|A steampunk dirigible|
Steampunk-Sci/fi. Hmmmm . . . .
What intrigues me about this idea is this; the 'what-ifs.' What if this set of circumstances happened to create a different universe? A different kind of physics? Different life forms? What basic Life follow along most accepted lines of development (whatever the hell that might be defined). Would sentient life look something remotely recognizable to us?
Would the basic human emotions of fear, love, hate, revenge, and hope be the same? And adventure. Would a rousing adventure story STILL be a rousing adventure story?
Hmmm . . . .
So this first chapter of a steampunk-sci/fi story came to me the other da. I thought I might share it with you. Maybe garner some commentary. Some feedback. Encouragement, maybe, to continue with the idea--or maybe a factual admission that the poor bastard should be buried and forgotten. I dunno.
But if you got the time read it and tell me what you think. Always curious to hear from you.
He almost missed it.
Almost mistook the distinctive sound of cannon fire for the growing bravado of an approaching thunderstorm. But in the wind, now whipping the usually calm waters of the bay into frenzied white caps and pounding surf far below his tree house perch on a towering rocky cliff, he distinctly heard the rumble of gunfire.
He came flying off his makeshift wooden cot and hurried out onto the wide veranda he had built surrounding the large tree house. He gazed out across the sea at the growing aerial cathedral of mindless power and jagged illumination. In the distance a vast thunderstorm had built itself over the black waters of the ocean. The clouds towered for miles into the air and a magnificent light show of rolling thunder and cascading lightning illuminated the thunder cell. Above the uppermost reaches of the thunderhead the three moons of this strange planet painted their silvery and red light across the edges of the cloud. The wind, growing more fierce with each passing moment, compelled him to grip the bamboo-like railing with both hands and to spread his bare feet to further brace himself. But squinting, leaning forward over the railing dangerously, his eyes adjusted to the night and he saw it. Saw the flashes of angry cannon belching fire and fury into the night.
Seconds later he heard the gunfire.
The unmistakable sharp exchange of angry cannonading. Straining to hear better he tilted his head to one side to listen. Indeed! The sound of fusillades--like that of ship-to-ship combat back in the Age of Sail on Earth three thousand years past! Two ships pounding away at each other. And from the sounds of it, one ship distinctly at an advantage in both the number of guns it could bring to bear against its opponent and in the heavier caliber of fire per gun fired.
Around him the large number of ape-like creatures, large and small, who inhabited the island were in a frenzy of agitation. As they always were when powerful storms brewed up over the warm waters of the seas around them. Shrill barking noises, like a pack of angry dogs, filled the night as vague black shapes leapt from tree to tree in a sea of shadowy movement. Disregarding the growing cacophony of arboreal outrage he turned and ran back into the wooden structure he had called home for over a year now and began frantically throwing things out of an odd metal looking container until he found a bulky rectangular object. Leaping to his feet he sprinted out onto the veranda again and lifted the object to his eyes.
With a soft click the blue-white images of the electronic binoculars came on and automatically began feeding him data. Using a thumb he hurriedly rolled the dial up for higher magnification as he scanned the edge of the thunderstorm for the sources of the cannonading. The binoculars automatically adjusted its imagery every time there was a blast lightning from within the cloud. But at first nothing seemed to be out there---nothing which indicated something other than nature itself shouting angrily into the night.
But then . . .
Vague shapes emerged from within the haze of waving curtains of rain. Two massive black spheroid shapes. Like gigantic dirigibles of the early 20th Century, sailing magnificently through the rain soaked heavens side by side. Guns blazing. The muzzles of big guns . . . what looked to be like muzzle-loading black powder devices . . . rolling out of the bulwarks down the length of each hull and roaring into life with sound and fury! And with each blast of a fusillade huge chunks of what looked like wood . . . wood! . . . disintegrating from the hulls of the dirigibles before being engulfed by waves of rolling black smoke.
Lowering the binoculars he stared, pale faced, into the darkness. Color drained from his face. He felt weak. Felt faint. After all this time . . . a whole year marooned on this island . . . finally! Finally proof this planet was indeed populated by a sentient race!
A hand slid across his lips slowly. His mind was numb. He . . . he wasn't alone on this world after all. There were creatures who built flying machines. Had their own level of technology. Who warred with each other. Could it be . . . might it be possible . . . these creatures were advanced enough to . . . to communicate with his own kind a thousand light years away?
