Authors: Annie Seaton
of the Moon Flower
© December, 2012 Annie Seaton
Edited by Amanda Clymo
Cover Art by Annie Seaton
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or
dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © December, 2012 Annie Seaton
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce,
distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding
subsidiary rights, please contact the author.
As always…to Ian for
his support and encouragement of my need to write.
my two writing colleagues who have become dear friends as well.
your fine editing and wicked sense of humour.
for your encouragement and fabulous ideas
not forgetting Gavin…a great barista and a fabulous line editor
Sofia de Vargas shivered and the hairs on
her neck stood on end. The chill wind blew in from the Austrian Alps and the
departure lounge of Wien
was icy in the pre-dawn darkness.
She pushed her hands deep into the pockets of her dark cloak, gloved fingers
curling round the cold steel of the small weapon and her gaze flicked around
the deserted space. Quiet footsteps to her left confirmed her suspicion— she
was not alone. She stood completely still, ignoring the pounding of her heart
as she listened in the silence surrounding her.
She knew she was unrecognizable; a
close-fitting, dark helmet with a small brass mouthpiece attached, hid her
silver blonde hair from any curious onlooker. She stood to the left of the
portal, hidden by one of the statue crowned columns in the elevated departure
lounge and waited for the arrival of the dawn train from Paris. A sudden
movement to her right caught her attention and she turned quickly scanning the
Now only the scratching of mice and the
rustling of leaves blowing in the cold wind filled the cavernous space.
Stepping back into the shadow of the ornamental column, Sofia spoke softly into
the mouthpiece of her helmet.
“There is somebody else in here.”
No response. The range of the transmitter
was blocked by the solid brick walls surrounding her and didn’t extend out to
her carriage. She swore under her breath in a most unladylike fashion.
The hissing of steam broke the silence as
the train appeared around the bend at the edge of the station, making it
impossible for her to hear anything else. Craning forward from the protection
of the column as far as she could without stepping into the light, Sofia looked
down onto the arrivals platform. The steam fog from the engine trailed ghostly
fingers of mist into the dark corners but there was no one waiting in the
shadows. The end of the platform remained blocked from her vision.
Her carefully selected vantage point at the
edge of this level would have ensured she was able to see anyone else awaiting
the train’s arrival. Not being able to step out to the edge of the balcony
impeded her view and afforded her no end of frustration.
More worrying were the sinister noises
around her and the certainty she was not alone. Sofia had not expected anyone
else to be up here and her hand shook as she removed the tiny ray gun from her
pocket. The muted voices of passengers alighting from the train below drifted
up and she cursed again, fighting the urge to step out from the safety of the
column to see if her mysterious passenger had alighted.
No. It was more important she not be seen.
She twirled, the dark cloak billowing around her when footsteps sounded quietly
She placed her hand on the cold marble of
the circular post, before creeping silently around to the other side to face
the entry to the large hall, straining her covered ears for any sound. Reaching
up, she flicked the helmet from one side and cursed as a tendril of silver hair
fell from the braid looping around her forehead. A rhythmic clicking came from
the shadows on her left.
“Who is there?” she called, deepening her
voice. It was unfortunate her hair had revealed her sex and she cursed again,
pushing the curl back under her helmet.
A rhythmic clicking now came from her right
and as she glanced around a movement above caught her eye. Looking up, Sofia
gasped as the ornate roof of the
slid open and the bright
lights of a small airship shone down, illuminating the floor around her. A rope
ladder coiled down from the dark recess of the polygonal roof flanking the
entrance and hit the ground beside her.
Sofia stepped back quickly as a figure
clothed entirely in black, slid down toward her. Before she could run, the
acrid smell of machine oil assailed her nostrils and a sudden pressure
descended onto her left shoulder. Metallic talons pinched the top of her arm
and as she attempted to pull away, her woolen cloak ripped exposing her bare
,” she cursed looking up into
the dead eyes of a machine man, twice her height. A human face on a metallic
body. Another one approached from her right, the monotonous clicking of the
brass joints getting louder as it came closer, metallic claws outstretched to grab
her other shoulder.
Before she could pull back, a loud clang
echoed as the magnetized talons touched her gun and she dropped it, knowing she
was not strong enough to break the connection.
