“Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal – you sockdologizing old man-trap.”
President Lincoln, his wife, and their guests roared with laughter, along with the rest of the theater. Just then, a man burst into their booth. “Mister President!”
Major Rathbone, though startled, reacted first. “What’s the meaning of this?”
President Lincoln held up a hand to Henry Rathbone, stalling any further outburst long enough to say, “Major Rathbone, this is one of my men. He serves me in secret, as part of an agency that I have only today signed the legislation for. They are not officially commissioned yet. Heironymous? What is your news?”
“Mister President, an attempt on your life has been stopped, but I don’t know by whom!”
“What?” gasped Mrs. Lincoln.
“Oh!” declared Clara, Henry’s fiancé.
Lincoln raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean you don’t know by whom? It wasn’t your men?”
“My men are not capable of what I found, sir. Two bodies, suspended in the alley from their ankles, and…” Heironymous looked at the women apologetically, but continued, “…and they were skinned, sir.”
Clara fainted at this news. “Clara!” Major Rathbone caught her before she could fall out of her chair, and was sitting her up when another man burst into the booth.
“Why! It’s John Booth!” Mary Lincoln said quickly, recognizing the actor before he could even raise his gun.
Heironymous moved faster, inserting himself between the President and Booth. As Booth swung the gun upwards, he yelled, “Sic seemper tyrannis,” but the agent clamped his fist around the end of the barrel, muffling the shot so that it was barely heard in the theater below.
Wrenching the gun from the stunned actor’s grip, he displayed the bullet, which had never left his hand, shifting the pistol to his free hand. With a frightful gleam in his eye, he grabbed Booth by the lapels and said, “That’s not the right kind of weapon to use againstme.” He was about to hit Booth, when he noticed three red dots, forming a triangle, moving across the would-be assassin’s shoulder, towards his neck.
Puzzled, Heironymous said, “What the devil,” and reached out to brush them away, only to see them on the back of his hand. Before he could wonder any further about them, an odd, animal-like growl caught his attention, and he spun around, looking into a dark corner of the President’s booth. A light flashed from the area, and Heironymous was staggered back into Booth, knocking him against the wall, where the would-be assassin slumped to the floor, unconscious.
The light and noise panicked the theater goers. Not knowing what else it could be, someone yelled, “Fire!” and the crowd began to bolt for the doors.
The agent regained his feet quickly, a large hole in the front of his suit, singed and smoking, but his chest only slightly scorched. Mary and Clara gasped in astonishment, while Rathbone protested, “My God, man! What are you?”
Heironymous’ only answer was, “Major Rathbone, get the President and the women out of here! We’re not alone!”
Rathbone looked around quickly, “What? Where…?”
Heironymous, still peering into the dark corner of the booth, replied, “I can see in the dark. Go. Get them out.”
The President stood immediately, helping Mary up, holding her firmly by one arm, and said, “Come, Mary.” Eyeing Rathbone, he said, “Major, if you please.” Rathbone gathered Clara in similar fashion, and they started for the door, Rathbone in the lead, to make sure the way was clear. Heironymous continued scanning the dark corner of the booth as another growl came from the darkness.
Lincoln was in the back of the group, keeping the women between him and Major Rathbone. Before he could get out of the room, a bright blue halo of light shimmered into view behind him, and what appeared to be two skeletons, shining like highly polished swords, stepped out of the light. One scanned the room, and detecting the beast in the corner, moved that way, as the other one stepped towards the President, its fist turning into a blade. It shouted “Sic semper tyrannis,” and thrust the blade part way into Lincoln’s shoulder.
Heironymous moved then, quickly grabbing the attacker and yanking it backwards, ripping the blade out of the President’s wound. He punched the skeletal attacker in the face, bringing a metallic clank, but no dent. He shouted, “Rathbone! Go! Get them out!” and Rathbone hurried the horrified women away. The monster and the agent began trading punches then, neither blade nor blows having much effect for either of them.
The second attacker was blasted by the same powerful light that had struck the agent, and its left arm dangled loosely from its shoulder. Its right hand formed into a blade, and it punched at the wall, a loud thunk like an axe chopping a tree, as the blade sank into the wall. What seemed like small streaks of lightning arced back and forth then, and the beast came into full view, the mechanical attacker’s blade revealed to have struck just above the beast’s shoulder, damaging a mask that it wore. The beast removed the mask, unveiling a face more animal than man, a pair of mandibles on either side of its mouth. Two blades extended from each of the beast’s wrist gauntlets, and it roared at the metal attacker, the mandibles flexing wide as it did so.
