(Steampunk frerard) When Gerard is saved after an attack it leaves him not quite as human as he once was. But as ringmaster of a special kind of circus a young mechanic keeps him ticking and steals...
ps. I’m gonna try and give actual chapter titles for this fic, so I apologise in advance. They will no doubt be horrendous xD
The day was a cold one. Winter had well and truly settled and there was no doubt about it.
The sky overhead was solid grey from horizon to horizon, there was no breeze blowing but that was a blessing considering how cold it was. Snow was drifting lazily from the clouds and seeming to hang motionless in the air before gently landing on the already white land. The trees that lined the icy road were bare and gnarled, snow landing and resting precariously on their outstretched branches, a little robin hopping from tree to tree, its red breast standing out against the white of the snow.
The scene was beautiful, calming. And the man who rode down the path was pleased to be there, even if the air was so cold that the only thing visible was his eyes, peeking out from beneath the brim of his wide, black hat, above a black bandana wrapped around his face right up his nose. His hands that were wrapped around the reigns of his horse were coated in thick, leather gloves and beneath his cape and riding clothes he was wearing numerous vests and leggings.
The man kept his horse at a steady trot, enjoying the scenery and making sure the great black beast did not slip on the patches of ice. The air was misty from the cold and the path seemed to stretch ahead into a great fog, like it was never ending. The man liked it that way, it was much more mysterious. Though he kept his wits about him, roads such as these could be dangerous. No amount of snow or ice would stop bandits from hunting for their next victim.
The man atop the horse was young and slender, but his body was strong. He had a flintlock pistol in his belt and a sword attached to the saddle of his horse. The horse itself was all black, with long eyelashes that were sparkling from snow that landed on them. Its eyes were large and brown, not unlike its masters. It had a blanket draped over its back beneath the saddle to help keep it warm as it clopped slowly down the snowy road.
The man tensed a little as he noticed movement up ahead, only the slightest shift beside one of the trees but he knew he had seen it and he looked closer. As he gazed he thought he could see a figure stood beside one of the bare trunks and he considered pulling his horse to a stop, but he supposed the safest thing would be to just continue on his way.
He didn’t get far though when another figure appeared, this one making themselves known. The gentleman could hardly miss them when they stood right in the middle of the room. There was only one at first, sat atop a chestnut brown horse and aiming a pistol at the gentleman’s heart, their face hidden by the black mask associated with their trade.
“Stand and deliver.” The voice that demanded the gentleman to stop was smooth and cool, full of authority and conviction. “Your money or your life.”
Another two highwaymen appeared beside the first, flanking him on each side. They too had horses, a white one and a grey one. They wore matching outfits to the man in the middle, and though they had guns they did not point them at the man on the black horse, waiting to see if he co operated first.
The gentleman sighed and gently tugged on the reigns of his horse, pulling him to a slow stop and staying silent for a long moment as he looked at the highwaymen. His horse pawed the ground idly with one hoof and shook his head, air blasting from his nostrils like smoke and he whinnied softly. The snow falling around them made the moment somewhat calm and dream like, though the gentleman felt the first stirrings of fear. You would be a fool to not fear highwaymen, especially gentleman of the road, as those on horses were known. Footpads were nowhere near as dangerous, if they could not afford to own a horse then they were obviously not very good at their job, but those with horses, especially three all together, told the gentleman that these were serious men. They probably hijacked horse and carriages a lot, those were the richest bounties.
“Did you hear me!?” The one in the middle snarled, pulling back the lock on his pistol with a soft ‘click’ and the gentleman gave a tiny nodded of his head. He didn’t do anything more for a moment before he ever so slowly raised his hand to his face, curling his fingers over the bandana covering it and drawing it down to reveal his mouth.
“I do not have any money.” He said calmly, his breath coming out like mist as he spoke and the highwaymen all laughed, their horses even nodding their heads and whinnying as if they too were laughing.
“Liar.” The one in the middle chortled, his black eyes twinkling from behind his mask and he clicked down the second lock on his pistol, both barrels now ready to fire. The gentleman drew in a sharp breath but was otherwise entirely calm, shaking his head slowly and gripping tight to the reigns of his horse. He knew there was no point in trying to gallop away; the roads were so icy that the risk of his horse slipping and breaking a leg was too high to chance. Besides, the highwaymen wouldn’t chase him, they would just shoot.
“I won’t ask you again.” The leader called, his voice calm. “ Your money if you please sir, or your life.”
