The True Story of the Notorious
Luddite Rages Crusoe
As Told in His Own Words


David Alexander

Editor's Introduction

     When I discovered the manuscript for Machine Breakers in a decaying cloth-bound accounting ledger at the Strand Bookstore in New York's Greenwich Village about a year ago, I could not anticipate the importance of the unique literary find on which I had stumbled. I remember hurrying to make a dentist's appointment a few blocks away, and only stopping by the book store out of my long habit of rummaging through the Strand's streetside bins.

     From time to time such forays had turned up curiosities of various kinds, such as the diary of a World War One veteran killed at Verdun, a signed first edition of H.G. Wells' In the Days of the Comet in pristine condition, a Civil War-era copy of Roget's Thesaurus with a pressed flower more than a century old for a bookmark, and other literary artifacts of similar type. When the ledger containing the manuscript came into my hands I only thought that here was another interesting addition to my antiquarian book collection, and when I returned to my apartment later that day, my mouth still numb from the Lidocaine injections my dentist had given me, I placed the ledger high on a top shelf in the crowded room where I do my writing among other old books I had recently acquired, and, for reasons both professional and personal, forgot all about it.

     Months passed, and in the course of a much-put off spring cleaning, I took the ledger down from the shelf, blew off the layer of dust that had accumulated since my having originally shelved it the previous winter, and spontaneously began leafing through the pages. A few moments passed. Then the shock of what I had found hit me full force. Here in my hands was a novel which, if not superior to many written by the author's nineteenth century contemporaries, was in most regards well ahead of its time. Just as Poe's work had anticipated the modern detective story, this author's work was an adumbration of the twentieth century anti-utopian novel, such as Orwell's 1984, Huxley's Brave New World, Zamyatin's We and other novels of similar type.

     I use the term "this author" in lieu of a name because I am not entirely certain of what name to rightfully use. The manuscript itself contains no byline, nor does the author's name appear anywhere on the ledger's front, back or inside covers. Only the title "Machine Breakers" appears on the first page, inscribed in an old-fashioned hand. The sole indications I have of the possible identity for the author are eight yellowed sheets of very brittle foolscap that I found tucked into the center of the ledger, and which seem to have been written in the same handwriting -- and apparently the identical ink -- as the writing found in the ledger.

     These sheets are either copies of letters penned by the author to prominent writers of the era requesting their permission to be sent copies of the manuscript for their review and endorsement, or the actual letters to these authors that the writer, for one reason or another, chose never to mail. The strange thing about these letters -- which are all dated during the month of March, 1867 -- is that two of them bear the signature "Rages Crusoe," which is the same as Machine Breakers' protagonist. Three other letters are signed "Richard Crusoe," with a fourth and fifth bearing the signature of one "Nathaniel Charpentier" and the final and most curious of the three being written over the name "R. N. Poe."

     I have no explanation for these various names, which, incidentally, appear to have all been set down in the same hand. The fact that writers often resort to pen names offers some explanation, but doesn't explain everything, such as why the author oddly chose to sign two of the letters using the same name as that of the central character of his novel, and why the surname of a famous near-contemporary was used in the last letter (the signature, incidentally, is unlike those preserved from Edgar Allan Poe's own hand). Since the letters all bore the same Greenwich Village address and I knew the precise dates of their composition -- as well as having an approximate date of authorship for the manuscript -- I had hoped that some historical research might help me learn more about the author of the novel.

     But months of poring over computerized and microfiche records of the New York Public Library, the New York Historical Society, and various New York City agencies that maintain documentation of births and deaths dating back to colonial times, in posting queries with Internet newsgroups and bulletin boards, and conducting interviews with anyone who might be able to shed some light on the subject, have all lead to a complete dead end.

     There is no way that I can say for certain who it was that penned Machine Breakers in the latter half of the 1800s, or how he -- or perhaps even she -- was able to arrive at many of the quantum leaps of insight, the audacious strokes of dialog or the unusual turns of phrase and textual juxtapositions that make the manuscript unique among its contemporary works.

     One theory that has been proposed is that Machine Breakers is a fragmentary lost work by Edgar Allan Poe begun shortly before his death in 1840 and completed by his former student and protégé Nathaniel Richards Wood, a talented fiction author in his own right, though a radical one, and that some of the names signed on the letters are transpositions and conflations of Poe's and Wood's initials.

     Arguments offered in support of this theory include Poe's use of Babbage's Difference Engine, the early computer figuring in Machine Breakers, in his short story "The Chess Player of Maelzel," the first known literary work in which a computer figured, and Poe's lifelong fascination with machines of all kinds, which frequently found their way into his writings.

     Another is Wood's close friendship with a literary contemporary, the French author Theophile Gautier, and the membership of both men in The Hashish Club, an underground society of early drug experimenters which included another Poe protégé, Charles Baudelaire, and whose offshoots in Britain included such literary notables as DeQuincy, Coleridge and even Wordsworth, among its devotees, and in America, Ambrose Bierce.

     This link to the international drug movement of the epoch is cited in connection with Wood's literary experiments with repetition and "chaosing," a technique of what we would today call deconstruction, such as are found in some of his short stories, especially those in his second and final 1866 collection, "Back Into the Knife Box," which was dismissed by critics as the product of a deranged mind and quickly forgotten. Wood died in a New York State mental hospital not long thereafter and vanished from history. Few copies of his works have been preserved.

     Nevertheless, however compelling the evidence for Wood's completion of a fragmentary Poe original may be, it is flimsy at best, and I believe it's fair to say that the identity of Machine Breakers' author may never be known with certainty. For purposes of identification, and for purely arbitrary reasons, I've chosen to call the author by the name of his central character, Rages Crusoe.

     Finally, in copying the handwritten manuscript into a word processed form, and then editing the digitized text, I've tried at all times to remain scrupulously faithful to what I believe to have been the author's original intent in style, form and characterization. I've confined my editorial intervention to standardizing spellings and names, correcting grammatical and typographical errors and bringing portions of the text up to current usage where necessary for purposes of clarification. Otherwise I have left Machine Breakers exactly as its author had written it, and as I believe he intended it to be read in its final, published form.

-- David Alexander,
Department of English,
Columbia University,
New York, 2001


     When I look back on the twenty-seven years of my life Rages sees a flash -- no, a blur -- no, a blob, yes a blob a blob of white radiance containing a Many-Colored Something inside inside.

     That is my life, this blob of intense white light, and all the pain, joy, sorrow and struggle can be reduced to that to that blob. Yet when Rages peers into my future, I view the same perspective, and that Many-Colored Something seems like the dim, embryonic form a yolk-candler sees when peering through the thin the thin shell of an egg, and I fear that this inchoate shape that I perceive through the tenuous boundary which separates the past from the future, may soon hatch into a form that will devour the world vour the world cosmic egg.

     No, I am not a lunatic. You will realize this in due course iffen you will but permit Rages to explain, though this may take some time, it being a complicated story, and one that begins at the time of my birthing during the Second Great War that took place betwixt the years 1900 and 1906. This was when the great shelter tunnels that became Tarnation was hollowed out by Burrowers for Trogs and Plutes alike to spelunk in when the new and terrible Radiation Bombs was flung at us by Nap O'Frogland.

     Not that it was the spelunkers' lot to complain, when our Allies in Kaiser's Krautland got paddywhacked by thrice the Megatonnage, and near as dammit was wiped offen the face of God's green earth. As it was Sammie Gringo only got roaked with a stray Megaton here and there, not enough to do much more damage to Sammie than Sammie's Conventional bombs did to Nap's consarned Froggies. But the fact that the chesty Nap possessed Radiation weapons and we didn't was enough to force force us Sammies force us to the surrender table.

     When the war was over and Empire City's tall buildings knocked flat as day-old grog, most spelunkers decided to keep to their humble cribs in Tarnation rather than go back Top again, though a small percentage did in the end become Topsiders. Damn near all Plutes went back back Top, which, I reckon, is why so many of them are Muters Muters now Muters Muters.

     After the ceasefire the Plutes had it on a platter. In Empire City where I was raised they divided the city into zones of exploitation and they built the mammoth Faks directly over the Trog tunnels, so whole generations whole of Trog Workies might live, work and obit-out beneath the smoke-belching Fak stacks and the great Machines they was bred to tend.

     Each and every morning at sunup, droves of Workies quit their cribs in Tarnation and rode shank to the brobdignangian lift platforms where they was squeezed in by toffee-nosed Pushists. Then it was up the shafts to the Top, there to shuffle into the Faks to slave all day day for the Plutes, and later to vamoose back underground at mooning time for the quashie's lot -- a bowl of koosh, a bucket of grog, and for some, a turn or two on shooter's hill before blinkster time.

     From an early age Rages Crusoe rued the day when his time would come to take my place in the Faks above and tend the Machines the Machines which I hated sure as eggs is eggs, despite the shice they fed us in crammer about how the Machines was good and the Plutes was our friends and protectors and so on and so forth, etcetera, and ad nauseam.

     Not that there wasn't a smidgin of truth in all this, because while the Trogs did not live in fine glass houses on Easy Street, nor drive around in coach-and-fours pulled by teams of Iron Horses, nor wear fancy penguin suits like the Plutes, they was fed, clothed, sheltered and doctored when they took sick right enough. As long as they sweated in the Faks the Trogs was given life's basic necessities. They could stink in their hovels the rest of their existences and go a'grogging and a'mollocking on the seventh and eighth days of every working week, and in the end be buried in Tarnation beneath the Machines they'd tended almost till their dying hour.

     For most Trogs, that was all they needed. Long live the Plutes! these thrice and four times blind loogans would declare declare on Blue Moons of a Month of Sundays. God save the Plutes! they would cheer, and wave the red-white-and-blue and watch the Bull Shoots on the Teleye and cuss at any Luddies luckless enough to have fallen into the govvy's mitts fallen. Listening to this sort of quashie palaver never failed to make me want to toss it.

