H.L. Burke Shares Her Steampunk Series featuring Nyssa Glass

Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors: Chapter Four

Nyssa meets the house computer. The door creaked open. Nyssa hopped over the trapdoor, unwilling to trust it with her weight. She shut the door behind her to block out the smell.

She scanned the room, flipping through the various settings on her goggles. “Jackpot.”

Bookshelves lined two of the small room’s walls, but the third, the one directly in front of her, had three more mirrors. A keyboard rested on a platform beneath the middle mirror. A barely perceptible hum tickled Nyssa’s ears, and in “field detection mode” the mirrors all had a yellow luminescence.

“Still live.”

She strode up to the center mirror and looked for a switch. A small, silver lever rested to the right of the frame, clearly set to on. She toggled it. Nothing happened.

Nyssa scrunched her nose. Power definitely flowed to the mirrors, but the computer wouldn’t respond no matter how much she tapped on the keyboard. “Must be another switch somewhere.”

She traced the edges of the mirrors. Multiple wires ran to the center mirror. They twined together before disappearing under the rug. With her goggles on x-ray, she followed the wires across the room to where the bundle ended, unplugged, beside a socket.

“Always the simplest answer.”

She chuckled as she inserted the ends of the cords into the port.

There was a click and a whir, and blue light flooded the room.

“Who are you?” a mechanical voice, a bit like the chime of a music box but deeper, rose from the mirrors.

Nyssa jumped.

“My name is Nyssa.” She swallowed. “You can see me?”

She stepped closer, squinting at the now glowing mirrors.

“The mirrors allow me to observe the interior of the house. I should be able to see every room, but only this monitoring station seems to be active.” The voice sharpened. “Did you disable the others?”

“No, in fact, I think I just enabled this one.” She backed up a step. Shock me, did I just turn on the security system? That has to be the biggest blunder in the history of cat burglary.

The door latches snapped into place with a loud click.

Nyssa bolted for the door, her hand fumbling at the knob. It wouldn’t move.

That blasted computer is tied into the locks somehow. How can I disable it? Technically I’m not a thief. Can I convince it of that? Would it know Albriet? Or Rivera?

“How can I trust you?” The glow from the mirror vibrated in response to the voice emanating from it. “You aren’t on the Creator’s staff. I know them all. Where are they? Where is the Creator? How did you get in here?”

“Look.” She faced the mirrors again. “I don’t know where anyone is. This place has been abandoned for years, and Mr. Rivera sent me to see what happened to Professor Dalhart.”

She scanned the room for a way out.

The wires she’d just plugged in rested a few feet from her. Bingo. Easy fix. She slid one foot towards them.

“What do you mean, abandoned? How long have I been offline?”

She moved her other foot closer. Her toe nudged the wire, and the mirror flickered.

“Wait! Don’t! Please.” The computer’s voice turned to a wail.

Nyssa froze. A computer with emotions? How do you program that?

“I see what you’re doing. Don’t unplug me. I need to know what happened. The last time I was online, there were two dozen people working here, as well as the Creator. How can you not know what happened to them?”

Nyssa hesitated, shifting from foot to foot. Keeping herself well in reach of the plug, she answered. “I’m not sure. Mr. Rivera hired me because no one has come out of this house in nearly four years.” Except the insane maid, but no telling how the computer would process that information.

“Four years? And the Creator? Is he alive?”

“Professor Dalhart? No one knows. That’s why I’m here. I’m supposed to recover his files … and find out what happened.”

The second thing might not have been an official part of her mission, but it had been on her mind, and she hoped it would placate the security program.

“Look, I think we may want the same thing,” she continued, “to figure out what happened to Professor Dalhart and his research. Can you help me?”

Something rusty shifted in the wall behind the mirrors, and the door to the room unlocked again. Nyssa’s muscles eased.

“I’m mostly concerned about the staff. Their well-being is my responsibility.”

She considered bolting for the door again, but this machine was her best chance at success. He … it … for some reason it felt like a he … had to know everything about the house. “So you’re not a security system?”

“No. I have access to the automated system, the closed circuit cameras, alarms, and other measures, or at least I used to. Still, my primary functions are the domestic and archival systems. I should have sensors and communications ports around the estate, but for some reason, I can’t see out of this room. Let me do a quick diagnostic scan.”

Nyssa stood before the mirror. On the surface her reflection gazed back at her, but beneath, within the layers of glass, flashed streaks of silver and blue.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. These fibers are a hundred times finer than anything I’ve worked with.”

“You work with computers?”

“Videophones and radiosets.” She shrugged.

The computer snorted. She raised her eyebrows. The sound was a bit like a low trumpet blast, but the attitude behind it was obvious.

“What? Videophones are computers.” She tilted back her head.

“In the way that rodents are mammals. That doesn’t mean studying rats will make you an expert in human anatomy.”

“Arrogant much?”

“Arrogance isn’t part of my programming, but a clear understanding of my abilities is. The Dalhart Integrated Home Computer System is ten years ahead of anything else on the market … easily.”

“Yet you’re still stuck in this one room of an abandoned house.” Nyssa smirked.


Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a U.S. Marine, she has moved multiple times her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

She is the author of a four part fantasy/romance series, “The Dragon and The Scholar,” YA/Fantasy “Beggar Magic,”  and MG/Fantasy “Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon,” among others. Her current projects are a young adult Steampunk fantasy and an epic fantasy trilogy.