I don't have an actual post written for today, as I still seem to be unable to write anything original. However, I was editing an old excerpt of mine for something and I discovered that I like rather like it. Quite a bit, actually. So I thought I would post it to share with all of you.
It's a scene from an untitled steampunk novel I was working on a while back. The main character, Nikki, has just been rescued from a fire and is resting up while this scene takes place. It's the introduction scene to the crew of the airship she is now aboard, the Meridian Skies (as you could probably guess by the title of this post).
So, without further ado, my scene (which I very much hope you enjoy!):
“How is she?” Horatio Locke, cabin boy of the Meridian Skies, asked from his seat on the floor. He looked up as the door to the airship’s main room opened, addressing Philomena McLoughlan as she entered. The room was the crew’s common meeting area and was well equipped with several easy chairs. While the official rules stated that seating was first come, first serve, the unofficial stated that seniority ruled and higher up crew members got the chairs while the lessers got the floor.
“The poor girl’s hurting,” the woman said with a shake of her head as she dropped into her chair. The strap of her aviator’s cap, which hang loose and unbuckled, slapped into the side of her face. As ship’s navigator she felt the need to wear her goggles and cap at all times. “She’s going to need a lot of loving the next few weeks. She just lost everything and our news isn’t exactly going to sweeten the pot.”
Jess Roycannon, ship’s engineer, looked up from the small device he had been fiddling with. He tapped his screwdriver against his left leg while he talked; the clanking of metal against metal muffled by the fabric of his pants. “She still doesn’t know then? You didn’t tell her?”
Philomena rolled her brown eyes. “When would you have suggested I bring it up? Before the emotional breakdown or after she threw up?”
“She threw up?” Ratio- as the cabin boy was commonly called- wrinkled up his nose in disgust.
Jess grinned at him, a lopsided grin that transformed his face. “Yeah, she just barely missed getting it on Philomena too.”
The woman shot him a glare that made him grateful the room was spacious enough for him to be on the other side of the room from her; she might be a woman, but Philomena McLoughlan packed a mean wallop and she did not shy away from using it any and every time she deemed necessary. And, it would seem she deemed it necessary more often than not.
“You be nice, Jess Roycannon,” the woman snapped. “If that were you lying in there you wouldn’t take kindly to anyone making jokes about it, now would you?”
The young man shrugged as he turned his attention once more to unscrewing the backing off his project. “I can’t rightly say as I would care one way or another.”
“Would someone care to enlighten me what bearing Mister Roycannon’s preferences have on the matter at hand?” Mister Wilburn, the ship’s first mate, inquired. No one on the Meridian Skies knew the man’s first name. Not that it mattered; they would not have used it even if they did know. His very air seemed to demand the respect the title of mister implied.
Everyone fell silent at his words and the man nodded once in agreement with their actions. “I see. So then, shall we commence with the meeting of what is to be done about Miss Love?”
“I don’t know what there is to meet about,” Jess put in without looking up from his gadget. If he had not been talking, one would easily think all his attention was focused on the thing, the way he looked at it. “Why can’t we just leave her where she is? She’s safe and she can get plenty of rest. Do we really need to tell her anything?”
“Why wouldn’t we tell her?” Ratio asked, his brow wrinkled in confusion.
Jess offered a one-shouldered shrug, pausing in his work, but tapping his screwdriver against his leg as he replied, the soft clicking as it tapped his leg emitting through the room. “Because she’s a stranger and we don’t know if we can trust her. I’m all for protecting her, but I say we gotta protect ourselves as well.”
“What a thing to say!” Philomena exclaimed. “You take that back right now, you hear? That poor girl has a right to know. How would you like being locked up in a room in a strange place and having no one tell you anything about where you were or what you were doing there? Men. Honestly.”
“I would greatly appreciate it if you did not include me in that generalization,” Mister Wilburn put in. “Especially in light of the fact that I am inclined to agree with you, Miss McLoughlan. Miss Love is entitled to an explanation. We would be remiss in our duties to keep it from her, chiefly since the keeping will most certainly only give her cause to worry and will do nothing to aid in the swiftness of the hoped for recovery.”
There was a moment of silence as everyone processed what the man’s words meant in plain English. Then Jess, still tapping his screwdriver, spoke up.
“Well, the captain had a reason for keeping everything from her, didn’t he? I mean, are you sure it’s right for us to tell her what he didn’t? Shouldn’t we respect him and wait for his say so before we tell her anything?”
