Authors: Lucy Wild
2015 Lucy Wild
by Luna Swift Publishing
characters portrayed are over the age of 18
In a steampunk world, there’s one thing everyone
He came for me
during the night. He always did. I went with him out of the window and down
into the gutters of the city. I always felt nervous down there, even with Jared
by my side. One wrong move and all the fuseguns in the world wouldn’t help me.
He guided the steamcrate past the
lower floors, concentrating hard as the wind began to buffet us. I glanced in
at the windows as we passed. All those people, all those lives. They were all safe
in their rooms, oblivious to our passing. I wondered how this had happened. Why
did he always call on me when they found one? Just because I’d seen the first
victim didn’t make me an expert as I tried to tell him over and over again.
They never listened.
We descended past the exhaust
ports of the steamscraper, plunging through the thick white smoke and down into
the gloom below. Another minute and we landed. I stepped off the steamcrate and
looked around for any signs of immediate danger. It was a bitterly cold night
which seemed to have worked in our favour, most of the cutpurses were
sheltering in the gluebars, waiting for the temperatures to rise above
freezing. They were in for a long wait.
I hate the feel of solid ground
under my feet, it feels wrong somehow. I’d grown up with the gentle rocking and
swaying of the steamscrapers around me and only a fool would set foot in the
gutters after dark. What did that make me? “We better get moving,” Jared said,
pulling the collar of his cloak up around his neck as he strode off between two
crumbling buildings which creaked in the wind as we passed.
I followed him in silence, my
fingers wrapped round the fusegun in my pocket. It only held one charge, I
hadn’t been able to afford any more but I hoped it would at least be enough to
scare off any of the cutpurses who might brave the darkness if they spotted two
bits of scraper bait amongst them.
I wrapped my cloak around me as
Jared turned left down an alleyway filled with rotten cabbage leaves and old
newspapers. I glanced down at the remnants of one headline. KILLER STRIKES
AGAIN. BOD-. The rest was torn away but I didn’t need it. I was there.
I hadn’t meant to come down to
the gutter but I’d had no choice. My neighbour’s kid had got hold of the key to
their steamcrate and had set off on a joyfloat. They were in a panic and had no
idea what to do. I sent a mechapigeon to Jared asking him to meet me in the
gutter but the mecha had sprung a leak and never reached him as I found out
I’d waited in the gutter at the
only working mooring station for miles, wondering when he’d arrive, fusegun
held at arms length as I called out for the boy. It was no more than a couple
of minutes before I was surrounded by nightowls, seeing a woman as an easy
target. The fusegun was the only thing holding them at bay and they didn’t know
I only had one charge left.
I heard a scream off to my left
but that was nothing unusual in the gutter. Down here silence was more worrying
than noise. I began to walk, wondering what the hell had happened to Jared. I
was just passing a fleshery when I caught sight of the steamcrate, directly
above my head and wobbling. It was the boy and he was clearly struggling to
The nightowls looked up too and I
realised it would be a race to see who got to him first. I lost. I ran after
the steamcrate but they knew the shortcuts far better than a scraper dweller
like me. I was soon panting for breath, not used to the thick air down here on
the surface. I turned a corner and there the crate was, laid on its side
between two towering brick buildings that looked like they might collapse at
any moment. I could see a figure sprawled on the ground, rolling around in
agony and I knew it was the boy. It didn’t occur to me to wonder where the
nightowls had gone until it was too late. I slowed as I approached the figure
but as I reached him I realised it wasn’t the boy. The pieces of the boy were
spread across the cobbles. The figure getting slowly to its feet chilled my
blood to the bone when I realised who it was, the one thing that could scare
away the nightowls. It was one of them, an undergrounder here in the flesh with
murder in his eyes.
Jared stopped walking and was
pointing to the end of the street and I was brought out my memories of the last
time I was here. Once again a body lay in a pool of blood. I knelt down to
examine it as Jared held his lantern above me. In the flickering light I could
tell this was no surface dweller. In fact I didn’t even need to search for
papers. I knew who it was. I should, after all his face was plastered on the
walls of every scraper and banknote.
