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Attention Steamboat People!

In celebration of this weekend’s AnachroCon 2011 “Southern Steampunk Symposium” we’ve decided to run a story that was recently submitted by Captain Drew, inventor of the rPhone. We ordinarily edit most the Captain’s story for brevity and reading comprehension, but it was his special request that this story be allowed to run in its unedited state “for the sake of all of them steamboat people”. (Our apologies go out to all of you Steampunk faithful, and to our friends over at AnachroCon (Feb 25-27), you know how impossible the Captain can be)

This be the story of how I first met William Thorson MacLeod, Chairman of AnachroCon.

One Sunday evening last summer I found myself at a nerd convention what be called “Dragon*Con”. I’d heard that a bunch of steamboat people were gatherin’ with some pirate mates of mine up at a place what be called the “Peach Tree Plaza”. As it turns out, it weren’t no plaza at all, it were a giant tower made of glass and cement. Mostly cement on the inside, which is just lovely, if you be a man what sells cement. To me, it were an eyesore. Still, being the space pirate you all know and love, I proceeded inward to seek out the shindig.

The Peachtree Plaza is a Den of Glass and Cement

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting a fully operational Death Star (Mk2) you’ll be familiar with the exotic range of centralized elevator shafts, black-on-black decor, fly-over bridges, gantries and other unnecessarily dangerous modes of moving from Point “A” to Point “B” ranged throughout this Atlanta landmark.

From my observations, I surmise that the designers of the Peachtree Tower Plaza Tower Thing (plaza) Hotel are obviously fans of Grand Moff Tarkin’s brother Lou (reknowned throughout the galaxy for his non-union cement factories and penchant for strolling through plazas at dusk), as the interior of that damned tower were slathered in cement! It was like a million historic preservationists crying out in unison, then suddenly silenced by a sharp crack upside the head by a Neo-Brutalist.

So it was that I arrived at the appointed floor of this big time-traveling steamboat pirate fete, roughly 30 minutes after I supposed the event were supposed to kick off.

A fashionably late arrival beed* my plan.

As the doors of the lift opened upon Detention Block AA 23 I followed a gaggle of goggled goomers in fancy hats and mutton chops, figuring they knew where the party might be located. Sure enough, ahead of us were an array of doors leading into what must surely be a rather large ballroom. To my surprise, the party had not yet started and a rather large line had formed outside the doors.

Being a rather infamous space pirate, the inventor of the rPhone and fairly uppity, I supposed that I might call upon my celebrity to slip inside ahead of the growing line of scurvy sea dogs and be-goggled Victorians…. so I sauntered casually up toward the entrance, to where the door keepers were standing guard. I must confess that I did not recognize a single one of them and did not wish to pull the “Do You Know Who I Am??” speech on them, mostly because it never works.

Captain Drew Attempts to Use Power and Influence to Infiltrate the Ballroom with his infamous rPhone

So I slipped back off to the side of one of those flying platforms and attempted to contact my mates on the inside via telephone and textual message, but even the legendary transmission power of the rPhone could not escape the cement tomb in which we stood. This was going to be embarrassing… ME!! Captain Drew!!! Standing in line with women named Hogarth and Hetta? Men with goggles and steam-powered undergarments? I’m a bloody space pirate!!! I had to do something nefarious to invade the party early, when the drink stations were at their most vulnerable.

That’s when I spotted the other doors.

You know, the doors on the next fly-over platform above the one I were presently standing upon… the doors what opened onto the balcony of the enormous ballroom. This was how a real pirate would insert himself into the party ahead of all those other patient, good-natured, civic-minded Victorians who honor standing in line and paying taxes and not looking up the ruffles of a steamboat lady what has stooped to pick up her fallen goggles.

All I had to do was to get to the next level up, select a door (any door, there were at least a hundred by my count) and stick my head inside to shout “Halloo! It be Captain Drew! Let me downstairs, okay? Hooty Hoo??”

To do make that last bit happen I had to be on the same floor as those hundred doors. I could take the elevator, but that was a risk, seeing as how all those black-on-black buttons had confused me quite a bit on the ride up. I was beginning to seriously panic when I spotted the spiral staircase.

