Lowen’s army marched from the Black Building. He was at the head. Nell was beside him as always. They were the only two Blood Vivicanti among the host. Following them were two hundred Devicanti. Twenty thousand Sleeper Devils followed last of all, a great caboose of men and woman and children that were not quite zombies. It was an army bred to consume every soul on earth.
The army marched along the railway tracks that led straight to the Locomotive Deadyards. Red and I were inside. We were hiding in the tin roof’s rafters. He looked at me. His expression was impassive for a moment, but then his mouth pouted in sympathy. He reached out and touched the top of my hand. I turned my hand over. We held hands. Our fingers inter-locked.
Lowen stopped his army just outside the Labyrinth Fort. He in Theo’s body and Nell in Wyn’s had great vision. They could see something that looked almost identical to Red and me. It wasn’t us, of course. The holo-imaging tech strapped to my arm was projecting our image. They looked pretty lifelike, I thought. My mechanical man was behind the holograms. I wondered if Lowen could see through the illusion. Then I wondered if he knew that he was also looking at a giant robot. My boy was powered down, lying face down with this chest on the ground. His hands and arms laid flat near his head. His chin was tilting up. His eye sockets and grill mouth could only just be seen. So far Red’s plan was working. Nevertheless I prayed that Lowen mistook my boy for just another scrapheap in the Locomotive Deadyards.
Nell leaned close to Lowen. “It’s a trap,” she said. Lowen nodded. “She wants us to attack those holograms,” he said, giving a little chuckle. Nell’s new Blood Vivicanti eyes searched around the Labyrinth Fort. “ I don’t see Mary Paige,” she said. “I don’t see the Red Man either.” Lowen grinned maliciously. “Why not,” he said. He was having conversation inside his head. “Let’s do it.” He glared fiercely at Nell. “ Get the Red Man,” he ordered her. “Kill the Blood Vivicanti.”
Thousands of Sleeper Devils went charging in, running wildly with their fists raised and their mouths open, screaming and shouting and grunting. Then thousands more followed them. Lowen, Nell, and the Devicanti stood still in their places like rocks amid rushing water. The Sleeper Devils clambered like a flood over the rows of old railcars. Lowen never told them that they were hurrying toward two holograms, and they did not know this either. They charged straight for the images and tried to seize them, but instead they went tumbling through the illusion in a wild confusion of bodies, all flailing about like ragdolls. The mass of Sleeper Devils stopped when they realize that something strange was happening. They look at one another with confused expressions. They listened for Lowen through his spirit-link, but he wasn’t speaking with them. He let them flounder alone. That was when I activated my boy.
Steam’s smokestacks billow out like geysers. His heart began ticking and tocking like a great and magical clockwork heart. His fingers spread wide. His hands pressed up his torso. His head looked up and the fire behind his mouth and eyes burned hot and bright. Some Sleeper Devils ran away. Others stood stupidly still. A few crawled up him like ants. They tried fruitlessly beating against his strong metal plates. He cast a long shadow over those on the ground. He balanced himself on one fist while raising the other above his head. And right before he slammed it down on top of several Sleeper Devils, I heard one whimper, “Oh, thank God.”
My mechanical man cracked the floor with his powerful thrust. That’s my boy. He swept his arm across the Labyrinth Fort, knocking over several old trains and sending several more spiraling into the