In a world of steamships and Progress, no one who sails due south across the Wild Sea ever returns.
No one knows why.
Dale Mortensen intends to solve the mystery. With the help of an old sailor and a reformed playboy searching for his missing sweetheart, he locates a captain and crew ambitious—not to mention crazy—enough to undertake the journey across the Wild Sea.
The Infinity and her crew sail south, but the truth of what really lies on the other side of the horizon is more amazing—and terrifying—than anything they can imagine.
It’s the adventure of a lifetime—and it may just get Dale and his friends killed.
Find out how this Young Adult steampunk adventure unfolds chapter-by-chapter every Thursday! Click here to start from the beginning. Or if you want to read it at your own pace, buy the ebook for $6.99 from Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords or Sony, or get it as a trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Book Depository.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HORIZON
E. R. PASKEY
THE FIRST PERSON DALE SAW WHEN HE and Mrs. Azlynn entered the room was Mrs. Weatherby. She sat at a desk commanding a good view of the door; her eyebrows only rose slightly when Naya’s grandmother preceded him inside. “Mr. Mortensen, how good of you to finally join us.”
“Mrs. Weatherby.” Dale nodded to her. “I didn’t know you were involved with the Revolution.”
“I have had enough of the insanity,” she said curtly.
Dale swept his gaze quickly around the room. Theroux, Riley, Seldon, Corwin, Hamper, Hawk, and a number of other men were already here, including Peabody, who seemed right at home amidst all these people. He had not finished before—
“Gran?” gasped a familiar voice.
Dale and the old woman both whipped around to find Naya staring at them with wide eyes. Dale’s tongue practically clung to the roof of his mouth in surprise. Mrs. Azlynn had no such problem.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded, pointing her cane at Naya for good measure. “Aren’t you supposed to be in a safe place?”
“Me?” Naya propped her hands on her hips. “What are you doing here?” Her eyes swung to Dale. “What were you thinking?”
Everyone was looking at them, hiding smirks or smiles, but Dale saw none of it. Despite the brick red flush rising in his face, he made his way over to Naya. “I was thinking I didn’t want any harm to befall your grandmother.”
“That’s sweet,” sighed an all-too-familiar feminine voice.
Dale shifted to find a pale, but determined Elena now perched on the side of Raphael’s chair. He turned back to Naya. “Your grandmother has a point. What are you doing here?”
“Believe you me,” said Seldon, with a sheepish grimace. “I tried arguing with them.”
“After what we went through last night?” Elena flipped a red-gold curl out of her face. “Wild horses couldn’t keep us away.”
Dale looked at Naya, who lifted her chin and nodded as though daring him to comment. He could not help but think he was still glad to see her face. Shaking that thought off, he turned back to Theroux, who was sitting beside Mrs. Weatherby. “The Hospital was a good choice.”
“They shouldn’t see it coming,” agreed Corwin. He and Hawk were keeping a close eye on his father, who grew paler and paler with every passing moment. “With the exception of you and your friend there,” he nodded to Mrs. Azlynn, “we were all here well in advance of the pamphlets being distributed.”
“What about the men in the Mining District?” asked Dale, struck by a sudden thought.
“Already taken care of.” Sheldon’s grin held a hard edge. “Sent a load of pamphlets in with the first workers. All but the pansies’ll come.”
“Curiosity will be strong,” said Riley. “You have no idea how many people have Disappeared over the years. Nearly everyone in Rift City has lost someone at some point or another.”
Dale’s eyes found Naya; she was looking back at him, one arm around her grandmother. “Any word on Sivak?”
“Not yet,” said Hawk grimly.
“Mrs. Weatherby.” All eyes turned to Raphael. “Are you certain about involving the Hospital in this?”
“Quite certain,” she said dryly. “The Hospital is in no immediate danger.”
Dale and Raphael exchanged glances, but said nothing.
A sudden scuffle from beyond the door drew all of their attention. Scant seconds later, the door burst open and Doctor Carthage marched into the room. “Mrs. Weatherby! I demand to know what is going on here!” His gaze swept around the room. “Who are all of these people and what are they doing on these premises?”
“Actually, my good doctor, we were just preparing to leave.” Theroux rose from his seat and sent a grave look around the room. “It is time.”
“Time for what?” demanded the doctor, throwing a confused look at Mrs. Weatherby. “And for that matter, do you have any idea why the entire city is trying to cram itself into the Square?”
