Carpathia III: Episode 31 - Steampunk Wonderland

Zhail City

Sra was true to his word and immediately put Artemis and Adell to work, just as Adell proposed. Both of them quickly discovered, however, that it wasn't Sra they had to worry about but instead his niece, Haria. Sra was tough enough, rushing Adell out for deliveries and prodding Artemis for his next new idea, but Haria was the one with the schedule and she demanded strict adherence to it. Punishment was usually little more than a lot of getting yelled at, but she was good enough at it to scare even her uncle.

In the short time Adell had spent so far as their delivery boy, he had already been yelled at a lot. He was more than willing to endure being late once in awhile, for he never got tired of taking in the sights. Everything around him resembled some sort of late 19th century theme city and he constantly delighted in absorbing the unique flavor of everything around him. The streets were always crowded with people of a myriad of species, some of which he'd never seen before, wearing elaborate, colorful clothes. The men were dressed in their finest suits, which typically included frilly shirts, an ascot tie, leather vest, and top hat. The ladies usually dressed with less of a Victorian sensibility than the men, which was understandable, considering that large, fluffy dresses would not do well on the crowded streets and small shops. They generally wore narrow skirts with multicolored stockings in a variety of patterns. They too wore frilly shirts, but theirs were fastened at the neck with expensive brooches.

Adell wasn't wearing anything like that, however. There were two distinct classes living in Zhail City, the wealthy and the merchant class. The wealthy dressed in their finest, most pristine costumes every day. The merchant class generally dressed in far more simple fare. Sra was kind enough to give him a few changes of clothes for him to wear on a daily basis. Each set of clothes were the same. A white shirt, which was strung together in the front by a thin, leather strap and tied at the top, a pair of loose, black pants which tied at his waist and ankles. Additionally, he wore what could be called a light vest, but it was not a vest in the traditional sense. It was brown, with baggy short sleeves and barely reached his waist. There were no buttons or zippers. It hung open across his chest and on the shoulder and prominently featured the logo of Sra's Sundries.

As much as he enjoyed observing the wealthy class, he quickly found that he had no desire to speak with any of them. This wasn't a problem, because none of them would deign to speak to him and the few who even acknowledged his existence did so only long enough to look down their noses at him. He didn't have a problem with this, however, for the merchant class was very friendly and quickly began treating him as an equal. It was a camaraderie that he had never experienced before with people he did not know and he was enjoying it immensely. The other merchants and runners, such as himself, were full of both information and wild stories.

After the agreement, it didn't take long for Sra to come up with a plan for marketing his new watches. He decided to divide his product line into three tiers. The lowest was the least expensive, which were affordable to merchants and runners such as himself. The second tier was more expensive and more elaborate. Both of these types were mass produced by Phobos and Deimos and Adell was the one who delivered them to various shops across Zhail City. The top tier watches were attainable only by the wealthiest of Zhail City's citizens. They were hand made by Sra as custom orders and were only available in his shop. Adell was thankful that he didn't have to deliver those. Carrying something around that expensive all day would make him nervous.

Adell's deliveries took him past a dizzying variety of little shops all over the city. His favorites were always the chocolatiers, or what he compared to chocolatiers, as they used a similar plant as cocoa to make their confectioneries. Peering into the windows of these shops was like gazing at a fantasy chocolate factory with their giant copper vats and mixers run by elaborate steam engines. He would stand at the window, mesmerized by the fluid motions of all the parts. The mixers stirred the smooth, silky chocolate in slow, hypnotic rotations. The delicately sculpted bronze gears turned lazily above. The smartly-dressed storekeepers decorated each completed confection by hand with amazingly complicated patterns.

In private, Adell and Artemis agreed that they would keep their special abilities a secret. From what they had seen so far, the people of Zhail City had no such abilities, so they thought it best not to flaunt them. That didn't stop Adell from practicing though. Every so often, when he saw a rock, he would concentrate on it and very subtlely draw a crack down the side, splitting it in two.

