Welcome to Monday and a new story=)
Metal gears whirred softly at his heel. Although he could hear it and knew what it was, Alex glanced down anyway. Beady, red eyes stared back. They blinked with a click, click of the lashes.
“Scat,” he hissed but the beady eyes just clicked again.
Marrell was an untrusting sort to send a rat with him. Stupid man. The rat was a dead giveaway.
“It’s your butt if they find your rat,” he said to the thing. It twittered a metallic response that Alex took as understanding. Marrell might have gotten the message. If he didn’t, it wasn’t his problem.
Scanning the dark estate, Alex made out the dome-topped outline of the main house. The kitchens were housed in the building to the left with the cellars beneath. To the right rested the carriage house. The doors sat open and the dark shapes of two work hands appeared and disappeared as they worked to fix a broken wheel.
They were the only ones moving at this time of day. It was as Alex liked it. Just before dawn people slept the hardest.
The crunch of wheels on the drive startled him. Who would be coming in so early? He didn’t have to wait long to find out as a red carriage appeared from the trees behind him. The signal on the side indicated the House of Waylin.
As the carriage passed, he slid underneath. It wasn’t how he’d planned to approach the estate but that didn’t matter. This worked better. The rat skittered after him and made a jump for it. The gears whirred and it latched onto the luggage rack at the back. It disappeared in between two trunks.
Alex scowled. Stupid thing.
He held tight to the carriage as it pulled up to the house and a servant helped Master Waylin down. Then the driver continued on, carefully maneuvering around the broken carriage and into the carriage house.
“You’re early,” one of the hands said.
“They sent an assassin last night,” the driver replied. “Master Waylin wants this done before they send another.”
“An assassin? That’s bold.”
The driver simply grunted. The carriage shifted as he stepped down and Alex saw his shiny, black boots.
Assassin? For who?
As far as he knew Master Waylin was an old bachelor. Who would send an assassin after an almost senile old man?
His skin pricked and he glanced over to find the rat watching him. Something didn’t play right here. He couldn’t place what but the prickling sensation was his sixth sense. As far as sixth senses went, it was minor. Not even worth mentioning in the course of his work but it kept him alive. It told him when he’d been played.
He glared at the rat and lowered himself to the ground. The hands were still working on the broken wheel but the driver was gone. Crawling to the far side of the carriage, he looked around and found what he wanted, a window opened for a cross breeze.
On silent feet, he reached the window and hauled himself through it. He was here for a job. He’d finish it and get out of the way of whatever larger issue was going on. Coming around the back of the house, he used a servant’s entrance to get inside. After checking the hall beyond, he moved toward the front of the house and was about to ascend the stairs when raised voices reached his ears.
“Things aren’t ready. If we move them now, they’ll be exposed.”
“They’re already exposed. They sent an assassin. We have to move them.”
“I’ve had no security issues but now that you’ve run pell-mell to my door, of course they’re going to know where to look.”
Alex shook his head. Not my business. He took the stairs two at a time. If he dawdled any more he’d run into the servants when they woke. Following Merrell’s instructions, he found another set of stairs at the back of the second floor and made his way upward to the door at the top.
Testing the handle, he was surprised to find it unlocked. Rarely did people keep their valuables unsecured. He opened the door and stepped inside. Merrell had assured him he’d know what to take. It was an odd transaction. The client wouldn’t name the desired object.
Alex stared. The rat whirred at his heel and then bit him. Cursing softly, he kicked it. The room was square with a single bed and a trunk. Nothing else except on the bed sat a girl of about twelve. She stared back at him and then blinked. Click, click.
“You’re a machine,” he said.
“So they tell me,” she said back.
“But he can make one of you,” Alex protested as he caught the rat by its tail before it bit him again.
“He can make that,” she pointed at the rat, “he can’t create me.”
The overheard conversation came back to him. Them. “There are more than one of you?”
“Maybe.” A tear slid down her soft cheek despite the defiant tilt to her chin.
Alex shook himself. Her face was pale with skin, her eyes bright green. But she whirred and clicked. His ears said one thing while his eyes said another. And she cried.
The rat in his hand spat and tried to claw him. He grabbed it around its neck.
“Knock it off or I’ll destroy you. You lied to me.” The rat stilled with a soft thrumming sound.
The girl scoffed. “He’s cursing you.”
“You understand it?”
“Do you understand any automaton? No matter who built it?”
She raised a brow with a ‘try me’ kind of look.
Alex’s skin tingled so bad he thought of fire ants. “You were made to understand them.”
“I was born understanding them.”
“Born? You’re machine.”
“I’m half machine. I was born human.”
Slumping against the door, Alex held the rat up. “What’d you get me into?” he asked it.
“A job.” The girl translated. “Stop asking questions and get it done.” She tilted her head to the side with an angry pinching around her eyes. “That’s Master Merrell’s, isn’t it?”
“What’s it to you?”
“He sold us. That’s what.”
Fire ants. Definitely fire ants crawling all over his skin. Alex resisted the urge to scratch his arms.
“The other one like you understands automatons too?”
She tilted her dark head, glaring at him. “Why should I tell you?”
Alex didn’t really have a reason. He was supposed to steal her for Master Merrell. Trust him? Ha. What a joke.
“You want out of here?”
“Maybe.” She hugged herself tight…
To Be Continued Wednesday…
P.S. I love feedback, so if anyone has suggestions, questions, or comments on what they like or what doesn’t seem to work, please let me know. Just be gentle to my poor thin skinned feelings. Thanks.