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Dr Archeville

[Time Warp] Cowboys & Englishmen (Lord Steam)

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Lord Steam was, of course, rather used to portals, dimensional travel, and all sorts of weird and wonderful teleportation. He had to be, given his frequent travel between Earth Prime and Earth Victoriana.

When his steam powered automobile careered into a shimmering vortex, he was, to be sure, rather surprised, but not completely shocked.

The engine died down as he hit the dusty road. The entire landscape had changed. He had grown up on the cheap novels and televisual entertainments featuring the Free Texan State of Earth Victoriana, with its gunslingers, saloons, and bar room brawls. His new surroundings were not much different from the sets of those serials. Except his current location looked infinitely more real.

“Howdy partner!” said one rather grimy cowboy, smelling slightly of whiskey but friendly enough. “Where’s your horse? Looks like a most peculiar wagon you got there, friend!”

“Ah yes” replied Lord Steam, with a winning but somewhat baffled smile. “I appear to have misplaced it. Must have run off with some lady horse or something, the randy devil!”

“Haw haw haw, good one!” laughed the cowboy, as he walked off (slightly raggedly) to the nearest bar.

So, Freedom City of yesteryear, he concluded. The portal, the setting, yes it all made sense. He wouldn’t be able to place the exact time – he hadn’t familiarised himself enough with Earth Prime History quite yet. However, he had done some basic homework, and had a photographic memory. He could make an educated guess. He was in the wild west.

He scanned the horizon, shielding his eyes from the midday sun. There, in the distance, he could see the vortex speeding across the horizon, and away from him. There went his portal back to Freedom City of the present.

Fortunately, it wasn’t, as yet, travelling to far. He could catch it up if he drove fast and furious enough. To the great surprise of the assorted onlookers, he fired up his automobile, and with a belch of smoke and a trail of steam, he set off in hot pursuit.

His Victorian car was fast enough, but the rough terrain didn’t suit him at all. The car rattled awfully, and at one point he feared he would lose a wheel. His bones jarred and his rear hurt.

And to make matters worse, he spied a plume of dust heading his way. He strained his eyes to see.. and as the plume came nearer, he could make out some horses. Then the riders. Then the screams of “Yee hah! Stand and deliver!”

Clearly his horseless chariot was something of a prize to the local bandits. Not so much of a prize that they held back from bullets. The flash of gunpowder and crack of firearms were easy enough to see and hear. The bullets whizzing past his head and into the Automobile were much easier, and brought home his peril much more evidently.

Lord Steam put his foot down on the accelerator as hard as possible, and ducked.

“Stand and Deliver” yelled the lead bandit.

“I must respectfully refuse your kind offer” yelled Lucien back, in faux polite tones. “Bit of a bad back, couldn’t possibly stand. “ he mused on their aggressive stance for a moment. “Would you mind awfully refraining from using those weapons of yours?”

“Quite a tounge on you!” yelled back the bandit leader. “Let’s see if you are so quick to be talk when you eat my bullet!” he laughed with a nasty smile.

Prang! That bullet was too close for comfort even for Lord Steam’s usually steady nerves.

“Actions speak louder than words!” he retorted, and with a violent yank swerved his car right into the Bandit and his horse. The action took the villain by surpsise, and he and his torse tumbled away to the ground, the rider cursing with an exceptional vocabulary of profanities.

Hmmm, thought Lucien. I could use a few of those phrases. You learn something new every day.

With a final push of acceleration, he sped away from the rest of the Bandits with a cheery wave and mock salute. At this range, whilst riding, they had no chance of hitting him. He kept up the pace, and raced towards the vortex, steeling himself for whatever shock would come.

It was surprisingly smooth. A slight wobble in his stomach, but nothing to complain about. Or perhaps it was just smooth relative to the pain of driving his automobile full speed over rough terrain. That wasn’t much fun at all.

He swerved a few times to avoid pedestrians as he hit modern day Freedom City, and then brought his automobile to a stop. It was an antiquated curiosity at the best of times, and normally brought a lot of pointing fingers and amused smiles. The bullet holes and steaming engine only added its noteworthiness.

Lord Steam looked behind him. The vortex had already shrunk, and as he watched, it vanished into thin air.

Much as he appreciated a rare insight into the history of Freedom City, he was man of the future.

“Good riddance!”

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