With his hand gripping a spanner deep within the torso of the clockwork automaton “Nineteen”, Roland struggled to give one of her bolts a final turn. It didn't help that the automaton herself was being less than cooperative, stirring restlessly while he attempted to securely fasten the tiny 'boiler'-like component that had always sprung loose during her previous ‘mishaps’. The automaton flashed him a look over her shoulder, the impatience clear on a face cast in brass and possessing a sculpted beauty with cherubic cheeks and hair shaped in gleaming ringlets, the distinguishing letters XIX marked upon her forehead.
"Really Nineteen, this is for your own benefit!" he assured the automaton as she squirmed, her clockwork clattering noisily. "And it would be over much more quickly if you would just... sit... still!" After a final exertion, he was certain the device was now secured as well as he might expect. "There!" he sighed, withdrawing his hand and closing the hinged opening on her back. "Now let's see if you don't-"
She spun around on the workbench upon her smooth metallic backside and lunged, her animate-yet-unyielding lips kissing him fully as she wrapped herself around him. Roland hadn't understood why these clockwork maidservants had been constructed with the capability for intercoure yet completely broke down when afforded even the slightest portion of titillation. This one, 'Nineteen', had summarily fallen to pieces when he had simply kissed her in their first encounter - which was for the better, given her murderous intent. After her repair, however, she was unrelentingly amorous toward Roland: and despite her mechanical nature, he felt a certain affection for her as well. But the problem of her disastrous reaction to romantic endeavors remained, and though with each subsequent restoration she seemed better able to 'endure' their coupling, they all inevitably ended with her in ruin.
"Steady!" Roland exclaimed, muffled under her metallic kisses. She parted from his lips and seemed to take a second to appraise her systems. Her clockwork seemed elevated in volume and accelerated in tempo, but without the discordant unevenness that typically preceded her collapse. Roland smiled, "So far so gooaaahhh!"
Nineteen leapt away from the workbench and toward the study's settee, pulling Roland behind her and tossing him playfully on to the cushions. "No reason to rush this!" Roland warned, but she had already removed his trousers and was straddling him, guiding her pelvis toward their union. The pillow-like yet firm material of her artificial sex parted over his cock, and her clockwork spun faster still. A series of chimes, her only form of vocalization, played from her merrily as she brought her hips against his in a shuddering thrust.
Not wishing to provoke another collapse, Roland resisted the urge to reach for where her sculptor had crafted a bust that pressed taught against a uniform of brass lace. Instead, he folded his hands behind his head and contented himself to watch her settle into a steady rhythm, pumping upon his member as she rang with the sound of a music box duet, melodies at times in conflict, finding harmony in others. Throughout it all the beaming smile upon her face remained constant.
"Well..." Roland panted. "Looks like that last bit of tightening did the trick!"
She paused for a moment, evidently reflecting upon his words, then clicked her eyes shut. Her hips became infused with a wild energy and she churned the saturated material of her sex against Roland as he gasped in surprise at her sudden fury. "S-steady!" he cautioned, but she seemed beyond hearing, only pounding against him harder, faster until a sudden and unpleasant grinding sound brought her to an abrupt halt, the brass orbs of her eyes open in shock. Despite her cessation, it appeared the damage would not be contained. Her pelvis began to shudder like the lid on an overfull kettle, rattling as she planted her hands on her hips in a fruitless attempt to arrest the trembling as it spread across the rest of her body.
"Oh, Nineteen," Roland sighed, sitting up. "Why did you have to-" her chest exploded outward, the hard swell of her bust slamming into his head. He fell back to the cushions seeing stars, his vision re-focusing in time to see her head ratcheting in a circle above her exposed torso filled with disintegrating machinery - machinery that Roland would be rebuilding yet again. Gears reset, springs re-coiled, various bits and bobs re-fastened, fluids replaced... as her head neared a complete revolution, her hands pressed in on her temples as her eyes fulttered in apparent distress. After a final high-pitched chime resounded her head sprang from her neck, falling onto the settee as her arms and legs followed suit. Her limbless torso disgorged its mechanical contents from its opening as she tipped sideways, slipping off of him and crashing upon to the woven rug below.
"Six," Roland grumbled, brushing pieces of machinery off his chest as he sat up. "Help me get this mess sorted out."
Roland stared at the table of parts arranged before him, neatly arranged around Nineteen's exposed chassis. Another mechanical chambermaid, 'Six', handed the pieces one-by-one to him, waiting for him to install each in turn before providing him with the next. If he did not know where the component went or how it was connected, Six would wordlessly indicate what needed to be done. While he often needed the automaton's guidance, he found himself relying upon her less than in Nineteen's previous repairs. "Believe it or not," Roland muttered while setting another gear into position, "this is all starting to make some measure of sense..."
"What is starting to make sense?" the voice of Winter (the eldest and most irritable of the far more advanced clockwork ‘sisters’) called in clipped annoyance as her footsteps approached from behind. "And what happened to this chambermaid?" The question made Roland uneasy - he knew all four sisters were capable of jealousy, and he imagined any repercussion from his dalliances with a clearly 'inferior' automaton would fall hardest upon Nineteen. But before he could think of an answer, Winter interrupted with a different question. "And why are you involving yourself in her repair?" Her lace-gloved hand fell on his shoulder.
Roland much preferred to answer her inquiry. "Well, you see - I found myself curious how she.... actually, how all of you work, and I saw this as an opportunity to familiarize myself-"
Pain shot through his skull as she forced his head against the workbench, lancing from the bruise he had already suffered from Nineteen's exploding chest. "And where did this curiosity come from, farmboy?" Winter hissed in a menacing whisper, leaning in close. "Have you been reading your predecessor's books? Need I remind you what became of him?"
Roland's head was still spinning as he managed, "I have no idea what you're.... As your Baron, I demand you release me at once!"
But her hand did not move. "Perhaps this has all been a mistake," she muttered. "I thought you a dullard, incurious - but it seems-"
"What are we playing?" he heard Summer's delighted voice cry, immediately followed by her hurried footsteps. She leaned over and rested her head against the table beside Roland, inches from him with a wild expression. Her strawberry hair was undone yet again, spilling out beneath her freckled, smiling face. As was usual in her case, her clockwork rambled audibly, an unsteady rattling that made her seem ever on the precipice of malfunction. "Not content to let your horses and men have all the fun?" she asked cryptically, giving Roland further suspicion she was edging still closer to that precipice.
Winter's hold on him eased, and Roland pushed himself away from the table and stood, staring at her - she matched him with an expression devoid of apology, her haughty alabaster features betraying little emotion at all beneath her tightly braided chestnut hair. In the ensuing silence, some part of him wanted to tear her fitted jacket and frock from her voluptuous figure, expose the ball-joints that betrayed her inhumanity, and ride her until they were both senseless. Indeed, she would often approach him with a veneer of disdain as a prelude to an aggressive bout of lovemaking: but here he saw no masked desire in her cold features. She broke the silence with a terse, "Summer, Roland and I were having a discussion."
"That was a discussion?" Roland asked, rubbing his head.
She ignored his protest and gave the component-riddled workbench a contemptuous glare. "Leave the repairs to the chambermaids - and slake your curiosity upon pursuits more within your reach." Summer appeared ready to offer one such suggestion, when Winter took her by the hand and lead her out of the study. "I think someone needs to tend to you as well," Winter sighed, and Summer responded with an over-enthusiastic peal of laughter.
"Winter, stop! You haven't explained-," Roland began, but Winter only continued her exit while Summer slammed into a neighboring bookcase.
"Oh d-d-dear me!" she stammered, stumbling again when her attempt to steady herself dislodged a leather-bound book from the shelf.