, Mademoiselle.” A flat
monotone from the automaton.
Deep breaths. Don’t panic. Think your
way out of this.
Sofia twisted to escape the claws of the
brass machine, and the lifeless faces of the two automatons glowed eerily in
the dark above her. The black cloaked figure on the rope ladder was almost to the
ground. She had mere seconds to escape, she knew now she was their quarry.
Frantically scrabbling in her pocket, she
pulled a small knife from the depths and pushed the magnetic handle onto the
centre of the chest plate of the automaton holding her shoulder in its sharp,
cold grip. At the same time she twisted to the right with a strength far beyond
anything the automaton would have allowed for her slight frame. She broke free
of the metallic clasp at the same moment the automaton on the right stretched
its shiny claws out to grab her other arm. As the first machine man whirred to
a standstill, rendered inactive by the magnetism of the small knife on its
chest plate, Sofia ducked under the snapping talons of the second as its talons
clicked in vain bare inches above her exposed shoulder.
Sofia ran for her life. Her cloak swirled
around her legs, impeding her flight. Lifting her skirt, she ran for the
shadows; her soft boots made no sound on the ornate terracotta floor. Realizing
the floor would also mask the sound of anyone pursuing her, unless they were
metallic, she kept to the shadows along the side of the station. Grateful she
lived in a progressive city, she silently thanked the architects for the design
of the building. One of the most modern in Europe, the departure lounge of West
ran the entire length of the eight hundred feet of the
station. Numerous doors led down to the arrivals level, where a multitude of
carriages and omnibuses could load passengers at the same time. She knew one of
the exits along the departure level opened to a corridor leading to an enclosed
garden and small restaurant overlooking the street below.
Heart pounding, Sofia glanced at each door
trying to remember which one she had entered when the designer from Paris had
met her, prior to his departure on the afternoon train just last week.
,” she muttered under her
breath again, they all looked the same.
She recalled they had come up the stairs
and taken the first exit after they had turned into the departure lounge. Sofia
slowed when a sharp stitch pulled in her side. Stepping behind the penultimate
ornate pillar before the end of the building, she leaned back against the cold
marble and caught her breath, sure any pursuer would hear her ragged breathing
Total silence surrounded her. The train and
the few arrivals had left the station and all was quiet. She craned her head
forward and peered around the column. The mysterious black clad figure, face
obscured by a helmet similar to the one she was wearing, was backlit by the
light streaming from the dirigible. He was six columns behind her, trying each
of the doors along the side as he searched for her exit point. As she watched,
he paused and attempted to open the next one. The rattling of the brass knob as
he pulled at it before he made his way along to the next door drifted down to
where she was hiding. She stood, transfixed, as he tried three more, moving
closer to her hiding place with each step. Standing absolutely still behind the
column, with her breath held, Sofia was close enough to hear the grunt of
satisfaction as the third door opened and the figure disappeared into a dark
Before he could reappear, Sofia hitched her
skirt and ran for the last exit. The door loomed in front of her in the
semi-darkness and she prayed silently that it was unlocked as she reached for
Her gloved hand slipped on the brass knob
and she impatiently removed her glove and pushed it into the deep pocket of her
cloak. Fingers shaking, she tried again, turning the large circular brass
handle as firmly as she could, and sighed with relief as the cogs inside the
lock clicked loudly and the door creaked open. Entering the narrow dark
corridor, she turned and gently closed it, leaning against the solid timber as
her eyes became accustomed to the dim light shining through the high windows of
the restaurant at the far end. Stretching on her toes, she reached above the
brass lock with trembling fingers and slowly slid the large bolt into place.
Sliding down onto the cold floor, she exhaled with relief, and reached into her
pocket for her glove.
The pocket was empty; her glove must have
fallen as she opened the door. Pushing to her feet, Sofia turned around, torn
between hiding here safely locked in, or opening the door and retrieving her
black glove as she cursed herself for the vain
monogrammed on the
inner flap of the leather. Foolish vanity could lead to her identification and
if it were discovered that she, Sofia de Vargas was waiting in the station in
the wee small hours, observing the delivery of her critical cargo, there would
be many questions asked.