The wall on which the prophets wrote, is cracking at the seams
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"Smoke and debris dead-ahead!"

A boy hollered his warning from the bridge of the COM Brigham Young. The gargantuan cogwork landship roared ahead under a blanket of smog belched from the bronze cylinders on its aft. "Outside of that shoddy township, northward," he continued.

"Doubtless, the whirlwind rings match none other than that of an Ophanim," tutted Ernest, quickly making inputs on his cogitator. He spoke into another speaker: "Tell the indentured and the coloreds they won't receive a moment's rest from piling coal into the hearth until we reach our destination. Alert Father Maxwell and standby for further orders."

The desert sands were assailed by the industrial clash of steel rubbing steel. Boulders shivered, cacti collapsed; the tar-black trackwheels of the Brigham Young made flat all obstacles in its wake. Its bowsprite's basin was a silver bust of Saint Bumaro. Stainglass windows lined the auburn hull on each side of the ship. Atop its stern loomed a porcelain temple trimmed in gold edifices, cherubs, crosses, and tubes. Four grand steeples scratched the skyline.

Below the stern, a chorus of praise broke out. "God is here," a nun sang. "Praise be, God is actually here," a former veteran stammered. Uproarious laughter, crying, and prayer erupted in the crew's quarters from Father Maxwell's Fellowship of the Broken God. When the hummercoms broadcasted gospel music, they fell to their knees and wept. For Mekhane's divine intervention led them away from the Fires of Baltimore, the naysayers in the Cogwork Orthodoxy, and the violent grudges of the Old World — into the arms of His holy framework.

Charles entered through the vault door separating the hallway from the dimly lit room Ernest had sequestered himself to. Ernest had been busy relaying messages to the boy stationed on the Crow's Nest. He jotted notes using a typing interface perpendicular to a bright green display.

Charles tapped on Ernest's shoulder with his good hand. It creaked like a small scrapheap; several fingers were still missing at the nubs. "Been a long time since I saw the ole' pipe organ used for anything else than decoration. Everyone's dancing, hollar'n, sing'n to the Lord," Charles said, his smile wide and toothsome. Hardened black grease stains cracked from his cheeks, of which sprinkled his cup of piping hot black coffee before he took a sip.

Ernest turned off the modified gramophone. "None the wiser to our political shimmy-shammy and jury-rigging of supplies," he grunted, brandishing the silver of his sidearm from his hip. Charles nodded in silent solidarity. Ernest went on, "Funniest thing is, the shepherd did all the leg-work to convince those thirsty bastards to join us." He produced a leaflet stamped in orange from his pocket, then tapped on the regulations that forbade prostitution and alcohol.

"Faithful as his flock is… our fellows ain't got a brain cell to 'em when it comes to making money. Real shame, that is." Charles took another sip of his coffee. He looked out of the half-opened window and peered at the cloudless blue skies. "Praise be to Fortuna. We lucky enough, we won't need to share wit the lot of 'em. You and me come outta this rich as Rockefellers."

"Praise be to Fortuna," Ernest said in a low baritone. Several of his dainty limb extensions, reaching out from his spine, lingered over dials. Their pincer tips rotated nozzles and flicked switches. This prompted screens to flicker on images of the Ophanim's trajectory and sightings from months prior.

Maps, logs, and letters scattered on Ernest's desk did not mark the destination of the holy artifact as either a town or an outpost. It was unknown territory. Which suited both entrepreneurs just fine. Sharing wasn't in their nature. Charles looked towards the sand below; his shovel-hand itched. While Ernest read a missive he intercepted with the words "BEWARE: Ion & Sons Housing" made out on the header.

"Father Maxwell! Oh, Father Maxwell!" chirped Margarette, fumbling through the temple's front doors with renewed vigor. Nothing truly rekindled the woman's prosthetic eyes quite like making landfall near God.

The room's oil lamps were barely lit. Sprawling brown pipes, whirring steam exhausts, and deteriorating copper cables led to the rosewood aisles, which led further to a heavy duty combustion engine that acted as a religious altar. A tall, modestly dressed man in a bespoke black suit stood by it, reading the Holy Script by diesel light. To his flock, he was an Atlus shouldering the burdens of flesh and metal with the cadence of a songbird.

John Maxwell turned towards her and spoke, "Under Clockwork Skies, Sister Margarette. What on Earth are you doing here?"

"Under Clockwork Skies! I, I know, and I—" Margarette stuttered.

"— without bringing me your world-famous spearmint tea!" Maxwell chimed as he strode to her. The two embraced each other. Maxwell leaned in and kissed the sides of her cheeks, pulled back and said, "Even with your new face, your temperament and blush show kindly."

"Oh, Father," chortled Margarette, feigning a light slap to his shoulder. She was still tender from the surgery that blessed her with a ceramic mask. The nuts and bolts pinning her cranium chafed at times. Her charred black wounds still needed constant medication. Sometimes, and only when applying fresh bandage wraps over her non-mechanized skin, she saw the burning General Goods store appear from her dressing mirror. Black and pink bodies. Husband and child. Screaming and scratching. Then, what scared her the most. The long silence.

Baltimore was dead. The Church was all she had, and Maxwell's touch made her light as air. Light enough to escape her mind, momentarily.

"Did you make the necessary arrangements I asked for yesterday?" Maxwell said, folding his arms.

"Five autocannon wagons, fifteen Union riflemen, several semi-operational Anderson silicate steeds, and twenty untrained Scribes from our own fellowship - all augmented," Margarette recited from her small clipboard. "Though," she continued, "MC&D Railroads don't have a census on this place."

"Free real-estate," Maxwell replied, shrugging optimistically. He walked towards the umbrella rack near the front entrance containing his rifle and slung it over his shoulder.

"Father, it would be difficult to set up monetary means for our survival. No towns, no companies, nothing for miles around."

"The first hammers strike the pillars to shape, Sister."

"Nary a peep out there," Margarette said, folding her shoulders. She shook her head and murmured, "what if the town was raided? By Scarlett Shoshone, no less! Or worse, the Devourer's snatchers might have stolen away with all the good folk already."

"We will endure, Sister." Maxwell turned the door handle and opened the door to a roaring crowd. His arms outstretched as if embracing them all.

"Lord, Mekhane Almighty!" he bellowed, declaring to the very heavens. "I see all of you have heard the good news, brought to you by our esteemed navigator, Brother Ernest."

He nodded to Ernest who stood below the rafters on the left. He took off his straw-hat with a deft augmented limb and bowed.

"By the day's end, we will witness the body of Christ not seen since the First Augmentation, nor since Maksur's Dusk." Maxwell said, gesturing his hands to accentuate the latter words.

"I swear to all godfearing Children of Amoni that today we will claim our birthright, our truth, and our God!"

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