Three short stories about Lily Marin, a singer in the steampunk era, who has a mysterious other life.
Excerpt from Lily and the motley crew:
The voice made her look up from her improvised make-up table. In the smudgy mirror, which was flanked by oil lamps with cracked leather caps, she saw the outline of the owner of the bar.
Lily had just sung in his establishment and now she was removing the make-up from her face. "What do you want? And why don't you knock when you come into a lady's dressing room? I could be naked for all you know." She assumed that was what he had been hoping for.
"Just wanted to bring your pay, Lily, that's all." Part of the man in the shadows became visible for a moment as a hand put an envelope on the table. "I'll get in touch when we have another evening. You're the best, Lily." For a hesitant second it looked as if the hand wanted to come to a rest on her shoulder, but its owner decided differently. He did not know how smart a decision that was. Footsteps moved away from the singer.
Lily waited until the door closed. "Sure. The best. That's why I sing here and not in something like Albert Hall." She knew she wasn't the best singer in the world, but that was fine with her. She could live her life anonymously and do what she liked. And what she had to. "Speaking of which, I should get moving," she told her hairbrush.
The singer quickly put her few belongings in her bag, slipped her coat on and with her umbrella in hand she left the bar through the back door. A fine rain greeted her as she walked away.
"Wonder when there is an evening I won't need it," Lily muttered as she fought the umbrella. She won, so she could walk along under the small portable shelter. Since the start of the alchemists' convention it seemed to rain more than usual.
She reached her modest home. It was not far away. Lily got out of her dress and washed her face. It was time for action again. The newspaper had told her so, earlier that day. She tied her long dark hair in a tight knot at the back of her head to keep it out of the way.
As she slipped into the tight black leather pants, she thought of the audience in the bar. Good people, she knew, hard-working folks out for a nice time. And they didn't object to her singing, she thought with a grin. Lily put on the red shirt and buttoned that up. A leather vest went over it and then she buckled up the tool belt, as she called it. Once the belt was around her waist, she checked the tools.
The dagger was shiny and sharp, the razors in place. The rad-gun, big and heavy, was full as she picked it from the charging unit. The weight of the radiation thrower felt comforting on her hip as it slid in the slightly worn holster. Without looking Lily switched it to standby, so the internal circuitry could warm up.
She went to get the long coat and put it on. It never ceased to amaze her how light it was, considering how many strands of reinforced microfibres were woven into the fabric. It withstood bullets and had once saved her life from the blow of an axe. After putting on the black sturdy boots, Lily opened the small cupboard that was hidden under her coat rack and disconnected the backpack. It was her pride.
She strapped the pine wood case to her back; the leather padding settled itself quickly to the contours of her back like the hand of a lover. She tucked the flexible copper tube with the ruby on the end in her pocket, hooked the whip to her tool belt, grabbed the big umbrella and then she was ready. The mask was in her other pocket, she always kept it there, but she would not need that yet.