by Madame Curio
Time traveling woman takes an adventure.
|Eliza Curio's home was located on Elegant Seven Hammer and Tongs Avenue below the Aether .A dignified structure with great peaks and arches that gave it a distinctive silhouette at sunset. Long windows were strategically placed on each of the three floors to allow sufficient light of day to enter all the rooms. The mansion was once the color of moss and willow,sadly now faded to a grayish- greenish - pale smokey hue. This as a result of the factories below and their release of immeasurable amounts of soot and grease into the atmosphere after the last wrath was harrowed up. Madame Eliza Curio it was said was a gentlewoman of charitable nature but many believed she lead a far more exciting existence. The truth was far more complicated and the stuff an adventure novel was surely made of.
Madame Curio danced through the room of leather and brass, pretending to pay no attention to the great clock on the wall. Waiting for a note or a letter can be so tiresome and she grinned broadly. The adventure was to begin and soon, the plan and the practice were fueled by the energy beneath the Curio House. The hiss of water vapor was in her blood and the generator it fed sat beneath the chestnut brown curls that fell upon her shoulders and neatly tied with great ribbons of royal blue. This was the game and the cards of destiny were spread on the table, she grinned once more pulling on her tall boots with great brass buckles.
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She reached the stairs and decided it better to slide than step. Down the spiral curve of mahogany she flew and stepped into the foyer. Without a blink she placed her goggles properly and buttoned her waistcoat. The vehicle waiting outside was the Airship Serendipity, her own design . The wind was favorable and the tanks of liquid fuel set. All other gauges and meters read well..
The meeting was to take place on the Pond of Zero, of course anyone who knew anything about navigation knew that the Pond of Zero was not made of H2O at all. Madam Curio turned the knobs and pulled the levers and listened for the familiar hiss of condensation. A soft curl of steam rose from the ship's starboard quarter. A good sign
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Madame spoke into the device to her left, a strange little machine resembling the gramophone, which Mr. Berliner had invented a few years back. This machine not only recorded but amplified and spoke back. Madame Curio placed her coordinates and made her request. The machine confirmed her directions and the compass on her time piece moved south. It was getting close to Tea Time so without delay she retired to the lower deck. What a strange ship she commanded, filled with gadgets and whistles and things that would ting and bing from time to time. Her companion Cecile, a Bot Dog stood silent in the far corner and then followed her below.
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Madame Eliza Curio was a collector of many things and her Captain's Quarters displayed her passion for adventure. Cabinets were filled with tiny objects from foreign shores and parts and pieces for later use. Her laboratory on board was one of the most sophisticated in the quadrant and well stocked. She found the tapestry still unfinished leaning against the Captain's Chair. Cecile nudged her arm and sat beside her. She pressed his off button behind his right ear and placed his left paw on the 'Press Here' pad next to her chair. The sun with its pale light was setting, making strange shadows through the large brass porthole she designed for the Airship. Madame turned the wick up on the oil lamp and pushed the needle into the material once more. The music on the Gramophone amplified by speakers set strategically about the room made the trip comfortable. The dolls sitting in the empty chair across the room stared intently at the woman in the Captain's Chair; her crew was ready and waiting.
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This adventure promised to add to her collection of oddities and curious things,things that would found nowhere else and thought burned up it was said. Madame Curio, a young widower, had been left a fortune from the copper mines of a benevolent admire in the Midwest. She loved the color of copper; it made it so easy to enjoy its benefits and investing more in a few mines in Vermont. Eliza Curio belonged to a secret society of persons, well connected to the advancements in the scientific and mechanical world. Travelers joined at the center by a world the normal person had no imagination for. There was a buzz and then a music box played one of those sweet songs made famous by Miss Jenny Lind. Phineas Barnum always loved to hear this singing 'Nightingale', thought Madame Curio.
The device on the table had lights blinking red and blue. A unfamiliar man's voice could be heard coming from the speakers instead of the music of the gramophone tube suddenly. 'Are ye within half day's journey, Curio?', the man asked. She answered yes and sat quietly listening. ' Tis but a passion I have for gold, not these things I got gathered here, so I'm hope'n you will be quick about their sale, won't ya?', not disguising his demands. 'Of course', she assured him. 'We will be waiting, Madam Curio', the pirate warned. Eliza Curio drew her well manicured eyebrows together and looked out the porthole into the night sky. Wispy clouds and smoky hues of grey sat on the horizon, no stars where she had set her heading.
To be continued.....
