For this contest I had writers create a steampunk character. Or just an original character living in a steampunk world.
You can create your own steampunk world or go with one that already exists i.e. Jules Verne's writings, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Bioshock, Dishonored, Golden Compass, etc. Just make sure to create an original character.
We had four stories submitted:
Camford University, Department of History
“What most people fail to grasp…,” Professor Blaylock Varo paused to let his rich baritone voice dance around the lecture hall and to watch which of his students were listening. “Is our history! On how we came to be like we are. Does anyone know when the first steampunk arrived?”
The hall went uneasily quiet. Professor Varo sighed and raised his biomechanical hand to remove his bifocals. “Disappointing. This WILL be on your end of term paper. So let us review. Turn to page nineteen in your textbooks!”
Varo waited patiently. He’d been a lecturer here at Camford for fourteen years teaching history, and there was no point rushing. History was going nowhere. He looked at the inbuilt Swiss clock in his forearm as the seconds ticked by on ornate hands. “That should be enough time to find a two-digit number from a four-hundred-page book. Mr Jeter!”
A young man gulped and stood up. “Y-yes Professor Varo.”
“Kindly read aloud to us all, the title of the chapter upon page nineteen.”
Jeter’s hands shook, he hated reading aloud and because of that it seemed that Professor Varo constantly chose him for readings or as a volunteer for things. “Archimedes of Syracuse, mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer.”
“Correct!” Varo applauded. “Well done. Resume your seat please, Mr Jeter. Archimedes of Syracuse IS the reason we have all of this!”
“Not everything. I’m pretty sure Wang Mang invented the hot air balloon which lead to the dirigible,” Mervyn Powers said dryly. His family had money so he presumed he was better, and knew more, than everyone else on all matters.
“And makes these dirigibles that your learned Chinese friend invented, go?” Varo placed his glasses back upon his nose as to better glare at the pompous upstart. “Well?”
“Steam,” Victoria Di Filippo added from the back left hand corner as she looked over her purple tinted glasses.
Professor Varo pointed at her with a smile. “Exactly, Miss Di Filippo! Steam. Without the practical application of steam as invented by Archimedes, there would be no dirigibles, no biomechanical limbs such as my arm, life as we know it would be rather cumbersome. Why do we use the calendar notions of BSP and DSP? Anyone?”
The room was a hush. Slowly, a hand went up from the middle of the room. Professor Varo pointed and waved them to stand. “Before Steam Power and During Steam Power.”
“Nice to finally hear from you this term, Mr Peake,” Varo remarked. “And exactly correct! Before Steam Power is the turning point of our civilisation. During Steam Power, the epoch we live in now, will one day be replaced by, well something. Nuclear. Fusion. Who knows. Since you are standing Mr Peake, please could you read to us from about three paragraphs down.”
The young man with stylised clockwork glasses nodded. “King Hiero II, the ruler of Syracuse, commissioned Archimedes to design a huge ship, the Syracusia. The massive vessel was capable of carrying over seven hundred people but due to its size, the ship would leak a considerable amount of water through the hull. To counter this Archimedes invented the bladed screw known later as The Archimedes Screw.”
“I’ll stop you there Mr Peake,” Professor Varo interrupted. “The Archimedes Screw. Invented over a thousand years ago and still used today aboard the dirigibles of today, despite whatever young Master Powers cares to believe. Archimedes took humanity to a new height with the power of steam. You are all to read the entire chapter, and yes that does mean all thirty-seven pages which includes the references by class tomorrow. Despite the groans, I do not ask the impossible. You have exactly eighteen hours to complete the task I have set. So go, read, learn, and possibly enjoy the life and times of Archimedes, the first practical steam punk who invented the world we live in today.”
Varo watched as the class scurried away like rats. He knew most wouldn’t read the homework set. His biomechanical hand moved some books aside as he packed up. His mind wandered to what life would’ve been like if Archimedes had NEVER invented the steam engine after he made the Archimedes claw that turned the tide of battle during the siege of Syracuse; what a terrible backward world that would be, a place almost beyond imagining as it bordered upon the mundane and bland. Thanks to Archimedes’ discoveries and applications of his work it paved the way for the glorious age of steam. Certainly credit must be given to Michelangelo and Da Vinci for their legacies but without the canny Greek from Sicily they’d just be artists who dreamt big.
He hefted his satchel and headed for the door, he had a long night of grading papers ahead of him.
Notes: (All characters names are those smashed together of known steampunk authors and innovators in the genre. King Hiero II was the real king of Syracuse, the Syracusia a real ship, along with the inventions by Archimedes. He did not invent the steam engine, but in this world he did as a natural flow on from his work on boyancy.)
There had been a plague in Dunwall.
One not only of rats, but one of the mind, a foul sickness that nobody could see except for a single individual, known only to the world around her as the girl in cell three.
They'd found her alone in the streets once the rodents had finally disappeared, hidden among the mounds of blackened, diseased bodies and muttering to herself in tongues that the religious officials present had claimed was that of a witch of the Void. Usually such an accusation would end in harsh punishment for the people on the receiving end, with many citizens of Dunwall and the seven isles having fallen to the executioner's block regardless of the titles they had once held to their name. Yet, for this cell's lone resident, the executioner had unfortunately been left waiting, with the local Overseers deciding that being stuck in the Addermire Institute for years on end was a harsh enough punishment.
Lying alone atop cold bedrock floor in nothing more than rags that barely met the minimum health and safety requirements, Jessamine, named after the late, great Empress, could feel the world move, sensing the guards move on with their petty little lives, chittering endlessly about their work, their disappointing families, and the dreams that they had once hoped to fulfill, only to be left wanting.
No furniture had been provided, with Jessamine having lost that privilege several months earlier after an incident that had ended in her previous cell's guard losing complete control of his bowels. Fourteen months Jessamine had lived peacefully in this fake, concrete world, able to simply lie, think and ponder the universe, now she was done thinking, it was time for her to leave.
