The second chapter of my story 'the Crying Construct.' It was replaced by a chapter without dialogue, which I felt matched the form of the first chapter better. The story can be found here:
They scuttle through the tight alleyways, a parading procession carting about their prize. Steep spires and tall towers rise around them, sharp claws gouging the heavens above. And if the upward reaching buildings are fingers and hands, then the street ways below them are arteries and veins of the city.
The boots of the men thump loudly on the stones of the street while the engine of their cart whispers under its load. They are the same men from the coliseum, the engineers, their prize the construct that had won the fight. It is their creation, their design, fuelled by their hopes and dreams and aspirations as much as the oil that seeps through it.
That oil still drips from the holes they had patched, drying blood on a wound.
“Shame we have to keep patching these things up,” one of the engineers sighs. He leads the near-silent cart by a rope, somehow guiding it through the twists and turns of the town.
“Whadaya mean, Ben?” a second growls.
“Well,” Abenanin, known better as Ben, starts, unsure of his words. “We don’t need patching up, and even when we do it’s hard to tell, y’know?” He glances back at the construct. “But with these…”
“Previous damages can be seen immediately, and weaknesses exploited,” a young woman cut in.
All the engineers turned, stopping at her sudden appearance. Even the cart, controlled by Ben, ceased spinning its whispering wheels.
“Sustephanie,” she states quite matter-of-factly.
“Huh?” one of the engineers grunts.
“It is unimportant. However, I am interested in your golem here.”
“Construct, lady,” the growling engineer outbursts.
She sighs while her eyes roll. “Sorry, construct. You see, I represent a party very much intrigued with your…” she sees the engineers giving her guarded glares. “…construct.”
“Who?” Ben interrupts. “And why?”
“Walk with me,” Sustephanie commands. Without hesitation, she saunters ahead of the group, though the engineers are soon trotting at her heels, obedient as dogs, curious as puppies.
More alleys appear and vanish as they walk, holes in the urban trench; dark and dim, dank and despoiled.
“To answer your questions,” she says suddenly, “I come from an organization of scientists.”
Some of the engineers contort their faces in disgust at the word ‘scientist.’ While engineers toy and tinker with the ores of the earth, scientists play with energies and magics. They were often in collaboration with philosophers and alchemists, exploring realms that were beyond those tactile ones of the engineers.
“We wish to attempt an experiment with a construct, but it needs to be of suitable state and stature to our methods. You construct has proven worthy on the battlefield, and its movements make it appear particularly suited to out work.”
The gruff one growls once more. “What is this work, exactly?”
Sustephanie smiles. “You were lamenting earlier about the need to patch your constructs, though what you mean by your words was that they couldn’t heal on their own.”
Ben’s eyes widen, and he rushes with the cart to be closer to the scientist.
“Our goal is to change that fact.”
“You mean you want to create constructs that would regenerate themselves?” Ben asks, awed.
“In short, yes,” comes Sustephanie’s reply.
“Ha! Impossible,” an older engineer wheezes.
“Maybe not,” she intones. “We plan to try a few substances in place of the oil that you pump through the constructs currently.”
“With?” the same engineer says. “Water boils, and most other liquids can’t be found in large enough quantity to merit their use.”
“Ichor,” she whispers, enunciating each syllable.
She finds herself surrounded by gasps and surprised stares. The group is again still.
“Ichor?” Abenanin breathes.
It was once the blood of the gods, ichor, but it had slowly worked its way down to earthly domains, courtesy of the alchemists. It has many names now: noble blood, dragon’s milk, black blood. It was all the same, all flowing through the veins of those who could afford it. The elite had it transfused into their bloodstream, replacing the bright red blood that had flowed through them before.
The substitution of ichor in the veins had many side effects, such as the darkening of one’s complexion. However, it also was said to make the body stronger, healthier, live longer, and heal faster.
“In the constructs? The machines?” he continues, breathless.
Sustephanie simply nods her affirmation.
As she does so, it starts to rain, a bitter rain carrying drops of the smog that hangs above the city. It falls upon the shell of the construct, echoing loudly, a lamentation to the cries that the construct could never voice.
Cries of pain, cries of victory, and cries of refusal.