werewolf, horror, alternate history, steampunk, post apocalyptic
On the brink of humanity’s extinction, Nikola Tesla and a mysterious order of scientists known as the Tellurians revealed a bold plan to save a world ravaged by a disease that turned sane men into ravenous werewolves: the uninfected would abandon the Earth’s surface by rising up in floating salvation cities, iron and steel metropolises that carried tens of thousands of refugees above the savage apocalypse.
Twenty years later, only one salvation city remains aloft, while the beasts still rule the world below. Time has taken its toll on the miraculous machinery of the city, and soon the last of the survivors will plummet to their doom. But when Elijah Kelly, a brakeman aboard the largest of the city’s Thunder Trains, is infected by the werewolf virus, he discovers a secret world of lies and horrific experiments that hide the disturbing truth about the Tellurians.
When the beast in his blood surges forth, Elijah must choose between the lives of those he loves, and the city that is humanity’s last hope of survival.
Born a modern-day nomad in the Deep South, Timothy Black wandered through most of the southern United States in an attempt to find his life, love, and home. After studying Geology, Astronomy, and the Occult, he found himself with a degree in Philosophy and a habit of writing odd things. A serial killer of coffee and whiskey sours, he has since found his den in the Pacific Northwest with two raucous bird ladies that peck him when he gets too far out of line. That's a whole lot of beaking.
The train bulled her way through the sky toward us, growing disturbingly larger every second. Although she twisted under a lack of control, it was clear that some idiot had stoked the furnace. The pistons churned madly, spinning the wheels that powered the ancillary generators. But she was still crackling with the energy of a recent pass through the clouds. It was a dangerous combination.
"They're insane," Henry said, shaking his head.
No Double T was meant to run without lightning's caress for long. The boiler system was a backup for clear skies, a useful relic of back when the trains had actually run on rails instead of thin air. But only a blasted fool would use both the furnace and the storms at once. Although together they were capable shooting a Double T ahead like greased lightning, it'd blow out the squall tubes that kept the hundred tons of steel aloft and barreling ahead. The tubes going critical would end with a spectacular explosion that could tear a new hole in the Devil's ass.
"Holy shit, she's heading right for us!" Henry yelled, eyes wide with terror as we braced for the deadly impact.
The air groaned with dead weight and dread as the Double T grew to fill our sight. She passed so close to us that I could read the lettering on her engine's side: Shrieking Sally. I almost reached out to touch the hundred tons of steel flashing by before the shock wave from the violent passage hit me, nearly yanking me off the collection vane and sending me spinning in her wake. Henry wailed in terror as the tender and ruined cargo car passed by in the blink of an eye, missing us by scant inches.
The Shrieking Sally lived up to her name, plowing into several of the crowded brick buildings below with an awful sound. The Double T slammed through them at a forty-five-degree angle, shattering brick and wood like a giant's fist through glass, and throwing up a wall of debris in her wake. The train came to a sudden and violent stop when she hit the steel superstructure of the city's skeleton beneath the buildings. Her boiler buckled under the pressure of the impact and exploded, sending hot shrapnel far and wide as the Thunder Train tore herself apart.
Thankfully, the squall tubes hadn't reached critical overcharge yet, or it would have been much, much worse. Scalding steam, shattered brick, and hot metal peppered the base of the collection vane we were clinging to, which was already groaning from the near-miss. Somehow, the swaying column didn't give out and send us plunging to our deaths.
Other folks weren't as lucky.
Space was at a premium on Wardenclyffe; people built up more than out, with only the edges of the city having any kind of free space. The buildings that the Shrieking Sally had plowed into were bound to be filled with people. Although I couldn't hear them screaming this high up, my belly turned at the thought of how many had just died. The impact alone would have been devastating, but the boiler explosion made it much worse. How far had she penetrated through the city's base? Wardenclyffe was only a couple of hundred feet of metal and wood in some spots, and if the damage was bad enough, we might actually be facing a structural split that could down the whole salvation city in one go.
"Come on, Henry. We got us a job to do."
Even if we had to use spit and bailing wire, somehow, we had to keep Wardenclyffe together. There'd be emergency crews on the way, but we were right there already. I was damned if I'd sit idly by while the city and her people died.
Rather than argue with me, my friend nodded in agreement.
Our descent was dangerous, and I refused to coddle Henry. We set up a series of swing-downs where each of us acted as an anchor point for the other, tethered together with one man hanging on to a crossbeam as the other swung out and down to a lower spot in the structure, before doing the same over the new lower anchor man. It was a brutal impact when we hit the column, and more than once I nearly lost a few teeth from it. Henry impressed me by not whimpering once; he just set his jaw and went to it. I swore then and there to never make fun of his fear again. When the chips were down, he had the courage needed. You couldn't ask more of a man than that.
