Oracles of Aragret
A Steampunk Novel
Published by Mark Whitney at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 Mark Whitney
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The wind whistled through the creaking rigging of the big airship, Wind Dancer. She was sailing through a partly cloudy sky a couple of thousand feet above rolling, grassy plains dotted with patches of forest. A few puffy white clouds drifted by, but this far out from the nearest city, the sky was a deep blue with just the faintest trace of a dirty brown haze down along the horizon.
Adrian, the Wind Dancer’s thirty-five year old captain and owner, stood on the open bridge toward after section of the ship, watching his crew at work. Like most of his men, he wore a pair of brown leather boots, tan riding pants and a khaki jacket. A powerful .44 caliber revolver rode butt forward in a flap holster on his left hip and a pair of darkly tinted goggles protected his eyes from the wind and sun. The helmsman, Thomas, stood beside him, loosely gripping the polished wood and brass wheel. Several brass levers flanked each side of the wheel. They controlled the speed of the propellers and the pitch of the wings. A speaking tube snaked down through deck to the engine room.
Down below the main deck, the ship’s powerful steam engine thumped away with a steady rhythm driving the massive collection of gears, flywheels, pulleys and leather belts that spun a pair of propellers mounted outboard of the hull. Two men puttered around the drive, checking this piece or that, and squirting lube oil on the squeaking parts. Lookouts manned their positions on small platforms mounted fore and aft while the rest of the sixty man crew went about the daily tasks of maintaining and flying the ship.