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Literature / Heart of Steel

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When Alistair Mechanus sees his latest captive, ER doctor Julia Parker, it is Love at First Sight... for him. While he eagerly drops his plans for World Conquest to woo her, ten years of virtual solitude have left his social skills badly rusted, and his attempts to charm her instead confuse and horrify her.

When one such misguided act of kindness backfires on both of them, however, Julia is forced to trust the mad genius with her life, and discovers a more vulnerable side under his armored plating. She has the skills he needs to unlock his forgotten past, but will learning who he used to be come at the cost of his remaining sanity?


Heart of Steel is Elizabeth Einspanier's first (attempt at a) romance novel. Its character page is under construction.

  • Abduction Is Love: ... sort of. Mechanus' people had already taken custody of Julia and cleaned her up a bit before Mechanus even set eyes on her (or her boyfriend), but once he sees her he is instantly infatuated and doesn't want to let her go.
  • Accidental Kiss: Julia was aiming for his cheek, but he turned his head at just the wrong moment...
  • After-Action Healing Drama:
    • Julia patches up Mechanus after he tangles with Rampant!Jim, alongside several robots that both serve as her surgical team and attend to his damaged cybernetics.
  • And I Must Scream: Jim's disassembly plays with this a bit. Alistair has paralyzed him and cut off his access to the speakers in the room, but Jim mentally screams and rants the entire time, which only Alistair can hear through the neural link.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Several examples:
    • Mechanus lost one arm and both legs and replaced them with metal limbs.
    • Julia loses a leg while being captured; Mechanus gives her a flesh-and-blood replacement.
    • Jim loses an arm in addition to being torn in half.
  • Balls of Steel: Alistair manages to No-Sell a Groin Attack from another cyborg. Justified by an earlier off-hand reference to Alistair being "gone from the hips down" after a traumatic car accident.
  • Beast and Beauty: Mechanus is socially inept and not conventionally handsome, but he is intelligent, inventive, and quite determined to make Julia happy—even if he doesn't quite know how at first.
  • Beast Man: The half-himan, half-animal chimera minions.
  • Berserk Button: Don't hurt Julia unless you want a crazy cyborg hunting you to the ends of the Earth.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When Mechanus, a minor shit-ton of flying combat drones, and three packs of dire wolves come thundering in to rescue Julia from Cyborg!Jim.
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  • Big Damn Kiss: After the climactic battle. Overlaps with Smooch of Victory.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Mechanus speaks like he's from the 1800s, and dresses and acts like a stereotypical scientist from a pulp novel.
  • Brain–Computer Interface/Electronic Telepathy: Mechanus has a mental link with his computer network and robot drones built in via the cybernetic implants in his head.
  • Break the Cutie: A rapidfire series of tragic events in Mechanus' forgotten past shattered his mind, which reassembled in its current state.
  • Bridal Carry: After the climax, Mechanus carries the battered and exhausted Julia to a room to sleep. She falls asleep in his arms.
  • Brought Down to Normal: For certain definitions of normal, when Arthur is disabled and Mechanus loses his ready access to the lair-wide network and surveillance systems. He's still a genius cyborg, though.
  • Clothing Damage: After Jim goes rampant, Mechanus's lab coat becomes increasingly damaged, leaving him with a torn-open collar and missing one sleeve, exposing part of his chest, a couple of surgery scars, and a well-toned arm.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Mechanus, constantly.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Mechanus Vs. Cyborg Jim, once Mechanus has all his abilities back.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Both Mechanus and Julia, in different ways.
  • Declaration of Protection: When Jim goes off the deep end, Mechanus takes it upon himself to protect Julia.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Lampshaded when Mechanus reconnects to the network and his physical reaction is compared to a particularly intense orgasm.
  • Don't You Like It?: Mechanus' initial gifts utterly fail to charm Julia, and by turns confuse and horrify her.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Justified in that Julia is the first human companionship he's had in ten years.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: Arthur's voice stutters and skips when he's talking to Mechanus shortly before Jim manages to disable him.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: Julia first sees Mechanus's right profile, but as she approaches he turns to face her, revealing the cybernetic implants on the left side of his face and startling the hell out of her.
  • Flashback Echo: Several, as Julia unwittingly stimulates Mechanus' memories.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Julia has a weakness for "broken" men. She met Jim when he was in the hospital after a skiing accident.
  • Flower Motifs: A subtle example shows up during Mechanus' lunch with Julia, wherein their eating area is surrounded by yellow tulips, at Arthur's suggestion. Yellow tulips mean "hopelessly in love", which pretty accurately describe Mechanus' feelings toward Julia at this point.
