Springingtiger's Blog


I Won’t Sing The Asylum Blues.

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I am a little disappointed that my plan to attend the Asylum in Lincoln again this year will not come to fruition. However the simple fact is that I cannot afford it. I am not blaming the ticket prices which are not at all unreasonable, at £36 for a weekend wristband that covers and enables participation in events for four days (and probably Thursday evening) that’s less than a tenner a day for a lot of fun and access to the most amazing Steampunk markets. Of course tickets to Evening Events add to the cost, but with a city full of Steampunks there’s plenty of fun to be had without paying for evening entertainment. I should point out that while tickets for the Steam Powered Giraffe concert are £25 (worth every penny and cheap for the BEST BAND in the Universe) most of the other evening events only cost £12.00 and that’s positively cheap these days! Sadly one also needs to factor in the costs of accommodation, transport, and food and my budget won’t stretch that far.

Of course not going to Asylum provides no block to my Steampunkery. I have written several times in my blog and in the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society Newsletter about how Steampunk accommodates itself to a limited budget. Although the Asylum is out this year, and I’m sure there are others in a similar position, there are still plenty of local opportunities for unexpurgated Steampunkery. Most countries now host a number of Comic Cons and our Glasgow group takes advantage of them. As well as the Cons there are plenty of other events to which our group is actively invited so there are plenty of occasions to enjoy. It’s true that these events are not the same as being surrounded by thousands of fellow Steampunks for a weekend, but they do allow what one might call ‘missionary work’. After each event we attend we receive requests to join GUESS. Although we may only have a handful of members at an event our online group is growing and it’s not always the same members who attend each event.

Perhaps the hardest part of not going to Asylum is reading the posts of all those excited people on ‘Welcome To The Asylum‘ who are preparing to attend. However, on the plus side, this does at least hold out the promise of some wonderful photograph albums to peruse in September. There are so many events I can’t attend like Wild West Con and the Steampunk World’s Fair, but whose photos provide pleasure and inspiration; this year the Asylum will be another of them.

One of the pleasures of the Asylum is watching civilians walking through the markets and gradually becoming Steampunked. That’s the first step for some, hopefully it leads on to crafting one’s own Steampunk creations. Events like the Asylum are a huge boost for one’s Steampunk soul, but life has to go on and so does one’s Steampunkery. Perhaps the true power of Steampunk is not that it can bring thousands of Steampunks together on the Castle Green during Asylum, but that it can provide them with pleasure and purpose throughout the other three hundred and sixty days of the year.

I won’t be at Asylum this year, but I won’t suffer the Asylum Blues, my life steams on regardless. However to those who are going may I wish you all a wonderful time and good weather. If it rains there’s usually cover somewhere, last year as a shower came in I found myself in a tent full of corsets feeling like a character from Father Ted. I hope you have fun and make new discoveries. Take time to appreciate the organisers (The Victorian Steampunk Society) and volunteers too, they do a terrific job. Oh, and please post lots of photos to the Welcome To The Asylum Page, we’d all love to see what you get up to.



The Glasses For It

 February is Steampunk Hands Around the World month hosted by the Airship Ambassador. The theme this year is Making Life Better. I have chosen the category ‘Personal Issues’ because Steampunk has added so much to my personal enjoyment of life.

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You should come along, you’ve got the glasses for it!” said my friend Brian as he informed me that the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society was going to participate in the Glasgow (Scotland) Style Mile Winter Parade. I hadn’t heard of the Style Mile and the existence of Steampunk as a thing had escaped me. A little explanation left me wondering how it had escaped me. I had the glasses, I also had a long association with waistcoats, cravats, bow-ties, hats and other sartorial eccentricities. I was at school when William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton were ‘The Doctor’. My school reading tended to be HG Wells, Kipling, H. Rider Haggard and Michael Moorcock as well as The Eagle and the Rover and Wizard. I loved the cartoons of Charles Addams and Heath Robinson. The school film club brought us films like The Time Machine, 2000 Leagues Under The Sea and Journey To The Centre of the Earth. However Steampunk had never impinged upon my consciousness.

I had accidentally retired early when I was made redundant at the age of sixty. I had time on my hands and so I wrapped a top hat in holly, put on my naval greatcoat, picked up my carved Indian walking stick and joined GUESS on the parade. I was unprepared for just how much fun I would have and how much entertainment we would give the public just by walking among them. I was easily persuaded to attend RaiCon a few weeks later, I had never considered going to a Comic Con previously and I had a marvellous time. Cosplay is another concept that had largely escaped my notice, but what a lovely welcoming group of young (well compared to me) people they are and they seemed delighted to have a bunch of Steampunks wandering around the Con.

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The Society’s annual general meeting came around and inevitably I went along and left at its end, the ‘Chief Engineer’ (Club Secretary) of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society. No longer just a pensioner, but a pensioner with a purpose (besides my writing that is). As a representative of Steampunkery and of the Society I threw myself into Steampunk. I had been up until that point an E Bay virgin, but building a Steampunk wardrobe for every occasion can prove costly and I was on a small pension. I not only learned to use E Bay, but became a frequenter of charity shops and antique shops. I was forced to become creative and gradually more adventurous. I began by camouflaging with cogs, burn holes in a used Morning Coat. It was not too long before I had sewn myself a leather coachman’s hat from a bag of scraps bought online. I learned, as I went round charity shops, to look at things differently; I learned to see things not as they were, but as what they could be. Sometimes I bought things merely because they looked as if they could become something amazing even if I could not yet see it. I have even been on a workshop to learn how to use a sewing machine!