“And how would you suggest we go about asking him?” Mister Wilburn said. “Perhaps one of us could get ourselves arrested and locked in the cell next to his? Or, perhaps a better course of action-”
Jess let out a huff. “I know we can’t ask him and that’s my point. We shouldn’t go making a judgment call when he’s not around. Not after him keeping it a secret all these years. That’s not fair to him.”
“What about what’s fair for Miss Love?” Ratio asked, looking up at the ship’s engineer with large, earnest eyes.
Without missing a beat- both with the screwdriver and the conversation- the young man replied, “Well, I guess the question is do our loyalties lie with her or with the captain?”
“Do us a favor and stop that infernal tapping a second,” Philomena commanded.
Jess complied, moving his hand a few inches from his leg so that it bounced between his fingers in midair and did not make a sound.
“Much better, now we can actually hear ourselves think.” She took a deep breath and everyone braced themselves for a longwinded Philomena speech. “This isn’t a question of loyalties. Every one of you here knows where my loyalties lie. I will serve the captain with my dying breath and even after, should he find some service my corpse can do him. I know all of you would do the same. But, that doesn’t change the fact that we have a little girl lying in the other room who is hurt and scared and it’s up to us relieve that fear as best we can.
“Now, you said we oughtn’t to make a judgment call when captain wasn’t here and I can see where you’re coming from. And, in normal circumstances, I’d agree. But, these aren’t normal circumstances. And, I think the captain trusts us enough to make a call in his absence. Whatever his reasons for keeping the truth from his little girl, I think he’ll understand why we had to, as Ratio put it, do what was fair by her.”
Jess chomped down on the inside of his lip, his nostrils flaring and his gaze roaming angrily about the room, unable to settle on something, in a display of barely controlled display of ire. “Fine, you want to talk about fair for her? How would you all feel, being raised all nice and proper in a little country church, and then one day you woke up on board one of the most wanted pirate ships in the Seven Nations? And, what if these pirates- who insist that they aren’t really bad, they’re actually very nice people- what if they told you that not only were you aboard their ship because you lost everything you loved and held dear but also because you just so happened to be their beloved- and very much feared- captain’s daughter. You all say telling her will help her heal. Well, forgive me, but I disagree.”
He got to his feet, tucking his small device and screwdriver into his tool belt. Every gaze in the room was on him and no one spoke in the brief pause that ensued before he finished with, “But you can do whatever you want, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t like the way the engine’s sounding. I’m going to go look into it.”
He moved across the room and out the door into the passageway, the only noise that of the gears in his left leg which were in need of oiling. All eyes followed him as he left and the room was quiet for a long moment after he had gone.
Then Mister Wilburn said, “He has a valid point, one well worth consideration.”
Philomena shook her head, her goggle strap hitting her face once more. “Yeah, he does. I don’t know what we should do anymore.”
“Might I suggest we meet in the middle?” the first mate ventured. “A compromise. Miss Love deserves to know enough to ease her mind and aide in her recovery. But, there is no need for her to know every detail until such a time as we deem her well enough to handle all the facts. We might, for now, simply tell her that she is aboard a ship of which her father is the captain. And, should she ask, we might explain his absence as being unavoidably detained. For now, that is all she need know.”
“Mister Wilburn, you’re brilliant!” Philomena exclaimed. “I could kiss you right now.”
The man straightened his coat, a look of shock and horror gracing his features. “I assure you, Miss McLoughlan, public displays of affection are not necessary in the least.”
“Should we go somewhere a little more private then?” the woman asked with a lilt in her tone and a teasing smile on her lips.
“Miss McLoughlan!” the man exclaimed, looking utterly scandalized. “There is a child present!”
“Ratio, don’t you have something to do?” Philomena asked, nodding toward the door.
The boy grinned as he rose to his feet, tripping a little and nearly ending up back on the floor. “Yes, ma’am.”
Mister Wilburn rose as well, a wild look of frenzied panic replacing his usually controlled expression. “As do I, and I believe, Miss McLoughlan, do you.”
He left in somewhat of a hurry and the cabin boy shook his head, chuckling as he grinned at Philomena. “It’s not nice you doing that. You know how much it flusters him.”
The ship’s navigator grinned. “Why do you think I do it?”
So, that's that. Hope you all enjoyed it! Feel free to leave a comment telling me what you thought of it. And, don't forget to send in your questions for Friday. See you all then!