Steam hissed into the room as the large metal door blocking the cell's exit began to unlock, a soulless contraption cobbled together with gears, locks and rings all working in perfect unison, a cohesive machine with a single, simple purpose. In comparison, the obese institute guard walking in, blade at the ready with a pile of clothes under his free arm, was an uncoordinated mess of what smelled like a mixture of whiskey and cigars.
His wife was seeing another man. Jessamine knew this to be a genuine fact, sometimes she'd just look at a person and all sorts of secrets would come tumbling out into her mind. In approximately two days, this blobby mess of blood and guts would stumble across her in the act, and much blood would be shed in the process.
"Get undressed and change." Rupert ordered, tossing the new clothes to the ground carelessly, yawning from lack of sleep and underlying depression rooted deep into his subconscious. "Now!" He snapped, smacking his sword against the wall upon noticing Jessamine's lack of response to his command. Gingerly, with a smile, the woman from cell block three returned to her feet, looking Rupert the guard directly in the eyes as a sign of natural defiance.
"I would." She said, wiping dirty blonde hair out of her eyes, revealing the purple coloring native to her mother's side of the family. "But I can't. He's watching." Rupert seemed confused by her statement, unsure of who she was referring to. "It's very rude."
Jessamine had been born at sea, pushed out on the dingy raft her parents had used to escape the bloodyfly plague of Serkonas. They'd named her after Dunwall's ruler upon swimming to shore in the hopes of making her a sort of good luck charm that would bring great fortune to her family.
Naturally it hadn't worked.
Her parents had died to the Hatter gang when Jessamine was eight, and, growing up on Dunwall's streets, a vastly unpleasant location, this young girl had learned to play the flute in order to earn some small meager income.
Stepping on tip toe to reach Rupert's ear, Jessamine smirked before saying the one name that all wise mortals feared.
"The Outsider." She answered, causing the very room to seemingly ripple, almost as if the very world was submerged under water.
Looking confused once again, Rupert responded in the only way he knew how, violence, by raising his sword hand, getting ready to backhand his target with pure, flabby muscle. Too close to dodge out of the way, and not entirely willing to let the guard feel like he held any power, Jessamine simply closed her eyes and braced for the blow, only to feel nothing except for a feeling of uneasiness in her stomach.
"Hello, my empress." A dark, sly voice said mockingly, catching the woman completely off guard. Opening her eyes, Jessamine found herself in the Void, a grey sliver of reality that lived somewhere among the world she knew. Dark rocks seemed to hover in the seemingly endless nothing, mysterious shapes soared through the air in search of some strange, long forgotten objective, and on the rock opposite this realm's new visitor, stood its oldest, wisest denizen.
"The Outsider. Jessamine gasped, face shifting from a look of confusion, to a look of pure awe. This wasn't the first time she had encounter the man, for years she had seen him in her dreams, a malevolent spirit overseeing everything and everyone that existed, made out to be a devilish trickster by the Overseers, yet, for all intents and purposes, the Outsider was a god, possessing gifts far beyond the understanding of most people, and while from his appearance, being that of a man dressed in black formal wear, he seemed perfectly ordinary, minus his endless dark eyes, there was a sense of power that radiated from him, an aura of death well suited to the world he lived in, as well as the one he regularly manipulated to his pleasure.
"You've been looking for me." The Outsider said, disappearing momentarily before reappearing close to Jessamine with a flash of black smoke. "And I, in turn, have been watching you, knowing full well that one day we'd be meeting when you inevitably gained my interest."
In the background, far beyond the god's shoulder in the endless shadow, Jessamine could make out a couple of people watching from the distance that she vaguely remembered but couldn't quite place.
"Growing up in slums, begging with music and molded like clay by the world around you, before finally, being cast away and discarded..." A thin smile spread across the Outsider's pale face, seemingly unnatural on his ghostly appearance. "What will you do, given freedom, I wonder. Kill those who ruined your family? Walk a lighter path and help this wretched place recover? Or make it all the worse?"
Before Jessamine could respond with an appropriate answer, her left hand began to shake and burn, seemingly from the inside, as a black symbol, the Outsider's emblem, began to emerge from the skin, replacing blisters and boils with thick, black ink. Immediately feeling different, Jessamine could sense the energies of the Void flowing through her body like they'd always been there, giving her an inkling of the power she had sought for the longest of times.
"Now go." The Outsider commanded, turning away to continue with whatever actions he performed in this endless realm. "Tell your story."
Feeling reality ripple and twitch once again, Jessamine found herself returned to the reality she knew, not even a second after she'd left, with Rupert her guard, preparing to strike her in the skull with full force. Instinctively and with quick motions, the fake Empress caught the guard's arm mid-air in a powerful grip that was not her own, before twisting Rupert's limb in such a manner that it caused white bone to burst outward from his skin.
Screaming as he collapsed, the guard's bloody began to flow gently onto the bedrock floor by Jessamine's feet, with the once powerful individual unable to do anything as his prisoner began to strip of him of his powder pistol and sword, tools he had once used to maintain order, that were now being turned against him.
"Rupert! What's going-"
A dark shadow fell over the distracted Jessamine, looking upward, she saw a guard, obese and wedged in the doorway to her cell like blood stuck in a clogged artery.
"What are you-"
Standing up and moving towards the man, the woman from cell block three landed a powerful kick into the man's side, sending him tumbling into the hallway where he fell to the floor, a large bruise forming on the impacted flesh. Sunlight shone through the hallway's large, glass windows, creating a sense of freedom in Jessamine that she was very close to obtaining.
From down the hall another guard began to run towards the escaping prisoner, steam powered music box already whirring in the hopes of disorienting everyone in the area. However, before any such action could take place, Jessamine locked eyes with the man and frowned. Taking the stance of the many snake charmers she remembered from her childhood, Jessamine summoned the power of the Void from within and let out a shrill whistle.
Almost immediately effects began to take place, the guard's music box clattered to the ground, his complexion began to turn pale white like he'd been stricken with fever, revealing black, pulsing veins just beneath his skin. The man tried to say something, only for incoherent mumbling to replace his words, and finally, a wet popping sound filled the air, courtesy of the man's exploding skull.
