Authors: Rachel Eastwood


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Copyright © 2015


All Rights Reserved
. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.


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Chapter One


The soft-faced mallet rose and fell in a pleasant rhythm, clinking against a concave sliver of brass. A slight metalsmith labored beneath, body completely covered save an inch of grease-smeared bicep on one arm.
This is nice
. Clink.
I don’t need anything else.
I’ve already found the love of my life.
Finding something like Mom and Dad have.
Is next to impossible.
They just got lucky!
Nobody else lives like that!
Nobody else is happy!

              The mallet fell for the final time, and a thick leather glove traveled up to the welding mask. The bolts securing the visor whined as it flipped from Exa Legacy’s dark gold eyes, and she grimaced. This small piece of her three hundred part project was shattered.

Her clumsy mitt pawed the elliptic-shaped leaf into the palm of the other for examination.


She’d cracked it.

Just then, a gong-like bell rang throughout all of Icarus, four times.

And then once more.


Legacy ripped off her heavy gloves, pulling the faceplate away as she raced into the locker room of Cook’s Glass & Metal Fusion. She hurriedly shook out her loose but sweaty braids, most of them silver-white, with a cluster of black circling the right ear. Once inside the small room with its wall of cubbies, she deposited her gloves and mask. Next came the reinforced, detachable sleeves, which ran the lengths of her arms, the leather apron, burnt and smudged in several places, and the reinforced, detachable chaps which ran the lengths of her legs. She slammed and locked the apparel into her cubby. Previously trapped beneath the welder’s gear, Legacy now wore a form-fitting, burnished tank top of coarse material, the color of sienna, with a matching pleated skirt fanning over her thighs to combat the summer swelter. Both articles were stitched and patched in a handful of places. No one in Icarus had the money for new clothes. Then, there were her ankle boots, furbished with deep tread and two spurs (which she’d modified herself), and refurbished with a multi-tonal heel (donated from her last pair of boots) and two tweed straps which had replaced the function of laces when those deteriorated (these coming, originally, from a ruined childhood jacket).

Although there were subtle grease fingerprints on her face, arms, and hands, and although she had never been able to afford fine fabrics or a hairdresser or the stuff of powders and rouge, Legacy was nevertheless an eye-catching passerby. She possessed a slight, sculpted frame, whose narrow hips and high breasts could’ve allowed her to pass for a boy, if not for the sultry quality of her facial features. The heart-shaped bone structure flared out around a large pair of soulful amber eyes, narrowing in around a bold nose and coming to a willful point just beneath one of those rare mouths which had an upper lip just as lush as the lower. There was something about her—part countenance, part aura—which spoke of impertinence, even though, at first glance, she gave evidence of nothing but hard work and poverty. Not that such things—appearance or income or even character, demeanor, style, word, or manner—factored into attraction anymore. None of it really mattered, did it? Exa Legacy would be turning twenty-one this year, the standard age of an Icarus bride, but she didn’t really see the point. Not of some doomed gesture toward romance in a world like this.

Legacy ducked out into the front area of the workshop, where Pierot, a wind-up assistant without the pretense of a porcelain coating, adjusted a ledger of paper-thin golden sheets. His machinations were fully visible, from the pulleys along his spine to the gears in his jaw, copper gleaming with grease. The only mysteries were what went on in the desk, which was also part of his operating system, and what went on under the shiny top hat welded to his head.

Pierot received the walk-in clients here, not that Cook’s accepted many freelance offers. The City of Icarus kept the outfit in constant motion, whether making repairs to the dome, forging gears, springs, and pointed tips, or even just cutting, etching, and shaping three hundred small bronze leaves for one clockwork tree.

“Hey, Pierot,” Legacy said, leaning on his desk. It was literally his desk. It was part of him, merged with his legs, and the contraption hummed and vibrated with complex maneuvers beneath her hands. Pierot was a state-of-the-art office automaton.

