Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Old Firm XXII: A Sreampunk Tale

James mouth hung open as he watched the stolen steamer slam into the Dreadnaught pod. The riveted boilers of the pod popping as the squeal of metal on metal clanged over the rapid thrum of the chasing steamers drivers.

Rebecca leaned in and ordered the engineer to brake hard as the stolen steamer lifted off the tracks and ran up and over the massive hulk of the Dreadnaught pod. Hydraulics whined in protest as turrets tried to come to bare upon the steamer.

"James! Across the border!" Maureen shouted as she pointed. Britannia pods had appeared out of a grove and were rapidly advancing towards the stone bridge that marked the border.

"Blast!" James leaped from the steamer as it slowed to a crawl his tweed kilt flapping as he landed and was off in a sprint, legs and arms pumping.

Master M limped from the carriage and leaned against the side. He glanced at his stop watch and snapped the case shut. Ten minutes. Time enough for a Britannia pod to cross, clear the steamer and Alban pod from the tracks and tow the carriage with fissionables onto Britannia soil before they learned about his little surprise.

Ahead of the Britannia pods a company of strikers raced across the stone bridge thick cables coming along behind them. The men drew tossed smoke bombs into the Alban pods turrets while others connected the cables to the pods main carriage.

The rack of rifle fire met a striker as he clambered to the top of the Alban pod. His chest blossomed red as he toppled back. More shots came hitting two more strikers before the remaining team scrambled for cover.

Maureen slid her rifles magazine free and slapped a fresh one in, as she slowly scanned for more targets through the rifles scope. Stefania stood nearby watching as Rebecca and James neared the wreck.

Master M had scrambled under the carriages at the first sound of rifle fire and was slowly making his way forward. He could see the river bank twenty feet away, a steep incline to the waters edge and freedom. His breath was loud and harsh in his ears, his heart thumping hard in his chest.

A minion jumped from a carriage towards James pistol drawn. James put on a burst of speed as the pistol began to track him. A loud crack behind him and the minion crumpled. Rebecca had her pistol drawn as she caught up to James. Behind them Maureen kept the strikers heads down with a steady and effective covering fire.

James reached the crumpled steamers boilers and slid his pistol from his hidden holster. "Where is he?" he growled as he scanned the wreckage for signs of Master M. Rebecca pressed close as a striker tried to snipe at them.

"Check the carriages," James said. "I'll take the other side."

"Hurry, I see a Britannia pod hooking up a cable, they're going to try and pull the wreckage clear" Rebecca noted.

James nodded and slid between two carriages.

To Be Continued......

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Old Firm XXI: A Steampunk Tale

"Master M," Alban pods are blocking the track across the border a minion reported a wireless headset pressed to his ear.

"Get the anti-pod teams to the front steamer, clear those damn pods out of our way." Master M reached for a vial of green fluid.

"Shall we reduce speed?" The minion asked.

"No! We have a contract to fulfill! Full speed!" Master M guzzled the fluid and turned to the minion. "Time we made things go boom!" His laughter cackled down through the carriage.

"Royal pods are have spotted Master M," Rebecca reported. "He's five minutes from the border, they will try to intercept and prevent a crossing."

James swore under his breath. "Have the engineer take the safeties off line, we need every bit of speed he can squeeze out of the boilers." James lifted up his tweed kilt revealing a three slim blades strapped to his thigh. He checked the blades fit then lowered his kilt.

"We've spotted Master M!" Maureen called from up front.

James and Rebecca tore off together racing to the Engineer's cabin.

Master M swore as cannon fire from the Alban pods rocked the stolen steamer. "Ram them! Ram them! he shouted as two dreadnaught class pods lined up on the track.

Rebecca shook her head and cut loose with a stream of Glaswegian curses as they topped the last hill before the border. "He's insane!"

The air was thick with smoke and the flash of explosives. Disabled pods belched steam and smoke from shattered boilers as hydraulic fluids leaked and pooled about their twisted frames.

A dreadnaught class pod, leaking coolant and steam, fired it's main gun at Master M's stolen military steamer. A cannon shell pierced the forward boiler splitting the tank and rocking the steamer on the tracks.

"Ram him! Master M screamed as he shoved minions out of his way and ran up the steamer to full speed.

James, Rebecca, and Maureen clung to their steamer's side as it raced down the track towards the border. The wind whipped their hair wildly about them as they watched the stolen military steamer ram the dreadnaught pod at full speed.