It was like something from Earth’s 1960s!! A zany bit of vertical commotion that only humans could imagine, and there it was… like a crazy winding stair to the heavens!!

I sprang into action and sauntered up as if to say hello to a few of my pirate mates what were patiently waiting in line (you know who you are and should be embarrassed). Then, when everyone was lulled into a sense of false joviality I politely shoved my way past them and began trotting up the spiral staircase to the fly-over gantry one level up. The thing that I did not consider when I began chugging up the stairs was that the rails of that spiral staircase were crafted of transparent aluminum and that anybody and his sister might see me making my break.

And they did. Rather, SHE did.

I was halfway up the stair, with my back to the ballroom, when a jovial British woman’s voice rang out in the air behind me: “Captain Drew!!!!”

Maria Catches Captain Drew Trying to Sneak Into the Party

I froze in place halfway up the staircase, my hands making claws in the air in front of me, in absolute and utter shock. This was something that I had never considered. Slowly, I turned to face my accuser, who sang out again in yet a LOUDER and CHEERIER voice: “Captain Drew!!!!!!”

Oh dear.

It were my friend Maria.

I gamely waggled one of my claw-shaped hands in greeting to Maria as I noticed the people with Maria who were watching me with idle curiosity. A few of them knew me and yelled out their own greetings. The people standing around those people didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat and were regarding me with an appropriate level of disapproval. A space pirate on a spiral staircase is apparently considered bad luck for steamboat people!

To defer all suspicion I reached into one of my pouches and produced a mouth harmonium, which I began to play in earnest (note: I have no training on the mouth harmonium). After 10 seconds of screechy wheezing I stopped, embarrassed and ready to come back down the stair to be hung, or whatever it is that steamboat people does to pirates.

But that’s when some wag yelled “Needs more cowbell!!!”

I don’t exactly know what he meant by that remark, and I do not know what possessed me in that moment, but I pulled out my quantum flintlock and began hammering away at my mouth harmonium as if it were a cowbell… and even though the only sound it produced was the sound of a mouth harmonium being smashed and dented by the butt of a flintlock, the people clapped along.

And by “people” I mean a great number of the people who were standing in line, bored and looking for a distraction.

And by “clapping along” I mean, furiously slamming their hands together to produce a sharp percussive sound, magnified by the number of participants (potentially over 200) and Grand Moff Lou’s cement lining. If I tell you that the sound inside the Peach Tree Hotel Plaza Tower Hotel Thing was loud, it would likely be an understatement.

The sound of clapping rolled back and forth, up and down the interior of that mausoleum, getting louder and louder. I was initially afraid that the organizers of the steamboat/pirate function would be annoyed with the riot that I had accidentally incited, then I began to worry about a repeat of the Tacoma Narrows incident in which our fly-over platform would be torn to pieces by modulated sound waves.

Since I had no other choice I did the only thing a smart space pirate would do: I turned and ran the rest of the way up the spiral staircase and out of sight of the mob below until the clapping stopped.

The doors to the balcony? All locked.

Five minutes later I slinked back down the spiral staircase, ready to retreat back outside for awhile… but as soon as I stepped foot back down on the main floor of the ballroom one of the gate keepers stepped over and took me firmly by the elbow to guide me inside.

I had (apparently) been able to get their attention inside, after all.


The rest of the story is uneventful. I had rum, drank beer, patted ladies bottoms, annoyed people with my remarks upon the wisdom of a band opening a social event with a deafening drum solo followed by a second even-more-deafening drum solo. But the highlight of the evening was making the acquaintance of the main steamboat feller himself, Mister William Thorson MacLeod, who graciously allowed me to make an announcement about PiratePalooza upon his stage, for which I shall ever be grateful.

Sirrah, I do hope that your spider** convention be a massive success, filled with rum and much clapping!!

This story was delayed by sloth, but I do hope you found it to your liking.

Your pal,
Captain Drew

* no note on the word “beed”, actually, this were just to satisfy them English teachers amongst you.

** the Captain doesn’t apparently know the proper definition of the prefix “Anachro”

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