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Of bombs and bodies 1

Jed stood at the last undamaged spot on the viaduct and looked out over the newly blasted chasm in the rail line with a gaze that held a mixture of fatigue and smoldering anger. It was supposed to have been a weekend away, a time to concentrate on someone important and enjoy a delayed anniversary rather than this. So she stood at the blast site, her old dark blue peacoat pulled tight around her chest as the wind whipped the rich purple fabric of the ballgown around her legs since she did not stop to change once she arrived back in New Babbage. The courier had run in during the waltz, and Jed was not sure who looked more upset at the interruption, the courier or Kimika. He held an official telegram from the Mayor’s office, which was simple and directly worded. Explosion North Fells viaduct. Full investigation of destruction needed immediately. Status, urgent. Underby. They left after that, with a carriage ride to the aerodrome filled with apologies and a full-throttle flight home filled with the drone of the engines.

The crew had begun to sort out the logistics of using the north side of the viaduct as an impromptu rail yard, offloading cargo and carrying it by wagon across the Fells to the Palisade gate. Two of the viaduct’s pilings were destroyed; one was damaged but would probably need to be replaced. She looked across to the other side and figured a temporary timber trestle could be erected in the gap with a bit of work, but the stone would pose a considerable challenge at this time of year. She examined the scattered stones and the remains of the damaged pilings, making notes and sketches of the scene. Jed finally tucked the notebook back in her pocket and headed back towards the warmth of her office. She passed the gate and was nearly at the turn for the apartment when a young man with a bag over his shoulder came tearing around the corner, wailing “Extra, Extra…New Babbage Free Press!” They nearly collided, the youngster suddenly losing himself in a cloud of purple. Jed hoisted the paperboy out of her skirts by the collar, and bent over to look at what he was carrying.

“What’s all this about, hmm?” she said, with as much of a smile as she had energy for. “Special edition paper miss. Breaking news miss. Only a penny for the freshest news miss. I…” Jed cut the lad off mid-sentence. “You had me at Special Edition. Here.” She handed him tuppence, and he gave her two copies before tearing back off towards Academy. She opened the paper and looked at the masthead, then at the headline. Jed had heard someone was trying to start another newspaper in town, and here it was. ‘GANG RAMPAGES THROUGH ASYLUM’ the headline said, with the subheader ‘HEAD ADMINISTRATOR GRAVELY INJURED’ and ‘MAIN SUSPECT DEAD’. She read the article and despite the journalistic flair and misspellings Jed got the feeling that the local body count may have slowed for the time being.

She walked into the apartment and paused in the den to warm up in front of the fireplace. This was going to be the start of a long week, she thought to herself.

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