The Delta Pearl 40 — Plummet

Saturday, July 11, 2020 

Steampunk woman Noel Nichols Unsplash.png
Noel Nichols, Unsplash

Welcome, my chuckaboos.  I’m back with another all new episode of my steampunk serial, The Delta Pearl

As most of you know, this is a re-write of a novel with which I wasn’t satisfied.  I include random “things” from readers in most chapters.  This time Diana Wallace Peach gave us Jackstaff.  Read on to see how I used that kind of flagpole. 

Last weekend I posted links to several chapters you might need in order to refresh your memory for events that are about to transpire. Click here for that. 

We left Émeraude and her would-be rescuer, Randall Needleman hanging precariously from a net that had captured our heroine.  Above them the poisonous brown cloud makes it impossible to breathe.  They are near the river, but are they close enough?  Even if they were to land in the river — filled with boats large and small, dropping from such a height does not promise a safe landing.  Let’s see how they’re doing.

All aboard!

The Delta Pearl

Chapter 40 — Plummet

Khusen Rustamov at Pixabay
Khusen Rustamov at Pixabay

For a brief moment we floated, supported by the parasol on a sudden gust of wind.  Randal Needleman and I were high above everything, the buildings, the press of coaches and wagons, and the people along the riverfront.  Naturally, everything happened much faster than I can tell about it.

Onyx appeared.  His brass talons latched onto my sleeve.  His clockwork wings flapped furiously as he tried to pull us toward the scant safety of the river.  I prayed for another burst of wind.

The noxious brown cloud descended toward us.  Randall began to cough, but he kept his tight hold around my waist.  I wished I could give him the breathing apparatus he had strapped around my head before he cut me loose from the net.

In the distance I saw the Delta Pearl.  She was going faster than a riverboat could possibly move… but after all, she was the Delta Pearl.

Speeding ahead of the riverboat I saw her naptha launch.  The forward part of the launch was covered by a roof-like shell.  Obsidian Durango, the Cadet, clung to the top of it.  I thought Sid was trying to attach something to the corners of the roof.

I couldn’t see who piloted the small craft, but the person standing at the back was not one of the crew.  However, the warning klaxon had sounded.  That meant no one would leave the riverboat unless the Captain ordered them.  For the Delta Pearl to travel a such a speed, all hands would be needed.

Cairo Illinois panoramic map 1885 H Willbe Wikipedia
Cairo Illinois panoramic map, 1885 H Willbe, Wikipedia

The launch accelerated and bumped on the water.  Sid lost his hold.  The Cadet slid from the little roof but managed to grab the jackstaff.  The flag, supported by the wind of speed, slapped his head repeatedly and sharply, threatening to break his hold.

The figure standing at the back of the launch hurried forward to help him.  It was a woman in simple clothes.  That would be the governess, Azalea Morton.  The pilot leaned out from the enclosure ready to help.  The clothes were those of a teenaged boy, the supposed charge of the governess.

His hat blew off into the wind.  A long tail of hair tumbled free.  Alex Rice had just exposed “his” fakery to anyone who might have been watching.  Were all eyes on Randall Needleman and me as we plummeted toward the earth?  Or was the runaway society wife, Exilda Ritchie now revealed to those who would force her to leave her lover, Azalea, and return to the scheming philandering husband who cheated her of her fortune?

Then it happened ― the end of that fleeting suspended moment.  The ribs of the parasol snapped.  Its canopy shot up straight, while we plummeted downward.  I heard my sleeve rip where the mechanical owl still tried to hold us aloft.  His wings worked wildly, but he was headed down with us.

A blast of hot foul-smelling air rushed down onto us.  However, it pushed us in the right direction ― toward the river.

Randall’s grip on my waist went slack.  He had been overcome by the malachite dust that made the cloud so deadly.  I held onto him as tightly as I could.  His boast of being a good swimmer would mean nothing if he was unconscious.

The Delta Pearl was so close that I glimpsed the Captain in the pilot house.  Abruptly the riverboat turned sideways, effectively blocking the river for any large vessels.  As the naptha launch continued ahead of her, a net began to stretch out in to a triangle, the base of which went the length of the huge riverboat.  The small point of the triangle was attached to the top of the launch.

Captain Cecil Perlog had cast a wide net in hope of saving us.  Would it be enough?


Foggy River Bridge by Dan Antion 2016 (Image altered)
Foggy River Bridge by Dan Antion 2016 (Image altered)

Meanwhile on the riverbank…  Naturally I didn’t witness this.  We have to take the word of Victor T. Elam and Jet Fischer, the librarian.

Victor, Eliza Needleman, and Jet, whom I already included as a friend, were safely on the ground.  They ran as fast as their legs would carry them trying to keep up with the drift of the net that captured me.  Eliza was a statuesque woman.  Her long legs kept pace with the men despite the encumbrance of her skirts.