It sounded like death in the Addermire Institute, smelled like it too, and as Jessamine watched her foe's body slump to the ground, she noticed the sounds of approaching guards, from both ends of the hallway. It was an inescapable situation, yet the woman had an answer for this as well.
With ease, she shot through the nearest window into cold, open air, not exactly flying to her target, more like dragging the location towards her, shattering everything in the surrounding area. Falling between the Addermire buildings, hair whipping upward into her face, Jessamine had been planning this escape for months, never once dreaming it would be this easy.
Seeing the nearest building rise towards her, Jessamine braced herself as she again smashed through glass, landing on the ground perfectly without injury, much to the surprise of the man standing guard. Equipping her blade and effortlessly slashing the man in the throat, Jessamine found herself in the Institute's armory, with an assortment of weapons and trinkets that would surely prove useful, yet the guns and grenades weren't what kept the girl's attention.
From this room, Jessamine could see all of Serkonas, in all its golden, sunny beauty. A place home to many unique people, as well as the men who had sought to ruin her life with the mere swish of a signature.
Donning black robes and equipping a leather belt to her waist, Jessamine finally felt like she had a solid, honest purpose in this life.
"Thank you, Outsider." She muttered while stepping to the window's edge. Closing her eyes once again, she stepped forward, and plunged downward towards the ocean below, letting the sounds of the sea slowly envelop her entire being.
A tall, lean man walked into the Sewer Maintenance Ministry. Wearing a gray suit, a thin mustache and slick back hair, he had an air about him as he flashed a badge to the red headed desk clerk.
"Percival Hawthorne, agent of the Air Traffic World Government," he spoke in a commanding voice. The badge had an image of a zeppelin with an eye in a triangle on it's side flying over the world. "I'd like to speak to the Minister of this facility."
The desk clerk nodded, reached behind her desk and flipped several levers. A series of bells rang out through the building. A door slid open and a metallic foot stepped out. A seven foot tall, rust colored robot walked out of the door towards Percival, as steam escaped from its back.
"Pequod, this is Percival Hawthorne with the World Government," the desk clerk said. "Please show him to Minister Coffin's office."
"Yes, Lady Sarah." Pequod said to the desk clerk as he bowed. "Anything for you, my dear. You look radiant today, as ever."
Sarah blushed and giggled. "Oh stop! Be serious." She looked at Percival, who was not amused.
"Right this way, sir!" Pequod walked up the staircase towards the Ministers office on the second floor and stopped in front of a door that read 'Office of Minister Coffin, Esquire', before giving it a knock.
"Who's there?" came a voice from the office. "Damn it, Pequod. I'm reading todays briefing. I don't like being disturbed."
"There is an agent Percival Hawthorne from the World Government, here to see you." Pequod answered back.
Feet shuffling. The door sprang open.
"Pardon me. I didn't know an agent from the Air Traffic Government would honor me with a visit today." Minister Coffin looked anxious. He was a fat, balding, middle aged man and wore a tweed vest over his green suit. He stuck his hand out to shake Percival's hand. "Barnaby Coffin. I run this here Ministry."
Percival pushed away Barnaby's hand as he strode into the office. "Spare me the pretended surprise, Coffin," he walked up to the Minister's desk and looked at his notes and briefings. "You were sent a steam-gram yesterday letting you know I was coming."
"Right!" Coffin fumbled for words. "Well, I always get steam-grams from the government telling me to expect them to come over for some inspection or another and so rarely do you guys ever show up. I just figured.."
Percival looked at Coffin and raised his eyebrow. "Did you bother to read the message?"
"This is about the broken pipes down in the Lost Abbey street tunnels? It's been flooding for weeks now." Coffin asked. "I've sent several maintenance crews down there. I'm waiting on their briefings as we speak."
"It's not Lost Abbey I care about, Coffin. Street waste and whiskey swilling thugs litter those streets. They can drown in their own sewage for all I care." Percival spat as he spoke. "The reason I'm here is because the flooding is starting to hit Bloodhound Boulevard, Renown Road and even Lady Lydia Lane. These are wealthy streets. I do not want the good citizens of this great city getting their expensive suits and dresses water damaged because you've failed to do your job."
Barnaby Coffin shifted on his feet. "Well, I've been sending maintenance crews down in the tunnels. I've yet to hear back from them."
"How many crews have you sent and how long ago did you send them?" Percival asked.
"Three different crews. Each crew consists of three different men. Good men." Coffin answered. "The first crew I sent out two weeks ago. I waited several days but never heard back from them."
"Two weeks ago?" Percival asked. "Did you tell a constable?"
"Yes. I told Constable Jonas. He told me to send another crew out to find the first crew." Coffin answered.
"He didn't go with them?" Percival asked.
"Jonas doesn't like getting his hands dirty." Coffin told him. "So I sent another crew out and they didn't come back either. I sent a steam-gram to the World Government but didn't get a reply. I told Jonas about the second missing crew but he just handed me a steam-gun and a gaslight and told me I should check it out myself."
"So you sent a third crew out?" Percival asked.
"Three of my best men volunteered this morning. They're friends with the six missing guys and want to help find them." Coffin said. "I told them to not go too far out this time and report back to me as soon as possible. I just want to find out what happened to my guys."
"How many more crews do you have?" Percival asked.
Coffin looked at him and lifted an eyebrow. "Two. Some of them wanted to go, some didn't. I felt it best to keep some of my guys back."
"I'm going into the tunnels myself," Percival said. "I want all six of your guys. Including your steam-robot out in the hall there. Gather them up for me."
He glanced out the office window. "Before I head out, I'll be taking a quick trip over to the Constables office."
Constable Jonas led the way. He wore a trench coat, had long gray hair and a beer barrel belly. His boots sloshed in the sewage as he held up his stem-rifle and grumbled to himself. "Damn Air Traffic World Government. Getting in everyones business."
"What did you say, boss?" asked deputy Waterhouse, one of the three deputies Constable Jonas brought with him. "You see anything up there?"
"Quiet, Arnold." Jonas replied as he looked back at the group following him. There was Agent Percival Hawthorne, the robot Pequod who was carrying a large pack on his back, deputies Arnold Waterhouse, Gunner Tamson and Sherry Strange, as well as the six maintenance crew members.
