Wednesday, January 2, 2019Happy New Year, my chuckaboos! It’s a new year, and appropriately enough our heroes have a new mode of transportation. We are no longer on the road locomotive. The #Steampunk train is now a submarine!
No matter how we’re traveling, I’m happy to share the journey with you. My heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for sticking with me throughout 2018 — from the last episodes of the faery serial, Thistledown – Midsummer Bedlam, to short stories of the Pip-verse for Jazz Age Wednesdays, to a completely different 1920s serial Hullaba Lulu with artist Rob Goldstein, to the launch of Atonement in Bloom, to reruns of this steampunk serial. You, each one of you, made it a wondrous year for me.
The best part of writing with random things sent by readers was that I used it to promote others. Back in 2015 when I wrote this chapter, I had temporarily run out of things, so I didn’t have anyone to publicize. I decided to take the things from Atonement, Tennessee.
The port’s sonar has detected the approach of the steampunk submarine. It’s rising to the surface now, and we’re ready for another chapter of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers.
Previously with Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
Chapter 21 A word had been written by the rogue magic that resulted when Copper accidentally added a second harmonic tuner to the magic worked by the alchemist. It wasn’t something anyone would want to wash away, because it was never part of the laundry. As I said, that was only Alastair’s wit, a joke. It was a magically provided clue, resulting from the alchemist’s spell.
In large glowing green script I read the word aloud.
Chapter 23 Through one of his “tricks” the alchemist saw a dozen villains rapidly approaching the family estate of the Wongs. Alastair’s ancestral connection to Cornelis made him as eager to defend the alchemist as he was to protect his home. Alastair and Victoria used the road locomotive to rush back home while our trio waited to board Cornelis Drebbel’s submarine.
Chapter 24 Copper was safely ensconced in a compartment beneath the “bridge” (desk) of Cornelis Drebbel’s submarine. But the alchemist and the woman in trousers were quite intoxicated by the farts from the Green Fairy, aka Absinthe, who helps power the submarine. Cornelis opened the hatch and he and Felicity hung out from the opening for some air while he gave clearing their heads a magical assist with the harmonic tuner.
Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers
25 — Home, Neighbors, Mimosa
It was no accident, I thought to myself, that the Green Fairy looked like a tiny green skunk, albeit one with gossamer wings.
Much like a frightened skunk could spray a noxious odor from special anal glands, Absinthe produced a vapor that was the equivalent of highly concentrated absinthe liquor; an already potent potable in its pure form. That such a petite personage could produce so powerful a poot was positively— Oh my, what a lot of P words, I thought. Perhaps I’m not fully sober. I’m glad I kept that ramble to myself.
“Felicity,” Cornelis began raising one bushy blonde eyebrow. “You did say that out loud my chuckaboo,” he added and I cleared my throat, looking around suspiciously.
Where was that little green skunk? I’d hate to sit on him and start the whole drunken business over again. I hazarded another look at the Dutchman.
“No. Whatever that was, you didn’t say it aloud that time,” he told me with a smirk. “Do try and make yourself at home,” he told me, making a general motion, as if to include the entire submarine. “I’ll see if I can coax out the Green Fairy for a proper introduction. He has a finely tuned appreciation for formality. Why don’t you let Copper know that it’s safe to come out?”
Cornelis left the room, or whatever I was supposed to call the compartments inside a submarine. Was it a ship or a boat?
I turned to the beautiful desk. I supposed it might be called the bridge since we were on a ship… or boat. A small groan escaped my lips at my excessive indecision. Yes, I was still a little tipsy, even after the head-clearing effect of the harmonic tuner, which Cornelis had rung right next to our heads. I hoped I wouldn’t have a hangover. Oh heck, now I was having at it with H words.
Oh yes, the desk — that’s where Copper is,” I muttered foggily.
The center area, where a chair might go, had a roll-down cover. It was tightly closed with the girl inside, to protect her from the potently intoxicating vapors.
I squatted down and knocked on the cover. Copper lifted the door and looked out curiously.
“The air has cleared now, Copper,” I assured her. “You can come back out.”
I scooted backward to give her more room to crawl out from the desk. Then I lost my squatted balance, and fell backward on my bottom. The room still spinning a little.
“Are you all right, Felicity?” Copper asked, giving me a quizzical look.
Her expression made me want to laugh. Though I tried to maintain a serious face I burst out in giggles. Copper joined in and we plopped down on the floor in a helpless giggling heap. A movement caused me to look upward. It took me a moment to focus. I blinked. A green creature, about as long as my hand, hovered over our heads. It looked like a tiny bright green skunk with gossamer wings — Absinthe, the Green Fairy.
