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The Dream Thief

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Blurb

In the glittering, steam-driven high society of Waldron’s Gate, no one needs to dream.

Karl Gilmore spends his days caring for people with broken minds. The Dream Thief fulfills twisted fantasies.

The seductive lure of irresistible power threatens to destroy all they both hold dear.

A wildly imaginative tale of the seedy underbelly of the perfect Engine World city and beyond. An epic adventure of airships and monsters, love and heartbreak.

An Engine World novel.

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Chapter 1-1
Chapter 1 Karl Gilmore stepped off of the clanging trolley while it was still moving, but only just. His mother's long-ago admonition to never do such a thing lodged too clearly in his mind for him to jump off like teenaged boys seemed to do at every stop. The heady sweet lilacs seemed to fill his whole body, while a thousand memories of growing up on this street filled his mind. Victorian houses, every available surface embellished and decorated with sometimes gaudy colors, stretched as far as he could see in both directions. His family's a couple of blocks away stood out as the only three-story version, Karl's boyhood turret room towering above everything else at the front. He'd seen far finer homes in posh districts where various Ministry Directors lived, but none as charming and odd to his eyes as the Gilmore residence. He walked far enough to get out of everyone else’s way before he stopped and took a deep breath, same as he did every time he made the trip to Waldron's Gate. All the other passengers, either boarding or exiting the crowded car, had continued on to their destinations. Karl stood alone on the sidewalk warmed by the morning sun, waiting for his habitual signal to walk the rest of the way. The dark green cotton shirt and brown pants his sisters bought him for these visits felt stiff and uncomfortable from rare use. A bit of discomfort was better than scaring people with his normal charcoal-gray work clothes. That uniform was so well known that he didn't need the badge that let him into and out of Joffrey Columns, the asylum where Karl had worked for more than ten years now. Just about anyone out here in the world would shy away from the uniform alone. The brick clock tower several blocks away chimed the hour, and Karl's feet started moving without his brain's input. Ten in the morning. Time to go. No need to cause extra stress by arriving early. And definitely no need to arrive late enough to upset his parents. The smoother these visits went for everyone, the better. Karl's eyes found the Blunderbuss in the distance, the massive chrome bell end not putting out as much white smoke as usual on a Sunday afternoon. His father and most of his brothers and sisters were Builders at the Ministry of Manifestation, using the mysterious power of the Blunderbuss to create just about everything the citizens of Waldron's Gate and other cities throughout Alterra needed. From viewboxes and talkboxes to train rails and parts for enormous airships, and just about everything in between, the Blunderbuss provided. All it required was the talent, the ability to receive plans and designs from the Aether and send them into reality. Karl had inherited his father's great height and strength, his nearly perfect memory, and even the hazel eyes that had marked Builders in his family for generations. Following in Arthur Gilmore's footsteps had been almost a foregone conclusion throughout most of Karl's childhood. After all, every one of his brothers, sisters, and cousins who had those eyes had that same ability. But despite his family's expectations, and his own, and no matter how hard he tried in training, Karl didn't have the slightest trace of Builder talent. He turned up the pale brick walkway toward his parents' broad porch, noticing changes in the discrete area where his mother tested out new color combinations. Anyone who didn’t know where to look would miss Mrs. Gilmore’s experimental corner, appropriately exposed to sun and shade during the day. From her neat squares painted close together, Karl suspected the current purple, gold, and light brown were about to give way to orange, blue, and pink. Sometimes he was relieved to live in an unchanging sprawling red brick building along the outskirts of Joffrey Columns. As he knocked on the purple door, he corrected himself. He was relieved most of the time. "Hey, Karl!" Andy, his little brother, grinned from ear to ear. "Glad you could join us for a change." "Yeah, kid," Karl said, catching his brother in a quick hug. "Tell me you won't be out the door the second Mother gives the okay." "Sooner if I can manage. Fair warning. We've got a bunch of cousins here for brunch." Karl tried not to frown as he followed Andy toward the dining room at the back of the house. The thick flowery rugs did feel good under his feet instead of the wood, stone, and concrete he normally walked on all day long. But the knickknacks, photos, and various collections on every surface looked way too cluttered and congested compared to his nearly empty apartment. "I wouldn’t call that warning fair," he said to Andy right before they turned the corner. "Wish you'd gotten word to me before I left." "That's exactly why I didn't." Andy stopped, hands on his hips. He was a smaller, nearly perfect duplicate of Karl, from the messy hair to the easily tanned skin to the promise of height to come in his lanky fifteen-year-old build. "I need to talk to you about something, Karl." "A letter or the talkbox not good enough?" "No," Andy said. He stared at the rug for a few seconds, tracing the outline of a rose with one bare foot. "Got to do this face to face, and not where someone else can listen in. Make sure we get the time before you leave." Before Karl could ask questions, his normally cheerful and carefree brother turned the corner into the swirling mass of noisy relatives. Karl couldn't think of anything to do but follow him.

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