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She had a planned addition to her crew on her way to her rendezvous; the charming Mr. Travis Tourist would be joining her on this journey. Necessity is the mother of invention and Mr. Tourist was a more pleasant necessity she mused. Madam Curio drew a deep breath and sighed. Next she would need a disguise. A disguise that was less antagonizing, harmless, at least on the surface and one that would travel well but was functional. She pressed the button behind Cecile's ear and his left paw moved quickly, as quickly as any well bred Bot dog could. Returning the unfinished artwork to the chair leg where she had found, made her way to the Wardrobe galley.
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So much to do and so little time filling her bags with gadgets and all sorts of hardware. There came knocking at her door.and a note slipped beneath the door. Mr. Tourist so loved the drama and intrigue of Adventure. It was Cecile who made the next sound, something like a growl. His eyes began glowing and shined brightly on the floor where the note rested. A mechanical voice spoke,'Madam Curio, your guest has arrived!' the 'Bot' announced. Cecile spoke once more, 'TWO hours till destination is reached', the arm on the large clock in the corner moved with a loud ticking sound.. The two left the room and she turned the gas lighting to low to conserve energy. Pulling her travel case behind her Madame entered the Game Room, A room featuring an extraordinary dining table with chairs delicately carved of dark oak. An imaginary porthole to the left was really the lighting in the room. Its glass segments magnified the fluorescence and behind the glass a mural with Madame in an elegant dress. Mr. Travis, in Traveler attire was at the marble top bar pouring his favorite drink. 'What have we here', asked the man in the tall hat. Madame smiled,' My disguise or do you think the bustle too much Mr. Travis?' 'There is a zip that will allow for battle if need be,' and as sure as a blink, she revealed goggles, brown leather corset with matching trousers and a weapon with a barrel that stretched from her hip to her calf. The amazing Madam Curio was never to be underestimated as she placed the rifle back in its holster returning the faux bustle by pulling the tab on the zip. She wrapped her long hair into a bun, fixing it with a large pronged pin she hid in her velvet waist coat.She placed her goggles back in the pocket of her skirt. Cecile retrieved the thick black rimmed glasses from a nearby table and Eliza Curio adjusted them on the bridge of her nose. She joined Mr. Travis Tourist at the bar and smiled once more. Her dangerous travel bag, set on wheels, was pushed carefully by Cecile to the side and ready for the journey. Mr. Travis sniggered and finished his drink.
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The nitro coils that froze the food were working well she noted and her dinners were perfect to be placed in the new solar battery operated oven recently procured. A few minutes later dinner was served. A shiny brass steam robot emerged to set the table for the couple. Madame went to change into her dinner coat and Mr. Tourist to the guest room to change into more relaxing garb as well. The large clock on the wall left them with less than an hour before arrival at the pirate's palace beneath the Pond of Zero. The gas lights were turned down, the candles lit and the soft sound of Jenny Lind could be heard in the distance. A delightful meal was served and fine wine brought from the belly of the ship, a vintage wine was poured in crystal cut glassware. The Airship Serendipity was beginning its decent and for a time the adventure was in the room where Mr. Travis and Eliza Curio retired too. The constant hiss of steam grew louder from the starboard quarter notifying the couple it was time to disembark.
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The Jolly Gentlemen as they preferred to be called, had acquired some extraordinary items and of course their asking price was not suitable to Madame. She had played their hand but she was holding the winning pair. These men of soot and slime were about to encounter an adventure they had not planned. Madam Curio was not to be denied.
The sound of the anchor chain clanged from the aft of the airship. When docking was complete the steam powered gangway doors opened amidships to the surprise of these so called gentlemen pirates. Madame Curio drove a curious machine down the ramp she liked to call the 'Segment' and slowly appeared through the steamy fog. She turned to face this pirate gang of criminals. Mr. Tourist was upon his black stallion covered in brass armor following her. What rare faces the pirates had seeing the two travelers before them.
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'Shall we find a place more suitable for our business?'Madame requested. A familiar voice spoke from the group, 'You didn't say you were bringing someone with you!' 'Sir surely a woman of my means and demeanor would not travel this far alone.' The pirate stepped forward with his gloved hand on his weapon, and then waved them to follow. These pirates rode upon steam driven two wheeled vehicles and the dust of the machines mixed with the condensation. Madame pulled her scarf up over her nose as the group moved east according to the compass on her machine. The 'Segment' was recording the route to assure the journey was certain.
They arrived at a building that was nailed and riveted together, some of wood and other of metal with a crow's nest spire at its center. Steam spouted from various pipes protruding from the left and right. A noisy crowd of men and women were celebrating with drink and gambling for whatever was on the ground. Eliza Curio was a little nervous as their cast of members found their way through the throngs of people. The whole scene was a bit more than she had imagined, again feeling immensely grateful she had invited Mr. Tourist along. The metal and leather horse Mr. Tourist was riding was then tethered to a Gatling gun outside the entryway and one of the pirates stood beside it. The lead pirate pointed to the entrance.
