A Steampunk Sports Story
March 2, 2012
This is still a work in progress, but this is a good place to kind of throw it up here and see if anyone enjoys it. Two of my very good friends are inspiration for characters in the story and I’m kind of fishing around for the last character still. So, let me know what you think.
In other news, I’m reading the Hunger Games right now and enjoying it. The writing at the beginning is a little stilted but it works. I could use some test readers to go through Notes From the Abyss, in their entirety, if anyone’s interested. Also, totally looking for any kind of work if it’s writing oriented, if anyone happens to know of any! I’m working on a short story for an anthology contest right now but, y’know, it’s slow going when it’s supposed to be fantasy and I normally write science fiction. I’m hoping to have stuff to offer on the ebook market soon but I still lack covers and I’m still waiting on responses to some of it.
Anyway, here’s the story. Hope you enjoy! And if you do, share it with a friend!
Esmer woke, stretched, and dressed as Esmer did every day. Esmer donned the reinforced leather riding pants, the reinforced jerkin, the steel-shod boots, the leather and silk waistcoat, the brown leather jacket, and, of course, Esmer’s silver watch and burgundy top hat. Then Esmer grabbed the shock-cane and heavy revolver of Esmer’s position and joined Calista, herself dressed and ready as well. Today the two of them would be building a team for the Game, recruiting players for the Tournament of Gilded Chains – the first sequence in the Game’s tourney system.
The two were a striking sight on the landing platform of The Argo, the city-ship that the two had lived on for the past two years. Esmer was all whip-like muscle stretched over a ghostly pale six and a half foot frame, long and lean like a reed topped with red hair straight as razors, and carefully appointed with black cane, monocle, and a suit that a professional soldier would envy in combat. Calista was much shorter, perhaps a foot shorter, and wearing a combination of chain, reinforced leather brigandine armor, and a working-woman’s dress of blue crushed velvet and green cotton to bring out her rich complexion. A smallsword swung on Calista’s hip while her Device, a short scepter of gold inlaid with ruby, was attached to a heavy leather and steel bracer on her right arm. They stood together surveying the crowd and fighting the wind whipping across the wood and canvas platform that made up their home.
The platform itself hung off of The Argo, a city-ship that hung above the clouds. The ship is a massive airship, a combination of wide-blade fans and heavy, gas-filled balloons keeping the city flying above the clouds. Everyone here wore some sort of coat or frock against the constant wind and the persistent chill, going from the large central platform of The Argo itself, an ancient airship kept afloat by self-repairing machines, and the many Wings built of shelterwood and canvas from The Far Below. All in all, the flying city was five or six acres in size, a claptrap combination of ancient technology and tenuous light as air buildings. It also happened to be the home of the Central Management Committee for the Purpose of Organizing and Executing the League of Bohemian War. It was there that the pair were headed today, both to check the new roster of teams and register their own. So far, though, the pair had yet to come up with a name worthy of their rise to stardom.
They hopped up onto the boardwalk together and, arm in arm, wound down the path from their home toward the center of the flying city made of shelterwood. They walked across the ballasts and hinges that attached the various wings toward the central cluster of brick buildings and copper engines pumping the drive shafts that spun the city’s rotor-blades. They dodged other commuters making their way to and from the various wings, the upper and lower apartments, as well as the various maintenance offices attached to the superstructure of the craft. Without constant attention the whole city might drop out of the sky.
Their walk wound around massive bundles of cables and winches, down along the wind-whipped tunnels and masses of brass piping, into the heart of the city – the massive freshwater fountain and the home of the five state buildings, including the home of the Bohemian War committee. Outside stood hundreds of new entrants, some already formed into teams and others clearly looking for teams. Hulking men and women in powered armor and carrying everything from large clubs to huge brass-clad cannons were clearly looking for Guardian positions, while smaller and sleeker people carrying varieties of traps and weapons were looking for either Rapscallion or Hunter positions on new teams. Standing apart form most were the Gentleman players, people (men, women, and everything in between – the name is a holdover from a less enlightened time) who played the key defensive role midfield between the Prize and the Fortress, and Commissars, players who lead the teams as tactical elements and carried unique Devices that gave teams advantages in combat. Sometimes these devices changed The Rules, or changed Judgements, sometimes provided environmental benefits such as halting time.
