. "Have you contacted my son?"

Mr. Harrison took Edward's revised view in stride, almost as if he had expected the man to change his mind after a moment of reflection ."We actually got a cable from him last week stating he would be with us 'at best speed'. He was somewhat evasive in his message, but he hinted that he could make some sort of substantial contribution."
Edward's thoughts turned to the time-traveler turned adopted son. In a strange twist of happenstance they shared a last name, and Jason had hinted that he may well be a blood relation several dozen generations downstream from Edward. Why hadn't they thought to ask him how history was supposed to go? Wouldn't it make sense to have him point out every possible threat they would encounter and when it would happen? Neither Edward nor his employers believe that time's course can be predicted once something has set to alter it's flow. To them Jason, as well as a few others whom were presumably also visiting from other points in time, represent great boulders that divert the river of Eternity from it's known course in a wholly different direction. Things may yet still happen that his 'son' would know about, but they may unfold in different and unexpected ways as a result of meddling.

* * *

Out beyond the comforting embrace of the Earth they were coming. Though they had been traveling for long years they had been in contact with the rest of the invasion. They knew that the first of their ranks to land had, instead of toppling the mightiest of humanity's empires, died of an unknown infection. Though this changed their priorities somewhat, the task they had set about had not changed in the slightest. We cannot know what exactly went on in their minds as their craft, as alien to us as their physical bodies, adapted the invaders to deal with the most infectious of their soon-to-be home-world's native micro-life. When they landed they would still be vulnerable to the less common of these diseases, but they would be able to go about their task better prepared than those that came before.

* * *

Jason fidgeted in his seat. He had been a bundle of nerves ever since he had heard of what happened in London. Three centuries too soon, they weren't supposed to know anything worth using was here till after we'd discovered bore drives.Even though he knew what these invaders were he did not know what they were like. After all he had only visited the actual invasion period on a mission of mercy to aid a fellow Traveler, and had left as soon as his displacement suit had recharged. Even so he was given an education in school about the Invaders, and he had seen bits and pieces during his stay in that time-frame. Combine what he knew with those that he had met since coming here and it might not be as bad as he feared.

Australia xenoformed. Japan, smashed and broken by their tunnling machines triggering quake after quake. America nearly depopulated. Fate. No... I denied your presence before. I deny it again. We will do better this time!
Jason had a plan. No, plan was too strong a word for what he had in mind. What Jason had was an idea on how to turn back the Invaders if Edward could not act as a rally point for the military. He laughed inwardly at that. Maybe these were two different groups. The Invasion he knew had soaked everything that had been thrown at it from plasma weaponry to gigaton warheads aimed at the hive-ships. Yet one of these tripods had been downed by a boat with an explosive harpoon sticking out one end. There was a cheerful thought. Even if Edward fell and the Invaders had already adapted themselves to Earth's diseases they still had a chance, no matter how slender.

Of course there was the gas weapons they would undoubtedly use. Even in the invasion Jason knew where man had the sorts of technologies you or I might consider too fantastic to be possible that gas had confounded all but the most intensive screening. Jason did not know how to counter that with what he had on hand. There was one idea, but it had its own risks. Still, the knowledge that collective had already used shouldn't exist. They might be a danger after this was done, but if he didn't convince the people in charge of that dread prison there might not be a later to worry about.

* * *

Edward thought it almost fitting that the close of the century would bring beings from the heavens that would unite humanity. When one thought about it what cause would we have to continue killing each-other if we had an external threat to struggle against? He and Jason had spoken at considerable length of how fighting seemed to be a constant through history. Though it was not the end as any faith he was familiar with saw, perhaps the now very real danger of these tripod builders would keep humanity united, if only by fear that with us at each-other's throats we would be consumed.

He grunted and dismissed the thought. His view was dim about that happening. They might not bring peace, but they may give him a way of cheating his own end. Surely they had a power supply that was on par with anything the ancients had originally installed in Goliath. Though he still had decades, at least according to what his systems had told him, it was far short of the half-century originally promised him. This, he estimated, was mostly because he had used the Goliath far beyond merely existing. True he had managed to reinvigorate the great lumbering beast by a variety of means, but here was a chance to make the great lumbering construct near immortal. Well, that is if he somehow didn't burn out every memory crystal and fail-safe the thing had in battling these creatures.

He paced in the great expanses surrounding the place that he called home. Somewhere near he heard someone approach, so stopped to look at them. Emily. He would have smiled had he the ability. "Trouble sleeping Miss Harrison?" Even after almost fifteen years working together he still thought of her as that wide eyed woman that had first insisted that she was to work here whether her father wished it or not.

"With what goes on in the world lately I dare say little rest is the least of my problems Dear Edward." He rumbled low at her words, more a mountain trying to purr than the low earth shaking rumble of thought. "What of you? Isn't it late for your walks?" Her tone was polite, though marred by weariness. "I've only ever seen you out and about at this hour when you were planning for my father and his men." She looked up at him, for the first time in long years taking in the fact that he was a gigantic thing built for war. "Do you have a solution to offer us? Some way of repelling any that want to try our lands as a somewhat softer target?"

