And so we continue to work on the æthermails that accumulated during my absence with another piece of literature, this time on the light-hearted side of things:
Guns and Guano by Andrew Knighton
Dirk Dynamo is enjoying a life of learning with the gentlemen adventurers of the Epiphany Club. Joining an expedition to find the Great Library of Alexandria, Dirk finds himself on the island of Hakon, where colonial life is not what it seems. With monsters in the jungle, conspiracies in the mansion and ninjas dogging his trail, can Dirk and his friends find the first clue to the Library before they meet a deadly fate?
This is the short of it, now for the long, i.e. an excerpt, the prologue:
Prologue: Paris in the Spring
Dirk Dynamo sat outside a small café, watching the people of Paris go by. He smiled as a waitress appeared. Real coffee had been a rare treat during the Civil War and now he made the most of it whenever he could. Just because he still wore his old blue trousers didn’t mean he had to live like a soldier.
“Thank you, ma’am.” He leaned over the back of the chair into his leather jacket, pulling out a couple of coins. The waitress’s eyes widened as she saw the revolver hanging there, a hefty custom-made Gravemaker. It was worth more than all Dirk’s well worn clothes put together, and carried more menace than his bulging muscles.
“Can I get you anything else, monsieur?” She smiled at Dirk and tucked back her hair as he handed her the cash. Dirk knew enough to know that the smile was for his rugged looks, not just the money. But he also knew it was rude to make a move on a waitress while she was working.
“No thank you, ma’am,” he said.
The gangling figure of Sir Timothy Blaze-Simms emerged from the crowd, clutching a briefcase to his chest. He peered around him through wire-rimmed spectacles, unruly blond curls threatening to block his view. Dirk leaned back a little, hand inching towards his holster.
“What ho, Dynamo!” Blaze-Simms exclaimed as he sank into a wrought-iron seat.
“Tim,” Dirk said with a nod. “You oversleep?”
“I’m afraid so,” Blaze-Simms replied in a crisp upper-English accent. “Am I terribly late?”
“You’re buttoned up wrong.”
The Englishman looked down. None of his tailcoat’s buttons were through the right holes.
“I say, Dirk, good spot.” He set about re-dressing himself. “Was I followed?”
Dirk nodded again, still watching the crowd. Four men had appeared discreetly around the street, all wearing grey suits so precisely nondescript as to become conspicuous in this most vibrant city.
“Are they still following me?”
“Have been all night.” Dirk recognised one from the lobby of the hotel, another from the restaurant where they’d eaten. They were almost certainly the shadowy figures he’d lost on the way back from the museum. And then there were the four he’d tracked back to their room this morning.
“So what now?” Blaze-Simms nibbled at the corner of a croissant, dropping flakes of pastry down himself.
“Now they pounce.”
“What makes you say that?”
“They change shifts every four hours. Right about now these folks are realising that the next lot ain’t coming.”
As if to punctuate the point, a shot rang out, raising dust from the ground by Dirk’s boot. The morning crowd scattered, revealing the four men now carrying revolvers.
“The Dane says hello,” one of the men called out. “And that you won’t be leaving Paris with those blueprints.”
“Oh bother.” Blaze-Simms put down his half-eaten croissant.
“You got the Gauss Generator?” Dirk murmured.
Blaze-Simms flung his case onto the table and flipped the lid. There was a high-pitched hum followed a split second later by the sharp retort of gunshots. Suddenly the table was surrounded by bullets, hanging motionless in a crackling halo of light. Dirk stared at them, impressed.
“Better act quickly,” Blaze-Simms said. “I don’t know how long it can-”
Dirk was already vaulting the table, kicking the first gunman with both feet. As they crashed to the ground he rolled and rose into the next guy, sending him flying with an uppercut.
A hail of cutlery flew as if by magic from the café, tinkling like a wind-chime factory in a hurricane. It halted abruptly as it hit the glowing web around Blaze-Simms, who gulped as smoke trickled from the case.
Dirk caught the second attacker’s gun as it fell, and swept a third man’s legs out with a low kick. Still turning, he flung the pistol into the face of the last gunman. There was a crunch and the man sank to the ground, blood spurting from the ruin of his nose.
A halo of metal hung in the air around the table, from butter knives to loose change to the thick disc of a manhole cover, all suspended in the glowing corona of the magnetic field. A steel bollard shook loose of its base and shot across the pavement trailing sparks. As it hit there was a flash, the aura disappeared and the case on the table burst into flames. There was a clatter of falling cutlery and the bollard hit the cobbles with a clang, making Blaze-Simms jump.
Dirk strolled back to the café, casually kicking one of the goons as he passed. He sat back down next to Blaze-Simms, who was beating out the fire with a copy of the Times.
“Mademoiselle?” Dirk said, waving over the nervous-looking waitress. There would be other agents watching, and he had the Epiphany Club’s reputation to protect. “More coffee please, and some water for the fire.”
About the author:
Andrew is a Yorkshire based freelance writer, responsible for writing many books in other people’s names. He’s had over forty stories published in his own name in places such as Daily Science Fiction and Wily Writers. His steampunk adventure series, The Epiphany Club, is out now in all ebook formats, and the first volume, Guns and Guano, is available for free from Amazon or Smashwords. You can find out more about his writing at www.andrewknighton.com and follow him on Twitter where he’s @gibbondemon .