Airship Story

By Iohannes | Vita Nova | 22 Apr 2020


This story was started in 2011. I was going to try and get it published in a collection of short stories, but the project didn't pan out. So, with this platform, and somewhat going with the blog's theme, I figure might try and give it new life here. Enjoy!

I' was just dusk, mid August. Off a bit, my calculations for the trip, they were. I hoped to make Lakehurst Station1 by afternoon around 13:30. A cold air front just come in. Ground Control sent wireless warnings noting currents on the asphalt turf took one moored ship near-vertical. Some old-timers and 'statophiles2 said it reminded them of old pictures they'd seen of the ancient USS Los Angeles taken nearly two centuries ago. Maybe that was why they quit with high moors in exchange for stubs way back in the day, eh? I thought with a smirk as I read. After receiving the text, figured I could get away with some piddling in Montreal for a while, then enjoy the scenery in a more slow drift back to New Jersey.

You see, I was looking to arc from Montreal, passing through northeast of Vermont by way of Newport and Derby, head due southeast over Lancaster and Whitefield on way down through White Mountain Royal Forest – paralleling east of old I-93 and over Bretton Woods into New Hampshire. The course would have gone south and hover us on over Lake Winnipesaukee, to which Meredith and Laconia would be in view for some time on west side hull, and Wolfeboro on east. We would finally come out in course nearing Manchester and head towards Providence, passing Boston, arcing due west towards Bridgeport, pass over New York, and finally end up in New Jersey. This all should have been a nice cruise for about three and half hours. The key word being here being should.

Used to, I had become, with preparing the GPS route once bow pointed in general direction due course. After 15 years flying a huge blimp, a captain gets used to autopilot doing everything for you. It takes good gust in wind stream to knock things off course. The warning given New Jersey way seemed hardly the sort of thing to take huge notice of – especially so being many an hours ways off, as these giant, bloated birds floated. Therefore, once was keyed course on autopilot, I figured might as well head to the captain's main cabin to get rest a bit. That was, doing so after assuring passengers they could unfasten their safety seats in their cabins and be free to roam top side, doing all the usual things passengers do on a cruise VLLA3 – the technical term for a big, fat-ass bloated bird of a luxurious commercial passenger cruise airship. All the same, she was my big, fat-ass bloated bird, so don't you go bad mouthing her, my friend. Only captains can mock them, you hear me? And so you keep your tongue clean, saving me from ripping it out your foul mouth for such obscenity. Her name was the VLL Ursula. Yeah, that's the one. *Sighs* So you read that old Air Chronicle news feed, have you? Like they said in the old days of 'net, whatever goes out in the web sticks and stays with you. At least you know the reason for the beginnings of my... 'entrepreneurship'... these past ten years, don't you boy? Yet you don't know the half of it, I tell you.

But where was I? Oh yes. Had head I to my cabin. Was napping for about half-hour when gust hit her, the VLL Ursula. Dammit to Hades did she sway much so, to and fro, that got knocked out my bed did I, and thrown up towards the handsome dark oak captain's desk right hull side. Wound up, I did, rolling back left, right into block base of my bed's frame. Certainly, bruised a bit I was. But after clearing way my grogginess, first thing on my mind was what of the passengers top side! “Oh Jesus!” I exclaimed as I made fleet footed fast best I could to find my bearing boots, slipped them on. Then went I to emergency PA system mic and shouted out, “All passengers on deck! All Passengers in hull! Get to your safety seats, or to nearest emergency safeties and fasten tight until I give all clear!” Naturally, all passengers heard me clearly and did exactly to captain's orders. Of course. When pigs can fly – of their own doing, that is!

Top side was a mess. People had been tossed about and thrown to the railings. Some passengers were barely hanging on with white-knuckled grips. God knows how many top side fell off. Well, at that moment, anyways. Reports say that three fell overboard. A male in his forties, and two women, one in her thirties, the other in her seventies, as e-journals stated, and official report confirmed. The middle aged man and woman in her thirties had family down on ground, and the old lady was a widow. Either way, damn shame, and I'm the one to blame.

At the time, I couldn't think of any of that. As captain, I needed to get this damned bloated bird back to flying steady again. So I got my bearing boots to grip deck to make my way back to pilot cockpit to see if I could work her out of auto-pilot and steer her back level again. But boy was Ursula's body swaying about! She reminded me of old black and white video feeds I downloaded of the Galloping Gertie – the Tacoma Narrows Bridge – that swung about in the Puget Sound some hundred and fifty years or more ago one somber windy day in November. And yet I had to cross that swaying hull and see if I could keep this damn over-sized blimp from a similar tale of disaster.

Finding my way to the cockpit, I strapped into the captain's chair, gripped the control panel, and unlocked the autopilot. Then keyed in the shunt, I did, to connect and log into direct wireless to utilize neuro commands and display. Once done, I closed my eyes and the visuals showed me the problem right away. I had already assessed much from the obvious motions of the ship as she swayed and gyrated about like a woman gone mad in periodic ire. Even so, at least the data from the shunt gave better idea where the gust of irritation was coming from and how to correct it. After adjusting the pressure in the fore and aft ballonets to help level out the trim, I then reduced the helium production into the main balloon. This procedure would help make the ship heavier, and thus, hopefully, let gravity help pull us out of this current. Thankfully, it did.