"Can't one of you maintenance hacks come up here and help lead the damn way?" Jonas yelled. "You people know these tunnels better than me."
"Hell, they scared, boss." joked Gunner Tamson, whose tattooed muscles bulged as he carried a large railgun. "They afraid of whatever happened to they friends."
All three deputies laughed.
"Tough talk, coming from a brute hiding behind a railgun." replied Pequod as he walked over to the maintenance crews. "The constable is right about one thing, my friends. One of you will have to help lead the way."
Sherry Strange pointed her pistol at Pequod, while running a sharp blade over her smooth, bald head. "What did you say to my man, slave bot?"
Pequod looked back at her. "I apologize, my dear deputy Strange. I merely suggested that your 'man', as you call him, is hiding his own fear and insecurities behind his muscles, his far too big gun and clearly his 'woman'."
"Sherry. Knock it off." Constable Jonas yelled.
"Fine deputies you have here, Constable." Percival said with biting sarcasm. "Can we continue this venture? Maintenance crew?"
The six maintenance crew members talked amongst themselves. They each had name tags. Aaron, Benjamin, Hudson, Jane, Way and Lee.
"I don't want to be down here." said a scared looking man. "I'm not going in the front. I've seen things down here."
"It's okay, Hudson." said a small, blonde woman. "I'll lead the way."
"Hold on, Jane." said a dark skinned man. "You don't know these tunnels like me or Aaron."
Aaron, who had blonde hair and glasses looked at his friend Benjamin. "Hudson's right, Ben. I've seen things down here too. There are things in the water."
"It's alright. I'll go." Benjamin said. "You guys just hang back behind the deputies. They've got weapons."
"I will also walk with you in the lead, Ben." said Pequod. "I will keep you safe."
"Wait, you should stay back here with us." argued Hudson. "The constable is up front with a steam-rifle. It's safer up there with him than back here."
"You may accompany us in the lead if that will make you feel safer." replied Pequod as he and Benjamin walked towards the front of the group.
Jane followed them. "I'm curious." she said to her friends. "I've never been this far down in these tunnels."
"Me either." said Lee, a pretty Asian woman, as she also followed to the front.
Way, a quiet, long haired man followed them as well, keeping his eye on Lee.
Hudson looked at Aaron, who shrugged and said. "Let's stick to the middle of the group. Let the deputies take the rear."
"Good idea." Hudson replied.
The group walked for hours through the tunnels, deeper and deeper.
Benjamin, Constable Jonas and Pequod led the way while the three deputies took the rear.
Finally they came out of a large tunnel overlooking a cavernous overflow tunnel. The water level was extremely high. They walked on the maintenance balcony as they looked around the tunnel.
"That sealed tunnel is where the pipes are broken." said Aaron, pointing his gaslight into the water. There was a sealed door in the water across from them.
"We'll have to put our underwater welder gear on, swim down there, cut open that door and weld those pipes up." said Bejamin.
Pequod dropped the heavy pack he was carrying and pulled out six diver uniforms.
"No dice, man." Hudson said. "I'm not going down in that water."
"I'll do it." said Jane, who spun and looked at Benjamin. "I'm the best welder you got. Way is our best diver. You coming with me?"
Way looked at Lee.
"I'll go with you, honey." Lee said to Way. "I'm a pretty good welder myself."
Way nodded. "Yeah, I'll go."
"It'd be faster if you all went." Percival said. "We need to get this done, before any more streets get flooded."
"Typical Air Traffic World Government bull." Aaron said to Percival. "Lost Abbey has been flooding for weeks and you people didn't care. Now that it's affecting the rich area's of the city and all of a sudden you want this solved right away. You don't even care about the people sacrificing their lives to help you."
Percival looked Aaron right in the eyes. "Yeah, that's right. We don't care about waste like you. We care about the people who contribute their business and class to this city. We control the skies. We cannot be bothered with the filth like you who maintain the grounds."
Sherry Strange, Gunner Tamson and Arnold Waterhouse all started laughing. Arnold took off his deputy's cap and wiped sweat off his forehead. "You tell him, Percy." he laughed through his long teeth.
Percival gave Arnold a disdainful look, then looked back at Aaron. "Now, put that damn diver outfit on and fix those pipes."
The six maintenance crew members dove under water and began welding into the closed tunnel. Finally cutting a hole big enough for a man to fit into, Jane was the first one in. She swam through the tunnel system, flashing her gaslight around looking for the broken pipes. Lee joined her, followed by Way and Benjamin.
They spoke to each other through a connected line.
"I think I see it." Jane said as she pointed her gaslight up towards a group of pipes, one of which was clearly broken. Jane thought to herself that it almost looked liked it had been chewed on.
"Yeah, I see it." Benjamin said, as he swam up towards it. "Okay, we're going to need a type L pipe fitting for this. Hudson, I think Pequod had one in his bag, if you can swim back there and get it."
"Happily." Hudson replied as he swam back through the hole.
"I think there's more than one broken pipe in here." Jane said as she started pointing her gaslight further down the tunnel. "I want to see if I can find it."
Something swam past her.
"Did you guys see that?" she said. "It looked like some kind of fish man. Or a shark."
"What did you say?" Aaron asked.
"Hey, who is that?" Lee said. "Who's swimming so fast towards me? Way?"
Lee started screaming.
"Leee!" Way screamed. Then the line went dead.
Jane looked back, flashed her gaslight and saw blood surrounding the area where Lee had been. Two more images swam by her. Bluish green, scaled men. One of them looked at her. It had rows of teeth and black eyes. It turned and swam up towards Benjamin who was still examining the broken pipe, unaware that his communication line was severed.
The fish man swam up behind him and cut his throat with its talon.
Jane saw as Way turned on his underwater torch and cut into the creature that had mauled the love of his life. He decapitated the creature, then grabbed Lee's bloodied body and sank to the bottom of the tunnel with her. He took off his helmet and kissed her, letting himself drown.