The moans of the wounded greeted us as we covered the last hundred feet to the close-set wooden planks and crowded buildings that served as Wardenclyffe's ground level. There were bodies lying motionless everywhere around the hovels the Double T had crashed into, flung all over by the boiler's detonation; it was cold comfort that the train hadn't hit the Heights nearer the center of Wardenclyffe, with its buildings piled on top of each other hundreds of feet in the air. This far out toward the city's edge there were less places built up, so not as many dead and dying.
It was still a scene straight out of hell.
My brain refused to show it to me all at once as I instinctively recoiled my tether. Around the perimeter of the impact area there were a few folks that stirred, although they'd been horribly burned and torn up by scalding steam and shrapnel from the explosion. We dragged the injured clear of the tangled, burning wreckage of buildings and train as best we could, working without words. Motionless bodies lay everywhere, outnumbering the living ten to one. While part of me screamed to check the city's structural integrity, no decent man could walk by another person writhing on the ground in agony and just look away. Frantically ringing bells in the distance told us the fire brigade and lawmen were on their way, but they'd be clogged up in the narrow streets with confused folks who'd rushed out in panic at the cityshuddering crash. Around us locals emerged from their concussion-rocked homes, glassy-eyed and staring around with shocked expressions.
"That's the last," Henry gasped, letting go of an unconscious man's arms he'd hauled free. In five minutes of furious activity, we'd pulled nearly a dozen wounded people out of the twisted mess of brick, wood, and steel. But there was nothing else we could do for them. They bled and twitched, and some even woke up long enough to scream a bit before falling back into blessed darkness. I had no clue how to help; vaguely I remembered something about bandages and hot water, but I'd never been much interested in doctoring. My ignorant ministrations would have been as bad as the explosion itself.
"Has to be. Can't be any more. Can't imagine anyone closer lived through that," I wheezed, exhausted.
A crashing sound deep in the tangled wreckage called me a liar. With a groan, I exchanged a knowing look with Henry.
Despite our weariness, we began to pick our way through the labyrinth of collapsed buildings and debris around the impact crater.
"Watch it!" Henry warned, grabbing my arm and yanking me to the side as a girder gave out underneath my feet.
I whistled in grim appreciation as the rusted beam crashed down twenty feet below into a nasty-looking knot of iron and steel. After scrambling over a collapsed brick wall, we found an open area around the actual impact point of the Shrieking Sally, a fairly open area cleared by the boiler's explosion. The Double T's wrecked cargo car loomed over us as we approached, bent at an odd angle and jammed straight through into the tender car like locomotive lovemaking gone hideously wrong. The oddlymated cars had been blown clean off from the engine when the boiler blew.
We rounded their mess to find the remnants of the engine itself deeply embedded in a collapsed section, mostly hidden from sight and surrounded by a growing fire whose heat made us sweat like the Devil in church. Broken squall tubes leaked out their viscous black fluid into scattered puddles. Around us corpses lay twisted and broken, their mangled, halfcooked bodies splayed and roasting in the growing fires.
"Anybody there?" Henry called down to where the engine's wreckage lay while we tried to work our way through the bodies and debris. It seemed impossible that anyone could have survived this close to the blast. I tripped over a body half-buried in the rubble that wore reinforced jacket and britches like mine. He'd been a fellow brakeman, one of the doomed crew of the Shrieking Sally.
"Shiftless bastard," I muttered without pity, thinking of the salt-crusted squall tubes I'd seen studding the doomed engine. If his engineer was half as worthless as he, it was no wonder they'd rammed the city with an out-ofcontrol Double T. Their laziness had cost hundreds of innocent folks their lives.
Despite the growing heat, I felt my stomach grow cold in terror when I realized the corpse's wounds weren't from the crash.
"Let go of my arm, Eli," Henry mumbled irritably as I tried to pull him down and stop him from calling out.
"Shut. Up," I whispered. Not that there was any point. The damned thing had to know we were here. I pointed down to the corpse I'd fallen over. Henry went silent, his eyes wide.
The man's flesh had been flash-fried when the boiler had exploded, but something else had murdered him before that. Jagged rips in his hot-suit went through skin and down into muscle to the bone in a way no explosion could have produced. His shoulder had the meat gnawed away, and he'd been gutted by savage claws seeking the soft meat.
A sound of tearing metal, this one louder than the first, came from the nearby crater, followed by the racket of something trying to wrench its way free of the wreckage. The fading light of the setting sun was bolstered by the full moon overhead and the growing fires around us, but none of them penetrated into the heart of the dark pit where the noises were coming from.
A throaty howl echoed out to greet the dying of the day. We crouched, rooted in place, our breathing ragged, knowing without a doubt that we were dead men. One of the beasts that had driven humanity from the surface of the Earth had found its way up here.
There was a werewolf loose on Wardenclyffe.
Format : ebook
Page Count : 348