Nautilus Redux

My new Steampunk short story, Nautilus Redux, will be released by Xchyler Publishing in their new Steampunk anthology, Mechanized Masterpieces II, coming in Spring 2015. The anthology is Steampunk treatments of American literature classics.

Here are the fantastic authors and stories who will share the anthology:

Jay Barnson (Steampunking the work of Washington Irving)
Scott Taylor (Jack London)
Justin Guay (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
M. Irish Gardner (Emily Dickinson)
Megan Collins Oliphant (Emily Dickinson)
Author Jamie Potter (Edgar Allen Poe)
Diane Lee Jortner (O. Henry)
Neve Talbot (Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Bronte)
Megan Wiseman (Mary Mapes Dodge)
and me, Scott Tarbet, Steampunking Jules Verne and Herman Melville.

Watch this page for publication dates, and other news, as soon as it becomes available.

And now, just for my loyal readers, here is a sneak peek at:

 Nautilus Redux

Suddenly there was a flash from above. A spermwhalewoodcutheavy antique harpoon speared down through the water and buried itself in the sand directly between the heads of Conseil and the lobster.

I’d seen many such a harpoon as a lad, when I first went to sea. It was the old kind, the kind the Nantucket whalers used. Six feet long, two-thirds of its length made of stout American oak, as big around as a strong man’s wrist. The rest of the length was iron, thick as my thumb, and barbed at its tip with the razor-sharp, gleaming white tooth of a sperm whale.

There was a stout hemp rope bound along the harpoon’s length and knotted to an iron ring in its hilt. That rope was strong enough that when a strong man—and it took a strong man, I’ll tell you—hurled it deep into the flesh of a whale, and the whale would run, the rope would easily tow a whole whaleboat full of rowers and their heavy gear. The whale would sometimes run for miles, pulling the whalers along the surface. That became known around the world as the Nantucket sleigh ride.

Now one of those old harpoons had come within a whisker of skewering Conseil and nailing him to the sandy bottom.

Quickly the rope tightened, and the harpoon began to be pulled up from above. It dawned on me that whoever had cast that harpoon knew he had missed, and was likely to strike again.

I forgot all about the lobster and grabbed hold of the harpoon. Captain Nemo did the same, and with all our force and weight, we gave it a mighty heave.

We were rewarded with a splash directly above us. Our attacker was pulled from his footing on the rocks, and plunged headlong into the breakers above us.

All four of us jumped forward and grabbed his legs. The element of surprise had now gone over completely to our side: all of a sudden he was in the water, fighting for his life against what he had to figure was some unknown creature of the deep. But his struggles got him nowhere, since we had him outnumbered four to one, and we had our lead boots holding us to the bottom.

Ever since, I’ve thought how easily we could have just drowned him. But all of us—even the Captain, who you could call ruthless for attacking all those ships of war—automatically held our prisoner up so he could breathe. After all, he didn’t know he was attacking people. He was just after his dinner. So we just held him there, with his head above water, waiting for him to gather his wits and calm down.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that the leg that Captain Nemo and I had hold of was hard to the touch and gleaming white. It was polished whalebone. And it was bound to the stump of the man’s leg with very ship-shape leather straps, obviously crafted by a ship’s carpenter.

He finally figured it out, strange as it was: whatever had him wasn’t some monster. It was intelligent, human, and it wasn’t trying to hurt him. He stopped struggling.

With one hand Captain Nemo signaled to us, and together we all moved toward the shore. We pushed our prisoner up onto a rock, and one by one the rest of us climbed out of the water.

We must have been a strange sight in our underwater suits, the great brass helmets with their thick isinglass lenses, and our pneumatic spear guns. You can imagine how our prisoner stared and stared.

And we stared right back at him. He was not, as I thought before, some native fisherman. He was burned nut brown by the tropical sun, and his skin was old and wrinkled, as wrinkled as a sperm whale, but his eyes were gray and alert. What sparse hair remained on the sides of his head was as white as the driven snow, and hung dripping over his shoulders.

His beard reached at least to his waist, gnarled and twisted as roots of trees blown over, bleached white by time, sea, and sun. An ancient, puckered scar ran from his hair, down the side of his face and neck, and slanted across his chest. No, this man was no South Seas native. He was as Caucasian as the four of us.

He sat there on the edge of the rock, glaring a nation at us as we stood above him in our bulky suits. Captain Nemo seemed to realize that we must seem like sea monsters to the man—or something from another world altogether. He reached up and unlatched his helmet, and it released with a great whoosh of air. The Professor, Conseil, and I were not as used to the equipment, and it took us longer, but we finally got our helmets off.

We stared at our captive, and he stared right back at us. The Professor, always a man of words, was the first to speak.

Parlez-vous Francais?” he asked our captive hopefully. He received only a glare back.

Sprechen zie Deutsche?” asked Nemo. No answer.

My turn, I thought. “Do you speak English?” I tried.

“Aye,” answered the old man.

“Good!” I answered. “I am Ned Land, of Quebec.”

“I am Professor Pierre Aronnax, of Paris,” said the Professor. “And this is my manservant, Conseil.” Conseil gave a tiny bow.

“And I,” said the Captain, “am Nemo, Captain of the Nautilus.”

“Ahab,” grunted our prisoner. “Master of the Pequod.”

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