Saturday, December 5, 2020
Thanks for coming back to the steampunk riverboat, my chuckaboos! I took a little break, but I’m here today with an episode that is… eventful to say the least.
Random Reader Things
Dan Antion at No Facilities provided the “random reader thing” used in this chapter — stopwatch. This is a fast-paced segment, so that’s doubly suitable.
Previously on The Delta Pearl
Today’s episode builds on many past chapters. An important one was Chapter 6 — Listen.
“Blue John was ranting like a lunatic. I didn’t understand half of what he said. The only part I heard clearly was ‘It’s coming.’ And as nonsensical as it sounds, I could have sworn he said ‘the other pearl.’ For a moment I thought he meant the Delta Pearl, but that’s insane,” Victor commented. “Then he bolted away with the telectroscope and the rocket.”
I had lost sight of the Mate when the colored sound waves blasted heavenward, pushing against the tear in the sky. Blue John disappeared into the harmonic waves of blue and green.
“Blue didn’t just take the telectroscope,” I told Victor, understanding the strange thing I saw before the world went dark. “He rocketed himself into the sky along with it.”
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 57 — Pin
Green light shone in a pinpoint from the pilothouse. A huge form moved in rapid twists and turns. I knew Captain Cecil Perlog would be more than busy at the wheel of the Delta Pearl. His large frame made the space seem like a cupboard.
“What is it?” Victor Topaz Elam asked.
I didn’t want to tell him the whole truth. The green point of light was the emerald in the Captain’s “all seeing eye” pin. The broach was as fascinating and mysterious as the Delta Pearl herself.
Abruptly, I wondered if the all-seeing eye could be “the other pearl” that Blue John had meant in the raving exchange Victor had described.
The pin Cecil Perlog wore on his cravat was made to look like an eye. A big white “blister” pearl made the eye, and a large round emerald was the iris. A black diamond made the pupil. The piece was rimmed by black enamel, giving the illusion of eyelashes.
Early in the voyage I overheard the Captain talking about what I was sure must have been the pin, or at least its emerald.
“She’s almost sweet sixteen, but you can’t be giving her that horrid thing as a birthday gift! She’s a young woman now Cecil. Can you destine her to spend her life on this boat?” came the Cook’s voice.
I had stumbled upon a serious conversation, and I was the subject. What “horrid thing” could she mean?
“Why not? It already bears her name,” the Captain replied in a cajoling voice. “Aggie, darling, I would like to make her my heir… but not my prisoner. I don’t mean to take away her life. The girl has such potential. I can’t help believing this is the best place for her.”
The Captain’s voice was edged with concern and something even more unexpected ― uncertainty. That frightened me, because he was always sure of himself.
“Destiny,” the Dealer said abruptly. “If the Delta Pearl had not found her, the girl’s destiny would have been death before she was even ten years old. There is no destiny. We make our own.”
“Transferring the stone does not change anything,” the Captain went on in the face of Agate’s ongoing sounds of protest. “At least not for a while. It takes decades for the stone to attune. And it would still be connected to me. Nothing need change, so there’s no reason for you to fret.”
“We would be in the way,” I muttered to Victor, instead of explaining the emerald’s light.
Fortunately, there was too much happening for my young inventor to question further. Victor placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. Speaking rapidly, I described how Blue John disappeared into the harmonic waves of color at the place where the sky was split.
The Dealer approached. He told us to go back inside. The Cook was on deck also, arms spread as if herding ducks, instructing everyone who had no specific task to get off the decks.
A small shape zipped out of the pilothouse — Onyx, the Captain’s clockwork owl. I knew he must carry a message to a part of the riverboat where there were no speaking tubes.
An instant later, Obsidian Durango, the Cadet, emerged the high glass room. Sid rushed down the narrow stairs, taking several at a time. I stepped out of the way as he ran past. Many of the crew hurried purposefully from one point to another.
