Thursday, 6 November 2014

Short story- A shipload of trouble.

When I got his communique, it was clear that Tesla was having one of his episodes. Not those ones where he would talk to birds for hours. No, the other kind. It appeared to be one of those occasions where he had created and/or was fixating on something potentially devastating. I knew he had been recently seen in the company of a man by the name of Gonzales. A man whose reputation was spotted with accusations of illicit goods smuggling.

I braced myself as I rode steam cart toward Limehouse. Knowing Tesla, I would soon be faced with something truly diabolical. My destination was a small, discrete dock -- the perfect place for vices of our modern age to gain entry, and also a place where one can go about business without a multitude of questions being asked . I arrived and dismounted the cart, grateful for the shroud of heavy fog which blotted my observable presence from unsavory sorts. My concern for my colleague drove me forth at a quick pace. I noticed a bright light abroad a ship, which was moored along side the dock. It’s beacon light was too bright to be any ordinary lamp, and the vessel itself were too humble to bear the large spot lamps, which were commonly powered by steam-tomic generators.

“Gabriel, you came.” Tesla’s heavily accented voice found me before I viewed him by sight. When I looked up at the ship’s deck the jittery excitement in his restless hands as drew out his pocket watch, and the manner in which he barely glanced at it before quickly slipping it away, worried me further. He jerkily waved me up to meet him upon the deck of the schooner.

“Of course. I feared you were about to do something undoubtedly silly,” I replied as I climbed the gangplank

Tesla puffed out his chest and then sighed heavily, “Despite your lack of faith in me, Gabriel, I am glad for your presence. We’re almost ready.” He gestured to a pair of feet poking out from behind some crates.

“This is my benefactor Senor Gonzales, he’s sleeping at the moment. I daresay he will wake up soon.”

I leaned over to garner a better look, bottle clasped in hand, the long haired, spanish sailor snorted and then continued his slumber. I quirked an eyebrow, looking back to Tesla. “He is aware of your presence here tonight?” I inquired cautiously.

“I’m sure he remembered.” Tesla replied, stalking toward that fierce light which blazed sorely from the cabin.I followed his tall, lean form inside, blinking against the glare.

When my stung vision cleared, I soon realized this was not one of Tesla's average experiments. The machinations of this thing were completely beyond me.

“What is this?”

A great metal engine lined the back wall and protruding outward from it was a metal sphere, rolling slowly, suspended in air, hovering between two rods. I saw markings upon it, boarder outlines and shipping routes. It was a globe, a map?

“It’s a drive zat creates negative mass aft allowing us to move faster than light to a pre-set location… if it works.” He added.

I suddenly felt queasy.

“ Don’t worry, I have done the calculations. I am sure they will be right.”

“How did you conceive of this?”

“Tesla looked at me,  “really? I believe that would be akin to attempting to explain strudel making to a monkey”

I scrunched my face into a frown, “I mean, what possessed you?”

“Nothing phantasmagorical possessed me that I know of… Although if you really have to know-- the breakthrough came because of Ishtar.”

He paused his dark eyes taking on a wistful look.“She has a higher resonance than the rest of creation. She’s impossible really, but she was the key to the mathematics.”

Yes she is impossible I thought. Impossibly beautiful.

“I’m glad you have found a muse Nikola, she’s a fine woman.”

“It’s not like that. She’s a whore…”

My eyebrows leapt up. “Of Babylon,” he continued.

“You mean the Whore of Babylon,”

“Yus, that’s what I said.”

“I suggest you don’t call her that. I believe she would take offense and destroy us all, Nikola,” I suggested gently, but he wasn’t listening, instead he was winding a crank vigorously, totally lost in his enthusiasm for power and machinery. Woman didn’t even seem to register on Tesla’s internal RAdio Detection And Ranging-- very few human beings did.

However for some reason I did. He quite often disparaged my academic background and specialties, yet it was always I, he called upon. I often wondered if it was because he trusted my judgment when it came to his potentially destructive inventions, or if he just enjoyed rubbing my long nose in his genius.

“So you intend to move this sailing ship, faster than light to…where exactly?”

Tesla grumbled incomprehensibly for a moment and that was enough to tell me that he didn’t really know.

I was appalled.

“So you were going to preform this experiment with no idea where you were going to end up?”

Tesla’s clean-shaven cheek twitched, he stooped to check his machine, the action was mere pretense; a tactic to avoid further conversation.

“Thank God I’m here to put a stop to this madness,” I muttered, “Syfus will pluck you like a pigeon if you don’t happen to roast yourself first.”

Tesla looked up, “If this works, we can get anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. I expect he will whole-heartedly approve.”

“Can you assure me there is no risk in this?” I demanded.

Tesla’s only response was a drawn out and nervous hum.

“Just as I thought. I forbid you. That’s what you want isn’t it, that’s why you brought me down here, to save you from yourself.”

Tesla dark eyes met mine, He looked pale and exhausted, as if all his energy had been going to his mind alone and his body were being slowly starved. “Lets get back, look at this tomorrow, with the others, find a way to test it that doesn’t involve you going God knows where.”

“You make a lot of sense Gabriel.” He relented, his voice sounding bone-achingly weary.

I reached over and rested a hand on his shoulder.

Then our moment of brotherly solidarity was shattered by a drunken oaf named Gonzales.

“Lets get this show on the road, Indian.” The long haired, swaggering captain of the vessel announced as he his dragged reluctant feet into the cabin and reached out for the device.

“I’m actually Serbian, and we have decided to delay… no, no don’t touch that.”

“It was this lever wasn’t it.” The man slurred, his grimy hand took hold of the red handle.

Dear God no!

We both panicked and collided with the man in effort to stop him, but our motion only sought to hasten the inevitable, pushing his hand down firmly upon the lever.

A high pitched whine shook the air. We all collapsed to the ground. I writhed, putting my hands to my ears. For a moment the pressure seemed enough to cause my brain to burst from my skull. Then the light faded and dark reigned. I felt a sense of weightlessness but that quickly changed  when I fell toward the ceiling. It became clear though that the ceiling was falling too. Even as I landed I knew the boat was still dropping, taking us with it. Then there was a shattering crack and crash as we hit. Debris flew in through exploding windows: leaves, splinters and branches. The boat sluggishly ceased its descent and the crash of our arrival muted to a lethargic groan of wood under strain.

I felt the sensation of swaying and scrambled on my belly toward the window least shrouded by invading conifer.

The ground was a mere 10 feet away and I sighed in relief. The remains of the mast had lodged in the earth below. Tesla stood up and looked at the now upside down sphere which continued its lazy turning as if nothing untoward had happened. “It looks like we are in a forest, in Germany if this is right.” He said.

“How to we get home?” I groused, nudging the now blissfully passed out smuggler who had caused this misfortune, with my shoe, none too gently.

“May I suggest we take the scenic route home.” Tesla replied, “ and take our time.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

Tesla managed a weak smile, “But Gabriel, at least we know it works.”

© Copyright 2014 Ami L Hart 

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