“Hello, Miss Legacy,”
Pierot greeted, the spokes of his irises spinning in a way that Legacy always assumed inferred pleasure. Whatever kind of pleasure the automaton could possibly experience, anyway. She wasn’t sure
he worked. Was it only some algorithm he used to judge whether or not he “liked” her? Perhaps it was merely the tonal register of her husky, sonorous voice that he “liked.” Or was it simply the same gesture for every interaction, and poor Pierot liked nothing at all? She still found his voice recognition alone to be baffling, much less these occasional, fleeting displays of emotion.
“How can I help you this evening?”

“I just need to clock off.”

“So soon?”
His marionette mouth fell open in mock shock. It would blow her mind and cause an existential crisis if Pierot didn’t respond the exact same way every time the phrase “clock off” was used.

As it was, Legacy hardly noticed now. “Afraid so.”

“All right, then!”

She leaned in closer and depressed a series of buttons engraved in Pierot’s chest (“L-E-G”), then depressed the circular clock which was fitted into his left breast, ticking right where a heart would’ve been. A little bell chimed from within Pierot’s top hat, registering that she had successfully clocked off. Legacy had worked a nine hour day today. She should’ve left an hour ago, but...sometimes she got lost in her thoughts.

Gotta go. Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go.

“Well, later, Pierot!” she called, turning and striding to the front door.

“Legs! ‘Ey!” her boss, Ferguson Cook, called through the cracked door of his office. “Can’ keep coverin’ for ya!”

Legacy glanced over her shoulder, fingers braced against the door, but she couldn’t see Cook from where she stood.

“I know,” she said. “I’ll figure something out.”

“Ya should just tell ‘im,” Cook yelled back. “I can’ have that boy lurkin’ in the office all damn morning. He said you promised—”

Legacy closed her eyes. “
I know!
” She took a purposeful breath. “Sorry, Cook, I’ll . . . like I said . . . I’ll figure something out. I’ve got to go.”

“He’s probably not an idiot,” Cook went on as if she hadn’t spoken. “Ya keep havin’ these assignments that force ya to stand ‘im up, run all over town, but everybody else is still here, ya know, it looks stupid, an’ he looks stupid . . .”

“Okay, bye!” Legacy pushed the door open and spilled thankfully onto the cobblestone of Taliko Square.

The sky over Icarus was thronged with the airships of visitors, no doubt arriving so as to attend the annual founder’s ball commencing that evening. Most of the traffic was composed of personal blimps, to which were attached small cabins, but some of the airships were quite large. This would only compound the difficulty of navigating the city streets, which were of a narrow design and densely populated, even considering the strict prohibition which was set in place by its founders fifty-two years ago.

That having been said, Legacy didn’t ever let herself reflect on any possible “bright side” to the Compatible Companion Law, or any of its subsets.

Making off at a brisk pace toward the domestic district, Legacy heard the clock tower chime the half hour and broke into a run, dodging past a five story finery boutique recently graffitied with the rebel symbol: a pair of interlocking lime green C’s, fashioned to resemble chain links. Chance for Choice, led by the dubious Neon Trimpot, was an underground resistance to the government of New Earth. Most of them were wanted, of course, on several charges, and were forced to take up false names and second homes in order to speak against the duke.

Legacy cut through Heroes Park, a manufactured mountainside of copper hemmed by bronze brush, incidentally triggering the automatic speeches of a dozen different statues on her route. “In 2260, I foresee a world of abundance, carefully regulated by these impartial courts . . .” She dodged their ball-jointed arms as they arced in gestures of grandiosity, narrowly missing a sudden, deep bow as one of the statues swung down at the waist and jerked to a stop. “In an age of darkness and scarcity, in an age of despair, science and technology alone shone as the . . .”

She ducked through a proper maze of trees, all engineered to slowly turn their leaves downward between five and six o’clock. They hummed with the golden warmth of solar energy during daytime hours, but now, as the sun slid away, they became obsidian and cool to the touch. Legacy gripped a trunk and spun onto the wider sidewalk of the industrial territory, bursting from the thicket of gold slowly fading to black.