"I do. It isn't much, but a few ideas suggest themselves." Edward was not exactly lying when he said this. All sorts of strategies suggested themselves. Ways that troops could be deployed to slow the tripods down, or plant explosives if they had to rest in the same way men and beasts of our world did. He also had ideas on what to do if he had to act as a rally point for men to gather rather than wade chest deep into the fray alone. However he saw any price that would need to be paid to survive to be a high one. That is why he felt like he was lying to Emily that night. She wanted a bloodless conflict, he knew it even though she did not say as such. Fact of the matter was Edward himself would have wanted to avoid what was likely to come with a second invasion with everything in his being.

He shifted his weight from one side to the other. "If I am called on to fight these things Emily I want you to remain with your Father." She scowled up at him, not for one moment fearing any reaction the immense machine might have. "It's these heat weapons. I may be able to survive one or two hitting me, but anyone or anything riding in me would be cooked alive, and I'm going to have to go without my guns. It wouldn't do to have a dozen rounds igniting in my belly now would it?" Emily shook her head at that thought. "They cannot kill me. Do not worry about that." The lie came easy to him in that moment. "We will find a way to drive these things back if they want to make war against us, then we will enjoy the peace that will come after."

Idly he wished, if only for her sake, that he were still a flesh and blood man, then dismissed the thought. Were he flesh and blood he would be an invalid, and fifteen or twenty years older than her. "I do not mean to overstep myself, but what plans do you have?" Though the exact nature of their relationship is something I will refrain from speculating on. Even so the fact of the matter was that ever since the Hellfire incident they had a relationship of some sort. "If you do not object I was going to have my interior redone, and wanted your advice and help in making it as comfortable a space as possible."

"Well, let me climb in and have a look at what I'll have to work with." She had seen the crew compartment before, but even though it was no-one's business but her's where she went or whom she spoke with Emily tended to have a freer tongue within the relative privacy of Edward's crew chamber. What they discuss, however, shall remain privet. Besides, there are far more interesting matters afoot. Away we go now.

* * *

They near their target. The lush blue-green world tugged at their craft with it's gravity, and so brought those that would strip it bare of all life and valuables much as a common thief, in it's embrace. Their craft heated as they punched through the planet's atmosphere. Impact. Stillness as they checked themselves and their craft. Much of it had been lost, but then the majority of the landing shell's exterior had been designed to absorb the force of landing and direct it away from where its occupant lay curled about itself. 
 
Where it landed it did not know, for there were no houses, or other identifying landmarks save for a herd of grazing animals that had run as fast as their legs would carry them away from there. What it thought I dare not speculate, but it paused a moment before setting to it's task to observe others of its kind streaking across the sky. Do you feel fear reader? I do, and i am unashamed to admit it. A handful of these creatures had nearly decapitated the British Empire. What would dozens be capable of in the remote wilds of America?

* * *
"What you're suggesting is madness." Mr. Harrison did not raise his voice to Jason, but then again he did not need to. "Even if they manage to find a way to repel any invaders I fear they would then pick up where these creatures left off." He and Jason met in his study the morning after Edward and Miss Emily had their midnight discussion. 
 
Jason sipped the bourbon that a serving woman offered him when he showed for this meeting. "That may be true, sir, but you had said you were going to get in touch with me for my opinion on what should be done. Well I've given my thoughts on what needs to be done if we have any hope of ending it without half the world emptied and the other half covered by these things." He eyed his host with a level and steady eye. "I do not like nor do I trust anyone in that mad house you have them locked in save for a bare handful. It will be only that handful that I wish released, and then they are to be watched at all times. If they cooperate and do not try anything give them their freedom on the condition that it can be taken away if there is evidence they have slid back into old ways."

"I don't like it, and I don't think it will work." Mr. Harrison returned Jason's level gaze with an equally unfaltering one of his own. "However given the horrors they loosed on their own they may serve either to distract these invaders, or at least as a means of making the enemy think we have more weapons to call on than they already know about." He finally looked away from Jason and sighed softly. "I only hope none of this planning is needed. To think, we're not alone, yet those that have found us raise the black flag of in discriminate hostility rather than one of truce to see what our species may learn from each-other. You said the rest of the solar system is rich in mineral wealth and flush with water, yet they choose to invade rather than take these freely avaliable things that we may never truly miss. Why is this?

"Well sir." Jason toyed with his glass as he spoke. "The Invaders I'm familiar with only turned to Earth after they had stripped everything of value they could that we hadn't already put an outpost on or around. It may be that when man finally reaches space we'll find that they had stripped out much of the debris from our own system." There was a pause as he followed that thought for a bit. "Then again considering several near misses and a couple real dingers we'd suffered I'd say if they cleaned things up that might not entirely be a bad thing."

"Maybe, but a barren wasteland of space in the future is not what I worry about. Tell me. What do you think will happen if these things come back? Won't the next batch just get sick and die?" Mr. Harrison eyed Jason expectantly. He hoped Jason would give him an assurance that any that landed would soon die, with only a little mischief done while it was here.

Sadly Jason could not give him that answer, for if they were the same that he had known about they tended to send exploratory groups out almost expecting them to die from some disease, or other problem, and their landing craft would transmit details on how to negate that problem to in-bound craft that would then adapt the pilot creatures to better face the world that they sought to conquer. How Jason knew this I dare not say, for it would likely seem convoluted and would more likely than not be frustrating to all involved. Let us leave it at that.