“Ah, good, good.” Seldon rubbed his hands together. “Excellent news, that is.”
“Doctor, I’ll take care of this,” said Mrs. Weatherby as she came around her desk.
“Well, I am glad to hear it.” Carthage, however, still looked confused.
“Here, Doctor.” Mrs. Azlynn fished out her folded pamphlet from her pocket and held it out to him as she and Naya moved toward the door. “This might help you.”
They all filed out of Mrs. Weatherby’s office and marched toward the doors leading out of the Hospital. Beyond the glitterglass doors, Dale saw a large mass of people had gathered in the Square. His heart began to beat a little faster inside his chest. This is it.
A hand slipped into his and squeezed; he looked down to find Naya beside him. Her curly black hair was as unruly as ever, but he thought it matched the determination written all over her brown face as she prepared to face all of Rift City beside him. His heart swelled with a sudden burst of pride…and love.
Quickly, before he could lose his nerve, he bent his head toward her. “When this is over, I need to talk to you, Naya.”
She nodded, her grip tightening on his fingers.
Mrs. Weatherby motioned to Dale, Naya, Hawk, Raphael, Elena, and Corwin. “You had best keep out of sight for a few moments, in case someone involved with the…” she paled a little, but continued, “…Disappearances…recognizes you.”
“Understood, Lady Dragon,” said Raphael, earning him a gentle elbow to the ribs from Elena.
Theroux had prepared for a crowd. Several of his men brought out a platform and a podium and quickly set them up in front of the Hospital. Seldon hopped up onto this platform and shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention?”
It took a moment for anyone to hear him over the crowd, but once people caught sight of him, they were quick to hush their neighbors. The Square grew silent—as silent as a crowd comprised of hundreds of people could be.
“Thank you.” Seldon held up a pamphlet. “I’m sure all of you have seen one of these by now, am I right?”
A chorus of yes’s greeted him.
“Good. That’s why we sent ‘em out.”
Dale and the others were not looking at Seldon, they were searching the crowd for any signs of danger.
“Excuse me!” called out a raspy voice. The portly figure of Mr. Matthis emerged from the front of the crowd and stalked up to the platform, flanked by several well-dressed men who could only be bodyguards. “Where is Councilman Hamper?”
“Right here.” Hamper stepped forward—helped along by a forceful shove from Riley, who stood just behind him.
Matthis stared at him in astonishment. “You actually authorized this gathering?”
“I, ah…” Hamper glanced over his shoulder in Corwin’s direction and seemed to reach some kind of agreement with himself. His shoulders squared and his spine straightened, transforming him into the man Dale recalled seeing when he met the Committee for New Arrivals. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
The change in Hamper’s bearing was not lost on anyone in the crowd, least of all his son. Corwin briefly shut his eyes. “I knew he would come through for us.”
“He hasn’t done it yet,” growled Hawk warningly.
Hamper scanned the crowd, his demeanor commanding their attention. He ignored Matthis. “It has come to my attention that we, the people of Rift City, have been grievously deceived. For decades, our city has been plagued by unaccountable Disappearances, which leave behind broken families who live the rest of their lives never knowing what happened. Our city has been plagued by fear—a pervasive fear afflicting all of us, making us worry that we or our loved ones might be next.”
He took a breath. “I am here to tell you this morning that I have learned there is a human element involved in these Disappearances.”
The crowd was so still Dale thought he could hear individual raindrops splatter on the glitterglass dome above.
“This morning, I was informed that my son, Corwin—whom many of you may know as a member of the Search and Rescue team, has joined the ranks of the Disappeared.”
A small murmur rippled through a section of the crowd, but for the most part they remained unmoved. Everyone had lost someone.
“Imagine my relief, therefore, to learn five minutes later that my son and his friends escaped their fate and returned to shed a light on the mystery.” Hamper paused for dramatic effect. “People Disappear because a faction of men in Rift City commands them to be bound, gagged, and staked out on the river for the Streamers to eat.”
It took a second for these words to sink in—and then horrified shock rippled through the crowd.
“You are mistaken!” snapped Matthis.
“I am not.” Hamper’s fingers tightened on his podium. “Gregor Sivak is one of the members of this faction, and I will be launching an investigation to determine who else in involved.”
Another wave of horrified gasps tore through the crowd.
