Seven stories of erotic steampunk, exploring worlds of clockwork people and their relationship to their creators. If a mad, or not-so-mad, scientist of the steam age, were to create his or her own being, what desires would be reflected there? Follow up to the best-selling anthology Like A Wisp of Steam.
Like Clockwork includes the stories:
The Yearly Scientifiction Colloquium by Eric Del Carlo
Caged Dragons and Explosions by Helena Weiss
The Succubus by Elizabeth Schechter
Concerning the Ars Mechanica by Michele Poirier
Nightingale by Jason Rubis
The Clockwork Theater at the Midnight Fair by A.N.Cortez
The Beast in the Machine, by Lionel Bramble
Read on for a steamy excerpt from THE SUCCUBUS by Elizabeth Schechter…
“You can come in,” Madame says. “She won’t bite you.” She laughs, and leaves the lamp to go to the far wall, and the switches there. She throws them, one at the time, and light floods the room.
I hear him gasp, and I know what he sees. The ceilings in this room are high, and although they try to hide it with draperies, you can still see the machines that tower overhead, disappearing into the shadows above the lights. The machines hum and churn, gears half the size of a man moving in the eternal dance that gives me life. Occasionally they release puffs of fragrant steam into the air, making the entire room warmer than would normally be considered comfortable. There is very little furniture in the room, most of it covered with drapery against dust and future need. And then there is me. Shining silver and chrome, gleaming brass and copper, I lie in wait, reclined on the wide couch as might a goddess whilst she awaited her worshipers.
“But… it’s clockwork!” he blurts out, stepping into the room. He looks around, expecting to see a living woman. But, of course, there is no one else in the room.
Madame sniffs slightly, “Of course she is. I did explain that to you, did I not?”
Lord Hathaway has the grace to look embarrassed, “You did, but… the others all look… alive. This one…” he gestures wildly.
“How can that be? It looks like a statue!” He takes a step toward the couch and points at me. “It is a statue!”
Madame runs her fingers over my gleaming silver skull, “Oh, this is just the focal point, Your Lordship. The Succubus encompasses this room.”
He looks around, his eyes wide, “The whole room?”
“The whole of this floor, actually. As I said, she is very complex.” Madame makes her way back to the wall and stands near the bell-rope. “Now, it is customary for the first appointment to be with the Succubus. Did your brother not tell you this?”
Lord Hathaway shakes his head. “All Reg told me was that I would not believe what I found here. He wouldn’t say more.” He swallows, looking nervously at the figure on the couch, and then back at Madame, “Is it safe?”
Madame laughs, “My dear sir, you’ll be as safe here as in your own mother’s arms, if that is your desire.”
He looks at her sharply, “What does that mean?”
Madame just smiles, “You’ve seen what we offer. Surely it’s no surprise to you that there are some who prefer an element of risk. Don’t you agree?”
He does, although I doubt that any would see it but me. His breathing quickens, ever so slightly. The flush in his cheeks heightens, just a touch. He looks at me again, studying me, silent. After a long moment, he turns back to Madame, “What do I have to do?”
She draws from the reticule that hangs from her wrist one of the shining silver collars,
He balks, of course. They always do. Disrobe in front of a woman? Unthinkable! Even though the woman is the proprietress of the most exclusive brothel in London, they simply can’t. I think that Madame enjoys their discomfort, and that is why she does it. Eventually, she tires of his protests and rings for one of the silent servants.
“Lay your clothing there,” Madame says, and points to a chair near the door. “The servant will guard the door and make certain that you are undisturbed. And I will have a room made up for you.”
Nigel looks startled, “Will that be necessary?”
Madame smiles, “The Succubus likes to take her time.” Then she leaves, and the door closes behind her with a soft thump. Nigel stares at the door for a moment, then starts to unbutton his waistcoat, turning away from me in what must have been an automatic gesture. He has already removed his tie and unbuttoned his high collar so that Madame could lock the collar around his throat.
A voice is nothing but air through valves. I can have any voice I choose. This time, I choose a girl’s voice, light and gentle. “I can still see you,” I say softly. “You needn’t try to hide. I like to watch.”
He spins, startled, looking for the owner of the voice, “Who… Who said that?”
I answer, “I am the Succubus. And my eyes are throughout this room. So you need not try to hide from me.”
“You speak?” He starts edging towards the door.
“I do a great many things. Isn’t that why you’re here?” I pause, and he stops moving.
“No!” he says quickly. “How did you know my name?”
“I know many things about you, Nigel,” I keep my voice soft and low. “I know you seek an escape from the madness that your life has become since your brother died and you assumed his title. I know that you wish for a return to the carefree days of being the younger son. Your life has become structured, regimented. You want excitement.” In actuality, I know none of these things. I do know that he is the younger son, much younger than his brother. Younger sons are allowed some leeway in their dealings, and it is all overlooked since they will not bear the title. And… he is here. If he was looking for a mistress, he would be at the opera, or the theater. If he desired a simple coupling, a push-in-the-dark-here’s-a-farthing-never-see-the-girl-again, he would be in Whitechapel. He wants neither of these. He wants some excitement, but something that carries no risk of scandal. I can tell now that he needs something more than a simple tryst.
The chair hits him right behind the knees, and he sits down hard, the breath exploding out of him. I have him in a trice, bindings snapping closed around his legs, waist, and chest. Cables catch his wrists and pull them into position for the bindings that fix his arms to the chair. He is mine.
He struggles for a moment, opens his mouth to protest, and his breath catches when he sees the mechanical arm rising from the floor between his feet. The knife blade at the end shines in the harsh lights, the edge glittering as I move it this way and that.
“It is very sharp, I assure you,” I say. “Do not struggle.”
“What are you doing?” he whispers, looking like a bird facing a snake, his glassy eyes never leaving the blade.
I don’t answer, lowering the knife back towards the floor. I wait a moment, letting his breathing quicken, then slip the blade into the leg of his trousers, brushing against his skin before I begin cutting. His fine trousers part easily as I work my way slowly up the seam, tracing the blade lightly over the inside of his thighs as my blade travels up each leg. He
moans, closing his eyes and trying oh-so-valiantly not to move or even to breathe as the blade lays his skin bare. His arms are ticklish, and he yelps as I cut away his fine silk shirt and trace the blue veins under his skin. When I am done, his skin is shining with sweat, his breathing quick and shallow. His cock, freed at last from its linen and wool prison, stands proudly like a soldier at attention.
I pitch my voice so that it seems to come from behind him, and add a puff of air so it seems to Nigel that I am whispering in his ear, “I see that you appreciate my handiwork.”
My dear Nigel’s only answer is a whimper; his eyelids flutter open, then he gasps in surprise to see the knife a scant inch from his nose. He swallows and struggles to control his need to pull away as I stroke his cheek with the knife, then move lower, tracing the pulsing vein in his throat. I prick his collarbone lightly, not even enough to raise a welt, then gently brush the blade over one of his erect nipples.
That is all it takes. Nigel wails like a girl, thrashing in his bonds while his seed splatters over his chest and legs and onto the floor. Then he goes limp, his eyes close, and his head lolls back as his chest heaves. I pull the knife arm back into the floor and consider my next move. I hadn’t expected him to spend quite that quickly. As Madame said, I like to take my time.
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