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I went online seeking ideas and inspiration on You Tube, Facebook and Google Plus, there are so many of us in cyberspace! Steampunks are very helpful and encouraging and some I call my friends even though we may not yet have met, and some I have. I was amazed to discover how large a community we are and how widely dispersed around the world. I was delighted to discover that many are ̶ like myself ̶ on the autism spectrum, finding in Steampunk an ideal outlet for their imaginations. I find Steampunk is a wonderful vehicle for communicating with the world and building a web of relationships. I now edit a quarterly (ish) online newsletter for the Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society. From the last issue we have started to produce it in association with the Music City Steampunk Consortium of Nashville, Tennessee and hope to have increased participation from them as time goes on.

dscf2236There is something magical and inspiring about the internationalism of Steampunk. I went alone to the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln last year and had no problem communicating with complete strangers from all around the world. Those who understand Aspergers will appreciate how important that is. However I did not feel as if I were among strangers, I felt very much at home (in the evenings I was staying with my brother outside Lincoln which probably helped too).

There is so much to discover in Steampunk, culture, fashion, art, music, literature, amazing events. My days are never dull despite retirement. Also it opens the door to so many other new interests. In Glasgow we have the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, the world’s oldest operating music hall and I have become a volunteer in its struggle to preserve a unique cultural institution. I used to study medieval history when I was younger, now I find myself looking at the history of the Georgians, Victorians and Edwardians to inform my Steampunkery and of late I’ve been looking at the American West in the Nineteenth Century in a way I never did before (Bass Reeves…wow!)

Here I am in my sixties, on the Spectrum, with a whole new and exciting life open to me. I had expected, once the work dried up, to spend my time at home reading and writing and growing old. Now I’m like a child in some sort of brass and copper built Disneyland with a new wonder around every corner, a new adventure over the brow of every hill. Someday I may die by chronological inevitability, but I doubt if I shall ever grow old!

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Steampunkery and Politics

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Steampunk Superhero’s Cosplay

I think it is fair to say we live in strange and troubling times, what with the decision by the English to turn their back on Europe and drag their neighbours also into a new parochial rejection of the outside world, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA who appears also to want to turn his back on the world whilst at the same time plundering its resources. I accept this is somewhat of an over simplification, but the political details are not really my concern here, but rather how people respond to them. I think it is fair to say that that feelings are running high not only in The USA and the UK, but in Europe and throughout the Middle East, look further afield to Africa, Asia and Russia and it looks as if the whole world is on the edge of some sort of emotional cataclysm. So what, if anything, has any of this got to do with Steampunk?

I know that Steampunks like other folk hold political opinions, some are guided by political and religious beliefs so why, when countries are bitterly divided within themselves and from their neighbours, are Steampunks from all around the world still bumbling along together cheerfully? The answer is not ‘Gin’…at least not entirely. I would like to postulate that there are several reasons Steampunk is not dragged into the political morass in which the world now wallows. I have to confess at this point that my reasoning is based upon my observations of British Steampunk, it may be that some countries Steampunk differently, however I suspect that what is true for a British Steampunk is as true for others around the world.

fb_img_1464539054462.jpgThose who know my personal political beliefs to be extremely socialist, republican, and nationalist may find it strange to see me including Scottish Steampunks in the umbrella term ‘British Steampunk’. The truth is that apart from some details of expression there is little to distinguish the attitudes of Scottish Steampunks from their southern neighbours…when in Steampunk mode. And I think that is my first point: Steampunk as a way of thinking occupies a place that is meta to ordinary political thinking. Some Steampunks live in a permanent attitude of Steampunkery, for others Steampunk is more of a cosplay that they put on and off. However as I have said, when in Steampunk mode Steampunks relate to the world differently from other people.

DSCF2074I remember being startled when I realised that in a whole weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln I had heard not one swearword nor a raised voice. There is something about being a Steampunk that induces courteous behaviour. A Steampunk uses politeness like a shield to parry the unpleasantness of the world and wit the blade to return the blow. I will not pretend for one moment that Steampunks do not insult each other, but we do so with wit and humour, perhaps some buffoonery so that there is almost as much enjoyment of defeat as pleasure in victory…when the other side scores a try (or a six) we applaud and enjoy the moment for its own intrinsic artistry. What is saddening about politics at the moment is the depths to which people have sunk in their interactions with each other, people have become nastier, xenphobia, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination and abuse have become commonplace. People have no embarrassment at being caught in a lie. Respect for the rights and opinions of others is no longer considered important or even desirable, there is no place for old fashioned courtesy. Except in Steampunkery where old fashioned courtesy lies at its heart (we do like old fashioned or even an Old Fashioned).

