“So he could build any army,” Zach cut in.

“Correct,” Tamrus said.

“But why would a scientist want an army?” William woofed, his eyes burning fiercely behind his glasses.

“It wasn’t my friend who wanted the army,” Tamrus said with a sense of dread. “It was Throat. Rumours about the creatures which Cribbot had created out here spread across Endra, so the Queen sent peacekeepers to investigate. But Throat arrived first and cursed the peacekeepers on their arrival. Throat told my friend here that the Queen would only send more and more peacekeepers to destroy the wonderful machines he had created.”

“But why would she have wanted to destroy the machines?” Zach asked.

“Throat told Cribbot that she distrusted human technology, that she thought it to be dangerous and would destroy Endra like it was destroying Earth. Cribbot feared that his creations would be destroyed, so sensing his fear, Throat convinced him to create an army that would be able to defeat the peacekeepers when they came. He told Cribbot to make an army of mechanical men who would be superior to the peacekeepers who were made from just flesh and blood,” Tamrus explained, as he looked across the table at Faraday. “So Cribbot set about building this army of mechanical men, but the first one failed. Throat was displeased and pressured him to work harder and faster. Cribbot made a second, but that too failed. Each time Throat grew angrier and threatened to curse him. It was at this point I lost contact with my dear friend Cribbot. He became a recluse. Shut away on his remote farm as he tried to create this mechanical man he was going to call Faraday.

“Cribbot then received a message from Throat. If the rumours and stories are to be believed, Throat ordered Cribbot to meet him in the desert with his mechanical man. Knowing that he daren’t fail Throat again, Cribbot carried prototype three – Faraday – out into the desert. Although Faraday was an improvement on the last, he still didn’t work. The machine was slow, kept falling over, and couldn’t think for itself – it didn’t have a heart. So as Cribbot waited in the desert, fearing what Throat would do to him, he had an idea. So conjuring up his doorway, he took his mechanical man into Earth. On the other side, with tears running down his cheeks, he embraced the machine he had made. Then as if dancing together, the pair of them passed back through the doorway into Endra. But although they both came back, there was only one. The doorway had entangled them. The first mechanical man had been born,” Tamrus said, looking at his old friend.

Faraday sat and simply stared back.

“But he seems to know so much,” Zach said, eyeing Faraday. “He knows how to drive the beet-wagons, fly the Butter-Flyers, and…”

“He is just using Cribbot’s knowledge – tapping into his memory,” Tamrus said, thoughtfully. “I just wish he would remember me – remember himself.”

“I don’t remember you,” Faraday said without a flicker of emotion. “I am just a machine.”

“Are you?” Tamrus said. Then, shooting one red hand out across the table, he ripped open the front of Faraday’s flight suit. Then staring into his dead-looking eyes, Tamrus added, “Does a machine have one of them?”

All at once, Faraday, Zach, and his friends stared into the hole that Tamrus had made in the flight suit. There was a square mesh of wire screwed into the rubbery looking skin that covered Faraday’s chest. Behind the mesh, they could see something. It was colored red and was beating. It was a heart.

Chapter Thirty-One

“In my time I’ve seen a lot of strange and wonderful things, but I haven’t heard of a machine having a heart before!” Tamrus said, sitting back in his seat.

The Scorpion Steam thundered through the tunnels, the sound of the pieces of track being slammed down, and then raked up again.

“So why did Throat turn him off?” Zach asked, as Faraday sat forward and stared at his heart, which beat bloodily behind his chest.

“I can’t be sure,” Tamrus said, “But I’ve heard that when he arrived in the desert and came across the mechanical man, he was so displeased with the machine that was waiting for him, that he switched him off.”

“Displeased?” William howled. “Have you seen this thing in a fight?”

“I know his arms look like a collection of old spanners and spare parts,” Zach cut in, “but they’re like the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“They’re lethal,” Neanna added.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Tamrus said, eyeing Faraday again. “Throat obviously didn’t see Cribbot’s potential.”

“Please call me Faraday,” the mechanical man said, looking up at Tamrus. “If what you say is true, Cribbot doesn’t exist anymore. There is only me.”

“You want to hope there is a little bit of Cribbot left inside you,” Bom grunted, as he continued to stare out of the window.

“Why?” Faraday asked him.

“Because he is the only one who knows how to turn off the machines,” he said, and this time he did turn to look at Faraday.