To be continued....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Old Firm XX: A Steampunk Tale

"Five minutes to the border," announced a minion as Master M examined the gauges of the stored fissionables.

"Send of a wireless to the Duke, inform him that his package for his program is secure," Master M inserted a key and locked down the fissionables with a loud satisfying click.

The minion clicked his heels and hurried off leaving his master to his work. The regular clank of moving parts bright and shiny over the steady thrum of the steamer's driver's. As the minion shut the door behind him, a green glow filled the carriages space only to be shut off with a sharp click.

Rebecca had her skirt raised up past her thigh when Stefania entered. "Oh, I..."Stefania blushed as Rebecca slid home the service revolver in and opened the side slit that allowed her to access the weapon through a pleat of her skirt.

"John requested that I keep an eye on you when the shooting starts," Rebecca told the Italia lass.

"Will it be bad?" Stefania asked showing a resolve that had not been there earlier.

Rebecca handed her a Weber Double Barreled Midnight Special. "Anything not John, Maureen, or myself, give 'em both barrel's," she said as she strung a band of shells about Stefania's shoulder.

"I...I've never used one of these before," she said, her nervousness showing in her voice as she delicately turned the hand crafted pistol over in her hands.

"Quite simple really," Rebecca said taking it from Stefania. "Aim and pull the triggers." The roar of the both barrels firing filled the carriage. As the smoke cleared a hole big enough to punch several fists through let in the outside scenery as the steamer rushed through the lowland countryside.

"Oh my," Stefania said as she took the pistol back and ejected the shells.

Rebecca grinned. "No worries, just another day doing the King's bidding. Now, let's get frontside and see what we are up against."

To Be Continued.......

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Chase of the Saltire Conclusion

The thrum of the twelve Rolls Royce twin turbo props made the bridge of the airship Tesla vibrate with power. Master M swiveled his command chair and examined the cards of data being spat out by the Babbage Machine he had installed after procuring the Tesla.

“Yes, The Saltire is nearing landfall,” his narrow fingers clutched a card, “finally I will be rid of McBride and his pesky women!”

Master M rose and reached for his cane shuffling towards the dual wheels that steered the Tesla. “Bring us about and prepare the men for action!” His voice carried through out the airship.

Grant stood at his post at the main gangplank of The Saltire. “Who gets to be the first one out? Big Mikey? You would think so, we could cover three men behind him,” Grant groused as the airship descended towards the open field.

John and Rebecca waited at the edge of the field as the airship descended. The winds whipped John’s Hunter tweed kilt about his legs as the roar of the airships engines grew closer.

“Maureen is keeping an eye on our shadow’s,” rebecca said as tiny figured leaped from the descending gangplank a hemp line trailing him as he began to secure the airship for landing.

“Where is Stefania? I didn’t see her at breakfast,” John said as he adjusted his waistcoat.

“She went out with Jock for a spot of fishing, seems she’s taken to it like…” Rebecca paused.

“Like a fish to water?” John grinned. ‘Jock has that effect on people.”

Rebecca swatted his shoulder playfully and collected her folio. “Looks like our man grant was the first one out.”

“Yes, I do recognize that rubber chicken sporran of his and is that kilt leather?”

‘Oh my well that answers that question!”

“The winds are a bit...breezy today,” John agreed as they approached the gangplank.

Grant stood at attention as aAnache and Big Mikey descended the gangplank. “Welcoming committee to greet us Captain,” he said loud enough to be heard over the throb of the motors.

“Thank you Grant, I can see that,” Panache acknowledged. “Big Mikey, can you have the galley send down a light snack? I think our discussions will take some time, oh, and include plenty of liquid refreshment, talking is such thirsty work.”

“Aye Captain,” Big Mikey snapped off a smart salute and hurried back into the belly of The Saltire.

Steede peered down from his vantage point in a tall pine his magnifier showing the scene in crystal clarity. “Miss Peele, care to join me for a spot of bird watching?”

“The birds you like to watch are not to my tastes,” she replied as she sat behind the wheel of the horseless steamer they had procured.

“Oh I don’t know, there is enough variety for all tastes!” Steede called back down.

“Focus on the mission Steede!” Peele replied as she adjusted her heavy leather overcoat.
Panache stepped onto Alban soil and extended his hand in greeting. ‘Captain Panache of the airship Saltire”, he announced.

“John McBride, Alban Ministry of Aeronautics,” as he took Panache’s hand. ‘What brings you to our fair country?”