Commonly, it is a Gentleman or a Commissar that actually forms a team and does most of its strategy planning and promotion, and in this way Esmer and Calista were no different, though is not always the case. One of the best teams in the league, The Paisley Punishers, were lead by Bryce Van Cathress who played Rapscallion for his team. In the last three years, the Punishers have consistently placed in the top three teams and were champions of the league last year. They were known for having an unorthodox style of having their Gentleman carry their flag, as well as for Bryce’s tactical leadership from the back of the field while Doris Garthe, their Commissar, was in front using her Escape Device (which let her move one player without the flag back to their base once per round) to help defend their Gentleman. They were also known for their bright fuchsia paisley patterned suits that included coats with tails and tall, slightly bent top hats. The one thing they were not known for, in any way, was subtlety.
Before they could register their team they had to build it. Luckily, common practice was to find the best the best team members in the morning before registration began and all of the unattached Players were showing off their skills and talents, vying for a place on a new team. Especially a team lead by a competent tactician. Esmer and Calista thought they may have arrived too late for good team members to still be available, given what they saw around the fountain the courtyard when they entered the heart of the city. Most people were already haggling with a team representative of some sort, and it appeared that many of the sponsored teams had sent solicitors to the square early in the morning to get the best members possible. Standing off in a corner, though, and enjoying street food of some variety was a couple of women who seemed to be exactly what the two needed.
Leaning against a wall in loose shorts and a light tunic was the collegiate league’s best Guardian from the last ten years. Emily Von Trappe had lead her team in the last season she played to victory over hundreds of other schools with their own rosters of teams. It was during the last game, though, that the opposing Gentleman dropped her into a machine press. While she’s received replacement legs and a replacement arm since then, using the latest in automaton technology and connected to her brain by some of the best surgery in history, she hasn’t played since then. The fact that she was there with a player card on her arm at all was something to be impressed by. She wasn’t in her armor, though, so most recruiters were overlooking her. Next to her was her wife, Ann Persephonie Alexandra Von Trappe, a loose cannon Rapscallion that had been banned from the league for two years after a rigging circle had been pinned on her by the last Commissar she worked with. Since then, it appears, she’s settled down and found a partner to take into the game with her. While Calista couldn’t see her face, it’s hard to miss Ann in a crowd – she wears a floor length black and silver striped cloak (with a large pair of crossed guns on the back) and a two and a half foot wide magenta hat (topped with a yellow band and three large peacock feathers). She was, as always, ostentatious, though that’s part of her technique. Underneath the cloak was two automatic pistols and enough regulation impact ammunition to fill the needs for every team in the league. At least, if Dear Ann wasn’t playing.
Without wasting any time, Esmer and Calista forced their way through the crowd to the two women. Before either could say anything, Ann immediately started hopping up and down and turned to Emily, “A good team! Did you see Calista last year in the collegiate league? She’s simply fantastic. Brilliant tactical thinker.” Emily simply nodded and looked the two up and down slowly. Flustered, Calista stammered something about needing team members before Esmer smoothly interrupted her with, “What my dear Commissar is trying to ask you lovely ladies here is if, perchance, you are not currently attached to a competing team if you would consider playing our Guardian and Rapscallion. If so we would be ever so delighted.” Emily finished the roll and sausage she had been eating and dusted her hands after throwing the refuse away, then nodded to Ann. Ann grinned from beneath her hat and stuck a hand out to Esmer and Calista. “It appears you have two more members on your team. Glad to be working with professionals!” Calista vigorously shook her hand and grinned while Esmer turned slowly and looked back to the press of the crowd. “Now,” she said under her breath, “To find a Hunter.”