Octavia turned up the flame in the gas lantern mounted on the wall of the subterranean workshop. There was barely enough light to see, but she couldn’t risk bringing her work upstairs. If the guild realized what she was attempting to do, they’d stop her. And she couldn’t let that happen–not when she was so close.
Sliding her goggles over her eyes, she turned on her headlamp then wiped her greasy hands on her oilcloth apron. The last thing she needed to do was drop the soldering iron and bust it before she had a chance to use it. Activating the tiny hydraulic arm that swung the magnifying glass back and forth, she moved it out of her way so she could focus on securing it to the base, careful not to let the solder bead up and run onto his skin. Jules was already injured so badly, she didn’t want to make it worse by burning him with molten metal.
It was possible he wouldn’t feel anything no matter what she did. Sudden tears clogged her throat, but she swallowed hard, forcing them away and focused on her repairs.
Once his favorite accessory was secure–he’d be furious if he woke up and couldn’t use it–she gently pushed his hair from his face, exposing the tiny gears that now worked to open and close his left eye. Swapping out the soldering iron for a set of miniature screwdrivers, she made infinitesimal tension adjustments to the the roller chain around the helical cogwheels, until they spun without sticking.
The sound of metal hitting stone echoed above her, and she startled, dropping the screwdriver. It rolled under the workbench Jules sat motionless on.
“Octavia!” he father roared.
She glanced toward the tiny window set high in the heavy wood door. Lights bobbed as her father and several other guild members descended the steep stairwell. She was out of time. Dropping to her knees, she quickly turned the large clock key that protruded from Jules’ chest. It took both hands and all of her strength to fully wind it.
Fists pounded against the aged wood, almost drowning out the sound of the clockwork heart ticking to life. Jules slowly lifted his head, and her hands fell away from him as she sat back on her heels. Lifting his hand, he adjusted the magnifying glass and peered around the room, his left eye opening and closing perfectly.
Tracking the sound of her voice, he turned toward her and stared, slowly blinking. There was no recognition. He saw her, but there was nothing there. Nothing left of her Jules.