"Sweet Hobojesus!" There was a pause as Timothy looked first at the thing in the chair that had been speaking and then over at Gordon.
"And who are you now?" he asked, a note of caution making his voice low, almost like he was purring.
"I'm Tik-tok the clockwork man," said the thing in the chair in a high-pitched sing-song voice.
The Gracious Days came between the Second and Third Comings, and Hobojesus was the Seventh Coming, before the Church had adopted the idea of checking how the Messiah was choosing to manifest himself on Earth before they announced and annunciated. There were those who argued that the Church shouldn't be allowed to pick and choose like that, and there were also those who pointed out that that was how the Bible had been put together. So far there had been twenty-three additional Comings, but only one set of Gracious Days. Not so many people remembered them, because a lot of people hadn't survived them.
"Hobojesus," said Gordon. He and Timothy were stood in the narrow, white-tiled kitchen. They both had a cup of industrial coffee in their hands; Gordon had half-filled his cup with milk in a vain attempt to pretend he was drinking a latte and Timothy was sipping a cup of black bitter liquid and wondering if sugar would make it taste any better. Opposite them was the viewing window, a huge one-way panel that looked into the interview view where Lunatik, or Tik-tok, was still sat.
"Yeah?" Timothy yawned despite the coffee.
"Pretty certain he wasn't sweet, y'know," said Gordon. "I think you're getting Hobojesus and Sweet'n'Sour jesus mixed up."
"You make it sound like people licked him. Them."
"Yeah, pretty certain some people did."
"Some people are weird."
They both fell silent for a moment, looking through the window at Tik-tok.
"Think that's a person?"
"At least it's not a Messiah."
Tik-tok appeared to be robotic; there were steel plates visible here and there through its clothing, and even slumped in the chair it seemed to have more articulation to itself than a human would have. But it also appeared to be breathing and had definitely eaten food the evening before when it had been brought here. Timothy had put in a requisition for a doctor, endured the laughter on the other end of the phone, and had been given an ETA of Christmas Eve.
"Better get back in there. Got more questions for it?"
"If it's really Lunatik, then... I guess so."
"You were Lunatik? Really?"
The clockwork man nodded jerkily and its eyes flickered, but it seemed a very human flicker to Timothy.
"You were Queen Annie's treasurer then? In the Gracious Days?"
"For four and a half years," said Tik-tok in its sing-song voice. There was a sproing half-way through its sentence, but it acted as though nothing had happened. "I took care of the bills and the bill-collectors."
"There are still things missing from those days," said Gordon. He sounded contemplative, as though considering something profound. "Like over a billion Euros."
"Burned," said Tik-tok. Timothy looked up, wondering if he detected a hint of pride in its speech. "I was Lunatik, that was my job. I was only following orders."
"Bugger," said Gordon.
"There are two art galleries missing," said Timothy, wondering if they too had been burned. "And I'm including the actual buildings when I say art galleries."
"Buried," said Tik-tok. "It was a beautiful statement about the nature of art. It was art itself to do that. We buried them in sand though, so that it wouldn't damage the paintings. Or the people."
"There were people still inside when we buried them, that was important. Queen Annie said so."
Queen Annie was killed by the Third Coming when he dropped out of the sky and landed on her. There were reports, though of dubious trustworthiness, that his scream had dopplered on the way down, and that if she'd only looked up she'd have understood it was righteous retribution. Historians put no faith in this at all, preferring instead to point at actual evidence and conversational transcripts from people who spent time with her and declare that she would never have changed her ways.
The Third Coming is also known as Meteorjesus, but people find it hard to use that as an oath.
"When did you become Tik-tok?"
"During the Fifth Coming," said Tik-tok.
"Targetjesus," said Gordon.
"Figures," said Timothy. "People were really on edge back then."
"Too many Messiahs," said Tik-tok, and the three of them all nodded together. Then Timothy and Gordon looked at each other, embarrassed, and looked away again.