Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Fiction for August 23, 2013

Welcome to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Karlene over at Undaunted Devotion. Don’t miss the other submissions for your weekend reading pleasure!

My wonderful Nancy’s birthday was this week, so I wanted something special for her. We’ve been working on Steampunk costumes for a little while now. If you don’t know what Steampunk is, think Jules Verne taken to the next level. Steampunk is a genre of fiction and costuming/cosplay that imagines a Victorian Era wherein Mad Science truly ruled, and fantastic inventions powered by steam and clockwork were commonplace – where the skies were crossed by behemoth dirigible airships, and men such as Nikola Tesla were the most celebrated heroes of all.

Nancy’s Steampunk character is still in development, while mine is fairly well defined, so I’ve been a bit vague on hers in this sketch. Still, I wanted to have some fun with the characters, and just explore a little bit how they might interact given the current direction they’re going. The setting is the very early 1900s, in the southern part of the Arizona Territory. I hope you enjoy this brand-new piece of fiction!

Steampunk Characters
An Experimental Sketch

            He waited in subdued light. The only window not fully shuttered was the one he sat beside, and it was only open enough for him to watch the street. His hat hung on the nearby bedpost, and his weapon rested across his legs. With a stained and faded bandana, he mopped the sweat from his forehead. While the worst of summer was over for the year, it was still hot, and whatever breeze might have been blowing outside did not find its way to the narrow gap in the window.
            The rumored riders should arrive soon, provided the information was reliable. The nearby copper mine took careful measures to protect the secret of when the couriers with the payroll would arrive, but information could be obtained in many ways, including from sullen clerks after a few too many drinks. He hadn’t even needed to buy a round for the two underpaid men.
            Two horsemen came around the buildings at the far end of the street, and he leaned closer to the window. The weapon was in his hands without so much as a conscious thought, but he kept the barrel well within the dark room. All it would take was a stray glint of metal to betray his presence, and ruin all his preparations. I been waitin’ a long time for this one, and I might not get another shot.
            The two riders dismounted in front of the mercantile, seemingly unconcerned with the possibility that they were being watched. If this is them, they’re either certain the secret is safe, or they’re foolishly confident in their ability to handle trouble.
            He brought the end of the barrel to rest just inside the window, where he could easily lift it and aim quickly. Continuing to watch, his focus narrowed on the two men. They did not enter the mercantile, but stood chewing the fat as though waiting for someone. That fits the information – act like they ain’t got nothin’, so’s nobody has any cause to think they have somethin’. This has gotta be them.
            A commotion erupted from somewhere farther up the street, and he shouldered the weapon. He slipped the trigger from the safe position to the ready, and used the barrel to push the shutter just a bit farther open. Shouts of surprise and alarm drew closer, along with a chaotic mechanical sound.
            The two riders stood staring up the street with confused looks. Don’t just stand there like a couple of ninnies – move, you fools!
            An old brass Automaton careened into view, kicking up dust in its chaotic path and filling the air with oily smoke and steam. He aimed his weapon at the dull, oxidized torso and tracked it as it came closer. When it reached the middle of the street nearest to him, he pulled the trigger. The room filled with a rapid popping sound, just before a blinding arc flashed from the barrel out to the metal man in the street.
            The Automaton spun in place, with its arms twitching as though it were having a seizure, before it simply stopped.
            He held the weapon in his left hand and threw the window open with his right. Drawing his old revolver with his right hand as he climbed out the window, he scanned near the two riders for his real objective. A man dressed in old cavalry trousers and a stained muslin shirt stood just outside the mercantile, and for just a moment, he caught the man’s eyes. There was surprise and fear in the man’s eyes, and he turned to sprint up the street.
