20990424 - portrait of a beautiful steampunk woman over vintage background.


The clock on the wall ticked a tireless cadence that echoed through the halls of the Meiville Archives. The turning of five-hundred and fifty five golden cogs in perfect harmony marked another moment passing the countless hours and casting shadows down the mostly empty halls. Nym was used to the echoing silence and the sinister stillness of the place. Her table stretched before her in the halo of a golden gaslamp. Scraps of newspaper articles, testimonials and a single photograph of a tall, thin man with striking blue eyes, and a full head of carbon black curls. His mannor of dress was refined but simple, his look serious and almost piercing -but she found him strangely likeable. She looked at the photo and wondered who and where this man was and why nothing about his life made sense.

All these clues she had carefully arranged and rearranged in the dead of night, pondering.  She touched each item gingerly, shifting the pieces of her strange puzzle; Her long fingers unable to make any of the them fit. Leaning back into her chair, she clicked the wrist release that retracted the magnifying lens of her spectacles. Her long, dark amber hair, which she had pulled tightly into a knot on her head, escaped restlessly into her blue eyes. Reviewing everything it was simply impossible to ignore a gnawing intuition that someone had worked very hard at making Doctor Marcel Ghostraven disappear. She had worked tirelessly for weeks and yet the cumulative data on the man was sparse and lacking. The cog, resting silently in the folds of her skirts seemed to pulse against her leg from time to time as if calling to be returned to it’s home in the sky.

Nym’s eyes fell on the stack of requests she had filed, each with more urgency, with the Meiville Clerk requesting access to Doctor Ghostraven’s Devices and Sundry. Each one stamped “denied” in red ink. She had even approached Mayor Perryn when she chanced to pass him at the Courthouse, only to have him flash his ageless smile and ask if he could tell her (again) about the time Marcel took him in an airship around the moon. She had listened with a cold and inhospitable gaze, which was a far cry from responding to her impulse to slit his throat.

The frustration was wearing her patience and in the dark of night, she was losing hope.

She simply could not understand why no one seemed to concern themselves over the Pull. In the moment of it everyone seemed as devastated as Nym herself, but abruptly afterward it was as if they all simply forgot that they had all be in a forced state of slow motion. There had been no public outcry, no formal inquiry, not even a glance upward questioning why the Celestial Heliograph had stopped working. Life went back to it’s mundane pace and no one but Nym seemed aware of the changes. Grinding her heel into the stone of the Archive floor she closed her eyes and doubted her own sanity.

Suddenly, against Nym’s leg there was a burning heat which forced her to pull herself from her thoughts and she quickly reach into her pocket to free herself of the cog. The small metal piece had somehow begun to burn until it was almost blistering her, and she tossed it onto the wooden table, the engraved raven insignia glowing a ghoulish green. Nym stared at it in disbelief for a moment until the thought struck her: if the cog was crying for the device, perhaps the device was answering?

Without another moment’s hesitation, Nym raced to open the window and looked into the inkish night sky hoping to see something, anything, that would help her understand what was happening to her and to her world. Try as she might, she could only perceive an oppressively low ceiling of clouds tumbling a cold, cruel rain which misted her cheeks and hair and chilled her bones until she had no choice but to close the shutters against the night. Returning to her small table, she collected the cog, wrapped it in a linen handkerchief and tucked it safely into her pocket. No longer burning, it resumed its plaintive pulse against her leg and she absently wandered back to the closed window, lost in thought. Surely it all meant something?

Staring into the void of the sky she considered the unthinkable. Perhaps there was some merit to simply taking the cog back to the place it had come from? She felt the pulse of it  quicken and she marveled that it seemed to be responding to her thoughts. It had been forbidden by law and was even a social taboo to so much as question the working of the Celestial Heliograph. It would be unconscionable for anyone to approach the thing, let alone attempt to replace a missing part…

A single flash of lightning lit the night sky then, a spectral green surge that left an imprint of the Celestial Heliograph on the back of her eyelids. She closed her eyes around the image and realized that there was something else. Another dark shadow near the base of the thing, hovering as if tethered to it in the storm.

Sky pirates!

As Nym’s mind raced to understand what she had just seen, the tiny cog quieted at last.





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