It’s haunted.

At least she hoped they’d think that. She wasn’t sure if they thought, though, exactly.

Tripsy eased out of her hiding place, an avenging ghost in skintight leather the color of worn gun bluing, hood pulled up to hide the bright pink of her hair. The trogg, unaware of the diminutive figure behind it, continued its patrol.

It would live, for now.

She veered down a side passage away from the acrid stench of the Hall. The damage was much less here. There were gouges on the wall and floor from the fighting, but it was relatively undamaged by the excretions of the slimes and lurkers that congregated in the Hall.

Once the Labs had been marvelous. She could still imagine the workbenches where she’d experimented with delicate escapements and learned to braze, the alcoves that housed magnetic cannon, steam bots, drop hammers, gyro-stabilized serving trays, electroplaters, organ pipes, racing ‘striders, auto-knitters, smelters, harvest reapers, submersibles, crucibles, inflammables, whirligigs, rockets, drill presses, kaleidoprojectors, fire-water-earth-air extinguishers, mills, shredders, lathes, flying machines, fireworks, forges and a myriad of other tools and products of gnomish craftsmanship.

She had grown up to the hiss of steam, the thrum of well-oiled motors. Now there were the grunts of troggs, the sinister clanking of Thermaplugg’s sentries and patrols. And the lepers. She avoided them. She hated them so she didn’t have to think about how terrified she was that she might recognize one.

She glided up to the periphery of her zone and set to work. One moment she was a shadow, the next a blur of razor-sharp edges. She worked quietly, neatly. She left no witnesses.

After setting the bodies outside her zone (it wouldn’t do to stink up the shop), she set odd little fetishes and tchotchkes on them, spooky gewgaws she’d saved just for this from her trips into troll ruins half a world away.

Finally, she had her quiet. She went where “inside” had been, though a wall was missing now. She dusted. She turned the lathe spindle, wondering how the bearings were doing. She swept around her mother’s casting station and under her father’s bending brake. She knelt where once there was a door and polished the bronze rectangle set into the floor that bore the words TEAVALVE METALWORKS.


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