Saturday, February 27, 2021
The steampunk riverboat is back, my chuckaboos! I’m working hard to get the third monthly installment of Dead of Winter, my Amazon serial of novelettes, ready for publication. So, let’s step short and get right to it.
The “unofficial tech guy” at Teagan’s Books is Dan Antion. Every now and then I ask him a question, or throw an idea at him for feedback. He’s a good sport about it. While Dan was not the reader to leave telectroscope as a “random thing,” he added one of his own, months later when I was bouncing the “optical telephone” around to keep it in this story. The new thing Dan provided is transceiver.
Last time I did a recap post with a whole passel of links. Click the back arrow at the bottom of the post for that. Now, shall we?
The Delta Pearl
Chapter 65 — Connect
Victor worked at a fever-pitch. I didn’t know one mechanical part from the next. He said he was building another telectroscope.
“It will be a transceiver,” Victor explained, although he might as well have been speaking Egyptian for the amount of sense that made to me.
“A train’s what?” Obsidian Durango asked.
The Cadet handed my young inventor two scissor-like clamps that I had once seen the Captain use to repair Onyx.
I sighed to think of the owl and all the clockworks leaving. I was particularly sad about Amethyst.
“Think of the telectroscope as a transceiver… Well, that is, it functions two ways. If we have one ourselves, we might be able to communicate with the one Blue John took. We might be able to see and hear him — and talk to him!” Victor explained.
“Or whomever happens to be at the other whatchamacallit,” I muttered, thinking that person might not be the Mate, but someone else… like Malachite.
A soft “tap” sound gradually wormed into my awareness. It had a steady rhythm. When I turned, I was astonished to see Randall Needleman on his feet, if supported by the source of the tap sound.
My heart sank further than the low place where it took up residence when the clockwork creatures left. Eliza’s husband had rescued me from a net that had been controlled by something way up inside that sooty cloud. However, he gave me the only gas mask. He had been incapacitated ever since breathing the noxious fumes of the cloud.
Light flashed off the big amber cabochon that topped Randall’s jeweled cane as he moved. He would have ordinarily worn a morning coat, but now he wore a quilted robe. I couldn’t help noticing how loosely it fit. He had lost a lot of weight.
“My dear wife mentioned that you were building another optical telephone,” Randall told Victor. “I came to offer whatever assistance I might provide. My hands are less unsteady than they’ve been lately. Besides, I’ve been bedridden for long enough that you could say I’ve got ‘cabin fever.’ Although I do not mean typhus,” he added.
Randall chuckled at his own joke. That brought on a bout of coughing. I jumped off the stool where I had been sitting beside Victor at his workbench. I hoped Mr. Needleman didn’t notice that I have up my seat, else he would have been too much the gentleman to allow it.
I felt useless as far as helping Victor build the thingamajig. So, I excused myself, and made sure Randall took the seat I vacated.
“The Cook needs more hands to help with making more of the herbal—” I started to make my excuse about the potion that was keeping the passengers… shall we say compliant.
I stopped myself. If Eliza hadn’t let that secret slip to her husband, then I certainly didn’t need to make him aware of it. I cleared my throat and left the room.
In the hallway I saw Mrs. Needleman peep around a corner. She had discretely been making sure her husband managed to walk the distance from their suite of rooms.
“He insisted on going alone,” Eliza told me with a worried expression in her eyes. “Is he…?”
“He started coughing when he tried to laugh,” I admitted honestly. “But I think he recovered himself pretty quick, considering. Victor will look after him,” I assured my friend.
“Good,” she began, and visibly relaxed. “He needs something to occupy that mind of his. My husband likes tinkering nearly as much as he enjoys entrepreneuring,” Eliza said, making up a word.
Eliza seemed unusually pensive. I thought it was simply concern about her husband’s fragile health. Randall Needleman had always been a robust, larger than life figure. I knew the change in him must be hugely distressing to her. However, she had something else on her mind.
“I’ve been toying with the thought ever since that handsome Chief Porter returned my music box, after your clever sweetheart repaired it,” she started, but eyed me uncertainly. “I couldn’t help thinking about the papyrus that big clockwork scarab gave you, the day Randall got you free from that net.”
I interrupted her, babbling my endless gratitude that her husband had sacrificed his own wellbeing to help me. My face must have been painted with the guilt I felt. Eliza shook her head, saying that wasn’t what she meant at all.
“No, my chuckaboo. There’s no need for that,” she waved away my concern. “It’s the music box… or rather the song. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.”
“Things are beginning to connect in my mind. First the big scarab gave you the papyrus. Then you told me another tiny copper clockwork got into your cabin, and seemed to be trying to draw your attention back to that tiny scroll. And that one escaped back up to that dreadful cloud,” Eliza ticked off the items that guided her thoughts.
“There was another tiny copper scarab, and that one tried to take the scroll. Perhaps it had a different intent than the other miniature, but that’s not part of what I’m thinking,” Eliza added. “Then we learned that the holes in the papyrus made for a template for a music box cylinder to play A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” she said, looking into my eyes to make sure I followed.
“Remember, I told you that Amethyst was dancing and tapping around on top of my music box? Then all the clockworks ran away. I think she was trying to say that it had something to do with the music box. I couldn’t understand what it could be… and I couldn’t get the song out of my head,” Eliza tried to explain a line of thinking that must have seemed preposterous to her.
“When it all started, you and I agreed that it, that the song, seemed like some kind of message. A message from a bird in a gilded cage?” she finished with a significant pause.
My eyes widened when my thoughts got onto the same train as hers. However, my mind even farther down the track. Surely, it couldn’t be…
“Jaspe said that Malachite was the creator of the clockwork creatures. It looked like they might have left the Delta Pearl to go back to their maker,” I started. “Do you think that isn’t the case? That they’re attempting a rescue of their own?”
Eliza nodded, smiling.
“But they aren’t trying to bring back the Mate,” I stated. “This started before Blue John took Victor’s rocket and went up to that cloud — whatever his reason was for that…”
Suddenly, I was unable to deny my thoughts.
The Delta Pearl’s mechanical creatures meant to rescue another clockwork… but what sort of clockwork could it be?
End Chapter 65
Balderdash! Did I just leave more questions? Again? Believe it or not, I do intend to answer all of them and tie off all the threads of this tangled web I’ve woven.
Dead of Winter is Here
I’ve been giving free serials here for many years. Now I also have a serial of novelettes at Amazon (and Kobo). This lets you have a nice-sized visit with the detailed world I created, and they cost less than a magazine. The first two installments are available now — and the third will be published in a few days. I’ll release a new novelette each month for about a year.
Journey 2, Penllyn
Journey 1, Forlorn Peak
Thanks for visiting. I’d love to hear from you in a comment. Remember — this is not a forum for critique. If you want this serial to continue — remember that this is my sanctuary — so keep it friendly.
Until next time, my chuckaboos!
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 2021 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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