This is the first chapter of my first book, High Iron
If you do not like post apocalyptic, sci-fi, or steampunk settings, do not read. I want to get your brutal and honest criticism. Pretend like you have no care for my feelings, and give me truthful opinions. Is this an engaging first chapter? If not, what should be changed?
The steam swirled in the clear crisp air of the dome. The booming sound of a large idling steam locomotive huffing black plumes of smoke filled the train yard of the Cyrus Holliday Dome. The recognizable smell of coal dust and steam filled the area. The engine had a streamlined appearance, with a rounded front and a huge sharp snowplow. A massive nameplate on the side of the engine's boiler read Guardian Angel.
Two women walked up to the resting metal beast, one in an ornate black uniform with an emblem on her shoulder. She was leading the other woman to the massive engine. "There she is. Guardian Angel. One of the most successful engines of the United Dome Communities," said the woman in the black uniform, her voice sounding very proper and respectful.
The other woman was wearing a far less glamorous blue uniform and spoke in a curious voice, making it obvious she was confused. "This is the engine I'm being assigned to?! I'm sorry Madam Loewy, but I've only just gotten out of training, and the Guardian Angel is a bit too important for a beginner like me."
The Madam Loewy responded, "You'll do fine. The engine works like a gem, just don't work her too hard."
Madam Loewy turned and walked away, leaving the other woman by herself next to the engine. "Ok, Valorie... first day... doing this for her, so do it well." Valorie climbed up a long ladder to the cab of the massive train and dropped her backpack to the floor.
The interior of the engine was large and extremely warm, with six workstations against the walls of the train. The walls were a foot thick and had layers of iron, steel, and lead. A ladder in the corner of the cab led down to a room with two massive firebox doors. There, men worked tirelessly, shoveling massive amounts of coal into the two large fireboxes to keep the engine's steam pressure high.
A man in a blue uniform sat in a chair on a raised floor section, panels and screens of his workstation surrounding him. Valorie stepped up to his chair and spoke in a nervous tone. "Um, hello, Sir. Are you Captain Ivanov?"
He responded in a friendly and warm voice. "Yes, I am. And you must be Valorie Heisler. Pleasure to meet the new weapons master." He shook her hand vigorously and she smiled in return.
"Where's my workstation?" Valorie asked.
Ivanov pointed to a man at another workstation. "Right over there, next to David. David! Show her where to sit!"
David turned his chair around and waved Valorie over. She walked over to him. He had dark skin and a rather low pitched voice that sounded slightly sarcastic and witty. "David Shay. Engineer of the Guardian Angel. I get to drive the old girl. Pleased to meet you Valorie. You sit at the control station next to me."
Valorie gave another shy and friendly smile and sat down at her workplace. She looked at a panel of what seemed like three-hundred switches, dials, and joysticks. It would have been overwhelming for her if she hadn't already gone through training.
Captain Ivanov stood up and announced to all six officers, "Attention Guardian Angel officers! We have a new addition to the team."
The other four officers looked over at her and greeted her. Valorie had already been taught what all the different officers do, but this was her first time meeting them.
The communications officer was a rather small man with high pitched voice named Charley. His job was to communicate with the dome to get clearance for certain movements and actions while on missions.
The medical officer was a woman in a white medical outfit with long brown hair named Judy. She worked in a coach called the medical coach, which was almost like an emergency room on wheels.
The deployment officer was a tall and blonde haired man named Samson. His job was to deploy cars from a coach called the motor coach, and planes from a coach called the hangar coach.
The final officer was the maintenance officer who appeared to be of Asian descent and was named Ai. Her job was to repair the train, whether it be on a mission or at the dome. She seemed very angry and stressed, yet managed to give an obviously forced smile to Valorie.
"Get ready for your first mission, Valorie. It should be an easy day, hopefully. We're just patrolling the outside of the dome today," said Ivanov.
Valorie sat down in her workstation and shouted back, "Sir, yes sir!"
Ivanov chuckled, "No need for the formalities. Just call me either Captain Ivanov, or Nigel Ivanov."
Valorie nodded and smiled a little as she quickly went back to work.
David placed his right hand on the regulator and his left hand on the reverser. "C.H.D.R.R No. 1 is ready for departure on your command, sir."
"Get in the airlock and prepare for the irradiated atmosphere," said Ivanov.
"Preparing for the irradiated atmosphere, sir," said Samson as he sealed all the airtight doors on the train.
David pushed the reverser forward and opened the regulator a very small amount. The colossal engine slowly started to move into a concrete tunnel at the edge of the dome. Once the last coach was inside, the doors closed and radioactive air flowed into the chamber as the doors opened on the other side.
David grabbed the whistle cord in his workstation and yanked it quickly twice. The engine's whistle made two loud and low pitched blasts, with the noise echoing into the outside world. After that, the Guardian Angel slowly and steadily moved out of the dome and into the white snow of the nuclear winter.
Valorie felt a shiver run up her spine as she left the comfort and safety of the dome she called home for the first time. She didn't quite know how to process the feeling of leaving the dome, but she eventually stopped worrying. She was the new weapons officer, and she wasn't going to fail.