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Just in Time
,” I whispered. Victoria
The name soothed me like a birdsong. My new identity. Reinventing myself every generation or three thrilled me, even four hundred years after my first breath.
I pulled the veil of my hat further down my face. The afternoon sun battled a stack of clouds in an effort to shine upon those of us waiting for the locomotive. I looked to the giant bubble in the center of the train depot. Inside, gears clicked and moved rhythmically. However, its spinning gyros moved the clock’s hands precisely forty-five seconds too slow, at least according to my timepiece. It had never been wrong. I expected nothing less given the man who--ahem--relinquished it to me was known as a charlatan, but he had impeccable timing, may he rest in pieces. That was a hundred years ago. I was Jean-Marie then, a youthful model floating capriciously through
’s art circuit. Now, I’m Victoria of New East London, though I’ve yet to decide my occupation. France
The announcer broadcast overhead, prompting those of us not tagged with voluntary id chips to place our tiny translator buds into our ears. With mine sewn into my gloves, I opened my parasol and brought it to rest on my shoulder so I could hear the message.
“Your attention, please. The 2:10 to Old York was delayed,” he said. “It shall arrive in three minutes. Thank you for your patience.”
Sighing, I strolled a few feet back from the railway. Though the sun fought a losing battle, some of its rays penetrated the glass ceiling, making me cringe. An observer would have suspected my corset or perhaps the ankle length, purple silk dress over petticoat and knee-length pantaloons caused me discomfort. Yet when I stood in the shadows of the nearby corner, I felt a weight lift from me, as if fending off the slightest bit of sunshine drained some of my walking wasteland powers. Having gone two weeks without a feeding, I’d reached my eleventh hour.
That’s when I spotted him. Rather, he spotted me. Our gazes met briefly, just enough for me to see the familiar look in his eyes. They shifted restlessly, scanning the depot. I lifted my hand back to my hat to primp my veil. My purse, dangling from my wrist, captured his attention.
Dressed handsomely from his puff tie and club collar shirt on down to his well-kept boots, no one would have known him for a rogue. With goggles in place over his sporting cap, he looked every bit the steam engine enthusiast as many other gentlemen circulating through the terminus. He walked nonchalantly in my direction, stopping briefly to admire the giant bubble clock. Lifting a golden timepiece from his pocket, he realized the time was now or never, so he strolled in my direction, avoiding eye contact. As he drew closer, my heart raced and I took another step into the shadows.
Hairs stood on end upon my neck as I felt his warm breath from behind. “Beauty shouldn’t stand alone in the dark,” he whispered in my ear. I felt the pressure of a pulse pistol upon my back and heard it whir to life. The locomotive whistled its approach.
He sniffed repeatedly, another sign of a skiff head. I felt sure of my decision. Sensing his addiction so closely, putting him out of his misery seemed more like a favor for him.
“Just the purse, lass, an’ we’re square.” He sniffed some more.
I smiled. “You’re just in time.”
“Eh?” he asked, but I’d already lowered and closed my parasol and whipped around with inhuman speed.
The steam train squealed to a stop as I opened my mouth and exhaled a dark vapor that covered my would-be mugger. I drew in a long breath, robbing him of his life energy, leaving a heap of ash and clothing. I bent low and snatched his timepiece before stepping out of the shadows. The train’s arrival left a lingering mist of steam, providing the perfect cover for me to waltz away.
The conductor shouted, “All aboard.” I stood second in line and hurried to my seat. A porter stopped by and asked what I wanted for dinner, as it was included with my ride.
“No, thank you,” I said, relaxing in my seat. “I’ve already had my fill.” The porter left and I checked my newly acquired timepiece against my old one. I grinned as I realized both were in perfect sync.