Steemjammer: Through the Verltgaat

BOOK: Steemjammer: Through the Verltgaat
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Steemjammer: Through the Verltgaat
John Eubank
Steam World Press (2015)

Steemjammer

Through The Verltgaat

 

 

John Eubank

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 John Eubank

 

 

 

PREFACE Copyright © 2014 by John T. Eubank

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof in any form.

Cover art and illustrations © 2015 by Kyle Owens

A Steam World Press Book

Published by Steam World Press

 

 

Preface

 

Not long ago I realized that after years of screenwriting, I'd been treating my daughters and son like the proverbial shoemaker, who made his own children go barefoot. I'd never written a story for them. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was something I had to change. Picking our family's favorite genre, steampunk, I got to work creating characters inspired by my children, Ilona, Thomas, and Nancy.

The transition from screenplay to novel was not an easy one, but when I showed a few hundred pages of an early draft to Nancy, my youngest, she seemed to inhale it, reading it all in one afternoon. "Dad," she said excitedly, "you've got to finish it! I want to keep reading and reading!" Reinvigorated, I continued working on the project and finished a first draft.

Thomas read it and kept up with the novel through its various drafts, adding comments and making sure I kept the original draft's feel, which he liked. Ilona, who's been studying language arts in college and has a natural flair for language (much better than my own), agreed to edit it, and it was much improved. I want to thank my children for being my inspiration and for helping me finish this project. Without you, it wouldn't exist.

I also want to thank my wife, Ingrid, who kept up with all the drafts and pushed me to finish this, for all her love and support. Special thanks to my parents and Ingrid's mother, who have always been there for us when we needed them.

Steemjammer Through The Verltgaat is a work of love written for those nearest to my heart. A sequel, Steemjammer, The Deeper Truth, is already finished and up for sale, and it answers questions left open at the end of the first book. I hope you enjoy adventuring with Will, Angelica and Giselle Steemjammer as much as I have.

PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

 

The Dutch spoken in this story may seem intimidating at first glance, but it’s easy to pronounce. Unlike modern Dutch spoken in the Netherlands, the Dutch used in this story is pronounced by the same basic rules for English. Steemjammer, which would be pronounced “stame-yammer” in the Netherlands, is pronounced “steam-jammer” here. "Groes" is exactly like the English word "gross," with a long o sound. The letter w can be pronounced either with a w or v sound (there’s regional variation), and if the reader chooses to stick with the English system (w for w), that’s perfectly acceptable. The Dutch in this story has no silent e, so a word like "Tante" (aunt) is pronounced “Tan-tuh,” with a schwa e sound at the end. The letters ee make a long e sound like in “screen,” ae makes a long a sound like in “say,” and oo makes the same sound you hear in “broom” or “doom.” Single vowels are usually used like short vowels in English, and aa is a more exaggerated short a sound, like we hear in “ah” or “alm” (not like the a in “and”). Dutch is very close to English, anyway, so a lot of Dutch words will seem familiar.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

 

Special thanks to my friend, Todd Axworthy, who invented a science fiction themed board game involving vehicles and a heavy ball.  I enjoyed playing it immensely.  Todd was kind enough to let me adapt it for use in this series as Steemball.

 

Steemjammer is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

 

A Steam World Press Book

Copyright © 2014 by John Eubank

Cover art © 2014 by Kyle Owens

 

Eubank, John

Steemjammer: Through the Verltgaat / John Eubank

ASIN: B00REKMJ1C

ISBN-13: 978-0692369722 (Steam World Press)

ISBN-10: 0692369724

First Steam World Press Edition: January 2015

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015902042

Steam World Press, Woodland Hills, Ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter
1

 

UNSETTLING NEIGHBORS

 

 

“Look at that!” the woman said, scowling over a pair of reading glasses that perched precariously low on her long, hawk-like nose. “Do you see that plume of noxious black smoke?”

A month into her retirement, Waverly Norman had just moved into her aged mother’s house, and things were not going as planned. Having taught sixth grade English for 37 years, her life - her existence - had revolved around strict schedules and lesson plans. Lectures, tests, homework, and essays: her class had been a paragon of order. What she saw across the street assaulted her structured world view in almost every way imaginable.

“I don’t believe this,” she muttered, crossing the front yard to get a better view.

Tall and broad-shouldered, she cut a striking figure. With black hair that she’d steadfastly permed over many years into a virtual helmet, she resembled an NFL linebacker more than a grade-school teacher. Having an iron will to match, she’d made grown men cry and had terrorized generations of school children. Former students swore her dark, penetrating eyes could fire laser beams.

“Ron?” she called. “Do you see it?”

Her white-haired husband, a semi-retired architect (“He’s been mostly retired,” she was known to quip, “since 1980.”), merrily scattered chemical pellets on the grass from a rusty coffee can. He’d noticed some dandelions and was engaged, as he imagined it, in a form of “airplane-less crop dusting.”

“Ronald?” she raised her voice. “Ronald Norman?”

He continued flicking his wrist, sending bursts of Weed-n-Feed here and there. Was he really, she wondered, making airplane noises? She decided he must have been trying to hum a Tony Bennett song.

“Seaman Third Class Ronald Norman!” she barked.

“What, dear?” he said, jumping a bit and seeming to return from someplace far away.

“Did you hear me?”

“No. Bad tinnitus today, like the bells of Notre Dame are in my head. Ding dong, ding dong.”

“You should see a specialist.”

“What ‘special fish?’”

“An ear doctor. An otolaryngologist.”

