Hayden Adams and Adrian Watkins are inventors in the steampunk city of Zenith. Hoping to exhibit at the World Fair, Adrian and Hayden have created a steam powered heart, an anatomically correct working replica of a real human heart. But as the new heart begins to beat, another is slowly coming to a halt as Adrian discovers his heart is failing.
Hayden is forced to consider how much his partner means to him as Adrian starts to fade away. The business they’ve built together stands at the edge of destruction as Hayden considers a life without the man who’s always been at his side, but where there’s heart, there’s hope. With his invention in hand, Hayden suggests a solution that is both bold and dangerous… one that could ruin his life and his reputation.
Read on for an excerpt from Steam Powered Heart:
It was night time in Zenith. The only light that could be seen in the entire city came from the windows of Watkins and Adams, Inventors. The flickering light from an oil lamp illuminated the cobblestone streets outside as the majority of the city’s denizens slept away the night.
A drunken man staggered past, leering in the windows to see what was going on inside at this late hour. The curtains were sharply pulled shut and the drunk lumbered on until he gave up and flopped down in a doorway to sleep off his inebriation.
Behind the curtains, Hayden Adams sighed with frustration. He’d been adjusting a very delicate part of his invention when he’d heard the drunk man staggering past the window, mumbling obscenities as he leered at Hayden’s invention on the table. Hayden drew the curtains on all the windows, pulling his thick woolen coat around him as he fought against the cold. The heat was out again, the steam boiler fighting for survival against time and heavy use. Hayden would fix it with the money he got from his latest invention once it was on display at the World Fair. The world’s first anatomically accurate steam powered heart sat on the workbench. Hayden pulled his glasses from the string around his neck and put them back on, picking up his tweezers and continuing his delicate ministrations.
He barely noticed another presence in the room, as it was so familiar. He completed the placement of the tiny steam valve before Adrian Watkins put his hands on Hayden’s shoulders. The black-haired, green eyed man stood a few inches taller than Hayden, whose sandy hair fell forward into his bright blue eyes. Both of them wore pants and waistcoats with loose sleeved shirts, an eccentric style of dress in trendy Zenith but one they agreed they both felt comfortable working in.
“It’s a fine thing, Hayden,” Adrian admired the invention sitting on the bench, the result of blueprints he’d drawn up himself. “I’ve never seen you create anything quite this complicated. What if it doesn’t work?”
“Then we face a lot of embarrassment at the hands of the Museum,” Hayden said, pulling off his glasses and letting them hang above his chest as he turned to his dearest friend. “The Alexandria Museum commissioned this piece for their booth at the World Fair. They all say it cannot be done, and that is why we shall do it. And we shall wow the world, my friend. This is no mere pump like Dr. Harvan’s creation. This is as close to the real thing as you can get.”
“If anyone could build this, it would be you. Again I am amazed at your skill at creating something real from my amateur sketches.” Adrian smiled before turning serious. “Did the boiler go out again? I am cold.” His skin was deathly pale and Hayden touched his face with his hand to find it clammy and cold.
“I’m sorry,” Hayden said. “I meant to look at the steam boiler earlier. Please sit yourself down. I’ll be right back to make you a cup of tea.” Hayden grabbed his tool belt and strapped it around his waist.
“I can make the tea. I’m not made of glass, Hayden. You know that.”
“But your condition—”
“—Is stable for now,” Adrian said. “You worry too much. I’ll be fine.”
Hayden opened the basement door, grabbing an oil lamp from the hook and heading down into the darkness. The rusty boiler grumbled in the dark, attempting to start up and power the steam radiators but failing. Hayden pulled out a hammer and hit the boiler hard. Nothing happened. He pulled a panel off the side and checked the parts inside, grumbling to himself as he pulled out a broken pipe. He opened a small cupboard of spare parts he had bought from the scrap yard, finding an identical pipe and fitting it into the boiler. He relit the pilot light, turned the boiler on and gave it a sharp kick. It started up with a splutter and Hayden wiped his dirty hands on a towel.
He’d half-expected Adrian to come down and watch. Adrian was always curious, even though his condition prevented him from doing much physical work. Perhaps he had just listened to Hayden for once and stayed put in the relative warmth of the house. Hayden climbed the steps as the oil lamp ran low. He made a mental note to design a new kind of light when he had the spare time. He hummed as he opened the door. Adrian was sitting on the sofa, its back turned to him.
“I’ll make the tea, then, Adrian. Did you take your medicine today?” Hayden walked into the kitchen and saw the kettle overflowing onto the floor. This was very much unlike Adrian. Adrian was neat and tidy. Adrian never forgot—”
“Adrian?” Hayden realized he hadn’t gotten a response from his friend. He pulled the overflowing kettle to safety and rushed over to the sofa where Adrian was resting, his eyes closed. His face had a sickly pallor to it, even more than usual. Hayden attempted to shake him awake but fear rose up within when his dearest friend didn’t respond.