The velocipede bounced across the desert, it’s steam-driven pistons pounding and grinding the dirt it kicked up into dust. The whistle of pipes and hiss of gaskets, the chug of the motor and the squeaking chorus of springs ate up the distance between Ascenion and the Ithaca Rifling Camp.
It was the second loudest thing in the desert…
“…and really, the only reason anyone would have for even knowing this piece of country is on the map is because of us! You think anyone was out here before by choice?”
James Lovelace nodded, his face a scowl as it watched the desert pass by. It wasn’t the complaining his latest client, William Henry Baker, had begun in the town and continued for the three hours during the journey. It was the fact that he was right.
A fact that Lovelace was no less vocal in sharing.
“Well of course it’s a wretched and god-cursed land. Why else do you think we let you Yanks think you won it all those years back?”
“I tell you, the number of wars we’ve had with the you lot, the Mexicans and them damn savages at the start, all we had to do was let em all settle up in this shithole and if the heat didn’t kill them, the boredom would.”
“Don’t even get me started about your native troubles, Mr Baker. You really should take a leaf out of our book when it comes to Indians and force-breed the culture out of them.”
“And this damn heat!”
“Damn this heat!”
The car required the boiler to be restoked twice on the trip. William Henry Baker and James Lovelace didn’t stop once.
A successful and crime-free PayDay warranted celebration. Given that there were three Congressmen in Ascension to be concerned about, on top of the usual mayhem that occured, Marshals Jac Lightning, Wendel Caine and Hans Octavius Wilhem had felt they deserved a victory round or several.
Right now the Iron Marshal, seated aboard the Missouri Class Airship bound for Washington D.C., would have preferred at least a little bit of trouble to break up the rounds of vodka. Still, the opulent comforts, the peaceful travelling pace and the time it would take to get to the capital was the best remedy to take before Wilhem had to testify as to the actions of Chinese agents some days past.
It was, as he accepted another tall glass of iced water that he noticed they were climbing for the clouds with such a pace that they had barely left the borders of Ascension itself.
“Ve zeem to be taking more precautions zhis time,” he commented to Congressman Raymond Coppersmith, Representative from New York.
“More than you or anyone else would know,” Coppersmith smiled before taking a sip of his coffee. “My apologies for the deception, Marshal, but there has been a change of plans.”
The Iron Marshal turned his head away from the porthole as its view was obscured by the clouds. “Vhat iz zhe plan now?”
“We are in rendeavouz with another airship. One far less comfortable than our current transport but certainly the quicker for it. It’s our intention to dock and transfer you before continuing to the capital.
“I’m not to be testifying at Vashington zhen?” Wilhem frowned.
“Afraid you’ll have to visit the capital another time. I’ve arranged for a representative of the U.S. Marshal’s office to take your deposition with a view to reading it at the floor of the House of Commons.”
Wilhem’s head was still foggy from vodka but his stomach had a sinking feeling not at all the result of liquor.
“Vith whom shall I be meeting?” he asked.
“Warren Buckley,” Coppersmith replied.
Wilhem wasn’t the master of composure that Jac Lightning was but he felt, under the circumstances, he handled himself with poise.
“What is that syringe for?” Coppersmith asked, eyes wide as the Iron Marshal produced a needle, the length of his forearm and filled with something black and vile, from inside his tweed jacket.
“An emergency remedy,” the Iron Marshal gritted as he injected the contents with one deliberate plunge into his elbow. As wide as Coppersmith’s eyes got, they were pinpricks as Wilhem’s bulged to the point where they looked like they fall out of their sockets.
“Caffeine, distilled and refined,” Wilhem hissed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. His fist slammed on the mahoganny armrest with such force that Wendel Caine would have looked twice.
“That looks less than pleasant,” Coppersmith said as he placed his coffee, unfinished, on a table that was neatly removed by a watchful attendent.
“A better alternative zhen facing mine superior as I vhas.”
The airship climbed higher until a smaller dirigible was spied off the port side. An infant to the whale of an airship, it was swallowed under its shadow as ropes were shot out and a mid-air docking commenced.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2
Posted by Wordmobi