Archibald Aloysius Holden

White Knights, plain old good guys, folks who take charge and want to take the city's problems in hand altruistically are a natural fit for this section.

Archibald Aloysius Holden

Postby IamLEAM1983 » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:50 pm

Name: Archibald Aloysius Holden
Age: 234 years old
Gender: male
Species: Naughton AS-1 Armature

Strengths: spy, gentleman, assassin, thief, political advisor, socialite and adventurer; Archie is all those things, and maybe a little more. Before his armature is even taken into account, the crux of who he is and what he does depends on both his upbringing, his training, and his natural inclinations.

On the surface, he very much seems like a relic from the Victorian Era. Composed, tactful, considerate, selfless and mindful of manners and of a proper gentleman's place in the world, he packs just about every facet of the wordly Colonial and Imperial citizen, except perhaps for the casual bigotry and the disregard for other cultures. This leaves him with an almost faultlessly pleasant demeanour that allows him to slip in and out of just about any circumstance without ruffling feathers, and gives him ample room and leisure to make any necessary observations or reports. He keeps his cool when others can't, and excels at drowning out his own feelings if the circumstances don't call for a more earnest approach. If a modicum of emotional strength is needed in harrowing situations, you can count on him and his British phlegm to provide it.

He's a spotless judge of character, has highly developed observational skills, and generally seems to be one of these people who has the uncanny knack to bring out the best in other people. Similarly, he can ply his political and martial savvy to open conflicts and figure out which buttons to exactly press, in order to push a normally composed adversary into a white-hot and reckless rage.

Beyond this, his mechanical body comes with the advantage of having freely rotating joints. When fully cranked, he can manage surprisingly limp tumbles and rolls, and generally give the best of all living traceurs a run for their money. His advantage is that he isn't specifically limited to moves the human body could accomplish, with overhead somersaults powered by his powerful bicep pistons and mid-air twisting motions that would require of humans that their spine rotate a full three hundred and sixty degrees to be able to match it. What might start as a fairly predictable and staid round of Bartitsu could very well devolve into fairly arachnid and feline tumbles just beyond the reach of sweeping blows, or grappling motions turning into a normally physically impossible throwing attempt. He can crawl along the ground with a fairly worrying amount of speed, and climbing surfaces with only a scant few hand and footholds is something he can manage with some effort.

What's rather useful is that you couldn't guess that he possesses this level of flexibility. Humans and anthros tend to appear limber depending on how they stretch or exercise, while Archie's more normal cranking habits leave him just a bit stiff. He's usually supple enough to manage fluid walking motions and to play his violin, for instance, but there's always a sense of physical limitation that fits hand-in-hand with his affected poise. His locally acquired mystique just doesn't include being known for being extraordinarily capable on the physical level, and that's something he intends to protect. Considering, he only ever fully cranks his main spring when circumstances become dire and some serious amount of physical ability becomes necessary either for the completion of a task or continued existence.

Desirous of maintaining a compact and lean frame, Naughton wasn't able to outfit Great Britain's star operative with holdout pistols or collapsible limbs that could turn into firearms. That would remain the prerogative of the C.H.A.P. models and of future limb augmentation technologies. Considering, Archie is highly proficient with bladed weapons, from the suitably British sword cane to the Indonesian katar and the Japanese sai and katana.

His forearms hide collapsible blades that correspond roughly with the expected katar or ninjatô length, and that can extend outwards thanks to a spring-loaded system and a few movable plates along his arms' exterior brass plating. His right hip can also similarly open, revealing a simplified and shortened sword hilt that is connected with a blade hidden inside his right thigh, stopping just short of his knee's mechanism. While a few inches are missing for it to be a true katana, this longer blade is cleverly designed to appear to be part of his inner armature's framing structure – making the process of disarming him a potentially life-threatening and contentious procedure. This allows Archie to oppose that he very clearly isn't a spy, and that removing this length of metal would only damage his overall physical integrity.

All operatives need their convenient lies, after all.

As a firearms user, Archie shows a clear preference for long-barrelled, single-shot rifles. The simpler the mechanisms involved, the more he'll trust the implement in question. The spring-loaded Lee-Enfield rifle is a classic he's rather familiar with, although his dealing with Karthians has familiarized him with Mosin-Nagant models. He's very likely to find his lot in Paradise's offered weapons, which don't tend to differ that much from these two models, in terms of complexity. The only things that really differ aren't items he's particularly concerned with, like onboard fusion chambers bringing ordnance to white-hot temperatures, or positive-charge distributors allowing bullets to pack a bit of a shock on top of their expected impact.

