Barely perceiving what had just happened until the girl slid back into the vents, Molly clutched her cheeks and fell to her knees, her mechanical legs making an almighty clunk as they hit the floor. In the space of mere moments, she had met with the realisation that she was about to die, as well as the realisation that she was going to live. The panic and the relief washed over her all at once, flesh and metal tingling in unison. She stumbled to her feet and flung open a tiny porthole, leaning out of it and retching over the side, paying little heed to whatever was below.
She was still alive. Still alive.
There was commotion on deck, and Molly's sharp ears collected a series of cries and groans; "The Captain!" they were screaming. Wails of lamentation rung in the air, unlike anything Molly had ever heard from grown men in her life. The sky suddenly rumbled like the engines of the ship upon take-off. Molly clutched the sill of the porthole, her chest constricting with a new horror; Katrina....
Molly made for the door, pausing for a moment and glancing towards the open vent. Zara had shown her mercy, but Molly had no time to wait around for her. Katrina could be in danger, and Molly owed her life to Katrina more than she did to anybody.
So she ran.
The sounds that came from the deck fluttered down the final staircase like a horrible swarm of insects, tearing at Molly's insides and causing her heart to squeeze and twist. Above the commotion, one high-pitched voice screamed wordlessly and tormentedly; "Mummy! I want my mummy!"
"Clarissa!" Molly screamed, picking up the pace and bursting through the thick metal door and onto the deck. Suddenly, she saw everything that Mr. Meriwether had tried to keep her from, everything about the world that he had omitted from his bedtime stories, everything that he knew lay outside the front door of the town house, and therefore never let his creation realise. She saw why he had never told her about pirates, and assassins, and death.
Thick puddles of blood littered the wooden floors, as well as several detached heads and arms. Men lay in twitching heaps, children scrambled through the carnage, screaming the names of relatives and guardians. Molly saw little Clarissa, her pudgy face splattered and her tiny, delicate hands smeared in sticky red, weeping and trudging from body to body. She realised with a sickening thump in her stomach that she didn't even know which of the sailors was Clarissa's mother.
"Molly," came a small voice from the shadows next to her.
She glanced sideways and met the eyes of Cups, who was shivering and extending his hand to her. His eyes pleaded. Realising that she had gripped the frame of the metal door so tightly that she had dented it badly, Molly reached for his hand in a daze, and stumbled back down the stairs after him. She snapped out of it as they reached the door to the kitchens, and she stopped dead in her tracks.
"Clarissa! Katrina! We have to help them!" she exclaimed, tugging hard at the old man's hand.
"Don't even think about going back up there!" Cups snarled in a tone much more sinister than Molly assumed he was capable of mustering. "Don't you realise what's happening? You're a dead girl, missy, unless you go about this carefully."
"No - I-I'm not," Molly explained in a quaking voice as Cups shut and bolted the door. "The girl, she came and talked to me. She said she and her brother were going to call off the - the - Cups. Is Katrina alright?"
A darkness entered the old man's soft blue eyes. "Last I heard she was run through with a dagger to the chest. Have to tell you, missy, that's not a good thing to hear."
Molly sank into a chair, fully expecting her gears to come to a complete standstill. "No. She can't be -"
Cups crouched in front of her, his knees giving off an almighty crack as they bent, and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I don't know what promises you think the Devil Twins have made to you. But.... I know the kind of people they deal with. I know the kind of people they are." He blinked, clearing his throat, as though his voice were about to fail him. "They are going to kill you."
Sucking in her breath, Molly patted down a crease in her jumpsuit and smoothed down the sides of her hair. "Then I reckon I'd better do some good while they're doing it." She stood, brushing past Cups and walking to the door. "I'm going to help Clarissa find her mum."
"Clarissa's mum is dead, Molly. She died years ago. Katrina was the girl's legal guardian."
Molly's hand trembled for a moment over the bolts, before she yanked them back fiercely. "Then I'm taking her back to London. I'm going to find her another guardian. Then I can die, knowing she's safe."
"And how are you going to do all of that?"
By way of an answer, Molly swiped a glistening meat cleaver from a hanging display of knives. She threw Cups one last glance.
"Good luck, missy."