The AGGIE ran at a low altitude over the ocean to avoid the coastal radar sweeps. After only a few hours Captain Landis announced that they were about to set down and dock. Confused Night went to the starboard rail and peered over the side. To his astonishment he saw that the AGGIE had come upon what looked to him to be a huge oil rig.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Landis announced. “If you need to pick up anything we’ll only be docked for about an hour. So make it quick.”
“What is that?” Night asked. The red headed Charlie stepped up beside him.
“It’s a hidden Underground station. Small and low enough not to be detected by radar or come up on casual satellite sweeps.”
“It’s where I’ll be getting off.” Night RUNNER announced from behind them.
“You’re not coming with us to the North Pole?” Night asked a little surprised.
“Hell no.” Runner snorted. “I’ve done my part for the Multi-verse. Got to get back to Penn and make sure my…family is ok.” He looked gravely at Night.
“We thank you for all that you have done.” The Administrator said. “Without your aid we would not have lasted very long.”
“True enough” Runner nodded then looked back to Night. “If you succeed at the Pole, make your way back to Penn and I’ll try and help you to your next local. Look…” He reached into his jacket and unsnapped the leather holster from his shoulder. Then he handed it and the strange gun to his other worldly counterpart.
“The ammo is small,” he said showing Night the spare clips. “But you can’t replace them; their homemade. But they are reusable so…if you can, try and recover them.”
Night took the gun. “Really? Hey? You don’t want my stake do you? Cause I’ve only got the ONE now.” He said loud enough for Sister of the Moon to hear.
Runner laughed. “No. You keep that. You’re gonna need it probably. Besides, I’ve got a spare gun at home.”
“Cool. Thanks.” Night removed his jacket and strapped the holster on.
“Don’t let Landis con you. You’re charter is to get you to the Wilkes-Booth Sea Dock but he’s gonna wait there for four days while you get to the Dig Site and do your thing. Four days then he brings you back.” Runner said.
“We will be fine.” The Administrator assured him.
“Yea we’re good.” Night said.
“Really?” Runner asked. “You put that on backwards.” He pointed to the gun and holster.
“That’s…how we do it where I’m from.”
Charlie Baltimore could not risk going back to the U.S. mainland so soon so she would be crossing the Atlantic with the AGGIE. This did not bother Night Manager in the least as he accompanied her onto the floating rig to purchase some supplies for the trip.
Money wasn’t a problem as Night Runner did them the favor of leaving the government account disc (credit card!) with instructions to empty the account as soon as possible. They did just that with a bit of relish.
“How’s this?” Charlie was modeling a long leather skirt with a crimson sleeveless top.
“Nice!” Night smiled. This Charlie Baltimore has as much of an edge to her as the one back in his own universe and just as hot even without the signature long red locks.
“Think I’ll get these too” she said donning a pair of oversized aviator goggles.
“I think you should both get a pair. I suspect we will be spending a lot of our time on the deck and subject to the wind and weather” the Administrator nodded. He was just across the lane of the small open air market looking over a large selection of weapons.
“What about you?” Charlie asked.
“I’ve no need of protective face wear.”
“Due to lack of face.” Night whispered to Charlie who snorted.
“I heard that.”
“That’s what makes it funny.” Night walked over and joined the Administrator in looking over the weapons. “These look…”
“Odd? Yes…I’ve noticed. The technologies used to create these weapons seems to be greatly varied.” He pointed out one thick barreled handgun.
“See there? That’s a gas powered gun with a brass and wood frame. And that there? That looks like a Pulse Whip; used to disable electrical equipment.”
“Don’t think we’ll be grabbing either of those” Night said.
“Yes but we will have to find better means of defending ourselves. My Stun Charge has proven to be severely limited when compared to our adventure and your stake…has overachieved but I doubt it will continue to do so.”
“What about those?” Baltimore pointed out a rack of Colt semi-auto revolvers.
“I don’t usually do well with guns.” Night admitted.
“We both may have to learn.” The Administrator said. “If we encounter this ‘Sir Hershey’ we will need much more effective means of combat.”
They trio walked about the rig, making purchases for the rest of their limited time. Night and Charlie picked up more clothes; some winter gear for Night because of his eventual destination and a big assortment of traveling clothes for Charlie to help her blend in during her own journey. The Administrator picked up an N-Pad; a small computer touch screen that the clerk told him had been modified so that it could not be tracked.
