With a soft sigh Edward Lamport collected his possessions and packed them into his briefcase. The last of the students had finished trickling in for extra help and the sun hung low in the sky. The air wavered with steam and smoke from the factories.

He sent a few last minute messages to other professors through The Network. The pipes hissed and sputtered as his memos spat along through the tubes. Edward had heard that some Tesla character was perfecting an electronic network for communication. In fact, as the Dean of the School of Electronic Studies informed him, Caesar himself had hired the man. Edward replied simply that although electricity was the way of the future, price and accessibility would determine the speed of its acceptance.

He locked his briefcase with two dull slaps and gathered his coat. He looked outside. The fog was thick and he did not look forward to the walk home. The fog rising off the Thames was always foul. Tonight it was thick and most likely full of all kinds of foul things Edward preferred not to walk though let alone breathe.

He called over to Rosalind and instructed her to collect her things and prepare to leave. They had to be back on time. Klaus and Susan would be stopping by tonight. Edward wanted to show Susan his latest improvements on his special project.

He finished buttoning down his coat as Rosalind finished collecting up her things. She quietly took her place at his side. The two of them left his office, locked the door and made their way down the tiled hall.

Several minutes later, they made it to Edward's laboratory. With his family living in Oxford and his allowance less than that of his three older brothers, Edward had to live in his workspace. He didn't mind. All his tools used to repair Rosalind were at hand. As an added bonus, he could run a small side-business to supplement his work at the University.

He instructed Rosalind to light the lamps as he changed out of his stuffy clothes. She nodded and made the rounds of the lab as he headed to the bedroom. He had his work pants around one leg as there was a sharp rap at the door. Susan!

He quickly pulled his clothes on and bolted to the front door. Kalus and Susan stood eagerly outside. He unbolted the door and invited them inside.

"Running late today?" Susan prodded.

"My sincerest apologies," Edward crooned. "Rosalind and I got very caught up in work at University."

Klaus apparently noticed Rosalind's presence and turned to her.

"Is that a new dress, Rosalind?"

Rosalind curtseyed mechanically and nodded to Klaus.

"Yes," Edward beamed, "I'm glad you noticed. It's the newest fashion in France. Cost me quite a bit, but I think it was worth it."

"So," Edward continued, "I take it you wish to pick up the latest requisition?"

"Yes," Susan said hurriedly. "We'd like to get back to the lab as soon as possible."

"Are you sure you cannot stay for a few minutes?" Edward asked, looking lonely.

Klaus looked at Susan. She tried to mouth no, but it was too late.

"Actually," he said in his gentle German accent, "I'm eager to hear about your progress on your automata research."

"Ah yes," Edward said, quite pleased with himself. He quickly turned to Rosalind. "Rosalind, would you tell Bruno to collect Klaus' order, please?"

Rosalind nodded jerkily and walked off into the dark warehouse.

"Yes," he continued, "Research is coming along quite well."

He walked over to the small kitchen and lit a lamp.

"I've been looking over the works of one of my younger students lately. He's quite a precocious lad. If you like, I could lend you some of the materials he submitted for review. I'm sure you could appreciate his work."

"Perhaps another time," Klaus said, taking a seat.

Rosalind returned and stood beside Edward.

"Rosalind, would you please fix some tea for Klaus and myself?" Edward said as he took his seat.

Susan stood uncomfortably in the lobby as a large Automaton–Bruno–began piling crates by the door.

"At any rate," Edward said as Rosalind poured tea into two fine, china cups, "Research has been going very well. You know how it is when inspiration strikes. You feel a surge and all the answers are at your fingertips."

"And Rosalind?" the German said.

"Work on her is progressing quite well, actually. In fact, she can speak three words now. I don't want to push her too hard though. I don't want to burn through another brain this month. The University is taking longer and longer to reimburse me for them."

"And there's the Empire," Klaus added, finishing his small cup of tea.

"I'm not worried about them," Edward sighed, "They're too busy pleasuring themselves over Tesla and fighting the Wild Magicians in Africa and the Southern Americas."

He calmly sipped his tea and focused his eyes on Susan.

"That's right, Susan!" he said excitedly.

"Yes?" she grinned uncomfortably.

"I've been working on a very special project. I think it's ready for me to show the two of you."

"Excellent," Klaus said, oblivious, "Another unique automaton?"

"Yes," Edward said, in his soft voice. "This one is very unique. Please, walk this way."

Edward led the two of them through the dimly lit warehouse into a laboratory in the back of the building.

"I don't believe I've ever been in this room," Klaus mused.

"That's right," Edward said, "I call it my Birthing Room. It's where I build my most special automata."

Edward fumbled around before flicking a heavy switch on the wall.

"I even have electricity in this room," he continued. "It's quite expensive, so I only do my most precious research in here."

Klaus' eyes lit up and Susan was nearly sick.