“Who is it?” Jared asked, looking
around for any sign of nightowls or cutpurses.
I got to my feet. “It’s the
He almost dropped his lantern.
“What? Are you serious?”
I nodded. “Have a look.”
He knelt down and held the
lantern towards the glassy eyes of Edwin Gauge, founder of Gauge Industries and
the richest man for countless leagues around. “What the hell was Gauge doing
down here in the gutter?”
“That’s the question,” I replied
just as a noise reached us from the building to my right. I glanced across in
time to see the blue glow of a fusegun warming up from inside a broken window.
The gun fired at the same time as I shoved Jared to one side, diving the other
way just as the heated ray shot between us.
“Come on!” Jared shouted. “Before
He grabbed my arm but I shook him
off, sinking to my knee and warming up my own weapon. I fired at the same time
as the figure in the window but I was the better shot. I heard a scream and I
knew I’d got lucky, he was still alive. A well aimed fusegun never left any
remains but perhaps we’d get some answers from this one.
Jared was through the window
before me and I climbed after him in time to see him holding the wannabe
assassin by the collar. “Talk to us,” he said, his voice calm and unemotional,
controlling his anger as best he could.
“Oh curse you both,” the man
said, blood seeping from the wound in his side, his innards beginning to spill
out. “Why couldn’t you keep your noses out?”
“Who are you?” I asked, the
flickering lantern light illuminating a wan face with a single remaining eye.
It was not unusual for gutter dwellers to lose eyes or fingers. The work when
it could be found in the mills did not forgive mistakes.
He laughed, his chest heaving as
he spat out blood. “You should have stayed at home,” he wheezed. “So should I.”
“Why did you try to kill us?”
“Ardour.” He said nothing more,
his eyes glazing over as Jared lay him back down. “Now what?” he asked, turning
“Did you hear what he said?”
“Yes I heard,” Jared snapped.
“But what do we do about the mayor?”
“We can’t let anyone know he’s
dead. It’d cause chaos.”
“Go bring the steamcrate. We’ll take
the body to mine and then I think we should go for a night on the tiles.”
He raised his eyebrows at me.
I nodded, watching as he
clambered out of the window, leaving me alone with my victim. I prised the
fusegun from his fingers. Three charges left. I replaced his fusegun with my
own before reaching into his blazer to see if there was anything in there that
might help me. It contained an entrance stub for Ardour, two shilling coins
that were encrusted with dirt and a steamcrate spanner. The spanner meant
something but at the time I couldn’t work out what that might be. By the time
I’d pocketed the items and climbed back out into the street Jared was back with
I took the mayor’s shoulders and
Jared grabbed his feet and somehow we got him inside. The crate staggered into
the air, not used to the weight of three people at once. Jared fought with the
controls as we headed up through the clouds and back to the scraper. He moored
it outside my window and we looked around to see if anyone was passing. I was
glad of the cold and the dark as it kept us hidden whilst we got the mayor’s
“Have you got any blankets?”
“Over there,” I pointed as I went
to the basin to wash the blood from my hands.
Once the mayor was hidden from
sight we climbed back onto the steamcrate and set off for Ardour.
It wasn’t just a music hall.
Ardour was the one spot in the whole skyisland system where you could get hold
of liquid ardour, hence its name. The distilled product of plants only found in
the dankest sections of the gutter, it was a nightmare to produce and out of
the reach of the pockets of most citizens. Everyone knew about it but few could
afford it. I’d only been inside the place once back when I was working full
time for the scraper council but I’d not been willing to try ardour while I was
there, knowing only too well the stories of its effects.
Jared set the steamcrate down
amongst dozens of others on the doorstep and we joined the eager queue. “What’s
the plan?” I asked as we slowly shuffled forwards.
“I’ll talk to the attendants. You
see if you can find anyone who knew our trigger happy friend down there. Meet
by the bar at midnight.”
I glanced at my pocket watch.