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One might expect a strong conservative streak in Steampunk because of its embrace of old fashioned courtesy and dress. However Steampunk cherry picks what it takes from any era and so while embracing the virtues of the past it rejects its vices. Strong women are very evident in Steampunk circles, frequently armed to the teeth with customised Nerf guns and they’re not afraid to use them! Steampunk is undoubtedly trans cultural as can be seen in its Facebook groups, but also at major Steampunk gatherings that attract attendees from all over the world. Our Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society is not only associated with the Music City Steampunk Consortium of Nashville, Tennessee, but has scheduled a jolly day out with the North East Steampunk Society from England (now that is true internationalism!). I haven’t noticed religion entering the Steampunk conversation except as a costume, we have Steampunk monks with goggles and Victorian Bishops with gaiters at one end and goggles at the other. Given the international nature of Steampunk, I assume that it contains folk of all faiths, but they don’t let it come between them or get in the way of the fun.

Conservatives may not be very evident in Steampunk, but conservation is. Steampunks have a respect for history especially, as the name suggests, for its technology. Nothing sets the Steampunk blood racing more assuredly than polished brass, well oiled pistons, smoothly turning gears, and the ecstatic call of a locomotive whistle. “Ah but,” I hear you say, “Steam engines run on fossil fuels and pump carbon into the air!”…don’t expect a clever argument from me, although I would argue for balance and responsibility. However the Steampunk embrace of steam should be interpreted rather as an embrace of the best of contemporary technology, which in Victorian times was steam. I think we should note that Steampunks are equally enamoured of clockwork. The essential thing about the Steampunk attitude is that technology is employed for the good of society. You may object that Steampunk has its evil villains india94-070and mad scientists with their death rays and killer robots, but they only exist as villains in opposition to the positive technological vision of Steampunk…besides they are playing a role (or possibly over playing in the case of Kenneth Brannagh’s Dr. Loveless) we all come together in the bar at the end of the day. In Steampunk science is treated with respect and so is scientific method and evidence, some (many) of our inventions are fanciful, but they can be so because we are aware of the difference between science and superstition and so are free to play with both. More importantly in Steampunk the urge to conservation manifests itself in an abhorrence of waste, or more accurately a love of recycling and up-cycling. Steampunk is not part of a disposable society; where civilians dispose, we reuse and re-purpose.

I think what sets Steampunk apart politically from much of society is that it is cooperative and sharing. In victory there is little inappropriate triumphalism whether in cosplay competitions or a tea duel…okay there may be a little (I’m not sure ‘little’ is entirely the correct word.) triumphalism in tea duelling, but there’s none of the vicious denigration of the losers that has marked the conduct of Trump supporters and Brexiteers, nor the bitter resentment we have seen from the other side. Steampunks are building a better future for all based on the best of the past and that means magnanimity and mutual support. You will rarely find a Steampunk rubbish someone else’s work, but they will be generous with suggestions for improvement. Steampunks help each other, they share their skills and insights, they encourage each other. I think it is safe to say that wherever you observe someone indulging in selfishness, discrimination, misogyny, xenophobia, abuse, or any form of discourtesy the person you are observing is not a Steampunk. Steampunks are building a future on the foundation of the most noble values of the past. To put things more simply: If they ain’t nice, they ain’t Steampunk! Now it’s Time For Gin!



Chapter 22: Puritans, Perversion and Pharmaceuticals
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Not New Plymouth, but looks like it…a bit!

I think the correct term to describe New Plymouth would be ‘austere’. Its sombre undecorated architecture seemed to embody my preconceptions of puritanism. The pinch faced puritan women kept themselves covered from the tops of their heads to their feet in undecorated grey or black dresses. I cannot in all honesty claim that none of them looked happy, but the majority had a gloomy look upon their make up free faces.If the women were unappealing the men were every bit as unpleasant. I think the most positive thing I can say about the good men and women of New Plymouth is that they were unfailingly polite in a stiff and formal way.

Whereas the buildings in New Palestine tended to follow the general style of Colonial Utilitarianism the buildings of New Plymouth were obviously designed to recall the architecture of the Georgian period of Britain and her American colonies. The civic buildings were imposing with pillared porticoes, the churches not dissimilar, but generally having a spire. there was not a trace of stained glass to be seen. It was only when I realised that the court building lacked the statue of justice that it occurred to me that the town was devoid of statues, even the most worthy were celebrated only by occasional plaques upon the walls of the buildings. The nearest thing to a building devoted to leisure were the coffee houses, but there were no public houses or bars, no cinemas or theatres. It went without saying that there were no brothels in the town. The towns were for the Elect and Outsiders might only visit them during the hours of daylight.

At some distance from the settler’s austere towns could be found the settlements of the Outsiders. These settlements were looked upon by the Elect as veritable sinks of iniquity and every sort of vice. Periodically the Elders would order the settlements to be cleansed, but they inevitably grew back like the social cancer the Elect believed them to be. Because the Outsiders performed all the unpleasant work of the planet, that is to say all the manual work – other than horticulture which was considered holy – their settlements were tolerated. It was here that the respectable burghers cane stealthily after dark to indulge their baser desires, entertainment, sex, alcohol and drugs were all available provided by the smugglers who found it surprisingly easy to sneak past the planet’s defences.

