ZM_CH7: In Which Nickie Nick Gets Some Gadgets

NickieCVR4WebContinuing in the Victorian tradition, enjoy today’s installment of The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel.  Every Friday a new installment of this YA Steampunk ParaRomance is published free for your enjoyment. Leave a comment and be entered to win an author-signed copy of the sequel, released Summer 2013. The more you comment, the more times your name is entered.

Follow Nicole Knickerbocker Hawthorn (Nickie Nick) as she discovers her destiny as The Protector, a powerful vampire hunter. Ashe, a dark and mysterious stranger, helps Nickie and her friends solve the mystery behind several bizarre disappearances. Suitable for teens, enjoyed by adults, the story is full of interesting steampunk gadgets, mad scientists, bloodthirsty vampires, and mesmerized zombies. This paranormal adventure is sure to appeal to fans of Boneshaker, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries.

The Zombies of Mesmer is a Gothic Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel set in Victorian London. Appropriate for teens.

Get your very own copy of The Zombies of Mesmer in paperback or for your Kindle (FREE for Prime Members)! Don’t have a Kindle? Kindle apps are available for smart phones, PCs, and tablets. Have another eReader? Email me about other formats.

-_Q

Chapter 7: In Which Nickie Nick Gets Some Gadgets

I arrived home shortly after dawn, and Fanny was waiting for me in the garden.

“Oh thank goodness,” she said, and she gathered me up in her arms. “I feared the worst.” She kissed the top of my cap several times, and then holding me at arm’s length she added, “but I should have had more faith in you, my turtledove. Quick, get inside. The house is not yet stirring. Thankfully, your parents had a late night at their festivities.”

It was Christmas Eve.

“Well,” Fanny said, prompting me to speak as we entered my chamber. “How did it go last night? Did you get one?”

“I did.” I took off my overcoat.

Fanny gasped when she saw my shredded shirt and waistcoat.

“I’m fine,” I assured her. “I shall tell you all about it after I get some rest later this morning. Believe it or not, my corset saved me.” I removed the ruined clothes down to my corset and camisole. The lace was snagged, but the boning held true. “Remind me of this the next time I complain about wearing one. I do like this larger size, though Fanny. Added protection and comfort. I had completely forgotten I still had it on.”

“I have to speak with Judith my dear. Get into bed and rest for a few hours. I can cover for you until at least noon.” She grabbed me in a big embrace and covered my forehead in a rapid succession of tiny kisses again. “Get some rest,” she repeated.

I looked at myself in the looking glass, and I was a sight. Half-undressed, wearing just a chemise, corset, and boys dungarees. Long strands of hair were falling out from beneath my cap, and I hoped beyond hope I had not looked thus when speaking with Ashe last night. Something better must be done with my hair. Perhaps I could get Fanny to plait it tonight before heading out, then it will be less likely to fall out. After kicking off those horrid clodhopper boots and removing my trousers, I crawled into bed and fell asleep almost immediately. What seemed like only a few moments later, Fanny was shaking me awake.

“Wake up, Nicole. Your parents have gone out shopping, and your friend Conrad stopped by. He left you this.” She placed a poorly wrapped package in front of me. “He said he moved the boys and that they were all safely in a new place now. The poor lad looked quite weak, so I sent him off with some food and a loaf of bread to share with the others.”

“Thank you, Fanny. Yes. He got hurt last night. Vampire attack, but I dusted it.”

“Good gracious!” she exclaimed. “Poor boy!”

“Did he say where their new place was?” I asked, then yawned. I really wanted to be still asleep. So much for needing less rest.

“He didn’t, but he did say he would come back this evening,” she said, and then added as I was about to protest, “before dusk, he said.”

“How did I get them all mixed up into this, Fanny? How did I get mixed up into this?”

“Enough about that now. Open your gifts. This one from the boys, and this one”–she  pulled a rather large package up from beneath the bed, better wrapped–“is from me. Something I had Janice make special for you this morning while you slept, along with the few things I had her get yesterday. Happy Christmas, Nicole. I know it is a bit early, but you will need them tonight.”

I smiled at her and opened her gift. Inside, there were several pieces of clothing that looked quite similar to an airship cadet’s uniform, just like I had read about and seen drawn in the newspaper. Only these were black instead of brown. First, I removed a black lace blouse and a pair of black trousers, but they were not nearly as baggy or clumsy as my boy’s trousers had been. They looked almost like Mrs. Bloomers cycling trousers, which I had seen only in drawings. Frivolous things, but these were much less baggy. They looked to come down to about mid-calf. Since they were made for the active lives of female cadets, I would most certainly be able to fight in them.

Next in the box was a corset, but it was unlike any corset I had ever seen. It was made of black leather. Like a normal corset, it had busk fasteners on the front and laced down the back, but there also was a leather loop sewn into the side of it and a small pocket near the front of it, rather like the pocket of a waistcoat. Then a series of smaller loops lined the bottom right side of it. Quite a strange looking thing, and I couldn’t imagine how one would wear such a contraption.

