Sunday, February 17, 2013

Celebration Station! Armand Rosamilia

Day 17

Clockwork Katelynn
Pure Englishmen and Airships
By Armand Rosamilia

The Mexican entered the saloon with a clang, hushing the room.

To Katelynn he looked like any other Southerner but knew what was going to happen. She backed up from the tea machines and eyed her father, standing still at the main bar.

Three Western Colonists, playing a hand of cards, immediately put free hands on their holstered pistols. The rest of the patrons took a step or two away from the man.

"I come in peace," he said in broken English and put his hands up.

Katelynn's dad, who the townsfolk called Burly Micah, placed his double-barreled shotgun on the bar before him, finger near the twin triggers. "Turn around and leave."

"I am looking for one you Westies - er, Colonists call Kruk."

"There's no one by that name here." Burly Micah lifted the shotgun. "Last chance to leave with your sorry Mexican head attached."

"Who's looking for Kruk?" a man sitting in the corner asked. His dirty goggles were still on his face, a large-brimmed black hat shadowing his features. He was dusty, his brown leather coat spilling onto the wooden floor and flaking with grime.

Katelynn didn't remember seeing the man come in, but there he was. And he had a brass mug on the table before him. She was positive she hadn't served him.

The Mexican—fear etched on his weathered face—took a step back. "I wish to speak to this Kruk."

Burly Micah pointed a beefy finger at the stranger in the corner. "I suggest you take this exchange outside. I don't want foreigners in my place of business." He tapped the double shotgun for emphasis. "And I don't rightly think I want anyone he's looking for in my place of business, either."

The stranger stood and lifted the goggles, showing bright blue eyes.

Katelynn gasped. The only people with blue or green-tinged eyes were those of Pure English stock, rare in these parts. Heck, the Pure English stayed in the Motherland and never ventured across the ocean by steamship or craft. She'd read about them in her history lessons, but never thought to lay eyes on one.

"I'll take this out back," the stranger said, and dropped two golden coins on the table. "That should pay for a round or two for everyone." He pulled four silver pieces and added them to the pile. "That should help keep everyone quiet."

No one moved. The tea machine suddenly belched a cloud of steam, and it was like a signal for everyone to go back to what they were previously doing.

The card players went back to their game, the other patrons went back to drinking, Burly Micah put his weapon back under the counter, and Katelynn mixed another tea whiskey for a paying customer, but not before scooping up the coins and slipping them to her father.

*   *   *   *   *

Katelynn, exhausted after a full day working downstairs in the saloon, just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for hours. She went to the washbasin and scrubbed her face, wiping the sweat and grime caked on her cheeks.

Once she changed into her simple nightgown she decided to climb onto the roof and enjoy the cool breeze as night was falling before climbing back into the warm, stagnant bedroom.

Summer in Arizuma was scorching by day and comfortable at night. Katelynn sat down and turned her freshly-scrubbed face to the dying sun, reveling in the clean heat as opposed to the stifling warmth of working long hours in the saloon.

She wasn't surprised when her father joined her, slipping out of his own bedroom window and sitting down.

"Nice night," he said.

This had become their nightly ritual before sleep, watching the sun go down and Katelynn asking questions before bedtime. Because she was needed here, schooling was out of the question. So her father used this time each day to answer pressing questions. Because their entire world revolved around the saloon, she knew her father usually knew some of the questions before they were asked.

"What was wrong with the Mexican's leg?"

Her father snorted. "You know the answer to that."

"He was a Mod, wasn't he? How did he get so far into Arizuma?"

Arizuma, only the tenth territory recognized by England, stretched as far as the eye could see. Katelynn was going on fourteen winters but the farthest she'd been was the trading post in Tempe, where she'd seen her first actual Mexican at the age of six.

"That I don't know," her father said. He glanced at Katelynn. "And to answer your second question before you ask: I'm not sure how the Pure Englishman slipped into town and into the saloon without anyone noticing him. He's obviously someone important, but I'm sure, after taking care of whatever business he had with the Mexican Mod, he's long gone."

"You hope he is?"

"Yes," her father said quietly. "It's never a good thing when Mother England sends men like that to the colonies."

"Why do they hate the Mexicans so much?"

"They don't hate the foreigners, but they also don't want to give up any of the territory to outsiders. The English fought long and hard to tame this land, and no foreign people are going to simply walk in and take it. You know all this."

"Yes, but I like to talk about it with you. Rollins says the only good Mexican is a dead Mexican."

"Stay away from Rollins, his family is scandalous."

"Is his mother and father from England?"

"Yes, one of the few families not born here."

"Rollins says he's better than me because our family is just relatives of bandits and thieves."

"And murderers and rogues."


Her father sat for a minute, staring at the cacti and desert surrounding the small town. "You know the answer to that. Whether or not you'd like to forget or make pretend, that's up to you. The Rose family has been in the Western Colonies for four generations with your birth."

"It just feels like we're being punished for others before us."

"The sins of the father is the old saying." He looked at Katelynn. "And we are. We're not Pure English and never will be. They curse us and call us Westies."

"Then why don’t we start our own, independent territory?"

