Sunday, October 11, 2009


I've been looking forward to my weekly run to New Babbage and settling into a comfortable pub in Clockhaven while waiting for new cargo, so I was a bit concerned when I got into the city and noticed everyone was carrying arms. I dropped to the street as someone yelled "down!" just in time to hear the blast of a shotgun from a doorway. When I looked up, a woman was down to the right of me, a red splatter on the cobblestones where her head used to be. The man with the shotgun quickly ushered me inside and explained the situation. A zombie plague was loose in the city.

Something had gone very wrong. I had to find Tenk.

He wasn't far. The Red Rum Cave was a favorite haunt of his, some even called it the real mayor's office. An old place with a low ceiling from a less nourished time. He often drank there with the stout mining folk when they were in town. I never liked the place, I always felt I couldn't stand up straight in there without knocking my head on the rafters.

Tenk was standing inside waiting for his evening breakfast, worrying bits of flash off the jaws of his favorite spanner with the thick nail of his thumb. He leaned the spanner against the post of the high stool and did a neat vault into a sitting position at the bar as the barman brought up a cold board meal. He nodded to me as he began eating and I settled awkwardly onto the stool next to him and ordered a sherry.

"Baroque! In town long this time? Here, have some food, I'm famished from all the roadwork."

I studied his face. Tenk had changed. He did not look well. Not at all like the cantankerous little man I was used to. He went on, waving his free hand.

"I'd like you to check some numbers for me, I can't seem to make them come out right."

Now I knew something was wrong. His numbers were never off. Then I noticed the fresh bandage on his hand. "Tenk! Your hand!"

The barman stopped his work and looked wide-eyed at the bandage and reached under the counter for his rifle. Tenk stopped eating in mid bite and looked about.

"What?" asked Tenk.

We both looked pointedly the bandaged hand.

Tenk looked quizzical as his raised his hand.


We nodded.

"It’s a burn. I was over at the foundry with Henry last night and got splashed with some flash. Figure those odds. Hurt like hell. "

The barman leveled the barrel of his rifle at Tenk's forehead. "Let's see it."

Tenk scowled and unwound the linen strip, showing a cluster of clean red blisters on the back of his hand. Satisfied it was not a sign of infection, the barman lowered his rifle and poured us all a round.

Tenk hopped down and angrily rewrapped his hand. He picked up his wrench and clipped it onto his belt, and headed for the door. "Fine," he stormed. "You two can barricade yourself in here for the night. I have clocks to wind. Good night. I hope you have enough ammunition."

We watched him disappear into the fog behind the hostel. There really is no reasoning with him once his ire is up, but he would be over it by morning. I was more concerned with his request. As long as I have known him, his numbers were never off.

…to be continued.


Ryne said...

Ye Gods! I was in New Babbage Clockhaven at the weekend and was attacked by one of the poor creatures myself. Luckily I was able to use the small boat I was in to ram it away before it could do any harm, bit I would advise all Babbage citizens to stay away from the sewers!

Dr Ryne Beck,
Steelhead Shanghai.