No one could see what carried the net.  It was hidden behind that noxious brown cloud.

When they reached the river’s edge, Jet led them to a pier used by small boats and fishermen.  They ran to the edge of the wooden structure.

Randall Needleman’s hold on the net, as he cut me free was clearly precarious.  Considering the location of the net, none of them could be sure whether we would have a lethal drop to the hard ground, or a still dubious landing in the river.

Then Randall made a big enough hole in the net to pull me partly out of it.  They could see that I wore the breathing apparatus.  Eliza gave a relieved sigh.  Her relief immediately became a gasp of a new worry ― for her husband.

“Oh, Randall!  The poison air,” she murmured as she remembered the debilitating effect that brown cloud previously had on the Captain.

“Émeraude is hurt!” Victor cried when he saw how I held my arm.

“It’s too dangerous for them to jump!” Jet exclaimed.  “Yet if they don’t jump, the malachite dust in that cloud may well kill them.  I only had the one mask,” he added in dismay.

Jet’s knee-length coat was open and awry from running.  Eliza looked at him sharply, seeing that he carried a weapon at his side.

“What’s that jeweled bauble you have there?” she asked the librarian.

“What?” Jet began, surprised to hear that sort of question at such a dire moment.  “It’s my grandfather’s dagger.  Some of the streets between the library and my home aren’t quite safe at night,” he added.

“He’s going to let go!” Victor yelled as Randall pulled me the rest of the way out of the net.

Eliza gave a muffled cry.  Then she grabbed Jet’s coat.  Pushing him away, she took his dagger.  Eliza turned the knife toward her own chest and slashed.


End Chapter 40


Real Steampunkery Tech

An Escher Wyss naptha launch 1888 Wikipedia
An Escher Wyss type of naptha launch 1888 Wikipedia

Naptha Launch.  Have you ever imagined a river with Victorians out having a good time?  Would there be miniature paddlewheel boats?  As whimsical as that image is, it is not entirely wrong.  During the “steam era” small steamboats became popular for personal recreational use.  However, the little steamers also got a reputation for dangerous explosions.  So, the Coast Guard required operators to be licensed or have a certified engineer onboard.  That made it impossible for most people to legally use them.

A couple of alternatives were developed.  One such is the “naptha launch.”  Compared to steam, the naphtha-powered engine provided a launch with lightweight, efficient power that required no license to operate.

Naphtha is a clear liquid hydrocarbon that is produced during the fractional distillation of crude petroleum oil or coal tar. Naphtha distills off between gasoline and kerosene. Today naphtha is reportedly sold in hardware stores as a wiping solvent and paint reducer. 

You can learn more from this Wikipedia article.


Damfino how this happened, but we’re still falling.  And now, what is Eliza doing, turning that dagger on herself? She and Randall seem quite devoted to one another.  Is the prospect of life without him impossible for our suffragette to face?  

I love hearing from you — and hope you will leave a comment.  Everyone is welcome to leave a random “steam era” appropriate thing.  Be well, be happy, my chuckaboos 



This serial is made possible in spite of (not because of) the deplorable lack of Internet service from TDS Telecom.  They are even worse than the government about claiming no problem exists in the face of  failure.  TDS Telecom meets every complaint and service call by saying they find no problem. Their technicians come to my home and refuse to do any work or replace equipment, even when their offsite managers have instructed them to do so. They brought equipment that they openly state does not work properly. My letters, emails, and tweets go unanswered.  Dear readers, please do not comment here in response to this paragraph. Just be aware of my awful experience with this so called provider.

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.

Copyright © 2016 and 2020 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.


88 thoughts on “The Delta Pearl 40 — Plummet

    1. LOL. Thanks for that smile, Teri. Yesterday I found myself making so many notes for this story. (This new material has reached a point where I need to integrate it into the existing novel.) When it was clear that I still can’t focus on my WIP, I went ahead and drafted the next episode. It’s more the length that my episodes used to be (they’ve gotten so short this year). That will displease a lot of people, and make a few happy.
      I enjoyed visiting at your place a moment ago. Big hugs, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. woohoo! A long chapter is coming!!

        What the hell is Eliza up to?!! And I can’t believe you managed to keep us suspended with Emeraude for another chapter!! Things are still looking very dire for our friends 😕


        1. LOL, thanks for making me smile, Joanne. I was just about to start the posting part. I have to hurry and any online work by 8 AM (Mountain Time) because that’s when my shoddy Internet goes bad. After that, I get maybe 10 minutes at a time…Frustrating.
          It might not be the greatest chapter, but these ends need to be tied… Have a wonderful weekend, my chuckaboo. It’s almost here.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Diana. I’m delighted you had a good time here today. I’m afraid that no matter what I do next week, it will be boring after this… but that’s part of storytelling, high and low, fast and slow. Have a wonderful new week, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a thrilling episode, a true cliffhanger! My heart is pounding. What was Eliza slashing with Jet’s knife? Will the net the captain has placed in the river catch them? Well done, Teagan!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good Lord woman, have you no heart!! Mine is in V-Tach from falling with Emeraude and Randall and Onyx! There are so many ways this can go. And our girl Eliza, I’m sure, is going to show everyone how knowledgeable and resourceful she is. That slash isn’t to end her life, but to save two lives.