Something grabbed Jane from behind. She turned on her torch and whirled around. It was Aaron.
He pointed towards the man sized hole they cut opened and signaled to swim back there. She pointed the gaslight around, looking for the other two creatures but didn't see them. They both swam towards the hole.
As they came out they saw Hudson on top of the balcony talking to Pequod. They waved for them to lower the winch.
"The hell are they doing back?" Constable Jonas swore. "You guys need other supplies?"
Aaron pulled off his helmet. "Lower the winch. Hurry!"
"Hold on. I don't want you people backing out now." Percival said.
"Lower the fracking wench, Percvial!" Jane yelled. "There's creatures down here. They killed Lee and Benjamin."
Percival snarled down at them, while Pequod ran over to the winch and pulled the lever.
Jane and Aaron waited while the winch slowly descended, not knowing which would come first. The winch or the creatures beneath them.
Arnold Waterhouse flashed his gaslight in the water about 5 meters away from them.
"Hey, Sherry. I think I saw something in the water."
Sherry walked over to him and pointed her pistol down where he was pointing his gaslight. "Don't see anything, horse face."
"You still trying to steal my girl, horse face." Gunner said, as he flexed his muscles. "You know you can't compete with me."
"Shut up, Tamson." Arnold said as he flexed his own muscles. He was surprisingly muscular for a skinny man. "Sherry likes me."
Sherry laughed as the two men flexed over her.
A tentacle wrapped around Gunner's leg, then pulled him down into the water.
Sherry screamed. As she started firing her pistol into the water. Arnold pointed his gaslight down in the water. The giant squid blinked up at them.
Gunner began firing his railgun into the kraken as it pulled him into it's maw.
The railgun tore into the kraken, which screamed and swam away, letting Gunner go.
Jane and Aaron climbed on the winch. Pequod pulled the lever again, the winch began carrying Aaron and Jane up.
Gunner swam back up to the surface of the water. "Hey, wait for me. Hold the winch."
"Stop the winch. My baby made it. Oh, Gunner you are a survivor baby!" Sherry yelled.
Pequod stopped the winch, reversed it and pulled it again.
"Yeah, baby. No octopus can hold me down. Ha ha!" Gunner yelled. Two sets of taloned hands wrapped around Gunner's face and pulled him down into the water.
Blood rose up from the spot where Gunner had been.
Pequod saw this. He stopped the winch again. He reversed it again and it started pulling Jane and Aaron back up.
"No!" Sherry screamed down at the blood where Gunner had been. Then she looked at Pequod. "What are you doing? Make the winch go back down. My baby's coming back. He survived that octopus. He'll survive this."
"I'm sorry." Pequod responded as he ignored her request.
Sherry pointed her pistol at Pequod.
Constable Jonas put his hand up to her. "Sherry, calm down. You saw what happened."
Arnold stood behind her. "No. She's right, boss. Gunner'll come back up. Just you see."
Sherry shot at Pequod. The bullet bounced of his metallic face.
The steam-bot walked over to her, steam pouring out of his face vent towards her, blinding her. He grabbed the pistol and pulled it out of her hand.
Hudson helped pull Jane, then Aaron out of the winch.
"The heck are you doing, slave-bot?" Arnold yelled at Pequod as he pointed his own pistol at the robot. "Don't you touch Sherry."
"Put the pistol down, Arnold." yelled Constable Jonas.
"Everybody shut up!" yelled Percival.
Everybody got quiet. Arnold lowered his weapon and walked away in frustration.
"I hear something." Hudson said.
"We all hear it." Percival replied. A sound echoed throughout the tunnels. It was a series of whistles. Occasionally there would be the sound of bloodthirsty howls.
Then the sound of the winch lowering. Sherry stood at the lever. "If he's not down there, then I won't bring it back up."
"We need to leave." Jane said.
There was a scream from the tunnel where they entered. Constable Jonas shone his gaslight towards the scream. A fish man dragged Arnold Waterhouse's bloody body into the tunnel.
Another fish man came running out of the tunnel towards the Constable, who began firing his steam-rifle at the creature. Blueish blood poured out of it's body as it leaped away into the water.
Jonas pointed his gaslight into the water. There were twenty sets of eyes looking up at him as more and more creatures began swimming up out of the hole the crew had cut.
"Time to go, people." he yelled.
Percival, Hudson, Aaron, Jane and Pequod followed Jonas as he pointed his gaslight and steam-rifle at the tunnel where Arnold was dragged. Pequod handed Jane Sherry's pistol, then stopped and looked back at Sherry.
"Are you coming?" he asked.
Sherry looked down in the water at the sets of eyes. She pulled out her knife, spit at one of the creatures and began walking towards Pequod.
"Looks like I'll need a new boyfriend." she said to Pequod. "You got all the right parts, slave-bot?"
"I have a beautiful, red headed girlfriend above, thank you very much." He answered. "Besides, I don't think I'd survive a night with you."
The creature she spit on laughed back at her, in her voice. She looked down at it as it reared its head back, a sack bulged from it's throat. It sprang it's head forward and launched a spit ball right into her face. She screamed as the poisoned spit burned her face.
Pequod tried to grab her as she ran and jumped straight at the creature that spit on her. She landed on top of it and began stabbing it repeatedly. Blue blood poured into the water around them, then as more creatures swam towards Sherry, red blood began mixing with the blue.
Pequod hung is head and ran back to the rest of the group.
Aaron led the group through the tunnels while Jonas walked near him with the steam-rifle drawn.
More howls came from the tunnels where they had come from.
"They're coming at us from there. They're going to surround us." Jonas said. "We need to go another way."
"I know another way." Aaron said as he began leading them into darker tunnels.
They walked through the tunnels for hours. Eventually they came into a large steam turbine room. "We should be close now." Aaron said.
Hudson looked around a corner and yelled. "I think I found something."
Jane ran over to him, followed by Pequod. They shone their gaslights into the corner. There were huge eggs littered around the corner. A few were in holes dug into the walls.
"We seem to be in their nesting room. This is not good." Pequod said.
"Yeah, let's get out of here." Hudson said.
