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Authors: Lisa Mantchev


BOOK: Ticker
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2014 Lisa Mantchev

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Skyscape, New York

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Skyscape are
trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13 (hardcover): 9781477825297
ISBN-10 (hardcover): 1477825290
ISBN-13 (paperback): 9781477825280
ISBN-10 (paperback): 1477825282

Cover design by Will Staehle

Library of Congress Control Number: 2014906850

For Lori and Ciarán, who understand that we make our own dreams come true



















In Which a Young Lady of Good Standing and Impeccable Moral Character Enters the Scene

A girl with a clockwork heart shouldn’t be running late, but I was. Narrowly avoiding a fruit cart, I hurtled into the thick of rush-hour traffic astride my new Vitesse. The motorized, high-wheeled cycle had been special-ordered from Grimthorpe’s Custom Velocipedes, and I was still getting the hang of the throttle. Traveling at a speed one could only define as “breakneck,” I defied physics and the traffic laws to swerve between a hansom cab and several irate pedestrians.

“Out of the way!” I accompanied my shout with the insistent clatter of the cycle’s bell. “Coming through!”

Immediately behind me came the protesting neigh of a mechanical horse and the metallic shriek of brakes.

“Just see what you’ve done!” a driver yelled over the hiss of released steam.

I didn’t dare turn around, so I craned my neck and raised my voice to bellow, “I can’t see where I’m going if I only look where I’ve been, my good man!”

I had to look to the future; the past held nothing but pain and fear. And death.

The Ripley’s Personal Aethergraph strapped to my ribboned leg garter fired to life, a welcome distraction. With a series of clicks, the RiPA tapped out a message.


“Wicked temptress!” I muttered, mouth suddenly watering. The communication was from Violet Nesselrode: best friend, confidante, and the youngest of a baker’s dozen of children with whom she shared ownership of the SugarWerks Fully Automated Bakery.

But I wouldn’t succumb. Copernicus Emery Farthing—Nic, for short, and my older-by-a-minute twin—was going to have my tardy head on a platter the moment I reached the factory. I couldn’t pick him up also bedecked in confectioner’s sugar. Not this morning.

Today wasn’t a working day for the Farthings, but Nic had gone to his office to retrieve some paperwork. Within the hour, we needed to meet our parents at the Bazalgate Municipal Courthouse for the sentencing of Doctor Calvin Warwick. The papers called him many things, a “brilliant young surgeon” and a “genius gone mad” most often. He’d been my lead physician since I was twelve, and for the last four years my family counted him among our dearest friends. But over the past few months, the man who’d implanted my clockwork heart had become a monster none of us recognized.

Late or not, perhaps I did need some sweet pastry to clear out the horrible taste of bile at the back of my throat. The moment no other carriages or conveyances seemed intent on running me down, I clicked the RiPA over to “Outgoing” and tapped out a reply.


“You’re easily corrupted, Penelope Farthing,” I lectured myself. Altering course, I shot straight down to the River Aire, where a left turn put me on The Strand. The air here was heavy with river damp, yeast, and steam. The other factories on the block were thin gentlemen in severe black coats and top hats, smoke curling from chimneys like cigars stood on end. SugarWerks was the sole lady among them. Her striped awnings were like skirts snapping in a breeze perfumed with spices and bread; her welcoming illumination glinted off delicate ornamentation of copper and brass.

I’d arrived and so came the inglorious task of slowing down. The Vitesse herked and jerked and finally sputtered to a reluctant halt three inches from the pockmarked brick wall. With a sigh of relief, I hopped off, propped the cycle against the building, and removed the key.

“Contrary beast!” Far from feeling peeved, I ran an appreciative finger over the gleaming copper handlebars. A year ago, I wouldn’t have even contemplated riding such a thing; now, I fairly flew upon it wherever I went. It might well kill me one of these days, but so might other less pleasant things. The moment I’d laid eyes upon it in Grimthorpe’s showroom, I arrived at the
conclusion that I’d prefer to ride from this world to the next on its gorgeous wooden seat, with brass exhaust pipes in place of angel wings, high wheel instead of a halo.

After a short sprint up the stairs, I pushed through the door. An intoxicating sugar perfume nearly knocked me out the way I’d come in. Ding! Ding! Ding! I tapped the brass bell in rapid succession until Violet bustled in from the back room, wearing the blue-and-white pinafore that was the SugarWerks’s uniform and a frown that was not. The same age as Nic and I, Violet wore her amethyst hair spiked and a brass gearring stud on the left side of her nose. On one set of knuckles, BAKE was tattooed in elaborate black calligraphy; CAKE was on the other. Today she had an aquamarine bow pinned to the top of her head, a silver cupcake and crossbones marking the spot between the two loops of ribbon. Her lip rouge was the same fruit-stain red as the raspberry tarts; I’d seen that same color on Nic’s cheek quite a lot this summer, once they’d started walking out together.

“I’ve no idea why you’re wasting your time on my idiot brother,” I said by way of greeting.

“Don’t think you can distract me, Penelope Farthing.” She pulled a full sheet of gingerbread off a brass rack and moved it to the glass case without even a grunt to mark her effort. Tougher specimens than I learned the hard way not to go up against her in an arm-wrestling match. “I saw how fast you shot in on that infernal contraption. You’re going to break your neck one of these days.”

“Sooner rather than later,” I agreed. “But you wouldn’t want me hanging about the omnibus stop at all hours, would you? I like keeping my own schedule.”

“Your purported schedule is a fearsome and terrifying thing.” Violet shifted gears as easily as I might on the Vitesse. “Did you
wind your Ticker this morning?” She fixed me with a stern look that was not the least bit undermined by her diminutive stature. Though Violet always wore black laced boots that added three inches to her height, I still towered over her.

“As if I’d ever forget. One hundred clicks before breakfast.” If we’d been fencing at Mettlefield’s Gymnasium, that would have been an advance-lunge and a point scored.

Except Violet parried deftly: “How is the blasted thing holding up with all the stress from the trial?”

In response to her question, my clockwork ventriculator thudded twice in quick succession. Never meant to be implanted in the first place, it already needed an upgrade. The pretty little thing should have been decorating a shelf somewhere rather than struggling to keep the blood moving through my veins.

I steered myself away from such thoughts by ogling the caraway-seed cakes. “It’s working well enough. And even if it wasn’t, it’s not as though Warwick will ever be allowed to practice medicine again.”

“Not if they hang him, he won’t—” Violet leaned over the counter and squeezed my shoulder gently. “Apologies. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s the truth though, isn’t it?” I said, trying to remember how to swallow. “There’s a very good chance they’ll sentence him to death.”

“They haven’t found him guilty yet . . .” Her voice trailed off, because everyone in Bazalgate knew he’d committed the crimes of which he was accused.

Straight out of medical school and flush with the success of a new open-heart surgical procedure, Warwick had been brought in as a consultant on my case. Everything he’d done, everything that happened afterward, had been because of me.

I twitched my shoulders, wishing I could rid myself of the invisible weight sitting upon them. “I’d better step on it and get to the factory to pick up Nic. Are my sticky buns ready?”

“Of course!” Turning to the order board, Violet lined up a series of brass alphabetical dials. She spelled out “F-A-R-T-H-I-N-G” before moving to the end of the counter and standing on tiptoe to reach for the delivery lever.

BOOK: Ticker
3.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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