  • Freak Out: Mechanus has one in his backstory, which caused his Trauma-Induced Amnesia. He describes it as "when I broke".
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Mechanus built everything he needs for world conquest in ten years, on a secluded island.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Mechanus' interest in Julia is first sparked by her beauty and his ten years of isolation, but he only gets more interested when he finds out about her background in medicine.
  • Gibberish of Love: Mechanus' reaction in the wake of the Accidental Kiss described above.
  • Give Geeks a Chance
  • Giving Them the Strip: Towards the end, Julia has to shed her shirt to get away from Jim, leaving her in her bra.
  • Glowing Mechanical Eyes: Mechanus has one.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Mechanus' amnesia was due to learning that Lauren MacKenzie, the woman he loved most in the world, was dead, which caused a psychotic break. When his memories are restored, it nearly happens again.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Mechanus' attempts to distract Cyborg Jim leads to him getting the shit beaten out of him.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Alistair does not watch as Jim is disassembled by his drones, but he hears the man's mental pleas and ranting through the neural link they share, and then he looks at the resultant mess with grim satisfaction.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: How does a Mad Scientist show his love interest how much he loves her? He conquers the world as a gift for her. Can't get much grander than that.
  • Groin Attack: Attempted, to no great effect.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Mechanus, since before the story starts, and Jim, accidentally ripped in half when he and Julia are captured, only to be fitted with cybernetic limbs afterwards.
  • Hands-On Approach: Accidentally, as Mechanus shows Julia how to use a plasma rifle. He gets really uncomfortable when he realizes this.
  • Has a Type: Both objects of Mechanus' affection are blonde and intelligent, but this may be due to a small reference pool.
  • Hulk Speak: Many of the chimeras (especially Scarface) have an imperfect command of the English language, which comes off like this.
  • Hybrid Monster: Mechanus builds one of these as a companion for Julia.
  • I Choose to Stay: Julia, by the end.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Shark Reef Isle.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Mechanus does this to show his affection for Julia in the first third or so. She's not as charmed by his gallantry as he hopes, though.
  • If I Can't Have You...: Cyborg Jim goes murderously rampant when he discovers Mechanus is in love with Julia, intending to kill them both rather than lose Julia.
  • If You Ever Do Anything To Hurt Him: Arthur, to Julia, regarding Mechanus: "If you break his heart, I will disassemble you."
  • Insistent Terminology: Dire wolves.
  • Is This What Anger Feels Like?: After not feeling much of strong emotions for ten years, Mechanus' first taste of anger frightens himself almost as much as it scares Julia.
  • Jaw Drop: This is Mechanus' reaction to seeing Julia dressed up for dinner.
  • Lab Coat Of Science And Medicine: The classic Mad Scientist Howie-style lab coat makes up the bulk of Mechanus' wardrobe.
  • Lightning Gun: The Jovian Stormcaller.
  • Lima Syndrome
  • Limited Wardrobe: Mechanus wears lab coats almost exclusively.
  • Longing Look: Mechanus aims a lot of these at Julia in the first third, when she's still so afraid of him that she won't even let him touch her.
  • The Lost Lenore: Lauren MacKenzie, the woman Mechanus keeps getting flashbacks of.
  • Love at First Sight: Mechanus' reaction upon first seeing Julia. Justified as a) she's one of the first humans he's seen in about ten years, and b) she reminds him of a woman he knew from his previous life.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Mechanus falls so hard for Julia that he neglects his plans for world conquest and things like sleep in his quest to make her happy. This leaves him mentally weakened when Jim starts to fight back against his control.
  • Mad Scientist: Explored and Played for Drama.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Mechanus has built a sprawling lair in the interior of a dormant volcano, with countless laboratories for his projects and experiments.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm
  • Mundane Luxury: Played with. Mechanus can build anything he needs for survival, plus a number of luxuries and a world-conquering army of robots, but he is so desperate for human company that Julia's smile and touch are absolute heaven to him.
  • Mundane Utility: Mechanus makes the hell out of a grilled cheese sandwich. Justified in that, considering the lack of dairy animals or grocery stores on the island he has to start with raw milk proteins for his cheese, but played with in that he doesn't consider it anything unusual.
  • Naked First Impression: In Mechanus' defense, she was unconscious and he had the good grace to be embarrassed.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Mechanus' initial gifts for Julia include rebuilding her bisected boyfriend as an inarticulate, misshapen cyborg (he saw it as "improving" Jim) and a half-horse, half-gorilla chimera (because both animals are naturally gentle and he wanted to make a companion for her to make up for Jim). He is honestly confused by her negative reaction to both. He additionally declares the shark-man Scarface to be a sweetheart and doesn't understand when she's terrified of the creature that pulled off her leg and tore Jim in half (accidentally).