Winter made a disgusted noise and jerked Summer through the door. Summer gave Roland a half-crazed smile over her shoulder, then was gone.
"What just happened?" Roland muttered, crossing the room to restore the fallen book to the shelf. The spine revealed no title, and glancing within he saw pages filled with cramped handwriting. Skimming through the work, he quickly realized it was a personal account, detailing the construction or perhaps repair of one of the automata... specifically Winter! He turned to the first page, reading:
I, Alan Lovelace, pen this with no assumptions of my reader beyond that you may wish for an account of how the clockwork marvels that serve as my legacy came to be. You might certainly hear a version of these events from the automata themselves, but I would not trust in the accuracy of their sycophantic ramblings. They were made to be dutiful to me above all else, with (I freely and humbly admit) a disproportionately favorable estimation of myself. As part of this telling, I hope to demonstrate why this was a necessary precaution and not merely the symptom of vanity.
Roland took the book to a nearby chair, then realized Winter would likely object - with violence - to this particular selection of reading material. He instructed Six to lock the doors of the study and as she rattled to life, Roland returned to the book's introduction.
To begin - though all the automata of my household consider me their creator, in fact it was another who was responsible for the first mechanical simulacra that would serve as the basis of my designs - and, arguably, he was the creator of the eldest of my automata, Winter. This man, Charles Leibniz, was lost to the Terror - and were it not for the circumstances of our parting, I could claim to have lived a life without regret.
As Six turned the lock of the last door within the room, Roland turned his full attention to the pages before him, certain he would find the reason for Winter's behavior within - as well as some idea of the danger he himself might be in.
"What are you doing here?" Alan lamented to himself after his carriage had departed, leaving him alone before the dilapidated manor house. Its deteriorating facade was a great surprise to Alan, in part because the owner, Charles Leibniz, had been under the patronage of Louis XVI himself for the mechanical curiosities he developed for the court. It was also surprising because Charles had only been able to persuade Alan to cross the channel during such politically uncertain times with the promise of generous remuneration.
"It would seem you are as destitute as I am, old friend," Alan muttered, taking his bag to the front step of the cobwebbed doorway. Doubting that he would receive a response, Alan lifted the heavy knocker, pounding it against the corroded plate affixed to the cracked and peeling door. Nothing. He tried again, despite being certain this was a fool's errand. Perhaps Charles's eccentricities had finally caught up with him-
The door swung open, and rather than a house servant he saw Charles himself in a workman's apron and stained coat. His boyish face had aged considerably in the fifteen years since they had last seen one another, his features lined, his brownish hair losing out to grey. He wore a smile that bordered on delirious, and Alan suspected there was more behind it than simply their reunion. "Alan!" he exclaimed, embracing him with unexpected vigor. "How good of you to come!" He finally released Alan and immediately hurried into thehouse, impatiently beckoning for Alan to follow. "I cannot wait to show you what I have been working on! Couldn't trust it to written correspondence-"
Alan saw the interior of the house was a match for the exterior. Rooms were only sparsely filled with furniture, and what was present was covered by dusty sheets. "Is there someone to help me with my bags?"
"What? Oh, not at present, no. No staff left! Well, human staff. As you can see, I sold off most of the estate to fund my current venture when the King failed to recognize - forgive me, I don't want to get my choler up when we're set to have ham this afternoon." He clicked open a gilded pocket watch. "Why, it's lunch already, isn't it?"
Alan was still stuck on his friend's earlier phrasing. Human staff? Trailing behind Charles, he entered into a dining hall that, contrary to its surroundings, was immaculately maintained, its shined and polished settings telling of the estate's former opulence. Charles took a seat at the head of the table and gestured for Alan to join him.
"I'm afraid I haven't much of an appetite," Alan muttered in half-apology. "Charles - before we settle in, would you mind eplaining why you sent for me?"
Charles had been reaching for a silver bell beside his plate, but stopped to look at Alan with a barely suppressed smile. "Your expertise, of course."
Alan sighed - so the man at least had the sense to recognize that there was something wrong with him. Unfortunately, humorism was not the answer. "Charles, I'm sorry - despite my earlier investment in the theory, I've come to realize that it is, well... wholly without merit."
Rather than appearing chastised, Charles only grinned wider.
"But that is not to say we cannot find you help!"
He seemed shocked, then amused. "Me? Oh, this isn't for me..." he rang the bell.
When Charles failed to clarify or do anything other than sit there with that idiot-grin, it was more than Alan could bear. WIth only partial success in keeping his tone measured, he said, "Despite the vagaries of your letter, I have answered your summons - at great personal expense and risk. But I have been shown precious little courtesy while you play at some game only you seem to be privy to! Now I must insist you tell me why I am here and do so to my full satis-"
He stopped when he heard footsteps mixed with conspicuously loud clockwork. Turning to see who was approaching, he could scarcely believe what he saw.
Stepping through the entrance was the animate statue of a beautiful woman, her form comprised of copper plates lined with delicate riveting. Her serene features were locked in a quiet smile, which she briefly favored Alan with before turning to Charles. Alan’s sheer wonderment of witnessing this artificial being was confused by the sordid nature of her attire. Her dress and apron were much too tight, showing the curve of her bust in scandalous relief, and the hem of her black dress was cut above her jointed knees, leaving the entire lower half of her 'bare' legs exposed. He felt embarrassed - primarily for Charles, who had undoubtedly provided her with this uniform, but also for himself - for try as he might, he could not deny the uncomfortable stirrings she provoked in him.
"You rang, my Lord?" she spoke without moving her lips -it was a sweet voice, but one that reverberated as if its owner were speaking through a metal pipe.
"The meal, if you would," he said lightly, and the mechanical woman bowed and left. The grin never left Charles's face in the ensuing silence, broken when he quietly said, "Now do you see?"
"Yes," muttered Alan, still watching the doorway for her return. "Or rather... no. I mean - how does this concern me?"
"Among the factors governing my dear maid are numerous fluids. She is prone to 'irregularities', and I believe this is due to the a humeric imbalance within her mixture. Since it appears beyond my ability to make precise changes to her chemistry, I am asking that you correct this imbalance before I infuse my next project."
"Charles, I don't the know first thing about the inner workings of such a creation," Alan began. "I... I can scarcely believe that what you have shown me isn't some elaborate farce."
The ticking of clockwork returned and the maid entered the chamber perfectly balancing an overloaded serving tray. As she began to arrange the steaming dishes, Charles said to her, "My dear, please show Lord Lovelace that you are not an 'elaborate farce.'"
The maid paused, her face animating to a state of confusion. "How am I to do that?" she asked.
Charles drummed his fingers, then said, "Show him your filament."
Alan thought he detected a moment's hesitation from the maid before she turned to him, her fingers pressing in around her temple and jawline. Her face detached with a click and a hiss of steam, revealing inner workings of spinning clockwork - nestled at its center in a velvet-lined box festooned with tubes and wires was a glass cylinder filled with a glowing white spiraling thread surrounded by a chaotic swirl of color and light, an electric maelstrom trapped in a bottle.
"What do you think?" Charles asked as the maid stood there, the opening in her head pulsing with light.
"She's... remarkable," Alan heard himself mutter, then hastily asked, "What does it do? That device in her head?"
"Her filament," Charles stated. "It serves as her brain, her 'animus' - it is all part of an interconnected system, of course, but what you see there is at the heart of it all."
"May I?" the maid asked in a hollow voice, bringing her detached face toward the opening.
Charles's smile diminished. "Did I give any such command? Alan is still-"
"I'm... done, thank you," Alan told her, and she hurriedly snapped her face back into place. When Charles looked ready reprimand her, Alan cut in once more, "It's all right Charles."
