Assault on Red Rock Island

red rock island

Red Rock Island – San Francisco Bay – This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

“Young people need something stable to hang on to, a culture connection, a sense of their own past, a hope for their own future. Most of all, they need what grandparents can give them.” –Jay Kesler

“Still no sign of the warship, Isaiah. It’s been four hours.” Keisha was whispering in the hot, humid air of the Dakuwaqa’s control room. Both Isaiah and his son Josiah were at their stations, trying to remain as motionless as possible.

The man at the helm looked back at the chronometer over the engineering station. “Yes, Miss Davis. The danger is still present, should the Navy ship be playing the same silent waiting game as we, but we must risk moving our submersible. Son. Apply minimum power to the screws and I’ll raise us marginally off of the bottom.”

“Yes, Pa.” The nine-year-old expertly worked the knobs, wheels, and levers on the tin, brass, and wooden panel in front of him, and Keisha could detect the faint hum of the engines from the rear of the boat. At the same time, Isaiah pulled back on the helm gently, activating the Barsoonian charge which restored just a slight bit of buoyancy to their craft. Power was also increased to the atmospheric circulation system, refreshing the air aboard.

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The Upside of the Downside

airship

© Vadim Voitekhovitch – Found at Deviant Art

Three times before, eighteen-year-old Keisha Davis had been transported into an alternate universe. For her, only a year passed between each transition, but in the world where the Covington family had become her own, each leap put her twenty years into their future.

Standing inside her Grandpa’s workshop located at the edge of her small, northern California town, she stared into the vastness of the converted warehouse. The first time she saw it when she was fifteen, she didn’t understand why he had built such an eclectic collection of odd technologies, but now it was painfully clear. Each one was a doorway.

“Grandpa, I know why you did this to me. Cancer took you too soon or you discovered the other world too late. Either way, you were never able to take on the missions yourself. You knew I would be the only one who’d understand what you needed and what kind of help that strange alternate Earth needed. Now it’s like your ghost is telling me I can’t go back again, not to him anyway, not where and when he lives in Atomworld.”

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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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