Percival walked up to the eggs. He reached into the walls and grabbed a fairly smaller egg and put it into his pocket. "What are you doing?" Jane asked.
"The Air Traffic World Government will want to study these." he relied.
A roar echoed through the room. Constable Jonas began firing his steam-rifle at something behind one of the steam-turbines. "It's huge. This must be their queen. Come on momma. I got something for ya."
The gigantic fish monster came charging towards Jonas, slashing him once with it's claws, cutting him in half.
Hudson ran out the door they came, straight into a horde of the creatures.
Pequod looked at Aaron and Jane. "Run!"
Steam poured out of his vents as he ran up to the creature queen and jumped on it.
Aaron began running towards the exit, while Jane and Percival followed.
They climbed a ladder towards the railing. Jane looked back as Pequod pounded away at the huge creature with his fists, steam pouring out of his body, searing the creature. The horde of creatures came pouring into the room began slashing and tearing at Pequod.
Aaron tried opening the exit door but it wouldn't budge. It was welded shut.
Jane ran up to it with her welder and began cutting into the door.
"Hurry up." Percival yelled.
Aaron looked back to argue but saw that the horde of creatures were looking at them.
The creature queen roared at Percival as it pointed it's talon towards him. The creatures began swarming towards the ladder.
"Hurry up, you filthy street rat." Percival yelled.
"Where does this door lead to?" Jane asked as she welded.
"Not here." Aaron answered. "It's an old abandoned water treatment building. We can call an airship at the tower."
Jane busted open the hole. "Were in. Let's go."
She jumped through the hole.
Percival began to follow but was stopped by Aaron.
"Leave the egg." He yelled. "That's what they want. Leave the egg here and we can escape easier. If you bring it they will follow us up to the tower, if we can even get that far. Then we have to wait for an airship to pick us up. If you leave the egg.."
Percival sneered at him. "I don't take orders from filth." he shoved Aaron towards the ledge. Aaron grabbed the railing as he fell over. Percival began hitting his hands to get him to fall. "We control the skies! Time to fly."
A pistol fired.
Percival looked down at his chest. There was a hole in it. Blood came out and he fell over the ledge.
Jane dropped the gun Pequod had given her. She ran up to Aaron and pulled him up.
They looked over the edge as the creatures tore apart Percival's body and carried the stolen egg back to their queen.
Jane and Aaron ran towards the buildings tower.
She called for an airship.
They waited in the tower. Not sure what would get to them first.
The airship or the hordes of creatures down below.
William Dunn had not thought of World War II in many years. A strange weapon detonated by the enemy opened a hole in space and time, and a few in him as well. He was thrown here by the blast. Well, not here exactly, as he was currently in the Faerie Market. He had actually been cast into the woods between the Faerie Market and the town of Wall.
He barely made his way to the Market then, and was put back together by a a man he would be eternally grateful to, but also quite afraid of. William wasn't sure if he was that Doctor Frankenstein, but he certainly remembered scalpels, and wrenches, and needles, and hammers, and he was a little fuzzy on it, but he was pretty sure there was a blowtorch and a wand involved. Or perhaps it was just lightning through the doctor's skylights. Man or wizard, he had put Dunn back together again. More or less.
At any rate, William now had what amounted to a telescope for a right eye, but it sat on his face like a jeweler's glass. His right arm had wires and tubes running through it, and pistons that helped it bend. His entire hand on that arm had been replaced by a metal the likes of which he had never seen. It appeared to be brass, but he had yet to meet anything that could even dent it. This despite some of the fingers being hollow, and filled with various wonders. His favorite was actually the lighter in the tip of the thumb- the only thing the doctor had allowed him to suggest. There had been a few occasions to make use of it, but he mostly used it to light his pipe. His right knee and his left shoulder were the same metal as his hand, as was the big toe on his left foot. He wasn't sure that last bit was strictly necessary, but he sometimes used it as a blunt instrument while referring to it as his "hammer toe." Something else must have happened to his legs, because he could leap up to second floor balconies as if he were taking stairs two-at-a-time.
He was pretty sure Frankenstein was not the man known on his world, because bizarrely, he had also bonded Dunn's G.I. helmet to his head by means of a large screw at the top of his skull. He could remove the helmet in favor of a closer-fitting plate, but it was such a pain that he rarely bothered. He hardly noticed the discomfort anymore when he lay down to sleep, as he'd found ways to compensate for the helmet. The doctor had also bonded his watch to his left arm. It always kept flawless time, but he still had to wind it on occasion to keep his movements from becoming sluggish. It was annoying, but he figured it beat looking at the underside of a hill for the rest of his afterlife.
The true marvel of everything that had been done to him was his heart. It was covered at the chest by more of that metal, and with some strange, glowing crimson stone inside, both supporting and partially-replacing his heart. He figured that had to be something more Faerie than Frankenstein, but he was just grateful he had it. More than one fool had tried to take it from him.
He was looking for one of those fools now, as he was one of the enemy from his own world- one Herr Trigger. It was actually Auslöser, but he "translated it for the dumb Yanks." He had not only tried to steal the stone from Dunn's chest, he had actually stolen his pipe! That just wouldn't do. He figured Trigger would try to blend into the nearest crowd, and that was the Faerie Market. Will was looking for some kind of clue to his foe's trail, when he saw the Luftwaffe pin on the table of one of the Market stalls; a Gypsy wagon whose table was attended by a young girl who was preoccupied with a thin silver chain on her ankle. He might not have seen it if not for the sign hanging on the table. It read "YETI Authorized Dealer."
"Are you really authorized?" Will asked the girl at the table as he walked up.
It was when she looked up in surprise that he noticed her cat-like ears, and that the chain was not just jewelry. It actually ran from her ankle to a slat in the wagon's door. Surely it wasn't meant to hold her?
"I'm sorry?" the cat girl asked.
"Your sign says 'yeti authroized dealer.' Are you really authorized, or are you just selling the sign as a novelty?"
