Monday, January 18, 2010

Dark World: Dr. Fleming Investigates

(The story begins here.)

Lassiter was hungry as usual when Darren released him from the infirmary, and he was very quick to commandeer Antonin for chef duty, which left Darren and Dr. Fleming alone in the workroom to the doctor’s undisguised relief.

“Your timing is excellent; another ten minutes and there would’ve been a successful murder here.”

“Yours or Antonin’s? He’s the more imposing figure.”

“But I am far more motivated. He was driving me insane with all his assertions, questions, and pacing. He claims that the machine attempted to kill Dvorak, which is credible on one level and nonsense on a few others.”

“Tell me about it,” Darren said. He knew that his friend needed a reasonably quiet sounding board at such moments, so he resolved to be the opposite of Antonin and see what happened.

“To begin with, there was no one else in the room. We had a clear view of Antonin, and he did nothing more troubling than commit mechanicide—if he did even that. The damage to the card reader should be minor, but the cards are probably lost. I can’t help wondering whether that was intentional.”

Darren merely gave him an encouraging look, so he continued, “I sometimes think Antonin’s real reason for working with Karel is to thwart him: Antonin despises machines; he truly believes the true path is organic. As near as I can tell, he thinks Dvorak’s machines may unleash a terrible disaster on the world. So if he spent the night making up cards for an attack—”

“You think he might have tried to kill Dvorak?”

“That’s where it falls apart. No. Antonin Čapek is a very loyal man—and something of a pacifist. He carries a gun, but he does not shoot to kill. He might have programmed some kind of ‘accident,’ but nothing truly dangerous. And he was clearly surprised by the dagger. For that matter, the mechanical arms don’t show blood in the right places: there wasn’t much blood shed, but the hand that wielded the knife would have picked up some blood. And again, Antonin could not have carried out the attack himself, because the dagger swept down in an arc that would have been unmistakable to even a casual observer, and the attack came while Karel was standing.”

“The machine couldn’t have aimed the blows anyway.”

Dr. Fleming considered the matter for a moment. “Actually, that wouldn’t have been hard to manage. Loading the cards activates the unit, and the operator’s position at that moment would be very easy to guess. But the cards Karel loaded were his own, and only he or Antonin could have arranged a mechanized attack. I technically could have, but it would have taken longer, since I’m not as familiar with the machine, and you know I wasn’t punching cards all night.”

Just then Lassiter returned, armed with a half-eaten ham sandwich. “Antonin is getting a proper breakfast together, and he wanted me to warn you so I wouldn’t eat it all myself. He’s smarter than he looks.” With that he resumed his breakfast.

“We’ll join you in a moment,” Darren said absently, still looking at Dr. Fleming. “Are there any other clues?”

“The dagger itself: see the crest on it? I don’t recognize it myself, but it’s evidently German—the assassin’s calling card, something to ensure that Karel’s enemies get credit for the attack.”

Lassiter gasped and almost dropped his sandwich. He swallowed a mouthful and stammered, “I’ve seen that before!”

Next: Mysteriouser and mysteriouser

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