Lore of Yore
Histories of the known universe... and beyond
The great city of London remains alive even in the pitch of night, its streets resounding to the footfalls of people going about their concerns in their multitudes. It also resounds to the subtle scurry of the underclasses, more fleet of foot, conducting shadier business. It means criminals are abroad.
Constable Hulme prefers them abroad. It means he has fewer of them to deal with here in the capital.
These days, there are many who consider the Thames River Police an outdated organisation, what with cosmonauts wheeling along the starways of the Fifteen Galaxies far overhead. Still, officers like Hulme, Earth-born and staunchly Human, maintain their diligence. "Looking to the stars only means you miss what's under your feet," he likes to say.
Under his feet right now is a fish; a minnow, rare on the Thames, flopping on the wet deck of the duty boat. It has been disturbed from the gentle ebb and ooze of the river, enough to pitch itself onto the boards of Hulme's patroller. He deduces there is something beneath the waters making greater waves than himself.
He calls on his duty pilot, Cobb, and the searchlight sweeps across the face of Billingsgate Market down to the river's ink-black surface. Hulme peers into its illuminated depths, finding little besides the menagerie of litter tipped from the embankments over the years.
Then, a flash of light; Cobb's beam hits riveted metal, and the duty boat is jostled by the wake of something from below. Hulme grabs the rail to stop himself toppling over the side, and Cobb gives a shout just as the shadow ruptures the surface.
Monstrous and wailing, the amalgam of metal and cogwork rears up in front of the Billingsgate arches, scaring a flock of gulls into the sky and scattering a cluster of nattering oyster-wives, and a hatch creaks open from on top. A figure thrusts itself from the copper carapace, streaming with river water.
"You up there," Hulme yells. "Stop in the name of the Constabulary!"
The figure turns to him, arms outstretched, and fixes its goggles on the riverman. "Doctor Nementor stops for nothing save the winds of entropy themselves!" In his gloved hand, a glowing vial bubbling with something thick and noxious. "And I have come to blow down the towers of your festering city!"
Nementor's great submersible creaks into motion, whirring metallic tentacles rising from the depths like spinning turbine blades, and the insane doctor laughs triumphantly.
It's going to be one of those nights, Hulme tells himself. The constable squares his shoulders, and reaches for his baton.
It is a sound few want to hear: the creaking groan of joints and rusted cogs, combined with the devilish hiss of venting steam and the thunder of ground-juddering footfalls; not to mention the rumbling bark of an internal gearbox that, when churning up to speed, has the distinct ring of a menacing peal of mechanical laughter emanating from deep within a mullanium carapace.
These are the heralds of an oncoming killer robot, and for those who hear these unearthly sounds, doom is sure to follow.
The killer robots utilised as wrought-iron guardsmen on Crown dependencies of the British Empire are intrinsically linked to the innovation of the Industrial Revolution. However, the technology precedes England's efforts by some time; the so-called Heron Engine, or Devil of the Wind, was an ancient, powered steam engine used as a brazen fighting machine by the Horde of Damocles, and was later appropriated by the early Royal Navy as a Boiler Technician.
In later years, the Mandurai Robotonists took time out from seeding bio-synthetic woodland on V'kanderplon IX to construct towering Revolutionary Kinetic Pummellers and Environmental Kinetic Walking Excavators for deforestation efforts. RK and EK units became a common sight on numerous agricultural worlds, and seemed to impact the number of environmentalists willing to chain themselves to any trees in the path of the robots' huge, grasping claws.
Such designs have been co-opted by other parties; Yanglan the Mighty, also known as the Tiny Terror, corralled a killer robot to serve as her steed, and rode into the Battle of the Marjan Marshes atop her garishly-painted death machine. A theft from the storage facility on V'kanderplon IX led to the formation of Battle Machines fielded by the Vorgak Empire during their invasion of Vorgak 3. One of these lumbering war machines, referred to as the deadly Robo-Killer, gave the brave soldiers of the 51st Colonial a decisive pummelling, and even attempted to excavate a few unfortunate souls during the struggle.
Not all killer robots live up to their names, however. Other units have their destructive capabilities capped, and serve as oversized, mechanical guard dogs on a variety of planets. The ranks of Yeomen Warders have even been bolstered by several killer robots, which guard British realms ranging from far colonies to the Palace of Westminster itself. Should any trespasser make their way into the shadowy undercroft, they might be faced with the blazing red eyes and gnashing teeth of a loyal killer robot, ready to dole out a solid whack on the head in the name of Queen Victoria.
Histories of the known universe... and beyond