A Matter of Temperance, Chapter One – Ichabod Temperance

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00026]Ichabod

The rumbling purr of an impossibly big cat thrums through my body. Rhythmic vibrations emanate from the titanic engines powering this colossal ship. Wheels the size of four story buildings mercilessly paddle the Atlantic Ocean into submission.

“Hey, Ichabod, are you up here?”

“Call me Icky.”

“I guess you are up here. It’s the middle of the night, Icky; why can’t you behave like the other passengers?”

“Sorry, Spike, I don’t mean to make your job as ship’s steward difficult. I reckon I just like to climb on things. Lying on the roof of the Triumph’s wheelhouse, connects me with this ship. Through her, I can sense the dark expanse of the ocean depths spreading out below, while at the same time, I can look up into a bright ocean of stars bursting outward above. It’s as if I am tumbling through the aether of space, swimming in a celestial ocean.”

“It’s an ocean of wonder below, Icky, and an ocean of unexpected phenomena inhabiting the astral void above.”

“Yessir, our world became even more wondrous nearly six years ago, during that fateful summer of 1869, with the coming of the ‘Revelatory’ comet. Unlike Haley’s comet, this visitor had not been recorded in history. That fiery white snowball entered our unsuspecting solar system meekly enough, but when it made a pass around the Sun, it came out the other side and back towards planet Earth as if slung by some Titan discus thrower. Racing along its elliptical trajectories, many astronomers feared a collision between the heavenly bodies. The incredible, inter-galactic meteor looked like it was gonna smack right into us, but its path crossed ahead of our planet’s orbit. Mother Earth traveled safely through the Comet’s tail.”

“That was the summer of ‘69, and today’s date is March 16, 1875. That makes it a little over five and a half years since our planet crossed the Comet’s sparkling wake.”

“Yessir, Mr. Spike, sir, and ain’t it amazing what a strange effect that comet had on this planet.”

“You’ve got that right, Stinky.”

“Icky.”

“Whatever. Everywhere on Earth, tens of thousands have become affected by the comet’s passage in an unusual way. Not all people, but many, have found that any natural talent they already possessed has been greatly enhanced. The changes were subtle enough that people may or may not have been immediately aware of their amplified aptitudes.”

“It didn’t take long before tinkers began to sprout up like wildflowers in spring. It’s amazing how quickly society has become accustomed to this contraption-filled world, and come to accept this state of being. Nowadays, you can’t swing a bucket without hitting some sort of tinker, engineer, musician, actor, acrobat or Doctor of unusual, sometimes diabolical, expertise.”

“Every apothecary I go to now has a laboratory of some sort, with bubbling cauldrons, smoking thuribles, and tangles of complicated glass tubing. Every barber has a wall of assorted, fiendish, gleaming, glistening, never before seen devices for the grooming of the hair-suit, excuse me, hirsute man. Few men have the courage, nor strength of will, to face down these gleaming apparati for a fresh haircut and a smooth shave.”

“I’m lucky in that the peach fuzz growing on my face will come off to a kitten’s lap.”

“Don’t interrupt, Itchy, I’m talking about how this world has been built by steam, spring and electricity. I was trying to tell you how suddenly, inventions great and small now surround us.”

“Yessir, like steamer carriages, postal sorters and personal, portable, osculating fans. I’ve heard of certain blacksmiths, more affected than most by the Revelatory Comet’s passing, who have built entire, clockwork, that is to say, mechanical, horses, giving them life by spring, steam, due to the magic of the ‘Comet’s’ visit.”

“It’s one thing to see craft of sea, and land quickly achieving the pinnacle of perfection, but what’s really astounding is to see airships, great and small, prowling the skies around the world.”

“I’ve seen a balloon before!”

“A balloon! Bah, that’s nothing, farm-boy. Balloons will soon be a thing of the quaint past. Nowadays, it’s blimps and fancy gondolas. Of course, these aircraft pale in comparison with the floating fleets of majestic Zeppelins in operation around Europe.”

“I heard that there was a band of dangerous air pirates at loose in the North Pacific, Spike. Is that true?”

“Actually, there are several competing bands of air pirates there and other places. With all the new mechanicals everywhere, everyone wants to turn these modern devices to their own megalomaniacal purpose.”

“Gee!”

“It’s a dangerous world, Sticky. Marvels unheard of just a few years ago are now commonplace. For instance, this magnificent ship on which we voyage; she is a mighty, eight wheeled, ocean paddler.”

“Goodness gracious, she’s quite a miracle of human achievement, sir. She’s like a Mississippi riverboat, but grown to fifty times her normal size. Four wheels on each side propel this amazing ship ever forward. A heavy steel keel runs her length. Steel ribs support her wooden hull and decks. Extra steel reinforcements support her mammoth engines and drive wheels, amidships.”

“Ah, but it’s a Sol Furnace that powers this ship’s mighty steam boilers.”

“The Sol Furnace is the greatest invention to arise in this explosion of ingenuity that has taken the world!”

“That’s right, kid, the power of the Sun itself has been captured, and harnessed for the the use of Mankind, by Professor St. John Plumtartt.”

“I know him! He’s an eminent physicist, though also reputed to be an initiate of several arcane orders. By a process that is understood by only a very few, he has developed a technology capable of generating a seemingly endless source of energy.”

“You’re lucky to be on this ship. This is a historic crossing. It is expected to set a new speed record. This ocean paddler is on her return trip to England, completing her maiden cruise.”

“I have a special attachment to this ship, and to her furnace. Little ol’ me, Ichabod Temperance, just an Alabama knockabout, count myself as one of the many from around the World affected by the Revelatory Comet’s passing.”

“You’re full of bilge!”

“Nossir. I was fourteen years old that summer of ‘69 when the comet passed. My family has a small place in Jefferson County. I didn’t realize the change at first. Little ideas would pop into my mind. After the idea, the formula for bringing the idea about would similarly materialize in my mind like a flower quickly spreading into bloom. I swiftly developed a knack for design and engineering solutions to problems. I specialize in goggles. I crafted a pair of goggles for Professor Plumtartt himself for working with the dangerous elements involved with the outrageously powerful Sol Furnace.”

“Is this on the level?”

“Yessir. The Plumtartt goggles brought me a bit of notoriety, which has led to other commissions. That is the errand I am upon now. My most precious invention to date are my “Green Beauties.” I hate to let them go! Last year, I sent Professor Plumtartt his goggles. Professor Plumtartt’s “Elemental Protectors” got to enjoy the ocean voyage to England. These marvelous goggles are likewise commissioned by a British client. This year, I have decided to not send my marvelous new goggles to my esteemed customer, instead, I’m going to deliver them myself! Why should they have all the fun? The “Beauties” are destined for adventures in darkest Africa. For the first time in my life, I have left Irondale, Alabama, USA, to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and to visit jolly old England. I never would have dreamed that one day I should make a journey to the legendary city of London, herself!”

“Congratulations. Try not to slide off the roof and kill yourself, kid.”

“This is the greatest adventure I have ever known!”


This is the first chapter of A Matter of Temperance. Bookmark Steampunk Journal to keep up to date with the latest news, reviews, articles and previews.

Buy: Amazon Selling Page (there are other books available, please visit the author page on Amazon for more options) – $9.99 paperback

Social Media: Facebook/IchabodTemperance, @ickytemperance

Author Website: ichabodtemperance.com

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