The cold shock of rain slamming into his face brought him out of his reverie. Sucking in breath he turned and lifted the powerful binoculars again to his eyes and began reading the data flashing on the binoc's tiny view screen.
Ship composition: a variant of the bamboo-like wood he had used to build his
rambling tree house.
Range: Just under nineteen miles out.
Altitude: 930 feet.
Speed: Both ships were doing just under 21 knots.
Tonnage: The large ship roughly 1,200 tons (est.,)
The smaller ship just over 850 tons (est.,)
And then he saw it. Saw the source of power which propelled the ships through the air. Stunned, amazed, in total shock, he lowered the binocs for a moment and simply stared off into the night. But only for a moment. Lifting them again to his eyes he thumbed the dial for maximum magnification. And couldn't believe what his eyes was seeing!
Billowing black clouds of steam speckled with bright glowing embers roaring out of smoke stacks just behind what appeared to be the wheel houses of each dirigible. The large of the two ships had three tall stacks bellowing smoke. The smaller ship two short, chubby stacks. From all the stacks bright angry sparks flew out in large numbers---indicating that both crews were stoking the boilers with fuel in an effort to get as much speed as possible from their engines.
But . . . but . . . steam power and flight! Impossible! It made no sense! Too inefficient. Too heavy to generate enough power to lift dirigibles of these sizes and weights into the skies! But, staring through the electronic binocs, the visual evidence was before him. Steam powered dirigibles! Flying through the teeth of a powerful thunderstorm! Guns blazing. Incredible. Unbelievable.
And coming this way. Each ship shot out from the depths of the thunder cell, the storm's winds adding to the speed of the rapidly descending dirigibles. Both on a course that would have each slamming into the high tree covered hills of the large island in very short time. If the smaller ship made it that is. She was being pounded mercilessly by the bigger ship. Her guns had grown silent. What few running lights which had burned from what appeared to be gigantic brass lanterns fore and aft of the ship had been snuffed out. Pieces of her hull, small and large, were falling from her sides and dropping into the rolling seas.
And, suddenly and startlingly, so too where members of her crew! From out of the depths of the stricken ship dark figures . . . hominid in shape . . .emerged. Through the binocs he could see they looked human. And in immense pain. One by one they emerged, staggering onto the open decks of the ship, throwing from their grips what appeared to be weapons and clutching their heads with their hands. Bent over in pain they staggered to one side or the other on the decks and then . . . one by one . . . leapt overboard and fell into the sea! Fell more than nine hundred feet to their deaths.
In the wind he thought he heard the faint sounds of cheering. An entire crew cheering in delight whenever a stricken crewmen aboard the smaller ship leapt into the night and fell to their deaths. As he watched he saw the black silhouette of one figure make his way to the foredeck of the small dirigible. Something long and black his hands, perhaps that of a long barreled rifle, he lifted it up and toward the larger ship. From the larger ship now slightly above the dying one a hail of small arms fire erupted from twenty or more different points on the ship's decks and superstructure.
Amazingly the hail of gunfire missed the lone figure. The man took aim and fired. Through the electronic binocs he clearly saw the muzzle flash from the long rifle. He thought he heard the voice of someone screaming in pain. But then the lone rifleman, tossing his weapon away, stood straight and tall and lifted a hand in an arrogant salute toward his enemies before turning and running to the railing of ship's prow and leaping head first over the side of his stricken vessel, arms spread in a Swan Dive, and disappearing into the darkness!
It was a gesture of a defiant, undefeated madman! A warrior acknowledging the battle lost but not his defeat as he met death in his own fashion. A show of gallantry he had not seen for . . . for . . . generations! He lowered the binocs and impulsively threw a fist into the air and screamed his defiance just as the large dirigible sailed over his tree house barely fifty feet above his head and disappeared into the now raging storm.
Far below him, almost a thousand feet, at the base of sheer cliff from where he had built his tree house, he heard the faint splintering of trees and a wooden hull crashing into the rocks and forest covered beaches of the island. Too far down to view through the hammering rain of the storm he knew he could not descend to the island's beaches until after the storm had passed. With reluctance he retreated from the veranda and lowered the wooden screens over the windows and doors of his tree house and waited out the storm.
And the storm raged for days. The winds blew and howled. Thunder and lighting boomed and shivered the timbers of his stoutly built tree house. The fury of the storm seemingly the anger expressed by this planet's divine immortals. An anger and fury that threatened to destroy all before it.
If only he knew . . . if only he knew.