Moreau-Walter Amalgamated

 

Chapter Eighteen/Love & Peace

 

Note: You may wish to read “Run and Go With It” for how the story about how a certain someone comes back into the story before you read this, though it’s not necessary to enjoy this story.

 

Friday, July 25th, 2003, Earth

It took Peter about 15 minutes to run to the basement portal (while trying not to rouse suspicion) and when he arrived, he didn’t immediately see his sister. “I’m in here, Pete!” her voice called from the open door of the vault. “Pete, where’s Hatchworth?” she asked as he rounded the corner. In the vault were four stations for long-term blue-matter-powered automaton storage or “LBS” units. Three were occupied, but the fourth stood vacant. Lilah gestured to Hatchworth’s empty LBS with one hand and cradled a bag slung over her shoulder with the other.

            “That was my surprise,” he grumbled. “Didn’t you get the message?”

            “The message…?” she looked at him, puzzled for a moment. “Oh! I forgot to call you back!” She laughed. “Wait, you don’t mean…?”

            He didn’t have to answer. Tell-tale, heavy, plodding footsteps and the escape of steam sounded from the doorway to the secret lab followed by quick soft thudding human steps. “Pete?” a young man’s voice called.

            “Over here, Mike!” Peter replied.

A bronze automaton wearing a top hat and three-piece suit lumbered around the corner chased by a pudgy teenaged boy. The robot lurched to a stop and the boy panted as he slowed his steps. “What’s going on, Pete? Hatchy got all worked up right after you buzzed me and…”

“Pappy?” The barrel-chested robot asked. His orange mustache twitched twice.

Lilah stepped forward and pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “I get that a lot,” she said and stared at the automaton. “This was your surprise, Pete?”

Her brother nodded. “Long story. He’s as fit as the day he was first ignited.”

Lilah’s eyes glistened as she stuck out her hand. “I’m Delilah Moreau-Walter, Pete’s elder sister and I’m overjoyed to meet you!” His blue photoreceptors danced from her to the vault behind her and the other three LBS units. “Oh!” she cried. “Oh it must have been so hard for you to wake up to this!” To his obvious surprise, Lilah embraced him quickly and tightly then held his face in her hand. “You poor boy. But I have a surprise of my own.” Lilah pulled the pouch over her shoulder forward and opened it with clumsy, excited fingers to reveal three blue glowing orbs. The three men made astonished sounds, knowing full well what she had found. She looked up at them and grinned again. “Hatchworth, Mr. Reed, Pete? Would you help me bring these three chassis to the ignition stations please?”

 

Peter sent Michael Reed to lock down the lab, preventing either Alex, Deelia, or Peter’s wife Astrid from disturbing their work. Hatchworth and Peter lifted the heavy automatons on to the examination tables and the three humans opened their chest compartments and core housing. Michael Reed’s eyes widened as Lilah lifted the lid on the chest of cores again. “How do we know which one is which?”

Peter nodded to his sister. “We’re blue matter-acclimated from birth. It sort of sings to us. They’ll tell us who’s who.”

“Precisely,” Lilah agreed, hovered a hand over the first orb and a E-note emanated from it, soft and clear and low. “Spine,” she whispered and moved her hand. The second orb rang with a major third higher. “Jon,” she said. Lastly, an E major fifth higher than Jon, forming a major chord. “Rabbit,” she sighed. With protective gloves, the three humans carried the cores to their respective robots and gently placed them in their housing. Peter stood at the controls and Hatchworth got the honor of igniting their circuits. Once he had flipped the switch back, Peter rejoined Michael Reed and Lilah at the now puffing chassis. “Ready?” he asked. They placed their hands over each of their dual start-buttons and when Peter counted down from three, pressed them and stepped away as their photoreceptors flickered to life.

At first, the robots were speechless, blinking at the three humans before them in wonder. The Spine cocked his head to one side, Rabbit’s mouth hung open a little and his metal brows arched as if he wanted to ask a question. The Jon broke the tension by shouting as he caught sight of their old friend standing off to the left. “Hatchy!!” he cried, leapt off the table and completed three pirouettes on his way to tackle-hug the bronze robot.

“Hatchy?” The Spine’s head snapped to the left.

