Interview with A Steampunk
As I walk down Spui Street, I pass the massive flower market, through the canals and over the bridges of West Canvia like I’ve done so many times before. It’s a trip that I’ve done a thousand times for more mundane reasons, groceries, a night out at the pub with friends but never have I been so nervous for my destination like I have tonight. The cool coastal wind blows through my hair and I pat the mailbag on my shoulder mentally going over that I brought my paper and quill for my meeting.
Tonight, I’ll be sitting down for a brief interview with West Canvia’s most famous man, the weapon inventor and national hero, Thomas Riley for the local newspaper, The Canvian Standard. Due to recent events, my readers are dying for some firsthand information and my government connections granted me the story of a lifetime. I turn the last corner to see a crowd outside of the pub with the word, Hoppe, painted in green above the door. Even amidst a twenty one year war, the people seem happy smoking their pipes with ale in hand.
I put my head down and walk through them, taking a deep breath before I push the heavy door open. Inside, the place is packed. Hoppe is a tiny place with sand floors for easy cleanup of spilled beer, vomit or on occasion, blood. It smells of old wood and libations which nostalgically reminds me of good times and bad. The front of the pub is standing room only with little shelves for people to place their glasses. I can hardly maneuver through the mass of loud men and women from all over the world. Hoppe is favorite stop for sea and air crews alike. I shoulder past people as politely as I could and see my destination in the back, the first class area where private booths are reserved for VIPs and those that can pay to sit and not be noticed.
There’s a guard at the curtained entrance, I dig in my coat pocket and produce a signed and stamped letter from my editor granting my entrance. The scruffy muscled man looks at me with a suspicious eye but pulls the curtain back and waves me in. Once inside, the noise from the other side seems to die down a bit. The first class area lives up to its name with fine gas lanterns hanging above each leather high backed booth. Only three of the six spots are occupied and immediately I see my interviewee sitting alone.
I approach the table and extend my hand. The famous, Thomas Riley looks at me with dark circled eyes and shakes my hand. He’s unshaven for a few days and his hair is uncombed. Obviously the mark of a man with much on his mind.
I sit with a smile and withdraw my paper and quill. Mister Riley is wearing a rather plain white shirt and a tan vest, the only mark of his craft is an odd homemade pair of multi lens glasses slung around his neck.
“Thank you so much for granting me this brief interview Mister Riley, I must say that it’s an honor to sit at the same table with you,” I said with a smile.
He took a sip of a ruby red liquid I can only assume is one of his favorite drinks, Cherry infused Jenever. I couldn’t help noticing that there were two spent glasses also sitting in front of him.
“Sure thing,” he said with a thin return smile. “I was told this was for the paper correct?”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied, inking my quill. “Just a few questions to quench the readers thirst. After the recent events, your fellow citizens are frightened and clamoring for any information.”
“I understand,” he said, taking another sip of his drink. “What would you like to know?”
“Is it true that the enemy airship, The Maelstom can actually control the weather?”
Mister Riley’s eyes darted around the room. “It is true. I can tell you from my experiences with that vessel, that it can create and somewhat control many types of weather systems including but not limited to lightning storms, whirlpools, tornados and earthquakes.”
“Fascinating!” I regretted the word as it escaped my mouth. I cleared my throat as if it would erase my mistake. “Being a man of science, how do you think that is possible?”
He looked at me with stressed eyes. “Honestly, I have no idea. The technology to control such celestial occurrences is not within my knowledge.”
“Does it worry you that our mortal enemies, the Lemurian nation has a grasp on such advanced technology?”
“Of course it does,” he said “but I’ve been working on some solutions to the problem. We as a nation have to not only outsmart our enemies, but we have to match their weapons with equally inventive war machines.”
The famous Thomas Riley seemed to come alive as we touched on his obsessive subject of science.
“Can you give us any clues as to what the military might be seeing in the future to counteract such other worldly airships as The Maelstrom?”