“A small matter really, we as descendants of Albans wish to tour the homeland in our airship,” Panache smiled as he led them to a table Big Mikey had set up. Food and drink covered the table which was protected from the winds by a temporary barrier Grant had erected.

“Why not just go through the Ministry of Border Relations then?” John asked as he sampled some caviar. ‘My, this is quite good.”

Panache smiled. “We do try to maintain the basic necessities even when away from more...civilized settings.”

Rebecca stepped forward. “This is just a formality, but with all the trouble between Britannia and her colonies, we do require assurances about your presence.” She gave Panache a smile.

“Of course, we have no interest in being embroiled in matters that do not concern us, we just want to travel the world.” Panache grinned as he settled in his chair gin and tonic in hand.

“Master M! Radar has spotted out target! “ came the shout of a black clad minion.

Master M grinned. “Good, begin our descent. Turrets! Prime for operation!”

Hydraulics hummed as four turrets turned as The Tesla descended through the sparse cloud cover rapidly descending towards the ground.

“Captain!” Ensign mender’s shout came from an open porthole of The Saltire. “We have unknown contact!” he pointed towards a dark shape descending rapidly.

Bloody hell!’ John exclaimed as he grabbed Rebecca and moved her away from the table.

“Quick! All crew aboard!” Ordered Panche as Big Mikey quickly gathered the food and drink up and folded the table and chairs. “Grant! Cut us loose!”

Grant began to release the landing anchor when shouts drew his attention to the sky and the approaching airship. Bright flashes spouted from the airship as it approached the rapidly buzz of weapons fire crashing through the air. Swearing, Grant drew his dirk and began to saw away. With a snap the hemp broke loose and Grant grabbed the end and made a leap for the rising gang plank his boots barely gripping as The Saltire began to rise. Panting he turned to face the approaching airship and let out a gasp, the fiery trail of an ariel torpedo was tracing a path directly towards The Saltire.

“Damn you!” Grant shouted as he cranked the gangplank up as The Saltire began to rise. The strain of the engines against the prevalent winds made the airships entire frame shake violently.

“Come on! Up dammit!” Grant swore up and down as the gangplank retracted into its slot and the arial torpedo sped closer. “I’m too good looking to die!” Grant screamed as the crank whirred.

On the bridge Captain Panache gripped the steering wheel straining against the pull of the engines and the push of the winds. Rebecca had strapped herself into a spare seat while James clung to a strap by the far wall.

“Just here to visit?” James said to Panache as The Saltire groaned in protest as it began to rise slowly skyward the arial torpedo driving towards the airships heart.

“I assure you, this has nothing to do with us,” Panache spoke through gritted teeth.

“Gangplank is up captain!” Big Mikey called out from his station. ‘Grant got it up!”

“Good! Full engine thrust now!” Panache ordered as he spun the wheel hard.

Grant scrambled back from the locked gangplank towards his duty station. The explosion threw Grant hard into the wall shoulder crunching hard against the riveted metal.

“Damage report!” Panache called out as he steadied The Saltire.

“Sensors down captain! Ensign Mender called out. No hull leaks so far!”

“Crew status?” Panache asked as he turned The Saltire about and heading towards the coast.

“No word from Grant,” came the response. “Get someone down in the cargo hold to check for damage! Panache ordered.

Grant rolled onto his back panting and gasping. The his of escaping air could be heard over the throb of the engines. Grant turned his head and let loose with a string of oaths. “That’s my best sporran! He raged as he took in the scene before him. The explosion had punctured the hull and his rubber chicken sporran had snapped loose. Sucked into the gap and filling the puncture, the chicken head stared back at him, beak open in a silent scream.
“Grant! Big Mkey called out as he rambled around the corner. ‘You ok? You didn’t respond to the crew call in!”

“Look what they did! My best Sporran! Grant was red with rage. “They all will pay! That cost me a years wages!” He shoved past Big Mikey and raced towards his quarters leaving Big Mikey standing there perplexed.

“Premature detonation!” announced the radar operator to master M.

“Blast government contracts, “ Master M rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Full power to the engines! I want that airship brought down at all costs!”

Jock and Stefania stood on the bank, their poles in hand, staring up at the commotion taking place in the windy sky. Across the from them stood Steede and Peele, glasses and bird guides in hand.

“This is not good,” Jock said as he began to pack up the fishing gear. “This is definitely not part of the plan.”

Stefania gathered her skirts in her hand as she hurried off towards the steamer with Jock keeping pace behind her. “We must hurry!” she called out her Italian accent coming to the for when she was excited.