“Hatchy!” Rabbit shouted and scrambled over the Spine to join The Jon in the hug.

Delilah Moreau-Walter smiled through her tears as she watched the four of them greet each other. As Rabbit and The Jon did a ring-around-the-rosey around Hatchworth, Rabbit looked up and saw the humans and remembered that he had a question to ask. He grabbed The Spine and swapped places with him (The Spine was not amused, but went along with it, for Hatchy’s sake, he said). Rabbit skipped over to the woman with the greying blue-black hair and stopped a pace in front of her. “Miss Lilah?” he asked. She nodded. “Your hair…” he said, reached out and gently twisted a lock between his fingers. “How long has it been?”

“Twelve years,” she whispered.

The Jon stopped skipping around and whimpered softly. Hatchworth’s machinations hissed as he shrugged. “Not so long. Try sixty-five years, fellows.”

The Spine pursed his lips. “Hatchy’s right, guys. It must have been quite a lonely time while he was…”

The bronze robot hissed again and cut The Spine off. “I was shut down, so the loss of time was felt only on waking and finding that everyone I ever knew was dead.” The stumbling rhythm of his speech pattern gave his dark words a strange, black-comedic effect.

The Jon craned his head back until his chin was pressed tightly to his neck and gave him a haughty look. “So you didn’t have to wait. Like we did. Waiting. Wondering.” He raised a brow at him, but his pose quickly changed as he spied something new.

Peter took a step forward to assert his presence. “Wait a second, even without your bodies, you three could discern the passage of time?” The Jon’s feet scuffled as he glided around The Spine to stand closer to Lilah, who had pulled her kantan out, flipped it open to check for messages, then pocketed it again.

“And that we were together,” The Spine added quickly, afraid to be cut off again. “Helped a lot.”

Lilah blinked at The Jon as he moved to stand almost nose-to-nose with her. “Someone joined the Cavalcadium!” he chimed. “Someone went to Kazooland!” His brows waggled at her and he smirked knowingly.

Lilah’s eyes widened and she smiled back at him. “Pete’s a member, too. And yes, I went. I…” A memory of the three robots sitting on her bed as she wept uncontrollably flooded back. Her fever dream was real. They were conscious and crossed space and time to help her in her moment of need. “I went to Kazooland, Jon. I live in Dandytown, now. Thank you!” Lilah told him with a wink that his secret portal to his favorite place remained a secret.

“Oh! Is Gilmore still there?” Hatchworth asked, enthusiastically waving his hands. She nodded. “Then there are now four people who remember me.”

“He’s so excited to see all of you! You have to come over, soon!” Before The Jon could head for the rift entrance, Lilah added, “I’m too exhausted to entertain right now. I’ll need a good night’s sleep first. Come tomorrow.” She put her hand in her pocket and touched her kantan again.

“Speaking of remembering people,” The Spine said, shifting his weight from one leg to another as he often did. “There’s someone here I don’t remember.” He tipped his hat at the teenager standing a short distance away. “How do you do? I’m The Spine,” he greeted the newcomer.

“Hi!” the boy piped up. “I’m Michael Reed! I’m so excited to get to work with you!”

“A new Reed!” The Jon chimed. “What happened to Patrick? Did Hatchy eat him?”

Peter laughed. “No, Jon, he got married a few years ago and retired. This is his nephew.”

Jon swiveled over to him and eyed him closely. “Do you play?”

“Of course!”

The Jon grinned wide. “Good. Very important thing for a Reed to do.”

Reed nodded and looked to all four robots, but his brows came together as he noticed that one of them was quiet and stood with slumped shoulders, staring at Lilah. “Rabbit, are you alright?”

“I… r-r-r-remember…” he said, stuttering. The Spine and The Jon shifted and hissed. “We were at the show and…”

“Rabbit,” Lilah said, taking his hands in hers. “It’s ok. I don’t know yet what’s going to happen, but…”

Her words weren’t reaching him. “I did it again, didn’t I? Oh no!”

“Did what?”

The Spine raised a hand and hissed loudly as his gears turned. “Now, Rabbit, we did what we had to do.”

“We protected oursellllves,” The Jon added, drawing out the word.

