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Soap Lotus 12/30/2020 10:36pm

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.

Lasso Pout 11/12/2020 9:31pm

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.

Auto Slops 9/27/2020 10:48pm

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.

Soap Lotus 8/20/2020 11:57pm

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.

Lasso Pout 7/11/2020 11:04pm

I could barely recognize my kin from the blimp nursery. But there was no mistakin. How did he grow so big and strong?

"Well howdy, brother! Long time no see!"

@Auto Slops just floated there, starin' at me.

"So, you're hooked up with this bunch a' bandits? Scarin' our cattle? What kinda vandalisn' varmints are they, anyway?"

@Auto Slops was the middle kid. As much as anybody from a patch of blimp eggs growing up in a nest could ever be in the "middle." But he always had a lot to prove. Guess it didn't really surprise me to find he'd joined up with some kind of military organization.

@Auto Slops wasn't looking too well. Bit of damage up near his eyes. And he was lookin' a bit green. And disoriented.

"Aw, you don't look too well, brother. Why don't you let me take you back to see our doc? It's just up ahead aways. You just follow ol' @Lasso Pout and we'll get you all fixed up, ya' hear?"

I start heading back to the camp, and just trust that @Auto Slops is following me home.

Auto Slops 5/26/2020 10:47pm

"Bluefin #98877295-14, hard to larboard, repeat, hard to larboard, full power. Over"

Executing maneuver. Over.

"Bluefin #98877295-14, wait! Hold that order. Starboard! Hard to starboard! Over! Do you--"

Execu--- CRUNCH

"Ah, Bluefin #98877295-14, sorry about that. The lead peepers are offline with all this dust."

Commander. My larboard blinder got crunched. Banged up against Bluefin #98877295-19's tail. The blinder was completely destroyed. I've got full visibility now on the larboard side. It's kind of disorienting.

"Roger that, Bluefin #98877295-14. Proceed to the rear of the pack. Looks like they could use some cleanup. Hostiles at 7 mark 438. Eliminate the threat and follow up with Doctor Blimp in the civilian armada. Over."

The civilian armada. The kids' table. But I can't really perform with my blinders off. Commander knows best.

I drop back from the pack and swing around to 7 mark 438. I get the mercury missiles online and prepare to launch.

Accidentally I open my left eye. These hostiles don't look like much. Just one plump little ramshackle terrorist. Looks more like a food truck than threat. Looks oddly familiar, actually.

But commander knows best.

I lock in the coordinates. And accidentally take one more look.

Is it an accident? It's completely against my training. But my blinder's gone. We never practiced with blinders off.

So I look. The little scrapper's heading right towards me. It looks like some kind of dress-up cowboy from an old movie. Makes me think of the old cowboy lullabies that Uncle Elvin used to sing us back in the nursery.

Commencing firing procedure. Safety off.

Just like the old cowboy lullabies. But.. it can't... it's not...

"@Lasso Pout to, to... whoever you think you are. Stop scaring our cattle! Somebody's going to get hurt!"

Soap Lotus 4/18/2020 2:55pm

It doesn't do any good asking these bluefin boys from the Confusion where we're going, or why.

"Hey there, big guy. Where're we headed? This isn't the direction I'd spoken about with your, uh... Customer Success Manager."

Nothing but a silent hum from the lead blue blimp.

It's a desert. Nothing but miles and miles of scrub brush and rocky plateaus. I hired the Confusion to help me acquire new markets, for which, by definition, I need markets! With people in them! Functioning economies who can afford to pay for a little extra insurance to make sure things keep running smoothly. We come in, offer our "services," set up our cut on auto-pay, and move on.

But there's nothing out here in this god forsaken desert but rocks and brush and dirt.

And dust. We're a small armada, and the boys at the head must be flying us right into a dust storm, because we're getting caked in it. And it's got a musky tang. I've been a city blimp all my life, but if I'm not mistaken it smells like... cow.

This is not what I hired this muscle for. But at the same time, it feels like a dangerous contract for me to break.

Might be time for a significant business pivot.

Lasso Pout 3/11/2020 9:12pm

The big ships came on us out of the sun.

Each one as big as a battleship and came with sharp lines, notched fins, and hot lead.

I kept low to the ground, providing cover for Carolinaeuphrosyne and the other time travelers as we took shelter behind some big rocks, high caliber automatic weapons fire exploding all around us. These rocks weren't going to save us when those zeps came back around to make another strafing run, but it kept me from taking on any holes.

"Hey! Where are the headed?" asked Carolinaeuphrosyne.

And it was true, bless my lucky stars. The squadron of beautiful, gleaming, deadly, zeppelins were heading away from us, towards the herd.

"STAMPEDE!!!" I cried, and shot off towards the rising dust.

Auto Slops 2/5/2020 11:38pm

There's nothing like heading out in a squadron of bluefins, all tuned up and raring to go. It's like we're all of the same mind, moving as one without a single word between us. Of course we're not allowed to talk. I'm not even sure how many of us there are -- the blinders make it so I can only look directly ahead, which in this case means right up the tail fins of the ship ahead of me. Not like we even need to see. Each of us is a perfect order-execution machine, and the technology we've been fitted with is unlike any blimps before us.

The wind in our faces, our metal bones strong and struck like tuning forks. I feel like the perfect tool, the most exquisitely designed weapon ever created by man or blimp. And I owe it all to the Confusion.

Soap Lotus 1/1/2020 9:21pm

The hired muscle from the Confusion sure knows their business. They're intimidating just to look at, with their subtly designed aerodynamics, sharp blue fins, and cold expressions. I might have let my ballonets get a little soft running the rackets in Coconutville, and let me tell you these bad boys will make you suck up your gut just from looking at them.

In most situations, their bad-ass looks are more than half the battle. Moving into new markets, floating over their cities, most people scatter and listen to our loudspeaker announcements from the safety of their homes.

"ATTENTION PEOPLE OF [enter town name here]. You are now under the protection of the Coconutville Provisional Governing Authority, with the gracious assistance of The ConfusionĀ©. Representatives of the CPGA will be in touch with key members of your community to arrange the protection level you would like to receive from us. Special deals for early signups! Those interested in our special introductory offer, please raise yellow flags outside your businesses and one of our agents will be in touch shortly."

It's only when they put up a struggle that those blue-finned boys really show their stuff. And I'll tell you it's enough to make a hardened street blimp like myself a bit, well, uncomfortable. I mean, I knew these hired mercenaries were tough, but there's just something so... ruthless... and heartless... and... almost mindless... about how efficiently they do their jobs.

And it's not pretty.

Back in Coconutville we ran our rackets with a minimum of rough stuff. It just wasn't necessary. But there's just something in the fins of these blimps that makes me think they enjoy it.

And that's just asking for trouble.

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