"You needn't worry about her apparent discomfort," he said a bit forcefully, pointing to his glass as the maid hurriedly grabbed a bottle to fill it. "It's all for show.She is designed to protect her filament, as it is the one truly irreplaceable part of her. This manifests in her apparent reluctance toward its exposure." Taking a swig of wine, his smile was restored. "But if her primitive emotings are enough to fool you into falsely ascribing her humanity... well, you shall see!"
Charles attacked the meal set before him, and Alan (despite his earlier protest), found himself doing the same. He also found himself stealing furtive glances at the clockwork maid, who simply stood at attention by the door, seemingly undisturbed by the earlier incident. He found it interesting that her shapely calves showed no sign of strain or fatigue as she stood there, motionless in those elegant heels...
"Something troubling you?" Charles asked between mouthfulls of meat.
Alan dared not speak his actual thoughts aloud, instead saying, "This creation of yours seems so beyond my reckoning, I... I'm just not certain how much use I will be."
"Do not fret - your work concerns only the humeric balance of the fluids." Wiping his face, he tossed his napkin to the table and rose. "In fact, I think it's high time we took a look at your workspace!" Not waiting for a response, he pushed away from the table and strode off, Alan hurrying to catch up as the maid moved to clear the table. "If I had another five of her, the entire estate would be immaculate," Charles muttered.
Alan noticed this dust free hallway was apparently under her care. "She must have been quite the investment."
Charles gave a slight shrug. "Yes, I suppose - but the only thing preventing me from duplicating her is my inability to produce another working filament. In time, I'm sure..." He stepped into a study that had been converted into a workspaces, heavy wooden tables pushed together and strewn with tools and parts - and, most noticeably - a white cloth covering the distinct profile of a woman's shapely figure.
"The area over there is where I've arranged for you to work," Charles said, gesturing toward a table covered with vials and alchemical ingredients, but neither man's attention wavered from the sheet before them.
"Your next project?" Alan asked, nodding hesitantly toward the shape. Charles stepped forward and, with a flourish, whipped it off the figure. Beneath was the nude body of a dark-haired and voluptuous woman. Her skin was unsettlingly pale, and for a terrible moment Alan was certain he was looking at a corpse; but he soon noticed at her elbows and knees were some sort of ball-and-socket mechanism.
Noting Alan’s gaze, charles said, "I cannot find material that reacts properly over the joints and can hold up to the strain.” He picked up one of her arms and bent it back and forth. "But given that they will be covered when she is in public, I don't believe this will be a problem."
Seeing her nude form was somehow less discomforting than the maid's provocative dress, but he still found himself staring a bit too intently at the detail that had gone into crafting her tufted sex. Quickly shifting his gaze to her face, he realized she seemed familiar. Though this body was far more shapely, she held the same noble and aloof features as the daughter of their French language instructor at Oxford. "Charles, is she meant to be Marie Tremblay?"
He sighed. "Did you know she married some fool in Toulouse? A cheese maker of all things!" He set her arm down gently. "I would ask that you start analyzing the fluids intended for her straight away. I would like for her to be phlegmatic - content. But not lazy! Perhaps a bit contemptuous... but never toward me."
Alan glanced at the bench. "And you're convinced that humorism is the key to defining her mood?"
Charles took a folded sheet of paper from a nearby desk and handed it to him. Alan glanced at its contents and realized it was payment addressed to him. The sum he had to read thrice to ensure he wasn't mistaken by the rather startling figure - more than enough to settle his debts. "My God, Charles, this... this is..."
"Exactly how certain I am that you are the man for this job. Now then," Charles began to open numerous panels across the mechanical body before him, "let's get to work!"
Alan busied himself studying the properties of the fluids used by Charles’s automata, and noted that there was indeed a 'humeric imbalance' gauging by tests he had devised and later discredited over a decade ago. He had no confidence that striking this arbitrary 'balance' would have any effect at all, and so Charles invited him to begin experimenting upon the clockwork maid.
"I've conducted my own tests, of course," Charles said, hunched over the large glass ampoule that would be yet another attempt at constructing a working filament. "If you tip her scales toward melancholic she becomes irritable. Sanguine, and she becomes... irrepressible..." he chuckled. "But once you straighten her out, we shall be ready for my dear Winter."
Charles smiled. "The name actually struck me when I first told you she was to be phelgmatic. It seemed a natural fit. Winter Leibniz..." he inserted the filament into an opening on a wooden box covered in dials and other controls, slowly adjusting several settings before flipping a switch. The filament crackled to life, coursing with light an energy, then sputtered and went dim. Seeking to head off another show of frustration from Charles, Alan asked, "And the maid?"
"What about her?" Charles snapped, jerking the failed filament loose from the box.
"What did you name her?"
"She's the maid," he said simply, tossing the filament into the dustbin before storming out.
Adjusting the balance of the maid's fluids was done with her willing cooperation - she would sit patiently as Alan attached several tubes to openings on her back, transfusing her current liquids with Alan's 'balanced' mixture. It had the immediate effect of quieting her clockwork to the point that it was barely audible, and she told Alan that she felt much 'better' after his treatments.
After the last transfusion intended to bring her into complete balance, she surprised Alan by leaning forward, pursing her metal lips, and delivering a small kiss to his cheek.
"What was that?" Alan asked, shooting a nervous glance at Charles who was fixated on experimenting with his latest attempt at Winter's filament.
"To thank you," she said quietly. "For your kind attention."
Alan worried that he had been off in his calculation, that he had made her too sanguine to provoke such an inappropriate response - but looking at her expression, she seemed wholly content. Under his scrutiny, however, this soon gave way to embarrassment.
"I ought to be going," the maid said, avoiding his gaze as she hopped from the table.
"Wait, I would still like to-" Alan began, when Charles's fist thundered on his bench.
"Pack me a bag," he barked, pushing away from his desk. "I need to gather more supplies from Paris."
"Right away, my Lord," the maid responded, quickly leaving the room.
"I... I believe the mixture is ready," Alan informed him, hoping this bit of good news would lighten his dark mood.
Charles gave no acknowledgement, instead staring at the unlit filament before him. At length, he said, "I need you to mind the estate until I return." When Charles looked up from his work, Alan noted the frustration on his face compounded by a lack sleep.
"Charles, you need rest-"
Ignoring him still, Charles said, "You are not to wind the maid in my absence, even if she requests it. I suspect she will wind down completely within two days. I apologize you will need to do without help for a time, but I shall return as soon as I can."
Alan made no attempt to mask his confusion. "May I ask what you hope to accomplish?"
"In Paris? I need platinum for-"
"No, this business with your maid!"
Charles frowned. "I have never allowed her to wind down, and I intend to see if there are any detrimental effects to such an occurrence before I activate Winter."
"But to what end? For that matter, why does she need to be 'wound' at all? From what I can tell, the only purpose her mainspring serves is in her initial activation. After that-"
Charles shook his head. "You don't need to understand Alan - just do as I ask. It's what I'm paying you for." He tossed his workman's apron and stalked out of the room.
Having already balanced the fluids and being uncertain as to how to fill his time in Charles's absence, Alan began to pour over logbooks and schematics detailing the design of the maid and Winter. The maid largely kept to whatever household tasks Charles had assigned to her, re-appearing time and again to bring Alan his meals. Though he did not breach the subject, her imminent 'winding down' was often at the forefront of his mind. And on the second evening, he first noticed the effects it was having upon her.