As Sid passed, I noticed the stopwatch in his hand. The Delta Pearl was such a large vessel that it was a hard run to get from one end to the other. Obsidian had bragging rights to being the fastest at running that veritable obstacle course. Seeing the stopwatch made me worry that he needed to break his own speed record.
I swallowed hard. I was sure Sid was headed for the boiler-room. It was the heart of the riverboat, and the place where the six-tone scale was sung during a bonding ceremony. The tones were also sung when the Delta Pearl needed something more than ordinary fuel could provide.
Then it was there, confirmation of my fears. It was something I felt as much as heard. The sound waves blasted heavenward, pushing against the disruption in the sky. Arcs of blue and green erupted from the Delta Pearl. The harmonic notes reached my ears an instant later.
The vibration of the riverboat was so strong that I feared she would blast apart. The sensation came up through the soles of my button boots and ran up into my hip joints. For a moment, I thought my legs were going numb.
Jaspe took my elbow. I knew he meant to drag me inside if necessary. However, Sid spotted him. The Cadet, turned on his heel and ran to us. Sid spoke into Jaspe’s ear to be heard above the cacophony of music and groaning timber. The Dealer dropped my arm and hurried away with Sid.
“Émeraude, get inside!” Jaspe shouted over his shoulder. “Topaz, see that she does.”
I cast a threatening glance at Victor, and a rueful expression came to his lips. He cleared his throat uncertainly.
Jet Fischer bounded onto the deck. His eyes held a frantic light. He turned in every direction, probably looking for someone. I was surprised the new apprentice had left Opal, the Librarian, during an emergency. Although I knew Opal would never abandon the library during a crisis.
Jet looked up at the pilothouse, but seemed to think better of interrupting the Captain. Victor and I started toward him. By then, Jet saw the Cook and went to her.
“It’s Opal!” Jet shouted to Agate to be heard above the din. “I’m afraid it might be her heart!”
The Cook and Jet ran to the etched glass doors. I took Victor’s hand, intent on following them. However, Victor was mesmerized by the crack in the sky. I spoke his name. When I looked up, I saw that more than the supernatural occurrence held his attention. A small shape descended from the split. As it got closer, it fell faster.
Abruptly, Amethyst was on my shoulder. I didn’t see how or when my spider got there. She hissed into my ear, but she was so excited that I couldn’t understand what she tried to tell me.
Victor grabbed my arm, pulling me aside. Something thudded into the deck, inches away from me. A tiny copper gear rolled to my feet. Amethyst hopped down to investigate before I could stop her.
She turned to me. With one of her legs, she held up a chip of carved malachite stone. Bending down, I saw the thing that fell from the sky.
It was the large malachite scarab.
That same clockwork scarab had been at the boarded-up art gallery, which turned out to be something to lure Randall Needleman, and probably me, ashore. Our purpose was to learn more about the mysterious portrait, which resembled me. However, we found the “Green Scarab Gallery” was closed. I later saw the clockwork beetle at the public library in Cairo, Illinois. The last time I saw it, the malachite scarab flew to the net in which I had been shanghaied. It gave me the papyrus scroll. The scroll was punched with holes that matched the prongs on a music box cylinder. The song it would have played was “Bird in a Gilded Cage.”
My mind whirled as I stared at the damaged malachite scarab.
A blinding surge of blue and green light erupted. The crack in the sky split down to the river. The Delta Pearl heaved. My feet came up off the deck.
End Chapter 57
Balderdash, I’ve gone and done it again, another double-cliffhanger — and we still don’t know about Blue John! Opal appears to be at risk. Is Jet Fischer ready to take over for her as the riverboat’s Librarian? Or does she just have the vapors? She seemed too level-headed for that. Now the crack in the sky has split all the way to the river below, and the Delta Pearl is having a fit. Or is it just part of her getting home? At any rate, Émeraude’s feet went up off the floor, so Victor’s probably did too. What if they fall overboard just as the riverboat returns to her own time?
Or what if… Or… You already know that anything can happen on this magical riverboat.
Be well, be happy, my chuckaboos.
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