Realizing what it was they were talking about, Lilah clasped Rabbit’s face in her hands and forced him to look at her. “Rabbit. You are not guilty.”

“I took a life, didn’t I?” he cried.

“Rabbit!” she shouted. “You guys did what you had to do and you saved the lives of thousands of people in New Pieland!” The Jon gasped at the mention of his home-away-from-home. “Cedric Becile took you from us. He was going to use your cores to power a death ray to attack New Pieland. Your actions prevented that from happening and no one, not even his own kin, mourned his loss!” She could tell by the way his body shifted that her words had hit their mark and eased his guilt a little as he cried oil tears and puffed a large cloud of steam. “If you need Dad to help, I know he’s modified your memories in the past, he can do it again.”

Michael Reed leaned over and whispered to Peter. “Dr. Moreau-Walter’s done that to them before?”

Peter nodded. “After Viet Nam. Dad said he alleviated some of their PTSD because they were in rough shape. I don’t know if anyone did anything about the 1950 incident. Seems not, if they remember it so well.”

The Spine patted Rabbit on the back. “That’s right, Michael, he did. Not too much, though. Even if our memories hurt, they make us more human.”

The atmosphere in the basement room was heavy as Rabbit’s sobbing petered out. As was his role, The Jon sprang into action and changed the subject. “Oh! I’m going to go find Alex! He’ll be so surprised!” he shouted and sprinted for the door.

The Spine sighed. “I’ll, uh… I’ll go keep an eye on him,” he said and followed, secretly wanting to see the look on Alex’s face.

“Right behind you, friend!” Hatchworth chimed and tailed him.

Peter sighed too. “Mike, keep an eye on them, please?” Michael saluted, said it was nice to meet Lilah, and chased them through the now open door. “Lilah, I know you said you’re too tired today, but…”

She took her kantan out of her pocket again. “I’ll come back, Pete. When the dust is settled I’ll explain everything to everyone.” She waved the communications device. “Hopefully soon.”

Peter nodded, welcomed Rabbit back again and jogged to catch up with the others. Rabbit waved and gave a small smile. Lilah found a shop rag and wiped the oil from his face in a rather motherly fashion. “You three will need a good servicing. Don’t wait too long. Do it tonight if you can. Who knows what kind of spiders and junk are clogging up your gears.”

“Thank you, Miss Lilah,” he said softly.

She pursed her lips and her eyes teared up again. “I missed you so much! Ah, sorry. I haven’t had much sleep and I’ve been so anxious for the last few days…” The watch-like device in her hand chirped like a bird and vibrated a little and both woman and automaton jumped at the sound. Lilah fumbled with the cover and practically shouted at the operator to put Georgia Jones through. The brunette’s face resolved itself on the tiny monitor and Rabbit stepped behind Lilah so that he could see her as well.

“Well, I was gonna ask if you got your robots back online, but I guess I don’t have to! Hi there!” she waved to Rabbit and the robot waved back.

“Georgia! News!” Lilah pleaded with her friend.

“Oh, right.” The woman’s face fell and she lowered her chin slightly. “Can you be at the sky port in an hour?”

“I…” Lilah stammered, distraught. “I can, yes, oh, Georgia please, tell me now!”

Jones’ mouth contorted and she rolled her eyes. “Damn it, I was gonna try to surprise you, but not with those puppy dog eyes, I can’t! Hell with it. Here,” she said and the screen blurred as she pointed her kantan elsewhere. “You tell her.”

It resolved again on a bright-eyed, clean-shaven man’s face. His reddish-brown hair was cut just below his chin and slicked back, revealing a slightly receding hairline. He was obviously unprepared and the image jostled a few times before settling. “Delilah,” he said.

“Morton!” She covered her mouth with her hand in shock and tears poured down her face. For a moment, neither had words.

“I suppose I’ll see you shortly,” he said, smiling from ear to ear. After a long pause in which all Lilah could do was nod and sniffle, Jones took her kantan back.

“Ok, ok,” she groaned. “You can gawk at each other all you want later. See you in an hour!” Jones said and closed the connection.

Lilah laughed, astonished and elated. “Oh my… Oh!” she stammered. “I’ve, er, I’ve got to, oh. I’ve got to go. He’s… He’s free? He’s free!!” Lilah turned to her automaton friend and beamed at him and the effect was contagious.