    And how heartwarming to see all these people working frantically to one end, to save Emeraude and Randall, with no regard for their own safety. Maybe they were the start of “first responders”!! 🤗🤗

    Next Saturday’s episode can’t come soon enough. Can’t you post it tomorrow? 😂😂😂
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Resa. I suppose part of the allure of Victorian Era woman was their ability to keep people guessing. It’s hard to be sure what to expect of Eliza. Although for her, that is not a device, it just comes naturally. 😉 Thanks for being on this riverboat, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. What a torturous place to leave us, Teagan!! My heart is in my throat! And what the heck is Eliza doing? Surely she won’t do herself in. I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds! Great segment!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thrilling! What an exciting episode. Could be borrowed from a James Bond. I’m just surprised that Onyx didn’t get caught up in the net, during the rescue attempt Thank you for sharing, Teagan! Love it so much. Best wishes, and enjoy your weekend. Michael – Now i have to read your last postings too. Sorry, this week i again had lost the line. .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that would have been an interesting twist, Michael! If whomever is above/using that net captured Onyx in stead of Emeraude… 😉
      I’m always delighted to see you any time you can visit. I understand, believe me! My Internet is so awful, that it only stays up (long enough for me to make a comment or check a fact) from 5AM to 9:30AM… The rest of the day has me in constant frustration, trying to reconnect. Not to mention all the comments I have to make 3 times because they get lost. Wishing you and yours health and happiness, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for all the efforts on the blog too, Teagan! I totally understand too. Here the internet connection is depending on the weather. 😉 After they are not reading with fast internet by landlines, i am using more and more the GSM dongle. Greetings to Crystal, and i hope th e internet will stay as good as Crystal has not to submit letters to the next postal service. Lol Enjoy your weekend. Michael

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Curse you, Teagan for leaving us dangling with multiple strings and no discernable parachute. The eternity until next Saturday will last almost as long as Needleman’s and Emeraude’s descent to either land, river, boat, or net. Hope your monsoon duststorms only include sand and not malachite dust. Hugs on windblown wings.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bwahahaha! Pat, when it occurred to me that I was leaving a triple cliffhanger, I was unrepentantly proud of myself. LOL. Maybe you can swing back and forth from one string to the next if your arms start to cramp. 😉
      I’m not sure if there are dust storms in the upcoming forecast here, but yesterday it was at least 108 degrees (not sure what the final high was). It’s an unusually hot summer. I researched before I chose this place. Typically there are only a few days a year that are over 100 degrees. Bless my air conditioner. Thanks for reading and commenting, my chuckaboo! Huge hugs right back.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yikes! Teagan, you’re leaving us here??? Oh you are such a good writer, but you have a devilish streak when it comes to cliffhangers. My heart is racing. These parallel scenes are so thrilling. I’ll be back next Saturday, but I’ll be thinking about that last sentence long before then.

    Take care. I hope you have a nice weekend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Dan. I appreciate this feedback about the parallel scenes. I have not stepped outside Emeraude’s point of view for this entire series, and I hesitated to “break my form.” But I wanted to include the launch element, to add a reminder of Exilda and Azealia… and it was too farfetched for Emeraude to see all that in a matter of seconds. I’d already had her see a lot. Anyhow, I’m glad to know that works. Thanks for reading and commenting, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my word, Teagan, what has Eliza got hidden beneath her clothing that will save her husband. So much excitement in this episode. I hope you are doing well and making progress with your project. I am also keeping my art project a secret [because of you] but will share hints.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are clever, Robbie. I thought I might trick people into thinking that “slash” was a stab into her heart. But you are onto my red herring. LOL.
      I’m looking forward to learning more about your art project, and will keep an eye out for it. Feel free to leave links here. Although I’m very sorry if I’ve caused you any discomfort over sharing it. Art is a more difficult thing for people to cheat or steal. Huge hugs, my chuckaboo!


    1. Ah-ha! I achieved the desired effect. Wheew… I wasn’t sure. I’m afraid the next chapter will be boring after this, but the river must have ups and downs in its waves. Thanks for reading and commenting, my chuckaboo!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. The poor girl must feel all-overish by now. She’ll want to batty-fang me if she ever gets a chance. I should shut my big bazoo before I give anything away though. I think I’ll call it 8 bells, dealing with my Internet crap has exhausted me.


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