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A Bowling Alley Bubbled Up

And an adventure began.

I grew up in a very small town. Not as small as my dad (he had a graduating class of six…), but small. It had a pool, a library (my favorite place to be), a main street (for draggin when you got your driver’s license and access to a car), and a bowling alley. 

I swam more than I bowled, and read more than I swam, but I did bowl some.

It’s funny how memories swirl around inside your head and then bubble up in weird and unexpected ways. Like when you’re plotting a really weird book and boom, there’s a bowling alley in the story.

It wasn’t weird enough for me that my fictional bowling alley was a small Wyoming town. No, my bowling alley had to be a steampunked version of a bowling alley. With a museum in the basement. It’s not even a good museum. Lol

But that is how Steamrolled begins, in a quirky museum that sets Emily and Robert on a wild adventure through time and space. 

Why did I want it to start in a bowling alley? I’m not entirely sure. I know it was right for Emily. And you can’t fit a transmogrification machine in a Jesus Saves Taco Stand. 

Read on for an extended excerpt from Steamrolled! 

And do share, did you bowl when you were young? Still bowling (yes, WiWi bowling counts)? Anything quientessentially part of your past that doesn’t involve bowling? 

Perilously yours,

Pauline

And here’s your excerpt: 

Fyn took point with an air of menace. Robert might have been worried, but Fyn had entered the plane that brought them here in the same way. The other two followed, though it was unclear if they felt menace or curiosity. On their six, Robert was the last to enter a world more alien than the one in the other galaxy where he wished he was right now. No question the Kikk Outpost was weird, but he expected it to be weird. He hadn’t expected this.

Expect the unexpected.

I’m working on it, he told them, even though he wasn’t. How did one work on expecting the unexpected? And even if one managed it, could one really expect this?

Pipes, cylinders, grills, vents, gears, and pistons gleamed dully in the gloom. They appeared to cover part or most of all four walls and various other surfaces, including sections of the floor. The air he inhaled was damp, smelled of popcorn, stale coffee, and hotdogs. A metallic taste lingered on his tongue. Somewhere that engine pulsed, stronger now that they were on the upper floor; sending a distinct hum up through the soles of his shoes, and now he could hear steam hissing in pipes. Should have expected that in a place called Steam Generation. He moved deeper into the room, past his companions who looked around like they expected something to explode. It wasn’t an overly pessimistic expectation.

The potential was there.

To his right there was a counter setup, most likely the source of most of the smells, with two picnic tables for customers. The steampunk detailing had leaked over into this space, too, which seemed to take up needed space for people. It was, he reminded himself, a small town. Possibly they did not require more space. In a desultory fashion, a part of his brain was running numbers on what portion of the population would be here. An imprecise equation, caused by imprecise data, but his brain didn’t care. It just liked to run data. Prior to the introduction of the nanites to his system, this process hurt. He was not sorry those days were behind him.

He turned, curious about the lanes. The six lanes looked—once again not what he’d expected. Carvings and more of the pipes and gears added a mad scientist element. Not his sort of mad scientist. The kind who had a hunched over Igor as an assistant and believed switching brains was a reasonable research goal. Robert blinked. Igor? That didn’t feel like something he’d think.

Out of the shadows all around them lights pulsed, as if the power supply was inconsistent. Some of the gears and pistons managed sluggish movement. What light there was made the shadows appear deeper and somewhat sinister. No one spoke. Maybe they were at a loss for words, too. No sign of a museum, in or out of shadow. He should be disappointed, worried even, but instead he was fascinated. So were his nanites, though their fascination was laced with curiosity—a state of being for them since their liberation from the test tubes. They’d been quivering with delight since arriving Earth-side. Robert frowned. If nanites could quiver?

Do you wish us to assess?

They felt his agreement before he formed a mental yes and sent drones out through the soles of his feet, their brief flickers of light easily camouflaged by the intermittent lights around them. Because of the mental link, a part of him traveled with them, and he felt as baffled as they at how low tech it was, despite the complexity of pipes and gears everywhere. The steampunk details were for show until the paraphernalia was well above human height. That was logical and sensible in a business that did not wish to be sued by severely burned customers. Or explain missing digits to parents. Steam did move through the higher piping, causing the observed sluggish movement of gears and pistons. But steam that was not hot was also being injected into the space through a series of Victorian-looking vents on the floors—

Humanoid. Female. Above this space.

Above? Where? How? Robert looked up. The dome. Of course. It was dark, except for an eerie, and faint, red glow. Information began to arrive via the nanites. There was something up there, based on the layout of the building. Some kind of wooden control panel, though the reasons for it remained unclear. He also received information on a possible site for the elusive museum in the floor below, across from the steam engine room.

Robert was used to having his thoughts pulled in different directions, but not his physical body. He wished to check out the female and the museum and the power plant. Until the different desires could be reconciled, he stayed where he was, waiting for more data to provide direction.

“What do you think, Prof?” Ric’s voice was pitched low for reasons that weren’t clear.

Robert could and did think many things. Figuring out which thought process was suitable for sharing, or that his companions would find relevant, was still a challenge. Delilah said it would get easier. He hoped his sister was correct.

“There’s someone here.” Fyn took that information out of the queue before Robert could decide to mention it. His stance turned even more menacing. Perhaps it was a “muscle” requirement.

Not that muscle was indicated just yet. The “someone” was probably Emily Babcock, not a chainsaw-wielding murderer—Robert made a mental note to thank Delilah for that memory. Emily and her brother, Edward, owned and operated the bowling alley and had since they inherited the property from their parents five years ago. They were the same physical age as Robert: twenty-five. It was a small, but troubling reality that his actual birth date was thirty-five years ago. He tried not to think about it as it made his left brain ache, even with the nanites helping out. His right brain had no problem with the anomaly.

“Where?” Ric asked.

A grinding sound from above provided the answer and resulted in varied and interesting responses from his companions.

* * * * 

To find out more about Steamrolled, click here!

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