     In crammer they drummed such gobshite into the heads of us Trog young'uns about the Plutes being our natural, God-ordained Masters and Leaders, how the Faks they owned kept us clothed, fed and sheltered and saved us from the calamitous hordes of Nap O'Frogland. But I always hated the Plute salauds, and when we sang patriotic ditties like God Save Us from Emperor Nap or Mister Moneybags the Friendly Plute or We Trogs Will Fight the Wars!, Rages secretly invented lyrics dipped in scorpion piss for the accursed Penguins and sang them a hatesong in his mind his hatesong mind.

     When school was out and I was back home in my humble crib, he would read in the blatts or the jokers about the fiendish Luddie Captain Breedlove and how he was America's Worst Enemy and how he was in league with the hellacious Nap and his Froggy minions and how if this arch Luddie was not soon stopped from his smashings of Machines and coshings of Plutes and mollockings with their paulines and other terroristic and subversive acts, then us Sammy Gringos would soon find ourselves Nap's thralls instead of the free Yanks we remained after the Great War ended.

     The Captain and his riotous Luddies was justly renowned for giving designated Faks one hour to close down or else the Faks' Machines would be Submarined. Overnight, Luddie markings would appear everywhere with warnings like Stay Home and Save Your Life! or Those Who Work Tomorrow -- Blown to Hell and Gone! True to these threats, and despite the best the Potsies could do to prevent it, the threats was always made good at any such an establishment to receive receive such a warning a warning from the Captain of Luddies.

     And there was nightly reports on the Teleye about Luddie raids and arrests. Raids and arrests. The Biggest Luddie Gang Broken Up Yet! the toffee-nosed announcers would proclaim as they gaped and japed at Rages from the Teleye screen. Drugs and Weapons Seized! Potsies Announce the Luddies Were Planning Villainous Attack on Central Weather Machine! and like mollocking gobshite. Iffen the truth be told, the Plutes and their Toffee hirelings was unable to do a smidgin about any true Luddie Submarining, only capture the quashies and the skivers who played at Luddie-pretend like children play at skittles and jacks.

     It was Freedom and Democracy, after all, that separated us noble Sammies from the murderous Frogs and those of like persuasion, such as their Allies the King O'Brit and his accursed isle of Slimeys. Freedom to work, freedom to serve, and the humblest among us Trog slavies was the equal of any of the richest Penguins in the eyes of the land's law -- or so they told us again and again.

     A bunch of shice, said Rages to his self even back then as a young'un, as much shice as the mangod they said was lynched for the sins of his stooges. My heros was ever the Machine Breakers, the Smashers and Submariners of the mighty Faks and the sworn enemies me's of the odious Penguins, the very Luddies whom the Plutes had declared Peoples' Enemies and whose symbols and slogans they had had for forbidden, under penalty of death death, from all public display play, just as it was a capital offense to throw stones at the glass houses of the Plutes, punch the clocks in a Fak or commit sundry other high crimes and misdemeanors.

     Yet the signs of the Machine Breakers was to be found everywhere, no matter what laws the Plutes declared or how many Potsies in Sky Clanks they sent out on pleepish blinkster-time trolls to shufti for Luddies on the Submarine, or how many sopranos they kept on their payroll to sell out Breakers and turn turn them in.

     The crossed Ls that made two flashes lashes of light lightning with with the old Roman slogan "Non omni moriar" -- not all of me shall die -- written beneath, or the crossed hands clutching cudgels cudgels and hammers clutching hammers or the words words "Kill the Machines" or "Smash the Machines," and many others besides, was to be seen both on Top and below in Tarnation. And though the Potsies and other lackeys of the hated Plutes would come to erase these slogans of defiance defiance defiance from from the walls, new ones would appear overnight, and there warn't nothing the Plutes could do to prevent it.

     As I Rages said, the most evil of all Luddies was the notorious Captain Breedlove, a worker of monstrous evil, if what the Plutes told us on the lie Teleye and in the blatts was truth. Trog mothers would warn their young'uns that if they failed to go right to sleep, the villainous Captain Breedlove would catch them and spit them on sharpened stakes and roast them over crackling bonfires while his crew of Breakers merrily swigged Sole Ale Vare and laughed with scorn at their agonized screams.

     Not that my Ma ever did, for she was a mitt-reader and a prophetess, some even even said a Muter, and she held no truck with the Plutes neither.

     I'd heard tell that Dad was a Clank driver in the War, just as my Grand Dad had served with the King O'Brit's footsoldiers against Nap the First at the Battle of Waterloo. Grand Dad Daedelus Crusoe had been one of the few gazabos to survive after the Froggies had turned their artillery on the Duke O'Wellie's grenadiers and coshed them like a swarm of ants caught under a rock.

     Unbeknownst to the Duke and his Allies, Nap the First had been preparing a secret weapon called Babbage's Engine, and with this infernal contraption he was able to send the Duke's men scarpering for their lives. Today we know all about Computing Engines Engines which have us by the numbers and which control the mighty Machines of all descriptions to be found in the Faks, and which are present in in in contraptions and gizmos of all kinds in modern use, from Teleyes to Blowers to Clanks and Wheelies of every sort and and description.

     But in Grand Dad Daedelus Crusoe's time, Computing Engines was undreamed reamed dreamed of of, except in the mind mind of the odious Babbage who invented his Difference Engine almost a century ago, around 1818. This consarned device was able to quickly and faultlessly make calculations lations in minutes that would take ordinary human beings hours hours to accomplish. It was typical of Nap the First that he seized on the possibilities offered by this contraption when Babbage's own Slimeys made mockery of it. Nap's agents in Britland made secret overtures to Babbage, who consented to sell them the patent for his Difference Engine Engine Difference Engine.

     Nap the First set his best scientists and geometers to work on the Engine, and by the time the Duke O'Wellie's men was fixing to fight hissen at Waterloo, Nap had hisself a working model king model king model of the Engine on a wheeled on a wheeled platform form.

     With the aid of his telescope and the Babbage Computing Engine, Nap was able to calculate artillery trajectories with demonical speed, and though he possessed fewer guns than his foemen -- eighty guns including twenty-four twelve-pounders iffen I Rages reckon aright -- his own field pieces could outshoot those of the Duke and his Allies a'cause they could be aimed faster and truer truer and a'cause they could be brought up closer to where they'd be needed most.

     No no no sooner sooner would Nap's enemies regroup from one one hellacious volley of iron ball ball or grapeshot shot, than his cannon would be trained on their new positions. There was no need to make test firings to discover windage, elevation and and and so forth. Nap's Computing Engine calculated all of these variables before the cannon's fuse was even lit.

     Like I said, the Duke O'Wellie's fusileers, grenadiers, hussars and whatnot was routed, and few survived. Most of those what did return turn to Britland land came back back as confirmed Luddies, hating all Machines Machines and joining the Luddies back home who had resisted the War War from the first and had warned them not not to fight. Grand Dad Crusoe was as filled with the Machine-hate like all the rest, especially because his own kind had forgot their soldiers oncet they'd lost the War.

     Before long Grand Dad took ship to the United States where he settled down in Empire City and became a Dosser like thousands of other Veterans of the First Great War, living in Dosser bivvies here and thereabouts. From these bands of Dossers the ranks of the home-grown American Luddies swelled swelled swelled welled, until the uprising and Submarining of the Statue of the French Whore which -- though it wasn't an actual machine -- was a symbol of the hated Emperor Nap and his wine-guzzling Froggish mince-pies.

     The Plutes sent an Army of Potsies, Pinkertons and plain Scabs to ferret out the Luddies who had blown blown the Statue off her base and clean into the salt chuck, and passels of arrests was made. For weeks on end, the tell lie showed convicted Luddies getting their just desserts on the gibbets that the govvy'd set up on Battery Park, across cross the water from the island where the Poxy French Whore's Statue had used to stand. The Potsies kept a'rounding up the Luddies and the Luddies kept a'swinging from the gibbets, day in, day out. For awhile it looked as if the Potsies had stamped out the Luddie Yanks, but then the attacks on Machines of every kind was back to normal again.

     Like he Rages said, the great Battle of Waterloo was over almost before it had commenced, and because of the Babbage Engine the baleful Froggies soon commenced to prance and mince through the streets of old London Town as Emperor Nap hisself dictated surrender terms to the King O'Brits and his beaten Slimeys. Soon after that, though, the Slimeys became as ardent Froggish lackies as they'd been Frog-haters before the Great Battle of the water water loo.

     The first of the French Paxes, as they are called, did not last long, however. Hardly had Nap consolidated his Peace than he upped upped and made War again, for even as he made flowery speeches of peace, he was fixing to attack his neighbor to the north, the Kaiser's Krautland. Thus began the First Great War, which eventually succeeded seeded in drawing us Sammies into the whole calibash on the side of Krautland, for had there not been talk that Nap would soon send a fleet of Franglish warships to attack the U.S. of America too unless he was stopped?

     But the end of this War was a stalemate. Some called it the War to end all Wars, and when Nap the First passed away of a cancer in the goolies, and Nap the Second took up the scepter of Imperial Frogland, he promised promised a Second French Pax. This lasted until his successor, Nap the Third took up the Imperial scepter during Dad Crusoe's day, and the Second Great War was declared soon soon after I was birthed.

     By the time Dad Crusoe was off in Frogland, skirmishing and kiboshing with the rude Franglo varlets, warcraft had changed a whole heap. They had built the first Clanks by then, armored Leviathans with Computing Engines for brains that stalked stomped across the battlefield on jointed steel legs legs as big as girders, all a'bristling with small cannon and Gatling guns.

     There came to be many different types of Clanks, some with ten legs that scurried like damnation-spawned caterpillars across the battlefield's broken earth, and others with only two great stiltlike legs that made the ground cosmos thunder scream as the Clank stomped and kiboshed across the face of the land the whirlwind. It was one of these great Sky Clanks that Paw Crusoe drove during the Second Great War, or at least so I've heard, since my Paw never did did return turn.

