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In reply to this week’s Inspiration Monday prompt, our two experimenters continue melding machine and man, in their inimitable, steampunk fashion …

* * *

“Sam, we have a suitable vehicle to develop that experiment.” Fortesque was excited as ever.

“Which particular experiment are you talking about Joshua? You have so many on the go, you are getting nowhere with any of them.”

“You were very cruel about my monster, remember, and suggested rather than take a brain from the newly dead, I should use a living specimen. Well, I’ve found one!”

Samuel Smythe didn’t share his enthusiasm for this particular line of experiment. Although Joshua was an engineer, trying to blend bronze and bone, mind and mechanics, was surely beyond earthly possibility.

Two hospital porters arrived at the tradesmens’ entrance. The horse drawn ambulance had clattered up the gravel drive under cover of darkness.

“Here he is, guv’nor.” He held out his grubby hand, the fingerless gloves frayed around his knuckles, “The chloroform should wear off soon. He weren’t to happy ‘for we put him out.”

Fortesque dropped a half-crown piece in to the proffered palm.

The wheelchair squeaked and rattled as they bumped it down the step into the workshop. Once they had manhandled the limp form on to the workbench, they set about removing the man’s jacket and shirt. Once the jacket was off Sam could see that the man’s right arm was a bloody mess, only the material of the shirt held it together.

“Oh, Joshua!” Sam put his hand to his mouth. This was not a fresh injury, and it had not been well looked after. The smell of gangrene invaded the room. Fortesque ignored Sam’s distress and started cutting away at the putrifying flesh.

Sam said, “Your skill with the surgeon’s knife is akin to Jones, the gardener, and his spade.” Joshua looked at him, but said nothing. “Efficient, but untidy.”

The prosthetic arm that Joshua had built was the antithesis of what he had removed from the patient. The polished bronze frame shone in the glow of the white hot gas mantle, and the steel pistons and cogs returned a grotesque reflection of their faces. A beautiful form, engineered and constructed with a passion for precision.

For several hours Fortesque struggled to join the bronze rods to the man’s bones. More than once he had to trim another inch from the humerus. As he sawed small shards of bone sprayed across the table. It took longer for him to attach the fine wires to the areas where the nerve endings should be. All the while, Smythe ensured the flow of chloroform was enough to keep the mill operative asleep.

As the damp, grey dawn filtered through the workshop windows Fortesque laid his tools on the bench and wiped the blood and machine oil from his hands.

“And now we wait for him to come round.” Sam looked at his exhausted friend. “What have we created this time, Joshua?”

“We have created the opportunity for men to have a meaningful life after horrific accidents on the farm, or in the mills.” he sighed.

Fortesque fingered open the man’s eye lid to look for signs of life. As he did, both eyes opened wide, and the man inhaled sharply. At the same time the prosthetic arm grabbed Joshua’s collar and pulled him down until he and his experiment were face to face.

“What have you done to me?” The man’s stale breath rasped in to Joshua’s face.

“It seems to be working as it should.” Sam had backed across the room. “I think we should explain to the gentleman …”

* * *

(c) 2013, K Patrick Moody.

In reply to the Inspiration Monday prompt of 7 May 2013

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