The following is an excerpt from my short story, “Stormspike” which appears in the Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk anthology.
Rosamund Thorpe stood on the flight deck of His Majesty, King George VI’s flying fortress: the Arc Royal, scowling into the night over the North Sea. Wind tugged at her shoulder-length brown hair. Its chill fingers snatched each plume of breath as it passed her lips.
Stars glittered overhead, and a half-moon gave just enough light to see the fighter planes tethered to the flight deck around her. Two meters from the edge, strips of blue lights ran the perimeter of the deck. Not bright enough to make the ship a target, they were a safety precaution.
And they were out.
The blackouts started a few days ago. They hadn’t lasted long, but on a ship like the Royal, they were as disruptive as a fishhook in the finger.
Worse, Rosamund and her crew hadn’t been able to find the cause. Which made the whole mess officially her fault.
It made no sense. Not even a tripped breaker, but here she was, out on the deck, warding the edges because the bloody safety lights were out.
As if sensing her thoughts, the thin strips glowed to life.
“You could have had someone else ward the—what the hell?” A voice spoke from behind her.
Abigail Shaul, her second, stood hunched against the cold, her fists shoved deep into the pockets of her jacket. She stared at the safeties, head cocked, her brown hair whipping about her head.
“You look surprised,” Rosamund said.
“I am surprised,” Abigail said. “I came out here to give you a status update. We hadn’t started on the safeties.”
Rosamund frowned at the lights. “What did you find?”
“Not a bloody thing,” Abigail said.
“That can’t be right.”
“It is,” Abigail said. “Power has been restored, and we’ve been from one end of the outage to the other. Nothing.”
Rosamund glared at the lights. Her breath exploded in a cloud of gray. “The deck safeties are on their own backup circuit. Why did they go down?”
“We hadn’t made it there yet,” Abigail said. “The crew’ll look into it, but I have a feeling that they’ll find the same amount of nothing.”
“It can’t be nothing,” Rosamund said. “This is contested territory. If we run into the Germans during an outage…”
“We’ll figure it out.” Abigail turned up the collar of her jacket. “But we can only play what’s in front of us, and everything appears to be working now.”
A chill blast flowed across the deck, and Rosamund turned into it. The cold hitched her breath in her chest. She took it in and released it in a long plume. She hated not knowing. It got under her skin like a splinter.
A wall of clouds gathered at the horizon. A storm, probably—if the wind didn’t change.
She turned to Abigail. “Is everyone accounted for?”
“Aye. At least the night shift.” Abigail frowned. “What are you thinking?”
A sour feeling coiled in Rosamund’s stomach. She didn’t want to give voice to the thought. Tensions were already frayed among the crew.
A shiver rattled Abigail from head to foot. “Why are we still out here?”
“We’ve still got to brief the captain.” A wry grin quirked Rosamund’s lips. “Tell him we don’t have any idea what’s going on.”
“Ah.” Abigail’s blue eyes glittered. “I suppose I’ll get used to the cold eventually.”
Like what you saw?
You can pick up a copy of this story and many others in Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk anthology from: