by Jens Kuhn
“Come on in, my dear,” the professor said, smiling at her. Lucy stepped into the room quietly, closing the door behind her with slightly trembling hands. Feeling the man’s gaze on her, she blushed as she slowly walked towards him.
“I hope you’re feeling well today,” the professor enquired.
“Good, good. I have a special surprise for you today.” He moved towards the old chest of drawers next to his desk and opened the top drawer. Lucy stood still, craning her head in order to see better. A suppressed gasp escaped her mouth as the professor turned around, showing her the device.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
Category Archives: Steampunk
by Jens Kuhn
by Luigi Thicket
In the Spring of 1902 in Bisbee, Arizona everyone had a light coating of copper dust on their hats, clothes, and exposed skin. At this time, Bisbee was home to one of the largest copper mines in the world and was the biggest city between St. Louis and San Francisco.
Bisbee’s Queen Mine penetrated half a mile into the crust of the Earth. Over 10,000 men worked within this enormous crevasse to pull out the precious metal. Despite the vast copper and other rare mineral deposits that were withdrawn each day, the worldwide demand was never satiated. These precious metals were required for modern machinery and to produce copper wiring for electricity on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific.
Phinneus Brewer, who had recently arrived in town, stepped up to hear the mayor’s speech in front of the Copper Queen hotel. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I hereby proclaim the Copper Conundrum Challenge. We are mining copper at a rate that far surpasses our ability to transport it to ports in California. Orders are flowing in from New York to Paris to Hong Kong. And yet, our railroads to the coast are painfully slow. This is our Copper Conundrum. The first person to solve this stupendous challenge will receive $10,000 and a 5% stake in the mine. On this coming Friday, all entries must be entered, and our esteemed committee will select five finalists to build working models of their ideas. May the best man, or woman, win.”
Edward considered just walking up to the front gate of the yard and sending his calling card to Gideon via the carbine-carrying Red Indian guards, but he dismissed the thought almost immediately. Such a re-introduction to his friend after so long an absence would seem so . . . mundane, and worse, unstylish. Edward had always been a bit intimidated by his chum’s affluence and social position, and even more so by his indifference and disdain for it. Gideon’s indefatigable self-confidence and boldness was infectious and alluring, but it could also be overwhelming. Edward could not match it in volume, so he had always sought to complement it with his own, more subtle accomplishments. A common handshake at the gate just would not do for the occasion of their reunion.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Six: The Plummeting Duke and the Baldwin Bag
“Are you ready to depart then, Captain Becker?” Baron Amadahy asked Gideon on his penultimate day in service to the Kingdom of Oklahoma. They were meeting in the Foreign Minister’s opulent office, easily as posh as any in England, though some of the decorations might have raised an eyebrow in London. But his ship’s recent heroism had earned Gideon the privilege of meeting with the third most powerful man in the Prairie Realm in his private office. Tomorrow he would go aloft from the Tillassa Yard one last time, his service ending the moment he crossed the border into the province of Lafayette, in the Empire of Louisiana.
He had chosen that route to protect the Louisianan locomotive that would haul fifty cars through the Empire’s northern frontier, through the provincial capital of Petite Roche. From there the cars would be loaded aboard barges and floated the rest of the way south to the Lousianan capitol at the mouth of the Mississippi. The shipment was of especial import to Gideon, as fifteen of the fifty large steel canisters of compressed Helium belonged to him, not to mention sundry baggage of his crew that could better travel by ship to Europe than on the Victrix. That provided him a great interest in the locomotive arriving at Petite Roche intact – that is, safe from the various Negro bandits, renegade Reds, gangs of Louisianan outlaws and opportunistic Atlan soldiers who might consider attacking it.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Five: The Hopi Monk in the Beer Hall
When Chief Jacob Two Star, of the Cherokee Nation, and Chief Everett Mauser of the Chocktaw led their bands of native mercenaries to the frontier of the White Man’s empires to found the Oklahoma Kingdom on the basis of the vast reserves of gasses naturally occurring to the otherwise bland and disinteresting land, they had invited (some said kidnapped) a number of German chemists to assist them in exploiting the resource.
