A pale dawn washed over the H.M.S. Valor. She cut through the clouds at full speed, leaving twin streams of smoke and ash in her wake. Once the pride of the Empire’s fleet, the Valor had been butchered over the past week of hard flight. Decks, cabins, and walls had all fell prey to the axe and had been fed to the ship’s powerful furnaces. The guns and ammunitions had all been thrown overboard to allow for additional lift and speed. She was running under maximum automization, with almost every piloting and control system being managed by internal mechanics. There was no crew aboard to operate the ship. The Valor carried but one man, and he stood at the helm.

Sir Edward Valentine, Captain of the Valor and Commander in Chief of the Empire’s airship fleet gripped the wheel with cold hands. He had not left the helm, except to gut his ship and feed the engines. He had not slept. He had barely tended to his own needs. His chin and neck were covered in stubble. His uniform was in complete disarray. Behind him, the war raged on. The brave fighting men of the Empire clashed with the merciless automatons of Barron von Kaznof. Heavy losses took their toll on both sides of the Empire’s Great Wall, but Valentine would not look back to consider the lives of his men. A cold fury had overtaken him, and nothing mattered but reaching his destination.

A week ago, news had come to the front along with their supplies. The Capitol was under siege form the Baron’s naval forces. The Empire’s defensive forces had been caught completely by surprise and were almost decimated. They had managed to get the city into lockdown before suffering civilian casualties, but they did not have the forces to mount a counter attack. Men at the front had immediately volunteered to return, but the City Fathers had ordered all soldiers to remain at their posts. When Valentine had learned of the attack, he immediately launched the Valor and headed home.

He now stared ahead as he pushed his ship to the breaking point. He had long-since ripped apart the windows of the bridge and fed them to the flames of the furnaces. Now, wind whipped through the bridge and scattered what few small items remained. His flight goggles were pressed tightly to his face and his unkempt hair streamed back. He clung to the passion and fury that had driven him to abandon his post without a second thought. He hoped against all his military knowledge and experience that he would get to the Capitol in time.

As the clouds parted, Valentine saw the Capitol stretch out before him. He saw the city’s defenses were raised and active. He saw the Barron’s forces surrounding the Capitol, raining down cannon fire. Grim determination crept across his face as he aimed the Valor town toward the automatons’ primary control hub. He lifted one had from the wheel and rested it upon the small picture kept in a pocket over his heart.

Later, when the wreckage was cleared, Sir Edward Valentine’s journal was located. The entry for that day, the fourteenth day of February, was only one word: Justine.

About the Author

Caleb Gillombardo am an independent author, working mostly in horror and urban fantasy. He is also an independent game designer. He enjoys working with Steampunk because it is an all-encompassing genre, allowing him to utilize themes from any literary niche. He is currently working on a Steampunk serialized novel, several comic scripts, and RPG.