We had been instructed to seek out one William Honesty Goodlove to arrange the disposal of our cargo of Astarte. Obviously we had believed the most likely place to find him would be in the Outsider settlements. However when we enquired we were directed to speak to a Madam known as ‘Sair Flaps’ Peggy. She seemed pleased to see us and produced from her desk a sealed letter.

I read the letter and passed it to Anya, “It would seem we must attend Mister Goodlove at his law offices in the morning, this evening belongs to us.”

We bought some fresh meat for the cats and left them in command of the Bug. If anyone tried to enter the cats merely had to hit the call switch on the communications console to recall us. We could also monitor the hull cameras from our communicators. We had an enjoyable dinner in a traditional pub called the ‘Mucky Duck’. I have to say with all my experience of Earth’s cultures I am at a loss to determine what tradition the ‘Duck’ belonged to. The meal was excellent, I suppose after Compo Rations you could argue anything might have tasted good, but this really was good and set us up nicely for an evening in the Music hall.

It was during the show at the Panopticon Music Hall that my communicator alerted me that the Bug’s proximity alarms had been triggered. We left immediately and Anya scanned the buggy for bombs and trackers before we set off at speed back to the ship. Triggering the alarm had turned on the Bug’s exterior lights and the cameras showed several men outside the ship. I spoke into my communicator and my voice was relayed through the ship’s speakers.

“Stand away from my ship or I will open fire. Stand back and state your business!”

One of the men replied, “We are here to search your ship for contraband.”

“And who are you?”

“New Plymouth Customs and Revenue.”

“Very well, come back in daylight and you’ll be welcome.”

“We require access now.”

“Then you’ll have to wait. We’ve called for city officials to come and secure the area.”

As I spoke I ordered BG 784 the Bug’s computer to open the anti personnel cannon and fire some warning shots. The gun dropped muzzle first from the Bug’s belly, levelled off and fired several shots into the ground between the men and the ship. They returned fire. One of the men aimed a rocket grenade at the Bug, but I had the gun lay down fire at him and the other attackers and they all dived for cover. Unfortunately as he turned to try and avoid the gun fire the man managed to fire the rocket grenade into the ground killing himself and several of his comrades. When we barrelled into the clearing in the buggy the remaining men ran which was just as well as Anya had readied the Gatling gun, as it was she fired off a few shots to encourage them to keep running. As we settled down for the night the cats went to investigate.

The next morning after the cats had reported the results of their investigation we searched the pockets of the bodies then covered them with brush and leaves before heading to the town to meet Mr. Goodlove. His offices were in a well appointed and imposing three story office building round the corner from the Courthouse. As Outsiders we drew some attention as we walked through the streets. Even though Anya had exchanged her usual slacks for a long skirt neither oh us could be taken for a local.

As we entered the building a guard in frock coat, britches and hose stopped us. Only the Alliance Webley Blaster in his holster showed he wasn’t a character from an historical drama.

“Can I help you?” He demanded with a contemptuous sneer which betrayed his opinion of Outsiders.

I responded, “I am Cain.” He dropped the sneer and inhaled. Anya added,

“Mr. William Goodlove is expecting us.”

“Please follow me. Sir, Ma’am?” He escorted us to a lift at one side of the marble hallway, rather than take us up the magnificent staircase. I noticed the badge beneath the control panels – Otis Elevators – if it was genuine the lift was an antique, but it worked well enough.

Goodlove’s office was on the top floor with views towards the Courthouse rear and across the roof of the adjacent building, to the main square. Like the rest of the town the office was devoid of figurative decoration, but its carpet was sumptuous and reached from wall to elegantly panelled wall. Goodlove was obviously a man who both appreciated and could afford luxury.

As we entered Goodlove came from behind his huge mahogany desk. He bent to kiss Anya’s hand – an action that surprised me – then shook me by the hand. He showed us to two armchairs, as luxurious as the rest of the room. When we were seated he called for coffee and until it was brought chattered about the weather and the dangers of space travel in the Outer Planets. At last he said,

“I gather you had some trouble last night?”

I took a sip of my coffee before responding. “I would like to know how you knew about that.”

“It’s my job to know things.” Goodlove replied.

“So it’s nothing to do with the two men who came back to the Town last night while the others went to the Outsider settlement?” I asked.

“You also seem to be well informed.”

“I am Cain, I also know things.”

“I could hardly have grown up here without knowing about Cain, but your reputation makes the scriptural account pale into insignificance. So you are immortal?”

“No.” I replied, “I am not immortal, I just haven’t died yet.”

“You have the cargo, obviously. Perhaps we should discuss delivery and payment?”

“We can bring it here.” I said.

“Now.” Added Anya. “This planet is dangerous after dark.”

“It is only after dark that this planet becomes truly alive!” Smiled Goodlove. “After dark when the sanctimonious hypocrites who call themselves ‘Elders’ creep off to taste the pleasures they pretend to deny themselves.”

“You should turn a good profit from your cargo then.” I ventured.

“Oh I don’t need money,” Goodlove replied, “I want them to reap the reward for their debauchery.”

“Karma!” Exclaimed Anya.

Goodlove frowned, “We don’t use language like that on New Plymouth…but you are correct, they will reap what they have sown! I need you to deliver the shipment to Peggys and she will pay you and supply you with a cargo to be taken to Brunswick Station.