The only dark cloud that hung over everything was the secret police, also known as the King's Sentries. They patrolled the city, blending in with the populace, some dressed as wealthy gentlemen and ladies, and others as runners, such as himself. As far as he knew, there weren't many of them, but since they were dressed to blend, he couldn't be sure. On two occasions, he was very rudely asked for his papers in a gruff manner that clearly indicated that he would face dire consequences if he did not produce them immediately. After the first time, he understood very clearly why Sra wouldn't let either himself or Artemis leave the store until he was able to procure credentials for them.

Adell slid down in his chair, grateful to be able to get off of his feet for a short time, though he kept his bag with the watch deliveries on his lap to keep them safe. In front of him was a sweet, fruity beverage of some kind, the name of which he could not even pronounce. It was a hot day, as usual, but it was far less humid in Zhail City than at the rising falls, and for that, he was grateful. He found that he was getting used to the constant heat, to the point where it didn't bother him very much anymore.

Adell was staring off into space, letting his mind wander and his body rest. He only realized someone was there when he heard the chair in front of him slide with a loud shriek across the wooden planks.

Kittyboy: Hey there, lazy.

Adell looked up and, seeing a familiar face, smiled as the boy sat in the chair.

Adell: Tirad! How's the shoe business going?

Tirad: Just fine. And the watches?

Adell: Booming. I've been running around making deliveries all day. I see you still have yours.

Tirad held up his wrist and glanced at his shiny watch.

Tirad: I don't know how I got on without it, honestly. I kept breaking the little clocks I used to carry with me. This is a lot more convenient.

Suddenly, Adell heard a sound he hadn't heard in a long time. It was the ringtone song on his galaphone.

Sing for me angel of afterlife calming me down
Chaos inside my nebula
And make the wrong turn to right in a celestial light
Forgive my sacrimony

Adell reached into his pocket and fished out his galaphone. He looked at it, vaguely hoping that it was a call from home, but he knew that was silly. There was no number listed in the caller ID. He answered the call and Artemis appeared on the screen.

Artemis: Ah, good. It works!

Tirad leaned forward, his eyes wide in amazement.

Tirad: That's unbelievable!

Adell: You finally got the signal booster running then?

Artemis: I did, though it only works locally. Maybe one kilometer at best. It was hard enough to cut through all the electromagnetic interference on this planet just to get the signal to you. I had to boost the amplifier by running the leads through Phobos's neural net to get it to work. Unfortunately, that has severely impaired his cognitive abilities.

Phobos: Derp!

Artemis: Don't worry, he'll be back to normal once I hang up.

Phobos: Huuuuurrrrrr...

Artemis: STOP THAT! Anyway, if you want to contact us here, just call and then hang up. That will activate a signal light on the booster. Then I can hook Phobos back up and call you back.

Adell: Gotcha.

Suddenly, Sra's face appeared in the screen.

Sra: Hey, I really can see you there! This is incredible! Hey Adell, you almost done?

Adell: Just a few more deliveries and then I'm done, yes. I hope you don't mind, but I stopped for something to drink.

Sra: No, I don't mind. You're no good to me passed out on the street of dehydration. On the other hand...

Before Sra had a chance to finish his sentence, he heard Haria shrieking into the background.

Haria: Hey! All of you quit playing with your toys and get back to work! Now!

Sra: Yeah, you get the idea. See you when you get back!

Adell: See you then.

Adell tapped the call end button on his phone and slipped it back into his pocket.

Tirad: Wow, you think you can make me one of those?

Adell: Sorry, but it came here with me.

Tirad: Oh, right. You just got here. I keep forgetting. You're lucky though. A lot of runners here would give anything to work for Sra.

Adell: Yeah, about him... Isn't he a little young to own a store?

Tirad tipped his head back and laughed.

Tirad: Ha ha ha! Well, you're new, so I understand. Sra is one quarter bat, you know. He looks young, but he's at least twice as old as you! And Haria is at least as old as you.

Adell: Wow... That actually explains a lot.

Tirad: Well, I heard Haria in the background there. You gotta get going, right?

Adell: In a few. I want to finish this.

Adell slid down in his chair again as he picked up his glass. He took a sip of the sweet drink and savored the cool liquid as it ran down his throat and chilled his insides.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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