The smile froze on my face. I daren’t frighten the Green Fairy again. Through the clinched teeth of my now forced smile I cautioned Copper, trying to motion upward with just my eyes. Fortunately she followed my gaze.
“Oh there you are!” Copper cried with enthusiasm as she turned to look up at the skunk-like creature.
His bushy tail curled over his back, much like a squirrel’s would. Green butterfly wings shimmered like a faceted peridot as they fluttered, bringing the fairy close to the girl.
“Copper!” I whispered the warning.
“Don’t worry, Felicity. It’s just Absinthe. Isn’t he pretty?” she asked and I nodded mutely, otherwise still as a statue.
The little fairy seemed to be aware that he’d been complimented, and he chirped at Copper.
“Absinthe, this is my friend Felicity. She and Cornelis are helping me find Daddy. You’re friends with Cornelis aren’t you?” Copper told the creature introduced me to the creature in quite a grownup way.
She nodded when it chirped as if in reply. I watched in fascination. Copper seemed like a little girl at play, having a tea party for her imaginary friends — except for the fact that it was all real.
Copper held out her arm and the Green Fairy fluttered down and perched there, chirping and snuffling contentedly.
“I wish you could have met my other friends, Mr. Wong and Victoria,” she told the tiny creature. “But something was wrong at their house and they had to go back home. I’ve been afraid for them ever since they left. There were some really bad people chasing us, and I think those people took Daddy too. So now I’m afraid they might hurt Victoria and Alastair. I wish I could see them and know they’re okay,” she said in a voice so sad that I thought my heart would break — and then I hiccupped.
The little fairy watched Copper intently as she spoke. When she paused he chirped once and abruptly fluttered up toward the desk.
On either side of the desktop sat what I recognized for variations of Cornelis Drebbel’s perpetual motion clock. No doubt both were alchemically enhanced in some way.
Absinthe went directly to the clock on the right and hovered before it. He looked at Copper and chirped. She hurried over to the desk. I followed very cautiously. I was still concerned about startling the fairy. It wasn’t that my balance was still unsteady, or that I was tipsy from the absinthe vapors. Really it wasn’t…
A dozen small knobs protruded from the base of the first perpetual motion clock. Lightning fast, the fairy’s dainty paws touched and twisted the knobs. The glass dome covering the clock became clouded by green fog.
The clock then chimed the quarter hour. The vapor beneath the glass cleared. I could see a three dimensional image of the Wong family’s pavilion as if I looked from the air high above the estate.
The fairy turned another knob and the view drew in closer to the carefully designed and manicured grounds. Several kinds of ornamental trees decorated the area.
The fairy brought the view even closer and I saw the ground was littered with bodies. At first I feared the entire family and staff were all dead. However, I realized there were subtle movements. The people were merely unconscious. Then I saw that the fallen were not the Wongs at all, but the intruders!
I saw the small woman, Victoria beneath a flowering tree. She knelt over a man, deftly tying his hands behind his back before he could regain consciousness. She straightened her back, as if she was about to rise, but she stilled.
As if in slow motion a mimosa blossom floated gently down from the tree’s branches. As I watched the delicate flower’s descent one of the intruders crept up behind tiny Victoria. She never looked up. The man was behind her, ready to strike.
As the falling blossom grazed the tip of a blade of grass, Victoria sprang to her feet, twisted while on the toes of one foot and squarely planted a hard kick into the villain’s midsection. By the time the blossom had settled into the grass, the tiny woman was tying up the intruder.
“Wow…!” Copper said on a sigh with a grateful look at the Green Fairy.
Then the image faded away and the clock went back to its usual, though unique appearance.
“I believe Victoria and Alastair and everyone at the pavilion are fine,” I told Copper, and I was as relieved as she.
The tiny Green Fairy fluttered over the desk, or bridge or whatever. I hiccupped again. I looked uneasily at Absinthe, but the involuntary noise didn’t seem to concern him. He moved to the contraption that had originally caused me to make the comment and motion that had startled the fairy, eliciting his intoxicating emanation, which inebriated Cornelis and me. Especially me.
Where was I? Oh yes… Absinthe fluttered to that multi-limbed brass contrivance. Each arm ended with a walnut sized faceted gemstone. Just as before, the device gyrated and whirred so much that it was difficult to count its arms, but I thought there were seven, each capped with a different colored gem. The base of the device was brightly lit and it caused the gemstones to cast a rainbow effect as the arms spun.
