Name: Talynn Lynn
Genre: YA Contemporary Steampunk Fantasy Title: ClockWork Bounty Hunter
The clockwork dragon detonated in a barrage of fire and metal.
I yanked the sword I wielded back and shoved the shield in front of my body, but it was too late. The acid laced fire already started to melt the silver blade. Igrowled and flung the weapon away from my body. It settled in a muddy bog and slid beneath the surface.The dragon hissed and disappeared, transmitted back toit’s creator, though it left most of it’s working parts scattered around the battleground.
“Echo!” I yelled over the explosion of noise. “It’s over. You can come out now.”
My twin sister had been standing behind me a few minutes earlier, tucked away in safety, but now I fought alone in the damp muskeg. I scrunched up my nose, the acrid smell left behind from the dragon burned when I breathed. I glanced around me. It wasn’t easy to concentrate on the battle when Echo wasn’t in sight. Nothing but dark shadows, where the bog mixed with cypress tress and deep caves in the distance. All I could make out was rocky crags with dark circles that looked like black eyes keeping watch over the swamp. Creepy, even for me. Echo wouldn’t have run in there. With one last look around, I walked back toward base camp, betting my cards she’s run home to the safe house.
Lopsided wooden depositories spread out toward the bog on my left and the ghetto was cramped with half rotted shanties down by the river, off to my right.The worn path was slick with drizzling rain, and the fine mist fogged my glasses and dampened my hair.
Pieces of downed airships, armor, and weapons littered the area, but at the moment, the streets were deserted. What seemed like an invasion only minutesbefore, turned out to be nothing more than a show of power. Our city’s fiercest enemy had shoved us to the edge of the world. They lived on the other side of the bog, in the neighboring realm, yet they wouldn’t be happy until we were all extinct and they owned all the land, including the worthless swamp we now called home. I would fight until the end to protect my family. No matter the cost.
Searching the sides of the road, I brushed my arm across my forehead. Black ash smeared my skin and my hand burned from the fiery exhaust left from the dragon’s spew. A wire poked out of my skin, too, and the cutaneous markings on my arm had been burned off. I needed a cybernetic artist, preferably from Chantal’s office. Her fees were the cheapest in town.
First, though, I needed to find my family and check to make sure they were okay. I stopped at the safe house that bordered the city gate and tapped the call button on the iron door and lowered my mouth to the speaker.
“Check in for Bridges 2-6-0.”
Static answered me before the posted watchmanreturned my inquiry.
“Number and name.”
“2-6-3 Sterling Bridges.”
Silence, followed by a beep.
One down, and three to go. I pushed through the gate and turned left, toward the terraced area. Shuttered windows and reinforced doors opened here and there. I shouted down skinny alleys as I passed by, “Echo Bridges! Are you here?”
A quiet reply came from the second alley way. “Sterling? Is that you? I’m here. Follow the brick path to the end.”
Her voice came from the opening of the mechanical depository. The faintest beam of lightglowed in the dusty window. Echo emerged from the shadows. Her tousled hair didn’t distract from her dainty features. The only clue evidenced to her heritage was her steel gray eyes.
Black stains soiled her lace-trimmed bodice, and her elbow length white gloves were covered in oil and streaks of blood.
My arms tensed. “Shisters. What happened? Are you hurt?”
“Just a tiny puncture. I’m fine. But he’s not.” Echo nodded behind her.
I squinted past her, back into the dark shadows of the depository. Hidden partially beneath a low shelf filled with parts, rested a crumpled body. His white lab coat was covered in blood.
“A genetic transient?”
“Yes, a cute one, too. Looks like he’s about our age.”
I slammed my fist into the doorframe. How did he get past the guards?
“I bet he brought the dragon with him.”
Echo frowned. “I don’t think so. He was inside the depository when I ran in here. And, he was already wounded.”
That didn’t surprise me. Echo couldn’t hurt a fly.
“Do you think he was killed in here, or dragged inhere from the alley?” I looked around the floor for evidence of a body getting dragged through the door.
“He’s not dead, Sterling.”
I stopped in my tracks. Every hair on my body stood on end. Never in my life had I enjoyed taking the life of someone else. Not even the enemy. My eyes shut tight, I breathed in through my nose and exhaled, nice, long, slow, through my mouth while I reached for my dagger inside my boot. As I took a step in the direction of the wounded transient, Echo grabbed my arm.
“Please don’t kill him.”
Her gloved hand was damp with oil. “You’re leaking too much. I thought you said it was only a small puncture?”
She smiled her innocent, girly smile. “It is, but it’s in my main artery. I’ll need repairs soon.”
“I can see that.” I glanced at the still figure across the room. He moaned softly and I squeezed the handle of my dagger tighter. “Why don’t you want me to kill him?”
Echo reached in the pocket of her apron. “I found this in his jeans pocket.”
She held out a bronze bracteates, smudged gray and red from the oil and bloody mix. I rubbed it on the smooth material of my pants leg until an etched symbolcould be seen. A simple arrow shot at a lightning bolt.
“A demurrage? From the Genetics Realm.”
“What did he come here to buy?” Echo looked over her shoulder at the moaning transient.
“Obvious what he was looking for. He was in the mechanical depository. I’d say he was looking for body parts.” I started toward the shelves and Echo followed close on my heels.
“Are you going to kill him?”
I bent on my knees beside the transient. His eyes flashed open. “Oh God. Don’t kill me.”
I held the dagger at his throat. “Give me one good reason why?” Why were all transients so weak?
He glanced at me burned arm and over at Echo’s gloved hand, which was saturated by now, ebbing up her arm toward her elbow.
“I can fix that leak and I know how to repair your burned cutaneous area.”
Echo leaned close to my ear. “Do we have enough savings?”
The transient smiled. “I’ll do it for free, in exchange for you sparing my life.”
I couldn’t pass up his opportunity. We had enough in saving for one repair, not two. I pressed the dagger deeper into his skin.
“If you lie to me, trap me, betray me, or hurt my sister in any way, form, or fashion, you are dead. Any questions?”
He shook his head. “I understand. My name isZavati Cleon. Perhaps you’ve heard of me, or my family?”
“I could care less about your kind, including your family. Now, lets go, before my sister hemorrhages todeath. Where do we go?”
Zavati struggled to sit. He compressed his hand over a gaping hole in his upper thigh. “I need a stitch or two before I can walk. Care to help me with that?”
I stood and searched the shelf for a bottle of healing glue. His wound was healed in an instant. “Let’s go,” I said as I hooked my hand around his elbow. “Where to?”
The transient stood. “I have a realm jumper. It seats four.”
I rolled my eyes. “This must be our lucky day.”