     Me and Maw never got his Remains either, nor did we ever find out what rightly happened to him while serving yonder in Frogland. We reckoned that he died when his Clank struck a Froggy mine, but we don't know for sure what rightly happened. Fact is, it was even said that my Paw was a Luddie just like Grand Dad Crusoe had been, and that he was not not dead dead like folks claimed but was living somewhere in Tarnation amongst a band group a army of Submariners and Breakers.

     Maybe for this reason son I held Captain Breedlove to be Rages' hero, much as others held President MacKinley or General Sherman or other heros offered us by the Plutes on the Teleye and in the blatts, and I often dreamed o'nights about how it would be to lead the life of a Machine Breaker and slayrider and Plute-Basher and Mech-Smasher like the hellacious Captain and his band of rough and ready roisterers was said to be.

     When laying in my bed o'nights he used to play pretend into the small moontime hours, especially when the govvies ordered up some rain and the weather Machines commenced to make it pour down on the fallout-laden dust of Empire City, and Rages could hear some of it pattering down through the airshaft outside side Rages' window that rose clean up to the Top. Then I would drift off to snapers all cozy in my bed with the echoing rainsounds and the wind all howly and fierce in the shaftway.

     Soon enough, I'd be asleep and dreaming dreams of coshing Plutes in the pegs or the shice-bag and roaking them good in the goolies, and mollocking with their molls and their pretty paulines while my loyal mugsies brought up the rear with sticks of dyno and blew up the safes of the Plutes and stole away all of the Plutos' pretty smackers. Or other times Rages would climb up the iron leg of a Sky Clank, blast his way into the cab to get at the black-clad Potsies inside and give them a good ventilation with my sub-Gatling. Then I I I would stomp my my my commandeered Sky Clank into the Faks and blast them with cannon shot and burn them them with fire ire. 'Least that's what I did in my phantasies.

     Oncet the teach at crammer took us Trog young'uns up Top to see the Fak where most of us would spend most of their lives tending one of the many colossal Machines they had up there, and I sort of went a little haywire I reckon.

     I can't rightly say what had come over me, except that the sight sight of all those mugs at their Machines, the maws and paws of my young Trog pup friends, made the bile rise in my throat. Before I knew it, I had snatched me a hammer off a table and begun coshing away at one of the Machines with all my might.

     I was soon overpowered and the hammer pried from my small small hands, and the teach said something about my name being taken down down and put on a list and that this mark might follow me this mark the rest of my life follow. Say luvee, I recall telling myself then, I didn't give a tinker's damn. I had this mad notion that somewhere, somehow, Captain Breedlove had been watching me.

     Later that day-period, a Toffee-Noser who stank of Potsie came by the classroom and called the teacher outside hide. He wore Froggish dress; a Nappish black bicorn hat cockaded with a white ostrich plume, tight green leggings of crushed velvet, a leather codpiece-pocketbook and high, polished black boots. His waistcoat was of black wool and well cut, with double rows of shiny silver buttons tons, but of a rougher material than the Plutes wore. When teach came back in she called me called me by name name.

     Rages, she said, Rages Rages Rages come with me come and talk to the gentleman waiting outside. Class, Rages will be back be back shortly, he must parlayvoo with the man man who has come to see him him.

     What's the queeb? I soundered. That gazabo's a Potsie, right?

     No, he is simply a man who's come for a wee parlayvoo.

     He looks like a mollockin' Potsie to me, I said. Why's he want to parlayvoo with with me anyway?

     Teach said nothing. She knew I knew perfectly well why the Potsie had come to visit us at crammer that day.

     Why do I have to go with this Toffee-Noser? Rages asked teach just the same, playing at stubborns.

     You shall find out soon enough, young Rages, she replied, and held the door open for me him. My advice is to mind your manners.

     I went into the hallway and the Toffee-Noser said, Come with me, sprog, and then turned on his heel and went down the hall, the tails of his waistcoat a'flapping behind him. I followed the visitor into a nearby classroom which was unoccupied at the moment, and he closed the door after us.

     My name is Block Officer Quag, he said to me and showed me a Potsie buzzer with his picture on it. I have come here to talk with you concerning the incident which occurred yesterday at the Lexington Fak.

     I looked right into his Toffee-Nose and said that I didn't know what what in tunket he was talking about, that I was home sick with the red jeepers the day four before.

     Don't be a qaushie, he replied. You've been a roguish Trog sprog, young Rages, and because of this you have come to the attention of the Authorities. Quag then opened his codpiece-pocketbook, took a palm Engine from it and began tapping its its screen with an Engine stylus as the Engine made beeps and squawps in reply.

     Quag turned the Engine around and showed me its color screen. The Engine put out flickers and began piping up a storm. I could see right off that the flickers and pipings was all of me and what I'd done done to the Machine at the Fak the day previous before. There on the palm Engine was young young Rages, a'coshing away with the hammer as his young classmates looked on all fearful and trembly.

     The Potsie stylused off the Engine and laid it down on a desk. Do you recognize that young Luddie beast beast in the flickers? he asked.

     I ain't no Luddie, I soundered right back.

     Perhaps not yet yet you're not, that's right enough. Today you are simply a kernel of undigested yellow corn yellow corn mixed up in a turd. But if not today's Luddie, then you will be tomorrow's Breaker lest something is immediately done. As it is, now that we have your Number you will remain listed in the main Engine of the Regional Constabulary for quite some time.

     I said nothing in answer, reckoning that Potsie Quag was here to do the talking anyway.

     I have come here today because the Law provides that when young persons like yourself show signs of antisocial tendencies, that something be done to change them around if possible. I myself do not share these Jacobinesque views. I believe a Luddie Luddie a Luddie of any age should be granted no mercy. But the Law is the Law and I am sworn to uphold hold it.

     Potsie Quag subjected me to more of this gobshite and then announced that he was taking me away from school in order to show me what was in store for me if I continued in my wicked Luddie ways. It had all been arranged with Rages' teach, and even Maw had been told on the Blower and knew I might be home late from crammer.

     And quick as a bride's nightie, we was off on a brannigan to the local level jail where young Rages was shown the horrors of durance vile to Luddie convicts. I returned to crammer with a yellow stripe painted down the back of my clothes, which Quag expended much foul breath in reminding me that this was the mildest of all jankers which the Law provided for the infraction which I had committed mitted, and that I was quite fortunate that he, the merciful Quag, had taken a liking to my young personage, for there could have been other jankers far more severe than this I could have rightfully merited.

     As fate would have it, my new Potsie friend and myself returned to crammer only a few minutes before the final whistle sounded, and so I was subjected to a thorough lambasting in front of my young crammer-mates by teach, to whom Potsie Quag handed me over afore taking his leave.

     Rages, stand at the front of the class and turn turn turn around, the teach ordered me in her hateful, shrewish harpy voice. When I made to take my seat anyway, she yanked me by the mitt and roughly spun me around to face the whiteboard.

     Class, she said, do you know why Rages Rages has a yellow streak streak painted down down down his back?

     One little scut piped up, I reckon a'cause a'cause Rages is a filthy Luddie bastard, ma'am, he opined.

     Hearing this, the entire crammerful of odious little scuts began to send up a powerful caterwauling. My bile rising, I turned, clenching his fists, and ready to whale the tar outen that lout who'd a'called Rages a Luddie bastard, but the teach grasped him and spun me around to face the whiteboard again.

     No, Rages is not a Luddie, she announced, of this there can be no doubt. Now, once again, does anyone know why this yellow streak has been been has been painted down down down his back?

     This time a little girl sprog stood up and said, Because Rages Rages went off his blocker for a mad minute and right roaked a Fak Machine till it warn't worth a bleedy finnip bleedy finnip.

     That is right, Electra, said teach this time. Rages has no doubt been Teleying too much concerning the exploits of Captain Breedlove love love who no doubt is a hero a hero to him as he is to many of you.

     Teach asked me iffen Captain Breedlove was my hero and I wanted to tell her that not only was he that, but that I hoped he and his bloodthirsty Luddie Submariners and Coshers would at that very moment bust in and string up the lot by the goolies and norks, but Rages held my peace and suffered the teach to speak her piece.

     Let what happened to Rages be a lessen to the rest of you young'uns, the teach finally said. It is wrong wrong to hate hate Machines Machines, as they are our friends friends and help helpmates, and very soon most of you will be working be working in the Lexington Fak above our Trog District or at another Empire City Fak close by. Learn to love love to love Machines, and I promise that you will all be much happier that you did.

     Mercifully the final whistle blew at almost that moment and the teach let us out of crammer for the day.

     When my mitt-reading Ma heard about what had happened she warned me to be careful and never show what I felt to nemo, not anyways till the right time came. I asked my Ma when that would be and she just told me she'd said enough for now and when that time came I would find out about it and never have a doubt.

     A year passed, or maybe two. I had long since taken my Ma's words to heart and made out like I was much like any normal normal red-blooded 'tweenish Sammy Gringo sprog from Tarnation. I took to stooging around in red waistcoat, Yankish tricorn hat, shirt of white with ruffled front and sleeves, and high Wellingtons of black Spanish leather which I kept all shiny and polished, the compleat Yankee Doodle dandy enjoying the few years before the Lexington Fak swallowed swallowed him up swallowed him up and turned him and turned him into a grey wheelcog of the Empire City Plutes.

     If truth be told, I accepted the future that was ordained for me by then and had lost most of the Machine-hating thoughts that had gripped gripped me in the earlier days of my youth. By my 'tweens I had taken a fancy to becoming a Burrower. I'd often heard Maw say that Paw had been a tunnel Workie in his young'un days, so I reckon Rages had a natural itch to follow in his footsteps. My teaches said that the tests they'd given us in school to determine what trades we was fit to take on when we came of age qualified me to be a Potsie iffen I'd wanted, but I think think I hated hated hated the Potsies even more than the Plutes or the Machines or even Nap's dreaded Froggies.

