15 July, 188x, New Babbage year 5
Central Station, Babbage Palisade
The stationmaster looked at his watch and glared up at the clock above the platform. It was a full minute slower than his watch, and this was just another problem that added to his atypically stern expression today. The railroad had fallen under a bit of scrutiny of late, with accusations of dangerous travel conditions and the persistent rumors of disappearing passengers adding to the normal complaints about delays or lost luggage. Grumbling, he thought to himself that it couldn’t be helped what sprung up along the line, and how could the railroad be held accountable for the fact that town that sprung up at the last service point before the mountain passes was less than civil.
Down in the hollow past the wall the sound of the engine reverberated along the brink and steel valleys of the city, the shrill tone of the whistle rattling the glass to signal the afternoon passenger express was coming into New Babbage. Amidst the clouds of steam and the squeal of the brakes the “New Babbage Flyer” eased to a stop on the long stone platform. The smoke from the engine rose and curled along the glass panels of the roof as it sat in the station, chuffing and panting like a newly finished marathon runner. The train became the center of a flurry of activity, passengers coming and going, baggage being loaded and unloaded, mail newly sent and soon to be delivered. Arrivals and departures mixed for a moment, the newly disembarked people lingering until a porter arrived with missing baggage, friends and family reuniting with awaited travelers arriving back home.
Emmanuelle paused for a moment on the platform and looked at the hem of her newly purchased dress. The stiff plaid fabric had a streak of soot from just walking along the tracks. Had she been given an opportunity, a night in a hotel would have been the answer to her seat-stiffened muscles and frayed nerves but as it stood that wasn’t a choice or an option. She paused for a moment and caught her reflection in a window, which caused a subconscious reaction to adjust the straw boater on her head and smooth the wrinkles from the front of her shirtwaist. Somehow the whole haute couture appeal the clerk assured her of had well worn off by now. The dress had been a hasty purchase on a layover between airship rides after she realized that the dresses she packed were not going to be quite enough for traveling abroad.
The next thing on her mind was finding the store from the card. She walked over to an information kiosk and looked hard at the city map displayed there, nudging the amber lensed glasses she wore down to the end of her nose. A gloved finger traced the route from the station along the obvious route to the most likely destination, if the row of handbills on the wall was to be believed.
Dry goods, Gen’l
A Wide Variety of Sundries
New Item arriving daily
Located on Prince Drakkar
Blvd in Historic Clockhaven”
She smiles a thin smile, pushed up her glasses, regained her suitcases and headed off along Abney Parkway. She passed two men on the corner, who nodded in agreement after she had continued on her way. One maintained his place leaning against the streetlamp, and the other began walking after her along the broad cobblestone street. Opportunity, it is said, is often bred out of unfamiliarity.