Mr. Fourway wants me to express myself. To work out who and what I am.
Ever since I've come back from that failed mission, I've been been in mourning. I mourned for my fallen sisters, I mourned for my brother Koen, and even for Demonfather, despite what he did to me. I've mourned for the loss of who I was. I was once Fire Chief of Caledon. I was strong enough to ram skypirate ships and win dogfights with Martian invaders.
I never thought I would actually miss that coal engine. But I do. I asked Dr. Mason to rebuild one. He said the blueprints were detroyed by the aethership engines. I asked Aunt Flea for a spare. She said she threw the plans away. Qli-2 thinks I'm too sentimental. She says she's building a new gearbox for me.
That's a typical cyberpunk mentality. Toss that hardware away next month when the new version comes. But steampunks love their machinery. Sparks don't work in factories. Each piece is handmade, lovingly crafted, faithfully maintained. Upgraded when possible, but still treasured even when obselete until its worshipped as an antique.
That's how I felt in Toxia. The steampunk android dancing for the cyberpunk crowd. Their eyes were entranced by the warm radiance of my coal fires. A wonderful anachronism. The Qli-3 body...never fit. When I danced, I saw their eyes jaded in the glow of my reactor. They were tired of pale skin.
Mr. Fourway told me those Steel units were never me. Only shells, hastily filled by Jeremiah with alien technology. Bloodwing said they were not his and shattered them with a wave of his arm. I finally believe him.
Koen died, but became the being he is between lives. He got to say goodbye to his love and swear they'd meet again. Will I still be here when he returns?
Ash...the shard of my soul-chip that grew like a culture on a petri dish over Bloodwing's sternum. A magical breastplate. Tumim. His creation a fluke of magic that completely shatters the family tree.
My soul returned with no body but the shard. Hastily planted in the only complete form left in the basement...a doll. A body built for the pleasure of others. I dressed like one before in solidarity with them. It was useful when I didn't want to risk soiling the curtains with coal dust or stray sparks. But it was still my size. Now I'm dependent on Mr. Fourway to rewind me while he lectures me. Dependent on others to reach the oil can for fear of shattering my porcelain if I climb workshop shelves.
Ash isn't even finished yet. But he doesn't seem to mind. Having your gears showing seems to be the fashion this year.
So many lines have severed. I used to have clockwork dreams of being a Pirate Queen or a Tsarina, of being an Elite Muse with my name under a frame hanging in a gallery in Milan. I would have even been content in a quiet house by the shore with a library as dukedom enough. All dreams rusted away like forgotten gears in a broken watch.
I no longer feel trapped in this web of relationships, this geometry. Yes, that's it.
I'm not a Qlippothic anymore. Qli-2 can drop her number. She is unique. There is no one left to confuse her with. I am no moe Qlippothic Projects now than I am a Steel drone or a Nova sexaroid turned cyberdemon squadleader. I will start over. I will forge my own identity. My own values. I will forge my own relationships.
Call me Gematria.