Congratulations to Craig Hartel of Dawson Creek, BC, Canada for winning my latest steampunk writing competition about the Defender mask and helm. Defender is no more. It is now called Sentinel.
I received a total of seven entries, most of them very last minute. It was a tough choice between my two favorites, but ultimately I gave the nod to Craig for his excellent job of describing futuristic equipment in a 19th century setting in a concise, straight-forward manner. Below is the story, entitled "A Letter Home".
My dearest Mother,
It is with great pride that I write to you on this day; I have been selected as a member of the elite Sentinel Squadron for the Gryphon Interplanetary Expedition! As a Sentinel, I am one of those responsible for the safety and security of the crew and passengers aboard the mighty Gryphon Aeroship. Now that our mission has begun, I am finally able to tell you more about my duties and about the ominous adventures ahead of us all.
I wish that Father were alive to see me in my full Sentinel regalia; I know that with his scientific mind he would have been very curious about the many features of our protective gear. I can practically hear him asking me a thousand questions; what is the purpose of the Gryphon Luminiferous Aether Collection Devices? Why do you have a Cousteau Mk IV Anemone respirator? What is the purpose of the eye pieces in the mask? My heart is sad that I can only hear those queries with my mind’s ear, Mother. Perhaps you are now wondering yourself what role my equipment plays. Certainly I will tell you, so that you will know that although we have much danger to face, we are well equipped to deal with each challenge as it arises.
You see, mother, the Aether Collectors draw energy directly from the Aether itself. The very darkness of space brings energy to power my mounted head lamp as well as my respirator. The Cousteau Anemone is the very latest in breathing technology; it allows me to leave the protection of the airship proper and venture directly into interplanetary space. At first it was eerie to watch the respirator do its work, as it behaves much like a real sea anemone, waving its tendrils trying to trap food. Our mask pulls oxygen from the particles of aether all around us as we float in space. If we find ourselves in an area low on this vital gas, our gorget is designed to store aether collected by our Sentinel helmet.
The lenses of my mask have been designed to aid me in seeing organic heat signatures from potential enemies of the Gryphon. As you can appreciate, space is very dark, so having an eyepiece to detect thermal sources is a great advantage.
It is a wonderfully-crafted and well-designed system, Mother. You need not worry about me; I have been extensively trained and I have at my disposal a litany of modern equipment to serve and protect my needs.
I am afraid, Mother dearest, that duty calls me away from this letter. I hope that it reaches you in good health and spirit, and that you will think of me every day as I think of you. As we are soon to reach interplanetary space, this will be the last correspondence I will have with you until our return. Please take good care of yourself and give my love to the twins, Charles and Priscilla.
I love you all.
Your devoted son,