By Phaedra Mintun
Scottie and S'more rushed forward. "What happened?"
Edwin grunted, transferring Rick's heavily muscled body into S'more's thick arms. "He fell off the roof of the forge."
"What was he doin' up there?" Scottie asked.
Edwin shook out his gangly arms. "We talked to Oscar and Didier a bit. The beacon's on the roof of the forge. Didier said if we could get up their an' turn the switch, the metal men would stop for a bit. We were plannin' on doing it after we had the control box, but then they were attackin' so we got up there and froze 'em to give ya a chance to nommus. Then there was a big flash, an' Rick lost 'is balance an' fell."
S'more carried Rick into the house and Scottie, Edwin, and Cook followed him. The Samoan carefully laid Rick's long body out on the kitchen table. While S'more tended Rick's wounds, Scottie turned his attention back to Edwin. "You said there's a control box?"
Edwin nodded. "Yes. Didier said that he was makin' a few adjustments to another invention, the control box was knocked off the work table and three of the big metal meanies got 'im."
Scottie turned to leave the kitchen for the laboratory when he was confronted by a sopping Dylan. His face had been washed clean of the yellow powder but he still smelled foul. Edwin wrinkled his nose. "You smell like me bunk after a night o' beer and pickled eggs!"
Dylan chuckled. "Me gun backfired."
Cook eyed him. "Smells like it." Looking past them and then around the room he added, "Anybody spot the captain comin' back?"
Everyone shook their heads. Cook grunted and got to his feet. "Damn lush. Let's go find that li'l box and see if we can't save the day 'fore we find Sticky. How long did ya stop those things for?"
Edwin shook his head. "Dunno. Didier jus' said it would recalibrate 'em."
Scottie filed into the laboratory with Cook and the twins. They all searched the floor but no one found anything that looked like a control box. Scottie stood up and looked down at the papers and bits on the table. Everything looked like complete nonsense to him. He sighed in frustration.
Dylan stood on the opposite side of the table looking down at the papers, the four open crates gaping behind him. He moved the papers around with his finger, "This how it was when ya came in?"
Scottie ran his fingers through his, hair thinking back to that morning. It seemed like a long time ago. "Oscar was in here 'fore me. He looked at things, figured out what Didier was up to."
Dylan lifted one of the sheets, causing a chain reaction. Several other papers slid off of their piles. Bolts and metal pieces shifted until a large, coin-like disk slid off the side of the table and clattered to the floor, rolling on its thin edge. Dylan dropped down to his hands and knees to catch it. It chimed to a stop under a small cabinet. Dylan lay flat on his stomach and patted around, trying to find it. Edwin stood next to him; bent down, trying to see where it had gone.
Dylan pulled his arm back and held up a small rectangular box covered in knobs.
Edwin grabbed it and turned it about, looking it over. Scottie came closer. "Did Didier tell you how it works?"
Edwin shook his head. "All he said is that the robots have to be active an' he wasn't sure it would work after it fell. He said to bring it back and he would talk us through it."
Edwin passed the box to Scottie. It was slightly warm to the touch, the box was made of the same brass as the robots. The top was covered in three rows of knobs. Each knob had small dashes around its base. Scottie turned it so the short ends were resting in each of his palms. At each top corner extending out from the side, right where his thumbs sat were a set of toggle switches.
Cook leaned on the table beside him. "How did the supplies fair?"
Edwin considered. "I tossed 'em out the gap in the horse, seemed to go through, few sparks. They all drank a little and Didier ate a bit of biscuit while he gave us directions."
Cook considered this. "I think we should get some shut eye. We're all exhausted and they c'n hold out 'till mornin'. Gives us time to plan."
They trooped into the kitchen. Rick was sitting upright in the center of the table. He was holding a wet towel to the gash on his head and the blood had been wiped from his swollen nose. S'more was carefully wrapping his right ankle. Scottie noticed that the kitchen had been tidied. No longer was the floor littered with broken shards of pottery and goat droppings. The counters had been cleared and put neatly in order.
That night Scottie slept roughly. He was accustomed to his hammock and the noises of the ship. He tossed and turned, worrying about the men sleeping out in the cool night air of the mountains and wondering what had become of their captain.
The morning sun sent its curious little sunbeams in through Scottie's window to check up on him, but he was already gone. He sat at the table, drinking strong tea that he had fetched from the ship in the dewy first light of dawn.
Cook was at the stove making breakfast out of eggs the twins had fetched from the hen house. The kitchen was warm and cozy, but the topic of discussion at the table was battle. S'more had firmly insisted that Rick remain in bed. His ankle was badly twisted, his nose broken and his body had several black bruises blooming over his fair Nordic skin. The crew had been diminished down to the hulking Samoan, the twins, Scottie, and Cook.
Strategy was batted around until they had come up with a plan. They decided S'more would stay behind with Rick. If things went very badly and the rest of them were hurt or injured, the Samoan had the best chance of rescuing them. Scottie and Edwin were going to climb into the repaired equine facade with the control box and attempt to get it working, with the help of Didier. Dylan was to sneak around to the backside of the forge and climb to the roof. Edwin had given him instructions on how to pause the robots. Cook would be their only source of backup.
