Ess Fremont already hated her boarding school before discovering the headmistress was trying to steal her inheritance. With her archeologist grandparents presumed dead in South America's turmoil, she struck out for freedom.
Guided by her grandparents' maxim to always help where she was able, and aided by their inventions, Ess made her mark. First step: reveal a Resurrectionist plot to the Secret Service before the Southerners could re-start the Civil War.
Disguised as a boy, Ess headed West. Sharp eyes, scientific principles, and engineering knowledge put her in the right place at the right time to do the right thing. Powerful allies included President Lincoln, the Secret Service, circus performers, train inspectors, and Pinkerton agents. Not bad for a girl between her fourteenth and seventeenth birthdays.
If she could only find her missing brother and uncover the secrets their grandparents kept from them…
"How soon--" The car seemed to leap up underneath them and crash down again on the tracks. She clutched at Stockwell and he held onto her with one arm, grabbing hold of the doorframe with the other.
"Maybe a minute, at this speed. That was the warning bump."
"Cushions." She shoved herself away from him and stumbled across the jolting, swaying car, to snatch up the long cushion off the couch. "We have to try something!"
"Couldn't make it any worse." He offered her a grim smile and stepped past her to pull up the other long cushion. He pulled out packing straps from a crate next to the door and folded the cushion around her longwise, buffering her from hips to shoulders, wrapped the strap around her, slipped both ends into her hands. "Go!"
Ess couldn't do anything but stand there, shaking her head. The seconds ticked by with maddening speed. Stockwell cursed and wrapped the cushion around himself and held onto both ends, his arms crossed, and shoved her out the door. Ess stumbled, and for a moment her bulk caught in the opening where the steps led down. She saw a flash of lightning, the landscape lit up in blue-white, and the river stretching out ahead of them and reaching to the right. Then Stockwell roared something and pushed her and she fell, screaming.
Despite the thick cushion, which she somehow kept around herself by her fingers digging holes in the thick cloth, Ess felt every rock and bump and dip and fallen tree limb as she rolled and bounced down the incline of the tracks. Water and mud soaked into the cushion and thickened it and slowed her descent, until she rolled to a soggy, sloppy stop. Then she couldn't seem to move her arms, couldn't unbend her fingers, and wasn't at all ashamed as gasps and sobs wracked her body.
A massive explosion lit up the sky and the scream and screech and rolling banging of the train tumbling off the tracks filled her ears and made the ground shake. Shuddering, stunned silent, Ess unfolded her stiff fingers and let go of the cushion. Every bit of muscle ached and shrieked as if on fire as she sat up, shaking, and turned toward the sound.