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The wood was smooth beneath his hand, crafted well and finished just as skilfully. Louis sat down and allowed several members of his crew to fill seven of the sixteen seats that this car could hold. Bjorn Hauptmann sat opposite the Count, with Charles Davenport at his side. Skye poked Louis’ leg as she sat beside him, just beating Genevieve to the spot who hastily sat on the bench opposite. Not surprisingly for Louis, he found that the aristocrats outside the cable car decided that they would leave the few remaining seats empty as the doors closed.

The Skansens Bergbana was a funicular railway, two cars which each could carry sixteen passengers that were designed to lift loads up steep inclines. There did not seem to be an incline of much note as far as Louis could see from here, but he had been on a funicular railway before in a small town named Bridgnorth in England where it had taken him and his family up a steep cliff face. It was a pleasant if not somewhat scary experience for the then ten-year-old Louis de Theudubert.

“Is the good doctor not joining us?” The Count asked, looking to Charles as his point of reference. “It is rather rare that we even manage to convince her to leave the Valkyrie and now she is to abandon us?”

“You know Liz; she is far more interested in some of the things inside. Anything that can cause pain in the name of medical science…” Davenport shook his head at the thought.

“Liz?” Bjorn laughed sardonically. “She will skin you if she hears you calling her that…”

Louis smiled and looked through the window to his left, admiring the foliage which was passing as they made their way along the tracks. They had come to Stockholm for the International Exhibition of Science and Technology which was taking place on something of an island, called Djurgården. It had been the host for a World’s Fair in the past, when this railway was first built and seemingly served as a good venue, for it had been chosen once again to host an international event.

“We must be almost to the middle.” Genevieve mused aloud, causing Louis to turn to his right. Another car was descending a small incline towards them, a perfect counterweight to their own car as well as doubling productivity of the funicular system. It really was genius in simplicity!

“This is going too slow.” Bjorn added with a scoff, resting his right, mechanical arm against the window frame. Every word of English sounding laboured with his accent the way it was.

Bjorn wanted to be inside! Rumour had it that there was a doctor and engineer pairing that had invented a new way to reconstruct flesh around false limbs so that it looked natural. He was unsure if he would even want such a thing, as he enjoyed the intimidation that came with his mechanical eye and arm…but the possibility was seemingly there and he needed to at least investigate it. He would not wish to be this intimidating forever and there would eventually come a time when the boiler pack he carried to power such limbs would no longer be practical.

As if reading his mind, Louis patted his knee and smiled.

“We shall be inside long before the demonstration starts! It is something that interests me as well, and I always get my way, do I not?” The Count winked and Bjorn was forced to smile in response as he sat back, somehow more relaxed now.

* * * * *

It had, in fact, been quite a short ride and they were going their separate ways as soon as they had entered the vast glass structure which held the exhibition hall. It was, unfortunately, a temporary construction which would be torn down as soon as the event was concluded. It reminded Louis of the Crystal Palace which had been built for a similar purpose originally, to hold “The Great Exhibition” in Hyde Park. It ended up living on after the six-month event, however, and was relocated to Sydenham Hill. It was a glorious building and he hoped that this one also was given further life as another attraction, especially as this area of Stockholm seemed to be developing into a leisure area!

“Sir, I must enquire as to where you found that stunning monogoggle!”

Louis turned to find himself face-to-face with a young woman, clearly also British who was clad in a blue-hued dress with black lace trim. Her auburn hair was tied up into a bun and hung around her neck was an embossed picture of a woman, quite resembling the Queen.

“My apologies my dear, it was custom-made for myself by a member of my crew.” Louis tipped his top-hat and smiled warmly.

“Ah, that is such a shame…My husband is a pilot and I do believe he would have loved such a device. How is it that the screen has numbers upon it?” She asked, leaning in almost scandalously close to inspect the device from the outside.

“I am not entirely sure to be honest. I assume it is something like the moving pictures which, to be honest, astound me. I have no idea how it all works, but I can control it quite easily using this,” the Count lifted his right arm to display the analogue computer attached to his forearm, “and there are two small buttons on the device itself.”