“Yes, yes, all in due hasre,” Jock said as he carefully packed away the poles and gear. “Oh my, they packed the ‘92 bottling? I really must have a word with my butler, I specifically requested the ’79!”

“Get in! Stefania called out as the steamers boiler reached full boil, belching gouts of thick black smoke from its stack.

“Tally ho!” Jock cried out as he grabbed a hand rail as Stefania released the brakes and the steamer leaped forward throwing dirt and grass in its wake as she steered it down the rough track towards the airships. “I say, this reminds me of India!” Jock called out over the wind as Stefania careened between ruts and rocks, barely missing tree’s as Jock clung to the hand rail whooping with enthusiasm .

“Well, this is quite a pickle. Didn’t see this happening,” Steede said as he opened his bird guide. “Quite the extravaganza we’ve come across.”

“Shall we retire to the steamer?” Peele said with a twinkle, “this should make for an interesting day drive.”

“Allow me,” Steede grinned tipping his hat to her.

Grant ran past Ensign Mender and onto the bridge. He ignored the shouts from the bridge crew and Captain Panache as he went to the emergency locker and busted open the lock.

“Grant, what has gotten into you?” Captain Panache asked as he tried to keep The Saltire under control.

“They ruined my best sporran! I’m going to make them pay!” Grant cried as he brandished the double barrel flare pistol widely about the bridge.

Shouts went up as the double barrels crossed all upon the bridge followed by cries of “Are ye daft! This is an airship!”

Rebecca slid the brass knuckles from the special pocket in her skirts, sliding them over her fingers and began to inch closer towards Grant.

Grant ignored the outcry and raced off the bridge, past Big Mikey, and down back into the bowels of the airship.

“Was that a crewman?” James asked looked around.

“In a roundabout sort of way, yes,” Captain Panache replied as he strained to bring the wheel about. “I want the engines at full throttle!”

Master M grinned. His airships engines were steadily overtaking The Saltire. “Prepare the grappling hooks! I wan to board her!” his grin was cold as he gripped his cane and rose from his command chair. “I will have my revenge,” he hissed loudly.

ock let out a whoop as Stefania passed him the rifled Double Barrel Mach IV Elephant gun. “I say, this is a hand crafted Weber! Delightful craftsmanship!” jock’s face was alight with glee as his hands gripped the gun.

“Hold on! I’m going to swing us around!” Stefania called out as she gave the steamer’s wheel a hard spin and lifted the rear wheels up and around sending sprays of gravel forward.

Jock snapped the Weber to his shoulder, spotted, and gave the double triggers a delicate squeeze. The explosion of the rounds boomed across the land as the recoil slammed into Jock’s shoulder. The rear prop of The Tesla sputtered and blossomed into smoking flame.

“Drat,” Jock muttered as he ejected the spent shells and inserted two fresh rounds. “Bloody wind.”

Stefania didn’t say anything as she grabbed the shifter, popped the clutch and the steamer leaped forward its boiler screaming as id caromed down the road towards the field.

Grant connected the safety line to his utility belt and popped the hatch that allowed access to the top of The Saltire. Swearing violent oath’s he braced his feet firmly so he was immobile facing towards the now smoking Tesla. He opened the double barrel flare pistol and removed the standard emergency flares. Out of his hidden pocket beneath the apron of his kilt, he took out two special shells. Shells he had spent months crafting.

“That’s it, come closer, I’ll teach you a lesson you will never forget! NO ONE DESTROYS MY RUBBER CHICKEN SPORRAN AND GETS AWAY WITH IT!”

“Such heroics,” Master M chuckled. “A grand gesture but futile in the end. All forward turrets, Fire upon that man!”

With a hydraulic whir the main turrets trained their guns on Grant. Shells were rammed home and ballistics presented firing solutions.

Grant aimed the flare pistol and fired the first barrel. The recoil knocked him back his leather kilt fly up as he landed on his back his booted feet kicking in the air. The shell screamed forward a trail of white smoke following as it collided with the main turret pod and exploded. The Explosion ripped open the pod sending men and metal spewing out into the atmosphere as The Tesla rocked and dipped.

Jock steadied the Weber as Stefania floored the steamer racing along the meadow. He squeezed the triggers as he sighted the dipping Tesla. The first shell missed the forward engine assembly and exploded far forward in a dazzling explosion raining shrapnel on The Saltire.

