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A little steampunk thing that's been wandering around in the back of my head - not sure if it'll grow into anything else, and I need a better name for the ship (maybe), but....


................


"Up, Mr. Riley," Came the bemused voice of the Captain, "Airships go up."

Riley wasn't so green as that; he certainly wasn't so green as to respond rudely to his Captain, new at his post as he may've been.

"Aye, Cap'n," He replied, his tone not matching the thunderheads on his face, "but this ayership is nae gowan oop any faster'n she can."

Between his thick accent and the odd pacing of his language - which I'd only the day before realized was some relative of my own Queen's - I didn't quite decipher his meaning. The Captain, however, did.

"Mr. Bailey, please connect me shipwide," He said, gesturing with his good hand toward the intercom system. The first officer flipped a single dial over, leaned to connect a patch cord and then checked his watch.

"Connected to all corridors and rooms, Captain, excepting the upper balloon chambers," Bailey replied calmly, still peering at the face of his Navigator's Watch. "Also, at our present course and speed, we will impact the north face in forty-seven seconds on my mark: Three, two, one, annnnd... Mark."

The Captain actually smiled, nodding his satisfaction at Number One's efficiency. "Very good, Mr. Bailey, very good indeed."

A small panel in his artificial limb slid open, revealing a very ornate and complicated chronometer, to which he seemed to speak. "Attention all hands, this is your Captain speaking. As all of you are no doubt aware, an impact with Mt. Shiloh is imminent. The instructions that follow will hopefully allow us to avoid such disaster. Now then; all hands, including passengers, are to not stir from whatever position they are in presently - excepting those in lower bridge B, section 10. Those of you there are to immediately stand."

Strangely, a slight tremor passed through the keel of the ship; at the time, I did not understand the odd fragility of such huge vessels, but in hindsight it was obviously the motion of two dozen men moving in concert, there at the rearmost portion of the ship.

The Captain continued. "Please walk slowly to the foremost hatch of Section 9, forming a line as you go, as shown in the pre-flight fire drills, then turn to face Section Ten again."

Horribly, the ship tilted slightly ahead, bringing us to bear more solidly on the granite face of Mt. Shiloh, now entirely too close - the Ceuronautica was closer to the ground than she'd been in the score of years since her first flight, but not through choice: the ground had risen up, in the form of a mountain, to meet her, rather than her dipping down to visit.

"Now, on my word, you are to walk briskly - not run, but walk as if impatient to return to the card tables, as I'm sure you are - back to Section 10. Ready? Good Lads... hold steady, now.... " The Captain turned to face Mr. Bailey, who had assumed a position near the exit hatch and had his hand upon one of the many mysterious levers there.

"And... NOW, Gentlemen, quickly now, rush a bit more... very good, and sit down all at once!"

At this point, the nose of our vessel began to rise with a steady feel - but not nearly enough to avoid the rock ahead.

"Jettison Lower Bridge, Mr. Bailey," The Captain commanded.

The First Officer threw his weight upon the red-handled lever, shouting as he did so, "Lower Bridge away, Sir!"

The next moment is a bit hard to remember, as I was unprepared for the sudden upward thrust of the ship; I was also quite distracted by the sudden crashing and splintering sound that came from under and behind, as the keel shuddered and seemed almost to snap. Indeed, I was unaware of what had truly happened until I realized that, somehow, we had jumped up and ahead, engines afull, and passed over Pope's Point, the rock that had stymied all previous navigation past it.

"We'll make London first now, I think, Mr. Bailey," The Captain said. Then, for the first time since I came aboard, he turned my way.

"Mr. Ballard, I believe your curriculum vitae mentions some experience in mountaineering; as we've lost our second officer in charge of expeditionary forces, as Captain I'm hereby appointing you in his place. I hope that you're impressed, as you just have been." A small smile, which I must admit I returned - the Captain's taste for puns was one I shamefully shared.

"Very good, then. We seem to have had a number of passengers jump ship on the other side of the mountain; given that they were so good as to bail at just the right moment to effect our lift over Pope's Point, it behooves us to gather them and bring them back aboard. You have fourteen hours, at best, to do so and return."

And that is how I joined the crew of the Ceuronautica.

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December 2014

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