To be continued...
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Her spectacles were designed to enhance her vision through wood or metal, they allowed her to see the final destination behind all the mayhem. The walls inside were of large stone block and racks of weapons hung upon the walls. Not sooty or slimy were these pirates but determined and what appeared to be very successful. Equipment for communication was advanced and having a power source more direct with large cords attached. Her plans would need to change but her goal would remain. It was uncomfortable and warm inside the room when they entered. Only one large blade twirling from the ceiling, and no windows to open and her vision through her glasses fogged suddenly as the lead pirate walked over to the control panel on the wall and pressed a large red button. There was a creaking sound and then a grinding of gears and the north wall moved downward into the floor. There in front of her were cages and cases and boxes of all shapes filling the room that was hazy and dark. Mr. Travis tugged on her skirt as he stood beside her and she removed the useless spectacles. She turned off the 'Segment' and stepped down toward the cache of goods before her.
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A long gun barrel of covered brass swung out in front of her. The pirate ordered, 'Madame Curio, you will not take another step nor will your companion.' Had she fallen into a trap, her airship secure was at least 30 minutes west of her location. A loud burst of a man's laughter came from a dark corner of the room and the sound of boot steps came out of the darkness. 'Madame Eliza Curio, why the disguise my dear lady?' a very familiar voice spoke. 'Have you forgotten our last meeting, I am disappointed in you woman!' Her eyes adjusting to the darkness recognized the Pirate but not in his current dress. He was a scientist as she remembered and a bit of a mad one at that.
'Professor, how nice to see you'I hope,' she smiled. 'I see you have advanced your profession.' 'Do Not Patronize me, Madame' growled the half metal and stitched leather face before her. 'What have we here,' pointing his copper and brass covered long gun at the man in black. 'Professor, I would like you to meet my Navigator on this adventure, Mr. Travis Tourist.' said Madame. 'Navigator, that I doubt but let us address our business at hand, Eliza,' the half mechanical mad scientist whispered in her ear. 'You see before you a great many crates and several cages, all of which are empty,' he laughingly roared. Madame Curio was not amused, as she reached for her disguised weapon beneath her skirt. 'Ah, Ah', the madman warned, 'Lest we find ourselves with less than what is before us!' 'How else could I entice the adventuresome and wealthy heiress to leave her castle?' He called for a bottle of wine and some cups then sent his men away, leaving the threesome alone in the room.
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' I am tired of your bullying Professor and I am tired of this charade, she answered back.' Please direct me to a more suitable area so I might change out of this disguise and be a bit more comfortable.' Madam needed to gather her wits and revisit her plan which appeared to be an escape plan before this day was done. Mr. Travis looked puzzled for he knew the disguise was not difficult but the situation was becoming very difficult. 'More comfortable Madame, the disguise was so unbecoming to a woman of your guts and greed,' the Pirate Scientist sneered. 'I understand that you are interested in some items that once belonged to our friend Phineas Barnum?' the Professor mused while pouring from his dusty bottle into the metal mugs on the table. Eliza Curio sat down on the wooden chair behind her, but did not speak. The professor with his good arm tighten his munitions belt saying 'What? You did not suspect what my treasures might be and who they might belong to?' Travis remained standing declaring, 'We are not Pirates or criminals, Sir!' 'Oh no sir?' grinned the pirate as he lifted his cup once more. 'We are collectors and keepers of history and curiosities,' Travis announced. The Pirate slammed his empty tin to the table and shouted, 'You may call yourself whatever but this is your choice and so I ask you shall we continue or do you return empty handed?'
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'Sir, we are of the understanding that Mr. Barnum's New York Menagerie was burned up in the fire of 1865 and then a second fire 1868 closed the whole venture. Is this the collection you are referring to, Professor?' asked Madame Curio as she sipped from her tin cup. 'So it was said Madame, so it was reported but I ask again are you interested in items of a rare and curious nature.' The mad scientist turned pirate stared into her face while Madame Curio sat quietly pondering such items.'I am not interested in illegal or stolen artifacts Professor' as she stood up with her brass and copper covered A257 Blunder bust in hand. 'Who said anything about stolen or illegal, these items are there for the taking and belong to no one now!' he roared. 'How can this be, Sir?' asked Mr. Travis. 'It is very simple, they are treasure now and I have the map of their location,' said the pirate. 'How I came by this map, is not of your concern for it now belongs to me,' he growled. 'Why bring this adventure to me, Professor Higginbottom and what pray tell would entice me on such an adventure with Pirates?' said the woman. 'It is very simple Madame, such rare and unusual items would fetch a great price but surely you have room in that mansion of yours to admire and display a few of them?' he sneered. 'This is ridiculous, even madness, what sort of things are hidden in this treasure map of yours?' Madam Curio demanded.