“Happy news!” he chimed.

“Yes! For everyone! You included! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. Oh, Rabbit!” she threw her arms around him and hugged his warm copper body tightly.

He nodded and grinned. “See you tomorrow.”

 

.x.

Dandytown

            Lilah charged back through the private rift into 15 Plum Street calling for her family’s spectral servant. He materialized instantly and seeing the redness around her eyes, anxiously asked how she had fared with the power core restoration. Lilah motioned for him to follow her as she charged up the four flights of stairs between the basement and her room, explaining to him as she went that the robots were back online and coming to visit tomorrow. He would have to get the music room ready. The room had remained closed after Lilah’s one-and-only time in it twelve years ago. He would need to dust it quite a bit, but he assured her it would be a simple task. She stopped at the top of the landing on the second floor and stood between her room, which had been Delilah Moreau’s room on the left and “Colonel Walter’s Room” on the right. Her brother and his wife used this as a guest room on the few occasions they stayed over (Astrid was not very comfortable in Kazooland, so this was less often than Peter would have liked), so it was open and ready to receive them. Lilah blushed and asked Gilmore to make it ready for an extended guest and asked him if he remembered Mr. Greene.

            The few times that Morton Greene had visited 15 Plum Street, he had seemed a bit uncomfortable, it seemed to Gilmore. And the last he’d ever heard the man’s name was immediately after he’d broken his mistress’s heart. The ghost frowned slightly, but agreed that he did remember him. Lilah entered her own room and began rifling through her closets for something nice to wear and told him briefly about who Mr. Greene really was and how much he meant to her. Gilmore went quiet and after she had talked about her love for Mortimer Becile for a few minutes uninterrupted, Lilah poked her head out of her wardrobe and laughed to see Gilmore had turned from his usual sepia tone to a very light, sweet shade of pink. After she had dressed in an ensemble of a long, pale grey linen skirt and white cotton blouse with cute white felt cloche hat with grey ribbon, she hurried down the stairs, Gilmore saw her off into a Hansom to the Cavalcadium.

 

.x.

            The sky port at the Cavalcadium was the busiest in Dandytown and unlike some of the buildings in its campus, it was open to the public. It looked not unlike the lovechild of a 19th century European train station and a proper 20th century Earth-style airport. Elegant glass-paned walls and ceilings made the ticketing and waiting rooms bright and airy. Behind this was the concourse of five dirigible landing pads and two propulsion craft runways (rarely used). Lilah walked briskly through the foyer, glancing at the timetables as she went. The flight from New Pieland was to arrive shortly on Pad Three. The station was bustling as usual, but the din grew louder as she approached the pad. A crowd had gathered at the gate. The gates were all the same, plush lounges with leather chairs and a dais for the airline staff to announce the status of each flight. A harried-looking man with silver hair in an airline uniform did his best to be heard over the chattering mass of people pressed close to the gate door in a disorderly fashion. As Lilah approached, the door swung open, forcefully pushing several people back. A pair of Cavalcadium security agents in crisp, white uniforms barked at the group to stand away from the door and get behind a velvet rope or they would be removed from the gate entirely. The two were a good seven feet tall and could have taken any American football team to a championship. The crowd grumbled, but did as it was told. The two flanked the doorway and folded their arms, waiting and watching for anyone to step out of line. Lilah squared her jaw and started pushing her way toward the velvet rope.

            There was much protestation from several people she shouldered out of the way as she tried to move forward, until someone recognized her from the society pages and called out her name. Suddenly, the tone of the crowd changed and a dozen voices around her clamored for her attention.

            “Miss Moreau-Walter, is it a relief to know…?”

            “...now that the Beciles have been defeated, how do you…?”

            “What are your fears about the…?”

            “Are you afraid of Mortimer Becile?”

            “...any opinion about the tyrant of Asininia being brought here?”

            “...and the evil Becile family…?”

            The blood fell from her face as she realized that she was surrounded not by interested citizens, but by members of the Cavalcadium press corps. They were not her favorite people. When she dated “Morton Greene” they hounded them at every public appearance thanks to her famous surname. Now, his name had drawn their attention. Soon, their words would go to press and the fear they generated would make Mortimer Becile’s life very difficult. He had been through enough, she thought, lowered her chin and made up her mind.

