Meet: Johnny and Araminta
Occupation: Clockwork Resistance
Genre: Steampunk, YA
Meanwhile, on another train...
in a future steampunk story...
by Mystery Robin
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Johnny and Araminta are part of the Clockwork Resistance, a small subset of the military that seeks to unify East and West England. The West has become a ghetto since they rejected the mechanical revolution and walled themselves off from the lower classes and all of their gadgetry. Johnny and Araminta have escaped, but not before her sister was taken by the flesh trade. In this scene they are seeking a brass punch card that will help them communicate with the members of the resistance in the West. It's their first hope of getting her back.
Johnny traded a travel voucher, with Wolfe's forged signature, for two tickets in a private car bound for Victoria Station. The steam train would take much longer than the pneumatic, but they couldn't risk being found out. Not when Lt. MacKenzie effectively ordered them to stay at the Arsenal. Not when Johnny had already tested that authority once. Not until he had the brass card in his hands. He figured success would buy him some grace.
They sat up in the car, looking at the trees rushing by the windows.
"Have you ever been on a steam train?" Johnny asked Araminta.
"Once," she replied, her eyes fixed on the blurred scenery. The light was on in the compartment, so Johnny could see her enormous grey eyes reflected back at him. Surely she couldn't see much of anything through the glass, but still she stared.
"When I was very young and mother took me to visit her family in Scotland. It's where Christabel and I hoped to go live..." Araminta's voice broke off. She fingered the velvet drapes on the window, heavy and brown like so much here. This was a nation obsessed with the color brown.
"We'll find her," Johnny said.
"She's out there somewhere," Araminta said, not with sorrow or pity, just matter-of-factly, and still staring blankly out the window. "She must wonder why I haven't come yet."
"No," Johnny shook his head. "That isn't what she's thinking. Not at all."
"No?" Her voice sounded hollow, but tinged with hope, just enough for Johnny to work with.
"No, she's laying her head on a pillow tonight - somewhere decent - and she's comforting herself with thoughts of her sister. She's thinking of how you used to braid her hair, and how you fed her and clothed her, and always told her that it would be alright. That life would get better.
She's thinking of that life in Scotland you told her about and imagining herself on some Shetland pony in a green field with food in her stomach and warm clothes. And she's thinking of how you always stood between her and the rest of the world. And you still are. Those memories and hopes are keeping her safe. Because she knows as surely as she knows her own name that you are most certainly coming for her."
Araminta took a deep breath that might have masked a sob, and clutched Johnny's arm. She let her chin drop to her chest and stared at the chocolate of her skirts. Then she raised her head up, her eyes dry but sparkling and said, "Let's make our plan."
Which was just what Johnny needed. He needed her alert and focused. He couldn't do this alone.
"MacKenzie told me that his mother warned him never to go to the wall."
"You think that's where we should start?"
"I think it's our best bet for a black market. It would make sense. If there is any commerce between the two sides, they'd need to be close to each other."
"And you think you'll find this card there?"
"I think we'll find people who know how to trade in stolen goods. And I think those people will talk for money."
"But we don't have any money," she said, catching her breath as Johnny reached into his pocket and pulled out a handfull of emeralds.
"Where did you get those!"
"Rupert's speciality is alchemy."
"He's quite good."
"So he's aware..."
"Of nothing. Only of my need for currency. I didn't want him involved."
"With those we could buy back Christabel herself."
"So let's find her."
At that moment they heard a knock on the door to their car. They waited, Johnny fearing they had been found out. That somehow word got through that the voucher was a fake. But it was just the porter. He opened the door carrying a tray of tea things. It was ingenious, really, because the tray and cups and pot and sugar and creamer and servant were all fitted together like a big mechanical jigsaw puzzle so nothing spilled and nothing broke.
He walked toward their seat and inclined his silver, expressionless face toward them. Then he lowered the tray and allowed them to take what they liked. Johnny took one teacup for himself and one for Christabel. He filled them each with the steaming black tea, then added one spoonful of sugar a piece and a dollop of cream.
Araminta put her hand on his and he added a bit more to hers. She smiled and he set the tea things back into their divets on the tray, then flipped the lever on the servant's wrist, just like back at the Arsenal. He retreated with his tray and left them in silence.
"It's a different world," Araminta said.
"And I love it."
Steam Train Scene by Mystery Robin
Excerpt from a novel length steampunk YA work in progress.
by Mystery Robin
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* image source Mystery Robin's site