I could tell from his eyes that I was teetering on the edge of inappropriate and classified questions.
“The only thing I can say is that my latest generation of weapons and equipment will be over the top and often quite brutal in effectiveness.”
I scratched his answers down with lightning speed on my parchment. These kind of answers were newspaper gold. I moved into my next probing question.
“Upon your return home from your latest journey into enemy territory you reported that The Maelstrom was not a threat to the nation of West Canvia, at least for a while, what can you tell us about the whereabouts of the airship?”
Again, I could see in Thomas Riley’s face that my questions were starting to get under his skin.
“I have no scientific proof of where The Maelstrom is at this time. I am currently working on a few theories at the moment with some scientist friends of mine but as of right now, yes I believe that The Maelstrom is currently not a threat.”
“Can you tell my readers why it’s no longer a threat?” I asked.
“No,” he said flatly.
“Can you tell us which other scientists are helping you track The Maelstrom?”
“No, I can’t,” he said again, this time taking another sip of Jenever.
He seemed to be getting annoyed with me. I didn’t want to ruin the interview so I dialed down my questions. “Can you talk a little about the latest airship captain, Bradford Booker? He’s quite the charmer with West Canvian ladies the days.”
Mister Riley finally gave a whole hearted smile and even held back a laugh.
“I’m sure in his current state, Captain Booker would be especially proud of that statement.”
“The ladies love scars,” I said, hoping our conversation would stay on the lighter side for a bit.
“They do,” Mister Riley said as he played with his drink glass. “Captain Booker is a brave rough and tumble Colonial man. I will never be able to thank him or his crew for their sacrifices and valor. After he recovers from his injuries, we have talked about reuniting for future endeavors.”
“That’s excellent,” I said. “I know everyone will be glad to hear that Captain Booker will fully recover.”
“Recently you were inducted into the prestigious, Order of The Gold Lion in the rank of Knight. Can you tell us about that?”
“It was an honor bestowed on me by Duke William and his daughter for our journey into Lemuria last year. It’s the highest honor I could have received and I thank Duke William for his generosity and kindness. Honestly, I am not a hero. We were just doing our duty as West Canvian citizens.”
“You and Cynthia Basset,” I said.
“That is correct. Me and Miss Basset,” he said solemnly.
Even my tame questions seemed to enter into touchy subject matter. It was at that point that I thought I should just go for it and ask the question that every West Canvian really wanted an answer to.
“I know this is a tough one but the question on everyone’s mind these days is, can you tell us the whereabouts or condition of your business partner, Cynthia Basset?”
Thomas Riley just stared at me. I know it was the riskiest thing I could have asked but as a journalist, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask the hard questions.
Mister Riley gripped his Jenever glass and for a moment, I thought he might throw it at me. Instead, he opened his mouth and downed the rest of the drink in one gulp.
“How dare you ask that,” Mister Riley said coldly. “I’ve been working non-stop trying to answer that question for myself. You know she’s gone and even if I did know where she was or how she was doing that I would tell the newspaper and expose her to more danger?”
I figured he was already mad at me so I pressed on. “You know there are rumors about her and our enemies in Lemuria. Rumors about her and the traitor, Sam Burges. And I’m just trying to clear those up.”
Thomas Riley’s eyes welled up. I could feel the anger radiating off the great man. My questions had officially reached into painful territory.
“You don’t have to worry about Sam Burges,” Thomas said.
“Why is that?” I asked.
Thomas Riley stood up knocking his glass off the table.
“This interview is over,” he said angrily. “Good evening!”
Thomas Riley threw his coat over his shoulders and hurriedly exited the pub, leaving me alone at the table with pages of my chicken scratched interview scattered on the table.
I’ve done many interviews for The Canvian Standard but never one of such a famous celebrity in such a fragile state. I’m sure Mister Riley will recover his normal clever stature but today you got to see a different side of the man, a real side. The human behind the scientific mind of the great inventor, Thomas Riley.