Grant cried out and swatted at his body screaming, “I’m on your side! Not me them! Don’t let your jealousy of my good looks take over! Them! Not me!” He kept gesturing at The Tesla.

“Who is that up there?” Stefania asked. “It looks like a manic monkey.”

“Only a lunatic would go out on an airship like that under these conditions,” Jock said as he reloaded the Weber. Another explosion ripped through The Tesla as Grant’s second shot took out the remaining forward turret pod. “Though I must say whoever it is, is getting in some lucky shots.” Jock hefted the Weber to his shoulder again.

Captain Panache arms were vibrating with the strain of the engines. “Ensign Mender! Prepare the crew for boarding action! I’m swinging us around!”

“Aye aye Captain!” Ensign Mender snapped off a proper salute and rushed to his station followed by Big Mikey.
John looked at Rebecca and raised an eyebrow. “This should be interesting<“ he said in a low voice. Rebecca nodded and gripped her brass knuckles.

“Ram them!” Master M as The Tesla sputtered, it’s engines bean to seize up as cut oil and fuel lines choked the life from them. “I will not be robbed again!”

Captain Panache spun The Saltire around and the powerful engines propelled the airship forward as Ensign Mender extended the boarding ramp and Big Mikey operated the ramming spike.

“Oh my that does not look good,” Jock said as the two airships hurtled towards each other.

James!” Stefania cried out as she could only gaze upwards and observe as the ramming spike shattered the bridge of The Tesla anchoring The Saltire to the wounded airship.

“Forward men!” Captain Panache ordered as his crew raced across the gangplank in a swirl of pleats, making quick work of the resistance they met with on the other side. John and Rebecca followed cautiously, knowing the deviousness of Master M.

Grant leaped forward onto the bridge landing among the shattered bodies of the bridge crew. He looked around and spotted Master M crawling towards an open escape hatch. “Oh no you don’t, you’re going to pay for what you did.” Grant brushed his golden flowing locks back from his face.

Master M looked back and let out a cry as his nails scraped against the metal deck. “NO! Don’t touch me!”

“Don’t worry,” Grant grinned as he slowly raised the flare pistol. Master M whimpered as Grant’s finger began to squeeze the trigger. The bridge exploded as the access hatch was blown. The shockwave sent Master M flying into the escape pod and knock Grant onto his back again his kilt flying up.

Captain Panache raced onto the bridge his blade at the ready.

“Is that Grant?” Big Mikey peered into the smoky bridge as he knocked two skulls together.

“No time to waste! Grab Grant and lets get out of here!” Captain Panache ordered.

Ensign Mender lifted Grant in his arms and the crew of The Saltire hurried back to their airship.

Jock and Stefania were waiting at the edge of the meadow as The Saltire disengaged and gently pulled away to land a few hundred yards away as The Tesla Drifted out over the sea and exploded as it skimmed over the waves.


Grant lay upon the hospital bed as the nurses began to treat his wounds. Miss Peele had assumed the position of head nurse at the last minute while Steede was examining the records. Grant moaned and knocked back hands as they tried to undo his kilt.

“Leave it on! Don’t touch it!” he cried as the pain killers began to take effect.

“Now sir, we need to remove it, you have wounds under there!” a nurse pleaded with him.

Miss Peele knew there was a pocket underneath where grant kept valuables. Steede thought that was where the plans they were sent to find may be hidden. Or at least that is what they had been led to believe by Mother. Deftly she thrust her hand beneath the kilt and suddenly stopped.

“Oh my!”

Grant’s cries of joy could be heard across the ward as patients and staff looked towards the emergency room.

Master M slid the coins across the counter as the station agent handed him the ticket to France. “Have a good trip sir,” the agent said without feeling.

“Oh I will,” Master M said, “I will.”

The End

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Chase of the Saltire IV

Jock sat on the bank casting his fly rod as Stefania sat nearby her sketch pad in hand her hands busy as she roughed out another sketch of Jock fishing.

“I hope you have moved onto a more fitting subject,” Jock joked as he placed his fly just where he wanted it.

Stefania smiled. “My grandfather would say the same thing when I would visit him at Lake Como,” she smiled her cheeks dimpling as she continued to draw.

Jock grinned and continued on with his fishing.

“Any sign of Steede and Peele?” John asked as he set down a large hamper overflowing with food and drink.

“Saw them out earlier nosing around the shore near the ruins,” Rebecca said. “They were acting like a couple on holiday.”

“Really? Are they still using that cover? I think every agency on the continent is aware of that ruse,” John replied as he spread a large wool blanket over the ground.

