Amelia and her father, the governor of Delaware, attend a formal dinner to meet with a delegate for Queen Victoria who declares the United States must sign a treaty with Britain to reinstate colonial rule or there will be war. Amelia runs away to warn the rest of the town, but not before she sees the most beautiful girl on earth. To Amelia’s horror, the beautiful girl -- Nadine -- is one of the British delegate’s slaves.
In this steampunk version of history, slavery had been abolished after the American Revolution. Automatons do the manual labor, and the nation's multiple cultures live in harmony. But in Britain there are still slaves, and gender-queer people are persecuted. Amelia knows she can’t allow any treaty with Britain to be signed. She sneaks to the harbor of their coastal capital city and discovers not only the delegate’s ship, but an armada on the horizon.
Amelia, her best friend Two-Spirit, and Nadine must organize a rebellion involving slaves, Lenni-Lenape warriors, automatons, and a mechanical horse cavalry. Will they be able to stop the British Imperial Navy? And will Amelia win Nadine’s heart if she can help her become free?
Two-Spirit held a wooden bowl high and slammed it on the raccoon hide on the ground. The bone dice inside jumped. “I win!” He adjusted his soft brown robe, cut in a style that would befit either a man or a woman. His hair fell in black curtains to his shoulders. “Would you like to play again?”
I didn’t know Two-Spirit’s real name, even though he was my best friend. Only his close family and name-giver knew. Like him, sometimes I didn’t dress according to normal gender roles. Today I wore a style that had first become popular across the ocean: black pants, a white long-sleeved dress shirt with a high-stand collar, and a gray Mulrooney vest. My blond hair was pulled back into a long braid.
“Brother!” Two-Spirit’s sister Fawn appeared in the doorway of their longhouse, calling for him in the Algonquin language. He and I were playing mamandin just outside. “Father needs you.”
He scratched around his newest tattoo, a turtle on his arm. “I’ll be right there.”
I stood and switched to their native tongue as well. “I should see what my own Father is doing.”
I left the longhouse and passed several more. Some of the homes belonged to Lenni-Lenape families, and others to those whose ancestors were from Europe or Africa. I’d been raised in a true melting pot of the best features of many multi-cultural beliefs. We lived in Lewes, the capital of Delaware, a coastal city that held a diverse mixture of those from Lenni-Lenape tribes, people of European and African descent, and younger generations which were uniquely American.
My father was the governor, and Two-Spirit’s father the shaman. Two-Spirit was a year older than I, seventeen, and had just completed training to be a healer. Sometimes he suggested I consider it, but I thought I would do better as a counselor. People like us were supposed to be especially good at those kinds of things. I was shocked when I learned that across the ocean, people with spirits which did not always match their physical bodies were jailed, or even worse.
As I strolled down the dirt path towards the city proper, a steam-powered planter rolled through a field to my left, driven by an automaton. I walked past several more engines working the fields for almost a mile until the surroundings became more urban than rural.
The majority of buildings here were European-style. This is where Father and I lived, amongst cobble-stone streets crowded with people, horses, and carriages. The fire engine rushed past; the engine was known to rush blindly to fires regardless of anyone in its way. I jumped to avoid it, and bumped into a portly man.
He snorted, barely glancing at me. “Watch where you’re going, boy.”
I smiled. “That’s ‘girl,’ Mr. Pickett.”
The man I’d hit had run against my father for election and lost. Mr. Pickett turned to face me, adjusting his eyeglass and top hat. “Oh, Amelia, I should have known. It’s so nice to see the daughter of the state’s leader dressed as a gent when she isn’t running round with the heathens.”
I frowned. “If you don’t like it, go back across the ocean.”
I stormed away, but soon pushed the encounter out of my mind. Most people here were not like Mr. Pickett. I honestly had no idea why he would bother staying in this country if he liked the tyrannical English way of life. Great Britain tried to rule the U.S. colonies by killing natives and enslaving Africans. But our country had been free for two generations now -- no more slavery, and no more slaughtering the natives.