* * *

The invaders lay still in their super-heated landing craft. Yet even while not in motion they gathered information and shared it amongst themselves. Though my fears of hundreds of craft thankfully had not come to pass, two dozen of these creatures now lay planning and plotting their next moves undetected save for a few astronomers that happened to be looking in the right direction at the time. There is trouble there in having an enemy at your doorstep before you know what has happened. They do not know they have taken us unaware, but even if they did that would not alter their plans. Grim doings are in the offing friends. Let us hope that whatever grand plans Edward has will be enough, for Jason's idea of using the inmates of that dread prison would come to bare fruit only after the invasion has well and truly begun.

* * *

The man sometimes known by Thomas Kabu, sometimes Zeus, but who's real name is Saburo, eyed the message with more than a little worry. They had allowed the 'tennants' of this place access to the news, even if it was typically weeks old by the time it had reached this place. The message Saburo read, both fortunately and not, was not a weeks old paper, but instead something freshly copied from the place's tele-type room. Jason wanted him and three others familiar both with biology as well as mechanics, to work with him in case these 'Martians' returned. It wasn't at the idea of working to productive ends that Saburo frowned, but instead an external conformation that there was a very real chance that these things would return.

Alow me to diverge from my narration for a moment to explain a point that requires emphasis, for it is both important, and may be seen by any that read this as either a poor understanding of history, or my using artistic license to hand-wave matters. I assure you that while I'm sure there are unintended fubs I am telling the story of a world that has devices such as the one Edward is joined with, and is meddled with by people not originally from the end of the nineteenth century. Technologies such as the prison/sanitarium's teletype, as well as a few other matters that the shadowy organization Edward is employed under are either byproducts of this continual dealing with extraordinary inventors, scavengers, or Edward, Jason, and others giving nudges here and there to encourage technological developments.

Saburo did as he was instructed and, after the place's warden had spoken with him so that they were clear on their respective tasks, approached the residents that he had been asked to. It was not easy to get several of these convinced they needed to do more than tend their little tasks here. After all some of these people had come to prefer the quiet restful atmosphere here to the near manic drive that propelled them into conflict with society. Some even feared what they might do if they allowed themselves to follow their passions again. However, with news of what happened in London on everyone's lips for the past week, those arguments were half-hearted things.
Fear not friends. We have our think tank. I only hope that their efforts will not be too little too late.

* * *

Edward rumbled in disapproval of the news that had been read to him. There were men abandoning their posts, both in the shadowy organization he was part of, as well as with the government. Though the first wave had been pushed back it had shaken people the world over, and apparently some thought these the end-times. Add to the usual lot of doom sayers news that whole towns had started cutting themselves off.
No. Wait. Backtrack. Go through the news again line by line.

"Emily!" Edward wished he had an easy way of printing his thoughts down for his companion and aid to go through. She was infinitely better at sensing patterns than he was, and if even he had managed to find something amiss she must surely be able to divine the cause. 
 
Though she was breathless and sore from running Emily calmly listened as Edward relayed the facts that had rattled his head so. For your sake, gentle and dear reader, I shall summarize.

* * *

Three towns had gone dark the night before. This was known because all attempts at either morse or phone communication find nothing at the other end. Had it merely been a case of one or two people working either key or switchboard they would have been promptly replaced, and this has not happened.

Roughly twenty operatives scattered through the Americas had either abandoned their duties, or had coincidentally met their ends all at roughly the same time. Suicides, sadly, had gone up since the invasion, though it was odd for so many within the rolls to take this way out.

Several astronomers, both employed and amateur, reported an unusually bright instance of shooting stars between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM three days prior.

Several of the 'tennants' of their 'Home for the Unsound and Unhinged' reported nightmares filled with things that bore a number of similarities to the Invaders on the same night as the night of shooting stars. This is noteworthy because, while the Invaders were on everyone's minds, many of the reported details were in no news report, and would be difficult if not impossible for at least three of those in the report were from the isolation ward and thus had no contact with any but a select few in staff. It should be noted that in all cases the affected persons have displayed some amount of clairvoyance or precognition.

* * *

The wheels and gears in Emily's mind spun and wirred about. She saw the glimmering of something unpleasant. Though there were other possible solutions, the facts, when put together just so, pointed at a truly horrific idea as being behind most, if not all, of these things Edward presented to her.

"They're already here." Her heart wanted to leap through her throat as that thought stuck in her mind.
Edward shifted to look down at her. "You're sure of this?"

"As sure as I can," Emily took a breath to steady her wits. The idea that these dread invaders had already returned was frightening. "Wait till we can get men to ride with you before you go Edward. Word and warning has to be sent once you make contact."

"I know." He hated taking men with him, but he could see no other way of getting word out once he had found these things, if they were even here. He hoped for once Emily was wrong, but always best to be sure. "I'll do everything I can to make it back if they're too much to deal with head on, but I can make no promises."

* * *

While Edward and his men prepared to go to where they think the invaders landed Jason had his own worries. Word had just reached him that in all likelihood the tripod builders had already returned. He had good reason to be in low spirits. Not only had he only just started talks with those whom he had hoped would aid in devising weapons to counter this threat, the samples of both creature and craft he had been told were en route were still days away. Only a dozen at most so far, but what if they send more? I doubt Edward can handle more than a few at a time, still, maybe we can find some way of helping.