Finally, he's a fairly adequate sniper; his ocular array being outfitted with several magnifying lenses he can combine or exclude, to the point of obtaining a fairly primitive, if effective 8X zoom.
Weaknesses: like all extensively modified individuals and other Clanks, Archie is at risk of developing a loss of connection with his sense of humanity. His generally placid and easily contented nature shows that he's got a long way to go to turn into an abusive sociopath – but his lessened experience with physical pain can sometimes lead him to minimize discomfort or injuries suffered by his organic teammates. Similarly, he can be a little critical of living individuals who are prone to drinking and who can't quite hold their liquor; as he needs fairly considerable amounts of alcohol for his soul to essentially “remember” it's supposed to be drunk by now. The same can be said about overeaters, as Archie has to push himself to remember to ingest a bit of food each day. Full meals are generally reserved for momentous occasions, and even then, he'll nosh on what's in front of him and generally content himself with the drinks and the company. That isn't much of a problem, but it can be one if it turns out he hasn't remembered to grab a significant bite in over a week. His soul will hazily try and recall the sense of hunger, he'll need some time in order to connect the dots, and that interval could leave him feeling rather grumpy or testy.

He's trying, though, and is used to it. At least, there's no overt risk of him growing contemptuous of his young charges, nor with him being overtly aggressive towards them.

Then there's the matter of first-generation Clanks being difficult to service adequately, in this day and age. With the tech behind Clanks having grown increasingly simpler and generally easier to mass-produce and repair, especially in the last two or three generations; Archie is rather obsolete on a physical and technical level. His speed and ability can't be disputed, but his need to crank himself on demand is a fairly antiquated hurdle that's defeated by simpler electric motors and servos. Considering, he's quite the challenge for armature technicians. Most modern Clanks have skeletal armatures and joints, along with wire-based nervous systems. The central motor is encased in the chest and powers all the other servos, requiring nothing other than a four-hour recharge each night.

Archie is considerably more complex. His main spring provides perpetual motion to thousands of gears, pinwheels and cogs, and they themselves carry his soul's commands and intents across each and every nook and cranny of his body. If one of these items ever breaks, if a single teeth in a single cog wheel is damaged, the distribution of kinetic motion is at risk. If a cog skips a beat, erroneous motion begins to spread across his entire being like a cancer, his main spring's provided energy becoming a wasted source of life, effectively locking him in what American technicians have started calling “kinetic coma”. Considering, Archie's plating is lined with protective wards, his entire design taking the utmost amount of care to isolate and protect his internal mechanism.

Similarly, the base plate that allows his soul to interface with this complex mechanism rests on powerful, if limited enchantments. Early Clanks were susceptible to very physical “hacking” attempts, by disabling the target individual and immobilizing his mechanisms, removing the main key as well as the original artificial phylactery housing the soul. You could then implant a new soul into the body, and essentially allow an identity thief to walk a mile in another Clank's shoes. Nowadays, with cybernetics and magic beginning to intertwine, long-distance phylactery emulators can be used to give very living if unscrupulous pirates control over these oftentimes beautiful, if vulnerable examples of Victorian artistry. The resulting sensation is a terrifying one by most accounts – being trapped in your own body and forced to watch yourself commit criminal acts or do harm to your loved ones.

Appearance: at five feet eight inches and a magically altered weight of a hundred and twenty pounds, Archie feels lean without feeling inordinately thin, with a silhouette that tends to evoke restraint, self-control and distinction. Add a few extraneous key turns and you find yourself looking at the very same armature, its poise and gestures now brimming with the kind of raw, fluid motion you'd normally expect of supernaturals going on a few hundred years past their mortal lifetime.

Few people are able to remain unimpressed by the first sight of this formerly top-secret armature, in that while the man he is represents the more staid and controlled nature of Victorian society, there's undeniable passion, workmanship and care in the way his carters are intricately carved. There isn't a single plate in his body, apart for his face and hands, that isn't covered with delicate floral swirls in gold filigree. He shows very clear signs of having been designed from the ground-up for a rather high-class individual, and obviously seems to be the result of one of Queen Victoria's few “all expenses paid” policies. After all, this mechanical man was to become one of Britain's bulwarks against alien imperialism and to preserve Great Britain's ideals and values in the face of a rapidly changing world.

At the same time, a closer look reveals that this hunk of brass and iron has travelled. Squint and you'll find the Japanese kanji for Honour and Duty on his shoulder blades, wrapped around and amid more golden little flowers and vines. You'll maybe spot Maori designs on one arm, retooled to look like the twisting branches of a venerable old oak, with the man's preferred floral motifs also wrapping itself around it. Elsewhere, a Masai array of dots and lines is hidden in that fairly Where's Waldo-esque orgy of conventional British pastoral details.

