Jumping Jack Flash

From the Story Arc: Volgograd on the Adams

Previous Story in the Arc: It's Still Rock and Roll to Me by Krasniy Oktyabr (Thursday, July 28, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Epilogue: Welcome to the Machine by Krasniy Oktyabr (Friday, September 02, 2005)

(posted Friday, September 02, 2005)

It was bright day. The Sun never quite comes out in Kings Row, but this day clouds and smog seemed thinner than usual. I was on roof of Leroy's building, fixing air conditioning unit. Placing wrench in toolbox, I wiped sweat from brow and took a moment to collect myself, enjoy weather. I had been working on deshyovka for most of week. Partly because I could not find problem, but mostly because I had been busy ridding Kings Row of demon-worshipping magi calling themselves Cirle of Thorns. These sorcerors, nothing but annoyance. Worthless people, would rather kill themselves than face same fate as lackeys.

Enough idle thought, back to work. I return to working on stubborn bolt, which resist all muscle I put behind it. Just as I put renewed force into task, sudden noise on roof startles me and I bang head on unit. The curses that escaped me are not fit for print in any language. A familiar chuckle answers. Poking head out of unit, I see Sarah putting laundry up to dry.

"Dryer is broken again?" I ask, rubbing sore spot.

Sarah nods, giving friendly smirk. Clearing throat, I go back to work so she can not see me blush. It has been many weeks since we parted, but many are times I think of her, wonder if pieces might be picked up. Sometimes I see what I imagine is same longing on her face. I like to think I have found balance between duty to Party and myself, and wish to share this with Sarah.

Finally stubborn bolt gives, and fan is one step closer to wielding to my will. Other bits come apart easier, and soon fan assembly lies in pieces at my feet. With nod of satisfaction, I wipe hands on rag and look over at Sarah's progress. One more pin, and the last of her clothes sway in gentle breeze. Sarah glances over to find my attention on her, and before I can turn away she flashes me smile that always makes my heart skip beat.

Reaching into basket, Sarah removes two bottles from bag of ice and saunters towards me, holding one out to me.
"Peace offering..." she explains with sincerity.

I have no great love for Amerikanski beers--vodka gets job done right. But I could not refuse this gift, and took bottle from her with warm smile.

We walked to ledge and sat with feet hanging over, watching world go by in silence. For one, I am content for moment just to be near one another once again. I could not help but notice how muscular Sarah's arms had become. Her new job at textile plant--and self-defense training from Leroy while I was away on missions--has made her all the more attractive. I take long pulls of beer to distract myself from such thoughts, but I play fool's game this way.

"I've noticed you've been around more lately," Sarah says, finishing last swallow of beer.

"Da, much work needs done. And glad to be working for good of all tenants."

Sarah cradles bottle in hands, staring off into city.

"As glad as when you're fighting out there?"

There is tenseness to this question, but also strange resignation. As if she expects disappointing answer. I had often wondered what was in her past that made her feel such coldness towards heroes. I would never ask, for fear of driving her further away.

"Nyet, is not same," I answer, throwing gesture toward nothing in particular. "Out there, I know nobody. I do those deeds for glory of People and Proletariat. And I'm filled with sense of accomplishment.
"But here, in this place," I continue, patting ledge for emphasis,"I know the people, share their problems. I know of babuska Gillespie's rheumatism, of baby Jennifer's colick, and young Stephen's ambition to be baseball player like uncle. So things I do here, is for them. To make their life even little better is worth more to me than highest accolades from City."

Sarah turns and gives me different smile, one of relief and content. My answer pleased her, it seems. I could not ask for better. But just as quickly it vanishes. Sarah looks back at the bottle in her hands, rolling it back and forth, frowning in deep thought. I do not disturb her, instead concentrate on my own beer, finishing last now-warm swallow and thinking on how to next tackle air conditioner.

Sarah again looks out across Kings Row, and just loud enough for me to hear says, "I miss you, Sasha..."

Startled, my attention is hers again, and our eyes meet. The silence then was not awkward, as our faces told stories our hearts could not. The bitterness, regrets, longings, all melt away. It is just us here now, nothing between.
"I miss you, tyolka," I respond. The space between us is now nothing, as we meet for kiss as passionate as if we were never apart.

This moment, it seemed to last forever. Gone were my worries about duty to Party, City, even Leroy, here in the embrace of my darling Sarah.

This eternity was interrupted by strange noise, like high-pitched electric whine that grated on the ears. It as over as soon as it began, but it broke our reverie and we turned our heads to see source of bothersome noise. Sarah gasped in shock, trembling in my arms. There but a few meters away stood two diminutive robots, servants of the Clockwork King.

The pair ignored us, as I have often witnessed throughout City. Some of the machinations are so intent on own secret duties, and some attack anything that moves. The larger Clockwork--a Tesla Knight, as I have heard them called--walked toward partially dismantled air conditioner while smaller "Sprocket" stood watch. Since it made no attack on us, I could but assume it would only stop any who tried to interfere.