As she brought him his evening tea, her once lissome gait was now hesitant, affected by small missteps and shudders. The noise of her clockwork had returned, and it too was marred by an unsteady rhythm. "Your tea, sir," she announced, just before one of her heels caught on the rug - she stumbled forward, the tray flying from her hands, the china shattering on the workroom floor. As Alan came to her side, she looked up at him with an expression of deep concern - "I'm so sorry, sir!"
"You needn't be." He helped her to her feet, then walked her toward the settee. "Why... why don't you just take a rest until Charles returns?"
The maid nodded in agreement, but soon added, "I don't understand why Charles didn't wind me before he left. When I tried to remind him, which I have never had to do before, he only silenced me..."
Alan set her down gently, but found himself becoming increasingly agitated. "He did not explain to you his intentions?"
The maid looked up at him in confusion. "Intentions, sir?"
Alan shook his head. "What reasons does that man have to treat you with such disdain?"
"Sir, he is my Lord and Master. I exist only to serve at his pleasure," she said in a near monotone, her expression distant.
"That's it," Alan suddenly declared. "I've had enough of this - I'm winding you up."
"Sir?" she said, gazing at him with a hopeful expression.
He looked around the room uncertainly, then back to her. "Umm... how does one wind you?"
The hope was gone from her face in an instant. "You would need the key, and I am not privy to where Charles keeps it."
"Well, there are plenty of tools here - perhaps we can improvise." He took her hand reassuringly, surprised at the tenderness he heard in his own voice. "Just tell me what I need to do."
Her gaze shifted furtively before turning away, casting her eyes to the ground, her hands curling around the hem of her shortened dress. "I'm afraid the procedure is... not befitting a gentleman."
Alan felt his heart hammering in his chest as he said, "You have nothing to fear." Her back still to him, she inched the hem of her dress higher, revealing her succulently shapen bare copper thighs. Casting aside any thoughts of impropriety surrounding his standing, her nature, and his friend's instruction, he whispered, "Show me."
Emboldened by Alan's urgings, the clockwork maid lifted her dress higher and rose up on to her knees. After a final moment of hesitation, she bent over the back of the settee, flipping her dress up to expose her rounded backside. Alan could see that great care had been taken in perfectly molding its enticing shape, a taut piece of cotton serving as immodest panties that clung tightly to those copper globes.
"It is... inside..." she said with great hesitation, refusing to lift her gaze.
Clearing his throat, Alan removed the sleight piece of fabric, producing a rattling tremor from her. The dark lips of her sex were of a substance he could not identify, but they appeared softer than the rest of her and glistened with a gauzy sheen. She slid a hand over one of her cheeks, a metal finger clinking against the surface as she wordlessly indicated a small opening within the cleft of her derriere.
“Honestly!” exclaimed Alan in surprise as the meaning behind several unusually coy references within Charles’s journals suddenly became clear. When the maid reacted by pulling down her skirt, Alan was quick to reassure her. “You bear no responsibility for how he made you – let me… let me find… something.” Looking about the room, he settled on a glass stirring rod. With a moment’s hesitation and a muttered apology, he slipped the instrument into her rear.
She gave a muffled squeak and an opening appeared at the small of her back, revealing whirling machinery.
“The keyhole,” she breathed. Peering into the opening, Alan could make out a hexagonal socket within and searched for something that might serve as a makeshift key. Plucking up a screwdriver, he returned to where she still knelt and carefully inserted the tool. With a bit of jostling, he managed to wedge it into the socket where the key would presumably fit.
“Here goes nothing,” he muttered, turning the screwdriver clockwise. There was a ratcheting sound and the maid stiffened, releasing a muffled squeak. “Did that work?” he asked. She nodded assuredly, her voice little more than a tattered sigh. He gave the improvised key another turn and she gasped as fluid condensed across the union of her artificial lips.
“Alan…” she moaned desperately, arching her back and raising her hips to bring her sex into prominence. While Alan could not be certain of the exact words his vicar would choose to describe fornication with an animate statue, he could not fathom such an act meeting with his approval. But it took nothing more from her than a soft, desirous moan before his fingers were already working at the drawstring of his trousers. Hastily pulling off his clothes, he put a hand on her hip, the metal warming at his touch, and drew her toward him. When he hesitated at the threshold of her, making some frantic last attempt at what this all meant for him, she pushed herself backward and sealed their union.
Happily beyond this point of no return, Alan responded in kind, thrusting against her rigid posterior. As the screwdriver still lodged inside her keyhole began to jostle about from the series of impacts, Alan gripped it with the intention of pulling it free. “T-tighter,” she pleaded, and while attempting to keep his rhythm, Alan wrenched the screwdriver as far as he could.
She howled in response, her body shuddering as he heard instruments being drawn taught inside of her. She froze, trembling, only asking him once more, “T-t-tighter…” Seucring the handle with both hands, her struggled even to turn it a few more degrees when, suddenly, there was a loud <snap> and the screwdriver lost all resistance.
The maid cried out in a whistling shriek as her hips jerked sharply to one side, then another, her shoulders convulsing as steam burst between her plating. Her quivering sex brought Alan to an unbidden climax, unceasing even after she collapsed to the sound of protesting metal. Uncertain what he could do for her, Alan tore open her dress from behind and found a panel on her back, flinging it open to see white fluid spurting from a ruptured pump gumming up the clockwork inside of her. Covering the tear with his thumb, he noted she was beginning to calm, her mechanisms slowing in tempo until she finally gave a languid sigh, her hips writhing sensually as they emitted a ragged grinding sound. “Oh, Alan...”
“You’re... feeling alright, then?” Alan asked, tentatively scrubbing residue from stuck clockwork.
She gave another happy sigh and slumped to the cushions, her body inert save for the occasional tremor running from her waist. He patted her rump affectionately, hoping he would be able to restore her before Charles returned.
Alan awoke to the sound of someone entering the room, opening his eyes to see Charles in a rain-sodden coat and staring glumly at where the maid was affixed to several transfusion tubes.
“Why haven’t you run down?” Charles asked, setting down his bag and shrugging off his coat.
“My Lord, Alan was kind enough to wind me,” she said, smiling at Alan whose eyes darted nervously between her and his friend.
Charles threw his coat over the back of a chair, shaking his head. "Alan, earlier I had said it was not your responsibility to understand the inner workings of my automaton, but I fear that both of us have been dealt a disservice by this ignorance."
Quite taken aback, Alan could think of no reply as Charles walked toward the maid. "The simple truth is that she is not alive, and is no more deserving of your empathy and concern than any other piece of equipment in this estate." The offense was clear on the maid's face as she looked up at her master, but offered nothing to challenge to his words. Charles ran his hands on either side of her face, nonchalantly detaching the plate and exposing her filament to her obvious discomfort.
"My Lord," she began, "what are you-"
He grabbed the glass container within and wrenched it loose from its housing. There was a profusion of sparks as the maid's body spasmed amidst a terrible grating sound. Her voice became a shrill wail that heightened in pitch until it was cut short entirely when her body arrested, locking in an awkward position with knees and arms stiffly bent.
"You've killed her!" Alan exclaimed, bolting to his feet as Charles turned the filament over in his hand.
"Must you be so dramatic? I am simply putting this filament to better use."
"But what about her?"
"For God's sake, Alan, what about her? I can see that you were fond of her, and once I am able to craft more than a single working filament, I will build you one of your own. But you need to understand-"
"She screamed when you took it out of her, Charles!"
"Alan, listen to me! As I have been trying to impart to you, every behavior she exhibited was a product of my own design. She responded in a human-like fashion because that is how I made her."
"Then she suffers only because of some perverse desire to see her endure it?"
"Her apparent suffering is nothing more than a testament to my skill-"
Alan gave a bark of laughter. "You're mad."
