Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Steampunk Little Red - Part 1

Original Sketch
Revised Sketch

A sample of the reference I took this weekend

This is a VERY rough outline.  I know that I am not nearly as clever or witty as I think I am.  There are lots of plot holes.  I know this.  You have been warned.  And it's mine, so, don't steal it.  Please.  

Little Red was always a headstrong, fearless child.  She grew up on a dirigible under the watchful eye of her mother, the pilot, and her father,  the captain.  But even their near constant vigilance never succeeded in keeping Little Red out of some kind of mischief.  She loved flying and being surrounded by the of crew, whom she always considered a motley assortment of aunts, uncles and older siblings.  The one thing she hated more than anything is being stuck on land for any length of time - or “grounded” as she called it.  

Her grandmother (her mother’s mother) was a famous inventor.  She was brilliant.  No one had ever seen her match as far as sheer ingenuity.  Sometimes her inventions seemed not of this world - they’d be years ahead of her time and she had volume upon volume of diagrams for inventions that couldn’t be built yet because the technology to build them didn't exist.  She’d developed a way to process spider silk to produce a lightweight fabric that is stronger than steel.  She’d also developed a kind of viewing device so small she could incorporate it into one of her mechanical bugs and it transmits those images over extreme distances.  She revolutionized the airship engine, making it more lightweight and nearly 4 times as powerful.  You name it and she’d probably built it or made it better.  She was a temperamental, bossy old woman, though, obsessed with a theory about inter-dimensional travel.  Not even her daughter completely understood the extent of her obsession.  Or the reason for it.  

For a long time, the grandmother worked in the open: she took on apprentices, drove hard bargains for her inventions, fixed things that sparked her interest.  Until one day, she told her daughter that she had started to make some real progress on her theory.  She became a tyrant in the workshop and slowly began to make progress on her machine.  It was a doorway, she said.  A door to other worlds.  A way home.  

And then there was a break in at the workshop.  A mess, the newspapers said, but no real harm done.  Except the intruders had taken what work there was on the door.  It hadn’t been functional, but it had been close.  The grandmother was devastated.  She was enraged.  Paranoid and convinced that it had been an inside job, she fired all her apprentices and moved her workshop to an undisclosed place.  No one’s heard from her in a while and she communicates with her daughter very infrequently.  

It wasn’t completely out of character for the grandmother to drop off the radar for weeks on end, but after three months, her daughter became a little concerned.  She knew where her mother’s secret workshop was and thought the basis of the paranoia was more old age than truth.  She played with the idea of visiting her, but their flight log was booked for weeks and there was no one she trusted to fly her beloved dirigible, The Red Rider.  Then she thought of sending Little Red, but she knew the fierce opposition that would come from her daughter at the suggestion of being “grounded” for an indeterminate amount of time and hesitated.  She understood her daughter’s dislike of being on land - she herself had run away from home when she was not much older than Little Red, longing for the skies herself.  Over the years she had earned her piloting papers and now there was nowhere she’d rather be than at the wheel of The Red Rider with her husband and child beside her.  

But Little Red could be a “right terror” and after one too many misadventures, both of Little Red’s parents agreed that drastic measures were necessary.  The younger brother of one of the crewmen had been visiting and was on his way back to his own apprenticeship with an engineering guild near the grandmother’s hidden workshop.  He would accompany Little Red as far as their roads went together and see her safely on her way to her grandmother’s.  End of discussion.  

Little Red was angry.  She railed, she pouted, she even tried her hand at crying, but nothing moved her parents.  So when the appointed day came, she was seen onto the train with the young engineer and sent on her way.  

Regardless of his innocence in the whole affair, the young engineer took the brunt of Little Red’s frustration.  He bore it as patiently as he could, but when a group of engineers took seats in their car, he entered into conversation with them and ignored Little Red.

Meanwhile, the men who had taken the grandmother's invention were rather annoyed that the machine they stole was not a working prototype.  And the fact that the grandmother had gone “underground” meant that she was paranoid enough to see them coming even if they did find her.  

Now, they know the police have someone called “the Wolf” in custody.  He’s a ruthless bounty hunter, tracker, assassin, and whatever else you’ll pay him for.  They pay off the guards and tell him that they will give him his freedom and lots of money if he’ll track down the grandmother and steal the (working) invention.  He agrees.  

He set out to learn everything he could about the grandmother.  No one knew where she came from, and up until she started making things, no one had ever heard of her.  But he did find out about the grandmother’s daughter and her family on The Red Rider.  He figured they were the best way of finding the grandmother, so he followed them for months.  He found out that they hadn’t heard from the grandmother in a while and figured it’s just a matter of time till they send someone to check on her.  When he overheard their plans to send Little Red, he was jubilant.  Following Little Red and the young engineer onto the train he waited and planed until Red is left alone.  

When the stranger sat down across from her, Little Red ignored him.  She was still angry and pouting about the whole “off to grandma’s” thing.  When he started making small talk she was downright rude, but he persists and she eventually finds herself venting all her frustration about being sent off to grandmother’s.  She didn’t tell him where the workshop is, but she told him the name of a nearby town.  He was very sympathetic to her plight: asked her questions about her grandmother and their relationship - all seemingly innocent questions, but in her self-pity and anger, Little Red had no idea how much she was really giving up to the stranger.  
Internally, the wolf was weighing his options - he could use Little Red as leverage, but how could he get her alone?  There were too many people on the train, and the young engineer traveling with her - he didn’t want to risk alerting the grandmother that he was coming by kidnapping her granddaughter.  