            “You want a story?” she shouted. “Let me up front.”

            The reporters quieted and parted, allowing her to pass freely to the velvet rope that stood between them and the gate door. Soon the murmurs began again and flashbulbs crackled around her in anticipation. Lilah clung to the soft, blue rope and tried fairly successfully not to show her anxiety, masking it with a tight frown and white clenched knuckles. Shortly, the man on the dais announced the flight’s arrival, the door opened, and returning soldiers began to stream in to the gate’s waiting area. They were all surprised to see the reporters, but their discipline prevented them from stopping to talk to them as they filed past. Lilah craned her neck and soon spotted Georgia Jones in a crisp, white suit and white fedora whose eyes lit up when she saw her friend. Jones bounded over to the rope, lifted it and pulled Lilah into a hug, clapping her on the back. Lilah whispered her thanks to her good friend in a voice cracking with emotion. Jones grinned and said that they three of them should get together for drinks soon before saluting her and casually walking away with the troops. When Lilah turned back to the doorway, she saw him. He was shaking the hands of some high-ranking officials who he had befriended on the flight. He caught sight of her and excused himself, taking long strides toward her. Flash bulbs illuminated the scene like a strobe light. Lilah stood stock still but stretched her arms out wide and embraced him tightly. The press corps oohed and ahed as the narrative shifted. Some flipped open kantans and scrambled to report back to their papers, some tried in vain to get a comment from Mr. Becile and Miss Moreau-Walter, but they were too busy kissing to pay anyone any mind.

            Mortimer chuckled nervously when he realized that they would surely be the headline of every newspaper in Kazooland and Lilah blushed. “Come on,” she said, taking his hand. “Let’s go home.”

 

Saturday, July 26th, 2003, 15 Plum St.

Soft sunlight warmed the dining room and from the northern corner of the room came the quiet strains of a concerto on the Victrola as Gilmore put the needle on the record. Delilah Moreau-Walter thanked him and sat down to breakfast across from the love of her life. Mortimer took a deep breath and shook his head lightly at his plate of sausage, eggs and fruit.

“Is everything to your liking, Sir?” Gilmore asked.

“Oh, yes! Yes indeed!” he replied. “You’ll have to bear with me, Gilmore. I still quite feel as though I am in heaven or a dream and not reality!”

The family servant blushed purple with pride for a moment then suddenly cleared his throat, softly. He grinned, shimmered a little and bounced slightly in the air. “Excuse me, Miss, Sir. The robots have arrived.”

            “The robots…?” Lilah asked, not immediately finding a proper spot in her brain to house such a statement. “HOLY COW THAT’S TODAY!” she shouted, threw down her napkin which tipped her plate and catapulted her fork and spoon flying. “Where are they?”

            Gilmore shifted instantly five feet to the left and deftly caught the cutlery. “They just came through the rift in the basement. I will stall them,” he said and dematerialized.

            “Great! Thanks, Gilmore. Morton, uh… ohmygod.” Lilah started toward the stairs and hurried back to Mortimer then ran her hands through her hair. “I’m sorry to spring this on you. The robots are here. Um. Ah…”

            He took a deep breath. “This is quite sudden, but, no need to panic.” Opening his arms he smiled gently. “They will either accept me or they won’t. The timing is irrelevant.”

            She stopped flailing and took in how serenely Mortimer presented himself to her and it calmed her. She stepped into his arms and hugged him. “Well, we’re dressed and presentable. So that’s good.” The floorboards vibrated under their feet as the sound of a commotion filtered into the dining room. “That’s them. It’s going to be pretty boisterous in here for a few days,” she said as she led him to the door.

He grinned. “That sounds wonderful!

.x.

Gilmore had ushered the four automatons from the first level of the basement (where the family’s personal rift was located) into the music room. As Lilah entered the room alone they were scattered around, touching their old instruments and gawking at black-and-white photos of themselves from decades past hanging on walls and propped on nearly every surface. The din of their chatter was shockingly loud in comparison to the usual peace and quiet of the townhouse. Rabbit was the first to notice her standing there.

“Miss Lilah!” he crowed. “We made it!”