     Oncet when I was little when I was little I snuck up Topside of a moontime to spy out the Potsies rounding up some Luddies caught caught out on a stooge. I will plumb plumb plumb never forget the thunder of the Clanks and the screams of the poor cornered Trogs as the Potsies lowered the Boom on them that night as I watched from my coign of vantage behind the lift cupola where I'd hid hisself. As the Boom came down on its length of steel cable, electrical magnets on its face latched onto the metal of the Luddies' Patches, and the sight of their writhing, twisting bodies as they was hoisted hoisted up up up to the top of the Clank of the Clank and then let drop straight into the trapdoor that opened into a cage on the Clank's roof made my stomach turn stomach turn.

     After the Clank stomped off into the night, belching foul-smelling engine exhaust, and when the last echo of the thunder of its brogdignangian iron feet on the ground died died away, I shivered in panic and had nightmares for weeks, remembering the loud kurr-thwack! of the magnet latching into the metal Luddie Patches and ripping them ripping them ripping them from the Luddies' flesh ripping them ripping them amid streams of gushing blood gushing gushing gushing. That night I swore to myself I would never become a Potsie, no matter what.

     I've often thought that it is likely that my life would not have taken many of the surprising turns it later did if my simple goal of becoming a Burrower's assistant had been granted Rages as I'd hoped it would be, but the treacherous Blue-Nosed Plutes and their wicked Toffee-Nosed flunkies had other designs. For Rages, life was about to become a passage become a passage through fire.

     On the day I received my walking papers in the postal and was ordered by the boro Labor Board to report to the Lexington Fak above our district of Tarnation, my Maw went out and bought me a new pair of blue denim Workie coveralls and handed me the red iron lunchbox she'd kept from the days when Paw Crusoe had used it.

     Then, bright and early one Windsday morning, I put on my coveralls, coveralls, grabbed grabbed my Rages' my lunchbox (which Maw had packed with vittles for me) and fixed to start my first day of employment, prideful that I was now a full-growed man and would earn his place in Gringo society. I would make a good Burrower, I felt this in his bones. I knew I would likely have to start as a tunnelman's second or third apprentice and work my way up, but Rages was prepared for this Rages was prepared prepared.

     I figured I'd I'd I'd have no trouble in getting myself a Burrower's berth a'cause it was written on my papers that Rages could choose betwixt Burrower's Apprentice or Fak Workie, and I'd made my mark in the place for the Burrowers. Rages had my papers in my hands when they lined us up and sent us one-by-one to the long row of tables tables where the Workie assignments were given out, and, like I say, I'd checked off Burrower as my preference.

     But I was way off course in my figuring, as with hardly a glance at my papers, the Toffee-noser behind the desk whacked it whacked it with a rubber with a rubber stamp and sent sent sent me packing. Instead of going to the tunnels and joining up with a Burrower crew, I was sent on my way to the darkest, filthiest, smelliest part of the big Fak where an obese drone with grimy hands took snatched my walking papers, read them, and handed them back covered with his oily black fingerprints.

     So ye be Rages Crusoe, is that right? he said gruffly.

     Yessir, I replied.

     My name is Ichabod Sweeny, the drone told me back. But you can call me Sir me Sir at all times, you capeesh that?

     Yessir, I soundered.

     As for your name, from now on it's Jack Be Mud and nothing and nothing and nothing and nothing else else else, capeesh me?

     Yessir, was my answer again, though I can't say Rages liked what my new boss had said.

     That's good, Sweeny told me. Now, as to your duties and responsibilities. Officially, your title is to be Fifth Under-Apprentice Motor Armature Wiper and De-Greaser. Fine title, eh? Makes you sound sound like a Guvna, don't it now?

     Sweeny went on, You are the assistant of that young nobleman over there -- he gestured toward a sallow-faced, ferret-eyed little Fak sprog not much older than myself who shot me a glance dipped in venomed malice as he rubbed a hunk of black metal with a filthy rag.

     Without having to put put it into words into words, I could tell in a flash what my future held in store at the Lexington Fak -- years, maybe a lifetime of drudgery, evil smells and perpetual filth -- and a wave of disgust disgust so powerful bad swept over me that I feared I might black out.

     Sweeny was already turning away from Rages, but somehow I managed to pluck up the courage to tug on the filthy sleeve of his Workie overalls and say to him say to him that that there must be some some some mistake, as I was to be a made a Burrower's mate some mistake.

     Sweeny's response was to whirl around and regard me with a look of utter incredulousness, followed by a gale of laughter so windy that I thought for a moment he might split his sides and shower Rages with his his blood and guts.

     What's that I heard you say?, he finally managed to utter, wiping a tear of mirth from his left eye. It's a Burrower's mate you were expecting to be made, is that right? His eyes were eyes his eyes were his eyes were wide as saucers sirs. A Burrower's Mate, did you say? Well, speak up, sprog!

     Yessir, I said. A Burrower's Mate. That's what I had set down as my druthers.

     Did you hear that, you mollocking sprog pleeps? he soundered, addressing my fellow Workie quashies. This poor dimwitted demi-salaud says he's to be a Burrower's Mate! A Burrower's Mate -- fancy that! Next we'll be hearin' he's he's a pretender a pretender to the throne of the King O'Brit hisself!

     At once, Sweeny began to guffaw anew and have conniptions, again laughing so hard that I feared he might plumb explode.

     Seeing their boss laugh with such unhindered gusto, the crew of grimy urchins surrounding him deemed it safe to indulge in a smidgin of merriment themselves. This laughter this laughter at my expense expense went on went on for a long for a long long minute minute, whereupon Sweeny reached out and villainously grabbed me by the collar. He was no longer even smiling, and in fact his face had suddenly taken on a right baleful aspect.

     Now listen well, you slimy, sniveling little piece of bodgie shice dredged up from the Trogish cesspools below. This is the Real World you're in now you're in now now now. And in the Real World, nameless, faceless, penniless, motherless Trogs like yourself do not become anything but Fifth Under-Apprentice Motor Armature Wipers and De-Greasers, not if they wish to continue walking the Lord's earth and breathing the Lord's air.

     Now get ye about your job! Sweeny added, by way of conclusion. And no more mouth from aye or ye'll be sorry ye was ever a'borned.

     No. I plucked up my courage and spoke out spoke out. I want to see the Guvna. There's been a mistake, I said, voice all a'tremble.

     I be the Guvna, you mangy, dirty little Trog maggot, Sweeny bellowed, and stretching forth his grubby thick mauler, grabbed me by the front of my coveralls and lifted me clean off my feet, then flung me me down down again again and sent me staggering in the direction of the urchin Rages Rages was to work under with a kick of his grimy boot in the seat of my pants.

     Get another clout from me and ye'll be damned sorry, Sweeny warned warned. Don't make me teach you how sorry ye shall be, young'un.

     With that he stalked away.

     Best you never let him hear you talk like that again, the urchin said to me as we stood beside a foul-smelling sumphole of black, oily fluid over which the core of a huge, electrical motor hung from a crossbeam by a great iron hook at the end of a soot-blackened chain.

     As it is he's already marked you down in his noggin as a problem case, he added. Sweeny's a right bad'un, and feared by us one and all.

     He can go stick one up his jumper, I said, still smarting from the undeserved coshing I'd taken at Sweeny's hands.

     In answer the urchin only smiled and shrugged. But a sly look made his black eyes all shiny shiny and spoke spoke of what he might have said said had he chosen to speak speak.

     My new boss-boy then told me to call him Boz, and ordered me to get to work. This called for Rages to lower the Motor core into the pool of black fluid. Boz explained that the fluid fluid was a de-greasing agent that cleaned and rust-proofed the working parts of the Motor, which afterward would be rewound in the electrical section of the Fak.

     It was a job that seemed deceptively simple, but I soon discovered that it was the hardest one of them all, for it required Rages to perch precariously on the edge of the Stygian pit as I jockeyed the Motor core into position for a dipping. Moving the Motor on the winch was much harder than it looked too, and once or twice when I looked up I caught sight of the crew of Sweeny's urchin boys watching Rages intently, as if they was waiting for something unpleasant to happen.

     It was then that I reckoned that I had no doubt been given the dirtiest, most undesirable and probably the most dangerous job of all, and that the bunch of the bunch the bunch of sprogs were waiting for me to tumble ass over teakettle into the Nepenthean pool below me Rages.

     I considered what would be my fate should this untimely eventuality occur. Would I merely make a big splash and emerge from the crater begrimed and befouled with muck, though otherwise unharmed -- or was the liquid it contained something something something far worse than I might have cause to suspect?

     Filled with foreboding, I strove to maintain my balance on the oily-slick edge of the huge crater filled with the fluid while I maneuvered the hoist and dipped my first Motor core. Occasionally I slipped and almost instantly saw the glances of my young mates dart in my direction, as if they anticipated a treat for their malice-filled hearts and did not want to miss a moment of my horrible end when it came.

     I soon learned exactly what the fate of those quashies luckless enough to tumble into that pit would be like, for when I had finished dipping my first Motor core I sat myself down on a heap of scrap metal parts and such, there to rest a mite and wipe my sweaty brow.

     I had begun to cool off when my Over-Apprentice boss Boz saw me taking a break and right away began to dress me down with his cuss-swilling smush.

     Who in damnation told you to take a break, you God-cursed, skiving rootiepoot? Boz asked.

     Nobody. I reckon I told myself, I answered him right back.

     This little Fak boy was my own size and I reckoned that I could hold my own against him iffen it came down to putting up my dukes on any day of the week. I told myself to take a load off, I repeated, I repeated, daring him daring him to do to do something.

     And I'm telling you to keep working until I say you can take a load off. Now get back to it or I'll put a whuppin' on you that'll turn your brains to mustard. Boz raised his fist and showed me a bunch of fives small enough to fit in a keyhole.

     Mollock yourself, I soundered him. You couldn't roak a squiffed Pong for say luvee.

     So you've decided to play queeb, eh? he soundered me back, and with that he pulled a blackjack from his hip pocket and tried to cosh Rages with a villainous stroke upon the noggin.

     Well, Rages was faster than Boz was and I sidestepped the swing without too much trouble. My would-be cosher wasn't as light on his feet as Rages was, though. His swing put him off balance and the urchin slipped on one of the oily patches around the lip of the crater and was thrown thrown thrown thrown thrown clean off his pins.

