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someone new

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There is a sea monster in her lighthouse.

Elizabeth knows this empirically and without a doubt, as there is a tall, spindly something hunched in the doorway, one overlong arm resting spread-fingered against the rough lighthouse wall. It’s not a Handyman, or a Fireman, or any other typical breed of her father’s slaves, but the smears of wet blood glimmering in the weak firelight speak of this things’ capability for violence regardless.

The first trickle of fear stirs in her stomach, sharper then iron, but she forces herself to stay calm, crossing her ankles for emphasis. The wool of her stockings rubs together with a barely audible whisper, and she savors the normalcy of the sound before turning her focus to the tall figure in the doorway.

“Took you all long enough.”

She watches as the figure shifts in place, light armor clinking with the motion, and swivels its head to look at her. Its stance is loose-limbed yet smooth, just shy of graceful. The slow stalk it takes as it steps into the lighthouse makes her muscles tighten, already singing with adrenaline as the heavy double doors slam shut, swallowing the pair of them in darkness. Elizabeth can hear heavy boots shuffling toward her, faultless in their direction. Terror swells in her chest, squeezing her lungs, but she refuses to move away. Booker is not here, Songbird is not here, only she is here, and she refuses to run from this beast invading her space.

No more running.

She expects to feel something painful; a crushing grasp to drag her back to that awful city, to pin her down and cut her open again and- and-

The lights come on.

She blinks in the new brightness feeling her eyes water with the change and finds the figure standing at the other end of the circular space, still facing her, one hand resting on the rotary switch. In slow measured motions, it steps away from her, and raises its hands in a show of peace. Part of Elizabeth sighs in relief at the motion, this show of trust. She knows better then to fall for it blindly, however, and she keeps her attention sharp, reaching under her armchair to grab at the Sky-Hook tucked under the cushions. When it’s fully on her arm, she points it at the stranger, relishing in the way the hooks glint in the light. The creature flinches at the weapon, cringing away with jerky movements. Again, she feels something her waver, threaten to go soft, but she steels her shoulders and makes the her voice hard, loud enough to be heard against the waves roaring outside.

“Who are you? What are you? Explain yourself, now!”

In response, it points at its head, making a show of tapping a single finger against the clunky rim of the helmet. Elizabeth remembers the distorted voices of the Firemen, the metallic hollowness of their screams. The memory makes her chest tight, a combination of terrified recollection tinged with pity.

“You... you can take it off. Slowly.”

The thing nods, shifting its weight on steel-capped boots. The helmet is a slow, complicated thing, rusty brass clasps and tarnished snaps opening slowly under the gloved fingers. Finally, after a few agonizing minutes, the stranger swiveled the entire apparatus and pulled up, and the sight that met Elizabeth was so unexpected she fumbled and nearly dropped her weapon.

Seeing her shock, the person drops to one knee and raises her open hands again, voice serious and laced with a soft English accent.

“My name... is Eleanor. I’m so sorry I frightened you.”