He looked to the five others in what normally was where staff meetings were held. Each had been asked for because they had knowledge in augmentation, crystalline technology, diseases, or in a few cases had dealings with machines comparable to the Tripods. Though most of the residents of this prison could lay claim to these talents, and many others besides, the one thing these five had that Jason valued more than their knowledge, was enough mental clarity to see that backstabbing or backsliding into the behaviors that had landed them here would only hamstring any efforts made.

Jason put his hands on the table that the others sat around and leaned forward while looking at each in turn. "Ideas on how best to approach this?"
 
"If a natural disease is what brought them down last time," A flame haired woman looked at Jason intently as she spoke, "why not concoct something that, while harmless to man or livestock, that would work around their new immunity?" Jason made a cutting gesture with his left hand before she could explain her plan in detail.
"I appreciate the sentiment, and if we can get a living sample I would like you to work on that, but right now you would be working blind. It may work," Jason met her intense gaze with his own, "Or it may mutate in the wild into something that would kill us." Without taking his eyes off of her he continued, "What of, instead of directly attacking these invaders, we use your idea of a tailored bacteria or virus to instead augment men we send out into the field?" His eyes then flicked to one of the other men at the table. "And if they are so augmented already, why not add further mechanical devices? A combination of an enhanced biology and a certain deadening to the pain may make those tin men you always wanted to build able to think and reason after you've finished with them." He didn't like dealing with southern revivalists, but Jason understood that in this moment he needed to weigh every option, not just the ones from people he agreed with.

Saburo listened to this exchange as well as the ensuing discussion of the possibility of a beneficial 'disease' that Jason had brought up. "I had been working on ways of temporarily deadening the pain centers of the body, but only temporarily. It wouldn't do to have soldiers run themselves to death, or not realize that they've been injured and die out on the field if a little patching up hours before would have fixed them." He didn't need to raise his voice for them to hear him. He was the man that had risen from nothing to, over a few scarce weeks, chief liason between the prisoners and staff, as well as the head of the kitchens.

After more discussion of the best combinations of these principle ideas to apply Jason considered what was being proposed. Cyborg soldiers a little over a century before they would have been created in the timeline he was familiar with. He had seen these 'metal men', what few had survived the transformation, battles with both regular armed troops as well as direct confrontation with Goliath. These men, had they a few medications, rounds of intense re-engineering of their bodies, and proper anesthetics, might have been able to fend off, if not outright destroy, everything sent against them. 
 
"I hate to bring this up," Jason was careful to keep his tone conversational and to stay seated as he spoke rather than, as before, loom over them as a man to be obeyed because they had to, rather than someone they would willingly follow. "However even if we find volunteers for this process who is going to lead them, and what are you going to do about after?" He leaned back in his seat slightly, hopefully appearing relaxed, "I mean sure we might not survive any of this, but I'd like any plan we create to take what happens if we do into account. We would have hundreds, if not a few thousands, of soldiers that have been transformed into living weapons, and in pretty much every case you would be unable to restore them to their former selves."

They discussed options then, ideas that those that volunteer for the treatments would also have to undergo some sort of continual medication to moderate their passions as well as undergo a second augmentation to have their non-human pieces replaced with things that would be more conducive to civilian life. Saburo liked where this discussion was going, and was furiously scribbling notes. More importantly Jason approved of their willingness to discuss what to do after the fact. Too many, in his estimation, only saw the weaponization and not what to do after the job had been done. Their discussion of what to do after, at the very least, let him hope there would be an after to think of.

In the end they agreed that they would round up a dozen volunteers for the initial process. They figured that would be enough to, in theory, act as either an aid or replacement if Edward were removed from action without committing too many men to something that might well end their lives as they knew them. Both Jason and Saburo had put their names down as candidates, and were summarily rejected. Jason was their liason, so it would be counter-productive if the outside world saw him as a half-mechanical pawn of the people he had been sent to oversee. Saburo, likewise, was considered unfit due to their need for his hand on the initial test run. 
 
This will take a very long time to complete even though there are plenty both on staff and en route once the call had been made to act as test subjects. While Jason and his men of science attempt to forge weapons out of men let us see what mischief the Invaders are up to.

* * *

Once the Tripods had done away with the areas they had landed around they began to move toward a central location. Their reasoning was not mutual defense, or to build. They did only as they were instructed, save that in their wake they left red vines and creepers in their wake. These plants, if left unchecked, would choke out indigenous fauna; as it had a toxic effect on the creatures that tried feeding on its parts. They also left a path of silence in their wake, a silence born of black smoke choking the life out of everything that it came in contact with.
Perhaps some of you wonder why they converge if even their indirect weapons of war have proven so totally devastating that they haven't needed to fire save out of the pleasure of setting structures ablaze. It is true that without some sort of massed response they could walk upon the world unopposed, but their purpose is to colonize, or at the very least strip this planet bare of anything that may serve their ends. They seek each-other out for the task of building craft to service these ends.