Her father slid closer to her on the roof and shushed her. "Don't talk like that, especially out in the open."


"Because there are those in the territory who would like nothing better than to get their family name back in the good graces of Mother England by revealing an uprising."

"I didn't think of that."

"No, but you'll remember it well."

The sun disappeared over the hills.

Her father stood and took her hand. "Time for bed. We have yet another long day ahead of us tomorrow."

Katelynn kissed her father's stubbly cheek. "I have one more question."


"Why do you think Rollins and his family are really here?"

Burly Micah looked his daughter in the eyes intently but smiled. "They've either done something horrible back in England and were banished here like the rest of us, or they were sent here to watch us. Either way, I don't trust them. And neither should you."

*   *   *   *   *

Mother England had built the Mexican-Western Colonies Wall to keep foreigners away, but there weren't enough Western Colonists to properly patrol and keep everyone out.

More and more Mexicans and Southerners were making their way north to the territory. Katelynn knew that in itself wasn't too bad. They brought money, were quiet, and were never a problem. Once a group of twelve laborers, working when the railroad tracks were being laid outside of town, came in and spent an afternoon drinking and singing with the locals.

The Mexican Mods were the problem, and Katelynn realized the one yesterday was a Mod. That explained the clanking of his foot when he walked. But it didn't explain the Pure Englishman in the saloon.


She smiled when she saw Rollins come into the saloon. As much as her father disapproved of him and his family—and last night's talk was just one in a long line of 'watch this boy, watch that boy' talks her father gave her—Katelynn liked him. What wasn't to like? He dressed much older, wore a wonderful top-hat fitted with small brass gears, a long overcoat despite the heat, and his boots were soft brown leather that probably wouldn't last the season.

Plus, he was two winters older and knew how to read and write with ease.

And Rollins was quite pleasing to the eye, Katelynn thought.

"Good afternoon," she said.

"When do you get a break?" he asked.

"I don't know. Why?"

"Jimin says there's an airship down by Dried Creek getting ready to launch."

Katelynn smiled. She'd only seen one airship in the air, and that was three winters ago. The air fields were too far away from here. Since the railroad made a stop five miles from here, most of the imported goods came via train and then driven by horse teams.

"That's a funny place for an airship,” she said. “Is it big?"

"Biggest I've ever seen,” he said, “and I grew up in Londin within a mile of the Great Londin Air-Port. Used to know what time it was based on the ship that launched."

Katelynn didn't know if Rollins was fibbing, since she'd caught him in so many lies in the short time they'd known each other.

"Come on," he said and took her hand in his. It felt warm. "We'll miss it."

"I'll meet you out back," she said. "Just give me a second." Her father was behind the bar, tending to several patrons, and hadn't noticed the exchange. She was glad for that. Katelynn was sure her father wouldn't approve of her going, especially with Rollins.

She approached him as he was pouring a shot of tea whiskey and smiled. "Father, mind if I take break?"

"Go ahead,” her father said. "There's some bread and cheese in the kitchen. Go fetch some lunch."

"Well, actually, I was wondering if I could take my break outside today. It's so wonderful, and I never get to go until it's getting dark."

Burly Micah fixed his only child with a stern eye. "What are you up to?"

Katelynn tried to keep his gaze but felt her eyes slipping away. "Nothing, I'm just sick of being cooped up in this saloon every day of my life."

"Let 'er go, mate," a drunken man at the bar said, smiling around a brass mug.

Her father didn't move. Instead he kept staring at his daughter, who did her best to return that look.

"I need another drink before I die of thirst down here," someone yelled.

"Go," he finally said. "Take the afternoon off. But don't let this become a commonplace thing, got it?"

"Yes, sir," Katelynn said, put her apron on the counter and ran through the back doors to the kitchen, sliding a wedge of cheese into her mouth without stopping.

When she got around back and hopped the fence into the dry ditch she was surprised to see several other children standing around. They stared at her as she approached.

"I told you she'd make it," Rollins said and pulled his top-hat off, sweeping the ground with it in an exaggerated bow. "Milady, the troops have deigned to company us on our journey of journeys. They will protect us from the dire wolverns, the black sheep of the Arizuma hills, and the Xototl of Mexico."

Katelynn laughed and smiled when he took her by the hand and led her and the entourage away and over the hills.

*   *   *   *   *

"Why can't we go look at it?" Lyle Orfant asked. He was nearly twelve but built like his father, and looked twice his age.

"You can see perfectly well from here," Rollins said. "The pilot is already making the preparations."


Rollins pushed Lyle, even though he was bigger. "I don't want to spend the night in the city jail, do you?"

Katelynn didn't think there was a law against talking to the air pilot or getting a closer look, but she decided not to argue. This was close enough.

They squatted between two rock outcroppings, just above and to the south of the mighty airship.

Katelynn had never been this close to one, and she was in awe: it rose from the desert floor as long as three barns. It was tethered with a dozen ropes, tied to large metal blocks and tended by a score of men.

"How does it stay afloat?" Lyle asked.

"By steam power," Rollins answered.

"But how?"

Rollins looked annoyed. "It doesn't matter to you, since you'll never ride in one."