In essence, he's chosen to cryptically leave clues to his true personality behind a safe and conventional exterior that wouldn't shock the minds of most staid and bigoted British imperialists. Squinting at him while he's asleep or deactivated reveals a slew of little inclusive details from the world over, showing that underneath the poise and appearance of a distinguished old bean who slurps tea, noshes on scones, has afternoon naps in the garden and sometimes allows himself a round of oddly forlorn violin concertos; there's a fiercely cosmopolitan spirit, someone who's travelled far too much to maintain illusions about Caucasian or human superiority, who's suffered, bled and leaked oil often enough to know that his being stronger, a little faster and a lot more agile than the norm doesn't matter in the slightest. He very clearly is a lively adventurer wearing the skin of a calcified old fop to save appearances. Looking about Holden Hall furthers that impression, in that the place is packed with all sorts of trinkets that would make archeologists, arcane researchers, anthropologists and sociologists turn green with envy.

In keeping with appearances, however, he still espouses the quaintly floral idea of masculinity that characterized Britain's eighteen-hundreds and, unlike most heterosexual men of 2025, has about zero compunctions about wearing pink or salmon. Usually, starched shirts with high collars, antiquated cravat models in tones of green and muted floral waistcoats will be seen on his person, along with a delicate ruby tie pin at the top of his sternum, felt arm bands at his biceps to hold his sleeves in place, and a fob watch carefully tucked away in the kind of front pocket most of us would find minuscule and impractical, nowadays. A black or green cutaway morning frock coat usually completes the ensemble, with white gloves, assorted top hat and his ubiquitous sword cane.

One of his main advantages compared to the “classically” living among us is that his own body is an alterable item of fashion. This is especially true of his eyes and chosen facial hair appliances and details, in that he can quite literally pull his hollow eyeballs out and change them according to his clothing of the day. Generally speaking, he tends to favor chestnut and tones of green. As for his facial hair, it largely is comprised of carefully preserved human hair, trimmed and pressed on a pattern or threaded along delicate wire-frame structures. The plates along his upper lip, chin and and jaw are lined with little brass bumps that are actually removable button covers. Popping them out resembles the motion of popping out pimples, and exposes small snap-on attachment points for his chosen facial hair of the day.

Considering, don't be surprised if you snoop around the Hall and end up finding a drawer filled with moustaches...

Being rather quaint by nature and design, Archie is probably the only man still alive on the planet who wears a long nightshirt, assorted slippers and a night cap to go to bed. Again, this is largely a case of old habits dying very hard, both because of his nature as a Clank and because of who he fundamentally is. As American as he now is, Archie can't help but think of himself as Lord Holden. You can take the British man out of Britain, but you can't take Britain out of the British man.
Behaviour: on the surface, Archibald Holden seems to be so possessed of his state as a former English dignitary that he can't quite break past the clichés we all know and love. He feels emotionally castrated, is dispassionate where most people would be having a fairly understandable freakout and seems to think of those around him as having that slightly alien Yankee spontaneity he just can't seem to emulate convincingly. Tea, crumpets, porridge, cricket bats, pith helmets, hunting rifles and Classical music – you'll find it all in Holden Hall, along with lush reading rooms awash in potted tropical ferns, gramophones, carelessly abandoned easels, lovingly enshrined violins and countless trophies detailing thousands and thousands of miles travelled in all directions across the entirety of the British Empire.

Get him talking, however, and you realize his phlegmatic poise is a sort of control mechanism for a carefully restrained adrenaline junkie, that his slurping tea quietly and in a very satisfied manner doesn't exclude the fact that he loves high stakes, the occasional firefight and grandiose tales about saving Civilization as we know it. His is the kind of personality that considers passion to be a very personal and intimate display, hence why he seems so restricted in normal circumstances. Get him to forget your presence in his admittedly expansive home and you just might catch him in the act of pulling a rapier out of its weapon stand, to role-play some sort of heated exchange à la Count of Monte Cristo, or to stare at an old pair of flintlock pistols and start whistling an old bawdy airship shanty that no self-respecting Lord should honestly be aware of.

At the same time, drop him around Naughton with a few intentionally missing parts, tattered and stained pants, a rumpled-up shirt and some shitty little pea-shooter, and you'll find yourself with a Steampunk take on a Guy Ritchie hoodlum, one of dozens of ancient Clanks that have fallen on hard times and that Weasel's structure and Anastasius' lofty artistic ideals both seem to conveniently forget about. He becomes a shadow on the wall, a person who doesn't even need veils or exclusion fields or external whiz-bangs to become invisible. Add to that a little alcohol and fairly disarming acting skills, and you earn someone who's as much at ease with the cane and top hat of the former aristocrat as with the fast-paced deals and general indigence of the mechanical vagrant and junkie.

With that in mind, there isn't a corner in the city he isn't familiar with. He's shared tea with Sophia and torn apart poorly cooked shish-kebabs with the homeless population and the Freaks, in Sandhill's soup kitchens. He's been a spring-based Industrial cousin to Andy Warhol and an All-American and spunky Clank journalist – even before obtaining his American citizenship. He's even changed genders on occasion, becoming a mechanized spinster forced to ply her trade in a brothel – usually just long enough to meet an agreed-upon contact. He's shaken hands with the Chief of Police and beaten back Greg Rendell with Amazo and the Voice. He's stared down Void Weavers and told panicked residents being evacuated to, predictably enough, keep calm and carry on.

