Boiling Point


I work with my hands.

I shape metal and make tools, wheels, gun parts, horse shoes and whatever is needed. I’m the blacksmith.

Before discovering that, I awaken to shrill screams of tortured anguish.

I roll out of a primitive bed into a modest wooden room – more of a shack really – to see a beating going on outside. A big man – a huge man! – is whipping an Indian. 

The Indian’s hands are tied behind his back and his ankles and knees are bound. He’s writhing in the mud while the giant cracks the snake again and again.

The tormentor is at least a good eight feet tall! Maybe more…

I want to intervene but I know I must assess the situation before acting. No memory of this giant is accessible. Yet.

When things die down the victim is deceased.

After the giant goes away some people come to care for the body.

“Why didn’t somebody stop that freak?” I ask angrily.

“So, you finally feelin’ sociable, are ya?” snipes the shopkeeper, Furcsa Igenman.

“I… reckon so. I think somebody ought to do something about that crazy giant.”

“What the Hell, you just wakin’ up Rip Van Winkle?” says Jane Westin, a dynamite manufacturer’s widow. “He wreaks havoc on an Injun and that drives ya to vengeance?”

“How long has this been going on?”

“He come across this little place about two year ago,” explains Caleb Bean, a shovel salesman from Missouri. We was what was still left over from a failed mining town. Folks thought there was gold in these parts at one time. Took a few years of discouragement to get the hardliners out. The rest of us was fixin’ to head for Californy when he come along.”

“Well why the Hell don’t you go?”

“You’re free to march off into the desert. But he’s got account and control of every horse we have. There’s nothing from here for two hundred miles in all directions, but even if there was he’s got every map. He keeps us here at his mercy, and there ain’t much of that.”

“The food, the water, he doles it all out as he sees fit. Any one of us looks cross-eyed at him and kapow, that’s lead for your dinner.”

“Does he make you cook for him?”

“Don’t think I ain’t considered poisonin’ him. But danged if he don’t make one of us eat the same thing first and then clean up the leavin’s on his plate with our tongues. I poison him I poison myself.”

“They say he’s the son of a Confederate deserter. When the war went bad a lot of ’em came out west and set up in Arizona and New Mexico territories.”

“Some of ’em married squaws or even stole white women off’a wagon trains after killin’ the men folk.”

“I hear tell his daddy was a guard at Andersonville.”

“Holee Shit. The baddest of the goddamn bad.”

“Taught him to use a gun by the age of three.”

“I’ll be damned.”

“Nobody can beat him with a gun.”

“Every year or so somebody wanders in and stands up to him. There’s a graveyard yonder where they lie.”

“He aims to run this valley like a king. He figures civilization is too far off to be of a worry for his lifetime.”

“Once he finds you, he’ll either own ya or kill ya, sure as Hell.”

The giant’s foul ways are confirmed as time passes and I witness his execution of a lost traveler and the mental games he inflicts on the dead traveler’s little boy.

This guy is pure evil.

I take the townsfolk’s information seriously. If guns can’t beat him, what can?

The blacksmith shop is surprisingly well stocked. “I” must be scavenging leftover parts from the departed miners. A multitude of scraps. Lots of samples of different metals. And something extremely weird…

…A box containing thorium.

While looking for gold, they must have hit other substances that were unusual but not noteworthy to anyone at this level of technology. However I recognize thorium as a non-harmful substitute for uranium.

Using advanced technical knowledge culled from my wealth of experience, I draw up a blueprint for a thorium powered, steam-based, weaponized exoskeleton.

In a few days the power of boiling water is never maximized more than when I, Obediah Neely on this particular Earth, fire up my thorium-powered, nine minute, airborne, bulletproof, boiler-blasting, kettle-shrieking, heat producing bad ass steam suit.

The boiler tank upon my back is hot and heavy but it supplies all the power. Once I ignite them, the thorium heating coils will blow the tank apart and me with it in 15 seconds if I don’t unleash the building steam power by then. So activating the coils is the last thing I do before going into action.

The Giant King drags another rebellious victim out in the open. A young girl who can’t bring herself to comply with his filthy desires.

As he rips her dress off in public, though the public is cringing behind closed shutters, I close the workshop door and suit up.

Getting ready takes too long. By the time I light up the thorium, the bastard has stripped her, whipped her and raped her.

As I drop out of the sky the bastard fires off a shot to kill her. But then he hears the hiss of my steamy descent. His shot misses. He turns around to see me coming in hard.

He shoots. The bullet strikes outside my heart!

The bullet pops off my chest plate like a lone popcorn kernel exploding.

He fires again right way.

The bullet hits the same place, denting my armor. This bullet ricochets to the left.

The steam suit armor is strong enough to withstand two bullet hits in any one place. But if a third bullet strikes the same place as two others already have, the suit will give way and the bullet will get through.

I don’t give him that chance. Aiming my right arm I blast a steam-propelled packet of nails that hits him in the face.

Startled, he rocks back, shooting wildly in my direction.

I release a shrill, eardrum-pounding whistle through the steam gun in my left hand that makes everyone cringe and desperately cover their ears. Even those holding guns raise both hands to shut out the head splitting shriek.

I land. The giant is on his knees when the steam whistle runs out. He sees me.

I charge toward him as fast as I can bearing the burden of my suit’s metal and remaining water. He takes aim.

I turn my back to him and launch myself at him as the gun goes off. The bullet strikes the water tank on my back, blowing a hole in it. Boiling water shoots from the hole, burning the giant even as I crash into him.

Hurting and blinded, the giant pushes away, staggering off in a rage before stumbling over a cliff.

Through my makeshift helmet I hear muffled cheers. I unfasten the helmet and yank it off, relieved at the rush of cool air about my face and neck.

Then an unexpected, big kiss from the pretty lady.

I’m all out of steam power, but who cares?

Get me a horse. I want to ride off into the sunset!




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