However even their cold calculating intellects know the emotion of fear. In the distance their equipment, has picked up traces of something that their race had not known for millenia. They clustered close as they conferred over this matter. Was there instrumentation faulty? Unlikely. Why had they not picked this up from orbit? Unknown. Their craft swayed back and forth as they spoke to each-other of options. There had to be only one, and even if their devices told them the truth of the matter only one would not last long against them. 
 
They again felt secure while they went back to their labors amid fields of red alien weeds.

* * *

Edward plowed through the weeds, clearing a path for his men to follow in the process. It was slower going than he would have wanted, yet had he been confined to horse or other ground transportation his path would have been even more hazardous. It took three days to travel the same distance he might have covered in twelve hours once he had encountered these thrice cursed plants. 
 
Once they had reached the weeds he sent one of the riders back to the last town that they had come across to send word of what had been seen and that Edward was proceeding 'at best speed.' Once they had found signs of mining another rider had been sent to relay that information. Finally when they came within several miles of their target Edward informed them that they were within range of the Invader's heat weapons and that he would go forward to engage the enemy. A rider had been sent to report that as well. This left only one to witness Edward's encounter with the Tripods.

* * *

They sensed his presence long before they could see him. They fired the moment they had his position, yet he continued onward. They fired again and again. At first they thought their unseen advisary destroyed, but Edward, covered in debris and operating under the barest trickle of power advanced. Where he had boldly strode before he now slunk on his belly. This was a task made more difficult by the virtue of having a body ill-made for this task. Yet even though his armor had shown signs of warping and heat damage and the heat that his body had vented even after an hour was enough to wither the unearthly plant life he continued to his objective. 
 
Though they thought their opponent in the process of dying one of them had been sent to confirm this fact. When it homed in on the energy of Goliath's reactors it saw the great machine motionless save for occasional twitching. Its instruments showed no life, battered and abused equipment about the war machine, and no signs of anything where it thought a pilot should have been. Satisfied with its judgment it had started to leave when Goliath sprang to action.
One of Goliath's great and giant fists hammered into the protruding hood of the Tripod before it had a chance to activate it's dread weapon. Black smoke billowed from underneath the terrible creation around where its legs joined the main body. Perhaps it thought that its weapon would be effective, perhaps it was an autonomous response brought about by the titanic blow it had suffered. Either way Edward did not wait to find out if it could recover. Instead he sprung at the tripod, latching on with all four of Goliath's limbs before tearing pieces of the tripod away with it's great and powerful hands. 
 
The layers peeled away as if they were wrapping paper being torn away by an eager child on Christmas. Only instead of a pretty bauble lay a creature that looked more at home in the deep sea quivering and exposed to the open air. Edward would have been sick had he the ability. Even without the benefit of the massive repository of knowledge Goliath had he knew that these things were, while not evil, unwavering and unfamiliar with the idea of mercy. The creature clattered in what might have been language or random noise as Edward pulled it from the broken tripod that held it and brought it level with Goliath's head.

"WE WILL NOT BE BRUSHED ASIDE BY THE LIKES OF YOU!" The God-Voice of Goliath startled the other Invaders almost as much as the projectile that followed. One of their own flew through the air before landing in the middle of their mutual construction. Some had turned to where their comrade had been thrown from while others looked, I would say dumbfounded but that is too human a term for what went through their minds, at where their fellow being had landed.

Something else flew to them then. They fired at it even as it whistled earthward. Again and again Goliath threw things, trees, rocks, anything he could lay his hands on while he continued to move. Stopping meant Death. Slowing down meant they could fire on him, and his only hopes lay in the continual rain of debris keeping them too occupied to get enough of a fix to annihilate him. 
 
As it turned out he needn't worry. Once it was clear that he had not been destroyed these invaders were not about to take him on in a rush. They might end him, but not without too much risk that it would be mutual annihilation. They are not cowards, far from it in fact. However they calculate, and in their minds the risks did not merit the rewards, especially when it became clear that their opponent was in the process of retreat. They had a task to complete, and would do so. Others would be tasked with dealing with this construct.

Let us call this a stalemate for the moment. Edward has proven resilient enough to take several bursts of the invader's heat weapons, but not without considerable cost to the Goliath construct. He proved that he could take on one of the tripods on his terms, so perhaps we can take that as a moral victory. Still, there are many left standing while our hero limps off to tend his wounds. Fear not friends. We have more cards yet to play.

* * *

In the weeks Edward spent hunting down the tripods Jason had overseen the first candidate of their grand and awful experiment. The first to volunteer had been a good man with no family to speak of and Jason considered of reasonable temperament to subject to this process. For the sake of discretion and those of weak constitutions I shall forego a detail of the operation itself, or a detailed description of what this man looked like after. In my eyes it is a wonder that he survived the transformation, and a near miracle that he did so with his mind more or less intact. Alexander Murrey, remember that name well friends. He either was supremely dedicated to seeing our victory at any price, or else foolish in the highest degree. 
 
The man, covered in armor where his flesh had not been outright replaced, waited for Jason's inspection. It was understandable that this first subject would want to be studied closely, even though time was considered short and need great. He was found reading a book Jason had left beside the man's bedside. We have seen this book before, though in passing, and it is unlikely that the Professor would have approved, but to Jason's astonishment Alexander was adding his own notes.