And there lay main problem. My toolbox lay between them, with Grandfather's gloves tucked into bottom drawer--this was not first time I have been caught unawares by rooftop ruffians. But I had to try for them. I could not let these machines dismantle all my hard work.

I motioned for Sarah to stay low, just in case. Proletariat were usually ignored, but I would take no chances. Too much time had already been wasted. The Tesla Knight was yanking at something in A/C with all its might, sound of tearing metal setting teeth on edge. Sprocket had apparently grown bored with watch and turned attention to toolbox, beginning to rummage for anything useful.

The time to act was then. Without sound, I sprinted across roof and tackled Sprocket. With mighty crash, we fell onto toolbox, spilling contents across roof. Sprocket threw feeble punch, but connected with nothing. There, just a meter from me, one of the gloves had fallen out. With mad lunge, I threw myself off Clockwork and managed to slip my hand inside. With now automatic reflex, I flicked wrist just so, sending electric bolt to fry the crippled machine. It twiched fitfully, then lay still on top of spilled tools.

This got the Knight's attention. It snapped its head towards me, green eyes somehow managing to glow with evil glint. With one last tug, the Knight tore free bit of metal from unit while I kicked Sprocket out of way to find other glove. When I got good look at what Knight was holding, I could barely keep from laughing. In its hand it held... its arm. Maybe not its, but unmistakably a Clockwork limb. I could not begin to imagine hiw it got there to begin with, but at moment, was least of my concerns. Drawing arm back, Tesla let loose own blast. I had braced for shock, but was not prepared for my world to explode in pain. Every nerve ending seemed alive and on fire, and I barely perceived the electrical cage around me as I writhed in agony. Chyort, I really hate these things.

A distant scream brought me back into focus, realizing it was Sarah. The Knight heard it too, and started towards her. Its last mistake. With primal grunt I fell to ground, and there sticking out of drawer was other glove. As I put it on, Alexandr Stanislav stepped aside and Krasniy Oktyabr was ready to end this. My fists clenched, triggering a static overcharge burst. The air around me explodes with lightning, and Tesla Knight was caught at its edge and started twitching if its own. By the time it turned around to blast me for such revenge, I was already on feet and behind it. One solid punch connected with its head, sending it flying across roof much to my amusement. The rest of the body slumped to its knees before falling down with a loud clank.

Sarah stared at head with mix of revulsion and fear, the eyes still glowing with malice. I picked it up, studying it much like Hamlet gazing at Yorick. With weary sigh, I held out hand the Sarah.

"Is enough work for one day, I think," I said. Sarah, still shaking, nodded and let me lead her inside.


The circle, as they say, was drawing to close. I had begun life in Paragon with fascination for Clockwork; How they operated, how they thought, and however silly it may seem, how much Socialist they really were.

It had been week since rooftop incident, and head of Tesla Knight sat on my workbench, staring defiantly at me. The eyes had not dimmed entirely, something sustained it. If it were possible for machines to hate, this one could have given lessons. But yet, I stared back. I was not intimidated by it. The attack had rekindled my curiosity.

The Clockwork, they are perfect workers. Tireless, strong, dedicated. They share one mind, so their work is near-seamless in efficiency. All they lacked was one thing: Revolution.

I had pondered for hours about this. Think of how much everyone could benefit from these machinations without class struggle! No more 'knights', 'dukes', 'princes' or even a despotic King who mocks all with this 'court' of his. The Sprockets, Gears, Cogs, Oscillators... all indicative of components of a machine. A machine that could work for good of People, if only they had idea that they need no caste, and had means to discard it and better themselves in process.

I would give them this idea. And the will to make it happen.

Caitlin Murray was genuinely surprised to hear from me. She dealt with so many fledgling heroes, and most forgot she existed after awhile. As confused as she was by my request, she was happy to help with getting me certain equipment. This equipment was also spread on workbench, like mad scientist's vision. Helmet with sensory pickups, cheap miniature computer, and power couplings, all attached through gloves.

I sat there for moment with wire in one hand, Clockwork head in other. A voice inside head was screaming, "This is bezumnyj! This will never work!" But I had to try. I could not get these ideas out of my head. I look at head, still staring at me. Shaking lightly, the coupling end slips easily into neck joint. There is crackle of electricity, a faint whiff of ozone. A noise distracts me briefly, sound of opening door and someone calling name. I vaguely recall...yes, had invited Sarah over to show--

The Tesla Knight's eyes are now brighter than ever. Buzzing in head, numbness in arms, hear name again...


I... Krasniy... Proletariat... Struggle... Sasha? No, someone else said that. Must turn on lights...


There is light. There is darkness. There is something crying for Sasha.

There is Mind...