Sneak Peek; Aether Legions, a Sequel in Progress

From the diary of Cameron Dummond, 1881:  My father married three times in his life, only once for love.  Like a boat caught in a whirlpool, his selfish transgressions spin him faster and faster toward an unpleasant end.

 

“You had best say your goodbyes now,” the doctor said as he emerged.  “The angels gather as we speak.”

 

“Don’t let my father hear you say that,” Cameron chided.  “Even on his deathbed, he’ll find time to ruin you.”

 

Outside the winter wind buffeted against the Dummond estate, rattling every pane of glass facing Lake Michigan.  The grey sky fused with the icy water on the horizon.  Death clawed at each window and door for an entrance.  No, not Death, Cameron mused, it’s already in.


Entering his father’s bedroom, Cameron first caught the odors of illness; sweat soaked sheets, acrid balms, and sour urine in the chamber pot.  The once pervasive aroma of cigar smoke, like the man’s powerful personality and sharp mind, had surrendered to the uncomfortable truth; all things pass with time.

 

As Cameron stepped closer, he heard his father’s labored breathing; an engine nearing the station, all its steam nearly spent.  A gnarled, jaundiced, boney hand rose, wavering.

 

 “Cameron, son, come closer, let me look at you.”

 

 “I am here father,” Cameron said flatly.  “Why would you want to see me?”

 

After raspy laugh, his father replied, “Come now, don’t behave like that, not now.”

 

“Impending death gives you compassion enough to behold your feeble son?”

 

Closer, Cameron looked into his father’s crimson rimmed eyes.  Pain, regret, and fear; all tainted milky blue eyes that once watched an empire grow.

 

“Damn it Cameron,” Lammont growled.  “Have you no heart left for your father?”

 

He forced a polite smile and summoned a twinkle in his eyes.  Give him this one moment.  “Certainly pa-pa; I only wish we’d spent our lives together differently.”  Crouching beside the bed, Cameron ran his hand beneath it, plucked out a cigar, and placed it in his father’s mouth.  Lammont grinned as he struggled to enjoy his final remaining vice.

 

“How’d you know?” Lammont asked.

 

“You’ve never kept a single secret from me, father,” Cameron whispered.

 

Lammont’s breath halted briefly, his glaring eyes widened in the flickering match light.  “What the blazes does that mean?”

 

“Surprised?” asked Cameron as his false smile gave way to genuine glee.  “Now you know my secret, I know all yours.”

 

“Preposterous,” Lammont blusters.  He managed a chuckle, until his choking coughs took over.  Through his wincing grimace he asked, “What secrets?”

 

Cameron stood slowly.  “I know you married my mother for her fortune, you married Loretta to legitimize Augustus.  Only Junior’s mother really held your heart.  What ever happened to her?”

 

Lammont clutched the sheets, white knuckled and silent.

 

Cameron turned and strolled across the room, to his father’s liquor cabinet, and poured himself a drink.  “The doctor said, ‘angels gather’, referring of course to your eminent passing.  I warned him; surely he knows you’re a freethinker, an adamant and outspoken one at that.  But it made me wonder anew; why did you send me to seminary?”

 

Lammont pulled himself up and coughed into his handkerchief violently.  “What does this have to do with-

 

“Why?!” Cameron shrieked.  “Why would an atheist send one of his sons to become a priest?”

 

“You grew up isolated from the world, we feared for your health for so long,” his father began with a piteous scowl.  “Faith is for the weak.  There was a time when I thought you’d need such a crutch to survive.”

 

“And perhaps I quit for the same reason you sent me,” Cameron replied.  “I am not as weak as you thought; I’ve more pride and strength than to prey upon the pity of others.”

 

Lammont nodded.  “So you have.  Junior had better watch out for you and your company.  You’ll offer him stiff competition in the transport business.”

 

“Junior needn’t worry,” Cameron replied with a wink.  “Before long no one will even remember Lammont Dummond, or his dimwitted heir.”  He stared into his drink, fascinated by the play of lantern light on the multifaceted crystal surfaces.  “Maybe then I’ll send him to seminary.”

 

Cameron watched his father, fighting to stay alive, wrestling with his son’s cryptic quip.  Now, tell him, while you’ve got him off balance.  “Your secrets, father, shall set me free. I know about your clandestine dealings with Julian Turleau, and the formulas he traded for your services in manufacturing the Zenith.”

 

“And what more will you do with these secrets that I haven’t already done?” his father strained to ask as he regained his breath.

 

“Strictly on a balance sheet, the contract makes no sense; he traded dollars for pennies.  So I ask myself, what does he stand to gain from this voyage?”

 

Lammont’s eyelids drooped and fluttered momentarily.  He shook off the encroaching slumber.

 

Cameron grins again.  It’s time.  “The doctor was right about your eminent demise; I should hope so… I paid him to guarantee you a timely swift death before any of what I’m telling you can reach another person.”

 

As horror overshadowed his father’s features, Cameron felt a warmth build from deep within, and every inch of his skin tingled.  This is it, my first great success, revenge.  Oh if only I could savor this, or take a picture of his fragile frightened face.  Cameron’s inner tutor scolded him.  Keep it moving Cameron, there’s no sense wasting time.

 

“My men stand poised to claim the remains of your secret pact with Turleau, Junior’s already surrendered more of your precious company to me than he realizes, and I just wanted to see the look on your face when your only chance for immortality, your legacy, crumbles as you pass.  I wanted you to know that this unfit son you cast aside will eclipse your greatness and bury your heir.”

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