“Welcome back!” she beamed; the joy of seeing them fill the room was hard to hide. “I’m so glad to see you again!” Lilah hugged each one of them in turn then stepped back and bit her lip. “There’s something I have to tell you.

 “Is ev-v-verything ok?” Rabbit asked, nervously.

            The four robots’ attention snapped to a movement in the doorway as Mortimer stepped into view. “Everything is fine,” he said smoothly and stood at Lilah’s side. He touched her elbow as if to say ‘I’m sorry, I just had to get this over with’.

            “Well, hey! You’re the guy from Miss Lilah’s kantan! Hi there!” Rabbit chimed and waved.

            “Ah… hahahaha…” Lilah laughed, weakly. She raised her hand and indicated to each of her friends. “Hatchworth, The Jon, The Spine, Rabbit… this is Mortimer Becile. He, uh. He lives here, now. With me. In the house.” Her eyes darted to each robot to gauge their reactions and under her breath she added “He’s staying in Colonel Walter’s room, actually.”

            “He’s staying in Pappy’s room?” The Spine repeated grimly, asking for verification of an unbelievable fact, brow raised and back straight as he stared Mortimer down. No one moved. Rabbit’s face fell and he folded his previously open arms. The Jon scooted behind Hatchworth who puffed a cloud of steam nervously.

            “I am. I have lost everything and I am beyond grateful to Miss Moreau-Walter for her generosity and compassion. In fact, I must confess that I love her quite dearly and have for many years, now. I am sorry if that upsets you.”

The Jon poked his head over Hatchworth’s shoulder, raised his chin slightly and looked up at Lilah who was blushing very hard. “So, it’s over?” he asked quietly.

“...Over?” she asked, puzzled.

Rabbit’s gears turned sharply. “You’re the last Becile, right?” he asked curtly.

“I am,” Mortimer answered.

“And you love our Miss Lilah?”

“I do. With all my heart. And I wish never to be separated from her again.”

The copper robot’s eyebrows arched, he grinned, and steam escaped into the air as he relaxed at last. “Then, yeah, Jon. It’s over.”

“Oh, what a relief!” Hatchworth exclaimed.

“Say, that’s great news!” The Spine agreed.

The Jon squealed in delight, ran up and hugged Lilah. He released her and stared at Mortimer who stared back, apprehensively, but smiled on the gold automaton. With silent permission granted, he too was embraced in a tight, robot hug.

 

.x.

Six Months Later – Sunday, January 5th, 2004, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

            Alex uncrossed his legs and crossed them in the other direction then fanned the Union-Tribune he was reading back open again. He sat on a blue and white tiled bench in the Alcazar garden. Behind him, an expanse of bright blue foxgloves reached for the clear blue sky. He wore a jaunty straw hat to keep the sun from his fairly bald head and thick-rimmed Ray Ban sunglasses. He was dressed in tan shorts, brown Birkenstocks and a plaid, short-sleeved button down shirt. Alex checked his watch and scanned the area again. “About time,” he grumbled as he spied the man he was meeting approaching from the west, probably having entered from El Prado. Folding his newspaper, Alex lifted his chin and scoffed.

            The man approaching wore black oxford shoes, a three-piece suit of dark green and a black fedora. He was tall, clean-shaven and walked in a quick, but confident gait. One side of his mouth curled as he saw Alex fold the paper and he extended his hand in greeting. “Dr. Moreau-Walter,” the man said.

            He remained seated. “Mr. Becile,” Alex breathed and shook his hand. Firm grip, not too hard, one shake. “What is it that you wish to discuss that made you so intent on meeting me in person?”

            “Discuss…?” Mortimer asked, taken aback, but not surprised by his manner. Peter had warned him of it repeatedly, including just moments ago in the car in which the two men drove to the park from the Cavalcadium San Diego branch office.

            “I suppose you’re here to ask for my daughter’s hand in marriage?”

            “No, Sir,” he said quickly. Alex didn’t hide his surprise. He quirked a brow. “No, Delilah is no more your possession that she is mine, regardless of our feelings for her.”

            “Smooth,” Alex said and deigned to stand up. He stretched his back a little and nodded his head, indicating that he wanted Mortimer to walk with him. “Tell me, Mr. Becile, does my daughter know you are here?”