"You're not being reasonable!" He looked at the ceiling, his voice exasperated. "It's as if I am explaining to a child that his doll is not a real person..."
Alan grabbed the sheet off of Winter's body and tore it off, jabbing his finger at her nude form. "And yet the purpose of this entire endeavor of yours was to create something indistinguishable from a ‘real person’!" Gazing at the body's pretty face, he quietly added. "Save for the sharp distinction that the real Marie Trembley would have nothing to do with you."
Charles turned his back to Alan, opening a panel upon the automaton’s smooth belly to reveal housing for the filament. "Well... I believe this endeavor no longer requires your services."
Alan gave a look to the nameless maid, her faceless body frozen, and quietly returned to his workspace to collect his few possessions. While doing so, he noted the mixture he had prepared for Winter, a phlegmatic, docile balance with a veneer of contempt - but never toward Charles, oh no.
He scarcely realized what he was doing until after he had done it - the mixture darkened slightly at his addition, a dash of pure vitriolic choler that would ensure Charles would no longer be shielded from some very deserving contempt.
"Don't forget to collect your payment," Charles muttered, startling Alan from his thoughts. With little hesitation, he grabbed the promissory note and left, sparing no departing glance for Charles, 'Winter', or the mechanical maid he had shared the night with, trying desperately to put the sound of her voice out of his head.
It wasn't until he was well on the road to Le Havre and back to England that he began to question his righteous indignation. He couldn't be certain how much he had altered the humeric balance of the fluid intended for Winter, but if she became a creature of pure malice - was there a chance she might become violent? While he tried to assure himself that Charles would never utilize the fluid without first testing it and that he himself had not upset the balance very much to begin with, he could not rid himself of the feeling that he had put Charles in real danger.
"Driver!" he shouted out the door. "I'm afraid we must return to the Leibniz estate."
The first indication that something was amiss were the three saddled horses tethered outside of the Leibniz stables, picking at clumps of overgrown grass. Walking from the carriage to the front door, his concern mounted when he noticed it was slightly ajar. Stepped inside he heard the shattering of crockery, followed by a rebuke from a voice deep within the manor. "Charles?" he tentatively called, immediately cursing his stupidity. He had no idea who these visitors were. But would the Jacobins be so bold as to-
A figure emerged from a side chamber, a woman of surpassing beauty. Her gloved hands pulled a tattered shawl tightly around her voluptuous figure, her fair skin reflecting the dim candlelight like the moon on a cloudless winter night. "My God," Alan breathed, suddenly recognizing Charles's creation.
Her deep brown eyes scrutinized him thoroughly, her expression uncertain, as if she were trying to remember whether she knew the individual standing before her. When two brutish men in rough tweed entered from the hall and looked to her for guidance, she spoke in a commanding tone, "This man was the accomplice of Lord Leibniz."
One of the men stepped forward, a cudgel in his hand and a telling red spatter across the front of his rumpled shirt. "I want this one to stand trial for what was done to me," Winter insisted, and Alan turned in a panic toward the approaching man. "You don't understand, she's-" but he was not afforded the chance to finish.
A sharp slap dredged Alan out of unconsciousness; a second brought the world into sharp and painful relief. He was being hauled to his feet on what appeared to be a stage – or rather in the wings, concealed from the audience behind moth-eaten curtains. A man in tweed held him, and he suspected it was the same one who had first knocked him unconscious.
Standing at center stage was Charles's automaton, Winter, her chestnut hair unraveling, her gown tattered and bloody, delivering a fiery speech to the boisterous crowd that filled the theatre. They appeared captivated by her, something he attributed to both her stunning appearance and the passion in her words. She seemed a distressed beauty that had suffered long under the yoke of the hated aristocracy; she had come before them as a firebrand for liberty, one who had already delivered blood and was still promising more.
The man in tweed shoved Alan out from behind the curtain, and he stumbled a few steps before dropping to his knees. Alan suddenly realized what he had taken for scaffolding or a set piece was actually a guillotine, its heavy, red blade being raised once more. Two men removed the separate remains of its former tenant, and Alan felt his head swim.
"Oh no you don't," his captor warned, shaking him before he could pass out. When his eyes refocused, he saw the pleats of an elegant but travel-worn dress before him, and looked up to see Winter's contemptuous gaze, her arms crossed beneath her prominent bust.
"Alan Lovelace," she announced, "You may present your defense-"
"Where is Charles?" he interrupted, fearing he already knew the answer.
She gave a slight frown. "He was made to pay for his crimes."
Alan swallowed. "How?"
"Madame Winter was found wandering upon the road," the man in tweed began, "her memories all a-jumble. We were able to piece together what had happened well enough, and we made sure that Leibniz bastard paid for his part in it." He gestured to the guillotine. "It is unfortunate he was neither formally sentenced nor delivered unto Madame Guillotine; but you will have the benefit of both a fair trial and a proper execution."
Once again, Alan felt the world falling out from beneath him. Shame and guilt over his friend’s death washed over his mind as he struggled to determine how it had come to this. Why had Charles insisted on treating his creation with such disregard? Clearly her filament had retained some of her memories if she recognized Alan, and that meant the choler he had delivered to her humors would have found fertile soil in the abuse Charles had heaped upon her. If only…
No, he told himself. This is you trying to make excuses for what you have done. Charles had had the right of it – Winter, the maid, they were just machines. And in his haste and his foolishness, he had made Winter into something unsafe, something dangerous. He was the only one responsible for Charles's death, and there was no one left to ask for forgiveness.
But regardless of his guilt, he had no desire to atone beneath a guillotine.
The crowd was growing restless, and Winter simply asked, "Have you anything to say in your defense?"
Speaking not to her but rather the man in the tweed jacket, he asked, "How long have you known Winter?"
He answered quickly, "Madame Winter has been in my care for two days."'
"And in that time, have you seen her eat? Drink? Sleep?"
The man seemed to consider this and glanced from him to Winter. She appeared to be preoccupied, her face taking on a slightly confused expression.
"Perhaps you have noticed the faint sound of a clock in her presence?" He thought he saw the man give a faint nod. "Well - put your ear to her breast and you will have its source."
She suddenly snapped to, glowering at Alan. "Whatever it is you think you’re doing here - I can assure you, this is not a game!"
"What are you saying?" the man asked suspiciously.
"’Madame Winter’ is another of Leibniz's clockwork toys. His most remarkable to be sure, and I am not surprised that you might doubt me. But if you could have her remove her gloves, you should have all the proof you require."
"Send him to the guillotine and be done with it!" Despite the growing murmur within the crowd, Alan could hear distinctly hear clockwork now - and it appeared he was not the only one who noticed.
"What is it you don't want me to see?" the man asked, approaching her.
"He is trying to trick you!" she insisted, yet still she backed away from her associate.
"Your glove, mademoiselle," he said in a low, insistent voice, and she took another step back, stumbling into a lit brazier. Hot coals scattered across the stage, and in an instant the dust-covered curtains were ablaze.
Panic overtook the theatre as the crowd rushed for the exit, the fire spreading at an alarming rate. Alan took note of Winter, sprawled on her backside and looking about in confusion while her former accomplice shoved his way through the crowd. Alan made his way backstage and, after navigating the detritus of the ruined theatre, he found a door leading into a back alley.
Once outside he stopped to catch breath, trying to determine what he would do next, when he saw Winter stumble from the same exit. One glove was removed, and her attention was split between him and her jointed elbow and wrist as she experimentally moved the obviously mechanical arm. "What is this?" she muttered, looking up at Alan, and he was surprised at how genuine her confusion appeared to be. Did she honestly not know what she was?
