Forlorn Rendezvous

goat island

Goat Island (now Yerba Buena Island) in San Francisco Bay.

“A child’s eyes light up when they see their Grandpa.” –Catherine Pulsifer

“Where is she? Are she and Leah well? Don’t just sit there man!” Isaiah was as frantic as Keisha had ever seen him during the short time they’d known each other. At the first mention of his Mom’s name, Josiah rushed over to his Dad. The teenager from another universe stood and waited.

The lighthouse keeper was rapidly writing on a pad and then put the pencil down. “She’s ceased transmitting. A moment, Isaiah.” Joachim began tapping at the telegraph key. Grandpa had taught Keisha Morse Code when she was little since one of the projects they’d worked on was building a working signaling system, but Rosenstein’s finger was moving too fast for her to understand the message. Then he stopped and listened.

“Sorry. I think she was cut off in the middle of her transmission. She’s not answering now.”

Isaiah put his arm around his son and took a deep breath. “Can you read out what you got?”

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Farallon Sojourn

farallon island lighthouse

A historic photo of the lighthouse on Southeast Farallon Island, with mule – found at Wikipedia

“My grandfather was a man, when he talked about freedom, his attitude was really interesting. His view was that you had obligations or you had responsibilities, and when you fulfilled those obligations or responsibilities, that then gave you the liberty to do other things.” –Clarence Thomas

It was a communications console. That’s what Isaiah had intended to be Keisha’s “post” on board the Dakuwaqa. In spite of its ornate decorations and clockwork design, it functioned a lot like the wireless device on the Delight, which let her hear the engineer’s voice for the first time after she arrived in what the teen had started to call “Steamworld.”

“You know, when you explain it, the panels don’t seem that hard to work. I mean, radio is radio, and this section to the left also lets me run the acoustical equipment so I can hear nearby ships, whales, and stuff.”

“Exactly, Miss Davis.”

While Josiah guided the submarine past the Golden Gate and out into the Pacific Ocean, Isaiah gave Keisha a crash course in submersible operations, with a focus on radio and sound. Although, either could also be accessed from the pilot’s and engineer’s consoles, the wireless panel let her have much finer control over the inputs. If need be, she could also send messages, but she had no idea who she’d call, since they were supposed to be hiding out.

“Pa, I’d say we were at the halfway point now. You might want to take a look up topside to make sure we haven’t drifted.”

“Thank you, Josiah. I believe my navigational skills are up to snuff, but your suggestion is valid. Miss Davis, don your headgear and listen for the approach of any vessels. Though it is still night, we don’t want the optiscope lens to be seen by chance.”

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Prelude to Piracy

golden gate bridge

A black-and-white photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge – circa 1930s

“My grandfather was a wonderful role model. Through him I got to know the gentle side of men.” –Sarah Long

Keisha’s body jerked as she woke up. She remembered falling, but everything was dark and still around her. No, not everything.

“Miss Davis, you’re going to be fine. You just had a frightful dream, is all.”

“Josiah? Where am I?”

“Your cabin, Ma’am.”

“How did I get here? I was on the Bridge.”

“Pa found you passed out at the Helm.”

“Passed out? I thought…” She faintly remembered being chased by someone in a diver’s suit. She must have fallen asleep again.

“You’re not to blame,” the child replied as if he could read her mind. “There was a fault in the air return for the Control Room. You weren’t getting enough air.”

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Below the Waves

shark

Photo: Discovery Channel

A grandpa is someone you never outgrow your need for… –Anonymous

Isaiah Covington stared death in the face, and her eyes were cold, glass buttons peering out of two tons of a nearly mindless eating machine. Sweat beaded on his face as she drew closer, her gaping mouth revealing grim rows of pointed, serrated teeth designed to tear and rend flesh.

He thought of the torch on his belt, but the heavy clumsiness of his undersea suit’s gloves made it uncertain if he could bring it to bear and ignite it in time to use as a weapon.

He looked into death’s eyes while muttering a prayer to the God of Daniel, Peter, and Paul, and death stared back.

With less than two meters between them, the Great White Shark suddenly veered off to her left and vanished into the murky waters of the Bay.

“Keep praying, children. She may come back.”

“Pa?”

Isaiah thought his son’s voice sounded meek and uncertain in his ears, but Lord knows he had good reason for it.

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Menace in the Dark

shark

Found at WickedHorror.com

“More and more, when I single out the person who inspired me most, I go back to my grandfather.” –James Earl Jones

At first, Keisha thought she was blind, but then she remembered the lights went out. She was alive, but she wasn’t sure Isaiah or Josiah were. “Hello?”

“Shhh.”

It was definitely Isaiah. He didn’t want her to make any noise. They had been depth charged. Whoever was on the surface of the Bay wanted them dead. She remembered the sound of the propellers of their ships coming through the speakers. It probably went both ways. What if someone were searching for them by listening? That’s why she couldn’t talk.

She listened more carefully and could hear both Isaiah and Josiah breathing. It was amazing how much your ears could pick up when there wasn’t a lot of noise to get in the way. The spray of the damaged pipes was gone, but she could hear dripping from above. Then she realized she was wet. Actually, her shirt was soaked. It was the first pipe that had started leaking. What happened to the others?

Her head hurt, like she’d hit it against something. Had she been unconscious? It would explain a lot. The last thing she remembered was it felt like the sub hit something, but they had still been traveling at full speed. Now they weren’t moving at all.

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From Wind to Steam

hot air balloon

© Susan Spaulding

Lee Guzman had been operating his small, hot air balloon business for five years, but he always got the same question.

“You sure this thing is safe?”

