A Marvellous, Proper Man

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shireling
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A Marvellous, Proper Man

Postby shireling » Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:22 pm

Warwick Fallon sat, silently scanning the page in his hand. It was not the news he expected.

For the past five years, each and every check had come back negative. He was a miracle, they'd said; nobody had ever done as well, in their memory anyway, for a stage four of this cancer. It’d ravaged his family; all of his maternal cousins and he – an only child – had been hunted by the thing. As near as the doctors could tell, it was a simple mutation, bad luck.

"Not now," he murmured. For years, he'd had nothing to live for and Death – while he wouldn't have sought it out – could come and he'd not have minded. But now he had responsibilities; there was someone who desperately needed him and he simply would not, could not go. If it could be helped.

Bowing his head, he dropped to his knees on the splintery deck and prayed. It was a spontaneous submission, fluid and full of heart. He was a man completely out of options; a Roman Catholic since birth, he seldom prayed, never went to confession and rarely went to church. But now, he begged the Almighty for whatever he could get.

Not for himself, you understand, but for Richard…
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Re: A Marvellous, Proper Man

Postby shireling » Sun Jun 29, 2014 9:54 pm

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis...

He began softly, eyes closed, lacing his toast-brown fingers tightly together and resting his chin on his thumbs. Warwick grew up with the Latin Mass, thanks to his grandmother (his stepfather's mom), who would not stand by and allow her grandson to grow up a heathen (her word). She saw to it that he came along with her to services, every Sunday at 8 AM, and on Saturdays for confession between noon and 7 o'clock, to Immaculate Conception, but known to those who wanted it to be so as Saint Gertrude of Nivelles.

Saint Gertrude was a seventh-century abbess, who, along with her mother, had founded the monastery of Nivelles, in what would eventually become modern-day Belgium. She was never formally canonized, and her little "church", which began with some one hundred and fifty parishioners, grew out of an indignant movement of souls who simply would not countenance Vatican II. Travelers, gardeners, and cats are all under the saint's special patronage, and she was also a guard against rodents and psychosis. Grandma, long an admirer of felines and with a family history of bi-polar disorder, wore her Gertrude medal constantly as a shield against rats (which terrified her) and mental illness (which scared her about as much.)

Despite the fact that Trudy's sainthood was never made official, in 1677, Pope Clement XII declared March 17th as her universal feast day, and, in 1966, a sympathetic priest named Robert – with two cats of his own, named Cosmos and Damian – defied the local bishop, and would borrow Saint Paul Episcopal in order to meet his community's needs. Eventually a truce was called between Father Bob and the bishop, and his flock was welcomed back to Immaculate Conception. They could even call themselves Saint Gertrude’s, for the hours they were on the premises, on condition that they did not proselytize to the congregation at large.

Fighting the drift, Fallon crossed himself and went back to the task at hand. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis... But he could not stay there.

Grandma would have loved the king's chapel, though Warwick didn't know what she'd make of his confessor. There were five humans employed at the lab – all sworn to secrecy – and with the three androids and himself, designated 'the king's personal aide', made for a staff of nine. The artificial beings, all built and programed by Dr. Neville Terry, acted as Richard's own cleric, sword master, and squire.

The work was ingenious. Each figure had its own specific dimensions and history; they were one and all capable of learning, advancing their programs as was needed for the king's spiritual, mental and physical edification. But it was Terry who insisted on naming them after Tudor martyrs – Fisher, Barton and Aske.

For Warwick, Fisher held the greatest affinity. If you didn't know this was a droid, you'd never believe it once told. He – since Fallon could never bring himself to refer to any of them as 'it' – was little less than the king's height, and molded to appear about twice his age. His skin was tanned and ruffled, as though he had spend a lifetime in the sun, and, indeed, if you asked him, he could regale you with scandalous tales about his life upon the sea, and how it was a vision of the Holy Babe, calming the waters at the height of the gale, that gave him his vocation. His hair was white and luxurious, the long locks from his head, flowing down into the beard, which made it all appear of a piece. Once or twice a week, the king, Fisher and himself, would sit round Richard's table, and discuss theology. That was what brought him back to the church – that and deciding to attend mass, at Richard's invitation. The cyborg had a charming demeanor, and a twinkling blue eye that drew him in from the first, not unlike the Father Bob of his youth. Even so, for months after, he shrank from the thought of going to Fisher for confession. But when he finally did, he felt such relief that he wondered what all the fuss had been about.

As for Barton and Aske, there was little contact with Fallon, save for those times when Richard wanted music from Barton and then everybody would drop everything to listen. Or a game of rummy, and since nobody could shuffle like Aske, he would always deal. Androids do not lie, so it is said, but Warwick wasn't so sure they didn't cheat at cards.

Barton was the most complex and prized of the three. He was named for Elizabeth Barton, a mystic killed for heresy in the reign of Henry VIII, and his resting features were those of a lad of twenty. Auburn-haired and of delicate build, his eyes were of a brown so dark that his pupils could scarcely be seen, and his skin was rose and ivory.

