I was in the Babbage office of Steampunk Explorer in Academy of Industry this afternoon meeting with Executive Director Boston Steampunk. He was bringing me up to date on the group’s news and happenings in the Steamlands while I was away. As we talked, our brand new ticker tape machine started up. It went on for a bit, a lengthy message apparently or a series of messages sent in rapid fire. When it stopped Mr. Steampunk excused himself for a moment to take a look.

“Mr. Chairman!” he exclaimed, “take a gander at this!” It was a dispatch from the Steeltopia authorities which I shall reprint in excerpted form here…

“REPORT DARKEARL LEADER VALERIAN CONFED ATTACK STEELTOPIA. ANCIENT SUPER WEAPON. STEELTOPIA ANCHORAGE OBLITERATED. STEELTOPIA SCIENCE CONSORT DETECTS RADIATION. PUBLIC ADVISED STAY CLEAR. VAST CRATER. HIGH POSSIBILITY FALLOUT NEARBY REGIONS.”

As I read the tape I looked at Mr. Steampunk and raised my eyebrows. Obliterated? Fallout? I finished reading the entire message and took a moment to let it sink in. I looked at Boston again, speechless. He spoke, “You or me, sir?” “I’ll flip you,” I said, reaching into my pocket and tossing a silver dollar I’d picked up in my travels into the air. He won. “Damn!” He smiled at my reaction. “But I’m going with you for a quick look,” I started. He began to object, “Mr. Chairman, there’s no sense in both of us being exposed —” I cut him off, “…but then it’s all yours,” I said, “I’ll come back and monitor the ticker reports.” He smiled, a victorious smile I thought. “Worried about me being exposed? My ass!” I said with a great big knowing smile. He laughed, I joined him. We explorers are a competitive lot!

We stood together on the north wall of Obsidian Bay, gasping in unison. We could not believe our eyes…there was nothing to see. Nothing! Anchorage had been wiped away clean and ocean waters lay before us where the town once stood.

I left Mr. Steampunk to continue his investigation and headed south to Steeltopia prime. The streets were empty, the citizens having taken shelter somewhere to avoid the possibility of radiation. I saw the Emperor hurrying by at one point, a determined look on his face. The few others I saw on the street seemed hurried and determined as well, though a couple showed a bit of a panic on their faces – but who can blame them at such a time of uncertainty. The capital was in a complete state of disarray but whether this was due to the super-weapon blast or the ongoing reconstruction project was difficult to assess.

I heard the call of a newsboy, “Extra! Extra! Super Weapon Destroys Anchorage!” I was out of the local currency as the Winterfell Embassy was temporarily closed for the reconstruction and I had no petty cash drawer available. I will never part with that lucky silver dollar I had used earlier. I had been at my Cape Wrath house earlier and only had Caledon and Babbage currency on my person at that moment. I handed him a Caledon pound. “What do you expect me to do with that? I can’t break that sir,” said the young ruffian. “Keep it,” I muttered at the little pipsqueak as I grabbed my copy of the Tintype & Telegraph and stomped off.

I headed back to the Babbage office of Steampunk Explorer to monitor the ticker. On the way I thought about my many visits to Anchorage. I had investigated land there several times. Thought about putting a house there, tried to get a parcel for a Steampunk Explorer office but lost out to another buyer. And there were those afternoons spent over a pint or two at The Black Fox Tavern. “This is one of those times I would like to turn back the clock, just for a couple of hours,” I thought. But I had done that sort of thing in my early days as a time traveller. I knew from experience that it would not help the way I felt but just make me feel worse.

By the time I got back to the office, I was too sad to read the details of the battle in my newspaper. “I’ll read this tomorrow,” I thought. I placed the paper on Mr. Steampunk’s desk, turned on the wireless, mixed a stiff drink and waited for the ticker to tick away.

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