“That is very interesting…Oh! How rude of me! Allow me to introduce myself, I am Mrs. Drusilla King.” The woman held out her right hand, a black opera glove covering it to the elbow almost to the point that the sleeves of her dress began.

Louis took the hand and leant to kiss the back gently.

“Count Louis de Theudubert, a pleasure to meet you. However, may I enquire as to what sort of gentleman would allow his wife to wander free of escort in a place such as this?” The Count asked with a smile.

“A husband who is showing his wares within such a place.” Her small giggle enticed Louis, but he knew this would need to be kept short, and to avoid drawing attention to themselves, he should probably avoid the married woman…for now.

“As much of a pleasure as this is ma’am, I am running quite late. I do so hope that I catch your eye once again while I am here, especially with your husband otherwise engaged.” The Count left her with a wink and he smirked at the look of outrage that ran across her features briefly, even if said look was probably only for the sake of any who might possibly have overheard what he had said.

It was not long before he found himself drawn towards the same demonstration which Swiss was so desperate to see and it was starting within the next five minutes.

“There are no more seats sir.” The voice came from the man standing before the cordoned off demonstration stage, a simple but thick velvet curtain covering the doorway into the seating area. It was a large enough room, constructed from thin wood that led up to a black cloth which seemed to cover the room, providing a makeshift ceiling. Very strange and highly secretive. The mystery instantly meaning that Louis would, of course, have to see it right now.

“I have no objection to standing.”

“They’ve asked that no-one stands. My apologies sir but you’ll have to await the showing in an hour.”

Louis pulled his pocket watch from his pocket, the chain connected to the front of his crimson waistcoat. The black face shone in the faint sunlight streaming in from the windows, the hunter-case style watch was strange in that it had a window in the case, meaning that the face of the watch could be seen without opening the protective cover. Still, for emphasis on his time, the Count clicked the top of the winding mechanism, causing the case to open and reveal the full face of the watch.

“No, that will not do. How much to watch the show now and not have to wait?” Louis asked with a raised eyebrow, shutting the case and dropping the watch back into his pocket in one fluid motion.

The man smirked, clearly understanding that this could be exploited but knowing how the game worked.

“I’m sorry sir, I simply cannot allow you to-“

A handful of coins was stuffed into the man’s pocket as Louis did not even wait for him to finish what he was saying and instead he walked in, closing the curtain behind him to stand at the very back of the room.

“What took you so long?” Genevieve’s voice asked from the back row where she sat next to Bjorn Hauptmann whose eyes, both human and mechanical, were steadily locked upon the stage.

“The same as usual.” Louis answered with a smirk, crouching down with a hand on the back of each of his crew member’s chairs.

“Ladies and gentlemen, could I please beg your silence for a moment?” A voice came from the stage. A spotlight came into existence suddenly, illuminating the man on the stage who stood in front of a curtain. He wore standard fair, a frock-coat and top-hat with a monocle over one eye which he took out, cleaned with a handkerchief, wrapped and placed in his pocket.

“I am Doctor Salvador Giovanni, I am a member of the Italian Institute of Medical Science. I have been inventing both privately and for the Italian government for over 30 years now. Some of you may have heard of me and my work, but for those of you who haven’t you are in for quite a surprise! Before I show you what I came here to see, I must request that you do not discuss what you have seen within these walls once you are outside, or that if you do, do so in private. The engineer with whom I am working is very secretive about his work, preferring to keep things private until complete. The only reason we are here today is to give those of you who have lost limbs or have loved ones in such a position that rarest of emotions: hope.” The man paused and Louis felt the tension rising. This man may well have been the doctor they spoke of, but he surmised that they had instead hired an actor to peddle their wares. He was doing a good job too…

“What we will show to you today is what so many people seek after having their limbs removed, not just replacement and functionality. I have seen many a mechanical limb in my time despite their relative rarity and while they are no doubt useful and better in every way than nothing at all, they are crude and obvious to the point of absurd.” The man walked from one side of the stage to the other and a stagehand not far from where Louis stood turned the light so that it followed the actor.

