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by on March 5, 2018

The old man sat glowering at the fire. “I’ll have him,” he muttered. “I’ll have him. He must show himself this time, and I’ll have him.”

“Excuse me, sir?” The voice was unfamiliar. The old man blinked.

“Sir?” the stranger said again. “My apologies for intruding, but are you Captain-”

“Aye,” the old man said. He was the only captain he knew of on this barren rock. “What d’ye want? I have a long voyage tomorrow, and it’s passing late for visitors.”

The stranger smiled suddenly. “I could be vague about all this, but there’s no point, really. Even if you found my time machine, you don’t have the technical expertise to work it. The temporal field capacitator alone…”

“The what?” The old man blinked again.

“It’s the device that regulates the flow of the chronoton flux. It runs on steam power, surprisingly enough; I would’ve preferred using trilithium cells, but your time period is so primitive. Anyway, I wired up a steam generator that provides enough ambient energy to allow the chronoton flux to achieve maximum gravitational alignment, thereby reversing the polarity of the temporal streams and allowing for a level-three tesseract event.”

The stranger might have been talking in Latin for all the old man knew. He coughed slightly. “Look, man, as I said, it is passing late for-”

The stranger sighed. “Right, I’ll get to the point. The thing is, know exactly who you are, and what you’re after. I’m from the future. My name’s irrelevant, but I represent a group of people who sympathize with your quest. We read the book; we know how it ends. You’ll die.”

The old man was outraged. “I cannot die, no matter what you say! I have been given assurances, nay, signs-

“Yes, yes, the stranger said, a little impatiently. “I figured you would bring that up. Here.” He tugged a book out of his coat pocket. “Read the last chapter. 135, I believe it is.”

The old man read quickly. Then he looked up at the stranger. Others would have asked who had written the text, but the old man recognized the thoughts and the words. He knew them for his own. “Right,” he said. “So I die then.”

“No,” said the stranger, producing a second article from his coat pocket. The old man thought it looked like an old flintlock he had seen once, in the war. “No, you don’t.”


The stranger smiled again. “When you stand on your quarter-deck, your wooden leg made fast in your pivot hole, and you look left or right, you see different scenes with each direction you look? Each turn?”

“Aye,” the old man said. “Every turn, I see a new sea and a new wave.”

The stranger made a slight shrug. “That’s it, then. My friends would like a new sea.”


A year later, the old man’s ship paraded triumphantly into the harbor, all sails out and banners flying. The sailors told wild stories of how the old man had struck down the hated white whale, struck him down with a blast of steam and a bolt of red light from his hand. No one believed the stories; men long at sea were known for their exaggeration.

That night, the stranger visited the old man again. The captain seemed much bemused. “I have done what I set out to do,” he said. “I had him. I revenged myself upon him. But…what shall I do now?”

The stranger smiled. “Do more.”

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  1. Michael! I love the concept of a steam-powered time machine. That whole paragraph was a fantastic alphabet soup of technobabble and I loved it.

    • Thanks! I’ve seen all of Star Trek TNG, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine, so I learned from the best. 🙂

  2. Oooh! Steampunk Moby Dick. How fun!

    • Thanks! I have to admit, when I read the original Moby Dick the first time, I wasn’t too keen on it, but then a few years ago I listened to the audiobook and it grew on me. 🙂

      • I really hated that book. But I hated just about everything I had to read. I may need to revisit it now!

  3. You integrated the steampunk into your story very well and so quickly, Michael. Wizardry!

  4. MM Schreier permalink

    Love that last line – do more!

  5. I confess I have never made it through Moby Dick but I loved this. Very clever.

  6. Such a fun new version of Moby Dick! I like the sly way you kept the captain’s true identity from us at the beginning. You left me wondering what the stranger’s angle was in helping him survive.

  7. I too disliked Moby Dick and haven’t read the entire thing. However, your take on it and the steam powered Time Machine was fabulous. Great piece of writing.

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