by Jens Kuhn
“Come on in, my dear,” the professor said, smiling at her. Lucy stepped into the room quietly, closing the door behind her with slightly trembling hands. Feeling the man’s gaze on her, she blushed as she slowly walked towards him.
“I hope you’re feeling well today,” the professor enquired.
“Good, good. I have a special surprise for you today.” He moved towards the old chest of drawers next to his desk and opened the top drawer. Lucy stood still, craning her head in order to see better. A suppressed gasp escaped her mouth as the professor turned around, showing her the device.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
Category Archives: Hetero
by Jens Kuhn
by E. Sparkweed
He was stumbling ahead, every step slipping on the wet ground, leaves gliding under his feet. His clothes were wet and hanging in shreds off his sharp frame, sweat and blood on his forehead, dripping into his eyes. Though he blinked, the stinging and pain would never go away; he’d seen too much. For four days he had been running though the forest: four cold, wet, long days. He was used to hunger, but the strength he was using now, getting up after falling, again, was nearly his last. He knew this. It had been two days since he heard the barking dogs, but he was not safe yet. The stream to his right ran cold and clear, and because of it he was still alive. On the second day he came across it in the woods and it saved him, twice. It quenched his mad thirst, life streamed back into his body with every gulp he swallowed. Then, as he heard the dogs closer and closer, he waded into the quick waters, up to his waist in its icy flow, and walked in it until he could no longer endure the cold. He crawled up on the opposite bank and lay motionless for a few breaths, a terrible cramp growing in his legs, not feeling his feet at all, cold as ice to the bone. The stream saved his life, and then nearly took it. He knew he would surely freeze to death unless he could somehow get warm. He forced himself to get up, on legs throbbing with pain, and feet which seemed no longer a part of him. He started walking, or hobbling, whilst manically rubbing his stiff limbs until they stopped throbbing and started buzzing instead, and a sensation of fire and ice awoke in his toes. They were a blossoming reddish colour, but any colour was better than the blue and yellowish white they had been. He kept moving.
On the third day he found a small wild apple tree and on it, a couple of brown, shrunken, sour crab apples. He managed to eat them, horrible as they were, and although they made his tummy ache, he was temporarily cheered. But then the following night was terrible, the coldest one yet. He had no way of making a fire, and he couldn’t risk one anyway. It was too cold to rest; he had to keep moving, but had barely a faint glimmer of energy left in his body. Somehow he was able to keep going, still following the stream which snaked along on his righthand side, going east, only his instinct guiding him away from the camp and the pursuing guards. He could barely keep upright now, was on his hands and knees at times, crawling. But still moving, still following the stream, still going east.
Written and illustrated by Honoria Tox
The moon flickers like a gaslight behind the torn, torrid clouds as I watch out the upper window, straining my ears for the sound of horse-hooves. The earth falls away from my home and down to the river, only one thin horse-trail separating its wildness from mine; and the darkness courses above us.
I sigh at the silence, leaving the window to move about the room: first to the stack of thick azure paper that sits on my work-bench. I cut the paper into cottony slices with my knife in strong, swooping gestures, like a factory-woman tossing the shuttle-cock back and forth across a loom. I fold the paper with quick, skilled strokes, my dainty fingers darting them into points and curves. Then I fit them with their mechanisms, small gears and springs thrust into their wings, and set them free: a hundred tiny blue-birds, my automata, winding their way through the air and into the night, flapping all their pretty wings against the moonlight as they go.
by Lyra Ayres
“Boy! Clean up this rotten mess and close the blasted shop. I don’t pay you to play with toys,” roared Mr. Rochfort.
“Yes, right away Mr Rochfort,” sighed Anson as he pushed his spectacles up his nose. Without another word, his employer slammed the shop door, making the bells shake in fear.
Brushing off Mr. Rochfort’s vehement demands, Anson returned to his workstation to tinker with the necklace he’d been previously focusing on. His latest creation, and, in his mind, his best, was a neatly crafted heart on a silver chain. Black stones stalked the outer edge of the pendant and a multitude of tiny bronze gears ticked under a glass plate. Locking the final catch, Anson gently clicked the glass plate in place with a pair of miniature pliers.
by Wendy Quallsham
She stepped through the doorway skittishly, as if the room contained all manners of mechanical horrors lying in wait for her. The watchmaker brushed his hand gently across the small of her back, a tiny caress, and urged her forward.
“Come and see, my dear.” He closed the door, the lock clicking shut behind them.
She stood docilely while her eyes adjusted to the dim light of the single gas lantern burning quietly in the corner. The shadows resolved themselves into blobs, and then into shapes, those of the watchmaker bustling around his newest invention in the semi-darkness. There was a click, a whirr, and something in the device started to move.
“I promised you would like it, did I not?” he asked. “Two years I’ve been building it, in between my other projects, and you will be the one to help me put it through its paces. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Six: The Plummeting Duke and the Baldwin Bag
“Are you ready to depart then, Captain Becker?” Baron Amadahy asked Gideon on his penultimate day in service to the Kingdom of Oklahoma. They were meeting in the Foreign Minister’s opulent office, easily as posh as any in England, though some of the decorations might have raised an eyebrow in London. But his ship’s recent heroism had earned Gideon the privilege of meeting with the third most powerful man in the Prairie Realm in his private office. Tomorrow he would go aloft from the Tillassa Yard one last time, his service ending the moment he crossed the border into the province of Lafayette, in the Empire of Louisiana.
