This story is part of Michael Stackpole's Chain Story. The Chain Story is a series of free fiction from accomplished writers tied together by the common frame of The Wanderer's Club.
What follows below is the first part of "The Colossus". It is available now for the Kindle and the Nook. You can also get the ePub on Goodreads.
If you like this, you should check out my books "Lost at the Con" and "Man Against the Future".
The Wanderers’ Club has always been the best place to listen in on the latest happenings in the world of adventuring, and today was no exception. Sometimes, one could just sit, snifter of brandy in one hand, cigar in the other, and just open one’s ears.
There was not a thing more tranquilizing than closing my eyes in that immense red, leather chair in the back corner of the club’s main room and listen to the stories being told around me.
“That was quite the tale, Billy,” a voice to off my right said. “It must have been frightening for one so...young. Train bandits are nefarious and, for a pair of children to get involved, you're braver than you look. But to tell the truth, the story I want to hear is his." The old wanderer, decorated in a waistcoat and smoking a cigar, pointed at a man tucked by himself in the shadows at the far end of the room.
Though everyone else was dressed in a manner befitting the stature of the club, the man in the shadows wore a tattered ball cap and cracked leather aviator jacket. He didn't look quite at home in the club, sitting there, lost in thought, nursing three fingers of oak-aged scotch. He was built lean and had an air of working class about him. His dark eyes scanned the room, but not for someone to tell a story. Truth be told, it seemed as though he was looking for a customer.
The attendant brought a fresh brandy to the old wanderer and offered to light his cigar. "Thank you for the light. Do you know anything about that fellow skulking in the corner?"
A voice from behind the attendant cleared his throat, making himself known. "I have had the distinct pleasure of fighting side-by-side with that man.”
"And whom might you be?" the old man asked.
"Dr. Thaddeus Quentin at your service, sir.” With a flourish, the gray-bearded man with steely blue eyes produced his card. “Archeologist, scholar, adventurer and student of the unknown. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"Likewise, I'm sure, but you really know that ruffian?"
"Indeed. And as I said before, I've had the pleasure of fighting by his side. That, sir, is Jack Smith--"
"'Cracker' Jack Smith? The infamous barnstormer turned international soldier of fortune?"
"The very same."
"And you've adventured with him?"
"We fought the Colossus together. That's my tale to tell, really. Like one of those adventure serials Burroughs writes." His voice changed, tinged with equal notes of nostalgia and sarcasm, "The Astonishing Tale of Dr. Thaddeus Quentin and The Colossus."
"And how does this Smith character fit in, then?"
"Well, I was standing in just that spot, a bit tipsy from an evening of research and listening awe-struck by the sort of tales one is apt to hear in an establishment with a membership as exclusive as The Wanderers’ Club boasts, wondering how I would get to South America and back with no bodily harm and in possession of an artifact I had the opportunity to acquire, by dubious means, via my contact in the black market in La Paz. That is when the redoubtable Mr. Smith caught my eye, much as he's caught yours."
"I'd always imagined him a bit less gritty and a bit more..."
"Well, I can assure you, sir, that despite his disheveled appearance, his salty reputation, and uncouth manner, he's one of the most valuable men in a pinch I've ever met."
"Do tell." The old man said, inviting him to recount his tale.
To read more: It is available now for the Kindle and the Nook. You can also get the ePub on Goodreads.