Swiss literally bit his lip in order to not say anything. The taste of copper filled his being as a small rivulet of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth, two drops landing on his pinstriped shirt before he wiped his face clean and halted the bite. His good eye moved down to the boiler pack on the floor in front of him which was connected to his arm and, along with several clockwork mechanisms and electrical impulses from his own brain, kept the limb working. He could not deny that the good doctor on stage was correct, but it hurt him that it was said in such a cruel way. It was rare that Bjorn Hauptmann allowed feelings other than rage to the surface, but he could not help himself at this moment.

“As such, we have come up with a new way to hide such things, and still include all of the functionality of the larger mechanical limbs in a far more streamlined design. What’s more, there is no need for steam at all!”

Everyone in the crowd suddenly had their full attention on the man before them, especially as another man walked from the right side of the stage to join him.

“Here we have my assistant,” it was only then that the man’s accent came through, Italian, but hidden very well, “who unfortunately lost his left arm to gunfire during a conflict very recently.”

Murmurs ran through the crowd as they consulted with each other. The man on stage appeared to have two perfectly functional arms. Surely this could not be the new technology that he was discussing!?

The assistant had begun rolling up both sleeves as he walked onto the stage. It was only as the left one reached the elbow that a visible difference in skin colouration made it clear that his arm was not as it should be. Gasps came from the crowd as they realised this and Swiss stood, closing his organic eye so that his mechanical one could focus more than humanly possible, scanning the place where the artificial limb met the real one. It was almost obvious up close, but only because he was looking for it, and only because his sleeve had been rolled up to his bicep now. Had the man merely rolled it part of the way up his forearm as most would, they would have been none the wiser.

“I take it you have noticed the small tell that this is not his real arm. As you can see, we are working on skin pigmentation as we can match many skin tones but once the material used for the false skin is set, it is impossible to change the colour.” The man smirked.

“How do we know it’s not just stage makeup to make it LOOK fake?” One man shouted, drawing several approving responses from the crowd who agreed with his question.

“Luckily for my assistant here, we have several batches of this skin made for him. It can slip on like a glove before it is fully attached. The mechanics of the limb are designed to grip it in several hundred places to ensure that once on, it does not come back off unless carefully done by one of our team. As such…”

The actor never bothered to finish his sentence, letting it trail off as he handed his assistant a scalpel he pulled from within his jacket. The assistant sighed and slashed into his left arm, cutting a large rectangle on the inside of his forearm. Several members of the audience gasped in a combination of horror and amazement, their fear and intrigue mingling. Gen lifted her hands to her face, wincing as she did so, pausing for a moment before she took a deep breath and allowed the hands to fall again. Swiss seemed to show no visible emotion as he leant forward in his chair, his hands coming together beneath his chin as he watched, completely rapt. Slowly, as if for dramatic effect, the doctor peeled the rectangle of false skin away, the flesh tearing as if real before he handed it to the ‘doctor’. When he stepped forward, the whirring of gears and the soft ticking of clockwork was shown within the space he had cut.

Once again, gasps went up from the crowd and a clap started, the man on stage stepping down and handing the scrap of ‘skin’ to the audience. It was felt, passed on and around as they marvelled at the soft, yet firm texture. It did not feel like flesh, but it was the closest substance to the real thing that they had ever felt. Louis, Gen and Swiss all felt the material and marvelled at it, striking Swiss especially as he removed his work gloves to feel the substance in his good hand. It was nothing short of spectacular!

“Now, I must ask that anyone planning on staying for the remainder of the demonstration stay in their seats, for my assistant will be coming around to collect the three British pence from each of you for privilege.” The man wrung his hands and stepped back onto the stage as several of the people scoffed and left, seeing all that they had wanted or considering that to be far too much when they had gotten all of this for free.

Once the steady flow of people had ebbed, it left only the three Valkyrie crew members and four others who all made their way to the front. Louis would, naturally, be paying for Swiss and Genevieve to stay for the next part.

They all paid the assistant, each one marvelling at the genius that had crafted those mechanical parts on show, Genevieve especially so.

“Gentlemen,” the actor began, clearly failing to realise that Gen, with her hair tucked under her cap, was a female, “you will now witness the birth of an entirely new science. What we are calling bio-mechanics although any false limbs would automatically fall into this category in our minds, what we are now hoping is to create a new life from an old one!”

