I was horrified that Jacer had been damaged. I was distraught that everything was falling to pieces. Most of all, I was infuriated at the picture of me all of this had painted in Jericho’s mind.
I took a seat and rubbed fruitlessly at the filth on my face. Jericho continued his measurements as Jacer and Aster watched the two of us in earnest. I took a deep breath and launched into my tale.
“My mother has been gone a long time; since that season 14 years back when consumption hit the city hard, and then it was just dad and I. After she died he took to disappearing at night and he thought I wouldn’t notice. But I did and I pestered him severely until he eventually caved. When I was 15 he finally keyed me in on the secret and took me to the lab he and Aster’s father had built surreptitiously. It was about that time that the revolution began and the lower class started fighting back.
“Our fathers and Aster’s brother Mikas were engineering weapons and various reconnaissance bots to be used in a great battle they dreamed of waging against the Royal Army, with the ultimate goal of the dissolving the caste system. My father raised me to believe that a person’s class has nothing to do with who they really are, and I hold that belief close to my heart. He taught me most of what I know today about science, allowing me to do my part in aiding the resistance.
“Aside from his war inventions, my father was building something else on the side. Death is an inevitable consequence of life, and he loved me so much that the thought of me being alone someday was too much for him to bear. In the moments he could sneak away from us, he began the construction of an Artificial Intelligence Unit meant to protect me in the event of his death.
“I stood guard at the lab on the night he died. The men went on a material run, which they always did without me saying it was far too dangerous for a female—even one disguised as a male. I heard gunshots and when I ran outside to assess the situation, my father was dead.
I paused to wipe at the tears that had betrayed me and begun to fall. The captain was frozen, listening raptly to everything I said. Aster looked as if she too would begin to cry, and Jacer’s eyes were impossibly wide. I sniffed and wiped my eyes again before continuing.
“He was clutching his journal in his hands, so after dragging his body into the lab I took it with me to go break the news to Aster that Mikas and Elgin were nowhere to be seen. She and I have been together ever since. Since I had full run of our laboratory then, I took to dressing as Eddy practically fulltime so I could spend my days unraveling my father’s secrets. The majority of his journal was written in cipher, but his intent for the carbon-copper bicilicate alloy that is Jacer’s current skeleton was clear and written explicitly.
“I was 19 then, whether as a woman or a man I wasn’t a child and I knew the risks involved. It was my father’s dying wish that Jacer be given life and who was I to ignore the call? Aster and I tried everything; even going so far as to upgrade his steam engine heart using materials I had to barter for with an extremely dangerous tech criminal from the next city over. But the technology needed to bring him to life was far over my head.
“Finally I cracked the cipher and located the ingredient that I was missing. Coincidentally, it turned out to be a human brain. I don’t know whose brain it was, but the more I’ve watched Jacer, the more I’m starting to believe that it’s been enhanced somehow, almost like…magic. But I’m a scientist and I know there’s a reason behind everything.
“Someone found out; about Jacer, about his brain—everything. That’s why we’re on the run. They can lock me up, even kill me for my actions, I don’t care, but I won’t have anything happen to Aster or Jacer. They’re innocents; I’m the one breaking all the laws in the name of love and science. Maybe you don’t want to help us now but I’ve got a vault full of gold that I don’t need and all we’ve got is adventure in our sights. What do you say, captain?”
Jericho was quiet for a long time. Finally he picked up a wrench and handed it to me. “There are four things I value in this world: My ship, gold, adventure, and honesty. You’re plucking at my heart strings, young lady. Now let’s get our friend here fixed up, and we can start formulating a plan of action.”