Considering, and paired with the fact that he's seen more of American history than most of everyone else alive on the island, Archie and his companion Bucky have almost eclipsed the Bucks in terms of local notoriety. If only his maintenance fees weren't so high, he'd gladly have remained active in an uninterrupted fashion. If there's one thing he hates about being woken up, it's the knowledge that unless someone is willing to splurge a few million on a continuous maintenance plan for a single Clank, he's going to be put to sleep again a few decades later.

Paradoxically, this is precisely why he plays the violin, why he allows himself naps in the garden or tries his hand at painting or regularly engages in board games. He tries his hardest to enjoy each and every moment the current crisis is giving him – while keeping his fingers crossed for a miracle. He might not be the most demonstrative type, but he does grow attached to others over time. Considering, the idea of spending years with Shield's young lads and lasses, of teaching them, leaking with them, laughing with them or even arguing with them, is something that actually saddens him. Not because he doesn't want to – but because he knows it'll end, someday.

He'll try and remain rigid and distant for as long as possible, for his own sake. The last thing he wants is to feel the end coming, to catch himself with a few excessive drinks and to find himself clutching at his first new friends in decades, desperately not wanting them to leave. Similarly, dig enough and you'll find that part of his secret spunk is driven by shame of a certain chapter in American history. He screened that damned theatre's actors personally, one by one! Still, despite his best efforts, John Wilkes Booth landed the one gunshot that would change American history. Abraham Lincoln was a dear friend of his, and he feels deeply responsible for this rather antiquated tragedy. It's in the history books for most of us, but Archie is stuck remembering his attempt to lunge for Booth, his spying the gun out of the corner of an eye, his wordless shout as the detonation rang...

It feels like yesterday to him.

Goals: to honour, detail, outline and improve upon Mayor Wallace Doherty's Shield Act, while remaining in accordance with superhuman registration procedures. To find the best and brightest in town, train them up to his level, and coach them in the ways of the ideal, responsible, methodical and capable vigilante. To turn a handful of awkwardly talented types into natural observers and investigators, spies and first-response armed forces.

To ensure that the Western Q's tragic incident and the emergence of Abominations and the carnage they caused never happens again.

History: born in 1791 in Canterbury, Kent, Archie is the eldest son of Hiram and Jocasta Holden. With his father being part of the House of Lords and with the family name carrying weight and importance across Great Britain, it'd be fair to say both he and Arthur were born with a golden spoon in their mouth. However, in both cases, it would very quickly become obvious to all that the children they both were and the teenage boys they became didn't have much care for the kind of safe and frankly soporific lifestyle that was about to become theirs to enjoy. Archie only enjoyed riding when a lack of supervision gave him the chance to push his horse, and walks in the open country only ever became interesting when he and his baby brother found some interesting natural feature to poke at or examine in greater detail. Archie, in particular, was a clever boy who was too good at lying for his own good and who showed deductive reasoning skills that made Mentalists in the extended family take notice. Without applications of via, he noticed things about people, places and circumstances that some of these mages missed, with all their years of formal training. All the same, he wasn't exactly prone to anything like autism – he simply seemed like an extremely aware young man.

In 1808, aged only seventeen, he'd endured all he could of Holden Manor's prescriptions, his promised life attending garden parties and the sheer, unmitigated boredom of it all – not to mention his life at Eton, a prestigious, if restrictive college for boys. He packed his bags, his papers and took off for the first Army recruitment office he could find, assuming that enlisting would allow him to see the world. It would be some years before the Holden seniors would forgive their son – but his acquired notoriety would help things along to a degree...

Even as Anastasius Mentalistevich was preparing his grasp for power in Russia, Europe had other conflicts to endure. As a simple soldier, Archie became involved in the War of the Fifth Coalition – a cipher of Napoleon's attempt at continental conquest. While the United Kingdom and its allies were defeated, History would eventually give them the upper hand, after Bonaparte's spectacular wash at Waterloo. A survivor of the conflict, Archie spent the next twenty years defending Great Britain's interests in India, where his ability to perform in sensitive missions is not only recognized, but further developed. Long before Anastasius would make his coup, British intelligence officials posted in Saint Petersburg had notified Imperial authorities of the need to keep an eye on the Romanov dynasty – and especially on the encroaching aliens.

Sensing potential and the need to act on it, Archie's superiors had him urgently recalled to England in 1828 and began an extensive and rather extreme training regimen. Russian was learned, plans of the Imperial Palace were studied until he and his support team knew them by heart, cover stories were obtained, contacts with the conspirators in Rasputin's future assassination were obtained – and he trained. Putting a silenced gun to a target's head and pulling the trigger was one thing, the Secret Service assumed their operatives would have to move very quickly – if it ever came to their being deployed at all. As always, Archie couldn't be sure to be sent anywhere until the very last minute.