The curtain behind him began to rise and a faint tinkling of music began from a gramophone on the stage which was turning slowly. Stood in the centre of this stage, where the light now focussed, was a young girl. She must have been less than twenty, but fully and perfectly formed. Her skin was paler than anything the crew had ever witnessed on a living person, her hair black enough to look as though it had been dyed so, her lips were the crimson of crushed rose petals. She stood in a ballerina’s pose, her feet together at the heels, her knees bent slightly, her arms raised above her, her fingertips barely touching that of the other hand.

Louis’ eyes traced a line down from her own closed portals along her jaw line, down along her neck to the swell of her breasts which were enclosed within a peach and white bodice, black boning holding it, with floral patterns of crimson embroidered into the fabric. Attached to the bodice was a similarly coloured bell tutu.

Her eyes opened, their crystal beauty reflecting the light which shone on her, the brown irises sparkling as one of her legs lifted, extending outwards before she span, tucking the leg in with her foot against her own knee. Her face was stony with concentration, focussing intently on the dance it seemed as she began to entertain them with a show of amateurish ballet.

The Count couldn’t help but notice the comparison to his own sister who had been an avid dancer and had looked strangely similar to the woman on the stage. His eyelids fell and in his mind she was there in front of him, practising for her next performance. She moved more gracefully than the woman on the stage, her skin was almost as pale but not quite as ethereal as that of the one performing now.

“What is this all about,” a gentleman to Louis’ left asked, shocking the Count back to attention, “and how exactly is it related?”

The man at the front of the stage laughed.

“Can you not tell? But of course you cannot…This woman, aside from her brain and eyes, is entirely mechanical! The brain is heavily damaged from lack of oxygen due to how long the original body was dead before we could get it into this body, but the motor function still works perfectly well. It does take some patience to teach her new things however…”

Louis stared in abject horror as the woman on the stage twisted, turned, placed a foot down slowly, gracefully and then…stopped dead. Her eyes focussed on an area behind the crowd, staring off into the middle distance as if not even perceiving them at all.

Swiss and Gen were both enthralled! This was fantastic! The mechanisms keeping this woman running were incredible, they must had included a false heart to keep blood circulating, they must have included false lungs to provide the oxygen which the brain needed…but the circulatory system could have been limited to merely connecting the brain, heart and lungs…or was there some other way of oxygenating the blood? And how did the eyes stay moist? Did a mechanism control that or were there still organic tear-ducts?

“Could this be done for other bodies? Men for example?” The gentleman to the left asked again.

“This can indeed be done, in fact, we are currently in talks with several different militaries to see who will offer the most funding. If all goes well, we shall be able to create a small army of mechanical soldiers, expendable and completely able to follow orders, even those culminating in their own demise, for they feel no pain or suffering!” The man smirked and crossed his arms.

“You are far from correct!” Louis exclaimed, standing so fast his chair clattered to the floor behind him. “Look into her eyes! She suffers, though she suffers in silence. This is an abomination! What of her soul?”

“I didn’t realise you were religious!” Gen was very surprised by this.

“You do not need to believe in a god to believe that there is something within us more than our brain which makes us what we are.” Louis replied in a dismissive manner.

“This is a fantastic development! How can you think any different!?” Bjorn rebutted, standing to stare down at his Captain with both bionic and mechanic eyes. Louis stared up at him defiantly, his teeth grinding as he pointed to the stage.

“Look at her face, does she seem as though she wants to be here?”

Those in the audience turned to face the stage, the doleful eyes of the woman there certainly mirroring what the Count said, that she was in emotional anguish.

“But think of it! No more humans dying in wars! Armies of mechanical soldiers used to-“

“Fight pointless battles between nations who have no desire other than expanding their own empires.” Louis replied, scoffing.

“I beg your pardon, but did I not see you emerging from a Royal Navy ship when you arrived?” An elderly woman asked, standing also before walking towards him.

The Count’s eyes widened. He often forgot that he was a dog of the military now, the very people he had so despised for a long time in his life. His eyes fell as he felt that she had struck a nerve.

“We shall see if you feel the same way when you lose crew members.” The gentleman added with a small chuckle.