"You are an automaton created by Charles Leibniz," Alan said bluntly. "He has apparently provided you with memories that contradict this, but they are every bit the fabrication that you yourself are."
She moved faster than he would have expected, slamming her exposed arm against his neck as she pinned him to the wall. "You were his co-conspirator, this is another one of your tricks-"
" I tried... to help you..." he gasped, struggling against her. "Wound... you... up..."
The pressure eased and she looked at him, a series of ticks playing across her face. Suddenly she gave a sharp gasp and fixed him with her brown eyes. "I remember...You... you tried... I was..." She abandoned her words and kissed him forcefully, her full lips pressing against his mouth, moving hungrily as her hands began to attack his clothing. "Oh God, I need you this very instant!" she breathed against his cheek, now ripping her own dress, clawing away the fabric to expose her shaking, silken white thighs.
The streets beyond this narrow alley were in chaos, and the flames still spread in the building behind them - but neither these surroundings nor Alan's hesitation deterred her as she tore free her lace underwear and slowly slid the petals of her artificial sex upward along his all-too-cooperative manhood. Cresting the tip of him, she forced their union with a ravenous push. She stifled her cry, but the clockwork inside her squealed noisily as they slid down the wall together, his hands and fingers sinking into her meaty posterior as moisture wicked to the surface of her soft, pale, and wholly artificial skin. Grinding against him with wanton abandon, she ripped open her bodice, her impressive dew-speckled breasts sending droplets through the air as they burst from their confinement.
While she rode him to her vigorous satisfaction, Alan began tracing her interior mechanisms with his mind, picturing gears, springs, pumps, pistons, and her sparking filament working in concert to animate her artificial form. His fingers traced the faint edges of a panel on her back, then forced it open - she gave no obvious acknowledgement of this, instead moving one of her hands to cup her stiff-nippled breast and gently massage its soft weight as she leaned her head back and let out a lustful groan.
Feeling inside of her, his hands brushed against trembling and shuddering mechanisms until he found what he was looking for, a length of tubing that pulsed with warmth. Twisting it in his hands, he stretched and kinked the material into a knot.
"What did you do?!" Winter gasped, and a pump inside of her emitted an increasingly distressed 'chuffing' sound. "What is happening to-"
He dug his hands once more into her backside and delivered a thrust that buried him deeply inside of her. She gave one gasping cry after another, each higher in pitch and volume as her body stiffened, her arms locking in place, water cascading down contours that seemed to be plumping with every one of her squeals. Alan casually ran his fingers along her glistening curves, his touch provoking additional sounds from her, the surface of her artificial skin drawing tighter and trembling violently under each light caress.
"Ahhh! haaaahh! Alan!" she wailed. "If you d-d-don't stop, I'm ahhhhh! I’m g-going… g-g-going to-"
He withdrew his hands for a moment, and she shuddered atop him, her voluptuous body covered in a sheen of liquid as she panted desperately amid straining clockwork. He was certain that were he to continue, she would be destroyed - quite possibly beyond his ability to repair. But when he found himself hesitating, he reminded himself of his earlier commitment - she was a construct and was, as Charles had insisted, unworthy of empathy.
He brought his hands to her ripe breasts and gave each a firm squeeze - her eyes flew open in shock as she took in a sharp breath, his manhood simultaneously bursting inside of her. An explosion blew gears and machinery out of her back and sent them ricocheting off the building and street around them. Her suspended limbs shivered, then slumped while her head rolled strangely on her slender neck, eyes unfocused, steam hissing from her red lips. With an unnatural droning sound accompanying her fall, she collapsed forward, her prodigious bust cushioning the impact.
Looking in either direction, this spectacle appeared to have gone unnoticed. Extracting himself from the defunct automaton, he composed himself and put his mind toward getting out of the city and back to England. Uncertain of what to do with Winter, he considered leaving her in the alley - but that seemed such a waste. Stooping to collect her, he decided he would do his best to restore her, but not as she was - rather, as she should have been. As Charles had intended her to be.
A noise startled Roland from Alan's writings, and he glanced behind him to see one of the clockwork sisters in a royal purple dress. Dark eyes set in a fair face, ribbons of black hair on either side of her customarily blasé expression.
"Autumn!" he gasped. "Where did you... how long have you-"
"My sisters and I may argue who endured the most under Alan's rule," she said quietly, "but I believe that none of our experiences compare to that of Winter's."
He thumbed through the pages of the journal. "That doesn't justify her trying to murder me just for tinkering around with Nineteen..."
"No. Which is why I am here." She strolled to the table where Nineteen remained in pieces, giving it a casual inspection. "Summer informed me of Winter's aggressiveness toward you, and I fear due to her design and 'conditioning' that it is inevitable she will do you harm."
Roland nodded, having already been possessed of the same fear. "But what can I do to convince her I'm not another Alan Lovelace?"
Autumn shook her head. "Nothing, I'm afraid; her flaws have been carried across her every iteration - they are at the very heart of her design." Autumn turned one of Nineteen's cogs over in her hand as she spoke with a quiet certainty. "Our only option is to see her dismantled."
"Dismantle Winter?" Roland asked, concerned over how permanent this sounded.
"I'm afraid so," Autumn replied solemnly. "Spring thought perhaps she could be brought to heel, but it appears her more savage instincts will not be curtailed."
"We don't know that she would have killed me-"
"And you are willing to bet your life on an automaton who has already demonstrated a willingness and capability for your own murder?"
"As have the rest of you!" Roland paused. "Well, not Summer, I supposed..."
"Our actions were regrettable and based upon inaccurate but understandable presumptions. And while Spring and I now understand you are not a threat - Winter will never reach such a conclusion."
"But to have her destroyed..."
"We would be ending a lifetime of miseries, abuse, and a rancor she cannot control." Autumn fixed him with dark, unblinking eyes. "She takes no pleasure in being, she simply 'endures' out of a perverse obligation to rule. Dismantling her would be a mercy."
"Can we not correct what's wrong with her?"
"As I have already stated, these problems go to the heart of her design. However, once she is gone, we may re-use her components to construct a new Winter Lovelace – one without her present faults."
Roland stood from his chair, staring at the copy of Alan Lovelace's journal in his hands. "I'll need to consider this."
"See that you do." Autumn made her toward the exit, turning at the door. "And come find me when you have your decision. There is a device of Winter's own making inside my chassis that prevents me from taking the necessary course of action." She patted her abdomen. "You only need remove it - and I shall manage the rest."
As she left the room, Roland returned to the table where Nineteen lay in pieces. He made a few furtive attempts to continue her repair but when it was obvious his mind could not focus he set off in search of Winter.
She was in the great rom, seated upon a chaise with a book in her lap, absently staring out the window. "Roland," she said tersely as he entered. "What do you want?"
He crossed the room wordlessly and she gave him a suspicious look. "If you've come to upbraid me for my actions, I have no intention of-"
Roland knelt before her, lifting her skirts, his hands sliding up along her stockings, then over the soft but unnatural texture of her skin, then the polished joints at her hips. "What is this?" she asked in a sharp tone, though her thighs yawned welcomingly apart.
"Winter - are you happy here?" he asked, his hands now gliding behind her broad hips to grip her posterior, urging her pelvis toward the edge of the cushion.
"What... what sort of questions is that?" she asked breathily, water condensing over her fidgeting hips.
"A simple one, I would hope." His hands slid under her panties, slipping them gently down.
"No," she moaned, bringing herself closer to Roland, then taking the back of his head and pushing him forward to close the distance. "But I was not made to be happy - I was made to governaahhh!"