A sigh of relief I gave as things leveled and calmed. But then I grit my teeth and groaned as I realized how far off course we had gotten. Ol' Ursula managed to stay in New York, but was hovering somewhere north of Buffalo, and damn near close to the Canadian border, heading toward Toronto. Once I made sure the passengers were safe and sound – well, all but the three missing, to which I knew then my career in the VLLA fleets was thus finished –, went back to the cockpit did I to switch course to head due southeast again.

I' twas, at least, uneventful travel rest the way. Regardless, 'twas an added six hours, which two those hours were from off-course wind stream emergency maneuvers, then another hour for head count and triage of passengers. Besides the three that went overboard and tumbled to their deaths, there were injuries to four other passengers. A teenage girl (claimed to be 18, but I'm certain was 15, but barely passed to look old enough so she could fly solo) had a broken wrist, a twenty-something sales rep dislocated his shoulder, another middle aged man had a concussion, and a little girl, about ten or twelve, who was traveling with her mother, broke her arm. I remember it well. A captain always remembers his failures ever so vividly.

The rest of the four hours was making our way from Buffalo to Binghamton, further south to Scranton – home town to some Vice President or some other political big wig in the days of the first black President. Obama, I think it was. No. Not the Vice President. Who remembers such obscure trivia as who was Vice President from nearly a century ago anyways? Obama, Barack Obama was President. Joe Biden, he was the one who was from Scranton, and Vice President, I think. But anyways, political history of the Old Democracy has little meaning in the US-Britain Empire. And it certainly has little to do with this story. So where was I? Oh yes. I took Ol' Ursula down south to Scranton, re-charted due east through the Delaware State Forest, then south again to Trenton, and finally got to Lakehurst Station by 19:30, landing and mooring by 20:30. By 21:30, I was out of my job. Failure is not an option. Not for an airship caption, anyways.

Naturally, the RFA, formerly the FFA, took my license. That barred me from any respectable passenger airliners. Nope, not a one of the major companies would take me, damaged goods as I was. Legally, in the Royal lands and her territories, I was pretty well forced to ground. No airship captain likes the thought of being grounded, much less being so. Thus a rotten mess was I in. There was no legal way for me to be in beloved air. But this child of the sky was determined to be back within the folds of her currents once more.

As mentioned, there was no legal way to get into Royal air, but there were plenty of illegal ways to such a mean. Checking around, port side I met with a back end associate for a freighter who said in his company there was for me work to be found. Under the table, certainly, and I would be given an unmarked vessel. Such details I did not care. All that mattered was I could be up in the sky and have my own ship. Granted, not as luxurious as Ol' Ursula, but much more sleek and stealthy, and by far the faster ship. Unmarked, but not unnamed. Fortuna Misericordia4 was the name I chose for her. Even so, I have had, and still do have, much success with her. For chose, did I, that when commissions were low, to raid Royal Reserve ships of their gold as part of my non-existent VLLA pension. Mostly, though, I did it to piss off the Royalty. While to the law I may have been a wretch, still did I give to the poor what the government never would. Regardless the cliché, never could I stave off the popular name of Captain Robin Hood for my stunts of plundering the purples and providing for the poor.

Many a run has been made with the Fortuna throughout the years, and she has taken a few good hits from the US-Britain Royal Air Fleet, as well as a few Black Market competitors. Even so, this pirate airship has served her captain well. Those adventures, you want to know about? Will save them, I will, for another time, my friend. But for now, you have heard straight from Captain Robin the tale of how I became an airship pirate.

 

1Ref. Naval Air Station – Lakehurst, NJ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Los_Angeles_(ZR-3)_NH_84569.jpg )

 

2Slang for full term helistatophile, meaning to be a derogatory term for helistat airship fanatics.

 

3VLLA – Acronym for 'Very Large Luxury Airship' (See Rademacher's report: http://www.engr.sjsu.edu/nikos/pdf/VLLAirship%20AIAA.10.pdf )

 

4Fortuna Misericordia – Lat. 'Merciful Fortune' or 'Fortune of Mercy.' Can have dual meaning for Captain Robin as 1.) defining the Fortuna as being much like the thin dagger that was used in the Middle Ages for the death wound, or 'mercy' stroke to a fallen opponent, and/or 2.) use of the Fortuna in piracy as a sort of personal, arbitrary financial penalty to the Commonwealth of the US-British empire.

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Vita Nova
Vita Nova

New life. Where to even begin with this? There are few ways I can. For one, it presents aspects of my life and writing. On the religious side, I am Catholic of the Western, or Latin rite, also called Roman Catholic. Being more Traditional, I love Latin. My love for the language came before I became Catholic and considered myself a student of the classical world and philosophy. That was my Protestant, classic liberal old life. It also can represent my desire to write a novel. Thus a variety of origins.

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