Luckily for him, however, a cover story was easy to fashion and seat in factual history. With his father being a lord, it was easy to simply fabricate another life for “Lancet”, Britain's most expensively trained operative to date. To seat his presence on Russian soil, he momentarily became the emotionally dead, stolid and Cartesian socialite his parents had always figured he'd become, abandoning the military uniform and rifle-bayonet combo for the tie and tails. His first few forays into opera halls and guilded soirées with pretentious pseudo-Oriental themes saw him swallowing flies copiously, but a few pointed reprimands from his commander put him back on the right track. He managed to divide his attention in two, putting part of his awareness on the task of making empty conversation, and the other on the purpose of keeping track of the travels of designated persons of interest in the crowd. Rifling someone's pockets without their noticing became an art form, as did putting obstructions out of the way in the least amount of moves possible. The Empire being able to tap in its Chinese holdings, amongst others, Archie wasn't so much introduced to Shaolin and Wing Chun as shown disparate pieces of both martial arts and shown how one could go about using the body to clear the way. For lack of time, they'd be forced to leave him to take Bartitsu apart on his own and develop a more deceptive and fluid personal form. Even today, this is a process that is still underway.

Finally, November 1830 marked a golden opportunity for all involved parties. The November Uprising, involving Poland resisting the early expansion attempts of the unofficially Karthian-controlled kingdom, diverted both Anastasius' mental map of mainland Russia as well as Rasputin's efforts to seat his protégé on the throne. Seeing this as an ideal breach, Lancet was infiltrated in Russia under the pseudonym of Artyom Puriskevich, returning Russian dignitary who had been seated in England for the last several decades. Sustaining the deception was a telepathic baseline of Karthian sympathizers who more or less “contaminated” the alien incumbent czar's mental projection of the whole of Russia's holdings, providing it with a detailed and convincingly personal account of Puriskevich's notoriety, as well as fitting informations related to his entourage.

Once inside Saint Peterburg and allowed to gravitate around the higher-ups, it became obvious to all that Nikolai Pavlovich Romanov, also known as Nicolas the First, was under the influence of a particularly strong mental yoke. His rather extreme policies toward Poland and Finland would plant the seeds for the Russian Empire, but investigations revealed that unless something was done, this rival to British interests would not be the result of human or anthro hands – which the Queen could reasonably account for and for which her services could adapt themselves. If left unabated, Russia was to become the seat of a new and utterly alien nation – the United Karthian Dominions of Russia. With this much being made clear, finding out just who the oft-mentioned Archon was and how to deal with him would occupy the team of conspirators for several years. Naturally, the Grayskins had remained rather tight-lipped about their susceptibility to the Crimson Spirit and its effects. It would be some time before a sufficiently powerful sample of contaminated fluids would find its way into British hands.

Finally, in 1846, Anastasius seized complete control over Russia's dynasty, relegating Nikolai to a still alive, if severely taxed husk of a man, all conscious and sufficiently advanced thought locked away from him by the Archon's firmly seated mind. This being disguised as a slow-burning brain fever contracted in his military campaigns, the Archon was given executive control. As expected, he immediately called for the UKDR's formation and shocked all those in attendance by summarily ordering his allied fellow Karthians to establish their own mental hierarchies – with the order of relinquishing their control under no circumstances whatsoever.

For two weeks, while the world was reeling from the news of suddenly being confronted with an alien superpower, Lancet and his team worked in the shadows, proceeding methodically. Low-level control structures were dismantled with the key assassination of low-importance alien figures. Then came the engineers, who were either lamed or captured and forcefully deported. Warehouses where the wrecked remains of the Hydra were being studied and retrofitted to Terran technological standards were demolished. Little by little, they tore at the Czar's structures from the bottom up, proceeding like an inverse relative to his own mental control, making sure that each of their hits would have viral and fairly catastrophic consequences for the new administration.

Before long, the Archon was panicking. Surrounded with crumbling structures and rebelling citizens, he increasingly tightened his grip on the populace. By then, however, Archie's team had seen enough of the Crimson Spirit to know they indeed did have a valuable asset in hand.

It took a drugged glass of water and every last bit of personal preparation Archie was able to dredge up. Even with a hazy field of view, Anastasius had some options for close-quarters combat. He knew how to cripple his opponents when his own mind left him, and wasn't afraid to go to work on the man he'd been foolish enough to almost come to consider as a friend.

Lancet owed his life and his ability to complete his mission to Hermes, a fellow operative who specialized in Divination-assisted sniper assassinations. Disrupting the continued hold over Nikolai in one fell swoop with a bullet to the head would have been needlessly dangerous. The team's only option was to hope that infection would serve as an adequate deterrent for the would-be dictator.