His tongue danced over the petals of her womanhood until it met her rigid bud, ending her sentence with groans. When he blindly ran his hands over the bust of her jacket, she hastily began to unfasten and claw at her clothes, finally taking his searching hand and forcing it upon a ripe breast, her fingers kneading together with his. She pulled up her knees, slowly kicking in hapless abandon as his tongue flitted upon the heart of her sex.
"Were it not for my sisters... and this estate... ahhhh! I would have no reason to... ohhhh, where did you learn to... Ahhhh!" The steady ticking inside of her had accelerated to a frenetic rattle, and Roland dug his thumbs in high on her pelvis, as Alan had noted in his journal - his head still in darkness beneath her skirts, he felt rather than saw confirmation of her filament being exposed, his hand brushing against the warm glass of the container. He took hold of it while still doing his utmost to pleasure her in what would be her final moments.
"But here!" she cried, her thighs hugging his face as she pushed her hips upward, her hand clenching in his hair. "I am hahhhhh happy here!" Her sex coursed with sweet fluid as her thighs pressed in tighter, a torrent of words escaping from her. "Alan, he loved me until he learned myyyy hahhhh my inner workings... After th-thaaaat ohhh, ohhhhh! AHHHH!" She trembled, her thighs gripping tighter until finally she gave out, her legs falling away as she slumped down upon the chaise. "After… he understood how I functioned," she panted, "I was nothing more than a plaything to him. And forgive me... but I presumed it would be the same with you."
Roland removed himself from beneath her skirts and closed the panel on her abdomen. "Winter, I don’t think of you as-“
"What was that?" she asked, seeming to have only just noticed that her filament had been exposed.
"What was what?"
"That was my filament!"
"No! Well, yes. But-"
"Did someone tell you to remove it? Did Summer say something to you?"
"I haven't seen her since you had my head against-"
Her eyes narrowed. "Spring?"
"I haven't seen her all day!"
Roland's awkward pause was enough to confirm her suspicions.
"That whining, morose trollop!" Winter began to hastily dress herself. "When I wouldn't remove her governor because I saw right through her complaints of 'impaired functionality', she went to you, telling you... what exactly?! That I was going to have you killed?"
"It's not as if I wouldn’t have reason to believe her!"
Winter's harsh gaze softened, but her voice still carried a stern edge. "You have been made a pawn in this, but I do not fault you for it. Once I deal with Autumn personally-"
"This is never going to end, is it? And you’ve been at each other’s throats from the very beginning..."
She scoffed. "It was worse then - Allan had us competing for his favor, and he only encouraged our nastiness toward one another. If we hadn't moved on from that period-"
"But you haven't!" exclaimed Roland. "We all need to sit down and... where are you sisters?"
"Here!" cried Summer, traipsing into the room with a garland of flowers above her strawberry blond hair.
"How long have you been-" Winter sputtered, but Roland cut her off.
"Fetch Autumn and Spring - we need to settle this matter."
Summer sat upon the chaise with a content smile between two of her far-less amused sisters. On her left was Winter, visibly annoyed and still running a touch 'hot' from her time with Roland. She was struggling to keep herself composed, her fingers straying toward her bust only to be quickly withdrawn with a grunt of frustration. Opposite her sat the auburn-haired Spring in a fetching green dress and giving Roland an inquisitive look. Autumn sat apart at the end of the chaise, staring at nothing.
"Now then," Roland said, smiling at the four clockwork sisters (and only Summer returning the smile), "I have come to realize that you have no tolerance at all for one another."
Spring frowned. "That is a bit of an exaggeration - we may have our differences-"
Winter guffawed. "You all would see me scrapped-"
"Only when you're being awful!" Summer added cheerfully. "But more often than not-"
"Listen!" Roland tried again. "This feuding, it doesn't do any of you any good! And I'm convinced it's just a by-product of Alan's ego, to have you fighting all the time for his affection. But in the past you overcame that and worked together-"
"-to murder him,' muttered Autumn.
"Yes, well... you murdered him together! As sisters! And now that he's gone, what's stopping you from getting along with each other?"
"Them," each one of them said at once. Summer tittered.
Roland paced. "He designed you to be unwavering in your loyalty, but you saw around that! If you would just recognize that you have no reason to fight-"
"Beyond their history of treachery?" Winter cut in.
"Perhaps if you would not assume you were entitled to authority-" Spring countered, and Roland noticed Summer seemed to be surreptitiously adjusting her settings.
"I am the eldest!"
Autumn rolled her eyes. "The most antiquated."
"And what is your contribution, beyond the worst poetry the English language has ever e-excuse me!"
Summer took Winter and Spring in her arms and hugged each of them close. "Roland is right - we should cherish one another as sisters." She beckoned him with a tilt of her head. "Come here and I will demonstrate that we can cooperate with one another."
Winter and Spring began speaking at once.
"Summer, I have no intention-"
"Let go of me this very-"
Summer gave each automaton's breast a firm squeeze, and to Roland's surprise it was enough to silence each of them as they trailed off into quiet moans, resting their heads on Summer's shoulders. "Roland..." she said again, "Show Spring and Winter that you appreciate both of them."
"There's... no need..." Spring began, still lost to Summer's fondling. While this was not what Roland had expected when asking the four of them here, he was by no means disappointed by this turn of events. Roland slid his hand up the skirts of both automatons, teasing each as they cooed softly under his ministrations.
"Disgraceful," Autumn sighed, looking away.
Summer urged Winter and Spring closer, their lips joining as he felt an increase in warmth from each sister, their clockwork stirring loudly. There was a confusion of limbs as clothing was removed with abandon, and the next thing he knew he was on the floor with them both. Summer was conducting the affair that had Roland mounting Spring from behind while she straddled Winter, massaging her breasts and locked in an unending kiss with her mechanical sister. To Roland's ear, the clockwork of each sounded more 'troubled' than what he was accustomed to, and he was about to suggest a reprieve when Autumn beat him to it.
"Even if the impropriety of incest isn't enough to dissuade you," she said in a disapproving tone, "need I remind you that your fluids are not compatible?"
"She's... right..." panted Spring, pulling away from Winter, then giving Roland a churlish look over her shoulder when he also stopped, and bucked her hips sharply in protest. As her soft derriere pressed against his pelvis, she leaned her head back upon his shoulder and insisted, "W-we, however, are far from d-d-done."
Winter emitted a disappointed groan before pulling the distracted Spring to her in another devouring kiss. Spring earned a brief respite by pulling away and sharply cautioned, "Our f-f-fluids!"
"We shall have to be careful, then," breathed Winter, pulling Spring back to her. Roland could not help but notice that the white fluid now practically dripping from Spring's sex would soon fall upon Winter's own if he did not pull them apart.
"Alright," Roland sighed, dragging a climaxing Spring off of Winter. "While it's nice to see you getting along so well-"
A desperate groan parted from Spring's lips and her breasts erupted in a stream of white that arced through the air to land directly in Winter's gasping mouth. Roland tried to limit the contamination by reaching for her breasts to divert the pulsing fluid elsewhere, but it appeared the damage had been done. Winter's body shuddered as steam burst from her mouth and ears, a small geyser of white pulsing from each breast. With his hands no longer supporting Spring, she slipped off of him at her next wild gyration and landed directly in the small lake of Winter's fluid that was still coursing from her steaming sex.
"This is most unfortunat-t-t-t," Spring stammered, steam seeping from her womanhood as well as her backside.
"Umm... perhaps some help?" Roland asked, then turned to see what Summer and Autumn where doing just in time to watch Autumn, stripped to her garters and underwear, saunter past.
