by S.A. Merk
Sci-Fi Steampunk adventure short - need help revising for publication.
A Clockwerk Heart
The orange haze of Titan’s evening panoramic lit the bio-shield over the city in a haunting glow. Outside, cargo haulers and salvage ships of all shapes and configurations landed and launched keeping a constant rhythm of silent streaks of light and color. The city, Titan Station, had begun to go dark as curfew got closer. Soon the CCDs, Commonwealth Compliance Drones, would be out on patrol keeping everyone safe from those who might be seditious or subversive, like old Mr. Evans, a veteran of the First Invasion. He lost his leg to the war and lost three months last year to the CCDs for reading a black-listed book.
Ravyn gazed out her bedroom window in the loft of her grandfather’s house. She had only lived on Titan for a few years, having left Earth after her parents were killed. For all the problems of Titan Station, her long hours working at the docks, the constant advances of sweaty, puerile foreman, and the threat of summary judgment by the emotionless drones, it was still better than life on Earth.
“Ravyn, time for bed,” Grandfather said. “Best to stay away from the window.”
“Draw the shade. Don’t want to risk...unwanted...attention?” each breath more labored and shallow than the last.
Ravyn came down from her perch in the loft. She had not lived here long, but even in the short time she had seen his heart disease turn a strong, proud man who chose to live out his days in the perpetual twilight of Saturn’s moon into a shell who runs out of breath just calling to her to bed.
“Goodnight, Grandfather,” Ravyn said after helping him to bed.
“Don’t stay up too late.”
“I won’t,” she said kissing him gently. She spent each night tinkering in her room.
Her fascination with positronic technology began as a young girl. She had repaired the family dog, a species long since extinct, after it was hit by a hover-taxi. It took her six months, but after studying the schematics, she “borrowed” from the Federal Archives and with a few stolen parts, Ravyn proudly presented her favorite pet to her parents.
“What the hell have you done?” her father demanded.
“I fixed him.”
“You know what will happen if anyone sees it,” her mother said sadly.
“Everyone knows it went offline when it got hit,” her father said sternly, “and they will know that someone in this house...” he stormed out of the room without bothering to finish. He didn’t have to. Even at this young age, Ravyn knew. They all did.
She didn’t know why her parents were taken away. She didn’t know that Mrs. McCreedy from next door had seen her playing with the dog in the backyard. But after the funeral and the destruction of the “evidence” Ravyn saw nothing left for her on the hate-filled planet of her birth. The agents from the State home agreed to wait in the car so she could collect her things and say goodbye.
She found the money that her father had hidden away for emergencies or for purchases he wanted to make without the trace and tracking that came with using Credits. It was more than she expected and more than enough to buy counterfit passage on a cruiser to Titan and maybe even enough left over to help out her grandfather.
Ravyn collected only what she could carry in her shoulderpack and slid out the back. She snuck out quietly, but not without a detour through al’ Mrs. McCreedy’s backyard. She cut off her ID band and threw it up on the roof. Ravyn smiled as she vaulted over the back wall as she pictured the irony of Agents storming the old woman’s home looking for the same girl that she turned in.
Ravyn climbed back up to the loft which served as her bedroom and workshop. She had learned the inner workings of governmental scrutiny. Not only did she need to hide what she was doing (and how she procured the parts) but she would also hide the project she was working on – even from her grandfather. After all, he couldn’t be charged with something he didn’t know.
She fell asleep at her worktable, as she often did, only to be startled awake by her alarm a few short hours later. She hide her project in the wall. Only one part left to be finished, she thought as she got ready for work and tended to her grandfather before she left to catch the shuttle to the docks.
The only job she could get without too much scrutiny was that of a deckhand. The Commonwealth had a long reach and Ravyn was still a minor and a ward of the state.
She worked hard at everything, her eyes always watching, learning, taking everything in. Whether it was the groping hands of the foreman or the bio-crates heading for the hospital, she watched for any opportunity to get what she needed without getting caught.
“Whacha’ doin’ Ray Ray,” Jerot, the dock foreman, said as he slid up next to her.
“I’m busy, Jerot,” she said as she cringed. She wasn’t sure which she hated worse the nickname or the smell of b.o. and beer that followed him everywhere he went.
“Is there anything I can do for...or to you,” he smiled.