He had chosen that route to protect the Louisianan locomotive that would haul fifty cars through the Empire’s northern frontier, through the provincial capital of Petite Roche. From there the cars would be loaded aboard barges and floated the rest of the way south to the Lousianan capitol at the mouth of the Mississippi. The shipment was of especial import to Gideon, as fifteen of the fifty large steel canisters of compressed Helium belonged to him, not to mention sundry baggage of his crew that could better travel by ship to Europe than on the Victrix. That provided him a great interest in the locomotive arriving at Petite Roche intact – that is, safe from the various Negro bandits, renegade Reds, gangs of Louisianan outlaws and opportunistic Atlan soldiers who might consider attacking it.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Five: The Hopi Monk in the Beer Hall
When Chief Jacob Two Star, of the Cherokee Nation, and Chief Everett Mauser of the Chocktaw led their bands of native mercenaries to the frontier of the White Man’s empires to found the Oklahoma Kingdom on the basis of the vast reserves of gasses naturally occurring to the otherwise bland and disinteresting land, they had invited (some said kidnapped) a number of German chemists to assist them in exploiting the resource.
The Germans were fabulous chemists and physicists, and they had happily assisted the Prairie Crown in developing the industry to wrest the gas from the earth, then separate out the precious helium from the less noble elements. The pay was extravagant, compared to what they could command as instructors and professors in the universities of the Rhine, and many worked two and five year contracts with the Crown and retired to Europe rich men. But their presence had had another, unintentional effect, however: the construction of an authentic German beer hall in the middle of a dusty native Kingdom.
Das Jagerhaus had the feel of a Saxon hunting lodge – or, that was what the original design had intended. Made of wattle-and-daub, complete with rune-like exposed beams, Das Jagerhaus had become the unofficial headquarters for both the German scientists who toiled for the Prairie Crown’s Helium monopoly and the airship mercenaries who protected it. The two groups mixed freely, providing one of the few truly cosmopolitan venues in Tillassa, both attracted by the hall’s near-monopoly on the brewing and dispensing of good German beer.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Four: The Sky Princess of Oklahoma
Sept. 18th, 1891
Air Captain Gideon Becker watched the skirmish line of airships bearing the enemy’s colors – in this case, the red, gold and green of the Atlan Empire – bearing down on his position with a mixture of dread and excitement. He swung the periscope across the southern horizon and counted . . . five, no six ships. He noted with relief that they were not the three large Prussian-built stratodestroyers that the bloody Atlans had purchased recently, according to the Kingdom’s wily intelligence network, but rather the usual native-constructed patrol craft, a mere eighty meters long and painted a distinctive scarlet. They were far more primitive than the European-constructed airships in his squadron, more like the quaint first real airships from the 1870s. But there were six of them, and there were only three ships left in his squadron, including his own converted caravel, the Victrix. He hoped that today she’d live up to her name.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Three: Uncle Pete and the Parisian Whore
The next several days were busy for Edward, but he found he enjoyed the direction in scope and purpose that thieving on behalf of another provided. Lady Trey had given him three hundred pounds in “operating capital”, as she had put it, to finance his expedition to Paris, and he had pilfered another three hundred in miscellaneous valuables on his way out of Tudley House. Being conservative in nature, Edward husbanded his resources carefully, electing to take passage on a barge crossing the Channel, rather than a more expensive — and better documented — ferry or airship. Once in English Calais, he chose to travel by train in favor of a carriage ride, both for expediency and comfort.
Of course Edward was no stranger to the City of Lights, having been a frequent visitor immediately after graduation, when he had appended his fortunes to the coattails of his more affluent friends who made Paris their alternate home. Nearly every aristocratic family in England had a flat, a home or an estate in proximity to Paris, and Edward had spent three months gently visiting his schoolmates, one after another, never staying long enough to be considered a burden.
He had “worked” in the city a few times before, revisiting those same homes under the pretense of renewing acquaintanceships and then re-revisiting them during the dark of night in order to liberate them of their valuables. They were no more difficult to loot than English estates and, he had to admit, their wine cellars were as alluring as their treasuries.
The biggest problem with “working” too long in Paris was not the possibility of being apprehended en flagarente delecto by the Parisian constabulary — it was in crossing the powerful Parisian demimonde — the infamous underworld.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Two: The Ape In The Jar
Edward had never had mixed feelings about anything so strongly in his life as he did concerning the prospect of returning to Tudley House. He had not only been “made”, as his Uncle Pete would have said in underworld jargon, but his “mark” had his real name – and knew what he was about. It was scant comfort that Lady Trey could not identify him from a proper police line-up. He knew with certainty she would be able to finger him the moment he opened his mouth. He had been lucky, he knew, to escape at all – much less after such a pleasant and unexpected sexual encounter. To return was folly of the highest sort, the kind of misadventure only gullible fools would indulge in and seasoned professionals would shun. As he paced his small room in the village inn the next afternoon, he knew going back to Tudley House was the quickest route to ending his professional career – not to mention his liberty – before he had truly hit his stride. Best to catch the next train back to the city, or perhaps the Northlands, or even deplete his meager savings for the first airship headed to a foreign land.
And yet . . .