“How did Peggy get the name ‘Sair Flaps’?” Anya asked.

“She made her fortune by putting the comfort of others before her own and she worked very hard.”

There was a slight pause then Anya covered her mouth with her hand, “Oh!” She exclaimed.

Goodlove picked up his telephone, “I shall call Peggy and tell her to expect you.”

“Remind her we will be armed.”

“Don’t worry. No one’s going to try anything stupid a second time.”

“I didn’t live this long by not worrying.” I muttered as I got up to leave.

It was obvious to me that Goodlove was up to something, but for the life of me I couldn’t work out what. Anya suggested that Peggy might give more away. So we loaded the buggy and drove to ‘Peggy’s Gentleman’s Club and Spa’. From outside it exuded a level of class unmatched by the rest of the Outsider’s Settlement. As Anya suspected she was more willing to talk than Goodlove had been.

Peggy had had a few drinks before we arrived and although as in control as ever was in a chatty mood and ready to brag about her son’s plans. We were surprised that such a pillar of the establishment as William Honesty Goodlove had a mother who ran a brothel, no matter how classy it may be. Peggy had as so often in these tragedies been a governess in an Elder family. The father of the family had forced his attentions on her and William was the result. William’s father denied his paternity and had Peggy whipped and thrown out of town. Unable to get respectable employment she turned at last to whoring and discovered a natural talent which coupled with her intelligence which William inherited and business acumen enabled her to build up a sizeable empire in the Outsider settlements and a substantial fortune. She had engaged the finest tutors for William, there were many men of ability who were happy to tutor the boy for considerably more than the Elders – notoriously parsimonious – were prepared to pay. She was content to use a little discreet blackmail to ensure her son received a scholarship to the University of New Plymouth. His mothers wealth had brought William the identity of a son of a respectable rural family and the surname of ‘Goodlove’ which his mother thought a witty touch. He graduated with a First in Law in half the time of a normal student and by the time those with whom William had gone up to University were graduating he had received his Doctorate.

Tonight William was holding a dinner in the Club for Peggy’s elite clientelle whose decanters were to be laced with Astarte. After spending the rest of the evening with her girls, many of the leading men of the town would be under the control of the only man who could supply their new addiction. It was only a matter of time after that, until he brought the planet under his sway and there would be changes. Once William could control Parliament he would introduce a bill to give citizenship to Outsiders and another to extend the right to vote to all citizens both male and female.

I observed that he would need to secure a regular supply of the drug to maintain his position. However Peggy said that once William’s reforms had become law there would be no further need to feed the addiction of his colleagues in Parliament. She took great pleasure in the prospect of those who had ill-used her succumbing to the insanity of Astarte withdrawal. I had thought earlier that I might have to take measures to prevent Goodlove’s plans, but when I heard them I felt it better not to interfere in the internal affairs of the colony and Anya agreed.

Peggy transferred a large payment of credits to my account. Anya’s account had been frozen after the robbery, but for some reason the cameras failed to catch a single image of my face. However I have several accounts and the payment would be dispersed among them as soon as I could reach the terminal in the Bug. Peggy then handed over the ‘cargo’. I prefer to call them passengers. They were two men and a woman all wanted for revolutionary activities within the Empire, including the assassination of the Emperor’s father. They were fleeing Imperial space and at the moment were hiding by keeping on the move.

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The Bug was going to be cramped. The three fugitives would have to share a cabin and the cats would have to bed down anywhere they could, which was no hardship as that is what they did anyway. The first thing to do was to find out where our fugitives wanted to go. I left that to Anya while I removed ourselves from New Plymouth Space. She came into the cockpit and told me they wanted to go to Los Alamos, New Texas.

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” I exclaimed, “that’s the first place the Empire will look for them!”

“Apparently they were already on New Texas. A couple of marshals found them and told them to get to New Plymouth until the Empire had swept the planet. The Imperial fleet is headed for New Plymouth now to try and capture them.”

I called up the navigation charts of the space between New Texas and New Plymouth. To see which route the fleet was most likely to take. I reckoned we didn’t have a day before the fleet hit local space so I decided to dogleg my route. I headed away from New Plymouth keeping the planet between me and the route the fleet would take if it was in a hurry. We skirted the system’s sun close enough to feel its heat, but so close it would be impossible for even the trackers of the Empire’s Cruisers to detect us.

We had burned up more fuel than was useful breaking from the sun’s gravitational field and so I plotted a course for the Silas Deep Space Way Station for refuelling.

Tomkin Arupa the leader of the fugitives objected to going to Silas, “It’s an Imperial Station, you might as well shoot us here!”

“You’re not going to Silas,” I replied. “The bug carries four life pods so you three will use them. We shall leave you hidden in the debris field. Take the Bug to Silas, refuel and come back for you. It should take less than thirty six hours, the pods contain oxygen for forty eight hours, if you suit up that’ll give you another eight. On the fuel we’ve got the only places we can reach are under Imperial control. This is the only one where we’ll be able to hide you off ship. If you stay on board their scans will pick up your life signs.”

