A Bit O’ Steampunk Fiction

My friend sent out a quick drabble challenge to write about snow using a fandom you’ve never written about.  So here is the result.  My current fandom zeitgeist that I can’t believe I’ve never written about: Steampunk.

Steam Through Snow

By Christie Hudon

“What do you mean we can’t get through?” the shrill voice of a fur-wrapped lady sounded through the train car.

The passengers of engine 105 were becoming restless, their agitated state adding thin clouds of fog to the glass windowpanes.

Jett sighed and tapped her wrench against her skirt.  She watched from the back of the car as the conductor puffed up like a peacock.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it appears that there is a snowdrift blocking our path and at our present capacity, the train cannot attain a speed fast enough to simply plow through it without damage.  Our engineers are working to clear the drift as soon as possible.  In the meantime, the refreshment trolly will provide you all with some refreshing drinks to pass the time.”

The man didn’t stick around for questions or to hear the chorus of exasperated sighs and grunts.  Jett smirked-she didn’t blame him-and pulled her watch from her coat pocket.  Okay, things were getting serious.  If she didn’t make it into Lampton by 3:00, she would miss her chance.

Jett grabbed her rough carpet bag that served as purse, suitcase and home (for now) and stepped behind her seat to the lavatory.  Shimmying her skirt over her stockinged legs, she slipped on a pair of coarse wool breeches and tucked them into her laced black boots.  Jett pulled a pair of goggles over her eyes and slipped a cap over her hair.

Stepping back into the cabin aisle, Jett stowed the carpet bag under her seat and strode past listless passengers to the front of the car.  She pushed open the door slowly and crept out the slim crack, lest the whiny passengers complain of cold.  The crisp air stung Jett’s nostrils in a pleasing way, waking her up to the task at hand: get this train to the station soon because the ones running it sure weren’t doing anything to help.

Cautiously, Jett set her foot against the outer walkrail of the engine car.  She grabbed the iron bar above it and swung herself over the connectors.  Before she remembered not to look down, Jett gasped.  The engine car was parked at the start of a bridge, long struts holding it above the steel-colored water of a freezing river.  No wonder those engine boys weren’t plowing anything.

Jett breathed deeply, letting the cold sharpen the world around her as she gripped the rail.  Hand over hand, she slowly made her way along the side of the engine.  Every few moments, warm puffs of steam belched out from the stalled train, making her face thaw and chill as they fell down over her.  As she neared the open engine compartment, Jett heard exasperated yells from the crew.  Wrenches clanked and the door of the steam engine’s burning belly creaked as they fed it logs.

“What in blue blazes,” one of the crew members spotted Jett and dragged her into the engine car.  Heat swelled over her and Jett sighed.  She pulled her wrench out of her back pocket and pointed it at the gages that controlled the steam engine.

“I’m here to help you get this train going.” Jett tried to sound more confident than she felt.

“And just who are you,” a larger crew member pushed toward her, his denim overalls dusted with black soot that matched his face.

“You need to tweak the thermal pressure gage to do a blowout.  If you expel enough steam you should melt enough of the drift to get through,” Jett replied, gesturing to the front of the train.

The engineer who helped her aboard smiled.  “Why didn’t you think of that Adamson.  That’s brilliant.” He pulled his cap down and winked at Jett.    He held out a gloved hand dark with cinders.  “Matt Rook.  Care to help?”

“Juliet Smith, but my friends call me Jett.” She took his hand firmly and smiled.

“What are you, a new hire come up from the luggage car?” Adamson sneered.

“No, just a concerned passenger.”

Jett shrugged and stepped up to help Matt adjust the steam intake.

“Cripes, are you crazy?” Adamson said.

“Come now Mr. Adamson, would you really miss out on your only shot at getting into the engineers academy?  My test is at 3:30.  Now, bring me some wood.”