A Short story by Manelle Oliphant
Mastermind behind recent attacks on Dargee Harbor still at large!
“We’ve made advances,” says police captain Frederick Mumford. “After following an anonymous tip, we discovered an abandoned warehouse, where it seems our perpetrator built the machine. We found evidence it’s steam-powered and are looking into the matter.” Mr. Mumford goes on to urge our vigilance. We here at The Daily Dargee join him in saying; Be vigilant sirs. The lives of your wives and children are at stake!
Sarah Parrish frowned at the newspaper article. “‘Evidence it’s steam-powered?’ No other details? Gah!” She grabbed a book from the table next to her titled Steam Mechanics by Dr. Sorensen and opened to a marked page.
“Although steam machinery has come a long way in recent years, the usual tank and firebox create a problem of balance. How does one create a machine which can move about free of stabilizing structure or track and still keep upright? I have made great headway with this problem and hope to soon share my ideas with the scientific community.”
“Hmm, well somebody’s figured out that balance issue,” she murmured. “I wish I understood how they did it.”
Sarah jumped in her seat and looked up. The craggy, angular face of her chaperone glared down at her.
“Mrs. Roundy,” she whispered. “How was your -er- nap?”
Mrs. Roundy didn’t say a thing as she grabbed Sarah’s arm and started toward the exit.
“Wait.” Sarah scooped up her books.
Roundy grimaced at the pile but didn’t speak as she pulled Sarah out the door.
Once on the cool, sunny street Mrs. Roundy loosed her tongue. “Miss Parrish, It is one thing for a lady such as yourself to read those dratted scientific texts all the time, but a gentlemen’s newspaper! What were you thinking? And in the library’s gentleman’s section too. If anyone had seen you, the scandal!”
Sarah’s stomach squirmed. “I know I’m not supposed to be there, but I’ve been figuring out how the steam monster works.”
“Why? Do you think you can stop it by yourself?”
“Well no, but this book by Dr. Sorensen contains a lot of information about steam-powered machines, and I think-“
Mrs. Roundy cut her off. “-It’s a waste of time. No one will listen to you even if you could help.”
Sarah thought for a moment.”Maybe you’re right, but should I not at least try? This machine has hurt people. It has ruined their homes, and the police know nothing. I can’t just stand here”
Sarah stopped talking and looked around. The street was empty. “Where is everyone?”
The women peered up the street. An abandoned hackney carriage sat nearby, but there were no people.
Sarah started walking toward the nearest shop. “We’d better go inside.”
Mrs. Roundy grabbed her arm. “You can’t go into a gentleman’s tailor.”
“Considering the eeriness of this situation I don’t know if this is the best time to worry about propriety Mrs. Roundy.”
A loud “Shhh,” came from behind them, followed by a “Boom,” The ladies turned to look. A large mechanical beast walked toward them. It towered over the surrounding buildings and its three legs smashed carts and shop fronts as it lumbered forward.
Sarah stared. It looked as if someone turned a steam engine on its side and attached legs to the bottom of it. “Fascinating.”
“Shhh” another leg rose up. “Boom,” It slammed the ground.
Sarah reached for Mrs. Roundy but found she’d sat down. “Get up! We have to move.” She tugged at her arm. “Mrs. Roundy!”
Sarah dropped her books and pulled Mrs. Roundy up. The old woman stood frozen. Sarah slapped her cheek and grabbed the lady’s head. “We have to run!”
Mrs. Roundy nodded. The ladies ran. They heard the hackney crunch as the machine caught up to where they stood a moment before. Sarah scanned for an open shop. How had everyone else known they needed to hide except Mrs. Roundy and herself?
At the street’s end, they rounded a corner to find a makeshift barricade.
Sarah looked for a way through. “Hello!” She called. “Is anyone there?”
“Miss Parrish, one shouldn’t shout in public as if you were a street-vendor.”
“Oh, do be quiet Mrs. Roundy. Hello!”
Sarah looked back. The monster had slowed down as it maneuvered around the corner.
