Orrery #AtoZChallenge

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Orrery – a clockwork model of the solar system

The Engineer’s workshop was a fascinating place and Kit Benedict Kettle was having a hard time keeping his hands to himself. There was so much temptation to set off the devices and see what they did.

Withdrawing his fingers from almost touching an hourglass that was attached to a series of cogs and bubbling tubes, Kit rubbed the sweat on his brow. He pulled his leather flying cap further up his head, causing unruly boyish brown hair to escape out. Then putting his hands in the pockets of his short, brown leather jacket, Kit looked around the room again.

There was a heavy smell of hot oil, a smoky fire and faint whiff gas from the lights filling the room. Steam, smoke and coloured mist rose from a number of items and gathered on the ceiling looking for release. It was hotter than outside which was really saying something as this city was on the edge of a desert.

It was hard to tell how big the room was because of everything packed inside, but had to be the size of small warehouse. As well as all the devices and parts of them, there were towering bookcases stacked with not only books but models and other things. There were a number of work benches, each crowd with tools that did multiple jobs. Everything and anything you could imagine was in some state of construction in this room.

Kit walked around a cage that had some pink rats inside and spied the Engineers’ two apprentices. One was a lanky young man who kept pushing up the heavy framed glasses on his nose and the other was a hollow older woman who had shown them in when they had ring the doorbell. Though she had tried to hide it, Kit had seen her bronze metal left hand.

The apprentices were hunched over a small workbench and whispering to each other whilst they fixed a small engine that was burping steam. They hadn’t shown any interest in the guests, nor offered a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Kit sure wanted a drink. He felt his hip flask at his side and took a few sips of lurk warm water. The absinthe had run out days ago and he was desperate to try and get some more. Clicking the flask back on to his belt, he walked away from the apprentices, around strange machines that God only knew what did. Though a huge glass bowl that was empty but connect to some scientific test set up, through it Kit saw Patience Jane Castleton.

The ace navigator of their airship The Lost Harmony had found a dirty window and was lent against it. The top panel only half opened but it was enough for Patience to let some fresh air in.

She was taller than Kit, thanks to the high heel and knee length silver boots she wore. Patience had on brown leather trousers like Kit had but covering some of the front and all of the back was a ruffled dark brown top skirt. She also had on a short sleeved white blouse and a brown corset with bronze straps. Her leather jacket was thrown over a pile of books and balanced in her piled high and twisted up blonde hair was a small black hat were a netted veil and peacock feather.

Kit turned away from her and left Patience to her thoughts. The navigator had been touchy since they had landed here. Something about how she hated deserts.

Meandering around more piles of things and ignoring the gutting of gas lamps, Kit found himself back where he had headed off from; the main pathway to the Engineer’s metal desk. Surprising this one stretch from the door to the elephant of a desk to another smaller door in the back wall was all clear of things. As the Engineer needed an escape route.

Kit walked up to the four people gathered at the desk and found a bookcase to lean against. Three people- the other crew members of The Lost Harmony- where on one side of the desk and the Engineer, who to Kit looked so much like a dwarf because he was so small, yet studly built and had a long well groom red beard and a shaved head, that the Engineer must have been a dwarf, was sitting on a high chair on the other side and fiddling with a blunder bluster gun whilst he listened to his guests.

The engineer of the airship, Meriwether Bramwell Redsmith the third and the gunner, Nicodemus Radulphus Langridge were putting in an order with the Engineer. It was why they had come here; airship and weapons improvements. The two men were taking turns to talk in low voices as if they were worried about being overheard.

Kit didn’t blame them. Meriwether might claim to have known this Engineer well and to have used him before but everyone knew that Engineers were not to be trusted. They were the listening devices of the world thanks to all the contraptions they could secret about.

From the back, it was easier to tell Meriwether and Nicodemus apart. Nicodemus was built like a rock giant. He was almost seven foot tall, all bulging muscles and skin tight leather and rough cotton clothes. He had long black hair, tied in a plait that ran down his back. His accent give him away as a man of the cold regions, he spoke with a harsh voice and Kit had never heard someone speak as much foul language as Nicodemus did.