The gentleman sighed and shook his head, holding up his hands. “I have told you. I don’t have any –”
There was a loud bang followed immediately by a second as the leader pulled both triggers of his pistol and sent two bullets flying at the gentleman. The black horse startled and whinnied loudly in its panic, rearing up as the bullets struck the gentleman. He gasped and grunted in pain, his gloved hands coming down to grab at his struck side and his knees lost all strength, causing him to slide right out of the saddle as his horse reared up and sent him down to the floor.
The gentleman landed heavily on the frozen ground and he groaned in pain. He could feel he was bleeding badly beneath all his clothes but only a small patch of blood seeped through all the layers and made a small stain around the bullet hole in his tunic. The highwaymen were laughing loudly and only once they knew for sure that the gentleman wasn’t going to get back up did they dismount from their own horses and drop gracefully onto their feet.
“Search ‘im boys!” The leader cackled gleefully, ignoring the black horse as it fled through the trees in its panic. Someone else would find it eventually, but by then its master would be long since dead and there’d be no hope in finding him. Maybe someone could make use of the animal though once it was found. In the mean time, the men had a corpse to search.
The gentleman shuddered very slightly when rough, gloved hands grabbed at his tunic and began pawing over it, searching for anything inside. The gentleman felt fear mingled with his agony coursing through his bones, his wounds throbbing with pain. He forced himself to hold his breath and lay very still as the two sidekicks searched him for money and valuables, the leader standing back and watching with a smirk.
The two highwaymen searching the gentleman’s ‘corpse’ discovered only a golden locket around his neck with a picture of an elderly woman inside which they laughed at before tossing the find to the leader. They then found a fine leather purse tied to his belt but it was indeed empty save for one pitiful farthing which did no good for anybody. The leader caught the purse as they threw it to him and examined it, the leather was good quality so he kept that but he tossed the farthing to the ground in disgust. After that the two highwaymen at the body found only a fool’s gold ring but they took it anyway, as well as the gentleman’s boots just to find anything they could sell before they got up in disappointment. The man had seemed rich, like an aristocrat riding alone to seem inconspicuous but apparently it really was just some idiot peasant.
“Oh well lads, next one along will be a good ‘un, I can feel it.” The leader promised, grinning at them both and keeping them in high spirits as they all mounted their horses.
On the ground the gentleman allowed himself a tiny sigh of relief. He had to use all of his strength not to screw his face up in pain, his feet growing numb in the cold snow. The highwaymen were laughing and chatting brightly and he was so desperate for them to leave so he could start trying to get out of this mess. The next town wasn’t too far away, if they would just leave already maybe he could somehow crawl there and get help.
The highwaymen were still chatting loudly as they turned their horses and jabbed their heels into their sides, sending the beasts off at a fast gallop down the road to go back to their hiding place before the next person came along. As they rode the leader laughed and shouted at the others to look at him, showing off as he sent his horse trampling over the gentleman’s body, cackling all the way.
It was all the gentleman could do not to cry out as he felt the bones on the left side of his body snapping and breaking, piercing into his lungs and his organs as the horse crushed them with its hooves. He gasped and choked on blood that rose into his throat, the highwaymen’s laughter fading in his ears along with the sounds of their horses galloping as they rode away into the distance, leaving the gentleman for dead.
“Whoa boy.” The gentleman was unconscious when someone finally came down the road and found him. He hadn’t even tied to crawl away once the highwaymen disappeared, his broken body too wounded to move. Beside him a horse of deep reddish brown fur came to a halt, the man riding it looking down at the gentleman bleeding in the road.
“Oh my...” The man slid off his horse and dropped down on his haunches, examining the man pale and unconscious in the snow. He had clearly been here for some time, his black clothes almost white over with snow and blood that had trickled from his lips was now hard and frozen down his chin. His skin had taken on a blue tint but when the man removed his gloves and felt for a pulse he found one was there.
“What a strong heart he must have...” The man whispered, his horse neighing and nodding its head as if in agreement. The man grinned and looked up at the grey sky, the clouds remarkably darker than they were when the gentleman had been attacked. Night was settling in now and only a little lantern dangling off a metal pole bent above the horses head offered light. Not even the full moon could pierce through the snow clouds.
The man looked down at the gentleman again, his hands delicately pressing over his body to assess the extent of the damage. The thick layers of clothes masked most things but he could easily feel one side was fine and one wasn’t. Broken ribs for sure, possibly worse. The man bit his lip and knew he would have to work quickly if there was any chance the gentleman would survive even long enough for him to get him to the lab, let alone survive the experiment.