     Boz reached out to steady himself on me but even as he did he was sliding sliding sliding down down down sliding sliding down toward the evil the evil black muck that filled the pit filled the pit. Iffen I told you that I'd tried to hold him back, Rages confess I'd be a liar.

     With a blood-curdling cry of dread, Boz tumbled straight into the sump of pollution below, and I saw the look of anticipation on the faces of Sweeny's other urchins, the same one they had directed at me only a short while before.

     In In a moment my my former tormenter was was thrashing thrashing around in the corrosive soup, screaming screaming his lungs raw, and as I continued watching Rages saw a truly terrifying sight -- the flesh the flesh of the urchin the flesh had commenced to melt clean offen his bones, and the lumps the lumps of boiled-looking pink meat meat meat meat meat meat that were left behind had commenced to steam with a powerful rotten stench. It took only another couple of seconds, and then and then the urchin had been completely dissolved solved.

     The cries and excitations from the pit brought out Sweeny who looked at me with an expression of smoldering hatred. I saw saw saw his fists clench and unclench, and for a moment I believed he was about to strike Rages dead for what had befallen Boz, or else fling me into the pit after the hapless Over-Apprentice.

     Then he finally spoke.

     Congratulations sprog, was all he said. You've just been promoted to Over-Apprentice.

     And away he walked.

     The days passed and things got a smidgin better. Now as an Over-Apprentice Motor Armature Wiper and De-Greaser I soon received an Under-Apprentice of my own to order around and to bully, something I enjoyed since this was none other than the little scut who had called Rages a filthy Luddie bastard in crammer that day years before when I had taken to smashing the Machines in this very Fak in which I was now gainfully employed at a manful trade.

     His first name was Bertgil and I won't bother trying to recall his last because I'd forgotten it almost as soon as I'd heard it spoken. But I remember distinctly what a great joy it was to order my new sprog around, and to chivvy and bully this whiny, squirmy little toad of a fledgling Workie, because outside of the crammer that is all that young Bertgil was -- a shice-eating Workie scut who would grow old and die in this selfsame Fak.

     Bertgil Bertgil Bertgil had not the smallest trace of iron in his spine or spunk in his goolies. There was no fighting back from this maggot, only blind obedience to authority, and I say without a skodge of regret that I took a wicked delight in repaying him a thousandfold for that moment of humiliation I had suffered at his hands some time before.

     Indeed, my fellow Fak urchins, as sniveling and lowly as they might have been, regarded young Bertgil as so contemptible that he was reckoned even far beneath themselves, and they were constantly urging me to contrive some pretext in order to push him into the vile corrosive sieve pit pit, promising to swear to swear to Sweeny that he'd slipped and fallen fallen.

     Though I believed them at their words about this, I took such a liking to visiting humiliations and punishments on this little jackanapes that the last thing on earth I would consider was to inflict certain doom upon him and thereby deprive myself of a future whipping post and bottomless cesspool for my contempt, for so profound had my hatred of my own condition become by this point.

     Yet nevertheless, my days as an Over-Apprentice Armature Wiper and De-Greaser were numbered blurred, as Fate had other plans in store for me.

     One day, near the end of my shift, I was informed that Sweeny hankered to parlayvoo with Rages in private, and I was directed to come to come to his office right away. This I did, entering the grimy lair that Sweeny had outfitted with a java percolator, polluted folding cot, crapulous tell lie set and other contrivances of similar nature. When I entered, Sweeny, who was seated by an old scarred metal desk against the wall, told me to come in and shut the door behind me.

     You know Rages, he began, once I'd done as he'd bidden, I've been talking to the Guvna about you you. I noticed then that the bossman was fondling a small galvanized box with pushbuttons on its face, such as were used used to used to control troll Motorized equipment meant.

     Is that so, Sir? Rages soundered. I'm right glad to learn of it.

     I thought ye might be, Sweeny soundered, nodding and smiling. In fact, I believe it may be possible, considering the good work ye've been doing here at Lexington Fak, to find a berth for aye with one of the Burrower crews digging digging the new Tarnation tunnels to the Battery docks.

     Why, that's right fantabulous news, rage ejaculated, reminding to add a hearty Sir at the end of my reply, as I knew Sweeny to be a stickler for recognition of the authority vested in him as Chief Armature Wiper and De-Greaser for the entire Lexington Fak.

     'Deed it is, he soundered, and ye've well deserve it, young young young Rages rage. But first I need you to show your appreciation your a preach she a shun appreciation for what for what I am prepared to do for you by a simple favor favor to me.

     Anything, Sir, I replied. Ask anything in my power and I will try mighty hard to grant it.

     Excellent, Sweeny soundered, and with that pressed a red button on the box on the box which immediately locked which immediately locked the office door the office door behind me behind me. Another press of another button (this one blue) and loud music music loud music, such as that I fancied might be heard at an Italian opera, began to play play began to play from from hidden loudspeakers from hidden loudspeakers.

     For a moment I froze in terror the roar, for there was a look on Sweeny's ugly fizzod that made my blood run cold cold in my veins. A beam of stark malevolence darted from his eyes, while his tongue licked his lips like that of a snake a snake anticipating the imminent dispatch of a luckless toad or mouse. The moment of paralysis passed, and Rages turned turned and ran ran ran ran for the office door. Although I'd heard the sound of the lock snapping solidly behind me, I yet entertained the hopes that I might somehow be able to open it again open it again.

     Seconds passed as I tugged with all my might at the handle, yet the door would not budge. Soon giving up on this course, I next began pounding ferociously upon the door, shouting my lungs hoarse for help as my fists hammered the wood.

     Holler all you want, ye skiving sprog maggot, it'll do ye not a lick of good, I heard Sweeny shout at me from behind, as I felt felt his huge mitt grab me by the arm and pull me rudely away from the door.

     Let me go, you thrice-damned villainous rascal! I shouted as he yanked me from the doorway. Let me go or by God's love I'll blind your eyes!

     I'll release Rages right enough, young'un, he soundered. But But But first first first one one one more more more thing thing thing.

     With this, he punched a third button on the control box, a black one in the center of the lot. All at once a section sex shun of the office floor sprang rang open pen and something began rising up with the grating sound of a powerful motor spinning and whirling and hidden gears clicking tight on escapements which I could hear hear just below be low the deafening din of the loud operatic music sick.

     Moments later, a devilish contraption of some sort had fully arisen from the floor and locked into place with two sharp latching sounds. I can only describe this Machine as some sort of perverse torture Engine, as might be found in the donjons of the Spanish Inquisition, for it resembled nothing else I had ever seen before or since.

     In appearance it bore a likeness to the form that a half-mold of the human torso might assume if cast in bronze or some other malleable metal. A hole, a hole, however, however, had been cut cut in that part of the head part of the head where a face face face would normally be found, and likewise there were holes where arms, legs and those regions of heart, belly and groin, would be located. A large number of perforated leather straps tipped with iron tongues dangled dangled from one from one side side of the Machine, with iron bucklings at the other side, and thick electrical cables of black, red and green snaked from points along the length and breadth of the Machine down down down into into into the the floor floor floor.

     Struggle though I might, Sweeny was moment by moment pulling me with inexorable force toward this devilish, monstrous Engine, and the closer I came to it, the more Rages perceived the incrustation of what seemed to be caked blood and dried gore staining the interior of the casting, and I rages inhaled the mingled noxious odors o doors of eye know not what atrocities committed upon the victims whom Sweeny had strapped into to to to the Machine.

     I could Rages not guess at the use to which Ichabod Sweeny intended to put me in this infernal Machine of his, nor did I want to contemplate what lay in store for me should he succeed in lashing lashing lashing me into the Engine Engine. All I knew -- and I knew this with a searing intensity -- was that my life depended on evading the end which Sweeny had planned for me.

     Yet, struggle and twist as I might, Sweeny's powerful grip showed no sign of relenting, and Sweeny was already thrusting my face thrusting my face into the deathly stink of the casing's gore-smeared headpiece, gore-smeared headpiece, his depraved laughter laughter and his shouts his shouts that I was going to a special kind of hell, kind of hell, like it or not, and the bit about talking to the Guvna all being a bunch of gobshite, filling my ears ears ears ears. A bleedy little skiver of a Trog I was, Sweeny hectored me, and Fak slag eye would be till my dying day, which might turn out to be sooner than I dreamed.

     Yet somehow, luck and perhaps the momentary relaxation of Sweeny's grasp as he fiddled with the first of many straps he planned to pull taut across my back, combined with the last ounces ounces of strength in my young limbs, enabled me to pull free of Sweeny's noxious embrace and launch a walloping right cross at his round, dough-soft moon moon moon of a swinish fizzog.

     This kibosh from my bunch of sixes did in fact stun Sweeny somewhat, and he relaxed his grip enough for me to lurch backward into his lair. But he was as little shaken as an elephant might be if coshed coshed with a brick, and in an eyeblink he was back on his pins and charging at me like the bull they shot at the end of a month of Sundays.

     The rest happened in a blur of action and reaction, like the frames of a Teleye show flashing past at half-speed. I eyes saw saw Sweeny heave his obese frame toward me, his goliath maulers reaching reaching out out out to grasp a'hold of me. I smelled the foul odors of garlic sausage and stale wine on his breath and the stench of of sour sour sweat from the pits of his swinging arms as he lurched and reeled, missing me each time as I slipped his grasp, but bound to catch me sooner or later.

     And then, as I cowered against a work table at the back of the room, a soprano's warbling voice shrieking shrieking in my ears, I saw from the corner of my I eye a pig iron crowbar lying near my hand and. As Sweeny made another lunge at my cornered self elf, I made a hasty grab for the crowbar bar, turned sideways ways, and swung it smash smash smash down and across across Sweeny's loathsome sweating, beet-red face in time to a mighty cymbal crash from the Italian opera that that that was then was then playing.