Meriwether looked the total opposite on the giant. The airship engineer was short, skinny and capable of getting into the smallest gaps on the airship. Meriwether’s mind was always racing with this or that improvement or task. He hardly spoke but when he did it was thoughtful and scholer like. Thin glasses balanced on his nose, his eyes were a strange teal colour, his hair short and greying. He wore black trousers, a spotless white shirt, a red velvet jacket, a perfect cravat was tied up at his throat and a long black top hat on his head. Meriwether had dressed up for the occasion.

The third person was Captain Cornelius Horatio Featherstonehaugh. He was standing apart from the others at the corner of the table. He had on a massive sky blue coat with a golden high collar that was up and pressed against the back of his neck. His thinning black hair was tied in a small ponytail and poking out of a large tricorn hat pulled low over his heavily scarred old face.

Two fingers were missing from the Captain’s right hand and he had a metal right leg which was always seizing up and has he often said, ‘causing me more grieve then the real one ever did!’ He wore specially made boots with magnetic heals and toes and baggy, flaring blue trousers. On the Captain’s shoulder sat a creature that made everybody but the Captain uneasy.

The creature was half monkey, half clockwork. One side of it’s face was normal but the other was all made up of cogs, gears and metal pieces. A flashing glass eye whirled around whilst the real black eye stayed still. Brown fur met dark grey metal plates across cheek and skull, they screwed together with tiny bolts.

The monkey’s heart and lungs had been removed and in there place were steam powered ones which could be viewed through a piece of glass in the monkey’s chest. The right arm and leg had been replaced with bronzes replicates and random cogs that seemed purely decorative had been stuck into the monkey’s fur. The monkey’s tail was thankfully normally.

The Captain had rescued the clockwork monkey and Kit could repeat the story off by heart. The Captain had fought some sea pirates when he had been a sea mercenary and he had found a ship full of mutilated animals who had had things replaced cockwork parts that were being smuggled into different countries and sold to people as novelties.

‘There is nothing novel about animals experimented on and changed,’ the Captain always added into his story, ‘unfortunately the ship was blown up and the only animal to escape was this little one who I was trying to save at the time. He bit me fingers off and we’ve been best friends ever since.’

Kit shivered at the thought of the horrible monkey creature and his elbow slipped further into the bookcase. A pile of cogs flew to the floor, making an awful din as they fell and scattered. All the heads in the room turned towards him.

The monkey broke into loud cries and began jumping on the Captain’s shoulder in worry. The Captain raised his hand and began comforting the creature. Meriwether rolled his eyes and Nicodemus mumbled something in his own language. The two apprentices shot out from nowhere both armed with guns as if they had thought the loud sound was a fight starting, followed by Patience jogging over with her two heavy pistols drawn.

Kit held up his hands and mumbled ‘Sorry.’

He bent and scrambled to pick the rolling cogs up. Some of them were heavier than he expected them to be and he felt bruises blooming underneath his leather arm guards.

‘Be careful there, boy,’ the gruff voice of the Engineer spoke, ‘everything is fine, Priscilla and Elijah, go back to work,’ he added and waved the apprentices away.

Leaving the cogs stacked on the floor, Kit slipped off and went to hide his flushing face in one of the devices. He stopped before one and stood there not really seeing it for sometime. Then his eyes and brain focused and he saw he was standing before a large moving clockwork model of the solar system. Each planet and some of the larger constellations had been painstakingly handmade and fixed to thin metal poles which was attracted to a heavy wooden base.

Kit looked underneath and saw a mass of cogs and gears, like the inside of his pocket watch, working away to turn all of the solar system representatives above. There was the harsh sticky smell of warm oil and a tricking of burning steam. A piston was pumping away and Kit followed it to see an coal fueled engine hard at work.