They spoke at length of the notes the Professor had left behind, several thought experiments that the newly altered man had worked through, as well as to question what applications this sort of augmentation might have for non-military uses. Needless to say one of the first leaps into mainstream medicine would be for those afflicted with lost or malformed limbs. He seemed cheerful at the idea of there being a peaceful application, and explained that though he knew he would have to kill he hoped that if he survived he would be able to provide more than a pair of strong arms to whatever rebuilding may be needed.

Jason approved of Alexander after this discussion, though he included in his report that he was still unsure of long term effects, but realized that they didn't have time for further study. He didn't like this, but they had their answer on if even some of those that underwent the process could come out mentally stable.

Let me assure you on something dear reader. The program that Alexander and subsequent volunteers will undergo is not simply limited to physical augmentations or stimulating the body and mind so that these prosthetics will be readily accepted. This program also had weapons crafted from technologies as desperate as swords, axes, and other feudal weapons, to directed energy weapons powered by crystalline matrices that, while normally being classified as carriage mounted weaponry, could be easily carried into battle by these augmented soldiers.

It was no mean feat that was accomplished. All this in less than a month. While impressive I expect the mortality rate to be considered unforgivable were this any other situation where months, years, or even decades could be spent in development. Alexander may be the only success of this program, he may turn out to be the first of a new breed of man. Either way he is being outfitted and transported to where Edward had made contact with the Tripods. He will arrive after Edward has withdrawn, but maybe if others follow soon after and Edward is still in the area they can make something of the situation.

* * *

Edward managed to flee to a point out of range of the tripod's heat guns and took stock of his situation. True he had survived, but the outer layers of his armor had suffered, and might or might not absorb another blow before becoming useless. Several patches of melt exposed components normally hidden save for times where Edward let the armor fall away. He did not like the balance of that exchange. He counted three that approached him, and he judged there to be at least six or ten others that had fired on him while he made his retreat. With one dead that left anywhere from eight to twelve of them left. Long odds indeed. He did not know what the horseman would report, and did not really care. If he was reported dead then Jason's extreme measures would be implemented. If not, there would possibly be more conventional help massed at the edges of the infernal growth he took his ease in.
What were his options?

He looked at the knowledge repository the Goliath offered him and asked a single question. 'How do I survive this?'
He thought back to the battle. It seemed almost as if his opponents thought he had been taken out in that first salvo. That showed their complacency in how effective their weapons were, or at least showed that the myriad of slapdash repairs and modifications over the years had made the Goliath's engine read as somehow faulty.
How could he use that? He thought about the matter. Maybe they had already adjusted their equipment to how Goliath was tuned, but if so why hadn't they tracked him down and melted him into slag? 
 
He chuckled then. Of course, either they thought him too damaged, or they could not see him as he was. Perhaps there was an advantage to just how seat of the pants all those repairs and fixes had been. Until they had seen him they did not act as if he were there. That might not be the whole truth, but it was the only thing he had to go on.
Until he had a more concrete plan, though, he would withdrawal and make a report, then if luck was with him he would have things sent to him that would, if not restore him to the way he was before, would help re-balance things to a slightly less lopsided configuration.

Yes Edward withdrew. One man verses a dozen. Even though he had stood up to them and survived that was not the same as saying he could stroll in and wipe the floor with them. To risk himself further without some form of backup was, in his estimation, stupidity. On the way out he collected as many of his horsemen as he could and would continue to observe to make sure they did not expand their area of influence, but he would try to avoid another direct confrontation.
* * *


While Edward fought and Jason oversaw the sanctioned creation of an abomination Emily was not idle. No dear friends, this woman would not be content to watch as others risked themselves, she never had been and never would be. While she was ill trained for combat, she did know how to negotiate and bargain. Both skills were needed when she had attached herself to the army regulars that had been convinced to go to the affected area. True many would consider them ill equipped for this job, but it was what she had and Emily would put them to use.

The trouble was time. Time to muster men and material. Time to transport everyone to a centralized location for briefing. Time to go from that place to where they were needed. Emily hated feeling as if every moment was one closer to ruin. However she would not rush herself, not even around men who felt that being essentially put under her charge was an insult, courtesy given whenever she was around or not. 
 
The whole time she had kept in touch with Jason's efforts and found that his 'man' would arrive there ahead of the forces she led. In response she asked if Jason could have efforts stepped up in producing arms and armaments that could meet them when they arrived. She knew that was an unlikely thing to happen, because unless that awful prison had somehow been stockpiling wonder weapons they would have to be made from scratch, and somehow she felt that even with all the conveyances the modern age could offer they would not arrive before after this was done.

Emily set her jaw and made herself go at the pace her men could go. in the meantime she conferred with the officers to discuss strategies ranging from out and out assault, to harrying tactics to try keeping the tripods from focusing on any other asset. While they wanted the former, the latter seemed more prudent given their opponent. They, sadly, had to make their plans under the presumption that if their opponent released black smoke it was all for naught. Maybe a favorable wind would blow it away from them, maybe not, but they had nothing that could protect against it, and so included it in their plans only as one of many things that could bring ruin.

