The Dopes came. We died. All the while the horror of the rite went on, swirling and reflecting off the gold leafed walls, not a cultist in sight. Peterson’s eyes stayed open and blinking. Steam-links were threaded into his still-quivering muscles, crimped through incisions into his bones; pistons and cylinders shoved up inside the empty cavity of his body, bolted to drillings in his bones. His boiler went in. All the steam plumbing was connected up. A flurry of mechanical arms and hands, like the limbs of a spider all converging on him, and all the while his eyes were open, and his mouth still moving. Muscles in his chest squirmed, still trying to breathe. To scream. To watch, he might have been a man in crisis with a lover, from his expression. Perhaps he’d come to like the pain. Perhaps it wasn’t so different. The rite does things like that.
We fought on. Hudak was dragged away and shrieked, clinging to Johnston and Foster’s ankles until Foster had the sense to shoot him.
“I’m dry!” Morse yelled. “God damn it, I’m dry!” He wasn’t the only one.
“Draw pistols!” I told the men. I caught Williams’ eye. He knew what I meant. “Save the last round for yourself.”