Despite the fact I’m supposed to be making serious traction on my novel, inspiration is never easy to tame and for some bizarre reason I found myself moved to write this short steampunk sketch today. I yielded to the temptation just to get it out of my brain so I could clear the decks for the next chapter of my book. I include it here for your interest.
It was a thought experiment: I wanted to see how far I could go writing something in a steampunk style, an adventure story, which contains a lot of modern technology translated into a steampunk alternative world. Let me know how successful the experiment was, I’ll be delighted to read your comments.
The Electric Dragon
An Aston Tate Mystery
Aston Tate was at his desk. It was early evening, and he was growing impatient. He smoked and read the London Times.
He looked up at the computer screen from his paper when the tiny bell alerted him. The thousands of microscopic coloured needles on the brass framed screen rattled in and out of their holes, forming and reforming the shapes and colours sent from the computer core, deep in the heart of the house. The throbbing of it’s steam fuelled electromechanical heart could be felt more than heard.
The pictures were forming from electrical impulses along the long goose necked metal stem which grew from the centre of his desk like a brass tree, and the typewriter keyboard set into the middle of the leather desk top sat patiently under his hands. The picture formed, and the text too. He had a message from the colonel, and it was marked urgent. Finally the threat, the one they were expecting, had arrived.
He puffed on his electric pipe once more and set it down in its snug custom formed bakelite holder and responded. The keys clacked when pressed as if there were hammers striking paper, but it was only a simulation, designed to provide feedback to the user in a familiar paradigm. The noise was made inside the desk by a single hammer striking a padded ceramic cube.
He clacked out his reply. Message received and understood. Quickly he grabbed the Oracule from his desk, and his coat and hat from the back of the door and ran down the stairs and out of the front door onto High Holborn. The fog was thin today so he could see his driver parked up the street and waved to him.
Inside the comfortable interior of the horseless carriage he instructed his driver to step on it, and the driver complied, expertly easing the regulator forwards. He could hear the generator surge behind them and felt the acceleration as the car’s silent passage down the cobbles grew more urgent. Electric cars were new, but by no means unusual, but the curved black carapace of the insect like car always drew stares and puzzlement. And because of their silent engine the way was always filled with startled pedestrians darting out of the way at the last minute. In town this was a problem and their progress was marred by constant slow downs and stops. But the driver was good and they arrived at their destination not one second later than they could have.
He was halfway up the steps into the offices of Ministry of Truth when the Oracule in his pocket vibrated and rang its tiny bell. Impatiently he pulled the flat brass device from his pocket, opened it like a cigarette case and examined the small screen. The electrical induction field of the Aethernetwork was strong in this part of London so you could always get a signal. He froze…
The message said simply “You will not find me in time, Mr Tate, the bomb will go off and your failure to prevent it will ruin you.” The sender’s name was blank, but he knew who it was.
He stood for a moment, looking around, a sudden feeling flooding his consciousness. You’re watching me aren’t you? Where from? Somewhere high, somewhere where one would not normally look. And so far away that one could only see this spot through a telescope. He imagined his enemy watching, and could almost feel the slight pang of dismay as he smiled in the direction he hoped the mystery man would be viewing from.
He brushed the tip of his finger along his hat briefly in salute. “We’ll see” he mouthed for one set of eyes only, and went inside.
To be continued?
Displacement activity as a spectator sport
Oh and before I go I don’t know if you use RSS, but I do a lot. It’s actually a pretty old technology which finds a lot of use in the modern world. A lot of web sites that you visit regularly have RSS feeds, and it’s a pretty cool way to keep up to date with websites and especially BLOGS like this one that you want to keep up to date with. The best way of doing this is to subscribe to the RSS feed using an RSS reader of come kind. Safari has one built in and I also use a really cool on on my desktop Mac (yeah I’m a Mac user, sosumi! haha) called NetNewsWire.
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