He went back to the clockwork model, his fingers reaching to touch one of the moving planets whilst his thieving mind tried to work out how to steal this rare and expensive item.

‘Don’t you think you’ve caused enough trouble?’ Patience said, her posh voice softening.

‘I can’t help it,’ Kit muttered, dropping his hand.

‘I know, Thief,’ Patience tacked on like a pet nickname.

Kit slipped his hands into his pockets and turned away, pressing his redden cheek into the soft fleece of his jacket.

Footsteps creaked on the wooden boards and some of the devices shook with the vibrations. Kit looked out of the corner of his eye as Patience turned and spoke something to the Captain. Meriwether and Nicodemus were close behind, looking pleased with their agreements with the Engineer. 

‘Let’s go, kid,’ Patience said turning back to Kit.

He give a swift nod and trailed after them. At the door, Priscilla saw them out, scowling at Kit as he had been a bad dog she was kicking outside. The door snapped shut behind them and Kit carefully went down the dimly lit metal staircase.

At the bottom, night was falling in the city and the fading voices of people could be heard alongside the hissing of steam and the creaking of ropes. Kit took in lungfuls of fresh air, glad to finally be outside. Cooling wind wrapped around him, wiping away the heat of the Engineer’s workshop.

‘Are you coming to have a drink with us?’ Captain asked.

Kit shook his head, he wasn’t in the mood for that, ‘I’ll go back to the Harmony. Will you buy me some bottles of absinthe, if they have any?’

‘Sure,’ Patience repiled, ‘though you should really lay off that stuff.’

‘I’ll come back to the airship with you,’ Meriwether cut in, ‘I have to be up early to find some parts I need. It’s market day tomorrow.’ 

They said their goodbyes and split into two groups. It felt like a long walk back to the dockyard where The Lost Harmony was awaiting for them but Kit didn’t mind, he was glad to be outside and couldn’t wait until they took off once more and were flying high over the cities below them.

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

(Writer’s Note; Though this story might seem like it’s from a longer piece it’s not. I had the idea of the character Kit come into my head then the Captain and the monkey – the imagine in my head of the monkey kinda scares me! 

I’m a massive fan of steampunk and I try to go to a few events during the year. With everything in lockdown, I’m missing it. I don’t think I’ve tried to write a steampunk story before, though there may have been hints of it in some of my stories. I’d really like to write a steampunk novel but I’m not sure where to begin with it. Perhaps this short story scene is my gateway?)

 

Out Of Control #TaleWeaver

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Police Constable Williams surveyed the scene then slightly lifted his heavy black helmet to scratch his thinning brown hair. He had worked this beat for so long, he knew it like the contents of his house. All the people were like old friends and he had a good thing going with all the factory owners.

This though….This was just something Williams didn’t know what to do about. He wrapped his fingers around the handle of his cool wooden police baton, feeling comforted by the familiarity of the weapon. Then, he looked again, trying hard to understand what his eyes were seeing.

In the middle of the busy cobblestone main street was the wreckage of an iron steam engine train. The front was wedged into the upturned pavement, the body angled up to the building above and the coal truck behind flatted against the wall. The start of the first carriage could be above, balanced on the edge but trapped in place by the coal truck. The wheels and pistons were still moving, though the train was clearly going no where.

Bricks and wood planks of the ruined factory which the train had fallen out of, lay scattered everywhere. Grey steam curled for the train’s funnel and there was the smell of burning coal and fire. People were gathered in the protection of the other buildings, looking in horror and shock. Shouts and screams echoed the Wiliams’ ears.

The sound of a police whistle brought the Williams back and he moved carefully closer to the wreckage looking to see if anyone needed assistance. He could not see much due to the raising dust and steam. The noise of the train’s wheels and pistons were loud and blocked out anybody’s cries for help.

‘Constable!’ a voice called.

Williams turned as a young man dressed in a black police uniform hurried over then stopped as he saw the unreal scene.

‘I don’t know what happened,’ Williams answered the unasked question, ‘just fetch some more help will you!’