"The sign's real 'nuff," answered a voice from inside the wagon. As Will looked to the door, and old woman stepped out, overweight, with a patina colored, spiky attachment covering half her face. One of the spikes curved into her left eye socket, clearly filling empty space. A like-colored attachment ran the length of her right arm, giving sparse covering to the upper arm, but completely sheathing the forearm and hand. It had a red stone in the center of the back of the hand. "So's my dealership," she said in answer to his challenge. "Are youlooking for a yeti?"
Will scowled slightly, but nodded to the table. "Actually, I'm looking for the man that sold you those wings," he said pointing at the Luftwaffe pin.
"Really?" the woman said in surprise. "I only traded for them because I'd never seen their like before. He said they allowed him to fly, but I haven't had the chance to try them yet."
Dunn shook his head and chuckled. "I'm afraid they'll only work for him, Miss...?"
Sounding much more pleasant, the old woman said, "Madame Semele," as she proffered her left hand. "And how do you know what the wings can do, Mister...?"
"William Dunn," he answered, "and I know because Herr Trigger and I are from the same place. Or thereabouts. The wings grant him access to a flying machine. They don't actually give him any sort of ability."
Madame Semele's eyes lit up as she said, "A machine that flies? Marvelous!"
"I suppose it is," said Dunn. Playing to her wonderment and his own amusement, he said, "Where we come from, they're just sort of... plane, really."
"Plain?" she exclaimed. "I must see such a place where flying machines are plain!"
Dunn smiled genuinely. "It's not as remarkable as it sounds, Madame. Truly. Tell me though- you said the man traded these wings to you? For what?"
"Funnily enough, for a yeti!" she said with a laugh.
"You gave him a yeti for this trinket?" Will asked incredulously.
"He led me to believe it could let me fly," she said with an angry pout.
"Why did he want a yeti?" Will wondered aloud.
"How do I know?" the old woman barked, now closer to her original demeanor. "He wanted to go over the Ice Shelf, and you don't do that without a yeti. Now sir, if you're not buying anything today, I have work to do. Starting with notifying the Yeti Council that I have been bilked out of one of their brood," she said with aggravation as she turned back towards her wagon.
"Actually, do you have any more yeti?" Dunn inquired.
Half-turning back to him, Semele said sternly, "You'd do well not to waste my time, man. Yeti are expensive."
Dunn balked. "You traded one to Trigger for these wings!"
"Which I thought to be of great value!" she barked. "Do not taunt me, sir!"
"Perhaps Mister Dunn would have something of great value to trade for one of Madame's yeti," the cat girl asked with a purr.
"Don't interrupt when I'm talking business, Una!" Then, eyeing Dunn's wrist, Madame Semele said, "I'm partial to a good timepiece."
"It's attached, I'm afraid," he answered. "So's the helmet, before you ask."
"Bah," she grunted. "What do I want a helmet for anyway?"
"Madame?" Una said quietly.
"What, Una? What?!" the old lady barked impatiently.
"Is the ring of any value?" she asked, pointing to Will's left hand.
"Well?" demanded Semele. "Is it?"
Will thought for a moment, then held up his hand so Madame Semele could see it better. "It was," he answered. "It's called a 'power ring.' When charged, it can make anything you can think of. It also translates languages, and protects the wearer from harm. It's actually very low right now though, and I don't have the power battery with me. If you think you can trust me for it, I could trade you the ring for a yeti, and bring you the battery when I return."
"It can make anything," Semele asked hesitantly.
"Pick something," offered Will.
"Faerie folk," she said with almost girlish hope.
Will held the ring up so she could see it glow, and ten little faerie appeared to leap from the center of it, fluttering around his hand for a few moments before darting towards Madame Semele. She flinched before realizing they were just flying around her head, and they were smiling. She grabbed for one, and it disappeared in a puff of green smoke. She looked to the others, and they all disappeared in like fashion.
"Where did they go?" with disappointment in her voice, mixed only slightly with her customary anger.
"They're not real, Madame Semele," Will said with slight amusement. "They exist only as long as you will them to, and only as long as the ring has power. Do we have a deal?"
"Yes! Yes!" she cried happily, snatching the ring from his hand almost before he could get it off of his finger. Then she darted into the wagon. A minute later, she came out with a yeti. It was four feet high, and it seemed a little pudgy to Will. It had a silver chain identical to Una's around its ankle leading back to the wagon.
"A pup?" he almost spat.
Madame Semele was taken aback. "What?" she said defensively. "Yeti pups are easier to control, easier to store, and as they're not fully grown, they have a longer shelf life for the dealer. A buyer is rare, you know." Then actually smiling, she said, "No one is going to believe I sold two in one day."
Will scowled, but bent down to the young yeti. "Can you show me your teeth?"
The yeti growled, opening its mouth wide as it did so. The growl sounded nothing like the roar of an attacking adult. It sounded like the strangled whine of imperiled tiger cubs.
"Mm-hm," Will hummed with satisfaction. "And your claws?"
The pup held out its hand, and the claws were a bluish-black hue against his white fur. Will took his hand and turned it over to examine the other side. He could feel strength in the yeti's grip, but merely that of a full grown man; nowhere near what it would be when he was an adult yeti.
"And can I see your eyes?" he asked.
The yeti blew at the fur covering his eyes, but moved it only slightly. It gave a brief glimpse at the dark eyes hidden behind its bangs, but then they were covered again.
"Hold on a minute," said Semele. Turning towards her wagon once again, she called, "Edward!"
Will looked at her in surprise. "How many live in your wagon, Madame?"
Semele smiled with true humor, and simply said, "Well. It's bigger on the inside."
"Ah, I see," said Will, deciding from her undertone that it was best to pursue his curiosity no further.
"Edward!" she called again, and was immediately answered by the door to the wagon swinging open.
Out stepped a tall, lanky young man with pale, nearly albino skin, and disheveled black hair. He was dressed in black leather from neck to feet, and his hands had the strangest attachments Will had ever seen- all blades. Knives mostly, but he saw scissors there too. He also had a silver chain around his ankle, attaching him to the wagon.
"Remarkable," muttered Will.
"Edward, be a dear and trim the fur out of the yeti's eyes, will you?" Semele asked, almost sweetly. "I'll be right back," she added as she headed into her wagon.