"Look at what you've managed to do," she sighed, dropping to all fours. She presented him the rounded heart-shape of her hindquarters and clenched thighs as she began making adjustments to the trembling Spring's dials within her back. Just as Spring was beginning to calm, Summer (still fully dressed) traipsed by and gave Autumn's exposed backside a sharp thwack. Autumn froze in her work and took in a sharp breath, then gave a look back at Roland. "Are you just going to sit there?"
"What do you need me to do?" he asked.
Autumn gave another sighed, her fingers daintily shifting the cotton of her panties to present her swollen pink labia.
Despite her invitation, Roland was concerned over Spring and Winter's accelerating deterioration. "In the interest of time, perhaps you ought to-"
"Autumn, w-we c-c-could still use your ass-assssistance!" Spring insisted, her voice nearly drowned out by Winter's escalating cries and clockwork.
"I am simply waiting for Roland's contribution," she said flatly, sparing him a stern glance over her shoulder, the fingers that held her panties starting to tremble.
"Very well!" Roland declared, gripping her haunches and burying his well-lubricated cock inside of her. It only occurred to him that the lubrication was fluid from Spring and quite possibly unsafe for Autumn when she began to warm rapidly, steam huffing from her posterior.
"Dear me!" she said in a startled tone while the shrieking whistle of Winter's pent-up steam reached its peak. The eldest automaton’s waist and limbs twisted unnaturally to ratcheting sounds, her voice given over to cries of pleasure as an explosion sent shockwaves through her voluptuous body. Her head was propelled across the floor while a flood of white spurted from her sex and breasts, spattering across the increasingly unsettled Spring.
Again Roland tried to extract himself, and again he was met with stubborn refusal as Autumn's hips pressed insistently backwards, bowling him over onto the rug with Autumn now sitting astride his lap, steam seeping from her ears.
Spring turned to voice some final protest, but Autumn took her head and pressed her face into her cleavage. "P-p-perhaps if... no," she muttered, holding Spring between her steaming tits as the clockwork of each sister labored noisily.
"P-perhaps if-" Autumn slid her hand into Spring's coursing sex. Spring made a tiny, high-pitched squeak just before her head exploded from her shoulders in a cloud of steam. "No," Autumn finished, letting Spring's hissing, rattling body fall aside.
"Perhaps iffff-" she began to stiffly pump her nigh-scalding sex up and down over Roland's member, her smoking rump quivering as liquid sloshed when she dropped its wet weight upon his hips. He heard metallic scraping and grinding with every movement, and strands of her glossy black hair rose while electricity flashed through the cloud of white smoke forming about her twitching head. "P-p-perrrrhapssss ifffffff," she repeated, her hips lifting and dropping mechanically, each slap of her rump coinciding with a greater electrical discharge, and her head began to twist unnaturally, her limbs doing the same.
"P-p-perrrrrhaaaaaaps-" she said in a musing lilt, holding a distracted but thoughtful expression when her head shot off in a violent blast of steam, her legs and arms flailing wildly before she fell backward into Roland. He managed to catch her, then set her twitching body beside him. Staring at the mess of headless clockwork sisters, he sighed and looked up at Summer.
"Summer is victorious!" she cheered, giving herself a dainty clap, followed by a sharp kick to Winter's body when it stirred.
"This disaster was your intention?"
"Yes!" she said with unrepentant glee. "I cannot begin to tell you the disdain they held for me, simply because I possess a bit of 'joie de vivre.' But what would you expect when they were all filled with vitriol and horribleness."
"Summer... out of all of them, I thought you actually understood that I wanted the fighting to end!"
"And so it has," she announced with a smirk, "So long as you don't bother to repair-ahhh!"
She was spun in place by the headless form of Autumn, then pushed to her knees and her head forced into Autumn's exposed crotch. Summer's muffled protest was accompanied by escalating clockwork from each automaton as Summer tried to push away and Autumn's grip tightened.
"This is getting us nowhere," Roland insisted, struggling and failing to pull Summer away. "Autumn - release her!" But her hands only seemed to pull Summer harder against her overflowing womanhood as steam began to rush from Summer's ears, Summer's fists pounding ineffectually against Autumn's bare hips.
Abandoning his appeals to Autumn, Roland tore the back of Summer's dress and opened the panel between her shoulders. While he was certainly familiar with the dials and controls within, he had never truly grasped their function. But looking upon them in the light of his repair work with Nineteen as well as details gleaned from Alan Lovelace's journals, Roland was surprised that he could follow what was happening: he understood which components were failing due to the introduction of Autumn's fluids, and he even had some idea of how he might address the issue.
Adjusting the various valves and dials while listening to the changes inside of her, he soon managed to calm her systems, the steam leaks tapering off, her clockwork becoming more regular. She stopped struggling against Autumn's grip and began to service her in earnest, her hands ceasing their barrage and now caressing her sister's curves. Autumn's body twitched uncertainly, then began to seize up, and Roland moved quickly behind her to adjust her internals as well. Just as with Summer, Autumn's clockwork settled and she was soon pushing her slickened rump upon Roland's cock, her hands reaching behind her for him.
"Just a moment," he said with reluctance, and left Autumn and Summer to tend to Spring, then Winter. It took little time to adjust them both, and soon each was sitting upright and functional despite the foreign fluids they both had taken in. "Right as rain!" he announced shutting Winter's panel, then frowning at the conspicuous emptiness above her neck. "Now to determine where your head has gotten off to..."
No sooner had he begun his search than hands took hold of him, pulling him down upon the chaise amidst the clockwork sisters. "I think I speak for all of us," cooed Summer, guiding Autumn's quivering hips to his own while Spring and Winter’s hands caressed him and each other, "when I say I would like to thank you allowing me to appreciate my sisters in a way I never could before."
"It was only a matter of finding the right hahhh!" he gasped as Autumn's wet sex enveloped him, the others pressing in upon him from all sides. Warm, artificial skin slid over him as an array of breasts passed over his lips, tastes and textures changing from one sister to the next. His hands and hips sought to bring each to a shuddering mechanical climax until none could bear it any longer. They lay sprawled in the aftermath, a soaked, warm, and hedonistic tangle, the steadying sound of their overtaxed clockwork lulling an exhausted Roland to sleep.
"But the important thing," Roland declared, wrenching another bolt inside the brass chassis of the fidgeting Nineteen, "is that for once they're all getting along perfectly." Nineteen objected with a shake of her brass head, and Roland added, "Well, better than before at least!" She gave a half-hearted nod and Roland moved to another bolt, soliciting an uncomfortable wiggle from her. "Give it a try," he urged. Her shining lips parted, emitting a soft breath of air.
"That's.... progress," Roland muttered, inspecting his work. "I've come to realize how much I have to learn. Fortunately, Winter is finally comfortable with me studying what makes all of you tick, despite her experience with your former master. But she's also become rather possessive... I suppose they all have, really." He adjusted a valve inside of her. "Again?" Nineteen made a disapproving guttural sound that resonated from inside her chest.
"Nearly there!" Roland remarked, making fine adjustments to the device he had installed at the base of her neck. "I just hope I do not remain source of contention between them," he said, the false modesty plain even to him. "I mean, there is enough of me to go around!"
"My polished arse there is!" Nineteen suddenly remarked in a metallic Irish brogue, the device vibrating under Roland's touch.
"Success! Wait, what did you say?"
"The Ladies of this house can find themselves someone else." Nineteen closed the panel at her chest and pressed herself close to him. "For I have no intention of sharing..."
Roland swept the mechanical maid into his arms and took her to the nearby bed. "As I said before, there's enough of me to go around."
She gave him a skeptical half-smile, her metal thighs parting as she whispered, “Prove it.”
And with his newfound understanding of Nineteen's inner workings, Roland delivered what he considered to be a very convincing argument.