They marched along the pathway. Edwin and Scottie had opted to put on the horse at the house and use the walk as practice time. Edwin had passed on the things he had learned working with Rick, and while effective in getting their steps aligned, Scottie was slightly uncomfortable with Edwin squeezing his bottom to signal which foot should be stepping next.
The view from the horse head was limited and Scottie struggled to keep the head from slipping off to the right. In order to keep it in position, he was forced to loop a bit of the wire scaffolding around his left ear. They waited at the bend, giving Cook and Dylan time to get into place. Edwin suddenly started pinching wildly at his backside. Scottie galloped forward. "What! What's wrong!"
Edwin giggled. "Just thought we should practice goin' fast while we waited. In case we get into trouble."
Scottie heard the hooting of an owl: the signal that Cook and Dylan were in position. They began their shuffling canter toward the clearing. Scottie was amazed that the robots only gave them a passing glance and continued their systematic pacing. He aimed them toward the sparkling wall of the prison. Up close, the air was tangy with ozone. Scottie could feel the hairs on his body rising to their feet in honor of the static. Once alongside the prison, he could no longer see it, as his view holes only allowed a front view for navigating. Edwin's hushed voice came from behind him. "We found the box, Dylan is up on the roof with the beacon in case things go bad and we have to nommus."
Didier's voice came back papery and frail. "There should be a green knob on the top left. Turn it slowly to the right."
There was a moment's pause. "Done."
"Now there should be two knobs on the bottom left and right, do you see them?"
"You must turn these both inward together, it is very important that they rotate together do you understand?"
Didier coughed a phlegmy rattle. "Turn them three full rotations, there is a line on the side of each knob use it to keep track."
Scottie could feel Edwin adjusting. There was what felt like a long pause. Scottie could hear the stomping feet of the robots as they moved all around them. "What are ya waitin' for?"
Edwin gave a frustrated grunt. "It's dark in here, I can't see the line. I don't think it was meant to be used inside a horse!"
Scottie squeezed his eyes shut. "Open the gap a little and let in some light, but not a lot." He could feel Edwin rustling around and then a slight puff of draft.
Edwin was quiet for a moment fiddling with the knobs. "Oh no! The one on the left is stuck!"
There was a strange scraping sound coming from the prison on their right. Scottie whipped around reflexively to look. The scarabs were all skittering with their thin legs, each trying to pull away from the circle, but still connected by their thin poles. The dome shifted. Edwin was making strange squawking noises, Scottie tried to turn further around to see what the problem was. Edwin was moving around wildly, crashing into him from behind and manically flapping his arms making the skin around them move wildly. The smell of smoke caught Scottie's attention.
"Fire! Fire! Me arse 'as caught fire!" Edwin was yelping. Scottie struggled with the fabric and managed to get himself turned around inside the costume. He bent over Edwin and stuck his hands out through the gap in the costume, folding them into the excess material he, blindly slapped at the rear of the horse trying to put the fire out.
Edwin was sputtering loudly. "Stop humping me head!"
Scottie continued beating at the fire. "Do you want me mast in your ear or your arse on fire!"
"If those are me choices then I'm a horses arse!" Edwin mumbled.
"Yes, that's pretty much how we got here! Have I got it all out?"
Edwin wiggled, pressing the crown of his head painfully into Scottie's groin. Scottie could feel Edwin's hands groping his bottom under the fabric. "I think so."
Dylan's voice called out from the roof of the forge. "They noticed! NOMMUS!"
Didier shouted out, "Try giving the knob a good tapping and try again!"
Scottie shuffled backward, hoping he wasn't blindly charging into one of the bots. Edwin was slow to keep up as he fiddled with the control box.
"Scottie, left!" Dylan hollered from above.
Scottie shuffled left.
"Forward!" Scottie ran forward, ramming himself into Edwin's head.
"The horse's forward!"
Scottie jumped backward. There was a large crackling sound and the static in the air faded. Dylan shouted hurrahs from the rooftop. Scottie grabbed the edge of the fabric and pushed his head out into the daylight.
The metal warriors were all bowed in kneeling positions, the scarabs clamoring over them to burrow back into their depressions. Didier rushed up to them, "May I have the control box?"
Edwin's hand broke free of the horse's innards, waving the knobbed box. Didier grabbed hold of it and began making quick adjustments while Edwin and Scottie peeled themselves out of the charred horse skin.
Oscar, Finn and Stickywicket all stood in a circle of dried grass. Cook charged into the clearing. "Sticky! How did you get in there?"
Oscar covered his face with his hand and shook his head. "While Rick and Edwin had the warriors frozen, the captain approached the portable electrical prison unit and urinated on it."
Everyone turned and gaped at Sticky. He gave them a wide, curling grin. "Was trying to redirect the current, make a hole f'r them to escape."
Finn laughed. "Knocked him back about three yards. When he woke up an' started singin', the bots tossed him in with us."
The crew spent a couple of weeks helping Didier get the chalet back in order while he and Oscar made improvements to the ship. Scottie had enjoyed it, but it felt good to be back in the air.
Scottie turned away from the view. "Is the new engine up for the race?"
Oscar stood next to him at the railing. "I think so." His grin gave away his modesty. "And we have a few tricks up our sleeve." Oscar looked over the edge of the ship and pulled a small brass box with a single row of knobs on its surface out of his pocket. "I just need to get them adjusted right." A bolt of lightning threaded from the ship to the ground and far below, Sven Flury had to admit that he was lost.