“A stroke of destiny, eh Marcher?” The man breathed to the horse, the animal blinking its wise, large eyes and watching as the man lifted the gentleman ever so carefully up. He felt bones shifting under his arms and he grimaced, hoping the gentleman would prove strong enough to stand the ride back. He draped his body over Marcher’s back and laid him out as straight as he could, taking the reins in one hand and laying his hand gently on the half of the man’s chest he guessed was fine. He then began to walk down the road, continuing on his way and leading his horse as gently as he could so as not to hurt the gentleman further.
Hazel eyes slowly blinked open, the eyelids fluttering weakly and twitching before sliding up to reveal the glazed irises searching for the world beneath. The man groaned softly and winced when the exhale of air caused his chest to flare with pain. He tipped his head from side to side, blinking in the harsh light he found himself in.
“Mm... Mm... Where am I?”
Across the room a middle aged gentleman looked up from a wash bowl he was stood over, his hands coated in what appeared to be thick pink soap though the bar he was rubbing over his hands and forearms was in fact white. He glanced over his shoulder at the man stretched out across the highly polished oak table and grinned when his hazel eyes slowly came to focus on him.
“You’re awake? My goodness, your heart is strong.” He beamed, the dazed man looking utterly lost by his words.
“Wh – what?”
“Forgive me, I’ll be but a moment.” The man by the wash bowl turned back to the water and used his hands to lather the soap over his skin, washing it off in the water quickly. The clear water in the bowl turned murky and red when his hands touched it, the pink soap turning out to be a mixture of white soap and blood. The man then picked up the jug of water beside the bowl and poured some more over each arm and hand before he wiped himself dry with a towel, the man on the table watching him weakly the whole time.
“My name is Axis. May I enquire to yours?” The man asked gently as he turned and strode back to the table, the long white sleeves of his shirt rolled right up to his biceps, a brown waistcoat over the shirt. He looked to be in his late thirties, early forties, and behind gold wire rimmed spectacles he had watery blue eyes that sparkled with kindness. His black hair was beginning to grey, smoothed back in a small quiff, and laugh lines framed his mouth and crinkled the corners of his eyes.
The man on the table kept his breathing shallow and careful as his lungs ached, his eyes not moving from the man approaching him. He seemed kind enough, but that didn’t change the fact he didn’t know who he was or where he had brought him.
“M – My name is Gerard.” He croaked, Axis smiling at him and stopping beside the table, gently touching his hand.
“Don’t be afraid Gerard. I am not going to harm you.” He said kindly, Gerard swallowing thickly, his throat hoarse and dry. He felt sore all over, and so... so tired. But yet he was not afraid, he somehow knew he could trust this man.
“Where am I?” He asked, looking about himself but unable to come to any conclusion.
All around him there were desks and tables and numerous shelves, everything covered with such a wide variety of objects it was like he had landed in some sort of organised chaos. For though the room was cluttered he got the feeling everything had its own rightful place. There were jars everywhere, some holding liquids of every colour of the rainbow, others holding organs, disembodied hands, feet, and even what seemed to be foetuses. There were hundreds of tools lying around made of bronze, some looked like medical tools, scalpels and knives and forceps, some though looked like they belonged to a blacksmith. There were tons of books dotted everywhere, along with ink and parchment and other such documents. There were scales, compasses, brass dividers, cauldrons, potion bottles, wooden boxes. Hell, it seemed like anything you could ever want was all here in this one room.
“You are in my laboratory. I am a scientist.” Axis said proudly, gazing around with his hands outstretched as if the room they were stood in was the most magnificent thing in the world. “I found you lying in the snow, left for dead by bandits or something I guess. I brought you here to save your life.”
Gerard stared at Axis with wide eyes, stunned to the core. Of course he could remember the highwaymen and how they had left him for dead, but for this man, this perfect stranger, to try and save him – and succeed!- was just astonishing.
“I... you... saved me?” He breathed, smiling widely and sitting up so he could clasp the man’s hand and thank him. Axis gasped and tried to stop him from moving but it was too late, and when Gerard sat up grinning at him his jaw dropped.
For a moment Gerard was confused, but then he too realised why this was so shocking. When the highwayman’s horse had trampled over him he had clearly felt the way all of his bones had crushed from the weight, the way they had crumbled like pipe ash inside him. He was incredibly lucky he wasn’t dead, but to sit up as he was with such hurt bones was damn impossible.
“Oh my....” He breathed, looking down at himself to try and figure out how he could be sitting up with such ease. His body ached, of course it did, but it wasn’t the excruciating pain it should have been.