Against all odds, it worked. The expected immediate side effects of the Crimson Spirit took over within moments, forcing the Grayskin into unconsciousness. Afterwards, it was a simple enough matter to deport the political criminal while ensuring he would remain under during transport : Britain had spent several years developing means to force the aliens into their life-prolonging slumber.

Officially, the UKDR haven't been much more than a small footnote in History. However, modern political analysts would come to see the precursor behind the October Revolution in this attempt at alien rule. Having come to associate the Romanov line with oppression and dictatorial reign, the population wouldn't need much more in the way of encouragement. Things would come to a boil without Archie's involvement, in 1914. With Nicolas the Second being off to oppose Austria and the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, power was left to Alexandra Feodorovna – and Rasputin. The Russian warlock's attempt to seat a descendant of the Rurik dynasty would be short-lived, the cold-based superhuman essentially left to the wolves and absorbed within the nascent Communist Party.

Unfortunately, the Karthian members of the hierarchy were willing participants in the Archon's rule. Finding their position and purpose destroyed by meddling outsiders, they swore vengeance on the British rat they'd so foolishly trusted. Some fled to the Americas and would later meet with the perennial thorn in their side once more.

First, though – Archibald Aloysius Holden died.

Aged 57, he'd given everything he had to Great Britain's cause and had returned home to Canterbury, expecting to be able to spend the next ten to twenty years in a sort of blissfully earned coma, in bed – and to die just as comfortably. He was weary, the rough Russian winters had left their mark while his earlier Indian summers hadn't helped much either, and he was perfectly fine with the idea of getting fat and turning into the kind of obnoxious old fop nobody listens to.

A super-concentrated plasma burst from the most basic of all Karthian firearms – the nearly ubiquitous “light lancet” of which he'd dodged the simple green dots of light several times (essentially a weaponized laser pointer), did him in, in his sleep. His staff wouldn't find much more than a little puddle of blood below one ear, a hole lined with the right temple and a perfectly aligned one piercing one of his bedroom window's panes. His demise having been tied to national secret, it was doctored as a stroke following a particularly vicious night-time fall down a flight of stairs. Claiming that he'd broken his neck and that the results were grisly for your average Victorian sensibilities, Secret Service officials quickly secreted their star operative's remains out of Kent and into the Service's Supernatural Research division. In the immediate, the only thing that could be done involved mapping the ethereal surroundings of the departed soul in the Afterlife, and keeping a bead on it.

Archie's memories of Heaven are rather hazy, and understandably bittersweet. He remembers something akin to his childhood's hallways and fireplaces, gentle light and books unending, the end to all his aches and pains and the extinction of all his innate fighting instincts. He only dimly remembers being at peace. Completely, utterly at peace. No reflexes to maintain, no wits to sharpen, no dangers around the bend. Peace unending.

Then – there's the memory of being called. Beckoned, in some ways; some great, terrible and alien force pulling him away from the light, his books, the fireplace's glow. He remembers clawing his way against that force, until something about it sprang to his mind as being familiar... Immediately ceasing his struggle, he let the raging winds and white light swallow him.

They receded into a bout of tinnitus and the first few moments of his new mechanical heartbeat being known to him. The white light receded into the ordinary light of a lamp hanging overhead – and he lifted one of his hands, finding a mass of pistons and carters at the end of his arm. He was understandably confused, and rather horrified. The year was 1850, and Archibald Aloysius Holden was not only reborn, but summarily knighted. Considering, Lord Holden's first few weeks in his new body weren't what you'd call productive, and involved plenty of fits, tantrums and attempts to drink himself into a stupor. He'd had it for a while, and those bloody idiots had taken it away from him!

It took a meeting with Hermes for him to calm down and consider that there might be some good about being “down here” again. Besides, there was work to be done. Not just any work, either : America was having its fair share of Grayskin problems, and James Buchanan had been told England had just the man for the job... Or, to be more precise, what was left of the man was on ice, to keep a bead on his immortal soul – now that the means to actually extract and insert a desired soul into armatures had been developed. He'd also come to realize that the Naughton AS-1 armature was a small treasure of human engineering and arcane theory, one of the first major and entirely human successes at making Karthians green with envy.