“You bet, Craig. As easy as riding a bicycle.”

The latest pair to grace his gondola were Craig and Shawn Tucker, brothers who ran a parcel delivery service in nearby Macon.

They’d been steadily climbing under partly cloudy skies, but now the balloon was ascending into a gray mist that hadn’t been there a minute ago.

“What the hell?” They all grabbed the rigging as the five-mile-an-hour breeze from the northwest suddenly turned into a hurricane.

“Beats me, but hang on!” It was all Lee could say. This wasn’t just unpredictable weather, it was crazy impossible. Amazingly, the balloon held together, that is, until they all heard the rip.

“We’re going down!”

The wind quit abruptly, and they descended below the mist.

“Hey, ain’t that the Golden Gate Bridge?

It was, but nowhere near their San Francisco. Steamships were crossing from the City to Marin County, and the air was full of dirigibles and biplanes. It wasn’t the past, it was something else, like another world, and a new adventure had just begun.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction for May 6, 2018 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Since I’ve had steampunk on my mind lately, and since the prompt is an image of a hot air balloon, I decided to send these three guys on a little trip.

In the 1961 film adaptation to Jules Verne’s novel “Mysterious Island,” escapees from a Confederate prisoner of war camp in 1865 steal an observation balloon in a storm, and are taken over the Pacific Ocean, eventually to be deposited on a “mysterious island.”

I used that basic premise, setting the initial scene near the former Andersonville Prison (later known as Camp Sumter) near modern day Andersonville, Georgia, and then had the “strange gray cloud” be a gateway, not to a mysterious island or the past, but an alternate “steampunk” universe, like the one I’ve been crafting in this series.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Submersible Disaster

nautilus

Modeling of the submarine “Nautilus” from the 1954 film “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” –Abraham Lincoln

“Ma’am, move!”

Nine-year-old Josiah Covington pushed hard against Keisha’s stomach as she was trying to shield him from a barrage of bullets. Her back was to the door and she expected to be dead in the next few seconds, but before she felt the anticipated pain of being shot, the boy’s other hand yanked hard on the elevator’s control lever, moving it from “Ground” to “Bottom.”

Then something hit her from behind, a staggering, off-balance Isaiah Covington, throwing her forward into the boy and causing all three to fall to the floor, as a staccato of pings and bangs hit the closing elevator doors.

Three of the glowing energy bullets pierced the car’s doors and hit the back wall just over their heads as they began their rapid descent.

“Hold on!” Isaiah’s warning was well-advised but ill-timed as none of them were in a position to grab onto the retraining bars above them. All they could do was flounder about on the floor, coughing in the fog of steam and aerosol lubricant released by the elevator’s rapid operation. Then an abrupt deceleration, which Keisha remembered from the last time she’d ridden in this death trap, and a sudden, jarring stop at the bottom of the shaft.

“No time to lose.” The elder Covington was up and off of the irritated, embarrassed fifteen-year-old girl, and out the door.

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Desperate Attack

steampunk cosplay

Alexander Schlesier – steampunker.de – This work is free and may be used by anyone for any purpose.

“A child needs a grandparent, anybody’s grandparent, to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world.” –Charles and Ann Morse

The elevator was rocketing downward so fast, Keisha thought she was going into free fall and grabbed the ornate wood and ivory safety bars that were attached halfway up the walls. Forcing panic and bile back down, she looked for a control panel, but all she saw was a handle attached to a semi-circular brass plate, with the words “Top” at the right side, “Ground” at the mid-point, and “Bottom” at the left. The handle was locked straight up at “Ground.”

Just before she thought she was going to die, the elevator quickly decelerated, slamming the girl on her bottom next to the duffel. Landing with an “Oof,” she decided she wasn’t going to escape this experience until she was covered with bruises.

The whining sounds of spinning gears slowed and the doors opened with a hiss, letting the thin clouds of steam and machine oil escape. A figure stepped through the mist. A woman’s hand emerged and beckoned, and Keisha quipped, “Go with you if I want to live?”

“Are you Keisha? Where’s my husband?”

“If you’re Isaiah’s wife, he said to hide me from the police.”

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Police Pursuit

steampunk city

Steampunk wallpaper – Found at 1zoom.me

Some people don’t believe in heroes, but they haven’t met my Grandpa. –Anonymous

Keisha sat frozen in the pilot’s seat of the airship Graceful Delight as the image of her Grandpa, forty years younger than the day he died, stood like a living apparition just ten feet in front of her.

“Did you hear me? Let me take the controls, quickly!”

“Oh, yeah.” She stood up just as the Delight pitched to port and she sailed to the floor.

“Grab the netting and hang on.” Isaiah Covington immediately took the chair she had just vacated and began to work the controls. “I apologize for my lack of chivalry and social grace, but I’m afraid saving our lives must take precedence.”

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Aerial Encounter

airship

© Vadim Voitekhovitch – Found at Deviant Art

“Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” –Alex Haley

Keisha guided, or so she thought, the ornately decorated airship “Graceful Delight” out of the gigantic hanger set upon a massive floating derrick just off of Alameda. However she was about to discover there’s a difference between reading and memorizing instructions, and real practical experience. She had never driven a car before, let alone piloted a fifteen-meter-long gondola suspended under a sixty-meter dirigible. When the propellers begin to drive the ship forward, they had spun up to a preset speed, dictating the Delight’s velocity, and whatever gas was inside the thin, metallic envelope above her head, was providing buoyancy and lift.

The Delight was accelerating upward and Keisha didn’t know how to stop it.

Frantically, she racked her memory for how to control the ship.

“Let’s see, these levers control engine speed, but how do I keep from going up?”

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