The young constable nodded and turned away.

Running footsteps from the opposite direction caused Williams to try and appear around the steam train. Out of the mess came a group of men dressed in simple working factory clothes; dirty white shirts, black trousers, leather waist coats, gloves, flat caps and goggles.

‘It was an accident!’ one of the man cried.

Williams recognised him as Thomas Smith, the oldest son of the factory’s owner.

‘A likely story,’ Williams muttered.

‘She just shot forward and there was nothing we could do,’ Thomas explained with some wild hand gestures.

‘And what exactly where you doing?’ Williams demanded.

‘Well, we were-‘

A short man, Williams thought was called Henry Pitcher, nudged Thomas in the ribs, making him stubble over his words and go silent.

‘It’s top secret, sir!’ Henry declared loudly.

‘Well, it’s not very secret now is it,’ Williams said, pointing at the train, ‘answer me, what in the devil’s name is going on!’

‘We just experimenting…’ Thomas came back in, ‘we have all the correct permissions. I can show you.’

Williams cocked an eyebrow, not sure he truly believed that. He had had issues with this group of men before and there ‘experiments.’ It had only been little disturbances before though but they had really landed themselves in trouble.

‘That’ll be proven,’ Williams muttered, ‘can you turn that thing off?’ he asked.

The men looked up at the stream train, the wheels and pistons were still going, steam was still blowing and the sound of the gears was growing deafening.

‘Not sure,’ Henry shouted, ‘we’d have to get up there and try turning things off but the coal will have to burn out before we can really do anything.’

‘It might be too dangerous,’ another man spoke out.

Williams would just have to take his word for it, he didn’t know anything about this new metal monsters, just that he was keen on them.

‘Well, I guess we’ll have to try and get it down,’ Williams mused.

‘Leave it to us, sir,’ Thomas said and the men started to scatter around the steam train.

Soon enough, other police arrived and the crowd had grown larger. Some plan was put in place and with the strength of many men and horses, the train pistons were stopped and whole thing was lowered on to it’s side in the street. The coal truck was also lowered but it was too crushed to be saved.

The night was arriving and with the loss of light they had to stop. Williams lent against the wall of the building next door. It had been along day and he was ready for bed. He looked up and spotted an airship flying low above the roof tops of London, parting through the clouds.

Williams started walking home, thinking; I do not know this world anymore, everything is changing too fast. I guess I had better change with it then.  

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/tale-weaver-176-june-21st-trains/ with thanks).

Violet Sky

dark-dawn

This was the dusk Slate had been waiting for. He sat on top of the hill, taking sips of pure dark rum from his silver canteen. All around him the forest and lake were settling down for the night. He could hear the calls of birds and wild animals echoing. The wind rocking the trees and the lapping sounds of the lake.

Slate swirled the rum around his mouth. Enjoying the dark warm spices, before swallowing. It had been expensive, but worth it. The sea pirates always had the best stuff, even though trading with them was a high risk. He won’t go anyway else now though for his precious drink.

He slipped the canteen into the inside pocket of his black leather duster coat then slowly withdrew his gun. The thing was an antique; all silver, gold and wood, but it had been super modified. It was a double barreled, electrical generator, quick fire baby. With one finger, Slate lovingly stroked down the gun’s left side as if it was the leg of a beautiful woman.

‘Your the only lady I need at my side,’ he purred to the gun.

He almost pressed the side of one of the barrels to his cheek, but stopped himself. Something was shaking the trees below and the forest had fallen eerily silent. The last of the sun’s pink and burnt orange streaks give just enough light for him to see the creature taking form.

His breath caught in his throat for just a moment, then he quietened his breathing as much as possible. Switching his gun hands, he brought his right hand up to the machine that covered that eye. It was a complex mechanism of microscopes, colored glass, cogs and many moving pieces. He moved the settings around so that his biogenetic eye could see. He shut his other eye and focused solely on the scene below him.

