Slavepunk: A Steampunk Parody

Westlake Blinkington III stood on the marble floor of the zeppelin platform at Imperial Towers where the Baroque was docked. He impatiently flicked the filigreed cover of his pocketwatch open and closed, as though he could speed up time by irritating the tiny faeries that pushed tirelessly at cogs of the chronometer. Dr. Ambrosious was late. Which was odd, because Dr. Ambrosious was never late. Fifteen minutes later, a lone figure appeared on the zeppelin’s ramp.

Ambrosious was a tall man, his height accentuated by the top hat and ivory handled cane that he favored. If he felt any trepidation at the sight of Westlake, he did not show it, but strolled up, each step accompanied by the click of the cane against the marble floor. He gave no introduction as he approached, but simply stopped and adjusted his monocle.

“Dr. Ambrosious,” Westlake said.

“Mr. Blinkington, I know why you are here, I am surprised it has taken you so long to track me down.” Dr. Ambrosious took a puff of his cigarette through his quellazaire.

“It was not tracking you down that was difficult, but finding proof. And now I have it.” Westlake pulled a sheaf of paper out of his coat and presented it to Ambrosious.

“The missing children, yes?” Westlake nodded. “While you know that it was I who took them, do you know what I did with them?”

“No.” Westlake had been dreading this moment, dreading that his foe would attempt to use the whereabouts of the missing children as leverage. He steeled his resolve.

“The faeries that run the clocks and the lights and the cars, everything that you take for granted, do you know where they come from?”

“I had never given it any thought,” Westlake said. What was Ambrosious getting at?

“Of course not.” If possible, Ambrosious became more smug as he spoke. “But you should. They are children, miniaturized children.”

“You are a monster. Why children? Why not paupers or convicts?”

“Because of the cost. Do you have any idea how much more it costs to miniaturize an adolescent, much less an adult? There’s no margin in it.” Ambrosious rubbed two fingers together as though they held coins.

“I’ll expose you. They will have your head,” Westlake said.

“Will you?” Ambrosious arched an eyebrow. “Expose me and expose the whole rotten system. For what difference is there between the children slaving away in your chronometer there and the ones working in the factory putting the filigree on the casing? Are you willing to remove the lynch pin of our entire society over some moral quibble?”

Ambrosious turned and walked back towards his zeppelin, leaving Westlake on the platform holding his sheaf of evidence. Westlake stood and watched, transfixed, as the zeppelin departed.