A silence fell over the group as they thought about what Bom had just said. Then looking at Tamrus, Zach said, “Why did you call Faraday an ACT Droid? What does A.C.T. mean?”

“Advanced – Cribbot – Technology,” Tamrus said. Then looking at Zach, Tamrus added, “If you want to get across the Outer-Rim, the captain is right, you will have to turn off the machines.”

“But how do we do that?” Zach said. “That is why we came looking for you. We hoped that as you were one of Cribbot’s friends, you might know something.”

Tamrus sat thoughtfully for a moment, his long fingers strumming on the tabletop. “I don’t know how to turn the machines off,” Tamrus started, “But there are machines – a certain kind of creature – that will get you safely across the Rim whether you turn the machines off or not.”

“Where are these creatures?” William asked.

“Believing Throat’s lies that the Queen was sending peacekeepers to the Clockwork City to destroy his creations, Cribbot hid his most precious,” Tamrus explained.

“Where did he hide them?” Neanna asked.

“Within the canyon,” Tamrus said, his voice suddenly low as if someone might overhear him.

“Can you take us to these creatures?” Zach asked him, his voice now just above a whisper.

“Yes,” Tamrus nodded.

“What are these creatures?” Bom asked, his eyes fearful.

“You wouldn’t believe me even if I told you,” Tamrus smiled wistfully. “But they are truly incredible.” Then standing up he added, “If you’ll excuse me, I will go and speak to the train driver and get him to change direction.” Tamrus turned his back on the others and made his way down the carriage and out of view.

Once they were alone, Zach looked at Faraday and said, “Do you remember if what Tamrus says is true?”

“I’ve already told you everything that I remember,” Faraday told him.

Zach got up and took the now-empty seat opposite Faraday. “I know what you are thinking,” he whispered so the others couldn’t hear him.”

“No, you don’t,” Faraday said.

“Yeah, I do,” Zach insisted. “You fear that you don’t know who you really are. I know how that feels, Faraday. I arrived in this world thinking I was the kid from back home, the kid who had just buried his mum and dad, the kid who wasn’t very good at football, but liked running. I wasn’t special. I was just me. But now I’m told that I’m a peacekeeper. Everyone keeps telling me that I’m the one who is going to save Endra.”

Faraday looked across the table at Zach and said, “And I’ve just been told that I was created to destroy Endra. That would make us enemies, right?”

“Enemies?” Zach sighed. ‘You’re not my enemy. And you’re not going to destroy Endra.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Well, you haven’t tried to kill me yet,” Zach half-smiled. “I think Tamrus is right. Like it or not, I think you are a result of Cribbot taking you through the doorway and entangling you. I think there is a part of you in him. If what Tamrus says about Cribbot is true, he wasn’t a bad man. He was tricked by Throat. Cribbot was a conservationist of sorts. He cared about things, he cared about the animals my people were slowly killing. That doesn’t sound like someone who would try and start a war. He built you to protect the creatures he had made. His mistake was believing the Queen wanted to destroy everything he had created.”

“If what Tamrus says is true, do you think I could ever be untangled?” Faraday asked him.

“Maybe?” Zach said.

Faraday sat quietly for a moment, then fixing Zach with his jet-black eyes, he said, “Faraday or Cribbot, man or machine…we will never be enemies, Zachary Black.”

They both sat quietly and looked out of the window. The Scorpion Steam had now left the tunnel and was racing at speed across a red coloured wasteland. The continuous ‘thud-thud’ of the track bellowed ahead as the Scorpion Steam laid down more rails for the journey.

It was dawn outside and the sun burnt fiercely on the horizon ahead, spinning its golden rays between the tips of two ragged mountains. Neanna threw her cloak about her; just her eyes peering out of a gap were visible. Zach got up from his seat and joined his friends back at the table. He sat next to Neanna. He thought of his conversation he had had with Faraday. Zach knew that he was as confused as Faraday was. But he wasn’t only confused about the whole ‘being the savior of Endra’ thing. He was confused about how Neanna also felt for him. Sometimes it seemed she liked him – perhaps more than just a friend. But there were other times when she was distant.

Trying to push those confusing thoughts from his head, he looked out of the window at the beautiful landscape on the other side. “What are those mountains called?” Zach asked as Neanna rested her head against his shoulder, as if readying herself for sleep.

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