Emmett Steele has a new trans steampunk book out:
A queer fairytale in a world of Steam…
Alessandra has a problem. First of all, he’s not Alessandra. He’s Alek. Second of all, his parents pawned him off to an enchantress once they found out he was transgender, hoping she could “cure” him. Now Alek stays stuck in a tower all day, building marvelous singing automatons for Lady Elise. When a young man named Felix stumbles upon Alek’s menagerie, he’s startled not only by Alek’s beautiful creations but also the brilliant boy that makes them.
Join Alek and Felix as they hatch a plot to escape the tower and defeat the enchantress. Can Alek overcome everyone’s expectations and become the man he was meant to be? Along the way, they discover secrets, surprises, and unexpected love.
The Clockwork Conspiracy is a short m/m steampunk novella with a lot of heart and a happy ending.
“Blast!” I curse as my latest creation snaps at me with a half-finished beak. The mechanical bird project is going swimmingly, except for the part where it tries to bite me all the time. The preservation sensors are acting up again. I can’t work with shoddy materials, she knows that. Of course, if she’d let me out now and then I could get my own, but no. This is for my own good, she says. I roll my eyes and groan, reaching for the screwdriver.
A warm, tinkling melody wafts up from below and I nearly get nipped again. I recognize it immediately — it’s the musical pattern only the two of us know, and it operates the lift attached to this tower. Great. Her again.
With a heavy sigh I wipe the sweat from my brow and set my tools aside. The gears creak into motion as it begins to rise and I feel a creeping dread settle into the pit of my stomach. I don’t want to be here. But where else would I go? I’ve been stuck in this tower as long as I can remember. My charming father decided my inclinations were “most unladylike” and sent me away to stay with Lady Elise in hopes that she could “cure” me. And here I am, confined to this damnable space with only these musical automatons for company.
It’s not a terrible life, I suppose. Lady Elise ensures I’m clothed and fed, and the laboratory gives me a chance to learn new things and pass the time. There’s just the minor problem of her insisting I stop this madness.
This isn’t madness, I mumble to myself over the creak and clank of the rising lift. This is me. I may look like a girl on the outside, but there’s no doubt in my mind: I’m a boy named Alek, and she’d do well to remember that. They all would.
I mentally prepare myself for another round of browbeating and misgendering. Just what I needed today, really. My latest project sits abandoned on the workbench as I watch the window with wide eyes.
Only, when the lift fully ascends and shutters to a stop in front of the window, it’s not Lady Elise at all. It’s a boy.
How long have I been up here? How long have I spent without any other human interaction than Lady Elise? Hardly the most charming woman. My mind fills with too many questions and not enough answers as I’m faced with the truth in front of me. And here was a boy! A real boy! Something leaps in my chest as I look as him. His caramel-colored hair falls over his forehead in messy waves and he looks out of breath. Or perhaps just surprised? He wears a bow tie and suspenders, sporting a pair of green eyes that latch on to mine with such ferocity I shuffle back further.
No one else is supposed to be up here. Suddenly, I’m afraid. What if Lady Elise catches us? I open my mouth to shout for help when he steps forward, holding a finger to his lips.
“What are you doing here, foolish boy?” I hiss. “Be gone before the Lady finds you!”
The boy scoffs and looks offended. “What foul manners for a lady!”
“I’m not a lady!” The protest escapes before I can stop it. I know he can’t help it. He doesn’t know any better. But that just makes me feel worse.
“Then what are you?” The boy eyes me curiously, looking my tattered clothes up and down.
I cross my arms indignantly and stand up as straight as I can. “I’m a boy. And my name is Alek.”
The boy looks confused for only a fraction of a moment, then breaks out into a grin. “Why hello, Alek. A pleasure to meet you. I’m sorry I called you a lady, but my comment about your manners still stands.” His lips twitch at the corners as he tries to contain a laugh. Despite myself, I smile too. But he’s still an intruder.
“My manners are of no concern to you. What about barging in on me? What kind of manners is that? And how did you get up here? Did the Lady send you to spy on me? What do you want?” The questions tumbled out like floodwaters through a dam. There was so much I wanted to ask him. So much I wanted to learn. But the Lady could be back any moment, and I couldn’t get caught like this. I simply couldn’t.
The boy responds, “The song really is rather charming, you know. There I was, doing my rounds, picking herbs for Old Man Winchester in the village, and I hear the most beautiful music wafting through the forest. Charmed me heart and soul, it did. Like a bee to honey. I hid in the bushes right out there—” he jerked a finger out the window, “—and the most peculiar lady stands on this lift and ascends such a magnificent tower! Remarkable! So I’ve been watching. And listening. I figured the song was the key. And I was right.” His eyes meet mine and heat rushes to my cheeks. Heart and soul… What is this feeling? He’d been watching me? That means he’d heard my…
“Did you make all of these?” He asks, his voice an awed whisper. I let out a breath. He steps over to my beloved workbench, eyes roaming over the various mechanical bits and bobs I have laying about. I’m suddenly self-conscious of my workstation. It’s in quite a state, as I was interrupted mid-dismantlement. My half-finished mechanical bird bristles at him as he passes, flapping wings erratically and letting out a strangled caw!
The bird attempts a few chirps while my cat automaton, Arabella, slinks between his legs, meowing and transmitting her own bit of song. Lady Elise says that when I finish twelve different animals, they combine to produce a song so lovely words cannot describe it. It is to be her magnum opus, she tells me. Only I’m the one doing all the work.
“These are incredible!” He exclaims, gawking at each creature in turn.
Damn him. As if I couldn’t get any more self-conscious! I rush forward, anxious that he’ll break them. The Lady always says they’re not good enough, that I need to do them over. I’m not sure how to deal with compliments, but they leave a glowing feeling in my chest that’s hard to get rid of.
“Gentle,” I say softly, watching his gloved hands caress Arabella.
“Always,” He says, turning to me. His gaze is filled with such sincerity I can’t help but believe him.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
Now it’s the boy’s turn to blush. He turns a pretty pink, all the way up to his ears. I did that. He turns away, smiling. “Felix.”
“It was most excellent to meet you as well, Felix.” I stick out my hand and he shakes it firmly, looking me dead in the eye. Good. I like a man who doesn’t back down.
“I must be on my way, Alek,” Felix informs me, and the familiar dread and longing is back. My one taste of the outside world, cut brutally short. I can’t help but ask. “Will you call on me again sometime?”
“I certainly hope to. Old Man Winchester sends me out gathering twice a week and I can’t be gone long, but I’ll visit when I can.”
“We have much to talk about, you know,” I muse, and only then realize I’ve said it out loud. I clamp my lips shut, afraid more secrets will spill forth. If he only knew the half of it, he’d be running for the hills.
Felix nods to me before climbing back into the lift. I watch as it lowers and when he’s back on the ground, I hear him call out to me.
“Until we meet again, Alek.” He throws up a hand in farewell, then he’s gone into the trees once more.
I stay there watching the trees for some time, then return to my workbench. “What an unusual day!” I ponder to the bird sitting on the desk.
“Squawk!” is the only reply.
Emmett Steele spent his childhood in libraries, so is it any wonder he grew up to be a writer? In his free time, he writes stories, builds things, and is always on the lookout for the perfect cocktail. He lives in a converted Victorian townhouse and dreams of days gone by.
Ready to board The Victoria? Sign up for the Steele and Steam club to get exclusive bonuses and new release updates before anyone else.
You can also find him on Facebook.