I sighed and and asked "Sir Edward?" as I turned.
A manicured hand wrapped around my wrist. Her ruffles brushed against my hand. I stared into clockwork pupils that rotated into jade as I gasped.
"Not quite. Let's talk."
I tries to pull my hand away, but her magenta sleeve pulled back, drawing me closer. She smiled, baring porcelain fangs.
"Now now, Cousin! My new Daddy said I should play with my cousins..."
Her grip tightened like a vice, and I winced.
"...and I never play with my food."
I gulped. "Fair enough..."
"And don't even think about taking off, Junior Birdman. You'll scare the fish."
"What?" I looked up and saw a school of pink salmon swimming over the Steelhead Sky.
"Babbage has air kraken, Steelhead has air salmon. Koen and Kira are too busy fishing off the rooftops in Boomtown to notice us. Maybe the air kraken eat the air salmon? That would make things interesting, wouldn't it? When's the last time we saw a giant chicken or steampowered elephant around here, anyways? This place isn't as wild as it used to be, that's for sure..."
"So what's your game, Gematria?"
"I figured you would come crying to Genie when you realized your bag of tricks hadn't dropped yet, along with your..."
I looked away. "DO YOU MIND??"
"Do you?" she asked sweetly. She twisted my wrist until I looked back at her again, and she swatted me across the face with a small black leather handbag. She then tugged me across the street and sat me down at the steps of where my Steelhead home had once been. She drew me down to sit with her.
"Here, hold this." She pulled her arm back. Her wrist clicked as her hand detached from her forearm, staying clamped to my wrist. I stared at the hand, and when I tried to pull it off it squeezed hard enough to make me scream.
As I flailed my arm in protest, she unlatched her purse with her remaining hand. She slid the stump of her arm inside, and after a series of fast clicks she withdrew a new hand, this one pale porcelain that contrasted the flesh tone of ther current frame. The white hand already clasped an envelope sealed with wax and a ribbon.
"My friend Alice passed this to me. This is a new contract from Novem."
I looked up in stunned silence, and the hand relaxed its crushing grip on my wrist.
She unsealed the envelope and begna to read it, giggling to herself. I tried to grab it with my untethered hand, but the I felt the fingers dig their nails into my flesh.
"Get this thing off of me!"
"You keep struggling and you won't have a hand left to sign! Now behave!" She spread the paper out on the flagstone and fished a mechanical pen from her purse. "Sign here." The mechanical hand dropped to crawl like an insect onto the document, holding it down as a breeze carried the shadow of a salmon school overhead. As I signed in the best handwriting I could muster with a sore arm. she fished a bundle of satin and lace from her purse. "Your handwriting for prescriptions is worse."
"That's supposed to be illegible."
"Then how does the pharmacist read it?" She squeeazed the bundle, and steel rods expanded upward and spread to form a parasol shielding us both as well as the contract from errant fish droppings.
"It's in code or something. I can't really remember right now."
"Of course, Sweetie." She patted my wrist with her porcelain hand, and I flinched and held it to my body protectively. "Aww...poor baby. Since the contract doesn't kick in for another week, I'll host the next event for you."
I stood up and stamped my foot in protest.
"NOW HOLD ON A SEC...OW!!"
Her parasol telescoped downward and wrapped around my head like a claw, pulling me down to a prone position. The scent of cloyingly sweet perfume assaulted the back of my nose.
"I said behave!"
I had a narrow tunnel of light and air edged with lace, through which I saw her purse tip over. The porcelain hand crawled back in as I heard her original hand reattach. The purce tipped back upright and a daguerrotype rose from the opening. She snatched it from the pale manicured fingers and held it in front of my laced aperture.
"Do you know these people?"
I frowned. I hated to look at family sepias, especially when features repeated themselves exactly from one generation to the rest. The stern man with the handlebar mustache had to be Jeremiah, dressed to the nines with the family crest in the background. Two children stood emotionless at his feet, flanking him. They both looked exactly the way I do now, minus a year or two.
"One of them is you. The other is your clone-brother, Marcus."
"WHAT?!?" I sat up with a start, and the parasol retracted to give me a dizzy view of the world again.
Gematria smiled sweetly again as she adjusted her auburn curls.