The steel skeleton wrenched the blade from the wall, swung backwards, and then swung forward at the beast again. The beast moved swiftly, parrying the blade to one side, and causing the attacker to stumble closer, so they were face-to-face. The beast regarded its one armed attacker for a moment, and Heironymous, still fighting the other attacker, heard an odd, distorted voice say, “Not the right kind of weapon to use against me.” Something moved on its shoulder, and that strange light flashed again, blowing a hole in the skeleton’s chest. The metal form slackened a bit, and the beast moved swiftly, bringing up its right hand and cutting off its opponent’s good arm. It slashed again, several times, kicked at the thing’s midsection, and it fell over backwards.
The beast threw its head back and roared. Then it stepped forward, looking down on its metal adversary. The beast cocked its head to one side, giving that low growl as it assessed its victim. Then it reached down with one hand, yanked the skull one way, then the other, and ripped it free of the body. The red embers in the skull’s eyes flickered out. The beast looked at the skull for a moment, and then dropped it into a net bag that hung from its belt.
The skeletal thing fighting Heironymous seemed to sense the demise of its twin, and tried to turn away from the agent to the beast. Heironymous punched it in the back of the head, causing it to stagger forward, and regained its attention. As it spun to face him once again, Heironymous inhaled sharply, and breathed flame at the metal monster, accompanied by a roar to rival that of the beast on the other side of the room. The mechanical assassin staggered back from the flame, and parts of it could be seen beginning to melt, even as the walls and chairs of the booth began to catch flame. It stumbled away from the flames, then ran towards the President, leaning heavily against the door jamb, his hand clutching at his wounded shoulder. It leaped at the President, a blue halo forming around it again, and before Heironymous could react, both were gone in a flash of blue light.
Booth had come to on the floor, and groped for the gun that lay nearby, dropped when the agent began fighting the monster. He lifted it towards Heironymous, but a heavy boot came down on his arm, pinning it to the floor. He looked up to see the beast’s mandibles flex, as it growled low. Booth was frozen in fear as the beast, in a voice that sounded like his own, but distorted, said, “Sic semper tyrannis.” Booth managed a short scream before the beast stomped on his head. Pulling a vile from his belt, he poured part of the contents over Booth’s body, dissolving it to nothing before Heironymous’ eyes.
“Wait. This is what you want me to tell the Special Investigations Committee? That Honest Abe Lincoln was attacked by an alien, and abducted by a time travelling robot? None of which were found at the site of this assassination attempt. Here, do you mind?” The man handed Heironymous a cigar, and the agent breathed on the tip, lighting it. “I’m parked another block up.”
“No, agent Gyrich, I want you to tell them the same thing I did, nearly one-hundred-fifty years ago: that President Lincoln died in his sleep, twenty years later.”
“And how did you pull that off, pray tell?” asked Gyrich, puffing on his cigar.
“We did our job, new though it was. We put out a cover story that Mary’s health was failing, due to the shock of the attempt on Lincoln’s life, and that the President resigned his office to be with her. His Vice-President, Andrew Johnson, took office, the Secret Service was officially commissioned a few months later, and we continued to look for Lincoln. He and the robot reappeared twenty years later – the robot too damaged to make it back to the future. The President lost a great deal of blood from the robot’s blade, was further stressed by the time travel, and he died due to the complications from his wound. We amended that to ‘died peacefully in his sleep,’ for the official public notice.”
Gyrich stopped and faced Heironymous. “Uh-huh. You’re skipping something though. What happened to the other robot?”
“We buried it in a secret grave after the fire was put out.”
“Why would they attack Lincoln?”
“If they could kill him and help ensure a Southern victory, and a continuation of slavery, half of their job would be done for them in the future.”
Gyrich pursed his lips, nodded tightly. “And this ‘beast?’”
“Turned invisible and escaped.”
“Come on,” said Gyrich skeptically.
“What do you want, Henry? It was 1865. We’d never seen that before.”
“Okay.” They continued walking, and turned into a parking garage. “And what about the two skinned bodies you mentioned?”
Heironymous stopped this time, and Gyrich turned back to look at him. The agent smirked. “Well, a dragon’s got to eat.”
Henry grimaced. “Really? That’s disgusting.” Turning to continue towards his car, he said, “The Committee isn’t going to like this story.”
“The robots and the aliens have shown up in Los Angeles on three different occasions, as well as in Central America. They would adjust, but Henry, they really shouldn’t hear about this.”
“I don’t have a choice, Heironymous! I’m duty bound to tell them!”
“And I’m duty bound to keep it a secret.”
Heironymous sighed. “A dragon’s got to eat.”
Henry Peter Gyrich’s screams echoed throughout the parking deck, followed by a roar, and then nothing.