'Shall I give you a list; I need to know if you are in or out of this adventure.' 'The answer is No, Sir! Let us take our leave and forget about this bizarre journey!' she was not to be taken in by his insanity. 'Madame Curio, I think you may need a day or two to reflect on my offer, why not return to your ship and wait for me to contact you. For I do not think you will be going yet, you are my guest and I am not done with our visit.' The Pirate pulled on a rope near him and several the lesser pirates arrived to escort them out of the building. 'I am afraid Professor a few days will not change my mind,' she laughed. 'We will see Madam Curio, we will see'." said the madman.
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Mr. Travis found his horse oiled and secured and a pirate guarding it had drawn a crowd of onlookers. Madame stepped on to her 'Segment', 'Mr. Travis we have a half hour before dark, we need to leave immediately.' The Pirate escort started the motors on their two wheeled transports and the party headed west. The machine she rode on predicted arrival in 25 minutes, a small case was provided for her withered disguise was secured and transported by Mr. Travis. Upon their arrival a tent cabin strategically placed had housed several the Jolly Gents awaiting her return. They reached the ship not a minute late and to Madame's relief the ship was resting comfortably on the sandy shore of Pond Zero, sealed by heavy metal slides about the ship's hull and anchored deep. The escort band waited for the entry door to open. Madame Curio turned to them and directed the band of criminals, 'Do not think that any of you will be coming on board!' One of the pirates spoke,' Madame do not think you will be leaving unless given pass by Captain Higgs (short for Higgenbottom).' The metal panels directly in front of them parted as steam escaped from either side and Madame on her machine rode up the plank with Mr. Tourist right behind her. With no time wasted the entry ramp disappeared by rolling backwards and the Iron panels closed before any of the pirates could enter the Airship. Finally they were secure but not out of the fog.
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The switches lit up and a gurgle of gas escaping through the pipes could be heard. Mr. Tourist spoke first, 'Eliza this is not in our bargain, Pirates they are more like Gypsies or Vagabonds, not easily taken in.' Bot beings appeared and took the horse to its stable while several others removed the 'Segment' machine to the garage area. Madame requested a steam bath and good bottle of unopened wine with a light dinner in her Captain quarters and did not answer Mr. Tourist. 'Did you hear me Eliza, this is dangerous, more dangerous than our previous trade encounters ever!', he shouted after her as she made her way up the stairs of 'Slide & Step'. The Game Room was as she had left it and Mr. Tourist stood in the doorway, not entering the room. 'Travis, before you retire for the evening please wash up and have something to eat. This is a matter that will take some thought and I would hope you would do the same, we will meet at 0800 hours in this room.' she bid him good night and closed the manual door in front of him. It had been a very long day for Madame Eliza Curio, tired but curious she retrieved several manuals from the book shelves in the room and headed for the Captain's quarters and a steamy hot bath.
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Beneath the brown and worn covers were the writings of the 'Wizard of Odd'. On the tattered pages were many ingenious drawings and designs but Madame turned to the Index to locate information regarding the Menagerie of Mr. P.T. Barnum in the 1850's. And out fell a booklet tucked behind the dusty last page of a particularly heavy edition. She had never noticed it before; it was titled Barnum's American Museum in New York. The document described as a pictorial guide to that Far-Famed establishment; containing much interesting matter, and highly useful to visitors. Expense and distance was no obstacle to Barnum, as exemplified in his Museum. Admirably executed Wax busts of Van Buren, Shakespeare, Hippocrates and Homer were only a few of the many waxed heads on display. Certainly these did not survive such vicious fires. Examples in wax of the drunkard and the deviate were displayed as well as the sober and virtuous with the birth and trial of Jesus Christ in the concluding group. What caught Madame's attention was the mention of a splendidly large oil painting of the famous Jenny Lind, the 'Singing Nightingale'. Also a 'daguerreotype' likeness of Barnum and the one with the celebrated Tom Thumb was even more compelling. A picture of the great Professor Anderson performing for Royals in Europia, printed on a type of silk with decorated boarders this brochure reported. It appeared the frame may have been of rich Corinthian leather and hung gallantly upon the Great Gallery wall. Madame Curio considered Professor Anderson a dear friend through his many writings, dead now nearly 20 years and certainly carried the title of 'Wizard' more than most downtrodden knew. She had been reading his many accomplishments compiled into instructional manuals for the past ten years.
To be continued..