“Don’t be scandalized, Sel,” Mme T. Bell retorted back, flexing her fingers around the joy-stick. Lux Perpetua was clanging loudly now, which indicated to Mme Bell that there was a problem with either the pistons or the joints. Or both. She winced. The possibility of having her Grant withdrawn and the looks on Ladies Verity’s and River’s faces…
No. She was not going to give up.
Lux Perpetua emitted a high-pitched screech and came to a full stop. The entire frame shuddered, the pistons hissing dismally, and everything fell silent.
“Cog!” Bell swore again. “Screws and nuts!” She tugged at the pulleys and Lux Perpetua groaned, as if in protest. With a bone-jarring shudder, the Machine refused to walk.
“I think we’ve a problem, Sel.” Bell said, feeling the cold trickle of panic down her back. “The fuel gauge’s still working, the pistons – wait, I see something on the meters! Cog, pressure levels’ve gotten low. You sure you checked it this morning?”
“Of course, I did!” Selkie’s voice was all indignant outrage. A fellow Mechanatrix, she took her responsibilities very seriously. “Check the logs if you must. But I checked everything.”
Silence, the hum of a slumbering engine. Bell pulled the gloves off. They were affecting her tactile sense anyway. She preferred to touch her equipment. More reassuring. She felt the subtle purr of the engine through her curled fingers. A sleeping Leonine. The engine was working. The pistons weren’t.
“Sel? I’m going to go outside and check the pistons. Over.” She reached up and undid the carapace cover latch. It thunked open, letting in the fragrant night air. Bell inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with the fresh air and pulled herself up, deftly climbing down the inbuilt ladder.
It was frightfully cold, once her booted feet touched the ground, it being the middle of Winter Night. Frost crunched beneath the thick soles. Her breath plumed. Bell walked around the pistons, touching the metal with her hand. It burned, ice-cold. She switched her head-light on and gasped, with relief flooding her being. Ice had encrusted the pistons.
Oh, wondrous Nature, defeating Science with Her wiles!
“Sel?” She spoke into the vox-box. “I found the problem. It was frost.”
(oh yes, steampunk Tinkerbell, with mechs – you can find more of this story in Lux Perpetua”, M-BRANE SF, Issue 18)