Matte Kudasaiearliest post first | most recent post first
"It looks like they have valet parking," I said to Bruno as we approached the immense building.
"And trust some rando with the keys to our ride? Not a chance."
After a short walk to the lobby entrance, Bruno took us in and straight to a special elevator, different from all the rest with silver inlays and diamond mosaics, with a couple of heavies in suits garding the UP button.
Bruno turned to me and said "Now you just play it cool, Billy Boy. This is as far as ol' Bruno can take you. But trust me, you're going to be safe and sound, all right?" and he gave me a big wet sloppy wink like he never had before.
I had a bad feeling about that as I walked into the elevator with the two goons behind me.
Leaving the Matte Kudasai in Shipman Eva's hands felt right. Lately I'd realized I trusted her more than I trusted myself.
"Dreamin, Billy Boy?" Bruno shouts and winks over his shoulder. He's driving the pontoon skiff over the tops of the pines, his black and white scarf flowing in the wind.
Maybe the breeze really is starting to blow off his stink.
Soon we round the edge of the forest and behold the spires of Pinroma, gleaming in the late afternoon sun.
We parked the ship in a large meadow, upwind from the Bertha. Even in the fresh mountain air, the Bertha's stink still stuck to the Matte Kudasai.
Bruno emerged from the Bertha on a pontoon air skiff. It was banded black and white and done up just like the Bertha, complete with stinger antennas. Bruno wore a long black and white scarf over his leathers.
"Why don't we do the color coordinated thing with the Matte Kudasai?" I asked Shipman Eva.
"Because we're not douchebags," she said.
Bruno brought the pontoon skiff to land on the grass before us. I told myself he almost didn't smell like his ship's biomethane exhaust, but I was lying.
"Arrrrrgh! Billy my boy!" he cried. "We'll go the rest of the way in on the skiff. The Bertha tends to stir up a little attention, if you know what I mean."
"Oh I do. I do, Bruno."
"Captain, I don't see why you think this is safe," said Shipman Eva.
Frankly, I didn't either. It was the damn glasses' fault. And the bookseller's. That's why I was wrapped up in all this, and I'd never told Eva about it, and it was too late to tell her now. I'd told @Rose Nomenclature and it only made her madder.
Bruno ripped out another of his farts.
At least the skiff was open air.
“Isn’t there any way out of this stink? I think I’m going to barf.”
Shipman Eva looked at me sideways through her gas mask.
“It doesn’t matter where we ride in his wake,” she replied. “His mercaptans are highly dispersant. I mentioned this in the all-hands memo, along with gas mask assignment.”
“And I said it wasn’t going to be that bad, so it was optional.”
“…. Did you say ‘captan’ as in ‘mercaptan’?”
“No sir. The other ‘captain’.”
“Ok, good. And where did you say the gas masks were?”
“There’s one on your chair, sir.”
Bruno's breath smelled like beans and bacon.
"Billy my boy!" He grabbed my hand and gave me a big slap on the back. And farted. "Been keepin' busy? No! Wait!" He gave a sidelong glance at Shipman Eva. "Got anywheres we can speak... privately?"
I walked Bruno to the ready room while he crop-dusted the deck with more farts.
"So, had a little fun at Grimaldi, did we Billy boy?" He gave me a sly look.
"Well, uh, word travels fast, I guess. Why would anybody be interested in little old me?" Seriously. Shipman Eva gives me the feeling I'm the least interesting person she knows.
"Let's just say there's been a little buzz on the dark frequencies." Bruno always kept a finger in the illicit side of the business. "And Billy my boy, I'm just the kind of friend you need right now."
Bruno have me another sly look. Which meant scrunching his face up in a smirk so all his week-old whiskers stood straight up out of his face.
"There's a price on your head, Billy boy. And your old friend Bruno is here to keep you safe."
"Arrrrrgh! If it isn't my good friend @Billy Sabab!" crackled over the radio.
Bruno's big biomethane Bertha-class blimp had been burning a bit dirty since we spotted it on the horizon. We approached each other over a wide open valley at the foot of the mountains. Bruno chugged along atop a warm puff of smog. We drifted in the breezes. We're electric.