* * *

Onward the metal man ran. He was built for this desperate purpose by the hands of the insane wedding technology to what was once the body of one Alexander Murrey. He ran because in spite of his weight and bulk he was quicker than all but the fastest of horses, and this way make the train that would take him to where he was needed. Any that saw him would have recoiled in horror at the sight, and I will only describe him as roughly man-shaped, and though his limbs have a misshapen appearance there is a certain lethality to them. He is armed with blades and guns, both strapped to his back and made part of him by the unspeakable operations preformed by men that saw no other way.
He knows his task and target. He knows that even if he somehow survives this task he will be feared and hated by the people he has saved. He gave up his life for this mission. Have mercy and pity on our country, for if Edward falls this hybrid of man and machine is likely the focus of our hopes of survival.

* * *

Jason paced as he waited. Word was supposed to be sent when Alexander had made his train and so far there was nothing. He had misgivings about this entire project. In fact he was quite sure he had gone along with the ideas with as little complaint only because of personal fear. These are not the same creatures I remember. He tried telling himself as he turned on his heel and continued walking. If they were then Edward would already be dead and the skies black with their clouds of poison. Alexander seems stable enough, but I know less than nothing of the methods they used. He shouldn’t have survived, much less come out of it functional. He stopped in mid-stride when he heard the door open.

Saburo stepped in the room and looked about. “I would have thought you’d have wanted to stay in better than this.” He tskd softly at the plainness of the room Jason was staying in. “You’ve always struck me as someone who prefers the finer things in life.” 
 
For his part Jason was quite confused both at Saburo’s choice in conversation, and the fact that Saburo was there and apparently unsupervised. “Funny. I didn’t think they let you off your leash around here.” He sounded testy and, judging by Saburo’s flinch at that remark he was in a foul temper.

“I have been allowed freedom to go as I would for years now.” Saburo’s body tensed, after all no matter if it was intentional or not Jason had hit on a nerve. Now was not the time to be angry, no matter how much he wanted Saburo had to keep his temper in check. “I came because I thought you’d be relieved to hear Alexander has arrived and is now being taken as fast as they can manage. I thought that might help ease your temper a little, but if you’re going to sit and growl insults at everyone who enters I’ll make sure they keep you in here till you’re needed.”

Jason processed this slowly. It took time for the implications to sink through, but once they had he shook his head. “You wouldn’t.”
 
“Keep snapping at people and I could have the Warden sign the order himself.” Saburo sounded smug when he said this. It was petty and vindictive, but Jason had been like this ever since Alexander had left and if he continued as he did then it might set off other inmates, ones that wouldn’t stop at words to knock him down a peg or three. “Several of us are afraid your attitude is going to cause problems if you don’t stop.” 
                          
Jason stared at his visitor without really seeing him. “Really now?” Saburo nodded. “Look at it from where I’m sitting. Things from space are invading and I’m sent to work with people that, no matter how rehabilitated some of you are you’re still doing things I can scarcely understand and I’m trusting that none of you are going to try stabbing the rest of us in the backs when this is over.” He wanted to tell Saburo about his personal conflict about these invaders and the ones that he remembered. Saburo knew a few of Jason’s secrets, but he didn’t know all of them.

“You think you’re the only one that’s worried about stability here?” Saburo snorted indignantly as he pushed Jason so he either had to sit, fall, or push back. With Jason seated he looked down at him. “I decided to stay here after they said I was ‘safe’ because I had hoped my understanding of how chemistry can affect the human mind might be able to help some of them. I’d like to take credit in a few cases, but too many here owe what stability I’ve given them to the fact that this is a quiet place. So please, if you want several dozen dangerous and incredibly talented minds that now have access to different elements that could be used to start mass rioting here if pushed too far then by all means. Keep lashing out.” His voice and body were relaxed when he spoke. Jason was both taller and stronger than him. Saburo knew that trying to be physically intimidating would only diminish from his efforts.

* * *

Jason read and re-read the message. Happy damn you. You’re supposed to feel happy! We pushed them out and we only have a small patch of land that has to be purged. The other governments of the world are now actively searching their own territories to make sure nothing else has landed, and Alex and a few others of his sort are being sent to Australia to make sure my gut feeling about that place won’t come to anything. Be Happy.
Of course he was far from happy. Edward died when Goliath exploded. Saburo had overseen the freeing of those that were more or less stable as repayment for their help, but they made it clear to Jason as they left that all of them felt that they had been robbed of their lives in that place. Emily, he sighed to himself when he thought of her, he’d have to try talking to her again.

“Go away.” He found her clutching a piece of paper. “I’ll be fine, just go away.” It was obvious to Jason, and everyone else, that she was far from ‘fine’. In fact what was clear was that she would waste away if she kept this up. She hadn’t eaten since she got word of what happened, and instead of her usual fire there was little to her but tears and sobbing.

What Jason did then is something I wouldn’t recommend to anyone in that or any other situation. He slapped her, not hard mind you, but enough to make the poor woman see stars for a bit. While she was recovering from that he took the letter from her, smoothed out the wrinkled paper as best as he could, and read.
“Emily, if you’re reading this than I’m gone, and hopefully so are the tripods.” He noticed her settle into a resentful glare at him as he continued reading, but made no move to stop him. “As of right now I don’t know what hand you or my son played in the matter, but I’m sure both of you preformed to your usual excellent standards. There is so very much I would like to tell you, but given I must have another pen my thoughts down I dare not speak at length. I want you to understand that I had always held you close to my heart and am a better man for the kindness you had shown me even and especially after it was clear that my life was bound to that awful machine. You showed fire and grit to anyone who thought our feelings to each-other ill-made, and whatever shape our relationship took ill-formed and far from what you deserved. While i agree whole heartedly that you deserved more than I could give, I would be the last to complain over your affections.”

