A sharp-witted girl enlists the aid of a staunch astronomer as they work together traveling across different worlds. Adventure and mystery ensue after she learns there's more to her universe than she ever imagined
Dot launched herself over a fallen tree as she ran through the red moonlit forest. A sharp chill that whipped at her face signified she was close to the river. The gap she established between the bounty hunters tightened as they leapt from branch to branch after their prey, leaves from the ancient wood rustling through their coal black feathers. The young Earthling burst from the tree line and into a clearing when she heard the sound of rushing water. A little closer and her pursuers would spring the trap she set less than an hour ago. One hunter catapulted from the dense greenery and hurled a spiral-like weapon at her, but was blocked with the help of a crystalline shield that materialized on her arm. The tremendous force of the projectile was still enough to knock her to the ground where she slid across the dew-covered grass.
<Just a few more yards...> she thought as she scrambled to her feet. But a large taloned leg kicked her back onto the damp jungle floor.
“Give us the Preatencola, child, and we will harm you no further.” the creature said from behind a full-face breathing apparatus. Dot squirmed and reached for the shield that lay just out of her reach.
“How about I give you a knuckle sandwich instead, you jerkhole," she retorted.
She screamed as an immense pain jolted up her arm and over her body as the bounty hunter drove a twisted blade through the back of her hand.
A massive plume of steam billowed into the air as The Mechanical Typhoon rolled into Stryfe Memorial Station. The train let out a hiss and lurched to a halt when the scale-like airbrakes bled the last bits of momentum from its serpentine body. Maintainers in clean jumpsuits scurried around to carry out inspections and prepare the modern marvel for another 300 kilometer-per-hour journey.
Like the mechano-men in the factories and cloudships of the sky, The Mechanical Typhoon was a technological crown jewel that dominated the rails with its incredible speed. One could tour the Golden Gate Tunnel on the West Coast and the Statue of Independence on the East in under 14 hours. But its grandiose elegance truly made it famous: fine lines of chrome wove elegant patterns across the aerodynamic engine, and its carriage cars were decorated with a rich silver paint accented with golden ornamentation. Procuring a ride on The Mechanical Typhoon often meant you were a member of high society or had a promising career in the techneering field that created such marvels.
Dot was neither of the two.
The fledgling chef reflected on the life she would leave behind as she waited on the station platform. A naturally sedulous woman, she found her first job at the age of eight working for a bakery in the town of Westmill. Her uncle's tales of her mother being a top-notch cook spurred Dot to seek a culinary job that allowed an adolescent girl to muck about in their kitchen. Rejected time after time for “lack of experience”, she came across a pair of aging bakers who took her in, even if only because they wanted a surrogate grandchild to spoil. She attended a mid-level culinary academy during her teen years where she balanced gastronomy courses, high school, and the position of Head Patisserie in the elderly couple’s bakery with ease. Graduating early allowed her to focus on her culinary skills where she caught the eye and tastebuds of every instructor at the academy. Each of these master chefs groomed Dot as a star pupil and cultivated her unique style of cooking. After another early graduation, she decided to move from her sleepy hometown to the bustling city of Doyen, aspiring to gain employment and fame in one of its many prestigious restaurants.
A hidden system of cogs and gears whirled as the door to carriage Number Eight slid open. A uniformed conductor smiled as he stepped from the train with a handheld device. Careful not to hit him with the brim of her oversized sunhat, Dot presented the gray haired man a small metallic disk. He slid it into his machine and watched as it verified her ticket. After a few rapid clicking sounds, he removed the disc and welcomed the petite woman in a pleasant Southern drawl. “Would you like me to take your luggage, little miss?”
Dot smiled back. “Non merci, I just have these few things.” shrugging the tan suitcases grasped in both hands and a long tube slung across her back. The conductor bowed as she stepped inside train’s luxurious cabin.
“Incryobale- J'avais raison de faire des folies sur cette chose.” she said with a grin. The Mechanical Typhoon more than lived up to its reputation in extravagance; handcrafted gas lamps adorned each row, the finest leathers decorated each seat, gold trim accented each window, and a magnificent stained glass ceiling ran down the middle of the entire carriage. Dot lifted her suitcases to keep them from being scratched by the ornate armrests. The tube on her back, however, was carelessly allowed to slam against every seat she passed.
<I still can’t believe my uncle made me take this useless thing… > she thought to herself, devising a plan to “accidentally” leave it in an overhead compartment. Her eyes scanned the embroidered numbering on each chair until she located one that read “13A”; a window seat. She slid the unwieldy cylinder off her shoulder and onto the floor, then stuffed her suitcases into the luggage compartment above. She grimaced and figured the cumbersome tube needed to sit with her as it was too long to... “forget”... in the overhead storage. So the exasperated woman rested it at her feet.
<…damn thing probably doesn’t even work.>
Dot removed her large straw sunhat and placed it on her lap which allowed the long, pink-and-teal hair that hid beneath to cascade down her shoulders. “And that’s enough of that nonsense.” She knew she would beat the impending rainstorm on the way to the station, but her uncle's partner insisted she bring protection from the elements. “The four pillars of a polished image are grace, elegance, strength, and confidence” he'd say, often putting an emphasis on the word “elegance”. Dot snickered as she mocked the awkwardly charming quote.
She pulled a pair of large headphones from around her neck and placed them over her ears. They were custom painted to match her eyes; two stars dipped in a bright, golden amber. She quietly sighed and waited for her peaceful journey to a new life.
Pepper walked towards the elderly conductor, having just missed the torrential downpour that beat against the station's enormous glass ceiling. Standing at six-foot-two, he wore a long tan trenchcoat that shed water droplets with each step. A pair of half-rimmed glasses framed his eyes; two pools of dark emerald that contrasted his reddish brown skin common in Native tribes. A slim-fitted turtleneck and trim cut slacks made the newly-christened astronomer uncomfortable, even though he often overdressed during the past four years of university. Two spindly arms carried an assortment of luggage: two suitcases, a handmade satchel received as a graduation gift from his parents, and a large black tube that protected his beloved telescope. Strapped to his back was another cylinder, but this one was much thinner and painted with the elaborate filigree of his school's coat-of-arms. Inside was his epee, a sword he used to climb the ranks of the university's fencing team. Although it was a job offer that lured him to Doyen, he was excited to find a training academy to maintain his skills in the largest city on the East Coast.
Pepper pushed his glasses against the bridge of his nose and fished a disc from his pocket to give to the conductor. A junior employee rushed over and spirited away the scientist's precious cargo to an unseen freight car, making him wonder if he should have at least kept his telescope with him in the passenger car. The conductor finished scanning the ticket and welcomed the traveler aboard. “Sir, I say sir, it looks like you’re in seat 13B… that’ll be an aisle seat. Enjoy your trip now.”