It’s time for another edition of Lisa Burton Radio. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and today we’re going to go totally steampunk on you. So grab your brass goggles and top hat and welcome Dana Redwing to the show.
“Welcome Dana, thanks for joining us.”
“Thank you Lisa, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve wanted to meet you for ages”
“Your story fascinates me on several fronts. You aren’t the first spy we’ve had on the show. How much can you tell our listeners about that?”
“Well, as you know, my family and I live in the Ohio Colony on the coast of Lake Erie. We’re part of the vast British Empire although there are those who have been lately agitating for independence seeking to have us break away from the mother country. I cannot help but think that is a terrible idea, by the way. We were recruited – I suppose that’s the best word for it – by Dr. John Watson on behalf of Mycroft Holmes, a British civil servant who is the brother of a detective of some renown. I believe Mr. Holmes chose us because we have enjoyed some success in business and thus have access to certain circles where we can gather information without attracting too much attention. Then, too, as women my mother, daughter, and I are considered, well, not to put too fine a point on it, more ornamental than threatening. Silly, really, but that’s how women are seen in 1894. Our latest mission is one of tremendous significance. The German Empire needs warm-water ports for its ever growing navy and is negotiating with Spain, which is in terrible economic straits, to allow a base in Barcelona. Mr. Holmes has assigned us to derail those negotiations if that is possible. If we are not successful, the balance of power could shift and there is the distinct possibility of war between our empires. Because of the advances in weapons technology over the past decade, I believe such a war would destroy civilization as we know it.”
“You’ve assembled quite a team. There’s you, your mother, your daughter, and Beverly Gray. Does Beverly sometimes feel out of place, or is she more like Alfred from Batman?”
“Beverly has quickly become a member of the family and we feel quite fortunate to have met her, albeit under some unusual circumstances. She’s proven to be an excellent administrator and is quite fearless, actually, although to look at her you wouldn’t know it. My daughter and I, as well as my mother, are quite tall for women and Beverly is tiny by comparison but she has the heart of a lioness. My daughter and I are both inventors and Beverly, while not possessing our mechanical aptitude, has a lively mind and often contributes suggestions of a practical nature that push us in some new directions. Of course, because she is not only a woman but also petite, men tend to underestimate her fierceness and her intelligence. That is a great advantage in our line of work.”
“Seems like a formidable crew. I’ll bet they get the job done most of the time. I’m really interested in Adam, the automaton you built in your cellar. That’s a huge project for one person to take on. You might be interested to know that my manufacturers put together a think tank and decided to call me an automation. They felt like it would sell better to the purchasing public.
“So does Adam talk, have some kind of covering, run on coal power? Tell us how he works, and what jobs he does.”
“First, can I say that you are simply marvelous. Sitting here and talking with you is almost breathtaking and I daresay no one would know that you are not a flesh-and-blood female… and a very beautiful one at that. I can’t help but think you would be a welcome addition to our family.
“As for Adam… We are a female household, for the most part. My brother William is a freelance journalist who is often gone for extended periods of time and, since we cannot have servants because of the work we do for Queen and Country, I designed Adam to be a combination butler and handyman. I must admit that I had neither the skill nor the imagination to make him look human in any meaningful way. He is seven feet tall and golden in color. He can speak, thanks to a modified Babbage logic engine, though his ability to converse is fairly limited. I did teach him to play chess but he was designed primarily to help us with chores around the house. His power source is… well, I can’t really go into detail about that but I will say it is electrical and not coal-fired. Despite his appearance, we regard him as a member of the family, although he did give Beverly quite a start when she first met him.
“If I may, can I ask you how concerned you are about what we might call your mortality. I know that you have been involved in a lengthy lawsuit with the corporation that created you and that it is unlikely to help should you need significant repairs. Does that cause you much anxiety?”
“It bothers me, but so much of it is out of my hands. I stay busy helping Craig, and I recently had a checkup and got some software upgrades. All off the record stuff though, almost like being a spy. Spying is an interesting profession. The only one I know is also a woman. Do you have a hard time, as women, gaining access to the kinds of places where all the good information is kept?”
“Actually, it’s because we are women that men tend to speak freely in front of us, mistakenly believing that we have neither the wit nor the requisite logical thought processes to understand what they are discussing. The fact that we are wealthy also gives us access to social occasions that we use to unearth information for Mr. Holmes. In our latest mission we have enlisted the assistance of the Infanta Maria Eulalia Francisca de Asis Margarita Roberta Isabel Francisca de Paula Cristina Maria de la Piedad, the Duchess of Galliera. In a more just world, she would be in line to be Queen of Spain but the Spanish no longer allow women to be rulers and so this remarkably intelligent woman is relegated to the diplomatic sidelines.”
“Wow! That’s quite a name. I never thought beyond Lisa Burton for mine. I think our listeners are going to love a princess. Is she homely? Does she have to cover her face? Is she taken care of all the time, or is she a real butt kicker?”
“Lia – as she is known privately to friends and intimates – is considered one of the most beautiful women in Europe. She is also whip smart and a believer in women’s rights. She is also quite skilled when it comes to what you now call public relations. She, for example, won the hearts of Americans when she visited the recent exposition in Chicago by walking the Midway eating hot dogs instead of going to a sumptuous luncheon with the city’s elite and even went to Mass in one of the city’s poorest churches rather than the cathedral. She is also, as we learned when we first met her, a master of disguise. She travels with some truly ferocious bodyguards, is a writer, and quite independent.”
“Oh my gosh, it all sounds so exciting. Hobnobbing with royalty, spying, preventing a war. Are there airships? Please tell me there are airships too.”
“There are plenty of airships, and some aerial combat as well. Oh, and I should probably mention, there’s a submersible – I think you call them submarines? My brother spent some time on one, quite unwillingly I might add, though I would have loved to have seen it. Our adventures on behalf of the Queen are chronicled in a book called “The Ashtabula Irregulars: Opening Gambit.”
“Thank you for being on the show today, Dana. Listeners, be sure to check out this wonderful book.”
On a cold October night young Beverly Gray is running for her life when she literally bumps into William Thompson, journalist and spy for Her Majesty Queen Victoria. It is 1894 and America is still part of the British Empire but there is revolution in the air. Together with William’s remarkable family and their former Buffalo Soldier friend Joshua Bowman, Beverly soon finds herself on a secret mission ordered by the shadowy Mycroft Holmes to stop the German Empire from negotiating a treaty for warm water ports in Spain and the Pacific. Filled with international intrigue and more than its share of gunfights, “The Ashtabula Irregulars: Opening Gambit” is the first in a Steampunk adventure series that takes readers into old New York, England, France, the Philippines, Egypt, Sicily and Spain as the story unfolds.
The Ashtabula Irregulars: Opening Gambit” is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001KCABGK
Mike Billington spent nearly a half century as a reporter covering stories around the world and across the United States including Operation Desert Storm, the Rwandan Civil War, hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Katrina and Rita as well as the Love Canal environmental disaster and the 9/11 airline crash near Shanksville, Pa. During his career he earned more than 40 awards including the Brotherhood Medal of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for an undercover investigation of white-power extremists and the Southern Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting for a series he co-authored exposing police abuses of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act. He also received several awards for a lengthy series on infant mortality in Delaware. An Army veteran who spent two tours in Vietnam, his awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. In addition, he was twice decorated by the Vietnamese government. Given his background, it’s not surprising that Mike writes in a wide variety of genres from Steampunk to mystery and even historical fiction.
I’m on Twitter @Billington_Book
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org