In this week’s Chuck Wendig Challenge we have to write 1000 words in a ‘something’-punk subgenre of our choice – a made up one, not a standard one like steampunk. I ducked the opportunity to devise a new one and turned to another development in my fruitpunk world of the Princelings of the East. This takes place about a year after Fred’s Yuletide Escape on the website in December (a serial in ten parts). The Chronicles of Marsh are growing…
Hector crouched on the bank, listening for a horseless carriage coming through the tunnel. They went so fast these days that he had little time to leap onto it. A second late and he would be swept over the roof into the dust behind.
He shifted his weight, waiting for the moment – and sprang!
He landed lightly, but thumped his chin on a parcel. One leg slipped off the side as it failed to find purchase. He held on tightly with his forearms, slunk his body onto the uneven surface, and pulled his legs up to safe places among the packages.
The land fell away to left and right as the carriage continued on the highway. The strawberry fields stretched away on either side, although the workers were concentrated in one field to the east. By the end of the week they would have harvested here and be headed further west. Hector was glad he’d escaped the strawberry fields.
He watched the road, spotting the incline and the cutting ahead. He identified his colleagues hiding behind bushes on top of the steep banks. The driver wouldn’t see them. He wondered how many passengers were inside. There was no conversation, from what he could hear, but then at this stage of their journey they were likely to be asleep.
He swung himself forward over the window in front of the driver. As expected, the driver braked hard and screeched to a halt, but slewed badly on the road. The wheels caught in the ruts and the whole carriage tipped over onto its side. Screams came from the passengers, redoubled as Hector’s comrades swarmed onto the side of the stricken coach.
“Quiet, there, ladies, gentlemen. Just stay where you are, and don’t even untangle yourselves. We’ll have you back on your wheels before you know it.”
It was strange how an authoritative, calming voice with the right sort of accent settled people down. Hector admired his captain for it. He rarely said anything himself. He watched the passengers quiet down and pull themselves upright. They didn’t notice that other raiders had dragged the driver from his little box and secured him to a bush. Two of Hector’s colleagues expertly unbolted the strawberry juice-powered fuel cell from its housing, and made off down the road with it. Hector joined the rest as they pushed and hauled the carriage upright once more.
“There you are then,” the captain said conversationally. “No harm done. You’ll be on your way in a jiffy. Good morning to you!” He doffed his hat, bowed to them, and his gang ran off, Hector with them. He wondered just how long it would take these travellers to realise their driver wasn’t there. Usually long enough for the raiders to be well away with their prize. He wondered what they did once they realised that they didn’t have the power to go anywhere.
“Good work, lads,” the captain said as they gathered round the campfire back at Castle Roc. It was well into the latter part of the night, since their location was far distant from any regular carriage route. “That’s all we need in the way of fuel cells for now, so we needn’t risk any more highway jackings. Ye’ve done well. Worked as a team, just like the old days.”
A few mutterings greeted his words.
“Yes, I know a few of ye hanker after the old days, but they’re done now. We have to learn to be respectable. Generally speaking, at any rate,” he added, stroking the little fuel cell that sat under an oiled cover just in case of rain. “Now we’ve got enough power, we can play them at their own game. No need to ask for everything we want.”
“Why don’t we just go to sea again?” asked a chap with a scar across his face.
“Because that’s what they’re expecting, if they’re expecting anything.”
“I reckon they’ve just forgotten us, cap’n,” said another. “Left us here to starve.”
“Mebbe they have, but they won’t forget us for long. We’ve got something none of their slaves have got – freedom. And we’re going to make sure we liberate them all.”
“Freedom!” shouted one of the guys at the back, and “Freedom” was the cry that echoed round the interior of the semi-derelict castle, derelict because after their official helpers left them to carry on rebuilding, they hadn’t bothered.
“So, here’s the plan. Tomorrow we finish turning those handcarts into proper wagons. We’ve got one fuel cell for each of them, plus one to run the printing presses. Caxton will get the notices done. Then Tammy fixes up some more of those velos. Next week we split into four parties. We’ll spread out through the Realms, giving out notices, finding people who want our kind of life, our freedom: people who don’t want to live under the tyranny of the kings and lords any more. People who don’t want to spend their lives in the strawberry fields. People who want a say in what they are doing, how they live their lives. Right?”
“Right!” came the cheer from his listeners.
“You find those people, tell them to get ready for revolution. Tell them where to watch and how we’ll contact them. Then get back here by the third full moon and we’ll plan our next step. Are ye with me?”
“Aye, cap’n!” Loud cheers from bass to squeaks showed their appreciation of their leader.
Hector cheered along with the rest. He knew what it was like to live under the tyranny of an evil king. He knew what it was to be bullied by his classmates. He knew what it was like to run away, to live in ditches, to steal from houses and markets; to lie, cold and wet in the dark of a winter’s night, wondering if he’d ever be warm, dry and full again. He’d found that here, with the ex-pirates.
They were going to be pirates again – but on land.
(c) J M Pett 2014