All right, enough melodrama. I thought maybe y'all would like a tiny taste of what I've been working on lately, when I haven't been busy with revisions or work or life or eating or sleeping (imagine how much writing i could get done if i trained myself not to need sleep. tempting...). Though it doesn't have a title yet, I've just been calling it "my aetherpunk". It ain't steampunk, it ain't historical, it's something in the middle. An alternate history with pseudo-scientific inventions based on—what else?—aether technology. I've almost got 30,000 words, and I'm hoping to add another 50,000 by the end of November.
Instead of a long, drawn-out explanation of the world and the "science", I'll just let the work do the talking. Enjoy!
A bead of sweat slips off Sela’s nose and down her shirt, into the dark shining well between her—
“Miles!” she snaps at me. “Time to go.”
Blinking, I curse myself out in my head as I sneak out of our hidey-hole and follow her to the front of the car. Cain’t believe I missed the signal. Pa woulda skinned me alive.
With a loud huff—at my dunce self, no doubt—Sela yanks open the door to the next car. In the tight space between cars the wind rushes past, spitting sand in our eyes. The train hums down the flat-plate track, which glows a sickly green color ‘til the connection is gone and the train has passed. The smell of Tahoe aether stings my nose. I oughta be used to it by now, but it’s strong enough to make me gag, so close to the fumes coming off the track.
Sela, braver’n me by buckets, stretches one of her skinny arms toward the car coupler. I grab her belt so’s she won’t slip, and lean back toward the car. Dunno what I’d do if somethin’ happened to her. First, her pa would kill me, and then my pa would burn whatever was left to ashes. Which would be fine by me. Not sure I like the idea of a world without Sela in it.
“Give us some more slack, Miles,” she calls back to me. “I can’t reach it.”
Silently, I grab the door-handle and stretch a little farther. Cain’t see her face, just the orderly rows of brown scalp that show between her neat black braids.
After what feels like ages, she pops back up next to me. “Time to jump,” she says.
This is the part what always chills my blood winter-cold. The train’s movin’ close to forty-five meters a second, fast enough to break a man’s back if he jumped off the side. But me and Sela, we ain’t regular men. All right, Sela ain’t a man at all, and she ain’t a true sorcerer neither, but she can use aether tools just as good as me. Sometimes better.
She hooks her leather harness to mine and we both grab our buffer rods. As if we’re one person, we twist the rods so the little symbols on the side light up and then we jump. Sela used to have to pull me, but not no more. As our feet leave the metal platform between the cars, a thin blue bubble of Coyote Canyon aether forms ‘round our bodies so I barely feel the ground beneath my feet when we go bouncing away from the train. The engine and the soldier car scream away from the rest of the train cars where Sela uncoupled them.
The left-behind cars slowly sink instead of hovering over the track of metal plates, the way trains usually speed across the flats the Trans slices through, like a pair of monstrous silver snakes. Without the engine to activate the aether worked into the plates, the train cars are as immobile as any mountain, and near as heavy. Sela grins at me. We switch off the buffer and she grabs my hand and we go running toward the back of the train. All the hot hours hiding out beneath a trunk in the luggage car were worth it. We’ll be eating high on the hog tonight to celebrate, and the Staters will be eating crow.
Pa’s already brought the dual-engine up behind the last car. The dual-e can haul cars from either end, but the Staters’s engines can only attach cars at the rear. Pa and the others was following us the whole way from Salt Lake City, only just far enough behind to stay unseen. Once he deactivates the aether field, the train sinks to the level of the other cars. This is where we gotta move fast, and get control of the cars before the soldiers what remain onboard do. If the Staters reckon what happened soon enough to deploy the troopers in the soldier car, we might be in trouble. But it looks like that train’s still speeding off toward Carson City and the mines at the end of the world.
Sela and I hop onto the dual-e just as it starts to rise up again, aether fumes wafting in the paltry wind that only blows the salty dust around, never cooling us off.