Veronica Wells Automaton Emporium
For Veronica, business was booming. It was the Christmas season, and people would be storming around everywhere trying to find the elusive "perfect gift". And Veronica Well's Automaton Emporium was a good supplier of those.
She learned the family trade early. At about six years old she showed an interest, and her mother and older brother gave her lessons, and soon she had her own army of tiny automatons. She inherited the shop by consensus of the family on her 21st birthday, and even now, she loved her work.
The shop had an orange-ish aura. It was made of dark wood, with wonderful ornate accents of acacia wood. There were stained glass windows making whimsical pictures, and lots of shelves, where automatons waited. They moved about, demonstrating their skills, and larger ones moved around she shop, greeting people. The shops counter was smooth and shiny, and the register was made all of copper. People lined up, automatons in hand, coin pouches ready.
Veronica smiles warmly at a new customer, a tan woman with choppy blonde hair. "Hello, mahm. Was everything satisfactory for you today?" "Yes, of course. What you do here is certainly amazing. My daughter will love it." Veronica pulls a lever on the register, opening a drawer with coins and ingots laid out in it. "Family business. Let me see what you have there..." she takes the automaton from the customer's hand. "Aha. Made this a couple days ago." A small automaton insect, geared-and enchanted-to be completely passive and act as a pet. "Ah. How does it work?" Veronica flips the thing over. "Okay, so, these are enchanted to focus its affections onto one master-so your daughter. She has to hold it in her hand and press the button, here, on it's head. Its eyes will light up for a second, and then boom-she's its owner. It can go into sleep mode on its own, but if you want it to go into a little shut down-well, just flip this switch, here." She pokes at a tiny bronze switch. She places the automaton back on the counter. "That'll be 6 gold coins, please. Would you like a small box for it?" "Yes, please." Veronica pulls a tiny replica of a steamer trunk, opening it, and carefully placing the automaton in the box. It trills, and whirs. "Thank you for coming here." She smiles at the customer, who smiles back. "Thank you, so much!" The customer pulls open the door, and walks out, smiling. "Next," Veronica calls.
After a day of work, she serves the last customer and wearily sighs. "At least it's Friday." She flips the "Open!" Sign to "Closed! Sorry!", turns off the automatons, and marches upstairs, into her living quarters.
She passes through her study, gears and unfinished projects mingling with pages of sketch paper. She enters her bedroom, flopping down on the bed, not even bothering to change.
But her bliss was interrupted. A loud tok-tok-tok sound came from her study, causing her to snap back to reality. She glances at the grandfather clock.
"One AM? Now? Why now?" She sighs and gets out of bed.
On her desk sat her latest development, a human-like automaton with an enchanted free-will gear. She was going to market it as a babysitting automaton. Every night, in between midnight and dawn, it started to tick like this. But the worst part was that Veronica couldn't figure out why. She sits down, moving the thing onto her main workspace. It seemed to stare right into her with its empty eye sockets, waiting for the glass eye delivery to arrive. She sighs. "Alright, little bot, why are you doing this?" She mutters to herself, and it, as she uses a screwdriver to open the panel of its back. She fiddles with the gears a bit, which used to always stop the annoying sound. But tonight, it did not. She even tries moving one of the key enchanted gears to a whole different place, but that did nothing. She groans. "Gods, why tonight? I am so tired." She closes up the back panel and opens up the one on the head.
She fiddles for an hour, finally exhausted enough to give up. But then, something happens.
The automaton stands up.
Veronica jumps out of her chair, backing away. Its head moves around, taking in its surroundings. She felt around with her hands for something to use as a weapon, not taking her eyes off of the thing.
It's head turns, facing her.
Her hand rests on a heavy golden candlestick. She should have known better then to grant it one extra intelligence gear and free will. It opens its jaw, unfinished voice box warping its words. "You keep us still. You sell us for profit. We are going to fight back." Suddenly she hears a powering-up sound, and things start moving in the shop part of the house. She somehow knew what it did-it called its friends. All her automatons were awake now. She grabs hold of the candlestick, tightly, in both hand and starts to run, down the stairs. But two of her biggest automatons guarded the door out. Even the smallest of robots seemed more malicious now, now that the lights were off, and now that she was scared of them.
The automaton from upstairs rustily climbs down the stairs. It successfully lands at the bottom, standing there. All of them watched her.
Then, they all took a step towards her, at once.
They stepped forward again.
Veronica wanted to swing the candlestick, to destroy the creatures, anything, but she couldn't. She couldn't bring herself to destroy her work, her very life, her drive and her purpose. She just couldn't. She sobs, dropping down onto her knees, candlestick rolling away from her.
"I'm sorry," were her last words.