Straight away, it seemed he was down there and meeting the creature eye to eye. He drew back a little, being gentle with the sensitive controls. He saw the full view and that the creature was the demon he had been tracking for months. Slate smiled. He had always known tonight was the night.

Slipping his gun away, he drew his canteen out again and took a mouthful. He swallowed, relishing the taste before putting it back. Slate got his eye piece to map the best way to go then set off. He walked carefully, but with purpose and tried not to be loud. Yet the forest was against him in this because it was all ready late autumn. Dry leaves and twigs crunched and cracked under his heavy platform boots. Bare branches snatched at him, snagging on his long hair and coat. He knew being the second only thing moving between the trees didn’t help this noise.

However, Slate was there fast enough and standing on a high ridge looking down into a ancient bomb crater. The demon was below him and it was breathtaking. It seemed to be the skeleton of a giant rhino. The bones were all ice white and joined together with a stretchy grey skin, which looked fragile, but was as tough as steel.

The rhino turned its head up as if sensing something and Slate got his first look at the monster’s face. It was extremely rhino like; with two large horns coming off the top of the snout which looked like the tops of snow cover mountains, the wide face and large ears. The huge nostrils flared and the eyes that rose to meet his were pitch black.

Slate grabbed his gun and fired. The silver bullet ripped through the night, shattering the pause that had held the forest. A tail of red and blue light followed it then here was an explosion of sound and electricity.

The demon screamed and roared in one. It reared up and tried to charge out of the crater.

Slate fired again and kept going in quick secession. There was no other way to bring this thing down. Luckily, he had been packing special bullets for this hunting mission. Keeping his focus, he aimed for the head area, knowing soon he’d hit an eye and get into the brain.

The demon rhino had started to bleed out thick black blood, but it was showing no signs of slowing down. It kept trying to plough up the side of the grassy slop, however there was very little grip for it’s smooth flat feet and heavy bulk. With a might cry, it changed tactics and threw itself head first at the side of the crater.

Slate felt the earth shake from under him. He reached out to grab the trunk of a nearby tree. His hand brushed it then he was falling. His feet slide down and he lent back to keep his balance. Slate surfed down the soil as the rhino pulled out, shaking dirt everywhere. For a second it seemed that the demon would turn away, but then those black hell eyes saw Slate and the rhino put his head down again and flicked out his horn.

Slate dodge to the side and felt his legs give way under him. Pain shot down his side and he knew the horn had caught him. Tumbling into the crater, Slate scrambled to his feet, even though burn like pain had seized his muscles. He two handed his gun, holding far out in front of him. It was the only barrier between him and the demon now.

The rhino monster turned. Bones crunching together as if breaking and blood dripping from a half shot away face. A single eye fixed on to Slate.

Slate backed slowly up. He shut his good eye and looked through the machine one to perfect his aim. He squeezed the trigger on an exhale of breathe and felt the gun kick back in his hands. Blue and red waves danced before his eye then he opened his other one and saw the rhino was stunned.

He stepped forward, getting almost too close, before he fired straight into the demon’s head.

The rhino let out a gasping groan and crumbled to the floor.

Slate took in a deep breath of cold night air. He smelt the acid and decaying blood of the demon. The bitter taste of victory bubbled on his tongue. That hadn’t been worth the fight. He let his shoulders drop and his gun fell to his side. At the back of his mind he knew he was badly injured and in pain, but for the moment that could wait.

This demon hadn’t actually been the one he had been hunting.

He wasn’t sure how he knew that. Just that it was the fact. His mind wheeled and he wondered over the sinister nature of it all. The agency were doing this just to taught him, he concluded. They didn’t think he was good enough anymore….Well, he’d show them. Slater Gordon was still the fastest monster killer in the west. With that, he turned, put his gun away and slipped out his rum again.

 

 

(Inspired by Sue’s image prompt at; https://scvincent.com/2016/10/20/thursday-photo-prompt-violet-sky-writephoto/ with thanks.)