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That night at Nim's warehouse changed my life.
Maybe it was something in the food, or the drink, or the intoxicating fumes of the remnants of the shellacs and oils and other old blimp fluids. Maybe it was Nim herself. Or maybe it was just that the language of the blimps suddenly made itself known to me.
It had been staring me in the face the entire time--the airbrushed swirls juxtaposed with the bold lines from rollers or masking. They weren't random artifacts of some industrial fabrication process. It was a language.
In fact, it was poetry.
And there were all kinds of it. Different viewpoints, discussions, arguments, all playing out in sprays of paint and chalk. And there were undercurrents to the discussion, alluded at in imagery and metaphor. Big themes. Power, freedom, love. Well-being and revenge.
But I could see Nim's collection was incomplete, and spotty. Scrapping her collection from so many disparate sources, it was just the edges of the discourse she had uncovered. To look at a more focused groups of artifacts, salvaged from a single dig, and catalogued...
I kissed Nim goodbye on the cheek and headed directly back to my personal collection.
Hey man. Welcome to Le Salon!
Here -- have some of this. And this. And take some of these for later.
Would you like to learn the language? The language of the blimps?
Have a bit more of this... and I'll show you around.
Do you like the music? I picked this band special to play at my events, because they really get it. "With my pistols packed and my goggles with me.." I love that line. And the guitars. That droney strum. I think it has something to do with the vibrational output of the blimps themselves. The hum of the props, the wind on the hull... the constant moving forward. Can you hear it? That strumming? Like were being propelled forward over beautiful landscapes... the vibrations are like... everything....
Anyway, take a look around, meet some people. But when you're ready, come back and find me and I'll explain what's going on in these pictures. Because they're really like poems. You'll get it when you're ready.
See you later!
I spent years in my warehouse, accumulating artifacts and tagging them, never able to identify any new ground in understanding of the era or what drove such violent acts. While my shelves grew, the colorful sheets of cast-off materials remained on my walls, gathering dust. I still enjoyed looking at them, no matter that they had no significance in the greater scheme.
So it was with great interest that I discovered Nim Blanksy, and her underground art collection of similar material. Nim had spent her life at auctions as well as dumpsters, seeking cast off archeological finds from The Confusion. She had acquired the contents of several Confusion landfills. Some of these contained recognizable garbage and waste, but some contained reams and reams of the same material I had found: large sheets of hull housing filled with colorful sprays of blues and pinks and grays and yellows and greens. Triumphant arcs of color, the byproduct of what appeared to be stenciling or other masking techniques. Interestingly, they had been housed alone, and with some apparent care toward preservation. Still, the material was determined superfluous by the academic community, and sold to a buyer like Nim before reaching the incinerator.
Nim had a show in a fashionable space for outsider art in the old part of the city. It was a large, antiquated industrial space, and the sheets were mounted all over the high walls. Much like what I had done in my ow warehouse but at a much larger scale.
She had gone so far as naming each piece, with words like "solace" and "conduct" and "reprehensible" and "order."
And she was selling merchandise: selected pieces on t-shirts and stickers, accompanied by her single word descriptions.
I was appalled. What kind of disgraceful appropriation was this?
"It's a language," she said, at the merch table. "Can't you read it?"
Blimp writing is hard to decipher. That's why the Blueshard Codex had gone unnoticed for so long.
When demolishing a former hypermart (to make way for a new gigaplex), workers discovered it was built on the remains of what had likely been a hangar during the time of the Confusion.
In the compacted earth, archeologists discovered a wide range of blimp parts and hardware, as well as oddly designed tools--tools seemingly too large for humans to easily wield. They also discovered large sheets of what had likely been hull housing for blimps, but covered in colorful sprays of powder or chalky dust. For years it was believed these had just been something laid down under items that were spray painted or airbrushed. Nonetheless they were duly cataloged and left the warehouse of items not interesting enough for a museum.
I discovered these sheets in my research and found them strangely beautiful. I mounted them on the walls of the warehouse as I spent months combing over the rest of the forgotten items, looking for some clues missed by the generations of archeologists and anthropologists before me, and admired them constantly. There was something about their patterns--a kind of repetition I could almost make out, but not quite. A mere pareidolia of my own making, I'd assumed.
Through a series of happy accidents, I discovered I was wrong.
It all happened about 100 years before I was born. Before the time of my own great grandparents, though they grew up during the reconstruction.
The rise and fall of the Confusion left the world in tatters. It came, it destroyed, and then it left. They became the classic villain -- the boogey man for the whole world. They great dark brooding airships, blocking out the sun and raining down destruction.