That comment sent a cold shiver down Louis’ spine and he touched the hilt of the blade at his hip before rebuking himself silently. What the hell was wrong with him?

“And we shall see if you feel the same way when your brain is taking from your dying body and placed inside a clockwork mechanism, forced to carry out the actions of your masters without even the possibility of responding to them.” Louis’s eyes flashed as he turned, knocking another chair over as he stormed out of the room, leaving Gen and Swiss exchanging worried glances.

“How much would a replacement limb of that kind cost?” Swiss asked without turning to face the man, deciding that his own interests came before those of his Captain and friend.

* * * * *

Louis turned a corner and slammed his fist against a wooden door angrily, accidentally knocking it open. His eyes widened in surprise and he stepped in, apologising even before he saw that it was vacant.

It appeared to be some kind of store-room, but it could easily have passed for a dwelling. A desk on the far side of the room was covered in large misshapen pieces of thick foam with a blanket carelessly thrown on top, resembling a makeshift bed. To the side of this was what appeared to be a small, electric light. Louis had seen these, but they were expensive and awkward to make at this time and needed an external power source, yet he saw none.

On the floor to the Count’s right lay a mat, on top of which were scattered an assortment of vials, some attached to a belt, some lying on their side and some in a rack. Many of them were glowing due to the only light source being the small portions that escaped around the Count’s bulky frame into the room. There were also a few weapons that resembled current weaponry, albeit with wiring coming from them which was an unusual occurrence.

The left of the room was taken up by what appeared to be two large engines, albeit of a design that both puzzled and intrigued Count de Theudubert. There were wires running through them, and no place for combustibles, nor were there any notable clockwork mechanisms or steam funnels…

“Ex…excuse me, what are you doing in here?”

Louis turned with a start, finding that all he could see was the silhouette of a woman only slightly shorter than he was. She was obviously blonde, but her face was hidden by a combination of the light coming from behind her and the flat-top cap that she wore.

The Count bowed low, tipping his hat to her.

“My sincerest apologies. Is this your room? I actually stumbled in here by accident, the door was unlocked and-“

“I forgot to lock the door again!?” The woman slapped herself in the forehead, muttering something low and clearly not in English before she squeezed past Louis, reaching for a device beneath the ‘bed’. With a small flick, the device sprang to life, revealing its purpose almost instantaneously.

All at once several devices in the room began to hum, including the lamp on the table. It illuminated the room far brighter than Louis had been expecting and he shielded his eyes for a moment as they adjusted. A part of each of the engines had begun to glow a pale blue but neither had turned on thankfully.

“What is all of this?” Louis asked, sweeping an arm out to indicate the room.

“Oh, it’s the accommodation the event set me up with. Not great but…I don’t mind really!” The woman smiled, her accent clearly Scandinavian in origin.

“Oh, you are one of the inventors taking part?”

“Yes…let me guess, you weren’t expecting a woman?”

The Count laughed heartily. “If you knew my crew you would realise that I am not easily surprised by anything. Our chief engineer is a girl.”

The woman raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. “I find that hard to believe…at least where I am from, women are not thought especially intelligent, especially in scientific fields!”

“My dear, that is true of anywhere in the world it seems! However, I am far different, as are the rest of my crew. In fact, my first-mate is a woman.” Louis smirked and leant against the door frame slightly, lifting his arms to cross in front of his chest.

The woman’s face suddenly beamed in a warm smile as she grabbed the vial belt from the mat, sliding her right arm through it and lifting it over her head so that it lay diagonally across her abdomen. The vials on the belt contained green and blue liquids, apart from two whose stoppers were connected by rubber tubing and they contained a white and black fluid.

It was through watching her collect these items that he finally got to see her properly in the now bright room. She wore a white shirt, the sleeves slightly puffed but most of this was covered by the brown dress which clung tightly to her body, due in part to the vial belt, the brown belt around her hip and the tool belt which seemed connected to the hip-belt. Hanging from the main belt were a pocket watch and what seemed to be a small book, attached by string with silver lettering covering the front, but again in a language that was not English. A beige tool belt ran from the centre of this belt, down to the outside of her left thigh and back up again to the centre of her back.