“You’re funny,” she said. She knew what he wanted, a child could figure out the transparent inner workings of this walking hormone. But, suddenly, an idea crept into her mind.
“I know,” he said proudly. “You like funny?”
“I’m really busy right now,” she said forcing a smile. “Can we meet later?”
“Ya, sure,” he said as he slid his hand through his greasy rust-brown hair.
“At break, in back, by the Med bay,” she needed something from him and he wanted something from her. We’ll see who gets what, she thought.
“Ya, ya,” he tried to whisper as if he were planning an exciting secret mission, “in back, yep.”
Her break came faster than she liked. She needed access to the Federal medical supply bay if she wanted to finish her “project,” a gift for her grandfather. And the only one with access was this greasy dock foreman.
He was waiting for her at the bay door and as she approached, she had to force each step to move toward him. She slid the EM strip she made out of her pocket and palmed it. Let’s just get this over with.
“What made ya change yer mind,” he asked just a little suspicious of her change of attitude.
“Just wanted to get to know you better.”
“You’re funny and...good looking,” she forced out the words as she swallowed the bile that had risen in the back of her throat.
“I didn’ think ya noticed. Well, what did ya—“
“Not out here,” Ravyn said putting a hesitant finger to his lips. “We should go...somewhere else, someplace more private,” she stared at the thick Med bay door. “You don’t want people to talk, do you?”
“No, right,” he said looking around. “What about in here?”
Jarot swiped his keycard across the access panel. Ravyn tried to hide her grin. He walked in and moved a crate so they could sit. She leaned against the doorway trying to look as provocative as she could and still be able to line up her EM patch over the locking bolt.
“Well, c’mere Ray Ray,” he said patting the crate next to him.
“I don’t know Jerot,” she said striking her most suggestive pose. “Maybe this is a bad idea.” She felt the patch was solidly in place, but couldn’t be sure until he closed the bay door.
“I knew you was just screwin’ wit me,” he chided. “We’ll see how ya like drainin’ septic.” Jerot shoved her out, slapped the panel, and stomped past her. “Get back to work. Yer break’s over!”
He’ll get over it, she thought as she saw the blue spark that told her her little toy had shorted out the locking bolt. “You and I have a date later,” she whispered as she patted the 3-inch-thick titanium composite door. She wasn’t sure if her little toy ould work, but after studying the inner workings of one of the empty secure bays and a few hours of trial and error back at the house, she was confident she had tinkered with it well enough to send the right frequency to short out a simple mag-lock. The security was not as strict once you made it into secure areas like the loading bay so the lock was relatively easy to overcome.
The rumble from the launch pad overhead shook her focus back on what she was doing. Ravyn had only a few hours left before lunch break cleared the bay of prying eyes and offered her the opportunity she needed.
Jerot avoided her for the rest of her shift, but Ravyn barely noticed. She would deal with him later. Tonight she would finish her project because today she would slip into the now unsecure medical bay and “procure” her final component.
Commonwealth Medical Supply Inc.
She scanned each container as quickly and quietly as she could.
Cardiac Control Units CLU-5401
“Found it,” she whispered.
Ravyn sat up all night working on her grandfather’s surprise. She watched her creation beating out a perfect rhythm in the sterile solution of the bio-med container. She had spent hundreds of hours studying the inner workings of artificial hearts, scanned discarded units, and finally had a working synthetic heart for her grandfather.
She had already made the appointment at the same hospital she had stolen parts from. They may not have been able to afford a proper transplant. But Ravyn had studied the inner workings of med-surg units this far away from Earth and found out that nothing moved people to action more than credits.
They would have never been able to afford a new heart for an elderly unemployed man. But surgeons could be bribed to perform the surgery. All Ravyn needed – all her grandfather needed – was a new heart. And now, in a sterile specimen jar in her bedroom loft, she had one. One that she had made.
“Grandfather,” she called downstairs. “We’re going to the hospital today.”
“Why...is...that, dear,” her grandfather wheezed. His color had been getting worse each day. She knew he didn’t have long and she could hardly contain her emotions as she hit the Commlink to make his appointment.
“Titan surgical, how can I help you?”
“We have an open appointment for major surgery...”
The call went exactly as she had practiced it hundreds of times in her head. This was really happening.
“Grandfather, pack a bag,” she shouted. “We’re getting you a new heart.”
Ravyn threw some clothes in her shoulder bag and dropped down from the loft.