Under a Starlit Sky

Hey, look! a second story in 2 days! all thanks to Chuck posting his late challenge that was supposed to be put up on Friday, but didn’t post. This time, the challenge was to choose one of 3 randomly generated sentences and use it in the story. I chose the 3rd sentence, ‘the criminal disappears after the inventor’. Doesn’t make much sense, but hopefully it does in my story!

Hope you enjoy!

“The crazies think it was time travel. Can you believe it? Who ever heard of something so…well, crazy,” The young officer, who was the first on scene shot a hesitant look at his superior, trying to gauge what his reaction would be.

That’s preposterous!” Captain Edward Trew shouted louder than was necessary, causing startled and confused glances from passersby.

“Whatever it is, you can’t deny the evidence.” Anise Buttersby, reporter for The Realm newspaper, took her faded black notebook from it’s home inside her knee-high boot and flipped it open, scribbling furiously with a worn stub of a pencil.

Trew turned to the petite red-head, his large face almost the same shade as her auburn hair. “Evidence? What evidence? There is none!”

Anise smiled and continued writing. “Well, we have  that witness account from when the inventor allegedly disappeared. Didn’t someone say they saw him boarding a cargo airship at night?”

“You call that man a witness? He was unreliable, a drunk who could barely string five words together.” The Captain’s reddened face began to return to his normal pale complexion underneath a ginger beard that seemed to be an extension of his hair.

“Oh, you’re talking about Lem?” The rookie copper said, popping up in between the Captain and Anise.  “Yeah, Lem couldn’t be believed if the safety of the United American Empire relied on it! He’s always thinking people are disappearing on airships. Or being abducted or kidnapped onto them. He claims he was, when he was a youngster.” The officer shook his head with a small smile. “Lem is…well, he’s Lem. He’s harmless, but not a reliable source of information.”

“So all we know right now is that the criminal disappears after the inventor?” Anise said, finally looking up from her flurry of note taking.

“Criminal? That’s what we’re calling him?” The colour in Captain Trews face began to rise again. “He’s not just a ‘criminal’! That would be like saying the Emperor is just a normal man!” Trew turned and began to pace around the perimeter of the abandoned laboratory, formerly home to said missing inventor Augustus Northdale. “He’s not a criminal, he’s a…a…” Trews’ mustache twitched as he struggled to find the word.

“Mastermind?” Anise offered.

“Yes!” Trew shouted again, pointing a finger vigorously at Anise. “Yes, a mastermind, that’s it exactly! Well done, young lady!”

Anise shot him a dirty look, but Trews had already continued his examination of the lab which involved him picking up random items on shelves and table tops, turning them over in his hand and ‘hmmm’ing loudly before putting it back absent-mindedly in another part of the room all together. Soon the already untidy room seemed even more chaotic, with strange pieces of equipment in even stranger places. Anise picked up a partly full tea cup that was now resting precariously on top of a strange tower of layered squares of metal suspended apart from each other by wires and placed it back on a small table next to a miniature pot-bellied stove that sat in the middle of one wall.

The Police Captain finished his rotation of the room, and almost bumped into Anise who was actually trying to do some investigation into the bizarre disappearance of Augustus the day before, followed by Gideon Hendry early this morning.

She had heard of Hendry before. There were few  people in the Empire who hadn’t, she thought. Maybe it was because she seemed to see his name mentioned in her papers headlines more often than not.He was the name of the movement that was acting against the Emperor and his Coalition.

Though Anise was all for the Anti-Coalition movement that Gideon claimed he was working on behalf of, she didn’t agree with how he went about trying to convince the Emperor that technology was something that was important to the Empire, not something that should be suppressed.

If Gideon and other Anti-Coalitionists had their way, it would mean airship travel would be available to the masses, and not just something that was looked at as unsavory or illegal, that only operated under the cover of darkness transporting goods from one part of the Empire to the other, and once in a while across the ocean to the Roman Isles.

“Mr Hendry is an inventor himself, is he not?” Anise said taking what looked like a pipe out of Captain Trews hand that was going to end up in a new spot on top of a stack of dusty books.

Trews looked confused and flustered. “Yes, what of it?”

“Actually,” the young policeman interrupted, waving a piece of paper that was stamped. “He isn’t actually an official New Alchemist, like Augustus.” The boy held out the paper, a certificate that identified the missing Mr Northern as a New Alchemist.

Anise rolled her eyes. “Okay. But technically Mr Hendry is an inventor like Mr Northern, is that correct?”

Trews and his young protégé nodded at the same time. “Yes.”

“So maybe they were working together on something. Some…experiment, that has made them…”

“Vanish into thin air?” Trews said somewhat mystified by the whole conversation.

“Exactly.”

“I wonder what they could have done…” Trews said, thoughtfully scratching his beard.

“I think I’ had sumthin’ to do with th’ star,mesel’” said a hoarse voice floating up from the vicinity of Anise’s boots. She looked down and saw Lem sprawled on the floor and propped up somewhat by an assortment of scientific equipment.

“Star? What star?” Anise, Trews, and the young cop said simultaneously.

“Th’ one that blew the hole in there,” Lem said, pointing above at what was left of the ceiling.  They found themselves staring at a massive charred hole. They could see straight to the actual stars that had begun to poke shyly from the darkening sky above.

“I think Lem might actually have something here,” Trews said, nodding sagely, as an armchair fell from the living room above and exploded in a shower of wood and rose patterned fabric.

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