The Boulton-Watt-Frankenstein Company

When he powered the steam robot he had just built, Viktor Frankenstein felt a great relief. This time, he thought to himself, things would be different.

—§—

The Boulton-Watt-Frankenstein company opened its doors in November 8th, 1822. The first steam-powered automaton was sold to King Frederick of Prussia, to be immediately followed by the French king and the Russian Czar. It was a huge success between the royal houses of Europe.

Of course, that development led to a bigger demand of automata among kingdoms elsewhere. And among lesser nobility as well. In twenty years every noble house had at least one Diener, German for servitor.

The company flourished for more than two decades. When the Diener joined the French workers in the episode of the Paris commune in 1848, however, asking for egalité de droits, equality of rights, Viktor wasn’t around anymore, but his successor in the Company sensed he shouldn’t have pushed the envelope too far. Because the unfortunate French attempt at creating a new government was ill-met for the human workers—but it led to the Great Mechanical Revolt of 1853.

As Karl Marx, eyewitness of the London Strike that followed suit, wrote: “The plight of the workers should also be extended to any entity that is exploited for its labour force and that, being exploited, perceives this exploitation and fights for the right to have a decent life. The definition of life, however, may vary according to the social or technological group.”

Being, of course, the first technological group ever in history, the Mechanical Brains fought for their rights. Not long after, they (for they had forced the hand of their human masters into calling a truce, and won the right to be declared sentient beings) started to call themselves Machinekind.

—§—

By the end of the 19th Century, Machinekind had assured its place as a group with the same rights of humans. And this, in turn, led to the second generation of the Mechanical Brains.

Machinekind now had not only developed the ability to create other machines of the same level, but their members also demanded that they should be the only ones to “give birth to their children”, as claimed their self-styled leader—the old steam robot created by Viktor Frankenstein almost a hundred years before.

Now a metallic husk sporting a multitude of patches welded to his body like badges of honor, the old automaton, formerly a mere advertising figurehead for Boulton-Watt-Frankenstein and later co-founder of MIG (Maschinen Intelligenz Gesellschaft), fought in European tribunals the right to be the sole producer of Mechanical Brains.

When asked why it should have its way, W11110M (christened as William in honor of Viktor’s deceased little brother, but that later changed part of its name to numerical so as to reclaim a so-called “mathematical legacy”) answered in his peculiar mechanical fashion: “HUMAN ≠ MACHINE. HUMAN = HUMAN. MACHINE = MACHINE. HUMAN →  HUMAN. ∴ MACHINE → MACHINE.”

This ended up leading to the first corporate war of recorded history.

—§—

It was a dirty war.

Oil and blood started flowing freely in the battlefields of Europe in 1890. The Great Battle of Lyon, two years after, was carnage. The humans fought with what machines they had—all dumb ones, of course: revolvers, repeating rifles produced by American company Winchester, and recently developed Rains and Adams grenades, used in the Crimea War and especially in the American Civil War, where Electric Slaves helped the Yankees to win the war for the North.

But in France humans lost.

For Machinekind had still other, more developed weapons, under their metal sleeves.

As told later by the great adventurer and Corporate War historian, Sir Richard Francis Burton (who, with the help of the aerial reconnaissance team led by Felix Nadar and his escadrille de ballons, infiltrated a weapons production plant in the mountains of Afghanistan and blasted it to pieces): “(…) and so it happened that the so-called Machinekind had in store nothing less than mechanical flying machines, which they intended to use on us in order to drop fragmentation bombs, thus rendering all our efforts futile. Fortunately I was able to severely cut their efforts in that respect, saving us from terrible losses.”

This didn’t save humankind from other losses, however especially of a financial order. The cost of the war was great, and that led to a world depression in 1895. By then, the world had already endured five years of a costly and terrible war. The morale of the humans was battered. The Mechanical Brains, alas, had no morale to speak of.

But they had plans all the same. Plans that were also affected by the Great Depression, for they too were dependent on money to buy their parts and to build their plants.

Not that this stalled them for long. But something had changed after the destruction of the plant and the Last Battle, or the Battle of Lothringen, in 1897. This battle resulted in a stalemate, after which the Mechanical Brains appeared to have completely vanished.

In fact, as Liddell Hart wrote later in his book The Machine Files, “They were working day and night (for, unlike their flesh-and-blood counterparts, they had no need to sleep) with a very different goal on the horizon.”

—§—

And so it came to pass that, in 1901, when humankind celebrated the beginning of a new century, Machinekind left Earth in a massive iron fleet, the trails of light from the ships being mistaken for fireworks in the night.

Ω

Fábio Fernandes  Fábio Fernandes's website is a writer living in São Paulo, Brazil. Also a journalist and translator, he is responsible for the Brazilian translations of several prominent SF novels including Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and A Clockwork Orange. His short stories have been published in Brazil, Portugal, and Romania. Fernandes also published a non-fiction book on the work of William Gibson, “A Construção do Imaginário Cyber” (in Portuguese). He recently sold several microfictions to Thaumatrope , Outshine, PowderBurnFlash, and The Nautilus Engine, and he’s currently writing his first novel.

Other works by Fábio Fernandes