We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!
Yes, we are funding more books. Yes, we would love if you would check them out, maybe show your support. But don’t think you have to do it blind. Here is a taste of Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, an anthology that takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running and even mod it out beyond its original capabilities, striving for efficiency and peak performance or just keeping things going.
The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival, but more on those later.
Over the course of the campaign, we will be sharing these excerpts so you can get to know our authors’s style.
Rosamund Thorpe stood on the flight deck of His Majesty, King George VI’s flying fortress: Arc Royal, scowling into the night over the North Sea. Wind tugged at her shoulder-length brown hair. Its chill fingers snatched each plume of breath as it left her lips.
Stars glittered overhead, and a half-moon gave just enough light to see the fighter planes tethered to the flight deck around her. Two meters from the edge, strips of blue lights ran the perimeter of the deck. They weren’t bright enough to make the ship a target. They were a safety precaution.
And they were out.
The blackouts started a few days ago. They hadn’t lasted long, but on a ship like the Royal, they were as disruptive as a fishhook in the finger.
Worse, Rosamund and her crew hadn’t been able to find the cause. Which made the whole mess officially her fault.
It made no sense. Not even a blown fuse, but here she was, out on the deck, warding the edges because the bloody safety lights were out.
As if sensing her thoughts, the thin strips glowed to life.
“You could have had someone else ward the—what the hell?” A voice spoke from behind her.
Abigail Shaul, her second, stood hunched against the cold, her fists shoved deep into the pockets of her jacket. She stared at the safeties, head cocked, her brown hair whipping about her head.
“You look surprised,” Rosamund said.
“I am surprised,” Abigail said. “I came out here to give you a status update. We hadn’t started on the safeties.”
Rosamund frowned at the lights. “What did you find?”
“Not a bloody thing,” Abigail said.
“That can’t be right.”
“It is,” Abigail said. “Power has been restored, and we’ve been from one end of the outage to the other. Nothing.”
Rosamund glared at the lights. Her breath exploded in a cloud of gray. “The deck safeties are on their own backup circuit. Why did they go down?”
“We hadn’t made it there yet,” Abigail said. “The crew’ll look into it, but I have a feeling that they’ll find the same amount of nothing.”
“It can’t be nothing,” Rosamund said. “This is contested territory. If we run into the Germans during an outage…”
“We’ll figure it out.” Abigail turned up the collar of her jacket. “But we can only play what’s in front of us, and everything appears to be working now.”
A chill blast flowed across the deck, and Rosamund turned into it. The cold hitched her breath in her chest. She took it in and released it in a long plume. She hated not knowing. It got under her skin like a splinter.
A wall of clouds gathered at the horizon. A storm, probably—if the wind didn’t change.
She turned to Abigail. “Is everyone accounted for?”
“Aye. At least the night shift.” Abigail frowned. “What are you thinking?”
A sour feeling coiled in Rosamund’s stomach. She didn’t want to give voice to the thought. Tensions were already frayed among the crew.
A shiver rattled Abigail from head to foot. “Why are we still out here?”
“We’ve still got to brief the captain.” A wry grin quirked Rosamund’s lips. “Tell him we don’t have any idea what’s going on.”
“Ah.” Abigail’s blue eyes glittered. “I suppose I’ll get used to the cold eventually.”
Her wristwatch chimed at an ear-splitting pitch, and it took every ounce of self-restraint to keep Rosamund from smashing it against the bulkhead.
She sat up, stretched, and her right shoulder popped. She’d gotten too little sleep over the past few days. So had the rest of her crew, and she wasn’t going to ask them to do anything she wasn’t willing to do herself.
As expected, Captain Ethan Bywater hadn’t liked hearing that his chief engineer didn’t know what was going on with the power aboard his ship. Of course, with the power back on, all Rosamund had was her assurances that she’d get to the bottom of it.
It wasn’t his way to shout. Instead, he’d told her that he had every faith in her skill, while the look on his face was that of a disappointed parent.
She wished he’d shouted.
She stood, shivering as her bare feet hit metal. The chill of the deck meshed with a flash of frustration as she replayed their discussion in her head. She showered, dressed, and left her bunk wanting to dismantle some machinery—or the one responsible.
The first rays of dawn had yet to crest the edge of the world. Rosamund stepped onto the flight deck, her boots crunching a sheet of ice. The wind bit into her, coating the back of her throat with a pleasant arctic tang.
The weather soothed her, and she strode with quiet calm toward the forward weapon embankment the crew called the Fist of England.
The Arc Royal commanded a pair of Fists. One forward and one aft. Massive Tesla cannons, they were capable of throwing arcs of devastating electrical energy well over twenty-five kilometers.
Rosamund tested them every week, but recent events had convinced her to step up her schedule. There had been no outages for the last forty-eight hours, but that hadn’t kept her crew from working overtime, testing and retesting.
She blew out a frosty breath and climbed the ladder to the gunnery station. At the door, she paused, turning to look out over the sea.
The storm drew closer. It would overtake them, probably by the end of the day, unless the captain decided to outrun it.
Rosamund stepped into the room and threw the switch. A pair of caged incandescents snapped to life, filling the space with a warm, yellow light. She removed a radio from its charging station on the wall, inserted the earpiece, and switched it on. A staticky pop sounded in her ear, then the hum of an empty channel.
“Abigail, are you there?” Rosamund asked.
“Bright and early, chief.”
“Good.” Rosamund stepped clear of the room, adjusting her volume and baffles against the wind. “I want this test to go as smooth as a sheet of ice, but don’t hesitate to pull the plug if anything seems even slightly out of the ordinary.”
“Understood,” Abigail said. “Then it’s a leisurely afternoon spent pouring over diagnostics.” A trace of weariness entered her voice. “That should be fun. I’ll make sure the coffee is in your quarters before we get there.”
“Good woman,” Rosamund said. Footsteps on the deck signaled the arrival of the first of her crew. She glanced over her shoulder into the smiling face of Engineer First-Class Sam Holmes.
“Morning, Sam,” she said.
“Morning, chief,” he said. “I thought I was early. Did you sleep out here?”
“You know I don’t sleep.”
Sam chuckled. “Must be a requirement for promotion.” He pulled the edges of his jacket tighter. “Along with an immunity to the cold.”
“I grew up in this,” Rosamund said. “I’ll let you know when it starts getting cold.” Holmes snorted as he turned to the controls.
Rosamund repeated her instructions to Sam. She handed him her radio, clapped him on the shoulder, then climbed down to the deck.
Ken Schrader writes Science Fiction, Fantasy, Weird Westerns, and anything else he can get away with. He’s a shameless Geek, a fan of the Oxford comma, and he makes housing decisions based upon the space available for bookshelves.
He sings out loud when there’s no one around, enjoys a good grilling session, and loves a powerful drum beat. He can also procrastinate so well you’d think it was a superpower.
He lives in Michigan, and despite the seasonal allergies, he always enjoys mowing the lawn.
Learn more about Ken Schrader here:
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