Edward stepped forward, and examined the yeti's face for a few moments before his hands made a few swishing noises, and the yeti's eyes appeared, now exposed under nicely trimmed bangs. Will looked pleased, but still looked at Edward in astonishment. Edward noticed him looking, and stared back for a moment. Then he leaned forward suddenly to Will, and whispered strongly, "I don't belong here."
"I should say not," agreed Will. "So why don't you leave? Surely those hands of yours could make short work of that chain?"
Edward looked down at his ankle quite sadly, and stabbed one finger blade just under the chain, letting it glide over the back of the blade as he lifted it up for Will to see. With the scissors on his other hand, he snipped the chain in two. As it fell away, Will was amazed to see the chain pieces reattach themselves, looking as if they'd never been cut.
"Of course I've tried," said Edward. Before he could say anything else, Madame Semele came back outside with some papers in her hand.
"You'll need these," she said handing the papers to Will. "Proof of ownership of the yeti."
"Does 'the yeti' have a name?" asked Will.
"Who knows?" she balked. Slapping Edward in the chest, she snapped, "Get back in the wagon already!"
Edward looked at Will and nodded once before turning away sadly, and shuffling back to the wagon.
"Perhaps we could find out," Will said. "May I show you something with the ring?" he asked with his hand out.
The old woman smacked his hand away, and said, "You may not! Do you really think I'd give you the yeti, and then give you the ring back too?"
"Madame Semele! You wound me," Will said seriously. "I would not cheat our bargain." Holding up one finger, he said, "Will you hold out your fist then, and allow me to touch the ring?"
Semele squinted at him suspiciously, but held out her tightly closed fist. Will touched the outstretched finger to the ring, and asked the young yeti, "What is your name, child?"
The yeti became very excited to hear Will's words as a series of growls, barks, and purrs. It growled back excitedly, and the ring translated it to, "Migo! My name is Migo! You can understand me?!"
"I can for now, but when I stop touching the ring, I won't be able to anymore. So let me ask you- can you lead me across the Ice Shelf? Help me catch up to Herr Trigger and the yeti he took with him?"
"Mirka! He took Mirka! Yes, I can help you find them!" he said excitedly.
"Okay then. Do that, and know that I will treat you well," answered Will.
"Will you help me find my family?" asked Migo.
Dunn smiled softly. "I think that can be arranged, Migo," and he took his finger off of the power ring. Then he ruffled the fur on the yeti's head with his human hand.
"You can really help Migo find his family?" Una asked with joy.
"Shut up, girl!" Semele spat, and she reared back her spiky attachment to backhand the girl with it.
Will caught it in his metal hand instead. "I don't think that's necessary, Madame Semele." She glowered menacingly, but he didn't notice, as he was looking at the attachment covering her hand. Reaching in his pocket for a gold coin, he held it up to the woman and said, "Tell me about this attachment of yours. Its stone glows like the one attached to my heart, and I've only seen one similar to this. It belonged to the leader of the Thunderians."
"Pft!" balked Semele. "The Thunderians? That pitiful Claw Shield could nothope to compare to the Witchblade!" She laughed haughtily as she jerked the gauntlet out of Will's grip. "Take those wings too! Make that shyster give over something of real value, or forfeit his yeti. You can bring either back when you bring me the battery for the ring." She turned her back and stalked to her wagon, waving dismissively over her shoulder. As the door was swinging shut behind her, she called out, "Una, you slattern! Close the table! We're done for the day!"
Una pressed the Luftwaffe pin into Will's hand, and quietly said, "Thank you for helping Migo!"
Will glanced at her chain, and said, "I only wish I could help you as well."
"My help is coming from elsewhere," she said simply. "Barring that, Semele has willing given in to the evil within the Witchblade. It will kill her eventually, and I will be free then." She said it with no malice, only the patience one has for absolute, inescapable truths.
Will smiled at her, then held out his hand. "Come, Migo." The young yeti took his hand, and they walked away.
Una watched them for only a few moments before attending to closing her table.
As they approached the mountain, Migo became very excited.
"You recognize this place, Migo?" asked Will.
Migo growled happily, and practically skipped next to William.
He laughed and said, "Well? Lead on then!"
Migo bounded off on all fours, outpacing Dunn a bit, but not getting out of his sight. Will ran behind until they got far enough up the mountain path to be on snowy terrain. He slogged through shin deep snow not very long at all before he found himself surrounded by adult yeti. They looked at each other for long moments before Will said, "I don't know if you can understand me without my ring, but I know where Mirka is too."
"Mirka is with us," said a tall male yeti. Will was clearly dumbfounded that he understood what was said. "We can speak your language. We just prefer not to."
Will gave a brief chuckle. "Shrewd, Kang Admi. I'm glad to hear Mirka is back with you as well, but what of the man that was with him?"
"He is no more. He hurt some of my clan with this," he said, holding out a Luger to Will.
Will took the gun from him, and put it in his pocket. "I'm sorry to hear that. Will they be okay?"
"Not all of them," Kang said. "He also had this," he added, handing Will a folded paper.
Dunn opened it, and saw that it was a map. "Oh, brilliant!" he said. "This will help me immensely. But I will still need a guide to get me over the Ice Shelf. Is that possible?"
"Not until my injured are healed," he said. "Men should not be here until they are. You should go back now. I will take you down the mountain until we reach the end of the trees."
Seeing that it was not a request, and that there would be no arguing with Kang, Will simply said, "Alright then. I'm ready." Kang growled something to the other yeti, and they all shuffled silently back into the trees. Will noticed that their long fur dragged behind them, wiping the snow clean of footprints. Then he and Kang turned to go.
They walked quietly for a few minutes. Kang finally broke the silence with, "William Dunn."
"Yes?" asked Will.
"Thank you." Will said nothing. "For returning my children. Thank you. The yeti will forever be your friend."
"My pleasure, Kang Admi," Will said. "What's being done to your clan is wrong. I'll help whenever I can."
Kang stopped and looked at the man for a long minute. Then he nodded. They continued on in silence down the mountain.
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