Strewn about the room were automata–almost exclusively of female design–in various stages of development. Metallic skeletons of various shapes and sizes dangled from the ceiling by hooks. Body plates that made up an automata's shape and rows of putty-like muscles were carefully arranged about the room.

A set of jars on the far counter held waxy looking blobs suspended in formaldehyde labeled Rosalind I all the way to Rosalind XII. Beside almost every jar was a Rosalind face. A set of shiny hook-like tools sat neatly arranged by the work bench.

On the work table, Susan lay motionless; her face calm and quiet. Her eyes were closed and his hair was gently braided. A thin, white sheet covered the automaton from the neck down; the stiff, artificial nipples poking through the linen.

"Oh God!" Susan shouted. "What in the name of Caesar is that?!"

"I knew you'd like it," Edward said, smiling earnestly. "It was nearly impossible to capture the complexity of your nose, Susan, but I think I've almost got it."

"It certainly is," Klaus fumbled for a word, "detailed."

"Oh," Edward's smile widened. "I assure you, it is. I've undertaken great pains to ensure it is anatomically accurate."

"We're leaving!" Susan shouted nervously.

"Wait a minute," Klaus interrupted. "This is fascinating. Does it move yet?"

"Yes," Edward crooned. "Let me show you."

He faced the Susan lying on the table.

"Susan wake up and greet our visitors."

The automaton jerkily wrenched to life. Its arms twisted unnaturally as it pulled away the sheet revealing the many details Edward had installed. It sat up and, quite surprisingly, gracefully hopped off the table and gave a bow. It smiled, sinister as a mannequin, at Klaus and Susan.

One of its glass eyes came loose and slipped from the socket, caught by a string at the end. It dangled and bounced for an instant.

"Whoops," Edward chuckled, halfheartedly. He took one of the hooks, opened up the side of the automaton's head, inserted the hook, made a twisting motion, and the eye reeled itself back into place.

"Fascinating!" Klaus exclaimed, looking back at the real Susan. "It's almost a perfect double!"

"Does she have to be naked?" Susan protested.

"Absolutely," Edward explained, "At this stage, she wouldn't be able to handle clothing. It would throw her off balance."

"Look," Susan snapped. "That's fine. But does she have to have nipples and a–"

"A vulva," Klaus added.

"Susan," Edward said softly, "Creating automata is an art. I cannot simply stick to a design. I must go where my muse takes me."

"And your muse made you put a vagina on an automaton of me?"

"If only for completion's sake," Edward added happily.

"Does it work?" Klaus asked excitedly.

Susan shot him the Look of Death.

"I mean," he continued shakily, "Does she know how to cook or dance?"

"Ah yes," Edward said, pleased with himself. "She has been practicing mimicking a video I received from my second oldest brother in is expeditions to the Southern Americas. It's quite fascinating."

He turned to the naked automaton.

"Susan, would you please show our guests your dance?"

The automaton nodded silently and began to wind its limbs into position.

"Do you have to call it Susan?" Susan said. "Can't you call it Susan 2 or something?"

Edward and Klaus turned to her and hissed "Shhh."

Then the automaton began a series of gyrations and contortions that made the two guests blush quite brightly. About fifteen seconds into the display, Susan protested.

"Would you please stop this lewd performance?"

"Susan," Edward said, hurt, "Please show respect for other people's cultures. In the tribe this dance is from, it is a very important ceremonial rite."

"Look, just stop it," She said sharply.

"Very well," Edward moped. He turned to the automaton. "Susan, please stop your dance. Our guests have seen enough."

"Please don't call it Susan," she protested.

"Ah," Edward said, rebounding, "you're right. It would lead to too many confusions. We'll call it Susannah."

The automaton stopped mid-thrust and returned to its ready position; arms at its side. It was still smiling a little too widely.

"No!" Susan protested. "Anything but that!"

"We can call her Su," Klaus added.

"Quite right," Edward agreed. "We'll call her Su. It's much simpler."

Susan grimaced and accepted her fate. It was futile to fight fate.

"Susan, please go back to sleep. Our guests are going to be leaving soon."

The automaton returned to the table–almost sad. It lay down and waited for Edward to cover it again before it closed its eyes.

The cool fog formed miniature beads of water on Klaus' short beard as the two of them lugged the crates back to his lab.

"That was some show he put on for us," Klaus said, still blushing.

"I really don't like that man," Susan seethed. "Now I have a reason to kill him," mostly joking.

Her venom hissed and puffed down her neck in little wisps, barely visible in the mist. Klaus coughed violently.

"Sorry," she said quickly.

"You musn't be mad at him," Klaus scolded, while catching his breath. "He is one of the Empire's top automaton re–"

"I know who he is," she spat. She took a deep breath and continued in a somber tone. "He just creeps me out. You saw how that laboratory looked. It was like a mad scientist's lair!"

"It's science," Klaus corrected. "To the uninitiated, my lab would look the same. I'm sure his laboratory is very common looking among his colleagues'."