“‘Ode to Larry the Geologist?’ Don’t you mean Larry the Cable Guy?”

“You’re impossible!”

Her glare was fierce enough to peel paint off a wall. It was his luck that he’d turned his head and gone cheerfully back to weed eradication.

He’d understood her perfectly, but he’d recently invented a selective hearing loss, blaming it on ear damage he’d received firing ack-ack guns in the Navy. In truth he’d served as a typing clerk and had never fired an ack-ack gun in his life. His hearing was fine. His only loss was tolerance of her long-winded tirades.

“If you could block out the hunchback’s bells for a moment,” she grumbled, her face glowing red like a boiler about to explode, “those horrible people across the street are going to burn down their house. Not that this would be any great tragedy, but they already pollute enough!

“Steamfoozle. Is that their ridiculous name? Steamfunkel? We’re overrun with foreigners, I tell you ….”

 

***

 

Though Ron tuned out his wife, she did have an audience. A somewhat small, wiry man in a shiny green coat with epaulets and tails had been silently creeping through the vacant lot next door. When her booming voice caught his attention, he snuck closer, trying to absorb every word.

Reaching the white picket fence, he hid himself in a shrub which, through no fault of its own, was called a fothergilla bush. He shoved back his brass-framed goggles and lifted the flaps of his leather flying cap so he could better hear. Given the power of the woman’s voice, it proved unnecessary.

 

***

 

“How can anyone stand this?” Waverly droned, uncaring if Ron heard her or not. “Smoke billowing day and night from that enormous chimney. What a rambling, ramshackle dilapidation – and they have the nerve to call it a house! It’s a cross between some bad modern art sculpture and a train wreck, if you ask me. Is that really an
igloo
slapped on the side? It’s a disaster!”

Ron nodded to keep the peace, but in truth, he’d been stealing glances at the peculiar house all morning. The first thing that had caught his eye was an enormous gear leaning against the wall. Did it serve some purpose, he wondered, or were they storing it there?

The building itself drew his attention. With a mixture of Crusader fortress and Victorian styles, it had a crenellated stone watch tower, a beautifully carved double front door, and a brass cannon sticking out a gun port on the second floor. Rather than an eyesore, he found it intriguing. Every angle invoked some sense of old Europe, of history.

He agreed with his wife that the rusty iron smokestack was odd. It rose from the center of the house about fifty feet in the air, but at least, he thought, its emissions were too high to bother anyone. He found the igloo particularly intriguing. How did they keep it from melting? He wanted to meet the residents and explore the place. Fear of Waverly, however, held him back.

“They could mow their lawn,” he offered, worried that if he didn’t say something critical, she might suspect him. Their grass did seem high, but he could tell by his wife’s expression that he’d somehow triggered her.

“Lawn?” she exclaimed. “What lawn?”

She pointed forcefully across the street, as if he might somehow have forgotten the subject of her ire.

“Don’t you ever use your eyes?” she continued. “Those are
crops
! What kind of people grow
wheat
in their front yard?

“And garden gnomes, dozens of them. If there’s anything I despise, it’s those idiotic idols to bad taste. One of them moves – battery powered junk. Almost gave me a heart attack.

“They keep livestock. Think of the piles of manure. No electricity or running water, and they have
children
in there. Imagine the filth.

“Something has to be done. One day Mother’s house will be ours. Ron, don’t you have any desire to protect your future property? Ron?”

Dazed, he wondered how she could get out all those words without seeming to breathe. He then found himself distracted by a threat to the flower beds. Aiming a spray can at the pansies, he shot jet streams of aphid poison.

“Pew pew pew,” he said, mimicking the noise that ray guns made in science fiction movies. “Pew pew pew.”

“Good lord!” she huffed and stormed inside, slamming the front door so hard that it cracked.

The gunshot-like noise left Ron’s ears ringing in earnest. As he shook his head, a blur of motion caught his eye. In the lot next door, he saw a short man pop out of a bush and vanish behind a hawthorn tree.

Ron blinked. Leather flying cap, thin moustache, and a shiny green coat, the apparition reminded him of The Beatles in brightly colored marching band uniforms.

“Sergeant Pepper,” he muttered in shock. Had he really just seen a leprechaun? Waverly had warned him about the poisonous chemicals he used. Did they cause hallucinations?

Dropping the can, he hurried inside. Herbal tea, he considered, remembering a box sitting in his mother-in-law’s pantry. People said the stuff cleansed the body of toxins. He resolved to guzzle a gallon of the stuff.

 

***

 

For a moment the green-clad man feared he’d been discovered and froze, pressing himself against a tree trunk. When the door slammed shut a second time, he bolted through the empty lot into thick woods.

“Not to worry,” he whispered. “Safe now.”

Having lived alone for years, he’d been talking to himself more and more. He worried for his sanity. So close, he thought, to finally escaping this waking nightmare, yet the slightest mistake could bring disaster.

He’d seen this house from the air some time ago but had been too afraid to investigate until now. The large smokestack and igloo should have been proof enough, but the sizeable woman’s attempt to recall their name had confirmed it. At last he knew their hiding place.

A wave of anxiety shook his body. How he wished he had more self-control. He’d already taken bold steps, he reminded himself, but this – this would mean facing
him
! The mere thought made his knees quiver.

“No need to rush,” he whispered, scurrying like a rat through the trees. “Take your time. Do it right.”

His panic subsided. He’d wait and watch. The moment would present itself, and then, he’d strike.

BOOK: Steemjammer: Through the Verltgaat
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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