            He gave chase, with the Lightning Rifle in his left hand, and the now-cocked revolver in his right. He didn’t bother yelling. In all his apprehensions as an Arizona Ranger, he’d never had an outlaw that had just stopped and surrendered because he shouted.
            The man ducked between two buildings, maybe fifty yards ahead of him. If he’s got a horse waitin’ there for him, then I’m gonna be lucky to get one shot.
            Coaxing as much speed as he could out of his old legs, he reached the gap between the buildings and brought the revolver up to level.
            A woman stood in the shade between the buildings. “Gonna shoot me, Seth?” A copper handgun version of his Lightning Rifle was in her hand, aimed at the man who now twitched on the ground at her feet.
            “I was wonderin’ if you were gonna show up here,” Seth said, lowering the revolver. “What’d’ja do to him, anyway?”
            Her lips curled into a sly smile, and her eyes were almost obscured by the short brim of the bowler hat on her head. “Clumsy me; I grabbed my Lightning Pistol instead of my Derringer.”
            “You shot him with the Lightning? You know them’s for the Automatons, and not people.” He stepped over the prone man, and held the revolver trained at the face. “There’s no tellin’ how long the effects’ll last on a man.”
            “Interesting that it seems to have about the same effect on him, as it has on Automatons.” Her finger stayed on the trigger. “I could always hit him again, unless, of course, you’d rather haul his dead body all the way back to Phoenix.”
            “He’d be less trouble that way.”
            “Not sure he would smell much worse, either.” She nudged the man with a booted foot. “I know this is a desert, but there are baths available. You really should avail yourself of them from time to time.”
            “So, are the Pinkertons gonna take credit for this one?”
            “Well, I did capture him for you.”
            Seth removed the man’s pistol, and rolled him onto his belly. “So you did. You still got them fancy cuffs of yours?”
            “Of course.” She dropped them on the man’s back.
            “Much obliged.” He bound the man’s hands together, just as the local sheriff and a deputy ran up to them.
            The sheriff had his gun on them. “You wanna explain what’s goin’ on?”
            “Seth Holtwick, with the Arizona Rangers.” He stood up, and turned so his badge was showing. “We’ve been after this feller for a while. He’s been stealin’ Automatons, tinkerin’ with ‘em somehow to make ‘em act all crazy, and then uses ‘em for a distraction to make robberies easier.”
            “You came to my town, and didn’t think you oughta let me know?” The sheriff had his gun lowered, but didn’t holster it.
            “If you knew a Ranger was in town, then likely others’d know, too. If he’d gotten wind that I was here, he’d’ve been miles away by now. You’re welcome to take it up with the Governor, if you’ve a mind to, but I don’t ‘spect he’ll tell you much different.”
            The sheriff released an annoyed huff, and slid his revolver back into the holster.
            Seth smiled. “If you’n your deputy would be so kind as to take this man back to your jail, I’d be much obliged. I need to send a telegraph to Phoenix to let ‘em know we have him, and make arrangements to take him in for trial.”
            The two local lawmen lifted the man, and dragged him off towards the jail.
            “I’m hurt, Seth. You didn’t introduce me.” She put the Lightning Pistol into a safe condition, and slid it out of sight.
            “Yeah, well, I figgered if he wasn’t none too happy with an Arizona Ranger in his town, he might be even less happy with a Pinkerton.”
            “He probably would not have even believed I’m with Pinkerton.”
            “So, what do we do now?”
            “Well, you could buy me a drink.”
            He offered her his arm. “Always good to see you, Shal.”
            “You too, Seth.” She patted his arm as they turned towards the saloon. “I see you still have a cannon up your sleeve.”
            “Always afraid to ask what you got up your sleeve.”

            “Maybe I’ll show you someday.”


Debra Gray-Elliott said...

Great story. You left me wanting to

Sara Harricharan said...

Oho! That was fun! I don't usually read Steampunk, mostly because it's hard to find it well done, but I think you did a fairly decent job. I was interested to see how you would handle the world and the characters and you didn't disappoint. I liked how the details weren't overwhelming, but necessary--like the glint of Seth's rifle, how it could have caused trouble, so he was careful not to let it show and so on. Is this part of a larger piece at any time in the future? I kind of want to know more about these Pinkertons...Good job! Glad I was able to find some time to read this holiday weekend. ^_^