While he read Jason continued watching Emily. With the initial hurt of his backhand gone, for which he was more than a bit thankful as he had only wanted to try breaking the slump she had made for herself, she instead seemed intent on the words as he read them. Edward sounded nothing like him, but he thought maybe she was responding better to his words now than she had when she first read the letter herself.

“I ask only one thing of you now that I’m gone Emily.” Jason lowered the paper he read from to edge closer to her. She made no move to stop him as he cupped her face and finished speaking Edward’s last words to her. “I want you to live Miss Emily Harrison. You have many good years ahead of you and I would be a poor friend if I asked you to spend them crying over me. I am beyond hurt, one way or another, and ask only that you find a way to live your life. Always and forever yours, Edward.”

With the last words spoken Jason let go of Emily and squared himself. “Do you think he would have wanted you to keep crying like this? What do you think he would have sa-” 
 
Emily smacked him, a loud resounding thing that would leave an angry red palm print on the side of Jason’s face for a good time after. “That’s for hitting me.” Emily then leaned forward to wrap her arms around him. When she finally let go she smiled, “And that’s for coming to check on me.” Together they left Emily’s room to see what of the many tasks that still needed done they could lend themselves to.

No readers, Emily isn’t the sort of woman to go from one guy to the next, even if she was all but socially demanded to try attaching herself to somebody else. Nor is Jason the sort of man to try taking advantage of Emily’s emotional state, though between us I’m all but certain that were she more in control of herself Jason likely would have pursued a relationship of some sort. No, they’re friends, nothing more or less, and friends they shall remain in spite of possible expectations otherwise both by literary trends, and social demands of the era.

Now then, where shall we look? Australia’s a bit far, and I don’t fancy waiting with Alex and his cohorts on a steamship. No, instead let us go to the little town of Beth to see how our dear friend Saburo, who once went by the moniker Doctor Zeus by the locals, will be received.

* * *

Saburo was still several days ride from the town he had once called home when he was joined by another rider. Briefly he considered reaching for the gun Jason gifted him. It was a good gun, and though Jason would not say where it came from, but explained that though it was unusual in his hands, in Saburo’s it would be taken for just another of his creations. While the man briefly known as Zeus wouldn’t argue the point, especially since he felt that they owed him for the past thirteen years, but he didn’t feel entirely at ease over the matter.

The rider pulled up beside Saburo and gave a rough salute. “It’s hard going, but we’ve got boys doing as you asked Doctor.”

Saburo nodded at that statement, “Very good. And what of our friends?” His plan, hastily constructed in those hours after they had won, hinged on none interfering in what his men were doing.

“We’ve got men working containment and removal of the Weeds Sir. Anyone they find will have a legitimate reason to be there. The moving and lifting gear we’ve passed off as needed as emergency measures in case their work causes any large collapses.”

“Excellent.” Saburo was quite pleased with the work so far, though he would be the first to admit there were still a thousand little things that could go wrong.

* * *

The men that sifted through and filed away the reports, messages, and other records of the workings surrounding Goliath and those that it served thought they were doing so at the request of the United States Government in an attempt to make clear what happened during that sketchy and spotty period of history leading up to the Tripod invasion. In a way this was true, because a good deal of these reports would make their way to federal agencies and wouldn’t be avaliable to the general public for at least another half-century, and then only because of of a forced release of papers.

Few, would even then be interested in the new details outside of historians. Too much established history had been built up for these 'new and previously undisclosed documents’ to influence the attitudes of the populations. After all the end result was the same, no matter what tidbits here and there hinted at. There was no great scandal or rewriting of persona, so the facts that the technologies of the world weren’t a result of studying alien craft interested nobody. Well that wasn’t quite true. There were always fringe groups that relished their positions outside of normal society that drank in this revelation, but few from the majority paid them any mind.

Once this information became publicly avaliable it was accessed three different times by people not interested in writing about the period, hopeful that they would prove some great wrong existed in some politician or another noteable figure’s history, or that the documents themselves would contain locations of as-yet-unearthed technologies (for the record what was released did not contain any of these, but that didn’t keep people from looking.) The first time was in the mid-seventies and was by a man attempting to look through his family’s sorted and storied history. The second time was when this man wanted to educate his son about his family’s past. The third time was nearly two generations later when a young man, desperate to find anything to help distinguish himself in a group of friends he had increasingly felt overshadowed by, put pieces together that few considered.

One lonely night this man made a trip to a town that had seen better days. He knew what he wanted to find because he had lived here, up until recently, his entire life. When he saw it he stopped to stare. The whole time he had lived here he thought it had been just a statue, but no. The broken and mangled giant gripped in an eternal embrace with one of the hated and feared tripods was no mere copy. Edward Fawkes, the human mind wedded to a dread war machine made millenia ago, lay dormant inside a remnant of a remnant of Goliath’s memory.
...but those are stories for another day.
Post a Comment