The sun is setting over the fog of the harbor. The night invades the silence of the room as the bells rings in the distance, counting the hours. Akazia look up from her notes, her training began a year ago and still she feels like she knows nothing about the figures sitting still on their shelf in this prison without locks or bars.
The second of my concept Steampunk short stories, Sleeping Dolls explore the fate of the dolls when they don't have a family.
Created over 50yrs ago by an engineering genius, the original Dolls are a race of mechanical humanoids that can often be mistaken for humans. After creating over a hundred of them, their Creator died mysteriously, leaving his secrets to two apprentices who disappeared quickly thereafter. With the science behind creating living Dolls lost, a group of engineers created the Manikin guild with the mandate to find, repair and study the original Dolls hoping it would lead to discovering their secret.
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The key turned slowly, the clicking sound of a winding spring building anticipation into Akazia's heart. She felt the small silver tool reach a stop, indicating the mechanism was fully wind. The young lady carefully pulled out the key and inserted it into an other hole in the complex design on the wall. The key turned freely at first, the turns adding to the resistance as the spring tensed.
At the small desk, some distance behind her, George was gathering his books, getting ready to leave.
"- Are you playing with that clock again? They told me it was broken."
The young women seemed to ignore her friend's comment, quickly counting the number of time the key turned in the little opening. George knew very well she was listening, she was just too engrossed in her work and maybe too annoyed at him to want to get into any kind of argument.
"- Listen, I'm really sorry you got stuck taking the night shift guarding this place. If I could, you know I would stay with you until morning but I can't. I got to go to that tutoring session else they won't let me pass my classes......"
The Sophomore sighed, the lack of answer from his friend was irritating but he knew that no matter what he would say it would not make the girl feel any better. He placed the last of his books in his bag. George was bothered by his inability to support the Freshman for the full night guard turn and sincerely annoyed at the teacher who had 'volunteered' her.
"- I'm just thinking... Jenny is finishing her piano lesson in a few hours, would you like me to ask her to come up and check on you after? I'm sure she wouldn't mind..."
"- Don't bother." was Akazia's first words since she had started working on the complex contraption that made up the short wall in the middle of the room.
She looked at him over her shoulder and realized how worried he was. Akazia sighed, left the silver key in it's place and turned toward her friend, trying to reassure him.
"- I'm not upset at you. The Middler who had this task is sick and all the Sophomores have important evaluations in the morning. Master Philips had to pick someone..."
While her voice was calm and in control, George wasn't fooled. He knew her too well and one thing he was sure is that the girl would have been more likely to volunteer to spend a day in the city morgue then to guard this museum at night.
"- Master Philips... that old crow... Wait till tomorrow, he will get a piece of my mind. He knows Freshmen can't take night shifts. Only Juniors and Middlers... Even Sophomores can only do it in pair..."
"- What's wrong? Afraid I'd break something?"
'Break something? Not in a thousand year...' With her in charge that broken clock would most likely be fixed before morning.
He was debating bringing up her feelings about the Doll hive when in the distance the old bell tower started signing the last quarter of the hour.
"- If you planned to be late......"
George felt anxiety grab his chest. Taking in a difficult deep breath, he grabbed his bag and coat, hurrying toward the glass door giving onto the narrow balcony.
"- No, no no! I can't be late again!... agh! I will come back af..."
Akazia interrupted him sharply.
He turned to look at her and narrowly caught his cap she was throwing at him.
"- Go NOW!" She insisted. He accepted defeat and ran out onto the balcony and to the small cabin waiting at the end of it. He closed the compartment glass door and gave a small wave to Akazia before pulling on the lever. The capsule's break was released and the cylindrical habitat slid along the vertical rail it was hooked on, down toward the street below.