The Germans were fabulous chemists and physicists, and they had happily assisted the Prairie Crown in developing the industry to wrest the gas from the earth, then separate out the precious helium from the less noble elements. The pay was extravagant, compared to what they could command as instructors and professors in the universities of the Rhine, and many worked two and five year contracts with the Crown and retired to Europe rich men. But their presence had had another, unintentional effect, however: the construction of an authentic German beer hall in the middle of a dusty native Kingdom.
Das Jagerhaus had the feel of a Saxon hunting lodge – or, that was what the original design had intended. Made of wattle-and-daub, complete with rune-like exposed beams, Das Jagerhaus had become the unofficial headquarters for both the German scientists who toiled for the Prairie Crown’s Helium monopoly and the airship mercenaries who protected it. The two groups mixed freely, providing one of the few truly cosmopolitan venues in Tillassa, both attracted by the hall’s near-monopoly on the brewing and dispensing of good German beer.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Four: The Sky Princess of Oklahoma
Sept. 18th, 1891
Air Captain Gideon Becker watched the skirmish line of airships bearing the enemy’s colors – in this case, the red, gold and green of the Atlan Empire – bearing down on his position with a mixture of dread and excitement. He swung the periscope across the southern horizon and counted . . . five, no six ships. He noted with relief that they were not the three large Prussian-built stratodestroyers that the bloody Atlans had purchased recently, according to the Kingdom’s wily intelligence network, but rather the usual native-constructed patrol craft, a mere eighty meters long and painted a distinctive scarlet. They were far more primitive than the European-constructed airships in his squadron, more like the quaint first real airships from the 1870s. But there were six of them, and there were only three ships left in his squadron, including his own converted caravel, the Victrix. He hoped that today she’d live up to her name.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Three: Uncle Pete and the Parisian Whore
The next several days were busy for Edward, but he found he enjoyed the direction in scope and purpose that thieving on behalf of another provided. Lady Trey had given him three hundred pounds in “operating capital”, as she had put it, to finance his expedition to Paris, and he had pilfered another three hundred in miscellaneous valuables on his way out of Tudley House. Being conservative in nature, Edward husbanded his resources carefully, electing to take passage on a barge crossing the Channel, rather than a more expensive — and better documented — ferry or airship. Once in English Calais, he chose to travel by train in favor of a carriage ride, both for expediency and comfort.
Of course Edward was no stranger to the City of Lights, having been a frequent visitor immediately after graduation, when he had appended his fortunes to the coattails of his more affluent friends who made Paris their alternate home. Nearly every aristocratic family in England had a flat, a home or an estate in proximity to Paris, and Edward had spent three months gently visiting his schoolmates, one after another, never staying long enough to be considered a burden.
He had “worked” in the city a few times before, revisiting those same homes under the pretense of renewing acquaintanceships and then re-revisiting them during the dark of night in order to liberate them of their valuables. They were no more difficult to loot than English estates and, he had to admit, their wine cellars were as alluring as their treasuries.
The biggest problem with “working” too long in Paris was not the possibility of being apprehended en flagarente delecto by the Parisian constabulary — it was in crossing the powerful Parisian demimonde — the infamous underworld.
by Ian Ironwood
Chapter Two: The Ape In The Jar
Edward had never had mixed feelings about anything so strongly in his life as he did concerning the prospect of returning to Tudley House. He had not only been “made”, as his Uncle Pete would have said in underworld jargon, but his “mark” had his real name – and knew what he was about. It was scant comfort that Lady Trey could not identify him from a proper police line-up. He knew with certainty she would be able to finger him the moment he opened his mouth. He had been lucky, he knew, to escape at all – much less after such a pleasant and unexpected sexual encounter. To return was folly of the highest sort, the kind of misadventure only gullible fools would indulge in and seasoned professionals would shun. As he paced his small room in the village inn the next afternoon, he knew going back to Tudley House was the quickest route to ending his professional career – not to mention his liberty – before he had truly hit his stride. Best to catch the next train back to the city, or perhaps the Northlands, or even deplete his meager savings for the first airship headed to a foreign land.
And yet . . .