Manipulating Little Red’s disgruntled state, he talked about what a pity it was that she had to be hurried off to her grandmother’s so soon, couldn’t she at least take in the sites?  There were some fantastic shops in the town she was getting off at before continuing on to her grandmother’s - besides, wouldn’t her grandmother appreciate a little something?  But of course, there was nothing she could do if her parents had told her to go straight there.  Little Red denied that she has been told any such thing - and then the young engineer came back and told the Wolf to shove off.  

When they arrive at their station, the young engineer saw that Little Red was put on a vehicle to the town near her grandmother’s and told her to go straight there and make sure she contacted her parents when she got to her grandmother’s.  The Wolf watched them, observing Little Red’s increasingly belligerent state, and followed on behind her when she set off.  

Angry at everyone and telling herself that she isn’t a child to be babysat and told what to do, Little Red noticed they were passing by the shops the Wolf had told her about on the train and throwing caution to the wind, she jumped out of the moving transport and dashed into the crowd towards the shops.  She could find her own way to her grandmother’s and she would bring something with her from the shops.  

The Wolf meanwhile was beyond pleased that his little diversion had worked.  He contacts his own small dirigible that is not far off and using topographical maps quickly discovers the only place the grandmother could have hidden her workshop and sets out. 

Finding the workshop and bypassing the grandmother’s security, he takes the grandmother by surprise - she’d over-exhausted herself just as her daughter suspected and had been in bed for several days.  The Wolf locks her up in the belly of his ship and tried to make her tell him about her machine, but she won't.  

Back at the town, Little Red eventually finished her shopping spree and set out to find her own transportation to her grandmother’s.  Hitching a ride on the back of a farmer’s wagon, she made her slow way toward her grandmother’s.  Eventually parting ways with the farmer, she headed off into the woods on her own and finally arrived at her grandmother’s workshop.  She went inside, confused to find that none of the lights were working.  But there was some noise coming from the back of the workshop and Little Red felt her way carefully towards it calling out to her grandmother as she went.

Well, it wasn’t her grandmother in the workshop, of course, it was the Wolf trying to figure out the invention and what to take to his employers.  He froze when he heard Little Red’s voice, trying to figure out a way to get rid of her.  But then a thought came to him - Little Red might be important to the grandmother, maybe he could use her as leverage.  SO he called out to Little Red, very softly and almost indistinctly trying to disguise his voice,  directing her to where he was.  

It was still dark in the workshop, and Little Red could barely make out what she thought was her grandmother’s form bent over a piece of machinery.  She comments on how different her grandmother looks as she comes closer - realizing too late that it isn’t her grandmother.  

Soon, the Wolf had both Little Red and her grandmother locked up in the belly of his ship.  As soon as she realizes that the Wolf has her granddaughter as well, she gives up her invention.   She is furious with Little Red, though, and gives her granddaughter a scathing piece of her mind about her lack of responsibility, etc, etc.  In the shock and fear, something gets through to Little Red and she sees herself quite clearly for the first time and her self-confidence and pride is shaken.  

Meanwhile, Little Red’s parents haven’t heard from her.  They contact the young engineer in the early morning hours and he goes out to look for her.  He in turn dragged the guy hired to transport her to the grandmother’s town and found out about her little escapade in the shopping district.  He spent a long time tracking her down and eventually found someone who remembered her getting a ride with a farmer going home the day before.  Annoyed and grim, he sets out to the other town.  

Along the way he started to notice the sound of a dirigible coming from the woods and decided to investigate - who would be putting their ship down in the middle of the woods?  When he got there he recognized the Wolf from the day before loading up machinery onto his ship.  THe young engineer, not being a complete idiot, thought that it was too much of a coincidence that the same man who was talking to Little Red (now missing) on the train the day before was there in the woods loading mysterious machinery near where he suspected Little Red’s grandmother’s workshop should be.  So he followed the Wolf back to the workshop, snuck in after him and started to look for Little Red and her grandmother.  But of course, they weren’t there.  So he went back to the Wolf’s ship while the Wolf was busy packing the machine up and searched the dirigible.  

When he did find Little Red and her grandmother, deep in the belly of the Wolf’s ship,* and broke them out.  The grandmother and the young engineer quickly come up with a plan to catch the Wolf.  Little Red, wanting to make up for the trouble she’s caused, volunteers to make sure the Wolf can’t take off in his ship in the meanwhile.  

Her confidence in herself was shaken, but if there was anything Little Red knew like the back of her hand, it was dirigibles.  So she set off alone to find the controls of the ship.

The grandmother and the young engineer meanwhile had snuck off the ship and back into the workshop just before the Wolf set off with another load for his ship.  The two gather what they need and set out to catch the Wolf.  

On the ship, Little Red was finishing disabling the flight mechanisms when the Wolf stumbled upon her.  Enraged, he chases her through the ship and out into the woods, right into the grandmother and young engineer’s hastily contrived trap.  

They hand the Wolf over to the authorities, Little Red gets in trouble with her parents, again, and has to thank the young engineer for saving her.  She also has to stay with her grandmother to help her move to a new hidden workshop, since it’s probable that the Wolf will tell his employers where the shop is to get himself out of prison.  

*I know, I crack myself up

You can see some of my other stories and ideas for stories here.

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