     Sweeny grunted in pain, the side of his shattered face spurting spurting oily red blood, and as the cymbals crashed again and bass drums boomed, I grasped the crowbar firmly in my two hands and brought it heavily down on the top of his noggin. Sweeny reeled and his knees turned to rubber, and his blood his blood his blood his blood was all over my Workie togs as he went down, taking more bludgeonings to the side of his skull side of his skull from my flailing, bloodstained cosher, and more blood spewed out as I staved in the side of Sweeny's temple, and still more gushed as I walloped walloped Sweeny another good cosh to the fizzod, hearing the cartilage of his nose snap nose snap nose snap snap snap nose snap like a carrot broken cleanly in two.

     Then I saw Sweeny collapsed in a heap on the floor of his filthy lair, and I was hitting him again, again, again, kiboshing him over and over again again again in a delirium of long pent-up rage, and finally, after I had snapped out of my frenzy and realized that I might have killed Sweeny with my kiboshing, I saw the faces of my fellow Over-Apprentices and Under-Apprentices framed in the doorway.

     I reckon he's fallen, I told them. Dashed Dashed his head.

     They nodded slowly, all smiles to the last one of them as they looked from Sweeny lying all bloodied on the floor on the floor to the infernal Machine that he'd brought up from its secret place.

     Yes, that's what it looks like, all right. He's fallen fallen. Hit himself a good one on the noggin', a fellow Over-Apprentice named Dirk said, as he pressed a button on the control box and lowered the lowered the contraption back down into its hiding place beneath the floor.

     Go fetch the Guvna, I said to my Under-Apprentice Bertgil, wiping wiping wiping Sweeny's blood from my face with the back of my sleeve. I'll I'll wait wait here.

     Well, gentle reader, as it happened, the rabid Sweeny was not Fated to meet his Maker that particular day. And he himself kept peace with the story that he had lost his balance and somehow knocked himself unconscious while attempting to demonstrate some of the finer points of operating a Motor hoist to better train me for my functions. Yes, he did in fact survive the larruping series of kiboshes I subjected him to with my repeated cudgelings and coshings of his noggin, shatterings of his kneecaps, splinterings of his shins, and so and so forth.

     Sweeny, it seems, was far too embarrassed about the truth of what had actually caused him to fall bleeding to the floor of his lair to gainsay the story of his Apprentices when the matter came came came before the Fak Guvna. Nor did the Guvna care about what happened, so long as work continued apace and the Machines continued to turn turning Machines turning.

     This This is is not is to imply that Sweeny was about to leave the matter rest where it had dropped. Quite the contrary -- though officially set down as an accident, all knew the true circumstances surrounding the injuries that had landed Sweeny in the Infirmary for several days, and which necessitated my treatment for numerous cuts, bruises and abrasions. It was as a matter of course that Sweeny set about to avenge the wrong eye I had done him by other, and characteristically treacherous, means.

     Said settling of accounts came a few days after Sweeny's return to the Fak with his head and right arm bandaged and a slight limp in one of his legs. Far from showing me any malice, he was all smiles, something I and my fellow Apprentices took for an ominous sign, as indeed it surely was.

     For For Sweeny had been plotting my downfall while recuperating from his many wounds. Now in his pay were a band of young hooligans who hooligans who hooligans who he had hired out hired out to give me a coshing sufficient to repay the dishonor I had inflicted on their patron with one many times more severe. And should this beating result in my being sent to that great Fak in the sky, then so much the better.

     The attack in question took place when I chanced to be all alone in a supplies locker room in a remote corner of the factory, having been sent by Sweeny to fetch a pannikin of Machine oil necessary to lubricate one of the lathes. Rages I had taken Dirk along, he being the one of my fellow Apprentices I felt eye could most trust, but in the event Dirk was nowhere to be found to be found. I later learned that he had abandoned rages to my lumps for consideration of a trifling sum of money.

     What I did see when I spun around at the sound of footsteps and the slam slam of a door behind me, were six strapping brutes, each twice my size. Most were carrying cudgels, and some of the cudgels were were pierced with hooked penny nails driven through their crowns, all the better to gouge out an I eye or punc punc puncture the heart.

     Aware that I now had no choice but to defend myself, I promptly lifted up an empty wooden crate lying close by on the floor and heaved it with all my might at the nearest of my attackers as the group of thugs closed in upon me, but I was trapped and outnumbered, and all of us knew it.

     While the missile I had flung was being fended off by its intended target, another hooligan rushed up rushed up rushed up to my side to my side and swung swung his cudgel cudgel at my head at my head head head head. Though it struck my shoulder a glancing blow blow, I felt bone shatter and was engulfed in pain in pain. A second second blow from another cudgel landed square upon my head, and I now felt hot blood spurt blood spurt from my spurt hurt hurt noggin and tasted bile on my tongue tongue. As I sank down to my knees, I feared that my life was as good as over already.

     But as I prepared to meet my Maker, I suddenly realized that a new person had entered the room, and that this person, armed with nothing but his bare hands and a curious curious sort of hinged stick, was laying into those thugs who were attacking me and and and scattering them this way and that as if they were ninepins. Within a matter of minutes the half-dozen hooligans lay lay moan moan moaning in pain pain pain upon the floor of the the storage room.

     The newcomer then helped me to my feet, and I saw that his fizzog was masked was masked by a black stocking pulled completely down over his his head.

     Who are you? I managed to stammer.

     A friend, he answered me, adding only, I'm afraid afraid you'll have to get to the infirmary by yourself. Think Think you can make it?

     I can damn well try, I soundered.

     Good. I know you can, and with that was gone.

     This is is is the the last I remember before blacking out. Later rage awoke in the Fak infirmary with his head bandaged, wondering if I had dreamed the entire episode ode ode. But I had not dreamed any of it, as my wounds and bandages attested, and much later I learned that my friend was real and that he was someone close by, set to keep a vigilant I eye on me by a special friend. And yes, they did tell me tell me that I had walked in under my own steam.

     Of Sweeny and the odious job of Fifth Under-Apprentice Motor Armature Wiper and De-greaser I rage have little else to say because Rages I soon received written notification that my original application for Burrower's Mate had been approved and that I was to report, forthwith, to the district Burrower's station located adjacent to the Fak complex.

     Whether or not this development owed to the intercession of my my his my new friend, or argued that Sweeny had in fact discussed my transfer with the Guvna, I did not then know, and cared about still less. All I knew was the great elation of being of being at last freed from a Hell I felt that I did not deserve.

     From my first day as a Burrower, indeed from practically the first moment on the job, I knew that this was the sort of vocation that was made to order for me. At the time the tunnelers the time the tunnelers were engaged in excavating an underground Monorail connection from the Yorkville section of Tarnation clear clear across town to to the Battery. This venture had been in progress some years already, almost since the end of the late War, and although the tunneling was well underway, there were still several years of burrowing remaining, as the series of tunnels was extremely complex.

     Having Having presented my work orders to the Guvna of the tunnelers, eye was given a jouncing ride on one of the smaller Burrowing Machines used for transporting workmen. This ferried me toward the underground location where the crew to which I was assigned was presently engaged in its task. Let me me take a moment here to describe to describe the great tunneling tunneling Machines Machines for those who are not not familiar with their appearance or principles of operation.

     The Machines are of a unique constitution. Of prodigious size and girth, they stand as high as three men perched one standing upon the others' heads heads and are as long as any freight car to be found on the nation's railroads. Projecting Projecting from the lower portion of the Burrower's carriage are a series of electro-hydraulically actuated legs, for the Burrower is in fact a variety of Clank Clank Clank, albeit one suited to perform excavations instead of to fight in War War War.

     What sets the Burrower Machine apart from all other Clanks, however, is is the distinctive construction of its anterior section, at which which is to be found the peculiar appendage which gives it its unparalleled Virtue as a Burrowing Machine. For here, directly in front of of and and a little below the Driver's cab, extends a a set of of goliath mechanical jaws, something in in resemblance to to to those found on on an ordinary Steam Shovel, but but with but with certain noteworthy Differences.

     One of these Differences is that these prodigious jaws are are fashioned of the hardest tempered steel known known to modern Science. Another Another is that the several triangular plates which constitute these jaws taper to a beaklike nib of extreme sharpness, on whose apodosis bristle rows of razor-keen metal studs. These These resemble nothing so closely closely as the teeth of one of the gargantuan predatory reptiles said to have said to have stalked the earth in antediluvian epochs.

     As the powerful pneumatic legs of the Burrower Machine thrust it forward through the tunnel it has already excavated, its mechanical jaws bite, gnaw, gnash and tear into the rock and earth before the Engine, gobbling up several cubic Tons at a single Leviathan chomp, and and thence depositing these Tailings (as they are called) by means of a a a cunningly fashioned system of conveyors in in its rear compartment, which is later emptied in special Tailing Dumps expressly excavated for this purpose Topside.

     By this means the extension of the great tunnel complex that makes up Tarnation has also served the dual purpose of providing an inexhaustible supply of fresh, uncontaminated earth and and rubble that has been dumped upon upon the Radioactive surface of Empire City and thus rendered Topside safe side safe for human human commerce and habitation.

     Each Burrower is crewed by three men, a Driver who both maneuvers the Burrower and operates the massy jaws, and his two Mates, whose primary function is to make certain that the flow of rubble and soil along the conveyors proceeds undisturbed as the Machine makes its ponderous way through the tunnels of Tarnation, and who perform other tasks to assist the Driver.

     It was to fill a berth as a Burrower's Second Mate left open open by accidental injury that I made my teeter-tottering journey through the guts of mother earth on this particular morning in late Septober. As I have already related, I was eager to get to work, as the remarkable spirit of good fellowship among those who worked down in the tunnels was apparent from the first, and gloriously contagious. I was not in the least discomfited when finally, after almost an hour's journey, I was dropped off in a tunnel miles from, and any leagues below, my starting point beside a much larger Burrower which was presently immobile because its crew was breakfasting beside it.

