Free from duty for a few moments, I made my way from the mess to the cargo hold. At the moment, crates and boxes stacked higher than the top of my head filled it with only a meandering path left between them. I dropped into the hold, fully prepared to lose myself in the maze.
“Hold it right there.” The voice was far too deep to belong to one of the lolitas.
Keeping one hand on the ladder, I turned slowly and stared past the barrel of the gun pointed my way to the man behind it. He was young and quite handsome with his shadowed eyes and chiseled jaw. The badge pinned to his chest, however, gave me pause.
“Who are you?”
“I’m in charge down here, and if you have concerns about that, feel free to haul yourself back up to the bridge and ask your captain.” He didn’t drop the weapon, but he did step back, allowing me room.
Now I remembered that the captain had mentioned a passenger traveling with our cargo. If I’d known he was a lawman, I would have avoided the hold like the plague. Time for a hasty retreat to anywhere else. “I only came down to lose myself in the boxes for a bit. The hold has never been this full, and I couldn’t resist the lure of a few moments alone.”
He lowered the weapon at last and scrubbed at his jaw. “Apologies, miss, but I can’t allow that. This crap is intel destined for the task force that’s–”
“It’s what for what?” I blinked at him, his words nothing but gibberish. “No. Never mind. I should return to my duties. Good day, sir.” I raced up the ladder and back to my station where things made some small degree of sense.
A couple days ago I finished up line edits on Clockwork Mafia. It was a huge reminder of the fact that research doesn’t end with facts and dates and names. The number of anachronistic words and phrases that had slipped into my narrative was… Well, let’s just say I became paranoid on my read-through that there were more.
In many ways, steampunk is anachronistic–modern technology and attitudes shoved into an older society. But that doesn’t mean that anything and everything goes. For instance, there is a flamethrower in Clockwork Mafia and, while I don’t think its existence is a problem (even though in our world they weren’t used until WWI), I did change an instance of the point-of-view character thinking of it as a flamethrower. (The totality of that part in the scene is more complicated than that, but it was adjusted more than once to correct reality with Badlands-reality.)
There were a few of those instances where the real-world use of a word or phrase wasn’t that far removed (in time) from the events in Clockwork Mafia, but they were changed in order to keep as much of my alternate reality consistent with the known world as possible. It does, however, beg the question of how much leeway do readers allow for such things. The mob was not known as “the mob” until prohibition era. In a story about pre-prohibition mafia in an alternate reality, would that bother you as a reader? Task force didn’t come into use until WWII. So, where is the line drawn?
(Note: This is in no way a negative comment on my editor. I changed all the anachronistic words and phrases because I want my reality to be as realistic as possible. It just made me very curious how others felt about such things in general.)