Louis found it quite odd that a rather large holster lay at her right hip, but that she carried no weapon. He also found it odd that he had left it until now to introduce himself!

“I am most sorry my dear, but it appears that my manners escaped me for a moment! My name is Count Louis de Theudubert, I am the Captain of the-”

“HMS Valkyrie. Yes, I had heard rumour of the famed pirate lord’s vessel heading towards this exhibition.” The woman cut him off, finishing his sentence as she tied her long blonde hair into two braids, one on each side of her head and she held these in place with two rubber bands on both.

“It seems my reputation proceeds me, and I find myself at a loss both for explanation and that you should know me, but I do not know you.” The Count smiled warmly, gesturing emphatically with his hands as he spoke.

“Norway has been at war with Darmania for long enough now that we hear quickly of anyone who has a disagreement with them. Unfortunately for you,” the woman suddenly picked up what had at first appeared to be a rack for holding vials and revealed it to be a weapon, “this means that knowledge has spread of your disagreement with Darmania.”

Louis was stunned, fear and doubt ran through his mind. If Norway had heard that his target was Darmania, than the Darmanian forces themselves would clearly be aware of it. The ambush had not been a mere act of piracy on the part of the Darmanians, it had been an act of war against the Valkyrie and its crew…

“My name’s Aurora.”

“Sorry?” Louis had been lost in his thoughts and musings. Without realising it, his right hand had lifted to touch gently against his own chin as he had thought.

“Aurora Ebeltoft. It’s my name.” She replied with her hands on her hips, cocking her head with a smirk that seemed to suggest she was laughing at him internally.

“Oh! Of course! A pleasure to meet you Miss Ebeltoft.” Louis bowed his head a little and attempted to regain his composure. “Sorry, the fact that my exploits are known in Norway is a little worrying. I was hoping to keep a low profile until I knew more about my enemy.”

“Then isn’t it better that Norway does know of you? It means you might have allies in the future.” She smirked and adjusted the vials on the weapon she was carrying. It appeared to be a far reduced rifle, the stock made of a black-painted wood while the frame appeared to be brass. Louis assumed it to have a range which the size belittled due to what appeared to be a magnifying element on top. Near her hand lay a gauge and three settings lay beside that with a small, adjustable dial to select each one. This was likely to control which of the three vials which hung from the frame the gun focussed upon.

“I suppose that much is true…Aurora, are you busy?” The Count asked, quite rudely sitting down on her bed.

“Not particularly, not for an hour or so, why?” The young woman raised an eyebrow suspiciously, especially as he had placed himself where she slept.

“I wish for you to explain some of these things to me as I might have a proposition for you…”

* * * * *

The demonstration had ended badly for Swiss, both himself and Gen purposefully separating due to the commotion he had caused. He had merely asked to inspect the clockwork woman’s limbs, pleased to see that one day he could have something that at least resembled an arm returned to him.

Now, he knew that this was not what he wanted.

As he had taken the woman’s wrist within his own metallic palm, a slight movement to test the tension or the wrist had resulted in it snapping, spilling lubricant and causing both of the presenters much distress. Chaos had ensued, the consternation of both the ‘doctor’ and his assistant very much obvious. They had threatened him, at least, Swiss assumed they had threatened him. The rapid Italian would have been difficult to discern even if he had spoken the language! Still, the loud voices were enough to annoy the German and he felt forced to remind them just how easily the metallic limb had shattered within his palm and how much more fragile bone could be…

The human form, even with bone replaced by metal and blood replaced by lubrication fluid, was too brittle. It had been his human body which had seen him cast out of the German military, it was the human form which he had torn through so easily on their missions which allowed killing, and it was the human form which had suffered badly during their last battle…

He had shown little of the damage to his friends and crew, and he had sworn Dr. Knight to secrecy, but he could well have died during that last battle. He had been bullet-ridden, especially around the chest. No-one had noticed his usual black vest was gone, replaced with one embroidered with cogs upon the breast. Swiss had struggled to breathe on a few occasions and really did believe that he would die…but that he would at least take as many of the Darmanian bastards with him as he could!

