(Brand new twins, Find the Lady, Afternoon tea, and The peril of a bad match)
Iris could tell that the Admiral had crept back to listen in. The arrogant fellow was in for a boring afternoon, because all he could hear was the Colonel lecturing her about his intentions for his machines. Her rare contributions to what passed for conversation were variations on "This one?" or, "Here."
At least she had the chance to keep it mostly neat as she went. Colonel Walter had an amazing blindness to convenience when he had his mind on creating. There was another, silver head waiting on the bench where Rabbit's once sat. Also going through the same worrying paroxysms that Rabbit's copper head had.
Apart from their metal skins, both heads were identical. And, she had to note, very similar to the Colonel's.
His own face was likely easy to study, after all.
Rabbit the copper head became Rabbit the clockwork torso with alarming speed. It even tested the potential of its new arms and legs as Colonel Walter attached them. And, in only a few hours, it became Rabbit the metal man.
Colonel Walter had Rabbit hold a suspended hook in order to help the automaton shakily stand. "There," he cooed, "You work on walking, Rabbit. I will put the other one together."
Iris spared a moment to find the Admiral just outside the lab and whispered, "You're not missing anything. Shoo!" And, because he was the master of the house and dictator of her fate, added, "Please. Sor."
He said, "Keep that Paddy accent under wraps," before he fled.
Colonel Walter hadn't even noticed her temporary absence. He was far too busy gathering silver-toned automaton parts and dancing around Rabbit.
This secondary machine had no other name but Unit Two, and the handsome silver head had yet to be joined with its peculiar power source. A blue matter core. Both the head and the core had been 'fed' the same information as Rabbit. Iris didn't fathom how it could work, but Rabbit was clear evidence that it did.
Unit Two came together just as quickly as Rabbit had. But its activation was the first that Iris got to witness. Colonel Walter flicked a switch and the automaton began to thrum.
The gentle purr of boiling water rose with the quiet click of clockwork. Silver eyelids fluttered. Bellows inside a metal chest rose and fell like lungs.
Rabbit got in the way as Unit Two opened his blue eyes.
"Hello brother," cheered Rabbit. "I Rabbit. Here Pappy."
Unit Two opened his silver mouth, releasing a great gout of steam and an alarming drool of black oil that spilled to the floor.
"Whoops," said the Colonel. "Just a few tweaks needed. Don't fret, it's all right now. Ooh, that boiler's hotter than it should be... Just a moment..."
Iris stepped back, letting Colonel Walter dance about. Transferring Rabbit to the support of a bench. Hauling the new automaton up into a seated position so he could add a frightening array of pipes to the poor thing's back.
He was a whirlwind and he was kicking up twice as much mess in his frenzy of creation. All Iris could really do was keep his tools roughly in order until he ran out of his frenetic energy.
Something that fortunately occurred two hours past lunchtime. After Rabbit had mastered walking, mastered a form of benevolent interference, and had inadvertently caused the newest automaton to gain the name of The Spine.
Colonel Walter seemed determined to finish all four of his projected quartet at once. Despite numerous distractions concerning which one was meant to be a metal lady. Iris finally managed to lure him away from yet another human-shaped automaton with the promise of food in the kitchen.
And by that time, Mrs Cambridge had come looking for her.
Instant relief combined with a very rapid examination to ensure that nothing untoward had occurred. Mrs Cambridge immediately added, "Miss Iris... Is all well?"
"I'm fine, Mrs Cambridge. I got roped into helping Colonel Walter with his," she looked back at the nervous, new creations following them like scared little ducklings. Giant, metal ducklings each easily four times the mass of a human. "Creations," she finally allowed.
Both gigantic mechanical babies had taken to chittering at each other like birds. Part of their musical programming coming to the fore, Colonel Walter assured her. He was excited by her theory that it was a language. But that theory would have to wait.
"The Admiral wants you downstairs for afternoon tea," said Mrs Cambridge. "He said something about finding a decent match."
Right when Colonel Walter was at his least likely to argue about much, Iris realised. The Admiral didn't get his rank by paying for the privilege, it seemed. Iris knew without a doubt that the Admiral had selected a weak-willed little debutant without a thought of her own. The kind of girl who would suffer daily under the Admiral's rule. Make that, reign of terror.
Iris quickly formulated a plan to rescue this unknown damsel in unwitting distress. "He can't leave these creations alone... not now," she said. "They need him."
"Quite right, quite right," Colonel Walter said with evident weariness. "Can't leave the babies alone."
In that moment, Iris and Mrs Cambridge shared identical looks at each other and identical smirks as they shared the exact same wicked idea.
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