Gerard’s hazel eyes gazed over his exposed torso and his stomach lurched. All the way down his left side there was a straight line of stitches, red and fresh but perfectly neat, closing up what must have been one heck of an incision. His flesh was also bruised all over his side and arm where the horse had run but that was not the thing he noticed most. Located just to the left of the centre of his chest was a large, bronze square, complete with a keyhole. It covered nearly the whole of his left pectoral muscle, and when he laid his hand on it he could feel a soft humming and whirring beneath it.
The fact he could even lift his arm up and flex his fingers with no trouble at all was crazy, the bones apparently back to normal but he knew that couldn’t be true.
“Wha – What is this?” He breathed, grazing his fingertips over the metal in his chest and Axis bit his lip, trying to put things gently so as not to cause Gerard to panic though his eyes were sparkling with excitement and joy.
“Well... when I found you, you were close to death... I brought you here and tried to save you but the entire left side of your body was destroyed. Your bones were crushed and most of your internal organs were punctured or completely unsaveable... So I... I had to replace them.” He said softly, Gerard staring at him in horror.
“Replace them? With what!?” He demanded, Axis gently squeezing his shoulder.
“Please don’t get angry. It was the only way.” He said quickly, pushing his glasses up his nose. “I have been experimenting on animals for a while now... seeing if I can replace parts of the body with machinery. I’ve never done it on a human before but seeing as how you are now I would say it was a great success.” He beamed, Gerard’s jaw dropping and he simply gawped at Axis.
“M – Machinery... You... replaced my organs with machinery!?” He gasped, unable to believe such a thing could be possible but he was not angry. What did it matter as long as he was alive? He was too young to die, he was only twenty one, his whole life was stretching ahead of him. And machinery must be stronger than what he had before right?
“Well... not all of them. Some only parts of them... you’re lung for example, is only half machinery... and your heart, though mostly unhurt, now has some metal tubing which will pump your blood through your body like normal and serve as a way of keeping the machinery working... like a.... like a water wheel if you will.” Axis said delicately, picking up more steam when he saw Gerard wasn’t looking horrified anymore, only deeply curious.
“Your entre rib cage and all the bones in your arm and hand had to be reconstructed in titanium, it’s extremely strong. This here is full of a potion I created –“ Axis gently tapped a tiny green orb that Gerard hadn’t noticed. It was set beside the bronze plate, right over where his heart would be. It was made of glass and set deep into his skin, swirling with a green liquid. “It will gently release the potion into your blood stream, just a drop twice a day which will stop your body from rejecting the machinery. You will need to refill it every so often, I’ll teach you how.” Axis smiled, Gerard nodding and tapping the bronze plate again.
“This is just so that if anything feels as if it is going wrong then you can open yourself up and take a look.” Axis said gently, Gerard staring at him like he was mad.
“Like a door?” He asked, staring in awe at the bronze plate when Axis nodded. He could open his own chest and look at all the new adjustments to his insides? He felt both queasy and thrilled at the though. “Are things... likely to go wrong?” He asked nervously.
“Not at all, but like any machine, things have to be monitored and changed occasionally. It’s nothing to be frightened about. I will show you everything tomorrow once you’ve rested, but you may keep the key.” Axis held out a long gold chain with a tiny bronze key dangling from it, Gerard thanking him softly when he draped it over his head like a necklace. “These too will need tightening every now and then.” Axis tapped a line of screws up the side of Gerard’s neck and the pale man gasped softly, touching them with his hand.
“What are these?” He asked, gulping softly and feeling his skin tighten a little around them before relaxing.
“They’re connected to the artificial ligaments. They’ll loosen slightly the more they’re used, as in, when you move and such, but just tighten them every few weeks and you’ll be fine.” Axis smiled warmly to show it was okay and Gerard nodded slowly, lowering his hand flexing his fingers. Everything was shocking and new, and he supposed it would take him a long time to get used to everything, but it was kind of exciting too.
“Are you hungry Gerard? I have some chicken roasting over the fire upstairs.” Axis smiled warmly, offering his patient his hand and Gerard bit his lip, smiling hesitantly as he took it and nodded.
“I’m starved.” He admitted, Axis chuckling and leading him to a staircase hidden between a row of shelves and where the faint scent of food was wafting down. Gerard’s stomach growled and he blushed, chuckling sheepishly and Axis laughed, clapping a hand on his shoulder.
“Come on. You can tell me all about your attack and I will tell you how I operated.” He grinned, Gerard nodding eagerly and following his saviour up the stairs.
From now on, he supposed, he would no longer be human. But half man... And half cyborg.