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Rated: E · Serial · Steampunk · #2068244
Tammy, a member, sent me three prompts for this tale. If you can find them, let me know.
"Hello, The Pandora!" The voice was a rather lilting contralto, but carried well along the docks at Hy Brasil. Spartacus Kane looked down from the railing of the Pandora at the young lady standing there among the crates and cargo nets. Her hair fell to her shoulders from under her narrow brimmed hat, in spite of having tied it in place with a white scarf. Her khaki jacket and jodphurs fitted her well, and she was well outfitted with both a cutlass and a rather large revolver. An elegantly designed orientometer hung from a lanyard around her neck, and Kane figured it to be dated somewhere in the late 20th century. Her boots were well made and well tended, so he decided he would find out what her business might be.

"I am Spartacus Kane, current master of the Pandora. How can we assist you?"

She answered him without hesitation, "I need you to help me correct an unfortunate event so that literature the world over might benefit!" He pondered her response carefully before inviting her aboard. As she mounted the gangplank, he turned to the navigator. "Mr. Pettigrew, would you be so kind as to ask the galley for a pot of tea?" "Aye aye, right away," he said, and immediately went below to fetch it.

As she came aboard, she produced a leather-bound journal and began leafing through it. Before he could give a proper introduction, she began speaking instructions in a rapid-fire tempo, and he finally had to hold both his hands up directly in her face. She fell silent and looked around at the amused expressions of the crewmen close at hand. She blushed, and Kane lowered his hands and smiled. "Why don't we learn a little more about what you need, and then we'll see if we can help." With that, he ushered her over to the port rail so they would not be in the path of the crew as they stowed the cargo. Moments later, the navigator returned with a teapot and several cups on a tray. She accepted some tea and calmed herself while she drank, thinking carefully about what she hoped to accomplish. Kane had invited the navigator to stay, and both of them took up a cup as well.

After a few moments, she began to introduce herself, but was halted again. "Miss, let us not discuss your name, as changes in a timeline might become problematic. Please just state your purpose." Flustered only a moment, she then went on, "Mr. Kane, I am a teacher from the late 20th century, and there is a poet who might possibly have become a greater influence on world literature had he not met a tragic end. I would like very much to discuss the possibility of changing that."

Kane was taken aback by her suggestion, but was intrigued as well. "A poet, you say? Was he involved in politics, or in any large financial enterprises?" She then gave him all the information he might need to make a decision by handing him the journal. He looked it over for a few minutes, then handed the journal over to the navigator as he addressed her, "This is Normal Pettigrew, our navigator." He then turned to address him, "Mr. Pettigrew, find what you can about this, and give me some guidance into whether this is advisable or not."

He then invited her to join them for breakfast, explaining it might be a while before Mr. Pettigrew returned. She agreed to breakfast, and the two of them went below to the mess. As they sat down, the cook brought out fresh muffins slathered with fresh butter, and a large pot of handmade orange marmalade. She hadn't realized how hungry she was until the moment the aroma of the melting butter wafted over her senses. She and Kane sat for awhile discussing her passion for teaching, and she even showed him a hand-drawn picture from one of her students that she carried with her always. It was a picture of a large parrot sitting in a leafless tree, his colors showing brightly under a large sun that shone on his plumage from the corner of the page. Kane smiled at the picture, and even let her read him some of the shorter poems from this poet she intended to save. He took a liking to her cause, even though he wasn't sure what the prospects were of their success. Presently, Mr. Pettigrew returned and sat down, folding the journal open.

"Captain Kane, as best I can deduce, there aren't any significant events in the timeline that would preclude us giving this a try." Kane looked at the earnest young man as Pettigrew went on, "You know, we often talk about how the world might need more artists than engineers. Perhaps this is where we might be able to test the waters." Kane took a moment to take it all in, then said simply, "We don't travel for free, my dear. What currency do you have to charter us for this enterprise?" She hadn't even thought about that. Then she took inventory of what she had. "Oh, my. I can't believe I didn't think of such a thing as that." She stood up, gathering the journal as she rose. "I am sorry to have wasted your time, Mr. Kane." But as she turned to leave, Kane touched her hand. "I said we don't travel free, young lady, but let's see where and when this all has to happen before we enter real negotiations."

With that, she took out a card that she had kept in her pocket for months and handed it to Normal Pettigrew. He took a small but thick book from his vest pocket and consulted it for a moment. He smiled broadly as he showed Kane a blank page in the book. Kane said brightly, "Mr. Pettigrew, an entry for the log: This date, we accept a charter, and take as payment the price of 2 cartridges in caliber .45 Long Colt from the revolver of this young lady." He held out his hand, and she quickly provided the two cartridges.

As he placed them in his vest pocket, Mr. Pettigrew rapidly vanished, and Kane invited her to take her seat once again as the crew made ready to depart on their charter. An unforgettable day for them all, it became a bittersweet memory for her.

Many years later, she sat upright in her bed, remembering that fateful day. They had traveled through the Aether with such great speed, and Kane had explained to her that they were going to get there just in time. But he also warned her that things didn't always happen as one might hope, so she would only have one opportunity to carry out her proposal. She understood quite well and resigned herself to that fact.

She closed her eyes for a moment, and could almost hear Mr. Pettigrew's voice from that day, "Latitude 22.51, Longitude 88.35, October 22, 1954 in 3...2...1..." The Pandora seemed to drift from the flowing curtains of the Aether into the clear blue skies of India almost instantaneously. Kane had assisted her down the side ladder, and she recalled looking up and seeing the Pandora as being nothing but a shadow as she climbed down to the ground. She oriented herself quickly, and ran towards the corner of Deshapriya Park, where the tram would soon roll through. She recognized him the moment she saw him, knowing his photo by heart. She called out to him as he neared the corner, warning him about the tram. He met her gaze and then, smiling sadly, stepped out into the street.

She couldn't bear to watch as the tram drug him down the street, so she turned and ran back to the waiting ladder of the Pandora. She cried bitterly as they watched the crowd gather below to carry the broken man off to the hospital. Kane put his arm around her shoulders and gently supported her as she wept.

Now, she looked at the poster of the ill-fated poet that hung on the blank, off-white wall of her bedroom opposite the bed. She had done her best to share his works with her students over the years, and the poster had hung in her office right up until she retired. She could not for the life of her believe how he had stepped into the street after her warning. Now it hung where she could wake up to his countenance every day, and one of his collections of poetry graced her bedside table. Below the poster hung the brightly colored parrot, now in a frame Mr. Pettigrew had provided. It had just a touch of Aether in the glass that kept the bright sun shining on that plumage all these many years. All in all, she had been happy with her life.

Quite suddenly, a small chair appeared out of thin air at her bedside. A shadow came from the corner of the room, solidifying into the form of Mr. Jibanananda Das, poet and author, whom she had tried to save all those years ago. He smiled gently as he sat down, and extended his hand to offer her a cool lump of orange.
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