11.30. We reached the door when the minute hand pointed at quarter to. That
gave me fifteen minutes, would that be long enough?
The brute of a doorman towered
over the two of us as he sneered at the cheap cut of our cloaks. “Been here
before?” he grunted.
I held out the stub I’d taken
earlier and he took it from me, his eyebrows rising for a brief second. “In you
go. They’re waiting for you backstage.”
I opened my mouth but Jared poked
me before I could ruin things by asking too many questions and then we were in.
The change in temperature was shocking.
It was bakingly hot in there and the noise was deafening. We were in the foyer
and there were people everywhere. I couldn’t see a single drop of the distinct
pink fluid in any of the glasses on display. Jared moved away leaving me alone.
I looked around me and then made a decision, heading towards the auditorium. I
was almost there when a hand descended on my shoulder. I turned to see a
beautiful woman smiling at me, her eyes icy cold. “Come this way madam,” she
said, her grip tightening on my arm. I glanced around for Jared but he was
nowhere to be seen.
The woman led me through the
throng to an unmarked door, winding the keyhole until it sprung back and the
She pushed me through before
pulling it shut behind me, leaving me alone in a gaslit corridor. I rattled the
handle but it was already locked. Having no choice but to walk forwards, I made
my way along a maze of corridors that gradually descended until I at least
reached an open door.
I stepped inside to find a group
of people sat around a long low table. The man in the centre stood up and I was
taken by the cut of his dinner suit, an outfit that looked like it cost more
than I earned in a year.
“Is it done?” he asked, looking
expectantly at me.
“It is,” I replied, holding my
trembling hands behind my back.
“Excellent. Won’t you join us for
a snifter to celebrate business as usual once more?”
He pointed at an empty chair and
I sat perched on the edge, wondering what the hell was going on here. A crystal
decanter was produced, filled to the brim with Ardour. A glass was poured out
for me before the others received the same. “To the death of a tyrant,” the man
said, holding his glass in the air.
“The mayor,” the others said in
unison before downing their drinks. I looked down at my glass, trying to decide
whether or not to drink, wondering what might happen if I did.
They all looked at me, suspicion
growing on their faces until I finally tipped the glass towards my mouth. It
tasted like an intensely sweet honey as it ran down my throat. Within seconds
my body began to heat up and I no longer felt suspicion towards those sat
around me. Instead the more I looked at them, the more desirable they became.
“To business,” the man said.
“This is the sum we discussed I believe.” He passed me a sheaf of banknotes,
all marked with the visage of the mayor. I pocketed it in silence, staring at
his hand as I did so, wishing it was plunging into my pussy at that very
moment. I blinked, fighting away the effects of the ardour. It was becoming
increasingly difficult to focus on anything but sex.
“Now we should go and watch the
show. Why don’t you join Esmerelda in her box?”
A woman to my left stood up and I
was bowled over by how beautiful she looked. She held out her hand and took
mine, sending shivers through me as we walked from the room, along a corridor
and onto a set of autostairs which propelled us into separate boxes that
overlooked the stage.
The woman took the seat on the
left and beckoned for me to take the one beside her. “I know who you are,” she
whispered to me. “That wasn’t ardour you drank.”
“What?” I hissed, more confused
“I need you to listen to me. When
I say so, come with me. Do not ask questions. Do not dawdle.”
I found it hard to believe the
ardour wasn’t having this effect on me. I hardly heard her words, I was
focussing on how soft her lips appeared. The longer I sat here, the more I was
attracted to her. She looked stunning, her waist held in by her corset, her
features enhanced by the darkest of makeup, her hair in exquisite curls. If not
the ardour then what was causing such lust to build up within me?
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“They told you. Esmerelda.”
“Oh yes. Sorry.”
“And I know you. You’re the one
that found the last body. You were in the papers. How he did not recognise you
I do not know but that counts in your favour I suppose. We might both leave
I glanced at my pocketwatch.
Midnight. Jared would be waiting for me but there was no way of getting a
message to him from here. I could only hope he would wait for me.