Bruno's Bertha was banded black and white, like a wasp, who was also a convict, who was also a pirate.
The Bertha's communication array even jutted out like a stinger.
"Permission to come aboard and speak, man to man," crackled Bruno.
"Why exactly are you in the brig, sir?"
"I told you they don't call it a brig, because it's not a ship. They just call it a holding cell."
I'd been given one call, so I used the white courtesy phone and asked them to page Shipman Eva.
"Yes, I've sent Ensign Marvelous already. You say they're releasing you, but only to one of your crew?"
Ensign Marvelous? Like this wasn't embarrassing enough already.
"It's... a long story. They thought I was drunk, but I was just, you know..."
"Being clumsy, sir?"
I really needed to come clean about the glasses with Shipman Eva, but now wasn't the time. And apparently they hadn't been leading me to @Rose Nomenclature me at all, with their little pulsing purple arrow. They were setting me up, as a distraction for the security team, in their ridiculous bowlers. After stumbling into a waiter's cart and getting tangled in the table cloth, they rolled me up and sat on me till more bowlered jerks arrived, and after a few surreptitious kicks and knees they unveiled me. Everybody seemed real disappointed.
"Just one big misunderstanding. But can you ready the ship for launch? I think I've had enough of a stopover."
Since I heard Grimaldi was such a swanky place, I figured I the gnarly brass glasses were the perfect fit for my revolutionary-pirate/kings-of-the-wild-frontier-style dress uniform. Tight jacket and bandoliers.
Plus, I'd used the glasses to track @Rose Nomenclature before. I just scan the crowd, turn the little knobs... so many people here in the grand lobby, and beyond that the cavernous gaming halls and ball rooms. Wall to wall packed with people and palms and wait staff. I fiddle with the little levers and buttons, spinning dials...
ZZZZzzzzzck! "Oh thank heavens, finally, THERE you are!" said a tinny voice in my ear. "I've been trying to contact you for days!"
It was the bookseller. Speaking through the glasses.
"Uh, hi, uh... I guess I forgot this is an open channel..." I said, which was true. "Really though, I'm super busy right now, late for a lunch date, can I call you back?"
"No, no, no, you're doing great. Quite the hound! Way to stay on mission."
"And... beep beep beep THERE see it? The little pulsing purple arrow? That's her. Follow it now. You can't let her get away!"
Let her get away? Well, of course not, but, I mean... Oh jeeze. I guess I never told the bookseller I switched sides.
But these glasses are real handy.
"If we can just find where she parked," I said, holding my chin in a way I think makes me look thoughtful.
Shipman Eva looked at me across the observation deck. I'll bet the wind in my hair also made me look great.
"Really," she said. "Sir?"
I guess she really wasn't looking AT me exactly. Looking more at the expanse of airships below me. Almost as far as the eye could see, ship after ship moored on the floating masts of Grimaldi.
"Well, who knew it would be such a popular place? All I wanted was a sandwich and maybe stretch my legs a little."
"It's Grimaldi, the most popular gambling city there is! Don't you even read magazines?"
"And you're sure we can't just radio her?"
"We're lucky she took our call about the stopover. And you'll remember she was quite clear she wouldn't answer if we tried again."
I tried holding my chin again. This time between my thumb and forefinger.
"Well, don't forget to bring the ticket! Maybe we can get it validated."
"Where?" I asked.
"Speak into the microphone, chief," said Shipman Eva.
"Oh right, ahem." CRRRRK "@Rose Nomenclature, can you repeat your destination? Over."
The Egregore had shot off like a rocket, and I didn't have any better ideas on what to do but follow her.
"Over Les Diablerets. And beyond Schokoladenland."
"Whoa whoa whoa. What, we're going to need phrasebooks now? Language lessons?"
Then, finally, "Try to keep up if you want to stay alive. And stay off the radio. OVER."
Shipman Eva looks at me.
"Try to keep up," I say. "Ha!"
Shipman Eva keeps looking at me.
"Yes, yes, ok. Wherever she goes. Keep her in view. Not too close, like we're following her. But just..."
"Fly casual, sir?"
"Yes! That's it. Casual!"