"Have you ever ridden in one?" one of the younger girls asked.

"Of course. I've ridden in hundreds of them."

Katelynn knew Rollins was lying but didn't challenge him. He was in as much awe of the airship as the rest of them.

"I'm going to get a closer look," Lyle said without moving.

Rollins snorted. "Go ahead if you want to. It will be your funeral we'll attend, not mine."

"I've seen enough." Lyle stood and turned to leave. Suddenly he fell back onto his rear, hands in front of him.

Everyone was in motion in an instant until they heard the booming voice, which said simply "Stop where you stand or die where you fall."

Katelynn, three steps over the hill, froze.

All the children turned and faced the man.

Katelynn caught her breath. It was Kruk, the Pure Englishman from yesterday. He was covered in dust, his goggles high on his forehead exposing his eyes.

Kruk held his pistol but it was pointed at the ground. "Everyone come back to me—slowly—and sit on the ground."

Everyone obeyed. To do otherwise invited a shot, and there was nothing a Western Colonist could do about it. The Pure English, so rare in these parts, held absolute authority.

Katelynn heard the stories of these agents from the Ministry of Defense journeying to the colonies, shooting a man or woman in the street, and walking past the local sheriff without so much as a nod.

Kruk grinned. "None of you have ever seen an airship?"

No one said a word.

"How about you, Rollins?" Kruk asked.

Rollins shook his head slowly.

Kruk said, "Everyone stand up and keep in front of me."

As one they did as they were told. Kruk put his pistol back in the holster but didn't clip it shut.

"Today is a special day for you children," Kruk said. "I'm going to take you over for a closer look at the dirigible. How does that sound?"

They were all excited, if a little leery. They'd all heard stories about the Pure English and how they dominated when they came to the Western Colonies.

Katelynn's father had often told her they were cruel masters and nothing good ever came out of them visiting. She hoped he was wrong.

"I have to get back," Katelynn said.

Kruk turned to her and smiled. "This will only take a few minutes, and then all the friends of Rollins can go back to town. Follow me."

He led them down the hill. As they approached the giant craft Kruk waved to the workers.

A man, small and wiry, ran out to them. "She's almost ready to fly, mate." He squinted in the afternoon sun and frowned at the kids. "We don't have room fer so many, Mister Kruk."

Katelynn turned to run. This was a trap! They planned on kidnapping her and her friends.

Kruk laughed. "No, no, you misunderstand, Captain Arkwright. These Western Colonists are here to simply see the LZ 75."

"LZ 75?" Lyle asked.

"The airships are numbered. Unlike the British Navy, we don't use names. The British Airship Forces has better things to do with their time, right Captain Arkwright?"

"I suppose," the man said. He smiled faintly at Kruk. "We leave in twelve minutes."

When the captain walked away Kruk clapped his hands. "I'm afraid our tour ends here, ladies and gentlemen. Any questions?" He turned his head and grinned. "Rollins, anything you'd like to add?"

Rollins shrugged.

"How do you know his name?" Lyle asked.

"Excellent question, son. Simply excellent." Kruk began moving away from them. When they started to follow he put his hand up. "I must leave, children. My time here is over, but rest assured I will return." He looked directly at Katelynn and winked. "In the very near future I shall return and complete unfinished business. I assure you."

The children waved except for Katelynn, Rollins and Lyle.

Kruk took several steps, kicking up dirt in his boots before stopping. He pointed at Lyle. "In answer to your question: your good friend Rollins there is a spy. His family was set here to root out those not loyal to Mother England. They've been keeping track of everything your families are doing, and will report back eventually. Then three airships of armed Pure Englishmen will surround your homes and set them ablaze, killing you and your entire family."

Lyle punched Rollins in the back of the head before he could respond. As Rollins turned one of the smaller kids kicked him in the crook of his knee, forcing him to the ground. Others took up the attack, pummeling Rollins to the ground.

Katelynn didn't join in the barbaric scene. She stared at Kruk and wanted to cry.

"I will return for you, Katelynn," Kruk said.

At the mention of her name she fell to her knees and began to weep. He knew her!

"You are very special,” he said, "and very important to the Motherland. Stay well and watch over your father. I'll be in touch."

As the group brutalized Rollins, Katelynn watched Kruk simply walk away and climb into the airship without looking back. 


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Armand Rosamilia is a New Jersey boy currently living in sunny Florida, where he writes when he's not watching zombie movies, the Boston Red Sox and listening to Heavy Metal music...
Besides the "Miami Spy Games" zombie spy thriller series, he has the "Keyport Cthulhu" horror series, several horror novellas and shorts to date, as well as the "Dying Days" series:
Highway To Hell... Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer... Dying Days... Dying Days 2... Still Dying: Select Scenes From Dying Days... Dying Days: The Siege of European Village... and many more coming in 2013.
He is also an editor for Rymfire Books, helping with several horror anthologies, including "Vermin" and the "State of Horror" series, as well as the creator and energy behind Carnifex Metal Books, putting out the "Metal Queens Monthly" series of non-fiction books about females into Metal...
You can find him at
and e-mail him to talk about zombies, baseball and Metal: armandrosamilia @

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