  • No-Sell: Cyborg Jim's kick to Mechanus' squishy bits has no effect... because Mechanus has no squishy bits there.
  • No Social Skills: Mechanus.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Mechanus' efforts to remove Jim as a romantic rival instead created a berserk monstrosity that is willing to kill Julia to keep her from leaving him.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Mechanus has demonstrable talents in robotics, genetics, anatomy, and biochemistry.
  • One Head Taller: Julia comes up to Mechanus' collarbone.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars
  • Precision F-Strike: Mechanus only thinks the f-word twice in his side of the narration, once in frustration and the other in extreme rage.
  • Psycho Ex-Boyfriend: What Jim turns into, post-cyborging.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Normally Mechanus' Electronic Eye glows blue, but when get gets angry it blazes red.
  • Removing the Rival: Mechanus' motivations for turning Julia's boyfriend Jim into a horribly misshapen cyborg are somewhat less than altruistic.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Explored. Mechanus' metal arm is super-strong and attached to an equally-reinforced spine and torso plates, but his intrinsic ability to shut off the pain centers of his brain screws him over when they are neutralized and he subsequently gets the shit beat out of him.
  • Robot Buddy: Lots of them, with Arthur's interface drone being the one seen most often.
  • Scars Are Forever: It is evident early on that whatever happened to Mechanus to necessitate the mechanical limbs, it was pretty traumatic.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: When Arthur is taken out, most of Mechanus' cybernetic-enhanced omniscience goes with him.
  • She Cleansup Nicely: Happens in both directions:
    • While Mechanus already finds Julia beautiful, he is jaw-droppingly astonished when he sees her all dolled up for their dinner.
    • Likewise, Julia is delighted to see Mechanus in his pseudo-Victorian tuxedo rather than the lab coats he has been wearing up till now.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title itself is one to an episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
    • Early on, Julia compares Mechanus to a villain in a James Bond movie.
    • "Skullcrusher Mountain":
      • One of Mechanus' assistants is named Scarface, and while said assistant is a terrifying shark-man, Mechanus considers him a sweetheart.
      • Mechanus makes a chimera companion for Julia out of elements of pony and gorilla.
    • Moon: Arthur's interface drone displays a generic smiley face (or frowny face, or neutral face) to indicate his moods.
    • Battlestar Galactica (1978): One of the robots responds to requests with "By your command".
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man
  • Sinister Surveillance: Mechanus is able to monitor every portion of his lair, through cameras and other sensors distributed throughout the island.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Most of the maintenance and security robots seem to be intended as purely functional Bricks, but actually act like Robo-Monkeys or Average Joes. Arthur himself is a Nobel-Bot, having been created as a conversational companion for super-genius Mechanus.
  • Surveillance Drone: A number of these patrol the hallways, variously resembling large insects or flying metal spheres.
  • Take Over the World: Played with. Mechanus wants to take over the world in order to make the world a better place.
  • Technopath: Mechanus is connected to his lair-wide computer network via a mental link, and can control any of his robots, tap into his surveillance cameras, and communicate with the network's A.I. with a thought.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Mechanus' thoughts as he is preparing to delay Cyborg Jim at a doorway, are summarized thus:
    This was not the worst idea Mechanus had ever had.
  • Threatening Shark: Scarface, the shark-man.
  • Tinman Typist: Mechanus is forced to resort to keyboard-based data entry when he losed access to Arthur.
  • Tragic Villain: Once his backstory is revealed, Mechanus becomes this.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia
  • Try Not to Die: This is roughly Julia's advice to Mechanus when he getting ready to fight Jim as a distraction.
  • Two-Faced: Mechanus. The right side of his face is described as handsome, but the left side is covered with overlapping metal plates and sports an Electronic Eye.
  • Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: Stickman, who is a spindly collection of limbs compared to a cross between a stick insect and a coatrack.
  • Unwilling Roboticization: Jim.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: After being attacked by Scarface the shark-man, Julia wakes up in a relatively posh guest room inside Shark Reef Isle.
  • We Can Rebuild Him
  • You and What Army?: Asking Mechanus this proves to be a rather dire mistake.
  • You Monster!: This is roughly Mechanus' reaction when he discovers how Jim contributed to Julia's PTSD.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Mechanus faces down Rampant!Jim to protect Julia. He gets the shit kicked out of him for his troubles.


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