The industrial territory was a swath, no, a pox of looming factories which leaked from every orifice. If Legacy had scored lower on her placement test, she may have ended up wed to one of these hells. Cook’s workshop was different, because they were a small, open-air facility. The treatment was humane there. But the conditions in the mass production units were abysmal. The hours were grueling, the machinery dangerous, and this provided employment for thousands of the local residents. Exhaust pipes expelled wavering streams of heat beneath the dome which, though serving to keep the city afloat, also contributed to the misery of every laborer housed therein. Meanwhile, vibrant sewage trailed from other loosened valves.

The factories were like giants compared to the rest of the structures in Icarus. Although they were only three separate buildings, they produced the majority of the mechanisms available to the city.

Legacy’s father had lost his arm in the middle one, which manufactured engines of various sizes. His equipment had been previously cited as dangerous, but never updated, and still, orders came in, and the head office had received consent from the duke to carry on until the requisite adjustments were available—but they never were. It was the malfunctioning grip tool which tore her father’s arm from its socket, and changed the course of his life. Legacy had only been a baby at the time.

Beyond the hedge of belching shadows, silhouetted now against the peach cloudbanks of sunset, lay the domestic district, which ninety percent of Icarus called home. The domiciles were stacked on top of each other in a way which may have once looked neat, before the fumes of the nearby factory works ravaged them, but which now seemed to sit sideways on top of each other, crowded and sagging.

It wasn’t so bad, though. Balconies trimmed each level, stairs vaulting from the ground floor to the top. They had windows. Some even had flowers—not real flowers, of course, but colorful fans of painted chrome all the same, mechanical bees on strings occasionally buzzing around to collect invisible pollen. The material from which the sections were built was hardy, so the danger of an imminent collapse was low. Although the material sometimes looked like wood, and sometimes like stone, probably to combat the depression that monotony could incite, it was all the same alloy of glass and metal in the end.

Legacy leapt onto the first porch, and a shrill, tinny
Rrrrah! Rrrrah!
filled the air. Thin gray shutters on a tiny window to Legacy’s right swept open as she passed them.

“He only senses
motion, you know,” Widow Coldermolly grumbled. The first floor resident, a sour recluse who only stirred at the behest of her robotic pooch, was the hunchbacked Widow Coldermolly. Tottering dangerously close to her eighties, she was the only person in this particular complex who may have been capable of recalling the surface of Old Earth, if the seams which held her mind together hadn’t split ages ago.

“I’m sorry, W—Mrs. Coldermolly,” Legacy responded, about as automatically as the widow’s dog had come to life upon the sudden vibration of the floorboards.

Legacy was only stilled for a moment before turning her back to continue pounding up the shrill stairwell, taking them two at a time. She could hear the Widow Coldermolly bellowing after her—“You set him off again, Exa!” —as she reached the porch with the brass #4 next to its knocker and flung herself inside.

“Ex, you’ve got less than an hour to get ready,” her mother, Furnice, informed her from the upstairs loft, sucking her stomach dramatically inward to fit into an ancient corset. It was probably the most delicate thing in the entire unit. Furnice, like Legacy, was a small woman who had spent her life working as hard as any man, and it showed in the deep grooves on her face. Her own mane of platinum braids was not loose, but tied into an ornate bun.

“And Liam came by,” her father, Patch, added. It was he who struggled to suture shut the criss-crossed laces of her mother’s corset, his mechanical arm sending off a spark as it tightened the ribbon shut. Her mother yelped.

“All right,” Legacy answered, half-listening. It was so much easier to block these things out than to recognize them.

Even though the ceiling was only about ten feet high, the Legacy compartment contained two levels unto itself. The entrance emptied into a combination den-and-study, wherein a ladder with deep, wide rungs (which doubled as a shelf and pantry) led up to a loft. This was the area from which her parents called down to her. The loft was bisected by a single wall, forming the bedrooms. Neither room had a fourth wall, so the events of both were open to the entire house. The ladder emerged into Legacy’s room, but a turn to the right and a few paces would lead into her parents’ bedroom.

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