In his second outing in the Steam Wars universe, Larry Blamire delves deeper into the mechanical world of the warriors inside the giant steam rigs. Blamire's other books include Tales of the Callamo Mountains, a collection of his western horror short stories, and I Didn't Know You Came With Raisins, a collection of his surreal cartoons. The art direction and collaboration with Green Lantern's Tyler Kirkham of DC fame, on the Steam Wars comic books series added an extra edge to the alternate universe of Blamire's steam punk imagination.
Tunney and Duff in the brig, each not yet knowing the other. They are both released and mysteriously brought to a large hangar where they find an experimental achilles class rig and beautiful inventor Lucy Tillencrest. After a brief test of their savvy using the achilles rig, Teddy Roosevelt steps out of the shadows. Tunney and Duff are needed for a special mission; Lucy’s father, Professor Tillencrest, inventor of the process for condensed coal is being held by the Prussians in occupied Montreal. Object: take Lucy to Montreal and bring him back. And of course charges will be dropped.
Hesitant at first, the old-school Tunney ad Duff take some persuading but soon are wending their way in Lucy’s patented flying machine the Tillencrest Airsled. After some initial discomfort the boys take the flying okay and, despite a close call with a Prussian goliath, they let down at an isolated farm in Canada. There, Lucy reveals the machine that will take them the rest of the way: a rather bizarre all-purpose construction rig known as the High Hat Lifter, designed of course by Lucy herself. Needless to say Tunney and Duff are happy to share a flask throughout this and soon they clanking their way north. Along the way, it becomes evident there may be some chemistry between Tunney and Lucy.
In occupied Montreal we large Prussian rigs breaking the horizon while the city apparently carries on as normal. The High Hat Lifter makes it way through other steam-traffic and finally arrives at the hospital where Lucy’s father is believed held. Cranking the lifter up high under the guise of window-washing Lucy uses hidden scopes to scan the rooms, finding the one she believes her father is in. Removing her coveralls, Lucy reveals a nurse’s uniform and heads to the hospital to confirm his whereabouts, telling Tunney and Duff to head home if anything happens.
In the scope Tunney and Duff see Lucy nabbed at the hospital door--it was a trap. They consider what Lucy said about going back if there was trouble. Tunney and Duff are of course incapable of running from a fight. Meanwhile, Lucy is held by General Voss, soon-to-be-arch-enemy of our heroes. Her father is held elsewhere and Lucy is to be used as a leverage to make him cooperate.
Soon a huge Prussian goliath rig arrives and Voss and his men take Lucy aboard. Fast in pursuit is the absurd High Hat Lifter. Tunney and Duff extend the cab so its high enough for Tunney to jump the midlevel railing. He immediately encounters Prussian crewmen but makes quick work of them before they raise the alarm. Tunney sneaks through the rig, manages to disable the ambulator (responsible for the rig walking), then eludes the Prussians and doubles back to the chest gunport where Lucy is held. He shoots the guards and grabs her for a kiss just as Duff raises the High Hat Lifter cab to the open port beside them. They climb aboard, just missed by Prussians firing at them. The High Hat Lifter clanks off down the street, able to go down a narrow alley where the pursuing goliath rig cannot.
On the airsled returning home, Lucy vows she will not rest until her father’s rescued. Tunney and Duff get to grumbling about green recruits, revealing key information that ties into the other books: Tunney has vowed to never let another green pilot take the wheel of a steam rig and endanger another crew (as in “A Good Left Arm”), even tricking the last one (Cribbs) to become a cranesman and learn the ropes that way. Duff tells how he got in the brig, refusing to identify the young stoker who deserted his post (Cribbs again, “A Good Left Arm”), instead holding him over the side--a punishment he thought more effective than court-martial.