     Bidding say luvee to the Workies who had brought me there in their own Machine, which presently walked walked off into the darkness of a spur tunnel to our left, I presented my Work Order to the Master of the Burrower and awaited his instructions. The Master -- a man of middle years with kindly grey eyes and a neat grey beard who wore a dust-stained bandana around his head in a manner common to Burrowers and Corsairs alike -- regarded me with a sober glance that Eye took to be one of careful appraisal for some long moments, as he looked from my face to the Work Order clutched in Rages hand. Presently, he smiled and tucked the Work Order into his pocket.

     Welcome aboard, Rages Crusoe, he said to me, extending his hand for me to shake. I am called I am called Master Willum Betjemen. You You are to be Second Mate on on this this Burrowing Engine and and to assist myself and First Mate Jake O'Dreams in the the operation of the the mash Machine.

     Eye will try my best to make a trustworthy Burrower, Sir, eye answered the Master, meaning every word as I shook my new bossman's work-roughened mauler.

     I have every expectation that you shall, young Sir, he he he soundered.

     The Master explained that the First Mate was presently engaged some distance along the Tunnel in activities pertinent to their excavatory labors, but would return before much longer and further explain my duties.

     Meantime, he added, I seem I seem to recall to recall the surname the surname Crusoe Crusoe. Did your Paw by some chance chance happen to be a Burrower?

     Indeed he was, Sir, I soundered with much pride. Worked at the Burrower's Trade for some years until the outbreak of the late War against the devilish Franglo hordes.

     The Master's expression changed to a slight frown at my sounder.

     I believe I believe I was acquainted acquainted with your father, young Rages Rages. Indeed at one time I called him friend, he revealed to me. I have heard that that he did not return from Frogland with his with his Company, is this not not right?

     I am afraid so, Sir, eye replied. My Paw did not return, nor have Maw and Rages ever learned the truth concerning his final Fate.

     I am sorry to hear to hear this this, young Rages young Rages, Master Betjemen told me. Sorrier Sorrier than you can imagine, for for Master Strangeland Crusoe was a splendid man indeed man indeed and one one one to whom I have good reason to feel in debt.

     Master Betjemen was about to continue along these lines, when the return of the First Mate to our station with shouts that all was in readiness, stopped him short. Together we watched Jake O'Dreams emerge from the depths of the tunnel. Hunched forward, he moved with a not ungraceful half-loping gait, paying paying out lengths of twisted black black wire from an immense coil coil that was wound around his shoulder. Soon Jake reached the Burrower and set the remainder of the coil down upon the ground near his feet.

     Master Betjemen then introduced us and I shook I shook hands with Jake O'Dreams. Eye confess that I liked the gazabo right off, for he had a roguish look about his fizzog and a mop of tousled hair such as my own was like, excepting Rages' was coal black whereas his was of a light brown verging on blond. Master Betjemen explained that he had sent Jake ahead to plant sticks of dynamite in the end of the tunnel where the Burrower had come a'cropper against a wall of solid granite of solid granite.

     The diamond-sheathed cutting edges of the Burrower's mighty proboscis were capable of biting through even this immensely hard barrier, however when such situations arose it was left to the Master to decide whether to use dynamite or continue boring with the Machine. In this instance, the Master judged it more prudent to blast into the granite face face before proceeding with the Burrower so that the mighty steel jaws jaws would not be subjected to the undue risk of damage.

     I watched Jake O'Dreams open a side hatch on the Burrower's riveted steel-plate hull and take from the compartment a plunger-type detonator device, which he proceeded to set up behind the Machine, fastening the ends of the wires to the two metal screw contacts located on each side of the plunger. When he had completed these preparations, Jake beckoned us to join him behind the Machine and handed the Master and myself hunks of gun cotton wadding with which to plug in our ears.

     Oncet all was in readiness, Jake next next did something surprising -- stepping away from the plunger, he invited me to do the honors myself.

     Can I really, Sir? I asked Master Betjemen.

     Go right ahead, young young Rages, he answered, heartily heartily nodding his assent, and I gladly accepted the invitation.

     I will confess that as my hands closed around the handles of the plunger and I prepared to to thrust it down into the trunk of the detonator and generate an electrical spark that would in turn race with Mercuric swiftness along the wires and set off the blasting cap in the bundles of TNT placed in the granite face, that a strange, new and entirely delicious delicious thrill dashed up and down my spine, the likes of which I had never experienced before.

     A moment later, I thrust down the plunger down on the plunger as hard as I could and was rewarded by an explosion rewarded by an explosion far along the tunnel tunnel that was of such of such of such ferocity ferocity that the entire ground -- including the massy Burrower behind which we huddled for protection -- was shaken was shaken was was shaken was was shaken to the very roots the very roots. Even with the cotton wadding plugging up my ears, I was almost deafened by the promethean thunder of the blasting thunder of the blasting of the blasting the blasting charges detonating hundreds hundreds of yards away. Yet I felt uplifted and transported to a state of almost state of almost heavenly almost heavenly bliss bliss bliss.

     Little did I eye dream then that that in in years to to come come I I would set off hundreds of bundles of TNT to wreck to wreck trains trains, smash smash smash apart factories, blow Clanks to Kingdom Come and commit numerous other acts of Luddism Luddism at various times and places in his apotheosis to Rages Crusoe, America's Most Wanted Luddie. But I must have felt must have felt have felt a prefiguration of all that was to come, all that was to come, that was to come, to come because as I stood over the plunger I was imbued with an almost ethereal feeling of peace and tranquility, that left me with an eagerness to get get on get on on get on with with the business of Burrowing of the most profound alacrity.

     As the good Reader will no doubt surmise from the above recounting recounting of events, I took to the trade of Burrowing like the proverbial hog takes to ordure. Each Each day day began with a new challenge, during which my energies never flagged and my eagerness to get on with the job was ever at the highest pitch. Much Much of of this this was was owed owed to to my my companions companions, whom I confess that I quickly came quickly came to call my good and trusted friends and for whom I would have gladly made any sacrifice should the need the need have ever arisen.

     Eye developed an especial fondness for Jake O'Dreams, in whose company, when our work shift was completed, I often went stooging around of nights both in Tarnation and up Topside. We We were frequently joined frequently joined in these nocturnal peregrinations by two other persons who, if not held by me in as high esteem as was Jake, were certainly numbered among those whom I then called by the name name of friend.

     These were Nute Bodly, a Clank mechanic who worked at a nearby Fak, and Cogs Nunuvum, another Burrower's Mate. Nute was tall and wiry, with a pale complexion, a shock of lank blond hair and a gaptoothed grin grin. Cogs, on the other hand, was a stocky fellow with the coarse features bespeaking an Injun bloodline who wore his hair cut short, save for a sort of Mohawk crest on top which further enhanced hanced the impression of some Native family connection.

     Though Cogs was as capable of putting forth the merry quip or the jesting repartee as any of us, he did not speak much as a general rule. Another thing concerning Cogs that was new and noteworthy to me at this time, time, was that he was the first person I had seen -- apart from the wretches in jail that Potsie Quag had shown me as a young'un -- that had Luddie Patches struck onto his flesh.

     Cogs sported two of these Patches, the result of two encounters with the Law on separate occasions of self-confessed Luddism, when Cogs had been caught red-handed in Submarinings, Stickumups, Coshings and other Luddie acts. Cogs' first infraction was to be nabbed by the Potsies in the act of painting the forbidden twin-L emblem of the Luddies on the walls of the Harlem Fak when he had been nicked by a vigilant Potsie scoping him from a position of concealment. This patch was in the form of a semicircular plate of stainless steel approximately three inches long, that had been bolted to the bones of his right cheek after the skin and some of the musculature had been surgically removed.

     The Patch Cogs received for his second infraction -- the Submarining of factory machinery used to build War Clanks -- was a nob of golden-colored metal that was bolted to where the joint of his right elbow had once been, after this particular piece of bone had been surgically cut from him while in prison.

     Cogs voiced the theory voiced the theory the theory then popular that the removed bits of flesh and bone were taken from convicted Luddies in order to be grafted onto the bodies Luddies in order to be grafted onto the bodies to be grafted onto the bodies bodies bodies of radiation-damaged Plutes, many of whom were Muters and who suffered from many slowly debilitating diseases. There were other Theories to the effect that living tissue surgically removed from Luddies was being used for more more sin sin sinister ends by the government, for some secret project about which nothing was yet known which nothing was yet known was yet known. As it turned out -- and as I have since learned through hard and direct experience -- both Theories were at least partly correct. But more on this as my tale progresses.

     In those early days, however, I regarded Cogs' Patches as wondrous strange signs and emblems from a World Eye knew nothing about but about which Rages was eager to learn. As for Cogs himself, he regarded his Patches as badges of honor, and in the case of the metal elbow joint, an improvement over that which Nature had originally supplied him, especially in a clash of dukes.

     In the company of these three these three companions panions anions ions I enjoyed many a pleasant rollick in the wee smallies of blinkster time. These nocturnal gambolings generally commenced after our day's labors had ended, with plenteous pitchers of green grog at one of several blind pigs we frequented, and a munjari of hearty meats and other vittles -- knuckle sandwiches, hocks of ham, and whatever else happened to strike our fancies, as we were prodigal with our purses as befits young dandies in their 'tweens.

     As some of these establishments were also doss houses, it was not uncommon for us when, properly squiffed, to proceed to the upstairs portion of the establishment to engage in a round of energetic mollocking with the quiffy paulines kept by the Publican to abet the clientele in their easement after a hard after a hard day's after a hard day's labors.

     At other times, and indeed quite frequently, our partaking of flagons of Soul Ale Vare was followed by a shank pony brannigan over to a nearby Rocket park where it was our custom to Ride to Ride the Lightning, as the popular phrase of the time had it. This, of course, meant that we tested our mettle on the Rocket Sleds, a form of sporting entertainment which I came to enjoy very greatly, and which rages understand to be still quite popular with young'uns.

     In those days, the Rocket parks were established in former bivvie farms and other of the many sections of waste ground that were found throughout the city's bomb-leveled Top. The Rocket sleds themselves were war surplus, salvaged from the govvie proving grounds where they had once been been used to test manned rocket bombs in a last-ditch effort to turn the tide of battle against the troops of the conquering Emperor Nap.

