I wish there was more I could tell you. Alex has always been secretive and a loner. He takes no interest in joint ventures; shows no desire to share his research or discoveries with other adventurers.
As he boards the airship, though, there is many a raised eyebrow. His backpack – is it steam powered? What do the dials measure? And that metal tube protruding from the top – what is its purpose? Most of all, though, his fellow travellers’ attention is drawn to the device he cradles in his hands.
One lady, unable to contain her curiosity, finally approaches him. “That is a fascinating object, Sir.”
“Indeed,” he responds, quietly, but offers no further comment.
“May I be so bold as to ask what it is for?” she persists.
He snorts irritably. “It is a type of – astrolabe, Madam,” he responds, as if the word had been wrenched from his throat. “Now if you will please excuse me, I have mental calculations to make and require some solitude.”
He puts on his leather helmet and pulls down his goggles, attempting, no doubt, to isolate himself still further from those around him.
A boy, having been offered a shilling by a portly gentleman should he be able to obtain any further revelations, reports that the map protruding from the young gent’s pocket shows Antarctica.
“And I seen him – when he was sure no one was watching – take down that great machine from his back and stand it on the deck, Sir.”
A small crowd forms around the child, whose chest swells with importance, and with anticipation for the coin which will soon be in his possession.
“He moves the dial at the top, Sir – and ladies and gents all – most particular, like. I couldn’t get close enough to see what number it was at – not without giving meself away, you understand. But then,” he pauses for effect and the listeners draw closer, “I seen him take that stick from his pocket – the one joined on to the round thing he’s always a-carrying about with him.”
“The astrolade, I believe it’s called,” a sandy-haired man in a bowler hat ventures.
“Astrolabe,” somebody corrects him. “A navigational device of some sort.”
“Anyhow,” the boy continues, “the young gent puts that stick into the pipe sticking out of the machine and the whole thing begins to GLOW! Couldn’t believe me eyes and it was all I could do to stop meself from crying out with the fear of it. But I kept me mouth shut, Sir, since you’d put this particular task upon me.”
He looks earnestly at the man who is hopefully to be his benefactor. Surely this information could be worth a florin, or even half a crown.
“Glowed kind of blue, it did,” he continues. “And there was little lights a-coming from the round device, ladies and gentlemen, just like the smallest lightning bolts you can imagine. Each time one came, there was a crack, like a whip striking horseflesh. It fair made me skin creep, I can tell you.”
“Then what?” asks a lady. “You were exceedingly brave,” she adds, with an encouraging smile.
“It made a humming sound,” the boy asserts, recognising that more is required. “Like a spinning top and quiet to begin with, but then it got ever so slightly louder and higher and it was painful to me ears, I don’t mind telling you. I’ll bet that’s why he wears that helmet – to shield himself from that awful sound. And just when I thought I couldn’t bear it no longer, it goes silent and the glowing and the sparks stop and the gent nods his head and looks rather pleased with hisself.”
There are contented murmurings from the assembled group. Several people assert that they had expected as much. The boy receives his shilling – though not a farthing more – and Alex continues to shun the company of the other passengers for the remainder of his journey.
Alex is no longer available at the Steampunk Dolls House, as he has moved to a new home. To see other steampunk miniature figures, please visit https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse?ref=hdr_shop_menu