“It seems a bit odd to be having a picnic this time of year,” Rebecca smiled as she knelt down.

“It is a bit chilly I admit, but,” John deftly removed the cork from a bottle of champagne. “I know that Skye is not the destination of The Saltire.

Rebecca raised an eyebrow. ‘And you know this how?”

John grinned. “ I charted the currents from North America to here, they will make landfall in a day or two just to the north. Jock being close at hand was just a bonus.”

Maureen adjusted her camera’s lense and snapped pictures in rapid succession of Steede and Peele.

“Smile for the camera Miss Peele,” Steede said grinning, we seem to have attracted company.”

“One of the lady’s I see, he does have quite the industrious little harem.”

“Why MIss Peele, do I detect a hint of moral outrage?”

“What ever gave you that Idea?” Miss Peele smiled her eyes twinkling. “Trying to cover your hidden desire’s for your own?”

“Miss Peele! I would never desire,” Steede paused and looked down the glen, ‘Such an outmoded and barbarous institution!”

Maureen shook her head chuckling as the exchange carried across the glen. “John wishes he had a harem too,” she said softly too herself as she began to pack up the large camera. It took several minutes to break down the large camera and its components, placing them in their slot in the large carrying box.

“Grant!” The loud firm voice of Captain Panache traveled the length of the the airship The Saltire. “Report to the bridge!”

Grant set down his wrench and adjusted his golden flowing locks. He took his time working his way up from the bowels of the airship until he stood upon the open bridge.

“Reporting as ordered Captain,” he said standing there before Panache.

“Yes, Grant, have you been sending off those misleading reports as I requested?” Panache gave his crewman a stony gaze as he absently flicked his fly whisk about.

“Of course Captain, I always follow orders don’t I?” Grant said gazing at Panache.

“Except when you don’t,” came a rumble followed by laughter further down the bridge.

Grant shot daggers in the general direction of the laughter. Panache raised his hand and the laughter stopped abruptly.

“Good, we make landfall on the morrow. I expect you to have done your job well and that we shall be met by officials of Alba’s government so we can quickly go about our business. “

“Of course Captain,” Grant said staring ahead.

“Hmmm, yes,” Panache eyed Grant. “Crew, break out your number one kilt uniform, we must make a favorable impression after all. Grant, you may return to your duties.” Panache turned and took the wheel of The Saltire.

The Chase of the Saltire II & III

The rain had cleared and the sun had appeared as the local steamer pulled into Oban Station. Maureen descended from the carriage her skirts gathered in her hand as Stefania held out a hand to her. John stuck his head out of an open window, meet me round the front of the station, arrangements for transportation have been made,” he said and pulled his head back into the carriage.

“He is getting cocky again,” Stefania said her Italian accent drifting warmly across the platform.

“He is,” agreed Maureen as she hefted her luggage. “It was bad enough when he tried to get us to order those new fashions from Paris to wear swimming.”

Stefania giggled despite herself blushing at the memory of the “artistic” catalog that had arrived from the continent. “He really is a simple man,” she chuckled.

“Gossiping again?” Rebecca asked as she approached parasol in hand.

“Not us ‘Becca,” Maureen grinned as they walked by throngs of passengers coming and going about the station. Outside the station horseless steamers sat thick black belches of smoke pouring from their stacks as the drivers milled about drumming up passengers.

Maureen ignored a cheeky drivers attempts to chat her up swatting at him with one of her gloves and glaring down at him as she stepped in front of Stefania. “I swear, they are as bad as the drivers in London!”

Rebecca stood on tiptoe and peered around. “There he is!” she exclaimed and grabbed Maureen and Stefania by the hand leading them across the street and down towards the port.

“Where are we going?” Stefania asked as she looked around at the building about them.

“We are heading north a bit, seems John knows a few folks and we are going to pay them a visit,” Rebecca replied as they boarded the Coastal Ferry.

“Speaking of John? Where did he vanish off too?” growled Maureen looking around her as other passengers continued to board.

“I’m right here,” John grinned making his way through the crowds. “I had to make suitable arrangements for our quarters.” he took Maureen and Stefania by the arm and guided them along the crowded deck and to the first class cabins. ‘Compliments of his majesty Robert VI,” he announced as the door was opened for them. “After you m’dears.”

Rebecca followed and John came last shutting the door firmly behind him. ‘I think a gin and tonic is called for,” John said as he set his hat and cane on the side table. “I took the liberty of ordering a little something to tide us over until dinner,” he said as he smoothed his tweed pleats with his hands as he sat down.