Eventually Tomkin and his associates, Mika Bulgaram, and Sula Canut agreed. What else could they do it was agree or be captured?

Space is full of junk, it wasn’t, but wherever humans go they leave rubbish. The Silas station originally was built to provide salvage facilities for salvage teams after the Battle of Silas. The planet Silas sat at the junction of several intergalactic trade routes and its people were fiercely Independent. The Alliance had thrown everything at the planet and the federation of Independent Planets had thrown everything into its defence.

The debris field was the wreckage of the two largest war fleets ever seen and the battle left both sides near to collapse. When the Koch Imperial fleet arrived on the side of the Alliance the Independents evacuated as many people from the planet as they could. The evacuation was cut short by the surface fighting which was brutal, frequently hand to hand and continued for weeks. Although the Alliance now controlled the air, they had no wish to destroy the facilities they had been fighting to capture. Gradually the last of the Independents fell back to the Castro Deep Mine and processing plant. When the fighting reached the outer buildings of the facility Sergeant Ramirez who by surviving was in sole command gave the order to engage the final option. A bomb using Dilithium as its propellant was released down the deep shaft to the planet’s Dilithium core. The resulting explosion shattered the planet and destroyed the besieging fleet within a minute.

It was many generations before the salvage and clear up began. What had been the main trading hub for all human space had become its greatest impediment. Eventually as the Empire swallowed the Alliance the resources floating in space at Silas became worth salvaging and hopefully as the debris was dealt with the Silas trade routes might reopen. Trade did pick up somewhat, but it never reached pre-war levels as the area was still hazardous to large vessels. However it was popular with smaller ships carrying urgent cargoes.

As we approached the station the scanner alarm sounded. The only life signs they found were two humans and two cats. We got permission to refuel and I paid from one of my legitimate accounts. While the Bug was refuelling Anya and I went shopping for supplies. Had a meal and returned to the ship to take delivery of our purchases. As we were beginning to load them three men in Imperial uniforms stopped us and asked to see our papers. They handed mine back, but the Lieutenant looked at Anya and asked

“Rahima Suleiman?”

“Yes,” replied Anya, “can I help you?”

“Please remove your headscarf and glasses?” Requested the Lieutenant. As Anya hesitated the Lieutenant’s hand moved to the holstered blaster on her hip.

“Rahima?” I said.

Anya did as she was asked. The Lieutenant looked at her communicator and then said,

“Anya Jog, I am arresting you for the murder of Private John Timson on D18X and the theft of thirteen crares of fragmentation grenades.” The Lieutenant said before continuing with an explanation of her rights that has remained almost the same for many centuries.

“Rahima,” I said sounding shocked, “is this true?” I turned to the officer, “Are you sure I have seen her papers, she is Rahima Suleiman. I checked them when I gave her passage at New Plymouth.”

“I am sorry, Sir,” the Lieutenant said, “but I need you to come with us too.”

“Of course. Am I under arrest?”

“No, but we will need to ask you some questions.”

“Anything to help, However I am on a schedule, would it be okay to make a call from your office. I’ll let you place the call if you like.”

The Lieutenant agreed and as we reached the office I noticed the clock on the comms screen, we were running out of time already we had reached over the thirty hours. I gave the Lieutenant a comms code and she keyed it into the terminal. After about a minute a voice barked from the speakers and the Lieutenant snapped to attention

“Sikorsky here, is that you Cain?”

“Afraid so, General. I had to put into Silas for fuel and the security staff have arrested my co-pilot Rahima Suleiman. It appears she is the fugitive Anya Jog. I can’t afford to hang around just now lives depend on it.”

After a couple of minutes the speaker barked again. “Officer give me your number!”

“DSS 47977” She replied.

Another long pause and then the General’s voice spoke again, “Lieutenant Jaswinder Dhillon, yes? I’ll tell you what to do. Release Cain immediately. Keep Miss Jog behind bars until I can arrange for her removal.”

The Lieutenant saluted towards the speaker and responded, “Sir, yes Sir!”



Chapter 21: A Life of Crime (part one)

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Naturally we monitored the Imperial comms. Within hours the order for our capture had gone out. Later the news broadcasts played the security film of Anya shooting the guard followed by an emotional appeal by his mother begging for someone to bring her son’s killers to justice. Anya watched and chuckled, I was horrified.

“It’s not funny!” I snapped.

“It is when Sergeant Maggie Muill is pretending to be a boys mother, she’s the most hardened lesbian in the fleet!”

“Lesbians have children.” I grumbled.

“She hates kids.”

“It makes you look bad, very bad”

“Only because I’m so infatuated with you and you seduced me into your life of crime. That’s obvious from the report. It’s all your fault!” She laughed then added, “perhaps we should carry on building our cover.”

“There’s no one to hear you out here.” I said.

“No, but in case anyone asks awkward questions I think we should know every inch of each other’s bodies…besides what else are we going to do for three days?