As weapons chief, he alone had the capacity to shift to whatever form his grace might want. Should the king wish to contend with a serpent, a serpent he became; a giant, then that too – even his own self. Ten thousand programs, hundreds of variations, existed within that youthful cortex, and only Richard could command him. Each manifestation was unique; it was only the eyes, no matter their appearance, that retained their color. They alone reminded the king that this was a friend, and that the exercise was for their mutual benefit. The most amazing thing Warwick ever saw, was the android, dwindling down from a fiery winged dragon to a youth, as lovely as a maid and with the voice of an angel. Two or three times a week, Richard and his sword master could be found in the cavernous belly of the estate, engaged in everything from knife play to re-enactments from legend, just so long as it wasn't in or over water.

Not a few in this company, thought that it might have been to give his grace some little joy, that Neville had Aske made in his brother Edward's image. At well over six feet, the veterinarian/farrier/stable keep attended the two Arabian mares held for Richard's pleasure, and on fine, cool days, Squire Aske would saddle both creatures for a long leisurely ride to the dense woods that formed the border, and back again. These three creations, were to be the king's friends and confidants, bound by Asimov's Laws*.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis...dona nobis pacem.

An owl was hooting off in the distance, and the sun was long gone behind the wall. He opened his eyes. Now Warwick heard the creepers cheep, the crickets chirp, and the fury of the moths as they flung themselves against the sensory lamps. The water in the stone pond barely rippled, and for the first time in years, Fallon felt lost.


* 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. - Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics
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Re: A Marvellous, Proper Man

Postby shireling » Thu Mar 17, 2016 1:20 pm

Fallon slept little that night. So little, that by the time did he succumb, he missed his alarm by hours and begged off coming to work.

He needed time to think, but not too much. The cancer would drive its own agenda, and he could not risk leaving the king friendless. Yes, that is exactly how he saw it. Only he felt the golem should be treated as the person he was created from, and not some lab freak. Warwick had known Nigel Terry for a very long time; if he didn't want you to know a thing, he simply didn't tell you. And as far as Fallon was concerned, there was no doubt that Dr. Terry had plans for Richard that did not include his eventual release.

The king was feeling it. The confinement. The day-in-day-out existence of the past eighteen months was taking its toll; no matter how much the cyborgs and Warwick himself tried, there was no escaping the dullness in the king's eyes. In the beginning, he inquired as to the health of his mother and sisters, even going so far as to present a letter to Nigel Terry, addressed to the duchess. But Nigel would not accept it. Standing with his hands clasped behind his back, he listened cordially to Richard's request, but stated unequivocally that such delivery was impossible. There were many spies about, Terry told the king; his family was being watched in case he surfaced, since Tudor lacked the satisfaction of a body to display. It was simply too dangerous - of course, his grace must understand that? Correct? Richard bowed his head, and after a brief moment, nodded in agreement. He walked away, and never asked the 'good' doctor anything again.

What did Nigel expect? That the man had no attachments beyond his wife and son? It took this one event, which left the doctor quite shaken, to realize that while his queen and heir preceded him in death, that there were others alive in his time that King Richard valued. Besides his mother and sisters, he had other children, illegitimate, but fully acknowledge by him, and friends of long standing. How long can we go on lying to him? thought Warwick. The king was was told he was rescued from the battle, unconscious but alive, and was placed safely in care of a band of alchemists. Out of fear of discovery and death, they kept to themselves, creating wonders in secret that his grace was now free to enjoy. Richard's own memories of that day at Bosworth were gone; the last thing he could recall, upon awakening, was the sight of Brackenbury taking his leave through the tent drapes. His life before then, was intact; his childhood, memories at Middleham with Anne; becoming a knight; receiving the garter; the battles, and banquets; years spent at the pleasure of his brother, King Edward, as his general and Lord of the North, and so on, and so on...

No, he never would ask anything of Terry ever again; Warwick saw, that once you disappointed Richard, he was done with you. But a week ago, in the king's ensuite, he put a question to Fallon. Now he rarely did this - and Warwick was delighted whenever Richard saw fit to ask him anything, since Fisher was the one who to whom he turned much of the time. And the question was, Had he ever been in prison?

Even in these most enlightened of times, Warwick Fallon felt his blood rise. The prejudices of the old had been put to rest, but there was still a bit of that ancient hurt that would rush to mind, and it did now. To ask a black man if he had been in jail, was quite simply, to be asking for it. But, this was not the average white man, by any stretch, and just as quickly as his ire arose, it subsided.

However, the king didn't wait for an answer. Instead he spoke of his own captivity, as an eight-year-old child, along with his mother and eleven-year-old George. His father and beloved older brother Edmund had been killed; their heads ordered removed and displayed at Micklegate by Henry VI's French queen, Margaret of Anjou. Her army had found the three of them, standing alone; the newly-widowed duchess of York with her youngest sons, one on either side, each held firmly by the hand, and taken into custody.

It wasn't so bad, he told Fallon. It was more of an adventure for the two boys - though their mother remained stoic throughout, she did what she could to ease their collective lot. Eventually, his eldest brother Edward conquered and was crowned, and though there were fugitive times since, he was never taken again. Until now. The words were never said, but Warwick thought them.

It was Friday. Time for lunch, and a meal of well-prepared trout - fish that had been alive only thirty minutes before it appeared at the king's table. That ended the conversation, but Fallon knew that it wasn't the last time they'd speak of this.
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'By Elbereth and Luthien the Fair, you shall have neither the Ring nor me! Engage!'
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