Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Steampunk - Absolute Write Blog Chain

As I'm just getting back to this blog after a long absence I thought the Absolute Write Blog Chain would be a great way to force me to write something. It's also a nice way to reconnect with the writing community. Anyway, this month's theme is Steampunk, something I'm not very familiar with. I think that makes it a perfect exercise - learn about something new and give it a try. So here goes.

Below are the links to the others participating this month. If you like steampunk, or just a good assortment of blogs, please click on through.


     The dugout canoe swung out into the faster current of the main river and Dr. Bartholomew gripped the edge a little tighter. He looked over at the canoe next to his to make sure the native boy was handling his cargo. The thing under the oilskin was too heavy to allow an adult to pole the boat so the ablest kid in the village was conscripted into service. He had spent the last of the Queen's gold to hire the pair of boats and guides to take him further into the jungle, to a place that no white man had ever seen.
     As they ferried to the other side the doctor could see the large crocodiles sunning themselves on the muddy bank. A closer inspection of the water's surface revealed small protrusions that marked the locations of the ancient reptiles in the water. So when something broke the surface between the two boats the doctor naturally feared an animal attack and shrieked in pure terror. His guides maintained enough composure to balance the canoes as the wake from the disruption sent them sliding apart.
     But the object that emerged from the depths was no living creature. It was long and cylindrical, larger than any Crocodylus Niloticus and covered in steel plate. As the doctor recognized it for a man-made object his fear turned from terror to dread. Only one man could have built such a contraption and followed Bartholomew this far into Africa. A hatch on the very top sprung open and a round-faced man in a faded greatcoat with crossed yellow sashes and red and gold epaulets. A green softcap with red brim shaded his face.
     "Zdrasvstvujte, Dr. Bartholomew," the man said with a thin smile and heavy accent. "You have done well to make this far."
     "Dr. Zhukov," Bartholomew acknowledged. "You'll never find the ruins in that thing."
     "Da," said Zhukov. He smiled and rubbed his hand over the shiny metal. "But will help win war. You will find me ruins."
     "What if I say no?"
     Zhukov pulled a pistol from his pocket and held it at his waist, pointing at Bartholomew. "Pozalujsta, Doctor. We are men of learning. Do not make me use violence."
     The tense stand off between the two men was broken by a cry from the boy in the canoe. They both turned to see a large tail swat the dugout, rocking wildly in the chaotic water churned up by the offending beast. Bartholomew took advantage of the distraction to dive into the water. A muted echo of the report of Zhukov's gun informed him of the raining bullets but he couldn't make out anything in the cloudy water. He swam with his arms in front of him until he ran into the solid metal of Zhukov's underwater dirigible. He followed it down, thanking his days in the natatorium at Cambridge for providing him with capable lungs. He resurfaced on the opposite side as quietly as possible.
     Zhukov cursed at the two dark skinned natives who were poling towards shore. The angry Russian then yelled into his vessel and it started to move towards the canoe with the cargo. Bartholomew tried to grab on but the slick metal provided no purchase. But before the boat had completely passed he spied the fins on the narrow tail that must allow for steerage while under water. He caught hold as it went by and hung on for his life.
     The metal barge came alongside the wooden canoe and Zhukov threw a rope to the boy who had given up his attempted escape. Once the dugout was secure Zhukov walked down the steps placed in the side of his craft and stepped into the canoe. His added weight made the little boat rock precariously and Bartholomew took that moment to spring up from underneath and haul on the side, spilling Zhukov and the boy into the water.
     Bartholomew pulled himself into the boat and unhooked it from captor, using the boy's pole to push off. He noticed Zhukov sputtering in the water, his greatcoat pulling him down, while the kid swam strongly towards shore. Bartholomew was no better off - the canoe had taken on water and was slowly sinking. It went from bad to worse as a soldier popped up through the opening of the metal ship and pointed a pistol in his direction. But Zhukov's screams for help distracted the man and Bartholomew yanked off the oilskin to reveal his cargo, a gleaming metal apparatus with a small seat on the front. He released a series of latches on the top and pulled the lever on the side. The machine started with a loud whoosh and he quickly strapped himself into the seat.
     A pole extended out the top of device and at its end a large balloon began to inflate. At the same time a rotor blade unfolded and began to spin just below the canvas ball. Bartholomew could only wait until he had enough propulsion to lift him from the sinking canoe. He looked up to see Zhukov had reached his boat and was standing on the bottom step. He took the pistol from his soldier and aimed in at Bartholomew. It was too late.
     "Do svidaniya, Doctor." 
     Zhukov aimed the pistol but before he could pull the trigger a gigantic head full of spear-like teeth broke the surface and chomped down on his outstretched hand. Bartholomew could see the bloody stump that was left behind as the crocodile disappeared into the depths. He felt the lift of his aero-rotor and quickly left the screaming Russian below. He turned and looked towards the snow-capped mountain in the distance, hoping his fuel would be sufficient.


Participants and posts:
orion_mk3 - http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to post)
Ralph Pines - http://ralfast.wordpress.com (link to post)
Angyl78 - http://jelyzabeth.wordpress.com/ 
ishtar'sgate - http://chickenscratchbc.blogspot.ca/ 
asnys - http://atomic-skies.blogspot.com/ 
SJNew - http://thelanguageofimagination.blogspot.co.uk/ 
pyrosama - http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ 
meowzbark - http://www.lizzylessard.com/ 


  1. Reminded me of the Nautilus and Capt Nemo with a bit of Capt Hook thrown in for good measure. Fun read.

    1. Yeah, I wanted to spend more time exploring the sub, but it just didn't fit in the story.

  2. Lots of nice little steampunky touches in this. Words like "natatorium" are perfect for capturing the pomposity and inflated faux-classicalism so prevalent everywhere in those days. And pitting a Russian against a Brit is perfect for the time of the Great Game. Add in some excitement and a few well-placed Russian phrases and you have a fun slice of story I'd like to see expounded upon!

    1. Thanks - I've haven't read much steampunk but I have to say that the genre definitely has a lot of fun stuff to play with.

  3. Oh! This was fun! I liked the sub. For me it was almost Indiana Jones? :)

  4. I just knew someone would meet with a croc! Very nice. :)

    The name Bartholomew goes well with this protagonist.