It had been the hand-to-hand that had been the difficult part…running out of ammunition and being forced to use his metallic arm as his weapon. It amused him that the crew assumed he enjoyed fighting that way, but in reality it put far too much pressure on his body and also the strength required to tear through human flesh and bone was more difficult than imagined. He needed a stronger counter-weight if he were to increase the strength of his arm. No, a humanoid limb was not for him, he had the name Swiss due to resembling a swiss-army knife, and he would damn well live up to that name.

What was humanity anyway?

The continued angry shouts of the inventors were interrupting this train of thought; Bjorn fished around inside a jacket pocket until he found what he was looking for. He contemptuously threw a leather purse full of gold stolen from the bodies of the Darmanian scum he had slain during that fateful and recent battle. The Italian caught the purse with one hand, the weight nearly causing him to drop it.

“That should cover any inconvenience that I have caused to you, I am done here.” With that Swiss turned his back to the stage and pushed his through the crowd, walking purposely from the room.

Bjorn Hauptmann had a plan and he grinned at the thought, as made his was through the exit of the great exhibition hall and headed for the Valkyrie to begin his work…

* * * * *

“Do you think you could make a larger one?” The Count asked with a look of obvious awe as the pair examined the wireless generator beneath the ‘bed’.

“I think it’s possible, but dangerous. That much power in an environment with so many people may have bad side-effects. It’s still experimental. Plus, any damage to it and the explosion could quite easily rupture the envelope and…bye-bye airship.”

Louis laughed and nodded. “Yes, that would be less than advantageous… but perhaps a few of the smaller generators dotted around for certain items?”

“Like weaponry?” Aurora asked with an air of annoyance.

“Actually, no, we have that covered quite well. But, some of the items you have in the room, like the electric light for example. That would be far safer than the kerosene we use…” Louis sighed and thought back to the last battle again. “And your weapon, how does that work and what does it do?”

“Oh this?” Aurora asked with a smirk, touching the stock of the gun in her holster. “This can be used for a lot of things. I actually use it to fire gels. Liquids are stored in the vials and as they are brought into the gun, they have a current passed through them and each one reacts differently, as well as firing in a more solid gelatine form.”

The Norwegian clearly seemed proud of this, and Louis saw it as a possibility for his own weaponry. He hated the look of the thing, but loved the idea that it could be used non-lethally.

“What kind of things do they do?”

“Well, the ones I have loaded at the moment are my favourites! The yellow liquid simply remains charged with electricity, so when it hits someone, their muscles are sent into a state of constant spasm for a few seconds. It can be quite painful, but it works well! The green is for-“

“Paralysis?” Louis asked, feeling his arms and left leg tingle at the memory of having so much of his body paralysed at once before he was stabbed.

“Yes, how did you know?”

“My pistol used the same gel, but it backed up and the tank exploded…all over me!”

Aurora smiled almost knowingly as she tapped the vial of green liquid, “Which is why my weaponry turns the liquid into a gel only upon it hitting air. It’s only liquid until it has left the barrel and begins oxygenation, then the few drops of liquid expand into about ten centimetres of gel which is enough for paralysis of an entire limb easily.”

Louis was impressed. “I wish to commission such a weapon from you. As it stands, I am attempting with every fibre of my being to resort to non-lethal means of combat for a while now.”

“You mean, as well as requesting my services on board your ship, you wish me to make you a weapon on the side as well?” Aurora asked, feigning annoyance. “Well, I suppose that much is reasonable, I do not wish to be considered a mercenary by yourself or my peers, but the pay had better be good!”

“Do I look as if I have problems with finances?” The Count asked with a smirk.

“To be honest,” Aurora began, looking down at the floor, “the freedom is all I really need. I love my family and I love my home but…we are farmers and fishermen. I am trapped there and unable to carry out my dreams. I want to invent, I want to use my gifts to change things! They do say that throughout history, warfare has inspired levels of scientific innovation like no other stimulus…I want my inventions to benefit others rather than just…making our boats go faster or helping with the crop…”

Aurora and Louis sat down together, she poured them both a small, straight vodka, and they talked in great length about each other and how they had found there way to the event they now attended. She explained how she had gotten noticed and invited to this exhibition in the first place…it had started with her invention of an electronic engine for the boats which saved their costs of coal. Her inventions led to her making a larger engine and her father then used their extra savings to invest in a larger boat, making them quite famous in their region of Norway. She had also perfected a design for a steam-powered plough and a steam-powered harvester.