I liked Felix Colony. There were as many cats, perhaps more, as humans. Since human to animal communication had been perfected in the Twenty Second Century it was not unusual to find joint human and animal projects. Most worked between a limited number of species because there weren’t that many species capable of equal cooperation or anything like it. Also as each species had its own language it was impractical to work with more than a couple at a time. The Militia planets still treated animals as something to kill and eat, but as they still rejected full human status to non whites that was hardly surprising. Felix was the most ambitious and complete of all these projects so much so that when we were there the President was a large cat. By his coat I would have assumed he was descended from the Highland Wildcats, he explained to us that the presidency was held jointly between humans and cats, However hi human co-president had died last week and so the process of electing a replacement was ongoing. I was surprised to learn that both species voted on both presidents, on reflection it made sense. I wondered whether because of numbers cats had an electoral advantage.

“Technically, yes.” Agreed Doctor Shadey Grey – the President, “but I suppose you could say that we’ve ruled humans since Ancient Egypt, now they get a say too!” The human secretary providing the translation seemed as amused as the President. Grey continued,

“At least the humans don’t take as long to select their candidates as we do. It takes far to long for a cat to commit themselves. Whereas humans are eager to throw their hats in the ring with cats its always, ‘I am going to stand…no I’ve changed my mind…on second thoughts I will stand…but wait, no, I don’t think so..” and so on. The moment a candidate actually confirms we start the election campaign just to push the switherers into committing!”

Doctor Grey had been Professor of Politics, Philosophy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Felix prior to standing for the presidency. He explained that the cats – unlike their human companions – didn’t have political parties.

“We’re cats,” He explained. “We tend to each do our own thing, but when one of us decides to stand for office we vote for whichever candidate we like. It works because we can each be trusted to look out for our own best interests and generally what is good for one cat is good for all. I don’t suppose, Miss Jog, you’d mind scratching my head while we talk? Oh yeeah!…” he purred.

I have to say it was the most unusual negotiation I have been a part of and I’ve been involved in many over the millennia. However I don’t think I can remember any I have enjoyed as much. The Felicians wanted the grenades for onward shipment to selected Feline revolutionary groups on the Militia planets. I asked about Alabama but Grey responded,

“Our people there don’t have an organisation, I don’t suppose you’d mind having a couple of cats along on your trip would you? They’d be no trouble, okay you’d need to clear their trays because you’ve got opposable thumbs, but otherwise you’ll find them good company. When you get to Alabama they’ll jump ship and see if they can’t move things along for our people and animalkind in general.

##

So it was we left Felix with two furry spies and a cargo of Felician gold and minerals for delivery to Ezekiel Boult on Astarte Two the capital of the three planet Astarte Federation. The Capital had moved to Two when it was discovered to be much more congenial than the other two planets. The Astarte system was unusual in having three habitable planets out of its seven. We landed, as we had been instructed by Solomon, some distance out of town. We off loaded our cargo and concealed it in the woods one the cats mounted guard, the other watched over the Bug while we went in search of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel resembled his brother facially, but was taller and sparer. Unlike his brother Ezekiel had political ambitions and had a hand in most of the affairs of Astarte both legal and illegal. It was obvious our cargo was to finance his political ambitions. We were talking to Ezekiel in his fine town house when one of his men came in and whispered to him. Ezekiel smiled and turned back to us.

“Where is my cargo, it’s not on your ship?”

“Your brother Solomon, advised us not to give you your cargo until after you gave us his. We will give you the location of your gold when we are loaded.” I replied.

“It’s a terrible thing when you can’t trust your own brother!” Said Ezekiel, but there was no sorrow in his voice. “We’d better get on with business then.”

Astarte’s most profitable export was the drug that bears its name. It was also illegal throughout the Empire and on every civilised planet. It shared the one quality of illegal substances, it commanded a high price. It was a load of this narcotic that we were to ship to New Plymouth possibly the most conservative of the Independents, it had been settled by extreme Puritans seeking as in so many previous ages a place where they might practice their religion without interference. As in every previous age the supposed purity of the colony had been adulterated by its inevitable contact with outsiders. Trade is always connected with greed for profit and even the puritans were not exempt from that particular cancer. Although the colony was still administered by the New Plymouth Presbyterian Church, its population contained many of more liberal persuasion. In any colony that sought to legislate away vice there was money to be made by providing the occasion to sin. Every town on New Plymouth had its brothels and drinking dens supplied by smugglers who were as content to smuggle girls and boys as drugs and alcohol. Nothing was as valuable in the New Plymouth underworld as Astarte. Astarte provided a few hours of bliss that left a craving like an unscratcheable itch. It heightened the senses, provided a sense of euphoria and was reputed to provide a sexual potency and orgasm that lasted for hours, each second more intense than the last. Control of the supply of Astarte gave control of the minds of those who had tasted her. It caused no lasting physical damage, but completely enslaved a person’s will. For days the craving would build until there was nothing they could do but satisfy it by any means. Astarte had brought the crime to New Plymouth that her founding fathers had tried so hard to escape and in order to fulfil our mission we were going to fuel that vice. Neither Anya and I were too happy, but for now there was nothing we could do.

We took possession of Ezekiel’s cargo of poison. Once Anya was safely on the Bug I took Ezekiel and his men to the treasure. They dug up the boxes and I turned to leave. I had walked a few paces back towards the large tree behind which I had tethered my horse when Ezekiel spoke,

“Stop right there!”

I turned and saw that he had his blaster trained on me. Feigning surprise I took a step backwards. I was almost next to the tree.