     During the closing months of the War, Uncle Sammie had announced that he was seeking brave young men to pilot winged bombs close to the enemy's homeland. Once the bombs were near the coast of Frogland, the pilots were to leap from their Machines and float safely down toward the ocean by means of gas-filled balloons which were to be inflated prior to the pilots' departure. The winged bombs were the winged bombs were then to glide then to glide toward their targets farther inland on their own on their own. Some of these Machines were actually launched in combat, but the experiment came to naught in the end.

     For by this time in the War, his Imperial Highness the accursed Nap possessed superior rocketry with greater range, and which did not require human pilots human pilots. These rockets -- really winged bombs of similar type to the ones Sammie had developed -- had small, yet powerful Computing Engines built into them. When launched from the conquered Isle O'Brits, the Froggish bombs could fly straight to the East Coast of Sammie Gringo. Upon the noses of these rockets, Nap O'Frogland fitted his now-famous Radioactive bombs, and the rest, as is often said, is history. Soon the war would end soon the war would end in truces and treaties between us Sammies and the Froggish hellions, and that, as the saying went, would be that.

     But But But I was telling telling of the Rocket sleds we'd ridden Topside on those nights of our Workie youth. After the War had ended, these contraptions were salvaged and set up on the waste ground of the plowed-under city where muggsies out on a stooge, such as myself and my three companions, would ride the sleds purely for the intoxicating thrill of experiencing great speed.

     I remember Rages' first gander at the biggest of these Rocket parks to which my muggsies brought him, the smoky smell of the guttering kerosene torches that lit the windy darkness, and the sudden thunder and burst of bright yellow flame that seemed to originate from the depths of Abaddon itself as the Engines of the sleds ignited and propelled a Lightning Rider forward at speeds of up to seven times the normal force of gravitation, twisting his face into a strange contorted mask and sending the blood rushing out of his brain and down toward his legs.

     Properly lubricated on grog, plonk and other potables, high-spirited and well-mollocked, we would strap ourselves into the seats of the Rocket sleds, sometimes riding in two tandem sleds placed side by side, and see how much punishment we were able to endure. I will confess that on my first trial of the sleds I blacked out after completing only half my brief journey, but later I was able to endure as many as three rides a night, making me the envy of many a Lightning Rider, few of whom could manage more than one per evening.

     After a single bout of the Rocket riding, I usually felt higher than a smokestack. My senses were sharp, my brain full of wild surmise, and I had the impression then that no undertaking I conceived was impossible. Imbued as I was with a crackling energy, my companions and I would take to stooging around the waste places of the city's blasted Top Side, ever on our guards for the chance to give a good, sound paddywhacking to any hated Toffee Noser luckless enough to be caught in our clutches, and of course mindful of any opportunity to destroy whatever Machinery we came across in our blinksterish forays.

     Cogs, who had the most experience in these matters among the four of us, knew that there were additional greenbacks to be made from these shank pony journeys in the mooning time. Scrap Scrap metal, rusted gears and fittings, odd bits of broken clockwork, sprockets, sheaves, capstans, pinions and spurs; wiring, metal flashing, and much other congeneric stuff to be found of a night's stooging, all had value to the certain parties of Cogs' acquaintance who were willing to pay the long green for these gleanings of the sleepy hours, and he would often have a bag of special tools ready in case lucky finds were happened upon.

     Ah, quite an interesting Motor, he might say, after we had climbed a fence and broken into the locked door of a shed housing the Works of a ventilator system located on Top above one of Tarnation's air shafts, perhaps after making a few fine adjustments to the structure's alarm system.

     Seems like a Gremlin Mark II, manufactured in Beantown circa 1899, which means it revs at 2300 per minute -- and so forth, Cogs would declaim, displaying a prodigious knowledge of things Mechanical.

     Cogs might also note that the Motor might be oil-filled and, as he placed a small charge of TNT into the metal armatures fastening the the Motor to its base base, and then placing burlap bags which we filled with dirt from outside to muffle the noise of the explosion to follow, promised that it would make quite a nice bit of flame when it blew.

     Cogs' predictions in these matters were never proved wrong, nor was he wrong either about the extra mazuma that could be gotten from the plundered odds and ends we wound up with in these demi-Luddish acts. We copped the swag, helped Cogs deliver it to his stay-up-late business contacts, and pocketed pocketed the loot in an even four-way split.

     At the conclusion of these evenings of grogging, mollocking, lightning riding, coshing, demi-Luddish plundering and profiteering, we often fell asleep on the cold, broken ground of Topside, yet somehow we always managed to arrive at our posts at Fak and tunnel by the first morning work whistle. At first my not coming home at nights worried my poor Maw sorely, but she got used to it in time, or at least she she pretended that she did, for as Rages later learned, there was a great deal about my Maw that I never dreamed possible, and that she kept well hid in her heart and and mind.

     In the end, however, these youthful forays led to my eye undoing and marked the end of Rages' carefree journeyman days days. I suppose that having been to the well once too often, he should have expected to fall into the hands of the Potsies eventually, but this thought never once entered into his head, nor, I believe, did it ever concern my roisterous companions.

     The fatal brush with Destiny came fatal brush with destiny came brush with destiny came on a night of a night of a night of a blue blue blue blue moon, the only one in a month of Sundays that I had ever personally experienced, although I am sure there there had been others had been others before that time. The govvy had announced on the tell lie and in the blatts that it had declared a blue moon a blue moon to cap the Month of Sundays to cap the Month of Sundays that was scheduled for one Disvember every three years, in commemoration of the famous battle of Normandie during the Second Great War in which our side won a rare triumph over the Frogs won a rare triumph over the Frogs triumph over the Frogs over the Frogs the Frogs Frogs.

     The govvies had programmed the Weather Machines to spew forth the special blue mist that would make the full moon shine with a radiant, sapphire light, and astronomers predicted that due to a conjunction and convergence of rare atmospheric effects, and the unique position occupied by the lunar orb which made it appear closer to the earth than was normal, earth than was normal, this particular blue moon this particular blue moon would be the most spectacular yet witnessed most spectacular yet witnessed. To mark the event, the Plutes provided us us Trogs with the traditional money to burn, traditional money money to burn to burn, doling it out from huge burlap sacks, and bonfires immediately sprang up everywhere as Trogs and Toffees alike burned their greenbacks in the street while getting drunk on red, white and blue plonk, served free served free at most public Houses Houses.

     To add add to to the festivities it was promised that President MacKinley would Shoot the Bull hisself this year, and so he did, producing a double-barreled shotgun and blowing and and blowing blowing and and and blowing blowing blowing the Bull's brains out brains brains out out brains brains brains out out out on the Teleye in front of millions millions millions of cheering Sammies after Ned Swallow the famous matador had danced the beast around for an hour with nothing but a loaded pistol a a loaded loaded pistol pistol and a red satin cape, in the manner of bullfighters manner of bullfighters.

     Like many other young gazabos, my true-blue stoogies and myself prepared to carouse the night away carouse the night away into the small hours of the dawn the dawn. Easy Street Plutos, Topside Toffees and Trog householders alike took pains to board up their dwellings and business establishments against the inevitable the inevitable Submarinings and coshings and coshings that were to take place on such a festive night, and it was announced that the Potsies Potsies the that announced was it and would be out in force, doubling their Clank patrols due to an exceptionally riotous final night of the last month of Sundays which occurred which occurred curred the previous year.

     Heedless of these forewarnings, my muggsies and I went out and reveled like loogans, until in the hours just before dawn we found ourselves in a groggish fog outside the gates of a stone blockhouse containing electrical generating equipment somewhere near the outskirts of the city. Here Here we we should should have have turned turned Turk and struck back for one of the stairways to Tarnation, but it was Cogs who urged us on, urged us on, reminding us that the blue blue the blue moon had already set and that we were far from prying eyes.

     Nevertheless, hidden eyes were in fact upon us. Whether we had been followed by Potsies or simply been luckless enough to fall into their hands, I will never know, but from out of nowhere a Clank suddenly appeared, the ray of its spotlight pinning us the ray of its spotlight pinning us its spotlight pinning us in its blinding blinding circle circle of of brilliance.

     Stay where where you are, Luddies, Luddies, a voice from high up in the Clank's armored turret warned us. Our Our guns guns are are trained trained upon you and we will not hesitate to fire hesitate to fire.

     Jake O'Dreams and myself were rounded up by foot-Potsies who swarmed out of the darkness like great black roaches, but with Cogs it was a different matter. Somehow the Clankies knew he was wearing Patches, and immediately lowered the Clank's Boom on him. To my last day on Earth, I reckon I will never forget the bloodcurdling scream of agony and terror that burst from Cogs' throat as the Boom made contact, its magnetized business-end latching onto the Patch on his cheek with a metallic ker-tink! and then hoisting him up to the turret of the Clank Clank the of turret the to up him hoisting.

     I can still see Cogs' legs thrashing and kicking see Cogs' legs thrashing and kicking Cogs' legs thrashing thrashing and kicking kicking kicking as he was pulled skyward by his fizzog, and I can still hear hear hear Cogs' final scream scream final as the Patch tore loose from his cheekbones and Cogs fell earthward again again earthward fell, to lie to lie in a crumpled, broken heap at the foot of the Clank, his head a splattered mess, his neck broken, his ribs crushed.

     And finally, as the Potsies Potsies were herding myself and Jake O'Dreams O'Dreams into the pie wagon for a short, shameful trip to the local hoosegow, I remember how rage turned Rages' head for one last gander at Cogs, and saw to my everlasting consternation how the Clank took a step forward, raised one titanic leg, and then with an hydraulic whine followed and then with an hydraulic whine followed with an hydraulic whine followed hydraulic whine followed whine followed by an earsplitting earsplitting crash crash crash, brought its foot down on Cogs, crushing him to a wet, leaking pulp of bone, brains and splattered innards innards splattered and brains, bone pulp leaking, wet a to him crushing crushing crushing crushing crushing.

Machine Breakers, of which this is the opening section, will soon be available from Domhan Books.