After they were destroyed, their kind were never seen again. It became a fairy tale. Talking blimps? Sentient dirigibles? Airships with consciousness, with personality, ruling the world, bombing cities, murdering humans across the globe?
As an anthropologist, I was always fascinated by the stories and their effect on our culture. There were no talking blimps, and no science to create them. Obviously a myth! It was just easier for our minds to personify and anthropomorphize these airship armies rather than blame the humans behind them. So we made up the stories of the blimps that spoke, and used them to scare children.
Which is why my discovery of the Blueshard Codex was met with such disbelief.
My repairs on little @Lasso Pout were effective. @Soap Lotus was right -- field patching skills were definitely a part of my training, and I learned them as well as the martial skills we were taught. But I still feel like I'm waking from some kind of dream, or amnesia, or cult programming. The things I did... but @Soap Lotus says that's all behind me now, and to just take things one day at a time.
We've all been recuperating around the little camp that Carolinaeuphrosyne and her team set up. The rest of the cowboys have been out gathering the herd, leaving us with a lot of cozy nights around the campfire, taking it easy, and healing. A lot of catching up for three lost brothers.
One night, under that big vault of stars and the sounds of the prairie night all around, there was a lull in the conversation, and all eyes turned to Carolinaeuphrosyne.
"And what about you, little missy?" @Soap Lotus asked.
Carolinaeuphrosyne looked nervous, then determined.
"I guess it's time to tell you all we know about the Confusion," she said.
Well this was a heck of a family reunion.
There's my little brother--@Lasso Pout, he littlest of us all--caved in on the ground and losing gas fast. And for some reason he's dressed like a cowboy.
And there above him, sitting so perfectly still in the air like only those mercenaries from The Confusion can, is my other little brother, @Auto Slops.
"Well just don't float there, soldier!" I cried. "Direct pressure! Dirigible resuscitation! Triage! Don't they teach you anything useful in military school?"
Auto Slops breaks out of his daze. Then he pops eight tiny metal arms from his undercarriage, and pulls a patch kit from his hold. Gently, he lowers himself down to little Lasso Pout.
In all the mayhem, I hadn't noticed a small band of people on horseback had joined us. Where had they been hiding? Probably at the same dude ranch Lasso Pout and hooked up with. One of them leaps off their horse and races towards Lasso and Auto.
"Bastards! Confusion bastards! Get away from him! Get away from him!" she cries, waving her arms as she runs.
Ol' @Lasso Pout had a good run. Made it out of the nursery and out into the big wild world now didn't I? And here I am to see the last of it, face down in a pile a sage brush, blown apart by my own big brother.
He floats above me, impassive. Watching the last of the gas escape my balloons.
At least that herd of sky rustlers keeps heading away. And good riddance to you! I just hope my ol' cowpoke friends, and my newer time travelling friends, are out of harm's way. And that Carolinaeuphrosyne is safe. That's all this lonesome sorry heap o' blimp parts needs to know to die a happy blimp.
A shadow passes over me. I know my time has come. A long, dark, shadow. And a deep, dark, throbbing beat. Low, and rumbly. It's getting louder. And louder. Banging like 50 inch woofers all along the back.
"Will you turn that down! This is a peaceful prairie!" I cry, likely with my last breath.
Crrrrrkxxx! "You can turn that noise down now, Little Gnarls, Let's pause here awhile."
That voice, a voice from my past, calls out over a loud speaker. So familiar.
"And you just take it easy, little buckaroo."
It was @Soap Louts. The biggest of my big brothers. Blocking out the sun.
i don't know where i am
"Hey big brother! Long time no see! My, you've gotten bigger than the corn in August!"
voices from the nursery
"Aw, you done look rolled hard and put away wet."
i... i'm crying
"Now you got some kinda thing lodged up near your eye sockets. I got an extender here and we're gonna take care of that right now.."
KAPOW! Gunpowder and casings fill the air and throw me back. Something must have triggered my close-quarters auto-defense system.
"Oh, hey now big guy... you... you just... take it.... easy...."
It's @Lasso Pout, my little brother. With a hole blown in his side. In the middle of some god forsaken desert.
This dust is worse than the most exhaust-filled slums in all the cities I've set up business. Everybody on our side knew the secret code signal, but getting our messages through the dust required the street smart ingenuity that only my people could handle. We set up a noise-based tug system to bring all of our ships in line, with Operator Willie's amps and 808s and distortion pedals.
All I can do is lead us out the back end of this mess and set up somewhere fresh.
And I see a clear spot up ahead. How convenient.