She had, in the space of a few years, saved her parents a lot of money and a lot of work. But she had never been satisfied it seemed…

“And you think you can do this on the HMS Valkyrie?” Louis asked tentatively, knowing that this question was make-or-break for this situation.

“Yes and no…I think I can help a great deal on the ship, but I think I can also use the ship to further my own means as well.” Aurora laughed. “Does that make me selfish?”

“It makes you a realist!” The Count said with a smirk, standing down and walking towards the door. “You have a showing in ten minutes…”

“A showing?” Aurora asked, completely baffled for a second before her eyes widened and realisation dawned.

The last thing Louis heard was the clattering of Aurora desperately trying to gather her things. As he rounded a corner he smiled, shaking his head at the situation.
I want to apologise for how long this has taken to get up. Real life, as much as I hate it, has caught up with me and slowed me down LOL

I also wanted to mention that those cosplaying as characters from Flight of the Valkyrie won in the Entertainment category of the London MCM Expo Masquerade! Thank you everyone for your lovely words! It meant a lot to me and a lot to all of us!

At any rate, enjoy the next chapter of what has now become a Steampunk NOVEL rather than a mere story, Flight of the Valkyrie!

The rest of the chapters can be found here;
[link]

Prose, characters, fictional locations etc. are copyright :iconsjbonnar:
Technical advisor :iconleadmill:
Count Louis de Theudubert is :iconsjbonnar:
Lieutenant Carles Christophe Davenport is :iconleadmill:
Bjorn "Swiss" Hauptmann is :iconjuggern0ught:
Genevieve til Baudfert is :iconwings-of-crimson:
Tabitha "Skye" Skylar is :iconefia:
Amelia Evelyn Hawkesworth is :iconefia:
Dr. Elizabeth Knight is :iconaliasdotcom:
Aurora Ebeltoft is :iconmtani:

The Valkyrie is no longer recruiting for main crew! HOWEVER, if you wish for a character to be written in briefly, I can do so as long as you give me the following information and express permission to use said character in the novel;
- You need a name for your character, a name which sounds quite Victorian but is also accurate. If you have a title of nobility (de, von, etc) then please explain WHY you have this title. Remember, there is no point having a British name if your character is Spanish!
- You need a brief background. How did they get where they are? Where did their skills come from? etc.
- You need some idea of how they met Count de Theudubert or got involved with the crew.
- You need an idea of how they dress and/or what they do!

Now, all of the above need only be basic as I will help you to flesh out the character more and more!
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:iconfullmetalwing:
FullMetalWing Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
wow thats was cool I love the clock work humen always reminds me of automail from FMA lol great chap again onto the next :glomp:
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:iconleonie-heartilly:
Leonie-Heartilly Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2009  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Finally I've read them all! Read 5 chapters alone tonight, my eyes hurt ='( At least I can read the new ones at a more relaxed pace now lol
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:iconsjbonnar:
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
I bet they do. So which was your favourite so far?
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:iconleonie-heartilly:
Leonie-Heartilly Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2009  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Err... I think the one where Amelia boarded the Valkyrie and we learnt more about her. Can't remember which chapter it was off the top of my head.
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:iconsjbonnar:
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Chapter 4 ^_^
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:iconmysteriousfayth:
MysteriousFayth Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
Took me a while to get round to it, but I finally read FotV from start to this chapter. Very entertaining and I look forward to the next parts ^^.
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:iconsjbonnar:
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Oh I'm glad to hear it ^_^ I hope the rest lives up to your expectations!
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:iconmysteriousfayth:
MysteriousFayth Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
From what I have read so far, I'm quite sure it will ^^.
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:iconsjbonnar:
sjbonnar Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Hee thank you ^_^
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:iconmyscarredheart:
MyScarredHeart Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2009
Another brilliant chapter, only just got around to reading it, life is too hectic >.<
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