The rainbow lights filled the inside of the submarine. Cornelis had closed the hatch and climbed down the ladder. He made over the lights, praising Absinthe, no doubt intending to soothe the creature before I could startle him again.
However, Absinthe didn’t pay any mind to the Dutchman or to me. He darted from the multi-armed contrivance to the first perpetual motion clock and then to the second one on the other side of the desk. His tiny paws adjusted crystal knobs and other apparatus so fast his motions were a blur.
The rainbow lights that filled the room became blotchy. Gradually, they took form. After a moment I realized the lights had transformed into a map that filled the room. It was a duplicate of Alastair Wong’s map, which Cornilis had used the harmonic tuner to magically enhance. However, it didn’t have as many dots as the map that resulted back when the alchemist’s spell went awry and the mangle went rogue, magically producing the word “Daddy.”
Absinthe’s map had one dot that sparkled particularly brightly. I thought the mark might streak away like a shooting star, but it remained stationary. Then three other smaller dots appeared; each in a different place on the map. Those dots crawled about like fireflies, but they all moved toward the crystalline bright star.
“Which one are we?” Copper asked, meaning the dots.
The Green Fairy’s snuffling sound changed to something that sounded very much like “Tut, tut.” His tail twitched in an irritated way as he fluttered across the map. A shimmering blue area that I expected represented water flashed once. A small, shimmering copper sphere suddenly appeared in the blue. Cornelis chuckled.
“It’s a copper dot to show where Copper is,” he explained. “Well done Absinthe.”
Copper looked from the floating ball that represented her and then back at the first dot. She gasped as comprehension showed on her face. She reached toward the first radiantly glowing dot, but it was far over her head. Absinthe chirped happily and darted down to the girl.
“Daddy,” I murmured. “So that’s where Calvin Hixon is? But he’s away from all three of the groups who were chasing us. Although I suppose that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is not under duress of some kind,” I speculated.
While I spoke Cornelis strolled about the map-filled room, looking intently at the magical cartography and all the moving parts. I noticed that our copper sphere was farthest away from the star that apparently represented Calvin Hixon.
The alchemist seemed to be tracing all the waterways.
“Is it possible for this submarine to travel to the spot where Hixon is?” I asked.
His mouth twisted, but Cornelis put a knuckle to his lips and knitted his brows in thought. He tilted his head to one side and looked at the Green Fairy.
“No,” he said as if he had been distracted. “There are places that are not nearly deep enough for this submarine,” he commented and Absinthe hissed as if scolding Cornelis. “But with a little shifting of ‘the in to the out’… Tucking a bit from this reality into the next… Together Absinthe and I should be able to make it work,” he said.
The Green Fairy appeared to be happy with that pronouncement and he fluttered down to alight on the alchemist’s shoulder. I felt very uneasy.
“What do you mean by shifting of ‘the in to the out’ Cornelis Drebbel? And other realities! I don’t like the sound of that. You know full well how often your tricks go awry,” I warned him.
To my surprise, Absinthe grunted and chirped in a way that sounded like he actually agreed with me. Cornelis tilted his head to look at the tiny fairy in surprise.
“Why Felicity! Absinthe, you too? You wound me,” Cornelis said in his most melodramatic voice. “What could possibly go wrong?”
All I could manage to do was shake my head. I sank back to the floor and dropped my forehead against my knees with a groan.
This episode didn’t include anything I wanted to use as “Real World Notes.” So here are some more Victorian slang terms.
Bitch the pot: Pour the tea.
Boiled owl: Drunk. “I can’t remember anything about last night. I got absolutely boiled owled.”
Dash my wig: Exclamation of dismay. “Dash my wig! Nothing good will come of that.”
Dirty puzzle: A promiscuous woman. “I dirty-puzzled around when I was in university, but who didn’t?”
Well, dash my wig! That bit about other realities has me worried. Will Cornelis finally get that extremely dangerous spell to work perfectly? Does that bother anyone else as much as it does me? What if something startles the Green Fairy into another inebriating absinthe-super-charged fart? Will they make it to Copper’s daddy before their foes find him? Then again, is Calvin Hixon, in fact, really at the indicated star on the map…?
Be at the port again next time when this the steampunk submarine continues on Straightlaced Saturday. Next time, the “three things” were from Donna Parker at Yadadarcyyada. See what happens when Ginger Beer, Cast Iron Finial, and Backgammon enter the story.
I’ll be looking for you at the port on Saturday.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
USA: Atonement, Tennessee
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This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
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