“This feels more like a vacation than a mission,” Stefania said as she mixed herself a gin and tonic.

“Don’t get to comfy, we have company,” John answered as he sipped his own drink.

Rebecca looked at him. “You know something.”

“Our friends to the south have sent along some old acquaintances.”

“Oh bother, they didn’t!”

“Yes, Steede and Peele are both here,” John replied as he refreshed his gin and tonic.


The ferry’s double stacks puffed great columns of smoke as the mighty wheels churned the locals waters as it steamed northward. The cold fall winds blew steadily down upon the decks the passengers huddling together for warmth.

Stefania sat near the cabin’s tiny window composing a letter home as John and Rebecca sat at the table the remains of a fair supper off to the side as they went over the file once more.

“This Captain Panache comes across as a brutal violent fellow,” John noted as he read the information Grant had provided.

“Downright abusive it sounds, having crewmen humiliate and toss this Grant fellow around like a...a...toy!” Rebecca set the file down. “It sounds to good to be true.”

“I agree,’ John said. ‘I’m not sold on this Grant’s trustworthiness.”

“Throw in the colony troubles and it looks more and more like a Britannia plot to cause trouble north of the border,” Rebecca sipped at her port.

“There are some down in London still fuming over the debacle with the fissionables,’ John noted as he leaned back and smoothed his tweed waistcoat.

A sudden blast of cold ocean wind filled the room as Maureen entered struggling briefly with the door before it slammed shut with a solid thump. “Bloody hell,” she growled out as she set down the the ice. “No sign of our “friends.” probably laying low and doing the same as us.” She mixed herself a gin and tonic.

“If Steede and Peele are here, they are up to something,” John yawned. ‘And they want us to know they are here.”

“Where are we heading John?” Stefania asked as she sealed her letter home.

“Isle of Skye is our final destination but we are stopping over to visit Jock first.”

Stefania’s face lit up. She enjoyed roaming the countryside with Jock while he spent his free time settle on a river bank casting for salmon.

“Jock?” Maureen gave John a look. ‘You trying to use his military connections?”

“Now Maureen,just because I am not looked upon favorably by certain elements of the Ministry of Defense does not mean I would make an end run around the chain of command.”

All three ladies rolled their eyes and made polite sounds of disbelief. John gave each of them a glare. They each smiled at him demurely.

Grant slammed shut his locker and flopped down onto his tiny bunk buried deep in the bowels of The Saltire. Hanging from the curved wall of his cabin was his rubber chicken sporran, its head folded back, a roll of paper stuffed down the chickens gullet. Grant reached up pulling a clean sheet up and reached for his pencil.

“Blast them for making me muck out the clogged air toilet,” he muttered under his breath. “They damn well know I’m a delicate creature and should not be subjected to such abuse! I even pointed out to Captain Panache the regulations that forbid me from performing those duties! But did he listen? NO! Not him! It’s just Grant, he can handle getting dirty, he can handle the toxic fumes generated by the diet this crew consumes. Grant is disposable, we don’t care what happens to Grant as long as he does our dirty work! Well, I’ll show them all!”

Big Mikey paused as he stood watch. ‘Did you hear that?” he commed Ensign Mender of Weasels.

“Sounds like Grant is plotting again,” Ensign Mender replied back. “He didn’t like having to clean out a clogged pipe in the air toilet.”

“Is that what all the moaning and groaning was about?” Big Mikey grinned.

“He was complaining about the diet of the crew being hazardous material,” Ensign Mender chuckled. “Naturally forgetting it was his cabbage stew that clogged the pipes in the first place.”

“Is that what that was? I thought he was trying to ferment some new alcohol recipe,” Big Mikey scanned the horizon for signs of approaching airships.

“I’m turning in,’ big Mikey said, see you for breakfast, these fair winds should bring us to Skye by the morrow.”

Ensign Mender nodded and settled into his watch, the night stars brilliant at this altitude.

To Be Continued…….

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Old Firm XVIV: A Steampunk Tale

"Good, I was just going to call for you," John said when Rebecca appeared. "We're an hour from the border."

"Any word?" She asked as she took the seat next to him.

"Nothing. And that is worrying."

"He's not crazy enough to detonate the fissionables," Rebecca said with certainty.

"I don't know, he's growing more unstable I think."

"John, criminal masterminds are not known to be the most stable individuals in polite society."