One of the AGGIEs crew found them and told them they were about to shove off so they headed back to the ship with their purchases. As they crossed over the gangway to the ship Night made sure to toss the spent account disc into the ocean.
“So…how about dinner tonight? You can break in some of your new gear.” Night asked Charlie.
She smiled back at him flirtatiously. “Yea, okay. Come get me at dinner.” And she made her way to her own quarters.
The Administrator looked up from the N-Pad. “What are you doing?”
“The Charlie Baltimore from our universe is married I believe, with children.”
“Yea? So? That’s a whole universe away.”
“But if my ‘Compression’ theory is correct…and it is…then the Charlie of this universe has children at the very least. Besides…I don’t think it is wise for you to make…personel connections…in another universe. Definitely not while we both have so much more danger to face.”
“It’s just dinner. I didn’t have a chance with Charlie in our universe so I doubt I get anywhere here.”
“You do not look like you doubt it.”
“Well…it’s gonna be a long trip and…I’m the hot guy from a whole other universe.”
“There are some MORAL questions about hooking up with someone’s alternate self…”
“Hey!” Night turned and pointed a finger into the Administrators orb. “What happens in an Alternate Universe STAYS in an Alternate Universe!”
The AGGIE sped over the ocean water at a pace much faster than Night would have thought possible. The big sails were still down so the big props were doing all the work powered by the rumbling steam engine.
“First there were the Nazi Lightning attacks; Bolt Guns and Electric bombs.” Landis explained. “Then the Brits caught on and there were Tazer Bolos and Electric Dagger missiles. Finally some good young slave boy figured out electron pulse wave reactions and Uncle Sam found himself with EMPs and EMFs.”
“EMFs?” Night asked. They were both standing along the wide deck that wrapped around the starboard dirigible. The sun had gone down but the clear night sky was filled with bright stars and an even brighter full moon.
“Electro Magnetic Fields. Set one up and nothing electronic works…all gets pretty much fried. Reduce whole communities to states worse than the stone-age. Turn slave quarters into death traps. Hold whole peoples down.”
“So you guys went to non-electric tech?”
“Had to. Rumor is the same kid that developed the E-bombs figured out the Steam-tech too. Kinda a redemption thing. But I never believed that. Steam-tech’s been out long before the E-bombs… just never really worked until relatively recently.”
“This whole ship…everything…none of it’s electric?”
“Of course we have some electric tech. But none is essential to running this boat at optimum. That way we can go where they don’t expect us to go.”
“The other Night made it sound like they don’t have Steam-tech?”
“Oh…they got it. But they haven’t been able to scale it down. Their Steam powered vehicles are massive. Take the Lexington…don’t know how they manage to keep that damn thing in the air but they do.”
“Lexington?” the question came from behind them.
Both Night and Captain Landis turned to see Charlie exiting her room. She was dressed again in the red top with the skirt but she added high heeled pirate boots and a long, buttoned petty coat topped off with the goggles she had bought now strapped to a jaunty cap.
“Nice.” Night complimented. “Very Victorian.”
“Yes,” Landis agreed. “You should blend in well in London.”
“London?” Night asked.
“Yep. Can’t go back to the states.” Charlie told him. “I keep forgetting that you’re not from around…from this universe. Brits still have slaves but all are indentured by contract, not race. I’ll set up there for a while then head back after their eyes aren’t watching so hard.”
“Cool. They’re serving dinner in the other bubble.” Night told.
“The Portside Dirge.” Landis corrected him.
“Right. I’ve set us up on the deck.”
“What about your friends?” Charlie asked.
“The Administrators still has his nose in that I-pa…I mean N-pad. Said to say hi. And Valjeanne and the Wolf Sisters are having problems with the full moon. They’ve locked themselves up in one of the cargo holds. It’s just you and me.”
Charlie smirked at him. “Convenient.”
“So what?” Night asked back. He, the Administrator and the Sisters were taking a tour of the engine room. Its size was impressive as it took up all three decks of the AGGIE PRIDE.
The ships engineer was a tall lean man named Young. Apparently he was not the ships usual engineer but was taking another tour with the AGGIEs crew because he designed the ship itself. He was giving the ships guests the privilege of a long winded explanation of how the ships systems functioned.
“…of the heat given off by burning the Black wood we can produce power on the order of…”
“So what happened on your date?” the Administrator asked in a low voice. As low as those thousands and thousands of echoing voices could go that is.
