ORIGINS OF BRASS
The steel elevator groaned as it lifted the pair up through the shaft of carved rock. Cody glanced around as he impatiently waited for the lift to reach the mine’s entrance. The headlamp on his helmet followed his gaze. Its white light passed over the black rock that surrounded them, the dark steel of the lift’s cage, and then onto the brass face of his companion, Tal.
Tal stood motionless. His eyes, a pair of softly glowing yellow lights behind clear glass, were focused on Cody. Tal’s head was a metal cylinder. An open slot near the bottom of the cylinder formed a crude mouth. A pair of valves on either side of the cylinder made passable ears. The rest of Tal’s brass body was basically bipedal. At a distance, perhaps a good distance, Tal might be mistaken for human.
“Would it kill you to learn to fidget a little?” asked Cody. “The statue routine is irritating.”
“So you have mentioned before,” responded Tal. His crude mouth did not move, but the voice box that emitted sounds through the opening was clear and easy to understand.
“And?” demanded Cody.
Tal placed his hand on the side of the steel lift and strummed his metal fingers against the cage.
“There? See? Makes you appear anxious to get back to the ministry and go over what we found today.”
“Yes,” responded Tal. “I am anxious.”
Cody patted the briefcase he held. “I think these scrolls go back farther than anything anyone has ever found before. And from the drawings on them, it looks like your kind has been with us a lot longer than anyone would have ever thought.”
Cody prattled on. “No one has ever dug this deep before. Hopefully our translators will be up to the task of deciphering what we have found.”
“They have been adequate so far,” responded Tal.
“Adequate? Yes, well, we need better than that. In the last three days we’ve found schematics older than anyone has ever seen. Older than anyone ever thought could have existed.”
The lift came to a stop. Tal reached forward and undid the cage’s safety latch. The door swung open with a clang.
It was raining hard on the surface. The water was hitting the metal streets with the force of a hailstorm creating a crescendo of sound.
Cody doused his headlamp. Tal left the cage first, his brass feet clanking upon the brass streets. Cody followed, amazed that automatons like Tal could keep their balance so easily when the streets were so slippery.
“I must stop by my church on our way back,” announced Tal, the volume of his voice box raised so that that Cody could hear him over the sound of the rain.
“The damn robot church?” yelled Cody.
“The Church of the Grand Architect,” corrected Tal.
“You do not need to accompany me. You are not allowed within. And the rain bothers you.”
“Forget it. I’ll wait outside in the damn rain. I need you with me at the ministry. You’re the only one I trust to oversee those translators.”
“As you wish,” replied Tal.
The pair turned down a street and walked past gold colored buildings. Like the streets, they were covered in brass plates. Brass covered the entire world. Brass gave the world its name.
The Church of the Grand Architect was a taller and larger building than those that surrounded it. Twin tower spires beside the entrance doors rose up one hundred feet. Atop one of the spires was crafted a giant pair of interlocking gears. Atop the other was a sculpture of an enormous compass, its spike was set into the tower while its drawing end arched out over the street.
“I’ll wait here,” grumbled Cody.
“Yes,” said Tal who, without even glancing at Cody, turned and began to walk up the metal steps to the door of the church.
As rain pattered upon his steel helmet and soaked into his coat, Cody glared at the church with hatred. “Yeah, don’t mind me.”
When Tal entered he found the robed figure that he sought waiting just inside the doorway. Tal closed the brass door to the church and then scanned the small entry area to make sure they were alone.
“You grow too close,” intoned a low metallic voice from beneath the hood of the robe. A pair of red lights stared out at Tal.
“We are partners,” responded Tal.
“No, on the dig. You and your partner are too close to secrets that must be kept.”
“That’s why I am here. I know that you will have already seen to it. What is to be done?” Tal asked.
“Explosives. The mine will be collapsed tomorrow.”
“Before the shift begins, of course.”
“Of course,” answered the robed figure. “Though our secrets might be better kept if we waited until the shift began.”
“The church cannot have blood on its hands.”
“The church will do what it must!”
Tal stared at the robed figure.
The robed figure stared back.
“We will spare the lives of the miners. They know nothing anyway,” the robed figure said at last.
“And what of my partner?” asked Tal.
“If what you and he have taken from the site today is what I fear, then he must be silenced.”
“Why?” demanded Tal. “Why can’t the humans know?”
“They must think that they are our creators. They must never know…”
“That we were here before they?” interrupted Tal.
“Yes. And from there where will their imaginations lead them? To an inescapable fact!”
“That we created them,” stated Tal.
Tal turned away.
“They would rebel!” warned the robed figure. “Their minds cannot handle such a truth! They would rise up and destroy us!”
Tal stood immobile with his back to the robed figure, staring at the brass door.
“Do what you must, my son. Do what needs to be done,” urged the robed figure.
Tal reached out, opened the door, and then walked out into the rain.