First, a fairly weird farewell to his old self, which could finally be interred. Lancet was dead, but Archimedes had taken its place. Ten years of nonstop campaigning in the American South followed, Archie doing his damndest to circumscribe the embers of Secession to only human and anthro conspirators. Thanks to his doing, it would be several generations more before anyone would come to learn of America's near-collapse into another Grayskin-helmed hegemony. The blackest of all Black Ops – which Archie would later refer to as his personal “Shadow Wars” – saw him murder Karthians without the least bit of due process, as well as confront several Sidhe, demonic and Void Weaver would-be powers. Operating in complete deniability from both the British and American sides, he carved a twisting and bloody swath across the Southern States, using everything he could suitably put to good use in order to further his objectives. Alliances with criminal groups were made and unmade at the drop of a hat, Winter was assuaged only to find itself knifed in the back a few weeks later – to the point where Archie was able to escape an entire Wild Hunt and to confront Oberon in single combat. In keeping with his rather mercurial nature, the King of Winter took a bullet in the shoulder and laughed both of their troubles off, congratulating the Clank for “not being fleshly enough” for his Hunt to easily locate, and for managing to land a shot on a Fae monarch. That more or less marked the end of the Shadow Wars, as even the Karthians took notice.

In 1861, the War of Secession having dropped back down to purely human and anthro interests and with the Karthians and supernaturals sent packing with their tails between their legs, Archie was named as President Lincoln's Intelligence officer, and summarily ordered to assist him in what remained of the conflict with the South. While his planned role involved support from a desk in Washington, Archie respectfully declined the offer of a cushy office in the White House and instead took to his airship, in order to meet with General Ulysses Grant at Fort Sumpter.

More battles were fought, more presidents were assisted – and one died because of the Clank's inability to notice one firearm that had been secreted inside Ford's Theatre. This left him on rather terse speaking terms with Major Henry Rathbone, who deeply resented him for his inability to protect Lincoln. In the end, while Archibald was forced to cope with or ignore his guilt, Henry was destroyed by it. He murdered his wife Clara in 1883, in Hanover, Germany, and was left insane and unfit to care for his three children. Considering, Henry Riggs Rathbone, the eldest of Henry's three children, would be known to keep an irregular written correspondence with the Clank – always coded, as per the requirements of both the American and British authorities.

By 1868, however, Archie found himself acting as a joint British-American emissary on Japanese soil, sent forward to give credence to both countries' claims that their technology could better Emperor Meiji's chances of winning over some of the dissident feudal warlords – the samurai – without bloodshed. While this was a resounding failure, Archie's slate remained clear in this regard. Rather, American and British greed, as well as the petty desires of the newly formed Nippon government, all pushed the Meiji Era towards the closure of the rather blood-spattered chapter of Japanese history that had been the feudal era. Some of them, known to have developed their own engineering expertise several decades before the British, had created nightmarish bodies for themselves. The “Machine Men”, or Kitaiteki, were a band of particularly troublesome ronin and impetuous warlords who stubbornly clung to the Toyotomi-Tokugawa conflict. One of them, Gorobei Iwata, tended to be called the “Warring Mountain” by his peers. His developed and forged armature was massive and yet extremely responsive, able to turn the oversized odachi blade into a literal power tool. Faced with a sort of Nippon-cum-Steampunk take on Leatherface and several other oddities that brazenly defied the rightful rule of the Emperor, Meiji himself took Lord Holden apart, one evening, and begged him to stay, despite the wash of all American and British attempts to further Westernize the country. Once briefed, Archie understood the seriousness of the situation. Outside influences or otherwise, Japan stood the risk of tipping into a re-edition of the Sengoku Era – upgraded with weapons that made the young ruler fear for the safety of his people.

Two years would pass, in which Archie would earn an unofficial Japanese name – translated as “Ghost Spider” from Rômaji – and grow further invested in his onboard weaponry. More recognizable katana slashes joined the wider strikes he'd initially derived from both his Chinese masters and his days spent wielding cavalry blades. Zen Buddhism carved a place for itself in a corner of the Clank's mind, further strengthening the old British phlegm, and he eventually inherited of a fairly personal kimono set, a darker, forest-green twin to Iwata's own garments. Nowadays, the Ghost Spider's garments and his fairly Fu Manchu-like facial trimming are both resting on a mannequin in one of the reading rooms.

In 1870, Archie managed to deal a crippling blow to Iwata before a wide massing of Kitaiteki, effectively claiming one of the Warring Mountain's severed arms for himself. More or less understanding the message after far too many years of pressure, the machine samurai disbanded. Some have died, others have turned into empty husks, others still were unable to seek maintenance over the years – and a few are suspected to have integrated the ranks of the Five Hundred Dragons' top enforcers on Japanese soil, after spending generations away from their native archipelago – more than likely around Indonesia.

By the early twentieth century, Archie's second attempt at retirement had taken place. The 1880s acquainted him with Hope – and Zebediah Buck, notably – and gave him a taste of the city's offered atmosphere, which was a perfect fit for someone who found he couldn't quite appreciate nonstop cushiness. Choosing Hope as his place of respite seemed like a no-brainer. Much to his surprise, however, he found that the American and British governments had pooled their assets to finally give Lord Holden a domain of his own. Offering him one back in England seemed ill-fitting, considering the travels he'd undertaken. The Americas feeling fairly exotic, and North America being where his loyalties now lied, Hope was deemed a natural fit. Thirty years had been sunk into the artfully concealed project of a grand Colonial mansion – Holden Hall. Upon receiving the keys to the city, Archie delivered a heartfelt (if obviously restrained) round of thanks to all of those who had helped him in this life, and the one before it.