“A gentleman never tells.” Night whispered back
“Ha!” Sister of the Moon guffawed over her shoulder.
“Hey! Turn around and pay attention.” Night hissed.
“…can channel all that power to the big props for speed, maneuvering and lift if…”
“Why are you even interested?” Night asked the Administrator.
“I’m not” he answered.
“…heat is transferred via the piping, asbestos pipes to keep the ship as light as possible, to the, now twin, dirigible pods where…”
“So what happened?”
Night muffled a laugh. “We had a nice dinner.”
“Then why does her room reek of your scent?” Sister of the Moon asked, again over her shoulder.”
“…more power is stored in the C.P.U., which stands for Compressed…”
“You were in her room?”
Night glared at the smirking Valjeanne. “We strolled the starboard deck for a bit but it got really cold. So we…went back to her room.”
“…left over to power the small lamps you see about the ship. Tiny gas pistons sit just behind the bulb and run twin magnets which power the lights. Of course those are backed up by oil lamps I’ve designed to run with bits of black wood…”
“And then? Look, even if something had happened I wouldn’t tell.” Night stated flatly.
“Why not?” Sister of the Moon asked playfully. “Maybe you struck out with her in both universes.”
“Hey! How did you…” Night turned on the Administrator.
“Don’t look at me. You know they’ve got good ears.”
“Well fine. But there’s nothing to tell.” Night huffed.
“I’ve a good nose as well and that’s not what it’s telling me.” Sister of the Moon said.
“…outstrip all other dirigibles of course but also many of the more conventional…”
“I’m not saying!” Night hissed. “If there’s one thing I know about women…and there’s only ONE thing I know…and that’s that whatever happens between you and a woman, you keep that ish to yourself.”
“So you are keeping something to yourself?”
“Do you remember what happened in grade school to the kid that told when a girl kissed him?” Night pressed.
“You’re stalling” said the Administrator.
“What’s ‘grade’ school’?” asked Valjeanne.
“…also stored in the cannons. That gives them a very low range but when operating in an EMF it is comparable to any…”
“The other little girls blacklisted him. That kid never got kissed again until he left for HIGH school. And what happened to the kid who told that he got to first base in high school?”
“You’re showing your age now. Kids are getting WAY past ‘First base’ in high school these days” the Administrator quipped.
“You both went to school?” Sister of the Moon asked.
“That kid didn’t get any after that unless he tried with girls at another school or waited until college. And you think I’m gonna kiss and tell and get ‘Blacklisted’ by a whole Alternate Universe? Shiii…”
“So you all were kissing?” the Administrator asked with a laugh.
“WHO was kissing?” Charlie suddenly appeared behind them. The whole room got quiet just as suddenly.
“Heard her coming a full minute ago.” Sister of the Moon whispered to Night.
The air turned cold after another few days travel. Night resisted asking the crew how long till they arrived any more after getting snapped at for it by the large ships Bosun. Cabin fever kept them from staying in their rooms so the group found themselves learning a bit of what it takes to run a Steam powered Airship. From the Black Wood powered engine to the gas compressed Gatling guns. Soon the only thing they had not seen work were the huge rolled up blue sails. They were told that with the winds the way they were at this low altitude the sails would actually be dangerous. Only as soon as they were out of range of radar patrols they would ascend and catch the jet stream to power them across the Atlantic.
But Charlie Baltimore would not be going on that leg of the trip. Another day passed and a regular sailing ship was sighted on the horizon. A few hours after the sun set the two ships were close enough to dock and Charlie and a few others transferred from the AGGIE to the Aquila.
“Well it’s been interesting” she said to Night and the others seeing her off.
“Good luck to you.” The Administrator told her. “It has been inspirational to meet so many involved in the resistance.”
She gave the Administrator an odd smile. “You know you’re the first overseer I’ve ever met that I didn’t kill.”
“HA!” Night almost fell over laughing.
Charlie hugged each of the Sisters. They had become close during the long journey. Finally she turned to Night.
“Maybe I’ll look you up in London after I’m done saving your universe” he said.
“Doubt it. You’ll probably head home after, if you actually manage not to die in the process. Not real good odds in you making it back alive” she told him. “Why do you think I actually gave you some?”
And she kissed him long and hard. Then with a wink to the others, she turned and stepped onto the gangplank headed for the Aguila.
“Well,” Night looked about the small group standing there, barely containing his smile. “On to the North Pole!”
Next to come in FALLOUT:…TRAITORVILLE