“You’re a fool,” smiled Ezekiel, “so’s my brother if you thought I was going to just hand over a cargo. I can’t imagine that sweet girl of yours leaving without you so she will surrender to save you and I’ll have the gold, your ship and a pretty girl who’ll fetch a good price in the brothels.”

I merely replied, “Now!”

From the tree beneath which the treasure was buried a gunmetal grey ball fell attached to a long string. Long before it hit the ground the string tautened and pulled the pin from the fragmentation grenade. As Ezekiel’s attention was caught by the falling object I threw myself behind the tree. After the explosion I cautiously crawled out, my blaster in my hand. From behind the tree where the treasure was, one of Ezekiel’s men stepped. He was bleeding profusely from multiple wounds down his right side, but in his left hand he held a blaster. He fired, he missed, on my belly I didn’t present much of a target. I didn’t miss.

The Feline spy, Little Fluffy, climbed down the tree and joined me. One of the few Feline phrases I had managed to learn so far was, ‘Thank you!’ I used it, ruffled his ears then called Anya to come and get us. We left for New Plymouth considerably richer than we had planned.

##



Chapter 7: Zeppelins

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When I get back to Obamapolis I must upload my journal to Roddenberry, he thinks I should leave a record before I move on again. I’ve told him I would return, but he says – and he’s right – that just because I haven’t died yet doesn’t mean I never will. I remember one of my wives back on Earth telling me she would not want to live for ever. In my experience however long a person’s life very few want it to end. I suppose on occasion I do feel a little jaded, a little tired, and when I do something always comes along to surprise me or pique my interest.

I think one of the things that always fascinates me about deep space colonisation is that after the advanced technology that transports the colonists from one galaxy to the next and after the the whole process of terraforming nearly every colony reverts back to the fairly basic technologies of the Nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

I don’t suppose that with a planet in a wild and freshly formed state it’s any great surprise that the only way to explore it is from the air or on foot. However because of the initial limits on available fuel in the early days of any colony most of the early surveying flights are conducted by airship. The first flights are sometimes conducted by shuttle, but without runways the fuel used in VTOL has to be limited in case of emergency.

I flew airships on Beta Four. Naturally I didn’t tell them that my experience dated from the end of the Nineteenth Century but that early experience stood me in good stead. I was fortunate to be travelling in Europe as the guest of Ferdinand von Zeppelin whom I had first met at the battle of Fredericksburg when we endeavoured to use a balloon to supply aerial intelligence. After the Civil War we went our separate ways Ferdinand returned to Germany and a military career while I pursued my explorations of the American West.

We maintained a correspondence and he seemed particularly interested in my attempts to map the Rocky Mountains from a balloon. In the end the weather conditions rendered my efforts less successful than I had hoped, however Ferdinand was interested enough to remember me. In the Eighteen Nineties I was surprised to receive a letter from him – how the letter managed to find me in Wyoming where I was trying my hand at cattle ranching, I don’t know. The letter was all the excuse I needed to board a train back east and head to Prussia to see Von Zeppelin’s new dirigibles.

After the struggles I had had with hot air balloons in the Rockies, Zeppelin’s dirigibles were a revelation. Of course it took some time for him to get his ideas into the air so to speak. We were very excited in Nineteen Hundred to be able to demonstrate a working prototype, it wasn’t until several years later that the ships became a success. In the meantime I continued to learn from Ferdinand and his team and when the Zeppelins went into passenger service I secured employment with the airline DELAG as an engineer. I have to admit that I was involved in the London air raids during the Great War, but back then Germany was my home and would have remained so were it not for the rise of the Nazi party and more importantly – to me at least – the wreck of the Hindenburg. It was obviously the end of the line for airships and as I recovered from my burns in New Jersey I decided it was time to move on. I left behind in Frankfurt Am Main my wife and son. I know that might seem callous, but after so many centuries I was used to leaving people and better to leave than watch them die.

The Hindenburg may have set back the development of the airship, but non inflammable gasses in the Twenty first century and an increased demand for leisure and luxury ballooning restarted development. However it was the demand for a low fuel cost air transport and the discovery of Zeppelinium on Beta One that really accelerated progress.



Newsletter Time Again


Now blogging must be put to simmer gently on a backburner. My writing focus for the next couple of weeks must be upon the editing of the second edition of the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society Newsletter.

What may readers expect this time? Hopefully there will be reports from the Society’s Officers (as yet zero received). There are TWO workshops, one on Steampunk goggle customisation from the Sky Captain, the other a fascinator by Ambika of Sundara Run. A review of what members have been up to over the quarter from Comic Con and acting as extras in July through to MCM in September via  another ‘Walking Workshop’. There will also be a report on the Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln. There are also articles from Karen McKay and Iain Cameron and we have been promised a page of Steampunk humour (no I don’t know what that means either!).
I have a GUESS leaflet signed by all the members of Steam Powered Giraffe to be given away as a prize along with a voucher to spend at our favorite Steampunk stall, but a prize for what? You will have to wait and see or, to put it another way, wait until I’ve set the competition!
I hope the newsletter will be released by the end of October before NaNoWriMo begins in November. So no time to chat, I’d better get on with it!