The eve of the First World War, besides opening old wounds, seated Archie's now obvious obsolescence. Sturdier, more capable armature models were being produced, and what had once been Top Secret hardware was now barely skirting the limit of Clanks available for civilian use. Notably, Gorobei Iwata's armature banged on his front door by a cold and stormy night of October 1910 – and claimed to not know why it knew him. In an even more shocking turn of events, the Warring Mountain spoke English; and it did so with the kind of twang the lord had had ample time to memorize and imitate! Shamus Wallace, a huckster from Oklahoma, was on the run from the local mob. He'd been fatally wounded and the only option he'd had was to arrange for a black market soul transfer into the first body available. Incidentally, Iwata-san had been hounding down his old nemesis for decades, and had finally made it to Rhode Island's shores, only for his damned arm to start acting up again...

Shocked, but not one to visit harm on someone who clearly had nothing against him, Archie took in one half of an old enemy and found himself with a companion to share the centuries with. “Bucky” wasn't and still isn't quite as sophisticated as his English buddy, and obsolescence had hit both of them pretty hard, so active participation in both World Wars was out of the question. Finding himself rejuvenated but with no official outlet, Archie decided to make his own damn assignments.

His “Pulp Era” would stretch from the early nineteen-hundreds, essentially, to the early 1950s. He spent years travelling to wherever he and Bucky heard about undiscovered tribes, troublesome Void Weavers needing a lesson or incompetent Nazi archeologists poised to visit the Apocalypse upon us poor defenceless mortals. He rocked the pith helmet, khaki shorts and bush rifle with the best gents from back home, in the middle of the Serengeti. He dug around ancient Egyptian tombs to try and silence meddling Osirites and stopped the occasional Dieselpunk mage who intended to crush both the Nazis and Allies to establish some sort of new Austrian republic.

For decades, Archie was able to allow himself to live in more vibrant a fashion than before. Iwata's fairly sociopathic fixation on restoring Sengoku was traded for Bucky's simpler needs for fairly Bacchic quantities of food and drink and nearly as much guilt-free good times. The former spy would come to grow rather fond of the big lug, in the long-suffering and patiently exasperated sort of way.

The twentieth century's midpoint, however, seemed to serve as a death knell for the both of them. Their maintenance costs had become fairly worrying, and their joyrides across the globe had cost them an inordinate amount of oil, gear changes and pilot light swaps. As neither of them felt like waiting for rust to claim them or for their phylacteries to be breached, they returned to Hope and declared themselves to be property of the city. Clauses were put in place in order to avoid forcing all subsequent administrations to service them if they couldn't afford it. All Archie desired was for their bodies to be preserved for as long as possible, for Holden Hall to be converted into a museum dedicated to the city's multifaceted history – and for his key and Bucky's magically sustained pilot light to be kept in the City Hall's care, regardless of the administration.

This way, they both felt, comfortable non-existence would be guaranteed. Without organs to feel the passage of time, their souls would be numb – unaffected by the passage of time. Neither dead or alive, they'd simply be; Archie in a sealed plexiglas cube and Bucky in his favourite room of the mansion, with Iwata's reacquired Meiji Era belongings and a recording of some of Shamus' favourite banjo tunes set to continuously play in the background.

As the city's records and recent past can attest, they were both reawakened in 1975, in a desperate attempt to bring an end to the Battle of Hope. This having succeeded and Archie finding nothing of particular interest in the twenty years that had passed, he and Bucky arranged for their return to oblivion shortly afterwards. However, he remained conscious and active long enough in order to acquaint himself with the Golden Era's superheroes and to reunite with Sophia. Ultimately, the shocking distance between the ffities he remembered and the seventies he'd just discovered was perhaps too much. Rationalizing fear or denial as a lack of interest, he slipped away once more.

Now, facing the twenty-first century and its staggeringly alien level of technological advancement, something of his curiosity of old is being piqued again. The rather high stakes faced by the city only seem to further his desire to actually remain awake, this time around. While obsolescence is still a factor, he has been made aware of the existence of cheap and easy-to-use 3D printers. Polymer duplicates of just about any mechanism of his could be printed within the week, with the only resulting inconvenients being an increased level of fragility and the lack of noble traits these fairly toylike gears and cogs display.

At the very least, he tells himself, the game is afoot. This time, and with a little luck, they won't simply assist the local dryad in the process of knocking out a megalomaniac product of Science gone awry. This time, the stakes are going to be high enough for him to feel the old fire stirring again, somewhere in the odd regions where the clicks and whirrs of his chest become a heart capable of being stirred and squeezed by carefully marshalled emotional transports...
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