Next were the regulation mini-bustle and knee-high spats. It all looked exactly like the drawing in the paper along with the article about how the RAN introduced the mini-bustle for their female cadets. It was even sillier and more frivolous than actual bustles, but at least my derriere would be covered. The spats laced up the front and would do quite well to cover my ankles.

There at the bottom of the box was a new coat. It, too, was black, made from a very heavy, oilcloth, and as I took it out of the box, it just kept coming. I couldn’t believe just how long it was, and it was lovely. Styled after a slender evening coat, but it was heavier somehow. This was not part of the RAN standard uniform, but it was quite glorious just the same.

I looked up at Fanny, not sure what to say. This was all quite generous, and they were exactly what I needed.

“They are for the night, my dear. Black, so you shan’t easily be seen. Go on, try them on. They are patterned after a woman’s airship uniform, so you will not stand out. Too much,” she added. “I had the idea after I saw you reading that book yesterday. You would have to have something you could both fight in as well as mask your identity. You will see. Go on, then. What are you waiting for?”

I got up and began to dress, starting with the black lace blouse. It had a proper high collar, but upon closer inspection, the collar was lined with some sort of metal, so that when I fastened it, it had a metal collar to protect my neck.

These were vampire slaying clothes.

More excited now, I put on the trousers next, and then Fanny helped me get into the unique corset. It was stiff yet bendable, if that makes sense. The boning felt quite different.

Fanny saw me running my hand up the boned seams and said, “Military grade steel boning. Strong and flexible.”

I rapped on the side of the corset with my fist and it almost felt and sounded solid. But I bent around in ever direction and even tried a kick or two. The thing didn’t hinder my movement at all, not even a little bit. Then I examined the strange loops sticking out from different places and pushed my finger down inside the tiny pocket.

“I’ll show you what those are for in in a moment, my dear. First, try on your coat.” She helped me on with the coat, and it fit perfectly. “You are to try and remain unnoticed, of course, but if someone does happen to notice you, they will just think you some garish American airship cadet, That’s all.” She smiled and then winked at me. “And they would be half right.”

I playfully swatted at her before turning my attention back to my gorgeous new coat. The inside had several pockets and loops. The outer edge looked as though it buttoned all the way down the front, but when I tried to button it, I noticed that they were on the wrong side and there were no button holes.

“It fastens like this.” Fanny took the edges of the coat and overlapped them with the button side on top. Then she closed it with eye and hook fasteners spaced about every five inches reaching down to my thighs. “For quick removal,” she said, and smiling did a quick motion with her hands and unfastened all of them at once.

“Now into your new corset.” She helped me off with the coat and into the corset, which strangely was worn on the outside. Then without another word, she left the room. While waiting for her return, I regarded myself in the looking glass and, aside from the messy sleep hair, I did look considerably better than I had in the clothes from the previous night.

Fanny returned carrying the weapons kit she kept hidden beneath the floor boards. She took the stake out from under my pillow first and slipped it in the large loop on the left side of the corset. It was in the perfect position. I practiced by drawing it out a few times and replacing it. Ingenious, really.

Next she pulled five vials out of her kit. They were about the length of my thumb, and just about as wide. She placed one in each of the smaller loops along the bottom right side.

“Holy water,” she said. “If you need a distraction just long enough to get away, this is your best bet. It will burn them, but it will really make them angry as well. So ensure you can get away after using one. Then there is this…”

She handed me what looked like a pocket watch. After clipping the chain to the top of my corset, she placed it in the little pocket on the right side.

“A pocket watch,” I said, smiling. “Afraid I will forget the time?”

“This is no ordinary pocket watch, my dear. Actually, it is not a pocket watch at all. It is a compass that I have bewitched for added protection. As long as you have it on your person, you are impervious to magic done against you.”

“Even yours?” I reminded myself of how she calmed me down yesterday.

“Alas, even mine.” Her jovial face beamed with pride as she beheld me in my strange slaying outfit.

“So it works along with the amulet?”

“Yes. This will not only protect your mind, as the amulet does, but it will also protect your entire person from magical spells. And this special compass does not point north, my lamb. If a vampire is near, it will point toward the beast.”

“You made it do that?”

“It is a special spell I have been working on. When your friend Conrad gave this to me to give to you, I thought it the perfect time to use it, since the compass was broken anyway.”

“This is Conrad’s compass?” A lump quickly grew in my throat, and I tried to keep from crying. I didn’t succeed. Pulling the compass out of its little pocket, I looked for the inscription carved in the brass lid. It read, “To Find Your Way Back To Me.” My tears blurred the words, so I wiped them away. The tarnished metal felt cold against my palm. It was nothing special, really, aside from the inscription. Just a plain, old compass, but I knew what it meant to Conrad. It was only thing he had left of his father. His mother had gifted it to his father during their last Christmas together. It was a rather expensive gift for the poor family, but they did have a lot of love between them.

His father died just a few weeks later.

Conrad had told me the heartbreaking story shortly after it happened, then he had never spoken of it again. His mother’s mind had broken when she learned of her husband’s accident at the factory. He had gotten caught up in the machinery and died from the loss of blood. She had heard the screams above the noise of the machines, for she had worked in the sewing room on the second level. Her supervisor had told all the women to keep working, that it was not of their concern. When she returned home that night, his affects were waiting for her along with an explanation. She sat in a chair and just stared at nothing for days on end. Echoes of his screams had kept her awake at night, so she was unable to sleep. She was unable to work or care for Conrad.