"Neither are we, Becca," John said to her softly his hand touching hers.

"John please, not now," she pulled her hand away the slightest distance.

"Yes, of course, business first of course," John cleared his throat.

"You know I don't mean that." Rebecca turned away and wiped at the corner of her eye.

"Of course," JOhn's voice was flat as he stood. 'Keep track of Stefania, it's going to be sticky on the border." he handed Rebecca a wireless. "Seems that the Duke of Westchester-on-Stratford has moved his regiment within a mile of the border on maneuvers."

"I know that there are those on both sides who desire war to sate their thirst for vengeance but to involve fissionables is madness!"

"We are not seeing the whole picture," John said rubbing the bridge of his nose. "There is another plan, one that only benefits Master M. I'll be damned if i can figure it out though."

"We'll stop him, we always do," Rebecca said firmly and smiled. "Besides, you don't think we would let you get out of taking us to the continent for some time on the beaches of Italia. Stefania wants to show us around her village."

"Sun, wine, and beautiful women. How can a man argue with that?" John smiled broadly.

"They can't," Rebecca grinned now lets catch this bastard."

To Be Continued......

The Chase of the Saltire

John McBride stared out at the Dumfries skyline as he sipped at his tea. The late fall rains had been falling for over two weeks now swelling the River Nith as the rain swept clean the city streets. John turned and walked over to Rebecca who was reading the Dumfries Daily. Without looking up she held out a silver flask which he tipped into his cup pouring a medicinal dram of single malt into his tea.

“Thank you dear,” John said as he give his tea a quick stir as the door to the drawing room opened and William Earl of Argyll entered.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, business of the crown and all that.” The Earl set a file down on the table and went over to the tea pot and poured himself a cup. “Good job on that last bit of business,’ he said as he took a chair.

“Thank you. We’re looking forward to spending some time on the continent catching some sun,” John answered as he drained the dregs of his cup.

“I imagine you are but I’m afraid that will have to wait.”

Maureen and Stefania set down the cards in their hands and gazed upon the Earl. Rebecca stood and went to John’s side.

The Earl continued,” We have received information that may be of the utmost importance to Alba.”

“Go on,” John said neutrally.

“Britannia’s colonial troubles may soon wash upon our shores. We’ve received intelligence stating that a rebel airship known as The Saltire is heading towards our western borders, possibly the Isle of Skye.”

“The colonies want to draw us into the conflict on their side,” Rebecca said.

“That is a possibility,” acknowledged the Earl. “We don’t know, there has been no official communication between them and his majesties government.”

“Then why are we being involved?” John asked as he poured himself a port after offering one to the Earl who accepted.

“We have an informant aboard. A crewman by the name of Grant. He says the Captain is a rogue who will wreck havoc upon any who get in his path.”

“Sounds rather fanciful to me, like some penny adventure story,” John smiled.

“We thought so a first, but this grant chap provide information that has since then been proven accurate.” The Earl handed rebecca the file. “We are not going to take any chances. His majesty wants to send Princess Mary to the continent in a few weeks. The timing is bit too much of a coincidence for our liking.”

“Oh my! This Grant has a high opinion of himself,” Rebecca said as she looked through the file. Maureen and Stefania both looked at her questioning. “Golden flowing locks, pert firm buttocks.” Rebecca let out a laugh as Maureen joined her and Stefania turned away blushing.

“Yes, his dispatches have been a mixture of grandiose bragging and terror ridden pleading,” the earl noted as he sipped his tea and reached for a lemon biscuit.

“Mender of Weasels, Big Mikey, Captain...Panache? This all sounds like the fancy of some day dreamer,” Rebecca said as she closed the file.

“It is rather unusual I agree,” the Earl said, “But with the increased tensions within Britannia and her colonies, his Majesty feels we must be treat this situation with the utmost seriousness.”

Maureen and Stefania had put away their cards and were gathering up their purses. Rebecca slipped the file into a folio she carried with her.

“We’ll look into it,“ John said with a slight bow to the Earl. “LAdies?” he held open the door for them.

“It may come to nothing John, but his majesty is duly concerned.” The Earl rose from his chair.

Maureen, Stefania, and rebecca murmured their farewells and exited.

“John? We are not sure this Grant chap can be trusted, be careful, King Robert would like you to accompany Princess Mary in a few weeks.”

“It would not do to disappoint his majesty,” John answered. “Good day and he tucked his hat under his arm, gave a nod and was out the door.

To Be Continued……...