Something rustled from behind the barricade and an opening appeared. A man in a policeman’s cap poked his head through. “How did you get out there? We gave the call to clear the streets a half an hour ago.”
“Never mind that. The machine is almost here. How do we get through?”
He nodded to the side. A shop door opened, and another police officer motioned them inside.
Once they were through the door, the man barred it. They were in what looked to be the remains of a hat shop. Hats littered the floor, along with bits of trim and ribbon. The police had used the displays and other furniture to build the barricade. He pointed to a storage room. “It’s best if you ladies stay back here.”
Outside they heard the distinct “Shhh, Boom.”as the monster stepped closer. Mrs. Roundy trembled. Sarah sat her on the floor. “Stay here Mrs. Roundy.”
The experience must have shaken the woman up quite a bit because she didn’t protest as Sarah followed the policeman out another door that led behind the barricade.
On this side of the structure, the men had built a rickety tower with a platform at the top. About ten officers were perched on it with their firearms ready.
Sarah climbed up next to them so she could get a better look. The machine drew all the men’s focus, and her presence went unnoticed.
The huge monster loomed in front of them. Small windows circled around a room under the tank where the control room must be, and a giant flywheel turned the mechanisms that moved the legs.
“Aim for its belly!” The captain shouted.
Sarah scowled. She doubted a few bullets would penetrate that tank. What they needed to do was jam up a leg mechanism to throw off the machine’s balance.
She grabbed a hatstand from the barricade and looked it over. “This should do it.” Then she clambered from the platform to the barricade’s ridge.
“Shhh, Boom.” The machine was only a few feet away. The men had emptied their guns and now scrambled to get away. Sarah crawled along the barricade and got ready to use the hatstand.
“Shhh, boom.” The monster’s leg broke through the barricade on the street’s far side.
“Shhh,” The other side of it huge metal body swung right over the top of Sarah’s head. The large metal leg moved downward. Sarah thrust the hatstand up into the knee gears.
The leg gave a great wrenching sound as it stuck in place. The barricade crumbled out from under Sarah’s feet. She fell with the rubbish used to make up the structure and blacked out.
When her eyes opened all she could see was a bit of sky through broken pieces of furniture. Something stuck in her back, and everything hurt. She wiggled her fingers and toes. They still worked. She pushed a chair’s leg away from her face and sat up.
She looked around. The robot laid smoking, in a pile of rubble. One giant mechanical leg hung in the air. Its knee gears still had a hatstand stuck between them.
“Miss Parrish, What are you doing out here? Look at the state of you.” Mrs. Roundy worked her way through rubble toward Sarah. “We best be off home before you make a further mess of things.”
Sarah looked back at the robot again. The officers posed for a picture in front of its lifeless body. Reporters waited to interview them. Resentment flooded her. Those men were taking credit for what she’d done. She wanted to march up and demand the attention she deserved. She took a deep breath and stood up. She turned toward the group and paused. What good would it do? Mrs. Roundy had been right. They wouldn’t give her the credit even if they acknowledged her role. She looked at the robots remains one more time feeling proud. She’d killed it. The machine wouldn’t hurt anyone else now, and the police would apprehend the perpetrator. What did it matter if the paper praised her heroics? She knew she’d saved lives. Maybe today that was enough.
She sighed. “Yes, Mrs. Roundy. Let’s go home. I could do with a clean dress and a cup of tea.”
Steam Monster Meets Defeat!
The machine which caused so much damage at Dargee Harbor last week struck again. It traveled down Main Street smashing buildings until it met Captain Mumford and his brave men. Through great cunning, they were able to take down the monster. Police apprehended the machine’s driver and supposed creator, a Mrs. Sorenson at the scene. “We don’t know how or why this woman would do such a thing.” Says Captain Mumford, “She claims not only to have created the machine herself but to have written *Steam Mechanics. Her mind is obviously unhinged.”
The Daily Dargee will inform its readers of any more developments in the case. Captain Mumford, we thank you and your brave men for the defeat of this horrific monster.
*Steam Mechanics is the highly praised scientific text written by the acclaimed Dr. Sorensen, the husband of the lady in question.