After they had fallen behind in their rent, the authorities had come for Conrad and his mother. When he had heard the pounding on the door, he had grabbed the compass and a pocket watch, as they had been laying out on the dresser, trying to hold onto anything from his father and the way life had been. Conrad had tried to hide in the closet behind some boxes. But once they came in, they found him and dragged him out of there. Conrad had been able to push the compass down into his pocket while in the closet, but the pocket watch had still been in his hands. They took it from him, saying something about how that would help because they were not get paid enough for having to deal with mad people.

Conrad was sent to the workhouse and his mother to the asylum. He had been able to keep the compass hidden and away until after he had escaped that awful place. Now, he always kept it close to him, next to his bed. Tarnished, but it was his nonetheless.

Now it was mine.

“Why are you crying, my dear?” Fanny asked.

“This was very special to Conrad. I cannot believe he gave it to me.”

“You must be very special to him, my lamb.”

I remembered how Conrad looked at me last night and now knew beyond any doubt that he loved me. He would not give me something so precious otherwise, but I didn’t love him. I couldn’t. He was my best friend in the world, but I just didn’t love him in that way. Up until the night of my party, romance and marriage were the last things I wanted in my life, but then I saw Ashe. My heart changed so drastically in that one moment.

After placing the compass back in its little pocket, I wiped away my tears, trying not to think about how complicated things had become in just a few days.

“Are you all right, Nicole?” Fanny asked, concerned at my melancholy.

I covered by looking down at my bare feet on the hardwood floor and wiggled my toes. “Just rather chilled is all,” I lied.

“Oh! I almost forgot!” She led me over to the poorly wrapped package on the bed. “This one is from the boys. “When Conrad told me what it was, I was so relieved, as I didn’t know what I was going to do about your feet. You certainly couldn’t wear those clunky boots with this outfit. It just would not be seemly.”

It had been wrapped in crumpled up newspapers that had been somewhat flattened and tied with twine. Inside the box were a pair of black boots. They looked rather worn, but they were indeed women’s boots. Fanny got a pair of dark stockings from my bureau, and I put them on before trying them on. They laced up to just over my ankle, and they fit quite well. I tried them out, walking around my chamber. The wooden heels tapped on the ground with every step.

Fanny had me step into the spats, then she laced them up the front. They reached up just high enough to cover the bottom of my new trousers.

“There, now you look like a proper airship cadet.” She beamed with pride. “Perhaps the spats can hold an extra stake or two while out hunting,” she added. “Now for the finishing touch.”

“There is more?” I asked incredulously. I had never gotten so many gifts at once. It was all rather overwhelming. But my face fell when I saw what Fanny held in her hands.

“As I mentioned, you cannot be recognized, besides, they complete the uniform.” She held out the airship goggles and bade me put them on.

“No,” I protested. “I’m not wearing those things, Fanny. You said I should not draw attention to myself.”

“Indeed, I did, my lamb. But look at yourself. Your face must be covered. What if you run into one of your parents’ many acquaintances?”

She had a point. At least no one would recognize me. Even I didn’t recognize myself as I looked in the mirror. The round airship goggles rather limited my peripheral vision, which might cause a problem.

“I shall braid your hair before you go out tonight, that way you will not need to worry about it falling from you cap.” She moved me to the center of the room and then stepped back. “So, give them a try.”

“What?”

“Just be careful of the furniture,” Fanny said, “and give us a back kick.”

“I beg your pardon?” Surely she was joking, but she just stood there waiting with her arms crossed. “Here? In my chamber?”

“Yes, Nicole, just be careful of the furniture.”

“All right.” I got in my prepared stance. With a quick turn I kicked my right leg out in a back kick and then turned around to face Fanny, who was very nearly hopping up and down and clapping her hands in glee.

“What is it, Fanny?”

“Do it again! Do it again!” she exclaimed. “Only this time, hold the kick. That’s, keep your leg extended.”

I did as she said and was shocked to see that the wooden heel of the boot had extended out two inches to a sharp point. I lowered my leg and stood on the heel again, but it didn’t feel any longer than the other one. I sat down and looked at the bottom of the right boot. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the sharpened heel was nestled up inside the basic heel of the boot. Then, there near the toe, was a button of sorts.

“How very curious.”

“It is from your friend, Franklin,” Fanny said.

I did the kick again, and the stake did exactly the same thing. It came out and then went back in as I stepped down on it.

“How did he do that?” I asked rhetorically.

“Don’t ask me. You always told me that lad was a genius.”

“No doubt,” I responded, still marveling at my gadget. “Fascinating chap, that Franklin.”

-_Q

Thank you for reading this week’s installment of The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel. Join me every Friday for a new installment of this YA Steampunk ParaRomance. Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win an author-signed copy of the sequel, released Summer 2013. The more comments you leave, week after week, the more times you’ll be entered!

~ by omgrey on June 28, 2013.

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