- - An excerpt, taken from the first chapter of "Captive Sky, Truant Heart", the 1st Edition of the Clockhaven Chronicles, by P.S. Chambers. (Copyright © 2011 by Penny Gaff Publishing, LLC) - -
The order was given. The tricolored pennant fell. A black flag with a grinning red skull took its place.
Within the confines of the forward casemate, the gun crew stood ready. A pot bellied gunner sighted down the long barrel of the Armstrong rifle, directing adjustments. Satisfied he stood clear of the carriage. A quick jerk of the lanyard released the hammer. Swinging in a tight arc, it struck the percussion cap. Within the cap, a coating of mercury fulminate flared, igniting the primer compound. Flame streaked down the vent to the powder bag. In an instant, twenty pounds of gunpowder transformed into searing gas. The expanding gas pushed against the eight-inch base of the projectile, forcing it down the bore. Brass lugs on the sides of the one hundred and fifty pound cylinder engaged the spiraling grooves within the barrel, causing the rapidly accelerating mass to rotate. Traversing the eight-foot tube, the projectile left the cannon muzzle with a thunderclap amidst jetting flame and smoke.
A crowd had gathered at the rail. They, with Sky, collectively gasped in alarm. She went rigid at the sight, hands clutching the rail, eyes widening. The world slowed
and that's when she realized: questions; she had questions. Mr. Hargrove could certainly answer them; he could reassure her, but he was on the bow, pointing to the approaching æthership. Dazedly, Sky followed the trajectory of his out stretched arm, just in time to be stunned by the roar of the cannon's report.
One hundred and fifty pounds of death was suddenly hurtling toward the Margueritte at a thousand feet per second. Describing a shallow arc, its path intersected the Margueritte twenty feet from the ship's bow. The plating stretched and split, the supporting frames buckled and broke. The shell, fuse burning, came to rest within the body of the gilded packet steamship.
There was a violent pitch with the shell's impact, filling the air with cries of terror and the sickening shriek of rending metal. Sky lost her footing and fell to the deck; others followed. She screamed in surprise and pain, clawing and kicking to free herself from the crush. Her knees and palms were rubbed raw from the effort; her arms ached. Separating herself from the struggling press, she lifted her head to look forward, just in time to see a massive blast engulf the front of the steamship.
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