“There is more,” said Hamper grimly. “I am also here to tell you that the rumors of a flying machine coming to Rift City through the Rift are true. The machine exists, its pilot lived, and we the members of the Council decided it was best for Rift City that we keep it a secret.”
Angry words greeted this revelation. “What gives you the right?” hollered a group of disgruntled workers—probably former sailors, Dale suspected.
Hamper ignored them to continue, “My son and his friends went to rescue this pilot and his machine, which is called a dirigible, but they were discovered by Gregor Sivak and staked out on the river to die.”
“Hamper!” Mr. Wimple pushed his way through the crowd, his face bright red and glistening with sweat. “Have you lost your mind? What do you think you’re doing?”
“Clearing the air,” said Hamper succinctly, pinning the head of the Elpine Family with a hard stare. “I almost lost my son—I refuse to let this go on any longer.”
Matthis moved closer to the platform; his men planted themselves between him and the crowd. “How do we know any of this is true?” he called out.
Corwin took this opportunity to step forward. “I can assure you of that, Mr. Matthis. We—” he waved a hand to Dale and the others, “—ventured into the Mining District in search of the dirigible and Raphael Avarez, whom I’m sure many of you know was added to the list of the Disappeared last week. Gregor Sivak discovered us and we were staked out on the riverbank outside of West Lowersedge last night as Streamer bait.” He drew a breath. “He also kidnapped Mr. Avarez’s fiancée and her father and sent them out to die as well.”
Corwin turned to pull Naya forward. “Had it not been for the heroic actions of Miss Naya Azlynn, who risked her own life to help us, we would all be dead.” A muscle in his jaw tightened. “Mr. Mountebank is dead—the Streamers pulled him under before we could save him.”
Elena briefly shut her eyes; Raphael’s arm tightened around her.
Hamper took over again. “I cannot say how many people Gregor Sivak is responsible for causing to Disappear, but he does stand accused of one count of murder and six counts of attempted murder.”
Gasps and murmurs raced through the crowds again.
Dale was not surprised. Calling the Disappearances ‘murder’ suddenly shifted everything into a new light.
“Commissioner Blackwyn and I will be launching an investigation.” Hamper looked around the Square. “In fact, as we speak, the Commissioner is on his way to arrest Gregor Sivak.”
This time, the shock that rippled through the crowd was tinged with excitement. Dale knew why; no one liked the man.
Hamper stood even straighter and swept his gaze around the Square again. “I would now like to introduce to you the man who flew the dirigible through the Rift.” Turning, he beckoned for Peabody to join him at the podium. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Captain Peabody!”
Peabody waved. Scattered applause greeted him, before it swelled into an ovation lasting several minutes. When it died down, he cleared his throat. “It’s nice to finally get a look at Rift City.” He cast a sideways glance at Hamper. “I’ve been…ah…locked away repairing my dirigible since I arrived.”
Hamper smiled pleasantly, but shifted a little nervously on his feet.
“Where is it?” sang out a man in the crowd.
Peabody peered down in his direction. “Oh, she’s safely berthed in a cove for now. The Revolutionaries are keeping watch over her while I’m here.”
Several people let out wild yells at this. Dale and Naya shared a smile.
Peabody glanced back toward Theroux, Riley, and Seldon before addressing the crowd again. “I haven’t had a chance to mention this to anybody yet, but I’ve had a lot of time to think over the past few months. I intend to attempt a flight back through the Rift to my world—”
Dale’s heart gave a curious flip at this.
“—but I’ve a mind to come back. In fact,” Peabody rested an elbow on the podium and leaned forward conversationally, “I have a vision of opening up commerce between Rift City and the Other Side. Some of you could go home, others could visit, and if you want to stay, perhaps some of your families will come here and join you. Either way, Rift City will no longer be cut off from the rest of mankind.”
The crowd fell silent in shock for the second time. Even Hamper and Theroux were speechless. Then, in the back, someone started clapping. Within seconds, a tidal wave of noise swept toward the Hospital as the people of Rift City started shouting, cheering, and stamping their feet in excitement and joy.
Dale found himself caught up in the fervor. Laughing, he began shaking hands with Raphael and everyone else in the vicinity, before he picked up Naya by the waist and twirled her around. We’ll be able to go back.
Find out how this Young Adult steampunk adventure unfolds chapter-by-chapter every Thursday! Or if you want to keep reading right now, buy the ebook for $6.99 from Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords or Sony, or get it as a trade paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Book Depository.
Copyright © 2013 E. R. Paskey