            “No, Sir.”

            “Mm. Thought as much. Why have you come then?”

            “I intend to ask Delilah to marry me, and I wanted you to be aware of that. I also thought it best that I meet you, and you me.”

            “And if I had refused?”

            “So be it. I love her and if she will have me, we will wed.”

            “You’re already living in the house, what’s it matter?”

            “I’m not sure I understand.”

            Alex stopped walking and looked Mortimer in the eye. “What is it you hope to gain by marrying my daughter, Mr. Becile?”

            “What anyone does, I suppose. Security, happiness… peace?”

            “Peace?”

            “Yes,” Mortimer said. “I am the last of my line. I feel that when we are wed, the end of our families’ hostilities will be cemented, as it were.”

            Alex stared at him for a beat before crossing to another bench and motioning for Mortimer to sit beside him. He put his hands just behind him and leaned back a little. “What do you know about Bertram Becile?”

            Mortimer raised a brow. “My grandfather’s brother. He drowned at a young age.”

            Alex leaned forward, removed his Ray Bans and cleaned them with the corner of his shirt. “Do you know why?” Mortimer shook his head. “He took his own life. As did my father’s sister, my Aunt Katie. She met Bertram in the ‘40s in Dandytown before the Beciles got run out of there as well. They attended the same social functions is how I understand it and as young teenagers they fell in love.”

            Mortimer sat up straighter and, though the January day was not overly hot, he flushed and adjusted his tie. “You don’t say?”

            “I do. Bertram and Katie communicated frequently and decided that they would elope. She was fifteen years old, he a few years older, but still young enough to behave irrationally. They met up one night on the sea near Hawai’i and planned to escape their minders, but were trapped and chose the deep rather than be separated. Our automatons could do nothing but watch as they disappeared into the dark water.”

            “I had no idea.”

            “I believe that only they and I know the truth. Rabbit was so troubled by scene that years later to he asked me remove the memory from his mind.” Alex held his sunglasses in his hands. “Rabbit wondered if his “Pappy” marrying Delilah Moreau wasn’t a huge mistake. He said that their marriage wasn’t a happy one and had caused nothing but trouble for both clans.”

            “Do you believe that?” Mortimer asked.

            “I don’t know. All families are fraught with drama, pain and heart-ache. Perhaps ours a bit more so, but I can’t say for sure.” Alex watched some small white clouds move slowly across the sky just above the green hedge wall of the garden and let out a slow breath. “I hope you are right, Mortimer. I do hope your union brings us all peace at last.”

            Mortimer did the same. “I know it will, Sir.”

 

EPILOGUE

 

The three singing automatons started to perform again in San Diego's Balboa Park in the late 1980’s, and as they approached their 100th birthday, they were signed to a popular independent record label, finding popularity in the new “alternative” music scene. In 1991 they played their first show to a large audience in Los Angeles at the ill-fated Lollapalooza festival where they were attacked and destroyed by unknown assailants. Shortly after this, then Vice-President Delilah Moreau-Walter resigned and dropped out of public view.

Eliza Overbaugh Moreau-Walter was committed to the San Diego Sanitarium in 1995. In 1996, her son Peter IV married bio-chemist Astrid Ahn and later had two children, Peter A Moreau-Walter V (2004) and Liza Ahn Moreau-Walter (2005).

In 2004, the Steam Man Band was restored as a four-piece and reintroduced to small success. They may be found most weekends in decent weather playing with their “human” (Michael P Reed, 17) in Balboa Park.

Today, Peter A Moreau-Walter III remains president, but is close to retirement. His first daughter, Delilah Moreau-Walter married the last living member of the Becile family, Mortimer Ignatius Becile (born 26 Nov 1969, son of Cedric Thaddeus Becile and the mime Yue Bing) in 2005 and they reside in Dandytown, Verk, Kazooland where they are both active members of the Cavalcadium. His son Peter A Moreau Walter IV is set to take his father’s place, and his daughter Deelia Moreau-Walter is the current Vice President of Moreau-Walter Amalgamated, the corporation which continues to this day to bring the most astonishing prosthetic limbs, replica organs and health-monitoring devices to the global market.