Today we welcome Zoë Archer and Nico Rosso!
Zoë Archer and her husband, romance author Nico Rosso, currently live in Los Angeles. She and Nico share an office and get up periodically to take turns accosting the cats. When she isn’t writing or forcing herself to exercise, Zoë loves to read, bake, and tweet about boots and men in cravats (strictly as a service to her readers).
Nico: Thanks so much for having us today, Suzi! What a great way to wish my lovely wife, Zoë a happy birthday. Usually, I’d get her a pair of boots (which I did), but this year I also wanted to do something special for Zoë. So I pulled a few strings and called in some favors from Her Majesty’s Aerial Navy and got us a ride along on a Man O’ War airship.
We were already in London consulting with Navy intelligence regarding their airship telegraph docking stations, so it was only a quick train ride to Newbury. We arrived in the early morning, a low mist shrouding the giant hangars and scaffolds where the airships were built and repaired. Captain Christopher Redmond was gracious enough to welcome us onto the Demeter and from there, we were off.
Zoë: Having never been aboard an actual airship before, I was thrilled when Captain Redmond offered us a tour of the Demeter. We were joined on the tour by his charming wife, Louisa. It seemed unusual for a woman to be aboard a ship of war, but Mrs. Shaw seemed as much a member of the crew as anyone else—though her role on the ship was somewhat mysterious. She gave us goggles to protect our eyes when above deck.
The cool air rushed around us as we stood upon the deck, seeing the patchwork of green below us and the wide expanse of cloud-dotted sky overhead. The view, you can well imagine, took my breath away. As I’m slightly afraid of heights, I made sure to keep my hand firmly within Nico’s while we took our tour. But I’d never complain about having to hold Nico’s hand!
We saw the telumium panels bolted to various parts of the ship’s interior. Captain Redmond’s telumium implants were hidden beneath his uniform, yet we knew that the panels drew his energy toward the ship’s central battery. The captain pointed out the tanks that collected the ether, which is a byproduct of the transferral of energy. This ether permits ships like the Demeter to fly. Both Captain and Mrs. Redmond seemed perfectly acclimated to the process. What a remarkable era in which we live!
N: While flying over the rolling hills we spotted another Man O’ War airship practicing maneuvers. It wheeled and turned in the air nimbly, and I almost felt sorry for anyone who might be the target of its various ether-cannons and Gatling guns. Skimming along with the ship were three smaller crafts, roughly the shape of a horse with a single rider.
Captain Redmond explained that they were Sky Chargers, part of the US Army’s cavalry. Mrs. Redmond added that they were training with the Man O’ Wars, though there was little hope in refining the cowboys from the West to fight like proper British soldiers. Yet she did admit that what they lacked in propriety, they made up for with fighting spirit.
A table was brought on deck and we all sat to a birthday luncheon for Zoë. Spanish wine, Italian cheese, English beef. The horizon spread out all around us as we dined. The conversation floated as easily as the clouds the ship sometimes passed through. A brass cylinder about fourteen inches tall was brought to the table. Captain Redmond cranked a small handle on the side and set the internal machine to action. It boiled water, brewed tea, then poured the perfect cup for each of us through a discrete spout. More amazing than the device were the French pastries we had for dessert.
Z: As a lover of all things sweet, I was delighted by the offerings. Once we’d finished dessert, the captain showed us the galley, where the cook proudly showed off a clockwork pastry-making device. One simply had to pour the flour, butter, and sugar into a bowl, wind the machine, and it not only mixed the ingredients into a dough, but rolled it out into the perfect thickness for an elegant pastry. Mrs. Redmond confessed that it was she who urged the cook to obtain this device, showing her to be a woman of excellent character.
After this, Captain Redmond admitted that the Demeter would be setting off on another mission within the hour. Our time aboard the airship had come to a close. Nico and I thanked Captain and Mrs. Redmond for their hospitality, and thanked the crew as well for keeping the skies safe. We rode back to solid ground in an ether-powered jolly boat, then watched as the Demeter flew west, chasing the setting sun.
It was a wonderful, steampunk birthday.
So, our question to you is this: if you could have a birthday steampunk adventure, what would it be? One commenter will win digital copies of SKIES OF FIRE and NIGHT OF FIRE.