The Assembler

Chapter 36 - Desperate Men

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

The nap had done not only Ned considerable good, but the time had helped Richard Ainsworth recover from the not entirely unkind ministrations of the physician. His eyes looked clear when he opened them and regarded Ned.

Ned, for his part, was already pondering his next move. He got up and got the both of them drinks, to better the pondering.

“We daren’t go by my father’s townhouse,” Richard muttered, thinking out loud as he took his drink, his own mind clearly in sync with Ned’s.

“My mother might still be there,” Ned replied his voice harsh and unyielding. “We’ve got to.”

“I doubt it,” Richard replied. “By now Scotland Yard will have discovered that factory was owned by my father and will already have gone through the townhouse top to bottom. She’ll be gone from there, either moved by my father before the demonstration began, escaped on her own, or Scotland Yard will have her. So, the question becomes, just where do we look for her? Assuming she’s out on her own, where would she go?”

Ned frowned. “I can think of several friends, and I’ll check with them. But truly, I doubt Scotland Yard, if they found her at the townhouse, would just let her walk off. Surely not before they make certain they have your father, her kidnapper, in custody.” He sighed. He was going to have to trust Chief Inspector Rory.

Rory had told him he didn’t want Ned hung for treason and that the government did not either. Now seemed the time to test that theory.

“I’m rather surprised the Yard hasn't been here looking for you, Richard,” Ned said aloud as they considered their own options “Or perhaps checking to see if you were sheltering your father here,” Ned pointed out.

Richard smiled wryly.”That would be because I don’t advertise this place with much of anyone. Father doesn't even know of its existence. Oh, he might guess, but I’ve taken considerable pains to keep him from finding it. I’d rather he knew less rather than more of my own work.”

Ned thought he heard a slight noise and then turned, looking over toward the door to the main hall. “Not pains enough, apparently,” was what he said.

Nathan Ainsworth, looking like he’d been through hell and back, his clothing torn and filthy, his face bruised and a cut above his eyebrow still seeping blood, stood in the open doorway. He held a weapon that was leveled at Ned.

“Father,” Richard said, his voice gone hoarse.

“Yes. Your father. Your own flesh and blood, the man who helped create you. Whom, apparently, you now are quite willing to betray,” Nathan replied. The gun wavered from Ned to Richard and back again.

“Betray? Don’t be absurd. Should I have remained in that inferno?” Richard demanded. “Would that have proven my loyalty to you, me burning to death? Besides, it was Ned who got us out of there. I was mostly unconscious at the time.” He looked pointedly at the bandage on his shoulder.

Ned, listening to what was being said, and what wasn't, his mind going a mile a minute as he struggled to think his way out of this, accepted the cue Richard had tossed him. “Yes. You don't know nearly as much about me and my machine as you think you do, Ainsworth. My Assembler does a bit more than just decode things.”

“So it would seem,” Ainsworth replied heavily. He looked suspiciously from Ned to Richard and back again. But that he wanted the Assembler to be worth even more than he now thought it was, made him greedy. “Where is it?” Ainsworth demanded. “You managed to get it out of there undamaged?”

“I did indeed get it out of there. I’m not yet certain if it’s damaged, or, if it is, how badly damaged it may be, but whatever ill befell it, I can repair it,” Ned replied. He was hoping if he distracted or upset Nathan enough, Richard might have the means and the will to act. Although once again he was trusting someone he had little actual reason to trust. After all, he was expecting the man to betray his own father. Yet another leap of faith, and apparently his life depended on this one too.

“I dare say Scotland Yard Special Branch are looking for you, Father. Your best bet is to get out of the country as quickly and quietly as you can manage it.” Richard was clearly doing his best to sound reasonable and practical.

“And you think you’ll be left alone? That if you stay in England you’ll just...” Nathan hissed at his son. “They’ll lock you up as well if they get their hands on you.”

“Perhaps,” Richard conceded. “Regardless, I’m not running.”

“Nor am I. Not without Black and his infernal machine, at any rate,” Ainsworth turned his back on his son. His eyes narrowed, hatred blooming on his face as he turned his full attention on Ned.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Ned replied quietly. He stood and met Nathan Ainsworth’s eyes unflinchingly. They were, Ned noted, the eyes of a desperate man. The most dangerous kind of man. Nathan Ainsworth had nothing to lose at this point and would gamble everything on the one straw left for him to grasp. Alas, that Ned and his machine were that straw.

Richard, with a grunt, stood too. “Father. Stop. It’s over.”

“Never!” Nathan Ainsworth shouted. “I can get him, at least, out of the country with me. There's more than one country that would pay dearly to have the designer of The Assembler. They’d protect us there,” Ainsworth replied.

“Perhaps. But I’m not going with you and I won't let you take Ned.” Richard moved to stand between his father and Ned.

“You’ve always been such a fool, Richard. You never understood life, and how to take what you wanted. You’ll always be a worthless dreamer. Whereas I needed a son with courage and vision. A practical man with sense enough to keep his eyes firmly on the prize.”

“Bloody hell but you’re blind,” Ned interjected. “Your son is brilliant, and he has plenty of vision and even more courage. He said he’s not going with you. Nor am I. Kill me here and now, or leave whilst you still can. There is no way in this world you alone can take me anywhere I do not want to go.”

“Oh, I assure you there is,” Nathan replied and fired his weapon.


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